Tuning in to watch the RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars finale Thursday night should have been one of the closest races in the show’s history, but online voting has been so disproportionately in favor of Katya Zamolodchikova — the absurdist Russian Communist hooker — that full-on social media mutiny might take place if anyone else takes the crown.
Then again, give it a few weeks, and even those who were threatening to self-immolate if Katya wasn’t named the winner of All Stars at the finale will be writing off her win. Just watch, the online RuPaul’s Drag Race fan base — where the most rabid of die hards can be found — is a fickle beast with a reputation for rallying behind the underdog.
That’s not necessarily to say the blame is on those watching. All Stars 2 was a masterclass in a reality TV storytelling. As the season inched closer to the finale, it was abundantly clear why the assembled group of queens were chosen. Talented Drag Race queens who never managed to connect with viewers like Coco Montrese and Ginger Minj were clearly handpicked to go home first — especially in the case of the latter, who was ushered out after giving possibly the best performance of the week as Catherine the Great in RuPaul’s HERstory of the world musical.
More importantly, RuPaul and her team were sure to bring back guaranteed sources of backstage cat fighting for All Stars 2: namely Season 4’s Phi Phi O’Hara and the Rolaskatox trio that Season 5 winner Jinkx Monsoon triumphed over. Both of these storylines were the kind of buzzworthy drama that many fans online lamented the lack of in Seasons 7 and 8, and producers undoubtedly hoped to repeat the visceral hatred many felt for those Drag Race queens when they watched them years ago.
— RuPaul’s Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) October 12, 2016
Take a look at any online presence those queens have, and you’ll see that the powers that be at Drag Race got the backlash they wanted. Phi Phi started churning out such furious comments about her edit on All Stars that RuPaul herself blocked her on Twitter — not to mention devastatingly shaded her by mocking her pleas that her behavior was the result of smoke and mirrors. O’Hara later went to the press to reveal the — absolutely shocking! — news that what we watch on reality TV is manipulated behind the scenes for the sake of a storyline.
Though Phi Phi sought to redeem herself on All Stars, her behavior and the public response essentially mirrored what happened the first time around. The same could be said for Alaska Thunderf**k, Detox iC**t, and Roxxxy Andrews — or Rolaskatox — who again find themselves, in the words of Alaska, pitted “against a lovable weirdo.” If online voting is any indication, they’re about to lose to one again, too — Katya has around nine times the number of votes that Alaska does on Twitter.
— RuPaul’s Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) October 10, 2016
— RuPaul’s Drag Race (@RuPaulsDragRace) October 10, 2016
Being in the top two on three separate occasions but never managing to win the lipsync makes Katya the perfect underdog, almost to the point that it could have easily been hatched by producers familiar with the psychology that takes place when you watch Drag Race. To varying degrees, fans decried her lipsync losses every time — instead seeing Alaska steamroll over her twice. Because she hasn’t been portrayed as a conquerer, she makes for the perfect winner, beloved for her vulnerability — something that has come at the cost of not winning as often as she probably should have.
That might strike some as unfair considering Alaska has managed to win four challenges. It’s not like she came into the competition as the favorite to win for nothing — she dwarfs the number of followers Katya has on Twitter by more than 80,000. Of course, it’s not just the raw stats that point to a win for Alaska. On Snatch Game, she delivered a flawless Mae West that even outshined Katya’s quirky Bjork. Two episodes later, she rolled out a Bette Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? that sounded like she’d been honing it for months. If she loses tomorrow it has to essentially hinge on two things: One being her subpar performance in the makeover challenge, and the other being the outsized temper tantrum she threw afterward that culminated in her offering a $10,000 bribe to whomever chose not to eliminate her.
In kind to the vicious hatred she’s received for eliminating fan favorites and her temper tantrum, she’s responded with what is quite possibly the most graceful Drag Race clapback ever, on All Stars or otherwise. While she could have gone into the finale knowing a lot of people were ready to watch her lose, she used her hilarious online presence to remind people why they love Alaska in the first place. She even donated that so-called $10,000 bribe to a center for transgender youth.
It’s the exact kind of narrative arc that RuPaul’s Drag Race that has been simmering all season long, slowly leaving us wanting to watch Katya take the crown because she’s less tarnished at this point, largely because of the fact that members of Rolasktox have saved one of their members from a deserved elimination three weeks in a row. With a target on her back and a huge gap in her online support compared to Katya, we’re likely to watch Alaska come in second again, despite the fact that her track record looks this this:
That’s not to say it’s a complaint that we’re watching RuPaul’s Drag Race turn out this like this. People seem to forget that All Stars without a plot probably wouldn’t have managed to land the kind of ratings and press the show has garnered. RuPaul didn’t just win an Emmy because her show is about drag queens sitting around singing “Kum Ba Yah,” but because she’s expertly woven together the cattiness of Real Housewives, the wow-factor showmanship of Face Off, and most importantly, the heart of prime trash TV like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. This latest season gave us all of that in spades, but it’s a shame that Alaska is about to lose out on the crown because it was so flawlessly executed.
Are you going to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars finale online Thursday? Who are you hoping to see take the crown?
[Featured Image by Jeff Spicer and Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]