All-star shows are a special situation: There’s no time spent learning new names and back stories so, after some chatter about who lost weight and who has nicer outfits, the competition gets going pretty quickly.
On All Stars Drag Race, things got hot fast: Those heartfelt conversations about how you learned drag? Forget it. Instead we get a dozen queens who want nothing more than the crown they think they were robbed of the first time.
In the debut episode, the first to show up to the workroom is Pandora Boxx. Her welcoming line, “Did somebody order a hooker?” is delivered to no one, which makes it even funnier.
Latrice “Mother Fuckin’” Royale is the second queen to walk through those doors. By now, Mother Fuckin’ should be part of her legal drag name. Anything less would be underselling.
Yara Sofia sashays in with a lot of hair and silver netting—and not much else.
Shannel swears her outfit is from a production of Beauty and The Beast, but we’re seeing more of a Raymour & Flanigan realness.
Raven is dressed for a classy cocktail party. Okay, so maybe she didn’t put the most effort into it, but this is just the entrance. She’ll pull it out to impress the judges later.
Alexis Mateo is here! And she came prepared with a mask to cover her face.
Chad Michaels’ entrance wins for my favorite line: “Happy Hunger Games, bitches.” Chad proceeds to get a fake call from Sharon Needles that’s just dripping with delicious bitterness. Manila Luzon, working Cruella De Vil fabulousnesses, had me replaying the song from 101 Dalmatians and wishing I had her cigarette-smoking hat in every color.
And then comes a record-skip moment: Mimi Imfurst.
Most of the contestants had placed the top in their season, often being chosen as a fan favorite, but Mimi was ranked 11th and famously hoisted India Ferrah in the air during her lip-synch. Mimi’s exit was not cute. And neither was her entrance line here—“Life is like a paycheck, a generous figure is always nice.”
But before Manila could finish murmuring “someone’s gotta go home first,” Nina Flowers struts in. The only thing louder than her voice was her slime-green wig. Jujubee frets about not dressing to excess, but had enough fiery hair to carry the look.
Last, but certainly not least, bucket-of-crazy Tammie Brown twirls in. I’m so happy to see her weird lips and eyebrows.
For the first few minutes pleasantries were exchanged pleasantly enough, and thankfully the main premise of the show was kept intact: You’ve got She-Male? Not messed with. The $100,000 prize? Also not messed with.
But Ru (or the producers) tampered with one of the best acronyms in history: No longer will the queens have to rely just on their Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent. They’ll have to incorporate Synergy, as they’ll be competing in teams of two. They’ll be judged as pairs—if one fails, they both go home.
Hear that? It’s the sound of a joy combusting into a pile of ash.
F-bombs drops. Jaws drops. Spirits drop. But before anyone can ask for a Ru-count, the sexy pit crew rolls in a box full of paddles to help the queens pick their partners in a process that combines the worst elements of speed dating and picking teams for dodgeball: All the contestants hold up a paddle with the queen they want to buddy up with. If there’s a match, they’re a team. If not, they try and try again.
Team Rujubee: Raven & Jujubee (1st round pairing)
Team Shad:Chad Michaels & Shannel (1st round pairing)
Team Brown Flowers: Tammie Brown & Nina Flowers: (1st round pairing)
Team Latrila: Manila Luzon & Latrice Royale (2nd round pairing)
Team Yarlexis: Alexis Mateo & Yara Sofia (2nd round pairing)
Team Mandora: Mimi Imfurst & Pandora Boxx (stuck together)
Most contestants got their first choices, and the others seemed fairly happy with their second selections. And then there’s Pandora, visibly miserable about being shackled to Mimi. Cluelessly, Mimi asks, “Are you unhappy that I’m your partner, or you feeling guilty that you didn’t pick me?”
Then I wonder that maybe this team thing is just a one-episode schtick. Maybe it’ll all just go away? But, no, Logo’s already made team t-shirts. And nothing says “official” like show merch.
The Original Supermodel of the World returns to explain the challenge: It’s two photo shoots—in one, the team will pose mid-transformation (sans wig). The other is a “wet and wild” high-fashion shoot that must incorporate the theme of “opposites attract.” Oh, and they have to do each other’s makeup.
C’mon, guys, even in drag sometimes less is more.
During the preparation, we learn that Chad and Shannel have been working together for more than a decade. Maybe that’s why they think it’s a great idea to apply scar tissue on their neck, which is supposed to represent their heads on the chopping block. “It’s subliminal,” explains Chad. “It’s editorial. Look at it. Think about it. And take from it what you want.”
I’m seeing double strangulation.
Pandora/Mimi’s half-baked shoot is expectedly awkward, but Latrice and Manila seem to be enjoying themselves well enough. They even take a gag prom photo, just for funsies.
Tammie and Nina work a naughty/nice concept—they’re both setting fire to the rain until Tammie loses her wig. It looks like she’s trying to hold up a skunk skin to cover her scalp. Raven and Jujubee execute their, ahem, ballsy concept, which has Raven posing totally nude (except for a wig and some accessories).
Latrice and Manila went trashy/classy—and got my favorite sideline shout from RuPaul, “It’s couture meets cooter!”
Everyone dries off, and before we hit the main stage, Chad and Shannel spend plenty of time talking abut how awesome they did. How they’re the ones to beat. And the team they believe will share the top slot with them.
The Pandora/Mimi situation? Well, Pandora looks like she’s already wondering if there’s going to be an All Stars II with a Shangela-sized box she can jump out of.
Our guest judges for the evening are Ross Matthews and Rachel Hunter, with Michelle Visage and Santino Rice holding down their usual paneling duties.
Team Yarlexis (Alexis & Yara) serves cute and crafty with cutout faces tapes to their chest.
Team Latrila (Latrice & Manila) work the first-ever Teletubbie runway; it’s complete with Manila sporting an iPad on her tummy.
Team Mandora (Pandora & Mimi) are painfully matchy-matchy in blue sparkle gowns with fur trim. Green Muppet fur trim.
I’m not really sure what Nina Flowers and Tammie Brown were attempting, but it involved black dressed and red wigs.
Team Shad (Chad & Shannel) comes off a little too strong with their overworked “Welcome To the Jungle” look.
In the end, Team Latrila win the challenge (and some custom-made gowns), Team Rujubee take second and Team Brown Flowers and Yarlexis are declared safe. That leaves the ladies of Teams Mandora and Shad to lip synch for their lives.
Mimi and Chad stepped up to represent, leaving Pandora and Shannel to sit back and watch their fates unfold. But before the girls get started, we learn of a new rule: if, during the first minute of the lip synch, there’s a “she-mergency” the queen on the sidelines can tag in and finish the song.
But it can only be used once—during the entire competition. Gasp!
As much as she’s already started to annoy me this season, Chad rightfully refers to herself as a drag assassin. Mimi had a lackluster costume change midway during her performance, but even if it had been fierce it wouldn’t have mattered. Chad commanded focus and slayed her foe.
And with that, RuPaul dismissed Mimi Imfurst and one of our favorite queens, Pandora Boxx. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s what you get when you play All Stars.
My favorite moment on Untucked: Pandora giving Mimi a half-assed pep talk in the studio parking lot was priceless, but I have to give it to Golden Age whack-job Tammie Brown and her nonsensical non sequiturs: “My father fucked Marlene Dietrich!”
Jason Sweeten is a contributing writer for Queerty. No, he would not like to work in pairs.