'Top Gear' (UK) Recap: 'Series 19, Episode 6'
March 11th, 2013 10:22pm EDT
Welcome to the first part of the Top Gear Christmas Special. Or, since it's airing in March, the Africa Special. Tonight, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May pick up three cheap estate cars for another adventure in a foreign country they'll try not to upset. Jeremy has a BMW 528i that isn't as great as it seemed on the Internet, Richard is behind the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX, and James surprises no one when he arrives in a Volvo 850R. This trio of secondhand vehicles must endure only one challenge: the search for the source of the River Nile.
The show gets off to an awkward start in Uganda. Jeremy delivers a big, rousing speech via voiceover, only to interrupt himself when he realizes they've driven to the edge of Lake Victoria. He thinks that's the end of the show, but Challenge Man corrects him by handing Richard a document that says otherwise. The befuddled trio break out their map and set out again, giving them time to reflect on their choice of transportation. Jeremy is thrilled to have working air conditioning while James admits that he doesn't, but takes solace in knowing that Jeremy can't sabotage what's already broken.
They stop at Entebbe Airport and wander around admiring the history there, but then they get an unpleasant surprise: their back-up car on this journey is a Ford Scorpio Estate. Jeremy's throttle becomes uncooperative, at least until he breaks out his hammer and bashes things a bit, as Jeremy does. The only thing scarier than Jeremy Clarkson with a large hammer is the traffic in Uganda's capital city, Kampala, which is so bad that it lasts all night. "It wasn't a dream," James moans the next morning. "I'm still here."
Once they break free of the jam, Jeremy is overjoyed to find a town called "Jezza" and insists that they stop and visit. He and James buy Richard another sarcastic present - a giant armchair that they know won't fit into the trunk of the Subaru - and then discuss how their fellow presenter suspiciously doesn't have a single grey hair for being 45. They soon get theirs, however, in the form of quite a few speed humps and some muddy side roads. Many, many miles later, our heroes end up in a very suspect hotel.
This leads to an "emergency breakfast meeting" where Richard advocates sleeping in their cars, sending the trio searching the neighborhood for supplies to modify their rides. A working montage ensues. Richard has moved the armchair to the roof and converted his trunk into a sitting area with a kitchen (complete with running water and a spice rack!). James has put a library and a workshop in his Volvo. Not to be outdone, Jeremy has turned a coffin into storage space, installed an awkward exterior bathroom, and found some beer. Unfortunately, all of that has killed his battery.
Resolving that problem, our hosts continue on their way, with Richard finding out that uneven asphalt is hell on a mobile kitchen and the Top Gear cameramen continuing to have issues with capturing anything but the back end of an animal. Eventually the convoy stops at Lake Edward for a much more pleasant evening than the one before. It's also beautifully lit, thanks to Richard's employment of nearly a dozen bug zappers.
Day three begins with mending the BMW again, and James losing the skid plate on the Volvo. This causes him "considerable pain," so of course, he's abandoned by his colleagues. By the time "Captain Backache" catches up, Jeremy and Richard are scouring the terrain for rivers flowing in the proper direction to prove that they're on the right track. Finding none, they rethink their strategy, with Jeremy insisting they need to head to somewhere southeast of Lake Victoria - requiring the crossing of several borders and setting the stage for one lengthy trip.
They're soon in the middle of a torrential downpour, heading for the mountains (while we get to hear Toto's "Africa"). The terrain proves to be an issue for both James and Jeremy's cars, the former of which eventually gets stuck. He's forced to rely on Richard to pull him out of the mud. Simultaneously, random falling tree branches crash down on Jeremy and his windshield. He thinks he'll simply drive out of harm's way, and gets the BMW trapped, too. Thankfully, there are some locals around to help, going as far as to build a new road with the mud and some nearby rocks to ensure the car's safe passage.
Unfortunately, that's not the last of the mud, and both James and Jeremy continue to trap themselves, relying on Richard's Subaru to rescue them time and again. As if that's not bad enough, Jeremy notices that an entire panel is missing from one of his doors - and that's how James fixed his skid plate. The cars limp along, with Jeremy calling the ordeal "one of the toughest days we've ever had on Top Gear," with more than 500 miles still in front of them.
Part two of the Africa Special airs next week.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Photo Credits: BBC