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Quantum Leap 111: Hedging Tomorrow
There’s been a lot said about how this first season of the Quantum Leap continuation bears more resemblance to the fifth season of the original show – on other words, a little gimmicky. In some episodes, it’s worked fine, in others, not so much. Thankfully tonight’s episode skews much more on the positive side.
Before I really get into the meat of the episode, let’s address what I imagine will be one of the sticking points for many viewers who prefer their fiction more sciency. Yes, the writers for this episode tend to gloss over a lot of the pseudo science of what is potentially happening to erstwhile leaper Ben Song in this episode. And there are others who would shout back – it’s time travel, we’re already stuck in pseudo science. And I hear you. Both of you.
As I’ve said before, I (and most of my genre-happy friends) are okay with twisting things a little outside of the accepted norm for ‘true’ science, as long as the show adheres to the rules they set up. After all, Galileo, Aristotle and Newton all had concepts of physics and relativity based on their observations that were accepted for generations until Einstein obliterated them.
There could be some concept of space and time that goes outside of Einstein’s theories, delves into quantum mechanics and does make some sort of time travel possible. Maybe Samuel Beckett discovered it, etc., and maybe that variation of modified string theory allows for time loops – or causality loops, which is what Ben is leaping forward for. And, sure, maybe Janis Calavicci is the foremost expert on such things.
Or maybe storytellers lately are super fascinated with Groundhog Day. After all, we’ve had Palm Springs, 2 Happy Death Days, Boss Level, Map of Tiny Perfect Things, even Sharknado experimented with it, and of course, the ahem, pseudo namesake of this episode, Edge of Tomorrow (Live, Die, Repeat). Going back even farther, you have 12:01 PM and Le 15 Mai (1969).
Either way, the conceit makes for a fun episode – which is where I’m going to personally extend a lot of grace. 1. The episode didn’t break any of its established rules, from either series, 2. It makes for a rambunctious, exciting ride, and 3. It has echoes of the original show (‘Lee Harvey Oswald,’ ‘Trilogy’), while doing something new, within the rules. And the ultimate reveal of what’s happening only heightens the tension and adventure.
Now, how about that episode?
A Leap in Time
First, Robert Picardo. Our favorite doctor – look it up, he’s played like 10 of them, not just on Star Trek and China Beach – is, ahem, a doctor of nuclear physics, about to host the test of a now forgotten nuclear power plant that he hopes will bring clean energy to the world – and maybe lead to flying cars.
He’s accompanied by his bespectacled assistant, a Colonel, a janitor with his head in the clouds and a reporter hoping for a career making investigative scoop.
Ben’s initial leap puts him in the Colonel’s seat, and feeling at home for once, among a world he understands. Only one problem. As Ziggy quickly brings to light through Jenn, Doctor Woolsey’s about to die – as is everyone in the room.
Even before we hit the first commercial break, the reactor starts overheating, then goes critical, and everyone at the project watches Ben’s life signs flatline.
After a very brief moment of emotional turmoil from Addison, Magic notices that Ben’s brain reconnects – he’s resurrected, at least temporarily.
We get a moment of wonder from the gang back home, then cut back to the elevator where we started. Only this time, Ben’s in Eugene, the doctor’s assistant. Cue opening credits.
After the commercial, everyone’s bombarding Ian with questions, he shushes them and explains, “Obviously we are dealing with a time loop.” To which Jenn responds with what has to be the best line of the season so far – “Obviously?!?”
A Time Loop
Ian continues, explaining how a time loop is highly, highly improbable (something Ben repeats later), comparing it to being struck by lightning twice. “Except the funny thing is, once you’re struck by lightning, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning again.” I’m going to assume he means once you’re in the time loop you’re more likely to repeat in the loop and not waste time explaining first-grade coin flip probability.
Thankfully, the team has the foremost expert on time loops already in the building – Janis. She apparently did her doctoral thesis on time loops. Magic tries to convince Janis to help, which she refuses, until he points out her own causal probabilities.
Piece by piece, mini leap by mini leap, Ben and Addison put together the pieces as he makes his journey through the five people in the facility – while back at home, the team tries to work together with the person they’ve been fighting all season.
During one heated exchange, Ian drops a quiet little bombshell about how Ziggy works – now. I say ‘now,’ because I’m pretty sure if I went back through, episode by episode of the classic show (which I’d love to do, but not in time for this review), I’d find evidence that she did not “selflessly calculate probability outcomes,” based on what the leaper sees. Sure, she was fallible, but… anyway, it’s a minor point, given our current version of Ziggy.
The Die Is Cast
Regardless, now Ziggy knows someone in the elevator triggered the bomb. And, of course, every guess that Ben puts forward is either wrong or unable to be tested, based on whose body he’s in now.
We get the revelation that it was Beth who came to Magic and asked him to kick Janis off the team. Interesting…
Ziggy processes some more data and Janis realizes that it’s not a time loop, it’s a finite series of leaps that will end when Ben runs out of bodies to leap into. Addison goes to explain to Ben…
Then Ben has a revelation.
By the way, kudos to Margarita Matthews for the on-point movie references for Ben throughout. And this one is Rashōmon (羅生門). For the uninitiated, Rashōmon is a 1950s Japanese language film by Akira Kurosawa, wherein the same story is told repeatedly, from different perspectives, all coming together to give the viewer a clearer picture. The movie itself is excellent, but the term ‘Rashomon’ now refers to any story told in that manner, aka, three sides to every story. Or in this case five.
As Ben’s putting the final pieces together, the team back home has a huge debate about how to save him – against everyone’s expectations, Magic sides with Janis, announcing that they will let Ben finish the leap.
And once again – the writers do a fantastic job of having the two halves of the leap look at the same theme (albeit a little on the nose in this one). In this case, are we truly heroes, doing the right thing? Or are we the villain, even unknowingly?
Finally, Ben leaps — somewhere. For the first time this season, we don’t see where.
Finally, in the episode denouement, we have one final revelation – Janis agrees to tell Addison the name of the person who first told Ben he needed to leap…
And we’ll save that for next time.
Rating: 7/10 SPECS
New episodes of Quantum Leap air Mondays at 10pm on NBC and stream the following day on Peacock.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Paul Rose Jr has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for InfuzeMag and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing or editing on Wealth of Geeks, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.