‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9’ Episode 7 recap: It’s gonna get scandalous

RuPaul acts opposite the queens in a campy challenge

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars’ two non-elimination seasons have given us a case study in how one game mechanic can be deployed in entirely different ways. 

In All Stars 7, ostensibly the more competitive of the two seasons (the cast was comprised of all winners, but the champion did actually win their cash prize), the Platinum Plunger was a curiosity. Yes, the queens’ choices of who to block actually did have an impact on the competition—most notably costing The Vivienne a spot in the final four—but the queens themselves seemed uninvested in it most of the time. Only Viv and the eventual winner, Jinkx Monsoon, really put in any effort to block each other strategically; everyone else just passed the Plunger around until everyone was blocked at least once. The most interesting thing about the twist was Shea Couleé’s prank that the Plunger gave some kind of secret power to the recipient.

But on All Stars 9, the Ruby Snippers (new object, same effect) have become a constant source of drama and anguish for the queens. Roxxxy Andrews just about had a breakdown trying to decide who to cut off two weeks ago, while Roxxxy and Angeria Paris VanMicheals’ repeated blocking of each other has created genuine tension between them. In this week’s cold open, Roxxxy actually accuses Angeria of playing a different game than her—that she’s not just blocking Roxxxy because she has the most badges, but for a more personal reason.

What’s so interesting about this is that, unlike in All Stars 7, no one has been successfully cut off from winning a Beautiful Benefactress Badge. It’s been seven episodes and six blockings (not including the one we see in this episode), and every single one has failed to keep someone from adding to their badge total. The Ruby Snippers are giving us all the drama missing from the Platinum Plunger twist, with none of the actual game impact.

You’d think, at a certain point, the queens would realize the Ruby Snippers have so far been useless, and instead focus their energies elsewhere. But no, by episode’s end, this week’s winner will make another strategic cut-off choice, leaving someone visibly frustrated by the decision. Will it have any game impact? Who’s to say! But the Ruby Snippers are waking up what could’ve been a sleepy season—and delivering the drama in a way the Platinum Plunger never did.

Plastique Tiara goes full All About Eve for her acting challenge performance with RuPaul. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

We begin this week with a queen who has quietly put together quite the résumé for herself in this competition: Plastique Tiara. The Season 11 social media maven leveled her skills up in basically every arena Drag Race tests for, and has a clear fire to succeed this season. (A fire that dissipates every time she has to learn the words to a lip sync song, but I digress.) In addition to her three challenge wins, she did very well in both the season premiere and makeover challenges, only really faltering on Snatch Game. And unfortunately for her, her fellow queens are starting to take note.

 

So Plastique floats to the other queens a little mathematical strategy: in order to make it to the final three, the best play is not to block queens with the highest number of badges, but rather the queens who have the same number of badges as you. This is, of course, exactly correct in terms of game theory. You don’t need to beat the frontrunner, you just need to beat everyone for the second- and third-place slots. But at first, this strategy seems to fall on deaf ears. (It’s always hard to sell the idea that the frontrunner shouldn’t be blocked when you are the frontrunner.)

Heading into the maxi-challenge, Plastique seems to be the most vulnerable for being cut off. It doesn’t help that the challenge is something not typically up her alley: an acting task. This time around, there’s a twist: instead of acting with each other, the queens will be acting opposite RuPaul in short scenes paying tribute to camp classic films. The whole performance is called “Meeting in the Ladies Room,” named after the banger Klymaxx song (everyone get out your Kansai Yamamoto sweaters!), and it’s a fun change-up from the usual acting challenges we see.

The inspirations behind each vignette range from the instantly recognizable (Showgirls, All About Eve) to the less often referenced on this show (The Boys in the Band, The Mirror Crack’d) to the Ru favourites (Mommie Dearest, Mildred Pierce, Valley of the Dolls) to the “Wait, that’s a TV show, not a movie!” (Dynasty). The queens who perform best in the challenge manage to both honour the source material and deliver what Ru expects from them, while those who struggle either don’t get the inspiration or don’t deliver anything beyond it.

Angeria Paris VanMicheals’ black widow runway look is one of the best of the week. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

Let’s start with our weaker performers and work our way to the top. Vanessa Vanjie gets handed victory on a silver platter with Showgirls, but leans way too far into Vanjie-isms and doesn’t deliver the material well. Ru actually delivers the most substantive critique of the season about Vanjie in deliberations, noting that she tries too many things hoping that some will stick. Those that do stick are funny, but they get lost in the shuffle among everything else. She’d be better off being more precise with her performances. Conversely, Shannel brings nothing of note to Mommie Dearest—already the worst part because of a meta element in which her whole scene with Ru is actually just a “bit”—and fails to connect with her scene partner. Both are better on the runway in the Widow, Weep for Me category, but neither look is enough to launch them into the top.

Gottmik looks amazing on the runway in a melting candelabra look, created in collaboration with Marco Marco. While Gottmik does get good critiques for her The Mirror Crack’d-inspired scene, I personally find it a bit flat. Not sure whether to blame the material or her, but it lacks the peaks and valleys of the other scenes. Roxxxy runs into similar issues with her Dynasty scene, in which she is good but one-note. (She looks amazing, though, both in the challenge and on the runway.) Both of these queens are also shown breaking most in their work with Ru, which is a good sign for their rapport with the host, but likely contributes to their less interesting performances. 

Jorgeous wins most-improved in acting challenges, and I think being able to work directly with her biggest supporter in Ru is a major part of that. He gives her good on-the-spot direction, and she adjusts her performance well. The Boys in the Band-inspired material was probably never going to get her the win this week, and her runway is pretty simple, but it’s a nice showing for Jorgeous. Meanwhile, Plastique shocks the hell out of me again with her All About Eve performance. She’s funny both physically and in her line deliveries, demonstrating a facility with the material that shows she’s really improved her acting repertoire since her season. Combined with a truly stunning runway look, she’d be one of my top two this week.

The actual top two are Angeria and Nina West, and while I’d have swapped one of them out (probably Nina), I understand why they finish at the top of the pack. Angeria delivers what Ru is looking for, both respecting the Mildred Pierce source material and really infusing what makes her funny into it. She and Ru also have some of the best chemistry on screen. She also wears one of my favourite runway looks of hers ever, a black widow look with a gorgeous headpiece and an urn built into her hair. It’s stunning. Nina is also good, and overacts well in her Valley of the Dolls performance, but her and Ru’s connection on-screen is just not as strong. Her Haunted Mansion-style widow reveal runway is pretty good, but I agree with Carson Kressley’s assessment that it’s a bit costumey.

Bruno and Jorgeous make for a dynamic duo in this week’s mini-challenge, Fruity Patootie. Credit: Courtesy Paramount+

With these wins, Nina is now at two badges, while Angeria is up to three. This puts her at the same level as Plastique and Roxxxy, and with only three spots at the end, they’d ideally like to keep it that way. Those who have enough badges to potentially challenge them: Nina (though she’s safe currently thanks to winning the challenge), Vanjie (who is struggling to break out on her own), Jorgeous and Gottmik. It’s the last two who prove most interesting, as they’ve both been blocked. Plastique, meanwhile, never has.

The lip sync this week is to Teena Marie’s “Lovergirl,” which has actually already been used as a lip sync song! Kandy Ho sent Mrs. Kasha Davis home to this song back in Season 7. It’s not a song I think needed to be reused, and Nina’s approach to it is odd, to say the least. It’s better than her other efforts, but it’s just a strange fit for the song. (Also: why did she not change outfits this week when she has every other week?) Angeria captures the spirit of it well, and continues her lip sync hot streak with another win.

This means it’s time to pull out the Ruby Snippers once more, and after a very funny fake-out snip of Roxxxy, she begins to consider the other five block-eligible queens. Yes, Plastique has the most badges, but her logic is beginning to sound correct to Angeria. Maybe she should go another direction? After all, there is one queen who blocked her who Angeria hasn’t given the Snippers back to yet …

Indeed, in a twist, Angeria blocks Gottmik, a development that has Plastique actually on the floor in shock. Gottmik is visibly pissed at this decision, questioning why Angie would do it. But I think it makes perfect sense: it keeps Gottmik from rising to her number of badges (right in front of a design challenge of all things!) and she can justify it since Gottmik blocked her before. Like all the other developments with the Ruby Snippers this season, it’s compelling, dynamic and makes this season even more interesting than before.

Untucking our final thoughts

Roxxxy is surprised to learn Plastique has as many badges as her. “Oh, three! My queen!” has been knocking around my head since I watched the episode.

Gotta say, I’m loving All Stars 9 not only bringing back mini-challenges, but supercharging them with appealing, game-related prizes. The extra badge last week was obviously major, but the immunity from snipping this week is also quite good! (Granted, it winds up being useless with Nina winning the challenge, but she gets $2,500 for the Trevor Project instead, so all’s well that ends well.)

The mini-challenge itself, Fruity Patootie, is hilarious. From Bruno shoving fruit too hard between the queens’ legs to the queens’ different approaches to getting across the room, there’s comedy galore in this one. Nina smashing the avocado between her legs is a highlight, as is Jorgeous’ response to Ru asking if she can take a particularly large fruit: “Oh, I can take anything!”

Very interesting to have the queens playing roles written for them in this challenge. Ultimately, the camp classic allusions steal the spotlight, but I like that there are character details (the line about Gottmik playing Lassie, for instance) included in their scripts. It’s a bit of extra effort we don’t always see with Drag Race.

I’ve not been watching Untucked this season, because life is truly too short to watch Untucked for a non-elimination, charity-focused season of Drag Race, but I saw the clips online of Gottmik struggling last week. Interesting that it’s brought up in this episode as a moment of Gottmik putting it behind her—she’s not afraid to cry anymore!—but judging by her own tweet, it sounds like it was an ongoing issue while filming this season.

I’m officially on Shannel Win Watch. She admits throughout this episode that she’s frustrated with her own performance, getting in her head about not making Ru proud and saying on the runway she may just not have it in her anymore. Ru gives her a big boost of encouragement, reminding her of all she’s done since Season 1. We’ll see if next week’s design challenge finally gets Shannel across the finish line with a win.

Just want to shout-out that Carson Kressley is delivering his best judging in quite some time this season, and is doing so when he truly doesn’t have to. Combined with his inspired Roscoe’s performance last week, and I’m glad to see he’s as invested in the show as ever.

I wrote this whole recap before realizing I had forgotten to mention Colton Haynes as our guest judge. He’s there! Kinda surprised he hasn’t done this before, honestly. Anyway, that’s all I have for you.

If Drag Race was going to recycle a lip sync song anyway, why not actually do Klymaxx’s “Meeting in the Ladies Room”? Appropriate for the episode and hasn’t been featured since Season 3!

With her lip sync win this week, Angeria has officially raised the most money for her charity among the queens, with $30,000 earned for the National Black Justice Coalition. Unfortunately, Plastique and Shannel’s charities (The Asian American Foundation and Anxiety and Depression Association of America, respectively) remain the only ones without any money raised for them so far.

Okay, so let’s talk about these supposed “high” placements on non-elimination All Stars seasons. As you can see on the fan wiki page for the season, anyone who is highlighted in deliberations is considered a high-scoring performer for that challenge. But this week, it becomes glaringly obvious this is a faulty assumption. Gottmik is highlighted over Plastique and Jorgeous, despite both of them getting better critiques than her. Most glaring is Vanjie’s inclusion, considering Ru actually uses the deliberations to critique her approach at length. It’s a good critique, and I’m glad we see it! But there’s no justifying calling Vanjie a high-scorer for this challenge.
The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 9 will stream Friday, June 28, 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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