Quantum Leap Breaks Timeline Rules in a Timely Episode
Quantum Leap embraces its social justice legacy with an empathetic installment about a trans high school basketball hero.
This Quantum Leap review contains spoilers.
Quantum Leap Episode 12
Quantum Leap is a show with social justice baked right into it. Whether we are talking about the revival or the original series, hope, heart and humor drive the leaps. “Let Them Play” focuses on the common good, the power of community and love for oneself and others as we follow the Mendez family–Coach Carlos, Miriam (Brigitte Kali Canales), and their daughter Gia (Josielyn Aguilera).
Ben leaps into the year 2012 and the body of Coach Carlos just as the mighty Lady Lions are playing a tight game with Stanford scouts watching from the stands. One of the Lady Lion’s best teammates gets injured. As Ben looks to the bench, only one player is healthy and ready for the court–Gia. Coach Carlos doesn’t hesitate to put his daughter, Gia, in the game and the injured player is miffed about taking a seat. The other four players express a mixture of excitement and troubled concern as Gia gets her chance to shine. The audience is left to wonder—what’s the problem? Especially when Gia makes the shot that wins the game.
Back in the locker room after the game, what should be a celebration turns into a debate—one that Gia is excluded from altogether because she’s not allowed to use that locker room. As we hear the injured player’s frustration with the decision to put Gia in the game, we quickly realize that the concern is coming from a place of hate, not just the bruised ego of a star player. Can you guess where our star player learned to hate from? Her own mother.
Parents are a powerful force in a child’s life. They shape a child’s worldview and protect their progeny by any means necessary. “Let Them Play” digs deep into the culture war of a community grappling with a “big” threat—a teenager expressing herself in a way that is unique and unprecedented in school history.
Quantum Leap fans knew going into this episode that the leap centered around the story of a trans teen and that the episode was directed and written by an extraordinary talent: Shakina Nayfack. Shakina also guest stars in the episode as poet, activist and bar keep, Dottie. In the revival series to date, Dottie is the second person we know of who has experienced losing time as a result of being leapt into…the first person was Magic, the project team’s fearless leader.
Shakina recently shared her experience with Quantum Leap to E! News:
It was very emotional, and it was very healing. I think the thing that was so important to me was that I was giving voice to the spirit of my friends who I had lost. Gia, who was named after my friend Gia, represents a whole generation of trans kids that we have lost. Quantum Leap is about going back in history and rewriting time and so the idea here is that, in some symbolic way, I’m restoring life to my besties, but also helping to preserve the lives of a whole new generation of trans kids.
Back in the realm of Quantum Leap fiction, Ian (Mason Alexander Park) shares their own story about their attempt at a young age to end their life. The fear of losing Gia hits close to home since Ian graduated from a neighboring high school and remembers Gia from the news and the gossip around the time of the basketball game.
In a fascinating moment, Ian exemplifies what happens when the past is changed…all the people affected by that past event experience a shift in their memory. In the original timeline, Coach Carlos does not let Gia play, the Lady Lions lose the game and the Mendez family tragically loses Gia. Ian was there then and, in the here and now, their memory is instantaneously reshaped to reflect the results of Ben’s putting right what once went wrong.
As “Let Them Play” ends, the mystery around Ian only grows bigger. First, Ian enters the imaging chamber and, for the first time in Quantum Leap history, there are two holograms observing the past in three dimensions when Addison (Caitlin Bassett) invites Ian to watch the championship game unfold. Even more shocking, Ian breaks another Quantum Leap record by becoming the first person to be both a hologram and a leaper.
How is all this possible? Can one show really breathe peace and joy into the living rooms of every family, child and fan who strives to be an accomplice in the battle against transphobia while also upping the game in what’s possible at the Quantum Leap project? Can Ian really be the one behind Ben’s rogue leap and collusion with Janis Calavicci (Georgina Reilly)?
“Let Them Play” does it all…and wins doing it.
Quantum Leap airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. The sequel’s episodes, as well as all five seasons of the original show, are available to stream on Peacock.