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Recap / Fawlty Towers S1E2 "The Builders"

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We've been waiting for that wall about as long as Hadrian.
Basil Fawlty

Maintenance is made on the lobby while the Fawltys are out, but when a misreading causes the incompetent builders to mess it up spectacularly, Basil must try to remedy the situation before Sybil finds out.

Tropes that appear in this episode:

  • Appeal to Worse Problems: O'Reilly tries to cheer a disgruntled Basil with "there's always someone worse off than yourself".
    Basil: Is there? Well I'd like to meet him. I could do with a laugh.
  • As the Good Book Says...: O'Reilly keeps starting sentences with, "as the good book says," "as the good Lord says," and "if the good Lord had meant". Finally, sick of the builder's pious excuses for laziness, Fawlty responds in epic fashion:
    O'Reilly: If the good Lord —
    Fawlty: — is mentioned once more, I shall move you closer to him!
  • Ass Shove: The implication of Basil's threat to O'Reilly that he will "insert a large garden gnome in you" if O'Reilly doesn't fix a wall.
  • Big "SHUT UP!":
    Basil: Shut up.
    Manuel: ¿Qué?
    Basil: Shut up.
    Manuel: Ah yes, I understand.
    Basil: So will you please shut up?
    Manuel: Si si, I shut up.
    Basil: Now, while we're away...
    Manuel: I shut up.
    Basil: SHUT UP!
  • Brick Joke: After Basil discovers the aftermath of O'Reilly's first botched job on the hotel lobby, he orders him to come straight back to the hotel to put his work right otherwise he will "insert a large garden gnome" in him. Later, after O'Reilly's attempt at fixing it is found to have left the hotel in imminent danger of structural failure, Basil is seen purposefully walking out the front door carrying said garden gnome.
    • Said lawn gnome is a Brick Joke in itself, as it gets delivered while Basil and Sybil are away, and is left behind the front desk by Manuel. After Polly persuades Basil to call O'Reily, he trips over it.
    • Basil is confounded by a drawing of Polly's that he believes to depict a trash heap over a smart collar and tie. Polly shrugs innocently and hangs it up at reception. A few minutes later, Manuel walks in, notices the sketch, and says, "Oh, is Meester Fawlty!"
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Subverted by O'Reilly; the end of the episode gives the impression that he actually is a capable builder when properly supervised and given a push by someone like Basil... right until they discover the slight matter of him having put an improperly-braced door in a supporting wall, which could cause the entire building to collapse.
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: Basil finally tires of O'Reilly's constant references to The Good Lord.
    O'Reilly: I tell you, if The Good Lord...
    Basil: mentioned once more, I shall move you closer to him.
  • Crooked Contractor: O'Reilly, a criminally lazy construction manager who Basil only hires because he's cheap. By the time he's done, there's a door in front of the stairwell, and no door to the dining room. On another occasion he was contracted to build a wall in the garden. He dumped a load of bricks and mortar there and then just left them. As his piece de resistance, he seemingly manages to do all the jobs he was hired for while also fixing the ones that were messed up, but leaves Fawlty Towers in danger of collapse by knocking a door through a supporting wall and failing to properly brace it.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: When Basil finds that O'Reilly has removed the door to his dining room, Basil tells the builder "No, no, I don't want to debate. If you're not over here in twenty minutes with my door, I shall come over there and insert a large garden gnome in you. Good day." And at the end of the episode, he walks off with the garden gnome to do just that.
  • Cutting Corners: Basil hires O'Reilly to install a new door between the dining room and the lobby. The door goes through a load-bearing wall, but he uses a simple 2x4 for the lintel instead of a more substantial beam. A more competent builder hired by Sybill panics and runs for a prop when he hears about this.
  • Double Take: A marvellous one. When Basil back to find that O'Reilly has completely filled in the door to the restaurant, he walks as if to go through it, stops and looks around as if he's taken a wrong turn, and then does a magnificently over-the-top, full-body double take when realization dawns.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Basil has a moment of this, when he telephones O'Reilly to ask him to put right the shambolic building work, which sounds even funnier after Basil's earlier hysterical reaction.
    Basil: (silkily) Ah hello, Mr O'Reilly, how are you this morning?... Oh I do beg your pardon. Basil Fawlty, you remember, the poor sod you do jobs for? How are things your end?... Oh good! Well, how would you like to hear about things my end?... Oh well, up to your usual standard, I could say: a few holes in the floor, the odd door missing, but nothing you couldn't be sued for.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Basil becomes hysterical with panic after hiring O'Reilly against Sybil's wishes who botches the hotel's renovations, so Polly smacks him. Apparently, he realized that's what he needed, because he told her to do it again.
  • Henpecked Husband: The episode demonstrates that for all Basil snarks back at Sybil, he is terrified of her wrath after the foul up that occurs after going behind her back. Indeed he suffers a verbal and physical tirade from Sybil when she finds out. Played with since afterwards, Basil, fuelled with vengeful spite, attempts to humiliate her by making O'Reilly to fix the job competently before Stubbs, her own choice, arrives.
  • Hidden Depths: The delightfully dim Manuel correctly interprets the subject of Polly's surreal sketch.
  • Mythology Gag: Basil explains to Miss Gatsby and Miss Tibbs that they have to go to the Gleneagles for their dinner due to the construction work. The Gleneagles and its manager is what gave John Cleese the inspiration for Fawlty Towers.
  • Never My Fault: The episode is a carnival of blame-shifting between the titular builders who screw up the job, Manuel who instructed and oversaw them, Polly who left Manuel in charge and went for a nap, and Basil who hired the inept builders despite past experience and Sybil's express instructions not to.
  • Oh, Crap!: Stubbs, the conscientious builder who Basil has rejected in favour of the cheap-but-incompetent O'Reilly, inspects the new doorway Basil had O'Reilly built, and remarks that it looks very good. He then asks Basil what kind of lintel he used: RSJ (known to US viewers as an I-Beam) or concrete? When Basil replies that it was 2x4, and therefore basically a wooden plank, Stubbs points out 'But that's a load-bearing wall', whereupon Basil delivers this trope (and Sybil in a more subdued form with an angry "What").
    • This is also Manuel's reaction when he realises the caller on the other end of the phone who he's been angrily hanging up because Basil isn't there actually is Basil.
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure: In "The Builders", the inept builder O'Reilly fails to grasp Basil's reference to Hadrian.
    Basil: We've waited for that wall about as long as Hadrian. No, Hadrian, the emperor Hadrian.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sybil gives one to O'Reilly after attacking him and Basil with an umbrella for their laziness and lies.
    Sybil: O'Reilly, I have seen more intelligent creatures than you lying on their backs at the bottom of ponds! I've seen better organized creatures than you running round farmyards with their heads cut off! Now collect your things and get out! I never want to see you or any of your men in my hotel again!
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: Polly attempts to cover for Basil hiring the builder O'Reilly by pretending to call from Stubbs's firm. She does this from the hotel drawing room, pinching her nose to disguise her voice. Sybil is not fooled, goes to find her, and speaks to Basil through the phone.
    Polly: (holding her nose) So you see we couldn't possibly manage it for at least three weeks, but if you want it done straight away, I suggest you try someone like... what's his name...
    Sybil: (entering the room) O'Reilly?
    Basil: (through the phone) Bravo Polly, well done, girl. But where are you speaking from?
    Sybil: (taking the phone) She's in here with me, Basil.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Despite the clear fact that he is inept, O'Reilly considers himself "the genius of the lamp". Sybil, needless to say, is not impressed by this.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: Notable examples of extra-light props are seen in this episode:
    • The enormous garden gnome, which Basil bangs on the desk, showing it to be much lighter than a garden statue of that size would be.
    • The cup of tea which Polly gives to O'Reilly, which is probably empty.
    • The wall which has replaced the dining room door, which wobbles when Basil bangs Manuel's head into it.
  • Suddenly Shouting: After Sybil discovers Polly pretending to be someone from Stubbs's firm at Basil's request, she storms back through with Tranquil Fury. Then Basil makes the mistake of trying to lie that it was Stubbs who messed up the building work again and she goes through the roof:
    Sybil: BASIL! Don't you dare, don't you dare give me any more of those pathetic lies!
  • Tuckerization: Basil tells the old ladies that they will have to stay at Gleneagles for their dinner, after the Gleneagles hotel, from which John Cleese drew his inspiration for the series.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Major is totally unperturbed by the sight of Basil carrying Manuel across the dining room, and they evening manage the usual "Morning, Fawlty" "Morning, Major" exchange.
  • You Get What You Pay For: Basil hires the cheap (and inept) O'Reilly to do some renovation work at the hotel instead of Sybil's choice, the more expensive (but competent) Stubbs, with predictable results.



Manuel tries his best to speak English.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / FunnyForeigner

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