Quantum Leap – Leaping in Without a Net [2.19]

Sam leaps into Victor Panzini, the son in a circus trapeze act.  Victor’s sister Eva is determined to do a dangerous stunt that her mother died attempting, a year earlier.  Sam has to make sure that it he, and not Victor’s father Lazlo, who is there to catch Eva, or she will be killed as well.  The only problem is that Sam has no experience on a trapeze and is terrified of heights.

Written by Tommy Thompson. Directed by Christopher T. Welch

Previous Episode: Pool Hall Blues •Next Episode:  Maybe Baby

Leaping in Without a Net is a standard episode of Quantum Leap, but a solid one.  Nothing too far out there is happening, and there’s no great personal connection that Sam or Al have with the leap, but it all holds interest.  The circus setting, story and characters are all lively and engaging, and are delivered with as much authenticity as Quantum Leap ever delivers.  Sam’s fear of heights is a satisfactory hook for the episode, adding enough emotional color to the situation without overpowering it.

Sam and Al’s interaction is the highlight of the episode.  Again, there’s nothing especially showy going on, but their easy banter is fun to listen to and is delivered well.  The episode is sort of a proof of concept for the series:  Sam is in over his head, but he finds the courage and perseverance to complete his mission thanks to Al delivering both challenges and encouragements in equal parts.  Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell do a lovely job of bringing this relationship to life, in a way showing us exactly what a regular installment of Quantum Leap should always be like.

If there’s a weakness here it’s simply that their is little the story can do to surprise us at the end.  Things boil down to the fact that Sam will either catch Eva or he won’t, and we never really seriously think that he won’t.  It’s a well directed and well edited sequence (which makes effective use of holding back the incidental music for part of it) but quite predictable.  The script attempts in a small way to keep us guessing by holding back Sam’s leap until after he hugs his father, but this isn’t really all that interesting to see, and it feels like the sort of thing that Vincent could have easily done on his own, even without Sam’s intervention.  If that mini-story beat was going to be strong, it needed to be set up more effectively.

Cast Notes:
• Jan Tríska is a Czech actor who did all sorts of things, including playing Alexander Kovalev in the movie 2010.  Here, he plays Lazlo Panzini.

• Fabiana Udendio plays Eva Panzini.  She appeared in a couple of episodes of Babylon 5 as Adira Tyree, true love of Londo Mollari.

• Richard Riehl plays Clifford Vargas.  He has an amazing 400 listings on his IMDb page.  He played Dr. Lucas in a couple of episodes of Star Trek Enterprise, Officer Jack Sloan in a couple of episodes of The West Wing, and Seamus Driscol in a couple of episodes of Star Trek Voyager, Batai in the classic Next Generation episode The Inner Light, and Tom in the cult comedy Office Space.  He also previously appeared in the first season episode Play it Again, Seymour.

• Phil Fondacaro (Big Moe) was an Ewok in Return of the Jedi!

• Jan Eddy (Benny Skyler) will appear again in the future episode Glitter Rock.

• Maria Lauren (Carmenina) previously played Anita in Catch a Falling Star

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Victor Panzini, in both Iowa (Buck’s Tooth) and Colorado (near Denver), November 18-20, 1958.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to prevent Lazlo Panzini from attemtping to catch his daughter in a difficult trapeze act, as his torn rotator cuff will result in her death.  He also has to catch her himself, and eventually reconcile with Lazlo for things that happened in the past.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
When Sam was 9, he saw a Tarzan movie in the theatre with his brother Tom.  Afterwords they tied a rope to a beam in the barn and took turns swinging on it.  When Sam had to climb up to tighten the rope, he froze, and developed a fear of heights that plagued him until his adulthood.

Sam says he was happy growing up as a child.  He grew up on a farm with both his parents.  He used to love it when the circus came to town.  He especially loved the elephants.

What do we know about Al?
When Al ran away from the orphanage, for a while he joined a circus.

In the orphanage, he had a pet roach named Kevin, who may have fallen foul of a fellow orphan who had a pet lizard.

Al speaks some Hungarian, and is familiar with Hungarian customs, thanks to the fact that his second or third wife was Hungarian.

Al first heard the song Tequila when he was a cadet in Pensacola, along with someone named Dave Healey.

What about the experiment?
There’s nothing new this time around.  Both Ziggy and Gooshie are mentioned, but with no new information.

God or Time or Something
There are no particular references this time.

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is mentioned just twice, at both the leap-in at the start and the leap-in at the end.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam’s host, Victor, has some romances going on, with Elvira in the circus, and the apparently with the second circus’ owner’s daughter, Cheri, but Sam himself doesn’t get involved with either one of them.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al leers at Elvira and also considers poking in on Eva while she’s changing, but Sam stops him.  He also refers to some girls he and a friend named Dave Healey knew, who were “animals”.

Sam’s second or third wife was Hungarian.

Other Observations
• For most of the episode, I thought Fabiana Udenio did a good job as Eva, but I have a hard time believing her speech about her dream of her mother at the beginning.

• Sam’s inability to get down from the net is pretty funny.

• Um, Sam sleeps naked, apparently?

• Sam looks good as he belts a bunch of guys at the curcus and does a cool roundhouse kick

• I’m not sure what is polite society today, but apparently, either at the time of production or the time of the show’s setting, saying “dwarf” was rude, but “little person” was not.

• Funny line:  “Sam, it’s going to be a hella of a lot easier to catch her if you open your eyes.”

• The show employs more gags about Al’s hologram nature than it normally does.  There are lots of shots of Al floating in the air next to Sam on the trapeze, and a funny bit in the car (see below).  I like it when Sam says, “Al, you’re floating in thin air,” and  Al replies, “I’m a hologram, I am thin air.”

• It’s also funny how Sam’s trapeze practice improves his chances from 20% to 30%.

• Sybil the fortune teller can sense Al, and can also sense something about Sam’s true identity–interpreting his situation as reincarnation.

• When they go to Denver, there’s so cutaways of what I assume are a real circus, featuring an elephant, horses, bears and monkeys.  I was last at a circus in Australia a few years ago and got the impression that that sort of use of animals is frowned upon today.  I guess it wasn’t in the 1950’s, nor in the 1980’s.

• Good grief, at the end Sam is stealing a baby!

Sam Leaps To
Maybe Baby

Favorite Dialogue
I like Al talking about the differences between his and Sam’s childhoods:

See that’s easy for you to say.  You grew up on a farm, I grew up in an orphanage.  You had a mother and father, I had a probation officer.  You had a cow.  I had a roach…When I was eight years old, I had a pet roach.  The only problem was the kid in the next bed had a pet lizard.  I never forget him.  His name was Kevin.

The site I used to use for transcripts from the show seems to be down at the moment, so I copied this down by hand from the show itself.

The Best Moment
I do like it when Sam catches Eva at the end, and earlier when Sam gets into the brief fight with the other circus folks.  But I think my favorite moment is this cute bit where Al is floating as a hologram next to Sam as he drives the car.  When Sam complains, Al operates his control and lowers himself so it looks roughly like he’s sitting next to Sam.  Usually the show doesn’t go to this much detail in showing how Al interacts with the environment, so I enjoyed it in his instance.

Previous Episode: Pool Hall Blues • Next Episode:  Maybe Baby


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