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Canada’s Drag Race S1:E5 (The Snatch Game)

After last week’s emotional whirlwind, episode 5 of Canada’s Drag Race felt refocused. Tensions were still high (and when are they not with that many artists in a room?) but the prospect of being the first drag queens on Canadian soil to participate in the classic Drag Race tradition of the Snatch Game really brought everyone back into competition mode.

Following Tynomi Banks’ elimination, emotions were still at the surface. Ilona Verley was in tears as they wiped away the mirror message and the Toronto queens lamented losing another sister from their ranks. Each queen expressed gratitude at remaining, but they also cried over seeing Tynomi leave because it felt like saying goodbye to family.

Rita Baga was far less in her feelings; this is a competition and she came to win. Priyanka was also slightly less sappy. She reflected on which eliminated queens she didn’t miss, giving Boa the opportunity to share her longstanding theory that Priyanka is actually possessed and was sent by the devil to take over drag. Pri played along, but expressed feeling pressure that, with Tynomi’s absence, she now stood as a top contender.

When the queens gathered in the werkroom the next day, tensions had not dissipated as far as they initially thought. Ilona admitted they’d thought about walking off the stage rather than lip syncing against Tynomi. They meant this as a measure of their respect for her but the other queens didn’t see it as such. Priyanka and Scarlett Bobo told them walking off would have been disrespectful to the competition, judges, and even the cast. Pri went so far as to discourage them from “playing the victim card” when things get hard.

Ilona bristled and Pri pressed on; they wouldn’t benefit from a “Feel bad for me” attitude. llona countered that they were allowed to process their emotions and Pri shouldn’t tell them how to feel. The queens held their breath but Pri apologized and Ilona accepted. A video message from Rupaul brimming with Celine Dion references saved them from further clashes.

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Wearing shades, Brooke Lynn Hytes entered and cited her eyewear as protection from “harmful, shady gays”. Calling in a member of the pit crew with a tray of shades (my awesome friend Seth– check out his business, Hands On Exotics), Brooke prepared the queens for a Drag Race classic: the reading mini-challenge. The Library of Canada was officially open for the first time.

Priyanka set the bar, reading Scarlett for her filler, Kiara for her English and her style, and Jimbo for being mediocre in or out of drag. Her first joke was a huge hit, but the others didn’t match in response. Ilona, always excitable, asked Boa when she’d finally showed up, called Scarlett’s drag pedestrian, and asked Rita why she paints like she’s trying to get a senior’s discount; the first joke soared but the others didn’t take flight.

Boa got a hit and a miss, calling Priyanka two-faced and deeming Lemon a coaster (“Will you hold my drink?”). Scarlett compared Ilona out of drag to Uncle Fester and Kiara to a revolving door during rush hour, then jabbed at Rita’s attitude, all to neutral response. BLH cut in to point out that Rita doesn’t actually have a bad attitude, “she’s just French Canadian!”

Kiara asked Boa if she could use her as an exercise ball and got howls. Lemon took shots at Pri’s intelligence and Kiara’s aesthetic before comparing Rita to a slinky she’d like to push down the stairs. Jimbo poked fun at Ilona’s penchant for drag lingo and called Kiara pigeon-toed (an English phrase she didn’t catch). She compared Lemon to a meringue pie with a crusty bottom and Rita to garbage, but she got Canadian at the end and took it back.

Rita tied things up by questioning Priyanka’s taste level, asking for 5 seconds of silence and using it to read Ilona for frequent complaining. She then turned on Brooke, saying she’s glad a Canadian will finally win Drag Race. In the end, Lemon’s reads were supreme and snagged her a $1000 drag jewels gift credit at LAG concepts. Brooke broke the news (to great excitement) that this week’s maxi-challenge would be the infamous Snatch Game

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Back in the werkroom, the queens started their Snatch Game prep and judge Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman stopped by to check out their characters. Kiara told him improv at drag shows is her favourite thing to do. She chose Mariah Carey because she’s done it in clubs to good praise and JBC reminded her to stay in character and make it funny. Moving to Ilona, Jeffrey couldn’t guess their choice so they put on a British lilt and gave him a “Cock Destroyers” hint. They discussed bringing porn star Rebecca Moore to life by leaning into her big personality.

A few words in character from Jimbo helped JBC guess her choice of Joan Rivers right away. Jimbo admitted wanting to do the legendary icon justice and Jeffrey reminded her that she hasn’t gotten a win yet, so this is her time to shine. On Priyanka’s turn, she told Jeffrey her experiences in improv and working children’s TV made her feel confident doing Miss Cleo, as do their shared South Asian roots. JBC reminded her to listen for what others say too.

On approaching Scarlett, Jeffrey learned she had two options: Liza Minnelli or Fran Drescher. She’d done Liza many times, but Fran was a new character for her. JBC guided her choice by evaluating risks versus comfort and listening to her voice impressions of each. Rita impressed Jeffrey by choosing Edith Piaf, who had never been done on Snatch Game before. They discussed wanting to use her quirks and mannerisms without disrespecting an icon.

Boa had choices too; Cyndi Lauper, Rebel Wilson, and Gypsy Rose Blanchard. JBC was not impressed by her Cyndi or Rebel voices but she hesitated in choosing Gypsy because she didn’t want to make too light of the real person’s suffering. Finally, Jeffrey listened to Lemon’s report of how well she knows the mannerisms, catchphrases, and style of Jojo Siwa. This lead to discussion of her critiques and she got emotional delving into how drag filled a space for her that dance couldn’t. Before departing, Jeffrey let the queens know their “Night of 1000 Celines” runway would be guest hosted by Canadian actress and comedienne Mary Walsh.

Canada’s first Snatch Game started with a unique twist: a red carpet entrance hosted by “Canada’s Best Squirrelfriend”, the returning Traci Melchor. Feigning a new segment called “SHETalk”, Traci gave each queen the opportunity to show off their character a little before the game. Walking the carpet, each person delivered a line in character, did some physical comedy, and gave us a look at their presentation. It was a very neat addition to the game. In Rupaul’s usual hosting spot (right down to the maroon suit), Brooke Lynn kicked off the game by introducing their guests, HGTV interior design team Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan.

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I admit that I normally hate the Snatch Game. It has funny moments, but most often it’s just artists I admire delivering impressions they aren’t proud of and then crying, which gives me secondhand stress (I am too emotionally involved in my favourite TV series). Canada’s first crack at it, however, wasn’t half bad! Not every character was a hit, but the queens built well on each other’s comedy and had Brooke, Colin, and Justin in stitches more often than not.

Boa’s Gypsy Rose Blanchard (whose oxygen tube I’m fairly certain was a set of earbuds stuffed up her nostrils) played it a little too safe. The voice was right and she worked some good references in, but she fumbled a few jokes in what was clearly an attempt not to cause offence. Jimbo’s Joan Rivers was an absolute riot, doing prop comedy with a jar of “Edgar’s ashes” and using every opportunity to get laughs in response to the other queens.

Lemon’s Jojo Siwa was so much fun. She kept the mannerisms up, dabbing periodically and making a bit of not pronouncing her Rs. Priyanka’s Miss Cleo was styled well and she had the voice, but she unfortunately didn’t pick up what anyone was laying down for her, causing her to fade. In contrast, Rita’s absolutely zany Edith Piaf had even other contestants laughing over the way she appeared to nearly expire in her seat as the game went on.

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Bobo’s choice to do Liza over Fran was a good one; she had the voice down, she nailed more than one interaction with another queen’s character, and her banter with Brooke stood out. Sadly, the same could not be said of Kiara’s Mariah Carey. She looked cute but didn’t adapt her voice, play off jokes, or inject much character into her delivery. Next to her, Ilona’s Rebecca Moore was stop and start, but mostly successful. Not every joke they threw out made sense, but the way they leaned into the character’s quirks saved the performance.

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Overall, the game had more shining moments than quite a few Snatch Games past! Joan Rivers offered Jojo Siwa a bump of white powder from her jar, which was invariably filled with either cocaine or ashes, depending on the punchline. Liza and Joan shared a clash about Judy Garland and Rebecca Moore got laughs by actually leaving her seat to come onto Joan (without interrupting the game à la RPDR S4’s iconically chaotic Snatch Game). Edith Piaf also had Brooke snorting when she slumped right over and begged them to find her coffin.

The day after making Snatch Game history, the queens reconvened in the werkroom to debrief. Pri said the only history she made was for the worst delivery and, hearkening back to their previous tension, Ilona asked her to stop “playing the victim”, which Pri laughed at. Scarlett asked Kiara how she felt, and she responded that her character limited her more than she expected. While they painted, Jimbo talked about discovering that comedy could help her make friends and escape bullying she experienced for being different in high school. Kiara got personal too, hoping to win her dad’s approval with a successful drag career.

The judges’ walk showed off dark tones this week. JBC wore a teal jacket and cropped pant, while Stacey McKenzie kept things simple in a tailored black suit with puffed shoulders and a high swept bouffant bun. Brooke Lynn wowed in a short blue wrap dress with long, maribou adorned bell sleeves, her curled copper hair like a cross between Old Hollywood and Effie Trinket of The Hunger Games. Guest host Mary Walsh was enthusiastic and full of energy in a long metallic and leather jacket of black and gold with chunky zippers and shredded details.

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Boa kicked off the Celine Dion themed runway with creamy gold fringe in a poncho shape and a tall golden peacock feather headpiece. Scarlett followed in a short gown of champagne satin with huge, gathered bell sleeves and a sleek, glittering updo. Kiara rocked a blonde high pony and a short, black sequinned wrap dress with tulle ruffles down the sleeves and along the edges and a silk bow belting the waist.

Rita went vintage with a “before and after the fame” theme, starting in a squared cream jacket dress with a tulle bottom before revealing a short sequinned dress with a layered skirt and thick belt. Jimbo made judges gasp in a stylized sparkling flight suit with a plunging V and bandeau, low bun, shades, and even a wedge hat to complete the aesthetic.

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Lemon kept things simple in dark hair, a long navy gown with sleeves and a train, and a Titanic inspired necklace. Ilona’s white shorts, shirt, and jacket with pink heart and circle motifs and matching boots were a tribute to Celine’s own collection. Finally, Pri emerged in an exact recreation of Celine’s 1994 wedding dress and veil, which she tore off to reveal a strapless gold sequinned gown and music award prop.

Judges named Scarlett and Ilona safe and sent them to untuck. In critiques, Boa heard that she could have gone bigger with the character, even in her desire to stay respectful. Her runway was pretty, but a little too heavy on the fringe, hiding her body. Kiara was told she missed the mark on the quirks that would make Mariah funny but was complimented on her sleek outfit (despite her ponytail being a point of contention; some judges liked it and others thought it wasn’t styled neatly enough).

Judges praised Rita’s Edit Piaf very highly indeed, but they found her runway choices slightly obscure within Celine’s repertoire. Jimbo’s Joan Rivers was lauded as hysterical as well, with several judges citing her as a favourite. Similarly, her runway was described as “magnificent”. Lemon’s Jojo Siwa received only positivity (even from judges who didn’t know the character) but her simple runway did not command that same attention. Priyanka’s performance was deemed to be lacking in just about every aspect, but her runway saved face by impressing both before and after the reveal.

The queens returned to the werkroom to find Ilona and Scarlett wrapped in layers of blankets, napping on the couches. Woken by their sisters, they asked what happened. Kiara took it as fact that she would be in the bottom, but she spoke about calmly and confidently, as though she felt quite secure. Boa regretted not going all the way with her character. Priyanka detailed her poor feedback too, but the queens were convinced that the judge’s high praise of her runway could still save her from the bottom.

In deliberation, the judges were on the same pages even more than usual. Boa’s personality had failed to deliver for the first time and her runway didn’t dazzle them. Kiara’s look was cute and polished, but her Snatch Game character just didn’t hit any marks. Rita’s was an absolute hit and held everyone’s attention, but the same could not be said for her runway, before or after the reveal. Jimbo’s work inspired rave reviews all around and was held up as great drag. The pizzazz of Lemon’s character balanced out the blazé of her runway, while Priyanka’s presentations did the same but in complete reverse.

Back on the runway, Jimbo was crowned queen of the week. She received a 7 day Caribbean cruise for two and was so thrilled that she slipped back into her Joan Rivers voice, basically did a miniature comedy set, and got everyone laughing. Rita, Lemon, and Boa (who was visibly shocked at the news) were marked safe, leaving Kiara and Priyanka up for elimination. The lip sync song du jour was, of course, a Celine Dion hit- “I Drove All Night”.

The moment the music started, each queen’s tone for the number was evident. Kiara was high energy all throughout, showing off her tricks and dance skills. Priyanka, on the other hand, took a varied approach, alternating between slow, heartfelt verses with lots of judge eye contact and more fast paced sections in which she split, kicked, or used her wedding dress like a cape before throwing it dramatically. Between tandem floor work, Kiara losing a shoe but still pulling moves until the other heel bailed, and both queens having the words perfected, the judges were thrilled, clutching each other and screaming.

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Kiara’s lip sync certainly impressed but it was Priyanka’s intensity and changes of pace that won them over. With a sweet and supportive hug, Priyanka joined the girls at the back while the judges bid Kiara farewell. Graceful as ever, she cracked a joke about “Kiki” for All Stars, used the lipstick to scribble her name in huge letters on the mirror, and dropped a very loud and French-sounding “fuck!” to express how she felt about going home, keeping the calmly confident attitude we’ve all come to love.

Don’t forget to watch the action for yourself every Thursday at 9 pm EST! If you’re in the US, catch it on WOW Presents Plus. If you’re in Canada, Crave is the place to go. The UK has to wait until Friday, but you can still watch on BBC Three iPlayer. You can also catch up with each week’s eliminated queen, along with myself and Ja’mie Queen West, in our Talk Aboot It segment on the Drag Coven YouTube channel. We yell a lot!

Written By

Courtney Conquers is a drag artist and archivist, writer, consultant, public speaker, and live show videographer. She is best known for her work as part of the queer media collective Drag Coven (she's the short one who films the videos). Courtney has a Master of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies from Carleton University in Canada and is an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion in drag and queer spaces. She also regularly promotes, coordinates, talent handles, and casts drag events throughout North America. When she’s not traveling for her own gigs, assisting other drag performers, holding a video camera, or writing about drag and queer fem issues, Courtney can usually be found knitting in obnoxious colours. 

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