Quantum Leap (Season 2, Ep 31): M.I.A.

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.


Sam leaps into Det. Jake Rawlins. Al tells him that his mission is to encourage a woman named Beth not to give up on her MIA husband. To that end, Sam is tasked with preventing her from falling for another man who she continues running into.

Sam learns that Al has ulterior motivations when he figures out that the MIA husband of Beth is Al. Sam tells Al that changing their own timeline is not allowed. Once Sam figures out that he has another more important mission, he is able to save the life of Det. Rawlins’ partner in the nick of time.

As the episode ends, Al speaks with Beth and tells her to wait for him. It is unclear whether or not she hears him.


Where precisely in the desert is the Quantum Leap accelerator? Has anyone tried to find it?

We find Sam dressed as a woman when the episode airs. He is not happy. It seems that the heels are the biggest concern. He looks in the mirror and sees that he is in fact not a biological woman, but is instead a biological man dressed as a woman.

Abruptly, he hears a voice coming from a radio in his purse, referring to him as Jake, and telling him that some guys are coming up onto the roof. Moments later two guys are on the roof with Sam and they hear his radio, call him a narc, and draw guns on him. “Oh boy.”

An absolute hail of gunfire erupts. Sam takes cover as officers arrive on the scene. The two guys who had drawn on Sam yell out their surrender and they are taken into custody. A man who appears to be Sam’s undercover police partner asks if he is okay and Sam only replies “I’m a man.” The partner tells a paramedic that Jake/Sam may have a concussion. The partner states that Sam’s gun must have jammed. When he looks at the gun, he is surprised and concerned instead to find that Sam’s safety was on.

As Sam is wiping off his make-up, his partner describes to him a time that he once froze up, too. He says he was on a search and destroy mission in the military when he came upon a baby. Despite knowing that this likely meant an ambush, he stared at the baby. His platoon emerged from behind him and opened fire on the would-be ambushers. He tells Sam that if a man is lucky, he gets to freeze up once and live to tell the tale – but not twice.

After, Sam and his partner return to the precinct and change in the locker room. Sam’s partner tells him that Lisa, his wife, wants to meet him. Al appears. He shows Sam where his locker is and fills him in on some details of this leap. Sam is now Detective Jake Rawlins. His host only recently made detective. His partner is Det. Sgt. Roger Skaggs. Al tells Sam that Skaggs’ arrest record is the best in San Diego.

Sam asks what he is here to do. Al’s answer is interrupted by the discovery that the other officers have filled Sam’s locker with lingerie. Sam recognizes the hazing and pulls individual pieces of lingerie out of the locker and describes several different women who he would like to see wearing it. He concludes by tossing an outfit at his partner and suggesting that it might look better on Lisa. When the laughing subsides, Al tells Sam that he would look kind of foxy in the purple number with the white fuzz. Sam asks again why he is here.

Al tells him that it is April 1, 1969. After initial excitement regarding the fact it is April Fool’s Day, Al become somber while reading Sam’s mission form the handheld device. Sam’s mission is to prevent a woman named Beth from “making the mistake of a lifetime.” Her husband is in Vietnam and has been M.I.A. for two years. Sam must convince her that he is still alive. In the unaltered timeline, Beth’s husband is repatriated in 1973 but Beth is not there waiting for him because she has remarried believing him to be dead. Al tells Sam that Beth meets someone else today.

In the next scene, we see a crying brunette with a flat tire. A man approaches and offers to help. She says she is not crying about the tire. She says she is crying about a lot of things and the tire is just the proverbial straw. He says he does not know about a lot of things but he can fix the straw. She thanks him. His name is Dirk Simon. Her name is Beth Calavicci. Calavicci. [Oh. Oh no. No! She’s Al’s first wife! HIS ONE TRUE LOVE! AND THIS IS WHY AL IS THE WAY HE IS… BECAUSE LIFE IS CRUEL! HIS WIFE BETH REASONABLY THINKS THAT HE IS DEAD WHILE AL IS IN A CAGE IN VIETNAM! AND WHEN HE FINALLY COMES HOME SHE IS REMARRIED! NOOOOOOO! FIX THIS, SAM!]

Dirk comments on her her being Italian and she says that the name is from her husband. He says that’s too bad. She asks if he doesn’t like Italians and he says it’s too bad she has a husband. Ugh. The score plays a little flirty jazz tune on the saxophone. [Knowing what I now know, I am probably going to be unnecessarily hostile toward Dirk for the rest of this review. Sorry Dirk. Sorry readers. Also, Dirk’s face is stupid.]

Sam convinces his partner, Roger, to drive him to the scene of where Beth and Dirk meet. Roger calls him looney tunes because Sam cannot explain why. To Roger’s surprise, the tire change is occurring as Sam stated. Sam’s partner parks the car and Sam jumps out and physically pulls Dirk away from the tire-change job and insists upon doing it himself. Dirk asks Beth if this is her husband because Sam’s behavior here is crazy and otherwise inexplicable. Dirk gets hostile toward Sam and Roger steps in and shows Dirk a badge. Sam goes on to change the tire. Beth asks Sam what Dirk has done and Sam tells her that he cannot discuss it with her. Meanwhile, Roger asks Dirk how long he has known “the suspect” and Dirk says he just met her when offering to change her tire. Dirk, who we learn is an attorney, leaves and offers his business card to Beth. Beth insists on an explanation from Sam for all of this and he tells her that he cannot give her one. Roger gives Beth a confused and sympathetic look before he and Sam leave.

Later, Sam and Roger are undercover with a group of hippies. When Sam is alone, he asks the sky why he is still there. Al appears and is angry. He tells Sam that he has not leaped because he has not stopped Beth and the sleazebag attorney from getting together. Sam asks if he is sure that the relationship was not meant to be an Al angrily declares “absolutely!”

Al: What was meant to be was for Beth’s husband to come back home and find her!

Al tells Sam that he was an M.I.A. and that by the time that the military got word to his wife that he was alive, she had already remarried and disappeared. [Al does not mention to Sam that Beth’s last name is Calavicci.] Al tells Sam that Beth works in a hospital with burn victims. Yesterday, according to Al, one of her patients, a Marine, died. Al believes that this death caused her to lose the last little bit of hope that she was holding onto for finding her husband. Al tells Sam that for the next few days, she will be vulnerable emotionally and that she will need a shoulder to cry on that will not also take advantage of her.

Al: If anyone can do this, you can.

Just then, Roger makes his drug bust among the crowd of hippies.

In the next scene, we revisit the two criminals we met at the start of the episode. A woman has apparently provided them bail money as well as a handgun. They remember that the name of the officer that shot one of them is “Scabs.”

Later, we see Beth watching some sailboats. An older woman next to her asks if her MIA bracelet is for anyone she knows and Beth states that it is for her husband. The older woman says that she does not want to be presumptuous but she wants to invite Beth to dinner at The Bay Club with she and her son. Beth accepts the offer. The woman tells Beth that her son Dirk will be elated to see someone in tow his own age. Beth asks if her son’s name is Dirk Simon and tells her that she met Dirk yesterday.

Sam arrives and Beth sees him. She tells the woman that the invitation is very nice but that she will have to pass. The woman offers another time then and Beth says she would like that. Beth approaches Sam and asks how he found her and he says he used some advanced police surveillance technology. She is upset that he had her followed. He then gives her some Calla Lilies. Initially she says she hates them but then admits she loves them. Sam asks her to come to dinner with him and he promises to tell her why he is there, in his own time. She agrees.

He tells her about how he and his partner were at a stakeout and that he saw her with a flat tire. He says he has always had a soft spot for helping women with flat tires. He says that before he could get to her, the other guy got there first.

Beth: Are you telling me that what happened yesterday was nothing more than an attempted pick up?

She asks how he knew her name and he says he ran a check on her license plate. He then tells her that when he saw her wedding ring and MIA bracelet, he felt lousy, and backed off. She asks why he came back with Calla Lilies. He says he owed her an apology and an explanation. Sam tells Beth he thought she would listen to him if he had flowers and he personally likes Calla Lilies.

We see Al walking through what is likely Beth’s yard – with Calla Lilies planted all over. He walks through her house and appears very emotionally distressed. Sam and Beth come into the house. She is explaining to Sam that when a patient enters the hospital eighty percent burned, there is not much to be done. She says that no matter what you do, sooner or later the patient dies. She describes her most recent patient, Andy, who had a will to live that made her believe he could beat the odds. She says that two days ago he started having significant problems and by noon he had died. She cries on Sam’s shoulder.

In the next scene, Sam and Roger are dressed as garbage men. Sam complains that Roger’s clothing fits well and his clothing does not.

Al appears and asks Sam what he’s doing. Sam explains that he is doing Jake’s job. Al tells him that his job is to keep Beth from getting together with Dirk. Sam says that a lot of strange coincidences seem to be pushing Beth toward Dirk and he tells Al that he wonders if God wants them to be together. Al makes an argument that the devil is the one trying to put Beth and Dirk together. Sam tells him that he does not believe in the devil.

Al: Yeah, well maybe you would if you were locked up in a tiger cage that was too small for you to stand up in and too narrow for you to sit down in. Where you had to exist on weevils and fists of rice and any rain water you can catch in your mouth. And the only thing that kept you alive is the memory of the woman you loved. And if you survived that, when you come home, you find out that your wife has run off with some other guy. There’s a devil, Sam. And he’s trying to destroy Beth’s life.

In the next scene, we see Beth at dinner. She runs into Dirk. He asks her if everything turned out alright with the police. She says that it was fine and Dirk replies that the officer was trying to pick her up. Beth tells Dirk that he was trying to pick her up. When Dirk asks if the officer was successful, Beth replies to him by telling him that she met Dirk’s mother yesterday. When Beth tells him that his mother’s offer to dinner was sweet, he replies that she was not being sweet. He says that she has a single son and she wants grandchildren. He says that since she missed dinner, they should eat lunch together instead. Beth agrees and he moves to her table.

The woman who helped the two criminals from the beginning of the episode make bail calls the police department and says that she wants to speak with Detective Scab.

At the police station, we see an officer tell Roger Skaggs that a woman has called for him, twice, and he finally figured out that she is asking for him. He says that she asked for “Scab” and that she has a hot tip. Al appears and talks to Sam. Al finds out that Beth is currently at lunch with Dirk and he wants Sam to break it up somehow. Sam tells Al that he has to go on a stakeout.

We see Dirk in Beth’s home talking about her marriage to Al. She tells Dirk that Al did not believe in dragging kids from place to place when he would not be around. She notes that Al did not realize how much kids would mean to her while he was gone. She tells Dirk that in the eight years they have been married, they have lived together for only two. She says that when Al left for Vietnam, for a second tour, only four months after returning home from his first tour, she almost divorced him. She tells Dirk that you do not divorce a man who is flying off to war. Dirk notes that you also do not divorce a man who is missing in action. Beth says that she is worried MIA is a euphemism for dead.

Sam knocks on the door. She says that she did not realize he was getting off duty so early. Sam tells her that he called in sick and he feigns not to know that Dirk is there. He suggests that the drive down to Mexico for a real Mexican dinner. Dirk makes his presence known and announces that he was just leaving and Sam opens the door for him. Dirk leaves Beth tells him that she ran into him at lunch.

Sam downplays continuing to run into Dirk and says she should not romanticize it too much. She goes to get ready for their drive to Mexico and leaves Sam alone to look around her house for a few moments. He puts a record on the record player. Beth emerges for a moment to say that Sam is correct and that she can be too much of a romanticist at times. She leaves again and Sam turns and sees a picture of her husband on the mantel. It’s Al. Sam has an emotional breakdown at the sight of the picture, tells Beth that he does not believe that he is supposed to be there, and then he runs out and tells her that he will call her later.

Outside, Sam sees Al. Al is just about to go through the “doorway” back toward his own present. Sam calls out to him that if he closes the doorway he does not ever want him to come back through it. Al stops.

Sam: You know the rules, Al. We can’t change our own lives.

Sam tells Al that he does not believe he leaped here to keep Al and Beth together. Al replies that he is and that Ziggy says the odds are real good. Sam asks to see the handheld device. It’s now Al’s turn to breakdown. He tells Sam that Beth is the only woman he ever loved. He tells Sam that this is the reason his marriages after Beth did not work. Sam says he would love to get the two of them back together but he can’t. Al says that he can. Sam asks Al about something on this leap being more important than Al’s relationship.

We see Roger Skaggs enter a bar and ask someone for Rosalie. He sees her from across the room and approaches her table. He sees a baby there and freezes and the patrons run out of the establishment. We hear what sound like war flashbacks as he stares at the baby.

Two pistols and drawn and pointed at Roger’s back. Suddenly we see Sam in the doorway with a shotgun. Gunfire erupts and Sam shoots the two criminals from the beginning of the episode. Det. Skaggs comforts the crying baby as Sam watches him through the gun smoke. Skaggs tells Sam, “thanks partner.”

Later, Al tells Sam as he apologizes that he never ran any scenarios through Ziggy except for his own. Sam says that he knows. He also says that God is giving Al a chance to see Beth before they leap. Al tells Sam that he could not see or be near Beth without wanting to touch her.

We hear Beth listening to “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers as Al just stares at her with tears in his eyes. Al talks to her.

Al: Beth, I’ve missed you so much. It’s been such a long time – 25 years. Of course you haven’t changed, but I have. I’m an Admiral now – me, the ensign, that said that anyone with a rank above Lieutenant was a horse’s a**.
Beth: [laughs]
Al: Beth, you didn’t hear me, did you? Oh, Beth, tell me you can hear me.
Beth: [Gets up and changes the record]
Al: Look at me, Beth. Oh, Sam, why did you make me do this?
Beth: [starts moving to the music as Al dances with her.]
Al: I want you to wait for me, Beth. Don’t give up, honey. ’cause I’m alive out there. And I’m only alive… because of our love. And someday… oh, Beth – someday, I’m gonna come back home to you. [kisses her forehead and then leaps]
Beth: Al.


Whew. Ugh. This episode put me in my feelings. I assume Dean Stockwell won some awards for his performance in MIA because it would be an absolute outrage if he did not.

Al had a couple of truly memorable monologues in this episode. These might have been the two best monologues in the entire run of the series to this point. His monologue about the existence of the devil was not just well-acted, it actually raised some questions within the universe of the show. If God is controlling the leaps, why would there not also be a devil at work in QL? I will be interested to see if the show revisits that notion. If a devil is real within the universe, is this why God is allowing Sam to leap in the first place?

The other memorable Al monologue was at the episode’s conclusion. It is gut-wrenching to hear him helplessly plead with her to wait for him, knowing the pain he suffered in the original timeline when she did not. The show teases us that she might have heard him and heeded him.

Sam was a little slow to figure out what Al was up to in this episode. He did not notice Al’s picture on the mantle the night he stayed over with Beth as she cried?

I have some issues with Sam not believing in the devil. We have seen plenty of evidence from Quantum Leap that Sam is Christian. Sam talking to God was a regular feature of Season 1 and the entirety of Season 2 has included an acknowledgement of God as choosing the Leap locations. That said, I suppose there are those who believe in a God without also believing in the celestial baddie. It’s just unusual to be Christian and to feel that way.

I also have some issues with Sam calling out Al for changing his own timeline. Sam has tried to change his own timelines at least a few times. “True love for me, but not for thee,” eh Sam?

This episode does a really great job of presenting the horrors of war without making them the subject of the episode. To that end, in addition to everything we know about Al, Jason Beghe was a terrific guest star in this episode playing Det. Roger Skaggs. His monologue about freezing up during the war, while seeing a baby on the battlefield, and being lucky to survive was tremendous. I enjoyed that the episode called back to it as it reached the climax.

Almost lost in the greatness of this episode was Beth Calavicci, played by Susan Diol. I think it must have been challenging to play the character and to give us someone that we can imagine with Al – particularly when she does not get to act in any scenes with Al. She succeeds though. She also manages to create a real character that is going through something terrible. Her decision in the original timeline comes across as understandable.

All in all, this is hands down the best episode of the series so far. You can see in this episode exactly why the show has a hardcore fanbase that still lives on today.

2 thoughts on “Quantum Leap (Season 2, Ep 31): M.I.A.

  1. I Googled and didn’t find any reports of Vietnamese using babies to lure US troops into ambushes. I think the cast and crew put up with Belisario’s blind spot here with difficulty. There is a sort of liberal who thinks war is glamorous, like a fairy tale, and doesn’t want to know the details.