Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 61: Unchained

Sam Leaps Into:
Chance Cole, a prisoner in a chain gang. 

Help a wrongly convicted prisoner escape from the chain gang.



Memorable Quote:
Y'all got any final last words?  ~Cooley
Is that what you said to Jake before you shot him?  ~Sam

Great villains in this one that set an ominous tone for the entire episode.

At the end they made Louisiana seem like a promised land where Boone would be completely safe once he crossed the border.  I don't see how that would have been the case, though I'm not sure how else they could have ended the episode.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Clever of Boone to get the skunk to spray them so that the search dogs lose the trail, and later I also like how Al is able to distract the dogs.
  • No women appear in this episode (unless you count the teaser for the next episode).
  • This episode has a definite Jack in the Box feel with the nasty Southern authorities mistreating the prisoners.  Unfortunately there's no town with as cool of a name as "Smiley."  

Final Analysis:
Great episode!!  It's got everything including a compelling setting, strong villains, tough odds, and excellent acting. And any story involving an escape and being on the run is more often than not at least pretty good. The plot is also well crafted with good attention to detail, for instance Boone's claustrophobia and his fondness for mountains and trees are two examples of small details that are mentioned early on and then have significance later.  Ranking it 15 out of 61.


  1. I was thinking the Mythbusters had tested out the skunk thing... but they didn't test that in their 'avoid the tracking dogs' episode. Though, since the dogs aren't actually tracking scent, their tracking skin cells, the skunk think probably doesn't actually work. Though, tbh, I don't have plans to commit a crime and need to evade the police, so no reason to attempt to test it out. =)

    1. My grandmother got sprayed with a skunk when she was a kid in the 1920's and I think it took like a whole week for the scent to go away, too bad they didn't have mythbusters back then for removal advice.

  2. I liked this episode but didn't love it quite as much as you. Have you ever heard of or seen the movie "The Defiant Ones"? There was original version in the 1950s starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, followed by a mid-80s remake with Robert Urich and Carl Weathers, both with the same gimmick of a white and black prisoner chained together and on the run from encroaching law enforcement. I haven't seen either film to know how closely this episode tracked to the storyline but definitely made the connection to the images from that movie. I thought the episode started well with the escape, the convenient skunk sitting there to spray them and kill their scent, and the ensuing manhunt hobbled by Boone's claustrophobia. The subplot with the white guy in black face committing the robbery was a little bit confusing but reasonably well-handled, and I liked how Boone was the first character is series history to unquestioningly dig Sam's imaginary friend Al and not judge him for it. It suggested a unique degree of character kinship.

    Unfortunately, the episode's ending killed that kinship for me. Unless I misunderstood some sort of larger theme, Boone's decision to throw Sam under the bus in a "cockfight" simply to avoid going into the hole himself seemed monstrously selfish and I lost all respect for Boone as a character doing that. Their escape from the swamp during the fight under the noses of two dozen men surrounding them simply by tossing a water moccasin their direction also defied all measure of credibility. Sam's willingness to endure this escalating chumminess with the guy who just stabbed him in the back seemed off as did the whole "cross the state line into Louisiana and I'll be safe forever" point that you mentioned. I see you listed the setting of this episode as Alabama but are you sure it wasn't Mississippi? Louisiana and Alabama don't share a border. I'll rate this one between "The Right Hand of God" and "So Help Me God".

    My grandpa had his own skunk story from his childhood. His father expressly instructed my grandpa and his brother to go straight to school and NOT check the gopher traps one morning but the boys disobeyed. A skunk was in the trap and sprayed them. My grandpa and his brother went home to change before going to school but since they disobeyed, his dad wouldn't let them....told them to go to school as was. Seems like that would be far worse punishment for others in the room than the boys themselves.

    1. I haven't seen or heard of The Defiant Ones -- sounds good though. I didn't mind Boone's throwing Sam under the bus as much. It is crummy for sure, but Boone was under a lot of stress and also Sam did attack him earlier (for good reason, but Boone doesn't know that) and so maybe didn't fully trust him. And the escape with the snake did require some suspension of disbelief but I was ok with it.

      I'm not sure about Alabama. When I'm not sure about a location I check to see what the Quantum Leap wiki says:

      Although there's no guarantee that they're right either. Talladega County is mentioned in the episode and it is in Alabama, but it's far even from Mississippi let alone Louisiana. I guess if we wanted to make it work we could say that between the escape and going to Louisiana Sam and Boone traveled pretty far (including through Mississippi).

      Interesting that your grandfather checked the traps anyway -- doesn't seem like something that a kid would typically disobey over (e.g. something more fun).

      As for my final ranking, I may knock it down a few pegs, I'm not sure yet. I've actually gone back quite a few times and adjusted my rankings on these episodes after the fact -- since I don't know them as well as the MacGyver episodes sometimes it takes me longer to process where they should end up.

    2. I forgot to ask in my last comment which Southern work farm episode you liked better....Quantum Leap's "Unchanged" or MacGyver's "Jack in the Box"?

  3. A good episode nonetheless. Sure the snake bit may have seemed a bit unrealistic, but it did cause a bit of a commotion. The other guards fired guns and with the other prisoners running away, I'm sure they would of had a few seconds worth of distraction. It's a miracle they didn't get spotted.

    What about the main villain? Why did he ask them if they were in love? He also called them love birds. Why? Never understood that.