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Tuesday, September 27, 2016


I feel like every week of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 2 I’m ready to declare one of the best episodes in history, but this week I really, really mean it. Emmy-winning Mama Ru kept the twists coming, and kept viewers on the edge of their gaff.

Last night’s episode certainly put any lingering hopes for a Phi Phi redemption firmly tucked inside the winter cabin forever. If you thought the face crack heard ‘round the world at the end of last week’s episode was epic, Phi continued to spiral wildly into full-blown reality-TV panic with such fervor, I can’t believe it didn’t blow everyone’s wigs clear off.

These “bring back eliminated queens to partner with” challenges tend to be pretty predictable and unnecessary affairs (I can’t say I was ever desperate to see Tempest Dujour again, sorry!), but the structure of this season has added an additional layer of stakes. Even despite this week’s dreaded “comedy” challenge, the episode felt Ru-per-sized in every way.

OK, let’s unpack all the buffoonery, wiggery and straight-up tomfoolery in SPOILER-filled detail below.

We pick up right where we left off last week, as the remaining queens huddle in the backroom, leaving Phi just enough lace-front to hang herself with. Ms. O’Hara is just unloading on Alyssa, when POOF the eliminated queens (including Alyssa) appear behind the mirror. Busted.

One by one, the eliminated gals re-enter the workroom, all in dramatic two-for-one looks. Alyssa immediately calls Phi out for talking smack and it sends Phi Phi into a total tailspin. It’s both painful and amazing to watch. For all of her silliness, Alyssa comes off super savvy in the whole exchange. Alyssa’s complaint is clear: Why are you so comfortable talking about me behind my back, but you wouldn’t call me out to my face. But Phi Phi, obviously caught in the act, tries to deflect the blame by claiming her sovereign right to having an opinion, completely missing the whole part about how and when she shares that opinion. This isn’t a free speech issue, Phi.

When that logic fails, she trots out that old reality-TV favorite accusation: “Alyssa is playing the victim.” Gurl. This is the queen that’s been crying foul of the edit and being made a villain since she first reappeared. (And she’s been moaning on social media each week as this season unfolded.) It’s a disaster.

Then, for some reason, Ginger feels the need to throw herself onto this dumpster fire. She’s also accusing Alyssa of throwing her under a bus (is the bus still running?), even though Alyssa easily shuts this down by reminding Ging that her compatriot in the bottom the week she was eliminated, Katya, had just won a challenge, so Alyssa felt that she deserved to stay. It’s incredibly sound logic. Ginger is undeterred in her quest to look like a fool, so she then claims that if Alyssa had sent Katya home, she would’ve volunteered to leave in her stead. Has everyone lost their damn mind? Do we need to check the workroom for a gas leak?

Thankfully, Ru enters and stops the insanity. Here’s how this is going to work: The eliminated queens will each pair up with one of the top five for a comedy routine. The eliminated queens pick partners in the order in which they were eliminated. Alyssa wisely snatches Alaska; Ginger pairs with Katya; and Tatianna chooses Detox, claiming “I picked Detox to be my partner because she’s funny, she’s dirty, and she’s not Phi Phi or Roxxxy.” Clever girl. That leaves Coco with Phi Phi and Roxxxy to fly solo, playing the unenviable role of MC.

The queens perform full of the draggerati, including Victoria “Porkchop” Parker, Alexis Matteo, Gia Gunn, Chad Michaels and other Drag Race alums. It’s … a mixed bag at best. As hostess, Roxxxy is a mess. Just a miserable presence every time she’s on stage. Her opening warm-up was clumsy, and she clearly wasn’t comfortable. Then she trotted out her season five character Tasha Salad, whose schtick mostly consists of limp salad puns and a lateral lisp.
Coco also brings out an old favorite: Ru’s cousin from the projects. The character was so much better suited for the roast format, but still manages to wring the only laughs out of an otherwise abysmal performance. Phi decides to play a “chola,” all dark lip-liner and SWV fingernails and, oh yeah, a pregnant belly. I also think she was doing an accent? Sometimes? There’s not even enough thought behind it for it to qualify as offensive or problematic. What’s certain though is that it’s definitely not funny.
To the surprise of no one, Alaska and Alyssa slay the stage. Alaska had the perfect instinct to create lots of space for Alyssa to riff and go off-the-cuff, which works splendidly. Alyssa just struts around the stage Alyssa-ing, while Alaska punches in with quick one- or two-word punchlines. Alyssa may have got more of the laughs, but this was Alaska’s engineering, and it shows.
Katya and Ginger are up next, and, even though I hate agreeing with Ross Matthews, it felt laborious. Ginger’s delivery is so hokey. It all feels very Poconos, cruise ship comedy. Ginger delivers jokes as if she’s waiting for a rimshot between each one. It makes it hard for Katya’s weirder, wilder sense of humor to shine. It wasn’t a catastrophe, but it wasn’t better than fine.
The biggest surprise of the night was Tatianna and Detox. Even though neither gal has really earned a great reputation for this kind of performance, they both knocked it out of the park. Performing as two socialites, they served up bawdy humor, never breaking character and pumping their set with the most purposeful (and successful) jokes of the night. I mean, don’t get me wrong, these gals aren’t going to put Tina Fey/John Mulaney/Louis C.K. out of a job any time soon. This wasn’t subtle (or really “smart” humor). This was DRAG comedy, so it was extra campy and extra filthy. In this context, it was perfect.

The judges bid adieu to Coco and Ginger, awarding Alyssa and Tatianna the win. They get to lip sync for their return, as well as for the opportunity to send home one of the bottom girls, Roxxxy or Phi Phi. Backstage, Phi Phi huffs and puffs about how she’s not going to beg, before relenting to sit down with Alyssa and Tati anyway. Phi digs herself so much deeper by first serving attitude to Alyssa and then talking smack to Tati about Detox. Not smart! Roxxxy, by contrast, might as well start washing their feet with her wigs. The desperation is palpable.

The girls hit the stage for Tati and Alyssa’s earth-shaking lip synch to RiRi’s “Shut Up And Drive.” I never thought I’d say this, but I think Tati out synched Alyssa, but just barely.

Ru agrees. She announces Tatianna as the winner, much to the shock of many viewers. Moments later she reveals Alyssa is also a winner. They both get to stay! And they both get to eliminate a queen. Of course, they both chose Phi Phi, so this season’s villain is finally sent packing. And, just in case there were any doubts that maybe she wasn’t as rotten as she seemed, she flatly refuses to hug Alyssa, but gives all the other queens a hug goodbye. That’s not even shade. That’s sludge.
Whew. We’ve covered a lot of ground already, so let’s just do a quick check in with our rankings.

1. Alaska is still sitting pretty on top. She looked great and played the game like a pro this week. Can anything shake her?
2. They’re not going to bring back girls to send them back right away, and, if Phi Phi got a villain edit this season, Alyssa was certainly made to look like a hero. I’d say her surprise return makes her a lock for the top 3.
3. Since Alaska has dominated all season, I think Katya is going to have a comeback from a few weeks of stumbles. Someone needs to be an underdog, and I think the beloved Katya is our best bet. To be fair, that third spot in the top 3 certainly still feels up for grabs, so we’ll see how things shake out. For now, I’m leaning Katya.
4. It’s a tight race at this point, but I’m giving Detox the slight edge over Tatianna. She really surprised with her performance this week, and she’s been pretty consistent so far.
5. Let’s not count Tatianna out, though. Her Snatch Game was a real missed opportunity, and she can be a little too Forever 21 on the runway, but she’s really been a force to be reckoned with in these challenges. That lip synch last night made me a fan.
6. If hosting is really what Roxxxy does, as she claimed last night, maybe she really should quit her day job. Her departure is long overdue.

How would you rank the queens?


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