Created By: Maniago on September 11, 2017 Last Edited By: Maniago on September 17, 2017
Troped

Key Confusion

A character has trouble finding the right key among the dozens of keys on his chain.

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A character has a large keychain with many, sometimes dozens, of different keys. As a result he has quite some trouble finding the right one when he needs it.

When Played for Laughs, the character will proceed to go through the keys one by one, naming the function of each, until he gets the right one. Bonus points if, while doing this, they discover at least one key among them with a...rather embarrassing function.

Can also be Played for Drama to create tension in the same manner as Dangerous Key Fumble. And of course, a character can intentionaly invoke this trope to stall time.

Related to Rummage Fail


Examples:

Films - Animated
  • The Prince and the Pauper: this happens to Goofy when he is about to free the Prince and Donald from prison. Trouble is, the key was already in the lock, and once Goofy removes it, he has to find it again. When the guards start closing in, Donald grabs the keyring and puts the right key in the lock.
  • Tom and Jerry: The Movie: The two villains have trapped The Woobie in a mountain chalet, and locked its only exit. However, a toppled kerosene lamp starts a fire in the wooden structure, and the villains need to flee. They fight for control of the key ring, breaking it. The two must then scrabble on the floor to find the right key among twenty or so keys.

Films - Live Action
  • Poltergeist: Near the end of the movie, the Freelings are attempting to escape their haunted house using their car. The father has to fumble around with his key ring and try several different keys before he finds the car key and can drive away.
  • Bruce Almighty: after angering a gang harassing a homeless man, Bruce runs to his car but ends up slowly trying to find the correct key which gives time for his enemies to catch up and tackle him to the ground.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: When Veruca climbs through the gate to the room with the squirrels, and is attacked by them, Willy Wonka casually takes out his huge keyring and starts to search for the key that opens the gate so he and Mr. Salt can rescue Veruca (see page image). He fails to find the right one before Veruca is thrown into the garbage chute, but considering how he was taking his time going through the keys and what kind of man Wonka is, that was most likely his intention.
  • Zombieland opens with Columbus demonstrating several of the tips he had been relaying while trying to unlock a car, such as the importance of cardio that allows him to do a loop after the initial fumble to evade the pursuing zombies so he can come back and try again instead of dying at the door.

Live Action TV
  • Seinfeld: One episode, this happens to Elaine with her keyring, causing Jerry to ask if she's working as a medieval jailer.
  • Friends: Joey and Phoebe have informed Mr. Treeger of a gas leak in Monica's apartment so they can get in. When firemen break down the door, Joey asks why he didn't just unlock the door, Treeger shows his keyring and explains "By the time I found it on this thing, the whole building could've exploded. And when that happens a second time, people start to ask questions."
  • Cutthroat Kitchen: One episode, a chef was given the sabotage of having to unlock a cage containing their serving dishes. Alton gave the chef a giant ring of keys and left the hapless chef to figure out which one unlocked the cage.

Video Games
  • Thief: The Dark Project: this can become a recurring problem since Garret does not automatically select the correct key to each door (if he has it on him, that is), so you have to manually try out each key on the lock in question if you don't exactly know which one fits it. Since this trial-and-error takes place in real time, it can build quite a bit of tension, when you are desperately seeking for the right key while the guards are closing in on your position.
  • Pajama Sam in No Need To Hide When It's Dark Outside: when Sam reaches Darkness' bedroom, he comes to the conclusion that Darkness is hiding in his closet, which is locked. Sam opens a cabinet near it, and a pile of keys fall out. None of the keys in the pile unlock the lock to Darkness' closet, as the one that does is revealed to be hanging on a hook in the cabinet.

Western Animation
  • Looney Tunes: in Fresh Hare, Elmer Fudd, as a Mountie, gets handcuffed to a bomb, while Bugs has his keys. When Elmer begs to be released, Bugs starts going through the keys, naming their purpose. By the time he finds the one for the cuffs, it's too late, the bomb explodes. And yes, there is an embarrassing key.
    Bugs: Now let's see now; there's the garage, the car, the front door, *looks at the audience while making a flirt whistle*, and the back door. Oh, here it is!
  • The Twelve Tasks of Asterix: The Roman soldier who has to let the Gauls into the Colosseum for their final task runs into this problem. One of the keys he goes through is heart-shaped and he wonders, visibly embarrassed, how that one got in with the rest. Eventually, Obelix gets tired of waiting and breaks the door open.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In the B-plot for "Bloooo", Frankie tries to get into the house to evade an apparently dangerous character. She drops her key at the front door and discovers it landed in a pile of dozens of keys (that Wilt, Eduardo and Coco threw out the window in the A-plot), leaving her to frantically find the right key before she's spotted by her stalker.
  • House of Mouse: In the short "Locksmiths", Mickey, Donald and Goofy are locked in their office and try to find their door key. Goofy takes out his keychain, which becomes an excuse for a series of "key" puns. Eventually, Goofy takes out the spare key hidden on the roof of his mouth.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle: In the second episode of the "Jet Fuel Formula" arc, Natasha tries to off Bullwinkle by giving him a Time Bomb wrapped in a passage. However, the door out of the room is locked, and Natasha panics while Bullwinlkle tries to find the right key. With seconds until the explosion, Natasha takes the package and throws it out the window (and down onto an unsuspecting Boris).
    Rocky: Hey, that one belongs to Frostbite Falls Fire Department.
    Bullwinkle: Yeah. I wonder how they're startin' the engine these days.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • September 11, 2017
    Arivne
    • Capitalized the title.
    • Examples section
      • Added "Elmer" to the Elmer Fudd example.
      • Capitalized (roman, colosseum).
      • Corrected spelling (heartshaped).
  • September 11, 2017
    Arivne
    This sometimes occurs when someone is trying to start a car in a hurry, e.g. to escape the cops/serial killer/monster/etc..

    Film - Live Action
    • Poltergeist. Near the end of the movie, the Freelings are attempting to escape their haunted house using their car. The father has to fumble around with his key ring and try several different keys before he finds the car key and can drive away.
  • September 11, 2017
    eroock
  • September 11, 2017
    Snowy66
    • In Bruce Almighty, after getting on the wrong side of an angry mob, Bruce runs to his car but ends up slowly trying to find the correct key which gives time for his enemies to catch up and tackle him to the ground.
  • September 11, 2017
    Starbug
    • In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine's keyring is like this, causing Jerry to ask if she's working as a medieval jailer.
    • In one episode of Friends, Joey and Phoebe have informed Mr. Treeger of a gas leak in Monica's apartment so they can get in. When firemen break down the door, Joey asks why he didn't just unlock the door, Treeger shows his keyring and explains "By the time I found it on this thing, the whole building could've exploded. And when that happens a second time, people start to ask questions."
  • September 12, 2017
    bitemytail
    • On one episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, a chef was given the sabotage of having to unlock a cage containing their serving dishes. Alton gave the chef a giant ring of keys and left the hapless chef to figure out which one unlocked the cage.

    On a side note, a screenshot of the setup would make for a good page image.
  • September 11, 2017
    TonyG
    In the Disney version of The Prince And The Pauper, Goofy is about to free the Prince and Donald from prison. Trouble is, the key was already in the lock, and once Goofy removes it, he has to find it again. When the guards start closing in, Donald grabs the keyring and puts the right key in the lock.
  • September 11, 2017
    Koveras
    • Happens regularly in Thief The Dark Project, since Garret does not automatically select the correct key to each door (if he has it on him, that is), and you have to manually try out each key on the lock in question if you don't exactly know which one fits it. Since this trial-and-error takes place in real time, it can build quite a bit of tension, when you are desperately seeking for the right key while the guards are closing in on your position.
  • September 13, 2017
    Kartoonkid95
    • Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends: In the B-plot for "Bloooo", Frankie tries to get into the house to evade an apparently dangerous character. She drops her key at the front door and discovers it landed in a pile of dozens of keys (that Wilt, Eduardo and Coco threw out the window in the A-plot), leaving her to frantically find the right key before she's spotted by her stalker.
    • House Of Mouse: In the short "Locksmiths", Mickey, Donald and Goofy are locked in their office and try to find their door key. Goofy takes out his keychain, which becomes an excuse for a series of "key" puns. Eventually, Goofy takes out the spare key hidden on the roof of his mouth.
    • Rocky And Bullwinkle: In the second episode of the "Jet Fuel Formula" arc, Natasha tries to off Bullwinkle by giving him a Time Bomb wrapped in a passage. However, the door out of the room is locked, and Natasha panics while Bullwinlkle tries to find the right key. With seconds until the explosion, Natasha takes the package and throws it out the window (and down onto an unsuspecting Boris).
      Rocky: Hey, that one belongs to Frostbite Falls Fire Department.
      Bullwinkle: Yeah. I wonder how they're startin' the engine these days.
  • September 14, 2017
    powerman228
    Closely related to Rummage Fail.
  • September 15, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Film Animated
    • The two villains from Tom And Jerry The Movie have trapped The Woobie in a mountain chalet, and locked its only exit. However, a toppled kerosene lamp starts a fire in the wooden structure, and the villains need to flee. They fight for control of the key ring, breaking it. The two must then scrabble on the floor to find the right key among twenty or so keys.
  • September 15, 2017
    FlyingDuckManGenesis
    Video Games
    • In Pajama Sam in No Need to Hide When it's Dark Outside, when Sam reaches Darkness' bedroom, he comes to the conclusion that Darkness is hiding in his closet, which is locked. Sam opens a cabinet near it, and a pile of keys fall out. None of the keys in the pile unlock the lock to Darkness' closet, as the one that does is revealed to be hanging on a hook in the cabinet.
  • September 15, 2017
    Occidensill
    Keyfusion?
  • September 17, 2017
    Maniago
    Thanks for the hats. This trope will launch soon.
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