Quantum Leap (Season 1, Ep 9): Play it Again, Seymour

April 14, 1953

Sam narrates: “Sometimes when I leap I have really good days. I win the race, beat the bad guy, and kiss the girl. And then there are the bad days.”

We see Sam holding a gun and standing over what appears to be a dead body. A cop busts into the room, cuffs Sam, and says something about the Dodgers. Sam says aloud, “I’m still in L.A.” But no. The police officer lets the sports savvy viewers know that Sam is in Brooklyn by mentioning historic Ebbets Field. That bit of intel also informs us that this episode is set in the 1950s prior to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ relocation to the west coast. For the viewer who isn’t sports savvy, the camera pans over a newspaper giving the date: April 14, 1953.

Sam is a P.I. named Nick Allen. The dead man on the floor was his partner. Sam is under the impression that his new body looks just like Humphrey Bogart, so he keeping giving lines from Casablanca to his jailhouse mirror. We get “serious Al” this episode.

If you’re through playing, can we get down to business?

Very serious Al.

I spoke too soon. After letting Sam know that he needs to find the real killer, he announced that he needs to leave. He apparently has a horse race to attend in 1995 that is far more important than his crucial job as an assistant to a TIME TRAVELER.

But before Al can leave, something weird(er than basic time travel) happens. Sam predicts his own 1953 future. He knows that a cop with a cigar is about to walk in, turn him loose, and tell him the ballistics from his gun do not match the slugs found in the victim. And then that happens.

Al does what you would expect a time travel assistant to do when something unprecedented happens. He says “I’m out of here” and he leaves. Wait.. WHAT? Sam’s brain is fried enough by time travel to predict something he could not possibly rationally predict, for the first time, and Al just… leaves? I mean, if he were in a hurry to go back to the lab, talk to other people, check with Ziggy… then sure. But I bet he just goes to the horse races.

On his own now, Sam once again predicts the future. He knows someone named Seymour is about to speak to him. He also knows the names of two other people in the building intuitively, without having to ask for those names. Seymour sells newspapers, apparently. The other two guys are the building manager (Lionel), and the elevator operator (Chuck.) They are all hot after Sam’s late partner’s wife. The elevator guy (Chuck) even asks Sam to see if she’d want to catch a Dodgers game with him. All three men assume that Sam will be hard at work catching his partner’s killer.

Sam gets off the elevator and heads to his office. His late partner’s wife is waiting for him. We quickly learn that she and Sam had been having an affair. After questioning Sam about whether he killed Phil, her late husband, she and Sam discuss who might have killed him. Keep an eye on “a dropper named Clapper” as a potential suspect, fellow viewers.

Well, the new widow does not want to stay at her own place. So she asks Sam if she can stay with him. She has clearly moved on quickly. So they kiss, she walks out, and it seems clear that they will be staying the night together. Sam looks up (at God) and says “thank you.”

After the widow Allison leaves, Sam goes through his own work desk. He finds a manuscript written by his host (Nick Allen.) Suddenly he realizes that he does not have deja vu. Apparently Nick Allen wrote a book about all of this and Dr. Sam Beckett read it at some point prior to his time travel adventures. Sam’s ability to predict the future is simply him remembering the plot of a book. (Does that make sense with respect to Sam putting names to faces before he talks to people? No, but let’s move on…)

Al reappears in Sam’s office. Sam is convinced he needs to find the real killer. Al is concerned that *Sam* has fallen for Allison and will therefore not consider her as a potential suspect in the murder of her husband.

We’ve got Clapper!
Careful Sam, there was no cure for that in 1953.
Al, Clapper is the dropper who shot Phil. At least that’s the rumor.
Yeah, but people hire droppers.

So Sam tries to figure out who our killer is by reading Nick Allen’s book. Al makes the point that Nick and Allison must not have lived happily ever after, otherwise, why would Sam be there at all? It’s a good point.

When Sam leaves Nick’s office, he runs into Seymour. Seymour gives him a convoluted story that lets Sam know where Clapper will be and how Seymour found out. Sam then opens the elevator door and steps in… and the elevator is not there. He nearly falls to his death. He manages to pull himself back into the building after grabbing the elevator’s cable cord. He finds Seymour inside passed out.

Some time later, Seymour is awake and he blames himself. He claims to have been accident prone his entire life. He confesses that this may be the reason his parents abandoned him to growing up in an orphanage. As the two are talking, they run into Allison again. She is dressed in a widow’s black… but also in such a way that makes clear she’s looking to land her man (Nick) as soon as possible. Sam and Seymour are on their way to a place called Blue Island. She advises against going there. But then she decides to go with the two of them.

Sam/Nick and Allison are dancing at Blue Island. Some distance away, we see Al waving what appears to be the completed version of Nick Allen’s book. Sam directs Allison over to the place where Seymour is sitting so that he can leave her there and go talk to Al. But in the moment that the three of them are together, Seymour lets Sam know that Clapper might be a woman. Suspicious, eh? Who is giving him info? Either way, Sam leaves them to talk to Al.

Oh, Sam. Allison is a killer.
Nick wrote that?
Oh. The book! No. I’m talking about her body.

The book, as it turns out, is an uncompleted mystery novel. It was published pursuant to a contest. The contest is for the reader to figure out who the murderer is so that the police can solve the real life case. But the title of the book is “Who Killed Grimsely and Allen?” Sam’s new job is to keep Nick Allen from being murdered.

We find out that Nick was murdered at LaGuardia Airport. In addition, Allison and Seymour disappeared on the night of Nick’s murder. Al thinks Allison is the killer.

If you want to have safe sex with her, you better wear a bullet proof vest.

Sam continues to insist that she is innocent. Somehow the two of them start competing against each other over who has better instincts as it relates to women.

“You haven’t been getting any lately.”
“Don’t compare me to yourself. I think with my brain and I don’t cloud my judgement with a bottle.”

As much as I want to celebrate Sam finally calling out Al for his poor on-the-job performance, this felt like a barb that was just a touch too personal. Or, alternatively, it was just a touch too “I’m better than you.” It was probably both.

To be honest, each of them should be fired from this project for failure to take it seriously. In any event, Al absorbs the verbal blow, advises Sam to stay away from LaGuardia, and then he leaves.

Sam starts narrating again. “Why do we hurt people for telling us the truth?”

Sam, Seymour, and Allison leave. Seymour runs off to catch a cab. Sam asks Allison if she ever loved Phil – and she says no. “The only man I ever loved is you.” They kiss. Sam goes to see where their cab is and someone starts shooting at Sam. After the gun man/woman leaves, Seymour shows up with the cab.

Seymour’s dialogue to this point has been of a highly exaggerated 50s pulp detective novel type. Case in point:

The canaries were harder to find than a hooker on Sunday morning.

Translation: I had a hard time finding a cab.

When I finally got one, this hard Harry with a kisser that could break your mirror in the next apartment stepped on my daisy crushers.

Translation: Umm. I got nothing.

In any case, Sam loses his temper with the way that Seymour talks. I thought he was going to call Seymour out as a phony, but instead he calls Seymour out for being too big a fanboy. Seymour wilts like a spurned lover. “Don’t do this Nick.”

The cab stops in front of the building where Nick Allen works. Sam hops out, go up to his office, grabs a gun from his desk drawer, and he also grabs an extra hat and coat. Seymour exits the cab, too. On Sam’s way back out of the building, to the cab, he sees Seymour fumbling with his broken glasses. This is about the 3rd time in this episode the lenses have fallen out of Seymour’s glasses so I suspect that is going to come into play again quite soon.

Sam apologizes to Seymour, tells him that he said those things in the cab to make him leave / keep him from tagging along and getting into danger, and he further tells him/us why he does not believe Seymour is Clapper. It was raining when the gunman shot at him. However, when Seymour met them with the cab, he was not soaked.

Sam sends Seymour off to get a raincoat. He appears to be planning to ditch him as he goes out to the cab. “So long, Seymour.”

Just then someone gets into the cab with Allison and it leaves without Sam or Seymour. She says “I thought you’d never get here.” Sam sees them drive away. Seymour catches up with Sam on the sidewalk.

Sam and Seymour are in another cab tailing the first one. Al shows up. Sam manages to apologize to Al by way of telling a story to Seymour. The three of them follow Allison’s cab to its destination and exit their cab…. at LaGuardia airport. Ruh roh. Sam tells Seymour that Allison may be the one who hired Clapper. After filling him in on the danger, Sam sets Seymour to the task of tailing Allison. Al asks Sam if he’s got a gun and if he’d be willing to use it on Allison.

When Sam/Nick goes into LaGuardia airport, he is mistaken right away for Humphrey Bogart by a kid who looks like a young Woody Allen. [After checking IMDB, he *is* supposed to be a young Woody Allen.]

Sam sees a man grab Seymour and lead him away. So he follows. Lionel (the building super we met at the beginning of the episode and did not hear from since) is holding Seymour hostage on a plane. He and Allison – though we do not see her on screen – allegedly just want a way out of New York. Lionel starts shooting at Sam.

Al shows up again. He is pretty unconcerned about all of this. He tells Sam to stay down while he goes to see where the shots are coming from.

Al finds Lionel. He’s on board the airplane. We can see Allison on board, too, with a gag in her mouth. Al stands next to Lionel, insults him for being a lousy shot, points out some gunk in his mustache, and directs Sam to avoid the shots.

With Al’s help, Sam sneaks up on Lionel and points a gun at him. Lionel surrenders. We next see him being cuffed and perp walked.

Sam and Allison end up kissing in the airport. She wants the two of them to fly away together. But something does not quite add up. She left with Lionel, via cab, willingly? Sam has not leaped away yet?

Seymour catches up with Sam on the way to his boarding the plane with Allison. He apparently did not enjoy his real life experience with danger. Sam tells him that maybe he should write about it, instead. Seymour likes the idea. Sam’s purpose in this leap was to launch some new pulp novels. He finally leaps away.

When we meet Sam again… he will be in the body of a woman!


REACTION:

This was the season 1 finale. I will do an overview of the entire season in a separate post. First, let me give some thoughts on this episode.

I did not enjoy the resolution of this episode. It’s one thing to have a gag that ends with launching Buddy Holly’s career. But the season finale of season 1 is just a replay of that same gag? And Seymour is not even famous? Why was this Sam’s mission?

Were there more clues all along that Lionel was the baddie? I suppose the elevator near-fall is explainable as something Lionel might have orchestrated. But how he could have predicted Sam would blindly walk out and nearly fall is another issue. Why did Allison leave with Lionel in the cab? Did the director of the episode trick the audience about her leaving of her own volition? We were given the impression she saw Lionel get in the cab. Are we supposed to think, after the fact, that she just thought Lionel was Sam but had not looked at him yet?

Who kept feeding Seymour his tips? Was that Lionel, too?

Maybe this episode will make more sense on a re-watch.

I get the feeling that the writers have realized at this point in the season that they have an issue with the Al character. They are clearly trying to guide him slowly back toward being a sidekick that actually cares about helping the protagonist. But they are doing it slowly so that the change is not too jarring. In this episode, Al was always there when Sam actually needed him. His advice – though wrong – was good advice.

That said, there was one glaring issue from Al in this episode. When Sam was showing signs of being able to predict the events that were about to happen, Al basically shrugged it off and left. This seems wildly implausible given how important those types of details are to the work they are doing. Sam’s “swiss cheese brain” is a huge issue. But despite his initial bad reaction, he did seem to actually take the mission seriously this week.

On the topic of Sam predicting the future… this episode wants us to believe that Sam read a pulp novel years ago, which was based on the actual life of a person he eventually leaped into, and he remembered the details of the book so well that he could recognize faces of the people he encounters? He remembered the details so well that it gave him a sense of deja vu? Uh… no. No way. I do not buy that.

Sam – again – falls for the love interest of his host body right away. You might have expected that he would get some emotional callouses from loving and losing people, over and over, but instead, he seems to be falling in love more easily with each passing episode. There’s something unseemly about that.

I have some additional thoughts about Season 1 as a whole, but I will save those for a review post.

CAST NOTES:

Allison was played by Claudia Christian. You may remember her as Commander Susan Ivanova from the TV series “Babylon 5.” She is currently playing Hera in a TV series called “Gods & Heroes.”

Seymour was played by Willie Garson. You might remember him for his role as Stanford Blatch on “Sex and the City,” Mozzie from “White Collar”, and he also played Henry Coffield on “NYPD Blue.” He currently has a recurring role on “Hawaii 5-0” playing Gerard Hirsch.

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