Welcome back to Quantum Leap, Season 2. There are spoilers ahead for this episode, so unless you have access to the good people at the Quantum Leap project, you will see words you cannot un-see if you proceed.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Sam arrives in the body of David, a Jewish Rabbi. His mission is to prevent his sister-in-law Irene from having an affair with sleazy author, Bert, who has been using Irene’s grief over the loss of her son Danny to manipulate her into a close confidence. Sam’s adjacent mission is to repair the cascading relational damage to his host’s brother Joe and Irene’s family that resulted from Danny’s death.
After several failed attempts to get through to his host’s brother, Joe, Sam eventually has success by accident. Sam rushes to Joe’s beach house to find Irene and prevent her from having an affair with Bert. He succeeds. The accidental success though was that Joe followed him there wrongly believing his Rabbi brother was having an affair with his wife. The confrontation resulted in a long-overdue tearful conversation that brought Joe and Irene back together. The following day, Sam’s mission was completed when he convinced Joe to talk to their teenage daughter Karen, reconcile with her, too, and let her know that he loves her.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Sam narrates about the previous episode and his life as a 1950s DJ…
Just as I was getting into the groove of things the big bopper decided I should change my tune.
Sam leaps into the body of a Jewish Rabbi, David. He is not only the rabbi, he is slated to deliver a sermon in moments. As we cut to the intro music… “oy veh, I’m the rabbi.” The more times I watch this show, the more the theme song grows on me. There’s something about the music in combination with the camera view sweeping over the clouds like a fighter jet… what is it that the kids say? It slaps? It slaps.
My memory is insisting that at some point we’ll get an equally epic intro narration to go with the music. All things in their time, I suppose.
Sam apparently survives the sermon. We find him after, in a crowded reception, Locomotion playing in the background, and February 2, 1974 pops across the screen. I spoke too soon. Sam is asked to come give a blessing over the bread at the reception.
At the last moment, Al appears and gives him the words of blessing… in Hebrew. Dr. Beckett knows a bunch of ancient languages when his brain is not Swiss cheese. It seems odd that he would miss this one. In any event, hologram Al, smoking a cigar, explains that his third wife was Jewish. He picked some things up. Al has to guide Sam through the Horah (a traditional Jewish circle dance) and quips that he hopes Sam never leaps into a Rockette.
Sam meets a few of the people in attendance. Joe seems sullen. Bert asks Joe about never seeing him at the beach and Joe says that he bought a second house and never gets to use it. Bert sees Sam and makes a reference to the “fascinating sermon” he gave that morning and asks if he can quote Sam in a book he is writing. (Now I’m really intrigued by how Sam got through that religious service to begin the episode.) A woman named Irene asks Joe to dance but he declines. Irene appears to be Joe’s wife, actually. Bert takes her to the dance floor instead. Sam mentions to Joe that he should have danced with her and…
Is that advice from my rabbi or my brother? Because I don’t need it from either.
We see a group of women at a table gossiping about Bert and find out that he has been a widower for two years and he is still grieving. Sam is invited by one of the women to sit down. He does. This seems to spur two of them to leave. One of the two leaving women again refers to his sermon and says that it was great. (WHAT DID HE TALK ABOUT?!) The woman who invited him to sit asks if she can talk to him. They set an appointment for the following day at “noon-ish.” Then she leaves quickly.
Al reappears. He tells Sam that his mission is to prevent Irene – who we met earlier – from having an adulterous and life ruining one night stand in 36 hours.
Sam: I can’t believe that.
Al: Neither can I. What’s wrong with a good old fashioned one night stand?
Some time later, we appear to be at Joe’s home. Sam is sitting with Joe’s teenage daughter, Karen, looking at presents she was given by Michael Kornblum. She asks her dad if he saw the presents that she had been given and he gives a distant answer – like her question woke him from a dream. Suddenly Joe stands up and says that he needs to fill up his gas tank. [In 1974, there was a gasoline shortage. As a result, people often purchased gas before it was needed in order to avoid long lines during a morning commute to work.] On Joe’s way out, he instructs Karen to tell her mother where he has gone. She asks to go with him and he declines to invite her. He instead tells David/Sam to come with him.
In the car, we find out that Sam/David and his brother Joe are UCLA Bruins basketball fans. Joe reminisces about attending games with their father. He scoffs at the idea of taking Karen, arguing that the games are a father-son activity, and then Joe says that he and Irene used to go together but no longer do.
We don’t do anything anymore. In fact, for the first time in twenty-two years, I’ve been thinking about having an affair.
I guess that’s as good a note as any to leave on for a commercial break.
When we return, Sam and Al are discussing Joe’s confession. Al gives the advice that you might expect Al to give:
Well, maybe they both should have one. Get it out of their system.
Al goes on with more thought put into that argument than I would havd thought. However, Sam counters and suddenly makes a philosophical argument unnecessarily personal.
That’s ridiculous! Fidelity is the basis of a good relationship. Of course, I couldn’t expect you to understand that, could I?
Sam’s conversation with Al is interrupted by Irene. She kicks him out of the kitchen and tells him to go relax. We next see Sam playing a board game with Joe and Irene’s daughter Karen. Karen asks him if he ever wants to be married. Sam answers maybe someday. She tells him that she does want to be married. Karen suddenly become upset when Sam picks up a guitar. “That’s Danny’s guitar.”
At dinner, Irene is trying to get Joe to admit that the meat is a little tough. Joe, however, insists that it is fine. Sam tells the table that he believes he upset Karen by wanting to play Danny’s guitar. Irene says that perhaps it is time that somebody plays it. Joe becomes upset.
Sam narrates that the family is being torn apart because nobody wants to deal with Danny’s death.
After the uncomfortable dinner, Sam talks to Irene while she is cleaning Danny’s room. She talks about her good memories of Danny. She tells Sam/David that Danny laughed when she and Joe told Danny they were nervous about Danny going backpacking in Europe with his friend Mark. Irene tells David/Sam that Danny convinced her to talk Joe into letting him go. She did. However, Danny’s plane crashed on the way to his destination and Joe now blames Irene for the loss of his son. Irene blames herself, too. As she is crying to Sam/David, the two nearly kiss each other.
In the next scene, we see Sam ranting to Al in disbelief that *he* is Irene’s lover. Al asks Sam to promise that he will not have an affair with Irene then says “let’s leap.” Nothing happens. They realize that mending Joe and Irene’s family is part of the mission, too.
Al: I never realized how much family meant to me until after [inaudible] was gone.
Sam does not address Al’s statement and replies by wishing he could go home, too. I listened to this sentence about 5 times and could not figure out what name Al gives here. Ruthie? Ludy? I have no idea.
In the next scene, we see a bake sale and it is attended by most of the same people we saw at the sermon when Sam arrived. Irene is talking to Bert the widower. He suggests that Irene talk to him for his book. He tells her it might be therapeutic.
Sam is distracted from keeping tabs on Irene. First, he must give the Heimlich Maneuver to a man choking on food. Second, he is pulled aside by a woman who we met earlier in the episode, regarding an appointment with her set to occur at “noonish.” She now reminds him of that and asks to speak with him somewhere privately.
Outside, she confesses to having an affair with Bert. While she was grieving the loss of her father, her husband Howard “did not understand,” and Bert approached her with an offer to talk to him about her loss. Bert said it was for research purposes, for his book. One thing led to another. Sam seems to suddenly realize something. He tells the woman he is speaking with to schedule another appointment to talk. Then he rushes inside to talk to Irene.
Sam encourages Irene to go away for the weekend with Joe. Irene notes that she and Joe have not been to their beach house in over a year and she seems optimistic about going with Joe.
Later that night, we see Joe come home. Sam/David and Irene have their bags packed and plan to surprise him. Joe says he cannot go away this weekend. “I have too much to do. I brought work home.” Irene insists and Joe tells her to go without him. Eventually the argument boils over and Joe says, regarding his brother (Sam),
Joe: Well, if he’s so smart, why didn’t you marry him?
Irene: Maybe I should have.
Joe and Irene storm off in separate directions. Suddenly we hear Karen’s voice chiming in, “I wish mom were married to you, too, Uncle David.” She goes on to state that her father does not love her, he loved her brother.
Al reappears. They both now know that Irene is slated by history to have a life-destroying affair with Bert sometime very soon. Al lets us know that Bert is not even a widower. He merely uses the lie about being a widower to lure women in for “his book research.”
After a commercial break, we find Joe holding a picture of himself with Danny. Karen comes into the room. Joe asks his daughter where her Uncle David went and she tells him that he asked for directions to the beach house.
At the beach house, Irene is talking to sleazy Bert. (I feel like Bert would have enjoyed the movie Wedding Crashers.) He and Irene begin to kiss when she pulls back and says “this is wrong.” Bert appears to be well-practiced with that reaction and he tells her that “it’s alright to feel good, Irene.” He kisses her again and she pulls back again. “I have never done this before.” Bert says “neither have I” and at this point the two of them start making out on the beach house couch.
Sam arrives and knocks on the door. Irene tells Sam that they were talking about their grief and Bert confirms this. Addressing Bert, though, he says “only hers was real.” The truth comes out. Irene is understandably outraged.
Sam: Emotional rape is a crime.
Bert: It’s not rape, it’s research.
Irene: Well I will not be researched! *slap*
Bert scurries away. Enter Joe. He now believes Irene and David/Sam are having an affair. Sam chases him outside. Joe hits Sam and Al appears.
Sam, he hit you! That’s great! That means he loves her.
After Joe punches Sam again Irene runs outside. Sam tells of Joe for blaming Irene for Danny’s death. Joe finally breaks down crying. He and Irene reconcile. Al tells us that Joe and Irene eventually write a book to help grieving parents deal with the loss of a child. However… Sam does not leap away.
In the next scene, we see Joe, Irene, Karen, and Sam at David’s grave. Karen is standing alone and by herself. Sam tells Joe that he needs to reconcile with Karen, too. “You lost a son Joe, don’t lose a daughter, too.”
Joe and Karen hug, he tells her that he loves her, Irene hugs them both, and Sam finally leaps away.
Sam has arrived in the body of a young man with downs syndrome.
Sam: I’m retarded?
I really enjoyed this episode. But I do have a couple of critiques.
I am disappointed that we never find out what sermon Sam the Rabbi delivered. After hinting about it more than once, it felt unfair for the writers to not provide us with an answer.
My disappointment extends to Sam as a character. Al talks about losing someone, and that loss making him understand the value of family, and Sam outright ignores Al’s statement and re-shifts the conversation back to himself. Sam also took a very unnecessary cheap shot at Al over “not understanding” fidelity. Wholesome Sam is difficult to like sometimes.
With that bit of negativity out of the way I really enjoyed this episode. Season 2 Al, who shows up to work and does his job, is a much improved character from Season 1. His Horah dance is one of the highlights of the entire episode. Al’s trademark hazy morals – and lack of fidelity – play as comedy in this episode more successfully than in past episodes. You can laugh with someone you like – even when they’re wrong or they’re making questionable decisions. With each episode, Al, warts and all, is becoming easier to like.
In past episodes, a line from Al like, “What’s wrong with a good old fashioned one night stand?” might have landed like a lead balloon. However, with the character’s growth, it was one of this episode’s funniest lines.Al has gone from someone who should be unceremoniously fired from the project to someone whose character growth and arc I am invested in.
The show did a really effective job of making my skin crawl during that scene where Bert almost successfully seduces Irene. Aside from being an all-too-realistic villain, everything about Bert was gross. He *looks* gross. There is something visually effective, in creating anxiety, by pairing someone very attractive with someone much less attractive. It is as though my brain rejected the idea of the two of them together without an adequate explanation. (Seriously, just imagine the most visually attractive person you know being seduced by someone far less attractive.) Your brain will not like it. Or maybe there is something fundamentally wrong with me. That’s a completely valid option, too. Let’s move on.
Sam was not the best in this episode and that goes beyond just his unprovoked attack of Al. He seems to struggle with his instinct to romantically comfort Irene. There were also a couple of times when Karen (the teenager) and Sam’s interactions were toeing the line of being creepy. They locked eyes for just a little too long, maybe? It did not distract from the episode much but I definitely noticed it. In that way, this episode actually touches on an area for Sam to grow as a character. In season 1, Sam fell in love with almost every love interest of his host. In season 2, his tendencies for that are still present, and it is still a struggle, but he is handling those situations better. This episode was at times a struggle for him.
It appears that our next episode will touch on downs syndrome. In 2020, in the U.S., use of the word “retarded” is frowned on as a slur. In 1989, though, the term was still largely used in its medical sense. The next episode might be a strong demonstration of how much a culture can change and language can evolve in just three decades.