Even though the results have been impossible to avoid (and the combination of COVID and international broadcast made it at times difficult to follow), Canada’s Drag Race delivered a slamdunk episode en route to its first finale.
This episode had everything: Hilarious mini challenge! Creativity and ingenuity in the workroom! A ball! Emotional moments with childhood photos! MICHELLE VISAGE! Priyanka got drunk!
“Snow Ball” pushed all my Drag Race buttons.
It’s easy to be beguiled by the final four in most seasons, having spent enough time with the cast and given the remaining queens expanded screentime. However, these four feel particularly talented AND likable. Even the judges — joined by Drag Race grand dame Michelle Visage — felt a little breezier when they left the air of authority to Michelle.
What I’m saying is that I would nominate this episode for inclusion in the Drag Race International Tickle Trunk Time Capsule (TM).
Enough generalized praise; let’s dive into the recap.
There’s a little shade to start as Rita bids adieu to her crush, Lemon. Bobo wants to know, on behalf of herself and Jimbo, what’s it like lip syncing for your life? Rita doesn’t hesitate to shoot back that Bobo also doesn’t know what it’s like to WIN a main challenge. Touché.
The mood is much lighter the next day when Stacey arrives looking fierce as hell to intro this week’s mini challenge. The gals are joined by comedian Sabrina Jalees to screen test singing the Canadian national anthem in a green-screened arena. Stacey and Sabrina give the queens direction to speed up, slow down, act afraid, etc. etc.
It’s a lot more fun than it should be. All four queens bring the funny, but Rita and Jimbo snap into character quickest. The win rightly goes to Rita, who seemed to always have the perfect way to bring each direction to life.
There’s no real advantage in the massive maxi challenge: The Snow Ball. The ladies will showcase three wintery outfits, including Executive Holiday Party Realness, Aprés the Aprés Ski icy walk of shame and, finally, a custom-crafted Ice Queen Eleganza.
The ball challenge is always a season-favorite since it packs so much into the runway presentation. It feels more like a true test of DRAG — more than any fake commercial or sitcom sketch — and it’s an ode to the bold queens of color that blessed us with ball culture. The contestants always appreciate the difficulty of the ball challenge, but these gals treat the ball with particular reverence, both for what it means to the competition and what it means to history.
It’s not an easy road for all. First, they’re going to be facing Michelle Visage on the mainstage, and you can guarantee she won’t be nearly the famously supportive squirrel friend Traci Melchor is. Priyanka should be afraid, since she’s basically sticking a bunch of crap on a corset.
Bobo also seems a little scared, since she’s got no sewing experience. In a scene that recalls her struggle to understand the concept of … editing … with Ilona earlier in the season, Bobo just can not grasp how the one piece of fur she has can become four pieces for the cape she envisions, despite Jimbo’s explanation.
Jimbo is, surprise, feeling confident getting ready, since she has lots of costuming experience. Rita recognizes how each remaining queen is a threat, but she’s pulling out all the stops for her lewk.
Getting ready for the runway, the dolls dish on who is rooting for them back home. Priyanka and Bobo get support from their mothers, while Rita praises her loving, construction worker dad. Jimbo blows off the question, talking about her thousands of fans, but that’s probably just a front to mask how panicked she is about her makeup.
The time on the runway is a blast. Seeing Michelle front and center is actually a hoot, and it looks like she is having so much fun in the captain’s chair. She picked a great week to stop by.
First up, Jimbo comes out in a glam gold wrap concealing a little lingerie that would land anyone on the naughty list. Her aprés the aprés ski character was rode hard and put away icy. She’s got the signature Jimbo flitter and vacant expression. and it just makes me wonder if every Jimbo character has been caught mid walk of shame. Most troubling of all, her Ice Queen was sloppy. It’s an overly ornamental mess that’s so unwieldy on the runway, Jimbo can barely walk, let alone serve.
Rita has a rough start. Her executive reads a little cartoony, but without any of the color or flair you’d expect. There’s even less holiday magic applied. It’s plain and a little sad. The judges HATED it. She makes another odd choice for round two, the walk of shame. It’s a butch character that passed out on the party and woke up with a face full of Sharpie. It’s creative, and the vision is well-executed. Michelle calls it performance art, but wonders if it’s right for Drag Race. Finally, she walks — scratch that — she INCHES down the runway in another tough to trot dress. Big foam embellishments on the bodice make it memorable, but the judges think the lack of hip pads ruins the illusion.
Do you love the holidays? Not as much as Priyanka’s executive realness! Man, she comes careening down the runway full of Christmas spirit with a matching Christmas tree skirt and jacket and holiday lights necklace. She’s serving full “fun office lady” energy, and it’s irresistible. For aprés ski, she’s giving you aprés slut aprés too many aperol spritzes. It’s a note-perfect “still drunk the next morning” routine. Just when she’s two for two, that body suit comes traipsing down the runway with a paper skirt for the third look, and you can feel the chill roll down Michelle Visage’s spine. Without fail, she lays into Priyanka for the garment, but also praises her makeup and styling.
Finally, it’s Scarlett’s week to shine, and she delivers three strong outfits. The first doesn’t scream “HOLIDAY” but it does scream “HOT AF.” She wears an expertly tailored newsprint suit down the runway and lights money on fire in an Ivana wig. Scarlett adds a layer to her walk of shame with some icy details that tell the story of a girl who passed out in a snowbank (but made it fashion). Bobo steals the show though with her final look. Instead of the typical eleganza gowns, she goes punk-viking, shining even without sewing skills. It’s a testament to the styling, because the garment itself is a little saggy.
There are two moments where Michelle asserts herself, “host” designation be damned, to show these upstarts what real judging looks like. All her criticisms are spot on and clearly articulated. When Jeffrey starts worrying “who” Priyanka’s aprés character “is,” Michelle is quick to cut through the non-comment by succinctly reminding him, she was playing a whore. (Come on, Jeffrey. Let’s not overcomplicate things.) She even interrupts Satcey’s modeling instructions to assure her they will not make a difference on Priyanka’s sloppy garment.
Following the judges’ comments, Bobo’s win is all but guaranteed. Before the girls are dismissed, they each confront a photo of their younger selves. You know how this goes. Tears are shed.
Backstage, Jimbo half-jokingly lays into Priyanka’s and Rita’s garments while Priyanka proceeds to get LIT on complimentary cocktails. You’d think this would happen more often, but maybe it’s just not usually this charming.
It’s no surprise when Bobo’s win is made official, but who is joining her in the top three? All the other girls received some degree of criticism. They spare Priyanka, leaving Rita and Jimbo to lip sync to Tegan and Sara’s “Closer.”
It’s an odd performance, but it’s tough not to feel joy with this track. Rita uses scissors to cut away the constricting gown, and it frees her up for a more dynamic sync. Jimbo seems to reject a lot of Rita’s attempt to interplay, but doesn’t really do much with the performance. Maybe the dress or heavy crown is to blame? Either way, it’s a shame, but it’s got to be Jimbo here.
The clever clown doesn’t leave without making a statement, gifting us with one of the most memorable exits of all time. She drops to her knees screaming “WHYYYYY?!” before collapsing on her face and slinking off the runway. Then, back in the work room, she uses the mirror lipstick to serve a little Buffalo Bill realness. Excellent, excellent stuff.
That leaves three! (Or one, if you’ve already watched the finale!) It feels disingenuous to pretend to prognosticate when the result is already out there. So, consider the rankings below as more of a snapshot where they’re at at this point, rather than a prediction.
- At the conclusion of this episode, I asked myself “Whom am I most excited to see next week?” The answer is undoubtedly Priyanka. Sure, I would never hire her as a seamstress, but she lights up the stage and screen whenever she appears. Her first two runway presentations (“look” doesn’t do the performance justice) were divine, and she handled Michelle’s criticism with aplomb and good humor.
- A little surprising, but after this week, I’d put Scarlett Bobo toward the top of my list as well. She’s not quite an actress or character comedian, but damn if she don’t slay every runway. She’s got a crystal clear identity for herself, and she finds lots of little ways to breathe life into the character (the Bobo headpiece, the punk rock trappings, the fire and smoke, etc.). She’s EXCITING, and her runway presentation is consistently electric. She looked amazing in all three categories and mightily deserved the win.
- While it was the right call to send her packing after this incredibly tight top four, I’d still rather see Jimbo for one more week. There was no saving that lip sync, but when I think back to Jimbo’s best moments this season, she’s in a class of her own. I think her exit is further proof that this is a supremely clever queen. She reminds me almost of season six BenDeLaCreme in the way she’s made such a strong showing but missed the finale. (Though no one would confuse Jimbo with Miss Congeniality.)
- It’s not that Rita didn’t deserve to stay tonight, nor is it a knock on her skills, but out of the final four, I find her well-executed classic drag missing that something special the other three queens all seem to have. It sounds harsh, but really we’re splitting hairs. Rita is more than worth of her top-three inclusion, and she clearly out performed Jimbo in the lip sync.
Who will walk away the winner? Find out in next week’s finale (or on Twitter).