Canada’s Drag Race
It’s the gag of the century, or at the very least the gag of the current financial quarter! Anastarzia Anaquway, gone too soon, left the most pointed lipstick mirror message in Drag Race herstory by leaving no message at all. You know what that baby fur stole in Bambi said about “if you can’t say something nice…” Robbed of a dramatic Windex moment, Tynomi says in her confessional: “Girl, that was a cunt move.” And darned if we don’t respect the hell out of it. Priyanka notes that the Toronto girls, who think they’re suuuuuch haute shit, are dropping like flies, immediately raising the stakes for me and every other Torontonian viewer (#TeamJimbo though). Then, to smooth over last week’s drama, BoBo and BOA made like a fifth-grader who lost their Gary Paulsen reading assignment at the bottom of a messy locker: They buried the Hatchet. Too much of a stretch? Just wait until you see this week’s judging!
It’s a new day in the workroom, and Rita Baga is feeling sous-titres, baby. The gals use their Deadpool fourth-wall-breaking powers to summon a flashback to some unseen footage from last week’s judging, when Brooke Lynn apparently gave Tynomi a “final warning” to be fiercer after putting her in the bottom twice. Tynomi Banks is thee name in Toronto drag, which itself is thee name in Canadian drag, and she hasn’t managed to let that shine through on the show, yet. It’s a tale as old as time: successful, talented drag queens not turning out to be great Drag Race contestants. But unlike watching, say, Brita, Tynomi never comes across as bitter or overly hubristic; her personality is hilarious and fun in her confessionals and kind and engaged in the werkroom, but something hasn’t clicked yet.
Then, the girls are “saved by the siren” (is that a thing? Is it like Canadian Saved by the Bell? Isn’t that just Degrassi?) to introduce their mini challenge: a memory/matching game with Pit Crews, undies, and bulges, which you might remember from season five when it went by the name “Whatcha Packin?” The internet collectively patted Canada’s Drag Race on the back for celebrating body diversity by having literally one out of ten pit crew members have a li’l bit of a tummy; it’s both the bare minimum and more than anything Drag Race Original Flavor has ever done. I personally patted Canada’s Drag Race on the back for adding a little “bloop!” sound effect every time a Pit Crew member dropped trou and their bulge sprung out. Bloop! Jimbo wins the mini challenge, which gets him a stay at the beautiful, exotic Hilton Toronto. He could’ve crashed on half this cast’s couch, but sure! You get that minibar in-room credit, Jimbo!
For the maxi challenge, the gals will have to make “fashion houses” with a “cohesive line” of three outfits made entirely out of recyclable materials. Yes, it’s another design challenge. Jimbo assigns paper to team Jimbo/Ilona/Tynomi, plastic to team Kiara/Rita/Scarlett, and metal to team Lemon/Priyanka/BOA. Stacey tells them they’ll be guest judged by a designer named Biddell, or that the winning team will get a designer bidet. I wasn’t really paying attention.
A common refrain from disgruntled Drag Race alumni trapped in the World of Wonder basement to host YouTube shows where they comment on current Drag Race seasons: The least you can do before getting on Drag Race is take a sewing class. These girls have had over a decade to know what the show’s format is; they’re bound to face a sewing challenge, often in the very first episode, and again during a Ball. “I’m not a damn seamstress” doesn’t work as an excuse anymore. Learn how to thread a needle. Even so, the combination of no sewing ability and very difficult materials really throws a lot of the gals. Scarlett and Kiara self-identify as glue gun queens, Lemon’s eyeing some rose-gold mesh, and Priyanka is whipping a bunch of scrap metal around, asking, “How do we put these things on our bodies?”
Team Paper, meanwhile, begins to drive the main action of this episode. Jimbo chose paper for her team because it’s the most workable, and already it’s got Tynomi and Ilona working. They’re obsessed with a concept called “sherbet showgirls,” which seems to give Jimbo inspiration to go ahead and start designing an ice-cream-queen paper tulle number made up of cones and rosettes. Jimbo’s a costume designer, and her concept sketch looks beautiful, but it throws Ilona and Tynomi off, because it’s not “showgirl” enough for “sherbet showgirls,” despite being, in my estimation, more than “sherbet” enough to go along with the narrative. “That looks like some Art Pop bullshit, Jimbo,” says Ilona, while eyeing an objectively very pretty drawing. But Ilona and Tynomi want to stay literal with it, so pivot from “showgirls” to “knights.” Fine. And instead of spending time building those concepts out so that they can be sickeningly dripping with paper sherbet, the two kind of start Statler and Waldorf-ing all the other girls in the werkroom. (To be fair, they’ve got a lot of material to work with; there’s a solid few minutes of footage of the girls just playing with garbage.)
Before the runway, Stacey Mackenzie sees each group for a supermodel strutting lesson on the catwalk. Team Paper has called themselves Maison du Papier. Watching Jimbo try to do a fierce, serious runway walk is adorable, like Bambi on ice, or like me trying to shove two Bambi references into one recap. Metal has called themselves House of Rust, and Priyanka is an A-plud student at looking Skinny, Tall, and Hot, and Stacey’s overjoyed. Plastic has called themselves Maison Boraga, because it’s a combination of the three of their names and BoBo thinks it “sounds expensive.” Watching with a friend, they commented that Stacey’s energy is so different from Ru’s: She’s also funny and quick with a pun, but she’s warm, constructive, and engaged with the contestants in a way that’s very refreshing.
On elimination day, Rita does a rarefied hat reveal to show that she shaved her head for the challenge. Scarlett BoBo tearfully talks about recently losing her drag mother Ginette BoBo, and about how she has now inherited some drag children. Ilona talks about being a popular girl. Then it’s off to the runway to show off their recycled material fashion lines for designer Biddell, or to win a designer bidet.
First up is Boraga, whose looks all resemble cut-up IKEA bags with plastic netting on top, but who sell it with their confidence and some pretty interesting face paint/makeup/body paint. Then comes the House of Rust, who are all very shiny and have good stage presence and hold up these little broken umbrella things to make things extra scrappy. Finally, there’s Maison du Papier, and the paper knights-slash-sherbet-slash-showgirls we heard so much about. Personally, I think Ilona’s anime “magical girl fantasy” knight look is fun and cute, with enough details — the darting on the breastplate, the sparkly conical shoulder caps — to land her on my personal “safe” list. Tynomi is wearing a less -done version of the same look: construction paper without any transformation. Last up is Jimbo, queen of the evening in an impressive hooped gown that resembles the Midsommar dress and an intricately latticed ice-cream-cone crown. When it’s time for the judges’ critiques and the camera shows all nine queens lined up in a row, Jimbo’s look becomes all the more impressive in contrast.
One point of contention that Trixie and Katya noted in their review of the first episode of Canada’s Drag Race is that most of these queens don’t seem to pad; a lot of the looks in this challenge would have been elevated by breastplates and curves, if you ask me. But Michelle Visage isn’t here to judge them and the issue doesn’t come up. Instead, the judges grant the win to Team Boraga, and to Rita, specifically, marking the second questionable Rita win. And to be clear, again, I love Rita. I already thought she was a top-three shoo-in before this second win, and now it seems all but guaranteed. Moving on to metal, the judges continue to see something in BOA that’s frankly just not translating across my screen; her makeup was sickening but the look was a bit undercooked: naked man bod on top, Balloon Boy Kevlar diaper on bottom. Priyanka receives effusive praise from the judges — they loved her supermodel stage presence and runway walk — and not one critique of how her outfit looks semi-objectively like the worst one out of the nine. They think she’s hunched over because it’s fashion; I know she’s hunched over because she sewed that dress wrong and it would split open if she stood upright. And then the judges don’t say it, but Lemon needs a new wig; that wig was Party City out-of-the-bag $5.99 witch. No.
Finally, the judges basically wipe their tuchuses with Maison du Papier, because boy did they not like Paper’s looks. They call the knight outfits “costumey,” and express dismay at Ilona’s made-out-of-garbage look this week being such a step down from her “commissioned for hundreds of dollars probably” look last week. It’s a critique that’s just deeply invalid, and refuses to meet Ilona’s outfit on the grounds she was aiming for — grounds which I think she personally stomped on as well as any of the other girls on any of the other teams. In contrast to Ilona’s, which the judges already don’t like, they especially dislike Tynomi’s look, although they praise her hair and makeup. Tynomi just looks totally defeated at this point; she thought she was recovering from her stint in the bottom, only to receive unduly harsh critiques compared to the stage full of garbage-y looks. Sure, it was boxy and costumey and Lego-y, but was it a more poorly constructed garment than Priyanka’s or Kiara’s? Or did you just like theirs because they have rail thin figures that “read” as model? I believed in you, Canada’s Drag Race! You had that one Pit Crew guy with the li’l chubby tummy, like, 20 minutes ago! (Also, it’s not like Tynomi doesn’t also look like a goddamn model. She does. But not in this outfit. Okay, maybe I see the judges’ point.)
And then there’s the Jimbo problem: I don’t know what was in Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman’s guyliner this week (it’s very Antoni chic), but he is mean. And not like fun mean, but like Santino Rice mean. Mean in a way that made the show a bit less enjoyable to watch. The judges find so many bones to pick with Jimbo’s look, far more than any of the critiques they had for House of Rust. They keep saying the gown clearly took a lot of effort and time, which feels like a half-compliment and a half-loaded judgment (the end of that sentence is “… but it wasn’t worth it.”) They don’t like that Jimbo only powdered her face white and not her body, even though Jimbo explains the Marie Antoinette intention. (For reference of what Jimbo was going for, see Raja’s Marie Antoinette on season three. A cultural shift.) When Jimbo says she didn’t have time to paint the rest of her body, Jeffrey says, “I hear you girl, but everyone has the same amount of time. Use it better, maybe,” with the meanest, most vicious squint that it felt like bullying. Line these nine girls up in a row with their outfits made out of literal garbage, and tell me Jimbo didn’t use her time the best, Jeffrey. Look me in the eye and tell me that, Jeffrey. The judging in this episode feels weirdly like gaslighting the audience, so convinced the judges are of their own opinions, despite not resonating at all with the footage the audience sees.
Back in Untucked Lite, Team Boraga are theorizing Tynomi will finally be safe. How wrong they are. When the other queens join them, Tynomi looks so sad and defeated that it is legitimately upsetting to watch, and Ilona and Jimbo get into a squabble about how much air Ilona sucks out of the room. Jimbo is Tammie Brown–adjacent in so many ways, and this mini fight shows that the arty queen has some of Tammie’s edge and sass.
We already know this production is probably filming in a warehouse in the middle of Canadian winter, but Jimbo is literally shivering back on the mainstage, and shame on the judges for making her this nervous and jittery on an episode where she should have been an easy top or safe. The judges put Tynomi and Ilona in the bottom, pitting team member against team member, and knight against knight. Ilona is sobbing on the mainstage at this point, and Tynomi is determined. The song is “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne, which is such a hilarious song for a Lip Sync for Your Life. It’s about as hard rock as lip syncs get, and the candy-colored sherbet warriors joust with each other by means of sass, air guitar, and turning their entire paper costumes into pom-poms. Nothing but respect for my Medieval Times dinner theater.
The third time is not the charm for Tynomi Banks, and the judges tell her to sashay, bidet. Jimbo’s pale-faced, drop-jawed look of shock in the background says it all. The queen to beat has left the building.
• “Toronto, Toronto, so self-centered.” —Rita Baga is coming for these girls and for my whole personality.
• “Sorry to interrupt, but this is not Toronto’s Drag Race.” —Rita again!
• “I’m craving baked potato.” —Stacey eyeing a Pit Crew guy’s bulge in a silver thong.
• Priyanka, putting a metal cone over her head: “Am I couture?”
Lemon: “You’re co-torn, bitch.” These two are my absolute favorite pairing of the season. Real Sasha-and-Shea straight-A student vibes.