RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.
Finally, finally, FINALLY the mystery is solved. The reason Tayce’s hair is two different colors in his interview looks is because one is from before lockdown and the other is after lockdown. I can see clearly now, the pain is gone. That’s probably why A’Whora is wearing a beret as a boy, so we can’t tell the change in hair for continuity issues. But no one changed as much as Sister Sister, who comes back from seven months away with veneers, a new face, and the same old quasi-mullet. There’s no editing around this one, kids.
Yes, the coronavirus comes for us all and it finally came for HRH Mx. RuPaul Andre Charles, OBE. But now everyone’s back with an excellent challenge and a RuPaul who seems ready to snap after two weeks in a hotel room alone with nothing but Scotch eggs from room service to keep her company.
The episode begins with all the queens sitting backstage after Ginny’s self-elimination (which is what we call an enema in my household) bitching about how Veronica Green should have gone home, when they’re startled by the Ru-Mail siren going off. Ru tells them that, due to COVID, they’re shutting down production for the time being, so everyone should go home and stay safe. A whopping seven months later, all the queens come back with the aforementioned new haircuts, new faces, and, presumably, some new outfits. If I was sitting at home unemployed for seven months, I would certainly be rethinking and retooling every one of my runway choices. But not Ellie Diamond. She was busy working at the drive-through of the Dundee Greggs.
The biggest shock, however, is that Veronica Green will not be returning to the competition because she tested positive for COVID. Thankfully the constantly underestimated queen got the Eureka Purple Heart Award and has an open invitation to return to the competition next season, should there be a next season, considering the entire planet might crack in half at any second because of global warming, an ongoing pandemic, and fracking on drag queen ranches in the western United States.
On the bright side, that means there is space for one of the eliminated queens to return to the competition. Ginny Lemon was not invited back because she self-eliminated, and Ru says, “Ginny ain’t coming back in here because she already done had hers.” We all know RuPaul hates it when the court jesters won’t play by her rules, and she looked like an Atomic Sour Patch Kid when Ginny Lemon trotted off that stage. RuPaul has had it with Ginny Lemon, a name that will never be mentioned again.
The eliminated queens — Joe Black, Cherry Valentine, and Asttina Mandella with two t’s — all say how they’ve changed and grown during lockdown, but it looks like Asttina just means that she grew a goatee. The vote is nearly unanimous for Joe Black, the first one out. Cherry was out there working as a nurse during the pandemic, and she couldn’t even get one sympathy vote? I guess she got all those 8 p.m. Thursday claps and that’s going to have to be enough. I’m sure her and Asttina were both thinking, “I went and isolated for five days and got tested for this?” Since we’ve already done Meet Joe Black, I guess this is Meet Joe Black Too: A River Runs Through It.
The challenge is to make two girl groups and compete in the RuRuVision Songwriting Contest, a part of the Eurovision Songwriting Contest, and if you are one of those Americans who don’t know what this is, then you need a semester abroad in San Marino so you can be educated and bring their douze points back with you. Joe and Lawrence, the winner of the last challenge, get to pick teams and Joe selects Sister, Ellie, and Tia, which Lawrence’s group — consisting of him, Tayce, A’Whora, and Bimini — immediately starts referring to as the Golden Girls. Tia gets in the read of the night when she says, “What is Lawrence going to do when the other three tell him they’re all going to wear bikinis?” That stings on so many levels.
Here’s the thing about Tia: She has somehow become my favorite in the competition. Her looks are ropier than a hangman’s noose, but she is funnier than just about anyone who has been on Drag Race since Bianca Del Rio. I’ve gotten over the bad ensembles, but at this point in the episode, I was hoping that she really would have stepped her pussy up enough that her carpet would match her drapes, or at least her outfits would match her potential.
We see the two groups, Joe’s BananaDrama and Lawrence’s United KingDolls, both recording their verses for the song and practicing their self-choreographed dance numbers. Some members are doing better than others. Tia absolutely slays her verse, but did you know that she is a world-renowned pop artist with the platinum-selling single “Lawrence for Activities” that she recorded back in her college days? Oh, yes she is! This is a club banger that you will never forget (if you can make it all the way through the cringe-fest).
The weak link on Joe’s team is Joe, and on Lawrence’s team it’s Lawrence, but with one fundamental difference. While rehearsing their dance movies, Joe keeps saying, “You need to make this as simple as possible for me,” and Lawrence keeps saying, “I fucked this up but I’m going to get it.” Joe’s team is stooping down to accommodate him and Lawrence’s team is insisting that he rise up to meet everyone else. Now who do you think is going to win this competition?
First up is the United KingDolls, which Ru calls the UKD but I would have called the Gothy Ken Dolls. They give an excellent performance and are wearing the camp finery that you would expect from a slightly mismatched Eurovision girl group. They acquit themselves nicely. And the song, with its nonsense “bing bang bong, sing sang song, ding dang dong,” lyrics will get stuck in your head like Lil Uzi Vert’s $24 million diamond.
Such nice things cannot be said for BananaDrama’s performance of the same now-canonical tune. They do look consistent, in that they all look like they’re dressed for a Night of a Thousand Tammie Browns party. Joe Black especially stands out for dressing like Tammie Brown just stepped out of a time machine from a Weimar cabaret, or at least Moira Rose’s production of Cabaret. You can tell the choreography has to be Joe Black–proof, because these four are literally doing step-touches in a straight line like a middle-school-show choir, or the backup singers for a Garth Brooks cover band at the Oklahoma State Fair.
They clearly lose, which means the Gothy Ken Dolls are all safe and don’t have to face critiques of their “Day at the Seaside” looks. I was a little sad because Bimini dressed as a blue lacy parasol and Lawrence as a florescent-orange life ring are absolutely genius. Also, I needed someone to drag Tayce for wearing a net. (Drag. Net. Get it?) Sure, it’s spackled over with some seashells and starfish, but she looks like the tissue holder in a shitty seafood restaurant.
There’s plenty of venom for the girls on the other team, however. The judges especially hate Tia’s ice-cream dress. It’s a cool concept, and it seems like she definitely spent more money on wigs, accessories, and makeup, but she should have totally overhauled this dress. If she looked like the ice-cream version of Aunt Sassy as a cupcake, it would have slayed, but as it stands, she looks like she just picked that out of the Yandy bag for Slutty Sundae and called it a day. (That day was Sunday.)
When she tells Ru she’s going to step up her game, Ru growls, “You said that last time.” Ouch. But Ru really lets Joe Black have it when she reveals that her dress for the girl-group challenge wasn’t from Primark, it was from H&M. (For those in the States, Primark is sort of like H&M but post-Brexit, because it’s the shit no one country wants Britain to export.) This admission is an unforced error. It’s not cute to joke your outfit is from H&M (though Asttina won a challenge in an ASOS puffer, so…), especially when you’re being raked over the coals. “If it is from H&M, you better glitter the fuck out of it and make it something special,” Ru shouts in her Tyra Banks “We were rooting for you” moment. “Don’t waste my time. I don’t want to see any fucking H&M. I want more!” If we thought she had it with Ginny Lemon, now RuPaul has had it. Officially!
For a minute it seems like Joe Black’s outfit — which is a combination of a bag of chips (not Baga Chips), an ice-cream cone, and a seagull, but stuck in the windy torture of an actual day at the English seaside — might save her from the bottom two. I also thought Sister would end up in the bottom two for her not-as-polished bag of chips lewk that, contrary to what she says, she totally stole from A’Whora, but it seems like her performance in the challenge saved her. (Sister saying in Untucked that “we styled it totally different” is some serious bollocks. It’s not like some Who Wore It Best dress in the pages of Us Weekly. The outfit is the concept!)
In the end we get a face-off between Tia and Joe, who does a slightly better job lip-syncing this time than she did last time. Tia is really going for it, pulling up her skirt to show off her bright-red pants. (English people call underwear “pants” and pants “trousers” and it’s all very confusing.) Joe is doing her level best, but it’s clear that Joe is stuck in doing what she always does. She has a very set act and being on Drag Race requires skills that she has just not cultivated or valued over her 20-year career. I think we can add Joe Black to that club that includes Jasmine Masters, Mayhem Miller, and Morgan McMichaels: great drag queens who are not great at Drag Race. And, just like all of those queens, she’s summarily voted out twice in quick succession.