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Albert "Al" Calavicci
(March 26, 1989)
|Last appearance||"Mirror Image"
(May 5, 1993)
|Created by||Donald P. Bellisario|
|Portrayed by||Dean Stockwell|
Companion/Assistant to Dr. Sam Beckett
|Family||Unnamed father (deceased)
Trudy Calavicci (sister, deceased)
|Children||Alexis Calavicci, Ella Calavicci, Samantha Calavicci, Janis Calavicci|
|Relatives||Jack (uncle), Stawpah (uncle)|
Al was born on June 15, 1934. His father, who worked in construction, immigrated from Abruzzi, Italy and his mother was a Russian immigrant. Al had a younger sister, Theresa "Trudy" Calavicci, who had Down's syndrome. During his childhood, Al's mother left the family and married another man. His father tried to keep the family together, but when his work required him to move to the Middle East, he was forced to put Al into an orphanage and Trudy into a mental institution, which was common practice for the mentally handicapped in the 1940s. A few years later, Al's father returned and the family was reunited until Al's father developed a serious case of cancer. After the death of their father, Al and Trudy were once again sent to the orphanage and the institution, respectively.
Al was a troubled, but by no means dangerous, youth. To keep himself out of trouble, he explored many hobbies, including acting and boxing. Al speaks fluent Italian. At one point, Al ran away from the orphanage and lived on the road with an African-American pool shark, but after his mentor and friend was arrested, Al was returned to the orphanage. When Al was 19, he went to the mental institution so he could be reunited with his sister, but discovered that she had contracted pneumonia and died, likely due to the institution's negligence.
As a young man, Al joined the United States Navy, and became an officer and a Naval Aviator. His friend Chip Ferguson nicknamed him "Bingo" after a line he'd used when caught with triplets. In 1957, Al had a brief relationship with a Navy trauma nurse, Lieutenant Lisa Sherman, who was already married. It was during this time that Al was accused of raping and murdering his commanding officer's wife (she had in fact been accidentally killed by Chip during consensual sex but he never came forward). Al was cleared when Sherman provided his alibi and was left heartbroken when she died later that day, and by the gossip people made about her. (One of Sam's leaps would later alter the timeline, preventing both Sherman's death and the wife's accidental killing.)
Later he met his first wife, Beth, a Navy Nurse Corps officer. Al and Beth were married, though due to various duty assignments, they spent little time together. It was during these years that Al would be involved in the Apollo Program and was a member of the command crew of Apollo 8. Al also had become involved in the civil rights movement of the late 50s and 1960s, going on marches and suffering beatings; he implied in The Color of Truth that he'd been part of the 1965 march to Selma.
In the late 1960s, Al began a series of tours in Vietnam, and the distance between him and Beth started to put a strain on his marriage. In one mission, he saw Chip get shot down. In early 1969, Al was captured by the Việt Cộng and would be a prisoner of war until 1973. The torture he went through convinced him that there was a Devil. By the time of his release, the Navy had declared Al as missing in action and presumably killed in action; after a period of mourning, Beth remarried. A heartbroken Al, after returning to the United States, had a subsequent series of failed marriages; a running gag in the series was Al remembering something about one of his ex-wives, but he could not remember which one. Thus, Beth was always the great love of Al's life.
In the years that followed, Al would rise through the naval ranks, eventually becoming a rear admiral. Much of his later military career is unknown. The two-star flag rank is the highest permanent rank in the US military during peacetime, explaining how he is able to retain his naval rank while devoting the majority of his time to PQL. Over the years, he would marry four more times, each marriage ending in divorce, as he sought to fill the gap left behind by his first love, Beth.
(His increasingly large backstory often gave him skills and knowledge that would be relevant to the latest episode. By the fourth season, the show would sometimes let Sam Beckett lampshade things, such as snapping "don't tell me you were a gunslinger in the Navy" in The Last Gunfighter)
As his personal life started deteriorating, Al started to abuse alcohol. While working on the Starbright Project, Al first met Dr. Sam Beckett when, in a drunken rage, Al was beating up a vending machine. The two became fast friends, and Sam started to help Al turn his life around. Sam and Al became best friends over the years. When Sam was lost leaping around time; Al was Sam's constant companion and source of support, doing whatever he could to help Sam and at times, thinking of creative solutions to problems that Sam had not.
After the Starbright Project, Sam and Al worked together on Project Quantum Leap, a time travel experiment based on Sam's own theories about time and space. Apart from his role as Sam's observer/assistant, Al's specific role and responsibilities within PQL are never clearly discussed. Given Al's military status, it is likely that he occupies a senior leadership position within the project; possibly as a government liaison since he is seen attending government oversight and budget hearings petitioning for continued project funding. It is implied that Al has taken over day-to-day operational leadership of the project in Sam's absence. While Al is intelligent and vastly experienced in many areas of life, the greatest asset he brings to Sam's various leaps is a fresh perspective to the problems he faces as well as providing valuable information and a source of emotional support to Sam. These things aside, Al has also proved himself capable in other ways. For example, when a killer Sam had leaped into and exchanged places with escaped the PQL facility and gotten into the nearby city; Al went after him and was able to subdue him successfully.
When Sam prematurely activated his time machine and was propelled into the past, it was Al's duty to remain in contact with him through holographic projections tuned into Sam's brainwaves (Although it was revealed over the course of the series that Al can also be seen and heard by animals, small children - who "see the truth" - and the mentally ill; one leap also saw them dealing with a man whose brainwaves were remarkably similar to Sam's own, allowing him to see Al and other holograms despite being a mentally stable adult, although he never saw Sam as anything other than Sam's current "host"). Over the next few years, Al worked with Sam, providing him with information from their historical database about the people that he was there to help, and lending Sam advice and moral support. Al also seems to be able to remember events the way they used to be after Sam has changed them. For example, when PQL was in danger of losing its government funding and leaving Sam in the past without assistance, Sam changed history so that the Senator in charge of the review was replaced by an older version of the woman Sam had saved because he had helped her pass her law exams on the first try by correcting her on an important piece of information. Al, in turn, showed surprise at this change when the original Senator was replaced by the new one, apparently remembering things the way they used to be. During one of Sam's Leaps, Al tried to get Sam to change the fate of his marriage to Beth, but to no avail; indeed, Al's actions nearly endangered the person Sam was actually there to help, albeit through Al's ignorance rather than deliberate neglect as he simply never ran other scenarios. At one point, Al and Sam's positions were switched, and Al leaped back in time to 1945. During this mission, Al was injured and placed in imminent danger, but Sam saved him by exchanging places with him again, replacing the unconscious Al with Sam's fully conscious self. During another leap, when circumstances required Al to pursue Sam's current host outside the Project, the system was briefly reprogrammed to allow technician Gushie to serve as Sam's hologram in case he needed updates while Al was away, but the resulting projection was transparent and glitched until Al returned.
During one leap, Al revealed to Sam that he didn't think gay men should be allowed into the military. The experiences of watching homophobic violence first-hand made Al change his mind and admit he'd been wrong.
Though separated by decades, Sam and Al continued to work closely together until the people at Project Quantum Leap lost contact with Sam. In the series' final episode ("Mirror Image"), Sam is caught in a strange leap wherein he meets strangely parallel versions of people he had met on other adventures. The bartender likens the strong friendship between Sam and Al to that of Don Quixote and his trusted squire, Sancho Panza, saying that one would do anything for the other. This, coupled with the revelation that Sam could control his leaping if he so chose, triggers Sam leaping into Al's wife's home and Sam imparted to Al's first wife that her missing husband was alive and would someday return home. This event changed Al's past as he and Beth would remain together and have four daughters. How the change affected his friendship with Sam, or if Sam and Al ever met or if/how Project Quantum Leap was affected remains unclear.
Also, in the final episode, Al reveals that he had an uncle named Stawpah, who worked as a coal miner. Stawpah had spent so much time loading coal that he was permanently stooped over because of injuries. Sam had met Stawpah during the episode, but does not learn of the connection until the end when Stawpah, having saved two other miners from a cave-in, leaps out and disappears (as Al pointed out, his uncle had been dead for some time by now. One of the other miners also asks Sam how he could have known Stawpah). On the last episode, Sam is seen talking to Beth, Al's first wife who remarried when Al was in captivity. At the end of the episode, is says that Al and Beth had four daughters, rumoured to be named Alexis, Samantha, Janis and Ella.
Alternate Project Quantum Leap
In one episode, Sam leaps into Al himself at an earlier period, when Al is on trial for the rape and murder of a commander’s wife. Although in the original history, Al was acquitted, Sam’s actions cause the case to begin turning against Al when he prevents a key witness from testifying because he believes he is there to stop her from ruining her life (since Al was spending time with his younger self, he failed to inform Sam that it didn’t matter what the witness did as she was later killed in a car crash after testifying). Partway through the episode, when Ziggy projects that the odds are 100% that Al will be convicted and executed, Al disappears mid-sentence and is replaced by a man named Edward St. John (with only Sam remembering that Al was the Observer), who reports that "Ensign Calavicci" was convicted and executed for the murder.
In this new continuity, the staff at Project Quantum Leap appeared less emotionally involved with Sam’s various hosts—it is implied that they have little to no contact with the leapee, and Sam and Edward have no apparent connection beyond a professional relationship; Edward even calls Sam "Samuel," a name that Sam hasn’t been called since he last saw his great-aunt. Other differences include Ziggy now being known as "Alpha" and Tina and Gushie being married. Fortunately, as soon as the odds jump back to 80% in favor of Al surviving—after Sam discovers a cigar in the car where the murder was committed; Al didn’t smoke cigars at this point, so he couldn’t have left it there—Al is restored, with only Sam remembering that Edward St. John was ever even there. This confirms that PQL would still exist without Al, though it would be radically different from the project as we know it.
Al is known as quite a womanizer on the show and constantly talks about his five wives, current girlfriend, and various other conquests, occasionally attributing his surprising knowledge of things such as Jewish customs by claiming that he learned them from his wives (humorously sometimes forgetting which wife provided him with that knowledge).
The first wife, Beth, was a naval nurse. She and Al honeymooned at Niagara Falls. She loves Calla lilies, Mexican food and Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind". When Al was reported missing in Vietnam she had the Navy declare him dead and remarried lawyer Dirk Simon.
The second wife, was Hungarian and liked to throw small appliances at Al. That is all we ever find out about her.
The third wife, Ruthie and Al also honeymooned at Niagara Falls. Ruthie was Jewish and her father owned a funeral parlor. At one point she charged Al with emotional abuse for singing the song "Volare" in his sleep.
The fourth wife, Sharon, wore pink babydolls. She would cut Al's meat for him. This is the reason he states when he says he is a vegetarian. She also gained their dog, Chester, in their divorce.
The fifth wife, Maxine, met at a tattoo parlor in Jersey City. Maxine tried to be both a professional roller derby girl and an ice skater but was unsuccessful. They also honeymooned at Niagara Falls. The marriage ended when Al accused her of cheating even though she hadn't. In the end, she ended up running off with the bricklayer that Al accused her of cheating with anyway.
Other women Al mentions being with during the series include a girl named Danessa while he was at M.I.T., a girl named Martha he met at a Lakers game, a girl named Brenda who works on Project Quantum Leap in the coding department, a girl named Denise who wants to write his life story, another co-worker named Louise that he encounters at a Project Quantum Leap Christmas Party, a stewardess named Oolie, an Egyptian girl who thinks she is the reincarnation of Cleopatra, he mentions making out with Hannah Gretz in the 4th grade and taking Myra Poinchik to an abandoned house in his neighborhood that was supposedly haunted, had a fling with a beauty queen while in flight school who was named Ms. Flight Gunner 1955, he had a serious relationship with a married naval nurse named Lt. Lisa Sherman in 1957.
During the show he gives many references to his current girlfriend in 1999, Tina, who also works on Project Quantum Leap. They met over a Las Vegas poker table. She does leave Al at one point in the show, having a fling with Gushie, the Project Quantum Leap programmer, but eventually goes back to Al.