Sybil is in hospital for three days to have an in-growing toenail removed. She tells Basil all the chores he needs to do while she is in there; namely, running a fire drill and hanging a moose head.
Back at the hotel, Basil lets slip to Major Gowen that a group of German guests are coming to stay. The Major launches into a tirade against the Germans. Basil’s attempts to hang the moose head are thwarted by Manuel and the interference of Sybil over the telephone.
Next morning, Basil tries to hang the moose head again and is successful but with one of the antlers drooping. Sybil telephones to remind him of the fire drill at twelve O’ clock and tell him that the key to the fire alarm is in the safe. Basil accidentally trips the burglar alarm and causes confusion amongst the guests who believe that the fire drill has started.
In the kitchen, the hapless Manuel starts a real fire. After much frantic activity involving Basil, Manuel and the guests, Manuel ends up inadvertently knocking Basil unconscious with the frying pan he has been using to smother the flames.
Basil wakes up to find that he is in hospital being treated for concussion. Still groggy and disorientated, he insults the Sister and insists on going back to the hotel. After seeing the doctor, Basil sneaks out.
Back at the hotel, the German guests have arrived. Using his poor German linguistic skills, Basil gets the wrong end of the stick and believes that two of the German guests want to volunteer to get some meat when really they want to hire a car. Despite Polly encouraging him to lie down, Basil insists on serving the other four Germans lunch. He tells Polly not to mention the war.
While taking their orders, Basil constantly refers to the war. He confuses two of the orders, thinking they are ordering prawn Goebbels and a Herman Goring. The exchanges slowly get worse and one German guest starts to cry. Basil tries to cheer her up with an impression of Adolf Hitler by manically goose-stepping around the hotel lobby.
The doctor arrives to sedate him and in the melee Basil gets knocked out when the moose head falls off the wall and hits him on the head. The Germans look on and one of them says, referring to the war, how ever did they win?
The Germans is probably the most well-known episode of the Fawlty Towers series. It contains the classic quotable line – Don’t mention the war! – a line which has become embedded in the public consciousness, and is especially memorable for the tactless and undiplomatic way that Basil treats a contingent of German visitors in the dining room whilst in a state of concussion. Sybil is in hospital having treatment for an in-growing toenail, so Basil gets full freedom to create his characteristic mayhem.
The Germans is unusual in that it is almost like a play with three distinct parts. The first two acts concern Basil hanging the moose head and conducting a fire drill. The final act is when Basil receives the German guests and reduces them to a state of utter disgust by his xenophobic remarks.
The basic theme of this episode is essentially how the British perceive foreigners. In reception, the Major in a conversation with Basil uses racial slurs to refer to Africans and Indians. Basil does not acknowledge or reinforce the Major’s use of the terms, so it seems that Basil, while moderately xenophobic and class conscious, is not a racist. That Basil only has a moderate and perhaps harmless disinclination towards foreign cultures is shown by the fact that he has to be in a state of confusion to bring his negative utterances to the fore; and even then, he does so in a very polite way.
[In the hospital]:
Sybil: I am actually about to undergo an operation, Basil.
Basil: Oh, yes. How is the old toenail? Still growing in, hmm? Still burrowing its way down to the bone?
Still macheteing its way through the nerve, aye? Nasty old nail!
[Basil in hospital after his concussion]:
Basil: [to the nurse]My God, you’re ugly, aren’t you?
Nurse: I’ll…I’ll get the doctor.
Basil: You need a plastic surgeon dear, not a doctor.
[Basil squabbling with the German guests]:
Basil: Is there something wrong?
German Guest: Will you stop talking about the war?
Basil: Me? You started it.
German Guest: We did not!
Basil: Yes, you did. You invaded Poland.
The only episode that doesn’t start with the hotel as a backdrop. Thus, no sign is seen. Instead, the action starts at a hospital.
Contains the only black person to appear in the whole series and Basil is noticeably freaked by him.
Basil’s goose-stepping is clearly an allusion the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch in Monty Python. It gets a big applause.
The first German guest doesn’t appear until 23 minutes into the episode.
Only episode where Sybil doesn’t appear in the hotel.
This episode was voted number 11 in Channel 4’s “One Hundred Greatest Tv Moments” in 1999.
As Basil flees the doctor who is trying to sedate him, a studio monitor can be glimpsed in the background with the same image we can see on screen.
Basil mentions Harold Wilson while talking to Sybil in the hospital room. Harold Wilson was the leader of the left-wing Labour party for two periods between the years 1964 to 1976 – Basil Fawlty: I mean, what is happening to this country? It’s bloody Wilson!
Basil has a conversation with Major Gowen at reception. The Major mentions the Oval. The Oval is a cricket ground in London,
home to the Surrey County Cricket Club – Major Gowen: I… I… I must have been keen on her because, ah, because I took her to see, ah, India! … At the Oval! A fine match, a marvelous finish! Now, Surrey had to get 33 in about a half an hour, and she went off to, ah, powder, ah… powder her hands or something.
Basil continually insults the German guests and when they accuse Basil of starting it [the argument], Basil retorts – Basil: Yes, you did. You invaded Poland. The invasion of Poland by germany started World War II.
In 1973, the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community(EEC), a European trading alliance and Basil makes reference to it when welcoming the Germans – Basil: May I say how pleased we are to have some Europeans here now that we are on the continent? … I didn’t vote for it myself, quite honestly, but now that we’re in, I’m determined to make it work, so I’d like to welcome you all to Britain.
Claire Davenport — Mrs Wilson
Brenda Cowling — Sister
Louis Mahoney — Doctor
John Lawrence — Mr Sharp
Iris Fry — Mrs Sharp
Willy Bowman –German Guest
Nick Cane — German Guest
Lisa Bergmayr — German Guest
Dan Gillan — German Guest