With only a few episodes left in this season and promises from the creator that the mysteries that kicked off the series will be wrapped up by the end, Quantum Leap has started showing its hand. While plenty of questions remain, this week’s episode was not shy about answering some of the questions that have been lingering since the pilot.
Ben leaps into a man who is being interviewed for patient intake at a 1950s mental institution… and it’s about as pleasant as you’d expect. His lack of knowledge about what’s going on actually works to his advantage for once, since the man is actually a private detective hired by a woman to go undercover and find her sister, Judith (who’d been committed against her will by a jerk husband who wanted to get rid of her to marry again). But in the original timeline, neither the sister nor the PI makes it out. And soon, it’s easy to see why.
The institution is as appalling as you’d imagine for an era when the lobotomy was alive and well, and when the era of ripping out patients’ colons was still in living memory (yes, doctors used to literally dig out their patients’ guts, thinking that would cure them by getting rid of bacteria…). And the episode often feels like a horror movie as Ben is locked up and pushed around by abusive nurses and an unethical doctor. Though the leap is ostensibly about saving Judith from this nightmare, Ben soon finds he has to save himself.
Unlike previous episodes that have put the subject of Ben’s leap front and center, “Ben, Interrupted” doesn’t take much time getting to know Judith. And actually, I didn’t mind. The point of the episode is that no one should be in this appalling place, and Judith is simply a figure to center the plot around.
The episode is far more concerned with Ben, who soon needs some rescuing himself as the horrors of the institution take their toll. But he’s not the only leaper around… the mysterious Martinez reappears for a third time. And back in 2022, Janis Calavicci, under house arrest, tampers with her ankle monitor to get the Quantum Leap team’s attention. It’s all starting to come together…
As far as leaps go, this week’s felt more like a backdrop for the contemporary mysteries to be solved than the kinds of self-contained stories we’ve been seeing recently. But with such visceral horrors (yes, I’m using that word a lot… there really is no other to describe the institution), it doesn’t let you—or Ben—forget what’s going on. Whereas earlier in the season, the leap itself sometimes faded into an afterthought because Ben (and by proxy, the show) was more concerned about 2022, he literally can’t get away from this one. And it was interesting to see his vulnerability—how even with his genius intellect and a team of prodigies whispering in his ear, he has trouble even surviving this leap, let alone fulfilling its mission.
As the season draws nearer to its conclusion, I wonder how many future episodes will be about the leap, and how many will break formula to resolve the 2022 mystery instead. It’ll be a tricky balance, but the latter half of this season has given me reason to believe they’ll pull it off.