As New York City private eye Nick Allen, Sam must figure out who murdered his partner, and whether he can be together with Allison, his partner’s beautiful wife, who is in love with Nick. The rumor is that the partner was murdered by a hitman, but Sam eventually discovers that the culprit is Nick’s landlord Lionel, who is love with Allison himself. Sam stops Lionel and saves Allison, and in the process helps his awkward friend Seymour to launch a career as a pulp novelist.
Teleplay by Scott Shepherd & Donald P. Bellisario. Story by Tom Blomquist and Scott Shepherd & Donald P. Bellisario. Directed by Aaron Lipstadt
Quantum Leap, by the very nature of its premise, likes to explore different types of story settings. Usually this has meant a lot of affectionate nods to different genres and types of storytellng, but in Play it Again, Seymour, the episode basically tells a film-noir mystery, or at least a late-80’s color TV version of one. Unfortunately, this means the whole thing looks a bit silly and dated. Unlike Sam’s visit to the west in How the Tess Was Won or to the world of gangsters in Double Identity, the characters in Play it Again, Seymour are pretty thin caricatures, as if they were created by someone who once watched The Big Sleep but doesn’t really remember it that well, or remember what makes that type of story great. The end result is a feeling that the episode is a bunch of people playing “dress up” rather than genuine drama, either serious or light-hearted.
What works about the episode is the mystery. The script successfully leads us to suspect both Allison and Seymour of being the “Klapper”, a mysterious hit-man who killed Nick’s partner. I in fact was convinced that it was Seymour, and was surprised when that turned out to not be the case. The true culprit, Lionel, was someone I barely remembered and thus the revelation about his involvement wasn’t such a big deal. But it was interesting when you realize that Allison was his prisoner as well, and that he wasn’t a hitman at all but rather just a guy who was just knocking off his romantic rivals.
Another nice point about the story is the way that Al was used. There are some clever scenes where Sam is carrying on conversations with both Seymour and the unseen Al at the same time, and I also liked the way he is able to warn Sam about what Lionel is doing during the climax.
On the other hand, it’s getting tiring to see all Al’s lewdness and lascivious behavior. There are a lot of him leering in this episode, including multiple shots of him staring at Allison’s chest thru binoculars. It feels massively dated and is generally uncomfortable; one imagines that Al would probably get hit up for sexual harassment charges if he was real and living today.
• Claudia Christian plays Allison Grimsley. She’s well known amongst sci-fi fans as playing Susan Ivanova in Babylon 5.
• Paul Linke plays Lionel. He played Officer Arthur Grossman in over 100 episodes of CHiPs.
• Richard Riehle plays Lt. Lannon, and has over 300 credits on IMDb. They include playing Principal Rooney on the tv version of Ferris Buehller’s Day Off, the holographic Seamus in Star Trek Voyager, and Batai on the Inner Light episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is in New York City on April 14, 1953. It’s not clear but presumably the action continues after midnight, taking it to the 15th.
What does Sam have to do?
Sam believes that he is there to keep Nick Allen alive and to help him get together with Allison; but at the end Al tells Sam that he was there to launch Seymour’s career as a pulp novelist.
What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Not much, except that Sam has read at least cheap detective novel, and recognizes Humphrey Bogart and some other movie stars.
What do we know about Al?
Al, apparently, has been married five times, and perhaps has had a drinking problem in the past.
What about the experiment?
Nothing, except that there’s a redheaded woman working in billing.
Also, this is one of only several episodes in which Sam arrives prior to his birthdate (in August of the same year). There’s no explanation for this, though I think the best one is that Sam’s leaping extends to the time in which he was conceived.
God or Time or Something
Sam looks up in the sky and whispers a prayer of “thank you” after Allison kisses him.
The phrase is said at the start when Sam leaps in, and again by Sam and Seymour when they see Allison, and a third time when Allison beckons Nick to the plane, this time with Al (silently) joining in.
Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam has several big kisses with Allison, and the story is all about his romantic relationship with her, his dead partner’s wife. At one point, Al refers to the lack of Sam’s love life in his recent jumps.
The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al speaks lewdly about Allison and leers at her, and also speaks suggestively about a redhead in billing. He also leers at a provocative picture, and at a cigarette girl in the club. His girlfriend Tina is mentioned, and it’s mentioned that Al has been married five times.
• The episode begins, as many have had, with reference to previous leaps and previous episodes.
• In the last episode, Sam was in LA, and he believes at first that he is still there, forgetting that the Dodgers were not always there.
• There are multiple references to Humphrey Bogart, whom Nick resembles. There are also references to Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, and to the movie Casablanca.
• Some good lines. “Well I’ll, uh, I’ll try not to get shot here,” and “I don’t know if I could love a man who killed my husband.” Also, later, “With your imagination and flair for similes, how could you miss?”
• In a list of fictional private eyes, Sam refers to Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, and Thomas Magnum. Producer Donald P. Bellisario also produced Magnum PI.
• Extreme ‘private eye’ lingo: “You laid a Ben Franklin on the cocktail shaker at the Blue Island, and he opened up like a pencil pusher from Toledo on his third martini.”
• Sam goes to LaGuardia Airport, in spite of Al’s protestations…of course. We knew all along that obviously that was going to happen.
• Sam meets a young Woody Allen, whose dialogue includes reference to a number of his movies, including Bananas and Annie Hall. Also, the entire conversation hearkens back to his film Play It Again, Sam.
Sam Leaps To
What Price Gloria?
This is the first episode in which the final leap that is seen does not match up with the next chronological episode.
I like this line because it refers to Sam’s real situation in a way that still makes sense to the locals of the 1950’s:
If I’m lucky, I’m gonna spend the rest of my life leaping around from one place to another instead of face down in a pool of blood.
The Best Moment
My favorite moment is the reveal that Allison is Lionel’s prisoner. Up until that point, it’s still easy to believe that she is murderer, or at least complicit in the crime in some way, and working against Nick. The reveal is filmed well, starting with Lionel, and then tracking over until we see her bound and gagged in the background.