After a series of revelations over the past few weeks, Quantum Leap put aside its sci-fi mystery arc to focus on Ben’s leap of the week: into the operations officer of a navy ship conducting drills in the South China Sea in 1989. Except it isn’t any ship—it’s the one where Addison’s father is the executive officer or XO.
Of course, this leap makes Addison particularly anxious. All she remembers is that her dad failed to answer a garbled distress call, which turned out to be from an American submarine conducting a secret mission. All men on board died, and her father, XO Augustine, was disgraced. Naturally, Ben’s mission is to ensure this doesn’t happen. This proves difficult with the ship’s trigger-happy captain determined to see the worst in the situation—that the signal might be a Chinese trap. Plus, there’s a Chinese submarine tailing the ship that the captain isn’t too happy about. One wrong move could not only doom the sailors waiting for rescue but also start World War III.
The heart of the episode is watching Addison learn who her father truly was: not just the stoic man who left her and her mother, but someone who, for all his flaws, always thought he was doing the right thing. Brandon Routh doesn’t play Augustine with quite the level of coldness you’d expect based on Addison’s description, though that could be because this is a younger, not-yet-traumatized version of him (or that Addison’s own memories were biased). After getting to know Ben’s past a bit through various leaps, it was nice getting to delve a little more into Addison’s.
Of course, then there’s the question of, “What does this leap mean?” Back to the Future comes up—would messing with Addison’s dad jeopardize her existence—but the dilemma is quickly brushed off. First of all, Addison was already born in 1989. Secondly, there’s a vague reference to leaps not impacting the people around the one Ben’s meant to save all too much. This feels a little overly convenient, given that many of the Ziggy-provided epilogues to Ben’s leaps indicate that the adventure changed peoples’ entire futures (saving the lives of several, which would certainly impact those around them). But that’s all right… we don’t watch Quantum Leap for its flawless logic.
Perhaps it’ll come up in a future episode, but it does seem like a bit of a lost opportunity that there’s no follow-up between present-day Addison and her father. Ben’s leap—and Addison’s help on it—inexorably changes Augustine’s fate. The idea of this not affecting Addison’s memories at all stretches belief. Just felt like there was a scene missing.
The very end of the episode brings us back to the whole present-day mystery that those at Quantum Leap headquarters were trying to solve, but honestly, it was nice to take a break from all that and have the whole team focused on helping Ben with this leap. The downside was that none of the Quantum Leap team, other than Magic, really had much to do. But perhaps that’s a format that could be tweaked for future seasons. I, for one, wouldn’t mind if the show stepped away from its mystery boxes.
All in all, “SOS” was another solid episode overall, especially since it gave us a chance to get to know Addison better (to be honest, it took half a season for me to warm up to her since she seemed kind of like a generic “smart heroine” for a minute there). Given that ending, I have a feeling the pause from the overarching mystery won’t last long.