RuPaul’s Drag Race UK- Episode 8 Recap
By Louis Shankar
We’re down to the final five queens — A’Whora, Bimini Bon Boulash, Ellie Diamond, Lawrence Chaney, and Tayce — essentially making this the quarter final. Unfortunately, that means we’ve only got a couple more weeks of Drag Race UK, but luckily they’re already filling Season 3, set to air this autumn.
After Sister’s elimination at the hands of lip sync assassin Tayce, the queens took stock of the remaining competition: all four of the United KingDolls, who shared a win in episode five, were still standing and Ellie remains the only contestant without a win, something she seemed adamant would change this week (despite not knowing what the challenge would be).
The mini challenge was bizarre but great: they had to don butch drag and perform “masc” covers of RuPaul’s iconic song, Kitty Girl. Ellie looked great as a glam rocker, Tayce gave wonderful, uncomfortable Mick Jagger vibes, and Lawrence felt like a club singer from the ‘70s. One of the major criticisms of the Drag Race franchise is the refusal to cast drag kings — online, this mini challenge has revitalised calls for this to change.
Ellie won, but it was definitely a close call, giving her the enviable and crucial task of setting the order for the maxi challenge — an evening of stand up comedy on the theme of love. Each of the queens would have to write and perform a short stand up routine, with coaching from resident judge Alan Carr. What made this exceptionally tough was the absence of an audience, due to Covid — they would only be performing to Ru, Michelle, Alan, and extra-special guest judge Dawn French.
The queens were pissed with Ellie’s chosen lineup, to put it lightly — having had some harsh words with A’Whora in recent weeks, she was put first, followed by herself. And to clip Lawrence’s wings, who was clearly the toughest competition, she was put fourth, after Bimini, the other particularly witty queen, who won Snatch Game. This is a competition, so it makes sense for Ellie to disadvantage her opponents where possible — but it didn’t seem to really help her, either.
They made a big deal of this in the edit — Lawrence was particularly annoyed, “fuming” — in order to add drama to an otherwise peaceful episode, but I don’t ultimately think it affected the performances. It gave a bit of contrast, sure, between different kinds of humour, but what mattered was the content of each routine. It came down (mostly) to the quality and content of the jokes themselves.
A’Whora looked, as usual, absolutely stunning on stage, albeit slightly awkward with a microphone in hand. She had a decent stage presence once she got into her jokes, which were utterly filthy — we had jokes about cum, anal, and a punchline involving her nan that the BBC bleeped out. (The uncensored version is available on Twitter, but somehow the bleeps make it more intriguing.) She was surprisingly funny, even if the humour relied on obscenity.
Ellie was fine. She seemed over rehearsed and rushed through her routine slightly. Her pivots to a character persona were performed well but lacked punchlines — she got laughs for the absurdity of the situation rather than the content of the jokes. Personally, I found it confusing more than funny; with a live audience, I think it could have easily gone phenomenally or awfully.
Bimini was the star of the show, again. She was natural on stage as well as looking absolutely stunning, a total femme fatale, as Alan commented. She joked with the judges, had a recurring line that tied her routine together, mixed straightforward humour with darker material — it was accomplished and brilliant, I couldn’t believe, neither could Alan, that she’d only done stand up twice before.
Lawrence has a natural and generous presence, as we’ve seen repeatedly throughout the competition. Even just calling out to the audience of four, it was clear she was in her element. However, a couple of the jokes had incredibly long setups with minimal payoff — I think she’s used to longer routines, where you can build a rapport with the crowd, instead of just telling joke after joke. This challenge, under the circumstances, is a tough one.
I didn’t know what to expect from Tayce, who didn’t shine in rehearsals, but she did fairly well. She has a really natural stage presence, although Ru later commented that she avoided eye-contact with the judges. She just didn’t have enough material — what she had was funny, but it petered out.
The runway theme was quite boring, to be honest: Stoned on the Runway, which everyone interpreted merely as rhinestones, with no weed jokes at all, although I’m unsure if those would have made it onto the BBC. A’Whora looked beautiful as ever, with a gorgeous wig that nodded to a RuPaul look, although I’m sure the decorated IV bag has been done before and felt superfluous. Ellie gave us ice warrior chic: the rhinestones were there and looked great, but the overall look felt simple and unoriginal, a point that only really came out when the judges were deliberating amongst themselves.
I must sound like a broken record player for praising Bimini so much, but there’s no other way about it: she strutted out in a bejewelled suit made to look like skin rashes and acne, which extended to her otherwise flawless face, with gruesome, sparkly spots. It was utterly original and incredibly Bimini, who keeps going from strength to strength — and won the week, equalling Lawrence’s three wins.
Lawrence looked great: a hot pink bodysuit played to all her strengths, with crystalline metamorphosis giving the silhouette some sharp edges and adding more texture to the piece. It was fun, it was camp, and it showed a different side to Lawrence’s aesthetic, which is lovely to see so late in the competition. Tayce looked as stunning as ever, in a rhinestoned metallic outfit, somewhere between fantasy and sci-fi, but it did feel a bit boring: I keep wanting Tayce to wow me on the runway, and keep being slightly disappointed.
The critiques were mostly fair and no one came off particularly badly. But, untucking backstage, grievances came to the surface. A’Whora, who was definitely portrayed as the season’s villain in the first few episodes, came across as particularly salty. According to the queens on Twitter, though, this wasn’t purely down to Ellie’s ordering: Ru had asked the girls the classic “who should be sent home and why?” question and one of them had named A’Whora, which is a fair reason to be upset.
Based on performances, the judges extended critiques, and track records, I was surprised Ellie wasn’t in the bottom two. A’Whora and Tayce’s friendship hadn’t been a focal point of the past couple of weeks, where drama between Ellie and A’Whora kept building. A showdown between those two, neither of whom is known as a lip sync queen, seemed exactly like the kind of drama this show aims for.
I felt sorry for A’Whora when she was put in the bottom two: not only did she have to lip sync against her best friend and housemate, but Tayce is an incredible performer, probably the best Drag Race UK has seen, so the outcome felt inevitable. Dusty Springfield’s You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me is an intense and wonderful song to lip sync to, giving drama and intensity, and A’Whora held her own, for someone without much performance experience. Tayce topped her, though, and I was sad to see her go — it felt for a moment like there might be a double save, certainly it was more deserved than the one on the US season a fortnight ago.
Alas, A’Whora sashayed away and now we’re down to the final four who, next week, will be acting in an Eastenders parody. An acting challenge with just four queens seems brave — and while two of the finalists seem pretty certain, I’m intrigued to see who will clinch the remaining place.