Saturday, September 10, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 51: Shock Theater

Sam Leaps Into: 
Sam Beiderman, a patient in a mental institution.

Help another patient learn to read.  Get another shock treatment to reverse the effects of the first one that gave him multiple personalities.


Havenwell, Pennsylvania

Memorable Quote:
You're a looney toon in a big wide room and I'm a hologram from the future.  And I'm moving fast back into the past, and I gotta say I'm pleased to meet you.   ~Al

I like the concept of Sam revisiting some of the people he leaped into from the past, and it's neat that they got some of the original characters in the mirror to come back including Samantha Stormer (What Price Gloria), Jesse Tyler (The Color of Truth), and Jimmy LaMotta (Jimmy). MacGyver had 3 season ending clip shows in order to save money and stay on budget, and this feels like a more creative version of a clip show for the season 3 finale.

It seems pretty unlikely that the nurse would shock Sam at the end with the highest amount of voltage behind the others' backs just because he was asking for it, especially considering that she protested earlier when he got shocked.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Al mentions that he is coming from 43 years in the future, so that means that the "present day" in the Quantum Leap universe is 1997.
  • Al's got some impressive freestyle rapping skills, though I'm not sure how just reciting the alphabet a few times will teach Tibby to read.
  • Not a big fan of the "Al is losing power" story line.  I guess it introduces a time element and a sense of urgency that forces Sam to get another shock treatment before Al disappears, but it feels arbitrary and not explained well enough (i.e. why of all leaps is this the one where Al is losing power).  We saw this also in Pool Hall Blues where the power went out at a time that was convenient for the story (though in that one it worked better for me, as evidenced by the fact that it's still my #1 episode).
  • The ending (where Sam is the hologram and Al is the real person) is actually the best part of the show, but I didn't include it as the highlight because I'm considering it as part of the next episode.  I don't remember that episode at all but it looks amazing, and it's a good cliffhanger for next season (fortunately I don't have to wait a few months like viewers would have had to in 1991). 

Final Analysis:
On one hand this fits my "not a lot of fun to be had" style of episode and is not one that I would gravitate toward rewatching.  On the other hand, I found it compelling and hard to stop watching, and the plot was creative and the acting excellent.  Ranking it 35 out of 51.


  1. As you said, I give them props for a fairly creative turn on the "clip show" idea, but at the same time I couldn't get into the plot of this one at all and it was a struggle to get through even though the concept intrigued me. I also think they needed a more compelling reason for Sam to be here than teaching Tibby how to read, which Al somehow accomplished for him through about 90 seconds of rapping. That was pretty weak. And as I said I was pretty checked out through parts of this one so if it was explained why Al was intermittently losing power, I missed it. What was the logic there?

    I liked the ending for the same reason you did and look forward to that story idea kicking off season 4. Even though I thought season 3 was the best so far, it went out with a whimper for me as none of the season's last three episodes did much for me. Put this one between "Blind Faith" and "Play It Again, Seymour" for me.

    1. I missed it too (why Al was losing power). Like Pool Hall Blues I think it was just a narrative convenience, in this case a way to compel Sam to get another shock treatment. It was a bit of a struggle for me to get through also and yet I was curious to see how it was going to end (but not curious enough that it stopped me from going to bed with 15 minutes left one night).

  2. I think this episode was probably written to fit the 'ooh! we should have Sam and Al trade places!' idea, rather than that idea coming from the episode, which would explain the weaker story.

    I want to say there was something about the budget with the power loss, but I could be conflating a few different episode details there and it's been a month or two since I watched this one.