This article contains spoilers for Quantum Leap season 2 episode 4 and the finale of the original Quantum Leap series.
“Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.”
These are the words that ended the original Quantum Leap series. Sam (Scott Bakula), who’d been leaping from life to life, was informed in the final episode that he finally had control over his leaps. That he could leap home if he wanted to. The thought of this tempted Sam but instead he leapt back in time to help his longtime friend, Al (Dean Stockwell.) What happened to Sam after that has remained a mystery, with the final title card informing us Sam never got home being our only clue.
It’s an understatement to say that his devastated fans of the original series. Why would the story end on such a down note? Surely there must be some other way to interpret it. Maybe Sam never permanently returned home but he stopped by to tell everyone where he went? Maybe the title card just… wasn’t true? No one in the show itself said it!
Arguments about this topic have leapt back and forth among fans for years and the new Quantum Leap series only strengthened them. Maybe this series would finally bring Sam home! Even if Scott Bakula didn’t appear, perhaps we could at least get a mention that Sam got back where he started. That hasn’t happened as of yet, but season 2 episode 4, “The Lonely Hearts Club” does address it.
Government auditor Tom Westfall (Peter Gadiot) and Magic (Ernie Hudson) discuss the Quantum Leap accelerator, a piece of the technology that was used to leap both Sam and Ben (Raymond Lee) in time. Tom lays out a theory of why they couldn’t get both Sam and Ben home right away.
“In both cases our assumption was something went wrong (with the accelerator) and if we can fix it, one, or both of them, could come home.”
This line no doubt sent chills up fans’ spines. Sam? Coming home? Could it be possible? Magic confirms this is the Project’s goal but Tom doesn’t think it’s possible. He wonders if the engine that is driving Quantum Leap isn’t hardware. It’s “sacrifice.” As he explains to Magic,
“What if sacrifice is the price we have to pay for change? For 30 years we assumed the technology was broken but what if it has to be a one way trip?”
This sounds far-fetched. How can a concept like sacrifice be driving the leaps? But in the original series there were many theories on what was leaping Sam around. God, time, fate, or “whatever,” were all possible suspects and the series never truly confirmed it one way or the other. Is it so impossible that sacrifice could be part of how leaping works? Magic seems to think so, speculating, “I don’t think (a one way trip) will stop people from leaping. I think some will go even if that’s the cause. There’s something deep down inside of us that strives to do better.”
This perfectly lines up with the final episode of the original series. There, Sam confirmed his reason for leaping in time wasn’t just as some scientific experiment, it was to help people. To make the world a better place.
“The Lonely Hearts Club” sets up the idea that leaping will always be a one-way trip, a way to make the world a better place that comes with that cost. Which means Ben and especially Sam can never get home. While this may devastate some fans of the original series who yearn for Sam to still make it home, it is perfectly in line with the intentions of the original series finale.
The question now becomes can Ben find a way around this… But will he want to?
New episodes of Quantum Leap season 2 premiere Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.