I’m not very active on Twitter but a highlight of my life was a retweet from Lady Bunny. Talk about drag legend. It’s not that she’s been RuPaul’s best friend since Michelle was Michael. It’s not that she forced drag into daylight with the Wigstock festival. It’s not even her uproariously dirty stand up (which only triples in value when you add Bianca Del Rio). For me, it’s all about the Pickle Surprise. We all know RuPaul loves to laugh. Maybe even more than he loves cashing iTunes checks. And nothing makes Ru laugh harder than Bunny. I’m excited to see how RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars handles her first mainstage appearance (Drag U counts as its own beast). And it doesn’t hurt that two of my favorite comedians, Yvette Nicole Brown and Cecily Strong guest judge.
We open on Manila Luzon, in full mourning for the fallen Latrice Royale. It’s been a long day. She should go home (to a sequestered 3 star hotel) and cry over her friend. But Manila is still on the clock. She swans around the lounge like a telenovela widow, bemoaning her thrown opportunity to save a friend. Monét X Change is infuriated to see her name on Manila’s lipstick. This aggression will not stand, man. But the biggest threat comes from the other queens. Manila chose friendship over report card. She’s gone rogue, officially. It’s a liability that could get her eliminated and she doesn’t even see it coming.
After a good night’s sleep (one hopes), RuPaul lets the All Stars know they’ll be roasting the inimitable Lady Bunny. It’s an honor and a challenge. Monique Heart tries to handicap the obvious frontrunner with the closing slot. Manila’s responsibly botoxed forehead doesn’t even twitch. She’s got this, girls. In the workroom, RuPaul acts like Manila is Lady Bunny reincarnated. With no bestie to save, she’s even willing to win the lip-sync. The other queens are shook. They should be.
The two queens who flubbed the season 9 roast of Michelle Visage display very different PTSD. Valentina wraps herself in a haze of delusion like a diva swathed in tulle. She’s funny, dahling. Always has been, always will be. Trinity the Tuck is fully aware stand up is the chink in her comedy armor. She tries to glean every morsel of advice from Mama Ru and guest mentor Cecily Strong. The fact that she does it looking like a tan Carmen Sandiego makes my heart flutter. If true determination were the only key to success, Trinity would have this challenge in the bag. Unfortunately, a roast needs jokes and Trinity doesn’t have any.
Before we move on, I’d just like to say, I feel bad that Cecily Strong gets buried under all the Leslie Jones/Drag Race hoopla. Leslie is great and I can’t wait to see her on the show. But Cecily is an incredibly talented comedian in her own right and, clearly, a knowledgeable Drag Race fan. She deserves better than being Not Leslie Jones.
While they paint, the queens discuss elimination criteria. Manila points out it’s getting harder to rate their performances. Some queens have been in the top and bottom, others have only been safe. It’s not so easy to hide behind fairness anymore. A snarky comment from roast-ready Naomi Smalls leads to a Manila/Monét summit. Manila apologizes. Monét (an adult human) accepts. It’s almost like some of the queens don’t have to force storylines for airtime.
The roast of Lady Bunny separates the funny girls from the comedy queens. Trinity, Valentina, and Naomi are uncomfortable to watch. Trinity is funny, she writes good jokes, but you wouldn’t know from this challenge. Naomi attempts a Millennial persona but never fully commits. It just comes off rude. Valentina makes a big deal about keeping her glasses on only to reveal unpainted eyes. I can’t even discuss her painful jokes because we have to triage her offenses. Never, ever, ever in the herstory of Drag Race has a contestant performed a challenge (or on the runway) without a full face of makeup. I‘ve been very clear about my Valentina bias but this is sacrilege.
Monét X Change leads the top performers. Her jokes are sharp, her timing precise. She enjoys stand up. It’s easier than styling a wig. Monique goes full church lady. She sings. She dances. She scorches the earth with prayer-shade. Manila Luzon concludes the challenge by roasting everyone in sight. She’s so funny, she makes her competitors roar. It’s the kind of performance that cements you in the Hall of Fame. At the very least, Manila’s club fees just went up. Just when I think my comedy thirst is quenched, Lady Bunny comes alive to show these young queens how it’s done. She’s saucy and bawdy, a giggle wrapped in a fart. She Vanjie’s her way back to the afterlife amid thunderous applause. Not bad for her first visit.
The runway category is Angelic White and it’s not my favorite. Monét can’t stay away from bodysuits but detailed stoning and a mitre make it fashion. The judges gasp out loud at her red heart reveal. Monique looks like she found the worst Project Runway unconventional materials dress and spray painted it white. It’s not Angelic White Stunning and it probably knocks her out of the top 2. It’s too bad Prince isn’t alive to see Naomi’s homage. Everyone should see themselves atop Naomi’s legs at least once in their life.
Top two: Manila Luzon and Monét X Change
Bottom: Everyone else
No one thinks they should go home. Valentina is completely delusional about her performances, past and present. She’s in legitimate, justifiable danger. Monique is bitter she’s lumped in with the losers so she mopes instead of lobbying. Trinity has no such problem. She throws Valentina under the bus with such wild abandon, Manila wonders if the Tuck needs cutting now. There is much drama as Manila and Monét select their lipstick. It’s a turning point in the game and they feel the weight of their decision.
Manila and Monét perform Jump To It by Aretha Franklin, an odd song choice that somehow fits both of them perfectly. It’s comedy queen vs comedy queen, professional vs professional. If I had any suspicion about Manila throwing her lip-sync last week, this performance clinches it. She’s ablaze, setting fire to all doubt that she’s a winner.
RuPaul names Manila and Monét co-winners. They’re splitting tonight’s ten K, trust. The bottom queens panic. When there were two winners in All Stars 2, whoever was on lipstick went home. In that case, they both named the same queen but it left the door open to a double elimination. After letting them stew long enough for the perfect tense edit, RuPaul announces there will be no elimination. Instead, he’s suspending All Stars rules. That means no lip-sync for your legacy. No $10,000, no lipstick. Until further notice, Mama Ru is back in charge.
The queens head back to the workroom, completely confused by this new turn of events. Much like Alyssa Edwards before her, Lady Bunny appears as a specter in the mirror. She warns the true danger lies behind them. They gasp as if this doesn’t happen every season, as if they didn’t pack their own comeback outfits.
Next week: The eliminated queens are back for blood. RuPaul gives them special lipsticks for a very special, first-time-in-Drag-Race-herstory vote.