Wednesday, October 11, 2023

REVIEW: 'Quantum Leap' - The Quantum Leap Team Reacts to the Pressure of Returning to the Mission in 'Ben & Teller'

NBC's Quantum Leap - Episode 2.02 "Ben & Teller"

Ben takes on the role of a bank teller in the wrong place at the wrong time during a dangerous armed robbery. Addison, Magic, Ian and Jenn come to terms with a shocking discovery. The team adds a new member.

"Ben & Teller" was written by Aadrita Mukerji and directed by Kristin Windell

Is everyone at Quantum Leap expected to return to their regular roles? Everyone notes how three years have gone by. They never wanted to give up hope about Ben coming home. After two years with no updates, the Pentagon ended the project. Ian set up a program to continue looking for Ben. That's how they were alerted to Ben's latest leap. And yet, even that isn't apparently the truth. Ian and Jenn are keeping a secret from the rest of the team. It resulted in a return to normal. However, they all had years to mourn. They are overcome with emotion upon seeing Ben again. Their lives have changed though. For Ian, Jenn and Magic, it seems relatively easy for them to return. With Addison, it's much more difficult. She loved Ben and was his main hologram. She knows Ben will understand something's wrong the moment he sees her. She still feels she owes him an explanation.

Ben was pronounced dead. The team mourned his loss. They stayed in touch. They weren't in each other's daily lives though. Addison returned to her military training. Tom essentially helped pull the entire team out of the darkness. They were all consumed by depression over losing Ben. And now, they don't know what the future might hold now that he has reappeared. Addison and Tom are a couple. They understand how weird things are going to get. However, it's not in their nature to leave a man behind. The truth they conditioned themselves to believe wasn't accurate. Believing Ben was dead was the only way they could move on. It was still tough. They have to go through the entire Quantum Leap process all over again. It's back to the daily missions. Ian gets to spend most of the time in the imaging chamber helping Ben figure out what he's meant to do with the latest leap. That's a break from the former pattern. Ben calls out for Addison. He wants to see her. He wants to know she's okay. So much has been lost even though no time has passed for him whatsoever.

Of course, the narrative tells a lot of this to the audience instead of showing it. It's a lot of new history suddenly crucial for these characters. The first season built up the romance between Ben and Addison. It was all about the longing to hold each other. They were denied that because Ben started to leap. They received that satisfaction in the finale even though so much of that history was ultimately erased. The same applies to the expectations now. No one can lead with any certainty about time travel. Ian explains that the accelerator got confused after Ben leaped into his own body in 2018. That resulted in this massive disruption. It's a convenient explanation that allows the show to enter this new status quo. It disrupts the patterns that were known in the hopes of creating something new that is equally dramatic. Tom clearly has compassion for the team and the authority to help them return to the project. It's just difficult being the new guy when he also comes at the expense of what was previously established. It can be exciting and new. Only time will tell.

The personal relationships are meant to provide the show with depth and complexity to compel a modern audience to keep watching. It's no longer solely about the leaps each week. And yet, the biggest thrills and most consistent storytelling still come from the adventures Ben gets into. More dimension is obviously still needed with the team. The show depicts a willingness to change things up. It's a big risk. It might pay off. It might not. It can always rely on the episodic structure to provide enough of a hook to keep any episode from truly derailing. Of course, it's still inconsistent with whether or not the limitations of the body Ben leaps into actually hinders his job. The fact that he leaps into a new grandmother doesn't matter when he literally has to cut a hole through dry wall to lead the hostages to safety. He saves countless lives. He mends the relationship between siblings as well. It just requires more suspension of disbelief. It's miraculous that he guesses the correct final number to open the vault. Sometimes luck propels Ben forward. He's being guided and protected on this mission. It's simply more effortless in other instances. 

It still packs a punch when Ben and Addison finally reunite. She wants to simply share the details of what his actions will produce in the lives of those he has just saved. That always matters. Those summations are necessary to make this immense sacrifice worth it. However, Ben aims to connect with the humanity of the person in the chamber guiding him. Addison has the most experience. Ian and Jenn prove useful as well. He remembers them now too. That goes a long way in establishing trust when it's needed the most. Their bonds are strong. It's just more intimate and vulnerable with Addison. All of that will change because she moved on. She was revived through her love with Tom. Ben sees that. He understands how much pain his absence caused. It's all happening so fast. He begins to leap before having a moment to offer any true acknowledgement. The pain of the emotions are still felt. He's glad for some relative normalcy to return. It's difficult because time has passed. The team walked away from Quantum Leap. And now, they are back as if nothing changed. Ben needs their help. They aren't going to leave him to fend for himself. They were given the opportunity to explore their lives outside of work. Ben isn't given that luxury. Everyone must now cope with that.