Norm gets news: bad news: his doctor found a spot on his chest X-ray, and he enters Cheers as white as the ghost he fears he will become. A call from his wife informs him that the X-ray was wrong, but a new life-leased Norm plans to change his life – by sailing to an island off Bora Bora and living the rest of his life in a carefree paradise. The gang at Cheers as aghast, especially best buddy-less Cliff, but when Sam retreats to his office he discovers the would-be castaway living in the beer pantry, too chicken to fulfill his crazy dream and too ashamed to show everyone that he was. Everyone tries to coax him out, but no one is successful except Cliff, whose disclosure of his own dream – flying as a trapeze artist for the circus – makes Norm realize that his own dream is not quite so howlingly ludicrous.
Setup in which our favorite portly pint-swiller gets a reminder of his own mortality is a classic TV trope – the rest of the plot usually involves his change of life and the attempts by close friends to anchor him back to reality. But Cheers twists the trope a bit, having Norm back out of his ambitious transformation, and then suffer the repercussions of his cowardice. Makes sense that the only other one more pathetic, Cliff, would remind his that he’s just a regular guy, one who couldn’t possibly live up to a Thoreauvian ideal, even if it seems reasonable at the time.
Subplot: Diane challenges Carla to a better waitress contest, and wins. Carla’s ego is crushed, and only recovers when she gets Diane to lie and admit she cheated. Of course, Carla gets everyone at the bar to believe it, leaving Diane to disclaim her statement to everyone at the bar.
Cold open: The aforementioned contest is set up, with a confused Coach volunteering to judge.
Norm’s opener: Not technically his opener, as he doesn’t say anything, but his funniest entrance yet:
Crowd: (as Norm enters white as a ghost) “Norm?”
Sam: “Why don’t you sit down?”
Norm sets on the steps, still pale.