After last week’s instalment of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, in which Ginny Lemon eliminated herself from the competition in a surprising yet meme-worthy move, it seemed as though we’d reached the peak of series two. No future episode could compete with the hilarious daytime TV challenge and the herstory-making lip sync that followed, we concluded. Well, we were wrong.
Episode five smacked us in the face like a fabulous freight train, delivering continuous twists and turns in a Drag Race instalment like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic played a role as big as RuPaul’s this episode, throwing a glittery spanner in the works for the remaining eight queens, who’re sent home at the beginning of the episode and return to see a number of gag-worthy changes made to the competition.
With a lot to process, I’ve finally managed to scoop my jaw off the floor to break down the hour of madness we just witnessed and explain why it’s arguably the best episode the Drag Race franchise has ever seen thanks to chaotic cast changes, perfect performances and scathing critiques from Ru herself. If you haven’t yet watched the episode, first of all, why not? And secondly, this is your official spoiler warning.
Episode five opens with the queens making their second grand entrance to the workroom after seven months away from the competition – a time jump only noticeable when Sister Sister walks in with a brand new face. “This is a total rebirth,” she reveals in a confessional, with Lawrence Chaney saying her new teeth look like “little Tic Tacs”.
Accompanied by huge suitcases, new hairdos, lots of hand sanitiser but the same outgoing personalities, the contestants are both visibly excited and nervous to pick up where they left off – however, within 10 minutes of them being there, RuPaul drops the first bombshell of the series.
“Veronica Green has tested positive for the coronavirus, she won’t be joining us for this series,” Mama Ru tells the shocked queens. The competition’s former front-runner, the talented Veronica Green’s time on the show has gone the way of Nicola Adams on Strictly and Rufus Hound’s on Dancing on Ice.
While we’re still reeling from the news of Veronica’s exit, RuPaul hits us with another shocker by re-inviting into the workroom the eliminated queens: Asttina Mandella, Cherry Valentine and Joe Black and asking the remaining RuPaul’s Drag Race UK contestants to vote for who should fill Veronica’s place. Interestingly, it is revealed that Ginny Lemon wasn’t invited back as she took herself out of the competition, although Ru appears to pay tribute to her in her absence with a luminescent, Lemon-esque wig.
After most of the contestants vote for Brighton-based queen Joe Black, who was the first to be eliminated, the 30-year-old cabaret star rejoins the competition, making it official: Black is the new Green.
So far, we’re not even half way through the episode and we’ve seen more drama in 20 minutes than a whole episode of US Drag Race – but it doesn’t stop there.
The amended line-up are sorted into two groups, one led by incoming queen Joe Black and another spearheaded by the last maxi challenge winner Lawrence Chaney, and challenged to record and perform a Ruruvision – Drag Race’s Eurovision – song.
As a result, viewers are blessed with the Frock Destroyers-esque moment of series two when Lawrence, Tayce, Bimini Bon Boulash and A’Whora take to the stage with their verses of UK Hun – Drag Race’s incredibly cheesy yet catchy tune. Polished dance moves, coordinated costumes, campy humour from Lawrence and an insanely high death-drop from Bimini make the group’s Ruruvision performance a sight to behold, with the routine becoming one of highlights of the whole series.
The episode then takes a dramatic turn as Joe Black’s rival group – named BananaDrama – deliver an underwhelming performance of the same song to the stony faces of Michelle Visage and RuPaul. The whole team, which includes Tia Kofi, Ellie Diamond and Sister Sister, land in the bottom and while some of them manage to redeem themselves with their Day at the Beach-themed runway looks (Ellie’s anthropomorphic seagull is both stunning and scary), Tia Kofi and Joe Black come under fire for their outfits.
For the first time in Drag UK history, Angry RuPaul (AKA AngRu) is unleashed on the bottoms after Joe Black admits that she bought her Ruruvision outfit off the racks of H&M. “I don’t wanna see any f***king H&M!” RuPaul screams with the same energy as Tyra Banks’ “We were all rooting for you” rant. Chills run down the audience’s spine. An iconic television moment is born.
Of all the reality TV I have watched in my time, nothing has so far compared to the rollercoaster ride that was Drag Race UK series two, episode five. From pangs of sadness and hopeful joy, to side-splitting laughter and second-hand fear, this show gave its dedicated viewers full-on emotional whiplash with just 67-minutes of television, which is exactly what we need whilst trying to stay sane in lockdown.
While Drag Race UK’s second series was already ranking on my list of the year’s best TV, this episode has pushed it right to the top and highlighted how its unique British humour, refined runway looks, cutting catfights and hugely talented queens make this spin-off show superior to the original US version.
Drag Race UK continues on Thursdays at 7pm on BBC iPlayer. If you’re looking for more to watch check out our TV Guide.