"Three Rivers to Cross"
Original airdate: Week of October 30, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

Guided By Fortune

"Three Rivers to Cross" Plot Summary:

Three Rivers, China, 1245 A.D. As Mongols invade a temple, the monks take a mandala from around the neck of a statue of the Jade Empress. Centuries later, Chinese Colonel Chang remarks that a new dam is complete. Protesting monks approach and are told by cultural liaison Li Feng that all religious icons will be relocated, but they refuse to leave without the statue of the Jade Empress that has been missing for more than 700 years.

Sydney Fox gets a call from her father, Randall, a hydro-electrical engineer. He designed the dam that will be responsible for flooding the valley -- and killing the monks who refuse to depart, unless Sydney finds the Jade Empress. In Hong Kong, she and Nigel meet up with her father and Li Feng, who says that the statue doesn't exist -- he found the dragon mandala that is supposed to be the key to the statue, but it led nowhere. Sydney asks to see the mandala, but Feng refuses, saying the dam will provide power for millions of Chinese and he won't make them wait any longer.

Randall, who seems awfully curious about whether Sydney and her assistant are romantically involved, makes contact with the dealer who loaned the mandala to Feng. The dealer, Fetters, agrees to loan them the piece, but is killed before they can retrieve it. Sydney manages to take it from the thugs in Fetters' apartment, and figures out the key to unlocking it by spinning it like a top. Inside, she finds a map of the Three Rivers area, but it depicts a fourth river. Randall uses his engineering software to construct a map of the region hundreds of years earlier, and locates the monks' secret island in the present day.

The investigation is interrupted by Randall's fiancee, Jenny, who's younger than Sydney or Nigel. Because she's a translator, Randall takes her on their journey to Three Rivers. On the train, Sydney meets Colonel Chang and ascertains that he doesn't trust Feng, but he refuses to help her find the statue because the monks won't leave for as long as she searches. When they stop, the colonel revokes Randall's papers, but he steals a truck and heads toward the site of the dry fourth river with the others in the back.

When they proceed on foot to avoid army helicopters, Nigel stumbles across a marker that looks just like the mandala, and opens by indicating the symbol for the year the Empress statue disappeared -- 1248, the Year of the Tiger. An explosion reveals a carving in the hill behind them. Sydney sends Jenny and Nigel to get the truck, then goes into a tunnel with her father, where they find the Jade Empress. Li follows them, but his attack on Sydney leads to his disappearance in a mystical whirlpool that opens in the moat surrounding the statue. Jenny and Nigel arrive with a group of soldiers who mistook her for a celebrity and came along when she promised cash rewards.

On the train to Hong Kong, Nigel realizes that Khan took over the valley in 1245, and the statue was hidden in 1248 when the temple was the only building left standing. Now that peace has returned, the Jade Empress can return as well. Randall calls Sydney's assistant away for some man talk, leaving Sydney to bond with her future stepmother, who shares her affection for dim sum.


The Chinese army won't like this episode, which doesn't emphasize their lack of respect for religious icons so much as a willingness to be led astray by pretty American blondes like Jenny. Still, "Three Rivers To Cross" has a high entertainment value, as Sydney deals with crooks, soldiers, and a new family member who dresses more flamboyantly than Claudia. Once again a famous Westerner must come to save the mystical treasure that protects an entire society, which is rather annoying...but we never find out whether the Jade Empress herself would have protected the monks had they stayed when the valley flooded, so maybe the credit should go to the Queen of Heaven.

I expected this installment to put more emphasis on the preservation of ancient religions rather than their icons; we learn very little about the monks and nothing about what the Jade Empress represents to them. For the second week in a row, zodiac symbols play an important role in solving a mystery, yet the solution has nothing to do with astrology -- the symbols appear to be random elements. That mattered little in this episode because of the entertaining chemistry between Sydney and her father, but some actual anthropology would be nice from time to time. Next week Sydney and Nigel get to make out, though, so probably no one will care about the plot.

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