RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is back for its second season (or series…), with a new episode being released every week on BBC iPlayer. To celebrate, we’ve lined up four rrramble writers (including a Drag Race virgin!) to watch each week and spill all the tea, with a new review coming to you every Sunday. Yas queens!
This week’s episode felt like watching Mean Girls. Ellie was the bright-eyed newbie, quickly brought into the ranks of The Plastics (in this case, A’whora, Bimini, Tayce and Lawrence). All of the other queens had this air of superiority, continually reminding Ellie that she was the only one yet to win any badges, and then after winning the first challenge (doing a live rendition of one of Ru’s songs) they all acted as if it was meaningless. The hypocrisy was real.
The main challenge this week was to perform a stand-up comedy set. And here is where my anxiety-induced tummy ache kicked in. A’whora and Lawrence were livid about Ellie’s chosen line-up order, determined that it was an act of sabotage, to boost Ellie’s abilities, and undermine the others’.
…I’m sorry, but Drag Race is still a competition, right?
As Tayce said—practically the only person to say anything nice to Ellie for the entire episode—they would probably have done the same thing if they were in her position. Of course they would have!
Throughout the show, we’ve seen the queens make friends with each other, and often pair off to have their go-to Drag Race BFF, like Veronica and Tia, Tayce and A’whora, and this week the focus was very much on Ellie Diamond and Lawrence Chaney’s relationship. Now, I might be wrong, but throughout the series, I’ve never really gotten the sense of them being close to each other, other than being united in their Scottishness (something that I’ve only ever seen Lawrence employ to make some insult about one or more of the non-Scottish queens).
Of course, it might just be my own ignorance, but certainly in these later episodes I have found myself questioning how strong these relationships can actually be, when they’re formed in such a hostile environment. The way Lawrence was behaving towards Ellie was just so immature. I would say selfish, but that’s to be expected. This is a competition, so it’s not like she should be expected to care about Ellie more than winning the competition, but then she should have acknowledged that. Instead, she just tried to guilt trip Ellie using this idea of sisterhood that I’ve never really seen Lawrence bring up before this episode. It was pretty villainous of her, IMO.
This week, the bottom two were Tayce and A’whora. I would have liked Lawrence to have to lip-sync as penance for her pettiness this week—and I also thought Tayce’s stand-up was pretty good considering she doesn’t think of herself as a comedy queen—but alas, A’whora was the one to go.
My main reaction was one of dread; Ellie’s probably feeling like crap, I feel a bit like crap, because her slightly evil plan actually might have paid off (although line-up order cannot be totally blamed for A’whora’s performance) and I did genuinely like A’whora after getting to know her a little better.
Ugh, I’m nervous for next week! Let’s hope Lawrence can reign in the pettiness, although I highly doubt it.
A humorous drag queen shows great wit, intelligence and performing ability, so I’ve very much been looking forward to the stand-up challenge. Plus, I’ve been needing a good ol’ laugh in these gloomy times. The episode starts off with a mini challenge in which the queens have to sing ‘Kitty Girl’ in as macho a way as possible. Ellie wins, although for me A’Whora was the one who made me laugh the most with her ‘I’ve not even heard of Lady Gaga’ and ‘I only date het women’ statements. Due to her win, Ellie is rewarded with creating the order in which the queens will perform, and the contestants’ discussion around the table is comedic enough itself, with Tayce’s revelling in the drama making me chuckle. I can’t help but feel bad for Ellie, who, as Tayce rightly points out, is just trying to play the game. Lawrence and A’Whora need not be so butt hurt, in my honest opinion.
This episode, I felt, was the first time I was able to connect with Tayce on a deeper level, beyond simply admiring her dazzling beauty. Hearing her in her confessional open up about how she’s never had a boyfriend really lets us in to what she’s experiencing, and also speaks to other people. We all have those moments when we feel self-conscious and worried about whether we’re worthy enough to be with someone. There’s something so relatable about hearing an absolute goddess go through the same problems; it’s comforting even though it’s sad.
Moving on to the main challenge, I am thoroughly impressed with everyone. In past seasons, there have been clear winners and even clearer losers, aided by the shady sound effects the producers add in. But this stand-up challenge was very different. I thought that, despite the audience being solely made up of silent blow-up dolls and scolding judges, all the contestants did really well. A’Whora’s rudeness translated well onto a comedy stage—I can only say damn the BBC for upholding this ‘stiff upper lip’ stereotype. Ellie’s performance was very strange indeed; I was pretty weirded out but even so, she still made me laugh. Lawrence was alright…I wholly agreed with the judges’ critiques on it being too slow. And Tayce did so much better than I thought she would! She was able to bring a conversational tone to the performance, which is essential in stand-up.
And then: my favourite, Bimini. Right away, her first sentence showed off her intelligent humour and I was continuously hanging off her every word—I just am so impressed with her ability to engage with an audience through such wit! Her interpretation of the runway was unexpected and phenomenal; I agreed entirely with Michelle when she said, “you push boundaries.” She did so well, which filled me with joy, and she came at the challenge with an air of calm confidence. This is what makes her the winner for me. I know there are people rooting for Lawrence, and I do see why I suppose, but her disdain towards Ellie’s ordering really put me off (not to mention past moments of meanness). Surely a true winner should treat any challenge with dignity and composure (the way Bim does) rather than complaining?
I had intended to save watching this week’s episode for the weekend (those lockdown nights really do be wild) but after glancing at various group chats it became clear that I was going to have to watch it asap, to avoid spoiler central. So I was already prepared for there to be some drama, or at least a talking point big enough to make my phone buzz like it was.
If I was hoping for controversy (I was) I certainly got it, but maybe not always the fun kind. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the comedy – if you can really call it that! – but there were also some moments that left me feeling a little uncomfortable.
To start with, to me personally, something about the ‘butch’ mini challenge felt a little off. Ru’s introductory line ‘there are many different types of drag’ is certainly true, but considering Drag Race has been criticised for its lack of diversity when it comes to allowing these ‘different types’ of contestants to participate in the show, it felt a tad hypercritical. Either that, or as if someone in the production team had gone ‘shit, another article about transphobia? Fine, throw a mini challenge in with some drawn on some beards, that’ll shut everyone up…’. Considering Ru’s own insistence that Ginny Lemon try to be ‘pretty’ earlier in the season, it just felt like it would be nice if this acceptance of all drag could be brought into the show for longer than a mini challenge. Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the queens absolutely murder Kitty Girl… and is it just me or is macho Tayce kind of hot?!
Then we got to the actual comedy, and I started thinking that maybe this was really what everyone was talking about. It was certainly brave of the producers to go ahead with a comedy challenge despite the lack of crowds. It definitely made the challenge even harder, and I felt that some queens, like Tayce, would have done better had they been able to feed off the energy of a crowd. Overall, what was shocking was not who came out on top and bottom – I could have predicted that Bimini would kill it and A’Whora would struggle – but just the downright INSANE content of some of the routines themselves. A’Whora… I have no words. All I want to know is, considering the stuff we heard: what the hell did they bleep out?! As Alan said, after that, the rest of the queen’s routines felt like watching Antiques Roadshow, although Ellie came close with her dick obsessed ‘dirty diamond’.
The lip sync was emotional AF, and I was half expecting to see Ru give a double ‘shantay you stay’, but in the end I thought it was probably fair that A’Whora went, based on her performance that week. Poor Ellie Diamond though had better watch her back. Some queens (cough, Lawrence) are definitely not here to play Ru Paul’s best friend race anymore…
After the level of tension this episode, my focus was largely drawn to the dramatics! Frustrated to see Ellie seeking validation for being Top Five, her choices this week left me pleased… if incredibly anxious. Considering her current position in the competition, I understood her strategic turn but was baffled by her decision to announce her tactics to the room. If you want to play the game then go for it and own it, but don’t then vocalise your strategy and open it up for discussion! With no intention of altering, it made no real sense to do so and left her playing a dangerous game in plain sight.
Backlash was expected, but I did not think the level of anger towards Ellie throughout was necessary. I understand why A’Whora felt upset, knowing you’ve been placed first in the line-up with the express intention of seeing you fall and fall hard. I also understand Lawrence’s emotions, appreciating the unexpected surprise of a friend throwing you under the bus in equal measure. However, it is a competition and strategies are to be expected. If you’re in Top Five and without a badge, it makes sense to shade everyone equally to better your chances of landing on top. Saying you wouldn’t do the same (like I would) is great but unlikely, unless you’re looking to play Miss Congeniality. Besides, as Tayce and Bimini mentioned, it’s your material not your position that really matters. Whether first or fourth, bad material will be bad regardless; the onus falling entirely on you and no one else.
I was positively thrilled to see comedy icon Dawn French as a judge this week and loved her balance of kindness and criticism. Wondering myself how long a set I could get out of perpetual ghosting, the queens did a reasonable job for such a hard challenge. However, the quality of comedy content left me highly confused as to who would place…well, anywhere! Everyone had some issues, whether it be a lack of direction or severely slow pace. The runway didn’t help much either, with everyone looking amazing in their own right. For their consistent humour and refusal to serve the expected, Bimini deserved a third win to cement their rise throughout the competition. As for the other queens, I hadn’t a clue. Lawrence brought visual diversity but her set was too slow to a punchline; A’Whora was dripping in conceptual opulence, but the crudeness of her comedy lost effect; whilst Tayce looked gorgeous and made a stilted but acceptable effort.
Whilst preferring Tayce’s lip sync in the softness of its portrayal, A’Whora’s own performance and competition statistics still made no double shantay a shock ruling. Though wanting her to have survived it, I can’t help feeling Ellie’s manic routine without payoff should have earnt her a bottom spot this week…despite looking a frosted beauty! With Tayce’s bottom two record and Ellie’s badge deficiency, both queens need to make sure Beastenders won’t be their dramatic end. Queue the ‘Duff Duff’s!
Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK is available now on BBC iPlayer. Catch us next Sunday to see what the reviewers make of episode 9!