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Last night, episode 15 of Quantum Leap called Ben Song for the Defense aired. The synopsis goes:
Ben Leaps into a harried public defender trying to prove one client innocent when everyone else believes he’s guilty, as well as juggle dozens of other case as well as a romantic relationship inadvertently threatened by a corrupt ADA. Jenn is called in as Observer because of her knowledge of the legal system.
Oh, “ADA” just means Assistant District Attorney.
Although the leap centers on a single client of Ben’s (public defender Elena Ramirez), we see Ben trying to juggle several cases feeling as overwhelmed as the real Elena probably did. In the original timeline, 18-year-old Camilo Diaz (Michael Garza) is on trial for the murder of a gang member who was trying to recruit Camilo’s younger brother Leo (Isaac Arellanes). Camilo threatened the gang member and later was seen fleeing the crime scene. No other suspects present.
Elena previously accepted a deal for Camilo where he would serve some prison time, but if he does, he’s beaten in prison and becomes wheelchair bound. His brother joins the gang and is killed. Their parents are dead and even though there’s a grandmother (Grandma Lala played by Tina D’Marco), Camilo is the primary caretaker, working two jobs just to support the family. Ben decides to turn down the deal and fight.
Since Addison doesn’t know anything about the law, she “volunteers” Jenn who knows about court because she was tried and convicted of computer crimes, and because she has a law degree. She resists but Magic makes it an order.
Addison takes Jenn into the imaging chamber but Ben doesn’t remember her. For some reason, having two people in the chamber causes the images to become unstable almost immediately. This wasn’t a problem in Let Them Play when Addison took Ian into the chamber. I guess the story needed Jenn to be the lone observer and Addison to “pine” for Ben at the Project.
In the original series, we saw observer Al (Dean Stockwell) walk through walls and open and close the door to the chamber. This was the first episode where we see Addison’s hologram disappear on screen. She still doesn’t walk through walls and neither does Jenn.
I finally got my wish, well sort of. Ben was actually uncomfortable in a woman’s body. Really it was the high heels. We also find out that Ben/Elena has been having a secret love affair with ADA Vicky Davis (Diandra Lyle). Since Elena is a public defender, it’s definitely “sleeping with the enemy.”
There are a couple of scenes where the two women kiss, but since Ben, played by Raymond Lee, is a man, then him kissing Lyle on the lips is no more interesting than any man and woman kissing on TV.
I’ve said this before about other episodes, but if Elena and Vicky have been living together for three years and are lovers, why didn’t Vicky notice any personality differences in Elena (Ben)? Why didn’t she notice that Elena suddenly forgot how to practice law (even with Jenn coaching him, he still makes plenty of mistakes)?
Interestingly enough, the first time Ben leapt into a woman in the episode A Decent Proposal, she had a boyfriend played by Justin Hartley. Although the couple were in a romantic and presumably sexual relationship, we never see Hartley’s character attempt to kiss or hold Ben. I guess that would have been a little awkward for the actors.
In the present, Ian is trying to develop a program that will predict when Richard Martinez (Walter Perez) AKA “Leaper X” will appear so Ben isn’t blindsided as he was in the previous episode S.O.S. Apparently every time you say “Leaper X” you owe someone a dollar so there are a few humorous moments to be had.
Through Magic’s connections and Ziggy’s research, they find the original criminal case file and in the past, Ben discovers that ADA Bill Barnes (Jonathan Chase), this week’s “evil white guy,” has apparently withheld one of two pages of a police report. In the present, Ian finds a list of people interviewed by the police with a name crossed out. Ian recovers the name, Edwin Soto, a gang enforcer who was a suspect in two gang-related murders. The murder victim was suspected of being a police informant so there would definitely provide a motive.
While Addison is good at giving pep talks, Jenn is terrible at it. She is good at encouraging Ben to “break the rules.” One of Ben’s clients couldn’t make bail so Jenn used Ziggy to predict the outcome of a horserace that will give her the money.
In a separate case, a biker named Stuart Johnson (Edward Gelhaus) keeps complaining how the impound wouldn’t release his bike (he was arrested for unpaid traffic tickets). Turns out he needs it to ride in a charity rally for AIDS. His uncle died the previous year and he wants to honor his memory. This is 1985 and while we may not hear about AIDS in the daily news now, back then, it was inescapable.
Elena’s and Vicky’s relationship gets tense at home when Ben presses her about the missing page and who Soto is. Vicky thinks Elena has peeked at her confidential files and leaves in a huff.
The next day at court, Ben meets with Barnes and Judge Llewellyn (Nancy Youngblut) and Barnes produces the missing page, but Soto’s name was left off. Ben can’t say that because his foreknowledge of that information would cause a mistrial. Ben makes a pointed statement aimed at Jenn wishing someone could look into the past to see how Soto murdered his victim.
Ben also discovers Vicky was fired. She confronted Barnes about the missing page and he canned her. Ziggy says she is blackballed and never practices law again.
In the present, Ian discovers a newspaper story from 1996. A kid found the gun hidden in a apartment building cellar and took it to school. Police used DNA evidence to tie it to Soto and the murders were solved, but too late to save Camilo and his family.
Getting Stuart’s bike out, Ben gets a ride across town and finds the gun 11 years early. It’s too early in history for DNA matching, but not for ballistics. Question…well, more than one but we’ll start with this. If Ben finds the gun in 1985 and turns it into the police, the newspaper article Ian reads should vanish and possibly memories could be affected. Classic time travel paradox but the show glosses over it.
Ben knows Barnes deliberately withheld evidence in discovery (which a lawyer once told me is called “hiding the ball”). Barnes offers a sweet deal with Camilo only going to prison for four years instead of thirty. Jenn says if they accept the deal, it will still work out okay for the Diaz family and Ben will leap. Ben’s sense of justice won’t let him do it, but he has to convince Camilo to trust him.
I should say that Jenn actually teased Ben about his “famous Ben pep talks,” something I “tease” about in my reviews. I’m glad the show has that self-awareness.
There’s a certain irony when Ben suddenly remembers Magic but still doesn’t remember Jenn.
Ben practices his closing argument in front of a bathroom mirror starting with, “We all feel a deep responsibility to those we love.” That’s also the cue for Vicky and Elena to make up. She put herself on the line for Elena and lost her job but the anger faded.
Ziggy says that if Ben loses the case, all of the “badness” in the original timeline occurs.
The funny thing is that the jury comes back with a verdict and we never hear about the ballistics test. We don’t even know how Ben explains his discovery of the murder weapon. Really, how would he have known? Was it even legal to present in court?
As Ben enters the courtroom, he leaps.
Just once I’d like to hang around after the leap to see the shocked reaction of the “host” who has absolutely no memory of what happened while Ben was “behind the wheel.” Elena would have a lot of catching up to do.
Camilo is found not guilty and the family stays together. Leo doesn’t join the gang and isn’t murdered. Elena and Vicky stay together and join the Innocence Project. ADA Barnes is fired after Vicky finds eight other cases where he withheld evidence from the defense.
Question: She behaves as if she found this information after she was fired. If that’s true, how did she get access to the data since she wouldn’t be allowed to view those files? If she got the information before she was fired, why didn’t she tell anyone about it? She probably would have kept her job. For that matter, how did she find all this out so fast? It should have only been a matter of a few hours.
I really should pay more attention to the representation aspect of these shows. Elena and Vicky are two lesbian women of color. That’s not particularly unusual, but given how this incarnation of Quantum Leap is dedicated to representation, I’m betting there’s a great deal of it (unlike in “Let Them Play” which was definitely overt in its presentation) that slips under my radar. I mean there was no real reason for Elena to be in a relationship with a woman. The story would have worked fine if she was straight. It was a detail that existed just to exist.
I did enjoy the character Saul (Dean Cameron) who supposedly is either the head public defender or just a nice older gentlemen who loves to give Elena advice.
In the present everything is fine and dandy and even Jenn tears up at the mention of the Innocence Project.
We get to see where Ben leaps next and in a rare online disclosure, I found a description of next week’s episode “Ben, Interrupted.”
When Ben lands in a 1950s psychiatric institution, he must engineer a daring escape for a young woman unjustly committed by her husband; the team is shocked to learn the identity of a mole in Quantum headquarters.
Will this have a resemblance to the original show’s episode Shock Theater where Sam (Scott Bakula) found himself in a 1954 mental hospital (aired on May 22, 1991)?
Which reminds me, where is Janice (or Janis)? Granted there wouldn’t have been much for her to do in the story but it’s like she fell off the edge of the Earth. Couldn’t Magic at least mention that she’s cooling her heels in the QL dungeon or something?
We’re coming down to the wire. Only three episodes left in season one. It ends on April 2nd. I have no idea when season two starts and we still have to deal with the “mystery” surrounding Ben’s leap, future leaper Richard Martinez, Ian as future leaper, the secrets Janice is keeping, and if there is a rhyme or reason for the sequence of Ben’s leaps. I’m suspecting a big cliffhanger.
Since Ben has a destination in the future, at some point, the show will have to address it but if he accomplishes his mission to save Addison, does he leap home or become lost in time forever?
And what about Sam Beckett?
Addendum -March 19, 2023
I came across a tweet on the twitter account of Fate’s Wide Wheel: A Quantum Leap Podcast. It’s actually a short TikTok video of what I imagine is one of podcast mods. It might even be addressing part of this review since I did have a small issue of representation for its own sake. The video offers a rebuttal and says that other people have a right to have their stories as well. It makes the point that the reason for having Ben leap into a woman in a lesbian relationship is so that person’s story could be told. In other words, “representation”.
But to be fair, I’ll include the link.