To paraphrase popular pop culture YouTuber Ryan George, but in the vernacular of Quantum Leap – oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh, boy, oh boy.
I didn’t get a chance to review last week’s old west episode because I was out of town for a work trip, but since this week’s episode – “What a Disaster!” – is pieced together from the originally scripted and shot pilot for the revival show, how about we start with a recap?
Previously on Quantum Leap…
We met Ben, Addison and the whole QL project team (except for the background actors running tech we glimpse in this episode) at a party at Ben & Addison’s home, presumably near Santa Monica, CA. Ben gets an anxious text message (one of a series of them), and rushes out of the party to head to the QL lab, where he steps into the Quantum Leap accelerator – and vanishes.
He leaps to 1985 in the middle of a bank heist that leads to a jewelry heist that leads to an outdoor explosion. Newcomers learn about (synaptic) holograms, the imaging chamber a new handlink, and Ziggy, the most powerful AI on the planet (who apparently doesn’t speak anymore, despite fan champion and series co-creator Deborah Pratt, who voiced the machine, being on set most days).
At the end of the episode, we see Ben leaving a message for Addison, apologizing for the unscheduled leap – which was supposed to be her job. And we find out that the secretive person who was texting Ben and helped him leap was none other Janis Calavicci, who only exists because of Sam’s last on-screen leap that he personally controlled.
In leap number 2, Ben is on the Space Shuttle Atlantis, headed to help construct the International Space Station. His fellow astronaut, Samantha Stratton, is the nearly unborn daughter of test pilot Tom Stratton, the very first person Sam leapt into. In fact, the thing Sam makes right what once went wrong is the only reason Samantha exists. A very nice Easter egg.
Furthering the investigation at home, Magic and Jenn go to visit none other than the widow Calavicci. Thankfully, Beth is played by the same Susan Diol as in the original series. Special thanks to Cobra Kai for the inspiration, I’m thinking. We learn a little more about Janis, and discover some hidden treasures – a hard drive and a thumb drive/dongle that fit together to show a map of space and time – where Ben is trying to go? The map mostly spawned social media speculation on, “is Ben trying to find Sam,” which seems like a moot point to me, since that was literally part of the series description. Anyway…
After a little bit of a rocky start, episode three becomes the episode that most feels like a classic Quantum Leap episode – a trend that happily continues with subsequent episodes. Sam leaps into a boxer, and needs to win a fight – and prevent the impending suicide of the leapee’s older brother. We get handlink upgrades, emotional stakes and Ben fully using the body he’s leaped into. We also find out that the rules are now changed – the updated algorithm Ben inserted into Ziggy allows him to leap beyond his own lifetime.
We also see Janis taking the reins – making us question if she’s a good guy or bad guy. Was she helping Ben or using him? Why did she steal her father’s souvenirs from the project – including the original handlink, and what is the orb in her basement lab that looks more like it came from Timeless or Seven Days than Quantum Leap.
Now That’s an “Oh Boy!”
Episode 4 continues the improvement – and makes the back home scenes even better. Ben has now leaped into a woman – a bounty hunter in Los Angeles 1981. He’s remembering more and more, and the story of the Leap itself is better written. While Ben is learning to navigate a feminine body and avoiding spending the night with her soon to be fiancée, back home, we get the backstory on Magic that the superfans already knew.
In Season 3 of the original series, Sam leaped into Magic and saved his platoon’s life. Magic shares that with Ian, and gives some incredible insight into how time, fate, or God himself operates the leap. Simply put – the leapee gets to make a choice. They feel a tug, an invitation, someone standing at the door and knocking – and they have the free will to choose. Magic chose to let Sam in and it made things better. He woke up days later, unsure, suffering the same swiss cheese memory loss that the Leapers experience – and the weird memories of another time, place, person’s face – as originally mentioned in the Season 5 “Trilogy” episodes.
At the end of the episode, Ben remembers that he’s engaged to Addison and we get a super emotional moment, cut short by a leap. Oh, and it looks like Ben is accelerating…
Now Ben really IS in the past – leaped back to 1879, the old west. We get the fun complications of a Leaper who is a pacifist and doesn’t believe in guns, in the body of a broken down gunfighter. Another fun episode where we see Ben’s problem solving tools on full display – with Addisons’s help. Together, the town manages to turn the tables on the outlaw/train company lackey, capturing the whole gang alive and collecting a reward.
Back home, the team is dealing with a member of the government oversight committee who pops by for a visit. They all lie to her, until she reveals that she knows exactly what’s going on – and so will her bosses.
This echoes a recurring trope from the original show, although usually we heard about it third hand from Al. At least once, what Sam changed in the past changed the makeup of the oversight committee, and the investigation went away. This episode makes a nod to that with Magic telling the Senator that if they can keep going, they’ll eventually be able to leap back and stop her from accidentally killing her sibling. She agrees.
And then, as everyone is celebrating the town of Salvation being free, another cowboy turns to Ben and tells him to stop following him or he’ll regret it. He calls Ben by name – Dr. Ben Song, from 2022 – right before Ben leaps. Oh boy, indeed.
What a Disaster
This week’s episode, as I mentioned, is made up – mostly – of the original scripted and shot pilot leap. Obviously, some things had to be changed, some of the pieces were already used and, well, you get it. So that’s why Ben is more clueless than he has been for 5 episodes when he leaps into John in San Francisco, across the table from Firefly’s Jewel Staite.
The fact that Ben remembers the history and the coming quake was to give the team back home more time to find him, etc., and here it plays out okay, if a little off, just because he’s not acting quite like the Ben Song we’ve grown used to.
The post-production team manages to add some lines over the backs of heads and use the small scale reshoots to tie the story together so we don’t feel too discombobulated by the subtle changes. Although I’ll be honest, one thing I didn’t like about the reshoot bits – Ben repeatedly says, I can’t be here just to keep their marriage together. Yeah, Ben, yeah you can. Sometimes that’s the history gone wrong that needs to be made right. And that’s okay.
Since most of the old home footage was used in the new pilot, this gives the team an opportunity to focus on Leaper X, as I kind of expected. Theories are brought forward, including Russian foreign government plots, a private company, or maybe, maybe Leaper X used their Imaging Chamber – in the future. Which completely befuddles some of the team. And literally no one brings up, oh, maybe Janis, who knows the project, has the math skills, and stole her daddy’s purloined old school QL tech, might be behind it. Sure, they don’t know she has that basement set up – but they have the rest of the info – to not even bring it up??
If I Can Rant for Just a Moment –
Once again, these are supposed to be the smartest people on the planet, running a time travel project, but they somehow miss the obvious and thinking about time travel hurts their brains? I get having a character for the fans to connect with and provides the opportunity for spouting technical exposition – but ALL of the characters are doing that?
It reminds me of Law & Order: SVU, where people who have been in the unit for 20+ years explain the simplest thing about sex crimes to the other people who have been in the unit for 20+ years.
Can Ian at least, be ridiculously, annoyingly to the other characters, smart? Mason Alexander Park could pull it off, I’m sure.
We do some explaining, some facial recognition, and find the guy. Except when Magic and Jenn seek him out, for him, what is the past for the team, hasn’t happened yet. We assume. Richard Martinez is completely above board, and willing to do anything for his country, no questions asked. He is the farthest thing from an “Evil Leaper” you can imagine.
Later, it’s suggested that God, time or fate is twisting things even harder – that Ben meeting Martinez in the past leads to Magic meeting him in the present, leads to them bringing him on board in the future to be a leaper. It’s an interesting form of bootstrapping, but one the original show experimented with in the past and could be fun. And it’s also a reflection, or rather a reversal of Magic’s situation in restarting the project because of his leapee past.
Back in 1989
The year is another Easter egg for those paying attention – 1989 is when the original show debuted (although that was in March and the San Francisco earthquake was in October) – the leap progresses. Ben is not there to save their marriage, but to rescue John’s son who died in the aftershocks. As Addison learns from… the old classic handlink. Will we be using it in the future or go back to the high-tech donut? Only time will tell.
Interestingly, new showrunner Martin Gero apparently rewrote some of Wynbrandt and Lillien’s pilot – all three are credited for the episode – because we have some scenes that were cut or modified from the pilot script that I read months ago, and we get some flashbacks for Ben. Like every episode of the new show so far, there are themes in the leap that are echoed in the real lives of the project team, to great effect.
In this case, it’s Ben losing his mom. In the original script, after Ben rescues Jason, Ziggy let Ben and Addison know that the boy never forgave Naomi for breaking up the marriage. So the leap parameters changed, as they often did on the OG show and Ben had to fix that as well. The changes let us connect more with Ben and his guilt and his very Korean sense of responsibility. What makes him a good leaper is a direct line from his mother’s death (from a brain aneurysm – nothing he could have prevented) and his resolve afterwards to make things right.
And, of course, he wants to make things right for Jason too. So they reunite the family at the hospital and Ben is given the opportunity by the writers to add another nod to the original Quantum Leap pilot.
In “Genesis,” Sam realizes his dad is still alive in 1956 and tries to call them, but can’t quite recall the number or the last name. Al refuses to help him, at Sam’s prior direction. However, when Ben is struggling to recall his mom’s New York number, Addison breaks the rules and gives it to him. He calls and hears her voice before he leaps out. It’s a beautiful moment.
Who Holds the Future
Back at home, Jenn tells Addison she would have done the same, and Addison admits to her that Ben is changing on the leaps. He’s softer, more vulnerable, more… like Sam Beckett. She doesn’t say this outright, but it’s a good reflection – something the old show didn’t do, but is in keeping with the stronger thematics of the 2022 QL.
At the end, we get a hint of the next episode, as always. Airing on Halloween, this is likely the most anticipated episode so far. Ben is a priest, called to perform an exorcism, at a house marked 669 – which of course, becomes 666 by the end of the tease. It feels very haunting – and once again, like we’re past his lifetime, maybe in the 1930’s, judging by the vehicles driving by. We get the ominous laugh and the number of the beast as Ben enters the house.
When the character descriptions for the revival came out, it was noted that Dr. Ben Song was a man of science and faith. Dr. Samuel Beckett was as well, as apparently is Don Bellisario, who drops little faith hints in many of his shows.
Other than “A Single Drop of Rain,” the single episode that seemed to emphasize the spirituality of the Quantum Leap world was, of course, the Halloween episode. Airing on October 26, “The Boogi*man” introduced the devil – for reals – was allegedly shot in a haunted house, and anecdotally coincided with more power outages and VHS recording failures of all time. “If you believe that sort of thing.”
It’ll be interesting to see how this Halloween episode – “O Ye of Little Faith” – plays out.
Quantum Leap airs Mondays on NBC, streaming the next day on Peacock.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Paul Rose Jr has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for Infuzemag.com and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing articles, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.