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!
Quick, do you think Divina de Campo could win this thing? She wants you to know that she can. That’s where we’re starting our episode, once the girls get back to the werkroom after Crystal’s elimination. Everyone’s still shook that the Vivienne had to lip-sync, but we don’t sit with that feeling long before Blu — who deserves a producer’s salary for the amount of drama she creates, and I say that admiringly — asks the Vivienne whom she would’ve picked for her girl group. She says her teammate Cheryl, noted Fan of Girl Groups … and then she’s stumped. Well, Divina, who promised she’d stand up for herself after she gave her Margaret Thatcher to Baga for the Snatch Game (and landed in the bottom for it, if you haven’t been keeping score), wants to know why she wasn’t first on anyone’s list. Honestly, after her performance last week, I do, too! “None of you seem to know that I fucking do this stuff,” she says. “Wake the fuck up. I have a shit ton of skills!”
As they’re de-dragging, the Vivienne makes the mistake of coming back over to Divina to finish the conversation. (“If you don’t have a very high opinion of my drag, fucking say it,” Divina is telling Blu and Cheryl as the Vivienne walks over, showing us why we watch reality television.) The Vivienne insists she was going to pick Divina next, but Divina doesn’t buy it. So the Vivienne pivots and says she’d only seen Divina wear “a red wig and a silver dress” over the ten years they’d known each other before the show. A definitive fight needs an iconic line, and that’s it right there, girls. Divina says she’s maybe worn that dress ten times ever (yet she knows the one …), and reminds us that she can sing in four and a half octaves, in five languages, while doing the splits, which I had forgotten she told us in the first episode. All our jaws are on the floor.
The perfect thing about it all? Those three minutes totally reoriented my allegiances, and I’m Team Divina now. Someone mail me a T-shirt! (No, really, can you?) I don’t come away from it with a bad taste about her because I believe her. If she’s campaigning for the crown based on her experience, I’m with her 100 percent, because the girl-groups challenge showed me she can deliver on that experience. And if the last episode didn’t do the Vivienne any favors in my eyes, she’s certainly not earning her way back into my graces with this either.
But anyway, this is a competition show, right? This week, we get the sort of silly, pointless mini-challenge involving hot men in underwear that we all live for. My words can’t adequately describe the viewing experience, so I won’t try. (But Brit Crew member No. 1 can show me his underwear anytime.) Divina wins, and she actually gets something for it: a video call with the one and only Katya!
Our main challenge this week strikes me as a bit odd: to create a marketing plan for a bottled-water brand, centering on a filmed commercial. But being a successful drag queen involves having a brand, RuPaul assures the contestants, and if anyone would know that, it’s the queen they named the show after.
RuPaul soon comes back, and Blu has pissed her pants, as she does every time RuPaul walks through that door. Most of Ru’s advice is the typical “find yourself” or “that sucks,” but the former is especially relevant to Cheryl after the Vivienne has told her she may want to give up the Essex bit this week to show some versatility. It’s a clear sabotage, which Cheryl somewhat sees, and Ru gets her on the right track. And Cheryl better be on the right track because Ru tells the girls that Girls Aloud icon Cheryl Cole will be guest-judging this week! Cheryl Hole’s jaw drops, and she tells us that she’s never met her namesake before. Maybe this’ll be what she needs to win a challenge!
A quick rundown of the filming: Blu confidently jerks off a water bottle, Cheryl films some shot where her finger comes in from the side of the screen, the Vivienne throws a baby, Divina puts everyone to sleep, and Baga eats a bunch of battered sausages. More importantly, Graham Norton should be the show’s go-to director from now on — he’s just too entertaining, from the nonchalant way he says action (it’s almost a question: “Action?”) to the slightly pained look on his face when he laughs.
Remember Divina’s prize? It happens after the main challenge, for some reason, but Katya actually surprises her in person! Even if this doesn’t make full sense, I’m totally here for it because Katya is my favorite drag queen ever and gives a star performance. (“Have you ever thought about taking antipsychotics?”) Give this woman a RuPeter badge! She also tells Divina what she gets paid to tell her, to rise above other people’s opinions.
Sometimes I feel silly for giving this show’s painting conversations such emphasis, since they can feel like the most rote part of the episode, but weeks like this remind me that it’s also one of the best opportunities for the queens and the show to use the platform. This week, the queens talk about the dangers of the club scene, like alcohol and drugs, and it’s big territory for the show to cover. The Vivienne reveals that she’s been sober, off hard drugs, for two years, and even if I’m not on her side as a competitor, I’m immensely proud of her as a person. She plugs a Liverpool LGBTQ health organization called the Armistead Centre, and I hope she’s pointed at least one viewer in the right direction.
The runway theme of “rainy day eleganza” is perfect, not just as an idea but for continuing the water motif. Consistency is key! It’s also wonderful in how it lets everyone show off their best drag: Divina pulls off a classic yellow raincoat to reveal a cinched black-and-yellow skirt; Cheryl wears a silver coat and boots fit for a pop star; Baga comes out with a duck inside a two-foot cone on her head; the Vivienne wears a rain cloud over her head, complete with wavy wet hair and a pale-blue face; and Blu lives a bubblegum rainy day fantasy with her shiny pink outfit. The whole thing is delicious.
Now, let’s factor in the commercials. Divina’s, about mermaids and plastic waste, is charmingly clever; Michelle may not be a fan of the jacket, but she’s a definite top. Cheryl — whose conversation with Cheryl will warm your cold, gay heart — clearly had fun in her ad, but the judges thought the dancing-party-girl bit got tired by the end and read her for her visible panties. Back to the bottom. Baga’s ad is entertainingly absurd, but she doesn’t fully hit the concept mark on either the challenge or the runway (she’s Cheryl Cole’s favorite, prompting a spat with Michelle), so she could finally see the bottom. The Vivienne’s comic Scouse housewife character makes the judges laugh the most, and as Graham smartly notes, shows a completely different side than her high-fashion runway. So we’re picking the winner of that fight in this week’s top. And even if Blu’s look gets praise from Michelle, she didn’t use enough of her prop resources to support her as the commercial started to lag — bottom.
Back in the werkroom, Divina feels vindicated, but all eyes quickly turn to Baga, who thinks she’ll have to lip-sync but admits that she doesn’t totally know the song. Reader, I gasped so hard I almost fell off my bed. She’s not a good lip-syncer, she insists (as if we’ve seen a good lip sync this season), so why even try? I didn’t think Baga got the worst critiques of the bunch, but she already seems ready to take her three badges and leave. This all bothers her friend the Vivienne, who tells Baga that she can’t go home like this and needs to practice — but when the camera cuts to Baga during the judges’ deliberations, she’s just sitting on the couch and sipping her drink. I’d say she should just walk out now, but we all know we want nothing more than to see someone totally throw a lip sync.
Let me give you a glimpse into the world of your humble recapper: I get most of the episodes a day early, but I don’t get to see Ru announce the winner or the lip sync until the show goes live the next day. Usually I have a good idea of the results before they’re announced, but this time, I’ve spent every waking moment of the 16 or so intervening hours in pain, wondering what will happen! If I haven’t spelled it out clearly enough yet: This is a simply fantastic episode of Drag Race U.K.
I guess I didn’t want to admit to myself that the Vivienne would grab the win, but she does, and I hate that it’s the right choice. Baga narrowly misses the bottom — I think because even if her ad didn’t fully make sense, it was clearly her ad. So Cheryl and Blu are lip-syncing to Cheryl Cole’s “Call My Name,” and you know who wins this one, right? Well, watch it anyway, or rewatch it if you’ve already seen it, because Cheryl Hole delivers the first great lip-sync performance of the season. There are pussy pops, duck walks, and death drops, and you can just tell she came into the song knowing exactly how she wanted to kill it. And it’s all at the expense of Blu Hydrangea, who turned from an easy-to-write-off shy girl to our favorite shady lady over the course of six episodes. Is there an open producer spot for her, maybe? Can one of the 27 new Drag Race shows hire her as showrunner?
I forgot to mention something in the beginning: I came in dreading this episode after I heard Ru was challenging the top-five queens to make a simple bottled-water advertisement. That’s two things not to underestimate again, just in time for next week’s beloved makeover challenge.