Original Air Date: September 25, 1990
Directed by: Joe Napolitano
Written by: Donald P. Bellisario
Leap Date: November 26, 1969
This time: Sam leaps into a cornfield. It is a familiar sight to him as is one of the cheerleaders nearby who asks him out. He has leaped into himself, albeit a younger version. He is beyond ecstatic to see his mom, dad and kid sister Katie. Most of all, his older brother, Tom, is alive.
At dinner with the family, they discuss an upcoming basketball game. Al shows up and Sam excuses himself from Homemade Peach Cobbler. The upcoming basketball game is against their archrivals which Sam’s team originally lost. If they had won, they would have been state champs. Sam does not want to leave that quickly, tough. His dad will die in a few years and Katie winds up with an abusive alcoholic.
The next morning, he puts a plan into effect, making things healthier for his father. No cigarettes, decaf coffee, and a carb/cholesterol free breakfast. Dad does not take to the changes well, or at all, despite Sam trying to convince the family otherwise, particularly Katie who tastes skim milk and makes that yuck face. He initially thinks of skipping basketball practice but is convinced to go, more to see his buddies than prepare for the game.
At practice, Coach is eager to win the game and he brings in an outsider to get the team in the right mindset. Wearing a gorilla mask, the ringer keeps the team on their toes. As it turns out, Sam was playing against Tom!
While hunting, Sam tries to talk Tom out of Vietnam. This is hard for Tom to accept, even with Sam making good points to the contrary. When all seems lost, Sam tells Tom that he can see the future and offers proof. At first, the family indulges Sam, but Katie breaks down with the thought of Tom’s death.
After Thanksgiving dinner, Sam and Tom shoot some hoops and Tom gives Sam some pointers. Sam senses the rivalry against the other team and gets Tom to promise that if Sam wins the game, Tom will avoid service on the day of his death ,which Tom agrees to.
Sam is victorious, using the technique Tom showed, and wins the game. Unfortunately, Al finds out that Tom still dies in Vietnam. Sam leaps …
… into a swamp and is quickly ambushed along with his troop. He is in Vietnam and his brother Tom is alive.
Stop talking to yourself: Sam has a sense of déjà vu when leaping into himself.
Only Sam can see and hear: Al thinks of what he could do with his current mind in a sixteen year old body. Also, his handlink acts up in the end and takes a little too long to tell him that Tom will still die.
Mirror images that were not his own: Sam sees himself in his front door’s window and in the barn’s mirror, around the house.
Brush with history: When talking to Katie, Sam tutors her on the lingo and accidentally tells her that the Beatles will break up.
It’s a science project: Tom tells Sam to get into his opponents face while making a jump shot. Seems like a great way to make a foul, but it works.
Let’s up the rating: There are basketball practice and a match. If you like your guys young and dripping with sweat, this is the episode for you.
One more time: “You don’t believe you’re here to help your family?” “Of course I do.” “Then why are you worried about leaping if you win the game?”
A convicted Al trying to convince Sam
The Rainbow Treknection: After playing Sam’s mother, Caroline Kava saved Worf’s life in Ethics as Dr. Toby Russell.
Trivial Matters: Scott Bakula pulls a double role as Sam and Sam’s father. The prosthetics and acting are workable, but he is listed as a guest star in his own series. One must wonder what those contract negotiations were like.
Additionally, the listing is “Scott Bakula as his father” leaving us to wonder if he is playing Sam’s father or Scott’s.
For the closing credits, we are treated to a reprise of Bakula’s “Imagine” cover.
Put right what once went wrong: “You’re not changing their future, Sam. You’re just making their present miserable.” Sometimes you just need a simple episode and everything else will work itself out. This is mainly remembered for being all about Tom, but that does not give enough credit to the rest of the cast. Tom does not even show up until twenty minutes in.
So much of this episode works well. Sam has a fantastic reunion with his family. As much as we see the bond with Tom, we also see the bond he shares with Katie. There are scenes around the farm, a breakfast table scene that feels very authentic. Sam is trying to get his dad to live a healthier lifestyle while his mom is making sure Katie is not too far out. The lines overlap and it feels just like any other family. We have a nice montage over Thanksgiving and everything.
David Newsome is likeable as all heck as Tom. You have a southern boy raised right on the cusp of manhood just back from his first year in college. Olivia Burnette is no slouch as Katie and has remarkable chemistry with Bakula. Carolina Kava does not have as much to do as the matriarch, but she takes charge when she needs to and holds the family together. As his father, Bakula does an admirable job in the double role not especially eager to fully adopt the healthier lifestyle and making sure Sam does his chores while being the supportive father.
As great as it is for Sam and Tom to get along, Sam and Al have another scuffle. This time, Sam is in the driver’s seat and Al at first is darn near confrontational but does listen to Sam. It is a fun twist on the second season finale. Later he is conciliatory but is a great outsider and friend to Sam, giving him what he needs to win the game. Their conversation early on goes to the core of the series.
Music is not something I usually bring up, but we have the main theme played on the harmonica at the start of the hour and it helps ground us is what we have in store. Of course Sam was not successful in getting Tom to stay alive which leads us to a rare cliffhanger for this series.