Sunday, September 25, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 55: Justice

Sam Leaps Into:
Clyde, a newly initiated member of the KKK.

Prevent the KKK from killing Nathaniel, a black man advocating for voting rights.



Memorable Quote:
It's Abraham Lincoln.  ~Girl in church
No it's not, he has a beard.  That's some crazy white man.  ~Boy in church

The scene outside the courthouse where Nathaniel is trying to get an older black man to vote is gripping and well acted by everyone involved.  It's all the more compelling because the situation really tests and pushes Sam as a character when he stays undercover and denies Nathaniel despite every bone in his body telling him to do the opposite.

The Klan members' tie up of Sam at the end is pretty weak: just a loosely tied rope around his wrists and nothing around his feet.  Would have been more believable and interesting if they secured him more tightly and forced him to use some MacGyver-style ingenuity in order to escape.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Some notable guest stars in this episode including:
    • Dirk Blocker as Tom (the partially bald Klansman).  We've seen him in Blood Brothers as one of MacGyver's hometown friends.
    • Michael Beach as Nathaniel.
    • Glenn Morshower as Grady (the red-haired Klansman).  I know him well from his role on 24 as the loyal bodyguard Aaron Pierce.
    • Lisa Waltz as Lilly.  She was the lead female in The Odd Couple 2, which believe it or not I'd probably rank as my favorite comedy of all time.
    • Lee Weaver as Mr. Thompson (the older man attempting to vote).  He was in Gunz 'n Boyz as Stumpy.
    • The director of this episode, Rob Bowman, also directed one episode of MacGyver, Ma Dalton.  Not too many similarities between this episode and Ma Dalton.
  • We've had quite a few episodes in the series set in the Deep South including this one, The Color of Truth, So Help Me God, Miss Deep South, and Southern Comforts.  And the South in a way is like a character in that it plays a critical role in all of the episodes, and the production team does a great job of evoking that setting and time period.  It made me wonder if there were any other series out there that portrayed 50's/60's Southern U.S. culture as well as this series did.
  • Powerful ending as Sam tells the Klan that if they hang Nathaniel, they're going to have to hang him too.  And with a noose around his neck, he gives a great speech that persuades his father-in-law (and the Klan's Grand Dragon) to spare them both, and then once they're free Nathaniel embraces him.  Moving stuff.  

Final Analysis:
Outstanding episode.  Powerful story, great acting, fluid pace, and a grave danger overcome in an inspiring ending.  Ranking it 8 out of 55.


  1. Really great episode with a great cast. I'm very surprised you like it since I thought for sure it would fall into your "no fun to be had" category. The only part that confused me was that the Clyde character was apparently pretty liberal about the racial divide issue in the first place since he invited Nathaniel to bring his father (it was his father right?) to register to vote, but wouldn't have Clyde have expected the same resistance from Tom that Sam ultimately had to deal with? Either way, great performances all around and I liked how Sam had to bite his tongue constantly in the midst of this incessant racism. Sometimes this show plods on slowly but that was definitely not the case with this episode as the 46 minutes flew by. I was especially impressed by the church explosion at the end, one of the best bits of pyrotechnics I've seen on the point that I was suspicious that the scene was stock footage lifted from a feature film. Powerful final scene with the would-be hanging even though it was a Category 10 high-risk move for Sam, followed by the hug with Nathaniel right before he leaped.

    Nice to see you got a shoutout from Michael Beach. I saw him in the pilot for a baseball-themed show called "Pitch" just last week. I assume you remember Dirk Blocker played Chuck on "Blood Brothers", but another "MacGyver" alum you definitely missed was Nathaniel's (father??) played by Lee Weaver, the actor who played Stumpy on "Gunz 'N' Boyz" which aired two months after this "Quantum Leap" episode. I was curious if you'd pick up on the Glenn Morshower from "24" but Sam/Clyde's father-in-law was played by Noble Willingham, who played saloon owner "C.D. Parker" on "Walker, Texas Ranger". I never liked that show but Willingham was a very good actor. I'm going so far as to rate this as my new #2 episode right after the "The Leap Home, Part 1".

    1. I knew you were going to ask about my high rating on this one so I'm ready with an answer! It's true that this is not a "fun" episode but they don't always have to be fun for me to like watching it or to appreciate it. If it's not "fun," I only ask that it be well written and powerful, and this one fits the bill. The heightened danger and villainous KKK members lent gravitas to the episode, and as you said the pacing was great with never a dull or wasted moment.

      I don't think the older man was Nathaniel's father (he introduces him as "Mr. Thompson" at the courthouse). And I totally missed on both Dirk Blocker from Blood Brothers and on Lee Weaver -- I will update the blog post with that info. Interesting observation regarding the impressive pyrotechnics -- I didn't pick up on that, but you're right that it's an impressively filmed blast.

      Are there any other series you can think of that depicted 50's Southern culture as well as QL did?

    2. Certainly none that I'm aware of. Some of my favorite episodes so far have been set in the pre-Civil Rights-era South. There was a show called "I'll Fly Away" starring Sam Waterston that was on NBC during the same era as "Quantum Leap", 1991-93 I believe, and it was also set in the early 60s South. I only watched a few episodes but it seemed pretty authentic as well. You didn't think "The Color of Truth" or "Black and White on Fire" were well done?

    3. In a way they were well done in that I can see how others would think they were, but I didn't personally care for either one.

    4. According to IMDB it's actually a different "Lee Weaver" than the one who was on MacGyver.

      And did you ever see The Odd Couple 2? Not too many movies make me laugh out loud but that's one.

    5. IMBD has gotta be wrong doesn't it? Take a look at Mr. Thompson versus Stumpy. The second I saw Mr. Thompson I recognized him as Stumpy and there's two Lee Weavers in the casts of both? Unless I've completely lost my mind it's gotta be the same guy.

      I've never seen "The Odd Couple 2". I definitely recognized the actress Lisa Waltz but couldn't remember where from. I checked her out on IMDB and still can't put a finger on the specific role I've seen her in but she's been a guest on several shows I've watched over the years so it's probably a potpourri of roles that I've jumbled together.

    6. I trust your judgment on Mr. Thompson/Stumpy. Maybe for some actors guild related reason he has two IMDB pages.