"Lost Contact"
Original airdate: Week of November 19, 2000
by Michelle Erica Green

Neanderthal Traits Are Catching!

"Lost Contact" Plot Summary:

Burma, 1824. A group of British soldiers fighting the war with the Burmese bury a dead colleague. When one suggests that they tell the captain what happened to him, the others fear being thrown in an asylum if they try to explain the ancient bowl on the ground beside them. Wen the bowl is discovered centuries later, Sydney Fox's despised former employer Rod Thorson asks for her help. His team reported finding an ancient bowl, then sent a garbled, desperate transmission before vanishing.

While Claudia works at Trinity with Rod's assistant Kyle to clean up the images on the final tape, Sydney and Nigel travel with Rod to Myanmar. Joan, who led Rod's expedition, had reported finding a bowl from an ancient religious ritual in a cave, but her next message said her colleague Vic was dead, her love Rudy was missing, and she was terrified. At the campsite, the group finds bloody clothes, animal tracks, scattered research papers and a missing relic. Rod seems more upset about that than about his team, but when an amnesiac Joan comes out of the woods, he decides they must get her to safety.

The village is deserted, and Rod quickly disappears, though not before he has called home for backup. Nigel finds his gun in the woods, destroyed by something with great strength. Sydney says the tracks look like gorilla footprints, but the great apes don't live in that part of Asia. After Joan sees a photo of her former team, she starts to regain her memories, recalling that something terrible happened to Rudy. Nigel suggests that they find the cave in the photo, where the team discovered the ancient bowl.

Inside the cave Sydney discovers the bodies of Rod and Vic, along with some of Rudy's clothes. Nigel finds the missing relic, which is filled with blood. Now Joan remembers that Rudy cut his hand on the bowl, and through the wound his body contracted an infection hundreds of thousands of years old. He attacked everyone in the camp, then ran off. Nigel believes the bowl was used for ritual sacrifice to the earliest externalized god ever known. Claudia calls to tell Sydney that she and Kyle have seen the images on the video: it's Rudy, transformed into a Neanderthal.

Sydney says they had better leave, but Rudy attacks their Jeep and takes Joan to his cave. Once there, he collapses, from his injuries and from the changes to his system. When Rod's men arrive in helicopters to rescue them, Sydney says no relic was worth the price the team paid. Back at Trinity she learns from Joan that Rod left a large grant to the university, but Joan herself will return to Myanmar to study what happened to Rudy. She wants Nigel to come with her, but Sydney needs Nigel to help her with the administration of the new grant, which Sydney will take over in Joan's absence.


There's dumb, there's stupid, and there's so incredibly idiotic that it's funny. "Lost Contact," which plays like a bad horror movie, definitely falls into the latter category. Unfortunately, it will probably be impossible ever to take Relic Hunter seriously, now that we've seen it. It would have been fine had the episode been deliberately comic, but the grisly deaths of Vic and Rod destroy all hope of humor. Instead, when Joan explains that Rudy caught a disease that turned him into the villain of Clan of the Cave Bear, Sydney gravely accepts the other woman's scientific analysis.

Again, this scene could have been played for laughs -- an amnesiac, who believes she's lost her true love, suggests that his body has been transformed by an ancient pathogen into an earlier evolutionary state. HOWL! Star Trek: Voyager did a similar episode, in which Tom Paris evolved into a salamander; that storyline was more plausible than this installment of Relic Hunter. Sydney's failure to gently explain the ludicrous impossibility of such development makes her look extremely silly. We're supposed to be caught up in the wonder of this earliest religious artifact, but even for people who have never read James Michener's The Source, it's pretty easy to conclude that modern religion did not evolve from infected blood worship.

Meanwhile Claudia, the ditz of Trinity, teaches an M.I.T. graduate how to remove the encryption code from a digital image that needs to be sharpened via state-of-the-art video software. I'm surprised Claudia didn't come up with the theory about Neanderthalism being catching. And I'm even more surprised the episode didn't end with the discovery that a gorilla actually did hide the bowl, even if gorillas don't live in Asia.

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