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‘Quantum Leap’ taps franchise’s progressive legacy with story of transgender basketball player
Digging into "Let Them Play," the latest installment of Quantum Leap.
The Quantum Leap franchise has a long history of tackling progressive stories, dating back to the original 1990’s series, and NBC’s revival is following in that legacy with its latest episode.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for “Let Them Play,” the latest episode of NBC’s Quantum Leap revival**
The story picks up with Ben leaping into a girls high school basketball coach circa 2012. When one of his players is injured, he subs in the only player left on the bench to finish and win the game — what Ben doesn’t realize at the time is the player he puts into the game is the transgender daughter of the man who’s life he’s leapt into this week.
We learn in the original timeline, the coach never subbed in his daughter, Gia, and the team lost. It might seem like that change alone could be enough to correct the timeline, but Ben still has work left to do setting right this wrong, and this family. Ben immediately faces threats and backlash from the school administration, which is desperate to avoid any potential controversy, even at the price of leaving Gia out of the game she loves. Along the way, we see some of the challenges and hate that Gia faces in her daily life, from bullying to being forced to change in the mop closet because she’s not allowed in the locker room.
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It turns out that in the original timeline, Gia runs away after the backlash to her desire to play basketball and is never found. Through some digging, Addison realizes the reason Gia never returned home is because she actually died on the streets — she was misgendered by the authorities when her body was found and no one connected her identity.
The story offers an enlightening lens into Gia’s family and life, from the group therapy sessions her family participates in, to the way her family has fought for her along the way. We learn that Carlos, the father Ben has leapt into, apparently agreed not to let Gia actually play in games when he accepted the job as coach. When Gia finds out, she runs away once again, though Ben uses his quick thinking skills to track down Gia before she gets too far, while she’s seeking counsel from a mentor who encourages her to give her parents another chance.
In the face of push back from school leaders and a vocal parent, Ben takes a stand for Gia, and tells the school administration he intends to play her in the next game. He does just that, and the team wins handily. As the game continues, the teacher’s rep tells Ben he has his back if the administration tries to retaliate, which means Carlos’ job should remain safe in this altered timeline.
By the end, we get to see the town and team start to rally around Gia, though there remains some resistance, but those who take the time to get to know Gia start to see her for who she is — progress is slow, but for this town and this family, it’s moving forward.
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Back in the present day, we learn from Ian that Gia’s story becomes a well known one, and Ian actually looked up to Gia and was inspired by her strength in this new timeline. It makes for a sweet moment with Ian and Addison having a chance to talk and bond, strengthening their friendship as Addison even sneaks Ian into the imaging chamber so they can watch Gia’s big basketball game live in-person together.
We also get some fresh intel on the mystery person who informed Ben about the threat to Addison and why he needed to leap in the first place. It turns out someone named Dottie reached out to Ben, which led him to a poetry slam for a covert meeting. This might seem like a bit of a dead end, but the person reading poetry is reciting a poem that sounds eerily like what it might feel like to be the host to a leaper? Magic puts the pieces together, and we seemingly get the reveal that Ben was informed about this mystery threat by a future leaper.
So who was it? Dottie shows Magic some sketches of the face she remembers in her head, and it looks possibly like Ian most likely? Or an older Janis Calavicci perhaps? Or at least a mystery woman of some sort? So many questions, though it definitely seems like a leaper from the future started all this in motion by offering Ben some intel on Addison's fate.
New episodes of Quantum Leap air Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, then stream next-day on Peacock.