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 & CLEAN SUMMARY:
Sam leaps into the body of a woman for the first time. He navigates through workplace misogyny and sexual harassment in 1961 while helping his host’s roommate, Gloria, refrain from committing suicide.
After talking Gloria off a literal edge, Sam sets his female host and Gloria up for a glass-ceiling busting career in automotive design.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Sam has leaped into someone taking a bath. He hears a woman call for “Sam” and is happy to be in a host where he will be called by his own name. After zipping up a dress for said woman, she mentions to Sam that she better hurry up or risk being late for a new job.
On her way out the door, she calls Sam “Miss Youngest Executive Secretary at the Company.” Sam rubs some steam off the bathroom mirror and sees a young attractive woman staring back at him. Al appears immediately and starts hitting on Sam. Sam is surprised that Al sees him… as her. Al clarifies.
Of course I see you as her. Back in the waiting room, I see her as you. That’s how it works, don’t you remember?
That actually clears up some confusion I have had. Sam’s real body is still alive playing host to the people he temporarily displaces while leaping. That’s good to know. Al lets us know that the project “shrink” has been called upon to help Samantha. She is struggling with being in Sam’s body. As a result of Samantha’s struggles, Al does not have information, yet, on what Sam’s job is while in Samantha’s body.
Sam narrates. He is in Detroit, Michigan, 1961. He seems to have figured out how to dress himself as a woman. Scott Bakula is wearing a very fashionable coat and hat and walking poorly in heels.
Sam’s friend: You should have worn a girdle.
Sam: I’m not into bondage.
Well, perhaps I should say Sam mostly dressed himself. He pulls off his heels to run across the street to catch the bus. Once there, his friend notices that he is not wearing stockings. “You’re such a bohemian.”
At the office, Sam’s friend is now crying. Her already married “fiance” got a promotion. This promotion was supposed to be the catalyst for him leaving his wife. It was not. To make matters worse, this man did not even hire her as his secretary.
When Sam awkwardly navigates a pencil skirt to sit down at her desk, a man approaches and sits down on top of her desk. He starts flirting with (sexually harassing?) Sam and suggests that she can call him “Big John.”
I’m gonna call you dead if you don’t get out of my face.
Sam’s boss tells “Big John” to get back to work and calls Sam into his office. When Sam walks in, the boss is standing just inside the door in such a way that “she” walks past him. Sam hears the boss close the door behind her. Her boss is leering at her. We find out that getting the job, over other “eligible” candidates, means that her married boss has the expectation that she date him. This married boss is named Buddy.
Sam finally succeeds in putting him off. Buddy then changes his approach and tells her that his wife will be too intoxicated to even greet him when he gets home from work. He also tells her to “put on some makeup, you’re representing Buddy Wright out there.”
We later find Sam in front of a bathroom mirror attempting to put lipstick on. Al shows up again. He comments that it’s a shame that the wet lipstick look is not in style, yet. He then bemoans the cruelty of time packaging his best friend inside the body of the Goddess of Love. Al tells Sam that he is seeing the project psychiatrist over his mixed feelings.
Just then, Sam’s host’s best friend – we now know her name is Gloria – runs into the bathroom. The married person she has been dating told her that he is leaving his wife. She is very excited. Al tells Sam that this is why Sam is here. The married man – Buddy from the previous scene – does not in fact leave his wife. When Gloria finds out that “Mr. Wrong won’t marry her” she commits suicide. Sam’s mission is therefore to prevent a suicide.
In the next scene, back at home, we see Sam complaining about what women wear.
They get up every day and perform this weird binding ritual. And for what?
Gloria comes into the room where Sam is attempting to undress. She assists. We hear more about Gloria’s relationship with Buddy. His wife drinks too much and is having an affair. Buddy has told her that she is his only hope and that he said so makes her feel special.
Sam tries to convince Gloria that she does not need Buddy to feel special. He does not succeed in convincing her.
“Iacocca‘s got Eisenhower talking for him at $1,000 a plate.” At the next scene, we see Buddy chatting up someone named Ted and Sam notices that he succeeds in life as much through manipulation as through his good looks. Ted is a car executive. Buddy is trying to sell him a car design. Sam and cannot help but roll his eyes at Buddy’s belief that Americans will want chrome and horsepower as much ten years from this moment as they apparent did in 1961.
Sam – who we must remember is on occasion a super-genius and is always a time-traveler – interrupts the presentation to ask “what about fuel economy?” When Buddy recovers from Sam’s surprise question and points out that he has designed a larger fuel tank, Sam retorts again with “how much will it cost to fill up?” The look on Buddy’s face implies he is weighing the ramifications of firing her on the spot. Instead, he sends her to go fetch coffee.
S: How do you like your coffee?
B: I like mine like I like my women. Hot and sweet.
The two men then ogle her as she goes. The camera makes a point of showing and lingering on Scott Bakula’s backside as he goes.
At the coffee station, Sam runs into Gloria. He appears to be overwhelmed emotionally and Gloria says, well,
G: Aww, that time of the month, huh?
S: I just wanna go home.
Gloria asks Sam if she can be gone while Buddy comes by their apartment tonight. Sam – who still cannot get over Buddy’s pitch meeting – snipes that “if Buddy’s planning your future the way he’s planning this company we’re all in big trouble.”
That night Sam returns ome from work, wearing different clothing than he had on earlier (including a pink hat box) and Gloria is hurriedly trying to get her to leave. Sam suggests that the three of them discuss Gloria’s future as a group.
Buddy arrives carrying a small white dog named Bubbles. He sees Samantha and states that he did not know they were roommates. He then alludes to the idea of seeing both of them… simultaneously. Buddy asks Samantha to take Bubbles for a walk. After Gloria asked, too, Sam agrees. Not long after Sam is on the street, the light from her upstairs apartment turns off and Al appears. Bubbles can see Al and barks at him.
Al lets us know that the company psychiatrist believes he has repressed homosexual tendencies and that he cannot perform with his girlfriend Teena – leading her to believe he is having an affair. Al is quite desperate for Sam to be in a new body. Al eventually exits the scene / imaging chamber by walking out into traffic. Sam yells for him to look out before remembering that he is a hologram.
The following morning, Gloria is in a great mood. In fact, she is intentionally giving a bit of “a thrill” to their peeping Tom neighbor right up until Sam covers her up. Gloria tells Sam that Buddy is not leaving his wife until after the holidays because it would otherwise be too hard on his children. Sam points out that the end of “the holidays” is months away. Gloria is furious that Sam is trying to spoil this for her. In her fury, she lets Sam know that Samantha had a similar relationship with a man named Tony (who did not leave his wife for Samantha, either.)
That night, Sam and Gloria are forced to attend a double date set up by Samantha’s mother. Samantha’s date paws at her to such an extent that Sam eventually knocks him off his chair in the middle of the restaurant. Sam then excuses himself to the lady’s room and talks to Al. While he is gone, Gloria sees Buddy and his wife walk into the restaurant. Gloria leaves her date and crosses the restaurant to introduce herself to Buddy’s wife. Gloria informs Mrs. Wright that she understands that the divorce will be difficult and that she will make it as easy on the children as possible. In turn, Mrs. Wright informs Gloria that they have an “arrangement” in their marriage and that Buddy will never give up the status he acquired when marrying her.
Gloria is devastated by this news.
A moment later, Gloria’s date interrupt’s Sam in the lady’s room to inform her that Gloria approached a table, talked to an attractive woman, became very upset, and then ran out of the restaurant.
Sa-man-tha / Sam-antha takes a cab home and sees when she arrives that Gloria is standing outside of their upper floor’s open window. Sam races up to their floor and climbs out the window to talk her back inside. Sam eventually succeeds by asking her if she wants Buddy to think that she killed herself over him.
The journey back inside was not easy. Gloria wore heels outside because of course she did. One of those heels caught on the landing and a piece of it felt out from beneath her feet. Sam braces herself in the window to avoid falling and Gloria crawls over her to get back inside. Sam follows her back inside though not before some scaffolding fell out from her feet, too.
While the two women are recovering from what just happened, they talk. Gloria confesses that she hates being a secretary and that she wants instead to design cars. Sam says, “then do it” which is met by incredulity. Sam says that she will probably have to be twice as good as her male counterparts to be considered an equal. However, Sam believes she has to try. The theory is that if Gloria does what she loves, she will learn to love herself. According to Sam, if she does not learn to love herself, nobody else will either – except for people like Buddy.
Sam does not leap. We learn from Al that Samantha and Gloria both enroll in design school, Gloria marries the guy she met on the date earlier that night, and that Samantha proved to such a talented automobile designer that she ended up in charge of an entire division.
Ziggy’s theory about why Sam has not leaped is that Samantha is supposed to get revenge on Buddy for chasing her around the office earlier in the episode. It is implied that Sam’s desire for that revenge – not Samantha’s desire – is driving events.
In the next scene, Sam wears a very revealing dress and sexually harasses her boss, Buddy. Of course, Buddy is into it, so it probably does not qualify as harassment. As the two of them are close together on Buddy’s office furniture, Sam suddenly reveals to Buddy that she is a man. After a few more moments of conversation, Buddy eventually becomes convinced. Then he is horrified. Sam begins demonstrating the manly things about himself – how he walks, how he stands, and then how he can throw some punches. After about three punches to Buddy’s face, he is out on the floor. Sam takes her purple heels off, lays them on his unconscious back, and then leaps.
He finds himself in a concert hall, in front of an audience, blind and at a piano. Oh boy.
I am not sure how I felt about this episode so I am going to work through my feelings by writing about them.
Let’s start with Al. His physical attraction to Sam’s host was initially humorous. I think the joke of Al’s discomfort with his feelings of attraction to Sam went a little too far, though. It bothered him so much that he had to actually see a psychiatrist? What made the opening scene so funny was that Al’s discomfort was used to instill discomfort in Sam. When Sam went from uncomfortable to irritated about the situation, Al’s continued awkwardness just became, well, awkward and unfunny
Sam adjusted to being a woman too easily, in my opinion. He struggled with dressing, make-up, and being harassed. However, he did not struggle much. Would the real Samantha have threatened a male co-worker with violence in 1961? Would the real Samantha have gotten away with punching her date at a restaurant? Maybe. It felt like the lesson that Sam taught us in this episode is that life for women would be better if they acted more like men. I would have liked the episode more if there had been some balance. Morally progressive Sam did not really learn any lessons through this experience, about how to treat women, that he did not already know.
Gloria and Samantha felt like caricatures of women that had to become fleshed out people throughout the episode. Samantha obtained that existential awakening via Sam. He sets her on a path to better utilizing her design talent. Gloria had to be convinced that her life had more value than as a wife to whoever would have her. I suppose facing her own death was enough to scare her into a worldview change.
How did I feel about the final scene? On the one hand, I liked the choice to use Buddy’s objectification against him. “Looks can be deceiving.” On the other hand, it felt like a cheat that Sam could punch out a larger athletic man with a woman’s comparatively smaller frame. The scene did play into the theme that women would be better off if they could act more like men. But wouldn’t there be actual consequences for doing so? Sam never suffered those consequences.
All in all, this episode was okay. I just wish it had included some growth opportunities for Sam.