A strange man is sitting at Cheers, watching, taking notes, and looking verrry suspicious. It doesn’t take long for paranoia to spread, rendering everyone at the bar a distrustful, finger-pointing bundle of insecurity. Sam finally asks the man his business; he turns out to be psychology student and friend of Diane, who was conducting an experiment, and not faces a possible come-uppance from her not-particularly-amused co-workers. Now its Diane’s turn to be paranoid, thinking any little thing could be a retaliatory practical joke. She thinks she’s found it – in the form of a TV crew who wants her to recite personal poetry – and so she mocks the request by cackling like a chicken. It turns out to be real – she’s now on TV with her poultry performance, and she’s not sure which hurts more: making a spectacle of herself or not getting payback, and thus, being an outsider. Her fears are allayed when she steps into Sam’s office, and triggers a pail of water to be dumped on her head.
Funny episode owes a dept to the classic M*A*S*H “The Joker Is Wild” episode in which Hawkeye makes a bet that he can’t be “got” by B.J. within 24 hours, and his paranoia becomes worse than any joke he could have played on him. It’s one of those episodes that has two different stories as acts, but ultimately they fit well together. Classic trope turned on its ear a bit, Cheers-style.
Cold open: Sluggish Carla gets a second wind when Sam plays “Shout” on the jukebox.