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!
With quality soap drama and a camp old time at the panto, this week’s episode delighted childhood Dan! Heck, even puppetry was at play with one of my favourite mini challenges. Not the greatest of puppet shows in Drag Race herstory, but still some respectable shade thrown.
Some heartfelt moments made an appearance this week. It was lovely to see letters from home and parenting done right, each queen fully embraced and supported by their Mum; sadly, something not all queer people experience. Feelings were also addressed regarding last week’s drama, resulting in a brief heart to heart between Ellie and Lawrence. I appreciated the honest and open conversation between the two Scottish sisters without it being Ellie having to beg forgiveness for her strategic decisions. From such fresh progression though, I was baffled as to why Ellie thought to later blame Lawrence for her flubbed lines. When blaming your acting partner for your own shortcomings isn’t cute at the best of times, don’t go rocking the boat!
Speaking of which, this week’s main challenge was quite the experience in its entirety. UK soaps were truly honoured throughout, from an acting masterclass with Sonia feat. a “RICCKKAAAYY” vocal exercise, to wordplay references that must be applauded; ‘The Kween Dick’ and ‘Much Bitter’ were standouts, but whoever thought of ‘Shant-Beer You Stay’ deserved a written warning. With soap star exaggeration and iconic storylines, BeastEnders was brilliant, if confusing in its results. Thanks to the journey from rehearsal to final cut plus the power of editing, my predictions were scattered around like sodden beer mats! Assuming a bottom placement for Lawrence, it was a pleasant surprise to see gravelly perfection rise from the ashes of self-sabotage. Ellie had great characterisation but fell short beyond the aesthetic at times, with moments missed. As for Tayce, having thoroughly enjoyed her surprising show of comedic overacting, I was sure she’d claim the win this week!
Naturally, I was filled with glee at the prospect of a Panto Dame runway and was not disappointed. Sure, Tayce wasn’t quite a Dame and Ellie could have gone bigger, but everyone’s makeup and concept was impeccable and all delivered spot-on panto presentation! Even the risk of awkwardness in a double bloomer feature was overlooked by its sheer campery! Despite my initial Tayce prediction, Bimini’s brilliantly brassy performance as Skat Slater paired with her perfectly contrasting blokeish baby doll runway, made another badge feel right.
As for the ‘Lip Sync For Your Life’, it was exceptional on all counts – from the camp choice of Steps, to a reveal and follow-up cartwheel into a shablam! Rounded off with an elimination fake-out, it was everything I needed and more! At this point, all four queens can head into the final with a level of confidence – Tayce as a 4x lip sync assassin, Lawrence in their returning rise and Ellie though badgeless proving she can PERFORM! But after a fourth win, the beast is truly released…All Hail Queen Bimini!
So it’s Thursday again and a new episode dawns (anyone else feeling like a week is rolling around in about 2 seconds atm) yet here we are, still stuck in the tedium of Lawrence’s apparently newfound discovery that… Drag Race is a competition? Sulking on the sofa looking somewhat like a pile of disgruntled percy pigs, Lawrence’s mood was really bringing the energy of the start of episode 9 down for me. We’re over it producers… do your magic and edit this shit out. “A’Whora went home, and she was really good” Lawrence muses to camera… “What if that had been me?” Well yes, hen, that is pretty much how the show works. You’re down to the final 4, everyone is really good. You’re not immune to elimination just because you’re self proclaimed ‘drag royalty of Glasgow’. Am I being too harsh? Maybe. Ok, definitely. But at this point I’m just a bit done with Lawrence going over the same tired points. As the ever wise Tayce put it, A’Whora’s probably at home… having some fun right now and doesn’t even care about it any more!
Because of all that, I have never been more happy to see Ru walk through the doors, signalling the end of the running order saga, and the start of this week’s mini challenge. Although was it just me, or did his ‘hello hello hello’ seem a little muted this week? Maybe he was just starting to have regrets about that orange hat. This mini challenge is a classic for a reason (how cute was puppet Tayce’s jacket btw) and, as usual, Bimini crushed it with her Chaney take-down. Although again, Lawrence’s comment that ‘she struck gold because I’m very easy to take the piss out of’ came across as a bit of a backhanded compliment. Maybe, just maybe… do you think it could also be that Bimini is just funnier than you?
The main challenge was an instant win – with the leopard print, the Eastenders references and a surprise appearance from the one and only Nat Cass, the whole thing felt like a Drag Race/Love Of Huns collab, which is only ever a good thing. I agreed with the judges comments that Ellie could have taken her performance a bit further (you get the impression that she hadn’t ever actually really watched Eastenders, the wee bairn) but overall it was a very impressive performance. And, to hand it to him, Lawrence was bloody brilliant as Phillis. I have to say though, I was not into the whole Danny Dyer mannequin shtick. Maybe I was just partly gutted that Nat Cass wasn’t a guest judge for the runway, but I just found it super cringe. Turns out blow up toys as a comedy night audience, I can take, but a cockney mannequin on the judging panel? Step too far, apparently. These unprecedented times really do teach you about yourself.
Given the runway comments and the BeastEnders performances, it was only ever really going to be Ellie and Tayce in the lip sync, and I was concerned that given her dodgy record, it might have been Tayce’s time to go. So I was absolutely buzzing when Ru finally pulled the double shantay trigger. Top 4 all the way…. bring on the final!
This episode very much felt like being in limbo, between the stressful power dynamics from last week’s episode and the fact that the finale is next week. Ironically, the tension didn’t leave with A’whora; Ellie wasn’t the one to go home and Lawrence still wasn’t happy about it. After having had some time to reflect on last week’s episode, I empathise with Lawrence more. That said, I still stand by what I said: it’s pointless to hold any of the queen’s actions against them when all they’re trying to do is win. So, deep breaths, Lawrence. Maybe try doing some meditation.
The letters that the queens received from their mums came as the perfect antidote to all of the drama (I also appreciated the use of the Comics Sans font to label the envelopes). It reminded me of the first time we saw the queens come out of drag, and the hope I felt thinking that maybe it wouldn’t just be bitchiness and drama all the time; we do also get moments of sincere sweetness throughout the show. It’s obvious that the queens value their relationship with their mums, and so it clearly felt full circle for a lot of them, to receive a letter from the person who raised them into who they are now. And the photos with all of the queens in drag with their mums! So cayute!
“BeastEnders” was the main entertainment this week. I pretty much agreed with everything the judges said; Bimini was fabulous from beginning to end, Tayce delivered some iconic lines, Lawrence was once again a victim of her own overthinking, and Ellie…wasn’t particularly funny. I think the main difference between the successfully funny queens and the unfunny ones is their ability to let go and laugh at themselves. The sad irony is that Lawrence, despite being a comedy queen, seems to get overridden by stress, so isn’t so good at the “comedy” part of being a comedy queen when it comes down to it. But even if some of the queens did better than others in BeastEnders, I appreciated Ru taking the time to tell the queens that all of them did well, as well as Michelle saying that this was going to be one of the hardest acting challenges to call both in the UK and America. That’s a pretty cool achievement, regardless of what happens next.
The shock this week was Ru’s decision to send no one home. Whilst I do think that Ellie and Tayce were pretty much tied in terms of how well they did this week, I can’t help but be reminded of instances where I didn’t agree with who the judges decided to send home before. So, whilst I’m happy for Ellie, I’m reminded of when Joe Black was brought back, only to then be immediately sent home. Will it pay off? Or will it just make the finale episode even more stressful? Like, seriously, I’m not sure how much more of this drama I can take, guys. Not to bring back Mean Girls again, but I am totally the rainbows and unicorns girl; can’t we just all be happy? Maybe an Easter Special episode where the queens just sit around eating chocolate and complimenting each other? No? Ugh. Fine.
Although watching BeastEnders was amusing, I was disappointed that the final challenge before the grand finale was not a makeover challenge. Acting challenges always have the potential to bring some amusing scenes, but they never excite me as much as design, makeover or comedy challenges and Rusicals do. I feel like they are more for earlier in the season. Plus, watching the creative process of a makeover unfold is quite magical; you get to see a whole transformation occur! I wonder why they didn’t do it this season? Was it due to the pandemic and not being able to bring anyone in, or did Baga’s weird moment with her mum last season scar everyone a bit?
Lawrence continued to berate Ellie about last week’s shenanigans with the ordering, and I couldn’t help but wonder why she just wouldn’t let it go. This rivalry between the two Scots has gotten pretty tiring, especially when you sit back for a moment to think about the reality of the situation: I think we’ve been watching Lawrence’s demise for quite some time now? It feels very much like the competition is getting to her, and she can’t keep her cool. As I said last week, the way she tackles challenges is not really what I personally would want to see in a Drag Race winner. What worries me is Ru really seems to like her—but I can’t imagine anyone but Bimini winning!
Speaking of Bimini, she once again grabs another win for herself and I’m absolutely overjoyed. It’s good to see how hardworking, creative and professional she is, and excellent seeing it pay off. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: BIM FOR THE WIN. Because my favourite’s doing so well, I have to say this episode was a satisfying one. I was also pleased there was a double shantay. Seeing likable queens go home is always pretty heartbreaking, especially when they’re so close to the finish line. Both Tayce and Ellie did really well in the lip sync; I felt proud of them both even though they’re not my frontrunners (they’re ahead of Lawrence though). Tayce’s ability to really capture the feel of a song is amazing—I love that fierce look she pulls when lip syncing—and Ellie kept her movement and energy going, meaning the performance was exciting to watch and the double shantay well-deserved. All in all, this episode started off mediocre and ended on a very high note, leaving me very impatient for next week’s reunion and winner announcement!
Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK is available now on BBC iPlayer. Catch us next Sunday to see what the reviewers make of the FINAL episode!