Cheers #5: “Truce or Consequences” (#1.08, 18/11/82)

The first act of “Truce or Consequences” is a three-hander in an empty bar. Diane and Carla are collecting the glasses after closing time, when Diane decides to play around. Carla bluntly rejects this intrusion on her territory and they soon are trading insults about their respective looks.

Either it’s been a long night in the bar, or maybe something has just ticked Sam off, as he demands of the pair that they sort out their animosity right away. They force him to go and leave them to it, then settle down to attempt to spend time together. Diane makes an effort, passing complements to her colleague and self-consciously affecting sisterly remarks about their bonding. Carla cruelly elects to knock Diane out with a cocktail bomb and then plants in her mind a timebomb of a fib about Sam. Sam returns, quite unsurprised and relaxed to see the state Carla has got Diane into and by Carla’s explanation for it.

Part 2 picks up the following day with a badly hungover Diane sympathetic to Carla, remembering of her tale. When Carla loses her temper at a meagre tip and is dragged by Sam to his office, Diane bursts with indignation, revealing the sworn secret to Coach and then realising that Carla has tricked her into believing that Sam is the father to one of her children. Another conflagration ensues. Back in Sam’s office, the situation behind this latest fall-out is explained to him, which results in his falling into hysterics. The child concerned and his actual father, are suggested to be hilarious in appearance, so much so that even Diane gets the joke.

“Truce or Consequences” gets straight to the point, uncharacteristically for Cheers, eschewing jokes and non-sequiturs of the cold openings we’ll become used to. Also odd is the lack of action for the supports: Coach is only used to assist Diane in her realisation about Carla’s fib, Cliff gets a good joke about mud-wrestling and helps Sam physically restrain his staff, Norm is only briefly seen leaving the bar.

The three-way relationship is the theme here. Firstly, there is the animus between the two barmaids, which is based on their being polar opposites: physical appearance, background and education, personality. This seems unlikely to ever be resolved.

Then there is Sam’s relationship to them as their boss which, on the occasions when required (such as when they are squabbling) is something he exercises with paternal responsibility.  

Sam/Diane isn’t developed a lot from the previous story. This week’s emotional development is achieved, directly and indirectly, through Sam’s relationship with Carla. I think Carla works as a character because although she’s not the wittiest figure in Cheers, she is portrayed with such spiky, charming, winning, malevolence by Rhea Perlman. Sam likes her ferocious personality and tolerates her misbehaviour and immaturity. They share a bond via the bar, and baseball, and their promiscuousness. This episode tentatively places Diane as a possible cause of rupture, but backs out when the story wraps with her (a bit surprisingly) getting the joke about Gino’s hideousness.