As the series hits its stride, the primary difference emerging is the presence of a long-arc antagonist, Janis Cavalicci, working at odds with the QL team. This contrasts with Sam and Al’s situation in the original series, where they had only a simple (!) task with no adversaries to speak of.
On Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 3, Janis not only steals and sets up tech that could interfere directly with the QL project and Ben’s ability to return home, but she also drugs her own mother to get at it after confronting Beth with her lack of faith in Janis’s abilities. Are we witnessing a villain origin moment?
Meanwhile, Ben’s painful learning curve is both physical and emotional for himself and Addison as memories start to emerge.
It’s fascinating to note how many bodies hit the ground in the scope of this adventure.
Besides the Vegas boxing ring knock-outs, both Beth and Addison are taken down by elements in their lives.
Life as Danny Hill serves to spark several cognitive connections in Ben as the relationships parallel parts of his forgotten life.
The close brother relationship between Danny and Daryl reminds Ben that he always wanted a big brother because he’s an only child.
Daryl’s refusal to acknowledge the effects of PTSD on his life echoes the strain Addison is under.
Addison: Look, I can’t just stop, okay? Everything here reminds me of him. Everything at home reminds me of him. Even the day of the week reminds me of him.
Ian: So, like Wednesday? Wednesday reminds you of Ben?
Addison: On Wednesdays, we used to get Thai food and watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Addison: He pretends like he hates it, but he follows all of them on Twitter.
I like her conversations with Ian. They might seem schmaltzy to some, but I appreciate the insights and backstory they provide.
With Ben out of the physical picture for the foreseeable future, their conversations and anecdotes fill in his gap in their world. It might be an obvious way to provide exposition, but it’s undeniably effective.
It’s no coincidence that on Ben’s first leap into a person with a significant other, he starts to remember his own romantic entanglements. (See what I did there?)
Of course, Angela’s enthusiastic affection for Danny doesn’t resemble what we’ve seen of how Addison and Ben are together. To be fair, the couples are at very different stages in their relationships.
However, between being showered with kisses and hit by the middle-weight champion of the world, Ben’s brain gets a good kickstart to remembering who Addison truly is to him.
Addison: You have a photographic memory.
Ben: I do? Ironic.
Playing a character under constant stress and pain never plays well when a show starts off. Specifically, I’m thinking of Paula Malcomson’s Amanda Graystone on Syfy’s Caprica.
Caitlin Bassett doesn’t have an easy task playing a woman whose life plans have been torn away from her. Addison’s dealing with the loss of her partner and learning that he’s kept secrets from her. On top of that, he’s utterly dependent on her guidance, with no memory of their life together.
There’s an effort in the writers’ room to build a bit of banter and buddy humor into the Addison and Ben leaping relationship.
I know that fans of the original series miss the parlay between Al and Sam — I do too, to be honest — but it’s awkward to develop that sort of rhythm in a relationship that is, at its core, a marriage.
I can’t see Addison and Ben ever getting that comedic tempo flowing. It’s too divergent from their genuine connection.
Ben: I don’t know what to do once the fight starts.
Addison: Yeah, if only there was a way to know exactly what the champ would do. If we could see the fight before it happened… oh, wait, what do we have here?
Ben: Do you want to milk that moment a little bit longer? Should I give you some more time with that?
Addison: You know, I really gotta get the wins where I can.
However, with Janis holding Al’s old Ziggy handlink, there may soon be someone else for Ben to spar with verbally.
Speaking of sparring, it’s a bit of a stretch to believe anyone could learn how to box effectively with their non-dominant hand in a short day’s training. Mind you, it’s something Sam Beckett regularly did in the old days.
Also, did anyone else notice that Ben can talk to Addison with Daryl only a few steps ahead and not be noticed, but a whispered comment from across the gym triggers big brother into a rage?
It’s a minor quibble but considering it’s the 1970s, Danny should be attracting a lot more attention with his (seeming) self-chatter.
Now that we know Ben is going somewhere – he’s leaping his way to get there – we have to treat this like a marathon and not a sprint.
For Ben (as Danny) to plead with Daryl to get help and take care of himself and then turn around and make a similar request of Addison on his own behalf does a great job of pointing out the interconnectedness of lives.
(And it’s driven home by the team showing up to watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with Addison, despite Magic and Jenn being willfully ignorant of the entire genre.)
As for Janis, I’d like to think she’s got a noble higher purpose, but they are REALLY pushing the villain button.
From her multiple lurky hacker lairs (that she’s willing to fry if infiltrated) to breaking into Ben and Addison’s home to Trojan Horsing the QL project to drugging. Her. Own. Mother, Janis is out to prove she’s the biggest, most ruthless brain on the block.
Beth: I did what I had to do. You would’ve spent your life chasing phantoms. Waster your brilliant mind on a program that was never going to work. Sam Beckett was lost forever. Your dad never got over it. Is it so wrong for me to want to protect you from that same fate?
Janis: No, it isn’t wrong. I do have one question though. Did it ever occur to you that maybe I wouldn’t fail? Did you ever once consider that maybe your daughter was smart enough to succeed where everyone else went wrong? That I was the only one talented enough to make all of Dad’s dreams come true? [pause] Wow. I didn’t think so.
Will she join Ben in the 80s bar scene? What will he make of a new holo-guide?
I’m curious why Al had all that tech at home and why the government never took inventory and repoed it years ago.
In any case, Janis is clearly several steps ahead of the team and unwilling to play nice.
With Ben leaping into a woman next, we’re about to find out if cross-gendering plays out as funny as it did in the 90s.
Be sure to watch Quantum Leap online on Peacock and hit our comments below with your thoughts and theories!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.