Retro Review: Quantum Leap (S5 – EP22) Mirror Image – August 8th, 1953

Sam Leaps to 1953 and faces a mirror image of himself
mirror image

Synopsis: Sam Leaps to 1953 and faces a mirror image of himself and meets a few familiar faces. But why does he find himself in a bar in the middle of a coal-mining town, and wheres Al?


The Story

After five years of leaping from person to person to change things that once went wrong. Sam finds himself leaping into a bar in the middle of a coal-mining town where the mirror image that he sees is his own.

Obviously, this has Sam asking many questions and his only guide aside from his own intuition is a strange bartender Al. Who could well be much more than he appears to be, possibly even the supernatural being that has been leaping sam from person to person.

Meanwhile, back at Project Quantum Leap. Al Calavicci and Gooshie are trying to figure out where Sam may have leaped to. Its fair to say that they’re a little concerned to have not tracked him down by now. 

Back in 1953. Sam is no closer to figuring out why he has leaped into this place and seems to be running up against a brick wall when it comes to getting solid answers from his new Bartender friends. Even the familiar faces that he meets are not who they appear to be. But it feels to Sam like the Bartender Al may hold a few answers to why he has been Leaping from body to body for five years.


The Acting

The acting throughout this episode is some of the best you are likely to see in a TV drama series. Scott Bakula gets given an awful lot to do in this episode in which his character of Sam finally gets the chance to have some of his questions answered.

Bakula’s scenes with the excellent Bruce McGill who plays the mysterious Bartender called Al are the wheels that keep this final episode of the series moving. McGill is perfectly cast as the supernatural being that answers each of Sam’s questions with another question. The dialogue between these two characters is beautifully written.

My favorite moment comes toward the end of the episode when Sam voices his regrets about not being able to help his friend Al Calavicci when he had the opportunity to do so. Something to which the Bartender responds by asking Sam why he chose not to help. 



As series finales go. This for me is a true gem but it is also kind of controversial as it kind of created a little bit of a split in the fan base.

It’s no secret that some will want a happy ending or at least an ending tied up for them in a bow. That ending would have possibly looked like Sam returning to his own time and finally making that leap home. Obviously, that wasn’t the ending that fans got.

Instead, we got a more thoughtful ending that continued Sams Adventures offscreen, which would allow for fandom to create fan fiction and maybe even a few novels or comic book continuations. Sadly, we didn’t really get to much in the way of merchandise after the show finished. But the fanbase of the show kept it alive. And I feel that this episode and the great characters of Sam and Al are the reasons why.


Exploring the Human Condition & Morality

For me. Quantum Leap was a rare science fiction series in that it dared to mix things up a bit by having Science blended in with human drama, which allowed it to ask the big questions about the human condition and morality.

It was also a show that dared to suggest that there is a supernatural element out there. In the case of this episode. We meet the Supernatural Bartender Al who ran the bar that turns out to be a brief pit stop for other Quantum Leapers.

Which has me wondering if this bar may turn up in the new forthcoming Quantum Leap continuation series that is being made for Peacock’s streaming service.

Although controversial in a lot of ways. Mirror Image for me remains to be one of the best-written episodes of Quantum Leap. I loved that it wasn’t all wrapped in a bow with an ending. Just imagining that there are Leapers out there making stuff right that once went wrong is a hopeful message.

Quantum Leap (S5 - EP22) Mirror Image - August 8th, 1953
  • Story
  • Acting
  • CGI & Stunts
  • Incidental Music

Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at: [email protected]
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