Home TV ‘Quantum Leap’ Sends Ben on a Journalistic Expedition in “The Outsider”

‘Quantum Leap’ Sends Ben on a Journalistic Expedition in “The Outsider”

In Episode 211, Ben pursues the story of a lifetime in the 1980s while back at Quantum Leap HQ, the mysterious "boss" puts the team in a bind

Image: NBC

It can be hard to keep doing good when all your efforts feel futile. And in Quantum Leap episode 211, “The Outsider,” Ben must convince former star journalist Connie Davis that she shouldn’t give up on hard-hitting stories because her last effort ended in disaster. At the same time, he must convince himself… his efforts to keep Hannah from becoming a widow in the future seem to have failed. She received his warning about her husband’s heart condition and got it treated in time, but now, said husband is doomed to die in a car crash. It’s almost as if the Fates (ahem, the writers) wants the guy to die… to make her available to Ben in the future? Whatever, I just can’t with this whole Hannah storyline, and mercifully, it’s merely a blip in this otherwise very excellent episode.

Image: NBC

The leap kicks off with Ben in a phone booth, receiving an ominous warning that a lot of people are going to die. He soon discovers that he’s a young news producer in the 1980s, and that Connie, after her career-ending failure in New York, is now a local newswoman in Denver, covering silly stories like one about the largest pumpkin. And Connie is absolutely adamant about retaining her puff-piece persona; no more deep investigations or world-shattering truth bombs for her. She’s grateful to just have a job. Even after Addison helps Ben figure out that the mysterious tip was about a weedkiller that is about to go to market despite being a carcinogen, Connie is resistant. But eventually, her journalistic instincts kick in, and she and Ben set out to reveal the truth.

Image: NBC

The episode has all the markers of a good journalism thriller: high stakes (thousands will die of cancer if this weedkiller is released!), mysterious sources (who’s the voice in the phone booth??), physical threats (a guy in a ski mask tells Ben to drop the story!), and enough twists and turns to keep you wondering how this one’s going to work out. Connie is a compelling and sympathetic subject for Ben’s leap; it’s easy to root for her, especially when she’s on her game, yet when she reveals why she’s been banished from the world of hard-hitting news, you can’t help but feel for her.

The leap by itself makes for a great watch. What makes the episode more impressive is that it balances the aforementioned thriller with drama back home at Quantum Leap HQ, without compromising either story line. The mysterious boss, whose quantum chip enabled Quantum Leap program to resume, has entered the room, and he wants his pound of flesh. Just who is Gideon Rydge, and how does he have the power to mess with the Quantum Leap program? I’m still trying to figure that out, but he’s giving me serious Elon Musk vibes: a smarmy, entitled jackass who thinks he’s above the government… because he kind of is. He’s got tech that the government wants, and therefore he has some sway.

Image: NBC

Ian, of course, is the reason Gideon is out for blood. Tom is left in the uncomfortable position of interrogating Ian about what they did and why, and Magic is left in the even more uncomfortable decision of figuring out what to do about it. Does he fire Ian, not only breaking everyone’s hearts, but also depriving the program of the one person who might be able to figure out how to bring Ben home? Does he offer up Jenn, who helped Ian with the whole chip thing, as a sacrificial lamb instead? That ain’t who Magic is though, and though I could immediately see where this was going, the ending still hit hard.

Image: NBC

By the way, Tom is taking the whole break-up with Addison pretty well. Of course he’s got his issues with her, but so far, he hasn’t been vindictive, or whiny, or even cold, showing that he’s actually a good guy at heart. Which, thank goodness. I am so, so sick of the get-out-of-love-triangle-free card where writers reduce one love interest to an irredeemably evil cartoon villain who’d only been pretending to be nice all along. It’s hackneyed, it’s lazy, and it makes the heroine at the center of the love triangle look like a total buffoon (it’s also so, so overdone… the last TWO books I read used the same trope). That one love interest simply wasn’t the right fit, despite ticking all the boxes, allows for a lot more character depth on the part of both said love interest and the central heroine (in this case, Addison). Which is why I’m sincerely hoping that the writers leave well enough alone with this love triangle and don’t reveal next week that Tom is a mustache-twirling baddie who screams histrionics and tries to murder everyone. If they do, I’m throwing this whole season in the trash.

Anyway, kudos to the writers for giving us not one, but two compelling storylines this episode, and balancing them so well in 40 short minutes. This iteration of Quantum Leap has always felt like two shows smashed into one — a time-travel adventure and a contemporary sci-fi thriller — and while it has struggled with that unwieldy format in the past, this week proves that we can have our leap and eat it too. Wait, what?!

4.5 / 5 stars… The mere mention of Hannah was enough for me to dock half a star. Sorry, like I said, I just can’t with that storyline.


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