"Dagger of Death"
Original airdate: Week of September 25, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

Sydney Fox and the Temple of Doom

"Dagger of Death" Plot Summary:

At the Temple of Kali in ancient India, a priest offers a sacrifice to Kali, goddess of destruction. A young acolyte chosen to wield the blade says he cannot strike, but the unsheathed knife gives him strength, and he stabs as the victim screams.

Centuries later, Sydney and Nigel visit Professor Terrace in jail. Though Sydney assures him that she doesn't believe he brutally murdered his assistant, Terrace assures her that he did. When he received the Dagger of Kali from an export dealer named Waxman for authentication, he ignored warnings not to touch the naked blade, and was possessed. Since it's too late for Terrace, he begs Sydney to find the sheath before the murderous worshippers of Kali find the dagger and kill others.

The professor fears spies, so he says the fires of hell won't get him to say where he hid the weapon. Sydney realizes this is a clue, and discovers the dagger in a hollowed-out copy of Dante's Inferno. With the relic, she and Nigel travel to Calcutta, where Waxman nervously suggests they visit the ruins of the Temple of Kali to track down the sheath which was stolen from his murdered partner. On the train to Kashmir, Nigel meets another Englishman who warns him that in India, nothing is what it seems. Sydney checks out the man's luggage tag and learns that he's Willoughby of Willoughby's Archaeological Services...so she steals his baggage, hoping that Nigel can pass himself off as Willoughby. Nigel does, but is horrified to learn that Willoughby was chosen for this dig because of his knowledge of explosives.

Meanwhile, Kali worshippers torture Waxman and learn that the dagger is now in the hands of an American woman headed for the Kashmir excavation. At Trinity, a man claiming to be a Calcutta detective visits Claudia, asking how he can reach Sydney and incidentally wondering whether the campus buildings have security systems. Later Claudia fends off an attacker by hitting him with a statue, but not before he ransacks Sydney's notes and books. When Nigel calls from India in a panicked bid to have Claudia research munitions for him, she warns him that their office was trashed and Waxman is dead.

Sydney suspects that Patel, the Indian cultural observer, has connections to the cult of Kali. She follows him at night, finding a hidden door to the temple that eluded the diggers who hired Willoughby to blast through. Inside, Sydney and Nigel observe the beginnings of a ritual where the worshippers plan to sacrifice Waxman's assistant. They save her, but cult members pursue, forcing Nigel to drop explosives in their path. Sydney manages to grab the sheath as they escape, but Nigel fumbles the knife and picks it up with his bare hands. "Those who do not serve Kali must die," he growls as his possessed body slashes at Sydney. She manages to get the sheath over the blade when Nigel goes for the jugular.

Back at Trinity, a hunky handyman arrives to install a new security system. Nigel rolls his eyes as both Sydney and Claudia salivate.


Relic Hunter has hit the ground running this season, with two well-paced episodes reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films in terms of action and humor. This one takes cues from the Temple of Doom with a priest who threatens to cut the hearts out of live victims, but that doesn't intimidate Sydney, who grabs her new crossbow and brings a cauldron of burning coals down on the heads of the cult members. As usual, she's making it up as she goes along -- Nigel asks how they're going to gain access to the secret Kashmir dig site, she responds, "I have no idea. This is us!" She's also unconcerned about breaking into Terrace's office even though it's a crime scene, telling Nigel that if he thinks that will be a problem, he obviously didn't watch the O.J. trial.

Poor Nigel has to share a tent with Sydney and pretend to be a munitions expert, then explain to the real Willoughby that, as the man warned him, nothing in India is what it seems. Though it's one of this series' best episodes in terms of action, "Dagger of Death" may nonetheless annoy viewers with its colonialist attitudes towards the subcontinent. India appears to be controlled by Western mercenaries and Eastern cult leaders, while no mention is made of Kashmir's volatile position in the conflict between India and Pakistan. I don't mind when the relics have super powers or the folklore gets hokey, but when an ancient culture gets reduced to black-swathed sword masters and uncomfortable train rides, it diminishes the impact of the archaeologist's work as well as the culture itself, thus undercutting the series. The writers still need to focus on doing their history homework, as well as creating superb action sequences.

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