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RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Recap: Circus of Horrors

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under

Snatch Game
Season 2 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 2 stars

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under

Snatch Game
Season 2 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 2 stars
Photo: WOWPresents/YouTube

I’m no conservative, but when it comes to my politics, I am hardline on one thing: I think Snatch Game should be illegal. At least in Australia and New Zealand, if not in general. While international franchises of RuPaul’s Drag Race have shown that this long-in-the-tooth institution of the show can still pull out real winners — see Jinkx’s superlative Judy Garland or Monét X Change as Mike Tyson on All Stars 7 — Drag Race Down Under’s inaugural season suggested that, just maybe, celebrity impressions don’t come naturally to Antipodean queens. Last year, our contestants ran the gamut from outright offensive (Etcetera Etcetera as Lindy Chamberlain) to criminally unfunny (Art Simone as Bindi Irwin), with everyone else stopping somewhere near totally confounding. Thinking back, my experience of watching that episode feels like some horrible dream.

This year, our local queens show no sign of slowing down in their race to the bottom. Although each elimination seems to have struck the fear of God into many queens (Beverly Kills, delivering one of the most perfect, naively melodramatic lines I’ve ever heard on this show: “I looked death right in the eyes in the form of RuPaul Charles, and I said ‘Not today’”), nobody seems to have really heeded the warnings delivered to last year’s contestants after their disastrous Snatch Game. This year’s impressions are still rife with incomprehensible jokes, shameful American accents, and a general lack of comedic timing.

Minnie Cooper as Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen seems like a gimme on paper, but she’s actually a hard character to make funny in a context like this. Minnie has a handful of bits she leans on — if you can call saying “I’m Ellen!” and “I’m gay!” bits — but mostly struggles to say anything funny; her jokes instead come out confounding and puerile. Both wide-eyed beanpoles, Minnie and Ellen kind of have a physical likeness, but Minnie seems to have put her outfit together in a totally haphazard way: The whole thing is giving grandpa rather than Ellen.

Kween Kong as NeNe Leakes
Kween Kong pulls out a serviceable NeNe Leakes impression, but it’s not really funny. Plus, she gets lost among the rest of the queens, which is weird to say about someone doing a NeNe Leakes impression. Kween seems painfully shy when not on an actual stage, and nerves got the best of her during Snatch Game.

Yuri Guaii as Courtney Love
Fun fact: Courtney Love lived at least some portion of her teen years in New Zealand. Does that give Yuri Guaii the right to butcher her like this on Snatch Game? Not really, but at least there’s some connection there, right? I’ll admit that my disappointment with this impression comes from being a great Hole fan — that’s capital-H Hole, as in the band, you depraved freaks — and finding Love to be a wild, genuinely hilarious character even at the worst of times. Read any interview with her from the past two decades and she’s saying something bizarre (“When I was shot by [Steven] Meisel for U.S. Vogue in ’95, there was a writer who said, ‘Darling, you’re like a baby doll in Doc Martens!’ and I said, ‘Honey, I’ve never worn a Doc Marten in my life.’” is a recent favorite that, honestly, I think could work in a situation like this) and she’s incredibly smart, which is why it just feels weird for Yuri to reduce her to a dumb party girl archetype like this. Courtney Love is still a worthy Snatch Game character, and I hope that someday someone takes the mickey out of her in a smart, incisive way.

Beverly Kills as Val Garland
I don’t know who Val Garland is, but I do know instinctively that Beverly Kills did her dirty with this Snatch Game impression. After watching this episode, I watched a video of Val, and she seems like a lovely, normal woman. I don’t know why Beverly chose to knock her teeth out halfway through. (Which also begs the question — why bother wearing fake teeth if both you and the person you’re impersonating have normal teeth? I already know I’ll be thinking about this for years.) I don’t know why she was huffing markers. I don’t know why she delivered every line with such a strange, irrepressibly horny vibe. All I do know is that Val should probably take advantage of Australia’s notoriously tight defamation laws and sue.

Hannah Conda as Liza Minnelli
The bizarre spectacle of seeing Hannah as Minnelli doing RuPaul’s “Sissy That Walk” makes this whole horrifying ordeal feel kinda worth it. Although Hanna is, undeniably, a jankier-looking version of Liza than we’ve seen on Snatch Game before, she sells it by leaning into the absurdity of it all, turning every sentence into a mess of squelchy, spitty, lisp sounds. I have literally no idea what she was saying most of the time — and, given the fact that some of her lines were subtitled, I have to assume many others didn’t either — which is a win in my books.

Molly Poppinz as Orville Peck
Orville Peck is an interesting choice — he’s a visually striking character but not necessarily a funny one. Molly nails her accent and outfit, and the jokes, which generally just lean towards gay cowboy humor, occasionally land. But it’s not a particularly memorable performance, if only because there’s no opportunity for the audience to have any kind of ‘A-ha!’ moment upon seeing some perfect satirization.

Spankie Jackzon as Barry Humphries (Dame Edna Everage)
It was a risk for Spankie to try out a character as iconic as Dame Edna (I assume she’s credited as Barry Humphries for copyright reasons), and although Dame Edna’s sharp wit isn’t entirely there, I think this is the strongest Snatch Game of the bunch this year. In part, that’s because nobody else thought to do a character from Australia or New Zealand — a perplexing choice, considering how bad these queens are at accents. Physically, Spankie evokes the same sense of physical comedy as Dame Edna — she’s a refined society woman played by a broad-shouldered, deep-voiced man — and her voice is pretty spot on, too. I would have liked to have seen a little more screen time go to Spankie, but what we did see was remarkably spot-on.

On the runway, the theme is Cirque Du So Gay, and the clear winner is RuPaul, who’s wearing an insane cape and cocktail gown combo. There are no particularly egregious looks among the contestants, though. Everyone interprets the theme differently: Minnie looks bonkers as a clown on roller-skates, Spankie turns out her most glamorous outfit yet in the form of an iridescent pink mime look, Kween has fun with her bearded lady look, and Hanna once again proves she’s the most out-and-out fashionable contestant of the season, with a stunning harlequin look. Yuri and Beverly seem the most confused by the theme — neither of their outfits screams “circus” — and Molly’s cotton-candy mime thing doesn’t track for me. But nobody looks particularly bad, and this is another strong runway in a season that’s been surprisingly full of them.

Although the reception to this year’s Snatch Game is much better than last season, it’s still muted. The judges don’t rip into anyone because nobody was horrible — it was just boring. Ultimately, it’s an easy win for Hannah, whose runway and Snatch Game were far better than anyone else’s, and Minnie and Beverly are the clearest bottom two. Lip-syncing to Lady Gaga’s “Dance In The Dark,” I felt like Minnie, performing the whole thing with a terrifying, clownish verve, had the upper hand. Ultimately, though, this is Ru’s game. Beverly is allowed to stay in the competition for another week, and Minnie — the show’s requisite chaos agent-slash-elder stateswoman — has to say good-bye. In the end, she was only here for a weird time, not a long time.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Recap: Circus of Horrors