Fawlty Towers/Waldorf Salad

From The TV IV
Jump to: navigation, search
Waldorf Salad
Season 2, Episode 3
Airdate March 5, 1979
Production Number  
Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth
Directed by Bob Spiers
← 2x02
The Psychiatrist
2x04 →
The Kipper and the Corpse
Fawlty TowersSeason Two

Waldorf Salad is the third episode of the second season of Fawlty Towers, and the ninth episode overall.

Guest Stars: Bruce Boa (Mr Hamilton), Claire Nielson (Mrs Hamilton), Norman Bird (Mr Arrad), Stella Tanner (Mrs Arrad), Terence Conoley (Mr Johnston), June Ellis (Mrs Johnston), Brian Hall (Terry), Anthony Dawes (Mr Lisbon), Ballard Berkeley (Major Gowen), Gilly Flower (Miss Tibbs), Renee Roberts (Miss Gatsby), Beatrice Shaw (Miss Gurke), Dorothy Frere (Miss Hare)


Plot Overview

It is a busy, rainy night, but while Basil, Manuel and Polly race about at dinner time serving guests—all of whom are dissatisfied—Sybil stands aside chatting. Basil leaves to help check in a sophisticated English woman, but his relief is short-lived when he meets her ugly American husband, Mr. Hamilton. The Hamiltons have arrived too late for dinner, so Mr. Hamilton bribes Basil to keep Terry later, but when Terry refuses to stay unless he is paid more, Basil pockets the money and decides to serve the Hamiltons himself. Basil is having a difficult time of it, however, as he does not understand the Hamiltons' orders for "screwdrivers" and "Waldorf salad." As Mr. Hamilton starts to lose his temper, Basil tries harder and harder to hide the fact that Terry is gone. At last, the gig is up, and Mr. Hamilton chews Basil out in front of all his other guests, who turn on Basil and list their complaints with the service at Fawlty Towers. Basil rages against this mutiny and orders the guests to leave, but Sybil would rather Basil leave, so he does. He stands outside in the rain, turns around, and orders a room at Fawlty Towers as a guest.


Title Sequence

The sign reads, "FLAY OTTERS."

Alternate Titles

This episode was entitled "U.S.A." in the original TV listings and "Waldorf Salad" 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, 2x04 - The Kipper and the Corpse and 2x06 - Basil the Rat.)


  • Sybil tells the Hamiltons that Terry has worked at Fawlty Towers for "about six months."
  • While trying to recruit the hotel guests on his side against Mr. Hamilton, Basil asks Major Gowen, "You've been here seven years, are you satisfied?"
  • During his complete meltdown at the end of the episode, Basil claims to have "had 15 years of pandering to the likes of you," thereby implying he has owned Fawlty Towers that long. As he makes a few other references in this season to having been married to Sybil for that same length of time (see also: 2x01 - Communication Problems and 2x05 - The Anniversary), that means Basil and Sybil bought Fawlty Towers around the same time as they were married.

Arc Advancement



  • Basil and Manuel: When Mr. Arrad complains to Basil of Manuel's slow service, Basil complains back, saying, "I had to pay his fare all the way from Barcelona." If true, this is another one of the very few details of Manuel's life prior to the show which we ever learn.


  • 2x02 - The Psychiatrist: Sybil complains to the Hamiltons that she and Basil "haven't had a proper holiday for eight years." In that episode, Basil told Dr. and Mrs. Abbott that they took a vacation "about twice a year." It is possible this is a continuity error, but more likely than not, Basil, as he so often does when he is nervous or embarrassed, was lying.


The Show

Behind the Scenes

  • Donald Sinclair: When the Pythons stayed at the Gleneagles, Donald Sinclair scolded American Terry Gilliam for using his right hand to hold his knife while he cut his food, then switching his fork to his right hand to take the food to his mouth—American style—rather than keeping the fork in his left hand the whole time—British style. This incident is most likely one of the inspirations for this episode. (See also: At a Glance.)
  • Same Actor, Different Roles: Terence Conoley plays Mr. Johnston, the guest who has to follow Basil out into the lobby to retrieve the lamb dinners Basil has carried with him to talk with Mrs. Hamilton. In 1x01 - A Touch of Class, Conoley played Mr. Wareing, a guest who had to follow Basil out to the lobby to repeat his drink order for the umpteenth time.

Allusions and References

  • The M5 Motorway: When he first arrives, Mr. Hamilton says his drive "took five hours from London. Couldn't find the freeway, had to take a little back street called the M5." The M5 motorway is actually a major highway in England. Running from Walsall to Exeter, it is the main road to southwest England.
  • Harold Robbins: As the Hamiltons take their seats in the dining room, Sybil is seen reading a book called Never Love a Stranger by Harold Robbins. This provokes a conversation about Robbins with Mrs. Hamilton, who claims "The Pirates [sic] is his best." When Basil enters, he dismisses Robbins' work as "aimless thrills, ... the most awful American ... tripe, a sort of pornographic muzak." Of course, when he learns the Hamiltons like Robbins, Basil pretends to have been referring to another author named "Harold Robinson." Harold Robbins was an American romance novelist whose peak of popularity lasted from the 1950s through the 1970s. His lurid, melodramatic writings were dismissed by critics as trashy pulp but were international bestsellers. The first of these, 1948's Never Love a Stranger, drew on his own experiences as an orphan in New York. Among his over 20 other bestsellers were The Dream Merchants (1949), A Stone for Danny Fisher (1952), The Carpetbaggers (1961), The Adventurers (1966), The Pirate (1974) and The Raiders (1995).
  • Burt Lancaster: Basil brags to the Hamiltons about the mild weather in Torquay and claims to have palm trees there. He asks if there are palm trees in California, and Mr. Hamilton replies, "Burt Lancaster had one, they say, but I don't believe 'em." (This is, of course, sarcasm, as southern California in general and Los Angeles in particular is famous for its palm trees.) Burt Lancaster was an American movie star who became one of the top leading men from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. By the 1970s, his film appearances became less common, but he still made cameos and took acclaimed supporting roles until just a few years before his death in the mid-1990s.
  • Marcel Proust; E.M. Forster: When Basil first hears Sybil discussing an author (Harold Robbins), he asks her, "Who's this, then, dear? Proust? E.M. Forster?" Marcel Proust was an early 20th century French novelist whose massive, 3000-page, seven-volume epic In Search of Lost Time is considered by critics one of the great novels of the century but is considered very difficult to read by mass audiences. Edward Morgan Forster was an early 20th century novelist, writer and critic whose works often dealt with the themes of class struggles and—especially near the end of his writing career—homosexuality. Although he did not die until 1970, the bulk of his body of work was published by the mid-1920s.
  • The Waldorf=Astoria; The Ritz: Trying desperately to find the ingredients for the Waldorf salad, Basil asks Sybil, "What is a Waldorf, anyway? A walnut that's gone off?" Sybil says, "It's the hotel, Basil, the Waldorf Hotel in New York." Thinking fast, Basil offers Mr. Hamilton a "Ritz salad. ... Apples, grapefruit and potatoes in a mayonnaise sauce." The Waldorf=Astoria in New York City is one of the most famous and luxurious hotels in the world, originally two tall hotel skyscrapers (the Waldrof Hotel and the Astoria Hotel) owned by the brothers William Waldorf and John Jacob Astor in the last few years of the 19th century. The Ritz Hotel is one of the most famous landmarks in London, built by Swiss hotelier César Ritz around the turn of the 20th century to resemble 18th century Parisian architecture.
  • Donald Duck: Mr. Hamilton calls Basil "the British Tourist Board's answer to Donald Duck." Donald Duck is a cartoon character created in 1934 for Disney cartoons by Dick Lundy. He has since become one of the most popular and recognizable fictional characters in the world. Known for his unintelligible speech and explosive temper, Donald is nonetheless typically portrayed as a hero in his cartoons.

Memorable Moments

  • When Basil exits the busy dining room to find a sophisticated English woman at the desk, he believes he has found a respite from the "rubbish" he usually has as clientele. While she checks in, an American man enters complaining of the drive: "Everything on the wrong side of the road, the weather," the bad roads and the smallness of English cars. Basil mutters to the English woman, "See what I mean? ... Rub-bish." She promptly introduces the American as her husband. Embarrassed again, Basil tries to pass his "rubbish" comment off as referring to a scrap of paper sitting on the front desk.


  • Mr. Hamilton: What I am suggesting is that this place is, ah, the crummiest, shoddiest, worst-run hotel in the whole of Western Europe!
    Major Gowen: No! No, I won't have that! There's a place in Eastbourne. One time....
    Mr. Hamilton: ... And that you are the British Tourist Board's answer to Donald Duck!
  • Basil: I haven't started yet.
    Mr. Hamilton: And you're not going to. You're gonna stand here nice and quiet while these people say whether or not they're satisfied, and you move off that spot, Fawlty, and I'm gonna bust your ass!
    Basil: Everything's bottoms, isn't it?
  • Basil: This... is... typical. Absolutely typical. The kind of... ASS! I've had to put up with from you people! You ponce in here expecting to be hand-waited on hand and foot! Well, I'm trying to run a hotel here! Have you any idea of how much there is to do? Do you ever think of that? Of course not! You're too busy sticking your noses into every corner, poking about for things to complain about, aren't you? Well, let me tell you something! This is exactly how Nazi Germany started! A lot of layabouts with nothing better to do than to cause trouble! Well, I've had 15 years of pandering to the likes of you, and I've had enough! I've had it! Come on! Pack your bags and get out!


  • Overall Grade: no reviews yet
  • Review Breakdown: A+: 1 A: 0 A-: 0 B+: 0 B: 0 B-: 0 C+: 0 C: 0 C-: 0 D: 0 F: 0