Tops and Bottoms: ‘All Stars’ Roasting On An Open Fire [RECAP and RANKINGS]

They say comedy equals tragedy plus time, so the good news is eventually some of last night’s tragically poor performances will get more funny.

As it were, though, the majority of our remaining queens struggled to wring laughs from the dearly departed Lady Bunny as they delivered a Ru … ology? Ru … loogey .. Ru-who-logy! to Ru’s best friend. It’s a dark spin on the typical roast challenge, and (the still very much alive) Lady Bunny would be laying in state in a casket on stage.

The queens all needed a laugh after last week’s shocking elimination. Manila really uses the space for her grief, wandering around the workroom sobbing like she’s Catherine on the moors in Wuthering Heights.

Manila’s desire to save her friend alienated her from the rest of the group. Monet vowed to send Manila home if given the chance.

Once all the queens got to work, Manila and Monet seemed to really take off, while everyone else struggles. Ru’s visit only made the weak links more apparent. Valentina and Trinity both whiffed their roast during their season, and that failure hangs heavy over both their heads. Trinity appeared to channel that anxiety into overthinking her material, while Valentina came off utterly lost.

The queens weren’t alone. Each queen gets some time with SNL comedy KWEEN Cecily Strong. Ironically, the stronger queens got much more value out of their time with Strong. Maybe it was because they had actual material to workshop, but Valentina, Trinity and Naomi all seemed to leave the session the same or worse than they arrived.

When the time comes for the roast itself, the only surprises were the under-performers failing to meet already low expectations. Monet slays the opening, as expected (Sample joke: “We are here to celebrate the life, legacy and illiteracy of Lady Bunny”). Trinity gurgled out a string of statements that are maybe 60 percent of the way to being an actual joke. Monique delivered a Southern-style preacher character, but her one-note jokes all blended together into one sort-of-funny din. Naomi attempted a millennial spin on her weak, old-age jokes, but it felt like nothing hit. I don’t even know how to describe what Valentina did, but I will say it straddled the line between utter, abject failure and almost Kaufman-esque comedic brilliance. People were laughing, yes, just not how she likely intended. Lastly, Manila closed the show stupendously, from her memorable entrance (she brought a big, black umbrella/veil prop from which she peeked and then recoiled at the sight of Bunny) to her opening line (“Dearly beloved … AND MICHELLE VISAGE!”), Manila delivered a thoroughly professional performance.

The runway called for the queens to show up in their Angelic Whites, and everyone delivered. (More detailed takes in our rankings, below.) Monet in particular was this week’s standout, storming the runway in a beaded ensemble with dramatic train, papal headpiece and bright red, glowing eyes. It was a showstopper.

Manila and Monet were rightfully chosen as the top two, which left everyone else vulnerable to elimination. Backstage, it became quickly apparent that the queens’ report cards aren’t an easy, objective barometer to pick the weakest competitor. It’s not like each queen is awarded actual, quantifiable points. Does winning a challenge outweigh never being in the bottom? What about lip sync wins? The four bottoms’ records all sort of even out.

Monet and Manila performed one of Drag Race‘s most joyous lip syncs to Aretha Franklin’s underrated bop, “Jump To It.” It was a collaborative, campy, comedic number, and it’s a joy to watch.

Ru (again, rightfully) names both queens winner, splitting the cash tip $5,000 a piece. There’s a momentary panic that two queens would be sent home, but Ru eased everyone’s mind by instead no one was sent home. Instead, she ominously warns that All Stars rules are suspended.

Back in the workroom, a cryptic message from Ru heralded the return of the Lip Sync For Your Life, and a surprise appearance from Lady Bunny reintroduced the — *gasps in faux shock* — return of the eliminated queens.

What happens next? I guess we’ll find out next week!

We should probably stop pretending the return of the eliminated queens is even a shocker anymore. We all know it’s coming. I wonder if future seasons of All Stars would be better served by some kind of “Redemption Island” or “Last Chance Kitchen” style mechanic transparently built into the game from the jump.

My guess is next week will see an eliminated queen return and TWO other queens sent home. Of the eliminated queens, Latrice is the only viable option for a return.

Until then, let’s assess the remaining queens’ current standings. This season continues to be an incredibly tight race, and I could see a valid argument for almost any order of success. We’re splitting hairs, but we’ve put together our rankings for which queens seem the most likely to earn that spot in the hall of fame below. Disagree? Leave yours in the comments.

1. Ross said it best: Now is a good time to build momentum, and Manila Luzon is doing just that. This was another incredibly strong performance from her in the challenge. While Monet may have had more jokes, Manila’s gags felt more varied and overall more successful. She had physical humor, reads, wordplay and her delivery was spot on. I wasn’t as crazy for her runway as the judges were (the cherubs felt cheap), but her hair and makeup were gorgeous.

2. Under normal circumstances, Monique would have likely been safe this week. Out of the bottom four, she was easily the best of the bunch, and I was gaga for that headpiece. Monique does very dramatic, severe makeup which in this instance made sure her face was just as impactful as the elaborate headpiece on the runway. More than almost any other competitor (Monet may be the exception), Monique has demonstrated impressive growth in the short time between her season and now. That makes her a winner, regardless.

3. As some readers have noted, I’ve been a bit hard on Monet the last few weeks. I’ve been waiting for Monet to give us a MOMENT, and tonight was just that. Yes, she deftly handled the opening slot of the roast with her signature stand-up delivery, but it was that jaw-dropping runway lewk that really sealed the deal. That’s how you do an All Stars runway, honey. I was gagged, gooped, slimed, dead. I stan. I’ve gone from Monet skeptic to Monet cheerleader, and I hope this week’s performance gives her the confidence boost to fight for a spot at the end.

4. Did Trinity always have that shrieking opossum laugh? I don’t recall hearing it in her season, but now I’m hearing it in my sleep. Again, not to just copy-paste Ross’ comments, but I also am on the edge of my seat ahead of her runway appearances. With her Snatch Game win under her belt and the roast challenge behind us, hopefully Trin’s biggest challenges are behind her. She may have roasted slightly less credibly than Naomi, but they were both rough. While Naomi had solid jokes conceptually that just weren’t funny, Trinity struggled to craft material that even followed its own logic. Her stunning runway likely would have spared her from a bottom two position under normal circumstances, but she had reason to be nervous.

5. Ouch, Naomi, that looked rough. It’s one thing to bomb when you know you’re unprepared or out of your element, but there’s something particularly difficult about bombing when you think your material is great and you can’t in the moment figure out what’s going wrong. Beneath the nervous giggles and smiles, you could sense the panic surging through Naomi once it became clear this was not going well. The sight of her angelic, white, Prince-inspired runway nearly sent me to heaven to meet the Purple One myself. I died. I lived. It was a series best. Naomi is the only competitor we haven’t seen lip sync this season, so there is a chance she could come into the finale Sasha Velour style and blow us all away.

6. I guess this is just the part of any season with Valentina where we realize that this is just all we’re going to get. She’s beautiful, she’s fashion, she’s strange, she’s unintentionally hilarious, but we’ve seen all she has. She’s a unique little gem of a queen, but there’s only so much there. It’s not quite that she didn’t understand this week’s assignment, but, honestly, I’m not sure she understands funerals, roasts, public speaking or interacting with human beings. It was so far off the mark that it almost circled fully back to being extremely entertaining. On the runway, she always delivers, but sometimes I worry she confuses “expensive” with “exciting.”

How would you rank the queens?

The post Tops and Bottoms: ‘All Stars’ Roasting On An Open Fire [RECAP and RANKINGS] appeared first on Towleroad Gay News.

Tops and Bottoms: A SHOCKING ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ Elimination Leaves Us Shook [RECAP and RANKINGS]

Ever since Ru introduced the All Stars rules, there’s been an ongoing debate over whether the winning queens should eliminate bottom girls on the basis of merit or strategy. We saw it just last week with Manila.

However, the real question is: What constitutes merit? Is it based on what the judges say? Is it based on just this week’s challenge or performance in the competition overall? What about their work outside the competition or legacy?

It’s the perfect reality TV mechanic, because, unless you’re Bendelacreme, even if you’re trying to do the right thing, people are going to think you’re wrong.

That was the case this week when we witnessed what will surely be the gag of the season. I am truly gooped, America.

Last night’s shocking elimination came following a theatrical improv challenge pitting three teams of queens in an episode of Jersey Justice. The daytime courtroom comedy featured the one and only First Lady of New Jersey, Michelle Visage, presiding and Stacy Layne Matthews playing court stenographer. The queens portrayed both parties in three whackadoo cases fresh from the Garden State.

The first team, Manila and Naomi, filed a dispute about a makeover gone wrong in an episode titled, “You Made Me Look Like a Bitch, Bitch!” Manila stole the show as the plaintiff, sporting a poddle-esque pile of curly hair. Her Jersey accent was strong and consistent, and she made expert choices for her character, including slipping in a little bark. Naomi, as the mobile dog groomer who did Manila dirty, was more servicebale in her role. She gave us gruff, Jersey, carton-a-day smoker in full guidette regalia. A solid opening that kept the funny coming without devolving into screaming slapstick.

Next up, Latrice, Monique and Monet hit the courtroom for “How ‘Bout Them Cakes?” It didn’t take long to go off the rails. As the plaintiff, Monique played the part of a wronged bride who didn’t get the cake she ordered from Ana Mae (Latrice). Monet entered the scene later as Latrice’s daughter and the story started to unravel. Monique raced away with the scene as Latrice faded into the background and Monet just really did Monet. The whole thing came crashing down in cake throwing and making out, and I guess this is comedy?

Finally, Trinity and Valentina litigated the case of “Snookered by Snooki.” It’s a rough start. Trinity forgot her own character’s name for what felt like an eternity. (The answer? Fisha Pice. O … k?) Valentina came in late, looking frazzled and giving us what I can only imagine an alien would believe a person from New Jersey looked, sounded and acted like. It’s delightful, but also absurd. Trinity seemed so focused on keeping a consistent narrative and hitting pre-written jokes, the whole scene never got enough room to really breathe.

This week’s runway features “Curves and Swerves” (as well as one of my most favorite Ru looks of all term, herny). It was certainly open to a wide variety of interpretations, some hits and some misses. (We’ll discuss the lewks deeper in the rankings below.)

As expected, Manila is praised for her performance, landing in the top two alongside Monique. Trinity skated by thanks to a stunning runway presentation, and she’s safe with partner Valentina. The judges liked what Valentina did, but guest judge Erica Ash came so hard for her runway look, it would’ve been insulting to put her in the top crowd. Naomi was also safe, serving a solid B+ in the challenge and an A on the runway.

That left Monet in the bottom with Latrice Royale. The queens had been anticipating Latrice’s place in the bottom two. Trinity, concerned she’d be joining her, had even spoken to Valentina about the possibility before the runway. Valentina told her plainly if it was between the two of them, she would send home her friend, Trinity. Latrice is just too beloved and respected to risk running afoul of the Drag Race faithful.

With Monet joining Latrice in the bottom, it seemed like an easy decision. Manila, immediately breaking down into tears, made it clear from the jump she would not send home her bestie, Latrice. But even Monique seemed pretty resigned to sending Monet home when she spoke with her backstage.

One look at Monique and Manila’s wigs, and it became immediately clear this week’s lip sync would be to Miss Tina Turn-ter. The two turned it out to her cover of Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back.” For someone out there fighting for her friend’s survival, Manila’s performance never felt like it got out of neutral, as Monique hit the floor hard (and kept her wig on the whole time!).

Monique was awarded the win, and, after a few self-indulgent words, chose to eliminate … LATRICE.

*gay gasp*

Surely, this decision will be a controversial one. Latrice was not great this week. Worse than Monet? Maybe! But between those two queens, who do you think would be more likely to win this whole thing? Is that based on this week or the whole competition? Are you considering their previous body of work?

See? Not so simple.

We’ll see the effects of this choice play out next week. Until then, let’s assess our remaining queens. I gotta say, in my eight seasons of recapping Drag Race, this was the hardest rankings to do. Not only because I disagree with who went home tonight, but also because the remaining queens are so neck-and-neck. I could see almost all of them (sorry, Monet, love you, mean it) win this whole thing. So, take the following with a big ol’ grain of salt, and see if you can do better in the comments.

1. Trinity didn’t give the strongest performance, and she likely just missed the bottom two this week. However, she made up for it on the runway. The swervy, curvy bodysuit and Lichtenstein-esque wig were knockouts. Trinity has dominated the first few weeks here, but she got too in her head this week. She can certainly bounce back, but other queens are nipping at her heels.

2. Let the record show, this was a challenge tailor-made for Manila Luzon. No other queen has the camp sensibility to fulfill the sort of silly, low-brow humor Ru loves. (The only other true comedy queen, Monet, is better in a stand-up or roast situation … more on that shortly.) In Jersey Justice, Manila was clearly the strongest competitor. When it comes to her runways though, I’m routinely disappointed. The quilted Chanel homage was … fine … but nothing memorable.

3. Each passing week, I’m more and more convinced Naomi Smalls will be here until the very end. Much like her season nine performance, expect to see Naomi fly under the radar right to the finale. The judges’ criticism of her performance boiled down to just not “matching Manila.” That’s a tall order for anyone! She regularly CRUSHES the runway, including this week’s brilliant, beautiful, burnt-pie housewife. She’s got all the talent it takes. She just needs to come out swinging and prove she is every bit the star as her competitors.

4. I wasn’t nearly as impressed with Valentina‘s performance in the challenge as the judges were, but it felt like slim pickings for the top performers this week. I applaud how transparent Valentina has been with her fellow queens, especially when she flat-out told Trinity she would send her home over Latrice. I loved her runway look, but curves and swerves, it was not. If Valentina can keep tuning her weirdo energy to the same frequency as the challenges, she’s a real contender. But there’s always a chance her oddball antics will sink her faster than you can say “TELEPORT US TO MARS!”

5. It took until this week to clock exactly what it is about Latrice‘s runway lewks that never quite sits right me. She doesn’t cinch! Pulling in that waist took her glamorous gown to a whole other level. She was clearly in the bottom this week, but I agreed with everyone’s assessment that she was far too beloved to send home so soon. (It did feel a little gross to hear HER say it about herself so much, though.) This was not her week to go, but I do not believe this is the last we’ve seen of chunky, yet funky queen. Expect her to reappear when the eliminated queens usually make a return at the midpoint of the season.

6. Monique slayed this week, no doubt. So why so low on the list? Just looking over all these queens, she doesn’t seems as ready for the Hall of the Fame. I think Monique is a great queen … just not as great as SHE thinks she is. Her confidence feels like it could lead to some unforced errors (like her struggles in the group singing challenge). Yes, her increased profile has enabled her to transcend her thriftier, craftier roots, but she doesn’t seem to know how to wield that power responsibly just yet. I appreciated the bold swing she took on the runway, but, gurl, the brown cow stuff is exhausting now. Also, she made the dramatic lipstick reveal so about herself (and her catchphrases), it made an already controversial moment feel even more icky and self-serving.

7. It was bizarre to hear Monet try to argue that it would be wrong to send her home this week. Her performance in the challenge was at least as bad as Latrice’s, and her Kim K runway looked like it was right out of a Party City bag. Michelle was dead-on about her challenge performance, too. That was just Monet in a blonde wig. All this is not to say Monet isn’t fierce as hell, and she should be on all drag fans’ bucket lists of queens to see, but in the confines of this competition this should have been her time. I just cannot imagine Monet coming out of this and making it to the finale the way Latrice seemed poised to do. Sue me.

How would you rank the queens?

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