Air Force of One: Quantum Leap Flies Blind While Ben Goes It Alone

In the 17th episode, "Friendly Skies," Ben deals with trust issues while trying to save a doomed airplane

At this point, it’s impossible to discuss the latest episode of Quantum Leap without spoiling the previous one, as the show has been ramping up its reveals and each building upon each. So if you haven’t caught up on the show yet, the below review of the seventeenth episode, “Friendly Skies,” will include spoilers for episodes 1-16 (but not 17—I’m still trying to keep these reviews from spoiling the latest!). Review will commence below this delightful image of Ben as a 1970s flight attendant.

Ben as a flight attendant
Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song. Photo by: NBC

All right, everyone who’s still reading has already watched through episode 16, “Ben, Interrupted,” right? Cool.

Last week’s episode threw a real curveball at poor Ben and the team back in Quantum Leap headquarters. First, Ben was unable to complete his last mission without the help of Martinez, aka Leaper X, whose motivations remain unclear—only for Martinez to almost literally stab him in the back (technically, Ben got stabbed in the neck… ouch). Then, Janis Calavicci realized that the reason Martinez was one step ahead was because he was being fed information by Ziggy. In other words, Ziggy was the “mole.”

So now Ben is left with some serious trust issues, while the team has to take Ziggy offline. The timing couldn’t be worse, since Ben has leaped into a 1970s stewardess on an airplane doomed to crash in a matter of hours. If he can’t stop it, not only will he fail his mission, but he will die along with the original victims. And the Quantum Leap team now has to go “analog”—relying on “old-fashioned” internet searches and analysis instead of Ziggy’s powerful probability-crunching AI. All they know is that the plane went down, and no one ever figured out why. How on earth is a flight attendant (and a woman! in the 1970s! when being harassed by dirty old men was practically part of the job description!) supposed to figure out why the plane crashes and stop it?

With some help! Or, so Addison advises. But Ben, freshly wounded (literally) by the last guy he trusted, isn’t willing to turn to any of the other crew or passengers for assistance. Despite the magnitude of the stakes, Ben chooses to go it alone, with mixed results. The whole “trust issues” theme of the episode made sense in the context of where the last leap left him, but the writers laid it on a bit thick for my taste. After what felt like the twentieth iteration of the “people will betray you!” and “you must learn to trust again!” back-and-forth, it got rather tiresome.

Random aside: Quantum Leap‘s gender-bending episodes have always been fun, though I’ve noticed that in this new iteration, the episodes where Ben leaps into a woman don’t always make the host’s gender a big deal. “Friendly Skies” did because it took place in the context of a sexist environment, which made it all the harder for Ben to fulfill his mission.

Quantum Leap has done a great job in recent episodes of integrating Ben’s leap with what’s going on at headquarters back in 2022, and it worked particularly well this week without Ziggy to fall back on. You really get the sense that saving the airplane will be a team effort, not just the work of one super-genius Great Man (as was the case with Sam Beckett in the original). Ben might be the one running around in the past, but he needs the team “behind the scenes.”

We’re nearing the end of season 1, and we’ve been promised resolutions to this current arc of Ben-as-leaper-with-unknown-motives. The show has also been mixing up its formula lately, with Jenn serving as the hologram, or Ian popping into the imaging chamber for a cathartic moment. I wonder if that means they’re setting up season 2 to play more with the formula, perhaps with different leapers from week to week, even.

Anyway, all in all, “Friendly Skies,” delivered another solid adventure while nudging the season arc forward, and the teaser at the end promises big things for next week.

Mary Fan
Mary Fan
Mary Fan is a Jersey City-based author of sci-fi/fantasy. Her books include Stronger than a Bronze Dragon, the Starswept Trilogy, the Jane Colt Trilogy, the Flynn Nightsider series, and the Fated Stars series. She is also the co-editor of the Brave New Girls sci-fi anthologies about girls in STEM.

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