Another week, another enjoyable trip across the pond for RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. At this point, I’m ready to declare myself a Drag Race ex pat.
Entering the half-way point of the competition, I’ve really come to appreciate just how prepared these queens are. Something we’ve seen contestants consistently dinged for is showing up to the workroom unprepared for the season’s standard challenges.
Last week, the entire cast came correct for Snatch Game. Every single queen had a POV, practiced their look and mannerisms and came with at least a few ha-has in their pockets. Of course, some folks will just never be comedians or impressionists, but no one was starting from scratch.
Similarly, it feels like the ladies were locked and loaded for this week’s reading mini-challenge. Granted, I’m not sure I exactly followed everyone’s jokes, but they all seemed like they were having a GREAT time. Even the struggling queens, like Blu, Cheryl and surprise winner Crystal were armed with some weapons-grade shade.
This was a strong week for Blu overall. She even echoed my sentiment about being unfairly robbed of a third-place spot last week. It doesn’t matter, because Blu is clearly more confident now. (She didn’t even hesitate to tell Viv and Baga they didn’t deserve a double win.) She had an ambitious, but ultimately dysfunctional prop gag during the mini-challenge involving a paper bag that she sold through pure charm.
Crystal’s win came with maybe the most powerful mini-challenge prize yet: The ability to pick the teams for this week’s maxi-challenge. That’s a pretty big advantage. She snatches up The Vivienne, a noted singer, and Cheryl, a dancer and, as we’re reminded over and over, a HUGE fan of girl groups.
Cheryl’s knowledge will come in handy as the queens pay homage to the likes of Little Mix, Fifth Harmony, Girls Aloud and others. They’ll be recording verses and lip-syncing the track for the judges.
The edit this week leaves very little to the imagination, and it becomes pretty clear Crystal underestimated Divina, Baga and Blu (collectively calling themselves The Frock Destroyers). The ideas are just pouring out of them, and you can see the creative sparks fly.
Meanwhile, Crystal reveals she can’t really sing nor dance, which is not great news. Vivienne seems annoyed to be stuck with the middling Crystal and Cheryl.
But in rehearsals, it’s Cheryl that shines. She smartly uses her Essex accent to add lots of color to her verse, and she leads the choreo for their performance. Vivienne has a strong vocal, and Crystal, as she warned, can’t seem to really do either.
The other group is clearly coming out ahead. Divina steps out to the forefront, choreographing a killer routine even novice dancers could nail and revealing her secret weapon: she can pull off straight-up Mariah Carey whistle notes.
This is a game changer.
OK, the whistle notes might just be kind of a cool gimmick, but Divina’s choreo skills alone deserve praise. So many experienced dancing queens get overly ambitious with their steps, setting up their two-left-footed friends to fail. Baga and Blu are both pulling their weight, keeping up with the steps and dazzling with their verses (Baga for her vocal talent, and Blu for her always just a little too filthy phrasing).
Before these groups’ debut/farewell performances, the conversation around the makeup mirror turns to growing up gay and bullying. Divina reveals her difficult childhood facing discrimination and violence from her peers. At the time, a law prohibited teachers from “promoting” homosexuality, so many were reticent to even step in. It’s heartbreaking for Divina, and also heartbreaking for so many of us who can relate.
The most emotionally evocative moment comes via a story Divina recounts about working with today’s youth. One of the kids called her a slur, and instead of piling on, the other kids were mad and knew it wasn’t right. It still sort of sounds like a sad story on the surface, but compared to Divina’s growing up, this is progress.
On the mainstage, it’s Crystal’s team (Filth Harmony) up first. Cheryl is clearly in her element, and you can’t be blamed for mistaking her for an actual girl group member. Vivienne just sort of fades into the background, mumbling the lip-sync and phoning in the steps. Crystal is playing the bad girl, but comes off more like the girl you know that’s, like, TOO into wolves?
When the Frock Destroyers take the stage, I can’t help reaching for my wallet to throw my credit cards at the screen in an attempt to buy tickets to see the act live. It’s that good. All three ladies are totally in sync and their personalities come blasting through. It’s a total slam dunk in every way. (It helps that the actual track is one of the best the show has ever made for this kind of challenge.)
The runway theme is horse races, and the ladies have a few interesting interpretations. We’ll pick ’em apart in our rankings below.
As expected, Divina’s team takes top honors, and Ru awards all three a RuPeter badge. Cheryl is spared from her team, leaving Crystal to lip-sync against former frontrunner The Vivienne.
I know Viv would disagree, but thank god she’s down there. Finally, we see a true Drag Race caliber lip-sync! Performing to a track from Little Mix, Vivienne gives us attitude, face, competent dance moves. It’s all fully realized and polished.
Crystal … I don’t know what Crystal is doing. It’s a little character-y, it’s a little comedy, it’s not really fully anything. Vivienne basically mops the floor with her.
Vivenne shantays, while Crystal sashays – Stop! Stop! She’s already dead.
Where does that leave the remaining queens? Let’s break it down in our rankings below.
- She’s been nipping at the heels of The Vivienne for weeks, but, finally, Baga has surpassed her bosom buddy. She’s never looked better than she did on tonight’s runway. The yellow floral headpiece was just the right touch to elevate the whole ensemble, and she surprised everyone with her singing voice. This is the second week she scored a RuPeter badge that may not have been wholly earned. Could the producers be pushing her to the top?
- Watch out, because Divina is on the rise. She was a sleeper the first few weeks, but, now, she has arrived. She was the star among stars in her group, and her jockey-inspired runway was a singular moment. Plus, she’s getting lots of opportunities to show her personality and tell her story. She’s a top-three lock, for sure.
- The Vivienne took a spill this week. She’ll be able to bounce back, but she can’t afford to give Baga and DDC opportunities to surge. Maybe her performance brain-fart was a fluke, and this was one of her more disappointing outfits. The lip-sync gives me hope, though.
- Another strong showing from Blu. Not only on the runway, but even in confessionals, Blu’s personality is blossoming. She looked great in the performance and in her horse-headed runway. Between her adorable little face and her connection to the struggles in Northern Ireland, I want to see more of her. I think she could surprise us with a “surprise! we’re doing a top FOUR!” moment in the season’s penultimate episode.
- Don’t get me wrong, Cheryl was the fourth best performer in the maxi-challenge, but her cumulative run has been pretty mediocre. Her runway was very off-the-track; less day at the races, more day at the dogfights, if that makes sense? I’m glad she got this chance to excel at her dream challenge, but I don’t see her being able to top (or even meet) this moment.
- I guess we fully tapped Crystal‘s weirdness last week, and now there’s nothing left. It was all very awkward. I don’t think there was ever a question who needed to be sent home this week. She dropped the ball every step of the way. She’s got some cool, got some edge, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of versatility.
How would you rank the queens?