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Recap / Quantum Leap S 5 E 22 Mirror Image

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Quantum Leap
Season 5, Episode 22:

Mirror Image

Sam: Who are you?
Al the Bartender: Bartender.
Sam: Who knows everything?
Al the Bartender: Only God knows everything. (Sam looks shocked, Al laughs) You don't really think I'm God, do you?
Sam: You're more than just a bartender.
Al the Bartender: Well that’s true. I own the place, too.

Written by Donald P. Bellisario


Directed by James Whitmore Jr.

Airdate: May 4, 1993

August 8, 1953

Sam leaps into a bar in a Pennsylvania mining town as himself. The surreal situation is made stranger when Sam finds himself surrounded by familiar faces and a mysterious bartender who seems to know as much about Sam’s journey through time as he does.


  • Almighty Janitor: More specifically, Omniscient Bartender.
  • Bittersweet Ending: History is changed so that Al and Beth never divorce. They're still married and have four daughters. On the other hand, Sam never makes it home.
  • Call-Back: Sam talking to Al about Stawpah potentially being a dead leaper brings to mind Sam asking Al if he was dead in the pilot.
  • Continuity Snarl: Ambiguous: Al says he never saw Sam leap out before... despite there being episodes in the past where he alludes to it. But then again, given how freaked out Al clearly was when hearing Sam try to explain what he's experienced in Cokesburg, he could just be lying impulsively.
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  • Do You Trust Me?: "I'm going to tell you a story, Beth. A story with a happy ending. But only if you believe me."
  • Everyone Is Related: Variation: one of the patrons of the bar is a cantankerous old man named Stawpah, who's been crippled by rheumatoid arthritis. Al later mentions to Sam that he has an uncle named Stawpah... who also suffers from arthritis. Sam's conversation with the Bartender all but confirms they're the same person.
  • Foreshadowing: Stawpah says he must save Tonchi and Pete "this time", and way too accurately describes what they are experiencing in the flooded mineshaft.
    Sam: How do you know all this?
    Stawpah: I been there... too many time.
  • Fridge Horror: invoked Look at Al's face when Sam explains what happened to Stawpah, and how he leapt out in a burst of blue light and electricity, only for no one to be present once he was gone. And especially when Sam abruptly starts talking about "dead souls coming back to warn the living".
    Sam: I bet I turn blue and tingle with electrical energy! The same way [Stawpah] did when he leaped! (slightly confused) Only no one leaped back in, but that was probably because he was dead.
    Al: (quietly) That's it, I'm outta here.
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  • Friend or Idol Decision:
    Bartender Al: Where would you like to go, Sam?
    Sam: Home. I'd like to go home. But I can't, can I? I've got a wrong to put right for Al. You knew, didn't you?
  • Good Is Not Nice: Stawpah is antagonistic and suspicious towards Sam, but he demonstrates that he wants to save Tonchi and Pete just as much as he does.
  • Humble Hero: Sam thinks that all he's done is change a few lives.
  • Laughing Mad: Downplayed: after it clicks for Sam that Stawpah was Al's uncle, he can't help but laugh at the absurdity.
  • Local Hangout: Al’s Place is this for the miners of Cokeburg, PA.
  • Malaproper: The miner Ziggy frequently uses the wrong words in conversation such as cabbages, BVD and iodine in place of cartridges, KGB and ionosphere. English is not his first language.
  • Manly Tears: Sam when he thinks about where he would most like to go.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The hows and whys of Al the Bartender’s knowledge of time travel are never explained.
  • My Greatest Failure: Sam regrets not saving Al's marriage when he had the chance.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • After arriving at the bar, Sam's about to settle in when he sees himself in the mirror.
      Sam: Oh, boy.
    • Sam again after Stawpah leaps.
  • One Steve Limit: Defied – The episode features a second Al (a bartender) and Ziggy (a coal miner).
  • The Reveal: Bartender Al shows Sam who it is that's been leaping him throughout time: Sam himself.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: After Stawpah leaps, only Sam and Bartender Al remember him.
  • Sadistic Choice: Sam can either go home now or change things for Al and then face even tougher leaps.
  • Self-Insert Fic: While not based on Donald Bellisario himself, the bartender is inspired by his father, Al Bellisario, and his bar in Cokeburg, PA.
    • Fix Fic: Following this logic, the last scene counts as this: Sam realizes he needs to right one specific wrong for Al... and leaps back to the end of "M.I.A." to tell Beth a little story...
  • Series Fauxnale: Inverted: They didn't intend this to be the last episode, but the show was cancelled at the last minute, so they did a little editing to try to provide some finality to it.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Never has there been an instant of Sam doing just that than in the final scene: Sam leaps back to the events of "M.I.A." and prevents Beth from leaving Al, which is exactly what Al wanted Sam to do back in that episode.
  • This Cannot Be!: Among all the other things Sam struggles to deal with learning in this leap, the fact that he himself is the one leaping himself around time is the thing he can't believe.
  • The Unreveal: When Sam demands to know why the others no longer remember Stawpah, Bartender Al simply says that's the way it is.
  • Wham Line:
    • During their discussion about mirrors and the reality they present, the Bartender gives Sam arguably the biggest revelation of the episode:
      Sam: You are the one who's been leaping me, aren't you?
      Bartender: I wouldn't say that.
      Sam: Well, what would you say?
      Bartender: (points behind himself) That he's been leaping you through time. (pan over to where the Bartender was pointing... and it's Sam's reflection)
    • When Sam tries explaining to Al that Stawpah's name is Russian, Al states that he already knew that.
      Al: I've got an uncle named Stawpah.
      Sam: (slowly sits down on the bar's porch bench) Does he have, um... uh, rheumatoid arthritis, Al?
      Al: ...he has, uh... he's got all twisted up like a pretzel...
    • In-universe (and to great effect given the circumstances): "Al's alive. And he's coming home."
  • Wham Shot:
    • Sam seeing his own reflection in a mirror.
    • Stawpah leaping.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Bartender Al refutes Sam's belief of only making a difference in "a few lives."
    The lives you've touched touched others. And those lives, others. You've done a lot of good, Sam Beckett, and you can do a lot more.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Following Al's guess that Sam leapt to his birthday, Gushie does a scan of every year from 1954 to the end of the twenty-first century, unable to find him. "...unless, of course... you meant literally his birthday."
    Al: What?
    Gushie: We started the search on his first birthday, we never checked the actual day he was born.
    Al: (looking like he's about to barf) Oh my God.

Sam: I'm going to tell you a story, Beth. A story with a happy ending. But only if you believe me.
Beth: And if I don't?
Sam: You will. I swear you will. But instead of starting with "Once upon a time", let's start with the happy ending. ...Al's alive. And he's coming home.

Video Example(s):


The Fates of Sam and Al

Al gets Beth back but Sam never gets home.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / BittersweetEnding

Media sources:

Main / BittersweetEnding