Quantum Leap (Season 2, Ep 23): Her Charm

Welcome back to my episode-by-episode recap of and reaction to Quantum Leap. The spoilers ahead are only through this episode.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

Sam leaps into an FBI agent, Peter Langly, who is assigned the job of protecting a woman, Dana Barrenger, in the Witness Protection Program. We learn that the woman is being tracked by a mobster named Nick Kochifos because she testified against him in court. He continues finding her, because Kochifos has a man on the inside at the FBI.

Sam decides to drive Dana to a cabin that the real Dr. Beckett is familiar with, because it is owned by an MIT professor with whom he invented his string theory. He does this instead of taking the witness to the FBI’s assigned safehouse in Baltimore, because he suspects his supervisor at the FBI is leaking their whereabouts to the mobster. The mobster tracks them down anyway. He has a tracking device planted on the car Sam is driving. It is at this point we learn that Sam’s host, not his supervisor, is the person working with the mobster to kill the witness. However, Sam – who Dana catches talking to Al repeatedly throughout the episode – convinces her that he is mentally ill in such a way that the version of him she is talking to will not harm her. Sam eventually kills the mobster. He leaps after running into his professor briefly and telling him his true identity.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

Sam finds himself at a woman’s door in a suburban neighborhood. She knows who he is but is not happy to see him. A few seconds later, she is hating him a suitcase and asking him where the car is parked. She finds it before Sam does. In the car, Sam still does not know what is going on. She tells him that he needs to drive. Sam replies that he does not know where the keys are.

Last time they were under the seat.

Sam leans down to reach for car keys under the seat. When he does not find them, she leans over to help. While they are both leaned over, another car passes by them on the road. Someone from inside that other car begins firing a machine gun at Sam and the woman.

Woman: Do something, you’re the FBI agent!
Sam: Ooooh boy.

September 26, 1973

When the shooting stops, one of the gunmen gets out of the car and approaches the one Sam and the woman were in. He is surprised that Sam’s car suddenly starts and moves toward him quickly in reverse. The baddie then jumps out of the way as Sam ramps the shooters’ car with his own and then drives away rapidly.

Initially, the baddie car will not start. This allows Sam and the woman to get away. The younger of the two mafioso types fires his gun into the air and tells the neighbors – who are now looking out their open doors and windows – to go back to bed. Once the mob car is moving again, he fires some bullets into neighboring windows as well. The older guy driving the car says that him doing that was “real cute.”

Back in Sam’s car, the woman is now berating him for his stupidity. She says she wants to talk to Richardson, who is apparently Sam’s boss, so that she can have Sam executed. Sam tells her that seeing Richardson will have to wait until she goes to a hospital to get her bleeding stopped. Upon seeing that she is bleeding, the woman faints.

Sam narrates that two hours in emergency gave him time to get in contact with FBI headquarters. He hopes to get the woman, Dana Barrenger, into someone else’s care. Al appears and tells Sam that Dana is in witness protection because she testified against a mob boss named Nick Kochifos. Despite an airtight case, a jury found him not guilty. He has since tried to have her killed twice. Al tells us that Kochifos succeeds in killing her at 3:18 p.m. this afternoon. The camera shows us a clock and it is curerntly 10:43 a.m.

Barrenger is feeling better and berating FBI Agent Greg Richardson. She says that she has avoided death now on more than one occasion through not help of the FBI. Richardson tells her that she should have considered the dangers she would face before getting involved with Kochifos. She explicitly states that she only worked for him. He does not believe her.

Richardson: For twenty-seven months? That’s a long time to wear blinders.

Sam talks to Al and expresses concern that he almost got Dana killed. While Al and Sam are talking about the fact he has leaped into more dangerous situations than this one, Dana stands and the door and observes him apparently talking to himself. She then complains about him talking to himself. Al tells Sam that he should have mentioned Dana is beautiful.

Richardson enters the room next and tells her that she is stuck with Sam for two days until she can be assigned someone else. He tells her that her other option is to be on her own for two days. She storms off. Sam runs out into the hallway and asks where she is going.

Dana: To the ladies’ room. Want to come? [walks off down the hallway]
Richardson: It could be worse.
Sam: How?
Richardson: She could be short, fat, and ugly.

We see the two mob guys in their car outside. The older man tells Nicky, the younger man, that he should not let this woman make him crazy. He says that they did everything right, including getting a man on the inside, and yet they have still missed her twice. He says that God is trying to tell them that He does not want her hit. Nicky says “You’re forgetting something. I want her hit.”

In the hospital, Sam asks Richardson why Kochifos wants to kill Dana after he was acquitted. Richardson explains that this is the mobster’s personality. While they are talking, Richardson lets Sam know that he once almost had Kochifos on conspiracy to commit murder and knows him from that experience. In the background of the scene, Al is yelling at Sam that Dana dies while on the way to Baltimore – which is where Richardson is currently sending them. Richardson tells Sam that he will give him an easier assignment next time and then sends him to get the laundry truck “unless you want to change my back-up plan.” Richardson tells Sam that only two people know where he and Dana are going.

Richardson: So if there is a leak… it’s either you or me. [ominous music]

Sam says he will go check on the laundry truck.

As Sam walks away, Al continues shouting at Sam for not responding to him. Sam – who is still in a very public hallway – finally replies that he was trying to gather information but a ranting person kept breaking his concentration. Sam notices that the FBI Door says Boston on it. Al tells him that they are in Boston and will soon be driving Dana to Baltimore. Sam remembers that he – in real life – used to live in Boston.

Al: Of course you did. You went through four years of MIT in two years. You were the youngest person ever to graduate summa cum, summa whatever.

Sam remembers a cabin in the Berkshires. Al asks, hopefully, if Sam ever engaged in any extracurricular activities there. Sam replies that the cabin is where he and Professor LoNigro came up with the string theory for Quantum Leaping. Al is disappointed in that information. However, Sam decides in the moment that he will take Dana to Professor LoNigro’s cabin instead of going to Baltimore.

Outside, we see a laundry truck drive by the mob car. They recognize what it is and follow it. The older mobster again chides the Nicky for being obsessed with killing Dana. However, they decide to follow the truck.

Later, Sam narrates that they have passed beyond Al’s deadline and that Dana is still alive. However, Sam has not yet leaped. The mob car is still following them from a distance. Dana wakes up and asks Sam why he did not wake her when they stopped for gas. He tells her that they did not stop for gas. She panics that they are going to run out before he shows her the gauge says that they have half a tank. She starts to thank him for saving her life this morning before deciding that on second thought that it was her decision to tell him to start the car that saved their lives. Sam asks her why she is so angry at him and she shouts that he almost got her killed. Twice.

Sam: Well, if I did, it wasn’t intentional.

She tells him that her anger is not personal. She is mad at herself for feeling like a fool. She says that during Kochifos’ trial, she told herself that she was doing her duty as a citizen. Then the jury acquitted him anyway. Sam tries to console her by reminding her that men like him have enemies and that it’s only a matter of time until he ends up in jail or dead. She replies that until then, she will wake up every day looking over her shoulder.

Sam: I won’t let him touch you, Dana. I promise.

Back at the FBI office, an agent reports to Richardson that Dana and Sam did not arrive at the safehouse. Richardson, looking worried, tells the agent to put out an APB between their office and Baltimore.

In the laundry truck, Dana notices mountains through the window and correctly points out that there are no mountains outside of Baltimore. Sam, somewhat sheepishly, tells her that he decided on his own that the safehouse was not safe and that he is taking her somewhere else. She is not pleased.

A few moments later, the mafiosos complain that Sam has not gone to Baltimore and has not even stopped for gas. They decide to just shoot at the laundry truck while it is moving, from their car window. While Dana complains that the truck is moving too slowly, Sam tries to push the other car off the road. It does not work. They decide that Dana should open the back door of the laundry truck and throw bags of laundry at the car behind them. The mobsters become too distracting trying not to wreck their car to shoot at her. They eventually lose control of their car and crash it off the side of the road. Dana runs back to the front passenger seat and hugs Sam.

She then releases her hug and says “no thanks to you.”

On the side of the road, the two mobsters discuss the car. It starts. Kochifos opens the trunk and reveals that he has possession of FBI electronic surveillance equipment and that an electronic tracking device inside the laundry truck will allow him to find it regardless of where they go.

That night, we see Sam and Dana arguing. She points out that he appears to be lost. He tells her that if he is going to be shot at, he deserves a lot less grief. He goes on to tell her that he admires her for testifying against Nick and that he does not think it is right that the system did not work for her. She asks if he really means that and points out that Richardson makes her feel like she is the one who is a criminal and that up until today, so did Sam. Sam apologizes to her on behalf of Peter Langly (his host.) He then asks for a truce.

Dana: Like the one we had in New Orleans?
Sam: Better.
Dana: Pete, remember that night, when you told me, that if things were different, that if you and I were… well we’re not and nothing can change that… I just wanted you to know that I wish they were different.

When Sam and Dana walk up to the door, Sam notes that the place has not changed. She asks when he last visited and he says “summer of ’73” but has to correct himself to say “summer of ’53” since the former would have been a *very* recent visit. Sam and Dana almost kiss by the front door before she says “don’t…. even think about it.” She goes inside and cannot find the lights. She immediately starts complaining that he brought her to a remote cabin with no lights. Sam shakes his head in frustration and follows her inside. He turns on a lamp and then she starts complaining about how cold the cabin is and how hungry she is. Sam starts the fire while she goes to the kitchen to look for food.

Dana: I’ll probably have to kill a bear or something.

Al appears. Sam asks him why he has not leaped and Al tells him there is now a new “Dana dies” deadline. She is slated to die at 4:18 a.m. on a bridge near to where they are now located. Sam is having this conversation with Al, loudly, and Dana returns to stand n the doorway and witness Sam’s side of it.

She interrupts their conversation to tell Sam that he should break the habit of talking to himself.

Otherwise people who don’t know you will think you’re loony toons.

She tries to be nice to Sam. She tells him that she knows she has been “kind of a witch” and compliments the fire he started. She is also happy to have “lost them” though Sam now knows they did not. He tells her he knows that they did not lose the mobsters but that he cannot explain how he knows. They go back out to the Laundry Truck together and it will not start.

Dana: You can’t even start an engine?

Sam gives Dana a handgun and tells her to shoot the mobsters after they hit him on the head outside of the truck. She looks at the gas gauge while the engine hood is up and notices that the gauge is still on half full. She taps on it with her hand, the gauge becomes unstuck, and it is revealed that they are now out of gas.

She exits the truck to tell him. She casually tosses the handgun to him, from a distance, and he falls into a pond of water trying to catch it. She then looks up into the sky and asks “why me?”

We see the mobster car turning off its headlights because they are getting close.

Inside the cabin, Sam is now undressed and drying his clothes in front of a fire. Dana brings him hot water and complains that she could not find tea or coffee or anything else. On the mantle above the fire, Dana sees a picture of Professor LoNigro and a much younger Dr. Sam Beckett. She says that he has the kind of eyes that she could fall in love with, but when Sam asks which person, she refuses to answer and says that it does not matter because she will soon die. She says that she will die without ever having been in love.

Sam says that he thought she was married before and she says that her marriage was not love, otherwise they would still be married. She gives a long monologue about what she wants from love. Then she kisses the shirtless Sam in front of the fire. She breaks off the kiss when she sees the pack of matches behind Sam on the mantle. They have a phone number on them. She then swears at him, pulls the handgun on him, and says she is going to kill him.

Sam tells her that she is acting hysterical. She will not tell him why she suddenly does not trust him. Al appears and tells Sam that she will not shoot him with the safety on. When Sam steps toward her, she pulls the trigger, the gun does not fire, so she throws the gun at him and runs out of the cabin.

Al: You know, I can honestly say I have never had a girl try to shoot me for making a pass.

Sam asks Al if Pete has ever been harmed in the timelines where Dana is murdered. Al says no. Sam, while getting dressed, then says he is willing to bet the farm that the phone number on those matches belongs to Nick Kochifos. After Sam runs out of the cabin door, he verfies that it is Nick’s number.

Al: It is Nick’s number. You dirty dog you’re working for Nick!

Dana runs down the road… right toward the mobster car. They see her at a distance and turn on the headlights. Nick begins shooting and Dana begins screaming. Sam is running up behind them with pants on but no shirt.

Dana somehow is not hit by gunfire and she turns to run away. The older mobster asks Nick why he is going to all this trouble to not even kill her and Nick says “not too quickly, brother.” However, with his next shot he hits her in the arm and knocks her down. She gets up and continues running down the road back toward the cabin.

She next sees Sam at a distance. With Sam coming toward her from one direction and Nick coming toward her from the other direction, she exits the road directly beside a bridge. Al is helping Sam keep track of her while he follows her in the dark. Nick is also following her in the dark. When Sam gets near to her, she clubs him in the head with a piece of wood and runs away again.

We see the two mobsters walking through the woods beyond the cabin, too. The older gangster is telling Nick that they should not be out searching for her in the dark.

Sam finally catches up to Dana when she gets next to a ledge with no place left to run. When she screams, still believing that he works for Nick and intends to kill her, the two mobsters not far off hear her and they begin moving in her direction.

Dana again sees Sam talking to Al. He asks Al to warn him if the two baddies get close. He tells Dana that he will not shoot her because he is not Pete. She now believes she is talking to someone very mentally ill. However, Sam asks her to trust him and with no other options, she reluctantly decides to do so.

When the other two finally show up, Nick asks Sam why he ran. Sam says that he did not know it was Nick and that he suspected Richardson had put a tail on him. The older mobster says that makes sense. Nick says that he believes that Dana got to Pete and that he flipped on them. Nick says that he never made a move on Dana, out of respect, and that the entire time he was not making a move, she was setting him up for the Feds. Al is screaming at Sam to shoot him. Sam does not raise his pistol until Nick raises his machine gun, first. Sam then shoots Nick repeatedly while Nick fires off his machine gun, narrowly missing Dana in the process.

Sam has his gun pointed at the older man. But the older man just bends down to talk to the now deceased Nick.

I told you, Nicky. I told you! Why didn’t you listen to me?! God didn’t want her to die.

The old man then picks up Nick’s body and carries him away. Sam nods at him as he goes.

After, in the cabin, Sam gives Dana his firearm and tells her to hold him with it, if necessary, until Richardson arrives. Sam and Dana then kiss. A lot.

While they are kissing a lot, Al updates Sam on what happens to Dana after he leaps. She testifies on his host’s behalf and significantly shortens his prison sentence. She goes to law school and becomes an attorney. She eventually marries… Professor LoNigro.

The good professor meets Dana by walking in on her, in his cabin, making out with Sam, at the end of the episode.

Sam: Professor. It works!
Prof: What works?
Sam: Our string theory. Don’t you know who I am? I’m Sam Bec

Sam leaps. In his new body, he is being beaten up. We see Sam being dragged into a jail cell and tossed onto a bed. Sam looks up from his bed and into a mirror and sees a Native American face staring back at him.

Ohhh boy. I’m an Indian!

An older Native American man, sharing the cell with him, replies. “It could be worse. You could be a white man, eh?”

REACTION:

I have a lot of thoughts about this episode. Let’s start with the big one, though.

Sam tells someone who would simultaneously believe and understand, 20 years before his first leap, that the string theory of Quantum Leaping works. He even says enough before leaping that the professor can probably piece together to whom he was really talking. That weird 3 second experience with Sam – right before he leaped – probably led to a lot of long conversations between the Professor and Dana, too. Those conversations are probably the basis for their eventual marriage.

  • “So he told you outright that he was not Pete?”
  • “In your interactions with him today, and today only, he was talking to someone you could not see… named Al… and Al seemed to actually know real things about future events?”
  • “He took you right to my cabin? The guy you were just kissing has never set foot in my cabin before tonight.”
  • “When you first arrived, he said he has not been to this cabin since the summer of 1973? Then you think he lied to cover for himself and said it was 1953? The guy in the photo, Sam Beckett, was here just a few weeks ago.”

I mean… just IMAGINE personally knowing a super genius AND imagine knowing he succeeds at building a time travel machine AND imagine knowing that he succeeds two decades before he first leaps. I’m really fascinated by how Professor LoNigro handles conversations with the real Sam Beckett, in the now changed timeline, between 1973 and the start of the show. Would he have to carefully avoid bringing it up out of fear that it might change how events play out? He definitely couldn’t tell Sam something along the lines of “I know your machine will work, because you – in someone else’s body – introduced me to my future wife in 1973.”

Imagine having as the foundation of your marital relationship a shared secret that time travel caused you to meet each other?

Sam leaped after telling the professor most of his name (enough for the MIT professor to figure it out, anyway.) Was it important that the Professor know that Quantum Leap works? Why?

Those questions are all so interesting that I almost don’t care that Sam flagrantly threw a grenade at the timeline by telling his Professor who he really is.

___________________________________

Whew. Okay. Let’s talk about the episode in general.

The title of this one is “Her Charm.” I think the audience is supposed to have found Dana to be a pretty difficult and irritating woman. The problem with asking me to find her irritating is that all of her complaining throughout the episode is COMPLETELY JUSTIFIED. At least a few times, I was as irritated with Sam as she was.

She has the courage to testify against a dangerous mobster. The federal prosecutor talks her into doing it by telling her the case is open and shut. The jury acquits the mobster.

She goes into the Witness Protection Program. The mobster continues finding her. She is nearly killed, repeatedly, and only survives through her own cunning and luck. In fact, we find out that Sam’s host has actively been participating in trying to kill her.

In the episode, from her perspective, she is not wrong in complaining that Sam (an FBI agent) moves slowly in getting her out of her safehouse and into the car, does not know where his keys are, realizes too late that the gas gauge is stuck (she even brought up stopping for gas), has her throw laundry from a moving car, at a gunman in a moving car, as a means of escape, manipulates her emotionally all the while (from her perspective) trying to get her killed.

She did nothing wrong. Nevertheless, near the climax of the episode, her choices were: 1) jump off a cliff, or 2) trust a guy who is talking to someone imaginary to protect her from someone who wants to shoot her with a machine gun.

I hope Dana Barrenger has a long and very happy life with Professor LoNigro. She deserves it.

___________________________________

All of the aforementioned things notwithstanding, and all of those things are a lot, Sam pretty clearly fell for Dana. Season 2 Sam is usually pretty careful not to fall for his host body’s love interests. He was not so careful in this episode. [Throw that layer onto the weirdness of him inadvertently setting up his friend with his future wife.]

Sam also just straight out killed a guy. Nick was a bad guy but Sam was pretty cold about it. What is Sam’s body count on this show so far? I’m racking my brain and I cannot think of anyone he has killed previously. Should it not be a big deal to him that he did that? Or is it the case that when you know your time travel probably prevents people from being born who otherwise would have been born, that you just become numb to the changes you are making to history?

___________________________________

Al did not have a lot to do in this episode. I do not really love the gag of Al expecting spoken answers from Sam when other people can hear the answer. In this episode, Sam talked to Al often enough that the person he was trying to save thought he was actually crazy. Al should be bright enough to understand the issues that might cause. There really is not enough comedy in those situations to justify Al not being mission focused. [Yes, I understand the this episode’s plot needed Dana to think Sam was so mentally ill that she could trust him when he told her he is not Pete. But the outcome does not justify the weird decision-making to arrive at the outcome.]

All in all, I thought this was a good episode. It flew by while watching it. The situation never stopped feeling tense and the twist that Sam – and not Richardson – was the bad guy caught me by surprise. Most of the issues I have with the episode were interesting enough that I do not care that they create other problems. I just want to see how they are addressed and/or resolved in future episodes.

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