Rewatching Quantum Leap – Episode 18

Theorizing that one could 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 and 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.

So Help Me God

  • Before we get into this one, let me state for the record that this is very likely my favorite episode of the entire series.
  • Sam has leapt into an attorney named Leonard.
  • The judge addresses him and tells him they’re waiting for his answer.
  • So Sam asks him to repeat the question.
  • The judge scoffs and says that half the people in the county know the answer, but he relents…
  • His client, Lila Berry, a black woman in Louisiana, has been accused of killing a white man, Houston Carter.
  • “How do you plea?”
  • Sam takes a look at his client and turns to the judge… “Not guilty.”
  • This causes the entire courtroom to erupt and the prosecutor takes 20 years in prison off the table and says he’ll go for the electric chair.
  • July 29, 1957
  • In judge’s chambers, the prosecutor goes on complaining that they had a deal and that Delilah signed a confession saying she killed Houston.
  • The judge tries to convince Sam to go back and change the plea, since 20 years is a much better offer than electrocution.
  • He also asks if the Captain was aware that he planned to change the plea…
  • To which Sam replies, “I don’t think so…”
  • Because he has no idea who this “Captain” is.
  • Sam is convinced that Lila is innocent and tells the prosecutor that he will have to prove it.
  • Back in the courtroom, the judge adjourns proceedings until Monday morning.
  • Lila then turns to Sam and asks why he did it, since she never said she wasn’t guilty.
  • “Your eyes did.”
  • She’s led away in cuffs and Sam is told he can speak with her again tomorrow during visiting hours at the jail.
  • The deputy then tips his hat to someone off screen… the Captain.
  • The Captain then offers Sam a ride home…
  • In a voice over, Sam says he’s not sure what to think about a guy who is able to part crowds just by walking through, but since he needs to learn all he can, he’ll accept the ride.
  • The Captain talks about this being “Houston’s trial,” but Sam is quick to remind him that Lila is the one on trial.
  • He then goes on to say that his wife, Sadie, is sick over this whole thing, blaming herself for what happened to Delilah.
  • Sadie has apparently loved Lila since she was a little girl, taking her in and keeping her in the family’s employ as she grew up.
  • That’s why the Captain agreed to allow leniency with her plea bargain…
  • So it’s easy to see that the Captain runs things in this little town and nothing happens without his say so.
  • Then he insinuates that Lila has somehow seduced her attorney into fighting for her…
  • Because he used to watch her bent over… scrubbing the floors…
  • So he’s projecting.
  • When they arrive at Leonard’s home, the Captain grabs Sam by the arm and tells him to spend the evening thinking about what’s best for everyone… for Sadie… for Lila… and especially for you.
  • I’m sure that wasn’t a threat at all.
  • We meet Leonard’s wife, a woman whose sole concern is whether or not they are able to gain membership to the local country club.
  • Al doesn’t show up until the next morning and refers to Sam as Perry Mason.
  • The real Leonard, in the waiting room in the future, thinks he’s been abducted by aliens and won’t talk.
  • So Al isn’t too sure yet why Sam is there, but Sam tells him he’s certain it’s to save Lila from the electric chair.
  • But Al says that’s no problem because in the original history she plead guilty to a lesser charge and got 20 years in prison.
  • Then Sam says that’s out the window now that he changed the plea to not guilty.
  • Sam’s fired up by the hatred and bigotry in this town, arguing that if a black woman really murdered the son of the most powerful man in the county, there’s no way she would be allowed to plea to a lesser charge.
  • Side bar… I’m with Sam on this one. In the real world of the deep south of 1957, the sad truth is she’d have likely been grabbed by a lynch mob without the luxury of a trial.
  • The town is hiding something and Sam is going to prove that Lila is innocent.
  • Sam meets with Lila, who has basically resigned herself to her fate, even though he’s willing to do all he can to keep that from happening.
  • He asks why she signed the confession if she was innocent.
  • “I ain’t been innocent since the day I moved into the Captain’s house. I’m Delilah. The harlot temptress of the Philistines who bewitched the golden boy of Twelve Oaks and murdered him when he scorned her love. I’m lucky they’re not burning me at the stake.”
  • Sam tries to argue that if it was an act of passion or self defense, he can help her, but she refuses to tell him what happened the day of the murder.
  • She demands to be taken back to her cell.
  • So then Sam goes to demand to see Lila’s confession and all documents pertaining to her case.
  • The sheriff refuses, saying that he’s not sure he has permission to have access to those things, so he’ll have to call the prosecutor.
  • At first the prosecutor refuses, but then Sam threatens to take it to a federal authority and have them both charged with obstruction of justice.
  • That gets the judge’s attention.
  • In another voice over, Sam says that the confession reads like a soap opera.
  • Allegedly, Lila had been throwing herself at Houston for years and when she’d finally been rejected by him one too many times, she snapped, then waited for him to come home and blew his head off with a shotgun.
  • Sam visits the Captain’s home and is greeted by Miss Sadie, who just has the sweetest disposition you could ask for in a genteel southern lady.
  • She reminisces about that time when Leonard got into a fight with Houston when they were schoolboys, then tells Sam not to step in her lilies like he used to before sending him to the back porch so he can speak with Myrtle.
  • Before he walks away though, we get a glimpse into Sadie’s mind… and it’s apparent that she’s just not all there.
  • Myrtle tells Sam that “we all” appreciate what he’s doing for Lila… and she makes it clear she means anyone who isn’t white appreciates it.
  • Sam asks her about the night in question, but she’s reluctant to talk.
  • She was in the kitchen when Houston came back from hunting.
  • He and Lila started fighting again… the usual fight was that Lila wanted to leave and Houston wouldn’t let her go.
  • “Love could no longer soften the back of his hand…”
  • Lila loved him… the only kind of love she’d ever known from a man.
  • Myrtle says Houston first raped her when she was 14 and to Lila, that was love.
  • She can’t confirm that Houston beat Lila the night of the murder… all she heard was yelling, screaming, things breaking, then the sudden gunshot and Lila’s scream.
  • Then Lila opened the door and saw Houston lying dead on Miss Sadie’s imported rug without a face.
  • Sam wants Myrtle to testify that Lila killed Houston in self defense and no jury would ever send her to the electric chair for that.
  • But Myrtle refuses to swear on a Bible and testify in court.
  • In court on Monday morning, Sam tries to get Lila to admit that Houston was beating her that night… but she still refuses to talk.
  • As the trial begins, Sam just doesn’t know what to do.
  • When the judge asks if the defense is ready and Sam says no… which just further infuriates the judge and the gallery.
  • Al arrives and has Sam ask to approach the bench, then asks to use his chambers privately… so he can talk to Al.
  • Unfortunately, none of Sam’s degrees is in law.
  • Al’s first legal advice is to start with the jury… which is made up of 12 white people and not an actual jury of Lila’s peers.
  • But the judge points out that a juror has to be a registered voter and since there are no voters in the county who are black… they’re stuck with 12 white folks.
  • So then Sam makes the bold claim that since Lila cannot face a jury of her peers they will have to accept these 12 white men and women as Lila’s equals.
  • This, of course, causes a stir… but things continue nonetheless.
  • We go through a montage of testimonies and Sam’s voice over tells us it’s like a bunch of people saw the same play put on by a different director.
  • Everyone’s describing the same thing in detail… but it’s different than the account Sam got from Myrtle.
  • When the sheriff is questioned about Lila’s signed confession, Sam objects on the grounds that it was signed under duress.
  • The judge directly addresses Lila to ask if this is true, but Sam then points out that he cannot question her because she is not under oath.
  • When the prosecutor calls to swear Lila in, she insists, like Myrtle, that she will not swear on a Bible.
  • Then Al suggests having Lila read and confirm that it’s her confession…
  • Thing is… Lila can’t read.
  • When court is adjourned for lunch, Sam meets Leonard’s wife in the town square for a picnic and fusses at him for claiming Lila is equal to white folk.
  • Mrs. Leonard also calls Lila a whore, to which Sam responds with demanding that she never refer to her in that way again.
  • Sam’s about to pack up some of their food to take to Lila, which the Mrs. isn’t thrilled about either, but then the Captain arrives.
  • He’s real sweet as he addresses Mrs. Leonard and tells her how much he’s going to miss having them in town.
  • She’s confused because they’ve obviously made no plans to leave town.
  • Surprised, the Captain says he had no idea that Leonard had saved up enough to retire so young…
  • Which brings him to his threat…
  • Most legal work in this county is done for the Captain or his associates, which could leave Leonard in a tight spot should he continue pursuing acquittal for Lila.
  • Sam carries on by taking Lila some lunch, then asks her about Houston raping her at such a young age.
  • Lila says that she let him get away with it because she and her mother buried seven brothers and sisters in the bayou that Sadie saved her from.
  • She wasn’t about to give anyone an excuse to send her back.
  • Then she says that the first time may have been rape, but every time after that, Houston was in love with her.
  • Sam moves on to the confession, telling her she needs to take the stand and refute what’s written there.
  • She still refuses to take an oath… but then gets angry when Sam reads the part of the confession that says that Houston pleaded with her “in the name of Jesus” not to kill him.
  • Using Jesus’ name in the confession gets Lila fired up.
  • She wants to know how they can say something like that…
  • “Because you won’t defend yourself.”
  • Sam confronts her, asking if the whole thing is a lie.
  • And Lila breaks into sobs and admits that it’s all a lie.
  • But when push comes to shove, she still will not testify, meaning that the confession is admissible as evidence, allowing the prosecutor to read the confession to the jury.
  • Later, Sam finds himself alone with Al in the courtroom and asks why people have to swear on a Bible.
  • “So you’ll tell the truth.”
  • Lila believes so deeply that she would be forced to tell a truth that could be damaging to someone…
  • Someone more important to her than her own life…
  • Myrtle wanders in and apologizes for interrupting Leonard’s prayer.
  • When he asks her again, she refuses to testify under oath.
  • Then she lets slip that “he” made her swear on the Bible that if she told a soul what happened, she would go to to hell.
  • The Captain… again.
  • Al directs Sam to Galatians 5:7-10… “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.”
  • The show doesn’t quote it word for word… but Sam gets the point across.
  • The next morning, Sam is late to show up and the judge very nearly rules against Lila.
  • But he arrives just in time to call his first witness.
  • He calls to the stand Mrs. Sadie Carter… and the Captain tells him he’s gone too far.
  • The judge does not want to allow him to call a grieving mother to testify, but Sam has already obtained a subpoena from a state judge, which goes over even the Captain’s head.
  • Sadie enters the courtroom and tells her husband that she’s as fit as any woman has a right to be.
  • The judge asks Sadie if she’s sure she wants to do this and she insists that she’s there to help Lila.
  • Before Sam begins his line of questioning, Lila tells him not to put Sadie through this.
  • Sam just looks at her and asks if she shot Houston in self defense…
  • “It was an accident… the gun went off by accident…” she tells him, near tears.
  • Then he asks Lila if Sadie was there to witness Houston beating her.
  • Lila says she was and asks again to take her off the stand, but he can’t because Lila won’t testify and now, even if she did, the jury wouldn’t believe her after hearing the signed confession.
  • I wish I could find a video clip of Sadie’s entire testimony because of how moving and shocking it is.
  • Seriously… this scene brings me to tears.
  • Sadie describes Houston and Lila’s relationship over the years and says that she was always aware that Houston would beat Lila, but never laid a hand on her in front of Sadie until that night.
  • She had given Lila a lot of money, wanting her to finally get away and start a new life.
  • As they were telling each other good bye, Houston came home from hunting and saw Lila with the money.
  • He got angry and threw Lila across the room.
  • Lila tried to fight back, which only further enraged Houston.
  • He just kept hitting her, and even hit his own mother when she tried to stop him.
  • Then Sadie calmly explains, “That’s when I picked up the shotgun…”
  • Lila gets to her feet and screams it was an accident and that Sadie was just trying to save her life.
  • After Sadie describes the loud blast of the shotgun and Lila’s screams, she seems to come back to the moment.
  • She tells the judge that Lila didn’t steal that money, that it was money that she had given to her.
  • And she’ll make sure Houston tells them that himself, just as soon as he comes home from hunting.
  • I don’t know who that actress was who played Sadie Carter… but damn.
  • It’s so clear that she loves Lila as if she were her own daughter.
  • Some time later, Sam meets Lila at the bus stop.
  • Turns out Leonard got his picture in the Baton Rouge newspaper and an offer from a big law firm in the state capital.
  • He asks her what she’s going to do…
  • Lila says it doesn’t matter because she’s free.
  • She hopes that Sadie never remembers what really happened that night.
  • As the bus pulls up, Lila promises to send money for representing her in court.
  • But Sam tells her to save her money, then hands her a reading book.
  • He tells her that if she wants to repay him she’ll learn to read… because if she learns to read she can do anything in the world.
  • A bit optimistic, but okay…
  • She gets on the bus then leans out the window, promising to learn, “So help me God.”
  • Sam waves, then leaps into a man sitting in a dressing room who is about to go on stage to star in a play…
  • Oh boy.

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