"Last of the Mochicas"
Original airdate: Week of October 1, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

Headhunters, Guerillas, and Thieves

"Last of the Mochicas" Plot Summary:

South America, 662 A.D. A priest recites a chant over the body of a dead warrior. When he holds up a curved vessel, the warrior's soul rises from his body to enter the vessel. "May the great warrior spirit forever protect the doomed," he recites.

More than 1300 years later, Sydney Fox discovers the chamber and finds the vessel, inscribed with the same incantation. But when she leaves, she finds her old adversary Jacob Strom holding a gun on Nigel. The relic hunters escape from the thugs but Strom calls a friend for backup. As they rush to the airport, a woman named Kate flags down Sydney and Nigel, begging for a ride. Inexplicably, given their haste, Sydney agrees.

At the airport, pilot Clark argues with his co-pilot about problems with the plane. But all the passengers need to get to Lima quickly, and when a guy named Tobar offers the pilot a bribe to take off, they agree to take their chances. On the plane, Sydney and Nigel get to know Lubeck, who's writing a controversial book about the fate of the Mochica Indians; Tobar, who's paranoid and hostile; and Kate, who claims to be a missionary yet carries a gun. Of course, Nigel finds her attractive anyway. But the plane crashes, killing the co-pilot despite minimal cockpit trauma.

The group is forced to proceed on foot through territory contested by guerillas and Mochica headhunters. When they find an abandoned truck with a dead battery, Clark and Sydney return to the plane to get a live one. While awaiting their return, Tobar panics at the sound of drums, steals Kate's gun, and flees. Guerillas take Nigel, Kate, and the injured Lubeck hostage. "Where is this man?" demands the guerilla leader, showing a photo of Tobar. Since the group doesn't know, they are scheduled for execution.

Meanwhile Clark saves Sydney from a scorpion and goes with her to find the others, breaking into the munitions tent to get grenades to save them. Lubeck is killed by gunfire as they flee. Tobar is hanging nearby from a tree, without his head. The group returns to where Nigel hid the artifact, but as soon as he retrieves it, the pilot pulls a gun. Turns out he works with Jacob Strom, smuggling antiquities. He is shot dead by a headhunter's arrow just as the guerillas arrive.

Sydney tells Nigel to open the vessel and release the spirit of the great warrior to protect the doomed -- which at the moment includes themselves. Freed, the spirit burns the guerillas alive, then enters the body of the headhunter leader. Now the Mochica tribe will have protection from the warring factions. Back at Trinity, Claudia congratulates Nigel on his heroics in Peru, but he's depressed until Kate -- who's really an Interpol agent -- visits to say she's found a publisher for Lubeck's book, and wants to start fresh with Nigel.


One of Relic Hunter's best-filmed episodes, "Last of the Mochicas" has almost no cheap video effects, and some really nice shots of a plane taking off and crashing. For most of the hour, it's also got a reasonably good mystery with a lot of red herrings -- we're led to believe from the start that Kate is working with the villains, and Tobar sure looks like one. The pilot makes enough good-natured jokes about being a drug smuggler to convince us that he's not. But once we know he's guilty, the story starts to unravel. Why did Clark return with Sydney to save the others, instead of getting the plane battery, then demanding that she help him find Nigel's backpack so he could flee in the truck, leaving her behind?

The rationale that the headhunters have become savage only to protect themselves from drug dealers and right-wing revolutionaries doesn't hold up, either. Once more there's a lot of condescension towards an indigenous culture dependent on a magical relic discovered by an American professor. In some ways this seems like the Survivor episode of Relic Hunter, except that people vote themselves off the island by getting in harm's way, but despite some witty interchanges between Nigel and the more sophisticated Kate, the Che Guevara look-alikes and beheaded corpses sort of ruin the mood.

Sydney and Clark have decent chemistry, but it starts to become obvious that he's the bad guy as it becomes evident Kate isn't. In one of the silliest moments in the series so far, Clark announces that he needs alcohol to start the truck, so Sydney regretfully pulls from her pack a bottle of $100-an-ounce perfume that they pour in. Forgetting the dubious issue of what good perfume would do for a carburetor, it's rather dopey that Sydney would be carrying expensive perfume in the jungle -- that scene should have been written for Claudia, who'd probably wear mascara swimming in the Amazon. Nigel ends up with yet another girlfriend, Sydney gets only the attentions of a terrorist. It's not fair.

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