Quantum Leap (1991) – Justice and Permanent Wave

Sam (Scott Bakula) is less than happy to find where he has leaped to in Justice. Penned by Toni Graphia and with an original airdate of 9 October, 1991, Sam is Clyde, and he’s just been inducted into the Klu Klux Klan – people who stand for everything Sam’s family taught him to fight.

It’s 11 May, 1965, and racism and hatred is everywhere.

Al (Dean Stockwell) shows up as quick as he can, because he knows Sam isn’t going to be in the best shape. Sam struggles to understand what’s going on, and change the hate that has been taught to those around him, including Clyde’s wife, Lily (Lisa Waltz) and son, Cody (Jacob Gelman).

He learns that he’s a lawyer and is there to make sure that a civil rights worker, Nathaniel (Michael Beach) is lynched, for trying to get African-Americans registered to vote.

This is a strong episode, a heart-rending episode, and sadly, more relevant now than ever before. It’s a tough episode for Sam, and the viewer, because it shows how prevalent racism is/was and that people are taught to hate because someone looks different.

To prove his point, Sam puts his own life at risk, putting his own neck through a noose.

The episode also speaks to the incredible bravery that civil rights workers demonstrated. They risked everything, fighting for what they know, what we KNOW is right, against cowardly men who hide their faces, and commit atrocities to feel powerful in their small lives.

Thankfully Sam saves Nathaniel, and perhaps changes things for Clyde’s family and leaps.

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Permanent Wave sees Sam leap into Frank Bianca, a hairdresser on 2 June, 1983. Written by Beverly Bridges, this episode aired on 16 October, 1991 and featured a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

As Frank, Sam is there to save the life of young Kyle (Gordon-Levitt) who is the witness to a murder when he sees a pharmacist at the shop next to the salon killed. Frank lives with Laura (Doran Clark) and Kyle. Sam, as Frank hopes to keep them both safe and alive, if only he can convince Laura to let Kyle talk to the police detective, and get the tight man arrested.

There are some strong things going for the episode. It’s directed by Bakula (the first of three he did), and that had to be tough directing and performing at the same time.  A show that as the lead he is in every scene of. There’s also Harry Groener, a wonderful character actor who is saddled with a terrible moustache in this episode. He plays  the police detective, Ward, working the case.

When Sam pushes to get Kyle to talk to the detective, Laura takes Kyle and flees, and Sam has to catch up to them before the killer finds them.

The downside to the episode is that it plays a little light, especially coming on the heels of such a strong episode, and is going to be followed by an equally powerful story next week (and also the car sequences with rear screen projection aren’t the best).

There is a wonderful callback to a previous episode as Kyle and Sam play Captain Galaxy and Future Boy, and at one point, while Kyle is toying with a Rubik’s Cube, there is an episode of Magnum on.

Next time, Sam leaps into a terrible situation when he learns in the opening sequence, that he is a she (again) and was just raped…

Oh, boy.

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