This episode was a great example of why I’m so excited by this season. When the cast was initially announced, most people I know immediately complained about having another season with Silky Nutmeg Ganache. I would be very curious to see if their feelings on Silky changed by the end of this episode, because from my perspective, I found her elimination extremely sad. And a few other people have said the same to me — they felt terrible for The Reverend Doctor of Drag Race.
But I get ahead of myself. The queens were sorted by height — a novel approach to team selection! — and split into three groups, each assigned with a different “side hustle” that the queens had to sell via commercial. So this was both a marketing and an improvisation challenge, as the queens had the thinnest of material to start with. Much of this challenge was up to their interpretation and creativity.
The shorties — A’keria Chanel Davenport, Ginger Minj, Jan, and Silky — were assigned Rent-a-Queen, a drag queen escort service. Their concept was broad and they gave themselves way, way too much to do, each playing several characters and doing several costume changes. Both A’keria and Silky struggled, but in different ways. A’keria kept fumbling with her lines — surprising, sine A’keria came alive during the performance challenges in Season 11. Silky, meanwhile, was wrestling with more personal demons. She spoke at length about trying to take the lessons learned post-Season 11, in which fans accused her of taking over every second of the show and overwhelming the other queens with her domineering energy. But as often happens, Silky course corrected too far, and instead disappeared in this challenge. She had a total of three lines to start with, and a costume mistake led to her giving up one of those. In an effort to be more of a team player, she became a total nonentity. And she knew it. I thought Jan and Ginger did well here, especially Ginger. But this was very much in her wheelhouse. Overall the commercial they came up with was a whiff. You can tell they put a lot of work into it, but it wasn’t funny, or clever, or entertaining.
The middle group — Ra’Jah O’Hara, Pandora Boxx, Trinity K. Bonet, and Yara Sofia — were assigned Drag Fixers. Pandora quickly threw out a slogan, “Fix It, Bitch!” — and while not particularly original, it was effective as a catchphrase and organizing concept for their commercial. This was funny, all the members of the team got a moment in the spotlight, and they all worked together beautifully, even chaos engine Yara. To me, the strongest players were Pandora and Trinity.
The tall group — Kylie Sonique Love, Eureka!, and Scarlet Envy — had Drag Exorcists, and they decided to play with exercise vs. exorcise, with Scarlet and Kylie playing gym goers who use fitness to purge demons from the possessed. Fun idea, although I think the execution didn’t live up to the concept. Kylie kept up with other two, but was the weakest member of the group. Scarlet appeared to be leading the endeavor, while Eureka! owned the scene entirely. Overall the end result was solid, and Eureka! in particular really impressed me.
The runway theme was Rudumption, in which the queens had to re-do a theme they bombed in their original season. This should be a staple of every All Stars season, and I believe the last time we saw it was AS3. I did not think this was nearly as successful as the AS3 version, and in some cases I thought the queens actually looked worse (TKB’s re-do of her S6 promo look was overly busy and significantly less elegant/sexy, Ginger’s second attempt at AS2 Future of Drag was just as bad if not worse than her original interpretation). Interesting to note that the queens did not get to pick which runway to re-do. They were assigned. I’m not sure why some of the decisions were made. Silky had some real bombs in S11 (the cockroach, almost all of her Monster Ball looks), yet they gave her Drag Family Resemblance, the makeover. How do you do that as a solo look?! Literally most of Pandora’s S2 looks could use a second shot — not a read, the standards/resources have changed significantly since then — but she was given AS1’s Opposites Attract runway, which I thought was actually one of her more successful looks on the show. At least this was an opportunity for Scarlet Envy to re-do her S11 entrance look, which was notably bad, in part because she apparently forgot her pants at home. Oops!
The winner of the challenge was Trinity K Bonet, which was…interesting. She did well in the challenge, but was she significantly stronger than her teammates? Especially Pandora? Not sure. Regardless, it worked out because Trinity gave us an instantly iconic lipsynch against S6 sister Laganja Estranja to Dua Lipa’s “Physical.” Laganja gave us CUNT from the second she dropped down for her entrance, to the very end of that song, throwing out every trick in the book. Laganja has said publicly that she will never do All Stars because the competition is not compatible with her mental health. I respect that, but we are really missing out on an actual star getting another shot. But honestly, I bet she has a whole host of new fans just based on this lipsynch. Fucking legend.
All four members of the shorty team were up for elimination, but during backstage deliberations Jan and Ginger were more or less identified as being off the chopping block, since they got mostly positive critiques. There was some drama between Jan and Silky when Silky suggested that the other queens should still consider Jan, and things got dicey for a moment. You could honestly see Silky thinking about how the exchange that was unfolding at that very second could lead to a legion of angry Drag Race twinks coming for her on social media.
I found that fascinating, but also very sad. Silky received a LOT of hate during and after Season 11. She was bullied, gigs were cancelled, and even fellow Drag Race queens took whacks at her. You can see how she tried to adapt her approach to All Stars, and how difficult it was for her to try to edit herself into a more palatable reality TV character. There’s an irony in her singing “This Little Light of Mine” in the talent show in Episode 1, because Silky rarely let her light shine this season. I actually do agree that she was overbearing in Season 11, and I wasn’t excited to see her back. But I also don’t like to see these queens twisting themselves into knots in an attempt to please viewers, because then they’re not being authentic. And honestly, they’ll never please everyone. Impossible. This has been subtext of the show for years now (another very clear example of this: Phi Phi on AS2), and I’m glad it’s actual text here. I’m not saying the fans need to embrace every queen, but you can not enjoy a performer and just keep your mouth shut about it. I remain baffled how someone can call themselves a fan of this show and think it’s a good idea to go online and harass a stranger on social media. How is “everybody say love” compatible with sending death threats on Twitter?
Ultimately, Silky was eliminated via group vote, as Laganja won the lipsynch. We don’t yet know what the vote breakdown was, but I’ll be curious — I bet it was closer than the previous two eliminations. I am glad that Silky was able to come back and rehabilitate her frankly radioactive image. I’m sad that the whole experience was so emotionally fraught for her. You can tell she really wanted redemption, and she didn’t feel that she was able to show all she has to offer. All Stars can be a brutal business.
I also want to say, I’ve seen some people say that Trinity was out of line for complaining that nobody was congratulating her on her win, and jumping straight to pleading their cases. I’m Team Trinity on this one. It is very rare on this show that the winner of the challenge does not get a moment to bask in their success, especially when it is that person’s first-ever win. Did she come a little hard? She did. But the other queens shouldn’t have even put her in that position. I have no issue with her behavior here. Modesty has no place in a post-Kardashian society.
Next: the Rusical! Themed around Super Bowl halftime show performers. Which artist will the queens impersonate? Who will be the lipsynch assassin? Will Jan get another meme-worthy finish?
How are you doing in our little pool? Michael Schwarz has been my partner in Tooting and Booting the looks so far, so see how your queen is stacking up in the scoresheet!