Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 50: Nuclear Family


Sam Leaps Into: 
Eddie Ellroy, a college student helping his brother sell nuclear fallout shelters.

Objective:
Stop his neighbor from getting shot while attempting to enter the family's shelter.

Date:
10-26-62

Location:
Homestead, Florida

Memorable Quote:
Then why waste your money on a shelter?  ~Sam
You're right!  You're not much of a salesman!   ~Mrs. Klingman

Highlight:
I liked the Florida setting (nice weather and palm trees) and the retro decor in the home (retro by today's standards, that is).

Lowlight:
It got a little tiresome to see Sam continually arguing with the family about why they were not in danger.  His heart was in the right place, but at a certain point it's time to change tactics when they're clearly not changing their minds, especially when the siren is going off (and it actually makes sense to go into the shelter).

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Given that it's October, shouldn't Eddie be back in school?
  • The Ellroy's shelter is massive and practically palatial.  Who is building and installing these things?  Mac (Eddie's brother) at one point mentions his crews that he manages, but I'd think it would take quite a lot of time and money to build even one of those things.
  • I remember seeing the movie Thirteen Days about the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Great movie (once you get past Kevin Costner's attempt at a Boston accent), and an amazing time in our nation's history given how close we were to nuclear war.  I'm sure that President Trump would have handled the crisis with as much aplomb and dexterity as JFK did.
  • Why did Sam choose lawn burial as a way to get rid of the bullets?  Obviously hindsight is 20-20 and he didn't consider Sam the dog digging them up, but he could have just taken them a mile or two from the house and thrown them away and no one would have been the wiser.
  • I made a note early on that I bet the kid is the shooter.  Right again, Nick!
  • Why don't they just let the scared neighbor in the shelter while the sirens are going off?  He even bought a shelter from them already (which would likely take 6 months to install at which point either the crisis or the world would end), and there was plenty of room.  A real douchey move on Mac's part to not only keep him out but to fire a shotgun in his direction!
  • One conceptual problem with fallout shelters is that after the nuclear blast goes off, the family will open up the shelter to find themselves in a contaminated area.

Final Analysis:
While this was an interesting way to portray society's collective Cold War panic through the eyes of a family, I found the episode to be slow, repetitive, and somewhat of a chore to watch.  The production value seemed relatively low in that they were in the same spots (the house and the bunker) the entire time -- I wonder if this was a case (similar to Friends or Hind-Sight) where the season budget was running low and they had to do an episode on the cheap.  Ranking it 41 out of 50.

4 comments:

  1. Our sentiments on this one were similar to the point of me nodding in agreement as I read along with your review. The concept of Cold War paranoia in south Florida at the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis was a great idea and I'm sure it seemed that way to the crew too until they tried to get an hour's worth of material out of this premise. Sam's endless failed attempts to convince the family that the nuclear war threat was tedious and undermined Sam's intelligence as a character that he never changed tactics. He got creative in the end when recommending Mac go from building bomb shelters to swimming pools, so why couldn't he have mustered up some of that creativity during the 30-plus minutes of the episode he dedicated to insisting to everyone that the Soviets weren't really gonna incite World War III? The little girl's leap from Sam telling her he didn't think the Soviets were gonna attack to her screaming that Sam was calling her dad a liar was also way over the top and Sam seemed repeatedly incapable of talking his way out of it. Definitely not his finest hour.

    The ending was a mess too and made no sense. They didn't even explain what caused the power outage and for Mac to be shooting a shotgun at the neighbor trying to get into the bomb shelter when they already agreed to go up and get the dog anyway was incoherent, as was the boy going up some secondary shaft (???) in the bomb shelter to shoot the neighbor. It's too bad because there were things I liked about the episode, including Sam's failed attempt to bury the shotgun shells backfiring when the dog dug them up. Overall though, it felt like this was the kind of episode that played better in the writers' room than it did when it actually came to producing a script into an hourlong episode. I'll rank it between "Sea Bride" and "Leap of Faith".

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, seems like one of those episode ideas that sounds great on paper or in the writers room but is lacking in the execution.

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  2. I *think* the deal w/ them not wanting to let the neighbor into the shelter had less to do with room and more to do with provisions. If they've stocked for 6 months, they can't take chances that they'll actually get *out* in 6 months and may have to ration their provisions more than they've already pre-determined. Having an extra mouth to feed stretches those provisions even further.

    Also - fear makes people stupid and irrational. The Cuban Missile crisis was freakin' scary at the time. The propaganda around the country was that the communists were going to bomb the hell out of the US, and Cuba sits, what, 90 miles off the coast of Florida. That's pretty damned close. No chance they'll miss.

    In other news - I have an answer to 1 of your MacGyver questions. I'm writing up my con report, so it'll be there when I post it over on my blog. =)

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