"The Book of Love"
Original airdate: Week of November 21, 1999
by Michelle Erica Green

Sydney Seeks Great Sex

"The Book of Love" Plot Summary:

Casanova's hideaway in Italy. As a guitarist strums a love song, the famed lothario makes love to two women. Then he takes a break to write in a journal. A knock at the door interrupts. "It's my husband!" screams one of the women. Nope, worse yet, it's a priest and a group of accomplices, who call Casanova a blasphemous fiend. The women defend their lover, and he escapes.

Nigel interrupts Sydney's swimming to tell her that famed soccer star Roberto Gianini has come to campus. He has offered to play for Trinity in a charity fundraiser...if Sydney will agree to help him find Casanova's fabled book of love. Sydney scoffs that the legendary sex manual is only a myth, but when she sees "soccer's Casanova," she decides to speak to the hunk herself. Roberto says he hates it when women say no to him, which is why he wants the book and why he wants Sydney to agree to find it for him. Sydney tells him he'd better get used to rejection, but when she shows up for their flight to Europe to start looking for the relic, she's wearing a very tight sweater.

Nigel sits in the row behind the professor and the jock, listening in horror as the unseen Roberto brags about his biceps and suggests that Sydney feel how hard he is. The relic hunter reminds him that Casanova didn't have just a great body; he had an education, he was an artist, a poet, and a philosopher of love. The inscription on the frontispiece of his autobiography was, "Genuine love cannot ever be seen." When they arrive in Italy, Roberto's furious manager Kate berates him for blowing off promotional appearances in pursuit of some Italian equivalent of the Kama Sutra, but Roberto will not be deterred.

At a local museum's Casanova exhibit, tour guides swoon over Roberto while Sydney tries to figure out what various icons in Casanova's paintings might mean. The man had a law degree and worked as a spy, incorporating the symbols of his various professions into a painting of his favorite mistress. "Was there anything he could not do?" wonders Roberto. "Maintain a healthy, mature relationship," retorts Sydney, who has already ascertained that Kate is in love with her client. A pretty curator tells Roberto that there's no proof Casanova really wrote a book of love, and suggests the athlete learn about love some other way. "If you insist," he smiles. But Nigel is looking at the hand-written autobiography in archaic Italian, and realizes that the frontispiece has been mistranslated. It says, ""True love is invisible to the naked eye." Sydney jokes that she knew "naked" would figure in there somewhere, but she knows as well as Nigel that this might be a code.

Unaware that a man is watching them with a snake tattoo like the one in a painting by Casanova of his mistress, Sydney and Nigel sneak back into the museum to remove the text of the autobiography so they can look for invisible ink. Since they can't risk using lemon juice to bring out hidden words, Sydney puts it under the infrared scanner the museum uses to check for forged currency. Sure enough, words appear between the lines of the text. Nigel translates quickly that the beloved book is in The Garden of Earthly Delights, where Isabella will give it to the reader, who is then to go upstairs and toast Casanova's life with a gilded rose.

A casual question to the curator reveals that a "gilded rose" is an alcoholic beverage, and "The Garden of Earthly Delights" is now a posh restaurant. Fortunately, the basement of the place has changed little from centuries ago when Nigel, Sydney, and Roberto go downstairs to use the facilities. The three nearly cause an avalanche moving kitchen equipment, giving the soccer star and Sydney an excuse to gaze lustfully at one another while Nigel natters on about playing soccer and the thrill of scoring. Roberto runs his hand lovingly over the posterior of a naked woman in a fresco on the wall, triggering a hidden catch in a door. Inside is a room full of erotic sculptures, but the creep with the snake tattoo sees them enter.

It turns out that the Isabella from whom they are supposed to demand the book is a statue. Having gotten lucky once, Roberto tries fondling her, but Sydney recalls that they were supposed to greet Isabella, and moves the statue's hand. A secret compartment in the base opens, revealing the book. Just then, three bad guys with snake tattoos attack. Nigel and Sydney defeat them with a successful food fight, but the book is snatched out of Sydney's hands as she waits outside the restaurant. Roberto has even bigger problems. His manager is leaving and rushing to the airport. Sydney tells the soccer star that the woman is in love with him, and the group races to divert Kate before she can leave town.

Kate, however, has a reason to move quickly: she has the book! When Roberto catches her with it in the back of a limousine, she throws it at him, telling the jock that he deserves it because he's an idiot when it comes to love. Nigel catches the book and sits in the front of the limo reading it. When Sydney knocks on the window to ask what's up, he shrieks, "Coming!" She snatches the book away from him, but another thief - bearing the now-familiar snake tattoo - grabs it out of her hands and drives off with it. This time, Sydney remembers seeing the emblem in the painting of Casanova's mistress and rushes the group back to the museum.

The curator explains that the snake is the serpent in the Garden of Eden, which Sydney already guessed. However, the cross represents not the Catholic Church, but a group of monks called the Brothers of Eden who were thrown out of the Church for their extremist views. They believed sexuality was evil and tried to stamp out all evidence of it. "The monks had a hard time with Casanova," adds the tour guide, licking her lips in Roberto's direction. She tells them that the order still exists, but now they care for the poor.

At the monastery, Sydney sees the car driven by the men who stole the book of love, and sneaks inside with Nigel when Roberto distracts the monks by kicking a soccer ball straight into their beehives. But many more monks wearing the snake symbol are inside, locking themselves in a sanctuary with the book. When Sydney breaks in, she finds the sanctuary empty. "It's always a snake...or an eight-legged horse," complains Nigel. A secret passage leads to an underground that looks like a museum of erotica. Surveying the room filled with sexy sculptures, paintings, and a gold bustier, Nigel quips that this must be how Madonna got started. When, inevitably, the monks catch them snooping, Sydney compliments them on their interesting toy store.

"They are the work of the devil," intones a monk, explaining that the group collects erotic objects to exorcise them. Nigel asks whether that includes dirty bookstores, soft-core movies, web sites, and magazines, making Sydney stare when he reveals his knowledge of titles. The monk explains that they trace historical evils that corrupted the world like Casanova's book. He announces that he will seal in the latest find along with Sydney and Nigel, but Sydney doesn't think so. They fight, Nigel escapes with the book, and some priceless pornography gets destroyed in the shuffle.

Back at the restaurant, Sydney comes on to Roberto, telling him she's become quite fond of him. But Roberto admits that he can't live up to his legend as a master lover, which is why he needed the book in the first place. "The mind and the heart are the body's two biggest erogenous zones...no man can be a great lover without using them," Sydney reminds him, suggesting that he go get Kate back before it's too late. Roberto rushes off, forgetting the book in his haste, but Nigel is all too happy to relieve Sydney of it...except she won't let him.

Back at Trinity, Nigel limps into Sydney's office clutching his groin. "Page 67?" she asks sympathetically. "Page 72," he retorts. Though Dean Morris wants the book for the museum, it is missing from Sydney's desk. They discover that Claudia has it hidden beneath the autobiography of Roberto Gianini, Soccer's Casanova, but when she asks for explanations, her bosses refuse to talk.


Another charmingly witty, dirty-minded episode, with a very hot male guest star whose insecurities redeem his sleaziness. Sydney shows up in a bathing suit and Nigel tries on a bustier. How much more eye candy does a person need? I was entertained by the idea of a work of art that has to be molested to reveal its hidden treasure, and the invisible ink and Italian double entendres were clever ideas that this show hasn't tried yet.

One thing that the writers need to do differently is to lose the openings. I realize it must be fun to write and film those creative little historical bits, but they're full of anachronisms - and worse, they often give away the plot, instead of letting the viewer find out along with Sydney which myths have a basis in reality. We didn't learn anything by seeing Casanova that we couldn't have gotten from Roberto, and they could have saved those few minutes for some more sexy sculptures or heated debate with the censorious monks about whether modern society is any more evil than ancient perversions. Considering the condemnations of promiscuity that permeated the storyline, I thought "The Book of Love" was downright moral. And suggesting that conceited men should take lessons in how to satisfy women...well, so much the better.

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