“Drag Race UK vs. The World” Season 2 FINALE Recap

March 29, 2024

BY Eric Rezsnyak

And we have a winner! Coming on the (high) heels of a satisfying roast semifinal, the finale of “UKvsTW” 2 gave us an overall strong episode — at least the season started and ended well. A winner was crowned, and while the result will probably be controversial for many viewers, I do think it was the RIGHT decision given the way things played out. Totally disagree with that statement? Read on for my rationale.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

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The episode started with an impromptu reunion featuring the return of this season’s seven eliminated queens. I’m glad everyone had one last shot on camera. I will stand firm in my belief that this was a great cast overall. Each of these girls brought something different to the table, and they all had unresolved arcs that justified a second (or even third) shot at the crown. I just think that the middle of the season was a letdown, possibly because the challenges themselves weren’t great (“Drag World” was a dud), or the queens overall didn’t rise to the occasion (a largely lifeless Snatch Game, that cringe-inducing “Strictly Come Dancing” episode, a Rusical that should have been great but…wasn’t). But setting performances aside, I like all these queens. I was delighted to see them back for this season, and back for this episode.

The reunion had some spice. Scarlet Envy was clearly irritated at making it so close to the finale and getting chopped by Hannah Conda last episode (Tia Kofi also had her lipsynch, by the way). Scarlet wasn’t overly accepting of Hannah’s rationale that it came down to track record, and kept insisting that there was something personal motivating Hannah choosing to eliminate her not once, but twice. It’s entirely possible that was the case. And if it was, that was Hannah’s right. The wining queen can send home whoever she wants.

In fact, that was a point of discussion at the reunion. Hannah admitted that if she had been playing strategically, the correct move would have been to eliminate obvious frontrunner Marina Summers, in her first and only time in the bottom. Reunion host Michelle Visage pointed out that Season 1 winner Blu Hydrangea likely only won BECAUSE she took out the clear threat, Pangina Heals, when she had the chance. From a gameplay perspective, that’s accurate. But looking at overall legacy, I don’t think it holds up. Blu’s win is often regarded as having an asterisk on it because she wasn’t going up against the season’s strongest performers (Pangina and Jimbo). Blu received a tremendous amount of backlash because of it. I think this season’s finalists all understood that keenly going into this, and figured they would take their chances with the judges rather than risk pissing off the fandom. (Spoiler: I don’t think it ultimately mattered, the Top 2 for this season is likely going to get a LOT of bullshit from the fandom. That must be frustrating for them.)

While I understand Scarlet’s frustration at getting cut at F5, I still think it’s worth noting that she had by far her most successful “Drag Race” run on this series, and overall came off well. It was the first season where she was eliminated and it didn’t feel like a total robbery.

The other notable moment from the reunion was Jonbers Blonde making something of an arse of herself, repeatedly, by bitching about how unfairly she was treated, going home third. She specifically took potshots at Tia Kofi, and insinuated that her elimination was also personal because of off-camera drama between Jonbers and Tia’s ex, “UK4” queen Pixie Polite. There’s no way of knowing what to believe here, but Jonbers did herself no favors this episode. She has an astonishingly high opinion of herself, which might work if she had an ounce of self awareness. She refers to herself as a “high-fashion drag clown,” but where are the laughs? Where is the comedy? I don’t recall every seeing it, either here or in her original season where she did not — I remind you — ever win a single challenge. Jonbers takes herself VERY seriously and it’s an awful look for her. She was gathered effortlessly by Tia at least once, but based on recent interviews I’ve read with Jonbers, I don’t think she has learned her lesson. I like my drag queens delusional, but I also like them likable. Jonbers was my least-anticipated queen on this cast, and she managed to end the season with even less of my appreciation. Not because of her drag, but because of her attitude.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, one of the most easily likable queens of the season — “Drag Race Espana” doll Arantxa Castilla la Mancha — was named Miss Congeniality. Absolutely the correct decision. Arantxa may have only lasted two episodes, but in that time she came off better than several of the queens who lasted far longer. I hope she leaves this season feeling more confident in her drag and her star power, because her growth between “Espana” 1 and now is pretty incredible.

One last discussion of the eliminated queens: all of them got to come back for one last runway walk, and I thought there were some interesting fashion moments. First-out Mayhem Miller looked IN-CRED-I-BLE in one of the most regal outfits I have ever seen on “Drag Race” ever; Mayhem, if nothing else, you did THAT. I noticed that more than one queen apparently brought out the look they were going to wear for their bridal runway in Episode 7 — I strongly suspect Gothy Kendoll, Keta Minaj, and even Choriza May were all in their wedding looks (Choriza cheekily referencing Lydia Dietz’s blood-red wedding gown from “Beetlejuice”).

Finally, the Final 4 — Hannah Conda, La Grande Dame, Marina Summers, and Tia Kofi — were led into the dreaded lipsynch smackdown for the crown. While the season overall may have been underwhelming from a performance standpoint, I do think this was the correct Final 4 for this season. I think they are all stars. I think they’re a great representation of international drag. And they are inherently likable queens. That came through brilliantly in the final panel interview, where the warmth of all of these queens, and the appreciation the judges obviously had for each of them, was readily apparent. Would I have liked to see a few more knockout moments from some of them along the way? Absolutely. But I was glad for every one of those queens to be in that finale.

In an interesting twist, the number of RuPeter Badges won during the season actually gave queens an edge in this final task, as each queen’s face was put on a spinning wheel, with an additional slot for every badge they won. That meant that Marina had an edge with four slots (her given slot, plus 3 for her badges), then Tia (3 slots), then Hannah and LGD with 2 slots each. Whichever queen the wheel landed on was given the option to pick her lipsynch opponent.

And indeed, the queen with the most potential to be chosen was: Marina Summers was allowed to pick her initial lipsynch partner. She opted for Hannah Conda, who yelled out, “Fuck a duck!” clearly fearing Marina’s considerable lipsynch prowess. And yet, destiny took a an unexpected turn. As after their lipsynch to “I’m Outta Love” by Anastacia (iconic track)…Hannah Conda won. And frontrunner Marina Summers was eliminated.

This lipsynch win will be controversial, and I am fairly certain that poor Hannah is going to get a torrent of online hate because of it. I hope not! But I also know this fandom. In my opinion, the right decision was made. Marina is a phenomenal performer. We know this. Her lipsynch was more sensual, more action packed than Hannah’s; Hannah leaned into props (sunglasses and a mic) and the vibe of the song. I think that’s the key differentiator here. While Marina was giving us sex on legs, I don’t believe the face was selling the song. She was focused on winning, not on living the song. This is a purely personal take, and I can see others disagreeing. But I think the Hannah win here was justifiable, even as it was crushing from a season-arc perspective.

I want to be abundantly clear on this point: even being eliminated at F4, Marina leaves this season as its strongest competitor, and probably its biggest star. She was THE most consistent queen, full stop, and was impressive pretty much every single episode. I believe she walks away the fan favorite, and it was obvious that RuPaul is smitten with her. My hope here — and they kind of even hinted at this — is that they pull a Jimbo and invite Marina back for a regular U.S. “All Stars” season, because she is without a doubt a superstar. She was an incredible ambassador for Filipino drag and I don’t think a queen could have done better than her this season, I really mean that.

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That left Tia Kofi and LGD for our second lipsynch, to “Boogie 2Nite” by Booty Luv. First, it must be said, LGD looked fierce as FUCK in that glorious multicolor Muppet fantasy. Tia had a comically large Union Jack coat that revealed to a bodysuit underneath. Tia relied on camp and props for this performance, while LGD — at least per the edit — was just kind of doing her thing in the background. She had a much more successful reveal than Tia, but I think it was over when Tia produced two glass bottles out of seemingly nowhere and smashed one. After that point, the lipsynch continued to descend into wackiness, with multiple queens yelling from the side, “What the fuck was that?!”

It’s honestly hard for me to call this one, because the editing focus was so overwhelmingly on Tia. But ultimately Tia was named the victor, and the last finalist. LGD started this season SO strong. She was basically flawless in the first two episodes, and while she struggled in the episodes that followed, her performance in those first two episodes was SO strong that I think she became a top-tier Ru Girl right there. Like, you can’t take that away from her. She also pissed all over the stage — in Week 3 literally — in every single runway. The mug. The hair. The FASHION, darling. La Grand Dame absolutely made France and “Drag Race France” incredibly proud, and I would welcome her back for an “All Stars” run as well. She is one of the most dazzling queens to ever walk the runway. Also, both La Grand Dame AND Marina for “Drag Race Live” or Werq the World. Give these international icons the COINS!

That left a Final 2 of Hannah Conda and Tia Kofi lipsynching for the crown to Kylie Minogue’s “Your Disco Needs You.” Confidential to whoever booked the lipsynch songs for this episode: you have impeccable taste and you will always be famous. I am sure that many viewers will cry foul that, magically, the two English-speaking queens, who Ru has already judged, both from Commonwealth countries, somehow made the finale. But like…I don’t think it’s that outlandish. I think LGD vs. Tia was, at worst, a tie, and Tia has had a stronger track record this season than LGD. I can see why Marina lost that lipsynch to Hannah, even if people don’t agree with the logic behind it. Perhaps I’m naive, but I don’t think RuPaul would have at all objected to Marina in the F2, or crowning her. Her affection and respect for Marina was pretty obvious throughout the entire season.

So, Hannah vs. Tia. These were two very different approaches to the song. Hannah, surprisingly, played it much more straight, giving a sexier and more traditional lipsynch interpretation; Tia gave camp, gave props, and lots and lots of pointing. If I’m being honest, I thought Hannah gave the better lipsynch, but Ru and Michelle were both living for Tia and her more comedic approach. It actually seemed like a damn good time, as everyone in the studio was getting into it. I think the moment that may have been the deciding factor was when Tia went to an off-stage LGD during the French portion of the song and had her translate the lines. That was adorable, and it showed Tia Kofi’s superpower: getting the people on her side, and showing them a good time.

And so it made sense when Tia Kofi was announced as the winner for the season. Congratulations, Tia! Tia was my pre-season pick. I absolutely fell in love with her in “UK2,” and I was so eager to see her come back with more experience, more coins, and more confidence under her belt. I have seen some online criticism of Tia’s run this season, with some arguing that she was being pushed by Production and undeserving of some of her wins. I’ll confess that I too found some her placements dubious. BUT. Tia was never bad. Not the entire season. And so many of the queens (not Marina) were inconsistent this season, or just consistently failed to show up (I won’t name names, but we’ll say that Tia being the last hometown girl standing was completely justified).

Tia also brings something new to the winner’s circle, which is something I look for in a crowned queen. Her predecessor, Blu Hydrangea — who returned for the stepdown, and was hilarious in both her reaction to a cash prize this season, as well as being stunned by some of the “stupid” lipsynchs — is a peerless make-up artist and also gave us one of the most cutthroat routes to victory we’ve ever seen on “Drag Race” (I say that with respect). Tia is Capital-C charisma. She is one of the most effortlessly likable queens I’ve ever gotten the pleasure to watch. When you look at the other UK winners especially — The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney, Krystle Versace, Danny Beard, Ginger Johnson (the last of whom hadn’t been crowned by the time this was filmed) — Tia has a totally different flavor. In addition to her megawatt charm, she’s also a proud geek, and rocks the awkward (…rockward?) better than almost anyone. I think Tia is a deserving winner, and I’m so proud of her.

I’d also like to give a shout out to our runner-up, Hannah Conda. I thought Hannah did great this episode, and had a wonderful progression over the course of the season. She should be so proud of herself. I was glad to see her speak candidly this episode about the lack of respect that “Drag Race Down Under” gets. It bothers me as a viewer of the show, I can’t imagine how infuriating it must be as a contestant. “Down Under” S1 was an undeniable mess, but S2 — Hannah’s season — is a sensational season of “Drag Race,” absolutely loaded with stars and with memorable moments. I think the franchise is hobbled by its obviously limited budget, and a first season that was so mired in controversy that many “Drag Race” fans can’t seem to move past it. But I wish they would. There are amazing drag artists in Australia and New Zealand, and “Down Under” deserves more viewers. I was also chagrined to hear Hannah’s story last episode, about how depressed she was after her reception in “Down Under” S2. I’m confused as to why any viewer of that season would dislike Hannah, and although I suspect she will get backlash for eliminating Marina here — which was not her fault! Or her decision! — I hope people will give Hannah the respect and support she deserves. She’s a brilliant queen!

And thus ends “UK Vs. the World” S2. What did you think of the season overall? Would you like to see more “Vs. the World” seasons? If so, which international queens would you like to see included? Note that “Global All Stars” IS coming, probably sooner than you think. You can bet we’ll be covering what is literally shaping up to be the Olympics of drag!

Did you miss our previous recaps? Find them here:

Episode 7

Episode 6

Episode 5

Episode 4

Episode 3

Episode 2

Episode 1

We’re also recapping U.S. Season 16! You can find those recaps by clicking here!

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Brandon
Brandon
21 days ago

The season started off with an amazing talent show and kind of faltered in the middle, but I enjoyed it overall. I hate it’s over. I would love for UK vs the World to become a yearly occurrence. Wonder why we had to wait two years between seasons? Also, glad Tia won – but I would’ve been happy if any of the final four had snatched the crown.

Meyc
Meyc
2 days ago

They let Hannah ( with the mic and the glasses) in and put Marina ( no props, just pure lipsync prowess) down by editing all the highlights and give Hannah and the judges more camera view because they knew that Tia will not have a chance against Marina. Tia is great but she’s Stiff af.. well anyway it’s UK vs. The World and it would be a huge letdown if someone outside the UK will snatch the crown..