‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8’ Episode 2 recap: Live from the werk room

The second part of the season premiere is an improvement, largely thanks to a very special guest

New episode, clean slate. Odd grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Deliberation segments are Untucked-exclusive now; frustrated as I may be, we must move on. RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars waits for no man to get over what he sees as an egregiously bad format change. The machine rolls on.

We start this second episode with a recap of what happened in Untucked when it came time to send either Monica Beverly Hillz or Darienne Lake home. As we know, Kahanna Montrese lost her Lip Sync for Your Legacy to Aja Labeija, which means the queens’ vote is the one that mattered. Surviving queen Darienne counts the votes, and find the customary one vote against her—from Monica, of course. But then there’s another, and another and another. The vote is 7–4, which means Darienne was just two flipped votes away from being the one sent home.

Kandy Muse immediately fesses up to being one of the votes, saying Monica’s impassioned plea to stay moved her. LaLa Ri and Jaymes Mansfield admit the same. Darienne claims no hard feelings, but admits in confessional that while she can forgive, she won’t be forgetting. Personally, I think this is a thrilling development. Ask any Big Brother fan and they’ll tell you that seasons where players vote with their heart, unafraid to go against “the house,” are far superior. Especially in an environment like this, queens should be able to make up their own minds—but it very well may come back to haunt them down the line.

That development, plus an overall better second challenge, represents a major step up from the premiere episode to this one. There’s still some shagginess in the edit, with dead air at the end of some runway presentations and an elongated shout-out of the safe queens before judges’ critiques. It feels like the show is stretching to fill time—if only there were something else that could be included instead! But that’s my only major complaint about an installment that provides some genuine laughs, strong looks and judging that doesn’t make me yell at my TV.

Heidi N Closet and LaLa Ri host a Weekend Update-style sketch for RDR Live

Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

The maxi-challenge this week is RDR Live, a spoof of Saturday Night Live. If you think this is just going to be a weak conceit for a sketch-style acting challenge … well, I’ll admit that Drag Race herstory would be on your side, but you’re actually wrong this time! This is a delightful tribute to SNL, complete with a parody of their opening credits that is lovingly crafted. (Obsessed with Naysha Lopez’s look in the intro.) Additionally, there’s a cold-open sketch that, like typical SNL, skews political—the Center for Drag Control can’t contain the outbreak of Drag Race franchises internationally! Other sketches include a Jersey girls talk show all about Michelle Visage, a fake ad for landscapers who are also sex workers and a draggy take on Weekend Update.

 

Most SNL-like, though, is the presence of a host’s monologue. Kandy decides to take this on, and even gets interrupted by Mrs. Kasha Davis in the same way an SNL host would by a regular cast member. It’s all performed “live,” meaning no multiple takes like in most Drag Race acting challenges. What the queens do in front of the judges is locked in—and almost all of them step up to the occasion.

Let’s go in chronological order of the sketches, starting with the CDC cold open. Jaymes and Naysha play doctors warning of the spread of Drag Race, which ultimately overcomes them, LaLa and Heidi N Closet. This is a solid effort all around, except for Naysha. She gives up the part she wants during role selection, putting up no real fight in the moment (but, naturally, later complains about it in confessional). She’s right to not want the part: she completely misses the mark of the ditzy character, even after Jaymes tries to help her with some line readings. This is Naysha’s only role in the whole of RDR Live, and it basically immediately marks her for elimination.

Kandy’s monologue is decent, and she’s got the presence for it, but she doesn’t knock it out of the park in the way you might expect. Kasha outshines her with pitch-perfect line deliveries and comic timing, which she continues as a “satisfied customer” of Jessica Wild’s and Jimbo’s horny horticulturists. All three are great, but Jimbo purposefully downplays to avoid their sketch becoming too much. Her timing and characterization are flawless, and without stealing anything from her scene partners (who are also both great, particularly Kasha). So far, so good!

Darienne Lake and Alexis Michelle play Jersey girls obsessed with Michelle Visage in RDR Live

Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

We then move into our Weekend Update-style segment, as Heidi greets us with “Good evening, trash!” Heidi is terrific as half of the news anchor duo—she could honestly go straight on to SNL and take up a spot at the desk. LaLa is decent, but she’s less of a natural reading the lines, and suffers in such direct comparison to Heidi. They’re both leagues ahead of their guest, however: Kahanna, playing a cat woman. Not a cat lady; a woman who is a cat. It’s strange, and the one bit of the episode that I think is an obvious stinker. Woe to Kahanna that she sticks herself with this role.

Finally, we have Darienne and Alexis Michelle, playing Jersey girls obsessed with eventual sketch guest Michelle Visage. This one is a lot of fun! It’s very much something you would see, like, Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch do on SNL. Neither is so great as to place in the top, but they have a lot of fun with it. It’s a nice note to end on, as is the final goodbye parodying SNL’s usual outro. The whole thing is a real treat, and there are really only two underwhelming performances in the lot.

During the Net Gala runway, Jimbo earns high praise for her “cell phone octobot” look (get it? she’s connected to the interNET), while Alexis’s netted gown and Kahanna’s ocean goddess look are among my favourites. Jessica and Kasha both give us butterfly net looks, but Jessica’s is far superior. Kasha’s is actually kind of strange to look at—it’s the one major misstep she makes all episode.

As predicted, Naysha and Kahanna land in the bottom, while Jimbo wins out. Heidi and Jaymes score in the top, which I partially agree with; I’d have slotted Kasha in the third slot instead of Jaymes, even with her underwhelming runway. Still, the judging is overall much more coherent this go-around, even if there’s remarkably little of it to go around. With how much time there is in this episode for, say, extra-long runway walks, you’d think they could find the time to let the judges speak for longer.

In a true gag, Pangina Heals appears as the second Lip Sync Assassin of the season

Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

Without deliberations (I just involuntarily harrumphed as I typed that), we head straight into the vote. How will anyone vote? Who’s to say! No time to think about it, let’s just get to the reveal of our lip sync assassin.

And holy hell, what a reveal it is. In a gag that leaves Jimbo, the other queens, the judges and even me with mouth agape, the LSA is former Drag Race Thailand co-host, UK vs The World sixth-placer and Jimbo eliminator Pangina Heals! This is a goddamn delight. Pangina is a marvel of a performer, and the show playing into her and Jimbo’s rivalry by having her on here is yet another way the franchise is committing itself to the kinds of global, long-term narrative-building that I love.

The two lip sync—a rematch after “Say You’ll Be There,” I remind you—to Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop.” This song actually feels like a setup for Jimbo to win: it’s campy, it’s not too dance-focused and it’s in her sexy wheelhouse. Unfortunately for her, Jimbo is positively allergic to any kind of compelling lip syncing, while Pangina can turn the party to literally anything. (Remember the Vengabus lip sync?) She once again wins, leaving the cash tip to roll over to $30,000 next week.

Pangina reveals the group’s vote, and it’s not hard to predict: they’ve chosen to send Naysha home. Kahanna being the first challenge’s winner basically renders her immune, so Naysha was the only choice. Still, as we’ll discuss in the final thoughts, it was not a unanimous decision. Once again, the queens are ready to take matters into their own hands when it comes to the vote. And that, along with a stronger second episode, is keeping me excited about this season.

Untucking our final thoughts

The Other Half of the Story, Deliberations Edition: Naysha makes the more impassioned, honest plea this week, but as Darienne notes, if one votes by track record, there’s no choice between her and Kahanna. However, Jessica’s bond with her Puerto Rican sister Naysha weighs heavily on her. Ultimately she, alongside eliminee Naysha and Kasha, chooses to vote out Kahanna. But of course, everyone else chooses to vote out Naysha, including Jimbo. Yet another week of a split decision!

The Other Half of the Story, Fame Games Edition: Monica’s nearly nude Net Gala look is nice, but wouldn’t register in the top half of my runway looks this week. The more notable development is the announcement of the voting opening: July 14. That’s a lot of time for eliminated queens to show their stuff—but will the audience’s memory be long?

Kasha refers to the workroom as a “vulva,” owing to its pink walls. And I believe that’s all I have to say on that subject.

Obsessed with Ru’s pussycat wig in the RuMail messages. Giving us Runét X Charles!

Ru reminds the queens when introducing the challenge that he’s actually hosted SNL. I forgot this, likely because it happened in February 2020. “We were all so happy that day,” etc.

Former guest judge and SNL cast member Bobby Moynihan appears as a coach for the queens in the werk room, and actually gives Jimbo and Jessica the key “Bert and Ernie” advice to play up their differences. Jimbo takes and runs with this all the way to the win. Meanwhile, Kahanna avoids being sent home on two straight episodes with Bobby—he was present in Season 11 for her elimination back then.

RUPAUL: “And then Jackie Collins, she called you naive because you didn’t know what a golden shower was.”

JESSICA: “But now I know, and I even do it!”

LaLa offers Heidi an alliance, which she accepts despite being previously allied with Jimbo and Kandy. Her social game is paying off, but she best hope she doesn’t ever have to make a choice between the two groups!

This season’s judging format is not giving our guests enough time to make much of an impression, but A Black Lady Sketch Show’s own Robin Thede does get at least one good critique in: Kahanna indeed doesn’t trust the jokes, and that’s her downfall. I’d have loved to see more of Robin, because in what we get from her, she seems tremendously game.

That invitation from Ru for Pangina to come back and slay anytime … look out for her to win All Stars 9. Mark my words!

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars will stream Friday, May 19, at 3 a.m. EDT on Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada. Check back every weekend after new episodes for our recaps and power rankings, and subscribe to our drag newsletter Wig! for exclusive Drag Race content delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday afternoon.

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, Culture, Analysis, Drag

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