‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9’ Episode 5 recap: Selling Tumbleweed

The queens “put the realness in real estate” for this season’s commercial challenge

I’m starting to feel like I’m Charlie Brown, and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 promising drama is Lucy holding out the football for me to kick. I know AS9 is just going to resolve it in a fit of everybody-say-love hugs and talk about the power of drag and charity—I know this. But damn it, I can’t help but get excited when there’s a flickering hope of something narratively interesting on a season that has so far proven quite dull. (The makeover episode in particular, outside of Angelique’s iconic “No soul can clock!” moment, bored me.)

But starting with Angeria Paris VanMicheals’ return to the werk room after being cut off by Roxxxy Andrews and Vanessa Vanjie, there are clearly hard feelings that are proving stickier than you’d expect. Angie admits this one felt personal, while Roxxxy tries to split blame with Vanjie since they had to make a joint decision. Roxxxy goes down the line, explaining why she couldn’t block anyone else, but Angie isn’t having it: “There’s a lot of explanation being handed out,” she says in a confessional. Roxxxy is also mad at Angie for swerving her onstage during the outro song, which Angie says was her having fun but also seems rooted in something real.

That’s the thing about this bubbling tension that I find interesting: it’s not trumped-up for the cameras, or the result of one queen going after the other for no reason. Angeria was in the unenviable position of making the first Ruby Snippers cut of the season, and the queens agreed Roxxxy was a threat. Roxxxy, while she was playful about it, clearly took it seriously, and Gottmik clipping Angeria wasn’t revenge enough. She wanted to do it herself—but by the time she and Vanjie did it, Angie was no longer the frontrunner (that was Gottmik), and she was now cut off twice in the first four episodes. You can see both sides of the conflict, and everyone is justified to their feelings—but it’s not going away easily. It’s interesting stuff.

But it’s not the last disagreement Roxxxy will find herself in this episode, which sees the queens paired off to sell real estate in less-than-desirable locations through comedic commercials. Angeria gets to assign teams as the only double-blocked queen, and despite having a chance to sabotage, ultimately pairs everyone with someone she thinks will work well with them. (Angeria may be too nice to be in a Drag Race feud.) There are two clear top teams—but their similar approaches to the challenge lead to further tension in the werk room.

A yellow teletubby character with large ears and sparkling eyes waving, set against a colorful backdrop with clothing and mannequins in a scene from RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars Season 9 Episode 5.

LaLa and the other Teletubbies make a guest appearance for this week’s mini-challenge. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

Let’s start with our less successful teams and work our way up from there. Nina West and Shannel have to sell spooky Salem as Pretty Dead Realty, which strikes me as the hardest assignment of the lot. I’d personally love to go to Salem! Witches and such! It sounds fun, which means framing it as something undesirable means really leaning into the haunted nature of it all. Nina seems well-prepared, but Shannel is more worried about what look she’s going to wear for the commercial. This leads to her not being off-book, and screwing up the very first line she has.

It’s interesting that these two keep getting pushed together, either by one of them or by others, because I actually don’t think they bring out the best in each other as performers. Shannel’s high-Vegas drag is never going to be a great fit for the broader comedy Nina enjoys, and Nina can’t deliver drag looks at the level Shannel is going for. They both are usually good in their own lane when working together, but all that does is make the other look worse at what’s outside of their comfort zone. If Shannel wants to win her first Beautiful Benefactress Badge, I think she needs a new strategy.

They are better, however, than Gottmik and Jorgeous, who really flub this one. Jorgeous says in an early confessional that she’s gotten better with comedy this season, as evidenced by her Snatch Game. But this challenge reveals her weakness: absent-mindedness and forgetfulness. She struggles with planning out comedy, which is exaggerated by Gottmik’s own lack of organization. I don’t think there’s one real laugh line in their Cher & Tiff Real Estate ad for Alaska, which they struggle mightily to produce after not deciding who would say what lines in their scripting.

Jorgeous gets emotional during judging about letting Ru down on comedy challenges, which Gottmik sweetly encourages her through. Then, Ru gives Jorgeous some good advice: because her comedy comes from her campy side, she needs to play someone remarkably butch to highlight the contrast. I’d put good money on this advice playing out sooner versus later—especially with a comedy challenge coming next week.

Two smiling individuals, one wrapped in a camouflage-patterned fabric and the other wearing a colorful headband, sharing a light moment while looking at a piece of paper in a scene from RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars Season 9 Episode 5.

Vanessa Vanjie and Angeria Paris VanMicheals team up for the real estate commercial challenge, and come close to snatching the win. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

Onto our top two teams, who get Gatorland, Florida (Angie and Vanjie) and Tumbleweed, Texas (Roxxxy and Plastique). Both groups opt to go with a country-fried, redneck characterization, which rubs Roxxxy the wrong way as a Floridian. She thinks that’s the wrong characterization for Angie and Vanjie’s team, and since they are taking the same approach, she makes comments about it in the werk room. She and Vanjie get into a back-and-forth, and Roxxxy even brings it back up after everyone has moved on, but Vanjie decides to bite her tongue. Still, considering the result of the episode, I would imagine we’ll see this conflict again.

The Tumbleweed duo goes first, and as we see in their filming, Roxxxy is rock-solid. The question is whether Plastique will be able to rise to the occasion, since comedy challenges were her weak point in Season 11. Reader: she does, and pretty impressively. She gets the directive to go bigger, and she really brings good energy to the entire commercial. RuPaul in particular seems incredibly impressed, and I have to agree. Plastique has managed her way through her one major flaw, and considering how she’s performed this season as a whole, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see her as our winner.

Team Gatorland just can’t quite deliver at the same level. They’re good, Angeria in particular nailing her lines, and Michelle Visage compliments Vanjie’s exaggerated voice choices. But they don’t have the flow that the Tumbleweed team does. The divide is only enhanced in the Day-to-Night Ruveal runway looks, as Roxxxy and Plastique pull out impressive Ruveals, while Angie’s and Vanjie’s are good-not-great. (I do love the Pretty Woman Ruveal Vanjie pulls off, but it’s almost too literal a reference.)
Plastique and Roxxxy win, with Plastique taking her second badge and Roxxxy her third. They lip sync to Nicki Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl”—a fun parallel with All Stars 7, in which Raja and The Vivienne lip-synced to “Super Freak”—and bless their hearts, I don’t think either of them knows the rap. Roxxxy keeps turning her back to the judges, while Plastique at points fully gives up on lip-syncing. Still, Roxxxy is dynamite during the choruses, and an early choice to stick in the back by Plastique proves to be fatal. Roxxxy snatches the attention and never gives it up. She earns another $10,000 for Miracle of Love.

A performer in a glittering orange outfit holding oversized scissors above their head, surrounded by other vibrantly dressed individuals on stage with a pink background in a scene from RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars Season 9 Episode 5.

Roxxxy Andrews attempts to “randomize” her Ruby Snippers selection—and nearly blocks Angeria Paris VanMicheals again in the process. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

But this episode isn’t done delivering on the drama just yet! Roxxxy just about has a breakdown trying to figure out who to cut off with the Ruby Snippers, so stressed that she actually just turns around and says she’ll make the decision by stopping somewhere randomly. (The only thing she asks is where Nina is, which Nina seems to take as a suggestion that Roxxxy will pick her, but I actually think it is about Roxxxy avoiding Nina.) She eventually stops and snips … and she’s stopped at Angeria.

Listen, I don’t want to overstate this: Angeria keeps calm, and the situation is resolved eventually. But in the moment? Angie looks pissed. It is by far the most visibly displeased we have seen Angie, who is usually such a constant light on this show, to the point that Ru even comments on it when Roxxxy says that by cutting someone off, she’s going to make someone mad. “Well, probably not as mad as Angeria,” Ru says with a laugh. Cut to Angeria, decidedly not laughing.

Upon realizing she’s snipped Angeria, Roxxxy goes back on her answer, stands in the middle of the stage, and spirals about the decision. (At one point you can see Plastique fully dancing at the back of the stage, which makes me think this took a while.) Eventually, she chooses Gottmik, and then immediately bursts into tears. Gottmik winds up having to comfort her about her decision, all while looking annoyed about the situation. 

It feels a bit overwrought—and, apologies to Roxxxy, it’s wildly entertaining—but I do think Roxxxy’s feelings are coming from somewhere very raw and real. She has been one of the most fan-loathed characters ever on Drag Race circa Season 5, then came back to All Stars 2 determined to rehabilitate her reputation. (It worked, mostly, but the result was that she was very bad at the competition itself.) The idea of directly negatively affecting a fan favourite’s chances in the competition without some justification likely has her fearing the worst in terms of fan response. 

So while it seems like much ado about the Ruby Snippers, I understand the emotion. Still, the Angeria moment strikes me as odd: did Roxxxy really not know where she was? Did she want to maybe see how Angie would react to being chosen again, and upon realizing how angry she was, went back on it? Or did she know it was Angeria, but wanted to make a big scene out of not doing Angeria in hopes that it would soothe their relationship? Gottmik certainly seems to think Roxxxy knew where Angeria was, as evidenced by the preview for next episode, so it looks like this tension isn’t going away just yet. That’s tough for Roxxxy—but very good for Drag Race.

Untucking our final thoughts

In the cold open, Jorgeous calls out Gottmik and Nina for “jumping the gun” when it came to giving out their badges, considering both of their recipients just won their second. Nina realizes if Roxxxy gets to the end, it’s partially because of her—something that is looking very likely now that Roxxxy has won her third. Remember: Trinity the Tuck advanced to the finale with just three Legendary Legend Stars in All Stars 7!

The “alliance” storyline seems to now be taking a backseat to the genuine tensions between some of the queens, but it is nonetheless hilarious to watch Shannel try to figure out what the other queens are talking about in the cold open. Kudos to the editors: this segment is so funny.

I have a lot of questions about Drag Race hosting the Teletubbies (?) for a “Soul Train dance-off” (??) set to Ru’s hyperpop track “Smile” (???), with the queens performing out of drag (????). But I feel like I’m not going to get any of those answers, so I will simply say it’s wild that Gottmik wins a dance challenge, and I cackled at Ru asking if they were getting “the LaLa Experience.”

Quick money check: Gottmik’s earned $22,500 for Trans Lifeline, while Roxxxy is up to $17,500 for Miracle of Love. Angeria has her initial $10,000 for the National Black Justice Coalition, and Vanjie has $5,000 for the ASPCA. The others have yet to bank any money for their charities.

When settling on playing their Texan characters, Roxxxy notes that Plastique is from Texas. Plastique, in the most absurd Texas accent you’ve ever heard, simply replies: “Not originally!”

Tracy Tutor from Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles and Carson Kressley sit in as the coaches for the commercial. Tracy is impressed with how much real estate knowledge Nina and Shannel have, which is nice, though you can just feel the setup of the judges later talking about how it was too much about the real estate and not funny enough. Well, you would if this season featured any substantive negative critique. Fantasy world!

Meanwhile, frequent guest Alec Mapa is our extra special guest judge this week, and he’s kind of playing The Hilarious Alec Mapa in Ross Mathews’ absence. He’s okay, but we’ve seen him be a much more effective judge when he can actually offer critique.

Plastique says to do well in comedy challenges, she needs to let loose.

Ru called Plastique’s performance “magnanimous” … I don’t think that word means what you think it means, Ru?

Plastique doesn’t feel too bad about losing the lip sync, since Roxxxy is an undefeated Lip Sync Assassin. And that’s actually true! She only lip-synced twice on Season 5, tying Alyssa Edwards in “Whip My Hair” and making it through the perfunctory “The Beginning” lip sync among the top three before the finale. In All Stars 2, she beat Tatianna on “Shake It Off,” then never got to lip sync again owing to her overall poor performance. (And Ru dismissed her before the final lip sync in the finale.) She beat Miz Cracker to “One Last Time” as a Lip Sync Assassin in All Stars 5, and now has either tied or won both of her All Stars 9 lip syncs. Six to zero is a pretty great record!
The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 will stream Friday, June 14, 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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