The first two weeks of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 5 has seen the advent of RuPaul’s Arch Enemy Race! After the continuation of the India Ferrah/Derrick Barry feud that loomed over the first episode, and the pointless, avoidable conflict between Miz Cracker and Ongina last week, there’s new beef to be served in this third installment! Miz Cracker, who appears to have realized that she emerged as the villain of last week’s episode, seems to be intent on proving that she can play well with others and work on keeping unwanted commentary to herself. But, there’s now a vacancy for a queen to over share and stir up more tension. Once the queens return to the Werk Room for a new day in the competition since Ongina’s (unanimously voted, including by herself) elimination, Alexis thinks it’s a good idea to return to the topic of “what was the purpose of going into Ongina?” Cracker tries to explain that she was trying to show Ongina the importance of believing in herself, but admits that she went about it wrong. Alexis uses this as an opportunity to tell the other girls that if she doesn’t know you for real, and doesn’t trust you, she’ll be sending you home if it ever comes to be her decision.
This week’s Maxi Challenge is the sequel of sorts to All Stars 4’s Queen of Clubs challenge: the queens are split into three teams (Shea, Cracker and Mariah; Alexis, India and Jujubee; Blair and Mayhem) for “Shantay, Enjoy Your Stay,” where they’ll be designing and presenting their own luxury hotel suites.
Ranking “Shantay, Enjoy Your Stay”
1. The Golden Gals Palace and Resort
Shea, Mariah, and Cracker have designed a suite, that true to its name, should really tickle their target demographic of elderly ladies. The suite is wallpapered and the bed is made up with a tacky tropical banana leaf print, the furniture is out of a Boca Rattan fantasy, and the room boasts a heated afghan, a landline telephone (to remind the grandkids that they don’t visit enough), and even an ornate private samovar. This is probably the group that best anticipates and provides for the needs of their potential clients, and their presentation is full of Grandma jokes.. Mariah’s the standout (“reclaimed rattan furniture, which is real fancy for ‘used wicker’” is probably the only joke that really made me laugh in any of these three presentations); Cracker’s solid; Shea feels a little on autopilot.
2. The Glamazone
If you’re going to go for a Jungle fantasy, it needs the full Bebe Zahara Benet treatment. Jujubee is good, because she’s always good, even when she’s on autopilot, like she is here. Alexis and India are… there. Still, this is tacky enough that it’s too good to hate, which automatically makes it better than:
3. The 24 Carat Gold Room
This feels much too similar to Naomi Smalls and Valentina’s “Club 96” from All Stars 4. But, unlike that performance, this one is missing a level of meta, where Valentina and Naomi are aiming for campy glam, but it ends up being even campier than they intended. Here, Blair and Mayhem are too self-aware, and their schtick of money, gold, opulence, blah, blah, blah is so redundant and one-note.
While last week, Cracker didn’t really get along too well with her Season 10 sisters in the girl group challenge, she’s put her best foot forward, and is determined that Shea and Mariah are going to find that working with her this week was a positive experience that is memorable for the right reasons. As the girls prepare for the runway, Mariah and Shea compliment Cracker on what a pleasure it was to work with her, and Cracker returns the compliment, citing Shea and Mariah (as well as Jujubee) as the girls she looks up to and respects. Even though this lovely moment has nothing to do with her, Alexis spins around in her chair and snaps, “So you don’t respect me: is that what you’re trying to say?” That’s garbage, mama, and Shea doesn’t want to eat this: yes, she doesn’t want to see one of her teammates get into her head before a challenge, but she’s also calling bullshit on a ridiculous attempt to cause an unnecessary rift.
Judging’s a hot-ass mess. Ru’s favourite suite is the 24 Carat Gold Room (a choice: this was the worst of the three), but at the very least, Jujubee now is a Maxi Challenge winner! It kind of feels weird that this would be the first time that Juju would be the winner, but with no guarantees of other wins in the future, she’s surely happy to have this. Meanwhile, Mariah is critiqued by Michelle for not having enough jokes (if you’re tired of phallic meat jokes, you need to loosen up) and is told that taking off her giant (ostrich feather?) coat to reveal a cocktail dress that transforms into a floor-length evening gown are not separate looks, even though India and Mayhem were the more egregious examples of shedding layers from the same look. Shea, who’s delivered another mic drop in the week’s standout runway, and stepped outside of her wheelhouse in serving a colourful anime cosplay fantasy (that rhinestone contoured insectile mug is stunning, looks surprisingly great on her, and she’s taking initiative in showing something new without the judges having to beg for it), is shockingly criticized for looking “crafty.” Mariah and Shea were the wrong queens to come for, since they were the queens who best delivered on the assignment. Mariah and Shea are inexplicably thrown into a Bottom Three with India Ferrah (when Alexis Mateo was right there: that tent outfit really looks like she made it herself, and the enthusiasm for her comedy is over-praise).
Herstorically on All Stars, the queens have generally honoured the tradition of keeping the strongest competitors in the game (Manila Luzon’s premature departure in All Stars 4 stands out as an aberration), and sending home the girl with the weakest track record. This week in the Bottom Three, there’s Mariah Balenciaga, who has one safe week and two weeks in the bottom under her belt; India Ferrah, who has one Maxi Challenge win, but two subsequent appearances in the bottom; and Shea Couleé, who’s fresh off a win from last week, but is now in the Bottom for the first time. It would seem, based on report cards, like a no brainer that it’s Mariah’s week to go, but the scent of blood in the water is going to be tempting to a few of the queens, and we see that Shea earns the vote of at least Alexis Mateo (gosh, you can tell that there’s no Miss Congeniality sash to also be fighting for, but the girl has some chutzpah, and clearly isn’t afraid of the rage of the fandom) and Mayhem Miller (who alludes to her alliance with India and friendship with Mariah). Are they the outliers, or is the chance to send home the competition’s frontrunner going to be too irresistible to the other queens?
Lip Sync: Lizzo’s “Juice”
After Alyssa Edwards’s rather phoned in lip sync of The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” last week (where Shea Couleé murdered her in that battle), you might be wondering, “What’s the incentive for a Lip Sync Assassin to actually win the lip sync?” Well, this week, it shouldn’t be difficult to imagine that All Stars 4 winner Monét X Change might feel like she has something to prove, after it was to a lip sync of Lizzo’s “Good As Hell” that she was sent home by Kameron Michaels back in Season 10 (tea: Monét was hilarious – ooh, when she literally walks out the door? Wig! – and was absolutely robbed), and not that she needed Rudemption from that, but it’s a second chance for her to show that she’s That Bitch to another Lizzo tune (shades of Valentina Rudeeming herself of #maskgate in Season 9 with her Lip Sync for Your Legacy win to Ariana Grande’s “Into You,” after being sent home to “Greedy”). Meanwhile, Jujubee is the OG Lip Sync Assassin, sending home Tatianna, Pandora Boxx, and the late Sahara Davenport back in Season Two, and even Manila Luzon and Latrice Royale in All Stars 1, and you know she wants to cap off her Maxi Challenge win $10,000. There’s a lot at stake here.
And, yet, once the performance begins, Jujubee’s fine, though not ground-breaking, lip sync can barely get any screen time, because Monét is firing on all cylinders: she’s kicking her heels up to her head, grabbing her wig, and just boogieing to the music. A few more shots of Jujubee shows that… she doesn’t know all the words. Maybe that’s why it seemed like her energy had changed once she returned to the stage in that leopard print catsuit? It’s no surprise that Monét is the winner of this lip sync, and just like that, two streaks just ended for Jujubee in one episode: she’s finally ended a three season drought of not winning a single Maxi Challenge, but the trade off is that she no longer remains undefeated in a lip sync. But, the streak that remains is that Jujubee has still not won any cash in three seasons of this show. Now, it’s Monét’s responsibility to pull the lipstick of the queen that the other girls voted to get the chop, and that queen is Mariah Paris Balenciaga.
Mariah Balenciaga has never been a queen who’s accepted her negative critiques, and we love that about her (and this time, she was right that Michelle was wrong about her criticism of her runway this week). But, she’s a GODDESS of Drag, and she knows it, so she’s able to exit graciously, and it says a lot that she even gets an unprecedented visit from Michelle Visage in Untucked. Mariah, take your
pocketbook fanny pack: this competition never deserved you!