BenDeLaCreme is the winner of All Stars season 3. BenDeLaCreme might be the winner of all of Drag Race after what goes down in this tonight’s episode, a brilliant display of reality competition expertise that puts all previous players of this game to shame. Season 6’s Miss Congeniality came to All Stars with the intention of holding on to her reputation, and she made sure that everyone knew she was going to be fair with her eliminations and look at track records and the judges’ critiques. Bendela always interviews the bottom queens so they can make their case, and with the elimination of Morgan McMichaels in the first episode, BenDeLa showed that she would get rid of someone if they posed a threat to the overall quality of the competition. BenDeLa believes that the highest performing competitors are the ones who should stay, and Morgan’s strategy of eliminating the strongest would have lessened the season’s potential.
The stress of having to pick someone to eliminate has weighed heavily on BenDeLa, who sees it as a curse rather than a gift. Some contestants are suspicious of how genuine BenDeLa is being with all this kindness and compassion, but it’s impossible to argue with her good heart after this episode. The eliminated queens are back to compete against the top 5 in a girl group showdown, and BenDeLa’s guilt over eliminating Morgan in the first episode becomes an unbearable burden. These feelings are fueled by Morgan grilling BenDeLa about her decision at the start of the episode, and BenDeLa spends the rest of the episode proving to Morgan that she’s not a bad person.
Before the group performances, BenDeLa goes to Morgan to clear the air, and Morgan reacts with surprising contrition and apologizes for the way she approached the subject earlier. They’re on good terms when the performances begin, and they end the episode on great terms after the shocking elimination twist. BenDeLa defeats Bebe in a lip sync to Deborah Cox’s “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here,” and instead of sending home one of the other top 5 queens, BenDeLa chooses to leave the competition and give her spot to Morgan. BenDeLa has already won $25,000, and her success on All Stars guarantees a bump in her booking fees and some new fans. Instead of playing to win, she plays to create great television, and she drops a bomb on this season that completely changes the competition moving forward. Bendela’s decision is selfless and very generous, and even if Morgan gets eliminated in the next episode, she gets a lot more exposure by appearing in an episode with four other queens instead of nine.
The ending is the best part of this episode, and it’s hard not to compare this season’s return of the eliminated queens to what went down in All Star 2. That episode had the epic mirror reveal and Phi Phi O’Hara’s Facecrack of the Century. The eliminated queens walked in showing off their looks for the two-in-one challenge, and there was an overwhelming feeling of excitement surrounding this new twist. The reveal of the eliminated queens is much more somber this season thanks to the influence of The Handmaid’s Tale, and it makes me question the effectiveness of this pop culture tie-in beyond the visual of the handmaid uniforms. In the opening scene, the eliminated queens are tied to the house of the person who sent them home, but those connections don’t play into the episode.
The group dynamics for the challenge could have been much more interesting if the returning queens were working with their eliminators, and it would have provided a more active way to present the confrontations that take up too much time at the top of the episode. Standing around a table in the workroom, each of the queens bring up their beef with each other. Shangela calls Thorgy out on her mirror message and the note she left Trixie, and that note becomes a major point of contention that does not merit the drama these queens are bringing to it. The conflict between Kennedy and Milk is much more mature, with Kennedy calling out Milk’s condescending attitude and telling her to check her ego. Kennedy won’t let Milk treat her drag as inferior, and this triggers a tearful response from Milk, who is shaken by the realization that she might be an asshole. “Am I an asshole?” Milk asks in a cut-away interview, and Milk’s entire time on this series has been building to this question, to which the world responds: “Yes.”
With Bendela out of the competition, the power rankings for the rest of the season change dramatically. Shangela and Bebe are pretty much neck-and-neck when it comes to track records: Shangela has two challenge wins and lip sync wins, but she’s been in the bottom. Bebe has two challenge wins and one lip sync win, and never been up for elimination. Shangela has been getting a lot of attention, but it doesn’t feel like Bebe has done very much this season. She always delivers, but it hasn’t been to the level I would expect from a Drag Race winner. Her personality in the workroom is very reserved and slightly snobby, and her drag is polished but unambitious. Her crown makes her feel like a separate entity from the rest of the cast, and while she likes to talk about how she’s learning so much from the other queens, she doesn’t go into specifics about what she’s taking away from these friendships the audience doesn’t see.
Last week’s win was handed to Bebe, and for the first half of this episode, it looks like Bebe is going to continue coasting through the competition without engaging in a meaningful way. When Aja confronts Bebe about not telling the judges about help she had in constructing her disco gown, Bebe brushes it off by saying it wouldn’t have made a difference with Aja being in the bottom so who cares? She’s dismissive and proud, and those aren’t very compelling character traits if she’s not backing up her attitude with knock-out performances. That changes this week with the debut of Jungle Kitty, Bebe’s ferocious Kitty Girl character. Bebe’s greatest moment in season 1 was the verse she wrote for RuPaul’s “Cover Girl” single, and she continues to show off her powerful vocal talent with a nonsensical verse that is all about the feeling of the sounds rather than their meaning. Here’s a full transcript of Bebe’s amazingness:
Rrrrrrrrrra taka titi ta ta
Yeah, I’m pussy bitch
Ooh la la la la la la
C’est bon c’est bon
Doko choko la ta la
You can take my snatch
Drag it up wheel it up
Give me more
BRING IT TO THE BALL! (wild cackle)
No other verse comes even close to Bebe’s, and the results of this challenge are very similar to the similarly structured Divas Live! Kennedy has the lowest critiques because she doesn’t bring enough diva to her character, Trixie is safe with a cute but unexceptional nympho nerd, and Shangela gets praised for being pretty and enthusiastic even though her schtick is very simple. There is a noticeable difference in the quality of the top 5 and the eliminated queens. The top 5 are sharp, confident and have clearly defined characters, whereas the eliminated queens have blander concepts and sloppier execution. They aren’t bad, but there’s a sameness that conflicts with the point of the challenge. The Spice Girls each had their own distinct style and point of view, and the top 5 group has that range.
It’s a pity that this episode doesn’t feature a runway, because if you’re going to bring back five queens, give them the chance to show off more of their looks. A lot of the drama in this episode could have been consolidated to make room for a runway, especially when there’s a longer running time. This episode is still a big improvement over the last few, largely because of BenDeLa, which poses an interesting question moving forward: What will the rest of this season be like without her? Will her actions inspire the other queens to up their game, or will they relax now that the frontrunner is gone? Everyone is going to be rattled for the next challenge, and now that the circumstances have changed, I’m hoping the competition gains momentum as it heads toward the finale.
- I’ve very excited for season 10 after seeing the queens show off on the runway:
- There’s a point where Bendela slips on her platform shoes, but I didn’t even realize it was a mistake until Emma Bunton pointed it out. It totally goes with BenDeLa’s character.
- I have to give the producers kudos for the Milk and Thorgy fake-out at the end of the last episode. Having only three queens for the cliffhanger got people talking about who was returning, and the whole point of a cliffhanger is to make people curious about what’s to come.
- Chi Chi was a disappointment when it came to the maxi-challenges, but she ultimately had a good showing on All Stars, reminding viewers why they enjoyed her so much in season 8. She’s fun, friendly, and doesn’t take the game too seriously. She has no fight in this episode, but it comes across as contentment rather than resignation.
- I can’t believe I’ve gone so long without mentioning BenDeLa’s amazing jughead drag for the cutaway interviews. So adorable!
- “Wait. Did I leave the iron on my dressing room? No, I’m good. (Continues maniacal laughter.)”
- “What about Mother Kitty? Not because she has kids, ‘cause she’s old.”
- RuPaul: “Is there any truth to the rumor that your girl group, Seduction, is reuniting.” Michelle: “Yes, they are. Only without me and it’s called Reduction.”
- Adam: “I’ve never been around that much pussy at once.” RuPaul: “Glad we could help.”
- “I don’t want to be the Roxxxy of All Stars 3.” This is some A+ shade.