Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 8 Review: Stand By Ben
Hey, Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 8? I’m anthropomorphizing you today to let you know that I appreciate you.
Finales, even midseason ones, are tricky to write. I appreciate your narrative bookending, starting the adventure with Ben filling Addison in about Janis only to have Ben’s memory of why he leaped at the end.
Also, I appreciate that you take place in 1996 — two years before the Google search engine launched and eleven years before the first iPhone — a year within my lifetime when emails were just becoming a thing, and teens like Stacy, Roy, and Leah could only dance party to No Doubt’s “Tragic Kingdom” on CD.
And I really appreciate Roy’s extremely 1990s haircut. Thanks for that. It took me back.
There’s a lot of 1980s energy here, though, too. We’ve got the posse of misfits dodging the ultimate detention à la The Breakfast Club (1985), with the episode’s title paying homage to 1986’s Stand By Me and a triumphant conclusion worthy of the most hard-core, never-say-die Goonie.
It’s a journey of discovery and found friends and not a little teenage angst.
Sure, the happy ending feels incredibly pat, and all the traumatic root issues that landed the teens at Sierra Youth Academy seem to work out REALLY well for them.
I’m sorry about before, pushing you like that. Worst part is I hate it when my dad puts his hands on me. Promised I’d never be like him. Says every kid ever.
But, in case you haven’t been paying attention to the first half of the inaugural season, Quantum Leap is an incredibly optimistic show.
And there are occasional continuity glitches. For instance, a cabin that’s “off-the-grid,” so much so that Ziggy couldn’t locate it, probably wouldn’t have a standard phone line set-up.
Also, it’s incredibly well-stocked (not to mention unlocked?) for not being inhabited. Before the truck turned out to be from Sierra, I expected a Goldilocks and the Three Bears situation.
I feel viewers with better medical know-how than I might also have some comments on Leah’s broken ankle triage and post-injury care.
Anyhoo, the adventure is exciting and fraught with peril, the bad guys get put away in the end, and the real reward is the friends we make along the way, right?
Leah: All my life, I just assumed I was a misfit toy, like, broken in the box. Seems like you guys don’t feel that way. Like maybe, to you, I’m not weird?
Roy: We don’t think you’re weird because you’re not weird.
Stacy: Yeah, we think you’re kind of great.
Leah: You do?
Roy: Yeah. Then again, look at us. Really want to be lumped in with this group? That’s a low bar.
It’s easy to be flippant when everyone ends up safe and happy, but I have to note that the question of why the teens end up on the run in the first place is a serious one.
Rejected, rebellious, and recalcitrant, Stacy, Leah, and Roy are all shipped off to Sierra Youth Academy to be “fixed” so family and society can accept them.
The abuse they suffer there is inhumane, and, as Ben figures out, they’d rather die than return.
We’ve seen Ben adjust his mission before. He not only saves Naomi’s son’s life on Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 6, but he also reconciles mother and son.
Here, he pivots from simply making sure the teens don’t die to ensuring the Sierra Youth Academy staff are punished for their crimes.
Ben: It’s not finished. What we set out to do, it’s not finished.
Roy: What did we set out to do? Escape! Leah just gave us that.
Ben: You didn’t set out just to escape. You set out to have lives. And after having spent the last day and a half with you both, you both want to have lives that matter. You go out there now, you’ll never forgive yourselves.
Roy: What do you recommend? We just storm the school? Just tear down walls of oppression?
Ben: Yes, that’s exactly what we do. Once and for all.
In doing so, he empowers Stacy and Roy and, hopefully, provides Leah with a safe family situation.
Addison never gives an update as to what might’ve happened if Stacy and Roy had just headed to Reno after Leah gives herself up to Sullivan and Ringer, but it seems quite possible that the guilt of running would’ve added to their problems in the long run.
After Leah’s multiple mentions of her television broadcaster uncle, it makes sense that he ends up being their agent of salvation.
I’d like to know how Stacy knew how to get in touch with him, though.
Leah: I just want to go home.
Stacy: Leah, you can’t go home. You know that, right? Your parents sent you away because they think you’re broken.
Ben: Hey…take it easy.
Stacy: What? I mean, it’s true. I don’t want her to walk in and think they’ll suddenly just accept her for who she is.
The teens’ insecurity echoes in Jenn’s relationship with her father.
Where the teens have been let down by their families and society, Jenn survives her father’s abandonment with the support of friends and Magic’s mentorship.
Jenn: Every few years, he reaches out, says he wants to reconnect. And every few years, I say yes because I’m an adult and what’s the harm, right? But somehow, every few years, when he disappears after I’ve lent him money, I’m still disappointed, like Lucy with the football.
Magic: Charlie Brown. It’s Charlie who wants to kick the football. Lucy’s the one who always pulls away.
Jenn: You get my point.
Magic: Yes. I do. But take it from a father who’s made a lot of mistakes, it’s better to risk disappointment than to give up.
Jenn: That’s great for a greeting card but it’s not always the case in real life.
I am curious how Jenn ended up on Magic’s radar in the first place and why her father has Magic’s direct phone number. What’s the connection there?
And, while I’m all for reconciliation between parents and kids, I’m not totally cool with Magic’s advice for Jenn to never give up on her father.
I want to believe Magic has some insight that can detect in Jenn’s father a sincere desire to connect with his daughter, but considering Jenn knows Dad to be a conman, I feel like Magic’s being used to get to Jenn.
Jenn: Is it worth it? Is it really worth the risk of being disappointed?
Magic: It’s worth the risk.
Jenn: What, no quip? No thoughtful pearls of wisdom, just a straightforward answer?
Magic: It’s. Worth. The. Risk.
Come to think of it; we are now aware of multiple parental challenges among the team members.
Magic’s commented about having made mistakes as a father.
Ben’s mother died after they argued.
Addison never wanted to get married after witnessing her parents’ divorce.
Janis and Beth would have a highly complex relationship even if Janis hadn’t drugged her mother.
And now Jenn’s got a prodigal dad in the picture again. Striding once more unto the breach, she trusts in Magic’s words and risks suffering another disappointment in hopes she and her dad can make something that lasts.
I’d like it all to be leading somewhere, but it could just be adding layers to our team. Either way, it goes to show everyone’s carrying their own baggage.
Finally, we get to the big reveal meant to hook us into the back half of the season when it returns (probably in very early 2023?)
The most dangerous risk Ben ever takes — could ever take — is leaping into the quantum accelerator, and now we know he does it for Addison.
God, it feels good to be real.
Ian hypothesized that Ben’s leaps are propelling him towards a point in the future. Is that where he saves Addison?
If Leaper X is working at cross-purposes with the team, could that mean Martinez is out to kill her?
While we’re on hiatus, be sure to rewatch Quantum Leap online and spin your own theories.
There are a lot of players on the board — Janis, Leaper X, Ben, the team — who will do what next?
Hit our comments with your takeaways from the first half of the season! Your highlights, lowlights, and most burning questions!
See you #LeapPeeps on the other side!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.