‘Canada’s Drag Race’ Season 4, Episode 5 recap: Turn the game around

In a stunning reversal, a queen goes from wanting to leave to winning the most crucial challenge

It almost feels like we’re coming back to a different Canada’s Drag Race, huh? The show’s popularity online has positively exploded in the wake of last episode’s epic Mini-Untucked meltdown, with several clips going viral and a general sentiment that the show is delivering drama in a way modern Drag Race just doesn’t. One might even want to call it Melinda Verga’s Drag Race.

In truth, CDR die-hards know that the show has always been capable of this kind of great television, but it’s great to see it get the attention it deserves. Wisely, the producers chose to leave us hanging a bit, with the preview at the end of last week’s episode promising even more fireworks. And indeed, long before we can get to this week’s Snatch Game, we have plenty of unfinished business to resolve.

After the double shantay, the queens are in agreement that they believed Aimee Yonce Shennel would go home after her “Come Through” lip sync against Nearah Nuff. Nearah, for her part, is really glad Aimee is still there despite their fight just a few minutes before. She wants to try and mend fences, but Aimee says Nearah doesn’t have to apologize. She said how she felt, and she respects that.

Attention quickly turns to the woman of the hour, Melinda, and questions around why exactly Kiki Coe chose to save her. Denim is particularly vocal on this issue, which only succeeds in angering Melinda. She’s pissed because she helped Denim with her garment, yet that got no mention on the runway. There’s a long history of this kind of thing on Drag Race—remember when BeBe Zahara Benet didn’t credit Aja for helping her in All Stars 3?—but at the end of the day, I’m not sure any kind of credit would’ve helped Melinda. Particularly because, in Mini-Untucked, Melinda herself was saying she wanted to go home.

Melinda Verga defends her staying in the competition, as Kiki Coe contemplates whether she made the right decision to give her the Golden Beaver Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

But now, 43 minutes later (thank you for the timeline, helpful CDR chyron), Melinda is back. A lot has happened in those 43 minutes! She’s ready to fight, and she doesn’t want to be reminded of her previous lack of desire to stay. When Venus tells her she’s not allowed to say she wants to leave again, Melinda once again flares up, upset that she feels she’s being told what she can and cannot feel. This leads to another Melinda storm-out, Denim telling Kiki she made a bad choice, and eventually—eventually—a resolution when they both say they don’t want to fight anymore.

 

Hoo boy, we truly are off to the races from the word “go” here. I imagine some will be frustrated that Melinda comes in for the next challenge feeling “renewed” and apologizing, but realistically, it’s what needs to happen to keep the action moving forward. And the fact that we got two big werk room blow-ups out of it? You don’t get that on Drag Race these days!

Anyway, it’s time for Snatch Game, and there are a couple of big storylines going into this. One is that two queens have prepared the same character: Jennifer Coolidge. Nearah digs in her heels, refusing to change, which makes her new J-Cool rival Kitten do the same. For the first time in Drag Race herstory, neither queen changes! We’re heading into the performance with two queens doing the same character. I like that Brooke Lynn Hytes notes the potential upside here: having two Jennifer Coolidges means the queens can bounce off each other. That’s not exactly what happens, but it’s worth seeing in the future if others playing the same person could do the same.

We’ve got some silly other choices, including Luna DuBois doing Mary Cosby from The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City and Aimee playing a Black, gay Jesus. Kiki goes for Elizabeth Taylor, a great choice that Kiki is nonetheless unprepared to do, and Denim picks Julia Fox, who allows her to lean into her natural vocal fry for peak hilarity. Meanwhile, Venus gets turned away from doing Fran Drescher onto Joe Exotic, despite knowing relatively little about the Tiger King subject, and Aurora Matrix has a high-concept idea to do the toddler Chinese emperor Zhao Bing.

Denim proves her comedic prowess in the Reading Challenge, scoring the most crucial mini-challenge victory of the season Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

But back to Melinda. She tells Brooke Lynn she’s doing Manny Pacquiao, the boxer and former Filipino senator who would inherently be uncomfortable around drag queens. Yes, as Brooke Lynn asks quizzically: “Isn’t he homophobic?” There’s an inherent danger to playing a character like this, as things could quickly turn hateful or negative. Credit to Melinda, though, that she instead plays the discomfort with a level of curiosity that really makes the whole thing work.

I don’t want to overhype this: Melinda is quite good in Snatch Game, and deserves the win by a mile (her closest competitors, Kitten and Venus, are solid-not-great). But post-Season 1, CDR Snatch Game has been notoriously underwhelming, with only one or two really enjoyable performances per season. This was even true on Canada vs. The World, when Ra’Jah O’Hara and Icesis Couture were far ahead of the pack during the Snatch Summit. I’d put Melinda’s Manny at relatively Synthia Kiss’ Rachel Zoe-level: clever and funny, but not an all-time great performance.

That caveat out of the way, this is easily Melinda’s best week. She pulls out a Mike Tyson joke when referring to Aimee’s Jesus that makes nearly the whole panel break. She’s got great rhythm to her jokes, and she keeps her characterization the whole time. I’m not quite on Aimee’s level, suggesting that Melinda should be the only winner and everyone else should be the bottom (or, as we would otherwise call it, the Full DeJa Skye). But combined with her best runway look yet for the Steampunk category, Melinda fully earns her first win.

Think about that for a second, though: Melinda in one week went from wanting to leave and throwing a full tantrum in Mini-Untucked, cursing out the judges from afar, to winning Snatch Game. Like, holy shit. What a turnaround. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything like it? This truly is Melinda’s world, and we’re just living in it.

Brad Goreski, alongside fellow judge Traci Melchor, plays the Snatch Game this season Credit: Courtesy Bell Media

This is a strong runway across the board, which means judging decisions really do come down to Snatch Game performances. Aurora’s Zhao Bing is too one-note, while Kiki gets the characterization all wrong as Elizabeth Taylor. Luna falls into the exact trap so many have before while playing a Real Housewife, assuming their personality would pop off the screen but not doing any of the things that make them such a character.

There’s not much suspense to the Golden Beaver decision: Kiki says Melinda doesn’t need to feel obligated to save her, and Venus does her best to campaign for her girl Aurora to be saved. But as Melinda puts it in her speech, Kiki not only saved Melinda from elimination, she saved her from herself. There’s no way a queen as passionate as Melinda is going to let that favour go unreturned. She saves Kiki, who gets her second Golden Beaver reprieve of the season.

Aurora and Luna thus face off to Tate McRae’s “she’s all i wanna be.” I know there’s a lot of discourse around Tate and whether she’s an “industry plant.” I will admit this lip sync is the first time I have heard any of her music, so I don’t feel qualified to speak on the controversy! Instead, I will just say it’s a bit of a bop, but not as memorable as other CDR lip sync songs. Aurora and Luna fucking turn it out to it, though. Luna’s great, but Aurora scrambles across the stage like a mad woman. She pulls out nearly every trick in her bag, and does so in a way that feels controlled, not desperate. It’s an easy victory for her, which means sadly, Luna must sashay away.

But Brooke Lynn’s final announcement shocks the queens—and interrupts the final dance!—and promises that this gaggy season is not letting up. I’m continuing to have the time of my life with this season, and I hope it keeps up the momentum. Like Melinda herself, it’s on the verge-a of greatness, and the fans are watching.

Untucking our final thoughts

Aimee going from saying “Maybe God is gay!” last week to playing a gay Jesus this week … a storyteller. Queen of foreshadowing. I was gooped and gagged, and I can’t believe it.

Luna’s departure means that her and Aimee’s frenemy storyline has come to an end, but we do get one final confrontation between the two. Aimee tries to suggest Luna’s look last week didn’t deserve to be safe, but Luna (rightfully so, in my opinion) shuts that down: “We’re not gonna come for my look right now.” I wish we’d gotten some kind of final explanation as to why Luna got under Aimee’s skin as badly as she did, but alas.

Important context for why Melinda feels “renewed” and ready to apologize the next day in the werk room is that, as we can see from Venus’ facial hair growth, it’s actually likely been a full weekend since the last filming day. Time helps with finding some perspective—I’d have been fascinated to see Melinda’s response if she actually had to hop right into a new episode.

This theoretically should’ve been an exquisitely timed edition of Reading Is Fundamental, but for some reason the version we get is rushed. Only a couple of queens even get multiple reads aired, and most aren’t memorable. Other than our eventual winner, Aurora has my favourite: “Kitten Kaboodle, the queen of the hour! And that would be the 6 p.m. bingo show down the street.” But really, Denim crushes the competition this time. Her Aimee joke (“Aimee, you didn’t deserve to be in the bottom last week. Actually, you don’t deserve to be here at all!”) is solid, while her read for Kiki (“Kiki, we have a couple of things in common. We both have a resting bitch face, we’re clearly not comedy queens. But I’m autistic—what’s your excuse?”) is spectacular.

Kiki’s reasoning for playing Elizabeth Taylor: “I kind of relate to her: we love diamonds and love men.” Truly, what more could one want?

Melinda expresses concerns in the werk room about how her meltdown would be perceived—even wondering if it could kill her career. Oh, Melinda of earlier this year, if only you knew. This meltdown has effectively made her career.

Cannot believe Brooke Lynn is in a plaid look after Melinda’s last week. I love that Melinda calls it out, too!

The guest judge this week is Jaida Essence Hall, Season 12 champion and All Stars 7 robbed goddess. I’ve missed her! Unfortunately, while she does have a couple good moments—“I’d like to inspect her gadgets!” for one, encouraging Kiki to give herself grace for another—she makes for a poor fit for a Snatch Game judge since she herself is not very good at Snatch Game. She’s overly complimentary in her judging (telling Aurora she didn’t make any mistakes is wild), which is problematic when a lot of the performances are under par. Loved seeing her, but not Jaida’s best showing.

Nearah doesn’t specifically spell this out, but her emphasis on making a strategic decision to Melinda has an obvious plan in mind: save Luna, and make the two challenge winners battle it out to stay. I’m excited to see what happens if Nearah ever does seize power, because I’m thinking she’d go big before she ever went home.

“The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding tastes like shit.” So true, Venus.

The next episode of Canada’s Drag Race will be available to stream on Thursday, Dec. 20, 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.

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Culture, Drag Race, Analysis, Drag

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