11

In Blackadder Goes Forth, there's a scene where Blackadder is discussing security with Melchett and Darling. Part of the dialogue goes thus:

Darling: So you see, Blackadder, Field Marshal Haig is most anxious to eliminate all these German spies.

Melchett: Filthy Hun weasels fighting their dirty underhand war!

Darling: And, fortunately, one of our spies--

Melchett: Splendid fellows, brave heroes, risking life and limb for Blighty!

Darling: ...has discovered that the leak is coming from the Field Hospital.

Edmund: You think there's a German spy in the Field Hospital? I think you might be right, there.

Melchett: Your job, Blackadder, is to root this spy out. How long do you think you'll need?

The audience laughs knowingly at Blackadder's Field Hospital joke indicating that it's meant to be funny but I've never understood what's funny about it. Could anyone explain?

4
  • 5
    As far as I remember, there's a very obvious German patient in the field hospital ? So Darling and Melchett are missing the obvious that Blackadder has noticed . . .
    – Pat Dobson
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 16:17
  • 1
    Well, I thought that at first, but it doesn't really fit. Blackadder doesn't think he's a spy from the beginning because it's too obvious, nor does he think he's a spy after he's asked to find spies. It seems much more likely Blackadder is doing some kind of play on words. "I think you might be right there" expresses a quite confidence in something, and he's obviously not totally confident that that guy is a spy (which he isn't).
    – Jez
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 16:18
  • 3
    @Jez At the time, the audience has just met a patient with a thick German accent, who is basically right next to them. Melchett reports that there is a German spy in the field hospital, and Blackadder makes a sarcastic remark which the audience interpret as "of course there is, he's right here you imbecile". It is a joke at Melchett's stupidity (though of course, as Pete says, the episode suberts this by revealing that Smith is not a German spy, but a British spy). Of course, Blackadder could also be stretching it out so he gets a cushy post in the field hospital for a spell...
    – user25730
    Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 0:32
  • An alternate explanation not involving Smith: the presence of a saboteur would explain the hospital's incompetence. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 6:14

2 Answers 2

23

Because Blackadder has visited George in the hospital, and met "Mr. Smith" the patient in the next bed. "Mr. Smith" talks with a thick stereotypical German accent.

So, when Blackadder says there might be a spy, the audience automatically thinks it's "Mr. Smith." Of course, the episode subverts the obvious.

And the joke is what the audience thinks, not what Blackadder thinks, or what turns out to be true. When they hear the line, the audience thinks it's "Smith," so they laugh.

2
  • It's odd, because Blackadder says it in a knowing way that doesn't seem appropriate at all considering he's clearly not convinced it's Smith, as it would seem too obvious. I always thought there was something more to it than that.
    – Jez
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 16:29
  • 16
    @Jez There's also the fact the Blackadders knows full well that Melchett and Darling couldn't spot a German if they were wearing nothing but a German flag and drinking from a stein at noon outside the Reichstag. Blackadder may not be convinced that Smith is the problem, but that he's still there after intelligence comes in of a potential security threat shows that the people whose job it normally is to detect such things aren't even capable of spotting the obvious, let alone the disguised. Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 20:24
4

First some context. In earlier scenes, there was a clearly German speaking patient in the hospital. So the solution seems rather obvious.

When Melchett asks: "Your job, Blackadder, is to root this spy out. How long do you think you'll need?" Blackkadder looks at his watch. That visual aspect is important.

The joke is, that there normally is a large time needed to root-out spies and Blackadder suggests by looking at his watch that it will be done before lunch. That time difference is the joke.

It makes the follow-up, when Melchett says that he needs to be away from the trenches and Blackadder suddenly suggests he will need months also funnier.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .