TV Club

RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race recap: episode 4 reviewed.

Was that really a she-mergency? 

Punk Geisha Raven illustration.
Punk Geisha Raven.
Courtesy of Chad Sell

Every week in Slate’s RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race TV Club, J. Bryan Lowder will have an IM conversation with a different RuPaul fan after the losing contestants have sashayed away. This week, he kikis about the new episode with Chad Sell, an illustrator and comic artist best known for his depictions of drag queens, his collaboration with Logo on RPDR webcomics, and his work on the upcoming iOS game “Dragopolis.” You can check out Chad’s work at

J. Bryan Lowder: Good morning Mr. Sell! I trust you’ve been up all night trying to sketch the tragedy that was Alexis Mateo’s yarn-wig on last evening’s episode. You must be exhausted—perhaps some dishing and a little tea will wake you up!

Chad Sell: Ha! Actually, I’m still recovering from the tragedy of seeing Yarlexis leave the show—I’ve been doggedly rooting for that dear ol’ underdog team!

Lowder: REALLY? That’s fascinating. I do believe you are the first RPDR fan I’ve met who’s been rooting for those queens. (There may or may not have been a communal cheer in my very gay house when they left the main stage.) Explain yourself!

Sell: Despite some screechy, annoying characteristics, I actually find Yara to be endearing, quirky, imaginative, and smokin’ hot! And I think she’s given an edge to Alexis, providing some of the most coherent and eye-catching runway looks of the season! Not to mention that they consistently do well in the challenges—especially this week’s cheer-reading competition! I thought they did really well with the girl group challenge, though I couldn’t possibly pick a team to have sent home, instead.

Lowder: Yes, it’s true they share a certain synergy, even if Alexis claims she can’t understand Yara in English or Spanish! For me, the problem is really more a matter of context than inherent ability—I just don’t think what they’re giving is right for this particular show, obsessed as it is with glamour with a touch of camp. They just read as straight-up kitsch to me. But I digress. As you say, they did win the #cheerreading challenge, which, IMHO, was a fine idea that no one executed particularly well. In fact, I noted that Yarlexis may have benefited from a lack of facility with English in this case—some of those other queens were trying to versify overstuffed lines that made this English major cringe!

Sell: Indeed! Yarlexis kept it short and simple—my favorite punchline was “Shannel who?” “Exactly!”

Lowder: WERK! I know, I loved that oldie-but-goodie!

Sell:  But you don’t dig Yara’s eccentric fashion sense? I think she’s the edgiest, most inventive queen on the runway!

Lowder: You’re going to come for me on that, I see. Well, it’s not that I don’t like it in the abstract, but again, in the context of RuPaul’s aesthetic (which, despite my gurl Sharon Needles’ win last season, I still maintain is pretty tame compared to the range of drag you see in a city like New York, for example), I just don’t think her look makes as much sense. Her clothesline hair last episode, for instance, was kooky, sure, but was it fierce? Idk. But then there’s no accounting for taste. And I should say that I find it hard to separate the looks from the personality—her ADHD energy is just too much for me. I like my queens dark and smoldering.

Sell: Ah, so you’re a Raven boy, then?

Lowder: Raven is good, but you know, I was thinking about it last night, and I’d kind of love to see Jujubee and Chad go at it for the final two (assuming these dumb teams get broken up next week). In that case, I’d probably lean toward Jujubee, but I like them both because I feel that they are take drag as a serious art. Both are intelligent, witty and seem to be connected to a deeper understanding of drag than some of the other “I wanna be cute” queens. Do you have a dream top-two in mind?

Sell: It didn’t even occur to me that they might break up the teams next week—I assumed that, once there was only one team left, Ru would throw two shivs up on stage and shout “TWO QUEENS ENTER, ONE QUEEN LEAVES!” But your match-up of Chad vs. Jujubee would be really compelling. Because if it’s Chad vs. Shannel in the end, Chad is the clear victor. And though I love both Raven and Jujubee, if it comes down to a final lip synch, well, as Rosie Perez put it, Juju “gives good mouth.”

Lowder: Haha (a la Ru’s laugh)! Yep, I think your sports-caster analysis is spot-on. Shannel is so whatever. We shall see, but the previews led me to believe that that could be the case. Now, I’m going to take what might be an unpopular position, but I could also do without the “celebrity” guest bio-queens. There was that forgettable one who didn’t want to get in drag (wtf?) and then Kelly Osbourne is just stealing the show left and right and not in a good way. How did you feel about all that?

Sell: Well, I didn’t care at all about the “celebrity” guests who were matched up with our queens (or who their more famous parents are), but: 1) I did really enjoy Kelly Osbourne’s enthusiasm and 2) I thought the overall girl-group challenge was FINALLY an appropriate one for this show (after so many flubs). And weirdly enough, I kind of dug the “girl-group” covers of Ru’s songs. Yes, Kady (yes, I think that’s the real spelling) was a sulking, shrinking violet. Jillian was fun, prompted that great conversation between Chad and Shannel, and despite her dancing skill, seemed utterly dead-eyed during the “Savage Sisters” performance. What were your thoughts on the challenge?

Lowder: I’m with you on that. Drag queens should be lip-synching. That’s what they’re for (mostly). So, yes, I was glad to see them showing that talent. Also, I know Ru pushes her albums like Joan Rivers on QVC, but I really, genuinely like them. In fact, I might argue (if you bought me a drink or three) that they are some of the best examples of dance pop of the past few years. An argument for another time, perhaps. In any case, it was definitely pleasing to see the queens take them on. Speaking of lip-synching, we finally saw THE BUTTON get PUSHED last night—in a complete and utter miscalculation on the part of Yara Sofia. Did it thrill you as much as it did me? The slow motion was divine…

Sell: Ha! I’ve been waiting for that moment ALL SEASON, but I was disappointed by the total lack of drama. I expected sirens and flashing lights, girl! It was a SHE-MERGENCY! But the truth is that Alexis wasn’t flailing about onstage, desperately in need of rescue. And I think Yara saw Raven slinking around the stage like a cat in heat, and she thought, “Surely, only I can subvert her sublime sexiness!” (Yara has quite a vocabulary… in her imagination.) But given that there were only about 20 seconds left in the song, Yara barely had time to strut to the rear of the stage before the challenge was over. You were thrilled, though?

Lowder: I was thrilled by the mere pushing, not the result—hopefully it will be used to greater effect in the future. And, you know what? I’ve also been thrilled by this conversation. You are as talented a chatter as you are an artist. Thanks for joining me!

Sell: Absolutely, my dear! And now I’m going to go untuck and sketch up a storm!

Later Today: What other writers and Slate commenters thought about Episode 4.