Isn’t It Romantic? ‘Quantum Leap’ Explores Relationships in “Nomad”

Episode 208, "Nomad," sends Ben to 1961 Cairo ostensibly for a spy adventure, but it's his 'Time Traveler's Wife'-style romance that takes center stage.

Quantum Leap is all about time, and keeping track of it in the show can lead to some head scratching. Just how long has it been since Ben discovered that three years had passed back at HQ in what was, of him, the blink of an eye? Does he ever get to sleep? If each leap lasts only a few hours or at most days from his perspective, does that mean from his perspective, the whole show so far has only occupied a handful of weeks? Just how does he experience time?

I found myself wondering these things because of the rushed nature of his romance with Hannah. Scarcely a few episodes passed between him being heartbroken over Addison, who moved on during that three-year time jump, and him locking lips with another fetching blonde, midcentury super-genius Hannah.

And now she’s back, in episode 208, “Nomad.” The title refers to the asset (real name Layla) that Ben’s spy host is supposed to save from certain death, but it could just as easily apply to Ben himself. This time, he’s in 1961 Cairo, which Hannah just happens to be visiting for a conference. We get a few fun moments of international intrigue, where Ben, as a CIA agent investigating how Russia was operating in the Middle East during the Cold War, has some nasty run-ins with the Stasi, the former East German secret police.

Image: NBC

But all that feels like it fades into the backdrop once Hannah shows up on the scene. Despite Ben wearing a different face, she somehow recognizes him without him saying a word. She mentions that she’s asked numerous strangers over the six years since their last encounter too. At no point does she or anyone else bring up what happened after Ben leaped mid-kiss following their last encounter. And neither do they care what becomes of this current host, whose face the show doesn’t even bother revealing via the usual reflection or photo.

Look, I get that Quantum Leap is just a sci-fi show, and perhaps it’s better to just sit back and enjoy the ride. But gaps in logic (and ethics) like this just bother me. I wish I could go “aww” over Ben and Hannah’s softly lit, whisper-acted, gooey-eyed romantic moments. I love me a good romance, after all. But the fact that Ben is occupying someone else’s body — someone who hasn’t consented to any of this — is simply too distracting. Have you ever woken up after a wild night out and been told you made out with some stranger while blacked out? That’s pretty much what’s happening to these hosts.

Worse, there’s a moment when it looks like Ben might have failed in his leap. The mission goes wrong, and Nomad/Layla (who really feels like an afterthought despite being the episode’s titular character) is presumed dead. Ben faces the possibility of being stuck in 1961, and all anyone can say is, “Well, at least he’s with Hannah! Maybe this is his happy ending!” Um… what about his host? Where is his host during all this, anyway? Unlike the original show, which showed the hosts in the Waiting Room, this version never explains that (or where Ben’s body is).

Image: NBC

Meanwhile, Addison and Tom appear to be moving quickly as well. Addison is convinced that he’s about to propose. She’s also perfectly happy third-wheeling with her ex and his new girlfriend, and doesn’t seem too bothered over the speculation that the reason they keep meeting across time is because they’re in love, implying that Ben has some kind of control over his leaps. In the original, it was revealed that Sam could have leaped home whenever he wanted. Is that true for Ben too? Did Addison simply not matter enough to him for that to happen, but Hannah, who he’s known for a matter of days, is so special that he encounters her again and again? Ouch.

The show really feels like it’s borrowing from the novel / TV show The Time Traveler’s Wife this season, and showrunner Martin Gero has mentioned that the story line will conclude in Season 2. I have a feeling that will mean Ben eventually encounters an aged Hannah on her deathbed, with dramatic music playing for full tragic effect.

Anyway, despite wanting to enjoy the spy thriller aspect and the dramatic backdrop of Ben’s first international leap, the romance aspect was simply too distracting for me. We spent an entire season investing in Ben and Addison as a couple — the whole reason Ben leaped in the first place was to save her life — and while I don’t entirely object to breaking them up for dramatic effect, throwing in a replacement girlfriend so quickly isn’t working for me.

Unfortunately for me, it seems Hannah is here to stay (for season 2 at least). Here’s hoping one of the writers finally speaks up on behalf of Ben’s hosts before the pair decides to sleep together and we have to wonder whether she date-raped someone.

2.5 / 5 stars.

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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Quantum Leap is all about time, and keeping track of it in the show can lead to some head scratching. Just how long has it been since Ben discovered that three years had passed back at HQ in what was, of him, the blink...Isn't It Romantic? 'Quantum Leap' Explores Relationships in "Nomad"