Who'd have thunk that a show about drag queens would not only last for four seasons, but would also warrant its own all-stars season? What can I say; the world occasionally gets shit right every now and then. So hum hallelujah, here comes RuPaul's All-Stars Drag Race! This week, the best of the best (and also Mimi Imfurst) returned for a second shot at the crown. Let's take a look at the shit that worked and the shat that synergized.
Things start off with a bang, as Pandora Boxx bursts into the work room looking like the madame at a zebra brothel, and I'm living for it. The rest of the queens trickle in in an orderly fashion, as everyone proudly shows off their new stuff. Some queens have new dresses, some queens have new makeup skills, some have new wigs, and Raven has a new . . . um, aesthetic.
Everyone seems chummy and friendly until — record scratch! — in walks Mimi Imfurst. For a show about the best of the best of Drag Race, bringing in the 11th-place queen from Season 3, who got booted after throwing a queen over her shoulder and literally carrying her kicking and screaming onstage, seems rather odd. I'll give credit where credit is due: she looks good, but for all the weight loss, she hasn't lost the hoakey sense of humour or the desperate, cloying need for attention. "Life is like a paycheque! A generous figure is always nice!" she shrieks to the collective groan of everyone there.
Once the queens are gathered, the show jumps straight to the SheMail. RuPaul appears, welcoming the queens back and warning them that "they don't know the half of it." The true meaning behind this statement is revealed shortly after, when boy Ru enters the work room and explains to the queens that on top of the usual charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent, the queens now have to deliver "synergy." Somewhere in an impeccably furnished office in 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Jack Donaghy ejaculates into a tuxedo.
Yes, thanks to a truncated episode order, the queens must compete in pairs for the entire season. The queens are matched up by raising paddles featuring the queen they want to be paired with. If there's a match, the queens are paired up until everyone has a partner. After two rounds, Chad Michaels and Shannel become Team Shad, Nina Flowers and Tammie Brown become Team Brown Flowers (hello!), Raven and Jujubee become Rujubee, Manila Luzon and Latrice Royale are Latrila, and Yara Sofia and Alexis Mateo become Yarlexis, which leaves Pandora Boxx with Mimi Imfurst.
You can practically hear the gunshot as Ru shoots Pandora right in the fucking foot.
RuPaul tells the queens that for the first challenge, the pairs must put together an editorial photo shoot, featuring a wigless, "half-baked" shot of them in the makeup process and an "opposites attract" shoot. Oh, and they have to do their teammate's makeup for them, which gives Pandora another reason to fume as Mimi gives her the lips of a $5 clown prostitute.
Oh, Pandora… She's my favourite queen, and I think on her own she would have stood a great chance of winning. But pairing her with Mimi is like pairing her with a ball and chain. Mimi was a queen who made the show not because of her talent, but because she was crazy, and an impossibly large amount of people voted for her during the fan vote. Mimi's position on the show isn't "competitor" so much as it is "cannon-fodder," and she's taking Pandora with her. Actually, Mimi's presence on the show can be summed up in this exchange with Latrice:
Mimi: (looks into a cardboard box) Shangela? She's not in here.
In the photo shoot, Team Latrila gets on like a house on fire, and their classy/trashy looks blend together seamlessly. Rujubee go for a clothed/nude look, which I approve of because Raven has a nice ass. Yarlexis decide to switch looks, which doesn't make much sense without a clear explanation. Tammie and Nina's photo shoot works well, although Nina gets a bit drowned out in all of Tammie's wackiness. As much as I love Team Shad, their photo shoot isn't really a matter of opposites of high-fashion so much as it is two very pretty drag queens standing side-by-side looking pretty. Mimi and Pandora do a hooker/housewife thing, which ends with Mimi attempting to make out with Pandora. It's as awkward as you think it is, with Pandora visibly suppressing her gag reflex while Mimi attempts to tongue-fuck her mouth.
Mimi and Pandora's pairing just flat out doesn't work, and the dynamic between the two of them is pretty painful. The best way I can describe it is thus: you know when you go to the grocery store, and you see a sad-eyed, defeated mother shuffling through the aisles while her sugared-up seven-year-old runs around screaming bloody murder, knocking jars off shelves and ripping open cereal boxes? Pandora is the mother; Mimi is the kid. Pandora is resigned to her fate, while Mimi tries to cover for her dearth in ability with lame jokes and sparkly shit.
But enough with the woe; on to the main-stage! RuPaul comes out in a pink and yellow dress that reminds me of the sherbet they have at Baskin-Robbins and it makes me hungry. Ru is joined by Michelle Visage and Santino Rice, along with Ross Matthews and Rachel Hunter. Yarlexis is a cute team, wearing cutouts of their faces on their dresses, but they're otherwise forgettable. Latrila, on the other hand, comes out in Teletubby couture, with Manila wearing an iPad on her stomach that plays her music video and Latrice as a "Po Black Teletubby." Puns are usually the lowest form of comedy, but I actually slow-clapped over that one. Brava, Latrice. Brava.
Rujubee does a Chicago-style burlesque number, which looks just amazing. Brown Flowers come out in gothic-looking dresses and red wigs, which somehow combines their very disparate styles of drag into a mutually flattering look. Shad goes for showgirl, birds-of-prey realness, which reminds me of a mix of Power Rangers, peacocks and Mayan sun gods. Mimi and Pandora, however, clearly put themselves into the bottom with a pair of blue gowns accented by green muppet fur. Pandora actually looks really good, but Mimi just looks janky, and her weight loss is completely undone thanks to the lime-green boa she has wrapped around her waist, which makes it look like she has a massive, furry FUPA.
Straight out of the gate, Latrila and Rujubee are called out as the top two, with Latrila taking the win. The judges like Yarlexis's half-baked shots and their runway looks but were confused by the opposites-attract shoot. They're likewise enamoured with Brown Flowers but worry that Tammie's crazy might drown out Nina's sweetly serene attitude. Unfortunately, this leaves teams Shad and Mandora as the bottom two (bottom four?), as the judges hate Shad's lacklustre photo shoot and the weird neck-burn look they used for their half-baked shot, while Mandora is just read for filth over their terrible dynamic. Michelle in particular goes in on Mimi's look, tearing her apart over the furry gunt and her choice of the colour green. Seriously, when Michelle Visage says the word green, she gets these cold, black shark eyes that can only mean that bitches are going to die.
While the judges deliberate, the queens go into the newly renovated interior-illusions lounge. Teams Latrila and Rujubee share some T with Willam, who makes a cameo appearance to play Kill, Fuck, Marry with them. (Turns out, Raven would gladly fuck Tammie Brown. Me Gusta.) But things really go to shit when Alexis goes in on Mimi. Turns out, Alexis lost her job because of Mimi, and to her credit, she doesn't bring it up until the other queens ask about it. This prompts Raven to bring out the knives, saying that Mimi shouldn't have been there.
Meanwhile, Tammie Brown spouts non-sequitors to absolutely no one. "My father fucked Marlene Dietrich!" she shouts for no reason whatsoever. "TELEPORT US TO MARS, TELETUBBY!" she yells at Manila, a propos of nothing. It's beautiful.
In a Drag Race first, Mimi actually walks out of the studio, and Pandora has to run after her and convince her not to just up and quit the show. You can tell that this is merely an obligation rather than her own prerogrative, but really, can you blame her? Mimi comes off as hopelessly inept and messy on the show, throwing schtick against a wall and hoping something, anything sticks. At this point, Pandora knows they're going home and would rather see it through than just walk away.
Back on the main-stage, Ru throws in one more twist just to really fuck things up: only one queen per team will be lip-synching, and if a queen notices her partner is having a shemergency on the show, they can tag them out. However, they can only do this once during the season. Mimi goes in to represent Mandora, while Chad steps up for Shad. It is at this moment that it officially stops being a contest and becomes a mercy killing. Chad is a consummate professional, and despite a ho-hum costume change, blocking and air guitar (Jesus . . .), Mimi can't keep up. Mandora are given their sashay orders and Shad is allowed to shantay back into the competition.
Let's get one thing straight: Mimi was not brought back on the show because anyone thought she would win. She was brought back because there was a pot that needed stirring, and oh, how it was stirred. But at what cost? Pandora was the fan favourite, and thanks to Mimi she didn't even get to see the second episode. It's disheartening to say the least.