Caesar and Croutons
"Roman Holiday" Plot Summary:
Rome, 44 B.C. Julius Caesar's alchemist demonstrates the unfinished golden armor that will make Caesar invincible, but Brutus strikes his fatal blow before the breastplate is completed. In 2000, archaeologist Roger Penrose finds a translator who can transcribe the alchemist's notes, but Sydney has no time to talk to him because she and Nigel are being shot at for rescuing the Eye of Quetzalcoatl gemstone. Claudia gives Roger the original papers to take to Rome, but forgets that the last two pages are in the science department being carbon dated. Retrieving the papers, Claudia follows Roger to the airport, only to discover that the archaeologist is missing and another man has his satchel. Because she can't get Sydney on the phone, Claudia buys herself a ticket to Rome.
When Sydney and Nigel arrive at Trinity, the dean informs them that Claudia is wanted by the police as the last person to see Roger alive. Worried, the relic hunters rush to Rome, where Sydney visits her old acquaintance Vittorio -- a forger of antiquities, most recently Herod's sword. He suspects the wealthy Count Raphael, a collector of Caesar artifacts, must be trying to get the breastplate by any means necessary. Meanwhile Claudia tries to follow thief Gianni home, but he drugs her and calls translator Niko to finish the work Roger originally contacted him to do.
Vittorio can only think of one way to get Sydney into Raphael's home: he has her dress up as a gladiator so she will be invited to his monthly "Ides" party, which happens to be that evening. Sydney must do battle against a huge Roman-dressed warrior, but she manages to defeat him and win "Caesar"'s admiration. During the post-gladiatorial orgy, Raphael meets with Gianni. The thief mentions a cryptographer named Niko, and a woman who may be a problem in the delivery of the breastplate. Sydney rightly assumes this must be Claudia, and rushes back to Vittorio to find out who "Niko" might be. Vittorio pages the man right after Niko meets with Gianni to turn over the instructions to finding the breastplate in the catacombs.
Gianni takes Claudia with him underground and locks her in the vault where the breastplate has been hidden for two thousand years. Sydney and Nigel encounter him on his way out, but Gianni is wearing the armor, and no living man can defeat anyone so attired. Sydney manages to trick Gianni into impaling himself on the spear in the skeletal hand of a long-dead Roman soldier. She and Nigel rescue Claudia from the crypt, following her screams to locate her. Back at Trinity, the dean asks Sydney to return to Rome to authenticate the discovery of Herod's sword.
A delightful episode, "Roman Holiday" lets Sydney play Xena, costume and all. She also gets to kiss Nigel passionately at a Roman orgy, though of course it's only to distract the guards while she spies on the Count -- at least, that's what she tells him when he tries to ask whether there was anything else going on. The episode also showcases Claudia taking initiative before she becomes the unfortunate damsel in distress, and Nigel admitting he cares about her -- he won't go so far as to admit that he has a crush on her when she asks, though, particularly not when she requests that he countersign for her credit card.
The filming is very energetic, with an opening that cuts between Claudia's travails at Trinity and Sydney's race to save the Eye of Quetzalcoatl from thugs armed with machine guns. The assistant keeps calling the relic hunter on her cell phone, which Sydney foolishly doesn't turn off, until she must abandon it to misdirect the thugs. Hence no one knows where Claudia is when she gets on the plane to Rome, at least not until her father -- the university's biggest donor -- gets her credit card bill. Claudia's preening and remarks about her rich daddy make absolutely no impression on Gianni, which gives him quite a bit of appeal; it's too bad he turns out to be a murderer.
Count Raphael, aka Caesar, also has his charms -- in a Hitlerian sort of way. The gladiator fight seems designed to be compared to Xena's battles with Romans, particularly when Sydney is given the opportunity to execute her hapless opponent but pleads for his life instead. The real kicker of that sequence is getting to watch Sydney and Nigel kiss, just as the real kicker of the tag is getting to watch Nigel check out Claudia's butt. Though he's less flamboyantly amusing than the bad guys, Vittorio helps Sydney in a pinch, so I bet she won't blow his cover by revealing that Herod's sword is a fake. We never find out if the count got punished for his role in the crimes -- and we never get to see his Caesar collection, which is too bad. He quotes Shakespeare's play, but not the Roman emperor himself...and The Conquest of Gaul isn't half-bad.
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