**Warning: it’s very hard to talk about the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 without spoilers. So, be warned: we’ll be talking about the big twist, and who went home**
So, let’s not kid ourselves: most reality TV is fake. And even if it’s not all fake, it’s, at the very least, heavily manipulated by producers and other forces behind the scenes. This is true of almost any competition show on television, including RuPaul’s Drag Race. But… that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, right?
After multiple bad challenges and disappointing lip syncs, All Stars 3 brought drama, energy, and a gasp-worthy “twist” that (somewhat) redeemed the season. Now, don’t get me wrong: compared to the honest-to-god greatness that was Season 9, where multiple queens consistently brought their A-games to the stage, this season remains somewhat weak. But the producers seem aware of that, and reveled in the all-around mess that they have to work with. And you know what? It… kinda worked.
First the basics: this week’s episode saw the five remaining queens creating pop-star personas to audition for a fake girl group, The Kitty Girls. The contestants had to design their own looks, write lyrics, and dance to original choreography in front of the judges, which included real pop stars Baby Spice and Adam Lambert. But there was a twist: the five eliminated queens were also back, and competing for a shot of redemption. You see, a queen wasn’t just going home tonight: they were going to be replaced by someone who had already been eliminated this season.
This twist was, of course, heavily foreshadowed throughout the season, so the surprise wasn’t really a jaw-dropper. But, admittedly, watching the queens fight it out in the workroom was a camp-filled dream. Their fights were savage, silly, and exactly the sort of content that viewers flock to reality shows for. Watching Morgan and BenDeLaCreme fight about whether or not the former’s elimination was fair? So much fun. Getting to see Milk slowly realize that he’s a jerk to the other contestants? Priceless. While this segment may have gone on a bit too long (these 90 minute episodes can be a lot sometimes), it was easily the most fun of the night.
That’s not a dig to the challenge, however: while the judges’ critiques felt somewhat random, and the overall winner was a total head-scratcher, both sets of girls truly gave it their all onstage. The outfits were uniformly strong, the choreography was killer, and a majority of the jokes landed. Some of the night’s highlights include Aja’s surprisingly stunning rap skills, a great outfit from Bebe, and the opportunity to watch Shangela totally fawn over Baby Spice. This was one of the season’s best challenges and, while that’s not exactly saying much given All Stars 3’s track record, it’s still an endorsement.
The real climax of the episode, however, was the shocking elimination. The most boring lip sync of the season was completely redeemed by the jaw-dropping revelation that (final warning: major spoilers ahead!) Ben decided to eliminate herself, to make room for Morgan, who was cut in the season premiere. This was totally out-of-left-field – it wasn’t even clear, at first, if a queen was allowed to eliminate herself. And while viewers could debate for days about whether or not Ru’s shocked reaction was genuine or not, it doesn’t really matter, does it? This was the sort of twist this season desperately needed. Ben was just bulldozing his competition, and it made for bad TV.
With the exception of Shangela, none of the queens were performing on the same level as him. While this decision certainly won’t help remedy Ben’s Messiah-complex, which many queens mocked him for this week, his sacrifice has saved the season. Now the final two episodes should be legitimately suspenseful – assuming, of course, the queens continue to perform this well, and that the challenges stay this entertaining.
Overall rating: 9 out of 10