Quantum Leap – The Right Hand of God [1.3]

Sam leaps into Clarence “Kid” Cody, a boxer whose career is rigged by the mob, and is meant to take a dive in his upcoming prize-fight.  However, his contract has been bought buy a group of nuns who are counting using the money from his victory to start a new ministry.  Sam must somehow learn enough boxing to win the fight, while at the same time avoiding the wrath of the mob.  He does so with some clever gambling and the help of his stripper girlfriend, Dixie.  In the end, not only does Sam win the fight, he helps to restore the faith of Sister Angela, and idealistic nun whom Sam has befriended.

Written by John Hill. Directed by Gilbert M. Shilton
Previous Episode: Star-CrossedNext Episode: How the Tess was Won

Comments:
The Right Hand of God  has got some good character work and emotional content in it, but still somehow feels like the “thinnest” episode of the series.  Maybe this is because we’ve just seen two episodes that are very much about Sam Beckett as a person.  In contrast, this outing is really a “regular” episode of the show:  Sam on a mission to help someone who has nothing to do with himself.  I guess then I should be getting used to this sort of thing.

Still, maybe the episode could have felt weightier if more had been made of Sam having his own crisis of faith.  Not that we’d have to make him into a highly religious person, but the idea of his situation beginning to take an emotional toil upon him would have lended a feeling of greater consequence to everything.  Sister Angela could have helped to inspire him as much as he inspired her.  That would have been nice.

Still, I liked Sister Angela as a character, and enjoyed hearing her backstory:  someone who began to hate God, and then found hope and self-respect thanks to the kindness of some nuns, leading her to dedicate her life to ministry.  It’s a little strange that she puts so much hope in this boxer she’s just met, but I can accept it in the context of the series.

There are a few strange things about this episode, though.  The timing of it all is very weird.  Apparently, all of Sam’s training to become a prize-winning boxing champion happens in less than five days!  (He arrives on October 24, and the fight is on October 29th).  This seems not only absurd, but also unnecessary.  Why not give him a month or something?  That would require less suspension of disbelief.

It’s also a bit uncomfortable that Sam makes Dixie strip in public in order to try to win the fight.  The way he browbeats her into it when she is obviously uncomfortable makes the whole thing a bit creepy and unpleasant.  And that boxing match at the end…I haven’t seen a lot of boxing, but that fight looks ludicrous.

So in the final analysis, The Right Hand of God is an fine episode with some strong weaknesses.  Time will tell if this is a dip in quality, or actually par for the course.

Cast Notes:
• Guy Stockwell, who plays Jake Edwards, is the younger brother of regular cast member Dean Stockwell.

• Teri Copley plays Dixie.  She starred in the sit-com We’ve Got it Made, which was largely built around her character’s looks.

• Sister Sarah is played by Nancy Kulp, who was a regular on The Beverly Hillbillies as Miss Jane.

• Jonathan Greis appears uncredited as Roscoe, the local bookie.  He will show up again in a couple of years in an episode called Glitter Rock.  He also played Roger Linus, the father of oft-time antagonist Ben Linus, on Lost.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Clarence “Kid” Cody, a boxer, in Sacramento, California, from October 24 – October 29th, 1974.

What does Sam have to do?
Ziggy thinks that Sam has to win the boxing championship and help the nuns get their building.  But in the end his role may also have to do with helping Sister Angela regain her faith.

What do we know about Al?
We learn that Al has a neighbor who sleeps all day and works on his car all day, and that he has some experience boxing.

What about the experiment?
Sam and Al worked to raise money for the Imaging Changer as part of the development of the Project, back in the “old days”.

God or Time or Something
There’s a lot of talk about God in this episode.  Sam refers to the “Big Guy Upstairs” and says he thinks he’ll understand about Sam interfering with his personal history (from the previous episode).  But when he leaps into the middle of a boxing match, he wonders if he’s wrong.

Sister Angela talks about God and his plan, but Al wonders if God is operating according to Ziggy’s plan.

Sam stares at the sun at one point and says, “I hope you know what you are doing.”  He also seems to give God a bit of a glance when Dixie disrobes in front of him.

Sam also tells Dixie at one point that God is on his side.

Sam and Sister Angela talk about God and faith quite a bit

“Oh Boy”
Again heard in the opening narration, but not in the episode.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam lives with Dixie, a stripper, with whom he shares several passionate kisses, and at least one very intimate interlude.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
In his sleep, Al dreams about cheating on his girlfriend Tina with a writer named Denise.

Bit of Trivia
When Sam mentions that Sister Angela reminds him of Ingrid Bergman, he’s thinking of the actress from The Bells of St. Mary, which is also about a bunch of nuns trying to build a new building.  Later, Sam impersonates Marlon Brando from On the Waterfront. 

The cardboard that holographic Al lies on clearly reacts to his weight.

Favorite Dialogue
I enjoy Sister Angela’s attempts to talk sports.  Of the boxing match seen at the start of the episode, she says…

That surprise punch in the last inning…it was inspired.

The Best Moment
There are some decent, heartfelt scenes between Sam and Sister Angela, but the best bit in this episode is probably Sam getting clobbered by the priest during practice.

Previous Episode: Star-CrossedNext Episode: How the Tess was Won

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