Fawlty Towers/The Anniversary

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The Anniversary
Season 2, Episode 5
Airdate March 26, 1979
Production Number  
Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth
Directed by Bob Spiers
← 2x04
The Kipper and the Corpse
2x06 →
Basil the Rat
Fawlty TowersSeason Two

The Anniversary is the fifth episode of the second season of Fawlty Towers, and the eleventh episode overall.

Guest Stars: Ken Campbell (Roger), Una Stubbs (Alice), Robert Arnold (Arthur), Pat Keen (Virginia), Roger Hume (Reg), Denyse Alexander (Kitty), Christine Shaw (Audrey), Ballard Berkeley (Major Gowen), Gilly Flower (Miss Tibbs), Renee Roberts (Miss Gatsby), Brian Hall (Terry)


Plot Overview

On Basil and Sybil's 15th anniversary, Sybil is angry because she thinks Basil has forgotten. In fact, he has planned a surprise party for her, but he prefers to torture her. Meanwhile, Manuel is preparing a paella for the party, but Terry objects. Angry and hurt, Sybil leaves just before the first guests arrive. To cover, Basil claims she is ill and can't come down. The guests begin to suspect something is amiss, so Basil bribes Polly to pose as Sybil in a dark room. After the visit, Sybil enters with all her friends standing in the lobby. Basil introduces himself to her, claims she is another woman who looks just like Sybil and hides her in the kitchen, where Terry and Manuel are rolling on the floor fighting over the paella. Basil says good-bye to his guests and heads off for the "hard part"—making peace with Sybil.


Title Sequence

The sign reads, "FLOWERY TWATS."


  • It is repeatedly stated that this is Basil and Sybil's 15th anniversary. In addition, Sybil asks Basil if he knows the significance of today's date, "the 17th of April." This is the only specific date referenced in the series, and the only date from which any sort of timeline can be drawn.

Arc Advancement




  • 1x02 - The Builders: While arguing with Alice as to whether or not it would be all right for her to head upstairs to see Sybil, Basil grasps his leg, moans and says, "Old leg, bit of a gyp." The pain in Basil's leg was first used as an excuse in that episode. It also saw the first reference to Sybil's friend Audrey. When Sybil cries in her car after she believes Basil has rejected her, a friend in the passenger seat comforts her. In the credits, this friend is identified as Audrey. This is her first and only on-screen appearance. It seems strange that Basil would not invite Audrey to his anniversary party, but as it has been established that Basil does not like Audrey, he may have intentionally snubbed her.


The Show

Behind the Scenes

  • Family Connection: Actress Una Stubbs, who plays Alice, Basil and Sybil's sweetest friend and girlfriend of the insufferable Roger, was formerly married to Nicky Henson, who played Mr. Johnson in the episode 2x02 - The Psychiatrist.

Allusions and References

  • "Ode to Joy": On Basil's first entrance, he is humming a song. He asks Polly, "Do you know what poem that's based on? ... 'Ode to Joy.'" The music is from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, a late 18th and early 19th century German Romantic composer. The lyrics to that movement in the symphony were indeed taken from the poem "Ode to Joy," by the late 18th century German poet Friedrich Schiller.
  • Events Not on April 17th: When Sybil asks Basil if he knows the significance of today's date, he runs through several options of what it might be. They are:
    • The Battle of Agincourt: The Battle of Agincourt (October 25, 1415) was a key battle in the Hundred Years' War between England and France, and a decisive victory for the English. Popular mythology states that the English were greatly outnumbered but achieved victory through their use of new technology—the longbow. The battle is a point of patriotic pride for the English and was immortalized in Shakespeare's Henry V.
    • Trafalgar: The Battle of Trafalgar (October 21, 1805) in the War of the Third Coalition between Britain and France was a key battle in establishing Britain's naval supremacy. Napoleon Bonaparte had previously assembled a French and Spanish fleet to invade Great Britain. The British met them in Cape Trafalgar off the coast of Spain and sunk two thirds of the enemy fleet but did not lose a single ship of their own.
    • Crécy: The Battle of Crécy (August 26, 1346) was another battle of the Hundred Years' War and another crucial English victory. At Crécy, the English were outnumbered, and their superior technology did play a key role in their victory.
    • Poitiers: The Battle of Poitiers (August 8, 1356) is the third of the three key English victories over France in the Hundred Years' War.
    • Yom Kippur: Not a battle, but a religious holiday, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement for the Jewish faith, considered the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated by fasting and offering sacrifices. It falls on the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishri, which usually places it in late September to early October in the Gregorian calendar.
  • The Marx Brothers: While Polly is objecting to dressing up as Sybil, she tells Basil, "You want to be in a Marx Brothers film, that's your problem!" The American Marx Brothers—Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo and Gummo—were actual brothers who formed a comedy troupe which was highly popular through the 1930s and 40s. Their films were characterized by a unique combination of slapstick, puns and other language games, wacky schemes and firmly defined characters, which made them the most enduringly popular comedies of their era. It is not difficult to find some Marx Brothers influence on Fawlty Towers.
  • Oscar Wilde: Basil to Roger: "You read a lot of Oscar Wilde, do you, Rog?" Oscar Wilde was a 19th century Irish playwright, poet and author known for his clever one-liners. Roger's wife had just commented on the wallpaper: "Nice paper, Basil". Basil replies "We bought it to go with the carpet" to which Roger quips "well one of them'll have to go; my money's on the carpet". (Just before he died Oscar Wilde quipped about the shabby wallpaper in his room: "One of us had to go.")

Memorable Moments


  • Basil: No problem! Suits me. Good idea! I'll just, ah, pop upstairs and ask her to stop dying, and then you can all come up and identify her!
  • Basil: I'll ruin you! You'll never waitress in Torquay again.
    Polly: Waitress? That's a joke! I help out at reception, I clean the rooms, I deal with the tradesmen, I man the switchboard, I change the fuses, and if you think my duties now include impersonating members of your family, you have got one more screw loose than I thought!


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