RECAP: “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9” Episode 3

May 27, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

Sorry for the delay! I was on a whirlwind trip to Boston and am just catching up on all my stories.

Episode 3 gave us the dreaded/anticipated Snatch Game — again in its “Snatch Game of Love” iteration that really needs to be retired; it’s significantly less engaging than Original Recipe Snatch Game and I don’t know a single viewer who enjoys it — as well as a bonkers runway prompt. It also gave us quite a bit to think about when it comes to the new format this season, and how it may or may not be contributing to queens not really applying themselves to the challenges. Because ultimately, there are very few stakes for them since all the money is going someplace else (specifically, their chosen charity).

Let’s dive in.

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I’ll go over each queen in order of their appearance on the Snatch Game of Love, including my thoughts on their actual Snatch Game performance, their “A Tail and Two Titties” runway, and overall vibe so far this season.

Angeria Paris VanMichaels as Marla Gibbs

In my opinion, the clear winner of Group 1. Angeria flopped the Season 14 Snatch Game, giving us a truly bonkers take on “Drag Race” legend (or cautionary tale?) Tammie Brown. She was much better here, giving us a Southern-fried take on TV icon Marla Gibbs, of “The Jeffersons” and “227” fame. This was all very much in Angeria’s wheelhouse, but it was clear she put in thought and consideration, she stayed in character, she volleyed, and she was funny. She did the job, and considering how bad she was in her original Snatch Game, I think she should be proud of herself. I thought her dragon-inspired runway look was similarly successful. It was polished and well executed. Nothing earth shattering or creative, but undeniably a passing grade. So far I think Angeria is doing well. She’s been solid or better all three weeks. She is obviously engaged in the competition and wants to do well. I think she’s toward the top the pack as of Episode 3.

Roxxxy Andrews as Tasha Salad

Not good at all. The story of the season is, Whatever Happened to Roxxxy Andrews? Because the person currently on my TV screen bears little resemblance to the icon from seasons past. In case you aren’t watching “Untucked” — I honestly forgot it even existed for this season — Roxxxy flat out admitted in this week’s episode that she picked Tasha because she knew it would be safe, and she could just coast. Well, that’s disappointing for viewers, and for Roxxxy fans in particular. She followed that up by saying that “that really isn’t me, but…” Well apparently it IS you, Roxxxy, because you did it. And thus far it feels like she’s been coasting this entire season. I don’t think she has had a standout moment yet, and given that the season is 1/4 complete and there’s merely 8 queens, that’s not great. Not great at all. I understand why Roxxxy would try to continue to make Tasha a thing, but at this point she is “Drag Race” fetch. And there’s very little actual *content* around the character, which is wild given that she has appeared on three seasons. On the runway, Roxxxy looked the best she has all season. That’s not really a compliment. The Jessica Rabbit/Roger Rabbit amalgamation is a very odd concept, and elements of this look came off as crafty. Roxxxy has *always* turned it on the runway, and this season she is not connecting, or even meeting the level of several of her competitors. I would put Roxxxy as one of the 2 or 3 weakest competitors of this season thus far. If the point of this run was to rewriter her “AS2” arc of flopping and being pulled to the end, she is failing miserably. After three episodes, I’m not convinced Roxxxy even wants to BE there, much less that she has any interest in actually winning. I’m so disappointed by what I’m seeing thus far.

Shannel as Liberace 1

It’s crazy, but true: Shannel made Top 4 on two previous seasons of this show, but had never done Snatch Game. It didn’t exist in Season 1 OR “All Stars” 1. For that reason, I give Shannel some grace here — although I’m not sure she needed it. Her Liberace was a strong impersonator of the lascivious Vegas entertainer, from the look to the mannerisms and filthy double entendres. There was some discussion that she wasn’t super funny, but I thought she was easily the second funniest of her group, and had some decent zingers. Could she have been more loose in her approach, and had more fun? Sure. But all in all, a solid Snatch Game debut for Shannel. On the runway, she was one of two scorpions. I didn’t fully understand what was going on with the breast section of this look — was she molting? — and the fact that she had to hold the stinger took some people in my viewing party out of the fantasy. But I thought the concept was at least interesting and Shannel’s styling was excellent. Overall, right now I would put Shannel in the back half of the AS9 pack. But she is clearly trying and is engaged with the competition, even if she hasn’t quite clicked into gear just yet. I hope she will. It’s wonderful to see her again.

Jorgeous as John Leguizamo

This was a controversial one. I think a lot of people, myself included, thought that Jorgeous was attempting to do comedian John Leguizamo as his drag-queen character Chi Chi Rodriguez from the classic To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. And if that was the case, she failed spectacularly. It was just Jorgeous in a bad wig. BUT! That is NOT what she was referencing. She was doing THIS character that Leguizamo did in stand up in the 90s:

And you guys, she was pretty much dead on! Was it a stretch for Jorgeous? No. Was it a fairly obscure character that most viewers would not recognize? Absolutely. But it was, in hindsight, a solid impersonation, and her XXX-rated responses were funny in a crass way. It was certainly better than her dreadful Ilana Glazer impression from S14 Snatch Game. While I thought this was awful the first time I watched it, and was irritated that Snatchelor Monet X Change picked Jorgeous seemingly to be a chaos agent, I actually think this is a competent entry. On the mainstage, Jorgeous gave us Bruiser Woods Realness in a chihuahua get-up, and based on the delivery, I’m more convinced than ever that Jorgeous is into pup play. It just makes sense. Three episodes in I think Jorgeous is in the middle of the pack. She’s not struggling nearly as much as she did in Season 14, and she’s had some real bright spots. But it’s clear she’s not quite up to the level of several of her competitors just yet.

Vanjie as Cleopatra

Vanjie came out strong, in a historical-reference gag (Cleopatra was rumored to have been delivered in secret to her love, Marc Anthony, by being wrapped in a carpet) and with a good entrance line. And then she flopped. To me, it read that she just gave up and checked out completely. I have no issue with historical figures in Snatch Game. We’ve actually had quite a few very successful ones. And there’s a lot you can do with Cleopatra. Vanjie did almost none of it. It was basically the same scenario as her Season 11 Snatch Game as the “Cash Me Outside” Girl, and to have basically no evolution in your abilities in 5 years…girl. This was discouraging to watch, since I have been enjoying Vanjie’s ebullience this season, even if her performances have been largely uninspiring. On the runway, she gave us the OTHER scorpion, this time with a very cool hot-pink tail with LED lights that also integrated into the hot-pink leather jacket. That part was great. But the base costume itself — as Carson Kressley noted — felt very off the rack. This offended Vanjie, but ma’am. I am sorry. You need to collect yourself. The tail and jacket ARE cool, but the rest was hella pedestrian, down to the chicken cutlet titties visible under the mesh top. Vanjie is at the back of the pack so far. She’s great TV. Naturally charismatic. But she’s giving us nothing this time out, and doesn’t even seem interested in trying (as evidenced by this challenge). Again: disappointing.

Nina West as Liberace 2

There was early-episode drama as both Nina and Shannel realized they prepared the same option for Snatch Game, famously swishy 60s & 70s pop-culture pianist, Liberace. We have had two queens do the same character on international editions of “Drag Race.” It’s not new. And I had no issue with both Shannel and Nina doing Liberace — a perfect Snatch Game character, by the way — because they were both decent or better. Nina’s mannerisms and look were not authentically Liberace, but who cares? She was very funny. Nina killed the volleying and playful part of Snatch Game, and was throwing down jokes a mile a minute. Whether or not Nina’s drag is to your taste, there can be no denying that she is very good at this kind of comedy. Nina’s runway was polarizing, but honestly, I liked most of it. I thought going for the tail of a comet was a novel approach, and the giant planet titties were camp (which is Nina’s brand). I thought a lot of this was striking, although the black hole on the back was far too low. Has the person who made that garment ever seen an actual asshole? If not, look up my photo! Overall a good week for Nina — up until the runway results; more on what happened after that below — and I would put her in the middle of the pack thus far.

Plastique Tiara as Ali Wong

Fucking awful. I’m sorry. Plastique struggles with comedy, and was dreading this challenge. I get that. She picked comedian and actress Ali Wong, in part because they are friends. I question if they are still friends after this. This was in no way Ali Wong. Like, there is a way to deliver jokes that are in the style of Ali Wong. Plastique did none of that. She just sat there with her legs open, showing her panties, and repeatedly going to the same punchline: “beef.” We get it. We got it the first time. There was nothing else there. Like Vanjie and, arguably, Roxxxy, Plastique just seemingly could not be bothered to even attempt to do the assignment here. If this was a regular season with eliminations, I assume she would have at least *tried* to do something. But she didn’t. This format allows for queens to just fully give up and move ahead for another week, and that’s something we really should not be putting up with as viewers. If producers continue with the non-elim format going forward, they need to build in some mechanism that penalizes queens for failing to do even the bear minimum in a challenge. That said, where Plastique continues to shine is in her aesthetic, and that Kitsune runway was stunning. Plastique continues to cement her place as one of the most successful visual artists in the franchise, even as her performances continue to underwhelm. She’s been tough to sum up thus far, as she’s been good (E1), great (E2), and lousy (E3). But that somehow still puts her toward the front of this pack.

Gottmik as Pal

Fucking wild. First, let me say to the Furry community: condragulations on this week’s challenge; between that runway prompt and Gottmik playing the dog who played “Lassie,” you guys are having a real banner episode. This was an inspired character pick that could have gone very, very wrong, but instead Mik gave us another excellent Snatch Game, after her win as Paris Hilton in the S13 Snatch Game. (Aside: Is Gottmik now the only queen to win TWO balls AND TWO Snatch Games? I think she may be!) This was smart, funny, weird, and unserious — exactly what a great Snatch Game should be. Then that runway. I was not a fan of this prompt, but Gottmik took it in a completely different direction, giving us a massive ponytail for her “tail” and Swarovski-crystal-festooned explants in a bag for her “two titties,” plus molded replicas of her own arms holding scalpels performing her top surgery, more crystals to show the scar lines, and a corset in the color of medical scrubs. WOW. This look is a serious statement piece, and I have to imagine there are many in the trans man community that were deeply moved by it. (Apparently the religious right have gotten wind of it, and they’re definitely moved by it, in other ways. Fuck them!) Three episodes in, Gottmik is at the top of this competition, by a pretty wide margin. She was good in E1 and exquisite in 2 and 3. The other dolls better step up, because Gottmik did not come back to play, she came back to win. I’m honestly not sure if several of these other girls are committed to doing the same.

So, let us now turn to discussion of the Top 2 lipsynch, featuring Nina West and Gottmik to “Banana” by guest judge Anitta and S16 premiere judge and general question mark, Becky G. First, let me say that Gottmik did really well here. I don’t consider her a lipsynch artist, but she was giving us bends and hairflips and swagger, and she seemed to have down the words of what is not at all an easy song. And then, poor Nina. Since Episode 1, at panel results Nina has appeared on stage wearing a sequined caftan that read “My Lipsynch Dress.” So it was clear she had something planned for that moment. What was planned was…awful. It was layer after layer of bodysuit with “Drag Race”-related memes craftily applied to them, that had to be — I guess? — ripped off to work, which meant that Nina was often struggling to remove these many, many layers while awkwardly moving and turning on stage. It was…bad. Like, full-on cringe bad. We all knew Nina was not a lipsyncher. Her one and only lipsynch in S11 was the infamous “Meh.” smackdown (“smehckdown”?) to “No Scrubs” versus Silky. But this cemented her as probably the worst lipsyncher in “Drag Race” history. Even Samantha Ballentines from Espana is an improvement over this.

I want to make it clear: I have mad respect for Nina West. She’s a terrific queen. Talented. Funny. Caring. Brave. Inspiring. Lipsynching to pop songs is not part of her skillset, and in the real world that’s fine. In this competition, it’s a big liability, and I’m curious to see how she can navigate that as the season progresses. Hopefully now that she got her ill-conceived stunt-reveal bukkake out of the way, she can find a different approach.

Next: It’s a makeover with hot firefighters! But the girls are operating in…pairs? With only 8 contestants, why would they do that? Also, we’ll get into SecondBadgeGate.

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