‘RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under’ S1E3 Recap: Oh BardNOt She Better Don’t Go

'Down Under' makes 'Drag Race' herstory with the first all-white top seven! Finally, some representation.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

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Antipodeans, hold your heads and paws up high. We’ve made Drag Race herstory with the first all-white top seven! Finally, some representation.

Drag Race, for all its many issues around race (what is and isn’t ‘ratchet’ or ‘cheap’, how the fans favour white queens), has always been one of reality TV’s most diverse shows. Down Under‘s cast, not so much. This is nothing against the queens who remain, but God, the optics of the sole First Nations and queen of colour to leave first and second (I remain adamant Art is returning) is just not on.

Add insult to injury given that, unlike most Drag Race seasons, there was no open casting call for Down Under. Instead, production hand-picked who they wanted on, approaching them instead of inviting all to audition.

It’s very telling who they value and who they don’t: and while I get that the COVID-19 of it all would have made production incredibly difficult, it’s disappointing that the Down Under cast, no matter how much I love each queen individually, doesn’t reflect our drag’s diversity.

And we’re talking white white, too, as the cast is predominantly anglo. It’s like the show was cast via that other WAP. It’s just beyond being Cricket — howzat for a reference (No honestly, how is it? Does that work?)?

Coco’s elimination this episode was further salt in the wound. She admittedly hasn’t been super strong in the challenges so far, but she shouldn’t have been against Elektra in the bottom this week. But what’s Drag Race without incredibly confusing, irritating judging? Let’s get into it.

Byron Bae-watch? No, I’ll Be Boycotting It, But Only Because I Think Byron Bay, On The Whole, Shouldn’t Be Televised

Before we get into this week’s girl group maxi-challenge, the queens, still reeling from last week’s shock elimination, turn to helium to numb the pain.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

To quote the late Art Simone, I’m sure this shot means nothing.

When their pitches return, in walks Ru with this week’s mini-challenge — a Baywatch slow-run parody, because we too have beaches.

The segment is sponsored by Manscape: I was gobsmacked that they finally found their way onto the main show, after years of RuGirl podcast ads and WoW YouTube videos. A line has been crossed, and I will let my hairs grow in protest.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

A completely natural, not forced moment.

Scarlet and Elektra are the winners for going all out with their fun in the sun, and are the leaders of the two girl groups. We’ve got the ‘Three and a half men’, aka Elektra, Maxi, Kita and Karen and, ‘Outback Fake Hoes’, aka Scarlet, Anita, Coco and Etc..

Completely by coincidence, I’m sure, Elektra and Scarlet are going pied-a-pied as the two ‘choreographers’ of the season. Maxi is the most nervous of the queens as she’s neither a singer nor a dancer — she’s also the last queen remaining when the groups are being picked, but says she doesn’t “give a rats ass” about it.

Broken record here, but I love Maxi. It’s a shame the show isn’t investing more time in her, because she is so representative of a distinctly Australian mode of drag, a dry, masculine camp untouched by the Drag Race-ification of the form.

Sam Leighton-Dore summed it up on Twitter: the show doesn’t quite seem to be showcasing how distinct our drag is from the world, which is less about LOOKS and often about reclaiming a larrikin cheekiness from the Ocker world. He’s a little harsher than I am (I love this season, truly), but I agree that this tonal missive is a bigger offence than the production quality — I can forgive shoehorned editing, but mistreating Maxi Shields? NO!

Onwards: rehearsals show Maxi and Coco struggling the most, while Scarlet and Etc. fight for control of the group.

It’s funny to see Etc. offer “suggestions” in such a genuinely unintentionally pass-ag way — Coco’s shade about Etc.’s work at The Imperial aside, she has a point that Etc. is clearly used to being in control.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

‘If I smile while suggesting something, then it’s fine!’

Elektra’s team work much more smoothly, with Karen even going so far as to say she hopes Elektra wins the challenge because it’s been such a joy to work with her. We also learn that Elektra hasn’t worked as a choreographer ‘for quite some time’ after she lost her dance studio — to the point she had to live in a shed.

She says she struggled to convince her students that they should believe in themselves after having been knocked back by a ‘not so nice world’ herself, and it’s clear this challenge has been a cathartic experience for her. Shocking, then, that she ends up in the bottom for showboating, when in fact it was probably just her feeling confident and at home for the first time in the competition.

Also Leland and Troye Sivan Zoom in to give advice, and Troye says the words ‘bareback’ and ‘raw-dogging’ completely stone-faced. In unrelated news, I will be visiting Melbourne as soon as possible.

Tight Tucks, Loose Lips-yncs

Both performances are perfectly fine. ‘Bing Bang Bong’ has destroyed all chances of being wowed by a Drag Race song ever again, but I did really enjoy hearing our nasal drawls on the track. It’s hard to say who should be in the bottom, exactly.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

Gotta respect the refusal to colour co-ordinate or look moderately similar.

In the Fake Hoes group, Coco’s verse is pretty off at first when she sings, but the end of it is filled with enough ‘slay crown me, love yourself!’ energy to bring it back; Anita’s is excellent but she can’t keep up with the choreo; Etc is fine, and Scarlet’s technically hits all the gag-reflexes but also feels very Blaccent-y and tells me little about who she is.

Scarlet’s had a lot of screentime so far, but I feel like I know her the least of the queens left. It could just be my own biases against her, but while I recognise her talent/how sharp she is in terms of ‘Drag Race humour’, it all feels a bit too orchestrated. I suppose, regrettably, I’m asking for vulnerability.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

Maxi and Elektra are dressed like Cock Destroyers, while Karen and Kita are ready for a night of drag vaudeville.

In 3.5 men, Elektra kills her verse and is, ahem, electric and eye-catching on stage; Maxi’s verse is really funny and I personally loved that she just rolled around on the floor and Kita continually proves she is named after the wrong drug, as she is an upper personified. If anything, I think Karen’s might’ve been one of the worst verses — it felt a bit lazy, both lyrically and performance-wise.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

The show is called ‘Down Under’.

Cearly none of that matters compared to the runway. The theme is Bogan Prom, and the fact they didn’t call it a Formal feels very indicative of how this show keeps half-translating our cultural references, leaving them somewhere in-between.

It’s all very ’80s-inspired, as I guess the queens were mostly going for ‘daggy’. It’s a shame no one broke out the braces, straightener-burned hair, bright maxi dress, sandal heel and flask filled with one Smirnoff double black.

Etc. got really confused and thought this was a chance to re-do Snatch Game as Corey Worthington.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

I’d like to keep them [the glasses] on, please.

Karen From Finance didn’t want to go into the red with her budget, so borrowed a frilled dress from Rosé, and was probably one of the few queens who actually read as bogan.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

Kylie mole returns, two weeks in a row!

Maxi’s chaperone look gave me ‘English teacher who takes the gay student under her wing without ever directly addressing his sexuality’ (hi Miss. Dickson/Ms. Tomko/several other English teachers).

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

‘Yes love, you can stay in the classroom over recess if you want’

Scarlet’s goon bag dress is a winning idea, but I don’t necessarily think it looked great. Art had something similar planned, and I think pulled it off better. Can’t wait for ‘Night of 1000 Standard Drinks’ next season.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

Australia has no culture? Try again, sweetie.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

The fact her purse had actual goon in it was pretty damn good though.

Of the remaining looks, I actually put Coco’s towards the top of the night. Her knees were dirtied, her lipstick smushed. It’s not life-changing, but it told a story, was delivered with campiness, and she looked beautiful. What else do you want?

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

The judges must be allergic to Poison ivy, and therefore need a poison iv bag, right?

Rhys tells both Anita and Kita that they possess a “manic” energy, which was an odd thing for the editing to keep in. He’s not wrong, though — this week, I began to understand why they’re such close friends.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

When your alcoholic, chainsmoking auntie discovers Jojo Siwa.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

Does Rhys just think all New Zealanders are manic? Did one Kiwi tell him that it’s slang for ‘groovy’?

The win goes to Scarlet, with Elektra winding up in the bottom for her “cheap” look and “showboating”.

It’s all very unfair, especially given the story we just learned about Elektra losing everything she had: we hear Karen say that you don’t need money to win this show, but it certainly can prevent you from being in the bottom. I thought she was going to win, or at least come second to Anita.

rupaul's drag race s1e3 recap

TFW you’re told to “elevate” your drag but have already bought everything from home and adding a few accessories isn’t going to do anything.

The bottom was tough to call though, as no one was bad. Coco, unfortunately, fumbled her first few lines by singing them, and while it’s frustrating for myriad reasons, that deservedly lands her in the bottom this week.

Karen and Etc were a bit forgettable this week, but I don’t think the show’s ready to risk losing either of them. As much as I love her, I think Coco vs. Maxi made much more sense in the show’s logic than what we ended up with.

Elektra must be pissed off, as it’s pretty clear at this point the show isn’t invested in her. She uses that anger to smoke the lip-sync. If there was any time for a double save, it would’ve been now — that was an all-timer from them both. Coco, you better make like that letter that Art definitely wrote and watch out, because you’ve just made 10,000s of fans worldwide.

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under is exclusively streaming on Stan. A new episode streams every week from 4pm AEST.

Jared Richards is Junkee’s Drag Race recapper and a freelancer who writes for The Big Issue, The Guardian and more. He’s on Twitter as @jrdjms.