After six enjoyable, perplexing, occasionally maddening weeks, we’re finally at the pointy end of this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. To those who have persisted through this undeniably rocky and often downright boring season, I salute you. The battlers who have done the hard slog are now, in the season’s penultimate episode, being rewarded with the greatest of gifts: A cameo from Murray Bartlett, star of The White Lotus and Looking. Soak it in, comrades. Listen to Murray say, “Hey there, you gorgeous beings,” and “Who’s you, daddy?” and imagine that he’s saying it to you. You deserve it. As Hanna Conda rightly says, “He could absolutely 150% shit in my suitcase, and I wouldn’t mind.”
In many ways, this episode of the season is the real clincher. No winner of Drag Race is ever really decided in the finale; in recent years, it’s felt a lot more like the winner is set in stone before the finale even airs, dictated by track record and, increasingly, whoever Ru decides is her favorite. Right now, Spankie Jackzon is — bizarrely — the obvious front-runner, and I’m not sure anyone else in the competition has a chance of beating her. But a strong showing in this final ‘regular’ challenge could change things.
This week, the queens have to make over four members of an adorable, extremely stressed-looking New Zealand family. It’s not a hostage situation, that I know of, but it’s definitely not not a hostage situation: Tony, the father of Drag Race fan Keelan, is clad in all black, which I have to assume is in tribute to the part of him that died the moment he signed the Drag Race release form. Every makeover challenge on Drag Race features some kind of catastrophic disaster, and this one is no exception. Without further ado, let’s get into the makeovers.
Molly Poppinz and Keelan, a.k.a. Kandy Flippinz
Coming into this penultimate episode, Molly is in an interesting position: She hasn’t defined herself nearly as well as her competitors, and, if a top three were to be decided based on track record up to this episode, she would easily be the one eliminated. But she has an opportunity to change that here, especially given that she’s allowed the first pick of who to make over. She — fairly — chooses Keelan, a performer and Drag Race fan who clearly understands the requirements of the challenge.
At least, Keelan seems like a good choice until it becomes time to plan outfits. Keelan clearly has a mind of his own, and this challenge is best suited to anyone willing to be a perfect little doll for their drag mother to remold in her own image. Molly begins to crack under pressure, and her advantage begins to slip away. On the runway, Kandy looks great, but she and Molly don’t really look like siblings, and there are issues with the details of each costume that make the pairing one of the more forgettable this week.
Hanna Conda and Tony, a.k.a. Helle Gator
I thought Hanna would have the toughest job of the lot with Tony, who, with his black pork pie hat, seemed like the most austere of the bunch. But good God was I wrong: Within minutes of sitting down together, Tony is admitting he likes the big nipples on Hanna’s fake breasts and asking if he can don an even bigger set in order to “stand out.” And stand out you will, Tony. Keelan, seeing Tony in his giant blonde wig and great stonking knockers, tells his father that he “looks like Queen Elizabeth,” and I can’t think of a more fitting way to honor our dearly departed queen.
On the runway, Hanna is dressed like the villain from an A24 fantasy, while Helle looks like a woman who escaped from a retirement home. Hanna got tripped up in the way that so many do during a makeover challenge: She looks great, while her partner kinda looks like dogshit. It’s not terrible; it just kind of misses the brief.
Spankie Jackzon and Phil, a.k.a. Flash Jackzon
This has got to be one of the most profoundly chaotic pairings ever seen on a Drag Race makeover. Spankie doesn’t get to choose her makeover partner, but still somehow lands with Phil, who happens to both be from her tiny hometown of Palmerston, and also, like Spankie, wearing some insane necklace. It’s hard to even lucidly critique what Spankie and Phil are doing together: Like Gilbert and Sullivan or Lennon and McCartney, this is just a clear union of two of our greatest artistic minds.
The problem here, though, seems to be that Spankie isn’t exactly a good teacher (Spankie saying, “Bambi was at least graceful, and then she died” — showing both a clear misunderstanding of what happens in Bambi and a callous disregard for her student — is probably my highlight of the episode) or a good seamstress. Strangely, on the runway, Spankie looks perfect — it is a classic chaotic Spankie Jackzon move to do the complete opposite of what everyone expects — and although she and Flash don’t really look similar at all, they have fun making their waitress thing as weird as possible. (We also find out that Spankie was once arrested for flashing, which I’m not sure anyone is surprised about.)
Kween Kong and Tyler, a.k.a. Sister Kong
Tyler seems like the most awkward of the lot — he describes the half-episode of Drag Race he once watched as “interesting”, an “interesting” that is absolutely caving in under the weight of subtext — but Kween seems like a good pairing for him. Both Kween and Tyler are reserved and seem quite sensitive, and a similar sensibility is helpful in this kind of challenge.
As promised, Kween makes Tyler, now known as Sister Kong, look like the Kong family version of Beyoncé, and on the runway, Kween and Sister have a family resemblance that many of the other pairings don’t have. Stunning in black and white on the runway, complete with coordinated runway moves, it’s a polished, cheeky performance.
Ultimately, Kween and Sister rightly win, and Hanna and Molly have to lip-sync to make it to the grand finale. This week’s song is by Steps and Michelle Visage — two names I hoped I’d never have to write together — and ultimately it’s Hanna who stays, giving one of the thinnest songs I’ve ever heard on Drag Race some genuine gravitas. The top three is written: Spankie Jackzon, Hanna Conda, and Kween Kong are this year’s Drag Race Down Under finalists. It’s been a long road, but we finally made it.