Basil struggles to cope during Sybil's short stay in hospital. The fire-drill ends in chaos with Basil knocked out by the moose head in the lobby then he encounters the Germans and tells them the “truth” about their Fatherland…

Fawlty Towers episode guide
#6: The Germans

Series One, Episode Six — First shown 24 October 1975

The Germans was the clear winner for the title of "Most favourite Fawlty Towers episode" as voted by visitors to this site.

Some Germans are staying at Fawlty Towers so don't mention the war. Basil mentioned it once but he thinks he got away with it. Only trouble is, after receiving a knock to the head rendering him even less sensitive than before, he can't stop mentioning it.

Mention Fawlty Towers to anyone and the chances are they will think of The Germans episode. Basil goose-stepping around the dining room and constantly reminding The Germans staying at Fawlty Towers of the war is probably the most memorable of many great comedy moments in Fawlty Towers. Basil is at his insensitive best (or should that be worst) but at least on this occasion he can blame a knock on the head for his behaviour! The line by Basil: “Don't mention the war!” has become one of those phrases from great British comedies that has become common usage.

Unusually, The Germans episode features some scenes that take place outside the confines of Fawlty Towers, some might say that Basil in particular should definitely have been confined to Fawlty Towers or even the nuthouse. Sybil is in hospital to have an ingrowing toenail removed and poor Basil, in visiting her, is on the receiving end of a long list of tasks to be carried out — hold a fire-drill, remind chef to scrape the mould off the Cheddar, and finally hang the moose head on the lobby wall.

Photo of Basil visiting his wife in hospital as she is in to have her ingrowing toenail removed

The way Sybil is seeking sympathy you would think she was about to undergo major surgery but the unsympathetic Basil is having none of it, every request by Sybil is met with the usual sarcasm and the ward Sister doesn't escape the Basil treatment either. On meeting the doctor who will be removing the “little devil” that Basil would like mounted, he is clearly delighted when the doctor informs him that operation will be quite painful afterwards.

Back to Fawlty Towers

We return to Fawlty Towers to find things running along as normal: The Major is rambling on incomprehensibly and Basil is being nagged, this time down a telephone line, by Sybil to hang the moose head. Major Gowen proudly announces that he once took a woman to see India! — at The Oval! He is also none too chuffed to find out a party of Germans are expected: “Bunch of Krauts, bad eggs!”

Classic Scene…

One of my favourite scenes is the one in which The Major thinks he has met a talking moose head: The moose head is sitting on the reception desk whilst Manuel is tidying up behind the desk and practising his English. Just as The Major wanders in from the bar Manuel proudly announces that he can speak English and “How are you Sir”. The Major turns around just as Manuel bends down out of view, thereby thinking he has encountered a talking Moose!

Basil inadvertently sets off the burglar alarm whilst trying to hold the fire drill causing chaos in the midst of which Manuel sets fire to the kitchen, but his shouts of fire fail to raise the alarm as Basil insists it’s just a drill and forces Manuel back into the burning kitchen. Manuel finally escapes the kitchen blaze and promptly knocks Basil unconscious with a frying pan.

Basil wakes up in hospital where Sybil gets her own back for Basil's earlier sarcasm. “Polly can't cope” claims Basil and Sybil reminds Basil how well he was coping — “setting off burglar alarms, locking waiters in burning kitchens, getting jammed under a desk”. Basil decides to discharge himself and arrives back at Fawlty Towers with a deranged glint in his eye — and just in time to welcome The Germans who have just arrived.

Don't mention the war

Basil, head bandage making him look crazier than ever, on hearing the arrivals speaking German, says “Oh German! I thought there was something wrong with you.”

Classic Scene…

Basil then proceeds to mention the war at every opportunity, upsetting the German guests more and more as he rapidly descends into a fit of xenophobic ranting about everything and everyone that most Germans would rather forget.

When the fed up German asks Basil to stop going on about the war, Basil kindly reminds him that they started it. “We did not start it,” protests the German. “Yes you did, you invaded Poland”, replies Basil!

The doctors soon arrive, having been summoned by the concerned Polly, looking to sedate the disturbed Basil who finally ends up having the moose which he earlier put up in the lobby, land on his head. Basil, the moose and Manuel (who Basil has just thumped on the head) all finish up lying in a heap prompting The Germans to ask themselves “However did they win?” Rumour has it that Major Gowen drove them all to surrender after boring them to death about cricket and car strikes.

Full cast list for The Germans
Character Played by
Basil Fawlty John Cleese
Sybil Fawlty Prunella Scales
Polly Connie Booth
Manuel Andrew Sachs
Major Gowen Ballard Berkeley
Miss Tibbs Gilly Flower
Miss Gatsby Renee Roberts
Mrs Wilson Claire Davenport
Sister Brenda Cowling
Doctor Louis Mahoney
Mr Sharp John Lawrence
Mrs Sharp Iris Fry
German Willy Bowman
German Nick Kane
German Lisa Bergmayr
German Dan Gillan
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