After the same intro as Episode 3 (the Shakespearean “things went a little caca” monologue) Sam adds before the episode starts that he was not supposed to alter his own timeline. But he surmises that God would not mind.
Then… Sam starts this episode taking a punch to the face. I guess God did mind. Sam is a boxer. He ends up punching back and winning the fight. But the other guy went down a little bit too easily.
While Sam is recuperating after the fight, a pair of nuns walk into his dressing room. We find out that when Sam’s previous manager passed away, he left the contract for his boxer (Sam i.e., “Mr. Cody”) to St. Mary’s Church. So the nuns own his boxing career. The fight he just won was his last with his previous team.
In the next scene the younger and cuter (are you supposed to say a nun is cute?) of the two nuns is walking Sam (“Kid Cody”) around the lot where St. Mary’s plans to construct a chapel building. She goes on at length about the stained glass, tassels on hymnals, and the wood the pews would be made from. The church will be able to afford construction if Sam just wins his next prize fight. Sam advises “Sister Angela” to hedge her bets.
Al finally shows up. Ziggy had thought Sam would leap somewhere in Texas in the 1950s. Instead he’s in Sacramento, California, 1974, being asked to move in with nuns to save them money until he wins his fight and better funds their church. At this point in the show, Al does not have any advice. Ziggy does not have any advice. Apparently Ziggy does not know anything about Kid Cody, his career, etc. Al suggests that maybe Sam should just skip the fight.
When Sam is walking into what looks like a building that might be his apartment, he is approached by a couple of sketchy mobster types who want to know what he was doing in the ring to take a punch when the episode opened. He tells them that he has been thinking about retiring. He is told “quittin’ right now would be a bad idea” as one of them draws a gun. So he unretires.
We find out that the mobsters had set “Kid Cody” up to win ten straight fights. Their payoff is slated to happen with his title bout against “Tiger Joe.” (Boxing names are awesome.) They let him know that he’s going to lose and that they will let him know in which round he is going to lose at a later date.
So we’ve got nuns who need him to win on the one hand and mobsters who will probably kill him if he wins on the other hand. Circumstances are a little caca for ole Sammy. After the mobsters leave, Sam standing alone stares up into the sky at some sunlight peaking through parted clouds and says “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
When Sam finally gets home, he’s greeted by a big haired, bottle blonde, in a pink robe, named Dixie, who lets us know right away that she’s an exotic dancer. She puts her tip money and Sam’s fight money in a hidey hole in their apartment.
Moments later someone comes knocking on the door asking for money. Apparently Kid Cody lost a bet and this guy is looking to collect. Dixie pays the guy and then breaks his nose while slamming the door in his face. Sam tells Dixie that the nuns want him to move into the Church. “They own me.” To which she replies, “I thought I owned you.”
Next scene: Kid Cody is at the church and someone is singing “Amazing Grace” in the background. After a few moments, Sam joins in singing while lying on his new bed. I guess the nuns are his actual owners after all. He hears snoring and rolls over to find Al sleeping on the floor. Al is wearing… a very shiny coat. Ziggy thinks, given the unknown variables, that Sam winning the fight and building the chapel is his best shot at leaping out of his life as a boxer.
Hologram Al offers to train Sam as a boxer. Apparently when Al was 16 he was a “Golden Gloves Regional Champ.” I need to start making a list of Al’s accomplishments as this show progresses. Sam points out that Al the hologram’s inability to spar is a problem too big to overcome.
Sam ends up at a bar with his trainer from the opening scene. There’s a TV on at the bar talking about the upcoming Ali-Foreman fight. Apparently his former trainer is tired of training fighters who take dives. So Sam tries to convince him that he won’t take a dive this time. As this conversation is happening, the mobster also walks into the bar and lets Sam/the audience know that Sam’s would-be trainer also used to take dives. This reminder apparently spurs the trainer to take Sam back as long as he is wiling to train in earnest.
When we get to a training scene, Sam’s trainer “Mr. Gomez,” as well as Sister Angela, the other nameless nun, and Dixie are all present. While the three women are all miming the sparring punches, Sam takes one to the face and gets knocked out. Mr. Gomez says “I know what’s going on here, Kid. You haven’t had a straight fight in a year. You’re out of shape, out of time, and out of luck. You need a miracle.”
Cue the montage music! (It’s a Rocky theme knock-off.)
During one of his jogging/training scenes, Sister Angela is trailing him on a bike. The two start talking and we find out that when Sister Angela was a child, she had a treehouse which she thought of as a castle. One day, her entire family except for her was killed in a house fire. I’ll just let her monologue speak for itself, because… holy wow. She “was shipped from uncle to uncle, and it seemed like I was a princess without a castle. Some really bad things happened, and then I ended up out on the street. And I ended up doing whatever I could to survive. I began to hate everybody. Even myself. Even God. And then one night I, I, kind of stumbled into this Skid Row chapel in San Francisco. I was looking for a place to sleep and a nun found me. She took me in and she, well, maybe she didn’t save my life but she absolutely saved my soul. She gave me new hope and self respect. She even gave me faith in God again. And I decided at that moment that I would create a chapel someday in the most destitute part of the city to help people like myself, to make a memorial for my family.”
Now that’s a backstory. Resume montage with Rocky(ish) music.
Al shows back up wearing an all white suit. He’s better rested finally. And he has some intel. Ziggy has figured out that Kid Cody (the real one) took a dive in the first round and that the chapel was never built. He also clearly still wants to coach Sam to be a better boxer. Sam lets him know that he is giving the same advice that Gomez has been giving and Al disappears.
In the next scene, at a bar again, Sam is told by the mobster to take a dive in the first round. “I can’t do that Mr. Edwards.” They begin negotiating a new bet before we cut away.
In the next scene, Sam is talking to Dixie. He tells her that he bet their life savings (presumably against Mr. Edwards) with 20-1 odds. And his plan to win the fight against Tiger Joe involves Dixie “streaking” to distract Tiger Joe Jackson so that he can knock him out. She seems to reluctantly agree.
When Sam goes back to the church, he finds Sister Angela praying. Mr. Edwards had been by the church. He told Sister Angela to relay the message that Kid Cody is supposed to take a dive in the first round. So I guess their 20-1 odds bet is off? He also left Sam an envelope with $1,000. Sam tries to assure Sister Angela that he is going to try to win. “Don’t give up on me, Sister. Not if you want that castle.”
The Fight: “Get ready to take a nap boy.” – Tiger Joe Jackson.
Predictably, Sam/Cody take a beating as this fight starts. He gets knocked down in about 3 seconds. But he gets up again. Chumbawamba would be proud. Nevertheless, it turns out that you cannot train a boxing novice to beat a heavy weight champion boxer in a few days/weeks.
The absolute beating continues. Sam finally lands a blow that actually knocks Tiger Joe down. Unfortunately… Tiger Joe gets up. Al suddenly appears wearing a red fedora, red pants, red suspenders, and white shirt combination. He kind of looks like he’s the devil?
Al plays a game of “hit my hand” while placing said hand through Tiger Joe’s body. He is a hologram, after all. As Sam directs his blows to where he is told, punches go through Al’s hand, but they land on Tiger Joe. Then he knocks out Tiger Joe. This is probably how Buster Douglas beat Tyson.
Sam throws his hands into the air. The nuns celebrate. Dixie never had to streak. Mr. Edwards looks angry.
In the locker room after the fight, we find out that Sam did not bet his life savings with Dixie on his own fight. He bet that money on the Ali-Foreman fight going on at the same time. And because he is a time traveler he and Dixie won the bet. As a result, they ended up with enough winnings for themselves, the Church, and Mr. Edwards.
When Dixie runs off to collect their winnings, Sister Angela comes in and lets Sam know that he restored her temporarily lost faith in God (she lost it when she found out he was a cheater.) Nun or not, I hope she is getting some kind of counseling after what I now know about her background.
Then right as she tells him about her restored faith, Sam *leaps* to a pig pen.
I know that there was an era of TV when “God friendly” episodes that shine a light on our main character’s (usually absent) religious faith were common enough to be a trope. But it was a little jarring in 2020 to watch this play out. Dr. Sam Beckett, six PhDs, and a time traveler… is a Christian? Interesting. I wonder how his faith played into his life choice to be a time traveler that fixes historical “mistakes?”
I was disappointed that this episode dodged the issue of Sam’s efforts during the previous episode to change his real life timeline. The intro sequence mentions that he did it, that it was against the time travel rules, and the episode implies by his punch to the face as the episode started that God was not happy… but ultimately we are not made aware of any actual consequences for him, any changes to the real Sam’s history, etc.
When Al first arrives in this episode, he lays down on the ground because in *his* present timeline, he has a neighbor who kept him up all night. “He’s got more holes in his muffler than you’ve got in your memory.” I’m still having a hard time getting on board with the comedy of bringing small potatoes future problems into a time travel situation at work. But the unexpectedness of that is how comedy works. Maybe I’m the problem. I need to suspend my disbelief a little more.
I also do not quite buy the Al character more generally. I feel as though he would make more sense as a quirky angel. Al’s bizarre occasional indifference to Sam’s circumstances would make more sense if Al had divine confidence in the outcomes.
Speaking of suspended disbelief… I’m incredulous that Sam won that fight. And it’s worse for me knowing that winning the fight was not even necessary to advance the story. He could have believably lost the fight while still coming up with the money for everyone involved.
When the real Kid Cody returns to his body, does he remember what Sam did while owning his body? Or is he surprised? If he’s the jealous type, I suppose he is happy that Sam went to live with the nuns. We do not really know how the real Kid Cody felt about Dixie. Or fighting. And Sam just made some pretty significant life choices on his behalf. Since the real guy seems like he might have been a touch shady, the whole situation in the locker room could go really sideways, quickly, with Dixie, the money, his fight career, etc., once Sam leaps away.
“Great. I’m on the take. I wear polyester clothes. I live above a bar in an apartment decorated like a gym.”
“You know, people in monogamous relationships don’t wake up with guilty consciences.”
“They don’t have any fun, either.”
“Dixie, you’re not a tramp. You’re a stripper – that’s a profession.”
“I thought that God sent me a champion. But He sent me a cheat.”
Guy Stockwell played the role of Mr. Edwards in this episode. He is the real life older brother of Dean Stockwell who plays “Al.” Guy Stockwell had a long career that included TV guest starring roles spanning from 1946 until 1990.