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‘Quantum Leap’ goes full ‘Back to the Future III’ in the Wild West - with a wilder twist ending
Ben heads to the 1800s to save a town that time forgot.
The latest episode of NBC’s Quantum Leap revival took us far beyond the lifetime of Dr. Ben Song, dropping us into a long-forgotten boom town in the Wild West. But can our new favorite leaper keep this place on the map?
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for “Salvation or Bust,” the fifth episode of NBC’s Quantum Leap revival**
As was teased at the end of last week’s episode, Ben leaped all the way back into the Wild West this week, landing in the boom (and close to bust-ing) town of Salvation. He’s in the body of Diego de la Cruz, a once-legendary gunslinger who is far past his prime. It seems Diego’s granddaughter Valentina summoned him to the small town when the town’s founder — who is also Valentina’s father and Diego’s son — dies suddenly.
The railroad has sent an outlaw gang to Salvation to run them out, and after shooting the sheriff and buying off the rest of the deputies, there’s not much of anyone left to stand up to them. Except for Ben, the pacifist gunslinger who has never shot a gun in his life. Gulp. Thankfully, what Ben lacks in gunslinger prowess, he makes up for in smarts and future knowledge.
So after trying and failing to learn how to shoot a gun, all while debating the cosmic sense it would make for Ben to be sent back in time to kill a man, he and Addison hatch a plan to stop the outlaw gang and save the town from the railroad company in the process. As Addison puts it, Ben just needs to “build a better mousetrap.” So he uses the vibrant townspeople and their varied skill sets to set an epic trap, surrounding the gang in a ring of fire and eventually tricking the ringleader to literally run into a jail cell.
This being Quantum Leap, there’s also a progressive thread running through the story, with the town of Salvation one of the few towns in the era largely founded and run by minorities and immigrants. A Black woman owns the local saloon, while the last remaining deputy in town is a Black man who is eventually promoted to sheriff. It provides some heart and stakes for why this town matters in the first place, and why it’s so important that the townspeople and Ben want to save it so much.
There’s also plenty of fun fish-out-of-water vibes with Ben in the Wild West, and it has a whole lot of classic Back to the Future III vibes in all the right ways. Even the trap Ben cooks up feels like something right out of Doc Brown’s mind. The only thing missing is a clocktower. It’s a big, fun time travel story in the Quantum Leap wheelhouse.
Back to the future! (Sorry, couldn’t resist)
The present day team is plenty busy this week, as Congresswoman Adani shows up for a surprise inspection at Project Quantum Leap. She’s apparently on the congressional oversight committee, and has done her homework in figuring out Magic and the team are covering something up. She’s smart, and after interviewing the team, lays out the facts to Magic that she’s aware Ben is missing, almost certainly leaped, and the team is covering it up.
But just as she prepares to report that information back to the committee, Magic convinces her to give them a little more time, tapping into her past trauma of losing her brother in a car crash. What if the project could send Ben back in time to save her brother? Well, they can’t control it that well, but she doesn’t know that. So if nothing else, Magic has bought them a bit more time.
Addison and Ben also have some sweet moments, fresh off Ben remembering his engagement to Addison. The romantic spark is there, and even Ben is questioning why the heck he would do this in the first place, keep it secret, and run off into time without telling Addison. Yeah man, we’re wondering, too.
That ending: But the episode’s final scene is arguably the biggest moment of all. Just as it seems Ben is preparing to leap, a mysterious cowboy wanders in and shouts “Ben!” at him. Yeah, he knows his name. Knows he’s from the year 2022. And apparently knows why he’s leaping through time. Which is something not even Ben knows.
So who is it? Best guess it’s Janis Calavicci, or someone connected with her mystery mission. Perhaps Ben took off into time to catch someone else who made an unauthorized leap? As fans of the original series will remember, there was a rival program nicknamed the “Evil Leapers.” So could this be an Evil Leaper? Or the biggest question of all — could it be Sam Beckett himself, still lost in time? Is Ben’s secret mission trying to follow him?
We don’t know — but we’re dying to find out.
New episodes of Quantum Leap air Mondays on NBC, and stream next-day on Peacock.