2x09 "So Help Me God"


Leap Date:

July 29, 1957


Episode Adopted By: Sherdran <AKA> Eleiece
Additional info provided by: Sues and Brian Greene


Synopsis:

As a lawyer in the deep south, Sam has to try a case involving a black woman accused of murdering a prominent white man and uncover the mystery of why the woman says she committed the crime even though he believes she did not.

 

Audio From the Episode




TV Guide Synopsis
Place
Leap Date

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

 

 

Production # 65410



TV Guide Synopsis:
Sam leaps into a courtroom in 1957, where he's a lawyer defending a black woman on trial for the murder of her white lover. Lila: Tyra Ferrell. Capt. Cotter: Byrne Piven. Myrtle: Ketty Lester. Sadie: Kathleen Noone. Judge: William Schallert. Sam: Scott Bakula.



Place:
Twelve Oaks Parish, Louisiana






Leap Date:
July 29, 1957






Name of the Person Leaped Into:
Leonard Dancey






Broadcast Date:
November 29, 1989 - Wednesday






Commercial:





Synopsis & Review:

Sam has leapt to Louisiana in 1957, into a defense attorney named Leonard Dancey. His entrance is very poorly timed, as it is during the committal hearing of the leapee's client, a young black woman named Delilah (Lila) Berry, who is accused of murder, and is immediately asked for their plea. Unsure of what to do, Sam looks at Lila and, seeing innocence in her eyes, pleads not guilty. This causes an uproar in the courtroom, as the audience had expected (and obviously hoped for) a guilty plea.

As Leonard had struck a deal with the prosecution before the hearing, the judge Eugene Haller (played by William Schallert) in his chambers discusses this change of heart with both counsels. He wonders if Sam has ulterior motives for changing the guilty plea (e.g., Lila hitting on him) and advises Leonard to reconsider the prosecutor's offer of 20 years in prison for a guilty plea unless he has a good reason. But the prosecutor, angry and humiliated, rants that he will now push for a sentence of death by electric chair once Lila is declared guilty. Sam coolly replies that he will have to prove it. Back in the courtroom, the judge announces that Delilah Berry will stand trial for the murder of Houston Palmer Carter.

Lila angrily asks Sam why he changed her plea, and he replies that she is innocent. She retorts, "I never said that!" but their conversation is interrupted when the sheriff handcuffs her to take her back to the prison, informing Sam that he can talk to her the next morning during visiting hours. Sam is then approached by a well-dressed middle-aged man who is obviously very prominent and powerful, as everyone tips their hats to him.

"The Captain," as he's called, asks if he can drive Leonard home, and despite Sam's immediate reluctance, he agrees (mainly because he doesn't know where he lives). During the ride, Captain Colton Carter (played by Byrne Piven), who it turns out is the father of Houston, the murder victim, tells Sam that Leonard only has this job because of his friendship with Houston, and explains that his wife Sadie (played by Kathleen Noone) hasn't been well since Houston's death and that he offered a plea bargain to not have to put her through a trial.

The Captain doesn't believe Sam when he answers why he's pleading not guilty, and like the judge, thinks Sam is enjoying her attention. He doesn't exactly blame Sam for this either, reminiscing how he enjoyed watching her bent over while cleaning the floor – Lila was one of their maids. They arrive at Sam's house and Leonard's wife "Shugee," who's keen on a membership at the country club, is so pleased that her husband was seen in the Captain's new car, says she was going to bake him a pecan pie and let him play “Rhett Butler” with her that night.

Sam spends the night researching the case, trying to find a way to help Lila, but all he could remember about the law was what he knew from a TV show whose name he didn't even remember until Al shows up the next morning and exclaims, "It's Perry Mason!" when he sees Sam.

Al apologizes for taking so long to get there. He had to take care of Leonard, who was unwell in the waiting room. He is not much help to Sam anyway, because they have no idea why Sam leapt there. They have already run through a few scenarios and determined that in the original story, the 20-year sentencing deal that was finalized was the best possible option anyway because of the overwhelming evidence against Lila. Unfortunately, that is no longer an option, as Sam has plead Lila not guilty.

Al is flabbergasted, but Sam argues that after hearing how bigoted this town is towards blacks (and Lila in particular), it does not make sense that they would show her “mercy”, there must be something else going on. He also tells what he saw in Lila's eyes and Al is convinced, believing that the eyes are the window to the soul. Al informs Sam that law is not one of his seven degrees, but that he (through Ziggy) has the entire history of law in his hands and that they will all be blown away at the trial...

Since he needs to do more research, he asks to see all the evidence at the police station, such as the police and coroner's reports, but the incompetent sheriff is not sure Sam has the right. Sam gets the sheriff to call his supervisor to get permission. When it looks like he will be denied, Sam yells into the phone that he will have all the evidence subpoenaed and charge them both with obstruction of justice. When that is approved, Sam thanks Perry Mason in his mind.

He then goes to the Captain's house to talk to the other maid, Myrtle (played by Ketty Lester), who heard the shooting and is something of an eyewitness. He is greeted by the Captain's wife, Sadie. Away with the fairies, she talks about how the heat is causing all the flowers to die, and wonders "they" will ever come back. On the back porch, Sam talks to Myrtle and what she tells him completely contradicts the information that was in the confession signed by Lila - that she kept making advances on Houston and when he rejected her advances, she murdered him in cold blood.

However, according to Myrtle, Houston had forced Lila into a dominant sexual relationship when she was 14 that lasted many years, that he had beaten her in the past, and that there had been a heated argument that turned violent shortly before the shooting. Sam tells Myrtle that if she testifies, Lila will be found innocent because she shot him in self-defence, but Myrtle refuses, declaring that she will not swear on a Bible!

When Sam visits Lila in prison, she says she now knows how Christians felt. Sam comforts her, saying that no one will throw her to the lions, and asks her to confirm what Myrtle has told him. Lila remembers that her mother had to bury fourteen children in the bayou where she came from, and that she had sworn never to return there, so she let him take advantage of her and confirm what Myrtle had said. But for some reason, she does not want to testify either.

At the trial, Sam causes an uproar when he demands that the jurors be changed because a jury is a trial by peers and since Lila is black, there should be some black members. Although this goes over well with the judge, he reminds Sam that to be a juror you must be a registered voter, and there were no black voters. Sam explains that they must reluctantly accept these jurors as Lila's equals. The prosecution begins their plea and when it comes to the confession, Sam objects to it being sworn in as evidence because it was written under duress. He tries to get Lila on the stand to defend herself, but she refuses. Sam then asks her to at least read the confession, and Lila explains that she cannot read.

The judge calls a recess so Leonard can decide what to do. During lunch, Shuggy tells Sam how upset she was that the nice jurors said they were equal [to a black woman]. That's when the Captain comes in and threatens Sam that much of the legal work in this town comes out of his offices and that he'll now do most of the work pro bono. Sam is undeterred and invites Lila to lunch. He desperately tries to get her to understand that if she doesn't recant the confession, she'll go to the electric chair, and reads it to her. She breaks down when it says “he begged me in the name of Jesus” and calls it a lie.

Sam believes he's convinced her, but at the trial she still refuses to swear on the Bible, and so the confession is sworn in as evidence.

Sam makes his way to the chapel, for he has come to a realization. He and Al conclude that Myrtle and Lila will not swear on a Bible because they fear God so much that they would tell the truth even if it incriminated them, or someone else that they care about even more than themselves. Myrtle happens to walk in and apologizes for interrupting his prayer, and Sam says he was praying for a miracle. Myrtle wishes she could help, but she has sworn to keep something secret and the person she swore to has said she will go to hell if she tells.

Ziggy finds something, and Al tells Sam to read a bible passage to Myrtle, that whatever persuasion he used did not come from God and that he too would have to face judgement. Convinced, she tells him that last crucial bit of information...

The next morning, Sam is late for the trial. They are about to begin without him when Sam runs in and calls Sadie Carter as his witness. This causes an uproar in court, Lila tells Sam not to do it, and the Captain yells at the judge to put a stop to it. The judge turns Sam down, not intending to call a grieving mother to the stand, but Sam had anticipated this. The reason for his delay is that he had gone to Baton Rouge to get a subpoena and a federal marshal.

Unable to stop him, Sadie is sworn in. Although not in her right mind, she is coherent enough to tell her story. Under oath, she says how much Houston loved Lila and wanted to marry her, but could not because she was black. He loved her so much that he hated her for it and beat her often (but never in front of her, until that night). She had given Lila some money so she could leave and start a new life. When they said goodbye, Houston came back from hunting and was so angry that he nearly beat Lila to death and even pushed his mother away. Sadie shocks the courtroom when she recalls that SHE, fearing he would kill Lila, took the shotgun and shot Houston - and Lila screams that the gun went off accidentally.

Sometime after the trial, Sam meets up with Lila at the bus stop, planning to start fresh. She thanks Sam, and couldn't be more grateful to Sadie for saving her life twice.

Lila hopes Sadie never remembers what happened. After congratulating "Leonard" on his new job at a prestigious law firm (and the country club membership that comes with it), she offers to send Leonard money until she pays him in full for his services, but Sam tells Lila that the only payment he wants from her is for her to learn to read, and hands her a reader. She boards the bus and waves goodbye from the window, promising to do so “So Help Me God”, and with a final parting wave, Sam leaps. Source

Personal Review by Sherdran <AKA> Eleiece:

The locale of 'So Help Me, God' - the Deep South ... Louisiana, one of the most humid states in the American South [a fact I can attest to since I live less than a 30 minute drive from to New Orleans]...lends itself to the sultry, passionate undertones of the storyline. SHMG, in a way, reminds me, after a fashion - of a couple of classic 'Deep South' stories, specifically, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and the other, that one set in New Orleans, A Streetcar Named Desire.

The hot, humid summer heat --evidenced in the court room scenes with people endlessly fanning themselves...the fan in the judge's chambers...the way Lila's skin gleamed with perspiration in the scenes in the stifling visitors' room at the jail and in the courtroom... the sweat stains on Sam's shirts -- was, without doubt, the best 'prop' in the entire episode. It keeps the tension at a slow, subtle simmer that you know, that you can feel slowing building toward a rolling boil in the pressure cooker that is the storyline. And that balcony scene between Sam and Sadie Cotter oh so subtly increases that simmering. Miss Sadie's vague, staring off into the distance response of, "Sometimes I get the feelin' they're never comin' back," as she slowly fans herself adds to that underlying simmer. Can't you feel that single drop of sweat trickling down your spine beneath your sticky clothes as you stand there in that humid late July evening heat, looking up at her, wondering...

As a reader, viewer and especially as a writer, I tend to prefer drama - well written and/or acted drama - which is why 'So Help Me God' is among my favorite dramatic QL episodes.



Sam Trivia:
Remembers the TV show 'Perry Mason', whom he thanks for 'helping' him with some legal terms.




Sam's Outfits Worn in the Episode:
Sam's outfits were primarily light summer suits. He also wore gold-rim glasses and a wedding ring in this episode.

Leap-in: Light tan suit, light pink shirt with a black bowtie, a light tan fedora, and black shoes.

Next - A pale blue suit, white shirt, dark red bowtie with small white polka dots, and black shoes.

Next - (the trial begins scene) Tan suit again, this time with a tan and black striped bowtie, tan suspenders and a brown belt. Shoes were probably black.

Last scene (waiting for the bus with Lila)- Light gray suit, white shirt, small gray bowtie, and a narrow black belt with a gold buckle. His shoes were black.
 




Al's Outfits Worn in the Episode:
On the street with Sam - Dark golden yellow pants, salmon pink shirt, narrow leopard print tie, casual blue jacket with a lapel pin above the left breast pocket, gold shoes.

Next, in the courtroom scene when the trial is about to begin - Bright red pants, a white shirt with a black collar, black 'studs' on the shirt along the edge of the collar and black bands just above each cuff; a shimmery dark navy blue vest, a red & black tie with a square silver tie clip; red shoes and a red fedora with a narrow black band.






Miscellaneous Trivia:
In the car scene where the Captain is driving Sam home, the blue Chevrolet (I think it's a Chevy) behind them was the same car later used as Dotty's car in "8 Months".

The Bible verses Sam read to Myrtle: Galatians 5: 7-10. (Gal 5:7-10 KJV) (7)"Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (8) This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. (9) A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. (10) I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded, but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be."

So Help Me God was the first of five episodes set in Louisiana. Of the other four, 3 were in the Trilogy and the other was 'Southern Comforts". New Orleans was mentioned in at least two other episodes: The Great Spontini and Her Charm.

SHMG and Trilogy were set in two fictional Louisiana parishes. SHMG was set in Twelve Oaks Parish (Twelve Oaks is the name of the Wilkes Family Plantation in Margaret Mitchell's Book, "Gone With the Wind"), and Trilogy took place in Potter Parish. Only Southern Comforts, set in New Orleans, was in a real Louisiana parish (Orleans Parish).

Lila is given $100 and comments "wherever $100 will take me" as she is about to leave on the bus. $100 in 1957 amounts to over $1000 in 2024! 

Southern foods mentioned: Pecan pie, honey ham, potato salad, honey-coated chicken, key lime pie.



Regular Cast:
Scott Bakula as Sam Beckett
Dean Stockwell as Al Calavicci




Guest Stars:

Byrne Piven as Captain Colbert Cotter
Tyra Ferrell as Delilah ‘Lila’ Barry

Kathleen Noone as Sadie Cotter
Ketty Lester as Myrtle
John Apicella as Sherriff Dixon
Stacy Ray as Sugie Dancey
William Schallert as Judge Eugene B. Haller
Robert Dryer as Chigger
Scotch Byerley as Clerk
Heather Lee as Woman Gossip
Phillip Persons as Coroner

Cal Gibson as Gardener




Guest Cast Notes:

Byrne Piven as Captain Colbert Cotter: Byrne Piven was born on September 24, 1929 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA. He was an actor, known for Being John Malkovich (1999), Very Bad Things (1998) and Miracle on 34th Street (1994). He was married to Joyce Hiller Piven. He died on February 18, 2002 in Evanston, Illinois, USA. Jeremy Piven is his son.

Tyra Ferrell as Delilah ‘Lila’ Barry: Tyra Ferrell was born on January 28, 1962 in Houston, Texas, USA. She is an actress, known for White Men Can't Jump (1992), Boyz n the Hood (1991) and Poetic Justice (1993). She has been married to Don Carlos Jackson since April 9, 1992. They have one child.

Kathleen Noone as Sadie Cotter
: Kathleen Noone was born on January 8, 1945 in Hillsdale, New Jersey, USA. She is an actress, known for All My Children (1970), Sunset Beach (1997) and Knots Landing (1979). She was previously married to Bill Noone. She spent 11 years as Ellen Chandler on All My Children for which she won an Emmy.



Ketty Lester as Myrtle: Ketty Lester was born on August 16, 1934 in Hope, Arkansas, USA. She is an actress, known for Blue Velvet (1986), Killing Them Softly (2012) and Little House on the Prairie (1974). Ketty Lester appeared as one of the 'miscellaneous crew' in the cult film Blue Velvet. Dean Stockwell appeared in Blue Velvet in the role of Ben.

John Apicella as Sherriff Dixon: John Apicella was born on November 22, 1948. He is an actor and writer, known for High Crimes (2002), The Kid (2000) and Point Break (1991). He guest starred in two unrelated television series featuring a regular character named Sam Beckett: China Beach (1988) and Quantum Leap (1989).

Stacy Ray as Sugie Dancey: Stacy Ray is known for Last Resort (2012), Quantum Leap (1989) and Hawaii Five-0 (2010).

William Schallert as Judge Eugene B. Haller: The son of Edwin Schallert, drama editor of the "Los Angeles Times" and the dean of West Coast critics, William Schallert became interested in an acting career while at UCLA in 1942. After graduation, he became involved with the Circle Theater (eventually becoming one of its owners) and made his film debut in The Foxes of Harrow (1947). He then became ubiquitous in movies and TV ever since, and from 1979 to 1981, he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. He stayed active with SAG projects and said he never gave retirement a thought. William Schallert has served as President of S.A.G. (the Screen Actors' Guild).

Robert Dryer as Chigger: Robert Dryer was born on October 9, 1951 in the USA. He was an actor, known for Savage Streets (1984), Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993) and The Rousters (1983). He died on January 27, 2021 in Tucson, Arizona, USA.

Scotch Byerley as Clerk: Scotch Byerley is known for Alice in Wonderland (1985), Space (1985) and Quantum Leap (1989).

Heather Lee as Woman Gossip: American actress Heather Lee is best known for creating the role of stripper Tessie Tura in the Broadway revival of Gypsy directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes and starring Bernadette Peters as Mama Rose. She was photographed by Richard Avedon, along with fellow stripper/cast members Julie Halston as Electra and Kate Buddeke as Mazeppa for New York Magazine. Great-niece of Jane Seymour.

Phillip Persons as Coroner: Phillip Persons is known for Quantum Leap (1989), Macbeth (1981) and The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice (1981).

Cal Gibson as Gardener: Cal Gibson is known for Scrooged (1988), Best Men (1997) and Barney Miller (1975).




Say What?
July 29, 1957 was a Monday. The judge adjourns court until Monday morning. That means that this leap lasted at least a week; more likely 8 or 9 days given the suggestion of time passage by each new beginning courtroom scene. 

The rear-view mirror in Captain Cotter's car appears only when they arrive at the house.

Sam seems very unprepared for court after what was supposed to be a sleepless night reading over the court briefs.

The judge gives Leonard three minutes to fix the zipper on his pants. However, only about one minute goes by before someone knocks on the door to get him.

When Sam is reading from Galatians in the Bible, he is reading from the back pages. Galatians usually is found more toward the middle.



Screen Used Props:

Al's Lapel Pin from "So Help Me God"
Screen worn on the television show
Thanks to Alison Pregler



Quotable Quotes:
Al: "The best Ziggy can come up with is that you're here to play. oh,
play Rhett Butler..."

Sam: "No! No way! Tell Ziggy to shove that!" and,

Sugie (mortified) to Sam in the park: "If Papa was alive, he'd die!"

"Tell Ziggy to shove that!"



Best Line:
"It doesn't make what he did right."




Best Scene:
Without a doubt, IMO, the best scene was between Sam and Lila in the visitors' room at the jail:

Sam: "Did he rape you?"

Lila: "Some would say so. Some not."

Sam: "What would you say?"

Lila (turns her head to look up at Sam): "Me and my momma buried seven brothers and sisters in that bayou that Miss Sadie took me out of. I wasn't givin' no one no reason to send me back. ..so I let him. Is that rape?"

Sam (fervently): "Yes."

Lila: " Well if it was, it was only that first time. After that...Houston was in love with me. Is that rape?"

Sam (still fervent): "It doesn't make what he did right."



Awards:
Deborah Pratt wrote this episode and won the Angel Award.

Cameron Birnie and Robert Zilliox received nominations on the Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction for a Series 1990.



Production Credits:

Music by: Mike Post
Supervising Producers: Deborah Pratt, Paul M. Belous, Robert Wolterstorff
Co-producers: Paul  Brown, Jeff Gourson, Chris Ruppenthal
Produced by: Harker Wade
Created by: Donald P. Bellisario
Written by:
Deborah Pratt
Directed by:
Andy Cadiff

Executive Producer: Donald P. Bellisario
Associate Producers: 
David Bellisario
Director of Photography: Michael Watkins
Production Designer: Cameron Birnie
Edited by: Alan Shefland
Unit Production Manager: Ron Grow
First Assistant Director: Paul Sirmons
Second Assistant Director: Rob Mendel
Casting by: Ellen Lubin Sanitsky
Set Director: Robert L. Zilliox
Costume Designer: Jean-Pierre Dorleac
Costume Supervisors: David Rawley & Donna Roberts-Orme
Sound Mixer: Mark Hopkins McNabb
Stunt Coordinator: Diamond Farnsworth
Contributing Musical Composers: Velton Ray Bunch and Jerry Grant
Sound Editor: Paul Clay
Music Editor: Tom Gleason

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 1989 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




Podcasts:



In the seventeenth installment of The Quantum Leap Podcast Albie and Heather discuss Season two episode nine “So Help Me God” There’s first impressions, an episode recap, thoughts and opinions, and listener feedback.  Also an article from Hayden McQueenie.

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