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Fawlty Towers/The Kipper and the Corpse
The Kipper and the Corpse is the fourth episode of the second season of Fawlty Towers, and the tenth episode overall.
Guest Stars: Geoffrey Palmer (Dr Price), Mavis Pugh (Mrs Chase), Richard Davies (Mr White), Elizabeth Benson (Mrs White), Ballard Berkeley (Major Gowen), Gilly Flower (Miss Tibbs), Renee Roberts (Miss Gatsby), Brian Hall (Terry), Derek Royle (Mr Leeman), Robert McBain (Mr Xerxes), Pamela Buchner (Miss Young), Raymond Mason (Mr Zebedee), Charles McKeown (Mr Ingrams), Len Marten (Guest)
Mr. Leeman, a guest at the hotel, is not feeling well, so he orders breakfast in bed. The next morning, Basil worries that the kippers he is serving Leeman are expired, but he serves them, anyway, not noticing Leeman is already dead. When he finds out, he at first assumes the kippers are the cause and tries to hide the evidence, but another guest at the hotel, Dr. Price, assures him this is not the case. Basil's next priority becomes hiding the body from the other guests until the coroner arrives, although this proves difficult. As Sybil breaks the news to Leeman's business associates, Basil and Manuel scramble from room to room with Leeman's heavy body, often trying to stuff it in the laundry. At last, the guests demand answers for the strange goings-on that morning, and Basil refers them to Sybil while he himself slips away in the laundry.
The sign reads, "FATTY OWLS."
This episode was entitled "Death" in the original TV listings and "The Kipper and the Corpse" in the 1980s VHS release and all subsequent sources. See 1x03 - The Wedding Party for an explanation of the alternate titles. (See also: 1x05 - Gourmet Night, 2x01 - Communication Problems, 2x03 - Waldorf Salad and 2x06 - Basil the Rat.)
- 1x03 - The Wedding Party: Exhausted from carting Mr. Leeman's body all over the hotel, Manuel climbs inside the laundry basket to hide and relax. This is not the waiter's first time inside that basket. He had previously been stuffed in there to sleep off his hangover in that episode.
- XYZ: Mr. Leeman's three friends and business associates in this episode are named Mr. Xerxes, Miss Young and Mr. Zebedee—or Mr. X, Miss Y and Mr. Z.
Behind the Scenes
- Same Actor, Different Roles: In this episode, Elizabeth Benson plays Mrs. White, the woman in the married couple in whose room Basil first tries to hide the body and the fainted Miss Tibbs. Benson previously appeared in 1x05 - Gourmet Night as another guest, Mrs. Heath, the mother of a very spoiled young boy.
- Andrew Leeman: This episode was inspired by a conversation John Cleese had with his friend Andrew Leeman, who worked at the Savoy Hotel. When Cleese asked Leeman what the biggest problem he had was, Leeman replied the biggest problem was with guests dying in their sleep and him having to hide the body without upsetting the other guests. As a tip of the hat for Leeman's assistance, Cleese named Basil's "biggest problem" after him.
- Richard Ingrams: During the first season, Cleese's old acquaintance and fellow comedy writer Richard Ingrams panned the series in a review he wrote for the magazine Private Eye. With this episode, Cleese had his revenge. As Basil and Manuel run from room to room trying to find somewhere to store Mr. Leeman's body, they enter one room where a guest is blowing up an inflatable sex doll. That guest's name is "Mr. Ingrams."
- Alternate Ending: In the original script, Cleese and Booth had conceived a different ending to this episode. After Basil finally gets rid of Mr. Leeman's body, Mr. Leeman's twin brother enters, and Basil is shocked to see the living version of the dead man who has "haunted" him all day. Rather than being polite, however, Basil is his typical rude self. Cleese claims they decided not to do that ending because there was "absolutely no way" to handle having Basil reveal to the other Mr. Leeman that his brother is dead.
Allusions and References
- "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning": In his tirade in defense of himself for not noticing Mr. Leeman was dead, Basil says, "If the guest isn't singing, 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,' I don't immediately think, 'Oh, there's another one snuffed it in the night!'" "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" is a song from the broadway musical Oklahoma! by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
- Guest Mrs. Chase spoils her small dog, even feeding him at the table of the hotel. When Manuel tries to serve her dog a bowl of milk at breakfast, the dog bites him. Polly, too, is bitten when she tries to cut up the dog's breakfast sausages into bite-sized pieces. Back in the kitchen, Polly cuts up the sausage and plots her revenge. She smothers the sausage in pepper and Tabasco sauce, thus ensuring the dog will become very, very ill.
- Basil and Manuel have been schlepping Mr. Leeman's body all over the hotel. This has been hard enough for Basil, but it is nearly impossible for the much smaller Manuel, who is at last at the very end of his endurance. Basil tells Manuel to help him lift Leeman's body into the laundry basket, but Manuel, on his knees, pants, "I can't lift it. ... No, too difficult, too tired." As Basil implores him, Manuel takes one of the rare chances to stand up for himself. "Mr. Fawlty," he says, "I no want to work here anymore!" Basil demands that he open the basket, so Manuel does, and he crawls inside it himself. "I quit!" he announces. "I on strike! ... I stay here, is nice!" And inside the basket he goes.
- Basil: Are you listening? Hello... hello, can anybody hear me? Have I ceased to exist? Have I suddenly become invisible? Sybil! Sybil! Sybil, can you see me?
Basil: Oh, good, well, I'll go and lie down then. No, I won't. I'll go and hit some guests.
- Dr. Price: Do you mean to tell me you didn't realize this man was dead?
Basil: Well, people don't talk that much in the morning! Look, I'm just delivering a tray, right? If the guest isn't singing, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning", I don't immediately think, "Oh, there's another one snuffed it in the night, another name in the Fawlty Towers Book of Rememberance!" I mean, this is a hotel, not a Burma railway!
Basil: Well, I mean, it does actually say "hotel" outside! I mean, perhaps I should be more specific: "Hotel for people who have a better than 50% chance of making it through the night!"
- Miss Gatsby: You're very cheerful this morning, Mr. Fawlty.
Basil: Yes, well, one of the guests has just died.
- Basil: Oh, spiffing! Absolutely spiffing! Well done. Two dead, 25 to go!
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