Canada’s Drag Race
“She’s crowning! She’s crowning!” — Delivery-room nurses, and me, yelling at the TV when this episode began with Ru actually saying the names of the top-three contestants.
We’ve made it through the wilderness, we’ve roughed it in the bush, and we’ve followed the moose tracks to the end of the trail: It’s the finale of Canada’s Drag Race season one. Priyanka kicks off the finale by literally kicking off her horrible paper train from last week’s ball and saying good-bye to Jimbo, “a literal creature from outer space brought here to entertain the masses.” It’s time for the top three to make like Governor Cuomo wearing one of his good TV suits and recap the stats. Rita has the most wins, but she’s also been in the bottom a lot toward the end of the season. Scarlett BoBo has never been in the bottom and is coming off a late-season ball win. Priyanka has had more ups and downs than a CN Tower elevator, but like a CN Tower elevator, people would happily pay $39 CAD admission for her. The girls de-drag, Rita says, “The crown deserves to be in Montreal,” and I finally understand what giving a shit about a hockey rivalry feels like.
Brooke Lynn Hytes tells the top three that their maxi-challenge is, in latter-day Drag Race fashion, to write and record verses to a remix of a RuPaul song (“U Wear It Well”) and perform it on the main stage. Scarlett saying “My strategy for writing lyrics is to write some fun upbeat lyrics” really sums up why Scarlett is, comment dit-on, “pas pour moi.” Scarlett BoBo, repeatedly referred to as “punk,” is punk in the way Debby Ryan in Radio Rebel is punk. BoBo is punk if a Real Housewife getting some fresh JuvaDerm done before hosting Big Apple Circus is punk. I love and appreciate her polish and talent, but if her “thing” is being punk, the way Rita’s “thing” is being French Canadian, then I just don’t think she’s enough of the thing she’s aiming to be. BoBo and Priyanka are worried, because Rita Baga is a sing-stress, and not only that, but the lyrics she writes tend to turn into prophecies, as Rita pointed out when all of the competing team from the girl-group challenge didn’t make it to the top three.
And they have good reason to be worried. One by one, the queens join producer Ralph to record their verses, and Rita pulls off three-part harmonies. Scarlett BoBo, meanwhile, is full-tone deaf. Ralph tries to get Scar to match her note, and when she asks her sound tech, “What note is he singing?” The answer is “Not.”
The queens also individually join Jeffrey and Phantom of the Soundstage Traci Melchor for their exit interviews with nary a podcast microphone or Tic-Tac in sight. Just Canadian media personalities living in the moment. Scarlett BoBo movingly, candidly talks about her relationship with her mother, her tough childhood, and how “drag was the only thing that made me feel like I took up space in the world.” Jeffrey says something about “manifesting,” and my mind wandered to Katie Holmes’s new The Secret movie. I wonder if I can torrent it? Rita wears an outfit to this segment that reads on television as “psychotic” but would read on the streets of Montreal as “fashion” (scroll to “Stand-Oots” for more on this). After Scarlett spoke about growing up in an abusive household, Rita’s reluctance to open up is really thrown into relief. It sums up why it’s been hard to root for Rita as a winner despite her phenomenal track record and excellent drag: She’s very aloof for a reality competition series about drag queens. She’s aware of this and speaks about this distance/introversion as part of her struggle, and she even tries to tie it into her narrative on the runway (coming up). But Drag Race benefits from cartwheels, clownery, and confessionals. Speaking of which … Priyanka is in her element in this interview segment, because she really is the queen of the sound bite. She talks about how she has integrated Priyanka as a third-person character into her identity, saying she used to call herself “the Hannah Montana of Canada,” because her daytime kids’ TV gig was kept so separate from her drag. Pri has so much to say during this segment she leads her own interview; Jeffrey doesn’t get a word in edgewise.
The choreography with Hollywood Jade segment complicates this episode’s narrative: Yes, Rita can sing, but she’s struggling keeping up. Brooke Lynn Hytes is there to watch everyone’s progress, in a sweatsuit that looks like she bought it out of a Brighton Beach mobster’s car trunk. I also must appreciate how Hollywood Jade counts out beats by going “ti ti ti ti tee tee ta” instead of “5, 6, 7, 8.” Do dancers do this? I love it! I’ve been saying “ti ti ta ta teee …” out loud all day as I count my steps back and forth from my bed to my fridge.
On Canada’s Drag Race, they all refer to the crowning as the “coronation,” which, has Drag Race always called it coronation? It sounds particularly Commonwealth-y. In the makeup mirror, the queens take a trip down memory lane, doing my recap job for me. Priyanka tells BoBo that she’s going to go “get those All-Stars lips” after the show, which is a great little read on multiple levels: It makes fun of how much work returning queens get, it points out how plumped Scarlett already is, and it implies that she’s not going to win.
They couldn’t get RuPaul to leave the ranch for the finale, but that’s okay, because we have the next best thing: Canada’s squirrelfriend, Traci Melchor! What a special, unique guest for the coronation! Her line delivery on the mainstage is extremely from the “I’m Maria Menounos and thanks for watching Noovie” school of elocution, and I’m not complaining because I miss the movies. All of the judges/hosts/High Counsel of Judgmental Priestesses/whatever we’re calling them look beautiful, even though I wish we didn’t cut away to them for reaction shots at all during “U Wear It Well” because it is sooooooooo fucking good, I didn’t want to take my eyes off the queens. The choreo. The verses. The costumes. The back-up dancers in their leather harnesses. It may be blasphemous to even breathe its name in the presence of another, but this number approaches “Read U Wrote U” levels. Priyanka immediately has me by being the only one to lip-sync to the chorus, so as a viewer my eyes keep going to her. Her punchy “QUESTION what was the name of the queen… ANSWER you know who it’s gonna be” lyrics are, like the best Drag Race verses, really fun to sing along to. The Miss Cleo “Call Me Now!” sums up what we love about Pri: No matter how much she self-deprecates she cannot help but be fierce, it is in her blood. She was simply born sexy. Scarlett eats the stage on her verse, flippin’ and dippin’ and stompin’ all over. When she switches up the tempo and goes “War paint on and I’m battle ready…” I left my own body a little bit in a good way. Rita has the least choreo of the three, but she looks gorgeous, sounds divine, and has a great laugh-out-loud moment when she says she came to “unite and con-queer.”
The runway category is “Coronation Eleganza,” a.k.a. best drag. Rita goes full body-paint green alien, “serving green relish fantasy from outer space,” because this girl cannot resist a hot dog. Her hair is serving Mom from Futurama (sorry to say she’s coming for your gig, Jinkx Monsoon), but the detailing on this iridescent dark-opal alien suit, and the beautiful makeup work, is gorgeous and eye-catching. I cannot look away from this Princess Fiona fantasy. Scarlett is serving s-sour candy in her black gown with hot pink lining. A beautiful garment, ruined once more by Scarlett sticking her tongue out and putting up rock-and-roll hands. 🤘😜🤘 My only note for Priyanka is oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttchhhhhhh. She looks like a winna baby in a sari done smartly in Canadian red and white, representing her “Indo-Caribbean, West Indian” heritage and fans. She says in her voice-over, “That’s the reason why I make you scream my name all the time: To make you remember that a girl named Priyanka can be successful.”
After final critiques, which are really just final compliments, the judges ask the “Why should you be crowned?” question. Rita says she has the best track record, and tells some story about how she’s an “alien,” a narrative that she really only just started pushing 20 minutes ago on her “U Wear It Well” verse, but okay. Scarlett talks about being inspirational to young queers and may be the first person to say “AMAB” and “AFAB” on a Drag Race stage?
For Funtucked Kindergarten Graduation, the top three have a surprise: All of the past queens from this season are waiting for them in their best drag to talk shit and rehash some taters left unhashed. The top three get right to the point, giving the others the business, in a real reversal of the dynamic I was expecting from past Ru-turns of the queens. They straight-up tell Kyne that “we made you the villain of the season” and ask her point blank, “Were you being a bitch for television?” Kyne stonily responds that she didn’t even know she was being bitchy, only truthful and confident, and it’s a real sign of how nice as a whole this cast was that Kyne was the notably villainous one. Also, Tynomi is dismayed that Pri did Miss Cleo for Snatch Game, because her Jamaican accent is terrible. Also-also, Juice Boxx has a nice tearful moment where she’s told she’s loved and talented even though she was the first out.
Then, all of this season’s queens get to walk the runway in order of elimination. Anastarzia is a standout and brought her own crown because she knows her early elimination was bull. Lemon is refined, and the judges looked so happy to see her. And Jimbo is a big gay piñata with a court jester reveal. When will Jimbo and Crystal Methyd meet up and combine their powers? That’s what I’d like to know. The top three return in their Best Drag and act soooooo surprised when they’re told they’re going to three-way lip-sync for the crown. Is this not how it’s done? Was it a stage direction? Does Scarlett BoBo really need to point out for a 15th time that she’s the only one who hasn’t lip-synced yet?
The song is “You’re a Superstar,” by Love Inc., which is such a fabulous, blissful, Canadian ’90s clubby house-music pick. Rita has an otherworldly glow under the lights, and she reveals a pantsuit. Scarlett BoBo is getting athletic on the stage, kicking and twirling, with a bodysuit reveal. When she slides across the stage, even I felt her rock-star fantasy. (Oh, and of course Jimbo’s in the background bopping along.) But Priyanka has something the other two don’t: She is expressive. She connects. She can switch from comedy — twirling a long braid, shaking her booty — to real sincerity. She feels the song and projects it out to the judges and the audience. I’m proud of Scarlett for really shining in the final challenge and lip-sync. I wish Rita worked for it a bit more in this LSFYL. Brooke Lynn Hytes announces the winner in a truly perfect finale moment, saying, “What’s her name?” Love Priyanka’s branding paying off from the get-go! Love that the scepter matched her dress! Love that everyone shouted her name out and then she hugged Lemon! I do believe the right queen won, and that Canada’s Drag Race had a landmark first season. This finale, airing one night after Schitt’s Creek historically sweeping the Emmys, is queer Canadian excellence, and I do love to see it. It’s simply the best. And I really hope Priyanka’s “year of hotel stays” is deferrable.
• “What the hell is Rita Baga wearing to this rehearsal? It’s not The Matrix! There is a hat, there is this leather jacket with a pleather shirt underneath. I’ve never been more confused. And I’ve been in the closet twice.” —Priyanka reading Rita.
• “Whhh-cha!” — The whip sound effect. Miss whip sound effect saw what I wrote last week about all the other editing sound effects and was sad I didn’t include her so she really made herself known this week.
• Priyanka’s choreo at the 2:36 second mark when the dancer’s on his knees and she’s bobbing his head back and forth into her crotch … Yes, I know the time stamp. Do not question why.
• And call me Diane von Furstenberg because that is a WRAP on this season of Canada’s Drag Race recaps. I don’t know about you, but it’s been like the only bright spot in my quarantine. Merci and thank you for joining me on this journey to the North. Now “what’s my name?” @ralter on Twitter! Byeeee!