Saturday, September 3, 2011

Top Gear US Season 2 Episode 4 "Death Valley"

On this episode, the guys drive 3 4x4s that cost under $5,000 from the Mojave Desert, through Death Valley, and get to Las Vegas.


Segment 1: Introduction

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Jeep CJ-7 Renegade
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Ford Bronco
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Chevrolet Blazer
The guys fly via a helicopter to a location in the Mojave Desert where they would see the 4x4s they bought online for the first time. Tanner got a 1983 Jeep CJ7 Renegade. Tanner has an I6 engine, but no A/C. Tanner also does not have doors, something left out in the Craig's List ad. Adam got a 1994 Ford Bronco XLT. It has a 351 cubic inch V8. It was the same model that O.J. Simpson used. Rutledge got a 1985 Chevrolet K5 Blazer. It has a 350 cubic inch V8. It was used by the military. The guys get their instructions. The guys have to drive 400 miles through the Mojave Desert and arrive to Las Vegas. For the first 350 miles, the tires may not touch asphalt. This is a key rule for later on in the show.


Segment 2: Drag Race and Drive to Ballarat

The first test is to see which of the 4x4s is the fastest, the guys would compete in a drag race. The winner will get first choice of the items at the finish line. The guys would race across a 2 mile dry lake bed. Adam pulls into an early lead and wins the race. Tanner finishes second and Rutledge finishes in last. The items are three trailers that will be home for the guys until they reach civilization. The trailers appear to be all crap. Since Adam won, he gets first pick. He chooses the Colonial pop-up trailer. Tanner finished second and picks the off-road trailer. Rutledge is left with the pink teardrop trailer. The guys hitch their trailers to their 4x4s and head off. The guys would have to travel over rough terrain.  The next challenge is to travel 100 miles to the ghost town of Ballarat, California. The guys talk about their cars and why they have the best 4x4. Tanner says his trailer is better off-road than his Jeep, but the trailer is heavy.


Segment 3: Ballarat and Rock Climbing

The guys arrive at Ballarat. They go shopping in the general store and take all the food and water in the store. The guys do not have stoves with them. The guys would use the heat of the engines to cook the food. Tanner took the beans, Adam took the vegetables, and Rutledge took the burro meat. The guys leave Ballarat and have to travel a rough road for 30 miles to get to Death Valley. The guys encounter a steep canyon, which they must climb up. The rocks were wet and slippery. Tanner says he needs a guinea pig and tricks Adam into going up the rocky terrain first. Adam tries to go up and fails. As he is backing up, his trailer comes loose and falls down the rocky terrain. Adam tries again to get up the rocky terrain. He gets close to the top but the Ford kept slipping. His driver-side rear tire fell off. Heading back to the studio, Tanner and Rutledge explain what they are doing in the Mojave Desert. They say that Adam may have won the drag race, but he killed his Ford while rock climbing. Tanner says his Jeep was designed to go over large rocks. Tanner goes and makes it up the rocky terrain with the trailer in tact. Rutledge goes and fails to make it up on his first try. He tries again and makes it up the rocky terrain with the trailer in tact. Tanner and Rutledge leave Adam behind. While Tanner and Rutledge travel through the canyon, they pass by mines haunted by the men who died in them. Both guys keep traveling over rough, bumpy terrain. Eventually, Tanner's hears a boom and his Jeep stops. The can of beans burst and fused a couple of wires together. Tanner has to hot-wire his car just to get it to stop. By nightfall, Tanner and Rutledge made it through the canyon and stop for the night.


Segment 4: Camping

Tanner and Rutledge remove the burro meat from the engine only to find out that the engine burnt the meat. The meat smelled like motor oil. The two realize that Adam has the vegetables. Both Tanner and Rutledge take a bite of the meat and could not eat another bite. It is morning and Adam arrives by running into Tanner's and Rutledge's trailers. To keep his tire on the Ford, Adam put a steel bar on the car to support the tire. The guys head off. The guys explain why they have the best 4x4. The next challenge is for the guys to travel 70 miles through Death Valley and reach the Nevada state line.


Segment 5: Death Valley

The guys were in very bad moods. They could not agree on who had the best vehicle, who was winning, and directions. They guys see a sign that warns of trouble in that direction. Rutledge says to travel in the opposite direction of the sign. He also says that the Ford is out of contention for the best off-road 4x4 challenge since it has only two-wheel drive. As he keeps talking, Tanner messes with Rutledge's trailer hinge. As they are driving, Tanner challenges Rutledge to swing his trailer from side to side. Rutledge tries to drift his trailer, but the trailer flips over. The show moves back to the studio and Adam says that America's toughest 4x4 is the Ford Bronco. Rutledge says that a rock took out the Ford, but Adam says it was a boulder. Rutledge says that it is not the Jeep, which was stopped by a side item. Rutledge says the best 4x4 is the Blazer which had no problems, until somebody messed with it. Rutledge's trailer is shattered. Rutledge asked Tanner if he sabotaged his trailer, but Tanner acts like he has static problems with his walkie-talkie. Tanner then smiles at the camera. Tanner is the only one to have his trailer still connected to his 4x4. The guys make it through Death Valley and now see what terrain they would have to travel over.


Segment 6: Sand Dunes

The guys see massive sand dunes ahead of them and buckle up. Adam tries an aggressive approach to make it up a huge sand dune, but he fails. Tanner finds a path through the dunes and the other two follow behind him. As they are climbing over the dunes, Adam's front wheels get stuck in the sand. Tanner and Rutledge leave Adam behind again so he could get himself unstuck. It takes Adam an hour to catch up to his fellow presenters. The guys make it to the Nevada state line and were 50 miles away from pavement. It is nightfall and Tanner is the only one still with a trailer. Rutledge and Adam would have to sleep in their vehicles. As the sun rose, the guys encounter asphalt.


Segment 7: Crossing the Road

The rules for the challenge state that the guys could not have any wheels touch asphalt for the first 350 miles. The guys made it only 300 miles, so they could not drive on the asphalt. Each presenter took a different approach to crossing the road. Tanner's plan was to use a roller system, similar to the system used by Egyptian pharaohs. Adam and Rutledge believe that Tanner would fail. Tanner left his trailer behind and made it across the road using the roller system with the help of the other two. Adam's plan is to flip the Ford on its side and wrench it across the road. Adam gets the Ford on its side. Returning to the studio and Rutledge asks Adam if he secretly hates cars because Adam keeps killing the good ones during these challenges. Adam says that you have to give a tough car tough tasks. Returning to the challenge, the Ford is on its side, Adam unbuckles his belt and he falls down to the passenger side, which is the side on the ground.  Adam climbs out of the driver side window. The wench on the Ford got connected to the Jeep and Tanner pulls the Ford across the road. Tanner pulls the Ford onto its wheels. Rutledge found three pieces of carpet and arrange them to be a tank tread. Then Rutledge would then tread is way across the road, but the tread covers the windshield and Rutledge would not be able to see where he is going. He makes it across the road and the drives out of the tread. The Ford was blowing smoke because engine oil got into places where it normally does not go to. The guys travel off-road and make it to Mount Charleston. The guys are now allow to travel on asphalt.


Segment 8: Final Stretch to Trump International Hotel.

The guys would travel 52 miles to Trump International Hotel. To make this a tough trek, the guys would only be allowed to have 3 gallons of gas in their tanks. The first one to the hotel gets to stay in the Presidential Suite. The guys would have to prepare their 4x4s for the final stretch. Tanner says that the key to economical challenges is good driving technique and took a nap. Rutledge and Adam arrive. Adam shed as much weight off the Ford as he could but he ruined the aerodynamics of the Ford. Rutledge tried to improve the aerodynamics of the Blazer by adding a boat tail out of cardboard and duct tape. Tanner drove off-road. The other two travel along the roads. The guys drive downhill. Adam rode his brakes to prevent the tire from shredding. Unfortunately, Adam's tire shredded when he reached the bottom of the hill and left the spare tire behind to save weight. The Ford is out of the competition. It was between the Jeep and the Blazer.  They make it to Las Vegas and are closing in on the Hotel. The Jeep and Blazer were neck and neck until Tanner decided to speed ahead. Tanner says that hypermiling is lame. Then he hears a bang sound from his Jeep and runs out of gas. Rutledge is the only one left and turns off the engine while at red lights. Tanner gets out of the Jeep and makes a run for the Hotel on foot. Rutledge arrives at the Trump Hotel and wins. Adam says that he had the toughest 4x4. Tanner says that he pulled the heaviest trailer through the Mojave Desert, so his Jeep is the toughest 4x4. Rutledge's Blazer is the only 4x4 that made it to the Trump Hotel, I give the victory to the Blazer for completing all the challenges.


Overall, this was an average episode. There were some funny and entertaining bits. The best part was when the guys had to cross a road without touching the asphalt with their tires. Other entertaining bit were Tanner sabotaging Rutledge's trailer and Adam's wake up call for Tanner and Rutledge. They do follow Top Gear tradition by leaving behind the host with car issues. Boring parts include the subpar drag race, the sand dune drive, except when Adam got stuck, the rock climb, except for when one of Adam's tires shredded, and the final stretch. Except for two instances, the interaction between the presenters was boring. Absent from this episode were the Stig and the "Big Star, Small Car" segment. The good parts made up for the boring parts and the guys follow Top Gear tradition twice making this an average episode.


Final Verdict: 5 Stigs out of 10. It was an average episode by Top Gear US standards and poor by Top Gear UK standards.


This is the third time in just four Season Two episodes that a supercar was not featured. Top Gear UK has unique challenges involving old cars, but it also has supercars and entertaining car reviews. This episode just featured the guys driving through a desert to get to Las Vegas. I know that Top Gear UK took 4x4s through the Amazon Rainforest. The interaction between Clarkson, May, and Hammond was very entertaining to watch. Plus comedy came from Hammond's fear of bugs. The interaction between Adam, Tanner, and Rutledge was boring for the most part. There were only two good interactions. Adam running in the other two's trailers and Tanner sabotaging Rutledge' trailer. Everything else was boring. The only episode that featured nothing but supercars was the Top Gear US Pilot, and that was a boring episode to watch. The next Top Gear US episode features no trucks, no 4x4s, a "Ferrari" and a Porsche 911.

CarJunkie

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