Basil and Sybil are going on a rare holiday with their friends. Manuel and Polly are left with the task of dealing with some workmen whose instructions are to build a door leading into the kitchen and block off the drawing room. Basil informs Polly that the workmen will be from O’Reilly’s as opposed to Sybil’s choice, the more expensive Stubbs.
When the Fawltys have left, Polly goes for upstairs for a short nap, leaving Manuel to wake her up when the builders arrive. The builders arrive but Manuel cannot bring himself to wake the peacefully sleeping Polly. It is left to Manuel to deal with the workmen and give them their instructions.
Next morning, Basil arrives to see that everything has been done properly. To his total horror, the builders have blocked up the dining room rather than the drawing room. Not only that but there is a door in front of the stairs rather than one leading into the kitchen. Basil phones O’Reilly to come over and fix the problem in twenty minutes or, a huge garden gnome will be inserted into him.
O’Reilly arrives and Basil pleads with him to get to work quickly. Unfortunately, Sybil turns up for her golf shoes and Basil has to come up with a story to explain O’Reilly’s presence. He tells her that O’Reilly has come to clear up the mess that Stubbs has made. Polly calls the front desk impersonating Stubbs’s secretary, but Sybil is not fooled and the game is up for Basil.
Sybil launches into a tirade against Basil and when O’Reilly turns up smiling, she gives both Basil and O’Reilly a beating with her umbrella. Sybil calls Stubbs to put the work right next morning. Then she leaves. Not wanting to admit that Sybil was right, Basil lets O’Reilly do the work anyway.
When Sybil arrives next morning, she finds that the renovations have been completely finished, apparently correctly, by O’Reilly. When Stubbs arrives it looks as though the work is of a high standard, but when he discovers that a wooden lintel has been used, he realises that it has to be immediately replaced with a concrete one, or the whole wall could collapse. Infuriated, Basil marches out of the door with Sybil’s garden gnome to see O’Reilly.
In The Builders, we see in more detail the relationship between Basil and Sybil. Basil lives in constant fear of his wife, but this
does not stop him pulling some, doomed to fail, money-saving schemes. Sybil is absolutely the sensible one in this episode and she also expects Basil to be by hiring the reputable builders from Stubbs. Basil wants to prove her wrong and get one over on her by hiring the builders from O’Reilly’s who, why cheap, are obviously also incompetent.
When O’Reilly does the inevitable and totally botches up the construction work with a little bit of help from Manuel’s poor grasp of the English language, we see the full fiery side of Sybil. Judging by Basil’s reaction when O’Reilly tries to smooth-talk Sybil, he is well aware of what lies in store for him.
This episode develops the relationship between Basil and Polly. When Basil has a truly manic attack after he discovers the total
cock-up O’Reilly has wrought on the hotel, he shouts at Polly to slap him in the face to snap him out of it. That Polly is
Basil’s reluctant side-kick is a theme that will be revisited many times in future episodes. In this episode, Polly conspires
with Basil to persuade Sybil that is was Stubbs who screwed up the renovations. Sybil seems to be aware of how Basil uses
Polly but doesn’t seem to hold it against her.
[Basil on the phone to O’Reilly]:
Basil: So, next week’s definite then, is it? Oh, good. Well, that’ll be nice, won’t it? I mean, we’ve waited for that wall about as long as Hadrian.
[After Manuel forgets to wake Polly]:
Polly: It’s not really his fault.
Basil:Well whose fault is it you cloth-eared bint, Dennis Compton’s?
[Sybil criticising O’Reilly’s workmanship]:
Sybil: O’Reilly, I have seen more intelligent creatures than you lying on their backs at the bottom of ponds!
I’ve seen better-organised creatures than you running ’round farmyards with their heads cut off!
The sign reads FAWLTY TOWER with a crooked L.
The first episode to show the upstairs of the hotel.
George Lee who plays Bennion the delivery man also turns up as the delivery man in Communication Problems.
This is the first and only time we see the Fawlty’s drawing room. Polly makes a phone call from it to Sybil, pretending to be Mr Stubbs secretary.
When Basil smashes Manuel’s head on the wall you can see Manuel kick it to make the sound effect.
When Polly brings Mr O’Reilly a cup of tea, it is obvious that there is nothing in it.
The position of the gnome and the tape player on the desk changes between scenes.
When Basil rushes outside to meet Sybil, he has one more shirt button undone than he had inside.
Basil mentions the Gleneagles Hotel. This was an actual hotel in Torquay which was owned by Donald Sinclair, the man who inspired the
character of Basil Fawlty.
Hadrian’s wall [see quote above] was a wall built between 122 and 132 AD by the Roman emperor Hadrian to protect England from the Barbarians in Scotland.
The Generalissimo that Manuel refers to is undoubtedly Francisco Franco who was the fascist dictator of Spain from 1939 to his death in 1975.
Basil refers to Denis Compton [see quote above], who was a popular English cricketer and soccer player.
When Sybil enters the hotel after O’Relly’s remedial construction work, Basil starts a cassette tape and then hides. The cassette is
playing Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
David Kelly — Mr O’ Reilly
James Appleby — Stubbs
George Lee — Delivery Man
Michael Cronin — Lurphy
Michael Halsey — Jones
Barney Dorman — Kerr