Top Gear — S17, E4

First off, there’s a glorious Top Gear/My Little Pony mash-up video now on YouTube, one that the Boys themselves describe on their official blog as “worryingly well-executed”. And, though I might question which ponies are being used (perpetually perky Pinkie Pie for James May? Really? Maybe just for the hair…), it’s a wonderful hoot. Look for it online.

Cue the music and cue Jeremy! Manual labor, equations on blackboards and bananas thrown into caravans are in store, but first it’s time to check in with Jaguar’s newest speed demon, the XKR-S. But, as Jeremy pontificates, the XKR-S has pretty much sacrificed everything — comfort, price and aesthetics (including a rather tasteless bit comparing this particular Jag’s looks to a naked Camilla Parker-Bowles’ naughty bits spruced up with tassles and a Vajazzler) in pursuit of speed. But if speed is truly important (and, since this IS Jeremy, that’s a moot point), he wonders if the Nissan GTR is better on that front as one now pulls around the track, looking all badass in the rain.

So of course this means it’s time for a drag race! Despite Jeremy matter-of-factly claiming that “on paper”, the Nissan can’t win, it ends up smoking the Jaguar. Even in cornering, the Nissan is still eight miles an hour faster. Then Jeremy entertains us with the effect of the gravitational pull on his face while showing off the Nissan’s grip on the track. It’s not a pretty sight. The Nissan beats out the Jaguar in price, comfort and environmental concerns on top of speed as well, so why would anyone buy a Jaguar then?

Back to the studio. Continuing the trend from previous shows this season, James is already griping about Jaguar’s dependence on the Nürburgring. But let’s give the Stig the Nissan to drive, shall we? Earlier, the Jaguar XKR-S came in at 1:23.3. The Nissan GTR, however, clocks in at 1:17.8! And cue up the news, where of particular note, we check in on how Richard and Jeremy’s used cars from last week are doing. James had put his hair on the line that Richard’s BMW and Jeremy’s Mercedes would need repair. Well, James still has his hair, the Hamster’s BMW is still running fine…and Clarkson’s Mercedes is having rather expensive trouble in getting replacement parts. Um, oops?

And now, time to talk about trains. More importantly, how expensive they are when it comes to commuting. Surely, our heroes can do something to make trains better? So cue those words that should fill anyone with dread: “How hard can it be?” Cut to Jeremy driving down the road in another Jag, this time a 22 year old, gorgeous cherry-red XJ-S. And the Boys have decided to turn this baby into a train . Well, more like convert it into being able to run on train tracks. And we’re already cuing up the “A-Team” theme for a work montage. We’re not even half-way through the episode yet! Things can’t be running that smoothly, can they?

The Jaguar is driving perfectly on the rails. It IS a miracle! But can it pull carriages? Well, by carriages, we now have instead the bane of many a “Top Gear” episode — converted caravans. They’ve been divvied up into a caste system like regular commuter trains: first class (with a buffet car), second/business class and (Jeremy’s contribution) “Scum Class”. Complete with a bucket for a toilet in full view at the back of the car. That’s about as dignified as you can expect from Clarkson. Time now to see the Jaguar haul its new load…and it’s not going anywhere.

With all the grace and maturity we’ve come to expect from our heroes, they soon quickly devolve into bickering and blame. Richard and James believe that a four-wheel drive car would be better for being able to pull their caravans. Jeremy is standing by the Jag and wants to create a one-carriage “SportsTrain”. Nobody’s budging, so it’s time to split up and see whose railway idea is truly the wave of the future.

However, that will come later as it’s time for A Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Now, for the past three shows, I had been hoping that with all the shout-outs to Python, we might be getting one of their members on “Top Gear”. Sadly, it’s not the case this week. But don’t despair as tonight we’ve got another legend of British comedy instead in Rowan Atkinson! Blackadder, Mr. Bean…seriously, please pause this show and watch a few of those episodes if you haven’t already. I can wait…

…ready? OK, good. Apparently, I was not aware about what a huge petrolhead Atkinson is as he races supercars in his spare time. And is rather good at it. Also, he’s now doing a sequel to “Johnny English”, which is surprising to me as I didn’t think it made enough the first time around to warrant a sequel. Then again, that may just be my Americentronism rearing its ugly head and forgetting international markets. Besides, if this can get a sequel made, then perhaps my hopes aren’t totally dashed for a second “Fright Night” flick with more shirtless David Tennant. Yes, I have needs; yes, I am shameless, but enough of me digressing.

Time to see the lap. Atkinson is modest, expecting a good, but not great time. But he gets…1:42.2. Rowan Atkinson is now the new board leader. Now normally, I would punctuate that with an exclamation point, but a few weeks after this episode originally aired in the UK, Rowan was in an accident while racing in another supercar. So, well-wishes and sympathies to Mr. Atkinson on that front instead.

And now, back to our heroes and the dilemma of getting their trains to run on time. Or run at all. May and Hammond have gotten hold of a four-wheel drive Audi S8. And Richard specifically has gotten hold of a white coat that him channeling Gopher from “Love Boat”. They’ll be ferrying a group of top executives from the railway world. Alas, someone’s drawn the short straw and is stuck in Scum Class. After some petty sniping on to who gets to run announcements, James and Richard are off! Mind, there’s a few precarious balance and height issues for Richard in trying to get refreshments to the passengers.

Jeremy, too, is ready to roll out in his TGV12 SportsTrain. I nearly type in “SuperTrain” because I’m stuck in the 70’s and recall that infamous TV flop. Like I said earlier, I have no shame. Now, to be fair to Clarkson, it does look cool and would probably fit in at Disneyland, but one shouldn’t have to wear goggles to commute to work. As Jeremy’s two passengers are now sporting, one of them being the editor of “Railway Express”. Maybe “SuperTrain” wasn’t a typo after all. But Jeremy puts his foot on the gas and blithely speeds off at 40mph.

Back at the Audi, Captain Slow has gotten up to a whopping 25mph! Which is causing various foodstuff to spill off the counter and cabinets of the buffet car. Not to mention the collapse of the swanky stag’s head off the wall of the first class car. And then there’s the slight problem involving the noise level brought about by all the rattling. Caravans have never been known to be particularly sound-proof. Gopher Hammond tactfully shouts to James to try to slow down.

And Jeremy has caught up! However, problem #251 about traveling by train involves bottlenecking and Clarkson can’t pass. Worse still for Jeremy, the situation soon devolves into the world’s grossest math problem. Ladies and gents, if a southwest train leaves London at 25 miles per hour, just how fast will the urinary matter fly from Scum Class? Yeah, this is one of those things that if Top Gear staged it, I really don’t want to know how it was proposed in the pre-production meetings. Jeremy pops up the hood in a vain attempt to shield himself and strategically flees backwards to see if he can hop over to the other track.

The Audi overshoots the next station as Richard and James again argue about who gets announcing duties. Their passengers struggle to disembark for a brief walk and note the various problems of the cars. Of particular note is the flammability risk. Is that foreshadowing I hear? But soon the Audi starts up again. “Take the Last Train to Clarkson”, too, makes it to another track and hits 70mph, easily overtaking the Audi. But the wind is soon taken out of Jeremy’s sails as he nearly goes splat from an actual train barreling down on him in the opposite direction. Brakes, don’t fail us now!

The Hamster comments about serving hot meals soon and starts heating up oil for chips. Canny viewers of “Top Gear” should know by now that hot oil and caravans NEVER end well and the foreshadowing fairies are working overtime. James and Richard now gleefully pass the stalled Jeremy. Once more Clarkson beats feet backwards. Back to May and Hammond, tempers once more flare up between who gets to give the announcements. The buffet car looks like a small tornado has hit it, but no fire…yet.

Take three with Jeremy speeding down the rails! James and Richard handle their disagreement with all the tact and dignity of the schoolyard. Or the Republican debates, if the chestbeating between Ron Paul and Rick Perry was any indication. This calls for a coffee break. And FIRE! Heh-heh-heh…fire! Fire! Ah, Beavis & Butthead, you will never grow old. Though which one is May and which one is Hammond is still up in the air. Graciously, Jeremy tries to point out the flaming buffet car before rubbing it in and overtaking his rivals.

Back down the rails, James and Richard vainly put out the fire, their passengers having all fled for their lives. They still stubbornly think their vision was a success and then an oncoming train mercifully destroys what’s left of Scum Class. A fitting note to take it back to the studio! Jeremy is in full gloat mode. However, Railway Express’s review is less-than-favorable. Which Jeremy is quick to point out that the critique is just the same as the problems on a regular train, only cheaper! And on that bombshell, we end!

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