Welcome back to my episode-by-episode recap of and reaction to Quantum Leap. The spoilers ahead are only through this episode. I provide a short summary at the top, a long and much more thorough recap below that, and a reaction section at the bottom.
My previous episode recaps can be found HERE.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
While a Senate Committee hearing occurs in the present, concerning whether the Quantum Leap project should be defunded, Sam leaps back into a man named Tom McBride who is on his honeymoon, in 1960. His mission is to avoid being murdered by his new wife Diane’s ex-husband and to help his new wife pass the Bar Exam. Sam succeeds. In the present, the Senator who had been conducting the hearing is replaced – without anyone noticing – by Diane McBride. Senator McBride has a more favorable view of the Quantum Leap project and it continues to be funded.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Season 2 begins with a Senate Committee hearing. Admiral “Al” Calavicci – wearing his uniform – provides testimony before the Senate concerning Dr. Sam Beckett’s Quantum Leap project. He shares that it is his belief, as well as the belief of Dr. Beckett, that God has taken control of the Quantum Leap project and is assigning Sam his tasks.
The United States Senate is unimpressed with God’s decision to help Buddy Holly with writing lyrics or with helping some nuns build a chapel. They would rather God do something more dramatic like change the results of a presidential election or alter geopolitical events. We are left with the impression that funding ($2.4B annually) for the QL project could be halted.
[Note: This scene was better than any scene from the entirety of Season 1.]
We meet up with Sam in 1957. He is in a police uniform rescuing a cat from a tree. Just as the cat falls from the tree, Sam does too, and the furry feline lands on Sam’s chest. This dramatic rescue spurred Sam to leap. (Maybe the Senate has a point about how their money is being spent on this project.)
He leaps into the body of a man in the process of kissing a woman who turns out to be said man’s new bride. Sam is aboard the “Honeymoon Express” train, traveling from New York to Niagara Falls. Sam excuses himself to the bathroom and finds out – from his wallet – that 1) his name is Tom McBride, 2) he is a cop, and 3) he brought handcuffs and a gun on his honeymoon. “Oh boy.”
Sam has arrived at April 27, 1960.
A cheesy 1980s saxophone continues crooning as background music while all of this is going on.
The still-unnamed bride has a book on torts and subpoenas. She is studying for the Bar Exam! On her honeymoon! Sam is trying to avoid sleeping with a total stranger despite the impossible circumstances for said avoidance. Al shows up. Sam then encourages “his wife” to put in a few pages of study while making the excuse that he wants to talk to the porter about putting their champagne on ice.
In the hallway outside their honeymoon train compartment, Sam breathes a sigh of relief. Al – and the camera man for this episode – leer at the *still* unnamed woman’s breasts. Al is definitely jealous of Sam. He is in fact so jealous that he looks up, talks to God, and asks “why are you wasting *this* on him!”
Al tells Sam that in two days, the Russians are going to shoot down a U2 spy plane. He (Sam) needs to get his bride to call her Dad (a U.S. Senator) to contact Ike and call off the mission. Sam sees through Al’s mission directive and puzzles out that it is coming from some place other than “Ziggy.” He forces Al to show him what Ziggy says, and according to the hand-held supercomputer, Sam’s mission is to help his new wife pass the Bar Exam.
Sam heads back to check on his wife and he finds another man pushing her down the train hallway. She calls out for Sam/Tom as we head to a commercial break.
Coming back from the break, Sam pulls “Diane” away from a tall blonde haired man with a European (German?) accent. We’ll say German for now. The German man pulls out a switch blade. In return, Sam pulls out his pistol.
The newcomer is Diane’s ex-husband. She failed to mention to Tom/Sam prior to their wedding that she had been married once before. The ex-husband gets off the train but I suspect we will be seeing him again. After he leaves, Diane gives Sam more information. The ex-husband is an arms smuggler. Her previous marriage was one where she was essentially a prisoner in her own home. She is deeply worried that her ex-husband will murder her new husband. Is it plausible that the daughter of a U.S. Senator would find herself in that type of situation?
We return to the “present” and the U.S. Senate. Al promises the committee that Sam will prevent the U2 spy mission from occurring. The committee gives Quantum Leap forty-eight hours to alter history, or else they will pull funding from the project.
Al checks back in with Sam where he and Diane are having a “getting to know each other” type conversation despite being married. It appears that Sam has delayed his honeymoonish, uh, expectations, for as long as is possible. The two newlyweds head in different directions to… get ready. Al and Sam now have a moment to talk so they get up to speed. Sam feels morally opposed to sleeping with a woman he does not love. Al informs Sam, “I have loved every woman I have ever slept with… at the time I slept with them.” In addition, Sam lets Al know that Diane’s ex-husband attempted to kidnap her. Al finds out – to his disappointment – that Sam did not convince Diane to call her father regarding the U2 mission.
Al: Oh Sam, you’re going to have to face a beautiful woman who wants to spend the entire night making mad passionate love to you. It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it.
Sam asks God for a sign regarding whether or not this is really *His* will. Just as he asks for a sign, Diane walks out in some 1960s honeymoon sexy time garb. “Oh boy!”
Just as the newlyweds are finally about to do some newlywed things, Diane sees her ex-husband, Roget, through the train window. I guess with that name we can assume he is French.
Sam heads down the train corridor to alert the conductor about the trouble on the train. For some reason, he goes alone. Just as he leaves the compartment, he bumps into someone who appears to covertly swipe his pistol. Sam, unaware, proceeds down the hallway. He finds Roget. They sit and chat. The psychotic ex-husband was apparently in the French Resistance and committed war crimes. He even killed his own mother! Sam suddenly realizes that his gun is gone. Al then lets Sam know that Tom McBride was murdered on this train in 1960, with a knife thrust into his heart.
Sam exits the conversation with Roget and talks to the train conductor. He and Al walk down the train corridor back toward Sam and Diane’s compartment. Al informs Sam that unless he gets the U2 mission canceled, the Quantum Leap project is going to be de-funded. Sam does not care until it occurs to him that if the project is canceled, Al will no longer be able to contact him.
Back in the train compartment, Sam asks Diane to call her father. She says that her dad is away and will be unreachable for a week. Meanwhile, we see Roget’s henchman (the one who swiped Sam’s gun) knock out the train conductor and pull the emergency brake cord.
While Sam helps Diane to study for the Bar, he hears a noise. The train is stopping. Soon thereafter, we see Roget and his bad guy assistant kicking in the compartment door. Sam has already existed a parked train via the window. The two bad guys climb out the window in pursuit.
A fight happens. Some gunshots happen. Sam appears to lose both bad guys in the pursuit outside the train. And he manages to re-board as it begins moving again. After getting back aboard the train, he acquires a pistol from the train porter and returns to his compartment with Diane. As he is telling her that “it’s over” Roget shows back up and points a gun at his back. Sam uses the gun he got from the porter to shoot Roget. Roget had been under the belief that Sam/Tom was unarmed.
Back in the Senate Committee, we learn that the U2 spy mission was not stopped. We further learn that the Senator who has been speaking with Al throughout this episode once won an election against Diane.
We cut back to Sam. He helps Diane learn a particular nuance related to the 14th Amendment. She remarks that had she not learned that, half of her constitutional law answers may have been incorrect. Sam then leaps.
After Sam’s leap, Al watches in real time as the Senator he *had* been talking to becomes a three and a half decades older Diane. Senator Diane McBride approves continued funding for the Quantum Leap project.
The show ends as we see Sam disco dancing.
If the Quantum Leap machine were real, it might erase Season 1 and make this episode the new pilot episode. Well, no, that would not actually work. We would still need the world-building from last season. But… this was a MUCH better TV show than anything we saw in Season 1.
The writers committed to a few things in the Season 2 premiere that helped the story immensely.
- God is in charge of the project. This serves as an explanation for how the leaps are chosen.
- Al believably walks the line between high ranking military officer and womanizer for the first time. You *can* be both things simultaneously. He never managed a balance in Season 1.
- Sam (and the show) confront the icky nature of maintaining someone else’s romantic relationships while occupying their body. Related to that…
- Sam stopped falling into insta-love with the attractive co-lead of the week. This was an improvement. His tendency to do that during Season 1 was irritating. I think Sam works better as a character when he is a squeaky clean, highly moral, contrast to his shades of gray sidekick, Al.
- We now know more of the time travel rules of the show, too. If Sam changes something in the past, nobody in the present (1995) will know anything changed except for Al. Nobody looked on in shock – except for Al – as the Senate Committee Chair changed from one person to another. Unfortunately, and as a result, it will be difficult to “prove” that any changes are occurring should the government ask again.
Beyond the big picture improvements to the show, I thought this particular episode was good and well-written, too. The show leaned into drama with comedic elements instead of the other way around. As a result, the pacing was better. The episode flew by as I watched.
The drama of the episode was layered and great. We had the drama of Sam not wanting to sleep with someone else’s wife while on someone else’s honeymoon. We had the drama of Quantum Leap being de-funded. We had the drama of a psychopathic killer. And Roget was a believable threat to Sam. Sam got through the challenge of this leap in a believable way. He did not suddenly have a physical talent (boxing, rodeo, etc.) that made no sense for him to have. His genius was not used as a plot device. The show again avoided making any major changes to real history.
Job well done, Quantum Leap. This was much better.
Diane McBride was played by Alice Adair. Alice is probably most well known for being the ex-wife of Josh “Thanos” Brolin, and the mother of Trevor and Eden Brolin.