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Beer
Episode 5
Written by Ben Elton & Richard Curtis
Directed by Mandie Fletcher
Guest stars Hugh Laurie, Miriam Margolyes, Daniel Thorndike, Roger Blake, William Hootkins
Original airdate 13 February 1986
Episode chronology
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List of episodes

Beer is the fifth episode of the BBC sitcom Blackadder II, the second series of Blackadder, which was set in Elizabethan England from 1558 to 1603. In the episode, an embarrassing incident with a turnip, an ostrich feather and a fanatically Puritan aunt leads to a right royal to-do in the Blackadder household. The episode marks Hugh Laurie's first ever Blackadder appearance, and Miriam Margolyes's second. Laurie would later go on to appear in every subsequent episode of the show, notably Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth.

Plot Edit

Blackadder is having breakfast with Lord Percy when he receives a letter informing him that his fanatically Puritan and extremely wealthy aunt and uncle, Lord and Lady Whiteadder, will be visiting him to discuss the terms of his inheritance over dinner that evening. Before Edmund can revel in his fortune, a messenger arrives and informs him that Queen Elizabeth demands his presence at court.

Blackadder rushes to Hampton Court to discover the Queen and Nursie tending to an ailing Lord Melchett, whom the Queen believes to be dying. However, it is quickly revealed that Melchett is simply suffering from a dire hangover. Blackadder mocks Melchett for his lack of alcoholic tolerance, while Melchett reminds Edmund of his own drunkenness during the visit of the King of Austria, during which Blackadder wandered naked around the grounds of Hampton Court singing "I'm Merlin, The Happy Pig". Blackadder challenges his rival to a drinking bout, with 10,000 florins at stake. After Blackadder leaves, Queenie conspires to somehow gain entry to the party.

Upon arriving back home, Blackadder begins to draft a guest list for the drinking party, with Percy's assistance. Baldrick, fully aware that his master does not have ten thousand florins to gamble with, questions the wisdom of his master holding a drinking contest; according to the dogsbody, everyone knows once Blackadder hits the ale, he falls flat on his face and starts singing "that song about the goblin". Things are further complicated when Percy reminds him that the puritan Whiteadders will also be coming around that evening. Blackadder hastily returns to the Queen and asks that the contest be moved to another night; however, she senses that he's trying to cop out of his promise (since she also knows about his tendency to sing about the goblin when drunk) and refuses to postpone the contest.

Back at his house, Blackadder decides to hold both events on the same evening but in different rooms. The drinking party is to be held in Baldrick's bedroom, while the Whiteadders are to dine with Percy in Blackadder's dining room. Blackadder is further annoyed when he's informed by Percy and Baldrick that while rooting through the vegetable patch for suitable food, they came across "a turnip shaped exactly like a thingie". In order to outlast Melchett at the drinking contest while simultaneously not making a fool out of himself in front of his aunt and uncle, Blackadder conjures up a plan to avoid alcohol without the other drinkers noticing, telling Baldrick to hand him water when he asks for his "incredibly strong ale" at the party.

The evening begins with the arrival of the Whiteadders, who are (by degrees) comically revealed to denounce most everyday comforts as the work of Satan, including chairs (at home, they sit on spikes), mashed foods, (believing that mashing was designed to soil the "sacred shape" of vegetables), the concept of family (due to the requirement of sex) and central heating (since "cold is God's way of telling us to burn more Catholics"). To make matters worse, Nathaniel, Lord Whiteadder has taken a "vow of silence", leaving Edmund's abusive and volatile aunt to hold the conversation.

The drinking guests arrive, wearing fake comedy breasts and rubber noses on their foreheads. Melchett arrives shortly after, sporting a larger, golden pair of breasts. The intoxicated guests make Blackadder's situation even more difficult by being very rowdy, annoying and destructive, causing him to concoct increasingly ridiculous stories and lies to conceal what is going on from his aunt and uncle. Percy's imbecilic behaviour also greatly irritates Lady Whiteadder although she is pleasantly surprised by the thingie-shaped-turnip. The Queen arrives at the party, disguised as Percy's girlfriend Gwendolyn, and Blackadder makes the mistake of locking her in the closet.

The other competitors in the drinking contest quickly see through Blackadder's attempts to dodge the drink and realise Blackadder is drinking water, forcing him to down a strong ale. Forty-two seconds later, Blackadder re-enters the dining room blind drunk, bearing an ostrich feather up his bottom and wearing a Cardinal's hat. His aunt recognises he has been both drinking and gambling, and the Whiteadders make to leave. Blackadder realises he has not only lost the 10,000 florin bet with Melchett, but also the chance of (as he puts it) "a whopping-great inheritance".

However, things become rather confused when both parties accidentally meet in the hallway. Melchett's drinking crew assume the Whiteadders to be strippers, and release the Queen from the cupboard. With everyone silenced, she announces she is going to first "have a little drinkie", and then execute everyone.

By dawn the following morning, everyone is drunk and sitting in Blackadder's dining room, singing along to his rendition of the goblin song. The guests are all confused as to what has happened: Melchett has forgotten about the drinking bet, Queenie has forgotten her threats of execution and Lord Whiteadder seems willing to discuss the inheritance. Lady Whiteadder emerges from beneath Queenie's frock, and proclaims that the word "luck" sounds rude, due to its sounding "almost exactly like 'fu-..'". The credits roll before she finishes.

Cast Edit

Anachronisms Edit

  • While going over the guest list with Blackadder, Lord Percy adds the name of Cardinal Wolsey, despite the fact that Wolsey died in the reign of Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth's father.
  • Melchett refers to a previous visit by "the King of Austria", but Austria has never had a King. However, during the Elizabethan Era, the Holy Roman Empire was ruled by Austrian royalty, the Habsburgs.
  • When Percy says "Tush, my lord." to Blackadder after he insulted him, Blackadder says "Don't say tush either. Its a short step from tush to hey nonny nonny and then I shall have to call the police." The police force were in fact not invented until 1829, several hundred years after the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

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