Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 7 – Talent Extravaganza

I don’t think I’m alone in saying I’m left a bit flummoxed at the end of the penultimate episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under. All season long we’ve been confused, delighted, devastated, enraged. It’s been a wild ride.

This week, the queens are competing in a talent extravaganza usually reserved for the first episode of an All Stars season (season 6 of Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars is coming 25 June). This is the third time something has happened in Down Under that is from All Stars. Snatch Game was in episode 2. Art Simone was brought back without reason (face it, there is never a reason to bring a queen back). And now a talent show. This might be part of why it’s been so hard for the Down Under queens, because All Stars relies on prior knowledge of the queens and references from past seasons which they don’t have.

But moving on to the talents.

Karen From Finance has been a very comfortable ‘safe’ all season long. Her talking heads have me convinced they told her she was THE frontrunner, as week after week, she singles out her ‘single biggest competition here’, which was generally Art Simone. This week, mystifyingly, it’s Kita Mean. Foreshadowing her eventual win perhaps. Karen creates a single balloon animal while dressed in a tattooed (?) nude illusion bodysuit with a bondage harness over it plus her Karen hair. It’s absurdist comedy?

Art Simone eats some stuff. If you’re not watching Art Therapy on her Instagram, you need to start. She rupologised at the start (Rupaul hates watching people eat), shoved a whole meat pie in her mouth, pretended to eat a stack of lamingtons then swallowed her own fist. It’s absurdist comedy!

Kita Mean did magic. Rupaul groaned, I groaned, the whole world groaned. Rupaul hates magic and so do I! The quick changes were very well done, but I agree with the judges that the looks (all season) were not the best.

The next queen did a pole routine. She may never have done it for a show before but I’d bet she’s been in pole classes for quite some time. We saw Shea Coulee do this same thing on All Stars 5 and she eventually won. Hopefully this isn’t portentous of the end.

And Elektra, bless her naïve dancing heart, did what every little gay boy dreams of, and just danced her socks off (literally) with all the seriousness of Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Again, we’ve seen this sort of vulnerability from Coco Montrese in All Stars 2 and it sent Coco and now Elektra home.

The runway theme was How’s your head… piece? and here all the queens excelled, which made the final decisions basically down to the talent show and their group performance. And of course my favourite question, “Who should go home tonight and why?”

Unfortunately, all the queens said Elektra and Elektra just went bananas and said Art Simone. I thought this smacked of producer intervention for a few reasons. One is that Kita Mean has been buddied up with Elektra all season long, so why now, all of a sudden throw her under the bus? Another is that Elektra was almost certain to say the racist queen. She clearly hates her. So why not? Add to this that Art Simone told The Veronicas she thought the racist queen should win and I’m completely thrown for six (or seven). Art and Etcetera were the most vocally disgusted at the blackface revelations. Why would she change her mind now?

But this cements Elektra’s place in the bottom. On the main stage, it should be noted that all the queens bar Kita Mean changed into wigs. Karen From Finance also dabbed at the end which is another strike from me. Kita Mean ended up in the bottom and sent Elektra home.

So, now we have a top four. Did I think this would be the top going in? Absolutely not. My choices would have been Art Simone, Coco Jumbo, Maxi Shield and Etcetera Etcetera. Which means I must be #TeamArtSimone.

That said, I think it might be Kita Mean who takes this out. Although the show is trying very hard to make us like the racist one.

Who are you rooting for?

Other bits:

  • When Rupaul did the workroom walkthroughs, they cut away to the same unimpressed expression for almost every queen. I wonder if she was questioning the choice of a talent show…
  • Also, Raven and Elektra had actual physical contact. Which means Raven and Rupaul must actually be there and pops the bubble of that particular conspiracy theory.
  • A couple of Australianisms I haven’t heard before on this episode, sabo for sabotage. And androdge for androgenous. Let me get the Macquarie Dictionary on the phone…

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 6 – Family Resemblance

The makeover challenge on Rupaul’s Drag Race is a crowd pleaser in the way that Snatch Game wishes it could be. And this is no exception on Down Under. But before the queens get to make some baffling choices in the maxi (how ironic) challenge, they first return to the workroom to reminisce about Etcetera Etcetera, gone too soon.

“She’s the future of drag,” says Art Simone.

“She’s the future of the human race,” says Karen From Finance.

“She should still be there!” I scream emphatically at the tv and pointing at the giant racist in the workroom.

But she isn’t, and there’s no business like show business and the show must go on and that’s just show biz ain’t it.

The mini challenge makes looking at bulging men in speedos fun and playful by making the queens guess animals and the pit crew, who it would appear are more diverse than the selection of remaining drag queens, reveal plushie underwear. I will admit, I had no idea what was going on for about half of this challenge, but I suppose it was fun?

My heart sank when Maxi won the mini challenge. I foresaw disaster for her. The show loves to sink or celebrate people in one ep, raise them just enough to make them misstep and then throw them away the next episode. At any rate, Maxi Shield, bless her heart, didn’t seem to be too concerned with sabotaging anyone. Although to be fair, aside from some beards, all of these men seemed like they would be similarly challenging.

The men themselves are from the NZ Falcons, and just like the pit crew, they are more diverse than the remaining drag queens on Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under. Which is great, because the show isn’t a complete whitewash, but also sad to think about certain queens who remain. I won’t harp on about it any more, and indeed, the show has completely stopped referencing the bombshell revelations of last episode, as have many other recappers. I will however continue to mention it and will no longer mention the person in question.

We got everything you want from a makeover challenge. Queens bonding with people who wouldn’t normally explore their femininity in this way, faces transformed by make up, large men failing to walk in heels, beards being shaved and so on. Plus a good level of snark between the queens themselves. Having an audience is so revitalizing for the queens on any season of Drag Race and I find that their performative banter is always on point in a makeover episode.

And then they’re on stage. And the judging is confusing and we remember we’re watching the most controversial season of Drag Race yet. Some queens are praised for creating looks that are practically identical, such as Kita Mean, which others are derided for the same, such as Karen From Finance and Elektra Shock. Art Simone is read for not looking alike at all, and to be fair, aside from the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert connection, they really don’t look like family. I suppose one could argue the point of the found family, as evidenced in the film, but the show is looking for something more superficial it seems. Both the queens in the bottom have similar critiques. Lazy outfits which are identical aside from being in different colours.

Maxi, oh Maxi. How can you be so smart as to take sewing lessons and deliver a line about not being an idiot in one episode and then not read the room of the past fifteen years of Rupaul’s Drag Race and simply pack two ‘one size fits all’ sack outfits for the makeover challenge? Rupaul was correct when saying he wanted to see the great big honking badonkadonks on both of them. We’ve seen in episode after episode that this play doesn’t work. It’s with incredible sadness that she ends up in the bottom, perhaps a little defeated and a bit over it.

Maxi does her best, but without a sparkly mic, she is overshadowed when singing Better The Devil You Know by Kylie Minogue, because her combatant is literally dressed as the devil and, say it with me now, is a known racist. A friend of mine suggested that Maxi could have brought out a ‘maxi’ mic which might have edged her over, but hindsight is a painful, accurate thing, so unfortunately she didn’t, and Maxi Shield, last remaining Sydney queen and surely, Miss Congeniality, sashayed away.

So we have a top 5, two episode to go and no clear idea of who will win.

Other bits:

  • Did you hear the new conspiracy theory about how this season is manufactured to make Art Simone the host of season 2? Yes, please.
  • Aunty who? The fact that their only ringing endorsement on the show is from a known racist must sting a bit.
  • Rupaul’s make up was amazing, her Ugg boot lewk was fantastic, her hair was an 80s extravaganza. I loved.
  • When I said out loud “Come on, Maxi,” and moved to the edge of my seat prior to the lip sync for your life, I felt like I might be experiencing what it’s like to view sports with a vested interest. Can anyone confirm?
  • Next week we get a talent show, Raven as a guest plus THE question, “Who do you think should go home tonight and why?” I can’t wait.
  • One more thing, Elektra Shock completely blanking the winner of the LSFYL when she went to the back of the stage turned me into an Elektra stan now and forever. Bravo.

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 4 – Ru-cycle

I’m proud to say that I caught the blatant foreshadowing last week of someone being inside the trash pile and correctly guessed it would be Art Simone. It’s not rocket surgery, but it still feels good to be correct. Now hopefully I’ll also be correct that next week, the show and Rupaul will address Scarlett Adams’ storied history of cultural appropriation and blackface. I attended a viewing party this week which featured an appearance from Coco Jumbo and Maxi Shield following and when they discussed the runway, Coco said of Scarlett, “I didn’t recognise her in whiteface” and honestly it is too perfect of a commentary not to write down.

Putting that aside for now, Art is back on Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under (hooray and she is clearly incredibly talented and went home as a gag but also, where’s the second chance for Jojo Zaho and Coco Jumbo who I also adore?), it’s a design/sewing challenge (a.k.a. the best challenge) and the queens are blatantly reading each other all over the place.

Etcetera is becoming one of my favourite queens on the show. I love that her references are very old Hollywood and classic drag glamour, she is unafraid to tell it like it is, particularly when questioning Elektra’s taste level and Kita Mean’s design skills, and they are proudly, openly non-binary, which is incredibly important representation on any level, but particularly from someone as young and self-assured as Etcetera. I understood her 1920s reference on the runway, but agree that the skirt was a little too simple.

I’ve said it before, I want Maxi to win this competition. She’s far and away the funniest, most grounded cast member. Her quips in the workroom were hilarious, about not being an idiot and getting sewing lessons, about Scarlett being really lovely and that “she must just not like you, Elektra,” I just adore her. And her runway was glorious. I’m a sucker for any kind of graffiti print, and I love a Vivienne Westwood namedrop/reference, so as I slurred at Maxi later in the evening, “you were robbed!”

I thought all the queens did a pretty good job of creating an outfit out of rubbish, and while we have seen iterations of most of these before, that’s also due to the raw material being provided. If you don’t want to see pages and video tapes, don’t provide them, Rupaul’s producers. Similarly for ball pit paraphernalia, picnic rugs and those bags I don’t know the name of that Maxi used.

Elektra and Kita were deemed safe, which I suppose is fine but I found their colour schemes pretty repellent. The primaries of Kita’s and that umbrella hat that Etcetera rightly lampooned, were pretty unpleasant on the eye. And while Elektra looked sleek and glamorous (if not glam-diculous), the mustard browns of the ties was again fairly repellant. But while safe is good because you survive the week, it’s also boring because you were just not good enough and not bad enough to be a top or a bottom.

And then we have Karen From Finance. I must admit, they’re not giving Karen a lot of screen time. Since she won the first episode, she’s faded into the background a little, and she was literally in the background glowering at Art Simone while Kita Mean explained the rivalry between them in her talking head. Based on this week’s baffling decision to poorly recreate Schapelle Corby and her boogie board (this is somehow acceptable to make fun of a woman who spent nine years in a Balinese prison for smuggling, while making fun of Lindy Chamberlain is not? I’m not saying either is ok or not, we can make up our own minds, but I’m wondering where Karen’s line in the sand is…) and her safe status over the past few weeks, plus Art’s now glaring favouritism, I’d be a little concerned if I was Karen as well.

But Karen did somehow win the rather pedestrian lip sync, and poor, lovely, beautiful, kind even when she was being quite shady, Anita Wigl’it is sent home. I actually really loved her VHS and book pages dress and thought it was done in a high-fashion way, but she shouldn’t have told Rupaul she’d be doing it with a glue gun, because that’s probably what elicited such negative critiques.

Other bits:

  • I watched this episode at Ginger’s at The Oxford Hotel in Sydney, hosted by the wonderful Felicity Frockaccino and featuring performances from Coco Jumbo, Carmen Geddit and Maxi Shield afterwards and it was absolutely fantastic.
  • I was very happy to see Elz Carrad, star of the New Zealand film Rūrangi, part of the Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival this year, on the judging panel this week.
  • What will Ru need to ‘address’ on the main stage next week? Hopefully the Scarlett Adams controversy.
  • Rhys Nicholson is proving himself every week to be absolutely filthy and hilarious, I loved the repetition and changing emphasis of ‘I didn’t peg her, period’ and ‘You didn’t peg her period?’ Beautiful.
  • Glam-diculous. Patent it, put it on T-shirts. Also looking forward to Maxi Shield’s fair suck of the sav, which Ru openly stole, making its way to Drag Race US.

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 2 – Snatch Game

Straight out the gate with another Aussie slang lesson (last week we learned not here to f*ck spiders), this time the disgusting shoey. I was gagged literally watching them drink from old heels. Hard pass.

This week, earlier than usual (though the same time as All Stars 2), the queens of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under are playing Snatch Game! While it may have worked on an All Stars season, I don’t think having this so early in a normal season is as beneficial for the queens. We barely know their names at this point, let alone their performance quirks, so having them pivot to celebrity impersonations and in-character improv at this stage is a lot to take in.

First, they prepare with various conversations and secrets being kept (for some reason, looking at you Maxi Shield) in the workroom. We even get a Bindi Irwin stand-off when Art Simone – who receives a delusional villain edit this episode, something I may never recover from the audacity of – clashes with Scarlett Bobo O’Hara who also wants to do the same. Art wins, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory for the ages.

After a message from Australia’s Pop Princess, Kylie Minogue with enough song title puns to fill a whole She Done Already Done Had Herses Rupaul intro video, we’re on to the main event.

I wrote notes during the episode, one of which was ‘Maxi didn’t even say ‘I said love, I said pet’’ even as that very specific Magda Szubanski character (incidentally, Lynne Postlethwaite is one of my favourites of all time), but after cooling my head, I realise perhaps this was simply edited out.

On the runway, Ru announced Anita Wigl’it as the winner without any fanfare and to say I was surprised is putting it lightly. Not that I don’t think she was good as Queen Elizabeth II, because she was, although we have seen the ‘lovely older woman tells dirty jokes’ act done quite a bit before, but because for me, Etcetera Etcetera and her deeply offensive and hilarious caricature of Lindy Chamberlain was the funniest and most irreverent performance. Though I imagine crowning her might set off a litany of lawsuits Ru’s simply not willing to endure.

Rupaul also announced six of the queens to be in the bottom. So let’s review them quickly. Karen From Finance gave us Dollar Store Dolly (this is a read, I don’t believe it’s what she was aiming for) which was dangerous because presumably Ru and Dolly are acquaintances if not friends.

Coco Jumbo was truly out of her league here, her place in the bottom was cemented in the first few seconds. Also I had to google the Sailor Moon connection and even now feel confused about this angle.

Scarlett and Elektra both did comedic women who are very well-known for particular characters, and both did an ok job emulating but not embellishing on these.

And then we have Art Simone. Oh my heart, Art. There were, in hindsight, so many red flags. Ru laughing uproariously at everything she said in the walkthrough, Art’s cocky confidence, Art being bitter about not winning the first episode. I didn’t hate her impression, who doesn’t love a slutty Bindi Irwin talking about blowies, but the editing did her no favours (as perhaps it also did for Maxi Shield) and she landed in the bottom.

Somewhere I believe would have been better suited for Kita Mean. Her Dr Seuss somehow managed to come up with rhymes each time, but were they funny? No. And I just feel if you’re going to impersonate women as a profession, you should know how to spell VULVA.

Long before this season began, I said to anyone that would listen that if Coco Jumbo ever ended up in the bottom, she would send whoever it was she was up against home. My heart sank before this had even begun because I had never seen Art Simone lip sync before I my own prophecy was looming ahead. Did I want to be correct and send a favourite home? Or did I want to be wrong and send my other favourite home? A real Sophie’s choice that I had no control over.

I slept on it, and awoke deeply saddened by the elimination. Art’s guttural tears, the shock on the queens’ faces, her final baffling line about still having her hymen, sitting backstage with a producer and telling them ‘That means nothing’. Art Simone was an icon going in, and is even more so now.

Next week, some challenge I couldn’t see through the tears, but I’m sure it’ll be good.

Other bits:

  • Maxi Shield’s runway commentary is wonderful. I also forgot to mention her amazing off the cuff ‘they’re big aren’t they’ in reference to her earrings when Ru was talking about her breastplate in episode one.
  • Coco Jumbo winning the lip sync and saying ‘soz bitch’ to Art Simone is pretty effing epic.
  • These queens love talking about each other behind their backs, and to their faces, and I love it. More, please.
  • I guess it’s Karen From Finance’s game to lose now?

Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under recap – Episode 1 – G’day, G’day, G’day

Do I have the koala-fications to recap and review a season of Rupaul’s Drag Race Down Under (now available on Stan and WOW Presents Plus)? After loving the dolls for more than half my life, being able to remember Courtney Act’s first time performing in drag in Sydney, Australia and never missing an episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race (including Untucked and all the international iterations), I believe I am more than equipped.

As an apparently quite proud queer, gay, Australian man, I felt quite nervous going into this episode, keen to see the queens do well but also stand up on the international Drag Race stage. And thankfully, this crop of queens did not disappoint.

In the interests of a fair playing field, I should go through each queen and discuss what they did but as Rupaul loves to point out ‘this is a competition’ and ‘it’s hard’, so instead, I’ll go through the episode and if the queens stand out, it’s really up to them (and the producers and editors…).

Starting with Art Simone was an excellent choice for the entrances (and an entrance line of ‘we’re not here to fuck spiders‘). With her already having her own show on WOW Presents Plus, Highway to Heel, she is arguably the most at ease in front of a camera and it shows. I could listen to her lovely Kath & Kim accent for hours, and hope to do just that. Adding to her appeal is the way she remarks on almost every queen that enters, reading dry wigs, calling out backstabbery and generally having a grand old time.

Maxi Shield, the second queen through, has been performing for long enough that I used to go and see her as a teenager in Sydney so it is fantastic to see her there, looking like she just stepped off the set of Orange is the New Black in her confessionals and immediately referring to Art with the classic Aussie term of endearment, ‘you dog’.

The New Zealand queens all know each other and work together, forming an odd family unit that also makes it seem like perhaps the bar they work in is down the road from the studio Drag Race Down Under was filmed in. Nonetheless aside from a dry wig on Elektra Shock (plus a performance sending her to the bottom, I guess) and some drama in the clearly unbalanced best-friendship of Anita Wigl’it and Kita Mean, they are all very polished queens.

The mini challenge featured the wonderfully charismatic Taika Waititi working his acting chops as a diva director and assisting Ru (as it should be) in directing the queens to lisp their way through some sort of sci-fi monologue from the planet Thickening. It was fun and mercifully short, with some queens receiving barely half a minute of screen time. Notably, Anita Wigl’it received the only negative feedback for being unable to convey the emotional difference between happiness and anger with her facial expressions…

The maxi challenge is the Get To Know You Ball where the queens must deliver a Born Naked look as well as a No Place Like Home look. This will be interesting and for the first time, actually make sense to me because I’ll know the places.

The safe queens really were that to me, I barely remember them aside from Maxi Shield, because if coming out in a bubble wrap dress over the most enormous prosthetic breasts known to drag-kind and a giant prawn to celebrate Ballina (Byron Bay’s awkward, unpopular little sister) makes you safe, colour me confused.

The tops of the week were mostly well deserved. Karen From Finance, who gave us a camp, in-character moment as Karen On Vacation plus a gloriously drunken Karen At The Races was glorious. Art Simone lived up to her nomenclature, showcasing high art in both her nude illusion and her Melbourne look (I am a sucker for anything graffiti-print so I stan).

And finally I get to talk about Coco Jumbo. She is my favourite of these queens. I want her to win quite badly and will be devastated if she goes home. She came in exploding with charisma, which Rupaul seems to love, and may keep her a bit longer than other queens, especially if her drag continues to be as up and down as it was this episode. The odd choice to wear a face (and calamari earrings, thanks Michelle Visage) as a nude illusion made sense with her explanation, but no-one likes being explained to. But her King Kong (on brand for someone named Coco Jumbo) for the Big Banana was incredible. I think this is what saved her from the bottom this week.

And then there was the bottom two, lip syncing to Tragedy by the Bee Gees (and tragically not by STEPS who Michelle Visage literally has a song with). I was not pleased to see Jojo Zaho in the bottom. As the only Aboriginal queen in the race, as far as we know, it’s a shame to see her and her story out so soon. Her experience of living on a mission in Western Australia, growing up facing so much racism and delivering the runway message of ‘always was, always will be’ Aboriginal land, is one we as Australians do need to hear every week.

But, this is a competition and it’s hard, and Jojo is not quite ready for television yet. She performs the song well and even attempts to use it to refer to Elektra Shock as a tragedy, which I enjoyed, but Elektra wisely utilises dip (we don’t call them death drops any longer) after dip which even though not timed well in the song, Rupaul loses her mind over every time. So, Jojo and her faboriginality are sent packing, becoming the Pork Chop of Australia.

Next week, Snatch Game already?! I’m looking forward to some iconic Aussies. Fingers crossed for Kath & Kim, Cate Blanchett and Kylie and Dannii Minogue. The only one we can be sure about at this point is Bindi Irwin.

Highlights and assorted musings:

  • Art Simone sounding like Kath Day-Knight and delivering scathing one-liners both to and about other queens and in her confessionals is to die for.
  • I don’t understand the apostrophe in Anita Wigl’it. Is it meant to be ‘wiggle it’? Wouldn’t ‘wig lit’ make more sense and ‘wiggle it’ can be implied?
  • Karen From Finance missing her mark at her entrance was comedy gold, why didn’t she stop until she hit the camera? A+
  • Rhys Nicholson was excellent on the judging panel, giving puns and graphic innuendos, a combo Rupaul adores.
  • Looking forward to seeing more from Etcetera Etcetera, but not excited to write out the name over and over again.
  • Will the Rupaul both in drag and out of drag ‘gag’ from episode one continue through the season?