Episode five of The Grand Tour suffers from pacing woes | Episode Review
We've hesitated to mention The Grand Tour's pacing problems, hoping that the long break following the end of Top Gearwas the cause, but episode five is a mess of bad pacing. Each of its two segments goes on for about five minutes too long, and that's despite the promise in each concept.
The jaunt across North Africa, which dominates this episode, annoys from the start. See, in its short life, The Grand Tourhas taken to introducing coincidences with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink attitude and faux-annoyed "What are you doing here?" While Jeremy Clarksonand Richard Hammond are off testing the McLarenP1 and Porsche 918 Spyder, episode one expects viewers to forget the stillborn hybrid hypercarcomparo from Top Gear's 22nd season and believe James May just happens to show up with a LaFerrari. The hosts repeat the same gag in episode three, when Hammond "crashes" Clarkson and May's cultured, refined grand tour. And now, the hosts go back to the same well in episode five.
What starts as a potentially interesting comparison between the Mazda MX-5and the boutique-made Zenos E10 turns quickly into a three-car test after Jeremy Clarkson hears Richard Hammond and James May "are talking rubbish" and decides to show up in an Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. What would have been wrong with simply saying this was a three-car test from the start? Instead, the storytelling is disingenuous and lazy, neither of which we expect from these three.
But ignore the disappointing opening, and the North Africa film plays out well in its first segment. There's the normal banter between the hosts, with each explaining why his car is superior, and we get a surprising drag race. It's fun and simple and is precisely the kind of stuff we like from TGT(and TGbefore it). And then it ends with Clarkson claiming he's going to build a set of scales to weigh each of the cars. Oh dear.
What follows is a perfect split between stupidity and the organic comedy that Clarkson, Hammond, and May do so well. The idea of using animals as counterweights on a balancing scale is too idiotic even for Clarkson's on-screen persona, but the fiasco the scale segment creates is worthwhile. We aren't going to spoil the situation – this is a spoiler-free review, after all – but it's funny in the hosts' trademarkambitious-but-rubbish manner.
What would we change in the film's second half? Ditch the two-minute cut of Clarkson's 4C Spider, with its lovely music and black-and-white scenes. It's beautifully shot – that goes without saying when talking about The Grand Tour– but it feels unnecessary and completely stalls the episode. The element with the live animals goes on for a few minutes too long, as well. And Hammond's idiotic wandering around the film set? Kill it. All these scenes do is rob the pace the show builds after the latest installment of the terrible Celebrity Braincrash.
While we said several episodes ago we'd stop talking about this segment, we feel obligated to warn you to have the remote control ready to fast forward, unless you want to see Jeremy Clarkson wearing a ball gag (and if you do, more power to you). Combining the Dutch city of Rotterdam – the location of this week's show – prudish British sensibilities, and the usual juvenile attitude of the show's on-screen characters guarantees mocking of The Netherlands' kinky sex shops and brothels. Do we really need James May trying on bondage gear or Clarkson inflating blow-up dolls with an engine to explain it?
James May and Richard Hammond's slow but extremely entertaining take on the classic board game Battleshipsplit the oddly paced North African adventure, giving a sense of balance and composure to the episode's middle. Now, this isn't the first time Hammond and May have tried injecting the car into children's games. In Top Gear's earlier days, the pair played CaravanConkers, the show's take on the traditional British game, and darts with cars. Both of those cases were good for a laugh, and it's no different with Battleship.
After some initial shenanigans involving an air cannon, the two hosts get the game going. There's an old, Cold War-era airfield as the board, a quartet of cargo containers serve as the wall, and rather than an inaccurate cannon, a pair of cranes drop hateful G-Wiz "missiles" on the squares the hosts target. It's fun, competitive, and most importantly, simple, all of which makes it the highlight of episode five.
And that's kind of worrying. We know not every episode of The Grand Touris going to be the best ever. Stuff like episode two happens, or some things that sound promising just don't work on TV screens. But taking three convertibles across some beautiful scenery and trying to figure out which one is best? It's Clarkson, Hammond, and May's bread and butter, the kind of thing we beg the show to do every time we see an Operation Desert Stumble. But this segment's inconsistent pacing and disingenuous start are too much to ignore. Battleshipisn't enough to rescue episode five from a merely average rating.
Ah Friday, the weekend is here, the 9-5 is melting away and of course, The Grand Tour is here. It was another belter in which the main theme of the show was two seater roadsters. Hmm, it’s already sounding good.
This week Clarkson, Hammond and May took their massive tent in Holland, Rotterdam more specifically. The three enter in their usual fashion before opening the show with a bit of light banter about ‘swaffling’, police officers in questionable uniforms and speed cameras.
Three’s A Crowd
The first part of the major film sees Richard Hammond and James May in the sunny desert land of Marrakech. Hammond opts for the most successful roadster of all time, the Mazda MX-5, whilst James May opts for the stripped out Zenos E10S. At this point I was very happy as I’m a fan of both cars and I’ve been lucky enough to experience the Zenos first-hand.
No time to admire the cars though as Hammond and May set out a slanging match as Hammond thinks the Zenos is too stripped out and expensive, whilst May thinks the MX-5 is to soft and heavy. The pair are then interrupted by the arrival of Jeremy Clarkson who turns up in the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and a rather familiar blazer (the one worn on the epic Vietnam special). In typical Clarkson fashion, he explains in many ways why he has brought the best car.
No I’ll be honest, there could have more technical information given about the cars and I know for a fact if this clip has been presented by Evans, Le Blanc and Harris on Top Gear, it would have been criticised. However, the chemistry of Clarkson, Hammond and May really stitches the film together (as you’d expect) and you don’t notice the lack of details too much.
The part where they tried to use Clarkson’s homemade weigh bridge was pretty funny though and I must say I gasped when I saw what happened to the back of the MX-5, although that wasn’t the worst thing to happen to it.
Conversation Street and Battleships
We then go back to the studio where the three embark on to another enjoyable edition of ‘Conversation street’ in which they discuss which country has the worst police cars and surprise, surprise it’s Britain. They then move on to otters (don’t ask) before linking in to the next film – life-size battleships (well, kind off).
Hammond and May head to an airfield where they set out an ambitious attempt to make board games more interesting. It’s rather reminiscent of the conkers game the two played on Top Gear a few years back. The game of choice is battleships, but instead of using a plastic board with plastic counters, cars are used as the ships. The missiles? They were the god awful G-Wiz, a ‘car’ that is about exciting as filling out a tax return and about as safe as being in the same cage as a hungry lion.
May gets a good start and it looks like as if he is going to walk it, but after three misses Hammond was able to claw his way back in to the battle. I won’t ruin the result but I will tell you that few awful cars get destroyed, including the visually-insulting PT Cruiser, which Hammond simply described as ‘crap’.
Celebrity Brain Crash
Golden Earring were ‘killed’ off this week. End of.
We head back to Marrakech now where we rejoin the trio on their roadster test which so has really told us anything but was enjoyable to watch all the same. They stumble across a few film/tv sets, including the set for the hit TV series Game of Thrones, which seems to be a bit too much for Richard Hammond. They quickly set about building a rudimentary racetrack and get to work to see who can post the quickest lap.
It looked like great fun and it made me feel rather envious, that’s for sure! The cars did look a bit of place on the loose surface of the Moroccan desert and that proved to be the undoing of Hammond who almost oversteered in to the set and May, who misjudged one of the turns. Clarkson had no problems though, apart from his width. His 4C also had issues 😉
They then set out to see who can find post the fastest laps and I have to say, the results were surprising. Not quite as surprising as what Hammond managed to do to his MX-5… There goes his no claims again…
Here’s a list of certainties. Water is wet. Grass is green. And cars kicking up dust look magnificent. The Grand Tour episode five continues the unlikely trio theme with a mismatched collection of open air sportscars thrashing around Morocco for the main film, culminating in some stunning shots as they charge around deserted film sets, spewing dust over scenery from the likes of Game Of Thrones.
There was the British Zenos E10 S, a car so stripped bare that it doesn’t have doors, alongside the ever present roadster that is the Mazda MX-5 and the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. Over the decades of the MX5’s success, the Mazda’s forerunners have been accused of being a vehicle for hairdressers, but in truth have always been one of the best balanced cars on the road. This one looks sharper than ever before, and is a bargain driving experience to buy.
Read more: The Mazda MX-5 is a super car
But it’s the Alfa, visually, that’s undeniably the star of the show. Ironically, the Spider is now free of the bizarre "spider-eyes" headlights that adorned the hardtop version, and so it’s pretty as a picture. But it’s oh so flawed, as with so many Alfa’s throughout history, and costs more than the other two cars together. But it’s a carbon monocoque, like the McLaren 650S, that wants to make your ears bleed, and has enough soul to charm the birds from the trees. It’s the car you’d want for a long weekend in Tuscany. You be both grateful you could return it without having to take ownership, yet forever treasure the experience.
The latest episode of The Grand Tour moved its cultural stereotyping to the Netherlands, specifically, Rotterdam. The nature of the Clarkson beast combined with internationally touring, means stereotypes will always be brought up, every week, opening up potentially awkward scenarios. And it’s a tricky act to balance – not insulting the host nation to a point you’re getting lynched, but also not shying away from it. Poking fun at them, in a way that feels they’re involved and will encourage them to poke back. And generally, the crowds so far have responded like they love it. But it has been crafted to be that way, and you can sense the scripted elements within the tent.
Amazon's free reign ensures there’s no build-up of Jeremy Clarkson's more extreme gases
So, James sits at the table with "the munchies" for comic effect, in a nod to the coffee shops of Amsterdam. There’s some (well deserved) ridiculing of locals skin-tight cycling police uniforms. But most apt is Clarkson’s introduction to the conversation – that they have made history by being the first British people to come to the Netherlands for a weekend without vomiting on a prostitute. That’s the flavour of self-deprecation that gives them the freedom for the rest of their stereotyping, dishing it out in equal portion with our own cultural failings.
The Grand Tour: Series 1, Episode 5 – Morroccan Roll
- The Grand Tour studio arrives in Rotterdam.
- Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May introduce a lightweight sport car test featuring the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, the Mazda MX5 and the Zenos E10 in the stunning landscapes of Morocco.
- Also in this show, Hammond and May play a traditional board game using cars
- Dutch band Golden Earring are the guest stars.
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The tent is at the Port of Rotterdam. To settle an argument over the best sports car, the presenters go to Marrakech, Morocco to compare the Mazda MX-5, the Zenos E10S and the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider.
During the road trip Clarkson suddenly pulls over due to a leg cramp while driving the 4C. Later, he challenges Hammond and May to weigh their cars to prove that the 4C is lighter, using an improvised scale and animal carcasses as counterweight. The scale breaks just as Hammond is about to remove the MX-5 from it, and the crew are ordered to leave the premises due to their use of animal carcasses.
Clarkson and the film crew leave Hammond and May to focus on the 4C. The presenters stop at Atlas Corporation Studios in Ouarzazate to perform timed laps with their cars. Hammond wins, despite crashing into an Egyptian statue prop.
Also in the episode, Hammond and May play an explosive game of Battleships using old cars as the “ships” and several G-Wizes as “missiles”.
Dutch band Golden Earring perform live outside the tent, but are electrocuted on stage. To fill in the time, Clarkson uses a V-8 engine to inflate a blow-up doll.
0:01:41 – The Dutch really are the tallest nation on earth. A study published in the journal eLife found that the average Dutch man is a strapping 6 feet tall. The smallest men in the world are found in East Timor, which is why this country is not known for its basketball team.
0:02:45 – The speed camera was invented by Dutch racing driver Maurice Gatsonides. He once said, ‘Even I can’t escape my own invention because I love speeding’. Doh.
0:04:10 – The retro-looking ‘Marrakech’ title at the start of the lightweight sports cars test is a homage to the titles used in old movies filmed in glamorous overseas locations.
0:04:37 – The Mazda MX5 has a 1.5-litre, four cylinder engine making 129 horsepower. It can cover 0-62 in 8.3 seconds and has a top speed of 127mph.
0:05:29 – Lotus boss Colin Chapman signed a deal with John Z. DeLorean to develop the infamous DeLorean DMC-12 sportscar. It all became a bit complicated, DeLorean got caught in an FBI drugs sting, and some of the project budget went ‘missing’.
0:05:33 – The Zenos E10 S has a 2-litre, four cylinder turbocharged engine which produces 250 horsepower. It can go from 0-62 in 4 seconds and has a top speed of 145mph. It weighs 725 kilos.
0:09:34 – The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider has a 1.7-litre, four cylinder turbocharged engine which makes 234 horsepower. It can go from 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 160mph. It weighs 1128 kilos.
0:10:38 – Some of the Alfa 4C’s interior fittings are taken from other cars. Other, cheaper cars. Such as the Fiat Punto hatchback.
0:15:45 – The Zenos E10 S has a power-to-weight ratio of 345 horsepower-per-tonne. The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider has a power-to-weight ratio of 207 horsepower-per-tonne. Jeremy might have forgotten to look this up before the drag race.
0:16:16 – The Alfa 4C was designed in Milan, but it’s actually made in the Maserati factory in Modena. Because they know more about building exotic things.
0:16:50 – It is unclear if Jeremy’s lightweight sports car jacket was bought for a bet. But if it was, he definitely won.
0:18:30 – Jeremy’s scepticism about Dutch-made cars is well founded. Cars made in Holland include the Volvo 340, The Daf Daffodil and the Mitsubishi Carisma.
0:24:21 – The massive former Cold War airfield is RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk, England.
0:26:06 – Hammond’s car board game cannon is normally used to make cars to improbably massive jumps in movies.
0:28:20 – Thick – A quaint British word meaning daft, stupid, a bit like Richard Hammond.
0:33:19 – Horatio Hammond is a reference to Horatio Nelson, famed British naval commander who led his forces to victory in the Battle of Trafalgar, thereby preventing the French from invading England. He died in the process, and was honoured with a massive monument in London’s Trafalgar Square. The founder of the Pagani supercar company is also called Horatio, but this wasn’t a reference to him.
0:37:33 – Golden Earring’s Radar Love was first released in 1973. It reached number 7 in the UK charts, number 13 in the US charts, and was number 1 in Holland for 13 weeks. Or was that years?
0:39:33 – The night before the studio recording, Jeremy proudly showed off his ‘motoring accessory’ purchases in a busy Rotterdam hotel bar.
0:40:11 – When Jeremy says ‘Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side’ he’s making a reference to the chorus of the UK number 1 hit, Pass The Dutchie by Musical Youth. The Grand Tour – bringing you bang-up-to-date cultural references since 2016.
0:40:30 – The V8 lady inflater engine is from a Ford.
0:41:29 – Richard’s HOV lane inflatable passenger came in a box marked ‘Fatty Patty’
0:43:13 – Jeremy Clarkson owns some donkeys. The one in the lightweight cars film isn’t one of his.
0:43:41 – Richard Hammond lives in the countryside so he knows about manoeuvring animals.
0:44:37 – James May lives in London and does not have livestock. Although he does have a cat.
0:47:27 – Muppet – British word for a stupid or foolish person. Also, a type of puppet. But that’s not relevant in this case.
0:51:04 – During the filming of the sports car item, some British paparazzi turned up and tried to spy on the plucky hosts going about their business. Unfortunately for these photographers, they got stopped by the police, had to admit they didn’t have permits to work in Morocco and were marched back to the airport. Ooops.
0:51:48 – The setting for the race in the sports cars film is Atlas Studios, near Ouarzazate, Morocco.
0:53:15 – ‘The Dick From Del Monte’ is a reference to ‘The Man From Del Monte’, a tinned produce ad campaign shown in Britain in the 1980s. The titular character in the ads went around tasting and approving fruit while wearing a pale linen suit. Which, if you think about it, was an impractical choice of clothing.
0:57:05 – James estimates this to be the third most dusty he’s ever been.
0:58:50 – ‘Sir Jon Blashford-Hammond’ is a reference to famed British explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell (who James seems to have accidentally knighted).
Episode 5 review grand tour
The Grand Tour season 3 episode 5 recap
Finally The Grand Tour has delivered an almost flawless episode. Gone are the forced jokes and cringe-worthy scripting and acting. This episode is, for me at least, what I love about The Grand Tour and what I want to see from Clarkson, May and Hammond every single week.
In episode 5 we get the usual bits of chat and of course a trip down conversation street but we also get three very different films that all speak to me. First we see James May driving the Alpine A110, a unique looking French sports car, around the Eboladrome and loving every second of it. He comes across as a big kid and his enthusiasm is infectious.
The second film is all about the new off-roader from Lamborghini, the Urus. As you would expect given that it’s being driven by Jeremy the Urus is put through the test in some bizarre ways. Namely seeing if it can drive up a ski slope, as you do, and the car does a pretty good job given that it’s on road tires and has no low range gear box. He also races on a frozen lake around a track shaped like a ‘gentleman’s sausage’ as Clarkson might say. He’s trying to overtake Abbie Eaton who is driving a Porche 911 and you’ll have to watch it if you want to know if he manages it.
Finally we have Richard Hammond and his film charting the career and tragic death of racing legend Jim Clark. The film is just one long tribute to who some call the greatest racing driver of all time. It includes loads of original footage and interviews with people who worked with Clark while he was racing. You can really feel the emotion as the interviewees share their memories and pay tribute to Clark in this truly moving film.
As you would expect the production values of all of the films is high and the Urus racing in the snow looks truly stunning. Overall a fantastic episode.
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Episode 5 of The Grand Tour is now in the books, and I have to say that I was quite pleased with the episode. It was easily the third best TGT episode of all time…out of five. This one felt especially Top Gear-esque for me, possibly even more so than Episodes 3 and 4. Maybe it was seeing Jeremy behind the wheel of an Alfa or Car Battleship. It all just felt right.
Episode 5 features some sex toys, sexy male cops, and cow sex. There were some cars in it as well, with the boys heading to Morocco to test out the new Mazda MX-5, Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, and Zenos E10. Also featured was the untimely end of Dutch rock band Golden Earring (I personally like Twilight Zone better than Radar Love), and a riveting game of Car Battleship, which I enjoyed way more than I probably should have.
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In addition to a blouse, she was wearing a tight-fitting mini-skirt with a defiant slit. There were no tights or stockings on her legs. She was shod in high, almost to the knee, army boots with thick soles, lace-up, over which the edge of long black socks could be seen.