Mirror Image was the 22nd and final episode of Season 5 of Quantum Leap, also the 97th and final episode of the series. Written by series creator and executive producer Donald P. Bellisario, the episode, which was directed by James Whitmore, Jr., made its premiere airing on NBC-TV on May 5, 1993.
August 8, 1953 Sam leaps into a bar in Cokeburg, PA, a coal mining town, and to Sam's surprise, he leaps at the exact moment of his birth, when he looks into a mirror he sees his own image looking back. As he converses with the bar's owner and bartender Al (Bruce McGill), viewers soon learn that it was Sam who wanted to put right what once went wrong; that's why he created Project Quantum Leap.
Sam is given a choice to return home or continue leaping. Sam says he wants to return home, but first he feels he needs to fix one more thing, for his friend Al. Sam leaps back to April 1, 1969 (Episode: "M.I.A.") to tell Al's first wife Beth that Al is still alive and will come home.
The episode ends with captions that state Al and Beth never divorced but instead had four daughters. The final caption reveals that Doctor Sam Beckett never returned home.
Al states that he doesn't know what leaping looks like as he has usually left the imaging chamber by then. However, in Good Morning, Peoria he believes that he is leaping when he begins to glow blue from the interference from the radio antenna, and in Animal Frat after telling Sam how to complete his mission and leap he makes an electrical sizzling sound and motions with his hand to imply it passing through Sam's body. Furthermore, in many episodes he is looking at or standing next to Sam when he leaps.
Since he didn't leap into anyone but himself in this episode, the clothes he's wearing, including his wallet with his (expired) driver's license, must have materialized from storage or somewhere, since his persona is wearing a Fermi Suit. What happened to the Fermi Suit? Did it leap into a closet somewhere?
- Along with Scott Bakula (Sam), Dean Stockwell (Al) and Dennis Wolfberg (Gooshie), Bruce McGill is the only actor to appear in both the pilot and finale though as a different character.
- Nearly all the actors in this episode appeared in previous episodes.
- Bartender Al offers Sam the choice of 'regular or schooner' glasses. The glass referred to as a schooner is in fact a Pilsner. Schooner glasses have a broad rimmed, round body with a short thick stem, whereas pilsner glasses have a tall, constant angle tapered shape.
- The pinball machine in the front corner of the bar is a Gottlieb 'Baseball' which was first released in June 1970, 17 years after the episode takes place.
- Two alternate endings for this episode are known to have been scripted in case the series was renewed for another season, both of which included a present-day scene between Al and Beth, having remained married in the new timeline, discussing Al leaping himself to look for Sam. Production stills were found in February 2018 suggesting that at least one of these endings was filmed. A third, simpler alternate ending was also produced showing a family photo of Al and Beth with their four daughters instead of the ending title cards.