The Hotel Inspectors
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|"The Hotel Inspectors"|
|Fawlty Towers episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1
|Directed by||John Howard Davies|
|Written by||John Cleese & Connie Booth|
|Original air date||10 October 1975|
In the episode, Basil hears of hotel inspectors roaming Torquay incognito and realises with horror that a guest he has been verbally abusing could easily be one of them.
Two guests, Mr. Walt and Mr. Hutchinson, arrive separately at reception. Mr. Walt says very little; Mr. Hutchinson speaks in a very drawn-out and pompous, overly-affected manner (claiming that he finds "the air here [in Torquay] most invigorating") that immediately irritates Basil. Basil becomes increasingly irate as Hutchinson makes unreasonable requests and asks for specific directions to a meeting. While Basil draws Hutchinson a map containing an abbreviation of Post Office ("P. Off"), Mr. Walt misinterprets a comment from Basil; Walt thinks he himself is being told to "P-off". Basil also produces picture cards for Manuel to understand what he is saying, after which Manuel produces a card of his own: "OK". After Sybil finally finishes on the phone, she informs Basil that a friend of Audrey's discovered the presence of three hotel inspectors in town. This information raises Basil's blood pressure several notches; determined to work out who the inspectors are, he realizes with horror that any of the guests he's been monstering could be one of them.
While Mr. Hutchinson is requesting to reserve the television to watch a documentary he is interested in, he says something which makes Basil's hair stand on end: "In my professional activities I am in constant contact with hotels." This - combined with Hutchinson's neediness, his suggestions on how the hotel could be improved, and his over-inflated style of speaking - convinces Basil that Hutchinson is actually an inspector; he changes his attitude towards Hutchinson, instead treating him like a VIP. He escorts him to the dining room, where lunch is about to be served. Basil ends up overlooking Mr. Walt, who is forced to wait after his bottle of wine proves to be corked (just after Basil is forced to dig out the bad cork so he can serve the wine), even though Hutchinson is taking a phone call. Sybil quietly reveals to Basil that Mr. Hutchinson is in fact a cutlery salesman (she had overheard his conversation). Feeling conned, Basil promises revenge on Hutchinson. However, Basil's relief is short-lived when - during a conversation with Basil - Mr. Walt casually mentions that he is in Torquay "on business with two colleagues." This convinces Basil that Walt is actually the inspector. In order to avoid making a bad impression on Walt, Basil tries to pacify Hutchinson...who is annoyed because some spur-of-the-moment table-switching (by Basil, who else?) has caused confusion in the kitchen, and led to Hutchinson being served several dishes he did not order (actually, Walt did). To stifle Hutchinson's complaining, Basil chokes him - accidentally rendering him unconscious.
Hutchinson regains consciousness and starts punching Basil at reception...who uncharacteristically accepts it without retaliation, since they are in Mr. Walt's presence. Hutchinson storms off to gather his things, declaring that he does not expect to be charged for his stay. Walt is flabbergasted, especially when Basil tries to bribe him against mentioning this recent chain of events when he reviews the hotel. Basil immediately goes into hysterics, realizing how much he has just risked the hotel's reputation. Mr. Walt reveals he is actually an outboard motors salesman, and consoles Basil. Thinking he is in the clear, Basil thanks Walt for staying at Fawlty Towers...and then runs to the kitchen with Manuel, who stops Mr. Hutchinson from leaving just long enough so that Basil can "say adios". Basil then slaps pies on Mr. Hutchinson's face and crotch, while Manuel pours cream into his briefcase. Hutchinson is marched to the door and forcibly ejected from the hotel by a vengeful Basil, who kisses Manuel on the head for his help. Returning to the reception desk, Basil welcomes John and Brian and Chris - three smartly-dressed businessmen, who have just witnessed the bouncing of Hutchinson - to Fawlty Towers. He screams in terror when it becomes clear that they are the hotel inspectors.
- John Cleese as Basil Fawlty
- Prunella Scales as Sybil Fawlty
- Andrew Sachs as Manuel
- Connie Booth as Polly Sherman
- Ballard Berkeley as Major Gowen
- Gilly Flower as Miss Abitha Tibbs
- Renee Roberts as Miss Ursula Gatsby
- Bernard Cribbins as Mr. Hutchinson
- James Cossins as Mr. Walt
- Peter Brett as Brian (hotel inspector)
- Geoffrey Morris as John (hotel inspector)
(These two characters are credited as Brian and John but the credits make no clear connection between their names and being hotel inspectors as their names in the programme are never revealed.)
- Andy Williams as Chris (hotel inspector)
Connections and errors
- Interior scenes of this episode were recorded on 27 August 1975, in Studio TC8 of the BBC Television Centre, before a live audience.
- At the end of the episode, there are clearly three hotel inspectors. However, only two of them (John and Brian) are named in the closing credits. The 1st inspector says "Twenty-six bedrooms, twelve with private bathrooms." The 2nd inspector says "Yes, well, why don't you have dinner here, and Chris and I can try the Claremont." The 1st inspector replies "OK. The owner's one Basil Fawlty." The 3rd inspector, Chris, is not credited as he does not speak at all.
- "Bill Morton", whose friend overheard the hotel inspectors in a bar, was named after the vision mixer for the series; he is the only member of the crew mentioned in the series.
- Mr. Hutchinson asks if the hotel has a table tennis table, to which Basil replies, “Indeed we do. It is not ... in absolutely mint condition. But it certainly could be used in an emergency”. John Cleese has stated this is among his favourite lines in the entire series.
- The scene in which the wine is 'corked' involved improvisation on the actors' parts. John Cleese and James Cossins were unaware of which way the wine would go, if at all. Loosely scripted dialogue was therefore at hand.
- The only time in the series we ever see evidence of Basil smoking is when Sybil takes back all the matches (she is "just lighting up") and gives him back just one, in the opening scene.
- Queen's Square and Queen's Parade, the locations Mr. Hutchinson asks for on his diagram, do not exist in Torquay.
- Kempton, Martin. "An unreliable and wholly unofficial history of BBC Television Centre...". An incomplete history of London's television studios. Retrieved 17 December 2014.