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'Top Gear' 17.04 'Rowan Atkinson' Review

Brittany Frederick Brittany Frederick
September 12th, 2011 10:21pm EDT

It's time for more Top Gear. Tonight, Jeremy uses a machine, James writes on a blackboard, and Richard throws fruit into a caravan. Sounds thrilling, doesn't it?

Top Gear

We open the show with Jeremy discussing the reputation of the Jaguar name, before he tells us that the new Jaguar XKR-S is the most powerful road car they've ever made, "on the edge of Ferrari territory." He goes on to say that the car's sacrificed a whole shopping list of stuff for speed. Yet it might be for naught, as he suggests that the speed-obsessed might be better off with a Nissan GTR instead.

How do we solve this? A drag race, of course! The Nissan makes the Jaguar look ridiculous there and elsewhere, before Jeremy says it's "tearing [his] face off" in the corners. The competition's not even close. The Stig takes it round the track in 1:17.8.

After that, it's time for the News, where the guys tease James for having launch control fitted to his car and then start talking about other ridiculous add-ons, leading Jeremy to deride Mercedes' night vision function for only working with the vehicle's lights on.

We're introduced to the Fiat Punto Abarth SS (and the crate its kit comes in), which makes Richard go on an affectionate spiel about the untapped potential of boxes. Jeremy reminds us that Richard has a helicopter license, but James corrects, "It's not a helicopter. It's just the box his fridge came in." Touche, Captain Slow. James gets the last laugh this week, as he wins last week's bet when he forces Jeremy to admit the Mercedes he bought has "gone a bit wonky."

Jeremy wonders why trains are so expensive to build, and joins his fellow presenters in their not-so-secret hideout to try and construct a cheaper alternative out of a Jaguar - which consists of replacing the tires with train wheels and then hooking the convertible up to a few caravans. James is responsible for the first class cabin, while Richard tackles the buffet car and second class, and Jeremy's economy section (or as he calls it, "scum class") is full of straw. Unfortunately, once the cars are hooked up, the train won't move. This leads to a lot of Jeremy shouting and Richard calling him a muppet. Eventually, James and Richard go off on their own, leaving Jeremy with the Jag.

We depart from the film to introduce this week's Star In A Reasonably Priced Car, Blackadder and Mr. Bean star Rowan Atkinson, who's actually written for several British car magazines.  Clarkson presents him with a list of words that he thinks will sound funny if Atkinson says them, and then asks him to critique a few cars using only his expressions, with predictably hilarious results. He posts a lap time of 1:42.2, which puts him atop the leaderboard.

Back to the train madness! James and Richard have picked up an Audi S8 to use as their locomotive, which James will drive while Hammond tends to the passengers. Hammond has set up the buffet car with plenty of crisps and has even dressed up for the occasion, though he doesn't enjoy James taking over the PA system. Lo and behold, with the Audi at the front, the train actually works.

Unfortunately, Richard has a bit of a problem getting around while it's in motion, dropping a tray of sandwiches and finding the door of the second class cabin too small to get his drinks trolley through. That's not all that's iffy, as things begin to fall off counters and the walls.

Jeremy's "sports train," consisting of the Jaguar and one trailer, is also on its way, with the editor of Rail Express magazine strapped in. This being Jeremy, he's concerned foremost with speed, so he can beat James and Richard to their destination. He eventually catches up with the other two presenters.

James overshoots the station, and at that point Richard steps outside to tell him to "stop doing the f--king announcements." The inspectors are not impressed; one refers to their train as "a death trap." Richard eventually loses his marbles over the PA while the buffet car catches fire. Jeremy overtakes them, pointing and laughing, while the rest of their train is obliterated by a real train passing by.

After last week's more straightforward episode, this week's Top Gear is back to more of the controlled chaos that has made the series such an enjoyable watch, even if some of it is repetitive (no one can be that surprised by Jeremy's irrational love of speed anymore). The fun of the show is watching these three tackle vehicle-related ideas that don't seem half bad...until they get their hands on them. And yet, for all the things that do go wrong, their passion shines through. Top Gear is an affectionate love letter to the car, albeit a misguided, slightly skewed one.

(c)2011 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved.

Photo Credits: BBC America


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