Victoria Coren Mitchell
Only Connect
BBC Four: 15 September 2008 – 7 July 2014
BBC Two: 1 September 2014 – Present
Presentable (2008–2013)
RDF Television and Parasol (2013–Present)

Only Connect is a quiz programme where teams compete in a tournament of finding connections between seemingly unrelated clues. Radio Times's listings usually describe it as "a game of patience and lateral thinking".


The phrase "Only connect" was originally used as the epigraph to E. M. Forster's 1910 novel Howards End. It was spoken by the character Margaret Schlegel.

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.

The quote was the basis of an unanswered question in the grand final of Series 9 – the beast, the monk, the prose, the passion, to which the answer was Only Connect.


Each programme has two teams of three people competing in four rounds of gameplay. In the first three series, clues in Rounds 1 and 2 and the connecting walls in Round 3 were identified by Greek letters. In Series 4, Coren announced that this idea had been dropped, ostensibly due to viewer complaints that it was too pretentious, and that henceforth Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs (two reeds, lion, twisted flax, horned viper, water and the eye of Horus) would be used instead. The show's opening sequence continued to display Greek letters until Series 5, when they were replaced with the hieroglyphs.

In Series 7 the "knockout" format was modified to let losing teams compete for second chance places, in a rule change that Coren Mitchell said that even she did not fully understand. This reduced the number of competing teams from 16 to 8, and the episodes from 16 to 13, compared with the previous series except Series 2. The number of competing teams was restored to 16 with Series 10, for a total of 27 episodes in each of these series. In Series 12, the number of competing teams was expanded to 24, for a total of 37 episodes per series, just like another BBC Two programme, University Challenge, whose tournament format has been adapted for this programme in the following way:

The twelve first round winners qualify for the second round, where they play each other to reach the third round. The six second round losers then join the two highest scoring first round losers in a two round play-off round, with the two winners going through to the third round. Thereafter, the remaining eight teams must win twice to reach the semi-finals or lose twice to be eliminated.

Round 1: ConnectionsEdit

Teams are given up to four clues and must try to figure out the connection between them within 40 seconds. The team is initially shown one clue, and may request the remaining three clues at any time within the 40 seconds (they are not automatically shown). The team may press their buzzer to guess after the first clue for 5 points, the second for 3, the third for 2, or the fourth for 1. If the team guesses incorrectly, or fails to buzz within the time allotted, the question is thrown over to the other team for a bonus point, after being shown any remaining clues. Typically, one of the six puzzles involves pictures, and another uses pieces of music, both classical and contemporary. Music questions are often the toughest of the quiz, and the team's dismay of realising they have chosen this question is sometimes a running gag on this programme.

Round 2: SequencesEdit

Each set of clues is now a sequence, and teams must try to figure out the fourth item in the sequence (therefore, the team will only be able to see three clues), again as early as possible. They must give the final item in the sequence, and score points even if their theory for the connection is incorrect. As in the previous round, each team will play three sets; again, if one team fails to guess, it is thrown over to the other team, who can see any remaining clues and earn one point by guessing correctly. As in Round 1, one of the sets of clues involves pictures. Starting in the quarterfinals of Series 10, there is sometimes a sequence of three music clips and the team must identify the fourth unplayed clip.

For example, sequential clues of "5 C in an N", "2 N in a D" and "2 1/2 D in a Q" would be answered correctly with "4 Q in a D" (the explanation being abbreviations of US coin values, five cents in one nickel, etc.)

Round 3: Connecting WallEdit

Each team receives a wall of 16 clues and must figure out a perfect solution, consisting of four groups of four connected items. The puzzles are designed to suggest more connections than actually exist, and some clues appear to fit into more than one category. Teams score 1 point for each group found within 2 minutes and 30 seconds. They try to create one group at a time, and may make unlimited guesses on the first two groups. Once two groups have been identified, they only have three chances to identify the remaining two groups.

Should the team fail to complete the wall, the missing groupings are shown. Teams can then earn 1 point per group for identifying the connection, regardless of whether they correctly identified the grouping. A team that identifies all four groups and all four connections earns a 2-point bonus, for a total of 10 points. Unlike the previous two rounds, teams have no opportunity to score on their opponents' wall.

On 1 March 2010, an interactive online version of this round was put on the Only Connect website. Since mid-2011, coinciding with series 5, the website took online submissions for new Connecting Walls, although a successful submission does not guarantee publication on the site. The online game was scrapped from Series 10.

Final Round: Missing VowelsEdit

In a final buzzer round, the teams are presented with a series of word puzzles. The category of the puzzles is given prior to them being displayed, and each category contains a maximum of four puzzles. Each puzzle is a word or phrase with the vowels removed and the spaces shifted to disguise the original words. For example, in a category of "Booker Prize-winning novels", a puzzle of "VR NNGDLT TL" would be correctly answered as "Vernon God Little".

Teams answer simultaneously using buzzers, and score 1 point for each puzzle they solve. Initially there was no penalty for guessing incorrectly on this round, but starting with the quarter-finals in Series 1, teams have faced a penalty of 1 point for each incorrect answer. Additionally, if the team that buzzes provides an incorrect answer (even by a single letter) or fails to answer quickly, the opposing team is given an opportunity to answer for a bonus point.

The round lasts anywhere from ninety seconds to three minutes, depending on the amount of time left in the programme. Usually, there are three complete categories in this round. The team with the most points at the end of the game advances in the tournament. If teams are tied, then a single sudden-death puzzle is given to the captains of each team with no category given. If a captain buzzes in first and gives the correct answer then their team wins, but an incorrect answer automatically forfeits the game. There is no official category with these questions; instead, they make a reference to their own role as sudden-death questions.

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