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RELIC HUNTER

THE HEADLESS NUN


EPISODE NO. 3
Season 1, episode 3
Series 103
1st release: 10/04/99
2nd release: 12/13/99
Production number: 102
Approximate shooting dates:
Last update: 08-16-01


REGULAR CAST, GUEST CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
PRESS RELEASE
AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION
SYNOPSIS by Lady Jane Grey
COMMENTARY by Lady Jane Grey
LINKS


REGULAR CAST
Tia Carrere (Dr. Sydney Fox)
Christien Anholt (Nigel Bailey)
Lindy Booth (Claudia)

GUEST CAST
James Binkley (Glen Frohman)
Ron Gabriel (Derek Beauchamps)
Joan Heney (Sister Grace)
Robert Kennedy Emil La Foret)
Nicole Lyn (Beautiful Nun)
Dan MacDonald (Paul LaPont)
Sherry Miller (Sister Mary)
David Nerman (Ian McKenzie)
Paulino Nunes (Mark Poole)

CREDITS
Written by Rob Gilmer
Directed by Ken Girotti

Filmed on location in Toronto, Canada and Paris, France by Fireworks Entertainment Inc. and Gaumont Television. Executive producers: Jay Firestone and Adam Haight; Executive consultant: Gil Grant; Co-executive producers: Christian Charret, Denis Leroy, and Rob Gilmer.




TV GUIDE PROMO

When her plane crashes near a convent, Sydney tries to solve the centuries-old mystery of a missing nun. anotheruniverse.com

PRESS RELEASE

Returning from an expedition, Sydney (Tia Carrere) crash lands at a convent in Nova Scotia. There, the Sisters of Mercy ask for help in finding the remains of Sister Evangeline, whose decapitated body has been missing for over 400 years. Enlisting Nigel's (Christien Anholt) help, Sydney finds there is more than one person on the island seeking the body of the murdered nun - and discovers that the good Sisters are guarding a fortune in lost jewels and pirate treasure!

AIRING AND RATING INFORMATION

1st RELEASE: 10/04/99
An AA average of 2.0
Competition from Action Hours:
Early Edition 6.7
Now and Again 6.6
Charmed 4.3
Angel 3.9
Buffy 3.8
ER 3.7
XENA/X-Files 3.6
Voyager/Roswell 3.5
3rd Rock 3.4
HERCULES/Harsh Realm 3.3
STARGATE SG-1 2.8
EARTH FINAL CONFLICT/BEAST MASTER 2.7
Seven Days 2.6
Profiler 2.3
RELIC HUNTER/AMAZON 2.0

2nd RELEASE: 12/13/99
An AA average of 2.1
Competition from Syndicated Action Hours:
X-FILES 3.8
BAYWATCH HAWAII 2.9
ER 2.8
XENA/EARTH FINAL CONFLICT/STARGATE SG-1 2.7
VIP 2.4
BEASTMASTER/PENSACOLA WINGS OF GOLD 2.2
RELIC HUNTER/AMAZON 2.1
LOST WORLD 1.8
OUTER LIMITS 1.6



SYNOPSIS:

This synopsis is by Lady Jane Grey.

A spin of Sydney's globe and

We're in Halifax, 1600. The camera sweeps us from a narrow beach, men unloading a boat, a sheer cliff overhanging the ocean; men, shrunken in perspective, suspended halfway down the cliff, and, overlooking it all, a soldier of fortune, feather in his hat, sword at his side, overseeing workers. Up from the precipice a grassy hill and, standing silent, a figure, hooded, watching.

I promise to not do this a lot, but: WOW! Thirty seconds: no words and we're given half the plot.

Our soldier draws his sword, runs towards the figure. Short chase through the forest; the hooded one stumbles: a gasp (woman's voice), and as she stands, the soldier is upon her. A bold sweep of his sword and her head flies off (leaving the hood intact, like one of those dinnerware and tablecloth tricks). His gloved hands lift a crucifix, and he carries the corpse back to the workers, who mutter that killing a nun is a probably bad luck of some kind. One worker flees and the soldier, name of Foret, shoots him in the back. Movement, shouts - apparently the good guys have arrived, running past the head of the nun facing skyward, to heaven or . . .

to a plane, DC3 maybe, piloted by our Professor Sydney Fox, in brown leather flight jacket (I know I promised but: WOW) on the phone to Nigel. Though she ran into a bit of trouble with an Ian MacKenzie, she managed to give him the slip - and got Rasmussen's crown for the museum.

While Nigel tells Sydney that she underestimates herself and she responds with a genuine delight in the compliment, we watch a very non-beslipped Ian skulking about the cargo hold, discovering the crown. If he's to be a regular, Ian's got to learn the stealth-skulk: Syd hears him and the fight's on. Unfair! He pulls a gun on our Syd, but while he gets his parachute ready, she grabs a backpack, swings it 'round . . he fires, hits the controls; the plane dives while the two struggle but Ian gets his gun, the crown and an escape out the door. Syd struggles with the controls, looking very piloty, but . . . well, we get to watch from the ground: a few nuns, singing on their afternoon walk, witness a plane go down, fire in small forest off the road.

Sydney wakes in bed, blurred vision focusing on nuns. She thought she'd bought the farm, but a kindly older nun assures her she's just had a slight concussion and that heaven would be much nicer. Speakin' of, tho: Sydney, disoriented but smiling, hair loosed, black hair on white sheets: can heaven truly be that much nicer?

Ahem. Anyway. The kindly nuns searched her belongings, then the internet, to discover that she's a relic hunter and, by providence, they're in need of one. Mother Superior asks Syd to locate Sister Evangeline, who went missing four hundred years previous.

Meanwhile, back at Trinity College, Claudia is noisily trying to understand Feminism 101, interrupting herself to observe that Nigel doesn't look so good. He asks if she's ever thought what it all means. Interrupted in mid existential crisis by a call from Syd, he's to pick her up . . . we're not told where but scene change and

In the middle of a field, apparently. Nigel's merely lost; stopping a young woman in exercise wear, he asks directions to the nearest convent. Turns out - well, won't you be surprised - she's from the convent. This of course brings on a bumble attack for Nigel but he does manage to find the convent, where the first nun he meets is Sydney.

Thinking Syd's taken vows, he exclaims 'Oh God' which sends him off to places only he knows and can't really communicate. Syd waits for this particular attack to die down, asking 'Are you finished?' Nigel thinks carefully for a moment, replying 'Yes, I think so' none of which is very meaningful, but I like seeing the two play off each other, and this is a small, understated comic moment that's carried off well. In any case, Syd explains that she's merely borrowed the clothes and anyway, she's always wanted to do the nun look. Sdyney explains their mission is find Sister Evangeline's body; her head being buried under that out-of-focus statue behind them. Another classic Nigelism: "And they became separated exactly how?" Sister Mary (the nun formerly known as Mother Superior), now in street clothes, appears on the scene to restore Sydney's street clothes and give us some background.

We learn that Foret was executed by Champlain, who then gave all he had to the nuns (this bit supplied by Sydney, who if nothing else knows history); that the convent is built ontop of the old Champlain fort, and that Sister Evangeline will guide them, though Syd and Nigel are less certain. We get some very nice sub-basement scenes: nicely mysterious and Nigel voices 'Here we go again' lending bit of excitement. Tho Syd almost immediately locates the dungeon where the murderers were held, she's unable to open the iron bars, and . . .

it's a plot that takes God's own time getting to the plot, and next on the agenda (mind your head) is the tour of ye olde convent. The library's been taken over by computers; the nuns run an international database service, funded by a loan from a self-effacing banker-builder-benefactor. "Angels are there when you need them;" the scene calls attention to itself, though it's nicely balanced by a pointless one where Nigel finds himself in the bathroom with a showering nun, the one he'd met exercising earlier. We do learn a bit: first, the young nun is much more comfortable with him in his bathrobe than he with she in hers, leading us to wonder just how Nigel was raised, and second she advises him to open his windows at night, to hear the foghorn. Woken by it, Nigel looks out the window and sees a hooded figure (headed or be- he isn't sure) and notices a fire in the library. Half awake, he sounds the alarm.

Next morning, Syd, Nigel and Sister Mary are told this is a message from above, warning them not to mess with the internet ('I wish she'd just used email': good line) but Mother S tells us the fire department believes it to have been faulty wiring. Syd looks through the rubble, picks out a buried blasting cap. Good eyes! Like we say in tennis. She moves to a trio of men: cop, fireman, builder-banker-benefactor; tells them the fire is arson. The officials don't believe her, but Mr. Benefactor angrily tells them that if there's a chance of arson, they need to find the culprit. He introduces himself to Syd, tells her the convent was only a day away from signing up for insurance. Pity, that.

Mr. BBB asks why she's looking for Sister Evangeline, and Sydney gives the rationale for the series: "Part of what I do is search for relics. Every relic tells a human story. Gives us insight into our lives" Yes! You go, girl!

Eventually we do get back to the basements; this time they force the hinges and are in the stockade, where Nigel runs into the half decayed half mummified corpse of Foret, who apparently had been suspended in an iron cage 'till he died. Syd(crime really didn't pay, back then) notices a tree scratched on the wall near the body, and Nigel reminds us that Foret is forest in French. The tree-bedecked brick comes loose, concealed behind it is a small flask containing a parchment which, unrolled, has a crude map. Brought back childhood memories of Poe's 'Gold Bug' it did. Windmill, rock and tree with a cross near it - Syd speculates it's where Sister E is buried, and the two observe Foret seems to want/not want others to recognize the spot.

The camerawork changes, and instead of us following the relic hunters through the labyrinth of basement tunnels, we become aware that we're seeing through the view of someone following them. Nigel almost gets the ax; Syd tells us that not everything is what it seems.

Back aboveground, Nigel paces nervously, Syd studies the map and Sister Mary brings tea. The cross has 'la bouche diabolique,' the devil's mouth, writ underneath and Nigel notes that it probably refers to a physical place well known 400 years ago. Not now, not to Sister Mary, though she does recognize the rock as a real place, near the coast. She leads them to Paul, a gardener who knows what the landscape used to be like. He takes the hunters to the coast; a bit of a curmudgeon, he curses bemoans and generally complains about the effects of progress: forests cut down to make golf courses, yacht clubs, estates, all leading to perdition and probably a Starbucks outlet. Nigel notices a bench built on a tree stump; Syd triangulates a bit, looks out over the water . . .

Realizes la bouche diabolique is a cave entrance; cave halfway down the cliff. Nigel tells us it's a 200 ft drop; Sydney that they're climbing down not jumping, Nige that there's rocks 'and who knows what else' below, Sydney 'You're being negative. The secret is not to look down; that's what my father taught me the first time we climbed together.' Cute interaction and a bit of backstory, tho I'd love to know more about her father, old 'Australia Fox?'; Syd rappels down the cliff face, Nigel falls down it, but they're inside a vast cavern. 'we really should get back' 'I'm sure you're right' 'steps. Manmade' 'apparently' carving of a tree and they move up the steps; your vast, narrow, high creepy dried-seaweed covered kind of steps; at the top a door which, when opened, brings down a trio of swords, crash clang clattering to the cave floor a hundred feet below. Syd draws Nigel away, with genuine concern/affection in her voice, but he only remarks 'Shouldn't we get out before the tide comes in? Of course not. Silly suggestion, really' because Syd is up and into the top floor apartment, where we've got both Sister Evangeline's body and the plunder Foret was caching, the plunder whose secret he killed to maintain, the very same location he preserved on a secret map, for his companions. See? Now aren't you sorry you didn't pay attention, the first thirty seconds of the show? Next time, listen to Lady Jane.

Anyway the quest is complete; half the plot explained and it's time for the other half, as businessman, fireman enter, hold our heroes at gunpoint. In the manner sanctified by time, Sydney now explains about how the banker/arsonist/developer got the convent in debt, ruined their business by setting fire to the library, and is now set to complete the yacht club, estate, golf course plan by acquiring the convent through foreclosure. To the accompaniment of 'too clever' from the baddies. Anyway, the baddies are about to tie up the goodies, let the tide have its way with them, when a moaning comes across the cave: it's . . . Sister Evangeline? Possibly not, but it does give Syd a second to kick away the gun pointed at her, whirl back, knock down a henchman on the rebound, then use kelp and her knife to disarm the developer. Nigel picks up a sword to threaten the henchman; the developer another to attack Syd, but the man's a hacker and Syd makes quick work of him. Nigel, unwilling to actually cut anyone with his sword, is being chased by the henchman, 'till Syd finishes him off.

Back at the convent, with Sister Mary, Syd and Nigel bringing flowers to the statue of Sister Evangeline. While Syd packs, and the voices of nuns humming sacred music swells up, Sister Mary delivers a little homily on the power of belief, as Nigel and we finally gaze on the face of the image of Sister Evangeline.



COMMENTARY

This commentary is by Lady Jane Grey.

++++ Great acting. You get to taking it for granted, but if you've seen the competition (Jack of All Trades, for example) you notice the difference. These aren't actors who grow into their parts; they're perfect from the gitgo. The highly professional acting sets the tone for the series.

+++ Nice photography and sets. Crypt factor five for the dungeons.

++ No nun jokes. Good effort at portraying the nuns as real people, a mix of women, both your modern and your classic black style.

++ Nice cloistering: the computer room a converted chapel or refractory, for the stone work, stained glass windows and the woodwork supporting the roof are all finely done and authentic. No cheap sets for us, and this is characteristic of the series: in addition to spending the cash for real actors, the producers take us to real locations.

++ Sophisticated plotting: rather like a puzzle; almost everything we see onscreen later turns out to fit into the plot. Award for best use of curmudgeon to reveal/conceal the plot

+Leather jacket. It's a regular on the show; bit dressier than your usual flight jacket but fitting Sydney's personality: tough, but classy. Whoops! LJG likes a woman in a leather

-- Plot hole! My partner got fond of saying that, third viewing of the Matrix. A number of implausibilities: Ian's creeping, heard over the noise of a prop plane; the nuns searching Sydney's belongings but failing to call next of kin or employer. Unlikely that fire investigators would confuse faulty wiring with a fire set by blasting cap. A tide that apparently reaches a hundred feet up a cliff (they grow 'em fierce up 'Scotia way). There's an old adage I heard on Law & Order last week: follow the money; had Syd done more thinking and less relicing, she'd have asked in who's interest it was that the convent be put in debt then forced to default on their loan.

-- The episode gets three bumbles, a bit more and a bit longer than necessary for character. Bumbling is Nigel's comic relief thing; it can be fun when he plays off Sydney.

-- Fight choreography. Sydney rather tends to telegraph her moves: hell, she practically announces them on the world-wide web. Contrast with, say, Xena, where the fights were perfect from the beginning.

-Pointless spiritual subplot. The series almost always tries to link the relic quest with personal concerns, but what Sister Evangeline has to offer - mostly miracles - doesn't fit at all well with Nigel's existential angst.



LINKS:

08-16-01. Screen grabs

Anotheruniverse.com review by Michele Erica Green




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