Pyramid Schemes: ‘Leap’ spies exotic locale for midseason finale…

As Ben Leaps very far from home, can he balance his personal feelings and mission - or is he in De Nile?

It’s 1961 and Ben Leaps into the body of Michael Allison, a CIA analyst whose work has brought him to Cairo, Egypt after a contact reaches out to his agency with a tantilising offer to give information about foreign operatives and possible double-agents. But before any deal can be done, Michael and the local Station Chief Barnes, have to verify the operative’s identity and information. It turns out the operative is a ‘she’ and Layla wants safe passage to the US in exchange for the information.

However, espionage is a dangerous game and spywork is rarely clean or smooth and when it really matters it looks as if Ben may have the odds stacked against him. But is that a familiar face in the crowd… and perhaps the only chance of Ben’s salvation?



Last week’s A Kind of Magic did little to boast the credentials of a true ‘period’ aspect, which is a shame as Quantum Leap has a decent track-record of getting the feel of the era it’s visiting. For Nomads, it’s more about locale than time and everything works much better.

This latest episode – technically the mid-season finale, the closing shot of 2023 and the last episode completed before the recent SAG and WGA strikes – arrives and marks the first time that the series – old or new – has shot outside the US. And, in that sense, it doesn’t mess around. Those aren’t prop pyramids or a suspect Sphinx (at least for the most part) and the show justifies its jump to genuine Egyptian locales with plenty of luxurious framing shots. Yes, it would have been technically possible to use post-production trickery to replicate the sojourn more cost-effectively (and some of the interiors are likely to be soundstages) but there’s really no substitute for the real thing and the ability to interact in a real environment. This might not be an Indiana Jones romp, nor quite a gritty Cold War, desert heat drama but there’s an essence of sunlight, sand and spice that’s hard to fake and the idea that real spy work isn’t glamorous stays with the story – albeit with some broad-stroke bug-planting along the way.

I’ve not been a fan of all the soap-opera romantic entanglements (or disentanglements) of this second season, ones that seem there to provide some padding and angst…but this episode incorporates the awkwardness of having Addison (Caitlin Bassett) as hologram and Hannah (Eliza Taylor) as new love-interest in the ‘same’ room and Ben trying to work out how he should feel and how he should act into the main plot. (Addison herself suspects Tom – played by Peter Gadiot – is going to propose, so she’s a little off her game as well). It’s not often you get one of the time-period’s characters talking ‘to’ Addison, even though Hannah can’t hear any replies directly, so that ‘interpreter’ feel works well. Yes, Hannah’s appearance seems remarkably coincidental in the grand scheme of things (and thankfully, chronological – no River Song problems for Ben Song as yet!) and while it’s still not clear exactly why Ben and Hannah keep crossing paths along the timeline, Addison’s admission that it could simply be the universe trying to put the couple together can’t be dismissed. (Personally, there has to be more to it and the idea that she might be instrumental in the eventual creation of Ziggy seems like a likely factor…)

Lou Diamond Phillips is in good supporting form as Michael/Ben’s boss Station Chief Barnes and for a while there’s a distinct feeling that the character will turn out to be the double-agent ironically acting as a gate-keeper – though, thankfully, the story doesn’t go down that route and it’s actually a phone-call from Barnes that turns the tide in Ben and Hannah’s favour. There’s a moment where it appears Ben’s Leap has failed and both he and his team back at the Project ruminate on the consequences. Will Ben be stuck in 1961 forever? How will he navigate his way through history in one body? What of Michael Allison’s fate? Of course – this is an ongoing series, so it’s a change in the status-quo that isn’t going to take, but it raises interesting concerns and ideas in both the characters and the audience. We’ve seen Leaps go awry before, but the initial implication that it’s a do-or-die scenario does show how much pressure Ben likely feels under – and the conflicting emotions about staying with / having to leave Hannah. Certainly, there’s a moment where you pause as an audience to think for a second about how things could work.

All in all, it’s a satisfying episode, doing what Quantum Leap does best: creating a fish-out-of-water situation with personal stakes. Mid-season finale’s often go out with a hook to bring us back for a show’s return and we get one in the closing seconds of the episode, not with a glimpse of where Ben’s going to end up next and also not with the proposal from Tom that Addison and the audience think is coming. No, Tom’s ‘surprise’ isn’t the ring in the kitchen drawer, but apparently an idea that he’s convinced will bring Ben home. Is he right? Is it completely altruistic? We’ll see when Quantum Leap returns in a few months’ time.



'Quantum Leap S02  EP08 - Nomads'  (NBC review)
'Quantum Leap S02 EP08 - Nomads' (NBC review)
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