Quantum Leap – What Price, Gloria? [2.4]

Sam leaps into a woman for the first time, becoming the very attractive Samantha Stormer, who works as a secretary for the lecherous Buddy Wright.  Her roommate, Gloria Collins, is having an affair with the married Buddy, foolishly believing that he intends to leave his wife for her.  She is destined, however, to be disappointed, and as a result to kill herself.  Sam must prevent this while helping her to realize that her life has purpose beyond finding a man.

Written by Deborah Pratt. Directed by Alan J. Levi

Previous Episode: The Americanization of MachikoNext Episode: Blind Faith

Comments:
What Price, Gloria? is one of the better and better known episodes of Quantum Leap, where the show really went for it as far as taking advantage of its premise.  The story of Sam leaping into a woman was a no-brainer considering its premise.  I’m fairly certain it happens a few more times in the show’s few seasons on TV, and so it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

In this episode, Sam must deal with overt sexual harassment, as well as Gloria’s distorted view of self-worth, and both issues get pretty good treatment here. Jean Sagal delivers a decent performance as Gloria, a woman steeped in the gender presumptions and politics of the early 1960’s, who can’t see another way forward for her life.  This is a pretty common sort of story point for Quantum Leap to use, but this is one of the better presentations of it that I’ve seen.  There’s some artificial drama with Sam almost dying as he prevents Gloria’s suicide, but what’s cool about it is that it isn’t the episodes final story beat.

First there is the heart-to-heart that Sam and Gloria have, which gives an effective conclusion to the young lady’s plot.  I really appreciated this because it meant that the actual saving of Gloria didn’t come through just an exciting bit of action, but rather through some genuine dramatic interaction.  I appreciate that in Deborah Pratt’s script.

But then after that we get the real showpiece of the episode, which is Sam breaking his own rules and setting Buddy straight.  For the first time since the pilot episode, Sam tells someone who he really is (or at least, a fair about who he really is), and while it was implied to have semi-disastrous consequences back then, now for the first time it seems to be connected to Sam actually having a measure of control over when his Leap ends.  But its quite satisfying to see Buddy Wright get his comeuppance, and pretty funny, that one doesn’t mind.  Plus, Scott Bakula plays the scene really well.

A final point to mention is that the episode features some good direction by Alan J. Levi.  There is more use of mirror reflections than normal, so LaReine Chabut has a larger role than most of the actors who play the reflections in the mirror.  Jean Sagal also has a twin sister, Liz Sagal (see below), who plays her mirror reflection in several scenes with Sam, which is part of what makes possible several inventive moments in the storytelling.

Cast Notes:
• Jean Sagal plays Gloria Collins, and her sister Liz Sagal plays the mirror image of the same.  The two twin actresses starred in a sitcom called Double Trouble that I watched for a bit in the 1980’s.  They also played twins in Grease 2, of all things.

• John Calvin plays Buddy Wright.  He’s been in a bunch of things, one of which was as a traitorous “reverend” in the short-lived TV series, Tales of the Gold Monkey.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Samantha Stormer, a secretary, on October 15th-17th, 1961, in Detroit Michigan.

The date is confusing–the episode declares in titles that it starts on October 16th, but then a solid day later, Al announces that Gloria dies on the night of October 16th.  We know this is a day later because of Gloria spent the night with Buddy in between.  I’ve gone with things starting on the 15th, taking the dialogue over the titles.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam is there is to prevent Gloria’s death by suicide as a result of her bad love affair with Buddy Wright.  And later, he can’t leap until he has satisfied his own desire for revenge against the repulsive Buddy.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam knows that 1961 is the year that Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record.

What do we know about Al?
Nothing new here.

What about the experiment?
Al sees Sam as the person he has leapt into, and the person in the waiting room as Sam.

The project “shrink” is Dr. Verbena Beeks, who is helping with Samantha in her trauma, and helping with Al in his confusion over the fact that Sam is in the body of a sexually attractive woman.

Apparently, everyone has to believe that Sam is Samantha in order for him to be able to fix things.  Ziggy and Gooshie are mentioned.

God or Time or Something
Sam “prays” a couple of times–he says he’s sorry for whatever he did that means he has to deal with Buddy, and he also thanks God that he gets to be called by his own name.  He also tells God he’s not ready to leap until after he’s taken off his high heels and his earrings.

Al also tells Parker (though he knows he can’t be heard) he can pray, to help save Gloria.

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is not said in the episode until the teaser for the next one, where Sam finds himself playing the piano in mid-concert.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
In this case, Sam’s only romantic encounters are unwanted advances from unpleasant guys–Buddy, Dick, the flirty guy in the office and the guy on the bus.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al leers repeatedly at Sam in Samantha’s body, and struggles sexually with his girlfriend Tina over his confusion over the whole issue.

Other Observations
• If the idea of these opening recaps is to reset the series’ ideas to the audience, then it must be very jarring to see all these images of the previous episode and then have it have nothing to do with the current episode

• There are lots of times this episode that the sight of Sam in Samantha’s clothing is pretty funny and strange. Sam walking in heels is pretty runny and awkward, for example, as well as struggling with stockings.  Also, his putting on lipstick is funny.

• This is the most overtly we’ve seen so far the fact that Sam is so much taller than the person he’s leapt into (unless Samantha is very tall).  No comment is made about it, but I do wonder if Jean Sagal (Gloria) is purposely minimizing how much she looks fully up at Sam in order to make eye contact.  She doesn’t stare at his neck or anything, but she seems to be keep her gaze lower than you’d think.

• Sam puts “Big John” in his place:  “I’m gonna call you ‘dead’ if you don’t get outta my face.”  Also, “Don’t even start unless you want to eat your teeth for lunch.”

• Last episode, Al was advising Sam to punch out a guy, but this time Sam infers that he’s not able to punch the guy because he’s playing it as Samantha.  I guess maybe Al felt it wouldn’t have been massively out of character of Charlie to punch out the guy insulting his wife.

• Last time I commented that the voice over narration was feeling quite intrusive.  This time it works a lot better.  One of the best lines, in fact, is Sam’s narration about the clothes he has to wear:  “I have come to the conclusion that women are part masochist. It’s like someone designed a modern-day torture rack you can wear: from the bra, to the stockings, to the tight skirts, and the shoes from hell. They get up everyday and perform this weird binding ritual. And for what?”

• Buddy is by far the sleaziest guy we’ve ever seen on the show.  He’s so incredibly unpleasant that it’s quite nice to see him get his comeuppance.  It’s especially unpleasant when he plays the “my wife is horrible” card.  Sam says about him, “I had before me a firsthand definition of sleaze. Buddy had perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect eyes and perfect chin. But they weren’t the arrow that made women like Gloria fall. It was the velvet tones all neatly wrapped in wit and charm. He was a master of manipulation, and he knew it.”

• What’s up with the other lady in the outer office who keeps staring at Sam and Gloria when they hug?

• Bubbles is a funny name for the dog.  I like that they are continuing the bit with  animals being able to see Al.

• Sam knocks that jerk off his chair–a strong contender for the show’s best moment.

• Al says that Sam not leaping because he wants revenge is “Very female.”  Yikes!

• That revenge is pretty funny.  Sam comments that he puts on the most revealing dress that he could “get my hairy chest into”, and goes on to play the “temptress” quite well.  The scene is well directed with good use of mirrors (as mentioned above), and when Sam tells Buddy he’s a man and that he can prove it, Buddy’s scream is memorable.  The scene does cap off with a strange and goofy sound effect as Buddy falls unconscious, though.  It’s hard to imagine Samantha being able to join the design team of that company after punching that guy out, though.  Maybe he never admitted it.

Sam Leaps To
Blind Faith

Favorite Dialogue
I think my favorite is when Sam is trying to convince Gloria that Buddy will never leave his wife.  Gloria says he will after the holidays.  Sam says Christmas is two months away, and Gloria counters that Thanksgiving is only a month away.

And then Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, then President’s Day- President’s Day? And before you know it, it’s the Fourth ofJuly. We know that a man can’t leave his wife on the Fourth ofJuly. It would be un-American. I’m sure they have a family barbecue, and I’ll bet that Buddy’s a whiz at lighting charcoal…

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

The Best Moment
It’d be easy to pick Sam’s revenge against Buddy at the end, or even the blind date where Sam knocks the guy off his chair.  But my favorite moments in the show are the heart to hearts between Sam and Gloria.  Specifically, I appreciated the one after the suicide attempt, because I feel like it would have been easy to gloss over that step of the drama and just have Gloria have a different mindset after her near miss.  The fact that it goes a step further and gives us a whole scene with them “debriefing” this incident gives the script a greater maturity.

Previous Episode: The Americanization of MachikoNext Episode: Blind Faith

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