If you don’t come out of this week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK realizing that either Divina de Campo or The Vivienne is going to win the season, you just haven’t been paying attention.
The two queens are suddenly thrust into a rivalry storyline this episode, as Divina feels Viv is underestimating her abilities. It all stems from The Vivienne being asked who she would have put on her team for last week’s girl group challenge, and Viv hedges. She says she’d have picked Cheryl, then Baga and Divina—but of course, there were only three team members in each group. It’s a shitty dodge, but can mostly be chalked up to The Vivienne playing politics. Divina, however, is not content to let it lie.
In a tirade that is both entertaining and somewhat disturbing, Divina goes all-in on The Vivienne for not recognizing her talents. She rattles off her qualifications and demands that Viv take her seriously. “I’m always last on the list with you,” Divina says, and you can tell The Vivienne’s lack of approval really hurts Divina. Viv, not making the situation better, says Divina is “20 times” the calibre of a drag queen on Drag Race than she is in the real world, where Viv usually sees her in the same red wig and silver dress. This drives Divina up a wall—she’s only worn that silver dress 10 times, she protests!
Baga Chipz, Cheryl Hole and Blu Hydrangea all watch this as it plays out, fascinated. “That conversation just SCALPED me!” Blu says as she removes her own wig (love Blu). Baga is particularly funny as she reacts to the cameras, but ultimately reveals she thinks Divina is in the right. I am somewhat surprised to hear her say that, seeing as I, a fan of Divina, ultimately think Divina is putting too much stock in what Viv thinks and needs to calm down!
Even the next morning, Divina is clearly not over it. Viv seems frustrated that it’s still being brought up, and I can’t blame her. What we really need is something to break up the tension in the room.
What we need is an underwear mini-challenge.
I’ve spoken before about how unabashedly fond I am of the underwear mini-challenges. They’re so silly, so random and so truly gay that they feel like one of the last vestiges of Drag Race’s hornier beginnings. Granted, most of Drag Race UK has already been horny, so this is in keeping with the rest of the season. But this BBC challenge—that stands for Boxers, Briefs or Commando—is especially so. We find out that most of the Brit Crew is either quite well-endowed or stuffing (I’ll be hopeful and go with the former), while Divina is able to guess which kind of underwear five of the six are wearing, earning her the win and a consultation with Drag Race Season 7 and All Stars 2 fan favourite Katya.
She’ll need it, too, as this week’s challenge is something Katya did quite well with in her All Stars 2 run: Branding and marketing a product. These queens all have to come up with their own brand of bottled water, which is just shabby enough to fondly recall the early days of the American series. The challenge includes shooting a commercial, so it’s a fairly sizable lift—befitting a final five task, I’d say.
Proving her performance last week was the start of a big swing upward in her trajectory, Divina receives high marks this week. Her ad seems too wordy when recording it on set with Graham Norton, but she manages a pretty strong visual that makes up for it. (I’d argue the ad is still too lengthy, but the judges don’t seem to have an issue.) Combined with a fun raincoat reveal on the runway, Divina safely earns a top spot.
However, Divina cannot compare to The Vivienne, who absolutely smashes this week. I’ve been open about my Viv skepticism, and yet I’m left fully stanning this week. Her ad is the best of the lot, as she plays a scouser-turned-Real Housewife character transformed by her water. It’s interesting, because her water has the least to do with her persona as The Vivienne, but she seemingly figures out that piece of advice (which Ru doles out to nearly every other queen in the workroom) can be ignored .
Where Viv really triumphs this week, though, is on the runway. Instead of dressing to the prompt—a rainy day realness look—Viv becomes the prompt, literally dressing as a raincloud version of Mother Nature. Paired with her best makeup look yet, it’s a stunning visual and her best outfit of the competition. On the strength of the runway alone, Viv earns this win.
Outside of the competition, it’s a mixed week for The Vivienne. While I do ultimately think she was in the right in the fight with Divina, she also tries to get Cheryl to do a significantly worse accent for her ad. Blu clocks it in her confessional as a shady move, and I have to agree. Viv’s strong enough on the merits this week that she doesn’t need to try and screw with her competition. (Baga also joins in on it, although like most everything with the mean girl duo, she only does it after Viv starts.)
We do get the first truly human, vulnerable moment out of The Vivienne during the makeup mirror session. Unlike the other Very Special Moments of the season, which have at times reached a Season 9–level laboriousness, Viv’s is completely organic. She reveals in a conversation about drug use in the drag world and that she was an addict for four years. Instead of pulling this out in the workroom, she tells the story in her confessional, which makes it feel more intimate and personal. While she often comes across as abrasive, I feel I understand her better now.
The bottom three’s advertisements are all pretty mediocre, with the judges hitting Baga for a nonsensical product and both Blu and Cheryl for letting their energy drop. Blu takes this harder than Cheryl, who is on Cloud Nine after being judged by her namesake, Cheryl (née Cole). She gets to express what Cheryl and Girls Aloud meant to her growing up, and Cheryl seems genuinely touched by the whole thing. I might look suspiciously at the circumstances that led Cheryl Hole to be here after so many trips to the bottom, but the end result is pretty sweet.
In Mini-Untucked, Baga admits she doesn’t know the lip-sync song beyond the chorus, while Blu and Cheryl (who could probably recite any Cheryl Cole song in her sleep) practice. The edit positions this as though Baga is in real danger of going home, just like The Vivienne last week. However, if anything, this confession likely saves her; Drag Race has a nasty habit of saving frontrunners from lip syncing when it’s not guaranteed they’ll win.
So instead, it’s Blu and Cheryl in the bottom, and Blu seems like a dead queen walking from the start. That said, Cheryl doesn’t really turn it out the way I expected her to after all this hype. It’s a winning performance, for sure. Just not by any great leaps. Considering it’s to Cheryl’s “Call My Name,” I’m left pretty surprised we didn’t get a better performance. But then again, it’s a fool’s errand to expect any great lip-sync performances on Drag Race UK.
We bid farewell to Blu, and although I never truly believed she could win it all, I had hope. She represents a love of drag that first and foremost presents itself as having fun, which was a breath of fresh air in a group of queens who have been working at their drag careers for quite some time. That’s not necessarily enough to recommend her for the win, but you’ll forgive me for getting invested in her journey. Luckily, at 23, she’s still got plenty of journey to go.
💋 The big news of the week is that Drag Race UK is officially coming back for Season 2! And considering how soon the deadline for casting is, I’d expect to see it back on much earlier in 2020 than October. Maybe the BBC will try to have it ready for a summer season directly after Season 12 of the American series?
💋 I’d put Cheryl Formerly Cole behind Jade Thirlwall and ahead of Geri Horner in the battle of the girl band star guest judges. Her interactions with Cheryl Hole are genuinely heartwarming, but her critiques are a bit shallow. She looks hot as hell in green, though.
💋 Speaking of critiques: Does anyone else feel Michelle Visage has been much more confrontational as a judge this season than on the American series? She routinely bites back at both Graham Norton and the guest judges! It’s weird to see her so obstinate when she’s usually only playfully so (unless a guest really gets on her nerves). She really gets pissy with Cheryl over Baga at one point this week, in a way that doesn’t particularly reflect well on Michelle.
💋 The queens’ entrances into the workroom on elimination day are so freaking cute. You’ve got Blu and Divina dancing, and Cheryl, Baga and Viv all having a Charlie’s Angels moment. It’s great! This cast is perfect. I want to watch them all on my TV every week, and I’m so sad we only have two weeks of the season left for that very reason.
💋 Love Graham responding to Baga’s “reeking of Vinegar… Strokes” with “gone, but not forgotten.”
💋 Not my favourite Ru look this week! Kind of reminds me of Eureka’s Season 10 finale pre-reveal drag.
💋 It’s at first disappointing to hear Katya’s only going to appear via video call, but a delight to realize it’s a fake-out and she’s on the set. She gives Divina some good advice (that, as we see on Mini-Untucked, Divina does not seem to take), and gets a couple of fun quotables in before she goes. “Ru, that’s your assistant. Michelle? She’s your intern!”
💋 CHERYL: “I’m coming to Belfast, yeah?”
BLU: “If we book you.”
💋 It’s been a week, and I still have the Frock Destroyers’ “Break Up (Bye Bye)” stuck in my head. And judging by its chart performance in the UK, plenty of other viewers do, too! What a true and utter bop.
💋 I was ready to make another “shantay which means stay” joke this week, until I read the statement from the BBC’s Kate Phillips in the Drag Race UK renewal announcement yesterday. “Shantay stay”? It is apparently entirely possible no one at the BBC knows what “shantay” really means!