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In the twenty-seventh installment of The Quantum Leap Podcast, Albie and Heather discuss season two, episode nineteen “Leaping In Without A Net”. There are first impressions, an episode recap, thoughts and opinions, listener feedback, and a amazing interview with Tommy Thompson, the writer of many Quantum Leap episodes including Leaping In Without A Net, and the series’ Co-Executive Producer. The first episode of the original audio drama Quantum Leap: The Impossible Dream, Need You Now: Part 1. Also an article from Hayden McQueenie about Quantum leap crossovers.
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2×21 Leaping In Without A Net
Sam leaps in to find himself hanging upside down on a swinging trapeze in a circus big top. A young woman holding onto another trapeze tells Sam not to mess up this time, then swings herself toward him, turning somersaults in the air as she falls toward his outstretched hands. Sam tries to catch her but fails, and she falls into a safety net a few feet above the ground.
It’s November 18, 1958, and Sam has leaped into Victor Panzini, a Hungarian trapeze artist working at a small carnival in Iowa with his sister, Eva, and their father, Laszlo. Victor and Eva were practicing their routine when Sam leaped in, and now Eva is upset with Sam for not catching her. However, Sam has a bigger problem, as he suddenly remembers that he is afraid of heights. Eva tells Sam that he is just rusty, and he’ll do better next time. Sam isn’t so sure. Eva says she dreamed about their mother last night, and she wants to be the first person since their mother to “do the triple”.
Laszlo has entered the big top, and angrily tells Eva that she isn’t going to do the triple. He shouts at Sam to get down, and Sam lets go of his trapeze, falling awkwardly into the net and drawing a round of laughter from a group of carnival performers who have gathered to watch. Laszlo shouts at them to get out, and they leave with more laughter. Sam falls from the net to the ground, then stands up to receive a slap from Laszlo. Eva quickly intervenes, and tells Laszlo she asked Sam to help her practice. She claims that she can do the triple, and the Panzinis can be headliners again. Laszlo ignores her, tells the two of them they have a show in an hour, and leaves. Eva tells Sam that she knows it’s hard for him to be up there again, but insists that they are going to do the triple, and nothing is going to stop them, not even their father.
Later, Sam is strolling the circus grounds when he meets Big Moe, the circus’ ringmaster and resident little person. Big Moe asks Sam if Eva is going to do the triple, and tells him they can move on to the big cities if she does it. After Big Moe leaves, Sam is joined by Al. Inside Victor’s trailer, Al tells Sam that the Panzinis used to be the most famous aerial act in the world, until Victor and Eva’s mother, Maria, was killed trying to do the triple. Since then, Laszlo has been restricting the act to simple catches between Eva and himself, and the Panzinis are no longer working in the big time. Sam responds that for the Panzinis, the catches might be simple, but for him they’ll be impossible. Just then, Laszlo knocks on the door, telling Sam that they’re on in twenty minutes. Sam insists to Al that he can’t do it.
Inside the big top, Laszlo and Eva are in their costumes and waiting to go on when Sam arrives wearing his costume. An angry Laszlo tells Sam he doesn’t ever want to see him in tights again, and throws a stagehand’s jumpsuit at him, clutching his shoulder in pain as he does so. Laszlo and Eva are introduced to the crowd, and Eva starts climbing toward her trapeze. Laszlo tells Sam to hold Eva’s ladder as she climbs, then starts ascending a rope to his trapeze. Sam is relieved that he isn’t part of the act, but Al arrives with bad news: in two days, Eva is going to try and do the triple, but Laszlo will fail to catch her, and she will die in the fall unless Sam catches her instead.
The next morning, Eva wakes Sam before dawn so the two of them can practice again. She senses Sam’s fear, and tells him that he isn’t responsible for killing their mother. Sam realizes that Victor was performing as Maria’s catcher on the night she died, and concludes that Laszlo now blames him. Eva tells Sam that he is a better catcher than Laszlo since he hurt his shoulder, and she wants him to catch her when she does the triple. Sam tells Eva that he can’t go up there again, and Eva leaves to practice on her own.
Back in the big top, Sam and Al are watching Eva practice the triple. Al tells Sam that if he makes contact with Eva but fails to properly catch her, it could make her miss the net entirely. Sam asks if that’s how Maria died, but Al tells him that there was no net, because the Panzinis didn’t use a net before the accident. Sam still insists that he can’t be Eva’s catcher, and Al responds that Sam is physically capable of it, but just needs to get over his fear of heights. Eva sees Sam, and tells him she just did the triple four times. Sam responds that practicing without a catcher is dangerous, and tells her he’ll be her catcher. Al tells Sam he has an idea about how to help him practice.
Outside the big top, Laszlo happily tells Sam and Eva that the Panzinis have been invited to perform at a major circus in Denver. The other carnival performers are upset to be losing their main attraction, and Big Moe gets into an argument with Laszlo. Laszlo calls Big Moe a dwarf, and Big Moe attacks him with a chokehold. One of the other performers throws a punch at Laszlo, but Sam punches him instead. Another man pulls a knife, but Sam takes him out with a spin kick, which brings a smile to Laszlo’s face. Sam pulls Big Moe off of Laszlo’s back. After Laszlo and the others leave, Eva reminds Sam that they still have to practice, and tells him she’ll see him up there.
Sam is on his trapeze with his eyes clenched shut, and Al tells him to open his eyes and look straight ahead at him, and not to look down. Sam nervously opens his eyes and looks around. Al teaches him how to properly position himself on the trapeze and start a swinging motion. Soon enough, Sam is hanging upside down and swinging through the air, but won’t let go of the bar until Al sternly tells him that if he doesn’t let go, then Eva will fall. Sam lets go of the bar, and assumes a catching position. He asks Eva to start with a simple straight catch. Eva is disappointed, but obliges. Eva swings herself toward Sam, and he catches her hands at first, but then loses his grip on her with one hand. Hanging above the net, Eva tells Sam to let her go, but Al warns him not to do it. Sam lets go of Eva, who falls into the net. Sam is excited to have awkwardly caught Eva on his first try, but then discovers that Eva has bounced off of the net and is lying in a heap on the ground.
Sam drops into the net, and quickly scrambles down to the ground to check on Eva, who has been knocked out of breath but appears unharmed. Eva wants to keep practicing, but Sam insists that she shouldn’t practice with him anymore. He tells her that if she performs tomorrow night in Denver, something terrible is going to happen. He says he knows that Laszlo is going to drop her. Eva responds that nobody knows the future, then has an idea and leads Sam out of the big top with her. Al asks Gushy to send him wherever Eva is taking Sam.
Al appears inside the tent of Sybil, the carnival fortune teller. Sybil is seated at a table, and looks around in confusion as Al stands behind her, seeming to sense him. Eva and Sam enter the tent, and Eva accuses Sybil of telling Sam that Eva is going to die doing the triple. Sybil responds that she only told Sam what she saw in his soul, then looks around toward Al again. Al is uneasy, and leaves. Sybil surprises herself by saying that an angel told Sam about Eva’s death. Eva asks Sybil to look into her eyes and tell her if she is going to die on the trapeze. Sybil says that she could, but not for a long time, because she sees children in Eva’s eyes. Eva is relieved, tells Sam that he was just afraid for her, and leaves. Sybil tells Sam that Eva won’t die as long as he catches her, then stares into his eyes with wonder. She tells him that she’s never noticed before how many times he’s been reincarnated, and she can see a lot of souls in his eyes.
Inspired by Sybil’s words, Sam climbs up to the trapeze again, determined to overcome his fear of heights and catch Eva. Al reappears, and tells Sam he’s proud of him. Sam assumes a catching position, and Al says he’s doing great.
Laszlo is in his trailer alone, talking to Maria. He says that his son should be catching Eva instead of him, but he’s not sure if he can trust him, or if he can forgive him. He tells Maria that he was proud of his son for the way he fought the other men today, like a true Hungarian. He says that maybe it’s time to give his son another chance, and it would be good to smile and hug him again.
Al is teaching Sam how to properly catch someone, when Eva enters the big top and starts climbing toward her trapeze. Eva wants to start with a double, but Sam tells her to start with a single. Eva agrees, and swings toward Sam. Releasing from her trapeze, Eva performs a double somersault, and Sam successfully catches her. She tells him that the Flying Panzinis don’t do singles. Laszlo has entered the big top, and watches the two of them from the ground. Eva moves to a higher starting position, and Al explains to Sam that she needs more height to practice the triple. Eva attempts a triple, and Sam fails to catch her. She falls into the net, almost being thrown onto the ground again. Laszlo brings her safely down from the edge of the net, and angrily shouts up at Sam, asking him if he’s trying to kill his sister too.
Sam, Laszlo and Eva are on the road and headed to Denver with their trailers. Behind the wheel of his car, Sam tells Al that Laszlo has a torn rotator cuff, and Al guesses that that’s what causes him to drop Eva. Sam says that he can’t catch Eva, but Al tells him that he made the mistake of reaching for Eva when she practiced the triple, and assures him that he’ll catch her as long as he doesn’t reach.
The Panzinis arrive at the circus in Denver, and are greeted by Clifford Vargas, the circus owner. Clifford shows them a poster advertising the Panzinis’ return, and the poster says Eva is going to perform the triple. Laszlo tells Clifford that they don’t do the triple, and Eva confesses that she sent Clifford a letter in Laszlo’s name. She tells Laszlo that she and Sam will do the triple, and that the Panzinis haven’t had a proper act since Maria died. Laszlo reluctantly agrees to let Eva do the triple, and she hugs him. Laszlo says that he will catch Eva, but Sam refuses because of Laszlo’s injury. He tells Laszlo that the same pride that got Maria killed will cause him to try and perform when he shouldn’t, and this time it will kill Eva. Laszlo tries to slap Sam, but Sam grabs his arm and prevents it. Laszlo winces in pain, then backs down and walks away without a word.
The night of the performance has arrived, and the ringmaster introduces the Panzinis to the crowd. Sam is sitting on his trapeze, a bundle of nerves as Al watches from close by. Eva waves to the crowd as they are introduced. Laszlo enters the big top to watch from the crowd. The ringmaster announces to the crowd that Eva will perform the triple the same way her mother did on the night of her death – without a safety net. The crowd gasps, and Sam looks down in shock as the net beneath them is taken down. Al admits that he didn’t tell Sam about the net not being used because Sam wouldn’t have agreed to catch Eva if he knew about it. He tells Sam that if he doesn’t catch Eva, then Laszlo will drop her. The ringmaster asks the crowd for their complete silence as Sam starts swinging.
Sam assumes the catching position, and Laszlo stares up intently as Eva gets ready to jump. Al watches nervously from the ground as Eva starts swinging on her trapeze. Sam swings toward her, and Eva leaps from her trapeze, turning three somersaults before falling toward Sam’s outstretched hands. Sam catches her successfully, and the crowd bursts into applause, Laszlo included. The net is put back up so Eva can drop safely. Sam follows her down, and Al lets out a heavy sigh of relief. On the ground, Eva runs over to Laszlo and hugs him. Sam wonders why he hasn’t leaped yet. Laszlo comes over with Eva, and tells Sam that he didn’t wave to the crowd, and that he better not forget next time. Sam says he won’t, and Laszlo hugs him. As Eva looks at the two of them and smiles, and the crowd continues to applaud, Sam leaps.
Plot Recap by Phil Doherty