There are a handful of things RuPaul loves. iTunes residuals. A well tailored suit. And his two best Judys, Judge and Visage. RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Jersey Justice is an ode to Ru’s second fiddle. Merle who? This is Michelle country. It’s not much of a stretch to see Drag Race’s longest running judge send up TV’s longest running judge. Michelle is the ultimate drag mother. It’s about time someone gave her a gavel.
The queens break themselves into groups to prepare courtroom improv. Naomi Smalls quickly attaches herself to Manila Luzon. She plays the starstruck fan-girl but her decision reeks of strategy. Manila is a known powerhouse, a laugh riot. Not-so-dumb Naomi is building her comedy resume (bald cap and Wendy Williams). She’s perfectly poised to play off an experienced partner. You Made Me Look Like a Bitch, Bitch is a masterclass in drag improv. Manila hits the sweet spot between genius and absurdity. She fully commits to her role, from her Poodle hair to her yipping squeals. Naomi keeps up and then some. Playing against type, her dog groomer is raspy and crude. “Prostitution Labrador,” proves she’s honing her craft. Naomi, Manila, and Michelle work like a well-oiled machine. No one yells or pulls attention so they all get a chance to shine.
Team How ‘Bout Dem Cakes is in trouble before they begin. Monique Heart and Monét X Change babble like excited schoolgirls. It’s a flurry of ideas and body con dresses. Latrice Royale eyes her teammates with the wizened gaze of a 20 year veteran. She’s the Roger Murtaugh of Drag Race. Romper Room fuckery is her Achilles heel. By the time they enter Judge Visage’s courtroom, Latrice is done. She’s back in her hotel room with a robe on. Monique is more than happy to fill the space. Her high-pitched monologue is a classic case of overacting. Monét’s sees Monique’s level 11 emoting and raises her one. That they end up in a pile of cake and legs is inevitable. Only Latrice stands alone, steadfast in her decision to not get involved.
Valentina and Trinity are a few poor decisions away from greatness. Trinity is nipping at Manila’s comedy heels. She has the gift of gab, bon mots and shady boots the house down. Valentina is a look queen who needs to dominate everything she does. She wants to be funny but has found varying success. Unfortunately, Trinity’s fear of a poor Valentina performance limits her own. She looks like she belongs on the Real Housewives of New Jersey. She has funny jokes. But her light is dim. She’s at 68%. Ironically, Valentina’s Snooki is a marvel. She’s unkempt, unrepentant, and unconcerned. But the cast is die. Choices are made. The uneven performance culminates in chaotic wig pulling. RuPaul’s Run DMC hallway Harvey Levin has to step in for much needed levity.
In the workroom, Latrice exhibits dangerous levels of delusion. She doesn’t get it when Manila expresses concern. She doesn’t get it when Trinity expresses concern. Valentina knows she has nothing to worry about. Even in the bottom, no one will send a Drag Race institution home. Not while the fandom wears the pants in this relationship. Trinity is dismayed to learn Valentina places public perception over alliances. Once bitten, twice shy. ?
Michelle Visage and Carson Kressley are joined by guests judges Erica Ash and Zoe Kravitz. Category is: Swerves and Curves, Padded for the Gods. Manila is quilted for the Gods in RoCoco Chanel. As stunning as it is, it pales in comparison to her original look (see embedded Instagram post for all the tea). Naomi offers burnt pie and a beehive. Trinity is swallowed by her ornate Barbarella boots. Valentina references mid-fitting memes with her in-production garment. She brings her best Linda Evangelista to a wig cap and muslin. Monique brings Brown Cow Stunning via Project Runway avant garde. Latrice lives her best Miss Gay America fantasy, stoned to the rafters. Monét breaks the internet as Paper’s Kim K.
Top two: Monique Heart (I call shenanigans) and Manila Luzon
Bottom two: Latrice Royale and Monét X Change
This deliberation feels especially heavy. Latrice makes a general appeal to the group while Manila dry-sobs on her shoulder. She’s written the end of this fairy tale and it doesn’t include eviction. Manila’s Housewife-worthy histrionics continue into one on ones. She promises to tear the house down to save Latrice. She’s Putin on a white stallion, Vicki Gunvalson nailed to the cross like Jesus was. Yet she never sheds a tear. Monét assumes her position above Latrice makes the decision easy. When she realizes she might go home to appease Reddit, she quickly starts campaigning. Monique and Manila face a huge decision. Their future timelines hang in the balance.
Monique and Manila face-off to Elton John’s The Bitch is Back (performed by Tina Turner). The Bitch himself drops by via video monitor to utter the beloved, “don’t fuck it up.” Monique is all business as she transforms into Teen-Ter Turn-Ter. She shakes. She shimmies. She does the dance. It’s a performance we’ve seen a million times before yet it manages to feel fresh. Monique dances with every fiber of her being. She channels Tina’s fire and directs it at the judges. Manila does the bare minimum to prove she’s not throwing the lips-sync but Monique isn’t scared to make tough decisions. If she keeps her wig on, Monique has this in the bag.
Winner: Monique Heart
With great sadness, and many long pauses, Monique reveals Latrice is going home. The gauntlet has been thrown. Even OGs have to earn their spot.
Next week: It’s the one and only Lady Bunny, may she roast in peace. Squee!