‘Canada’s Drag Race’ Season 3, Episode 3 recap: Lip Sync for … Your Partner?

A duet lip sync challenge tests the queens on a necessary survival skill

As RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 7 comes to an end, Drag Race France becomes a meme for its lip sync song rights being denied worldwide, and I actively try to forget RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under is coming back, we charge on with the third season of Canada’s Drag Race. Been a bit of a mixed bag so far, no? The premiere was a burst of rough-and-tumble energy that felt much-needed after weeks of the über-polished AS7. But then the Who Knows Awards challenge felt like a major step down for the series as a whole, and at a time when there’s a bunch of other noise in the Drag Race stratosphere, a season this quiet can’t afford to make a misstep.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure this week’s lip sync pair challenge is going to change much. To be certain, I love this concept, which tasks queens with teaming up in duos to lip sync to a RuPaul song. It’s exactly the kind of challenge experimentation I love to see from Drag Race these days, especially when lip syncing is the skill being tested. How many attempts have we seen at lip sync challenges, from big mega-performances like “Bitch Perfect” and “Divas Live” to the actually excellent Untucked lip sync challenge from Season 5? We’ve gotten lots of riffs on the same idea, so new permutations are always appreciated.

But this isn’t the kind of challenge that will attract attention. Everyone’s heard all these RuPaul songs; everyone knows what a Lip Sync for Your Life looks like. Transforming it into a challenge is going to produce what this episode does: a few quality performances, a few sleepier ones, but no outright smashes or disasters. I personally love to see how these queens will perform when their backs are against the wall in future weeks—but I also have to admit that a casual fan sampling the show won’t be won over by this.

So to spice things up, Canada’s Drag Race brings in a familiar face: Brooke Lynn Hytes’s Season 11 sister and former lover, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. And through both her guidance in the coaching segment of this episode, as well as hers and Brooke Lynn’s banter, Vanjie posits an interesting new direction for the show: the bitchier, rougher, funnier sister of American Drag Race, a space where alumni can come and have a good time. It’s an interesting suggested future, and one that interests me more than this episode as a whole does.

Vivian Vanderpuss charms Brooke Lynn Hytes into a win during the mini-challenge

Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

After winning this week’s mini-challenge, Vivian Vanderpuss gets the honour of distributing RuPaul songs to self-selected teams. The clear odd pair out in the group choice is Jada Shada Hudson and Irma Gerd, who don’t seem thrilled by their pairing. Jada in particular seems to come into this episode with some trepidation: Toronto has not been performing well this season, and she just had to send her sister, Miss Moço, home in a lip sync. If she can’t excel in a challenge with someone she performs with regularly, how will she deliver with someone she doesn’t know well?

Luckily for her, Vivian does Jada and Irma a major solid by giving them their first choice of Ru song: “Peanut Butter.” This is the clear winner of the set, as it has enough story to it that it’s easy to choreograph a group performance. Jada casts herself as the master twerker to Irma’s novice, and plays off their differences as they perform. They really charm Brooke Lynn and Vanjie during the rehearsal, but they still need work on their choreo—and Brooke Lynn warns Jada to give herself time to shine.

They best be glad with their song assignment, because Miss Fiercalicious and Bombae sure aren’t. They don’t get either of their top choices, and are instead given mid-tempo track “Let the Music Play.” To be fair to Fierce and Bombae: this is the obvious landmine among the choices. There’s just not a lot you can do with it, and Bombae and Fierce in particular are not well-suited to the material. (They try to do “Anything You Can Do”-style rivalry choreography, but it’s a tonal mismatch.) But Fierce in particular has such an extremely negative reaction—including storming off—that the other queens can’t help but titter in response.

Later in the workroom, Fierce does offer up a halfhearted apology, but Gisèle Lullaby decidedly does not have it! She stands up for her partner Vivian in the challenge by telling Fierce her behaviour is unprofessional. “That was high school shit!” she practically yells. And you know what? I really like this from Gisèle! There was a world in which this season became Fierce and Kimmy Couture talking bitchy circles around all their competition, but Gisèle demanding more really shifts the tone. I think it sets up a much more interesting end of the game, honestly.

Jada Shada Hudson and Irma Gerd are the standouts of the lip sync challenge this week

Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

Speaking of Kimmy, she and fellow previous maxi-challenge winner Lady Boom Boom are a team, and they get “Feel Like Dancing.” This is an okay song, but it’s really Kimmy’s execution of the choreography that places them in the top. Boom Boom is solid, but her moves just aren’t as sharp as Kimmy’s. Honestly, of anyone in this episode, Kimmy makes the best case for being a real threat in a Lip Sync for Your Life. Even while doing choreographed lip syncing, she’s a beast: I imagine her becoming a Lip Sync Assassin if she falls into the bottom two enough.

But it’s actually Jada and Irma who win out, with their team choreography coming through clutch. Because she wisely takes Brooke Lynn’s advice to stand out, Jada ultimately takes the win. It’s a big bounce-back for a queen who was in the bottom two just last week, and it solidifies that, like Kimmy, she’ll be a force to be reckoned with in any battles for survival. That’s what’s so interesting about this challenge: more than most, I feel like it really gives us hints as to how the rest of this season will go.

Three queens are in trouble: the aforementioned Fierce, who lands in the bottom two, as well as the worst-performing pair, Chelazon Leroux and Kaos. Honestly, there’s a world in which those two should’ve actually been in the bottom, particularly considering their Sleeves runway entries are far below Fierce’s revival of Eve 6000’s Revealiana. (She’s got a! trick up her! … sleeve!) But perhaps because it’s her second low-scoring appearance in three weeks, the judges go ahead and put Fierce in the bottom. And though the judges actually seem to be more naturally leaning toward putting Kaos with her, an unwise decision from Chelazon ruins her day.

Before the judges can even start critiquing her, Chelazon offers a disclaimer that she knows this was not her challenge. Guest judge Hollywood Jade in particular seems put off by this, as he says he actually would’ve preferred her over Kaos otherwise. I’m with him on this: while Kaos starts stronger, her lip sync to “Adrenaline” is repetitive, while Chelazon’s grows. And while neither is great on the runway, the significance of Chelazon’s look to her First Nations roots puts it over Kaos’s many underwhelming reveals in my book.

Miss Fiercalicious revives the spirit of Eve 6000’s Revealiana for her Sleeves runway

Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

Alas, it is indeed Chelazon versus Fierce to “Don’t Call Me Baby” by Kreesha Turner, and can I just say: I’ve not heard this song before now, and it is a bop. I’ll always give Canada’s Drag Race credit: whatever the genre, the songs are great choices. Neither Fierce nor Chelazon is great with the song—what a shock that two queens in the bottom for a lip syncing challenge would be bad at lip syncing—but Fierce gives the more spirited performance. She stays, while Chelazon sashays away.

And yet as I finish writing this recap, what sticks out to me is not any single performer, but Vanjie. She is absolutely electric as she enters in a full beat, and her banter with Brooke Lynn is proof positive of why they were such a fan-favourite duo. (God, remember Branjie merchandise?) She’s no great guest judge, honestly, but I don’t need her to be. Nor do I need Jimbo to be next week when she guest-judges. What I need more is a spirit, a vibe, a connection to the queens—something that says that they’ve been where these queens are, and this is what is possible.

I think that’s the goal I want Canada’s Drag Race to aim for: it can be the cooler, more relaxed Drag Race franchise, and that fits well with what it’s been so far. But it should also never lose sight of its ambition—and spread that message to the queens. Yes, we’re having a good time, but there’s real success on the line. Thrive here, and thrive in the drag entertainment space writ large. Good vibes don’t have to mean letting go of a desire to break out; right now, this cast needs to remember just what being on Drag Race could truly mean.

Untucking our final thoughts

There’s no Brad Goreski on the panel tonight—just Traci Melchor, plus guest judges Hollywood Jade and, of course, Miss Vanjie. Is it too early to say I’m enjoying Traci a lot more this season? She seems to have taken the notes from her previous two seasons’ worth of appearances and is focusing more on substantive critique. You know what that is? Growth!

The mini-challenge this week is a “date” with Brooke Lynn Hytes, which is both a male drag and improv comedy challenge. It’s cute! Vivian wins for her character whom she describes as the son of an Australian and a sewer rat. Notably, Boom Boom really falters here—a bad sign for her potential in future improv challenges.

I really appreciate the follow-up we get to last week’s Kaos confessional in which she said she was uncomfortable talking about being First Nations. She shares her insecurities with Chelazon re: not knowing much about her Indigenous side of her family. “At the end of the day, your experience is your own, and no one is going to be able to define that except for you,” Chelazon says in response. It’s a very cool conversation, and the kind I feel Canada’s Drag Race has routinely proven itself best-suited in the franchise to have.

Conversely, the workroom discussion transitions are still very much in a UK Season 3 space. This week, because they perform with partners, they ask: “Do any of you have partners?” It’s so clunky, and I hope it turns around quickly.

Let’s give it up for Brooke Lynn and her excellent looks this season, shall we? Not a miss yet, and this short dress and wig is perhaps my favourite yet.

I do usually hate when the top-scoring queens are shuffled off without critiques, but this was a rare instance where I think it was justified. Jada and Irma are the clear top two, and Kimmy and Boom Boom are strong enough to clearly separate them from Vivian and Gisèle. Not much else to say but that!

Absolutely love all the queens exiting in reverse with a chorus of “Miss Vanjie!”
The next episode of Canada’s Drag Race will be available to stream Thursday, August 4, 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.

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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