Off the top of my head, I can name most of the turning points in RuPaul’s Drag Race herstory that have made me truly, genuinely gasp out of pure shock. Yara Sofia giving up in her final lip sync. Willam’s disqualification. Roxxxy Andrews’ wig reveal. Sasha Velour’s rose petal cascade. BenDeLaCreme eliminating herself. There have been plenty more events in this show’s many seasons that have left me cheering like a madman (Dida Ritz’s “This Will Be”!) or reeling from the drama (Valentina doesn’t know the words!), but the moments that took me entirely off-guard and left me wondering just what could happen? Those are a rarity.
So I’m floored that this episode not only made me gasp—it had me gasping over and over again. I had a feeling the Lip Sync Assassin twist wasn’t the only gag we’d be getting this season, particularly since it looks like there’s no returning queens challenge on the horizon. No, Ru throws the All Stars 5 queens one hell of a curveball this week, as he announces that from this episode on, no one besides the challenge winner is safe from elimination. No one. Combined with the queens’ elimination vote, and it really feels like anyone could go at any moment.
But this episode didn’t stop with the gags there. India Ferrah, in the bottom for the fourth week in a row, hears this twist and runs with it, immediately throwing Alexis Mateo under the bus to challenge winner Shea Coulée. She says it was Alexis and Mayhem Miller who teamed up to try and get her to vote Shea out two episodes ago. And since Mayhem is gone, that’s all the more reason for Shea to take Alexis out. The result is an absolute frenzy of broken alliances, bystander queens trying to put the pieces of the drama puzzle together, and a nailbiter of a decision that almost sends a strong queen home.
If this episode only had its thrilling deliberations, it would still be a top-tier Drag Race episode. Add in a great edition of Snatch Game, a runway with some gorgeous looks, and a panel of judges that are having a blast throughout the episode, and you get what is far and away the best episode of All Stars 5 and one of the best episodes of All Stars in general.
Following in All Stars 4’s footsteps, Snatch Game is once again Snatch Game of Love this season, a riff on The Dating Game that asks queens to not only impersonate celebrities but fight for the heart of one lucky guest judge bachelor. The show brings on actor Tommy Dorfman and Canada’s Drag Race judge Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman as the bachelors, and each is very game for the shenanigans.
Tommy’s possible suitors are Miz Cracker as Lady Gaga (specifically the A Star Is Born Oscar campaign-era Gaga), Alexis as astrologer Walter Mercado (who sadly passed away since this season was filmed), and India as Jeffree Star (in some tragically bad timing). This segment is a steamroll by Alexis, who dominates the performance by landing punchline after punchline.
Alexis did well in her original Snatch Game as a rather off-kilter Alicia Keys—she was both pregnant and constantly flirting with guest judge Amber Rose—but she takes a much more methodical approach this time. She has prepared catchphrases for any question Ru and Tommy could throw at her, all playing off Walter’s persona. Alexis replicates his iconic look pretty well, too. Cracker’s got some good Lady Gaga jokes prepared, but she and India both fail to produce many laughs. (India’s Jeffree Star isn’t a disaster, but a disaster would be more memorable than what India pulls together.) Alexis is an easy choice for Tommy at the segment’s end.
The second round with Jeffrey is a lot more competitive. Jujubee is hilarious as Eartha Kitt, getting her mannerisms and speech patterns better than either Chi Chi DeVayne or Valentina did in their own riffs on the character. (The way she delivers her answer to how she’d keep Jeffrey warm in the winter—“I would sensually walk to the thermostat, and turn up the thermostat to a sensible 74 degrees”—is brilliant.) She keeps pace with Shea Coulée, who goes for an unconventional character in Flavor Flav and is nothing short of smashing. Shea recognizes that, while he’s a straight, cis male, Flav is drag, and both his larger-than-life personality and dating reality show background are a perfect fit for this format.
Blair St. Clair does a fine enough impersonation of Ellen DeGeneres, but she seriously lags behind her segment partners. It’s just not funny enough of an impression to keep pace. She’d likely be fine if there were a natural bottom two, but of course, that isn’t the case this episode.
After a prom runway with fun, varied results—more on those in the final thoughts section—Ru drops the format change bomb on the queens. Only Shea will be safe, and everyone else is eligible to be voted off. I have to imagine this will throw the often track record-obsessed fanbase into chaos: How can report cards be deduced when everyone is in the bottom but the winner? Who will get the “high” and “low” designations on Wikipedia? This development is a real game-changer, both in how the show will proceed from here and in how queens’ runs on All Stars are evaluated. It’s very possible the winner will be in the “bottom” multiple times solely based on this rule change.
All that is a problem for the future, though. For now, I just want to live in every second of this deliberation segment. Alexis is furious that she could go home after getting nothing but good critiques. Shea admits there’s been a “lingering thing” in her mind after Alexis voted her out, but Alexis insists her vote was not personal. Initially, Shea says she’s not going to do individual meetings with the girls, but India requests one anyway. Then India drops her bomb, telling Shea that Alexis and Mayhem approached her two weeks ago and asked her to vote Shea out.
Shea takes this back to the group, and all hell breaks loose. “India is the queen of stunts!” Alexis says in her confessional. She flatly denies India’s claim and asks the other queens if she campaigned to any of them. They all say no. Alexis storms off and Juju follows to try and get the tea. Alexis swears up and down to Juju that it’s not true. She does some quick electoral math with Shea, too, noting that just three votes wouldn’t be enough to eliminate her. If Alexis wanted to campaign to get Shea out, she’d need everybody. “Politics,” she says in summary. And indeed, we are dealing with some true political animals now.
It’s all quite messy, and it’s deeply unclear heading into the lip sync who Shea plans to send home, the group vote is even messier. We could all use a laugh to diffuse the tension, and luckily Vanessa Vanjie Mateo is here to liven us all up.
Vanjie is a somewhat unusual choice for a lip sync assassin, considering she’s won and lost the same number of lip syncs in her Drag Race career (two wins, two losses). But you don’t necessarily bring Vanjie on for her lip-syncing prowess. You bring her on because she’s hilarious. She cracks jokes throughout, including bemoaning that she doesn’t get the $10,000 tip if she wins and also has a lovely hug with her drag mother Alexis, who looks like she needs the comfort of her drag family in such a terrifying situation.
Shea wins the lip sync to Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” handily, earning another $10K to add to her pot for the season ($30K so far!). While she reveals the possible plot to get her out to the judges, she ultimately chooses to eliminate the queen on her fourth straight trip to the bottom and sends India home. I’m a little sad to lose someone who is clearly so committed to playing the game the way India is—twists like these need people to make them work—but there’s no doubt she deserved to go on her performances alone.
So we have our top five! Shea is clearly leading the pack with her two wins, but Juju and Cracker aren’t far behind her. Can Alexis and Blair pull out a win next week and get into the game? Or do we already have an idea of our finalists? For now, let’s just bask in the chaotic glory of this episode. It’s one hell of a ride, and I’m not quite ready to come down.
Ru hones in on Blair this week in a couple of different ways. First, he’s probably toughest on Blair in his walkthrough, as he finds her Ellen DeGeneres insufficient. “It was an interesting character study! But it didn’t make me laugh.” Then, he notes that he and his husband regularly reference one of Blair’s runway moments from Season 10, when Blair did a shivering motion on the runway. Interesting to see him zero in on her this week, after she’s been so mild so far this season.
The joke about Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Ru’s sexual chemistry from All Stars 3’s “The Bitchelor” returns. It’s… a lot!
Of all the prom runways, which are pretty great across the board, Shea’s is the clear standout. She references both Carrie and Sasha Velour’s rose petals reveal. “I just wanted to base a look around a moment where I thought I was gonna be queen of the prom,” Shea explains. “And it didn’t turn out that way for me.” She shares that fans would do rose petal reveals in front of her at meet-and-greets, and she felt like the butt of a joke. Ross Mathews has a lovely moment of encouraging her, telling Shea he would never think of her as a joke, and to count him and the judges as people who want to lift her up. It’s a genuine, emotional moment, inspired by a terrific runway.
“You’re a liar, and this is why Derrick doesn’t like you.” Alexis is hilarious, even when she’s furious.
If you haven’t had the chance yet, I highly recommend checking out Canada’s Drag Race, available on Crave in Canada and WOW Presents Plus in the US! The premiere is very fresh and fun. (And once you’ve read, make sure to check out our recap!)
JUJUBEE: “Hey, you didn’t choose me.”
JEFFREY: “What was I thinking?”
JUJUBEE: “You weren’t.”
The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 5 airs Friday, July 10, at 8 pm ET on VH1 in the US and OUTtv in Canada.