Original Air Date: March 16, 1993
Written by: John D'Aquino
Directed by: Gus Trikonis
Leap Date: November 6, 1972
This time: Sam leaps into a windowsill dressed in black, furry garb. A screaming child scares him off the ledge, claiming he saw Bigfoot. The boy’s stepfather, Luke, grabs a shotgun. Sam meanders through the woods until he is tackled by a friend, Roy who leads Sam away.
Luke returns from his rounds and tells the young man, Daniel, to calm down. Luke did not find anyone, but knows that it was Henry, Sam’s leapee, solely by finding some stolen medication in the woods. As Sheriff, he goes into town to speak with Dr. Burke while ordering Daniel and his mother to stay put.
At the camp site, Roy is glad that Sam is all right. Roy asks about the pills. Sam does not have them, and Roy starts to fidget. Al arrives and tells Sam to calm Roy down lest he have a seizure. Sam calms him down and Roy retires for the night. Al says that they are both Vietnam veterans and that Roy was a “Tunnel Rat.” It was during one of his missions that he got shot in the head leading him to develop epilepsy and claustrophobia.
With nothing further to go on, Al heads back while asking Sam to find clues. At the same time, Luke decides to resume the search in the morning. Both men separately look through scrapbooks as Sam finds a group wrestling photo from high school featuring the three of them and a fourth, John Burke.
Looking through a logbook, Sam finds out that the four were on a mission to obliterate a drop point though the place just houses an old man. John goes in to do the job himself only to for the cabin to explode. Henry and Roy have been living off the grid since their return. As Roy retires for the night, Al says that he will die from a seizure the next night.
Sam puts the pieces together. Luke feels responsible for John’s death and married the widowed Karen, but Daniel resents Luke. It does not help that Henry is wanted for stealing chickens when he and Roy were starving but Luke is unsympathetic.
Roy has a seizure and Sam is ready to take him into town. Al puts the kibosh on that since the town doctor died a couple days ago and the new one will be there two days hence. Sam has to keep Roy alive until then.
The next morning, as Luke prepares a shotgun (!) to find Henry and Roy, Karen rushes in with news that Daniel ran away looking for take a picture of Bigfoot as proof. As it turns out, he stumbles onto the campsite. The three have a good time but Roy starts to have a seizure. Sam calms him down and heads into town leaving Roy with Daniel.
Sam goes to Luke, but the sheriff is unsympathetic to the point where Sam is arrested. Al comes to the cell saying that Roy and Daniel went out to find Bigfoot but are found dead the next morning, Daniel in a crevasse and Roy of a seizure. Karen comes to the jail and hears about what will happen from Sam. She lets him out.
In no short order, Sam and Karen find Roy. Sam gives the pills, but Luke is soon on the scene. The three relent but Daniel is still trapped. Roy is the only one that can get in. Daniel is recued but unconscious, needing a hospital. The group goes to the truck, which crashed on some rocks but is now on the road, ready to go.
Luke and Karen have more kids, Roy becomes a fire watcher and Henry turns his journal into a book. That just leaves the question of how the truck got back on the road. They see a furry figure in the woods. Al says, “Oh boy!” and Sam leaps …
… onto a Civil War battlefield during the Battle of Shepherdstown.
Fact check: Bigfoot can get a car off rocks, turn it around, buff out damage. The money your humble rewatcher has wasted on AAA over the years! Couldn’t he have rotated the tires and changed the oil as well?
Stop talking to yourself: As Sam laments not being bigfoot, his narration does not open an act or a scene. It is unusual for it to not begin after the teaser, and this is the first time it interrupts a scene.
Only Sam can see and hear: Al gives Sam a briefing on assignments from Vietnam. He also descends a rockface as if he were on an escalator even though he can be zeroed in on a specific person.
Mirror images that were not his own: A camp side mirror does not show Bigfoot, but Sam sees how he could be mistaken for the figure.
It’s a science project: Sam finds an herbal remedy in the woods and knows to boil it so that Roy is not as susceptible to the toxic effects.
One more time: “I understand Mrs. Jenkins, but I can’t come up there every time your cat eats one of your birds. I’m sure he was a very nice bird.”
Luke on the phone with a concerned citizen.
The Rainbow Treknection: Eileen Seeley plays Karen but also was heavily featured in The Ensign of Command as Ard'rian McKenzie in The Next Generation.
Trivial Matter: This episode is written by John D’Aquino who played Frank LaMotta twice. This is his first writing credit and a rare instance of someone outside the writing staff getting that privilege.
Put right what once went wrong: “Bigfoot is real. Mr. Hawkins said he saw him once. Said he had dinner with him once.” This is a very unusual episode of Quantum Leap. For a show that breaks a lot of the conventional rules of television, this broke a lot of rules about the show itself. We have an actual flashback sequence, partially shot in black and white at that. We also have a lot of scenes where Sam or Al are not present. These are the tools a more conventional show would use on a regular as necessary or even on a regular basis depending on the nature of the series.
Flashbacks are normally unheard of in general but this series has Al for that. It would be less effective for Al to exposit than it would be to shoot a short sequence with actors readily available to see what actually happened. This is the only time the series would do this, and it is great. The sequence is framed by both Sam and Luke looking back. There are some things that even Al does not know, and we are slowly introduced to the situation over time.
Sam not being in a decent chink of scenes is not a problem either. Normally you want your series lead to be involved but here there are things we need to know as an audience that Sam does not. We see the family unit of doting mother Karen, hard-nosed Luke and bright-eyed Daniel. The family dynamic is there with Daniel on the cusp of manhood but still believing in Bigfoot and not really respecting Luke. He has not been told what happened to his father. David Tom puts on a great performance. One of the emotional cores of the story he has great chemistry with everyone.
Tom is not the only great casting on display. Pat Skipper plays the fairly heartless Luke as someone who is a stickler for the law only to realize that he has to be flexible when the time calls for it. The wife can easily be an afterthought, but Eileen Seeley gets a lot to chew on when Karen is put front and center. She is struggling as a mother even though she remarried. You get the sense that she is familiar with Henry and trusts him enough to set him free from jail. Her role could easily be full of sorrow, but she has an inner strength. The climactic scene where they confront Luke relies on her as much as it does Sam.
Sean Sullivan gets the role of a lifetime as Roy. He has a lot of fun with it, the manic episodes as he reenacts the war and the depressive periods where he is haunted by those memories. It could not be a good sight to have him alone with a tween, but you never get the sense that Daniel is in danger. There is a childlike innocence while also understanding that there are real world consequences he is dealing with. We do not have to be explicitly told by Al that he is claustrophobic. He is a friendly guy that is working on some stuff.
With a strong script and cast, Gus Trikonis could have let the cast do their thing but there are some good shots and sequences. The story is well told and although there are some pretty big things that happen off screen, it does not feel as though something is intentionally left out or cut for time. This breaks the rules but is a great episode to watch nonetheless.
Plus, Bakula gets to take a bit of time off.