Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. It’s finally time for RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3! I’ve been home sick for almost a week now and serious boredom has set in. But tonight it’s all rainbows and paillettes. My fabulous friends are back! For an hour and a half, the aches and pains don’t matter. I’m in my happy place. God bless you, RuPaul. Seriously. Chad Michaels and Alaska (the first two All Star champions) open the episode lampooning Handmaid’s Tale. “Chad, the Drag Race Hall of Fame really isn’t what I thought it was going to be…” Maybe not for you but I’m even more excited now!
Trixie Mattel (Season 7) is the first to enter the workroom, and the first to do it on rollerblades. She skates in, gives her catchphrase, “Honey… That’s how I roll,” and looks around expectantly for applause. Crickets. But Trixie has no problem filling camera time on her own. She skates around the empty workroom, performing awkward tricks and complaining that it’s as lonely as a Morgan McMichaels meet and greet. There are a lot of people who don’t get Trixie but she has had one of the most successful post-Drag Race careers around. From her Billboard charting country album (check out “Mama Don’t Make Me Put on the Dress Again” for a taste) to her much beloved web series UNHhhh with Katya Zamolodchikova to The Trixie and Katya Show on Viceland. Girl is on TV beyond Logo! It’s a wee bit groundbreaking. So yeah, Trixie is a clown but don’t count her out. She’s a definite contender.
Before we start thinking we’re watching the Trixie Show, Milk (Season 6) stalks in like she’s walking a Marc Jacobs runway. She’s all fashion model, from her haute couture bowl cut to her mile long legs. She stops on her mark, poses and shares, “I… just farted.” Trixie lose it. They’re quickly joined by Tiffany Haddish. Oh, I’m sorry. It’s actually Chi Chi DeVayne. In a nod to her Season 8 entrance outfit, Chi Chi is again wearing trash bag couture. “Wake up, wake up, wake up, this ain’t no dream. I’m back! The Bayou queen.” Chi Chi claims she’s polished her look but that leotard and ill-fitting top hat have me worried. The girls’ kiki-ing is interrupted by a familiar cackle. It’s none other than Thorgy Thor in full clown regalia. I might be alone in this but I’m excited to see Thorgy again. I just hope she can stay out of her own way. She blames her Season 8 lack of concentration on Bob the Drag Queen’s incessant yapping but immediately gets lost searching for a phantom eyelash. Uh oh.
The biggest dark horse of the competition, Morgan McMichaels is next. I wasn’t a huge fan in Season 2 but after my experience seeing Tatianna’s growth in All Stars 2, I’m loathe to count any of the early queens out. Morgan’s opening salvo is, “I look pretty good for a dead bitch,” referencing a recent drag brouhaha where perennial villain Tyra Sanchez announced her death on social media. Morgan is mouthy and one of the hardest working queens in dragdom. I’m intrigued. Aja (Season 9) wheels in on a scooter. Poor Aja. She always thinks she’s being witty but ends up looking like a poor man’s version (this time to Trixie’s gimmick). Unsurprisingly, she explains, “I have some unfinished business.” While I had some pretty compelling reasons to think Valentina wouldn’t be the surprise Season 3 queen (see my comments here), Aja’s tagline gives me hope. It’s the only explanation I have for her inclusion in All Stars. That being said, her makeup is a little better this time around.
“Hi everyone. It’s me, BenDeLaCreme.” BenDeLa whirls into the workroom with the same pixie mania she showed in Season 6. Her dress is based on her Miss Congeniality look and she stole Sasha Velour’s jughead crown for her talking heads. Since she’s not part of the New York or LA drag scene, Milk thinks she’s been hiding in the woods, Ted Kaczynski-style. In actuality, BenDeLaCreme has a full career in Seattle doing drag, touring with her multiple one-woman shows and leading a production company. There is life beyond the Marco Marco shows, Milk. Oh. My. God. Just when you thought you’d seen it all, Kennedy Davenport shows up dressed like a disco ball with an atomic bomb afro. I mean, this is the woman who introduced us to burnt chicken drag, after all. “Round two, bitches!” Yes! Kennedy’s style of drag isn’t my personal cup of tea but the founding member of the Bitter Old Lady Brigade consistently cracks me up.
A doorbell rings and everyone looks up from admiring their own images reflected in Kennedy’s outfit to see a big blue box staring back at them. To no one’s surprise, Shangela (Season 2 and 3) pops out. “Looks like the box got an upgrade and so did I. Halleloo, I’m back, bitches. Again.” Shangela is a member of the House of Edwards, she’s performed in numerous TV shows and films, has worked with Miley Cyrus and is a big fan favorite. And I can’t stand her. The girls are expecting at least one other queen so they’re surprised when RuPaul’s She Already Done Had Herses rings out. Oh, Ru, you little scamp. You can’t get one over on these ladies. She drags it out as long as possible but finally announces the mystery queen: Season 1 winner, Bebe Zahara Benet! I’m disappointed and it has nothing to do with Bebe. I’m just bummed that the rumor that Season 4 would be all winners is now debunked. But RuPaul wants to incorporate Season 1 into the fold so here we are. Bebe might not get a traditional entrance but she does get her opening line: “Mother, another day, another slay. Who’s first?” Her competition is skirred.
RuPaul announces that we’re using Season 2’s rules: the top two performers Lip-Sync for their Legacy and the winner eliminates one of the bottom two. Cutthroat.
Since this is All Stars, the library opens early. Thorgy Thor starts thing off with some duds. Chi Chi not only looks like Tiffany Haddish, she slays like her. Kennedy’s shade can’t compete with her outrageous costume. Milk is the mean girl in high school that’s actually funny. She gets the girls howling. Morgan is eh but she thinks she killed it. Shangela reads Thorgy’s reads. Trixie Mattel kills me from the get go: “Aja, you’re beautiful, you’re gorgeous, you look like Seal.” I don’t think I’m qualified to judge Aja’s work based on an obvious bias. The terminally delightful BenDeLaCreme likens Thorgy to It, calls Shangela old and implies Trixie has to lock to door to keep fans. Bebe points out she’s the only African in the group. So why does it look like you can sponsor Kennedy Davenport for 30 cents a day? BenDeLaCreme wins, proving once and for all you can be shady and congenial.
This week the queens will headline a live variety show. Unfortunately, most of them decide to lip-sync to their own tracks. Yes, it’s a step beyond lip-syncing to someone else’s music but… it feels like a cop out. Hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
As the girls move into the workroom, they discuss the elimination rules. Morgan is upfront that she plans to get rid of the biggest threats any chance she gets. Trixie worries about fan reaction to being so openly competitive. BenDeLaCreme is more concerned with justifying her choices to herself. Aja speaks for all of us when she explains that Morgan’s plan is smart but she should have kept it to herself.
The All Stars judging team of Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley and Ross Matthews are joined by guest judge Vanessa Hudgens. Is she the one that’s dating Beiber? I always get them confused.
Shangela starts things by lip-syncing to her own song. She’s an amazing dancer and ends with her signature death drop. Bebe also lip-syncs to her own song but it’s a very different vibe. Her African dancing is beyond and her faces are theatrical, to say the least. Thorgy plays the violin. I’ve always wanted to see her do classical in drag but it’s a little boring. Until she breaks out some dance moves and a backing track. Aja lip-syncs to her own track. She dances her ass off and the judges are eating it up. When she death drops off a three foot platform, her top position is pretty much sewn up. Kennedy Davenport is the Dancing Diva of Texas and she proves it. Not to be outdone by Aja, she cartwheels onto the raised platform.
BenDeLaCreme does her Burlesque comedy act with tassel pasties. I’ve seen her do it before and she never phones it in. An added bonus: she got RuPaul howling. Chi Chi does a bizarre twirling routine in flats. Flats! Her hair is in her face the whole time and I feel like I’m at an elementary school talent show. The only good thing I can say is she’s not lip-syncing to her own song. The judges can’t even muster up polite interest. Morgan McMichaels lip-syncs to her own song. Her wig immediately falls apart and it’s kind of a metaphor of her entire performance. She thinks she killed it. Trixie sings LIVE and plays an autoharp. It’s boring but it’s a nice change from all of the produced and autotuned songs. Milk closes the show down by, you guessed it, lip-syncing to her own song. It’s the best of the bunch, though. She does a routine where she puts on paper doll dresses. It sets her apart from the rest of the lip-syncers.
Top three: Shangela, Aja and BenDeLaCreme
Bottom three: Thorgy Thor, Chi Chi DeVayne and Morgan McMichaels
Aja and BenDeLaCreme are the tops. They’ll lip-sync for their legacy and the winner will decide to send either Chi Chi DeVayne or Morgan McMichaels home. Oh my. While the queens head to the workroom for their dramatic “please save me” conversations, the judges watch Vanessa Hudgens lip-sync against a porkchop. Not Porkchop, mind you. A porkchop. Oh Ru, you so silly. Aja savors her first time in the top. BenDeLaCreme is concerned with making the right decision, regardless if it’s in her best interest. For some reason, DeLa is playing a different game than the rest of the girls. She asks the group if they can come to some kind of agreement about how to handle eliminations, like they did on Season 2. Shangela reminds us that that strategy didn’t actually work last year but doesn’t share her opinion with the rest of the girls. No one can agree so the tops (tee hee) pull the bottoms (tee hee) aside for one on ones. I think Aja respects Morgan’s send-home-the-best strategy but that isn’t in Morgan’s favor tonight. BenDeLa, on the other hand, is overly concerned with being nice. And she doesn’t think Morgan is nice.
Aja and BenDeLaCreme lip-sync to Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. The song is clearly in Aja’s wheelhouse and she takes the early lead. I think it’s pretty clear that I’m not an Aja fan (that’s my opinion!) but I’m finally seeing her talent. Ben is just a blur standing next to her. Until it switches. DeLa brings the comedy HARD and suddenly Aja is just some thot twerking at the side of the stage. I wasn’t expecting such a sharp turnaround! Aja brought Nicki Minaj to the stage but BenDeLaCreme gave us life.
And then it’s time for the first elimination. Ben explains that the queens decided, as a group, to send girls home on merit (they really, really didn’t). Since Morgan is the only one who wants to eliminate the biggest competition (she really, really isn’t), it’s in everyone’s best interest for Morgan McMichaels to go. Gasp!
As Morgan clutches her RuPaul statuette and gives her farewell speech, RuPaul shows up on the TV monitor. Morgan is confused but it looks like the eliminated queens will get another chance back in. Hmmm…
Next week: The queens create a VH1 Diva’s Live tribute to RuPaul choreographed by Todrick Hall. Kennedy Davenport is overshadowed by her backup dancers. Thorgy Thor thinks she’s being set up. Chi Chi DeVayne gets tough. And Milk cries. Dramz upon dramz.