How The Tess Was WonSeason One, Episode Four
Quantum Leap is TV comfort food. That’s not to say it isn’t intelligent or important – being set between the 50s and the 80s it plays all the major social reform equality cards, race, sex, disability, sexuality – but it’s about a good through-and-through hero running around helping people out because God (or whoever) wants him to. You don’t get fluffier than that. But every now and then it strikes a discordant note.
This week Sam leaps into a shy vet living in
ranch country. He’s not sure if he’s there to save a sick piglet or win the heart of cowgirl Tess. We like Sam’s determination to rescue the pig. And we love how it ends, bumping into someone famous in that inimitably Quantum Leap way whilst also sneakily subverting the whole premise of the show. Genius. Texas
Less successful is the romantic plot beforehand. It’s unashamedly going for the Calamity Jane story, and Tess is just like Calamity in that she’s tough and dumb, but she hasn’t the charm, humour or romantic spirit of Calamity Jane. (And not once does she burst into song.)
And here it gets uncomfortable. Tess doesn’t want to get married, but she has to. Sam has to prove he’s more man than her. He consoles her by pointing out that while men are better than women when it comes to physical strength, women are better at having babies. He’s probably trying to show Tess that being a woman is wonderful and she doesn’t need to want to be a man, but it comes across as incredibly misogynistic and all women are good for is their womb. He manhandles her a bit, but also manages to be more sensitive and romantic than her, so basically, she’s rubbish both at being a man and at being a woman.
Despite being the antithesis of Sam’s kind of woman (he likes them smart but feminine, or whatever the hell Teri Hatcher was supposed to be) he still randomly falls for her, because Sam always has to fall for the woman by the end of the episode to make it a heartbreak that he’s forced to leave. And then there’s a neat little twist that you probably aren’t expecting. Sam doesn’t win the girl.
Trouble is a) Ziggy predicts that Tess is supposed to end up with the man who’s been writing her love letters. Since when can Ziggy predict random stuff like that? Ziggy just knows the established timeline and makes logical predictions based on that. He’s not psychic. We’re never even told what the established timeline was in the first place. Did Tess always marry the other guy? Did she grow old and die alone? Shouldn’t we and Sam need to know this stuff in order to fix it? b) Tess marries a guy who is brutish and declares he wants to rope her. Hoorah, more misogyny.
|Dear God, won't someone please think of the children!|
So it’s an odd one. It’s fun, certainly; there are several amusing subplots and the ending’s great. But it’s also a bit uncomfortable and on the whole, pretty tough to care about. Yee haa.
The Albert Calavicci Sleazy Files:
- Lucille. (In the Energising Chamber during the Christmas party.)