Review of Quantum Leap Ep 17 “The Friendly Skies”


A scene from the Quantum Leap episode “The Friendly Skies”

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Finally got the bandwith to watch Quantum Leap S1.E17 The Friendly Skies where once again Ben leaps into a woman with absolutely no reaction to being in a female body.

I happened to mention on twitter the other day that just in season one, Ben has leapt into more women than Sam (Scott Bakula) did during the entire five season run of the original series, and Sam was never a fan of leaping into women. It occurred to me that a man leaping into a woman is at least drag (because actor Raymond Lee has to dress…at least sometimes…in specifically female clothing. At most, it almost makes him trans…almost.

Anyway, I was politely shot down as far as the idea goes. Statistically, if Ben’s leaps are truly random, he should leap into women about half of the time. But we don’t think the leaps are random.

IMDb synopsis:

When Ben leaps aboard a 1970’s passenger jet as a flight attendant, he must outwit its hijackers before it mysteriously crashes into the Atlantic. Worse? He has to do it all without Ziggy’s help.

Ben leaps into a flight attendant named Lois on August 5, 1971. The aircraft has over the top service. The men are sexist pigs and the attendants are trained for “service with a smile.”

Here’s a trivia piece from IMDb about why the service was styled as it was in this episode.

Between the 1960’s- 1980’s, there were two major American flag carriers, TWA (Trans World Airlines) and Pan-Am (Pan-American). Back before deregulation of the 1980’s , just about the only way airlines could differentiate themselves from each other was by their service, gourmet meals, plush interiors, inflight entertainment and designer uniforms for their invariably young and pretty female cabin staff. Pan-Am had this aura of unofficial “chosen instrument” of the US government overseas, distinction of being one of the most recognizable symbols of America’s aviation, giving it a slight advantage over TWA. TWA was more of a tiffany or luxury airline, with a reputation for first class service and had some Hollywood affiliations thanks to Howard Hughes’ involvement in the airline’s early days. They both flew clean and comfortable 707’s across the Atlantic, had excellent in-flight service and convenient schedules. When the deregulation wave hit the airlines, there was a race to the bottom, where costs where slashed across the board which led to poor customer service, sub-par meals, bare-bones maintenance and inoperable inflight entertainment. Americans wanted cheaper fares. Neither Pan Am nor TWA were structured in a way that allowed them to compete effectively in the post deregulation era. They were dinosaurs, doomed to extinction.

The airlines, that Ben’s host works for, Trans Global Airlines, seems to modeled on the former TWA or Trans World Airlines, right down to red uniforms worn by the flight attendant.

Ben does have a complaint about being a woman after all because men keep patting his ass and he refers to himself as a walking sex symbol. That’s hardly his biggest problem. This is a flight from Europe to New York and it’s going to crash in an hour.


QUANTUM LEAP — “The Friendly Skies” Episode 117 — Pictured: Mason Alexander Park as Ian — (Photo by: NBC)

In the present, since Martinez has access to Ziggy in the future making the cloud-based AI (which cloud service…I’m assuming government run) the “mole,” Magic orders Ziggy taken offline. This just about kills Ian and they feel betrayed. They can still use analog tools to do research but it will take longer.

On the plane, since Ben’s last leap nearly killed him, he’s developed severe trust issues thanks to Martinez (AKA Leaper X) stabbing him. He only trusts Addison but at several points during the leap, he needs help of the material kind.

One of the people Ben meets is a teen named Cory Zampol (Casey Simpson) the son of the airline’s owner. He’s a total spoiled brat and is being accompanied by a former cop and airline security consultant Leslie Drobis (Davida Williams) who doesn’t like the job but it’s what she’s paid for.

Addison tries to get Ben to confide in Leslie and ask for help, but Ben blows it off.

In the present, the QL team is trying to find out why the plane crashed. It could have been the storm or mechanical failure. At one point, they find the head pilot is being treated for a mental health disorder but keeping it off the books so he doesn’t get fired. The head stewardess Holly Carter (Natalie Britton) is going to take coffee to the flight crew but Ben does instead, hoping to talk the pilot into diverting and landing to prevent the crash.

The pilot Jim Gentilly (Sam Ingraffia) does the whole sexist thing and kicks Ben out. Here’s where Addison shows off her knowledge of flight protocols of the aircraft even though she was in the Army.

Now Ben discovers that Gentilly and the flight engineer were both poisoned with only the co-pilot (Paul Kirk played by Bart Johnson) still being okay (he was supposedly waiting for his coffee to cool). He can fly and land the plane in New York. Holly is the likely suspect.

Side note: Where did the bodies go? I can’t imagine Ben and the other attendants dragging them through the passenger cabin and stashing them in the back, but later in the episode, the corpses are clearly gone, but where? It’s never shown or even mentioned.

In the present, the QL team find that Holly’s boyfriend has been in and out of prison and has ties to the IRA so that looks bad. Ben and Addison go to the luggage compartment but don’t find much to incriminate her. Cory shows up because after all, his Dad owns the airline and he can go anywhere. He sees the seal in the emergency equipment box is broken. Looking inside, Ben finds poison and other material with which to leave the plane along with the co-pilot’s passport.

Ex-cop Leslie is recruited to help but she’s in it with Kirk and pulls a gun. The kid gets to go back to this seat but all the flight attendants are being held in the back at gun point. Including Kirk and Leslie, there are four armed hijackers, the last two being mercenaries. Kirk and Leslie intend to divert the plane to Havana and hold the passengers for ransom. Their motivation is being disgruntled employees being exploited by their bosses, passed over for promotions, and so on. I thought they were going to be stereotypical communists hijacking the plane for “the workers” but no such luck.

QUANTUM LEAP — “The Friendly Skies” Episode 117 — Pictured: Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song — (Photo by: NBC)

Ben talks the gunmen in the passenger cabin into letting them serve water to keep people calm. Ben remembers some aging rocker (played by Ronnie Clark) using Quaaludes and bourbon and with the man passed out (he wakes up at the end), Ben lifts the bottle of drugs. He says an elderly woman Zelda (Kristin Lindquist) needs her insulin (she’d just had it) as an excuse. Back in the kitchen, Ben splashes water in Gunman one’s face and then injects him with a combination of insulin and Quaaludes (with no medical training, how would Ben know he wouldn’t kill the guy?).

For that matter, Ben diagnosed the two flight crew were poisoned pretty quickly. Addison might have known but Ben’s the one who figured it out.

In the present, Ian is continuing to flip out but it’s not just the loss of Ziggy. Ever since they learned that they are a leaper from the future and the one to cause Ben to leap in the first place, they’ve been doubting themselves. This time its Jenn who plays the comforter and gives the pep talk (there are just a ton of pep talks in this episode).

In the passenger cabin, one of the passengers rushes at Gunman two with a refreshment cart and manages to get himself shot. Fortunately, he survives. Gunman two is still apprehended and somehow they are captured and never seen again.

So who was watching these gunmen? The only ex-law enforcement officer is one of the hijackers. This part of the story goes away I guess because it just wasn’t needed, even though some combination of amateurs are guarding two trained mercs. Uh huh.

The passengers want to rush the cockpit, which in the original timeline is probably what caused the plane to crash. Ben says he has a plan (sort of) and manages to talk them out of it.

Addison talks Ben into making some sort of sleep gas which, when ignited, is filtered into the flight cabin from a vent from the outside. It’s nice that the smoke goes only where it’s supposed to and doesn’t knock Ben and Cory out, too. The baddies pass out when they realize they’re locked in the cabin (how did that happen?) Unfortunately, Kirk takes the plane off of auto-pilot as he gets up.

Maybe I got that wrong and he put it on, but it looked disengaged.

Anyway, they pass out and vanish into parts unknown for the rest of the episode because the plot no longer needs them and you can only do so much in 42 minutes of air time.

After Cory realizes that no one loves him and his life sucks, Ben gives a pep talk and they go to the cockpit with Addison.

New problem. Besides there being no pilot (Cory has only trained on a Cessna) the gunshots from before damaged the hydraulic system which, if you know all of the “airliner in distress” tropes from movies and TV shows, means they will lose control of the aircraft.

Addison says that Cory can reroute the system bypassing the damage. Ben has his “I need to learn to trust again” moment and says he’ll stay in the cockpit while Cory fixes the problem. Granted, he’s a smart teen and he’s been raised around these airplanes, but that seems a bit like a stretch for a kid who probably never dirtied his hands in his life. He lets Ben’s pep talk work, but who can fly the plane?

In spite of what she said before, Addison isn’t a pilot but Ian is and that’s who now appears in the imaging chamber. Now where did that come from? Throughout the series, we never get a single clue that Ian can fly, especially a commercial aircraft. 747s don’t fly like the types of planes a private pilot would be likely to fly, so even if Ian had thousands of hours flying Cessnas or Lear Jets, they certainly would have no experience in landing this massive aircraft.

I know I read on twitter that someone acted as the subject matter expert for flight operations and aircraft, but I also remember that planes like that require a highly specific set of actions take place to safely land. Today, some aircraft can even land on auto-pilot, but this was 1971. I was still in high school which is how long ago this happened.

Ben remembers Ian from karaoke and also remembers that two people can’t be in the imaging chamber together for long. Ian said they fixed that but then we don’t see Addison in the chamber the rest of the time Ian is inside.

QUANTUM LEAP — “The Friendly Skies” Episode 117 — Pictured: (l-r) Ernie Hudson as Magic, Mason Alexander Park as Ian — (Photo by: NBC)

With the hydraulics fixed in just a minute or two, they make radio contact with New York and begin their approach. Again, classic air disaster trope. It’s a bumpy landing with a few minutes of drama, but then Ben safely lands the plane. Ben leaps but Ian remains for a moment.

Back in the present, Addison does the usual wrap up of what happens to everyone. The four hijackers are still in prison, Cory grows up to become a pilot and flight instructor, and Lois, Ben’s “host,” is invited to the White House. They crack a joke about how confused she’s going to be because she’ll remember none of this.

All is well except Ian can’t detect Ben’s signature so he can start looking for him. It’s like he’s not even out there. Oh, I should mention that several times during the story, it was mentioned that Ben is near the end of his journey. He has one maybe two leaps tops. I’m not sure how they know that unless Ian has continued to research the pattern of his leaps.

At that moment, they realize that they can’t find Ben because he’s in the future.

Ben leaps into…Project Quantum Leap but far into the future. The ceiling is compromised and it’s snowing inside in L.A. Ben is dressed in some sort of thick, protective suit. Everything around him is dark and wrecked. Then a very aged Ian comes out of the shadows saying “I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.”

Fade to black.

Side note: How did Ian recognize Ben if Ben leapt into someone else?

Okay, yes I’ve got to watch next week’s episode. After that it is still up in the air.

Overall a fun and entertaining episode if you overlook the much overused “aircraft in trouble” tropes that have been hanging around for decades. I “liked” Ian’s meltdown up to a point because it’s very much like them. One of the things about this show is that it’s science fiction almost in name only. In spite of the technology, it’s really a show about human interactions, feelings, and tragic backstories.

The episode took place on August 5, 1971 and I thought I “had” the writers. I remember that the mysterious “D.B. Cooper” hijacked a commercial plane going from Portland to Seattle on November 24, 1971 and I thought that was the first recorded hijacking. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

According to Wikipedia (yes, I know):

February 21, 1931: The first recorded aircraft hijack took place in Arequipa, Peru. Byron Richards, flying a Ford Tri-Motor, was approached on the ground by armed revolutionaries.

According to Britannica:

During the next decade about 15 airplanes were hijacked, and in 1958–67 the number of such incidents increased dramatically to about 50. The first aerial hijacking within the United States occurred on May 1, 1961, when a commercial airliner en route from Miami to Key West, Florida, was forced to detour to Cuba.


Scene from Quantum Leap episode 18 “Judgment Day”

I’m going to say it again. Where was Janice (or Janis)? She’s a genius, she set up the code in Ziggy for Ben’s leap (in spite of the fact that in this episode, Ian said they wrote every single line of code in Ziggy, which isn’t true), and the QL team needed every bit of brain power to do the research that they could no longer trust Ziggy with.

I also remember something from a prior episode (I can’t remember which one) where I believe Ian said that without Ziggy, they’d lose control of the leap and it might mean disaster for Ben. Obviously, that wasn’t the case.

After next week’s episode, aptly named Judgment Day (a reference to the 1991 movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day?), and after my review, I’ll write a separate season summary encapsulating my thoughts about the show thus far.

After that, like I said, then we’ll see.

Oh, one more thing. In next week’s episode actress Raquel Justice plays Stacy Thompson. She played the same character in episode 8 Stand by Ben. I wonder how that will work?


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