The Anniversary (Fawlty Towers)

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"The Anniversary"
Fawlty Towers episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 5
Directed by Bob Spiers
Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth
Production code 11
Original air date 26 March 1979
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Kipper and the Corpse"
Next →
"Basil the Rat"
List of Fawlty Towers episodes

"The Anniversary" is the fifth episode of the second series of BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers.


On the morning of their wedding anniversary, Sybil recalls how Basil forgot last year. Basil has secretly invited their closest friends to Fawlty Towers for the occasion. Before they arrive, he pretends to have forgotten again in order to maintain the surprise. When Sybil asks him if the date reminds him of anything, he guesses random anniversaries, such as the battle of Agincourt, the battle of Trafalgar and Yom Kippur (none of which actually happened on 17 April).

Meanwhile, Basil has allowed Manuel to cook a seafood paella from his mother's famous recipe, something he has wanted to do ever since arriving at the hotel. Their chef, Terry, complains that he is more than capable of making paella himself. While Basil tries to placate Terry, Sybil leaves in a huff, frustrated and angry believing Basil really has forgotten their anniversary again. Basil realises only too late as he chases after her car, just before the first of their friends pull into the driveway.

Polly comes up with the idea of saying that Sybil is ill and resting in bed upstairs: Basil tells them she has lost her voice and has puffy eyes, but Polly mis-hears him and says she has "puffy thighs". Their friends are keen to see Sybil nonetheless, and Basil struggles to keep them downstairs. Virginia reminds Basil that she is a qualified nurse and becomes determined to see Sybil in order to diagnose her illness. Kitty and Reg arrive saying they saw Sybil driving in the town, but Basil assures them that it was another "northern woman" who resembles her. Alice tries to rein in her wise-cracking husband, Roger, who suspects Basil is covering up for having a row with Sybil. Basil tries reverse psychology insisting the group disturb Sybil: "I'll just pop upstairs and tell her to stop dying so that you can all come up and identify her." This naturally makes the guests feel very uncomfortable and reluctant, but Roger is not so easily dissuaded.

Basil now tries to force Polly to dress up as Sybil and get into her bed in order to create the illusion that his wife is indeed incapacitated. Polly initially refuses to play any further part in the charade, annoyed at being undervalued for all the work she does for the hotel beyond her waitressing duties. She eventually relents provided Basil gives her money she needs to buy a new car, which Basil had previously avoided making a decision to loan her, but he now readily agrees.

Basil stalls the guests while allowing time for Polly to get ready. When they are finally allowed in the bedroom, the lights are turned out so the guests cannot recognise Polly in disguise. Reg and Kitty trip in the dark, injuring themselves. Basil opens the curtains to provide light, revealing Polly tucked up in bed wearing Sybil's wig and sunglasses, but also with "foam" in her mouth. Through the window, Basil sees Sybil returning to the hotel, and he rushes downstairs to prevent her spoiling the deception

Sybil says she has only returned to retrieve her golf clubs and won't be staying. Rather than try to persuade her to stay, Basil says "I'm sure you know best dear." Convinced there is no hope for their marriage, she returns to her car where Audrey is waiting for them to play golf and forget about the drama. Sybil realises she didn't collect her clubs.

Back upstairs, Virginia insists on examining Polly, who is still impersonating Sybil upstairs. In an attempt to keep her away, Polly lashes out and hits her in the face.

The guests return downstairs, many harbouring injuries, as Basil prepares to wish them goodbye. When Sybil enters the lobby, the partygoers are bewildered and confused; Basil pretends she is the "northern woman" they mentioned previously, before rushing her into the kitchen – where Manuel and Terry are wrestling furiously amidst the mess they have made arguing over the paella – and locks her in a cupboard. After ushering the guests out, Basil declares "Piece of cake. Now comes the tricky bit," as he returns to the kitchen to explain everything to Sybil.




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