by Billie Doux
While still formulaic, season two is much better than the brief leap-of-the-week season one. Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell are a lot more comfortable with their roles, and many of the leaps are more interesting and complicated. There are also some intriguing additions to what we know about our main characters and some progress with the arc story — particularly in the premiere and the finale.
Sam is enjoying leaping around and helping people. He doesn't seem to mind that he left his own life behind, although the continuing partial amnesia could be responsible for that.
Another issue they begin to address in season two is what became of Sam's physical body. In season one, the saga sell says that Sam "stepped into the quantum accelerator and vanished." In season two, we're told that Sam's physical body is in a "waiting room" back at the project, and that when he leaps, Al questions whoever just leaped into Sam's body so that he can locate where and when Sam went.
The best episodes of season two are the premiere and the finale.
2.1 "Honeymoon Express (April 27, 1960): I love this episode, mostly because of the cleverness of the twist ending. Al, whom we learn here is an admiral, is testifying before a hostile senate subcommittee responsible for further funding of the Quantum Leap Project, while Sam leaps into a cop who is on his honeymoon. Sam's bride, Diane, is a law student who is preparing for her bar exam.
Although it was mentioned in the season one pilot that God might be responsible for what is happening to Sam, here it is confirmed. Because Sam virtuously avoids hitting the sheets with Diane even though he is attracted to her, he keeps trying to help her study for the bar instead. At the very moment when Sam is ready to give in and make love with Diane, she has a breakthrough, finally grasping a key legal concept that would have made her fail the exam, and Sam leaps out. At that moment, the grumpy male head of the senate subcommittee turns into Diane, thirty years older, and she tells Al that the Quantum Leap funding has been approved. Only Al is aware that anything has changed.
Two of my other favorite shows had finales that centered on the existence of God, which didn't make me happy because it felt like a cop out. Not Quantum Leap though, because honestly, the only possible explanation for what is happening to Sam is divine intervention.
The only problem I have with this episode is the multitude of smoochfests. I did like that Sam and Al discussed the moral implications of Sam having sex with Diane, even though she wouldn't have known because she believed Sam was her husband. I also like the implied feminist message that Diane is no one's possession, and that she was destined for great things.
2.22 "M.I.A. (April 1, 1969)": Sam leaps into a San Diego cop. Al tells Sam that the purpose of the leap is to convince a Navy nurse named Beth Calavicci to not give up on her M.I.A. husband, who has been imprisoned in Vietnam for two years. But as it turns out, Sam is there to save the life of another cop, his partner, Roger Skaggs (Jason Beghe).
This episode features an exceptional and moving performance by Dean Stockwell, who ripped my heart out in the last ten minutes. Al is clearly signaling confusion and distress throughout the episode; he describes to Sam the torturous confinement that Beth's husband is experiencing without revealing that it is himself who is enduring it. When Sam guesses correctly that Skaggs is the reason for the leap, not Beth, Al confesses that Beth is his first wife and the love of his life, and when she had him declared him dead and remarried, Al never recovered, and his other marriages never worked.
"God" allows Sam a few extra minutes before leaping so that Al can say goodbye to Beth, even though, of course, she can't see or hear him. He tells her how much he loves her, begs her to wait for him when we know she won't, and then they dance to Beth's favorite song. The thing is, what happens with Beth explains everything we need to know about Al, and it turns him from Sam's supportive friend and occasional comic relief into a tragic figure. Susan Diol as Beth Calavicci also does a wonderful job. We can believe she is the love of Al's life, that she is incredibly special to him, and her conflict is so well done. Sam's gentle treatment of Al, even though Al misled him and nearly caused Skaggs' death, is also touching. This episode never fails to make me cry.
The music replacement controversy, particularly regarding the episode "M.I.A."
As I mentioned in my review of season one, when Quantum Leap was initially released on DVD way back when, Universal had neglected to get the rights to a number of the songs featured on the series, simply because it was prohibitively expensive. Changing the music changes the series, and the fans were, to put it mildly, livid about it. Although the music replacement had a serious detrimental effect on "Good Morning, Peoria," the worst offender was "M.I.A." because that final scene where Al says goodbye to Beth is framed by the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" and Ray Charles' "Georgia," two memorable songs that truly cannot be replaced.
Netflix and Amazon have the original version of "M.I.A." Hulu does not. For what it's worth.
Other episodes of note
2.2 "Disco Inferno (April 1, 1976)": Not really notable, but if you're watching Quantum Leap on Hulu or Netflix, you've probably noticed that this episode is missing. I went to the trouble of buying it on Amazon because I'm hung up on that completion thing, and it's not worth it. "Disco Inferno" is about a stuntman who helps his younger brother defy their stuntman father and become a musician. The only important piece of it is that Sam remembers that he has an older brother named Tom who died fighting in Vietnam.
2.4 "What Price Gloria? (October 16, 1961)": This episode is notable because it is the first time that Sam leaps into a woman, so of course it goes the preachy route and is all about sexism. Al is hot for Sam in a woman's body, which I just found uncomfortable. What I liked most was Scott Bakula wearing women's clothing without making too much of a thing about it. It feels like for Bakula, it's just another costume and he's such a good actor that playing a woman doesn't throw him.
2.6 "Good Morning, Peoria (September 9, 1959)": I loved this episode; it was a lot of fun. Maybe it because the stakes were less life and death and more personal. Patricia Richardson does such a great job as Sam's love interest, and the romance actually works this time. It also features a lot of great old music, and Sam pretty much channeling Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam.
Like "Honeymoon Express," the question of Sam having a physical relationship while he is in someone else's body is again addressed. Sam is uncomfortable about romancing Patricia Richardson's character, but he does it anyway and it turns out that it was the right thing to do.
2.8 "Jimmy (October 14, 1964)": Sam leaps into a young, developmentally disabled man who is trying to hold down his first job while encountering bullying and prejudice. The most interesting thing about this one is Sam starts acting differently, clumsily, because he is being treated that way. Possibly a little preachy, but very well done.
2.10 "Catch a Falling Star (May 21, 1979)": Quantum Leap does Man of La Mancha, with the great actor and singer John Cullum as a guest star. This episode is pretty much an excuse to have Scott Bakula sing show tunes onstage and romance his teenage crush music teacher, but there's nothing wrong with that. There was also a deeper meaning when you think about it, because Sam really is like Don Quixote, spending his life rescuing others. Wonderful episode.
2.18 "Pool Hall Blues (September 4, 1954)" Loved this one. Maybe because Sam is so convincing as an adult woman's grandfather (loved the costume). I also loved the laser lines that allowed Sam to be a brilliant pool player.
What doesn't work
I don't usually point out the badness of bad episodes, but these three are truly awful.
2.11 "A Portrait for Troian (February 7, 1971)": We have a haunting, a mysterious lake full of bodies, a vanishing housekeeper and a pointless romance, none of which work. Which is too bad, since it stars Deborah Pratt, who was a writer/producer of the series, the saga sell narrator, and later the voice of Ziggy.
2.16 "Freedom: November 22, 1970": Another poorly written stinker about an elderly Native American who wants to go home to die. See rule five.
2.17 "Good Night, Dear Heart (November 9, 1957)": This time Sam is a mortician who solves a murder instead of preventing one, which makes absolutely no sense to me. The circumstances of the victim's life and demise are depressing, and it all seems incredibly pointless.
Bits and pieces:
-- "Sea Bride" featured the Queen Mary, which is a tourist attraction in Long Beach, California. I toured it twice and I always enjoy stumbling over stuff that was filmed there.
-- I particularly liked that his second leap into a woman's body ("Another Mother") had nothing to do with sexism; he was there to save his host's son.
-- Famous people: The Beatles and Chubby Checker. In fact, it's the real Chubby Checker, who did a cameo in "Good Morning, Peoria."
-- Notable actors: Lorne Greene (Bonanza), a teenage Kelli Williams (Lie to Me), Robert Duncan MacNeill, Marcia Cross, and Troian Bellisario when she was still a very little girl in "Another Mother."
-- Sam's hair is way too long at first, and is later a good bit shorter. But if he's in someone else's body, can he even get his hair cut? Maybe someone cut Sam's hair in the Waiting Room.
-- Small children and animals can see Al, and genuine psychics can sense his presence. Al's presence affects EMF.
-- Sam creates the Heimlich maneuver.
-- More about Sam: he was a child prodigy, not a surprise, and a concert pianist.
-- More about Al: he was an astronaut. His mother abandoned him when he was a child and his sister was disabled. Al also looks better in red than in green.
-- The cliffhanger endings referencing Sam's next leap still bother me. Especially when we get one that relates to a rerun.
I haven't finished my rewatch yet, but "M.I.A." and the two-parter that starts season three are my favorite episodes of the series,
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.