A Dissection of
"Mirror Image"

An Essay by R. Joy Helvie



The show "Quantum Leap" featured many controversial episodes, but one stands out from all the rest. This episode was called "Mirror Image" and was the finale to the cult hit TV series.

Even now, nine years after its original airing, "Mirror Image" is still the most talked about episode of "Quantum Leap." This can most likely be attributed to the fact that pretty much *no one* understood it and have spent the last nine years trying to put the puzzle pieces together.

As I watched this episode not long ago through reruns on cable TV, I found that I was beginning to think of it as a dream rather than a real "Leap." This was enforced when a friend made a reference to ruby slippers and the bartender telling Sam he can Leap himself home. The remark immediately fed the spark and became a fully ignited flame of an idea.

I believe that the entity Leaping Sam felt that it was time to let Sam go home. However, GTFW (God/Time/Fate/Whatever) also knew that Sam must save Al's marriage. So, GTFW invoked a dream upon Sam after he Leaped out of Memphis.

Through metaphors, symbols, and familiar people/names, GTFW gets the point across to Sam that he is Leaping himself around by not *truly* wanting to go home. And he does not truly want to go home because deep inside him, he knows that there is still a major wrong to put right for his best friend, Al Calavicci. Once Sam can accept that he has the power to return home, he will.

The point of Sam's dream is to show him that "the rules"--which play a considerably large role in the series--really *don’t* count; that his desire to change things is what drives GTFW to keep him Leaping. It shows Sam that he *does* have the power to save Al's marriage, if only he'll forget about the rules and do what his heart tells him.

This dream can be likened unto Dorothy Gale's dream in "Wizard of Oz". Sam sees people he recognizes, although they go by different names. I once read that things seen in a person’s dreams are usually triggered by something that he/she saw, heard, or did, the day before or recently. They can also be triggered by current or recent major events in either his/her life or in the world.

This could be applied to Sam's dream.

Most of the characters in the dream looked like people Sam had touched in previous Leaps. The names often were connected to Sam's life pre-Leaping.

**Al the Bartender: His name was Al and he looked like Weird Ernie from Sam's first Leap; he mentions that his brother was at Camp Edward [possible reference to Edward AFB in "Genesis"?] (reference: "Genesis I & II")
**Ziggy the Miner: His name was Ziggy and he looked like Moe Stein (reference: "Future Boy")
**Stawpah: He didn't look like anyone Sam knows, but he was apparently Al's uncle and was a Leaper
**Gooshie: His name was Gooshie and had the same bad breath... He, likewise, was another Leaper
**Tonchi: He looked like Frankie La Motta (references: "Jimmy," "Deliver Us From Evil")
**Pete: He looked like Jimmy La Motta (references: "Jimmy," "Deliver Us From Evil")

**Mutta: He looked like Jake Dorleac (reference: "Southern Comforts")

**Mr. Collins: He looked like Don Geno (reference: "Double Identity")
**The two boys in front of "Al's Place": They looked like the sons of Martin Elroy (Sam’s "host" in the episode "A Tale of Two Sweeties")

The various familiar faces and names are simply there to give Sam a sense of familiarity in a strange Leap... which is a dream all along. Remember in "Wizard of Oz" that the Tinman, Scarecrow, Lion, Wizard, and Wicked Witch all looked like people Dorothy knew and cared about or had seen in the past day or so.

The parallels in Sam's dream to "Wizard of Oz" start almost right away.

Al the Bartender could be likened unto Glinda the Good Witch. As most "Quantum Leap" fans know, the same actor who portrayed Al the Bartender in "Mirror Image" played Weird Ernie in "Genesis I & II." Isn't it odd that they would choose to use the same actor in the beginning *and* the end?

Like Glinda giving Dorothy hints about her own power, Al the Bartender is guiding Sam through the dream by giving him questions that will invoke thoughts of Leaping himself around. Then, much like Glinda telling Dorothy about the ruby slippers, the Bartender tells Sam that he *can* go home. He just really, truly has to want to.

To veer away for a few moments, you must be wondering where the scenes with Gooshie and Al fit in.

Well, what we see of the Project really is going on. Sam's body really did disappear. However, at the point that Al locks on to Sam, that's when reality splits into the dream.

Al is really still doing a nanosecond search for Sam. But in the dream, Al appears to Sam, and tells him he's gonna get him out. It can be paralleled with the scene from "Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy looks into the crystal ball and sees Auntie Em crying for her... The part of the dream when Al tells Sam that he'll get him out of there is simply a reassurance to Sam that Al *is* trying to find him and *is* worrying about him.

It's just a way to reassure the person dreaming that there IS someone out there worrying about them; someone out there who really cares.

Now, let’s get back to Sam’s dream. When Sam converses with Al the Bartender outside "Al's Place" and tells Al the Bartender that he wants to go home, but can't because he has "a right to put wrong for Al", it is the moment when he realizes that he *can* choose to Leap home; he's had the power all along. Dorothy, too, realized she had the power to go home.

This is where *most* similarities with "Wizard of Oz" end. Dorothy goes home... but Sam doesn't.

Instead, Sam chooses not to go home so he can save Al and Beth's marriage. GTFW is satisfied that Sam knows what he needs to know and realizes what good he has done (parallel to Dorothy's realizations in the end that she really *is* cared for and *has* done good for her family and friends), and so GTFW ends the dream and Leaps Sam into Beth's house... because Sam has finally expressed his regret for not righting the wrong and has expressed his longing to fix it. So, Sam actually physically Leaps straight from Memphis to San Diego. There *was* no real Leap to Cokeburg.

This is where I must tell you to forget the ending you normally see. The *real* ending to this episode does not end with Al's picture "leaping" into a black screen. It is also, for right now, not the end that shows Al Leaping into "Al's Place" and ending up Leaping into the future (an ending scripted, but not filmed).

The real ending is as seen in a short video available on the 'Net:

When Sam tells Beth that Al is alive, note that we *do not* see Sam Leap. Instead, we zoom onto the picture of a young Al. This picture *seemingly* Leaps, but instead changes--using the Leap effect--into a picture of Al, Beth, and their four daughters.

I stress the fact that we don't see Sam Leap because it can mean that he *did* Leap home from Beth's house. We just don’t know for sure. Or, if you want to go by the aired version, the "Dr. Becket never returned home" could have an add-on of "over the period of the next ten years" or "in a temporary situation like ‘The Leap Back’". We really don’t know.

In conclusion, the parallels of "Mirror Image" to "Wizard of Oz" are uncanny and not in the least surprising. But no matter what I think, only Don Bellisario knows for sure how he will continue the Quantum Leap saga. And only Don Bellisario knows the *true* story behind the events in "Mirror Image".

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