The Grand Tour’s first season contained more than a few…missteps, to describe them charitably. The American, Celebrity Brain Crash, the lackluster theme song. Not nice things. But with the first episode of season 2 now streaming for everyone to watch, it appears that at least two of those little niggles have been fixed.
The show started out the same as ever: the three presenters showed up to deafening applause, Clarkson introduces a short clip of what you can expect over the coming weeks, and then we start the film. The now-infamous Switzerland trip features the classic format of each presenter championing a different car: Jeremy representing the past with the Aventador S, May the present with the Honda NSX, and Hammond the future with the Rimac Concept_One. They also spend a few nights in a Swiss happiness/sunshine retreat in which the only edible substance is the air.
Conversation Street proceeded as normal too, thankfully not punctuated by a fight with the audience, and we get back to the film as Clarkson repeatedly clouts his Aventador’s front splitter, and Hammond drags everyone to the Museum of Chess. Mercifully, we get a drag race at this point, which the Aventador (surprisingly, the lightest car present) and the NSX handily lose to the ballistic Rimac. (No, this isn’t the part where it blows up. That’s coming later.)
After some track antics in the Lamborghini during which the whole tire falls off, a pretty tasteless 9/11 joke, and an admission that Celebrity Brain Crash was stupid from the beginning, the concept of Celebrity Face-Off is introduced: two celebrities connected somehow will race around the track in a race-prepped Jaguar F-Type to see who’s the fastest. Tonight’s guests are two former talent show judges, Ricky Wilson and David Hasselhoff, the latter of whom was utterly unable to get into the car, yet somehow managed to complete a lap anyway.
Which brings us to what I think was the episode’s biggest surprise: the new track. Yes, there’s now a new, much twistier circuit that combines gravel with pavement to make for more dramatic and entertaining celebrity moments. I’d also wager that the new track is designed to slow the celebrities down a little, as not all have the skills necessary to pilot an F-Type at speed without, er, pulling a Hammond. The Eboladrome will still be featured in car reviews, but no cars were sent round the track this week.
As for the results, Wilson’s tail-out lap smashed the Hoff by nearly four seconds, turning a 1:20.1 to Hasselhoff’s 1:24.1. Of course, Hasselhoff did nearly come to a complete stop a couple times, which probably had something to do with it.
The rest of the film deals with the hill climb you all know so well by now, which ends inevitably with Hammond binning the Rimac and spending the next couple months in traction. The full episode, though, contains more horrifying footage of the crash, and it’s genuinely unsettling to see the patch of grass where the Rimac slid down the hill, ending up with Hammond being carried away on a stretcher as the car burns to pieces. Of course, the next shot is of James ceremoniously reading the times (the Aventador wins by some margin, since it was only sort of Clarkson driving) while remarkably little attention is given to the fact that Hammond is still breathing.
Overall, this episode was mostly a success, especially compared to the debut of season 1. It showed a genuine willingness by the Grand Tour team to adapt the show to what viewers want. I like the new track, I really like the celebrity segment, and of course, it’s still got the presenters’ trademark wit and the dazzling production quality afforded by big daddy Amazon’s checkbook. So in the end, I can sum it up by saying that I’m very excited for Episode 2–and the rest of the season.
Stay tuned for another episode recap next week!