Friday, May 20, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 3: The Right Hand of God




Sam Leaps Into: 
Clarence "Kid" Cody, a boxer.

Objective:
Win the California Heavyweight boxing championship (despite pressure to take a dive) and use his winnings to help some nuns build a chapel.

Date:
10-24-72

Location:
Sacramento, California

Memorable Quote:
Let me give you a few known variables, Al.  I don't know how to fight, I'm out of shape, I got a nun for a trainer.   ~Sam

Highlight:
I liked the twist at the end with Sam using his life savings to bet on Muhammad Ali beating George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle.  Earlier in the episode, Sam's eyes widen when he sees Ali on tv and it's as if he realizes something, but I wasn't sure what the significance of the moment was.  And looking back on it, it was a clever seed that was planted in the plot.

Lowlight:
The soliloquy that Sister Angela gives about her family dying in a fire fet out of place and irrelevant to the rest of the episode.  It reminded me a bit of Diana's sob story in For Love or Money.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This episode is the first of four directed by Gilbert Shilton who also directed one of my favorite MacGyver episodes Phoenix Under Siege.  But will we go a third straight episode with a MacGyver guest star?  Wait and see!
  • All right, we didn't have to wait long!  I saw the trainer and thought, "He looks familiar...is that?...no, it's not...wait a minute, yes it is...let me check IMDB....oh my goodness, it is....Samad from The Mountain of Youth."  I tried so hard to block that episode entirely from my memory, but obviously I need to try harder.
  • The head gangster is played by Guy Stockwell, Dean Stockwell's brother.  Given that he's not in the best physical shape, I'm surprised that he has the gumption to threaten the life of a champion fighter while sitting right next to him in the back seat of a car.
  • I didn't get why it would save the nuns money if Sam moved in with them.
  • Samad and the nuns don't seem as surprised as they should be after Sam gets thoroughly outclassed and then knocked down in the ring by his sparring partner who is short, slow, and looks to be in his 50's.
  • I like the Rocky-style training sequence that follows, and it underscores the challenge that it must have been for Bakula to play the part of Sam Beckett where each week brought a totally new character.  Normally for boxing movies the lead actor will have months to train and learn the craft, but he probably only had less than a week.
  • I like the mention of Nixon and Watergate on the bar television after last episode when Sam inadvertently helped alert the authorities to the break-in.
  • The fighting scenes are very well done especially for a network show.  I'll have to rewatch Split Decision (the MacGyver boxing episode) to see how they compare.
  • Speaking of Split Decision, the villains in that episode seemed more realistic (in kidnapping Dent's daughter Ronnie), whereas in this episode Guy Stockwell's character was rather non-threatening -- even though he could tell that Sam was training and fighting to win, he didn't try all that hard to blackmail or coerce him into losing.
  • Funny how Sam's stripper girlfriend says "Za-ree" instead of "Zaire."  And I enjoyed the slight tension between her and Sister Angela over Sam.

Final Analysis:
A decent episode -- I thought the first half was slow but the second half was better with the training and fight (just like the structure of the first few Rocky movies), and the nuns were a nice touch.  I'm ranking this #3 out of 3 episodes for now.  In general I'm not going to try too hard to explain why episodes are ranked where they are -- it's mostly just intuitively based on how excited I would be to rewatch it and won't always be easily explainable.

10 comments:

  1. This was one of the episodes I saw back in the original airings. NBC repeated it on July 4, 1990, even though it was apparently a first season episode and I was watching what I thought were season 2 episodes. I actually liked it. The conflict was nice with Sam's conflicting motivations. It was absurd that he had to train how to fight a professional boxer with zero prior experience--in a few short days...and ended up winning--but it made for fun TV. I loved how Sam broke his dilemma by betting on the Ali v. Foreman fight even though his remembering the outcome of that fight right down to the round where a victor was declared by had no recollection of Watergate in the prior episode didn't make a lot of sense. I know you said it was revealed later in the series that Sam's memory historical context was like "Swiss cheese", but viewers have not yet been made aware of the week to week difference did not go unnoticed.

    I recognized Alex Colon from "Mountain of Youth" right away. The trainer was gonna quit because he was "sick of training a fighter who always threw his fights", so it didn't make sense that Cody had just won the fight at the beginning of the episode despite the other guy's big punch at the end when it was Sam. I also didn't get the point of the nuns insisting Sam move in with them when they knew he had a girlfriend....did they want to get him away from the topless go-go dancer? Agreed that the heavies didn't come across overly terrifying and the extent to which they simply rolled over after Sam failed to dive as they told him to do. So yeah there were a few plot holes but I did enjoy it and thought the conflict was more challenging than the previous week where Sam basically made it all about his ex-girlfriend who he happened to conveniently stumble into despite her not being part of the mission. I'd rank this one #2 so far, but it's gonna get confusing ranking these dozens of episodes in since I won't remember all of the titles.

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    1. It surprises me that you'd have trouble remember the episode titles but you can remember where every series ranked in the tv ratings over a period of 10 years.

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    2. The brain is a funny thing. I looked at those series' rankings a couple of times and remembered them forever. The only TV show I'd have the same level of recollection of in terms of titles is "MacGyver". By the way, I'm gonna be falling way behind in my reviews with the Flash Gordon pace at which you're posting them. Just letting you know.

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    3. That's interesting -- maybe it doesn't help that show titles often sound the same (like in MacGyver you have The Survivors, The Outsiders, etc).

      I am going at a fast pace lately! No need to keep up, though -- the posts aren't going anywhere.

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  2. One thing I keep meaning to mention is that my first memory of Scott Bakula is from a 1986 "Disney Sunday Movie" called "I-Man", which despite the immature title was actually a fun little action-adventure flick. I still remember the final scene where they drove a semi truck with a bomb in the trailer off a huge cliff into a lake. I just looked the movie up on Wikipedia and apparently it co-starred Ellen Bry (the captain on the MacGyver episode "Countdown") and none other than John Anderson (Grandpa Harry).

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    1. That sounds pretty good, I may have to check that out.

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  3. This is the first hint that God has something to do with where Sam is landing. Al reported that the Ziggy predicted he would go to Texas in the 1950's. That is in fact where he ends up in S1E4. But he got sent to California in 1974.
    Sister Sarah (the older of the two nuns), who came into the dressing room with his contract, is a veteran actress. She is Nancy Kulp and she played Jane Hathaway in 246 episodes of Beverly Hillbillies. At first I did not recognize her face (especially in the habit), but her voice is totally unmistakably familiar.
    Also, Father Muldooney, who as a short role at the championship fight is Lewis Arquette, the father of Rosanna, Patricia, and David.
    I was surprised that Sam was classified as a Heavyweight. I thought that a fighter had to be over 200 pounds to be in the category.

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  4. Oops..I forgot. In the introduction, an Italian word caught my attention. Sam says, the experiment went a little "cacca." Translated this means, "shitty." I guess they could not say 'shitty' on television so they chose a word that many people would not understand. But I heard this word in my household on a regular basis.

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    1. You got me to laugh out loud with this one!

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  5. Problem with this episode is the timeline. The Rumble in the Jungle was October 30, 1972. The leap date is 24. October. We are supposed to believe that less than 6 days Sam gets in great physical shape, trains himself to be a professional boxer and is even able to win the match? Yeah right.

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