During the evening, a Mr Leeman returns to the hotel with a bad stomach. He picks up his keys and asks for breakfast in bed, much to Basil’s disgust. Sybil offers him kippers and he agrees.
Next morning, Basil notices that the kippers to be served to Mr Leeman are out-of-date. He is reassured by Terry, the chef, and takes the kippers upstairs to the guest. Basil, so outraged by the latest industrial dispute reported in the morning’s papers, fails to notice that Mr Leeman has died. He takes Mr Leeman’s silence for rudeness and goes back downstairs. Polly takes up the milk which was mistakenly omitted from Mr Leeman’s breakfast tray. Realising that he is dead, she runs back downstairs to tell everyone.
Basil immediately panics when he realises that it might be the out-of-date kippers that killed Mr Leeman. Dr Price, who is staying at the hotel, examines the body and concludes that Mr Leeman died ten hours ago.
Now, Basil has to remove the body from the room without the guests seeing. While the body is being moved across the upstairs hall, Miss Tibbs spots the body and becomes hysterical. Polly slaps her around the face to snap her out of it and instead knocks her out. Both Miss Tibbs and the body are hidden in one of the rooms bedroom wardrobe’s, but unfortunately, the room’s occupants Mr and Mrs White want to go into their room to get their things. Entering their room, they hear someone moaning inside the wardrobe. Miss Tibbs comes out of the wardrobe, and Basil makes up a story about her being a madwoman who likes hiding in wardrobes.
The body is taken into the office behind reception and once again Miss Tibbs catches sight of it and faints. From there it is taken into the kitchen and put on a table. Dr Price, waiting for his sausages to be cooked, insists that it be moved, so it is put into a linen basket and taken into reception. When Mr Leeman’s business partners arrive, Basil thinks that they are undertakers. He opens the linen basket to show them the body, but it appears that the body has been taken away by the laundrymen. Basil gets back the basket containing the body just in time.
While Sybil tells Mr Leeman’s business partners of his demise, Basil frantically tries again to get the body hidden. It is eventually hidden behind the hat rack. Eventually all the guests who have been neglected by Basil, and they are many, round on him, so he palms them off on Sybil. Basil hides in the laundry basket and is taken away. As Sybil desperately calls out Basil’s name, Mr Leeman is on view for all to see.
The Kipper and the Corpse is the one Fawlty Towers episode that could best be described as farce. Other episodes contain moments of farce but none contains as much running about the hotel, spooking the guests, banging the doors, and generally creating mayhem quite so much as this one.
One running gag throughout the episode concerns Dr Price and his sausages. He wants them as he is starving hungry. Because Dr Price is one of the members of the professional classes, he is shown a mild amount of fawning by Basil. Deference is not something that Basil shows the ailing Mr Leeman, who is sent to bed with a flea in his ear after Basil believes that he is being over-indulged by the staff because he is feeling unwell. Finding Mr Leeman dead the next morning, Basil still seems unconcerned about the death of one of their guests, and instead is relieved that the Fawlty Towers cuisine had nothing to do with it.
Getting rid of a corpse should be an easy task to perform, but of course this is Fawlty Towers with the manic Basil at the helm, so this is going to be no piece-of-cake. Along the way, he reduces Miss Tibbs to a gibbering wreck, causes The Whites to believe that he is mental, and total bemuses Mr Leeman’s three business colleagues by announcing that their colleague is in a laundry basket. The basket-case Basil ends the episode in the most suitable case – the laundry basket.
[Basil believing Mr Leeman is being indulged]:
Basil: Rosewood, mahogany, teak.
Mr Leeman: I beg your pardon?
Basil: What would you like your breakfast tray made of?
Mr Leeman: I don’t really mind.
[Basil speaking to Sybil in the morning]:
Sybil: We’ve got a busy day, I’ve got the laundrymen coming.
Basil: The laundrymen, my God! A woman’s work is never delegated is it?
[Basil speaking to one of the guests]:
Miss Abitha Tibbs: Oh, you’re very cheerful this morning, Mr. Fawlty.
Basil: Yes, well, one of the guests has just died.
The hotel sign reads FATTY OWLS.
This is the only time Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby play a part in the storyline rather than as peripheral figures.
Mr Leeman is named after a man who told John Cleese that when he worked at the Savoy hotel, he found a guest dead in his room. He was asked to dispose of the corpse discreetly.
Richard Ingrams, a television critic for the Spectator, gave a very poor review of the show. John Cleese got his revenge by naming a guest character “Mr Ingrams”, who is caught with a blow-up doll in his room, after him.
Above the front driveway of Fawlty Towers is the sign Wooburn Grange Country Club. This is where the exterior shots were filmed. The director
forgot to remove it before filming. This sign is also glimpsed in The Anniversary and Basil the rat.
Geoffrey Palmer — Dr Price
Mavis Pugh — Mrs Chase
Richard davies — Mr White
Elizabeth Benson — Mrs White
Derek Royle — Mr Leeman
Robert McBain — Mr Xerxes
Pamela Buchner — Miss Young
Raymond Mason — Mr Zebedee
Charles McKeown — Mr Ingrams
Len Marten — Guest