Mirror Image Theory
"Regular? Or Schooner?"
Well, while you decide, plop down your 15 cents and read my take on the explanation of one of the most exciting (and confusing) series finales in television hickory! No...history. That too.
Below are ideas on Mirror Image from other fans out there. Take a look!
"The Mirror Shattered" Screenplay by R. Joy Helvie
"You let too much time go by and you could lose touch with reality." These words, spoken by Al the bartender are the basis for this essay. Is Sam dreaming this entire episode? Is Sam having a mental breakdown in a real scenario? Is Sam dead...his soul leaping in time without him realizing it? Or perhaps there is another explanation only Don Bellisario knows...locked away in his brilliant little head somewhere out there, waiting for Universal Studios to bring the show back to life? Then again maybe this is a combination of all these things rolled into one?
It came about this way: When NBC decided not to carry the show for a sixth season, Don Bellisario had to create an episode that would continue the series either as a television series or movie later down the line, but also had to have some closure just in case that was never possible. He set the episode in the town of Cokeburg, Pennsylvania where he was born. The bar was modeled after a tavern his father ran, right down to the W.W.II pictures on the wall. Sam leaps in on August 8th...Bellisario's birthday. So now we know that Cokeburg is a real place and that this is a real bar (although not named Al's Place). Now let's move right into trying to explain the episode.
First, let's explore the dream scenario. This could very well be another dream episode as was the case in "The Boogiem*n." Actually, it's more like "The Wizard of Oz" if we take a closer look. Dorothy was transported far from home into a different place with faces both strange and familiar to her. The characters mirror her real life acquaintances. Sam has leaped to a place with faces both strange and familiar to him as well. In one scene, Ziggy the miner and Sam both wipe their faces after drinking a beer at the same time using the same motion, just like a mirror. Dorothy wants to go home and has to see the Wizard to get there. Sam thinks he needs Al the bartender to get home. The Wizard turned out to be an illusion...Dorothy took herself home by wishing it. Al tells Sam he can take himself home by wishing it. The Munchkins are replaced by miners in the episode. Where is the boundary between fantasy and reality here? We all get visions of things we want in our dreams. Perhaps Sam figures out why he does the things he does in his own dream, just as Dorothy did when she realized there is no place like home. Using the images of people he once knew and helped, his subconscious mind could have created this dream world to help Sam unravel the mystery of his life's quest and purpose. Who knows what happens in between leaps? In the first episode, Al tells Sam it took a week for him to leap. What goes on in Sam's mind during that time? The answer, quite possibly, is an elaborate dream. And there we have it. Or do we?
Could this be a mental breakdown from Sam's point of view? Very possible. Sam narrates, "My leap had taken a Quantum twist. I no longer knew what was real and what was imagined. And if imagined, who's mind was imagining it...mine? Or someone else's?" Leaping through time is bound to take it's toll on the brain. From the very first leap, Sam lost his memory and continued to lose and regain bits and pieces occasionally. And in the last 2 seasons, we saw that his mind began to merge with that of the host in the past. It was bound to happen sooner or later. It is very possible that only Sam saw the miners as people he already knew and that he invented the conversations he has with Al the bartender. In his subconscious, Sam may have remembered that Al Calavicci had an uncle named Steve and created the character in his mind. But then again, the other miners spoke and interacted with Stawpah, so I don't think this was a mental breakdown at all. Let's move on.
Is Sam dead? Stawpah is discovered to be the uncle of Al Calavicci. But he died 20 years before Mirror Image's time frame. Al the bartender states, "Books are full of the dead saving the living." When Sam asks how he knows that Tonchi and Pete are still alive, Stawpah says "I been there...many times." Many stories tell that dead souls are trapped in limbo until a wrong in their life has been righted. It's possible that Stawpah has been cursed to relive this event over and over again, until Sam leaped in and helped to save the pair from death in the collapsed mine. Then Stawpah leaps...and disappears leaving no memory of himself behind with the townsfolk, all except for Sam, who is the only one who doesn't belong there. Sam asks Al the bartender, "One moment he's one of them and the next he's just a memory?" This seems to mirror Sam's own journey where as he leaps from life to life, he makes an impact but no one knows he's really been there at all. Perhaps Sam died between leaps or at some point in the past, and his soul continues to leap without knowing he is dead like in the movie "The Sixth Sense." As Sam says to Al Calavicci, "All those stories of dead souls coming back to warn the living...what if they're all leapers like Stawpah?" Take a breath, Sam. What if you are a leaper like Stawpah? Chilling, I know, but never fear...Don has openly stated that Sam is not dead.
There is one other possibility I can imagine. Sam leaps into Cokeburg in a real scenario. However, God or Fate or Time takes the form of the bartender and creates the aura of people he knows to comfort Sam as he unveils the truth about why he refuses to take himself home. Stawpah is there to show Sam that he can leap where he wants to and set right the wrongs he needs to. Then he leaves Sam to take a closer look at himself in the mirror with the bartender as his guide. "Are you telling me the leaps are gonna get tougher?", Sam asks. The bartender tells Sam that he will only leap as long as he wants to and can go home anytime he really wants to. But Sam says, "I want to go home, but I can't, can I? I've got a wrong to put right for Al." This could be why we see the words "Sam Beckett never returned home" at the end. If Sam fixes Al's life so that he and Beth get married, it's possible that Al would not be on Project Quantum Leap in the future, leaving Sam to leap alone through time without a guide. Perhaps Donna would not be there either, leaving Sam with nothing to leap home to. But as another leaper out there recently pointed out to me, Don says that "no matter what, Sam and Al are destined to meet each other and be lifelong pals", so looks like that's not it. Maybe Sam decides that he is more content at helping others than he could be sitting around in a top secret project office surrounded by his Nobel prizes. Who knows? I suppose only Donald Bellisario does for sure. And until he is able to bring back the world of Quantum Leap, we are still left wondering, waiting, and anticipating. Until that day comes, we can still enjoy the past adventures and create in our own minds where we think the good Dr. Beckett is right now. Maybe one day he will leap home.
Just maybe. I personally think he is somewhere he always wanted to be, writing his memoirs. Or if not, perhaps he does leap home in the future and has to face a government committee to explain where he has been for the past few years. I say this because if you pay attention, Sam narrates many portions of some episodes himself in the background. Could this be Sam writing down the events in a book, or reporting to someone what had happened? Or maybe he's telling his story to his grandchildren far in the future even beyond his own lifetime. In the world of Quantum Leap, anything is possible. And it will be.
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