Freedom was the 16th episode in Season Two of Quantum Leap, also the 25th overall series episode. Written by Chris Ruppenthal, the episode, which was directed by Alan J. Levi, originally aired on NBC-TV on February 14, 1990.
November 22, 1970: Sam leaps into George Washaki, a Native American. He and his ailing grandfather, Joseph Waskaki, must escape jail to bring Joseph to where he was born so he can die there. George had stolen a truck to bring Joseph out of the nursing home and bring him to his true home, and now Sam has to finish George's quest.
Sam leaps in to find himself in the middle of a beating from a police sheriff, who angrily tells Sam not to get smart with him. Sam tries to fight back, but is knocked out from behind by the sheriff's deputy. The two of them drag Sam down a hall and into a jail cell, tossing him in with an old Native American man. Sam looks into a mirror and sees a young Native American man staring back at him.
It's November 22, 1970, in Nevada, and Sam has leaped into George Washakie. The old man sharing his prison cell is George's grandfather, Joseph. The two of them have been arrested and imprisoned for stealing a pickup truck, though Joseph maintains that they simply borrowed it. He tells Sam that unless he wants to be locked up and eating food off trays like in the nursing home, he should find a way to get them out.
The next morning, Taggart, the police sheriff, finds Joseph sitting on his bunk and singing to himself. Sam is nowhere to be seen. Joseph tells Taggart that he turned Sam into a raven and Sam flew away, but he couldn't escape because he can only turn into a wolf. Taggart draws his gun and enters the cell, looking under both of the bunks. Joseph suddenly stops singing, and Sam, who was hiding under the mattress and covers of his bunk, attacks Taggart and knocks him out. Sam takes Taggart's gun, and the two of them lock the sheriff in the cell and escape. Outside, Sam and Joseph get into the stolen pickup, and Sam hotwires the ignition and drives away, as Taggart watches helplessly from the prison cell window.
Later, Taggart is in his office and loading his gun, when Suzanne, Joseph's granddaughter and George's sister, arrives to ask about them. Taggart tells Suzanne about their escape, and Suzanne tells the sheriff that Joseph is sick, and needs to be taken back to his nursing home. Taggart is unconcerned and leaves, refusing Suzanne's request to come with him.
Sam and Joseph are on the road, as Joseph unsuccessfully tries to tune in the radio, criticizing white men for not being able to make anything besides more white men. He laughs, but the laugh turns into a coughing fit. Sam pulls over and examines Joseph's breathing, correctly guessing that Joseph has emphysema. He insists on taking Joseph to a hospital, but Joseph asks Sam to just take him home. Al arrives, and tells Sam that the nearest hospital is fifty miles behind them. Joseph gets out of the truck to answer a call of nature, leaving Sam free to talk to Al. Al tells Sam that George broke Joseph out of the nursing home, which Suzanne had put him into. Sam guesses that he's there to save Joseph's life, but Al responds that he's there to take Joseph back to the reservation where he was born so he can die with dignity.
Joseph returns, and Sam tells him he should go back to the nursing home. Joseph points out a hawk passing overhead, telling Sam that the hawk is able to live free, and doesn't want to be put in a cage when it's close to death. He tells Sam that he has been among the white men too long, and walks away. Al insists to Sam that Joseph won't get proper medical care if they turn around and go back, because the sheriff is coming after them and will probably shoot them. Sam agrees to take Joseph to the reservation, and makes him promise to see a doctor when they get there.
Later, Joseph sees a small convenience store and tells Sam to stop. Sam notices an oxygen tank as they enter the store. Inside, Joseph tries to buy blankets, but neither of them has any money. Sam pulls out the sheriff's gun, scaring the shopkeeper, and offers to trade him the gun for the blankets. Joseph asks for the shotgun on the wall behind the cash register, which the shopkeeper eagerly hands over. Sam also asks for the oxygen tank, and gives it to Joseph to breathe from as they get back on the road. In the truck, Sam discovers that Joseph had several other items from the store hidden in the blankets, including a knife which he gives to Sam. Joseph has also stolen a portable radio from the store, and is now listening to a football game, cheering on the Redskins as they score a touchdown against the Cowboys.
Suddenly, Sam and Joseph hear Suzanne's voice coming from the police radio. Suzanne asks Sam to bring Joseph back, and Sam responds that he can't. Taggart is listening in from his truck, and tells Sam and Joseph to turn themselves in. Suzanne pleads with them, but Joseph vehemently refuses to come back and starts coughing again as he hangs up the radio.
Sam asks Joseph if the road they're on goes over the mountains, but Joseph says it doesn't. He asks Sam to pull over, and points out two horses on the other side of a chainlink fence. He tells Sam that they'll go home together. Later, Taggart finds their truck abandoned, with a note from Joseph attached telling the owner of the horses that they're not stealing them, they're only borrowing them.
Sam and Joseph are on horseback, heading up into the mountains. Joseph gets off his horse, and tells Sam about the officers who rode on horseback when he was in World War I, as he uses a can of paint he stole from the convenience store to paint traditional Native American markings on his horse. Sam and Al watch as Joseph makes a number of handprints on the rear of the horse, telling Sam that they represent men killed in battle. He then gives the paint to Sam to do the same, telling him that he can see it in Sam's eyes. Sam makes two handprints on his horse, representing the two men he has killed during his leaping. Sam and Joseph then get back on their horses, but a gunshot rings out, and Sam falls to the ground.
Moments later, Joseph is exchanging gunfire with Taggart, who is shooting at them from further down the mountain. Al is kneeling over Sam, who has been shot in the ribs, although the wound isn't serious. Sam and Joseph manage to lead their horses to higher ground and out of Taggart's range.
Later that night, Sam is now leading both horses and supporting Joseph as they struggle to continue up the mountain. Joseph eventually collapses, and is having trouble breathing. Sam spots a cave nearby, and the two of them head inside with the horses. Al is waiting for them inside, and Sam tells him that Joseph might not make it. Joseph asks Sam to build a fire near the back of the cave so that it won't be seen from the outside. Sam gathers wood from the fire, then realizes he doesn't have any matches. Joseph offers to show Sam an old Native American trick, and starts chanting and waving his hand over the wood, before producing a lighter and using it to start the fire. He tells Sam that his son, George's father, used to fall for that trick all the time.
Joseph asks Sam if he misses his father, and Sam says he does. Joseph asks if Sam thinks he'll ever see his father again, and Sams says he doesn't think he will. Joseph says that when people die, they shed one skin and put on another, before leaping to a new life. He tells Sam that all of life is a series of leaps, and we don't always see where we're going. He tells Sam to remember that the next time he leaps. Al asks Sam if Joseph is talking to his grandson, or to Sam himself. Joseph tells Sam to stop trying to make him hang on to his old skin, and Sam agrees.
Outside, Taggart has found the cave. He sees the light from the fire, and hears voices coming from inside. Taggart quickly enters the cave with his gun drawn, but sees the cave is empty, and the voices were coming from Joseph's radio. Meanwhile, Sam and Joseph are escaping on their horses. Taggart runs back out of the cave and starts following them again.
As the sun rises, Joseph tells Sam that the reservation begins on the other side of a river at the bottom of the hill they're on. The two of them start riding down toward the river, but Joseph suddenly falls from his horse, coughing as he hits the ground. Sam quickly dismounts and checks on Joseph, who has injured his arm in the fall. Sam sets Joseph's arm with a makeshift splint, and starts leading the horses toward the river as Joseph is on horseback once more. Sam still wants Joseph to see a doctor when they get to the reservation, but Joseph refuses again. Sam tells Joseph that there's so much that he and others can learn from him. Joseph tells Sam that the only thing he needs to learn is that freedom is the greatest gift people are born with, and the hardest thing to hold onto.
Suddenly, Sam and Joseph hear the sounds of an approaching horse. Joseph steadies his shotgun, expecting to see Taggart, but when the rider appears, it's Suzanne. She tells Sam that he should have never taken Joseph from the nursing home, and tries to convince Sam that Joseph can't take care of himself because of his illness. Taggart appears at the top of the hill, and Sam tells Suzanne to take Joseph across the river before leaving to confront Taggart. Joseph asks with a smile if Sam is going to scalp Taggart, but Sam disappoints him by saying no.
Taggart sees Joseph and Suzanne heading toward the river, and aims his shotgun at Joseph. As he fires, Sam jumps out at Taggart, sending his shot wild. Sam crash tackles Taggart to the ground, and the two of them start to fight. Al looks on as Sam gets the better of Taggart and starts throwing punches at him. As Taggart lays groggy on his back, Sam grabs him by the head and raises his knife, seemingly about to scalp him. Al shouts at Sam not to do it. Sam hesitates for a moment, then brings his knife down and cuts off a clump of the sheriff's hair, leaving him otherwise unharmed. Al tells Sam that he thought he was really going to scalp Taggart, and Sam responds that he was.
Taggart pulls out a handgun, and fires a shot down the hill at Joseph. Joseph is hit, and falls off his horse. Sam and Suzanne rush to Joseph's side, and Sam realizes that the wound is serious, and Joseph is dying. He picks Joseph up, and starts carrying him toward the river. Taggart calls out to Sam, still aiming his gun at them. Sam looks up at Taggart, and starts to cry as he tells him that all Joseph wanted to do was to die in peace, and with dignity, under the sky and in the open spaces that he called home. Taggart slowly lowers his gun, letting Sam and Suzanne cross the river with Joseph.
As Sam carries Joseph across the river, Joseph asks him why he's crying. Sam says he doesn't know. As they reach the other side, Joseph tells Sam not to cry, and that he'll see Sam's father soon. Sam lays Joseph down on the ground, and realizes that Joseph has died. Suzanne starts to cry, and as Al watches on in sorrow, Sam breaks down into tears again. He looks into Joseph's face one more time, then leaps.
The episode ends with Sam leaping into Melvin Spooner, a mortician in 1957.