The four of us sit together in a trailer on the set, and even though it's been raining all day and we are in the middle of nowhere (okay, Irvine), they're all in good spirits. Their chemistry is instantaneously apparent, and they could not be more welcoming, making me feel like the fourth member of the band. There is no other set in the world where I could make a joke about carjacking an Aston Martin and not only not be arrested, but be encouraged. "You and me both," Rutledge tells me, "and most of the stuff has keys somewhere here."
Most Top Gear fans would agree that the secret to the original show's longevity is the camaraderie between its three presenters, who go back a decade-plus together now. The American trio hasn't known each other nearly that long, but they have that same kind of bond together. "We've become friends to the point where we have genuine disdain, I think," says Tanner. "It's like family. Once you get beyond friendship to family...I love my family more than anything, but once I get like four hours of solid family time, I'm ready to take a walk."
"Great analogy," interjects Rutledge.
Tanner doesn't miss a beat. "It's been good flow, we've done big challenges. Rutledge went to the hospital twice this season."
"It's hard to pretend you're Tanner for five minutes," Rutledge admits. "You can get really hurt."
"This time Rutledge got his own show, and one thing he wanted to do was race trucks," Tanner tells me. "It didn't work out so well. He flipped it."
"I ended up in a race in a super-light truck at the Glendale Speed World in Surprise, Arizona," Rutledge explains. "I found out like 'Surprise, you're going to the hospital.' I hit a jump wrong. I flipped the truck three and a half times end over end. And Adam's big worry was that he, later that night, was going to have to help me get out of the bathtub."
"I was so afraid my phone was going to ring," concurs Adam. "I'm thinking, if he gets stuck, he's going to be wet and naked. It's going to be like Life Alert."
That's probably one of the more painful outcomes, but it's only one of the many shenanigans they've pulled off over this upcoming run. This season is going to be packed with mayhem. They haven't yet gotten to that Top Gear staple - the destruction of a motorhome - but they've come close.
"We did destroy trailers in Death Valley," Adam tells me.
"This season I kind of want to blow some stuff up too," says Tanner. "We burned a Pinto."
"The Pinto burned itself," Adam retorts.
Rutledge explains, "We tried to disprove some of the world's most dangerous cars. And those are the Ford Pinto, the Chevy Corvair, and the Suzuki Samurai. We tried to show people that all the things that they were known for being so dangerous were not true.."
"...And they are," Adam interjects.
Tanner adds that we'll see the guys try to correct those problems. "Adam put a guard rail with giant springs on the back of the Pinto, so you couldn't crash directly into it, and then had a fire sprinkler system set up. That was pretty nice."
"Just in case," Adam says, then continues, "We almost set a field on fire. When I say we, I mean Rut."
That'll come in tonight's episode, in which the guys drive big rigs. Rutledge elaborates, "We each had different stuff in the back of our trucks that we were trying to not disturb. I had lit barbecues and fireworks. I set most of the side of a highway on fire in Michigan."
With a laugh, he adds, "And then the producers come up with these ridiculous challenges where they try to kill all of us."
Explains Adam: "We did a muscle car episode and they put muscle stimulators on us and made us go through a handling course. So we're getting electroshock therapy."
"Tanner put it on his face," Rutledge adds.
"I don't think I had a choice," Tanner retorts. "You made me put it on my face."