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The Frog's Legacy
Series 05, Episode 09
The Frog's Legacy.jpg
Air Date December 25, 1987
Written by John Sullivan
Director Ray Butt
Length 60 minutes
Previous episode "A Royal Flush"
Next episode "Dates"
List of episode

The Trotters search for the hidden gold legacy of Freddie "The Frog" Robdal.


Del Boy, Rodney, and Uncle Albert attend the wedding of Trigger's niece Lisa, who had previously appeared in the episode "Tea for Three". Whilst there, Del is informed by Trigger's Aunt Reenie, about a known local gentleman thief, Freddie "The Frog" Robdal.

It transpired that Del and Rodney's mother Joan met Freddie and "befriended" him (a euphemism for Del's mother having had a brief affair with him, as was revealed she had done many times with a number of men throughout the series' development) before Rodney was born. Reenie described Freddie as a very cultured man, very much interested in French wine and paintings (Reenie claims that when the police raided Freddie's holiday home, it was full of original Monet's), although as she states it, Freddie was a "bit of a dandy".

As the story goes, Freddie and a small gang of criminals broke into a bank in London on August 1963 and stole £250,000 pounds (pre-decimal currency) in gold bullion; the rest of the gang were apprehended by the police, but Freddie managed to somehow escape with the gold and hid it. It is on this information that Del embarks on a mission to find the lost gold, having inhereted it from his mother on her death, who in turn, had had it bequeathed to her by Freddie in his will.

Albert, who knew Freddie vaguely during the war, finishes the tale later by stating that shortly after stealing the gold, and whilst still on the run from the police, Freddie and an explosives expert known as Gerald "Jelly" Kelly attempted to break into a post office in Plumstead. With Jelly having set the wires for the explosive and the robbery proceeding apparently well, Freddie inexplicably sat on the detonator, killing both men almost instantly. Albert claims that Freddie's body was found on the roof of a building opposite the post office he was intending to rob, and when Del enquires as to the fate of Jelly, Albert states that he had been holding onto the nitroglycerine when Robdal had sat down, implying that he also did not survive the explosion (or as Rodney quips, "Well, if he did, he'd be no good in a Mexican wave."). However, a throwaway remark by Del begins to worry Rodney that he and Robdal are related, though Albert dismisses it as "just a rumour".

During the course of the story, Del gets Rodney a new job, though he declines to mention that it is working for the local funeral directors as a chief mourner, a fact Rodney does not take kindly to when he does find out. However, through his job there, Rodney finds out that Freddie had purchased a coffin from Rodney's employers when they first started business for a "friend" named "Alfred Broderick". Rodney quickly deduces that "Alfred Broderick" was in fact an anagram of "Frederick Robdal", implying that Broderick did not exist, and that Freddie had purchased the coffin to hide the gold in and had arranged a fake funeral for it to be buried.

The story concludes with it ultimately emerging that Freddie earned the nickname "The Frog" as he was a frogman in the Royal Navy, not due to his love "of all things French", and had buried the gold at sea, making it virtually impossible to find. While Del is determined to find it, leaving with a promise to come back, Rodney once again asks Albert about his resemblance to Freddie; Albert just dismisses it as rumours, but does acknowledge that he and Robdal do look a bit alike. Rodney surmises: "Freddie the Frog. Killed himself by sitting on someone else's detonator. What a plonker!"

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Other notes

Story arc

  • This is the second occasion in Only Fools and Horses that the issue of whether or not and Del and Rodney share the same father is raised, when Reenie mentions "the rumours" about Rodney's actual father to Albert. It had previously been brought up in "Thicker than Water" when their estranged father Reg tricked them into believing that Del was not his son - though this was later exposed as a result of troublemaking on his part. Although Albert assures Rodney that the suggestion that he was fathered by Freddie the Frog were just rumours, "Sleepless in Peckham" settles the issue that Freddie was Rodney's father and this is further confirmed in the prequel Rock & Chips, in which Freddie (played by Nicholas Lyndhurst (the adult Rodney)) has the affair with Joan before Rodney was born. It was suggested in a BBC interview with writer John Sullivan that it was intended that the reappearance of Robdal would signal the end of Only Fools and Horses, but he decided against it and wrote Robdal into the show as already dead. "Sleepless in Peckham" would also establish that Del, as a young man, only ever knew Robdal as "Uncle Fred", which explained why Del was unfamiliar with Robdal's real name until Uncle Albert drunkenly told him the truth about Robdal's past with the Trotters.

Miscellaneous trivia

  • Most of the outside filming took place in Ipswich on the junction of Rectory and Seymour roads near Stoke Bridge.
  • This special marked the end of an era for Only Fools and Horses, both in front of and behind the cameras. Ray Butt, who had been the show's producer since it started in 1981, decided to leave the BBC shortly after filming was complete. The day before he left, Butt told John Sullivan that he should seriously consider letting Only Fools and Horses end with "The Frog's Legacy"; Butt felt that the show had run its course, and pointed to the disastrous reception of the previous year's Christmas special, "A Royal Flush", as proof of his point. Sullivan gave thought to Butt's words, but after this special received a much more positive reception than the previous one had done, he decided to continue Only Fools and Horses. However, Sullivan shared Butt's concerns that the show's format was starting to become stale, and so starting with the next Christmas special, "Dates", and the sixth series, Only Fools and Horses would maintain a balance between Del's get-rich-quick schemes and the personal lives of the Trotter Family.