RECAP: “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9” Episode 5

June 8, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

This week on “All Stars 9,” we got our first acting/improv challenge of the season (not counting Snatch Game), and the queens did overall quite well. We also got one of the most wackadoo mini-challenges in “Drag Race” herstory, a runway that most of the queens either bombed or ignored the assignment, and a bizarrely dramatic “snipping” ceremony. As I’ve seen said multiple times on social media today alone, “It’s a lot of emotion for a season with basically no stakes.”

Which is also worth addressing. “All Stars 9” seems to be meeting significant fan pushback, and from what I see, the chorus of naysayers is growing each week. It’s true that virtually every season of “Drag Race” is accompanied by a healthy dose of bitching. It’s just the nature of intense fandoms and social media in an era where snark and dismissiveness equates to internet points. But I think there are valid criticisms about this format. I stand by the fact that the eight queens this season are all great — yes, all of them — and every one of them earned this “All Stars” run. I even think the charity twist is an interesting approach. But the energy does feel off. It does feel as though there are no stakes. And that’s especially true when the judging panel seems almost terrified of saying anything negative, even when someone underperforms. And some of these queens have underperformed at various points this season. So something is certainly off this season, and people are noticing. Am I still enjoying it overall? Sure. But as of now, I wouldn’t care to see another season with this format again.

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This episode, the queens kicked things off with a “Soul Train” dance line with the Teletubbies. No, you did not just have a stroke. The characters from the British kids show literally came into the work room and danced with the “All Stars 9” cast for a minichallenge. Check it:

It all felt like a fever dream, to be honest. That wasn’t helped when, for reasons that I could not tell you, Gottmik somehow won the challenge, despite seemingly just running from side to side. It was not the weirdest or worst minichallenge we’ve ever had. That dishonor still goes to the baby minichallenge from Season 13. But this was wild. Wild!

Then we got the main challenge: the queens had to pair up (ugh) and create parody commercials for real-estate agents selling houses in wacky locations. The prompt gave me pause, because these could easily get boring or screechy — see most of the parody commercials from “UK Vs. the World 2,” for instance — but I actually thought almost every team did a decent to great job. Then the queens took the runway in “day-to-night” reveals. Or at least that’s what they were supposed to do. Like half of them completely ignored the prompt.

I’ll go through each team’s performance in order of least to most impressive (in my opinion).

Nina West & Shannel: Nina and Shannel took the spooky house in Salem, MA (I was just there!) and played macabre, possibly undead realtors. The concept was not bad, and in fact that commercial had a couple of genuinely funny bits. But it also had a LOT of real-estate jargon that felt too literal for what is, ostensibly, a vehicle to make people laugh. Nina seemed to be doing most of the heavy lifting on the writing when it came to this team, as Shannel apparently focused immediately on the visuals. A recurring, implied theme this season is that Shannel very much lives inside her own fantasy, and does things her way. Which is great! I absolutely love that about Shannel. But it is genuinely hard on team challenges, when one member is in a completely different mental time zone. That said, Shannel was one of the best on the runway tonight, delivering an honest-to-god day-to-night look with a fairly smooth transition. I have been a fierce defender of Nina all season, and I will continue to do so. But this runway was a mess. The Flying Nun costume into the stained glass look, which further evolved into a dress with a message on it. This is what happens when you have lots of budget, highly questionable taste, and try too hard to make a capital-M Message. Nina needs someone on her team to help her edit her concepts, because she’s got tons of talent. She just needs to refine and not go for the frying-pan-to-the-face approach.

Gottmik & Jorgeous: I thought the judges were too dismissive of this commercial. Again, Gottmik seemed to take charge of the creative, as Jorgeous floundered with comedy and concept generation. While shooting the commercial, this was easily the least prepared team. And yet, I thought their commercial — in which they were selling an igloo in the wilds of Alaska — had some laugh-out-loud moments, many of them coming from Jorgeous. On the runway, the judges were encouraging to Jorgeous about continuing to push on the comedy challenges, but Jorgeous still broke down. (Sidebar: this is partially why the judges hesitate to give out actual criticism; between Jorgeous imploding here and Vanjie bristling at Carson’s accurate read of her scorpion runway, I would think twice before telling these tender children anything even mildly critical.) Personally I think Jorgeous has shown significant improvement in comedic skills from Season 14, and if anything, I’m frustrated she’s not giving herself enough credit. Joregous’ runway was super 70s, and while I admit her day look was awfully flouncy, the whole thing worked for me. Gottmik continues to impress the fuck out of me this season. She was the less exciting member of this pair in the challenge, but without her I don’t think they would have had any material at all. I loved the idea of the runway — basic dude business suit from the front, but the entire back is gone revealing kinky lingerie. But is that really a reveal? Did it satisfy the challenge? I submit that it did not.

Angeria Paris VanMichaels & Vanjie: During the filming of their commercial, I was convinced this was the winning team. Selling a swamp hut in the Florida Everglades, Angie and Vanjie leaned into the deep country mannerisms and produced some hilarious lines. Swamp Pussy Realty needs to be a t-shirt, and I will buy it. There was a lot of great material here, but they also got bogged down in gags that just weren’t that funny, like pouring one out for their late uncle. That segment felt like it went on forever. On the runway, Vanjie gave us two replica outfits from Pretty Woman — smart idea, Vanjie! — with, unfortunately, an ungainly reveal transformation. Angeria is usually strong on the runway, but my goodness I hated this look. Wig and make-up was great, everything else was a flop for me, especially that skirt transformation. The final look was dreadful. Angeria can do better than this. She almost always does.

Roxxxy Andrews & Plastique Tiara: This is the first week of the competition where I felt Roxxxy was deserving of the praise being lavished upon her. After blocking Angeria for a second time, Roxxxy was on the defensive — not a place where Roxxxy does her best interpersonal work, let’s just say that — and took whatever location the rest of the teams did not want. That ended up being a ghost town in Texas. She and Plastique went super country for this commercial, and once Plastique loosened up, the results were pretty obviously the best of the bunch. This was a funny, well-paced parody that showcased both queens to their comedic best. Plastique arguably stole the show from Roxxxy, which is a refreshing change for the previously comedy-allergic Plastique. On the runway, Plastique gave us two sickening looks that, unfortunately, had absolutely nothing to do with the challenge. Where was she going in that beautiful Asian garment during the day? Did she mistake “night” for “knight,” which led to that (again, stunning) silver armor get-up, including two matching daggers? Michelle asked where Jorgeous’ daytime look was going. Where were EITHER of Plastique’s going? On the other hand, Roxxxy served a great reversible blue sky dress that transformed into a stoned starry-night ensemble — and she made it herself. It’s the best Roxxxy has looked all season. THIS is the Roxxxy Andrews I have been wanting to see all along.

Roxxxy and Plastique were named the Top 2 queens (correct, I think) and lipsynched to Nicky Minaj’s “Super Freaky.” What a terrible song for a lipsynch. First, there are approximately 5 million words; second, it’s not catchy. At all. Not even the verse. The Rick James sample is great, but honestly at that point just give us actual “Super Freak,” please. I thought Plastique performed the fuck out of this, while Roxxxy looked awkward (what was going on with those pants?!) and out of place. At one point, during a particularly lyric-heavy portion of the rap, Roxxxy turned her back to the judges. That signaled to me that she didn’t know all the words. (I do not blame her, who could POSSIBLY know all these words?) But then for the last minute or so of the song, I don’t think Plastique even moved her mouth! Did she ALSO not know the words? Real talk: we have not had a genuinely good lipsynch this entire season. Whoever is selecting these songs is fucking up “Drag Race.”

Roxxxy was chosen as the winner — still no cash for Plastique’s charity, which is a bummer since she’s been one of the clear breakaway performers in my opinion — and then launched into the strangest iteration of “clipping” we have seen. Clearly feeling some type of way after the Angeria block, Roxxxy tried to be “fair” by turning her back on the dolls and just randomly picking a girl to block. Boo! Tomato, tomato! Clipping is part of this GAME. It’s the only thing generating ANY drama for the viewer. Get over it. Hilariously, Roxxxy STILL ended up standing right behind Angeria, and the look on Angie’s face is already up there with Jan Face in gay meme land. Roxxxy freaked out, and started crying about how she couldn’t in good conscience clip any of them, and…the doll doth protest too much. This felt highly calculated, highly produced to me. If Roxxxy REALLY didn’t want to chop anyone else, she could have just chopped herself. I just don’t think she wants to look like the bad guy, and so she was carrying on to make sure everybody knows she’s a good person. I’m confident Roxxxy IS a good person! And an amazing queen! But this carrying on over the “clipping”… Girl. Get a grip.

Ultimately Roxxxy clipped Gottmik, which was the best strategic choice. Mik has two badges and has been performing at a very high level. There was no need to block Nina (BTW why the fuck was she dressed as an elf from Macy’s Santaland?), no point in blocking Shannel (what the fuck was she wearing Part 2), she couldn’t block Angeria a third time, Jorgeous had already been blocked AND got the worst critiques, and Roxxxy and Vanjie had just gotten into a tiff in the work room. The only other real option for Roxxxy was to clip HERSELF, but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Next: Roast!

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