BY Eric Rezsnyak
After two awful episodes, “Canada” Season 4 got back on track this week in a terrific episode with lots of looks, lots of tears, and some top-tier “Drag Race” drama. I think this episode really helped to clarify where this cast excels, and gave us some parameters for the season.
- This is a cast that favors looks over performance. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s a FASHION season, since I don’t think most of them actually are serving fashion. But they are definitely more comfortable with aesthetic-based challenges than they are with comedy- or performance-based ones. Which means Snatch Game should be…interesting.
- I’ve been saying since Week 1 that this cast seemed to be picked for their likability. I’m going to revise that: they were picked for PERSONALITY period. Because this week we got some tender, touching, likable moments, but we also got lots of stressed and spicy moments, and across the board this crew is GIVING. When it comes to challenges? Flopparooni. When it comes to drama? Fire.
- Whatever this cast lacks in humor, acting chops, nerve, polish, and talent, it makes up for in attitude, and that Untucked segment was an instant classic, right up there with Drag Race S2-S6 throwdowns. I was HOWLING at my screen. Lean into this, girls. I could watch segments like that all season long.
So, let’s break it down. After a mini challenge that was — in my opinion — one of the best deployed product-placement bits I’ve ever seen on a “Drag Race,” and which gave us a slew of legitimately great pics of the queens, we got to the main challenge: upcycling items from Brad Goreski’s closet (and whatever else production could find) and turning them into couture drag looks. As design challenges go, I do think upcycling is tough. Multiple queens struggled with fabric scarcity, and transforming pants and shirts and coats into gowns really does take skill and vision.
Still, I do think most of the queens did at least OK, with only one or two absolute bombs. Let’s go over each queen, in alphabetical order.
Aimee Yonce Shennel: I had been struggling with Aimee up until this episode. I was just getting loud and bubbly, which is cute for a taste, not for a swallow. This week is when I fully embraced her. Her mental-health and self-loathing struggles really touched me. That mug in the main challenge was absolutely beautiful. And she really showed up in Untucked, as did her snot as she wept bitterly about being in the Bottom 3. Which she deserved, because Aimee had obviously the worst look of the week, made out of towels and shower poofs. More than one queen explicitly warned her to reconsider her materials. She refused to listen and we got…this. It was bad. I absolutely believed Aimee when she was saying how hard she worked to get there, how much she wanted to STAY there. I think she’s a sweetheart and a lovely, lovely person. But she failed the challenge, and she lost that lipsynch.
Aurora Matrix: Aurora was Safe after serving up a pale blue/yellow number with a skirt with visible creasing and wrinkles and one of the ugliest appliques I’ve ever seen on her chest. Aurora is one of the self-described fashion queens who is not, in reality, a fashion queen. This wasn’t couture, it was coutorture. She was very lucky to be safe, I would have placed her Low.
Denim: Denim was High after serving us a layered knit-over-knit look. It was visually striking and different than anything else on the runway. It was unquestionably Denim, who has their own visual stamp. But the judges put one queen in the bottom because her look did not transform the original materials into something different — Denim even made fun of this in a talking head. I’m going to need someone to explain how Denim transformed their materials, because this looked like the materials she gathered just layered on top of one another, with a few of the quilt squares filled in. That’s not transformative. The sleeve gimmick on the runway we have seen multiple times on “Drag Race,” and this was one of the least interesting deployments. Denim should have been Safe at best.
Kiki Coe: Kiki is unquestionably the look queen of this season, and she had big expectations coming into this challenge. She delivered, creating a sleek gown in a red sequin fabric she snapped up via three shirts, an oversized collar element in a matching red sparkle, and big fake jewels at the hem to weigh everything down. It was a smartly engineered look and Kiki styled it perfectly. It is a beautiful garment. It is not the most exciting look I’ve seen in a design challenge, but given what they had to work with, she justifiably won this challenge.
Kitten Kaboodle: Kitten was High for her look, which took a puffer jacket and some strange sequin butterfly fabric and fused them into a mini dress. Kitten obviously put a ton of work into this, and I liked a lot of the details. I don’t think the whole thing was particularly flattering — I agreed with Brooke’s comment that Kitten needed to be way more cinched to have a shape — but I appreciated the work, the vision, and the transformation of materials. I do think Kitten deserved being High.
Luna Dubois: I actually liked Luna’s look, which had a kind of 60s flair to it, mixing pastel shirts into a color-blocked number. I think it did feel a little unresolved — everything was just hanging open — but I think that came down to a lack of fabric that worked with the materials Luna was using. Luna was Safe, I would consider it High Safe. She was terrific in Untucked.
Melinda Verga: Oh, girl. Melinda has become the story of the season to me. For the past few weeks, the online discourse around the show has been people criticizing Melinda’s wigs and make-up skills (and sometimes her runways), and an immediate, intense reaction pushing back at any negativity toward her. I’ve found that fascinating. This is “Drag Race.” It’s the biggest platform for this art form. The idea that we cannot critique these queens for their basic drag skills after they choose to go on this show is fucking wild to me. I will be curious if there’s a change after this episode, because Melinda has been getting a pass due to her “fun, perky” attitude, which I’ve found to be fake and grating since the premiere. This week she was neither fun nor perky. She was practically frothing at mouth after getting criticized for taking a large men’s jacket and turning it into a smaller woman’s suit dress. Her meltdown was EPIC. She completely lost it, and more or less told the other queens that she was over it, to send her home. For the last few weeks I wondered if Melinda was challenged due to a lack of resources, but I think Melinda genuinely thinks she looks good on those runways. I think this was the best she looked all competition. The criticism about the lack of transformation was valid. Her wig, make-up, and shoes remain at an unacceptable level. And Melinda does not want to hear that. Buckle up, kids. This is going to be a show.
Nearah Nuff: This was a great week for Nearah. In addition to a stellar photo in the mini challenge — which she won — she gave us a garment that had a clear concept, and which was authentically Nearah. The execution was lacking, but to her credit, she recognized that and accepted her place in the Bottom 3. Where Nearah really stepped up was in Untucked, when she got IN it with the other other bottom queens, slapping down their delusion, and immediately serving comebacks when they came for her. Nearah vs. Aimee was amazing even before they went back on stage for the lipsynch. Aimee literally told Kiki to save the gal who said she wanted to go home just so Aimee and Nearah could lipsynch battle. Nearah said, “Bring it bitch,” and then proceeded to CLEAR Aimee in the lipsynch. It was very stunt heavy, but Nearah also seemed to know the words, and she was selling the song. A terrific week for Nearah, who for the record, OBVIOUSLY won that lipsynch.
Venus: Up to this point, Venus has been a clear frontrunner this season. This week we got to see her crack a bit. She was obviously intimidated by the sewing challenge, and seemed to get very in her head. It was interesting then that she came out with one of the more visually striking looks of the night. Was it a barely-there flannel/grunge look held together by safety pins? You bet! But Venus sold the fuck out of it on the runway, and was Safe. To me the most interesting elements of this episode were Venus getting closer and closer to the edge of cracking. Based on the preview for next week, she fully lets loose and goes IN on some of the other queens. I cannot fucking wait.
The gag of Kiki choosing to give the Golden Beaver to Melinda — who absolutely lost her fucking mind in Untucked and literally told the girls she was over this whole competition — was high drama. The girls’ reactions to it were the cherry on top. In the end, Brooke told both Aimee and Nearah they were safe. That shouldn’t have been a double shantay. Brooke said it was because they both showed the fire to be there. Sure, I can see that. But Nearah very clearly outperformed Aimee in every conceivable metric. To me this read as, Well, the girls are all still girling, so let’s throw them all back together next episode because this shit is juicy. And it is! And I’m here for it!
Next: Snatch Game, which we should all expect to be completely fucking terrible with this group.