RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8, Episode 11 Recap

July 14, 2023

Let the Fame Games commence!

This week, we pause from the main competition, as all of the eliminated queens — or at least 9 out of 10 of them, since Heidi N. Closet is basically being retroactively erased from this season after her quit — returned for the sorely missed reading mini-challenge, and then they each performed their original solo pieces for the All Stars Variety Show. As with most recent seasons, the Variety show was light on actual variety, but there were some good numbers in there. Let’s dive in!

First, congratulations to Mrs. Kasha Davis, who won the reading challenge! I think it’s great that the queen of kindness won the shade-throwing challenge, but all of MKD’s zingers were delivered in playful spirit. I could be wrong, but I think after she won I caught her saying, “I wish I had been meaner!” Adorable. Overall a solid reading challenge, just about everyone got in a good joke.

The Variety Show — hosted by our Top 2 of the season, Kandy Muse and Jimbo — went in elimination order. I’ll briefly give my sense of the performances:

Monica Beverly Hillz did a lipsynch to an original track. That will become a theme, but honestly, I get it. Most of these queens are going to use this opportunity to showcase a work they can actually benefit off of financially, and an original track is a pretty obvious route to go. Monica looked great, but I found the sound mixing on the track to be terrible, and her performance was very lowkey. It’s possible that’s just her vibe, and there’s certainly a market for that. But among the other numbers of the night it didn’t leave a lasting impression.

Naysha Lopez did a modern flamenco dance to a Jennifer Lopez number. I love when queens do culturally inspired talent shows — I was captivated by Gia Gunn’s AS4 talent — and I thought Naysha had a good idea here. I agreed with one of the judges who said, “I wanted it to go on,” because a minute went by REALLY fast, especially with the stop-start nature of flamenco. I thought she did a good job and looked great, and I appreciated her giving us something different. But it did feel VERY short.

Mrs. Kasha Davis gave us a lipsynch to an original track, “There’s Always Time for a Breakdown,” a rock anthem that was a totally unexpected vibe from her. Kasha served up a strong political message and really let loose in an intense performance about the hate and discrimination the LGBT community is now facing, and wrapped it all up with a mock children’s story hour. I thought this was a bold move for Kasha, and I think she certainly grabbed people’s attention. The message could not be more timely. BTW Kasha has released a full-length video to go with this number, featuring many Rochester drag legends (we love to see it!), and you can check it out here.

Darienne Lake did a stand-up comedy routine, and I thought she was great. Terrific delivery. Great stage presence. Funny jokes and an uplifting message. I loved seeing Darienne’s confidence on the stage tonight, and I hope she’s proud of that performance.

Jaymes Mansfield did a lipsynch to an original number called “I’ve Got These,” a song about how she doesn’t have any performance talents, just a giant set of fake breasts (which are, of course, all natural). I thought this was well delivered and good silly fun, but it was essentially just an extension of what we’ve seen from Jaymes all season. It was exactly what I would have assumed Jaymes was going to do, and that’s not necessarily a compliment.

Kahanna Montrese did a cheerleading routine and lipsynch to an original track. At least I think it was a lipsynch, because it seemed to me she fell in and out of that part of the performance. Kahanna did a back flip, some sharp cheerleading moves, and gave great energy. I honestly couldn’t make out most of the words in the track. I think all of the elements are there for a terrific number, I just don’t think she rehearsed it enough.

LaLa Ri also did a lipsynch to an original track, and gave us the full LaLa Ri Experience. Which is: big energy, terrific dancing, and serious charisma. LaLa really does captivate the audience when she’s in her element, as she was here. There is star quality there for sure.

Alexis Michelle came out and sang live — historically a big risk on the All Stars talent stage! — and performed a Broadway-style number inspired by “Gypsy.” I thought Alexis did a really good job here, showcasing her strong vocals and excellent stage presence. Some good comedy and borderline burlesque vibes as well.

Jessica Wild performed a — wait for it — lipsynch to an original song, “You Like It Wild.” I say original, but it was, shall we say, heavily inspired by early 2000s Jennifer Lopez. Jessica also gave terrific energy, great dancing, and impressive hairography. Jessica is a star, there can be no question. She will kill on the Werk the World tours or on Drag Race Vegas Live. But much like Jaymes, it was pretty much exactly what I was expecting from Jessica, and again, I’m not sure that’s a great thing.

After the Fame Game contestants performed, Jimbo and Kandy Muse did their talents as an exhibition. Jimbo did a bizarre number in which he removed a bowl of ice cream from a freezer wig (freezer wig!) and then proceeded to make a sundae using a banana hidden in, presumably, his ass; nuts from a bra; whipped cream that shot out of his massive fake breasts; and then a cherry that was hidden in his panties. Deranged. Unhinged. Food-based. Iconically Jimbo. Kandy came out and did a lipsynch to an original track, except it did not in any way sound like Kandy’s voice on the track. I was very confused by this. The performance was…fine. There were at least three other lipsynch performances in that Fame Games that blew Kandy’s out of the water. I’m sorry Kandy fans, you know it’s true.

In the end, all the queens received lovely critiques from the judges. I was glad to see it, they all deserved some love. Ru revealed that the Top 2 performances (not including Kandy and Jimbo) would lipsynch for a chance to multiply their Fame Game vote counts. Those top two will surely raise some eyebrows. LaLa I can see an argument for. That was a great number, it caught attention. But the second winner was…Jaymes Mansfield? I would have put Jaymes squarely middle of the pack for that number. There were at least 3 or 4 other queens who had more interesting, attention-grabbing talent shows, and I defy anyone to explain to me how she made it to the top based on what we saw.

But the riggory doesn’t end there, because in the Top 2 lipsynch — to “Rain on Me” by Gaga and Ariana Grande — Jaymes somehow ended up tying for the win against LaLa. I will concede that Jaymes had a moment where she took control of the lipsynch in a seductive moment with LaLa that brought to mind the infamous Raja/Carmen Carrera “Straight Up” lipsynch/softcore porn video from Season 3. But much of the rest of it was, to be blunt, ungainly, with Jaymes essentially swinging her gigantic tatas around the stage.

I like Jaymes and I’m delighted that she got the chance to come back here and prove that she’s a star. She is. I want her to succeed. But I call bullshit on the results of this episode. It feels highly forced to push certain queens ahead based on something other than the merits of their performances.

Anyway. Jaymes and LaLa got to spin a wheel with multipliers (actually, Bruno from the Pit Crew spun it for them — that was super odd to me), and Jaymes got 2x while LaLa got 3x. That’s a huge advantage for the Fame Games, but based on what I’m seeing, I don’t know if it’s going to be enough to get either to the win. I think Jessica is coming in with a ton of inertia from fans who feel she deserved to be in the Top 2 with Jimbo, and I’ve seen Darienne getting a LOT of love online for her very funny “smear” campaigns on social media, and Kasha’s video is also getting buzz via Reddit. I’ll be curious to see how it all turns out. *RuPaul opera glasses gif*

Who are you voting for the in the Fame Games? You can cast 10 votes between now and Sunday, July 16. Click here to vote!

Next week: the big finale! Jimbo vs. Kandy Muse! The winner of the Fame Games revealed! I’ll be in San Diego for Comic-Con so my blog will be delayed but you’ll just have to deal with it!

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