When RuPaul’s Drag Race gets into a Very Important Topic, the ordinarily sharp, smart show can get a little simple. For the sake of easy storytelling, complex issues get flattened—that’s how we wound up learning that Judy Garland’s death apparently started the Stonewall riots. (It didn’t.) Opportunities for real education are reduced to empty platitudes. The best recent example of this was all the political talk in Season 12. While the show repeatedly encouraged viewers to register to vote, mostly through cardboard signs at the end of every episode, any actual advice on who or what viewers should be voting for was absent.
So it’s to Canada’s Drag Race’s credit that this week’s episode, which serves as both makeover challenge and spotlight on the Canadian-based charity Rainbow Railroad, is specific, direct and action-oriented. Rainbow Railroad has relocated more than 700 LGBTQ2 asylum seekers facing persecution in their home countries, and helps them find new homes in more welcoming places. The organization’s mission is explicitly laid out, and five beneficiaries of the program are brought on to serve as this season’s makeover subjects.
Instead of focusing on LGBTQ2 persecution in broad strokes, the five men share their personal stories. The group includes Elton from Jamaica, Rebal from Syria, Dennis from Uganda and husbands Eka and Rainer from Indonesia. Each has their own tale to tell, and focusing on their stories of moving to Canada—and on Rainbow Railroad in particular—strongly links the discussion to what Canadians are doing to help LGBTQ2 people worldwide. And most impressively, Canada’s Drag Race puts its money where its mouth is by actually donating funds to the organization in the challenge winner’s name.
The result is a strong installment of the seasonal makeover challenge—one that sees two frontrunners in the competition struggle, while an underdog rises back up to the top of the pack. It all comes to a head in an elimination that, considering the competition so far, could rightfully be called the most shocking of the season.
Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman is our guide through the workroom segments, first hosting the Everybody Loves Puppets mini-challenge, which Scarlett Bobo wins, then introducing the Rainbow Railroad makeover subjects. Scarlett pairs the queens with their new drag sisters, and goes out of her way to give everyone someone they can work well with. She rolls her eyes in her confessional at how “Canadian” that is, but I think it’s the right call. Sabotage during a makeover challenge earns a critical eye from the fanbase. (On that subject: I’m shocked the idea of pairing someone with a makeover subject with a different skin tone gets brought up repeatedly, considering Eureka was roundly criticized for pairing Aquaria with the dark-skinned Kingsley in Season 10’s makeover task.)
Everyone seems well-paired—nice work, Scarlett—but you can quickly tell who’s vibing best: Priyanka and Elton. Priyanka makes for a terrific drag sister, connecting with Elton and swapping stories. It turns out Elton is a big fan of her’s and has seen her perform in Toronto. Their chemistry is unmatched, and it propels Priyanka to some stellar work. She turns the both of them out in corresponding (but not exactly matching) bodysuits, adorned with ostrich feathers and rendered in green and pink, respectively. With jeweled crowns atop their heads and matching mugs, the look is complete and cohesive. Priyanka more than earns her second maxi-challenge win.
Scarlett and Jimbo both make strong cases for their wins, but ultimately the judges find too many things to nitpick. Scarlett does a wonderful makeup job on Dennis, and while he’s not the best walker in heels, he plays up his butch attributes to make their runway presentation the funniest of the lot. They get ribbed for presenting only bodysuits, but to her credit, Scarlett does elevate the looks with leather fringe jackets. Jimbo similarly gets major praise for making her own red latex looks, and does amazing work with Eka. But the judges bristle at how sexy their routine is when they’re supposed to be sisters.
Still, the top three are head-and-shoulders above the bottom two: Lemon and Rebal, who she names Lime (cute!), and Rita Baga and Rainer. Lemon runs into two major critiques, one that feels arbitrary (she didn’t do enough with the runway presentation) and one that’s very fair (she made Lime look older and less flattering than herself). A dynamic runway presentation is never outlined as being part of the rules, so it feels like she’s being penalized for not doing something extra the way the other queens do. But the makeover is unfortunate; we’ve seen enough instances of queens taking their own look more seriously than their partner’s over the years (remember Courtney Act’s makeover in Season 6?). Lemon should have known better.
I’d still take her makeover over Rita’s, though. She goes with this strange mother-and-daughter clown storyline that doesn’t translate on the runway, and doesn’t particularly flatter her partner. Both Lemon and Rita make the mistake of making their partners something other than their sister (Lemon her mother, Rita her daughter), but Lemon’s feels more like a technical error in the makeup. Rita designed this storyline and setup, and it’s a mistake from the start.
The two land in the bottom, and Lemon argues that Scarlett should be there instead. Her point is that the judges would’ve heavily critiqued Lemon and her partner for wearing bodysuits, while Scarlett got away with it. This seems to ignore that Lemon has two wins and Scarlett none, but she generally seems pissed about the judging. Upon finding out she’s in the bottom two, Lemon says in her confessional of the now-safe queens’ looks, “Those are probably the ugliest fucking runways I’ve seen all season.”
Like with Jimbo’s Mini-Untucked rant last week, the inconsistent judging that has plagued fans all season seems to finally be affecting the other queens. However, I actually think Lemon has been one of the most consistently judged queens all season. She deserved to lip sync in the first episode, by her own admission, and she deserved the win the following week. Sure, she probably got too much of a pass in the recycling design challenge, and her bottom three placement for the lawyer ads challenge rankled me, but Lemon’s record has, by and large, been fair. I don’t understand this narrative, especially with Jimbo sitting right next to her. She, on the other hand, really does have a fair claim to being the victim of poor judging all season.
That said, I understand Lemon’s feelings, because she likely knows what’s coming. Because the doll without any wins (Scarlett) and the doll with two bottom-two appearances (Priyanka) did well this week, Lemon is left lip-syncing against a queen who has won three challenges and has never hit the bottom before. Rita Baga would have to really screw up to be sent home. If Lemon’s looking at the board, she probably knows she’s screwed.
Kudos to her for pulling out an impressive lip sync to Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know,” but unfortunately for her, she goes for an entirely different style than Rita. Lemon goes dance-heavy; Rita sticks to the emotion of the song. Picking between them is apples and oranges—or apples and lemons, in this case—but the judges were more interested in apples. Lemon sashays away, becoming the season’s biggest shock boot.
Just last week, I said in my power ranking that I could see her winning the crown. (I also said I could see her being a surprise elimination, which will teach me to not project bad things into the universe.) She had a great storyline this season, some good runway moments—along with some rough ones, it’s true—and has proven an enjoyable, exciting presence throughout the season. Lemon would’ve made for a great first winner of Canada’s Drag Race. But unfortunately, the New York queen has left the building.
✨Just to reiterate: It’s very, very cool that the prize for this maxi-challenge is a $10,000 donation to Rainbow Railroad in Priyanka’s name. “My drag just saved somebody’s life,” Priyanka says upon learning that amount is enough to save a refugee. “That’s a blessing.”
✨I kinda believe Scarlett wins the puppets mini-challenge based on how hot her tea is about Rita’s crush on Lemon. Jeffrey looks delighted by that piece of intel.
✨“My name is Elektra. What’s my name?” Priyanka has taught her daughter well.
✨Honestly: Amanda Bruegel’s Drag Race? The Handmaid’s Tale actress is an absolute blast as guest host, dancing down the runway, delighting in Brooke Lynn Hytes’ dirty off-script moment, and gushing over Jimbo’s seamstress skills. “Jimbo is my favourite, and I’m a size six!” she screams during deliberations, hoping to get herself a Jimbo-made latex bodysuit. Amanda is up there with Mary Walsh and Deborah Cox as the best guest hosts of the season, so natural in line delivery and animated in her appreciation of the queens.
✨“I didn’t think my poon-poon was gonna be touching the floor today!”—Priyanka, explaining her lack of panties in last week’s runway look. A relatable queen.
✨Earlier today, news broke that Chi Chi DeVayne, Season 8 and All Stars 3 queen, passed away after a battle with pneumonia. To say this news is devastating would be an understatement; Chi Chi was an incredible light in our world, and a phenomenal presence on our television screens. From her warm, comical confessionals, to her jaw-dropping lip sync performances, she quickly became a fan favourite on Drag Race, and never failed to wow a live crowd off the show. She will be deeply missed.
The next episode of Canada’s Drag Race premieres Thursday, August 27, 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 6 on Monday, August 24, at 8 p.m. EST, then read our recap and power ranking of that episode.