The Grand Tour's "A Massive Hunt" Episode Sums Up a Show Well Past Its Prime

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

After a COVID-induced delay of several months, Amazon finally released The Grand Tour’s new episode “A Massive Hunt” on December 17th. Its intended release date was the 18th, but someone at Amazon decided to foist the episode on an unsuspecting public a day early.

What a dumpster fire.

Before you read any further, be advised this article contains spoilers of the episode. You’ve been warned!

The second episode of The Grand Tour’s new format sees the trio of elderly millionaires return to car-related tomfoolery after the boaty “Seamen” of December 2019. While the boat episode was watchable, it was instantly a sort of write-off, not reflective of the show’s true subject. Unfortunately, “A Massive Hunt” isn’t even half as good. The guys head to the French island of Réunion in three very lightly used cars: a Bentley Continental GT (Clarkson), a Caterham 7 (May), and a Ford Focus RS (Hammond). They know there’s a challenge incoming, but what could it be? First, time for a pointless and beautifully filmed drag race.

Turns out the task is a treasure hunt. Viewers are presented with a story about a pirate in the late 18th century, La Buse, and his buried treasure. A letter from the pirate in question also appears which, encoded, requires James May and his decoder pen. The show diverts for the next 10 minutes or so in its poorly written script as viewers watch James pretend to decode the pirate letter. Turns out the treasure is on Madagascar instead, a place for which the cars must be modified in ridiculous ways.

After finding a workshop to modify the cars, the camera cuts to (presumably a week) later, and all three cars have completed modifications. There’s no shots of the guys working on the cars, no mention of the cost of each car initially, and no mention of how much the work cost. We’re not in that Top Gear universe anymore. Three hosts approach cars they have no attachment to, didn’t have to search out on a low budget, and didn’t modify themselves. The work done on the cars is clearly very professionally completed, and fairly extensive. Oh well, let’s move on.

Madagascar is easy to traverse at first to allow for jokes, then roads run out and the going gets difficult. Clarkson proves that if you spend a lot of money on a very expensive car, it’s not that difficult after all. Hammond discovers that applying complicated tank tracks to a Ford Focus makes it unreliable for rough terrain. And May discovers that when presented with an off-road tropical challenge, a roofless Caterham isn’t the best for protection from the elements.

The corny, ridiculous script shines through everywhere. Conversations are clearly practiced well in advance, with no room left for improvisation. The guys spend almost no time together during their travels, and when there’s an overnight stop it’s at a luxurious hotel. Again and again, the episode reminds viewers this is a very well-funded show, and the presenters have all been doing this for a very long time.

And it’s so stale. The rigid plot isn’t believable or interesting, and it builds to a non-climax: A final treasure hunt occurs on a beach, and by that time our hosts don’t really care about the lines they’re supposed to deliver. Clarkson “randomly” decides to “build a shelter,” which is a bar that’s completed in no time, made with building supplies that have British hardware store stickers on them. The dialogue has our protagonists projecting the same schtick they’ve used since circa 2010, but with the added nuances of them not caring, and being highly overpaid. The sole redeeming quality of this mess is the camera work, which is fantastic as always. The crew really deserve awards for their skilled filming of the locations to which the show travels.

An hour and a half after it started, “A Massive Hunt” proves itself a massive flop. Its actors no longer care and have no new material to cover. They recite the same tropes everyone had memorized in 2012, but the accompanying aspects that made the show enjoyable in its past incarnations have disappeared. These adventures are no longer cheap car challenges, and watching hosts spend unlimited money doesn’t have quite the same charm. The unscripted screwups have no place here, in this carefully orchestrated play which begins and ends after all the expected boxes are ticked. Cars are a background player, there because the hosts need something to cause problems. Otherwise, it’s just an HGTV travel show.

Unfortunately, The Grand Tour no longer carries any of the Top Gear magic it’s been trying to resuscitate since 2016. The new format severed any ties with the “plucky little car show” of 2003 that grew into a global juggernaut. I’d say it’s time for retirement, but we all know there’s too much money involved for that to happen. I guess if I want fun and innovative car content, I’ll turn over to YouTube instead.

[Images: Amazon]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Svoboda123 Svoboda123 on Jan 12, 2021

    I raised my son on Top Gear- sadly stale now its true. But hard to replace for those with a brain or over the age of 23. U.S. & U.K. recent versions SUCK (but Chris Harris rocks). Savagegeese are gret reviews, but zero fun. Wheeler Dealers on MT are Brit humor fun but mechanics, not reviews. Throttle House is okay but you need budget to do hilarious car-destroying things. Motorweek is a HUGE yawn. I don't see anything even close. FYI: Season 14, a great one, is free streaming on Prime of late.

  • Renewingmind Renewingmind on Jan 21, 2021

    > While I enjoy the adventures, I really miss Celebrity Brain Crash and Conversation Street... You might be the inky over person in the universe to miss celebrity brain crash. What a waste of minutes that was. Grand Tour isn’t nearly as good as peak Top Gear was, but it’s miles better than post-Clarkson top gear. And I’d rather have grand tour than no grand tour if we can’t have the show we loved. YouTube can be fun, I do like car trek and enjoy hoovie, Doug demuro and tavarish, but it’s nowhere near the same level of show.

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
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  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
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  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.