"Nine Lives"
Original airdate: Week of February 27, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

Sydney Goes Catatonic

"Nine Lives" Plot Summary:

A train heads from Alexandria to Cairo in Egypt, 1895. "Tomb Desecrated," reads the news headline. An Englishman reading the paper announces that the sacred statue of the cat goddess Mafdet has been stolen, but those who have disturbed the relic previously have died "by claws of the cat." At his side, the thief panics. Off the train, the robber opens a case containing the relic and dies in the green glow of the statue's eyes, with the roaring of a great cat in his ears.

At Trinity, Sydney finds herself locked out of her office and the halls empty while a terrifying typhoon passes through the building. Then she wakes from this nightmare in a skimpy negligee. In her office, Nigel tells Claudia about his interest in seeing a comet, while Claudia announces that she's dating a Sagittarius. But Nigel is not destined to see the comet, because Sydney needs to take him to New York, where the statue of the cat which she recovered years earlier is on display at the Crawford Institute.

The curator, Elizabeth Ruckeyser, invites Sydney and Nigel to her home, but it's not a social call. The miniskirted blonde had taken the statue from the museum to study it - and it was stolen, along with one of her ruby slippers. Sydney immediately suspects Archie Brogan, a cat burglar with a shoe fetish, but Nigel worries that Elizabeth "doesn't seem to be the curator type." The two visit Lagerfeld, a black market art dealer who is in the process of selling a fake painting to a wealthy Texan. When Sydney threatens to reveal his sales tactics, Lagerfeld - who expresses interest in Nigel - gives her Archie's address.

But the cat is on the prowl, and by the time Sydney and Nigel arrive, Archie has been mysteriously electrocuted. Sydney is about to take the statue when another cat burglar - this one dressed like Catwoman - kickboxes it away from her. Sydney only knows one other woman who can do the Balinese back kick: Roselyn Lamb. She asks Lagerfeld where Roselyn is and warns him of the mortal danger posed by the statue, but Lagerfeld retorts that he lives in New York so he's in mortal danger every day. Besides, Roselyn is doing business with him to sell the statue overseas.

The cat prowls again. Sydney and Nigel arrive at Roselyn's home to see her flung from her high-rise window, screaming. "Think the cat's in the bag?" asks Nigel of Roselyn's hefty purse, but she has only cash inside - lots and lots of cash. Sydney speculates that it's a person rather than a mystical cat goddess who's killing those who steal the statue, but her musings are cut short when she realizes they are being followed. Chasing her own pursuer, she gets him to drop a bracelet with heiroglyphics on it. Sydney takes the amulet to Elizabeth, who reminds Sydney of the existence of a cult of Mafdet led by a priestess who were sworn to protect the soul of the Pharaoh. While Sydney struggles to remember the details, she realizes that Elizabeth has drugged both herself and Nigel, and passes out.

Waking in the basement, Sydney comes face to face with the man who followed her, now dressed like an ancient Egyptian servant. Elizabeth is wearing an Egyptian headpiece and a dress that barely covers her. She says she needs the cat statue to ensure that Pharaoh's soul will be protected. Keeping Nigel as hostage, she sends Sydney to find the relic, threatening to disembowel Nigel as an offering if she doesn't have Mafdet instead. From Lagerfeld, Sydney learns that the cat statue was sold to a Spanish cultural attache who intends to market it in Europe. While Sydney breaks into the Spanish man's house, Lagerfeld drops in on Elizabeth, asking to see Nigel. Although she has him tied up and threatened, Lagerfeld thinks it's all a kinky sex game with Nigel as the prize.

Sydney manages to wrest the statue from the Spanish embassy attache, then tries to make her way across town as Elizabeth prepares to sacrifice both Nigel and Lagerfeld in place of Mafdet's statue. Lagerfeld is more worried about the ruin of his expensive shirt than the threat of disembowelment until he realizes the others are serious. At the last minute, Sydney breaks in, offering to trade the statue for the lives of the two men. Elizabeth agrees, but will not let Sydney watch the ceremony to preserve the Pharaoh's soul. Refusing to leave without the statue which she knows Elizabeth intends to destroy, Sydney accuses the other woman of selfishly reinterpreting Egyptian mythology to her own benefit. The two women fight. Ultimately Sydney is victorious, but Elizabeth vanishes into thin air, leaving only her scanty clothes behind.

While Claudia tells Nigel that the comet couldn't outshine the hot new astronomy professor - and that she arranged a date for him, who turns out to be Lagerfeld - Sydney goes home to sleep. She has another nightmare in which Elizabeth returns to torture her, then wakes and cuddles her new kitten Mafdet, hoping the priestess doesn't have nine lives.


The most memorable image from "Nine Lives" wasn't the golden cat, which appeared in nearly every scene and became the focus of dozens of jokes (cat out of the bag, Catwoman, cat burglar, etc.). Nor was the Egyptian motif impressive given its hokey artificiality, emphasized when Lagerfeld thought Elizabeth's costume was part of a kinky dominatrix scenario. In the end, this episode was dominated by Elizabeth's Great Pyramids, which were the focus of several closeups and much gawking by Nigel. The latter's role as a hopeless straight man (so to speak) got a break when he mimicked Claudia's impression of a yowling cat, only to have Elizabeth and Sydney stare at him as if he were as much of a ditz as Claudia.

Plot-wise, "Nine Lives" is one of Relic Hunter's thinnest episodes, and the Egyptology's laughable. But the catfight between Sydney and Elizabeth has undeniable appeal - besides the obvious, both Tia Carrere and former WWF star Rena Mero are good fighters, and neither one plays a bimbo so it didn't seem entirely gratuitous. Still, my favorite moment is when Sydney has to find a way to communicate with her cab driver, demonstrating her mastery of a half-dozen languages before finding the one he understands. And though Nigel's terror of Lagerfeld seems a tad homophobic, it's worth having Lagerfeld in the episode just to watch Sydney kick his butt across his gallery when he tries to double-cross her.

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