Review of Quantum Leap Ep2, “Atlantis”

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Promotional photo for the Quantum Leap episode “Atlantis.”

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Okay, I’ll admit it. The new Quantum Leap show is growing on me. I just watched the second episode Atlantis and it was pretty good. The leap itself was intriguing, but I’ll get to that. The real gem was the secrets everyone was keeping.

Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to know what’s in this episode, stop reading now. You have been warned.

The morning after Ben’s second leap, Ian drops by Ben and Addison’s place and sees it torn apart. Addison said that if Ben kept one secret, he could have kept others. Man, does she feel betrayed. She found a thumb drive but it’s encrypted. Ian may be a computer genius but in a fit of realism, he says that Jenn would be better suited to decrypt it. Addison doesn’t trust the team because she’s afraid Ben’s motives in leaping were bad.

It gets worse when Magic tells Addison not to try to jog Ben’s memory until they find out more. To that end, Magic visits Al’s widow Beth (played by Susan Diol who also played Beth in the original series) trying to get a hold of Janice (Georgina Reilly). She says she hasn’t heard from her in more than a year which everyone pretty much assumes is a lie.

Meanwhile, Ben has leapt into the body of Japanese (corrected from “Korean”) astronaut David Tamara (Tadamori Yagi). It’s March 7, 1998, and the shuttle is carrying the first component of the International Space Station.

As an aside, IIS’s original name was “Freedom,” but given politics, that might have fallen out of favor with the show’s writers or they didn’t do their research.

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Scene from Quantum Leap episode “Genesis” part 2

Oh, I should say the crew was fictional, but there was a tie-in to Sam Beckett’s first leap. As test pilot Tom Stratton, he prevented Tom’s wife Peg from going into premature labor and losing their daughter Samantha. The second-in-command of the shuttle on her first space flight, Samantha Stratton (Carly Pope) is that daughter as an adult.

Ben remembers studying Tamara as a kid because when he was young, he’d emigrated to the U.S. from Korea, too. Addison disobeys Magic telling Ben “they” don’t want his memory to come back. He figures out that he might have leapt for untrustworthy reasons, but if he were at the Project, it would be a decision he’d make, too.

There’s an explosion on the shuttle that damages the payload bay doors forcing them open. During the explosion, Commander Jim Reynolds (José Zúñiga) sustains a head wound, a concussion, and is unconscious leaving Samantha in command. Addison says Ziggy tells her that David dies on this mission when struck by debris during a spacewalk.

Unfortunately, Ben is ordered to go on the spacewalk, jettison the payload, and close the doors. He “forces” the schedule by getting them to agree to forego tests on his suit, gets outside, and get’s emotionally blown away by space. Guided by Addison (who I suppose is guided by Ziggy), Ben accomplishes his tasks, but the space debris is early. Addison gets him to duck and he’s okay. Problem is the debris struck the shuttle’s heat tiles and if they attempt re-entry, everyone dies.

They have only six hours of oxygen left and their long-range communications are out. Sam reasons if they could get to the Russian Mir space station, they could get more oxygen, giving them time to repair the tiles (they have spare parts?) and get home safely.

In the present, Beth calls Janice. Jenn and Magic get Janice’s phone number and address in Pasadena. Problem. As I mentioned last week and as the original show established, the Project is in New Mexico, and even by air, it would take a while to get to California. I guess when you film in (probably) Southern California, Pasadena seems like a more reasonable destination.

Oh, we find out that Janice is a brilliant astrophysicist and that Al must have told her everything about the Project.

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Promotional photo of Quantum Leap episode 2 “Atlantis”

Magic and Jenn find Janice’s place which oddly isn’t locked. They also find a piece of rug carelessly pushed aside leading them to discover a trap door and a secret basement. Really, Janice wanted them to find everything. But if so, why so coy?

They are still concerned that Ben and Janice are involved in a scandal to change the past in unimaginable ways.

Another aside: I’ve been wondering what practical use time travel has, especially this variety where the leaper can only leap within their lifetime, can’t predict where and when they’ll leap, and end up having no memory. If the military is funding it, then the Project is for defense reasons, but what can you defend against? Make the Soviet Union fall sooner? Prevent other nations for getting nuclear weapons until later in history?

Having lived in Southern California, almost none of the homes have basements because earthquakes are common. Nevertheless, there is a bunch of servers down there and a glass board (as opposed to a white board) with lots of arcane calculations on it in Ben’s handwriting.

Jenn gets to work removing hard drives while Magic sees that an alarm goes off. Janice calls and she sounds pretty cold blooded. Assuming she’s not lying, Ben was the one who came to her, though she refuses to say why. She has booby trapped the basement so Jenn removes only one hard drive because they have to leave.

With only a few hours of air left, Reynolds regains consciousness and vetoes Sam’s decision to go to Mir. Both he and another astronaut Max (Leith M. Burke) don’t think the tile damage is that severe. Addison tells Ben about the Columbia which burned up on re-entry for the same reasons on February 1, 2003.

Sam decides to force the cargo bay doors open to abort the re-entry. Throughout the episode, different people at the Project said that one of Ben’s gifts was bringing the team together and guiding them to a common goal. This is highlighted by how there is so much distrust between them in the episode. Addison tells Ben to do what he does best. To that end, he tells Reynolds what Sam is doing. Then he uses a quote of Reynolds’ that Sam told him to convince him to trust Sam. He relents but there’s a problem.

They have no long-range comm so Ben will have to go out into the cargo bay and point the antenna at Mir. He does so, but nothing happens and time is running out. Ben figures out that it’s “night” for the Russians and they’re asleep which is why they don’t see or hear the shuttle.

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QUANTUM LEAP — “Atlantis” Episode 102 — Pictured: Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

I’m calling BS on this. Something could come up at any time that would cause Mir’s earth side command to contact them. I can’t believe that either someone wouldn’t be left on duty in that eventuality or that their comm system wouldn’t be set to wake them up. What might be more of the problem is what frequencies does Mir use and does Atlantis know them, but that wasn’t mentioned.

I was worried that more debris would come in an endanger Ben but that didn’t happen. Every time in the episode, when Ben thought the “problem” had been solved, he was ready to leap. Addison told him, “You don’t control the leap.” So seeing no other choice, Ben disconnects his safety line and jumps toward Mir telling her “I’m controlling the leap.”

I’m calling BS on this, too. Addison and Ziggy just might be able to talk Ben through some minor space shuttle operations, but even a tethered space walk is extremely difficult. Ben didn’t even know Mir’s relative velocity to Atlantis. Anyone who has ever fired a gun at a moving target, let’s say while skeet shooting, knows you don’t just eyeball it.

Also, he launched himself at a pretty good clip and there’s almost no such thing as friction in orbital space. Nothing was going to slow Ben down in transit. He almost did bounce off Mir and into space but managed to grab a hold of something at the last moment. Those space suit gloves weren’t very sensitive, and frankly, the whole thing is a miracle. A little too much miracle.

Anyway, Ben knocks on the Mir’s hull and someone peeks out at him. Addison tells him everything works out fine. Throughout the episode, Ben seemed to be getting closer to figuring out who Addison is to him. He may already know but is keeping it to himself. Then he leaps.

In the present. The Project team can’t decrypt the hard drive from Janice’s computer and Ian suggests that this might be the time for Addison to give up Ben’s thumb drive since it probably holds the decryption key. They run the drive and it projects a 3D construct on the Project’s main monitors.

It contains millions of variables, points in time and for a moment, you can see the names of some of the people. It also contains a destination but even Ian can’t determine where or when it is.

Even before watching this episode, I could think of only one reason Ben and Janice might be working together on a secret project, to bring Sam Beckett home. It makes sense that Al probably spent years trying to bring Sam home and failed. He probably gave Janice some sort of “death bed instructions” about what to do. Maybe the destination is where Sam is. After all, we’re assuming he’s not leaping. Otherwise, why couldn’t the Project track him as well as Ben.

But why is Janice keeping it a secret, and what hope of success do they have if Ben can’t remember why he’s there? Also, why the random leaps? If you’re going to bring Sam home, why not make that your first and only leap? If Ian can’t figure out where the destination is, can Janice? Can Ben?

This might mean Scott Bakula’s comments about having no connection to the show is so much smoke just to throw the audience off. After all Toby McGuire and Andrew Garfield both denied having roles in the film Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) and yet there they were.

IMDb still only has four episodes total listed. At the end of the show, we see Ben leaping into a boxer and getting his face punched in. That takes us to the October 3rd episode Somebody Up There Likes Ben which has no summary apparently.

Actually, I did find this:

Ben leaps to flashy 1970s Las Vegas and into the body of promising young boxer Danny Hill on the eve of a big title fight; Ben and Addison must help Danny win the fight or lose everything; Magic, Ian and Jenn dig into Ben’s past to uncover the truth.

Wait, wait, wait! 1970s? Ben’s not that old. How does he leap before his lifetime and will the show writers address this (I hope they weren’t so careless as to make a mistake)? Did Ben’s and Janice’s code re-write the parameters of how Quantum Leap works? If so, then Ben might literally be able to leap to any point in the past. This opens up some fascinating possibilities.

In the episode 3 promo, which I found on YouTube, Ian says that “Each leap there’s a stopping point on the way to this endpoint.” Addison replies, “Then he isn’t coming home any time soon.”

If that’s true, then whatever Ben and Janice were planning probably didn’t work the way they thought. Why did Janice tell Magic to stay out of the way? If it were that important to Ben, why not tell everyone after the fact?

The mystery of why Ben leapt is the show’s hook and the only answer is Sam Beckett. I mean, if it’s not Sam, then I can’t imagine what it is.

So far Episode #1.4 has no useful data. I can only guess that is because some big reveals are soon to come along and the showrunners are playing it close to the vest.

One more thing. In my last review, I expressed some discomfort with Mason Alexander Park’s role as Ian. I suspect that I might be a lot less comfortable with some of Park’s other roles, but in this one, at least up through episode two, he’s just a really nerdy person who looks, well…gender fluid. We’ll see if that’s ever fleshed out one way or another.

Oh wait! Rotten Tomatoes to the rescue. They have a synopsis for episode 4:

Ben leaps to 1980s Los Angeles and into the body of Eva Sandoval, a no-nonsense bounty hunter in the midst of securing an elusive target; Ben remembers more about his own life.

As far as I can tell, that’s it for now.

Here’s my three-minute or less review of the episode:

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