After narrowly avoiding bulls in an earlier episode this season, Richard Hammond is back amongst cattle in this week's episode of Richard Hammond's Crash Course, trying his hand at working on a ranch. Hopefully, this attempt turns out better, although the content warning before the titles isn't encouraging.
Richard's headed to Texas, which should be a natural fit for the guy who drove a pickup truck and wore a cowboy hat through Top Gear's ill-fated Southern road trip. Helping him this week is TJ Haynie, who starts by reminding him that 9 AM is late on the ranch. A chagrined Richard goes to change his wardrobe, then it's off to work.
The first thing Richard has to learn is how to rope, and once he finally gets that down, it's time for him to get in the saddle. Contrary to his belief, it's not really similar to riding a motorcycle. Yet he takes to it well enough, and heads out with TJ to meet the herd of cattle he'll be working with.
Once he psuedo-helps TJ wrestle a steer that needs its dose of medication, Richard is excited to go and purchase his first 'real' cowboy hat. He's impressed by the many different possibilities that the fine folks at Catalena Hatters have for him, and eventually finds the perfect one, although he commits a minor slip-up by asking if he needs a string under his chin to keep it on.
The next day begins at "oh Lord o'clock," according to Richard, who tells the audience how much he wants to do well on this particular 'crash course' and fit in with the cowboys that he's headed to meet. Upon his very self-conscious arrival, TJ introduces him to a handful of cowboys, including TJ's own father, and explains that it's time to immunize some of the cattle and castrate others. Now it's obvious why there was a content warning in front of this episode. Richard explains the castration process and he's not the only one who's a bit queasy.
After that, immunization sounds pleasant. However, it's anything but, as the calves in question are not enjoying being wrestled to the ground, poked with a needle, and tagged. They are, in fact, quite vocal in their displeasure. This makes Richard not exactly confident when TJ suggests he ought to try wrestling a calf, which he apologizes to once the animal has had its shots and he can let it go. Richard Hammond: always ridiculously well-mannered.
How do you follow up all of that noise and action? TJ and his father take Richard out for some target practice. The Hamster is excited to fire his first revolver, and we get a very cool slow-motion lead-up to his first shot...which misses and causes him to squeak in pain besides. After he misses another shot, TJ suggests Richard move from the revolver to a rifle, but that doesn't go much better. Finally, on his last attempt, Richard shatters the bottle he was aiming for. He obviously doesn't have a second career in competitive shooting, but that's okay, because there's probably not much call for that on Top Gear.
Oh, look, there's another content warning. Why? Because Richard is about do some things you probably don't want to. While TJ is checking on the holiday barbecue (as we learn that this episode was filmed on the 4th of July), it's Richard's job to clean out the stalls in the stables. Once he's done with that, he chats up the cook and goes to have some steak, hoping that what he's eating isn't one of the animals he was tending to the day before.
On that unpleasant thought, after lunch Richard is told to change his clothes and handed a very long plastic glove, because his next task is to stick his arm inside cows in order to feel their reproductive organs and see if they're pregnant. Ever polite, Richard tries talking to the cow as he's going through this cringe-worthy task. "All of that and we didn't even exchange numbers," he quips afterward via voiceover.
The final task on Richard's 'crash course' to-do list is breaking wild horses, if he can keep up with TJ. "I've already broken myself," he admits. After the horses calm down, TJ explains to Richard how they're going to rope a horse, bring it aside and put a saddle on it for the first time. The horse is pretty scared of this, and TJ begins the process of placating her. The episode ends with TJ riding the newly broken filly while Richard watches in awe of how he has just earned the horse's trust in just over an hour. As a token of respect, TJ presents the departing Richard with his own cowboy belt buckle.
'Cattle Rancher' does a fine job of introducing the audience to the ranching culture, moreso because the episode is solely devoted to one occupation. If there's any pause to be had here, it's that it shows the viewers parts of the job that aren't necessarily the most palatable. While it's admirable that this installment of Crash Course shows the whole occupation and not just select parts, the more graphic segments also run the risk of taking away from the enjoyment of the episode as a whole, if you happen to be particularly squeamish. It's great to see Richard tackle another job that he obviously has great affection for - but for the sake of the TV show, let's hope this is the only time we see a content warning.
For more from Brittany Frederick, visit Digital Airwaves and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.