RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8, FINALE recap

July 24, 2023

Sorry for the delay in the recap. I was in San Diego for Comic-Con and only just got to watch the episode on Sunday afternoon. Of course, I was spoiled on both the season winner AND the Queen of the Fame Games by Friday afternoon, when the OFFICIAL DRAG RACE social media accounts published congratulations posts for both of them before 5pm PST on Friday. In the immortal words of Kandy Ho: What the fuck?

Mind you, there were no surprises here. Both the winner of the season and of the Fame Games were basically locked in based on track record/social votes (Jimbo) or via the Talent Show vote multiplier twist (LaLa). It was an extremely padded finale — like the very generous hip pad a drunk drag queen once left in the bathroom of our AirBnB in Ogunquit, Maine — and frankly the show should never do a Top 2 finale format again.

The episode broke down into two main parts for me: everything involving the eliminated queens, and then the final challenges for the Top 2 of Jimbo and Kandy Muse.

For the eliminated queens, we got several segments of them in the work room rehashing the season, praising each other and bonding, etc. The only truly notable thing here is that Naysha Lopez was front and center — literally, she admitted this at the Roscoe’s viewing party this week that she made sure she was in the center and stirring the pot to get camera time. I do not begrudge her this. It is how the game is played, and arguably a significant part of why Kandy was in the Top 2. What I find mystifying is that if Naysha understands how this works, how does she consistently do so poorly on this show? A question for the ages.

It’s worth noting that at no point (that we saw) was Heidi N. Closet even mentioned. I respect the decision Heidi made to quit early in the run, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not think we will ever see Heidi appear, or even be referenced, on this show again. Is Drag Race/World of Wonder the only game in town for drag artists? Of course not. But it’s a major player for sure, and I have to assume this will have severely negative implications on her future career opportunities. I’m frankly curious if she will even be allowed to participate in DragCon in the future (understanding that some queens view DragCon as an obligation, not a privilege).

The loveliest segment of the eliminated queens was when they had to pull questions out of a big, pink furry box, like they used to do in the olden days on “Untucked.” These started out as simple prompts, but then ratcheted up to essentially the Community Chest deck in Monopoly. Queens were getting cash prizes left and right, Naysha Lopez got a trip, and Mrs. Kasha Davis got a $1K tip and the opportunity to gift another queen an additional $1K, which she gave to the first queen out, Monica Beverly Hillz. I thought that whole thing was really great to see, and I’m glad all those queens got some love. (And cash.)

The eliminated queens all got to walk the finale runway (again, except for Heidi), and every. Single. One. Of those queens. Looked phenomenal. They all brought it to this final runway and I was so delighted. I think it was the best some of those queens have ever looked — Kahanna’s look was incredibly elevated, Alexis was snatched to the gods in a bold red dress, Darienne gave us a whole goddamned performance, etc. They really brought it, and it was great to see.

It all led up to the announcement of the Queen of the Fame Games, which was ultimately LaLa Ri, who took home $60,000. You will remember that last week LaLa co-won the talent show and got a 3x multiplier for her fan votes, so this was not a surprise. But was it the correct decision? I don’t believe so. Based on more than a few polls I saw, LaLa was second in actual number of votes, with Jessica leading by a considerable margin (again, in multiple polls). That 3x multiplier is ultimately what handed her that win. From my perspective, Jessica as Queen of the Fame Games would have been a more satisfying conclusion than LaLa. In all honesty, several of the other queens would have felt more satisfying than LaLa. She’s a fierce performer, and I enjoyed seeing more of her this season. But this is her third title on this show (Golden Boot Award, Miss Congeniality, now Queen of the Fame Games) and honestly I feel like it’s a lot for what she’s shown us. Just my opinion.

Now, on to the Final 2. We got our usual Ru Tic-Tac lunch, a performance challenge to original songs by Leland, a final runway, and a Top 2 lipsynch. In the lunches, Jimbo shared about her difficult upbringing, while Kandy discussed how hard it has been to come back a different person, obliquely referencing her highly controversial S13 run. Ru and Michelle fawned over Kandy, and certainly praised Jimbo as well — but there was a pretty clear inclination toward Kandy in the interviews. The original songs were, in my opinion, easily a point to Kandy. Jimbo had a baffling song, “I Remember Being Born.” She wore a variation of her Canada’s Drag Race entrance look and looked awkward while capering to a mostly silly nonsense song (not Leland’s best work), while Kandy wore a variation on her “Lucky” outfit for a fierce performance to “Pay Me Cash” — clearly the better song.

On the runway, things flipped. Jimbo looked terrific in a bold graphic dress and very cool wig with hair horns — it was very punk, very edgy — while Kandy wore a bright yellow gown that, to me, felt either unfinished or ungainly. The skirt looked like a bathmat tied around her waist, and I will apologize saying this up front: if you have a larger/rounder head, I just don’t think fingerwave hairstyles are ever going to look flattering. Kandy generally has terrific wigs, so I’m not sure what happened here.

Finally, the lipsynch. Much and more has been made of the information shared by Naysha Lopez at the Roscoe’s party that the queens had been told for weeks that the final lipsynch would be to “Do You Want to Funk?” by disco icon Sylvester, but shortly before the F2 smackdown, production apparently tried to change it to “Milkshake” by Kelis, a song that Jimbo apparently has a history performing. Kandy allegedly refused to go out for the F2 lipsynch if they didn’t change it back to Sylvester, which they did. I suspect there are elements of truth to this story, but I think “Milkshake” is as equally in Kandy’s wheelhouse as it is in Jimbo’s — her whole lipsynch style is based on being slow and sexy. Secondly, it was irrelevant, because Jimbo beat her fair and square in the “Funk” lipsynch. I know that we only saw what the editors wanted to show us, but I didn’t see Kandy laying down anything that I found engaging. The floor slide? Gimmick for the sake of gimmick. The cape reveal? Meh. She looked pissed for the entire lipsynch song and I don’t know what she was trying to sell, but I was not buying. We all rag on Jimbo being a terrible lipsyncher, but Kandy is not the lipsynch assassin this show wants us to think she is. And I say that as someone who saw her many, many times live in NYC before she was ever on this show. She’s acceptable. That’s as far as I’ll go. And she was outperformed here by Jimbo.

So, rightfully, Jimbo won the crown. Four challenge wins. A 3x or 4x difference in fan social media responses. A superior finale runway (and season-long runway package — I’ve seen people knock Jimbo for always going with the massive fake tits, but I lost count of the times Kandy came out in a bra and panty set, so forgive me for not being impressed). And she won the lipsynch. Kandy absolutely won the final challenge. But in every other measure, she rightfully landed in second place. I can’t believe we live in a world where Kandy Muse has been a Drag Race runner-up two times, but here we are.

And thus ends All Stars 8. Jimbo is a highly unconventional winner — the first international queen to win an American franchise — but a welcome one. As the judges said, nobody does drag like Jimbo. She’s an original. That is completely accurate, and I’m curious to see what she does as a crowned queen.

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