Basil the Rat
|"Basil The Rat"|
|Fawlty Towers episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Bob Spiers|
|Written by||John Cleese & Connie Booth|
|Original air date||25 October 1979|
"Basil the Rat" is the sixth and final episode of the second series of the BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers and the final episode of the programme as a whole.
Fawlty Towers is in threat of closure by a Health and Safety inspector. After discovering that Manuel is keeping a pet rat, Basil insists that it be removed, but it escapes back into the hotel as the inspector returns.
- John Cleese as Basil Fawlty
- Prunella Scales as Sybil Fawlty
- Andrew Sachs as Manuel
- Connie Booth as Polly Sherman
- Ballard Berkeley as Major Gowen
- Brian Hall as Terry the Chef
- Gilly Flower as Miss Abitha Tibbs
- Renee Roberts as Miss Ursula Gatsby
- Sabina Franklyn as Quentina
- Melody Lang as Mrs. Taylor
- David Neville as Ronald
- John Quarmby as Mr. Carnegie
- Stuart Sherwin as a Guest
- James Taylor as Mr. Taylor
After a routine health inspection, the inspector, Mr. Carnegie, firmly informs Basil and Sybil that Fawlty Towers is below standard, with the flaws including the presence of two dead pigeons in the water tank. He will, therefore, recommend closure to the Council if they do not rectify the problems within 24 hours. The staff all get to work straight away. When Basil is alerting Manuel, he notices that he is keeping a pet rat, having been conned into thinking that it's a Siberian hamster. Basil, afraid that the health inspector will take issue with it, removes it. Infuriated, Manuel threatens to resign, and it is debated what to do with it. Eventually, it is agreed that it will be moved to a friend of Polly's, but she and Manuel secretly hide it in a shed nearby. Foolishly, Manuel lets it out to exercise, and it escapes back into the hotel, prompting a discreet rat hunt. Unfortunately, Basil learns of it from the Major, who had tried to shoot it, and decides to join in the hunt after a confrontation ("We can deal with the sackings later"). During the search, Basil applies rat poison to a veal cutlet and puts it on the floor in the kitchen.
Just as Carnegie arrives, the Major sees the rat and shoots at it. Basil silences him (by jabbing him in the groin with the butt of the gun) and persuades him to say his target was a starling. Manuel, while asking about his rat, whose name is "Basil", is informed that the chef puts a lot of basil in the ratatouille. Panicking ("He put Basil in the ratatouille?!"), Manuel runs into the kitchen, only to be informed by Terry that "I haven't made any bleedin' ratatouille!" In the commotion, a tray of veal is spilled, and the poisoned cutlet is picked up as well by an unknowing Terry. To make matters worse, every subsequent guest asks for veal, including Mr. Carnegie, who has decided to stay for lunch after declaring the hotel to once again be in satisfactory condition. Unable to persuade him to try something else, or discern which veal is safe, they resort to using a piece the cat chewed, as it is not demonstrating signs of poisoning. Moments later, Basil retrieves it after he walks out the back and sees the cat choking, only to discover that the cat was, by extremely remarkable coincidence, throwing up a fur ball when Basil had seen it. Meanwhile, Manuel spots the rat at the table of a couple named Quentina and Ronald, and when Basil is called over to explain Manuel's shock, he informs him that there is a bread roll under the table, ordering Manuel to get a box. The couple decide to dine elsewhere, but Polly informs Basil that the rat is in Quentina's handbag. She catches him trying to fish it out, and he is only saved from a "bunch of fives" by Ronald after Polly says that there has been a bomb scare. Unfortunately, the rat bites Basil and escapes into the dining room. Manuel catches and hides it in the biscuit tin. When he turns around for a moment, the Major takes the box for a biscuit. Manuel does not see this and frantically searches for the box.
Carnegie finishes lunch and asks for some coffee, cheese and biscuits for afters. The Major unknowingly hands Polly the box containing the rat. On opening the lid, the rat's head pops up and looks directly into Mr Carnegie's face. Carnegie is speechless, especially when Basil asks "would you care for a rat, or...?" Polly removes the rat and returns to Carnegie, who is still dumbfounded by what he has seen. Sybil ends the series with the line "I'm afraid it's started to rain again," in a vain attempt to engage Carnegie in conversation as Manuel drags Basil, who has fainted offscreen, out of the dining room.
- This final episode was recorded six months after the rest of the series, because of a strike at the BBC. Andrew Sachs has claimed that the BBC strike gave the actors the luxury of committing extra time to the episode before taping it - one key decision made during this extra time was to accentuate Manuel's call of 'Basil!' to the rat, thus clarifying a previously obscured plot point.
- When Basil explains to Manuel that his "Siberian hamster" is in fact a rat, he mutters under his breath: "You do have rats in Spain, or did Franco have 'em all shot?". Fawlty Towers began in September 1975, two months before Francisco Franco's death.
- In some shots a real rat was used. The real rat's appearances in studio shot scenes were pre-recorded due to fears it could run into the studio audience.
- Manuel's pet rat was previously mentioned in "The Germans", but not seen.
- Manuel was seen to play the guitar in "Gourmet Night", but he does not do it very well. In this episode, he appears to have improved.
- This episode reveals not only that Manuel has a pet rat, but that the Fawltys have a pet black cat. In "The Kipper and the Corpse", a pet dog comes to the hotel.