‘RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under’ S2E2 Recap: Oh Naur
This week, our 'Down Under' queens are given an impossible task: make 'Drag Race's worst acting challenge script yet funny.
We know Drag Race‘s acting challenges have phenomenally bad scripts — just like an unconventional materials challenge, shorts like ‘Caged Queens’ are about making the most with whatever trash you’re given, inspired by the two-line parts they’ll likely audition for. (Well, unless you’re MCU star Shea Couleé.) But just like last week’s premiere, which gave the Down Under cast some of the most difficult materials we’ve seen in a challenge, episode two’s acting challenge gave these queens a beyond-tragic script to work with. Prison, honey.
It’s on purpose, to the point team two’s skit was about executing the acting challenge’s scriptwriter, but God, at least give us something watchable. The judges are left to criticise the queens for not letting loose enough and embracing the stupidity of the sketches, but who can blame them: I’d be fucking embarrassed to act out some of those lines, not to mention doing so guided under Michelle’s completely vague direction. (The fact that the groups were called “Team 1” and “Team 2” rather than giving the scripts a title speaks to a general lack of care, I’d say.)
But, if we’re looking on the bright side, I do think there’s something about our drag scene making the best of a bad situation: that’s pretty much what it means to be an artist in Australia, at least. Sure, the runway’s lit oddly and this week’s challenge was challenging to sit through, but I’m really enjoying this cast. Sad to say bye to Aubrey Haive, who did her best to push through one of the worst parts and didn’t quite nail her reveals on the runway.
She’s clearly a very talented queen, if not maybe a little overprepared to be a RuGirl — packing in one too many ‘gag-worthy’ moments on the runway, coming off a little unnatural volleying with the judges’ comments. (Then again, I’m sure if Ru said literally anything to me I’d just laugh and nod.)
We’ve seen it countless times, the baby queen with a spark but isn’t quite 100% formed yet, so hits the marks of what they think a Drag Race queen should be doing, rather than what they, as an individual, would do. I recognise it because I am 100% confident I would be the exact same on any reality show, completely overthinking it and obscuring why I’m there in the first place. But we did see a lot of Aubrey’s personality in the werkroom and confessionals: she has a quick wit to match her style, and I’m excited to follow her off the show. Timaru? I hardly even know her, yet!
The Caged Queen Sings (With AutoTune)
Before the challenge, Ru invites Molly, last week’s winner, to give out four superlative awards to her cast mates. She calls Yuri her greatest competition, Spankie the daggiest, Kween the trade of the season, and the likely next out Beverly, but reveals she thinks it’s probably Minnie but didn’t want to start shit. She’s then placed on a team with these four, but she quickly puts out any fires with Bev (Spankie doesn’t care about being called tacky, because… well!).
There’s no real debate or drama over who gets which role, though Spankie stops rehearsal midway to tell Yuri is running past the jokes in her delivery. There are absolutely no jokes to be ran past. We also learn that Minnie is dyslexic, which comes up the day after when she shares it again with the whole group by saying she doesn’t like to talk about it, which makes Pomara laugh. It’s an unfortunate moment — most viewers also probably laughed, given it’d been included at least 4-5 times by that part of the episode — and Minnie takes it the wrong way at first, but I’m really enjoying how she holds her own and takes these queens to task on little comments or moments, even if in this instance it wasn’t quite necessary.
In a confessional, Kween also notes that some of the younger queens are isolating Minnie a bit and not making an effort with her, and pulls up her group after Molly says Minnie’s next to go. We also later learn there’s some old beef between Pomara and Minnie, as both don’t particularly respect each other — Minnie apparently went around saying “I don’t mind that Pomara does drag, I just hate that she gets paid for it”, which is a line so distinctly Minnie (viscous but also slightly daggy) that it only enamours me to it more. Pomara posting her Ls!
More interesting than any real lack of ‘respect’ (which at the moment seems to be just misplaced or overdone ‘shade’) is the show’s narrativisation of this lack of respect. Maybe it gets a little nasty and so the show’s gearing us up for some drama, but it’s a new formula of plot for the show: we rarely side with the ‘older’ queens, and even the judging comments separated the ‘more established’ queens (Minnie, Spankie and Hannah??) from the ‘babies’.
Of the queens, it’s clear that Minnie, Spankie and Hannah nailed their roles, though arguably they had the only good ones to begin with. It’s hard to pick a bottom three, in that every other role was a dud, though Yuri, in particular, seemed to struggle with the concept of ‘acting’. In comes the runway, which this week is weighted highly in the judges’ decisions.
Bug Her? I Hardly Even Know Her!
This week, we’re betrothed with an in-studio guest judge: Lucy Lawless, aka Xena. Unfortunately, she says very little in the final edit and doesn’t really give much, but who cares! It’s Xena! The runway theme is ‘Fly Girl’, AKA bug-inspired drag. As Art Simone pointed out, this episode is basically a homage to the original glamourbug Etc Etc, between the runway and the sketch’s toilet humour (the same toilet humour that sent Etc home in E5, conveniently the episode she allegedly went off about the way the show was addressing Scarlet’s past offensive performances. Ever notice that episode doesn’t really have an Untucked segment?). Once again, I am screaming justice for Etcetera.
Of the looks, Yuri’s is the standout, saving her from the bottom two. As Molly jokes, hers is the ‘what was delivered’ to Yuri’s ‘what you ordered’. My other favourites go for glamourbug: Hannah, Minnie and Kween all look radiant.
Beverly’s skin-tight costume continues to show a level of polish worthy of the US show; Aubrey overdoes it between the executive realness talking into the phone, the larva falling out (the best of the three) and the wing reveal; comparatively, Pomara and Spankie put on a bodysuit and add some wings, though they both look good.
It’s a little surprising that Spankie gets the win this week as it really seemed like Minnie’s, but I guess going from bottom two to the top spot in a week is a better storyline. With Yuri safe, Kween faces off against Aubrey, which feels a little unfair (was Kween really in the bottom, compared to Pomara, whose guard was possibly among the most awkward of the bunch, again largely due to the writing?). The two duel it out to The Divinyls’ ‘I Touch Myself’, and while Aubrey puts up a good fight, Kween breaks out some instant K.O. moves alongside a solid lip-sync. That jump into a roll on the ground? I’m not sure we’ve seen that on the show before, but unlike Elektra Fence’s unique moves in UK3, this is more show-stopping than ‘WTF’.
Aubrey’s off, and next week the queens take on a drag brunch challenge in pairs, which I guess is somewhere between a roast and a hosting challenge (like the Despy awards?). That should let them write their own material — after this week, thank God for that.
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Down Under streams on Stan in Australia, with new episodes each Saturday at 4pm AEST.
Jared Richards is Junkee‘s Drag Race recapper, and a freelancer who writes for NME, The Big Issue, The Guardian and more. He’s across the internet as @jrdjms