‘Canada’s Drag Race’ Season 3, Episode 2 recap: And the award goes to …

A rocky awards show comedy challenge produces a surprise challenge champion

Back in 2015, when RuPaul’s Drag Race was in its seventh season, we saw the first—and only—incarnation of the “DESPY Awards” challenge. It was, in theory, an interesting twist on a standard comedy task: the queens had to act as both presenters and recipients of fictional DESPYs, awarding them for some particular superlative: Meatiest Tuck, Shadiest Queen, etc. In practice, it was a bit of a flop, partially because awards show banter is hard to actually make funny. On top of that, the one group that managed it well, Kennedy Davenport and Jaidynn Diore Fierce, didn’t even win the challenge. Instead, Pearl and Max, who overcame low expectations, took the win.

Flash-forward seven years, and Canada’s Drag Race has brought the challenge format back as the “Who-Knows Awards,” a riff on the JUNO Awards. It is remarkably similar in structure: queens present in pairs (with one trio because of the odd number in the cast), and certain queens get a chance to accept their award and give a little speech. Funny how history repeats: there is one team in particular who aces this challenge, and one queen who sets herself apart with her speech. However, it’s two underdogs who aren’t expected to be comedy queens who instead steal the show, and one of them takes the challenge win.

The result is an episode that’s more frustrating than it is enjoyable. None of the jokes are that great, and the editors pull overtime trying to make them work. And while I can understand the motivations behind some of the storyline decisions, it doesn’t excuse how the show bends over backward to sell the comedy when the jokes just aren’t there. In stark contrast with last season’s second episode, instead of simply relishing in some of the flops, this season would rather you not notice them at all.

“Jumpsuit! Jumpsuit!” Brad Goreski greets the excited queens of Canada’s Drag Race Season 3

Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

Our teams this week, decided by mini-challenge winner Chelazon Leroux, are as follows: Chelazon and Gisèle Lullaby presenting Nicest Cari-booty, Kimmy Couture and Miss Fiercalicious presenting Best All-Dressed, Jada Shada Hudson and Miss Moço presenting Frostiest Queen, Irma Gerd and Vivian Vanderpuss presenting Lifetime Achievement in Delusion and Lady Boom Boom, Kaos and Bombae presenting Busiest Beaver. We don’t see a voting procedure like we saw for the DESPY Awards, but I assume the nominees and winners are decided by the queens themselves.

Immediately, Fierce and Kimmy appear to be in trouble. They both accuse Chelazon in confessional—and later in Mini-Untucked—of being shady in picking them to be a team. Chelazon is thoroughly confused by this, as Fierce and Kimmy are friends. But because neither sees themselves as a comedy queen, they insist this must be devious behaviour. Chelazon winking at them only drives Fierce further down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole. “How can you take a wink as shade?” Chelazon asks in Mini-Untucked. “Well, I did,” Fierce responds.

 

Honestly, I’m thrilled by this development. Winkgate! A scandal! What did Chelazon know, and when did she know it? Was she aware when she picked teams that after several passive-aggressive exchanges, Fierce would ask Kimmy, “Give me some jokes, and we’ll put them in,” only for Kimmy to meet her with stone-cold silence? We need congressional inquiries (or at least something from the House of Commons)! Alas, we instead just get Fierce and Kimmy trying to pawn off an iconic Aviva Drescher moment from The Real Housewives of New York as their own joke—only with dentures instead of a leg.

This is, of course, all a fakeout: Kimmy and Fierce are our top team this week, and Kimmy takes the win. I will admit, their jokes are better than you’d expect, and Kimmy in particular gets the delivery right. But I’m also no fool, and I recognize the wheels of reality TV in motion. Fierce and Kimmy not only pick a fight with Chelazon over a wink (#Winkgate, get it trending), but they also fight with each other despite being friends. They are the story drivers that this season needs, and of course the show is going to make sure that they stick around. I don’t have to like it, but I gotta respect it.

Chelazon Leroux is delighted by her mini-challenge win—and the corresponding $2,500 tip

Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

If I were on the judging dais this week, I would’ve strongly argued for a Chelazon win. Part of why she doesn’t, I’m guessing, is that her runway is one of the weaker entries in an otherwise very strong Goddesses of the Ancient World category. She models her outfit after the Sky Woman, part of an Indigenous creation story, and her hair and makeup are stellar. But the dress is too simple for Brooke Lynn Hytes, who pushes Chelazon to better accessorize her outfits. It’s a shame, because in terms of the challenge, Chelazon is the Jaidynn Diore Fierce here. Her comic timing is great, her jokes are excellent and she even gets an individual speech for Frostiest Queen to deliver exquisitely. She’d easily be my pick for the victory.

Others do pretty well, although there are some flaws. Lady Boom Boom has a great speech for Best All-Dressed, but she’s lost in the shuffle with her trio. Vivian is terrific, but Irma is a mess, throwing the balance of their group off. Gisèle is great, and looks beautiful on the runway, but she shares her award presentation with the even-greater Chelazon. Other than Chelazon, there’s not a clear pick for better than Kimmy and Fierce—yet I’d have given all of these three a top slot before Fierce, at minimum.

Down in the bottom three, we have Irma, Jada and Moço. Notably, this challenge is not judged in teams, but Jada and Moço’s lack of chemistry drags them both down, regardless. They almost seem to be judged by their experience off the show: they do shows together in Toronto, and thus the judges are expecting a certain standard from them. Suffice it to say, they fall far short of that standard, with an ill-advised bit about cold temperature and snow to lead off their Frostiest Queen presentation.

I should take a moment to say this: I actually think it’s been largely to Canada’s Drag Race’s benefit that it deals with a much smaller drag scene. The inherent tensions in the Toronto drag landscape made for interesting conflicts in Season 1, as did Brooke Lynn’s sky-high expectations of Tynomi Banks. And in Season 2, the Brat Pack may not have become Rolaskatox 2.0, but their natural chemistry made them either rootable or an adversary to your faves—depending on your position. However, with the geographic diversity of this season, I actually do have a problem with Jada and Moço being held to a higher standard. Moço is just plainly bad in the challenge, flubbing her delivery of already bad material. But Jada seems to be dinged for not having the expected chemistry with her partner, while objectively making fewer mistakes than Irma. However, Irma doesn’t have the same battle of expectations to win, and she avoids the bottom despite disappointing relative to her comedy queen presentation.

Brooke Lynn Hytes stuns in purple on the runway this week

Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

It ultimately doesn’t add up to much, however, as I think the result this week would’ve been the same, regardless. Jada and Moço face off in the lip sync, and while it’s emotional, Jada easily beats her Toronto pal. Moço sashays away, and to quote Ru, Jada lives to slay another day. We’re left with a strong top 10, although I already have some inclinations as to how the story of this season will play out. (To wit: between Bombae losing her drag mom last week and Jada sending home a friend, we’ve already got two potential redemption arcs set up.)

I’m not quite willing to sound the alarm on Canada’s Drag Race Season 3 yet, because last week’s premiere was so fun, and I wasn’t sold on Season 2 by the second episode either. But I do think, despite having a great cast, there are some red flags here. For one, this challenge is too much of a replication of the DESPYs for my taste; had that been an all-time great challenge, I’d have understood it. But it was instead a premise that needed refining, and CDR mostly just copied-and-pasted it. For another, the judging isn’t as strong as it was last season, and Brooke Lynn’s predilection for strong aesthetic queens seems to be winning out. The balance of BLH, Brad and Amanda Brugel made last season’s panel excellent; this season, I’m sensing a tipping of the scales.

But as I said, the cast is doing a lot of work here. We’ve got potential villains, likable underdogs and some queens working at really high levels of drag. And they represent a truly diverse picture of Canadian drag in the process! That, plus the goodwill from last season, still has me invested. I just want the season to live up to that potential—and get out of its own way if needed. If it can do that, then I’m thrilled to see where the Canadian franchise can go from here.

Untucking our final thoughts

“Jumpsuit! Jumpsuit!” The queens’ reaction to Brad’s sartorial choice this week is delightful. (A lot more delightful than Brad’s line readings, which are unfortunately his weakest element as a judge.)

I really want a Mighty Tucks jersey! They’re incredibly cute, and I love the customization with the queens’ names on the back. CDR, make them merch and I will buy!

Man, these mini-challenges stay difficult, continuing a trend from last season. This week, they have to create a whole new outfit out of those Mighty Tucks jerseys, plus some other jock-like materials given to them. All in 30 minutes! Chelazon wins it, earning $2,500 in the process. At least the cash tip is nice!

Rocker Carole Pope is our guest judge this week, and her presence provides us with the lip sync song: Rough Trade’s “High School Confidential.” (Side note: Traci Melchor kinda eats the lip sync up.) Carole is fun, and gets a good line in at Brooke Lynn and Brad’s expense—“Get a room!”—but we’ve seen better CDR guest judges.

Jada and Moço make clear in a workroom moment that they would not want to have been paired with Fierce. Considering the results this week, that may have been short-sighted!

A major strength of Canada’s Drag Race Season 2—one that I consistently contrasted with the also-airing UK Season 3—was that the workroom banter always felt very organic. While Vanity Milan was being forced to awkwardly shoehorn in producer questions, the Canada dolls got to make realistic connections. I bring this up because Jada’s “Girls, since we’re doing comedy, where does your sense of humour come from?” is unfortunately much more UK Season 3 than it is Canada’s Season 2.

There’s a very interesting moment that I wonder if we’ll circle back on next week; Kaos says in a confessional that she worries she’ll be out of place by opening up about her Indigenous background because she presents as white. I can’t imagine that would be included if we weren’t getting follow-up, but we’ll see.

Honestly? WOW needs to revive “Wait, What?” with Kimmy and Fierce. They’d be absolutely perfect for it.

Still can’t get over that Trojan is the sponsor for this season.

The next episode of Canada’s Drag Race will be available to stream Thursday, July 28, at 9 p.m. EDT 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.

Kevin O’Keeffe is a writer, host, instructor, and RuPaul’s Drag Race herstorian living in Los Angeles, California. His favourite pastime is watching a perfect lip sync.

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