Saturday, December 31, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 86: Return of the Evil Leaper

Sam Leaps Into:
Arnold Watkins, a college student who dresses up like a superhero and attempts heroic acts.

Take on a fraternity and its dangerous hazing rituals.  Convince Arnold not to take so many risks (Al's objective).


North Falls, New York

Memorable Quote:
Would you relax? I guarantee within five minutes I'll have Arnold's slide rule fully extended.  ~Alia

I enjoy both the "discovery" scenes, first when Zoey and Alia discover that Arnold is actually Sam, and then in the library when Alia is revealed to Sam.

I was very bummed that Sam didn't open up a can of whoop-ass on Mike (Neil Patrick Harris's character), an annoying, whiny, scrawny, little twit who had it coming.

Back-handed complement alert: despite it being a little hard to picture Harris as an imposing frat boy (since he's looks and talks like he's 14), he does a great job in the role. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The Quantum Leap Wiki says the episode takes place in New York, but in Sam's dorm room there's a Florida State jacket hanging up (though maybe it is New York and one of the two guys is a Florida State fan).
  • Strange that Sam's roommate would tell him about his car racing pledge considering he'd know Sam would try and stop it.  And then pretty impressive that Sam (aka The Midnight Marauder) was later able to outrun about 20 guys at the race.
Harvey Laidman, episode director

Most of this show was written by Don Bellisario "on the fly."  I am a director who strongly believes in preparation.  I usually have an entire show worked out visually several days before the start of shooting.  It doesn't mean that I can't or won't improvise, but I'm well prepared to be flexible.  The "game of chicken with cars"  came about as a last minute rewrite, and everyone scrambled to put the stunt together on the Friday before the Monday of shooting.  I insisted on going out to the rock quarry site on Saturday with the stunt coordinator and key crew members.  Harker Wade was understandably concerned about the cost of this weekend "scout."  But I insisted for safety's sake, which did not endear me to Universal.  

The scene in the library was written as we waited for Don, who grabbed a chair and wrote for several hours.  It's a great tribute to the actors, who memorized the long scene in minutes and did a great job.  Neil Patrick Harris took the job, because at the time he was considering a directing career.  He was supposed to "shadow" me during the production, but I don't think it was a really good example of organized directing.  There was a lot of improvising and last-minute decision making for better or worse.  Anyway, I'm glad he did it, and he's since gone on to bigger and better things.

Final Analysis:
This episode is a ton of fun and I'm ranking it 16 out of 86, 7 slots below the first Evil Leaper episode.  And some sad news: when the New Year rings in, Quantum Leap will be leaving Netflix. The same thing happened to MacGyver recently but then it came back on in a few days (maybe there was some contractual bargaining going on?), and hopefully QL similarly will return very soon. 


  1. NPH was 19 at the time, but until he turned about 25, he looked 'baby faced'. He would've just finished up with Doogie Howser about the time of this ep too.

    I was not a fan of the evil-leaper episodes at all.

  2. I liked the first evil leaper episode but this encore didn't work for me, especially the second hour where I was pretty checked out. There was some fun to be found with the Grease-style frat boy culture and Neil Patrick Harris was particularly charismatic in his role, but Sam's sympathetic air towards Zoey and Alia were misplaced. The first episode earlier this season was a clever gimmick that worked for a single episode and should have ended with Zoey and Alia spending the rest of eternity with their enabler. Wasting two full hours on a sequel for a show that they knew was winding down in a couple of months strikes me as malpractice, especially since it took away from whatever fun the storyline with Neil Patrick Harris' and his fraternity brothers could have been due to the bait and switch that rendered their storyline an afterthought by the hour's end. The schizophrenic treatment really felt like amateur hour to me. The fact that it was all put together "on the fly" shows.

    And the less that's said about the second part, the better, other than I think 1987 was as recent of a leap as we've seen isn't it? "Doogie Howser, MD" ended in March 1993, so NPH must have just barely been available for new projects when this "Quantum Leap" opportunity came along for him. I'll rank this one between "Play It Again, Seymour" and "Future Boy".

    1. I wouldn't say that Sam was sympathetic to Zoey, but I agree that he was overly concerned about Alia given what she did to him last time. I'm doing a separate post for the second part since it's technically its own episode.

      I really like these evil leaper episodes -- I think it's a creative premise and fun characters, and Zoey makes for a good villain.

  3. One aspect I don't think has been noticed. In the subplot, Arnold is pegged as being someone who does dangerous stunts to help other people because he is emotionally wounded. Sound like someone we know?

    Whatever you think of the main plot -- I feel it is much better than "Revenge" -- Bellisario, Pratt, et al. are trying to make this script serve the themes of the series.