There is a reason RuPaul won his well-deserved Emmy for RuPaul’s Drag Race. Episode 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 2 is, hands down, the best episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race ever. I’m serious. The best episode of all time for this franchise.
Everything that went down in this episode was pitch perfect. You couldn’t have asked for a more entertaining hour of television. What made this episode the best ever?
1. Face cracks on face cracks on face cracks: How many times could Phi Phi O’Hara looked shocked and worried about her impending doom on the set? This episode started out with Phi Phi seeing Alyssa Edwards from behind the two-way mirror, continuing the beef from the previous episode over Alyssa’s decision to save Katya from elimination despite her bad critiques. The beef itself seemed like it shouldn’t have escalated to what it had become, to be honest; Alyssa can send home whoever she wants if she has the power, whether or not the pact to send home the girl with the bad critique is in place. And the beef was one-sided; Phi Phi’s own insecurity was set off by the fact that Alyssa changed the rules, which meant that anyone could go home despite their good performance.
Currently, Phi Phi has told Vulture and social media that the producers made her out to be the villain, and to be fair, the producers do a lot of meddling. But the meddling is only occurring because the producers are creating a show. If they don’t meddle, we’d literally have nothing to watch. It’d be like watching these current seasons of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, in which everyone’s always at lunch or sitting at home. In short, it’d be boring. So for Phi Phi to fall into the producers traps to openly talk about Alyssa behind her back, then not own up to what she said when Alyssa confronted her about it, is why Phi Phi got so many shocked moments. Not to mention the stellar lip sync and double-win, which kept Phi Phi’s mouth on the floor. The jist of my argument is this: I really want to be on Phi Phi’s side, because I’ve always liked her. But, if you already know the game and sign up for it again, shouldn’t you know how to play so you get the best edit? Shouldn’t you also know not to give the producers material they can use against you, such as not hugging Alyssa and
2. The lip sync for the ages: There have been some legendary lip syncs to occur on RuPaul’s Drag Race. But this one between Alyssa and Tatianna has shot to the top as the best one ever. Lip syncing for your legacy and your life causes you to up your game tremendously, and everything about Alyssa and Tatianna’s lip syncs were so perfect, it’s almost as if they’d coordinated moves beforehand. (I suppose you could get into a theory about producer machinations here if you wanted to.)
As many on social media and YouTube have said, we hadn’t seen Tatianna perform on the show in a long time, so it was a face crack for us as a viewing audience to see Tatianna own the stage and hold her own against a dancing showgirl like Alyssa, who is all about the death drops, high kicks, and splits. It only made sense for both of them to win after such commanding performances.
3. The double-handed elimination: Getting eliminated by one queen is bad enough. But getting doubly eliminated by two queens who had already gone home? That moment when Alyssa and Tatianna handed down their judgement to Phi Phi is what took this episode over the top. What went into the decision-making was also great television as well. Tatianna’s confessional about realizing Phi Phi’s underhandedness within the competition shows that if Tatianna was able to see it so quickly, then could the other queens see it too? It also undercuts Phi Phi’s own argument to Vulture about her edit getting cut to make to look bad.
If it was just editing, then why could Tatianna immediately recognize shenanigans after having only been in the competition for two episodes? Also, how does editing excuse Phi Phi telling Roxxxy earlier in the season that her Sofia Vergara impression was bad, nearly costing her her spot in the competition? Roxxxy wasn’t the only queen Phi Phi was trying to psych out, either (at least, according to what we’ve seen on the show). As Tatianna herself would say, “Choices.”
The irony is that what made this episode so good is that it happened to be the classic “set up the villain for a fall” episode, with the irony being that the villain was the very queen who didn’t want to be a villain anymore. Phi Phi repeated history once again, and now that people have seen her in this role twice over, there’s been a lot of headscratching as to where editing ends and Phi Phi’s own lack of nuance with damage control and image rehabilitation begins.
Since it’s impossible to talk about this episode without talking about the behind-the-scenes drama, let me just say my condensed two cents on this, having read the Vulture article, viewing RuPaul’s shady tweets (proving the unflappable queen has a breaking point just like all the rest of us mere mortals), and listening to everyone and their grandma’s viewpoint on the entire situation.
Now, here me clearly: I feel badly for Phi Phi. Her failure at getting the redemption she wanted is the real tragedy and seemingly a self-inflicted one; whether or not the editing was the culprit, it seemed that she still got in her own way, much like she did during her season.
Also, I don’t want anything bad to happen to Phi Phi O’Hara. I don’t support or condone anyone sending her death threats. I want Phi Phi to succeed because she’s an extremely talented drag queen. I have actually been a fan of hers even in her Season 4 days. I just love a good villain sometimes, and Phi Phi was an excellent villain, and sometimes, she was actually right, like when she hounded Willam for breaking the rules of the show. It’s also very fair to say that some personalities just don’t do well on reality television. For some people, the pressure just brings out the worst in some people, even if you aren’t usually that person that the camera depicts. Perhaps that’s the case for Phi Phi.
I also understand her wanting to get her RuDemption arc, but my question is this: If you’ve been on the show once, and you know how it works, wouldn’t you already have the knowledge to not fall for producer tactics? If you give the producers the material, then they can do whatever they want with it.
Bianca del Rio is a perfect example of a contestant knowing how to make the system work for her; she didn’t give the producers anything she didn’t want them to see. In many ways, what she gave them was a manicured character, with only flashes of her real personality interspersed. What was extremely clever about it was that she was able to be an on-screen persona while still being genuine and connecting with the camera. Where Phi Phi tripped herself up is worrying exclusively about how she would be presented on camera; she got in her own head so much, she forgot to play by her new set of rules for self-governance. Also, and I don’t think this can be stressed enough: If you’ve been on the show once, you know the rules. You shouldn’t fall for the same rules twice, especially if you already know they’re “shady producers” (to quote Reddit).
Okay, this ends everything I feel like writing on Phi Phi. I wish her well, truly. I also wish she’d come to the reunion, because, selfishly-speaking, that’d be another Emmy-worthy moment for the show.
Overall, this was an episode that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt why RuPaul’s Emmy is overdue. Everything about the production of this show is at the highest level I’ve seen for any reality show since the first season of Survivor. What did you think? Do you support Phi Phi after everything that’s gone down? Give your opinions in the comments section below!