322 Shock Theater

Shock Theater

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What an emotional, gut-wrenching episode. Was Scott Bakula ever even nominated for an Emmy? This episode proves he should have been. Leaping in only to realize he was about to get electro shock treatment must have been just as horrifying as when he realized he was about to die in the electric chair. Maybe even worse. I really found it disturbing.
What an emotional, gut-wrenching episode. Was Scott Bakula ever even nominated for an Emmy? This episode proves he should have been. Leaping in only to realize he was about to get electro shock treatment must have been just as horrifying as when he realized he was about to die in the electric chair. Maybe even worse. I really found it disturbing.

I believe the episode was submitted for nomination by Scott and Dean themselves but that's as far as it went to my knowledge. I however completely agree that it's extremely messed up that Scott never relieved an Emmy for this performance he was absolutely amazing.

Personally I would have loved to see behind the leap into how the project was handling this intense situation while Al was not in the imaging chamber. I think it would have been interesting and in this particular case have added to the direness of the situation.

Al's The Best said:
Seeing as I'm on a MAC I couldn't play the video on here of the QL Convention where Dean expressed what it was like to rap in this episode. Could someone tell me what he said?

I am unsure about this video you speak of but I do happen to know from my BTS book that the rap took around 8 takes because he kept forgetting the alphabet, LOL.
As amazing as this episode is there are a few aspects of the leapee persona jumping that don't add up for me.
Sam offers information about the leapees that I am certain isn't revealed in the actual episodes from which they originate.

*As Samantha Stormer, the whole smoking bit and the request not to tell Gloria. Samantha was never even revealed to be a smoker.
*Jesse's background and attempt to learn to read, we don't even learn too much about Jesse in the episode if memory serves.
*Herbert 'Magic' Williams' serial number which Sam never had to recite.
How could he possibly know this information?

Is it possible that somehow in this unique state of mind he was able to mind merge with these leapees though separated from their auras?
*As Samantha Stormer, the whole smoking bit and the request not to tell Gloria. Samantha was never even revealed to be a smoker.
Yeah,I noticed that one,too.I even checked the episode to look whether there is a scene with her smoking.But I can't remember what was Sam saying exactly there.Was he talking about quitting?
He basically asked the doctor not to tell Gloria he was smoking because apparently she doesn't approve of Samantha doing so in the apartment, which now that you had me take a close look at that is actually curious. Obviously the main concern of each persona was the thought of being in the institution. Why would he worry about violating a roommate agreement?
This is one of my all-time favorite season finales. I've seen it over and over through the years, to the point of losing count. The first thing I loved was that this time it was not Donald who wrote the screenplay but Deborah, which perhaps was quite rare for a QL season finale. The second thing was the sort of twist she gave in some way to the history of television: In most TV shows, being them under any main genre, like sci-fi, comedy or even drama, there's almost always an episode where the recurring characters remember some things that happened to them in past episodes from past seasons. They reunite in a place and talk about their memories from those past episodes. That adds a tone of nostalgia to the current episode and to the audience those sorts of installments are always either a hit or a miss. Some people love that approach and some consider them just pretty boring fillers. In some way, Deborah Pratt did exactly the same thing with Shock Theater. It was a "recall-that-episode/season" story, but she added her own brilliand turns, visions and notes to it, not only making it very interesting and engaging, but fully remarkable. At every point where Sam changes to another personality, the suspense just keeps growing and growing and this is one of the few true times where you keep wondering how or if Sam is going to get out of that safe at all!! The nostalgia factor was handled greatly: Hell, it even makes me miss "The Right Hand Of God", one of my least favorite episodes from the series. Brilliant move and what a brilliant episode it was this finale!!

The part I loved the most: All the final act, where the crescendo has reached its maximum potential (and that potential was pretty intense!!, almost as if I, as the viewer, was the one who was going to get those electro-shocks myself). Another thing I loved was that all the ep. was sort of an introduction to Deborah Pratt's theories on how sometimes a leapee can take mental charge of Sam's mind to some extent, which was later used on her own "Dreams" and on Donald's "LHO". My favorite moment: The simo-leaping, of course.

Favorite Al line: Tibby asks him if the cars fly and the air is clean in the future and he says: "No, the air is filthy and the cars are still on the ground, but we're working on it." Makes me chuckle everytime.

The only thing in this ep. I was neutral about was the character of Tibby himself. I don't have anything against him and I like him but sometimes he was a bit annoying and "meh!"... Just a little bit.


My rating: Excellent!!

Review of the season: Still not my fave one. It had many mediocre or "conventional" episodes throughout, but even with that the way of story-telling had improved as well as the tone of the series. The style of the show settled on this season and defintely the special effects were also better. One important thing this season introduced was the handlink's Gummi Bear design, which is a classic and the most remembered thing about QL even to this day!! The classic "festivity" episodes came from this season, too, and the fact that this is the "middle season" of the show and those sort of episodes (halloween, christmas) were here makes it even more special and that works on its favor. Very good season, and I'm glad it was not the last one, as it was originally intended.

Now finally on to review season four!!! Let's go...
Despite sporadic comments, I've never written a full review for this episode and am getting the itch to now.

NOTE: A lot of observations I've pointed out in past posts will be revisited.

This episode, the script and Scott's performance were phenomenal and should have won an Emmy.

Here was the official introduction to the underdeveloped concept of willful or induced mind-merging; that the state of mind can be manipulated/altered to allow the host aura to dominate.

We see this twice more in the form of hypnosis. What was unique about this instance, however, was that the procedure used, electroshock therapy, unlike hypnosis, is untargeted and in this case, was administered at a lethal level, it short-circuited Sam's brain which created a vacuum that somehow managed to summon several of his past hosts.

Although this has us so on the edge of our seats that we don't miss the absence of the current host including as a standard reflection shot, I am a bit disappointed that it was only scratched at the surface.

We see how strong a state of psychosis Sam is in during the Jesse personality when he recalls his own actions in that leap that were out of Jesse's character (Nell's accident) and was unable to make sense of them. Not a sliver of familiarity manifested.

This raises the question of why the Jesse personality, who was portrayed as outwardly respectful of segregation or probably more accuratly respect for his white employer Ms. Melanie, didn't question sitting down at the counter at the diner. "because I was hungry" was Sam's excuse.

Perhaps Jesse's having used Sam's medical education stood out because it's the most pronounced distinguisher.

I'm also interested in the Samantha Stormer personality expressing the belief that she'd been institutionalized for hitting Buddy Write but nor for insisting to him that she was a man which is far more unstable behavior.

What I'm utterly unclear on is how Sam had taken on some of the hosts' personalities to the extent of being able to access information outside his experience in the respective leaps:

- Samantha Stormer's being a smoker and Gloria's hatred of it.
- Jesse Tyler's background as a sharecropper, his won Willis trying to teach him to read and his rheumatism.
- Herbert "Magic" Williams' Navy serial number.

I borderline hate that this episode wasn't the introduction to the project's end of a leap. Considering the severity of the situation, the danger of losing contact with Sam which is another indication of how deep the psychosis was, it would have been interesting to see their perspective.

On a positive note, I love the pattern of the hosts chosen. Each of them, though not all directly, offered a reason for being institutionalized.
- Samantha Stormer for hitting Buddy Write
- Jesse Tyler for sitting at a counter in a white diner.
- Magic Williams presented as a PTSS (I'm pretty sure it's been re-established as a syndrome rather than a disorder) episode.
- Jimmy La Mata is the most obvious having down syndrome.
- Tom Stratton seemed to present with amnesia as he recalled crashing but not breaking Mach 2.

Stratton, however, seemed to be a particularly obscure personality as it didn't develop, the aspects of his life apart from breaking Mach 2 didn't present and he recognized the rap music Al played via Ziggy which is familiarity exclusive to Sam because rap music didn't exist in the 50's.
It's quite clear he was thrown in there as a sentimentality because he was the first host.

Though he still fit in better than Kid Cody who had no basis.

I'm guessing that Kid Cody intercepted an incomplete transference because he'd presented from a dream that was interrupted while seemingly shuffling through various hosts.
Shame, Al's inturruption didn't come in a bit sooner if that's the case. I'd have liked to see the 16-year-old Sam present with a fear that his parents institutionalized him for claiming to know the future and upsetting Katie.

Moving on to some more basic critiques, I liked Tibby. That it was he who'd added the mentally unstable to the list of individuals who can see Sam and Al and I enjoyed his childlike upbeat personality and his interactions with Al.

Dean's facial performance was sublime. Al's discomfort with the institution and Tibby's situation was well illustrated.
The ghost of his and Trudy's own abandonment haunted his eyes as Tibby told him that his parents had abandoned him there and it was apparent from the beginning that watching the way that place treated Sam and it turn into the prospect of losing him he felt he was losing Trudy again.
It has me wondering if the timing of Sam's arrival being at the moment of the electroshock treatment as opposed to after was intentional because the leap (Tibby) was supposed to be Al's, the chance he never got to save Trudy.

Last but not least I want to talk about the nurse's decision in the final scene to give Sam that second lethal treatment. Something that on the surface only makes sense as the writer's need to set Sam right.
When Jimmy/Sam plead "Save Sam. Time all gone." I believe her reaction indicates she put that together with his insistence on the same lethal treatment and that he ignored her warning that it could kill him and interpreted him as begging for an end, in black and white, assisted suicide.
Her compliance would've been along the lines of 2nd-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter never mind cost her her job but she was the one person at that facility with a shred of compassion, who saw the patients as people vs as bacteria growing under a microscope. Ergo I can see her putting more value on ending a patient's suffering than her job.

This leaves me with one final question: since Sam remained in the facility's clothes when he leaped out due to the Simo-leap landing him in the imaging chamber, did Beaterman leap back naked or did the clothing duplicate? I rationalize the latter but it's still an interesting conundrum.

Overall 10/5 stars.
Well, what can be said about Shock Theater. Without a doubt this is one of the very best episodes of season 3, and definitely makes my overall top 20 episodes list (very close to top 10). Shock Theater is a very heavy, dark episode. On the whole, those kind of episodes are not my favourites, but here I think it's necessary.

I've seen people describe this episode as a clip show kind of thing, where a season finale recaps on previous episodes with flashbacks. In a way it's kind of true, but only to a certain degree. Sure, we're reminded of previous episodes with Sam taking on different identities and switching from one personality to another, but I don't think it's necessary for someone to have seen all the previous episodes before watching this one.

The main pull of this episode to me is the performances put it by Scott and Dean. They both acted their pants off in this episode. Scott should have won his Emmy for this one. Really outstanding stuff. His bit as Jesse was a riot. Only one of two funny moments in the entire episode, but I really do love it. The ending of this episode is also heartbreaking. The moment Sam becomes Jimmy the whole episode becomes a tad hard to watch for me. The last scene is definitely the best one, especially when Sam breaks through for a second and pleads, "Save Sam." Pure goosebumps in that moment.

Dean was also great in this episode. The pain in his eyes throughout is really palpable. Of course, another great moment is the Alphabet Rap. The second genuinely funny moment of this episode. Love it when they all join in. Another quick shout out for the character of Tibby. Really liked him.

The only real downside to this episode (and something that prevents it from reaching the top 10 for me)...is the uncertainty for so many of the characters after Sam departs. In fact, I actually think in many ways Sam did just as much harm as good this time around. For one thing, Nurse Chatam's career would be ruined. Giving such a high voltage shock while the doctor's back was turned. It would be terrible for her. It would look like she and Butch were both trying to kill Sam (the leapee). And speaking of Sam (not our Sam, Sam the leapee), what would happen to him after this leap is over? It's clear that he would be in a much worse position than he was before. Even if he was seemingly back to normal, I don't think he'd be getting out of there anytime soon, not after all that... Even so, despite these couple of drawbacks, I still think this was a remarkable episode.

My rating. Excellent. Another great offering from Deborah Pratt. A magnificent season finale which leads us into the first episode of the fourth season, The Leap Back. Another great episode which I will be reviewing next time.