There’s a certain intentional unpredictability in recent seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It feels like Ru himself is continually adjusting the rules of engagement for his (and let’s be honest, our) own amusement. But as he’s told a workroom full of queens: “Sorry — that’s showbiz.”
While Morgan McMichael’s elimination was a surprise the first episode of All Stars 3, the elimination of Thorgy Thor after this week’s VH1 Diva’s Lip Sync Live challenge felt downright unfair. The queens were each assigned a diva clearly most fitting of their aesthetic and personality — Bebe as Diana Ross, Ben as Julie Andrews, Chi Chi as Patti LaBelle, etc. — and given moments to shine performing re-imagined RuPaul songs. Thorgy was appropriately given Stevie Nicks. Both have a kooky, lived-in eccentricity and Thorgy has credited the singer as one of her biggest inspirations.
Much like All Stars 2’s lipsyncing challenge, “Herstory of the World,” some roles were just better than others. Last season, Alyssa Edwards made out like a bandit with Annie Oakley and Detox glowed as a neon Marie Antoinette; meanwhile, Katya struggled to turn up the volume on a meek Princess Diana and was clocked for her wig being slightly inaccurate. (It bears repeating: Detox’s Marie Antoinette was neon.)
Objectively speaking, there was no comparison between the uninspired raw material Thorgy was given this episode compared with Shangela’s show-stealing bit as Mariah Carey circa New Year’s Eve 2016 or Bendelacreme’s rapping Julie Andrews. Shangela and Ben put on a great show, but they had a massive head start before even they stepped on stage.
The Night of the Living Divas
Bebe’s Diana Ross was also very strong—and while the material was a little thin, Bebe’s eye for nuance more than made up for it. She managed to fully summon a Supreme with a simple hair bounce. Trixie’s adorable Dolly Parton gets better and better with repeated viewings while Chi Chi DeVayne’s Pattie LaBelle (flicks and all!) was pure joy to watch. Aja’s Amy Winehouse was solidly safe — her performance in both challenges and on the runway these first two episodes should be making a lot of people on social media eat their words.
While Kennedy Davenport was channeling a lot more Janet Jackson than she was being given credit for, you don’t make it far on this show without knowing the words to a lipsync. Plus, Kennedy, an expert freestyle dancer, seemed distracted both by the lyrics and getting all the steps right. The weakest performance of the night was Milk’s zany Celine Dion in a Met Gala dress nobody recognized. Milk’s a smart, subversive queen, and it’s hard to tell if her indignation over being just safe this episode (frankly, she should have been grateful) is real or just an act to stand out in a room full of big personalities with actual storylines. Either way, it’s feeling like we are officially past her expiration date this season.
After a redemption runway of past failed looks (mostly successful this go around), Ben and Shangela lipsync to “Jump” by the Pointer Sisters to determine Thorgy and Kennedy’s fate. Despite Thorgy’s attempt at an alliance, Shangela uses her win to save old friend Kennedy.
It’s debatable whether she should have even won the lipsync — Ben’s performative exhaustion was far more entertaining—but at least her elimination decision inspired one of the season’s first true memes — Thorgy sighing, “Oh Jesus. Gross” — speaking for many Drag Race fans in that moment and giving us the reaction GIF we need in 2018.
Even if Thorgy had been safe this episode, her neuroses were likely to get the best of her at some point before the final challenge. Like so many contestants, she is great at drag but not necessarily great at Drag Race. The pressure cooker environment does not seem to inspire her (the way it inspires Shangela, for example, a queen whose drag career was largely founded on this show). Much like Nina Bonina Brown in Season 9, it’s really hard to watch someone smart and talented crumble under paranoia and stress.
But again, as Ru continues to reinforce this season: “That’s showbiz.”
Want to queen out each week on All Stars 3 with us? Alright Mary is a weekly recap podcast and deep dive into all things RuPaul’s Drag Race. We go in on the queens, behind the scenes, the larger social themes explored on the show and as much reddit T as we can get our mitts on. Subscribe on iTunes!
Last modified: August 8, 2018