Quantum Leap (Season 3, Ep 34): Leap of Faith

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 a Philadelphia priest, in 1963, and he is tasked with preventing the murder of his fellow priest Father Mac. Along the way, he learns that Father Mac and a recently murdered altar boy at the church, Sonny, were the only witnesses to a murder committed by a young local gangster named Tony.

After a couple of failed attempts by Tony on Father Mac’s life, the priest – who is a decorated Marine – decides to kill Tony. He takes him hostage, at gunpoint, with a plan to kill him in the place where Tony killed Sonny. We learn that Father Mac did not really witness Tony committing a murder but instead only pretended that he did to give assurance to the 12 year old altar boy, so that he could be brave enough to testify. He is wracked with guilt and remorse, and believes that his inability to serve as a witness will mean that Tony walks. Sam arrives just in time to prevent Father Mac from killing Tony, and is able to get a confession from Tony himself in the process.


The intro narration and music for this show are just so good.

[My neighbors’ view of me, through the front facing window of my home, just before the episode starts]

Sam leaps into a wedding officiant. After a long pause, the groom turns to Sam and asks if he can. Sam asks if he can what, which then leads the groom to ask if he can kiss her. Sam just says “go” and he does.

Oh boy.

August 19, 1963

Sam narrates that leaping into other people’s lives can sometimes be downright spiritual. Just then, a couple of much older women approach Sam to say they hardly noticed his shaky legs or his heavy breathing, and they assure him that the first time is the hardest. Sam asks if there was anything else and one of them replies that he forgot to introduce the newlyweds. Sam mutters about thinking everyone probably already knowing who they are, but they are not satisfied. The three of them are interrupted by the appearance another priest, who assures them that Father Pistano (Sam) did a great job. They do not seem to agree but hold their tongues. He pulls Frank (Sam) aside and asks to see him in his office. Sam realizes his host’s name is Frank, after a moment, and then agrees to go with him. As he excuses himself, he tells the two women that it is nice to meet them. They respond by saying that they attend Mass every day. He tries to cover by saying that it is nice meeting them again, before he finally gets away from them.

In the other priest’s office, he tells Sam/Frank that he experienced two firsts today – his first wedding and his first encounter with the Montocelli sisters. He tells Sam that he hopes they did not rough him up too much. Sam answers that he guesses he let his nerves show today, but the priest replies that he was at the church for ten years before they stopped reviewing his sermon notes. He adds that even now they sit on the front row and give him dirty looks.

Priest: At least you’re Italian. They consider being Irish a birth defect.

The priest pours himself a stiff drink and asks if Sam would like one too, adding that it would calm his nerves. Sam says he is find now as the other man drinks and mentions liquid courage. He tells Sam he will need all the courage he can muster and he shows Sam a newspaper article about a boy hit by a train. The priest bemoans the fact that he baptized the boy, watched him grow up, and now will have to bury him despite him being only twelve years old. Sam starts to comfort him regarding accidents, but the other man replies that they both know it was not an accident. He tells Sam that the boy has been walking those tracks all of his life. The other priest tells Sam that he does not know what makes sense anymore.

Later, at the funeral, the other priest speaks. Outside, elsewhere, an older Italian boy named Tony, with a younger boy named Joey, break into a car and go to the funeral, with the younger boy saying as they go that he thinks they should be going to see Pop instead. As the boys walk up to the funeral, the priest pauses to observe them for a moment, before resuming his speech. There is tension between the priest and the older brother Tony, as the priest says that he loved the deceased boy, Sonny, with all of his heart, and that he will miss him for the rest of his life. Tony approaches Sonny’s mother and tells her that he wants to express his sympathies. She spits in his face and calls him a murderer. The priest steps in to intervene before Tony retaliates and asks him to keep this from becoming a circus, and to just leave. Tony argues momentarily but then goes.

When Sam and the priest return to their church, Al finally appears. Instead of going inside with the other man, Sam tells him that he wants to stay outside to get some air first – giving himself an opportunity to speak with Al.

Al tells Sam that his name is Francis Guiseppe Pistano, but that everyone calls him Frank. He adds that Frank is two years out of seminary and that this church, St. Dorothy’s, is his first assignment. As Al starts to give more info, Sam asks him to get to the point and asks further if he is supposed to prevent a murder. Al is puzzled that Sam already knows, but Sam explains the kid he just buried was murdered and he thinks therefore that he must be arriving late. Al tells him that Ziggy believes the other priest, Father Mac, is going to be murdered in the next 36 hours and that Sam is here to prevent that.

Al tells Sam that Father Mac, and the kid he just buried, were the only two witnesses to a murder committed by Tony Pronti. Sam says that Tony was at the funeral. When he asks Al if he has more details about the murder, Al leaves promising to come back with more information with Ziggy obtains it. Inside the church, Sam approaches Father Mac and asks if he wants to talk about what happened today. The other man tells him no but that he guesses he does. Sam acknowledges that – and then their conversation is interrupted as a giant cross is pushed off of a balcony above Father Mac’s head. Sam sees and shoves the other priest out of the way, just in time.

In the police interview later, Sam asks the officer if he can just arrest Tony Pronti, certain that he was the would-be assassin. The officer asks if he can positively identify Tony as the one who pushed the cross, but Sam says no. The officer promises to have cruisers patrolling the church, until the murder trial for Tony Pronti ends, but says for now there is nothing more he can do. After the officer goes, Father Mac pours himself another stiff drink. Sam tries to talk to him about his drinking, but the other man brushes him off.

That night, Sam takes a cab to the sketchy part of town where Tony hangs out. He enters a dance club, where a jukebox is playing music loudly. He finds Tony kissing a girl, in a booth, and asks Tony if they can talk. Tony pretends not to hear him, so Sam walks away and unplugs the jukebox. When Sam returns, Tony says that Sam must be here collecting for the poor. Tony suggestively asks the girl he has been kissing if she has anything to give to the good Father and when she seems upset by the question, Tony says that he is sorry and tells Sam that she already gave today – a couple of times. Sam then tugs on the girl’s arm and asks if she will excuse them. She gets up and goes.

Tony: If you’ve got something to say to me, you better say it, ’cause this ain’t no church and I ain’t no altar boy. Although I understand there’s an opening.

Sam tells him that he was at the church tonight. Tony pretends to be surprised about something happening at the church. Sam tells him Father Mac was almost killed and Tony replies, with snark, that church is a dangerous place.

Sam: I’m not gonna let you kill him.
Tony: Don’t push me Father?
Father Mac: [just arrived] What, are you gonna push him back, punk? Like you pushed that little 12 year old kid underneath the train, huh?

Father Mac, calling him a loud-mouthed punk, asks if he sneaked up behind the little boy to do it. Tony jumps up at Father Mac and attacks him. A brawl ensues with the priests getting the better of it. Sam knocks Tony out with a kick to the head. After, Sam sees Joey, Tony’s little brother who was with him at the funeral, standing and watching him from a distance before the boy runs to check on Tony.

Later that night, as they walk down a railroad track together during a thunderstorm, Father Mac tells Sam that he saw him take a cab, had a funny feeling, and decided to follow him. He then asks him how he learned to use his feet like he did in the fight, and Sam says he learned it from watching old Chinese movies. He seems surprised by the answer but leaves the issue alone. Father Mac says that he thinks Sam made a big impression on Joey. Sam quips that he made an even bigger impression on Tony. Father Mac says that Joey is a good kid but adds that Tony is the only family he has left. Sam suggests that maybe there is hope for Joey if he can be gotten away from Tony’s influence.

Just then, they arrive at the spot on the track where Sonny was killed. He says that on the night Sonny was killed, he was called to come identify the body – or what was left of his body. He then opines about how funny it is that someone so small could leave such a big gap inside of you when they go.

That night, back at his office, Father Mac is drinking more heavily while Sam timidly tries to push back on the priest’s coping mechanism. After he empties his bottle, Father Mac goes looking for another, and in the process of going through his things, Sam sees that the man has a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. He shows Sam a picture of 421 men and says he served in Guadalcanal. Sam asks if he was the chaplain but Father Mac says he was just a gyrene, First Marine Division, and he says he fought at The Battle of Bloody Ridge. He explains to Sam that the enemy ran suicides at them all day long and that he lost count of how many people he killed that day.

Father Mac: But I swore if I lived, I’d spend the rest of my life makin gup for it.
Sam: So you became a priest.
Father Mac: [takes a long drink] It seemed like a good start at the time.

Father Frank tells Sam that when he looks around, he does not see that he is doing anybody any good. Sam says that they all wonder that sometimes, but the you have to believe that you will make a difference in the long run. Father Mac asks Sam if he believes that, and Sam replies that he would not be there if he did not. Father Mac says he wishes he could be so sure. Sam gets up, and begins cleaning up the room, suggesting that they should call it a day. When he turns around, he sees that Father Mac is asleep on the couch. Sam covers the other man with a blanket, turns out the lights, and goes.

Outside Father Mac’s door, Sam finally runs into Al again, who tells him that it is a little past his bedtime. Sam says that it’s not if you don’t know where your bed is. Al asks for an update on Father Mac. Sam tells him that he is still alive, physically, but that the man is losing his faith as quickly as his bottles. Al tells him that happens and to priests more often than you’d think. Al goes quiet and Sam calls him out for acting strangely. After some pushing from Sam, Al finally explains his demeanor. He reminds Sam of the story of how his father put him and his sister into an orphanage because he could not take care of them.

Al goes on, explaining that his father came to get he and his sister out of the orphanage, when Al was ten, with Al’s father having made a lot of money in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. Al says that his dad even bought a house… then he got sick with cancer. Al recounts that when he visited his father in the hospital, he was told by his father that everything would be alright so long as Al prayed for him. Al tells Sam that he did pray, every day at church, until the day his dad died. Sam apologizes for forgetting that part of Al’s history and Al tells him that he did not forget, he says he never told Sam before. Abruptly, Al leaves.

After Al goes, we see that a small boy has been watching him through a window. Sam asks who is there. When the boy runs, Sam chases him and catches Joey. Sam asks why he is here and Joey says he came to talk to him, but adds that he can wait outside until Sam is finished talking to himself.

Inside Sam’s office, Joey asks Sam to convince Father Mac not to testify, arguing that Tony will hang if he does. Sam counters that if Tony confesses, he has a good chance of beating the death penalty, but less of one if the case goes to a jury. Joey says Tony is not guilty of anything except trying to stay alive. Sam asks if that is what Tony told him to say. Joey then explains that Tony was not always like he is now, adding that before Pop died, Tony used to do stuff, enjoyed baseball, and that he did not act like he was mad at the world all the time. Joey finally says he should not have come and wants Sam to tell father Mac that he is really sorry about Sonny. Sam tells him to tell Father Mac himself. Joey leaves.

The next day, Father Mac is leading a boxing class for boys at the church. Al arrives but does not yet have more details about the attempt on Father Mac’s life. He suggests that maybe they will know more in a couple of hours.

Sam: What if we don’t have a couple hours? How come sometimes he knows stuff and other times, he, you know–

Al suggests that maybe Sam should ask Ziggy, just as Father Mac’s class is letting out. One of the older boxing pupils tells him that he will not make the next lesson because he will be working at the butcher shop to make money his family needs. Sam follows the boy as he gets his things and tells him that he saw a move once about a guy who practiced boxing on frozen beef carcasses.

Boy: [putting on a very Rocky Balboa-esque hat] Beef. Yo.

Sam wants to talk to Frank again, but Frank insists that they do it while boxing. Sam reluctantly agrees, saying that it’s not like they are going to actually hurt each other. Sam suggests, during their boxing match, that Father Mac should take some time off and dry out. He adds that it might also help to keep him alive until he has to testify. Father Mac promises to stay away from the kid until the trial starts, but Sam counters it would be easier if he left town altogether. He replies to Sam that he cannot run. Sam argues that he never said anything about running, but he says priests take vacations every once and a while. Father Mac punches Sam in the head, knocking him to the ground, and tells him intensely that he has never run from anything in his entire life. He then tells Sam to get up.

When Sam gets up, he punches Father Mac and knocks him down. With the other man lying on his back, Sam tells him that if he did not know better, he would think he wants to die. Father Mac tells Sam that his sermon is over and that he needs to get up and go take confession. Sam says he will take it for him.

We see Tony loading a revolver as Joey tells him he does not have to do it this way. He suggests that Tony could go to Canada. Joey adds that Tony would not be doing this if Pop were still alive and he adds that Tony did not attend their father’s funeral. Tony stands up and yells at his brother that their father was a loser who killed himself. Joey calls him a liar and says their mother told him Pop had a heart attack. Tony yells that she did not want him to know. They argue, with Joey insisting that Tony is a liar, before finally Joey tells him with specificity that their father hanged himself and that he knows it because he is the one who found his body. Tony storms out.

Al finds Sam on his way to conduct the confessions. To Sam’s surprise, Al is reticent for Sam to do this because Al believes confessions are a sacred sort of thing. When Sam says that he thought Al did not believe in this anymore, Al says that he sort of does not, but he adds that old habits are hard to break. Sam asks Al to come give him a hand, but Al says he can handle it, and advises him to forgive everybody, everything, and not to talk too much.

When Sam sits down to hear confession, he recognizes Tony’s voice. Tony confesses that it has been ten years since his last confession and he says that since then he has killed two people. Tony then puts the gun against the wall of the confession booth and says “make that three.” Tony fires several shots into the confessional booth. As he runs out, he sees Sam fall out of his side of the booth and onto the floor. Al leans over Sam’s body and pleads with God not to do this.

Al: I swore I would never hae anythin to do with you again, but you can’t do this. He’s done too much, he’s helped too many people. You can’t take him like this.

Father Mac runs into the room and Sam speaks. Al says thanks to God. Father Mac yells, asking if anyone saw who did this. One of the old men in the room says that it was Tony. Father Mac storms out. Just then Al tells Sam that Ziggy had it all wrong, that Sam was not here to stop Tony from killing Father Mac, he is here to stop Father Mac from killing Tony. Al tells Sam that Ziggy says he is just stunned, it is nothing serious, so he needs to get up. Al tells Sam that Father Mac is on his way to the railroad tracks, with a gun, and with Tony.

With Al urging a bleeding Sam onward, he stumbles out and finds the two Montocelli sisters standing next to their car. He says he does not have time to explain what happened to him, but he says he needs to borrow their car right away. Sam speed away in their car.

We see Father Mac, with a gun at Tony’s back, walking him down the railroad tracks. Tony tells him that he will never get away with this but Father Mac stops him in the spot where Sonny died. We hear a train coming in the distance as Father Mac tells Tony to get on his knees and talk to him about what he did to Sonny.

Tony: You’re a priest. You can’t do this!
Father Mac: I was a man first, kid.

Sam runs up to the scene and tells Father Mac that he cannot do this. He says that Father Mac needs to testify. Here, Father Mac admits that he never saw Tony commit the murder. He shares that Sonny was a witness, and afraid, so he told Sonny that he would say he saw it too until the time of the trial. With Sonny dead, there are no witnesses, and he says he cannot let Tony walk.

Sam stands on the track, between Father Mac and Tony, until the train almost hits them both. Just before the train gets there, Tony admits that he did it, and Sam pulls him out of the way in the nick of time.

Later, we see Sam with Father Mac in the church’s boxing facility. Sam notes that he is up early and the other man says he feels shaky, because he has been reaching for that crutch for ten years and it’s a little hard to stop. Sam just tells him “one day at a time.” Father Mac starts to talk about the other day at the track, he says he was wrong and that if Sam/Frank had not been there, he might have done the wrong thing. Sam tells him that he better hurry up and get to Mass.

Father Mac leaves and Al arrives with the update. Father Mac lives another twenty years and even trains two future golden gloves champions. Tony does not hang, but after serving a long sentence, does alright for himself when he gets out. Al tells Sam that Joey ends up in good hands, too. The camera pans over to Father Mac talking with Joey. Al congratulates Sam for doing a great job. Sam says Al did a great job, too. When Al says he did not do anything, Sam says that he prayed for him. When Al shrugs an acknowledgement, Sam leaps away.

Sam leaps into a photographer, doing a photoshoot with wealthy beautiful people, and a live lion.

Oh boy.


After the first two episode, this one was bound to be a step back… and it was. The emotional beats of this episode never really clicked. I spent the entire episode waiting for some other shoe, re: Tony, to drop. There were hints that maybe not everything in the murder was as we the audience believed it. Instead, though, the story doe snot move in that direction, and we have Father Mac struggling with whether or not to kill Tony.

Father Mac’s arc mostly works, then. I know why he’s drinking so much and feeling so guilty over Sonny’s death. But the tension for me, with Tony and Joey, never really resolved in an interesting way. The episode humanized Tony, a bit, and hinted at maybe revealing more, but ultimately did nothing with that humanization.

Al’s struggle with his faith makes for an interesting pairing with Sam – who seems to be quite faithful. It’s also a bit strange, on this show, considering that Al testified before a Senate Hearing to start season 2 that God was running the project now. I mean… is it that Al does not believe in God or that Al does not *like* God? Maybe we’re about to go on that arc with Al this season.

The big problem with the episode was that it’s big most tense moment was probably supposed to be Al praying for a shot Sam. However, Sam certainly does not look mortally wounded when this is happening. We know (as the audience) that they’d never kill of the main character. So there’s no tension in the moment.

My favorite moment in this episode was Sam encouraging Father Mac’s boxing pupil to punch frozen beef at the butcher’s job where he’s about to start working – then the kid puts on a hat and looks like Rocky Balboa. We then realize that Sylvester Stallone lived through the events of this episode. That kid was definitely supposed to be Stallone and thus Sam gave him the idea for Rocky. Of course, Stallone gave Sam the idea for Rocky, first. Time travel is weird.