Retro Recaps: Cheers (Season 10, Episode 8) – Where have all the Floorboards Gone?
Retro Recaps is where we will look back at old television episodes from the past, and analyze their story, content, and much more.
Throughout the last few years, I found myself being drawn to the television show Cheers, when all 11 seasons ended up on Netflix.
I was slightly aware of the series growing up, being as how the gang in the Boston bar found themselves associated with two Disney television specials. However, in the Spring of 1993, I found myself drawn into the nationwide countdown, as the final 5 episodes played out on NBC.
Looking back on it now, it’s become a source of comfort, seeing the bar patrons who are a group of ‘lovable losers,’ trying to ‘make their way in the world.’
Some of the episodes have definitely stuck with me, and seeing as how I just had a Birthday recently, I thought I’d recap one of the more memorable episodes to me, that also includes a Birthday in it. And so, here’s my Retro Recap on: “Where have all the Floorboards Gone.”
The episode starts out with a subplot that will weave throughout the evening’s main storyline. Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) is planning to get made over for her new security badge picture for work, when Carla (Rhea Perlman) suggests that she have her hair changed as well.
Lilith then asks Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), who is stuck in a quandary: if he says ‘yes,’ Lilith may take offense. If he says ‘no,’ she may also take offense. After attempting to skirt around a definite answer, and to which Lilith keeps asking for explanations to his rather cryptic responses, Frasier turns tail and rushes for the door!
The main plot of the show then rears its head, when Norm Peterson (George Wendt) enters the bar.
“What’s going on, Normie?” asks Sam Malone (Ted Danson).
“It’s my birthday, Sammy,” replies Norm. “Give me a beer, stick a candle in it, and I’ll blow out my liver.”
Though Norm claims he wants the day to just go on like any other, his fellow bar friends pitch in and get him a free beer. However, the big shock is the one Sam reveals:
Boston Celtics player, Kevin McHale (as himself!), who has come to hand-deliver Norm a Celtics Team Jacket! Needless to say, Norm is shocked and surprised at the gesture.
“What a Birthday, huh?” says Norm, taking stock of his gifts. “A free beer. A Celtics jacket from Kevin McHale, and Sammy wiping out my bar tab!”
Needless to say, that last wish doesn’t hold with Sam, who draws the line.
“Well, Happy Birthday to me,” replies Norm, mockingly.
The presents keep coming, when Cliff Claven (John Ratzenberger), explains to Norm about all the information he uncovered about Birthdays…but has decided to not tell Norm about it. And let’s face it: a gift where Cliff doesn’t shoot off his mouth about stuff, is one to be thankful for.
Talk then turns to The Boston Gardens, where Cliff claims that the garden’s floor, is held down by 2,860 bolts.
This then leads Norm to counter the claim, saying a member of the Bull Gang (aka the crew that works the floor), told him it’s 2,880 bolts.
The question soon leads to a small row, with Sam figuring Kevin would know. However, Kevin claims he has no idea himself, but as he begins to ponder, Carla pleads with Kevin to put it out of his head, lest the lure of bar trivia corrupt him like the regulars at the bar.
Kevin quickly takes her advice, and rushes out to prepare for the evening’s basketball game.
Some time later, Frasier returns to the bar, as well as Lilith, who is eager to show Frasier what she has done to her hair.
After a few moments, the look of the frizzy permanent causes Frasier to burst out in gales of laughter, prompting Lilith to rush out with hurt feelings.
Meanwhile, the rest of the bar is watching the Celtics game, but note that Kevin is not playing like he normally does. Some note that Kevin seems preoccupied by something, and when a post-game interview comes up, McHale is unable to answer questions…and is instead seen counting something on the floor (most likely the bolts!).
Needless to say, Carla angrily decries the others for turning Kevin into “one of them,” to which the guys can only reply with a chant of, “Ke-vin! Ke-vin! Ke-vin!”
Lilith soon is seen in the bar a little later, after continually being subjected to Frasier laughing at her new hairstyle (“he laughed so hard at dinner, cappuccino ran out his nose”). She asks Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) if the new hairstyle looks ridiculous. Calmly, Rebecca claims it is fine, and Lilith leaves the bar feeling better.
Carla is surprised that Rebecca can stay so calm, when Rebecca reveals her secret:
A few hours later, Kevin calls Sam at the bar, claiming he still can’t get the bolts question out of his mind! Sam tries to tell Kevin to try and forget about the question, but some time after, Kevin shows up at the bar with some blueprints for the Boston Gardens, determined to find the answer.
However, two things deter him: 1) the plans are for the new Boston Gardens they are building, and 2) Kevin’s wife has shown up demanding he come home!
Carla takes the opportunity to again chastise the group, with Sam countering that it’s just Kevin getting a little carried away.
“Yeah sure, Sam,” replies Carla. “Today it’s ‘how many bolts are in the floor.’ Tomorrow they’ll have him on to, ‘if The Brady Bunch crashes in the Andes, who’s gonna eat who first?’
And like flies to honey, Carla’s question soon draws answers.
“Well they’d probably eat the maid, cuz she ain’t kin,” responds Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson).
“Yeah but if they’re smart, they’ll ask her first how she should prepare herself,” adds Cliff.
Sam then decides to do something. Using Cliff’s trusty Swiss army knife, Sam, Cliff, Norm, and Woody break into The Boston Gardens, determined to settle the question once and for all.
However, once in the center of their ‘sacred’ place, the group is in awe of the surroundings. Woody even inquires how they can play hockey in the Gardens, to which Cliff encourages him to pry up the floor boards with his Swiss army knife. They find plywood instead of ice underneath, but the sound of approaching footsteps causes the group to head for the doors, but not before Norm remarks on the day’s events, claiming he’s ‘never had a more perfect day’ (even getting chased out by security in The Boston Gardens is exciting to him!).
The next day, Frasier asks Lilith to meet him at Cheers, to which he apologizes for laughing at her, and claims that he is willing to love her no matter what she does to her hair.
Lilith embraces Frasier for understanding…
…though the audience soon realizes that he’s not being totally truthful (thanks to a little help from Rebecca).
Meanwhile, Kevin is playing another game with the Celtics. Watching the game on TV, the Cheers gang notes that he’s playing better, and Sam lets slip that he made up a number about how many bolts were in the floor. Though not correct, it seems to have done the trick in calming Kevin down.
It is then that Woody tells Sam and the guys, that he never did replace the bolts from the piece of floor he pried up. The others assume that the guys who check the floor before the game found the missing bolts and replaced them…but are all shocked when ‘a piece of the floor’ comes up, knocking Kevin off his feet for the rest of the game!
Later on that evening, the guys visit Kevin in the locker room, and explain what they were up to the previous night. Kevin is a little perturbed at them, but claims that it’s fine since they figured out how many bolts were in the floor…leading to Sam confessing that they still don’t know.
“But it’s okay,” responds Sam. “You still played a great game tonight.”
“Yeah, but what about tomorrow’s game?” asks Kevin, the question returning to eat away at his mind.
The final shot of the episode, shows the guys (along with Kevin), down on the floor of the Gardens, with Norm using an adding machine to keep track of how many bolts they’ve counted.
This episode I’d consider a bit of a throwaway episode. It’s a little ‘slice of life’ piece regarding the regulars at Cheers, but I find it a fun source of comfort and enjoyment when I’m looking for something to wile away the time.
It’s also a fun episode with the inclusion of Kevin McHale, who has appeared before on the show. Though not a great thespian, Kevin could definitely get down the comedy beats when necessary. As well, the showrunners even got his actual wife to be in the episode! Show writer Ken Levine even spoke on his blog about Kevin’s appearances. Apparently, Kevin’s placement in this episode came to mind, when the writer’s remembered how well he did in the Season 9 episode, Cheers Fouls Out.
The main piece about bar trivia is a little true in some respects. I’ve had some questions haunt my mind, and not let up until i’ve found an answer. However, it’s never taken ahold as strongly as it does to Kevin in this episode.
On a whim, I have looked around online, but it seems noone ever did figure out how many bolts were in the floor of the Gardens. It’s something we’ll probably never know now, as the facility was leveled in the 90’s, with the bulk of Boston’s sports moved to the TD Garden.
This episode also serves as one of the few where some of the cast actually went to the actual location in Boston. This was not uncommon for some of them to film small bits outside of the actual bar’s location in Boston, but to go inside the Gardens must have been quite a time.
Also adding to the history of just how long Norm has been a patron at Cheers, is when he bring s basketball from his car into the Gardens, only to find the ball has gone flat when he tries to dribble it. When the others ask how long he’s had it, he claims when he went to the gym next door to Cheers. When the other claim no knowledge of this, Norm explains that the gym became a bookstore. This draws further blanks, leading him to tell that the bookstore closed and a bank went in its place. Sam recalls that he’s always known a bank in that location, leading Norm to casually go, “well, there ya go!”
The sub-story regarding Lilith’s new hairdo, is a little blase, but doesn’t detract too much from the A-story regarding Kevin and the bolts. It’s a given that almost every Cheers episode has two stories interweaving through an episode, and oftentimes, its easy to tell the weaker of the two.
Oh, and for those of you who are too young to know, the title of the episode, is a take on the song, Where Have All The Flowers Gone, written by Pete Seeger.
I will admit, the scene where Norm marvels at being on the floor of the gardens, reminded me of a trip I took to PIXAR Animation Studios in December of 2011 (which I dubbed “an early 32nd Birthday present to myself”). I remember standing in the center of their facility’s main atrium, and marveling at how I was standing in a place I had always seen on animated specials or DVD extras! And just like Norm claiming he had a ‘perfect day’ on his Birthday, that day I visited PIXAR gave me the same great feeling deep inside.
There have been quite a few Cheers episodes that have stuck with me over the course of watching all 11 seasons, and I hope to do some more Retro Recaps on them in the future. A lot of them are a little corny with the comedy, but after a long day and looking for something to unwind to, sometimes corny humor works best.