RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8, Episode 5 Recap

June 2, 2023

Well that was an eventful episode. Let’s crack open a House of Love cocktail in the Interior Illusions Lounge and unpack.

First, the set-up: straight to the maxi challenge, the return of of the “Snatch Game of Love” format, in which the queens are split into two groups of four and have to play off of celebrity “Snatchelor” subjects Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers (I adore them).

My general thoughts on performances:

As Ginger Minj once famously said of “Drag U,” Group 1 really was a rough spot. The queens vying for Matt’s affections included Heidi N. Closet as Blackbeard the Pirate, Jessica Wild as Puerto Rican icon Iris Chacon, Kahanna Montrese as her drag mother Coco Montrese, and Jaymes Mansfield as Jennifer Coolidge. Jaymes was clearly the best in this group, but that’s damning with faint praise, as she presented an aggressively adequate drag Jennifer Coolidge. That is not a big swing in 2022 (when this was filmed). Heidi’s Blackbeard was polarizing. An odd choice of character, but she did have some funny bits (“There are seven seas?!”) — and others that flopped horribly (almost anything involving her many, many props). I know virtually nothing about Iris Chacon, so I felt that Jessica was just giving us Multiversal Charo, and there was absolutely nothing new there. Kahanna was simply dreadful. She was playing Coco in aggressive mode, which as the judges noted, didn’t allow any room for anyone to go comedically. Without question the worst performance of the night.

Group 2 was significantly better. Attempting to steal Bowen’s heart were Alexis Michelle as Bea Arthur, Kandy Muse as “Mob Wives” star Renee Graziano, LaLa Ri as “Love & Hip-Hop” star Sukihana, and Jimbo as OG American Sweetheart Shirley Temple. Nobody flat-out bombed here, and Jimbo and Alexis absolutely crushed it. (My partner noted that had Alexis been in Group 1 she easily would have won it.) Jimbo’s deranged, chaotic Shirley Temple will immediately join the canon of all-time great Snatch Game performances. Yes, the gonzo physicality of the tap dance — which was dead on to Temple’s style — was hilarious, but the jokes and banter were equally successful. Whatever happens the rest of this season, Jimbo has enshrined herself as a top-tier Ru Girl in the last few episodes.

Alexis was also terrific as Bea Arthur, a character that Michelle Visage noted seems like it would be easy to do, but is actually super difficult. You have to be both dry and sharp, laid back and intense. Alexis absolutely nailed it, and the look. I know nothing about LaLa’s character, but she had a few laughs in a character that seemed very familiar to what we have come to expect from LaLa. And for her second Snatch Game, Kandy did exactly what she did in her first: play herself. In Season 13 it was Kandy Muse in a Turban (MUA Patrick Starrr). In AS8 it was Kandy Muse in a Boxy Coat (“Mob Wives” lady). There is zero transformation, and Kandy always goes for the lowest-hanging fruit comedy wise.

Before we got to the runway and judging, the real scandal of the episode erupted in the work room. So let’s dissect what I’m referring to as HeidiGate.

To fully grasp this situation we have all have to agree on a few things in the narrative. And five episodes in, I would argue that narrative is more important in AS8 than it has been virtually any other season of this show. The editors have been very deliberately including comments and moments in the first few episodes that all informed what happened this episode, and it’s important to understand WHY.

  1. Heidi has not been in a great mental space pretty much the whole season. She has not seemed overly happy. She talked about her mental health and family struggles. In the “Untucked” for the Ball episode she flat-out threatened to quit.
  2. Heidi was in an alliance with Jimbo and Kandy, and there has been more talk of alliances — in a serious way, not in a joking way — than I can think of from previous AS seasons.
  3. Kahanna knew that she bombed “Snatch Game” and was clearly feeling vulnerable before judging. She did well in Week 1 but since then she has struggled to connect with the challenges.

So, bear that in mind as we go forward. Getting ready for the runway, Kahanna took the opportunity to call Heidi out for being mean to her in Snatch Game, when she already knew Kahanna was bombing. Heidi explains it was never her intention to pile on Kahanna, she thought they were playfully volleying — which is exactly what you do in Snatch Game. So Heidi went on the defensive, more or less begging for forgiveness for, essentially, just doing the challenge the way it is always done.

Kandy smelled blood in the water and took that opportunity to bring up off-camera discussions (“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” viewers are entering a fugue state reading this) in which Heidi told Jimbo that Kandy was gunning for her. Remember: the three of them were supposed to be in an alliance. Heidi attested that Kandy absolutely said that to her, without a second’s hesitation. Kandy denied that she did.

Heidi immediately dragged in Alexis, who was present for the Kandy/Heidi off-camera conversation in which Kandy allegedly said she would take out Jimbo if/when given the chance. Alexis fully nodded her head in agreement that Kandy said that…and then immediately started walking it back. I suspect Alexis will get a lot of flack for this. She’s already getting shit for shoving Darienne in front of a bus last episode. But I actually feel for Alexis here. In that moment, she knew this was a dangerous situation. She was being called as an unwitting witness in a high-stakes she said/she said game featuring all three of the producers’ chosen favorites this season (you know it’s true). Regardless of what ACTUALLY happened, Alexis had to be thinking about the political fallout from this. And she asked for none of it. Should she have been honest and stuck to whatever the truth was? Sure, ideally. But realistically, she’s smart enough to understand that this was a potential powderkeg and she was standing there, trying to get rid of the torch.

There was confusion as to whether or not Alexis was backing up Heidi. Kandy then said something I think all but confirms that Heidi was telling the truth. “Even if that was the case [that Kandy told Heidi she would eliminate Jimbo], where is your loyalty [to Kandy, her alliance mate]?” Jimbo immediately jumped in saying, “She [Heidi] was being loyal to me.

If in fact Kandy never made any comment about eliminating Jimbo, she would not have taken it to the, “Well if I DID say that…” place. I know liars. You probably know liars. This is what liars do. They deflect. And what is Kandy doing here? She feels she’s on shaky ground with the lie, so she immediately deflects to, “Heidi, why were you not being loyal to me?” (Ignoring that trying to vote out your alliance mate is incredibly disloyal.)

There was a moment where everyone uneasily tried to move on, putting on make-up. Heidi was clearly still mentally wrestling with all of this — her own personal struggles, Kahanna trying to pull Heidi under when she knew she was drowning, the Kandy attack and Alexis flip-flopping — and she told everyone that she hoped they can just go out and have fun, and then they could all vote Heidi to go home. They all told her to stop, there was no need for that. And Heidi reconsidered and said, Actually, there’s no need to vote. She was done. This was not for her. She didn’t like how ugly the whole experience became. And that it was her time to leave. So she literally walked out of the work room, and the competition.

Several girls were shown going to speak to Heidi encouraging her to stay, including Kandy (who previously talked her into staying in the Ball episode), Alexis, LaLa. You could tell they were all genuinely upset by this whole situation. Heidi told them this was the right decision for her, and she won’t regret it because she needed to “find her joy.” Some people may think Heidi overreacted here, or punked out or whatever. But as someone who literally just walked away from a high-paying job because it made me absolutely miserable, boy, do I get where Heidi is coming from here. And I fully back this decision.

That said, I’m hugely bummed. I have been a Heidi fan since she entered the work room with her mating call in Season 12. She was a sparkle in a sea of “…OK” this season, and on top of all the bullshit heretofore discussed, she was being routinely dismissed by the judges. I’m not saying she should have won any of the challenges up to now, but I do think she should have placed High over some others who are CLEARLY being favored in service of the narrative. And I’m not even talking about Jimbo, who has 3 wins now in 5 episodes, and has been protected from her weak spots landing her in the bottom (see: Girl Groups, lipsynching). But Jimbo has earned each of those wins, and delivered everything else at an exceptionally high level. LaLa, Kandy, and Jaymes have all been routinely overpraised for doing mediocre work. Sorry not sorry.

I have a suspicion that the producers intended to give Heidi an underdog arc, with a strong second half of the season — I don’t for a second think they expected her to leave before the finale. This likely threw a real monkey wrench into their season-long plans. And I kind of love that for Heidi even more. I think on some level, the favored queens have to know they’re being favored, right? They have to understand they’re being given a bit more attention, shown a bit more love, if nothing else. I have to assume Heidi had awareness that her leaving at this stage was a big loss for the season, and given how preordained AS8 has felt so far, I give her all the more credit for upsetting the apple cart. SOMEBODY had to do SOMETHING. Otherwise I think we all could have predicted the next several eliminations up to at least Final 6.

Because you know Kahanna isn’t going to make it. She and Jessica were the Bottom 2 this episode — I think Jessica got screwed here, because while her Snatch Game was flat, she did fine with the Reveal Yourself runway theme, while LaLa was uninspired in Snatch Game and literally gave us a velvet Snuggie that she revealed to a static outfit, WHAT?! — but there was no elimination due to HeidiGate, even after Jasmine Kennedie came and obliterated poor Jimbo yet again in the lipsynch to Dua Lipa’s “Hallucinate.”

I’ll be curious to see how all of this plays out on social media over the next week. If Heidi is painted as a sore loser or quitter, or if the fandom rallies around her. She’s out of the Fame Game because of her quit, so she doesn’t even have that option (and man am I going to miss seeing those unused runways, because she has largely been a standout in fashion this season…). I’ll also be curious to see how people react to Kandy and Alexis from all this. Kind of in-theme with the Fame Game, I think the real winners and losers of this season will ultimately be decided online…

Next up: “Joan: The Unauthorized Rusical.” Barbara, PLEASE!

Want to read the rest of our AS8 recaps? Check them out by clicking here.

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