Thursday, 1 September 2011

Luv'ly Jubbly - The Jolly Boys Outing (1989)

"The Jolly Boys' Outing" is the eighth and in my own personal opinion finest Christmas special episode of the BBC Sitcom, Only Fools & Horses, first screened on 25 December, 1989. However, since the story is set on an August Bank Holiday, it is often repeated as a "summer special".

Rodney is now working for Alan Parry, Cassandra's father, at his printing firm Parry Print Ltd, while Uncle Albert has been promoted to "Executive Lookout" for Trotters Independent Traders, i.e: watching out for the police. The so-called traditional Jolly Boys' Outing, whereby all the regulars at the Nag's Head pub go on a once-a-year day-trip ("beano") to the seaside resort of Margate in Kent is also approaching.

The following evening, at Rodney and Cassandra's flat, the Trotters enjoy a nice dinner with Cassandra's parents, as well as her boss, Stephen (a yuppie who is much hated by Rodney, Alan, and to a lesser extent, Albert), and his wife, Joanne. The night ends with a game of Trivial Pursuit in which Del Boy suggests that a female swan is called a bic.

The day-trip to Margate proves eventful; the coach driver apparently gets drunk half-way through the journey (but it is later established that he was overcome by fumes from the radio burning out), Rodney gets arrested for accidentally throwing a football at a policeman (which he was passing to Del), and Alan gets sick after eating too many jellied eels. Just as the Jolly Boys are preparing to leave Margate and head off home, their coach, equipped with one of the Albanian low-quality radios being sold by Del recently, ignites and explodes. A train strike however, coupled with a restricted bus service on Bank Holidays (this being one), the Jolly Boys are forced to spend the night in Margate. Knowing of the limited number of vacant hotel rooms, the Jolly Boys split up and go in different directions.

Del, Rodney, and Albert split up into their own group. After fruitless searching for somewhere to stay, they are forced to choose the Villa Bella, a darkened, run-down hotel managed by the creepy Mrs Cresswell (and which Rodney refers to as "the Munsters' weekend place"). Rather than spend the night there, however, Del and Rodney decide to visit a nightclub called the Mardi Gras (Del was given complimentary tickets from Mike's old rival Eddie Chambers at a halfway house earlier that morning), where Del's old girlfriend Raquel (last seen in "Dates") is working as one half of the Great Raymondo's magic act. Del and Raquel reminisce about the past, and it is obvious that they still love each other. Raquel states her intention to leave the act after it ends, as Raymondo, with his foul temper, sometimes scares her, and Del invites her to live with him in Peckham.

Del and Rodney return to the Villa Bella late, and discover that they have been locked out. After failing to wake up Albert (breaking a window in the process), the Trotter Brothers head over to Raquel's flat to sleep for the night, only to find out that she shares it with the Great Raymondo. Suspecting Raymondo of blackmailing Raquel sexually in return for a job and roof, Del Boy flies into a rage, punches Raymondo and throws his suitcase out of the window, but later discovers from an enraged Raquel that Raymondo is actually gay, they have separate rooms, and only stay in the same flat as it is cheaper than having one each. Despite this, Raquel and Raymondo forgive an embarrassed Del for the misunderstanding.

Upon returning home, Rodney finds Cassandra and her boss Stephen, seemingly alone together. Rodney suspects Stephen of having an affair of Cassandra, punches him and breaks his nose only to find that Stephen's wife Joanne is also there (Joanne had previously planned to spend the weekend with her parents, confirming Rodney's suspicion, but she ultimately couldn't due to the train strike), and is promptly thrown out by Cassandra. Back at Nelson Mandela House, as Del speaks with Raquel over the telephone, he learns the unintended consequences of his actions the previous night; Albert was hit on the head by the stone Del threw through the hotel window, and Mike and Boycie were injured by the suitcase he threw out of Raquel's window. The episode ends as Rodney enters the flat with all his things while Del proceeds to eat Albert's breakfast (and berate Albert for trying to eat it himself).

As the credits roll, a recap of the Jolly Boys' Outing in Margate is shown along to the song "Down to Margate" by Chas & Dave from 1982.

The events of this episode are mentioned in "Sleepless in Peckham", implying that the Jolly Boys' Outing was a regular event from the 1960s before Del blew the coach up. The very first Jolly Boys' Outing was seen in the first episode of the prequel series Rock & Chips.

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