Follow TV Tropes


Series / Quantum Leap

Go To

"Theorizing that one can time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator...and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see or hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap...will be the leap home."

Quantum Leap (1989-1993) is a NBC Cult Classic series. It's about a scientist, Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula), caught in a malfunctioning Time Travel experiment that bounces him back and forth into the roles of different people in the past. The only way for him to move on from any time period he lands in is to change the lives of people there for the better. Reluctant at the role thrust upon him, Sam assumes the role of the Drifter, assisted as noted by Dean Stockwell's Al Calavicci.

The show's explanation for the time travel was basically a Hand Wave; the experiment started Sam's leaps, but afterwards they were controlled by the Powers That Be. The show also established that leaping affected Sam's memory and his own past, allowing the writers to regularly Retcon his skills and personal history (referred to in show as "the Swiss Cheese Effect"). At least once a season, Sam would suddenly be revealed to have completely forgotten about his musical career/doctorate in the specialty needed for the leap, etc. In other words, he Suddenly Always Knew That.

The format allowed for an entirely new supporting cast and premise every week. If you didn't like one episode, chances are the next would be completely different. Also a cheap format, since it made extensive use of existing period wardrobes, locations, and sets, all but eliminating the need to build or make anything for the show, save for the very rare view of Project Quantum Leap itself. Many of the episodes recognizably played off the premises of popular movies, but went in a different direction.

Though Sam would leap into a variety of different hosts, and he would appear to all other people (including Al, at first) as whoever his new host was, he would appear to the audience as Scott Bakula. At least Once per Episode, he would look into a mirror to give the audience an idea of whom he was portraying (and the actor mirroring what he was doing would usually not be any good at it).

Though it had a sci-fi premise, Quantum Leap never really considered itself a sci-fi show — it was one of the few shows to be in reruns on both the USA and Sci-Fi channels at the same time. The time travel element was just a device to tell a variety of different stories, and the majority of episodes contained no fantastic elements at all, save for Sam's leaping and Al and Ziggy's guidance. This was helped along by a rule (though broken a few times) that Sam could only time travel "within his own lifetime," so he couldn't be sent to prehistoric times or the future. This also helped keep costs down.

In late summer 2010, Donald P. Bellisario announced that he was working on a feature-film adaptation of the series but it has yet to be produced. Dean Stockwell retired in 2015 and passed away in 2021.

In 2022, it was reported that NBC had picked up a sequel series, taking place thirty years after the original. The new series, which premiered in September 2022, focuses on a new team of scientists who revive Project Quantum Leap, with their leader, Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) now hopping through time as they try to uncover the mysteries of the experiment and Sam’s disappearance.

Now has a Recap page.

Quantum Leap provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 
  • The Ace:
    • Sam has six different doctorates, is a classically trained pianist, sings tenor, is skilled in a number of martial arts, and is fluent in several languages. However, his Swiss cheese memory means he only seems to remember them when it's relevant to the plot.
    • Anything Sam isn't that good at, Al usually does have the relevant skill and is able to help. For example, he once leaped into the life of an Italian mobster, and when people spoke Italian to Sam, Al (who spoke Italian fluently) acted as an interpreter.
    • Applies to a lesser extent to Scott Bakula himself, too. Anytime Sam had to do anything musical, Bakula always performed it himself, and unless a stunt was deadly dangerous, he usually did those himself too. (It does help with the idea that he- as the person he's leapt into- had the skills already....)
  • Acrofatic: Some of the people Sam leaps into, such as the overweight priest or half-blind old man, are able to do amazing things when Sam is the one in their body. On one occasion, he stands up while occupying the body of a legless double amputee, appearing to hover in midair to his witness.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • When Sam leaps into a college frat boy in "Animal Frat", the Dean whose office he and his friends regularly break into is called "Dean Stockwell".
    • A very subtle one in the episode "A Leap for Lisa" with the casting of Roddy McDowall as Sam's guide after Al is Ret-Gone. Both McDowall and Dean Stockwell started out as child actors in The '40s who grew up to lead long, respectable adult careers as actors. So in a world where Dean Stockwell doesn't exist, replace him with the actor who has a similar career path but shares next to nothing else in common. (What's more, Stockwell and McDowall had co-starred as the leads in the stage adaptation of Compulsion in 1957. When it was made into a film two years later, McDowall was the one replaced by another actor.)
    • "The Leaping of the Shrew" features Sam being shipwrecked on an island with a spoiled girl played by Brooke Shields.
    • John Cullum guest stars playing a boozy actor who is playing Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. Cullum performed the same role on Broadway for many years.
    • The instances where Sam had to be a lawyer can arguably be considered this considering the show Scott Bakula was on prior to Quantum Leap, Eisenhower and Lutz, saw him portray an ambulance-chasing lawyer.
  • Adventure Towns: Sam has been to major cities, small towns, even flying a plane (three times - which he did not know how to do!)
  • All Just a Dream: A majority of "The Boogieman". Maybe. After all, Sam knew where to go to save Tully from falling off a ladder, something that he couldn't have known if it was all just a dream...
  • All There in the Manual: Apparently Sam's entire body leaps and he only takes on the appearance of whoever he is for that episode through the use of hammerspace or some other technobabble. This explains why he is able to perform physical feats that he should not be able to as a young kid, old man, old lady, chimpanzee, etc. This has led to other implications, such as the ability to conceive a child.
    • Conversely, whoever Sam leaps into takes his place at the Project and takes on Sam's appearance, though since they are confined to the waiting room during Sam's leap, this seldom comes into play in the series. The episode "Honeymoon Express" acknowledges it during the Senate hearing to defund the project, where the senator in charge says that for all they know Sam lied about inventing time travel and uses this as a way of playing them off by claiming "Oh that's not really Dr. Beckett, it's the person he's leapt into inside his body."
  • Alternate History: It's not clear from the start, but over time, ignoring both the effects of Sam's leaps and the 20 Minutes into the Future nature of the show's "present", it's soon made clear that the world the show takes place in isn't one-for-one the same as ours. For example, in Season 5 alone, it's not only revealed that Lee Harvey Oswald had killed both JFK and Jackie, but also that Marilyn Monroe committed suicide in 1960.
  • Ambiguously Gay: A major factor in "Running for Honor". Sam leaps into a military school student who is being harassed because he might be gay. It's never determined if he really was gay or not, but Sam says it doesn't make a difference either way.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: For a series where characters utilize time travel and believe God Himself is somehow involved in their doings, this trope crops up more often than not. Sam believes in God, but not the devil. In some cases, Sam does this to Al, such as when he refuses to believe in ghosts or vampires. In a reverse, Al doesn't believe Sam when he claims to have seen an alien ship.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Al: It's much worse than death... in two days, she goes home... she spends the rest of her life alone... without love... in Cleveland.
  • Artistic License – History: A particularly bad example occurs during "Disco Inferno": part of the plot revolves around Sam doing stunt work during the filming of Earthquake. The problem? The movie came out in 1974. This episode takes place in 1976.
  • As Herself:
    • Sam leaps into the life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Meanwhile the real Dr. Ruth analyzes Al's relationship issues in the Waiting Room.
    • In one of the "kisses with history" Sam gives Chubby Checker, playing himself, the idea for the Twist.
    • Debbie Allen as Joanna Chapman in the episode "Private Dancer", the legendary choreographer of a modern dance company, essentially, Allen herself.
  • Badass Bookworm: Sam has six doctorates, but is also trained in martial arts, allowing him to kick ass as required.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: By two priests (one of them Sam) who kick ass in a Bad Guy Bar.
  • Backseat Driver: Al. Justified in that he's the only one with the historical data that helps Sam solve whatever problem he needs to fix. The rest of the time, he tries to talk Sam into accepting any and all advances from the women he runs into.
  • Bait-and-Switch: A horrifying one in "The Boogieman": Al didn't show up until the climax. That guy you thought was him? Satan.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: Sam is generally a Nice Guy who wants to genuinely do good, but when pushed in extreme circumstances or when the person in question truly deserves it, Sam will not hesitate to use physical force, even killing on occasion.
  • Black Like Me: Sam leaps into an elderly African-American man in Red Dog, Alabama in 1955 and does not realize it until he sits down at the lunch counter and sees his host's reflection. This happens again with an AA Medical student in the Watts riots in 1965, and with a U.S. Navy SEAL in Vietnam in 1970, though this is not a plot point in the latter case.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Occasionally, Sam runs into Young Future Famous People and inspires them by showing them one of the things that they're famous for without realising it until after. The cast and crew referred to these events as "Kisses With History."
  • Beeping Computers: Ziggy, Al's computer, has its own set of beeps, boops, and squeals, the latter of which usually indicates an error to be fixed via Percussive Maintenance.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: "A Hunting We Will Go" is all about this trope. Sam leaps into a bounty hunter and has to deal with a female criminal who does everything she can to escape (including assaulting him, getting other people to assault him, and trying to Show Some Leg). They repeatedly comment on how much they hate one another, and yet still have a few passionate make-out scenes. For what it's worth, Al sees right through it because he had a similar relationship with one of his wives.
  • Berserk Button: Sam hates all forms of racism or intolerance, it being one of the few things that makes him genuinely angry.
    • Sam's hatred of racism causes him considerable problems in the episode "Justice" when he leaps into a young man who joined the Ku Klux Klan because of peer pressure. He's so disgusted that he yanks off the Klan robe as though it makes him physically ill to wear it—"This robe stands for everything my parents taught me to fight against, Al!"—initially flat-out refuses to do anything to help them, and visibly struggles to keep up the charade—watch him literally choke every time he has to say the "n-word".
    • Sexism becomes one for him after he spends time as a woman in The '60s. And despite his womanizing ways, it's one for Al too.
  • Big Brother Worship: Sam was said to view Tom this way. Apparently, Tom used this worship to help push Sam in the direction we all know he took.
  • Big Little Man: Sam leaps into a guy who works at a carnival. While he's checking out his new reflection in a funhouse mirror, one of the other carnies walks up and starts a conversation. At first we only see his reflection, which looks the same height as Sam, but when Sam turns to reply to him, he's revealed to be a dwarf.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The scene where Dianna Quinna "yells" at Sam—her facial expressions and aggravated gestures make it very obvious that she's angry with him—is never translated, but understandable to anyone who knows ASL. The brief Japanese that he speaks to his Japanese wife isn't translated either, but obviously understandable to anyone who knows it.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • "Mirror Image" and the series as a whole. Sam ensures that Beth never remarries, which leads to her and Al being happily married and having four daughters. On the other hand, the last scene was a simple line of text which read "Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.".
    • The episode "Lee Harvey Oswald". Despite his best efforts, Sam can't stop the Kennedy assassination, as he leaps out of Oswald and into a Secret Service agent seconds before Oswald fires. But as he's lamenting this, Al informs him that in the original timeline, Jackie Kennedy died, too.
  • Blinding Camera Flash: This happens to Sam in "Blind Faith" when a reporter's flashbulb explodes in his face, temporarily blinding him. Since the leapee is blind but Sam does not share his disability while leaped into him, this saves him from being exposed as a sighted impersonator.
  • Body Surf: Sam is a benevolent surfer and stays in the body only long enough to complete his mission before involuntarily leaping into another host.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The finale.
  • Book Ends: Every episode opened with him leaping into a new situation, finding out some big complication and exclaiming "Oh boy!" When he finally resolved the problem, he would leap out, and a new situation would present itself where he would say the same thing. The leap at the end directly introduces the problem of the next episode, which is recapped at the start of that episode.
  • Bowdlerise: The episode "Justice" is often skipped over during syndication, no doubt because of the intense subject matter and language (the n-word is used multiple times).
    • When Sky put the series on its on demand service in 2021, "Justice" was left in with all racial slurs intact, but the season 2 episode, "Jimmy", was skipped over with the preview for the episode at the end of the previous episode, "Thou Shalt Not..." also being cut, likely due to its use of the word retarded. This creates something of a plot hole for a first time viewer, as the following episode shows a brief summary of "Jimmy" and Sam not only takes on Jimmy's personality in "Shock Theater" (where a nurse refers to him as retarded), but also leaps into Jimmy again for "Deliver Us From Evil", making Jimmy the only leapee to get a sequel episode.
  • The Boxing Episode: "The Right Hand of God". Sam leaps into a boxer "owned" by a sisterhood of nuns. The episode reveals Al as something of a boxing aficionado, but it doesn't do Sam much good since holograms make poor boxing trainers. However, during the fight itself, Al shines: he waves his hands through Sam's opponent as targets for Sam to hit (so that he aims past the guy's body, improving his momentum).
  • Breaking Bad News Gently: The "you better sit down" line doesn't work that well when Sam is forced to be in dresses.
  • Breather Episode: After the rather heavy "Raped", we got the rather light "The Wrong Stuff".
  • British Rockstar:
  • By the Eyes of the Blind: Children, animals, and mentally disabled people can see Al. The psychic can see Sam and seems to sense Al's presence as well.
  • Calling Your Shots: Somewhat averted in the episode "Pool Hall Blues", where Sam leaps into a professional pool player. The game everyone plays is nine ball, and in nine ball the only ball you have to call before you sink is the 9.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Sam isn't a big drinker and usually refuses alcohol. On two occasions when he doesn't (the first time he was drowning his sorrows, the second trying not to break character when leaping into a boozy old raconteur) he doesn't know his limits, and gets absolutely hammered. At least he avoids the first hangover by leaping...
  • The Casanova: Al, as indicated by much of his dialogue.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • In "Star Light, Star Bright," government agents inject Sam with a truth serum to question him about the UFO he saw. Instead, he goes on at length about himself, including Project: Quantum Leap. He is generally thought crazy, but he raises some eyebrows when he mentions a secret level of government clearance that the leapee couldn't possibly know about.
    • A few other times, Sam does purposefully try to tell people who he really is. It usually works, but as in "Killin' Time" and "Revenge of the Evil Leaper," it takes a heck of a lot of convincing. With the psychic who can see him, it takes no convincing whatsoever—she's pretty much figured it out right away.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Sam would mutter "Oh boy..." upon arriving in a new "host" and assessing the situation.
    • Al would say "Isn't this a kick in the butt?" at least once an episode in Season 1.
    • Al would also often call out "Gooshie, center me on Sam!".
  • Caught Up in a Robbery: Played with in Season 5, episode 10, "Promised Land," when Sam Beckett leaps into the body of one of a trio of brothers who are in the midst of robbing their local bank. He discovers they're trying to save the family farm. Al the hologram tells him he has to keep all brothers alive to fix "what once went wrong." With tensions running high, that may be easier said than done.
  • Chained to a Bed: Sam in "Moments to Live."
  • Chaste Hero: Sam, conveniently enough, because it would be a bad idea anyway. The man even turns down Marilyn Monroe, causing Al to call him "a stronger man than I". Subverted in "Trilogy," where he falls in love with the woman he's supposed to be helping and accidentally gets her pregnant, causing their daughter to be a member of the Quantum Leap Project.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Al has been married five times, eyes up everything in a skirt, everything out of a skirt, and even Sam when he's leapt into the body of a woman. But he genuinely likes women, has never been accused of cheating on any of his partners, doesn't do relationships just for sex- explicitly stating at least once that he loved every woman he's ever slept with "at the time [he] slept with them"- and he considers those who abuse women to be the lowest of scum.
  • Christmas Episode:
    • Season 3's "A Little Miracle," where Sam and Al seek to change the Scrooge-like Blake for the better. As Sam says, "We Scrooge him."
    • Season 5's "Promised Land" takes place during Christmas, complete with decorations and the themes of family being a focus. Sam also gets to wish a Merry Christmas to his father, John.
  • Chromosome Casting: "Unchained" has an all-male cast. Justified in that it is set in a prison.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Sam. Making the world a better place was his sole reason behind Project: Quantum Leap. In "Mirror Image," Al the Bartender claims that Sam himself may have been the one in control over his own leaps and could have quit the entire time, but subconsciously continued on because his desire to help people meant that he never felt he had done enough. Throughout the episode, Sam stubbornly refuses to even entertain that idea, insisting that Al the Bartender is The-Man-Behind-The-Curtain in charge of Sam's leaps and the one not letting him come home. Al lampshades this trope in "Play Ball", telling Sam he always runs the risk of getting distracted from his goals because he wants to save everyone.
  • Circus Episode: "Leaping in Without a Net", which has Sam leap into a trapeze artist. Unfortunately, Sam is afraid of heights...
  • Clear My Name: In "Last Dance Before an Execution", Sam leaps into a death row inmate and must attempt to prove that he was actually railroaded by a district attorney more interested in a conviction record than actual justice. In a subversion, Sam ends up confirming that the leapee is guilty; it is his also-condemned accomplice who was railroaded by the DA.
  • Cliffhanger: Almost every episode ends with the start of Sam's next leap. Season 3 also ends with Sam and Al inadvertently switching roles and Season 4 with Sam leaping into Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • Confessional: In Leap of Faith (season 3, episode 3).
  • Conspicuously Light Patch: Happened a few times with objects Al would walk through.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Sam's the only one willing to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole gunman. Al eventually accepts it...the day of the shooting.
  • Continuity Snarl: In its original run, the series sometimes got the ending leaping sequences out of order with the next new episode, typically showing Sam leaping into an older episode.note  These snarls were later fixed for syndication.
  • Cool Old Guy: Al. Despite being older, he is a lot more knowledgeable of modern pop culture than Sam is.
    • When Sam leaps into a glam heavy metal singer, it's Al who coaches him on how to act like a rock star on stage.
    Al: All you do is you go out there and you make an idiot out of yourself.
    • Joseph, an Indian grandfather ("Kenu") into whose grandson Sam leaps, to try to help him Face Death with Dignity on his home reservation. He's more modernized than he lets on, and even reduces Al to laughter several times.
  • Crash Course Landing: Happened once or twice (including the pilot), with Al having to talk Sam through it.
  • Creator Cameo: The horror author who Sam leaps into in "The Boogieman" is that episode's writer Chris Ruppenthal, while the parapsychologist who Sam leaps into in "A Portrait for Troian" is played by Donald P. Bellisario. Troian was played by series writer-producer and Donald's wife Deborah Pratt, and named after their daughter Troian Bellisario — who also appeared on the show (but not in this episode) and Bellisario's subsequent series Tequila and Bonetti, JAG, First Monday and NCIS, as well as his only big-screen movie Last Rites. Bizarrely, Donald P. Bellisario has a metafictional one in "Lee Harvey Oswald," where we see a portrayal of the younger version of Bellisario interacting with Oswald, as they did serve in the same military unit in real life.
    • Additionally, in "Trilogy, Part 1," the man Sam leaps into for that episode is a sheriff played by James Whitmore, Jr, the director of that episode (among several in the series).
  • Cringe Comedy: Since he rarely leaps into someone while they're alone, Sam's cluelessness tends to lead to many awkward moments where he tries to figure out what's going on while at the same time trying to act normal to everyone around him. Not to mention when his hosts have skills that even Sam lacks, forcing him to stall for time while Al figures out how to help him.
  • Crossover: They attempted one with fellow Universal/Bellisario series Magnum, P.I., but for various reasons it didn't happen. But, over two decades after the end of the series, Sam had helped Shining Armor and Cadance get together, having leaped into Shining's friend Gaffer. (This was because Andy Price, the writer, had previously worked on the comic for this show.)
  • Cue Card Pause: Al, while reading information off of the handlink, frequently pauses in the middle of a word.
  • Cunning Linguist: Sam, apparently, though we rarely get to see him display this talent, save for one episode where he leaps into an archaeologist who can immediately read ancient Egyptian writing and another where he leaps into a man married to a Japanese woman and is able to converse fluently with her. At this point, Al reminds him that he speaks "7 modern languages and 5 dead ones".
  • Cycle Of Virtue: It's pointed out to Sam that the many good deeds and lives that he'd altered for the better had, in turn, gone on to touch other lives, and they others in their turn. Hinted at earlier in the series when Sam meets The Devil posing as Al, who demands to know what gave him the right to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Dead Air: In the episode "Good Morning, Peoria", the air goes dead when an intimate conversation between the radio station owner and Sam (who has leapt into a DJ) extends past the end of the record. He picks it up well, though:
    Sam: For the last couple of minutes you folks have been listening to something by Dull Needle and the Statics. A lot of people find it repetitive, I like to think of it as just plain old daring.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Al.
  • Death by Childbirth: The wrong righted in the pilot.
  • Dead All Along: One of the interpretations.
    • Stawpah in the finale. He leaps out after completing his mission and no one leaps back in. According to one of the locals, a Stawpah did exist, but died a couple decades earlier.
  • Deus ex Machina: Frequently used to get Sam out of the pickles he finds himself at the very start of a leap (i.e. the cliffhanger of the previous episode). He's strapped to the electric chair... but the phone rings and he's given a stay of execution. He's about to have to go on stage and perform, without even knowing what show it is... but it turns out he's an understudy and the billed actor shows up at the last second. Al often serves as this trope, such as in "Double Identity", when he pops into the hairdresser's to provide Sam with an answer to a question that Sam didn't know about and Al couldn't have possibly heard. Somewhat justified in that it's heavily implied that God Himself is controlling the leaps, so wouldn't put Sam in a completely impossible position unless it was about to change.
    • Might also apply literally in-universe to Sam himself, if you believe that it is in fact God leaping Sam around in time.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In "Moments To Live", Sam's character is kidnapped and held prisoner by an obsessed fan.
  • Devil in Disguise: In one episode, Sam discovers that the "Al" who has been advising him is a fake, and is actually the Devil.
  • Devil's Advocate: Discussed (and sometimes used) between Sam and Al.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: The kidnappers from "Another Mother." While they get a fair bit of setup throughout the episode, we never find out what the deal is or why they're after their victim. It is strongly implied that they're child molesters and murderers, and that anyone will do.
    • The Evil Leapers. We have no idea why they're trying to change history for the worst, only that they do. Even Zoey's claim that they "clawed their way out of hell" for their jobs can mean a lot of things.
  • Dirty Old Man: Admiral Al Calavicci, contrasting the younger Chaste Hero, Samuel Beckett. Al brags about his past love life, ogles all of the young women Sam encounters (often advising him to have sex with them, too), and makes very suggestive comments designed to fly over the heads of younger viewers. When Sam finds out that dead bodies creep out Al, he quips, "Finally, something sexual you're not into." When the two switch places in one episode, Sam becomes the dirty pervert suggesting sex and getting distracted by attractive women.
  • Disappeared Dad: Al's own dad. After his mother split, Al's dad tried to provide for children, but work eventually took him overseas. Al was placed in an orphanage and Trudy in an institution until he could come back full-time. (He did apparently visit, though.) After some time, he came back for good and bought a house for them all to live in, but then he got sick and died.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The Evil Leaper obviously, but moreso her Observer Zoey, who's a horndog like Al (though much snarkier and ruder).
  • Double Standard: Rape, Sci-Fi:
    • While not acknowledged, Sam is technically sexually assaulting people when he kisses them while they think he's the leapee. However it's justified as often Sam is kissed by them and has to go along with it, and in other situations it's necessary for him to kiss them in order to complete his mission.
    • Both Sam and Al rape their leapee's significant others. In Sam's case he initially leaps into Will while he's having sex with Abigail Fuller, meaning he was technically a victim as well, but later in the episode he ends up sleeping with Abigail due to the leap mixing Will's feelings for Abigail with his own. Al meanwhile sleeps with his leapee's ex-fiancé.
  • Dumb, but Diligent: One episode had Sam leap into a mentally handicapped man who worked in a warehouse. He was well liked by his family but had problems with a few co-workers who had prejudice against him. In particular, one had trouble reading all the barcodes and labels and was afraid of being grouped together with Sam's host.
  • Duck and Cover: One episode had Sam leaping back into the 1950's, watching this film, and dryly relating to several others present all the reasons why ducking and covering wouldn't work for a real nuclear explosion.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The familiar leaping effect isn't really used in the first season — there's a simple flash of light, and Sam is in the new leap. In fact, in the pilot, the first leaping effect isn't even seen: it goes from Gushie watching Sam standing in the accelerator and Al speeding back to PQL, to an Astronomic Zoom in on Tom Stratton's house as Tom's clock spins backwards, to Sam waking up as Stratton. When PQL attempts a retrieval later in the episode, the camera does a similar Flyaway Shot pulling away from the Stratton house, which then reverses as the retrieval fails.
    • Also in the pilot, Al spends a couple of days mysteriously observing things before giving the amnesiac Sam any kind of explanation as to what's going on.
    • Early episodes also focused more on PQL's efforts at using the retrieval program, and didn't always feature Al telling Sam about how everything worked out for the leapee.
  • Equivalent Exchange: The people Sam replaces take his place in the now-recent-past-that-didn't-happen.
  • Evil Counterpart: Not quite the Evil Leaper, since Sam talks her into a Heel–Face Turn, but her hologram partner Zoey is definitely one for Al, being a snarky horndog but completely lacking any redeeming traits like his compassion or sense of honor.
  • Expansion Pack Past: The dramatic need for Sam or Al to have a personal stake in the plot each week meant that both leads pretty much define this trope. It's implied that Sam changes his own history after every leap, but retains all he's learned from each timeline; and it's explicitly shown to be the case in at least two instances.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    • Sam winds up doing this to himself in "Disco Inferno": when venting to Al about his problems being the older brother in his current leap, he discusses how similar the situation must've been for his own brother, Tom, whom Sam remembered early on in the leap. But as he explains this, about how Tom putting him down was most likely just him looking out for his younger brother, Sam remarks that he only wound up realizing this after-
    • The first act of "The Leap Back" sees Sam and Al slowly realize they are in a "swallowed key"-type situation: as Sam explains, in order for their current situation to have happenednote , one of two things would need to happen: being struck by lightning, or being at ground zero of a nuclear explosion. Now, while the former is what happened, Sam goes on to explain that Ziggy would have potentially misread that as a critical component of the Imaging Chamber going nuclear, and as such sealing it to prevent the spread of radiationnote . However, Sam quickly remembers the fail-safe he developed: the door can be reopened from the inside... with the handlink. Which is currently in Al's pocket in 1945.
  • Extra-Long Episode: The season five premiere "Lee Harvey Oswald".
  • Fanservice:
    • Sam frequently is shirtless, even in the opening credits. In one episode he falls into a pond and spends the rest of the episode shirtless/in a towel. In "The Wrong Stuff" he leaps into a chimpanzee and spends almost the entire episode running around wearing nothing but a diaper.
    • In "The Leap Back", when Sam is changing before entering the Imaging Chamber so he can leap into the body Al's occupied (thus having them change places so Al's no longer the Leaper and Sam no longer the Observer) Ziggy comments "Great legs, doctor." Heterosexual female viewers and gay men everywhere nod in agreement.
    • A naked Terry Farrell appears at the start of "A Leap For Lisa."
    • Renée Coleman appears in a slip during "Deliver Us From Evil." It quickly becomes Fan Disservice when she claws herself.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Sam, a time traveler, encounters ghosts, a mummy, Bigfoot, a vampire, a guardian angel and a UFO.
  • Fashion Dissonance: Al's choices in clothing were intentionally weird, when they weren't a navy uniform. Word of God states that this was done to differentiate the holographic Al from the people who were actually physically there. In-universe (particularly the novelizations), Al had a conscious preference for garish combinations. In a few episodes where Sam leaps to a time and/or place Al has a particular fondness for, he will sometimes make an attempt to dress in period clothing, only to put together colors and patterns that still manage to make him look appropriately terrible.
  • Fog Feet: Sam leaps into a Vietnam vet who's lost both his legs. There's a mean orderly in the episode, and at one point when there's nobody else about, Sam gets out of the wheelchair, walks over to the orderly, and slugs him. Since the orderly can only see Sam as the man he leaped into, it looks to him like Sam is floating on air.
  • Fold the Page, Fold the Space: Sam uses the term "string theory" to explain his leaping. Imagine your life as a piece of string, with birth as one end and death as the other. If you ball the string up, every day of your life touches every other day out of order, so you can jump from one to another, therefore time travelling within your own lifetime.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In "Double Identity", upon learning he's in 1965, Sam remarks that Vietnam is going on, to which Al glumly remarks "Don't remind me...". Fast forward to Season 2 with the episode "M.I.A.", where we learn Al served in Vietnam... and was captured by the Vietcong until being repatriated in the 1970s.
      • Similarly, in "Sea Bride," Al casually mentions his one true love. The very next episode is "M.I.A.", which greatly expands on this.
        Sam: If she was so perfect, why aren't you still married to her?
        Al: That's not important.
    • "Disco Inferno" sees Sam remember he has a brother while talking with Al about the leap, but can't remember much else at that moment. Tellingly, this happens after Al tells Sam the leapee's brother, Chris, is going to die...
  • Forgotten Framing Device: The show spent its entire run utilizing a Narrating the Present framing device, as if we're seeing Sam Beckett's memoirs acted out. But in the final episode it's revealed that he "never returned home." So how did he narrate all that time?
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Sam sometimes leaping into the bodies of women is strange enough, but what takes the cake was at one point he leapt into the body of a monkey which was part of a space program. Another time, he leapt into a real life vampire.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Usually played straight. Sam is constantly changing history in relatively small ways, all things considered. While the people he encounters are certainly affected, the future itself isn't radically changed. This was true even when he interacted with real-life people, largely thanks to Rubber-Band History.
    • Invoked by the Bartender in the final episode. When Sam complains that he invented time travel to make the world better, the Bartender informs him that all the lives he improved affected all the lives they touched.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: In "Southern Comfort", Sam's host owns a brothel in 1961 and learns that one of the new girls is trying to escape her abusive husband, who runs an exclusive finishing school. Unable to prove that the man has been beating his wife (and aware that if he doesn't act the girl will be beaten to death and found a month later), Sam sets up a scenario where one of the other girls will be caught with the husband on camera, framing him for soliciting the company of prostitutes so that he will be forced to withdraw from public life.
  • Fratbro: Sam leaps into a Fratbro in an episode, and has trouble getting the Girl of the Week to listen to him because she knows his host to be a jockish ass. His fratty mates keep appearing and trying to embroil him in wacky high jinks, including raiding the office of "Dean Stockwell".
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: While not dwelled upon very much on screen, this is a major aspect of the series: during the time that Sam's consciousness is inside the body of the person in the past, that person's consciousness takes over Sam's body in the "present".
  • Gaslighting: In "A Portrait for Troian," Sam jumps into the body of a parapsychologist working with a young widow who insists the ghost of her late husband is haunting her. It turns out to be a plot by her brother to gaslight her.
  • Gay Aesop: Notably one of the first on television. One of Sam's leaps sees him try to stop a recently outed military academy student from killing himself in the face of bullying by his fellow students.
  • Gender Bender:
    • Over the course of the show, Sam leaps into six women: Samantha Stormer, Linda Bruckner, Darlene Monte, Billie Jean Crockett, Katie McBain, Cheree Watkins, Margaret Sanders, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Elizabeth Tate.
    • Zoey's only leap is into a man, Clifton Myers.
  • Glamour Failure: Sam's true form can be seen by animals, little children, the mentally unbalanced and psychics ("Temptation Eyes").
    • Likewise, they also can see Al as a hologram.
    • When Sam leaps into the body of a Vietnam veteran who lost both his legs, he causes an orderly to freak out when he stands up and appears to be floating in mid-air.
    • When he comes into physical contact with another leaper, such as Alia and later Zoe, this causes them to see each other's true forms.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: Subverted in "The Leap Back." Ziggy's handlink accidentally travels back to 1945 with Al after the simo-leap, but it doesn't work because Ziggy doesn't exist yet. Indeed, when that episode's love interest is seen punching buttons on the dead handlink, Al comments that the device probably won't work again until 1999.
  • God Was My Copilot: Hinted at strongly.
  • Going Home Again: In "Deliver Us from Evil", Sam's narration remarks that he absolutely loved Jimmy LaMotta and the rest of the LaMotta family, explaining why he's so happy to find himself back in their lives again.
    Sam: [narrating] Leaping is a lonesome business. Just when you start to feel comfortable, to fit in somewhere, you're gone. But today I was back with people I knew and cared about, people who cared about me.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Sam's leaps are blue. Leapers from the evil project leap in orange. After Alia's Heel–Face Turn during the third Evil Leaper episode, she escapes in a blue leap.
  • Granola Guy: Al is shown to be ecologically-minded in several episodes, probably because so is Dean Stockwell.
  • Guardian Angel: Angela from "It's a Wonderful Leap."
  • Guile Hero: Sam has his moments, although reluctantly. Notable examples: the entrapment of the wife-beater in "Southern Comforts", the escape from the "cockfight" in "Unchained", and convincing the Rebel militia in "Between States" that he's Miss Livvy's cousin and not a Yankee captain. Even Al's impressed. And he has to think on his feet when getting his bearings in every leap.
  • Halloween Episode: "The Boogieman." Sam leaps into a horror novelist to stop a woman from being murdered. Problem is, other people die in the meantime and increasingly spooky incidents occur. Turns out to be All Just a Dream, though. Or Was It a Dream? ...?
  • Happily Adopted: According to "Pool Hall Blues," a ten-year-old Al ran away from the orphanage and was reduced to picking pockets. The one person he tried it on was Charlie "Black Magic" Walters, who sympathized with Al and took him in. The intent was to find Al a family as they traveled, but it turned out to be Walters himself. A few months later, Walters was arrested for playing in a "Whites Only" bar and Al was sent back to the orphanage. Regardless, Al considers that the time the bright spot of his childhood and Walters as the first good person he ever met out in the real world.
  • Haunted House: "A Portrait for Troian" is set at an estate where the former owners died horrible deaths and Troian (the current owner) believes her husband's ghost is trying to contact her. Sam thinks someone is just trying to drive Troian insane, but Al thinks the house really is haunted. Turns out they're both right. Troian's brother was trying to drive her crazy for her money, but housekeeper Priscilla is revealed to be a ghost.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Of the non-dying variety, but still sacrifices.
    • In "The Leap Home, Part 2: Vietnam," Al helps Sam save his brother's life, giving up the chance to prevent his last three years of imprisonment in the process.
    • In "The Leap Back" and "Mirror Image," meanwhile, Sam sacrifices chances at being home to help Al — saving his life in the former and his marriage with Beth in the latter.
  • Heroic BSoD: Sam has one in "Black on White on Fire," set during the Watts Riots. The leapee's brother, Lonnie, takes the leapee's white girlfriend hostage in desperation. Sam manages to talk him down, ending the stand-off peacefully, but unfortunately Lonnie is then killed by police sniper-fire.
    Al: (solemnly) Sam... you did it.
    Sam: (cradling Lonnie's body) Was it enough, Al? Was it enough?
    (Sam leaps before Al can answer)
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sam and Al. As said in the last episode, there isn't anything they wouldn't do for each other. Discussed in "All Americans," where Chuey, the leapee's best friend, agrees to throw an important high school football game to clear his mother's debt with a slumlord, at the cost of his chance at being scouted for a sports scholarship which would be his only chance at going to college. He feigns injury to sit out, and Sam tries to figure out how to change things. Al tells him to just quit, too, because although Chuey is willing to sacrifice his own future, he would never under any circumstances put his friend's chances at risk.
    Sam: They're that close?
    Al: Yeah. Just like you and me.
  • Historical Rap Sheet: In one of the show's Kisses with History, Sam causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 during an attempt to leap home.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Al is revealed to be one in "Leap of Faith." It's not played to any extremes, either. Al simply doesn't believe because of what happened to his father. According to Al, the last thing his dying father said was to pray for him and that everything would work out. It didn't. When Sam is nearly killed later on and lying there unconscious, Al doesn't hesitate to pray for his friend.
  • Hollywood Healing: Any injuries Sam takes (beatings, sprains and even minor gunshot wounds) are instantly healed when he leaps.
  • Hollywood Old: A mild example. Based on the info that we're given, Sam is about 42 when he first steps into the chamber. Scott Bakula was 35 when the series first aired.note  It helps, though, that Bakula's always had a rather distinguished look, and looked pretty much exactly the same when he actually did turn 46.
  • Hologram: Al is one of these to Sam. He's in a room which projects an image of its contents back to Sam's brain, except the official explanation is a vaguer way of saying "Sam's brain" that also allows him to be seen by animals and small children, a common form of Glamour Failure. The room's door is one of the trademark moments of the show, where a bright backlit doorway would open and Al would come in and out. This also meant that the entire world around Sam is a hologram to Al, not limited to what Sam could see, thus allowing him to see behind him, around doors, or (as Al was wont to) into ladies' locker rooms and restrooms.
  • The Homeward Journey: The show has this Opening Narration:
    "... And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap... will be the leap home."
  • Identical Grandson:
    • In "The Leap Home" and "Promised Land", Bakula plays Sam's father John (under heavy makeup) in addition to playing Sam.
    • A variation. While his great-grandfather Captain John Beckett doesn't look like Sam in the mirror, the genetic markers in his DNA are near-identical, which is theorised as being the reason why Sam could leap outside of his lifetime and end up in 1862.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Though his goal is to get home, Sam genuinely loves having the opportunity to help people. However, in several episodes (such as "Catch A Falling Star"), Sam laments not having any semblance of a life.
  • I Just Want to Be You:
    • Usually played for laughs with Al to Sam. Often enough, Sam gets to be in the company of attractive women and Al complains that Sam wastes golden opportunities that he would gladly jump at.
    • Played very seriously, though, in "The Leap Home, Part 1," where Sam laments being around his family but being unable to change their futures for the better.
    Al: I'd give anything to see my father and my sister for a few days. Be able to talk with them again, laugh with them, tell 'em how much I love them. I'd give anything to have what you have, Sam. Anything.
    • Made even more heartbreaking when you remember that Al's mother did a runner while he was young, his father went overseas so Al was sent to an orphanage, and Al's sister was committed to a mental institution due to having Down Syndrome. When his father returned and the family was reunited, he shortly afterwards discovered he had cancer and passed away, which meant Al and his sister were once again sent back to the orphanage and asylum. When Al finally was old enough to become the legal guardian of Trudy, it turns out that she'd contracted pneumonia and died two years previously and they never even bothered to tell him.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Al has a wardrobe that would make even The Sixth Doctor cringe. In-universe, it makes it easy for Sam to spot him - he KNOWS No One Else Dresses Like That. The producers gave Al that eccentricity specifically so the audience can spot him, and also repeatedly reference that few others can; kids, for instance.
    Little Boy: There's a ghost!
    Little Girl: It's not a ghost. It's an angel!
    Little Boy: No way! Not with those clothes.
    • The Mad Magazine parody of Quantum Leap suggested that the blue lighted effect of Sam leaping was actually caused by the sun hitting one of Al's outfits.
  • I Owe You My Life
    • According to "The Leap Back", Al has saved Sam's life twenty-three times up to that point. It's because of that that Sam leaps to save him.
    • From the preceding "Shock Theater":
      Sam: Who are you?
      Al: I'm Al. I'm your buddy. I gave you your first break. And you're the only person that believed in me when I gave up believing in myself. You brought me on this project.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Sam. Parodied in "The Leap Back," where the simo-leap exchanged some personality traits between Sam and Al. Al is suddenly far more chivalrous, which he can't stand.
    Al: This isn't fair! Sam! A beautiful body like that, and I'm just thinkin' pure thoughts?! Dammit!
  • Incredibly Inconvenient Deity: The ending showed this to be the case, as God himself, seen as a bartender, has been sending Sam on his jumps to fix mistakes in history rather than just let him go home. The final episode is kind of Him finally giving Sam a choice about whether to continue (considering the incredible amount of good he could do for the world) and offering him a chance at a personal do-over. Sam, being the kind of person he is, decides to keep going, and uses his favor to go back and help Al hang onto his first wife, the love of his life. It is in this moment that Sam graduates from the role of the Drifter to that of the Knight Errant.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Deconstructed with Dianna Quinna of "Private Dancer." While an excellent dancer and able to speak normally, she refuses to admit that her deafness hinders her and that she needs help, leading her to get into increasingly worse situations—she can't keep a job, she's virtually homeless, and towards the end of the episode, she's so desperate for money that she's coming dangerously close to her original fate—a life of prostitution and an eventual death from AIDS.
  • It Gets Easier: Sam gets told this after killing a murderous character in self-defense.
  • Kid Hero: Not intentionally, but at least two Leaps relied on the fact that little children can see Al when Sam wasn't available to do anything himself; in "Last Dance Before An Execution", Sam's host is in prison so Al finds relevant evidence and passes it on to the lawyer through a little girl at a church, and in "Justice" Al warns the younger members of a children's choir to escape a church that is about to firebombed by the Ku Klux Klan.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Al remains hopelessly in love with his first wife Beth, even several decades after she got remarried, believing he'd been killed in action (he was actually a POW). It's heavily implied the reason he was married several times and why his relationships never lasted long was that he was trying to fill the void left by Beth.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: In "Jimmy," Sam leaps into a man with Down's Syndrome in the 1960s. Eventually he freaks out in frustration, since he's being treated like an idiot all day. Al interrupts him mid-rant: "There was this girl named Trudy..." Sam snaps at him that this is no time for another irrelevant, sleazy sex story — but this time, the girl in question was Al's younger sister, who was also disabled. And what was the story? Only one of the saddest moments of the series.
    Al: There was a girl named "Trudy." She was retarded, Sam! Her IQ was lower than Jimmy's. And all the kids in the neighborhood, they used to tease her. Kids can be cruel. They'd call her names, like "dummy" and "monkey face." And I hated it. And I used to get in fights all the time over this. But that's what big brothers are for, right? My mother couldn't handle it. That's probably why she ran off with this stupid encyclopedia salesman. But my dad tried to keep us all together. He was a construction worker. He went from job to job, and then when it took him to the Middle East, I wound up in an orphanage and she wound up in an institution. When I was old enough, I went back there for her, but it was too late—she was gone, Sam. Pneumonia, they said. How does a sixteen-year-old girl die from pneumonia in 1953, Sam?!
  • Luke, You Are My Father:
    • In "Glitter Rock," Sam mistakes a teenager named Phillip for a Loony Fan who might kill his leapee. It turns out that Phillip is actually the leapee's illegitimate son conceived during a fling in The '50s (as his late mother had told him), and proves it by showing that he has a unique finger webbing like the leapee has.
    • In the third episode of "Trilogy," Sam himself gets the news from Al that Sammie Jo Fuller is his accidental biological daughter.
  • Magic Feather: A variation of this features in “Pool Hall Blues” where Sam did need the ‘feather’ at least at first. For this Leap, Sam needs to win a game of pool when he doesn’t actually have any experience in the game and less than a day to learn. Al is able to adapt the holographic system of the Imaging Chamber to project a series of laser lines on the table (visible only to himself and Sam) to demonstrate where Sam should hit the ball and where he wants to ricochet it off the sides of the table, helping Sam get a better feel for the game. During the final shot of the game, the Imaging Chamber runs out of power to project the lasers, but by this point Sam appears to have gained enough experience at the game to make the final shot on his own, despite it being an exceptionally tricky one involving him ricocheting the white off three sides of the table before hitting the final ball.
  • Magnetic Hero: Sam.
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: The Evil Leaper.
  • Mandatory Twist Ending: Only when the paranormal was involved, Or Was It?
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Zoey reminds Alia that "We clawed our way out of hell" to get their evil leaping jobs. It's extremely vague on whether Zoey was using hyperbole or they were literally from Hell, but given the presence of other paranormal stuff in the series, the literal meaning is disturbingly plausible.
  • Meaningful Name: In "Moments to Live," Sam gets kidnapped by a woman whose maiden name is Norma Bates.
  • Mental Time Travel: Or at least it originally was...
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Inverted. Sam (and the viewer) sees the image of the person he's "leaped into" in mirrors- otherwise he looks like himself.
  • Missing Reflection: "Blood Moon" has Sam leap into an artist who believes himself to be a vampire. At the end of of the episode, he looks into a polished plate and realizes he's casting no reflection.
  • Mission Control: Al and the rest of the Project.
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: Most episodes, Sam will get these at the beginning of his leaps, seeing pop cultural things that are relevant to the time and place he's visiting.
  • The Mistress: Sam has to save one from suicide in his first leap into a woman.
  • Mood Whiplash: The moments after many of Sam's leaps, especially if leaping from a very dramatic episode into a comedic one (or vice versa). "Oh, Boy!" Indeed.
    • Of note is the very heavy episode "Raped" ended with Sam leaping into.....a chimpanzee.
  • Moonwalk Dance: In one episode, Sam teaches a five-year-old Michael Jackson to moonwalk.
  • More than Meets the Eye: Al's character, when turning from a vulgar pervert to a heroic woobie.
  • The Movie: Reportedly under development by Donald P. Bellisario as of late 2010, but was ultimately unproduced.
  • Multitasked Conversation: Sam and Al need to have these occasionally.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In "The Leap Home, Part 2", Sam saves Tom, but Maggie — who Sam insisted go on the mission and survived in the original history — is killed by a landmine.
    "I traded a life for a life!"
  • My Grandma Can Do Better Than You: In the episode "Running for Honor," Sam leaps into a track runner, and fails to live up to the guy's previous performance:
    Sam: (looking at his time) Is that good?
    Coach: Yeah, that's great. If you're my grandmother!
  • Naked in Mink: In "Goodbye Norma Jean," Barbara tries on Marilyn's white fox coat, and a pair of her heels, and nothing else.
  • Named After Somebody Famous
    • Sam Beckett? As in Samuel Beckett? There might be something meaningful in that, but the best we can come up with is that he wasn't always sure why he was where he was, and "Dr. Vladimir Estragon" was too ridiculous.
    • Internal to the series, Sam's full name is given as Samuel John Beckett, son of John Samuel Beckett. It seems like the elder was not intentionally invoking anything. Whether or not Bellisario was invoking anything for a laugh is another matter. There was definitely some monkey business behind his mother Thelma Louise Beckett...
    • It gets lampshaded in a couple of episodes; in "Honeymoon Express", someone asks Al if Sam is related to the playwright, and Al responds "Not to my knowledge." In "Liberation", when Sam prepares "griddle cakes a'la Beckett", the leapee's daughter assumes that's who he's talking about, but Sam quickly covers by saying he meant "Mom Beckett, the famous chef".
    • "Beckett" could also refer to becket, a nautical term referring to a loop of rope used to secure oars and boats. Could be a link to Sam's theories about time travel...
  • Narnia Time: Essentially applies to Sam in terms of how long it takes Al and the Project to locate him each time he Leaps, as there's no way to know how long it is for the future project between Leaps even though Sam experiences the transition instantaneously. Sometimes it can take Al a few hours to show up even when Sam is in a tense situation, and other times Al has shown up immediately for reasons that include staring at the gorgeous women in the brothel owned by Sam's current host or warning Sam that his current host is a double-amputee without any legs.
  • Narrating the Present: Sometimes Sam gives a past-tense narration in voiceover, although it's unclear when he would have found time to go back and write any of these events down. Especially given the ending of the series. There's one particularly odd moment in the episode "Play It Again, Seymour:" Sam catches himself using hard-boiled detective slang in the narration, and Sam-on-screen reacts to this, leading to the Fridge Logic conclusion that Sam just walks around mentally narrating his own life in the past tense.
  • Newspaper Dating: Once per Episode.
  • Nice Guy: Sam, he's not quite an All-Loving Hero but he's friendly, never takes advantage of women, and always wants to help people he's around even when they annoy him.
    • Underneath his cynical lecherous exterior, Al is very much one as well. He gets just as emotionally involved in each timeline as Sam does.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "A Leap for Lisa," Sam inadvertently alters history so that a young Al stands trial for a rape/murder case and faces the death penalty. Originally Al didn't go to trial because he had an alibi thanks to the young nurse he had been with, who told his lawyer, who tells the court after she dies in a car accident. When Sam leaps in, he asks Lisa not to talk to anyone, meaning she takes the alibi to her grave and he does stand trial. In a mild subversion Al is okay with this, because it means people won't be spreading rumors about Lisa over her grave (and presumably because he trusts Sam to fix things).
    • And this ends up becoming completely subverted by the end due to Lisa not dying.
      • In fact Everybody Lives. Sam's solution is to leap young Al back to before the murder and prevent it from happening by staying close to his drunk friend.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • In "Maybe Baby", Sam is helping to return a baby to her mother after the father, Cole Reid, kidnapped his child after he was accused of embezzlement. In the original timeline, Sam’s host was arrested for kidnapping the baby, but Sam is able to bring the baby back to the mother’s house with Cole Reid following, resulting in Reid being arrested for the charges he was trying to escape once he’s back in the state where he was originally charged.
    • In "Raped", despite Sam's best efforts, the rapist in question gets acquitted. Afterwards, he comes around to the McBain house and attempts to rape Katie again. Sam beats the guy senseless. Even if Sam hadn't been in Katie's place, her parents would have heard the commotion, as they come running after the rapist has been knocked out.
  • No Bisexuals: In the episode "Running for Honor", Sam and Al wonder if the kid he leaps into is gay. Sam argues that he might not be because he has a girlfriend. Al counters that many gay men at that time dated women. Neither of them ever considers bisexuality an option.
  • Noodle Incident: Repeated references are made to the Starbright Project as a prior project Sam and Al worked on together, but no details as to what the project's actual aim was.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: In "Deliver Us From Evil," Sam says as much while trying to talk Alia down from trying to shoot him.
    "You can't kill me, Alia, because I know that somewhere inside of you there's a woman who feels the same things I do - the same loneliness, the same fear. I felt it the first time we touched; you felt it, too."
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Averted. Sam is a medical doctor, just one of six doctorates he holds.
  • Nothing but Hits: Just about any tune that you hear playing on the radio or performed in front of an audience will be an instantly recognizable tune from the era contemporary to the date of the leap. The same goes for movies and television.
  • Obfuscating Disability:
    • In "Blind Faith," Sam leaps into a blind concert pianist and has to keep up a pretense of blindness throughout the leap. The mother of the leapee's girlfriend catches him during a moment in which he's let the pretense drop, and assumes that the leapee is a fraud; when she tries to expose him publicly, however, Sam has recently been blinded by an inconvenient flashbulb and passes her impromptu "test."
    • Happens again in "Nowhere to Run," where Sam leaps into a Marine captain that had lost his legs in a landmine explosion. Similarly to the above, Sam can walk with no problem, but he has to pretend otherwise for obvious reasons. (He stops pretending, though, to beat-up an abusive orderly and later to save a man from drowning himself.)
  • Offstage Waiting Room: Literally. Averted in some later episodes (primarily from the fifth season), where viewers got to see Al interact with the leapees.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • In "Last Dance Before An Execution," Sam leaps into a man on the electric chair, just before he's given a last-second stay of execution. In the few moments between Sam's arrival and the stay of execution, Sam's Once per Episode "Oh boy" is understandably replaced with a panicked "Oh, God."
    • "The Boogieman," where Sam suddenly puts his hand on Al... mere seconds before another Al suddenly walks in, stating that he hadn't been able to find Sam at all the entire episode.
    • In "A Little Miracle", Al makes a flippant remark at a high power businessman, but it turns out the other man's brainwaves are close enough to Sam's that he can actually see and hear Al. This causes the businessman to be less than amused. Al's reaction to this revelation is priceless as he frantically tries to get out of there.
    • Practically any episode where Sam has leaped into either a child or a woman. Just about any grown man who attempts to physically manhandle Sam will get this reaction when they soon find out the young boy or woman they're attempting to overpower has the strength of a full-grown man skilled in multiple martial arts.
    • In "Mirror Image," Sam finds himself in a quiet town bar. As he settles in and gets his bearings, he looks in the mirror — only to see himself. "Oh boy" indeed.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Among other disciplines Music, Medicine, Physics, Archeology, Ancient Languages, Chemistry, and Astronomy. Not to mention hobbies like 7 modern languages. In the cases he doesn't know something, Al knows. Though it's implied he didn't know all that when he started.
  • Once per Episode:
    • A mirror-view of Sam's host except for "Blood Moon," when Sam- since he's leaped into a vampire- discovers he doesn't have a reflection.
    • "Oh boy." Except for "Last Dance Before An Execution" (see Oh, Crap! above).
    • Also, Al walking through something (with the exception of "The Leap Back," in which Al is the traveller and Sam is the hologram).
    • Almost every episode ends with the start of Sam's next leap. There are exceptions, such as the premiere (when broken up into two parts), "M.I.A." (Al's final scene with Beth) or "Dr. Ruth" (Dr. Ruth leaping out of the waiting room and being replaced by that vampire mentioned above).
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • The trope was purposefully invoked in the finale, where Sam- much to his surprise- encounters a bartender named Al, a man named Gushie, and a miner nicknamed Ziggy. This all plays into his discovery that there's something special about this leap.
    • Also comes up in "Shock Theater," when Sam leaps into a man named Sam Bederman and Al points out that Sam can use his own name for once.
    • Subverted in "What Price, Gloria?" where Sam hears his name called upon leaping in. He thinks he gets to use his name this time - only to realize that "Sam" is short for Samantha.
  • Only the Pure of Heart: Animals and children around the age of five and below see Sam as himself and can even see and hear Al. It's explained that they are in a sort of "Alpha State" that allows them to see through the "aura" Sam projects when he leaps into someone.
    • In reality, it is a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, since you can't tell a five year old or an animal to pretend that Al isn't really there.
  • Ontological Mystery: Each time Sam leaps into a new leapee, he has to figure out whom he has replaced, where he is, when he is, and why he is there. How much Sam can figure out by himself, and how much Al or Ziggy is needed to fill in the gaps, differs from episode to episode.
    • In the pilot episode, Sam also needs to figure out who he himself is, as the initial leap left memory gaps that the show describes as "Swiss cheese".
  • Our Time Travel Is Different:
    • According to Word of God, not merely Sam's mind/soul, but his actual body displaces that of the "leapee," while that person's "physical aura" stays the same. This is a matter of some consternation both in and out of the show, as Sam's hosts are not always the same size as him... most notably in "Nowhere To Run," where Sam leaps into an amputee and actually stands up despite having nothing below the knee (Handwaved with Al observing to Sam that it doesn't matter what he does with his trousers as everyone else will just see his host's legless state). In one case his host wasn't even the same species — in "The Wrong Stuff" Sam leaps into a chimp. It becomes very important in "Trilogy", as in the second part Sam leaps into a man having sex with his fiancée, meaning that the daughter who appears in the third part is actually his.
    • By default, the leaps are limited to random dates within Sam's lifetime. The exceptions are two leaps to dates when Sam was alive but in utero, and two leaps to dates before Sam's lifetime thanks to special circumstances.note  The evil leaping project, meanwhile, seems to be more advanced: they have some degree of control over Alia's leaps, and it's strongly implied that Alia's leap to 1956 is outside of her lifetime.
    • Though it's only seen once, if a leaper is in contact with another leaper when one or both begin leaping, then they will leap together.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: A group of...eccentric people in England call themselves vampires and make human sacrifices (and drink their blood) to the "Blood Moon" and wear false, vampire teeth. Turns out at least some real vampires may exist, as Sam cannot see a reflection in a shiny plate.
  • Out-of-Character Alert:
    • Most of the time, Sam's mannerisms will leak through, or a conversation with Al will be overheard, causing the people who know the leapee to do a double take. However, no one suspects anything, and Sam gets pretty good at playing it off.
    • Occasionally Sam will weaponise this if he needs to convince someone that he's not the leapee:
      Sam: How long have you known Liz?
      Prison guard: A long time...
      Sam: Liz ever try to sell you a story like this?
      Prison guard: No.
    • The episode "The Boogieman" has numerous in regards to Al: He's dressed in a conservative suit, his handlink never lights up nor does he ever really use it, he's never seen walking through any objects, and he never opens the Imaging Chamber door. It's finally revealed in the final act that he's been Satan in disguise.
    • It does come back to bite Sam in "Return of the Evil Leaper," when Zoey notices "Arnold Watkins" talking to thin air, including an utterance of the name "Al." A quick scan by Lothos confirms that Sam is indeed there.
  • Peggy Sue:
    • "The Leap Home, Part 1" sees Sam leap into himself while he's still in high school, and is tempted to try and prevent certain tragedies from plaguing his family (such as his brother Tom's death in Vietnam, which he manages to pull off in "Part 2").
    • Al, by proxy in "M.I.A.", due to Sam leaping into an undercover cop the week his first wife, Beth, had him declared dead due to being shot down in Vietnam. Throughout the episode, Al tries to get Sam to prevent Beth from entering a relationship with a man, Dirk, all while keeping quiet on why this is so important.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Al often smacks Ziggy's portable terminal when trying to retrieve information.
  • Phoning the Phantom: In season 2 episode 4, "What Price, Gloria?", While Sam is on a double-date, he uses a public phone near the restrooms to explain why he's talking to Al. He's interrupted partway through the conversation and pretends he was talking to his mother.
    Al: Calling somebody we know?
    Sam: You. So we can talk and I won't look like a lunatic.
  • Plot-Driven Breakdown:
    • Zig-zagged trope: While at the start of the series, it's suggested that something went wrong the first time Sam using the Accelerator, hence why he kept leaping around haphazardly and why the Project couldn't retrieve him. And then "Mirror Image" aired, suggesting that what's really happened is that Sam himself was the problem; he can't stop leaping because he knows on some level that he really can't stop.
    • While Al's problems getting the Handlink to work have been a Running Gag throughout the series, "The Great Spontini" sees this be a major plot point, as the handlink breaks down while Sam and the leapee's ex-wife meet with a judge to review their case prior to their divorce hearing (to see who should get custody of their child). Al even outright says to Sam that he thinks he broke it after punching it too many times. After this meeting, the broken handlink is replaced with the more well-known multi-colored cube version.
  • Powers That Be: Sam thinks that they are controlling his time travel. Actually, Sam himself is doing it subconsciously. God tells him so in the last episode.
  • Pretty in Mink: In "Goodbye Norma Jean," Marilyn has a few furs shown: a white fox wrap, a white fox coat, and a white mink jacket.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: "Heart of a Champion," which guest stars Terry Funk as the promotion's top face — and main antagonist of the episode.
  • Present-Day Past: Happens on occasion.
    • Generally, Sam would end up in New York in a time before the World Trade Center was built, but in any establishing shots of the city, the twin towers would be there.
    • In the pilot episode, he's supposed to be in The '50s, but a modern vehicle can be seen in the background.
    • The episode "What Price Gloria?" was set in 1961 but filmed in 1989, and it shows. The women do look early-Sixties, but the boss' office and suit are MUCH closer to Wall Street than Mad Men.
    • Zig-zagged in the 1991 episode "Glitter Rock," set in 1974. The fictional rock band King Thunder looks plausibly like a Glam Rock group from 1974 (and are clearly inspired by KISS), but they sound more like a Whitesnake knockoff from a full decade later.
  • Prophecy Twist: In "Nowhere to Run," Sam's main mission is to prevent a disabled veteran from killing himself, but he also has to ensure another part of history plays out. According to Al, the amputee Sam leaped into had a son (who will save a lot of lives during a Gulf War battle), and Sam has to ensure he will be born. They initially think they have to repair the amputee's rocky marriage, but it turns out they didn't have to do anything. The mother turns out to be the nurse that Sam met at the start of the episode. Al acknowledges that he never bothered to check the mother's name.
  • Proscenium Reveal: On more than one occasion, Sam leaps into a strange situation, only to discover that he's an actor in a play/on a sound stage.
  • Pro Wrestling Is Real: In one episode in which Sam leaps into the body of a wrestler playing an Evil Russian, it's confidently declared that wrestling actually is staged — except for the title matches, and Sam and his partner's refusal to take a dive in a tag-team title match is the main conflict of the episode.
  • The Psycho Rangers: The Evil Leaper project is this for the main characters. We have Alia for Samnote , Zoey for Al note , Lothos for Ziggynote , and Thames for Gushienote .
  • Random Transportation: The series featured Sam Beckett leaping at various points in history to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. He never knows what time period or into which person he'll Leap into next. A hint of this is almost always The Stinger for a given episode. The leaps generally occurred within the U.S. and stayed within Sam's lifetime, though special circumstances have seen these rules broken at least once.
  • Real After All: The episode The Curse of Ptah-Hotep is all about the villain faking the titular curse so he can have free rein to loot the tomb (basically a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax minus the mask). Then in the finale, after he's essentially succeeded, the mummy actually stands up and strangles the bastard. There's a bit of Fridge Brilliance as well, since he was on-screen in other areas when some of the effects took place.
    • Sam leaps into an artist who thinks he's a vampire and brushes a lot of the act off as just a delusion. Just as he's about to leap, Sam realizes he hasn't seen what he actually looks like, so holds up a clear dish as a mirror...and sees he has no reflection.
    • In "It's a Wonderful Leap," Sam leaps into Max, a cab driver who's to be murdered on May 10th, 1958. He runs into Angelita, a woman claiming to be an angel. Naturally, Sam and Al think she's a nutcase, especially as she can see and hear Al (which crazy people can do). At the end, after Sam saves Max from his fate, Angelita says her job is done and once she's gone, everyone in this time will forget she was ever here. She surprises both men by calling "Max" Sam and "who do you think I was here to help?" As she walks off, Al presses Sam to go after her. "After who?" Sam asks, and Al is stunned to realize that Sam suddenly has no idea who Angelita is.
  • Recycled In Space: It's Heaven Can Wait with time travel.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The second, third, and fourth seasons' Region 1 DVDs were stripped of all licensed music not explicitly mentioned in dialogue, even when it left characters dancing the Twist, shouting "TEQUILA!" in unison, and mouthing the words to "Louie Louie" for no apparent reason. The most notable omission was the Ray Charles cover of "Georgia On My Mind," used repeatedly in the show to underscore the bigger Tear Jerker moments. After a vociferous outcry, the final season set was spared from any music cuts. In 2017, Mill Creek Entertainment re-released the series with most of the original songs that had to be cut from previous seasons now cleared.
  • Resigned to the Call:
    • In "Catch a Falling Star," Sam encounters an old crush and the leap turns very personal. He even openly considers not "setting right what once went wrong" (in this case, saving a Jerkass actor) to avoid leaping anymore. Obviously, he gets over it and the following exchange echoes the trope (as well as further shouting out to Don Quixote):
    Al: Are you gonna be all right?
    Sam: What matter wounds to the body of a knight-errant, for each time he falls, he shall rise again and woe to the wicked! Al?
    Al: Here, your grace.
    Sam: My armor, my sword!
    Al: More misadventures?
    Sam: Adventures, old friend.
    • A very sad example in the finale. "Home. I'd like to go home, but I can't, can I? I've got a wrong to put right for Al."
  • Retroactive Precognition: The show invokes this trope on occasion. For example, once Sam made a bet that Gerald Ford would trip going down the stairs out of Air Force One, which of course then happens.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Right at the end of "Running for Honor", despite everything getting resolved and Sam getting ready to run in the track meetnote , Al admits he's hung up on one lingering question:
  • Ripple Effect Indicator:
    • While Al would usually just tell Sam what's changed, one episode featured Al being outright replaced because of Sam's actions during a Leap into Al in his younger days because in the new timeline, Al died in the gas chamber.
    • During "Honeymoon Express," Al is at a Congressional oversight trial and funding for the Project is in danger. In the past, Sam is helping the leapee's new wife study for her legal exams. He corrects her on a key fact, which she said getting wrong could've caused her to fail and damaged her career. Back in the present, Al (and the audience) sees the official leading the charge to cut off the funding replaced by an older version of the woman, who grants the Project further funding.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: There are times when Sam explicitly remembers how history originally played out even after he changed it.
    • In "Rebel Without a Clue," he remembers that Tom originally died, but that he "got him back."
    • In "Honeymoon Express," history actually changes around Al with only him noticing the difference.
    • The end of "Deliver Us From Evil" resets everything to before Alia leaped in, which accounts for two days. Sam and Al remember everything that happened (and their counterparts would as well), but Frank and anyone else from that time period are none the wiser.
  • Robinsonade: "Sea Bride" has Sam dealing with the aftermath of his host having apparently spent three years stuck on an island, and "Leaping of the Shrew" opens with him being stuck on an island with his host's love interest, where he has to ensure they remain and fall in love before being rescued nine years later.
  • Roundhouse Kick: Sam's signature fighting move. As it is, Sam has no idea how he learned to do that, and sometimes has led to him having to concoct some story in various personas of why he is able to do an attack like that.
  • Rubber-Band History: The episode where Sam saves Kennedy from being assassinated... Jackie Kennedy- or saves Marilyn Monroe from overdosing... just long enough to make The Misfits.
  • Running Gag: Sam says "Al", only for the person he's with to say "I'll what?"
    • Al can never keep his various marriages straight. Some fans suspect that had the show continued, this would have changed to his being unable to keep his numerous daughters straight.
  • San Dimas Time: In effect from the moment Ziggy finds where and when Sam's leaped.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Both Al and Sam frequently mention how the holographic imaging chamber is specifically tuned to their "mesons and neurons." Mesons are subatomic particles which are only naturally found in atomic nuclei, and are several billion times smaller than neurons.
  • The Scottish Trope:
    • The third season's Halloween Episode, in which Sam encounters the devil himself posing as Al, is believed to be cursed, causing equipment malfunctions (VCRs, TV stations, ...) and even mentioning the episode title is believed to cause trouble and hence frowned upon. Plus during two separate airings in California, two strong earthquakes occurred.
    • The trope itself is invoked in "Future Boy," where Moe Stein chastises Sam for saying "MacBeth" as he considers it bad luck.
  • Sequel Hook: "Deliver Us From Evil."
    Sam: Where's Alia?
    Al: She's... gone.
    Sam: Alia's not gone, Al. Alia's not gone. (leaps out)
  • Serendipitous Survival: In one episode, Sam takes the place of a lounge pianist. Shortly after he leaps in, an employee at the lounge asks to borrow his car to drive a drunken patron home and he readily hands over the keys, a move the employee says is out of character for him. Then Al shows up and explains that the pianist was supposed to die right around then from a car bomb. Just after he says that, there's an explosion in the parking lot.
  • Serial Spouse: Al. He had five wives, three of which are confirmed to have left him in a divorce (or divorce-like circumstances), and one is implied to. Only the first one really "worked": She only left him because she waited long enough after he was declared dead. The series finale gave Sam a chance to change all that by telling her Al was still alive and would come back to her. The epilogue explains that as a result they stayed together and had Babies Ever After instead.
  • Series Fauxnale: "Mirror Image" was written and filmed as a season finale. When the series was cancelled afterwards, some last-minute editing was performed to ensure the series would have some kind of an ending. They didn't even manage to spell Sam's last name right, stating "Dr. Becket never returned home."
  • Sham Supernatural: A Halloween episode sees Sam leap into the body of a man clearly modeled after Count Dracula. He lives in a big mansion with no mirrors, lots of old portraiture, and several macabre artifacts. Al even points out that a portrait of the dude's ancestor supposedly deceased several hundred years ago is a dead ringer for the guy Sam's turned into. To make matters worse, the guy's friends are all equally creepy and holding a ritualistic party with a woman Al identifies as having gone missing around this time as the special guest. Sam is able to figure out that the group are simply vampire wannabes who have rigged the house to make themselves appear supernatural, but they are planning to kill and drink their guest's blood. Fortunately Sam is able to beat up the guy leading the ritual and get the police involved. But when Sam finally has a moment, right before he leaps, to look at himself (using a polished plate as a mirror), he finds he has no reflection.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Another Mother," the leapee's oldest daughter doesn't want to miss that night's episode of Magnum, P.I..
      • Unfortunately, this nixed plans for an episode where Sam leaped into Magnum (Don Bellisario had produced both shows).
    • The "Dean Stockwell" Actor Allusion [invoked] from "Animal Frat" is also a nod to Back to School (the dean having a Punny Name).
    • When Sam encounters Alia the evil leaper for the second time, he's leapt into a nerdy college student who dresses up and acts like a superhero, complete with codename. She doesn't know he's Sam, but he does remind her of someone. Sam offers Clark Kent as a suggestion. The kid's background and MO are actually more like Batman.
    • In one episode, Sam refers to the skintight suit worn inside the Quantum Leap Accelerator as a "Fermi Suit".
  • Show Within a Show: Several, actually, but arguably the most important was "Time Patrol", from which a young Sam got his string theory of time travel.
  • Significant Reference Date: In "The Leap Back," Al mentions the present date at the Projectnote  was September 18th, 1999. The episode originally aired on September 18th, 1991.
  • Skepticism Failure: Somewhat mitigated by the fact that this series named another trope.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: When Sam leaps into a woman for the first time, his task of the episode is to keep a fellow secretary from committing suicide. The other secretary thinks that her boss is going to leave his wife for her; the wife informs the secretary in no uncertain terms that she's OK with her husband fooling around, but she will not under any circumstances allow a divorce. It's also implied that she is the boss's second wife, and he met her when she was his secretary. When the secretary learns this, she tries to jump off a building but Sam talks her down.
    • Given a Gender Flip in "Play Ball", with the long-widowed owner of the baseball team expecting Sam's ageing pitcher to sleep with her. It's implied that he manages to make excuses this time, but Sam confesses to Al that he thinks his leapee is only pitching this leap-critical game (with a scout watching) because "he slept his way" into her good graces.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: After three and a half seasons, God owes Sam at least one favor. In "A Single Drop of Rain," Sam demands that He pay up. He does.
  • Southern Gothic: The "Trilogy" episodes taking place in Louisiana have this flavor.
  • Speech Impediment: "Trilogy, Part 2" has Sam adopting the stutter of the man that he leaped into for nearly the entire episode.
  • Spirit Advisor: Al, in a sense; he's alive in the present, but appears as a hologram in the past.
  • Split Personality: Happens to Sam a few times, where his mind would merge with a leapee's. Sam would subsequently pick up their habits or knowledge, and sometimes act as they would without a second thought.
    • "Shock Theater" really exploited this. After Sam is given electro-shock, he keeps shifting to different people he's leapt into — Samantha Stormer ("What Price, Gloria?"), Jesse Tyler ("The Color of Truth"), Herman "Magic" Williams ("The Leap Home, Part 2"), Tom Stratton ("Genesis"), Kid Cody ("The Right Hand of God"), and Jimmy LaMotta ("Jimmy").
    • In "Return of the Evil Leaper", Sam is influenced by Arnold Watkins, The Midnight Marauder, and suffers from bouts of Chronic Hero Syndrome.
    • A particularly dark example in "Lee Harvey Oswald," where Sam leaps into the infamous assassin. Throughout the two-parter, Sam feels Oswald's influence and a Split-Personality Takeover slowly ensues. They just barely avoid Gollum Made Me Do It. This episode also shows the reverse, where Sam's personality briefly influences Oswald.
  • Straw Feminist: An episode had Sam leap into a woman whose daughter was involved in the second wave. Most of the conflict came from the head of the feminist group, who gradually becomes more radical and violent as the episode progresses, outright rejecting Sam's attempts to get them to follow the examples of Gandhi and MLK. At the end of the episode she leads a pointless protestnote  and tries to shoot the sheriff, who gets saved by Sam. Afterwards, Al reports that the feminist gets out of jail in five years and becomes a well-respected women's rights advocate (apparently having mellowed out and considered Sam's words in the meantime).
  • Strawman Ball: Al gets this in "Running for Honor" when one of the most tolerant and accepting characters on television suddenly displays a problem with homosexuals in the military just so he can learn he's wrong about it.
  • Take That!:
    • The "Lee Harvey Oswald" two-parter was this to Oliver Stone's JFK. Bellisario (who had actually known the real-life Oswald while in the U.S. Marines) considered the movie "crap" and did the two-parter to show another take on the real-life event.
    • In "The Leap Back", after Sam has to deal with Ziggy, he grumbles "Why did I have to give him Barbara Streisand's ego?"
  • Techno Babble: Sam’s “neurons and mesons”.
  • Temporary Blindness: In "Blind Faith" Sam leaps into the body of a blind pianist. Although able to see for most of the episode, he is temporarily blinded by a camera flash at the climax of the episode just as he needs to save the girl. This works to his advantage near the end of the episode. The girl's mother thinks he is a fraud and suddenly lights a lighter in front of his eyes. He is still blind due to the camera flash, so he doesn't flinch.
  • Thriller on the Express: "Honeymoon Express."
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Happens all over the place in the three-parter "Trilogy", where Sam helps out a woman named Abigail Fuller at ages 10, 21, and 35, and his leapees each appear in the preceding part. Following this trope more closely, Abigail is played by one actress at age 10 and another at ages 21 and 35, while the first actress is in the third episode as her daughter Sammy Jo.
  • Time Travel: This is what Sam does. There are several limitations to it. Unless leaping into someone with a close DNA match or with someone he's already merged minds with, Sam can only leap within his own lifetime, cannot leap out if the leapee has left the waiting room, and the present day runs on San Dimas Time while observing a leap.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Oh, boy. Quantum Leap is definitely not a Stable Time Loop, since the entire premise revolves around actively changing the past, and there are several Ripple Effect Indicators in the future that are observable by the audience (such as "Honeymoon Express", where Sam's changing of the past results in a different senator reviewing the Quantum Leap project in the future). OTOH, a repeated element is what the producers called "kisses with history"; incidents where Sam influences the past he initially Leapt from, such as teaching Dr. Henry Heimlich the Heimlich maneuver in "Thou Shalt Not..."(S2E7), or a young Michael Jackson the Moonwalk in "Camikazi Kid"(S1E8). One particularly timey-wimey case is "Future Boy"(S3E13), where Sam Leaps into the kid sidekick of 1957 radio actor/garage scientist Moe Stein, who has all but re-created a Quantum Leap Accelerator in his basement, right down to Sam's "loop of string" theory of time travel — though Sam adds his own contribution of "ball the loop." Given that it's fifties tech, it fizzles, but just before Sam Leaps out, he hears Moe dictating the completed theory on the radio in response to a letter sent by a four-year old Sam, implying that time travel itself is the result of a stable time loop; Sam creates time travel based on the work of an unrecognized genius in collusion with his future self.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Turns out that in the Leap 'verse, vampires are apparently real. As well as ghosts, aliens, Bigfoot, curses (he nearly gets killed by a mummified pharaoh) and other supposedly mythical creatures.
  • Trust Password: Sam has leaped into an illiterate murderer on the run who is holding a woman and her daughter hostage. He decides to drop The Masquerade, telling her he's a doctor from the future in a Time Travel experiment. She doesn't believe him. Then he notices her medical textbook, and she reveals that she's in medical school. So he has her quiz him on medical stuff to prove that he's telling the truth.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The series was initially vague on when the present-day was (though it couldn't be that far ahead due to Sam leaping within his own lifetime). Eventually, the series set the year to 1999.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Invoked in "What Price, Gloria?" Sam has lept into Samantha, a gorgeous blonde. One of the hassles he faces is Buddy Wright, a jerk of an executive with a penchant for sexual harassment. Before leaping out, Sam makes Buddy squirm by convincing him that he's lusting after a man. Sam then decks him for good measure.
  • Unstuck in Time
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Nozzle" for anyone Al doesn't approve of.
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Al mentions having had a pet cockroach (named Kevin) as a child. Though he mentions this as part of a monologue about how much better Sam's childhood was than his own, Al does actually remember the roach fondly.
  • Vampire Episode: the above mentioned "Blood Moon".
  • Voodoo Shark: That "physical aura" thing.
  • Walking the Earth: But substitute "Timeline" for "Earth".
  • Wardens Are Evil: The final episode of the "Evil Leaper" saga has Sam leap into an inmate at a women's prison. Having convinced the aforementioned evil leaper to make a Heel–Face Turn, both are pursued by a replacement evil leaper who leaps into the prison warden and thus effectively having her acting in this trope. Then, once she is killed and the original warden returned in her place, he is revealed as being responsible for a murder for which another inmate had been accused.
    • The warden in "Unchained" is also both corrupt and cruel (and homophobic, but that's not rare for the time period).
  • Weather Saves the Day: In "A Single Drop of Rain" Sam leaps into a travelling conman who claims to be a rainmaker. He needs to save the town he's at (which is also the leapee's hometown) from a drought. After trying what he can do, he goes out into a field and yells at God. It works.
    Sam: I don't know who's runnin' this show. I don't know why I was chosen. I bounce around from place to place. I do everything I'm supposed to do, at least the best way I can, but I don't know how to do this one. I mean, you gotta help me. I figure you owe me, for a couple of times, anyway. You make it rain. You hear me? You make it rain!
  • Weirdness Search and Rescue: It was implied that some conscious force (possibly even God) was guiding Sam' jumps to ensure that he did the most good. This was a deconstruction since this mysterious guide was never actually seen or had a voice (although they met someone who might have been them). It only made itself known by directing events like an actual deity would and, of course, when it did more or less directly interact with the main character, it was a total Mind Screw.
  • We Will Meet Again: In "Deliver Us From Evil," as Alia is being forcibly leaped out, Zoey vows they will find Sam again one day.
  • Wham Line:
    • In the episode "So Help Me God," Sam leaps into a laywer in the deep south during the 1950's, defending a black woman accused of murdering a white man. She openly admits she killed him and Sam spends the entire episode trying to prove that it was just self-defense or an accidentnote  Eventually, he is able to get the sole witness, the victim's mother (who is mentally... distant), to testify. She recounts the incident before saying "That's when I picked up the shotgun..."
    • Two examples from "The Leap Home, Part 2", neither of which really affect the plot as they come at the end:
      • First, Sam sees the photographer's shot of the P.O.W.s that they failed to rescue and realizes one of them was actually Al ("It was you..."), who then reveals he didn't say anything because he didn't want Sam to split his focus from saving his own brother.
      • The second is notable in how it affected the fandom's experience and what the possible implications mean. Tom celebrates surviving the day it was alleged he would die on, telling Sam, "And it's all thanks to you, little brother."
    • The last line from "Lee Harvey Oswald" changes a Downer Ending into a bittersweet one. "Your Swiss cheesed mind probably doesn't remember, but the first time, Oswald killed Jackie, too."
  • Wham Shot:
    • Sam's lack-of-reflection at the end of "Blood Moon".
      • The previous episode hinted it when after Dr. Ruth is transported back from the waiting room, the next person taking her place is a man, who snarls while baring fangs...
    • The leap-in at the end of "Memphis Melody": Sam finds himself in a bar, and when he walks past the counter, he sees the mirror... showing his own face.
    • Three-fold in "The Boogieman": Sam grabbing Mathers, who is supposed to be dead, and he turns into Al... despite the fact that Sam is still holding him, Al suddenly having red, glowing eyes, and the light from the Imaging Chamber suddenly appearing, followed by a different Al, apologizing for taking so long to get to Sam.
    • In "The Leap Home Part II: Vietnam", Sam goes through Maggie's last photos to find the one that wins her a posthumous Pulitzer, which happens to be a shot of one of the POWs: Al.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sometimes, Sam leaps out before Al can tell him (or the audience) about the leapee's life post-episode. This is often given a Hand Wave with a line like "Everything turns out okay".
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue:
    • The one that was infamously tacked on to the final episode.
    • Also usually happens at the end of an episode, with Al telling Sam how the positive effects of the leap have helped the people in question (or, in at least one case, not).
  • White Man's Burden: Many episodes involve Sam, a genius who is white, leaping into a situation in which people of color are facing racism and/or other racially-motivated problems he has to help them navigate, whether he's leaped into a person of color (making him a white guy posing as one of them) or into a white savior otherwise involved in their life.
  • Who Shot JFK?: According to this show, Lee Harvey Oswald. All by himself. This is actually because Bellisario served with Oswald in the Marine Corps (and those segments of the episode feature a character based on him), and believed him to be fully capable of taking the shot on his own.
    Al: It's more comforting to believe in plots, because if Kennedy could be killed that easily by one sicko, what hope is there for the rest of us?
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Sam's idealistic disposition fits this category to the point where there are times where he'd follow his own heart and his emotions to try to change history on his own terms for idealistic/personal reasons while ignoring Al and/or the main leaping mission at hand. In many episodes, things do work out for him when he does this, such as when he changed history so that Donna married him after all or when he changed history so that his brother didn't have to die in the Vietnam War. However, being too idealistic and emotional also came back to bite him HARD in episodes like "Deliver Us From Evil" where Sam nearly got himself and Jimmy killed simply because he let his emotions rule his head and only saw what he wanted to see in the evil leaper Alia, instead of picking up on the rather obvious clues that she was, in fact, the reason for why the Lamotta family fell apart.
  • Wife-Basher Basher:
    • Sam becomes this in "Camikaze Kid", where the leapee's sister is in an abusive relationship. At the end of the episode, after the guy gets rough with her in public and punched down by Sam (not to mention trying to run Sam over after losing to him in a car race), his bully friends walk out on him.
    • Sam also does this in "Southern Comforts," though it ultimately doesn't keep the wife-beater away. Sam ultimately resorts to blackmail and legal chicanery to get the guy to leave.
  • Woobie of the Week: Along with Walking the Earth, the show's premise.
  • Working on the Chain Gang: Sam leapt into a prisoner who was subject to this. He was there to establish another prisoner's innocence and expose the fact that the warden had been keeping them there for too long (Sam's character was only supposed to be serving a nine-month sentence but had been there for years).
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Due to arriving from a different time into an already in progress situation, Sam and/or Al sometimes misinterpret a situation.
    • "The Color of Truth": Sam keeps forgetting that given the rampant racism prevalent in the Deep South during the late 1950's, a black man doing minor things like sitting at a diner counter and drinking from a fountain were Serious Business.
    • "Last Dance Before An Execution": Sam leaps into a death row inmate and thinks he's supposed to prove him and his partner innocent. The attempt to prove it only confirms the guilt of the guy he leaped into. It's actually the guy's partner who's innocent and the one that needs to be saved, so Sam has to publicly confess.
    • "Thou Shalt Not...": In the original history, the Basch family fell apart because the wife had an affair. Sam leaps into the husband's brother, so he and Al initially think he's the one she had an affair with. Actually, it's an author that had just arrived in town.
    • "Runaway": A frustrated mother leaves the family and just disappears. Sam and Al come to believe Emma ran off with an old high school friend that the family keeps encountering during a road trip. Trying to keep them apart doesn't change history because Emma actually died in the original history and her body was never found.
    • "Nuclear Family": During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Sam leaps into the brother of Mac Elroy, a fallout shelter salesman who went to jail for shooting a neighbor that tried to break into theirs. Sam struggles to prevent any possibility of him pulling the trigger, but the end reveals it was Mac's young son holding the gun and that Mac took the blame out of guilt.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: According to the pilot, whereas time in-between leaps is instantaneous for Sam, it can take days or weeks for him to arrive somewhere, plus some time for the Project to get a lock on him once he gets there, although that part appears to happen in real time. This wasn't touched on much in the rest of the series.
    • This is possibly overlooked in the episode where the funding the threatened, as someone makes the claim there's no evidence that Sam is leaping, because Sam's body is still there as far as anyone can tell, and it's just as likely that he's simply gone insane and taking on random personalities. While that might explain his behavior when his body is there, it doesn't explain how that body vanishes for days at a time and reappears out of thin air once Sam gets somewhere and displaces a person. OTOH, this was probably just an excuse to make the project "prove it" and alter the past in the way the government wanted, and no one actually disbelieved it was happening.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Sam and Al stage a Christmas Carol-themed intervention for an obnoxious millionaire in "A Little Miracle", aided by the fact that the target's brain structure was coincidentally close enough to Sam's that he could see and hear Al's projected image, allowing him to pass himself off as a "ghost" of Christmas Future.
  • You Can See Me?: Originally, only Sam could see Al, but this was extended to young children, animals and the mentally ill. The same goes for seeing Sam as himself rather than the leapee.
    • In "Another Mother" and "A Tale of Two Sweeties," the youngest children of the leapees sees both Al and Sam.
    • In "The Leap Home, Part 2", after being fatally wounded, Maggie looks up at Al before she dies. Al has this reaction.
    • In "Shock Theater," Tibby can see both Sam and Al, as well. Some of the other patients can at least see Al, also.
    • In "A Little Miracle," Blake is able to see Al because his neurons and mesons are very close to Sam's.
    • In "It's a Wonderful Leap", Angela can see and communicate with Al because she's either an angel or mentally ill.
    • In "The Color Of Truth", Al is able to save Melanie from the tracks by shouting at her loud enough, though she believes that he is her dead husband.
    • In "Temptation Eyes", the psychic can see Sam and while she can't see Al outright, she seems to sense his presence.
    • Similarly, in "Leaping in Without a Net", Sam briefly interacts with a carnival psychic, Sybil, implied to be the real deal; not only does she seem to sense Al, but she also has the inkling why Sam had leapt in, and how many times he has leapt thus far:
      Sam: You said that [the leapee's sister] could die on the trapeze.
      Sybil: Not as long as you catch her.
      Sam: As long as I... Wh-Why didn't you say that wh-while she was here?
      Sybil: Well, I didn't think it... (unsure) was necessary... (leans in slightly) I never noticed before how many times you've been reincarnated.
      Sam: (uncomfortable) I, um... I don't believe in reincarnation.
      Sybil: You would if you could see all the souls I see in your eyes.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Towards the end of "Running for Honor", despite managing to break up a group of homophobic cadets and saving the life the leapee's roommate, Phillip, Sam has yet to leap out. And according to Al, Ziggy says it's because he still has to compete in the track meet.
    Sam: (annoyed; to Al) I can't believe this! I mean, it's not enough that I saved somebody's life, right, I gotta win that damn race, too?!
  • Young Future Famous People: Lampshaded as "kisses with history".
    • In "It's a Wonderful Leap", Sam is driving around a man and his son, and tells them some vague bits of information about New York's future in real estate. At the end of the cab ride, Sam finds out the passenger was a young Donald Trump.
    • There've also been episodes in which he meets a young Stephen King and Martin Luther King Jr's great-great-grandfather.
    • In others, he shows young Michael Jackson moonwalking or gives young Sylvester Stallone boxing tips.
    • In "How the Tess Was Won", the whole point of the leap turns out to be giving a young Buddy Holly the inspiration for the song "Peggy Sue."
    • Sam leaps into a young Elvis Presley. In the same episode, we also see a young saxophone player going by the name of Billy C.
    • At a Jewish wedding, Sam gets up to save a man from choking with the Heimlich maneuver. Immediately afterwards, a woman rushes up to lead him away, asking "Are you all right, Dr. Heimlich?" Sam has the most adorably bewildered expression on his face upon hearing that.

... Oh, boy...


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 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / BittersweetEnding

Media sources: