- Our Miss Brooks:
- In "The Big Game", Miss Brooks takes Mr. Conklin's exact words at their literal value to pass former football star Gus "Snakehips" Geary and give him his high school diploma.
- Similarly, in "The Yodar Kritch Award", Miss Brooks gives Bones Snodgrass (or Stretch Snodgrass, in the radio version of the episode) the Yodar Kritch Award for Unique Achievement in English. The unique achievement? Not answering a single question right.
- Scrubs: In the episode "My Big Bird," Elliot has a fling with a man at the hospital, said man having told her that his wife was "no longer with us." When said wife shows up later:
Elliot: I thought you said your wife was dead!
Man: No, I said she wasn't with us.
- 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...
- The Twilight Zone uses this a few times, mainly for episodes involving a Deal with the Devil. A great example is "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville" where corrupt CEO Feathersmith agrees to sell off his fortune for a chance to go back to 1910 and rebuild his empire again. He tells Miss Devlin that he wants to look exactly like he did at that time, which she agrees to. Feathersmith soon finds his faulty memory is preventing him from pulling off the deals he wants and suffers health issues with a doctor noting he seems to have serious heart problems. Feathersmith confronts Devlin on that who points out he only said he wanted to look younger. He never said anything about his body and thus internally, he's still 75 years old carrying on like a much younger man.
- 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.
- In "The Stackhouse Filibuster," the titular senator, an elderly man with a head cold, is deliberately trying to delay a vote on an important health care bill, but no one knows why. When the White House staff discovers the truth—the bill makes no provision for autism research, and Stackhouse himself has an autistic grandson—they decide to help out, as Stackhouse (who's been talking non-stop for nine hours at this point) is almost too exhausted to continue; if he sits down or stops talking, the filibuster will end and the vote will occur. Donna then recalls a useful rule which states that while those delivering filibusters can't stop talking, they are free to take questions from fellow senators...and there's no rule that states how long those questions can be. The staff quickly rallies other Democratic senators to ask extremely lengthy questions (the first one is in twenty-seven parts), which allows Stackhouse to rest in a chair, have some water, and recover, thus stopping the bill and allowing a new discussion of autism research to begin.
- 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.
- There is also the episode Out of Time, where the crew discover a time travel device. On using this device to travel back to the 15th century, all the crew except for Kryten are puzzled as to why they are still in deep space. Kryten explains that they haven't moved anywhere, that they are still in deep space but are now in deep space in the 15th century.
- 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!"
- In "A Piece of the Action", Kirk claims that the odds of getting a specific hand in Fizzbin are astronomical and asks Spock what they are. Spock replies "I've never calculated them, Sir.", which is true...since they don't exist.
- 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.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- In "Necessary Evil", Odo (in a flashback) recalls interrogating Kira Nerys regarding the murder of a Bajoran shopkeeper on Terok Nor. After getting her to confess to being a member of the Bajoran Resistance whose mission placed her in a different part of the station, Odo, not wanting to get her killed, simply tells Gul Dukat that she's innocent of the murder. In the present day, Kira admits she did commit the murder, she just hadn't planned on it: she was stealing a list the victim had of Les Collaborateurs and he caught her in the act.
- Notable is Dukat saying "if you're lying..." and Odo replying that if Dukat knew him so well, "you'd know I don't lie." And he didn't; he just neglected to add how Kira was also a Resistance soldier.
- In "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", Admiral Ross mentions to Doctor Bashir that Senator Cretak is a Romulan patriot. Bashir, being who he is, takes this to mean that Creetak is therefore a good guy and on the side of the Federation. Later, after a massive Batman Gambit results in Cretak being framed for treason so a Federation mole can take her place, Ross reminds Bashir that a Romulan patriot is just that: in favor of anything advantageous to the Romulan Empire, which can include backstabbing the Federation if it will give them an advantage.
- In ''Strange Bedfellows'', Damar asks Weyoun to send Jem'Hadar reinforcements to Septimus III, to relieve the Cardassian defenders fighting off a Klingon invasion. Weyoun tells him 'The situation will be taken care of.' When he learns later that the garrison was overrun and wiped out, he confronts Weyoun, who repeats that the situation WAS taken care of… by the Klingons.
- 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 it to me. Eddie:
I said "give it 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. Right.
- 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 "Lie to Me," Ford, Buffy's old friend turned Vampire Vannabe, comes to town and makes a deal with Spike: he'll hand Buffy over to him in exchange for being turned into a vampire. While Buffy ultimately comes out on top, Ford nonetheless points out to Spike that even if Buffy got away, he still technically fulfilled his end of the bargain by delivering her to him; Spike agrees and turns him... only for Buffy to dust Ford the minute he rises from the grave. Spike, after all, didn't promise to leave Ford's body somewhere Buffy couldn't find it.
- 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.
- Angels: Lorne's karaoke bar Caritas was originally protected by a Sanctuary Spell which prevented "all demon violence" within it, so no vampire of demon could harm anyone within its walls. Unfortunately, this meant a gang of human demon hunters could storm the place and pick off the demon patrons, who were helpless to defend themselves. When he reopened it, he had the spell tweaked to prevent any human or demon committing an act of violence within Caritas, only for Holtz to light a petrol bomb outside and kick it through the doors.
- 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. Ashur proves his words by winning handily.
Ashur: And I was counted lowest among the brotherhood.
- 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.
Donna: Well at least you got great friends. And I'll always be your friend.
Hyde: Thanks Donna. <pats her on the knee and leaves his hand there>
Donna: That was sympathy, Hyde. Not an opening to put your hand on my knee.
Hyde: Sorry. <leaves his hand there>
Donna: Move your hand!
'(Hyde rubs his hand back and forth on her leg, causing Donna to laugh and throw it off)
- 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", after an accident in the station's docks causes multiple deaths, the dockworkers at Babylon 5 stage a strike over poor working conditions, being underpaid, etc. A "negotiator" named Zento is sent from Earth and after some half-hearted negotiations, invokes the Rush Act. The Rush Act authorizes Commander Sinclair to use "any military means necessary" to resolve the strike. Sinclair then resolves the strike by transferring money from the military budget to the civilian one to improve working conditions and pay in the docks. When Zento protests that he can't do that, Sinclair responds that he couldn't... until Zento invoked the Rush Act. (The Senate reportedly isn't happy with the solution, but they let it slide because the public sided with the strikers.)
- Two examples in "Point of No Return":
- Sheridan is ordered to implement martial law on Babylon 5, to be enforced by the Nightwatch. The admiral who delivers the orders informs him that they come from the Political Office and to "respect the chain of command". The admiral proves to be hinting subtly that, as a civilian agency, the Political Office is outside Sheridan's chain of command and therefore has no authority to issue him orders in the first place. Sheridan subsequently lures the Nightwatch into a docking bay and then arrests them all for trying to carry out an illegal order.
- A seeress tells Londo and Vir that they will both be emperor, with one of them becoming Emperor after the other dies, and the two spend the evening looking at each other suspiciously. She never said that one would kill the other. Londo ascends to the throne after assassinating Cartagia, and Vir succeeds him upon his Mercy Kill death decades later.
- Also seen with Garibaldi's Restraining Bolt in season five. 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."
- In another episode, Kerr Avon promises Shrinker 'a way out' of his imprisonment in exchange for assistance. When Shrinker demands his 'way out', Avon directs him to a gun, then teleports back to the Liberator.
- 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.
- Castle episode:
- In "A Chill Goes Through Her Veins", Castle and Beckett eventually come around to the theory that the father of one of the victims had killed the other, her husband, in revenge for her death at her husband's hand. They interrogate the father, but he doesn't exactly confess, and given the circumstances they decide to let him walk.
Beckett: So you took matters into your own hands.
Ben Davidson: Well, you could certainly understand how a father might want to. How he might follow his daughter's murderer one dark night, when he was sure no other people would be around. How he might confront him with a gun he'd brought back from the war. Might even promise forgiveness in exchange for the truth. And, hearing his admission, be overcome with rage. Every time he brought the girls to see us, I watched a little piece of my wife die. A visit from your grandkids should be life-affirming, not a reminder of how your only child was murdered.
Beckett: Killing him wasn't the answer.
Ben Davidson: I never said I killed him. I said a father might be justified. Police told me Sam was shot in a robbery. And, without evidence, there would be little chance his killer would ever be brought to justice. So I guess we'll find out if that's really true. I'd like to see a—a lawyer, if I could.
- 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 McPoyles 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.
- The Office (US): In order to discourage the salespeople's bad attitudes, Michael "hands out" the new leads to every other employee instead, who in turn use the leads to bribe, blackmail, and/or taunt the salespeople.
Gabe: You are in charge of supporting the sales staff. You are required to hand out those leads, Michael.
Michael: Well, if that's what I'm required to do, I will do exactly that.
Gabe: Ok good —
Michael: Exactly that.
Michael: Exactly that!
Gabe: Why do you keep repeat—
Michael: (hangs up)
- 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 from 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.
- Game of Thrones:
- Tyrion says he's willing to confess his crimes on two separate occasions, but not necessarily the crimes he's accused of.
- A twofer in Vaes Dothrak: it's illegal to shed blood within the city, but Viserys threatens Daenerys and her unborn child to demand the crown he was promised. Khal Drogo responds by telling him that "You shall have a golden crown, that men shall tremble to behold." Then giving Viserys a crown of molten gold without shedding any blood.
- Joffrey swears to grant mercy if Eddard Stark confesses to treason. Unfortunately, Joffrey considers a quick beheading merciful. Later, he says his mother told him never to strike his lady, so he orders Ser Meryn to strike Sansa instead...with a gauntlet.
- Mirri Maz Duur says her blood magic will save Drogo's life, but only brings him back as an Empty Shell.
- Melisandre promises to give Stannis a son in "The Night Lands" and gives birth to a living shadow assassin a few episodes later. In a meta example, the dialogue of that scene is also deliberately vague about whether Stannis has a daughter because the producers had not yet decided if Shireen would be Adapted Out.
- Jon Snow, as a sworn member of the Night's Watch, swore that he "shall take no wife and father no children." Ygritte points out all the obvious loopholes.
- Brienne explains killing some scumbag Stark loyalists by insisting she only serves Catelyn Stark.
- Arya tells the Hound that her victim in "Mhysa" was the "first man" she killed, leaving out the boy she killed in "The Pointy End" and her emphasis suggests that he's only the first.
- Sam justifies bringing Gilly and her son to Castle Black by pointing out that his vows are to "guard the realms of men," which he insists includes the wildlings.
- Ned Stark tells Jon Snow, "You are a Stark. You might not have my name, but you have my blood," when Jon asks about his mother. That's because he's not Jon's biological father, but his uncle. Lyanna Stark, Ned's deceased sister, is Jon's mother. So Ned's blood does run through Jon's veins, just not in the way he has been told all his life.
- Jaime, sarcastically, asks Bolton to tell Robb Stark that "the Lannisters send their regards" concerning Edmure Tully's wedding. Roose relays the message before he personally kills Robb.
- Lyanna pledges loyalty to the Starks, but not to Sansa, who is technically both a Lannister and a Bolton, nor to Jon, who is illegitimate. This changes after the battle, as she is the first to name Jon, King in the North.
- Near the beginning of Season 3, Tyrion insisted he be rewarded for saving King's Landing. Tywin's promise, among various vague assurances, was that he would be given a proper wife. In "Kissed By Fire", Tywin points out this demand when ordering Tyrion to marry Sansa Stark.
- 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.
- "Pilot" had The Centipede Lab, which had been leased as a "self-empowerment center": It was a place where people went to gain superpowers, so this was technically the truth.
- ''Heavy is the Head" has an unusual case, where the speaker, Fitz, isn't trying to be obtuse, he is simply having trouble communicating due to brain damage. When asked about coming up with a device to neutralise Carl Creel's superpowers, he keeps repeating "I didn't solve this today", leading the others to think he hasn't solved the problem yet. Turns out, he solved it a while back, and all he has to do is modify an old device he had worked on the previous year.
- In "Ascension", when Giyera seemed to have Fitz and Daisy at his mercy, Fitz warned Giyera that there was a weapon on the plane designed to kill him. He repeatedly told Giyera "You'll never see it coming." He then shot Giyera dead with a gun rendered invisible by a cloaking field.
- Also from "Ascension", when Coulson confronts Hive aboard the Zephyr, he invokes this trope twice in rapid succession when he tells Hive, "I gave the order for the others to stay behind," and that he was "prepared" to die. He later informs Hive, "When I gave my team the order to stay behind, they just wouldn't listen." Then when Hive attacks Coulson only to discover he was a hologram all along, Coulson adds, "I said I was willing to die, sure, but I certainly don't want to."
- 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.
- Played for Laughs in Season 2, when Omar is testifying in Bird's murder trial. In the episode "Undertow", after she deposes Omar, Nathan tells McNulty to get Omar some clothes, specifically "anything with a tie". In the following episode, "All Prologue", when it's Omar's turn to testify, he wears an athletic jersey and jacket - along with a tie, which he waves at Nathan as he walks up to the stand. She is not amused.
- 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.
- In Leverage, Spencer constantly insists that he Doesn't Like Guns and he shows that by routinely beating up people who have them. In a season finale, he and two other characters are pinned down by the bad guys with guns. He grabs two guns and proceeds to shoot every bad guy in the room in a display that wouldn't be out of place in an over-the-top action movie (including sliding on his knees on a puddle in slow-mo, while firing both guns to the side, as bullets fly just above him). When the final guy creeps up from behind and wonders if Spencer lied about not liking guns. Spencer admits that he really doesn't like them. He then spins around and shoots the Mook, adding that he never said he didn't know how to use them.
- A non-verbal example in True Blood. The first episode to introduce Eric has him sitting in his Fangtasia bar. A (human) girl approaches and asks to snap a picture of him with her phone. Instead of replying, he gives her a fanged smile. Immediately after she takes the picture, Longshadow appears next to her, grabs the phone, and smashes it with the words "No pictures!". The frightened girl reminds Eric that he let her take the picture. He replies that he didn't say she could keep it.
- In the TV adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Jonathan asks the Gentleman With Thistledown Hair to bring his wife back to life. The Gentleman says that "circumstances" aren't right for him to do this, and then asks Jonathan where the body is and how long it's been there, obscuring that the "circumstances" he has in mind are that he knows perfectly well she's not actually dead.
- In "I of Newton," an episode of the first revival of The Twilight Zone, a math professor named Sam inadvertently summons a devil who plans to steal his soul. There's a game they must play first, though—Sam gets to ask three questions about the devil and his powers, then give the demon a final question that must be answered or a task that must be performed; if he can't do it, Sam's soul is free. The devil invokes this trope first by counting Sam's surprised "Really?" as one of the three questions. Sam then turns the tables by asking questions that reveal that the devil can travel anywhere in the universe (and even places in alternate realities) and still be able to return to his original location. With this information, Sam provides the perfect, impossible, and Exactly Worded task: get lost!
- In the iCarly special "iStart a Fan War", Spencer is cosplaying as a character from an MMO and is engaged in a battle against another cosplayer (played by Jack Black) as a character from Spencer's rival faction, leading to this:
Aspartamay: Say your costume's lame.
Spencer: Okay. Your costume's lame!
- Done for a Heartwarming Moment in Brothers and Sisters. Kevin is finally going to marry his boyfriend, Scotty, in a private ceremony in the family home. Knowing that his mother Nora has a tendency to go overboard with celebrations, he makes it clear to her that he doesn't want anything fancy, and even makes her promise not to do anything over the top with her planning. Nora reluctantly agrees...but then realizes that she only promised Kevin that she wouldn't make something elaborate. She asks for Scotty's permission instead, and he cheerfully agrees when she promises that it will just be "a few little flowers" (it's unclear whether Scotty genuinely didn't know that Nora would take a mile from the inch her gave her, or if he was aware and simply allowed her to have her fun). The Heartwarming comes when Nora creates a gorgeous wedding pavilion covered with flowers for her son, insisting that he deserves to have a day just as beautiful and special as other married couples.
- Derren Brown's preferred form of creating loopholes. For example, in The Gameshow episode of The Experiments, he keeps assuring the audience what they're seeing in the next 50 minutes is the real deal. The clincher? The part where the victim tries to escape the kidnappers and got hit by a car happened right after the clock passes the 50th minute mark, so he's now allowed to use staged footage.
- This trope popped up quite a few times on The Nanny:
- Niles, a rare male version of a Gossipy Hen, is specifically told not to turn on the intercom that allowed him to eavesdrop on Mr. Sheffield's office. Instead, he has Grace turn on the intercom for him, then listens in on the conversation.
- In "Stop the Wedding, I Want to Get Off," Fran senses that Maxwell's sister, who's about to marry a wealthy duke, is secretly in love with her long-suffering chauffeur. Maxwell makes her swear not to say a word to his sister, and she agrees...then realizes that he didn't say anything about talking with the chauffeur himself. The ploy works and Fran ends up creating a happy union between the lovers.
- In the pilot episode, Fran lists the Queen Mother as a reference on her application for the job of nanny; when Max asks her about this, she explains that she does know the "Queen Mother"—her mom Sylvia, who lives in Queens.
- In "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," a well-known episode of The X-Files, the titular character is a Seer who has the power to sense how people are going to die. When Scully and Mulder are called in to investigate, Bruckman offers Dana a prophecy: the two of them will eventually end up in bed together in a "very special moment neither of us will forget." At the end of the episode, Bruckman commits suicide in his bed, and a distraught Scully sits next to the body and holds his hand, proving the prediction as true. Bruckman also offers a case of Foreshadowing when Scully asks him how she is going to die; he merely replies "You don't." Fan theories have abounded about this being a clue that Scully is somehow immortal (which one of the creators has confirmed), but the "official" explanation is that, in a later episode, Scully is about to die—to the point where she's literally seeing the Grim Reaper—but survives, suggesting that Bruckman saw this as her potential death.
- Wizards of Waverly Place: Wizards need to be very careful with what they say when casting spells because their powers take them literally.
- The Defenders (2017):
- Daredevil (2015):
- At one point, when searching a Hand facility, Brett Mahoney asks Matt-as-Daredevil if he saw anyone while he was inside a building. Matt, not wanting to admit who else was inside, simply says, "No," which is true, because he's blind.
- Jessica Jones (2015): When it comes to Kilgrave, interpretation of his commands is key.
- Kilgrave orders Trish to put a bullet in her skull. Trish had previously emptied her revolver at Kilgrave, so she removes the spent shell casings from the cylinder and tries to push one of them into her temple with her bare hands to fulfill the command. Jessica manages to break her out of this by putting the bullet in Trish's mouth.
- After he unintentionally tells his bodyguard to say "Hello, Hank", Kilgrave tells Jessica about one time he unthinkingly told a man to 'screw himself'. He does not give exact details on how the man interpreted his instructions, instead asking "can you imagine?"
- Kilgrave tells Luke Cage to blow himself up, but does not actually say the word "kill," allowing Luke to survive because Kilgrave was not aware of his invulnerability. This is actually part of Kilgrave's plan, as Luke is under his control the entire time afterwards and he wants Jessica to believe that he is unaware of Luke's survival.
- Kilgrave's exact words regarding ordering Jessica to kill Reva were "take care of her", which he uses to dodge any responsibility for her death. He directly tells Jessica that it was her own decision, not his, since she interpreted those words as "Kill her". Jessica points out that even an idiot could tell that he meant "Kill her", and this word-shuffling does not absolve him of any responsibility.
- School of Rock: In "We're Not Gonna Take It", Freddie gets in trouble for dying his hair green. When the other students do the same to support him, Summer points out to the principal that there are no rules regarding hair color and points out that the principal colors her hair, too.
- Nash Bridges once had to deal with a hitman who dies in a shootout. His client has not yet been informed of his death, so they keep this information secret when they interrogate her and pretend he's only been arrested. When the client asks if the hitman has a lawyer, Joe replies "He hasn't asked for one."
- In the Emerald City episode "Prison of the Abject", when the Wizard asks Glinda and West to keep the Prison of the Abject running, Glinda tells him that all of East's spells died with her and they can't replicate them. This was entirely true, but she neglected to mention that there was a ritual that could be used to retrieve the spells from her corpse.
- In the season 1 finale of Arrested Development, a doctor at a hospital informs the Bluths that they've "lost" George Senior. The family enters his room to pay their last respects, only to find that he escaped out the window. The season 2 premiere follows up the gag when Tobias is hit by a car and the same doctor tells his in-laws that "it looks like he's dead," causing them to go into hysterics with the exception of Michael, who asks if he's really dead or if he only looks that way. He only "looks" dead because he's covered with blue body paint.
- In Sherlock Holmes story "The Copper Beeches," Watson comments on the beautiful morning by asking rhetorically who would want to hurt their client on such a day.
Holmes: I hope no one.
Watson: Then why have you brought your revolver?
Holmes: You talked about my hope, not my expectations.
- In the third Horatio Hornblower telefilm, Hornblower's hotheaded subordinate protests when Hornblower restrains him from immediately firing on a group of enemies because they're here to fight them. Hornblower, who has planned a careful ambush, replies "no, we're here to defeat them."
- The Muppet Show:
- Done brilliantly in one episode, Kermit asks Miss Piggy if she'd like to go on a date, and describes an incredibly lavish and luxurious evening. When she eagerly agrees, he casually hands her off to Gonzo; he never said the date was with him.
- In the John Cleese episode, Gonzo has one arm stretched to five feet long, and is unhappy about this. Cleese says he can make both arms the same length...
- iCarly: In the "iPie" episode, before his death, Mr Galini had told his granddaughter that his pie recipes were in the computer. She couldn't find them. Not even Freddy could until they realized he meant he hid the paper copies of the recipes literally inside the computer.
- Community: In the episode "Basic Lupine Urology," the study group's project yam for Biology is "murdered." Jeff complains that Annie got him to run over in the middle of the night with "a misleading text message." She counters with "Well technically, you are about to get screwed in the Biology room" (since with their yam dead, their grade is screwed over). Doubles as Ship Tease with a dash of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
- The Flash (2014):
- Harrison Wells from Earth Two makes Wally think he's dying using some technically true phrases like "I don't know how much time I've got" (well, no one does exactly) and "Yes, I've been to the doctor" (most people get checkups). The reason he's doing this is because Harry's daughter Jesse is moving to Earth One to be with Wally, and Harry is trying to convince Wally to send her back to Earth Two. Jesse sees right through it, and is pissed.
Hey, dead guy! You told Wally you were dying? Barry and Caitlin: [concerned]
- Two brilliant clues about Savitar's true identity:
- He often says "I am the future, Flash." This is the result of a slight misinterpretation of a pause. The actual line is "I am the Future Flash."
- Savitar is explicitly stated to be the very first speedster in history. Now again, who was the very first speedster in the show's history?
- Savitar mentions the gang building a "cerbreal inhibitor to use against DeVoe." The gang are confused as they've yet to meet the man they'll know as the Thinker. In season 4, as the Thinker's plots continue, they remember Savitar's words and build the device, expecting it to be the solution. But when it's used, it fails to stop the Thinker. Too late, they realize Savitar had simply said they "built it to use against" the Thinker; he never said it actually worked.
- A skit on Late Night with Conan O'Brien had a machine which Conan declared could turn anyone into a celebrity. A participant from the audience entered the machine and emerged... as John Lithgow.
- This trope will make or break someone in Jeopardy! as the answer has to be the given one and any deviation will get it wrong. One infamous incident had the question of "What is (Coolio's) "Gangsta's Paradise"?", but the person answering it as "What is "Gangster's Paradise?"
- In Battlestar Galactica (2003), Apollo resolves the first conflict with Zarek by agreeing to his demands for elections to decide the presidency rather than have it fall to Education Secretary Laura Roslin. However, he points out to Roslin that he's only following the law: the elections will be held, but on the normal constitutional schedule, seven months from now.
- On Dynasty (2017), Fallon is propositioned by an investor who promises to give millions if she sleeps with him. She challenges him to a card game for a night in her bed. Fallon ends up bluffing the guy so he calls the deal off. She then tells a friend that even if the guy had called her bluff, it would have been okay. "The deal was he got to spend a night in my bed. He never said anything about my being in it at the same time."
- In one episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Herc is on his way to check out a town's new bank and runs into king of thieves Autolycus along the way. Knowing Autolycus, Hercules makes him swear not to rob the bank, to which Autolycus agrees. As soon as Hercules is briefly out of sight, Autolycus pickpockets a guy, noting he only agreed not to rob the bank.
- In an early episode of Highlander, Duncan asks a reporter for a favor. When she asks what's in it for her, the immortal replies, "You'd have my undying gratitude!"
- In the Gotham episode "Anything For You", Butch, jealous of Nygma's new position as Penguin's right-hand man, forms a gang that targets Penguin's reputation, with the intent of taking them out when they attack the mayoral reception, and thereby proving himself. Instead, when Nygma deduces where their base is, he has to machine gun them there and then, and play it like he got there just before Nygma and Cobblepot did. Later, when he's being hailed as a hero, a reporter asks him if his life was in danger, and he replies "I can honestly say that if I'd hesitated, I'd have been a goner."