Quantum Leap – “Lee Harvey Oswald”

Quantum Leap was the best show ever. I’ve been rewatching it for the past year with Ana, and now we are at season five, the season in which the show really goes nuts. Prior to the fifth season, the show was less sci-fi and more drama (with sci-fi elements). In season five, they turn up the juice on the sci-fi, but I’m getting ahead of myself, let me briefly explain the show.


Sam Becket is a super-smart doctor/scientist who heads a government project trying to achieve time travel. The government begins losing faith in the project and is going to shut it down, so before it is fully ready, Sam uses the time machine they have built. The traveling in time is referred to as “leaping.” Basically, Sam switches places with someone in time, yet he retains their appearance, so to everyone he is the person he has switch places with. He has a sidekick (so to speak) named Al, who is able to appear to him through brainwave transmissions. Al exists in the present day, but is audible and visibly transmitted to Sam. Sam sees him as he would anyone else, but Al is not really there, just projected as a hologram. Inversely, the time and surrounding that Sam is in is a hologram to Al. Al’s job is to work with the main computer programmed to run the project (named Ziggy) and figure out an event that took place in the time and place Sam has leaped into. Sam is supposed to fix whatever has gone wrong. He then will leap out and move on to whatever the next leap is. The leaping also affects Sam’s memory, so he is unable to remember many details of his life or previous leaps.


What I want to do now, is a retrospective review of each episode, now that they are fresh in my memory again. The first episode of this season, Sam leaps into Lee Harvey Oswald.


The episode is title “Lee Harvey Oswald.” In this episode, Sam first leaps into Oswald in early 1963. He is with Marina as she takes the famous picture of him holding the newspaper and the rifle. He has an exchange with her, in which he is able to speak Russian. After some banter, he finds himself become angry at her, eventually slapping her. This is completely out of character for Sam, who from prior episodes has displayed he is the most honorable and gentlemanly boyscout on the planet. He suddenly leaps and he is several years prior to 1963.

He is first in 1957, in Japan. Toward the beginning of the episode, Sam and Al reminisce about the Kennedy assassination. Sam recalls that he was learning to drive a tractor with his father when his mother came running out of the house screaming. They thought they were getting yelled at, but then found out what had happened to the president. The episode proceeds to really follow Oswald’s life closely and it paints the picture of a very socially awkward loner, desperate to belong and be important. We see early on that he seems to be obsessed with Russian and learning Russian and the Marxist ways. We follow Oswald to Russia in 1959 when he tries to defect and the April of 1963 when he tries to kill General Walker. Throughout these leaps, we cut back to the present day, in which Al is interrogating the actual Lee Harvey Oswald, who really isn’t budging.

We also see the introduction of a new plot device in the Quantum Leap universe, Sam’s mind is melded to some extent with the person he leaps into. With Oswald it gets worse and worse to the point where he loses control and does exactly what Oswald did. After all of the speculation and guessing, the episode address the theories that Oswald is the lone assassin, examining the possibility that he was a gun for hire. It finishes off where Oswald is acting alone and is just a sick individual. By the time we reach November 22nd, 1963, Sam is completely taken over by Oswald’s mind. He is actually in the book depository, loading the rifle and ready to shoot. Al, who previously is able to snap him out of these episodes by asking him questions about complex science subject matter is now at a loss. Finally, he remembers Sam’s story about his father. Flashback: Sam is always very emotional about his father, he lost him when he was fairly young and never recovered from it. So now Al is pleading with Sam to think of his father and what is happening, Sam snaps out of it and suddenly leaps. Sam leaps into a secret service agent and immediately bolts toward the president and Jackie. President Kennedy is still shot and killed. Sam thanks Al for snapping him out of it, but feels as though he has failed. Al reveals to Sam that Jackie Kennedy was killed in the original history and from what Ziggy is able to estimate, he was there to save Jackie, not John F. Kennedy. I thought that was a cool twist.


Perfect episode, strong story, great acting, emotional ending.

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