- In the Smallville episode "Unsafe", Alicia promises Clark that she would never tell anyone his secret as long as she is alive. No, she doesn't wait until she is dead... no one said anything about a demonstration to Chloe in "Pariah".
- The Brady Bunch: In the episode "Greg Gets Grounded", Greg gets around a "no driving" punishment by borrowing a friend's car. When Greg's father calls him out on this, Greg argues that the punishment as worded applied only to the family's car. Mike responds that Greg knew what he meant, but Greg insists on living by "exact words," insisting that his parents' punishment was too ambiguous and unclear. Greg gets clobbered by the agreement and learns his lesson.
- In the first episode of Weeds, the protagonist, in a conversation with her son's girlfriend's mother, is pressured into promising that the son and the girlfriend will never have sex under her roof. Fortunately for her son, his younger brother just broke their skylight, so said roof has a huge gaping hole in it...
- Occurs occasionally in the Work Com, particularly when the Pointy-Haired Boss needs An Aesop.
- The West Wing
- A lower-key subversion appears in "The Lame-Duck Congress". Leo's response to Donna's complaint about the possibility of carpal-tunnel syndrome from all the typing that the aides do, and federal guidelines designed to prevent this, is "Type slower." Incensed, Donna organizes the aides to do just that. When he catches Margaret typing a memo he has asked her to type very very slowly, and Margaret informs him of Donna's initiative, Leo's response is a cold, "Margaret, look at my face right now." When Margaret sees the stony "I-am-but-seconds-from-firing-you" expression Leo is wearing, she immediately capitulates and starts typing normally. Leo then informs Donna that her little scheme wouldn't work in any case, since the White House and other buildings of the federal government are exempt from such guidelines anyway. Donna is not pleased.
- Another episode has White House Counsel Oliver Babish preparing CJ to testify before Congress with the classic "Do you know what time it is?" routine.
- Red Dwarf provides a rather lengthy example of this. A running joke in the series was Kryten's relentless spouting of Space Corps Directives directed at Rimmer, and when Rimmer finally asks, "Has anyone actually seen this manual?", Kryten asks Holly to give him a hologramatic copy. However, once the team returns from a mission sans Rimmer, they return to find that he's not only read the entire manual, but has picked and chosen a choice selection of SCDs to torment them, successfully coupling this trope with Rules Lawyer.
- Chuck has this example:
- During the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Amok Time", Spock attempts to employ this on Dr. McCoy, telling him that Kirk ordered him to go to Sickbay and now that he's come there, he intends to go back to his quarters. Of course, the doctor doesn't buy it.
- In "Day of the Dove", Kang and a landing party of Klingons demand to be beamed up to the Enterprise and warns Kirk, "No tricks!". Kirk assures him "I'll beam you aboard, once there...no tricks." After secretly signaling Spock via a button on his communicator, the Enterprise men materialize, leaving the Klingons suspended in transit. After rematerialized and disarmed by some Red Shirts, Kang spats "Liar!!" to which Kirk replies "I said no tricks after we're aboard!"
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Worf convinces some Klingons who have been in hibernation since the last Federation-Klingon war that the Klingons have beaten the Federation in the meantime by putting on a Klingon uniform and temporarily assuming command of the Enterprise. At no point does he lie to them: he is the captain of the ship (temporarily) and the conflict between the two governments had indeed long been settled (by mutual peace treaty). He never said the Klingons defeated the Federation, he just said something like "didn't it occur to you that the war would have ended by now?" and let them assume that that's what he meant. So it wasn't a lie, it was... an omission.
- Another episode has the Enterprise trying to negotiate with the Sheliak Corporate, which has demanded that a 200-year-old human colony unknowingly built on a planet in their space be relocated immediately; problem is, the Enterprise is incapable of transporting all the colonists and it will take two weeks for transport to arrive, but the Sheliak are unwilling to budge on the time frame and counter Picard's every attempt to compromise by citing the byzantine terms and clauses of their treaty. In the end, Picard decides to fight back using the very same treaty: he cites a clause that allows him to name a neutral third party to arbitrate the dispute, and he names a race that is currently in hibernation and won't wake for another six months. They capitulate and grant him the extra time to evacuate instead.
- More metatextual variation: when Gene Roddenberry handed down the edict that "people in the future are too enlightened to grieve" for the episode "The Bonding", they took out a lot of the grieving...and portrayed this lack as essentially an unhealthy coping mechanism.
- Stargate SG-1
- In an episode, the team erases a Bad Future in which the Aschen have taken over Earth:
I'm sorry, sir, but weapons are not allowed. Teal'c:
We carry these for ceremonial purposes only. Aschen guard:
I'm sorry, but you'll have to let me have it
Very well. (shoots the guard)
- In Bottom:
Eddie — where's the cattle-prod? Eddie:
Well, here it is! Richie:
Right, give to me. Eddie:
I said "give to me"! Richie:
Right-o! (Eddie zaps Richie with the electric cattle-prod; one change of tights later...) Richie:
Right, Eddie hand me
me the cattle-prod? Thank-you.
- Corner Gas:
- Officers Davis and Karen (the entire police force) decide to work to rule. Partly subverted because they don't bother with the rules most of the time anyway (and Davis, the senior officer, had never even seen the rulebook and thought it much thinner) while the mayor is happy letting them dig their own grave with the townsfolk, so the entire episode ends up with Karen and Davis trying to get out of it.
- In the episode "Oh, Baby", Brent asks Tanner to stop throwing toy cars at his head. So Tanner throws a truck.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In the episode "Bad Eggs," Buffy's mother grounds her to her room, except for school or bathroom breaks. Later, she and Angel are kissing. However, as the scene pulls back, we see she is in her room and he is in her window.
- Early in season four, Oz leaves town to try and gain greater control over his werewolf side. When he returns, having (apparently) succeeded, he asks Willow if they can pick up where they left off. "I talked to Xander, and he said you didn't have a new guy." "No. No new...guy."
- Late in season 6, Dark Willow's Roaring Rampage of Revenge spirals into a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum after Giles lets Willow drain the magic he was lent be absorbed, causing her to feel all of humanity's pain and resolve to end it all by destroying the world. Giles tells Anya, who passes the info on to Buffy, that neither the Slayer nor any other supernatural force could stop Willow, but he didn't say that an ordinary human force, like Xander's love and compassion for his friend, wouldn't do the job.
- Played most viciously in season 7: now-restored vengeance demon Anya begs the demon D'Hoffryn to revive the people she's slaughtered, and agrees to sacrifice herself for it when he tells her that will require the life and soul of a vengeance demon. There is protest by Anya's friends, teary goodbyes and a lot of drama; right up until the point D'Hoffryn summons Anya's best friend Halfrek, also a vengeance demon, and immolates her right in front of everyone.
- Spartacus: Blood and Sand:
- when Ovidius, one of Batiatus's enemies, comes home to find a house full of corpses and Batiatus himself, waiting. Batiatus swears to the gods that he will not kill Ovidius if he just tells him who ordered his death. Then, once he's got the name...
Batiatus: Gratitude for your honesty, Ovidius.
Ovidius: You're not going to kill me, then?
Batiatus: No. My slave is going to kill you.
- While challenging a rival lanista to a fight betweeen their gladiator champions, Batiatus boasts that his man could win the fight blindfolded. As the gladiators square off, the rival lanista produces a blindfold and insists that Batiatus hold to the exact words of his challenge. Batiatus protests he was using a figure of speech, but ultimately accepts the terms.
- Ashur cautions Glaber not to take Spartacus's renegades lightly, saying that each gladiator from the house of Batiatus is worth three of Glaber's Roman soldiers. Bristling, Glaber insists that Ashur prove his claim by fighting three soldiers at once.
- Played with in an early episode of That '70s Show:
Kelso: Hey Frank, could we get our food? We've been waiting for twenty minutes.
Frank: I did not lose a leg in Vietnam so I could serve a bunch of teenagers.
Kelso: Uh... you've still got both legs, Frank.
Frank: Like I said, I did not lose my leg in Vietnam!
(after Leo tells Kelso that he was going to give the car to his son)
Leo: I can't sell you the car, man.
Kelso: Oh, man! Ah, I guess I understand.
Leo: Thanks, man. Hyde, I want you to have this car.
Kelso: What? No! You just said that you couldn't sell the car!
Leo: Well, I'm not selling it. I'm giving it to him, man. He's family. He's the son I never had.
Kelso: You just said you had a son!
Leo: Yeah, and Hyde's the son I never had.
- In the Law & Order episode "The Serpent's Tooth", Ben Stone makes a deal with a Russian gangster's lawyer for full immunity ("In New York County") in exchange for testimony in a murder trial. Immediately after his testimony, he's arrested by the NYPD. When his lawyer protests that they had a deal for "no prosecution in New York City"...
Ben: In "New York County" — that's Manhattan. I never gave your client immunity in Brooklyn; that's Kings County. [...] Next time, sir, get a better lawyer.
- Babylon 5
- In the episode "By Any Means Necessary", the dockworkers at Babylon 5 stage a strike over poor working conditions, being underfunded, etc. A "negotiator" named Zento is sent from Earth and after some half-hearted negotiations, invokes the Rush Act. The Rush Act authorizes the Sinclair to use "any military means necessary" to resolve the strike. Commander Sinclair then resolves the strike by transferring money from the military budget to the civilian one. When Zento protests that he can't do that, Sinclair points out that the Rush Act allows him to.
- Also seen with Garibaldi's Restraining Bolt. It prohibits him from attacking Bester (or, through inaction, allowing Bester to come to harm), but it doesn't ban him from providing large sums of money to rogue telepaths who will (eventually) use it to attack Psi Corps. It also doesn't prevent him from making a deal that will allow him to get the Restraining Bolt removed before they actually start attacking.
- Sitcom Perfect Strangers played with this trope on occasion: When Balki received a package from UPS in one episode, the delivery man handed him a pad and asked, "Would you sign your name?" Balki then spelled out his name in New American Sign Language. Later in that episode, the same delivery man told Balki, "Take the pen and sign your name." Balki took the pen in his left hand, and spelled out his name with his right hand.
- Just barely averted when Larry and Balki are hanging a picture or something. Balki has the hammer.
Larry: "I said, when I nod my head, you hit it."
Balki: "But —"
Larry: "What's the big deal? I nod my head! You hit it! Hit it! Do you understand!?"
Balki: (crying) "Yes..."
- Even the studio audience sees it coming. Larry stops Balki just in time.
- In an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Ares sets up a deathmatch between Xena and a villainess trying to prove herself to Ares by killing her, and mentions that either of them may ask for his help. Eventually, the villainess asks for Ares' help — only for him to abandon her to a Karmic Death, noting that he said they could ask for his help, not that he would actually give it. Xena later relates to Gabrielle that Ares, being something of an Evilutionary Biologist, had long ago stated that those who need to ask for his help don't deserve it.
- In the episode "Mr. Monk and the Three Julies", George Teeger, when apparently angered that his wife, Julie Teeger, was killed, demanded that Stottlemeyer and the rest of the San Francisco Police Department find whoever did this and nail him. Right in the last few minutes of the episode, Stottlemeyer reminds him of that statement... when arresting him for the murder of both his wife and a graduate student who both have the same names.
- In an earlier episode, "Mr. Monk Meets the Playboy", the publisher of Sapphire Magazine, when the accountant refuses to drop the shutting down of his franchise, remarks: "All right then, it's your funeral." The Accountant thinks he's exaggerating... he's not exaggerating.
- Elijah in The Vampire Diaries prides himself on keeping his word, but it might be helpful to get a transcript to review what, precisely, he actually agreed to do.
- Lampshaded by Elena, who actually inferred that Elijah's plan to kill Klaus would involve her death when she noted that Elijah is very careful with his words and promised to protect all her loved ones but not Elena herself.
- Also used in the spin-off The Originals where Elijah promises Sophie that he will not let Klaus kill the local coven's last living elder, who tried to kill Hayley's unborn child. He keeps his word, then snaps the witch's neck himself.
- Subverted on Merlin. After Arthur is mortally injured by the Questing Beast, Merlin makes a deal with Nimueh for his life. He makes it very specifically clear that he is bartering his life for Arthur's, but that doesn't stop Nimueh from trying to take Merlin's mother's life instead.
- In the first season cliffhanger ending of Sanctuary, one of the keys is hidden behind two doors, one of which is safe to teleport behind and will unlock the other. The solution is based on the Exact Words translation of the phrase posted above each of the doors.
- Doctor Who:
- The show uses this as the launching point for a subplot. Rita confronts Dexter about her suspicions about his heroin use, which has never happened. She concludes the accusation with this question:
Rita: If there is anything left between us, you will answer this one question, and you will tell me the truth: are you an addict?
Dexter: Yes, I have an addiction.
- In fact, this quote is only the beginning of a long string of language loopholes surrounding this subplot. Almost any time he discusses the addiction, he conveniently leaves out any mention of heroin. He manages to give speeches that are completely truthful without raising suspicion.
- Once in White Collar, Neal borrows Peter's FBI jacket, swearing that he would not use it in any questionable activities. In the next scene, Mozzie's wearing it and breaking into a crime scene.
- In Blake's 7, Servalan makes a deal for our heroes to surrender their ship to her, in return for a promise not to kill them, but to let them go on the nearest inhabited planet. Servalan then asks the ship's computer for the name of the nearest inhabited planet - which turns out to be the one right beneath them, which just happens to be inhabited by a particularly vicious insect race, making our heroes' chances of survival limited. Servalan smiles and replies to the computer, "Yes. I know."
- The title character of House likes to use this trope to his own advantage, but occasionally someone will turn it against him. In "Sex Kills", as a last resort to obtain a heart for his patient, he uses emotional blackmail on the husband of a woman who died ten minutes ago. Enter the patient's daughter, who thanks the man for his generosity. Enter House, the Jerk with a Heart of Gold. "You're mad at me. Fine, I get that. Take it out on me, not on her." The husband nods tearfully, kicks House in the balls (crunch) and donates the heart.
- NCIS: "About Face": Palmer has been targeted by an assassin and follows the team to the distant location. Gibbs sees him and orders him to stay in the car. Palmer sees the assassin trying to flee and uses his car as a battering ram against the assassin's truck.
Gibbs: Don't ever do that again.
- In the NCIS: Los Angeles episode "Bounty," the Killer of the Week, who was a Marine undercover agent who killed the victim of the week so he'd get the bounty to himself, had political immunity in America. However, that same political immunity did not apply within Afghanistan, the place he was native to, which the NCIS team later exploited in a sting to capture him by posing as some Afghanis, and later handed him off to his fellow teammates (who were presumably not too happy with him for murdering their leader) after locating the high-priority target he intended to gain 2 hours before he arrived.
- JAG: In season 8 episode "Friendly Fire" acting judge Harmon Rabb and his acting clerk Coates realize that both prosecution and defense have missed evidence which would give defense a crucial edge in showing reasonable doubt. However, Judicial Conduct rules are strict and interference beyond the scope of his duties in the case is a court martial offense. However when Harm realizes the rules only prohibit from giving advantageous help to the side which would gain the advantage. So he nudges the prosecution to look over where he found the evidence. Upon discovering it, they must give it to the defense. And with that, the case was over.
- In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Zig Zag", Zig Zag has rigged a bunch of servers to explode through power overload. He warns the leader of the taskforce chasing him that the detonator is in his hand. Said leader is holding a physical detonator, so he drops it, then uses the microchip in his hand to try and reset the programming Zig Zag installed. Guess what "in his hand" actually meant.
- Dillon invokes this in Power Rangers RPM when Ziggy becomes the Green Ranger. "You told him to protect the morpher by any means necessary. Bonding to it himself was the only way he could do it."
- In an episode of The Cosby Show, Clair gets invited to be a guest panelist on a political talk show, and Cliff gets to watch in the green room. Clair instructs him not to eat any of the available doughnuts, and instructs the studio's janitor to enforce her prohibition. The janitor sympathizes, having identical dietary restrictions from his own wife, but points out a loophole:
(holding up an eclair) "This is not a doughnut."
- In "The Clover" during the third season of The Middle, Frankie, worried about Aunt Edie's ability to continue on her own after her sister's death, visits her. While there, she points to the phone with extra large buttons and pictures of her, her mother and her sister on the buttons for the numbers in memory:
Frankie: Press my face if you want to talk to me.
Aunt Edie: (reaching out and actually pressing Frankie's face) Hello? Hello?
- In The Big Bang Theory episode "The Zarnecki Incursion," Penny arrives at the title character's house to get him to return the stuff he stole from Sheldon, both online and in real life (It Makes Sense in Context). When Zarnecki refuses, she says "Good news! Today's the day a girl's gonna finally touch you in your special place." She meant it... by kicking him in that special place.
- Once Upon a Time
- In the Hyperdrive episode "Convoy", the Schrane operative who brainwashed Henderson using the Captain Helix program orders him to kill the crew. Henderson hesitates, so the operative tells him that he must do what Captain Helix wants him to do. Captain Helix is a fictional character, specifically the highly honourable protagonist of an old-fashioned Space Opera. Henderson is highly adept at Death of the Author, literally and figuratively.
- On Wheel of Fortune, "Weird Al" Yankovic played a Celebrity Edition in 1994. He made it to the Bonus Round, where he was told that he had 10 seconds to figure out the right answer to the puzzle. Cue him saying the right answer of NO HARM DONE so slowly that it indeed took up the entire 10 seconds.
- In a Castle episode, Beckett is standing on a pressure plate-triggered bomb that's going to explode in minutes if not disarmed. The bomb team makes Castle leave, which he promises to do. In a rather poignant scene, Beckett stands there alone, about to die, thinking about Castle... who then comes back: "Yeah, I promised I'd leave... I didn't promise I wouldn't come back..."
- When The Mickey Mouse Club returned to television in 1989 with a whole new generation of Mouseketeers, they spoofed Tim Burton's Batman film with a segment called "Bratman", in which the superhero is a spoiled little boy who plays pranks on people and is mean to his butler. The butler decides to teach Bratman a lesson by paying "The Practical Jokester" to torment him. One of the Jokester's tricks is urging Bratman to take a sniff of the flower in his lapel, promising that "my flower will not squirt you with water." Bratman sniffs the flower - and immediately gets squirted in the face. Bratman starts crying and wails: "You said your flower wouldn't squirt me with water!" The Jokester's response? "IT WAS SELTZER! HAHAHAHAHAHA!"
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: When the Mc Poyles are holding the gang hostage, Liam decides to show them they're serious by having his brother Ryan "stab somebody."
Liam: Aaaahhh! You were supposed to stab one of them!
Ryan: (shrugs) sorry.
- Space: 1999: in the episode Earthbound, hibernating aliens en-route to Earth programmed their ship make a pit stop on the Moon. When the Moon was blasted into deep space, the ship duly diverted to land on the Moon anyway, even though the Moon is by this time light years from Earth, and maybe in another part of the Universe entirely!
- Malcolm in the Middle: In a rare moment where he comes out on top, Malcolm uses Lois's order to not leave his cot as an excuse to not help the others when they get in trouble.
- Only Fools and Horses:
Uncle Albert: During the—
If you say 'During the War
' one more time, I'm gonna pour this cup of tea over your head!
I wasn't going to say 'During the War
During the 1939 - 1945 conflict with Germany...
- In the first episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Capt. Holt orders Detective Peralta to put on a tie. Later, Peralta is seen complying, but then stands up to reveal that he's not wearing pants.
- In an episode of Bosom Buddies, Kip and Henry are arguing. Kip attempts to wrestle Henry to the ground using what he calls "my bad move." But Henry turns the move on Kip and puts him in an armlock. Hilarity Ensues thusly:
Henry: Now, I want you to say something for me...I want you to say 'I'm a big sissy.'
Kip: All right, you're a big sis—ah!
Henry (applying pressure): Not me!
- In one episode of One Foot in the Grave, a man delivers a yucca plant to the Meldrew's house. Victor tells him to put it in the downstairs toilet. He later finds that the man has planted it in the actual toilet.
- Bron|Broen: Saga, who is incapable of lying, tells Martin that "[We've] found August" and that he's being taken to hospital. This trope is lampshaded when Jens points out that she never said they found him alive.
- The objective of the Retro Game Master challenges is almost always "get to the ending". This usually involves beating the game normally (if not going the extra mile for the True Ending), but this was subverted on several occasions:
- In SOS, Arino manages to get the bad ending early on by clearing the final area with no other survivors. He's made to restart immediately to get the True Ending by rescuing as many passengers as possible, but he ultimately fails. At the end of the episode, he's asked to make a judgment as to whether he cleared the game or not. He invokes his authority as Chief to declare the game cleared, as he still got an ending.
- In Splatterhouse, the objective was "Find Jennifer, the kidnapped girlfriend." As with all Virtual Console challenges, he has a hard time limit of five hours. Arino gets as far as the boss battle with Jennifer where she transforms into a monster, but dies immediately after starting. At the same time, the time limit runs out, but the producer and Arino agree that although he couldn't beat Jennifer, he did at least find her per the challenge stipulation. Whether this constitutes clearing the challenge is left to the viewer.
- Sherlock uses this in the Sherlock episode "The Empty Hearse" to mess with John's head during a tense moment. When they're stuck in a hidden subway car rigged with explosives, Sherlock is forced to tell John that he has no idea how to defuse a bomb. He really doesn't. He does, however, know that bombs usually have "off" switches, and that switching a bomb off is just as good as defusing it.
- Played for Laughs in The Goodies episode 'South Africa':
(Travel customs agent picks up poker menacingly)
Tim: Er... don't do anything you might regret.
Travel agent: I shan't regret it.
- Salem: In "Ashes, Ashes", Increase promises Mercy's girls that if they testify against Alden they'll be spared the fires. After they do, he has them all hanged and tells them they have been spared "the flames of this world and the next."
- In the Pilot of Continuum, Kiera gets Lucas Ingram to talk by threatening to find his grandmother in the present day and make sure his mother is never born (thus preventing him fromt ever existing.) When asked by a present-day cop what she said to him to make him talk, she simply responds "We talked about his future."
- Friends: Used for one of the most heartwarming moments in the series when, after having his surprise proposal ruined, Chandler is led back to his apartment by Joey... to find Monica waiting, with dozens of candles.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
- "The Only Light in the Darkness" has HYDRA agent Grant Ward taking advantage of this trope to beat a lie-detector test.
- "A Magical Place" sees Agent Hand bluntly asking Agent May if Skye will be any use to S.H.I.E.L.D. "on this plane". May's response is a blunt "no" — because May knows full well that Skye will be far more use in finding Coulson off the plane, and thus unimpeded by other agents getting in her way — including Hand.
- CSI: The team is investigating a murder related to a marketing scam. The sales pitch goes, "Congratulations, you've won! You're eligible to receive one of three amazing prizes: a new car, a trip to Tahiti or a new air filter." Somehow, all of the "winners" get the air filter.
- In Season 4 of The Wire, we learn that the local school system maintains its government funding so long as each student attends even one school day a month, so the school administration doesn't expend much effort in tracking down and penalizing students who have already hit that quota, leading to severe truancy issues.
- In Season 5 of Supernatural, Lucifer, once freed, shows himself to be obsessed with this trope. Throughout his appearances, he very seldom flat-out lies to anyone, and will usually respond honestly if asked a direct question. What he does specialize in, however, is answering questions from "a certain point of view" or answering specifically the exact question that was posed and nothing more.