‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Recap 2×04: Taking a Pounding

RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.

Alaska 5000 as Lil’ Poundcake.

We start this week with the queens discussing Alyssa’s decision to send Ginger home over Katya. There’s been a desperate need to show some drama this season and this minor issue seems like all that the producers had to work with. The consensus had been to send the queen with the harshest critique home, but Alyssa instead went by track record.

No one is claiming Ginger was sent home for personal reasons. No one is claiming Ginger was sent home strategically for being a far stronger competitor than Katya. No one is claiming that Katya was savaged by the judges while Ginger was lauded. Alyssa’s decision might be the most ambiguous one so far but it’s hardly incomprehensible or indefensible.

Sending Ginger home is perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the show and the precedent RuPaul set. Ru seems to have a “three strikes and you’re out” rule, with the third time on the bottom being a given queen’s last episode. Sure, there were exceptions like Coco Montrese in season five and Darienne Lake in season six, but the pattern is certainly there. The idea that judging based on consistency in a competition is somehow playing foul is silly.

We then head straight into the maxi-challenge. To be blunt, it’s hard to understand the thinking behind the episodes this season. The mini-challenges are great opportunities for the cast to dork out and act the fool for their own amusement, as well as ours. Playing with puppets; prison drag; putting on makeup in the dark—these were all light-hearted segments that make the show the best on television. Eliminating these segments is literally eliminating half the fun.

This week, the queens have to act in three skits. Not three skits each, not writing the skits, not assigning roles to each other. It’s just “act in three skits in teams of two.” The skits are the same dopey scenes we’ve come to expect and love from the show, in this case parodies of Showgirls, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Thelma & Louise. By now All Stars is sadly becoming downright tedious. The fans were anticipating this season for months, wondering what would happen. Instead we’re just seeing things that ha’ happened in previous seasons. There is nothing new, and given that the cast is full of some of the most creative entertainers on television it’s baffling.

Watching the challenges pretty much amounts to: the six queens are given three goofy scripts where overacting is a plus. Alyssa Edwards and Roxxxy Andrews are still uneven when it comes to acting. The skits aren’t particularly funny, but none of the cast is bad enough to make it so due to their incompetence (a la Vivacious or Madame La Queer). When the judges watch the sketches they crack up, but none of the writing is nearly as funny as, say, the queens’ confessionals. The one major, major standout is Alaska channeling Baby Jane Hudson. She gets the look down, the voice down, and the speech pattern down without getting into caricature—it’s much harder to do a nuanced Bette Davis than people realize, especially this particular character.

The runway this week is the best part of this episode by far. The queens have to do a two-in-one look, where the outfit reveals to something else much like Violet Chachki’s jawdropping runway from the first episode of her season. Katya’s was the weakest transformation in terms of wardrobe, but ripping off her hair to reveal a pentagram on her forehead—and black teeth—made it quite memorable. Alyssa’s reveal of a dress covered in cameras, with shutters blazing, was also excellent.

Then there’s Alaska.

At the end of season seven came the moment where Violet clinched the win. After Katya and Kennedy lip synced, Violet was overcome with excitement and screamed, “Yas! COME THROOOOOUGH!” If RuPaul stopped the show then and there and crowned Violet on the spot it would have been perfectly appropriate. And if Alaska wins this season, it will be cemented due to this runway. At first coming out in some big conceptual cloth sculpture, Alaska reveals herself as…Lil’ Poundcake, her puppet from season five. The hair is right, the grotesque mouth is right, the cartoonish blush—this is the acme of drag. RuPaul, give that broad the crown!

The two top queens are Phi Phi and Alaska. The bottom are Alyssa, Roxxxy and Katya. This is quite odd. Last week, we had two queens in the bottom out of a cast of seven. This time, it’s three again. Having half the cast up for elimination makes little sense. It’s almost random whether someone will be in the top or the bottom, and a mediocre queen can easily get sent home over the worst one. Maybe that makes for reality drama, but it hardly makes for a decent competition.

Here we see another missing piece of the magic RuPaul’s Drag Race puzzle. Untucked has delivered some of the series’ best moments. It’s the part of the series where the queens unwind and the audience gets to appreciate them as actual human beings instead of their characters. It’s a major reason why the fans are so loyal to their favorite girls. This year, however, it’s been subsumed into the show itself—and in this episode it lasts mere minutes.

It’s great to see Phi Phi performa lip sync, but watching Lil’ Poundcake groove to the beat is like something out of a horror comedy movie. It’s Alaska who gets the win, and she chooses to send her own teammate Alyssa Edwards home.