‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 6’ Episode 8 recap: Snatch and release

A former titan of Snatch Game falls in surprising fashion

Finally! After a season of waiting, we have at last made it to Snatch Game of Love. Yes, the dating variant of the signature RuPaul’s Drag Race challenge is back, back, back, back again for a third go-around. Our top six queens must play for the hearts of returning guest judges Cheyenne Jackson and Fortune Feimster. But of course, the dating game is just a ruse—the one and only game in this celebrity impersonation task is to make RuPaul laugh.

This top six is an interesting crew for this challenge. We have Ginger Minj, who tied for the Snatch Game win in Season 7 as Adele. (She was just safe as Tammy Faye in All Stars 2, but that was a notoriously competitive affair.) Eureka! scored high in Season 10’s Snatch Game as Honey Boo-Boo, while Pandora Boxx’s Season 2 Carol Channing is considered one of the most legendary performances. Alongside Tatianna’s Britney Spears, it demonstrated just what Snatch Game could be.

On the other hand, you have Trinity K. Bonet, who was safe for her Nicki Minaj in Season 6, but could’ve easily been in the bottom after failing to answer a question after a wig change. Ra’Jah O’Hara actually left Season 11 before Snatch Game, becoming one of the only queens (alongside Trixie Mattel, Bebe Zahara Benet, India Ferrah and Blair St. Clair) to make it to Snatch Game only on their All Stars season. Kylie Sonique Love has the most to prove, as she was the first queen ever sent home on Snatch Game after her disastrous Lady Gaga.

The results of this round don’t really give us one clear narrative. The previous winner takes the win once again for her Phyllis Diller, with Ginger becoming the second queen (after BenDeLaCreme) to win Snatch Game twice. But while Eureka! does a decent enough job as Divine, Kylie is actually second in line for the victory, after earning rave reviews for her take on Dolly Parton. Meanwhile, Pandora, one of the standard-bearers of Snatch Game, falters hard as Kim Catrall. It goes to show that, no matter how you did in your original season, each Snatch Game is a new chance to prove yourself—or fall short of expectations.

The top six of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 6 gather after Jan’s elimination.

Credit: Courtesy of Paramount+

One person who has pretty clear expectations of herself is Trinity, and they aren’t high! She knows this is likely to be her biggest obstacle: while she’s found ways to really be funny in scripted tasks, improv is challenging for her. She stops short of giving up, and finds a character she can imitate well physically in Whitney Houston. Seriously, her take on Whitney’s “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” video look is one of the best physical transformations we’ve ever seen in Snatch Game. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen so many times, the game is not about the look; it’s about making Ru laugh.

 

What’s painful about Trinity’s performance is that she misses every opportunity to land a punchline. She has a wealth of jokes just based on Whitney’s song titles to go for, but despite Ru’s best efforts, she lets them all pass her by. Ginger, actually, winds up taking a bunch of them, landing jokes about “I Have Nothing” and The Bodyguard while Trinity can only laugh at her own missed moments. She gets lost between Ginger and Kylie, and she’s very aware of her own failings when it comes time to face the judges.

That said, I think even a great Snatch Game performer might’ve had trouble keeping up with Ginger and Kylie. The two are fucking fire in their segment, volleying jokes back and forth like nobody’s business. Ginger takes the lead on most, using her comedian character (I can’t believe this is the first Phyllis Diller we’ve ever seen on Snatch Game) to her full advantage. But Kylie, who is not a natural comedy queen, keeps pace really well. She’s quick enough to pick up opportunities to rally, and both she and Ginger make each other’s work stronger. I’d watch The Phyllis and Dolly Show starring these two any day.

Trinity K. Bonet’s Whitney Houston and Kylie Sonique Love’s Dolly Parton commiserate over not being chosen by Snatchelor Cheyenne Jackson.

Credit: Courtesy of Paramount+

In the other group, things are a bit less in sync. Eureka!’s Divine is a major presence in the room, with Eureka! antagonizing the other contestants, as well as Fortune. It’s very Divine, but I question the wisdom of it in Snatch Game. Because Pandora and Ra’Jah can’t effectively banter with their own characters, Eureka! winds up doing what The Vixen accused her of back in Season 10’s Snatch Game: steamrolling the group. If they were comedic excellence solo as Divine, the way Alexis Mateo was as Walter Mercado last season, I wouldn’t mind it. But they need the banter to improve their own performance, like Ginger’s and Kylie’s improved each other’s. Eureka! just feels like they’re on an island.

Now, Pandora tries to blame Eureka! for her own poor performance, and I think that’s ultimately incorrect. Pandora’s Kim Catrall is basically dead on arrival. She’s doing a Samantha Jones impersonation that you’ve seen a hundred times at gay bars, usually done much better. She tries to banter with Eureka!, but nothing she says is very funny. Contrast with Ra’Jah’s take on LaToya Jackson, which is a light-voiced, giggly interpretation of the character (with an incredibly impressive mug). Ra’Jah doesn’t banter with the other queens much, but she figures out a very specific way in: she uses a story Ru tells about LaToya during her walkthrough and builds several variations of it to use as jokes. “I am a fitness expert, although I don’t like to work out” is not that funny of a joke, but it’s so perfectly pitched to appeal to Ru that he fully doubles over in laughter.

Pandora just has no strategy for Snatch Game, and it shows. As she says later, the ghost of Carol Channing was haunting her, and the result is far below what she’s capable of doing. It’s been a tough season for Pandora, but if she can’t even ace her signature challenge, there’s just not much argument for keeping her around.

Trinity and Pandora land in the bottom two after an underwhelming Pop Art runway, with only Ginger and Trinity really excelling in their looks. The other queens (Ginger especially) do give Pandora the space to campaign, but you can tell it’s a tough sell. Ginger gives proper praise to Pandora as the first Drag Race camp queen to really legitimize specializing in comedy on the show. It’s hard to fathom now, but in its earliest days, Drag Race was much more focused on looks and glamour than on comedy. Pandora was the show’s first true breakout star largely because she focused on being campy and fun. We don’t get Ginger Minj on Drag Race without Pandora coming before her.

But while Pandora’s herstorical impact on the series is significant, that doesn’t change the facts: this is both her and Trinity’s second bottom two appearance, and she has zero wins to Trinity’s two. The only thing left is the lip sync to Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls.” Ginger faces off against Season 12’s Heidi N Closet, back after previously winning three lip syncs and losing one. Her record falls to 3-2 this week, however, as Ginger’s strategy of comically mocking the other queen’s dance moves pays off once more. Heidi also has a mild wig reveal malfunction, but she recovers much better than Trinity did last week.

All the queens vote for Pandora to go, but it’s Ginger’s responsibility to hand down the verdict. The OG comedy queen is eliminated in sixth place, leaving us our final five. And kind of miraculously, they’re all from different seasons! Will Season 2, 6, 7, 10 or 11 reign supreme? Or will a returnee from the game-within-a-game upend the status quo? We’ve got four episodes left this season, so there’s plenty of time remaining to find out!

Untucking our final thoughts

Trinity is not happy to now have lost more lip syncs in her time on Drag Race than she has won. “This is bullshit! I lost two lip syncs—guess I lost my assassin card.” She’ll likely need to come back as an LSA in a future season and win to tip the scale back, because her 2-3 record is not pretty!

Tina Knowles-Lawson is the biggest name we’ve seen as a guest judge this season, being mother to Beyoncé and Solange. Trinity, naturally, just about has a fit of delight when Ru announces her. She gets shown a lot of deference, with Ru introducing her multiple times to the audience and queens. It’s certainly a pleasure to have her here, and she seems to have a fun time, but I do think—and this has been a pattern with the guest judges this season—her critiques skew a bit too uniformly positive for my taste. Give me a Padma Lakshmi or a Kristen Johnston any day, someone who will really go deep with their critiques.

Related, Ru repeats his “TKO: Tina Knowles Original” joke from last episode, in a way that doesn’t even make much sense in this context. It’s like he knew he made it a week too early and didn’t want it to go to waste.

In response to one of Cheyenne’s questions, Kylie-as-Dolly has to make up a little song for him. It sounds very “9 to 5,” but it’s cute! And adorably, she ends it with, “Available on iTunes… at some point.”

What would Ra’Jah’s LaToya wear for a sexy night? “A nice pantsuit.”

Cheyenne and Fortune are pretty rough as Snatchelor and “Snatch-Catcher” this week, though that’s only partially their fault. They’re saddled with a dumb bit about how Fortune chooses no one and instead is reunited with her true love, Cheyenne. I don’t get why Drag Race feels the need to end Snatch Game of Love with a bit. It seemingly goes against the “Who cares?” ethos of the OG Snatch Game.

I almost wonder if there’s not some kind of unspoken “use your own visage” element to the Pop Art runway prompt that only the queens received. It seems strange that five of the six went in roughly the same direction, each plastering their look with their own face. But hey, I would’ve said the same about a Madonna runway with four kimono looks.

Interesting bit regarding Heidi: her season would have just aired when this season filmed, and considering COVID-19, she wouldn’t have yet had time to tour. So when Ginger says “so nice to meet you, finally!” as Heidi leaves, it’s a reminder that this is genuinely these queens’ first chance to meet Season 12’s beloved Miss Congeniality. A solid first impression, I’d say!

All right, folks, let’s talk game-within-a-game. It’s been a fun meme, it’s been a bit of suspense—but it’s about to be Top 4 (since the preview for next week does not show the twist being deployed) and we haven’t seen it. To be blunt, in a 13-queen season, a returnee twist with the queen coming back at the last possible stage of the competition feels cheap to me. Imagine making the top four, the final stage of the game, only to be suddenly told, surprise! You actually have to fight even more to get there. I’ll reserve judgment until we see the full twist play out, but I’m not loving that we’re still waiting for it to unveil itself.

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 6 will be available for streaming on Thursday, Aug. 12, 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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Drag Race, TV & Film, Culture, Analysis

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