Created By: AFP on August 21, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on April 3, 2014

Reflex Check

Testing someone\'s reflexes by forcing them to react to something unexpected.

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Trope
Used in a variety of ways, this trope is when someone is forced to react to some unexpected action, such as being tossed something, or facing an unexpected attack. This can be used to see if they are faking being left- or right-handed, or to determine if they are Obfuscating Disability (such as by kicking or stabbing a supposed paraplegic in the leg).

Of course, sometimes it's just a way of seeing if someone is paying attention or not. Often an Invoked Trope.

Examples

Film
  • In the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, this is how Buffy's watcher reveals that she is the slayer, by throwing a knife at her face. She catches it inches away from contact.

Live-Action TV
  • The Brady Bunch. When a man claims whiplash in a minor fender-bender with Carol, Mike proves that he's faking during a court appearance by loudly dropping his briefcase. The man instictively turns to look at the loud noise, disproving his claim that he can't move his neck.
  • Life: Someone is going after extremely wealthy lottery winners, and one of them has gone so far as to hire a bodyguard. Crews tests the bodyguard by unexpectedly throwing an apple at him; he is taken unawares, which demonstrates that he's not a real bodyguard. He's the perp and has been holding his "client" hostage.
    You are not a very good bodyguard, you know that Robert? I've been watching you. All you do is watch your client. That's why I got you with that Pippin there. You're supposed to watch everybody else, that's where the threat is coming from. Didn't they teach you that in bodyguard school? So, I'm thinking, if you're always watching your client, then maybe the threat is coming from your client; but what kind of threat could your client be? ... You're not really a bodyguard are you.
  • Batman. Bats tests a very fat sultan by surreptitiously poking his backside with a long letter opener; the fact that he doesn't react shows Batman that he's not really the fat sultan, he's The Joker in disguise.
  • A story arc in the fifth season of Babylon 5 centers around Garibaldi falling off the wagon and becoming an active alcoholic, while trying to hide it from his friends and colleagues. Zach suspects this, and offers Garibaldi an orange, getting his attention before tossing it to him. Garibaldi fails, clumsily, to catch the orange, and Zach confronts him about his suspicions.

Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • August 21, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • The Brady Bunch: when a man claims whiplash in a minor fender-bender with Carol, Mike proves that he's faking during a court appearance by loudly dropping his briefcase. The man instictively turns to look at the loud noise, disproving his claim that he can't move his neck.
    • Life: Someone is going after extremely wealthy lottery winners, and one of them has gone so far as to hire a bodyguard. Crews tests the bodyguard by unexpectily throwing an apple at him; he is taken unawares, which demonstrates that he's not a real bodyguard. He's the perp and has been holding his "client" hostage.
      You are not a very good bodyguard, you know that Robert? I've been watching you. All you do is watch your client. That's why I got you with that Pippin there. You're supposed to watch everybody else, that's where the threat is coming from. Didn't they teach you that in bodyguard school? So, I'm thinking, if you're always watching your client, then maybe the threat is coming from your client; but what kind of threat could your client be? ... You're not really a bodyguard are you.
    • Batman: Bats tests a very fat sultan by surrepititously poking his backside with a long letter opener; the fact that he doesn't react shows Batman that he's not really the fat sultan, he's The Joker in disguise.
  • August 22, 2012
    juanguy
    In The Fifth Elephant, the 24th? Discworld novel, a man didn't catch an orange. Throw an orange at someone, and they'll either try to catch it or try to dodge. Inigo Skimmer lets the orange bounce off him, revealing (to Vimes) that he'd identified the projectile and dismissed it, then controlled his reaction.

  • August 22, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ That would fall under the Instant Reaction Reveal YKTTW. Come think of it, it's a related trope that never got launched...
  • August 22, 2012
    TonyG
    Friends: Joey feels guilty about accidentally proposing to Rachel and asks Ross to punch him as a way of getting even. Ross obliges, but Joey ducks and Ross hurts his hand on a post. When Ross asks why he ducked, Joey says it's instinctive and that everyone does it, and to prove it he throws a punch at Ross. Ross doesn't duck.
  • August 22, 2012
    HawkofBattle
    • In the original Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie, this is how Buffys watcher reveals that she is the slayer, by throwing a knife at her face. She catches it inches away from contact.
  • August 23, 2012
    Bod
    Film: In Revenge of the Pink Panther, Cleauseau has asked Cato to constantly attack him by surprise, in the belief that this is essential to improving Clouseau's reactions. It doesn't, (spoiler?) only dumb luck preserves him from attack by multiple assassins.
  • October 4, 2012
    norsicnumber2nd
    Often the person making them react will call "think fast" just a little too late.
  • October 4, 2012
    dotchan
    • In To Kill A Mockingbird, throwing an object at someone is how Atticus Finch proves that Tom Robinson couldn't have been the one to inflict the bruises on the woman he was accused of raping, but Bob Ewell certainly could.
    • In Detective Conan, Conan sets up a false version of this to convince police that the mega-millionaire Jirokichi is Kaito Kid in disguise so that the police would run off and let the actual Kaito Kid go to work. (He did this because Jirokichi's pet dog was trapped in a super difficult to trap safe, and said dog also was the method by which the code open the safe was stored, so Kaito Kid was called in to do a favor.)
  • October 4, 2012
    dotchan
    • In To Kill A Mockingbird, throwing an object at someone is how Atticus Finch proves that Tom Robinson couldn't have been the one to inflict the bruises on the woman he was accused of raping, but Bob Ewell certainly could.
    • In Detective Conan, Conan sets up a false version of this to convince police that the mega-millionaire Jirokichi is Kaito Kid in disguise so that the police would run off and let the actual Kaito Kid go to work. (He did this because [[spoiler: Jirokichi's pe
  • May 18, 2013
    AFP
    Bump
  • May 19, 2013
    Arivne
    There is a very similar proposal on YKTTW called Instant Reaction Reveal.
  • May 19, 2013
    MattStriker
    In The Fifth Elephant, Vimes tosses oranges at various people, apparently at random. The one who arouses his suspicions is the seemingly mild-mannered bureaucrat, who doesn't flinch or try to catch it...because he could tell it was no threat.
  • May 19, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    In the King Of The Hill episode "Hank's Back", Hank files for worker's compensation after hurting his back (and aggravating the condition by initially refusing to seek rest and medical attention). The insurance company employees assume anyone filing for worker's comp is lying and attempt to invoke the trope by flinging rubber balls at Hank's head -- sarcastically complimenting him on his acting skills when he's unable to dodge.
  • May 19, 2013
    MetaFour
    • The Man Who Knew Too Little has a scene where Wallace encounters Spencer's dead body, but thinks the corpse is just an actor. Wallace tests him, and is very impressed with the guy's "acting".
      Lori: What are you doing?
      Wallace: [surreptitiously picks up a soda can from a nearby table] Well, you gotta see just how dead they are. They might be able to [throws the soda at Spencer] CATCH THIS!
      [The soda lands in Spencer's lap. Spencer doesn't move. Because he's dead.]
  • May 20, 2013
    MrRuano
    Fist Of The North Star introduces this in the Rei arc, when Mamiya throws a razor-bladed yo-yo at an unsuspecting Kenshiro, who immediately dodges the weapon without blinking. The test was to make sure he was actually competent as a fighter, as she needed actual warriors to help her.
  • May 20, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Reflex Check isn't bad for a name, but it misses the sudden/impromptu nature of it. It's not like you're sitting in a doctor's room while he taps your kneecap with a mallet.
  • May 21, 2013
    azul120
    • In the Pokemon episode "To Master the Onixpected!", Brock makes a sneak attack on Bruno to prove the latter's prowess as an Elite Four trainer. Bruno doesn't see it coming.
  • May 21, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Web Original

    • In the Angry Video Game Nerd Ninja Gaiden episode, the sensei makes the Nerd catch cotton swabs with his thumbs, and later he has the Nerd try to put his thumbs into a running fan without hitting the spinning blades.
  • May 23, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • In an episode of Quantum Leap Sam leaps into a blind pianist. Sam can see, and the pianist's fiancee's mother catches him, which makes her think he's faking it. After the climax of the episode, she tries to prove to her daughter that he's a fake by lighting a lighter right in front of his face; but fortunately Sam had just been temporarily blinded by a camera's flashbulb, so he doesn't react.
    • Combat: What with one thing and another, Sgt. Saunders is stuck behind enemy lines. To keep from being captured, he pretends he's a German soldier who has gone deaf. At one point one of the superior officers tests this by clapping his hands loudly right behind him; but Saunders sees the shadow of the man preparing to do this, so he wasn't caught unawares and thus could continue to pull off the fake.
  • May 23, 2013
    StarSword
    TV:
    • In one episode of Elementary Sherlock demonstrates that a suspect is blind in one eye and thus is not the murderer by throwing an orange at the suspected blind side of his face to check his reaction.
      Sherlock: Think fast!
  • May 24, 2013
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Huckleberry Finn. While Huck is masquerading as a girl he meets a woman. His mistakes make her suspicious, so she tests him by dropping a bar of lead in his lap. He clasps his knees together to catch it the way a boy wearing trousers would, instead of spreading his legs so his dress would catch it the way a girl would, thus exposing himself as an imposter. The book came out in 1884, making this at least Older Than Radio.
  • May 27, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In the Isaac Asimov short story "Little Lost Robot" a robot in hiding amongst a bunch of identical looking robots is revealed when it tries to help a human. It had convinced the other robots not to help if it would mean their death. The robot was tricked by the humans making all the other robots think that the radiation they could sense but not identify specifically - because they didn't have the training for it - was deadly to them. Only the "lost" robot could tell the difference between harmful gamma radiation and non-harmful infrared radiation, so when it leaped up to help the human as it thought all its bretheren would, it revealed itself.

    That could probably use a better description.
  • May 30, 2013
    polarbear2217
    In the second The Underland Chronicles book "Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane", Ripred suddenly whips his tail at Gregor to test if he is a rager.
  • May 31, 2013
    Magiphart
    In Drake and Josh Drake threw something at Josh when he boasted his hand eye coordination.
  • June 1, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Northern Exposure: Dr. Joel Fleishman's identical twin Jules visits him and they agree to pull a Twin Switch just like they did when they were younger; Joel makes Jules promise not to practice medicine. However, Joel-as-Jules gets arrested for pulling a Three Card Monte scam so Jules-as-Joel covers for him at work. At one point he "tests the reflexes" of a patient (normally done with a mallet on the knee) by suddently shouting "Boo!" from across the room.
  • June 1, 2013
    StarSword
    Is anybody running this YKTTW?
  • March 26, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • Tarnsman of Gor: Tarl's weapons training begins when his instructor, who he has never met or even seen, throws a spear at him. He avoids to the side just barely in time so that the spear slices through his tunic & leaves a streak of blood across his chest.
    • The Simpsons: During a crossover with The X Files Scully gives Homer a reflex test, hitting his knee with a small mallet. Several seconds later Homer says "ow."
  • March 26, 2014
    Larkmarn
    ^^ Doesn't look like it.

  • March 28, 2014
    MetaFour
    Film:
    • In Seven Samurai, the villagers test some of the Ronin they're recruiting, by attempting to club them as soon as they walk in the door. The first samurai effortlessly parries the club. The second (who's drunk, and not much of a fighter even when he is sober) gets hit and falls to the floor.
  • March 28, 2014
    Astaroth
    • In Arcanum, if you approach Dodge Master Adkin Chambers and ask him for training in your dodge skill, his response is to launch a surprise attack against you to see if you already have basic dodge skills.
  • March 28, 2014
    Koveras
    • Downplayed in the first novel of Myth Adventures, when Aahz asks Skeeve what he would do if something unexpected happened that very moment. Skeeve starts saying "Um, well..." when Aahz interrupts him with "Too late, you're already dead."
  • March 28, 2014
    DAN004
    So which ykttw to keep?
  • March 28, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ Both, I think, they are two sides of the coin. One is aimed to reveal a character as a badass, the other serves to show the character that he is not fast enough (usually).
  • March 28, 2014
    DAN004
    Then the title should change. Both of them.
  • March 28, 2014
    randomsurfer
    ^^^^Skeeve, not Steve.
  • March 29, 2014
    Koveras
    ^ Yup, sorry, correcting it now. Been a while since I read them...
  • March 29, 2014
    Arivne
    • Formatted Examples section.
    • Namespaced and italicized work names.
    • De-Red Linked "falling off the wagon".
  • March 29, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • In the pilot episode of Hogans Heroes the eponymous Heroes test a new POW, who claims not to know any German, by pretending there's a fire in the barracks late at night. Kinch yells "the window!" in German and the POW jumps out the window, proving he's a spy.
    • Barney Miller: After Sgt. Deitrich has been around a while, Barney suggests that he call him "Barney" instead of Captain and that Barney would call him "Arthur" instead of Deitrich, like Barney does with the rest of the squad. Deitrich reluctantly agrees, then just as he's going out on a call:
      Deitrich: Oh, and Captain?
      Barney: Yes Deitrich?
      Deitrich: (smiling) Just testing you.
  • March 31, 2014
    MetaFour
    I just found that we already have Hey Catch, which seems to cover this. Unless you want to make this the supertrope.
  • April 3, 2014
    AFP
    This could be a supertrope to that, but really Hey Catch seems to sum it up.
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