Leap of Faith was the third episode of Season Three of the TV series Quantum Leap, also 34th overall episode in the series. Written as a teleplay by Tommy Thompson from a story co-written by Nick Harding, Karen Hall, and Thompson, the episode, which was directed by James Whitmore, Jr., originally aired on NBC-TV on October 12, 1990.
Sam leaps into Father Frank Pistano (played by Bud Sabatino), a new priest at St. Mary's. He must help an older, alcoholic priest, who is grieving the loss of a twelve-year-old boy from the congregation. Even worse, Al tells him that the priest was murdered, and Sam must save his life.
It is said that the more disastrous the wedding ceremony, the more successful the marriage. If that's the case, Sam's leap has ensured this young couple's success. Sam leaps into a priest officiating a wedding ceremony, arriving apparently just at the moment he should now tell the groom he may kiss the bride. After some prompting by the groom, Sam allows them to do so. After the wedding, Sam notices Al waiting outside, but is stopped to be criticized by the Montachelli sisters (played by Erica Yohn and Penny Santon), who go to mass at that church every day. They noticed his shaky legs, heavy breathing, sweaty palms, the crack in his voice, and not introducing the newly-weds, but give a backhanded compliment that it wasn't the worst wedding they'd seen performed there and that the first time is always the hardest – it was the leapee, Father Frank Pistano's first wedding.
Sam is saved from the sisters by the church's senior minister, Father John McRoberts (played by Sandy McPeak) – who everyone calls Father Mac. In Father Mac's office, he praises Sam for reaching two milestones – performing his first wedding and surviving his first grilling by the Montachelli sisters. Father Mac drinks some “liquid courage”, claiming he will need it for the funeral he is to preside over that afternoon - a twelve-year-old boy named Sonny, whom Father Mac had baptized and watched grow up, had been hit by a train in suspicious circumstances, and now had to bury him too.
That afternoon, a brazen youth named Tony Pronti (played by Danny Nucci), and his younger brother Joey (played by Davey Roberts) are hanging around the cemetery. Tony breaks into a car and steals a necklace hanging from the mirror. Joey wants to visit their father's grave, but Tony won't allow it. Instead they crash Sonny's funeral. Tony offers his condolences to Sonny's crying mother, who spits in his face and yells “Murderer!” When Sam and Father Mac ask Tony to leave, he tells Father Mac he'll “see him around”.
When Sam and Father Mac get back to the church, Sam again notices Al waiting for him outside. Sam asks Al if he had leapt there to prevent a murder. After being told yes, Sam thinks he's too late, having already buried Sonny, but Al tells him he is actually there to prevent the murder of Father Mac, who will die sometime in the next 36 hours. Father Mac is one of two witnesses to a robbery a month earlier, in which a store clerk was killed. The other witness was Sonny – the boy that was buried today. Al tells Sam that the suspect, Tony Pronti, is facing trial in two days, and probably killed Father Mac to prevent him from testifying.
Back in the church, Father Mac is nearly killed when a massive cross is pushed from its perch in the rafters, but Sam pushes him out of the way. The police are called, but since it was dark and neither of them could positively identify Tony as the vandal, they can't arrest him, but offer to set up a police guard to try to keep Father Mac safe. That night, Sam takes a cab to a club in a seedy part of town to confront Tony. During a passive-aggressive exchange between Tony and Sam, Tony insults the dead boy, offending Father Mac, who followed Sam. A fight breaks out, but Sam – an experienced martial artist, and Father Mac – a champion boxer, put an end to it quickly, leaving a bewildered Joey to try to help a knocked-out Tony.
As they walk home along the train tracks, Sam wonders how a good boy like Joey gets mixed up with trash like Tony. Father Mac says they are brothers, and since their father died, their mother started drinking and ended up on the streets, so Tony is the only family Joey has. They reach the spot where Sonny was killed, and Father Mac laments how someone so small could leave such a huge gap when they leave. They hurry back to the church because it has started to rain and Father Mac needs a drink.
Back in his office, Father Mac gets very drunk. Sam tries to cut him off, saying it won't help anything, but Father Mac doesn't think it would hurt anything either, and when looking for another bottle, finds his shotgun and his war medals, including a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. Sam calls him a “war hero” and thinks he must have been the chaplain, but he was just a marine stationed in the pacific. He lost count of the number of people he killed during the Battle of the Bloody Ridge, when the enemy sent countless suicide squads at them, but swore if he survived that he would try his best to make up for it, and so became a priest. Father Mac doesn't know if he's living up to that vow, but Sam says he just has to do the best he can and have faith what he is doing does good in the long run. Father Mac asks if Sam thinks he does, to which Sam answers “yes”, but Father Mac is not so sure. He then passes out.
Unsure where his quarters are, Sam stumbles upon Father Mac's boxing gym. Al arrives and asks how Father Mac is. Sam replies that Father Mac is alive, but is worried about his mental state. Sam asks Al why Al has not been himself during this leap. Al reveals that when his father returned from the Middle East, he pulled Al out of the orphanage and Trudy out of the institution, trying to put the family back together. He even bought a house. But Al's father got sicker and sicker and had to be hospitalized, and was diagnosed with cancer. Al would visit him, and his father told him that he would be alright as long as Al prayed for him, so Al prayed and prayed... until the day his father died. Since then Al turned his back on God and the church, which is why he has been so uncomfortable during this leap. Al leaves, and Sam catches Joey, who has been hiding in the gym. Joey wanted to talk to Sam, but decided to wait 'til Sam had finished talking to himself. Joey wants Sam to talk to Father Mac, to tell him to not “rat” on Tony – if he testifies, then Tony will hang. Sam says that Father Mac has to tell the truth and that if Tony confesses, he has a good chance of beating the death penalty. Joey replies that Tony would kill him if he knew he was there, but all Tony was guilty of was trying to stay alive. He remembers that Tony wasn't always like this, Tony loved baseball and they used to go to see the Phillies on the weekends – their dad worked at the stadium selling hot dogs. But after their father died, Tony got mean, like he was mad at the whole world. Sam asks if Tony is trying to stop Father Mac, but Joey doesn't know.
The next morning, Father Mac is training boxing to a group of boys at the gym. A teenager tells Father Mac that he can't come to training that afternoon as he has a part-time job at a butcher shop, so Sam suggests he punch the beef hanging in the freezer – having seen it in a movie. The teenager likes the idea, and closes his locker, revealing his name – S. Stallone. Sam wants to talk to Father Mac, but he will only listen if they do a few rounds in the ring. Sam suggests that Father Mac leave town for a few days, to dry out and to stay alive until the trial. Father Mac refuses, saying he has never run from anything in his life. Sam lands a few good punches, knocking Father Mac to the ground, wonders aloud if Father Mac wants to die, and angrily tells Father Mac he'll do his confessions that day. Meanwhile, Tony loads his shotgun with bullets. Joey tries to talk him out of it, and suggests they go to Canada instead. He doesn't think Tony would do this if their dad was still alive, and in a fit of rage, Tony reveals that their father was a loser who didn't care about any of them and killed himself – Tony is the one who found his dead body hanging.
Al can't believe that Sam offered to do Father Mac's confessions. Sam admits he was angry, and just wanted Father Mac to take a minute to think about staying alive. Al thinks confessions are sacred, which surprises Sam – Al's only explanation is that “old habits die hard” - but tells Sam to just forgive everyone and not talk too much. The first person in the confessional is Tony, who admits to having killed two people since his last confession ten years ago... Make that three... shooting at Sam, thinking it's Father Mac. He runs out of the confessional after firing six bullets, witnessed by one of the parishioners. Luckily, Sam recognized Tony's voice and ducked just in time, only being grazed by one bullet. It's still enough to stun Sam though, fainting just as Al arrives. Thinking Sam is dying, he tells God he swore to not have anything to do with him again, but that He can't take Sam like this because he'd helped too many people, and Al even resorts to praying for Sam. Father Mac, who has just arrived, calls to Sam, waking him up and prompting a “Thanks” to God from Al. The witness says it was Tony Pronti, so Father Mac goes after him. Al tells Sam to get up, because now history has changed and he has to stop Father Mac from killing Tony. With much difficulty, Sam gets up, runs out and borrows the Motachelli sisters' car to follow Father Mac.
Father Mac has Tony held at gunpoint on the railroad tracks where Sonny was killed. He wants a confession from Tony, threatening to shoot him if he moves and having the oncoming train run him over if he doesn't confess. Sam arrives as Father Mac is about to shoot Tony, and tells him that he doesn't have to do this, Tony will be found guilty as long as he testifies. But Father Mac reveals he didn't witness the shooting – Sonny was afraid, and so to comfort him, Father Mac pretended to have seen it too. Tony realizes he is now off the hook and tries to run, but Father Mac shoots in his direction, stopping him in his tracks. Sam gets on the track between the two of them, wanting to stop Father Mac from doing something he'll regret. Fearing for his life, Tony confesses to the murders just before the train is going to hit them, and Sam pulls him off the tracks just in time. The next morning, Father Mac is letting out some of his anger on a punching bag. Sam is surprised to see him there so early, but Father Mac says after having had alcohol as his crutch for ten years, he needed something else to break the habit. Sam tells him to take it “One Day At A Time”, coining the phrase. Al reveals that Father Mac stays sober and at the church for 20 more years, even winning a couple more golden gloves championships in the process. Tony doesn't hang, but does some serious time. He makes something out of his life when he gets out of prison though. Joey is also in good hands, being taken under Father Mac's wing. Al praises all the good work that Sam did, and with some praise directed back toward Al for praying for him, Sam leaps.
Kiss with History
Sam watches Father Mac with a group of teens and kids practicing boxing. When the group ends the practice, one of the teens mentions he can't come to the next session as he has to work at a butcher's. Sam tells him about watching a movie where a boxer uses hunks of meat to practice. When the teen leaves, Sam notices that the teen's locker has the name S. Stallone on it. (The real Sylvester Stallone actually grew up in New York City.)
- Mickey's Monkey (performed by The Miracles)