It’s 1985 and Ben Leaps into the body of Aleyda Ramirez, a harried public defender trying to juggle far too many cases and her secret relationship with her opposite number across the courtroom ADA Vicky Davis (Diandra Lyle). One of Aleyda/Ben’s cases involves a teenager, Camilo Diaz, accused of murder, but the more Ben (and the Project’s team back in 2023) study the case notes the more it seems that Diaz’s case was the victim of an overworked system.
When it becomes apparent that Prosecutor Bill Barnes (Jonathan Chase) is doing everything he can to get a conviction, the point of interfering with evidence, Ben must find a way to expose the truth but make sure Camilo gets justice. And for that to happen, Addison is going to have to make hologramatic way for someone with more ‘legal’ experience to assist Ben…
It was probably only a matter of time before Quantum Leap threw Ben into a courtroom situation and the result is a decent if unremarkable entry. TV series play to the glamour or drama of the courtroom, hence their popularity in primetime. But though this episode isn’t as dark as say Fox‘s Accused, it still notes the harsh reality that over-worked public defenders often spend mere minutes with each client ahead of trial and that they can be left juggling a large docket of such cases simultaneously – meaning that cases where the client looks guilty usually end up that way or on the subjective end of a plea-deal. In the newest episode, Ben has to navigate the corridors of justice and of a personal relationship to make sure that justice is served.
Though she appears briefly in the episode and mainly the book-ending scenes, Caitlin Bassett ‘s Addison is also mostly sidelined, letting Nanrisa Lee’s Jenn step into the Imaging Chamber and forefront to offer legal assistance. It’s a reminder that Ben has only had one real point of contact so far and that he’s still fuzzy on most of the characters we see as series regulars. I’ve always been a bit lukewarm to Jenn’s character because she’s shown in very different ways as stories demand, as if no-one has really decided on who her character is and just combined several elements into one…the apparent go-to for a multitude of talents and sins. In some she’s an ex-hacker from the streets, in some a pragmatic administrator and Magic’s assistant, she had a boyfriend she lied to about her job in the pilot and we now know she has a very estranged relationship with her father (whom Magic somehow knows) and now she’s drafted in as Ben’s as a legal advisor merely because she studied law during her time in prison. It’s a tenuous reasoning at best, which at least the show itself acknowledges, and Nanrisa Lee does fine in the role of temporary hologram companion which may indicate that Ben can have a whole swap-meet of help from now-on.
In general, Ben Song for the Defense (and in a side-note, these titles really need some more imagination, don’t they?) works well and plays to the idea that success in a Leap is both a matter of degrees and a cumulative effect. At one point, Jenn tells Ben he should be able to Leap just by making sure Camilo gets a more limited sentence than in the original timeline, but Ben has to ponder if that’s ‘good enough’ given that he knows there’s been shenanigans in the prosecutor’s camp and that Camilo shouldn’t be serving time at all. Ben also gets to help a number of other clients in smaller and less ‘important’ (but, it turns out, helpful) issues leading to the idea that one Leap can help more than one person and/or that sometimes it takes a cascade of little changes to make the big one. A little weirdly in the formatting, we actually don’t know the verdict until after Ben Leaps out (innocent!) – and given the swiss-cheese effect on those people Ben’s Leaps into, one wonders what the immediate aftermath back in 1985 was on a personal level.
To the side, the ‘Leaper X’ sub-plot plonks a few more dollar bill forfeits in the swear jar but is mainly reduced to a few lines of dialogue to be addressed later (with Ian promising that he thinks he has a way to tack any chronological anomalies on a Leap that are not caused by Ben – which sounds very technobabblish). Janis is still nowhere to be seen, likely kept firmly on the backburner until the season’s final episodes.
Ultimately, it’s something of a filler with a few nice character moments…