‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9’ Episode 3 recap: Double the Liberace, double the Snatch

For the first time on the American series, two queens play the same character

Though the RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 queens do seem more attuned to challenge order than in the past—with Gottmik citing a likely upcoming comedy challenge as her motivation to cut Angeria Paris VanMicheals off from being eligible to win a Beautiful Benefactress Badge—they’re not psychics. Hence Shannel incorrectly telling her bosom buddy, Nina West, in the cold open of this episode that it’s too early for Snatch Game. Still, the very mention of the show’s signature challenge is enough to get the old school queens to compare characters.

Both are performing as men, they note. But not just any men: the same man. Nina and Shannel are horrified to realize that despite no one in Drag Race herstory performing as Liberace before, they have somehow both come up with the idea simultaneously. And unlike in past cases of two people bringing the same character (Violet Chachki and Miss Fame with Donatella Versace; Trinity the Tuck and Gia Gunn with Caitlyn Jenner), neither of these queens wants to back down.

So begins a Snatch Game of Love episode that may not reinvent the wheel of what Snatch Game can be, but is nonetheless a solid installment with pretty decent performances across the board. It’s notable for being the first U.S. Snatch Game to have two queens playing the same character, though owing to the split format of Snatch Game of Love, we don’t see them interact. (And besides, Canada’s Drag Race beat them to the punch anyway.)

There seems to be potential for both to actually win the challenge with the same character, and though that doesn’t come to pass, it does reveal some instability in Nina and Shannel’s partnership that could pay off in both the short and long run. Combined with a pointed confessional placement during the Lip Sync for Your Legacy, and I’m intrigued at the story potential for this charity season moving forward.

Angeria Paris VanMicheals, Roxxxy Andrews and Shannel react in character as Jorgeous’ “John Leguizamo” is chosen as top Snatchelorette. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

Let’s break down this recap by groups. The first includes Shannel’s Liberace, Angeria as Marla Gibbs (which Ru guesses immediately in his walkthrough, and seems delighted by), Roxxxy Andrews bringing back her Tasha Salad character from her previous seasons and Jorgeous as Chi-Chi Rodriguez from Too Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Or, excuse me, “John Leguizamo” for copyright purposes.

This group unintentionally provides us a breakdown of the different “archetypes” of Snatch Game character choice. You’ve got a queen doing an impressive physical impersonation of a character, but providing light laughs at best, in Shannel doing Liberace. You’ve got a queen leaning into her own “brand” with Roxxxy doing Tasha—a fictional character to boot. You’ve got a queen stretching the rules of copyright, while mostly just using their character as a chance to play themselves, in Jorgeous’ “John.” And finally, you have the ideal Snatch Game choice: a character choice Ru will love, paired with a lot of jokes, in Angeria’s Marla Gibbs.

From my point of view, Angeria is the clear winner of this lot. I admire Jorgeous for finding a way through Snatch Game, but there’s just nothing to this performance. She’s funny in a way that appeals to Ru, yes, but simply because she’s Jorgeous. She has no idea of “John”/Chi-Chi besides playing herself, and while she does get picked by the Snatchelor at the end, it doesn’t translate into a win—or even a high placement.

Of the other two, I’m more impressed by Shannel’s transformation into Liberace, and that seems to be what draws positive critiques from the judges. Meanwhile, though I understand Roxxxy’s instinct with Tasha, this was never going to be a winning performance. She actually doesn’t do enough as Tasha to make her stand out, and she feels like a pale imitation of her appearances in Season 5 and All Stars 2.

Gottmik as Pal the dog is one of our top performers this week, taking home another $10,000 donation for Trans Lifeline. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

In the second game, we have a former Snatch Game winner in Gottmik who picks a highly oddball choice: Pal the dog, aka the dog who played Lassie. There’s a lot of comedy potential in this pick, as Gottmik is effectively lampooning Ru and Snatch Game’s predilection for Old Hollywood stars in Snatch Game, and her mug is fantastic. Unfortunately, she can’t seem to decide if she’s doing an Old Hollywood starlet impersonation, mid-Atlantic accent and all, or more of a take on Lisa Vanderpump. Honestly, the latter might’ve even been funnier, what with the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ love of canines. But while she gets some good jokes off, the lack of clear idea of the character distracts.

Meanwhile, Nina West is fucking made to play Snatch Game. I always felt like she gave away the game in Season 11 by doing two characters, making neither of them particularly great. Competition in that Snatch Game was tremendously weak (Silky Nutmeg Ganache won for basically playing herself as Ts Madison), so it was a major missed opportunity. Her Liberace, by comparison, is confident and assured. She is constantly interjecting to get solid jokes in, even continuing to riff after she’s been declared the Snatchelor’s choice. It’s a great performance, and it deserves the top two placement she gets.

Our other two players are just there for Gottmik and Nina to riff off of: Vanessa Vanjie as Cleopatra (aka just Vanjie with a Cleopatra wig), and Plastique Tiara as an ill-advised Ali Wong. The former is another missed opportunity: Ru really responds to Vanjie’s portrayal, and if she’d managed to keep the jokes going, she likely would have earned a high-scoring placement over Shannel. But at one point, she asks why the Snatchelor is asking so many questions, which prompts Ru to say: “You know, that is the premise of the game.”

Ru’s line causes Plastique to break character, and it is unfortunately the funniest thing she does all Snatch Game. Plastique is not the kind of queen who will ever excel at improv comedy, but I think she makes a critical mistake going with a comedian as a character. She just tries to do Ali’s own material, and not a single bit of it lands—because she’s not Ali Wong! She doesn’t have Ali’s sense of comic timing or authenticity as a performer. It just doesn’t work, and Plastique is the worst of the episode as a result.

Roxxxy Andrews blends Jessica and Roger Rabbit for the “A Tail and Two Titties” runway category. Credit: Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

Of course, worst doesn’t matter in this format—it’s just about who’s winning the week. And after an “A Tail and Two Titties” runway that produces some jaw-droppers (Shannel’s scorpion look! Roxxxy’s take on Roger and Jessica Rabbit!), the sliding scale between Angeria and Gottmik of who might win next to Nina slides firmly to Gottmik’s side of the fence. All due respect to Angeria’s dragon lady look, but Gottmik’s top surgery runway is both gorgeous and a remarkable statement. She may not have bested her Paris Hilton in Snatch Game, but she continues to elevate on the runway.

Both Gottmik and Nina win a badge for themselves, with Gottmik becoming the first to two, but they also win a badge to give away to another queen. There’s some good strategy talk about this in the werk room, as Roxxxy advises Gottmik if she wins to give it to another queen who has a badge. That way, she won’t be the only one with two, shrinking her target. Meanwhile, Shannel proposes a plan that if they both win, she and Nina should give each other a second badge, propelling them forward in the competition. Interestingly, despite Nina initially saying she would give the badge to Shannel no matter what, she says in confessional that she’s not committing to this plan.

Anyway, that’s all talk for next week, when we’ll see the top two distribute their extra badges. For now, we have a thoroughly terrible lip sync to Anitta’s “Banana” to get to! Nina finally gets to show us what she’s had planned with that lip sync dress gag, and it is obviously underwhelming. It’s a joke about a bunch of reveals that we’ve seen over and over again over the years. In fact, it’s in Nina’s season’s finale when Brooke Lynn Hytes debuted her obvious reveal cape in the final lip sync! So it’s just a rehashed routine. Interestingly, Gottmik (who, it must be said, basically sleepwalks through this lip sync) gets a confessional expressing frustration with her sisters for hyping up Nina’s performance—and judging by the preview for next week’s episode, that’s going to come back into play.

Anyway, Gottmik wins by default, earning another $10,000 for Trans Lifeline. She chooses to cut off Jorgeous, completing her blocking of the entire Season 14 contingent. She says something about blocking math not mathing in her head, but I think this is a pretty lame choice. Why not block Plastique, who has a lot of the same strengths that Gottmik herself does? Or even Angeria again? It feels like Gottmik throws a strategic opportunity away—and with this cast playing the way they are, she may come to regret that decision.

Untucking our final thoughts

I know RuMail messages aren’t totally gone—we just got one last week in Episode 2—but they do feel endangered. We don’t get one this week, and they were pretty sparse in Season 16 as well. I wouldn’t mind if we got some kind of refresh as to how episodes start (Drag Race has been doing the same thing for quite a while), but I’d like it to be more of a purposeful choice than the idea that they’re just cutting the messages to save time.

Though Shannel has never played Snatch Game, she did participate in the ill-advised Gaff-In during All Stars 1. She played Lucille Ball. (She and Chad Michaels, playing Bette Davis, earned high scores.)

We find out during Ru’s walkthrough that Tammie Brown actually liked Angeria’s impersonation of her in Season 14’s Snatch Game! Granted, she called her “Angoria” by mistake, but we take our wins where we can get them.

In the werk room, we meet Terrence Meck from the Palette Fund. The Fund is donating the $200,000 grand prize this year, so it’s fair that the co-founder and president would get some screen time. Honestly, they should’ve had him play the Snatch Game of Love instead of Raven.

Speaking of which: while I absolutely loved bringing Monét X Change on as “Kevin” the Snatchelor (I cackled at “his two favourite drag queens are Trinity the Tuck and Jinkx Monsoon”), having Raven as “David” on in the other slot just feels lazy. I know it’s easy for the show to utilize Raven, since she’s already on set, but this would’ve been an amazing opportunity to feature another guest queen. Why not Mo Heart, who is part of such an iconic duo with Monét in their original seasons? Her boy name is Kevin, too!

Anitta is our guest judge this week, marking another appearance from a former Legendary panelist (she guest-judged in Season 3). She, like Keke Palmer and Stephanie Hsu last week, has a lot of fun! But guest judge spots in a season like this, with limited negative critiques, is basically just a chance to show up and enjoy the show. Although I was intrigued to see the critiques get a little more negative this week—Vanjie reacts pretty badly to Carson Kressley calling her outfit off-the-rack from the front.


JORGEOUS: “Nina, I would block you if I could.”

The third episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 will stream Friday, May 31, at 3 a.m. EST on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada. We’ll be publishing recaps all season long, and you can also subscribe to our drag newsletter Wig! for exclusive Drag Race content delivered straight to your inbox every month.

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