Let's accurately re-title this episode: "The One Where Rutledge Lands Himself In The Hospital." That's what we're all going to remember about this installment of Top Gear.
After a previous outing where it was all about beating Tanner at his own game, the team celebrates their 25th show by giving Rutledge creative control. This starts with Adam and Rutledge heading out to California for truck-race training. Only one of them can win the open spot in a race the next day. The guys are competitive if not exactly graceful, and Rutledge pulls out the victory. He thinks being a pro truck racer is going to be awesome, and Adam makes a pretty good supporter for him, too. This crazy idea just might work.
But the worst is yet to come for our loveable racing analyst. He rolls the truck multiple times and ends up upside-down. Adam is immediately concerned, and this is not the usual Top Gear "we know you're going to be okay, so we're going to let you flounder" fake concern. This is serious stuff. Even though he told me this was coming in our interview, I was still kind of scared watching it. Thankfully, as evidenced by the fact that Rutledge is still with us today, he survives. "What the f--k am I doing?" he wonders as he gets out of the back of an ambulance with a bruised tailbone, among other injuries.
The next idea Rutledge has is to take Adam to San Francisco and see if they can hack it as designated drivers...on scooters. He has a hard time getting his up a hill in traffic, while Adam gets lost. Some of the drunks they're driving are not particularly sociable either. Highlights include Adam getting to enjoy a Mustang, while Rutledge has to deal with a couple making out in the backseat of their Jeep for the duration of their ride, and...I don't even know how to describe Adam's last pick-up of the night. The two compare tips at the end of the night and Adam comes out ahead. So far, Rutledge's show isn't going too well for him!
But there's one more challenge left in the show, which is more like a science experiment. Rutledge wants to know if he can charge a car battery from a generator in the back of a truck driven by The Stig. He calls it "bold innovation," which usually is not something I'd use in the same sentence with "airfield in Compton." Rutledge is able to secure the extension cord from Adam and plug in, proving that he can charge while driving...barely. At least the show is educational?
This week's Big Star, Small Car is former Boston Legal regular Lake Bell, who bonded with her father over auto shows and cars, and kind of rambles a bit. She drives a Mini and describes herself as an aggressive driver, comparing traffic to Tetris. The best part of her interview is Rutledge jokingly fishing for compliments and wondering if she's making a fat joke. Her 1:55.4 is near the bottom, but still faster than Buzz Aldrin, at least.
Aside from the health scare, this is a fun episode of Top Gear, because you can really see Rutledge's personality come out in the challenges. Like the Tanner-centric episode, you get a sense of who he is and what he loves from the crazy stuff he tries to do. The detractors should also enjoy that there's material here that wasn't done in the UK edition (we couldn't put James May in a truck race; he'd just get lost on the oval). As someone who's gotten to know the man, I'm just glad that Rutledge is in one piece. Now I wonder what will happen when we let Adam have his own episode...
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.