RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.
Thank our lord and savior Grace Jones that this week we did not get any of the queens in matching elf ears or a bevy of berets. They’re all just wearing their normal clothes, including Tia Kofi in a jumper that looks like Symone made it out of a beach bag. Instead what animates the episode is two challenges that didn’t seem to make any sense at all, framed around the “Queens host a morning talk show” challenge that has become a tried-and-true Drag Race staple.
The first nonsensical challenge is a pun searching for meaning like my friend Martin searching for his baggie of mephedrone in the basement of Dalston Superstore in the before COVID times. (If you don’t understand that sentence you are not a London gay and therefore you should stay out of our HNH way.) It’s called the “Great British Fake Off” and all of the queens have to sell a baked good. What’s fake about it?Are they real baked goods? Are they supposed to fake their enthusiasm? Are they supposed to fake an orgasm while eating a custard tartlet like they’re Meg Ryan squirting all over a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli? I’m not sure. But the Brit Crew is there and I get to see my two diametrically opposed favorites on one screen: visible abdominal muscles and desserts.
The clear winner is Bimini, who turns her Belgian Bun into a Brexit Bun. “It’s 52 percent deceit, 48 percent despair, and 100 percent not going to positively affect anyone other than Steve Dave and Paul down the pub.” I could sit and listen to this social commentary all day while eating a huge plate of Freedom Fries.
The main challenge has the queens performing in pairs on Morning Glory, Ru’s newest daytime “chat show,” and if you can’t figure out what that means in American then, well, I hope you’re enjoying Mississippi. Bimini gets to pick her role and teams up with Tayce, who was once in a TJ Maxx ad, to be the hosts. Ginny Lemon decides to be the hippie weather girl on her own and the Scottish Nationalist Party of Lawrence and Ellie reconvenes for a second vote on independence. (The jury, like Tayce, is hung.)
There are two pairs that get all the attention: Tia and A’Whora, despite their past differences, decide to team up and play Essex Girls, while Veronica and Sister Sister take the roles of goth party planners. Okay, so we know this means that one of these groups will be the best and one will be the worst. Based on Veronica saying she was waiting for “the dregs” I’m guessing that she and Sister are going to die. Get it? ’Cause they’re goths.
As Ru makes her way around the werkroom there is a tense moment when she approaches the SNP and says, “Lawrence Chaney” in her fake brogue but then says “Ellie Diamond” just like she might say “turkey sandwich.” (Both are pale, slightly bland, but ultimately delicious, so same same.) Ellie asks why that is, since they’re both Scottish. The queens are gagged, gooped, guffawed, guillotined, giraffed, and all the other words that start with G. I don’t think Ellie’s being shady, though, she just doesn’t understand why Ru wouldn’t treat the Scottish queens the same. Ru’s a little bit taken aback, and you know the only thing she hates more than being told what to do is wearing suits with the volume turned down from a shout.
When they get on set they discover that they will be coached by none other than Lorraine Kelly, who, for you Americans out there, is a revered Scottish morning TV presenter (read: host). It’s sort of like having this challenge guided by Hoda Kotb. I was going to say, “like Hoda Kotb without the wine,” but I bet Lorraine is no stranger to a tipple.
As expected, Tayce and Bimini do an excellent job as a bunch of club kids trying to read the news and Lawrence and Ellie exceed as agony aunts, the English term for advice columnists. Lawrence, as always, steals the show, leaving the set on a tiny tricycle and breaking it in the process, sort of like if Chris Hemsworth tried to top Leslie Jordan. Ellie isn’t horrible, but like a real diamond, she shines brighter in the reflected light of Lawrence.
It turns out that Tia and A’Whora are the endangered pair that excel as a pair of Essex Girls. Essex is a county just outside of London and its women are known for their big hair, flashy outfits, trashy accents, and layers upon layers of fake tan. It’s basically New Jersey but Snooki has never been. The pair show us how to save money by doing a “gravjazzle,” which is a vajazzle using gravel and it is one of the stupidest and most hilarious things I have ever seen in my life. They do what one should in this challenge: not only do they embody the stereotype, they make it louder and more absurd.
Veronica and Sister go just the opposite way and their goths are tired, expired, and uninspired. They do have the hardest challenge, though — how do you make goths over the top? Make them sadder? Make them more insular? Then you just end up a quiet, moody mess, which is also the name of The Cure’s latest album that no one bought.
Ginny is another point of displeasure. Her hippie weather girl is, for some reason, Scottish and the only thing that makes her a hippie is that she keeps saying “chakras.” I swear, I heard the word “chakras” more than we hear the word “toxic” on an episode of The Bachelor. As different things are thrown at her, she gives up trying to deliver the weather and just flaps her arms and makes strange noises as if she’s turned herself into a tiny bird.
Speaking of Ginny, she and Sister get a bit of a personal story this week where they talk about how close they’ve become as friends and immediately I know that they are headed for a lip sync. Why else would they show us this? We get a lot of talk from both of them about their “inner saboteur” as Ru likes to call it.
The similar chat I found ultimately more interesting is between Tia and A’Whora who, after their success, are something akin to friends. (Imagine if it went badly. A’Whora would have bloodied her like the insides of a million Diva Cups.) A’Whora talks about how she was always bullied and made to feel less than herself as a child and how that manifested into her being mean to everyone. Now she has no drag queen friends because everyone thinks she’s a bitch. I love how this shows us that the “caricature of a cartoon villain” that so many drag queens play (ahem, Kandi Muse, ahem) is really just rooted in a deep and unabiding insecurity. As A’Whora says, she had to create a character just so that she would have a friend. It’s utterly heartbreaking, though it still doesn’t give her purchase for being a bitch.
I was equally confused by the category for the runway, which is Monster Mash-Up, so the queens are supposed to be two monsters at once. Okay, I wasn’t confused by the category, but it seems many of the queens were. Veronica kills it as a glamorous Medusa with a pig face. I don’t know if “pig” is a monster, but she is clearly both a pig and a Medusa. That’s two things. Sister Sister is a werewolf mummy. Her outfit looks like a stuffed animal that was eaten by a ball of yarn, but it is still two monsters. Ellie is a goblin face on a werewolf’s body.
Meanwhile Bimini is Pamela Anderson as a demon. Okay, that’s two things and one is a monster, but I will not allow anyone to call Pamela Anderson a monster on my watch! Tayce tries to do Bride of Frankenstein as a vampire, but the only thing that is vampire is her teeth. She just looks like a bride. That is one thing. Tia is a death demon with snakes coming out of her headdress but it reads more old-Hollywood-horror-movie. Fierce, but one thing. Lawrence Chaney goes in the opposite direction as Sweeney Todd, Buffalo Bill, Bride of Frankenstein, and Leatherface. Again her outfit, particularly her own mask of her face, is amazing, but that is 19 things, not two. At least it’s a mashup.
A’Whora also looks amazing as, like, a Bob Mackie Cher Barbie doll whose wig came off and it shows her brains. She says she’s looking, “very Halloween,” but that was not the brief. The brief was “monster mash up.” A’Whora’s look is not two things, it isn’t even one thing. I think if she followed directions a bit better she would have ended up the winner this week. Instead, it goes to Lawrence, who had both the best performance and the best outfit, but I would like the spoils to be spread around a bit more evenly. Give it to Tia, who was excellent as an Essex girl and had a stunner of an outfit.
As we could have predicted, Sister and Ginny, as a weird Bride of Frankenstein by way of Toxic Avenger, end up in a lip sync showdown. Ginny, however, is not having any of it, and immediately exits the stage and self-eliminates (self-immolates?). Sister continues her performance as everyone sputters over Ginny having “BenDeLaCreme’d herself.” During the critique (without the queens) Ru said she thinks we’ve seen everything we could from Ginny, and I think she’s totally right. We saw a funny, quirky queen with her own sense of yellow style who, despite some of my comments, I actually enjoyed. I would have remembered her as someone fun who I would go see perform her solo cabaret show because I know it would be one of a kind. Now I’m just going to remember a sore loser, one who would rather take herself out of the competition than try to fight for another day.