QI Watchdown: E1 (Engineering)

Onto another great series of QI. So I’m told, this is the season right before QI hits its stride and doesn’t relent until Series I ends. So, we’re in for some really good episodes coming up, and as this is before the big boom, there must be a lot of good ones in here.

This episode has a panel fit for a great episode, featuring Jimmy Carr, who was far underutilized last season, Bill Bailey, who surprisingly took a season off, possibly to film Hot Fuzz, Rob Brydon, who also didn’t appear at all last year, and Alan of course. All four have the kind of chemistry to make a really, really good episode. Let’s see if they deliver.

Alan did get a haircut, as it’s not as shaggy as it was throughout Series D, but it’s still long enough that it dwarfs his original look.

Buzzers are all sounds of machines, save for Alan, which is a wrench dropping.

Tonight’s runner involves, like the infamous ‘SQUIRREL’ card, an ELEPHANT stick, which can be held when the answer may be an elephant or multiple elephants. Stephen did not explain what the forfeit amount is, but I imagine it’s regular. Also, this is a runner that’s gonna pop up in every episode.

The first joke of the episode is a picture-based one. As Stephen’s asking a question, the background changes to a train passing, which looks like it’s heading for the contestants. Bill goes as far as yelling ‘LOOK OUT!”, and Alan tries to duck out of the way.

Another runner is Stephen will be delivering candies via toy train to any particularly good answers throughout the night. Reminds me of the episode of the American Whose Line when, instead of points, Drew handed out candy.

One question in and I’m already overjoyed that Bill’s back. Answering who built Britain’s railways, he answers, excitedly, ‘THE RAILWAY MOUSE!’
Stephen even goes ‘well, you’re right actually’, which Bill is surprised by. Alan even starts yelling for Bill to get a sweet, even before Stephen can clarify how he got it right.

Bill tells a story about how the guy who demanded some railways demanded them to be in straight lines, and as he drew one with a ruler, his fingers got in the way and the builders had to have curves. As he finishes, and Rob begins to talk, Bill yells “SWEET!”, to which Stephen finally relents and sends the train over.
HOWEVER…once Bill actually gets the train, it breaks at the first car. Rob even goes “ooh, let’s get someone on the scene and go straight out there to see what’s happening…”

Great moment when Stephen sends a sweet Rob’s way, and Jimmy tries to steel it. Rob has to swat his hands away as the train comes by. Jimmy exclaims ‘CURSES!’ That’s when you know this panel dynamic is really good.

Wow, there have been two really simple correct answers so far, and Alan’s gotten both of them. Really weird show so far.

Great Rob line, when Alan asks why, in the train photo, are the men standing far apart, as if they all got on separately and don’t know each other. “Or,” Rob goes, “the womenfolk perhaps are with them…” And the audience gets it from there.

Stephen talks about the train being built near Eaton for the college students
Alan: “…to go and by drugs.”
Stephen: “…or buy prostitutes…”
Rob: ‘Is that the first thing they do? ‘There’s a train! PROSTITUTES!”

Stephen: “What did Isembard, King of Brunel, get for eighteen birthdays in a row?”
Jimmy: “(holding up elephant) How annoyed would you be. ‘YOU GOT ME ONE OF THESE LAST YEAR! DID I GET- LOOOOOK! HOW COULD YOU MISS THAT!?!”
Alan: “absolutely plastered.”
Bill: ‘A, uh, a socket set.’
Jimmy: “Did he get a copy of ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’?
Alan: “Did he get a book by Jeremy Clarkson?”

Stephen: “Where is the best place to be during a nuclear explosion?”
Jimmy: “I would say downtown Nagasaki. I mean, what are the chances of that happening again?”

Bill, to that question, slowly holds up his elephant card, and goes “…BEHIND AN ELEPHANT…”

Stephen: “Emperor Hirohito delivered a radio address after the Hiroshima attack, and it contains one of the greatest understatements ever uttered in mankind. He says “the war has developed…not necessarily to our advantage…”
Rob: “Traffic and travel next.”
Alan: ‘Not that much to travel…’

I’m surprised how Rob’s having a really nice show, coming up with some wild ideas and completely powering this episode. However, the other three so far are pretty fantastic as well.

Stephen: “How does the love bomb work?”
Rob: “I turn up, and I get on with it…”

Rob: “Isn’t a love bomb…a bottom noise that can be made, whilst you’re (motions having sex)…”
Stephen: “Rob, can I remind you of something? Your father is in the audience.”

Rob ends up getting the ‘Elephant in the Room’ points, for guessing the materials used to make an elephant pregnant.

Stephen: “Where are you most likely to get bitten by a vampire?”
Jimmy: A nineteenth-century novel.”

Stephen asks where on the body, and everybody knows not to say neck. Jimmy ends up going “it would have to be some sort of protrusion where blood gathers and is easily accessible…probably the elbow.”

Once the actual picture of the bat appears onscreen, Jimmy goes “man, that Gary Oldman is a hell of an actor…”

Stephen, in describing the lapping the vampire bats make, does this tongue thing. Rob is immediately unsettled. Jimmy, calling back perfectly, goes “I don’t want to alarm you, but I believe a love bomb may have gone off.”

Stephen: ‘What’s the biggest load of rubbish in the world.”
Someone in the audience: ‘FRANCE!”
Stephen, with joy: “WE’VE GOT FRANCE!”

Jimmy brings up something he read about in the QI Book of General Ignorance, about the largest manmade structure, which was a garbage dump. Bill riles off the name of it, ‘FRESH KILLS’, and the Klaxon goes off. Jimmy, surprised, goes ‘well, thanks for taking that bullet, Bill!’

Rob, once he hears of the win, is confused by whether or not he’s in fourth or first place. Jimmy has to reinforce, ‘no, you won!’

Alan, somehow, gets second. Maybe for the string of right answers early on.

Overall: WOW. THAT is how you start of a series. Not only was that a really funny episode, but all four of those guys really loved working with each other. Plus, even more stuff was left OFF the episode. One of the most famous bloopers in QI history, “THEY SAY OF THE ACROPOLIS WHERE THE PARTHENON IIIIISSS…”, happened as an outtake on this episode. If it would have made the cut, the episode would have been even funner.

Rob and Jimmy had some landmark episodes. Bill, to a lesser extent, had some good jokes, but didn’t carry the episode like Rob and Jimmy did. And Alan…was Alan.

MVP: Rob
Best Guest: Jimmy
Show Winner: Rob
Loser of the Week: Bill Bailey, for somehow ending up with -18.
Best QI Fact: The big toe and vampire bats.


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