RuPaul in her runway gown for episode 3.
Watching Nina Flowers and Tammie Brown go away on last week's RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars still smarts—especially Brown, the weirdo's Honey Boo Boo. As Alexis Mateo put it, "I'm gonna miss their crazy a****." But this competition is cutthroat, and there was a lesson in that: part of whittling it down to just one winner means that we're going to watch beloved contenders sashay away time and again. Take heed: the four teams left this week were stacked with faves. No cut would have been unpainful, and by the end of it, Twitter had turned into a wailing wall of heartbroken fans.
Team Yarlexis' butch look.
Plus, it was hard not to imagine how Team Brown Flowers would have handled this week's mini-challenge: to dress up giving "butch male realness" and take selfies with an archaic, unattached-to-a-phone, handheld digital camera. Given the number of side-eyes and sarcastic laughs, this was possibly one of the toughest pre-challenges in Drag Race history: Raven was all, "We have no idea how to be butch," and proceeded to take pics of herself looking exactly as she does out of drag, no broham attached. The shaded five-o-clock shadow she gave Jujubee with an eyeliner pencil was more butch-successful, even though Jujubee looked like a kid going as a hobo on Halloween. But nobody really nailed it like Team Yarlexis, who looked like a French Montana and Juelz Santana supergroup in a barrio/Prince close shave (Alexis) and bandana splash (Yara). You know Dipset's crew photo is in the dictionary next to "banjee," y'all.
Posing and punk'd was fully on the table for the full episode: each queen had to stand on Hollywood Boulevard in broad daylight and ask passersby to pull a series of stunts for points. Because, says Ru: "A true Drag Race hall-of-famer can use her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to convince anybody to do anything." Including convincing a dude to shoot whipped cream into his pants (go Jujubee!), but come on, it's Hollywood, everybody will do something trashy at even the slightest provocation. Not my favorite challenge ever in the history of Drag Race—it was funny enough, but also a conceit borrowed from the most mundane reality shows, a lowest common denominator this show didn't have to stoop to. They're obviously trying to switch it up for the All-Stars, who've already proven themselves in the craft-a-cake-that-looks-like-you, Etsy-style challenges, but still. Make them dance with Julianne Hough or something. There were some moments, though: Manila Luzon was out there in a bootleg Chanel necklace and a neon-patterned Pebbles Flintstone minidress, and got a chick to crack an egg on her forehead while wearing a tiny conceptual Anna Piaggi top hat. I would do anything for anyone wearing that outfit, too. And, good god, Chad Michaels' Hérve Leger-style bandage dress would not quit so not-quittingly that it didn't even matter that the look was unearthed from an '08 Kardashian closet. She was the ultimate Hollywood babealicious babe, eating the damn stunt whipped cream straight out the can on Vine like she owned the place, total real housewives material.
Manila's runway heel hat.
The runway round was the ultimate save. These teams know their competition is fi to the ercé, and they brought outfits that would inspire the politest girl to fistfight at a sample sale. Even the judges were on A-game. Lady Ru looked like a birthday cake at a Celia Cruz concert, engulfed in magenta and violet ruffles, while Michelle Visage's gown had the effect of a sci-fi goddess detonating TNT on a Balenciaga shoulderpad. Her dress also looked like it was going to devour guest judge Rachel Dratch for an appetizer, please revel in this photo:
Michelle Visage and Rachel Dratch.
It's also possible they all wanted to mind their biz for other guest judge Janice Dickinson and her historically lethal claws, who maybe inspired the runway theme: Bad Girl Chic.
Manila's Swedish black metal look.
Team Rujubee was out first, and while Jujubee looked cute in a gothic corset, Raven was everything, giving "harajuku girl with an edge of 1920s hooker realness." Thinking more of an androgynous album cover that's on the tip of my tongue (and killing me) with that fabulous trapezoidal wig blow-out and robotic houndstooth smoking jacket, but the garter belt and dominatrix whip was a nice touch. Decade-wise, Team Shad took Raven's opium den steez about 60 years into the future, with an '80s look in lace and rhinestones that was definitely bad-girl, but decidedly less creative than their counterparts. Particularly in contrast to Manila Luzon, who all season has been looking like she hit up that Prada-Schiaparelli exhibit over the summer: her headgear has been out-of-control surreal, and this time around she strapped an upside-down patent leather pump to her head with a red flame of a feather spurting from the end of the heel. It was draped above a black monk hood and spike-toed black heels, inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 1957 apocalypse art film The Seventh Seal. Santino called it his favorite look he's ever seen her in. My boyfriend said, "Manila looks like a Swedish black metal guitarist." And yet and still, Latrice Royale's eyeshadow-heavy ode to Divine, while tough, did not mesh against Manila's sleek look, and the judges complained that they had no synergy. It's true—you don't put Grace Jones next to Divine as a style counterpart. They looked beautiful, but mismatched.
Yara Sofia's hair.
Okay. Can we all lobby to get Yara Sofia some CFDA funding? Because Team Yarlexis emerged wearing her original designs, and the judges were so stunned they could barely dredge up a witty comment in post-production. Yara used hair as an accessory, embellishing Alexis' leather corset dress with a brown-blonde dip dye strands along the shoulders and hoop-skirt hemline that looked more like mink and didn't make me think once of Alexa Chung. On her own goth look, serrated with diamond dragon knife nails, she took the bandage concept to a completely new place, leaving peek-a-boo gaps in perfectly placed spots so that her gown looked totally avant-garde—particularly when topped with her hair mobile, attached to her head with a wig and stealing the whole show with cascading silver strands. Someone get this ensemble on Rihanna, at least. In judging, Michelle Visage wanted to nix "Yara's clothesline hair," but Janice Dickinson interrupted with real talk. "Let's get it straight," she snapped. "It's Jean Paul Gaultier walking down the runway here. Designers would want to know these two." Can you see Michelle's cat scratch from here?
But ugh, god, here's where it hurts. Team Shad was the weakest but they had immunity from the Jackass challenge—so Team Rujubee and Team Latrila ended up in the bottom two, the latter for the second time in a row. The Lip Sync for Your Life track was Janet's "Nasty," one of the baddest bad girl anthems ever. Jujubee played it straight, giving Ms. Jackson's defiance the way it was meant to be. Manila Luzon went camp, interpreting the track with facial contortions and comedic cross eyes. It was the wrong choice. When Ru sent Latrice Royale and Manila home, she said, "I think I'm gonna miss you two the most." Can this be life? So are we. Viva Latrila!
On a more somber note, the Ali Forney Center for LGBTQ Youth that runs like 45 ads per hour during Drag Race was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. To help them out, you can learn more/donate here. Additionally, Sandy postponed the Sahara Davenport Memorial at Club XL in New York. It's been rescheduled for Friday, December 14. See you there!