Basil the Rat

"Basil the Rat" is the sixth and final episode of the second series of the BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers, and the twelfth and final episode of the programme as a whole.

"Basil The Rat"
Fawlty Towers episode
Episode no.Season 2
Episode 6
Directed byBob Spiers
Written byJohn Cleese & Connie Booth
Production code12
Original air date25 October 1979
Episode chronology
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List of Fawlty Towers episodes


After a routine health inspection, the inspector, Mr. Carnegie, after an exhaustive listing of problems in the kitchen, informs Basil and Sybil that Fawlty Towers is below standard, with the flaws including the presence of two dead pigeons in the water tank. He will, therefore, recommend closure to the Council if they do not rectify the problems within 24 hours. The staff all get to work straight away. When Basil is alerting Manuel, he notices that he is keeping a pet rat, having been conned into thinking that it's a Siberian hamster. Basil, afraid that the health inspector will take issue with it, removes it. Infuriated, Manuel threatens to resign, and it is debated what to do with it. Eventually, it is agreed that it will be moved to a friend of Polly, but she and Manuel secretly hide it in a shed nearby. Foolishly, Manuel lets it out to exercise, and it escapes back into the hotel, prompting a discreet rat hunt. Unfortunately, Basil learns of it from the Major, who had tried to shoot it, and decides to join in the hunt after a confrontation ("Let's have a little Basil hunt, shall we? And then we can deal with the sackings later on"). During the search, Basil applies rat poison to a veal fillet and puts it on the floor in the kitchen.

Just as Carnegie arrives, the Major sees the rat and shoots at it. Basil silences him (by jabbing him in the groin with the butt of the gun) and persuades him to say his target was a starling. Manuel, while asking about his rat, whose name is "Basil", is informed that the chef puts a lot of basil in the ratatouille. Panicking ("He put Basil in the ratatouille?!"), Manuel runs into the kitchen, only to be informed by Terry that "I haven't made any bleedin' ratatouille!" In the commotion, a tray of veal is spilled, and the poisoned cutlet is picked up as well by an unknowing Terry. To make matters worse, every subsequent guest asks for veal, including Mr. Carnegie, who has decided to stay for lunch after declaring the hotel to once again be in satisfactory condition. Unable to persuade him to try something else, or discern which veal is safe, they resort to using a piece the cat chewed, as it is not demonstrating signs of poisoning. Moments later, Basil retrieves it after he walks out the back and sees the cat choking, only to discover that the cat was, by extremely remarkable coincidence, throwing up a fur ball when Basil had seen it. Meanwhile, Manuel spots the rat at the table of an engaged young couple named Quentina and Ronald, and struggles to take their order. Basil is called over to explain Manuel's shock, and informs him that there is a bread roll under the table, ordering Manuel to get a box. Polly takes their order, and of course, they ask for veal. When Basil explains that the veal is off, only for them to see Sybil serve Carnegie his veal (which Basil claims is "veal substitute"), the couple decide to dine elsewhere, but Polly informs Basil that the rat is in Quentina's handbag. She catches him trying to fish it out, and he is only saved from a "bunch of fives" from an indignant Ronald after Polly says that there has been a bomb scare. Unfortunately, the rat bites Basil and escapes into the dining room. Manuel catches and hides it in the biscuit tin. When he turns around for a moment, the Major takes the box for a biscuit. Manuel does not see this and frantically searches for the box.

Carnegie finishes lunch and asks for some coffee, cheese and biscuits for afters. The Major unknowingly hands Polly the box containing the rat. On opening the lid, the rat's head pops up and looks directly into Mr Carnegie's face. Carnegie is speechless, especially when Basil asks "would you care for a rat, or...?" Polly removes the rat and returns to Carnegie, who is still dumbfounded by what he has seen, and not altogether certain that he did see it. Sybil ends the series with the line "I'm afraid it's started to rain again," in an attempt to distract Carnegie as Manuel drags Basil, who has fainted off-screen, out of the dining room.



  • Sabina Franklyn as Quentina
  • Melody Lang as Mrs. Taylor
  • David Neville as Ronald
  • John Quarmby as Mr. Carnegie
  • Stuart Sherwin as a Guest
  • James Taylor as Mr. Taylor

Connections and production notesEdit

  • When Basil is explaining to Manuel that his "Siberian hamster" is in fact a rat, he says: "You have rats in Spain, don't you – or did Franco have 'em all shot?". Fawlty Towers began in September 1975, two months before Francisco Franco's death.
  • In some shots a real rat was used. The real rat's appearances in studio shot scenes were pre-recorded due to fears it could run into the studio audience.[1] The last shot of Basil the Rat at the reveal is of an obvious puppet in a biscuit tin operated by Connie Booth.
  • Manuel's pet "hamster" was previously mentioned in "The Germans", but not seen. Similarly, Basil and Sybil have a pet cat which is mentioned in "The Hotel Inspectors" (Basil: "Well he's [Manuel] useless isn't he, you may as well ask the cat") but is first seen here.
  • Manuel was seen to play the guitar in "Gourmet Night", but he does not do it very well. In this episode, he appears to have improved.
  • In the scene where Polly and Manuel are seen taking the rat away from the hotel, the accompanying music is the second movement of the Concierto de Aranjuez by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. Coincidentally a version of this piece by Manuel and his Music of the Mountains (a pseudonym for bandleader Geoff Love) had been a chart hit in the UK in 1976.
  • Melody Lang (Mrs. Taylor) was the real-life wife of Andrew Sachs.
  • This episode was filmed and broadcast six months after the previous episode due to a BBC strike.
  • This is John Cleese's personal favourite episode.

Stage adaptationEdit

In 1994, "Basil The Rat" was one of two Fawlty Towers episodes that were adapted for the stage and performed at the Theatre Geo in Hollywood.[2] The other was "The Kipper and the Corpse".


  1. ^ Fawlty Towers: Reopened
  2. ^ Meeks, Christopher (29 August 1994). "Fawlty Towers". Variety. Archived from the original on 3 August 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2009.

External linksEdit