Kia ora and welcome to my review and power rankings for the fourth episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2 – Snatch Game!
Snatch Game is one of the most-celebrated episodes of every season of Drag Race. That’s not only for the laughs and memes that it brings, but because it is the one challenge queens can prepare for the most. Even when RuPaul slightly changes up the format, Snatch Game is always a challenge about celebrity impersonation and being ridiculous.
I’ve come to appreciate that Snatch Game is also an interesting window into the national humor of each country and its drag scene. That was slightly muted in this panel of contestants, because only one of them chose to portray a New Zealand or Australian celebrity – and, that choice came with its own set of challenges.
Spankie Jackzon brought Barry Humphries to Snatch Game, who has been primarily known outside of Australia for decades as a drag character named Dame Edna Everage. This is down to Drag Race‘s rules around playing copyrighted characters. The idea is that as long as you claim to be playing the actor behind the copyrighted character that Snatch Game is a fair parody. The show wants to avoid legal trouble for portraying a character without legal release… sometimes saying inappropriate things.
While Humphries certainly wears drag to portray Dame Edna, who he created in 1955, to my knowledge he does not considered himself a drag queen. He happens to portray an over-the-top female character, which has links to British Panto.
In the case of Dame Edna as a drag character, I’m not aware of her having any connection to gay or queer culture or making commentary on same. She is simply a parody of a woman – at first a Melbourne suburbanite, but from the 80s onward a sort of self-made media mogul fitting for the time period. She became sort of daft but incisive response to the heartless conservative power-ladies of the Thatcher era
Adding another layer to all of that, Humphries lives publicly as a straight, cisgender male, and he has repeatedly and unapologetically made transphobic comments in recent years. It reached a point that a famous Australian comedy award named in his honor decided to retitle itself.
People of any sexual orientation or gender identity can perform in drag. However, performing in drag is not a shield for being deliberately cruel or offensive, or to protect your bigoted views.
I share this background not only to catch you up on the only actual Australian character on the panel this year, but also as a means of exploring Spankie’s portrayal of Humphries as Dame Edna. As an impersonation, it was perfect. I’ve seen a fair amount of Edna back in the day, and if you had told me this was the real deal making a guest appearance on Drag Race I would have believed you.
If you listen to Spankie’s answers, you’ll note a lot of slang about female genitalia and how Edna’s has aged. I haven’t watched Edna’s act recently enough to recall if this is a big part of it or Spankie’s own invention. However, what stuck out to me is that this is the sort of overt parody of womanhood that leads some folks to label drag performances as misogynistic.
Drag Race itself engaged in this sort of misogynistic commentary more often in earlier seasons, as well as language that we would now all label as transphobic. Comparing the sorts of things the judges would say on Season 1-4 to today reveals how different the dialog around queerness, drag, and transgender people has become.
Of course, I’m also writing about a regular challenge on a female impersonation show called “Snatch Game.” There’s always an element of transgression in drag.
What’s fascinating about that is we have no way of knowing how meta Spankie intended her performance of Edna to be. Was she intentionally leaning into the offensive aspects of an elderly, bigoted man playing an elderly panto dame, making outdated jokes? Was that also a commentary on Drag Race itself? Or, was this her literal interpretation of Edna, with no comedy attached? Or, yet again, was this Edna speaking with Spankie’s voice, saying things Spankie thinks are funny?
I have no answers for you. Nor am I trying to engender any negativity or blame towards Spankie! To me, this is one of those moments that is so fascinating about Drag Race, where it has become the very thing it is commenting upon. I think it’s important that we don’t just view the show as entertainment or as a showcase for drag art, but as a conversation about gender – and, one that sometimes can be uncomfortable or even offensive.
Last week, Spankie Jackzon conquered my Episode Three rankings. Has she held onto her top spot, or did someone else snatch the pole position from her? Read on to find out – and let me know if you agree (or disagree) in the comments below.
If you want to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2 outside of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada you can sign up for WowPresentsPlus to watch the many worldwide Drag Race franchises for $4.99 a month or $50 a year. (Note that if you’re in the home country of a franchise you will need to use a VPN to “visit” another country to see that content.)
Readers, start your engines… and may the best Down Under drag queen win!
Reminders: I consistently refer to Drag Race artists with their drag names and with she/her pronouns even when they are not in drag, which is the convention of the show. Some performers may have different personal pronouns. Drag is inherently brave, political, and artistic, and all drag is valid. It’s also hard to do. I’m commenting on drag artistry in how it comes across on this specific television program, but the reason I’m commenting at all is because I celebrate all drag!
RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under Season 2, Episode 4: Snatch Game Power Rankings
Before we dig into my Power Rankings and the Cirque Du So-Gay runway, we absolutely must take a moment to appreciate one of the most unusual RuPaul runways of all time, because miss lady was feeling herself in this one.
Not only did we get Ru wearing white hair again, but Ru wearing a cape with a hood living her Witch from Into The Woods fantasy on the runway! I love moments where it is obvious that Ru is feeling her oats on the runway, and her walk with this cape was everything.
I enjoy that Ru and Zaldy are trying some different sorts of fashions for this season that they might not typical haul out for the American show. RuPaul has never been just one thing – it’s fun to see her wearing different kinds of glamour and having fun with it.
1. Spankie Jackzon 2 wins, 1 lip sync (avg. rank 2.5, was 1, 2, 6, Pre-Season #3)
Spankie Jackzon (Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | YouTube) turned in a strong Snatch Game and possibly her strongest runway yet. Even if she didn’t win the episode, she still feels in control of the competition.
As I discussed above, I think Spankie delivered a pitch-perfect impression of Edna, but I don’t know that he found the best way to answer Snatch Game questions and volley with Ru and the contestants. I would expect Edna’s sarcasm to be a little more biting and less focused on her own age, with a pinch of “why the hell am I here?” in the vein of Chad Michaels’ Cher.
I don’t think Spankie Jackzon has looked better in this competition than she did here as a sad mime in a mauve satin jumpsuit. I know that might sound like a backhanded compliment, but hear me out. This was a complete head-to-toe look. There was no short skirt (though the pants were hemmed short!) or exposed undergarments. It flattered her figure, taking advantage of her height to make her look long and lean rather than scrunching her up in the middle.
Plus, she was clearly feeling herself. Every single time I paused the episode on Spankie she was giving FACE. I’m not just talking about the stamp of white makeup, though the hooded eyes and bowed lips certainly helped. I’m talking about her selling pure confidence to the camera. Maybe it’s her experience on House of Drag or maybe she’s just settled into the Drag Race format, but Spankie seems to have mastered playing to the right camera even in the middle of her runway walk.
It feels to me like Spankie still has a stranglehold on this competition, with Hannah Conda nipping at her high heels. This Snatch Game performance was a good reminder of Spankie’s veteran status in the NZ drag scene. Now that we’re past a design challenge, everything else on the show will most likely be a thing she has done before and done well. I can’t see her falling into the bottom again in the next three episodes unless we get a makeover challenge.
2. Hannah Conda – 1 win (avg. rank 1.75, was 3, 1, 1, Pre-Season #2)
There was major danger in portraying Liza Minnelli on Snatch Game.
Not only is Liza an indelible character who Ru loves, but Alexis Michelle has already won Snatch Game portraying her back in Season 9. And, that portrayal was very, very good. It wasn’t just a spot-on impersonation, but a full-realized character. Alexis was in-the-moment enough that she could actually play Snatch Game as Liza. Her answers were hilarious and memorable.
(Also, if you are a Drag Race super-mega-fan like I am, you will have also watched Jinkx Monsoon perform Liza multiple times on the “Battle of the Seasons” tour. Here’s one of the best overall versions, a NYC Snatch Game also featuring tour classics like Sharon Needles as Caitlyn Jenner and Ginger Minj as Michelle Visage (right in front of Michelle Visage.)
I was incredibly impressed in how Hannah Conda navigated the dangerous territory of a return to Liza. Yes, she leaned hard into Liza’s unintelligibility, which feels like one of the lesser jokes you can make with her character. However, she brought other elements as well.
The ongoing thread of wanting to collaborate with RuPaul was a delicious bit, especially because Hannah wove it into her answers. And, singing “Sissy That Walk” complete with scatted beatboxing was hilarious, especially since we just saw Liza’s mother Judy Garland also sing a Ru song on Snatch Game on Drag Race All Stars Season 7! (Hannah likely had no way of knowing Jinkx did that – this season was shot before All Stars aired.)
It would’ve been hard for Hannah not to score a win on the strength of that performance, but she paired it with a terrific runway that made miming high fashion! Hannah wisely took each clownish element and put it through the “drag filter” so that none of it was literal clown couture.
Her checkerboard dress with a ruffled collar and long sleeves had just the right proportions. I loved pairing it with a massive halo of red hair, which suggested frizzy Ronald McDonald hair without delivering it literally. Also, even though her make-up was classic mime, notice how she still painted big drag eyes and an over-lined accentuated lip. We never lost the “mime” aspect of her makeup for a moment, but it still reads as drag even without any contour.
Hannah Conda has been playing a perfect, error-free game thus far in the competition. The only thing she was missing was a victory. While a challenge win isn’t required to become the next drag superstar, it certainly helps if you wind up in a lip sync at the semi-finalist stage. For Hannah, it means she can release the pressure on trying to impress Ru and just be herself for the next three weeks.
3. Kween Kong – 1 lip sync (avg. rank 5.25, was 4, 6, 8, Pre-Season #1)
NeNe Leakes is a hard Snatch Game character to crack, because a lot of her camp humor comes from being authentically herself and reacting authentically in situations.
While Kween wasn’t an all-time Snatch Game great, I do think her performance had enough of the character and enough humor. Kween was amusing, had some semblance of NeNe’s physicality, used her catchphrases, and had a decent rhythm to her interactions.
I actually thought that Kween might have been in the top three of Snatch Game over Yuri Guaii, even if Yuri’s character was more for me.
Kween Kong’s bearded lady look was okay. I found that I was slightly puzzled by the bodysuit, which I expected to be a nude illusion reveal. Instead, it was quite pale. Yet, if it wasn’t meant to be a nude illusion, why would it have public hair threaded on it? Confusion! If it was meant to be a nude illusion bodysuit, it’s a pity Kween couldn’t find a closer match to her skin tone – because this look had a lot of positives (including the lovely feathered cloak).
The thing that stuck out for me the most in this episode wasn’t Kween Kong’s runway or her Snatch Game performance, but her edit. That’s because we were given a significant workroom interaction between her and Ru that presented a real breakthrough in her ease in the competition. It didn’t make any sense to show that moment for her with such a mild episode performance coming after it – the editor would’ve left it on the cutting room floor. Leaving it in tells me that there’s going to be some kind of payoff in the coming episodes.
Does that mean next episode for Girl Groups Kween lets loose only to flare out early? I somehow doubt it. I feel like she has a win coming on to solidify our top four while Yuri and Beverly get picked off.
4. Molly Poppinz – 1 win (avg. rank 3, was 2, 4, 2, Pre-Season #9)
Orville Peck is at once an inspired Snatch Game choice and an unnecessarily challenging one.
One one level, his already-iconic masked gay cowboy look is utterly camp, and it’s an easy thing to impersonate.
On the other hand, he’s not necessarily funny. I actually find him very amusing in the many interview segments I’ve seen of him, but I think trying to play his actual personality is a mistake. You have to play the iconic bit – the masked cowboy.
I think Molly had a piece of that in her Snatch Game, but she never found the core of what could make Orville funny. She relied on a lot of sexual puns, which was fine, but none of them were hilarious nor did they feel specific to her character.
I’m not sure how she could’ve improved this. Personally, I love Peck’s over-the-top vibrato vocals. I think there’s something to play with there in the impersonation. Molly got his deep voice, but you could almost have him talk like Cher. Also, there’s the ostensible mystery of his identity (though music fans have already cracked the code on that one). It feels like there could be a funny bit there with him seeming to confirm he is different famous people with his answer.
(In my wild fantasy, you could combine those two things and have him reveal to be Cher on his final answer. I am twisted like that.)
Molly’s runway was good enough to keep her out of the bottom two, but not great. Her clown face of make-up was cute, but the proportions of her garment weren’t doing much for her figure. First off, horizontal stripes?! On a drag queen?! Really?!? Then, the ankle, wrist, and neck ruffs segmented her and made her feel smaller, and if you’re going to do a neck ruff that cuts off your head I feel like you need much bigger hair.
Finally, while I’m not against these undressed cage skirts, I think they have to have a purpose. I get that having so many balls of poof suspended by the skirt was meant to evoke juggling, but it feels like that could’ve worked better if the skirt was upside down so it framed out her torso instead.
This is the first time Molly has shown weakness in the entire competition. While it doesn’t meant she has no further hopes of making the final three, she’s up against Spankie-the-Ru-Favorite, Hannah-the-Perfectionist, and a Kween-on-the-Rise, which is further complicated by the fact that her aesthetic is very similar to Hanna’s . Molly needs to play an error-free game for three weeks while hoping for a stumble from one of of the three of them.
5. Yuri Guaii – 1 win (avg. rank 6, was 6, 7, 5, Pre-Season #7)
Ever since I saw Adore Delano as Anna Nicole Smith on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6‘s Snatch Game, I have been wishing for a queen to play Courtney Love. Courtney comes from the same 90s heyday as Ru and has a similar vibe to Nicole Smith, but should be much pricklier in execution. She’s someone RuPaul has met (and has been on the show!), and who is easy to parody.
(PS: My other #1 choice is Tori Amos, and we’ve been so close to a few queens playing her! I still hold out a hope.)
While Yuri Guaii didn’t completely destroy the competition with her version of Courtney Love, she definitely made this fan very happy. She had Courtney’s look down, as well as her penchant for saying ridiculous things and then immediately disavowing them a moment later. I didn’t mind Yuri’s Kiwi accent sneaking through repeatedly, since Courtney herself is known to slur some words in new and innovative ways.
I was surprised by Yuri’s runway, a burlesque tattooed lady. Given how much freakishness Yuri brings to her drag on a typical runway theme, I was expecting something much more odd for a circus prompt! However, I think it worked in her favor. This was the right week to present a clean beauty look while everyone else was doing clown-face and clashing patterns.
I just wanted there to be something a little bit more when Yuri finally revealed down to her final pasties and panties. I think the tattoos on the suit were all too small. It was executed perfectly – I had to triple-check that it was all a suit and not just Yuri’s skin, and the individual inking was all terrific. But, none of it was big enough to read from stage. I felt like it needed one or two larger tattoos, plus maybe something in the middle of her back as a revealing during the walk away.
(Imagine if she had a giant tattoo of her own face, or a crown, or Michelle’s face on the back. It would’ve been funny!)
I don’t really view Yuri as low in the rankings right now so much as I am thinking about her as not at the top. She has a win and she has only turned in one low performance, but it doesn’t feel like she has a narrative behind her at the moment. With next week being a Girl Groups challenge – something directly in Beverly and Kween’s wheelhouse – I fear for Yuri’s potential placement. Assuming Beverly and Kween kill it, Yuri has to be in the top half of Spankie, Hannah, and Molly to avoid a lip sync. I just can’t see that happening.
6. Beverly Kills – 2 lip syncs (avg. rank 5, was 5, 5, 3, Pre-Season #8)
Beverly Kills (Cameo | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter) failed to find the funny in an inherently (and intentionally) silly human being, which makes me rethink some of my assumptions about her preparation for the season.
Val Garland is a rare current pop culture Snatch Game character of whom I am a studied expert. I am an addict of Glow Up – I’ve seen all three of the initial seasons multiple times, and I just watched Season 4 last night!
And, I am here to tell you… this was not Val Garland.
The odd thing is, Val Garland is hilarious. You don’t even really have to make much up! She has so many catch phrases other than Ding Dong, plus so much physicality. The way she looks over her glasses, the way she talks to herself under her breath, how she conspiratorially whispers to Dominic while observing the contestants. There was so much to play with here!
Beverly Kills didn’t bring any of that physicality to the table. She was a blonde lady with a magnifying lens giving beauty tips. She captured Val’s dark eye make-up, but not the horizontal slash quality to her undereye or the nearly-nude big lip, and the glasses are far too small.
There wasn’t even a single “if I was going to be a cantankerous bitch” comment thrown out!
On the runway, Beverly Kills took a similar approach to Yuri Guaii in that she used a circus runway as an excuse to do full-on glamour with eleganza inspired by a lion tamer. I enjoyed this look a lot! I don’t think it needed the cape given how much was going on around Beverly’s head and neck and the mermaid bit of the dress, but otherwise it was a clean look for me.
Beverly is at an interesting cadence in the competition. One one hand, she’s the only queen without a win other than Kween Kong, and she hasn’t nabbed the positive notes Kween has. On the other hand, she’s a young, athletic, all-arounder headed into a Girl Groups challenge – which is going to be her best shot at a win out of all the challenges other than a Rusical.
With the cast shrinking, next week is Do or Die for Beverly Kills – if she doesn’t get a win, she’s almost certainly going to be eliminated in one of the next two episodes on her third lip sync. I’d even go farther to say that Beverly needs Kween Kong to be in the bottom both of the next two weeks if she wants to make it to the final. Knocking out Yuri and Molly the next two weeks does nothing for her if she winds up blockaded by the Spankie-Hannah-Kween trifecta in the semi-final.
Eliminated: Minnie Cooper (was 7, 3, 4, Pre-Season #6)
Minnie Cooper (Cameo | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Twitter | YouTube) is a veteran queen with a hundreds of ideas in her head, both from things she has already produced and things she has always wanted to try. Sometimes that leads to hilarity, as with times she volleyed with Ru. Others, it leads to ruin, as it did on this incredibly flat try at Ellen DeGeneres in Snatch Game.
I find that I identify with Minnie. I’m now at a point in my life where it’s hard not to respond to a question or a situation with a litany of examples of what I’ve done before, or a laundry list of possible solutions. Heck, it’s why I like writing these posts – I have a lot to say!
When you are the kind of person who has that urge, sometimes being in the present moment while staying engaged, succinct and decisive can be difficult. You have to be the project manager of your own thoughts.
That can also lead to conflict. When you are someone who has trouble being fully present in a moment, it can also mean you’re someone who second guessed a lot of what you said while you were busy not being present. Then you begin to project and assume everyone else ought to be second-guessing what they said for the same reason. Then you start demanding that they do that second guessing.
I don’t want to diagnose Minnie or say she is just like me because I recognize something of myself in here. That’s a slippery slope.
I simply say all of that because I think I understand Minnie and her journey on this show. I don’t hold any of her negative moments or her errors against her. I think she has an entire universe of drag inside of her head and she wanted to spend every second of the competition getting it out.
I’m overjoyed that Minnie Cooper now has an international audience for her art, and I hope she can reap the benefits and enjoyment of that for many decades to come.