Friday, 12 August 2011

Fawlty Towers - Series One, Episode Six - The Germans' (1975)



"The Germans" was the sixth episode of the classic BBC Sitcom Fawlty Towers. It is fondly remembered for its line "Don't mention the war" and "John Cleese's funny walk" when he is impersonating Adolf Hitler.
Sybil is in the hospital for three days for minor surgery to remove an ingrown toenail. When Basil visits her, she reminds him of all his tasks over the next few days: Running a fire drill, hanging a moose head, etc. Basil fights with the Sister caring for Sybil. When the Doctor tells him Sybil will be in a lot of pain after the operation, Basil is thrilled!
Back at Fawlty Towers, Basil has a confusing conversation with Major Gowen about women, a cricket game and the proper racial slurs for Indians. When the Major learns a group of German guests are coming to the hotel, he launches into an angry tirade against Germans. After the Major wanders off, Basil tries to hang the moose head, but he is interrupted by a phone call from Sybil reminding him to hang the moose head. Basil tries to ask Manuel for a hammer, but he gives up after Manuel thinks that Basil wants a hammer sandwich and wants to see his hamster, Basil leaves to get it himself. While he is gone, Manuel steps behind the front desk to tidy up and practice his English. The Major returns to hear a voice coming from behind the counter and thinks it is coming from the moose head. Basil returns and hangs the moose head, but it immediately falls on his head, and he trips over Manuel trying to get to the phone to talk to Sybil again.

The next morning, Basil hangs the moose head again, but one of the antlers keeps drooping. There are just a few minutes remaining until the fire drill, and Sybil calls to remind Basil of the drill and say the key for the fire alarm is in the safe. Basil retrieves the key, but he trips the burglar alarm, which the guests mistake for the fire alarm. As Basil tries to explain, the guests ask to hear both bells so they can tell the difference. Hearing the fire bell from the demonstration, Manuel and Polly think the fire bell means the drill has started, so Basil has to explain the situation to them, too. After the demonstration, Basil says the real drill will start in 30 seconds, so the guests stand about in the lobby, to Basil's annoyance.

In the kitchen, moments before the drill is to start, Manuel starts a real fire. The drill then commences. The panicked Manuel tries to explain the situation to Basil, but he does not understand and locks the poor waiter in the burning kitchen. Basil lets the guests back in, but Manuel's frantic banging makes him open the kitchen door. Basil sees the fire and tells the guests to exit the building again. He tries to start the alarm again, but he cannot find the key. He hurts his hand trying to smash the glass and hurls the typewriter at it with no success, so he uses the phone instead. He tries to use the fire extinguisher, but he blasts himself in the face, which temporarily blinds him. Trying to help, Manuel accidentally smacks Basil in the head with a frying pan he had been using to try to smother the flames and knocks Basil out.

Basil comes to in the hospital, where he is being treated for a concussion. The confused, disoriented Basil insults the Sister and insists on going home. The Doctor puts him to bed, but after he is gone, Basil sneaks out.
Back at Fawlty Towers, the German guests have arrived. Basil tries to speak German. However he does not understand it, since two German guests want to hire a car, but Basil thinks that they are volunteering to get some meat. Polly encourages Basil to lie down, but he insists on trying to serve lunch to the Germans. Despite warning Polly "don't mention the War", he makes multiple references to World War II accidentally at first, but eventually becoming worse as he goes on. When his references drive one German guest to tears, Basil tries to cheer her up with a joke about a bomber over Berlin. When that fails, he tries an impression – of Adolf Hitler, which involves goosestepping around the lobby. The Doctor arrives to give Basil a sedative and take him back to the hospital. Basil makes a run for it hitting Manuel to distract the Doctor, but the moose head falls on his head which knocks him out again while the moose ends up on Manuel's. Manuel complains that Mr Fawlty hit him on the head but the major walks by and says "No, you hit him on the head, you naughty moose!" The episode ends with the German guests wondering "how ever did they win?" (referring to the War).

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