Quantum Leap: “Deliver Us from Evil”

“Deliver Us from Evil: Evil Leaper I”: March 19, 1966 
Original airdate: November 10, 1992
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Leaping around in time sends Sam Beckett, almost without exception, to a single important turning point in someone’s life. He is there to avert disaster, pure and simple: to save lives, prevent violence and disgrace, and otherwise fend off soul-shattering catastrophes. Each week, as he heads off to his next mission, it is to the sweet music of Al reading from the handlink, telling him that everything in his Leapee’s life turned out okay. It is the “happily ever after” that allows Sam to move on.

Needless to say, it is therefore an ugly surprise when he finds himself back with the LaMotta family in 1966, two years after the events of “Jimmy.” At first, Sam welcomes the familiar faces and comfortable surroundings of the mentally disabled man’s life in Oakland California, but soon enough he discovers that things are going off the rails. Connie is showing signs of depression, Frank feels neglected and miserable, and their son is thinking of running away. Jimmy is at the heart of their conflict, and between one thing and another, he seems to be headed, once again, for an institution.

This is an interesting situation, and it’s nicely realistic, too. Life is made of turning points and “what ifs,” after all; avoiding one big calamity doesn’t usually earn someone a pass through to material comfort, a bump-free marriage and comfortable, healthy old age. But though Sam tries his best to restore the former, happy, status quo between Connie and Frank, he doesn’t make any headway. Connie remains implacably hostile, and Frank’s eye has wandered to his sexy secretary.

Instead of examining how one life can bend, several times, toward disaster, this episode’s mystery takes another course. Its answer is revealed when Sam and Connie touch. Suddenly, Sam’s true nature is revealed to Connie—but she isn’t herself. Instead, she too has changed: into another leaper, named Alia.

The events of “Deliver Us from Evil” show Sam and Alia to be opposite sides of the same coin. Like him, she is bouncing through time against her will. Like Sam, she has a holographic observer. Her mission, we deduce, is to put wrong what once went right. In other words, she is an agent of the same force that attacked Sam in the Halloween episode, and her appearance in “Deliver us from Evil” is the inevitable follow up on that first attempt to stop his temporal meddling.

Sam’s trusting nature, of course, immediately gets him into trouble when he realizes that Alia, like him, is trapped in the past. He tells her his mission and everything else that comes to mind: the two are powerfully attracted, and though he knows it’s risky, he very nearly winds up in bed with her. Soon, Alia’s handlers make an obvious decision: Sam’s got to go. He barely manages to persuade her not to kill him by appealing to her better nature, while arguing that they are so closely linked that she might die, too.

Once Alia has decided not to shoot Sam, she leaps away. The traumatic events of the past few days seem to be wiped out, at least for the LaMottas, and Sam goes on to his next leap.

But Alia reappears later in the season, in “Evil Leaper II: Return” and finally in “Evil Leaper III: Revenge.”

This trio of episodes, I have to admit, has never ranked high among my personal favorites. Some of you may have to argue its virtues to me. I will grant that actress Carolyn Seymour is hilarious, wicked and lusty as Al’s counterpart, Zoe, and her outfits are every bit as wild as his. Watching her admire Scott Bakula’s (cough) form remains, for me, the high point of “Deliver Us from Evil.”

That said, I never found Renee Coleman’s performance as Alia to be all that convincing. I admit she was hampered to a large extent by the fact that the script had cast her not as an evil leaper so much as an ambivalent one. In addition, Sam’s argument to Alia, the one that saves his life, is more than a little murky and illogical.

Now some may argue that murk comes with metaphysics. Certainly once a viewer buys into the idea that Sam has been hijacked by God, it is a short hop to assuming that the forces of Major Badness won’t restrict themselves to one failed attempt to be rid of the pesky do-gooder. But Sam’s best leaps are the ones where he’s really grounded in the lives he’s inhabiting. Alia’s presence, naturally, draws his focus to himself and the rigors of time travel. If the show had been conceived and aired after TV had generally become less episodic—more given to season-length arcs, I mean—or even if there had been more time, another season for the show to play with making some of Sam’s past leaps into real battlegrounds, the results might have been very interesting indeed. There was a lot of potential in the Alia storyline, and it could have developed in any number of intriguing ways. As it stands, it doesn’t pay off.

Sam does, however, manage to free Alia after the harrowing events of “Revenge,” leaving us to imagine how Evil might have next have attempted to squash him.

Finally, and speaking of endings, “Deliver Us from Evil” is the last of the episodes chosen by this blog’s readers for me to review, so as I wind up this series of posts I want to say I have enjoyed having you all bounce me through the five years of Sam’s various leaps. It has been terrific watching Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell in action again, and to hear all your thoughts on the show.

Five seasons is a decent run for any TV series, but in its time on the air, Quantum Leap amassed a solid fan base. We are loyal, and we are greedy for more misadventures. This is one of the terrific things about SF fans—not only is our love pure, but we have long attention spans. I know that for me, as for many of you, there’s still one big Quantum “wrong” out there, waiting to be put right. All we need is a follow-up series or maybe a movie, something that can tell us more about why and how Sam Beckett never got home.

A.M. Dellamonica writes novels and short fiction and teaches writing online. She is passionate about environmentalism, food and drink, and art in every form, and dabbles in several: photography, choral music, theater, dance, cooking and crafts. Catch up with her on her blog here.


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