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This Quantum Leap review contains spoilers.
Quantum Leap Episode 3
Quantum Leap episode 3 has a funny title. In the opening scenes of this installment, our leaper, Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee), says the exact opposite line, “somebody up there must hate me,” when he lands in the body of a middle-weight boxing champ on the eve of his world championship match. Ben is quickly knocked out cold by his sparring partner, a fate which may be justly due to him as the Quantum Leap Project’s team learns more about Ben’s covert activities in the six months leading up to his unauthorized leap into history.
For the first time in Quantum Leap’s existence, a leaper has exceeded the timeline of his lifespan and jumped back to a period before his birth. Team member and Ziggy expert, Ian Wright (Mason Alexander Park), confirms that Ben’s uploaded code removed many of the safety protocols, including the restriction on entering history before the leaper’s birth. Based on time-travel theory, changing history before one’s birth could result in one not being born at all. Not only is Ben risking his life by leaping, but he’s also risking his life by changing history prior to his birthdate.
It appears that Ben is willing to risk everything for a purpose that is still shrouded in mystery to all except one person: Janis Calavicci (Georgina Reilly), the daughter of former hologram helper, Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell). At one time, Janis wanted nothing more than to be a member of the renewed Quantum Leap Project, but she thought team lead Hebert “Magic” Williams (Ernie Hudson) had roadblocked her career only to discover it was her mother’s intervention that kept her off the project. Beth Calavicci (Susan Diol), Al’s wife, witnessed firsthand the heartbreak and turmoil of the original experiment’s loss of Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) to the annals of the time and space void. What mother would want her child to be a part of something so dangerous?
Janis takes her mother’s love and turns it into a flaw worth drugging her mom over and then stealing from her all the items that Beth kept after Al’s death. Granted, Al wasn’t supposed to be in possession of the items, one of which is his famous handheld device that links to Ziggy. Unlike current hologram helper Addison Augustine’s (Caitlin Bassett) Ziggy link, which looks like a palm-sized Simon Says game, Al’s Ziggy link is inspired by the glorious Gummy Bear. Colorful, see-through, and indestructible, Al’s Ziggy link is now in the wrong hands and has power to interfere in Ben’s leaps in ways that the official Quantum Leap team will not be able to predict or control.
Janis not only has the equipment now, but she also reveals the lengths to which she is willing to go to achieve her desired end as evidenced by her actions against her own mother. When the team learns more about Ben’s lies and covert choices in the six months leading up to his unauthorized leap, they also begin to understand that Ben must’ve been duped into collusion with Janis. While Janis grows more nefarious every episode, Ben reveals his true nature time and again. Ben is an empathetic negotiator and seeks the good in people. Even if the holes in his Swiss Cheese Memory were miraculously filled, it’s possible that Ben wouldn’t know the real reason behind his partnership with Janis, and it is only Janis who holds that truth.
Already Janis is impacting the team’s success in connecting with Ben. Through the thumb drive that Ben was hiding in his bookshelf and that Addison recovered from their shared home, a bug is injected into Ziggy that causes it to slow down and miss important information, leaving Addison and Ben to figure out things on the fly and without all the data and statistical probability that Ziggy uses to help determine the leaper’s best path forward. So far, Janis is always one step ahead of the Quantum Leap Project’s team of military and civilian tech and time-travel experts.
The balance of each episode’s vacillation between the story happening to Ben in the past and the story taking place in the present is unfamiliar territory in the Quantum Leap canon. Much concern, and even consternation, has been raised by modern day fans about the whiplash caused by a focus on the present in this sequel. While it still feels strange to see the present so completely in the new Quantum Leap, and stranger still that certain canonical devices of the present are absent (such as the Waiting Room where leapt-into-bodies were held in the original series until they could return to their time and place), it’s certain that there would be no Janis in this story without the present-day focus. And if there is no Janis, then there is no link to Al Calavicci in this revival of Quantum Leap.
I am willing to suspend all disbelief and concern about this past-to-present conundrum if it means that Al can live on in this story to help one more time from the great beyond to put right what is going wrong. Even if it is his own flesh and blood, whose birth wouldn’t have been possible if the original series had ended in any other way than it did, who is causing so much trouble. Gummy Bear Ziggy is back, though in bad hands…for now.
Quantum Leap airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. The sequel’s episodes, as well as all five seasons of the original show, are available to stream on Peacock.