If Drag Race as a series is a dinner, the entrees is All Stars. The non-All Stars seasons are sides and condiments, things to make the entree better.
That is the lesson we are learning this season: the arc of the show’s evolution has made regular Drag Race seasons auditions for All Stars. Considering how lackluster and often derivative new queens have been in newer seasons, figures crafted for TV drag instead of performance or reality television, the show for old fans is a means to fluff up this parallel series, where the best-of-the-best fight to the death.
And, boy, are they fighting.
This is my takeaway this week since, yes, we have been gifted another mostly delicious episode. Bless the gifts we have been given this season because I can assure you that season ten of Drag Race will not be this good.
Spoilers, obviously. Proceed with caution.
7. The Bitch Tree Blooms
How shady are these eliminated queens getting? Yes, there’s always been an element of “I am bitter!” but this is getting to a new level. From Thorgs’ dick to Milk’s “Yall know this was bogus,” we’re in a competition of queens out gagging each other with their bitchiness. This isn’t shade: it’s bitchiness, poor sportsmanship. Is this bad? Not necessarily. But, as the episode opening drama showed, it highlighted something that has defined All Stars 3.
6. This Time? It’s Personal.
Trixie pointed out something major at the top of the episode, in regards to Kennedy’s axing of Milk: this season is about personal politics. Last All Stars was about saving your friends, sending people you didn’t have fun with home. This season is about revenge, about people righting the ways they have been wronged. This makes the season more vicious as everyone is watching their back. Many will probably poo-poo this season for this reason but I, for one, would like the record to note that I appreciate the Big Brother twist we have been gifted here. It’s making delicious drama. The shocks keep on coming.
Bendelacreme: Hi Shangela
Shangela: Hey girl
Shangela’s confessional: Oh miss Ben isn’t fooling anyone with that “hi” stuff. See she’s just playing the game, playing the “good girl” who “greets” people. I know better though, I see what’s really going on honey
— Gabriel Gastelum (@gabrielgastelum) February 17, 2018
5. Battle Of The Reality Stars
The Trixie note drama? Wow. Didn’t see that coming and, yes, that was Shangela digging for drama. She, like Ben, are playing a game. But you know what else they are doing? Being reality stars. This show, outside of All Stars, forgets this and we are getting it served left and right this season, people double crossing each other in the name of the crown, making and unmaking drama just because. This isn’t about your audience or kumbayah in order to build an audience: this is about fighting to be the top queen. This may have given us sour Milk but it is how the show should be: a balancing of charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent with gagging other queens by how you flex your reality star ways – not your pontifications about queer history and “Love is love!” (Granted, that is the fault of the producers. That shit gotta stop and has been so blessedly absent from this season. Again: this is for old fans.)
5.5. What The Fuck Was Marc Jacobs’ Cameo?
Like. The most useless.
4. An Awkward Snatch
The main challenge was so awkward. Ghosts from seasons past came back to haunt people like Trixie and Bebe who both, in my opinion, bombed for thinking they were too legit for the challenge. And poor Chi Chi and her bombing with M(a)ya. That broke my heart. Kennedy similarly was boring which, when paired with Trixie’s iffy one-liners, gave us an under-baked Snatch. These bads were so bad that the goods like Aja and Shangela and Kristin Chenoweth were overpowered, in distracting shadows of cringeworthy performances. The one person to come out unscathed, to truly shine with their performance, was Ben. She was unscathed, unsullied by the shitty surroundings. Aja and Shangela had a more difficult time adapting to others bombing while Ben just plowed through, adapting and doing his thing with aplomb. Well done.
3. Ru Is Looking Her Best
Unlike last season, every episode this season has had Ru (And Michelle’s!) makeup and costumes off the charts. She looks phenomenal. That must be noted. Why? Because this runway was not devastating at all from the queens. This was not All Star worthy, save for Ben and maybe Aja and Trixie. Shangela’s was fun but awkward and reminiscent of her Mariah despite the touchstone here being so clear. Chi Chi did look her best but, really, did not look great. Kennedy was straight up bad while Bebe was fucking boring. I thought Ru was going to call everyone out for this by dismissing Ben and Shangela for being the best. I was craving a “Step that pussy up.” call from the judges but, nope, we didn’t get it. Perhaps that is still percolating.
2. Ben VS. Shangela
“Game recognize game” was how Shangela put it in regards to how Ben is playing a game. She’s right. They both have very specific strategies that are being played out in parallel worlds – and the fight is between these two. The season is now being framed around them, with Shangela’s “Do I have your allegiance?” schitck while Ben is playing it Ms. Nice Guy to everyone, the unsung card that Jinkx played her season. Who will win from this? I’m putting my money on Ben since her track record has been so strong this season. Shangela has misstepped once or twice while Ben has been flawless. Perhaps the competition isn’t as fierce as they think? Unsure. In any event, Ben is the horse at the head of the race. Trixie, again, said it best: she’s so far in the distance that people are being graded on a curve at this point. She also won the lipsynch, in my opinion. (Sidebar: I don’t know if I like that they let the top two do a costume change for the lipsynch. That seems like a cheat. Make it work with what you wore, fam.)
1. The Trixie Mattel Problem
I was fucking shocked by this lipsynch reveal. Ben, we knew, was going to do Chi Chi. We knew that. But, like Kennedy last week, this episode was designed to put Trixie on the bottom and Shangela at the top. The bottom three may have been forced as was a top two win. But you know what? The possibility of two eliminations, one being Trixie, was hardcore. The producers knew this before the lipsynch happened, making this a well designed TV moment that, with Shangela’s perfect pacing, yielded a shock of justice being served efficiently instead of giving Chi Chi the Roxxy Andrews bye, the bottomest of bottoms to fail up. This was a revelation. Yet, Trixie’s living another day highlights a major flaw in this format that I don’t know what to make of: she, like Milk, are not “relying on pretty” as Tyra would say but relying on their fanbase. Trixie made an excuse for herself here, that she “wasn’t herself” with those crocodile tears to the judges, but the reality she just isn’t that great. Quick thinking, entertaining, fun: yes. The best of the best? Fuck no. Her admission that she was “in her head” was a cover for her fans, so they didn’t think any less of her. That is a problem that is going to grow as this parallel All Stars world evolves, for people to see that queens off-the-show aren’t perfect on-the-show. Not everyone is Alaska. Trixie is proof of that.
One question, that wasn’t big enough for a point: when is the twist coming? Next episode? The one after that? The next episode tease was so scant that it could be the drop but, like last season, they’re going to do something major. The reveal last season was SO HUGE, one that no one saw coming, that this season has to play out similarly. We expect queens to return in the same fashion of last season but that wouldn’t be shocking. Given that this is episode four, something big is coming. I can feel it.
Anyway, here’s my ranking.
Chi Chi(Down one – and out. My poor baby. I love her! She is still underdeveloped, sadly, but maybe the nicest and most genuine queen to have done the show, ever. Maybe next time, Chi Chi!)
6. Bebe Zahara Benet (Up one, as a formality. Still a spy. Moving on.)
5. Kennedy Davenport (Down two. Almost had her at four, tied with Aja, but, in thinking about her runway look being so bad, her flaws are revealed: her taste in clothing and general fashion sense will be what self-selects her out. She might slip next week since it’s a design challenge. That in mind – and Trixie’s save – mean she could go home since Trixie owes Shangela her life now. Kennedy is already Team Shangela: she is a bit disposable.)
4. Trixie Mattel (Up one. I said my grief above but, like I noted last week, she and her reputation are killing her in-show game.)
3. Aja (Up one. She’s turning it out! Still no chance of winning but she will die trying and god love this kid for that.)
2. Shangela (Maintained. Nothing more to say except she is finding new ways to be that bitch.)
1. Ben De La Creme (Maintained. She is riding off into the sunset, at this point. Who knew? Probably a lot of you, really.)
Thoughts? BRING ON THE TWIST. BRING ON THE DRAMA. BRING IN THE NOISE, BRING IN THE FUNK.