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The queens of All Stars Season five are a talented band, and RuPaul and the producers have made some canny adjustments to the format that should provide a lot of drama and excitement. In the first, the twists and turns were enough to paper on the disappointing talent show. This is not the case in “I’m In Love!”, which shows the limits of this All Stars Format. With so much time devoted to deliberations and lip syncing, not to mention interpersonal drama, there is not much time left for real challenges. Drag Race is at its best when in the midst of all the drama, creativity and invention, the queens put on a hell of a show. In the saddle with a forgettable song, the queens deliver their second disappointing performance on the main stage. This season will have to amplify things quickly if she wants to get back on track.
The episode begins with queens reacting to the revelation that each $10,000 episode of cash tip rolls over, so the lip-sync assassin win. As the possibilities of a peak pot settle, the conversation moves to elimination, and here’s where the ratchets tension. Ongina promises to increase her game, which Cracker clearly has thoughts about, and Mayhem thanks the queens for saving her and voting Derrick. Jujubee weighs her options, then decides to tell Mayhem that she voted for her to go home. Mayhem is surprised and hurt, and believes the vote was personal, rather than objective. Cracker comes to Jujubee’s defense, but Jujubee hears Mayhem and apologizes for hurting his feelings, but not for his vote.
The next day, the queens strut their stuff in the workroom, read Derrick’s message and settle down for pre-challenge jokes. Cracker gets the pot bubbling with a surprise announcement that she thinks she voted incorrectly and should have tried to shoot a BenDeLaCreme and white-out voted for Ongina, who doesn’t have her head in the game. This is a surprise move from Cracker, who was not known in his original season for whipping up the drama. Whether she’s making a piece for the screen or trying to get into Ongina’s head, it’s not a good look for Cracker. It gives other queens a lot of reaction, and their looks and micro-expressions are an explosion.
RuMail appears, and Ru heads into the work room to announce the next maxi challenge. The queens will write lyrics to go with Ru’s latest song, “I’m In Love!”, celebrating their favorite male fame. They will be in three teams, with the team captains responsible for choreographing each section of the song. As the winner of the previous challenge, India will be one of the captains, and Ru asks her which two queens she considers her greatest competition. India appoints Shea and Blair, and Ru makes them the other captains. They choose teams and get to work right away, with India choosing Jujubee and Alexis, while Blair gets Cracker and Mayhem, and Shea gets Mariah and Ongina.
From the outset, some queens have clear concepts for what they will do. Others are completely lost. India wants to write its verse about its fiancé and needs to be cuddled by its teammates in selecting a real celebrity. The Blair team has good celebrity choices, but there is an immediate tension between Cracker and Mayhem, who feels microgesped by Cracker. More on Team Shea, Mariah and Shea do their best to get Ongina focused on the challenge, but she’s still rotating from Cracker’s comment that morning.
It’s time to record with Leland and Freddy Scott, and Blair’s team is first. After some early nerves, Blair collects his verse on Hannibal Lecter, while Cracker navigates through his Sylvester Stallone verse. Mayhem does well with his verse Mr. Rogers, but Cracker pipes with a lyrical rewrite that Mayhem doesn’t appreciate. The Indian team is doing better. The verses of Alexis Daddy Yankee and John Stamos of Jujubee are good, but India struggles to pair them with his Justin Timberlake lyrics. As for Shea’s team, Shea crushes her verse Chadwick Boseman, but Mariah calls Jason Momoa Superman instead of Aquaman and Ongina’s voice is just gone, making her choice of Henry Cavill difficult for her to say, let alone rhapsodize about. They’re in trouble.
Dance rehearsals are an equally mixed bag. Shea, Mariah and Ongina are immediately synchronized and confident. The Indian band is rocked by a lack of leadership from India, which delegated the choreography to Alexis, and a lack of confidence with the choreography in general. Then there’s the Blair team, which continues to struggle with the tension as Cracker continues to micro-manage his teammates. She is not wrong in her suggestions, but that does not make her continuous interruptions less frustrating. This friction continues as the queens paint to meet the challenge. Rather than listen to what Blair and the other queens say about how his actions affect them, Cracker deflects and rejects them, then wonders why she is having trouble making friends. She clearly has a way of working on her interpersonal skills. Given the essentials of the social game for this new version of All Stars, she will have to open her eyes and quickly if she wants to stay.
On the main stage, Ru comes out in a slightly confusing blue, hot pink, black and red dress and welcomes guest judges Madison Beer and Tessa Thompson. The queens are installed in three sections of the stage, with the group scene from India. The song slowly begins with bland, albeit on-the-theme choreography for the pop bubblegum and interludes introduction, and it only improves slightly for the verses of each group. Alexis and Jujubee do well, their words and performances charming and sweet, but the verse of India wanders and for some reason includes a quote from Laganja. The Blair team is next, their puzzling pillow-centered choreography. Fortunately, Cracker’s verse is solid and Mayhem and Blair have fun with Mr. Rogers and Hannibal Lecter, two excellent choices for this challenge. The last is Shea’s team, and while Shea’s verse has energy, rhythm and creativity, both Ongina and Mariah fall flat. Their choreography is more interesting than that of their counterparts, but given the creativity of Blair’s team’s choices and the charisma of the Indian team, theirs is the weakest part of the song. The performance as a whole has its moments, but compared to the double premiere and the rusical performances in season 12, “I’m In Love!” is disappointing.
For the track, category is: Love The Skin You’re In. First, India, which looks beautiful in a beige dress with accents in many other skin tones, which meet and drape at her hip. Then there’s Jujubee, who shines in a champagne halter dress with a mermaid skirt. Alexis’ look looks completely different from the others, a plunging cinnamon leather dress, until Blair goes out in a chic set of hot pink latex, with pink paint and a neon yellow wig. Cracker is next, in a dull comparable bodice, although delicate bodice and tulle skirt, followed by Mayhem, her dress covered with beaded strands that accentuate her movement. Shea makes a statement with her look, a stoned body costume with a golden nude complexion and illusion and a lot of sparkle. She describes herself as a Nubian goddess and she looks amazing, the clear winner of this track. Ongina is also proud in a Filipino-inspired feathered dress, and Mariah is glamorous and beautiful in her more traditional dress. Team Shea may have been in trouble in the challenge, but they killed the track.
Once the queens are assembled on the main stage, Ru declares Alexis, Cracker, and Mayhem safely and sends them off. This leaves Jujubee, Blair, and Shea at the top, and India, Ongina, and Mariah in the background. Shea was eventually declared the winner, and the queens headed to the work room to deliberate. The queens congratulate Shea, but before they can begin deliberations, Ongina declares in tears that, although she wants to be there, she feels that the other substantive queens deserve to stay on her, and that everyone should vote for her to be eliminated. The other queens try to make it rise, and Cracker in particular feels responsible for Ongina’s self-defeated headspace, but after that, the rest of the deliberation process feels superficial.
After the vote, the queens return to the main stage and the lip-sync assassin is revealed: Alyssa Edwards. She comes out in gold boots, a purple jacket and a neon fringed dance ensemble, ready to fight. The queens are happy to see her, and Shea knows she will have to turn it to beat the Queen of Dance. The lip-sync song is The Pointer Sisters” “Neutron Dance,” and Alyssa and Shea have the same idea at first, strutting to the back of the catwalk as they wait for the voice to kick in. The two reiserve personality and pleasure, but lip-sync is harder to follow than it should be thanks to cuts too frequent for judges and other queens. This is a slower song, but still up-tempo, more about attitude than tricks, and both Alyssa and Shea would have been better served if the editors retained and let them build their performances. In the end, Ru rightly gives Shea the victory and the $20,000 tip, and Alyssa offers an affectionate farewell.
Ru summons the last three queens back on the stage and Shea reveals her lipstick: She chose Ongina to go home. While it is very surprising to have this season a favorite eliminated so early in the season, it is certainly the right choice. All Stars is exhausting at best, and if she is struggling with self-doubt, there is no way Ongina will prosper. This is not the All Stars the experience she wanted, but at least Ongina had the opportunity to kill the track of this episode and introduce herself to a new generation of fans. She’s a fantastic queen, and it’s been a treat to spend two more episodes with her.
Jujubee’s talking heads are great all along. I particularly liked his “IRA-Roth” discussion.
Mayhem, relying on friendships to keep you afloat in this competition is a mistake, both for you and for the show as a whole.
I loved Blair’s moves for “Hannibal Lecter.” The producers have put together a photo of Lecter Anthony Hopkins, but Hannibal fans know she was singing to Mads Mikkelsen.
It’s hard to root for Cracker this episode, even though she rips it up saying she doesn’t understand why people keep calling it difficult. You can reject other people’s criticisms or you can listen and take your lumps, but you don’t get to shut down people who are trying to politely explain where they come from and also play misunderstood outcasts.
Instead of spending so much time on the lack of cracker social skills, I would rather linger with Shea as she killed this challenge. No, Shea, we were not surprised.
The moment of this episode is fortuitous, with the lip-sync acting as a tribute of sorts to the late Bonnie Pointer, founding member of The Pointer Sisters.
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