Fawlty Towers/The Wedding Party

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The Wedding Party
Basil and Sybil in bed
Season 1, Episode 3
Airdate October 3, 1975
Production Number
Written by John Cleese &
Connie Booth
Directed by John Howard Davies
← 1x02
The Builders
1x04 →
Hotel Inspectors
Fawlty TowersSeason One

The Wedding Party is the third episode in the first season of Fawlty Towers, and the third episode overall.

Guest Stars: Ballard Berkeley (Major Gowen), Yvonne Gilan (Mrs Peignoir), Conrad Phillips (Mr Lloyd), Diana King (Mrs Lloyd), Trevor Adams (Alan), April Walker (Jean), Gilly Flower (Miss Tibbs), Renee Roberts (Miss Gatsby), Jay Neill (Bar Guest)


Plot Overview

At cocktail hour, as Sybil flirts with a Bar Guest, Mrs. Pegnoir, a French antiques dealer, flirts with Basil. Manuel has the night off, as it is his birthday. Polly arrives with her boyfriend, and Basil catches them making out in the lobby and scolds Polly. He takes a call from Sybil's friend Audrey, whose boyfriend George has left her again. A young couple, Alan and Jean, check in, but when Basil learns they are not married, he refuses to give them a double or two adjacent singles. Sybil intercedes and gives Alan and Jean a double.

Basil skulks off to the office to eavesdrop, but he is interrupted by Manuel, who tries to thank Basil for his birthday gift, a black umbrella. Basil is not interested in Manuel's thanks and abuses the poor waiter. Alan and Jean run into Polly, whom they recognize as an old friend. Alan has forgotten batteries for his razor and asks Basil for the nearest chemist. The question stirs Basil's moral outrage, and he is more disgusted when Alan says he wants batteries. When Alan reveals he wants the batteries for his razor, a humbled Basil offers to send batteries up to Alan's room.

Later, Basil and Sybil are reading before bed, but Sybil gets a call from Audrey. There is a ring at the front door, so Basil leaves to answer it and finds a tipsy Pegnoir. When she drops her purse, he bends over to pick it up, and she falls backwards and sits on his back. Just then, Alan and Jean catch Pegnoir and Basil, and Basil springs to his feet and gives an almost unintelligible, loud, high-pitched explanation before he runs upstairs to go to bed. Back in his room, Basil tells Sybil the ring was from Alan and Jean, but when she hears Pegnoir's voice, he cops to her having been there, too. When there is a knock at his door, Basil thinks it is Pegnoir and goes to shoo her away, but it is the drunken Manuel, who knocks Basil over and pokes him in the eye with his umbrella. As Manuel tries to apologize, Alan finds Basil on the floor with Manuel sitting atop him saying, "I love you! I love you!"

The next morning, Manuel is hung over, and he nearly passes out on the dining room floor, so Basil drags him into the kitchen to let him sleep in the laundry basket. Meanwhile, Sybil checks in an older couple, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd, who are in town for a wedding and know Alan and Jean. Basil finds Mr. Lloyd hugging Jean and runs downstairs to stall Mrs. Lloyd. When he at last leads her to the room, he sees Polly hugging Mr. Lloyd and stalls Mrs. Lloyd further. Moments later, Polly is in Alan and Jean's room, where she tries on a dress Jean has made for her as Jean gives Alan a massage. Basil overhears Alan's moans of pleasure, and when he sees Polly leaving the room, he snaps. He tells Polly to meet him at reception in her coat and hat and bursts into Alan and Jean's room, where he finds the Lloyds, and orders them all to leave. Sybil tells Basil the Lloyds, Alan and Jean are a family, as Jean is Mr. Lloyd's stepdaughter, and Polly is an old school friend of Jean's. Realizing his mistake, the embarrassed and humbled Basil reinstates Polly and tells the Lloyds, Alan and Jean they can stay.

That night, Sybil has left to console Audrey, and Basil listens to Chopin on a tape recorder in the lobby. Pegnoir asks Basil up to her room to fix a window, but when he is there, she flirts with him and makes him nervous. He goes to his room to go to bed, but when his pants are off, Pegnoir knocks on his door to return his tape recorder, which he has left in her room. When there is another knock at Basil's door, he assumes it is Pegnoir and tells her to go away before his wife hears her. However, it is Sybil, who has returned home unexpectedly and heard a moaning in the lobby, which she has assumed to be a burglar. Still in his underwear, Basil heads down to investigate, and he knocks out the "burglar" with a frying pan, but it is only the hapless Manuel, who has at last woken up and stumbled out from the kitchen. The Lloyds, Alan and Jean arrive and turn on the lights to see Basil, in his underwear, straddled atop the prone Manuel. They head upstairs, and Basil pulls back for another swing at Manuel.


The Sign

"FAW TY TOWER," and the W in "TOWER" is drooping.

Alternate Titles

The original episodes were broadcast without individual episode titles. The titles used on the DVD and when referring to the series today were first used on the VHS release in the 1980s. However, during the initial run, some episodes were given titles in TV listings. Hence, this episode, while today referred to as The Wedding Party, was originally titled Sex. (See also: 1x05 - Gourmet Night, 2x01 - Communication Problems, 2x03 - Waldorf Salad, 2x04 - The Kipper and the Corpse and 2x06 - Basil the Rat.)

Complex Plot

Due to the limited number of characters and sets, most episodes of Fawlty Towers Season One deal with only one main plot thread per episode. In other words, there is no A plot, B plot and C plot. The Wedding Party is unusual in that it has several arcs which come together in the end: Basil's mistrust of the wedding party (A plot); Mrs. Peignoir flirting with Basil (B plot) and Manuel's birthday (C plot). (See also: 1x06 - The Germans.) For Season Two, it would become common for each episode to have two parallel plots which met at the end.

Arc Advancement



  • Basil and Sybil: Clearly their marriage is devoid of affection, yet it also seems to be devoid of sex, as they sleep in the same room but separate beds. Cleese has confirmed this in interviews, saying, "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." Although Basil is not receiving sexual satisfaction from his wife, he never seeks it elsewhere, although Sybil assumes he is upon occasion (See: 2x02 - The Psychiatrist.) Further, both she and Basil are jealous whenever the other shows flirtiness towards a member of the opposite sex: He with Mrs. Peignoir, her with the Bar Guest. For more on Basil's attitudes towards sex, see History.
  • Basil and Manuel: Manuel, when drunk, expresses non-sexual affection for Basil. Basil, on the other hand, although he gives Manuel a black umbrella (a characteristically English accessory for the Spaniard) as a birthday present, is untouched by Manuel's affection and gratitude. It is implied the umbrella was not a gift chosen and given by Basil, but by someone else in Basil's name—presumably Sybil. Thus, Manuel fears and admires Basil, but Basil considers Manuel beneath contempt and almost never shows him genuine compassion. Then again, Basil doesn't show anybody genuine compassion.
  • Manuel: While reading his thank-you speech to Basil, Manuel says he came "here from Spain, leaving my mother, ... five brothers and four sisters."
  • Major Gowen: Basil identifies Major Gowen as Fawlty Towers' longest standing resident.


  • 1x02 - The Builders: There are several references to Sybil's friend Audrey, whose boyfriend has just left her. Audrey was first named in that episode. Also, this is the second episode in which Basil claims in times of stress to be feeling pain in his leg, which he credits to a war injury. (See also: Trivia: The Show: Basil's Military Record.) And while stalling Mrs. Lloyd, Basil points out a door from the lobby to the kitchen, saying, "Yes, well, we had this door not too recently made." The kitchen door is one of the alterations to the lobby which are the subject of that episode. This door is visible in this and all subsequent episodes and plays an important role in several. Also, from this episode on, there is no door leading from the lobby to the drawing room, as there was in the first episode—another alteration in The Builders.


The Show

  • Sybil's Laugh: The first sound heard after the theme music is Sybil's trademark laugh, which Basil compares to "machine gunning a seal." This is the first time we hear this laugh in the series.
  • "I Know!": Several times in her conversation with Audrey, Sybil repeats, "I know! Yes, I know!" with a sort of long, drawn out "o." This is her first use of the line, which becomes one of her most repeated lines of dialogue.
  • Basil's Military Record: When Sybil insists on helping Alan and Jean, Basil says, "I fought in the Korean War, you know, I killed four men." Sybil dismisses this and tells Jean, "He was in the Catering Corps. He used to poison them." This is the first reference to Basil having served in that war. Later, when he is trying to stall Mrs. Lloyd, he grasps his leg and moans in pain, saying he took a "bit of shrapnel" in the war. Still later, he uses a "twinge from the old leg" as an excuse to leave Mrs. Peignor's room. It is never made clear whether Basil was really injured and his injury causes him pain in times of stress or this is merely a distraction/stalling technique/excuse Basil uses whenever he needs one. However, it seems likely the latter is the case. (See also: Arc Advancement: Referbacks: 1x02 - The Builders and Trivia: Allusions and References: Korean War.) It has been suggested by fans Basil purchased Fawlty Towers with his military stipend upon leaving the service.

Behind the Scenes

  • Real Injury: During filming, actor Andrew Sachs was hurt when he made a sudden move in the final scene and John Cleese accidentally hit him with the saucepan. (See also: 1x06 - The Germans.)

Allusions and References

  • How to Murder Your Wife: The 1965 comedy hit stars Jack Lemmon, Italian bombshell Virna Lisi and British comedy legend Terry-Thomas. In the film, Lemmon, a successful cartoonist and perpetual bachelor, shocks his devoted manservant Terry-Thomas by marrying Lisi after a night of drunken debauchery. Lemmon comes to feel stifled in his marriage, and details his comic strip hero's murder of his fictional wife. When Lisi goes missing, Lemmon is accused of murder, and the comic strip is used as evidence against him at the trial.
Basil: Did you, ah, did you ever see that film How to Murder Your Wife?
  • The Korean War: A Cold War conflict between Communist North Korea and Western-friendly South Korea. The United States, the United Kingdom, the Phillippines and the United Nations, fearing a "domino effect" from North Korea, in which other east Asian Communist states would arise, sent troops supporting South Korea. The Soviet Union and China supported North Korea. When the two sides were locked in a stalemate, a ceasefire was declared. The border was drawn at 38 degrees latitude (the "38th Parallel"), and a demilitarized zone was set. The situation remains deadlocked to this day, and the two Koreas have yet to declare truce—so, in effect, the war has never ended. (See also: Trivia: The Show: Basil's Military Record.)
Basil: I fought in the Korean War, you know. I killed four men.
  • Jaws: When lying in bed, Basil reads the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley. The bestseller, about a shark attack in a New England resort, was made into a movie by director Steven Spielberg in the summer of 1975, a few months before this episode aired. The film was an international blockbuster hit which became the highest-grossing film to date and catapulted the career of its young director into the stratosphere. It also shot the novel that was its basis back to the top of the bestseller lists. The paperback copy Basil is reading has as its cover the poster for the film, so it was a version he bought during or after the film release. The iconic poster portrays a phallic shark ascending upon an attractive female swimmer, which mirrors Basil's own fearful attitudes towards sex. (See also: History.) The magazine Sybil reads, Sexy Laughs, is a fictitious magazine, but the bawdy title is both representative of her less judgemental attitude towards sex and a play on her own distinctive laugh, which can be described as many things, but "sexy" is not one of them. (See also: Trivia: The Show: Sybil's Laugh.)
  • Frederic Chopin: The music Basil listens to is by 19th-century Polish composer Frederic Chopin. (See also: 1x01 - A Touch of Class.)
  • Lord Byron: Lord George Gordon Byron, a 19th-century English Romantic poet known as much for his sexual conquests and fast living in his personal life as the inventiveness of his works.
Mrs. Peignoir: Are you a romantic, Mr. Fawlty?
Basil: Ahahaha, no, God, no, heh.
Mrs. Peignoir: Well, I think you are. I think beneath that English exterior throbs a passion that would make Lord Byron look like a tobbaconist.

Memorable Moments

  • The exchange between Alan and Basil when Alan asks for the location of a chemist.
  • Alan and Jean catch Mrs. Pegnoir sitting on Basil's back. (After Basil leaves, Alan turns and laughs. While it is probable Alan would find the situation laughable, his body language suggests perhaps the laugh is a genuine laugh at John Cleese's performance on actor Trevor Adams' part and not a scripted character choice.)


  • Sybil: I knooow! Yes, I knooow!
  • Basil: How's Audrey?
    Sybil: She's in a terrible state.
    Basil: Ah, good, good.
  • Sybil: Are you all right?
    Basil: No, I'm dying, but don't get out of bed!
  • Manuel: (Hungover, collapsing in the dining room.) No, please, I die here.
  • Basil: (Repeating to himself.) I'm so sorry, I made a mistake. I'm so sorry, I made a mistake. (Opens the door to Alan and Jean's room.) I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, but my wife has made a mistake.