To call the Reading Is Fundamental mini-challenge at the start of this week’s Canada’s Drag Race: Canada vs The World “alarming” would be an understatement. Queen after queen absolutely whiffs the challenge, either failing to tell a joke at all (there’s more than one rhyming non-read) or going way too direct with the joke. By the time Anita Wigl’it comes up last, Brooke Lynn Hytes is desperate: “Please be funny.”
Anita manages a couple of solid punchlines and wins, but seriously, this is concerning. Not only will there probably be at least one comedy challenge in this abbreviated season, but this week is also Snatch Game. Or “Snatch Summit,” as they call it here. The latest rebrand of Snatch Game is an international relations debate of sorts, but it’s basically just another way to play the same game. And that game requires queens to make their celebrity impersonations funny. Will this group be up to the task?
The answer is: kinda. Two queens absolutely dominate the Snatch Summit, one with a relaxed, confident performance, and the other by grabbing every single opportunity presented and running with it. Icesis Couture and Ra’Jah O’Hara each score their first career win in Snatch Game, and do so by understanding how the game functions. Neither delivers an all-time great celebrity impersonation—Icesis’s Donatella Versace is basically just Icesis with an accent, while Ra’Jah’s Big Freedia impersonation is all in the catchphrases and demeanour. But it’s how they keep the banter up that pushes them over the edge.
Beyond them, though, there are quite a few disappointments in this group. Two former winners of Snatch Game, Anita and Silky Nutmeg Ganache, get criticized for less impressive efforts this go-around. Even someone who manages good jokes—Victoria Scone as Kim Woodburn—ultimately falls onto the lower side of the scorecard for not taking it far enough. And Stephanie Prince struggles as Cardi B, continuing a troubling trend that Asian queens consistently fall into the bottom on Snatch Game. This episode is still solid despite the underwhelming Snatch Game, but it’s in spite of the challenge itself.
What I will always give Canada’s Drag Race credit for, especially in the wake of this week’s disappointing Drag Race UK finale, is that it will call a spade a spade. Brooke Lynn is remarkably honest about how bad the reading challenge is, and in confessionals, the queens note that they may have put on the worst rendition of Reading Is Fundamental ever. Similarly, when it comes to Snatch Summit judging, no one is told they’re a world-class impersonator. The critiques stay fixed on what the queens did well.
The more I think about it, the more impressed I am with Ra’Jah’s performance. She figured out a clever trick in All Stars 6, twisting a story Ru told about LaToya Jackson in the workroom into various permutations on the same joke. She appealed directly to Ru, and while she ultimately didn’t score high for the impersonation (having been overshadowed by Eureka!’s Divine in their Snatch Game of Love group), she got a lot of kudos for a creative solution to Snatch Game.
Here, though, Ra’Jah can’t rely on appealing to Ru. So, instead, she picks Big Freedia, a character she can easily impersonate through catchphrases and voice, and absolutely runs the game. She doesn’t let a single potential punchline pass her by, and she controls the flow without doing too much. I give her huge kudos for sticking with her gut and going Freedia over her backup, Grace Jones, and I give Brooke Lynn respect for encouraging her to stay the course. This is exactly the right character for Ra’Jah’s dominant strategy, and it pays off big.
Conversely, Brooke Lynn is exactly right to divert Icesis on to a different path with Donatella. Her original choice of Pamela Anderson may have been more familiar to Icesis, but the comic potential was so much more limited. (Especially because a lot of the formerly easy jokes about Pam relating to her sex tape are now considered in bad taste in the wake of the Pam & Tommy miniseries.) Donatella gives Icesis enough to lean into for an impersonation, but she has a lot of room to work with in the personality department. Her best recurring bit is her jokes about not being able to see properly out of her heavy eyelashes, felling Brooke Lynn, “Darling, for the first half of this show, I thought you were a pelican. A fucking pelican!” The judges give her credit for a subtle, smart Snatch Game performance, and she also earns a deserved win.
Vanity Milan and Rita Baga both are waved to safety for competent, if not remarkable, takes on Jamaican dancehall queen Spice and legendary drag queen Guilda. Victoria and Silky fall into that tricky safe-but-critiqued slice of the judging proceedings, which I think makes more sense for the latter than the former. I actually enjoy Victoria’s Kim Woodburn, although I take the judges’ point that she doesn’t go as big as Kim would. The show is doing something with Victoria, though: the critiques delve into if Victoria is holding herself back, or is feeling overwhelmed by the expectations of being a groundbreaking contestant. I’m not sure if the narrative is being crafted for a late-game run for Victoria, or if this is setup for an early departure. Regardless, something to keep an eye on.
Silky, on the other hand, gets knocked for not delivering Lizzo at all. Both the judges and Rita in confessional say that Silky’s look is right, but the character is just Silky. Of course, that’s true of other competitors here, but they also manage to be funny. Silky spends forever on each answer, and rarely arrives at a punchline. “I’m on the second tape of Titanic now,” Rita jokes as she waits for one of Silky’s answers. Still, there’s never any sense the former Snatch Game winner is in real trouble—in contrast with Anita’s take on Adele, which is utterly un-Adele and a huge disappointment after her Queen Elizabeth II in Down Under’s Snatch Game.
The Celestial Bodies runway category is a home run this week, as everyone looks stunning in space-themed looks. My personal favourites are Ra’Jah’s “star rising out of a dark hole” look (gorgeous silhouette and mug), Stephanie’s striking take on “the highest being of the universe” in Philippine mythology and Icesis’s jaw-dropping blue look. Icesis was always the fashion queen in Canada’s Drag Race Season 2, but her work so far this season has been next-level.
She and Ra’Jah change into equally cool punk looks for their Lip Sync for the World, set to Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi.” Can you believe that song hasn’t been a lip sync yet? In fact, the only other Avril to be performed on Drag Race was “Girlfriend,” in Canada’s Drag Race’s inaugural season. Like that battle, this one is a banger, with both queens giving it their all. If I had to pick, I think Icesis fits the tone of the song a bit more, but it’s always a pleasure to watch Ra’Jah perform.
In the end, Brooke Lynn and co. choose Icesis as the winner, and she sends home Stephanie. This is something of a surprise, since Steph and Icesis are CDR Season 2 sisters. But in the first episode, Icesis said she wanted to judge fairly this season. And while Anita’s performance may have been disappointing, this was Stephanie’s second time in the bottom—after vowing that she’d never land there again. Eliminating her is the most fair result.
Next week is the ball challenge, which should be interesting for our survivor of the lip sync. If they can reverse their fortunes and pull out a surprise win, it’ll suddenly make things very competitive. Few queens besides those who have already been in the bottom have had any negative attention in the edit so far—it’s hard to imagine any of them suddenly going home. Might Silky’s low score here be a sign that she’ll struggle in the ball? She’s previously had trouble in design challenges, after all.
The fact that the competition is already so tight is a great sign. It reminds me of All Stars 4 in that way: there are some obvious picks for early outs among queens who aren’t connecting with the judges, but beyond them, it’s going to be a hell of a battle. And I for one can’t wait to see the rest of it.
Untucking our final thoughts
✨ Up and Down: Ra’Jah and Icesis naturally vault into frontrunner spots based on their wins here, though I’d give Ra’Jah the edge since she also scored high in the previous episode. Meanwhile, Rita and Vanity avoid any potential downturn from their wins in Episode 1, as they each score a fair safe this week. In the lower ranks, beyond our bottom-two survivor, I also worry about Victoria. Like I said, it’s possible this is setting up a redemption arc, but this cast is so competitive that she may not have the time or space to come roaring back.
✨ We see at the start of the episode that Rita also chose Kendall Gender’s lipstick last week, which surprises me. She publicly says she wanted Stephanie to have another chance, and that Kendall already made top three once. Privately in confessional, however, she says it was about eliminating the bigger competition. A sign that Rita might play this more competitively moving forward?
✨ There is an absolutely fascinating discussion in the cold open, in which Victoria calls Stephanie out for using the term “fishy” in her verse. Stephanie explains she sees it like “ladyboy” in the Philippines: language once used against a group being reclaimed. But Victoria explicitly draws the line to connect why “fishy” is offensive; that to compliment someone for looking like a biological woman is to say a woman’s vagina smells like fish. “I understand that the term that was used is used in drag culture, and probably goes back years and years and years,” she says in confessional. “But it has taken me a bit of courage to bring it up, because it’s terrifying. I know that not everyone will agree with me. But I can’t hear misogyny in drag culture anymore.” Kudos to Victoria for taking a stand, and I appreciate the other queens for taking her point and making a commitment to not use the term.
✨ There’s a funny button on that conversation, as Stephanie jokes that she might still want to use the term “fish” if she wants it for dinner. Rita’s response: “Let’s do salad today!”
✨ Sarain Fox is back as the Brad Goreski stand-in this week! She was a fan favourite guest in Canada’s Drag Race Season 3, and she’s the first non-rotating judge to appear three times in such a short period. I’d love to see her back in a more permanent capacity: she’s always so game and fun, but doesn’t shy away from critique. Also great to see Priyanka on the panel, even if it is slightly quirky to see her judging one of her fellow CDR winners. (Her scream during the judges’ runway reveal is a delight.)
✨ Brooke Lynn notes the oddity of her and Priyanka judging Snatch Game: “It’s a great Canadian tradition: we invite people who bombed Snatch Game to judge it!”
✨ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appearance is met with the proper amount of gagging from the queens: like him or not, it’s genuinely a huge deal that a world leader is visiting a Drag Race set. There are lots of metrics to measure Drag Race’s success, but this kind of recognition is a new level. And as you can tell by both Brooke Lynn’s excitement and the queens’ conversation in the workroom after, it means a lot to the people involved that he would stop by.
✨ On a lighter note: of course Stephanie is the one to call Trudeau “daddy.” God, I love her.
✨ Obsessed with Ra’Jah and Icesis broing down before the lip sync. Already loving the new cross-franchise friendships developing.
✨ I would stream “Spider in the Workroom” on Spotify!
The next episode of Canada’s Drag Race: Canada vs The World will be available to stream Friday, Dec. 2, at 9 p.m. EST on WOW Presents Plus in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada. You can subscribe to our drag newsletter, Wig!, for exclusive Drag Race content delivered straight to your inbox every Tuesday afternoon.