‘RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars 4’ serves a ‘LaLaPaRUza’ for the history books

Rupaul of "Rupaul's Drag Race: All Stars" is pictured for a season three promotional photo. (Via VH1)

Hey, material squirrels! After RuPaul suspended All-Star rules at the conclusion of Manila Luzon and Monét X Change’s double Lip Sync For Your Legacy victory following last week’s roast of Lady Bunny, we were treated to a major face crack as the queens re-entered the Werk Room. In a twist reminiscent of the “All-Stars 2” (2016), Lady Bunny appeared behind the mirror along with a cryptic message from none other than Ru herself. When our queens turned around, the eliminated queens were waiting, decked out in their fiercest funeral eleganza extravaganza. So began, as is now the custom for “All Stars” (2012–), the bring-back episode of “All Stars 4.”

At first, the queens make nice and go straight for hugs, but drama soon shimmies and sashays its way to the surface. Both Manila and Monét reveal that they had chosen to send Valentina home, which will surely fuel fans’ conspiracy theories that the producers have consistently been gunning for Valentina to snatch the crown. Trinity the Tuck wants all these girls to go right back where they came from. Farrah Moan and Valentina continue to butt heads in their feud that dates back to season nine. 

Latrice Royale has a bone to pick with Monique Heart, whom she feels made the choice to save her friend Monét in lieu of a fair elimination. This rings a little bit hollow, even coming from longtime fan-favorite Latrice, whom, lest we forget, BFF Manila had made no secret of her plans to save, and whose performance thus far had been lackluster by all accounts.

For her part, Monique, who has established herself as the undisputed queen of confessionals this season, dishes that she’s none too happy to see the eliminated queens back for blood. At this point in the competition, this recapper is inclined to agree. The six remaining queens, to this point, have clearly shown themselves to be a level ahead, and each of the eliminations thus far has felt justified. But this is “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and Mama Ru is BRINGING back our queens for a fresh injection of drama into “All Stars 4.” 

All will fall into place soon, and Ru soon sets everything straight in the Work Room. The format for this episode will be a “Lip Sync LaLaPaRUza,” and the eliminated queens will each choose one of the still-alive queens to take on in a one-shot, no-holds-barred lip-sync for your life of one of Ru’s songs, with the winner remaining in the competition and the loser sashaying away. By virtue of their challenge win last week, Manila and Monét are declared safe and will not have to lip-sync.

Back in the Werk Room, storylines began to take shape. Latrice makes it crystal clear that she is back for blood, and it is patently obvious that we are heading toward a final Latrice vs. Monique showdown at the episode’s conclusion. Trinity says that she is not worried, but Gia Gunn, pot-stirrer extraordinaire, says that she looks it. Gia later has a more humanizing conversation with Naomi Smalls, which allows the former to show a little vulnerability regarding her position as a transgender woman on Drag Race and gives Naomi some much-needed airtime. 

But in this LaLaPaRUza, Werk Room drama must take a backseat, and soon enough we are headed to the main stage, where Ru looks ravishing in a daringly short baby-blue and hot-pink latex-looking number. First up to lip-sync will be Jasmine Masters, in a whimsical stoned catsuit with a rose print. She was saddled with the last pick of opponents by virtue of being the first to sashay away, and will take on Trinity to the tune of “Peanut Butter.” It’s a perfect song for Trinity, who is clad in a revealing black getup, to showcase her assets (pun intended), and after a frankly underwhelming lip-sync, Trinity affirms her place in the competition. Jasmine thankfully shows us a fiercer side of her drag after her disastrous showing in the first episode, and she sashays away with her head held high.

The next lip-sync pits Valentina against Farrah to “Kitty Girl,” and it follows a similar arc. Farrah looks jaw-droppingly stunning in her trademark pink, and she gives us a more commanding presence onstage than we’ve previously seen from her. Valentina’s asymmetrical red jumpsuit look is tailor-made for dancing. She oozes sex appeal, playing up the feline lyrics of the song and matching Farrah move for move. It’s an improvement over the previous lip-sync, and in the end Valentina deservedly remains in the running. Farrah is able to depart with grace, and the two share a conciliatory hug.

Though we’ve been building towards the inevitable Latrice vs Monique face-off, the third lip-sync of the night is this recapper’s pick for the best of the night. Gia Gunn clashes with Naomi Smalls in a lip sync of “Adrenaline.” Gia comes out flying, voguing, dropping, hair whipping and prancing with the determination of a woman possessed. Despite Gia’s valiant efforts, this lip-sync will go down in history as the moment when Naomi Smalls showed UP on “All Stars 4.” Wearing her trademark next-to-nothing, Naomi truly rocks “Adrenaline,” making use of her signature poses and, in the words of Detox, “pissing all over the runway” with a death-defying back bend. When the music comes to a stop, Naomi has not only secured her place in the competition, but also transcended her record of middling performances thus far and established herself as a front-runner. Gia, similarly, is able to sashay away proudly and with magnanimity, despite being cast (unfairly, some have charged) as the season’s villain early on.

Now, in the words of Monique herself, we are treated to “the gay super bowl,” the final battle royale extravangaza between Monique the eliminator and Latrice the eliminated, to the music stylings of “Sissy That Walk.” Latrice and Monique both gag us with two wig-under-wig reveals, jumping splits and twirls, matching each other’s energy at each and every step. Both queens are a picture of ferocity, and the decision is neck-and-neck from beginning to end. With bated breath, we await Ru’s decision as the music fades out. Ru turns to Latrice, and our favorite “chunky, yet funky” queen is welcomed back into the competition. Simultaneously, our hearts sink for Monique Heart, who has well and truly brought it to “All Stars 4.” That is, until Ru turns to Monique and utters the saving “Shantay, you stay,” causing our queen to collapse to the floor in relief.

So we are left, six episodes in, with seven of our ten queens still in the competition. While some fans will cry foul at the blatant manipulation of the season for dramatic effect, the absolute drama served up in this week’s lip-sync LaLaPaRUza should silence the majority of these gripes. RuPaul may be drunk on his own power at this point, and there is certainly an argument that the drama has begun to overshadow the show’s stated mission of bringing the art of drag to a wider audience. When we see Latrice Royale hit that stage, however, all this recapper can think is, “This is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ dammit, and it’s the best reality show on television.”