TV Review - Quantum Leap (2022) - Let Them Play

by Emily


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https://www.imdb.com/title/tt22682766/


Episode: Season 1, Episode 12

Air-date: February 6, 2023
Episode Written/Directed by: Shakina Nayfack

How I watched it: Streamed it on NBC.

When I last watched it: February 7, 2023

Typically I review movies that have a gender transformation element, but I felt motivated to review a television episode that put trans issues on prime time.


About Quantum Leap (2022)

I’ve been a Quantum Leap fan since the 90’s and was devastated when the original was canceled in 1993. When I heard they were rebooting it, I was intrigued.  When I heard it wasn’t a reboot, but a revival, I was even more excited.  I was also scared to get invested in it.  Since the original QL was canceled, broadcast TV has had a rough time keeping Sci-Fi television shows beyond a single season.  If it’s not a police/fire/hospital procedural or a reality TV-show, it gets canceled. 


The original Quantum Leap was about Dr. Sam Beckett who each episode time traveled into a person from the past (aka leaping) with the mission of trying to put right what once went wrong.  In the 2022 revival, it’s been 30 years since Sam was lost, Project Quantum Leap has been restarted.  This time Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) is leaping. His fiance, Addison (Caitlin Bassett) is his companion who appears as a hologram that guides him on the leap. Unlike the original, the team behind the scenes at Project Quantum Leap are main cast members as well.


I’m not going to review the entire Season 1, because it’s not over yet. I certainly have my opinions, though.


Episode 12: Let Them Play (spoiler-free):

This episode is written by actress, writer and trans activist Shakinia Nayfack, who also directs and plays Dottie.


Ben leaps into a coach of a Girls’s basketball team in 2012. Not only is he the coach, he is the father of one of the girls on the team, Gia (Josielyn Aguilera). You see, Gia is transgender.  While she’s on the girls’ basketball team she is neither allowed to play or change in the same locker room. There appears to be an arrangement between Gia’s parents and the school administration.  Gia can practice with the team, but cannot play.  Until Ben gets there and leaps into Coach Mendez.  When one of the players gets injured, he has no choice but to send in the only girl from the bench - Gia.  Everyone knows Gia is trans - except Ben who just got there and sees a girl in a uniform and doesn’t think twice about it.  “Are you sure?” the girls on the team ask.  Ben is all like “she’s on the team right?”  So Gia goes in and scores the winning basket.  What should be a winning celebration is greeted by boos and jeers from people in attendance who don't think Gia should be on the team. 


2012, huh? Feels a lot like like 2022 too.


* * Spoilers ahead * *


Ben’s task is to prevent Gia from running away.  The structure of the Quantum Leap revival goes back and forth between Ben’s mission in the past, and the people back at Project Quantum Leap in 2023.  While Ben is finding out first hand what it’s like to be the parent of a trans teen, back at PQL, Ian (Mason Alexander Park) confides in Addison about their own struggles being a trans teen.  Ian shares real-life statistics of trans runaways and trans suicides.  Addison brings up the recent real-life military discharge of trans military members (that thankfully has been rescinded) and how she did nothing and was regretful. Park is phenomenal here, and has been a bright spot in this revival.


In 2023, the other mystery the PQL team is tracking down all season is why Ben leaped prematurely in the pilot (He doesn’t remember - in the original, Sam called this “swiss-cheese” brain that limits how much future he remembers).  That leads Magic (Ernie Hudson)  and Jenn (Nanrisa Lee) to Dottie who is also trans and reveals information to the season’s lore.


Meanwhile, back in 2012, Gia is facing discrimination from the principal, some hateful boys, one of the girls on her basketball team, and that girl’s mother.


Ben and Gia’s mother (Brigitte Kali Canale) make mistakes (as do many parents of trans teens).  There’s some great quotes in there.  Ben tells Addison, he doesn’t know how to be a parent of a trans kid.  Addison replies that neither do actual parents of trans kids when they first learn their kids are trans. Ben at some point was trying to empathize with Gia, but she quickly shoots him down.  He doesn’t know what it’s like to be trans. (Ben has leapt into women this season, but the episodes are too short to tell whether Ben experienced any dysphoria from not seeing himself in a mirror… ever.) When Gia learns her parents made a deal with the principal for her to not play, she attempts to run away. 


Fortunately, Ben is able to find her, and Gia’s mother explains they were just trying to protect her.  Gia explains she doesn’t want their protection. She just wants to be a kid. She wants to be free to make her own mistakes.  In the end, Ben and Gia’s mom agree to let Gia play against the principal’s wishes.  At the game, while there are haters, there’s far more supporters.  The principal is NOT happy and will likely try to fire Coach Mendez after Ben leaps away. But he did the right thing, and it appears the union will have Coach Mendez’s back.



Favorite Moments:

  • Kudos for casting so many trans actors and actresses for this episode.  It hits home when we’re talking about trans youth and we’re showing them.  These are the trans youth.  Look at them.  They’re kids. They’re not some monsters that transphobes want you to believe.

  • When Gia and Ben are at “group”, there are other trans youth and their parents there.  One of the parents gives a voice over.  I legit teared up. This episode and its message are powerful.

  • The moment Ian realizes they have the new timeline’s memories. Ian tells Addison that they remembered Gia from the news.  But that’s when Addison explains that the only reason Gia made the news is because of actions Ben just did. It does make the geek inside of me wonder who from PQL actually remembers both timelines.

  • Addison invites Ian into the imaging chamber to witness the game at the end. It’s a sweet ending seeing holograph Addison and holograph Ian cheering on Gia.  Just as the team wins, Ben leaps.

  • Umm.. A Transgender Story.  On NBC.  On Prime-time!!!!


Easily the best episode of the season, and on par with some of the timely and heavy-hitting episodes of the original.


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Emily

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for me to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on TGStorytime.com and FictionMania.tv.

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Elron

My takeaways from this episode:
1.  Your review was incredibly detailed and insightful. I read it before watching the episode and it helped me to see things I wouldn't have otherwise. Thank you.
2.  You can't watch this episode and not be touched. They don't hold anything back. And I'm glad.
3.  I think this episode could drive away some of the old time viewers who can't face anyone who isn't just like them.
4.  I think Gia looks amazing.
5.  That was an awesome soundtrack!
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