‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Recap 2×02: Hallelosers and Winners

This image is my new go-to response to trolls on Twitter

This image is my new go-to response to trolls on Twitter Logo

We start with this episode with the girls seeming even more despondent post-elimination than usual. The fact that they’re sending one another home is clearly weighing heavily on them—and this is only the second episode! Tatianna reveals that Coco was her choice to go home as well. As frustrating as it would be to be eliminated by a rival for strategic reasons (like on many other series), it sure wouldn’t easy to hear that the genuine consensus was that you were the worst.

Alyssa lays out the problem right away: There is an enormous amount of talent in the room. In their respective seasons, many in the cast had episodes where they stumbled but skated through. Certainly Adore and Alyssa herself had their fair share of screw-ups. But now there’s virtually no chance to fly under the radar. Not only is everyone on point, but due to the nature of the rules they are all constantly scrutinizing each other—and know what to look for to (Versace) boot. The castwide commitment to fair elimination makes the intensity harder, not easier. There’s no charming the “judges” (i..e, the top two) because everyone is already charmed by everyone else.

Ru walks in and announces that this week is the celebrity impersonation Snatch Game, same as during the regular seasons. It seems like a missed opportunity to put a twist on the standard, as they did last All-Stars with the Laugh-In joke wall. They could have forced the competitors to do impressions that got people sent home last time, or had a mini-challenge and then the winner assigned roles.

The queens walk around the room deciding who they’re going to do. Katya decides to do Bjork while Alaska picks Mae West. These are really smart choices; if a personality is inherently funny, then half the battle is won already. A clever trick that no one seems to have used is to figure out which celebrity is a heightened version of a queen herself, and just pick that one. The show quickly recaps how each queen fared during Snatch Game on her respective season, saving this here writer a bit of time. Ironically Detox chooses Nancy Grace, who got Acid Betty sent home on Season 8 (which was apparently filmed after All Stars).

As the queens get ready Adore Delano starts to break under the pressure. Usually it;s fair to say that people who come to compete and quit halfway through should practically be put in prison. It’s especially the case with returning contestants, since they already know the drill. Their spot could have gone to someone who would have taken the opportunity in a heartbeat. In this case, however, it makes sense why Adore wants to leave.

During her season, Adore was fairly uncertain in who she was as a performer. The critiques were constructive in helping her find her voice and focus her talent. But she did find her voice, launching a very successful musical career. She already is “America’s next drag superstar.” In other words, she’s not the same person she was during season 6. In addition, her aesthetic might be unconventional but it’s clearly thought out and intentional.

Memory is a tricky thing, and it’s apparent that Adore remembered the good parts of the show and forgot about how stressful it was. Given her uneven performance under the series’s constraints, she had very little chance of making it to second place this year. Finally, she sees judge Michelle Visage as a peer and a friend—and Adore is sensitive enough that the criticisms are more hurtful than helpful this time around.

That said, Snatch Game was much more of a miss than a hit this year. Ginger was superb as Adele last time, but here her Tammy Faye barely registers. Phi Phi gets praised for her Theresa Caputo, despite the fact that it’s almost identical to the schtick that put Jaidynn Diore Fierce (as psychic Raven) in the bottom two on her season. Roxxxy Andrews does Alaska and simply sticks to making references to her music and catchphrases. Most improved was Alyssa Edwards as Mommie Dearest Joan Crawford. The impression is tenuous but as a caricature of insanity it is absolutely hilarious. Finally we have Tatianna, winner of the first Snatch Game, doing a tepid Ariana.

The runway this week is latex, which is impressive when done right. Phi Phi opens with an uninspired bathing suit, but most of the other looks kill it. (Special mention needs to go to Todrick Hall and his excellent holographic bow tie.) The top two are Alaska and Katya, and they really were the only two funny ones at Snatch Game besides Alyssa. Somehow Phi Phi is safe, despite being only OK both in runway and Snatch Game.

We finally get to see Alaska lip sync, and she has her work cut out for her against Katya, who is a great performer. Even though it’s a disco song, “Le Freak” doesn’t feel like it gives either of them much to work with. Alaska gets chosen as the winner but it’s a huge step down from last week’s excellent performance (not to mention Katya’s lip syncs in her season).

Yes, someone is still going home despite Adore quitting. While Detox’s Nancy Grace was mediocre, her runway this week was so superb that it’s hard to understand why it didn’t save her. Roxxxy too looked amazing. In short, there’s really no one else for the top two to choose besides Tatianna. Her look was fine but her Snatch Game was terrible. By any objective standard, she was the weakest one this episode—and she knew it.