3x19 "Last Dance Before an Execution"

Leap Date:

May 12, 1971

Episode adopted by: Rebekka E. (2004) & Stacie Wilcox (2024)
Additional info provided by: Brian Greene


As he leaps in, Sam finds himself strapped in an electric chair for a murder his host may not have committed. But as he is granted a sudden 48-hour stay of execution, he must quickly dig through legal papers and barriers to find the truth before he goes back to the chair again.


Audio from this episode


TV Guide Synopsis
Leap Date

Name of the Person Leaped Into
Broadcast Date
Synopsis & Review
Project Trivia
Sam Trivia
Al Trivia
Al's Outfits Worn in the Episode
Miscellaneous Trivia
Guest Stars
Guest Cast Notes
Say What?
Quotable Quotes
Best Scene
Production Credits


Production # 66423

TV Guide Synopsis:
Sam leaps onto death row, where his life depends upon learning the truth about the murder that put him there. Tearsa: Jenny Gago. Moody: James Sloyan. Raul: Julio Oscar Mechoso. Ripley: Christopher Allport. Tia: Irene Olga Lopez. Sam: Scott Bakula.


Tallahassee, Florida

Name of the Person Leaped Into:
Jesus Ortega

Leap Date:
May 12, 1971

Broadcast Date:
May 1, 1991 - Wednesday

Synopsis & Review:

Sam leaps in as he is being strapped into an electric chair. He says there's been a mistake. It's the 12th day of may, 1972, and Sam has leaped into Jesus Ortega, who is about to be executed via electric chair in Florida. Oh God.

He is convicted of the murder of Father Vincent Torelli Sept 9, 1969. The red phone rings. Governor Bowman has granted a 48 hour stay of execution. Moody tells the press this wouldn't happen if he was Governor.

Sam is brought barefoot back to Jesus’s cell. His belongings are backed in boxes, as they didn't expect him to return. In the next cell is Jesus’s friend Raul.

At Moody’s office we learn along with him that the stay is because of an appeal Ortega submitted indicating there is new evidence. His advisors think it must have just been a technicality they are reviewing, as the father IDed him on his deathbed and there were two other eye witnesses as well. Moody is worried this will cause a mistrial and cost him the election.

Sam is pouring over the case notes when Al arrives. Sam is very upset with him for taking so long to get here. Al says it's sometimes hard to find him; it's not like he's lost in a mall. Al says Jesus is out cold in the waiting room and not talking. Beeks thinks that Jesus thinks he's already dead. In the OH, Jesus is executed in two days, followed by Raul. They confessed to robbing the church but not killing the priest. Sam is convinced by the evidence that they are guilty. Ziggy says there is a 83% probability that they are telling the truth - they robbed the church but did not kill the priest.

Sam is brought to see Tearsa La Rea, who is an attorney that works for Moody. Of course, he doesn't know that she is helping Ortega or she'd lose her job. In the OH, Moody has Tearsa disbarred in 1972 for immoral conduct. She ends up spending the rest of her life working in an unemployment office. We learn from her that the ballistics test was inconclusive, and she thinks this will prove Jesus and Raul are innocent. Their public defender failed to point out that the ballistics test wasn't a match, and therefore their whole case was inaccurately based on that assumption. She also states that the eye witnesses places them at the robbery, not the murder.

Al questions why Tearsa is helping them. She says Ortega's letters moved her to help her people. Al likes her. She tells Sam he is different than he was before.

Raul talks to Sam, who tells him they have to go over everything again to look for anything they missed. He tells us his daughter was sick with a high fever. He went to Jesus’ apartment at 7 to ask for money for the medicine, then they decided to go to church. The priest was sorry, but he couldn't give any money to help because he thought they would use it for booze.  Jesus broke the lock on the poor box and he stole the $6 inside in order to buy medicine. Raul laughs, they are going to die over $6. They left the church at quarter to 8, having just enough time for Raul to get his daughter to get to the pharmacy, where Julio Altuna, (a doctor from Cuba that couldn't get his license in the US so he swept floors at the pharmacy) stole the medicine for them since they didn't have enough money. Raul and Rosita were with Julio at the pharmacy when the priest was killed. He didn't come to the trial.

Sam calls for the guard saying he needs to make a phone call, and is reluctantly allowed to do so. He talks to Tearsa, who says that Julio moved two days after the murder. And the original report about his questioning is missing. (None of this came up the 1st time around??) Al says they've been unable to locate what happened to Julio. Tearsa says she has to go, and Sam asks where she is; in Moody's office. (At 1st I was confused that Sam was shocked by this, didn't he call her here? But then I realized the distinction between being at the firm, and in Moody's personal office.) Al is able to tell Sam through the phone that Moody is coming so that he can warn Tearsa (I don't know if we had seen this type of communication before, but it is reflected in reverse in Leap Die Repeat when the hologram can hear what the leaper hears even when using headphones.) She asks Sam if he has an angel.

Moody found out that someone from his office has been working with Ortega and gave information for the appeal. They don't know who it was, and insinuate there is info this person doesn't know.

Sam meets with Tearsa, who says she's hired an investigative team to find Julio (with her own money, according to Al). Sam asks her about a through-and-through, questioning what happened to the 2nd bullet. Al very quickly suggests that if Tearsa is at the church, he can use her brain waves paired with the handlink like a metal detector to search for the bullet. (I don't feel like this makes a lot of sense, and I feel like the suggestion came way too easy, especially to Al who isn't a science guy. I like the solution in Ben Song for the Defense much better, that the evidence they were looking for was found years later and therefore knew where it would be now.) Tearsa doesn't think there is a chance she can find the bullet, but Sam convinced her to go there and reenact the shooting looking for it.

Tearsa sits in a pew wondering why she is even here. Al says he has a heck of a time converting the hanklink but ultimately was successful. He turns on a blue light (a scene famously in the opening), and very easily finds the bullet behind a photo frame. (If it's detecting metal, it should have found every nail in the wall just as easily and it found the bullet.) Even if that part was too easy, figuring out how to make Tearsa actually find it, is harder. She pays for an answer, a way to help them. Al tells God (or gtfw, as we know how he feels about religion) he could use some help here. Suddenly a little girl asks Al if he is an angel. Tearsa thinks she is talking to her, and says no she is not. The girl points out that she is talking to Al. He asks her to help him communicate with the woman, and eventually gets her to listen. The child's mother/caregiver apologizes and tries taking the girl away, but after the girl mentions a bullet and Teresa says she was praying to find a bullet the woman thinks it's a miracle and let's it continue (if a stranger was talking to my kid about a bullet I'm not sure I'd let them keep talking). Tearsa finds the bullet, and Al tells the girl she has an angel who owes her a favor.

Al tells Sam that he's out of here. He tells him about the bullet behind the photo. Tearsa is having the bullet tested against Jesus’ gun. They question why he hasn't leaped yet, and Al finds out the ballistics come back a positive match. Jesus is guilty, and Sam is going to die in the chair in 3 hours and 17 minutes.

Tearsa scalds Sam for lying to him about his guilt. Sam tells her that he really thought Jesus Ortega was innocent, and he isn't that man. But he doesn't tell her the truth. Moody comes in, catching Tearsa working with him, and is ready to give punishment. Sam begs for him not to ruin Tearsa’s life. It doesn't work. Tearsa blames Sam/Jesus. Moody describes the last dance before an execution.

Sam is asked if he'd like to make a final confession. Sam tells the priest that he has done everything asked of him, and he doesn't believe that God is going to let him die in that chair. Raul is brought past Sam to his cell, and he accuses Sam of going back and killing the priest after he left for the pharmacy. He begs Sam not to let them kill him.

Sam is brought back to the chair. He calls out for Al, who appears and tells Sam to say he wants to confess. He says Jesus confesses to the murder of the priest, which Sam in turn does. But Raul was not there - he's not here to Sam Jesus but Raul. Al says he's also there to take down Moody. Sam includes a statement that Moody tampered with the witness and bribed him to leave the state. Antuna was given his medical license in NY under a different name in exchange for disappearing from Florida. Tearsa calls the number that Sam provides, and presumably confirms the story. Julio was told that his statement was being used to prove Raul’s innocence (but instead they buried it).

Al gives the happy ending for Raul and Tearsa, as Sam gets prepped for execution. He leaps at the same time the lever is pulled. Synopsis by Stacie Wilcox

Personal Review by Rebekka E.:

I really like this one, because Sam almost dies and doesn’t "put right what once went wrong" until the very end! This is one of my favorite episodes.

Project Trivia:
It is not always easy to find Sam after he leaps.

The handlink can be converted so that it can detect a lead bullet in a hologram scenario.

Sam can hear Al through a telephone call.

Sam Trivia:
Sam remembers Dr. Beeks.

He says "Oh, God" instead of "Oh, boy" in this episode due to the circumstances of his leap-in.

Sam once again tells someone (Tearsa) he is not who they think he is.

Al Trivia:
Once again, a child can see Al. He uses this to communicate with Tearsa and help Sam uncover evidence.

Al’s Outfits Worn in the Episode:
Al’s first outfit is a ruby, silk, striped, circle shirt with a black rhinestone vest and black rhinestone pants.

The second outfit is blue jeans a purple and gold leather jacket, and a salmon colored shirt.

Miscellaneous Trivia:
Al appears in the episode eight times. The imaging chamber door opens two times. Sam looks in the mirror once.

The title and leap date shown at the beginning of the episode are shaky and faded over the stock footage of the prison. The rest of the credits are back to their normal quality.

In the book, "Quantum Leap A to Z", the executioner is named Wahorsky.

Regular Cast:
Scott Bakula
Dean Stockwell

Guest Stars:
Jenny Gago as Tearsa Margerita Lorrea

Julio Oscar Mechoso as Raul Casta
Christopher Allport as Alan Ripley
James Sloyan as Theodore Wallace Moody
Leonard C. Lightfoot as Officer Little
Jack Jozefson as Officer Hudson
Michael Holden as Herb Stein
Krista Muscare as Maria
Charles Woolf as Father Raftery
Irene Olga Lopez as Tia
A.J. Freeman as Bart Manners
Wendy Jill Gordon as Reporter
Andrew Almador as Reporter
Harry Fleer as Older Man in Jail
Neil Barton as Black man in Jail
Stephen Domingas as Jesus Ortega (Mirror image)

Guest Cast Notes:

Jenny Gago as Tearsa Margerita Lorrea: Jenny Gago is one of Hollywood's most versatile and respected Latina actresses. Her powerful portrayal of the matriarch Maria Sanchez in Gregory Nava's hit film, My Family/Mi familia (1995), was a critically acclaimed contribution to what she describes as "an honorable and poignant script." Gago has starred in many feature films, including Coach Carter (2005) with Samuel L. Jackson, The Tie That Binds (1995), Blood In, Blood Out (1993), Under Fire (1983) and Nurse Betty (2000) with Renée Zellweger. She was honored with the Golden Eagle Award for her performance as Garduna in the film Old Gringo (1989) in which she starred with Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda. Her television films include Grand Avenue (1996), Nowhere to Hide (1994) and Sweet 15 (1990). Series regular roles include DEA (1990), Dangerous Minds (1996), Alien Nation (1989), and Freddie (2005). Gago was also a member of the esteemed cast of the recent Golden Globe-nominated mini-series, American Family (2002), on PBS. Some of her more recent guest starring roles include Crossing Jordan (2001), 24 (2001), The West Wing (1999), The Agency (2001), Alias (2001), Jack & Bobby (2004), Without a Trace (2002), and Lost (2004). Gago earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Arts from UCLA. She was then personally awarded a scholarship by Lee Strasberg to attend his Institute.  Honored by such prestigious organizations as the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans, the Image Awards, the National Council of La Raza, the TELACU Education Foundation, The Hispanic Women's Network of Texas, the BRAVO Awards and the Alma Awards, Gago has also received awards from the County of Los Angeles and El Centro. The U.S. House of Representatives recently acknowledged her for "her talents and portrayal of Latino characters in the film and television industry, as well as her dedication and drive to pursue nontraditional roles to pave the way for other Latinos." Gago's passion is her 13-year-old son, Sean. She loves family, friends, music and dancing (especially salsa), and believes in the spiritual evolution of man towards one human family on earth. She volunteers regularly in schools to support the importance of education.

Julio Oscar Mechoso as Raul Casta: Julio Oscar Mechoso was born on May 31, 1955 in Florida, USA. He was an actor, known for Planet Terror (2007), Jurassic Park III (2001) and Blue Streak (1999). He died on November 25, 2017 in Burbank, California, USA.

Christopher Allport as Alan Ripley
: Christopher Allport was born on June 17, 1947 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He was an actor, known for To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), Jack Frost (1997) and Queen (1993). He was married to Susan Elizabeth Hayden and Carolyn Jones. On Saturday morning, January 26, 2008, the body of the 60-year-old actor, a skiing enthusiast, was found after he and two other persons were reported missing the day before following a trio of avalanches which swept off-trail canyons in the San Gabriel mountains at the Mountain High ski resort, northeast of Los Angeles. He died on January 25, 2008 in Wrightwood, San Bernardino, California, USA. Wrote a story that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 2004 about the pleasures of back-country skiing. Veteran character actor who played both nice guys and heavies on film and TV for over four decades. Lived in Santa Monica, California at the time of his sudden death. He guest starred in two unrelated television series featuring a regular character named Sam Beckett: China Beach (1988) and Quantum Leap (1989).

James Sloyan as Theodore Wallace Moody
: James Joseph Sloyan was born on February 24, 1940 in Indianapolis, Indiana; his family moved to Europe when he was a young boy, living in Rome, Capri, Milan, Switzerland, and Ireland. When he was 17, his family moved back to the United States and settled in upstate New York, where he managed a theater. He received a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and after two years he went to work for Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival. In 1962, he was drafted into the United States Army; after four years he returned to the NYSF and performed in 28 plays and choreographed all the onstage fights. He also appeared in the original off-Broadway stage version of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". He played multiple memorable roles in Star Trek: 1. The Next Generation - He played a conscientious Romulan admiral manipulated by sinister forces. 2. The Next Generation - He portrayed Worf's son Alexander as an adult who returns to his past to help his father understand and accept his son's gentle nature for what it is and the glorious future he would help initiate. 3. Deep Space Nine - The scientist who studied and taught Odo under a repressive regime. 4. Voyager - The scientist who destroyed Neelix's homeworld and wanted to redeem himself. Was the voice of Lexus from 1989 until 2009, having been replaced by actor James Remar. Sloyan has been hired to do voice-over work for Mitsubishi.

Leonard C. Lightfoot as Officer Little
: Leonard Lightfoot was born on December 2, 1947 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA. He is an actor, known for Tentacles (1977), Murder, She Wrote (1984) and Quantum Leap (1989). He played the first African American social worker on Silver Spoons during the entire first season, and was replaced by Franklyn Seales, who played a more neurotic, whiny character to Leonard's more normal, helpful one. Sometimes when acting, whether speaking or listening, a nerve in his jaw-line would twitch, which was a noticeable tick.Has retired from acting.

Jack Jozefson as Officer Hudson
: Jack Jozefson was born on December 5, 1931 in New York, New York, USA. He was an actor, known for Bruce Almighty (2003), NYPD Blue (1993) and The Buddy Holly Story (1978). He died on November 28, 2005 in Indio, California, USA.

Michael Holden as Herb Stein
: Michael Holden is known for The Green Hornet (2011), Timecop (1997) and No Strings Attached (1997).

Charles Woolf as Father Raftery: Charles Woolf was born on October 30, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, USA. He was an actor and writer, known for Mr. Mom (1983), Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988) and Darktown Strutters (1975). He died on June 18, 1994 in Sherman Oaks, California, USA.

Irene Olga Lopez as Tia
: Irene Olga López is known for The Big Lebowski (1998), Falling Down (1993) and Basic Instinct (1992). From projects ranging from Archie Bunker's Place to Fletch to The Big Lebowski, she's been numerously cast as a maid, and each time her character/credit is simply, Maid.

A.J. Freeman as Bart Manners
: Irene Olga López is known for The Big Lebowski (1998), Falling Down (1993) and Basic Instinct (1992). From projects ranging from Archie Bunker's Place to Fletch to The Big Lebowski, she's been numerously cast as a maid, and each time her character/credit is simply, Maid.

Wendy Jill Gordon as Reporter
: Wendy Gordon is known for The Abyss (1989), Dave (1993) and Quantum Leap (1989).

Andrew Almador as Reporter
: During his active television and radio career, Andrew has worked as a news anchor and reporter for television stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Detroit; he also has anchored and reported for CBS radio in Los Angeles (KNX, KFWB). A fixture on Los Angeles television for many years, Angelenos may remember Andrew as the personable weathercaster and environmental reporter for KCAL-TV in the 1980's and 1990's. Andrew has twice been nominated for a local news Emmy and was recognized for his journalistic excellence by the Associated Press, The Radio-Television Digital News Association and the Los Angeles Press Club. He is the recipient of a Golden Mike for his reporting work at KNX. Andrew's acting resume is highlighted by roles in "L.A. Story," "The First Power," "Taking Care of Business" and "The Net." Network television appearances include work on "Dallas," "Murder She Wrote," "Quantum Leap," "The Hogan Family," and other hit TV shows. His voice-over and narration portfolio encompasses a wide range of projects including commercials for artists associated with nearly every major recording label in the U.S. and abroad. Andrew is proud to be a part of the Los Angeles theatre scene; his favorite roles include blind baseball fan Greg in an award-winning production of "Bleacher Bums," iconic playboy Elyot Chase in a well-received revival of Noel Coward's "Private Lives," and the pompous Petkoff in Shaw's "Arms and the Man."

Harry Fleer as Older Man in Jail
: Harry Fleer was born on March 26, 1916 in Quincy, Illinois, USA. He was an actor, known for Black Sheep Squadron (1976), Tormented (1960) and Little Giants (1994). He died on October 14, 1994 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Neil Barton as Black man in Jail
: Neil Barton is known for My Big Fat Independent Movie (2005), Entourage (2004) and Guy Suave: Homicidal Spy (2011).

Say What?
The clock on the wall in the first scene stays at 7:00 the entire scene.

There were no executions performed between 1967 and 1977.

The headline on the autopsy report reads, "Description of gunshot wound perforating the head" but the picture shows wounds to the stomach and left chest area.

Sam can hear Al through the telephone?

Raul had to have known what happened in all this.

You can see the light pen Dean Stockwell is holding under the handlink when he is looking for the bullet fairly clearly.

Quotable Quotes:
"Just try to think of someplace far away."

"You can’t live with 2000 volts of electricity running through your body."

"It’s hard to be loyal to the devil."

"To make right, what the times have made wrong."

It's not like you're lost in a mall, you're lost in time!
-- Al, "Last Dance Before an Execution"

I never knew there were lawyers with morals.
-- Al, "Last Dance Before an Execution"

What have you got, an angel on retainer?
-- Tearsa, "Last Dance Before an Execution"

Are you an angel?
-- the little girl in the church, to Al, "Last Dance Before an Execution"

I sure hope Al's your guardian angel.
-- guard, "Last Dance Before an Execution"

Where the hell have you been?  I almost died in the electric chair.
Sam, it's not always so easy to find you... it's not like you're lost in a mall - you're lost in time.
-- Sam and Al, "Last Dance Before An Execution"

You can't just dump a bucket of water over his head and say 'Hey, hey get up, you're not really dead, you're just 25 years in the future.'!
-- Al, "Last Dance Before An Execution"

If I'd had an attorney like that when I was in court, I'd still be in court!
-- Al, "Last Dance Before An Execution"

Al: Sam, you're going to die on May 14th. That's in two days.
Sam: I know that Al! Why?
Al: Why? Well, probably because you can't live with two thousand volts of electricity going through your body! "Last Dance Before An Execution"

Best Line:
"Are you going to dance before your execution, Jesus? Oh, it’s an old prison saying, that a man on his final walk to the chair, the stinch of fear chokes him and he panics. Struggling in the arms of his captor for one more moment of freedom. Some people say it looks like a dance. The last dance before death. Romantic, don’t you think?"

Best Scene:
The best scene is when Al is in the church looking for the bullet and he talks to the little girl. He has the little girl help the "angel" tell Tearsa where to find the bullet.

Production Credits:

Theme by: Mike Post
Music by: Velton Ray Bunch
Co-Executive Producer: Deborah Pratt
Co-Executive Producer: Michael Zinberg
Supervising Producer: Harker Wade
Co-producers: Paul Brown, Jeff Gourson
Produced by: Chris Ruppenthal
Created by: Donald P. Bellisario
Teleplay by: Deborah Pratt
Story by: Bill Bigelow & Donald P. Bellisario & Deborah Pratt

Directed by:
Michael Watkins

Executive Producer: Donald P. Bellisario
Associate Producer: 
James S. Giritlian
Executive Story Editor: Tommy Thompson

Director of Photography: Michael Watkins, A.S.C.
Production Designer: Cameron Birnie
Edited by: John Koslowsky, A.C.E..
Unit Production Manager: Ron Grow
First Assistant Director:
Ryan Gordon
Second Assistant Director: Kate Yurka
Casting by: Ellen Lubin Sanitsky
Set Director: Robert L. Zilliox
Costume Designer: Jean-Pierre Dorleac
Costume Supervisors: David Rawley & Donna Roberts-Orme
Sound Mixer: 
Barry D. Thomas
Stunt Coordinator: Diamond Farnsworth
Technical Advisor: Joe Vita
Sound Editor: Paul Clay
Music Editor: Donald Woods

Panaflex ® Camera and Lenses by: Panavision ®

This motion picture is protected under laws of the United States and other countries. Unauthorized duplication, distribution or exhibition may result in civil liability and criminal prosecution.

Copyright © 1991 by Universal City Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Bellisarius Productions and Universal, an MCA Company


Quantum Leap Podcast - Last Dance Before An Execution

You are cordially invited to join us for a Last Dance Before an Execution.

In this electrifying episode of the podcast, hosts Allison Pregler, Matt Dale and Christopher DeFilippis discuss one of Sam’s darkest Leaps yet — into a death row inmate headed to the electric chair. Sam’s desperate quest to prove his innocence turns into a larger exploration of fear, punishment, bigotry and faith.

Listen to The Quantum Leap Podcast on this episode here:

Don’t worry, we find some funny stuff to talk about, too…

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