Sam leaps into a farm vet in 1950’s Texas, and becomes embroiled in a bet to win the heart of cowgirl Tess McGill. Convinced that this is what he has to do to continue leaping, Sam agrees to attempt to “out-cowboy” Tess in order for her to agree to marry him. In the end, he nearly succeeds, but Tess instead falls for a ranch-hand who has secretly been in love with her. In the end, Sam realizes that a young friend he has made is actually Buddy Holly before he was famous, and by helping him work out the lyrics to his song Peggy Sue, Sam is able to leap.
How the Tess Was One has a bit of an awkward premise: Sam, in the persona of a nerdy doctor, must win the right to marry Tess (and eventually come into contact with her massive inheritance) by proving he can “out-cowboy” her. It’s never fully justified how Tess is able to allow such a contest to take place, but I guess we can assume that her father is pressuring her because he wants a male heir, and that Tess agrees to get him off her back and because she assumes that “Doc” will never be able to beat her. It all seems a bit sexist, but then it’s supposed to be in 1956 so maybe that’s supposed to justify the circumstances.
Even though Tess is treated as someone whose life is a bit out of her control, and the episode contrives to work a gratuitous bra-shot into things, she’s a fun character. Sam beginning to fall for her is even kind of believable (although it helps to remember later revelations of how the brainwaves of people Sam leaps into can begin to influence his own.) Their relationship develops a natural feeling and Scott Bakula and Kari Lizer have some nice scenes together. The revelation at the end that Tess is not going to marry Doc, but Wayne instead, is a nice one, and reasonably surprising.
The episode contains a few oddities. First, the script treats the situation as one in which Sam is trying to “preserve” history, rather than “change” history. Ziggy calculates that someone who writes love letters to Tess will marry her, but there’s no talk about who she married, or her fate, or how Sam changes it. When, in the end, it seems that Sam’s real mission was to help Buddy Holly find the right lyrics for his song, it’s clear that both Sam and Al already know the correct lyrics, so it seems Sam is helping history move along a course he already knows rather than altering it.
Also, the episode is the only one so far where Sam doesn’t look in a mirror and see the reflection of the person he’s replaced until the end of the story. This helps to make the joke of Sam realizing what an awkward and unattractive looking guy he’s become, but it is a rarity, and I’m curious to see how many more times this happens.
This is not Sam’s first brush with history (Star-Crossed actually had him present during the Watergate break in) but it’s the first time that a real-life celebrity was a major guest star. There are some amusing moments where Sam is unable to discover Buddy’s name and struggles to with how to address him. I’m not terribly familiar with Buddy Holly and already knew the reveal of his presence, so I’m not sure how surprising it would be for most people to discover it who he really was.
Anyway, in spite of the general silliness of things, I overall enjoyed the watching the story. It has some fun moments (Sam goes flying off that horse!) and some witty dialogue (“Tomorrow’s Sunday, and unless you intend to out-pray me, you just lost, Doc,” and “I’ll take the pig, you keep the daughter.”) Also, Scott Bakula continues to be such a likable presence that it’s hard not to enjoy things.
• Lance LeGault plays Chance. He was Captain K’Mtec on the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, The Emmisary. He was also Col. Buck Greene on Magnum, pi and Colonel Decker on The A-Team.
Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Dr. Daniel “Doc” Young in Texas, from August 5-12th, 1956. August 5th is explicit from the title card at the start of the episode, and August 12th is surmised by the fact that that was the next Sunday after the 5th.
What does Sam have to do?
At first, the thought it that Sam has to cure the pig. Then, for most of the story the Sam believes he has to help Tess get married to Doc. But in the end it seems to be that it’s when Sam helps the young Buddy Holly get the correct lyrics for his song Peggy Sue , that he is able to leap. Maybe he had to do that and help Tess marry Wayne.
What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam talks about what his dad taught him about mounting a horse
When Sam was young, he had a crush on his kindergarten teacher, Miss Morgan, and later his first grade teacher, Miss Sedlack.
His sister Kate was not born yet in 1956.
What do we know about Al?
Al knows enough about animals to recognize that piggy is a girl.
What about the experiment?
Ike Bentenhoff is a guy who works in imaging control–Al is suspicious that he is seeing Tina behind his back.
Almost all animals can see Al, even though his is a hologram invisible to humans.
Al leaves through an invisible door–have we seen this before?
Presumably, Lucille, with whom Al had a tryst in the imaging chamber, works at the project.
God or Time or Something
Sam actually quotes the Bible: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” and speaks to God a couple of times: when he asks him why people couldn’t wear nametags, and when he prays to be taken out of the situation because he’s become emotionally attracted to Tess.
Still waiting for this to actually become a catchphrase. At this point, it’s still something that we only hear in the recap from the first episode.
Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam’s whole goal for most of the episode is to marry Tess. He eventually kisses her and becomes emotionally attached to her before she turns him down for Wayne.
The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al talks about his girlfriend Tina and her tattoo, and mentions that they met over a poker table. Tina has a non-sexual fling with Gooshie in order to make Al jealous.
Al also mentions someone named Lucille with whom he had a tryst in the imaging chamber. Presumably she works at the project.
Lucille and Al snuck into the imaging chamber
As I mentioned, there are a few good lines, but my favorite I think is an exchange between Sam & Tess:
Sam: There’s no sin in bein’ afraid.
Tess: It is in Texas.
The Best Moment
Really, it’s hard to look past Tess punching Sam in the face. It almost makes up for the whole “Tess in her underwear” thing.