Season 5, Episode 9: Thanksgiving Orphans


Original Air Date: November 27, 1986.

Written By:  Cheri Eichen and Bill Steinkellner

Plot: Carla hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for all Cheers' "orphans" who have nowhere else to go.  Chaos ensues.

Thoughts: Greatest Thanksgiving epsiode of any television show, ever.  Leave it to Cheers to make a holiday dinner with friends into so much more than comfort food.  This episode is thoroughly satisfying, with little twists and turns, surprises, and razor sharp writing that culminate in a grand melee at Carla's house.  It is a veritable feast.

On the Sam and Diane front, there is no mention of the events of last episode (dammit)-- this is strictly lighter fare for them.  Diane plans a Thanksgiving away from Sam, who has a date, much to her chagrin.  She's upset about Sam sharing the holiday with someone else, but consoles herself with the knowledge that they'll have many more together in the future.  Sam seems unaffected.  Diane is spending Thanksgiving at her professor's house, a big honor for her, and she encourages all the lonelies at Cheers to celebrate together at Carla's, once more creating a family community amongst the gang.  She's the one who cares if they're alone, and her bringing them together opens them up to each other.

Once at Carla's, the gang gathers to watch football and wrestling.  Sam shows up solo and gets a huge delayed laugh when the audience realizes Sam suggested a threesome to his date when her sister showed up.  Diane turns up too, having left her fancy party after being asked to serve.  Sam is sweet and sympathetic, though he still keeps her at arm's length.

The gang grows impatient with the cook time for the turkey and so, hungry and left to their own devices, all hell breaks loose, despite Diane's best efforts to keep things civil.  My favorite part is Diane's plea for detente, which is met by a fistful of cranberry sauce hurled impeccably by Mayday Malone.  The food fight to end all food fight ensues and no one escapes unsullied.  You can tell the cast is enjoying the hell out of this scene, and messy as it is, it looks like a lot of fun.  When next we see them, they are happy and enjoying each other's company while toasting those who couldn't join them for dinner.  Sam raises a glass to Coach, and it is a touching moment when everyone stands to clink glasses in his honor.  It is indeed a family affair to remember.

The cherry on top of this culinary disaster is Vera's arrival, which is immediately defiled by Diane's revenge against Sam-- a rogue pumpkin pie to the face.  After waiting so long to finally meet Vera, we are denied, though it should be noted that Vera is played by George Wendt's real-life wife, Bernadette Birkett.  Ah well, some things are better left a mystery, I suppose, and Vera will continue to elude us.

Random: The food fight was done in one take.  I hope there were enough showers backstage to accommodate everyone after the filming.  This episode originally aired the same night as Knights of the Scimitar in a double-bill.

 "Christmas comes earlier every year, doesn't it?" "I think if you check, Sam, it always comes on the twenty-fifth of December." "Frasier, you and I are of like mind." "Except one of us is kidding." "I know we'll have many holidays together when you and I are one." "You already are one, Diane." "This is my first Thanksgiving away from home. I mean, unless you count last year." "Wanna join us for some bird, Frasier?" "Could I?" "I don't know who's luckier: You because you get to go to that great party or us because you get to go to that great party." "Alright, Mighty Mouse!" "Her sister showed up from out of town and they didn't like my idea, so what the hell?" "I'm here with my friends, my support system, and there's no place I'd rather be." "I'm telling you the truth." "And I love you for it." "We are not here to be thankful for strange things we can do with our bodies!" "… Jean d'Arc, Shari Lewis and Lambchop." "The little pop thing has a name. It's called a thermometer!" "People people people people!!! Stop this immediately!!!" "Sam Malone, kiss your butt goodbye!" "Everybody, this is Vera."