I was all ready to show up this week and be like, “Ugh, this season of DRUK is a complete and utter disgrace to the nation. It’s so shameful we should try to stick it into a cabinet in Buckingham Palace and forget about it like the Queen did to Prince Andrew.” Then this episode happened, and it was not just the best episode of the season, but perhaps the best episode of any Drag Race anywhere in the world in quite a long time. I loved it, and all it took was a simple clock.
That’s the thing about Drag Race. After so many seasons, we know just what the challenges will be — the reading challenge, Snatch Game, the Rusical, girl bands, an acting challenge, puppets. (No, not everyone loves puppets.) Yes, they’re all slightly different, but they’re also dreadfully the same. This time they take one of the familiar challenges, a “ball” where the girls do three looks, usually, one of which they have to craft from scratch, and completely improve it with the oldest of all reality competition show staples: a ticking clock. This time the gals will have a time limit on how long it takes them to get ready and won’t know the categories until just before they have to get ready.
The ball’s theme is the FUGLY Ball, but instead of standing for “fucking ugly,” Ru says it’s supposed to mean Friend U Gotta Love Yourself. I appreciate Ru’s always cheery disposition, but sometimes you just gotta let a fugly do her fug, you fug what I’m fuggin’? The first category is Fugly Swimwear, and the ladies have 69 minutes to get into drag because this is Drag Race, and honestly, the timing couldn’t make me happier.
I always wondered, “How long are these ladies taking to do their makeup and change their outfits between runways during a ball? And who is feeding the judges who have to sit around listening to Michelle’s bad jokes while they wait?” Now we see just what goes into transforming from one look to the next. We also get an added pressure similar to the one of sleeping with your high school boyfriend at his parents’ house: not being able to finish before you have to stand before Mother.
Most everyone focuses on their makeup, and Kitty is like, “Has anyone ever gotten trolled on the internet?” Ella says, “Mostly people are like, ‘I wanna lick your ass.’” Oh, the torment of being a gimbo (that’s a gay himbo) on Instagram. The struggle is real…ly annoying. While they’re having this conversation, I’m like, “Shut up and finish your makeup! There isn’t time.” Finally, there are some stakes in the workroom. Then Krystal tells us all that she’s a virgin and I feel awful for her, but also remember I hadn’t taken a dick at 19 either, so I guess that isn’t so strange? Still, I want Ella to use five of their remaining minutes to take her behind a rack of dresses and initiate her into the club. Don’t worry, Krystal. No one’s first time is that special.
There are only five queens left, so the runway takes about as long as Michelle’s Dr. Zizmor joke, which will be lost not only on all of the United Kingdom but also everyone who didn’t take the New York City subway repeatedly between the years of 1994 and 2016. Vanity loses this round in a highlighter yellow quilted bathing suit that looks like she tried to crawl her way into a Canal Street Chanel clutch. Kitty and Ella both go with horrendous printed swimsuits that are totally camp, like every Tesco checkout lady spending her summer holiday on a package tour in Tenerife. Krystal, however, is the clear winner, doing Bimini proud with an ugly sea monster look that is both gross and stunning. Very editorial. André Leon Talley would love both that and a comment about a chocolate starfish.
Then the queens learn the next category: Charity Shop Chic. They only have an hour, and the whole time Charity Shop Sue, who we learned about last episode, is there trying to do comedy bits while the queens are rummaging around through a bunch of thrift store clothes trying to find a flashy outfit. I love Sue, but these girls have so little time! Shut it already! Most of the girls are focusing on an outfit, but Krystal is trying to ply off the barnacles and give herself a whole new face. It seems like she’s never going to be ready in time and I haven’t been this excited since those pictures of Christopher Meloni’s ass went around Twitter.
I like this version of the challenge better than the traditional sewing challenge. At this stage in a season, there has already been one design-o-rama and we know who can do it and who can’t. This levels the playing field. Not everyone knows how to sew, but they should all be able to develop something fierce given a bunch of clothes and an hour with a YouTube comedian not helping at all. And it provides way more drama with Krystal still picking through a pile of clothes on the floor with only two minutes left before trotting out on the runway.
Both she and Scarlett were the weakest this round giving general slutty little black dress realness like this is a bottomless brunch. I was a bit more impressed with Krystal in that she totally transformed herself. The best thing about Scarlett’s generic look is the character’s name, Titsalita Bumsquash, but we can’t even see that. (Or say it either.) I wasn’t as impressed with Vanity in a Fanta orange “sequence gown” (as Roxxxxxxxxxxxxxxy Andrews would say) and a little blonde wig as the judges were. I would give this round to Ella as a purple-haired spinster librarian who had been cast on an episode of First Dates.
The final look is Fugly but Fashionable, and the girls only have 30 minutes to get ready. They clearly knew the first and third categories before walking into the workroom because each of the girls is packed for them, but I think giving them just one episode of EastEnders to get ready is tough.
The brief is also quite difficult, and I think only Ella and Krystal really fulfill it. Ella has on a cape and chaps over a swimsuit, and the whole thing looks like a radioactive purple gorilla is giving Pamela Anderson a hug. Yes, it is ugly, and, yes, you could see Kim Petras totally rocking this to the VMAs. Krystal has on a multi-color poodle wig and a giant coat in garish colors with horror monster eyes and lips on it. It is very GottMik x Moschino and is really the only piece I could see gracing the pages of Vogue.
Vanity looks stunning in a goth sleeping bag and the best face she’s pulled the entire competition, but it isn’t ugly. It is just fashion. That’s like Ella posting a shirtless picture using a plastic surgery Instagram filter and calling herself hideous. Kitty goes the opposite direction in her crazy cat lady couture, which includes a vest with her name on it, big chunky glasses, and a wig that looks like it is made out of a million My Little Ponytails. It is ugly (and very cool), but is it fashion? I don’t know. Alan Carr is right, it looks like a Gucci campaign, but those are sort of ironically nerdy. This lacks the irony that a real runway would give it. It’s like Lady Gaga saying “The Father, the son, and the House of Gucci” without using her “It’s-a me, Mario” accent.
Scarlett’s pink velour and leopard chav (of which there is no American translation, but it’s basically Snooki circa 2009 but English) are actually very cute and ugly in a wonderful way, but it isn’t fashion. It is just too much like something you would actually see on the street. If she had the fashion sense of someone like Symone she could have totally transformed this in a new way, but it was all too literal.
In the end, Kitty is the night’s big winner, and I couldn’t be happier because I do love her. However, I think Krystal has the best night overall and really understood how to do the first and last looks in surprising and interesting ways. (OMG, remember episode one when I hated her? I have really come around to our sacrificial virgin.)
The bottom two are deservedly Vanity and Scarlett, and as soon as Vanity whisks off her Rick Owens sleepwear to reveal Beyoncé-inspired gold chains on a bodysuit underneath, I knew she had this won. Both of them are excellent in a way that I wish this could be the double save week. It is not to be, and Scarlett is sent packing just shy of the final four. I guess her time has run out, but as far as this season is concerned, it’s like the alarm went off and the season has finally woken up.