Quantum Leap – Pool Hall Blues [2.18]

Sam leaps Charlie “Black Magic” Walters a renowned pool player in the 1950’s.  The pool hall owned by his granddaughter Violet is under financial threat, and may go to a shady pool player / loan shark named Eddie, who also has designs on Violet herself.  Sam must face off with Eddie in a pool game for the ownership of the hall.  With Al’s holographic assistance, he is able to win the game and keep Viola’s dream alive of turning the hall into a blues club.

Written by Randy Holland. Directed by Joe Napolitano

Previous Episode:  Good Night, Dear HeartNext Episode:  Leaping In Without a Net

Pool Hall Blues is a decent episode of Quantum Leap, with a good sense of atmosphere and characterization inside a fairly predictable plot.  There’s nothing surprising in the way things unfold, from the way the conflict with Eddie mounts up to the way the pool game unfolds, but it still makes for an entertaining ride.  Of course, it’s always gratifying to see Sam take down a bully or two, especially when he is in the body of someone who looks non-threatening to others.

For the second time in the series, Sam has leapt into a black man, and for the second time, that many is elderly.  This has the side-effect of keeping Sam out of  the romantic sort of situations that usually figure heavily into his adventures.  I don’t know if this is actually on purpose on or not–the show obviously wanted to have a sense of liberal progressivism about it, but there are lots of ways that it feels socially dated.  Was American network TV still a bit hesitant about interracial romance in the 1990’s?  Or was it because for Sam, those romances were never long-lived–he was often connected (either reluctantly or enthusiastically) with a different woman every episode.  I don’t know–it’ll be interesting to see what other sorts of examples the series gives us.

There’s something about the way Sam is positioned in the middle of all these other characters that makes for slightly self-conscious viewing today.  Everyone around Sam is someone to either be defeated or to be saved.  And though I like the guest cast, the characters are a bit too easy to define–the weary woman of the world who can also be a sultry vamp when the occasion demands, the lovable old coot who is a bit too easy to dupe, the slimy creep who is not above dirty tricks.  The show is often full of people like this, but in a story where everyone but Sam is black, it does bring to mind that whole “white savior” trope that can be very unpleasant for people.

However, having said that, I do feel like I’m seeking out problems.  Nothing I’m talking about isn’t true of many episodes of Quantum Leap, except for the specific racial element.  Overall, the characters are indeed believable people, and the world they are in is quite interesting.  The story itself is satisfying, if not a bit pedestrian.

Cast Notes:
• Teddy Wilson, who plays Jimmy Grady, also appeared in another episode this year, Rebel Without a Clue, in a different role.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Charlie “Black Magic” Walters, in Chicago, Illinois, from September 4-6, 1954.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to prevent Violet from losing the club she has put all her effort into, primarily by making sure that he beats the loan shark Eddie at a pool game.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam is definitely not a pool player.

What do we know about Al?
When Al was 10 he ran away from the orphanage, and tried to pick Magic’s pocket.  He was caught, and then he got connected with Magic for the next few months, until Magic was arrested for playing in a whites only pool hall.  He was then sent back to the orphanage.

What about the experiment?
Al says he saw Magic in the waiting room–he makes it sound like he instantly recognized him.  Previously, Al told Sam that people in the waiting room looked like Sam.  We’ll see if it gets brought up again as the show goes on, but an explanation for this could be simply that the Waiting Room technology has improved to allow the Project Leap staff to see the real person.  Sam would still look like his host to Al because of course they haven’t put the same technology into place everywhere Sam leaps.  It would even make more sense if all this happened after the Senate committee meetings at the beginning of the season, as having that technology working would certainly help with proviign what they are actually doing.

God or Time or Something
No references.

“Oh Boy”
This is said twice–once at the end of the pre-credit teaser, and again during the teaser for the next episode as Sam is on the trapeze.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam doesn’t have any romantic complications this time around.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
There’s no reference to anything, I’m fairly sure.

Other Observations
• That’s a clever use of the hologram to give Sam a chance at the pool game.

• Cute when Sam figures out to do things using his math skills, and yells, “Pythagorous, we are going to shoot some pool!”

• There’s an odd montage of people in the hall as Sam arrives for the game, all set to Billie Holiday music.  Unusual, but I like it.

• There’s some very good pool being played in this episode!

• And during the final game, we get one of the clearest shots of Al’s handlink that I’ve ever seen.

• I like the exchange between Sam and Eddie after Sam has beaten up “the Brush”.

Eddie: What happened, Magic? Did you have an accident?
Sam: No, but your boy did.

• Very Cute shot of Sam and Al as the last ball sinks into the pocket.

• The ending credits play over some blues music.

Sam Leaps To
Leaping in Without a Net

Favorite Dialogue
Well, there’s nothing amazing, but I quite like Eddie’s reaction to see that the game is nine ball.

Nine ball’s a lucky man’s game.You feelin’ lucky, Magic?

There’s a good call back to it later.

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

The Best Moment
The scene where Sam sits with Violet and plays piano and sings with her is really nice.

Previous Episode:  Good Night, Dear Heart • Next Episode:  Leaping In Without a Net

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