Dinner time is exceptionally busy at Fawlty Towers and as usual the service is appalling. Several dissatisfied customers later, Basil has to attend to some new guests at reception. The Hamiltons are an American couple and Mr Hamilton is especially loud and brash, criticising England and really getting up Basil's nose.
Mr Hamilton demands a meal even though the kitchen is closed. He has to bribe Basil with a twenty pound note so that the chef will stay on and keep the kitchen open. Instead of keeping the chef on, Basil decides to cook the meal himself and pocket the twenty pounds.
The Hamilton's sit down for dinner and then ask Basil for two things that he has never heard of, a Waldorf salad and a screwdriver. Basil is told by Mr Hamilton the ingredients of a Waldorf salad, but Basil cannot find all the ingredients, so he offers Mr Hamilton an overblown excuse as to why he cannot make one. Unbeknown to him, Sybil has already made one. Basil takes back the Waldorf salad that Sybil has served to the Hamilton's and pretends to berate Terry the chef, who is not there, in the kitchen.
The Hamilton's finish their starters and everything seems to have calmed down, but then Basil comes out with a letter supposedly written by Terry the chef, taking the blame for all the cock-ups. Just then, smoke emanates from the kitchen from the burning steaks. Basil returns to the kitchen and again pretends to yell at Terry. Mr Hamilton follows him in and sees Basil yelling at an empty space.
Enraged by Basil's antics, Mr Hamilton announces that he is leaving the hotel. He confronts Basil in the hotel's lobby, and in front of the other guests proceeds to tell Basil what a crummy hotel he has. Basil protests and tells the American that all the guests are perfectly satisfied with the service at the hotel. Eventually, guest after guest comes forward with their complaints. Basil cracks and orders all the guests to leave the hotel.
After being challenged by Sybil, Basil has a change of plan and decides that it is he who should leave. When he discovers that it is raining, Basil returns and books a room. He orders breakfast in bed followed by a Waldorf salad washed down with lashings of hot screwdriver.
Waldorf Salad is an odd episode in that there are few characters in it, Manuel and Polly appear in only two early scenes, and the action centres around one room in the hotel; the dining room. Basil's nemesis in Waldorf Salad is the brash American Mr Hamilton who says what he thinks and demands certain high standards. High standards are not exactly forthcoming at Fawlty Towers, so Basil is in for a torrid time.
Mr Hamilton is probably the least sympathetic character ever to grace the rooms of Fawlty Towers. He even eclipses the irascible Mrs Richards from Communication Problems and the pedantic bore Mr Hutchinson from The Hotel Inspectors. This time Basil is not annoyed by the Hamilton's because of their class, but because he considers Americans as culturally inferior to the British.
If you watch Waldorf Salad a number of times, you will know the exact ingredients of a Waldorf Salad as they are barked many times in Basil's direction throughout the episode: they are celery, apples, walnuts and grapes, in a mayonnaise sauce.
[Showing Basil's ignorance of Waldorf salads]:
Mr Hamilton: Would you make me a Waldorf salad?
Basil: [Not having heard of it]I beg your pardon!
Mr Hamilton: Get me a Waldorf salad.
Basil: Well, I think we just ran out of Waldorfs!
[Mr Hamilton running down the service at Fawlty Towers hotel in front of the guests]:
Mr Hamilton: What I'm suggesting is that this place...is the crummiest, shoddiest, worst-run hotel in the whole of Western Europe.
Major Gowen: No! No, I won't have that! There's a place in Eastbourne.
[Basil cracks and goes mental at the guests when they complain]:
Basil: [shouting] ARSE I have to put up with from you people! You ponce in here expecting to be hand... waited on hand and foot, while I'm trying to run a hotel here! Have you any idea of how much there is to do? Do you ever think of that? Of course not! You're all too busy sticking your noses into every corner, poking about for things to complain about, aren't you? Well let me tell you something - this is exactly how Nazi Germany started! A lot of layabouts with nothing better to do than to cause trouble! Well, I've had fifteen years of pandering to the likes of you, and I've had enough! I've had it! Come on, pack your bags and get out!
The hotel sign reads FLAY OTTERS.
Manuel and Polly appear in only two early scenes.
It is revealed in this episode that Basil and Sybil have been married for fifteen years.
During a conversation between Mr Hamilton and Sybil, Sybil takes out a packet of cigarettes and a second later, after a cut to another scene, a cigarette is smoking in her hand.
Mr Hamilton mentions the M5 when he first arrives at the hotel - Mr Hamilton: Took five hours from London. Couldn't find the freeway, had to take a little back street called the M5. The M5 is a major British road running from Walsall to Exeter.