Tuesday, February 15, 2022

REVIEW: 'RuPaul's Drag Race: UK vs. the World' - Challenge Complaints Sour Some Beloved Queens in 'West End Wendys'

BBC Three's RuPaul's Drag Race: UK vs. the World - Episode 1.03 "West End Wendys"

Seven global glamazons remain, and this week the pressure amplifies as their stage presence, singing, and dancing skills are seriously tested in a celebration of musical theatre, with the queens performing West End Wendys - The Rusical.

On the main stage, Jujubee was told that she hasn't fully arrived to the competition yet. It was a critique Michelle said that everyone watching could feel. Sure, people love to disagree with Michelle both on the judges' panel and at home. In this instance, she was right. That's what made it so satisfying to see Jujubee come into her own once more with the reading challenge. That being the mini challenge this week felt like the perfect setup for Jujubee to get her groove back. It provides her with the opportunity to succeed. She absolutely has the best reads of the night. It's not even close. It might be questionable why the show waited until the third episode for the queens to read each other. That usually happens first thing in the All Stars format. It would have been great to include Lemon and Cheryl Hole as well. Lemon gave one of the greatest reads in the history of the franchise after all. But the storytelling allows this to set Jujubee up for success. She is given the opportunity to cast the roles for the maxi challenge. It's the Rusical! It's her first time ever performing in a Rusical too. That's astonishing given this is her fourth time competing. But she mostly doesn't take advantage of that fact to mess up her fellow queens. Of course, Baga is pissed. That's a huge part of the episode. It's not from Jujubee acting unfairly. It is seen though as a roundabout way of suggesting she belongs in the bottom for not giving Baga the role she wanted. Everyone may hold Jujubee to higher standards than the rest of the queens. Others have been on auto pilot as well. Jujubee has been called out on it. She is told she didn't embody the gay icon she was meant to be playing onstage. Those critiques are valid in some ways. They can be frustrating as well given who else has been safe.

In addition to Jujubee, this episode takes a hard pivot regarding Jimbo. She won the first two challenges. She did so without having to send anyone home. She still made her choices. She revealed them to the fellow queens. In both instances, she chose the other person in the Bottom 2. That creates the impression that she isn't playing the game the same way as everyone else. She is factoring in other things when making those decisions. And then, she can't stand by her convictions when forced to explain them. It's baffling when she suggests Jujubee should have gone home because she is simply a better singer. That makes no sense. Yes, the ultimate prize is recording a song with RuPaul. But Jimbo easily could have said Michelle's critiques validated this decision. It didn't have to become the whole room turning against Jimbo for reasons that seem fake. That just sets everyone off in believing she is being deceitful. That's probably unfair when it pertains to her neck injury she talks about during rehearsal. It's in the back of Mo's mind at least. She speaks on it. It could just be a way for her to earn sympathy during a challenge she isn't confident in. The Rusical is all about lip syncing. The first two episodes have shown Jimbo isn't great in that regard. She can certainly create characters that are imaginative and fun to enjoy onstage. She didn't put that work in here. She insists it's from the complexity of the challenge. Of course, she misinterprets what this challenge is suppose to reveal with the queens. She states over and over again that it's about choreography. She can't be all these things at once in the way the judges want. She feels defensive. She knows she didn't do well and is quick to find an excuse. It's heartbreaking that she is in the bottom. It just shows how consuming her personality can be as well. That's delightful when she's at the top but can be quite cruel when she fails.

Jimbo isn't the only queen who has been overbearing during the proceedings so far. This is the second week in a row where Baga has complained nonstop about the challenge not being in her wheelhouse. She isn't being allowed to do what she wants to do. Her prepared story of rudemption isn't going how she planned. Those expectations are clashing with reality and she is essentially being a spoiled brat about it. The queens do call her out for this behavior during Untuck. She apologizes and it genuinely seems like she means it. It's just annoying during the hour leading up to that point. Baga was determined to play the role inspired by Liza Minnelli. She does an impression of her in her regular act all the time. It's a role she is comfortable in. She doesn't feel that inspiration from the Hairspray role she is given. She doesn't think it's funny. She doesn't know what to do with the character. It's all setting her up for failure. She is pretty dead in the face during the actual performance. She remarkably is called safe and not given any critiques from the judges. For the second week in a row, she is surprised by that fact. It's written all over her face. She was expecting failure. The judges are fine with her coasting. They don't see the value in calling her out for it. It's frustrating to the audience though. She should be read for how poorly she's done in the challenges and the runways so far. Mo certainly wasn't worse than Baga in the challenge. She placed low simply because she messed up a cartwheel. Seeing her successfully do one in rehearsal was a major victory given her failings in her past two appearances. But then, she messes up again and everything returns to square one. She insists that a name change reflects her growing identity in drag. Yet the story being told with her is the same as it was in the past. That denies her the opportunity to reflect on the future and what she is capable of now in this competition.

That's a whole lot of negative critiques from this episode. Part of it is the behavior of the queens. Part of it is the production and how the story is being delivered to the audience. It also comes at a time when Pangina and Janey are standing out much more positively than the rest of their competitors. Sure, Jimbo has had memorable moments as well. Her runways continue to be fantastic. Pangina and Janey are the ones with the personalities who are stepping up each week. They both receive their second wins here. The Rusical overall isn't great. It starts and stops too many times which sucks the momentum out of the whole thing. Pangina and Janey got the characters right though. They performed them with such vigor and commitment. It was joyous to watch. They were stunning in their "Dot Dot Dot" runways too. Pangina continues to bring such inventive drag to the main stage. Her headpiece here is inspired by a Chinese lampshade. The fact that it's in motion creates an additional effect to marvel at. The judges had technical notes about the placement of Janey's dress. She still looked phenomenal in it. Meanwhile, Jujubee and Baga played it safe once again. Blu took a risk but it just came across as too bulky from the hips down. That was a distraction from what should have been the focus: the faces around her wrists. Mo took inspiration from Monsters, Inc. That was creative too but the corset threw it off a little too much given how flowy the rest of it was. The final lip sync, however, was great. It was joyous from the moment Vengaboys started playing. Sometimes a unique song choice produces greatness in this franchise. That was no exception here - though Pangina was rightfully declared the winner. She eliminates Jimbo. She says it was on the basis of her performance in the challenge and not her being fierce competition. It should be fascinating to see if that continues to be how she explains it. Janey's pick should also invite intrigue. All Stars requires a lot of luck in order to prevail. Jimbo wasn't this week. Meanwhile, Jujubee has been lucky two weeks in a row. Some may not see that as fair. However, the critiques do have validity to them. After that, it's up to the queens to decide how this goes.