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Kirstie Alley's 12 Best Episodes Of Cheers Ranked

The sudden death of Kirstie Alley on December 5, 2022 has left her fans reeling from the unexpected news. Many folks might take this time to celebrate her life and talent with a marathon viewing of her best work. Alley was a naturally charismatic and comedic personality, and those qualities were never showcased better or more frequently than on her six-season run as Rebecca Howe on "Cheers." 

Out of 148 episodes, it's hard to pick her best ones. The classic sitcom is truly a masterpiece of an ensemble comedy, so some of the best "Cheers" episodes overall might only have one or two killer lines from any particular character. Still, we scoured the back half of the series and have come up with a list of the 12 best episodes (plus a few more, in the case of multi-part episodes) to watch right now. Take a break from all your worries and appreciate Kirstie Alley at her finest.

12. Season 11, Episode 24: The Guy Can't Help It

Frustrated with her miserable record with men, Rebecca laments to Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) that her insistence on seeking out rich tycoons always leads to disappointment. What she really needs is a down-to-earth guy with a sexy smile. Enter Don Santry (Tom Berenger), the plumber who has been below the bar working on her — ahem — pipes and overhears the exchange. He flashes what certainly qualifies as a sexy smile, then asks Rebecca out on a date, which she instinctively scoffs at because of his profession. Clearly Rebecca has never seen "Moonstruck," or she would know plumbers make money hand over fist, but nevertheless, Frasier steps in to point out that Don meets all the criteria she said she wanted in a man, and she realizes he's correct.

After some classic Howe hemming and hawing, she finally agrees to go out with Don and instantly falls hard. Up until this point the narrative has followed a standard Rebecca arc, but when Sam (Ted Danson) suggests she slow down her natural headfirst plunge for this guy in favor of Sam "maybe" marrying her in a few years if the "right woman" doesn't come along, Rebecca grows a spine of steel and tells him off but good. It's a major turning point for her, and not a moment too soon, as the next three episodes will make up the series finale.

11. Season 9, Episode 3: Rebecca Redux

Sam doesn't know how to work any of the new '90s technology that comes along during the time he doesn't own the bar anymore, so he calls Rebecca up to help him get, as he says, the "green letters" to show up on the computer, which means (as Rebecca confirms) he hasn't even managed to turn the thing on. She just dashes in for a few minutes on a break from her new job and leaves after 10 minutes. 

Always concerned with appearances, Rebecca tells the bar she's now working in public relations, but what she's really doing is working as a model at the auto show — a job so humiliating and debasing that it totally undermines her attempts to save face. Alley plays enraged just as hilariously as she plays lustful and every extreme emotion in between, but this time we get the added benefit of her doing it dressed as a beauty queen.

10. Season 6, Episode 1: Home Is the Sailor

It's six months after Sam and Diane (Shelley Long) have broken up, and Sam returns to Cheers — after having sold it to buy a boat — looking for a job. The bar has gone through a lot of changes under the new corporate owners, though — most notably, it's now run by new manager Rebecca Howe. She's a sharp contrast to Diane but also seems to fit into the same dynamic with Sam that Diane originally filled on the show. 

Alley is hilarious in the stuffy way the role requires, but the most interesting part of watching the episode now, nearly 35 years after it originally aired, is how much this version of the character differs from what Rebecca evolves into over the course of the show. The Rebecca of Season 6 is much more buttoned up and put together compared to the one who Diane refers to in Part 2 of the 1993 series finale as "the emotional equivalent of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." If you're looking to survey Kirstie Alley's time on the show, this episode (along with the last) is a great way to bookend it.

9. Season 9, Episode 15: The Days of Wine and Neuroses

Rebecca receives a white rose from her incarcerated billionaire boyfriend Robin (Roger Rees), who is getting out of prison in a matter of days. With the rose is a proposal of marriage and Rebecca, of course, is thrilled — this is everything she's ever claimed to want. However, when Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth) throws her a bridal shower, Rebecca gets a little too drunk and has one of her patented emotional breakdowns. Later, when Sam goes to check on Rebecca in her apartment, she's gone from a little bit drunk to a sloppy lush. And Alley is a master at both. 

She perfectly balances excessively tipsy giggles with fragile emotions as likely to burst as the bubbles in her champagne, then adroitly jumps through those hoops in her drunken stupor like an acrobat of acting. She's despondent, confused, sly, raunchy, ridiculous, and morose all in the span of a few short minutes. Plus, her physical comedy is right up there with greats like Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. That dead faint into Sam as the credits roll takes a lot of nerve and a lot of trust, which Alley clearly had in spades, and the way Ted Danson and she both nearly break character and collapse into laughter as she bawdily serenades him with "We've Got Tonight" and an impressive high kick shows just how much her co-stars enjoyed her company.

This was the season Alley won her Emmy, and this episode is a big reason as to why.

8. Season 11, Episodes 16-17: Is There a Doctor in the Howe? and The Bar Manager, the Shrink, his Wife and her Lover

Frasier gets a letter from Lilith asking him to initiate divorce proceedings, and as a show of support, Rebecca decides to throw him a party celebrating his newfound freedom. He is touched by the gesture but as the party winds down and he decides to head home, he's still feeling emotional, and Rebecca decides to drive him. As things tend to go in sitcoms, Frasier and Rebecca wind up making out and, after a long delay caused by the other bar friends stopping by, getting into bed together when Lilith comes home. 

Alley's gift here is as the interloper. She's not the primary focus, and that's okay because she gives all light and shade to her role, transitioning from silly to seductive to sincere with a deftness that belies the skill it requires. Kirstie Alley managed to be just as strong and reliable in a supporting role as in a lead one. Her performances were without ego or self-consciousness, and that characteristic was an asset that served her well her whole career.

7. Season 10, Episode 23: Bar Wars VI: This Time It's for Real

As with all the Bar Wars episodes, this is very much an ensemble piece, and Rebecca is the focus of the B plot in which Redbook magazine offers her a free makeover. Rebecca is played as a send-up of all the stereotypes about women who have tumultuous love lives or indulge a certain amount of vanity and materialism, so the idea of a makeover comes across as the kind of Hollywood fantasy depicted in hundreds of different movies. Even though Rebecca already takes great care with her appearance, she is thrilled with the prospect of leveling up even further, all the while basking in the compliments of the bar patrons who tell her she's already beautiful and sexy (while undercutting the compliments with jokes about her breasts or grating personality). 

As the B story progresses, Rebecca's look gets more and more overdone, with her hair being teased and poofed and put in sexy up-dos and her makeup gets the heavy application necessary for a photo shoot, but it's still undeniably her. The real punchline, then, comes when Rebecca reveals her final look — an image so far beyond her natural style it's a sight to behold. There's no denying she looks beautiful; she just doesn't look like herself.

6. Season 7, Episode 21: Sisterly Love

Before she starred in the most shocking wig reveal in television history, Marcia Cross showed up in "Cheers" as Rebecca's sister Susan. The two have a fiery relationship marred by years of sibling rivalries over the men they dated, and now Sam wants to be the next guy in that club. He plans to pit the two against one another by suggesting to Susan that he's Rebecca's love interest and by "confessing" to Rebecca that Susan came onto him. 

It's a familiar trope in the comedy landscape, but the show manages to turn it on its ear. Not only are Alley and Cross brilliantly petulant and juvenile in the very best of ways as they bring up old feuds, but the subsequent jockeying over the attentions of Sam takes a glorious twist. Ted Danson — with his legendary comedy chops on full display – really raises the bar here in the final act, with both physical work and vocal manipulations that are on frankly on another level.

5. Season 8, Episode 14: What is ... Cliff Clavin?

It's the famous "Jeopardy!" episode featuring trusty mailman Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) running the boards then biting the big one, but what most people don't remember about that episode is the B story. That secondary narrative finds Sam's little black book missing and woman after woman calling to chew him out for not showing up to their dates. In order to smoke out who stole his book, Sam asks Rebecca to agree to meet the thief when he inevitably finds her number in the book and calls her. Kirstie Alley pulls out all the stops here with her bimbo voice on the phone, both mocking the types of women Sam usually goes out with and embodying them so convincingly even Sam is aroused. 

When the budding lothario and book stealer shows up to the bar and turns out to be about 15 years old, Rebecca goes from disgusted to disapproving to flattered when the boy compliments her looks. Over and over throughout the series, Kirstie Alley demonstrates this amazing agility in her acting that is hard to duplicate and impossible to forget.

4. Season 6, Episode 8: Bidding on the Boys

In order to impress her boss, Rebecca organizes a bachelor auction at Cheers in support of a local charity, and while Kirstie Alley doesn't appear at all in the second half of the episode, she dominates the first. As Rebecca is coordinating the pertinent details with Woody (Woody Harrelson), she gets the immense pleasure of assuring Sam she doesn't care one way or another if he's entered as a bachelor and has no intention of asking him to join. Her delivery is both sly and sharp here, as smooth as velvet but as pointed as a spear, and its effect on Sam is visible as he falls over himself in distress at the thought that she thinks him an unworthy bachelor. Not only that, but she doesn't think any woman would bid any amount of money on him. 

It's Rebecca at the top of her game — the apex of her power, and she revels in it. Things falter only briefly when, during the auction, Carla (Rhea Perlman) convinces her that continuing to egg the bid up will lead to serious bidders contributing more money. Since they are very close to breaking their fundraising goal, Rebecca bids and nearly wins a weekend with Sam at great financial and emotional cost before Lilith bails her out. Rebecca's quick plummet from control to despair, followed by her jump for joy and gleeful clapping when disaster is avoided, is just more evidence that Kirstie Alley was a massive talent.

3. Season 6, Episode 24: The Big Kiss-Off

Here we have one-upmanship at its peak as young Woody and legendary Sam both vie for a kiss from Rebecca. Only they have to get it by midnight, plus there's money and humiliation involved. Yes, that's right — it's another Cheers bet, this time between the two bartenders as to who can kiss Rebecca first. They resort to ridiculous, obvious ploys that Rebecca immediately identifies as suspect, and then the show really revs into high gear. 

Rebecca tells Sam she knows about the bet and wants him to win, then arranges for him to come into her office under the pretense of waking her up from a nap to get his so-called spontaneous kiss. Sam goes off to gloat and get ready, while Rebecca says something very similar to Woody. Surprise, surprise, she manages to use this advantage to her own ends which, aside from the questionable hilarity of a gay panic joke, is incredibly satisfying. 

For whatever Rebecca is, however she prostrates herself at the altar of inappropriate men or impossible situations, she is never a doormat. She is never without her own agency and purpose, and it's a ton of fun to watch.

2. Season 10, Episodes 25-26: An Old-Fashioned Wedding

It's the wedding day of Woody and Kelly (Jackie Swanson). The Cheers team is providing the bar service in addition to being guests at Kelly's giant mansion for the ceremony and reception. There's only one problem — Carla's gift of an astrological chart for the couple predicts that disaster is afoot. No one believes this, of course, but things are falling apart left and right. 

For Rebecca's part, she wreaks havoc on the catering staff by swiping food, arguing with the chef, and eating the head off the little cookie groom cake topper. When she objects to getting kicked out of the kitchen, the caterer's entire staff leaves instead. The team rallies to take up the slack, but Rebecca's tasks are icing the cake and sewing a button — neither of which she can do. Alley gets to employ her whiniest caricature of Rebecca here, and she's phenomenal at it. 

Beyond that, the entire two-parter is a masterfully choreographed whirlwind of activity that the whole gang gets in on — in one door and out the other — while never moving the camera from the kitchen. It's ensemble acting at its very best, every player giving 110% and the whole adding up to so much more than the sum of its parts.

1. Season 11, Episodes 26-28: One for the Road

In 1993, over 93 million people watched "Cheers" end its 11-season run. It was truly one for the ages, and while most of the focus was on Sam and Diane, not to mention that closing line, it's a satisfying end to Rebecca's story as well. 

In Part 1, Don proposes to Rebecca just as she wanted, only she can't say yes. Try as she might, there's some sort of mental block still preventing her from accepting, and Kirstie Alley hilariously plays up her horrified despair by making Don pop the question over and over and over again. He runs off, convinced her lack of affection is obvious. From that point on, Rebecca is a blubbering, farcical mess. When Diane shows up at the bar unexpectedly, Sam panics and asks Rebecca to pose as his wife, a request she has no problem agreeing to, which sends her even further over the edge. 

In the uproarious denouement, Rebecca is miserably trying to sell this charade amid squeaky tears and nonsense, when Don strides in and declares his love and intentions in front of everyone. He again asks Rebecca to marry him and this time, to her great delight, she is able to accept. They kiss and run off with Rebecca literally carried over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. And she couldn't be happier. It's a fantastic end fit for a fantastic character brought to life by a fantastic actress. Kirstie Alley will be greatly missed.