This is the plot to the Quantum Leap episode “How the Tess Was Won,” (a delightful pun on the phrase “How the Wess Was Won.”): Quantum (I’m assuming that’s his name. Mr. Quantum Leaperson.) goes back in time to 1956 and finds himself in the body of an animal doctor on a dude ranch in rural Texas. On the ranch, a cowgirl (Tess) is having an argument with her daddy, who owns the property. The father wants her to get married and settle down, but she won’t cotton to the idea. No siree! She says that she’ll only marry someone who’s a better cowboy than she is, and since she’s the best cowboy around, she won’t marry anybody. They have a contest. If someone can beat her in cowboying (note: cowboy is a verb), she’ll have to marry him. She agrees, with the stipulation that she gets to choose who she cowboys against. She chooses the animal vet, knowing that he’s an awful cowboy. (Personal note: I immediately lost respect for her. This is like Michael Jordon, claiming to be the greatest basketball player of all time, and proving it by beating a five-year old in a game of one-on-one.)
Quantum goes back to his house (with a pig), where some kid is on his stoop for no reason, playing a terrible song on his guitar about farm animals. Quantum goes into some inner monologue about how hard it is to go back in time, because he never knows anyone’s name. So, when he and the kid speak, it goes like this:
Kid: I fixed your fence while you were out, doc.
Quantum: Thanks… you kid.
Obviously, I feel for Quantum. Having a one-on-one conversation with someone without using his or her name at the end of every sentence is very awkward, reader of this review. How will that person know that he or she is the one being spoken to, reader of this review?
Anyway, inside the house (specifically, in the room where the vet seems to torture raccoons), Quantum meets up with his friend, Mr. Cigar, who plays around with his beep-boop machine and tells him that he was probably sent back in time so the vet and Tess will marry. And with that, Quantum goes back to the ranch and accepts Tess’s challenge.
So, they do cowboy stuff. First, they do horseback riding. Quantum gets thrown off a bucking bronco, and everybody laughs at him. Surely, he knows that nobody but Tess can ride on Widowmaker! Quantum could have pointed out that if Tess was the only person who can ride the orneriest horse, then she is automatically the better rider and they don’t need to have a contest, but he keeps his mouth shut. Then, they do a cattle-roping contest. Tess ropes her cow with no problem, and Quantum asks some douchy-looking rancher for advice. The rancher tells him to rope a cow in a way that will get Quantum’s thumb ripped off (he leaves the last part out). Quantum ropes his cow and immediately clutches his hand and howls in horrible pain. Everyone rushes to him, and he reveals that he was only kidding around. Even though faking injuries is always hilarious, somehow, he loses this contest too.
The next round of the cowboy contest is playing poker, obviously. Mr. Cigar shows up (note: Mr. Cigar is a ghost or something, ‘cuz Quantum is the only person that can see him) and assures Quantum that the douchy-looking rancher is cheating. Quantum calls the Douchy on it. He says, “I know that you’re cheating, because I know your cards are aces and eights!” Somehow, everyone at the table thinks that this is great proof that Douchy is cheating. (Personally, if someone knew someone else’s cards before the hands were shown, I’d accuse that person of cheating, but whatever… ). The only problem is, Douchy’s hands weren’t aces an eights! They were… other cards! So, Quantum looks like a fool. Everyone else leaves the table, allowing Quantum and Mr. Cigar to look at Tess’s cards too. She had the aces and eights, and Douchy, who was dealing the cards, was cheating for her. At this point, it’s unclear as to whether Douchy is in love with Tess, or, if like most of us, he just really loves cockblocking …
The most important part of the contest is next – digging holes! Now, as we all know, men are simply better at digging holes than women. It’s simply a fact of nature. Women are better at giving birth, doing dishes and eating frozen yogurt, and men are better at digging holes. Period. But Tess, being a tomboy, refuses to accept defeat. Quantum offers her some water, but she refuses. “T’ain’t thirsty!” she says, before she collapses from heat exhaustion, caused by digging inadequate holes (I honestly have no idea how this contest was judged). Quantum carries her to his home, again running into the guitar-playing kid.
“What’s wrong with her?” he asks.
“She’s suffering from heat exhaustion… you fellow, you.”
Quantum proceeds to rip off Tess’s clothes. This part was pretty cool…
When Tess comes to and sees that Quantum undressed her, she gets all fussy, but Quantum is all like, “it’s okay, I’m a vet!” and things calm down.
Tess tells Quantum that the only way she’ll even think about marrying him now is if he successfully rides Widowmaker. The next day, Quantum shows up to the ranch with a plan! Quantum will ride the horse, while Mr. Cigar tells him what to do. I’m not exactly sure how this will work (Mr. Cigar: “Stay on the horse! Don’t fall off!”), but it doesn’t matter, because as soon as Quantum gets on the horse, Mr. Cigar gets a phone call and leaves. Quantum is on his own! Widowmaker starts bucking around like crazy, but this time Quantum stays on. How does he do it? He does it by trying it a second time! It’s a good lesson. Stink at football? Try it a second time and you’ll be a pro! Awful at singing? Try it a second time and you’ll put Aretha Franklin to shame!
So, anyway, Quantum and Tess talk about whether or not to get married, when Douchy shows up. He confesses that he loves Tess too. (Well, to be fair, Quantum never confessed that he loved her. He wants to get married because that will magically send him away from there. I really like this concept. Quantum does all this stuff to get the vet and Tess married, and then leaves the vet’s body. Suddenly, the vet is married to someone and has no idea how it happened, and we, as audience members, have no idea if he cares for her at all, or even knows who she is.) Tess doesn’t know what to do. Then she does. She decides to have a dance contest! She slow dances with Quantum and slow dances with Douchy. Even though Quantum was a better slow dance shuffler, she decides to marry Douchy, making the dance contest totally unnecessary (which, in a way, offers a nice glimpse to the theme of the episode).
So, the day of the wedding arrives, and Quantum is talking to Mr. Cigar, as they get ready to go to the ceremony. Quantum asks Mr. Cigar why he hasn’t left this body yet. Mr. Cigar tells him that it’s because he hasn’t done whatever he was sent out to do. Quantum doesn’t understand. Aren’t Tess and Douchy getting married? Isn’t that what he was sent back for? (I like this a lot too. Quantum spent the entire episode trying to get Tess to marry the animal doctor, but he failed. Then he’s all like, “I don’t understand! I failed at what I sent out to do. Where is my reward?”)
Quantum suddenly remembers to bring the pig back to the ranch, but the pig escapes. Quantum starts calling for the pig. “Here, piggy! Piggy! Swee! Piggy Swee!” The boy whose name he doesn’t know starts playing guitar, and singing. “Piggy swee/Piggy swee/pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty piggy swee…” Quantum and Mr. Cigar look at each other. They know who the kid is. Buddy Fucking Holly! Quantum tells Buddy, “Hey, try ‘Peggy Sue’ instead.” Buddy does, and suddenly Quantum magically leaves the body, his mission complete. Meaning that absolutely everything he did in the episode, was 100% pointless, from riding Widowmaker to… riding Widowmaker again. His mission was to tell Buddy Holly to quit being such a fucking moron and stop writing songs about loving farm animals!
Needless to say, I loved this show…