Quantum Leap – Heart of a Champion [3.20]

Sam leaps into Terry Sammis, a professional wrestler who is just starting out. He tag teams with his brother Ronny, who is fated to die of a heart attack during an upcoming title match. Normally consigned to “playing” bad guys for arranged matches, this title match represents an opportunity for Ronny to honor a promise made to his dead brother, who was also a wrestler. Because of how personally important it is, Sam has a difficult time convincing Ronny not to wrestle. In the end, Sam takes on the opponent by himself, refusing to “tag out” with his brother, and is eventually able to win against a far stronger and more experienced opponent. Thanks to his victory he is able to convince his brother to get checked out with a doctor, ultimately saving his life.

Written by Tommy Thompson. Directed by Joe Napolitano

Previous Episode:  Last Dance Before an Execution • Next Episode:  Nuclear Family

Heart of a Champion is a fun episode of Quantum Leap–fairly light-hearted after the intensity of Last Dance Before an Execution, while still dealing with enough serious themes, like the pressure of family expectations and mortality, to keep it from being just farce. Because there is plenty of farce–much of the episode deals with Sam just being hopelessly outclassed by his wrestling opponents, scrambling to keep one step ahead and taking enormous amounts of punishment in the process.

The world of professional wrestling is a fun environment for a story, giving the opportunity for some cartoonishly silly characters, just like wrestling itself. Certainly, Terry Funk’s Carl is an imposing presence, and along with his insane wife Sherry fulfill what the story needs for villains. They’re extremely silly of course, but are a lot of fun and provide what the story needs for villains.

This is good because the part of the lightness of the episode is the fact that none of the story’s other potential villains are all that bad . The story could have easily limited the wrestlers’ mother to being one-note in her selfishness, and indeed that’s where it seems to be going at first. But instead she develops into a more sympathetic figure, blelievably waking up to the concern for her son’s health and well-being. The episode could have also made a bigger deal of the pressure that Lamar puts on the brothers to throw the match, but this is just sort of glossed over and thus Lamar is not really positioned as that much of a “threat”.

Sam’s ultimate victory in the final big wrestling match is a little hard to swallow. If there was a way to basically strangle his opponent unconscious, you’d think Sam would have thought of that a lot earlier. By the time he’s been basically beaten up for a continuous hour, it’s hard to imagine he’d still have the strength to pull off the move. Still, Sam had to win and I guess the approach the story took works as well as any other.

In the end, Heart of a Champion isn’t one of the deeper episodes of Quantum Leap, but it’s still good. It’s kind o inconsequential, but satisfying and fun nonetheless.

Cast Notes:
• Angela Paton (Lottie Samis) was in the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager as a human-looking hologram created by the Caretaker.

• Rance Howard (Doc Graves) was David Sheridan (main character John Sheridan’s father) for a few episodes of Babylon 5, as well as a reverend in Apollo 13, an irate famer in Chinatown, and a Feed the Earth spokesperson in Rat Race.

• Susan Isaacs (Myra Sammis) will appear on Quantum Leap again in an episode called The Last Gunfighter, but she was also Marie, the wife of John Candy’s character in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a role that consisted of appearing in a photograph.

• Tim deZarn (Stan) appeared in various episodes of Star Trek the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, including as a mercenary who helps take over the Enterprise but is then killed by Picard in an episode called Starship Mine.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Terry Sammis, a professional wrestler in Atlanta, Georgia, from July 23-24, 1955.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to save his brother Ronny from dying of a heart attack during his title match.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
This isn’t new, but we definitely see Sam’s proficiency with the spin-kick–he takes out multiple opponents this way.

Sam shows his medical knowledge by talking about mitral stenosis, “a narrowing of the valves around the heart,” and also referencing the need for EKG’s, x-rays and catscans as something they need to diagnose Ronny.

What do we know about Al?
Not really anything new this episode.

What about the experiment?
Not really anything new this episode.

“Driven by an unknown force…” (God or Time or Something)
No particular references this episode.

“Oh Boy”
Sam says this twice–once at the start as he’s being spun around overhead, and then at the end as he leaps into one of his most confusing arrivals in someone’s nuclear bunker.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam fends off what seems like multiple attempts by Sherry to seduce him, but it turns out to just the woman just setting him up so her husband will beat him up.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al says that there are women who get pleasure out of seeing men suffer, and that she’s been married to most of them.

Other Observations
• “Prepare to die, Russkie!” This line right at the start really sets the tone for things to come.

• Like I said, Sam’s spin-kicks really are a treat. He wins one of the wrestling matches that way, as well as the bar-fight (before it starts)

• I like it when Al refers to Sherry as “Mrs. Sasquatch here…”

• Sam starts yelling about x-rays, catscans and the like…sometimes he’s really bad at maintaining his cover

• Carl is really funny in this story. He is just acting like a maniac before the fight begins.

• It’s a cool effect when Carl starts beating the tar out of Sam by passing right through Al.

• Considering all the times Sam does a spin kick in this episode, it might have been cool if he had tried that with Carl and it failed. Like Carl caught him and hurtled him into the ropes or something.

• Sam gives into his baser instincts and goes to kick Sherry in the butt!

• Sam’s leap in at the end of this story into Nuclear Family is one of the strangest that we’ve ever had.

• The credits roll this time around to country music.

Sam Leaps To
Nuclear Family

Favorite Dialogue
Some of the showmanship of the wrestlers acting a “Russkies” is pretty funny:

Ronny: We are the two finest acts in the world. We are the fastest, we are the smartest, and we are the strongest! We are champions! These two are impostors!…Tell them, brother, what we’ll do if we ever get them in the ring.

Sam: We will treat them like the capitalist pigs that they are?

Ronny: Ah! That’s right. We shall eat them, eat them like the pigs that they are.

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

The Best Moment
There are a lot of funny momnets, but maybe the craziest is when Carl rips off the door to the locker and then proceeds to smash it over his own head in an effort to intimidate Sam.

Previous Episode:  Last Dance Before an ExecutionNext Episode:  Nuclear Family

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