Joshua the Groundskeeper: Who else saw you come in?Something's bothering you. You did some poking around, and you discovered a clue that just doesn't match up with what you know about the situation at large. It's almost as if your team has stumbled upon some sort of Evil Plan. So you decide to run this information past your trusted ally, Nialliv. He listens, perhaps admits that this does indeed sound suspicious, and then casually asks: "Have you told anyone else?" Always answer yes, especially if it isn't true, and especially especially if your place of employment has a High Employee Turnover Rate. What's that phrase mean? Well, several things:
Troy: If we say "nobody", are you going to stab us with your bush scissors?
Troy: If we say "nobody", are you going to stab us with your bush scissors?
- The information you've discovered is enough to at least screw up the Big Bad's plans if not bring him down entirely.
- Unfortunately, the first (and now, likely, the only) person you revealed this information to is the Treacherous Advisor or some other variety of The Mole, and possibly the Big Bad himself.
- As soon as you innocently tell him that, no, he's the first person you've mentioned this to, he's likely going to make sure that information dies with you. Check your shirt color.
- Occasionally, there is another step: Why yes, there was one person you told: Mr. Dead-Meat. By amazing coincidence, Mr. Dead-Meat accidentally shoots himself in the back of the head twice the next day. You are still alive because you're too dumb to connect the dots and there's probably some part of the Evil Plan you need to fulfill. But chances are, you'll be dead anyway.
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Anime & Manga
- In 20th Century Boys detective Chou has made a startling discovery about the the leader of an enigmatic cult named 'Friend'. Turns out the leader is actually a childhood classmate of our peppy main character Kenji. Unfortunately he decided to discuss the matter with his assistant Yama first. Needless to say Yama turns out to be a member of said cult and "purified him." Making it even more tragic is the fact that Chou was just one week away from retirement.
- Naomi Misora almost averts this in Death Note, but almost doesn't cut it when your opponent is a Xanatos Speed Chessmaster who can kill you by writing your name on a scrap of paper. Her failure to avert the trope results from Light reminding her of L, which not so subtly lampshades that the two are Not So Different.
- Detective Conan:
- Played with in episode 36. The villain, after being confronted by Conan alone, asks Conan if he told anyone about this, to which Conan responds that he didn't—and also volunteers the information that nobody knows where Conan is, either. She doesn't kill him and Conan later speculates she wanted to be caught by a child; it's not explained what Conan would have done if that guess was wrong.
- Used straight a couple episodes later, in a really stupid move on Conan's part (since it almost gets him killed).
- An interesting reversal appears in movie 13, The Raven Chaser, where Conan asks this of Irish, the newly introduced member of the Black Organization who figured out Conan is actually Shinichi Kudo.
- During the Greenback Jane arc of Black Lagoon, Eda is holding a minor antagonist at gunpoint, apparently planning to let him go - until he suddenly blurts out, "Hey, I recognize you! You're that woman I saw dining with a senator in Washington DC!" Eda denies this, saying she's just a nun, but "I'll tell you one thing: I'm not really from Alabama. I'm from Langley, Virginia." "You're CI—" (He doesn't get to finish the sentence, much less tell anyone.)
- In the first of Rumiko Takahashi's Mermaid Saga stories (A Mermaid Never Smiles) several old women ask Yuta if there's anyone in town who will miss him if he's gone. He says no, and they kill him. Fortunately, it didn't take.
- This is somewhat less dumb than is normal for this trope, since it happens at the very start of the story when nothing suspicious has yet happened. Plus, who expects to get killed by little old ladies?
- Plus, there's the fact that Yuta is immortal. Not much cause for him to worry about his well being.
- Inverted in Eden of the East. Mononobe plans to lure Takizawa Akira to his side, and explains his Evil Plan to him. In a moment of extreme cunning, Takizawa had called his Love Interest just before meeting up with the Big Bad and leaves his phone on so she can listen in. Mononobe thinks Takizawa can't do anything to avert his plan, and lets him go when he can't convert him. Yeah, that ends about as you'd expect.
- In Tiger & Bunny, Maverick asks Barnaby if anyone else was there when Barnaby learned of Jake Martinez's alibi for his parents' murder. In this case, the answer really is yes - Barnaby's partner Kotetsu was also present - but since Maverick has the ability to alter people's memories, he's not really all that worried. It does help Barnaby in the long run, though, as Kotetsu proves to be much more of a Spanner in the Works than Maverick anticipated.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the Prime Minster asks Chief Aramaki who else knows the General Secretary was behind a massive blackmail case, and is told that only Section Nine does. Section Nine is subsequently attacked, but only so they can go into hiding without the conspiracy knowing.
- Naruto has the resurrected Itachi shocked to learn of Sasuke's plans to destroy the Hidden Leaf Village after he's been told by Madara of the Awful Truth behind his actions, so he asks the titular character if everyone in the village knows about this. His response is that Kakashi and Yamato were there beside him, but because there is no proof of what Madara said, they will have to keep the truth quiet. Itachi then instructed him not to tell anyone else about it for the sake of the Uchiha clan's reputation.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Had this happen to Roy when he tried to tell one of the top military brass about the Government Conspiracy with the Homunculi. Only to find out too late they were all in on it. Fortunately they had left him alive with the threat of harm to his fellow soldiers. But this just allows Roy to rework his plan to take down the corrupted officials.
- Daniel Tosh has this act on his CD "True Stories I Made Up":
"My biggest fear is that my neighbor will knock on my door: 'Daniel, get out here! I just won the lottery! I'm out of here for good!' '...Have you told anybody yet?' 'No, you're the first one!' ...I don't know if you can cremate someone in a gas fireplace, but I'll find out. Feet first, I reckon."
- Subverted in Batman comics - Lucius Fox tells Lex Luthor that he knows about Luthor buying large amounts of Gotham City for a fraction of the price, and informs him that yes, people know where he is and yes, he has made copies of the data. He still would have been killed by Mercy Graves if Batman hadn't been watching his back though.
- In Sin City, after the escape from the Farm, Marv and Lucille are cornered by cops sent to the Farm. Marv wants to take them out, but Lucille knocks him out, telling him he's not going to get either of them killed. She then talks to the officers present about what is going on and finishes with "...so there's no reason to kill him." The head cop's response? "Yes there is, ma'am...once he's told us who else he's spoken to." Lucille is blown away moments later.
- A dreamwalker tries to avert this in Rising Stars when he finds out who'd been killing the other Specials. The killer, a Superman proxy, beats the tar out of the much weaker man and asks who else knows. The dreamwalker lies and says that he's told everyone... and is killed for his trouble. Luckily, a Special who could hear the recently deceased was able to get this information to another Special who had been investigating the murders as well.
- A while ago in the Superman books, a specialist for the CIA, using recently acquired alien language translation technology, was able to find out that the markings of a small craft that crash-landed in Kansas 30 years ago were Kryptonian. The man, being without friends or family, reported this to his direct superior, the President of the United States: Lex Luthor. One cut-away later, Lex nonchalantly tells his chauffeur to have maintenance clean up a "spill" on the carpet: a small red glob one can only assume is the man's remains.
- From Ex Machina #50: Kremlin, drunk and holding a gun to his own head, threatens to expose the fact that Hundred used his powers to get elected as Mayor of New York, thus killing his Presidential campaign. At first, Hundred tries to get him to put the gun down, then asks if he's shown the evidence to anyone. When Kremlin reveals he hasn't, Mitchell tells the gun to fire.
- Warren White in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell used this trope against an employee who had discovered the accounting irregularities that proved that White had been embezzling funds from his investors. The employee didn't know that White had committed the crime though, and White didn't kill him. Instead, White pinned the crime on him and destroyed the only copy of the numbers, leading to the man killing himself.
- One issue of the Dark Horse Star Wars comics set during the Clone Wars had a Jedi propose a plan to uncover the Sith Lord hiding in the senate, by having all senators, aides and ranking officials submit to a blood test to measure their Midichorian count. Unfortunately the only person this Jedi suggests this rather clever little plan to was Chancellor Palpatine. Whoops.
- Subverted in the first chapter of Shadowchasers: Conspiracy. After eagerly accepting an invitation to meet her former boyfriend Philip (who has been missing for five years) at Graceland, Sofia finds the usually crowded tourist spot deserted, and Philip no longer how she remembered him, threatening her with a gun. She has no idea what's going on, but when he asks if she told anyone she was coming, she does say she "told a few people", the narrative specifically saying she had "seen enough movies to know what happened to someone who replied in the negative".
- Subverted in Street Sharks Redux, when the protagonists are forced to use a disk of still-encrypted information they stole from Dr. Paradigm in exchange for Slamu's return. Ripster worries, among other things, that the doctor will think they made copies and not accept, but the matter isn't even brought up. It's later revealed to have been a moot issue. The doctor set up the information to release a massive virus if it was decrypted, so it didn't matter to him if they had told anyone else. Furthermore, they had - they dumped the encrypted information on the internet, daring hackers to try to get into it.
Films — Animation
- Monsters, Inc.. After Mr. Waternoose hears the full story of the incident from Mike, he asks, "Does anyone else know about this?" It's a terrific moment due to the business headaches Waternoose has been dealing with since the opening of the movie. The line seems innocuous enough and genuine concern on Waternoose's part right up until the Banishment Door shows up and Waternoose shoves Mike and Sully through.
- In Superman: Doomsday, Lex Luthor does this to Mercy.
- Snatcher does a version of this in The Boxtrolls. When Winnie discovers that Egg is the missing child as the Exterminators are trying to catch him, Snatcher asks Winnie if her father is with her. When she says he isn't he tries to kill her too so as to blame that on the Boxtrolls as well.
Films — Live-Action
- In The Bourne Supremacy when Danny Zorn (Abbott's assistant) reveals to Abbott that he realizes the crime scene is a sham, and gets a dagger in the ribs for it.
- Very well justified to shocking effect in L.A. Confidential when Jack Vincennes, while investigating a suspicious murder in co-operation with Ed Exley, finds evidence of corruption within the police department. He can't tell other cops because of the corruption and so he goes to Capt. Dudley Smith, who Vincennes has known for a while and can trust to be out of it, or so he thinks. Then the question is asked in a way that assumes that Vincennes has already told someone so both he and the audience isn't alarmed when casually asked "What does Exley make of all this?" And then Dudley shoots him.
- In the movie Minority Report, Danny Witwer gets to carry the Idiot Ball for revealing his suspicions to the wrong person. Admittedly he's in a world where it's supposedly impossible to commit murder, but as the killer points out, due to recent events, that's just changed.
- In Planet of the Apes (2001) two Mooks bring General Thade out into the forest and recount a story of seeing something crash down, burning the trees as it went and they point out the destruction it caused. Trying to protect the secret that humans were once in charge, Thade names this trope and when they say no he does an interesting monkey flip backwards to stab them both.
- In Drive, the Driver tells Nino that he accidentally robbed that he plans to return the money he stole so he can be free of the whole ordeal. The mobster asks him if he's told anyone else, which the Driver denies. Nino dryly quips, "You aren't very good at this, are you?" However, it soon becomes clear that the Driver is actually very aware of this trope and is deliberately trying to avoid getting anyone else involved and possibly killed.
- The opening of the film Red Dragon. Late at night, FBI Agent Will Graham goes to meet with Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who had been assisting him in developing a psychological profile of a serial killer. Agent Graham tells Dr. Lecter that he suddenly realized that the killer was eating parts of his victims. Lecter replies, "Have you shared this information with the Bureau?"
- In The Ring, Rachel confronts Samara's father about the Cursed Video. It's implyed that he knows about the Tape and what it does, and was willing to kill Rachel either to spare her a gruesome death or stop the curse from spreading right then and there. But since she made a copy (and is thus saved, albeit unknowingly), killing her would be pointless.
Mr. Morgan: Who have you told this to?
Rachel: No one.
Mr. Morgan: (brandishes an iron hook) Is that the only one?
Rachel: I... made a copy.
- In Beerfest,
Wolfgang von Wolfhausen: Who else know of this package?
German Messenger: Oh absolutely no one. Only me. It's just me.
Wolfgang von Wolfhausen: Dispose of him!
- The Ten Commandments: Memnet comes to Nefertiri with the story of how Bithia drew Moses from the Nile. Nefertiri quickly asks, "Were you alone with Bithia?" before she kills Memnet.
- In Witness, when Book finds out that the perpetrator of a recent cop murder is a narcotics detective, and upon further investigation realizes said detective was involved in the theft of confiscated drugs, he goes to Police Chief Schaeffer and, upon telling everything he knows, is asked whether he has told anyone else. When Book says no, Schaeffer tells him to keep it quiet. Justified by the fact that Book trusts Schaeffer and, as a police corruption case, it would make sense to keep as few officers in the loop as possible.
- Double Indemnity contains a rare example in which the villain (in this case also the protagonist) is not actually evil enough to kill the one person who has evidence against his partner-in-crime: instead, once he is assured that she has told no one else, he just convinces her to keep quiet about it.
- Batman Returns features Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) going through these exact motions with her boss Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) about his plan to drain Gotham City of electricity. When Shreck approaches her with a menacing look, scaring her - and then he laughs, pretending it was all a joke. Soon Selina is laughing too.
Max: (presses Selina against a window menacingly, and leans forward as if to kiss her, then pulls back) "Huh?!"(They both laugh)Selina: (laughing) "You know, for a moment there you really frightened me-"(Max whips around and shoves her out of the window)
- Non-lethal example in Batman Begins: Carmine Falcone reveals to Dr Crane that he knows about the unethical medical experiments being carried out on the patients at Arkham asylum, implying that he's going to blackmail Crane if he doesn't cooperate. Crane responds by donning his Scarecrow mask, giving Falcone a dose of fear-inducing toxin, and torturing him into insanity.
- Akira Kurosawa's Sanjuro. A slight variation in that the nine naive young samurai were certain they'd identified the villain — and reported that to the real villain, who asked them to meet him later at a secluded shrine to discuss matters further. Fortunately, Toshiro Mifune was sleeping in the shrine and decided to save these well-meaning idiots.
- Subverted in V for Vendetta, when Sutler asks Finch if anyone else has read Delia's diary. Finch answers no, but Sutler just tells him he'd better forget about it.
- This is the main driving force of the movie Weekend at Bernie's. The two leads, Richard and Larry, come across a work situation in which a customer's next of kin was issued a life insurance check multiple times, essentially meaning that either the man died four times or someone was ripping off the company. They bring it to their boss, Bernie Lomax, who casually asks if they've shown this to anyone else. Being company men, they continue sucking up to Lomax and, of course, tell him he's the first person they've spoken with. Lomax invites them to his beach house for the weekend as a reward for their work. He then tries to convince his Mafia-gangster boss that these two guys must be killed because they know too much. His boss tells his hitman to kill Lomax instead. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the 1997 adaptation of Ivanhoe, a random message-bearing mook tries (unsuccessfully) to avert this:
Fitzurse: "Does anybody know you're here?"Mook: "None but my master... who expects my safe return!"
- In the 1987 thriller No Way Out, a technician that the protagonist took into his confidence in an attempt to delay the Big Bad's plan has an attack of conscience and tells... the Big Bad, after which this trope is played out verbatim.
- In The Island, Gandu Three Echo tells Dr. Merrick he suspects there's something wrong with the place and heard some rumours. Dr. Merrick asks "Have you told anyone else about this?". After the predictable answer, Dr. Merrick wraps up the conversation and kills Gandu.
- In the Miss Marple film "Murder at the Gallop" (starring Margaret Rutherford), frightened Miss Gilcrest gives Miss Marple information regarding the murder of Mr. Enderby, and Miss Marple asks her if she's told anyone else the information. This is a subversion because Miss Marple is the detective investigating the murder and Miss Gilcrest is the murderer trying to throw Miss Marple off track.
- Henry recognises immediately that Jimmy has decided to kill Morrie instead of paying him off for helping out in a heist when Jimmy asks: "Think Morrie tells his wife everything?".
- It comes back later when Jimmy asks Henry's wife Karen an innocent question about Henry and the cops: "Do you know what kind of questions they've been asking him?"
- Discussed in Cloud Atlas. As she continues to investigate a conspiracy, after already having been driven off a bridge and nearly killed, Luisa Rey (Halle Berry's 1973 character) tells her nephew waiting at her apartment a hint of what's going on, and that she'll tell him more in the morning. He references this trope and warns her to tell him then and there, because she may die soon. Sure enough, after she sends him away, there's an assassin in her apartment. The assassin, Joe Napier, is a friend of her father's, and betrayed his mission by protecting her from a separate assassin.
- Defied in Shoot 'em Up with the main character talking about how he hates it when they pull this in the movies. He then goes to list every single news agency that he sent the information to. The fact that it's not front page news tells him that there is a much bigger conspiracy in play.
- Subverted in Cinderella (2015). When Lady Tremaine meets the Grand Duke and reveals the identity of the Mystery Princess, he asks her if she's told anyone else. Lady Tremaine says no, then proceeds to blackmail him for a noblewoman's rank in exchange — and he readily agrees.
- Happens in Dredd between the medical officer in Peach Trees and the corrupt judges, except the question is "are you willing to testify to that?". As soon as he replies "sure", bang.
- In Kindergarten Cop, the bad guy offers a reward for info on the whereabouts of his ex (who divorced him, took off with their son, and changed her name). The dupe who meets him in a back corridor of a mall tells him (of course) that no, he did not tell anyone where he was. This backfires on the villain, though, because the other man's girlfriend was actually present but hiding out of sight.
- Triply-subverted in Battlefield Earth, where Ker has information with which to gain leverage over Terl. When the latter pulls out a gun, it turns out that Ker made a copy of the blackmailing video and gave it to a third party, whom, it turns out, Terl has already found and beheaded. Ker's punishment? The loss of a hand.
- A variation in Virtual Combat, where the hero cop keeps in touch with Da Chief about the corporate conspiracy he tracked down to a neighbouring city. The Chief is awfully insistent all of a sudden that the hero talks to nobody in local law enforcement (claiming that they don't know who to trust) and keeps asking him for his location. Any sufficiently savvy viewer would immediately guess that he's The Mole.
- Warhammer 40,000 novels
- In Dan Abnett's Horus Heresy novel Legion, when Bronzi discovers a Chaos-tainted soldiers, he reports it, is asked who knows, and is warned that they need to keep it close to the chest. In this case, telling them that others know ensures that they get massacred, too.
- In James Swallow's novel Deus Encarmine, Inquistor Stele asks an astropath whether he has told anyone else about a message. When it countermands his orders, he tells the astropath that he had not come to give a message but to kill him, and murders him.
- Frederick Forsyth's novel The Day of the Jackal:
- The forger providing the Jackal's false papers tries to blackmail him, fatally assuming the assassin is merely an upper class dilettante dabbling in the drug trade. The Jackal skillfully asks a number of questions (disguised as an attempt to wriggle out of the situation, or ensure that he won't have to pay another bribe to an associate) which establish that the forger hasn't given his photographs to anyone else and that no-one will come to this location and find his body for some time.
- Defied with the gunsmith, who has planted incriminating evidence in case any of his customers decide to do anything funny. The Jackal leaves him be.
- C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: When Edmund, under the influence of evil Turkish Delight, tells the White Witch his sister has also been to Narnia and met a faun, she quickly asks him who else knows about this, but he's in no condition, and for that matter has no reason, at this point to be suspicious.
- Comically subverted in the Discworld novel Jingo; upon being informed of Vimes's departure to Klatch before Ankh-Morpork's invasion fleet has fully assembled, Rust asks the informer if anyone else knew of it (presumably, hoping to keep the news under wraps so Klatch doesn't attack before Ankh-Morpork launches their fleet), the beggar tells him that nobody else saw it... just several other beggars, who also constitute the city's information network.
- In Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, Scriber, a somewhat flaky inventor and self-proclaimed spy, comes up with a method of locating enemy spies in Woodcarver's city. He tells it to spymaster Vendacious, not realizing he's a double-agent and that Scriber's method would expose him. Vendacious congratulates Scriber and asks who else knows about this because "we'll need to swear them to secrecy also". Needless to say, after Scriber's earnest assurance that no-one else knows, death follows rapidly.
- David Weber's Safehold novels
- A variation is used in Off Armageddon Reef. The villain is confronted about accusations of treason by his father-in-law (who, in his defense, was drunk at the time). The antagonist had no desire to kill his father-in-law, and was trying to convince the man to support him even as he plotted killing everyone else who suspected him.
- In How Firm a Foundation, Urvyn Mahndrayn takes a detour from a business trip to inform his cousin Trai Sahlavahn, who runs the powder-mill about some discrepancies in the shipping manifests for kegs of gunpowder delivered for the mill. Unfortunately Sahlavan is the traitor who was diverting the gunpowder shipments. He asks Mahndrayn who else he's told, and Mahndrayn says that he wanted to check with Sahlavan before alerting anyone else. It doesn't end well.
- A slight variation in Anansi Boys. Spider, filling in at work for his brother Fat Charlie, pokes around and discovers some odd accounts in offshore banks. He innocently mentions it to Fat Charlie's boss and suggests that it might be rather inefficient (his life up until this point has done little to prepare him for the idea that other people might be in any way deceitful). Said boss does not ask who else knows; he merely thanks Spider, who he thinks is actually Fat Charlie, and quietly rearranges things to make it appear that it was Fat Charlie who was running the money-laundering scheme. Unfortunately, his policy of not keeping on employees for much longer than a year (the better to hide his crime) bites him in the ass; Fat Charlie has been employed there longer than anyone, but a client attempting to collect on an account knows full well that the boss has been doing this for far longer than Fat Charlie's two years. This isn't even the worst of the trouble Spider causes Fat Charlie.
- Subverted in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when an old Muggle caretaker named Frank inadvertently stumbles upon a strange person who was previously discussing various murders. Frank, when confronted, pretends that he has a wife at home who knows where he went and who will call the police if he does not come home. Unfortunately, double subverted in that the strange murderer is Voldemort, who has no problem telling that it is a lie.
- In Dean Koontz's Brother Odd, Odd Thomas questions a number of suspects in a Closed Circle murder case. One of them asks if Odd has told anyone else about a certain piece of evidence, then offers him something to eat. Odd Lampshades this trope in his narration, then politely declines the food.
- The Chessmaster in the last Empire from the Ashes book pulls this off; it helps that the victim is a complete idiot about it. "I need to urgently tell the governor about the mole I placed in the terrorist organization, even though nothing's happening right now. This is on a strictly need-to-know basis, so don't tell anyone. Why no, no I haven't told anyone else. Leave a message? Sure! Here's the datachip with all the information, as well as the codes to decrypt it." (To be fair about this, the bad guy in question is the governor's immediate deputy, and in fact the victim reports directly to him. Lack of suspicion is unsurprising.)
- The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. When a thirteen year-old girl discovers that two workers have become sick with a possible pandemic, the factory owner contemplates killing her to maintain the secret after asking this question. Instead he packs all three off to the hospital.
- Coma by Robin Cook. Medical student Susan has just discovered the reason behind the slew of operating room deaths — the patients are being poisoned with carbon monoxide, rendering them brain-dead and their organs available for sale on the black market. She goes running to the chief of surgery to tell him. Sure enough, HE's the one running the scam. Susan herself nearly ends up a victim, but fortunately for her she did confide her suspicions to her boyfriend, who's able to intervene and save her life.
- Invoked in a short story written by Bertolt Brecht. A young boy cries in the street after being mugged. A man finds him there, and asks him why he hadn't called for help. The boy says he screamed as loudly as he could, but nobody heard him. The man then proceeds to rob the boy as well. This raises the obvious question: Why? Did the second mugger expect the first mugger to have left the boy with anything valuable?
- Taken Up to Eleven in the President's Vampire novel Red, White and Blood, when President Curtis sends his Secret Service detail out of the room so that he can confront his traitorous vice-president privately.
- Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead. Zak did tell his sister, and passes along the fact that he did, but also that she didn't believe him. The man he's talking to tells him not to tell anyone else lest he cause a panic. Zak still tries to tell Tash but keeps getting interrupted, and goes to meet with the man anyway. The little Tash did know left her able to pull a Big Damn Heroes moment later.
Maddeus: How much of this bizarre theory have you discussed with others?Face: Here's where you're hoping I'll say, No, I've naively kept all these facts to myself so that if I can be eliminated, you can go on as before.
- IN another Expanded Universe novel, X-Wing: Mercy Kill, the leader of the Wraiths calls out a traitorous general for trying to pull this.
- In an anecdote Older Than Feudalism (recorded in Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia and in the Satyricon), an inventor demonstrates an "unbreakable" glass for Caesar, at which point the Emperor asked whether anyone else knew how to make it... and being told no, ordered a beheading, because for such a common material to be so awesome would make gold worthless.
- In Isaac Asimov's short story Hostess, an alien scientist is shot as soon as he confirms that his theory (which Earth considers dangerous for humanity) has not been shared with anyone else. Justified in this case, because the methods that the scientist used to obtain the results are, among his people, considered as horrible as those of the Nazis. Also, he's fully aware he'll be shot... it's just that the alternative is far worse.
- In Those That Wake, Brath asks this when the main characters all meet; some tried to, but Isabel didn't get the chance to tell anyone. So he shoots her.
- In "The Secret Vanguard" by Michael Innes, the protagonist, who has stumbled across a Nazi spy ring, is telling her story to the local police commissioner when he asks her if she's told anyone else. She spots the significance at once: he isn't the police commissioner at all, and she's been brought to the spies' HQ. She promptly changes her answer to "Yes", and while he's checking out her story, she makes her escape. By stealing a motorboat, no less.
- Subverted in Ayn Rand's We The Living. When Andrei Taganov confronts Pavel Syerov with proof that Syerov's involved with smugglers, he tells Syerov that the evidence has been photocopied and given to Taganov's trusted friends. Double subverted in that Taganov is lying; not only were there no copies, but Taganov no longer has the original. However, Syerov does not call his bluff.
- Defied in The Woman in White. When Walter Hartright goes to confront Count Fosco, he brings written proof that he has left evidence with somebody else. In a sealed envelope, which will be opened should Hartright not return safely from his meeting with the Count.
- A rare heroic example in The Last Command: Princess Leia asks this question of the code-slicer Ghent, who has just told her that he's just managed to decrypt the signal from the pulse transmitter used by Delta Source—an unidentified source of surveillance transmitting information from the New Republic's higher ranks directly to the Empire. Leia has good reason to want to keep the information secret—if Ghent told too many people, the Empire might realize Delta Source was in danger and take measures to compensate.
- In the Stephen King story Apt Pupil, Todd claims to have given a letter to a friend that will expose Dussander as a Nazi war criminal in hiding, should anything happen to him. However Dussander correctly suspects that Todd is a loner who would never trust anyone to that extent.
- A non-villainous subversion in Honor Harrington - On Basilisk Station involves Honor Harrington receiving word from Lieutenant Stromboli that the drug smugglers have been siphoning their power from their own backup power collector using parts that have always been part of a design, not an add-on. This confirms Harrington's suspicions that someone on their own side is working for the bad guys. Harrington asks who else knows because she doesn't want to alert a possible traitor that they know about the power relay.
- Averted in Battlestar Galactica (2003). Gaeta notices there's something wrong with the presidential votes and tells Saul, the man running the scheme. (Not the man who thought of the idea, but still.) Fortunately, that man is not a villain, so when Gaeta suspects something's off, he freely tells Admiral Adama and the whole thing is solved.
- On Charmed, Cole, in his role as a Big Bad, asks this of one of his Mooks who reported some information to Cole that was incriminating to Cole's reputation. When the mook answers no, Cole vanquishes him to keep him from telling anyone else., as well as almost all of the other people in the room who heard it. He left one of them alive, telling him "You I trust." This trusted lieutenant went on to betray him. This trust makes Cole look like a Horrible Judge of Character, though there's no way to tell whether the reporting mook or the other witnesses would have been any more loyal than the one he spared.
- Doctor Who. The episode "Boom Town" starts with an unfortunate scientist telling the mayor that her upcoming nuclear power station project is terribly unsafe, almost as if it was intended to go wrong... Needless to say, he doesn't survive the conversation. Subverted in that the scientist hadn't told anyone else, but had put his findings on the internet.
- The Expanse: Joe Miller, a detective of Star Helix Security, finds an important clue in the leading mystery of the season. When he presents it to his employer, she asks him the question word by word as well as asking him whether he made any copies. When he answers no to both questions (the former being a lie), she secures the evidence in her safe, revokes all his security clearances, fires him, and has him forcibly removed from the building. Miller instantly realizes his boss has been bought by those in charge but smartly leaves, realizing he can't win in a fight right now.
- Frank to Peter in House of Cards (US) when the latter grows enough of a backbone to threaten Frank with some of his own dirty secrets.
- In the Farscape episode "That Old Black Magic," Crais receives a direct order from Peacekeeper High Command to end his pursuit of John Crichton and return to base. His second-in-command Lt. Teeg destroys the message and assures him that no-one else knows about it. Crais repays this loyalty by breaking her neck.
- Invoked in the Bones episode "Judas on a Pole"
Hodgins: "I've seen this movie. I get killed on the way home, don't I?"
- In one episode of RoboCop: The Series, a scientist has a Eureka Moment, and chooses to drive across town to bounce his idea off of an older scientist mentioned earlier in the episode. Said idea is that someone framed Robocop using the prototype of his signature gun. Trope applies per usual, then the older man promptly pulls said prototype out of a drawer. No, don't wonder why the scientist didn't just Google, why he wouldn't know in the first place, or why he wouldn't just call on one of the videophones frequently used in the series. In a minor subversion, he hadn't told anyone his idea, but he had mentioned where he was going, allowing Robocop to save him.
- Averted in an episode of Pretty Little Liars. When the main character girls go out into the forest with a police officer to trap a killer, he asks if they've told anyone else. Hannah says yes, she left a note so her mom won't worry. Afterwards another girl asks Hannah if she really did leave a note, Hannah says of course not — but she doesn't want the cop to know it.
- In the seventh season of 24, a minor character effectively tells the Big Bad of the first half of the show "I know you aren't who you say you are. I did not tell anyone. Please come and kill me". Also invoked in the pre-season "Redemption" movie.
- Subverted in The X-Files when AD Skinner wishes to make a deal with the Cigarette Smoking Man about a tape containing classified information. The CSM tells Skinner his deal has one problem, namely that the CSM is holding Skinner at gun point and can be easily killed and searched, and even if he doesn't have the tape on him, it will be found. At which point Skinner reveals his trump card: the Navajo code-talker who originally encoded the information decades ago.
Skinner: I'm sure you're thinking Albert is an old man, and there are plenty of ways you might kill him, too. Which is why in the ancient oral tradition of his people, he's told twenty other men the information in those files. So unless you kill every Navajo living in four states, that information is available with a simple phone call. Welcome to the wonderful world of high technology.
- Used in Lost during the episode "Across the Sea". Mother asks the Man in Black if he has revealed the Light beneath the island to the villagers. When he says yes, you can almost see the gears turning as she calculates how many people she must now kill. Subverted, in that she kills everyone in the village except the Man in Black.
- Used in the pilot when Beverley questions the wife of a deceased scientist with whom her shady organization had been working. The woman has heard too much and intends to start talking, but hasn't done so yet. Beverley overdoses her on some sort of medication hidden in her tea and plays it as a suicide.
- Also happens in a later episode when 21 of Eureka's scientists are trapped in a Matrix-like simulation of the town.
- One of them has a Eureka Moment (no pun intended) and realizes that the strange things they've been seeing are actually example of A Glitch in the Matrix and figures out the truth. Unfortunately, the people who trapped them are monitoring everything and unplug her with fatal consequences.
- Happens again, when the AI controlling the Matrix decides to replace everyone in Eureka with clones and plug the real ones into it. A number of townsfolk go to Vincent and ask him what to do, as they have noticed people being taken by Jo (clone), Andy (reprogrammed), and soldiers (clones). They see Jo and Andy outside, and Vincent, finally agreeing to help, has them hide in his freezer. Jo and Andy come in and ask where everyone is. After a Beat, Vincent smiles and says "In the freezer".
- Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote is a master at subverting this trope. Often when she only has a hunch and no concrete evidence of someone's guilt, she sets things up so that the perpetrator believes it's such a situation when in fact she has the cops ready and waiting. Played for drama.
- A variation of it in the Dollhouse episode "Getting Closer". After Dollhouse scientist Bennett Halverson tells Dr. Saunders that she can restore the Echo's original Caroline personality which knows who the real head of the Rossum Corporation is, Saunders shoots her in the head.
- In the Criminal Minds episode "Scared to Death", a therapist who kills his patients asks his next victim if she's told anyone she's attending therapy with him.
- The Event uses this big-time, when one guy is about to tell the government key information. Sure enough, his lifespan is measured in minutes.
- Neighbours. Shortly before he was due to leave on a holiday, Connor learned that the missing 'Robert' (who is really Cameron) is in a coma at a nursing home. He immediately went to tell Robert's identical triplet 'Cameron' (who is really Robert) the good news. This was the last time he ever appeared on the show, and Robert was later seen driving Connor's car and digging up the front garden. In what is either a genuine subversion or a Retcon, Connor was later 'proven' to be alive and well, first when police found his wallet in China, and later when he apparently sent Toadie and others gifts for St. Patrick's Day, also from China.
- Beautifully subverted in an episode of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates; after seemingly solving a case, Hetty outlines to her client why she believes that the person arrested for accidental death was actually framed, gives her theory on the series of events that led her client to kill the victim, and where evidence that could implicate him could be found. The client asks if she's told the police yet, and when she says she hasn't, makes a threatening move towards her, at which point her husband and her young adult assistant burst into the room to dissuade the client. Thoroughly subverted when the client goes to destroy the evidence (his fingerprints on the door of a disused shed), only to be caught by police waiting for him and told that the door's already been printed.
- Played straight in the Korean drama Athena: Goddess of War. One of Hyeok's underlings at American intelligence agency DIS reports to Hyeok that the terrorist organization Athena has infiltrated DIS and that he thinks Hyeok's right hand, Andy, is The Mole. The audience knows from the start that Hyeok is currently head of Athena's operations in South Korea (and Andy is Number Two). Hyeok asks his underling, "Have You Told Anyone Else?" Underling says no. Hyeok unnerves him with, "Good. If you tell anyone, you might endanger yourself." Cut to Andy confronting Underling, who gets scared and runs away, directly towards Hyeok, who (surprise!) shoots him.
- The villain attempts this in Foyle's War questioning Sam about a conversation she overheard, and threateningly asking her if she had told anyone about it. She tells him that, in fact, she had dismissed the conversation, but now that he seems to find it so important, she is going to tell everyone that she can think of, including that police superintendent she is friends with.
- In the episode when the groundskeeper finds that Jeff and Troy have discovered his secret illegal trampoline, Troy becomes concerned this is playing out.
- Dean Craig Pelton is less savvy. When the "food" he bought for the campus Halloween party turned the student body into zombies, he notified the Army. When they arrived, the Dean foolishly answered, "No," when asked if anyone else knew about the zombies. An underling began to draw a gun but luckily another soldier realized the zombie plague was over so they went with Plan B.
- A Villain of The Week attempts to invoke this with Sam on Burn Notice. Sam, posing as an undercover dirty cop, immediately says that his "supervisor" knows that Sam is interviewing him. Should something happen to Sam, then the supervisor knows who to come looking for. Nice save, Sam.
- Played with in the Due South episode, "A Hawk and a Handsaw". Fraser is undercover as a patient in a mental hospital and comes across evidence that the staff are illegally testing an anti-depressant that causes some of the subjects to commit suicide. When his partner, Ray, visits him, they're led to an empty room where they then begin to exchange all the information they've discovered before Fraser clicks in and asks Ray who he told regarding his whereabouts leading to this response, "Nobody, why? [he is grabbed by a thug with a gun] I misunderstood the question, I told everybody I know! I told the State's Attorney, I told the Sheriff, I even told my mother!" Different in that it's not the villain who asks this but one of the good guys realizing they're being spied on.
- When Sabre printers sold by Dunder-Mifflin-Sabre start catching fire, someone at the office leaks the information to the press and a witch hunt begins to sniff out the culprit. Pam confesses to Michael having done so (turns out multiple people did, but only Butt-Monkey Andy winds up a pariah for it later) he tries his best to hide this information from his boss Jo Benett. Jo is no fool however, as Michael is a terrible liar and she knows something's up, so she invites him to her plane to get him to relax and offer the information willingly. Wrong Genre Savvy Michael, however, thinks THIS trope is in effect and Jo will murder him so he begins sobbing and blubbering that he has dinner plans with the police chief about the policemen's ball.
- Veronica Mars
- When Veronica figures out that Cassidy Casablancas blew up the bus full of kids at the beginning of the season to cover up his childhood molestation by Woody Goodman, he asks her at gunpoint if she told anyone else what she figured out. She tells him she told her dad, Keith, and he was on his way back to Neptune with Woody. Unfortunately it backfires, as Cassidy was planning on blowing up Woody's plane anyway. So he presses the detonator to kill both Woody and Keith, then tries to kill Veronica. Veronica gets saved of course, and it turns out Keith had to get off the plane just before take off, so it turned out to be a Surprisingly Happy Ending.
- Earlier, Eli "Weevil" Navarro had shown he was no fool when confronting the entire Fitzpatrick clan with blackmail material. When asked if he's made copies he replied "Yeah, Lots!" and even suggested it would be a good idea for them to watch his back in case anything happened to him and the copies got out.
- In the episode "The Mask of Death", Dr Pentageli, the Medici family doctor, says this when Leo tells him he suspects the Duke was poisoned (but not that he suspects Piero de'Medici of being the poisoner). It turns out that Pentageli supplied the poison. He advocates killing Leonardo, but Piero decides Leo is more important to his plans than Pentageli is, and comes up with a plan to dispose of Pentageli and aleviate Leo's suspicions simultaneously.
- In the final episode of the second season, Leo says this to Piero himself. It's a downright lie to prompt an Engineered Public Confession, because the Duke's son is hiding in the workshop.
- Double Subverted in an episode of Elementary when Sherlock tells the Criminal of the Week that he's worked out what his and his associates' plan was during a counterterrorism exercise.context The CotW asks him this, and Sherlock tells him that wrote it down and told several friends when he really hadn't.
- Person of Interest
- Played with in the episode "Trojan Horse." The POI tells a fellow executive at her tech company that she's discovered discrepancies in the background of an employee who was killed in a car accident. He asks if she's told anyone else and she says no, and gives him the only copy of the information she found. He turns out to not be in on the plot, a massive infiltration by Chinese intelligence, but rather gets duped by those involved into firing her.
- In "Pledge of Allegiance", the villain of the week asks the number of week if she's told anyone about the conspiracy she's uncovered, but she ignores the question.
- A non-lethal version occurs in "The Fix", where the corrupt politician is just checking to see if he has time to cover his tracks.
- Greer has a general policy of killing those who know too much, so has played the trope straight. However in his Origin Story, Greer discovers that his superior in British Intelligence is a Double Agent. The KGB agent who reveals this under interrogation clearly expects to be killed when Greer asks this question, but to his surprise Greer lets the agent go, showing how the battle of nations is no longer important to him.
- In the penultimate episode the series, The Machine runs a series of simulations that show what would have happened if it had never been invented. In one of these, a previous number from season 2 who uncovered information about The Machine, this time uncovers similar information about Samaritan. He goes to Sameen Shaw with his findings and the trope plays out as expected.
- In the Revenge episode "Charade," Frank tracks down the real Emily Thorne and discovers that she's going by the alias Amanda Clarke (the real name of the woman using Emily Thorne as her alias). She asks if anyone else knows he's found her, he says, "Not yet." Out in the parking lot, Frank has just enough time to call Victoria and tell her, "Emily Thorne [real Amanda] is not who she claims to..." before Emily/"Amanda" bashes his head with a tire iron.
Meg: First I want to know how many of you jerks I have to cut in (on this deal).Rosco: Think we're stupid? We didn't tell anybody.Meg: I love demons. (stabs the demon sneaking up behind her, then the one in front)
- It comes in handy when you know the other guy hasn't told anyone else because he's planning on killing you himself, in order to take sole credit for the information you've uncovered.
- Subtly alluded to in Game of Thrones. Ser Barristan takes damning information about Jorah Mormont to the man in question and specifically mentions he hasn't told anyone else yet. Though the traitor doesn't make a move to attack him, Barristan notably keeps a hand on his sword hilt at all times during the confrontation, clearly intending to have it at the ready if he is attacked.
- In one of the latter-day episodes of Columbo a journalist played by Rue McClanahan has discovered some shady dealings a mortician (played by Patrick McGoohan in his final appearance in the series) has made. Notably McGoohan's character doesn't even get the chance to ask something along the lines of the trope question, as she's so smug that she outright brags to him that she's the only one knows this. Unsurprisingly, she's getting her head bashed in by him minutes later.
- Angel. Two criminals ask a Dirty Cop if he's told his daughter (a police detective) about his dealings with them. realizing where this conversation is heading, the cop draws his firearm. Unfortunately he doesn't know the criminals are also vampires.
- The Wrong Mans. Paul Smoke asks Marat Milankovic if he's told anybody else about the data. Marat asks why it matters and refuses to tell. He dies not too long afterwards, but for different reasons.
- Earlier in the series, Paul Smoke asks Jack Walker if he's told anyone else about the Russian mole in their intelligence organization. Jack fails loses the ensuing fight scene.
- In the Pilot of Mad Men, Don Draper asks a researcher who hands him her report on the public's psychological attitude toward cigarettes if she's shown it to anyone else. When she tells him she hasn't, he dismisses her with a complaint about her Freudian approach and then tosses the report into the wastebasket.
- A case of this happens both ways in Daredevil, after Karen Page and Ben Urich interview Wilson Fisk's mother.
- The hero to villain variant happens first: Marlene calls James Wesley and informs him of Karen and Ben's visit. Wesley goes out, kidnaps Karen, takes her to an abandoned warehouse, and tries to blackmail her into backing down. She asks him if he's told Fisk about her involvement in visiting Fisk's mother. Wesley says he hasn't. Then Wesley's phone rings, as Fisk is trying to call him from the hospital. Having been victimized by Fisk one time too many, Karen grabs the gun Wesley had placed on the table and shoots him to death, guaranteeing that this doesn't happen.
- The villain to hero variant happens in the next episode, when Fisk learns about Karen and Ben's visit from his mole at the Bulletin. Fisk breaks in to Ben's apartment, and asks Ben if there was anyone else there when he talked to Fisk's mother. Ben realizes that Fisk is eliminating loose ends, and will go after Karen if he mentions her. So he lies and says he was alone. Fisk then gets up, wrestles Ben to the floor, and chokes him to death with his bare hands. As a result, Karen is still alive, aware that Fisk killed his father, and blames herself for getting Ben killed.
- In the first Rainbow Six game, this happened to a medical expert you already rescued once. When she realizes the origins of the virus a terrorist group plans to release, she calls one of your other advisers, who asked her this. After she says no, several terrorists come knocking on her doorstep.
- At the end of chapter 6 in Super Paper Mario, Dimentio appears before Mr. L (a Brainwashed and Crazy Luigi) and asks him how his fight against the heroes went (knowing full well he lost). When Luigi tells him, he basically says "So the Count doesn't know what happened to you?" and blows him up.
- Early on in Watch_Dogs a mob boss meets with one of his goons, who'd just robbed a tech lab on the boss' orders but attracted a lot of police attention doing so and got his partner killed. The boss spends a couple minutes telling the goon to relax, then asks him "Get a chance to talk to your momma? Your friends? Your girl?" When the suddenly even more apprehensive goon says no, the boss and his bodyguard jump him.
- He might have also lied, because if he had said "Yes", the boss might have killed his mum, friends and the possible love interest.
- Played straight this Things Of Interest fiction, where the person being told the info is mind-controlled by the evil aliens.
- Averted by Francis E. Dec. He was convinced that Gangster Government is after him because he found out the truth, so he started to send the truth out to thousands of random people, figuring that Gangster Computer God can't kill them all.
- In Kaspall, the only person they told was a trustworthy police sergeant — in fact, trustworthy enough to call them idiots for not reporting it earlier.
- In The Order of the Stick #830, Tsukiko tells Redcloak that she's figured out that he's been deceiving Xykon- the ritual to 'control' the Snarl won't have the effect Xykon expects - then boasts about how she'll use that information to ruin him. Redcloak (who, as a 17th level evil cleric, can automatically Command any Undead with 9 HD or less, such as Tsukiko's personal bodyguard of wights) promptly orders Tsukiko's undead thralls to seize her, devour her life force, then eat her corpse to prevent any chance of her being magically resurrected. Then eat each other. Then for the last one to set itself on fire. In the fireplace, please.
Redcloak: Because, let's be clear: if I have tolerated your humiliating attempts to undercut my authority before, it was only because killing you would've upset the delicate puppet strings upon which "Lord Xykon" unknowingly dances. But if you're going to stand there and tell me that you'll expose one of those strings to him? If you're going to be THAT stupid? There can be only one rational response to that.
- Subverted in this Gun Show strip; the offending employee is thanked and asked to leave the room while the boss takes care of the problem.
- Preemptively averted in Schlock Mercenary when an officer is confronted by someone she knows to be an undercover intelligence agent for some very nasty people intent on "suppressing" the information she's just become a party to. In the guise of being helpful she quickly explains that as a spy herself, she's equipped with implants for full audio-visual surveillance, which are also broadcasting a live steam to her controllers on board an enormous warship.
- In the third season premiere of Transformers Animated Shockwave/Longarm Prime asked this of Blurr after he managed to "run" his way from Saturn to Cybertron. Blurr answers yes. Needless to say, he's dead in under a minute. He puts up a better fight than most who fall to this trope, though: when Shockwave starts shooting at Blurr, Blurr uses his Super Speed to avoid and escape... but he doesn't realize the corridors have been booby-trapped with Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom until it's too late to avoid being crushed into a small cube. Still worried that TFA is going to be too kiddy?
- In Freakazoid!, Roddy MacStew tells the board of his company that the Pinnacle Chip is flawed and will create the Freakazoid if a certain combination of keys is pressed, followed by delete. The Big Bad running the company asks him if anyone else knows about the flaw, before throwing Roddy out the (very high off the ground) window.
- Played with in the third episode of Exo Squad, Phaeton's Finance Minister asks for a secret meeting at a factory to inform him that the Martian treasury has been looted. Phaeton cheerfully admits to having diverted the funds himself in order to secretly build weapons. The Finance Minister plays along and later hacks Phaeton's files so he can expose the full extent of Phaeton's crimes. The line is only used after this attempt fails.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: After spending the entirety of Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show trying to get to his brother following a rather badly done scam, Eddy finally arrives and this bit of Foreshadowing occurs.note
Eddy's brother: Do Mom and Dad know you're here?
Eddy: As if.
Eddy's brother: Does anyone know you're here?
Eddy: Only these chumps who chased us here.
- Suprisingly subverted in the animated version of Spawn, where Jason Wynn delivers that line to Terry... but let him leave even though he didn't tell anyone for two reasons: Terry is loyal enough to him to actually not tell anyone for now, and because Wynn isn't 100% certain that Terry has uncovered all the evidence in question. May as well get it all in one place through a trusted stooge...
- Young Justice has Red Tornado do this. He and Aqualad discuss a mole and he utters this line. The exchange is actually understandable, but he edges Aqualad away from telling others. The same episode his visual siblings attack and nearly kill the team, and he leaves the episode by suffocating them all and fleeing with the reds. The real kick is that he ISN'T the mole, this was a red herring.
- Played with in TRON: Uprising. Dyson has just informed Clu that legendary hero Tron is alive and well. Clu asks, "Who else knows about this?" Dyson pauses, then kills the unfortunate Mook standing next to him, and says, "Just us." This apparently satisfies Clu.