Goodbye, Norma Jean was the 19th episode in Season 5 of Quantum Leap, also the 93rd overall episode in the series. Written by Richard C. Okie, the episode, which was directed by Christopher Hibler, first aired on NBC-TV on March 2, 1993.
Leaping in to find himself standing next to a V8 convertible outside a movie studio and being bombarded with questions by an eager fan, Sam soon discovers that he has leaped into one Dennis Boardman (the leapee played by Stephen Bowers), chauffeur to legendary actress Marilyn Monroe, in 1960 Hollywood. Initially, all seems to be well, as Sam finds respite in this glamorous leap from the toils and misfortunes of most of his previous leaps, while Al is fascinated with observing the living legend of Marilyn and her lifestyle.
However, it soon becomes clear they are very near the date of Marilyn's tragic suicide under mysterious circumstances, a major historical "wrong" that Sam, coming to care deeply for the lonely and despairing star, becomes determined to put right. Striving to help Marilyn fill the void of loneliness in her isolated life at the top, Sam encourages her to take a young country girl named Barbara Whitmore (Liz Vassey), who appears on her doorstep for a job interview, as her personal assistant. The girl initially appears to be honest and hardworking, but Sam's increasing suspicions are confirmed when she begins to gently encourage Marilyn's habits of drinking and taking sleeping pills.
Behind an innocent cover story, this country girl is in reality an ambitious young actress who couldn't make it into real show business. This conniving young woman is planning to take advantage of her new position as Marilyn's assistant to rob Marilyn of her career opportunities. Sam must work to convince a disbelieving Marilyn that the girl is not as innocent as she seems, to expose the girl's ambitions and to save not only Marilyn's career, but also her life, that is endangered by her frequent revelries of alcohol and becoming dependent on sleeping pills.
- In the episode Goodbye Norma Jean, Sam leaped into the body of Marilyn Monroe's chauffeur. While a stage actor during the mid-1980s Scott Bakula co-starred in a short-lived Broadway play called Joe and Marilyn, which portrayed Monroe.
- The episode's title refers to lyrics from the Elton John song Candle In The Wind, which was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe (real name Norma Jean Baker).
- Barbara mentions Marilyn's former residence at the Voltaire Apartments in 1954: 1424 N Crescent Heights, West Hollywood, CA.
- In the original history, Marilyn Monroe died of a barbiturate overdose on April 8, 1960.
- This episode takes place in Hollywood, California from April 4 to April 10, 1960.
- After Sam alters history and saves Marilyn Monroe's life, Al tells him that she would die of a barbiturate overdose on August 5, 1962, as she did in reality.
(Note: The trivia item above may give away important plot points.)
Marilyn Monroe also reappears in issue 12 of the comic book series of Quantum Leap.