Quantum Leap – M.I.A. [2.22]

Sam leaps into Jake Rawlins, a police officer who regularly works undercover.  Al tells him that he is there to prevent a woman named Beth from falling in love with someone else while her husband is a prisoner in Vietnam (and presumed dead).  Sam becomes suspicious when Beth’s new romance seems fated.  All becomes clear when Sam realizes that Beth’s husband is Al himself.  Sam eventually figures out that his real mission is to save the life of his partner, whose life endangered by a criminal who has a grudge against him.  Al bids Beth a tearful farewell before Sam leaps away.

Written by Donald P. Bellisario. Directed by Michael Zinberg.

Previous Episode: Sea Bride • Next Episode:  The Leap Home

Finally, finally I get to the end of Season Two of Quantum Leap. This has taken a long time but it’s not because I’m not enjoying it.  It’s just that there are many other things going on in life as well.  And amusingly enough, the recent lockdown situation has only made it more challenging, since I watch the show on DVD on our TV set, and no one else in my family really likes the show, and everyone is now around, all the time.

Often, as I’m going through this series, I have recollections of varying levels of clarity about having seen the episode before.  M.I.A. is one episode I am absolutely clear that I have never seen before.  Having seen other episodes that are to come, I knew about Beth, and I knew that she’d figured prominently at some point in a story where Sam failed to prevent her from marrying while Al was a prisoner, but I’d never seen the story in which it actually happened, until now.  And as it happens, it’s quite possibly the best episode of Quantum Leap that I’ve come across on this run through the series.

The episode does a great job bringing together the story’s personal, emotional journal with some cool action sequences, plus a decent amount of comedy.  There is a lot of strong character work featured as well.  Al obviously stands out but his story really doesn’t take centre stage until the end.  Prior to that, the episode is carried on the shoulders of Beth and Skaggs, who both are developed strongly.  I like how the way they are all impacted by Vietnam War is the linking thread amongst all the characters, even though it’s not the main focus of the action.

I’m not sure about whether the twist of Beth’s husband’s identity would have surprised me if I’d seen the episode cold.  The clues are certainly there, but I’ve long since been spoiled about it.  But I found that the foreknowledge didn’t diminish from the enjoyment of the story–Al’s desperation is compelling, and Beth’s heartache makes for good drama.  It’s interesting watching Sam discover the truth and then confront his friend about his choices.

All the cast are good, including Scott Bakula, Susan Diol (Beth) and Jason Beghe (Skaggs) but it’s Dean Stockwell who really shines.  Al has been comical, steadfast and lecherous over the two seasons of the show I’ve rewatched, but we’ve never seen him so vulnerable.  He’s farewell dance with Beth is extremely affecting, thanks to Stockwell’s authenticity in the part.

If there’s a weak spot to the episode it’s just how the criminal that Skaggs shot and caught at the start of the episode was out of jail, moving around fine, and ready to get revenge by the middle of it, only a day or so later.  But maybe they said something and I missed it.

Cast Notes:
• Susan Diol plays Beth Calavicci.  She also appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Riker’s brief-lived love interest in the episode Silicon Avatar, and then later in Star Trek Voyager as Danara Pel, a love-interest for the Doctor who appeared in two episodes.

• Normal Large plays Dirk Simon.  He appeared in a couple episodes each in Star Trek’s The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Jake Rawlins, a police officer in San Diego, from April 1 – April 3, 1969.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to save the life of his partner, Detective Roger Skaggs, from being killed by a criminal that he had previously wounded.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam does not believe in the devil.

What do we know about Al?
Al’s father is from Italy.  His last name is Calavicci (this is the first time this is revealed).

Al was a Naval pilot.  According to Beth, Al’s first love was flying and the his second love was the navy.  However, Al says that Beth is the only women he genuinely loved, and the only one he wanted to grow old with, which is why his other marriages never worked.

Al and Beth have been married eight years in April 1969, but in that time they’ve only lived together for two years.  There were only four months between Al’s first and second tours in Vietnam.  Al accused Beth of being too much of a romanticist sometimes.  They never had children as Al didn’t believe in dragging his kids from duty station to duty station.

Al’s A4 went down in the Highlands around 1967.  The Viet Cong had him a prisoner in a cage that was too small to either properly stand up in or lie down in.  He says that this experience taught him to believe in the devil.  He was repatriated in 1973, only to find that Beth had remarried while he was gone.

What about the experiment?
Nothing new this time around.

God or Time or Something
Sam thanks God when he finds men’s pants in his locker to change into.  He also implies that it would be just like God to send him on a leap that was a big April Fool’s Day joke.  Sam also wonders if God might want Beth and Dirk to fall in love.

“Oh Boy”
Sam says it right at the start, during the bust of the criminals.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
There is nothing this time around.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
There’s a brief reference, I think, to Tina, but it’s said by Sam in jest.  More importantly, Al reveals that Beth, his first wife to whom he was married to for about 8 years, was the only woman he ever truly loved and wanted to grow old with.

Other Observations
• The episode gets off to a great start, with the humor of Sam thinking he’s a woman, realizing he’s a man, and then getting involved in the whole police operation.

• Sam handles the hazing by the other police officers extremely well.

• Smooth line from Dirk to Beth:  “I don’t know what I can do about a lot of things, but I can fix the straw.”

• The episode wisely re-establishes the fact that Sam’s brain is “Swiss-cheesed” by the leaping process.

• On more than one occasion, Sam makes for a pretty terrible police officer.

• I like Dirk’s mother’s line to bringing Beth to her dinner with her son:  “My son sees you he’s going to be positively delighted.”

• Beth’s speech about losing the patient is very good

• Al’s speech about the devil is also well done, especially the last line:  “There’s a devil, Sam, and he trying to destroy Beth’s life.”

Al if you close that door, don’t ever open it again!

• Al pleads with Sam:  “Sam, if you’re lucky, life is going to live you one shot at true love, and Beth was mine.  I lost her but you could get her back.”

• Sam kills the two criminals that threatened Skaggs.  This makes for the third and fourth time Sam has killed someone, after the events of Honeymoon Express and Her Charm.

• This episode is the first time they reveal that Al’s last name is Calavicci.  Even here, it’s only revealed in that Beth says it’s her last name.  I wonder how long they were planning this–avoiding saying Al’s last name to make this twist work.

• In the last sequence, when Beth walks through the holographic Al, they avoid using the normal “glimmer” sound effect.  It’s a good choice.  I don’t like that sound effect under normal circumstances, and here in the middle of this poignant scene, it would definitely have been distracting.

• The leap is shown from Al’s point of view, I guess, with the whole world basically “leaping” around him.  We’ve never seen anything like this before.  I think it’s the first time that the episode hasn’t cut away at the moment of Sam’s leap?

• The end credits roll over a wide shot of Al dancing with Beth and the song Georgia on my Mind–it works well.

Sam Leaps To
Nothing, it’s not shown.

Favorite Dialogue
Al has a lot of good dialogue but my favorite line is actually Skaggs’, after he thinks his partner froze up and then tells him a story about what happened to him in Vietnam:

You know, I figure if a man’s lucky he gets to freeze up once in his life and live to talk about it.  But not twice.

The Best Moment
Al’s dance with Beth at the end is the best, which is only made better when Beth seems to react to him just after he’s left.  Lovely, lovely stuff.

Previous Episode: Sea Bride • Next Episode:  The Leap Home


2 thoughts on “Quantum Leap – M.I.A. [2.22]

  1. It’s an excellent episode, particularly the twist that Al’s marriage was doomed anyway. I thought it was a shame the series final episode undercut that.

  2. It never occurred to me to think of Al’s marriage failing anyway as a twist, but that’s an interesting take on it. Given the bitter nature of the other half the series finale’s last revelation, I think the change in Al’s life worked as sort of fairy tale conclusion.

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