Sam leaps into Geoffrey “Tonic” Mole, the lead singer of a 1970’s hard rock band, who is fated to be murdered by an unknown assailant in a couple of days. Al has several competing theories about the guilty party. A suspicious fan turns out to be Tonic’s illegitimate son, and a conflict with a bandmate winds up being a red herring. The real culprit is revealed to be the band’s producer, Dwayne, who was worried about being caught embezzling the band’s money. Before he leaps, Sam helps Tonic establish a new relationship with his son, and help kick off his son’s own musical career.
Written by Chris Ruppenthal. Directed by Andy Cadiff.
One of the best things about Quantum Leap is watching Sam arrive into each new situation, having to quickly get his bearings and figure out what’s expected of him. Some of the best of these moments have brought Sam into his new environment while on stage in the middle of a performance. It seems like “God or time or fate or whoever” loves to throw Sam into the deep water this way, and Glitter Rock is another great example of this. Sam is suddenly in the middle of a rock concert with thousands of screaming fans waiting for his performance, and we learn for certain (if we weren’t already) that Sam leaps not only into people’s lives and clothing, but into their makeup as well.
And of course, it’s turning out that a highlight of many episodes is hearing Sam sing. He actually sings a lot on his leaps, and that’s okay because he’s pretty good! So there’s good fun getting to listen to him rock out as Geoffrey “Tonic” Mole.
And even though this is a story about a murder, Glitter Rock is a pretty light-hearted affair. Unlike Southern Comforts or Private Dancer, there’s no real attempt to touch on the seedy underbelly of the world Sam has leapt into. Instead, the parade of eager girls who come into Sam’s life are treated just as something that is amusing to see him dealing with, and the presumed drug-fueled lifestyle of the band (maybe I’m just stereotyping here but I feel like it’s a reasonable one) is never really addressed. But as a rose-colored look at hedonistice rock star life, it’s a pretty successful and fun episode.
A big part of this is thanks to the story’s murder mystery plot. Often Sam progresses through his leap knowing full well what’s going to happen, but just unsure how to prevent it. In this case, it’s not so much a question of how but who and why, with a trio of main suspects being put forward by an enthusiastic Al. The answer, when it comes, is not shocking, but it is satisfying given the clues leading up to the revelation, including the fact that Sam is unable to avoid being at the location of Tonic’s murder–the killer is also the person who determines the band’s movements.
Of course, the heart of things is the relationship between Sam and Tonic’s son Phillip. It’s clever how Sam reaching out to Phillip is what later leads Phillip to shout the warning that saves Sam’s life, neatly tying these story threads together. This all helps to give the episode the emotional grounding it needs to feel meaningful.
It’s interesting to note that even though King Thunder is obviously a fictional band, it’s supposed to be familiar to Al in the episode. Al is indeed well aware of Tonic’s murder on the 14th of April. This makes this the first leap where Sam successfully changes a part of history that Al was already aware of.
• Jon Gries (Flash McGrath) was Roger Linus (father of the complex but villainous Ben Linus) in several episodes of Lost.
• Peter Noone (Dwayne) was the lead singer for the band Herman’s Hermits from 1962-1973.
• Michael Cerveris (Nick) had regular or recurring roles on Fringe, Gotham (as Professor Pyg), and Fame.
• Robert Bauer (Wilder) appeared in a first season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation as a Klingon who has a small part before dying.
Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Geoffrey “Tonic” Mole, the lead singer of King Thunder, a KISS-inspired rock band in Detroit from April 12-14, 1974.
What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to prevent Tonic from being murdered on April 14, 1974, and also it seems help him to make a connection with the son he never knew he had.
What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam knows about Process schizophrenia, and is familiar with John Hinkley jr. and his obsession with Taxi Driver.
What do we know about Al?
What about the experiment?
Nothing new–except that Al again seems to be able to detect the fact that Sam is going to leap a moment before it occurs.
“Driven by an unknown force…” (God or Time or Something)
Al actually shoots up a quick prayer when he is trying to figure out the name of the fan who is following Sam around, and then when the kid tosses his wallet onto a desk open to his ID, he looks up and offers a hurried, thank you.
The catchphrase is heard three times–once at the start and once at the end (as expected), but also in the middle as Sam is trying to deal with Sandy’s aggressive advances against him.
Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Lots of people kiss Sam, or passionately throw themselves at him, including a girl in the audience of his concert, some girls who are waiting for the whole band after the show, and some groupies who make their way into Sam’s room at night. Sandy makes multiple advances at Sam, and a teenager flashes herself before him when he is signing autographs. Sam rebuffs all of these people.
The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al leers at lots of the women in the episode, particularly Sandy, but doesn’t talk about anything from his own life.
• Sam references the events of Private Dancer when he says that his experiences with the girls on this leap are worse than when he was a Chippendale’s dancer.
• Those song lyrics really tie into Sam’s life and his Quantum Leaping: “As I travel in space and time I want to stay, I want to go. You can see my face, but it’s not mine. What you can’t see, you’ll never know”
• There are some good uses of Al’s ability to “center himself” on certain people. He does so with Phillip when he first identifies him, allowing him to figure out who he is. And then later, when he does it at the party, he just moves a few feet which leads to the pretty cool reveal that Phillip is already there.
• At one point, Al says the date is April 23rd, but actually it’s April 13th.
• Cool effect when the rigging falls onto the stage, barely missing Sam but passing right through holographic Al.
• Sam and Al do a variation of the famous “Who’s on First?” routine, but talking about Pete Townshend and The Who: “Who?” “That’s right.” “What is?” “Who” “I don’t know.” “Townshend.” “Who?” “Yeah, that’s right.” etc.
• The episode has an interesting take on the mirror bit, with Sam looking down at his reflection in a table, and seeing his webbed fingers.
• Strangely, the fact that Flash is a suspect because of his apparent jealously of Tonic is just sort of thrown away at the end–it never really gets resolved, especially the fact that Sam is supposed to sing his songs in the final concert.
• Like many episodes in which music plays a big part, the band’s song is played over the ending credits.
Sam Leaps To
A Hunting We Will Go
I guess I’d pick a little exchange between Sam and Al early on in the episode. Al replies to Sam saying he doesn’t remember the band King Thunder:
Well, you were kind of a nerd back then. You wouldn’t know them.
Special thanks, by the way, to this site for the episode transcriptions.
The Best Moment
Scott Bakula does a great job with all the concert scenes, but I think the best moment is the warm interaction between Sam and “his” son at the end. It’s nice stuff.