New season, new contestants, and a whole new game. RuPaul wasn't kidding when he said that All Stars' rules were suspended indefinitely.
The queens experienced a new strategic and competitive landscape on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 5 Episode 1.
The road to the crown won't be as easy with lipsync battles and making majority alliances anymore. It's a refreshing change that balanced the power and made the competition unpredictable (to an extent).
First things first: I love the new rules for RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars.
Previously, the power solely came down to the Top 2 winning queens and which bottom queen they wanted to see get the chop. The responsibility got squarely placed on their shoulders, which unfortunately gave them the brunt of the backlash from queens and fans.
Let's not forget Naomi Smalls getting undeserved outrage over eliminating Manila Luzon during RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 4 when she was only playing the game. (Even Monet X Change had voted to eliminate Manila too!)
Ugh, the first elimination of the season. Everything is different now. It’s a Rumocracy! Anything can happen now. Trump is president, chaos reigns!Miz Cracker
Now, the power is evenly spread and all the queens get the opportunity to eliminate someone from the Werk Room. Plus, if they can't win the Lipsync For Your Legacy, the prize money is moved to the following week. These moves raise the stakes bigger and better than before.
You don't come between a queen and her money. The queens can't throw in the towel anymore if they were hoping to snatch the weekly prize money instead.
Speaking of the queens, the contestants for RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 5 is a good mix of Old School and New School queens. A healthy variety of fashion queens, performers, comedy queens, sexy queens, and legacy queens.
(We broke down each of the All Stars 5 queens pre-season if you need a quick refresher.)
Many of their entrance looks came to slay. The favorites of the introductions include Shea Couleé, Blair St. Clair, Ongina, Alexis Mateo, and Mayhem Miller.
Shea Couleé came ready to serve sexy and snatch the crown she lost during RuPaul's Drag Race Season 9. Ongina's look was very elaborate, Mayhem brought back her iconic red, and Alexis showcased her heritage in a stunning outfit.
Blair St. Clair was the biggest surprise because she had the biggest transformation from RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10 Episode 1.
Her aesthetic transformed from Broadway ingenue to confident 80s-glamazon. Blair seemed more poised, confident, and motivated to win. This version could be a contender to win the competition.
A great aspect of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars is the history that's brought up between the queens during their time away from the series. Did anyone expect how vicious things would get between Derrick Barry and India Ferrah?
If you're not into following drag drama outside of the main competition, this would be completely new to you.
"All Star Variety Extravaganza" tackled their history concisely and succinctly that made sense. (As compared to the ambiguous drama between Gia Gunn and Farrah Moan the previous year.)
Derrick and India legitimately hate each other.
Their feud wasn't fake shade brought up to capture a few storylines; they had real beef between them that wasn't resolved. Their quips back-and-forth during the mirror moments and their preparations escalated as the round went on.
You could tell from the queens' expressions that it was getting sharp.
If India hadn't been in the top and Derrick hadn't been in the bottom, their feud probably could've intensified as the game went on. We missed out on a juicy storyline.
Thankfully, the reading challenge came back! It was sorely missed during RuPaul's Drag Race Season 12, so if it had been removed here as well, there would be hell to pay.
Jujubee and Blair St. Clair killed it during the Mini Challenge. Their reads were sharp, witty, and cut the queens down to size. Though, it's surprising Jujubee didn't win the challenge by herself.
Her reads alone were the strongest of the bunch.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a Jujubee!Jujubee
Ongina falling flat with her reads isn't a good sign. RuPaul loves a queen that is sharp on her wit and quick with her one-liners. Ongina never had to do the reading challenge before, but if she can't deliver at a moment's notice and keep up, she'll be an easy target to get an early boot.
It would be a shame to lose Ongina early after many seasons of her being requested by fans. However, All Stars is a serious game; no one is exempt from the eliminations.
The first round of Drag Race All Stars follows a standard format: the reading Mini Challenge and then a variety show for the Maxi Challenge. That format returned yet again, but the Maxi Challenge this time was framed to be the stage from the Werq The World Tour.
Compared to previous variety shows, this one is the weakest.
Many of the queens held the same talent by doing a lipsync to their original songs and/or doing a dance number. Only a few tried singing their songs live, but they didn't hit the notes properly. And you could tell on RuPaul's face which types of performances he likes and doesn't like.
Michelle Visage: I’ll even forgive that one-inch heel you’ve got on your foot.
Alexis Mateo: You gotta love it, goddammit! I stoned it for you!
[They all laugh]
The best of the variety show was Alexis Mateo, India Ferrah, Miz Cracker, Shea Couleé, Jujubee, and Mariah Balenciaga. Alexis, India, and Miz Cracker created numbers that brought plenty of energy and wow factor that RuPaul loves to see on the main stage. It's no wonder they all ended up at the top.
Though, it's surprising that Shea Couleé and Mariah didn't get a top spot.
Mariah had a powerful political poetry number that touched all of the judges. When she swiped the red paint over the screen, that move seemed like a guarantee for a high placement. Shea, on the other hand, captivated the judges every time she moved around that stripper pole.
When it came to the bottom three queens, the writing was on the wall for them. Their performances didn't wow or stand out from the others; the editing supported those storylines, but it was obvious without it.
Mayhem Miller's performance took too long to start, and when she finally started singing, the words weren't clear. It didn't feel like a well-rounded performance compared to other queens who were also singing and dancing.
The same goes for Ongina. Did she not have any songs of her own? Or, could she whip out a few acrobatic moves?
Ongina: You guys, I don’t know what happened. I was like, “Okay, I’m f****** this up. I’m just gonna do a little shimmy here and a little shimmy there.”
Blair St. Clair: Well, that’s what happens when you get in your head.
Ongina: Yeah, I know! I’ve been in my f****** head all this week.
Blair St. Clair: But, like, an All Star believes in herself.
Ongina: I literally did not.
Blair St. Clair: I know!
Simply doing outfit changes and half-dancing to RuPaul songs wasn't enough this far into the series. Plus, by using RuPaul songs, it seemed a little too calculating and cheap.
Derrick Barry's performance, on the other hand, was nice and different, but it didn't hit the hard beats to impress the judges. As hard as it is to say, if she had just done a Britney Spears medley of dance numbers and impersonations, she probably would've been safe or ended up at the top.
Britney Spears is one of her talents. Use your strengths when you need them.
Derrick's journey during her one round felt reminiscent of her time during RuPaul's Drag Race Season 8. She can't shake the connection to Britney Spears; that aesthetic is part of her drag.
Part of the reason is that her makeup and outfit choices look so much like Britney. Performers like Chad Michaels change things up completely into two versions: the drag performer and then the impersonation drag.
Derrick blends both of that, so it's understandable why the other queens still didn't see any separation between Derrick and Britney. Not much has changed in the years since her original season.
Once India ended up at the top and Derrick was placed at the bottom, Derrick's future elimination was the expected next step.
Unless the other queens secretly gave Mayhem more votes, Derrick had no chance to survive. And I did not doubt that Mayhem would survive, especially since she had two queens from her original season around and Mayhem was close with the other queens.
This is where All Stars can be a tad predictable. Once the pieces and plots are in movement, certain eliminations are obvious and set in stone.
Let's hope there are a few blindsides along the way.
The new format of the Lipsync For Your Legacy was fun, fresh, and interesting. Having Yvie Oddly as the first lipsync assassin was an amazing choice because Yvie killed it in every lipsync she performed!
India and Yvie dominated "Livin' La Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin.
The high energy movements, their acrobatic stunts, Yvie's wig and outfit reveals, Yvie's infamous backbends ... this was a lipsync to remember. If all the lipsyncs roll out like this one, it's going to be a great time.
Yvie won that lipsync hands down. Once she kicked her campy comedy into gear and pulled off the wig reveal seamlessly, the outcome was set.
Yvie set the tone for lipsync assassins to come.
Last Thoughts From The Werk Room:
Jujubee's song was so emotional and heartwarming. She's an amazing singer!
Can you imagine if Alexis Mateo and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo have to lipsync against each other? The editors wouldn't even be able to handle the fire.
Miz Cracker's facial expressions are a major mood.
The queens came for the Old School queens during the reading challenge. Mariah, India, and Alexis were read to filth the most.
- Mariah's read with the rose petals = savage.
Now, over to you, Drag Race fans!
What did you think of "All Star Variety Extravaganza"?
Did you think Derrick Berry would be the first to go? How will Mayhem Miller react from Jujubee's vote? Do you agree that Yvie Oddly won the lipsync?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Justin Carreiro is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.