‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9’ Episode 6 recap: Roasting to the polls

We get a second political challenge this year, as the queens attend a convention roast

My primary complaint about the first third of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 (that is, the first four episodes) is that it felt too much like a direct retread of All Stars 7. We had the same format, the same lack of negative critiques and even the same twists, like giving challenge winners the chance to donate a Legendary Legend Star—excuse me, a Beautiful Benefactress Badge—to another queen. Combined with a lack of real narrative, and the season was not off to a great start.

But over the past two episodes, including this week’s roast challenge installment, we’ve begun to see the season turn into something that can stand on its own. If last week’s triumph was bringing drama back in a big way, this week’s is the ways in which Ru and production are changing the game—and the queens are responding strategically in kind.

It all starts with a vote.gov-inspired mini-challenge, in which the queens play a round of the “Spill the T!” challenge we’ve seen in recent seasons (though it’s not referred to as such here). This is akin to Touchy Subjects and Majority Rules challenges from Survivor and Big Brother: queens must answer superlative questions by naming one of their fellow contestants. If they agree with a plurality or majority of the other voters, they earn a point. The queen with the most points earns $2,500 for their charity—and, in a shock, a Beautiful Benefactress Badge.

Though it may seem unfair to give out a badge for what is effectively a luck-based mini-challenge, I actually appreciate the random nature of it. I actually want more of this—give us full Drag Race: Mario Party Edition! But more than that, it does something that has not happened with a non-Reading Is Fundamental mini-challenge in ages: it gives it stakes. When Jorgeous beats Nina West out by a single point, it actually feels consequential, as Jorgeous is now sitting at two badges.

Jorgeous takes RuPaul’s advice and goes with a butch comedic character—and it pays off. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

More than that, Jorgeous gets to decide the performance order for the political-themed roast challenge. For the most part, Jorgeous gives everyone what they want, including herself second and Shannel first. But without asking, she puts Nina in eighth position—meaning she’s closing the show. And while we’ve seen plenty of queens in the past claim no strategy when it comes to choosing the order of performers, Jorgeous makes clear in her confessional that she does explicitly do this to disadvantage the season’s comedy queen.

 

Nina admits this is a good strategy, but also feels a bit needlessly targeted. She may be a comedy queen, but her whole thing is being kind. A roast is not going to be her cup of tea. As we’ll see later, she doesn’t really avoid this problem, nor does she take special advantage of closing the show. Jorgeous basically aces Nina out of two badges in this episode, and it’s pretty impressive work from the Season 14 Lip Sync Assassin.

We see a couple of queens who aren’t naturally the funniest figuring out their own ways into the challenge: Plastique Tiara decides to lean into a character, playing an anime con attendee who gets lost on her way and winds up in the wrong “imaginary convention.” Roxxxy Andrews, meanwhile, avoids doing a character again like she did with Tasha Salad in All Stars 2, and leans into her own ability to captivate a room. Meanwhile, Jorgeous very wisely takes Ru’s advice to play a butch character, aiming to find comedy in the contrast between her look and extremely effeminate voice.

Those three wind up among our top performers this week, with Shannel and Angeria Paris VanMicheals also earning plaudits during deliberations. To be honest, I’m not really sure how Shannel finds her way in there: she’s okay, and her delivery is good, but she gets a bit tongue-tied on some of the jokes. Punchlines just don’t quite land as they should. She’s got a natural hostess’ demeanor, but she’s actually among the three worst of the night for me.

The queens play a round of What’’s the T?, with an unexpected Beautiful Benefactress Badge on the line. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

I feel much better about the Season 14 sisters. Jorgeous worries me at the start—I don’t think there’s enough of a transition between her butch persona and the voice we hear come out—but she nails a sarcastic “I’m straight!” joke later in a way that really pays off the bit. Meanwhile, Angeria is wild during this roast. She calls Michelle Visage Ru’s service animal (a joke that had my jaw on the floor), and then makes a joke about a dick-sucking course in high school to Jorgeous that is audaciously dirty. By the time she concludes with “I hope you vote for me for whatever the fuck this is,” she’s left one hell of an impression.

But if the Season 14 sisters are good, then the Drag Race Live! pals are great. Roxxxy is in command and confident in a way we’ve never seen her in a comedy challenge, and when she gets to her jokes about RuPaul, she hits home run after home run. “On Season 5, you told me that we get to choose our families,” she says. “And I’ve always wanted to ask you: why the hell did you choose Michelle?” Between that, calling gravity Ru’s “outer saboteur,” and an unbelievable joke about RuPaul never remembering queens’ names (“I’m ROXXXY, the wig reveal one!”), it’s a real triumph for the doll.

Plastique, meanwhile, continues her sudden comedic hot streak. Her best joke is about Gottmik: “Thank you for putting the T in LGBT: trash!” (The man audibly cooing in the crowd before she says “trash” makes it all the funnier.) She also throws out punchlines involving topping Jorgeous, Leah Remini hiding in Michelle’s vagina and Earth, Wind & Fire that all slay. She lands in the top—a terrific choice—next to Angeria. And that choice is a bit more puzzling, honestly. Angeria is great in the challenge, but her runway is a miss with the judges. I’d have put Roxxxy or Jorgeous up in the top above her.

For posterity’s sake, quick takes on our other queens: Vanessa Vanjie does a personality-focused set that is funny enough (the joke about burping Jorgeous is particularly great), but not a real contender for the win. The n-word joke also doesn’t really land with the judges, so she gets off to a rocky start. Gottmik’s set is a disappointment after her strong roast performance in Season 13—and that’s without considering it’s largely lifted from Nikki Glaser. And while Nina’s set does get a bit better as it goes on, she never really beats the “kindness” brand she throws on herself—even as she performs.

Michelle Visage and guest judge Ruta Lee walk the queens through their sets ahead of the roast. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

With Plastique now having three badges—making her a co-frontrunner with Roxxxy—and Angeria two, it’s time for a new lip sync battle combination. Plastique has been struggling in these lip syncs, while Angie has markedly improved as a performer since Season 14. That dynamic plays out once again during the “Be My Lover” lip sync, as Plastique looks amazing but fully stops lip-syncing in one section. Angie, meanwhile, captivates both in movement and emotional performance, turning the club classic into her strongest performance yet.

Angeria wins another $10,000 for the National Black Justice Coalition, putting her donation total just below Gottmik’s this season (thanks to Gottmik’s extra $2,500 for a mini-challenge win). Plastique, meanwhile, continues to wait for her lip sync win, as she’s still sitting at no money raised out of a possible $30,000 for her three victories. Notably, Plastique actually has the most wins of anyone, as Roxxxy’s third badge came from Nina’s donation.

Ruby Snippers time! Here’s where the episode gets even more interesting: Roxxxy just made a big scene last week about not actually snipping Angeria a third time, which I do believe was partially about trying to avoid any revenge on Angie’s part in the future. But who should Angie cut off if not Roxxxy? No one else has as many badges, and while Gottmik also snipped Angeria, she was cut off this week already. Jorgeous is Angie’s closest ally, so that doesn’t make much sense, and Vanjie isn’t exactly a threat to win further challenges at this point.

In the end, Angie makes the only decision that makes sense: she snips Roxxxy. It’s not likely to stop their conflict any time soon, but why make another enemy if Roxxxy’s the true frontrunner? She makes the best strategic choice, and those of us at home stay fed by two of the fiercest queens this season keeping each other on their toes. All Stars 9, you may just turn out to be a good season yet.

Untucking our final thoughts

Things start spicy in the cold open, with a particularly sharp Gottmik confessional about Roxxxy’s tears: “Roxxxy is just the saddest frontrunner I’ve ever seen.” Gottmik doesn’t believe Roxxxy’s claim that she didn’t know Angeria was standing where she stopped in the Ruby Snippers line, and Angeria herself seems skeptical too. One thing’s for sure, though: Jorgeous has no qualms about snipping anybody. She’s ready to play this season!

Vanjie announcing “top eight!” upon the group re-entering the werk room is camp.

Nina asks if Shannel is going to get her badge this week. Spoiler: nope! You gotta wonder if we have an “I nominate myself, because I don’t want to be here anymore”-level speech coming soon.

In the mini-challenge, Roxxxy is voted most likely to deny the All Stars 9 outcome. Ru’s response: “Well, Roxxxy is from Florida!”

Ruta Lee is both our guest judge and coach, and she is very good at both jobs! She’s direct with her feedback in a way that I really appreciate. For example: Plastique tries a joke one way and fails, then immediately flips it around and fails again. “Neither of them pays off,” Ruta says simply. She also looks just gorgeous on the judging dais. More guest like Ruta, please!

Nina being the one to finally tell Roxxxy that Tasha Salad is not funny … her greatest act of kindness.

The National Drag Convention Roast starts off with an “invocation” from the reigning “drag poet laureate”—it’s Bob the Drag Queen! It’s been years since we’ve seen Bob on Drag Race (though we did see her on the first season of Secret Celebrity Drag Race as a mentor), and it’s a delight to see her back. I love that she pulls out a book of poetry called “I Know Why The Butch Queen Vogues.” See you on the second all-winners season, Bob!

The Atomic Blonde runway is an interesting concept (Ru loves Atomic Blonde, he referenced it when Charlize Theron guest-judged too), but the results are all over the place. Jorgeous’ runway is the only real smash to me; she should wear blonde hair more often! I also like (but don’t love) Plastique’s and Vanjie’s. Nina’s gets high praise from the judges, and I am at a loss as to why.

I don’t want to be too hard on Plastique, but it is strange to me that she’s repeatedly lip synced without knowing the words on a charity season where the only way to win a $10,000 donation is to win the lip syncs. The point to Angeria on the rap is cute, but it just highlights how she’s seemingly not even trying when it comes to the lyrics.

Colour me very excited by next week’s challenge: acting opposite RuPaul! Acting challenges are notoriously mediocre on this show, but if you look back at those that involved acting with Ru, they’re among the very best. It also feels right that All Stars-caliber queens would be trusted to perform alongside Mama Ru. Can’t wait!

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 will stream Friday, June 21, 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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