‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’ S2E8 Recap: Pop Off, Cyst!
The only thing better than a good 'Drag Race' stand-up set is a terrible one, and this episode, we were blessed with two of 'em.
The only thing better than an excellent stand-up set is an absolutely abhorrent one by a drag queen. A’Whora and Ellie, welcome to the legends circle: Laganja, Blair, Farrah, make room in the interior illusions lounge. Bimini absolutely deserved this week’s win (and the crown at this point), but I laughed in the first two sets than the rest combined. Queerness is, famously, the art of failure, and baby, those two were all Fs — and a handful of other bleeped-out swear words, too.
What on Earth was Ellie doing? I cannot believe she was safe: her repeated punchline of “no!” with a face was hysterical, but only because it was such an anti-joke. To paraphrase Trinity, where are the punchlines? Having said that, I burst into laughter while remembering Ellie’s routine, so perhaps it was, in fact, revolutionary.
Well, we know why she wasn’t in the bottom: as soon as I realised it was Tayce vs. A’Whora, I kicked myself for not seeing it sooner. What better lip-sync than between the best Judys/fuck buddies (and they were roommates!)?
Plus, Ellie Diamond storylined her way to the top four by pissing off her best friend (who, uh, is often quite rude to her), Lawrence. Sometimes, the best gameplan is an accidental one: Ellie’s line-up order for the challenge was obviously intended to prompt the other queen’s inner saboteurs, but even by bombing, she gave the producers a reason to keep her around.
Now A’Whora’s gone, the competition’s really between Bimini and Lawrence, who, after this week, have three wins each. Tayce, while an absolute star, has been a little too uneven this competition, and Ellie is phenomenal but still a baby: give her a few years, and she’d shine on the eventual international All Stars.
After the mandatory badge-count discussion, this week’s mini-challenge is a drag king performance of Ru’s ‘Kitty Girl’. It’s cute and instantly forgettable, aka a perfect mini-challenge. It’s ‘interesting’ that the show is really sledgehammering that drag isn’t just about female illusion in both UK2 and S13, potentially leaving the door open for drag king contestants down the line. To quote Mo’Nique, I would like to see it.
Meanwhile, Ru continues to fight against a toupée: I grow increasingly concerned she has been taken hostage by a parasite, a la Snake’s hair in The Simpsons. Maybe that’s the only way the producers could get her to cast out trans and non-binary queens.
Ellie wins the mini-challenge and gets to decide the order for this week’s stand-up challenge. She’s very honest about her intentions, and pretty much puts everyone but Bimini and herself at a disadvantage.
A’Whora and Tayce, the least confident comedy queens, are first and last, with Ellie hoping going second after A’Whora will make her look better. Then comes Bimini and Lawrence, which is hard on Lawrence — Bimini will seem even funnier (and arrive as a relief, even) coming after two amateurs, while Lawrence will have the pressure of keeping up the high.
Then again, if the material’s good, the material’s good. But by nature of everyone talking about how much the slots matter, they begin to matter: each queen gets into their head about it, and it really pisses A’Whora and Lawrence off. Countless queens have been equally shady across the years while deciding the comedy challenge order, but they own it — it’s the fact Ellie is apologetic but uncompromising that causes tension. She struggles to play the villain as she wants to be liked, but you can’t have it both ways.
Lawrence, in particular, seems really hurt, given how close she is to Ellie. Then again, she’s time and time again been pretty harsh about Ellie’s drag: it’s all very classic older sibling who can dish it but can’t take it.
Before they perform, the queens get to workshop their routines with Alan Carr, who I absolutely love. He gives great advice and even better cutaway reactions.
‘It’s Dry, Kind Of Like Your Vagina!’
Let’s get this roast a-cookin! A’Whora’s first, and her set is so filthy that the BBC has bleeped-out most of the punchlines. It’s bluer than her runway last week, and while the judges laugh a lot, it’s mostly out of shock.
From what we heard, I enjoyed. A’Whora is clearly an undergraduate at the Las Culturistas school of comedy, where cadence is king. She has a lot of awkward phrases about facts like “of the fact!” and “that is the fact THAT”, which if Matt Rogers said, would be incredibly funny but she doesn’t quite nail. To quote the kings about myself, ‘Say THAT!’.
There’s a lot of awkward phrasing, as the more nervous queens tend to fall back on filler words or turns of phrase. Tayce is a fan of “that’s a story for another time”, mostly because she doesn’t know how to land a punchline and transition to the next joke: where Bimini and Lawrence clearly wrote out transition jokes (“speaking of…”), the less experienced queens didn’t realise how essential they are to the flow.
Of course, I am an expert in the mechanics of comedy: have you read the recaps, Tamar? Essentially, Tayce, A’Whora and Ellie needed to make more Vox Lux references.
Otherwise, Tayce was pretty solid and naturally pretty funny, as we’ve seen in the confessionals. She taps into that for half the set, and if anything, I thought they were putting Lawrence in the bottom three.
Lawrence’s set was mostly sweet stories about coming out, with a joke or two in-between: it was genuinely quite heartwarming and clearly important to her, but it wasn’t anywhere as funny as we expect from her. If we’re grading on a curve, Tayce’s bean jokes tooted her to the top.
There’s no question about Bimini’s win, though. She’s a natural: and to think she almost went home first episode! Her routine is well-oiled and off-book. Whether it’s her ‘UK Hun?’ verse, stand-up about ending the patriarchy or plugging veganism, Bimini also has a knack for putting her social politics into her drag and making it entertaining/not didactic.
I really like Lawrence, but Bimini is a queen with ‘a lot to say’ and the innovation in her looks to match: I’m all-in for her winning.
The runway theme is dripping with diamonds, and if A’Whora really has to go, at least it’s on this week’s IV-bag high. I’m very excited to see what she does post-show with more connections/people in the fashion industry taking her more seriously.
Honestly, the main takeaway from the runway is that Bimini is tinsy-tiny. Look at her next to Ellie!
Tayce, of course, looks phenomenal: it’s astonishing that she talks in the werkroom about self-esteem issues about her appearance, but a reminder that revering beauty is a prison for even the rulers. Anyway, she’s so pretty!
Tayce explains that her issues stem from never really having a boyfriend, after receding from love after contracting two STIs at 18 when travelling to Newcastle to meet an online lover.
It sucks that that experience hurt her, but it’s an odd framing for the show: STIs are absolutely no big deal/a pretty common part of being sexually active, but the phrasing makes it seem like it was them, not the presuming cheating, that was the issue. It’s not Tayce’s fault, but the scene’s tone was a little stigmatising, especially when the queer community should know/understand that having an STI isn’t an issue of character.
Anyway, Tayce is soooo pretty!
The lip-sync to Dusty Springfield between A’Whora and Tayce is tight. If UK had room for a double-shantay, this was it, but the BBC’s budget is clearly smaller than VH1’s, given S13 will have 934 episodes. As much as I love her, it felt like Tayce’s time to go, but it’s hard to be upset — between this and ‘Memories’, Tayce absolutely nails a slow emotional ballad.
Next week, the top four gets soaped up for a spoof of Eastenders. Given how filthy A’Whora is, it’s a shame she didn’t stick around for the suds.
RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is available on Stan, with episodes dropping each Friday 8AM AEDT.
Jared Richards is Junkee’s Drag Race recapper, and a freelance writer who has written for The Guardian, The Big Issue and more. He’s on Twitter.