Quantum Leap – The Leap Home part 2 – Vietnam [3.2]

Sam leaps into a Navy SEAL under the command of his own brother Tom shortly before Tom is fated to die.  He is told he is there to help Tom’s upcoming secret mission (to rescue some prisoners of war) succeed, but not necessarily to save Tom himself.  Working with a Maggie Dawson, a civilian journalist eager to win a Pulitzer prize covering the war, Sam attempts to figure out how Tom was killed.  In the end, he saves Tom from a treacherous local woman, but Maggie is killed–although she wins a Pulitzer prize posthumously.  The mission also fails, and it’s revealed that one of the POW’s who might have been rescued was actually a younger Al.

Written by Michael Zinberg. Directed by Donald P. Bellisario

Previous Episode: The Leap HomeNext Episode:  Leap of Faith

Comments:
Usually, as I’m making my way through this series, I’m enjoying myself quite a bit, but I also find lots of moments where I have to persevere.  Things in the drama-of-the-week get a little slow or predictable, and I’m just waiting for something more interesting to take place.  I have to say that that never happened while I was watching The Leap Home part II–Vietnam (as it is called on screen)–it turns out to be one of the most watchable and engaging  episodes of Quantum Leap that I’ve seen.

Maybe it’s the unusual locale (Sam’s first on-screen visit outside of the United States), or the fact that the war-time setting just allows for a different sort of pacing, but the episode is highly engaging.  Less time is spent on Sam acclimating to his environment (thanks of course to Al’s coaching) and more on the actual plot and the emotions the situation brings up.  Maybe it also helps that it’s the second part of a two-parter, and even though it’s a new leap in new place, we don’t have to spend a lot of time re-introducing Tom or what’s at stake with the question of his survival.

This episode obviously follows on from The Leap Home, with the presence of Sam’s brother and the focus on saving his life.  But interestingly it also ties strongly into the episode before that, Season Two’s finale, M.I.A.--turning these episodes into a loose trilogy of sorts, with a strong personal / family life theme.  The link is made when Sam finds out that one of the POW’s that Tom was attempting to rescue was actually a younger Al.  Saving Al at that point, a good five years prior to his repatriation in the original history, would have obviously changed Al’s life significantly.  The fact that he so readily supports Sam’s efforts to save his brother demonstrates strongly how Al has grown since the earlier story.

The ending of the story has a surprisingly dark tone, especially when compared to the  happy endings that we’re used to.  Tom and his commanding officer are alive, but Maggie is dead, even if she did win a posthumous award.  Sam is rightly broken about it all–obviously he didn’t kill Maggie but at the same time, if he had not leapt into the situation, it seems that Maggie would have survived.  We don’t know how her life turned out in the original history, except that it seems she never won a Pulitzer.  That was a major goal for her–does that mean her life improved due to Sam’s involvement?  The episode doesn’t really provide a satisfactory answer, nor does it even attempt to–but it is an interesting question to be raised.

On the whole, there’s solid work here by everyone, including series regulars Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell.

Cast Notes:
• Andrea Thompson (Maggie Dawson) is well known to 90’s sci-geeks like myself as the telepath Talia Winters for a couple of years on Babylon 5.

• Similarly, Tia Carrare (Chu-Hoi) is familiar to me as Cassandra from both Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2.

• I’ve also seen Patrick Warburton (Blaster) in a bunch of things, including The Dish and as the voice of Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove.  He was also in the live-action version of The Tick, but I’ve never really watched that.

• Ryan Reid (Shamo) has only got a few acting credits listed on IMDb, but one of them is as a transporter technician in one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Power Play).

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Herbert “Magic” Williams, a Navy SEAL, on duty in Vietnam, from April 7 – 9, 1970.

What does Sam have to do?
It’s actually quite unclear.  The assumption made by Ziggy is that Sam is supposed to help his brother Tom’s secret mission to rescue some POW’s be successful.  There is also thought that maybe Sam is there to save the life of Colonel Deke Grimwald.  However, Sam fails at the former, with the second one he succeeds but he doesn’t leap for another couple of days.  It may be that Sam was indeed there to save his brother Tom, or even to help Maggie Dawson win a Pulitzer Prize, albeit posthumously.  Finally, Maggie’s prize-winning photograph is actually of a younger Al–if a photo of him became famous back in the United States, that may have effected Al’s family situation as well (see M.I.A.)

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
There’s not really anything new this time around.

What do we know about Al?
Nothing really, except that Al was moved at least once during his years as a POW.

What about the experiment?
Nothing new this time around.

God or Time or Something
I didn’t notice any reference this episode.

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is heard twice, in its usual spots–both shortly after Sam leaps in, at the episode’s start and then in the teaser for the next time around.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam hooks up for a night with Maggie when she comes on to him in her efforts to get taken onto the mission.  Surprisingly for him, Sam goes right along with this.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al ogles Maggie a couple of times, but that’s it.

Other Observations
• There’s quite a long recap of the previous story at the start.  I guess you really had to do that back int he day, before DVD’s and binging.

• Water skiing off the back of a helicopter!  That’s a pretty interesting image!

• Al says all that’s happening on the leap was over 25 years ago.  That makes the “present” of the series at least after the year 1995.

• Someone says that Magic has a sixth sense. I like it when Al replies, “Yeah, you could call me that.”

• Al shows up in military dress uniform, which is unusual for him.  This is never explained, but I’d like to think it’s something to do with him showing respect related to being in Vietnam.

• Once the changed radio frequency is revealed, it’s not too difficult to figure out who the “villain” of the story is going to be, but it’s still interesting that the show creates a situation where Sam is changing history but doesn’t understand how.

• There are some funny bits with Al–floating outside the helicopter and also floating in the water.

• I like it where Al is helping Sam keep his head together when he is crammed into the helicopter and finding out about the disaster that is approaching.  “I know you want to scream.  I know you want to tell Tom to call off the mission.  But he’s not gonna do it. Even if he believed you, he’s gonna push on. He’ll get Doc to sedate youand he’ll leave you behind.  You don’t want thatto happen, do you? Just remember you’ve got an ace in the hole–me.”

• Sam is brokenhearted about Maggie’s death at the end, but he seems not phased by the fact that he’s killed a bunch of Vietnamese enemies, including the woman who was leading them into the trap. Of course, I can understand this considering that he was in the life of a soldier in war-time, and that he was saving his brother’s life, but it’s still something I noticed.

• This is the fourth time that Sam has killed someone (see Honeymoon Express, Her Charm and M.I.A.).  It’s now hard to keep track of how many people he’s killed since there was a lot of firing of machine guns here, but it seems like it was at least half a dozen.

• Maggie sees Al as she dies…a great moment.

Sam Leaps To
Leap of Faith

Favorite Dialogue
The best is Al’s response when Sam realizes that he was one of the prisoners.

What the hell, I get repatriated in five years….I was free.  Up here, I was always free.

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

The Best Moment
Along with the dialogue I just mentioned, the reveal of Al’s photograph is a great twist.

Previous Episode: The Leap HomeNext Episode:  Leap of Faith

One thought on “Quantum Leap – The Leap Home part 2 – Vietnam [3.2]

  1. God/Fate/Time is clearly at work for allowing Sam the opportunity to save Tom.

    And Al ogles at the woman from her first appearance and while changing.

    The POW Al being the subject of the Pulitzer is a huge added backstory.

    The big question is if Tom knew Magic was same.

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