The original Quantum Leap that aired from 1989-1993 often seemed to forget that Sam Beckett had a life in the present, whereas the reboot that kicked off this past fall often seemed distracted by the team in Ben Song’s time. After stumbling with a few episodes, the new show finally struck a balance as it reached the midseason finale, and I’m happy to report that the balance continues in “Fellow Travelers,” the first episode back after the hiatus.
***Spoilers for the first half of the season follow***
The midseason finale left us with a huge revelation: Ben, after suffering Quantum Leap-induced amnesia, finally remembered why he went rogue and jumped into the time travel machine in the first place. It was to save Addison. From what? He doesn’t recall. Why did he turn to a hacker instead of his team? He doesn’t recall that either.
Addison, understandably, is incredibly peeved that her fiancé would unilaterally make the decision to leave their present without giving her a say in her own fate. As she advises Ben on his current leap, the show deftly handles the emotional fallout from the revelation, weaving it in without making it a distraction. (Indeed, after rewatching two seasons of the original Quantum Leap, Al’s antics as a hologram are quite vexing… he frequently gets annoyed at Sam for not responding to him in public, when Sam would appear to be talking to himself…).
Meanwhile, Ben leaped into a man named Jack, the bodyguard of a famous singer, Carly, in 1979. Within a few minutes, a lighting fixture falls and nearly kills her. Addison soon informs him that it wasn’t an accident and that the would-be murderer will try again. With help from the team in the Quantum Leap headquarters, Ben works to figure out who’s trying to kill Carly. At first, he tries to protect Carly from the truth… which Addison has a few thoughts about.
Quantum Leap does a great job of instantly making Carly sympathetic and making both Ben and the audience invested in her fate – something previous episodes have struggled with. There’s an added wrinkle when Carly turns out to have some romantic interest in Jack, the man Ben leaped into. The original Quantum Leap veered into creepy (even rapey) territory with Sam’s romantic trysts… after all, is it really consent if the woman thinks she’s kissing one man, but it’s actually the mind of another inside his body? The excuse the show gave was that since the woman thought Sam was her husband/romantic partner, it would be cruel of Sam to rebuff her. In the early 1990s, that might have flown, but in 2022, it’s pretty gross. Thank goodness Ben doesn’t do any of that. He gives Carly an answer vague enough not to ruin her relationship with Jack and turns the focus back to the mystery.
Back at Quantum Leap headquarters, Jenn tracks down Ben’s partner in crime, Janis Calavicci, setting up for more reveals to come in future episodes.
All in all, “Fellow Travelers” is one of my favorite episodes of the season so far, striking a fantastic balance between the leap at the heart of the show and the larger mystery surrounding why Ben put himself here in the first place. I also love that Quantum Leap calls out Ben for going it alone by leaping in the first place and putting his fiancée and teammates in a problematic situation. Nice to acknowledge that he’s not perfect (Sam was often treated as a demigod who could do no wrong… a Gary Stu if you will).
“Fellow Travelers” does a good job of pacing the reveals in the season arc, moving them forward without getting bogged down. Quantum Leap seems to have figured out the right blend of past and present, and here’s hoping they keep it up.