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RELIC HUNTER

LOVE LETTER


EPISODE NO. 19
Season 1, episode 19
Series 119
1st release: 05/01/00
2nd release:
Production number: 117
Approximate shooting dates:
Last update: 08-02-00


REGULAR CAST, GUEST CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
PRESS RELEASE
SYNOPSIS by Lady Jane Gray
COMMENTARY by Lady Jane Gray


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

GUEST CAST
Elsa Kikoine (Nicole Chamfort)
Michel Modo (Hugo Murnau)
Tony Anholt (Vincent de Bourdin)
Jay Villiers (Father George)
Jean-Christophe Emo (Guy de Bourdin)
Coralie Revel (Josephine Pontoise)
Bonnafe Tarbouriech (Father Louis)
Doug Murray (Dean Bernson)

CREDITS
Written by Elizabeth Baxter
Directed by Jean-Pierre Prevost

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

If Sydney and Nigel (Tia Carrere, Christien Anholt) can prove that young lovers were secretly wed on the eve of the French Revolution, they may be able to prevent the destruction of St. Agnes sur Loire. ClickTV

Nicolle est étudiante dans la classe de Sidney. Elle est convaincue que, à la veille de la révolution, deux amoureux de son ancien village se sont mariés secrètement, juste avant que le jeune marié ne soit assassiné par les révolutionnaires. Si cela s'avérait juste, le fils illégitime de la mariée serait l'héritier en titre du village. Or, de nombreux investisseurs sont aujourd'hui intéressés par son acquisition. Sydney et Nigel tentent alors de trouver la preuve de cette union précipitée. Les choses deviennent dangereuses quand les investisseurs cherchent à tout prix à stopper leurs investigations.


PRESS RELEASE

Nicole Chamfort, one of Sydney and Nigel's graduate students, is convinced that two young lovers from her ancestral hometown, a tiny village in France, were secretly married on the eve of the French Revolution, just moments before the happy groom was murdered by revolutionaries. If true, the bride's illegitimate son would be the rightful heir of the de Bourdin family - and the rightful owner of the village itself. With the imminent sale of St. Agnes Sur-Loire to greedy land developers, the race is on to find proof of the hasty union. Sydney and Nigel will have to do the impossible - conjure up centuries-old church records believed to have been burned by anti-clerics during the Revolution - if the ancient village of St. Agnes Sur-Loire is to stay on the map. Things turn dangerous as the land developers will go to any lengths to stop them.



SYNOPSIS:

This synopsis is by Lady Jane Gray.

We open in a small village south of Paris, in the year of the revolution, 1789. It's twilight outside a Romanesque church, but inside, there's a hurried marriage taking place. The priest tells us he shouldn't be performing the ceremony, but a fiercely earnest young man in a rich waistcoat, vest and ruffled shirt tells him, "I won't allow my son to be born a bastard.' The priest continues: "Do you, Guy de Bourdin, take Josephine Pontoise . . ' Josephine doesn't seem to be of his class; her auburn hair covered by a simple bonnet, she joyfully takes the vow. As they kiss, Father Louis signs a paper, illuminated along the edges, confirming the marriage. As he signs, we come to understand Guy's hurry: three village men break into the church, crying "In the name of the Revolution, you, and your aristocracy, must die." Father Louis hides the girl, but they're on Guy, three against one; he bravely takes the force of their charge, but, thrown down, before the altar, he's basely stabbed, dies.

We cut directly to a very harried Claudia, on the phone: "It's impossible. Her office hours are completely booked. Try next week." After she hangs up, "As if." The next call, though is for Nigel - a young woman, a "Nicole Sham..." Nigel enthusiastically takes the call, "Nicole Chamfour! Bonjour!" to Claudia's "Easy, Rover." Nicole is asking whether Professor Fox has read her thesis; Nigel replies that she got it last night, but that's not good enough: "Nigel, please. I really need her help." Nigel promises that he'll do what he can, and Nicole, half the world away, promises she'll find a way to pay him back.

After she hangs up, Nigel, in a nerd-green ribbed sweater, makes small motions of joy: "Yes! Pay me back." An inquisitive Claudia, in a low-cut rayon-spandex blouse with matching high-cut mini, hears that Nicole is just a friend, well, actually a graduate student, who needs help. The local Baron is selling Nicole's ancestral village to the mega-developer Michael Barney, to be turned into a Club Med or worse. "Turning a village into a happening resort. Am I missing something?" "Claudia, there are people who have lived there for hundreds of years. They need help." "Listen, honey-bun. Sydney is not going anywhere. She's been canceling appointments left and right since the beginning of the semester, and I've just finished rescheduling them. She stays put. Got it?"

Apparently not, because Syd walks in with a handful of papers, "Nicole's found something big. Claudia, Nigel and I are going to France." Nigel, so well bred, smiles quietly.

Syd stands in her office, shifting file folders about, explaining to Nigel that if Nicole can find the marriage document, she can prove that the current Bourdin is not the legal heir; Guy and Josephine's line will inherit instead. The Relic Hunters smile, in the joy of the chase, but Claudia is unmoved. Dean Bernson has been noticing Syd's missed classes, cancelled appointments, absences at conferences. She is not rescheduling Syd's office hours one more time. Nigel suggests that she simply say Syd's out of town, but he's met with a 'Butt out, lover-boy. Dean Bernson is ambitious and he's dangerous and he's out to shut down your relic-hunting ass."

Syd, one has to say, knows how to handle a woman. She smiles, warmly thanks Claudia for looking after her. But, she has to help. She tellsClaudia that she's clever ("I am?" doubtless the first time she's been told that) and can outwit Bernson. An armload of folders, a glance at Nigel and she's out of there - Nigel left to deliver the "Have fun, honey-bun."

And then it's small village France: a church whose outline we recognize dominating the hilltop; a Ford rental car tooling effortlessly through narrow streets. It stops, beeps at a hotel faced with timber-and-plaster, from which Nicole emerges, wearing a broad smile, blonde hair streaming as she runs to greet Nigel with a kiss on each cheek. Alas, only one room is free - for the three of them. Syd and Nigel, with separate thoughts, separately say 'We'll make it work' and Syd has to remind an overeager Nigel to go back and fetch the luggage. Obedient, he casts a resentful glance backwards as Syd follows Nicole to the room.

It's a very nice room: double window, luxurious red-papered walls, a small vase of meadow flowers and a richly carved canopy bed. Nigel observes that it's eleven, his time; maybe a nice nap would freshen him up. Syd remarks what a great idea, she thinks - catching Nigel's glance - she thinks she'll just go for a nice jog. Nicole, wondering if she isn't tired, hears Nigel's "No, she's a regular machine" and Syd's "Yeah, they call me the Terminator."

With Syd outside, in running gear, hair in a fetching pony tail, Nicole pours out two substantial glasses of wine and sits happy, smiling, on the bed across from Nigel, thanks him for getting Syd involved. He, very serious, remarks that it's for a good cause, sets the wine aside and Nicole takes on his mood: she, serious, shy, gazes in his eyes, tells him that she looked at him but had never really seen him. "You know what I mean?" As her face moves closer to his, he raises his hand, places it gently along her cheek, her mouth open and they kiss, briefly gently, Nicole moving slightly away, serious, smiling: yes, Nigel does know, as he caresses her hair, blonde brown hair, her dark brown eyes in his and he caresses her face again.

Jog; keep the rhythm; vine covered ancient wall yielding to misted forest, dirt country road: breathing heavily, feet pounding the dirt Syd keeps to the discipline. The sound of a car, a BMW pulling past, no, on her: she jumps aside, falls into the leaves and the car's skidded around, is on her again. She throws herself into the road, rolls onto the shoulder faster than the driver can respond. Another turn, and he's gone.

Meanwhile, back at the bedroom, Nicole's got her jacket off; she and Nigel in matching gray cotton t's (works better on her) but, laughing, she's got his half-off. "Sydney" Nicole says, glancing at Nigel as Syd, covered in dirt and leaves, enters. "What happened to you?" "Something good: we're onto to something, because someone doesn't want us here." Nicole bites her lip, glances again at Nigel, and Syd takes note she couldn't have spoken words more apropos. She leaves to change.

In the village cemetery, Nigel translates the headstone of Josephine, winning Nicole's approval and a bit more of the story: she died in childbirth, and her son was raised by the villagers. When he died, he willed all his property to the village, and Syd draws the conclusion: if Guy can be proved to have married Josephine, the current de Bourdin would have no claim to the village, no right to sell it.

At the church, they meet the current prelate, Father George, but he can tell them only that the church records were lost in the revolution: the church was felt to be complicit with the nobles, were as much a target of revolutionary vengence as they. Surely Father Louis hid the records but alas he died before revealing where. Syd carries on the investigation, as Nicole and Nigel have eyes only for each other, Nicole glancing every few moments, to read his expression. Syd suggests a visit to the chateau of the current de Bourdin; aristocracy often keep their own records. She doesn't expect his help, but she can tell if he's hiding something.

The chateau is grand, from gatehouse to bordered drive to Rolls parked in the courtyard; the door is answered by - well, Lurch, as Nigel has it, a butler in tux and white gloves, seeming twice as tall as Syd. He leads them to a study covered in maps, drawings, sketches: Vincent de Bourdin is clearly quite involved in the plans for developing his ancestral home into a tourist trap.

Vincent de Bourdin, he introduces himself, in jacket, patterned dark gold silk scarf, hair, nearing to gray, cut elegant. He's played by Tony Anholt, Christien's father, and there's a cute interchange between them, about the date of a rare Massante first edition. Nigel winds up tearing out a page, underscoring Syd's claim that as historians they were quite used to handling rare documents and fully qualified to examine his family records. Nicole mimes a kiss as Syd presses her disadvantage: there is a legend about Guy de Bourdin . . . until Vincent interrupts her: he was killed by anti-clerics and died unmarried. Syd notes she'd said nothing about marriage, and who was he supposed to have married? a remark that terminates the interview: Vincent is late for an appointment in Paris. As Syd gathers Nigel and Nicole, shepherds them out, he studies them. Thoughtfully.

Back at the hotel, Nicole, hair shining golden in the sun, introduces them to Hugo, a lawyer who is helping the cause. He refers to their opponents as pigs, snorts like one, and otherwise tells us nothing much new. He gets himself offstage with "I go now" he's off and we're . . .

Back at Trinity, where a tall, vested and suited man with thick glasses roams the halls. Dean Bernson: needs prunes, my partner said, and oddly enough he looks exactly like my Dean. Scary. He runs into Claudia, wants to know why Syd wasn't at the Regent's meeting; thinking quickly, Claud explains it's because she's sick, very sick; she demonstrates by going into the woman's restroom (very nice blonde wood doors I must say: Trinity does it up in style) and making nauseating sounds. Sounds of nausea. Anyway, power of suggestion: Bernson goes away, looking ill himself.

Anyway. Night is falling over the village; a few scattered lights and Nigel, Nicole are kissing again, no longer gently: passionately, soon they'll no longer be able to restrain their passion. But for this moment, Nicole is worried about Sydney, feels sorry for her: she's alone, while they are . . . Nigel assures her that Sydney likes to be alone; she's a breed apart from ordinary humans; she's likely right that moment happily immersing herself in local culture. Nicole, grateful, immerses herself again in Nigel's lips. As the camera cuts to Sydney, occupying a chair near the kitchen of the hotel's restaurant. She's wearing her leather jacket, leather cord at her throat, cord binding her to the quest but her body's twisted, she's trying to sleep. Waiters bump her and she notices one carrying a bottle of wine . . .

And is back in the room. She does knock; Nicole assumes it's the waiter with the wine she'd ordered and Syd explains the chateau's wine cellar would be a perfect spot to store the family papers, and now the perfect time to break in: only Lurch to contend with. Nigel has lost his shirt and vainly tries to cover himself in front of Syd . . . when next thing we know, they're pumping the Rolls, to set off the alarm. Works, too: draws out Lurch, and they're in, staircase descending steeply, old stone passageway to the wine cellar, Syd's flashlight illumining the stairs, misted with the frost of their breath. A ringing - cell-phone: Claudia; Dean Bernson is on the line. Syd's whispers are taken for laryngitis, but the noise draws Lurch: organ music, as he searches, turns on the light, searches . . . leaves. Behind an extra-cob webbedy rack of bottles (try say that, without sounding like Willow) Nigel's found a collection of ancient leather bound volumes: red, gilt; tan, inked, but all just beyond his reach, locked. Syd's picked lots of locks, true, but this one, she tells us, will release poison gas if tampered with. The only way in is with a key, and that is likely with Msr. de Bourdin, in Paris.

View of Paris across the Seine, buildings all honey-gold in the evening light. Syd phones, finds Vincent is not in his rooms, but at the door, Nigel asks "What's wrong this time?" "Nothing an hour won't fix: it uses a magnetic stripe. Besides, there's an easier way." Which consists of going naked but for a towel(wears deep red toenail polish, case you need to know that) and pretending to be a terminally American tourist locked out of her room. After one on the cleaning staff unlocks the door, Nigel sneaks in("Why is this less complicated than picking the lock?")and they locate the key, a little brass four-pronged affair, in Vincent's briefcase, under the bed. Alas, his henchmen appear; you can see Sydney getting ready to try the 'de Bourdin asked for me' trick when Nigel pops his head out, ruining the act before it starts. One thug rushes her, gets a kick in the groin, and is quickly disabled; the other takes several blows before he's down. Syd whips about, her towel flying off. "much more complicated" Nigel remarks, hiding his eyes, especially, as it turns out, that Syd's clothes have been taken. It's down to the lobby, Syd attracting attention: shocked and admiring. An 'I love Paris' nightshirt seems just right; then we're off, taking the circle around the Arc de Triumphe, then hiding again while Lurch investigates another false alarm on the Rolls. "I can't believe he's that dumb." Nigel voices our concern, while Sydney in jeans and t-shirt recovers the estate ledgers from 1785 to 1789. With Nicole, Hugo and Nigel, she reads that just after Guy's death, the Baron made a huge one-time donation to the church, perhaps a pay-off to keep Father Louis quiet about the marriage. Hugo snorts a few times, and, as other men would sneeze he emits 'Pigs!' but can't tell if this would be enough evidence to get a court order stopping the sale of the land.

Father George, however, knows a bit more of the history. Next morning, outside the church, Fr. George assures them that if Fr. Louis took the money, it would have been to restore the damage done to the church by the revolutionaries. But he died before the restoration was complete; all he lived to complete was a beautiful stained glass window, which he designed himself. Syd (her hunting clothes restored) and Nigel rush up a narrow circular staircase to a small landing, past restorer's chemicals, read the inscription: 'In Oculis Salvatore Invenes Salutem' 'In the eyes of the savior you will find restoration.' The restorers ladder is still there; Syd climbs to be level with Christ's eyes, sees pst them, to a doorway in a hill overlooking the town. She tells the others that it's there Father Louis must have hidden the church valuables and documents; Hugo goes off to make the call that will stop the signing of the contracts.

And we're back at Trinity, Claudia is interupted from doing her toenails a call from the Dean's office: is he still with Sydney? Panicked, Claudia stands about, then grabs a boombox, rushes into Syd's office. By the time Dean Bernson arrives, he finds a . . . a Bantu witch-doctor, wooden masked, long straw hair covering most of it's body, dancing to a tribal drumbeat. "Sydney?" "This is the worst cold I've ever had" She tells him, hoarsely, that maybe the dance will cure her, then sneezes him out of the office.

The trio climb through a late autumnal forest, up the side of the hill Syd had spotted, Nigel and Nicole hold hands as Nigel remarks "Nobody's lived in these caves for years" just as Syd finds the one with with the cross over it. She and Nigel break down the grayed wooden door covering the entrance to the cave, and as they go deep into the mountainside they spot a crudely carved altar, where Fr. Louis must have ministered to the peasants in secret during the Terror. Fresh flowers on the altar are disturbing: apparently the little chapel is still in use, and whatever had been hidden there discovered, taken, sold long ago.

But there's a painting on plaster: the face of the crucified Christ, just as on the stained glass window; Syd pushes on it but Nigel goes through a 'Syd, please: let me." He almost dislocates his shoulder, as the women glance to each other, but pushes through, to a much narrower tunnel. They crawl, hand and knees over rubble, and just as they're able to stand, panting with the effort, Nigel looks about, hears the squeal of a bat. Their flashlights barely adequate; startled by their own image in a gilt-edged mirror, eventually they see - gold candelabra, a monstrance, blue and gold reliquary, heavy silver-covered chest. Syd opens the chest, documents lying on plush red - death certificates, while Nigel holds the light on Nicole's discovery - papers, rolled up, the marriage certificate, signed 'your husband', witnessed by Father Louis.

"But it will never see the light of day" de Bourdin steps forward, Hugo, the two thugs, holding Uzi's, all with them. Hugo apologizes, "I'm sorry. I'm weak. I'm broke." But he balks at having the hunters shot, and de Bourdin realizes Hugo has outlived his usefulness. When Vincen leaves, Syd asks Hugo what he calls people like this; the light dawns and like a wild boar, he, closest to the thugs, attacks, throwing himself on them. They fire, wildly, hitting the ceiling of the cave and, as it begins to collapse, they run, exiting just before a cache or rocks falls, closing off the exit.

Covered with dust, the quartet take stock, Syd telling Hugo that what he did took courage. "I may be stupid but I am not a pig." As Syd notices a whole flight of bats: there had to be another way out. While she climbs a narrow staircase cut in the rock, Nicole clings to Nigel: "You can blame me for this." But Nigel reassures her: they will get out. "How can you be so sure?" He strokes her cheek, she almost recoiling from the touch: "Because I've been in situations like this before. Many times. And . . . because Sydney's here." Syd looks back, smiling deeply. And returns to stairs, to what has become a dangerous climb, till she pulls herself up to a flat place. Crawling now, on her elbows, she comes upon: tunnels, leading in all directions, too many of them. And, in her moment of need, by the grace of god and an all-beneficent script-writer, a whole flock of digital bats wheels through the cavern, select exactly the right tunnel for her.

At the chateau, Hugo spots Michael Barney's Mercedes, next to the Rolls; this time, Syd dispatches Lurch with a punch in the stomach and chop to the neck. Rushing into Vincent's study, Syd announces, "I don't know how much you know about your business partner, Mr. Barney, but he has no right to sell. This document proves that the land belonged to Gilbert Pontoise de Bourdin." Vincent shrugs, Nicole hugs, and Nigel, Syd look at each other, satisfied.

And yet there are satisfactions still to come: Nigel pours a light red wine for Nicole, pulls back the covers of the bed for her. "Be out in a moment," Nicole announces from the bathroom. "Are you sure we won't see Sydney?" Nigel, in gray silk pajamas, lounges on the bed. "You don't know Sydney and poker. The only way we'll see her before sun-up is if she loses the shirt off her back." "You know what I like about Englishmen? You don't take women for granted." Nigel jumps up, to see Nicole emerge, wearing a white silk robe, open to show a white lace negligee. Nigel has no words: "This is good" as he leads her, gently, to bed, kisses her. But . . . she stops, rises. "It's not right." A disappointed and disoriented Nigel replies, "Huh?" "I can't help thinking about Guy and Josephine. Their passion was born out of love; ours is out of lust." "You think . . ?" "Let's not cheapen it. I . . . could come back; we could get to know each other. You would like that."

Nigel smiles.

And as the two sit, apart, on the edge of the bed, Syd re-enters the room, sans shirt. "Full house?" asks Nigel? "Pair of threes" she announces, disgusted, as she goes to change and Nicole and Nigel, complicit, laugh silently.



COMMENTARY

This commentary is by Lady Jane Gray.

When I think ' Nigel', I think 'crush on Syd' and 'virgin.' And this week's episode is where we get to test those little theories.

The Gourmet's Pleasure

A lovely episode: Syd-light, I read on the newsgroup, but for me a sophisticated little character-comedy. A friend once told me, "I realized that to my friends, I was only a minor spear-carrier in the drama of their lives ", and there's a great deal of comedy to be found in such a displacement. Your average RH show, we're consumed by the historical moment, by Sydney's passion for the quest. Love Letter situates us differently: we see Syd through the lives of her staff, see her day-to-day. The technique was used to great effect in one of the most popular Xena episodes ever, A Day In The Life, and Love Letter is the RH version.

To Claudia, the Quest means broken commitments: making apologies, rescheduling appointments, fending off Deans. There is no god higher than The Schedule. To her, Nigel is not a colleague of Syd's but a panderer, maliciously distracting from her duties.

Nigel and Syd usually share a passion, but not this time: Nicole is Nigel's alone. To him, Syd is almost inhuman: a machine, he calls her; thinking about nothing but the quest; human concerns like sleep and comfort don't touch her. Much of what he says is rationalization, words to distract Nicole, but there's an edge: he knows Syd too well.

And Syd: jogging, sitting cramped in a hotel corridor, or losing her clothes in a poker game: Syd we never knew you before. She's no longer the tough, implacable hunter, but has become just a woman with an obsession for history and the use of it to help people, as weak and isolated as the rest of us.

I have to say I liked the romance. Nicole herself was the perfect sweet innocent, pretty but not stunningly beautiful, eager, understanding, and, best of all: she seemed genuinely attracted to Nigel. She was attractive, sexy but neither a bimbo nor a slut. Hey! You guys! Yeah, Powers That Be, I'm talkin' to you. Let's have more of Nicole, OK?

Part of the interest in the plot was in its very predictability. Syd hadn't jogged for more than a mile before my partner said 'there's gonna be a car any minute now' tho neither of us knew it'd be a beamer. Hugo's complicity was obvious from the gitgo, though not his courage. And an unexpected delight: the action film cliché is that shared danger drives men and women into a mating frenzy: I guess that's how the species survives. I'm happy to see that cliché undercut: a brush with danger and with her own history sends Nicole into a more reflective, perhaps a more deeply romantic mood: she want to know Nigel better, perhaps to have a chance to fall in love with him. Of course we all knew that Nigel's sexual hopes would be dashed, but I didn't expect it in a form so clever, a form that fits the theme of the series so well.

In a way this is Nigel's story, the charting of his growth at the intersection of history and desire (try say that without sounding like Rod Serling). I loved the scene where he tells Nicole that he's confident that they'll escape the cave, because he's been in this kind of situation before (true enough) and . . . because Sydney's there. It's both a dropping of his macho act, and a gracious compliment to Syd. As he says it, the camera switches to Syd's smile, and I can't help but thinking that she appreciates the growth reflected in his statement, as well as enjoys a genuine compliment from one who knows her perhaps better than any man. A moment of honesty that brings Nigel closer to both women who matter to him.

Oh, right, forgot: Nigel's no virgin. He's too competent, too gentle, too sensitive. But then . . . what do I know 'bout it?




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