Fawlty Towers/The Psychiatrist

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The Psychiatrist
Season 2, Episode 2
Airdate February 26, 1979
Production Number  
Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth
Directed by Bob Spiers
← 2x01
Communication Problems
2x03 →
Waldorf Salad
Fawlty TowersSeason Two

The Psychiatrist is the second episode of the second season of Fawlty Towers, and the eighth episode overall.

Guest Stars: Nicky Henson (Mr Johnson), Basil Henson (Dr Abbott), Elspet Gray (Mrs Abbott), Ballard Berkeley (Major Gowen), Brian Hall (Terry), Luan Peters (Raylene Miles), Aimee Delamain (Mrs Johnson), Gilly Flower (Miss Tibbs), Renee Roberts (Miss Gatsby), Imogen Bickford-Smith (Girlfriend)


Plot Overview

Basil is annoyed when Sybil flirts with a new guest at the hotel, a single young man named Mr. Johnson. But Basil soon has his own guests to fawn over when a married couple—the Abbotts—check in and identify themselves as doctors. Basil becomes self-conscious, however, when he learns Mr. Dr. Abbott is a psychiatrist. Meanwhile, Raylene Miles, a sexy, busty blonde, checks into the hotel. Basil becomes suspicious Johnson has smuggled a girl into his room after hours against hotel policy, and he sets out trying to prove it, but Sybil believes he is trying to peep in on Raylene. At last, Basil proves to Sybil that Johnson does have a girl in his room: His elderly mother. Utterly embarrassed, Basil has a meltdown in front of Dr. Abbott—who would help, but he's on vacation.


Title Sequence

It is revealed the newspaper boy is the one changing the sign. (See also: Arc Advancement: Referbacks: The newspaper boy.) Also, for the first and only time in the series, the establishing shot of the hotel and the sign used in the title sequence appears later in the episode. The sign reads "WATERY FOWLS."

Arc Advancement



  • Basil and Sybil: When he believes the Abbotts are asking him how often he and Sybil have sex, Basil replies, "two or three times a week." While nothing in the series specifically confirms nor denies this, the fact that they sleep in separate beds (1x03 - The Wedding Party) would seem to indicate this is a lie. In fact, Cleese has confirmed in interviews Basil is lying: "I'm not quite sure when he and Sybil last did it, but it's a very, very long time ago. Somewhere around the Second Punic War, I suspect."
  • Sybil: When Mr. Johnson first mentions his beloved mother, it sets Sybil off on a tangent about her own mother. This is the first reference in the series to Sybil's mother. Sybil describes her as a woman full of "death force," a "worrier" with countless irrational "morbid fears": "Vans, ... rats, doorknobs, birds, heights, open spaces, confined spaces, ... footballs, bicycles, cows, ... men following her ... and death." Sybil also says Basil dislikes her mother and says she fears men following her because she fears they will "vomit on her." In fact, from a conversation in 2x06 - Basil the Rat, Basil seems to dislike Sybil's mother even more than he dislikes Sybil and her invisible friend Audrey.


  • 1x01 - A Touch of Class: In the title sequence, the newspaper boy is revealed as the one who changes the sign outside the hotel to the cheeky anagrams. The newspaper boy was seen briefly in that episode, and he may have motive to want to embarrass Basil beyond childish impudence. In both it and 1x03 - The Wedding Party, Basil complains of the tardiness of the newspapers and threatens to speak with them about it. If Basil treats the newspaper boy's superiors the way he treats everyone else, the newspaper boy likely has good reason to want some small revenge.


The Show

Behind the Scenes

  • Family Connection: Nicky Henson, who plays Mr. Johnson in this episode, is apparently no relation to Basil Henson, who plays Dr. Abbott. Nicky Henson is related, however, to Una Stubbs. The actress who plays Sybil's friend Alice in 2x05 - The Anniversary is Henson's ex-wife.

Allusions and References

  • Basil's Sex Symbols: When Basil is making fun of Mr. Johnson, Sybil claims that he thinks "we girls should be aroused by people like Gladstone and Earl Haig and Baden-Powell." These are three British historical political and military figures:
    • William Gladstone: William Ewart Gladstone was the Prime Minister of Great Britain who served several terms between the years 1868 and 1894. He was a constant thorn in the side of Queen Victoria and a noted political reformer.
    • Earl Haig: Earl Haig was a title awarded to Field Marshal Douglas Haig, the senior commander of the British forces during World War I.
    • Robert Baden-Powell: Robert Baden-Powell was a British soldier who became famous with his book Aids to Scouting, a field manual on military scouting. In the early 20th century, Baden-Powell rewrote the book as a manual for young boys, and the subsequent manual, Scouting for Boys, set off a scouting movement which inspired the founding of Boy Scouts organizations in several countries, including the US and the UK.
  • Margaret Thatcher: Johnson calls a book on the notable sights in Torquay "one of the world's shortest books ... like The Wit of Margaret Thatcher." Margaret Thatcher was a leading British politician and leader of the Conservative Party in 1979, when this episode first aired. On May 4, 1979, just a few months after this episode, she would become Prime Minister. Although Basil does not say so, that the young, sexy Johnson would make fun of the Conservative Thatcher might have further rankled Basil, who seems to have had conservative political leanings. (See also: History.)
  • The Spanish Armada: When Johnson and Dr. Abbott catch Basil trying to burst into Johnson's room to catch him red-handed, Basil blames it on Manuel, saying, "God knows how they ever got an Armada together." The "Armada" refers to the Spanish Armada, of which there were several, but the most famous of which was the one sent to invade England during the Anglo-Spanish War in 1588. The English defeat of the Spanish Armada at the Battle of Gravelines was a humiliating naval blow for Spain—at that time the greatest naval power in Europe—and a major point of pride for Britain for centuries to come.
  • Melody Maker; The Pretenders: Whenever Basil enters his room, Johnson casually reads an issue of Melody Maker to act as if nothing's going on. Melody Maker was one of the UK's most popular weekly music newspapers from its founding in 1926 all the way until its closure in 2000. The issue Johnson has shows the headline "The great Pretenders," referring to The Pretenders, an English rock band fronted by singer-songwriter Chrissie Hynde and featuring guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, bassist Pete Farndon and drummer Martin Chambers. They first hit the charts in January 1979—just before this episode aired—with their single "Stop Your Sobbing," and their self-titled album release of the following year was a smash hit. They are still in existence today, although only Hynde and Chambers are members of the current incarnation.

Memorable Moments

  • Basil becomes self-conscious when he learns Dr. Abbott is a psychiatrist, because he believes psychiatrists are only interested in sex. So when Dr. Abbott asks him, "How often can you and your wife manage it?" it never occurs to Basil that Dr. Abbott might be referring to taking time off for a vacation, which he is. Nervous, Basil answers, "'Bout average." When the Abbotts ask him to define average, he says, "Well, you tell me." When they suggest "a couple of times a year" to "once a year," and Dr. Abbott adds, "my wife didn't see how you can manage it at all," Basil defensively responds, "Well, as you've asked, two or three times a week, actually."
  • When Basil first shows Raylene Miles to her room, he notices the light in her bathroom is out. While he fixes it, Raylene stretches to relax from her long drive. She leans back against the wall where the switch is. At last, Basil is done with the light, but to check it he reaches—without looking—from the bathroom to feel for the switch, instead finding Raylene's ample breast. Sybil enters just then, so the embarrassed Basil tries to explain to her, but Sybil doesn't believe him. Instead, she offers him "one word of advice: If you're going to grope a girl, have the gallantry to stay in the room with her while you're doing it, hmm?"
  • Trying to get a look into Johnson's room so he can prove he has smuggled in a girl, Basil and Manuel set up a ladder so Basil can climb up and look through the window. Their calculations are off, however, and Basil finds himself peeping in on the startled Abbotts, which causes Basil to fall off the ladder. Manuel runs inside for help, telling Sybil, "He try to see in room to see girl. She make him crazy." Sybil assumes the girl making Basil crazy is Raylene, so she marches out the front door to Basil—who is just resetting the ladder—and, without saying a word, slaps him off his feet again.
  • Basil makes another attempt at catching Johnson's illicit girlfriend by hiding in the storage closet near Johnson's door. Inside the closet, he spills a can of black paint and gets it all over his hand. When he hears a sound on the landing, he jumps out and pounces on the prowler, but it is only Raylene. Sybil enters to find a startled Raylene, an embarrassed Basil... and a large black handprint on Raylene's breast.


  • Sybil: Ah, well, you're only single once.
    Basil: Twice can be arranged!
  • Sybil: You never get it right, do you? You're either crawling all over them, licking their boots, or spitting poison at them like some Benzedrine puff adder.
  • Sybil: It's a relatively new profession, psychiatry, isn't it?
    Mrs. Abbott: Well, Freud started about 1880.
    Sybil: Yes, but it's only now we're seeing them on the television.
  • Dr. Abbott: There's enough material there for an entire conference.
  • Sybil: Do you really imagine, even in your wildest dreams, that a girl like this could possibly be interested in an aging, brilliantined stick insect like you?
  • Basil: Shut up!
    Sybil: Oh, you've done it now.
    Basil: No, I haven't, I'm just going to. I'm fed up with you, you rancorous, coiffeured old sow! Why don't you syringe the donuts out of your ear and get some sense into the dormant organ you keep hidden in that rat's maze of yours?


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