Insults between Basil and Sybil!

Basil and Sybil Fawlty were often at each others throats in Fawlty Towers. This page lists all the insults, slurs, digs, rudeness, sarcasm and general abuse that flew between the pair in each episode.

A Touch of Class

In this episode most of Basil's nastiness is aimed at Mr Brown the detective and at Lord Melbury (once he realises he has been conned by the phoney Lord, of course). Basil does manage a sarcastic "drive carefully" when his wife remarks she is going out, and an equally insincere "If you're too busy!" when they are arguing over who should deal with some trivial matter. His only real insult aimed at Sybil in this episode is a muttered "sour old rat" when she is just out of earshot!

The Builders

Basil and Sybil are constantly at each other's throats in this one! Plenty of sarcastic comments fly between the two of them as usual, but Sybil is finally riled enough to physically assault Basil when she discovers the builders have cocked-up the structural alterations. Basil is quick with a sarcastic "handbag, knuckle dusters, flick knife?" when Sybil is trying to remember if she has forgotten anything for their trip away. Not to be outdone, Sybil later claims that her garden gnome would do a better job of running the hotel than Basil can — Basil replies with a sarcastic "don't drive over any mines or anything"!

Basil also informs his builder that Sybil is a "golfing puff adder", and, "she can kill a man at ten paces with one blow of her tongue." Fortunately for Basil, Sybil isn't around to hear him! He also refers to Sybil as a "toxic midget" in this episode!

The Builders episode also includes Basil tricking Manuel into calling one of O'Reilly's builders "a hideous orang-utan", resulting in Manuel receiving a punch in the face. Basil also calls Polly a "cloth-eared bint" to her face, but she does get the pleasure of slapping him several times later on!

The Wedding Party

Not too much vitriol between the Fawltys in The Wedding Party. Early on, Sybil gets up Basil's nose by flirting with a guest in the lounge so Basil counters with a few sarcastic comments. He starts with comparing Sybil's laugh to "someone machine gunning a seal", and then tries to apologise for his wife's behaviour by joking that "her finishing school got bombed". Sybil retaliates: later, after Basil claims he killed four men in the Korean War, Sybil remarks he was in the Catering Corps and used to poison them! Later in the episode he calls Sybil a half-wit and sneers "What have you got for brains? Sponge cake?"

The Hotel Inspectors

Again, an episode without too much abuse between Basil and his wife, although it does include two of his best terms of endearment for his spouse: "my little nest of vipers" and "great sabre-toothed tart"! Most of Basil's energy in this half hour is consumed by fawning over a succession of men mistaken for hotel inspectors. On the old sarcasm front, Basil manages a stream of them after his wife finally tears herself away from the telephone and then complains of having a difficult day — "Oh Dear! Did you get entangled in the eiderdown again? Not enough cream in your eclair? You didn't have time to perm your ears?"

Gourmet Night

Basil is under severe pressure as his dreams of being accepted amongst the cream of Torquay society are—like the duck—squashed. He takes his frustrations out on Sybil with lines like: "My little piranha fish", "Why don't you have another vat of wine dear?" and "You stupid great tart."

Sybil keeps a cool head as usual, her only quip of note is calling Basil a "Big, bad tempered tomato."

The Germans

Sybil is in hospital in this episode and, although Basil isn't very sympathetic, there is very little verbal warring between the two of them. Basil does chip in with "I'm just doing it you stupid woman!" when she telephones during his attempts to hang up the moose head. During one of her frequent phone calls, this time answered by Polly, Basil relays a message (after successfully, albeit temporarily, getting the moose head on the wall) through Polly to Sybil: "Tell the tyrant queen her cardies are safe for ever"!

Communication Problems

Mrs Richards constantly demands attention in Communication Problems so Basil and Sybil barely have time to rise above the usual level of general antagonism of each other! The only insult worthy of noting is when Basil receives his betting winnings from Polly and tells her "not a word to the dragon". There is plenty of verbal sparring between Basil and Mrs Richards, but if I was to list every insult Basil directed at a guest over the twelve episodes this page would be a mile long!

The Psychiatrist

It takes a while in this episode for the insults to start flying but when they do they really get going! Sybil starts on Basil by calling him a "Benzedrine puff adder", and "an aging, brilliantined stick insect"! Basil really gets annoyed later and calls his lovely wife a "rancorous, coiffeured old sow". He follows up by asking her "Why don't you syringe the doughnuts out of your ears?", and tells her to "get some sense into that dormant organ you keep hidden in that rat's maze of yours"! It's not often Sybil is pushed over the edge and resorts to physical assault on Basil, but when he falls off the ladder after getting caught looking into the bedrooms from the outside, she gives Basil a good hard slap! For good measure, after he has chased her back into the hotel and tries to explain, she gives him another two slaps to the face!

Waldorf Salad

Basil is flying around trying to keep the guests happy whilst Sybil stands chatting. Basil's is just about coping but does admit that "Not pureeing your loved ones" is the difficult part, especially when Sybil has spent a "hard day slaving under the hairdryer". He also calls Sybil a "stupid cow" when she doesn't tell him she finds the ingredients for a Waldorf Salad. "Let me explain, my little workhorse," rounds off the cheap shots from Basil in this episode.

The Kipper and the Corpse

What a let-down from the big, bad-tempered tomato and the toxic midget! There is hardly anything worth listing from The Kipper and the Corpse as far as insults and abuse are concerned. The best Basil can manage is a sarky "A woman's work is never delegated" when Sybil is complaining about how busy she is.

The Anniversary

With Sybil away in a huff for most of this episode there isn't much time left for her and Basil to fall out any further than they already have. Near the beginning, Basil takes pleasure from Sybil's bad mood brought on by him appearing to have forgotten their wedding anniversary: "Do I detect the smell of burning martyr". Sybil does find time to give Basil a slap to the face on two different occasions and Basil shoves Sybil into a kitchen cupboard near the end, but the episode finishes just as Basil heads back into the kitchen to let her out. Presumably he wouldn't get too far into his explanation before Sybil starts slapping him again, or worse!

Basil the Rat

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A public health inspector has found a long list of faults with the Fawlty Towers kitchen, Basil is panic stricken; and that is just the perfect situation for him to really lay into Sybil with the jibes! He starts with a "Yes, my little commandant?", follows up later with "Can't we get you on Mastermind (See A to Z guide), Sybil? Specialised subject: the bleedin’ obvious", and finishes up with "home wanted for large, savage rodent…answers to the name of Sybil"! Sybil is too occupied with trying to save the hotel from closure to be bothered with any really good digs back at Basil.