RECAP: “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9” Episode 4

June 1, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

Time for the makeover challenge, AKA the challenge where there are no rules or metrics, Production will just push whatever narrative suits them best.

I’m sorry if that sounds cynical, but season after season, franchise after franchise, it has proven true. The makeover exists as essentially a free space for the producers to either reward a queen who they want to advance in the competition, or punish/hold back queens they aren’t invested in. We saw that very clearly this episode, as the winners were — in my opinion — almost nonsensical while two other teams with arguably better results were given nooch.

Let’s dive in.

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Before we even got to the challenge, we had to resolve the cliffhanger from the previous episode: the Snatch Game winners, Nina West and Gottmik, each had to give away their bonus badges to one of the remaining queens. There was a lot of talk about alliances, including the bizarre assertion that Shannel and Angeria Paris VanMichaels had one, despite the fact that neither of them have barely spoken to the other (according to them) all season. That felt very weird to me. Either one of the other queens was feeding incorrect information — Jorgeous was astonishingly quiet in that segment — or Gottmik was making it all up for the cameras. I think either option is equally likely.

Ultimately, Nina gave her badge to Roxxxy Andrews, and Gottmik to her best Judy, Vanjie. That means that everyone in the game except Shannel has a Beautiful Benefactress Badge, and Gottmik remained in the lead with two. It was strange to me that, of the three badgeless queens, Roxxxy was given one of the freebies. She was blocked in E1 because she was seen as such a threat. That hasn’t panned out, but given her track record, it’s understandable. If there is ANY alliance this season, I would say it’s Gottmik/Vanjie. So, a lot of misdirection that resulted in a preseason frontrunner getting a free badge and an alliance helping each other out. Very strange behavior. Personally, I feel bad for Shannel.

Before the next challenge was announced, Ru had the 8 queens split into groups of two. They ended up being: Gottmik/Nina, Angeria/Shannel, Roxxxy/Vanjie, Jorgeous/Plastique. The challenge was — in pairs — to make over straight (I think all of them were straight?) firefighters into pop stars, forming girl groups of three. They also had to write, record, and choreograph a verse to the song “Pussy On Fire.”

I’m glad this makeover involved a performance element, as recently the U.S. franchises have just switched to, “Put this non-drag queen into drag you brought at home and create a family resemblance.” Not a compelling challenge, in my opinion. Having these firefighters have to write a lyric and perform actually gave the challenge some meat, and all of the firefighters — who were lovely — at least seemed to enjoy themselves throughout.

That said, the judging verged on nonsensical, as at least two teams did a better job than the winning team. Here is my take:

The Hoezes (Roxxxy/Vanjie with their “daughter,” Valerie Valentine): Roxxxy created matching outfits for all three of them, and there was absolutely cohesion there. Roxxxy also did Valerie’s make-up, so she had the same mug as Roxxxy…but it was not a mug that I thought flattered the firefighter whatsoever. If the goal was to present a unified girl group, I was getting Roxxxy and Vanjie as members of Destiny’s Child, and Valerie as Tina Knowles, the group’s momager. Valerie threw herself into this challenge and I think performed to the best of her abilities — I also loved the story about his daughter and her partner, who is a trans man. But you cannot tell me that performance was better than at least two of the other firefighter queens. In my opinion, it was obviously weaker. And yet, this was the winning team. If Roxxxy making three outfits out of the same material is what won this challenge, that is absolutely insane.

Meow Meow Mixxx (Plastique/Jorgeous with their “daughter,” Angelique Vachon): This would have been my winner, without question. Plastique and Jorgeous created a believable girl group with their daughter, Angelique, who I thought had the most successful transformation of the night and performed at the top of the firefighter pack. The Powerpuff Girls reference was so clear even the straight male guest judge got it. The names incorporated into their outfits were campy and trashy in the way a good 2000s girl group should be. There were no flaws here, and the fact that Plastique and Jorgeous — who admittedly, was blocked from receiving a badge — were runners-up at best is ludicrous.

The Hose Draggers (Gottmik/Nina West with their “daughter,” Anita Blaze): Possibly polarizing, but I enjoyed this group the most out of the three. Mixing both Nina and Mik’s styles was a difficult challenge to begin with, and their firefighter — the absolutely gorgeous Nathan — is one of the most jacked men we have ever seen in a makeover challenge. Dude is a walking He-Man figure, and I say that with total respect and lust in my heart. There was no way of believably feminizing Nathan into Anita, so they just leaned into the genderfuck of it all, and had this wall of flesh posing and flexing on the stage, in between good lyrics and some simple but effective choreography. Anita seemed to have a ball. (I would give Anita all of my balls.) While the transformation was not believably womana, I though the approach was smart and, most importantly, entertaining. I would have put this in the top over the winning team..

The Pussycat Hose (Angeria/Shannel with their “daughter,” Natasha Bradley): Pretty clearly the worst-performing team, although I thought all three did their best. Natasha is just a skyscraper of a human being, and just doesn’t have a feminine sense of movement at all. Whereas Team House Draggers found a way to make that work despite itself, I don’t think this team did. Additionally, the costuming was a choice — that collar piece made it look like poor Natasha was wearing a neck brace. It wasn’t cohesive aesthetically, the performance was…a thing that happened. I just hope they all had fun, honestly. And neither Angeria nor Shannel really seemed to care that they were the obviously weakest team, because why should they? There’s no penalty to flopping this season.

So Roxxxy and Vanjie were named winner, the firefighters each got $1K each to donate to their charity of choice (I would have thought, “I shaved my chest for THIS?!”), and the Top 2 queens lipsynched to “Black Cat” by Janet Jackson. This was, to me, a pretty obvious victory for Vanjie. She’s an underrated lipsyncher, throwing in lots of energy and serving all-out puss. Roxxxy gave an on-point lyric delivery, no question. But as has been the story of this season, the energy was low, and most of the work was being done by her billowing leopard-print shawl/cape. Which DID give drama! But surely it takes more than just a flowing piece of fabric to win a lipsynch.

Except, no. Apparently not. It was ultimately a tie, and I don’t even think that was correct. Vanjie outperformed Roxxxy — from what we saw, Vanjie knew the lyrics just as well, and definitely gave a more aggressive performance — but both of them got the win, splitting the $10K tip to their charities, and having to work in concert to decide who to block. There was a very obvious answer here: Gottmik was the only other queen with two badges (it’s crazy that Roxxxy and Vanjie went from 0 badges to 2 apiece in one episode), and strategically SHOULD be the one to get blocked. But Roxxxy was still feeling some type of way from Angeria blocking her in Episode 1, so she returned the favor. Not the savviest move. However, I do think Angeria is generally one of the more well-rounded queens in this competition, so that actually might work out for them.

Next: another team challenge (in a season with only 8 queens?!), this time an acting challenge spoofing real-estate commercials. Oh boy…

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Brandon
Brandon
14 days ago

This season is really frustrating. I don’t talk to a lot of people about Drag Race, but everyone I do believes the winner of the makeover challenge was easily Plastique and Jorjeous – hands down. Hell, I woud’ve even had Nina’s team over the winners. The fact that Michele acted like there was no cohesion in the Powerpuff Girls team is ludicrous. Why are we having this season at all if the judges are just going to willy nilly choose who they want? Why don’t they just save us all the time and hand someone the crown. And I know country isn’t a favorite genre of the gays, but Brothers Osborne have some fun songs that would’ve made for a great lipsync. I don’t get playing a Janet song when our guest judges are musicians.