Rupaul’s Drag Race: “Family That Drags Together” keeps the drama rolling


The script is flipped in “Family That Drags Together,” the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Winners become losers, and audiences get happy.

The second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars is almost over, and we have to give RuPaul credit: she’s managed to pack each episode chock-full of drama, both on and offscreen.

For the first half of the season, we were wondering when the eliminated queens were going to make their inevitable return. Then Phi Phi O’Hara declared war on the show after getting eliminated a couple of weeks back. Last we checked, she was losing.

And then, just last week, Drag Race flipped the script on Alaska 5000, the presumptive winner. Her victory has seemed inevitable for a while now, but when she sent fan favorite Tatianna home rather than longtime friend Roxxxy Andrews, it created a backlash that resulted in, among other things, people stuffing her social media accounts with snake emojis.

And now, for the first time this season, Alaska ends up at the back of the pack, and her victory doesn’t seem as predestined as it once was. It’s been a breathless, ridiculous season of television.

What a great show.

And I haven’t even mentioned the challenge yet. It’s time for makeover week, where the queens do up strangers to prove their design prowess. These episodes can sometimes be a snooze, since it’s difficult to make a small cast of new characters compelling in a limited amount of time. That’s a shame, since many queens are at their best when asked to show off their visible sensibilities.

RuPaul’s been getting smarter of late, though, and bringing on people in whom we’re inclined to be interested. This week, he calls up members of the queens’ families, which provides yet more opportunities for drama. For example, Roxxxy Andrews’ admission that her mother abandoned her and her sister at a bus stop is still one of the show’s most emotional moments, so it’s satisfying to meet the woman who actually raised Roxxxy.

But my favorite family member was Katya’s mom, Pat. Detox and her sister Heather may have had the most physical resemblance, but Pat shared Katya’s innate comic timing.

"Katya: “What I’m thinking is: sexy Russian trophy bride with her peasant mom.”Pat: “And who am I?”"

Also, you gotta love a woman with a genuine Boston accent.

But at the end of the episode, you can’t judge the queens on drama alone. Each was challenged with making their loved one over to look like a member of their drag family, and while there were no duds, Katya’s concept stood out. She was only one who bothered to tell a story on the runway, with herself as a fresh-off-the-boat bombshell and her mother as an old world house frau, complete with slop pail. (“I’m giving ’70s Soviet Anna Karenina and she’s giving confused bumbling babushka.”) They had their personas ready, right down to the frustrated way Katya shooed her mother off stage at the end of the act. If this were a normal season, Katya would have won the challenge, straight up.

But this isn’t a normal season: RuPaul has to pick a top two to go head to head against each other. Roxxxy and Alaska both go for mirror image looks—Alaska wears white with a splash of black, and her mom wears the opposite. Meanwhile, Roxxxy wears black sequins with highlights of leopard print, and her grandmother wears the reverse. They’re both effective, clean looks, but neither are terribly exciting. Detox, on the other hand, goes for something less literal. The green-and-yellow color schemes she chooses for herself and her sister compliment each other, but they’re not binary flips. That earns her a spot lip syncing opposite Katya.

By contrast, Alyssa’s look has a unifying theme of “no theme.” Alaska got the harshest critiques on the runway, but it’s hard to tell if they were genuine or just the judges’ way of throwing a curveball at the frontrunner. I’m not a fashion expert, but it’s difficult to believe that RuPaul and company preferred Alyssa’s get-up—a confusing mishmash of fringe, straps, and giant blonde hair (only some of which was reflected on her sister’s outfit)—to Alaska’s neat-and-tidy look, which came complete with a giant sign prop.

After some self-flagellation on Alaska’s part, Detox and Katya lip sync to RuPaul’s…oh, god, it’s a RuPaul song? Yeah, it’s a RuPaul song. Hey, it’s her show, so we can’t hold her gift for self-promotion against her. Both girls do as well as they can given the material, but Detox wins because she wears an outfit that shows off her ass. That’s the long and the short of it. She sends Alyssa home.

It’s too bad for Katya, since she’s been performing well all season but has yet to win a lip sync. Something tells me she’ll get a lot of sympathy votes ahead of next week’s finale. She’ll also get support from people who don’t want to vote for the Alaska-Detox-Roxxxy troika, which seems to have reformed despite its members’ protestations to the contrary.

Strategic voting is making this drag contest seem rather timely, no? RuPaul may deserve more credit than we think.

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Random Ruflections

  • RuPaul to the queens on their whether their family members were going to show up: “I’m sorry to say that not one of them accepted my invitation…they all did.” I don’t think any of the queens believed this fake-out, to say nothing of everyone at home, but is that the point? We let ourselves believe, just for a second, that RuPaul might be that cruel. It’s part and parcel of reality television, a mass delusion in which we all participate.
  • Even when she calls her own mother a “fucking cunt,” Katya is still likable. That’s a nice trick.
  • Sonia, Roxxxy’s grandmother: “[I] Raised him. He turned out to be wonderful. He finished high school!” By this point, the queens are reality TV pros, but their loved ones are a different story. It’s fun when they get candid.
  • RuPaul to Detox’s sister: “You’re a lawyer.” “I am.” “Are you the reason Detox is out of prison today?” “I can’t take credit for that, but I’m the reason that if you steal his name and likeness, you’ll get sued.”
  • Anastasia Soare of Anastasia Beverly Hills stopped by to teach the girls how to apply makeup to their eyebrows, which…okay. She didn’t add anything to the episode, but her company has been sponsoring Drag Race for years now, so sure. Welcome to the show, lady.
  • As a guest judge, Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza proved that, well…she really is like that. At the judge’s table: “This is the best day of my life. I’m killing myself tomorrow.” Everybody laugh. Laugh!
  • In addition to their runway looks, the queens had to vogue with their family members. The show often tacks these little dance assignments on to the design challenges, and the results weren’t any more interesting than usual. Alaska wore a horse mask during her routine, so that’s something.
  • Alaska, making her case to stay: “Well, I’ll give you $10,000 if you let me stay, before taxes. I’ll transfer it to you via PayPal.”