Anyone else struggling to get the word “sissy” out of your head? The second that Lemon pairs up Ilona Verley and Scarlett Bobo in this week’s Canada’s Drag Race mini-challenge, calling them the “sissies” as she does it, she opens Pandora’s box. The two base their main challenge parody of a late-night lawyer commercial on the sissies of it all, and flood us with mentions of the term. After hearing it so many times, “sissy” no longer has any meaning to me. I’d recommend a game in which you take a drink every time someone says “sissy” this episode, but that would literally kill you. So don’t do that.
Loath as I am to keep thinking about the sissies, it’s a distraction from having to think too much about this episode. It’s not a disastrous installment of Drag Race by any means, but it does feature a lot of bad instincts—from the queens (especially on the runway), the challenge designers (a not-particularly-original task) and, of course, the judges. I’m sticking to the commitment I made on last week’s Kiki With Kevin to rant less about them, but man, they make it tough.
The end result is a noticeable step down in quality from the stellar Snatch Game episode last week, and it’s probably my least favourite episode of the season so far. There are highlights, but none bright enough to redeem a dubious winner pick and a pretty terrible lip sync.
We start off with a fun and actually relevant mini-challenge. The queens have to act as phone call psychics for RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’s British-Canadian queen Crystal and it’s such a treat to see her! Lemon wins and her comic timing is strong (although I would have given it to Jimbo’s bigger character choices). Plus, Lemon’s win clearly leaves the other queens pressed. I’m ultimately #TeamDrama, so I’ll accept this. As her reward, she gets to select the teams for the maxi-challenge, which can really make or break you in a challenge like this. In Season 8, which featured a political ad variant of this challenge at top 6, Chi Chi DeVayne and Thorgy Thor’s lack of chemistry landed them in the bottom.
Lemon very wisely picks Priyanka, who she worked with so well in the news anchor mini-challenge. Then she puts the self-described sissies together, which annoys Scarlett. (Everything seems to annoy Scarlett this episode, to be honest.) This leaves Rita Baga, Jimbo and BOA as the team of three.
Part of what confuses me about this challenge is that it doesn’t seem distinctly Canadian. Maybe I’m wrong, but even just a cursory Google search about Canadian legal ads turned up multiple articles arguing they are a fairly new innovation in the country. We’ve had a rap challenge based on apologizing, a Roots design challenge and a Heritage Minute acting challenge so far; this one feels generic by comparison.
Perhaps as a result, the ads themselves are relatively generic, too. All the queens go with a similar tone, just with different core purposes for their firms. The trio’s is about suing wily bachelorettes who go too far with drag queens at their parties. Scarlett and Ilona act as civil suit litigators representing sissies against each other. (Again, really would not recommend the sissy drinking game.) Lemon and Priyanka go farthest afield, as “the Pussy Protectors,” the ostensibly crusading personal drag injury attorneys who are, in fact, scamming their clients. You can tell the queens just don’t have enough references to play with, which means the group that takes the most risk stands out.
That’s not quite how the judging works out, though. While Priyanka and Lemon do get the most effusive praise for their ad—Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman calls it “the most on-point” of the lot—Lemon gets knocked for playing a similar character to her winning Heritage Minute one. Both queens also get read for their “Canadian Tux-she-do: Denim on Denim on Denim” runway looks. The looks are too simple, sure, but not offensively so. It’s a bit surreal to see the team with the best ad completely disqualified for the win, but this is one of those tricky “performed in teams, judged as individuals” challenges.
Scarlett gets raves for her role in the sissy skit, and despite the muted response to Ilona’s performance, it looks like Scarlett’s set to take her first win. She stands out all the more for really playing a character, while Ilona just acts as herself. The best bit of their sketch comes when she takes Ilona’s spit to her face (yikes!), and immediately whacks back with a book. It’s a lot, but it pays off. Scarlett’s gorgeous punk denim look does a lot to elevate her score this week, too.
Still, it’s tough to tell whether Ilona’s in danger. The trio’s sketch is actually the worst, but Jimbo and Rita get great reviews. With Jimbo, I get it. She’s giving 110 percent in the sketch. Her roar of “IT’S MY SPECIAL DAY!” gets the biggest laugh out of me. Rita is fine: I wouldn’t put her in the bottom, but she’s done better. BOA’s clearly in the bottom two after too many forced, uncomfortable line readings and it feels like it could be Ilona, Lemon, or even Priyanka down with her.
In a twist I genuinely did not see coming, Rita wins the challenge, earning her third win in six weeks. She ties Gigi Goode, who just set the record for being the fastest to three maxi-challenge wins in Season 12. Anyone who read my Season 12 coverage likely knows I am not a fan of queens being given three wins that quickly, particularly when they’re not clear-cut, deserved ones. Considering Rita’s first win earned a lot of side-eye in the premiere, and this win is even more dubious, you could say I’m skeptical.
I do really like Rita, but three wins this quickly implies that she’s blowing her competition out of the water, and that’s not anywhere close to true. Jimbo, Lemon and Priyanka are consistently impressive, and while Scarlett’s a bit of a sleeper, I’d easily give her the win this week. The judges seem to realize they’re denying her a deserved notice, too. After declaring Scarlett safe, Brooke Lynn Hytes tells her, “Keep up the good work. We see you, girl.”
After a rousing round of “who should go home tonight, and why?” that has half the queens throwing Lemon under the bus and the other half naming Ilona instead, Mini-Untucked is kinda heated! Lemon isn’t willing to let bygones be bygones, and calls out Ilona for shutting her out since the start of the season. Ilona says she’s jealous of Lemon, and that it’s hard to even look at her. There’s clearly more tension than we’ve previously been shown, but Ilona’s not the only one to say Lemon’s name.
While Lemon does get a lot closer to the bottom than she wanted to after a strong performance, she’s ultimately declared safe. It’s Ilona who joins BOA in the bottom two. The lip sync song is Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful,” and the two queens really struggle. It’s a downbeat song, which means Ilona can’t bring the sass she so wonderfully brought to “Girlfriend,” while BOA is repetitive and massively underwhelming.
Not doing a double shantay with Kiara and Priyanka last week continues to look like a terrible choice, as this performance is worthy of a double sashay. But Ilona gets to stay another week, while BOA sashays away after her first trip to the bottom.
Again, it’s not an awful episode, but it’s underwhelming. Canada’s Drag Race, more than RuPaul’s Drag Race proper, falls apart too easily when every element isn’t on point. I’m not sure why that is, exactly, except that this is a newer show and we don’t have the same built-in goodwill as we do for the main franchise. I’m still enjoying the season, largely on the backs of the cast, but as we head into the end game, we need more episodes like Snatch Game and less like this one.
✨This episode makes it clearer than ever that runway counts for a much higher percentage of points on Canada’s Drag Race than it does on the RuPaul-hosted seasons. We saw this with Kyne’s bottom two placement in Episode 2, and Ilona staying out of the bottom in Episode 3. But Lemon getting a bottom three placement almost solely based on runway, despite a strong ad performance, really solidifies that runway is a massive score category. I’m mixed on this, but hopefully it inspires the Season 2 crew to really bring it fashion-wise.
✨Tom Green is purposefully not a good fit for the guest host gig—the comedy is in his haplessness. (“I’m just happy to be here,” he says after Ilona walks out in an assless chaps look.) It’s a cute idea to bring him on and his phone call to his mom is a fun bit, but after Mary Walsh’s dominant hosting last week, he can’t help but feel like a step down.
✨Crystal is really game and a lot of fun. I’m glad Drag Race UK is already being incorporated into the North American series, because those girls deserve it. I cackled at her comparing Lemon’s psychic look to Baga Chipz.
✨Lots of talk about bachelorette parties in gay bars in this episode, owing to the premise of Jimbo, Rita and BOA’s ad. The three queens share their experiences being inappropriately touched by straight women, with Rita telling a particularly shocking story about being fingered. Ilona says she tends to get that kind of treatment from cisgender gay men most of all. This is a hot-button issue whenever it comes up, so I’ve no doubt this will spark more debate. For my part, I’m glad the show is talking about how drag is not consent and that Ilona’s comment expanding the problem beyond just bachelorette parties is also included.
✨What’s with all this unseen footage of the queens getting warnings from the judges? First it happened with Tynomi Banks, then it happened with BOA. I’d like to see these scenes as they happen, not shoehorned into the next week because the editors need it to build a narrative.
✨Stacey McKenzie is once again the highlight of the judges’ panel, this time for her coaching on set. She combines Jeffrey’s joy for drag with Brooke Lynn’s polish in her critiques, but doesn’t have either of their lesser qualities. Not to beat a dead horse, but if you take her out of the hosting role (since she really can’t deliver the scripted lines) and put her into a permanent judge spot, you’ll have gold.
✨Priyanka: “Have you ever had sex with a ghost?”
Crystal: “Will there be any pottery?”
The next episode of Canada’s Drag Race premieres Thursday, August 13, at 9 p.m. EST on Crave in Canada and on WOW Presents Plus in the U.S. If you’re watching Canada’s Drag Race on Logo, you can catch Episode 4 on Monday, August 10, at 8 p.m. EST, then read our recap and power ranking of that episode.