Communication Problems

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"Communication Problems"
Fawlty Towers episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 1
Directed by Bob Spiers
Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth
Original air date 19 February 1979
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Germans"
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"The Psychiatrist"
List of Fawlty Towers episodes

"Communication Problems" is the first episode of the second series of BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers and the seventh episode overall. It is also known as Mrs Richards.

On 2 December 2016, the episode was re-aired on BBC One in memory of cast member Andrew Sachs.[1]


Mrs Richards, a short-sighted, deaf, and short-tempered old woman (but who ironically accuses others of being blind and deaf), arrives at the hotel and instantly starts arguing with Polly about who is being served first at reception in the lobby. Polly mischievously asks Manuel to assist Mrs Richards and his poor English combined with her poor hearing leads her to believe that the hotel manager is named "C.K. Watt", aged forty. Meanwhile, Basil gets a horse racing tip from a satisfied customer and, although Sybil does not approve of Basil gambling, he plans to discreetly bet on it anyway.

Mrs Richards then complains to Basil about her room. She is dissatisfied because the room is cold, her radio does not work (it does, she just cannot hear it), the bath is too small for her liking (as she cannot see it properly) and the view from her window is uninteresting (as she cannot see it properly either). Mrs Richards demands a reduction in the price, to which Basil responds softly: "60% if you turn it [her hearing aid] on" (she refuses to use her hearing aid because it drains the battery), but then directs her to speak with Sybil, who will be far more patient with her. He also secretly asks Manuel to go to the betting shop and make a bet on the horse, which subsequently wins the race. Manuel collects the £75 winnings and gives them to Polly to give to Basil, just as Mrs Richards demands lavatory paper, and her referring to it as "paper" leads Polly, assuming she wants writing paper, to tell her that it is kept in the lounge. Mrs Richards is convinced Polly is being rude and complains to Basil, who again fails to deliver the message as Mrs Richards is not using her hearing aid and cannot read Basil's writing as she is not wearing her glasses, which she does not know are on her head. Meanwhile, Basil collects his winnings.

By remarkable coincidence, Mrs Richards later announces that £85 is missing from her room, and she is convinced someone has stolen it. Sybil, who saw Polly counting Basil's money in the office, assumes that Polly found it. So as not to give away Basil's gambling, Polly says she herself won it on the horse, although her forgetting the name of the horse makes Sybil suspicious. Foolishly, Basil instructs Manuel to pretend he knows nothing about the bet, and gives the money to the Major for safekeeping. Unsurprisingly, when Basil asks the Major for the money the next morning, the senile old man has forgotten that Basil gave it to him. Eventually he produces it, but when he declares to have "found it" in front of Sybil and Mrs Richards, the latter is convinced it is hers. Basil is horrified as Sybil hands his money over to Mrs Richards, who is annoyed to notice that it is £10 short. Basil tries to persuade her otherwise, but is hindered by the Major and Manuel: the Major having entirely forgotten and Manuel merely saying "I know nothing." Distraught, Basil weeps over his lost winnings and is about to take the missing £10 from the till when a delivery man arrives with a vase for Mrs Richards and the £95 which she left behind in the shop – the money she thought had been stolen. Basil is elated and gives Mrs Richards her remaining £10, leaving him still £10 up, but in his excitement, he does not put the money away. When Sybil sees Basil with the money, she quizzes him and Polly chimes in that it is her money that she won on the horse. Basil adds that he is putting it in the safe for her. Unfortunately, the Major suddenly blurts out, right in front of Sybil that he has remembered that Basil gave him the money last night and he won it on a horse (forgetting that it was supposed to be a secret). In horror, Basil drops and breaks Mrs Richards's vase and the episode closes with Sybil repaying Mrs. Richards the £75 cost of the vase with the money Basil had won, leaving Basil with only £10 from his successful bet.


Episode-credited cast:


  • Bill Bradley as Mr Mackintosh
  • Robert Lankesheer as Mr Thurston
  • George Lee as the delivery man
  • Mervyn Pascoe as Mr Yardley
  • Johnny Shannon as Mr Firkin


Interior scenes of this episode were recorded on 21 January 1979, in Studio TC1 of the BBC Television Centre, before a live audience.[2]


  1. ^ Weaver, Matthew (2016-12-02). "Andrew Sachs, Manuel from Fawlty Towers, dies aged 86". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-04-29. 
  2. ^ Kempton, Martin. "An unreliable and wholly unofficial history of BBC Television Centre..." An incomplete history of London's television studios. Archived from the original on 20 December 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 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)

External links[edit]