Season 2 comes to a poignant end this week, with one of the most important stories in the Quantum Leap universe.
M.I.A. was written by Bellisario and aired 9 May, 1990. Al (Dean Stockwell) isn’t telling Sam (Scott Bakula) why he’s really leaped into the body of undercover police officer Jake Rawlins on 1 April, 1969. Instead he insists that he is there to tell a young woman, Beth (Susan Diol), that her husband, who is M.I.A. in Vietnam is alive, and that he’s coming home.
Sam isn’t so sure. He thinks he’s there to help out with his partner, detective Skaggs (Jason Beghe), a Vietnam vet. It seems a couple of thugs they busted, Tequila (Pat Skipper) and Boner (William Shockley), have the cop in their sights.
Al, however, is desperate for him to set this right, especially before Beth falls for, and marries another man, Dirk Simon (Norman Large). At Al’s urging Sam keeps interfering with Beth’s life hoping to keep her hope alive, but he feels like there’s something wrong Al’s plan as Beth and Dirk keep finding their way to one another.
The revelation for Sam of who Beth is, the use of Ray Charles’ Georgia On My Mind, and the performances (Stockwell is nothing short of amazing) make this one a beautiful heartbreak, and a guaranteed weeper.
It’s heart-rending, the story is so well written, and watching Scott and Dean together, especially as Al confides in Sam, is so fantastically beautiful. They know they can’t change things for their own good, no matter how much they want it.
Get the tissues… because that last scene…
Season 3 opens, and keeps tugging at the emotions as well, with The Leap Home: Part 1. The shoe is on the other foot this episode, Sam leaps into his teenage self, and sees the chance to change things for the better for his family.
This one was also penned by Bellisario, and aired on 28 September, 1990.
It’s 25 November, 1969, and Sam is in Elk Ridge, Indiana on the Beckett farm. He gets to see his entire family, and some of his mother, Thelma’s (Caroline Kava), home cooking. Sam realizes he has a chance to save his father, John (also Bakula) from having a heart attack, to try to save his brother, Tom’s (David Newsom) life in Vietnam by getting a promise from him, and warning his younger sister, Katie (Olivia Burnette) from marrying an abusive alcoholic just to get off the family farm.
Al tries to keep him on track by keeping him focused on the mission at hand, winning a basketball championship.
Much like Al dancing with Beth became an iconic image of the series, this episode contains another one of those moments… When Katie doesn’t believe Sam about the future, she asks him to prove it, and he sings John Lennon’s Imagine, reducing Katie to tears about the fate of her brother, and the future.
Sam has to make a tough decision, and it nearly wrecks him, and certainly does the viewer (me), until he leaps at the end of the episode, and finds himself in Vietnam, serving with his brother…