“RuPaul’s Drag Race” UK Season 5, Episode 8 Recap

November 17, 2023

Oh, the makeover episode. I think at this point, after approximately 3 million episodes of “Drag Race” across umpteen franchises, most regular viewers understand that the makeovers serve two purposes. First, they are typically one of the sweetest editions of any season, as the franchises have cast a variety of really lovely normies to share their stories; at their best, these can be incredibly moving tales that showcase an element of the queer experience. The second purpose for the makeover episode is less enjoyable: it is an opportunity for production to gatekeep queens they do not want to advance to the finale. And that’s precisely what happened in this episode, as it has with every other UK season and its makeover episode.

Let’s dig in: the makeover subjects this time were volunteers at Switchboard, the UK’s LGBTQ+ help line. A wonderful idea, and they all seemed lovely; I was especially invested in Michael Marouli’s assigned makeover partner, who was older, had lived through the AIDS crisis, and was really pushing the boundaries of embracing his feminine self for the first time via this challenge. It was the best of what a makeover episode has to offer, and I was grateful for it. But really, all the makeover subjects were lovely. (I can’t think of the last time we had an unwilling makeover partner — maybe U.S. Season 6 and the now-banned wedding episode? Literally, you cannot find that episode streaming due to legal issues with the makeover participant in question.)

The challenge, as always, was for the queens to drag up their non-drag partners and present a family resemblance. I lost track of when makeovers stopped also being design challenges, but most of these looks were brought from home by the queens. There was no performance element (that we were shown). The queens really just had to put their partners in drag, teach them how to present themselves, and put them in hair and make-up. And, of course, there had to be that ever-elusive quality of “family resemblance.”

I put that in quotations, because the judges apply that critique only when it suits them, and even then, it can be inconsistent with a single makeover challenge on a single season. We’ll take this one as an example. Michael Marouli won the challenge with his partner, Geezer Manouli. But was it “family resemblance”? Or was Geezer simply a clone of Michael’s look? Because that’s what I got. That’s not family resemblance to me, it’s copy + paste. The other queens all gave their makeovers related but differentiated looks. Ginger Johnson created — like she sewed herself — the colorful and coordinated, but not identical, mod clothes worn by herself and her partner, Ruiva Johnson. In my opinion, I thought that was more “family resemblance” than a clone job, and I thought the execution was better. I know Ginger can’t win every challenge, and I’m happy for Michael’s success. But in my opinion, Ginger should have won this.

Ultimately it was the bottom teams that were more controversial. DeDeLicious and her makeover, BeBeLicious, gave us “Dynasty” goes to the office party. I could see the argument that these were more friends than they were “family,” but I did think the makeover was one of the more dramatic ones on stage — her partner was unrecognizable and absolutely LOOKED like she could be from the same drag house as DeDe. Kate Butch went for a “Grease”-themed idea, putting her partner, Femily Bronte, into a Pink Ladies get-up. Again, this read more “friend” than family to the judges. And then there was Tomara Thomas and her partner, Giant G., in tiny costumes with massive wigs that really did not fit on Giant’s head, and EXTREMELY minimal drag make-up on the makeover partner.

I think the consensus online is that it was bullshit that Tomara was safe, because Kate and DeDe ended up in the bottom. It’s tough, with only five queens left. All of the queens are strong performers. DeDe has had a great, scrappy underdog storyline, Kate is easily a fan favorite, and Tomara has been given a LOT of grace by the judges because of her personality. It’s very, “It’s OK because it’s Alyssa,” except this time, it’s Tomara.

So it was Kate vs. DeDe in a lipsynch to “This Hell” by Rina Sawayama. I love this song, not sure it was a great lipsynch choice. Both queens were invested here, eating up the stage. I’ve become quite impressed with DeDe’s lipsynching skills over the past few weeks — yes, that is a read, since this is her third lipsynch in four episodes. But she really is quite talented, and I’ve come to like her quite a lot. Kate held her own here and she should be very proud of herself.

Because, alas, Kate Butch was eliminated, right after her win, her first time landing in the Bottom 2. Kate joins Dakota Schiffer (UK4) and Cheryl Hole (UK1) as queens who went home in the makeover episode for highly dubious reasons that I, me, personally, think ultimately add up to, “We don’t want this queen in the finale.” Cheryl and Dakota both slayed their makeover challenges and were chucked into the bottom anyway. Kate, at least, was clearly not one of the tops this week, so there is that — but there was another queen who was pretty clearly worse than her marked Safe. I don’t think Kate really had a shot to win the competition at this point, and I think they knew they had to eliminated her before next week’s Roast, because she almost certainly would do well in that challenge, which would mean she WOULD make the final. And there are other queens who have performed more strongly — as well as at least one who has been protected — who they pretty obviously want to make it to the end.

Besides Kate’s unfortunate departure, I remain a big fan of this season. I love all these queens and I would welcome any of them back for future seasons. But I do think the show needs to find a new approach to makeovers, or ditch the challenges altogether, because at this point the average viewer sees right through the BS, and just using the challenges as an excuse to axe someone not ordained leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

International “Drag Race” Round-Up

I watch all the international seasons so you don’t have to!

“Drag Race Canada”

We did a full blog for the Season 4 premiere, check that out by clicking here.

“Drag Race Brasil”

Season 1 of “Brasil” came to a close this week, and thank Christ the Redeemer for that. I won’t mince words: I have watched every “Drag Race” season that was released in 2023, and “Brasil” is my least favorite by a fairly wide margin. It was simply not a pleasant experience to watch, despite having a great host in Grag Queen. The cast overall — except for lovely cinnamon roll Bettina Polaroid and Naza — were almost entirely joyless the entire season long. I was shocked in the finale when the judges referred to finalist Miranda Lebrao as a comedy queen, as I could not remember the last time Miranda was funny, or even lighthearted. So it is fitting that one of the least likable casts in “Drag Race” history should produce one of the least likable winners in “Drag Race” history in Organzza. I was not remotely surprised when they crowned her. I felt all along that the show had a clear agenda in the winner of this series, and Organzza was consistently overpraised throughout the entire competition. They raved about her virtually every week, and spent very little time discussing her blatant failings in almost every challenge that didn’t involve fashion and/or looking fierce (they also handed her the makeover win over Hellena Malditta in what I think is one of the most blatant robberies of the season). I’ll confess that I just don’t see what what the judges — and a very passionate fanbase supporting her — see in Organzza. I am hard pressed to name a single exemplary thing she did all season long. Mostly what I think of when I consider Organzza is that she cried a lot, or she was huffy and dismissive. That’s about it. To her credit — I guess? — none of the Final 4 queens did particularly well in this finale episode. The video for Grag’s song “Party Everyday” looked cheap, had more jarring cuts than an entire episode of “Drag Race Italia” (that’s really saying something), and didn’t showcase any of the queens in a particularly good way. I guess Organzza did better than the rest? But that bar was basically on the ground. On the “Best Drag” runway, none of the F4 impressed. Every one of those queens had looked better multiple times over the course of the season. Hellena in particular looked rough, and she is an epic beauty who has given us some of the best looks of the season. I get this dress was made to turn into a reveal for the final lipsynch, but I think it was poorly considered on her part to come out on the runway with…that. And it was a reveal gag we had already seen, as was Miranda’s frantic wig cutting during the final lipsynch (though she could not have known that Christian Peralta did the same thing in the “Mexico” S1 finale, which hadn’t aired when this was filmed). All in all, a predictably unsatisfying conclusion to a surprisingly unsatisfying season. I had big expectations for “Brasil” and it failed to hit almost any of them — again, aside from Grag, who is a star. I put the blame squarely on casting. I’ve said in my blog that I suspect at least part of the rough/sharp edges of this cast was cultural, and that may not be something they can cast around. But for international audiences I think “Brasil” is going to be a hard sell unless they can find more likable queens in the future. Certainly I will need to be heavily persuaded to give Season 2 a try, because this was a slog.

“Drag Race Germany”

I skip reunion episodes because I think this format — recorded before the season airs, no live audience, heavily edited — removes every interesting element. But we are down to our Final 3 going into next week’s finale: Metamorkid, Pandora Nox, and Yvonne Nightstand. I am bummed that Kelly Heelton got cut at F4, because she was a real player for the middle chunk of this season and has obvious star quality. Of the three remaining, I think it’s a two-horse race. I like Yvonne Nightstand. I think she’s talented and I wish her success. But there is an inherent sadness to Yvonne that is a turnoff to me, and although she has picked up the pace the past few weeks, I’m not entirely sure all her wins were justified. From my perspective, they came at the expense of the person I am hoping will win, Metamorkid, who has been consistently excellent throughout this competition and who I think would be a sensational winner. But my gut says they’re going to give it to Pandora Nox. Pandora came into the competition very strong, and had high points along the way. But Pandora’s low points are REALLY low. She can’t do comedy. She even admits this. She was, somehow, high for what I thought was a truly awful Arnold Schwarzenegger Snatch Game. But in every other comedy challenge she was a mess. She has served gaggerific looks. She is a strong dancer (although I don’t love her lipsynch style that focuses on acrobatic tricks instead of interpreting the song). But she is not well-rounded, as I think a winner should be. Metamorkid’s highs may not be as high as Pandora’s, but she doesn’t have any liabilities either. My gut says they’ll crown Pandora for the gag of having the first AFAB queen winner. We’ll find out next week!

“Drag Race Italia”

Two episodes behind on “Italia” but I am determined to catch up before next week. Overall I’ve been enjoying what I’ve seen.

More “Drag Race” Content

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