"The Legend of the Lost"
Original airdate: Week of October 1, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

Apocalypse Then

"The Legend of the Lost" Plot Summary:

Vanuatu Islands, 4800 B.C. Kai Nomata tribesmen in tribal paint and shell jewelry do battle with staffs. When one falls in the sand, the other is enrobed in feathers. Thousands of years later, Sydney learns that Nigel has been kidnapped by her former adversary Derek Lloyd, a shadowy government agent. He orders Sydney to come to New Guinea, where satellite photos have provided evidence that the Kai Nomata, a culture believed destroyed by a volcano thousands of years ago, has survived.

Outside Sydney's hotel, a man from the Ministry of the Interior is shot dead by an intruder, who then introduces himself to Sydney as the government representative. After Sydney learns that Nigel is not only unharmed but actually excited to accompany Derek to study the Kai Nomata, the group parachutes into the jungle. Derek claims the army loaned him to the United Nations so that they could confirm the existence of the ancient civilization, but Sydney doesn't believe him. That night, the New Guinea "government representative" tries to kill Nigel, but Sydney chases him into a native booby trap. When she and Derek go through his pack afterwards, they find strobe lights and compact discs -- very odd equipment to bring into the jungle.

With Nigel busy taking photos of the entrance to a tunnel, Sydney finds Derek loading a sniper rifle, and demands to know what's really going on. They fight, then kiss, then she whomps him until he explains that he was sent to find Jonathan Quelch -- a U.S. agent sent to find hidden Chinese missile silos. Quelch disappeared, then resurfaced as the chief of the Kai Nomata. As they argue about whether or not Derek should kill him, tribesmen arrive with spears. In the bamboo cell where Sydney, Nigel and Derek are taken prisoner, they meet Mudo, one of many who resents Quelch. Mudo believes the gods of light and sound protect the foreign leader, but Sydney realizes it's just a CD player and strobe lights that have the natives terrified.

With her crossbow, Sydney gets them all free, then finds Quelch's stash of fireworks in a tunnel and disrupts one of his ceremonies. Mudo challenges the chief to a duel with staffs, defeating Quelch even when he tries to cheat with a gun and a knife. After Mudo becomes the new chief, Sydney and Nigel return to Trinity, where Claudia has given herself a glowing recommendation in their absence. When Derek drops in, Sydney says she doesn't socialize with underhanded espionage agents, but once he starts to play bad dance music, she boogies with him.


Much as I adore Sydney Fox, I must label "Legend of the Lost" sloppy and offensive. We get the pleasure of seeing a character from a previous episode, the sneaky government agent from "Transformation," but Derek Lloyd died in that episode. His partner Richard Watson impersonated Derek in order to track down the lost scrolls of Paracelsus, then admitted to Sydney that he wasn't really Derek Lloyd. So how come Richard has transformed back into Derek, and Sydney doesn't comment on it? This error gets emphasized by additional references to the earlier episode, like Sydney asking Derek whether he enjoys the view as he studies her backside -- an echo of a nearly identical moment in "Transformation."

Let's not even think about the illogic of parachuting into the jungle for covert surveillance of people who are never supposed to have seen a plane. I'm more frustrated by Nigel's misguided desire to get up close and personal with "Bronze Age people untouched by the modern world" -- he sounds less like an anthropologist than one of those best-seller behaviorists who cite monkey mating rituals and Pepsi-drinking modern tribes as archetypes of some "natural" ideal. Sydney's condescending concern about Derek shooting the white leader of the natives isn't much of an improvement -- she fears his violence will corrupt a society that spends most of its time building booby traps, fighting with staffs, practicing human sacrifice, and worshipping a guy with a boom box? It's just plain offensive to suggest that hip-hop music and Roman candles could convince a millennia-old culture to let a crazy foreigner rape their women and take their property.

We're supposed to think of Apocalypse Now, not anthropology. But taken with the episodes of the past few weeks in which the relic hunters single-handedly saved assorted primitive cultures from powerful Westerners, "Legend of the Lost" becomes part of a disturbing trend. The filmmaking on this series has improved markedly since last season, with gorgeous tracking shots in a jungle that's probably a greenhouse but you'd never know it, and superbly-paced action sequences involving planes, guns, and fistfights. Still, Relic Hunter is more entertaining when Sydney sticks to witty banter and hunting relics, rather than becoming the Xena-like savior of cultures.

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