Sunday, October 2, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 58: The Wrong Stuff

Sam Leaps Into:
Bobo, a chimpanzee in the space program.

Save himself from getting his head bashed in during scientific testing.


Cape Canaveral, Florida

Memorable Quote:
What am I supposed to do the meantime, huh?  ~Sam
Why don't you take that banana....and peel it?  ~Al

Some fun action that takes place in this episode: Sam/Bobo using martial arts on the "nozzles," and then the manhunt (or "chimphunt") scene at the end where Bobo and Cory are trying to escape the facility.  I'm a sucker for scenes like that where the hero is trapped in a compound while hostiles are all around looking for him.  And cool music too.


Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Only 58 episodes in and we finally have our first January episode!  With that, all of the months are now officially represented in the series.
  • Interesting that this episode stars Caroline Goodall and centers around chimps (a subject on which Jane Goodall is the leading expert).  I don't know if they're related.
  • One nice byproduct of this leap is that for the first time ever Sam gets to talk freely without worrying about anyone listening in or passing judgment.
  • Excellent performances by Goodall as Dr. Ashton and Gary Swanson as Dr. Winger. And the writing is good in the way that they set up their relationship and gradually reveal his personality with Winger hitting on her from the beginning and then becoming hostile toward her when she challenges him.
  • I mentioned in Genesis how I didn't remember Al as having been an astronaut, but in this episode they talk about it some more -- he says he was on one of the Apollo missions.
  • There are several grainy stock footage shots of chimps in cages, but they don't take away from the rest of the episode.
  • Lots of hilarious scenes in this one including when Sam first learns he's a chimp, his initial encounter with Al (see memorable quote), and his drinking of the caterpillar juice.
  • In addition to being humorous, this episode also has several poignant moments including when Sam communicates with Dr. Ashton about what the nozzles are up to and then when he empathizes and forges an emotional connection with Cory (the chimp in the cage next to his). And the rescue and salvation of Dr. Winger is a great way to end the episode (capped off perfectly by Cory shooting one of the nozzles with a tranquilizer).

Final Analysis:
Wow!!  A fantastic hour of television.  I had remembered that there was an episode where Sam leaped into an animal but I didn't remember anything else.  It's a great idea and one that would have been a challenge to write an episode around, but Paul Brown (the writer) nailed it.  As I said, the story is brilliantly crafted, hilarious, exciting, and poignant.

And not only is the acting great all around, but this is one of Bakula's best performances and is Emmy worthy.  It's not often (or maybe ever) that an actor has been asked to play a chimp, but Bakula is incredible doing it.  I may need to watch it again to settle on its final ranking place, but for now I'm slotting it at a lofty #3 out of 58.


  1. We are not in alignment on this one at all. I hate this episode. (Which isn't something I ever said about any MacGyver episodes.) This is one of the episodes that made me think the show had gone off the rails. I couldn't even watch it when I was catching up on episodes tonight.

  2. I'm somewhere between Nick's love and Highlander's hate of this one. At first I thought Sam was simply gonna be an astronaut which I thought would be a cool storyline, but I'll admit I winced when I realized Sam was gonna spend the entire hour as a chimp. It really seemed silly on the surface and I figured the episode would be unwatchably dumb. And even though some of the scenes attempted to pass off as humor were sillier that'd prefer, the story ultimately took me in when it got serious. And I thought the escape attempt at the end was pretty exciting and suspenseful. My primary takeaway from this episode's plotline about the blurry ethics of endangering animals in the interest of advancing human life was that one your favorite "Quantum Leap" episodes was channeling one of your least favorite "MacGyver" episodes...."Kill Zone". I found the ethical tug of war in both to be thoughtfully executed.

    Interesting that in the first January episode Sam is walking around wearing nothing but a diaper. He's lucky it's Florida! I'd never have noticed the "Goodall" connection until I read your notes. Do you know if she's had any acting experiences beyond this episode? Because she seemed pretty natural at it here. Not sure I agree with you on Emmy-worthiness but the episode did salvage itself from my original impression when I saw he was gonna be a chimp. I'll put it between "Good Morning, Peoria" and "Maybe Baby".

    1. It's interesting that you (at least initially) and H2 thought that leaping into a chimp would be dumb b/c I thought it was really creative, distinctive, and compelling right from the beginning. And as for the humor I'd put this one up there with Miss Deep South as the funniest episode so far, and the fact that they were able to combine the humor with a poignant story and some good action is amazing to me. I can imagine being given the assignment of leaping Sam into an animal -- that's a really hard episode to write and come up with a serious story and a way that Sam can affect change and yet they pulled it off with flying colors.

      It can still get chilly in Florida in the winter so good thing Sam wasn't outside in a diaper for too long! Caroline Goodall has been in a ton of stuff including a lead role in Schindler's List and Hook.

    2. Also I went onto Al's Place (Quantum Leap forum) to see what people thought of this episode and there's quite a few who love it and say it's their favorite, but there was another person who said it was the worst episode in the series so it's clearly a polarizing one.

  3. Not surprising that it's polarizing. Most outside-the-box episodes of a series tend to be. I think my original instinct that this would be silly stems from previous before-your-time series featuring chimps such as "Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp" and "Mr. Smith" that were silly. It definitely was better than I expected. Had no idea that Caroline Goodall was in a bunch of shows and films. Nice to see she commented on Twitter too. Disappointed that you didn't take my bait and agree with the narrative similarities I pointed out between this episode of "Quantum Leap" and "Kill Zone" on "MacGyver", leading to you revisited "Kill Zone" and agreeing that it's pure genius.

    1. Good call on the narrative similarities, I'll give you that! Speaking of revisiting old MacGyver episodes, I have my first of 4 new script discussions coming in the next day or two, and it's an episode that I was not high on before. I wish I could say my opinion on it improved after reading the script...

    2. Interested to see that. Didn't you say three of the four episodes were all episodes I liked better than you?

    3. Yeah that's correct. The 4th is pretty high on both our lists.