Review of Quantum Leap Ep 14 “S.O.S.”


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “S.O.S.”

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I just finished watching episode 14 of Quantum Leap: S.O.S.. Ben leaps into Rossi, the operations officer of the U.S. Navy vessel “Montana” during a wargames exercise in the South China Sea on May 2, 1989. The date is important because it is when a generally unknown Naval disaster occurred and when Addison’s Dad, the ship’s executive officer Alexander Augustine (Brandon Routh) ends his career.

Addison discovers her Dad by recognizing the voice of Captain Bill Drake (Alex Carter), her Dad’s mentor in the Navy. The issue in the original timeline is that the Montana receives a fragment of a distress call from the U.S. submarine the Tampa but Augustine chooses to ignore it.

The Montana is being followed by a Han-class Chinese submarine and surprisingly, Augustine talks the Captain out of taking aggressive action against it. Ben overhears the Master Chief (Emerson Brooks) say that the Captain is “getting worse” and later on Ben finds out that the Captain is undergoing a lot of personal problems.

Almost immediately, Addison discovers that her Dad isn’t the man she remembers. He doesn’t ignore the distress signal and it’s the Captain who orders him to drop it, even though legally in International waters they are obligated to respond. The Captain thinks it’s a Chinese trick.

Although Ziggy is running slow (more on this at the end of this review), Ziggy is able to give Ben a solution to distinguish between U.S. and Chinese transmissions. Once he tells Augustine, the Captain orders a rescue mission.

Turns out the Tampa is on a covert spy mission and no one knows its there. Also, no one knows what caused the explosion that sank the submarine.

The Captain orders a “warning shot” in the form of a torpedo be fired at the Han and Ben just about blows a gasket and is nearly confined to quarters. Supposedly, the sub leaves in response but how can you be sure?

One of the very interesting things about the episode is that the action shifts seamlessly between the present and the past in order to weave the narrative. It is very effective in presenting an action-packed and highly tense story.


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “S.O.S.”

Jenn suggests Magic contact his old Chinese Naval counterpart who is now a CEO and luckily nearby (by rights, he should have been halfway around the world). The Project needs to know what the Chinese knew. Liu Wei (Kelvin Han Yee) says that at the time, his military was concerned about U.S. subs conducting covert ops off their shore, so they dispatched hundreds of mines. The plan was to damage a sub, force it to surface, hold the crew for a few weeks while they conducted a propaganda campaign and stripped the sub.

However a previous storm tore fifty mines from their moorings sending them further out to sea. The Tampa struck one. As the Montana is traveling to rescue the Tampa, they’re sailing into a floating mine field.

The Montana is hit but not sinking. The Captain thinks the Han fired a torpedo, but it wasn’t detected coming in. Augustine and Ben have just a few minutes to prove it wasn’t a torpedo before the Captain attacks the Han. Not only will he risk the lives of the crew but probably start World War Three.

Addison can’t figure out the Dad she’s watching and why he was so cold to her growing up.

On top of that, Ziggy says the Tampa was never rescued.

The ship detects multiple surface contacts, proof the mines exist. While the Captain accepts this, he still wants the Han destroyed before he will order the Tampa rescued. By this time, the Tampa is forced to surface, transmits a clear distress signal, and reports taking on water. The Captain orders another ship be called and have a helicopter perform the rescue. The helicopter can only carry ten men at a time and Addison says in this case, only twenty men total will survive from the Tampa.

Augustine hits the emergency stop, stopping anchor and halting the ship and for that, the Captain has him placed under arrest and confined to quarters.

In the present, talking to Jenn, Magic quotes Dr. Martin Luther King:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Magic doesn’t believe Ben’s leaps are random or that it’s a coincidence that he is there at that moment in history. This is as close as the current show gets to touching on the premise of the original. In that case, it was believed time or fate or God was intervening, guiding Sam’s leaps. Is Magic saying the same thing about Ben’s leaps?

Ben tries to convince the Captain not to attack the Han, but Addison reminds Ben that the chain of command is absolute here and he has to obey the Captain.

Augustine is especially close to the Captain and Ben tries to convince him to help.

Addison’s Dad confesses that his wife doesn’t love him anymore. He loves her and they both love little two-and-a-half year old Addy.  Augustine says his own father was a drunk and physically abusive. When he turned eighteen, he got into a fight with his Dad and almost killed him. He walked out and never went back, enlisting in the Navy.

After meeting Drake, the Captain mentored Augustine, got him into the Academy and was his surrogate Dad. They’ve known each other for twenty years and he will protect Drake no matter what.

Augustine feels as if his Dad’s “darkness” is inside of him and he will have to leave his wife and daughter to make life easier on them. This was why he was always so distant toward Addison.

This somewhat mirrors Ben’s own recent “encounters” with his “Mom” (material figure) during a leap. Except in this case, it was handled much better and this story was remarkably tight and efficient. Of course, I don’t know naval operations and a thousand mistakes could have flown by. Other than that, I was very impressed with the quality of the writing.

Ben manages to convince Augustine that if he doesn’t stop Drake now, they’ll lose the crews of both the Tampa and the Montana.


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “S.O.S.”

However, guards try to stop them. They manage to wrestle one to the deck and take his sidearm but several more tackle Ben.

Augustine makes it to the bridge and pretty much commits mutiny. In this case Alexander gives the “Ben speech,” and the Captain orders Augustine removed. This time, no one responds. Drake is flipping out and calls Augustine “white trash” who would have amounted to nothing without him. However Augustine remains calm and asks him to be the legend that he’s always been. The Captain relents and places Augustine in charge of the rescue.

Problem, there are a lot of mines in between the Montana and the Tampa and it would take too long to go around. Addison says mines can be detonated remotely. I didn’t catch if Ziggy was at all involved, but Ben (being good at math) figures out the correct frequency and has the radar repurposed to detonate them. Of course, they’ll lose the radar image but it seems to work…except the radar image, which momentarily blanks out mysteriously returns.

addison and dad

QUANTUM LEAP — “SOS” Episode 114 — Pictured: (l-r) Caitlin Bassett as Addison, Brandon Routh as XO Augustine — (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

By the next morning, the Montana has rescued the Tampa’s crew (we don’t know if the Chinese ever salvaged the sub). Addison has a “conversation” with her Dad, one he can’t possibly hear. It echoes one that Al (Dean Stockwell) had with his wife Beth (Susan Diol) asking her to wait for him. In both situations, there seemed to be a moment when they could almost hear the holograms.

On deck, future leaper Richard Martinez (Walter Perez) shows up. I didn’t quite catch the dialog but it seems that not only did Martinez actually help Ben this time but that Ben helped him. Ben says “I don’t understand” to which Martinez replies, “That’s why I’ll win.”


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “S.O.S.”

Win what?

Martinez leaps and suddenly there’s a different person in front of Ben wondering how he got there. Immediately after, Ben leaps, too.

As I mentioned before, this episode was very well written and very internally consistent. There was an actual reason Ben leapt into Rossi. It would have been highly unlikely Rossi would have violated the chain of command or taken the risk of prying into Augustine’s personal life (let alone helped him commit a mutinous act).

A couple of things bugged me, though. First of all, in the very last episode of the original series “Mirror Image” Sam leaps back into Beth’s life as himself while Al was still a POW in Vietnam, tells her that Al’s alive, and asks her to wait. The result was that she didn’t remarry, Al was repatriated, and they remained married, having three daughters together.

If Ben changed Alexander’s life enough to help him learn to draw nearer to his daughter, how could that change Addison’s life in the present? It’s possible the writers will just ignore this. After all, earlier in the episode, Ian says that unlike “Back to the Future” it would take a major, major event to change the life of someone who had already been born. Still, it’s hard to believe it would have no effect on their relationship at all.

The other thing is that I wanted to scream at Addison, “Is your Dad still alive in the present?” That may have been answered in prior episodes when she talked about her Dad (I should have seen this episode coming), but I don’t remember. If he is, then either their relationship is now “automatically” better because of this leap, or she can talk to Dad and explain (as best she can without bringing the Project into the conversation).

One interesting thing according to this article is that actress Caitlin Bassett really did serve in the Army in Afghanistan for seven years. I can’t imagine how that impacts her playing an Army veteran in the show.

Kudos to Brandon Routh for a very fine performance. Although there are no active plans to bring him back, he said he’d like to return to the role, suitably aged for whatever time period he appears in.


Scene from the Quantum Leap episode “S.O.S.”

My understanding is that season 2 of the series has already begun filming, so I can believe the ending of this season will be a major setup.

Again, Janice (or Janis) doesn’t make an appearance, but this time, there would be no reason to call her in, and the action was so tightly packed, that there was no room in the time allotted.

I should mention again that as a hologram Addison doesn’t walk through walls.

Oh, turns out Ziggy’s Running Slow really is the name of a band.


Screen capture from twitter.

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