RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs The World, Episode 5: “Semifinals” — Review
For the first time ever, Drag Race artists from around the world gather to compete for a single crown in RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs The World! And if you find yourself struggling to keep up—there’s a lot of Drag Race, we get it—stop by each week for the essentials.
In the wake of Pangina Heals’ earth-shattering elimination at the hands of Blu Hydrangea, the cast processed the wider repercussions of Blu’s decision. Blu’s first concern was how their decision to eliminate a front runner and certain-to-be fan favorite could affect their career, and once again I say: thank the gay cosmos for Mo Heart. In the first of a couple unforgettable confessionals this episode, Mo addressed the infamously volatile Drag Race audience:
“Folks can say what they want and hate, but until you are actually here playing the game, you will never know what it is.”
Drag Race casts have been doing the difficult work of educating fans on how to treat them and their castmates for years. The All-Stars format only made those efforts more important, so I’m glad UK vs The World decided to spotlight both Blu’s anxiety over their decision and Mo’s decision to proactively defend it. As an All-Stars veteran, Mo knows the feeling. In real time, all these performers can do is hope their strategic decisions within a game don’t affect their success or safety when the series finally airs. I feel for them.
Before de-dragging, the cast asked Baga Chipz who she’d have eliminated if the decision had fallen on her. For the first time this season, the top two performers were actually on the same page. Baga also chose to eliminate Pangina and explained that she’d decided to do so when Pangina eliminated Jimbo. We saw this promise episodes ago.
The next morning, Baga asked whether anyone predicted the Final 5—it was clear that none of them did—and Mo pointed out that the United States was the only country without a win.
Living My Life in London
For the semifinal challenge, the cast were tasked with writing a verse about the place they call home for a new version of RuPaul’s track “London”. Then RuPaul dropped a bomb: the cast would be recording their verses in front of UK girl group superstar Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix. No pressure, right?
After agreeing to perform in alphabetical order—a decision proposed by Mo Heart, whose name falls last in the alphabet—the group quickly began writing their own lyrics and workshopping each other’s. During their workshopping, something weird happened: Jujubee shared some potential lyrics, received a lukewarm reception, and then got surprisingly defensive. Given the ongoing scrutiny of Jujubee’s performance over this season, her response was curious: “They’re gonna f***ing judge it the way they’re gonna f***ing judge it … and it ain’t gonna be nice for me, so I might as well do something I wanna do and like.”
So we have a bit of a “chicken or the egg” situation here, don’t we? Has Jujubee not received positive critiques for lack of trying, or is she not trying as a result of consistently receiving negative critiques? Probably a bit of both?
That said, Jujubee is a recording artist, so when it came time to record, it was no surprise that she was the most comfortable. Two-time singing challenge veteran Mo and Frock Destroyers Blu and Baga also had no trouble recording their verses and applying notes from Jade and music producer Ian Masterson. Finally, I suspected last week that Janey might struggle for lack of experience. And struggle, she did. But Janey struggled, because it turns out Janey can’t sing.
The cast were also tasked with choreographing a group number to perform on the main stage, and fortunately for Janey, she can dance. She and Mo took the lead as the cast’s resident dancers, Blu and Juju chipped in along the way, and Baga continued to Baga by doing very little and whining nonetheless.
On elimination day, as the cast prepared for their performance of “Living My Life in London,” two really incredible mirror chats broke out. Jujubee and Baga discussed their experiences as nightlife performers coming to terms with alcoholism, how they’ve been perceived and treated after maintaining sobriety, and the role of Drag Race in their journeys.
Across the room, Janey, Blu, and Mo discussed religion and queerness. All three shared unique but similar stories of how religion in their countries—the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, and the United States, respectively—often treats femininity and queerness as signs of weakness or corruption in children assigned male at birth. This is where, in my opinion, Mo Heart delivered with warmth and gravity an all-time great Drag Race confessional:
“For those who feel they need to go through conversion therapy, I’m gonna tell you though: don’t even waste your time or your money. You are enough. There is not one part of you that is broken. Don’t buy into the hype that there’s something wrong with you. Lies, lies, lies. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
Thank the gay cosmos for Mo Heart.
And thank the gay cosmos for “Hollywood, Baby!” because every other tweet last Tuesday night was those two words, and I was living for it. The live performance of “Living My Life in London” was a ton of fun, and [most of] the cast looked incredible in their red, white, and blue looks inspired by either host country the United Kingdom or their home country. It’s unclear which, because the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States all have red, white, and blue flags, but it’s probably the latter?
As for the verses, I actually think they all came across great in the final recording. Even Janey, who could not find a note or hold a tune to save her life, sounded great.
Now… thank the gay cosmos for Ian the Music Producer.
Work the Runway, Work the Game
I love this runway category. The cast were tasked with creating a runway look inspired by a famous work of art. We got looks based on classic paintings like van Gogh’s Sunflowers (Baga Chipz), Picasso’s cubist period (Blu Hydrangea), and Dali’s Woman with Head of Roses. We also got an homage to gay pop artist Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyn Monroe print (Janey Jacké) and historical Miami architecture (Jujubee). Personally and unsurprisingly, Blu and Mo’s looks were the standouts.
Ultimately, Mo Heart and Jujubee were deemed the top two for their strong performances in the challenge and well-executed runway looks. Of course, they were also given the responsibility of eliminating a competitor just short of the finale. Everyone else was vulnerable. The deliberation once again centered around whether or not to eliminate based on the judges’ critiques, threat level, or revenge, and each of the vulnerable performers adopted very different approaches to making their case.
Baga focused on her close relationship with each of the top two. Janey continued to play the straight shooter, putting herself in their shoes and talking out the pros and cons. And Blu… well, Blu was just brickin’ it, because they recognized the dangerous position they opted into by openly targeting a competitor for their potential to win. When Jimbo admitted to it, Jimbo was quickly eliminated. When Pangina was suspected of it, Pangina was eliminated.
Can’t blame Blu for sweatin’.
After a lip sync battle to Netta’s “Toy”, Jujubee was declared the winner and eliminated Janey Jacké. As is typical, Jujubee didn’t give direct reasoning on the main stage; however, given Janey’s performance in the week’s challenge, her status as one of the only two remaining holders of a RuPeter Badge, and the fact that she’s the only remaining competitor to have attempted eliminating Jujubee, it’s hard to be surprised.
Only one episode remains, and in a move that breaks from the All-Stars format and borrows from the current standard US format, the remaining four queens will battle it out in a Lip Sync Smackdown for the Crown. Typically, in a standard US season, the Lip Sync Smackdown songs have leaned heavily toward modern and contemporary pop divas. Notably, all three previous Drag Race UK finale lip sync songs would be sorely out of place among them.
With just hours before the finale, it’s clear the online audience favors Blu Hydrangea and Mo Heart. But with only two RuPeter Badges between the Final Four and no clear frontrunner, it’s hard to predict who will become Drag Race’s first Queen of the Muthertucking World.
If I had to place a bet—based on runways, placement record, audience support, and RuPeter Badges—I’d put my money on Blu.
And given how the season’s played out, I think I’d be most satisfied with it too.
‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK vs The World’ airs on BBC Three in the UK and Crave in Canada, and it streams on WOW Presents Plus in the US and everywhere else.