Basil is terrified by the news that hotel inspectors are in the area — and well he might be. The awful probability occurs to him that the eccentric guest he has been so offensive to may be one of them — but has he got the right man?

Fawlty Towers episode guide
#4: The Hotel Inspectors

Series One, Episode Four — First shown 10 October 1975

The Hotel Inspectors is all about Basil at his two-faced best. His double-sided personality allows him to change seamlessly between being sarcastic, rude and insulting one second and a grovelling sycophant the next — fawning over the guests when it suits him. Especially when he suspects that they might be hotel guests with an ulterior motive!

Sybil has heard from a friend, whilst gossiping on the phone (her hobby), that there are three hotel inspectors in town. Basil is horrified — he has just had a battle of wits with a guest at reception. Surely he can’t be a…

The episode opens with Sybil at reception, chatting on the phone whilst the impatient Mr Hutchinson (nicely played by Bernard Cribbins) waits to be attended to. Sybil calls through to Basil who’s in the office trying to have a cigarette break. Well, Sybil can’t see to him, she’s much too busy. Out comes Basil, annoyed…

“Yes?”, snaps Basil. At which, Mr Hutchinson proceeds to baffle Basil by asking him if he will book him a taxi to town for later that afternoon. What gets Basil’s goat is Mr Hutchinson speaks in a dressed-up dialect of English that has Basil asking “Are you alright?” Basil “politely” points to the phone on the reception counter and invites Mr Hutchinson to help himself. Mr Hutchinson won’t use the phone for fear of infection! Next, Mr Hutchinson expects Basil to draw him a diagram pinpointing the location of where he wants to go to in town, “If it doesn’t put you out”. Of course it puts Basil out. Customer service was never Basil’s strong point.

Basil has a battle of wits with two guests, which one is the hotel inspector? Neither of them!

By this stage, another guest, Mr Walt, has appeared at the desk, both he and Mr Hutchinson will be mistaken by Basil throughout the episode as being the Hotel Inspectors on the prowl around Torquay.

Mr Hutchinson then thinks the abbreviation P. Off for Post Office on the map actually says Boff — “a locale, a district”. Basil seeks reassurance from Mr Walt that it does in fact say P. Off, “I suppose so” replies Mr Walt. “See, P. Off”, says Basil to Mr Walt. “I beg your pardon?” says the bemused Mr Walt. “P. Off”, repeats Basil!

Both guests, by now thoroughly bemused and insulted by the antics of Basil, leave Sybil and Basil to have a go at each other. Sybil complains she’s had a difficult morning prompting the usual sarcastic retorts from Basil. Sybil reminds Basil that it’s a hotel they’re running, not a borstal and just happens to mention that she has heard there are three hotel inspectors in town so Basil better be more courteous to the inmates, er… guests.

Back comes Mr Hutchinson and begins to hammer away at the reception bell just as Basil is about to ring round his friends in the trade to see if they can shed any light on the hotel inspectors.

Mr Hutchinson would also like to reserve the TV that evening:

Classic Scene…

Mr. Hutchinson: There is a documentary on BBC2 this evening about “Squawking Bird,” the leader of the Blackfoot Indians in the 1860s. Now this starts at 8:45 and goes on for approximately three-quarters of an hour.
Basil Fawlty: I’m sorry are you talking to me?
Mr. Hutchinson: Indeed I am. Yes, now, is it possible for me to reserve the BBC2 channel for the duration of this televisual feast?
Basil Fawlty: Why don't you talk properly?

It is at this point that Basil finally twigs that this infuriating guest, whom he has just had a battle of wits with, might be one of the hotel inspectors. Especially when the guest remarks that he comes into constant contact with hotels… in his professional capacity!

Cue an instant transformation in Basil, all of a sudden Basil begins grovelling as he now realises the hole he has dug himself into. Nothing will be too much trouble from now on in Basil’s quest to make this one guest’s stay as pleasant as possible. The rest of the guests can go to hell of course, Mr Hutchinson is going to get all Basil’s snivelling attention, well, at least until Basil learns that the man’s “professional capacity” is selling spoons to the hotel trade!

Mr Hutchinson then asks if the hotel has a table tennis table, to which Basil replies, “Indeed it does, it’s not in absolutely mint condition but it could certainly be used in an emergency”. Apparently this is John Cleese’s favourite one-liner in all the episodes.

The middle third of this episode takes place in the hotel dining room involving the two suspected (though at different stages) hotel inspectors and the rest of the staff. Mr Walt is moved from table to table around the dining area as, at first, Manuel’s poor understanding of English leads him to seat Mr Walt at the wrong table, only to be moved again by Manuel and then Basil. Basil doesn’t care about Mr Walt’s inconvenience as he still thinks Mr Hutchinson is the hotel inspector.

Mr Hutchinson then has the staff going round in circles serving him a succession of “erroneous dishes” as he orders one thing then changes his mind. None of this is too much trouble for Basil as “the hotel inspector” must get first class service.

Next, Basil is trying to act the wine connoisseur to Mr Walt, boasting that, unlike him, “most of his guests wouldn’t know a Bordeaux from a claret”. Mr Walt points out that a Bordeaux is a claret, much to Basil’s surprise as he hasn’t a clue about wine — after a few minutes of struggling to uncork a bottle of red for Mr Walt and being informed that the wine is corked — Basil insists that he’s just uncorked it, that’s how he managed to get the wine out of the bottle and into the glass. Basil then offers to taste the wine to prove to Mr Walt that it is, in actual fact, perfectly drinkable. At least that was the plan until he has a taste and has to turn away cocking his leg in the air at the sour tasting corked claret!

Mr Walt has by now managed to get Basil’s blood pressure sky-high and Basil advises him that if he’s having the lamb they’ll have another standing by, just in case it doesn’t meet Mr Walt’s high standard.

Basil gets called out of the dining room, in which the only two guests other than the regulars have both been well and truly insulted. Very shortly, one is going to progress from being insulted to assaulted as Basil finds out that the guest he has been trying so hard to please (Mr Hutchinson), sells cutlery to the hotel trade, specialising in spoons. Mr Hutchinson is soon going to find himself face down in his dinner.

Basil tries to silence Mr Hutchinson who is loudly complaining about his treatment.

Basil then storms back into the dining room with his sights set on teaching Mr Spoons a lesson, he asks the spoons specialist whether he would like a tea cosy for his pepperpot and when he finds Mr Hutchinson still unhappy he offers to let him run the hotel instead!

While all this is going on, Manuel is giving Mr Walt the runaround, first swiping his dinner from under his nose and then his wine which Basil has had to open another bottle of. Basil is by now getting very annoyed with Mr Walt until he happens to drop into the conservation that he is in town on business with two colleagues.

The penny drops… It’s Mr Walt that is the hotel inspector! For the second time Basil is going to have some serious crawling to do to the guest who has suddenly been transformed into a hotel inspector…at least in Basil’s eyes.

Classic Scene…

Before he can appease Mr Walt, he is first going to have to silence Mr Hutchinson, who is now announcing to everyone in earshot that this hotel is the worst place he’s ever been to and Mr Fawlty is the most obnoxious, arrogant and rude hotelier he has ever met. “This is going to finish me”, thinks Basil so he decides the only way to shut Mr Spoons up is to throttle him under the pretence that a bit of cheese has become lodged in Mr Spoons’ windpipe, ending up with Mr Spoons being knocked unconscious, face down in his cheese salad!

The action now moves through to the reception desk again as Basil and Manuel cart the comatose Mr Hutchinson through to the hotel lounge. He soon comes round of course and goes Basil hunting. Basil is at reception desperately trying to play down all the antics, hoping that Mr Walt who has joined them at reception won’t report any of Basil’s “hospitality” in his hotel guide. It’s unlikely of course that Mr Walt will be writing anything about Fawlty Towers in any hotel guides — he sells outboard motors, as does his two colleagues. Basil has yet to find this out for himself.

Enter Mr Spoons, frothing at the mouth and proceeds to beat Basil up in front of the bemused Mr Walt. Basil then tries to pretend to Mr Walt that Mr Hutchinson-Spoons is really a regular guest and they have this little roleplaying charade of Basil getting beaten up by him every time he stays there. Mr Hutchinson-Spoons, satisfied that he’s given Basil enough of a beating, announces he is going to collect his belongings and doesn’t expect to receive a bill. He won't, but he's not going to leave Fawlty Towers without a little memento of his stay…Basil will see to that!

By this stage, Basil is offering to bribe Mr Walt, who he still thinks is a hotel inspector, but when Mr Walt finally lets Basil know that he is really an outboard motor salesman, Basil is ecstatic… with no real hotel inspectors around he can let Mr Hutchinson leave the premises with the kind of send-off he won't forget in a hurry.

Basil and Manuel attack the departing Mr Hutchinson with custard pies and a jug of milk poured into his briefcase!

He marches off to the kitchens and in the meantime in walk the three real hotel inspectors… just in time to witness Basil and Manuel apply a nice custard pie to Mr Spoons’ face and groin! And as a finishing touch — a jug of milk into the briefcase — they then give him a kick out the door, after which, Basil (looking happier than he's been in years) returns to attend to the new arrivals (who witnessed firsthand the real Basil Fawlty):

“And what can I do for you three gentlemen?”

Basil suddenly realised that the three gentlemen whom have just walked in are the real hotel inspectors!


Cue the closing titles! The three hotel inspectors genuinely looked like they got a fright at Basil's scream as the horrible truth suddenly hit him!

Full cast list for The Hotel Inspectors
Character Played by
Basil Fawlty John Cleese
Sybil Fawlty Prunella Scales
Polly Connie Booth
Manuel Andrew Sachs
Mr Hutchinson Bernard Cribbins
Mr Walt James Cossins
Major Gowen Ballard Berkeley
Miss Tibbs Gilly Flower
Miss Gatsby Renee Roberts
John Geoffrey Morris
Brian Peter Brett
Back to the top