BY Eric Rezsnyak
As announced by Brooke Lynn Hytes at the end of last week’s episode, this episode was the first lipsynch slay-off in “Canada’s Drag Race” herstory. We’ve had LaLaPaRuZas, or lipsynch tournaments, on the U.S. seasons since at least Season 13, and while they’re typically entertaining — typically — the one thing they tend to be very good at is separating the real threats of the season from the queens who aren’t quite there yet. That was especially the case for this episode of “Canada.” I went in with fairly low expectations, but was wowwed by several of these queens. In truth, nobody fully bombed. Some did better than others, for sure, but I thought everyone had at least a decent showing. Let’s dive in!
But first, a quick note: Canadian supermodel Winnie Harlow was the guest judge for this episode, and I would like to officially petition for her to replace Traci Melchor on the judging panel. I know that Winnie can be controversial and gets a lot of shit, but I thought she was terrific in this episode. She brought an assured, cool quality to the proceedings, and was clearly invested in what was going on with the queens. I have nothing against Traci. I’m sure she’s lovely. But it all feels so scripted and robotic. She remains the weakest part of this show week after week. Again, I’m sure she’s a lovely person, and I have no doubt that she loves these queens. But we all see it, right?
OK, into the lipsynchs, which were decided via an interesting approach compared to the U.S. balls-in-a-cage (which visibly never shuffled order). Winnie Harlow picked a random envelope that had a queen’s name in it. The queen got to choose from one of the four first-round songs. The next queen pulled via random envelope could pick one of the other songs, OR choose to face off against a previous queen in the song she picked. The winner of each pairing advanced until one queen won the episode; the four Round 1 losers were the bottom of the week and up for elimination. And remember: as Brooke said last episode, TWO queens would be eliminated.
Round 1, Match-Up 1: Melinda Verga vs. Kitten Kaboodle to “That Don’t Impress Me Much” by Shania Twain. Arguably the two most popular contestants of this season, this battle was going to put a fan favorite in jeopardy no matter what. Personally I thought it was the weakest battle of the night, in part because the song just stays in one gear. Melinda threw out a bunch of tricks, while Kitten went for what I would call a fairly safe performance. Not bad, but safe — and not as connected to the audience as I would expect for a pro like Kitten. Ultimately, Melinda was the winner, with Kitten being sent to the Bottom 4.
Round 1, Match-Up 2: Denim vs. Aurora Matrix to “I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends” by Sam Smith, Calvin Harris & Jessie Reyez. A much better lipsynch song, and a strong performance by Aurora specifically. I’ve liked Aurora up to this point. I kept waiting to fall in love with her, but there was always something a little bit off, a detail that kept me from completely buying in. I am all in after this episode. Aurora is a spectacular lipsyncher. She has a real sense of musicality and she is so fully engaged with her audience (in this case the judges). This was a no-brainer victory for Aurora, but it must be said, Denim did not do poorly. They were just up against a powerhouse lipsyncher. Aurora rightfully won, while Denim ended up in the Bottom 4.
Round 1, Match-Up 3: Aimee Yonce Shennel vs. Nearah Nuff to “Fever Dreamer” by SG Lewis, Charlotte Day Lewis, Channel Tres. Not a great lipsynch song, but ultimately that didn’t matter because Nearah fucking ate that stage up. Two weeks ago, Nearah threw down against Aimee in a lipsynch for your life, and while they were both saved from elimination, it was very clear to anyone with a head that Nearah won that battle. So I don’t blame Nearah for picking this rematch deliberately, and firmly thrashing Aimee once again. I don’t think Aimee was bad here — I actually think she was better here than in their initial lipsynch — but she was fully outclassed by Nearah, who is an exceptional performance. Nearah was the rightful winner, while Aimee was sent to the Bottom 4.
Round 1, Match-Up 4: Venus vs. Kiki Coe to “Uninvited” by Alanis Morissette. Probably the most lopsided lipsynch of the night. First, girl, if you ever told me we would have an “Uninvited” lipsynch on any “Drag Race” — THAT is a fever dream, apologies to match-up 3. But Venus really sold this, tapping into raw emotions and delivering a performance that felt real and authentic. Kiki, dressed like a drag brunch magically transformed into a bodysuit, was already at a sartorial disadvantage, and her Broadway-esque approach was a flop for me. Venus was the obvious winner here, and Kiki was sent to the bottom for the third time in six episodes.
Round 2, Match-Up 1: Melinda Verga vs. Aurora Matrix to “Boys Wanna Be Her” by Peaches. A Peaches lipsynch! This is what we wanted! Manifesting a “Fuck The Pain Away” lipsynch in future seasons! God bless Melinda, who really gave it her all and was committed to the bit. But this was Aurora’s pretty much from the jump. She oozes both sensuality and danger in a way that perfectly captured Peaches’ vibe here. Typically I hate hate HATE when queens do air guitar in a lipsynch, but I’m giving a pass to Aurora here. Aurora won and Melinda was knocked out of the tournament, but remained safe overall.
Round 2, Match-Up 2: Nearah Nuff vs. Venus to “Pull Up” by Keys N Krates. First, this song has about a million words, and must have been a real bitch to learn. But girl? They both did the thing. Venus was solid in this, but you could see the nerves on her face in parts. (I don’t blame her, this song is a beast.) Nearah, meanwhile, served so much pussy it might as well have been a cat cafe. If Aurora gives us sensuality, Nearah gives us straight-up seduction. She’s so erotic when she performs, you just can’t stop watching her. Nearah rightfully advanced, kicking Venus out of the smackdown (but still safe).
Final Round: Aurora Matrix vs. Nearah Nuff to “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles. If you have two terrific lipsynchers who ooze sex, what better Canadian pop song than “Black Velvet”? After the legendary Jujubee U.S. Season 2 lipsynch, it was lovely to hear this old chestnut again, and both Aurora and Nearah did great. I honestly wasn’t sure which one would take this, but I think ultimately Aurora has a more playful sexuality in her lipsynchs, while Nearah gives us a vagina desperately needing to be filled, and hey, that’s the gay agenda, right there. So Nearah won the smackdown and was crowned winner of the episode. I think it was a close one, and both Nearah and Aurora should be so proud of themselves. They are lethal performers, amongst the best I’ve seen from ANY franchise. Bravo, gals.
As winner, Nearah was given the power of the Golden Beaver. And more than any other winner this season, Nearah really leaned into the power of the position — a drama queen for the people, Nearah is fast becoming one of my favorites this season. She gives good TV. The stakes were high, and Nearah knew it. The Bottom 4 included two challenge winners (Kitten and Kiki), a clear judge favorite (Denim), and also Aimee. Nearah had the power to save one, and after a threeway lipsynch, two would be eliminated. Nearah explained in a talking head that she had the opportunity to take out at least one real threat here, possibly two if she decided to pull the pag by saving Aimee. I appreciate a queen who is motivated by strategy more than just emotions.
Ultimately, though, Nearah ended up giving the beaver to Denim, saving them from the Bottom 3. I will say, I did not think Denim came off at all well in this segment. They did do well in their lipsynch, but there was no doubt they lost to Aurora. Was she the best of the worst? Arguably, but I don’t think any of the other three were obvious disasters. There was a potent sense of entitlement from Denim here that did not sit well with me, especially because I think Denim has been pretty consistently pushed by the judges and their weaknesses largely ignored.
The Bottom 3 — Kitten Kaboodle, Kiki Coe, and Aimee Yonce Shannel — had to lipsynch to “I Will Love Again” by Lara Fabian. A power ballad, so a fairly level playing field — splits and stunts would not work in a song like this. After the initial lipsynchs, and just generally from the competition, my expectation was that Kiki would be the loser here. But Kiki turned it OUT. This was a great lipsynch, fully engaged and present, and it made me wonder, Where has this Kiki been the whole competition? She went for it in a way she has not in basically any challenge. Aimee was fine — again not bad — and I was surprised to find that Kitten kind of faded into the background for me. There was a feeling of disconnectedness I did not expect from someone who has been performing for many years. I genuinely wondered what was going on in her head during that number.
In the end, Kiki was the queen who was saved, and based solely on that lipsynch, it was the correct call. I’ll be curious to see if she can channel some of that energy into the challenges going forward, because up until this point it’s been beautiful gowns and that’s about it.
I have come to really enjoy Aimee over the past few weeks. She’s a total sweetheart and has an enormous personality. I do think this was her time to go home — arguably I think she should have gone home in her initial lipsynch against Nearah, but I’m glad we got her Jesus in Snatch Game, which was amusing.
The real heartbreak is Kitten being eliminated. Kitten has emerged as one of the most popular queens of this season. Possibly THE most popular, as I think a lot of the Melinda support is at least partially rooted in irony. But people genuinely have loved Kitten since the very beginning, and I am one of them. I think Kitten’s drag is great, and her story is wonderful. She’s incredibly likable and what a beacon of hope for so many people, inspiring those of us over 40 to not set aside our dreams just because we remember the Clinton Administration. Kitten is an icon and I think many viewers of this season will be very frustrated/upset that she’s been eliminated so early. I know I am. Kitten for “Canada Vs. the World” S2! Ben-Gay Supremacy!
Next: “Brooke Lynn Hytes: The Rusical,” and Countess LuAnn. Chic c’est la vie!