Tops and Bottoms: Drag Race UK Season 3 Episode 5

Someone get out a compass cause this season’s going South real quick.

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8. Scarlett

Has any moment been more telling than Scarlett trying to team up with Charity and Charity getting the fuck out of dodge?

I mentioned last week oft-handedly that if this cast was a CBS reality show, River Medway would likely be the winner and would trounce Scarlett at a jury vote, who has all the habits of a final 2 goat. I think this episode really demonstrates what I’m talking about, because for as innocent as Scarlett acts like she is, she leaves devastation in her wake. Scarlett is easy to despise: an overeager, deeply insecure teacher’s pet who does inexplicably well and gets all the chances in the world, which was moderately tolerated for so long before this week opened the floodgates of apathy. No one else in this cast respects Scarlett, and it would be sympathetic if Scarlett didn’t have such a shitty attitude about it. How are people supposed to respect you when, after you get denied by Charity in the mini challenge, you call yourself and Krystal the only proper winners? It’s a weird moment of elitism that you would think would signal her downfall this episode, but it really doesn’t. Even though nearly everyone else in the cast wants her out, Scarlett stays and continues to whine in the corner in the loudest, most annoying way possible.

Now in theory, I’d be down for this. Scarlett as a being of active hatred who makes every moment about herself and who undermines the rest of the cast. But that’s not how the show treats her. For as much as her declaring herself one of the only real winners is petulant and sophomoric, the show gives her that agency and lets her run wild with it. Scarlett’s knack for being a bridge troll is coming at the expense of not just the other contestants but also the season as a whole. Editing Scarlett this honestly still doesn’t justify her lasting this long, and at this point her presence feels mocking. “Man, isn’t Scarlett just soooo annoying?!” says the show, inserting her into more scenes and having your dinosaur host cackle at everything she does. Scarlett isn’t a fun villain; I don’t love to hate her. And right now her only real casualty is the show she’s on.

7. Krystal

This is the most animated and alive Krystal has looked all season.

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6. Vanity

After making a pretty decent impression last week, Vanity slipped back to the background unfortunately. I feel somewhat bad calling Vanity boring, because I feel like this entire cast outside of my top three is boring. But at least the other four get something to do, for better or worse. The show gives Vanity nothing.

5. Kitty

We’re now five episodes in so I think it’s okay to call time now and just accept that I’ll never get Kitty Scott-Claus. I know people who do and God more power to them, because Kitty isn’t objectively bad or obnoxious. But Kitty’s brand is very broad and non-specific, as in her identity is meant to appeal to basically everyone in the audience. And ironically because of that, I just can’t jive with her, because I don’t know how to connect to her.

Like Vanity, I don’t think Kitty can really rally a season around her. She’s a character who has been somewhat thrust into an important role that she’s not qualified to attempt. UK3 is simultaneously desperate for dynamic characters and cutting the few they have left and right, which has put an unfair amount of expectations on the middle rung Queens of the season.

4. Ella

Ella probably should have won this challenge. I mean, no one did good, but no one did good in the episode 2 challenge either.

Like with Kitty and Vanity, Ella can’t really drum up support around her. I think the season expected more out of Ella as this weird Rosé-style front runner who has all the Jan quirks but none of the delusion, but well… given my thoughts on Rosé, you probably know where this is going. Ella is a fine, if a bit inexplicable front runner, but she’s also not that dynamic and the show isn’t putting her through hell. It almost makes you wonder what the point is.

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3. River

River is obviously the second-best character left this season, and it works in both ways.

River can not compete at all with Choriza or the eliminated Victoria, Veronica, or Charity in terms of screen presence. As perceptive and smart as River is, she doesn’t have the same bravado those other Queens have. She’s easy to like, but hard to fully love. And that’s kinda the give and take when it comes to narrators like River, as her main narrative function is to be a narrator first, which is actually quite rare for Drag Race. Sure, we’ve had narrators before, but they typically get there via having amazing quotes or being lovable underdogs (or in Tia Kofi’s case, both). River got the narrator position through sheer perceptiveness, and while that makes her important, it also doesn’t make her as fun.

That being said, oh god she’s so much better than anyone else. The rest of the non-Choriza final 7 feel so ill-defined and murky. Vanity, Kitty, and Ella don’t feel utilized at all, and Scarlett and Krystal feel grossly miscast. The biggest issue with UK3 is the season’s complete lack of understanding who is actually in the season. It’s a soulless product, almost automated, feeling like a rush job after UK2. And what’s fascinating is River seems keenly aware of it. If River has any arc, it’s her weird meta-textual arc of looking exacerbated at the season going on around her and being dumbfounded at all of the Choices made. Part of River being such a good narrator is she can detect not only who everyone is, but why and how they’re doing it, stopping just shy at saying, “They’re playing a character on a TV show.” River is our connection to the season, and it has never before been so meta and fourth wall breaking.

2. Choriza

Choriza is near single handedly keeping this season’s fire going, and she’s doing the lord’s work. As much as I like River, she’s not that compelling a character: her in-depth narrations sadly don’t lend themselves to colorful confessionals. Choriza is the reason for the season, as she’s the pulse that is keeping everyone else going. Even in a cast as limp and generic brand cereal as UK3 has, everyone pops more when around Choriza. Ella and Kitty feel more better realized as characters from simply being in the same group as her. Conversely, Vanity didn’t stand out as much, and she was on the other team. Everyone feels more complete with Choriza around, which is honestly surprising. I like Choriza a lot already, but I saw her as a one-off character who didn’t cause massive waves around her. This and last episode show that Choriza can do ensemble as well as solo, and that her work with other Queens almost always brings up the best of them.

I know these articles have become a shrine to Choriza May, but I can’t help it. She’s the thing keeping my sanity in check as Scarlett laughs at her own third grade jokes and Krystal gives monotone confessionals about nothing. UK3 would die without Choriza May.

1. Charity

Sike, looks like Charity was able to nab a single First placement right before her exit (sorry to my fellow followers of the Church of Choriza, rest assured she’ll be back at her proper placement next week).

I don’t get Charity’s elimination, in terms of storytelling. Obviously, the story is that Scarlett felt disrespected by Charity throughout the episode, which tracks with Charity’s other notable moment this season of telling Krystal to her face she didn’t deserve to be Top 3 in the third episode. So, the theory is that her exit here, at the hands of Scarlett, is some kind of karmic retribution. At a glance, that checks out, but the added details in the story make it both frustrating but also confusing. Firstly, no one left in this season respects Scarlett. Scarlett’s stock amongst the cast has been dwindling with each passing week, everyone else’s reception of her as a desperate, petulant child. And it’s not like this feeling is baseless: aside for her above mentioned comment that her and Krystal are the only rightful winners, Scarlett is a notable baby and judge kiss ass who seemingly gets rewarded for that, which is just chapping everyone. Secondly, I don’t buy for a second that Charity is doing as badly as the judges say. More so than usual, the judging of Charity has felt unfair and baseless, causing a loss of suspension of disbelief. Half of the other contestants has spoken out about this unfair judging, particularly River. And while I normally wouldn’t care about placements because I don’t watch the show for the competition angle, it’s a plot point this season and perceived talent is the lynchpin for this feud. Charity is given less agency and less weight by the story than Scarlett because Scarlett has won a challenge, but that’s a sticking point because no one thinks she did deserve it nor do people think Charity did that bad. And thirdly, eliminating Charity now only verifies her entire point. If the entire cast is saying Scarlett should go home and accuse her of being a kiss ass, keeping her around only validates that point and makes the production look careless. I don’t know if this is production not realizing what they made or if they’re just this callous with their favoritism, but the point is the storyline falls flat for a number of reasons.

Which sucks because Charity didn’t deserve this kind of exit. I’m not saying Charity was a robbed winner: I don’t think she had the legs that make a good winner, and I don’t factor that into her character at all. But clearly Charity was bringing something to this season. Something different. In a season this chock full of early game-chaff and bargain versions of past contestants, the season needed additional pep like Charity to keep it going. Choriza is awesome, but she can’t maintain momentum by herself. I’m not saying Charity’s exit is a bad because Charity is robbed, but I do believe it’s bad because it jettisons untapped potential to instead mine the same barren characters with diminishing returns. It’s a bad omen for what’s to come.

One response to “Tops and Bottoms: Drag Race UK Season 3 Episode 5

  1. This season feels so horribly miscast with a bunch of characters who are side characters shoved into a main character role, while all the people who can hold the narrative get pushed to the side and jetisoned off before they can fully make an impact. Then there’s the weird “Scarlet is the underdog” story as well. It’s honestly bizarre, but I’m not that surprised due to just how rushed the season was.

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