It’s the final four on RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars, and after tonight . . . Well, you know what? I’m not going to say anymore. Let’s just get on to the RuCap before I spoil anything. Anyway, this week the queens had to play basketball for no discernible reason and then create a superhero alter ego for a comic book. Let’s take a look at the shit that worked and the shat that sobbed.
After last week’s girl-group challenge, the two-headed Latina beast known as Yarlexis has been vanquished, and with their dismissal comes another round of five-finger discount, as Chad Michaels wastes no time at all in swiping Alexis Mateo’s . . . I don’t know, I think they’re gauntlets? Plastic, pink gauntlets. This only proves my theory that Alexis is actually the world’s tallest seven-year-old. Chad, Shannel, Raven and Jujubee pretty much just glaze over Yarlexis’s dismissal until Oooo, girl! You got Shemail!
Once again, Ru doesn’t really leave a lot of guessing room for the queens, as she makes every possible allusion to the fact that the next challenge will be based on comic-book superheroes. But for the sake of throwing them for a completely nonsensical loop, boy Ru steps into the workroom to make the queens throw on their (*ahem*) “best” day drag and play a round of HORSE against each other. For those of you who don’t know, HORSE is basically about shooting basketball freethrows until someone misses five shots, thus spelling HORSE. Only instead of HORSE, they’re spelling FISH while dressed up as scary clown prostitutes because shut up, RuPaul says so.
It turns out Chad and Shannel can’t play basketball for shit; if you took a basketball, set it on fire, and then threw it at a group of school children while screaming about how you are The Minotaur, you’d still be considered a better player than Team Shad. So Rujubee wins and they earn themselves a call home to their loved ones. A completely superfluous challenge? Yes, yes it was. Now let’s forget about it and never bring it up ever again so that we can focus on the main challenge: the queens have to create a superhero and a super-villain, complete with origin stories and superpowers.
Teams Shad and Rujubee approach the challenge from two very different perspectives: Chad and Shannel decide to go for campy and fun, harking back to the silver age of comics when everything was flamingly gay and stupid. Raven and Jujubee decide to go for a more contemporary feel, with serious, morally complex back stories and streamlined, functional looks. To be honest, both takes on the challenge are equally valid, so ultimately this is going to come down to execution. RuPaul is worried that Chad and Shannel’s idea of superpowers based on vaginal rejuvenation and titties might be a tad too raunchy to appeal to all audiences ("Maybe your tits put out my fire[crotch], and that’s my weakness?” says Chad, without a trace of shame), and then chides Rujubee over complicating their origin story with hazy details.
Since it’s been a whole five minutes since a new twist was thrown at the remaining queens, Ru decides to drop one last bomb on everyone: not only will they have to choreograph a musical number, but the losing team will have to lip-sync against each other. Look, we all knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make the emotional impact on the queens any less devastating. You can tell that Raven and Jujubee absolutely adore each other, and the idea that they’d have to turn on each other kills them. Chad and Shannel are equally devastated:“If I had to lip-sync against Shannel, it would be a very unfortunate situation,” Chad says, as if the dissolution of her team were a skin tag she needed to tie off. This is really eating her up inside.
In the rehearsal for their little song and dance, Chad decides to take the reins as the only one with any experience in choreography, at least until Shannel steps in and attempts to steamroll the whole number with her weird, Gollum-like dancing. Shannel’s game plan on Drag Race has always been to be front and centre at all times, and unfortunately, her single-minded determination to be in the spotlight tends to make her unfocused, which is reflected in her busy looks and spastic movements. If you could tap into her inner monologue, it would consist of nothing but “Me. Me! MEEEEEEEEE!” Unfortunately, she’s trying to pull rank on Raven and Jujubee, two queens who are not afraid to bring out the good knives when some shady bitch is trying to steal their thunder.
Well, there’s no way the musical number won’t be a complete disaster, so let’s just move on to the mainstage, where RuPaul comes out in the most gorgeous Catwoman-inspired gown I have ever seen (I literally clawed at the TV screen, shouting “ME WANTEE!") with judges Michelle Visage, Santino Rice, Elvira and Wendi McLendon-Covey, whom you may remember from Bridesmaids. The musical number is relatively fine, but the unveiling of the looks is the real selling point here. Chad Michaels comes out as Firecrotch, serving fiery realness with a flowing cape; Firecrotch’s powers include vaginal rejuvenation and nothing else. Shannel turns into Lactasia, an SM dominatrix super-villainess who shoots lasers out of her boobs. Jujubee steps out as Melanina, a tanning-based hero in a sleek white-and-chrome catsuit with neon red hair and a gun that shoots bronzer. Raven closes the show off as SoPhia Fierce, a shadowy villain in a stark black gown, white skin and a plastic face mask that gives her an otherworldly appearance.
With only four queens left and safety off the table, the judges pick every last little nit that they can. While the judges appreciate Shad’s humour and feel that their look would translate better as a comic, they are concerned with how dirty the story is, and specifically hone in on Shannel’s kitchen-sink look. On team Rujubee, the judges love their look, but they feel like the story is too muddled and Juju’s look is a bit too simple. See what I mean? Nitpicking. The queens are mostly on equal footing, but the judges side with Shad on this one, leaving Rujubee to lip-sync against each other.
But instead, something weirdly magical happens: neither one of them lip-syncs. The combination of pressure, their sisterly love and Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” proves too much for the two of them, and instead of lip-synching for their lives, they stand together in solidarity, sobbing through the song. Neither one of them is willing to win if it means sending the other home, so instead of competing, the two of them decide to stand side-by-side and face the odds together. I know a lot of people absolutely hated the teams aspect of this All-Stars season, but personally, it was all worth it for this one pure, altruistic moment of sisterly compassion.
By the time they’re done, Raven’s sobbing uncontrollably and Jujubee can barely breathe. Unintentionally or not, Raven and Juju have become the first queens ever to call Ru’s bluff. After an emotional bomb like that, Ru couldn’t possibly send either of them. So instead, RuPaul’s heart grows three sizes and she decides to Chantay them both in favour of having a final four. Was she playing to her audience? Of course she was. But there’s something about how earnestly Raven and Juju love each other that makes the moment feel earned.
So who will win? Well, if we based this solely on overall performance, I’d say Chad Michaels is the clear-cut winner. But if you’re basing it on who the most lovable queen is, Jujubee wins by a mile. Honestly, at this point any of the queens can win and I’d be okay with it, but we’ll just have to see how the chips fall.