Original air date: March 26, 1989
Written by: Donald P. Bellisario
Directed By: David Hemmings
Leap Date(s): September 13, 1956 / 1968
This Time: Driving along the road in the middle of the night, a man in a tuxedo notices a woman with a flat tire. Offering her a ride, she remarks about the cars abilities and he mentions it’s an ‘updated model.’ She sees lights on the horizon, something he tries to minimize. Suddenly, there’s a frantic call from Gooshie. Apparently, someone named Sam jumped into an accelerator prematurely. Tuxedo Man puts the pedal to the metal.
An airforce pilot named Tom wakes up but has no memory of how he got there or the pregnant woman he woke up with. He has to hurry up and shower before Doc picks him up. When he looks in the mirror, he doesn’t recognize the face looking back at him. The pregnant woman is his wife, Peg, and they have a son, Mikey. He tries to call his office, but dials too many numbers.
Tom decides to play along. It’s 1956 and he’s a test pilot. Doc, his friend and fellow test pilot, gives him a ride to the office where Tom mentions that he doesn’t know how to fly, certainly not the experimental X-2. Doc sees it as a prank and decides to pull it on their superior, Weird Ernie. A doctor named Burger is assigned to look into it. As the guys get their orders for the day, Tuxedo Man appears and is jovial about what’s happening.
A test to break Mach 3 goes fairly horribly, though the piloting Doc survives. At a lounge afterwards, the guys and their wives are hanging out and Tom notices Tuxedo Man. Oddly enough, no one else can see him. Tom chats with Tuxedo Man, but it becomes apparent that while the former is familiar with the latter, enough to call Tom by the name of Sam, the latter does not recognize the former. Tuxedo Man goes out of the lounge – and vanishes!
The next morning, Tom/Sam remembers more bits of his personal history, including growing up on a farm. Tom/Sam takes Mikey on a fishing trip and runs into Tuxedo Man. This person, Al, is a hologram that can only be seen by Tom/Sam. Sam is part of a time travel experiment that didn’t go as planned. He has changed places with Tom, who is in the future. They can’t retrieve him and he is living as another person.
They’ll try again to retrieve him on Tuesday, but he is scheduled to fly on Monday. Until Al can figure things out, Sam has to pretend to be Tom.
Al later meets Sam in a hanger. Project Quantum Leap theorized that one could travel through time within the confines of their lifetime. It appears as though a higher power put Sam in Tom’s body because, originally, Tom dies in a crash during the test flight. Ziggy, a voice-activated computer who does calculations for the project, is pretty sure that Sam needs to prevent that death in order to get back home. It has a high percentage chance of working and is a lot better than the other alternatives, such as being at ground zero during a nuclear detonation.
Al guides Sam though the flight, Al being a former astronaut and all. The flight breaks Mach 3 but the plane doesn’t last much longer than that. Sam ejects in time, but doesn’t leap.
At the hospital for a routine checkup, Peg goes into premature labor, which is bad for six months. She is proud of her husband, but starts having contractions, again bad for six months. The options aren’t good, but Sam finds a way to prevent her from delivering, thereby saving mother and child. In celebration, Mikey tosses a ball from the ground up to the hospital window to Sam …
… who then catches a ball ending the top of the ninth inning. Its 1968 and he’s Tim Fox, a baseball player for the Waco Bombers, playing to avoid finishing last several years in a row. Fox was in the majors, but an accident set him back to recover. Five years ago. As the game progresses, Fox is up at bat for the winning play, which of course he makes (after the third strike turns into an error) and leaps …
… into a professor teaching a class with an awful lot of coeds.
Fact Check: Though the Mach 3 threshold was broken on the day the episode takes place, the pilot was Captain Apt. Several other details line up, including the plane being an X-2 and not making it past the flight.
Stop talking to yourself: When he first wakes up, Sam has no clue what’s going on. He notices that the woman he woke up next to is very pregnant and remarks at how real everything feels
Throughout the episode, he anticipates a ‘bogeyman’ showing up to complete the nightmare.
Only Sam can see and hear: Al explains the situation to Sam. He is both an astronaut and has an eye for the ladies. He has a transparent ‘tablet’ that he uses just once, the rest of his information comes from memory.
Mirror images that were not his own: Sam first see’s Tom’s face in the bathroom mirror. He also sees a reflection on the ride to the airforce base. After leaping forward, he sees Fox in the mirror and there have been better days.
Brush with history: Sam thinks that putting yellow stripes on the side of the road would make it easier to see in the dark.
It’s a science project: Sam finds a way to prevent Peg from inducing premature labor. They put alcohol into her IV which gets her almost instantly drunk.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow: We get a glimpse of 1999 in the teaser when Al picks up a female acquaintance and drives her to the project. What happens afterwards is probably somewhere between what we later learn of his time with women and the fact that she doesn’t have security clearance. We also briefly see Gooshie, one of the scientists.
Let’s up the rating: Al uses a lot of crude metaphors that wouldn’t be out of place in the fifties. It really hasn’t aged well.
One more time: “It’s not Ready.” “Tell him that!”
Al to Gooshie and back again as Sam jumps into the accelerator.
The Rainbow Treknection: Series star Scott Bakula would go on to star in Enterprise and his costar, former child star Dean Stockwell, guest stared in an episode of the first season. They would also reunite in NCIS: New Orleans under Quantum Leap creator Don Bellasario.
Trivial Matters: Sam asks Al to step around objects rather than walk through them. Presumably, this would make things easier on the effects department, though moving people through solid objects is fairly cheap.
Al mentions going to the Lakers playoff games. They did make it to the second round in 1999.
This was the first two hour episode produced for the series that would air on the same night.
Sam leaps into two different people in the main events of this episode, which would be a rarity for the series going forward.
Put Right what Once Went Wrong: “… Went a little … caca.” It was years before I even knew this pilot existed. Everything you need to know is in the opening credits and a lot of time is spent letting the audience know what’s going on.
There’s a lot to like. John Allen Nelson, Larry Poindexter and Doug Trent do a great job of having a camaraderie of air force pilots. Bruce McGill is great as Weird Ernie, having a few colorful metaphors of his own to keep the guys in line. Lela Ivey and Lydia Cornell do great as the air force wives. You get a sense that they know what they’ve signed up for and although they only share a few scenes together, they get along marvelously.
Jennifer Runyon does a fantastic job as Peggy. She sells being a doting wife and mother. She has a great chemistry with Bakula along with the rest of the wives. She really is a standout and you can say something similar for Christian van Dorn as Mikey. Child actors are generally either horrible or acceptable and van Horn does a fantastic job. He isn’t overacting and is very realistic.
This works fairly well as a period piece, but is bogged down when they explain things to us as an audience. It is important for us to know the core concept of the series, but the show almost screeches to a halt whenever Al has to exposit about the time travel. It’s almost as if the show is trying to have its cake and eat it, too.
This isn’t helped by the fact that it’s cut up into two parts for syndication. The break is at the middle point, but the script isn’t written for that as the cliffhanger happens five minutes earlier. It was just cut blindly in the middle because that’s when the time is up.
On top of all that, the second leap is very forgettable. You know Sam will win, and while there is a good fake-out with him getting a strike and it resulting in an error, but it really is by the numbers. There’s not much you can do with twenty-minutes left on the clock and even more to tell the audience. It’s probably the only way to get the information out, but the writing has too much to do in too little time and even the actors can’t save it despite their best efforts.
A good chunk of those twenty minutes is spent with Sam calling home. It’s a nice scene, but really doesn’t add much. Bakula dubs the voice of his younger self, which totally isn’t creepy. Overall, the scene just goes nowhere.
I honestly can’t recommend this episode. Watch it unless Al is on the screen and you can pretty much turn it off after Sam leaps for the first time. Skipping the teaser is also recommended, but the episode can be skipped in its entirety, which is a shame for a pilot.
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