This week’s episode opens with a new version of the saga sell, narrated by Addison:
“Dr. Ben Song risked everything when he used the Quantum Leap accelerator to travel back in time. Now our team’s working to find out why. As he leaps between bodies with no memory of who he is, he still has one hope: That his next leap…takes him back…to the place…and people…he calls home.”
We find Ben where we last saw him at the end of the premiere, in a space shuttle about to launch from earth. His first instinct is to call for Addison. As the rockets fire, he gives us what the ads have promised to be his new catchphrase, “Oh, shii-!” (Well, we get the “Oh…”, and the rest is up to our imagination and in the web ads. Gero clarified in a recent interview, Standards & Practices won’t even allow the start of the utterance of the s-word.)
As we see the rockets lifting off, a title card tells us it’s 1998.
In the shuttle, the crew celebrates a successful launch as flight commander, Reynolds, promptly plays Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and Ben takes off his helmet to get his bearings.
The co-commander is Stratton. (Though it’s never addressed, this is Samantha Stratton, the daughter of Air Force test pilot, Tom Stratton, Sam’s first leap in the classic series. In the original history, Tom was killed in a test flight of the X-3 jet. When the jet exploded, his wife, Peggy, went into premature labor and the baby was stillborn. In the episode’s latter leap, Al reports that thanks to Sam changing history, the baby survived and coincidentally was named Samantha. Apparently, like father, like daughter.)
Stratton has been training with Reynolds for ten years and he has been her mentor. This is his last flight, one his wife didn’t want him to go on. Though Reynolds respects Stratton, he clearly sees himself as the wise sage, with her having much to learn. They are on the space shuttle, Atlantis. Their mission is to put one of the first pieces of NASA’s space station into orbit.
Meanwhile, Ben has found his reflection in the shuttle window above him and he is checking himself out. Whoever this man is, he is Asian like him. Stratton addresses him as David and asks if he’s okay. Ben asks for every leaper’s best place of refuge in such circumstances, the toilet. In this case, the space toilet. As he starts to make his way down to mid-ship, he whispers for Addison.
In 2022, Ian knocks on Ben and Addison’s apartment door, calling for her. When Addison answers, Ian is shocked to find her apartment trashed. They first assume it has been broken into, but Addison clarifies she did this after seeing Ben’s video message from the last episode. And she’s found a flash drive hidden in a bookshelf. Addison is having a crisis of faith; She and Ben had met on the project. They told each over everything. This was their project. Now she’s not sure.
When they try to open the flash drive, it’s encrypted. Ian can attempt to break it, but they say it’s better suited for another department at the project.
Magic calls them both back to the project. In his office, he and Jenn tell them what they’ve learned about Janis’ identity. Janis Calavicci was a brilliant astrophysicist who knew everything about the original project through her dad. Addison is unhappy that Magic is just sharing the news. She wants to talk with Ben to see what she can tell them about Janis, but Magic and Jenn argue that Ben’s amnesia is a good thing right now. If he did leap for malicious reasons, it’s good right now if he can’t remember. Not only does Magic tell Addison to not jog Ben’s memory, but to dissuade him away from remembering if anything does start to come back. Addison states she’s not happy with this. Magic pulls rank and reminds her it’s not a discussion, it’s an order. Ian steps in and tries to be a peacemaker, reminding them all that none of them slept much the night before.
Ian gets a lock on Ben. It’s March 7th, 1998. He’s on the space shuttle Atlantis. As Ian and Addison make their way to the control room and the imaging chamber, Ian reminds Addison they’re all on the same team and now is not a good time to split into separate factions. They question Addison about why she didn’t tell Magic and Jenn about the flash drive. For now, Addison wants to keep this information from them, and asks Ian to have the drive un-encrypted.
Addison appears to Ben on the shuttle. Ben questions why they weren’t successful about pulling him back to 2022, but getting to be in space is a good consolation prize. Addison reports that he’s leaped into David Tamora. The name is enough to jog Ben’s memory. Tamora had emigrated from Japan as a child and became an astronaut. David died on his first space mission – this very one he’s on now. Ben had idolized him as a child because Ben and his mom had emigrated from Korea, and he too wanted to be an astronaut. Both he and Addison are excited that Ben has just unlocked a big piece of his identity. Addison encourages him to keep trying to remember.
In the control room, Jenn and Ian are monitoring their conversation (interestingly, they apparently see Ben as himself), and Jenn is not happy Addison is doing the opposite of what Magic ordered. Meanwhile, Ben loses the thread and can’t remember anything else. Addison tells him Ziggy says there’s a 92 percent chance he’s there to save David. The wrinkle is, the cause of death was classified. Until they can access those records, all they can do is keep Ben out of harm’s way.
In the meantime, Ben still needs to carry out David’s duties, which Addison offers help with. Upon just flipping a few switches and pushing some buttons, alarms begin to go off. But Ben hasn’t done anything wrong. The payload in the shuttle has shifted and jammed the panel doors. The shuttle begins spinning out of control as we go to the title screen (slightly updated from last week.)
Stratton is able to get the shuttle back under control, but significant damage has been done. Reynold’s has received a massive concussion, a gash on the forehead, and is knocked out. The shuttle now has only six hours of oxygen remaining.
The shuttle is not in good shape, but Ben/David is alive, and he expects to leap. “You don’t control the leap,” Addison reminds him. David somehow still dies.
Back in 2022, Magic pays a visit to Al’s widow, Beth Calavicci. (This is such a big payoff for us OG fans. Further, in a subtle nod to the old series, she has the hood open and is working on a classic car, one of Al’s loves.) Magic and Beth know each other; he apologizes for not having come by since Al died the previous year. He’s here now to ask about Janis. She’s in the kind of trouble that he can’t go into detail about, he says. Beth reports that she hasn’t talked to Janis since right after Al passed away, that Janis withdrew from all her family and friends. She asks Magic for more details, but Magic simply asks her politely to let her know if Janis contacts her.
Later at the project, Jenn calls Magic to tell him his planned work. Shortly after Magic left Beth, she called Janis, pinging her phone and allowing a trace. As she’s reporting this, she sees someone returning the flash drive to Ian, and them discreetly pocketing it. She confronts Ian, subtly at first. She mentions that the bad thing about Ben being gone is that he was the one that always kept them working toward the same goal. She doesn’t order Ian to hand over the drive, but she implores them to convince Addison to hand it over voluntarily.
Back on the shuttle, Ben wants Addison to jog his memory more. She confesses the other don’t want her too, and Ben quickly figures out why. He agrees with them, and Addison is not surprised. She tells him he was always better at the political side of project matters. Ben sees Addison’s engagement ring and asks for details. She mostly demurs, but reveals her marriage is set for six months away.
Addison learns that David died on a space walk and tells Ben. Simple enough, Ben just has to avoid that Stratton, now in command, makes the call to make an emergency landing at Kennedy. But the panel doors on the shuttle are jammed and they can only be released manually. She orders Ben/David to suit up for a space walk.
Ben has 90 minutes before he is hit by space debris, and asks to skip the pressurization checks to save time. The crew agrees, and Stratton reminds Ben/David of what Reynolds would say, “You have trained for every possibility, except for the one you’re about to encounter…stay fluid, stay open, stay safe.”
Outside the shuttle, Ben and Addison are in awe of the vastness of space. “I didn’t know you could be terrified and amazed at the same time,” Ben says.
Back at PQL, Magic is upset Addison was jogging Ben’s memory and that Jenn didn’t attempt to stop it. But in the meantime, Beth has called Janis, meaning they can trace Janis to a small house in Pasadena.
Ben jettison’s the payload so they can close the doors. But their celebration is cut short as Addison looks over Ben’s shoulder and sees the debris is already here. Ben ducks as is able to avoid being hit. He emerges after it passes, sure that how he can leap. “You don’t control the leap,” Addison reminds him.
Ziggy has an update: The debris missed Ben/David, but it damaged the shuttle’s thermal protection tiles. There is a 100% chance of the team dying now.
As Magic and Jennis approach Janis’ house, Jenn asks Magic to be more delicate with Addison. Magic asks, “You sure Ben didn’t leap into you”, and Jenn responds, “That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
They knock. No answer, but the door is unlocked.
Back on the shuttle, Max wants to land. Addison reminds Ben that the in 2003, the Columbia shuttle sustained the same kind of damage to their heating tiles, and the shuttle disintegrated up reentry. They now have 4.5 hours of oxygen left. Stratton suggests heading to the Russian space station. Ziggy says 87% chance of this succeeding. Stratton makes the call to do so, but now Reynolds is awake. He doesn’t want to go “running to the Russians” and overrides Stratton’s decision.
At Janis house, Magic notices a trap door in the floor, leading down the computer lab we saw in the first episode.
Back on the shuttle, Stratton tries to talk sense into Reynolds. Addison urges Ben to get everyone on the same page. She first tries to sabotage the landing. Then Ben goes to Reynolds and breaks through the Reynolds, convincing him to head to Mir.
Stratton can get them to Russian space station in less than an hour. Ben suggests that the shuttle must have s-band, a frequency used for satellite comms and radar. Someone has to be in the payload area, pointing the antenna right at the station.
Back out in the payload area, Ben thanks Addison for “helping the guy no one trusts”. At this point, they have 15 minutes to spare. Ben aims the antenna at Mir, but Reynold’s hails are not breaking through. Ben figures out the astronauts on the station are now asleep. “We’ve got to wake them up.”
In Janis’ lab, Magic recognizes Ben’s handwriting on the marker boards. There’s a camera monitoring them. Janis calls Magic. When Magic suggests that she has corrupted Ben, Janis tells him that he had come to her for help. She warns Magic and Jenn to leave. The lab starts self-deconstructing, but Jenn has managed to get a hold of at least one hard drive.
Back on the shuttle, Ben undoes his safety tether. When Addison asks what he’s doing, he responds, “I’m controlling the leap” and launches himself off the shuttle toward Mir.
Ben makes it, on his last chance to grab onto a piece of the station before floating off into space. He knocks on the station window and someone comes to the window.
Addison reports that this saves everyone’s life. In the shuttle, Reynolds apologizes to Stratton and admits he was wrong.
Stratton becomes a shuttle commander, Addison reports, and David goes on to be one of the first astronauts to live on the international space station.
There’s a 50/50 chance of getting Ben home on this leap, she says, but assures him she’ll be with him every step of the way. AndBen leaps.
Back at the project, Addison confirms to Magic that they once again have lost Ben in time. Magic apologizes for not telling her about Janis sooner, and for having pulled rank earlier. “This project is different,” Magic says, “It’s going to take all of us to figure this out.”
The hard drive that Jenn has recovered is encrypted, but Ian guesses that a digital key may be held on a flash drive, subtly suggesting to Addison to reveal what she found in her and Ben’s home. Addison produces the hard drive, and again apologizes to Magic.
“It’s okay. We’re all figuring this out as we go.”
At first, the data is unreadable as it’s a 3D construct. Ian enters a bit of code, changes the view, and some sort of map explodes across all of the monitors in the lab. Ian says the map represents millions of variables, representing millions of places in time.
They find a target. Ben was trying to a specific moment in time. But where, when or why?
Meanwhile, Ben comes to in a boxing ring at just the wrong moment, receiving one, and then another hard punch to the face.
Quantum Leap airs on NBC on Mondays at 10/9 central, and is available to stream on Peacock the following day.