‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8’ finale recap: The next queen in the ‘Drag Race’ Hall of Fame is …

Plus, we crown a Queen of the Fame Games!

To quote one of my favorite memes, “Well, it’s over.” RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 8 has reached its conclusion, and it’s exactly the one we’ve known all along it would be. Jimbo, the Canadian clown who first impressed the fans on Canada’s Drag Race and later won over Ru on UK vs The World, is the latest entrant into the Drag Race Hall of Fame.

Whether or not this result was obvious—I would say it was predictable from the second Jimbo’s casting was announced—doesn’t change its historical nature. Jimbo becomes the first queen from an international franchise to win the American series, and is also more specifically the first Canadian queen to win (despite Brooke Lynn Hytes’s and Jackie Cox’s best efforts). She is the first self-professed clown queen to win since Bianca Del Rio in Season 6. And she becomes the second queen this year on the American series to win the crown with four maxi-challenge wins, following Season 15 champion Sasha Colby.

In terms of finales, this episode isn’t the worst crowning celebration we’ve ever seen (that’s the All Stars 7 finale) but it fails to inject much-needed spark into this sleepy season. Perhaps that was impossible, considering the inevitability of Jimbo’s crowning, but even a fairly surprising winner of the Fame Games can’t add much spice into things. Having to film all nine potential results likely diluted the impact there.

But more than anything, this finale demonstrates most that this era of All Stars needs to come to an end. This attempt to replicate the magic of All Stars 6 was ultimately unsuccessful, and a lot of bizarre production decisions led to an underwhelming series of episodes. I’m thrilled for the queens who win, and have no real quibble about how we got here—but I’m just not particularly enthused about any of it, either, because the people in charge of making compelling TV didn’t do their jobs.

The top two queens join RuPaul and Michelle Visage for a Tic Tac chat

Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

We start this finale with a debrief from the Fame Games Variety Extravaganza. LaLa Ri is positively beaming, enthused by how much fun she had doing her performance and lip syncing with Jaymes Mansfield. Jaymes, for her part, is just thrilled to have finally won a maxi-challenge—a goal for her when she came to this season. Those two, plus the seven other eliminated queens, stick around in this episode, which is the best part of it. Just having two queens in the werk room and performances would be a pretty significant bummer, and this ending is better for having their energy present.

 

But in the end, this finale is going to come down to our top two. Kandy Muse frames this as a battle of “a Canadian clown versus this little hood bitch from the Bronx,” and honestly, it’s not until she does so that I realize just how strange this finale pairing is. They’re both Ru favourites, so once the cast was announced, I had strong suspicions both would be in the finale. But Kandy is a New Yorker, a dancing queen, and a true fan of the experience of reality TV. Jimbo is from Ontario, a comedienne who excels in both physical and verbal comedy, and a hell of a competitor. The one thing they really share in common is that they’re both consummate entertainers.

The final challenge for the top two is to perform original numbers (composed by Leland, naturally) choreographed by Miguel Zarate. It’s basically an All Stars adaptation of the finale we’ve seen in the past two regular seasons, with only two queens performing. There are also, of course, Tic Tac chats, and a finale fabulosity runway. Much like the rest of the season, the formula is intact, and you know just how it’s going to go.

I do appreciate the Tic Tac chats, though, largely for helping us learn a bit more about who Jimbo is behind the clown. In a development reminiscent of Anetra suddenly revealing she was raised Mormon in her Tic Tac chat, Jimbo shares the experience of growing up in a home with an alcoholic father. It sounds genuinely harrowing, and as Michelle Visage notes, it speaks to Jimbo’s desire to lean into clowning in her drag. Kandy, meanwhile, gets a huge gift in her chat with Ru, as the host calls himself Kandy’s “biggest fan.” It actually makes Jimbo nervous when she hears it: how can Jimbo compete with that? (Four challenge wins, is how, but let’s pretend they’re creating suspense here.)

Eleven of this season’s queens (minus Heidi N Closet) reunite for the grand finale

Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

When it comes time for the performances, the show once again tries to flip the script a bit, with Kandy noting that the last time she was choreographed by Miguel, she landed in the bottom two. Meanwhile, the other queens comment that Jimbo actually can dance, to which I say: sure! Ultimately, seeing the performances confirms what we already know about the two of them. Jimbo’s song “I Remember Being Born,” which she performs in a white version of her Canada’s Drag Race entrance look, is fun and fits her. But she had nothing to do with the production of the song, presumably, which means all we have to go off is the dancing. And, well, it’s Jimbo dancing.

Conversely, Kandy fully Gagas it up for “Pay Me With Money,” performing in an orange version of her look from the “Lucky” music video. (Love these little costuming nods to past looks from both of them!) She is a much stronger performer, and if this finale actually came down to these performances, I would think Kandy has a shot. But as we know well now, these finales are mostly just victory laps—it’s the season as a whole on which Ru bases his decision.

That said, I do think this is an odd choice for this particular finale. Ending the season, which Jimbo just dominated in commanding fashion, with Jimbo doing what she’s worst at strikes me as a terrible way to finish off this story. Just because this is how it’s been before doesn’t mean it has to be that moving forward! Let the queens produce their own act, so that Jimbo can lean into what she does best! As ever, the show’s reticence to really trust the queens to produce themselves to their own success is frustrating.

Before we get into our winner, though, we have a gospel remix of “I’m a Winner, Baby” featuring the eliminated queens, and we’ve got another crown to give out: our Queen of the Fame Games title! I had predicted going into this that there were basically three names still in contention for the crown: Jessica Wild, LaLa Ri and Darienne Lake (owing to her Hail Mary “smear campaign”). We all got a bit distracted this past week with soaking clocks, but in the end, the winner was the one who made the most mathematical sense: LaLa! The Season 13 queen’s 3x vote multiplier came in quite handy, and that, plus some likely vote splitting, was more than enough to put her above fan favourite Jessica. I’m a little bummed, because I was rooting hard for the Season 2 veteran, but I can never turn down flowers for the LaLa Ri Experience. Congratulations to the new Queen of the Fame Games!

LaLa Ri is crowned Queen of the Fame Games!

Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

All right, the finale fabulosity runway is done (favourites: Kahanna’s sunflower stunner, LaLa’s floral fantasy and Jimbo’s devastating demon dress), the final lip sync to “Do Ya Wanna Funk” by Sylvester and Patrick Cowley is done, and it’s time to crown our winner. Lots of love to Kandy, but I truly don’t think anyone should’ve had a doubt: Jimbo enters the Drag Race Hall of Fame as the ninth All Stars champion. I feel like there’s not much more that can be said about Jimbo at this point: her run was dominant, and she more than justified her victory. Congratulations to a queen of the north who is now an All Stars champion!

Rumours abound online about the currently filming All Stars 9, and a supposed format switch that will make the season look more like All Stars 7—but without the winners. I’m pretty pessimistic about what a potential non-elimination season of non-All Winners would look like, but I will admit that the show needs to try something. This season just wasn’t enjoyable to experience, and it felt like it dragged on forever. Maybe it’ll play a bit better on a binge, but I think too many storytelling issues will plague it no matter what.

What I’ll remember most fondly about this season: Jessica Wild, in all ways. LaLa Ri as a queen who just wants to have fun. Joan: The Unauthorized Rusical. Priyanka’s stint as a Lip Sync Assassin. And listen, that’s quite a bit to take away—it just feels less compared to other recent seasons. But even at its least impressive, RuPaul’s Drag Race is still a joy. And if we can have a finale that celebrates this entire cast—and crowns two fun, engaging entertainers—that’s definitely worth something.

Untucking our final thoughts

Well, it wouldn’t be a too-stretched-out finale without a performance from Ru, would it? Groans aside, his performance of certified bop “A.S.M.R. Lover” is pretty fun. And I do love how much Ru loves performing these days!

I don’t love that we spend time in the finale with the eliminated queens doing Untucked pink furry box games. We have actual business to get to! That said, I do love that it suddenly becomes a free-for-all of prizes. Mrs. Kasha Davis wins $1,000, and gets to give away another $1,000 to Monica Beverly Hillz! Alexis Michelle wins $2,000! Jaymes wins $1,500! All the queens win $500! And Naysha Lopez wins a whole five-night trip somewhere—airfare included! Random, but love to see the queens making a little bank.

Kandy applying fake tears when the other queens ask about her Tic Tac chat with Ru sent me to the moon.

Interesting that the “just family” final judging panel this season doesn’t include supposed regular judge Ts Madison, no? I can only say it so many times, but if Drag Race really wants to make an immediate change for the better, truly committing to new voices in the rotating judge’s spot is the right way to do it.

It took 12 weeks, but we finally got deliberations. And wow, what helpful shape deliberations help give an episode! Who knew! (I will never get over this. World of Wonder, if you give us All Stars 9 without deliberations, I swear to Odd …)

Kandy quotes Stacy Layne Matthews when RuPaul once more announces the grand prize: “That’s a lot of fuckin’ money!”

Monica teaching LaLa a variety of crude phrases in Spanish is absolutely iconic. This is the kind of thing we’d loved to have seen more of in the werk room this season! (Speaking of missing content, the alleged fight between Alexis and Kandy last week that Kandy says was cut? Absolutely absurd.)

Kylie Sonique Love sadly doesn’t appear in this finale, despite being the reigning All Stars champion (Jinkx Monsoon’s win as Queen of All Queens falls in a different category). As a Kylie fan, I’ve not said anything about this all season, since I recognize I might be overly sensitive—but it does feel like the show kinda hid Kylie’s win this season. The Drag Race Hall of Fame image depicting all the winners’ portraits suddenly being replaced by an ugly “Hall of Fame” graphic was the most prominent example; Kylie was really only featured in the design challenge, among several other winners. It’s a shame: Kylie’s a terrific queen, and her victory felt like a real watershed moment for the show. I hope they remember her when it’s time to cast the next all-winners season.

Naysha telling Jaymes she didn’t like her performance in the talent show is about as perfect an ending of this season for Naysha as possible. (If you’ve kept up with the Roscoe’s viewing parties, you’ll know just how … pointed Naysha’s commentary about Jaymes has been.) Points to Kasha for her perfect summarizing question: “Now Naysha, what other pots do you want to stir?”

Thank all of you, as always, for joining us for our coverage this season! I’ll be honest: this season has been a real chore to watch. While the discourse is often ugly when it comes to Drag Race, this time around the show itself was unpleasant, with the queens clearly not having a good time for much of it. But it’s always great to read your comments and have a conversation about this show we all love, sometimes against our better judgment. Looking forward to doing it again for (hopefully) much better seasons coming later this year!

We’re taking a bit of a break, but we’ll be back for coverage of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and Canada’s Drag Race later this year. In the meantime, 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.

Read More About:
Drag Race, Culture, Analysis, Drag

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