Quantum Leap – Honeymoon Express [2.1]

Sam becomes Tom McBride, a police officer who is on board a train bound for Niagara Falls with his newly married bride Diane.  He must contend with Diane’s advances, even as her jealous ex-husband shows up with murderous intent.  Meanwhile, in the “present”, Al faces an unsympathetic Senate committee who don’t believe that Project Quantum Leap has any ongoing merit.  In the end, saving Tom’s life and helping Diane to pass her Bar examine on the first try and become a lawyer changes the Senate committee–Diane is now it’s chair, which changes the outcome of their deliberations, allowing the Project to continue to be funded.

Written by Donald P. Bellisario. Directed by Aaron Lipstadt

Previous Episode: Play It Again, SeymourNext Episode:  Disco Inferno

Comments:
Quantum Leap wisely opens its new season with an episode which restates its core concept and premise.  Al is seen meeting before the Senate Appropriations Committee (one assumes) trying to justify the existence of his extremely expensive program, and in so doing has the opportunity to explain to the audience what the show is all about – a time travel experiment which has gone wrong, but maybe in a way that a higher power has intended, since the result is Dr. Sam Beckett traveling uncontrollably into people’s lives to improve them in small but meaningful ways.  It’s a succinct summary that is far superior to the awkward sounding narration that we’ve had at the beginning of each episode up to this point.

Furthermore, the Senate scenes add a greater ticking clock to Honeymoon Express than we’ve usually had, as Sam is fighting not only for an “improved history” for Tom and Diane McBride, but also for the continued existence of Project Quantum Leap  The bit where Sam realizes what is at stake here, that the shutting down of the Project would mean being permanently disconnected from Al, his only support and real friend, is one of the best bits of the episode.

And there’s a third pressure that Sam is dealing with in this episode, and that’s the very normal expectations that newly married Diane McBride has for her honeymoon.  This leads to all sorts of interesting conversations between Sam and Al about what is and isn’t appropriate to do when leaping, and it’s interesting to hear Sam argue that it’s morally wrong to sleep with someone you don’t love.  Of course, Al argues a different philosophy, and as the show lingers on a few shots of him leering at Diane in her underwear, any moral high ground the show was going for is pretty severely undercut.  Quantum Leap is turning out to be less of a show that I can watch with my kids than I thought.

Still, aside from that, Honeymoon Express is one of the best of episodes of the series so far, and a great opening to the second season, even if it doesn’t follow on what we saw at the end of the last installment.  Alice Adair does a good job as Diane McBride, and is easy to believe as a woman whom a new husband would see as the most beautiful woman in the world, while still being natural and realistic.  Al’s dilemma of needing Sam to make a significant change to world history adds a fresh element to the drama, and the final payoff of history changing right in front of Al’s eyes is effective, even if Diane’s older lady makeup isn’t all that great.

Cast Notes:
• Warren Frost plays a US Senator, the chairman I believe.  He was Dr. Will Hayward on Twin Peaks.

• King Moody plays a Southern US Senator.  He played Starker (sometimes Shtarker), an assistant to KAOS leader Siegfried, in several episodes of Get Smart

• William MacDonald plays the conductor.  He has been in a bunch of science fiction TV stories, including in the series Travelers as Gary Holden (the dad to Trevor)

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Tom McBride, a police officer, on board a train (presumably in New York) bound for Niagara Falls, on April 27, 1960, and in a Niagara Falls hotel on the 28th.

He is also, briefly, an unnamed fireman somewhere in America in 1957.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam believes he is there to save Tom McBride’s life, while Al argues that Sam is actually there to stop the mission that led to Francis Gary Powers from being shot down and captured in Russia. This proves false, and eventually it’s revealed that Sam’s mission is to help correct a misunderstanding that Diane McBride has about constitutional law, presumably helping her to pass her Bar exam the first time and become the US Senator who ultimately helps to keep Project Quantum Leap funded.

As the fireman at the beginning of the story, Sam’s job is rescue an old lady’s cat, Ginger, from a tree.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam tells Diane that he took his first train ride at 2 years of age, and  was scared.  His mother gave him a book to calm him down.  Al says that at 5, Sam could do calculus in his head, and at 10 he could beat a computer at chess.

Sam feels it’s not morally right to sleep with a woman he doesn’t love.  When asked if he is Sam Beckett the playwright, he responds, “I don’t think so.”

What do we know about Al?
It’s again mentioned that Al has been married five times.  He spent his honeymoon on the train to Niagara Falls with his 1st, 3rd and 5th wives.  His fourth wife was Sharon, his fifth was Maxine.

Al is an Admiral, something we discover for the first time.  His last name has still not been mentioned.

What about the experiment?
Some of this is restated, but it’s mentioned that the experiment was to allow Sam Beckett to travel through time in the frame of his own lifetime.  He can only see Al in the present, and only Al can see him, because the experiment was designed around their own brainwaves.  The project cost $43 billion, and requires $2.4 billion a year to maintain.

Ziggy is referred to as a “Parallel Hybrid computer”, who can’t change its mind because its ego won’t allow it.

It’s also mentioned that leaping has resulted in Sam’s memory having holes in it, and that Sam and Al have no control over the events that they are able to change.

God or Time or Something
There are lots of comments about God.  Al shares with the Senate committee a belief that he and Sam have, that Sam later reiterates, that God–whoever he or she is–has hijacked the Quantum Leap Project to make positive changes to history.  The Senate committee treats this idea scornfully.

Later, Sam prays to God several times, in reference to “his” wife’s expectations for their honeymoon, and even Al asks God why he’s wasted Diane on someone like Sam.

“Oh Boy”
The phrase is said at least three times, when Sam first leaps into Tom’s life in the midst of kissing his wife, when he discovers that he’s wearing a gun, and finally when Diane shows up and tries to keep from leaving their train cabin.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam is on Tom McBride’s honeymoon with his new wife Diane, and spends the entire episode attempting to avoid being intimate with her.  In the end, he seems to have given into Tom’s love for her and is ready stop resisting, but then he leaps out.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al speaks lewdly about Diane and stares at her when she is changing, lamenting he’s not in Sam’s position.

Other Observations
• The opening Senate scene refers to a lot of previous episodes, including saving the life of a test pilot (Genesis), helping nuns build a chapel (The Right Hand of God), the integration of a small town (The Color of Truth) and helping Buddy Holly with the lyrics of Peggy Sue (How the Tess was Won).

• As I’ve stated, the opening scene goes over a lot of the concepts that guide the series, but there is no reference to the fact that the person Sam replaces has been transported to the Project.  You’d think that would go a long way to proving the Project’s viability.  However, I think later it might be stated that when Al looks at Sam in the past, he sees the same thing that the mirror does, the person Sam replaced; and that conversely, the person in the waiting room looks like Sam to anyone who sees him (or her).  If this is so, then it makes sense that Al doesn’t bring this up because it would just look to any outside observer that Sam Beckett is right there, but not in his right mind.

• There’s a reference to U2, the band.

• The U-2 incident, involving a plane flown by Francis Gary Powers, is a story we can learn a bit more about in the relatively recent film, Bridge of Spies.

• Interesting little exchange between Sam and Roget:  “I love her,” says Roget.  “You want to possess her.  That’s not love,” replies Sam.

• Sam, ever the moral man, attempts to help the thug who is chasing after him, but fails, and the man dies.  This is, I believe, the first person who dies as a result of Sam’s leaping.

• The second person is Roget himself, who Sam kills.  Roget’s dying words are “Next time it will be easier,” referring to the fact that apparently Sam has never killed anyone before.  It’s a good moment, and will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on.

• This is the second episode in a row that ends with Sam leaping out shortly before he’s about to consummate his relationship.

• At the end, Al realizes that history has changed right in front of him, though nobody else has.  I guess it makes sense that Al and others associated with the Project are aware of the history changes, or running the Project would be pretty much impossible.

Sam Leaps To
Disco Inferno

Favorite Dialogue
My favorite dialogue is from the opening scene with the Senate meeting, starting with the opening line:

Admiral, are you trying to tell this committee that God has taken control of Project Quantum Leap?

And going on to this exchange about God

Al:  He works in mysterious ways.
Senator:  Evidently, so does this project.

And finally culminating in the closing comments.  First, Al says

Excuse me, Mr. Chairman, but if you kill this project, you will end one of the greatest adventures mankind has ever undertaken.  And more important, you will leave a brave man back there alone.

To which the Senator replies

He’s not alone, Admiral.  He has God.

Special thanks, by the way, to this site for the episode transcriptions.

The Best Moment
Well, the Senate meeting at the start is a strong contender, but I also like (as previously mentioned) the bit where Sam hears that Project Quantum Leap might be closing down.  At first, in his irritation, he dismisses it as unimportant, feeling like nobody is helping him anyway.  But then, when he realizes that this mean he will be cut off from Al, the full implications sink in.  It’s a good moment for the relationship between our two main characters, which is something that always needs attention in a series like this with an ever-changing setting.

Previous Episode: Play It Again, SeymourNext Episode:  Disco Inferno

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