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All is not fine wine in the House of Drag.
All is not fine wine in the House of Drag.

Pop CultureNovember 29, 2018

House of Drag, episode four recap: A shock exit leaves us shook

All is not fine wine in the House of Drag.
All is not fine wine in the House of Drag.

It’s our first shock elimination – and one that genuinely leaves the show worse off. Sam Brooks power-ranks episode four of House of Drag.

“Skits are for scouts.” is one of the many pearls of wisdom that my mother gave me. Skits are sketches that weren’t good enough to be sketches, so they’re called skits.

So when House of Drag strutted into its fourth episode, proudly with the phrase ‘the shit skit challenge’, I was not looking forward to whatever the contestants come up with. Even some of the best, most reliable comedians in the world have a hard time putting a good sketch together with a lot of time, I wasn’t sure what a group of draggers were going to come up with over an afternoon.

I was wrong to fear, lovely reader! The skits, which retold the origin story of hosts Kita and Anita in appropriately loose, raucous and shady style, were actually fine – and the Lola/Vulga/Hugo team turned out an especially funny skit.

The remaining six queens on House of Drag.

The show still has a problem with tone and balance – it feels even more of a whiplash than normal when we go from an overlong opening sketch with Kita and Anita to Medulla talking about her life in the Maldives – and the strange length of the show means that episodes can feel both overstuffed and rushed at the same time.

But that’s all fixable on an episode-by-episode basis. What’s not fixable is the elimination process, which leads me into this week’s power-rankings…

I feel the same way about your elimination, Medulla.

ELIMINATED: Medulla Oblongata

Straight up: Medulla should not have left, and this elimination only weakens the show.

Put simply, Medulla was the contestant who had the largest point of difference – and what this episode did was highlight how high the stakes of this competition are for her. As she said, ‘drag is love, drag is love, drag is family.’ For Medulla, an openly gay man from the Maldives, who applied for asylum because he feared for his life, drag isn’t just something to do for fun or work – it’s a powerful form of expression.

You were great, Medulla.

For the show to eliminate the only remaining person of colour, with half the show’s run still left to go, is not a great look. To remind you, the elimination process involves the winner of the week picking the bottom two, and the hosts-slash-judges seemingly arbitrarily picking who remains out of those. In an ideal world, this should allow the judges to save a genuine competitor who had a shoddy week (although I’d argue Medulla did exactly what was required of her in her skit).

In practice, however, it means that the competitors aren’t given a chance to save themselves from the proverbial axe. And so we get a show where every elimination thus far, has seemed like a little bit of a shock, and even inexplicable. It’s really not helped – especially in this episode – with the host’s glib, “Fuck offff.”

And, to digress a bit, the ‘fuck off‘ is funny when it’s funny. When it’s not, it’s just mean. When you’re saying ‘fuck off’ to the only person of colour left on your show that you also just chose to eliminate, the one who has established emotional high stakes for being in the competition, it reads as remarkably tone-deaf.

With Medulla leaving the competition, we’re not only losing the queen who seemed like she had the most to show us. We’re losing the queen who seems to have the most at stake, the queen who seemed to be the most gentle and pleasant of the competitors, and the one who was the most fun to watch.

Farewell, Medulla. You were a star, and this show is worse off not having you around.

Leidy Lei, and some eyebrows.

5. Leidy Lei

Leidy Lei was in the bottom for a second time this week and probably should’ve gone home. Despite her performance having genuinely funny moments, a racist joke remains a racist joke. “I bet with that nose you’re hiding money somewhere.” is straight-up anti-Semitism, and incredibly lazy humour.

Not a good look, Leidy Lei! Also not a good look was her actual look, less Kita and more a variation on her own style. Doing an impression is hard, but if you’ve nailed the look, then the rest can come naturally. Unfortunately, she didn’t capture Kita’s look or her sense of humour, and it fell flat as a result.

Bunny Holiday holding court, and also a notebook.

4. Bunny Holiday

“I think if we’re just really funny, fucking vulgar and yuck and overact it, we’re gonna be absolutely fine.”

Usually, that’s the kind of utterance that would spell doom for a competitor, but Holiday manages to be fine, thanks to a better-than-expected impression of Anita.

Every reality show needs a villain, though, and Holiday’s attracted the villain edit. Shade is shade, but calling someone a ‘walking man-jaw’ is flat-out mean, and also not particularly witty. Shade can be beautiful to bask in, but sometimes a branch falls off the tree and it hits you on the head, and that ain’t funny, y’all.

You go, Hugo.

3. Hugo Grrrl

Hugo continues to skate, pirouette and triple salchow through on professionalism, talent, charm and preparation. He wisely lets Vulga and Lola take the centre stage in their skit, and it pays off.

The only contender who hasn’t yet to truly mess up, Hugo’s here to stay.

Vulga Titz, in a stunning dress.

2. Vulga Titz

The name on everybody’s lips is gonna be… Vulga Titz.

I still can’t think of the name without snickering at my laptop, and by virtue of that alone, I think Vulga Titz is gonna be around for some time. What I’m saying is that if House of Drag were breasts, then Vulga Titz is the bra holding them aloft.

Vulga’s performance in the skit as Kita was genuinely brilliant this week – consistent, with some electric and wild moments. It’s the kind of turn that secures a contestant as a genuine contender, and now that we’re halfway through, I can’t see Vulga going home.

She’s representing Wellington better than Celia Wade-Brown ever did.

Lola Blades, and a bandage.

WINNER: Lola Blades

Lola didn’t win this challenge, but she won the week.

There are few things more satisfying to watch than a reality show contestant who knows the game. Anybody can create drama, and hell, a producer doesn’t even need a dramatic contestant to make drama. They’ll do it in post.

But what you can’t do in post is make a contestant who knows the game they’re playing, and who intends to stick around to see the game to its end.

When Lola was made team captain, it would’ve been very easy for her to not pick Hugo, to feel resentment for Hugo putting her in the bottom two, but that’s not what she did. She realised Hugo was a strong competitor, knew that Hugo would guarantee a certain level of quality for their skit, and picked them for her team.

Lola also picked Vulga – clearly a talented, funny, performer, and one who can capture the essence of Kita – to round out her team. As a result, they had a skit that wasn’t just the best of the week (out of two, so let’s not overpraise it here), but was genuinely funny.

She might come across as a bit of a shark in the interviews but, hey, sharks go for the kill and they get the meat they want. I’d be surprised if Lola doesn’t make top two.

You can watch House of Drag on TVNZ on Demand right here.

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