Quantum Leap – A Single Drop of Rain [4.9]

Sam becomes Billy Beaumont, a self-proclaimed “rainmaker” who has returned to his own drought-stricken hometown for the first time in eight years. He at first resists giving people promises but is soon swept up in the mood of jubilant optimism over the prospect of rain. At the same time, he is contending with the fact that his ex-girlfriend, who is now married to his brother, is still in love with him. Sam forces a situation where Billy’s brother Ralph is forced to fight him for his wife, showing her that Ralph genuinely loves her. Miraculously, after all of this, it starts to rain.

Teleplay by Richard C. Okie. Story by Donald P. Bellisario, Richard C. Okie and Ralph Meyering jr. Directed by Virgil W. Vogel.

Previous Episode: Dreams Next Episode:  Unchained

Comments:
A Single Drop of Rain is an episode with some fun scenes, decent performances, and an interesting story set-up. But it tries to go in a number of different directions at once and doesn’t really pull it together well enough to be satisfying at the end.

On one hand, you’ve got sequences with a whole Music Man vibe, where first Sam’s assistant Clinton and then Sam himself sell their service in a such a lyrical manner that you wonder if they’re going to break out into full song as they’re doing it. Al even yells out an exuberant “Hallelujah!” in the midst of it. Clinton and Sam’s whole snake-oil salesman approach is also reminiscent of the film Leap of Faith which has almost the exact same plot as this episode.

On the other hand you have the drama between Sam and his host’s family, Ralph and Annie Beaumont. Here, the story is about the love triangle Sam finds himself in the midst of, which is eventually broken when Sam goads his “brother” into getting so angry that he admits how much he is in love with Annie, even though she has never really cared for him in the same way. This finally awakens the love Annie has for her husband in response. It’s a decent enough scene, but it’s a bit contrived and doesn’t really do Annie any favors as a character that this display is enough to make her change her whole life’s direction.

And of course, when this personal problem is solved, it starts to rain. How this comes about is never explained. Sam has been seeding the clouds of course, but then so did Billy in the original history. Even if Sam’s “seeding mixture” was different than Billy’s, Al had just announced there there was no change in the rain situation shortly before Sam’s fight with Ralph. So it’s clearly implied to be a supernatural event–God or Time or Fate or whatever is apparently giving Sam a break.

Without any sort of logical explanation for what is happening, the story needs to set up the thematic relevance of such an occurrence to make it work as part of the story, and A Single Drop of Rain just doesn’t fully pull that off. There’s not enough of a connection between Ralph and Annie’s marriage and the drought that the community is suffering to make a tie-in between the two at the climax feel meaningful. Alternatively, the episode could have worked at exploring the idea of having faith for a miracle (which is what Leap of Faith did fairly well), but it didn’t really spend much time there either.

Instead, the rainfall just seems kind of arbitrary. And therefore, in spite of some enjoyable material throughout the episode, it is unsatisfying.

Cast Notes:
• Patrick Massett (Ralph Beaumont), who also appeared way back in The Americanization of Machiko, was Duras for a couple of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was also, interestingly enough, a screenwriter on 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

• R. G. Armstrong (Davison) has had lots of roles, including Pruneface in 1990’s Dick Tracy, and as the antique dealer who causes all the problems in Friday the 13th: the Series.

• Anne Haney (Grace Beaumont) was also in 8 1/2 Months, and appeared in Star Trek: the Next Generation in the episode The Survivors as Rishon Uxbridge, as well as in the Deep Space Nine called Dax. She was Jim Carrey’s secretary in Liar Liar and had a recurring role on LA Law as a judge.

• Hal Landon (Norm) played a Romulan named Neral in the Deep Space Nine episode Inter Arna Enim Silent Leges, who I have just realized also appeared in the Next Generation two-parter Unification, but played by a different actor. His first credited role is as Pencil Machine Operator in David Lynch’s surrealist Eraserhead.

• Virgil W. Vogel, who directed this episode, worked as an editor through the 40’s and the 50’s, including on the Orson Welles classic, A Touch of Evil.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Billy Beaumont, a self-proclaimed rainmaker who is really a self-admitted con-man, in Clover Bend, Texas, September 8-9, 1953.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to make it rain, so he thinks. But it seems like he’s really there to prevent Annie Beaumont from running off her with her husband’s brother Billy. When he accomplishes this, it starts to rain also.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam used to eat chicken like what Annie made. He mentions growing up on a farm, and therefore living and dying by the rain, and how desperate it made people feel.

What do we know about Al?
Nothing new.

What about the experiment?
Nothing new.

“Driven by an unknown force…” (God or Time or Something)
Sam prays for dinner, but then more significantly has a prayer monologue with God when he’s on his own about how desperate he is: “I don’t know who’s running this show. I don’t know why I was chosen. I bounce around from place to place. I do everything I’m supposed to do. At least the best way I can. But I don’t know how to do this one. I mean, you gotta help me. I figure you owe me…for a couple of times anyway. You make it rain. You hear me? You make it rain!”

“Oh Boy”
There is quite a fun “Oh boy,” right at the start, and then another one at the end.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam is pursued by two women in this episode–quite aggressively by his host’s sister-in law (Annie Beaumont) and then more flirtatiously by townswoman Velma Walters. In neither case does Sam reciprocate.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al talks about having to put the movies on a secretary at MIT in order to get Sam the information he needs about seeding clouds.

Other Observations
• There are some fun images of Al just walking through stuff when he first appears.

• Family dinner is an extremely awkward time for Sam: “Yeah, I guess you miss a lot when you drop out of touch with your family, huh?”

• Many episode’s have dialogue that Sam engages in which have a double meaning. In this episode, someone says to him, “I bet you’ve seen a lot,” referring to Billy’s traveling. Sam replies, obviously referring to his own leaping, “You can say that, yeah.”

• Al refers to the fact that this isn’t the first time Sam has leapt into a criminal. Specifically, I can remember the episode Her Charm when he was a corrupt police officer trying to kill a court witness.

• The episode refers to Vincent Schaefer, who was a real chemist who conducted cloud-seeding experiments in November 1946 to some success.

• I like Al’s line when Sam suggests making it rain: “Sam…We can change history, we can change people, but the weather? That’s the leap of another color. I mean, that’s…No, that’s a horse of another kettle. No. I mean, I me…I don’t know what I mean.”

• The guy’s response to Sam’s suggestion of putting in a ramp for his wheelchair is pretty funny: “Oh, no. If I tip over I’ll just ‘beller’ a bit. Somebody’ll come.”

• The relationship between Sam and his “brother” is just miserable. Sam talks about how it feels good to be working, and Ralph responds, “Must be the novelty.”

• And then more seriously, Ralph says, “The drought’s dried up a lot more than soil around here, Billy. It’s dried up a lot of soul, most of ’em. And it ain’t gonna take a whole lot of your hot air to blow us all away.”

• The scene where Al is advising Sam as he puts together his rain seeding mixture is pretty funny.

• Al talks about not having seen a meal like the one in front of him since they passed the Cholesterol Control Act, which best as I can determine is not a real thing.

• Sam asks, “Why do we even bother?” and Al responds, “‘Cause that’s what we do. We’re… professional botherers,” which is a pretty good summation of their roles on the show.

• Sam leaps into the, basically, The Deiant Ones. Or maybe, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Sam Leaps To
Unchained

Favorite Dialogue
There’s a hilarious line when Sam gets caught out “yelling” at Al (who isn’t even there): “I don’t know where the hell you are, but you better get your butt down here and fast!” Sam’s neighbor replies:

I’m glad you haven’t lost your religion, boy. But you’re gonna have to brush up on your prayers some.

Hilarious.

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

The Best Moment
I’d say it’s when Clinton goes into his spiel to sell Billy’s services as a rainmaker. Carl Anthony Payne II does a great job with the speech, which like I say its really more like a musical number. Scott Bakula does something later on, but by that point we’re all wondering what in the world Sam is diong, so it’s harder to just enjoy.

Previous Episode: Dreams Next Episode:  Unchained

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s