Rugby meets drag for the first time in Drag Race herstory. and all the other action from this week’s episode.
Have we ever gotten this far without a frontrunner on Drag Race? Early favourites have either gone home (and come back again), failed to meet high expectations (a certain financially minded queen) or done blackface in their teens, which probably prevents even the most lackadaisical production from crowning them the winner. It’s strange to get to the last three episodes of a season and still not be sure who the actual winner will be, or even could be.
This episode doesn’t bring any more clarity on that front, other than, of course, sending one queen home. What it does bring is something that has been a little lacking from the rest of the season: some local culture. A few members of the NZ Falcons RFC (more on them below) guest on this episode, and to hear them talk in the workroom about the struggles with, and against, masculinity is great. I can’t remember the last time I saw a queer Pasifika man talk about the intersection of his culture and sexual identity like this on mainstream TV – and something that I hope future seasons engage with more.
Unfortunately, this week also brings about a Drag Race mainstay, a strange hangover from the times when the show assumed (incorrectly) that its main audience was gay men who desperately wanted to see conventionally attractive semi-clothed men on this show, despite there being a host of other places to do so. I don’t understand what the challenge is, and refuse to engage with it but here’s a photo of it:
You get the gist.
Moving swiftly along to the meat (gross) of the episode: the makeover challenge. While in previous seasons we’ve seen the queens make over jocks, DILFs (google it), army veterans and superfans of the show, Down Under brings a clever twist to the challenge. They’re making over players from the Falcons, getting them in touch with their feminine side.
These challenges are often the last ray of lightness in a season before everything goes fake tits up and the competition gets dirty. A makeover lets us see the softer side of the queens, now that they’re in the same room with people who aren’t competing against them. That’s true in this episode too: each queen treats their assigned player with a lot of love, care and affection.
This is especially important in a season that has been, while not any nastier than your average season, a lot more shady. My cultural assessment is that we down under folks are typically more accustomed to dishing it out (and taking it) in a way that is usually playful, not hurtful. That works fine in normal life, but when seen on camera it can seem way rougher than it should. I’m sure the insults many of us casually fling around would come off a lot differently if our daily interactions had talking head interviews dissecting them spliced in.
The runway was… fine. No real travesties but no huge successes either!
But, okay, the lip-sync! Neither queen totally fucks it up, but it’s still probably the weakest lip-sync of the season, even granting that Kylie Minogue’s ‘Better the Devil You Know’ is an absolute trap of song. The lyrics are bleak as hell – it’s basically Kylie pleading with a shitty ex to take her back because she’d rather be with him than some other shitty guy – but she delivers it earnestly, with such hope, and the beat goes along with her. If you’re going to go high energy with your lip-sync, as both Maxi and Scarlet do, then there better be something dark undercutting that energy. Otherwise, you’re performing the beat, not the song.
Anyway, lip-sync analysis over! Onto the rankings.
ELIMINATED: Maxi Shield (with Cilla Wet)
Oh, Maxi. It’s hard to survive messing up a challenge that you should have had in the bag. It’s even harder when that challenge involves you shaving off someone’s 12 year old beard. I’ll miss Maxi in this competition, and I’d argue she’s a formidable queen who got an unlucky deal with the challenges (that dancing challenge, oof), while also being something of a self-saboteur in the challenges where she should’ve excelled (Snatch Game, the infomercial challenge, this one).
In saying all this: I’ve enjoyed every moment Maxi’s been onscreen, which is more than you can say for a lot of others.
5. Scarlet Adams (with Sapphire Adams)
Look, fine! But fine gets you put in the bottom at this point in the competition. Adams get knocked for dressing her competitor up to look more basic than her (true) and for a lack of family resemblance (also true). She looks great, as usual, and gives an energetic lip-sync, and I’d wager her placing in the bottom here is more about shaking things up than any real punishment. Statistically, she’s still the frontrunner, and it’d be a surprise for her to miss out on the top three.
4. Elektra Shock (with Riri Action)
I do not like this makeup! That’s fine. Shock gets a lot of points this week for listening to her competitor, but gets points taken off for being unnecessarily mean. Of course, the points here don’t matter, because I am not a judge and Drag Race does not operate on a points system. She does call herself a lip-sync assassin, however, and I have one observation about that: Lip-sync assassins, especially self-proclaimed ones, don’t win seasons.
But brava for this: “There are 1000 dicks in the world and none of them are big enough to stop me from doing drag.”
3. Karen from Finance (with Debbie from Reception)
Good, fine, cute, I want to see the manager because Karen should have not only run away with this challenge, but with the entire competition. Kudos for dubbing her drag sister Debbie from Reception, though. I only wish Karen’s work thus far would live up to her amazing name.
2. Art Simone (with Craft Simone)
It’s so nice to see Art Simone being nice! She extends her record of being the longest returning queen to survive, and if Kita hadn’t completely smashed this challenge she would have been a decent winner. There’s still a whiff of B+ about Art Simone in this competition; another example of an excellent queen who isn’t quite excelling.
1. Kita Mean (with Feta Mean)
Yay! I’m genuinely delighted to see Kita Mean excel, and finally win a challenge. When her sister says that she wants to share in Kita Mean’s energy, you really feel it. There’s a camaraderie to her that is nice to see come out, and Mean’s trademark poppers-and-sherbet energy is deeply appreciated on a show that can get bogged down by the shade being volleyed around the room.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under airs on TVNZ2 at 8.30pm on Saturdays, and drops on TVNZ OnDemand earlier that night.