Friday, May 27, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars' - Vague Design Categories Risk Derailing an Exciting Ball in 'The Realness of Fortune Ball'

Paramount+'s RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars - Episode 7.03 "The Realness of Fortune Ball"

The legendary queens put their spin on the classic Drag Race ball challenge, serving 3 looks each in the "Realness of Fortune" Ball.

It doesn't take much to confuse drag queens. This show has produced so many examples of queens pursuing this art form because they've struggled with rudimentary skills to a shocking degree. That's especially glaring when it comes to math, which is a skill that must be utilized to make garments. That's challenged every single season. Every year the queens have to make something from scratch. It's always shocking when a queen shows up not knowing how to work a sewing machine. It's part of the storyline every single season. The viewer can depend on that. It's no longer shocking when it occurs. Similarly, it's always fun whenever a queen believes some other layer of the game is being introduced. Those in the competition are prepared for any twist that could be thrown their way. They know to expect it at this point. The production loves torturing the queens. All of the twists have already been introduced for this season though. That just makes it joyous to watch as Shea sets out to torture the queens by letting them think those who've been blocked have actually gained some special power. It's not addressed beyond the immediate aftermath of the prior challenge. It mostly showcases how these queens need to start thinking strategically. Monet already embraced that mentality in the first week by forming an alliance with Trinity. It was awkwardly handled as Jinkx always knew it existed. She playfully teases them about that. And now, Monet and Trinity try to expand their sphere of influence to protect themselves. It doesn't really work because the queens are mostly deciding to block whomever has stars already. That places a big target on Monet. She's destined to receive the platinum plunger at some point. It shockingly hasn't happened yet. That may reveal how people continually underestimate her even though she is great at everything so far.

Mini challenges aren't a constant in every episode. Most of the time they are nothing more than playful and fun. Here, it gets things started with the overall appreciation for Vanna White and Wheel of Fortune. Of course, Jinkx is the only person who comes across as knowing how to play the game. The editing makes it seem like production was really pulling teeth out of the queens because they were making bad guesses or simply lost interest right away. It's still a winning strategy to make RuPaul laugh if they can't provide the right answer. It wouldn't be surprising if the clue was ultimately filthy. It's not. It's not that kind of game that RuPaul loves so much. Sure, white party isn't tame in the slightest. It is in comparison to Raja's guess about getting fisted. In fact, it's great how candid Raja has been about what it takes for her to be inspired. It includes a lot of drinking and getting high. She responds well to setting her own schedule. As such, she could struggle in adjusting to the demands of a television schedule once more. That hasn't really been evidenced so far. She continues to impress despite these limitations she seems to be putting on herself. Elsewhere, it's simply fun to watch Yvie winning money and then lose it right away. That's followed up by the Vivienne obtaining the same prize. That's all she truly wants from this season. She came to America to win some money. She got none despite winning Drag Race UK. That continues to be stunning and upsetting. She collects her first amount here. That's enough of a reward even as the overall challenge is meant to assign colors for the design challenge.

The balls are a staple of every season. The queens have to present three looks to the judges. Two of them they could prepare for while the final one has to be designed in a day. It's stressful. That's especially true for Jinkx as she tries her best but steps back and hates the look she made. Plus, the success of this challenge ultimately revolves around the theme the show has chosen. Here, it's all a little too vague. The Before & After description is a lot of fun. Some queens embraced that fully while others opted to be a little more tame with their mash-ups. Meanwhile, Vanna White realness seems hard especially considering it was a surprise for each of the queens as they walked out and saw her standing there judging them. Of course, she isn't actually a judge. She's simply the announcer. That's strange. It must have be a timing issue where she could only be on set for a little while. The show wanted to honor her. She wears a different outfit in every episode of Wheel of Fortune. As such, she doesn't have one signature look that transcends pop culture. She has a certain style though. Some queens were confused about what to bring. Jinkx and Shea were referential to different periods. While those designs were stunning, they didn't translate into something that would seem fitting for Vanna White. The same applied to Yvie even though it was fun to see her with giant hair for once. Jaida and Trinity absolutely delivered though, with Raja doing a solid job as well. In fact, a pattern has started to emerge this season. Every week there is a clear winner in the challenge. It's then difficult to decide who should be in the top two with them to lip sync for the overall win. The lip sync performances do line up with the rest of the quality. No clear divisions have happened quite yet. It seems inevitable though given the formula that has already emerged.

The frontrunner this week was absolutely Jaida Essence Hall. High expectations were set for many of the queens as they did well in the balls from their seasons. Raja and Shea are always elevated as the fashion girls. They are meant to deliver the looks this year. Meanwhile, several queens are talented with a sewing machine. Others are looking for redemption. These winners seek different validation from this experience. That's a strange new energy. It's refreshing. It's a whole new vibe that everything has to adjust to. It's unique. It still brings out a lot of exciting drama. But again, Jaida was stunning in her Vanna White realness. She incorporated the texture of backpacks beautifully into a red design that truly innovated fashion in the way only drag queens can do. And then, the outfit she made in a day was impressive for all the work she was able to accomplish. It was beautiful because it was layered with textures. It had competing elements that worked cohesively to create a fully polished look. Jaida deserved being in the top. The second position was truly anyone's guess. Trinity's second and third looks didn't work for me personally. The judges loved them. She didn't seem to honor RuPaul in as strong a way as the play with words would have intended. The red dominatrix look seemed heavy and weighing her down. That distracted from the gorgeous body she wanted to show off once more. Raja could have been a contender if not for the lack of John Waters in her Olivia Newton-John Waters design. What she made was incredible too - probably the best overall look of the night. It just wasn't enough to overcome shortcomings elsewhere. Meanwhile, Monet showcased once again that building a long around a disco theme is never a way to end up in the top. She did honor Bob the Drag Queen though. That look could have gone much further with the neon drip though. It was barely noticeable despite the inspiration being fairly obvious. It's also the first time anyone has really honored the queens who won but aren't competing this season. The cast really wants to be present in the moment. Production wants that too to build on the drama. And yet, so many perspectives have been crowned that deserve recognition despite not fulfilling the drama each week. This cast still pulls off a number of impressive feats though. That means this concern doesn't take up too much space.

"Green Light" by Beyoncé is the song Jaida and Trinity receive for the lip sync. Trinity opens strong by celebrating finally winning her first Legendary Legend Star. Yes, the cast wants to win these stars. They will determine who makes it to the finale. However, it seems like Trinity cares more about the actual star than everyone else does. For the rest of the cast, it's simply something they can wear that visualizes how well they've done. That's Trinity's big moment in the performance. The rest of the time the focus is completely on Jaida. It's only awkward when she jumps into the splits. That move has grown tired and expected. It wasn't necessary especially considering all the other moves Jaida was pulling out that matched the song perfectly. The splits felt like a move she thought she had to do. This episode proved how talented she is. She is a deserving winner. Earlier this season, she didn't feel like she belonged. That couldn't be further from the truth. This challenge allowed her to showcase her skills in such a phenomenal way. Other queens are good with designs too. Jaida's perspective was unique in each runway. She has such a strong understanding of herself. That confidence radiates even as she embraces chaos whenever it comes to strategy. Blocking Jinkx is a smart move. It makes sense even though it leaves Monet open to being the first to receive a second star. No one has that designation yet. Trinity has won two challenges. She was never the frontrunner though. She stands out even as others have been brighter in the last two challenges. The wealth of talent is clear though. Everyone is great which makes this whole competition even sweeter and more celebratory overall even for those queens who have yet to truly take their moments to break out - Yvie and the Vivienne most notably.