Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Quantum Leap, episode 2: Star Crossed

Quantum Leap, episode 2: Star Crossed

Remember what I said in the post on the first episode? What's the deal with "the Big Guy with the Remote Control," as Sam puts it, changing channels in the middle of things? I understand that he's leaping as soon as his mission is completed, but there's something really rather cruel about not letting Sam bask in the moment, even for a second. Were he a lesser man, he might view his journey of Quantum Leaping a little darkly: you work and work, and you accomplish the job, but you don't get a second to bask in the moment. As soon as you complete your task, you're jetted through the gulf of space and time to your next mission.

In this case, Sam's just won the game for Ken Cox and the Bombers, at the tail end of the "Genesis" episode, and as soon as he's crossed home plate, he's leapt into another time, another place.

This just being the third in a series of leaps, it might not be on Sam's mind. But over time, if it were me leaping, it'd be a major, major bummer every time you turn around.

One last ruminition on leaping, and it's something I think I'll discuss from time to time: What is the world like for the person Sam's leapt in to, after Sam leaps out of his body, and that person leaps in? I ask, because Sam is living a while in these people's bodies, and doing things and living experiences with people. When Sam leaps to his next mission, and the other person regains control of his or her body, what then?

I don't remember the mythology of the show as well as maybe I could. Doesn't the other person go to the "Leap Chamber," while Sam is in their body? There's an episode later on where the person Sam's leapt into comes into Al's Imaging Chamber, and gives Sam the words to testify.

I guess my question is this (he said, hoping not to shoot his wad midway through the first season): How does the person whose life it belongs to deal with that missing week (or however long) that Dr. Sam Beckett was controlling their life, putting right what once went wrong?

That's a question I want to deal with specifically with this episode, Star Crossed:

Without giving too much away by way of recap, here's the general premise: Sam leaps from having just won the game for the Bombers, into the life of Dr. Gerald Bryant, an English Lit professor at Lawrence College, in June of 1972. He leaps into the middle of a lecture Dr. Bryant is giving on "obsession," and his class is filled with doe-eyed hippie chicks.

He is met with the unrequited love, of one of those students, Jamie Lee (protrayed by Leslie Sachs, who I swear I recognize from somewhere, though her IMDB file shows nothing besides a few TV appearances, and nothing that rushes to my memory). Jamie Lee has just pronounced her love for Dr. Bryant to her father. Al appears, and lets Sam know that he's got to keep Dr. Bryant and Jamie Lee from ending up together.

Sam disagrees. I've left out one important fact. Sam, in his first few disoriented moments as Gerald Bryant, sees an important person from his own past. Here, we learn that Sam was once left at the altar by his own love. He has seen her here at Lawrence College, some 12 years before he would even meet her in his past.

Sam believes he is here to give himself a second, better chance at love with Donna, here played by a very young Teri Hatcher.

Not to give too much away, but there's a discussion of Quantum Physics, Sam gets thrown around by an Ox named Oscar, we learn that Sam has doctorates in medicine and ancient languages on top of everything else (but not psychiatry), and a trip to Washington that gives the show its first real "Kiss with History," as Sam takes a trip to the Watergate Hotel....

Just a few bullet points from the episode....
  • This "in media res" way of leaping into a life? Just want to reiterate: How absolutely tiresome has that got to be? You work your ass off to set right what once went wrong, and you don't get a moment to bask in the glory, maybe drink a celebration beer? Instead, you're thrust headlong into another uncomfortable situation.
  • Good thing Sam doesn't seem to have Public Speaking issues. How rough would that be? He's got no problem leaping into a Quantum Accelerator, but he could have devastating public speaking issues. Luckily, not here.
  • I have trouble with Jamie Lee's character. It's like she's a cartoon. I'm watching and I'm saying to myself "How can she be for real?" She serves her purpose, though, and nobody else seems to have trouble with her, outside of the problems I just mentioned. They all seem to ask themselves, from time to time, "Is she for real?"
  • I ask again my question about "how do leapees feel when they get back to their bodies?" Sam's just spent a week tailing Donna Elesee around campus, looking as though he were talking to himself and acting most likely how Dr. Gerry Bryant would not. What happens when Bryant gets back to his body, and people ask "Hey, what was up last week when you were talking to yourself about some project out on the Quad?"
  • What happens when Donna Elesee comes to him a few months down the road and asks the English Lit professor about another Quantum Physics problem?
  • What happens to Gerry when he leaps back into his body, and he's standing in a stairwell in the Watergate hotel, a few hundred miles from his Ohio home?
  • One positive of Quantum Leaping is that you can probably eat whatever the heck you want. Sam, as Gerry, goes into the campus restaurant and orders up a cheeseburger and fries. You know, if you felt like it, you could leap into somebody's life, and if you felt like it, eat nothing but banana splits for every meal, and let that person deal with the consequences.
  • Although I'd hate to have to leap back into Dr. Gerry Bryant's life, and correct the wrong that I gave him diabetes from eating all the sugar. That one would be tough.
  • I love a good Double Take. And Dean Stockwell, as Al, gives one of the best during his conversation with Sam. It's brief, and you might miss it if you aren't paying attention. But I love a good Double Take.
  • Sam gives the cheesiest voiceover in the short history of the show when he opines that the bunsen burner "is the common denominator that makes all science departments equal." It's either cheesy, or I can't wrap my mind around somebody being romantic toward the propane smell of a bunsen burner.
  • I'd forgotten that Al's wardrobe choice plays a practical function this early in the game. I even said "What the hell is he wearing," when he meets Sam wearing his kimono thingamajig.
  • I had a brief thought about a possible anachronism in the song American Pie. For some reason, Ihad it in my head that it didn't come out until the mid 70's. But it was #1 on the charts around the time this episode takes place. So, Writers of Quantum Leap 1, Tommy 0.
  • The whole bit around how Al gets himself "unfired" is great. I liked Al's discussion about "a woman to get fired over..." It's further indicative that Al's character is pretty close to set, even at this early juncture of the show. IT's a spoiler, but he sets Tina, who figures from time to time in the show, up with Weitzman, the unseen antagonist of the episode. Al blackmails him, and gets his job back. Unscrupulous, but Effective. I like that.
  • The whole "Kiss with History," where Sam and Donna visit the Watergate the night of the infamous break-in? It's a convention of the show, and they do it from time to time. It's borderline cheesy, but it goes back to something I wrote in the first episode's thoughts. S.F. stuff has a hard time maintaining an audience, at least as the conventional wisdom goes. And though Quantum Leap would go on to build a pretty sturdy loyal fanbase, the writers fashioned this show around the lifetimes of the Baby Boomers. Little things like Sam being at the Watergate the night of the break-in, put in for that Baby Boomer audience, kinda wear me out. I'm glad they actually keep those things to a low ebb for the show. If it were constant, I think the show might not have been so successful, and if memory serves, it's why the show sort of lost its magic for me toward the end of its run.

Wow. For a couple of thoughts, these things are stretching out.

Sheila's got her first couple of entries up. Her overview of the series as a whole, and the first part of her review of the Genesis episode. Go check it out....


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