‘Top Gear’ (USA) Recap: ‘Taxis’

Top Gear USA

Being a taxi driver is no easy feat. Just ask Richard Hammond, who attempted to do just that in this season of Richard Hammond’s Crash Course. Yet that’s not going to stop the Top Gear hosting trio from trying. And earning a disclaimer that says “Local authorities monitored the filming of this show. No laws were broken.”

Our heroes Adam Ferrara, Tanner Foust and Rutledge Wood are in Las Vegas, as Tanner tells us that being a taxi driver is supposedly one of the worst jobs in the country, partly because of the cars they’re stuck with. It’s therefore up to Adam, Tanner and Rutledge to fix this problem – but not before Tanner gives Adam and Rutledge whiplash showing off a BMW M5 in a parking garage. Unfortunately, the M5 is out of the average taxi driver’s price range, so what vehicle would feasibly fit the bill?

Tanner thinks it’s the Scion xB, specifically one built by his old drift team, so it’s got a few tricks up its sleeve. Rut believes it’s a 1984 Chevrolet El Camino, and its interesting outside passenger seating. And Adam shows up in..an ambulance. Or “AmbuTaxi,” as it says on the side. He plans to make liberal use of its lights and siren. Clearly, they all have drastically different opinions of what a good taxi ought to be.

With the cars picked out and several initial insults slung, it’s time for the usual Top Gear series of challenges. The guys’ first test takes place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Tanner, of course, has to arrive in a cloud of smoke. But this task isn’t about style, it’s about speed: picking up a family (an inflatable one), loading them aboard and getting them back to the finish line in the shortest time possible. Adam takes 1:50, Rut does 1:10 (but may have killed his passengers under their own luggage), and Tanner completely loses the plot. He takes off with his hatch open, causing suitcases and a few people to fall out of the Scion. One of them even ends up under a tire. Definitely not customer satisfaction, and a time of 2:43 besides.

Part two is the taxi-oriented equivalent of an obstacle course, with the two other hosts and some giant drinks along for the ride. When Adam’s ambulance brakes, Tanner and Rutledge spill their beverages all over themselves, and eventually decide to just throw the water on each other. However, the drinks Adam has belted into the front seat survive just fine. Tanner’s not so lucky in that department, so he elects to just throw the drinks out the door, leaving Adam and Rut to hang on for dear life in the back seat as he slides all over the course. Rut puts everything – passengers and beverages – in the back seat, but the unattended drinks fall onto Adam and Tanner almost immediately, and the guys decide they’ll just fight with each other (and the PA system) for the rest of the trip. Tanner even flips Rutledge the double bird at the end of the ride.

But none of that really matters, because it’s “winner take all” as the guys hit the streets to pick up living, breathing passengers who have no idea what they’re in for. Adam starts with four party-minded guys in his ambulance, while Tanner has three dudes at the Tropicana, and Rutledge escorts a couple to the local Hooters. Chaos ensues (obviously). The guys all manage to drop off their first fares without serious incident, although Tanner gets lost and it costs him.

The second round sees Adam pick up Murray Sawchuck (the magician you might know from VH1’s Celebracadabra) and his assistant, Rut snagging some showgirls, and Tanner on his way to Mandalay Bay with a pair of pretty girls who don’t speak great English, but seem to really enjoy his company. After dropping off the ladies, Tanner is excited to be summoned for some exotic dancers…only to be slightly let down when he finds out they’re men. Desperate to score big to keep himself in the competition, our racing driver unleashes a cloud of smoke on the Las Vegas Strip. It works, and he lands a hefty tip, while Adam’s trading lines from Taxi Driver with a guy who looks suspiciously like Robert de Niro. Rut banks $55, Tanner has $80 and Adam is at $140, making him the winner. However, Rut and Tanner quickly disqualify him for his use of the ambulance’s lights and siren.

That means yet again, Tanner wins the prize for the episode, which is driving a new supercar in Miami – the McLaren MP4-12C. He calls it “the most obsessively engineered car ever made.” He enjoys using the McLaren to its fullest, and even tests out his British accent. But to keep Tanner interested, the producers pit the supercar against NASCAR star Carl Edwards and his #99 ride in a ten-lap competition (rightfully bringing NASCAR analyst Rutledge along for color). Carl mocks Tanner’s ride and the amount of hairspray he uses, then pops Race Boy on the last lap to beat him on the track. This episode raises two questions: how rarely does someone topple Tanner Foust? And who’s surprised (but glad) that our heroes didn’t have to make real use of that ambulance?

In related news, BBC/Warner released the second season of Top Gear on DVD this week, and if you haven’t picked it up yet, you can read my review to tell you why you should.

(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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