Quantum Leap S1 E07–09
1–7 The Color Of Truth
I get the feeling from the title that this might be a very special episode where we learn that racism is bad. Sam looks in the mirror right away and Oh Boy he’s an old black guy. He shouldn’t be sitting at that lunch counter, those folks ain’t gon like that!
We’re doing a Driving Miss Daisy type deal where he’s the chauffeur for a mean old white lady who I’m going to guess has a heart of gold under it all. She’s visiting her husband’s grave and is Sam putting on a sort of southern accent? Anyway, he helps her with the grave maintenance and it’s a sad story. Holy cow that old lady just said Sam’s dead wife was “the finest nigra woman in all Alabama.” Yikes.
Sam is amazed he’s leaped into a black man, not really sure why that would be amazing since he can leap into literally anyone within his lifetime, but anyway. Al, in an excellent all purple outfit, says Sam has to save the old lady from being “squished by a choo-choo” tomorrow. Cold Al, cold. Also, weird Al, weird. There’s some weird stuff going on where Al is talking about how he was involved in the civil rights movement as a young man, marching and getting arrested alongside his black pals, and Sam is all amazed that Al knows anything about the civil rights movement, like it’s some esoteric field of study and not totally common knowledge.
A good ole boy is super mad that Sam sat at the lunch counter. He can’t eat sandwiches next to a black guy! The audacity! What a weird idea the whole lunch counter thing is, people really are insane. Sam is making pig intestines for dinner at his family home and here’s Al who loves collard greens and cornbread apparently. Is Al from the south? He has a killer Chiclets recipe so no worries there. Sam is not as stoked about this food. Sam’s son (?) is not super happy about how Sam sat down at the lunch counter, doesn’t want to make trouble. Sam is all like, let’s accelerate the civil rights movement by having a (white) guy like me sit at the counter in 1955 and solve racism.
But there’s a burning cross on the lawn which makes me think, not great. That was another weird thing, burning cross. I mean, I don’t want that on my lawn, but I mean, whoever came up with that as a method of intimidation and why? Racists are very strange people. Sam really gets them more mad by drinking from the whites only water fountain.
Sam is pushing the old lady to drink tea at the same table with him, pushing her on the ridiculousness of why they can’t. Which, fair. Nobody ever has any sort of logical reason, the reason is, hey we’re imbeciles and we like being mental because we’ve always been mental. But tragedy strikes! The racists drive Sam’s granddaughter off the road and she’s dead! Well, probably not dead, but still not great. Sam uses his doctoring skills to save her. Of course the racist hospital won’t treat her. It’s even weirder when doctors won’t because they must understand there’s no actual difference in bodies. Old lady persuades the hospital to treat the black girl even though it’s against the law! Mercy!
But uh oh, with Sam arrested, nice old lady decides she’s going to drive herself home and we know what that means! She’s going to get squashed by a choo-choo! Al is pleading with her to stop like somehow she can see him if he is frantic enough. What a weird idea this is, that the train is coming to take her away. I mean how can someone run a car into a train? It’s one thing if the car breaks down on the tracks or something but why would you just go full speed ahead towards train tracks?? Anyway, somehow Al’s shouting gets through to her and she pulls off into the cemetery, believing her husband was speaking to her from beyond the grave.
Of course, Al takes entirely the wrong lesson from this, and starts telling Sam, who is stuck in jail, that maybe he can use these new powers to connect with all kinds of women, especially, younger women. Gross Al. And what would that even mean? Creepy talking to hypnotize coeds? Anyway, Sam is released from prison with the sheriff telling him it’s some sort of quid pro quo for the sheriff’s son running the lady off the road. And now they’re even! Sam tells him, in the future he’s going to have to change his mind about a lot of things. Which sure, but I mean, living where he does, let’s be honest. Probably not.
Now Al is standing in the cell singing We Shall Overcome. I mean. I’m sure the intentions were good here but maybe have a black person sing that? Old lady says they have to go back to how it was before and Sam is sad.
We end where we started, with Sam going into the diner to pick up her lunch but wait! Ohhh shit, old lady comes in and asks Sam to sit alongside her at the counter and Quantum Leap solved racism! I mean, hey at least they tried.
I wonder if this was filmed on the back lot at Universal because this town square sure looks like Hill Valley.
1–8 Camikaze Kid
The show really likes the 50’s, seems like we’re staying there as Sam leaps into a pimply braced-up teenager driving in some sort of road race! Wait no it’s 1961, well close enough. Some jocks make fun of him at the drive through burger joint, talking about racing for pinks and generally acting like knock-off T-Birds. The main guy celebrates that he and his girl are going to join the Peace Corps. The girl is apparently Sam’s sister and this main T-Bird seems like a pretty big dickhead. And one of the T-Birds is Jason Priestly! Ha! They strip Sam’s clothes and throw him in a dumpster. Haha those wacky bullies.
Sam gives a quick recap of the stereotypical stuff we can expect to see: Corvettes, panty raids, hair gel, basically the most over used cliched nonsense you can possibly fit into 45 mins. Al tells him, quit wasting time eating burgers and malts and stop Sam’s sister going with mean Danny Zucko to the peace corps. This reminds Sam of his very own sister who got married at 17 and was in an abusive marriage that Sam feels guilty about. But he can stop this bad marriage happening! Back home we’re in comedic Back to the Future territory with white tank top dad punching his arms and the mom colouring her hair with foils.
Sam tries to convince his sister not to go with bad Danny Zucko to Tonga, while his sister tries to convince him to date some dorky girl (who is actually super cute and smart and knows about cars) and also how he should volunteer for this JFK guy. Sam goes to work on the car with the cute dorky girl and hmm is it cool for him to put the moves on this teenager as a forty (?) year old man? Al has been hologramming into the house to watch the daughters lingerie party which is a thing apparently and also, yet again, gross Al. Sam gets back and Al leaves, as he was only there to watch the girl in lingerie not to actually help out.
Danny Zucko/Biff Tannon is being a big jerk and is not very sorry about beating on Cheryl (Sam’s teenage sister) so Sam throttles him a bit. Again, not clear if he has his own full man strength or the skinny teenagers. But he seems to be able to overpower good looking Biff.
Ha Jason Priestly really has nothing to do, not even sure if has lines, more just coyote style background laughing and backchat. Double Ha, Biff’s dad is one of those big guys who always plays New York/Italian bozo’s, and says things like ‘not fer nuttin’ but…’ which is pretty great. So the whole family is a bunch of drunks and Sam doesn’t like this one bit. He stands up and brings down the whole mood of the wedding with a sappy speech about making life better for people less fortunate than themselves. Priestly literally throws eggs in Sam’s face, which he sort of asked for by having loud demonstrative conversations at the table with A HOLOGRAM NOBODY ELSE CAN SEE.
In the toilets Sam overhears New York Bozo and Biff having a super mean/psychotic conversation about how Biff isn’t really joining the peace corps because who gives a shit about helping those foreign losers, and New York Bozo goes one better by saying his wife, Biff’s mom, wanted to go to college but he knocked her up and that solved that. HA! Good one dude!
Al convinces Sam to convince Biff to race for pinks. Sam then has buyers remorse because he has the ‘mom mobile’ a big station wagon while Biff has some super fast awesome sports car. But aha, he has a secret weapon that the 1961 punks don’t know about, nitrous! Sam and the cute dorky girl rig up the car to have a nitrous fuel injection system. And they laugh a lot, because haha laughing gas. Biff tries to get Cheryl in the car with him, but Sam pulls the McFly chicken insult and Biff boots her out. I wonder if kids ever did race like this or if this was just one of those things TV and movies invented. Where would they even have the places to do this.
We then get a full Grease ripoff with music just close enough not to get sued over. Halfway through Al appears and tells Sam when to push the button, allowing him to burst past Biff and win, crushing the watching Jason Preistley. Biff is super mad and decides as revenge he’ll run Sam over and kill him? Over react much Biff?
Sam leaps out of the way and Biff smashes his car into a concrete piling at full speed with no seat belt. He gets out totally unharmed and starts yelling at Cheryl but Sam does a super cool knee slide over the hood and knocks out Biff. Priestly finally gets a line, calling the attempted murder an “uncool move” and walking away, leaving Biff alone, carless and sad.
We end with Cheryl headed to the Peace Corps and Tonga alone, her life and future saved. Al tells Sam, she stayed in the peace corps for life and all is well. He also talks about how he bought a classic car and banged some poor lady in it. Dude. Sam leaps fortunately before he has to makeout with the cute dorky teenager. Pretty fun little episode.
1–9 Play It Again, Seymour
Because it was a mid season replacement, only nine episodes in the first season so we’re at the last one already. Sam is holding a gun over a dead body. Oh Boy!
Sam is a private detective in New York in the 50’s and Al is dressed in a fantastic outfit which seems to have silver X’s on the collar. Al provides his usual lack of help. You’d really think Al would be more switched on with how his best friend is you know, traveling through goddam time and reliant on him not to die or paradox the universe out of existence or whatever, but he appears to find it a tiresome distraction most of the time. He’ll lend a hand sure, as long as it doesn’t interfere with his dinner plans. I mean Al, this is your job man! Also Sam could die at any moment! Since he’s here he may as well try and help so Al pounds away on his plastic iPhone and comes up empty. When he walks away sometimes he goes through a white light door and sometimes just boop he’s gone.
Sam really thinks he looks like Marlowe and is doing impressions in his jail cell. He has some sort of weird future vision where he tells Al that a bald detective is going to walk through the door and let him go very soon. And that’s what happens! He’s free! They’re in a really good looking building with a lot of wrought iron.
(ed.note: that is the famous Bradbury Building in LA, that’s been used for a bunch of old movies, & also more recently, 500 Days of Summer.)
Sam’s clairvoyance/knowledge carries on, as he knows the names of everyone he runs into, even Mozzie from White Collar who is a young newsie. Love Newsies! He gets help from various dudes in solving the murder he leaped into. This episode has a fun LA Confidential style vibe, which works.Sam is kissing a femme fatale in black in his office. Nice touch how it has a beat up old sink in the corner, the location team & set designers did a great job in this episode.
OK so in the present/future Ziggy is the supercomputer that Sam made (?) to facilitate project QL. And although it seems like Ziggy is sentient (??) the computer is not controlling where Sam goes, that’s God (??) and Ziggy also seems to be a bit of a dick. I wonder if it would have worked to have shown more of the future world Al lives in. Give it some back and forth rather than having the whole world of the future be Maris from Frasier.
Sam nearly falls down an elevator shaft! And Mozzie is injured! What’s afoot here!? Man that Bradbury building is beautiful. Mozzie is helping Sam solve the case. He’s probably a lot more use than Al who is just leering at the femme fatale through opera glasses at this fancy dance they’re at. I like the old yellow cabs and pouring rain, they do a good job of setting up the look of this episode, even the music rises above the usual bland background stuff. Sam apparently invents the term main squeeze when talking to Mozzie, and hey Al is back, dressed in a white tux with medals attached, because, sure. He’s going to check the ladies room. Not a sex crime this time, he’s trying to help. A bunch of kids mistake Sam for Bogart, less you missed the hints earlier that he looked like him. But this distraction allows Mozzie to get kidnapped! Good one Sam!
At the finale, the crooked cop is holding onto the femme fatale and shooting wildly at Sam in an aircraft hanger. For once, Al is very useful, walking around looking for the shooter, finding him, and letting Sam know when he’s reloading, what he’s doing etc, allowing Sam to show up with a gun under his chin and a quick quip to wrap it all up. I guess we had to end up at this place, so they could have final goodbye with his sweetheart under the prop of a plane, on a foggy runway, like Bogie’s most famous movie ending. Just in case you didn’t pick up on that, she has plane tickets…for Casablanca. Subtle. We got it.
But Sam isn’t getting on the plane because as he walks towards it, he leaps, into a lady in a bubble bath! Oh Boy!
Solid first season. The pilot got 23m odd views, and then the rest settled between 10–15m which I think was pretty solid. They had to do a fair bit of table setting for the show, and some of the logic didn’t really seem to be in place if you think about it too much, but they definitely established a fun procedural with likeable leads. The option of making each episode a totally different genre works well but still is sort of under used. Standouts probably the 50’s hot rodding, the Marlowe mystery of the last episode, the western tones of the Buddy Holly one. But they haven’t fully embraced tonal shifts just yet, pretty much falling back on the same format every time. Which is probably about on par for TV of the time. I mean the biggest takeaway is that Scott Bakula is just so damn likeable, he makes anything and everything work. You just always root for the dude. But you can see how the real potential of the show is there, the chameleonic possibilities. Good ole Quantum Leap!