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'Top Gear' (USA) recap: testing out American 'Muscle Cars' in Florida

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After some auto racing, a promotion and a baby, the guys from Top Gear are finally back with us for some more automotive adventures. This week's theme is American muscle cars, so naturally, the show opens with a race. "How insane was that?" Rutledge comments. "I'm so glad that road was closed."

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They're in Gainesville, Florida - home of the University of Florida Gators - with three resto mods to put to the test. There's a 1967 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 (courtesy of Tanner), a 1972 Dodge Charger SE (Rutledge), and a 1968 Chevy Camaro (Adam, duh). As the guys examine each other's rides, there's this casual observation.

Tanner: You're gonna die.
Adam: Why should this episode be any different?

As usual, the episode is structured as such so that the trio must compete in a series of challenges to see which two of them get to compete in a drag race at the end. And just like that, Top Gear is back, down to the witticisms.

Rutledge: I have a pretty good reaction time. You've seen me at Taco Tuesday.

The first challenge takes place at a local airstrip, where the guys must test their reaction time through a series of stop-start exercises that involve an electrified steering wheel. Let's repeat that: an electrified steering wheel. If you don't get the timing right, you get jolted. Naturally, Rutledge is volunteered to take the challenge first, since he always seems to get tormented on this show. We're pretty sure there are conversations about "What horrible thing can we do next to Rutledge Wood?" Yet he endures the pain with a smile still on his face.

How will Adam and Tanner fare? The former declares he's "not worried about a thing," but gets blasted three times and winds up punching the steering wheel in frustration. Tanner would be injury-free, except he voluntarily takes a shock in hopes of shaving seconds off his overall time, which doesn't help him as he still loses to Rutledge by a second.

But wait. Now there are mysterious boxes of doom in their cars, meant to see how the guys stay cool under pressure. Their heart rates will be monitored while they drive an obstacle course with their uninvited guests. "Please let that be a box of kittens," Rutledge pleads. Sadly, it's not: it's flies. What happens next is the most disorganized drive ever. Adam and Tanner panic, while Rut takes a casual stroll anywhere but where he needs to be. He correctly points out the winner is the person with the lowest heart rate, and so he wins again, meaning that he's definitely in the drag race.

Who will be his competition? That depends on the tiebreaker between Adam and Tanner. Adam suggests "Who can put stuff away on the top shelf?" Tanner suggests a "car alarm challenge" - seeing whose engine can trip the most alarms on an otherwise quiet street. The Camaro scores three hits, which isn't bad, but the Mustang generates more smoke than a 1970's rock concert and prevails. So it's off to the NHRA races for Tanner and Rut, while Adam can go chill out and enjoy a funnel cake. Or whatever they serve at the Gatornationals.

But what exactly are they racing? It's a Dodge Challenger for Rut, and another Ford Mustang for Tanner, both specially outfitted for this exact scenario. Wisely, the guys are told to test drive their vehicles before the head-to-head matchup. Unwisely, they decide to turn it into a challenge. How long does it take each of them to start the car, drive a short distance, stop and get out...blindfolded? Tanner clocks thirty seconds, awkwardly. However, he's shorter and less blind than Rut, who way overshoots the stop line and needs an extra two seconds. Still, at least he didn't run over Tanner.

Let's get down to the serious business. It's a best-of-three competition, and given that Tanner is a professional and the last time Rut raced on Top Gear he ended up rolling a truck, you'd think this would be a walkover for Mr. Foust. And you would be wrong. While our X Games gold medalist takes the first heat in less than ten seconds, Rut roars back to tie the score, and curses more than we've ever heard before. But who wins actually doesn't matter as much when you see what happens on the third run.

Rutledge brings the Challenger straight up - Adam's reaction says it all, really, even though nothing he says can be broadcast on TV - and thus Tanner drives to victory while the rest of us chew on the backs of our knuckles in fear. "That's the biggest wheel stand they've ever had here," Adam informs the boys afterward, "in the history of the Gatornationals." Yet even that doesn't stop Tanner from gloating. Cars, wildlife, and brushes with possible death: it's business as usual here on Top Gear. Aren't you glad this show is back?

Top Gear continues next Tuesday at 9 PM ET/PT on History. For more on Season 4, check out our exclusive interviews with Adam, Tanner and Rutledge in our feature article.

(c)2014 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

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