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'Kart Life' fan recap: Drive it like you stole it

Season 1 | Episode 2 | “Fight or Flight” | Aired Feb, 4, 2015

Gio Bromante can’t drive. This is according to a frustrated Phil Tavella, who kicks off the second episode of Kart Life by cursing out a 10-year-old boy. Last week, during a championship race, Gio bumped Dylan Tavella off the track and out of first. This week, it’s confirmed Gio won. Phil’s reaction to this requires 10 seconds of bleeping.

John “Boss” Bromante shrugs off Phil’s tirade, encouraging Gio to do the same. Stacey “Mommy” Bromante tells Gio he’s a “good boy,” and Shirley Tavella tells us that praising dirty driving is “absolutely disgusting.” Momma Bromante scoffs: “If their son was winning, they wouldn’t complain.” Then the Bromantes all share a hearty chuckle at the tire marks left by Dylan’s kart on the front of Gio’s kart. Ah, sportsmanship.

The families head to the podium and trophies are issued. John reveals that Gio already has so many trophies that they will not all fit into one room, but offers no insight as to where this new trophy will reside. Over in the Brun-Wibaux tent, Sasha heats up a hamburger with a cigarette lighter, prompting a teammate to inform her, “You’re stupid! Use a microwave.” And … that’s all we see of Sasha this week, because we meet another female karter, Savannah Fitzgerald.

Her father, Derek, tells us Savannah’s got racing in her blood. Tell us more, Derek. “I’m a 30-time national champion, and a five- or six-time world champion … of soap box derby.” For the uninitiated, this where motorless vehicles coast downhill for 30 seconds, typically piloted by Boy Scouts trying for a merit badge.

Derek is prone to wearing an oversize fedora, making him look like a cross between Paddington Bear and Kid Rock. Like the latter, Derek is full of fun, folksy sayings, including “Stand on the gas or they gonna bust your ass,” and “Let’s do it, dawg.” He acknowledges that while karting is now his daughter’s passion, it sure wasn’t when they started.

Savannah faces David Malukas in the Juniors final. David and tuner Wes do a secret handshake. Then Savannah and Derek do their own secret handshake, because if you don’t have a secret handshake, you probably shouldn’t be racing. Wes doles out parting wisdom: “Be smart and calm.” Derek offers his own prerace advice: “Get your head out of your ass.” Less eloquent, sure, but sage words, nonetheless. Savannah finishes eighth, her highest finish ever. Derek is over the moon, but Savannah helps ground him: “Dad, you’re sweating like a pig.”

This wraps up race weekend. Everyone decamps, and the Bromantes head to their ginormous vacation home in the Catskills. It makes the hotel from The Shining look like a center for ants. Perhaps it’s so big because each of Gio’s trophies have its own room and/or wing. Over dinner, Stacey brings up Dylan and the bumping. Gio explains he was bump drafting; John explains this to a family friend who looks bored but is listening to be polite. Meanwhile, the Tavellas have a pool party. Little Ryan doesn’t covet any cookies this episode, but he has found a new friend in a garden hose. Little Ryan needs his own TV show.

Back in South Bend for new races, we meet the Welages. Jason, 11, has been racing since he was 5 with the help of stay-at-home dad Greg. You can tell from the sparseness of their garage they don’t have much capital. Breadwinner and mom Meghan Welage is a real estate agent who laughs in a resigned way when her co-worker suggests skipping some track days to maintain her sanity. “This is what he loves. What are you supposed to do?” It’s unclear if Meghan whether referring to her son or her husband, who is living vicariously through their son.

Jason and Gio race. Jason finishes fourth while Gio ends up third. John Bromante is pissed and beats the fence like a monkey. The two kids set off for the final race. Again, Jason runs fourth, but Gio snags a victory and another trophy the Bromantes will not have room for. Jason cries that his motor sucks. Meghan lovingly pats Jason’s head, cooing, “What was wrong with the motor?” “There’s no reason to talk to you about it,” her offspring sneers. There is, though. She paid for it. Show your financial benefactor/mother some respect, Jason.

In the Juniors division, David and Savannah square off again. Derek has more advice for his daughter: “Good luck. Drive it like you stole it.” This should be the only thing people say to each other before racing. David’s not doing well, and Henry Malukas blames it on the engines. Suddenly, someone drives across Savannah’s torso. Literally. The crash looks very intense. Savannah yelps and moans about her arm.

Postrace, she finds Derek. “Is it swollen?” Savannah whimpers to deaf ears. “How you gonna race?” Derek responds. “Maybe I can’t! Someone. Drove. Up. My. Shoulder!” Savannah’s hyperventilating so badly, TruTV gives her subtitles. Derek pulls around a metallic green golf cart with racing seats and a spoiler on the roof (… these exist?) and takes her to a medic, who thinks it’s just a bruise. Derek looks at his progeny. “What are we gonna do? We gotta make this next race.” “Do you, like, even care?!” she yells. The medic chuckles.

Meanwhile, Henry Malukas talks to Wes the tuner about the engine underperforming. Wes retorts that David is the problem, making too many mistakes and driving like crap. This is news to David, who also blames the engine. John Bromante saunters over and tries to sum things up for us. “One’s blaming it on one, one’s blaming it on the other. That’s a catch-22!” Uh, not quite, John. Wes knows he’s lost this battle, throws up his hands, and changes the motor.

Savannah, her arm in a sling, watches footage from her crash in the Fitzgerald motor home. Derek finally sees the severity of the accident and stops pressuring her into the next race against David Malukas. Henry attempts to mollify his son by saying it was always the engine and there were no mistakes in David’s driving. Per the rules, engine swaps mean a last-place start and David will have an uphill battle, Wes cautions. The karts set off and the episode ends.

Kart Life airs Wednesdays at 10/9C on TruTV.