REGULAR CAST, GUEST CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
SYNOPSIS by Lady Jane Gray
COMMENTARY by Lady Jane Gray
COMMENTARY 2 by Beboman
Neil Dainard (Russ Crawford - old)
Paul Essiembre (Ross Crawford - young)
Blu Mankuma (Abdulla)
Phillip Jarrett (Militia Captain)
Arnold Pinnock (Souveneir Shop Owner)
George Seremba (Shaman)
Written by Jeff F. King
Directed by Ian Toynton
Filmed on location in Toronto, Canada and Paris, France by Fireworks Entertainment Inc. and Gaumont Television.
TV GUIDE PROMO
Sydney and Nigel visit Africa to see a fellow Relic Hunter who is sick from retrieving a cursed item. LogLine.
Answering the call of old friend and fellow Relic Hunter Ross Crawford, Sydney drags Nigel to Africa on a completely atypical mission. Instead of hunting down a fabled treasure, they must return one to its original hiding place. After Ross "liberated" an idol from the Temple of Woot, an African god of regeneration, he began degenerating at an alarming clip. Syd and Nigel will have to locate the Temple and put back the hexed idol before the Winter Solstice - or risk unleashing a curse of epic proportions.
This synopsis is by Lady Jane Gray.
We open with a scene of elephants against sunset on the savannah: we're in a Kuba village, central Zaire, 100 AD, and we're in a small room, surrounded by men performing an important religious ceremony. The chief, whose features are concealed by a wooden and cowrie-shell mask, takes a statuette from an alcove, places it on a small altar, and prays to the god Woot, whose idol this is, to give fertility to the land and the people. A light forms around the idol, builds, ascends through a hole above, leaves, to renew the land. But with the blessing is a curse: on any who would remove the idol, and on the people itself, if the idol should not be there for the next midwinter solstice.
Wait! This can't be Relic Hunter! First of all, it isn't in France, and second, nobody steals anything and nobody is being killed. Ah, for that, we have to wait - two millennia. Now it comes back: here's Syd, in a white skirted suit (obviously, a significant portion of Syd's salary gets donated to her friends Dana Buchman and Anne Klein, and equally obviously it's a worthy cause: Syd looks very good). But it isn't Trinity; instead we're in some sort of house: light, spacious, accented with real woods and impeccable taste. Nigel's picking up a picture, of a young man embraced by a much younger Syd. She's just explaining that she'd got him through some hard times when a man enters, interrupts: "I saved your life. And now I need you to return the favor." It's the man from the photo, and apparently of the two, age has been kinder to Syd, because he's in his late sixties.
The man is Dr. Ross Crawford, and he explains that he recently "liberated" an idol from a small African village. As he unwraps it we recognize Woot, the fertility god: the idol is cursed, and he afflicted by the curse. Yet not enough: he learned, after stealing the sacred item, that if the idol isn't present at the next solstice, the whole Kuba people will be cursed as well. Can Sydney help? The solstice is in two days . . . can she return the idol so that even the Kuba priests won't know it's gone liberated? Her contact is Fritz at the fez shop, and by the way the alcove of the idol is booby-trapped: here's his notes.
Back at Trinity, Claudia informs Nigel and Syd that it's all set: their plane reservations are all made. There is a little bad news, though: the borders are closed, and she can't get them entrance papers. On the positive side, there is a train that crosses the border and she can get them on that. A slight drawback: the last Europeans found on the train without papers were shot. Claudia earns a delighted "well done" from Syd and a scowl from Nigel, who makes it clear all through that he does not want to go to Africa, even with Syd. There's a man who really likes Paris. And while Syd and Nigel hash it out, Claudia serenely sets up a photo of the young Crawford on her desk. Under the light, where it'll show to greatest advantage. Apparently Claudia is about to develop an interest in the culture of the Kuba.
Next scene: a steam train winding through low hills and on it, Syd and Nigel, each wearing a long linen dress, he with the collar of an Anglican priest. But this is no train back to Africa for them: they're disguised as missionaries, but on this train, in this country, it's quite impossible to disguise either. A small group of soldiers is working its way through the car, randomly demanding papers; Nigel panics, wants to know what to do. Syd suggests prayer and it seems to work, because an Indian gentleman in a suit stands, runs out of the car, quickly pursued by soldiers. Shots fired . . .
Apparently the soldiers have met their quota with the man from India, because our missionaries disembark unharmed. Running straight into another group of soldiers, a particularly evil-looking one, chomping a cigar and demanding their papers. Nigel stalls, and prays in incoherent Latin (the thought that a disguise might require more of him than a costume apparently never entered his young head) and the soldier orders the two arrested. Syd backs away, pushes over a pole supporting a canopy, and the two make their escape, blending easily into the African . . . blending . . . oh. Well.
They enter a shop whose owner informs them "No browsing." Syd picks up a statue of Woot, asks how much, while Nigel closes the shutters. "Four thousand." "Are you kidding? It says right here it's made in Taiwan!" "Syd, that's four dollars." "If I give in, I'll lose his respect." "Syd, who cares?" And she leaves, with a half-price Taiwanese Woot. To run straight into soldiers. Duck down an alleyway, and they're standing right in front of Fritz the Fez-Man Shop.
Which turns out not to be all that helpful: not only has Fritz been stabbed, but the trail of the white folks is all too easy to follow. As soldiers batter down the door, Syd and Nigel disappear down under the floor, through a trap door, following Fritz's partner Abdulla. Who will take them to the Kuba village for the same price Fritz himself would have charged.
After a bit of crawling about under floorboards, Abdulla has papers for them both and a covered truck with a false bottom. Syd suggests a quick change of clothes and it is quick, because apparently they had their real clothes on, underneath the missionary skirts. All except Syd, who actually has to change into her muscle shirt. Looks like she's dropped a few dollars on the Aubade bras, too. Half a star, for best lingere in an action series.
Meanwhile back at Trinity, Claudia has finally shown up at Ross' place. She's shocked, to say the least, to see a sixty year old man, and he, detecting her discomfort, tells her to leave, tells her he wants to be alone. To her credit, Claudia stays, gets him some water, calls Nigel on the cell phone. She's able to reassure Ross that though Fritz is dead, his partner is helping Syd. Ross remarks that Fritz always worked alone.
Back to Africa. The false bottom gets them through the first roadblock, but at a second they're met by our cigar chomping friend from the city, and the door to the false bottom sticks, forcing Syd to kick a bit of Zairean butt. Nigel gets in a few licks as well; at the same time half the book of important notes is torn away. And, he's lost the cell phone.
At the Kuba village, we find the temple of Woot is an enormous structure carved into the face of a cliff; worse, the only access is through the village itself. Abdulla, in Western costume, looks a bit out of place but once again, the only way to disguise the Europeans is to hide them, as they sneak into the temple. Once there, the half a notebook Nigel still retains shows a crouching man, which he interprets as a suggestion to pray, and Syd understands means "crawl or you'll be shot full of poison darts." Score one for that archaeological training. Once in the main room, there are three gates, barred by slabs of stone, with three inscriptions and three slots for a key. Not too hard to locate the key, in a small cistern, but to which lock? Ross' notes are hopelessly mangled and at precisely this point, Abdulla pulls out a gun, demands the statue of Woot. Syd gives it him and he takes a torch to Nigel's half-book, then runs out, only to trip, drop the statue, watch it break - wait a minute wood doesn't shatter; Syd's given him the Taiwanese knock-off. But it doesn't matter; the soldiers have finally caught up with Abdulla, and the only way to save himself is to offer the Westerners instead. Abdulla leads the small contingent through the temple, they smart enough to insist on his leading . . .
As Nigel and Syd make a last-ditch effort to enter the secret chamber, behind the locked doors. Two are certainly booby-trapped, Ross' notes hopelessly damaged. Syd slows down, thinks, makes a choice: if Ross could find his way in, through intuition, then so can she. She does, they do, just in time to escape Abdulla and the soldiers.
They choose poorly.
Once inside, Syd can hear machinery and cries of pain, justice brought to the soldiers and Abdulla. And the sound of the priests of Woot, gathering, preparing for the solstice ceremony. The alcove holding the statue is counterweighted, Indiana-Jones style, and Nigel holds Syd by the waist as she replaces the idol. The priests file in - our fearless hunters having hidden themselves on a ledge in the cave, and they watch the ceremony, the renewal of the land. At Trinity, Claudia sees Ross morph from an old man to a young one. And in Africa, Syd notices a path, a route out of the cave. "It'll be a tight squeeze" she remarks. Nigel smiles, "They always are."
Out of Africa, back at Trinity, Syd's looking for a folder and Claudia remarks that she's scanned in her notes, put them on the computer. Claudia, we hardly knew ye. Ross appears, and Syd observes that his contributions to the Meso-American collection are thanks enough. But not yet enough: he presents her with a small, carved box and a red-tasseled key. Opening it, Ross asks, now "What do you get for a woman who has everything?" He'd seen her admiring it in a marketplace: it's a twelfth-century Persian folding crossbow, about the size of a 45 automatic. Behind him is Claudia, his date: "I have to take this angel out to dinner." Syd inadvertently triggers the crossbow and it narrowly misses Ross. "Just be sure you get her back by midnight."
As the episode closes, Nigel says he didn't know Syd could fire a crossbow. "I can't. This is my first time." She blows into the empty frame, gunslinger gal, then smiles, Nigel smiling with her. "Why do I have this feeling it won't be the last?"
This commentary is by Lady Jane Gray.
If you're like me, around midsummer you start going into Relic Hunter withdrawal. You rewatch favorite episodes. You find yourself in Paris, viewing the catacombs, or endlessly searching Rue Madame to catch a glimpse of a Relic Hunter location. None of it really helps, so you subscribe to the Relic Hunter listserve. Finally, you get some hard info on the new season. The Toronto Sun has interviews with producers, cast and crew, and they paint an enticing picture of the new season.
Tired of Paris? This year the hunters will be off to Africa, New Guinea, India, China and the Amazon Basin. Claudia will join along on some of the expeditions. Like girls? Who doesn't! "If there's a reason to be in a place where there are beautiful, scantily dressed women, we'll be there." There'll be secret agents, plane crashes, Thuggees and alchemists.
Great! Now the withdrawal is worse. You rent True Lies, fast-forwarding past all the scenes with Jamie Lee Curtis. And at last, the Season Two premier. Good buzz on the official Relic Hunter newsgroup; you turn off Schwarzenegger - who needs him when you got Nigel? Syd spins her globe and you sit back . . .
The Good Magic. That's right, your rationalist reviewer finds the use of magic a plus. Huh?
Many early cultures used magic, and assumed their magic was efficacious. The statue of Woot has no value other than the magic of renewal his priests can command. To assume the magic is real is a manner of respecting the validity of the Kuba culture. Besides: it's an important plot element. The way to return a stolen artifact is to contact the appropriate embassy, take pictures and further international goodwill. It doesn't involve crossing borders, risking one's life. The only reason for the expedition here is that Woot's magic does work, as Ross' ageing demonstrates.
That Old Black Magic: Syd and Nigel. The end of the episode, "tight squeeze" and the crossbow incident demonstrate a closeness between Syd and Nigel. They never do manage to get the girl or the guy, but they have something greater, a shared understanding. Ross and Syd were clearly close at one time; I wonder if he didn't notice that she and Nigel now share adventures, just as he once did. Does he know he's been replaced, settle on Claudia as consolation prize?
New looks. There's a new opening sequence, and, at long last, we get previews of next week's episode. And an intriguing plot twist: instead of finding a relic, our Hunters have to put one back. We don't expect this to be any kind of a challenge, yet it is. Yes, certainly the booby-traps, the torn and burnt guide through them. But at a deeper level, Africa itself. It's no easy place for a Westerner to be; the location itself the greatest challenge.
Claudia. She gets human. A Relic Hunter episode always has a character who grows through the quest, and this time it's Claudia. She takes a risk, overcomes her fears, and gains a bit of humanity, popped right out of the comic book world into three-dimensional characterhood.
Africa has never been darker. Syd and Nigel spend all too much time hiding, typically in dark places. The country is a backdrop; there is no there, there: it's all Syd and Nigel in Africa. Mind you: this is no 'Heart of Darkness', no devastating critique of Belgian colonialism and the dark greed gripping men's hearts. Africa is just nasty unpleasant place for a European to be.
Abdulla comes on the scene with no motivation. Somehow he knows the secret passageways at Fritz's place, knows even that Fritz is expecting American visitors. Knows that they will get the statue. And presumably he intends to use the statue, though exactly how isn't clear. He can't access its magic, and he's no way to establish its value or provenance. It's just wood and cowrie shells - is it really worth his life?
Dramatic pacing. Much of the show consists of over-long sequences with Syd and Nigel hiding. Uh - you were planning on having adventure on your action-adventure show?
I was talking with Kym Masera Taborn, online; she remarked that Syd needs to become less an object, more a person. That crystallized for me much that is wrong with the show. Take Syd's trademark shirtlessness. It's fine if it shows how liberated, how comfortable with her body, she is. But, sad fact: this is one of the very few glimpses we have, at all, into what kind of a person Sydney Fox might be. Almost everything we know about Syd's past is that she slept with a lot, a really big lot, of different men.
So why is it that all we know of this woman is her sexuality?
The entire premise of the show is that history is history of people, stories about individuals. Standing apart is this - thing, this construct, Sydney Fox, who paradoxically has no history herself, has no past and no stories we can learn from. Play that too hard and you've made your main character boring and predictable. An object.
But we don't bond to objects, we bond, come to care about people. And Sydney Fox is a woman it is very hard to care about.
This commentary is by Beboman.
What a super great episode. This was just a really good episode (can you tell that I liked it). The adventure was really great and the plot idea of putting back the relic to save a life was great. The idea that mystic magic or a curse can affect someone in this time and age was interesting.
But you know what was the best thing about this episode: it was finding out how Sydney got her crossbow. Boy, do I like that little weapon. I think it is just great and it goes with Sydney's personality.
This small crossbow is just as unpredictable as she is, but is just as accurate and dependable as she is. It just gives Sydney a very special touch. (Is it that obvious that I like it?).
This episode had some really good points to it and one of them was Claudia. She was a portrait of someone reliable (in her own way) and we were able to see a caring side to her. Even though she is still man-hungry, she put that aside to stay with the aging Ross as Sydney and Nigel went to put the relic back. It also showed how much faith Claudia has in Sydney's ability to accomplish a mission. That is so nice to see.
Another thing that was very good about this episode was the opportunity once again to see Sydney's deductive mind at work. Sydney and Nigel had lost half of the instructions that told them how to get into the sacred cave. But even though this was a setback, Sydney did not give up. She had a mission to accomplish and she was going to get it accomplished. So, with the help of Nigel, she was able to find the solution and get the relic back in place with a little time left to find a place for her and Nigel to hide. That was a very good scene.
Once again, Sydney shows that she is not a very shy, modest person when she changed right in front of Nigel. I love his reactions every time she does something like that.
I love Nigel's reactions every time Sydney get undress in front of him, but I love his reactions even more every time they get into some kind of jam. It's like Sydney said, "just go with the flow". I think it is going to take Nigel some time to grasp the idea of just going with the flow.
SO, the bad guys get it in the end, and the good guy is saved. I liked the way that came about and I liked the special effect of turning Ross from a very old man to his young handsome self again.
This was a very entertaining episode with just the right mixture of excitement and adventure, sprinkled with a bit of comedy.