Raymond Lee wasn’t kidding when he said, in a interview conducted pre-strike earlier this year, that Ben and Addison’s relationship would get more complicated this season. And while Episode 204, “The Lonely Hearts Club,” is ostensibly about Ben saving an aged TV star destined for a tragic death, it’s his own heartbreak that’s in the focus.
Ben is initially ecstatic to have leaped into a Hollywood agent’s assistant, tasked with handling an actor that Ben himself is a huge fan of. But in the original timeline, that actor, Neal Russell, goes sailing alone instead of appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as scheduled, and his body washes up a week later. Addison is adamant that Ben’s one job is to get Neal onto that show to promote his memoir, which will revive the has-been’s career.
But when Ben discovers Neal trying to win back his ex-wife, things get… weird. Ben is determined to make it work for Neal. The show isn’t even a little bit subtle about Ben using Neal and that ex as proxies for himself and Addison — Ben even helps Neal come up with a “win her back” speech that could easily apply to Addison as well. All while Addison, as the hologram, watches with a mix of frustration and sadness.
This iteration of Quantum Leap has always leaned into its characters’ emotions — sometimes a little too much — but this week’s conflict between Ben and Addison feels both earned and earnest. Ben, who can come off as a little too goody-goody sometimes, finally snaps at Addison for getting with another man during Ben’s three-year absence from her life instead of waiting “forever” as he believes he would have. He’s jealous, he’s petty, he’s judge-y… and he’s totally real. In that scene, Ben is not the best person in the world — in fact, he’s downright terrible. And anything less would have felt dishonest given how much he and Addison were in love in Season 1, and how abruptly the circumstances changed from his perspective.
And we get some powerful emotions coming from Addison too as she describes how she jumped into the quantum accelerator hoping to join Ben wherever he was, then grieved when she finally had to give him up for dead. She gets to express her anger too — she reminds him that he was the one who left her by leaping in the first place, whatever his intentions.
That’s right, Quantum Leap, dig into those feels. It’s what we’re here for. Though maybe be a little less on the nose? I’ll allow it this time… thanks to a masterful guest performance by Tim Matheson as Neal, plus a few plot-y shenanigans, the leap itself manages to remain interesting even if the episode really just wants to talk about Ben and Addison’s feelings.
Back at Quantum Leap HQ, there are lots of feels to go around as well. Addison’s cookie-cutter new boyfriend, Tom, is there to oversee the Quantum Leap program’s resurrection. So far, this character has felt more like a plot device than an actual person. It’s as if the writers knew they had to tread very carefully when introducing this love triangle, to make sure Addison doesn’t look like an idiot for picking some jerk over Ben. So instead, they make Tom so inoffensive, he barely has any personality at all. So far. But we’re still early in the season. And, of course, with the way TV twists work, they might be making Tom appear all nice-ty nice for now so it’ll be more shocking if/when he’s revealed as somehow being evil.
Come to think of it, Tom does suggest that maybe the nature of the quantum accelerator is that it’s a one-way trip, with sacrifice being required to change history. A tragic truth? Or a little sinister?
Anyway, Ian is back with their ex, Rachel, but of course things go awry. Apparently Ian needed Rachel’s unnamed boss to create a chip for Ziggy, and that chip is now hemorrhaging info back to its creator. Who is this boss, and what are they after? Unlike Season 1, which made the season arc very obvious from the start (“Why did Ben leap?!”), Season 2 has thus far been light on the sci-fi mystery element, other than the question of “Why didn’t Ben come home”? Which, frankly, isn’t a very compelling mystery on its own for viewers accustomed to seeing leapers flung from time to time at random. With the mention of this “boss,” it seams the show is setting up its Season 2 arc. And the fact that the “boss” is so far unnamed leads be to think it’ll tie back to the original show somehow.
Jenn and Magic get less time in the spotlight this time around. With Ben (correctly) saying that it’s impossible for him to move on from Addison when she’s still his hologram, though, we’ll probably get to see more of them in subsequent episodes. So far, Magic is the only one who hasn’t been the hologram yet…
All in all, “The Lonely Hearts Club” successfully brings the show’s regular characters to life with believable and realistic emotions, without ignoring the leap and its guest star.