This week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under yanks a challenge from All Stars, with middling results.
It may not always have been clear from my recaps, but I’ve generally enjoyed this season of Drag Race. Putting aside the issues with casting, this has been a refreshing set of queens who have given us a peek into what drag means down under. However, one issue has plagued the season, and it’s an entirely avoidable one: The challenges just don’t seem to fit the queens.
The only queens to completely nail an assignment all season have been Kita, with last week’s makeover challenge, and Anita, with Snatch Game. The rest have won by rising ever-so-slightly above the rest – or, to be blunt, not being as bad as everybody else. It’s a shame, and I think a poor reflection of these queens’ actual talent. More importantly, it’s a reminder that drag and Drag Race are not the same thing; being a great drag queen is not the same as being a great Drag Race contestant. No season of the show has made that more clear than this one, and perhaps no episode has made it more clear than tonight’s.
Bringing in the talent show challenge – now the standard opening challenge of the All Stars season – is in theory a great way for the queens to showcase what got them on the show on the first place. Not for the first time, the theory does not meet the practice.
Balloon animals. Quick change magic. Fitting lots of stuff in your mouth. Pole-dancing. Contemporary dance. These are the five talents the queens bring to the table. With the exception of Scarlet Adams mastering the pole like Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, each of these queens basically bows out from the win the moment they pick their talent. I’ll assess why when we get to the power rankings, but when your talent makes an audience go, “huh neat!” rather than “omg wow!”, you might not have correctly assessed what you need to win a competition.
The runway – the theme is “how’s your head?” which means the queens… put things on their head, I suppose – is much better. We’ve got four of the best looks of the season here, and Elektra. Kita’s is my favourite: it’s the kind of android anime realness that we haven’t seen much of before, and it shows that Kita has the versatility to branch out from the manic, high energy, persona she normally has into something weirder and more severe. Scarlet, largely thanks to being the only one to impress with her challenge, ekes out a win, and RuPaul sends both Elektra and Kita to the bottom.
And oof, this lip-sync. I’ll bring in my own personal experience for the first and hopefully last time during these recaps: I have lip-synced, many times, to The Veronicas’ ‘Untouched’. It’s one of the best pop songs of the 21st century (take any disagreements directly to a brick wall), but those verses are absolutely killer, with The Veronicas overlapping each other with a flow that would make Nicki Minaj reach for an inhaler. Elektra has a fun psyche-out at the start, but the rest of the lip-sync is mostly fine: Kita Mean is stuck on the spot in platforms that look like they weigh a metric fuckton, and Elektra relies on the high energy choreography that she has brought to every single episode thus far. Elektra goes home, once more proving that lip-sync assassins don’t win seasons, and we march onto a top four with a frontrunner whose racist scandal is heavier than any crown that could be laid upon her head.
ELIMINATED: Elektra Shock
Elektra has been a gift to Drag Race Down Under: she’s given the show a proper narrative to follow, thanks to consistent growth throughout the competition. But growth can only take you so far, and even in a season that has only just been able to anoint a frontrunner, it’s not enough to get the win. There’s still unlikeable defensiveness to Elektra that shows there’s room left to grow: when each of the queens names her as the one they think should go home, they’re clearly reluctant to soften the blow. Elektra, unfortunately, has to go last and immediately names Art Simone with a sourness that indicates that she has not yet learned the recipe for lemonade.
When it comes to the challenge, I believe that if Elektra had done something that wasn’t dance-related – and no shade here, she is clearly a great dancer and her contemporary dance piece is stunning to look at – she’d still be in the competition. The judges love her, and have clearly loved seeing her respond to their critiques, but alas: a great dancer does not a Drag Race superstar make, and dancing’s got nothing to do with those damn wigs either.
4. Karen from Finance
Karen! You made one balloon animal! If your bit in the talent show can be superseded by a clown you hire last minute for your kid’s birthday party on a Sunday morning, reconsider! You’ve been coasting the entire competition, how could you possibly think that making one balloon dog would impress the judges on the penultimate episode of Drag Race?! And, look, now I’m no better than a drunk twink on K’Rd, screaming at a drag queen who does not owe me a single thing.
Anyway, loved the outfit. She’s beautiful, I still want more from her. With one episode left, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that Drag Race will be where I get it.
3. Kita Mean
I’m also going to be a bit harsh on Kita here: Quick changes are impressive. They are also something that queens do on the runway… a lot. The reveal has been a mainstay of this particular runway for at least a decade, and within drag for much longer. It’s cool and fun, but doesn’t make her stand out from the rest, especially when the garments she’s changing are not especially spectacular.
Love this look a lot, though! The right mixture of editorial and nerdery that is my particular sweet spot.
2. Scarlet Adams
Poor Scarlet Adams, whose every mention that it was her first time doing this trick was included in the edit. We get it! It’s dangerous! But also, her warnings did mean we all understood she was taking a risk with that upside down split, and taking that risk was enough to give her the win. Hers was the only talent that involved any bravery whatsoever, and that’s not great. This is a competition! You should take a risk! You should step up!
Look what you did, Drag Race Down Under. Now I’ve used up The Spinoff’s daily allotment of exclamation marks. Anyway, her look was also classic Scarlet: beautiful, lovely, expensive. Not only is she the only queen to have multiple wins to her name, now she’s got three of them. It’ll be interesting to see if this show wants to crown her given the scandals in her past. History suggests yes, and frankly, I don’t want to be on my corner of the internet when that happens.
1. Art Simone
Reader, these rankings are all subjective. And Art Simone shoving a bunch of food into her mouth, followed by her fist, is honestly the funniest thing I’ve seen all season. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed at my desk like a damn fool. I get why the judges didn’t give her the win, but she is my number one forever and always (or at least this week).
I’ll correct myself: two queens risked something. Scarlet risked her body, Art risked her windpipe. That’s what it takes to win Drag Race, ladies and otherly identified.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.