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 NOT-TOO-DUSTY RECAP:
Episode summary via quantumleap.fandom.com:
November 15, 1955- In this episode Sam leaps into a teenaged Billie Jean Crockett (Priscilla Weems), an unwed young woman who is in labor. Al informs him he is there to make sure her father accepts her child so that she is able to keep it. Back at the base, everyone is worried Billie Jean will have the baby in the waiting room. Despite the obvious physical problem, Sam soon discovers the baby did not leap with its mother, and that he is pregnant. As it turns out, Sam is too busy worrying that he, a man, is going to give birth that it is a young black girl (who works for the woman Sam is staying with) that convinces Billie Jean’s father to accept his grandchild. Sam leaps seconds before the child is born.
This episode seems to exist primarily as a vehicle for explaining more of the mechanics of how Leaping works. Unfortunately, I think the episode actually makes everything more confusing for the audience.
We are told early in the episode that when Sam Leaps, the Leapee’s body goes into the future. According to Sam and Al, when Sam sees mirror images that are not his own, he is not seeing the other person’s actual body. He’s seeing a kind of projection of their body left behind in the past. This is why Al is so angry at how Sam is acting. It *should* be literally impossible for Sam to be actually pregnant during a Leap. That’s why (for example) when he inhabited the body of someone with Down’s Syndrome, he did not have Down’s himself. He only had to act as though he did. But… what if the Leapee is pregnant? What happens to the baby? He can only leap into one person at a time.
Apparently… if the person is not too far along, the baby travels to the future, too. The baby is not a fully separate person yet so Sam can leap into both mother and baby simultaneously. However, this episode implies that if the baby is about to be born, and become a completely separate person, then rather than be born in the future, the baby will disappear from its mothers womb, return to the past, and Sam will give birth. Somehow. The reason for this seems to be that Sam can only leap into one person at a time.
Midway through Season 3, both Sam and Al don’t really understand the mechanics of how Leaping works.
We should conclude then that:
1) Sam/Al were wrong about the basic mechanics of how Leaping works at the start of the episode,
2) Sam can only leap into one person at a time,
3) QL doesn’t define the unborn as a fully-fledged separate person until the mother begins giving birth.
4) It is possible to “un-Leap” once a fetus attains personhood.
5) Sam’s Leap body must be tangible,
6) Sam’s Leap body must be a computer construct
7) Sam’s Leap body must be physiologically malleable in some way based on “brain waves.”
I mentioned above that when he leaped into someone who had Down’s, he did not actually have Down’s. However, he did experience some physical effects of Down’s that manifested as clumsiness. When Sam has leaped into women before, it is implied at least that Sam has the Leapee’s lesser physical strength. Presumably if Sam leaps into someone who is paralyzed, he will also be paralyzed.
Why were both Sam and Al so adamant (and wrong) about this as the episode started?
Also, where is Sam’s actual body? We know it vanished when he stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator. He is not actually using his real body in these Leaps. Where are his brain waves coming from?
Initially in this episode, the stakes made a lot of sense before the bodily confusion. Sam has to finish the mission, and leap before the baby is born, so that the baby is not born in the future. If the baby is born in the future, and if it becomes physically separate from its mother’s body, then it would not leap back with its mother once Sam’s mission is complete and she returns to her body in the past. That makes sense. It sets a timer on Sam’s task and it raises the stakes. However, we learn as the episode goes on that if the baby is about to be born, it literally disappears from its mother’s womb in the future, and ends up in Sam’s… something. That change removed the episode’s stakes to some degree. Sam could have stayed in this body, with a baby, and leaped a few weeks later once the Leapee’s father finally came around.
It’s also worth wondering about the alternative. What happens if the baby doesn’t disappear from the future and return to the past. Does the doctor from the past, uh, look, and not see a baby in Sam? Does Sam go through the pain of delivery without a baby? What happens then?
Ultimately we don’t actually find out. The concept of Leaping is inherently confusing. Some of the confusion form this episode, in my opinion, was sewn in service of letting the viewers see Scott Bakula act as though he is pregnant. Al growing increasingly furious at Sam for how he is acting was so funny it almost pays the choice off.
This episode is unique in Quantum Leap’s run in that Sam is not the one who completes his mission. Neither is Al. Effy, a friend of the Leapee, does the work. When Sam, Al (who has access to the mother in the future), and Ziggy cannot figure out who the father of the baby is, Effy tells them. When Sam cannot convince the Leapee’s dad to support her, Effy goes to him and tugs at his heart strings for his daughter and gets him to agree to support her and the baby. This is a break from the episode’s formula and I want to like it, but I can’t really get myself on board with this choice. It felt too convenient.
Speaking of convenient, is this episode the first time that Sam or Al have ever really considered getting help, in a Leap, from the Leapee? Sam suggests that Al should go to the Leapee and ask what she’d do with the benefit of hindsight. How has this never come up before? (To be clear, I think Sam meant that Al should go to the person aged up 40 years, somewhere out in the world, and not her past self which is with the QL team doctors, probably feeling like she’s been abducted by extra-terrestrials.)
All in all, this whole episode felt like a bit of a mess to me. Maybe it was necessary to start delving into the mechanics of leaping, some more, to set up future episodes. If so, then we’ll see if it pays off some other story in the future.