It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another RuCap of Drag Race All-Stars! This week, the queens had to impersonate celebrities and create comedy sketches for a Laugh-In-style cabaret show. Also, there was a rubber chicken. Let’s take a look at the shit that worked and the shat that socked it to me.
One of the biggest problems I had with last week’s episode was that I felt like it was sort of rushing through its hour, trying to get as much in as it could before its time was up. In a lot of ways, I blame this on the truncated episode order; as an All-Stars season rather than a normal one, I’m guessing Logo bought a shorter episode order for the sake of performing a test run. The season’s two biggest problems — the teams bit and the pace of the episode — can probably be traced back to this, but I think this has more to do with Logo than it does the show’s actual quality.
Thankfully, this episode manages to slow down a little bit, allowing the queens to stew in their own neuroses. The queens return after the elimination of Pandora Boxx and Mimi Imfurst and reflect on how Pandora gave up after being paired with Mimi, whom most agree shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Though many of the queens like Mimi outside of the competition, the general consensus is that the bitch was just a touch too crazy to really compete. Fittingly enough, an over-abundance of crazy will come in to play soon enough. Oooo, foreshadowing! And ooooo, girl, you got SheMail!
Lady RuPaul shows up on the TV to tell the queens that this challenge will revolve around comedy. But first, the girls will be playing a Newlyweds-style game called In Da Butt Ru, which desperately needs to be a real show because that sounds like ratings gold. The queens are forced to guess their partner’s choice of underwear, their favourite RuPaul song, and whether they’re a top or a bottom. Turns out, Shannel’s a top (sure) and Nina Flowers is a bottom (y’ello!). Raven and Jujubee end up winning the mini-challenge, and their reward for their closeness is . . .
Yeah, not really much of a reward, but at least it gives us another shot of the Pit Crew. The pie to the face segues into the challenge description: the girls will be doing celebrity impersonations (yay!) and writing jokes (eek!) for Gaff-In, an old-school sketchy comedy bit. As much as the queens love impersonations, doing scripted comedy is usually a recipe for awkward disaster (see: Country Queens, Season 2; QNN, Season 3; Queens Behind Bars, Season 4.) It makes for good TV but very rarely sheds a gracious light on the queens. Forcing the queens to write the script themselves only further exacerbates things.
Boy Ru seems fully aware of this, and decides to go straight for the jugular in her “helping” session. Latrila decides to do Madonna (Manila) and Oprah (Latrice) and RuPaul seems severely unimpressed when Latrice teases her performance by screaming “DEEP FRIED BUTTER!” at her. Rujubee don’t fare much better, as Raven decides to do Bea Arthur and Jujubee decides to do Kim Kardashian. Oh, wait, she’s doing Fran Drescher? Really? Huh. Okay, then. But Tammie Brown and Nina put themselves straight on the chopping block, with Nina picking to do La Lupe while Tammie goes with Tammie Faye Mesner, with Tammie admitting that although she’s a comedy queen, she doesn’t actually write jokes. Eep.
On set, the queens have to do three acts: a cocktail-party scene with Vicki Lawrence as “Mama,” a Howdy Ru segment with boy Ru, and a Peek-a-Ru joke wall segment, similar to the classic Laugh-In bits. Team Shad are like happy little fishes in water here, as the two of them excel at improv and characters. Chad’s Bette Davis, in particular, is a standout, although Shannel’s Lucille Ball doesn’t land as well as she should. Surprisingly, Yarlexis are probably the most cohesive group, as Alexis’s Shakira serves as a perfectly put-upon straight-man (so to speak) for Yara’s Charo. Last time they were on the show, Yara made the near fatal mistake of doing an Amy Winehouse impression, but her Charo is absolutely hilarious and more than makes up for her garbled British accent.
Surprisingly, Tammie is probably the queen who fares the weakest here, as she more or less plays herself. The thing with Tammie is that, as much as I love her, she’s such a fully realized character in and of herself that I don’t think she can really do anything other than her. The fact that Nina doesn’t fare much better, with her La Lupe failing to hit the proper comedic timing, doesn’t bode well for Team Brown Flowers.
With that horrifically awkward bit of comedy out of the way, it’s time for the queens to hit the runway in their best ‘60s style drag. But none compare to Ru, who is really hitting it out of the park this season as she hits the stage in a beautiful green dress. Michelle Visage, Santino Rice, Vicki Lawrence and Cougar Town’s Busy Phillips join the judging panel this week.
First up is Yarlexis, with Alexis in a silver Nancy Sinatra number and Yara in a retro colour-block dress that she rips off to reveal a Beach Blanket bikini. Team Shad steps out, with Shannel in a nice tube dress with a fur trim and Chad in a cute purple-and-silver dress. Team Brown Flowers comes out with Nina in a flawless number that sort of combines old-school flight attendant with flower-child realness, while Tammie’s dress is flowy but doesn’t pop very well. Rujubee’s looks have the same problem, with matching dresses that look super ‘60s, but otherwise are just sort of . . . there. Latrila rounds out the main-stage with Manila rocking a nifty little necklace and Latrice in a dress that resembles her Float Your Boat look.
For the most part, each team has one queen that judges fawn over and one queen that the judges read for filth. For Yarlexis, the judges adore Yara’s Charo but think that Alexis may have gotten a little drowned out. Shad also gets high marks, as the judges love Chad’s character but aren’t so in love with Shannel’s Lucy. Manila gets high marks for her up-her-own-ass Madonna, but the judges feel that Latrice’s Oprah was essentially just Latrice, which was a problem with Latrice’s previous Aretha Franklin impersonation. Rujubee sort of squeezes by on okay, with Jujubee’s Fran Drescher and Raven’s Bea Arthur getting passable marks.
Team Brown Flowers, however, doesn’t have the benefit of a saving grace, and both of them are torn apart over their lack of comedic skill and lacklustre characters. And here’s where shit gets ugly: for those who caught Season 1, you’ll remember that Tammie is fairly unmoving when it comes to her drag. As much as I love her, Tammie has a habit of closing herself off to constructive criticism and is not afraid to throw it back in the judges’ faces if she doesn’t like what she hears. She went after Ru in the Season 1 reunion, and when Michelle critiques Tammie’s performance, Tammie snipes at her about her makeup. Once again, as much as I love Tammie, I feel like she’s under the impression that she’s so good at one thing that she refuses to move outside of herself. Her lack of versatility and her unwillingness to bend has been, and will continue to be, her downfall.
The queens go into the Untucked lounge to read each other down, with Tammie once again reminding everyone that she is from a completely different plane of existence. Regardless, this is a rather drama-free Untucked, with the focal point being a video message Chad gets from her estranged fathers. The queens reminisce on their own fathers, and the group collectively purges over the highs and lows of their parental relationships. Latrice brings it home, though, talking about her abusive father and reminding us that a real man does not hit a woman (hear that, Chris Brown?).
Back on the main-stage, Yarlexis earns a well-deserved win, with Shad and Rujubee being placed firmly in the safe zone. This leaves Latrila and Brown Flowers up for elimination, with Latrice and Tammie going head to head in a lip-sync to Ethel Merman’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Now, considering this is a Broadway hit from the ‘40s, you’d figure that Tammie would own this one, right? Nope. Latrice wipes the fucking floor with her, and once again, I’m disappointed with Tammie as she basically just winks and nods her way through a number when she should be giving it her all.
As Latrice brings it home with a stage-spanning spin, Latrila is told to shantay you stay, while Brown Flowers is forced to sashay away. I’m not happy with this. Like Pandora, Nina was someone I thought would make it to the end, but the team thing once again brings down a talented queen. Once again: I love Tammie. I get her schtick and I get her character, but you can’t be America’s Next Drag Superstar by doing only one thing. Oh well . . . So long, Tammie. A Teletubby shall be teleporting you back to Mars shortly.