A young “yobbo” has booked in — much to Basil’s annoyance. A psychiatrist arrives to add to his discomfort, remarking, “There’s enough material here for an entire conference,” as he observes the baffling phenomenon known as Basil Fawlty.

Fawlty Towers episode guide
#8: The Psychiatrist

Series Two, Episode Two — First shown 26 February 1979

The episode opens to find everyone busy at reception. Polly is attending to guests, and both the Fawltys are on separate phones—Sybil to one of her friends as usual, whilst Basil is trying to get through to the speaking clock but it is constantly engaged, which he can’t understand as his wife is not on to it!

Sybil flirts with Mr Johnson at reception

In walks Mr Johnson, who clearly thinks of himself as a bit of a “ladies man”, and Sybil instantly begins flirting with him to Basil’s annoyance. Basil clearly doesn’t have a high opinion of Mr Johnson, making several references to Mr Johnson being not too many steps up the evolutionary ladder from an ape. Sybil, referring to Mr Johnson’s collection of symbolism around his neck, immediately counters that Basil’s idea of real men being the likes of Earl Haig sport something similar in the form of medals.

Dr and Dr Abbott enter from the front door to check in and Mrs Abbott observes Basil doing another monkey impression. Sybil then looks at the registration form they have just filled in and announces that they are in fact Doctors, a fact which the Abbotts hadn’t made known to the Fawltys when they phoned earlier to book. Instantly, Basil’s manner changes, just as it does throughout the entire Fawlty Towers series, when he realises that he has some quality guests to fawn over. He is soon making a fool if himself though as he tries to grasp the fact that the Abbotts are two doctors.

It goes something like this:

Classic Scene…

Basil: How do you do doctor. Very nice to have you with us, doctor.
Dr (Mr) Abbott: Thank You.
Basil: And Mrs Abbott, how do you do.
Dr (Mr) Abbott: Dr Abbott, actually.
Basil: …I’m sorry?
Dr (Mr) Abbott: Doctor Abbott.
Dr (Mrs) Abbott: Two doctors.
Basil: (to Mr Abbott) You’re two doctors?
Dr (Mrs) Abbott: Yes.
Basil: Well, how did you become two doctors? That’s most unusual…I mean, did you take the exams twice, or…?
Dr (Mr) Abbott: No, my wife’s a doctor…
Dr (Mrs) Abbott:I’m a doctor.
Basil: You’re a doctor too! So you’re three doctors.
Dr (Mr) Abbott: No, I’m a doctor. My wife’s another doctor.

Mr Johnson comes back to the desk. Sybil flirts some more but Mr Johnson isn’t really interested. Basil appears and is proudly having a dig at Sybil about how much further up the evolutionary scale the Abbotts are from Johnson. Again the Abbotts catch Basil mimicking an ape behind Mr Johnson’s back. Unknown to Basil, “The Psychiatrist” of this episode title is Mr Abbott, he is not a GP as Basil presumes. Basil is not amused by the instant rapport that Mr Johnson strikes up with the Abbotts with his jibe about the Guide to Torquay being one of the world’s shortest books — like “Great English Lovers”. Basil soon retaliates by having a dig at Mr Johnson — asking him if he is dining at Fawlty Towers that night, a place he obviously finds unfashionable. He even suggests that if Mr Johnson wants French food he should swim the English Channel! Or maybe he would prefer some fruit!

The Dining Room

The Abbotts are having dinner, and Basil is doing a bit of grovelling as he usually does to his “upmarket” guests, offering them drinks on the house. It is during the idle conversation that Dr (Mr) Abbott calmly announces that he is a Psychiatrist! Basil retreats to the kitchen, immediately defensive, he is horrified, suddenly in the grip of paranoia — warning Sybil to be on her guard. When Sybil probes him as to why he is suddenly so nervous, he reveals his blinkered dislike of Psychiatrists. “Mad as March hares”, he claims, “to them, everything’s connected with sex!”

Classic Scene…

Basil tries to make a good impression with the Abbotts

The Abbotts are discussing with each other how the Fawltys managed to have holidays — “We were just speculating how people in your profession arrange their holidays. How often can you get away?” Basil is unfortunately just out of earshot, as he comes back to their table all he catches is “How often do you manage it?” [!] Basil, because of his paranoia, thinks they are prying into his and Sybil's sex life. “My wife didn't see how you could manage it all” [!] Basil is determined to appear spot on Mr Average — “two or three times a week actually”

Basil heads for the kitchen to tell Sybil his fears are confirmed — they are analyzing him. Sybil soon puts him right, it was, in fact, holidays they were enquiring about. Now even more horrified he rushes back into the dining room but the Abbotts have gone. Basil catches up with them in the lobby, trying to explain, but as usual he seems to dig a bigger hole for himself.

As the Abbotts leave for a walk, a young attractive Australian woman has arrived at reception and while the Fawltys are occupied at the front desk, Mr Johnson arrives back at Fawlty Towers — ushering a young woman upstairs before Basil can see her.

Basil, ever eager to please his new pretty guest, decides to carry Raylene's cases up to her room. As the helpful Basil shows her where everything is in the room, Raylene decides to do a few stretching exercises to combat the stresses of her tiring journey. Oh Dear! Basil is about to put his foot in it, or should I say “hand on it” — Raylene is standing against the wall whilst Basil is in the bathroom trying the light which happens not to be working. Sybil walks in at an inopportune moment — Basil reaches outside the bathroom door for the light switch, but only succeeds in fondling Raylene Miles's breast!

As Basil leaves Raylene's room, he passes Mr Johnson's which is right next door, and hearing a female laugh he isn't going to be outdone when Mr Johnson almost catches him listening at the door. Mr Johnson requests a bottle of Champagne but Basil curtly advises him that it will be delivered — with one glass!

As Manuel is ordered to fetch the bubbly, Basil is again caught by Mr Johnson listening at his door. Undeterred, he moves on to the next room—the Abbotts’—and sneaks in for a furtive listen at the wall. Caught yet again! The Abbotts walk in and switch on the light so Basil immediately pretends he is sounding the wall like a doctor sounding someone's chest!

If Dr Abbott had been asked for a diagnosis of Basil, it would soon be upgraded from borderline neurotic to positively demented as he is caught for a fourth time—this time it is Mrs Abbott who catches him with an ear at Johnson's door—time for the old “sounding the door” routine!

Any and all doubts about Basil’s character are finally dispelled after more odd behaviour culminates in him being caught with his ear against the wall by Dr Abbott—this time in Raylene’s room—alerted by her piercing scream when she is awoken by the now obsessed Basil.

Basil is determined to catch Mr Johnson with a girl in his room, and if he can't catch them “at it” from inside the hotel he will just have to do what he has to do from the outside—Manuel, get the ladder!

Basil climbs up a ladder to catch a guest with a lady in his room but appears at the wrong window

Mr Johnson and his ladyfriend are sitting on the bed sipping Champagne as Basil climbs the ladder. Is he finally about to catch them out? Disaster! It is the Abbott's window he is peering into (see above picture)! Just as they are undressing for bed. You could get nicked for that Basil! Anyway, he gets such a fright when they discover him that he overbalances the ladder and lands in a heap.

The ever helpful Manuel rushes back inside Fawlty Towers for help but, due to his poor understanding of the nuances of the English language, Sybil gets the wrong end of the stick and marches outside to give the still-groggy Basil a good slap! Poor Manuel, he is just as bemused as Basil but once he tells Basil what he first told Sybil, Basil begins to see things a little clearer. Manuel had told Sybil that Basil was "crazy about girl" and how he was desperate to "see in window to see girl". Basil then decides to teach Manuel a lesson but unfortunately for Basil, the Abbotts are treated to another display of the Basil Fawlty lunacy!

Next morning, Basil intercepts Polly taking Sybil's breakfast up to her and takes it up himself with his plan to make amends being to tell Sybil what Manuel really meant — the girl in question was not Raylene but the girl that Mr Johnson had smuggled into his room. Back down on the guests’ floor, Mrs Abbott goes into Mr Johnson's room to return his Torquay Guide Book, and Basil thinking he is about catch Mr Johnson out, hides in the broom cupboard as he has just heard female laughter coming from Johnson's room. On hearing the door to Mr Johnson's room opening, he jumps out brandishing a broom and for a moment he thinks he has finally caught Mr Johnson out and declares "the game's up". Realising his mistake (it's just Mrs Abbott) he tries to look a bit less insane by pointing to the ceiling and declaring there is a piece of game pie stuck on the ceiling! (the game's up — get it?).

Basil leaves a telling handprint on Raylene Miles' low cut top

Above: Basil doesn't just leave fingerprints at the crime scene — he leaves an entire hand print!

Putting the broom back in the cupboard, Basil knocks over a tin and accidently gets some black sticky stuff on his hands, then he hears a telling "OK, all clear" from Johnson’s room. Finally, he is going to have his big moment in catching Johnson’s "stowaway", but no, on hearing Raylene coming out of her room, Johnson’s girl darts back in leaving Basil to jump out at the wrong girl yet again! Disastrously, Basil grabs Raylene from behind getting an incriminating black handprint on her breast, just as Sybil appears. Basil tries to explain what has being going on but Sybil is not convinced so Basil’s only option is to ask Raylene to leave. He goes up to Raylene’s room to do just that but Basil has to dive down behind the bed as Raylene appears from the bathroom half-dressed just as there is a knock at the room door. It’s Sybil! Basil is going to get it now! But where is he? Basil has hidden in the cupboard but Sybil spots his finger holding the door shut!

Basil is really annoyed now at Sybil doubting his version of events and fires off some insults at Sybil:

"I'm fed up with you, you rancorous coiffeured old sow. Why don't you syringe the doughnuts out of your ears and get some sense into that dormant organ you keep hidden in that rat's maze of yours?

Basil is determined to sort this out once and for all, knocks on Johnson's door and demands that his lady friend, the one he smuggled in contrary to Fawlty Towers policy, is brought out.

"Well Mrs Johnson is in here", concedes Mr Johnson.

Cue sarcasm from Basil when he thinks he has caught Johnson out at last, "I thought you told my wife you were single?"

"I am," retorts Johnson, "it's my mother in the room"

"You mother. Oh, I see. This little bit of crumpet's your old mummy, is she? Oh this is rich. Mrs Johnson popped up for a quickie, did she?"

"Certainly" says Johnson. He goes into his room to bring out his mother.

Meanwhile, quite a crowd has gathered with Gatsby, Tibbs and the Major joining the crowd to see Basil finally chop Mr Johnson down to size.

"Mother Johnson, Mother Johnson. Come out, come out, wherever you are!"

Needless to say it is Johnson's elderly mother who appears to meet Basil who, realising he has just made the biggest fool of himself ever, turns back to fake charm, "How do you do, are you enjoying yourself?" "Right I'll get the champagne, this calls for a celebration."

Mrs Johnson goes back inside. The assembled crowd disperse leaving Basil to dissolve into a fit of madness, pulling his jacket over his head, squatting down and hopping around in despair. The Abbotts arrive on the scene to witness Basil crumble before their eyes. Mrs Abbott looks to her husband for his professional opinion: "I'm on holiday," he declares.

Basil rolls into a ball, defeated.

Full cast list for The Psychiatrist
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
Terry the Chef Brian Hall
Mr Johnson Nicky Henson
Dr Abbott Basil Henson
Mrs Abbott Elspeth Gray
Raylene Miles Luan Peters
Mrs Johnson Aimee Delamain
Johnson’s Girlfriend Imogen Bickford-Smith
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