"Thank You Very Much"
Original airdate: Week of October 24, 1999
by Michelle Erica Green

A King's Ransom

"Thank You Very Much" Plot Summary:

Germany 1960: A soldier picks a fight with Elvis Presley as he sings with an accompanist in a bar. The accompanist fights off the antagonist before the MPs arrive. In gratitude, Elvis gives his benefactor his guitar, and advises him to keep playing. Days later, the man pawns the guitar, telling his girlfriend that he'll come back for it in thirty days.

At Trinity, students stare as a guy in a black velvet shirt and scary boots approaches Professor Fox's office. Ignoring Claudia's terrible hip-hop, he sings "Great Balls of Fire" and asks for Sydney. She is about to teach a class on South America, but he tells her the story of how he was given a guitar years ago and he wants to retrieve it. Who was the guitar from, wonders Sydney? "The King. Only one King." Sydney invites the man back to her office, where he tells them the story.

His name is George Brown, and Elvis was his friend in the army. They drank together and talked about their mommas. But George had gotten his girlfriend pregnant, and pawned the guitar Elvis gave him to pay for expenses. The pawn shop sold the instrument before he could retrieve it. Now he has a grandson who's a talented musician, but who considers him a good-for-nothing liar. He wants to prove he's not lying about the guitar.

Nigel tells Sydney that there's as much myth as fact about Elvis, especially on the net, but Sydney tells him they'll go to the source for information. "You've found Elvis?!" Nigel asks incredulously. In fact, Sydney has found a Mr. Wilkinson, who collects Elvis memorabilia by day and impersonates the man by night. In full costume and hairdo, Wilkinson explains that the guitar was custom-made in 1953 right after the Ed Sullivan Show appearance, but it didn't come back from Germany with Elvis and no one knows what happened to the instrument. "Germany," confirms Sydney. Nigel groans.

At the pawn shop, the owner knows nothing about a sale from the 1960s and says all records were destroyed in a fire, but the group spots a photo of an unknown German band fronted by a singer with The Guitar. The owner tries to distract them by offering to sell Sydney and Nigel an engagement ring, but they want the photo...which the owner will only lend them, with Nigel's watch as collateral. The bar is now a strip joint which George fears will be too much for his companion's delicate sensibilities - Nigel's, not Sydney's - but the group bravely goes in, and Nigel successfully fends off the advances of a stripper who assumes he must be gay. A janitor who has been around since the '60s tells them that the singer in the photo is Gunther, who still comes in for a drink sometimes. When George kisses the man exuberantly for the information, the stripper nods, "Gay."

Gunther comes in, but when the trio approach him with the photo, he flees in terror out the back door. Trapped, he is greatly relieved to learn that the three are relic hunters, not government agents. Sydney is mystified as to why a singer would have been pursued by the government and lets George bond with the fellow musician. Turns out that men from the CIA and German intelligence came to him years earlier and demanded the guitar, giving him ten thousand marks but no information. He stopped playing that day. Sydney still doesn't understand the connection, and says she used to know someone in the embassy who might be able to help. "Used to know?" asks Nigel, catching the euphemism.

Sydney visits her ex-lover, cultural attache Steve Goldman, who tells her he can't help her until she suggests that there are people in his business who would like to know exactly how he got his "big break." Steve then asks if she knows of Dieter Von Hoffman, an East German master spy who collected American pop culture memorabilia - particularly music, particularly Elvis. When the East Germans captured an American spy, they cut a deal for his release: a million dollars and Elvis' guitar for Dieter. But the German went underground when the Berlin Wall fell and no one knows his whereabouts. He is known as "the snake" (a German word which sounds like "schlong," prompting Sydney to say she doesn't think she wants to know what it means). Steve adds that there may be records in a government building, but he doesn't think Sydney has a chance of getting in.

But this is Sydney Fox! While George distracts the guards with a bad Elvis impersonation, prompting them to point him back to his hotel with the muzzle of a gun, Sydney and Nigel crawl in an air duct and crack the elaborate code of the filing system in ludicrous time. They get the file, but a guard catches them and demands that the file be placed on the floor. As she puts it down, Sydney trips the officer, and she and Nigel flee to find George waiting in a stolen taxi. The three take refuge in an all-night laundromat, but the owner demands that they wash clothes or leave...so they strip down to their underwear and do laundry while they study the file. Regrettably Nigel forgets to remove the photo of Gunther from his pants pocket, and it is ruined.

More regrettably, the present German government knows no more about the wearabouts of Von Hoffman than themselves. But the file does reveal that he was friendly with an art collector named Hermann Essen. Sydney tracks him through her connections in the art world, yet when they arrive at his home, they discover that Essen has died. And who should be attending the wake but Steve Goldman? He implies that Sydney led them right to Essen, for which he is grateful, but the house is being cordoned off and he can't help them get the guitar.

Of course, Sydney and Nigel sneak around the back and find a secret underground entrance where they discover piles of valuable art - ancient Chinese sculpture, an unknown Van Gogh, and several Picassos which lead George to say that the place looks like the Home Shopping Network. They find the guitar, and a reverent George says he can't believe it, but a voice behind them says, "Neither do I." It's Essen - who is actually Dieter Von Hoffman, and who is holding a gun. He forces the trio into a room with his prized poisonous snake collection, tying them to chairs while he evacuates his artwork before anyone realizes he's not quite dead yet, having used blowfish toxin to fake his own death before "troublesome woman" Sydney could expose him.

George is terrified of the snakes, but Sydney - who is pleased at least to have cracked Von Hoffman's code name - insists that he knock his chair to the ground so he can remove the knife in her boot and let her untie them all. Nigel frantically tries to recall the code for Von Hoffman's alarm system, keyed to a tune by Wagner which he can't play very well. The group gets out only to find the spy threatening to smash the guitar. Then Steve Goldman sneaks in and shoots Von Hoffman, who releases the instrument as he falls, but George manages to catch it. "You get the guitar, I get everything else," warns Steve, threatening to shoot Sydney even as he thanks her once again for leading him right to his mark.

Sydney flirts, appealing to Steve's artistic sensibilities, until she is close enough to put her arms around him...and knock the gun away and knee him between the legs, then lock him in the room with the snakes while devising a means of escape. "I'll turn myself in!" howls Steve. Eventually they all get out. Though Nigel loses his watch to the pawn shop, George takes Elvis' guitar to his grandson and plays it for him.


Another comically ridiculous, thoroughly enjoyable episode, with two bad Elvis impersonators - the official Elvis impersonator, and the actor playing Elvis Presley - plus two of the stupidest German police officers since Mel Brooks' To Be Or Not To Be, and a completely gratuitous scene with Tia Carrere in her bra and panties with the wonderful plot explanation that she had to take her clothes off to do laundry. I'm not sure exactly what makes this show so appealing; maybe it's the utter lack of pretentiousness, the deliberate low-budget look of the location shots which could be in any city in the world, or maybe it's the panache with which the actors deliver lines like, "Why did it have to be snakes?" George is no Indiana Jones - in fact, he's his polar opposite in most ways - so it's that much more fun seeing him in such a dopey situation, and all for a relic that he wants to play to impress a kid, not to display for the world to admire!

Sydney and Nigel make an extremely appealing pair and the writers seem to be going out of the way to have everyone notice it but themselves, which is good because any capitalizing on the chemistry between them will have to be extremely slow or it'll suffer from Moonlighting syndrome. "You've found Elvis?!" was the funniest line of the episode, but the schlong double entendre was pretty funny too. This show still doesn't quite have shape - it works episode for episode, but sooner or later they're going to have to get serious about Sydney's job as a professor and Nigel's stake in her research or it will just seem silly. Yet it's a delight to watch, without a dud yet, which is more than most of the higher-budget genre shows of the season can say.

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