Saturday, July 16, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 31: The Leap Home


LEAP 1
Sam Leaps Into: 
Himself as a 16 year-old.

Objective:
Win the opening game of the basketball season against a rival high school.

Date:
11-25-69

Location:
Elk Ridge, Indiana

LEAP 2
Sam Leaps Into:
Herbert "Magic" Williams, an American soldier in Vietnam.

Objective: 
Save the life of his brother, Tom, and the rest of the squad.

Date:
4-7-70

Location:
Vietnam

Memorable Quote:
Look, I'll win the game.  I swear I will.  You just give me April the 8th  ~Sam

Highlight:
The scene right at the end where Sam sees the photograph of Al and realizes that he was one of the two P.O.W.s that could have been rescued.  A poignant way to end the episode and one that I'm guessing most viewers didn't see coming.  Al deserves a ton of credit for not pressuring or manipulating Sam into saving him and taking away from the success of the mission.  Sure, he mentions that there are P.O.W.s nearby that could be rescued, but he doesn't force the issue or reveal to Sam that he is one of them.

Lowlight:
Obviously this series often requires suspension of disbelief.  One minor point that stood out to me and that I had trouble accepting was the part where the photojournalist had to go to the bathroom and the helicopter pilots obliged by touching down in hostile territory to let her out.  I can't imagine that happening on a real mission.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • It's nice to have the standard episode opening (at least standard in that it's what I remember from watching the show on reruns as a kid).  I wonder if they may have used this opening for all seasons on the reruns because it's the only one I remember.
  • I've mentioned before the relationship of Dvorak's New World Symphony (a theme used often in this series) and the notion of coming home, and it fits here perfectly as Sam realizes where he is and starts running down the dirt path to his house.
  • Kind of strange that they used an exterior shot of the Field of Dreams house (complete with baseball field and lights).  Weren't there any other farmhouses to choose from?  By the way, Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies of all time and I've been to the site twice (in Dyersville, Iowa).
  • We've seen Sam's little sister as the middle child in Another Mother.  And according to IMDB it's the first acting credit for David Newsom who plays Sam's brother Tom -- he does an outstanding job especially considering it's his first role.
  • It's a stretch to believe that Sam remembers which bird Tom will hit and which one he'll miss, but he can't remember that Tom showed up to basketball practice in a gorilla mask.
  • Great scene where Sam tells his family he made everything up about the future and then he runs away (the way he runs even has the feel of a young kid).  And then in his moment of despair, Al reminds him how lucky he is for the opportunity to see his family again.
  • I love the old-school Indiana gym and also the hoop attached to the Beckett barn. And I had forgotten that this was the first game of the season instead of the last.  I guess they had to do that to make it around Thanksgiving when Tom was home, but it seems odd to attach the fate of the world to the first game of the season.
  • Part 2 is the first episode so far where Sam's been in another country.  Lucky for him that this didn't happen more often -- imagine if he leapt into someone in Poland and he didn't know how to speak Polish.
  • The crew did a fantastic job of making this episode feel like it was actually Vietnam.
  • It's a Tia Carrere sighting!  She was in two episodes of MacGyver: The Wish Child and Murderers' Sky.
  • It was clever to have Sam leap into a guy who had a sixth sense so that Sam would be listened to by the men, even if it was unlikely that they would mobilize the squad in preparation for an attack just based on a hunch -- there's that pesky suspension of disbelief again.
  • I know that in general Sam's not supposed to reveal himself (because no one will believe him), but if there was ever a time to do it, this seems like a good time because he could have told Tom things about their personal life that only Sam would know (so Tom might actually have believed him).

Final Analysis:
Epic stuff here.  This is one of the landmark episodes of the series and together with M.I.A. provides a narrative and emotional high that we won't see again until the series finale.  The construction and weaving of this storyline was brilliant, and all hail Donald Bellisario for following up his M.I.A. script with another grand slam.  And once again, great execution from start to finish. This one is neck and neck with M.I.A., and I'm giving it a little boost to become my new #2 episode.  

13 comments:

  1. I probably hold a dissenting opinion, but I kind of hate these two episodes. Typically I am all over character backstory and filling in the blanks, but I really didn't like the set-up of Sam leaping into himself and changing his own timeline. I can't directly pinpoint what it is about this episode that turns me off, but it's a low ranking one for me.

    Also - given the way time travel typically works in scifi shows (and the way logic would say it works), this should have had some serious effects on Sam's timeline and plenty of ripple effects too. These were pretty significant events in his childhood and he changed them. Where are the changes that should happen in Sam's future? His direct future, not his family's.

    I'm not a fan of this episode. (There's another one later that I'd been sort of excited about, then was hugely disappointed by that has a similar theme.)

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    1. You're right about the ripple effects -- even the smallest of changes would have a huge impact and alter his life. I haven't seen too many other time travel shows other than Back to the Future, but I believe that even his normal leaps where he saves someone's life would probably be enough to alter the space-time continuum in such a way that something big would happen (I don't know what, maybe the world would get sucked up somehow!)

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    2. They did show one - way bag in the beginning of s1 - that hearing that he affected by helping that woman pass her legal exams.

      We don't get a lot of real-world ramifications from the show. I supposed we're to assume that Sam 'fixes' things and everything turns out for the better for everyone involved. But 'the butterfly effect' works in both good and bad ways.

      He fixed Al's like in the previous episode - but somehow, getting to keep his 'true love' (or whatever he called her) still lead him to the QL project rather than somewhere else. Fixing his own life in this episode didn't muck up anything else in his own life - he still started the QL project and still did all those other leaps, as far as we know.

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  2. These are two completely different episodes for my taste so just like my split rankings for the two-part "MacGyver" episodes I'm ranking them separately here too. I only watched a few season 3 episodes of "Quantum Leap" in the summer of 1991. I got into the MInnesota Twins in a major way by late June when they were en route to their World Series win and was listening to the games on the radio most evenings, meaning "Quantum Leap" got the short end of the stick most of that summer. However, both parts 1 and 2 of "The Leap Home" were episodes I watched. I remember at the time that Part 1 was the episode of the series I liked best of all the episodes I saw as a boy.....and through adult eyes it still is my #1....so far at least.

    Sam's interaction with his family throughout the episode was extremely engaging and compelling, and Bakula did a spectacular job playing his own father. I honestly don't know if I would have known it was him if not for seeing his name in the credits, although the voice did give it a way a bit. I see what you mean after re-watching this episode though how Sam seemed to think he was somehow above the rules Al was subjected to regarding changing his own personal past. I suppose it'd be impossible to be in that situation and not do everything you can to change the doomed lives of the ones you love, but I thought it was telling how his efforts only antagonized the family and loved his epiphany after Al's comments about he desperately needs to cherish this brief bit of time they had together. His sister's acting when Sam sang "Imagine" was really outstanding as well. While the basketball portion of the episode was your standard "pull out the win at the buzzer" trope, it was very touching that Sam delayed the final shot to say goodbye to his dad in the stands before making the shot, knowing he would leap soon thereafter and wouldn't be face to face with him again. Great episode all around.

    "Quantum Leap" was filmed in California right? If so, it would be a 1,500-mile drive to get a believable shot of a Midwestern corn field and farm house, so it's no surprise they lifted the footage from "Field of Dreams" or at least some other film. I know there are tons of farms in central California but I don't think they grow much corn....it's mostly fruits and vegetables. I laughed when I read your comment about Sam's memory. When I first started reading the sentence saying it was a stretch that Sam remembered that Tom shot the first bird but missed the second, I was thinking "Oh I bet I'd have remembered that too with my steel trap of a memory"....but then I read the rest of the comment and agreed that if Sam remembered the shooting of the birds to that detail he'd definitely remember it was Tom in the gorilla mask at the basketball practice.

    My only nitpick here is my usual one with these episodes where Sam or Al has a personal connection....the convenience factor of the Quantum Leap accelerator sending them to alter situations directly connected to their personal past but then cruelly refusing to allow them to do things that would change the lives of loved ones. I don't think I'll ever fully get past that storytelling quirk of this series as if the QL accelerator really didn't want the lives of its protagonists to be changed, it doesn't make sense that it would REPEATEDLY send Sam and Al back into situations directly connected to their own past.

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    1. You're right about Bakula playing his own father -- when watching this as a kid I didn't even realize it was him. And great point about the sister -- she really nailed that scene when Sam was singing Imagine.

      You're right that QL was filmed in California. It's interesting that in the shot when Sam was running down the path in the beginning, it's not the Field of Dreams house but a bit later in the episode they show a close up of the Field of Dreams house. And Field of Dreams is a Universal Studios movie like Quantum Leap so I guess that helped in getting the rights to the shots.

      How was it watching on NBC.com, did you survive?

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    2. Since I'm on my home computer and not at work or my parents' computer, I ran into fewer issues with NBC.com than I would have. It's still challenging though. With the very substantial commercial breaks, it takes well over an hour to watch an episode. For whatever reason, when it cuts to some commercial breaks the buffering occurs in ultra-slow motion, giving you the commercial a fraction of a second at a time. One 30-second ad last night took 13 minutes to burn through...and then the next 30-second ad played out in real-time as expected. It's a difficult site...far worse than CBS.com. I'm still grateful for those two networks for allowing me to watch shows I missed the next day if I miss it. On ABC and Fox, you have to wait more than a week to watch an episode of a show you missed, which is stupid and defeats the purpose of having them available online.

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    3. Sometimes and with varying levels of success, you can use an ad-blocker on those. (A lot of times you'll get the 'pls turn off ur ad-blocker' message.)

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    4. That's what I ran into....this video won't play with the ad blocker on.

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  3. I remembered back in 1991 that I liked Part 1 quite a bit better than Part 2 but rewatching this 25 years later I like Part 2 just about as much and we seem to be pretty much in agreement as everything you commented on were the same observations I had while watching. I know you're not a "Seinfeld" guy but the actor whose character was underwater in the beginning was Patrick Warburton who played David Puddy on "Seinfeld" and has been a sitcom mainstay in the 20 years since on "Rules of Engagement" and "Crowded" just this past year, shows I never watched but remembered him in. Anyway, agreed on exceptional production work, but I'm curious since they poached footage from "Field of Dreams" in Part 1, I'm wondering if they didn't rip off some material from Vietnam movies here as well. They may not have. There appears to be someplace in southern California that has a jungle ambience because "MacGyver" episodes like "The Golden Triangle" and "The Road Not Taken" also looked pretty authentic as southeast Asia, as did "The Sound of Thunder" episode of "The A-Team" set in Vietnam that also guest starred Tia Carrere. Did you ever see the 1987-90 Vietnam drama "Tour of Duty"? I only saw a few episodes, and none in 26 years, but it was well done and filmed in Hawaii.

    I didn't get or care for Carrere's character here. If she was working with the enemy all along, why didn't figure that out when she was holding a gun on Maggie? And why did she take the gun off of Maggie as soon as Sam returned. I also thought Sam could have done a variation on his "pheasants in the cornfield" bit with Tom to let Tom know it was really his brother....but that would have seemed more cliche here so I'm glad they went the route they did here instead. The ending where Al was revealed as the MIA who was nearly rescued was the most epic part of the hour and I agree it would have been very unlikely anyone saw that coming. It was an excellent curveball, although again the "small world!" aspect of it requires that suspension of disbelief you cited. I don't completely agree with Highlander's point but I don't completely disagree with it either. Considering Sam was in no way supposed to change his own history and Al was supposed to keep him in line so that he didn't, it did betray the core value of the show for Tom's life to be spared. For the narrative of this episode I'm glad they did though.

    Sam's emotional connection here wasn't quite as tangible in Part 2 as Part 1 but I'll still rank it #3 so far after "Jimmy". I liked it better than I remembered.

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    1. Another notable guest star I noticed on IMDB was the guy who played the older military man -- Ernie Lively (Blake Lively's father). There was some definite stock footage mixed in there, but the close up shots of the jungle were really good, and as you said there must have been some go-to area near Hollywood for scenes like that. And I haven't heard of Tour of Duty before.

      I agree with you on Carrere's character -- the squad obviously did a terrible job of vetting her and gave her access to too much classified information. And it was sloppy of her to not change the frequency of the radio after using it in the tent.

      Interesting that you like Part 2 more as an adult. It has a high sense of energy and import, and there's never a dull moment.

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    2. I was just listening to Andrea Thompson (played the photographer) on the Quantum Leap Podcast:
      http://quantumleappodcast.com/interviews/andrea-thompson/

      She says that it was filmed in Corona CA and that it was a desert and a lot of work for the crew to bring the water in.

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  4. I would never have made the connection with Blake Lively's father. COnsidering she's in her 20s and he was middle-aged even then, he must have had her pretty late in life.

    Part of the issue for me was that I never got much into war movies or shows as a boy....but have gotten into them more as an adult. There was a dark 1986 episode of "The Fall Guy" in 1986 set in Cambodia and Vietnam that I hated as an eight-year-old but thought was one of the series' best episodes revisiting it in 2009. Some of the same stuff going on here with this "Quantum Leap" episode. I've seriously considered testing whether my war movie/show aversion has been cured by purchasing a season of the aforementioned "Tour of Duty" on DVD. I don't think it's gonna happen in the near future though unless I really go on a lark.

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    1. I've never been a big war movie guy, but "Band of Brothers" is one of the best things I've ever seen on television (though it's been a good 10 years since I've seen it).

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