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 Rod “the Bod” a Chippendale’s dancer in New York in 1979. His mission is to help a deaf woman avoid a spiral of bad choices that includes prostitution and death by AIDS. Sam ultimately succeeds by help her get a dance career started.
THE DUSTY RECAP:
Episode summary via quantumleap.fandom.com:
October 6, 1979: Sam leaps into the body of Rod “The Bod” McCarty (leapee played by Chris Solari) a male dancer and the featured attraction at a strip club called Mario’s Hideaway in New York City. According to Al, he’s there to prevent a waitress and aspiring ballet dancer, Diana Quinna (Rhondee Beriault), from turning to prostitution to make ends meet. Diana is quite innocent in many ways. She would love to be a professional dancer but is deaf, and lacks the self esteem to make it on her own. Mario (Louis Mustillo), the club owner has other plans for Diana, hoping to turn Diana into one of his bachelor party “dancers”, which Al reports, through Ziggy, would lead her into a life of prostitution, drug arrests and eventual death by AIDS by 1986.
At the club is Joanna Chapman (played by Debbie Allen, who also directs the episode), choreographer of a major jazz dance company. Having wowed her with his own dance moves, Joanna informs him of an open audition she is holding. After hours, Sam finds Diana practicing a dance routine and offers to walk her home. Despite her protests that she does not want him around, Sam persists and on the walk home the two grow very close.
Sam works out a deal with Mario, offering to do another performance for the club if Mario keeps Diana from dancing at bachelor parties. Mario agrees but Diana is not happy – she has no money and she thinks that Sam is being patronizing. Sam confronts her and convinces her to give Joanna’s audition a try.
Diana does well at the audition – until instructions are given that she can’t see. Upon learning that Diana is deaf, Joanne turns her down. Diana is shattered and things are made worse by the fact that her home has been towed away. With no one else to turn to, Diana returns to the club and talks to a Valerie Nevsky (Heidi Swedberg), who’s Mario’s assistant at the nightclub.
Valerie, who runs an escorting business on the side, sets Diana up on an arranged “date” as an escort. Sam learns of this, he’s furious, and then seeks her out at the hotel that the “date” with a prospective John has taken her. Risking being dragged away by security, Sam bursts into the room demanding to talk to Diana, who also escorts, and has had a past history of prostitution arrests herself, and asks her not to take the job. Diana makes the right choice and Sam talks Joanne into giving Diana a second chance. This time, Diana makes the cut and Sam leaps out as she thanks him.
Diana: Can you teach me?
Joanna: Maybe we’ll teach each other.
Dusty: ::dies of cringe::
Okay, it wasn’t that bad. The show actually approached the disability issue relatively well for the most part.
Most of the people who interacted with Diana treated her in realistic ways. Nobody was over-the-top and discriminatory to her because of her disability (an Epstein and Maxwell type duo try to nudge her into prostitution due to her good looks, though.) Most of her obstacles were presented in a believable way. Diana ultimately succeeds on the basis of her own dancing talent rather than someone else’s generosity. I suspect the biggest part of why the episode got deafness right is due to the fact that the actress who played Diana, Rhondee Beriault, is deaf herself.
That said, this is also a classic “Sam rescues the damsel in distress” episode, but dialed up to an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. Diana is beautiful, blonde, deaf, broke, she did not finish high school, and in the original timeline she is coerced by sketchy people into becoming a stripper, which we are told then leads to her becoming a hooker, and which then leads to her dying of AIDS. All of that felt like a little bit too much.
For most of the episode, Diana pretty stubbornly refuses help, or to believe in herself, and we see that leading her down the path Sam is trying to help her avoid. She finally has a big turning point moment, though, when Sam shows up to her first night out as an escort and she chooses to leave with Sam rather than continue her date.
I did cringe a lot throughout the episode, though. Something about the way that good people reacted to Diana – with watery eyes and soft encouraging voices like new parents watching their baby take her first step – just did not work for me. The Diana we meet at the beginning of the episode is tough and sarcastic. She’s hostile to Sam’s help. I wish Sam had responded with tough and sarcastic energy in return more often. Sam mostly just treats her like she’s fragile. I also wish Diana had done more to get herself a second shot with Joanna’s studio. Her big arc was learning to believe in herself. It would have helped things if Sam had not been the only one advocating for her second chance.
Overall, this episode was solid if not great. The writing team did a good job depicting deafness in a realistic way and Rhondee Beriault was an interesting and charismatic guest star. The episode also felt a little cringey to me, with the over-the-top damsel in distress story arc and the too delicate way that Sam and Al interact with Diana.