After a few weeks of really heavy material – between demonic possession and dead mother trauma – Quantum Leap 1×08 “Stand By Ben” lightens things up a bit. You know, with child abuse. Yeah…the show has really tackled some tough stuff lately. The subject matter this week was rough, but at least…the audience…didn’t see it? For the most part? I’m really trying here.
Not for the first time, Ben’s Leap of the Week became a way to highlight and explore a deeper issue. A couple weeks ago, the leap helped to explore Ben’s traumatic past. This week, Ben’s leap was all about friendship. Being there for each other through thick and thin. Making sacrifices for each other, honoring that sacrifice, but not leaving a friend behind. Forming the kind of unbreakable bonds that makes “friends forever” a promise and not just a catchphrase.
It was a theme that carried into the present storyline. Maybe not as overtly as shows sometimes do. It resisted the urge to point a flashing neon light at the team with a glowing, “This is also talking about them!” But make no mistake about it. The Quantum Project team (can we get a catchy name for them?) is every bit as much “ride or die” for each other. Which will no doubt be a good thing, given what they’re up against.
And what is it they’re up against, exactly? Janis, a woman who is every bit as clever and capable as Ian and the rest of the team. Not that anyone had better say that within Ian’s earshot. Ian is amazing and wonderful. A precious cinnamon roll that must be protected at all times. And nobody better hurt their feelings. Or not-unsubstantial ego.
The point is, Janis is a force to be reckoned with. She has to be, to be able to outwit an entire team of geniuses, hacking into their security and initiating lockdown procedures to give herself time to make an escape when they are close to catching her. True, there’s a good chance she’s not entirely alone. Ben might have helped her hack into the system before taking his leap. But the fact is, she’s still able to stay one step ahead of them. And that’s pretty impressive.
The Family You Make
Janis may have slipped through their fingers this week, but her interference gave us a chance to get another sorely needed glimpse into Jenn’s background. Of all the members of the team, she’s the one who’s been the most…enigmatic may not be entirely the right word. But it’s been harder to get a fix on her character than Magic and Ian. We still didn’t get a lot. We knew from prior episodes that she has a troubled past, spent some time in jail, and is only part of the team because Magic vouched in her. Now we also know she has a strained relationship with her father.
It was sweet, watching Magic and Jenn bond. However, I had to disagree with Magic’s unequivocal advice to her. While it’s true that forgiveness is a virtue that can be worth the risk, sometimes relationships grow so toxic that we need to keep our distance for our own self-preservation. Not even just for our physical safety but for our emotional well-being. It’s a little overly simplistic to say that it’s always worth the risk, just as much as it would be overly simplistic to say it never is.
Of course, Quantum Leap is a series that focuses on feel-good feelings. It wraps up even huge dilemmas in a nice little bow at the end of each episode. Which means it’s not really a show you turn to when you want to analyze the shades of gray in life. So Magic’s black-and-white view of familial relationships being worth the risk isn’t really that much of a surprise. And because Quantum Leap is the show it is, there’s no doubt that Jenn’s gamble will pay off and her dad won’t crush her again. Eventually, at least. Probably off-screen.
But even if Quantum Leap wasn’t that kind of show, Jenn would still end up okay. Because even if she didn’t have her dad – or any other unnamed family – she has the team. The family we choose can be every bit as important as the one we’re born into. (If not more, for some.) And as we see week after week, the team is very much a family.
Doing It All For You
If fans were afraid we wouldn’t get answers into Ben’s motivations for leaping until the end of the season, those fears can be put to rest. Only eight episodes in, and now we know. Ben leaped to save Addison.
Admit it. You’re a little surprised I waited this long to talk about the ship of the show. Yes, I’m very proud of myself, too.
Anyway, back to Ben and Addison. Okay, sure, we don’t know what he’s saving her from. Yet. Those answers will come in the next episode. (Which is itself a ways away, since Quantum Leap 1×08 “Stand By Ben” is the midseason finale.) But he finally remembered that this was his motivation for leaping in the first place.
Honestly, it makes sense. At least in terms of his motivations. I can completely understand why Ben would take such a risk, if Addison’s life was on the line. It’s still unclear how he discovered she was in danger in the first place. Or why he didn’t tell the team and enlist their help to save her. Not to mention why he didn’t tell her that she was in danger. Or why Janis decided to help him on his quest, other than perhaps because she wanted to be a part of her dad’s project for so long. But Ben doing everything in his power to save the woman he loves? Even if it means he might never make it home to her?
That I can believe completely.
Quantum Leap airs Mondays on NBC and is available for streaming on the Peacock app.