Quantum Leap – 8 1/2 Months [3.12]

Sam leaps into Billie Jean Crockett, a pregnant teenager, shortly before she is going to give birth. Billie Jean is destined to give her baby up for adoption, a decision she will always regret. However, as an unwed teenaged girl without any financial support, she has little choice. Sam tries and fails to get support from either Billie Jean’s father or the baby’s father, but fails at every turn. It’s only when his daughter actually goes into labor that Billie Jean’s father has a change of heart. Meanwhile, Sam is desperate to leap as it seems that somehow he is actually carrying Billie Jean’s baby and his body is going into labor.

Written by Deborah Pratt. Directed by James Whitmore jr.

Previous Episode: Runaway Next Episode: Future Boy

Part of the fun of Quantum Leap is watching Sam face his new “fish out of water” situation at the start of each leap. The most memorable ones aren’t just unusual set pieces or environments, but when it’s apparent that Sam has arrived right in the midst of the most intensely awkward or life-threatening situations the writers could come up with. 8 1/2 Months provides one of the best examples of this ever, with Sam arriving just as his host is going into labor.

Of course things slow down for the moment, but the scene has done it’s job, and given the story one of the strongest “ticking clocks” that we’ve ever had–if Sam doesn’t leap in time, what’s going to happen when Billie Jean needs to give birth?

Actually, in addressing that question, 8 1/2 Months talks more than almost any other episode we’ve had so far about what is going on with the whole process of quantum leaping. It’s made explicitly clear that when people look at Sam and still see his host, it’s because they are seeing an illusion, and that Sam’s actual body is in the past, while Billie Jean’s is in the future. But it becomes very obvious that the writers are still playing with how this all works, and that the characters are only guessing at the full story, when Billie Jean’s baby somehow disappears from the waiting room, apparently leaping back into the past before Billie Jean herself does. Their previous supposition that the baby might remain in the future if it’s born before Billie Jean leaps proves to be wrong, or at least irrelevant.

It’s a testament to the quality of the script that the episode doesn’t have to throw in any false melodrama in order to be compelling. In other words, there’s no serial killer out there, no lethal accident approaching, no other doom coming for Billie Jean. She’s just facing the sad reality of not being able to keep her baby, simply because she’s a person with no real options. The story is treated with honesty and authenticity, and doesn’t need a bunch of high drama injected into it to keep it watchable.

Sam’s implicit identification with his hosts is taken to the next level in this episode. It’s all couched in science fiction technobabble, but basically it’s an opportunity to see Scott Bakula play being pregnant. And he does an outstanding job, bringing out not just the humor in the situation, but in really representing so much of the experience of pregnancy–the backaches, the nausea, the exhaustion, and the joy of carrying a baby. Bakula finds the perfect balance between this side of things and the character story of a young woman realizing that she does not want to give up her baby. It’s one of his best performances in the series, and is a solid anchor for one of its best episodes.

Cast Notes:
• James Whitmore jr (Bob Crockett) is also the director of the episode, along with 14 other Quantum Leap episodes, including the series finale.

• Lana Schwab is very good as Dotty. She apparently was in the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment of The Twilight Zone: The Movie from 1983, and she played a Goldie Hawn look-a-like in an episode of Simon & Simon back in the day.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Billie Jean Crockett, a 16 year old girl who is about to have her first baby, living outside of Claremore, Oklahoma, from November 14-15, 1955.

The date is actually confusing–Sam says that according to the calendar in the hospital, it’s November 14, 1955. However, the title screen tells us the date is November 15th. Early in the story, Sam goes to sleep and then most of the episode takes place on the second day. I’m going to interpret things so that Sam is correct–the episode starts on the 14th, and then continues onto the 15th (as per the title screen) for most of its action.

But you could also interpret it that Sam was just mistaken, and that the story starts on the 15th and continues to the 16th.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to help Billie Jean find a way to keep her baby. Perhaps as an extension to this, he is also there to help Dotty and Bob to marry each other.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam looks up to his parents–he says that they listened to him, guided him when he needed it, and were always there when he needed them.

What do we know about Al?
We don’t really learn anything new this time around.

What about the experiment?
The project scientists are not sure what will happen if Billie Jean has her baby in the future–they are worried it might not leap out when she does.

When Sam leaps, it’s made explicitly clear that it is his physical body that is leaping into the situation, and that people are only seeing his host because they are seeing the illusion of her physical aura.

Similarly, in the Waiting Room in the future, Billie Jean is seeing the illusion of Sam’s physical aura in the mirror.

Ziggy says that Sam’s brainwaves are linked with Billie Jean’s emotions and are cross-channeling into the baby, explaining why Sam experiences many of the feelings associated with pregnancy. However, at the end of the episode, they say that the baby has disappeared from the Waiting Room.

Dr. Beaks is a medical doctor at the Project.

It is stated several times that Al is forty years in the future, but he is not attempting to be precise, so this might just be a rough figure.

God or Time or Something
Sam repeats the famous quote that “God works in mysterious ways,” saying that his change of heart is God’s way of warning him (and Billie Jean) from making the mistake of giving up the baby for adoption.

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is heard in the usual places–right after he leaps in at the start, and then after he leaps in at the end. But Sam also mentions it one other time, to which Dotty misunderstands and says that she also assumes that Billy Jean’s baby is a boy.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam isn’t connected to anyone in this story.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al doesn’t talk about this at all in this episode.

Other Observations
• There’s a lot of good dialogue in this episode. The doctor tells Sam that his body knows how to deliver a baby. Sam replies, “I don’t think so.” The doctor says, “You’d be surprised,” and Sam replies, “So would you.”

• I really like Dotty. I didn’t think I was, because I assumed she was going to be a lot more unpleasant than she was. But when Keeter says about the baby, “Well now, she didn’t drop it, did she?” Dotty replies, “That’s ’cause she ain’t a cow, and it was a false alarm.”

• Keeter gets a good line as well: “One of your best customers just walked out the door looking like she could tune in Mars…”

• Al drops holographic ash in Skeeter’s beer bottle–that’s a cute touch.

• Sam so often refuses to listen to Al, like when Sam decides to ask Dotty if he can stay with her. It can get a little tiring.

• I love it when Sam tells Al to find Billie Jean in the future and ask

• Sam says that abortion is no longer an option. Obviously, that’s because he’s there and is not (as far as he knows) carrying an actual baby. But Willis of course just assumes it’s because of how late into the pregnancy she is. Sadly (I’d say) this is not such a straight-forward thing to say today.

• More good lines from Dotty during the whole effort to get her running. “I told you to get the tire, Effy, not manufacture it.” And after Sam asks why he can’t drive, and then has a contraction: “Because your busy.”

• Billy Jean thinks she’s having her baby on an alien space ship. That’s a funny idea, if it wasn’t sad how terrified she’d be. But then it’s a funny connecting point when Sam leaps into an odd looking spaceship type situation a few moments later.

• The ending theme music is replaced by a twangy country song.

Sam Leaps To
Future Boy

Favorite Dialogue
I love it when Sam’s response when Al says he shouldn’t bother talking to the baby’s father, both for the logic of his dialogue’s implications, and for how effectively it makes Sam’s argument.

If you think I’m going about this wrong, give me a better idea, or better yet, ask Billy Jean. But not the terrified 16-year-old in the waiting room. Find Billy Jean, the woman. The one who spent her whole life looking for her only child, and ask her what she wants me to do.

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

The Best Moment
It’s not hard to look past the last couple of minutes of the story. Everything has been building to Sam trying to get away before Billie Jean goes into full labor. So when the show finally goes there, and it looks like Sam is going to somehow give birth to a baby, we are right there in the midst of the drama. It’s tense and funny and a bit shocking, and serves as a great conclusion to a strong episode, as Sam literally seems to “push!” his way into his next leap.

Previous Episode: Runaway Next Episode: Future Boy


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