Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Quantum Leap S 1 E 05 How The Tess Was Won

Go To

Quantum Leap
Season 1, Episode 4:

How the Tess Was Won

Tess McGill: If there's a man on this ranch who can keep up with me for one week, then I'll marry him. But if he can't, then we forget about this marriage business once and for all.

Airdate: April 14, 1989. Written by Deborah Arakelian, directed by Ivan Dixon.


August 5, 1956

As farm veterinarian Daniel Young, Sam engages in a contest of ranching skill against a cowgirl as tough as she is beautiful. The prize: the cowgirl’s hand in marriage and a prime spread of Texas ranchland.


  • Actually Pretty Funny: Sam has a little bit of a chuckle once he realizes he was there to help Buddy Holly create "Peggy-Sue".
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Wayne and Tess watch Sam attempts at lassoing, Tess inquires if Wayne bothered to tell Sam to keep his thumb up, pointing out that the rope could "jerk [it] off" if Sam's not careful. Sure enough, Sam suddenly yells out in pain after yanking on the rope:
    Wayne: (pretending to be worried) Gosh, Doc. Didn't I tell you to keep your thumb up?
    Sam: (in pain) No!
    Sam: (in pain) God! I guess I'll just have to... (pretends to take off his thumb) grow a new one. (uncovers his uninjured thumb)
  • Advertisement:
  • Chekhov's Gun: Al informs Sam that there's a 97% probability that Tess is going to marry someone who wrote her letters. Towards the end of the episode, Wayne (upset that she was probably going to marry Doc) showed up to make his case, talking about how he loved her ever since he showed up at the ranch...
    Wayne: Just... Just never had the guts to say so... (pulls out a stack of paper) But I wrote these letters.
  • Cutting the Knot: Discussed: After Doc's assistant leaves, Sam (who was unable to figure out what his name is) looks skyward and asks "Couldn't you give 'em name tags?"
  • Did Not Get the Girl: In the end, Dr. Young and Tess do not get together.
  • Fingore: Discussed: Wayne makes a point of not warning Sam to keep his thumb up when he uses the lasso, which Tess points out leaves him as risk of losing a thumb. However, since Sam grew up on a farm himself, he opts to pretend to lose his thumb as a joke to Wayne.
  • Advertisement:
  • Heroic RRoD: Downplayed: Tess overworks herself trying to keep up with Sam when they put up fence posts, and winds up passing out from heat exhaustion.
  • Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: Deconstructed: When Al asks Sam if he ever saw Tina's tattoo (which is in a very intimate location), Sam does not answer, prompting Al to assume Sam did. When Sam points out he doesn't even remember Tina, much less her having a tattoo, Al accuses him of using his swiss-cheesed brain as a cover... only for it to finally connect for Al that Sam couldn't have, since he's in 1956. The incident that caused Al to ask Samnote  had happened (for Al) recently.
  • Ironic Echo: After Sam gets thrown off of Widowmaker, Wayne (who had tricked Sam into riding it in the first place) helps him up, cracking that his stunt was "[j]ust a little cowboy humor". Later on during Sam's stint at lassoing, he pretends he lost his thumb following Wayne's half-assed advice, informing Wayne that was "[j]ust a little cowboy humor".
  • Loophole Abuse: Because of a desire to see Tess marry someone so that the ranch can remain family owned, Chance makes a deal with her: If any man on the ranch can keep up with Tess for an entire week, she'll marry that person. And after insisting she picks the man, Tess promptly chooses Sam (or rather Doc). What's more, when Sam decides to Opt Out, Tess refuses to pick another man; "[i]t's Doc or nothin'".
    Tess: You said any man on the ranch, Chance, and a deal's a deal.
  • Mirror Reveal: Sam is trying to woo a woman named Tess on behalf of the man he leaped into, but ends up losing her to another man. Al suggests that Sam look into a mirror where he sees a hispanic man looking back; Al says that Sam got much further than anyone would have expected (Tess is white, and the story takes place in the 1950s). Evidently Sam never looked into a mirror the entire time he had leaped even though it had been upwards of a week.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Defied: Both Doc and Wayne are attracted to Tess, and Sam also gets smitten with her as the contest proceeds..
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Deconstructed – Sam (at Al’s direction) calls Wayne out on cheating at poker. It turns out Wayne was actually passing on the good cards to Tess.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Chance asks Sam about what is ailing the little pig he was fighting to pick up for the past minute since the leap in, Sam (unable to properly respond due to not really knowing) mutters out a semi-aggreement to Chance's assumption that it's hog cholera. So naturally, Sam practically panics when the entire ranch staff opts to kill and burn the whole of the pig pen, prompting him to state they can't do anything yet until he does a proper diagnosis.
  • One of the Boys: Tess works Riata Ranch alongside all the other hired hands.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Tess (except for church).
  • Running Gag: Sam doesn’t know the name of Doc’s assistant and tries a series of nicknames like “pard”, “son” and “the boy”.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Even in chaps and flannel and covered with dirt and sweat, Tess never fails to catch the eye.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion: invoked Sam at first assumes Piggy is a boy, only for Al to point out the pig's actually a girl.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Towards the end of the episode, Sam still has no idea why he's in this leap, even in spite of Ziggy's odds that he's there to get Tess to marry the leapee. And then Sam notices the pig he was watching after ran off, and tries to find it. The literal moment Sam utters "Here, piggy! Soo-ey!", Dr. Young's assistant begins banging out a song on his guitar... about "Piggy Soo-ey". One look between Sam and Al later, it quickly becomes apparent the real reason for the leap:
    Buddy: Yeah, Doc?
    Sam: Uh... why don't you try "Peggy Sue", it might... sound a little better.
  • Young Future Famous People: Dr. Young’s assistant is a pre-fame Buddy Holly. Sam even helps him write the lyrics to "Peggy-Sue".


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: