Well, that went a lot better than I thought it would. The early signs were not good, as the Fab Five ventured into Winding, Georgia and almost immediately got pulled over by the police. With Karamo behind the wheel and the cop doing his best intimidation routine, you automatically feared the worst, even with television cameras present. The revelation that the whole thing was a tasteless practical joke and the cop was actually the guy who nominated this week’s subject Cory didn’t alleviate anything; it somehow made it worse. If it was the work of the show’s producers, then they need to have a word with themselves for thinking something that tone deaf could ever be funny. If it was the cop’s own idea, then that’s possibly worse.
Karamo’s emotional exchange with ex-marine Cory – a walking embodiment of Trump-voting rednecks (he even has a MAGA hat) – about the fear he feels for himself and his children as black Americans did little to assuage that uneasiness. It’s the show’s least subtle and least successful attempt to address social issues and while these two men reach an understanding, it’s hard to be convinced that Karamo or any other black man will feel any safer the next time a white cop pulls them over for no reason. Still, it’s a commendable effort to address a huge social problem and something you can’t imagine any other makeover show attempting.
It’s hard to relax into this episode after that opening, but Cory’s revelation to Tan that he keeps his late father’s shirts in his wardrobe certainly helps soften the mood. It’s an overwhelmingly blatant metaphor for his supressed emotion and grief. Throughout this episode, Cory seems to bond most naturally with Tan and Karamo, which is surprising. You wouldn’t imagine a southern, Trump-voting ex-marine and cop would gravitate towards the group’s two men of colour, one gentle and refined, the other painfully sincere, but that’s the moment when I realised how this episode turns the mirror back on us. We watch Queer Eye dreading the moments when these five kind, open men wind up on the receiving end of judgement and discrimination, but, a lot of the time, it’s us doing the judging. One look at Cory’s Trump-Pence sign and MAGA hat and I had him pegged as a type, one that Cory resolutely trashes. It’s a resounding endorsement of stopping to listen to people who disagree with us.
Jonathan highlight: “Moms don’t like anything that makes us look unlike what we looked like when we born.” So, so true. Have a chat with my mother sometime about my beard.
Antoni smell test: Making up for the last episode, Antoni smells two things: his own hand when he touches something weird, and Cory’s shirt, prompting a cry of “Stop smelling things” from Jonathan.
Fab fives out of five: Four. It starts incredibly uncomfortably but ends up a real tearjerker.
Epilogue: Cory and Karamo have stayed in touch, which is lovely to hear, Cory has kept up his commitment to work on his appearance and his marriage, and even Cory’s nominator Henry has upped his sartorial game.