The original Quantum Leap was essentially a 2-man show—Sam Beckett as leaper, Al Calavicci as hologram—with a revolving door of guest stars from week to week. While adhering to the classic formula for the leap portions—Ben Song as leaper, Addison Augustine as hologram—the new show has much more of an ensemble feel, with Magic, Ian, and Jenn all helping behind the scenes. With four characters (including Addison) “behind the scenes” at Quantum Leap headquarters and only Ben working the actual leap, it can be hard for anyone other than the classic leaper-hologram pair to get much screen time. Which is a shame, since they’re great characters, but also understandable, since spending too much time in the present short-changes the leap.
Lately, the show has been playing with its formula to bring some of these behind-the-scene characters more to light. A few weeks ago, Ian took a break to go soul searching after a shocking revelation. And this week, Addison stepped away (literally) to give Jenn a chance to shine.
Poor Ben is a public defender in the 1980s this time around, and like all public defenders, he quickly finds himself overwhelmed with the sheer number of clients he has to deal with. But he’s here for one specific case: That of 18-year-old Camilo, who was charged with murdering a gang member after he was seen threatening the latter. Even Camilo seems to have given up… he claims he didn’t do it (he just wanted the gang to stay away from his baby brother, who they were trying to force into their fold), but that it doesn’t matter, and he’s ready to take whatever deal he can get. So it’s up to Ben to get justice for the kid… in between dealing with a hodgepodge of other clients.
Jenn steps in to the imaging chamber for the (somewhat dubious) reason that she’s a legal expert. The super-hacker was arrested for, well, super hacking, and stood trial. She also apparently got bored in jail and obtained a law degree for funsies (like I said, dubious… but then again, Sam Beckett had, like, a million PhDs in every imaginable field and was a concert pianist and physical specimen to boot, so it’s all in keeping with the tradition of Quantum Leap prodigies).
I gotta say, Jenn has so far been the most understated of the Quantum Leap regulars, both because of her standoffish personality and her role. Her official place in the Quantum Leap fam is as head of security or something, but so far, that has translated to a lot of tough-gal-ing around and a few references to her having been a hacker in the past. So it was fun getting to see her take center stage and bumble her way through the emotional pep-talk-y moments with Ben that Addison usually takes care of. As you’d expect, she is terrible at it, and it’s an absolute delight to watch. More Jenn-in-awkward-situation moments, please!
In fact, I’d love it if Quantum Leap rotated its holograms from week to week depending on who’s best suited for the current adventure. Addison has grown on me quite a bit, and of course her star-crossed romance with Ben is always poignant, but having Jenn or Ian or even Magic step into the role now and then would be a great way to showcase those characters and give the show something new to work with every so often.
As for the courtroom drama that this week’s leap revolves around? It’s a decent story, with the classic Quantum Leap conundrum of “How do I save the innocent person from a doomed future?” The matter of proving Camilo’s innocence is standard lawyer-show fare, well executed enough that you don’t mind that it’s somewhat bland. Perhaps the most notable part is that Ben is shown struggling with multiple cases as a public defender, unlike a lot of courtroom tales where it feels like the central lawyer has one single case. Oh, and she’s a lesbian of color, though her identity doesn’t come up (which is both a relief, in that they didn’t try to shoehorn in some after-school special moral, but also odd considering it’s the 1980s?).
And the sci-fi mystery around why Ben leaped, the mystery second leaper, Janis Calavicci, and all that good stuff? It’s still on ice. Which I don’t mind. A season arc is allowed to be shown in little trickles of information from week to week, something that a lot of shows have forgotten in the age of binge watching.
All in all, “Ben Song for the Defense” was a perfectly adequate mid-season episode, with the special touch of seeing Jenn play hologram.