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"The Leap Back"
Quantum Leap
Episode No.   Season
54 4x01 Four
Episode Information
Original Broadcast Date September 18, 1991
Network: NBC-TV
IMDB: IMDb logo.png The Leap Back
Written by: Donald P. Bellisario
Directed by: Michael Zinberg
Leap Information
Leap Date: June 15, 1945
Place: Crown Point, Indiana
Leapee: Captain Tom Jarrett
Chronological Information
Preceded by: "Shock Theater" (Season 3 finale)
Followed by: "Play Ball"

The Leap Back was the season premiere of Quantum Leap's fourth season, also the 54th overall episode in the series. Written by series creator Donald P. Bellisario, the episode, which was directed by Michael Zinberg, originally aired on NBC-TV on September 18, 1991.


A lightning bolt strikes Sam and Al, causing them to trade places and personalities: Al becomes a World War II ex-POW just returned home in 1945; Sam leaps home to the Q.L. control center in 1999.


June 15, 1945: In this episode, Sam and Al switched places, thanks to a lightning strike in the end of the previous episode, "Shock Theater", at the end of Season Three (episode #24). Al's stuck back in 1945, as U.S. Army Captain Tom Jarrett (the leapee Tom is played by Dean Denton in a mirror image cameo). Sam realizes that he is in the Imaging Chamber, so has therefore returned home to 1999. However the two friends have a problem... the now powerless Handlink is in the year 1945 with Al, and Sam needs it to open the Imaging Chamber door.

Al looking at the Handlink.[1]

Meanwhile, Sam is starting to regain his memories, and remembers an override code that can be used to unlock the Imaging Chamber door from the outside. Sam remembers that in the event of a catastrophic collapse of the radium accelorator ring surrounding the imaging chamber, that Ziggy would have automatically sealed the chamber to protect from a possible radiation leak, and that once the imaging chamber door is sealed, it can't be opened, not even by Ziggy, for another 1,600 years, until the radiation half-life of the radium ring had expired, which prompted Al to ask Sam, frustrated and angrily, "How could you design a system without a fail-safe?".

Sam remembers that he did create a fail-safe to be used if the chamber door is sealed in error, it can be reopened from the inside, problem being that Al, who's stuck in 1945 as the leaper with the handlink, which can't be used for another 54 years, but, Sam, in his genius mind, devised a plan: If the others in the imaging room realize that the ring didn't collapse, that someone would have to be there to open the chamber door, by getting the backdoor code, which Sam remembered that he designed in the event of a catastrophic failure such as what caused he and Al to switch places. He arranges for a letter containing the code to be delivered to Gooshie through a letter in the U.S. Mail System, addressed to Irving Gushman (Gooshie's real name), mailed to a Doc Crosnoff, Sam's dad's lawyer, with about $100 in 1945 money, for his trouble, with implicit instructions to be delivered to Gooshie on September 15, 1999, the date which Al switched places with Sam. Suddenly, more of Sam's memories start to emerge and Sam remembers something important. He demands to know why Al didn't tell him, and Al tells him simply that he couldn't. As soon as Sam has Al put the letter into the mailbox, the Imaging Chamber door opens up. Sam runs through into the main hub of Project Quantum Leap and is reunited with Donna, his wife that his Swiss-cheesed brain had forgotten about. After a loving embrace between the two, Sam reacquaints himself with Gooshie (who confirms the letter was just delivered, nearly fifty-five years after it was posted), Dr. Beeks and Tina. He then activates Ziggy, whose ego and stubborness are as large as ever. Sam demands she try and find a way to help Al.

Meanwhile, Al is trying to stumble through a leap without Ziggy to give him information. He is Tom, a former WWII Army POW who was presumed dead who has just returned home from Germany to his hometown Crown Point, Indiana. His former girlfriend is going to marry another guy in two days and Al and Sam guess that he is there to get her to marry Tom instead.

Ziggy finally reaches a probability hypothesis, inconveniently while Sam and Donna (Mimi Kuzyk) are having some personal time, and informs Sam that Al is in 1945 to prevent Tom and his girlfriend before he went off to fight in the war, Suzanne Elsinger (Amanda Wyss) from committing suicide (or at least how it looked to the police when they discovered their bodies) in what seemed like a Romeo and Juliet-inspired lover's pact.

Sam and Al soon discover, unfortunately, almost dangerously too late, that it was not suicide at all, but a carefully planned murder by the scorned ex-boyfriend. Sam fails to prevent Al getting knocked out, and realizes the only way to save him is to go back into the Accelerator Chamber and leap back to 1945 to accomplish the mission. After saying farewell to Donna promising he'll be back, Sam leaps and switches places, with Al returning to 1999 into Tina's grateful arms. Sam quickly knocks out the loser who was trying to kill them, however Ziggy fails to retrieve him yet again, leaving Sam with nothing but the useless handlink. Afterwards Sam leaps, with no memory of ever returning home or of Donna.

Plot Holes[]

  • When Sam leaps out of Sam Biederman and into the present, he is still wearing the hospital gown that he was wearing when he was in the persona of Sam Biederman. Al is wearing Tom Jarrett's uniform. So, when Sam Beterman returns to his own time, whose clothes is he wearing? I presume Tom Jarrett, in the waiting room, is wearing Sam's Fermi Suit, so what is Sam Beterman wearing? Al's clothes?
  • There is a some ambiguity as to whose persona Sam is inhabiting when he returns to his own time, his own or Al's. Sam leaps into Al's location in the Imaging Chamber (rather into his persona's own location, the Waiting Room). Tina remarks that Sam sounds just like Al. At no point does the audience see Sam's reflection. Of course, no one says explicitly that Sam is in Al's persona but no one says explicitly that he is in his own. Additionally, Sam is wearing neither Al's nor his own clothes (see above). (problem is if Sam leapt into Al's persona, wouldn't he be holding the handlink and wearing Al's clothes ... There seems to be no logical explanation as to why Sam lept into the Imaging Chamber)
  • Sam met a young Donna Eleese in season 1 episode 3 "Star-Crossed". In that episode we found out that she had left him at the altar, and Sam works to change and improve Donna's relationship with her father in the past so that she wouldn't fear commitment in the future, so that her future marriage with Sam would succeed. That episode ended with Donna healing old wounds with her father, with an ambiguous ending as to whether that would lead to her having a good marriage with Sam, or if she would have ended up married to another fiancé she had left prior to Sam. In this episode we discover that she had a happy and loving marriage with Sam. Does this mean that originally Sam misremembered, that she had left him at the altar but later they did marry, or did his meddling in "Star-Crossed" change history and their lives, retroactively making them married the whole time? Based on what we know of time-travel mechanics in the show, it seems likely that it's the latter. If it is, it's not explained if 1999 Donna is aware of the fact that her reunion with her father is due to the QL project.


  • Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby - by Louis Jordan