Quantum Leap

Season 1 Episode 7

The Color of Truth

Aired Friday 12:00 AM May 03, 1989 on NBC

Episode Recap

Sam Leaps into a man in a 1950s Southern diner and sits down to eat. However, when all of the white patrons look at him in surprise and disgust, Sam sees himself in a mirror and realizes that he's an elderly black man, Jesse Tyler. Two local boys come over to remove Sam physically, but the waitress interrupts and tells Sam to take Miss Melanie's lunch to her.

When Sam goes outside, he hears the elderly Miss Melanie calling to him from her car across the street. Realizing that he's her chauffeur, Sam goes over and Melanie address him as Jessie Tyler. Sam fakes bad memory and a head injury and Melanie gives him directions to her husband Charles. As they drive over the railroad tracks and arrive at the cemetery, Sam realizes that Charles is her departed husband. As he helps her to the grave, Melanie tries to pull out the weeds and talks about how she and Charles lost their son Beau when he was young, and how Jessie and his wife lost four of their children before Jessie's wife died.

Al appears and Sam talks to him privately. Sam is impressed that he's leaped into a black man and wonders who else he could end up as. However, Al warns that it's a dangerous time and place to be a black man. Ziggy figures that Sam is there to save Melanie, who dies when her car is by a train on the nearby tracks. However, the computer hasn't been able to pinpoint Jessie or determine if he died with Melanie. As they talk, Al mentions that many of the freedom marches of the time occurred nearby, and that he was in several of them. Sam suspects that he's there to change the history of the civil rights movement but Al doesn't agree.

Sam takes Melanie home and her son is there to talk to Sam privately about the diner incident. He warns him that the entire town is upset and asks where he got such a stupid idea, and Sam briefly loses his cool and advances on him. Clayton backs away nervously and goes to talk to Melanie, who doesn't care what Sam did. Her son warns her that she's the widow of the stage governor and Negroes might get the wrong idea if Melanie doesn't take a stand against segregation. Melanie ignores him and he leaves. Once she's alone, Melanie clutches at her head and Sam, realizing she's in pain, tries to examine him. She tells him that he's not a doctor and orders Sam to get her a glass of lemonade.

As Sam goes to the kitchen for the lemonade, Jesse's granddaughter Nell comes in and says that she's proud of him for the diner incident. They take the lemonade to Melanie, who says that she's fine and tells Nell to take Sam home. On the way back Nell asks how it felt and Sam says that it didn't feel any different than sitting down to eat anywhere else. While Nell insists that she wants the white folks shook up, they fail to notice two of the men from the diner following then.

At the Tyler home, Nell tells Sam to cook chitlins for the church picnic like he promised. Jesse's daughter Ellie and his son Reverend Willis have to leave. Al appears once Sam is alone and gives him his recipe for chitlins. Willis comes back and notices Sam apparently talking to himself, and wonders if he's having mental problems. Al warns Sam that the diner incident could be a problem and Willis unknowingly agrees, asking him not to sit at the diner anymore. Once he leaves, Al warns his friend that he doesn't have a right to sit at a diner in 1955 and that he needs to focus on saving Melanie. Sam isn't happy with the situation, but is interrupted when the two men from the diner, Toad and Billy Joe, light a cross on the yard and drive away.

The next morning, Sam goes into town to file a complaint with Sheriff Blount, who says that Sam should just forget it. He offers to talk to Billy Joe, his son, but warns Sam that what happens next is up to him. As he leaves, Sam drinks from a white-only fountain without seeing the sign. Billy Joe and Toad see him but Billy Joe restrains his friend and says that they'll handle Sam later.

Sam goes to Melanie's house to do some chores but doesn't know enough to fix her sink. Melanie invites him to tea afterward but refuses to sit with him at the same table. When Sam suggests that times are changing and it might be time for her to change, Melanie ignores the issue as someone knocks at the back door. It's Nell, who asks Sam what he's up to. He doesn't have an answer for her and she leaves for choir practice, taking Willis' car that Sam has been using. Melanie dismissively says that his ideas about equal rights are hogwash. Sam refuses to accept that, saying that blacks will unite to obtain basic rights, and Melanie wonders if he's going crazy.

As Nell drives her father's car to choir, Toad and Billy Joe spot her on the road and, assuming Sam is driving, decide to teach him a lesson. They pull out, trying to scare Nell, but she overreacts and goes off the road and down a hillside. Realizing they've gone too far, Toad wants to help her but Billy Joe refuses and drives away.

Sam continues trying to convince Melanie provide an example for the community, but she refuses to discuss it with him. She tells Sam to go to town to get a pipe for sink and insists on going with him. When Sam tries to stop her, worried that it could precipitate the car accident that Ziggy predicted, Melanie refuses and Sam drivers her into town. On the way in, they spot the car down the hillside. Sam goes to help Nell and discovers that she has a head laceration and needs to get to the hospital.

Sam drives to the nearest hospital but the white staff inform that no blacks are allowed. The colored hospital is too far away to save Nell's life and Melanie steps in, ordering the doctors on her authority to treat Nell. They refuse to let Sam in and Melanie tells him to wait, assuring him that she'll look after Nell. As Sam waits, Al arrives and warns his friend that they have only 23 minutes until Ziggy's predicted time. Sheriff Blount arrives and puts Sam under arrest for violating the whites-only law at the hospital, and the nurse is glad to report that she Sam talking to thin air. Sam asks the nurse to stop Melanie from leaving for at least 30 minutes and the woman reluctantly agrees. However, after the sheriff takes Sam away, the nurse ignores his request when Melanie hears what happens and decides to drive into town to force Blunt to arrest her as well. Al can only look on, helpless, as Melanie drives out of the parking lot.

With only minutes left until the deadline, Al has Ziggy center him on Melanie inside her car. He tries to yell at her, hoping that she'll hear him even though he's a hologram. The train draws closer but Melanie can't hear the whistle because of her poor hearing. However, just as they get to the crossing, Melanie veers off the road into the cemetery and the train just misses her. She looks around, puzzled, and asks if her dead husband Charles is there because she thought she heard his voice.

Al has Ziggy center him on the jail and tells Sam that Jesse is still alive in the present. When Sam wonders why he's still there if Melanie and Jesse are alive, Al admits that he doesn't know. Sheriff Blunt releases Sam at Melanie's request and tells him that Billy Joe was responsible for Nell's accident but he'll make sure his son doesn't cause any more trouble. Al tells Sam that in four months, Martin Luther King will start the Alabama boycotts and Rosa Parks will famously keep her seat on a bus. As Sam goes, he tells Blount that one day he will have to change his mind about a lot of things. In the cell, Al looks around and then sings "We Will Overcome."

Outside, Melanie and Clayton wait for Sam. Clayton accuses Sam of using his mother in his anti-segregation campaign, but Melanie tells her son to mind his own business. She tells Sam that Nell has been moved to the black hospital and she's doing fine. She wants to ignore what happened and suggests that things should go back to normal, but Sam warns her that things can't go back. Melanie admits that she knows there are problem but things can't change, and tells Sam that if he continues discussing it, she'll fire him.

Sam reluctantly agrees and Melanie tells him to go into the diner and get her lunch. When he goes inside, everyone glares at him, expecting trouble, but Sam simply goes to the counter. However, Melanie comes in and tells everyone that she's decided to eat in the diner after all... and invites Sam to sit down with her. Billy Joe starts to get up but his father tells him to shut up and sit down. Sam sits down, smiles at Melanie... and Leaps.