It’s cold comfort to know that early Drag Race group acting challenges are just as tough for our neighbors to the north.
The schlocky sketches are overly reliant on self-referential Drag Race in-jokes, obvious punchlines and puns. Oh, the puns. It’s an acting challenge that requires less skill than a crank phone call, and a comedy challenge that peaks at chuckle. Occasionally, we get an “Opulence, you own everything” viral moment, but, overall, they’re a slog.
Even Canada’s crop of charming queens couldn’t save these segments. Maybe our lack of context is at play. This week is all about Her-itage Moments, a madcap retelling of herstory through the lens of a well-known Canadian history PSA. Sometimes the specificity of these sketches helps, so it’s possible some of the snappier content went over my head.
But first, we must have the splitting of the teams. Captains are chosen via mini-challenge. It’s another Drag Race staple: the funky, quick-drag dance challenge. This one is ballet-flavored, but it’s more about the dirty ball-busting second halves. Top honors go to BOA and Anastarzia, though special mention must be made of Priyanka, who fully pantomimed fellatio.
In a testament to what a special franchise this is, this episode featured both a fully simulated blowjob and an incredibly powerful story of overcoming extreme violence, processing trauma and taking control of your own story. Anastarzia shares a truly awful tale of being LGBTQ in the Bahamas while the gals are in the workroom. She starts by revealing she’s had lots of friends murdered. Then she drops into an absolutely horrifying story of how she was shot and managed to drive herself to the hospital before collapsing, near death.
The show doesn’t breeze by this, either. It allows Anastarzia to not only share the story of what happened to her, but also to describe the seemingly insurmountable odds she faced in her recovery AND the incredible strength she summoned to pick up her life and claim asylum in Canada. (The extended sequence describing the ease with which Anastarzia claimed asylum in Canada is such high-key U.S. shade I am SHOCKED the editors had the restraint not to use the infamous “shade rattle” here.)
We’re not done yet! We get to see a little of how Anastarzia is still affected by this tragedy today as she tells her story, and the other queens drop all pretense of competition to rally around her in this moment.
I would take so many more bad acting challenges, overstuffed casts, low-tempo lip-syncs — all my many gripes — if it meant we get more stories like this on television.
Now brace yourself for some tonal whiplash, and let’s dive into the main challenge.
Team BOA (including Priyanka, Alona, Bobo, Jimbo and Kyne) is telling the story of how drag queens got the vote. It involves an early-20th century version of Tegan and Sara, a case of crabs and a bigoted official who’s sitting on a secret: she’s a closet queen.
It’s fully the Priyanka and Jimbo show. Priyanka continues her hot streak with a hilarious performance that’s so consistent it’s difficult not to laugh at even her most basic joke. Jimbo succeeded in serving a much more seasoned performance, but, despite a wild, over-the-top reveal, the first half of her screentime was almost too grounded.
BOA struggled with her lines and timing, but it was Kyne that got the sternest notes during filming, even though her mistakes seemed more slight. (Maybe there’s some lingering bad vibes between Kyne and director/judge Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman after last week’s tense runway exchange.)
It certainly seemed like Team Anastarzia was given more to work with. It’s the story of a trailblazing drag doctor, the butch nurse that helped make history behind the scenes and a few ladies dealing with ridiculous drag maladies.
Rita and Lemon decide to go big with everything, but Rita’s smaller part makes each of her bits hit a little harder. Lemon, meanwhile, relies more on silly faces and funny voices, which she wisely wields by dropping the affectation at just the right moments.
Neither comes close to Kiara’s performance, which includes some strong first takes. It’s not that I think Kiara was the funniest, but she certainly radiated the most professionalism and commitment to the challenge.
It’s difficult to believe these were Tynomi’s best takes, because they’re rough. She’s low-energy, misses opportunities and stumbles on her delivery. Team leader Anastarzia is perfectly fine in her role, but feels safe.
On the mainstage, the judges are joined by guest host Jade Hassouné of Shadowhunters. The category requires the queens to glow-up their first drag lewks. It’s an eclectic mix, but the high-highs and low-lows seem to have a big impact on our tops and bottoms this week.
Priyanka takes the win for her role as a laugh-out-loud wannabe electorate with a slutty side and for a black latex fetish outfit the judges just loved.
Lemon and Kiara both get high marks for their acting, but both runway ensembles feel a little cheap, even if the judges seem to prefer Lemon’s.
BOA’s lack of preparedness came back to bite her, and her runway split the judges. She was heads and tails and sequin-covered tits above Kyne and Tynomi, so BOA fans need not worry.
The judges hate Tynomi’s updated outfit, but they really loathe Kyne’s new take on an Ursula the Sea Witch costume. I understand the judges’ issues with the outfit completely, but I also can see how in a close-cropped frame of a front-facing camera, social media sensation Kyne would look gorgeous.
Her social media savvy couldn’t save her in the lip sync either, though she gave a valiant effort. Tynomi was a more dynamic performer, but it looked like she might’ve not had the lyrics down.
I’m sure Kyne’s bad attitude didn’t help her chances, either. The judges confer and send Kyne sashaying away.
Where does that leave these Canadian queens? Check out our (completely subjective) rankings below, and leave yours in the comments.
- I am smitten with Priyanka. She’s a star, but she’s also an undeniably likable weirdo. Everything that comes out of her mouth is hilarious, but it doesn’t feel relentlessly put upon. I love every second she’s on screen, in confessionals, playing a ditzy “muffragette,” slowly stalking the runway, all of it.
- Jimbo has had some high highs already this season. She’s a much more reserved, cerebral queen with a warped creativity and the skills to bring her twisted vision to life. She’s a high-concept queen. She brought the energy for the back half of her performance this week, and her runway — though a little Party City — contained enough flourishes to make it a standout. For Jimbo, it’ll be about letting go and being silly when the competition calls for it.
- Rita played a broad broad, well, broadly. I wasn’t wowed by her comedic abilities, but she kept her character sufficiently heightened to match the scene. There’s a very high level of polish that speaks to Rita’s professionalism and experience. From campy curds to stunning sunflowers, Rita has already demonstrated what a threat she can be. I’m not seeing a lot of downside.
- It’s a shame Kiara showed such a lame runway. She may have been this week’s winner with a stronger look. On set, she impressed with her preparedness. Nailing a scene in one take for one of these challenges isn’t something often seen. Her performance shined, but she’s got to watch out for dull lewks dragging her down.
- Lemon got some redemption this week. Not all of her instincts were right during the Her-itage Moment, but she was at least committing fully to her choices. Something about her runway made her feel a bit washed out to me, but it worked for the judges. I’m sure some folks will feel otherwise, but I’m finding myself charmed by her youthful energy out of drag. She’s young and ambitious, but I hope can deliver on her own promise.
- I’m digging Bobo’s aesthetic, big time. It’s like if Adore Delano and Ivy Winters had a lil’ drag baby. Yet Bobo still feels unique. Maybe I’m just a sucker for parlor tricks (and the whip-crack they added in the edit added to Bobo’s presentation), but that certainly was a memorable presentation. Bobo looked great from head-to-toe, and the confidence beaming from her runway-ending pose gave me serious “For the honor of Grayskull!” She-Ra vibes.
- I’ll reiterate again (a recap of a recap, if you will): Anastarzia’s story was really powerful. I’m so, so impressed with her strength, as well as the deft handling by production/editing. She was solid in her sketch and stylish on the runway, but her largest impact this week occurred in the workroom, not on the mainstage.
- I can’t quite wrap my head around BOA, and maybe that’s the point. You never know what she’s going to do, like her whiny kid interpretation of the mini-challenge. She’s not afraid to zag when everyone else is zigging, and she’s definitely not afraid to make herself the butt of the joke. This week, she struggled to integrate all her BOA-ness into the assignment. Charm can only carry you so far in this contest, however. It won’t take long before the cracks start to show.
- Alona’s wacky runway was actually one of my personal favorites, though her mediocre performance couldn’t justify anything better than safe. Despite perhaps a lack of maturity, she seems to have a few tricks up her sleeve.
- Oh, Kyne. After back-talking the judges last week, she began the episode claiming she thought she not only didn’t deserve to be bottom-two, she thought her outfit was worthy of the win! The nerve! Then, when Brooke does a walkthrough and addresses last week’s critiques, Kyne triples down by shooting back “I forgive you.” The added shade rattle here made Kyne’s defiance clear. It seemed like she was doomed from that point on. Her acting wasn’t nearly as bad as Tynomi’s, but there were a lot of problems with that outfit.
- It pains me to say it, but I think Tynomi should’ve gotten the boot. When I see Kyne and Tynomi — solely based on what we’ve seen on this show — I’d be more interested in seeing more from Kyne, both from a drag and drama perspective. Tynomi’s nerves are clear, but that doesn’t justify the lackluster runway she packed. She did edge out Kyne in the lip sync, but evaluating the challenge, runway and lip sync together? I think I might have went the other way. There’s no questioning Tynomi’s talent, but this may be another one of those cases where the confines of the competition just aren’t for everyone.
How would you rank the queens?