RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.
Programming note: Vulture Drag Race U.K. recaps post after the episode’s BBC presentation, which streams simultaneously in the U.S. via WOW Presents Plus. Each episode will then air on Logo the following Friday. So U.S. viewers waiting to watch via Logo, consider this your spoiler warning, henny!
How many predictable English cultural references will we have to endure at the hands of RuPaul? Judging by this week’s main challenge, as many as she can fit into eight episodes! It’s the first acting challenge, and as if it could be anything else, the queens will be acting in properly British Downton Abbey parodies. I just hope Maggie Smith skipped her watch party this week.
When the queens return from the lip-sync, they’re shook by the first elimination. “It’s just so weird that someone’s already gone home,” Scaredy says in a confessional. Has she never seen an episode of Drag Race, either? But we quickly move on from mourning Gothy (as quickly as she’s gotten over the show) to learn that the Vivienne has something against Cheryl. She’s from Essex, right? I don’t know how these queens have had the time to form opinions about each other when I’m still pairing names with faces, but let’s go with it, because this episode needs a narrative. At least we get commentary on the situation from Baga, clad in her iconic yellow Big Bird coat — consider this her audition tape to be this season’s narrator.
This mini-challenge, in which the Vivienne lines up the girls from strongest to weakest, is fairly pointless, except for that her bottom, Scaredy Kat, becomes the other team captain for the maxi. Then everyone’s gym class nightmares flash before their eyes because we’re picking teams! The Vivienne gets Vinegar and Baga, whom she ranked No. 2 and No. 3, along with Sum Ting, while Scaredy goes for the twinks and veteran actor Divina. It’s an arrangement that looks lopsided to me, but at the same time, let he who hasn’t gone for the twinks throw the first stone.
And finally, we see these girls work it in the werkroom! Although it feels fairly uneventful — there’s none of the usual drama over role assignments or an unwanted teammate. (To paraphrase the words of Scaredy: “I picked my role [as a Drag Race U.K. recapper] because I felt like it would be quite easy to be a whiny bitch.”) I just want to know where these queens picked up their assumptions about who’s under the radar and who’s a threat. We’ve had one challenge, girls! Counting is what? (Fundamental!)
The girls walk on set, and there’s Michelle, looking intimidating in her director’s chair, ready to be snubbed of yet another Emmy for her star directing on these acting challenges. (Did you see her Cabaret quickstep on Strictly? Nines, nines, nines, almost across the board!) The Vivienne is back in her old-woman makeup, serving Maggie Smith realness, and I could watch her use this in every challenge and never get tired of it. Baga, meanwhile, is forgetting her lines right and left, but she’s also channelling Miss Vanjie herself as the Cookie Monster dad in Good God Girl, Get Out and making me cackle. In fact, half the queens on both teams are forgetting their lines, and/or royally botching their accents. Sum Ting Wong cycles through five different American accents, while Canadian Crystal, a U.K. resident, can’t do a British accent to save her life. At least we get to watch Divina slap Scaredy multiple times. It’s honestly cinematic.
Emotions are high as we get ready for the runway: Blu and Sum Ting worry about their performances (as they should), Cheryl talks about Blu, the Vivienne talks about Cheryl, Vinegar asks Scaredy if she’s out to her family as bi — what, wait, let’s rewind! Did the queens know Scaredy was bi all along, or did that clarification come off camera? No matter now, it’s out there! Scaredy says her family doesn’t know, and as Vinegar bonds with her about the difficulties of coming out, their sweet mother-daughter relationship starts to blossom. Sum Ting shares that she’s not out to her first-generation Chinese-British family either, and although we go through this conversation every season, it’s still honest.
But wipe away your tears, because Graham Norton and Maisie Williams are here! This week’s runway is “Bond Girl Glamorama,” but if you gave me those nine looks and told me to pick a theme, I’d say it was a free week. Not everything has to be about the U.K., Ru! Sum Ting Wong stands out for playing it sexy, Baga delivers an on-point “Laser Minelli” look, and Scaredy continues to give us the most story out of any of the queens on the runway as Kitty Rouge, a cheeky pilot with a French accent who loves “to partake in long, hard sexual intercourse.” Noted!
There’s no question that Team Vivienne has won the challenge once we’ve seen both the clips — the Vivienne and Vinegar’s natural chemistry, along with Baga being Baga, is more than enough to make up for all the notes Sum Ting can’t hit as Lady Carey. (When’s that singing challenge?) Ru confirms that, and Baga Chipz, in the top for the second time, is the winner! Enjoy your badge — wear it with pride! (And by that I mean sell it, like The Vivienne joked that she would do after the show. Get your coin!)
On Team Scaredy, there are three queens who have to worry. Crystal ekes by on the strength of her self-made leather dominatrix look (with a whip that scared poor Maisie Williams, and probably would’ve scared me too) and upward turn in the middle of the clip, and Divina clearly stole every scene she was in because every scene was just sitting there, unprotected, like the rest of the team wouldn’t miss it if it got stolen. That leaves Cheryl, who didn’t take her dowager countess role anywhere, Scaredy, whose whining felt like one droning note and who Michelle reads for continuing to paint her face like a cat, and Blu, who you probably forgot was on this team because she faded so deeply into the background.
This all makes for some untucking drama! It’s classic dramatic irony when Cheryl walks in as Sum Ting is saying she’s in the bottom, and after Cheryl is informed, it quickly turns into a pile-on. The queens don’t feel like Cheryl is being herself, not even Mama Vinegar, who knows Cheryl from some drag scene between East London and Essex. In the confessional, Cheryl reassures herself that everyone is “switching it on” for the cameras, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Of all the queens, Cheryl feels like one of the least defined to me — had she not been from Essex, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about her. Not to mention, Blu is crying because she feels alone among the girls and Scaredy is threatening to shit herself again. Do you remember why you watch this show?
I’m a bit shocked that Ru pits Scaredy against Blu in the lip-sync; after all, it’s Cheryl’s second week in the bottom. But once that match is set, and Scaredy reminds us that it’s her first-ever drag performance, I’m shitting myself too. She doesn’t do too terribly, and Blu doesn’t particularly shine either (it’s largely a waste of “Venus” by Bananarama), but by the end it’s clear — baby, Scaredy doesn’t got it. It’s a choice I disagree with, primarily based on the sheer fun of her look, but I guess this is what happens when you come on Drag Race having never performed. But I’m proud of Scaredy! I hope she keeps doing drag for a long time, and I’m so glad she showed these queens that, as she said, “you don’t have to be gay to do drag.” So much for my hopes of a Kitty Rouge reappearance, though!
Across the Pond
• It almost happens too soon: In that thing that I guess we’re calling a mini-challenge, Ru asks the girls what a tuppence is. Thank God she asked, or else I would’ve had to keep pretending to know for the sake of writing a credible recap! “A tuppence is an old two-pence,” one of the girls informs her. Or, alternately, “A tuppence is your vagina!”
• When the Vivienne is shading Cheryl as she paints, she mentions that Cheryl says things like “yaaass,” which U.K. queens apparently don’t do. Is it more like an “oi, guv’nah!”? (I had to.)