Everyone has those shows that they just look forward to every week because they make them happy. Quantum Leap 1×09 “Fellow Travelers” reminded me why this show is mine. It didn’t hurt that it called forth a common trope of superhero stories, which are some of my favorite types of stories. Granted, it was one of my least forward tropes, but it addressed my problems with the trope. So it’s still a net win.
A Hero’s Dilemma
This week’s episode of Quantum Leap was all about honesty and trust. It’s not enough to just love someone. With love must come enough trust in them to be honest with them. We don’t know what it is Ben (Raymond Lee) is trying to save Addison (Caitlin Bassett) from, exactly. He remembers that he’s doing this to save her, but he doesn’t remember the specifics. However, it’s a pretty safe assumption that he kept the truth from her – choosing to embark on his dangerous quest without informing her ahead of time – out of some misguided wish to “protect” her.
He loves her, so of course he would want to do whatever necessary to keep her safe. But Addison is right to call him out for his method. It’s a common trope – and problem – in superhero stories. (And my experience with superhero fandoms already has me bracing myself for the backlash against Addison for feeling like she should have a say in her own protection.) The hero keeps the one(s) they love in the dark “for their own good.” They continue to do so, even in the face of repeated proof that it doesn’t work. Tobey Maguire‘s Peter Parker keeping Kirsten Dunst‘s Mary Jane Watson in the dark about his superhero identity didn’t stop her from getting kidnapped and imperiled every single film. In Wonder Woman, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) refused to tell Diana (Gal Gadot) the truth about herself because it would somehow bring her to War’s (David Thewlis) attention sooner. So he ended up being, like, the fifth person she happened to meet when she left the island. Maybe knowing the truth about herself would have made him the third, but does it really matter at that point? And any version of Superman can keep any version of Lois Lane in the dark about his identity. But that isn’t going to stop her from hurtling willfully in the path of danger in pursuit of a story.
Ignorance may be bliss, but it isn’t exactly safe. You can’t protect yourself from a threat you don’t see coming. And Addison is hardly a shrinking violet, as Ben well knows. As a military veteran, she at least has some background in self-defense. And as the one who was originally supposed to do the leaping, she presumably is known to have the kind of on-your-toes problem-solving to have served her in that capacity.
If Ben truly did keep Addison in the dark “for her own good” (which, to be fair, we don’t know for certain), I can only commend his intentions. But Addison is right to call him for taking away her ability to choose. Besides, leaping without leaving behind any idea why actually doesn’t do anything to remove her from danger. What if he dies in a leap? Or gets stuck? What if he’s never able to get to the date he’s aiming for? Or if he just never remembers why he has to leap in the first place? In that case, he can only hope Janis (Georgina Reilly) feels like sharing, or Addison will never know the threat against her until it’s too late. And Janis doesn’t really seem like a sharer.
Who Do You Trust?
While Addison grappled with some complicated relationship issues (not to mention continued amnesia), Jenn (Nanrisa Lee) finally made some progress of her own. She finally was able to catch – and capture – Janis. At least, we assume she’s captured. Only time will tell if it’s a case of “I allowed myself to let you think you captured me as part of my master plan.”
Whatever Janis knows, she’s not telling. At least not yet. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t talking at all. She did plant one seed in Jenn’s mind. It’s something the team probably has asked themselves in the past, but they haven’t truly faced it yet. Why would Ben have trusted Janis over literally any other member of the team?
Setting aside the fact he didn’t want to tell Addison for (it seems probable) her own good. He didn’t go to Jenn, Magic (Ernie Hudson), or Ian (Mason Alexander Park). It certainly isn’t because they lacked the necessary skills. I don’t know who’s supposed to be smarter, between Ian and Janis, but it at least has to be a close contest. Janis has no compunction against asking the question the team would rather avoid: Did Ben turn to her for help because he felt he couldn’t trust his team? Could one of them be working toward their own objectives?
I refuse to believe it. Magic is the beloved “father figure” of the group, and the show definitely needs someone like him to keep them focused and moving forward. Jenn had multiple chances to subtly undermine the team’s search for Janis if she was some sort of double agent. Without knowing what Ben – and therefore Janis – knew, it would be reckless at best to risk the team getting through to her. And Ian…look, Ian is a precious cinnamon roll, and I refuse to believe they have ever done anything wrong. They can’t be a secret bad guy. I refuse to believe it. Flatly refuse. If the show even thinks about going in that direction, I will be sending some strongly worded letters.
Of course, the possibility that there’s a secret bad guy on the team isn’t the only question Quantum Leap 1×09 “Fellow Travelers” poses. More importantly…Raymond Lee in tank top or suit?