While last week’s episode of Canada’s Drag Race relied on some Canadian deep cuts, this week sticks to a pretty basic fact: Canadians love to apologize.
Sure, it’s easy for anyone to look civilized and polite compared to the boorish, rabid, idiotic masses we’re used to here in the States. (And more specifically the White House.) However, Canada’s compulsive contrition has become a cultural signature.
Not the most clever touchpoint, but it yielded a brisk, fun episode that gave the queens a surprising amount of time to shine.
Starting with a silly little mini-challenge, the gals are paired up to deliver a morning show teleprompter script in three languages: English, French and Draglish.
Joining judge (NOT HOST) Jeffrey Boyer-Chapman is Canadian TV personality Traci Melchor, certified, bonded, officially registered Squirrel Friend.
Priyanka gets stuck defining “squirrel friend” for the audience via confessional interview, explaining it applies to an ally (oh boy), who loves her gays (ugh), stands up for our rights (OK) and is a Drag Race superfan. Have I been using this word wrong all along?
Regardless, Traci Melchor is a delight. She brings more charisma to the screen than the three official judges, combined. Her enthusiasm is contagious without being patronizing, and she keeps the focus on the queens.
The challenge is designed to be impossible. Sure, most of the non-Quebecois queens are expected to struggle with French, but most have a hard time with English and even Draglish, which is nothing more than a language reverse engineered from catchphrases spawned by the show they’re currently on. It’s a lot of fun to watch, though.
Lemon and Priyanka are declared winners, because, sure, why not? It makes them team captains for another group challenge. This time, the dueling groups will perform diss tracks on the mainstage. It’s part Glamazonian Airways cheese, part original verse and part lethal choreography. Ilona is the last picked once more.
The gals record their verses with Canadian singer RALPH, and most (eventually) rise to the occasion. Team Lemon (The Dolls) sets the bar with a strong performance from Lemon and Jimbo, who manages to transform rock ‘n’ roll swagger into MC swag. Attitude is really everything, as Tynomi learns after adding a sprinkle of Jamaican patois onto her verse. BOA takes it almost too far, struggling to hit the rhythm and diction in the “studio.” She eventually gets there, but is certainly portrayed in danger.
Priyanka’s team (The Mooseknuckles) comes in ready to showoff their CVs. Priyanka lets RALPH know she’s no stranger to the booth; she has two singles on iTunes.
Then she reminds everyone how literally anyone could have a single on iTunes, which is both true and hilariously deflates a favorite Drag Race bragging point. Mistress P rocks the mic, and her teammate Bobo slays as well. Rita leans more into her classical singing training, while Ilona is, fine, I guess. It’s actually Starzi who feels the most like a weak link here. It makes sense that the polished pageant queen would have a hard time getting down and dirty.
If recording felt like smooth sailing, choreo was Poseidon Adventure. We’re always led to believe the girls are at a loss after rehearsal and so behind on learning choreo, but this time the struggle is exceptionally real.
I mean, even by the time they get to the mainstage, some queens are still in a fog. Ilona, Starzi and Jimbo flit around like they just untucked in the Interior Illusions lounge with a hurricane glass full of Xanax. It’s particularly revealing for Jimbo, who has been a standout thus far, and now has a spotlight shone on her lack of dancing skills.
Conversely, it’s a showcase for Priyanka, Lemon and BoBo. All three destroy their verses and choreo with precision and panache. Rita’s choice to handle both the sing-y and deep, rap portions of her verse recall Real McCoy and make the veteran queen stand out. BOA defies her earlier edit, making every moment she spends in the spotlight matter, thanks to her attitude.
The runway this week seems to make a big difference in this week’s winners. The theme is “Que-becky with the Good Hair,” which, I gotta admit, is a pretty good pun. It’s big wigs, furry frocks and another addition to the Drag Race Merkin Hall of Fame.
BOA’s bushy Borat bikini is a surprise crowd-pleaser, and the judges love how unique BOA appears on stage. Scarlett and Priyanka both get high marks for the fierce performance and creative, colorful runways that looks great, regardless of materials.
Ilona and Jimbo escape elimination thanks to strong showings on the runway, but stragglers like Kiara, Tynomi and Starzi aren’t so lucky. Kiki had a decent verse, but, as the judges rightly noted, everything she’s shown on the runway feels sort of pedestrian, very right-off-the-Rainbow rack. Tynomi, in spite of having such a reputation, shows up in the most home-crafted looking hair outfit, with wigs basically hot-glued around the collar. It doesn’t do any justice to Tynomi’s skills or shape.
Then there’s Starzi. After last week’s emotional episode, I was rooting for Starzi (We were all rooting for you!), but there was just no positives to highlight for her. The lyrics were meh, the performance was sleepy and the runway was bizarre. On the back it was a head-to-toe Cousin It fantasy, but on the front it’s … well, I don’t know what it is. She claims it’s Chun-Li, but it’s not coming through for me. It’s a lot of look, but none of it is working.
The judges are equally puzzled, and they send Starzi and Tynomi to the bottom. Guest host (NOT JUDGE) Deborah Cox is here and looking GORGEOUS. Tynomi has danced for the diva before, so she has an advantage when they go into a remix of Cox’s “Absolutely Not.” Both queens went for emotional delivery, heavy on face-face-face, but Tynomi snatches the win.
Where does that leave the rest of our queens? Let’s dish in this week’s rankings.
- There was a lot to love about Priyanka this week. She’s hilarious every time she’s on screen, she had a killer verse, great dance moves and a stunning runway. Plus, she had an emotional moment discussing hiding her sexuality from her father for fear of him hating her. How could anyone hate Priyanka?
- Rita wasn’t in the top three this week, but not because she didn’t crush the challenge. Rita approaches everything thoughtfully, presenting a fully considered, 360-degree experience every time. She’s a vet, but she feels just as vital and exciting as any other competitor. Her hair runway wasn’t the most attention-grabbing, but it was well done.
- There’s something about BOA. It gets a little schticky, but she manages to smooth out the edges enough to not get sloppy. I like the aggressive Divine energy she emulates, but there is clearly a ceiling here. It can’t be long before she starts banging her head against it.
- BoBo shot up the ladder this week with a great showing. She was one of the standout performers in the group number, and her hair runway really highlighted her personality. We’ve had some “clown” girls before, but Scarlett’s sexy, evil punk clown feels like the most fully-realized interpretation. She’s like if Liza Minnelli was a Resident Evil villain, and I am here for it.
- Ah ha! We’ve found Jimbo’s achilles heel: dancing. Not just the moves, but the defeatist attitude when facing something Jimbo doesn’t immediately excel at. Oh, honey, this competition is designed to make you do things you’re not good at! You gotta at least try to do it with a smile on your face! It’s also only a matter of time before they ask Jimbo to paint a pretty face. It can’t be all ghouls.
- Sure, Lemon is in the back half of the rankings here, but she’s still nipping at the tops’ heels. Few of the queens seem to embody the “I really WANT this” ethos as strongly as Lemon. Her drag doesn’t thrill me, her youthful energy can be a bit much at times, but when she’s performing, it all translates so well to this campy competition. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Lemon yet, even with two wins under her belt.
- Kiara may do well performing in drag girl groups around Canada, but it’s not because she’s a Nicole Scherzinger, she’s a … well, one of the other Pussycat Dolls? That’s to say she sort of blends into the background. A competent dancer, a decent rapper, but Kiara’s skills can’t shine beyond her shoddy outfits.
- Technically, I guess Ilona was in the bottom four this week? Her performance was certainly one of the worst during the group number — not so much her solo, but she phoned in every moment that wasn’t hers in the spotlight. She should be eternally grateful for the heavenly, powder blue puppy play she walked down that runway in. The judges were so beguiled with it, I think they kept her on stage just to talk about it.
- Starzi’s elimination felt justified. The hair runway was inexplicable. Why put these two seemingly unrelated characters together like that? There was no cohesion. The performance was noticeably weak and the lip sync lacking. Clearly not Starzi’s week, though I may have spared her to see if she could bounce back.
- Which means I likely would have sent Tynomi packing. How many times can she fail to live up to the hype? This should have been her challenge to shine, and she bit it. I can’t quite wrap my head around what’s not clicking here, but there is a clear disconnect between who Tynomi is outside this competition versus inside. Nothing she’s shown yet feels as legendary as her reputation.
How would you rank the queens?