Quantum Leap – Disco Inferno [2.2]

As stuntman Chad Stone, Sam must discovers that he is present in 1976 as stuntman Chad Stone to prevent his younger brother from dying on an unsafe film set.  Chad’s actual talent is as a musician, but because his father, also a stuntman, doesn’t respect that vocation, Chad attempts to find approval by doing stunts before he’s ready.  Sam is able to save

Written by Paul Brown. Directed by Gilbert Shilton

Previous Episode: Honeymoon ExpressNext Episode:   The Americanization of Machiko

The second episode of Quantum Leap‘s second season can’t really be described as anything but serviceable.  The story of an up-and-coming stuntman attempting to save his younger brother from a dangerous film set is diverting, but not really engaging.  Making the younger Chris Stone into, by the way, a really talented rock musician, doesn’t help anything.  All the drama seems very by the numbers.

The only thing that elevates the story is the character drama for Sam himself, remembering the story of his own brother’s life and death.  The sub-story makes good use of this aspect of the show’s premise (that Sam can’t remember details of his own life) to keep us grounded in the larger narrative of Sam’s life, and to give us context for everything else that is going on.  These scenes provide us with the episode’s only real meaningful sense of emotional drama, and also gives Scott Bakula something worthwhile to do in the story.

Undercutting this is the goofy quality of the “main” plot of Sam’s stuntwork.  The whole thing is treated as a bit of a joke, with multiple occasions where Sam performs dramatic and life-threatening stunts not only without having the skill to do so, but without even realizing that they are happening at all.  On top of that, we get the innovative but out-of-place joke where footage from Earthquake is actually edited into the episode, almost like Sam is in the movie, not just making the movie.  Really, the whole thing is treated like slapstick comedy, which might work in another show but seems out of place here.

Cast Notes:
• The episode features uncredited appearances by Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, & Jane Curtin (all from Saturday Night Live), Lorne Greene (from Earthquake), and then-current US President and his wife Gerald & Betty Ford, and Austrian politician Bruno Kreisky (from news footage).

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is stuntman Chad Stone, in Burbank, California, starting on April 1, 1976 and going at least until April 4, but more likely April 6th or 7th.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam is there is save Chad’s brother, Chris, from dying in a stunt on an unsafe movie set.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
This is the first time we learn of Sam’s big brother, Tom.  We learn that Sam would get mad when Tom would boss him around, that Tom was a talented athlete, participating in track, football and more.  Tom specifically played high school varsity basketball.  Tom even was All-American, in the Indiana State Championships, apparently in 1964 (or possibly 1965).

Sam was also a good athlete, and wanted to do the same things his brother did, but was pushed by Tom to pursue his own particular talents in physics.  Tom convinced Sam to attend MIT, and Sam later won a Nobel Prize. Tom later went to Vietnam, apparently as a Navy SEAL, where he was killed.

Sam doesn’t have a dog, and he hates disco.

What do we know about Al?
Al was an astronaut prior to 1976, and sometime after that year he was involved in something called the Star Bright Project.  In between he danced a lot of disco.

What about the experiment?
Ziggy crashed!

One of the rules of the Project is that Al cannot tell Sam anything about his personal life.

God or Time or Something
None this time around.

“Oh Boy”
Not said this time!

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam runs into lots of women that Chad Stone has been involved with, and music producer Traci flirts with him.  Also, Chris is worried that Sam will hit on the girl he likes, but other than that Sam doesn’t get involved with anyone this time around.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Maybe Al is looking at the dancers lewdly.

Al says that his 1970’s disco suit got him a lot of women, and the only thing that got him more was his space suit.

Other Observations
• Opening monologue has lots of flashbacks to the previous episode.

• 1976, when this episode takes place, is the furthest in the future that any of the Leaps have taken place so far.

• There are references to actress Ava Gardner from Earthquake, as well as footage of Lorne Greene spliced into the episode.  When Al sees Lorne Greene, he gets excited that he’s looking at Ben Cartwright from the TV show Bonanza.

• Sam as Chad has a pretty funny wig on at one point.

• Chris’ voice is pretty assured and confident for a guy with no experience.

• The dad’s rejection of Chris’ obvious talents really rings false.

• Al helping Sam in the fire makes sense, and is a good use of the whole hologram thing.

• Sam’s loneliness, and Al’s attempts to help him, are nice.

• I also like it when Sam tries to cheer up Chris with the story of his the way his older brother challenged him in his life direction.

Sam Leaps To
The Americanization of Machiko

Favorite Dialogue
There’s nothing amazing here, but there are some funny lines about disco.  In fact, the story begins with a pretty clever monologue:

There are moments when I leap back in time that remind me of the evening of my senior prom. Some of the songs are soft and slow, and there’s always a guy who didn’t bring a date and wants to dance with your girl–guys who don’t take no for an answer. And just when everything quiets down, and you find a song that you want to dance to forever, somebody suddenly changes the music on you. 

And then, after Sam leaps into Chad Stone:

Disco.  Oh, I’d rather be dead.

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

The Best Moment
It’s a great moment when Sam is talking about his re-awakening memories of his brother Tom, and suddenly realizes that Tom is dead.

Also, at the end, Al shows Sam a picture of Tom before he shipped out to Vietnam.  The Tom story is the best part of the episode, and these are the most affecting moments.

Previous Episode: Honeymoon ExpressNext Episode:  The Americanization of Machiko


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