Quantum Leap – Good Night, Dear Heart [2.17]

Sam leaps into Melvin Spooner, a mortician who also acts as the coroner in a small town in Massachusetts, who is investigating the death of a young German woman named Hilla Doehner.  Her death is apparently a suicide, but Sam comes to believe its murder and that he is there to bring her killer to justice.

Written by Paul Brown. Directed by Christopher T. Welch.

Previous Episode:  Freedom Next Episode:  Pool Hall Blues

For Good Night, Dear Heart, Quantum Leap presents us with an odd little mystery story.  Sam adopts the identity of a mortician who becomes somewhat obsessed with the question of how a beautiful German girl came to meet her untimely end.  The plot is typical of many whodunnit? stories in that the investigation opens up all sorts of scandals and secrets, not all directly related to the death, but which conspire to become obstacles to Sam in solving the case.  But impressively, the story “plays fair” with the audience, presenting the clues in a way that the viewer could make a reasonable attempt at putting it all together, while filling the run-time with enough false leads to keep it from being obvious.

What was slightly confusing, however, was the bizarre effect the episode kept giving us of showing flashes of the still-living Hilla whenever Sam is looking at her or her picture.  I kept thinking it was supposed to indicate something supernatural going on, or that Sam was somehow actually remembering Hilla, either from some encounter in his real life (unlikely given the time frame) or through some sort of memory-sharing with his host.  I keep waiting for something like that to happen, actually, as I think it’d be interesting…but here, it seems that all that’s going on is that Sam is feeling very connected to Hilla.  It’s a confusing way to dramatize this, and was slightly disappointing as I thought the episode was setting up something more dramatic.

Incidentally, the conclusion to this episode–where it turns out that Hilla was murdered by a secret same-sex lover who felt jilted–would almost certainly not fly in today’s social climate.  Still, I felt like the revelation itself was believable.  It felt plausible that someone who had been through the trauma that Hilla had would be confused about herself and what she wanted from a relationship, and that when she decided she was ready to move on that her lover might have an emotional breakdown and lash out.

The episode’s last scene, where Sam reads Mark Twain over Hilla’s grave is bittersweet.  It’s interesting, of course, that for once Sam is not there to save someone, but simply to find out the truth about what happened to them.  Unless of course he’s really there for Stephanie–as terrible as it is to be exposed for what she did and go to jail, that’s surely got to be better than getting away with it and living with the secret, right?

Cast Notes:
• Marcia Cross plays Stephanie Heywood.  She’s one of the stars of Desperate Housewives and Melrose Place.

• Robert Duncan McNeill plays Greg Truesdale.  He’s well known amongst sci-fi fans as Tom Paris, one of the principle characters on Star Trek: Voyager. 

• W.K. Stratton plays Sheriff Roundtree.  He appeared all the way back in the series’ first episode as Dr. Berger, and he appears in the forthcoming three-parter, Trilogy, as Larry Stanton III.  He was also a regular way back on Black Sheep Squadron.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Melvin Cooper, a mortician who functions as the coroner for Riven Rock, Massachusetts, on September 9-11, 1957.

What does Sam have to do?
Apparently, Sam is there to reveal that Hilla did not die by suicide, but was murdered, and to find the identity of her murderer.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam speaks German.  This is the fourth of Sam’s seven modern languages that we’ve identified, after English, Japanese and Spanish.

What do we know about Al?
The fact that Al is an orphan is mentioned again.

What about the experiment?
Nothing in particular.

God or Time or Something
No particular references.

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is only said at the very end, in the teaser for the following episode.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam does not get into a relationship with anyone, but he becomes strangely fixated on the deceased Hilla.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
None are referenced specifically, though Al admits to getting fixated on women frequently.

Other Observations
• The episode begins interestingly with a close up of Sam examining something.  I thought maybe he was a jeweler, before the story revealed the truth.

• I like Sam’s excuse for knowing German, about remembering a bit from his one German class.

• Stephanie, wanting to clean the victim’s clothes, is certainly suspicious.  This turns out to be relevant to the mystery, but not in the way I expected (she was trying to recover her shoe).

• After Stephanie’s visit, I’m left wondering, “Who is this girl?”  What does she have to do with the dead girl?

• Al walks in through a coffin, which makes for a funny moment.

• Al also “teleports” from one side of a door to another as Sam walks through.

• It seems strange that Al is so bothered by dead people, considering his military background.

• Lots of references to Mark Twain and the movie Picnic starring William Holden.  They also mention James Dean, the song Feelings, and the movies Laura.

• Cute bit how no one wants to shake hands with the mortician.

• The sheriff is super-inappropriate to Sam.

• There is a nice shot when the sheriff moves in front of the mirror and we see the back  of Sam’s head and the front of Melvin in the reflection.

• Sam does a bit of an Agatha Christie conclusion, with all the suspects all gathered together.  The revelation that the heel is the murder weapon is interesting.

• There’s a conspicuous freeze-frame when the leap takes place–I don’t know if that’s different than normal or just more obvious because of the falling snow.

• The credits roll again, just like a couple of episodes ago.

Sam Leaps To
Pool Hall Blues

Favorite Dialogue
I like the exchange when. Al challenges Sam about growing obsessed with Hilla, when he’s looking at the home movies of her.

You’ve got no evidence. You got no gun. You got no bullet. You got nothin’ Sam…You got shadow and light flickering on a wall. That’s not Hilla. What you’re seeing is in your imagination.

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

The Best Moment
It’s probably Sam reading from Mark Twain over Hilla’s grave, just before he leaps.

Previous Episode:  Freedom Next Episode:  Pool Hall Blues

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