How The Tess Was Won was the fifth episode in Season 1 of Quantum Leap, also the fifth overall episode in the series. Written by Deborah Arakelian, the episode, which was directed by former Hogan's Heroe's TV series co-star Ivan Dixon, originally aired on NBC-TV on April 14, 1989.
August 5, 1956: Sam leaps into Daniel "Doc" Young (the leapee Daniel is played by Sloan Fischer), a veterinarian working on a Texas ranch who is coerced into entering a cowboy contest in order to marry the ranch owner's daughter, Tess. Sam leaps into "Doc" while standing in a muddy pig pen and carrying a sick, screaming piglet. As Sam attempts to subdue the piglet, he overhears the ranch owner, Chance McGill (Lance LeGault), arguing with his daughter, Tess (Kari Lizer). Chance implores Tess to get married and produce heirs so that the ranch may continue running into the future. Tess, an accomplished cowgirl, is adamantly opposed to marriage. However, she agrees to marry any man who can beat her in a cowboy contest, though retains the right to choose her competitor. She picks Sam, convinced that his counterpart, Doc, has no chance of beating her. Chance approaches Sam with the offer, but Sam flatly refuses and takes the sick piglet home with him.
As Sam arrives at Doc's home, a boy, who is sitting on the porch and playing a guitar, tells Sam he has completed all of his chores. Sam thanks him and sends him on his way, though the boy is offended that Sam refers to him as "Pard", which is actually the name of the boy's dog.
Sam nurses the piglet with a bottle of milk when Al shows up. Sam is surprised that the other animals in Doc's home can see Al. Sam hopes his mission is as simple as curing the pig, as he was afraid he might have to enter the contest in order to marry Tess. Al tells him Ziggy is predicting that Tess will marry a man who writes her love letters. Sam stumbles through Doc's drawer and discovers that Doc has written a journal with passages revealing his love for Tess. Though Sam argues that it is a journal, not love letters, Al tells him this is proof that Doc is destined to marry Tess.
Sam returns to the ranch the next day to take part in the contest against Tess. Wayne (Marshall R. Teague), a cowboy who works on the ranch and who holds a clear animus for Sam, tricks him into riding Tess' prize Stallion, Widowmaker. However, Widowmaker proves impossible to handle and throws Sam off instantly. Wayne helps Sam up and insists that his trick was simply "cowboy humor". Tess saddles up into Widowmaker and says that she is the only person who can successfully ride the stallion.
The first stage of the contest is roping and rangling cattle, which Tess wins easily. Wayne gives Sam a few tips about how to rope the cattle and Sam goes out to do so, but fails miserably. Chance sympthises with Sam and corrects Sam's technique. Sam is able to catch one of the calves, until it manages to escape suddenly, and he lets out a yell. Sam pretends to have had his thumb yanked off, until he reveals to a startled Wayne that his thumb is fine and his stunt was simply playing a bit of "cowboy humor".
That evening, Sam and Tess are competing in poker playing. Al says that Wayne is palming aces and eights. Sam accuses Wayne of cheating and Wayne rises up in anger. Chance overturns Wayne's cards to reveal that Sam's accusation was wrong. As Wayne is about to fight Sam, Tess pulls him away to the bar. Sam looks at Tess' cards and sees that Tess was the one holding the aces and eights. Tess tells Wayne she does not need him to win the contest, but Wayne is unsure, as he believes Sam to be a more formidable opponent that he thought.
The next day, Tess and Sam are participating in a pole digging contest in the hot sun. Tess becomes overheated and collapses from exhaustion. Sam takes her back to his place and cools her down by stripping off her clothes down to her bra and panties. Tess awakens and, misinterpreting Sam's actions, punches him in the face. Sam insists that he is trying to help, and asks that she trust him. Tess reluctantly accepts his help.
While Tess waits at his place for an overhead storm to pass, Sam convinces her to dance with him. As the two are about to kiss, Tess pulls away. She concedes that the contest is a tie, but that since the object was for Sam to win outright, he has effectively lost. Sam asks for a tiebreaker, and Tess tells him to ride Widowmaker. Assuming that he will not do so, Tess leaves and cries as she drives away.
The next morning, Sam takes Widowmaker out into the pen to ride her. He tries to get Al to distract the animal so he can keep control. However, Al is called away, and Sam is left to ride the Stallion alone. Nonetheless, Sam manages to get control and ride the animal successfully, with Chance and Tess watching on. Sam tells them he rode Widowmaker to prove he could do it, not for Tess to marry him. Sam is convinced that Tess must marry him out of choice not coercion, so he gathers Doc's journal to give to her. Tess is flattered and surprised to discover Doc's infatuation for her. She asks him to dance with her, seemingly accepting the idea that they are to be married.
However, Wayne appears outside the house. He confesses his own feelings for Tess and produces unsent love letters that he wrote for her. Sam realises that Ziggy's prediction was true - that Tess would marry a man who wrote her love letters - and that in fact, Wayne was her true suitor all along.
As Tess and Wayne go off to get married, Sam remains at his place tending to the now-cured Piglet. The piglet races off into the front yard, while Sam calls "Pigee Souiee" after it. The boy on the porch suddenly begins playing his guitar and incorporating the words "Pigee Souiee" into a song. Sam and Al look at one another knowingly. Now realising that the boy's identity is that of a young Buddy Holly (Scott Fults), Sam tells him that the lyrics "Peggy Sue" might sound better, and leaps...
Kisses with history
Sam inspires Buddy Holly with the lyrics to "Peggy Sue". In truth, however, the title was named after Peggy Sue Gerron, the girlfriend of Crickets' drummer, Jerry Allison.
In August, 1956, Buddy Holly would have been 19 years old and had already teamed up with his band, the Crickets, and signed up with a record label. "Peggy Sue" was released as a single in July, 1957. Curiously, Holly's other famous hit, "Oh, Boy" is not referenced in this episode, despite this being Sam Beckett's regular catch phrase.
Connections to Other Episodes
In the previous episode, "The Right Hand of God," Al tells Sam that Ziggy tried to predict where Sam would leap next, but that Ziggy was way off: the computer thought that Sam would show up as a farmer in 1956 - which he did in his very next leap! Later, in "Play Ball," Sam found himself with a pig again, and said, "Oh, no. Not another pig!" (Intriguingly, this episode occurs after "The Leap Back," at which point Sam was supposed to have lost all his memories of previous leaps. It's unclear whether Sam was starting to get his memory back, or if Al had simply lied to Donna about Sam's total amnesia to spare her feelings.)
- Actually, what Al tells Donna is that Sam doesn't remember leaping back. While Sam's narration notes earlier in the episode that memories of the previous leaps were fading, given the fluid nature of what he does or doesn't remember in any given episode, the fact that the memories of his leaps was fading doesn't necessarily mean he was in the process of losing them permanently. There's also the fact that, due to the simo-leap, Sam and Al exchanged attributes and both of their minds and personalities were effected by the leap; and it's at least assume if not entirely implied that when Sam leaped out into Al, their original balance was more or less restored and very little of Al, if anything, remained in Sam and vice versa. Further consequence of all of this could follow that Sam's memories of earlier leaps becoming harder to remember could be attributed to the swap with Al or the so-called reverse swiss-cheese effect, where with his pre-leap memory returning, his post leap memory was being effected. Once Sam leapt again, his memory returned to a state of flux which, though it meant forgetting certain facts, like Donna, meant other details, memories of past leaps were once again accessible, at least on occasion.
- Cold, Cold Heart (performed by Hank Williams)
- Peggy Sue
|Quantum Leap Season One|
|● Genesis: Part I ● Genesis: Part II ● Star-Crossed ● The Right Hand of God ● How The Tess Was Won ● Double Identity ● The Color of Truth ● Camikazi Kid ● Play It Again, Seymour ●.|