Friday, July 15, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 30: M.I.A.

Sam Leaps Into: 
Detective Jake Rawlins, an undercover police officer.

Prevent his partner from getting killed in the field.  Stop Al's first wife from starting a relationship with another man while Al is MIA in Vietnam.


San Diego, California

Memorable Quote:
If you're lucky, life is gonna give you one shot at true love. And Beth was mine. I lost her, but you can get her back for me.  ~Al

The moment when Sam sees Al's picture on the mantle and realizes what's really going on. Bakula nails it perfectly, and his facial expression is really moving.

How could the two criminals get out on bail and back on the street right after getting into a shootout with the cops?

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Uh-oh, get your box of kleenex ready -- it's the Al/Beth episode!  I actually had no idea this one was coming and didn't realize it until Al first mentioned the mission to Sam.
  • Beth gives off a strong Jackie O vibe -- it might be the hair that does it.
  • "Too bad you have a husband," says Dirk to Beth even though he met her less than one minute ago.  What a sleazeball.
  • I love the scene where Sam steps right in to change Beth's tire much to Dirk's chagrin, and then Dirk lays a hand on him and Skaggs (Sam's partner) asks to see Dirk's ID. I'm a big Skaggs fan -- he's a cool dude.
  • And then Dirk's mom tries to set up Dirk and Beth even after she sees Beth's M.I.A. bracelet -- the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
  • Fun conversation at 36:20:
    • "You didn't give me a parking ticket, did you?" ~Dirk
    • "Thought about it." ~Sam
  • I wonder what percentage of people watching this for the first time knew right away that Al was the MIA soldier or if they only discovered it when Sam does.
  • The tissue companies must have made a deal with the producers on this one because they really pummel you with the music: Someday We'll Be Together followed by Unchained Melody followed by Georgia On My Mind.  All that was missing was Wind Beneath My Wings.  And this is a good time to mention that tears were shed by me during the watching of this episode.  The tears episode race now stands at MacGyver = 3, Quantum Leap = 1, but QL has lots of time left to even the score.
  • I'd be interested to know from Don Bellisario if he had this story line with Al planned from the beginning and if Al's love of women and failed marriages were all leading up to this moment.
  • Seems a little unfair that Sam gets to try and change his personal life (like with his wife, his piano teacher, and the leap home), but changing Al's is "against the rules." Guess we'll have to wait and see if this comes up again in a future episode... 

Final Analysis:
This episode should have won an Emmy.  It was the perfect time in the series for a story like this as we've now been through two seasons (albeit a short first one) and gotten to know the characters of Sam and Al.  It's a magnificent script and the acting and execution is flawless.

It's unquestionably the best episode we've seen so far, but is it my favorite?  I'm putting it at #2 right now behind Pool Hall Blues.  I may move it up to #1 at some point, but before making a final call I have to first let it all set in and finish wiping my eyes. 


  1. The 2 guys getting out on bail after a shootout - it's possible if they didn't kill anyone and they have access to bail money. It's not likely they'd be arraigned the same day they were arrested, though that happens on tv a lot.

    There does seem to be a little hypocrisy about fixing their personal lives (though Sam hooking up with his piano teacher doesn't really count, since he wasn't 'Sam' when he did it.), but Sam does help Al in this one.

    I usually like the stories that dip a little into Al's life, b/c we always get buckets of data about Sam's past - despite his swiss-cheese memory - but Al gets kinda left out sometimes. Getting info on him was always fun for me.

    1. Yeah I also like the episodes where Al plays more of a role -- he and Bakula have great chemistry. I don't watch NCIS but I saw that Stockwell was a guest star recently on Bakula's show.

    2. He must be the long-lost twin of SecNAV turned Senator Edward Sheffield from JAG. Bellisario likes reusing actors across his shows, which would be fine, but he established that JAG and NCIS are in the same universe.

      I haven't watched NCIS:NO yet. I don't think it's steaming on anything I have yet, so it might be a while. (CBS is stingy w/ streaming.)

  2. This episode certainly had powerful moments for me but I'm afraid it didn't floor me quite to the level it did you. I'll still rank it pretty high but the pacing seemed slow to me in the middle third and I was occasionally struggling to stay in it. Honestly it might be worth another look tonight to see what I missed because I'm sure there were small details that I did.

    You nailed with the Jackie O connection for Beth. I couldn't put a finger on who she reminded me of but you definitely nailed it. Based on Al's stunned reaction looking at Ziggy I figured that the "wife of the MIA" he took such a personal interest in must have been his own wife. Wouldn't Al have figured out right away when Sam leaped into the town where he lived that it had something to do with his wife? I'm guessing at whatever young age you were at the time you didn't see it coming until Sam saw the photo, which would have been cool in itself. I've thrown cold water on this before and you've partially explained it away but I'm still not really copacetic, narratively, with the premise of Sam (and now Al) being coincidentally foisted into missions where they have direct personal associations with people who are not a direct part of the mission, yet are told they can't do anything that would change their own personal history. That's one of the things that still kind of sticks in my craw for better or for worse. And you say it's not fair that Al couldn't do anything that would alter his own history, but Sam couldn't either could he?

    It was long overdue for a storyline that added some necessary layers to Al. As I've hinted at before, I'm not yet a huge Al fan as his flashes of moral indignance seem highly selective for a man in his 50s who unapologetically goes around perving on high school girls, as one example. We got one first-rate example in "Jimmy" of a more substantive side of Al and of course we really get a chance to warm up to him. The dancing scene at the end was first-rate and arguably this series' most compelling scene yet. As I said, I think I'll watch this one again tonight before I officially rank it as it seems worthy of another look.

    But I will say that even a re-viewing is unlikely to put me in full agreement of your assessment that this episode's execution was totally flawless because the issue with the lowlife thugs seemed wildly out of place. In one respect, it was a great twist for Sam to discover that Al was manipulating him into thinking the mission was about Beth but it was really about stopping the two thugs from the opening scene, but what the hell was up with Sam blowing these two guys away through the barrel of a gun like he's freaking Charles Bronson and having no emotional response? It was waaaayyyy out of character and was even more off for the vibe of this episode. Again, I'll look at it again in a few hours and get back to with my ranking.

    1. Interesting take. You're right that Sam's actions at the end were Charles Bronson-ish but that didn't bother me -- I figured he's emotionally spent by that point. For whatever reason I didn't remember this episode very well but I remember The Leap Home very well.

      As for Al altering his own history, I was commenting more on how it's interesting how so far they're more willing to bend the rules when it comes to their own life (like in the Leap Home which I just started watching Sam tries to change his own life and Al says the only difference between Sam helping his family but not following through with Beth is that this time it involves Sam and Sam says "exactly.")

    2. I knew when I watched the end of this episode that it was worth a second look, as many emotionally resonant episodes of this nature are. I liked it the first time and moved closer to your position after a second viewing. The connection with Skaggs' missing daughter--and his very emotional response to the baby on the table--was another layer of this that was well put together that I was able to connect with much more watching tonight. I didn't remember where this was specifically set but now I see it's San Diego. I'm still a little fuzzy why Al didn't make the immediate connection when they leaped to San Diego in 1969 that his first wife would have been there. And all the chance encounters between Dirk, Beth, and Dirk's mother in the "small town" of San Diego was a little kitschy. I know this show relies heavily on the convenience factor but I'm still not entirely sold on that.

      The pacing seemed less challenging for me tonight. I think the scene where Beth is going on about Andy, the soldier who died under the care, was the part where I started to check out last night. It still seemed to drag on a bit long but helped Sam make the necessary personal connection with Beth. I stand both other comments from this morning....that the final scene with Al and Beth dancing was spectacular and the single best scene yet for this series....and that Sam's violent execution of the random thugs in the bar seemed amazingly out of place for the character and the general tone of this episode. I could have rolled with it in "24" or "Miami Vice", but Sam Beckett doesn't just casually send two guys to their maker and then go on with his day without a pause the way Jack Bauer and Sonny Crockett would. I'm guessing you probably think this is nitpicky, but particularly with the tone of this episode, it would be tantamount to me if MacGyver went out and found the two street thugs who ran off with Carol's shopping cart on "The Madonna" and bashed their heads into the sidewalk before returning to the Challenger's Club for a Christmas miracle.

      So what are your general thoughts on Al in this series? His stock went way up in this episode and I figured we'd see some character development, but do you agree with me that his treatment on the series has been wildly inconsistent thus far? Some weeks he feels like he should be in therapy rather than administering life lessons. Anyway, I'll rank this one #5 between "Pool Hall Blues" and "The Color of Truth". Season 2 and my DVD have run out so I'll have to check out the website again for the next season.

    3. I'd love to see that as a deleted scene from The Madonna! As for Al, I enjoy his character and Stockwell's portrayal of him. He has great chemistry with Bakula and the Sam/Al characters are good foils -- Sam is a brilliant scientist but Al is street smart and knows a little about everything. And Sam is more like the saint where Al is the proud sinner. I don't think the treatment of him was inconsistent, but I think they went too far with his ogling at women as I've mentioned before, especially when his subjects are high schoolers/teenagers.

  3. I remember getting my hands on the script of this episode back in the day, and there was a whole lot more of the plot with the thugs. When they got in the editing room they must have decided the Al/Beth story was more compelling than the cop stuff. Maybe those missing scenes would have helped with Sam's abrupt Dirty Harry moment.