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The Gymkhana Files: Episode 6—“On Thin Ice” Review

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Ken Block

“On Thin Ice” is a much more ominous name for the sixth episode of The Gymkhana Files than what we actually see from the episode. In fact, going by what we saw from the first two shoots in Detroit and Los Angeles, Ken Block and company seem to absolutely nail it in the Swedish video shoot that we get to see in the latest part of the docuseries.

With disappointment after disappointment in Los Angeles now behind them, director Brian Scotto explains that the pressure is on for the team’s shoot from Lulea, a city that only sees seven hours of usable daylight while the team is there compared to the normal 12-hour filming days that they’re used to. First, with the ice driving a new feature in the Gymkhana series, it’s going to need to live up to the hype; second, as the opening portion of Gymkhana 10, it’s going to need to keep viewers hooked.

And that was all before the Los Angeles shoot, one that feels so comparatively lame to the crew that they feel the need to make up for it elsewhere in the film.

As with any shoot, things occasionally go off the rails. The team’s trailer breaks through the ice on the first day of filming, forcing the mechanics to make alternate arrangements in below-zero conditions to stud Block’s tires for the shoot. “When you see Ken, punch him for me,” one mechanic jokes.

Using the Ford Fiesta that Sebastien Ogier drove to the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Block’s first stunt sees him tethered to the center of an ice carousel, doing donuts until a small explosion sets him free. The mechanics of the stunt work well, but the setting itself lacks depth and dimension due to the all-white surroundings, and Scotto concludes that the shot can’t lead off the film.

Fortunately, there’s another ice carousel stunt coming up that will solve that problem. Block drives into a cluster of ice huts and does donuts around a makeshift fire, clipping closer and closer to a family of happy snowmen with each rotation. After a few takes, the team has one of the most humorous shots that we’ve seen so far, even for a video series known for adding a healthy dose of fun (like Rob Dyrdek’s miniature Escort from Los Angeles) to an already exciting premise.

Next up is the “nude beach” stunt, which features not only an ice diver jumping into the near-freezing waters, but also the introduction of Petter Solberg’s son Oliver in a second car. With Andreas Bakkerud no longer part of the team, the 16-year-old Solberg is tapped to join Block; it takes a few tries to get the timing right, but eventually, as with nearly every stunt they’ve attempted on shoots so far, they get what they need. (And no, to our knowledge, their stunt diver didn’t suffer from hypothermia, either.)

Solberg gets his first taste of just how high the bar is set for Gymkhana 10 as the team prepares for a crossover jump. For the first time since visiting San Francisco for Gymkhana Five, Block will get some major airtime in a clip, with Solberg drifting beneath him. But while Solberg is all smiles after they complete the first pass at the trick, he’s nearly in tears after Block and Scotto laugh at how pedestrian the shot looks, even though they’re not criticizing his driving at all. The jump can’t be taken straight on, they conclude; Block has to take it sideways, to prove it’s more skill than just mathematics.

The next morning, Block imparts some of his knowledge of how the industry has changed in recent years to Solberg, whose father is a beloved rally and rallycross driver but nonetheless came up the ranks when marketing efforts like Gymkhana were unheard of. It’s clear that everyone there sees Solberg as a key part of the sport’s future; since then, he’s won the RallyX Nordic title, took third in last weekend’s Gymkhana Grid World Final from South Africa, and will likely win plenty more races and championships in the coming years.

After completing the jump, the team goes for one more pass at the tether shot. A camera fails just before Ken goes live, leaving them only nine minutes of usable daylight. But they get what they want, with Block ever so slightly clipping the exit of the ice carousel and spreading a little more snow for dramatic effect before driving off into the sunset as the episode closes.

There are only two more episodes left of The Gymkhana Files, and then we finally get to see the fruits of Block’s labors with the release of Gymkhana 10. We’ve yet to see the segments starring the Focus RSRX and Hoonitruck, which would probably make sense as the last two episodes.

The Gymkhana Files can be seen on Amazon Prime.

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