The Play's the Thing
Leap Date: September 9, 1969
Written by: Beverly Bridges
Directed by: Eric Laneuville
Original Air Date: January 8, 1992
This time: Sam leaps into a nice, comfy bed. His reverie is broken by a woman in bed with him and their reverie is broken by her son and daughter in law making a surprise appearance. The mood is awkward, and Sam suggests they go into the other room in a moment. As Sam and the woman, Jane, get ready, she confesses that she is fifty, not forty.
Jane’s son, Neil, is surprised by the changes Sam’s leappee, Joe, has brought on (resurrecting a singing career, peace marches) while Liz, Neil’s wife, takes Jane away and all but asks her to move back. They are taken aback by Sam’s youth, at twenty-five. As a point of comparison, Neil is thirty.
At a rehearsal for Hamlet, with Sam as the title role, Sam plays the famous monologue mediocrely, but is made worse by the director. A co-star tries to hit on Sam, but Jane disavows her of that notion. Al is on the scene and while a grisly fate is not in store for Jane, in two days she goes back home and spends the rest of her days alone. Also, Joe does not go on a Hamlet and misses his big break.
At dinner, Neil and Liz have invited Ted, an old flame of Jane’s. For her part, Jane is not amused. Ted strikes out on the dance floor (in more ways than one) and Sam bets Neil and Liz that if he can make something of Jane, they will stop trying to get her to come home. They end up inviting themselves to the show. Before opening, the director decides to freshen up the performance by having the entire cast be entirely nude. The audience is shocked, but they love it, including the agent who agrees to cast Sam as an underwear model, though Sam requires Jane to come as part of a package deal. The agent wants to hear her sing first, though. Unfortunately, an awkward encounter backstage after the show brought Jane to the wrong conclusion and she has run off.
Sam intercepts the group before they leave, and things quickly escalate culminating with Ted engaging in fisticuffs. Jane agrees to try and impresses the agent. Sam leaps …
… into a naval cadet on the track, though he does not get the baton as much as he is plowed over.
Fact check: Ted’s company makes uniforms and is raking it in with the war.
Stop talking to yourself: After some rough leap ins (including last week when he was chained to a prisoner in a breakout or last season when he leaped into the electric chair) Sam finally gets to leap into a nice soft, comfy warm welcoming bed.
Only Sam can see and hear: Al first appears in the auditorium and rises up as the incline increases. Few auditoriums are built like that.
Mirror images that were not his own: While getting dressed, Sam sees Joe in the mirror.
Something or someone: Sam stays around long enough to find out that there is a happy ending but not long enough for Jane to finish her song.
Let’s up the rating: It is pretty obvious that Sam and Jane are in their Birthday Suits in the opening but there is also a nude production to Hamlet. I can just see Shakespeare wondering what would make his greatest tragedy better and coming up with a nude cast.
One more time: “Ted, just ask her to marry you and Neil, just ask her to come home.” “What, tell her the truth?”
Liz trying to be practical and Ted being ignorant.
The Rainbow Treknection: Robert Pine is Ted in the episode and would go on to plan an ambassador in Voyager’s The Chute and Travin in Enterprise’s Fusion. He has a son named Chris.
Put right what once went wrong: “Neil, your father has been dead for three years and not once in that time has he said a word.” I have long held that solid writing can save not great actors and fantastic actors will captivate you when reading the phone book but when you have great writing and great actors, everyone wins.
Beverly Bridges wrote a fantastic script that just crackles. The confrontation in the elevator lobby is great at the end with Sam repeatedly holding the door open to make his points. The opening has fun with Neil and Liz walking into Jane’s apartment with everyone being embarrassed and there is a fun scene in the middle where the characters say each other’s name in shock. Love’s labors are indeed lost. The plotting is not amazing, but the characters are there for the right actors to grasp.
And grasp they do. Robert Pine is not known as a comedic actor, but he gives Ted the right amount of sliminess, particularly when talking down to Sam about business and the war. Daniel Roebuck is always a joy to watch, and he has more than enough to chew on with a smarminess that makes me wonder who in the family is a better fit for New York. Anna Gunn is the only one actually open minded as Liz and Penny Fuller brings maturity to Jane in more ways than one. She is strong with her defense of Sam/Joe and is confident of what she wants to do with her life, regardless of her son and ex all but putting her on a train back home. She has the right amount of sass and is great to watch.
Director Eric Laneuville has some fun tricks up his sleeve. There is a good shot where Neil and Jane are framed in a mirror, and he has to Austin Powers through Hamlet, but he also knows to let his cast do what they are good at.
An all in all solid hour with low relatively stakes is taken down by a sag in the middle. If you need to grab a sandwich or take a potty break at that point, go right ahead and do so.