“Drag Race Espana All Stars” Season 1, Episode 1 Recap

February 4, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

After a disastrous Season 3, “Drag Race Espana” is back with its first All Stars season. In my opinion, three seasons is too soon to do an “All Stars.” A “Vs. the World”? Sure, because you can fill out the cast from other franchises. But a franchise-specific “All Stars”? Too soon. That’s especially true since this filmed so soon after “Espana” Season 3 aired, giving the contestants from that season relatively little opportunity to benefit from post-show bookings and coin. But here we are, with 9 queens from “Espana” S1-S3 back again for a shot at the “Espana” Hall of Fame.

“All Stars” rules were imported from the United States, as the queens will compete to be named the Top 2 of the week, and the winner of that lipsynch will chop one of the bottom queens. I fear this is especially where the show is going to run into issues, as queens from the same original seasons are going to be unlikely to eliminate their original-season sisters. I haven’t done the math, but it is VERY RARE that such a thing has happened in “All Stars” history. And when you start this season with just 2 queens from Season 1, 3 queens from Season 3 (who again have had very little time in between seasons, a disadvantage), and 4 queens from Season 2…it’s a recipe for favoritism.

I will also say that, looking at this nine-queen cast, there are some big names you would expect to be here who are not, and some inclusions that left me surprised. From Season 1, where are Killer Queen and Hugaceo Crujiente? From Season 2, where are Estrella Xtravaganza, Venedita Von Dash, or Marina? From Season 3, real talk, I would have taken Clover Bish or Bestiah over at least one of the queens on the actual roster. I just find it very strange that for its first “All Stars,” out of 9 contestants, only 2 of them were finalists in their original season.

Let’s go through the premiere and its Talent Show by talking about each queen separately, in my order from most excited to see them back, to least excited. Spoilers ahoy, so if you haven’t watched yet, now is the time to back out.

Juriji der Klee (Season 2, 5th Place): I was easily the most excited to see Juriji come back. Undeniably a fan favorite from Season 2, Juriji has the full package. She’s gorgeous, she’s talented, she brings the drama, and she brings visibility to the trans community. I thought she was great in the reading mini-challenge, but I don’t know what happened with her Talent Show, a live singing number. There were cool elements there, between the staging, the dancers, the light sticks, but none of it amounted to very much. It started out strong and haunting and then just totally collapsed for me. Juriji was, in my opinion, very lucky to be Safe tonight. I thought she was worse in the Talent Show than at least one of the Bottom 2, if not both of them. She certainly should have been Bottom 4.

Pupi Poisson (Season 1, 4th Place/Miss Congeniality): I love Pupi, I’m sorry. I’m always going to root for the older queens, the brassy broads who take the piss out of the whole affair. And that’s what Pupi does when she’s at her best. Pupi was the first queen back into the work room, and she acknowledged that her Season 1 looks and make-up were crunchy, but promised an evolution. The make-up is certainly better. We’ll see about those looks. For her Talent Show, Pupi did a live singing act in which she split herself down the middle and gave us a female side and a male side, and did both voices for “The Promise” — a high falsetto for the woman’s part and a baritone/tenor for the male. I had no idea that Pupi could sing, and singing live on these talent shows is often the kiss of death. So kudos to Pupi for going for it. On the negative, I did agree with the critique that if this was supposed to be a comedy act, it wasn’t actually funny, and if it was supposed to be a singing act, the singing was not impressive enough on its own. Pupi was judged as Low, and I would have put her either Low or maybe Safe, as two of those Safe girlies dodged a bullet.

Onyx Unleashed (Season 2, 8th Place): I was delighted that they brought back Onyx, who is one of the more exciting drag performers I’ve seen on this or any franchise, and who got tripped up in Season 2 by nerves and self doubt, especially around performance challenges. Onyx is crazy creative and has a real vision for their drag; there is ambition there and they deserved to come back. Personally, I really enjoyed the Talent Show number. Did it start out slow and ponderous? It did. But after the curtain dropped, I was getting my life. Costume changes. Dancers. A catchy original song. When Onyx was held back for individual judging I assumed they were in the Top, but no — Onyx was Bottom 2. I thought that was a load of horseshit. There were clearly worse performers on that stage, and at least one of them was marked Safe. The undercurrent of the episode was basically, “Onyx has no business being here,” and I could not disagree more. Between Onyx and S16’s Amanda Tori Meating, it was a bad week for underdogs on “Drag Race.”

Sagittaria (Season 1, Runner-Up): Sagittaria impressed me consistently in “Espana” Season 1. I think everyone just dismissed her as an Aquaria ripoff, all looks and no brains, but she repeatedly showed us that she was not to be underestimated. And yet right out of the gate on “All Stars,” the other queens were essentially saying she’s an idiot with no talent. That must be frustrating for her. For her talent, Sagi lipsynched to a pop dance number that involved descending from the ceiling on a pole and then ending in a split after being dropped from mid-height. I loved it and thought she showed, once again, that she has the goods. Sagittaria was Safe, and I think that was right, but I wouldn’t have been mad had she been High.

Hornella Gongora (Season 3, 3rd/4th Place): Hornella was consistently solid on Season 3 but never got a win — she was Janning, essentially. That was a talking point for her in this premiere, but she almost immediately resolved it after she placed High for her cabaret number, a kitschy bathtime romp. I thought Hornella was lots of fun here, and I think she may have been singing live? She was mic’ed and there were moments where she sure seemed to be speaking directly to the judges/audience. It was charming and Hornella sold it flawlessly. Hornella was in the Top 2 of the week. Good for her!

Pakita (Season 3, 7th/8th Place): Pakita surprised me in Season 3. I didn’t think much of her at first but she started to come alive little by little as the competition heated up, ultimately getting a brutal double boot in favor of bringing back Kelly Roller. I’ve heard theories that this was intentional because Pakita was one of the only real threat to Pitita getting the crown, and the Powers That Be favored Pitita. I don’t know. All I do know is that Season 3 of “Espana” was a real slog, and Pakita was one of the few bright spots in it. I thought her Talent Show, which featured her doing suspension work with a silk, had great intention and daring — the judges seemed genuinely fearful of her safety. But the execution was messy. Frequently we could not see her at all as she was thrashing about. if she wasn’t having technical difficulties by the end, it sure looked manic. And the blood-curdling scream at the end? There’s a great number there, but it needed a lot more refining. Pakita was Safe and I thought she could have been Bottom 4.

Drag Sethlas (Season 2, 6th Place): Sethlas is the best-performing member of the Gran Canaria queens to attempt “Espana,” so it makes sense to see them back. Sethlas knows how to do stunts, knows how to put on a production number, knows how to capture attention. There can be no doubt of that. Sethlas is basically MADE for Talent Shows. It’s the rest that Sethlas can struggle with, so I’ll be curious to see if they’re better at the humor and the personality this time around. Sethlas’ Talent Show was a breathtaking spectacle featuring elaborate costumes and props, a full dance troupe, and finally aerial acrobatics on a hoop. It flew from one segment to the next flawlessly, a real tour de force. Sethlas was also in the Top 2, again deservingly.

Pink Chadora (Season 3, 7th/8th Place): I was so excited for Pink Chadora going into “Espana 3.” I fell love with her via the Meet the Queens and I really thought she would be my favorite that season. But my god was she grating and, frequently, humorless. Between her and Macarena there was no oxygen left in the room for anyone else, and it made me very nervous that she was brought back. True to form, shortly after entering the work room, the nonstop talking started — like a verbal jackhammer, I swear — and again none of it was funny, and there was an overwhelming sense of bitterness. For her Talent Show, she attempted to do a lipsynch remix featuring some of the notable quotes from previous seasons of “Espana.” It was a flop. Her lipsynch was not tight, there wasn’t enough humor, and the whole thing just felt weak to me. And also to the judges: Pink Chadora was Bottom 2 this week.

Samantha Ballentines (Season 2, 10th Place/Miss Congeniality): I don’t get it. Of the 30-something queens you could bring back for “All Stars,” you pick a 10th Place queen who failed literally every challenge in which she participated in her season, and earned the nickname “lipsynch terrorist” from the fandom for her aggressively poor LSFYLs. Why? I guess because she was voted Miss Congeniality for Season 2? Was everyone a total asshole that season and I missed it? I acknowledge that I must be missing cultural touchstones for Samantha’s humor. I find her exhausting and, even after her supposed “All Stars” glow-up, very cheap looking (that entrance look was far too big for her). For her Talent Show, Samantha did a humorous reenactment of the first time she got an enema. As you might expect from the Samantha Ballentines School for the Dramatic Arts, ultimately this involved her shitting everywhere. Again: I acknowledge that I am not the target audience here, and I am very obviously missing key parts of Samantha’s humor. But I felt this lasted forever and I’m just not going to be impressed with toilet humor at this point. Sorry. Samantha placed High and I screamed inside.

I’ll pause to note that on the judging panel, Supremme seemed to be back in a good mood (she seemed cold and borderline sour during Season 3), Ana Locking remains iconic, and Los Javis really need to go. Especially Javier Calvo, who was blatantly talking over his husband this episode, and giving long, meandering critiques that bordered on nonsensical.

The Top 2 queens — Drag Sethlas and Hornella Gongorra — lipsynched to “Me Gustas Mucho” by Rocio Durcal. It was…fine. Hornella seemed to have the lead early on, giving us a full Delta Werk singing-to-her-bracelet fantasy as she performed the song to a tiny crown. But then halfway through Sethlas started doing these strange acrobatic movements to the moments in the song, and the judges seemed to eat that up. Ultimately Sethlas won, and in the choice between the Bottom 2 of S3’s Pink Chadora and her own season castmate — and possibly her lover/partner/boyfriend? — Onyx, Sethlas predictably picked Onyx to stay.

I’m definitely not mad about that. As I said before, Onyx didn’t deserve to be in that Bottom 2, and I have no problems with Pink Chadora going first based on her previous season nor her Talent Show number. But the situation is now even more unbalanced, as fully 1/2 of the remaining queens are all from the same season. You can see the problem here, right?

Next: since it’s only a six-episode season, we are right on to Snatch Game. I can’t even imagine what Samantha is going to be like in that challenge….

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Toni
Toni
4 months ago

So happy to see Olé stars Spain! Will be a great season, but both Javis need to go, it’s time to paca la piraña being a regular judge or even la prohibida, I get the Javi’s are brutal telling stories but is time to have a trans or another crossdresser in the panel