The games continue in a game show ball on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars

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Video Drag queen before and after

The queens reenter after a successful rehabilitation of Snatch Game, mainly thanks to Jinx’s dual performance as Natasha Lyonne and an epic Judy Garland. As the celebration of Jinx’s victory subsides, Shea reenters carrying the blocked plunger. Perhaps sensing a potential lack of drama given the new format, Shea concocts a mysterious tale about some kind of benefit to being blocked. The other queens’ confusion is exacerbated when Trinity, who knows Shea is bullshitting, decides to go along with the illusion. More perplexing is Jaida’s strategy that she attempts to reveal that collapses into some kind of circular logic.

A video message dropping hints about wheels, spinning, and vowels create more puzzlement among the queens before RuPaul enters and gives a Blair St. Clair cold secret. The mini challenge – a game of hung man – really only functions to further hint at the theme of the challenge as well as some colorful language. Taking full advantage of avoiding the FCC, the queens unable to answer the puzzle provide a litany of blue comments ranging from “cunty,” “shits,” and Raja concluding with the cherry on top, “Fist me hard up the ass.” The actual answer-Vanna White Party-provides a smooth segue to the main challenge. RuPaul instructs the queens that they will be part of “The Realness Of Fortune Ball.” The contestants must compete in three categories: Vanna White Realness, Before + After (a category from Wheel Of Fortune of which Vanna White Party is an example), and Realness of Fortune Eleganza. For the final category the queens must construct a brand-new look from provided materials.

Continuing with the game show theme, each queen takes a turn at the wheel to decide what assigned inspiration they will be given. On the board are travel locations, like one you might win on a game show, related to a specific color. In addition, the is the chance to win money and also go bankrupt. Yvie is the first to win $1,500 before bankrupting on a final spin. The Vivienne follows also winning $1,500, and luckily keeping the money. It’s a good reward considering that queens on the UK version are unable to win cash prizes. Welcome to the USA, Viv. The tournament of spins ends with the following color assignments: Jinx with Provincial Purple, Shea with White Cliffs of Dover, Monét with Emerald Isle Green, Jaida with the Black Sand Beaches of Hawaii, Raja with the Golden Pagoda of Myanmar, Yvie with the Pink City of India, The Vivienne with the Blue Hole of Belize, and Trinity with the Red Square of Russia (which earned a special disclaimer before the show began). While no color seems particularly penalizing, it may put Shea, Jaida, and Yvie at a slight disadvantage. Black and white, under the stage lighting, do not always photograph well, and pink seems a contrast to Yvie’s odd aesthetic (although she did deliver a memorable pink look in her original season).

This is All Stars – All Winners, so there is no mad dash toward a table in an attempt to hoard all the best materials. In fact, they are provided with some terrific fabrics and embellishments. Again, this season is really devoted to helping the queens produce their best drag. At the same time, it hinders them a little. What really makes most design challenge compelling is the incorporation of unconventional materials. This episode provides conventional materials, leading to some well-constructed, beautiful and “conventional” looks.

As the queens get to work, The Vivienne discusses that she wants to keep to a signature silhouette instead of experimenting. It echoes a comment from Jaida in that first episode about getting to take risks without fear of elimination. It feels a little disappointing for the queens to be playing it safe in a season designed for risky, daring drag. Trinity gets quick to work constructing ruffles, while the rest of the queens are still sketching and pondering inspirations. Monét confesses that she hasn’t created her own garment since her original season when she created the Sponge dress. It exposes the fact that design challenges like this have been all but absent on All Star Seasons. Instead of a classic-look design challenges of regular seasons, the All Stars format has been adapted to clubs, hotel rooms, and a drag tots character. Like Snatch Game, this challenge plays to the strength of some queens and the weakness of others. Like last week, Raja seems particularly worried, but for an opposite reason. Whereas last week she was concerned that Snatch Game wasn’t exactly her skill set and ended up excelling, she is now worried that the expectations she has from past design challenges may set her up for failure. Furthermore, she eloquently discusses the importance of process and environment, and how they can impact creativity. Jinx, coming off a challenge perfectly suited to her talents, struggles and has already resigned herself to not making the top two. It feels a little bit of a shame that it appears like after winning the queens haven’t really sharpened the less-perfected skills, but it also probably doesn’t really matter to Jinx’s professional career if she can sew or not. Interestingly, Shea, a two-time design ball winner, is stuck brainstorming since she wants to avoid the predictable approach of bridal with white and that she did a bridal look in her last ball challenge.

They break up the design process with walkthroughs with RuPaul. Jinx, not known for her looks, has settled on a braiding technique to assuage her lack of sewing skills. Monét has settled on a ’70s era as inspiration and Yvie wants to make pink punk. Jaida, perhaps one of the best designers and seamstresses on RuPaul’s Drag Race, has a great mind for design as she explains the importance of adding texture to “break up” the void that black can create on the runway. Despite this mind, Jaida later worries that she may have taken on too much work. In contrast, Shea has a breakthrough when she decides just to embrace bridal. Trinity continues to power through unrelentingly without much insight into what she is working on. It’s a great juxtaposition to Raja’s approach, which feels very tactile and organic as she molds her gold fabrics. As everyone is hard at work realizing their inspirations, it is clear that one person is not enjoying the process. A depressed Jinx says that she “hates” her dress, before Trinity offers some focused suggestions that, as Tim Gunn would say, makes it work.

Morphing from helpful compadre to strategic competitor, Trinity discusses her alliance with Monét. They decide that they should solidify and expand this alliance by including other queens. They first approach Jinx, who noticed them scheming in the premiere episode and even brought it up during Untucked, who is hesitant but also tells them she has no immediate plans to block them. Next, Trinity approaches Shea. More strategic than Jinx, Shea only hesitates because she sees this alliance as being overly beneficial to Monét at the moment. Jaida walks in on the discussion and reveals that she has not really been thinking of the contest in a strategic way. It is left with Shea and Jaida “thinking” about it all. In the end, it all feels fairly moot that now five out of eight contestants explicitly know about the alliance and the remaining three-Raja, The Vivienne, and Yvie-are familiar after Jinx brought it up in Untucked.

RuPaul enters the runway back to oversized blonde hair and an asymmetrical pink lace doily gown. She welcomes judges Michelle, Carson, and guest Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who proves to be a big improvement in commentary after last week. The real shocker comes in a cameo from Vanna White, who hilariously and unexpectedly serves as Emcee for the Ball. It’s an added bonus for the first category: Vanna White Realness. Each contestant gives their best rendition of game show hostess Vanna White.

Jinx takes to the runway in a black sequin gown, transparent robe and blown back blonde hair. She is pleased to see Vanna is also wearing black sequin, which can only help her cause. Shea arrives in a gorgeously simple and elegant pale pink gown with delicate cap sleeves, tight bodice, and structured pendulums adding curves. In what may be the only flaw of the look, she decides against a blonde wig. Back to blonde Monét struts in a white gown complete with appliqués and a sexy, if not befuddling, high and wide slit. Jaida’s silver striped sequin gown works well but it is her “ding, ding” presentation that really sells the look. It seems that both her and Raja are big fans of Wheel Of Fortune and it shows in both their looks and performances. Focused on 1980s Vanna, Raja nails the hair and offers a dragged-up version of a purple ruffled gown complete with spokesmodel poses. In contrast to Jaida and Raja, it seems quite possible that Yvie has never watched Vanna White on television. The oversized red wig with a somewhat busy gown does not really capture the streamlined style of Vanna White on any level. Furthermore, it feels like it takes Yvie a while, compared to everyone else, to realize that Vanna White is in front of her. When she says that they are “twins,” it only highlights the opposite. Back to sleek simplicity, The Vivienne’s peachy pink velvet wrap gown is almost too simple but she sells the concept when upon seeing Vanna she says “Oh, hi me!” Trinity closes the category in a stoned gown and teased hair that feels like Vanna could put on for tonight’s episode of Wheel Of Fortune. It is clear that a knowledge of Vanna White and experience with pageants (after all she is a former Miss Georgia USA) helped Jaida, Raja, and Trinity in this category.

The second category, Before and After, invites the queens to present looks inspired by mashed-up word play. Initiating the category, Jinx seamlessly combines two camp cinema classics in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane Fonda. Equally evoking both Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson and Jane Fonda as Barbarella, this look is the perfect explanation and execution of this category. Shea conveyed Gold Tooth Fairy in a golden schoocie dress pulled up to the crotch, fairy wings, and a gold tooth exposed in that Couleé lip contortion. Inspired by her own drag mother/sister, Monét channeled different kinds of royalty with Bob the Drag Queen Elizabeth. It’s an interesting concept. The neon matched both a Bob look and the queen’s penchant for bright colors. The addition of the purse first was clever, but something about the nearly non-existent pink paint and the sleeveless coat felt off. One has to wonder if Jaida was locked down at home during the Bag Ball of Season 13 and said to herself I can do it better. Her Bag Lady in Red was a wonderful misdirection when she came out not as a Bag Lady, but in a gorgeous red gown constructed from bags that could have walked down a Jean-Paul Gaultier runway in Paris. Raja’s clever idea of Olivia Newton-John Waters was bogged down by an invisible pencil mustache. The result was just a convincing Bad Sandy cosplay and no subversive John Waters. Likewise, Yvie’s Cardi B Arthur was a great concept. The issue was that the wig did most of the work for Bea Arthur. The coat was appropriate, but the exposure of the boots felt like the first half of the look was under baked while the second half was expertly done. Perhaps the most disjointed was The Vivienne’s Princess Diana Ross. She nailed the movements while impersonating each icon, the look didn’t really manage to represent either Princess Diana or Diana Ross. One of the more quizzical looks came from Trinity’s RuPaul Charles the II. It has the playful merging of a queen and a king, but the obscurity of Charles the II feels like a mistake. Combining clever wordplay and execution, Jinx, Shea, and Jaida lead this category.

The final category, “The Realness of Fortune Eleganza,” finds the queens constructing their own looks in color-coded inspirations of geographic locales. For all her lack of skill and inspiration, Jinx, with the assistance of Trinity, creates something serviceable. A little gaudy and ill-fitting, the color looks great on Jinx and the Grecian approach covers an inability to sew. Embracing bridal served Shea well. It looks terrific and is also such a departure from her previous bridal look from the Cookout ball, showing what a depth of design she possesses. Similarly, Jaida showed off versatility in a wildly different black look than the Black Wedding runway from her previous season. Showing a great use of her time, Jaida’s look is comprehensive, complex, and constructed perfectly. Monét’s Irish disco is well made and enhanced by a committed performance that really sells it. Yvie’s look manages to channel as softness without losing her deconstructed alternative aesthetic. The work(wo)manship of Raja’s look is truly amazing. The billowy, yet secure top combined with a simpler yet equally dazzling skirt creates another memorable look. The Vivienne’s aqua gown felt like a well-fit and fitting tribute to her namesake Vivienne Westwood, and was well-accessorized with earrings and a fascinator. The precision of Trinity’s red cut-out gown shows why she was so laser focused in the workroom. The final reveal, a nod to Detox on All Stars 2, also shows why she is Trinity “the tuck.” The only drawback of the category was that the use of conventional materials made everything a little less memorable than past design and ball challenges.

In another twist for this season, the episode actually contained some slight critiques. With three looks to go over, maybe the judges felt like any criticisms would be tempered with a different category. Jinx is dinged a little for reading more Old Hollywood than Vanna White, but the judges are complimentary of her purple look while denoting that design is not her forte. It is agreed that the Baby Jane Fonda is her highpoint before Jinx proclaims that this week is her one weakness. Shea’s entire ball package earns raves from the judges. They loved the detail of the head wrap with the wedding gown and found her Before + After wonderfully irreverent. The judges’ only hesitation was with her Vanna White look, which Michelle said read a little too “Audrey Hepburn,” or maybe Jackie O. Shea’s one stumble may have come down to the color and style of her wig. The judges seem to give Monét’s “Vanna after dark” a pass and praise her performance of the queen doing Bob’s purse first. They celebrate her final look as “totally her.” Jaida earns admiration in all three categories, suggesting her position as frontrunner for the win. Though they didn’t message her use of “dings,” they concur that her Vanna look was right on, her Bag Lady in Red was unexpected and inventive, and praise her final look for the detail and work that went into the construction. Likewise, the judges are in awe of the construction of Raja’s final look and say she nailed Vanna. Michelle perfect encapsulates the issue with her second look as “99% Bad Sandy, 1% John Waters.” Yvie received zero points with her Vanna look, but the judges thought that Cardi B Arthur was “stupid” and “funny.” They also appreciate how she made pink “edgy” and gave her constructed look an unexpected punk-ness. Michelle is noticeably absent from this critique, considering the visible undergarment. The Vivienne’s critique is mostly focused on her final look. While her first two looks did not exactly convey Vanna, Diana, or Diana, they love her aqua gown and it feels like there is potential that RuPaul will wear it next week. The judges loved Trinity’s take on Vanna White, and while questioning who is Charles the II, they agree it was presented well. The final look earns the perfect encapsulation of Trinity’s aesthetic and a quasi-backhanded compliment from Michelle who says “you know how to do you so well.” It’s absolutely true and shows that while Trinity’s style is not for everyone, Trinity’s taste is fully her own.

With the queens untucking in the back, the Judges seem divided about a top two. Michelle suggests Jaida and Shea. Carson mentions Raja. Kirby champions Trinity. It truly does feel that it could be any of those four, probably with Jaida being the lock. Ultimately, after the queens return, all in different looks, RuPaul settles on Jaida Essence Hall and Trinity the Tuck as the top two. It really does feel like Shea missed the top two by a wig and Raja by a mustache.

The lip sync, to Beyoncé’s “Green Light,” feels like one of the closest in a while. Trinity pulls out a pink star while singing “give it to mama,” earning a chorus of laughs from the judges. This, combined with what seems like a slight wig malfunction when Jaida’s braid falls down at the wrong moment, makes it appear as if this is Trinity’s to win. However, Jaida earns some laughs with an air horn, which Trinity tries to shoehorn in on, a helicopter braid move, and a sudden split. Both queens combined comedy and dance and went back and forth on who might win, and a tie would even be acceptable, Jaida is declared the winner. As a victory, Jaida stalks the runway while deciding who to block. Like last week, this feels like an unnecessary sojourn when Jaida decides, like last week, to block the winner of the past challenge. The pattern will be solidified if Jaida is blocked next week. The other pattern that is emerging is of queens excelling where they excel. Shea winning a verse competition, Jinx winning Snatch Game, and now Jaida winning a design-ball challenge. Perhaps the best addition of this episode was the judges actually judging a little and hopefully that will continue to challenge the winners to win again.

Stray Observations:

  • Finally caught up on Untucked and now understand everyone changing before the lip sync better.
  • Is RuPaul wearing a Vanjie nameplate necklace in the workroom?
  • You have to respect Yvie wearing that red wig again at the end of episode 2 and beginning of episode 3.
  • Best line of the night went to Kirby Howell-Baptiste when she said she loved the color green: “money and weed.”
  • RuPaul going out of his way to compliment Yvie’s Snatch Game felt a little like shade???
  • There was a strange interaction with RuPaul and Yvie about not being tucked. It felt like one of RuPaul’s lasting hang ups and may explain why Charity Kase didn’t last longer on Drag Race UK.
  • I did write “RuPaul enters and gives a Blair St. Clair cold secret,” but during some research sadly learned that RuPaul misremembered the event. Apparently, Blair only shivers in season 10. This also explains Blair’s confusion during All Stars 5. I prefer to misremember it like RuPaul.

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