Some episodes of television just make you want to scream in a combination of excitement, appreciation, and mystery-induced frustration. Quantum Leap 1×11 “Leap, Die, Repeat” was exactly that kind of episode. In fact, if you’ll excuse me for a moment…
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the review.
Try, Try Again
Quantum Leap is all about second chances. After all, isn’t “giving Ben a second chance to set things right” what happens every leap? This week’s episode gives him more than one “second” shot: he gets five, to be precise. Which is a good reminder not to squander whatever second chances we’re given in life. Granted, we don’t usually get a time-traveling assist. But when we are given a second chance in life – whatever form those chances take – we can’t afford to squander them.
Not that Ben is the type to squander anything. Including an unexpected closed time loop. As it turns out, in this week’s journey, he’s supposed to stop an explosion at a nuclear power plant. After his first attempt results in failure, he finds himself back on the elevator with a second second chance. At first, the team believes he’s in a time loop and has a possibly infinite number of chances to get it right. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Only to realize that his chances are significantly more limited. He can only leap into each person once, so he only has as many chances as there are people in the elevator. Which is to say five.
And, look, all of that is fascinating. As is the fact that the first thing I thought when I saw him in front of the nuclear reactor was that Quantum Leap was about to cross over with Stargate. (For the record, I would have no complaints about this happening. I’m willing to go wherever this show takes me.) But there’s something more important to talk about here.
Ben died. Ben. Died. And I knew it wouldn’t last, of course. Not just because I’d seen episode previews or the episode title, but because the show isn’t going to permanently kill off their main character seven minutes in. But that didn’t stop me from tearing up. This cast is just that good. Jenn’s disbelief. Magic’s impotent rage. Ian’s grief. And Addison’s slow collapse into a heart-wrenching scream. All played so perfectly. I was a little mad at Ben for putting them all through that, and the poor man died.
There are real consequences to what they’re doing. For the people they help. For Addison (apparently) in the future. And for Ben. As much as they think they know – both from what they learned from the former project and their experiences to-date in this one – there’s still so much that’s a mystery to them. Time-loops are probably only scratching the surface of unknown variables that they could encounter on this journey.
Which is why it’s so important to remember that, whatever future Ben is trying to prevent, he’s only likely to get one shot. As are they all.
I also feel like it’s worth noting that, whether or not the show focused on this, Ben actually died repeatedly this episode. (I mean, it’s right there in the title.) Which means Addison watched him die repeatedly. Even though she assumed after the first time that time would “reset” and he would be fine, I can’t imagine that would be easy, to repeatedly watch the death of the person you love most. Considering her later confession that Ben has been something of a “ghost” to her since he made his first leap?
That stings, show. Ouch. You didn’t have to hurt us like that.
All of that brings me to the thing that had me screaming this episode, to the point the show runners would probably ask me to go lie down for a while if they could have heard me. (Warning: there’s rampant speculation ahead. I have no spoilers, but if you don’t enjoy a heavy dose of fan theorizing with your television consumption, turn back now.)
You know how sometimes in television (or movies), there’s a conversation that you can just tell is Significant. Capitalization intended. The kind of conversation that somehow – in writing and tone and delivery – is the narrative equivalent of the writers shining a flashing neon light on the screen. This is going to be Important, but no, we’re not going to tell you why. You watch it just knowing it’ll all make sense in the future and you’ll look back at this moment and think, “Oh, you clever bastards.”
Enter the final conversation between Jenn and Magic. If this doesn’t turn out to be one of the most Significant conversations in the entire first season, I’m gonna need to be left alone for a little while so I can process my disappointment. I don’t normally do this in reviews, but this conversation seemed Significant enough to pull out just a few specific lines that had me screaming “What does it meeeeean?”
- “I’m glad Janis proved not to be the villain you thought her to be.” Foreshadowing much, Magic? I don’t believe she’s ultimately going to be a villain either.
- “I’m trying to picture what it would be like…if Janis was one of us the whole time.” Mic. Drop.
- “It’s too bad we don’t get to go back and try again, huh?” AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Is that what the show has been building to this whole time????????? That, in the end, Ben will jump into their own past and change something that rewrites the whole course of the first season?
My first thought was no. I don’t know of too many shows that make the choice to basically tell the audience, “Nothing you saw this season mattered.” I mean…not since we found out J.R.’s death with a dream.
But what if it already happened? What if Ben in a future episode jumps into Magic of the past, and we discover that the Magic we’ve been seeing all season has been a Magic who was already given a necessary nudge to make things right with Janis? That would presumably require Janis to have been playing along this whole time, as well, but that doesn’t seem like a stretch to me. Since Magic was once taken over by Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula), it would also mean leapers jump in and out of him like he’s Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost. And I don’t know if that’s possible.
Of course, there’s nothing that says, even if it’s revealed Ben (in the future) jumps into one of the team members (in the past), he would have to leap into Magic. However, Magic makes the most sense. He’s been incredibly trusting and forgiving this season, all things considered. Although he’s supposed to be in charge of the team, Jenn’s consistently been more suspicious and less ready to forgive. Particularly of Janis. Also, if Jenn has secretly been on the team all along, Magic is really the only one who could pull those necessary strings without anyone knowing.
After watching Quantum Leap 1×11 “Leap, Die, Repeat,” I feel like I have to rewatch every episode of the season so far, looking for hidden meaning behind everything Magic says. (And does, because his look down when Jenn left felt Super Significant.) Just know, show writers…I’m watching you. I’m watching you.
I’d better go lie down now.