Season 5, Episode 8: Knights of the Scimitar


Original Air Date: November 27, 1986.

Written By:  Jeff Abugov

Plot: Diane is troubled and thrilled by a handsome student's crush on her, sparking jealousy in Sam.  Her planned weekend away with him pushes them to some tough talk about their relationship.

Thoughts: Oh, this episode!  It's an emotional meat grinder.  Relentless and brutal, the dialogue rips and tears, and forces another hard look at the nature of Sam and Diane's dynamic.  Jeff Abugov, I've never seen your name on an episode before, but kudos on this dramatic achievement.  

Okay, so at first this Lance Apollonaire thing seems like light-hearted sparring bait.  Hell, his name is Lance Apollonaire, how serious can this get?  Well, plenty.  At first, it's amusing watching Diane play Sam's insecurities like a Stradivarius, but then he takes a dark turn.  This is not their usual fun and games jealousy.  Sam spirals down into a bitter, angry place and mines some lost vein of venom that he'd buried in Season 2 and then buried even deeper each season that followed.  It is extremely lethal and even Diane is not immune.  His words to her are cutting and it's painful to watch.  Her responses are desperate and the angst is palpable:

Diane: I see… what I used to see in you, before you decided to spend the last few months flogging me with your apathy.

Sam: Well, I’m sorry Diane, but that’s all I had handy.

Diane: He treats me wonderfully.

Sam: And I don’t, so go with him.

Diane: Now, Mr. Indifference, are you going to tell me that doesn’t bother you?

Sam: Well, I have to admit for a while there, my life passed before my eyes, but the funny thing is, you weren’t in it.

Diane: Right.

Ouch.  This is the first really ugly fight these two have had since the Season 2 finale, and it's shocking because ostensibly, these two have no reason to go at each other like this.  They are not in a committed relationship.  There has been no betrayal or wrongdoing.  Diane's been on plenty of dates since the proposal.  Nevertheless, this situation has sent Sam into a tailspin-- perhaps it's Lance's youth and perfection that drives Sam to the brink.  Whatever the cause, it's clear that they are both as invested in their relationship as ever.  Nasty as this gets, the upside is that they're still deeply affected by each other.

After all the acrimony, the episode climaxes with Diane's final blow, kissing Lance in front of Sam.  She seems to have had it with all his nonsense and wants to precipitate a big reaction from him.  Sam responds coldly, and when Diane doesn't get the response she wants, she makes her move to leave with Lance, and it is at this point that all emotional hell breaks loose.  Sam follows her toward the door, then demonstrates the kind of kiss that would have bothered him.  The kiss is the hottest they ever have, and leaves Diane weak in the knees, clinging to Sam for support.  She is unable to recall Lance's name before she sends him away, and yet despite this seeming victory, Sam is still unhappy as he goes to his office without another word.

What would ordinarily be cause for celebration for the Sam and Diane ship is instead disconcerting and uncomfortable.  Yes, it was an awesome kiss and revealed their undying passion for each other, but at what cost?  The things they said to each other beforehand are not erased, and indeed, the real problems of this relationship are unresolved.

This is a heavy episode, and Ted Danson and Shelley Long are flawless.  My one beef with it is the inappropriate laughter amongst the studio audience.  There are several times when Diane is near tears, and the audience is cracking up at a hurtful or wry remark.  I think episode would have taken on an entirely different tone without their presence.  It's the one time I dislike the fact that "Cheers is filmed before a live studio audience".

Random: Oh, there was also some stuff going on with Norm and Cliff and some private club called the Knights of the Scimitar or something.

 "I'm sorry, I got sidetracked there, I was looking at my foot." "The number was four. Norm's closest with two million twelve." "I'd never join a club that'd have someone like you as a member." "Who's the handsomest man you know?" "Hi, High." "I spent the afternoon screaming at a patient." "I can't believe with mug like that you're letting Diane do a number on you." "Nice goin', Sam. I was hoping he'd give me mouth-to-mouth." "Ohhh dear." "Excuse me, but what happened to the woman who said it's the inner man who counts?" "That woman just pictured Lance gathering flowers in his bikini briefs." "So did this one." "Mr. Malone, I'm about to call your bluff." "Diane… It would have bothered me if he'd done this:" "Yes, I can see where that would have given you cause for concern." "So, uh, Diane, you about ready to go?" "Uhhm…" "Lance." "Thank you." "Carla, you're not involved in this." "I am now."