A double Snatch Game makes double the laughs on RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars

·11 min read
Screenshot:  RuPaul’s Drag Race
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

The queens reenter the workroom and celebrate Shea’s win, who says it feels “correct.” For whatever reason Trinity is absent and renters later holding the plunger. Shea attempts to explain her reason citing Trinity’s resilience as a main reason why she decided to block her. Trinity accepts the explanation and decides to take the block as a complement to her strength as a competitor. Monét, the other winner of the episode, is pleased she didn’t need to block anyone. It is clear that winning and blocking someone puts a target on your back, it will be interesting to see if the cast just perpetually blocks whoever won the week before. Yvie and Jinx suggest that might be the strategy, as it makes sense to try and slow down people who are accumulating stars. Shea realizes that the only way to stay safe is to just keep winning.

RuPaul enters and declares that it is Snatch Game. What once was a moment of joy for RuPaul’s Drag Race fans is now a moment of trepidation following the Snatch Game of season 14. Hopefully with an All Winners cast, including four previous Snatch Game winners, the tide will turn. The twist of this episode is that contestants will have to play two different characters in two different Snatch Games. There is a mix of excitement and fear from contestants about Snatch Game, which The Vivienne, a past winner, says “tests the skills you need as a Drag queen: makeup transformations, character impersonation, and making people laugh.” Anticipating an epic Snatch Game, Trinity, another former winner of the challenge, declares this the “Olympics of Snatch Game.”

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While The Vivienne, Trinity, Jinx, and Shea, all former Snatch Game victors, appear ready and thrilled for the competition, Raja, Monét, Yvie, and Jaida seem worried. When it is first announced Raja says she isn’t excited, despite her Tyra Banks in season two being a solid impersonation. Monét has a more tumultuous relationship with the challenge, having succeeded (without a win) as Maya Angelou on season 10 and failed miserably as Whitney Houston in All Stars 4. Jaida, who faded into the background as Cardi B in season 12, seems withdrawn and reserved while approaching Snatch Game. Intimidated, Yvie is worried about measuring up to the former queens who defined Snatch Game, considering that her performance of Whoopi Goldberg in season 11 might be one of the worst impersonations in Snatch Game history, and nearly sent her home.

The best part of this Snatch Game is that they have abandoned the Snatch Game of Love concept and returned to the original. The new addition of the season is the double snatch game, which feels like a sort of arbitrary decision. It lines up with the “too much” of the premiere, but there is history of contestants like Bob the Drag Queen and Nina West portraying two different characters in one Snatch Game. It might make more sense if there was some sort of relation between the two characters or maybe if the contestants had to re-impersonate a former Snatch Game character as well as a new character. The decision to make everyone play two almost feels like producers couldn’t decide which performance they wanted from Jinx so they decided to make her do both. The best way to look at the Snatch Game performances is to divide them up between the great, the good, the fine, and the bad.

Screenshot:  RuPaul’s Drag Race
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

The “great” were Jinx and Trinity. Jinx is the mother of Snatch Game, as her Little Edie remains, probably, the best performance in the history of the challenge. She may have topped that this episode. Her first character, Natasha Lyonne, was an inspired choice. Learning from Willow Pill’s mistake in season 14, Jinx correctly remembered that Natasha and RuPaul worked together in the queer cult classics But I’m A Cheerleader. Not only did she play a funny person, Jinx gave a new life to a caricature of Lyonne, one that was comfortable, lived-in, and exciting. She came in with great constructed jokes and great volleying with RuPaul making for an excellent performance. It was also great that she didn’t rely on specific Lyonne characters, like others on the panel. She played the woman herself. Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, Jinx became Judy Garland. It was a stupendous performance. It could have bordered on showboating, but it was so good everyone just seemed to enjoy getting to watch Jinx perform. It’s hard to pick a favorite part. The call back to her original season, in which Garland absolved Dave the veteran of responsibility for her death, was absolutely genius. Turning to camera and asking “is this my camera,” was delightful, and the decision to sing RuPaul song’s in Garland’s voice was unforgettable. At the end, when she asks if they have time for “one more,” it is clear that Jinx is winning Snatch Game again.

While Trinity’s Caitlin Jenner was called one of the best Snatch Game performances by one judge, which was a bit of an exaggeration, this double Snatch Game proved that her victory was no fluke. It was clever to do Satan. At once constantly represented in pop culture, yet also unknowable, it was a familiar blank canvas to work with and subvert expectations. The decision to make the devil super gay made it so that no matter what Trinity said it was funny. The only quasi mistake was the tiara and lace gloves, the juxtaposition would have been stronger between the visual and the voice without the props. The decision to play an equally gay character, Leslie Jordan, was a terrific decision. The impersonation worked well with Trinity’s bawdy sense of humor. The condom-raincoat joke was superb, but her best moment was correcting Jinx after she sang the Drag Race theme song.

Screenshot:  RuPaul’s Drag Race
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

The good was Raja and Shea. In actually, Raja even bordered on great. Considering her apprehension about Snatch Game and confession that reentering the competition was not like “riding a bike,” her success felt that much sweeter. Her Madame the puppet–like Gigi Goode’s robot character–was an inspired left-field choice. It was a delightfully unhinged performance. Even when her jokes were a little basic, the visual of her moving around like a puppet was unforgettable. A fashion lover, Raja’s Diana Vreeland wiped clean the memory of Robbie Turner’s failed version. The eccentricity of the choice was comedic gold without doing too much. She absolutely nailed the voice and make-up, proving that Raja is a major threat in the competition. Shea, who won last week and has her own Snatch Game win, gave what is probably the best performance of a social media star. You didn’t actually have to know who Elsa Majimbo was for it to be funny. Like Jinx’s Natasha Lyonne, Shea’s performance was very present in the moment and volleyed well with those around her. A huge fan of top model, Shea’s J. Alexander looked good, but simply wasn’t very funny. It was definitely the weakest of Shea’s four Snatch Game characters.

The Vivienne and Monét turned out to be fine in the Snatch Game. Sadly, the Vivienne decided to play two actresses playing a character. This always feels like an easy way out. After all, she wasn’t really doing Joanna Lumley, she was doing Joanna Lumley doing Patsy. She took the same approach doing Catherine Tate. They were funny of course, but they lacked originality. The strange thing was the best line The Vivienne had was more as herself, when she remarked that for someone who says they will not utter the name Chris, J. Alexander said it three times. The Vivienne could have added extra points if she had complimented Joanna Lumley, by making her second character another actress from Absolutely Fabulous, like Jennifer Saunders as Edwina, Julia Sawalha as Saffron, or even Jane Horrocks as Bubbles. Monét was also fine. Her Mike Tyson was really good. It was the perfect voice and she had great banter with the judges. However, her Martin Lawrence really never took off, and again it was her playing someone playing a character. That approach, also employed by The Vivienne and many other past Snatch Game contestant, is often uninspired.

Screenshot:  RuPaul’s Drag Race
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

Jaida and Yvie, sadly, fell into the bad category. Jaida’s lackadaisical take on Prince had some good moments, but they felt like accidents. Likewise, The Lady Chablis, though an inspired choice, fell flat. The look was excellent, but it felt like she was just doing Jaida. It was an opportunity to teach a new generation about this queer pioneer and legend, but it felt like Jaida hadn’t done any research. Overall, it felt at best that Jaida was timid and at worst unprepared. Yvie came in with the most to prove, bombing her original Snatch Game. She sadly didn’t really get rudemption. Her portrayal of Rico Nasty, no matter how potentially accurate, was loudly one-note. The editing and laugh track were enormously kind to her. In a regular season it’s a performance that would have landed in the bottom. The Boogie Man was an interesting choice, like Trinity’s Satan. In retrospect, it might have helped to have them on the same panel. Despite an interesting take on the character, it really lacked jokes.

The next day, Yvie enters the work room seeming to understand that she didn’t do great but pleased at her own effort. It’s clear in the room that the top performers are Jinx and Trinity, which were somewhat expected, and Raja, somewhat unexpected. Even Raja didn’t have high hopes for her Snatch Game, but she really gave a good performance. The conversation eventually turns to strategy with Jinx, bluntly, confessing her plan to block someone who already has a star. While Monét appears somewhat shocked, perhaps because she has one of the only stars awarded at this point, Jinx simply calls it a question of statistics. In a way, it is sort of spoiler moment as it seems clear Jinx will win, leaving her only two options to block, Monét or Shea.

On the runway, RuPaul enters in a mint and silver dress to welcome judges Michelle, Ross, and possibly the worst guest judge in history, Daphne Guinness. Having her on a comedy challenge feels like a mistake. This is doubled when you realize that the next episode is a design challenge ball, which would be much better suited for Guinness. The runway category is Pleather Principle.

Screenshot:  RuPaul’s Drag Race
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

Monét is the first on the runway in an exquisite brown recreation of a Schiaparelli design. Yvie follows in a campy vinyl anime look. It’s a fine look, but something about the proportions doesn’t work. Raja continues to amaze in looks that feel modern and effortless, this time in contrasting snakeskin prints and a feathered fascinator. Trinity comes out in pastel pleather puffer jacket-inspired look. After what she wore last week, this feels like it was a bit of an afterthought. The styling and fit just don’t seem up to Trinity’s standards. The Vivienne’s red pleather with the exaggerated shoulders and cool cap is a showstopper. It feels like she and Raja are going to the same party and are the two best dressed in the room. Jinx’s fetishized Mary Poppins is a great concept that matches her persona perfectly. She also looks like a dead ringer for one of the step-sisters in Cinderella. Jaida’s ’90s inspired look is pure The Matrix and an unexpected reference for a queen known for pageant excellence, but it’s expertly done. Shea’s reimagination of Catwoman is a little disappointing. Perhaps it’s the disconnect of the punk aesthetic that doesn’t coalesce well with Shea’s normal polished fashion-forward looks.

The judging, like last week, is overly complimentary. There is really no attempt at constructive criticism. There are some slight critiques, but it seems clear that the judging is just a formality at this point. Again, when the queens return, they have all oddly changed outfits. Is there a huge break in filming and they got bored? Even stranger, Monét, Shea, and Jaida have changed back into their Snatch Game characters. Is there a continuity issue going on? The judges declare Trinity and Jinx the top two of the week.

Screenshot:  RuPaul’s Drag Race
Screenshot: RuPaul’s Drag Race

While Trinity is unable to win a star, she is able to win 10,000 dollars and the power to block someone next week. They lip sync to Adele’s “Rumor Has It.” It was a fine performance overall. It did feel like Trinity actually gave the more compelling performance. It was comedic and dynamic; however, she almost briefly lost her wig and it seems like this is the cardinal sin of a lip sync to RuPaul. Jinx is declared the winner. Despite explaining exactly what she would do if she won, Jinx stalks the runway with the plunger before landing on one of her only two options, handing the plunger to Shea. It’s an important decision that sets a possible new precedent of blocking someone who has blocked someone else.