Quantum Leap – Permanent Wave [4.5]

Sam leaps into Frank Bianca, a popular hairdresser in 1980’s Beverly Hills. When Frank’s girlfriend’s son Kyle witnesses a drug-related murder, Sam finds himself trying to convince the boy’s mother, Laura, that they have to go to the police. Laura refuses, especially since Kyle’s father was actually killed in retaliation for testifying against another murderer. Nonetheless, Laura and Kyle are fated to be killed over the incident. Sam and Al eventually realize that the police officer Sam has been relating to is the actual murderer, before discovering that one of Frank’s co-workers, a woman named Chloe, is the real force behind the criminal activity. The situation is bleak but Sam and Laura are able to stop Chloe. Frank and Laura get engaged as Sam leaps.

Written by Beverly Bridges. Directed by Scott Bakula.

Previous Episode: JusticeNext Episode: Raped

When you look at the running order of the show, Permanent Wave sits in the middle of a very strange sandwich. Coming as it does between Justice (a story about the Ku Klux Klan) and Raped (an episode I haven’t seen yet, but I can guess is going to be a heavy one), it feels a lot like a lighthearted filling inside some very serious bread.

For Permanent Wave, while not a comedy episode in particular, is largely light-hearted fluff. In spite of the fact that it deals with murder and drugs and the attempted murder of a child, it never makes any serious attempts to dig deep into the characters or the drama of the situation. And that’s fine, not every episode has to or even should, but then there’s usually something else to take its place–like something to laugh at, or some aspect of humanity that Sam is experiencing, or a plot to really sink its teeth into. Permanent Wave has some of all of that, but it never really locks in and goes all the way with any of its elements.

There are nice elements to Sam’s relationship with Kyle which is probably one of the better things about the episode, but the general drama about the family’s life being in danger is somehow not particularly interesting, and Laura’s unwillingness to go to the police after they are shot at seems implausible (although of course she later turns out to be correct!) The twist of Detective Ward’s involvement with the crime is not all that surprising, but the reveal about Chloe is. Her being the big villain is a bit arbitrary and out of nowhere, but it does make for an exciting climax (although Chloe obviously makes a huge tactical mistake when she shoots and kills her accomplice!)

In terms of the humorous “fish out of the water” element that the show is often so good at, certainly more more could have been made with Sam trying to operate as a hairdresser–a skill he presumably doesn’t already possess. There are some hints of this but mostly the episode uses this part of its story to play up the sensual aspects of it, with a variety of beautiful women coming in wanting Sam to pamper them.

The scene where the twins come in starts off kind of funny mainly because of the way that Al’s hologram hops back and forth between them, but it quickly goes beyond into cringeworthy and icky territory. For whatever reason completely divorced from the rest of the episode, Sam decides to lean-in to his lecherous opportunities, all to teach Al a lesson? It seems like he’d have better things to do. And then it goes onto have Al actively spying on them while they are getting changed and then commenting on their looks afterwards. I try to give Al and the show a lot of leeway because of its good nature and the time that it is coming from, but I found this pretty revolting.

It’s not always entirely clear in what ways Sam changed the original timeline–on other words, what Frank originally did? Did he also let Kyle go get candy against his mother’s wishes, thus kicking off all the trouble? Did he also speak to the police and reveal that Kyle had witnessed the murder? I suppose it’s easy enough to come up with explanations for all of that, but it struck me at various points as I was watching the episode.

Cast Notes:
• Scott Bakula is not only the star of the episode (as usual), but he’s also the director! It’s the first of three episodes of the show that he will direct.

• Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Kyle. I first aw him on the sit-com Third Rock from the Sun, which was pretty funny, before going on to star in all sorts of movies such as Ten Things I Hate About You, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, 500 Days of Summer, and of course, the all-time classic GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

• Harry Groener plays Detective Ward. He appeared in a Star Trek The Next Generation episode called Tin Man as Tam Elbrum, in a Voyager episode called Sacred Ground as a Magistrate, and in two Enterprise episodes as a high ranking human named Nathan Samuels.

• Twin sisters Candi and Randi Brough (Elsa & Lisel) have appeared as twins many times, including regularly over a season of BJ and the Bear.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Frank Bianca (whose real name is Maurice Lipschitz), a popular hairstylist, on June 2-3, 1983 in Beverly Hills, California (as well as Lake Arrowhead on June 3rd).

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to save the life of Frank’s girlfriend Laura and her son Kyle from being killed by criminals because Kyle has witnessed a murder. He also, it seems, has to help Frank and Laura get engaged.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Nothing really new here.

What do we know about Al?
Al’s third father-in-law owned a funeral parlor.

What about the experiment?
This isn’t new, but Al mentions to Kyle that if he was a few years younger, he could probably hear him.

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

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is heard at the stat when Sam first hears the gunshots. Al later says it when he learns that Ward, the police officer, is the murderer. And finally, Sam says it at the very end in the teaser for the next episode, Raped.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
There is some canoodling and kissing with Laura, who of course is Sam’s host’s girlfriend. The hairdressing clients get very flirty with Sam, and Sam is pretty flirty right back, particularly with the Von Berg twins.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al refers to a Swedish stewardess named Ulla, as well as an unnamed girl at a car wash that he was with the previous day. Al of course is all excited by the women in the salon, especially the Van Berg sisters, ogling them and apparently spying on them while they are changing. Al says he’s never had his own set of twins…ick.

Other Observations
• The bit where Sam has to give the police his home address is pretty funny, especially since he lives just upstairs!

• The name of the murdered man is Phil Hartman, which sadly was also the name of the famous comedian who was murdered some years later.

• There are some interesting references to previous episodes here. For example, Sam tells Kyle a story about Captain Galaxy and Future Boy and their time machine, which refers to the show Sam watched as a child, and visited the set of in Future Boy.

• Sam covers up saying “Al” with Kyle in a funny way: “Al…good boys have got to go to sleep.’

• Another reference to a previous episode occurs when Sam starts playing up to the twins. Al wonders if part of him is still in Sam, referring to the events of The Leap Back.

• Hey, it’s a Rubik’s cube, which in the episode is apparently a new thing. In real lie, the toy/game/puzzle had been a craze in the USA for a couple of years by this. point.

• There are some funny moments with Al as a hologram. In addition to when he pops back and forth to look at the twins, he terrifies Sam when he pops in at one point. Later, he shrinks down into the ground to look at things from floor level, and then later floats back up again. Later still we see him do his trick of floating off the ground outside the car.

• I didn’t know what “three sheets to the wind” meant–apparently it’s a way of saying you are drunk.

• All the business with Laura at the cabin, running around in the storm and falling over, etc, is pretty darn creepy.

• The ending, with Sam leaping into the hospital and at first thinking he is pregnant again (referencing 8 1/2 Months), before discovering he’s become a rape victim, is really well done.

Sam Leaps To

Favorite Dialogue
There’s not a lot that stands out, but I guess I liked Al’s insult to Ward when he realizes he’s the murderer:

You pimple.

Pretty to the point there Al.

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

The Best Moment
As I said, the build up to the attack on Laura at the cabin is very well done, but I think my favorite is the reveal that she is still alive, bleeding and battered, coming up to an unseeing Chloe in order to save her son. Even though she collapses on the way, she provides the distraction that is necessary for Sam to finish the job.

Previous Episode: Justice • Next Episode: Raped

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