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:
Sam leaps into Melvin, a mortician in a small town who has also been appointed the local coroner. His mission is to solve the murder of a young German immigrant, Hilla, wrongly ruled in the original timeline to be death by suicide.
After suspecting the young woman’s boyfriend, the boyfriend’s father, and the local Sheriff, Sam eventually uncovers the real murderer – the German girl’s secret and recently spurned girlfriend. The girlfriend, played by Marcia Cross, killed the German woman with a high heel shoe.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
A police officer hands Sam a locket and asks what he thinks. Sam, just arrived in his new host, says that this is a gold locket. The man then asks about the writing on the back. In German, someone has engraved “My love forever.” Sam translates. The policeman says that he didn’t know Sam knew German and Sam covers by saying that he is surprised to remember anything from his one High School German class.
Sam opens the locket and inside is a picture of a family. The other man says that the little girl must be “her” and he points to something behind Sam. Sam then turns around and sees a body lying on an examination table.
Sam: She’s dead.
Policeman: You should have been a Detective instead of a mortician.
November 9, 1957
The policeman tells Sam that he found the woman’s stuff sitting neatly on the dock, She only had one shoe. He guesses that her other shoe sank to the bottom. Sam is astounded that the woman may have intentionally drowned herself.
The officer refers to Sam as Melvin and asks him what is the matter. He points out that Sam has seen this type of thing before and says that he believes the job is starting to get to him. Just then, two more men arrive. They are a father and son named Roger and Greg Truesdale, respectively.
Sam tries to shake hands with the older man, Roger, and is ignored. Greg is broken up at the sight of the dead woman. His father, Roger, tells him to suck it up. Greg walks off. Roger tells Sam/Melvin that Greg has his mother’s stomach and Sam replies that it seems like there is more to it than that. The police officer stares wide-eyed at Sam for the comment. Roger is asked if the woman had any family and he says that he believes they were killed during the war. The policeman tells Sam that it looks as though he will have to bury her in Potter’s Field and Roger says that he will pay for it. He justifies the charity by saying that she worked for him.
After the older man leaves, the police officer asks him why he was acting suspicious toward Mr. Truesdale and then he reminds “Melvin” that if it were not for Roger, he would not be coroner. Alone in the room, Sam opens the woman’s purse and finds a passport. Suddenly he begins to see flashes of images in his mind and he quickly shuts the passport and closes up the purse.
He looks at some pictures that the woman had with her when she died and a woman says from the doorway,
That was her mother’s. It was the only thing she had left of her family.
The woman tells Sam that her family died in the war. Her father died in North Africa and her mother and siblings died during the fire bombings in Dresden. The woman tells Sam that the deceased woman was her friend. The woman then says she blames herself and states that she should have known and she should have stopped her. She also notes that she needs to have the clothing there that belonged to “Hilly” (the deceased woman) cleaned because Hilly’s clothes were always clean and perfect. Sam tells her it doesn’t matter anymore and she dramatically runs out of the morgue. Sam chases after her. He offers to drive her home and she says “Sorry, Mr. Spooner, I have to get out of here.”
Al appears after the woman leaves. Sam tells Al that he does not think he will need Al’s help on this mission. Al is squeamish around dead bodies. He tells Sam that Ziggy does not know why Sam is on this mission. When Al gives him today’s date, Sam realizes – having just looked through Hilly’s purse – that she committed suicide on her birthday at the age of 19. Sam asks Al again why he is there, Al again repeats that he does not know, and Sam sees weird images of the woman in his head again – this time accompanied by spooky music. Sam and Al talk about what the woman’s dreams might have been, with Al guessing that she was most likely a fan of the movie Picnic, when Sam notices an injury on the side of her head.
Al, she didn’t commit suicide. She was murdered.
Al asks Sam if he is sure that the wound is a bullet hole and Sam confirms, saying that he saw more than a few bullet holes during his last year of medical school. They speculate as to how the police officer failed to see the wound and then realize that there is no exit wound.
Sam puts his apron on. Al seems to turn pale and asks if Sam is going to cut the bullet out of her skull. Sam asks if he is a doctor, or not. Al decides to leave and let Sam do this work alone. Sometime later, we see that Sam has indeed removed a bullet from her skull and Al peaks his head through the door between the future and the past. Sam tells him that he can come out now.
We learn that Sam did not find a bullet after all. The small bit of something he extracted from her skull was shrapnel from the war. He says that it seems the bullet went into her skull and then vanished. Sam points out to Al that Hilla had scuff marks on her heels and he tells Al that her friend informed him that Hilla is not the type of person who would have had scuff marks on her shoes. Al is skeptical. Sam argues that if she had killed herself, he would not be there. Therefore, according to Sam, the only thing that makes sense is that he leaped there to discover who murdered her.
Sam drives to where Hilla lives. He runs into Greg outside. He tells Greg that he needs to get a dress to bury her in and asks for suggestions. Greg still seems very shaken up about her death and tells Sam that her favorite was a blue dress with a bow in the back.
Sam: You loved her, didn’t you?
Greg: Everybody loved Hilly.
Sam: You loved her a little more.
Greg walks off. Sam enters her home. Inside the home, he sees a poster for the movie Picnic. He says aloud that Al would make a great Dr. Watson. Sam begins looking through her things. When he picks up a diary, images flash in his mind – again accompanied by spooky music from the show’s score. We hear “Hilly” narrate her diary. She mentions seeing the movie Picnic and having a thing for William Holden. She goes on and we eventually learn that she broke off a relationships on the 4th of July and that she has a new romantic interest.
Hilly’s friend Stephanie enters the apartment and she is not happy that Sam is going through her things. She tells Sam that she and Hilly had a plan to go to New York. Hilly would be a fashion model and Stephanie (the friend) would shoot all of her covers. Stephanie says that she continues to expect Hilly to walk through the door.
Sam tells her that he believes she was murdered and asks her if she has any idea who might have done it. She says no and that everyone loved her. She tells him that Hilly and Greg were a fling and that Greg’s father would have killed him if it had turned into more than that. Sam asks what dress Hilly should wear and Stephanie recommends the blue one with the bow.
Al appears and says he was there listening for long enough to know that Sam now believes Greg’s father killed Hilly. Sam suggests that Greg might have been the murderer. He tells Al that Hilly broke things off with Greg on the 4th of July and got together with someone new. He also tells Al that two people died in the lake because Hilly was pregnant.
In the next scene, the police officer from the beginning of the episode, Sheriff Lyle Roundtree, tells Sam that the wound on Hilly’s head is not a bullet wound. He says the proof is that there is no bullet. He says she could have hit anything falling into the water to cause that wound. The Sheriff tells Sam that this is an unfortunate case of suicide and that he needs to bury the poor girl. Sam asks why, if it was suicide, no gun was recovered, and the Sheriff replies that she was not shot. She drowned. The Sheriff agrees to look for a gun, though.
A woman enters the morgue and catches Sam talking to Al. She asks if he is talking to the stiffs again. Her name is Aggie and she appears to be there to do Hilly’s hair and makeup. She notes that the German girl sure is pretty. Sam asks if she knew her and Aggies says yes and that you hear more in a beauty shop than a Priest in confession. Sam tells Aggie that he appears to have forgotten Hilla’s dress at her apartment.
That night, Sam is watching home movies of Hilla on a projector at her house. Al appears and tells him that he is obsessed. Sam notes that nothing about her, so full of life, strikes him as someone who would kill herself. Al points out that in 1957, an unmarried woman who became pregnant can become a societal outcast. Sometimes they end the pregnancy. Sometimes they even end their own lives.
Sam tells Al that he believes Greg is the murderer. Her diary says that she broke up with him on the 4th and that they fought all night. Al tells him that he has no evidence and Sam retorts that he has feelings. When Al tells him “that’s a song” Sam dreamily tells him, while watching home movies play of her from her projector, that Hilla is trying to tell him something from beyond the grave. Al just leaves.
After Al leaves, Sam admits that he was right. However, he reiterates that dying and being buried alone, after all she went through, was not right, and that he believed himself to be there to change that. We see the images of her flash in his mind again with the accompanying spooky music again.
In our next scene, on the dock, we see the Sheriff telling Sam/Melvin that there is no gun in the lake. Sam says this proves that she did not shoot herself. The Sheriff again points out that there is no bullet and no evidence. Sam tells him that she was pregnant and that they both know who the father was. The Sheriff looks surprised and maybe a touch angry.
Sam/Melvin and the Sheriff find Roger and Greg Truesdale doing archery. They tell the two men that Sam believes she was murdered. He tells them that he found a bullet hole on her left temple. He also tells them that she was pregnant when she died.
Sam: That probably doesn’t come as any big news to you, does it Greg?
Sam points out that Greg would have a lot to lose by her pregnancy. Greg counters by saying that they had planned to elope on the night that she died. Sam tells Greg what he read in her diary and Greg corrects him noting that he and Hilla did not get together until the 4th of July. She must have broken things off with someone else when getting together with Greg.
Roger, Greg’s father, says that this also means Greg is not the one who got her pregnant. He tells Sam/Melvin to get his facts straight before making wild accusations in the future. The scene ends with Roger shooting an arrow into an archery target.
Later, Sam is once again at Hilla’s home, listening to her records, and looking at her things. Al appears. He now believes Sam that she did not commit suicide. Al checks with Ziggy again. Roger marries a Showgirl in 1962. Greg goes to Harvard, becomes a divorce attorney, and never marries. Lyle remains police chief for 33 years and retires to Florida. Aggie – the beauty salon owner – loses her beauty salon in 1963 after performing an illegal abortion and getting indicted for doing so. The charges are eventually dropped but her salon is lost.
Sam approaches Aggie. He asks if Hilla approached her regarding and abortion. Aggie says yes but that she could not go through with it. Aggie says that Hilla fell in love. Sam asks who brought her and she tells him that Roger Truesdale brought her.
Sam/Melvin approach the Sheriff with the new information. He tells Sam that he cannot arrest Roger. He says there is not enough evidence for a District Attorney to prosecute him. He reminds Sam again that they have no bullet. He tells Sam to put the poor girl in the ground before she puts him there, too.
Sam is with Hilla’s body. He puts her locket around her neck and her shoes on her feet. As he puts her second heel on her foot, he seems to have an epiphany.
Sam is showing a film of Hilla to the Sheriff, Roger, Greg, and Stephanie. Greg says that he made the video. Roger says that the video does not mean that Greg shot her and Sam replies that he believed Roger shot her with an arrow. Roger protests and Sam agrees with him saying that he examined the arrow in relation to the wound and that it did not fit. Sam again states that the person who made the film is the murderer. Greg protests and Sam tells him that he did not make the portion of the film they are now watching. Sam says Greg filmed the first part, badly, however this later section was done by a professional.
The camera pans to Stephanie. Sam says that he believes the person Hilly broke up with on the 4th of July was Stephanie. Greg stands up and says that a lot of things Hilly told him suddenly make sense. Hilly spent a lot of time in displaced persons camps after the war, fighting off men, and Greg says he thinks she was raped.
She said it was so bad that the only people she could let get close to her were women and even that got confusing.
Sam shows Stephanie the shoe he tried to put on Hilly’s foot. The Sheriff found it by Hilly’s body. When Sam put it on her foot, he realized that the shoe was too large for Hilly’s smaller foot. The shoe was a size 8 and she wears a size 5.
Stephanie says that even if the shoe fits her, it does not mean she killed Hilla. Sam dramatically hits the high heel into the wall, making a hole. He says that the hole is the exact size as the one in Hilly’s temple.
Would you care to try this on?
Stephanie breaks down. She says she never meant to hurt her. Hilly had told her that she did not love her anymore.
Sam stands alone at Hilla’s grave in the falling snow. A man with a shovel asks if he knew her and Sam says no.
Al appears. Sam asks why he is still here and Al suggests that maybe he needs to just say goodbye. He reads from a Mark Twain book that he found in Hilla’s home.
Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.
Sam sees images of Hilla again. We hear her say “that’s what’s missing from my life. Someone to love.” Sam sets flowers on her grave and leaps.
He is playing pool and there is money on the line. “Oh boy.”
This episode felt a little bit like Clue. Is the murderer the boyfriend? No. The boyfriend’s disapproving father? No. The Sheriff? No. The beauty salon owner? No. It’s the friend that we did not know was a secret girlfriend! She did it with a high heeled shoe!
This episode was interesting in that Sam said at the outset, to Al, that he did not think he would need Al’s help on this Leap. For the most part… he did not. Sam continues narrating about Leaping as though it is a skillset he is acquiring. Perhaps there will be a point in time where he does not need any help to set right what once went wrong.
I did not enjoy Sam’s strange obsession with this case early on – complete with mental flashes her Hilly – but Scott Bakula committed to that obsession well enough that I accepted it. Truth be told, this is not the first episode where he became obsessive over a beautiful woman. The Twain poem he read at the end was moving.
My only real gripe from this episode is that Sam, with a genius level IQ of over 200+, could not tell the difference between a bullet entry wound and a high heel entry wound. Or an arrow entry wound. Maybe the real science of forensics is not quite as advanced as modern television has led me to believe? Or maybe it has just advanced dramatically since 1990?
I did not see the twist ending coming. I was expecting Roger to be the murderer. Give the writers some credit because they gave us a clue early on that the friend did it. Stephanie tried to take the shoes from Sam at the start of the episode complaining that they were scuffed up.
Good job Quantum Leap writers.
Stephanie was played by the great Marcia Cross who is probably best known for roles on Melrose Place and Desperate Housewives. Personally, I while I saw her in those two shows, I remember her best from the short-lived show Everwood which also introduced the world to Chris Pratt and Emily VanCamp. This role here on Quantum Leap was a story that fits on Melrose Place or Desperate Housewives. Secret lovers! Murder!
I thought I would leave this post on a particular memory (seared into my brain forever) that I have of Marcia Cross from her role on Melrose Place.