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Tear Jerker / Quantum Leap

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Of all Sam's leaps, none had it worse than poor Katie McBain.
WARNING: Spoilers are unmarked.
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    Season 1 
  • "Genesis." Sam leaps into a baseball player in 1968, but he's stuck on the fact that he's alive at the same time as his father John who, in his own time, had long since passed. Sam gets through to his father by phone, passing himself off as a long-lost relative. It's everything Sam can do to not bawl his eyes out through the entire conversation.
    Sam: I don't wanna disappoint my dad, but I... I don't think I'm gonna be able to make it home for Thanksgiving this year.
    John: Well, I know he'll understand.
    Sam: I hope so. It doesn't mean I don't love him; I do, and I miss him a lot too, even... even if I never told him.
    John: He knows.
    Sam: You think so?
    John: Well, a boy can't feel about his dad the way you do without his knowing it.
    Sam: Maybe. But when I don't show for Thanksgiving, it's-it's gonna hurt him.
    John: Sam, it's nice to have the children home for the holidays. But sometimes it can't happen. You're a young man trying to make your mark in the world, and how you go about doing that is a lot more important to your father than showing up for turkey. At least, it would be for me.
    Sam: [wipes eyes] Coming from you, that means... that means a lot.

    Season 2 
  • In "Disco Inferno", Sam leaps into an aspiring musician's older brother, only to remember that he has an older brother of his own. He can't remember everything, though, and has a lingering sense of dread about the whole thing.
    Al: Sometimes it's tough bein' a big brother.
    Sam: Yeah, now I know how Tom felt. I always thought he was putting me down; y'know, trying to tell me what to do. But by the time I figured out he was just lookin' out for me, it was too late because he was... [realizing] Tom's dead, isn't he?
  • The scene in "Jimmy" in which Jimmy's brother, who loves him and has fought with everyone, even his own wife, to allow Jimmy to have a normal life, is forced to break down and agree to have him institutionalized. This development especially alarms Al, who later explains why in a particularly horrifying monologue:
    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?!
  • The end of "Another Mother": Al says goodbye to Theresa, the young girl he bonded with over the course of the episode.
  • The final moments of "Freedom", before the leap, is devastating. Sam's just trying to get his (host body's) sick grandpa, Joseph, back to the reservation, where the poor old guy can die in peace, but a racist police chief, hunting them down all the while, finally gets in a lucky shot and hits Joseph. Sam just picks Joseph up off the ground, calls the police chief out for his disgusting behavior, and carries Joseph downhill to the reservation his damn self. And after all the running they'd done, Joseph doesn't even make it down the hill.
    Joseph: Why are you crying, Togo?
    Sam: I don't know.
    Sam: Best damn team in America.
  • The season finale "M.I.A." with Al's wife Beth, the only woman he ever truly loved. He was M.I.A. at the time, and Beth thinks he is dead and has given up hope of him being alive. He tries to get Sam to stop Beth from falling in love with another man she meets, but they can't alter their own timelines. And if that isn't sad enough, the very end has Al, a hologram, talking to Beth in her home. She seems to reply to something he said, but it turns out that she was just reacting to the record that was playing. The change in Al's face from hope that she could hear his voice to pure sadness when he realized she couldn't... And then Beth puts on "Georgia On My Mind". The last scene of the episode is Al "dancing" Beth to the strains of the song, begging futilely for her to wait for him before "kissing" her... and vanishing in a familiar blue light as Sam leaps out. And Beth could sense he was there.note 

    Season 3 
  • "The Leap Home" two-parter. In Part 1, Sam leaps into his younger self to win a championship basketball game. However, he desperately wants to change his family's future (prolonging his father John's life, stopping his brother Tom from dying in Vietnam, and preventing his sister Katie from marrying an abusive drunk). Despite his efforts, however, he is forced to realize that there are some things he just can't change.
    Sam: It's not fair, Al. I mean, c'mon, it's not fair.
    Al: Well, I think, uh, I think it's damn fair.
    Sam: What?
    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.
    • The acting in the above exchange really bears mentioning: Sam's rage and despair is expertly portrayed by Scott Bakula, while Dean Stockwell gives Al a quiet wisdom. It's arguably one of the best-acted scenes in the entire series.
    • The "Imagine" scene. Just the "Imagine" scene...
    • Part 2, meanwhile, provides Sam the opportunity to save Tom, but at an unforeseen price. Maggie, a war photographer who survived in the original history, dies during a mission to rescue some POWs. Additionally, her last photograph reveals that one of the POWs was Al, who won't be set free for another five years.
      • Even deeper, consider that Al must have known his past self was at least in the area, and he accepted the loss of an opportunity to escape because he recognised that Sam needed to save his brother more.
    • There's also Al's speech about his presence in the photograph.
      Al: [pointing to his head] Up here, I was always free.
  • "Black on White on Fire," in which Sam manages to talk down his host's older brother, only for him to be shot anyway because of a misunderstanding.
  • "Future Boy" goes to lengths to make it seem like actor Moe Stein's desire to build a time machine is caused by senility, and that he's not mentally fit to live on his own. The ending reveals the true reason for his actions: To change a good review he received when his wife was pregnant with their daughter, Irene.
    Moe: I was just about to give up the business and settle down.
    Sam: And then you got that.
    Moe: Then, all of a sudden, offers started pouring in: National tours, revivals. The next thing I knew, thirty years had gone by. Well, I want those thirty years back!
    Irene: That's why you built this machine.
    Moe: Crazy, huh? An actor in search of a bad review. But I figured if I could change that one moment, I could change it all. I could have been the father I never was; the husband I should have been. We could have been a family.
    Irene: [starts crying] Oh, Daddy, we are a family. We got lots of time to make up for all those things.

    Season 4 
  • In "The Leap Back", Sam finally remembers that he has a wife, Donna, and blasts Al for not telling him. Sam and Donna have a blissful reunion, but by the episode's end, he must return to leaping to save Al's life. Al is seen talking to Donna and consoling her over the fact that she's not only lost her husband again, he doesn't even remember coming home to begin with. And we see Sam, having leaped back, clearly struggling to remember something, but eventually giving up.
  • In "Raped", Katie McBain, the young woman who Sam has leaped into, is forced to temporarily come out via Al's gateway to help Sam give testimony over what happened to her. Slowly, the camera shifts to her instead of Sam and, in a touching effect, Sam's voice goes silent, letting Katie (played by Cheryl Pollak) give the testimony in her own voice. When she shakily says "I was raped," you believe her.
    • Watch Al's silent reactions in the background. He'd been playing devil's advocate earlier in the episode, but now, he's hanging on every word and very obviously trying not to cry.
    • The worst part of that scene? In the very next scene, her rapist is found not guilty. There isn't even any breathing room, just a smash cut to Kevin getting off scot-free, with no consequences whatsoever. And to rub salt in the wound, Katie's attorney admits after the fact that she really thought she could win... because she was a victim at a young age, and became a prosecuting attorney to seek justice. Fortunately, Sam gets a little justice of his own and puts Kevin in his place when the man tries to rape him/her again.

    Season 5 
  • It was kind of a bit of a Foregone Conclusion, but it's still really hard to watch Sam try and fail to prevent John F. Kennedy's assassination towards the end of the "Lee Harvey Oswald" two-parter. Especially since it seemed like Al was about to do it for Samnote , managing to get through to him at the last moment by reminding him his dad was still alive in 1963... and then Oswald forces Sam to leap out, allowing him to take the shot.
  • In "Return of the Evil Leaper", Sam leaps into a college student, Arnold, who has a habit of dressing up as a costumed hero and risking death to save innocent people. It turns out that Arnold is an orphan, losing his parents in an ex-cop's shooting rampage and only surviving because he left to get his jacket out of the car. As Al talks to him about this, Arnold breaks down ("I should've died, too").
  • "Goodbye Norma Jean", where Sam leaps into Marilyn Monroe's chauffeur. By the end, Sam does what he needs to do to leap (get her in shape for her last film, The Misfits, despite her collapsing personal life) and is then informed by Al that she's still going to die after the movie is finished. A grateful Marilyn calls Sam over after her successful first rehearsal, but Sam leaps right before he can talk to her one last time.
  • "Mirror Image", and the final moment of the show: "Sam Becket [sic] never returned home."


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