Ever since RuPaul’s Drag Race decided to focus on subjects close to their queens for the seasonal makeover episodes, they’ve been significantly better than they were before. Simply giving contestants a straight guy, or a military veteran, or an elder gay—these things sound like interesting challenges, but ultimately don’t bring out anything special in the queens. Giving them friends and family, on the other hand, or even members of the crew from the show (in Season 9’s best-ever makeover episode)? That’s a recipe for success.
Still, Drag Race UK just replicating the moms-and-sisters formula from All Stars 2 isn’t quite what I was hoping for. It makes for a fine episode, if a somewhat unoriginal one. As a result, “The Family That Slays Together” is probably my least favourite installment of Drag Race UK. But it’s still better than most recent American seasons’ episodes of Drag Race, so trust that I’m not being very critical.
We meet two sisters and two moms in this episode: Cheryl Hole and Divina de Campo’s siblings, and Baga Chipz and The Vivienne’s mothers. More so than in any other episode with female makeover subjects, the differences between the sisters and mothers is emphasized repeatedly in this episode. Cheryl and Divina are able to do complex choreography with their sisters; Baga and Viv feel stuck with more simple presentations. Ultimately, it nearly damns one of them—but only because she almost damns herself.
Divina and her sister Delisha are the clear winners of the week. Delisha, real name Carys, is an absolute blast, bantering with Ru in the workroom and generally being so game for the makeover. Their family resemblance is uncanny, with Divina taking her somewhat sloppy makeup and using it to her advantage. Because her style is so broad, it fits easily on her sister’s face, and matching dresses and wigs complete the package. Impressively, Divina manages to make her sister look even better than she does, but doesn’t ignore herself—which is a pretty easy way to ace this challenge. (The judges hate when a queen makes herself look better, but they also don’t like when a makeover subject looks too much better.) Coupled with a stomach pouch on Divina, so that she’ll match her four-months-pregnant sister, and it’s a clear win for DDC.
It’s a bit surprising to see Divina win over The Vivienne, who is such an excellent makeup artist. (I figured she’d be the favourite going into this.) Indeed, Viv’s beat on her mother (appropriately named The Mother) is excellent. But she gives her mom a shoddy wig and a funereal dress, which makes Viv look significantly better than her mom. The judges are less harsh on her for this than usual, but that’s mostly because they’ve got a plan for this episode and don’t need Viv in the bottom for it.
You see, Cheryl is very obviously supposed to go this week. She has zero wins compared to the other’ collective eight wins, and she’s already beaten out a queen with one win (Blu Hydrangea). My conspiracy theory, if you’ll allow me to don my tinfoil hat for a moment, is that Cheryl was expected to last until Cheryl Cole came to guest judge, so they could get that story. So instead of throwing her into the bottom two for one of her many trips to the bottom three in previous episodes, the show permitted her to coast. She was then meant to win the lip sync in front of Cheryl, making for a triumphant moment, and go home immediately after.
That would be a pretty savvy story… if Cheryl Cole didn’t show up for the second-to-last competitive episode. As a result, this plan basically guaranteed Cheryl Hole a pass to top four as long as she didn’t tremendously fuck up. Blu had to pay the price last week, and we were deprived of seeing what almost certainly would’ve been an excellent makeover from the season’s resident makeup queen.
But no, Cheryl survived, and long enough to be just too good at this challenge. Her subject Gina, aka Sissy Hole, is an easy canvas for Cheryl, as they have very similar facial structures. The makeup job and wig are both excellent, but reliance on bodysuits gives the judges just enough rope to hang Cheryl with. Thus, she gets sent into the bottom two instead of Vivienne. I’m not going to argue that Cheryl is that much better than Viv, but I think, as Cheryl says at the end of the episode, the writing is already on the wall.
Because truthfully, it would be embarrassing for Cheryl to be in the top three. She has no wins, not even a score in the higher range of a challenge. Every other queen has done more to get to the end than her. Cheryl is a high-personality queen with a great brand, but that’s not enough in a competition like this.
Unfortunately for the judges and production team, Cheryl is miles better than the other member of the bottom two: Baga. And I mean miles. Baga’s makeover on her mom, Sacka Spudz (great name), is absolutely horrible. Alan Carr says it looks like Mom’s going trick-or-treating, but I see better makeup jobs on Halloween every year. Baga absolutely fails, and to her credit, she knows she fails. But that doesn’t stop her from throwing her mom under the bus. Over and over again.
In one of the wildest displays I can remember seeing on Drag Race, Baga blames the bad makeover on her mom’s age, saying it’s hard to dress older women, and complains about having to dress her mom’s “tummy.” When Michelle Visage says she should celebrate the tummy instead, Baga basically just shrugs, then makes a joke about how she didn’t. Then, in Mini-Untucked, she continues to rag on her mom, to the point where she starts crying.
Literally everyone calls this out. The other competitors. The judges. Me yelling at my computer screen at home. It is horrifying, and basically disqualifying for Baga. How on earth would Ru justify giving Baga the win after this? When the modus operandi of modern Drag Race is “Everybody say love!” and a family-friendly vibe? It’s an astonishing sinking of Baga’s own ship on her part, and I wonder how much she knew she’d screwed herself in the moment.
Now, back to my tinfoil hat. If Blu were still in the competition at this point, and either won or did very well on the makeover, Baga and The Vivienne would’ve lip synced against each other. Wouldn’t that have been a terrific resolution to their “best friends” storyline? Suddenly pitted against each other, the mean girls must battle it out to stay in the game! It would’ve been Rujubee from All Stars 1 on steroids! But no, instead we get Cheryl vs. Baga, in an Amy Winehouse lip sync. (I’d argue that’s too rigged for Baga, but we literally just saw Cheryl get a Cheryl Cole song last week.)
Cheryl goes home, and she’s the least surprised of any of us. And there’s some justice in it all, watching three queens with three wins each go into the finale. But I can’t help but feel for Blu. Baga’s spot in the final three feels like it should’ve gone to her. As it stands, I think it’s Divina’s race to lose, but don’t count out Viv. You can absolutely bet against Baga, though. I’ve never been more certain someone isn’t going to win. And it’s a shame her otherwise pretty impressive arc has to end like this.
💋 I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am to see the puppets mini-challenge return. This is my absolute favourite mini—more than the slapping challenge, more than Reading Is Fundamental, all of them. It’s so goddamn fun and twisted, and I’ll never understand why the American version removed it. Divina’s Cheryl is funny (“How’re you doing in the competition?” “SHIT!”), and I appreciate the sense of humour she has about Viv’s take on her, but I might’ve given it to Viv?
💋 Who on earth told Ru about “You all right, babes?” because now she won’t stop saying it.
💋 Cheryl’s exit is one of my very favourites on the show, up there with Vanessa Vanjie Mateo’s Season 11 departure and Ginger Minj’s “They got me, gal!” in All Stars 2. Noting her having the worst record for a member of the final four ever was the exact kind of self-aware note I love from a queen.
💋 A very different look on Ru this week! I can’t quite say I love it—I’m not sure the silhouette is the best on him—but I appreciate that he’s experimenting outside his usual box.
💋 Michaela Coel is the latest terrific guest judge, proving that Drag Race’s American variant really needs to scale back to four judges an episode. The guest judge really gets to get in the mix when there’s only one of her. And Michaela’s outfit? Holy shit, that’s how you come dressed for Drag Race.
💋 I’ve had some harsh words for Michelle Visage’s judging this season, and I stand by them, but I appreciate how reasonably and calmly she explains her issues with spangled bodysuits to Cheryl. And Cheryl expected it! It’s all quite fair and level-headed.
💋 “You may call me Jiggly.” Ru gets a Jiggly Caliente reference on the BBC! Odd bless.
💋 That seating arrangement for the eliminated queens in the preview for the finale looks awfully like the All Stars 3 jury setup… They wouldn’t dare, would they?
💋 Wow, this was probably the last time this season we’ll hear “shantay, which means stay.” Powerful. I miss it already.