The Psychiatrist (Fawlty Towers)

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"The Psychiatrist"
Fawlty Towers episode
Episode no.Series 2
Episode 2
Directed byBob Spiers
Written byJohn Cleese and Connie Booth
Production code8
Original air date26 February 1979 (1979-02-26)
Episode chronology
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"Communication Problems"
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"Waldorf Salad"
List of episodes

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

In this episode, Sybil flirts with a young male guest named Mr. Johnson (who Basil believes resembles an orangutan). Meanwhile, two doctors arrive at the hotel, and Basil becomes concerned when he realises one is a psychiatrist. He becomes obsessed with finding a woman that Johnson has sneaked into his room, but instead stumbles into several compromising situations with a beautiful young female guest. His maniacal behaviour infuriates his wife and alarms the psychiatrist.


"The Psychiatrist" begins in the foyer of the hotel with Basil and Sybil at the front desk engaged in separate conversations on the phone. When Mr Johnson, a swaggering young playboy-type with an open shirt and gold chains comes down, however, Sybil immediately launches into flirtatious banter with him, much to Basil's annoyance. He makes several snide remarks to the effect that Johnson resembles some kind of ape. Basil also mocks Johnson’s medallions.

The Abbotts arrive, unfortunately for Basil, while he is beating his chest and scratching his armpits in further mockery of Johnson. Upon hearing the word doctor, Basil instantly assumes that the husband is Dr Abbott because he is a man, whereas in fact his wife is also a doctor, which Basil ascertains after much "hole-digging" and misunderstanding. Thrilled to have doctors staying at the hotel (Basil having aspired to be one himself), Basil fawns over the Abbotts and personally escorts them to their rooms. In the meantime, Mr Johnson inquires of Sybil about a room for his mother, who is arriving the following day, but the hotel is full, so he agrees to have her stay in his room.

Soon afterwards, an attractive young Australian girl named Raylene Miles arrives at the hotel, which creates a similar situation for Basil to that which Johnson created for Sybil. Basil handles his attractive character quite differently, however. While Sybil openly flirts with Johnson, Basil tries too hard to ensure he appears uninterested, such as looking at her and then glancing away when she looks up. This makes him nervous and he begins to act as though he does fancy her, via Freudian slips or luckless accidents. One such accident occurs while repairing Raylene's bathroom light: he reaches around a corner for the switch and, as Raylene is stretching beside the door, instead accidentally tweaks her nipple rather than the switch. Of course, Sybil steps in and sees this, leading her to believe Basil is softly groping her. Sybil does not react by insulting Raylene as Basil had with Johnson, but rather to berate Basil, and to apologise to her afterwards.

While the Abbotts are dining, Basil enquires as to the branches of medicine in which they work – Mrs Abbott is a paediatrician (which Basil initially believes means a foot doctor). Upon discovering that Mr Abbott is a psychiatrist, Basil becomes paranoid about being observed, and dismisses psychiatry as being obsessed with sexual behaviour. Thus when Basil, not privy to the entire context of a conversation between the Abbotts and Sybil about how often middle-aged hotel owners can get away on holiday, is asked by the Abbotts how often Basil and Sybil "manage it", he indignantly claims "... average... two or three times a week" and is stunned, both by the question and the Abbotts' subsequent wondering "how you could manage it at all", until Sybil tells him they were in fact referring to holidays, and the difficulty in taking them while running a hotel. Basil returns to the dining room and abominably attempts to explain the situation, resulting only in digging for himself another sizable "hole" via Freudian slips such as “I thought you were talking about sex... I mean walks”.

Meanwhile, Johnson has smuggled an attractive young woman into his room against hotel rules. Basil realises her presence when he walks past Johnson's room after the incident with Raylene and hears a woman's voice laughing at Johnson's "" joke. Basil becomes determined to catch her, as he cannot prove it to anyone else. After failing to see the girl while delivering a bottle of champagne to Johnson, he goes into the room next to Johnson's to listen, but is disturbed by the Abbotts who, he thought, were out on a walk. He weakly pretends to be "checking the walls". He then sneaks into the room on the other side, frightening a sleeping Raylene. He uses the same excuse for his presence.

Basil then enlists Manuel to assist with a ladder outside the hotel so he can look through Johnson's window, but instead positions the ladder inaccurately and finds himself facing the Abbotts, who stare back bemused. After a lame attempt to act as though he is merely "checking" the windows, he falls backwards, frozen in shock, on the hastily placed and precarious ladder (in a possible tribute to a very similarly acted and shot ladder fall by John Belushi while trying to peep in National Lampoon's Animal House). Manuel unwisely fetches Sybil, and Manuel's poor grasp of English lands Basil in further trouble. Manuel says that "Mr. Fawlty – he crazy about the girl" (meaning that Mr Johnson's having an illicit companion has made Basil cross). Sybil, for once, takes Manuel seriously and believes that he is referring to Basil's supposed crush on Raylene. Her jealousy incited, she marches outside, slaps Basil, and locks him out of their room for the night. Furious, Basil takes his anger out on Manuel.

In the morning, Basil explains to Sybil that he was looking in the window because he wanted to catch the extra guest in Johnson's room. She doesn't believe him, but, determined to prove himself right, Basil hides in a broom closet to catch the guest. He hears laughter coming from Johnson's room, and when he hears a door open, emerges with a broom in hand exclaiming, "The game's up!" Basil discovers that it is the Abbotts in the hall and tries to explain the broom as the means to clean up some game pie stuck on the ceiling. The Abbotts go downstairs with the husband making a professional remark on Basil's behaviour: "There's enough material there for an entire conference." Basil returns the broom to the closet and in the process he soils his hand on some cleaning product. Again, he hears a door open and jumps on someone he thinks is the woman, only to discover he has accosted Raylene and left large handprints on her top over her breasts. Of course, Sybil emerges at that very moment. Basil panics and puts his hand all over Raylene's chest in an attempt to hide the handprints. He then hopelessly tries to explain his mistake to Sybil, who remains unconvinced.

Soon afterwards, Basil visits Raylene's room to tell her to leave, only to find her changing her top and, terrified at being caught again, he hides in the wardrobe. Sybil then arrives to apologise on Basil's behalf and, of course, finds him in the wardrobe, whereupon she lectures him on how Raylene could not possibly be interested in the attentions of an "... ageing, brilliantined stick insect like [Basil]". He is desperate to prove to her that his interest has been in exposing Johnson's extra guest, but she refuses to listen, still believing that he is besotted with Raylene.

Finally, Basil loses his temper and snaps at Sybil, angrily calling her a "... rancorous, coiffured old sow" and telling her to "syringe the donuts out of [her] ears and get some sense into the 'dormant organ' [i.e. her brain] she keeps hidden in that 'rat's maze' [i.e. hairdo] of [hers]," and he physically drags a shocked Sybil outside Johnson's room. He challenges Johnson about an extra guest of the "... contradictory gender...". Johnson agrees that there is indeed another person in his room: Mrs Johnson, his mother. Basil mocks this disbelievingly, until Johnson's elderly mother appears and he greets her in a sudden burst of politeness. When everyone has left, he crouches, pulls his jacket up over his head in total frustration and embarrassment, and moans while making small, frog-like hops. The Abbotts, typically on the scene at the wrong time, encounter him, but Mr Abbott sighs, "I'm on holiday" and they ignore him.


Episode-credited cast:



  • Interior scenes of this episode were recorded on 28 January 1979, in Studio TC8 of the BBC Television Centre, before a live audience.[1]
  • This episode resurrects similar themes and attitudes from the episode "The Wedding Party". It similarly deals with Basil's distaste for sexual activity, and it is hinted that he and Sybil are no longer in an intimate relationship.
  • This is the only episode where the viewers see the paperboy rearranging the letters on the "Fawlty Towers" sign in the opening shot.
  • "The Psychiatrist" is the longest Fawlty Towers episode, with a running time of 36:16. The other episodes have a running time of approximately 30 minutes.
  • Nicky Henson, who plays Mr. Johnson, was at one time married to Una Stubbs, who would herself appear in an episode of Fawlty Towers later that same year. Both performers would later play in-laws in selected episodes of EastEnders in 2006.


  1. ^ Kempton, Martin. "An unreliable and wholly unofficial history of BBC Television Centre..." An incomplete history of London's television studios. 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]