RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under
Crikey, sheilas! We’re only at week two of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, but the catty aggression of this small group of queens means that it already feels like we’ve reached the heated middle stretch of the competition. Ru seems to think so, too, because this week, we’re getting into one of the show’s most real-deal, high-pressure challenges. As Anita Wigl’it might say: It’s time to play the Snitch Game.
Post-elimination, the queens read and erase JoJo’s parting message before getting into the nitty-gritty of the judges’ critiques. There’s a little tension between Karen and Art, which is to be expected, given how polished both of their runways were. It’s the first whiff of a conflict being set up, but in confessionals, Art seems to have picked up on the reality-TV-ness of it all, so who knows whether it’ll come to fruition. The next day, the Australian queens explain to the New Zealand queens what a shoey is (gross), and then Scarlet suggests that next week the New Zealand queens teach them how to fuck sheep. Two weeks in and Scarlet has not yet done anything that could remotely be considered damage control for her off-show antics, but hey, every season needs a villain, right?
As with last week’s Taika Waititi guest spot, we get a very special prerecorded message from Kylie Minogue this week, one that can’t help but feel a little flat. Had the show filmed in Sydney as planned, she probably would have been filming in real life, and the thought of what could have been will probably haunt me for years to come. Still, a Zoom call from Kylie is better than pretty much any other Zoom call, so the queens are justifiably thrilled.
Preparation for the Snatch Game begins, and, as expected, things immediately get off to a rough start. Both Art and Scarlet have prepared a Bindi Irwin, and both are trying to pass off their bitchy passive-aggression as fun banter. “I guess there’ll be two Bindis, ’cause I’m not changinggggg!” Art trills, a white-hot, murderous fury clearly visible in her eyes. I’m team Art in this conflict, not because I hold any particular allegiance toward Art but because Scarlet’s other option, Jennifer Coolidge, is clearly a train wreck waiting to happen. You think because I recap this show I wish anything other than pure, unmitigated chaos upon these contestants? This isn’t RuPaul’s Best Friend Race Down Under recaps, bestie!
In the New Zealander section of the room, Kita (boss) is asking Elektra (employee and competitor) whether to do Dr. Seuss or Carol Baskin (wildly disparate American cultural figures). Elektra responds with a confused “They’re completely different,” in a tone I can identify from years of personal experience as the cadence one adopts when not wanting to be fired. Anita, called over to consult, is, like Elektra, completely ready to sabotage Kita — she openly admits it in the confessional, which, honestly, I stan — and advises her to do Dr. Seuss. Once again, I am left praying for Anita and Kita’s so-called best-friendship, which is looking more and more like a Caroline Calloway–Natalie Beach–style vortex of hate-fueled worship.
RuPaul arrives to check on the queens’ progression, and seems delighted by Anita’s cracked-out kids’ entertainer persona. At least somebody is, right? Etcetera reveals she’s doing Lindy Chamberlain — cue Ru in stitches — and Karen rightfully points out that, well, her baby literally died. There were rumblings during filming that Drag Race Down Under’s Snatch Game was one of the worst in the show’s history, and this is the first clue that things are about to go downhill. Perhaps by the virtue of lowered expectations, what transpires is altogether just … fine. Let’s go through queen by queen:
Karen From Finance as Dolly Parton
Karen’s choice to do Dolly, made in light of the fact that nobody’s ever done her, is risky — nobody’s done her for a reason, babe! Although she gets in a couple of good zingers, Karen’s gags are mostly overlong and extremely confusing, which seems to be a trend this Snatch Game.
Art Simone as Bindi Irwin
Karen’s confused, winding answers were mildly disappointing. Art’s made me feel like I was having the gayest stroke ever. Did any of her responses make any kind of sense at all? Something something something … blue ring octopus? A bad Snatch Game isn’t necessarily a curse — although, in this particular case, it did feel a little like some kind of malevolent spirit was casting plague upon my brain cells one-by-one — so I’m going to maintain that Art still holds overall front-runner status, but it’s tenuous.
Coco Jumbo as Lizzo
Coco joins Detox, Phi Phi O’Hara, and Lil Kenya Michaels in the ‘Misunderstood Snatch Game and Did a Weak Pop Star Impression’ Hall of Fame. While she looks the part, it’s hard to consider this Lizzo as anything other than misguided. Sometimes, the gag is overprepared — you can’t get him out of your … DNA test? — and other times, as when she uses the word “bussy,” I feel like she should go to jail. (Can I believe in prison abolition and still think users of the word “bussy” should go to jail? A question for another time.) Either way, this week Coco is 100 percent that bitch who disappointed me because of her huge potential, but who could still come to surprise in the overall scheme of the competition.
Anita Wigl’it as Queen Elizabeth II
Anita’s gags as Queen Elizabeth were disgusting, bizarre, and surprisingly dark — in other words, probably the best overall performance this week. It was also one of the smarter choices of the bunch: We know that Ru loves when contestants do old British lady drag, meaning that this performance goes over wonderfully.
Scarlet Adams as Jennifer Coolidge
In her nude gown, Scarlet looks once again like, to borrow a phrase from RuPaul, “a human fleshlight.” But this week, make that a human fleshlight with a half-decent Jennifer Coolidge impression! Scarlet doesn’t get that much screen time, but she does get to say “fat ass” in a Jennifer Coolidge voice, which is a win in my book.
Elektra Shock as Catherine O’Hara
All I can really say for this one is “????????????” I’m really really trying to be kind to Elektra Shock, but she makes it hard when dishing out this kind of impression, which goes for Catherine O’Hara realness and lands, in terms of voice and manner, somewhere closer to Tilda Swinton in old-man prosthetics in Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria realness. Why does she look, sound, and move like an extra in a German senior centre’s production of Chicago? Lucky for Elektra, she gets a couple of confused laughs from the judges and is genuinely not the worst performer this week.
Maxi Shield as Magda Szubanski
There’s a lot of great Magda bits to draw from for a bit like this, so it’s disappointing that Maxi and her big unnaturals avoid them all like the plague. This is a decidedly nothing Snatch Game act, but given the material available, that’s pretty unfortunate.
Etcetera Etcetera as Lindy Chamberlain
Although Karen and Art may have found the idea of doing Lindy Chamberlain objectionable, Ru clearly doesn’t mind a bit of blue humour, and seems to genuinely enjoy what, in the episode, feels like a pretty one-note “dingo ate my baby” bit. Still, hats off to Etcetera for seeming to survive on sheer confidence and commitment to the bit alone. She openly tells us, “I think I’m hilarious” in confessional, and I guess that confidence is really working out for her.
Kita Mean as Dr. Seuss
Despite her two closest allies in the competition straight-up attempting to sabo her by recommending this character choice, Kita Mean’s Dr. Seuss is not altogether terrible. The rhyming gags are sometimes funny, and it’s at least a bizarre kind of bad, as opposed to Coco and Art’s more predictable style of terrible impersonation.
The next day, Scarlet says she thinks the Snatch Game was one of the strongest in the show’s history, which Art agrees with, thereby vaulting the cast of Down Under way, way up the Drag Race delusion rankings. Maxi is given the task of asking what the queens’ relationships with their parents are like — as delusion reaches new highs, producer subtlety plumbs new lows — which leads to a touching moment where Anita talks about being rejected by her father. As Kita alluded to earlier in the episode, Anita’s bubbly persona is something of a shield, and it’s nice to get to know her beyond the performance.
On the runway, the theme is Sea Sickening, and everyone does swimmingly. Some outfits have a little less polish than others — Coco’s Ursula look can’t help but pale in comparison to Kita’s, while Maxi’s outfit feels only tangentially sea-related — but overall, it’s a strong runway. When it comes time for critiques, Ru, for what I think is the first time ever, calls out Anita first, announcing she’s the “hands-down” winner, a definitive victory that spells disaster for the rest of the queens: Aside from Kita and Etcetera, they’re all in the bottom this week, on account of that heinous Snatch Game.
In Untucked, Dannii Minogue Zooms in to give the queens some “advice,” which, in this scenario, means some extremely low-energy dance moves. Coco and Art seem to take that advice to heart: When they’re called upon to lip-sync for their lives — to RuPaul’s “I’m That Bitch,” a better RuPaul song but altogether a jaw-dropping, ghastly choice in an episode where Miss Kylie Minogue was a guest star!!! — neither queen really turns it out. Art’s dress looks a little constricting for such a high-energy song, while Coco just walks back and forth across the stage. Art Simone is sent home, and I am gagged. I truly thought she was the one to beat. Either way, this leaves the competition wide open, and hopefully means that some of the girls who have been fading into the background will get to hock their wares come next episode. Until then, I’ll be in my psychoanalyst’s office, trying to make sense of Elektra Shock’s Catherine O’Hara. Hooroo, haters!