Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 20: Animal Frat

Sam Leaps Into: 
Knut "Wild Thing" Wileton, the leader of a college fraternity.

Stop antiwar protesters from blowing up the university chemistry building.  Jump into the luau pool without breaking his neck.


Meeks College, California

Memorable Quote:
A a a a duck.   ~Al

Outstanding performance by Darren Dalton as Duck, the dedicated but obnoxious antiwar student leader.  His menace and snark palpably jumps off the screen in every scene he's in.  And I like that his name is Duck.

Sam pscyhoanalyzing Elisabeth's antiwar sentiments as a result of wanting to be noticed by her parents is an unnecessary and clumsy plot point.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • We're now getting into episodes that are at least somewhat familiar, even though I still don't remember much.
  • "I'm trapped in the body of a troglodyte."  ~Sam.  I must be a troglodyte because I had to look up what that word means.
  • The actor Raphael Sbarge who plays the Southern frat boy I recognized from Hawaii Five-0 and Prison Break.
  • It's always fun to hear Al call someone a "nozzle."
  • I like how Sam remembers the "torpedoes" from the beginning and gets rid of the bomb that way (even though flinging the bomb out the window seems pretty dangerous to passersby if it's not timed correctly).
  • Impressive that the frat has a pulley system and an indoor pool.  And why does Sam belly flop into the pool knowing that Knut broke his neck?  He should have jumped feet first or done a cannonball.
  • I live in Wisconsin, and there was an incident on the University of Wisconsin campus in 1970 called the Sterling Hall Bombing that was similar to the events in this episode. The bombing resulted in one death and three injuries, and one of the bombers is still at large.       

Final Analysis:
Solid episode.  It's well-acted with good pacing and has a strong message about what can happen when well-intentioned people turn to violence.  And there's a great scene in the library where Sam and Duck confront each other and Sam reveals that he has a brother that died in Vietnam.  The frat boys, while they're supposed to be dumb, come off as so dumb that's it's more of a caricature, but still a good episode -- I'm ranking it 9 out of 20. 


  1. Nice rebound from "Troian". I really liked much about this episode and enjoyed the sly use of foreshadowing with the slingshot, even if it didn't make a ton of sense that the frat boys had this slingshot set up in the chemistry building rather than a dorm. The episode wasn't perfect, and as you said the frat boys were unnecessarily buffoons of the highest order (impressed that you recognized a young Raphael Sparge from "Prison Break". On the other hand, I didn't mind Sam's dime store psychology of Elisabeth's anti-war motivations. There was a fair amount of "survivor guilt" going on amongst college kids in the Vietnam era...and a fair amount of entitled jerks acting like idiots the way the frat boys did, completely oblivious to what their less-privileged neighbors in the jungle were enduring. Still, the frat boys didn't have to be quite so cartoonish to convey that culture. I guess I had heard that Madison had a campus bombing in the Vietnam era but didn't realize one of the bombers was still at large

    I had mixed feelings about the last 15 minutes. I loved the MacGyver-style suspense complete with a bomb defusal, which is kind of a first for this series, but it seemed unnecessarily cluttered for there to be a second bomb. I also loved that the pledger following around the frat boys all episode was supposed to be the mystery person in the chemistry building stealing the answers to the test (another great bit of foreshadowing), but they messed that up by ultimately not having him in the building (so who was Sam sent to save in the building if not him?!??!). Using the slingshot to lob the bomb out of the building with seconds to go was redeeming though and very fun. As for those last few damn idea what that was all about. At one level, the imagery of the ceremony was very cool but the shallow pool that Knut supposedly broke his neck in made no sense at all. I think I'll rank this episode as #3 overall. It was fun with some very welcomed suspense and had good dramatic moments as well, but the final 10 minutes had a sloppiness to it that's hard to overlook.

    My personal history with this episode is that I remembered seeing the preview in the summer of 1990 but I missed it when it was rerun on July 11, 1990, but because I was up in Winnipeg, Canada, with my mom and relatives from northwestern Minnesota. I remember saying the night before to my cousin that the bad part about being in Canada that night was that we'd miss "Quantum Leap", to which my eternally charming aunt responded "who cares?!??!!?" Not a fan I guess. Pretty sure I'd have liked this better than any of the others I saw that summer had I been around for it.

    1. Maybe the ending with the pool was a case of "our story is only 42 minutes long and we need something to fill an extra 5." As for the pledger not being in the building, I was wondering that too but perhaps Sam's presence from the beginning changed the history of it somehow.

    2. That was my guess as well. They had time to kill. I was also wondering if perhaps the belly flop was the best tactical move to avoid hurting yourself seriously jumping into that shallow pool as your body wouldn't plunge too deeply, at least compared to a cannonball, dive, or feet-first jump where your body force would likely plunge you further into the water. The fact that they were having Knut leap from that high into such shallow water was ludicrous in the first place and had Knut actually died while jumping I suspect there would have been manslaughter charges pressed against the fraternity.

    3. This is a fun episode, but poorly written.

      "but they messed that up by ultimately not having him in the building (so who was Sam sent to save in the building if not him?!??!)."

      I was confused about that too. Al clearly told Sam that someone was killed by the bomb. Who was this person, if it wasn't Scooter? Why even give Scooter a perfect excuse to be in the building and then not actually use it? Writers really drop the ball here.

      Why didn't Al bother to tell who the victim was? Surely there was an investigation about this incident? Why they didn't try more direct approach to save victim?

      If it was Scooter, it makes very much more sense why the God/whatever chose Knut as the host, as he was person close to Scooter. While Elizabeth had nothing common with Knut and as we saw Sam had very difficult time to interact with her. Instead getting friends with Elizabeth, maybe Sam was supposed to save Scooter more directly?

      I was bit bothered that Sam and Al were more interested of fixing Elizabeth's life than saving this mystery kid's life (again, Al didn't even bother find out who killed person was and Sam never asked about that. Also while Sam was partying with Elizabeth, he knew all about the bomb! Why did Sam ignore the bomb whole evening until Elizabeth told him about it? And then he acts like he had never heard about it. Shouldn't he be there to save a kid, whoever that was?

      I was also confused that Al tells that Elizabeth spent the rest of her life on the run. But when we actually see Elizabeth, she doesn't strike me as someone who would have ran away and not take responsibility about the bomb. Duck yes, but not Elizabeth.

      So many questions.

  2. 'Nozzle' is one of Al's best insults. =)

    Did they say how Knut broke his neck? If not, Knut could've originally misjudged his leap and slammed his head/face into the side of the pool, thus breaking his neck. That's always been my assumption (though I don't recall if they said specifically how the accident went down).

    I don't remember if I saw this one during the initial run, but I don't think it appealed to me all that much - maybe it was the over-the-top frat boys? It's not a bad story, but it's not one that draws me to it with 'man, I need to watch this one again'.

    1. I don't think they say how he broke his neck -- hitting it on the side of the pool seems like a possibility.

  3. Okay, I’m going down memory lane with this one. I was a freshman in college in October 1967! The music was great: Beach Boys with Surf City, Iggy Pop with Louie Louie [which is a song very few people know all the words to], and Ritchie Valens with La Bamba. The costuming was perfect with peasant blouses, tie dye shirts, and Blues Brothers sunglasses. There were pay phones in the hall. No privacy at all!
    This show is very reminiscent of Animal House, a movie from 1978. Dad and I went to see this when we were vacationing in Maine. Just an aside, this is a classic, which stars John Belushi, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, Tim Matheson, and Peter Riegert. Dad and I still quote lines from this movie. It was written by Harold Ramis, who died this year. But he penned Groundhog Day, Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Caddy Shack. What fabulous creativity. Although this episode takes place before the Animal House movie, it aired in 1990. So, it had this movie to provide background information.
    I am a chemistry teacher and I have a pet peeve. Chemistry labs on television NEVER look like the real thing. Props always contain lots of glassware sitting around on lab benches containing pretty colorful liquids. Never happens! The chemistry professor was weak. There would never be a helium tank available for students to suck on and change the pitch of their voice. AND there would never be drinking of any kind in the lab. Okay, I’m done venting.
    But I did like that Sam [Wild Thing] worked out the combined gas law problem in his head. Very impressive!
    I love when Al calls someone a ‘nozzle.’ I agree with Nick on this one!
    My favorite line was Al talking to Sam, “Your idea of fun was ancient languages and Quantum physics.”
    Mixing in politics of the day, “Who is Abbie Hoffman?” asks Elizabeth. I think that Duck was modeled after him. He had the same kind of look, hairstyle and clothes. He was a political anarchist and one of the Chicago Eight, who disrupted the DNC Chicago convention in 1968.