"The Emperor's Bride"
Original airdate: Week of February 13, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

Sydney and Nigel Keep Warm Up North

"The Emperor's Bride" Plot Summary:

Beside the Huang River in China in 1000 B.C., an emperor prepares to bury his dead young wife, placing a magnificent gold necklace around her neck before sealing her sarcophagus with a complicated jade lock. Bandits leap from a ship on the river and attack, stealing the sarcophagus with the empress. The emperor vows that he will never rest until she is back by his side.

A cheerleader at Trinity receives a visit from her uncle, who wishes to meet Sydney Fox. He has read an article about the discovery of a piece of carved jade in Alaska which he believes came from the lost empress' coffin. Though neither Sydney nor Nigel understand how the bandits could have ended up in Alaska, they head north to investigate. But when they arrive, they discover that two other relic hunters - Dallas and Reinhart, both former paramours of Sydney's - have already arrived and set out in search of the priceless gold necklace buried with the legendary queen.

While Sydney tries to track the hunter who found the jade, Nigel stops to buy supplies, where the woman who runs the local outfitter's store flirts with him. He and Sydney trace reclusive hunter Duncan to a cabin deep in the wilderness, only to find that the other treasure-seekers have beaten them there. But Duncan has tied them to a tree, and Nigel gets himself and Sydney trapped in a large net that hoists them over a branch. Sydney is able to get Dallas' knife and cut herself and her assistant free, but not before her ex forces her to remember their former romance.

The professor's camp is intruded upon by the two men who manage to escape from Duncan; Sydney permits them to take shelter in their tent during a storm, but makes them share a sleeping bag while she and Nigel share the other. Late at night, she wakes her assistant. "Are you up for it?" "In front of them?" asks the flustered Nigel, who admits he is definitely "up for it" and agrees to follow her lead. Unfortunately for Nigel, Sydney's talking work, not play. The two sneak out of the tent and down to the river, where the sedimentary rock leads them to a nearby cave. They find the dead body of the man who wrote the article about the piece of jade, leading Sydney to comment that Duncan must be more dangerous than they thought.

Inside the cave, they discover the ancient Chinese ship, but someone has beaten them to the sarcophagus. When they emerge, Dallas and Reinhart are there claim the spoils as their own, leaving Sydney and her assistant tied together as they go off to find Duncan. Sydney tries flirting with Dallas, but this time he's not interested. "He sure knows how to tie a knot, doesn't he," comments Nigel, to which Sydney retorts, "Yeah, I remember." Nigel remembers Claudia's advice to him that he should date a Scorpio like Sydney, and stares longingly.

But the men have little luck with Duncan, who has a gun, until he sets off a booby trap built into the sarcophagus and dies of a poisoned dart to the neck. "The Emperor protects his bride still," comments Dallas. They decide to go back for Sydney and Nigel, who is on the verge of confessing his attraction to his boss. Professor Fox says she won't open the coffin unless the necklace goes back to China, but the men threaten to shoot her assistant unless she cooperates. Sydney uses the I Ching to decode the locking mechanism, but before she can finish, the woman who owns the outfitter's store shows up with a rifle. She admits she killed the reporter because he got greedy, and now she wants the necklace.

Sydney successfully opens the lid, where the group finds the empress and her jewelry intact. The shopkeeper takes the necklace plus Sydney as a hostage, but the relic hunter overwhelms her in a fight. When the men arrive, Sydney shows them the necklace and announces that it's going back to China...because she also has the shopkeeper's rifle. Back at Trinity, Sydney learns that the sarcophagus of the empress has been placed beside that of her husband at last. The cheerleader whose uncle sent her on the quest gives her an amulet to help her find her soulmate and the two warn Sydney not to overlook the obvious. Overhearing, Nigel smiles, but Sydney thinks they mean her next door neighbor. Then the cheerleader gives Nigel a pair of concert tickets. "What's your sign?" he asks hopefully.


Sydney Fox has apparently dated every male relic hunter in the business, and apparently they're all losers! It is great fun to see her trying to avoid creeps like Dallas and previous episodes' Stewie, especially while Nigel stares flabbergasted at her. It is even funnier that although everyone treats him like a loser and half the women he meets cast aspersions on his sexual preference - the Amazon shopkeeper here is no exception - Nigel gets a date nearly every episode with some very attractive young woman. The suits may have concocted Relic Hunter for the young male demographic who want to see Tia Carrere in tank tops, but it's a 'shipper series, so deep down, it's a chick show.

Sometimes I wish there were a little more substance to the history, however. We never even learned the name of the dead empress who allegedly disappeared, and although the writers were careful to provide a scientific explanation for how the barge ended up in Alaska, they didn't bother to fill out the Chinese customs and beliefs which would have given poignance to the emperor's millennia-old vow to protect his wife. Sydney, Nigel, and Claudia are all extremely likeable, and it's fun to follow their adventures, but how many similar episodes can the show sustain before there has to be some growth either among the characters or in terms of what they can teach viewers?

I do love the women, even in catfights, because they're smart and strong and because they spend more time bonding than struggling against one another. Though she's never a victim, Sydney seems to realize that it's still a man's world and women have to stick together. I'd like to see her ditch Nigel for a few weeks and take Claudia with her on some more hunts, give the girl a little intellect and confidence in something real. Then they can debate who should get the poor hapless adorable chap.

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