Fawlty Towers/Gourmet Night

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Gourmet Night
Right! Well! This is it! I'm gonna give you a damn good thrashing!
Season 1, Episode 5
Airdate October 17, 1975
Production Number
Written by John Cleese &
Connie Booth
Directed by John Howard Davies
← 1x04
Hotel Inspectors
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The Germans
Fawlty TowersSeason One

Gourmet Night is the fifth episode of the first season of Fawlty Towers, and the fifth episode overall.

Guest Stars: Andre Maranne (Andre), Steve Plytas (Kurt), Allan Cuthbertson (Colonel Hall), Ann Way (Mrs Hall), Richard Caldicot (Mr Twitchen), Betty Huntley-Wright (Mrs Twitchen), Ballard Berkeley (Major Gowen), Gilly Flower (Miss Tibbs), Renee Roberts (Miss Gatsby), Jeffrey Segal (Mr. Heath), Elizabeth Benson (Mrs. Heath), Tony Page (Master Heath)


Plot Overview

Basil is having car trouble, but he chooses to try to fix it himself rather than spend money at a garage. Manuel calls him in for a phone call, although Sybil is there to take it. The call is from the Fawltys' gourmet restaurateur friend Andre, who has recommended a new chef, Kurt, with whom the Fawltys are very pleased. Polly arrives with a bottle of wine to celebrate her having sold her first sketch—a portrait of Manuel she has sold to Kurt, who is very fond of the waiter but refuses to drink the wine. Basil dislikes the sketch, so Sybil offers to buy another one.

The Fawltys invite Andre to Fawlty Towers to discuss their plans for a gourmet night, and Andre is behind the idea. Basil excuses himself to serve the Heaths, a family of guests. Master Heath is spoiled and complains about the chips, the eggs and the mayonnaise, but Mrs. Heath babies her son and scolds his emasculated father. Meanwhile, Andre pulls Kurt aside and implores him to be on his best behavior.

On gourmet night, Basil is excited to welcome the high society guests, so he fusses over the silverware, the menus and the cancellations. Sybil scolds him for saying "No riff-raff" in the advertisments. As the first guests—Col. and Mrs. Hall—arrive, Manuel tries to complain about Kurt, but Basil shoos him away. Col. Hall is a tall, stuffy Englishman with a nervous twitch in his neck, and Mrs. Hall is a very petite woman. The nervous Basil over-talks to Col. Hall, unwittingly mentions the couple's deceased daughter and even forgets his own name. As the second couple—the Twitchens—arrive, Polly tries to tell Basil discreetly Kurt is drunk, but Basil does not understand her and shoos her away. He ushers the Twitchens into the lounge, but he has forgotten their names, so he babbles and pretends to faint to cover his error.

Polly at last pulls Basil aside and tells him the situation with Kurt, who has an unrequited crush on Manuel. Basil confronts Kurt, who wrestles with him and then passes out. Polly suggests Basil call Andre to do the cooking, but Andre is at his own restaurant and only has time to make duck. Basil prints out a new, duck-only menu and gives it to the guests.

The Fawltys and their staff try to serve the appetizers, but Basil and Manuel keep switching around the Halls' orders until at last the Halls stand up and trade seats. Mrs. Hall is disgusted when she finds her mullet is raw. Basil tries to ask Kurt how to cook mullet, but the trashed chef vomits on the plate. As Sybil prepares a fresh mullet, Manuel serves wine to buy time for Basil to drive to Andre's and pick up the duck. As he returns, Basil runs into the kitchen door and drops the duck on the floor. Before he can pick it up, Manuel enters the kitchen and steps on it, ruining the main course.

Basil heads back to Andre's for another duck, but when he's there, he grabs the wrong covered dish in the kitchen. Meanwhile, Polly and Manuel entertain the hungry guests with music, and Sybil tells them stories. Basil's car breaks down on the way back to Fawlty Towers, and after he beats it with a tree branch, Basil goes the rest of the way on foot.

At last, Basil wheels the main course into the dining room and uncovers it with a flourish, only to find a trifle. Basil tears the trifle apart with his hands, trying to find the duck, but when he realizes there is none to be found, he offers his guests the trifle. Col. Hall asks where the duck is, and Basil replies, "Duck's off, sorry."


The Sign

"WARTY TOWELS." This is the first time (and the only time this season) the letters of the sign are rearranged into a cheeky anagram.

Alternate Titles

This episode was entitled "Gourmet's Paradise" in the original TV listings and "Gourmet Night" in the 1980s VHS release and all subsequent releases. See 1x03 - The Wedding Party for an explanation of the alternate titles. (See also: 2x01 - Communication Problems, 2x03 - Waldorf Salad, 2x04 - The Kipper and the Corpse and 2x06 - Basil the Rat.)

Arc Advancement



  • Basil and Polly: Basil describes Polly's sketch of Manuel as "very modern, very Socialist." This not only reinforces Basil's political and social conservativism, it also underscores his dismissal of Polly's artistic ability, although he brags about it to others. (See also: History.)


  • 1x01 - A Touch of Class: Polly sells two sketches. Her artistic ability was first referenced in that episode. Later, Basil puts "No riff-raff" in the advertisement for the gourmet night. "Riff raff" is Basil's name for the lower class, which he first used there.
  • 1x02 - The Builders: Only Basil is unable to recognize Polly's sketch as being of Manuel. Earlier, she made a sketch which only Basil was unable to recognize as a portrait of himself.


The Show

Behind the Scenes

  • Same Actor, Different Characters: Elizabeth Benson plays Mrs. Heath, the mother of the spoiled young guest Master Heath. Benson would return in the episode 2x04 - The Kipper and the Corpse as Mrs. White, another guest at the hotel.
  • The Right Branch: Cleese claimed the car beating scene had to be filmed several times, as they had to work to find a tree branch that was just the right level of rigidity to make the scene funny.
  • Merchandising: In 2000, Corgi Toys released a model of Basil, his Austin 1300 Estate, and the branch with which Basil gives the car its "damn good thrashing."

Allusions and References

  • Vincent Van Gogh: Nineteenth century Dutch expressionist painter. He famously sold only two paintings before his suicide at the age of 37, but after his death, his stature quickly rose. He is now considered one of the great masters of art history—in the minds of some, second only to Leonardo da Vinci as the greatest of all time. His paintings have set records for highest prices paid at auctions.
Polly: Two in a day. That's as many as Van Gogh sold in a lifetime.
  • Robert Carrier: An American chef who became famous in Europe for his restaurants, cooking shows and cookbooks.
Basil: Well, the, ah, the chef usually buys it only on special occasions, you know, gourmet nights and so on, but, um, when he's got a bottle, ah! He's a genius with it! He can unscrew the cap like Robert Carrier.
  • The Pulitzer Prize: A highly sought-after American award for journalism, named for the 19th century newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer.
Basil: Mind you, he's a wizard with the tin opener, too. He's got a Pulitzer Prize for that.
  • Henry Kissinger: The American statesman who was serving as the U.S. Secretary of State in 1975. He is most famous for helping President Richard Nixon open China and for encouraging Nixon to pursue the North Vietnamese into Cambodia in a highly controversial bombing campaign.
Basil: Still, I'll tell him to get some salad cream. I mean, you never know when Henry Kissinger is going to drop in, do you?
  • Fly in My Soup Joke: An old joke in which a diner finds a fly in his soup and complains to the waiter, who responds, "Don't speak too loudly. Everyone will want one."
Colonel Hall: There's a hair in my mousse.
Polly: Well, don't talk too loud.
Everybody will want one.
  • "I Cain't Say No": The song Polly sings to entertain the guests and distract them while Basil fetches their duck is "I Cain't Say No" by composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, from their Broadway smash hit musical Oklahoma!

Memorable Moments

  • When Basil's car breaks down on his way back to his gourmet night, it sets off one of his most memorable meltdowns. "Start, you vicious bastard!" he screams at his car. He then warns the car he is counting to three, and when it still doesn't start, he leaps out and shouts, "You stalled just once too often!... I've laid it on the line to you time and time again!... I'm gonna give you a damn good thrashing!" Basil runs off-screen and returns with a tree branch, which he smacks against the hood and windshield of the car in a fury.


  • Basil: This Basil's wife. This Basil. This smack on head.
  • Sybil: Are you going to do the car?
    Basil: In a moment, my little piranha fish.
  • Master Heath: That's puke, that is.
    Basil: Well, at least it's fresh puke.
  • Polly: He's potted... the shrimps.
    Basil: Shrimps? We're not having shrimps tonight, Polly. Now, ah, would you care...?
    Polly: He's soused!... The herrings.
    Basil: What are you on about?
    Polly: He's pickled... the onions, and he's smashed... the eggs in his cups... under the table!
  • Colonel Hall: And what do you do if you don't like duck?
    Basil: Ah, well, if you don't like duck, ah, you're rather stuck.