To paraphrase Shemar Moore at the 1999 Daytime Emmys: The streak is over, Scarlett Bobo! Lots of queens have been called (or called themselves) the Susan Lucci of Drag Race over the years, from RuPaul christening Pandora Boxx back in Season 2, to Jackie Cox describing herself as such in Season 12. But to me, Scarlett is the most deserving of the title: After placing among the high-scorers previous times without winning a challenge, she finally gets her victory at the last possible second.
Her win comes after the Snow Ball challenge, which Scarlett is so excited to have reached, and from a judging panel guest-hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race head judge Michelle Visage. That only makes it sweeter: Scarlett wins an iconic challenge, rubber-stamped by a member of the Drag Race elite. Moreover, she guarantees her place in the final three.
Going into this episode, the odds are stacked against Scarlett. Her lack of wins is brought up repeatedly in the cold open, and Jimbo outright states in her confessional that she only considers Priyanka and Rita Baga her competition. As happened in All Stars 5, it’s easy to imagine the top three as the presumed trio, with the queen without a challenge win going home at the last opportunity.
But Scarlett’s victory suddenly makes the room at the top a little bit tighter. And considering the varied results of this ball challenge, anything seems possible. Will fan favourite Jimbo, lip sync assassin Priyanka or polished veteran Rita be the one to fall at the final hurdle?
After Stacey McKenzie and her truly incredible braid introduce the challenge in the workroom, the queens set about putting together three looks: a holiday party Executive Realness look, an après ski Icy Walk of Shame look and, finally, a Winter Queen Eleganza look they must make on the spot. Yes, for the first time since Season 9, it’s a traditional Drag Race ball challenge. (Regular RuPaul’s Drag Race seasons now opt for a ball during the top 10 or 11, while All Stars either skips it entirely or does a modified, two-look ball.)
Scarlett initially looks dead in the water considering her lack of skill as a seamstress, but that actually helps her in the end. She has to go with a simpler look for her eleganza entry, while her competitors are so over-the-top they can barely walk. I anticipate some quibbling over Scarlett’s look earning such praise, considering how much less there is to it compared to Rita or Jimbo’s. But don’t mistake simplicity for lack of detail: Scarlett manages an impressive, punk rock-inspired look that stands out from the crowd.
Jimbo and Rita are tripped up (literally) by their ambition. They overdo their eleganza looks, and while the actual craftsmanship is impressive, their presentation on the runway fails because of how they’ve restricted their movement. Priyanka manages the worst of the final looks, though, turning out a standard bodysuit with ornaments glued onto it. Michelle really gets on her for this, though she does note that Pri’s hair and makeup are superior.
Design is only one part of this final challenge, though; the queens have to model two other looks as well. This is where Priyanka shines. She develops two distinct characters for her executive realness and walk of shame looks. In the former, she’s an over-eager boss who goes all out for Christmas; in the latter, she’s still hung over from the night before, but not totally ready to go home yet. Priyanka’s mind is made for storytelling, which is why she suffered most in improv challenges. On her own, she can craft whole characters and tales; left to banter with others on the fly, she freezes up.
Priyanka’s other two looks save her from the bottom, while Scarlett’s boost her to the win. Jimbo goes the sexy route for both, which works for the walk of shame but really doesn’t for executive realness. Rita, on the other hand, fails both categories, going way too high-concept in the walk of shame, and barely putting forth a concept at all in executive realness.
This is the second week in a row Rita has faltered, and it’s a rough time to be falling apart. Jimbo has a worse track record on the whole, but that’s largely thanks to poor judging. This is the first time I think her bottom placement is justified, and unfortunately, she’s left to lip sync wearing a garment she can’t walk in. She spends most of the performance of Tegan and Sara’s “Closer” nervously clutching her crown, worried it’s going to fall off her head. Rita is uninhibited in comparison, even cutting her dress to give her more ability to perform. Unpopular opinion, perhaps, but I don’t like it when the queens cut their own garments; I get the impulse, but it takes too long and isn’t a dramatic enough move. (Though Ginger Minj cutting her and Sasha Belle’s conjoined breasts off on the runway is a glorious exception.)
Unfortunately, Jimbo doesn’t really know her words, and Rita’s performance is much stronger on the whole. This marks the end of the line for Jimbo, and it’s a brutal final cut. I knew the fifth- and fourth-place cuts were going to be tough, but if it’s any consolation for Jimbo and Lemon, they’re walking away as two of the clear fan favourites of the season.
I’ll talk about this more next week, but I think this episode is a good example of Canada’s Drag Race’s lack of overall quality. There are great moments, and the queens themselves are nothing short of spectacular as personalities. But there’s just something unpolished about the whole thing. The fashion is very early season Drag Race—not a bad thing, just noteworthy—and the production feels shoddy in some notable ways. Yes, there’s the judging, which is a massive problem. But the guest host gig also needs to be reworked: I’d say only three or four of the folks brought in this season really knew how to nail all aspects of the job.
That said, Canada’s Drag Race is unbelievably charming. I’d actually say it’s more enjoyable on a watchability level than my beloved RuPaul’s Drag Race UK—which managed a much more polished first season of a spin-off. I’m rooting for Canada’s Drag Race, because I think, with some fixes, it could be a crown jewel in the franchise. So much is right that it’s all the more frustrating when other elements don’t work.
Like I said, we’ll get more into fixing this iteration of the show next week. But for now, let’s soak in our final three. You’ve got a Quebec legend, a children’s TV host turned-stunning princess and a punk rock doll with one of the cleanest track records in Drag Race herstory. This truly will be a fight to the finish. I can’t wait to see who takes the crown.
✨The mini-challenge is an odd one to appear this late in the season: A screen test task, in which the queens must sing the Canadian national anthem to Stacey and comedian Sabrina Jalees (who is a blast; “It’s me, Rosario Dawson!”). Rita really nails it and earns her win, but I also love Jimbo in it. I will say this: I don’t personally know the words to “Oh Canada!,” and considering all the slurring in this mini-challenge, I still don’t know them!
✨Speaking of Stacey: Spoiler alert for my suggestions next week, but no matter what happens to the judging panel, she needs to stick around. She’s amazing when working with the girls one-on-one, and while her judging can be inconsistent or insufficient, she always tries to offer constructive feedback. Of the whole panel, I’ve enjoyed her the most, and I hope she’s not thrown out in a house-clean of the show.
✨I appreciate the ball scene education segment in the workroom, even if it is a little cursory. Canada’s Drag Race seems to be trying to do the work to highlight the history of the LGBTQ2 community, and while I wish they’d go a bit deeper on some subjects—the Michelle DuBarry segment two episodes back was similarly lovely-but-limited—it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
✨Cannot tell you what a delight it is to have Michelle Visage here this week. It’s such a gag to hear Michelle do Ru’s lines (she seems excited, too), and she offers the kind of constructive, well-explained critiques this panel has been desperate for. I am also thrilled to hear her acknowledge that the need for padding in drag is an ongoing conversation, and she even admits pads are not always a requirement. Still, she does kind of reinforce the idea that Drag Race expects queens to pad even as the greater drag world moves on. Two steps forward, one step back.
✨Priyanka gets wasted in Mini-Untucked, to the point where a producer has to cut her off. “Michelle Visage says I’m pretty.” Bless you, Pri.
The season finale of Canada’s Drag Race premieres Thursday, September 3, 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 7 on Monday, August 31, at 8 p.m. EST, then read our recap and power ranking of that episode.