The Anniversary (Fawlty Towers)

The Anniversary (Fawlty Towers)

Infobox Television episode
Title = The Anniversary
Series = Fawlty Towers

Caption =
Season = 2
Episode = 5
Airdate = 19 March 1979
Production = 11
Writer = John Cleese & Connie Booth
Director = Bob Spiers
Guests =
Episode list = List of Fawlty Towers episodes
Prev = The Kipper and the Corpse
Next = Basil the Rat

"The Anniversary" is the fifth episode of the second series of BBC sitcom "Fawlty Towers".


Basil pretends to have forgotten about Sybil's and his wedding anniversary, having secretly arranged a cocktail party with their friends due to arrive any minute. However, Sybil becomes enraged with Basil as she believes that he has genuinely forgotten, as was the case in the previous year. Sybil walks out, leaving Basil (aided by Polly) to make up a story to tell the surprise guests when they arrive to find Sybil is nowhere to be seen. Basil's maniacal behavior infuriates his wife.


*John Cleese as Basil Fawlty
*Prunella Scales as Sybil Fawlty
*Andrew Sachs as Manuel
*Connie Booth as Polly Sherman
*Ballard Berkeley as Major Gowen
*Brian Hall as Terry the Chef
*Gilly Flower as Miss Abitha Tibbs
*Renee Roberts as Miss Ursula Gatsby:With:
*Denyse Alexander as Kitty
*Robert Arnold as Arthur
*Ken Campbell as Roger
*Roger Hume as Reg
*Pat Keen as Virginia
*Christine Shaw as Audrey
*Una Stubbs as Alice


On the morning of their wedding anniversary, Basil acts as though he has forgotten in order to annoy Sybil. Behind her back he has actually made several arrangements for their anniversary. He has invited six friends to a surprise party at the hotel and has also granted Manuel permission to cook a paella, something he has wanted to do ever since arriving at Fawlty Towers.

Polly, meanwhile, is complaining to Terry that Basil won't give her an answer about some money she wants to borrow to buy a car. She asks Basil again and he evades her questioning.

After a confrontation between Sybil and Basil where he continues to pretend that he has absolutely no idea that it is their wedding anniversary, she storms out of the hotel. Basil initially fails to notice her leaving as he is trying to calm down a dispute erupting between Manuel and Terry about the paella and use of the kitchen.

Realising she has left, Basil chases Sybil in order to try and get her to come back. However, by the time he gets outside she has already driven away and Basil is left standing in the hotel car park with his surprise guests about to arrive. As the first couple of guests arrive, he and Polly come up with the idea of saying that Sybil is ill and therefore not able to attend the function. Two of the guests are sure they saw Sybil driving in the town, but he assures them that it was another "northern" woman who resembles her a lot.

The made-up story of Sybil's illness gradually escalates as Basil describes what sound like horrific symptoms. He insists that the guests may not visit Sybil who is supposedly in bed upstairs. However, pressure builds on Basil when it is revealed that one of the guests, Virginia, is in fact a nurse - and therefore wishes to see Sybil in order to ascertain what she is suffering from.

Finally through pressure from the sceptical Roger (“They’ve had a row—she’s not coming down.”), Basil tries reverse psychology: he informs the group that they may go up to see Sybil in bed: "I'll just pop upstairs and tell her to stop dying so that you can all come up and identify her." This naturally makes the guests feel very uncomfortable and reluctant, but Roger is not so dissuaded.

Basil now tries to force Polly to dress up as Sybil and get into her bed, in order to create the illusion that his wife is indeed incapacitated. He manhandles Polly into their room. Polly is at first very much against this idea. However, after being promised by Basil that he will give her the money she needs for the car, she agrees to carry out the stunt.

The guests gather upstairs on the landing outside Sybil's room and must wait for several minutes whilst Sybil 'prepares herself'. During this time Roger continues to drop hints as to why the situation has arisen and several contradictions are made on Basil's part. For example, earlier on he told the group that Sybil could not speak due to the swelling of her face. However, before they go into the room he tells them that she has said that she is looking forward to seeing them, a fact which is noted by one of the other guests.

The guests are finally allowed in but because the lights are turned out, two of them trip and injure themselves. Basil opens the curtains to provide light, revealing Polly in Sybil's wig and sunglasses, tucked up in bed. The guests seem to believe that it is really Sybil. However Virginia remains worried about Sybil's condition and tries to examine her. Polly/Sybil is reluctant and when Virginia insists, resorts to hitting her.

Basil re-enters the room and looks out of the bedroom window to see that the real Sybil has just arrived back. He goes downstairs and dissuades her from coming inside, upsetting her further through his apparently uncaring attitude. She leaves to play golf with her friend Audrey.

Finally, the guests all come back downstairs (most of them bearing at least one injury from the visit) and Basil is about to say goodbye to them, just as Sybil marches into the lobby, having forgotten to pick up her golf clubs. Both wife and partygoers are struck bewildered and confused as Basil introduces Sybil to them as the previously mentioned "northern" woman from the town, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Sybil and who is interested in buying one of their fridges. A mute Sybil is then led by Basil into the kitchen (which by this time is in chaos as Terry and Manuel have resorted to violence in their fight about the paella) and locked in a cupboard. Basil then cordially bids farewell to the guests, one and all, and quietly remarks to a now-undisguised but equally perplexed Polly: “Piece of cake. Now comes the tricky bit.”

Connections and errors

* This episode is unique among all of the Fawlty Towers episodes, in that it features no guest stars who appear to be guests (The Builders almost qualifies, except one guest checks out during the first few seconds).
* This episode contains the only on-screen appearance of Sybil's friend Audrey.
* Una Stubbs was once married to Nicky Henson, who appeared as Mr. Johnson in the episode "The Psychiatrist".
* This is the only episode where the catchphrases '¿Que?' and 'He's from Barcelona' are not used in any context.
* Basil and Sybil's wedding anniversary is on 17 April.


Julian Holloway was originally cast to play Roger. However disruption caused by a BBC strike delayed filming by a week and Holloway was replaced by Ken Campbell. The extra rehearsal time that was afforded due to the strike has led Cleese to list it as one of his favourite episodes. [cite web
title=We Used to ache with laughter!


*cite book
title=Fawlty Towers
publisher=Hodder and Staughton

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