COVID-19 has come to Drag Race UK2, and it has made big changes. The biggest: Veronica Green — in my eyes a contender to the crown, especially after her win in the rusical — was forced to leave the competition after testing positive for the virus. This is a rarity on Drag Race. The only other situation I can compare it to is Eureka injuring herself in the disastrous Season 9 cheerleading challenge, being sent home, and coming back for Season 10. And wouldn’t you know it, Ru explained that Veronica has an open invitation to return for Season 3. Will she take her up on it? We might find out sooner than you think — that season starts shooting within the next month and will air this fall. I hope Veronica recovered fully, and I hope we see more of that talented, bold queen. She will be missed this season.
That wasn’t the only big news this episode. Likely because Veronica was removed from the competition, the three previously eliminated queens (minus Ginny Lemon, who quit) were all given a shot to come back. Joe Black, Cherry Valentine, and Astinna Mandella had to stand there and wait as the remaining queens one by one revealed which of the axed girls they wanted to return. This felt unnecessarily cruel to me. A secret ballot would have spared feelings, especially for poor Cherry, who got 0 votes. But if Season 13 has taught us anything, it is that the producers of this series are really leaning into their emotionally sadistic tendencies. Anyway, first out Joe Black got invited to return. I think it was the right choice. Joe is a cabaret legend and she got eliminated in Episode 1 despite looking absolutely amazing. She deserved to show the world more of what she could do.
Unfortunately, the RuRuVision Song Competition was…not a great fit for Joe’s talents. The queens were split into two teams and tasked with writing individual verses and coming up with costumes and choreography for identical song skeletons. In this case, the song is “UK Hun?” one version of which is already placing on the iTunes UK chart.
That team was the United Kingdolls — A’Whora, Bimini Bon Boulash, Lawrence Chaney, Tayce — who gave us great verses (Bimini’s lyrics are particularly strong, if you didn’t catch all of them — she’s so clever), an easily digestible pop-star concept, and great energy. Bananadrama (Ellie Diamond, Joe Black, Sister Sister, Tia Kofi) gave us a strangely old-fashioned concept, much less fizz, and some largely forgettable verses. But if you only pay attention to the judges’ reactions, you would have thought the Kingdolls were the best thing to ever grace the Drag Race mainstage, while Banandrama was stinking up the joint like four-day-old fish. And I’m always dubious when the edit is that ham fisted.
Speaking of fish, the runway theme was A Day at the Seaside. Check out this week’s Bird Watch for our review of the lewks, with special guest star Kara Austin! I want to apologize for the egregious lag issues with the video. We continue to try to fine tune our approach to these videos, and we appreciate your patience while we do so. Thanks to Kara for doing a great job!
During judging, Ru got spicy, going in on Tia for serving up “regional” level drag on an international stage, and she absolutely eviscerated Joe Black for wearing an off-the-rack H&M dress during the challenge. I saw a lot of pushback online to Ru’s anger here, with some people calling it classist, and pointing out that when Ru started out, she was wearing off-the-rack herself. I think that misses two points. First, Ru didn’t say you can’t buy mass-produced outfits for this show. But if you do, you better do something to make them special.
Because — this is the big one — this is an international showcase for drag that millions of people watch every week. That didn’t exist when Ru was starting out. The stakes are completely different now. You have this platform to show the world what you can do, and coming out on stage in something Karen can buy at the mall is not going to cut it. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, but you DO have to show your style, your taste, your creativity. I have no objections to Ru’s feedback there. It’s true. Go back and watch the first two seasons, when the queens were literally wearing jeans and garments from the DEB sales rack. Are any of those looks memorable? Don’t you want to be memorable? Then you have to give us something more, and if you can’t, get out of the way. Another girl sure will.
Also, bear in mind that this episode through to the end of the season is the most recent thing Ru has filmed (in November/December 2020). She seems largely checked out of Season 13 to me, but she is fully present with these girls and seems very invested in some of these queens (loved the back and forth with her and Tia this episode). I will take Ru being cranky if it means that she’s fully engaged with the process instead of operating on autopilot.
And so, unfortunately, the Bottom 2 ended up with Joe Black — completely out of his element in the challenge — and my beloved Tia Kofi, whose soft serve look was…anything BUT a serve. Joe was more engaged in this lipsynch (a very strange version of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” I’d never heard) than she was in her first, but Tia brought the intensity that saved her opposite Astinna, and was given a second reprieve. And that meant Joe was out as fast as he was back in. But I’m at least glad we got a chance to see this legend get a little more spotlight, it’s well deserved.
Next week: SNATCH GAME!
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And click here for the Episode 6 poll. This is the important one! Since we’re at Snatch Game, you now have the opportunity to pick a new winner for the whole season (if you stick with your original, and that person wins, you’ll get bonus points for that) AND you can swap out a member of your bench, too. So that’s two total substitutions you can make. Plus you need to submit your picks for the week’s winner and eliminee. Get those in before Wednesday, February 17, at 10pm.