M.I.A. was the final episode of Season 2 of Quantum Leap, also the 22nd episode in the series. Written by series creator Donald P. Bellisario and directed by Michael Zinberg, the episode originally aired on NBC-TV on May 9, 1990.f
Sam leaps into police detective Jake Rawlins (played by Doug Bauer) and is set to save a woman from marrying another man while her husband is M.I.A. But as the leap goes on, he becomes less and less sure if that is the reason he is there.
April 1, 1969: Sam leaps into San Diego wearing heavy make-up, a mini skirt, and heels and smoking a cigarette in an alley. He laments being in heels and being a woman again. He examines his reflection in a cracked mirror in the alley and sees what appears to be a fairly homely woman. He hears a voice yelling the name Jake. He opens his purse and finds a walkie-talkie and a gun. Two armed men run into the alley from one of the buildings. Upon seeing Sam, they point their guns at him and call him a narc. A cop car pulls up and a gun battle ensues between the two armed men and the police. An undercover cop, who is identified as Skaggs (played by Jason Beghe) also joins the fray, while Sam hide behind a dumpster.
Sam realizes he is an undercover cop in drag and not a woman. Skaggs tells Sam about freezing up in Vietnam after seeing a naked baby on the trail, which ended up being a set up for an ambush. He tells Sam that you get one freeze up and still get to live to talk about it. Skaggs and Sam return to the police precinct locker room. Sam, still in heels and a skirt, gets several whistles from the other police officers. Al is waiting for him and gives Sam the facts about his leap. Sam has leaped into Jake Rawlins, a newly promoted detective in the San Diego Police Department, who is partnered with Sgt. Roger Skaggs. Al suddenly gets very serious and tells Sam he is there to stop a woman named Beth from making a huge mistake. Al informs Sam that her husband is an M.I.A. pilot, who is being held by the VietCong and won't be repatriated until 1973. By that time, Beth has moved on and married again. The man she marries she meets on April Fool's Day, 1969.
A young, pretty woman cries as she tries to fix a flat. A stranger comes up and tries to help her out by changing the tire. The woman is Beth Calavicci (played by Susan Diol) and he is Dirk Simon (played by Norman Large). Meanwhile, Sam and Skaggs drive toward the marina. Skaggs questions how Sam knows that a woman he's never met, Beth, will meet a lawyer as she tries to change a flat tire. They come upon Beth and Dirk, and Sam takes over changing the tire, while Skaggs “questions” Dirk. Sam startles Beth by knowing her name and makes her think Dirk is under investigation. Skaggs gives the same impression to Dirk about Beth.
Skaggs and Sam go undercover as hippies. A disheveled Al appears and berates Sam for not stopping Dirk and Beth from meeting and says Beth gets the Navy to declare her husband dead and marries Dirk. Sam questions whether Beth and Dirk are supposed to be together. Al denies this adamantly and reveals that he was also an M.I.A. and that his wife wasn't around when he came back. Sam, while sympathetic, doesn't think he can keep Beth and Dirk apart. Al says he only needs to be there for her for the next few days. Beth, who is nurse in the burn ward of Balboa Naval Hospital, recently lost a patient she had a lot of hope for, which causes her to lose her hope for her husband of returning. Al believes that if Sam can help her remember how much she loves her husband, claiming Ziggy knows what music to play and where to take her to help Sam on the way. Sam doubts this is what he is here to do. A commotion breaks out as Skaggs attempts to arrest a hippie couple for possible possession.
Beth watches the sunset over the bay and meets Dirk's mother, who invites her to dinner. She sees Sam pull up into the parking lot and graciously declines the offer. She confronts Sam and demands to know why he is following her. He gives her calla lilies, which she says are her favorite and wants to know who told him they were her favorite. Sam says that he'll tell her everything if she'll go to dinner with him. At dinner, he says he was going to try to pick her up but he saw that she was married and gave up.
Meanwhile, Al walks around Beth's house and looks around. Beth returns home with Sam. Sam sees Al just as he uses the Handlink to step through the Imaging Chamber door. Beth tells Sam about losing Andy, the burn patient she thought would live. Sam holds Beth as she cries. Al stands outside, looking downtrodden.
The next day, Sam says that he still has doubts about whether Dirk and Beth should be together as she met Dirk's mother. Al angrily denies this and further describes his horrific experience as an M.I.A., saying that he doesn't want Beth's husband to return to find his wife gone as he did. Elsewhere, Beth and Dirk run into each other again at lunch. Meanwhile, a trap is being set for Skaggs by the men who he arrested at the beginning of the leap. They use a young Hispanic woman to make a call to Skaggs.
Beth and Dirk talk about her husband at her home. She says without any children, she's been having a hard time coping with her husband being away. Sam shows up, after Al tells him that Dirk and Beth are together, wanting to move their date up several hours and Dirk leaves. Beth goes to change and Sam mills about the house. He finds a picture on the mantel and recognizes Al in the photo. He tears up and tells Beth he doesn't think he is supposed to be there and leaves. Al, who is waiting outside, attempts to leave via the Imaging Chamber door but Sam yells for him to stop. He closes the door. Sam confronts Al about trying to change his own life, which he cites as being against the rules. Al tears up and says that Beth was the love of his life and he can't give her up. Sam asks Al if he knows if he is there for another, more important reason.
Skaggs walks into a bar and asks for Rosalie, the woman who called to set up a meeting with him. She is waiting with a baby. Skaggs flashes back to Vietnam and is frozen. Two men pull guns on him, but Sam appears with a shotgun and kills the two men, saving Skaggs, Rosalie (played by Leticia Vasquez), and the baby.
Al and Sam wait outside Beth's house. Al apologizes for not being more open-minded to other scenarios and wonders why Sam hasn't leaped. Sam thinks that maybe it's so Al can see Beth one last time. Al goes in to Beth, who is crying in her living room. For a moment, it seems as if she can hear Al, but she moves to the stereo and puts on “Georgia” by Ray Charles. She dances alone and Al joins her, unable to touch her. He tearfully begs her to wait for him and tells her he loves her. He moves to kiss her and he leaps with Sam. At that instant she says his name and cries.
- I Heard It Through the Grapevine (performed by Marvin Gaye)
- (Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay (performed by Otis Redding)
- Georgia On My Mind (performed by Ray Charles)
- Someday We'll Be Together (performed by Diana Ross & the Supremes)
- Unchained Melody (performed by The Righteous Brothers)
Sam: Al! If you close that door, don't ever open it again.