‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 6’ Episode 9 recap: Tot Girl Summer

Have we finally reached the game-within-a-game?

For better or worse, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 6 has been defined by the game-within-a-game. As we’ve lost queens week in and week out, each has been promised a chance to come back into the competition. However, unlike in All Stars 2, 3 and 4, the halfway point of this competition came and went with no mention of a comeback. Instead, we’ve just been left with questions about what exactly the game would be—and plenty of memes about the endless waiting.

What’s funny is, had we not been repeatedly told about the twist, we might not have been anticipating it so heavily. Think of the would-be top four queens who celebrate in next week’s preview that they have reached the conclusion of the competition—or so they assume. The game-within-a-game was mentioned to them, way back in the premiere, but that was quite a while ago. They’ve heard nothing of it since, and thus think they’re in the clear for the finale.

But alas, they have one more twist coming, and our journey with All Stars 6 still has three episodes left to go. This episode can’t help but feel like something of a formality, featuring an elimination that has been in the cards for weeks and a challenge that feels more like an advertisement for the WOW Presents Plus series Drag Tots than an actual task. But it’s to AS6’s credit that even a largely unnecessary episode still has plenty of pleasures to offer—and the game-within-a-game threatens to upend the status quo next week anyway.

Would I have preferred an All Stars 6 that didn’t rely so much on a twist that would only finally come into play in Episode 10? Perhaps. But there’s something camp about this amount of buildup. Now all that’s left to do is stick the landing—a task that may be trickier than it seems.

Trinity K. Bonet reacts negatively to being named Moodiest Queen during the All Star Superlatives mini-challenge.

Credit: Courtesy of Paramount+

We actually get a mini-challenge for the first time since the premiere, and unlike most minis, it has a major impact on the main action. The queens are seated at schoolhouse-style desks and are asked to vote for a series of “All Star Superlatives”—stuff like Messiest Queen, Most Likely to Become President of the United States, Most Likely to Go Home Next and so on. The challenge turns shady, particularly as Eureka! repeatedly gets voted for the worst superlatives, but it really blows up with the question of who should be eliminated next. Eureka! votes for Ra’Jah O’Hara, which annoys the Season 11 queen, while Ginger Minj and Ra’Jah both vote for the win-less Eureka! Kylie Sonique Love votes for Trinity K. Bonet, as does Trinity herself—but Trinity seemingly forgets that fact and grows resentful of her sisters for voting against her.

 

This is supremely silly to watch play out, but I understand why Trinity lost her head. The constant throughout this episode is that these queens are exhausted, and I can’t blame them. They’ve been through nine straight challenges, which is the most in a row we’ve ever seen on All Stars. (All Stars 1, 2, 3, and 5 all had fewer episodes, while All Stars 4 had the LaLaPaRuZa intermission.) The competition has been fierce, but these dolls have yet to truly drop the ball. It’s natural that they’d be fatigued—and for a queen as emotional as Trinity, even a bit paranoid. She gets voted Moodiest Queen for a reason, after all.

Adding to the stress is that this week’s maxi-challenge is creatively taxing. The queens must come up with characters inspired by Drag Tots, and sew whole new outfits on the fly to represent them on the runway. This means coming up with a character, designing a look to match, creating that look and writing and recording a monologue about the character to play whilst on the main stage. It’s a lot! And it’s coming on the heels of the queens making it through a gauntlet of difficult challenges: an acting task, a girl group challenge and the Snatch Game of Love.

To the queens’ immense credit, the results do not show any of that stress. All five come out in polished, impressive looks, and do well with their character-building and monologues. No matter how tired they are, or how creatively spent they feel, they still measure up. It solidifies what a strong top five this is.

Trinity K. Bonet and Ginger Minj in their Drag Tots-inspired looks on the runway.

Credit: Courtesy of Paramount+

In a lovely touch, each queen gets their own runway track while they present their character. Trinity’s feline runway coach character gets “Hey Kitty Girl,” for example, while Ginger’s mostly sweet, occasionally shady Southern belle gets “Sexy Drag Queen.” Kylie’s witchy character is a bit underdeveloped, but she looks positively gorgeous in a black gown that moves like a dream. Interestingly, she gets “Call Me Mother”—I might’ve given her a spookier song. Similarly, Eureka!’s fashionista character “Alexandria McQueen,” who is a villain largely based on Eureka!’s negative feedback in the superlatives mini, comes out to “Make Dat Money (Click Clack).”

But the absolute best presentation, from character to look to runway song, goes to Ra’Jah. Her Iseeya Queen is a positive, uplifting persona that fits this challenge to a T. She paints herself purple and comes up with an interesting, deceptively complex garment in different shades of her signature colour. She also adds eyes to her hands to give her an extra gimmick befitting her character; that she comes out to “A Little Bit of Love” only completes the package.

Funny enough, things almost could have gone much worse for Ra’Jah. She wants to name herself Queen Seeme in the workroom, but Ru rejects it as sounding like “Queen Semen.” (As we saw with Heidi N Closet in Season 12, Ru really cares about how names sound when they’re said.) Ra’Jah seems really frustrated with the note, and it appears like she may have to redo her whole monologue. But like she did in Snatch Game of Love with LaToya Jackson, Ra’Jah listens to Ru’s notes. She knows that part of playing Drag Race is playing along with Ru, and she earns praise accordingly.

Ra’Jah gets her second win of the season, putting her on the same plane as Trinity and Ginger. Kylie has just one win, while Eureka! has none. It’s an interesting contrast to their original seasons: Kylie, Ra’Jah and Trinity all failed to win even one challenge in their first seasons, while Ginger won none in All Stars 2 (but had three wins in Season 7). Conversely, Eureka! won twice (in a row!) in Season 10, but hasn’t managed to snag a victory of their own this time around. And in a season that’s talked about track record plenty, the writing is on the wall for Eureka!

Lip Sync Assassin Kameron Michaels returns to the show for the first time since Season 10.

Credit: Courtesy of Paramount+

They try their best, but Eureka!’s pitch is pretty ineffective. They argue that they’re always the bridesmaid and want to be the bride, but it’s hard to make that case when you’re the star of an HBO series. That’s actually been the fundamental flaw with Eureka!’s run from the start: yes, they’ve done consistently well in this competition, but they haven’t ever really been exemplary. And for someone who seemingly does not “need” the All Stars win, you need to be excellent to prove you still deserve it.

Ra’Jah lip syncs for her legacy to “Boom Clap” by guest judge Charli XCX (who is fine!), and does so against Eureka!’s Season 10 sister Kameron Michaels. The body queen is known as one of the most durable lip sync assassins the show has ever seen, effectively winning four lip syncs in a row. She adds a fifth to her record here, although it’s not her best performance by a long shot. Both Kam and Ra’Jah phone this one in, with Ra’Jah falling far short of her “Miss You Much” standard. I’ve had conspiracies a few times this season about queens throwing lip syncs, but this one really looks like a throw.

Unfortunately for Kam, whose voice drops a bit as she reveals the lipstick, her sister Eureka! is sent home. This is an obvious result, but it’s still tough to see Eureka! go. They’ve been a much more enjoyable presence this season than in their first one, and they’ve never really faltered in the competition. But this hasn’t been their run to win, and it feels correct that we have the top four without them.

But will that top four stay intact? Who will return in the game-within-a-game? The whole season has been leading up to this point—it’s time to find out just what this twist really means. May the best drag queen win!

Untucking our final thoughts

Trinity speed-reads the votes from last week to see if any of the dolls voted against her. When she sees only Pandora Boxx did, she excitedly yelps, “My girls!” and grabs their hands. It’s a very cute moment.

Speaking of Pandora, her exit message gets big laughs: “It was lovely working with most of you!”

Trinity immediately proves the point upon being voted Moodiest Queen: “I hope I don’t get detention for this, but fuck y’all.”

We get a really cool bit of backstory when it comes to Ra’Jah’s love of the colour purple, which apparently started right after she left from filming Season 11. While she was in L.A., she got inspired by our native jacarandas, and says she loves how purple is, like her, a mix of warm and cool tones. When so much Drag Race branding these days is based on something cute or name-related (looking at your fiery colour palette, Tina Burner), it’s nice to hear about something that has a bit more meaning behind it.

The person who decided to include Bianca Del Rio and Latrice Royale’s Drag Tots characters on the sidelines, recycling old Drag Race material for runway commentary, please step forward. I’m sorry, my dear, but you are up for elimination.

Of the last four episodes, three have featured a unanimous vote to send out the obvious competitor, but only after a lot of hand-wringing about how “anything could happen!” It reveals a real problem with the current All Stars format: the show derives so much drama out of the voting, and thus effectively has to lie to us when there’s no drama there. I appreciated the drama of the two tied votes this season, but is it worth putting as much time into deliberations when the result is a foregone conclusion?

Related: I also don’t believe this group doesn’t expect a bottom four for this episode. Y’all have watched All Stars! You know what happens at this point in the season!

We get some wild joke prize lines in this episode: Ginger and Kylie’s $1,000 for winning the mini-challenge is supposedly provided by “the Department of Edjimication,” while Ross Mathews is apparently providing the cash prize for Ra’Jah. He looks as surprised by this as anyone!

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 6 will be available for streaming on Thursday, Aug. 19, on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada.

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Kevin O’Keeffe is a writer, host, instructor, and RuPaul’s Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles, California. His favourite pastime is watching a perfect lip sync.

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TV & Film, Culture, Drag Race, Analysis

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