The first two episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK featured the kind of British challenges that even Americans could understand. Queen Elizabeth II and Downton Abbey are highly international U.K. elements. And once you actually get down to the definition of it, this week’s unconventional materials design challenge isn’t that different, either: It’s basically a garage sale items task.
But credit to Drag Race UK: It’s going to call this challenge a “car boot sale” challenge, no matter how bizarre a phrase that might be for American audiences, and they’re going to stick to that terminology no matter what. If that involves Raven from the U.S. Drag Race coming out on a giant car, one that ostensibly belongs to judge Michelle Visage, then damn it, they’re going to do it. And so we all learn what a car boot sale is, only to never use that phrase again in our lives.
The car boot sale challenge is like any other unconventional materials task in Drag Race herstory: Take a bunch of stuff that seems like it wouldn’t work as fabric, and craft a stunning couture drag look out of it. This type of challenge has roots in Project Runway, which famously had its designers use grocery store materials for their very first task, but it’s been done so often in Drag Race that it’s taken on a mind of its own here.
A big difference for UK, though, is that this challenge is coming at week three, instead of during the premiere. The queens have had more time to settle down, but not so much that they’re exhausted. Thus, they should be able to produce some great results. How do they do?
Actually pretty damn well! There are some flops, which we’ll get to in a moment, but let’s first talk about our big winners.
Crystal looks primed to win this week, based on her experience as a costume maker. She declares this experience to the room, which she later tells Ru is probably a mistake. Now, she’s the threat of the group, and has higher expectations than anyone else. Luckily, she meets them, turning out a stunning runway. She uses her materials fabulously, using beach balls to give her skirt volume, and crafting a pair of boots in the same material as her bustier. It’s really a wonder.
Unfortunately for Crystal, she turned out a perfect 10 of a look—but a competitor with a more compelling narrative won. Divina de Campo’s gender-bendy, David Bowie–esque pants-and-parasol look is an absolute serve, with some gorgeous makeup and a killer wig that really can only be worn with a high-concept look like this. Though I personally prefer Crystal’s look, I think Divina’s presentation is what wins. She really performs on the runway; she’s transfixing as she walks and twirls her umbrella. Combined with her underdog narrative, and she’s the clear champion.
The Vivienne takes the third slot, for a semi-unoriginal VHS tape look that she nonetheless elevates with some dramatic shoulder pads. The judges are living for The Vivienne so far this season, and I’m somewhat surprised they don’t just give her a second win right then. I mean, I’m glad they don’t, because her look is a third-placer, at best. She’s the clear favourite, and it’ll take a lot to remove her from that position.
Baga Chipz and Blu Hydrangea both get called safe, which leaves Sum Ting Wong, Cheryl Hole and Vinegar Strokes in the bottom three. Sum Ting, at least, tries for an ambitious garment, making an entire tailored suit out of window curtain blinds. She even rips apart a favourite jacket of her own so as to make a pattern. That kind of dedication is admirable, although the outfit itself is very much not. (I do love that Sum Ting admits it wasn’t worth ruining the jacket once she’s landed in the bottom, though.)
Still, compared to Vinegar, Sum Ting is practically win-worthy this week. Vinegar constructs an “outfit”—a generous word to describe it—made of pages from different books. The outfit all but falls apart on the runway, and her jacket doesn’t even fit her. As judge Graham Norton notes, she looks like “a naked person in a bolero.” Combined with a tragic nude illusion shirt that is neither her skin tone nor of high quality, and Vinegar’s the clear loser of the week. The judges can’t be bothered to come up with one positive note about it, either to her face or during deliberations.
Cheryl’s placement in the bottom three, on the other hand, feels dubious. Her plastic gloves look is basic, sure, but I’d definitely have put her in the safe group over Baga. Unfortunately, the judges’ distaste for Cheryl seems to be sticking, as she gets her third low placement in as many weeks. She’s been in the bottom for almost half the competition at this point. It would take a lot to reverse the curse.
Sum Ting and Vinegar aren’t the only friendship we see this episode: Baga and Vivi are bonding closely, while Divina and Blu share a moment of unlikely allyship in the mirror. The former two get a whole friendship segment, in which they jump in the titular car from the car boot sale and pretend to be Thelma and Louise. It’s nice to see them having fun like this—much nicer than their later shit-talk session in front of the mirror.
Look, being shady and talking smack is all part of the experience of drag. I’ve got no problem with the way the girls come for each other, particularly in an instance like the start of the elimination day, when the queens openly drag Vinegar for her terrible look. But in that case, they’re all laughing together. The Vivienne seems chronically unable to keep her eyes on her own work, and Baga indulges her in it (though it’s worth noting that she rarely starts it). If The Vivienne is as good as she thinks she is—and a segment about her overconfidence shortly after indicates she thinks she’s very good—then what others are doing shouldn’t matter. Keep the shade to the confessional, girl.
Meanwhile, I really like Divina and Blu’s moment. Blu seems genuinely interested in listening to her elders instead of rejecting them, which is refreshing for a younger queen, but still gets her digs in at her friend. Divina, meanwhile, sets herself up nicely as a mentor figure. You’d think time spent helping a younger queen would be time away from her own work, but considering Divina wins this week, I’d say she’s doing just fine. And hey, it worked great for Bianca Del Rio in Season 6!
— World of Wonder (@WorldOfWonder) October 17, 2019
As I said last week, I’m loving Drag Race UK, and this episode only deepens my adoration. These queens are so sharp, the challenges so perfectly adjusted for a new setting and the tone so light and fun. I’d say just about every element of it is superior to Drag Race in the U.S. as of right now…except for the lip syncs. And they’re a serious issue.
I gave the first two pairs of queens a pass, as early lip syncs are often disastrous on Drag Race. But plenty of great lip syncs have happened in the first three weeks: Aja’s “Holding Out for a Hero,” Coco Montrese’s “When I Grow Up,” Katya’s “Twist of Fate” and Mayhem Miller’s “Celebrity Skin” all come to mind. Hell, Dida Ritz’s “This Will Be”—one of the best lip syncs in show herstory!—was in the third week of Season 4. The UK girls are just not bringing it in this arena, as evidenced by both Sum Ting and Vinegar’s truly inferior efforts this week. Cheryl keeps saying she’s a lip-sync queen, but are we going to have to wait for her to hit the stage to get a good performance? That feels like too long to wait, especially if the judges are going to keep just giving her low marks the way they have.
Anyway, the lacklustre lip sync makes for a bittersweet farewell to Vinegar. I think she’s something special, and I’m glad she’s found success in the West End. But I don’t think anyone will be surprised to see her go at this juncture. The one thing I’ll say is that I think she would’ve put up a killer Snatch Game, so to lose her right before that challenge—no matter how justified her elimination—is a bummer. But we’ll see how the remaining seven fare next week, as Drag Race’s most iconic challenge hits London!
💋 The maypole mini-challenge is exceedingly cute, and totally new for Drag Race! Even production feels more awake this season than they have for the last few American seasons.
💋 Love that this episode is called “Posh on a Penny,” a direct tribute to the first-ever episode of Drag Race in the U.S., “Drag on a Dime.” (At this, though, I must double down on my disappointment that the UK queens weren’t given this challenge first. I love symmetry!)
💋 Speaking of the first U.S. season, we’ve got a lip sync song repeat! In the fourth-ever episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Rebecca Glasscock sent Jade Sotomayor home on The Eurythmics’ “Would I Lie to You?” It is widely considered the first lip-sync robbery, as Jade clearly outperformed Rebecca.
💋 It’s cute to see the queens freak out over seeing Raven from the American Season 2 and All Stars 1, although I’m surprised they’re that shook when she’s on set every day to do Ru’s makeup.
💋 I’ve talked before about the debt Drag Race owes to America’s Next Top Model—it started out as a parody of Tyra Banks’ series!—so it’s nice to see former ANTM judge Twiggy in the guest judge seat. It feels like a tribute of sorts while still honouring a British legend.
💋 Mini-Untucked gets a meh from me this week. The drama feels a bit artificial, as if The Vivienne purposely walked in ready to stir the pot. We don’t need that with a group this naturally lively.
💋 “Blu’s looking like she’s in the throes of the pox. It’s very Black Death realness.” God, I love Crystal. Even more so after she mounts the maypole in the mini-challenge.
💋 “Ball gowns and stuff are fun, but I just think they’ve been done to death. No offense.” Blu accidentally shading Ru is my favourite new segment, and I’d like one every episode.
💋 I have resigned myself to the fact that Ru will offer the dumb “shantay, which means stay” explanation every week of Drag Race UK. I will shut up about it. But if we start getting it in the regular U.S. seasons? All bets are off!
💋 Michelle Visage has been bringing the looks to Drag Race UK! Her big-haired moment this week is one of my favourites of hers ever. As for Ru’s look, since he claims Blu will be blown away by it: It’s pretty good! I don’t love the skirt, but as a sitting-behind-the-desk look, it’s pretty terrific.
💋 I’ve come to truly appreciate the streaming nature of Drag Race UK. We can all get around to watching in our own time; the conversation about each episode unfolds over several days. It’s a more relaxed approach, and de-emphasizes the need to be first to a certain meme, criticism, observation, etc. I missed Drag Race this summer, but after two consecutive, mediocre seasons, and the fandom’s collective meltdown over that ill-conceived and poorly executed New York magazine package in June, I didn’t miss the culture around Drag Race. UK is a great way to enjoy the show without re-immersing ourselves in the pandemonium.
💋 How in the hell has Baga not paid for a cab in 10 years?!