‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’ S1E3 Recap: Well, I Thought It Was Couture
Another year, another crop of queens who don't know how to sew.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is an absolute delight, and this episode might’ve been the funnest the show’s been in several seasons, dropping the contrived plot points to let the queens do what they do best — be entertaining.
It might be the lack of $100,000 dollars looming, or just the show’s freshness, but there’s a levity to this season that’s been missing from the US one since around ~S5, though we can’t blame the US queens for being a bit guarded.
When death threats and hate are thrown around by fans at the touch of a Rucucucucucu shade effect or a busted hem, it’s no wonder the queens are afraid to get a little messy.
None of the UK queens seem to really care too much — they’re all messing around, throwing genuine shade and wilfully admitting when they’ve got a booger look. Occasionally, the hour-long episodes can drag, but nothing, so far, has felt like padding in the UK — bar The Vivienne and Crystal’s looks this week.
Early in, The Vivienne says we’ve got rid of “the dead weight”, and she might be a little too early with that statement. There are some clear front-runners this season — in short, the self-professed ‘confidence corner’ of Viv, Crystal and Baga, as well as Divina. There’s also this doll.
Started watching Drag Race UK and I think she’s for sure the frontrunner, love her pic.twitter.com/lrvKQbPq2M
— Will Kellogg (@Will_Kellogg) October 14, 2019
Last week, we called Vinegar Strokes as a potential top five if she pulls her head in, but the judges had many complaints with her book look.
Still, we were surprised to see her go home instead of Sum Ting, who after her queen look has lost our stamp of approval: she’s simply not doing anything worth writing home about. Vinegar’s been hit-or-miss so far, but from what we’ve seen, she has far more star power — the good news is, she doesn’t need the show to prove that, and can return to acting alongside, not in front of, Michelle Visage on the West End.
Or Broadway, even: after all, her goodbye message, “so long gay boys!” was an echo of Smash alum Katherine McPhee’s “hi my gay boys!” promo for Waitress. The lineage is strong, the torch has been passed.
Straight To The Polls (But Baga, Tories Aren’t Allowed To Vote)
This week’s mini challenge was yet another reference to Midsommar, as the queens were asked to participate in a traditional Swedish solstice sacrifice by twirling around the May Pole. Several of the queens aren’t across horror’s new it-boy auteur Ari Aster, and got a little confused with the dress memo.
For some reason, Cheryl wins, and her reward is an extra 15 seconds picking from the trash pile this week’s design challenge looks have to been created from. Raven has a cameo, assumedly just to prove that she has sorted out her visa issues and can finally leave the US. Fly, my Raven, fly.
It’s clear pretty immediately who’s in trouble this week, with Vinegar, Sum Ting and Cheryl getting some serious side-eye, as well as stern advice from RuPaul during his walk-through. Each queen gets their moment with Ru aired, and it’s immediate who she does and doesn’t gel with: for all his years in showbiz, his enthusiasm fades with so many of the queens.
He absolutely loves Baga and The Vivienne, though, and that alone is a sign they’ll be around for a while. He asks Crystal about her body hair, which is a super boring sub-plot and one of the show’s ongoing pitfalls: who the fuck cares?
Ru herself went through a gender-fuck stage in the ’90s, so is clearly asking for the layman at home — sometimes we wish the show would leave ’em in the dust and charge ahead, but the show’s never been 100 percent For Us, By Us.
The other through-line of this episode is that performance is valued above looks in the UK, to a point of distinguishing pride from the US’s somewhat hegemonic scene. The Vivienne says it to Ru, and Blu and Cheryl talk about how ‘selling it’ is better than looking great, in a slightly awkward pause-filled moment, given Cheryl’s talking to a self-professed ‘look queen’.
Cheryl lands on a really astute point: Drag Race‘s biggest successes have been entertainers first, and are always selling themselves, even when they are look-based. Take Miss Fame: sure, she might be a model, but she made it entertaining — her looks were performed, completely opulent. Same with Cheryl — her look might’ve been a bit simplistic this week, but she’s just so fun to watch.
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This week’s design challenge produced mostly top-notch looks. While we easily could’ve seen the win crystallised, the honour went to Divina: hopefully Crystal will come back as a, ahem, glamazon ready to walk the runway.
Divina deserved it — it’s unlike anything we’ve seen from her so far, for starters, and the more we look at her, the more we’re impressed by the tailoring, concept and homage to Britain’s biggest weirdo, Tilda Swinton. Those bags would be near impossible to sew: it’s a Detox-level of creativity from Divina, and might just be one of our favourite Drag Race looks ever.
The Vivienne turns a tried-and-tested idea into something new, while Baga scrubs up perfectly fine. Cheryl goes a bit basic, but we still… really like it? We’re less certain on Blu’s runway: her confidence this episode felt a little misplaced, and while we like her a lot, we’re curious as to where the show’s narrative is taking her.
We’re left with Vinegar and Sum Ting in the bottom, and the whole thing smacks of déjà vu: the Eurythmics song, for starters, is ripped straight from Drag Race S1. Jade did not do the splits and pretend to ride a motorcycle for nothing! It’s the first time a lip sync song’s repeated, and it almost feels a little disrespectful to those who braved out S1’s vaseline filter.
The other repeat moment is Vinegar’s bottom-worthy pages-look: like Bob’s look from S8’s book ball, it lands an enigmatic queen in the bottom, but this time, she goes home. It’s a shame, given Snatch Game is next week, but the world moves onwards.
We look forward to seeing what Vinegar does off the show. Post Drag Race, a clever queen can do anything, which was really proven this week: if Tatianna can be arrested and turn her mugshot into merch, not even law’s the limit.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK streams on Stan, with new episodes dropping each Friday at 7am AEDT.
Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.