Quantum Leap (Season 2, Ep 11): Disco Inferno

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 foundĀ HERE.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

Sam leaps into Chad Stone, a Hollywood stunt man, from a family of stunt men. His assignment is to prevent the death of his younger brother, Chris, in an accident two days from now. Over the course of those two days, Sam learns that Chris is a very talented musician. He encourages Chris to pursue playing while simultaneously encouraging to give the effort his blessing – a thing Ray is unwilling to do. Playing the role of Chris’s older brother causes Sam to remember his own older brother, Tom.

In order to prove to his father than he can do stunt work, Chris takes a job for a movie Ray had quit over safety concerns. Sam and Ray figure out what Chris has agreed to do, and arrive just as Chris’s stunt goes wrong. Sam is able to save him with Al’s help. Ray and Chris reconcile. Ray does not relent to allow Chris to pursue music, though, until Sam wins a bet with him over whether or not Gerald Ford will fall down live on TV. When Ford does fall, Sam leaps away.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

The episode begins with Sam narrating that sometimes leaping through time reminds him of his senior prom, wherein sometimes the songs are soft and slow and there was always a guy who did not bring a date but wants to dance with your girl. He continues, saying that just when things slow down and you find a song you want to dance to forever, somebody suddenly changes the music on you.

Sam leaps into a man in 1970s disco dance attire. He looks down at his heeled boots, groans, and says he would rather be dead. Just then a man approaches from across teh dance floor and shoots Sam square in the chest.

.

.

[I maintain my love for this intro theme.]

Sam flies through a glass window and lies on the ground, apparently covered in blood. Just then crew members walk up to him, calling him Chad, and ask if he is alright . He mutters that he has been hit just as someone else yells “cut!” A small crowd applauds, someone pulls Sam to his feet, and we learn today’s date.

April 1, 1976

Sam is a stunt man. His landing had an issue because someone failed to provide “Chad” with the safety pad for his landing. The stunt director is angry and yells to find out who moved the safety pad. The director is disinterested in this issue, which leads to an argument wherein the stunt director tells him that if someone die son his set, it will be his problem, and that he seems more concerned about his schedule than about whether someone on his set gets hurt. The stunt director then quits.

The director offers the job to the coordinator’s stunt men, “Sam/Chad” and a younger man who is his host’s younger brother. The coordinator tells the director that those two are his boys, and he says that if he does not work, neither do they. Sam/Chad gets offered the job and he declines. The other man, who the director calls “babe,” is then offers the job. He hesitates but also declines.

After walking off the set, the little brother of Sam’s host tells him that Rick (the director) has been laying into them for two weeks. He says he does not know why their dad had to quit now, just two days before his first big stunt. The younger brother, Chris, asks him to see if he can change their dad’s mind. As he does, a beautiful black woman approaches Sam/Chad, asks if he is for real, and begins to flirt with him. When Chris tells her that his brother has done stunts she could not imagine, she replies that she has a vivid imagination. She introduces herself as Traci and as an Aquarius. She says she is from Boogie Town Records and that they are handling all of the music on this movie. She knows that Chad is a Leo and tells him, looking him up and down, that he has king of the beasts written all over him.

Traci: You ever break anything… vital?
Chris: Are you kidding, he’s broken every bone in his body.
Traci: … every bone?

Traci leads Sam/Chad out of the room, to go get a drink, and on their way they run into a red haired woman. She asks Sam if he plans to introduce her to his new friend. Sam tells the red haired woman Traci’s name before apologizing to her about not remembering her name. She replies that he did not blank on her in his trailer the previous night. She throws a drink in his face and tells him that it is nice to meet him. Traci is undeterred and merely hands Sam a napkin to wipe off his face.

Together at the bar, Sam finally sees his new face in the mirror. He is quite handsome. Traci jokes that he can look harder but that his appearance will not improve. She notices a hickey on his neck and then Sam sees it too and bemoans it. He tries to excuse himself but she pulls him back down to his seat and wants to put a mood ring on his finger.

Sam: [voiceover] A mood ring. From the self-obsessed 70s when everyone was getting in touch with their feelings.

She explains what the different colors might mean before seeing that the ring, on Sam’s finger, is black. She says that black means he is tense, disoriented, and harassed. She suggests that he can call her sometime and she will turn it blue.

Sam finally breaks away from Traci and sees Al, disco-dancing toward him from across the room, as “Do the Hustle” plays. Sam grows agitated with Al as he only slowly matriculates toward him, due to the fact he insists upon dancing the entire way.

As we see Sam/Chad talking to himself, from the perspective of his his host’s brother across the room, a girl approaches the brother and begins to flirt with him. When she sees Sam/Chad and makes fun of his gold chains, Chris tells her that’s his brother, and she replies that bad taste must not be genetic. He tells her that every girl goes crazy for his brother and she replies again that she is not every girl. He asks her nervously what kind of guys she likes and she looks him up and down and says she likes guys who wear *exactly* what he is wearing.

Across the room, Al explains to Sam that he is on the set of a low budget movie called “Disco Inferno.” Al tries to sell Sam on the virtues of the 1970s but Sam counters it was “the me decade.” As Sam wrestles with the now stuck mood ring on his finger, Al tells him that he is in Burbank, California, on April 1, 1976.

Sam: What are you telling me that I’m the butt of some cosmic April 1’s joke?

Sam asks what Ziggy says he is here to do. Al explains that Ziggy crashed, accidentally put extra 0s on everyone’s paychecks, and that most of the staff is on vacation. However, he says that before crashing, Ziggy came up with the fact that Chris Stone, the little brother of Sam’s host, is going to die. Al does not know when, where, or how Chris dies and adds that he cannot tell Sam that information until Ziggy gets fixed.

Al tells Sam that he needs to play big brother, for Chris, for the next couple of days. As he is warning Chris against stunts and fast cars, Sam realizes abruptly that he has a big brother, too. Al admits to Sam that he has been wondering when he would remember that, just as Sam names him Tom. Sam asks Al about Tom, but Al reminds Sam that the rules dictate that he cannot share this information. He tells Sam to focus on the little brother across the room.

Sometime later, an actress named Toby is retrieved from her trailer. She walks past Sam/Chad, who is leaning against a truck and tells him that he is looking dy-no-mite. Sam stares at himself in the truck’s side mirror as his host’s dad and brother load their things into it. Sam suggests to their dad, Ray, that he should ease up on Chris. After some awkward horsing around, Ray tells Chris that the director on this shoot is dangerous and he promises him that he will get his shot Chris asks him when Ray confers with Sam/Chad about a stunt they have coming up the following day, on something called “Earthquake.” Since this stunt would be on the same day that Chris is slated to die, Sam suggests to Chris that he cannot give this one up to let him do it. Chris insists that he can do it and is upset when Sam tells him no. After Chris storms off, their father tells Sam/Chad, with some sense of confusion, that it’s not that tough a job.

Sam catches up with Chris, who drives them both back to where they are staying. Sam narrates that his brother hardly talked on the drive back and adds that he cannot blame him. He remembers how angry he used to get when his brother Tom used to boss him around. As he narrates, more memories come to him. He remembers that his brother was a basketball player, state champion in Indiana in 1964, and he seems to think that something happened.

Sam: I want to remember but I’m afraid. Of what?

He hears Chris playing guitar in the other room. Chris gripes at him for entering, without knocking, and Sam tells him that he is good. Chris complains that one cannot make a living playing guitar and when Sam asks why not, he says he cannot play “that disco garbage.” Sam tells him that he has a feeling disco will die off within a couple of years and suggests that maybe those disco maniacs will become urban cowboys, instead.

Chris complains that Sam did not let him do the stunt and tells him there is still time to change his mind. Sam refuses and says vaguely that he has his reasons. He then tells a story about two brothers he knows, the other of which was a star athletes, while the younger was gifted in physics. He says that the older brother pushed the younger brother toward his talent in physic and the younger brother eventually won a Nobel Prize. Chris counters that he is not winning any Grammys. Sam tells him that he will not know unless he tries.

Abruptly the doorbell rings, Chris looks out, and he shouts in disbelief that Shannon, the girl he met on the set today, actually showed up. Chris asks Sam/Chad not to hit on her and when Sam asks why he would do that, Chris replies that he hits on everyone.

Sam/Chad, Chris, and Shannon all watch Saturday Night Live together, and laugh at a sketch of Bill Murray hosting a “Family Feud” episode featuring the Coneheads. A moment later, in the next sketch, Chevy Chase portrays President Gerald Ford. Sam accidentally spoils the bit and when his brother points out that the sketch is live, Sam improvises and says that there is a three hour tape delay and that he has a friend back east who called him and told him about it. His brother calls him out for not knowing anyone east of Las Vegas.

As they watch, Shannon laughs at the sketch and inadvertently saves Sam from further explanation. She notes that if Chase/Ford falls down again, Carter was going to become President. Sam asks her why she thinks Carter will win the Democratic nomination, and she rattles off his primary wins to that point. Chris looks at both of them, nervously, believing that Sam/Chad is flirting with her. Sam say she could be right and says she sure is up on this election. Shannon replies that she works for the League of Women Voters at school. She tells both of them that President Ford is speaking on campus and offers to get both of them special passes if they want to come. Sam replies that this would be great. Chris asks Sam/Chad, since when he has been so interested in politics. Sam tries to cover by saying it has always been kind of a special secret interest. Chris points out that the last time he voted, it was for Homecoming King, and that when he did vote, it was for himself – twice. Sam sees Al outside the balcony door and says he needs to get some fresh air.

Outside, Al is wearing disco attire. Sam jokes about what he is wearing, but Al counters that the only clothes that got him more women was his space suit. Al lets Sam know that Ziggy is still messed up and that all of its directions are coming out in Japanese. Sam abruptly asks Al how Chris was killed. Al still does not know but says they are checking on that. Sam tells Al that Chris has a future in music. Al notes that Sam seems to like Chris and he says he does, and that Chris reminds him of himself. He shares with Al that Tom is the one who talked him into attending MIT, saying that the memory came back earlier while he was talking to Chris. Al reminds Sam that he will be on the set of the movie Earthquake, the following day, reminding Sam that the movie stars Chuck Heston and Ava Gardner. Sam asks about the stunt and relays that it is supposed to be a little fall.

The next day on set, in costume, we see that the fall – though perhaps small by a stunt man’s standards – is quite far. Sam does not think he can do it and worries he will die trying. Al says that he has to do it or else not leap. As Sam is bemoaning this, yet another former fling of Chad approaches, and once more, Sam cannot remember her name. She pushes him but falls off the edge of the stunt set herself. Sam does not fall, but catches himself on a railing. As he hangs there, some actors attempt to help him that Al recognizes – including “Ben Cartwright.” As Ben Cartwright approaches Sam, he loses his grip, falls, but lands safely on the inflatable landing spot below.

Down on the ground, Sam gets up by it wobbly. The woman who fell first approaches him and says to him closely, “once a screamer, always a screamer.” A few minutes later, Sam meets up with an angry Chris who tells him that he could have performed the stunt and that he could have his card now if Sam/Chad had let him do it. Sam tells him that he should pursue music, instead, and he says telling their father that will take more courage than jumping off of buildings.

Chris: Yeah, but what do I know about the music business?

Sam meets up with Traci in a music venue and she directs him to a man named Mort Greenblatt, who is the A&R VP on their company’s country and western label. Sam thanks her for doing this for Chris and she replies that it was not for Chris. She then kisses him and says she will see him on Saturday.

Chris, Shannon, and elder Stone are already in the music venue, too, where Chris apparently has a gig. Sam/Chad finds Chad’s father and tells him that Chris is up next and that they should move closer to see. Their father, Ray, says he can hear just fine from the bar. Sam asks him what he has against Chris and Ray tells him that Chris was born weak, premature, and that after he and their mom split, she raised Chris all wrong. He tells Sam/Chad that he is going to make a man out of Chris.

On stage, Chris is fantastic. Ray eventually gets up off his seat at the bar, and with a beer bottle in hand, walks past Sam and toward the stage. He stares at him for a moment, and then turns around to leave the room. Chris sees his father come and then go. When his song ends, and the room applauds, Chris leaves to find his dad at the bar. When Ray remains sour and tells Chris that he is wasting his time, he and Chris end up shoving each other, with Ray being the antagonist. Sam breaks it up, just in time for Ray to comment that Chris would be different if he had raised him in stead of his mother. Chris then punches Ray in the face and leaves. After he goes, Ray comments that Chris can throw a punch but adds that it is lucky for him that Sam/Chad was holding him back. Sam comments that it was lucky for him Chris did not throw two punches.

Chris walks out of the bar and calls Rick, the director of the movie from which his father quit as stunt director, due to lack of safety protocols, and offers to do the movie’s fire stunt the following day. The director, Rick, accepts. Shannon overhears this conversation.

Back at their home, Sam/Chad look for Chris but he is not there. Al appears. Sam tells him that something about this leap is driving him crazy and adds that now he knows how his brother Tom must have felt with him.

Sam: I always thought he was putting me down, you know, trying to tell me what to do. But by the time I figured out he was just looking out for me, it was too late, because he —

Sam suddenly realizes that Tom is dead. Al confirms that Tom was killed in Vietnam. Al admits that this is one part of Sam’s memory he was hoping Sam would not get back.

The next morning, Sam finds Ray and asks if he has seen Chris. The older man says no and that he guesses Chris is with the little brunette he was with the night before. He and Sam argue about whether Chris could be a musician, with Ray finally admitting that Chris is good. When Ray says he does not want Chris to ruin his life, Sam tells him that he is ruining his life by forcing him to become a stuntman. Suddenly introspective, Ray admits that sometimes he feels as though he is doing to Chris what his own daddy did to him. He says he cannot seem to stop himself.

Ray: Your granddaddy was a stuntman so I became a stuntman, because I had to prove ot him that I could do it, and I did. I don’t know. I guess– I guess proving things is in the old Stone blood, huh?
Sam: Like Chris proving he has to do that fire stunt.

Chris and Shannon show up on the movie set. Shannon asks him if he is sure he wants to do this. He asks what she means and she reminds him that his father thought this was unsafe. He tells her that he checked it out himself. When she asks about Chad, he tells her that his brother told him to do whatever he wanted to do.

Later, Chris is in costume, and he gets stunt instructions from the director.

Sam and Ray roll up, tires squealing, on the set. They jump out of Chad’s car and run. Just as they get to the set, Chris does the stunt, and it goes wrong. Fire is everywhere. Al directs Sam through the fire to where Chris is. Sam cannot see anything, due to the smoke, so Al has to lead him with the sound of his voice. Sam finds Chris with his legs pinned. He is able to lift a heavy metal object from his leg, hoist him onto his shoulders, and then once more follow Al’s voice out of the fire.

As Sam carries Chris outside, we see the director thanking God that Ray showed up, to Ray’s face. Ray punches him. With Chris on a gurney, Sam tells the paramedics to check his leg as he believes it to be broken. The younger Stone brother is given oxygen, coughs and is conscious, before he is wheeled onto an ambulance. Ray Stone gets into the ambulance with him.

Sam looks relieved as the ambulance leaves and Traci finds him. She notes that he was exposed to all of that heat, but his mood ring – which he apparently could not get from his finger – is bright blue. She asks if he knows what that means and he tells her that he guesses he is in a good mood.

Later, the three Stone men and Shannon are watching a basketball game together as Chris wears a cast. Sam gets up to grab a beer and runs into Al. He asks why he has not leaped yet and Al replies that Ziggy is working on it. Al asks what the rush is and Sam says sometimes he gets a little homesick and sometimes he cannot help but hope that maybe he will leap all the way back. Al jokes with him and says that while it is not much, he has him. He then shows Sam a picture of his brother Tom, confessing that he is not supposed to do this as he shows him. Sam tries to touch the picture but his hand passes through it. Al promises to save it for him, for when he does make it home.

Back on the couch, Ray Stone still has not relented that Chris should pursue music instead of stunt work. When Sam tells Ray that Chris’s future is in music, Ray asks Sam/Chad if he knows the future. Just then, Al sees the TV and tells Sam that he remembers this moment because Gerald Ford trips and falls on the stairs. Sam/Chad tells Ray that he does know the future and he predicts that Gerald Ford is going to trip and fall down the stairs. Shannon jumps in and says that there is no way he will fall again. Ray agrees with her and says that there is no way Sam knows the future. Sam bets them both Chris’s future that he does know the future. Sam says that if Ford trips, Ray has to get behind Chris becoming a musician and he says that if Ford does not trip, he will get behind Chris becoming a stunt man. Chris suddenly interjects that this is his future but Sam tells him to trust him and that he knows what he is doing.

As the group watches, we see Ford fall down, and then we see Sam leap into someone wearing a sailor’s uniform.

REACTION:

There were a few timeline issues in this episode that most people would probably not notice… but they irked me a little bit.

Dan Akroyd’s Coneheads sketches did not begin on SNL until 1977. This episode takes place in April of 1976. The movie “Earthquake” was released in 1974 – they were not still shooting it in 1976. Gerald Ford fell down airplane steps in Austria in 1975 – not live on TV in 1976.

[Falling on airplane steps is a proud American tradition carried out relatively recently by both Mike Pence and Joe Biden.]

Timeline issues aside, this was a pretty decent though relatively bland episode. I enjoyed seeing Sam play the role of big brother for the likeable underdog, Chris. We get a sense that “Chad” as not a great brother in the way that Sam is (and I think the regression to normal after the real Chad returns will be funny.) Sam does not get to leave until his host’s father also agrees to the career change. The danger/failure of the fire stunt was fairly predictable though, as was Sam’s ability to actually save Chris after everything went wrong.

The heart of this episode was not the main story, which even Sam and Al do not seem to care all that much about (other than generally liking Chris), it was Sam’s regained memory of his older brother Tom, who we learn died in Vietnam. Dean Stockwell plays his part in that revelation brilliantly. I cannot say enough about how much better Al is during Season 2 than he was during Season 1.

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