Part Three: Sam & Al

by Karen Funk Blocher

Samuel Beckett (no middle name) was born 8/8/53 to dairy farmers John Samuel Beckett and Thelma Louise Beckett. His brother Tom was born circa 1946, and his sister Katherine (Katey) was born in 1957. All three grew up on the family farm in Elk Ridge, Indiana. Young Sam had two cats, Donder (sic) and Blitzen.

Tom made All-State in basketball in 1964 and also excelled in track and football (at least). Sam tried to emulate Tom, although the only sport we know Sam played was basketball for the Elk Ridge Cougars. In the revised history, Sam's Cougars, including Sibby Oslick and Herky LoNegro, were state champs. Sam did not play Varsity baseball in high school, although in retrospect he thinks he could have been good at it.

Sam considered getting a basketball scholarship to Indiana State, but of "about a dozen" schools after Sam's brains, Tom talked Sam into choosing M.I.T. An M.I.T. professor--probably Sebastian LoNigro, no relation to Sam's teammate since it's spelled differently--told Tom that "a mind like Sam's comes along once in a generation...maybe once in a couple of generations." Sam was a prodigy: he could read at two, did calculus in his head at age five, and could beat a computer at chess at age ten.

Another of Sam's early talents was music. Sam left his first piano teacher, Mrs. Greenberg, when she couldn't teach him any more, and at age 15 had a crush on his second piano teacher, Nicole, who left Elk Ridge shortly thereafter to study at Juilliard. Sam played piano at Carnegie Hall at age 19.

According to the Quantum Leap Story Guideline, Sam has the highly unlikely IQ of 267, which is beyond the range of most if not all intelligence tests devised to date. Sam knows the following martial arts: sabatt, mu tai, karate, tae kwon do, judo and jujitsu. Sam suffers from acrophia and claustrophobia.

Sam had a happy childhood, but the 1970's brought a series of misfortunes to the Beckett family. On April the 8th, 1970, Lt. Tom Beckett, now a Navy SEAL, was killed in Vietnam--until Sam leaped back and saved him in the revised history. Then in 1974, Katey eloped at age 17 with Chuck, an abusive alcoholic, probably "to get away from the farm." By the end of 1974 she had divorced Chuck and married Naval Lieutenant Jim Bonnick, and Thelma Beckett had moved in with them in Hawaii after John Beckett's death from a heart attack. Sam and Al both say in "The Leap Home" that Sam's dad died in 1972, but evidence in "Genesis" and "Freedom"--and the chronology of the above events--suggests it was 1974. In the original history at least, the family farm was lost to debts shortly before John Beckett's death. (Sam mentions having a dairy farm in "The Leap Back," but it was a joke and may not have had a basis in current reality. On the other hand, Tom's return from Vietnam and/or the events in "Promised Land" could have resulted in the family farm being saved in the revised history.) A college student by then, Sam wasn't there when the farm went under, nor was he there when his father died. He deeply regrets both absences.

Sometime before 8/8/70, probably summer term, Sam started at M.I.T., graduating summa cum laude in just two years. By the summer of 1973, Sam and Professor LoNigro of M.I.T. had worked out their String Theory of Time Travel, working mostly on weekends at LoNigro's cabin in the Berkshires. Sam may also have attended CalTech or some other Southern California school at some point, since he later showed familiarity with L.A. and San Diego in "Thou Shalt Not" and "M.I.A."

Because Sam says he never had a job interview until his first leap into Jimmy LaMatta, we presume that 1972 to sometime in 1984 was spent at various universities, collecting at least one Master's degree and probably six of his seven doctorates. In "The Play's the Thing," Sam tells Neil, "Oh, you bet I did [go to school]. I went to a lot of different schools." Then in 1984 Albert Calavicci hired Sam sight unseen for the Star Bright Project, precursor to Project Quantum Leap. Details on this can be found in another CQ Answer.

At some point Time Magazine called Sam "the next Einstein." He's also won the Nobel Prize, presumably in Physics, although whether he won it before or after he first leaped is unclear. My guess is that the prize came shortly after Sam started leaping. Al's "It's Nobel Prize time" quip in the pilot could have meant that Sam was up for such a prize, whereas in the early Season Two episode "Disco Inferno," Sam says of himself, "Kid won a Nobel Prize."

According to Sam's (now expired) New Mexico driver's license, Sam was 6'0" and weighed 175 pounds when the holographic(!) license was issued. His hair color was listed as brown, his eyes as green (these were both abbreviations). His address was listed as a P.O. Box in Stallions Springs, NM, presumably a mail drop not far from the Project in Stallions Gate. In "Star Light, Star Bright," he gives his social security number as 563-86-9801, and his Department of Defense "Umbra" clearance number as 004-002-01-016.

Note: some material taken from the Quantum Leap Story Guideline, April 11, 1991 edition. Newer versions welcomed, in the unlikely event that the QL office ever got around to revising it after that! Much of the Story Guideline (writer's bible) is reprinted in The Quantum Leap Book by Louis Chunovic (as well as the revised version of the same book, titled The Complete Quantum Leap Book).

© 1993-1997 Karen Funk Blocher (revised 3/15/97)

by Karen Funk Blocher

In the pilot episode (later retitled "Genesis"), and again in "Star-Crossed," Al says that Sam has six doctorates. But two years later, in "Shock Theater," Al says Sam holds seven advanced degrees. What gives? What are all those degrees for? We know some of them, but a complete, definitive answer is not established. However, here are the degrees we do know about--and where we found out about them:

1. Medicine (M.D.)--the pilot ("Genesis")

2. Quantum Physics (PhD)--the pilot

3. Ancient Languages (Probably DAL-Doctor of Ancient Languages)--"Star-Crossed"

4. Music (probably DMA-Doctor of Musical Arts)--"A Song For the Soul"

Here are some strong probabilities, and episodes to support them:

Archaeology or Egyptology ("The Curse of Ptah-Hotep"). Sam has always been fascinated with the past, and that includes Ancient Egypt. We know he did at least one thesis in this general field. Whether this was a doctorate is not established in an aired episode, but Deborah Pratt did confirm it (as Archaeology) at the Second Annual Quantum Leap Convention in 1993.

Astronomy--"Double Identity," "The Leap Back," "Star Light, Star Bright." Sam has loved astronomy since childhood, and can identify a lot of stars by name. If the Star Bright Project did indeed have to do with a "deep space probe," as the woman in Al's car speculated (about the Project Quantum Leap site) in the pilot, then Astronomy or Astrophysics would have been quite useful--and helpful on a resume.

Computer Science/Artificial Intelligence--the pilot, "The Leap Back." Sam designed Ziggy to have an ego, which was a breakthrough in the field of computers and artificial intelligence. Some sort of degree in this field would almost certainly have been needed to go so far beyond what anyone else has managed to do with computers to this point.

Psychology or Neurology--the pilot, "The Leap Back." Installing Ziggy's ego is an exercise in translating traits of the human brain into electronic terms. Knowing a lot about the human brain-- possibly beyond the standard medical degree--would be helpful. On the other hand, this may simply have been a specialty within that medical degree (we know it wasn't obstetrics!). Also, tuning Al's neurons and mesons to Sam's so they can see each other holographically is definitely a neurological breakthrough.

Degrees we know Sam does not have include Psychiatry ("Star-Crossed") and the law ("So Help Me God," "Trilogy, Pt. 3").

So is it 6 degrees or 7? There are four possibilities:

1. Al misspoke in "Shock Theater"--but that's no fun!

2. The seventh "advanced degree" could be a master's instead of a doctorate. But would Sam have six doctorates and only one master's? It's possible, but seems unlikely.

3. Sam managed to change his own history so that he ended up with an extra doctorate, possibly inspired by Donna being around. Well, maybe. But how could Sam have earned a degree he never studied for in the original history? Possible, but highly problematical!

4. Sam had his seventh doctorate about finished when he first leaped, and had already defended his thesis. Al submitted the final paperwork for Sam, and Sam got his actual degree while out leaping. That's my favorite possibility.

© 1992-1995 Karen Funk Blocher (revised slightly 3/14/97)

by Karen Funk Blocher

Al has said that Sam speaks 11 languages--seven modern languages and four dead ones. Since hieroglyphics are not a spoken language, and Sam reads hieroglyphics, it's not clear whether that counts as one of the four dead languages. However, the writer's guideline says "speaks 4 dead languages" and then says "reads Egyptian hieroglyphs" as a separate entry. The modern languages we're sure of are as follows:

English (all the episodes!)

German ("Good Night, Dear Heart")

Spanish ("All-Americans")

Japanese ("The Americanization of Machiko")

French ("Sea Bride")

Sam does not seem to speak Hebrew, oddly enough, judging from "Thou Shalt Not." We don't know what the ancient languages are, save for the hieroglyphs, but as an MD he would certainly know some Latin at least. Since Latin was commonly offered at the high school and college levels when Sam was going to school, it is likely to have been the first ancient language he learned.

Sam apparently doesn't speak Russian, since he was surprised to speak it under Oswald's influence, and when Oswald had not yet learned much Russian, Sam didn't know much either. Sam also does not seem to speak Hungarian ("Leaping In Without a Net") or Italian ("Double Identity"). Italian probably wouldn't be too difficult for Sam, since he already knows at least two other Romance languages, but he very definitely needs Al as translator to survive his encounter with Don Geno in the hair salon. Presumably it never occurred to Al to teach Sam more than a few words of Italian, if any, although Al is fluent in the language because his father.

© 1992-1997 Karen Funk Blocher (revised slightly 3/4/97)

by Karen Funk Blocher

(Two star) Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci was born June 15, 1934, the son of an Italian immigrant from Abruzzi and a mother with some Russian ancestry. Al's younger sister Trudy, born circa 1937, was retarded, which may have contributed to Al's mother running off with an encyclopedia salesman. His father tried to keep the family together, but when the oil business took him to the Middle East, Al was placed in an orphanage and Trudy in an institution. When back in the States, Al's dad and the dad's girlfriend used to sneak Al out of the orphanage for risotto and Chianti. Al speaks fluent Italian, presumably learned from his father.

Al's other relatives included an Uncle Max (who resembled Al as a middle-aged adult) and an Uncle Stawpah, who was almost certainly a miner and who had rheumatoid arthritis. If Al's Uncle Stawpah was the same person as Stawpah from "Mirror Image," then Al's uncle was a Russian immigrant. This makes Al's mother either full-blooded or half Russian, depending on whether Stawpah was her brother, half-brother, or uncle (and therefore Al's great uncle). It's unclear when Al's Uncle Stawpah died. The 1933 date given in "Mirror Image" was before Al's birth, and yet Al speaks as if he knew him personally. Maybe they are two different Stawpahs after all, just another Cokeberg name "coincidence." But in any case, neither of Al's uncles was willing and able to keep Al from having to spend his formative years in an orphanage.

When Al was 11 his father returned to the U.S. for good, hoping to buy a house and make a home for his children. But then he got cancer. He told Al that he would be okay if Al prayed for him, and Al did so up to the day his father died. Al has never been on good terms with God--or Catholicism in particular--since then. Al went back into the orphanage; Trudy remained at the institution. When Al was old enough to go back for Trudy, he learned she had died of pneumonia at age 16 (1953).

The orphanage was not a wonderful place to grow up, and most of the children there resorted to various methods of finding a life for themselves outside its walls. "Some kids boxed, or they studied, or they stole. I thought I'd give the theater a try," Al says in "Catch a Falling Star." In fact he seems to have done all of the above: he was known as "Al the Pick," he was a regional Golden Gloves champion at age 16, he once ran off to join the circus, and somewhere along the line he apparently did summer stock theater. His only pet at the orphanage was a cockroach named Kevin.

At the age of ten Al ran away again. Cold and hungry, he tried to pick the pocket of Charlie "Black Magic" Walters, a legendary black pool hustler. Magic took him in, and said Al could stay with him until they found him a family. They traveled together until Magic was arrested for playing in a whites-only pool hall, whereupon Al was sent back to the orphanage.

Once out of the orphanage Al enlisted in the Navy as a flyer, schooling at Annapolis and taking flight training at Pensacola. While at Annapolis Al met Jack Kerouac, and played baseball for Navy. Al claims to have had the lowest Earned Run Average in the league as Navy's starting pitcher.

Al graduated from Annapolis in 1956. By the time he was stationed at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego (1957), he was romantically involved with a married Navy nurse, Lt. Lisa Sherman, and had acquired the nickname "Bingo" via a sexual escapade involving triplets ("Bingo, Bango, Bongo!"). His first flight tour, in the late 50's, was aboard an aircraft carrier in the Far East.

It is unclear whether Al attended M.I.T. in the early 1950's or much later (70's-80's), but a later date seems likely. Al is an M.I.T. graduate, possibly in electrical engineering since he shows considerable expertise in this area in "A Portrait for Troian" and in "Animal Frat." However, Al did not meet Sam while at M.I.T. There is no direct evidence to tell us whether Al has any Master's degrees or doctorates, but a Master's seems more likely since we have never heard him referred to as "Dr. Calavicci."

In 1961 Al married Beth, another Navy nurse. Then in 1967, during his second tour in Vietnam, Al's A-4 was shot down over the Highlands. Al was M.I.A. for five years, held in a cage near Cham Hoi. Beth eventually lost hope that Al would return, believing that the term "M.I.A." was "just a euphemism for dead." In the original history, Beth had Al declared dead in June, 1969 and then married lawyer Dirk Simon, whom she met on April 1, 1969. When Al was finally repatriated in 1973, he "came home to an empty house," which probably contributed to the drinking problem Al had by the time he met Sam in 1985. Losing Beth also reinforced Al's subconscious fear of being deserted by the women in his life, which began with his mother's earlier desertion of the Calavicci family. As a result, Al married four more times in the original history, each time unsuccessfully. By the time Sam started leaping, Al was involved with Tina, another Project Quantum Leap staff member. Although the relationship lasted for over four years in the original history, Al and Tina never married.

Sam originally failed to save Al's first marriage in the episode "M.I.A.," believing (with considerable evidence to justify the opinion) that he was not in 1969 San Diego to save Al's marriage. But Sam was not happy about having let Al down, and in "Mirror Image" Sam leaped back as himself and convinced Beth to wait for Al's return. In the revised history, Al and Beth went on to have four daughters after his return home, and they will celebrate their 39th anniversary in June, 2000. G/T/W only knows how Al's life was affected from this point on by this major change in his past, although we know he still ended up as Sam's friend and Observer on Project Quantum Leap.

The following facts probably still apply as well: after Vietnam, Al entered the space program, and was on one of the last moon missions, reading from the Bible on Christmas Eve. (Despite one reference to the contrary, Al cannot have been on Apollo 8, the Anders-Borman-Lovell mission in our version of reality, in which the astronauts read from Genesis on Christmas Eve, 1968. Al was M.I.A. as the time. In fact, for Al to have been to the moon at all means that the Apollo moon missions extended to a later date than in our reality. The last moon mission in our reality was Apollo 17, which took place December 7-19, 1972. Al was still MIA in 1972, so either there were more Apollo missions in Al's reality, or they took their time between flights and were still at it in 1973 or 1974.) Al has marched for Civil Rights, has had an adventurous love life (except possibly when married to Beth), and eventually headed up the Star Bright Project, where he met Sam.

I am told that since "Mirror Image" there has been some discussion among fans of "the new Al," referring to the revised history Al who was only married once. I don't buy that as a basic concept. Granted, we've never seen Al's past changed before in such a massive way, especially with Al not present in the leap. But "new Al" implies a totally different person has come into being, along the lines of the parallel universe theories discussed in another CQ Answer. This is no more a "new Al" than Sam in "The Leap Back" (i.e. married) is a "new Sam." In both cases, what we have is the same person with a new ready-made past. Al may be more emotionally committed to Beth this time around, better adjusted, happier, but he's still the guy who has been in the Imaging Chamber almost every day for the past five years. He probably remembers what's happened along the way, and he probably knows exactly what Sam did for him. And yes, this closes off some areas for Al--he probably won't want to talk about marriages that no longer took place--but it opens up new ones. I'm looking forward to a Quantum Leap movie where Al starts complaining about the latest romantic entanglements and other adventures that his four daughters--Lizzy, Ruthie, Sharon and Maxine, I call 'em, with no justification whatsoever--have gotten into!

(Thanks to Julie Barrett, Adina Ringler and the Quantum Leap Story Guideline.)

© 1995 Karen Funk Blocher (revised 3/14/97)

by Karen Funk Blocher

In the original history, Al's been married five times:

1. Beth. A Navy nurse, she married Al circa 1960, but had Al declared dead in June, 1968 while Al was M.I.A. and remarried, to a lawyer named Dirk Simon. Beth was "The only woman I ever really loved...the only one I wanted to grow old with. That's why all my marriages never worked out after that. If you're lucky, life gives you one shot at true love--and Beth was mine." Beth wanted kids, but Al didn't, so in the original history they never had any. Despite all of his other relationships since Beth, including Tina, Al impulsively told Gooshie in "Star Light, Star Bright" that if he suddenly popped out of existence, he wanted to leave everything to Beth.

2. The Hungarian. We don't know her name--and Al tends not to remember it--but she was well-versed in Hungarian superstition.

3. Ruthie. Al's Jewish wife, a good cook. Never called Al a mensch. From Al's wistful tone in talking about her, it almost sounds as if Ruthie died. "I never realized how much family meant to me until Ruthie was gone." However, according to the episode "Raped," they were divorced, partly because Al used to sing "Volare" in his sleep.  In a scripted but unused scene from "Leaping of the Shrew," Sam recalls that Al and Ruthie were only together for three months.

4. Sharon. Had a bitter custody battle over their dog Chester. Sharon won. Periodically sues Al for more alimony, but it may be partly an excuse to "see" Al again. "We examined each other's briefs and decided to call it even."

5. Maxine. Wanted to join the roller derby. Al was 99% sure she was cheating on him, but after they broke up he discovered he was wrong. Al gave an alternate version of the story later, but perhaps he was confusing Maxine with Sharon. "She used to flavor her toes with mint leaves."

Al honeymooned with wives #1, 3 and 5 in Niagara Falls. Al has never been married to Tina.

In addition, Al has made reference to dozens of other women over the years, with whom he either was involved or wanted to be, from Danessa the chemist in the pilot to Evila Evilatita (mentioned in "Blind Faith"), a pianist who "used to play oldies with her toesies." (An extensive--and entertaining--list of these women can be found in Julie Barrett's book Quantum Leap A to Z, so I won't bother to compile a similar list here.)

In "Mirror Image," Sam went back and convinced Beth that Al was still alive and coming home someday. As a result, Beth waited for Al and they are still married in the year 2000 (39 years in June). They have four daughters together. (Their names remain unknown, but some fans like to name them after some of the wives they replaced.) Al therefore never married the other four women in the revised history, and Tina is probably married to Gooshie, as she was in the alternate history Sam encountered in "A Leap For Lisa." The paradoxes this revised history creates for Al are considered in another CQ Answer.

Thanks to Julie Barrett for help with Ruthie's history.

© 1993-1997 Karen Funk Blocher (revised 3/4/97)

by Karen Funk Blocher

When something odd happens, Al seems to genuinely believe in supernatural, paranormal, or unexplained forces such as ghosts, the Devil, curses, and the Bermuda Triangle--the same types of things Sam generally does not believe in. On the other hand, Sam seems more open to such phenomena as angels and UFO's than Al is.

Why is this? Consider Al's background. In "Leap of Faith" we learn of Al praying for his father, only to see him die of cancer anyway. God, to young Al's way of thinking, let him down. On the other hand, in "M.I.A." when Sam says, "I don't believe in the Devil, Al," (little suspecting his later encounter with "The Boogieman"), Al replies that maybe Sam would believe in the Devil if he'd been in a cage in Vietnam, unable to either stand or lie down, living on rainwater and weevil-infested rice, and coming home to find out his wife has left him for another man. Al concludes, "There's a Devil, Sam. And he's trying to ruin m-...Beth's life."

Seeing more evidence of the Devil's interference in his past than of God's, Al is thus more open to the idea of negative forces-- ghosts in "A Portrait for Troian," the Bermuda Triangle in "Ghost Ship," the reputed vampire in "Blood Moon" and so on--than to positive or potentially positive forces such as angels ("It's a Wonderful Leap") and UFO's "Star Light, Star Bright"). The fact that Al didn't fully trust women due to his mother and Beth both leaving him may have contributed to his mistrust of Angela (pronounced An-heh-la) as well.

Sam, having a happier background and a more optimistic outlook, has an almost opposite orientation on these issues. Sam is somewhat open to more "positive" outre phenomena, particularly UFO's, which have a theoretically scientific basis. But Sam always requires real evidence first.

This difference in outlook was seen most recently in "Mirror Image." Sam comes to suspect that Al the Bartender is G/T/W (a positive force), but Al doesn't believe Sam. Of course, Sam had all day to come to terms with the amazing circumstances of that leap, which must have sounded pretty "crazy" to Al (as it says in the script) when Sam excitedly tried to explain it all at once. But even had Al had more time to see the events at Al's Place as they unfolded, he'd have had a harder time believing than Sam did. As it was, Al didn't even want to stay through Sam's explanation! Al has no trouble believing in nasty English vampires, but a beneficent God tending bar in Pennsylvania was too much for him! If God was that accessible, Al probably feels, at least subconsciously, why didn't he save Al's dad?

The oddest part of all in this difference in outlook regarding the supernatural is that in the Quantum Leap universe, the phenomena in question almost always turn out to be true, or at least possibly true.  I personally find that very odd in a show about a scientist!  Moreover, running into this sort of thing as often as they have ought to make both Sam and Al more open to such possibilities in the future--that is, if either one remembers such pheneomena as having been proved true.  Sam might forget, and Al does not always experience these incidents first hand.  How much does Al know about the machinations of his devil double, anyway? Sam didn't have much time to tell him about it before leaping, and it's unclear whether the real Al was there for the final battle with Al's doppleganger.  If that was Al, he seems to have forgotten the incident immediately after Sam changed history.

© 1993-1997 Karen Funk Blocher (revised 1/23/97)

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