Quantum Leap – Unchained [4.10]

Sam leaps into a prisoner on a chain gang, Chance Clarence Cole, who attempts to escape while handcuffed to fellow prisoner Jaspar Boone. To save Jaspar’s life, Sam allows them to be recaptured, but finds that they are both victims of horrible abuse by the prison guards and warden. When Sam and Jaspar realize that one of the guards is actually responsible for the crimes that Jaspar is jailed for (and willing to kill to keep the secret) they have to escape once more.

Written by Paris Qualles. Directed by Michael Watkins.

Previous Episode: A Single Drop of RainNext Episode:  The Play’s the Thing

Unchained is a mostly solid piece of work as a Quantum Leap episode, thanks to a great sense of setting (the Mississippi wilderness) and a couple of solid performances from Scott Bakula and guest star Basil Wallace. Wallace does a great ob playing Jaspar as a man on the edge–broken and wounded but somehow still holding on to hope. And Sam’s physical and emotional suffering. He starts off as he normally does–scared and confused but looking for the solution, the action that will allow him to leap. But by the middle, he is changed man. There’s no more scenarios to run–they just have to escape, or they are going to die.

There is a plot going on that forms the backdrop for all this, with Jaspar being innocent and the true criminal being part of the prison system, but really it’s just an excuse to allow the good guys of the show to be prisoners. This way neither Sam nor the audience have to feel uncomfortable at all trying to escape, and we can get on with the episode.

The episode plays slightly with some of the science fiction conceits of the show. First of all, there is the way that Sam actually tells Jaspar about Al–not that he is from the future, but that he has an invisible friend who is following them around helping them when he can. It’s just another indication of how at his wit’s end Sam is, but it results in some cute exchanges between the episodes main characters.

Another interesting bit is the way that Al is used a couple of times to distract the dogs that are tracking Sam and Jaspar. This is not the first time that it has been established that animals can see Al, but the casual way it is brought up shows how familiar the characters (and presumably the audience) are with the concept. More unusually, Al can apparently smell a skunk in the story! Now, this is just a joke, of course, but it does seem like the sort of thing one could build some fan-theories off of. If Al can smell an animal, can the animal smell him as well?

Cast Notes:
• Basil Wallace (Jaspar Boone) played a Klingon Guard in Reunion, an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, in one of his early roles.

• Robert V. Barron (Old Convict) played Abraham Lincoln in the original Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. He also played Lincoln at least three other times.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Chance Clarence Cole, a petty thief doing time in a chain gang in Talawaga County, Mississippi, from November 2-4, 1956.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to help both himself and his fellow inmate, Jaspar Boone, escape prison, as well as to prevent Boone from being killed. As a side benefit, Sam’s actions also lead to the death of the murderous prison guard Boss Cooley.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Nothing in particular here.

What do we know about Al?
Al references Madonna and says he cannot sing. When he is distracting the dogs he says he should have worn his cross-training shoes.

What about the experiment?
As mentioned, the fact that Al can be seen by animals comes into play a lot. And at one point Al can apparently smell a skunk on Sam!

“Driven by an unknown force…” (God or Time or Something)
Sam says a prayerful “Thank you” to God after he leaps into a bed at the end of the episode–but really that’s part of the next story.

“Oh Boy”
Sam says it three times–first right after he arrives and he and Boone make their escape, and then again as they are being captured again. Finally, he says it at the end as he leaps into the next episod and finds himself in bed with someone.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Evidently the next episode is going to feature this prominently, but here there is nothing.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
No particular references this time around.

Other Observations
• Jaspar catches a fish with his bare hands! Pretty impressive.

• Sam and Jaspar are heading to Louisiana…does it really work if you are an escaped criminal and you just get outside of your state? Does everyone just leave you alone at that point?

• Sam’s mirror image doesn’t show up until about 12 minutes into the episode, which is a lot later than usual.

• The scene where they throw Boone into the pit is pretty intense

• Al doesn’t see police guards sneaking up on Sam soon enough to worn him–that’s a bit useless

• Cute how Al floats along outside Sam as he is let out of the pit.

• Good stuff when Jaspar asks Sam if Al likes snow, and then starts talking about the Rockies. “Maybe find me someplace with a lot of space, not too many people around, you know, settle down. You and Al could come visit.”

• By the end of this story, both Giles and Cooley are dead–neither of them died at the same time in the original history.

• Fun voice over at the end as Sam arrives in his new leap: “Quantum leaping through time,
I’ve leapt into an electric chair, gunfights and a variety of handcuffs. It looks like
I finally rated a cushy time.”

• Hey, director Michael Watkins was also the episode’s Director of Photography!

Sam Leaps To
The Play’s the Thing

Favorite Dialogue
Jaspar has lots of the best lines. For example…

I was born outside. I was raised outside. And for two months now, they had me…chained up and shut in. But not anymore. Not anymore.

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

The Best Moment
Jaspar coming back a moment after his escape to tell Sam to thank Al for his help. It’s sweet.

Previous Episode: A Single Drop of RainNext Episode:  The Play’s the Thing

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