Thursday, December 15, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 81: Promised Land

Sam Leaps Into:
Willie Walters Jr., one of three brothers robbing a bank in order to get money for their farm. 

Make sure the brothers get out of the bank alive.  Prove the duplicity of the bank manager in taking advantage of several of the town's landowners.


Elk Ridge, Indiana

Memorable Quote:
I don't mean to tell you how you do your bank robbin', but would you mind pointing that pea shooter you got in a different di-rection?  ~Mr. Pierce

You know by now I'm a sucker for the "Coming Home" theme (i.e. the Dvorak New World Symphony), and it's a heartwarming moment when Sam learns from Al that he's in his hometown as the theme gently plays in the background.

I would have liked to see Sam's hometown play an even bigger role in the story, whether it was Sam visiting familiar places or seeing people he knew from the past.  There's a little bit of that, but I thought they could have done even more and focused less on the younger brother or the crooked banker.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Our third and final Scott Bakula directed episode (the other two were Permanent Wave and Roberto).  
  • Elk Ridge is a very chill place -- look at how calmly the townsfolk applaud the robbers' mother after she calls the banker a crook in the diner.
  • Great scene at the end where Sam gets to see his dad again.  I thought maybe he was going to see his younger self at some point too.
  • It's episodes like this one and The Leap Home that make you realize how important Sam's hometown is to him and his character.  It made me think of the latest MacGyver reboot episode where the writers shockingly made his hometown in northern California instead of Minnesota despite the fact that in the original show his Minnesota upbringing is a major part of his character.  What if, in a supposed Quantum Leap reboot, they said that Sam Beckett was from Washington D.C.?  Might as well be a different character at that point.

Dwier Brown gives an excellent performance as Neil, the tempestuous but good-hearted older brother.  I know him from the famous final scene of Field of Dreams (one of the best movies of all time) where he plays Kevin Costner's father.  You can learn more about him and his book If You Build It at his website

NS: Were you a Quantum Leap fan?

DB: Although I would not consider myself a "science fiction" fan, I loved the show Quantum Leap. Maybe because it is set in a "reality" that I am familiar with, it doesn't seem like "fiction" to me.  I have no issue with Sam "leaping" from body to body and period to period, or even dead ballplayers appearing magically out of a cornfield, but with science fiction, it is always the "science" that fails me.  It is either boring or it defies physical laws as I understand them.  It doesn't make sense, but I loved "Firefly", but I was never a Trek fan or a "Back to the Future" nut.
I was surprised to find out while researching my book that Field of Dreams is frequently categorized as a "fantasy" film. I just never thought of it that way.  Likewise with Quantum Leap.  Maybe it was the fascinating way Sam travelled or just Scott's charming acting in the role (and, of course, Dean Stockwell's droll demeanor as his foil).

NS: What was it like to get the role of Neil Walters?

DB: I remember being excited to get the role because the character was a farmer and I grew up on a farm in Ohio.  I knew farmers who were struggling at that time.  I like playing characters with an emotional edge.  It is why I got into acting in the first place -- to learn to understand and express my own pent-up feelings.
NS: What did you think of Scott Bakula?

DB: Scott was very nice and we became closer when he learned that we both lived in Ojai. He is a very talented and funny actor!  I like to hear him sing.  I remember him being a little exasperated that the writers seemed to enjoy putting Sam in silly situations sometimes to the detriment of the plot or story lines.

NS: Anything you remember about the set?

DB: I remember being holed up in the "bank" set with all of the other actors and extras, and between takes, it really felt a little like a police stand-off.  I guess film acting is a little like a hostage situation -- stuck in a room together, can't leave, kind of boring, but with flashes of excitement.
    Final Analysis:
    Solid episode.  The calm, holiday atmosphere in the sleepy town makes for a fun and pleasant setting, and there's the poignant backstory of Sam reconciling with leaving home long ago. Ranking it of 16 out of 81.


    1. I liked this one for most of the same reasons you did, but it certainly could have been better. Sam's emotional connection to his hometown and its residents was certainly the high point, and like you I wish we could have seen more of that and less circular exposition. I'd have preferred if Sam's conversations with Al had been filtered through third parties amidst the holdup rather than Sam's goofy repeated "bathroom breaks" to get Al to fill him in.

      The brothers' plight was reminded me of the Amish in "The Outsiders" and the general atmosphere of the Midwestern farm crisis I lived through in the mid-1980s growing up in rural Minnesota. The banker's hustle seemed credible as well, but as much as the town loved the farmers and hated the banker, it was far-fetched that the townsfolk would burst into applause at the Millers' mother's proclamation that she supported her sons' armed holdup with the townsfolks' friends, family, and neighbors on the other side of the barrel. I enjoyed the ending where Sam got to wish his dad "Merry Christmas", but I must say they did a MUCH better job with Bakula's make-up in "The Leap Home". His dad looked like a zombie just fished out of the river here. Overall though it was a good hour with interesting characters and motivations.

      I like the interview with the actor who played the older brother, who kind of echoed my sentiments on science fiction. Interesting also that Bakula was becoming frustrated with his character being put in silly situations. I wonder what he was talking about specifically. "Lee Harvey Oswald" perhaps? Whatever the case, kind of seems like Bakula was ready to quantum leap out of this show by this point. Maybe Bakula will return for the reboot where he grew up in Elk Ridge, New Jersey!

      I also must sternly scold you for missing a "MacGyver" alumni in the cast! The sheriff here was played by Arlen Dean Snyder, who was Sheriff Cliff Howells in "The Secret of Parker House".

      1. I'll rate this one between "Temptation Eyes" and "One Strobe Over the Line".

      2. Haha, yeah the new Sam will be from Elk Ridge New Jersey, a suburb of NYC. I would have never gotten Arlen Dean Snyder -- I just went back and looked at Parker House real quick, and he looks much older in QL, maybe it's the white hair.

        Any other thoughts you have on science fiction?

      3. Arlen Dean Snyder did seem to age quite a bit in the four years since "Parker House". Had it not been for seeing his name in the credits, I'd have probably made a general connection but not identified him specifically as Cliff Howells.

        Well, I'm okay with some "soft-core" science fiction as I would rate "Quantum Leap" and "Lost", among other shows and films like "Soylent Green" where the focus of the stories in conventional character themes and more adventure-oriented stories. But hard-core science fiction that centers on "an alternative universe" in the way "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" does loses me. And I agree with Dwier Brown that I find much of it really boring.