Quantum Leap Episode 6 Review: What a Disaster!

Leaper X gets an identity as the Quantum Leap reboot struggles to maintain its own in "What a Disaster!"

QUANTUM LEAP -- "What a Disaster" Episode 106 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jewel Staite as Naomi, Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song
Photo: Ron Batzdorff | NBC

This Quantum Leap review contains spoilers.

Quantum Leap Episode 6

“What a Disaster,” the sixth installment of the Quantum Leap continuation series, carries extra baggage. First, the pilot switch: originally, Dr. Ben Song’s (Raymond Lee) leap to San Francisco was slated to be the focus of the pilot episode. Ben finds himself in the body of John Harvey, a middle-aged man decked out in high-waisted jeans, dad sneakers, and a windbreaker, who has just been asked by his wife, Naomi Harvey (Jewel Staite), for a divorce.

She’s taken him to a public spot to break the news: a bar in San Francisco filled with Giants and Athletics fans who are counting down the moments before the first pitch of the third game of the 1989 World Series. Even without the help of Addison or Ziggy, Ben quickly realizes they are in the epicenter of one of the strongest earthquakes in American history. The 6.9 magnitude quake would postpone the World Series by ten days as the Bay Area suffered the loss of 67 people, over 3,700 injuries, and $5 billion in property damages. Ben escorts his leapee’s wife and all the partygoers out of the basement bar just in time.

Episode six embraces the special effects that we haven’t seen since the pilot–explosions, near misses with large projectiles, and chaotic, panicky crowds of frightened people–but it is not as high-intensity or mysterious as episode one, “July 13, 1985.” All the conjecture around the pilot and episode six switch can be settled now…the showrunners rightly decided to lead the series revival with the more exciting of two similarly paced leaps.

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Everything else that’s happening in the present with the Quantum Leap Project’s team is episode six material and not a carryover from the pilot. Namely, that “Leaper X,” the mysterious, aggressive leaper introduced at the end of last week’s “Salvation or Bust,” has a name. In two of the lighter moments in this episode, team members Ian Wright (Mason Alexander Park) and Jenn Chou (Nanrisa Lee), play the pause with deft facial expression comedy when they perform their agile work in the arenas of technology and security.

First, as they scan facial recognition databases to match “Leaper X” with a known person, project leader Herbert “Magic” Williams stares at the screen waiting for the results to appear. Ian then must break the news that it could take weeks for the system to find a match–just as the scan stops, 45 seconds after initiation, on a decorated, young soldier named Richard Martinez (Walter Perez). Then, they manage to lead Magic into dubbing the menacing man as “Leaper X” despite Magic’s earlier resistance to such a cringey moniker. These well-played and subtle comedic moments are adding up through the episodes to establish Jenn and Ian as Quantum Leap’s main sources of levity.

Jenn’s explanatory “mind cuss” and her theater of cowboy dolls aptly show that Richard Martinez may be a leaper from the future, rather than from the present or the past. In fact, when Jenn and Magic go to the home of Richard Martinez, they find a man who is nothing like the bully encountered at the end of the previous episode. Richard Martinez is a hero with military medals to match the size of his heart and his patriotic love for America. He jumps at the opportunity to serve, mistaking Magic’s visit as a call to duty. The story he shares is one of an immigrant family risking everything for life in a country of safety and opportunity, and his citizenship in the United States is granted when he enlists in the Marines. 

How the earnest, soft-spoken and humble Richard Martinez of the present becomes the intimidating cowboy leaper we met in the imaging chamber last week remains to be understood. All the present-day Quantum Leap drama falls under the category of “something happened” (to make Ben leap secretly and without authorization, to cause Janis Calavicci to go rogue, and to turn Martinez from boy scout to bully), but the “what exactly happened” is still elusive on all fronts.

In addition to the pilot-switch baggage of episode six, we also experience along with Ben the emotional trauma of losing his mother as his story coincides with John, Naomi, and Jason (their teenage son) Harvey’s nuclear family collapse. The question that Ben asks Addison when he realizes that he is in the year 1989 is whether his parents are still together. Once again, Ben’s memory is jogged when a deep, emotional wound of his own life is touched by the events surrounding the leapee he embodies.

A beautiful moment of episode six goes beyond the flirting and profession of feelings that Ben and Addison (Caitlin Bassett) have mutually enjoyed ever since Ben remembered that Addison is that special someone he kept seeing in his foggy memory. Addison confesses that Ben’s vulnerability and openness through the leaps is making her fall in love with him even more. Ben’s walls of protection are crumbling, and his fiancé is now able to get to know him on a level that his pride and stoicism didn’t previously allow.

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Addison doesn’t just get an emotional upgrade in episode six, she also receives a new hand-link. Her palm-sized “Simon Says” device is on the fritz, so Ian provides her with an older-version that has a screen and flashing lights. This one looks like a hand-link worthy of the original hologram helper, Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell). The new device supplies the visual cue that we need to see Addison as a hologram. Unlike Al in the original Quantum Leap, Addison often looks and acts like a flesh and blood person who pops in from around the corner rather than from another dimension in spacetime. As a result, the audience needs all the help it can get in believing that Addison is not physically present in the leaps.  

The Quantum Leap revival busted through another original series limitation in “What a Disaster.” Not only is Richard Martinez, “Leaper X,” from the future, but Jenn and Ian both share with Magic that they now believe that Ben is using the gravitational slingshot to navigate to a future juncture in time and not just through historic points. We know that Janis is using her planted bug inside of Ziggy to predict what the Quantum Leap project team will do in the future. This episode confirms that the future is going to be a destination heretofore unexplored in the Quantum Leap universe. Getting Ben home is going to be more complicated than we expected. 

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.


3 out of 5