Original Air Date: October 12, 1990
Directed by: James Whitmore, Jr.
Story by: Nick Harding, Karen Hall and Tommy Thompson
Teleplay by: Tommy Thompson
Leap Date: August 19, 1963
This time: Sam leaps into a priest with a smooching couple right in front of him. After the service, the Monticello sisters give Sam some critiques. Sam, who has leapt into Father Frank Pistano, is saved by Father John Roberts. Father John is quite a fan of ‘liquid courage’ and will soon be presiding over the funeral of a twelve-year-old, one that he baptized. Officially, the death is an accident, but Father John is not so sure.
At the funeral, most parishioners are mourning, but a young man named Tony snatches a hood ornament on his way to the service while his young brother Joey acts as the lookout.
Tony’s presence causes quite a change in the tenor of the service. Things escalate when he offers his sympathy to the grieving mother, but it does not go well, and Father Frank eventually order that the two leave. Joey tries to express remorse but cannot bring himself to do so.
Al shows up to connect the dots. Tony was involved in a lethal robbery and there were two witnesses involved. One is the young man who was buried and the other is Father John. The trial is in two days and Father John will not make it.
Sam goes to a seedier part of town to talk to Tony. Tony clearly is involved in an attempt on Father John but will not admit to it in public. Father John arrives and a fight ensues. Later, Sam has a chance to talk with Father John and discovers that in addition to reliance on alcohol, Father John was a Chaplin in the war and has that is influencing him somewhat, possibly to the point of trauma.
Joey sneaks into the church to talk to Sam. Joey initially wants Sam to get Father John not to testify. Sam cannot do that but finds out that Tony’s father is dead, and Tony has never been the same since.
Taking confession in place of Father John, Tony tries to shoot Sam. Sam has a feeling something is going on and manages to avoid most of the blow, but he is grazed. Father John goes after Tony while Sam recovers (perhaps due to a prayer from Al?) and realizes that he must stop Father John from killing Tony.
Father John holds Tony at gunpoint on the same tracks where the twelve-year-old was killed. Father John confesses that he did not witness the murder. He lied to support the other witness and intended to recant his account after the trial. Sam is able to talk Father John out of it.
Sam later consoles the now sober Father John. Al tells Sam that Tony does time but turns out all right as do Joey and Father John who are bonding. Sam leaps …
… into a photographer face to face with a lion.
Stop talking to yourself: Sam has his shortest soliloquy yet talking about how leaping requires a bit of faith.
Only Sam can see and hear: Al appears before and after the funeral service outside the church. One wonders if he was standing there the entire time.
Mirror images that were not his own: In the office with Father John, Sam sees a novice (but you young) Father Frank looking back at him.
Brush with history: Upon hearing that a young boxer has to miss practice due to work at a butcher shop, Sam tells him about a movie where a guy practiced on raw meat. The young man’s locker is labeled “S. Stallone.”
Something or someone: Despite making sure that Father John spares Tony, Sam does not leap until the next morning where he merely checks in with Father John.
One more time: “We hardly noticed the shaky legs.” “Or your heavy breathing.” “Or the sweaty palms. “Or the crack in your voice.”
The Montachelli sisters giving Sam some critiques on officiating his first wedding.
Let’s up the rating: At the bar, Tony asks his girl if she has something to give to the father and tells Sam that she has already given a lot that day.
Put right what once went wrong: “Do you want to talk about what happened today?” “No, but I got the feeling you do.” This is an amazing character piece with three fantastic actors, two of whom are young.
Going chronologically, we have Joey. Played authentically by Davey Roberts, there is a lot that this kid goes through. Being a lookout for his brother, asking for a light, finding out his father may have committed suicide, the hour has a lot for him to do. Roberts is vey authentic not winking at the camera. Everything he does is for the love of his brother and you get the sense that these two just have each other. He is thirteen going on forty.
Tony is played with perfect New York swarm. He is capable of very bad acts and the show did a fantastic job of introducing him stealing something from a car and then crashing the funeral of someone he murdered. There is also a vulnerable side with Joey. We see the guy who can murder a priest, but we also see someone looking out for his young brother. Danny Nucco turns out a terrific performance.
Father John is the center of all this. No one knows he is an alcoholic and Sam realizes that there are some very real demons he is facing. We find out about the war and how much Father John cares for his congregation. The scenes with him and Sam are not just business or religion; these two are deep friends. The transformation from priest to drunkard to murderer is one that you can see develop over the course of the hour. He is not too preachy, but Sandy McPeak pours his heart out.
James Whitmore Jr got a bit heavy handed with the directing (the thunderstorms are a little too convenient and the boxing metaphor is just too cleanly set up) but just lets the actors do their thing. Tommy Thompson did a great job fully fleshing out and writing his, Karen Hall and Nick Harding’s story.