‘Canada’s Drag Race’ Season 2, Episode 2 recap: The clown comes back to bite

A near-disastrous Rusical nonetheless entertains wildly. Is this the season of camp?

It’s always interesting when we have two seasons of Drag Race airing at the same time (a common occurrence these days). Comparisons are inevitable for those watching both week-to-week, especially with Drag Race UK Season 3 and Canada’s Drag Race Season 2 dropping on streaming services within hours of each other.

This week, Drag Race UK featured an almost cast-wide bomb of a challenge that resulted in RuPaul declaring no winners and imploring the queens to step it up. While it was a dramatically compelling instalment—and probably necessary to ensure a better back half of the season—the episode was by-and-large unpleasant. Watching the queens throw each other under the bus was fascinating, but hardly fun.

Conversely, this week’s episode of Canada’s Drag Race features a few standout star performances in the circus-themed “Under the Big Top Rusical”—and even more that stood out for the wrong reasons. The musical challenge was, overall, a flop, with whole stretches that were utterly messy. The performance average is probably higher than UK’s, with four good-to-great performances, but it’s a close call!

Yet unlike this week’s UK, every performance is wildly entertaining regardless of quality. The bombs are just as fun to watch as the triumphs, and the whole performance hits a level of camp that can only make me smile. I have some quibbles with Canada’s Drag Race, but overall, this season is really working for me. You’ve got a charismatic cast, a new, positive energy from the judging panel and challenges that feel classic without being repetitive. What more could you want?

Icesis Couture, Synthia Kiss and Kimora Amour on Canada's Drag Race
Icesis Couture, Synthia Kiss and Kimora Amour prepare to get into quick drag for the mini-challenge.

Credit: Courtesy of Bell Media

We start, as many episodes of Drag Race do, with sponcon. DoorDash is the sponsor of this week’s mini-challenge, a “neighbourhood pageant” that seems to mix pre-made costumes with quick drag hair and makeup. We get a bit of Brad Goreski and Traci Melchor (who, as Gia Metric notes, has been promoted from “Canada’s Squirrelfriend” to permanent rotating judge) pretending to order Doordash, but it’s fairly painless all things considered. Océane Aqua-Black wins the mini-challenge for serving poutine couture, and while she does get a $1,000 DoorDash gift card, more impressively, DoorDash donates $5,000 to a queer community safe space in a neighbourhood of Océane’s choice. It’s a really nice touch!

Things then jump straight into the maxi-challenge, a circus-themed Rusical. The idea reminds me of the original “Shade! The Rusical” concept: not only is it all sung live like that Season 6 challenge was, it also features an ingenue (played by Synthia Kiss) discovering who she wants to be in the world. In this case, she dreams of being a clown and all the other queens play possible variations of the kind of clown she could be.

 

It must be said before all else: Synthia can genuinely sing. Like, she sounds great. Vocal coach Thom Allison reacts to her rehearsal with a simple, “Okay, so: you sing.” It automatically makes her stand out among her competitors, particularly as her Brat Pack sister Kendall Gender struggles to find even a single note during her rehearsal. If this challenge were solely about vocal prowess, Synthia would’ve won this easily.

But Thom makes one thing clear—and it’s something that’s been true of musical performances on Drag Race forever: it’s not solely about the vocals. If you can serve attitude, energy and character, that’s far more important than your singing ability. So while Synthia sounds great, her performance isn’t very dynamic, as she serves basically the same note throughout. Instead, it’s the queens who find their own way to success who reap the greatest rewards.

Choreographer Hollywood Jade on Canada's Drag Race
Hollywood Jade lays down some of his infamously difficult choreography for this season’s Rusical.

Credit: Courtesy of Bell Media

Coming into this episode, there’s a pretty clear winner arc being set up for Pythia. She expresses confusion and frustration that she was safe on a design challenge, since that’s what she considers her strength. So when she gets the “Hennywise” character, she commits fully. Not only does she sound good, she completely inhabits the creepy clown character. Then on the runway, in the Circus Berzerkus category, she serves up a conjoined twin look that is nothing short of stunning. Brooke Lynn Hytes in particular is bowled over by it. She secures the win for the week, and it’s a deeply correct decision.

That said, I’d have also completely understood if Kendall had won. She’s dynamite as the Ringmaster in the Rusical, overcoming her vocal shortcomings by just barreling through with a smile. She really does serve as a fascinating counterpoint to Synthia: with half the vocal ability, Kendall still put so much more into her performance. However, her showgirl/show pony runway is a bit confusing and doesn’t fit the prompt well, so I get why she falls short of the win. Gia also scores high after a hard-rocking, sexy performance as “Himbo,” earning her some redemption after last week’s lip sync.

Beyond those four, however, the results are pretty mixed-to-negative. Of particular offence is the group of comedy clowns, named “Bing, Bang and Bong” (in what I have to assume is a “UK Hun?” reference). Both in terms of their vocal performance and in executing returning choreographer Hollywood Jade’s steps, the trio of Suki Doll, Océane and Adriana is an utter disaster. It’s such a failure that it transcends to being pure camp, with only Adriana managing to come across as competent. Océane is entertaining, but she can’t keep up with the steps. Suki’s performance is an epic mess.

Also not great are “Leather and Lace,” a pair of fashion clowns played by Stephanie Prince and last week’s winner, Icesis Couture. The two won a vogue-off with Suki to play these characters—interesting that last week’s top three all went for these two parts—but it took about half a second of Hollywood Jade’s choreography for them to realize they made a mistake. Stephanie eventually picks up the steps well enough, but Icesis is nothing short of a catastrophe. She looks rough in the costume, messes up lyrically and the dancing is a complete misfire. 

Icesis’ only potential saving grace is that, as a reveal-based clown (referencing Brooke Lynn’s finale lip sync look), Eve 6000 is also a disaster. She decides to go with a sung performance instead of leaning into comedy, which Synthia correctly clocks as a big mistake. “The script described this as comedy. That would be the way to play it, if you ask me,” she says in confessional. (She follows it up with “And you are. As I’m in an interview room. I’m clearly being asked,” which is hilarious.) It seems like the bottom two could be any combination of Icesis, Océane, Suki and Eve.

Judge Brooke Lynn Hytes on the runway of Canada's Drag Race
Brooke Lynn Hytes serves emerald serpent fantasy on the main stage.

Credit: Courtesy of Bell Media

But Canada’s Drag Race has to know what they have with Eve. She is an absolutely iconic villain, delusional and outwardly antagonistic in ways that show she is very aware of the character she is playing. 

During mini-Untucked, she shades Kendall’s high placement by saying she thought the judges would care about singing more (despite Thom Allison explicitly saying the opposite). When Gia comes to Kendall’s defense, Eve immediately flips it around: “I don’t need you guys to gang up on me.” One person is talking to her! And then she comes for Kendall, accusing her of ignoring Eve in favour of the other Brat Packers.

This whole thing is such an entertaining scene, especially when Stephanie volunteers, “Nobody in here hates you.” As Eve responds, “Well, I didn’t say anyone did.” It’s all just so bizarre and campy and, ugh, I love it. This is the kind of Drag Race drama I adore: it’s hilarious, and you can tell no one is taking it that seriously.

In the end, the bottom two are Océane and Icesis—and the latter is taking her brush with danger very seriously. During the lip sync, she turns it out to Girlicious’ “Stupid Shit.” Océane, to her credit, does not let her knee injury stop her from serving it as well. At the start, I actually thought Océane might take it. But her energy lags during the super long lip sync, while Icesis is more capable of keeping it up. The first challenge winner stays, and quite sadly, Océane sashays away.

Honestly, this is a great episode. It proves that the queens don’t need to be great at the challenges to entertain, and there’s a lot of comedy and enjoyment to be mined even out of less polished moments. 

I have a feeling Canada’s Drag Race Season 2 is going to be divisive, as there’s a sizable segment of the fanbase that expects near-perfection from queens on the show. For my money, though, this kind of rough-around-the-edges Drag Race hits the sweet spot—and leaves me wanting a lot more.

Untucking our final thoughts

I want to highlight the mirror moment section of this episode, which features some of the immigrant queens on the cast—particularly Adriana, Suki, Stephanie and Océane—all opening up about their experiences adjusting to Canadian life and the racism and homophobia they faced. In one particularly shocking bit, Océane shares that she was abandoned in a forest in Haiti, and was later adopted from an orphanage. (The Canada’s Drag Race queens really have some of the most bracing backstories; remember when Anastarzia Anaquway shared that she had been shot?) Océane has a positive perspective on it, though: “It’s not a sad story, because if that hadn’t happened, I don’t think I could be doing drag.”

Brad can’t help but be confused when multiple queens come out as traffic cones during the neighbourhood runway. “Girl, there’s a lot of construction in Montreal!” 

I’m a bit mixed on Hollywood Jade as a choreographer. He makes for a fabulous presence and effective guest judge, but this is the second time now that the steps he’s given have felt more designed to fuck the girls up than let them shine. I’m a big believer that the choreographers on Drag Race should be working their hardest to make each queen look good—it’s why Jamal Sims is the absolute best in the role. I’d prefer slightly less difficult choreography if it would help the queens find their footing more easily.

Eve gets proper shit from the other queens for her crying on the runway last week. But she’s pretty unashamed! I am truly stanning her, and I hope the fanbase can enjoy her for the character she is giving us. (Though considering the fans’ history of how they receive villains, I’m not optimistic.)

Brooke Lynn could stand to be a bit looser as a host, but I gotta say, she’s really delivering in the fashion department. The emerald serpent look she serves this week is absolutely stunning.

“Remember when I said I had bad knees? I lied, bitch.” Icesis cements her spot as my absolute favourite. What a queen. Thank God she didn’t go home this week.

If you read the most recent RuPaul’s Drag Race UK recap, you likely saw the notice at the end of the piece that UK recaps and rankings will now be published Mondays and Tuesdays instead of Fridays and Saturdays. Canada recaps and rankings, however, will be staying the same, coming out Friday and Saturday mornings. If you want to get all our great Drag Race coverage in one place, plus some extra throwback content, there’s never been a better time to subscribe to Wig!, our gag-worthy weekly drag newsletter. Sign up now!

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK will be available to stream Thursday, Oct. 28, at 9 p.m. EDT on WOW Presents Plus in the U.S. and on Crave in Canada.

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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