Photo: World of Wonder/Paramount+
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 8 has ended, and what we all expected to happen … happened. Jimbo has won the crown, and truly: Congratulations to Jimbo. She is a one-of-a-kind queen, an artist whose presence validates the very idea of Drag Race. Without this show, there’s no way a queer drag clown with a penchant for gigantic boobs, an off-the-wall fashion sense, killer comedic timing, and a twisted sensibility would be celebrated on a national scale. Her win is a triumph. It’s too bad it had to happen this way.
And by “this way,” I mean, “in an episode she clearly lost, after a boring season she clearly won.” It’s fine, honestly. Jimbo deserved the win. She ate the season up; she’s a truly unique performer and a great addition to the Hall of Fame. It just feels a little anticlimactic to have Kandy get told that RuPaul is her biggest fan, be the better lip-syncer (twice), then lose.
Honestly, I chalk this up to a production issue. The show decided long ago that the ultimate media for performance on Drag Race are lip syncing and musical performance. Structurally, it makes sense! These performances are typically fun to watch, easily editable, and something that many drag queens do nightly. But when you want to crown a winner who is notably worse at lip syncing than her opponent — as they’ve done on two All Stars seasons in a row now — that choice makes the final decision feel a whole lot less exciting, and it makes the final episode feel pointless.
Let’s back up a little, shall we? This is a very congratulatory episode of Drag Race, from top to bottom. All the eliminated queens are back and extremely happy for more screen time. As the episode starts, they gab about how great their variety show was, compliment each other, and applaud the final two — and there is not a lick of drama to be seen. Happy people being happy can be nice, but after a season that wasn’t particularly lively, it doesn’t feel like I can join in on their excitement. As a viewer, I was outside it. When you have this much retrospective content, especially presented with such a positive tone, it sends the message that the season is now over — and for the majority of the queens, it is. But their revelry feels hollow given that the season isn’t something the majority of the audience can agree on, so it doesn’t emotionally connect. It’s all pretty discardable content.
There’s a brief moment of drama the next morning when Naysha says she doesn’t think Jaymes should have won the variety show. Jaymes responds by shrugging it off.
A note on the Fame Games: I’m obsessed with the fact that this show has shrugged off any pretense of existing on a sensible time-space continuum. The announcement of the winner is done in-episode, a tacit acknowledgment of something that most fans already know: All winner options are filmed, and the winner’s reaction is entirely staged. Because the Fame Games are voted on by fans, there is no possible way to believe that Lala’s eventual win was the only one filmed during the season, unless you believe that the show is filmed as it’s airing, which is clearly not true since all the queens are performing throughout the world while it’s airing. This is not so much a critique as it is a strange little detail that stuck out to me. (Note to the editors: Release the cut of Monica Beverly Hillz winning!)
The final challenge for the final two is to perform a song written for them by Drag Race’s composer-at-large, Leland. Jimbo gets a funny number; Kandy gets a fierce number. The big “tension” of the episode is whether Jimbo can pick up the choreography, which she manages to do well enough. It’s a testament to how low expectations are that when Naysha says, “Honestly, the fact that she’s remembering the choreo is sickening,” everybody agrees. Kandy, meanwhile, seems great in rehearsals. This is her schtick.
When it comes to the numbers, Jimbo’s is very cute. She does the choreo, which is, as Naysha would say, sickening in and of itself when it comes to Jimbo. She’s in a color-reversed version of her entrance outfit from Drag Race Canada, which is a cute choice. But, ultimately, Jimbo is just so much less expressive and interesting in this kind of situation than when she’s doing a clowning bit for a talent show or playing Shirley Temple in Snatch Game. It’s not that she does a bad job; it’s just not the kind of superstar performance we’ve seen in other challenges. Instead, we viewers have to be okay with “good enough” because she’s so good in other challenges.
Kandy gets a track that sounds like a B side on Lady Gaga’s The Fame and much harder choreography. At the beginning of the number, she has a bit of a problem with her face connecting, but by the end she’s fully in it. It’s a great performance, and Kandy does an admirable job with a difficult ask. She’s great at this stuff, and this is exactly what Drag Race typically rewards: fierce, charismatic, pop-star drag. When it isn’t enough to push her over to the win, it really does force me to ask if this kind of number is the best way to showcase the queens’ talent in a finale.
All the girls come out for the finale runway in their best glamour looks. Monica looks the best she’s looked all season. Could it have used higher hair? Maybe so. Naysha is a natural at this type of challenge, and she looks great, but the visible nude illusion is a pet peeve of mine. Kasha is doing age-appropriate, Cruella de Vil, Old Hollywood drag. Good! I don’t love Darienne’s color story. Jaymes clearly thought “bigger is better,” and she was right. Still, the nude illusion bugs. Kahanna would have my favorite look if it weren’t for the giant zipper in the back, but it’s still fantastic. Lala’s gown is great. Her hairline could still use some work. In a season of great gowns, Alexis saved the best for last. Jessica looks great — what a season for her.
As for the final two: Jimbo looks great, even if she’s had more inventive looks in the past. The dress is wonderful and weird, but this very trendy drag hair is kind of disappointing on a queen who’s such an original. Kandy is probably the most polished she’s ever looked. RuPaul sometimes asks why you would reinvent the wheel when the wheel works fine, and Kandy proves that point.
The two finalists then get showered with praise for their work this episode and overall this season. Lala Ri wins the Fame Games, likely due to her (well- earned, in my opinion) three-times multiplier from last week. Happy for her! The Fame Games was always just an excuse to show off all the queens to their fullest extent, but I’m happy Lala got some money.
In the final lip sync, to “Do Ya Wanna Funk?” by Sylvester and Patrick Cowley, Jimbo has big tits, a big ass, and a ton of props, while Kandy serves a lip sync that is more in line with simply interpreting the song. While I’m partial to Kandy’s version, I think it’s right that Jimbo wins the season. She deserves it! It’s just too bad we didn’t get a finale that shows that off.
• The All Stars format just didn’t work this season, and I was honestly left pining for a return to normal Drag Race rules. I still don’t understand why All Stars needs a format twist when you’re getting diminishing returns and the original format is airtight. Also, I truly hope the solution is not to do another non-elimination season. That only works with All Winners, and even then it’s sometimes iffy.
• I hope Jessica Wild is a very rich woman because of this season. Then it will all have been worth it.
• Drag Race Down Under is next on the docket, which leads me to tell you all that, despite the shitshow that was season one of that show, season two is very charming! I recommend you get high some Sunday and binge it. Also, one of the queens on upcoming season three is named Ashley Madison, which represents a new frontier in un-Googleable drag queen names, winning the title over the queen from Drag Race Canada whose name was just “Beth.”