Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top Gear "Middle East Special"

On this 2010 Top Gear Christmas special, the guys re-enact the journey of the Three Wise Men by driving from Iraq to Bethlehem.

This review includes Sacrilegious Spoilers. You have been warned.

Segment 1: Three Wise Men Introduction

For this episode, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May will be playing the role of the Three Wise Men. The guys will be traveling to the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem. The guys would each have to pick a car that costs less than 3,500 pounds and is a two seat convertible. The guys have another issue. Due to political reasons, the guys cannot buy a car from any of the surrounding nations. The guys would have to buy their cars from Georgia and then fly them over to the starting point using a Russian transport plane. The guys did not know where the starting point would be.

Fiat Barchetta

Mazda MX-5

Richard Hammond picked at Fiat Barchetta Riviera Special. Richard says he is brave for picking the Fiat, but Jeremy says he is stupid for picking the Fiat. Jeremy says he is a wise man for picking a Mazda MX-5. James chose a BWM Z3. James May paid 3,966 pounds for the Z3, which is more than what the guys are allowed to spend. Jeremy says that they are not three wise men. Jeremy says he is a wise man, Richard is an idiot, and James is a cheat. As the plane approaches the starting point, the door opens and Richard is screaming. After the plane has landed, Jeremy is handed an envelope and all three guys are given bullet-proof vests and helmets. Jeremy opens the envelope and finds out that they are in Iraq. For the special, the guys would be travelling 1200 miles to Bethlehem. They are to pickup gold, frankincense, and myrrh along the way. There is a helicopter flying above the plane. Richard is closest to the door. Jeremy is in the middle, and James is the farthest from the plane door. Richard does not want to be the shield for the other two. They decide to count 3, 2, 1, then get as fast as possible off the plane. Richard counts down and leaves the plane and gets to a shed as fast as possible. Richard is mad because Jeremy did not leave. Jeremy says his car "stalled." Jeremy counts down and he and James quickly leave the plane and make it to the shed. The guys take out a map to plan the route. The guys would be travelling from Arbil, Iraq into Iran, then Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and then Israel. The guys are avoiding Mosul, Iraq. The guys set off.

Segment 2: Iraq

While driving in Iraq, James thinks it is a mistake to drive in the front. The guys play leapfrog with the goal of being in the middle so that they have a smaller chance of being shot at. The guys are so busy with playing leapfrog that they are not looking where they are going. The guys are lost. The guys are driving in an area with tall buildings, a perfect place for an ambush. Jeremy stops at a corner. Richard pushes Jeremy, asking him to see what is around the corner. The guys make it back to the highway, but The Z3 has problems. Smoke is coming from the engine and fluid is leaking from the Z3. Richard and Jeremy are giving James a hard time. Richard and Jeremy realize how normal the surroundings are and that it takes just one person for things to be not normal. As James is looking at his Z3 while he is blocking traffic, the guys find out that the producers have got a back-up car, an Opel Astra Convertible.

Opel Astra Convertible
Richard and Jeremy head off, leaving James behind. Meanwhile, James is attracting a lot of unwanted attention. James got his Z3 back up running and is off. 20 minutes later, the Z3 issues returned. James makes it to a shop and discovers the problem. There is water in the cylinders. A new gasket will be installed on the engine. The guys are off the next day and it is revealed that James is not in the Astra. His Z3 is up and running. The Astra is stalking James. The guys are going through several military checkpoints on their way to Iran. It starts raining, the roads become slippery, and Jeremy spins off the road. The guys are driving on mountain terrain, a good place for an ambush. They decide to put the roofs up. The guys pull over to a market when Jeremy has an idea. He suggests taking the door linings out, fill the doors with sand, and put the door linings back on. Jeremy buys Richard a cigarette lighter made from a bullet (this is an important for a later incident). The guys stop and Jeremy fills his door with sand. A guy fires a 9mm bullet at Jeremy's door and it goes right through the car. Jeremy experiment fails. The guys make it to the Iran border, only to find out that members of the BBC are forbidden from entering Iran due to political reasons. The guys stop at a place for the night. When they wake up, they discover they stayed at an Iraqi amusement park. While enjoying the amusement park, the guys discover they have been in Iraq for two days and are never shot at. They decide to take their protection off. They are in the Kurd region of Iraq. The guys are enjoying the mountain roads of Iraq and their cars. The guys arrive at the Turkish border. At the border, the guards ask Richard to step out of the car and discover the lighter made from a bullet. Richard's lighter gets confiscated. The guys enter Turkey and pull over for instructions.

Segment 3: Turkey

In the instructions, the producers call the guys idiots for leaving a region where the is no war and into a region where there is war. The Kurds are fighting for independence from Turkey. The guys have to get to their hotel in the safe zone in Sanliurfa by nightfall, which is 363 kilometer, or about 220 miles from the border. The guys put on the bulletproof vests and helmets and set off. They have 4 and a half hours until nightfall. The guys speed while driving on bumpy roads. Jeremy tries to speed off and his MX-5 has problems. A sparkplug came loose in the MX-5. The Astra crept in as Jeremy is working on the MX-5. Richard and James are working on Jeremy's car and Jeremy points out that Richard's feet are not even on the ground while he is working on Jeremy's car. The guys reach smoother roads and increase their speeds. The guys reach the safety zone well after dark. Richard is bragging that his car never broke down. To get payback on Richard, James and Jeremy unwire Richard's stereo, install a hidden stereo, and wire the hidden stereo to the car. Then they put in a CD containing music that annoys Richard. The next day, they get in their cars. Richard starts his car and music from Genesis, a band that Richard Hammond dislikes, starts playing. Richard is just miserable. While approaching the Syrian border, James has issues with the Z3's alarm. The alarm disabled the car. Richard drives through the border first. Jeremy pushes the Z3 past the border. The guys stop at customs. Richard bolts for the restrooms as James is trying to get his Z3 back up and running. Jeremy puts a X made from red tape on the doors of Richard's Fiat, signifying that Richard has "the plague." The Z3 is back up and running and the guys enter Syria.

Segment 4: Syria

The guys drive into Syria and pull over to plan their route into Israel. For political reasons, they cannot go from Syria to Israel or from Lebanon to Israel. They plan to go from Syria to Jordan and from Jordan to Israel. Another issue, if the Israelis know that the guys have been in Syria, they would not allow the guys into Israel. The guys think that no one in Syria watches Top Gear. When they reach a town, they are surrounded by fans. The Syrians are taking pictures with the three presenters. The guys enter a hookah bar and come up with a way to avoid their fans. The hookah bar is showing an episode of Top Gear on the television. Jeremy comes up with an idea to avoid the roads. He proposes to sneak through the desert. That night, the guys modify their cars to handle the desert. It is the next day and the guys explain what they did to their cars.
Mazda MX-5

Fiat Barchetta
Richard is the first to show off his modifications. He put a Bedouin tent on the Fiat. He also covered the front of the Fiat with sand from the desert to help the car blend in. He did the modifications so that surrounding people would not notice him. The would think that it is a Bedouin tent. Jeremy painted his MX-5 with many colors, to represent Joseph's coat of many colors. Jeremy also added two rear wheels, making his roadster a dually, and larger wheel arches to accomidate the additional rear wheels. He also added a spoiler for added traction. James made "biblical" modifications to the Z3. James added lights on top of the windshield, including a "light of the world" lamp. He also added side storage to hold "enough provisions for forty days and forty nights in the desert. While driving in the desert, both of Jeremy's rear wheel arches fall off. Jeremy collects them and says " I just keep collecting them. I don't know where the came from." Jeremy leads the guys through a ditchy path and says, "Follow me." He gets stuck and says, "Don't follow me." Richard starts backing up and his tent starts falling apart. To make up for his mistake, Jeremy decides to cook lunch on his spoiler, which is made from a pan. Jeremy tries to cook eggs  on his spoiler, but the angle of the spoiler causes the eggs to slip to the bottom of the pan. While driving some more, the radiator bracket on the Fiat breaks. Richard's radiator is hanging on by a thread. As per Top Gear Tradition, James and Jeremy leave Richard behind. Richard struggles to fix his Fiat. As the sun sets, Richard sets off in the Fiat. Richard is driving carefully because he knows that if the radiator falls off, that is it for the Fiat and he would have to finish the journey in the Astra. Richard meets up with the other two and they enjoy hookah by the campfire. The guys wake up to the sounds of the BMW alarm. James is able to get the Z3 up and running and the guys set off. The three cars struggle with the sandy terrain. The cars are constantly getting stuck. While the Fiat is trying to get the MX-5 over a hill, James falls while holding the rope. James starts bleeding from the head. James could not remember where he is and is taken to a hospital. Jeremy and Richard reach a road. However, Richard brings up that if they go on the road, they will be noticed. They decide to drive through the town and pick up James while wearing a disguise. James walks out of the hospital with a bandage wrapped around his head and sees his two fellow presenters wearing burqas. James calls Jeremy a "big cock" and Richard " an irritating little sod." James goes along with the plan and wears a burqa. The guys speed off and drive until they have to pull over because the MX-5 is having engine problems. Richard takes the tent of the Fiat. Jeremy removes the extra rear wheels from the MX-5 and the guys gather around the MX-5's  engine.Jeremy decides not to fix the engine and the guys set off. Jeremy was driving slowly behind the other two. Richard has to pull over due to a flat tire. James helps Richard replace the flat tire with a spare and Jeremy catches up to them. The guys arrive in Damascus. The guys arrive at the hotel without being noticed. The see a sign that says, "Welcome Top Gear." The guys appear on television in drag for nothing. The guys go to the market to find presents. The guys meet up at a restaurant and order food that makes Richard very uncomfortable, including a lamb's head, brains, and testicles. The guys show want they bought. Richard bought a gold relief of Jesus' own head. James got frankincense, but it is really hotel shampoo. Jeremy could not find any myrrh, so he got a Nintendo DS. The guys head off and the MX-5's engine is fixed, with Jeremy taking all the credit. The guys reach the Jordan border.

Segment 5: Jordan

The guys enter Jordan and James is giving random facts about Jordan. While driving in Jordan, the guys find a race track in the shape of an oval. The guys decide to have a race. The guys finish racing and decide that the Fiat is the fastest. The guys return to the road and head for Israel. The guys reach the Israel border and have to use a different passport that does not show that they were in Syria. The guys enter Israel.

Segment 6: Israel and Episode Finale

The guys enter Israel and are advised not to head towards the disputed West Bank. Jeremy convinces the other two to head to the Sea of Galilee. The guys drive through the curvy roads of the Golan Heights. While enjoying the roads of the Golan Heights, they enjoy the sunset over the Sea of Galilee. The guys pull over by the Sea of Galilee and Jeremy says that he is JC. Jeremy takes James' bandage off and says, "I have healed you." Jeremy takes of the bandage around his arm and Richard notices that there are no marks that show that Jeremy was pricked there. Jeremy pulls out a bag. He says that that he used to have one sweet, but now there are many. He even tries to walk on the water, but he fails and falls in. When he is in the water, he says, "I have invented swimming." The guys drive on towards Bethlehem and reflect on their journey and their cars.  The guys pull over into a car park at the Mountain of Olives to decide which car is the best. James says his Z3 is rubbish and that there is a place in hell for the man who built the gearbox for the Z3. James says that he coveted his neighbor's Fiat. Jeremy also picks the Fiat. The Fiat was surprisingly the most reliable on the journey. At nightfall, the guys reach Bethlehem. The guys are guided by a light in the sky. The guys reach the Nativity scene and present their gifts of gold, frankincense (hotel shampoo), and a Nintendo DS. The guys look into the crib to see this newly born child. There is the Baby Stig in the crib. The guys look surprise and on that bombshell, the show ends.

Baby Stig
Overall, this is a very entertaining episode. I still laugh every time I see the ending. This Christmas special occurs at the beginning of Series 16 and the chemistry among the three presenters is nearly perfect. As part of its reputation, Fiat stands for "Fix It Again Tony." To see the Fiat as the most reliable was very surprising. The funniest part is that the guys travel through the desert and even wore burqas to stay hidden from their Top Gear fans in Syria only to arrive at the hotel with a sign that says "Welcome Top Gear." This episode aired around Christmas time in 2010. I was in Israel during the summer of 2010 and I visited some of the the places shown in the episode. I hiked in the Golan Heights, went pass the Sea of Galilee a few times, and spent a few days in Jerusalem. I knew that some of the roads in Israel were ideal for driving in a two-door convertible. The surprise is just how Top Gear and the BBC were able to make this episode possible. The guys were not allow into Iran. Israel will not allow people who are coming from Syria in. This is a must watch episode of Top Gear.

Final Score: 100 Stigs out of 100. This is one of my favorite episodes of Top Gear. I can watch this episode over and over again. It was very entertaining, The chemistry is nearly perfect. Jeremy Clarkson trying to prove that he is JC and failing at it was fun to watch. The Baby Stig in the crib might anger some people.

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1 comment:

  1. I too have watched this episode many times and still crack up everytime...brilliant of the most memorable parts for me was the cargo hold door opening and Richard screaming...hilarious! Hands down one of if not the best Top Gear episode ever :D I also loved Richard saying it was his fault the radiator fell out, he was veey passionate about that car!