Quantum Leap (Season 2, Ep 27): Leaping in Without A Net

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 Victor Panzini, a member of a Hungarian family trapeze act. A year earlier, the matriarch of the trapeze act, Maria (Victor’s mother), died attempting a triple flip and Victor is the one who failed to catch her. Victor’s father Laszlo (“Papa”) blames him for the accident. In spite of this, Victor’s sister Eva does not blame him and wants to attempt a triple herself. Al tells Sam that he must be the one to catch Eva because history says that if Laszlo Panzini – their father – attempts the catch, he drops her due to an injured shoulder and she dies as her mother did.

Sam is terrified of heights. However, with some coaching from Al, whose hologram spends much of this episode floating in mid-air, and a lack of options with respect to saving Eva’s life, Sam goes through with the mission and ultimately completes the dangerous net-free catch. Eva lives. The Flying Panzinis fly once more. Sam leaps.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

I’ll never stop talking about how much I love this intro narration. NEVER.

I AM SO HYPED.

Sam is swinging on a trapeze. He’s supposed to catch a woman. I think she just called Sam “Victor.” Sam/Victor does not catch her.

November 18, 1958

Sam narrates that he had thought by now to have done enough leaps to fill in most of the holes in his memory. Wrong. He has just discovered that he is terrified of heights.

From the net below, the woman Sam/Victor failed to catch is talking some trash about how someone named Clifford can find him some paint and a big red nose so that the Panzini’s can become a clown act.

She then says that she supposes “not flying” for a year would make anyone a little rusty and that he will do better next time. Sam replies that he is not so sure. The woman tells Sam that if she is going to complete a triple-something-something, they need to practice. She then tells him that Papa will be back soon and that she had a dream about Mama last night. Mama was wearing a blue dress. In the dream, the woman’s mother told her she could do the triple before fading away. She tells Sam again that she is going to do the triple and another man enters, disagreeing.

Papa: NOT AS LONG AS I’M YOUR FATHER!

He then asks what they are doing up there. He then specifies that the question is for Sam and when Sam says he does not know, the man very sternly tells Sam to “get down.” Sam is terrified and does not let go until being shouted at again by “Papa” – and this time he just falls. He rolls around on the net before falling on the ground. When he stands up, Papa slaps him on the cheek.

The woman – who is apparently Sam/Victor’s sister – argues with her father about doing the triple. She tells him that doing it would make them headliners again. She says that they escaped from Hungary and risked their lives to be headliners.

We used to be the best flyers in the world.

Her father is having none of this talk and walks away saying that they have a show to perform in an hour. After he is gone she says that she hates the circus they perform in. Sam says he is not too crazy about it either. She then says vaguely that she knows how hard practicing with her was. But then she kisses him on the cheek and says they will do the triple.

Sam wanders around outside the circus. A little person gets his attention and asks if it’s true that Eva is going to do the triple. Sam tells him that she wants to. He replies that if she does the triple they can quit the cow and pig circuit and go back to the big cities… like Little Rock, Texarkana, and Shreveport.

Sam finally sees Al walking around the circus. He is walking closely behind a very attractive woman. Al calls out “Al” and both Al and the woman turn around. Sam covers and says it’s nice to see her again. Al comments that her name must be Allison or Alberta or something.

Al tells Sam that he is not sure why Sam is there. However, Al gives him the information he has. Sam’s name is Victor Panzini, he’s part of a Hungarian aerial act which was at one time the most famous aerial act in the world. They enter Victor’s trailer to continue talking. One year earlier, Victor and Eva’s mother died attempting a triple and since that time, Papa Panzini has reduced the act to things anyone else can do.

When Sam refers to the act as a carney act, Al corrects him.

Al: You don’t say carney, Sam, only rubes say that. This is a mud show.
Sam: Let me guess. You ran away from the orphanage when you were a kid and you joined the circus?
Al: Yeah. Didn’t you?

Al does a quick comparison between his orphanage upbringing and Sam’s two-parent upbringing on a farm. He reminds Sam that Sam had a cow while he had a pet roach.

Just then, Papa Panzini knocks on the trailer’s door and asks if he tightened the rigging. Sam replies that he did not and Papa says he will do it himself – as he does everything himself. When he leaves, Sam, fear evident in his voice, tells Al that he is not an acrobat and that he cannot go out there and perform.

Al: Well you’ll never know unless you try.

Eva and Papa wait for Sam to arrive. He is apparently late. While waiting, Eva asks her father if his arm is hurt and he denies it. Sam arrives to the performance, in tights, and asks if he put them on backward. Papa Panzini tells him that he does not ever want to see him in tights again. Papa Panzini will perform with Eva. Sam’s job for the performance is to hold the ladder. Al appears and advises him to hold it taut.

Sam is relieved to find out that he is not part of the act. Al tells him, though, that his mission is to be part of the act. He says that in two days, Eva will be killed because her father drops her while she attempts a triple. Sam’s mission is to do the act and to catch her. Sam is mortified.

The following morning, Eva wakes up Sam at 5:30. Sam is not enthusiastic about practice and she asks if Papa made him afraid again. Sam says it was not him and she tells him that he did not kill Mama. Eva explains that their mother had a cold and that she had trouble with her balance at the matinee. She says even their father knows the truth. She goes on to tell Sam that he is as good a catcher as their father – even better since he hurt his shoulder and that is why she wants him to catch her when she does the triple. Sam insists that he cannot catch her so she says she will practice alone. She also says she will find a catcher even if it has to be Big Moe.

Eva: Mama is dead, Victor. Not us. But if we don’t even try to be the best, we might as well be dead, too.

Sam goes out to watch her practice alone. With no catcher, Eva drops to the net below after her flips. Al appears and points out to Sam how scary it looks with her up so high. Sam continues to insist to Al that Ziggy must be wrong and that he cannot be the catcher. Al tells him that he could be. He is athletic enough and he has good timing. Al then says Sam needs to get over his fear of heights. Al reminds Sam that they have known each other a long time. He tells Sam a story about a time Sam played with his older brother, when he was 9, when they pretended to be Tarzan dangling from a rope in their barn. Sam climbed up to tighten a knot and he froze. He has been afraid of heights ever since. Al also tells Sam that Victor’s mother died, when she fell, because there was no net beneath them. The Panzinis fly without a net. He also reminds Sam that if he does not catch Eva, she will die tomorrow.

Eva comes down and Sam agrees to practice with her. Al tells Sam that he has an idea of how to help him. However, he needs to run his idea by Gooshie to see if it will fly.

Outside, Papa has been notified that the Panzinis are invited to perform at the Circus Vargas as soon as possible. He informed Big Moe, the Little Person ringmaster, that they will go without the rest of their circus in tow, and it causes a fight. Big Moe uses a derogatory term for Hungarians and Papa calls Big Moe a dwarf. Sam – after knocking down a few people first – breaks the fight up.

In the next scene, Al is floating in mid air next to a terrified Sam who is on a trapeze alone. Al is coaching Sam to perform the catch. Slowly but surely Sam gains some confidence. Eva arrives and wants to practice with him. She suggests practicing a double layout and he suggests instead – with help from Al – to just practice a straight catch.

The straight catch does not go well. Sam manages to grab her by one arm. She tells him to let her go. He drops her to the net, per her insistence, until Al points out that she has bounced off the net and onto the ground. Sam climbs down and checks on her. Eva has only had her breath knocked out of her. She wants to continue practicing and Sam insists that he almost killed her and that he does not want to continue as her catcher.

She blames herself for the accident and says that she should not have insisted that Sam release her when he knew she was not in position. Sam tells her that if she performs in Denver the following night something terrible is going to happen. She asks if he saw a bird in her trailer. Al tells him that this is a sign of back luck in Hungary. Sam says he saw not one but two birds. Apparently two birds in the house is good luck. Eva is now feeling better about the whole birds situation.

Sam tells Eva right out that Papa will drop her tomorrow night and that she will die. She asks how he could know and states that nobody can see the future. Then she appears to have an epiphany and takes him with her somewhere. Al, Eva, and Sam arrive at the circus fortune teller’s tent. Eva asks the woman with the crystal ball what she saw. Sam says that Sybil the fortune teller is not the one who told him that Eva is going to die. Sybil says that Sam was visited by an angel. Sybil says that she sees children in Eva’s future. Eva concludes that Sam was not visited by an angel but rather he simply had a bad dream. When Eva leaves, Sam sits down with Sybil. She tells Sam that Eva will not die as long as he catches her She then tells Sam that she has never noticed how many times he has been reincarnated.

After, Sam narrates that Sybil touched on enough truths to send him back to the trapeze in spite of his dread. Sam climbs back onto the trapeze. Al appears next to him, floating in mid-air.

We see Papa, alone, talking to “Maria” about Victor. He tells her that his son has the talent but he does not know if he will ever trust him again. Or forgive him. But he says he was proud of the way Victor fought earlier in the day and he considers that maybe it’s time to give him another opportunity.

Papa: It would be good… it would be good… to smile and hug my son again.

Eva walks up on Sam talking to Al as he practices. She jokes that the last time she talked to an imaginary playmate, she was six years old. They begin practice. Sam tells Eva to do a single, however, she does a double instead. Sam catches her. She tells him the Flying Panzini’s don’t do singles. Papa enters the tent and quietly observes. Eva adjusts the bar so that she can attempt a triple. Sam fails to catch her and she drops to the net below.

Papa: What are you trying to do? Kill your sister, too?

In the next scene, we see the Flying Panzinis trailers moving down the road toward Denver and their big show. Al explains to Sam that the reason he failed to catch Eva was that he reached. He needs to wait for her to come to him and then grab her. Sam seems heartened and asks Al if he really thinks so.

Al: Am I ever wrong? Marriages don’t count.

They arrive at the sight of their big show tonight. Here we learn that Eva sent a letter to this circus and advertised to them that the Flying Panzinis do the triple again. Papa says no and that this is not part of their act. Eva says that they have not had an act since their mother died. Papa reluctantly agrees. He says, though, that he will be the one catching Eva. Sam tells him no. He tells Papa that he cannot catch Eva with one arm. Papa says he can catch better with one arm than Sam can with two. He also states that Sam killed his mother. Sam says he did not. He says pride killed his mother. He says the same pride – that goes into a tent and says you can perform when you cannot – will kill Eva if he tries to catch her tonight. Papa tries to slap Sam on the cheek but Sam catches him by the wrist. Papa’s arm is too weak to do anything about it.

The night of the big performance arrives. We see a montage of circus acts on the screen as the moment draws closer.

When the act is set to perform, the circus man with the megaphone tells the gathered audience that one year ago, tonight, Maria Panzini was killed attempting the triple. He states that her daughter, Eva, will attempt to perform it tonight. As Sam mutters One year ago tonight” Al appears next to him in mid-air and says that it won’t be a year until next Tuesday… but that’s the circus. He laughs. The megaphone guy tells us that Eva will attempt the triple without a safety net.

Sam is not happy about the news regarding there being no net, but it is too late to do anything about it now. Good news… Sam makes the catch. Eva does not die. Eva and Victor drop down to cheers. Even Papa seems happy.

Sam has not leaped, yet. He talks to Papa and his father reminds him that he forgot to wave to the crowd. Sam says he will not forget next time. As they embrace, Sam leaps.

Sam leaps into someone climbing out of a house’s second story window. He brings down a basket with a blanket inside and he is being admonished by a woman on the ground to be quiet. As he gets in a truck to drive away, a man looks out the window from the house they just left and we hear a baby crying from inside the basket. “Oh boy!”

REACTION:

This was a standard-issue Quantum Leap episode. Sam did not run into anyone he eventually meets in real life, in the future. The circumstances were serious but – relatively speaking, – pretty mundane. It’s not like we were in a high speed chase to track down child murderers… again. This was just standard-issue accident avoidance. Sam masters a skill in a day that would take someone else years to learn. It feels absurd to see Sam do that, but it also feels absurd that someone could have a 250+ IQ and invent a time machine. If we’ve bought the latter we can buy that Dr. Beckett learns the trapeze too quickly. Al’s expansive background covers ever more ground.

As for the last, I think the show writers knew they were pushing Al’s magical past a little too far. That’s why they had Sam sarcastically ask Al about running away to join the circus when he was a kid. Al said yes. This was their way of addressing an implausibility complaint directly and essentially daring the audience to give them grief over it. “Yeah, we know, it’s ridiculous that Al has a strong knowledge of the circus, too, but we’re going to own it.”

This was a standard-issue episode, I do not think anything about this episode was particularly great, but at the same time, there were really not any problems with it. We even got a little more backstory about Sam, learned he has a fear of heights, and we got to see him overcome that fear.

The best part of this episode was Al. Getting to see him float in mid-air repeatedly was great. Al being weirded out that the fortune teller could sense his presence was great. Al standing up in the car and poking his head through the roof was great. It’s fun to watch someone having fun with the whole hologram thing and as a result Al gave us fun in this episode when he was on the screen.

All in all this was a solid offering.

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