Quantum Leap 1×15 “Ben Song for the Defense” is one of those episodes that you might be tempted to view as “filler.” But I’m skeptical that they’d waste any time, as close as they are to the season finale. Which means this episode is likely setting the stage for future payoff. Even if the fans don’t realize it yet. What groundwork would they be laying? I have my theories.
Addison (Caitlin Bassett) took a back seat as Ben’s (Raymond Lee) personal hologram this episode, for the first time this season. Not to get some much-needed rest or to take a mental health day, after working through some pretty personal stuff in the previous leap. Rather, when Ben finds himself acting as a public defender, Jenn (Nanrisa Lee) steps in to assist him in navigating the justice system. She’s the only member of the team with any experience in the field, after all, having spent some time in jail, where she obtained a law degree.
I say Jenn steps in, but really she’s more-or-less drafted. It certainly isn’t her idea. But she’s a team player. She’s also Ben’s friend. Actually, she’s a lot of things, as long as those things don’t involve personal comfortable delivering pep talks. Though as it turns out, she’s better at supportive pep talks than she thinks. Eventually.
As much as I love Addison (and the Ben/Addison of it all), it was refreshing to see someone else acting as back-seat driver this episode. For one thing, Addison and Jenn definitely have different problem-solving styles. I can’t picture Addison suggesting Ben slip his client’s girlfriend a fifty and telling her to bet on the ponies. (I’m also pretty sure doing so nowadays would break a few rules of legal ethics, though maybe that wasn’t the case in the ’80s, when this episode is set.) Jenn, however, has no compunction against it. And, hey, it gets the job done.
While I appreciated seeing Jenn step a little more into the spotlight this week, I suspect the decision to put her in the “voice in Ben’s ear” role was as much to foreshadow the future than anything. After all, while we don’t know what threat faces Addison (and/or the team) – let alone how it will all play out – there’s at least a chance that Addison won’t be able to stand in the advisor role when everything comes to a head.
Also, if and when Ian (Mason Alexander Park) leaps to the past to warn Ben, they’ll probably need someone in their ear helping them get home. (I assume it’s actually going to be when and not if to avoid a pretty massive paradox.) Addison will be spread too thin to do double-duty. So I suspect this episode also set the stage for someone else to act as co-… I really need an official name for this kind of role. As Ian’s own personal hologram, at any rate. Who would be in that role? Jenn would probably rather chew off her own arm than have to give supportive pep talks every week. Which makes me think maybe Janis (Georgina Reilly) would take over this role. Hm.
Well, it warrants some thought. Janis and Ian work on the same wavelength, so I could see them eventually building the trust that such a leaper/hologram relationship requires. I could also see Jenn having an aneurism at the very thought of trusting her friend’s life to the woman who acted against the team for so long.
I’m on the fence about whether this is foreshadowing, per se. But this episode was somewhat unique in presenting Ben with a dilemma in which “doing the right thing” could actually prevent him from leaping. He’s tasked with helping his client, Camilo (Michael Garza) beat a murder rap. Or at least avoid spending a decade in jail. At a certain point, he’s presented a plea deal that would sentence Camilo to five years in prison. In theory, he could get out sooner (in three years, perhaps) with good behavior. And, according to Ziggy, accepting the deal would allow Ben to leap.
The problem is, of course, that Camilo is innocent. So accepting the deal may make sense from a practical standpoint. It is certainly the safer choice, since going to trial puts a possible life sentence on the table. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do.
As an aside, I appreciated the honest – if somewhat searing – depiction of the justice system in this episode. In particular, the honest approach to the plea bargain dilemma. As well as the recognition about the limitations of public defenders (in big cities, at least), where the amount of time they can afford to spend with each client is a matter of minutes. For even the most well-meaning true-believer of public defenders, it’s daunting and makes zealous advocacy for all an impossibility.
In my experience (having formerly done some work as a defense attorney), there’s also a misconception about why people accept plea bargains. Similar to confessions, many people believe an innocent person would never accept a plea bargain. “Why would you agree to plead guilty and spend time in jail if you were innocent?”
Quantum Leap 1×15 “Ben Song for the Defense” does an excellent job showing why someone would feel they had no choice but to do just that. The quote from A Few Good Men, “It doesn’t matter what I believe. It only matters what I can prove,” might as well be the mantra of defense attorneys. Sometimes, an innocent client can still be faced with a mountain of circumstantial evidence, as Camilo was this episode. Enough circumstantial evidence to overcome reasonable doubt.
Camilo’s situation this episode is sadly not fictional. Or even unique. If faced with the choice between a (wrongful) guilty plea and three-to-five years in prison or a possible life sentence at trial, well…a lot of people would choose the former, as unjust as it is. At least it gives you the chance at getting your life back when you get to the other side.
Back to the episode. Ben chooses to risk the trial, knowing that a guilty verdict would likely trap him in his current leap forever. Preventing him from doing whatever it is he’s trying to do to save Addison. He also decides to roll the dice at trial without a comforting prediction by Ziggy that he’ll succeed.
Is any of this foreshadowing? I have no idea. But, with the fate of Addison – and perhaps all his other friends – on the line, I could definitely see Ben being faced with only a series of bad options. With Ziggy as much at a loss as to the outcome as any of them.
I’m on the edge of my seat to find out what happens next.