It’s 1954 and Ben Leaps into a consultation with a Dr. Mueller (Patrick Fischler). He’s in the body of a man who the doctor seems to be diagnosing as needing psychiatric treatment – after all, he doesn’t know who he is, where he is or even what year it is! It turns out that Ben is now Liam O’Connor, a private eye hired to break out the sister of his new client and trying to go undercover to expose her treatment and the general malpractise at the isolated institute.
But given that Ben/Liam’s movements and medication are under current observation, it seems that exposing the doctor from within will be much harder than the average Leap. And once Ian detects that ‘Leaper X’ has also just arrived, it’s clear that things are not going to get any easier.
Then Janis Calavicci informs the Project that everything Ben was planning before his Leap may hinge on the outcome of this encounter…
We were told that the last few episodes of the current season would start answering questions and giving some revelations… well, there’s no doubt that things start to gain momentum with Ben, Interrupted, a cascade that starts early and keeps going throughout..
One of the classic chapters in the original Quantum Leap was the episode Shock Theater where Sam Beckett Leaped into an inmate of a 1954 psychiatric facility who was receiving dubious shock therapy and which made Sam flip between various past personas (and eventually swapping places with Al). Here, Ben arrives in the waiting room of a similar facility (and, interestingly, the same year), occupying the body of a private detective Liam O’Connor who is there to get sectioned and then break out another inmate (the sister of Liam’s client Elaine Sullivan – played by Jules Willcox) and who was admitted for ‘hysteria’ by an errant husband). There’s something of a feeling of deja vu and real potential consequence in an episode that will likely please long-time fans and more recent converts alike.
We do find out that the reason that Janis Calavicci hasn’t been seen in recent episodes is that she’s not actually being held at the Project (“We’re a time-travel facility, not a prison…” notes Magic). Instead she’s under house-arrest with an ankle-bracelet which seems just as reckless a decision as you’d think it was when it turns out Janis (a recently fugitive electronics-expert, for heaven’s sake!) somehow managed to slip off her device. Whodathunkit? It turns out she’s only done so to gain Magic’s attention and get an update… and when she does she’s anxious about the implications of his current time and date. (Sidenote: it’s good to see Beth Calavicci again, hopefully not for the last time).
Ian also realises that Leaper X/ Martinez is intersecting the timeline (quite how Ian works that out before Martinez actually arrives when Ian himself notes just a few moments later that he can only register such when Martinez actually Leaps) and so the threats to Ben start to multiply. There’s some interesting revelations and callbacks, some that are seemingly important and others that could yet be misdirections. The Project team note that some of the redacted files from the original team talk of ‘Evil Leapers’ that were trying to ‘put wrong what once went right‘, but Ian notes that doesn’t feel like what’s happening here. When Martinez finally intersects with Ben during the latter’s escape attempt, we get to see some of the newer takes on old conceits. Firstly, it’s at least indicated that Addison can see Martinez Leap in (something that Al couldn’t do with ‘Alia’ in the original series). We knew before that Martinez could identify Ben in his Leaps and now we find out that Martinez can see definitely Addison (though, tellingly, we don’t know yet if Martinez has his own hologram – it seems not?).
Addison’s scenes of desperation in not only not being able to help Ben and reassuring him he must hang on to his innate sanity to survive echoes some of Al’s same despair in Shock Theater and that is only compounded by the frustrations she feels dealing with Janis who insists that Ben must fail in this mission- even if he becomes stuck in 1954 – if they are to save Addison’s life… and that was always a Plan B if he couldn’t stop Martinez’s trajectory before this point. Can Janis be trusted – even the audience is torn on that one… she certainly doesn’t seem to be the bad guy but neither does she seem to be completely trustworthy, so there’s still some pieces to fit in to place (Curse you mysterious cause + effect!).
Also, we’re clearly meant to be in two minds about Martinez and that works to keep the drama going. The first time we saw him in the ‘present’ he seemed like a great guy but every time we’ve encountered him in the timeline he seems to have different priorities than Ben. Here we seem to be getting a more helpful version, though still decidedly shifty – so we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s not a huge surprise when, once Judith (Dana Melanie) is freed, Martinez does more than turn on Liam/Ben and actually stabs him in the neck. It’s stretching disbelief when Addison somehow manages to simply talk the nearly mortally-wounded Ben into climbing a ladder to safety when he’s actively bleeding out and fading. (It would have made far more sense to have a less obviously fatal wound he could survive with effort). All that being said, the desperate seconds ticking away until Ben can jump (and why exactly does it have to be until Elaine and Judith have cleared the bridge?) certainly make the characters and audience go through the wringer.
And the ‘mole’ at Project Quantum Leap is finally revealed. And, no, despite some nice misdirection in the episode, I genuinely doubt anyone saw the specifics of that reveal coming…
- Production Design / VFX8