‘RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’ Season 4, Episode 6 recap: Historical snatches

Playing characters with no recorded footage to compare against is shaping up to be a recipe for success in Snatch Game

Throughout its long run as RuPaul’s Drag Race’s signature challenge, Snatch Game has had a few changes to the status quo. I’m not talking about short-lived format changes like Snatch Game of Love or Gaff-In, nor about the strangely themed editions like Snatch Game at Sea (or, yes, this episode’s “Strictly Come Snatch Game”). I’m talking about how queens across the years have challenged what is expected of Snatch Game, and opened the doors moving forward.

The most notable is Kennedy Davenport’s winning turn as Little Richard in the Season 7 Snatch Game. Up to that point, no one had chosen to do a male character, and any time a queen chose to do male-presenting drag, it was made an issue (see: Alaska in the kids’ show challenge in Season 5). But Kennedy knew, despite other queens’ questions, that Little Richard is inherently a drag character. She knocked the impersonation out of the park, and so thoroughly changed the game that we’ve had many, many male characters since.

Bob the Drag Queen did something similar when he performed as two characters on Season 8’s Snatch Game: Uzo Aduba and Carol Channing. This hasn’t been quite as successful a strategy as playing men for other queens, although it’s notable that playing two characters was literally baked into the format of All Stars 7’s utterly iconic Snatch Game. Jinkx Monsoon, of course, made a meal of that performance, winning for her super clever Natasha Lyonne and greatest-of-all-time Judy Garland.

The latest development has come with the advent of historical characters in the game: people for whom we have no real, recorded idea of how they spoke, acted and so on. Season 13 saw Rosé achieve success with her Mary, Queen of Scots, although not quite a win. But the things that made the impersonation work were obvious: Rosé was able to build a much bigger character without concern of replicating the original. (Symone’s Harriet Tubman was similarly effective in that same Snatch Game.)

On Drag Race UK’s fifth iteration of Snatch Game (counting UK vs. the World’s Family Feud-ified version), Cheddar Gorgeous goes for perhaps the gutsiest version of a historical character yet by taking on Queen Elizabeth I. And it pays off for her in spades, earning her a second RuPeter Badge for the season. What will be interesting is to see how her success changes the game moving forward.

Le Fil unfortunately leaves the competition this week, after a misguided take on Marie Kondo in Snatch Game

Credit: Courtesy World of Wonder

There are strong arguments for and against historical characters, more so than there were for male characters. (In that case, it really just took one queen with the nerve to do it to break the mould.) Because Snatch Game was initially designed as a celebrity impersonation task, one could argue that picking someone practically impossible to impersonate traditionally skips over the challenge altogether. It’s almost the inverse of when we see queens doing modified versions of characters: BenDeLaCreme’s Maggie Smith was so great in large part because she had the road map of her Downton Abbey character as a basis for the impersonation.

Taking away any road map at all can make for a scary proposition, of course—and there’s a case to be made that it’s a bigger risk. But it also gives queens a lot of freedom. I’ve long said that a major key to success in Snatch Game is to have an idea of the character; Ru has recently started to refer to queens needing an “objective,” which is a similar idea. Because queens who do historical characters don’t have to worry about impersonation as much as others, they get to invest more time and energy in executing that objective.

The biggest argument for historical characters, however, is a simple one: it’s fun! And beyond things like “objective” and “impersonation,” what ultimately matters in Snatch Game is making Ru laugh. Cheddar certainly accomplishes that this week, turning Queen Elizabeth I into a horny, vengeful, giggling caricature. Complete with blackened teeth and a perfectly placed reference to Elizabeth: The Golden Age—turning “I, too, can command the wind, sir!” into a fart joke!—and you’ve got a winning Snatch Game performance.

Pixie Polite delights the judges in her take on RuPaul’s opening titles jumpsuit for the Tickled Pink runway

Credit: Courtesy World of Wonder

This season is proving to be compelling for a few reasons, not the least of which is this incredibly deep bench when it comes to the cast. I’ve said for the last couple of episodes that every elimination from here on out is going to hurt. That is certainly the case with Le Fil, who has been a major favourite of mine all season long. Unfortunately, the amount of focus he was receiving in the edit, plus a dubious scoring placement for the Rusical, had me pretty convinced he was heading out the door soon.

Indeed, after a limp take on Marie Kondo and a messy lip sync against the much tighter Black Peppa, Le Fil heads out the door this week. It’s rare that someone gets sent home in as strong a runway look as Le Fil’s this week, an avant garde take on glamping for a Tickled Pink runway prompt. But sometimes, runway isn’t enough to save you—and this group is so competitive that you really need to ace every part of the episode to avoid trouble. Le Fil just didn’t have the jokes, nor an objective, to make his Marie Kondo work.

But to just talk about the winner and eliminee this week does a disservice. There is an incredibly interesting story happening with Danny Beard this episode, in which her attempt at a Louis Walsh impersonation falls flat with Ru. When Danny first introduces the idea in the workroom, I wonder if it’s the right call; The X Factor sits a bit outside of Ru’s British cultural consumption. Simon Cowell, he’d know; Louis Walsh? Maybe not enough for a Snatch Game impersonation to work. It thus comes as no surprise that Ru mistakes Danny’s Louis for Cilla Black.

The absolute tailspin this sends Danny into is one of the most fascinating things about this episode. Pixie Polite takes note of how, in all the time they’ve known one another, she’s never seen Danny doubt herself in this way. And that doubt winds up affecting her Snatch Game performance, as her Cilla Black just goes nowhere. I’d personally have graded her lower than Pixie’s Shirley Bassey, which may miss some obvious punchlines, but has more characterization to her. Danny’s Cilla is just a lot of yelling, and none of it lands.

This is a huge shock; I had Danny (alongside Peppa, who really misplays her Lil Nas X) pegged as one of the top contenders for the Snatch Game. But it’s an important thing to remember about Drag Race: for every thing you can read into the edit, like Le Fil’s likely elimination, there’s something else that can surprise you. Kudos to the show for not leaning away from it just because Danny’s a frontrunner.

The panel of celebrity impersonators for this season’s “Strictly Come Snatch Game”

Credit: Courtesy World of Wonder

But what’s really got me intrigued this season is how much this run is making me think about the show. I find myself enjoying the episodes, then sitting with them for a while and thinking about all the things it tells us about Drag Race. UK’s fourth season seems to have captured the franchise as a whole at a critical point of growth, and cast a group that was capable of both leaning into what works about Drag Race and challenging what could be better.

Anecdotally, I’ve spoken with a lot of Drag Race fans who either aren’t watching this season at all, or are struggling to invest in it. That doesn’t surprise me: we’ve basically been on an unending stretch of Drag Race seasons all year long. Burnout is inevitable. But I’m hopeful that, like Canada’s Drag Race Season 2, this season finds people later on. I don’t think it comes close to the emotional highs of UK Season 2, but I think it’s a season that we’ll look back on as formative. That will come across in small ways, of course; Cheddar’s success this week likely means that we’ll see plenty more historical characters on Snatch Game.

But I think we’ll also be able to see the impact in smaller ways: changes in how the show edits frontrunners, for instance, or being more liberal with challenge wins. Not every change is going to work for the whole franchise, and I think we’ll continue to see more experimentation and fluctuation. However, for a series a decade and a half into its run, with more spin-offs than even some of the most dedicated fans can keep up with, it’s remarkable to see that experimentation. Drag Race could easily rest on its laurels and coast forever. That the show still feels like a living, breathing thing is a testament to the production—and even more so to the queens who keep it going.

Untucking our final thoughts

Something to keep an eye on: Jonbers Blonde gets pretty dang close to the win for what is basically a fictional character. She plays a feminized version of St. Patrick—St. Patty—and makes a personality out of whole cloth. We’ve seen similar types of characters before (remember Kim Chi’s Kimmy Jong-Un?), but none have gotten as close to a victory as Jonbers did here. I guess you could say Trinity the Tuck’s take on Lucifer also fell into this category, although whether the devil incarnate is fictional is a debate for greater minds than mine. Anyway, this could be the next frontier for Snatch Game, and I bet it’ll be a controversial one.

We’re on a bit of a run of Alan Carr episodes, no? Usually UK’s rotation is just one or two episodes per judge before the other returns. I enjoy Alan a lot, so I’ve been happy, but I do hope we see Graham Norton again soon.

Mel B is our guest judge this week! She’s been on the American series before (Season 7 was her first appearance), but the British dolls really gag over her being there. She gets a great bit in at Michelle Visage’s expense by comparing her second-place run on Dancing with the Stars to Michelle’s notably less impressive run on Strictly Come Dancing in the U.K.

I didn’t mention Dakota Schiffer in this recap—spoiler alert for the power ranking, but I very much enjoyed her Pete Burns—but I did want to highlight the nice moment she gets in the cold open. Not only does she get to join her sisters in sending Baby off with pride post-quit, the other queens also make a point of celebrating her strong lip sync performance. As they should; she was great!

Baga Chipz, who Ru introduces as a “two-time Snatch Game winner,” is in the workroom this week! She’s a good mentor for Snatch Game, and it’s fun to see her in a non-competitive environment. My favourite moment of hers comes when she sees Peppa’s Lil Nas X pink cowboy hat: “Oh my god! Bimini!”

The show quickly brushes past a conversation about Pixie, who is white, playing Shirley Bassey, who is Black. “A lot of the kids feel when white people do Black people, it’s not a good thing,” Ru says, about as blasé as possible. I think Pixie does a nice job at avoiding the pitfalls here: she doesn’t darken her skin or try to perform Blackness. And her explanation—“There’s so much to Shirley that doesn’t need to be about her race. She’s such a fabulous, larger-than-life national treasure”—is decent. But I do think the show could have spent a bit more time on this subject than a couple of lines. 

Cheddar sums up the stakes for Snatch Game: “Snatch Game is one of those challenges that, if you succeed in it, you are forever loved and adored. And if you fail, you are forever shunned!” Well, Cheddar, prepare to be forever loved and adored!

The next episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK will be available to stream on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 4 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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