A paper-thin reason to leave is made by a character and accepted by the other characters.
Usually of the mundane "Well, I'm off to work," "I think I'll call it a night," "Gotta use the head," "Going to the Store" type of comment, rarely related to the plot. The British or the Roaring Twenties equivalent would be "I have to see a man about a horse (or dog)". If the character is The Ditz, a Bad Liar, or simply desperate to get away, they may come up with a less plausible excuse, like "I think I hear my mother calling me" or "I need to take my goldfish to the vet." Particularly desperate and / or dimwitted characters might even come up with either something absolutely nonsensical, or might just abandon the whole 'reason' part of the reason ("I have to go over there, for... some reason." or "I have to go be somewhere else") When a character wants the remaining characters to know what they are up to, they'll often go with a blatantly transparent "I have a thing with a guy" excuse.
Sometimes said character needs to convince additional characters to follow them out, suggesting they Talk About That Thing. If it's a group of women in a restaurant, they'll all go to the restroom at the same time (often Lampshaded by the men who ponder why women all go to the bathroom together.)
Go Look at the Distraction is the inverse of this, where the character says something intended to make the hearer leave the room. Can be used to Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone. Compare Not Even Bothering with an Excuse, which subversion of this trope often lead into. Has nothing to do with Microwave the Dog.
Not to be confused with My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels, or with Kick the Dog. Contrast with Suspiciously Specific Denial. A string of these becomes a Hurricane of Excuses.
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Anime & Manga
Bleach plays with/subverts this; when everyone but Orihime want to leave class to stop hollows/arrancar/whatever the enemy of the arc is, they give excuses that could work if it was the first time (the teacher doesn't seem to mind, though). Orihime tells everyone the truth (not in a Sarcastic Confession way) about exactly what she's going to do, but since she imagined herself as a robot before she got spiritual powers, enjoys making horrific amalgamations of foodstuff, and is just a general Cloudcuckoolander, no-one believes her and thinks it's her imagination going crazy once more.
In FAKE, one kid tells Bikky "I gotta go home and feed my mongoose." Another says he has to help his sister with her homework. Given the kid's intelligence, Bikky finds the two equally implausible.
Medabots: When Ikki, Erika and Metabee pretended to be students of Rosewood Academy to sneak in there and the doorman asked why they weren't wearing their uniforms, the told the spilled caviar on it and their butler would bring them later. (It was a school for rich kids) The Screws tried the same excuse but their leader ruined it by stating they spilled caviar on their butler.
The girls of Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z had to come up with excuses when they were summoned. The first excuse was pretty understandable, but they would then degrade to these by the third one.
In School Rumble, there is an episode where Eri, Mikoto, Akira, and Takeichi Fuyuki plot to have Tenma and Karasuma go out to eat curry. They suggest that all six of them go, but as they are on their way, they all make excuses to duck out, leaving Tenma and Karasuma alone.
An episode of HeartCatch Pretty Cure! had Tsubomi and Erika stuck with some of their friends during a monster attack. As their friends were wondering where the Cures were, Erika attempts the weak excuse "We're gonna go now..." before they're stopped and told to stick together. It gets to the point where Tsubomi's ready to put her foot down before Yuri shows up to fix things. As for Itsuki, she was busy trying to warn everyone away.
Attempted by the Tachikomas in an episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. After discovering that they're going to be facing up against anti-tank helicopters that they'll be virtually helpless against, they try to avoid it by complaining that (despite being robots) they need to go back to base because they have stomachaches. Batou doesn't buy it for a second.
"I...am just going...to go...to the Bahamas...I left my...cat in the...refrigerator there..."
"I have to go now because my grandmother's... on fire..."
Even funnier when repeated later in the same show, as part of a whole iteration of his routine in French: "... parce-que ma grand-mère est ... flamblée..."
"My cat's exploded."
"I was dead at the time! I was on the moon! With Steve!"
Dane Cook went pretty well with this in "Cheating".
Dane's Wife/Girlfriend: How did you get lost? Dane: Uhh..they changed the roads!
In Marvel AdventuresAvengers, the Avengers don't really want to talk to a prison warden, although he's actually pretty reasonable and friendly.
"Not that we wouldn't enjoy some prison food, but we have to — we have to go oil Iron Man before he rusts!"
Clark Kent does this a lot when looking for excuses to disappear and change into Superman. Fortunately, his disappearances often lead to him hitting a news story jackpot on whatever weird shit is going down in Metropolis, and just makes him seem like a Bunny-Ears Lawyer.
In the Sonic comic book series, in issue 2, Sonic tells Tails to head home. When Tails asks why, Sonic answers with a checklist including "To let Princess Sally know about them", "Because I said so", and "To allow the artist more room to draw."
In Scott Pilgrim, Scott uses the not-even-trying version of this: "We have to go, uhh... thing the... thingy."
In Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless, the advice given to women who wish to turn down requests for dates is to give excuses whose implausibility and specificity should be relative to the guy's normalcy — that is to say, "nearly normal" guys should be given vague yet plausible lines such as "I have 'plans,'" whereas "loser-type" guys should be dismissed with specific yet implausible excuses such as "I need to wax my cat."
Dilbert himself was given the infamous excuse of "I need to wash my hair" when he asked a random woman on a date. When she suggests meeting him on some other day, his reply was, "I'll pass. I was hoping for someone with clean hair."
And we can't forget "I'd love to, but... uh... I'm clinically dead. What you're seeing is merely the last few movements before I stiffen."
In an early Pogo strip, Simple J. Malarkey in preparation for eating Pogo tries to tie him to a chair on the excuse that it's "earthquake weather," but Pogo hurries off claiming that he "left the children on the stove."
Discussed in one strip of Redeye. Loco complains to a frog about how others use ridiculous excuses to avoid talking with him. The trope is played straight by the frog, who says that he "has an appointment with his hairdresser".
Dixie: Oh my — just look at the time! Gotta go — I've got kids on the stove!
Kroton in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip once escaped an uncomfortable situation by claiming he wanted to go get some fresh air. Being a Cyberman (although a friendly and easygoing one), he left muttering to himself, "Brilliant excuse, Kroton... since when did you start breathing?"
In Kyon Big Damn Hero, after Yuki teleports Kyon into her apartment with the intention of letting Haruhi having a make-out session with him and record her doing that:
Kanae: We have to take care of that ... thing in the kitchen, right Asahina-san?
In Things Shinigami are not allowed to do, one of the "rules" is 'The following are awful and pathetic excuses for leaving a Captains' Meeting: "I have to floss my otter. I have to wash my hair. My sugar daddy called me. My grandmother died. I'm having relationship troubles with my hamster. My dog is having kittens. My fish is drowning."
In A Protector's Pride, the main characters run out of class because of hollow attacks going on outside. They yell various excuses as they leave.
In the creatively-titled NCIS fanfic Drabbles, the chapter "Sickly" is filled with these as characters try to avoid paperwork.
McGee: I, uh, need to be... somewhere else. Labby's ab. I mean, Abby's lab. I need to be — helping Abby. In her lab. She needs my help with... converting the gigabytes into RAM and disguising them in a Boolean operator to slip past the firewall. Ziva: I, ah... also need to be somewhere else. The director has personally requested that I... go somewhere else. Not here. Do you hear McGee calling for help? I hear him calling for help. I'll go help him. Somewhere else. Tony: Eh, boss, I'm not feeling so good. I must becoming down with a serious case of... papertosis.
Twilight: (after failure level has reached critical) Time flies when you're having fun! Ahahaha...ha... Fluttershy: It does. Wouldn't you know it? I have to go feed my... bed! Twilight: I have to go wash my books! Fluttershy: So many important things! (both disappear at maximum speed, blushing furiously and wishing the ground would open and swallow them)
Spike: Oh!? You're back Twilight! I-um... uh... I was just on my way to... um... organize those awesome books my intelligent and smart friend reads! Uh... later!
Freaking out about her first date, Twilight Sparkle in The First Of Many tries to weasel her way out of it by excuses such as "having died by Alicornitis."
Early on in Shining Armor's side story of the Pony POV Series, he's having a conversation with Prince Blueblood, who makes the mistake of insulting Twilight right in front of him. Realizing his mistake, Blueblood quickly takes back what he said before stating that he "left the toaster on in [his] haste to leave the shower" and runs off.
The Reading Rainbowverse is a collection of blogs about ponies reading webcomics. The askers frequently give them awkward questions... to which they respond by saying "Let's read the comic, hahahaha!" It's practically a Running Gag.
In Star Wars fanfic It's OK Master, the Force Hates Me Too, Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi responds to Master Yoda's requests for guests to come over for his "famous stew" is "I'd love to, but I have to… go… study… something. Bye!" Which His Master, Qui-Gon follows up by saying ""I have to help him. Being his Master and all that. Bye!"
Nothing but Trouble has a genin state this verbatim when she leaves to spy on Naruto, Anko, and Kurenai after hearing they're going to have a threesome.
In the Saki doujinshi Saki: Buchou Monogatari, which takes place in an AU in which Hisa went to Kazekoshi, Hisa, being invited to go out to karaoke with some of her classmates, also invites Mihoko, who refuses because it's against school rules. After Mihoko gives her answers two of Hisa's classmates tell her that they knew Mihoko would refuse, and that it was better not to have invited her at all, because she is "super serious" and "annoying." Hisa then promptly says that she wants to go home and complete her jigsaw puzzle. She ends up catching up to Mihoko and walking her home, comforting her.
In The Vampire Diaries story Let It Bleed, the main character Kady sees John and says that she needs to go buy tickets a to a Huey Lewis concert.
In Beautiful Boy Harry excused himself from attending a gathering later that night by mumbling "I'm uh really tired...and I have to go home and feed Kreacher." Lampshaded when Hermione thought that it was the lamest excuse she'd ever heard.
In A Marauder's Plan Harry found Hermione, Neville, Dean and Seamus repacking his trunk and when he asked what was going on the latter two became a bit uncomfortable.
Dean: We should...we have that... Seamus: Yes, yes. That thing.
In Fist Of The Moon after hearing that the training trip will keep them so busy that Ami will likely not even have time to study, Usagi babbles: “Um, I just remembered an important tea ceremony I have to attend.”
Films — Animation
The Abominable Snowman, Monsters, Inc. "Oh, look, we're out of snowcones..."
In Bolt, Rhino the hamster gives excuses on leaving whenever Mittens and Bolt have serious discussions. The first time actually works as a pretty good gag when he doescome back with a ladder!
In the 2009 film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray Basil comes out with one in order to get out of what is developing into a MAJOR lover's tiff. "Perhaps I should take my leave?"
In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman declares at several serious moments that he has to "return some videotapes."
In Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Owen sees his crush heading towards the bar just as the rest of the team is turning in for the night. He excuses himself by saying, "I gotta have a bathroom ... I mean ... go to the— drink. ...in the bathroom." Dwight gives him a look and replies, "Whatever you do, wash your hands."
In the film The Wedding Planner, self-appointed matchmaker Penny must contrive a reason to abandon the leads at a movie. "I just remembered that I promised my friend's brother's godmother that I would help her change her fax cartridge because she's going out of town tomorrow... on an African safari!"
Ian Hawke does this in a cruelly apathetic fashion in Alvin and the Chipmunks, flat out stating he is going to pretend he has a lunch to go to.
In the sixth Harry Potter film (and also in the book), Dumbledore uses this method to leave Harry alone with Professor Slughorn so as to persuade him to return to Hogwarts—specifically, by asking to use the loo. The fact he returns afterwards with a magazine he wants to keep "for the knitting patterns" just highlights his eccentricity and hilarious kookiness. It was still a nice bit of obfuscation.
In Better Off Dead, Lane uses one of these to get away from a tenacious paperboy. "See, the problem here is, is that my little brother, this morning, got his arm caught in the microwave, and, and uh, my grandmother dropped acid, and she freaked out and hijacked a school bus full of penguins, so it's kind of a family crisis, so, come back later? Great."
In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation this is played more or less straight by Rusty, who isn't making up excuses to allow his parents to talk, he just wants the hell outta the situation. "I gotta get to bed. I still gotta brush my teeth, feed the hog, still got some homework to do, still got those bills to pay, wash the car..."
Michele from Romy And Michele's High School Reunion does this a couple of times. On one occasion she asks to be excused because "I cut my foot earlier and my shoe is filling up with blood"; the second time the situation is so awkward that she simply declares "I have to go... away."
Duane: Can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist, I think you'll understand. Sometimes when I'm driving... on the road at night... I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The... flames rising out of the flowing gasoline. Alvy Singer: Right. Well, I have to - I have to go now, Duane, because I, I'm due back on the planet Earth.
In Shallow Hal, Mauricio sees Hal dancing with three unattractive women in a dance bar and decides to "rescue" him:
Mauricio: Hey, Hal, it's ten o'clock. We have to go do that thing. You know, at the place.
Tom: Apparently, an enormous number of people actually bump into their future spouses at weddings, which is interesting. Woman: Yes, I met my husband at a wedding. Tom: (downs his entire drink at one gulp) Good Lord, I seem to have finished my drink. If you'll excuse me.
In the movie Class Act, the excuse that Popsicle gives his Uncle Theapolis for being out all night is that he's in the hospital with a broken leg. As he's about to leave and get off the phone, he then tells him that he has to go walk his dog.
In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman tells people that "I have to return some videotapes" several times; when being questioned by a PI about where he was at a particular time, he invents that he was "probably returning videotapes". At other points, he tells people variously that he's buying cocaine, leaving to Pago Pago, or has an important meeting with Cliff Huxtable.
In the Discworld book, A Hat Full of Sky, when Roland came to wish Tiffany well on her apprenticeship, Miss Tick immediately declared in a sticky-sweet voice that she saw "a very fine and interesting example of a... a... a big stone over there," so she'll just go and have a look at it. Tiffany felt like pinching her for that. Then when she turns out to have been eavesdropping the whole time, she cheerfully explains that the stone wasn't that interesting.
In Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Tom Bertram (rudely) sits down next to the heroine, Fanny, making it clear he doesn't want to dance. Cue his mother coming over and asking him to play cards with her and his aunt. Tom, unfortunately, must decline because he was just about to dance with Fanny.
The protagonist of Please Remove Your Elbow from My Ear, desperate to get off the phone with his crush before he makes a fool of himself, makes a fool of himself when the best excuse he can come up with is that his cat's head is on fire (he doesn't own a cat). Played with in that she's crushing on him too, specifically becausehe says weird things all the time.
In one of the original Winnie-the-Pooh stories, Piglet absolutely has to go and do... something... that only he can do... and that has to be done right now!
Going to the bathroom is pretty much the fail-safe excuse for Harry Potter to go follow somebody/eavesdrop/escape a situation. His friends must be concerned about his bladder problem by now.... Finally Lampshaded in the seventh book when Hermione and Ron have disappeared with the excuse of a bathroom, leaving Harry to try to figure out their real destination. He eventually finds them emerging from the chamber of secrets... in the girl's bathroom.
Wallace in No More Dead Dogs never lies, so when his Abhorrent Admirer begs him to hang out with her on the weekend, he tells her he has to rake the lawn, and thus plans to do so. Unfortunately, she takes this as an invitation, and invites the entire drama team to rake it with him. Though, that may not have been a bad thing, seeing as the job got finished in record time.
Xander: I have to go wash my... (Xander remembers that he didn't own a car) ...house.
The novelization of Revenge of the Sith has Grievous, upon realizing that he's lost most of his hands in the middle of a swordfight, decide mentally that he has an appointment somewhere else. Anywhere else.
Smallville, "Stiletto", when Lois Lane is operating as a superheroine.
Police Scanner: Attention downtown units. Silent alarm at Riverside Jewelry on 5th and Water, handle code 10-38. (Clark and Lois stands up abruptly to leave) Clark: Well, I better... go feed Shelby. Lois: Uh, I should hit the gym.
Note that this is late at night and Shelby, Clark's dog, is in Smallville, not Metropolis.
Keen Eddie: Various versions of this were used by Insp. Monty Pippin, as an excuse to escape the room after Eddie sasses their scary, Dracula-esque boss. It never works for him, though.
One particular example, when Ross goes to Monica and Chandler's to get a tie:
Chandler: That thing that I have to do to make a baby. I faked it. Monica: What!? You faked it? Ross: You know what? I don't need a tie. I mean, it's better, open collar. You know, it's more casual. (he leaves)
The rest of the gang has to leave during an awkward moment with Monica and her (recently ex) boyfriend.
Rachel: Hey, have you guys seen the new hand-dryers in the bathrooms? Chandler: I thought that was just a rumor!
Later on, they all return while the two are still talking:
Rachel: Y'know, my hands are still a little damp...
Chandler is confronted with an awkward question:
Chandler: Is that the door? I better answer it. (opens door) Oh, hi no one! (runs through door)
And the former Trope Namer. Which is a subversion because... well, that's what he really went for and brought back.
Ross: I need to get the helicopter sounds.
Lampshaded by Chandler after he and Joey went to the bathroom together during a fight between Ross and Monica:
Joey: I hope Ross doesn't think we went in there because we were uncomfortable with all this. Chandler: I really hope he does.
When Chandler has dug himself into a hole during a conversation with Monica:
Chandler: Dear god, this parachute is a knapsack! (claws at his shoulders while rolling off the couch)
In the pilot, Joey asks Phoebe if she would help with something, and Phoebe averts the trope:
Phoebe: Oh, I wish I could but I really don't want to.
Desperate to escape the affections of a pair of swingers, the eponymous character of Im Alan Partridge tries to leave with the excuse that "I've just remembered that my dad is... ...still dead."
In the episode "Pinciotti vs. Forman" has Eric set Bob on Donna so everyone will want to stay with him. When he catches up to everyone at the end, Hyde (a guy who hates the government) says he has to register for the draft, Jackie says "Me too!", Eric says he has to count his G.I. Joes, and Donna will be in the oven.
Another one was during an awkward moment with the Foreman family, when Donna, cups her ear, and yells "What's that dad? I'll be right there!" and runs out of the kitchen as fast as she can.
Kitty: I left the stove on the ironing... I left the iron on, on the stove, which is also on, and that just cannot be safe.
In another episode, Bob and Midge bring separate dates to Red's birthday dinner (they were separated at the time). Over the course of the dinner, they actually start flirting with one another, culminating in them kissing, then this:
House claims to be an ardent fan of daytime soaps partly to use it as an excuse to stop dealing with people.
Like the above, not quite a straight example, but another episode featured this exchange:
Foreman: Where are you going? House: To get a $400 buttplug. (later in the conversation) Cameron: Where are you going? House: The buttplug was my way of saying "None of your business." Apparently too subtle.
In the episode "Menage a Troi", Lwaxana Troi wants to spend time with Picard. Picard, preferring to be light years away, explains that he needs to show the VIP with him the door mechanism on the aft turbolift.
A slight aversion in "Starship Mine". Picard was unhappy having to attend the reception of a socially annoying Commander and was looking for any reason to leave. When told that there were horses and riding trails, Picard immediately picked up on that and said he was going back to the Enterprise to get his saddle. Only the Commander believed it. The other Enterprise crew didn't, but he had actually gone to get his saddle.
Topper: I've just remembered... my father's just died! I've got to be at the funeral in ten minutes! Dem sorry! Goodbye, Your Highness. Smedley: Oh, dem! I'm the best man!
Played with in the Comic Relief special "The Cavalier Years" where it's not an excuse to leave, but rather an explanation Baldrick makes up to Charles I explaining why Blackadder can't comfort him before his execution.
King Charles: (speaking to his executioner, who's actually Blackadder himself) I was so hoping my good friend Edmund Blackadder could be with me, but you see, his wife's sister's puppy fell into a strawberry patch, so naturally he couldn't be here.
UK Comedy The Fast Show created an entire recurring sketch around a variant of this. A particularly dim character would be involved in a conversation or situation that was above his head. He'd inevitably burst in towards the end and spoil the illusion that he was one of them by saying something stupid. And then immediately announce "I'll get me coat."
A variation figures in the episode "Dopplegangland", where Willow still feels weirded out by her encounter with her vampire counterpart when Buffy asks if she'd like to meet her at the Bronze:
Willow: Strangely, I feel like staying at home... and doing my homework... and flossing... and dying a virgin.
"Something Blue": Under a spell, Buffy tells Riley that she is marrying Spike. Flustered, Riley responds "It's late. And I'm very tired. So I'm just going to go far away and be... away."
"Tabula Rasa". Willow and Tara are having an argument; Xander and Anya make themselves scarce.
Xander: I'm gonna go get that... phone you probably don't hear. High-pitched ring, ears like a dog. Anya: I'm gonna help you with that.
The Amanda Show has a lot of these to end Amanda's closing monologue. Including such gems as: "I gotta go water my lobsters!" "I have to go alphabetize my sister!" and "I have to go bodyslam my grandmother."
In an episode of the Singaporean sitcom Under One Roof, a sleazy university professor makes several advances towards Denise, who stammers "I left my iron on in my... car."
It's a Running Gag that whenever Niles feels awkward enough that he has to leave the room, he'll make up some excuse about a patient he has to see, whose malady is usually tangentially related to the situation at hand.
Niles: Yes, and I'd love to stay but I... have my therapy group meeting, and last time I was late the, er, compulsive gamblers were betting the passive aggressives that they couldn't make the over-eaters... cry.
Once, Martin excuses himself from Lilith's presence by saying, "Time to go... practice my signature."
Played for laughs in another episode, in which Tommy and his girlfriend want to talk alone and everyone makes up an excuse to leave, except for Harry, who stays on the couch:
Tommy: What about you? Harry: I'm just delaying my exit to make it seem more natural. (slowly gets up and leaves)
Played for drama on Mad Men when Henry Francis comes to see Betty at home in the middle of the day, and her housekeeper Carla sees them. They're just standing there talking to each other, so it should be easy to cover up the romantic undertones, but Betty's a Bad Liar and completely botches her attempt. At the end of the scene she claims she left the bathtub running and heads upstairs... leaving the basket of laundry she just brought down.
On Wings, Joe and Brian are competing to get Helen a better birthday gift, but neither wants to be overt about his intentions. At one point, Joe decides his current gift is inadequate and wants to leave to go buy a better gift without letting Brian know what he's up to.
Joe: I have to, uh... go get my foot measured. Brian: Joe, this wouldn't be another of your clever fibs, would it? Joe: (long pause) No.
In an episode of The Monkees, the four boys have fallen in love with the same girl and want to get away from the apartment to go see her. Micky suddenly declares that his aunt is ill and leaves. Mike announces he is going to the store to get dog food. When informed that they don't have a dog, he says that he'll pick up a dog too while he's out. Davy announces a desire to become a boxer and leaves immediately to start doing road work. Peter, who has believed every excuse, isn't sure what to do now that he's all alone, and decides without a hint of irony that he'll go visit the girl.
In the season 2 opener, Ryan and Esposito excuse themselves from the room to let Castle and Beckett talk in private by saying they have to go do "that thing with the guy", repeating the above conversation almost verbatim.
Ryan: Oh, hey, uh... don't we have that thing? Esposito: ...No? Ryan: Yeah, you know, that thing with that guy? Esposito:Oh. Yeah. The thing with the guy. Ryan: Excuse us.
In "Nikki Heat" Beckett finds herself embroiled in a teeth-grindingly awkward conversation (from her point of view) with Natalie Rhodes, the actress portraying the character based on her, about how Rhodes needs to sleep with Castle because of the relationship Castle wrote between Beckett's character and his own Author Avatar. It gets to the point where Rhodes has completely deconstructed the relationship between Beckett and Castle and is begging Beckett to give Castle "permission" to sleep with her that Beckett feels the need to flee:
Beckett: I need to go. Over there. (points at random and scurries off)
Ted: Zoey just told me about this great Frank Lloyd Wright retrospective tonight, who's in? Lily: Sorry, I'm... ah, I dunno, washing my hair. Marshall: Running the water. Robin: Holding the towel. Barney: And I'll be home, trying to get over the fact that no-one invited me to the big hairwashing party.
When Barney discovers that Robin thinks fighting is sexy, he convinces Ted to fake having had one with some guys. When Robin shows up with tickets to a hockey game and asks if Barney wants to go with her, Marshall reveals that Ted and Barney faked the fight, resulting in Robin rescinding her offer.
Robin: Oh, I just remembered, I can't go tonight, I've got that ... uh ... that uh ... that uh ... that uh ... that uh ... that uh ... (escapes out the door)
Radar got himself out of a line of questions he didn't really wish to answer with a simple "Oh! I forgot!" and a quick exit.
Played straight and then subverted in the episode "Margaret's Engagement"; everyone at the staff meeting in the mess tent know Margaret's engaged to someone else except Frank, who assumes he's getting promoted, so as soon as the meeting is over, Hawkeye says, "Why don't we all go into the den and watch TV." Except instead of leaving the mess tent, they merely move over to the other side of the room.
On What About Brian, Adam uses this to get out of an embarrassing moment (it just got out that Adam secretly slept with Brian's sister):
Adam: (looking at his phone) I gotta take this. Brian: It didn't ring! Adam: I know. (leaves)
In Red Dwarf, Rimmer manages to come out with: "I'll be in the stern, correlating the, uh... in the stern."
In Pie in the Sky, episode "Passion Fruit Fool", Margaret is trying to give Henry some private time to talk to their friend Alec.
Margaret: I'll just go and feed the chickens. Henry: You just have. Margaret: Then I'll sit and I'll tell them a story!
In one episode of Supernatural, Sam uses this to leave Jo and Dean alone.
Sam: Oh yeah, um, I've gotta... uh, I've gotta go. Over there. Right now.
In Burn Notice Madeline needs to get Sam to leave the room so Fiona and Michael can have a moment alone.
Madeline: Would you like a bottle opener, Sam? Sam: Oh no no, I've got one. Thanks, yeah, never leave home without it. Madeline: Sam. You need a bottle opener. Why don't I show you where it is? Fiona: (sigh) Sam: OK. Sure. Alright Madeline, where's the bottle opener?
Perhaps the purest example of the trope, in Greys Anatomy, Meredith enters the kitchen to talk to her latest suitor while Callie is cooking, leading to this response:
Callie: Excuse me, I have to leave the room for a short period of time for no reason whatsoever.
In the second season of Felicity, Felicity is dating David, a guy that her boss, Javier, doesn't trust. When David stops by the coffee shop while Felicity and Javier are talking, Javier makes an arch excuse to walk away.
Javier: Ah. 'Scuse me, I have to, um, dust the scones.
When Liz confronts Floyd with the fact that a woman answered the phone when she called him, he pretends to get a text message telling him he has a flight to catch, or he'll miss his meeting with "Peter Venkman". When Liz later catches on, she is livid, but not entirely for the reasons you'd expect.
There's also the episode where Toofer discovers that Jack was a member of a secret Princeton society, where one of the rules is that if anyone ever yells out the name of the society, you have to immediately find an excuse to leave the room, and the writers use this fact several times.
Jack: I don't know who the hell told you to say that, Rossitano, but you have no idea what you're— Frank: Twig and Plums. Jack: I have to go to an intervention for my travel agent.
Pixelface: In "Two Aethelwynnes", Alexia and Clairpearker get away from Kiki from by announcing that they "Have to do some extra training...in that other room... with the thing".
An early episode of Saturday Night Live features an Exorcist parody where two priests come to the house of a possessed girl. Upon entering and hearing unearthly shrieks from upstairs, one of the priests (played by Richard Pryor) turns to bolt. The other priest admonishes him, saying "Where is your faith, brother?" and he answers "It's in the car; I'm gonna go get it."
In an episode of The Slammer, Melvin poses as Lionel Blair in order to get back into the Slammer. When asked to tap dance, he first claims that he can't because the carpet is too brown, and then claims that he injured his wrist peeling a tangerine.
In the Kenan & Kel episode "Corporate Kenan", when Kenan gets mistaken for an executive vice president, Kenan tries to get out of doing a speech at a big corporate meeting by having Kel barging in and interrupting him.
Kenan: Just make something up. Like I've got an emergency phone call or something. Kel: Nobody will ever believe that. See, what I do is, I come in and I'll say, "Your Grandmother got eaten by lions!" Kenan: (beat) Keep working on it. (later) Kel: (rehearsing) Reggie! Your daddy has been attacked by circus clowns! Yeah, that sounds pretty good.
Bones; in "The Sense in the Sacrifice", after Brennan declared her absolute faith in Booth, Booth kissed her breathless in the FBI bullpen, reducing her from Spock Speak to Buffy Speak:
Bones: I need to go... do... scientific things to catch a serial killer.
In the minisode, Sherlock can't make it to John's birthday dinner because he has a "thing". Remarkable imprecision for such a precise speaker as Sherlock, but when Lestrade questions it, Sherlock explains that the more detailed and precise it is, the more it would sound like a lie.
Much earlier, in "A Study in Pink", he vaguely comments that he's going to "get some air" in order to escape from the flat to pursue a serial killer. Nobody really buys it, but since they don't realise what he's actually doing, nobody stops him, either.
In Chuck, when Chuck realizes there's an emergency in progress and has to escape from a conversation with his sister's oblivious boyfriend:
Chuck: Excuse me, I think I see a kid crawling into an oven over in housewares.
On an episode of Sports Night, Isaac walks into Casey's office in the middle of Natalie trying to get Casey and Dana together:
Natalie: Isaac. Don't you think, don't you know that Dana isn't happy with Gordon, and that Gordon is about to break up with Dana and Dana only thinks she cares? Isaac: You know what? I'm gonna step out now and it'll be like I never came in. (leaves)
On Faking It, when Shane is talking to a guy at a gay bar because Liam is trying to pick up the guy's straight female friend:
Inverted on Murder, She Wrote, after a friend of Grady tried to screw him over and then made a half-hearted apology and invited Grady to his wedding. Grady's response is less a lame excuse and more a statement that he wants nothing more to do with his "friend":
Grady: Sorry, buddy, but I'll be busy that week. Grady's now former friend: But we haven't even set the date. Grady: I know.
An amusing example in Two and a Half Men: Chelsea wants Charlie to meet her parents, so he makes up a vague excuse about being unable to go because he has an appointment. This quickly escalates into him needing a colonoscopy. By the end of the episode, he actually goes through with it... and then Chelsea reveals that she knew he was lying all along and has invited her parents to come to his house anyway.
Sami Zayn: If you wanna get pinned by me, we don't have to wait; we can do it tonight. Tyler Breeze: Oooh, you're on. But not tonight. I'm busy. Sami Zayn: Oh, you're "busy"? Tyler Breeze: Yeah, busy. Sami Zayn: What're you "busy" with? Tyler Breeze: Uh, I have to get new phone cases — Sami Zayn: That's always important. Tyler Breeze: I'm going to a ball, I've got a photoshoot... Sami Zayn: A ball? Tyler Breeze: Yeah, a ball! A ball, Sami!
In the French political satire Les Guignols De L Info, president Jacques Chirac used to give really silly excuses to run ("My hips need a liposuction" — yes, that silly) when he needed to put on his Super Liar (Superman's parody) suit before answering embarrassing questions. Other characters were too Genre Blind to guess Super Liar's secret identity.
Sesame Street: At one point, Luis had a "secret" identity as Señor Zero, and whenever someone said the word "zero" he would rush off to change with an excuse like "I have to go answer my television" or "I think I left the cat on."
On an episode of The Muppet Show, Gonzo tries to get out of looking after Miss Piggy's dog by claiming "Oh my god! I left an anvil in the oven!". Of course, this being Gonzo, it's entirely possible he actually did leave an anvil in the oven.
In The Great Muppet Caper, several Muppets walk out on Kermit when he says their plan to save Piggy might have one of them killed, with Pops saying he has a dentist appointment.
At least one translation of Lysistrata has a woman claiming to be going into labor as her excuse to leave, using a bronze helmet under her clothes as her "baby". Lysistrata proceeds to point out that she wasn't pregnant the day before.
In Mamma Mia!, when Donna suddenly sees all three of her ex-boyfriends who could also be the father of her daughter she stammers something about cleaning out her handbag and hides. The exes aren't surprised. ("Typical Donna!")
Benedick, seeing Beatrice approaching, try to get an excuse from Don Pedro.
Benedick: Will your grace command me any service to the world's end? I will go on the slightest errand now to the Antipodes that you can devise to send me on. (when that doesn't work, however, he just leaves anyway)
Beatrice gets a successful out later in the same scene, when her conversation with Don Pedro gets awkward.
Leonato: Niece, will you look to those things I told you of? Beatrice: I cry you mercy, uncle. By your grace's pardon. (books it)
In The Music Man, Harold Hill shows up to talk to Marian Paroo, and her mother, hoping the two will get together, immediately bows out:
Mrs. Paroo: You and Marian come up and set. I — I've got some jelly on the stove. Marian: There's no jelly on the stove, Mama. Mrs. Paroo: Well, I'll put some on.
In an old DOS game titled Crime City, your character is able to vandalize the local church unless he runs into the local Priest, in which he case makes a clever retreat: "I have to go paint my dog!"
In an early mission, Ned Flanders tells Homer that he's been robbed and he's ready to call the police to look for whoever stole his belongings. This reminds Homer that he "borrowed" them a while ago, and attempts to sneak off to his car to find them by sheepishly telling him, "I have to go... shuck some corn."
While it's not really an excuse to leave, one of the quotes Homer says when requesting a new vehicle is, "I need your help, my car is... sleeping."
If other Sims don't want to visit yours, they'll use rather incredible excuses like "I have to feed my llama" or "My psychic advisor has forbidden me to leave the house today." Strangely, if they're already there and have to leave, their excuses actually make sense, like "It's getting late."
The French version includes "I need to water my turtle" and "watch my houseplants grow." Also when they refuse to keep talking to you because one of their "needs" gauge is full, they will usually say "I'm just too tired/hungry/etc. for this," except it they need to go to the toilet. They'll say "I need to go put on some make-up" instead...
The best, of course, is "I'm waiting for the telephone repairman." Uhh...
In the sequel, if they particularly don't like your Sim, they don't even bother with a lunatic excuse. They say something like "If my wanting to come over was on a scale of one to ten I'd still say 'No'."
The Teensies in Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc are full of these excuses. For example, "I have to go invent chocolate toothpaste."
Skid McMarx: Hey uhh... dudes... I uhh..forgot to feed my goldfish.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Imperial Agent's companion Doctor Lokin excuses himself because of the cold weather in order to escape an uncomfortable conversation. Reasonable enough, right? Except he was going outside... on Hoth
Many people will use excuses like these to get out of a raid or dungeon crawl they see as a waste of time (e.g. obviously unskilled/underleveled/both players have joined, they want to wait for another queue, there aren't enough healers...). The most common is "BRB TORNADO" (which IS somewhat believable on US servers during the spring/early summer/early fall, but which is almost always this), that actually became a meme to the point of an entire guild being named "BRB TORNADO." Others are "brb fire," "brb burglars," "brb gf going into labor," and similar incredibly urgent emergency situations.
In at least three cases, they were real, which often led to people feeling bad about assuming they were this: one person actually did get his place wiped out by a tornado, logging on three days later from his laptop — all he had left from the storm. Another time "brb fire" was due to a fire in a neighboring apartment which the player had to go help put out, and another time "brb cops" involved the player's roommate being suddenly arrested by a SWAT team, to the surprise of the player.
One thread on the World of Warcraft forums was titled "Lamest excuse you've ever given for leaving a raid early." One contributor described a party member who was silent for the entire dungeon until, half way through the instance, the formerly-silent party member suddenly announced "I have to wash my steve" and left.
In Harvest Moon DS Cute, one Heart Event for Carter has him desperate to get away from Flora's cooking. He swears up, down, and sideways that he, uh... Promised to eat lunch with the player character! Didn't he? If you play along with his ruse, you gain Love Points with him.
When Strong Bad introduces Li'l Brudder, a one-legged dog whose catch-phrase is "Don't worry; I can make it on my own," Strong Bad initially says that said picture cracks him up. However, at the end, when Strong Bad is musing on the "tough little guy" he catches himself and tells the viewers "Umm, I think I've got a... food... in the oven.... Igottago." and leaves the room. (Li'l Brudder's triumphs in the face of adversity often make everyone cry.)
On a more meta level, having come to the conclusion that his imagination is broken, Strong Bad ends an email with "I'm gonna go... place". Clicking on that phrase shows a postcard from Place.
In Issue Ten of Teen Girl Squad, Cheerleader claims the other girls can't go to The Ugly One's birthday party because "We have... the... Olympics... tonight." Though once The Ugly One tells them it's a "boy/girl party," Cheerleader tells her the coach just called and says the Olympics are dumb, so she can come to the party after all. It then cuts to an Olympic coach being glared at by an Olympic Man, who says "I don't know what they're talking about, I swear!"
There is a Resident Evilparody in which Brad, upon hearing about the killer zombie dogs, says the following: "Well, I just remembered that I left the, uh, oven on in the, uh, helicopter, and... LOOK! BEHIND YOU!A THREE-HEADED MONKEY!" He then proceeds to dash off, followed shortly after by the sound of a helicopter taking off. Subverted, in that Brad is trying to distract Wesker so he can flee. Wesker doesn't look away. Brad flees anyway.
An extremely unsubtle example in a strip of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures . Not only does Wildy stare at her wrist while not wearing a watch, she claims to be in a hurry because "It's leaving o'clock!"
A flustered Tedd needs "to go check on... the thing... that's upstairs."
Susanof all people. "I'm sorry, I have a thing on Friday at a place where I'll be preoccupied with some stuff that will unfortunately make it impossible for me to, uh... Bye!"
In a comic of The Wotch, the heroes are at the mall, and Jason is present as Sonja. Katie and Wolfie walk by Sonja and do a Double Take upon realizing who she really is, and Katie gets into an argument with him/her over how abnormal this is. A minute later, Robin approaches with drinks, and Katie turns to him and demands, "Robin! You don't turn into a girl frequently for kicks, do you?" Robin immediately finds pressing business elsewhere: "Oh, gosh, I, uh, forgot straws! I'll just be off to get them..." The drinks already had straws in them.
JesuOtaku has a review where Bennett The Sage manages to get her to watch Eiken, much to her distress. By the time it's over, however, she says it wasn't that torturous... at which point Bennett pulls out Garzey's Wing. Her response? "Sorry, Sage, I can't hear you. I'm going through a tunnel... in the bathroom."
Todd in the Shadows and Paw Dugan were able to worm their way out of helping Pushing Up Roses review 33 and 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee by claiming to be "on fire" and "drowning", respectively. After Roses invites the two of them to return for more LPs after Putt Putt Goes to the Moon, Todd attempts to escape with "I have to... go... mow the carpet."
In the Season of the Witch episode, Ringo tries to avoid having to comment on the writing of the film by saying this:
Ringo: I need to go... uh... put out a fire... in the bathroom.
Speaking of, when confronted with the possibility of watching The Last Airbender, Luke claims he left his water running, which you'd think would be I Have to Wash My Hair, and then he adds "in Canada", putting it in this trope (this was taking place at an American convention).
When The Nostalgia Chick showed up on Todd in the Shadows' doorstep trying to get him to review Crossroads with her, he tries to get out of it by saying, "Yeah, I gotta go wash the dog... the fish... so...", but he gets dragged into it anyway.
Parodied in the Superhero Episode, where the three are in front of the mayor, who needs their superhero identities:
Leela: Oh, I completely forgot — I left my apartment on fire! Bender: As for me, I'm late for my L.S.A.T.'s. Fry: And I can't take life anymore! (smashes out through the window, and promptly smashes back in through another)
In another episode, an Alternate Universe version of Leela explains she rejected Fry (now her husband)'s advances until she only had the worst excuses left involving things like ghosts or "sweaty boot rash". This causes the regular Fry to remark "So that's why you said you had to meet that ghost!"
In "Attack of the Killer App":
Leela: Uh, excuse me, I have to... someplace.
In the old-timey cartoon part of "Reincarnation":
Fry: I'll be right back; I have to go check this comet for anarchists!
In "Homer the Vigilante", after the Springfield cat burglar reveals where his loot's hidden:
Homer: Well... I guess I'll be going to my home now and... sleep. Chief Wiggum: Me too... I will also go home. For... sleep.
In "The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show", when Homer asks his family what they thought of his debut show:
Lisa: ... Mom, can we go to bed early tonight? Marge: Yes we can. (runs upstairs with the rest of the family)
When Bart is trying to ask Jessica Lovejoy out:
Jessica: I have to... go over there now.
When Homer tried to get out of paying a hospital bill after an accident with his leg, he shouts something about a bear and tries to run away despite his injured leg. Of course, there actually was a bear.
SpongeBob: I have to, um...um...go get my hair cut! Sandy: SpongeBob doesn't have hair! Or... does he?
In the Canadian show Being Ian, Mr Kelley is stuck in traffic with his sons while trying to deliver a piano to a client. He yells out the window of his car:
Mr. Kelley: Come on, get out of the way! I've got a pregnant... goat, that I need to get to... the airport! (to Ian's brother) Quick, make a sound like a pregnant goat!
In a Looney Tunes cartoon, You Were Never Duckier, Daffy Duck impersonates a chicken in order to score a $5,000 cash prize at a poultry show, only to run afowl of Henery Hawk and his (huge) father. His reaction:
Daffy: Well, I gotta go. I think my judge is burning, fudge... My fudge is burning, judge... I mean, my mother wants me. I got to crochet a cake. Uh, uh, goodbye!
Danny Phantom's excuses tend to be this. It's a wonder no-one's found him out yet because of his dog-ironing.
In one episode of Code Lyoko, Ulrich apparently had to go "polish my flip flops".
In the "Baloney and Kids" short in Animaniacs, one of the kids' excuses to leave was that she had to iron her bed. However, given how goodie-two shoes both kids were, including said girl saying she wishes she could marry school, it's entirely likely that this was true.
In the episode "Boast Busters", Twilight is afraid of being labeled a braggart, and so balks at using her magical skills to one-up a boastful unicorn. She finally beats a hasty retreat by claiming, "I think I hear my laundry calling."
Possibly played with, also in "Boast Busters", when Spike makes a somewhat panicked exit after declaring that Twilight is the most magical unicorn in Ponyville while standing beside his crush Rarity who is also a unicorn, not giving an even remotely reasonable explanation but exclaiming: "Oh, um...*cough* Hey, Rarity...I...MUSTACHE!" immediately before darting off screen.
In "Look Before You Sleep", both Rarity and Applejack try to get out of Twilight's slumber party (or rather, spending time with each other) by suddenly remembering pressing engagements. Rarity's is plausible but vague, but Applejack's is simply, "I'm powerful late for... something."
In "Party of One", Rainbow Dash actually draws a wristwatch on her foreleg in order to have an excuse to say "Oh, look at the time!" and get out of explaining to Pinkie why she and Fluttershy can't attend her next party. She and Fluttershy then claim to be late to house — sorry, cavesitting for a vacationing bear (that loves to play seashells and collect volleyball).
This being Pinkie Pie, she finds this excuse to be the most plausible excuse any of her friends have come up with, compared to: Twilight studying for the princess — which is her favorite spare time activity, Applejack picking apples — which, as the head of an apple orchard, is something she does almost every day, and Rarity washing her hair (although Rarity did stick her head directly into the trash can to make the excuse more believable, because Pinkie told her her hair looked clean).
In "Sweet and Elite", Rarity has a series of them whilst trying to make excuses so she can switch between a fancy garden party and Twilight Sparkle's birthday party. Whilst initially she goes with sensible ones like "I need the little filly's room", she runs out of scenarios quickly and finally winds up just saying "I have to... to go to the-to the thing with the... stuff, you know..."
In "Twilight's Kingdom - Part 2", Twilight, who is trying to control her new powers gained from the other three princesses, says "Gotta go... somewhere... else." to avoid talking to Spike.
In an episode of Class of 3000, Sunny ditches Kim so he can change into a superhero (don't ask) with the excuse "I gotta go... can some peaches."
The Weekenders has Lor write a will in case she doesn't survive surgery on her knee. When Tish finds out Lor hasn't left anything to her, she hastily excuses herself, half-sobbing, "Oh no, I just remembered I promised my mother I would paint the lawn."
When Steve gets impregnated by Roger, Roger tries to leave the scene by saying "I think I left a sweater in the sink."
To get out of having sex with a drunk girl, Snot shouts out "I need to take a diarrhea."
In "Bully for Steve", Stan tries to avoid getting punished by Francine when she's about to see a video of him bullying Steve by saying he's "having an affair with a homosexual giant". When Francine sees the video, Stan says he need to go to his "xylophone lesson" and tiptoes away like a Hanna-Barbera character.
Megas XLR: Jamie's date in "Dude, Where's My Head?" attempts to excuse herself from imminent crushing at the hands of Warmaster Gorath's evil takeoff of Megas:
"I need to go... wash my hair... or something."
In an episode of Extreme Ghostbusters, the team decide to leave work early because they all feel bad but don't want to admit it. When asked why she leaves, Kylie says her cat needs a bath.
Mumm-ra: Oh! Wow! Um... Mrs. Mumbletipeg needs to go masturbate. I mean um... uh... see... uh... Mrs. Mum... What I meant was, Mrs. Mumbletipeg... Fuck it, I'm gonna go masturbate.
Camp Lazlo: Raj says "Well, I'm off to get some chutney" when he sneaks off to his secret hot spring.
Sym-Bionic Titan: Newton constantly has to "go to the bathroom." With his brother and sister. It would be worse if his girlfriend knew he was really a robot.
In Ugly Americans, Callie desperately tries to find a reason to explain what her sister Lilith would be taking over for her without revealing that she was originally supposed to be betrothed to Twayne.
Rugrats once had Angelica try to swipe some cookies from the kitchen by telling the babies, "I'm gonna check on the babies." It took them about ten seconds to realize that Angelica didn't need to leave the room to check on them.
Pepper: Sorry, Happy. My dad's pet, uh... lemur is stuck in a tree. Happy: Aw man, not again!
In the Justice League episode "Question Authority", after Captain Atom and Superman vanquish an opponent, Lois Lane shows up wanting to interview Superman — one on one.
Captain Atom: I'm pretty sure there's something I have to do someplace.
In an episode of Hey Arnold!, in order to avoid hearing one of Grandpa's war stories, Ernie gave the plausible excuse that he left his underwear in the dryer. Oscar then followed up by claiming that he also left his underwear in Ernie's dryer... interpret that how you will.
Parodied in "Dreamscaperers", as when Grunkle Stan tries to think of a way out of an awkward date with Lazy Susan, all he can think of is yelling "Non-specific excuse!" and running away.
In "Soos and the Real Girl", when Soos realizes virtual-girl Giffany has somehow followed him on his date with Melody, he excuses himself with "I need to go to the bathroom for a long time... Not in a weird way!"