Waldorf Salad (Fawlty Towers)
|Fawlty Towers episode|
Basil Fawlty attending to
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Bob Spiers|
|Written by||John Cleese & Connie Booth|
|Original air date||5 March 1979|
Dinner time is exceptionally busy, and several guests are dissatisfied with the quality of the service and the food. One guest, Mr. Johnston, and his wife complain that her starter prawns are "off", and they wish it to be deducted from their bill, even though she has already eaten half of them. Another couple, the Arrads, have been waiting nearly half an hour for their main course. When Basil checks on them, however, they do not even mention it. Meanwhile, Sybil lazily talks to one of the guests (who himself appears not to be enjoying her conversation), leaving everyone else to cope. Just as Basil is about to serve the Johnstons their lamb, an elegant Englishwoman, Mrs. Hamilton, then arrives to check in, forcing Mr. Johnston to collect the lamb himself. A loud and short-tempered American man follows Mrs. Hamilton in, complaining about the weather and the journey from London, including the size of his hired car and having to drive on "the wrong side of the road" (and sarcastically referring to the M5 as a "little backstreet"). The patriotic Basil is irate and makes derogatory comments about the man to Mrs. Hamilton prompting her to introduce him as her husband, Harry, forcing Basil into cringeworthy backtracking. Mr. Hamilton demands a proper meal, even though the kitchen is closed, and also insists on freshening up first. Mr. Hamilton bribes Basil with £20 to keep the chef on so the kitchen will stay open. Tension is heightened as, whilst Basil annoys the Hamiltons to no end, Sybil makes good friends with them.
Basil pockets the money and offers a lesser amount to Terry to stay. Terry claims to have a karate lesson, but eventually agrees to stay. However, Polly inadvertently reveals that his appointment was a night-out with her, Manuel and his Finnish girlfriend. Annoyed, Basil reclaims the money and sends him off, planning to cook himself. After arriving, the Hamiltons both order screwdrivers, a drink Basil has never heard of. Harry then confuses him by asking for a Waldorf salad, even though it is not on the menu, followed by two rare steaks. Mr. Hamilton is annoyed when Basil does not know what it is and must repeatedly correct Basil when he asks for the ingredients (which are celery, apples, walnuts, and grapes, topped with mayonnaise), after saying that the hotel is "out of Waldorfs", but demands it all the same. Unable to find the ingredients, he panics, even after Sybil assures him she will help. Upon learning the namesake of the salad (the Waldorf Hotel in New York), Basil tries unsuccessfully to persuade Mr. Hamilton to order a "Ritz salad", a disgusting combination of ingredients that he knows are in the kitchen: namely apples, grapefruit and potatoes in mayonnaise. When Basil offers an overblown excuse as to why the salad cannot be made, Mr. Hamilton becomes even more outraged and encourages Basil to bust Terry's chops, while changing his order to a green salad. However, Sybil has already prepared the Waldorf salad and presents it to him. While the Hamiltons are enjoying their salads and are willing to let thing rest, Basil is pretending to give Terry a tongue lashing in the kitchen. Upon discovering the Waldorf salad has been served to Mr. Hamilton, an angry Basil takes the salad and pretends to demand an explanation from Terry, and sustains a slap in the face from Sybil when he refuses to give it back. She then orders Basil to get the Hamiltons their wine.
The Hamiltons finish their starters and seem satisfied. Basil, however, is unable to leave things alone and irritates them by reading a letter supposedly from Terry, placing the blame for all the mess-ups on him. Unfortunately, the unattended steaks begin to burn, prompting him to return to the kitchen and pretend to yell at Terry again. However, Mr. Hamilton has had enough and follows him in to berate Terry himself and discovers Basil yelling at empty space. Enraged, he announces that they are leaving and confronts Basil in the foyer. In front of the other guests, Hamilton belittles Basil for his lack of professionalism—calling him "the British Tourist Board's answer to Donald Duck"—and brands the hotel a disgrace. Basil challenges Mr. Hamilton by asking Major Gowen, Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby if they are satisfied, and some others who are unwilling to complain, and all claim to be satisfied. As Basil is returning Mr. Hamilton's insults with his own, Mr. Johnston comes forward and thinks that Fawlty Towers is "the worst hotel he has ever stayed in". His wife grumbles about her prawns going off, making the other guests join in with their complaints. Mr. Hamilton laughs triumphantly and peanuts Basil's tie. Basil finally snaps and yells at the guests, comparing them to Nazi Germany and then ordering them to leave. When Basil tells Sybil that either he or the guests must go, Sybil challenges him and seeing the look in her eye, Basil gets scared and decides that he will leave instead. Discovering that it is raining and realizing he has nowhere to go, he returns to the hotel to ask for a room and, remembering Sybil's laziness at the beginning, demands breakfast in bed complete with a Waldorf salad and "lashings of hot screwdriver".
- 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
- Norman Bird as Mr. Arrad
- Bruce Boa as Mr. (Harry) Hamilton
- Terence Conoley as Mr. Johnston
- Anthony Dawes as Mr. Libson
- June Ellis as Mrs. Johnston
- Dorothy Frere as Miss Hare
- Claire Nielson as Mrs. Hamilton
- Beatrice Shaw as Miss Gurke
- Stella Tanner as Mrs. Arrad
The episode has been described as being "massively popular" and a great success commercially internationally in the 1980s and 1990s. Along with "The Germans", it is generally considered one of the most popular episodes. Its source of amusement derives from the cultural differences between the Americans and the British and the perceived differences in manners. The American is very rude in expecting food which is not on the menu and complaining about the service in contrast to the English guests who are very guarded when it comes to complaining. The book Great, Grand & Famous Hotels remarked that "Fawlty Towers is real to everybody who has ever worked in a hotel, anybody who has ever stayed in one, or anyone who has ever tried, unsuccessfully, to order a Waldorf salad."
Like all the episodes released on DVD, French, German, and Dutch subtitles are included. However, the German subtitles include a recurring error whereby the orange juice that Basil serves the American couple (as part of the Screwdriver cocktail) is referred to as Irish Cream. The Screwdriver itself is also referred to erroneously as being composed of Irish cream & Tequila.
- Robert Ross (May 1999). Monty Python encyclopedia. TV Books. ISBN 978-1-57500-036-7. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- Gubler, Fritz (25 December 2008). Waldorf hysteria: hotel manners, misbehaviour & minibars. Great, Grand & Famous Hotels. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-9804667-1-3. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- Ashley, Bob (28 June 2004). Food and cultural studies. Psychology Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-415-27038-0. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- Gubler, Fritz; Glynn, Raewyn (25 September 2008). Great, grand & famous hotels. Great, Grand & Famous Hotels. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-9804667-0-6. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- Fawlty Towers: A Worshipper's Companion, Leo Publishing, ISBN 91-973661-8-8
- The Complete Fawlty Towers by John Cleese & Connie Booth (1988, Methuen, London) ISBN 0-413-18390-4 (the complete text)