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" (for disobeying his parents after borrowing someone else's car when he was put on a "no driving" punishment), 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...
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.
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.
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 SheliakCorporate, 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.
In an episode, the team erases a Bad Future in which the Aschen have taken over Earth:
Aschen guard: 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! Teal'c: Very well. (shoots the guard)
Richie: Eddie — where's the cattle-prod? Eddie: Well, here it is! Richie: Right, give to me. Eddie: What? Richie: 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 — hand me the cattle-prod? Thank-you.
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.
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."
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.
Used in 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.
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!
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.
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 means necessary" to resolve the strike. Commander Sinclair 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.
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, said 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 that he will not let Klaus kill a group of witches who targeted the pregnant Hayley. He keeps his word and then kills the witches himself by ripping out their hearts.
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.
Played for laughs when Richard Nixon asks if he will be remembered. The Doctor responds in the affirmative but provides no details... then adds, "Say hi to David Frost for me."
In the episode "The King's Demons", Turlough, asked whether he can call on Hell, says that of course he can, and so can Hugh, and Hugh's more likely to get a response.
In "The Age of Steel", John Lumic insists on postponing his own cyber-conversion until "his last breath". His Cybermen, having decided they need him now, promptly unplug his life support.
In "Marco Polo", Ping Cho promised Marco that she would not tell the TARDIS crew where the keys were hidden. She did not promise that she would not take them herself and give them to the TARDIS crew.
In "Silver Nemesis", the Doctor allows the Cyber Leader to give commands to the superweapon and has the superweapon confirm that it understood those commands. At no point does he instruct it to follow them.
The Clockwork Robots from "The Girl In The Fireplace" were ordered to repair the ship with whatever parts they could find. As the unlucky crew found out, they considered human parts acceptable...
"The Name of the Doctor" has the prophecy "The Doctor has a secret that he will take to his grave, and it is discovered." No, the speaker didn't mean that the Doctor's secret had been discovered, he meant that he'd managed to find the Doctor's grave—the one point in the future that the Doctor had sworn never to visit.
"The Time of the Doctor" features a 'truth field' that prevents people from telling lies. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver on the wooden Cyberman and tells it that he has sent a signal to reverse the direction of its weapon. The Cyberman knows the Doctor can't be lying, so it reverses its weapon and fires...
Doctor: I probably should have mentioned, this doesn't work on wood.
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 (revived series) 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?
A general rule is that if you're making a deal with Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold, you have to pay attention to what's being said. A prime example of this is when Regina works with him to frame Mary Margaret for Kathryn's murder. Except Kathryn's not dead; she was merely abducted for a while. When Regina demands to know why he didn't live up to their deal, Gold points out that Regina asked for something "tragic" to happen to Kathryn. And in his opinion, abduction is tragic.
Another prime example results in a very small "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gold promises Belle that he won't kill Regina—he won't, and in any case he's giving her a Fate Worse than Death. Belle is less than pleased and calls him out on his habit of toying with words like he does people.
David: You need to be more honest with her. Gold: I don't lie... David: There's a difference between not lying and telling the truth.
Rumpel got hit with it himself a couple of times: One was courtesy of a Seer who told him that the action he performed the following day would "leave his son without a father". What she failed to mention was that this did not mean that Rumpel would die. Instead, his actions would start a chain of events that would lead his son to be separated from him fourteen years later. The second was courtesy of the miller's daughter (named Cora in this version of the story): The two made a deal where he would teach her magic so that she could spin thread into gold and in return, she would sign over her first born child to him. Rumpel eventually fell in love with Cora and amended the deal so that Cora would give him their first born child. However, Cora decided her need for power and status were more important than her love for Rumpel, so she screwed him over and married a prince named Henry. When Rumpel tried to invoke their original deal, Cora pointed out that he had no claim, since her first born child would be with Henry, not Rumpel.
In Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Jafar and the Red Queen go to a monster called Grendel who captured (but released) Alice to get information about her. He asks to be reunited with his wife if he gives up the information. Jafar says he'll do it, but unfortunately, the wife is dead, and magic can't bring back the dead (not that Jafar would have done that even if he could) so he reunites them by killing the Grendel.
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.
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!"
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.
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.'
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.
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.