"Fertile Ground"
Original airdate: Week of October 15, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

Sydney's High School Idol

"Fertile Ground" Plot Summary:

Hawaii, 1779. Captain Cook's men come ashore and steal the Idol of Lono, a powerful fertility statue that makes the island fertile. On the same island a couple hundred years later, Sydney Fox sips a tropical drink at her high school reunion and looks forward to seeing Tony, her first love. In he comes, looking wonderful and saying she's the reason he's there, but there's a catch: he wants her to help him find the lost Idol of Lono, whose loss has left a barren wasteland in the middle of a beautiful island.

While Claudia gives Nigel romantic advice, Sydney glumly hears about a log book from Cook's ship, the Resolution, identifying five mutineers who may have stolen the idol from the ship before being marooned. Sydney calls Trinity to send Nigel to Madagascar, where he waits in a bar named Fletcher's for a contact who never arrives ... because a smuggler named Dryer has paid off the bartender. Once Sydney arrives, they manage to meet Fletcher himself; he puts them in touch with two pop-culture-loving guides who treat Sydney like Xena and lead her to the mountain where Tony believes the idol to be hidden, though Nigel has broken his leg and must stay behind.

Dryer tries to kill Sydney's men, but she fights him and knocks him down a ravine into a waterfall. But she realizes Tony must have told the unscrupulous Dryer about the idol, and isn't mollified when he explains he wanted to find it to impress her. The magnificently fertile valley convinces Sydney that the idol must be nearby. The group finds a graveyard with five tombs, but Sydney wants to know who buried the fifth mutineer. Once they find the bones of ship's carpenter Firth, identifiable by his false leg, she realizes that he's not buried in the grave bearing his name. Instead, as she suspects, the coffin has a false bottom, leading to a hidden chamber underground containing the idol.

Sydney recovers the fertility statue, but when she allows the guides to haul it up for her, they trap Sydney and Tony by replacing the coffin bottom and shoveling in dirt. Sydney finds the shaft through which Firth lowered the idol into the chamber two hundred years earlier, saving herself and Tony -- but when they reach their jeep, the guides are dead, killed by Dryer. Back at Fletcher's, Nigel hears Dryer say the others won't be returning, and arms himself with a shovel. When Dryer confronts Sydney and Tony, Nigel hits him over the head, taking the idol to safety in the ensuing fight.

Sydney and Tony return to Hawaii, where the valley begins to bloom once the idol is put back on its pedestal. Back at Trinity, Claudia assumes Sydney and Tony must have revived their romance since Sydney seems to be in such a good mood, but Sydney throws out her high school yearbook, announcing that she is a cheerleader no longer.


We're still dealing with magical relics and Sydney as Xena, Warrior Princess -- this time literally, as her guides declare, though they also compare her to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Ally McBeal. At least this time she was replacing a stolen item from her own culture, and there weren't any stereotypical natives, since everyone she encountered in Madagascar seems to have been an unscrupulous foreigner. There were some strange, not-funny jokes about Sydney's biological clock, as the episode started with a pregnant classmate suggesting that she have a baby, then ended with Sydney refusing to touch the Idol of Lono because the fertility statue was rumored to get women with child. Maybe it's a Hawaiian cultural thing, but I'm inclined to doubt it.

Tony was okay, clearly not worthy of Sydney even before we knew he'd consorted with the likes of Dryer, since he insisted he had to protect her at Fletcher's despite seeing her break a man's fingers. That was a necessary tough-chick image after the description of Tony as a high school quarterback and Sydney as a cheerleader. It came as a relief that there was no romantic reunion, even though poor Sydney deserves a break in that regard. Nigel seems to get lucky with everyone, though he can't keep them -- the sequence in which Claudia announced that he lost Kate from "Last of the Mochicas" by hitting her with a bicycle was hilarious, as was most of her romantic advice for Mr. Chivalry.

The plot? Oh yeah. Fun sequence in which Sydney has to decode an alphabet square to get the idol, very Indiana Jones. The guides provide a lot of humor, though their treachery and subsequent murders sort of kill the fun. The rope in the secret chamber was in astonishingly good shape considering 200-plus years had passed, but who's counting?

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