Waldorf Salad (Fawlty Towers)

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"Waldorf Salad"
Fawlty Towers episode
Fawlty Towers Waldorf.jpg
Basil Fawlty attending to
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton
Episode no.Season 2
Episode 3
Directed byBob Spiers
Written byJohn Cleese & Connie Booth
Production code8
Original air date5 March 1979
Episode chronology
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"The Psychiatrist"
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List of Fawlty Towers episodes

"Waldorf Salad" is the third episode of the second series of the BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers. Directed by Bob Spiers, it first aired on 5 March 1979.[1]


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 until Mrs. Hamilton introduces him as her husband, 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 some of 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.[2] 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 combination of ingredients that he knows are in the kitchen: namely apples, grapefruit and potatoes in mayonnaise. When Basil offers an overblown and unconvincing excuse as to why the salad cannot be made, Mr. Hamilton becomes even more outraged and encourages Basil to "bust the chef's ass", 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 things 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 embarrassed Basil takes the salad and pretends to demand an explanation from Terry, and sustains a slap in the head from Sybil when he refuses to give it back. Basil uses a hat to cover the bruise. 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 and Basil, only to discover Basil yelling at empty space. Enraged, he announces that they are leaving and confronts Basil in the foyer. Mr. Hamilton knows what Basil has been up to and calls him out on his deception and lack of professionalism—-referring to him as "the British Tourist Board's answer to Donald Duck"—-and brands the hotel a disgrace to Western Europe. 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 says "I think this is probably the worst hotel we've ever stayed in", which indicates that he and his wife are not satisfied. The other guests join in with their complaints: Mrs. Johnston grumbles about her prawns she was served during dinner and how Basil argued with her when she told him about it, the Arrads reveal their half-hour wait for their main course only to be served the wrong dishes, and Mr. Libson says he asked Basil to fix his radiator three times and nothing was done.

Mr. Hamilton laughs triumphantly and peanuts Basil's tie before heading to his room to pack his bags. 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, leaving Sybil in charge of the hotel. Discovering that it is still pouring rain 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".




The episode has been described as being "massively popular" and a great success commercially internationally in the 1980s and 1990s.[3] Along with "The Germans", it is generally considered one of the most popular episodes.[citation needed] 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.[3] 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."[4]


  1. ^ Robert Ross (May 1999). Monty Python encyclopedia. TV Books. ISBN 978-1-57500-036-7. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ a b Ashley, Bob (28 June 2004). Food and cultural studies. Psychology Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-415-27038-0. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  4. ^ 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)

External links[edit]