Monday, March 27, 2023

Quantum Leap: Friendly Skies

In the 1970s, criminals seeking to escape justice, like the mastermind of the Fountain Valley mass murders, not infrequently hijacked flights to Cuba, where they were sheltered by Castro’s Communist regime. Unfortunately, Dr. Ben Song suddenly finds himself serving as a flight attendant aboard one such hijacked flight, but their destination is a watery doom. Obviously, Song needs to save the passengers, but he must do so without the help of Ziggy, the project’s AI in “Friendly Skies,” the latest episode of Quantum Leap, premiering tonight on NBC.

In the previous episode, Janis Calavicci finally figured out the source of the Quantum Leap project’s leak: Ziggy, their AI. Despite Ian Wright’s whining, Magic Williams takes Ziggy offline, insisting they rely on the rest of the vast computing power at their disposal. That might slow the team down a bit, but it is pretty easy to figure out what Song is supposed to do.

His flight went down somewhere in the Atlantic, while in a dead spot for communications. At first, there are several possibilities, but again, the hijackers make it rather easy to figure out once the hijackers reveal themselves.

It turns out passenger attitudes towards flight attendants were not particularly enlightened in 1971. However, there is more to this episode than gender issues. The hijackers, who will potentially kill every soul onboard, are explicitly motivated by class warfare rhetoric. In fact, they have expressly chosen this flight because the airline owner’s son is among the passengers. Initially, Song assumes he is a spoiled brat, but he slowly learns there is more to the awkward teen than he realized.

There is an important lesson to this week’s episode: class warfare kills innocent people. It also teases a big climatic time-travel development at the end. Pulling the plug on Ziggy raises the stakes and adds new degrees of difficulty to this leap, which helps distinguish “Friendly Skies” from previous episodes.

In addition to the time-travel, “Friendly Skies” works quite well as an air disaster/hijacking thriller. It is also a reminder of Cuban regime’s persistent criminality, if only obliquely. Recommended for fans and new viewers alike, “Friendly Skies” airs tonight (3/27) on NBC and streams tomorrow on Peacock.