Shout-out to the poor BBC interns who had to blow up all those sexdolls to play audience members, the most awkward, Office-like the show has been since Brooke Lynn Hytes majored in staring at the camera.
You read that right, everyone this episode is a Top. I won’t bother burying the lead, this episode is not only the single best episode of this season, but it’s the best episode of Drag Race UK ever. Hell, even in a larger scale, this is easily in the top 10 for best Drag Race episodes period, if not top 5. I’ve talked at length about how frustrating the season has been by booting it’s better characters, especially last time when I lamented how Sister became interesting just in time for her elimination. This week, no, everyone was on fucking fire and came to play. This episode was exciting, fun, and dark, probably the darkest the show has been since Ginger Minj cornered Pearl until she accepted her apology at the end of Season 7. And naturally, I loved every single second of it. Every single person this episode played their part and played it exceptionally, somehow making Drag Race harrowing and tense.
Tayce had the least conventional role, and the hardest to pin down, but her place as knowingly doomed traveler was both great and well foreshadowed. Tayce knew going into this, having lip synced twice and that this was a stand-up challenge, that she was dead meat no matter what Ellie did with the order. This unfazed attitude contrasted A’Whora and Lawrence tag-teaming Ellie, with Tayce getting choice lines like “that’s a lot of emotion for Safe.” Tayce had always been a cool, unbothered voice, but before this episode it never felt like it was used well. Here, it was, and this was Tayce’s best episode.
And she’s still the “weakest” of the entire thing!
I brought up last week how A’Whora’s approach to the show post-COVID break is mostly in boredom. A’Whora has been… not coasting, per se, but she’s lacked the agency and hunger we have seen in basically the rest of the finalists. Every contestant has treated the second half of UK Season 2 as an All Stars season aside for A’Whora. Her trajectory was more in line with Obvious Runner-Up Who Is Guaranteed Third Place and she seemed content with that.
So uh… things changed.
I’ll talk more about this when I get to Ellie, but her choice to put Queens in the places she did ignited a long dormant volcano in A’Whora. Instead of the somewhat predictable boot that was Ellie, A’Whora was now in massive trouble and not via her own doing. You can call her complacent, but while I don’t disagree I also don’t think that’s fair. A’Whora was now put into a challenge that she knew she wasn’t going to excel at, screwed over by someone who really should has gone home by now, and is watching her chances of making the finale slip out of her hands. Not only is A’Whora now in danger, Ellie is safe, and she’s forced to lip sync against her best friend and fuck buddy. And as catty and self-absored as A’Whora can be, she’s not an idiot: she sees this coming a mile away, and just eviscerates A’Whora.The fighting between A’Whora and Ellie is some top notch stuff, especially when it feels post-mortem.
A’Whora, after spending weeks now being bored, now has to work into overtime at the challenge in order to stay afloat, which ironically is why she loses. Gross jokes about granny’s gapping assholes aren’t the textual reason she went home, but they show A’Whora trying to overcorrect after the show dealt her her first unfair hand. A’Whora being eliminated feels like a massive curveball from the show, one no one anticipated, especially A’Whora. But watching the episode, and the previous ones to it, it’s obvious she was complacent in her place in the competition and her anger at Ellie was from feeling like Ellie stole her spot. A combination of the show putting her on the wrong side for a single week did her in, and A’Whora is pissed she didn’t see it coming.
Who knew Ellie Diamond could be such a great instrument of destruction?
So one of things I love about Ellie Diamond screwing everyone over with a single mini-challenge win is how literary it is. Ellie Diamond, who has not won anything and is the only Queen to not win anything, starts the episode the butt of jokes from the other girls, namely A’Whora and Lawrence. Suddenly she gets her first win, a mini-challenge (so it doesn’t really count), and is given a massive power: choosing the placements of the Queens in the stand up show. Ellie uses this power to give herself a prime place while shafting A’Whora and Tayce, and people lose their shit. They call Ellie a poser and full of it, infer she’s a monster for working the system, and basically beat the crap out of her, verbally. Nevertheless, Ellie is deemed Safe, but doesn’t get the win she probably hoped, and her actions both sent A’Whora home and Tayce her 3rd lip sync.
First things first, Ellie Diamond did not cheat. Hell, in my opinion what she did wasn’t bad. It’s pretentious for the other Queens to decry that Ellie screwed everyone over when any sensible human would do the same. Ellie made smart move to get herself further, and it worked. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t get to her.
I haven’t touched on Ellie much because she’s… boring, but one of Ellie’s defining traits is eagerness. More than anything, Ellie wants you to tell her that she did a good job and that what she did was good enough. It makes sense, she’s 21 and rather insecure, but it’s still noticeable and damning because her lack of wins implies she’s not learning anything. Now she’s suddenly in a position where she makes the right move that isn’t the “right” move, and she can’t deal with it. She’s been mocked by everyone for being milquetoast and then for being conniving. It’s unfair, and that’s why I love it.
I joked that Ellie being the opener or Pandora’s box is weird, but it works for that reason. No one expected Ellie to just manhandle the power she had, including Ellie herself, and the end result just infuriates and leaves Ellie friendless and vulnerable.
Lawrence’s place in the drama with Ellie is, on surface level, out of left field. Why does Lawrence care so much if Ellie screwed A’Whora over when she was guaranteed to be in the top this week? Lawrence has never directly engaged with drama before, typically all Lawrence fights end with her not fighting back. And yet, more than even the person who went home, Lawrence is the most violent and spews the most venom at Ellie’s way, antagonizing her with incredibly cruel lines like “helped you out, didn’t?” This is Lawrence at her most petty and harmful.
And what’s insane is that it has nothing to do with this challenge.
This meltdown from Lawrence has less to do with Ellie and more to do with Lawrence projecting. The last few weeks have seen Lawrence degrading to a mentally unhinged state, her brain grounded to a pulp by her own lack of self-esteem. Lawrence literally can’t deal, and this has been the case since the start of the season but has exponentially increased during both the 7 month break and her declining stock compared to Bimini. Lawrence’s deep insecurities and clear anxiety problems have been on an ever increasing simmer since the start of the season, and this Ellie drama was when the water finally boiled over and set the whole damn house on fire.
Ellie’s latest infraction wasn’t not major, but it didn’t impact Lawrence in the micro sense. It did, however, change the status quo enough to cause panic, as Lawrence still expects win this whole season. The fact that this moment was at the hands of Ellie Diamond, someone she has both been a friend but also someone she has routinely condescended, was further gas on this fire. Lawrence is, probably more than anything else, indignant and uncompromising. She wants and expects things to go a certain way, and the fact that they aren’t has made her lash out unfairly at Ellie.
I love this side of Lawrence because it’s the natural conclusion of her bullshit. Lawrence has spent the entire season not properly dealing with her own issues. I brought this up when she went into being bullied as a child, but Lawrence doesn’t handle things in a healthy, safe manner. She has a habit of lashing out, sulking, and being in denial. I’m not saying Lawrence is a bad person because of it (god fucking knows I was this much a mess at her age), but they are birthed from a bad self-image than Lawrence refuses to acknowledge because it would imply she has a problem. I sincerely do wish Lawrence gets help after the show, because it’s obvious her drama with Ellie has almost nothing to do with Ellie.
Bimini won wearing an outfit based on acne, I can’t help but stan!
For all my talk about why the central conflict has made this the best episode of Drag Race UK, why is Bimini, who had the least to do with it, my number 1? Well, simple: because they had nothing to do with it.
The conflict between Ellie and the rest of the Queens only resonates so well because as it’s happening, Bimini is ignoring everyone and doing their own thing. Bimini is the type of person who doesn’t flinch at… anything, so this is easy to overlook, but Bimini excels this episode because everyone else is dealing with their own hang-ups: Ellie’s massive self-esteem issues, A’Whora’s complacency, and Lawrence in general poor attitude. Bimini not only offers a control to compare these Queens, but shows how not having these inhibitions can secure you an unexpected win. Like, they were unquestionably the funniest contestant during the challenge, but I argue that this landslide victory came about because everyone was too focused being shitty to one another. Bimini didn’t care, and just focused on themself.
Because really, that’s been Bimini’s best strength: her self-reliance. Everyone else left of this final four has shown degrees of not just a low self-image, but of underestimating themselves. Bimini knows exactly who they are and exactly what power they have. We saw this all the way back in episode 3, where they helped a struggling Ginny Lemon overcome their insecurity for dressing sexually. Bimini doesn’t have that, and chooses to be as sexy as they want to be. There’s a control to Bimini, and it’s great seeing someone who worked their ass off to get to where they are now able to comfortably rolls in their winning record. It’s a long fight, but Bimini has conquered it. In an episode so focused and dedicated to petty drama, seeing someone rise above and win unambiguously is not only the perfect moral, but cathartic and heart warming.