Drag Race requires the mastery of more skill than any other reality show on television. The baseline is being excellent at makeup, wardrobe, and hair. To go far in the competition also requires sewing and design know-how, familiarity with choreography, being able to write a ditty and carry that tune in a little handbag, doing standup comedy, and being a better actress than Lindsay Lohan, which isn’t that hard because the best performance she ever gave was convincing us that she was Britney Spears’s friend all along. That is a lot of things to be good at.
I think where the U.K. format in particular struggles is where it wants to place the hierarchy of those skills. By putting the roast challenge as the decider of who moves on to the final three two years in a row, it says that it is more important to be funny than it is to be pretty or well dressed or to have a great face. However, it doesn’t do that throughout the competition. Imagine what the final three would look like, for instance, if Choriza May and Scarlett Harlett were brought along this far and four comedy queens were trying to get to that grand finale?
When this episode starts, we know how it will go: Ella and Kitty will kill it, and Vanity and Krystal will suck. And yup, that’s exactly what happened. That’s because the two of them got by on looks and charm so far, and now they don’t have that “one single skill,” as Vanity calls it, to propel them to the end. It makes sense that in the U.K., humor would be prized over looks because, well, that’s more English than stripping off your shirt to have a pint at 2 p.m. on a sunny Tuesday. Drag is more about being funny than winning a pageant or being a “female impersonator,” as it is in America. But if funny is most important, why aren’t they grading on that curve for the whole competition?
Anyway, all the girls have to compete in a Heavenly Roast and are forced to wear the leftover angel wings that were found on the Soho sidewalks on the morning of November 1. There is this whole goddess theme pervading the episode that feels neither explained nor necessary. Because she has the most RuPeter badges, Ella gets to decide the order, and she picks Krystal, then herself, then Vanity, then Kitty. She says her strategy is “rubbish, good, rubbish, good,” so it’s not just predictable to everyone at home.
Krystal goes first and makes a bunch of age jokes that fall flatter than her lips pre-injectables. Something about Krystal, though, makes me love her a little bit, and the judges see it too. She’s almost not afraid to be bad at some things because she knows she’s so damn excellent at others.
Ella is up next and predictably slays while wearing a multicolored wig that looks like a melting cone of rainbow sherbet and a dress with a feathered skirt that makes our resident hunk look more like a resident chunk. Her best joke is at the expense of Krystal, when she says, “Last week, she played a robotic fashion girl. Talk about typecasting.”
I thought if there were going to be a dark horse in this competition, it would be Vanity, who has a humorous manner that she doesn’t seem to know quite how to harness. She keeps telling us that she doesn’t like to be mean to people, but we’ve seen her come for these queens every week. Unleash the beast and she could win! However, when she’s heckled by the eliminated queens, who are in the audience, she gets the fire to go on the attack but then misfires, telling Charity Kase, dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West, “You look like some green-looking person.” Um, yeah. Good one. The one thing I will give Vanity is that this is the best she has ever looked. She’s wearing an Erté-inspired Art Deco dress dripping in swags of pearls with what looks like a Champagne fountain coming out of her head. Is this that golden shower that I hear so much about?
Kitty closes the show and slays, even though some of her jokes don’t entirely land. I think she is being just a mite too mean to guest judge Kathy Burke, who had recurring roles on French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous. It apparently didn’t sting too much, because the judges loved her.
When it comes to the runway, Krystal shows us just how someone who can’t, as Kitty pointed out, act, dance, work a sewing machine, or tell jokes got this far. The category is Oh My Goddess, and she looks simply divine. Not like Divine. Like a Hindu idol in an all-gold outfit with a brown sash running around it and a headpiece that gives pieces of so much head, you would forget that Krystal is a virgin.
Ella sort of looks like a washed-up mermaid. Her body-hugging spangly bodysuit is cute enough, but I’m not digging the scraps hanging off it. She is pleased with her blue-ombre human-hair wig, but everyone thinks it looks a little washed up. Like many of Ella’s outfits, it doesn’t manage to be quite enough.
Vanity looks great, but in a similarly all-gold number with a headdress, it just pales in comparison to Krystal’s. Instead of looking very expensive, it looks like someone dressed up as Super Bowl Madonna for a not-so-great Fire Island party.
Kitty has a preferred silhouette, and it is short and flirty and works just right on her. Usually, I find her style lacking in the wow department, but a short gold dress caressed by Grecian pink taffeta is perfect. Her crown made of hair gives her the height and regal look that Ella is missing.
While everyone is untucking, the ladies get messages from home. Ella has an absolute dime of a boyfriend named Marco. Wait. I recognize that man from somewhere. Oh yeah — he blocked me on Grindr. Yup. That’s totally him. Vanity’s man, Siim, is also very cute. I need to go down to Brixton to get close enough to give him a chance to block me on Grindr too. Kitty’s parents are wonderful and proud but she’s right, she does look older than her mom. Krystal’s parents are so supportive and sweet and also … my age. Oh my god. I could have a 19-year-old on Drag Race. I am so fucking old. I also can’t get over how much Krystal’s sister looks just like her in drag. These two should have a sister act or something. They could be the new Olsen Twins.
As we knew before the roast episode even started, Krystal and Vanity are in the bottom two. They lip-sync to Dula Peep’s “Hallucinate,” which is, objectively, the best song on Future Nostalgia. Sorry, “Levitating” queens, you’re wrong. Krystal is totally eating Vanity’s lunch with her hairography and spinning splits. Vanity, who has sent three girls home with her lip syncs, is as adept as ever, but tonight it’s all about Krystal, a queen who is so gorgeous she doesn’t even need to be funny.