Quantum Leap – Blind Faith [2.5]

Sam leaps into Andrew Ross, a blind concert pianist, who is dating a shy woman named Michelle, who struggles with an overbearing mother.  Michelle is fated to die at the hands of a serial killer in a few days, and Sam must find a way to save her life while also helping her relationship with her mother to heal.

Written by Scott Shepherd. Directed by David G. Phinney

Previous Episode: What Price, Gloria?Next Episode:  Good Morning, Peoria

Comments:
Blind Faith holds up as a warm, engaging and solid episode of Quantum Leap.  The gimmick of course is that Sam is playing a blind man.  This is treated as a practical problem more than anything else–ie Can Sam maintain that ruse?–and not a commentary on the treatment of the disabled or anything like that.  After last episode’s more deliberate social theme, this is probably a welcome approach.

The idea of Sam leaping into a concert pianist just as he’s expected to perform an encore is a great one.  The whole opening–with the concert, the piano, the realization of his blindness–makes for one of the best “leap in” sequences we’ve had.   And Sam’s solution to just play Chopsticks is pretty funny.  I think if it had been me, I’d just have pretended to faint.

The strength of the story comes from the sweetness of the emotional drama that is on display.  Sam (as Andrew) has a very sweet romance with Michelle.  It’s charming how non-physical it is, as that gives the show a chance to tell a different kind of story.  There is even a nice moment where Sam opens up a bit (without her realizing of course) about the plight of his own life:  “Sometimes I feel like a scientist in the middle of an experiment that nobody else believes in.  But then, you just have to tell yourself that you’re the only person you can listen to that you have to forget about the others.”  There’s a vulnerability to this that wouldn’t have been the same with most of the other women Sam has been partnered with.

At the same time, the conflict that Michelle and Sam both have with Michelle’s mother Agnes is well done.  This is the sort of character that could have been played as shrewish and mean, but the writers and actress Jennifer Rhodes make her more sympathetic than that.  She is definitely mean and off-putting, but there is a clear positive motivation lurking within somewhere.  The fact that Sam urges everyone to maintain relationship while helping Michelle gain independence is a really lovely touch.  Indeed, when he himself calls her “Mama”, it’s kind of inspirational.

Naturally, there’s also this whole “serial strangler” side to the episode.  That mostly works okay, though it’s mainly a plot device to put Michelle is danger.  It’s not a huge surprise when the murderer turns out to be Pete–it occurred to me about halfway through the episode, simply because Pete seemed to not have much point as a character if he wasn’t.  The chase to rescue Michelle makes for a serviceable climax, though it more highlights Sam’s relationship with his dog more than anything else.   It is cool to see Michelle stab Pete with a nail file as she’s attempting to save herself, even if some of the actual strangling isn’t completely convincing.

Actually, I should mention that there’s a lot of good material with Sam’s dog Chopin in this story.  We get some very amusing moments with him being able to see the truth of the situation, especially a clever bit where the dog clearly can see that the reflection is the owner he actually knows.  Dean Stockwell’s best material this time around actually has to do with the dog.  And the way Sam grows on Chopin, to the point where he even saves Sam’s life when Sam is temporarily blinded, is appropriately heartwarming.

Cast Notes:
• Sloan Fischer, who plays the Stage Manager, previously appeared in How the Tess Was Won as Dr. Daniel Young.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Andrew Ross, a a blind concert pianist, on February 6-7th, 1964, in New York City.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam is there is to prevent Michelle’s death by a serial strangler, and to later help Michelle and her mother find a balance in their relationship.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam is a concert pianist, who played in Carnegie Hall when he was nineteen years old!  (Later, we will learn that this must have been in 1972 or 1973.)  He knows how to play  Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, at least. Also, Chopsticks

What do we know about Al?
After the Beatles played on The Ed Sullivan Show (and all the girls went crazy), Al went out and bought himself a long-haired wig.  Al is not a pianist.

What about the experiment?
Clearly, Sam can see even though Andrew Ross cannot.  Thus it is explicitly clear that Sam’s whole body leaps, not just his mind.

A lot is made out of the fact that Andrew’s dog, Chopin, can see Sam for who he really is, and can also see Al.  Al even teases the dog, goading it into attacking him.

Ziggy is clearly referred to (again) as a he, and Al speaks negatively about Ziggy’s accuracy rate.

Sam can only see the music stand that Al brings into the imaging chamber when Al is touching it.

God or Time or Something
There’s no direct reference, except that Sam says, “Oh my god, I’m a DJ,” at the end, after he leaps.

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is only said at the start of the episode, when Sam first arrives.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam has a sweet romance with Michelle, and also leers at a beautiful French woman who comes out of his apartment, who sadly is later murdered.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al talks about a Mexican piano player that he was obviously smitten with, named Evita Evilitita.  He also makes flirtatious expressions at a woman in the audience of Sam’s concert, who obviously cannot see him.

Other Observations
• I find these recaps of the previous episode over Scott Bakula’s voice over musing on the experience of leaping…to be kind of pointless.

• Sometimes in this story, Sam does a great job of playing blind.  Other times, he seems incapable of avoiding the most obvious of mistakes–like when he compliments Michelle’s smile, or wonders aloud what year it is.

• The show does an odd freeze frame just before the opening titles role.

• I like some of Agnes’ dialogue as she’s trying to convince Michelle to see things her way, even if I of course don’t agree with all she says:  “And when you flunk your finals, it will be more than just a concert, won’t it?  And when your husband leaves you with a hungry two year old and you don’t have any way to earn a living, it will be more than just a concert, won’t it? And when you wake up and you realize that you’re no longer young and good-looking, but you’re tired and you’re worn out from tryin’ to support that baby, it will be more than just a concert, won’t it?”

• And then a bit later she says, quite poetically, “And remember:  a fools’ dreams may be dreams, but they also belong to a fool.”

• The news that Michelle is fated to be strangled surprises no one in the audience.

• Al says, “I can’t play Chopsticks in Chinatown.”  Is that racist?

•  Poor unnamed French woman, getting strangled like that.  But it’s a well done smash cut between her screaming and the girls screaming for the Beatles

• Michelle makes an unknowing reference to Ronald Regan becoming president.  Reagan’s term ended less than a year before this episode originally aired.

• A funny exchange between Sam and Al.  “This dog eats better than I do!” followed by “This dog works harder than you do.”

• Umm, Al couldn’t say something a bit more direct to Sam to warn him that Agnes was standing right behind him?  Oh well, it does lead to an interesting complication in the story.

• Sam cannot see the music stand when Al lets go of it, but he can see Al’s cigar smoke?  How does that work?

• Cute when Al is bowing at Carnegie Hall.

• That’s a funny but dated effect to show Sam’s vision when he’s blinded.  Like something out of 2001:  A Space Odyssey or the opening credits to 1970’s Doctor Who.

• Nice resolution, with Sam’s temporary blindness and Agnes’ smoking both playing a role in convincing Agnes that Sam really is blind.

• I like it when Al says, “Close enough!” after Sam miscounts his fingers.

Sam Leaps To
Good Morning, Peoria

Favorite Dialogue
I think my favorite is when Sam is convincing Michelle that she needs to take a step away toward caring for herself, and not just living according to her mother’s wishes.

But you owe her your love, not your life.

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

The Best Moment
As I said, I like the ending where Sam helps Michelle and Agnes reconicle while also helping Michelle take a step toward realizing her own dreams.  However, I also like the bit where the girl faints after screaming over the Beatles, because she managed to touch Ringo.

Previous Episode: What Price, Gloria? • Next Episode:  Good Morning, Peoria

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