The latest episode of Drag Race PH served dramarama, Mama.
I’ll get straight to the point: if you’re reading this and you’re a DeeDee Marié Holliday fan, I extend my sympathies—I assume it was difficult for you to watch the recent episode of Drag Race Philippines.
Coming off from a maxi-challenge win right after her breakdown over being a passé queen (which, personally, I don’t think she is—DeeDee is a veteran entertainer), DeeDee stumbles by breaking Hana Beshie’s trust during the puppet challenge, getting worked up over Bernie’s comment regarding her previous win and her lackluster shoes (which was the category for last week’s runway), and failing to shine over M1ss Jade So in a lip-sync that could have used a bit more adrenalin.
In a twisted way, the drama that happened in this episode was in line with the maxi-challenge: Drag Race Philippines’ first-ever acting challenge, “Pangako Sa’Yo, Mula sa Puso… Magkaribal sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan ng Kadenang Ginto… Two Gives!” It was yet another showcase of versatility and adaptability, as the queens had to get into familiar teleserye characters in a lengthy parody of all Philippine drama tropes in one take: switching babies, protagonists developing amnesia, long-lost sisters fighting over the same man, kidnapping scenes, and the classic sampalan.
Oh, and no less than the Diamond Star, Maricel Soriano, appeared in a cameo and came in as a guest judge. Talk about raising the bar high for a pioneering challenge for the franchise, right?
Everybody loves puppets!
A Drag Race staple, the puppet challenge gives queens a chance to throw some friendly shade to their fellow participants. Each queen gets assigned to dress up a puppet into one of their competitors and roast them. Queens imitate or reference things like an iconic line, questionable habits, or even a meltdown that they could all reminisce in good spirits.
There were a few lighthearted roasts, like Captivating Katkat calling the muscular Bernie a former construction worker and Arizona Brandy showcasing a Jade So that needs plastic surgery for her brain. ØV Cünt implied that Arizona’s vape schticks for any challenge has been getting tired, Jade referenced her fight with Katkat and referred to the latter as a “narcissistic boomer,” and Bernie reiterated that DeeDee didn’t deserve to win “The Shoes” runway.
But the showstopper of the challenge—and for unfortunate reasons—was DeeDee, who had the Hana Beshie puppet and revealed a deeply personal detail about Hana’s relationship. All the queens were shocked by this, and Hana didn’t expect that DeeDee would spill something she told to her as friends. Regardless, Hana Beshie kept it together and proceeded to imitate ØV Cünt’s meltdown (complete with a mock exorcism), which gave her the challenge win.
The repercussions from the puppet challenge would resurface later during the judging panel and Untucked. On the main stage, Mama Pao asked DeeDee how she was feeling, seeing that she seemed a bit reserved and quiet as compared to before. DeeDee then reveals how she has been eaten by guilt over what she did to Hana Beshie, and she felt confused because of Bernie’s remarks about the undeserved win (which, as Bernie had clarified several times in the episode, was about the shoes, not the Rusical performance.)
On Hana Beshie’s end, she broke down and got mad in Untucked because she didn’t expect DeeDee to reveal something so personal on a platform like Drag Race. At the core of this moment was Hana’s anxieties over what her family say about her.
“I joined this show so that I could make my family proud, but now there’s one episode that I don’t want them to watch because of you,” Hana exclaimed in a mix of English and Tagalog. As of writing, Hana has recently expressed in a Drag Race Philippines viewing party that she and DeeDee have made up, and she asks fans not to send any hate to DeeDee.
At this point, I’ll give DeeDee the benefit of the doubt and understand that there were several things going on in her mind, that’s why she acted the way she did. Like Hana, I felt the sincerity of her apology; likewise, echoing Bernie’s confessional, “sa main stage pa talaga?” Call it production cues or blame the edit, but what DeeDee revealed to Mama Pao could have waited ’till Untucked, or could have made for makeup prep time conversations before the main challenge.
In fact, there wasn’t much airtime prior to the filming and showing of the maxi-challenge, which made me fear that ‘Pangako Sa’Yo, Mula sa Puso… Magkaribal sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan ng Kadenang Ginto… Two Gives!’ was going to be as long as its name. And true enough, it was a lengthy acting challenge.
I didn’t mind that they chose to cram all the teleserye clichés that you could ask for, because there were many funny moments in the challenge. Though given supporting roles, Katkat and Bernie shone as the flirtatious Barda and sweet Marla, respectively, two of Susan’s (Hana Beshie) children who got separated from her at birth, thanks to Marites’ (ØV Cünt) plan of distributing the triplets to herself, Susan, and Madam Eva Le Quickie (Arizona Brandy).
ØV’s characterization of Marites as a diabolical manang also worked in her favor—between her and Hana’s Susan (where she impersonated several actresses in one character), I honestly couldn’t decide who deserved to be safe or in the top three.
To be fair, DeeDee worked with what little material and airtime she had as Charing, the second face at the back of Marla’s head. With only her face shown and no chance for physical comedy, DeeDee worked humorous facial expressions with her lines, and she had a comical moment wherein she wasn’t spared from the slapping spree that Maricel Soriano (as herself) gave the whole cast at the end of the challenge.
This leaves us with two queens that I grouped together for being one-note, but one had it better than the other. Sure, Arizona’s vape trick was getting quite trite, but it worked well for her antagonist role. I couldn’t say the same for her alien runway, which was more “if the Oscars trophy were a gay robot and malfunctioned” than extraterrestrial.
To her credit, Jade got the memo for the alien runway, which matching unintelligible dialogue to boot. The creepy, rumpled bodysuit with horns and other jutting parts reminded me of a queer, dragged-up Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. I disagree with Mama Pao’s comment that the suit could have been tighter, but perhaps the look could have used more grotesque details or colors so that it could register more as alien.
However, I would have to agree with Maricel regarding Jade’s delivery of her lines: I couldn’t understand some of the words! It also felt like Jade was doing Jade on overdrive rather than a parody of a teleserye character, so I couldn’t get into her storyline in the challenge.
Other gems that (should have) shone
On top of Katkat’s captivating performance during the main challenge, her golden Fifth Element diva look—complete with a hoverboard for a floating —cemented her victory for this episode. I’m quite curious about how she kept her balance and poise on the runway, given how intricate her look was.
Bernie also shone literally and figuratively, what with her light ring alien look and strong presence in the challenge. I’m appreciating how her performance has been consistent and impactful every single episode, and I’m looking forward to what she’ll bring next time.
What didn’t shine in this episode? Ironically, the Diamond Star herself! It was a missed opportunity for the show to feature Maricel mentoring the queens during the filming of the challenge, similar to how they’d show Michelle Visage direct the queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I don’t think the false “taray” moment at the beginning of filming and her cameo during the main challenge were enough to showcase what she could offer to the queens.
And lastly, the lip sync. I was more entertained by the safe queens in the background than the bottom two… I’ll leave it at that.