‘Well-received’, ‘critically-acclaimed’ and ‘best ever!’ are not phrases we would associate with the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs the World. With a rushed six episodes, a rather whelming second half and the wildly controversial back-to-back exits of frontrunners Jimbo and Pangina Heals, it’s not often ranked in the upper echelons of Drag Race seasons. (Jimbo’s unhinged introduction of Casper the Baloney Ghost, Jujubee’s so-bad-it’s-bloody-brilliant impersonation of Cher and the runways deserve praise, however.) As a result, fans have been less… enthused, we’ll say, about the follow-up. How does it fare so far?
First of all, this cast is goddamn impeccable. Compared to season one, it’s undeniably a more accurate reflection of the ever-expanding franchise with queens from the US, the UK, Spain, Holland, Australasia and the Philippines. A majority of the cast has unfinished business, too, or something to prove to viewers: Arantxa Castilla-La Macha is finally comfortable in her skin as a trans woman; Tia Kofi now has the aesthetic to match her talent; Jonbers Blonde wants viewers to get on board with her fashion; and Gothy Kendoll is now (a) confident (top) with her new gnashers.
For the international queens, Arantxa, Keta Minaj, La Grande Dame and Marina Summers, they feel a hell of a lot of responsibility as the sole representatives of their respective countries. This bizarre mixture of queens means their interactions are a joy to watch. From a half-baked Hannah Conda telling a rather perplexed Mayhem Miller to ‘kick long-COVID in the dick’ to Tia hilariously pointing out that the four UK queens have one challenge win combined, it’s utterly fascinating seeing these fan-favourites unite.
As is the case with season one, as well as All Stars 2-4, the top two queens of the week lip-sync for their legacy and the power to eliminate one of the bottoms. And for the first time in Drag Race UK herstory, the contestant crowned ‘Queen of the Mothetucking World’ will receive a cash prize of – drum roll please – £50,000. (Blu Hydrangea is shaking.) For their first maxi-challenge, the queens were tasked with showcasing their C.U.N.T in ‘The Queens’ Variety Show’. Although talent shows have blessed viewers with some of the most iconic performances in recent memory – Anetra’s duck-walk, Jax’s jump-rope and Mirage’s viral click-clacking – the format has somewhat come under fire for being dominated by lip-syncs to original tracks. While that’s still the case here, there’s a bit more variety.
The following queens lip-synced, but cleverly diversified their routines from past talent shows: Gothy gobbled fire, Choriza brought the Spanish flair, Marina blended high-energy dance with rhythmic gymnastics, Jonbers Blonde did something with fashion and Keta’s trippy Alice in Wonderland-inspired visuals were accompanied by some impressive bendy stunts. Scarlet Envy used her musical number to give “bad advice” to future contestants, from “reading the host down” to “writing a verse with a generic line about snatching the crown”. It wasn’t met with a rapturous response from the panel, but it was different.
Meanwhile, Hannah and Tia delivered live vocals and Arantxa educated the room on how to pronounce her name while simulating an orgasm on the Brit Crew. (It was stupid in the best possible way.) In our favourite performance of the night, La Grande Dame found herself possessed by – struggling to find the words here – animal noises? Maybe hyenas? It could’ve been hell-hounds, honestly. Whatever the hell it was, it was – again – so, so stupid. But, as we’ve seen from Willow Pill’s spaghetti and toaster-assisted bathtub experience and Jimbo chucking ham-slices from her “man-gina” at RuPaul, being stupid is what takes you far in this competition.
Then, we have the self-described “queen of the party”, Mayhem. A “guided meditation” blending words of affirmation with a warning to “never trust a fart” descended into even more chaos, somehow, as the legendary queen fumbled her words. Instead of making up new words – as Tia pointed out in her confessional, because the audience don’t have the foggiest as to what the actual words are – she let the room know she messed up as she lamented “ahh fuck” and “something, something…” before ending on: “You’re beautiful, don’t let no one tell you different. Namaste.” Although it was arguably the most botched talent show performance since Farrah Moan’s tumble on All Stars 4, it was the most memorable of them all.
After sashaying down the runway in looks that represent their respective countries, RuPaul declared La Grande Dame, Marina and Choriza as the top three, with Scarlet, Mayhem and Gothy in the bottom. The placements made sense, although we can’t help but feel that Arantxa should’ve been in the top as well. Choriza and Scarlet lived to slay another day, resulting in La Grande Dame and Marina facing the first smackdown and the decision to ruin Mayhem or Gothy’s lives. Fun! Untucked wasn’t much to scream about, bar Mayhem’s willingness to, once again, play the game by forming alliances. (She’s brilliant television, as always.)
In the lip-sync, Marina and La Grande Dame faced off to Livin’ Joy’s eurodance classic ‘Dreamer’, where the former continued to solidify her reputation as a lip-sync juggernaut with electrifying choreography. (La Grande Dame didn’t stand a chance, bless her.) After being announced as the winner – no shock there – Marina revealed the bottom she’s giving the chop: Mayhem. Although the season 10 and All Stars 5 alum jokingly told Marina she’s a “f***ing bitch”, she took her elimination like a mothertucking queen. In her exit interview, she said: “The girls have to do what they have to do. And if they didn’t want to keep me, that’s fine. But the party ain’t gonna be real no more. I’ve had a blast here and hopefully I get to come back again.”
While there were no instantly iconic moments in the episode in the vein of Casper the Baloney Ghost, we’re confident UK vs the World will continue Drag Race’s tradition of shattering the sophomore slump. (The second seasons of the US, UK, Australasia, Espana, France, Thailand and Philippines are all revered as some of the best Drag Race seasons in herstory.) Next week, the queens will compete in the ‘Happy Ending Ball’, where they have to construct a ball gown “fit for a princess”. In the meantime, read our exit interview with Mayhem Miller here.