‘Top Gear’ (UK) Recap: ‘Series 19, Episode 4’

Top GearTonight on Top Gear, James May draws on a board (that says “Kill Clarkson” on it), Richard Hammond waves at a man, and Jeremy Clarkson runs away from a table.

Jeremy opens the show with his uber-skeptical review of the new Vauxhall Astra VXR, which he actually likes, much to his surprise. He thinks Vauxhall spent more time on the front end of this car than they did on the whole of the Vectra, and thinks the ride is comfortable as long as you don’t push the “sport” button. To compare, he then moves to some other options: the Ford Focus XT, which is cheaper, but not as nice to drive and has “a particularly unpleasant interior,” and the Renault Megane 265, described as “sublime” and “an amazing combination of nimbleness and brute force” yet “not the nicest to live with on a day-to-day basis.”

A drag race is staged, of course, and the Ford comes first, followed by the Vauxhall and Jeremy shouting in the Renault. Even so, Jeremy can’t bring himself to admit that the Vauxhall is the best option, with the camera conveniently breaking before the end of the film.

The Stig (“Some say he contains 47 percent horse…”) does laps in all three hatchbacks, with the Vauxhall clocking in at 1:28.3, the Ford at 1:29.6, and the Renault doing 1:27.7. After all that, Jeremy recommends you buy a Toyota.

The News is next, with Richard talking about the new Alfa Romeo 4C, which James thinks doesn’t look quite right. Jeremy wants to discuss the Ford Mustang he drove in the previous episode, and how disappointed he is that the next generation of Mustang will be sold in the UK, but only with a two-liter EcoBoost engine. He then goes on to rant about handbrake turns, which Richard thinks are “an essential part of male development,” and the trio of hosts reminisce about their younger selves and failed attempts at that particular maneuver. Moving on…there’s a Peugeot with parts made out of copper and recycled newspaper.

Jeremy announces there’s a new version of the Kia Cee’d, and since Top Gear uses the Cee’d as its “Reasonably Priced Car,” he decides this development is worthy of further investigation. He brings Episodes star Matt LeBlanc back to do laps in both the old and new models (the new one is faster), decides to test out the auto-parking system while blindfolded, finds out that you can plug a guitar into it thanks to Eric Clapton, and does a crazy test with sodium and water that results in nothing but some gratuitous explosions. Then there’s a random – and utterly unenthused – cameo by Bruce Willis, as his Die Hard franchise character John McClane, just to test the horn. After all this nonsense, the Cee’d gets the Top Gear seal of approval.

This week’s Star in the Reasonably Priced Car is a returning guest – Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton. Jeremy grills him about his move from the McLaren camp to Mercedes, how you react when you have brake failure at 180 MPH, and how annoyed he was about the track conditions during his first appearance in 2008. Since he’s an F1 driver, he’s behind the wheel of a Suzuki Liana instead of the Cee’d, and ends up atop the special F1 leaderboard with a lap time of 1:42.9. Then there’s a promo for an episode of History’s Top Gear that aired two weeks ago, which is awkward.

You’ll recall that since he lost the race from Palm Springs to Calexico in Series 19, Episode 2, Richard was punished by being sent to Mexico – a country quite cross with Top Gear – to test the Mastretta MXT. Now audiences finally get to see that film. First, Richard tries rolling into town wearing a Jeremy mask, then quickly ditches it and decides to just complete his film as quickly as possible, before he can be killed. He compares the Mastretta to an early Lotus Elise, points out that the engine is a Ford, and bemoans the small fuel tank (which leads us to a shot of him with a ridiculous fake beard at a gas station). Still, Richard is optimistic, and more importantly, manages to get through Mexico with only one suspicious black SUV following him.

And last but certainly not least, the series broadens its lengthy history of sports-related challenges by organizing a game of car rugby with some Kia Cee’ds and a few Kia Sportages to assist. One team is captained by Jeremy and the other by Captain Slow himself, James May, and The Stig gets to play referee. At halftime, Team Clarkson is up 12-0. In their respective locker rooms, Jeremy orders his drivers to “ram James May,” while James responds with “kill Clarkson” and something drawn on his white board that resembles a certain part of the male anatomy.

Part two begins with a pair of quick scores and subsequent conversions by Team May, putting them in the lead, 14-12. As the rain gets worse and the field condition rapidly declines, the game turns into a muddy, uncoordinated mess. Team Clarkson sneaks by with a last-second try to make the final score 17-14 in their favor. Hammond then promptly chews out Jeremy and James for destroying the football stadium’s field. And on the bombshell of Jeremy comparing himself and James to Bradley Cooper and Ryan Reynolds, it’s time to end. See you next week!

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

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