Quantum Leap (Season 2, Ep 19): A Portrait For Troian

Welcome back to my episode-by-episode recap and reaction to Quantum Leap. There are spoilers ahead and time travelers from the future will most likely not help you undo seeing what you cannot unsee. If you want to read on, you have been warned. If you want to alleviate the issue of spoilers altogether, go find this episode on the NBC App and meet me back here in about an hour.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

Sam leaps into the body of Dr. Timothy Mintz, a parapsychologist who has been hired by Troian Claridge to solve the mystery of why she is hearing the voice of her husband three years after his death by drowning. Her late husband Julian’s body was never found. Sam does not believe in ghosts. Al does. The two time travelers run into problems in this leap because Dr. Mintz’s paranormal seeking equipment interferes with their Quantum Leap equipment in such a way that it makes Al’s voice audible to people other than Sam. Sam and Al suspect Jimmy, Troian’s brother, and/or Miss Stoltz, the creepy housekeeper, may be responsible for the voice that Troian is hearing.

Ultimately, they discover that Jimmy has planted battery powered electronic devices around his sister’s estate in an attempt to make her believe she is hearing her late husband, thus driving her crazy, and thereby giving him access to her money. When Jimmy’s plan does not work, he throws his sister into a lake to drown. Sam tackles Jimmy into the water just after he does this and he subsequently manages to pull Troian from the water. Jimmy never resurfaces.

As the episode ends, an earthquake shakes loose the body of Troian’s late husband from the bottom of the lake. It also shakes loose the bodies of two Claridges who died in the lake in the 1800s. After noticing the body of the woman from the 1800s was identical to the creepy housekeeper, Miss Stoltz, Sam leaps away.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

Sam leaps to a cemetery during a thunder storm. He is wearing a long coat and a fedora. A woman wearing white appears to him from the door of the adjacent mausoleum and asks if he heard a voice calling for Troian. He tells the woman that they need to take cover and she runs back inside the building. We hear a wolf howling outside now.

Inside, we see what looks like a dot matrix printer or some kind of seismic reader. The woman says something there “are Julian’s” and she asks how can that be because Julian has been dead for three years. She then approaches the bust of a sculpture. I assume that this bust is the late Julian. Sam looks as confused and weirded out by all of this as I feel.

The episode heading tells us that Sam has arrived at February 7, 1971.

Sam and the woman leave the tomb and go inside the house. They meet her creepy housekeeper. The creepy housekeeper tells Sam that they cannot start a fire because animals nest in the chimney. As the housekeeper leaves to get drinks, Sam says “if it’s not too much trouble.” She replies that if Sam (she calls him Doctor) wanted to save our unnamed woman in white trouble, he would not be here.

Finally the woman in white tells Miss Stoltz (the housekeeper) that Dr. Mintz (Sam) is her guest and that he is to be made welcome in her home. Our woman in white is apparently called “Mistress Claridge.”

A younger man named Jimmy enters the room sporting a GLORIOUS mullet. He is apparently Mistress Claridge’s brother as he calls her “sis.” Jimmy almost immediately refers to Dr. Mintz (Sam) as a quack. Jimmy tells his sister that Julian is dead. He also calls his sister by her apparent first name, Troian, so I will now struggle for the rest of this episode to avoid typing her name as Trojan. Jimmy reiterates to Troian that Julian is dead. She gets angry with her brother and tells him that she knows Julian is dead but she nevertheless heard his voice. She tells us that Dr. Mintz is an accredited parapsychologist and that he is here to help her.

She excuses herself to her room to take a hot bath and bids Dr. Mintz (Sam) a good night. Once she leaves, Jimmy turns on Sam. Jimmy says that he spent a lot of money getting Troian psychological help after Julian died. He then accuses Sam of being there to make money from her without care for what might happen to her as a result of his work.

The housekeeper returns with the previously requested hot toddies. Sam – who seems like the kind of person who would ordinarily have a huge problem with Dr. Mintz – is taking great offense at Jimmy’s accusations. He has something of a stare-down with Jimmy and tells him that he should take his sister her drink. After Jimmy leaves, Sam takes his drink from Miss Stoltz. She informs him that someone called saying she had clippings he had asked for. She tells Sam that she told the woman he would drive into town, in the morning, to pick the clippings up. Miss Stoltz tells Sam that strangers are not welcome here – clearly referring to him. She leaves.

As Sam is about to take a drink of the hot toddy, Al arrives and advises him not to drink anything made by her. He says that he felt like Miss Stoltz could see him. Al tells Sam that all the Claridges in their family graveyard have died violent and unnatural deaths. Al tells Sam that Julian drowned in the lake outside three years ago. He also tells Sam that Dr. Mintz is “crazy about” Troian based on their conversation in “the waiting room.” Al tells Sam that his mission is to prevent Troian from drowning in the same lake her husband died in three days from now.

Troian is wandering through the hallways of her large home, carrying an oversized candle, where water is on the floor. She follows the water to a room, opens the door, and screams. Sam and Jimmy come running. There is a painting inside. It is one Troian was working on when Julian died. Jimmy says that he though she destroyed the painting and she says that she did by throwing it in the lake.

In the next scene, we see Troian explaining to Sam what happened on the day that Julian died. She says she was painting home on a boat in the middle of a lake as artwork for a book he was writing. He started clowning around and ended up in the lake. Despite being an excellent swimmer he never surfaced and no body was discovered. She tells him that the first time she heard him was the night that searchers stopped looking for his body. She has never heard him away from home, though. Sam intimates that she might miss him so much she is imagining his voice and she loudly denies it. She also points out that he sent a painting to her. (Not sure if this is relevant, but she has been wearing all-white in every scene on the episode so far.) She tells Sam that she made a promise to Julian that their love would keep him alive and that he would not end up like the rest of the Claridges. Sam tells her that she is not responsible for a promise beyond her power to keep, no matter how sincerely made.

She looks at the lake water and tells Sam that she cannot stand the thought of him down under the water, all alone, in the dark. She faints and Sam catches her before she can fall into the water.

Back inside, Al – who seems to believe in ghosts – thinks that Julian wants someone to cuddle him under the water. Sam believes that someone is trying to drive Troian insane and he suspects that person is Miss Stoltz. However, Ziggy does not give them a reason to suspect her or Jimmy. Al points out that two other Claridges are at the bottom of the lake – drowned intentionally by an angry spouse over an affair in the 1800s.

Sam and Al look at Dr. Mintz’ survey equipment and note that “it’s not bad for ’71.” Sam says that the equipment picks up on brain waves. He says that it noticed his leap in. It also seems to make Al’s voice audible. Jimmy enters the room with a sad looking painting, tells Sam that he is causing problems for Troian, and he says that he will not let Sam drive her “to the nut house.” He advises Sam to be gone by dawn of the following day. That night, Sam read one of Julian and Troian’s novels.

We hear a wolf howling and a voice whispering “Troian. Troooiiiiaaaan.” Troian hears the whisper and runs outside. Sam follows her at a run toward the lake. She is still wearing an all-white night gown, with a white ribbon in her hair, and she approaches the family mausoleum on the estate grounds. She runs inside and starts talking to the bust of Julian’s head that we saw as the episode started. An earthquake begins violently shaking the mausoleum and the entire estate grounds.

Sam picks her up and carries her out of the building. Finally the ground stops shaking.

Later, Sam, Troian, Jimmy, and Miss Stultz are assessing the damage to the house. Miss Stoltz is creepy but she excuses herself after Sam pesters her about what TV shows she watches. Sam asks how Miss Stolz was hired. Troian says that she ran and ad and Miss Stoltz was the only person who replied to the add. She further mentions that Miss Stoltz said she had worked at the property, years earlier, and Troian believed the claim because she knew her way around immediately. Troian explains Stoltz’s strange way of speaking as a by-product of her being Amish or Mennonite, from Pennsylvania.

We see Jimmy repair the family TV using some chewing gum. Troian says that Jimmy is a genius with electronics and always has been. She becomes upset with Sam when he suggests that the readings on his equipment might represents the earthquake rather than Julian’s voice. After she leaves the room, Jimmy smugly asks Sam if she is catching on to him.

Sam goes out to the mausoleum. Al arrives. They discuss the problem of Sam’s brainwave equipment hearing Al. Al says that he does not want anyone hearing him except for Sam. He then excepts from that the possibility of women hearing him.

Sam: You mean like that blonde?
Al: Blonde?
[Sam motions to a skull behind him with blonde hair still attached.]
Al: I’m not into necrophilia.
Sam: At least, something sexual he’s not into.

The two men begin the task of converting Dr. Mintz’ equipment to detect low voltage batteries.

Troian is alone in Julian’s study sitting beside his typewriter. She asks him what he wants. He does not respond. She says aloud that she is taking his silence as goodbye. When she gets up to leave the room, though, she hears “Troooiiiiaaaan” again. She turns around to find that the painting recently retrieved from the lake is wet.

Sam’s converted equipment picks up a battery transmission coming from inside one of the tombs. He finds a tape player inside. Al points out that the tape player is remote controlled and suggests that the other tape players may have started when he got the first one going. Sam points out that it would take an electronic genius to install this equipment. Sam runs toward the house and to Julian’s study. he does not find Troian. However, when his back is turned, he is locked inside the room by someone else. We see Miss Stultz descend the staircase from behind.

Al yells at Ziggy to center him on Troian. Finally Ziggy does just that. He arrives near her before he finishes yelling for Ziggy to send him there. Troian seems to hear him finish yelling after he arrives. Sam opens the second floor window of the room in which he is trapped and prepares to climb down.

Troian begins talking to Julian again in the lake water. She tells him that she loves him and she asks if she must join him to prove it. Al stands near her and whispers “no” and she seems to hear him. Al tells her “I want you to live” and she hears that, too.

Jimmy walks up and says that he has to kill her because he has debts he cannot pay to “bad dudes in Vegas.” He says that he had hoped he could drive her to the nut house, to maintain control over her money, but he realizes now that she will not be going. He confesses that she was going to notice, soon, how much of her money he has already spent. He believes she will cut him loose financially when that happens. The only way to keep a grip on her money is for her to die. Al starts talking to him, as Julian, and Jimmy can hear him. Jimmy pulls electronic equipment from below the dock where they are standing and tosses it into the lake. However, Al continues talking to Jimmy and Jimmy continues to hear him. He then tosses Dr. Mintz’s equipment into the water and Al’s voice can no longer be heard.

Troian runs and Jimmy chases her. The estate is hit by another large earthquake. As Jimmy carries his sister toward the water, we see a body in the lake float toward the surface. Then we see two more bodies float to the surface. After a moment of shock, Jimmy throws his sister into the lake. Suddenly Sam charges toward the lake and tackles Jimmy, sending both of them into the water with Troian. Sam surfaces in the water and Al tells him where to swim to find Troian. A few seconds later, Sam pulls Troian from the water.

Later, a man and a woman – reporters maybe by the way they are dressed – identify the two older bodies as the Claridges who died in the 1800s. The third body is that of Julian. A man tells Sam and Troian that there is no sign of Jimmy. He suggests that Jimmy drowned trying to save her and Troian does not correct him. He says that the bodies must have been shaken free from the bottom of the lake by the earthquake before insisting that Troian come identify her husband.

She does. She speaks with the woman on the scene and invites her inside for tea. She says that she will have her housekeeper, Miss Stoltz, get it for them. The woman is startled. She says that Nathaniel Claridge – the man from the 1800s who just surfaced from the bottom of the lake – had been married to a Stoltz. “She was a Mennonite from Pennsylvania.” They look at the body of the woman who just surfaced from the water and she is identical to Miss Stoltz. The camera cuts away, quickly, to Miss Stoltz watching them from a window and moving back inside the house.

Sam leaps.

REACTION:

I was not expecting to ever have a spooky episode of Quantum Leap. However, this episode not only was exactly that… it was also well done. The quick scene at the end with Miss Stoltz looking at them from the window was chilling (in a network TV kind of way.)

This episode relied pretty heavily on the plot device of Dr. Mintz’s equipment interfering with the Quantum Leap technology in such a way that it picked up on Sam’s brainwaves and Al’s voice. The episode leaned into “spooky” so hard that I was able to suspend my disbelief while watching. In another setting, I might find it a bit more annoying that this type of problem is even possible.

Once disbelief is suspended though, I thought the story was pretty clear and cohesive. Jimmy seemed like the bad guy once we learned he was an electronics whiz. He was never exactly likable – even when asserting that he cares for his sister – so the sudden turnabout from loving brother to murderous brother was not too jarring. All of Miss Stoltz’s strange actions seem explainable by the fact that whether or not she is herself a ghost was left open-ended. I do not need to understand why she (rather than Jimmy) locked Sam in Julian’s study because… ghost.

Funny moment: Sam’s line about finally finding something sexual that Al was not into was the biggest laugh of the episode.

Speaking of Al, he was again great. We have not seen him in this type of setting before however it felt right that he would believe in ghosts and be frightened by almost every aspect of this particular leap. His discomfort with everything was genuinely funny without taking away from the underlying creep factor of the episode.

I thought this must have been a Halloween episode but it actually aired December 13, 1989. Nice job with the, uh, Christmas episode, Quantum Leap.

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