‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9’ Episode 8 recap: Rusic is in fashion

RuPaul’s songs provide the inspiration for this week’s design challenge looks

UK, hun? Hello from London, where I am writing this week’s RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 recap! It’s my first time here in eight years, which means it’s my first time here since RuPaul’s Drag Race UK debuted. Sadly, I have not seen Tayce or Dakota Schiffer milling about the town while I’ve been out, but I was at the same Troye Sivan concert last night as Lorde and Charli XCX, so there’s that! Let’s take a page from their book and work it out on the recap.

It’s appropriate that I’m talking about music, as this week’s design challenge is all about the catalogue of one RuPaul Charles. The queens are given a choice between eight of his songs, and are asked to design a look inspired by it (with accompanying fabrics). It’s kind of an excuse for a design challenge with various themes, as the songs range between former runway fare like “I Bring the Beat” and specialty tunes like “Hey Sis, It’s Christmas.” No points if you guess who gets the latter.

Perhaps in an effort to boost her spirits after feeling down last week, Ru gives Shannel first pick as the first queen to walk her “bare ass” into the werk room all those years ago. She, of course, goes with the Christmas song, which RuPaul notes is to the surprise of no one. She then gets to choose who picks next—and perhaps repaying Nina West the favour when the Columbus queen did not give her a badge weeks ago, Shannel goes with Angeria Paris VanMicheals instead.

After picking “Cake & Candy,” Angie passes the privilege off to Gottmik, who she just cut off with the Ruby Snippers last week. Gottmik goes with “New Friends Silver, Old Friends Gold,” then Vanessa Vanjie picks “Kitty Girl,” followed by Roxxxy Andrews picking “Lady Cowboy.” The Season 5 and All Stars 2 veteran really wants a design challenge win, so she picks something she specifically sees as a challenge to inspire her to aim high. Roxxxy passes picking power off to Plastique next, who chooses “Star Baby,” and then passes to Jorgeous, who selects “I Bring the Beat.” This leaves Nina last, as she is left with “Cha Cha Bitch.”

The eight queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 assemble ahead of what will likely be their final design challenge this season. Credit: Paramount+

Nina perceives this as a slight, or at least bad strategy on the other queens’ part: those with sewing and design experience are given the advantage of earlier selection, while she, a queen who is not known for her own creations, is left for last. But this seems to embolden her, as she tries for more ambitious design elements than we’ve seen from her in the past. Too ambitious? We’ll find out by the end of the episode!

 

As a design challenge, this episode is mostly watching the queens in their creative process—great for a Project Runway fan like me, bad for a reality TV recapper like me—but we do get a walkthrough with Ru. Side note: do we still call these “walkthroughs?” Since COVID, Ru’s just stood at one table and let the queens come over. I guess the queens are still walking? Anyway, it’s a solid one, with some nice storyline setup for Gottmik (she’s doing better after her tough week a couple episodes ago) and Shannel (we’re still on Shannel Win Watch). My personal favourite moment is with Jorgeous, who says “I Bring the Beat” reminds her of watching Roxxxy walk down the runway in Season 5. A reminder that “I Bring the Beat” is only the runway song for truly iconic seasons: Season 5 and Canada Season 4.

A common theme across the werk room is that the queens are going ambitious on this one. Beyond Roxxxy and Nina, the latter of whom makes gloves (the first draft of which are so small, Roxxxy calls them Toddlers and Tiaras gloves), Plastique is assembling a bold, big train for her “Star Baby” look, while Gottmik employs a braiding and weaving technique she’s never used before. I get the sense that the queens are looking at the timeline of remaining episodes and realizing this will almost certainly be the last design challenge, so they decide to swing for the fences. The results, as we’ll get to in a second, are mixed, but in a season that has felt less competitive than most thanks to the format, I’m glad to see most of the queens step up to challenge themselves.

On the main stage, production makes the genuinely ingenious choice to use every Ru song as the runway track for that look. It’s a delight to hear some old runway themes return to the main stage (Season 5’s “I Bring the Beat,” Season 16’s “Cake & Candy,” All Stars 7’s “New Friends Silver, Old Friends Gold”), while Plastique’s runway demonstrates that Season 15 really should’ve had “Star Baby” as the runway track.

Nina West shocks us — and perhaps even herself! — with one of the best design challenge looks of the week. Credit: Paramount+

Quickly getting the less impressive efforts out of the way: Shannel, bless her, does nothing interesting with her Christmas look. I’m disappointed, because I really thought she could give us campy holiday eleganza here. But she instead looks like the very-into-it host of an office Christmas party. She also has to keep pulling it down, indicating she didn’t make it long enough. Angeria’s “Cake & Candy” look is not terrible, but the puckering in the back is. I’m surprised to see her turn out something with such a major construction issue. Both Jorgeous and Vanjie give us riffs on what we’ve seen from them before: the Jorgeous who won Season 14’s design challenge with a far-too-simple look is back in full force, while Vanjie’s look feels like a real missed opportunity to lean into the comedy value of a “Kitty Girl” garment. You can barely even tell she used animal print!

Onto our top four—and unlike last week, in which the deliberation shout-outs seemed wildly out of alignment with the actual best performers, they match up nicely here. Gottmik gets praise for the technique she uses, although like Shannel’s look, it’s a bit too short. Appreciate her ambition, but she’s a clear fourth of the four in my book. Meanwhile, in a shock unlike anything we’ve seen on recent seasons, Nina makes a very strong case for the win this week. Her look fits her figure perfectly, strikes a gorgeous silhouette (that fascinator!) and shows real ambition in terms of fabric selection and design. The gloves may have been difficult to work with, but they really bring the look together.

In the end, she doesn’t win, and I think that’s the right call. But she gets a lot closer than anyone expected her to. Plastique and Roxxxy are just too dominant this week, as the besties turn out ambitious designs that perfectly fit their songs. Plastique’s star train is incredibly dramatic and well-made, although Michelle Visage nitpicks that her lining isn’t in great shape. Hard to care that much about that when the overall look is so impressive, though. How does she make these garments in such a short time? Roxxxy goes for more of a character piece, with the chaps and fringe you’d expect of a country look. I don’t love the hair she chooses for it, but the overall impression is very strong.

These two take the win, bringing both of them to four badges. I’d say this makes them a lock for the finale, but we’ve got a lot of episodes left for some nonsense. (Remember the three-star talent show twist from All Stars 7?) I would be surprised to see neither of them in the end, though—they, along with Angeria, have been the major competitive forces for most of the season.

RuPaul and Gottmik end a lovely werk room interaction with a hug, deepening their bond from Season 13. Credit: Paramount+

The lip sync this week is to Diana Ross’ “No One Gets the Prize” (very funny song choice for a season where the grand prize is a $200,000 donation to a charity), and Plastique sets up her own narrative here. Roxxxy remains a lip sync GOAT, while Plastique has lost three in this season. She has failed to lip sync whole sections of every one of her songs so far. And this is a Diana Ross song—Ru’s favourite artist! She needs to pull out all the stops here.

Here’s the thing: Plastique is very good in this lip sync. She is sultry, captivating and knows all her words. For the first 30 seconds or so, I really believe this will be her redemption moment. 

And then Roxxxy pulls out a nail file and delivers what might be her best lip sync performance of all time. It’s just not close, honestly. Roxxxy is amazing in this, bringing the kind of sass and charm to the song that really sets her interpretation apart. She is in her element, and absolutely smashes this. She wins, earning another $10,000 for Miracle of Love.

It will come as absolutely no surprise to you that Roxxxy immediately hands the Ruby Snippers to Angeria—who herself fully extends her hand to receive them before Roxxxy can even say “snip, snip.” It’s “an eye for an eye,” as Roxxxy says, and it feels fitting that the twist ends with one final exchange between the two rivals. Yes, that’s right: the Ruby Snippers twist is officially over! Unless Angeria wins next week, it will have been completely useless in terms of blocking all season long. But it’s been a fun dramatic tool—and has made this season surprisingly interesting to watch. I’ll miss those scissors, sister.

Untucking our final thoughts

Donation update! While Angeria’s $30,000 for the National Black Justice Coalition continues to lead the pack, Roxxxy’s $27,500 for Miracle of Love and Gottmik’s $22,500 for Trans Lifeline are close behind. Despite winning four challenges, the most this season, Plastique’s donation total for the Asian American Foundation remains at nil. Someone probably should’ve thought about the donation versus incentive system in this format: badges for winning lip syncs and donations for winning the challenge seems like a better way to structure it.

The Trevor Project is up to $5,000 in donations thanks to last week’s immunity conversion and Nina’s mini-challenge win this week. It’s a photo-bombing challenge, and Nina’s win surprises even Nina herself.

Back to Plastique for a second: if she can win just one more challenge, she’ll tie BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon for most wins in an All Stars season. There aren’t many left (just four weeks to go), but considering her competence across categories not called Snatch Game this season, I wouldn’t put it past her!

Roxxxy extends her lip sync undefeated record to seven total wins or ties. I believe this ties her with Symone, who won or tied seven lip syncs in Season 13. Granted, it’s Roxxxy’s third season, while Symone did all that in one—but still! Very impressive from the doll.

Let’s talk math! The queens seem very skeptical about Angeria’s argument that she was following Plastique’s theory and blocking someone with the “same” number of badges as her. Nina says that since Angeria had three, and Gottmik had two, her logic is flawed. Angeria corrects her to an extent by saying that before the win, they did have the same number of badges—which is the actual math behind Plastique’s strategy. It’s not about blocking the people at your exact level, it’s about blocking the people right behind you. No one has done a great job of explaining this plan on the show itself, but the logic is sound. Had Gottmik won this week, as she was seemingly close to doing, Angeria would’ve successfully stopped her from rising to her level.

Can’t remember an edit that has made me laugh harder than Jorgeous walking up to two different pairs of queens and saying, in the exact same tone, “The competition’s really starting to heat up!” Queen of giving the editors multiple takes to use!

It’s a new day in the werk room, and Shannel is juggling! She may not have badges, but she’s juggling!

Speaking of Shannel, I’m admittedly a little skeptical that she’s been thinking for a decade and a half about how she “disappointed” Ru by asking to leave in Season 1. For one, she’s been on Drag Race since then, making it to the finale on All Stars 1. For another, it is drastically out of step with Shannel’s character to be so preoccupied by something like this. She is a queen who stands in her power and opinions, others be damned. If anything, I can believe that her underwhelming performance this season has her searching for answers as to why, and she’s over-thought her Drag Race journey as a result.

We get a really nice moment with Gottmik and RuPaul in the werk room, as Ru talks about “New Friends Silver, Old Friends Gold” and having worked with some of the same people for nearly 40 years. He then mentions new friends, gesturing to Gottmik. (“Also gold,” Gottmik replies. “Silver-gold,” Ru says with a laugh.) It ends with an exchange of “I love you”s and a hug between them, furthering the bond they’ve built since Season 13.

Ts Madison is back! And thank god, I’ve missed her. Jeremy Scott is also back as our guest judge this week, and it’s good to see him becoming a recurring presence. Still, despite the stronger-than-average panel, the critiques are pretty milquetoast this week. Carson Kressley has managed the line between positivity and actual feedback the best this season, I’d say.

In the Away-sponsored mini-challenge, Ru asks Vanjie what the most exotic place she’s been to is. “Probably Burbank,” she replies.

Four episodes to go—and the Ruby Snippers twist is officially over! We’re likely heading into something special in the endgame, with episode listing titles identifying Episode 10 as a LaLaPaRuZa, and 11 and 12 as a two-part finale. I hope that All Stars 9 can land the plane a bit better than All Stars 7

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 will stream Friday, July 5, 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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