Two characters, usually two characters sharing a large amount of animosity, get locked in a room (safe, elevator, etc.) and must spend the episode alone together. During which time they learn a new appreciation for each other.
If being locked in the room also puts the characters in danger, then they are Locked in a Freezer. If their mates locked them there intentionally, to get them to resolve an issue or light a spark between them, it's also Ten Minutes in the Closet. If they must work together to accomplish something (such as escaping from the room), it's also Enemy Mine. If they're Locked in a Room and have no idea how they got there, that's You Wake Up in a Room, which is a type of Ontological Mystery. They're in trouble if one of them suffers from Claustrophobia. Sometimes takes the form of Subways Suck.
Usually a type of Bottle Episode, this trope is almost a requirement of any Sitcom that's been on for more than a couple of years.
This is also an extremely common trope for playwrights, particularly for short two-hander plays. In addition to being an easy way to force conflict, it makes set design much simpler.
And before you ask, it has nothing to do with a character being locked in their bedroom as punishment.
Four walls are not a requirement - two characters locked out on a roof is essentially the same trope only without the claustrophobia. (In reality, most building codes state roof doors cannot lock on the outside, though, to prevent this from happening.)
See also Chained Heat, Rats In A Box.
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Happens to Shiro and Mozart in Afterschool Charisma, along with little Pandora. It's more to keep them safe than to make them get along, though, and they don't really learn a new respect for each other. Earlier, it looks like Napoleon and Ikkyu are going to do this to Shiro and Freud to help them reconcile... but they actually just throw them into the girls' locker room. While the girls are changing.
Subverted in Dennou Coil. Yasako and Isako bond very slightly when they get locked in a room, and Isako later saves Yasako's little sister from a dangerous situation, but she ultimately remains as distant and antagonistic as before.
In Hitohira Nono and Mirei wind up in the store room with each other, which gives them a chance to discuss their differences. The fact that Nono just lost her voice (or fakes it) doesn't make things easier.
An episode of Magic Users Club has Sae and Ayanojyo locked in a closet, with Sae more and more unnerved as she realizes how long it might be before someone finds them. The audience thinks it's sexual tension between her and the attractive bishonen... and then, when she's finally freed, the true problem is discovered as she races to the nearest bathroom.
In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji and Asuka are forced to spend an episode locked in a room so they can learn how to work in perfect sync with each other, in order to defeat an Angel which split into two parts that also move in perfect sync. (Admitedly, half this and half 'chained together')
A better example would be Misato and Kaji getting stuck in an elevator, which increases the tension of their relationship.
Subverted with the infamous 'elevator scene' between Rei & Asuka. It's only a few minutes.
The first time is in the Alabasta arc. Captain Smoker is pursuing the Straw Hats, and due to Luffy's idiocy, they fall through a trapdoor into an inescapable cage, courtesy of the saga's Big Bad, Crocodile. He proceeds to spell out his Evil Plan, and Smoker learns that the Straw Hats are only there to help the country's princess foil the plan. Once they escape, and Zoro saves Smoker from drowning, he lets them go, and leaves to inform his superiors of what he learned. He has a newfound respect for the Straw Hats by the saga's end, when they have saved the country.
Occurrence number 2, post-Time Skip. Vice-Admiral Smoker and his protégé, Captain Tashigi, are waiting for the Straw Hats in the New World. When the pirates take an unexpected detour, to an island that is supposed to be uninhabited, they follow them. They soon discover that the arc's Big Bad, a Mad Scientist, is using it as a base. Long story short, they learn too much and are imprisoned along with three members of the Straw Hat crew (including Robin, who was Crocodile's Dragon and lampshades the situation's irony) and the Big Bad's subordinate who was revealed to be a Wild Card, Warlord of the Sea Trafalgar Law. They watch the Evil Plan play out in front of them, and are then exposed to it. When they escape, Smoker and Tashigi are forced into a full-blown Enemy Mine, and are almost friendly with the Straw Hats when it's all over.
Rito and Haruna find themselves in this situation, and in true To Love-Ru fashion, they're naked.
In Toradora!, Ryuuji and Minori are locked in a warehouse together for a while.
After one of the fallings out of Katchoo and Francine, the main characters of the comic Strangers in Paradise, their mutual friends David and Casey trick them into a sound booth at a small record studio, then handcuff them together, lock them in, drop the key down Casey's front, and watch from the two-way mirror until the two reconcile. Again.
Knights of the Dinner Table: Brian, Dave, and Bob once locked themselves in Brian's basement. This story gave some insight into Brian's previously nebulous back-story.
This a common Fan Fic cliche, one that writers typically use as a vehicle for their favorite ship. It's especially common when the ship in general springs from Foe Yay.
The Breakfast Club revolves around a bunch of students serving a Saturday detention, locked inside their school's library. They eventually end up as close friends.
Saw is primarily set inside a bathroom, with two people chained to exposed pipes. Much tension ensues.
Saw II has the victims locked in a house, expecting to work together.
Saw IV has three of the victims in a room, not necessarily locked in, but if they open the door, two of them die. Rigg blows the trap and causes two of them to die, but not one of them who was necessarily implied to be a victim.
Saw V provides an interesting example as well: each of the four traps is seemingly designed so that one person has to die for the others to move on, while all five could have survived to the end if they had worked together. Cryptic message "Five must become one" works on so many levels.
Invoked in the remake of The Parent Trap, when the camp counselors force Hallie and Annie to bunk together to work out their issues.
This was actually taken from the original film, which also had the girls forced to room together.
Septimus Heap: Septimus and Simon in Darke, when they are hiding from the Darke Domaine.
Done intentionally in David Eddings' Belgariad. When Polgara finds that the bickering heirs of two rival countries are male and female, her solution to the feud is to lock the two together in a room, wait until the shouting stops, and then officiate the resulting wedding. Implausibly enough, this plan works perfectly.
Done to a couple of minor characters in a few different David Eddings series. Usually at Polgara (or her Expy's) behest.
In The Hunting of the Snark, the Butcher and Beaver both happen to choose the same spot to hide from boojums. The Butcher ends up teaching the Beaver some mathematics and natural philosophy, and they soon become good buddies.
Room by Emma Donoghue. The book is about a mother and her five-year-old child who are kept captive in a small room for years by a kidnapper. The child was born in the room and has never been outside in his life.
Happens to two main characters in Jackie Collins' novel Chances. Luckily, nothing happens.
"Lockdown": Lex and Lana are locked in an overheating panic room.
"Mercy": Lionel and Martha are locked in an elevator.
"Nemesis": Lex and Clark are trapped in bomb-infested tunnels.
"Gemini": Chloe and Jimmy are trapped in an elevator.
"Descent": Lois and Jimmy are locked in a freezer.
The 60's TV series I Spy raised this trope to an art form as main characters Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) were being locked in a room together in many an episode, giving them ample opportunity to flex their often hilariously witty repartee while attempting a frequently humorous escape.
This trope occurs on nearly every single episode of Vic TOR Ious.
In one episode of Drake & Josh, Megan locks Drake and Josh in a tree house.
The same thing happens when they're held hostage in the second half of iPsycho.
Done intentionally in iSam's Mom.
Spencer is trapped in a box For Science! in iOMG. The entire school population is locked into the school for an overnight project, which eventually leads to a Relationship Upgrade between Sam and Freddie.
The NCIS third season episode "Boxed In" is about Tony and Ziva getting trapped in a shipping container and the rest of the team trying to find them.
In the season 10 premier "Extreme Prejudice," Tony and Ziva are trapped in an elevator together and considering how much they bickered in the aforementioned season 3 episode, they seemed to have a bit more of a bonding experience this time around...
One episode of the NBC drama Las Vegas is an episode titled "The Night The Lights Went Out In Vegas". On a quiet night at the Montecito Hotel & Casino, the gaming area is almost empty save for a few people, since most of Vegas is at a highly-anticipated magic show elsewhere. Suddenly, the power to the entire city goes out, and at the casino, a gunshot rings out, followed by a scream. The Pit Boss, the Casino Host and the Manager are locked in the gaming area with a bunch of strangers and a dead body with a bullet wound, which means someone among them is the murderer. The casino's entire security team, running on a skeleton crew, is locked in the Surveillance Room, unable to resolve the situation, which escalates due to one person's Claustrophobia. Two characters with off-the-charts UST are trapped in an elevator with a short, silent man who won't stop smiling. Needless to say, the episode is the high point of an otherwise ordinary series, and since it has a stand-alone story it's perfectly enjoyable even if you haven't watched the rest of the show and don't know anything about it.
Due South has Fraser and Ray Vecchio locked in a meat freezer during the first season, then in a bank vault during the second season.
In Grey's Anatomy, George and Alex are trapped in an elevator and are forced to perform an emergency operation on a patient with a gunshot wound. Leads to the first prominent case of Character Development in the show.
Blake's 7 episode Sand has enemies Tarrant and Servalan stuck in a room together. Also Redemption has Avon and Jenna in a cell together. Technically, they're allies, but that doesn't mean they like each other!
There's a nice subversion of this trope (as well as Locked in a Freezer) in an episode where G'Kar and Londo were trapped in an elevator and came out hating each other worse than ever. G'Kar was, in fact, deeply disappointed to be rescued, as he had hoped that they would both die, because that would mean he would get to see Londo's death without having to cause it himself (which would have triggered reprisals against the conquered Narn population).
An episode by Neil Gaiman had several people locked in different rooms with ghosts. Some were lost loves, some were friends they lost, at least one had a mortal foe giving snarky advice.
A variation of this occurred in Kenan & Kel, where people arriving in said room ended up getting locked in by the closing door.
The penultimate episode of The Prisoner features the most byzantine of all the Village's plots to break the hero: "Let's lock you in a room for six days with The Dragon while he hypnotizes you and digs up your repressed memories like an evil Sigmund Freud."
The Pretender had an episode where Sydney and Miss Parker were trapped in the basement of an abandoned building. Sydney tells her about how the Centre, at one time, actually had good intentions and helped people.
In the "Earthquake" episode of Night Court, Dan and Roz are trapped in an elevator with two sumo wrestlers.
In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes "Starship Down", where Bashir and Dax are trapped in a malfunctioning turbolift together and resolved the issue of Bashir's unrequited crush on Dax by agreeing to remain Just Friends.
In the episode "The Forsaken", Bashir gets stuck in a malfunctioning section of the station with a posse of annoying diplomats with no respect for him and the whole group come out friends, and Odo and Lwaxana Troi are trapped in a turbolift together.
The episode "Life Support" sees Jake arranging to get locked in a cell with Nog in order to make up with him after an argument.
There's also a Voyager episode where Janeway and Chakotay get a contagious disease that forces Voyager to maroon them on their own planet for a few months.
The main thrust of the House episode "One Day, One Room" was a patient refusing to speak to anybody other than House (he explicitly describes himself as "trapped in the room with her"), and the two of them forcing each other to confront their demons (being victims of rape and paternal abuse, respectively).
"Lockdown" has several pairs of characters trapped together; Wilson and Thirteen, Taub and Foreman, Chase and Cameron, and House and a dying patient.
UK comedy One Foot in the Grave has episodes with the main character alone in his house, or in the dark with a power cut and there is one episode where he and his wife are stuck in a traffic jam.
There was actually one episode which was just Victor and Margaret in their bedroom late at night trying to fall asleep. Technically, the door wasn't locked, but the episode was essentially just thirty minutes of the two of them arguing. At the end they get absolutely nowhere.
In Burn Notice, Michael gets stuck in a hostage situation with Agent Bly, who up to this point had been a major pain in Michael's ass, and vice versa. They have to work together to get out of the situation (with Bly shot, no less) and end up with a mutual respect.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip had one of these, only different: Jordan and Danny were trapped on the roof of a building. They lampshade it as something out of the plot of a sitcom, but it still follows the traditional form.
A tenth season episode of Murphy Brown, "From the Terrace," has many characters trapped on the terrace of their new space.
Daphne and Niles in Frasier spend an episode trapped on their roof, where they were supposed to be having a romantic date.
In the Dawson's Creek episode The Tao of Dawson, Joey gets locked in a storage closet with the hated Drue Valentine, and ends up softening towards him... only for it to turn out that he could have called for help whenever he wanted.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer had the deliberate version of this - when Buffy fell out with Cordelia, the rest of the Scoobies conspired to lock the two in a limousine on the way to the Homecoming Queen dance with a note telling them to sort it out. Doubly subverted, because not only did they spend the entire journey arguing over who should have which corsage (very snidely), the journey then ended in the middle of nowhere, at which point bad guys appeared and started hunting them down like animals. Which actually did cause them to bond a little, in between running from gunmen and fighting demons.
Played straight in "What's My Line". Xander and Cordelia are trapped in Buffy's basement with The Worm That Walks lurking upstairs. They start arguing about whether or not to break out, degrading into Volleying Insults which due to Belligerent Sexual Tension ends in a Big Damn Kiss. They then break apart, stare at each other in horror, and mutually agree to break out immediately.
And averted in the spinoff series Angel. Angel is furious with Cordelia because she rejected Angel's love only to sleep with his son. Later they're both on guard duty, in the same room for four hours.
Cordy: So, all this time alone together. Could be good for us. Maybe we should talk.
Angel: Maybe we shouldn't.
Cordy: Valid point.
Family Ties had an episode where Mallory and Skippy were locked in a basement together.
Stargate SG-1 example from "Zero Hour," courtesy of the unique command style of General O'Neill. To force a pair of alien delegates to behave like adults and come to an agreement, he puts them in 'time out' together in a small room. With a fruit basket. In all fairness, it did work.
In a nod to this, Sheppard suggests something similar with the leaders of two soon-to-be warring villagers, but Weir turns him down. Given later events, everyone would have been saved some trouble had she ok'd it.
The West Wing episode "No Exit", which trapped four pairs of people in a White House lockdown, giving them time to argue and come to terms with each other. Ish.
Done in a hilariously bad scene of the hilariously bad Birds of Prey live action series wherein Huntress and her wannabe boyfriend get locked into a sauna together. Naturally to avoid overheating they both have to strip down to their skivvies.
All in the Family - In "Two's a Crowd", Archie and Mike get locked in the storeroom of Archie's bar. (This, after Archie had locked himself in the basement of his house a few seasons earlier; you'd think he would have learned...)
The first-season episode "The Elevator Story" had Archie get stuck in a stalled elevator with, among other people, a supercilious black businessman and a Puerto Rican man whose wife is going into labor.
The Bob Newhart Show - Bob and Emily spend the 1976 Bicentennial locked in their apartment building's storage room.
Played straight with a twist on the '80s Nell Carter sitcom Gimme a Break. Nell is trapped in a basement after an earthquake with a Hispanic woman who only understands Spanish. To top it off, she's also deaf.
In the third and final chapter of the 1996 Only Fools and Horses Christmas trilogy, "Time On Our Hands", Del Boy deliberately stops an elevator in order to force Rodney to open up to him about his wife Cassandra's miscarriage. As a nod to the frequency of the trope, Del then repairs the lift, revealing that it was never broken in the first place.
Friends has done this at least three times, the first time early in the first season with Ross, Susan and Phoebe locked in a janitor's closet during Carol's labour. The second was when everyone else were trapped together in Monica's bedroom by Ross and Rachel breaking up outside. The third was later, with Ross and Joey locked out on the roof after trying to watch a meteor shower.
During a citywide blackout, Chandler was locked in an ATM vestibule with supermodel Jill Goodacre.
"Is it a vestibule? Maybe it's an atrium. Oh, yeah, THAT is the part to focus on, you idiot!''
Happened with nearly every main character in The 4400 episode "No Exit". They had to work together to survive and escape a building that was trying to kill them (long story). In the end it was revealed to be Marco's assistant PJ who was causing it, having taken promicin. Shawn died but recovered, having sorted out at least a few issues with Isabelle and Kyle. Meghan also died, got better, and got more UST with Tom. Maia and Diana had mother-daughter bonding time. Tom got a better understanding of Jordan, although they still seemed to hate each other.
Masterfully subverted in the episode "Dawg Days" from The Shield. After an escalating feud between two gang members threatens to spiral out of control, a group of police officers lock them together in a storage container overnight, they jokingly assume that the normal course of events will occur and the two will settle their differences. However, when they return the next morning one of the gang members walks out and proclaims of his 'container-mate' "he ain't coming".
Hancock (i.e. Hancock's Half Hour, after it was shortened to 25 minutes) episode "The Lift", with nine people in a lift designed for eight (though at the end the lift breaks down again with only two people in it).
An early Mash episode has Trapper getting locked in a supply hut with Margaret Houlihan, resulting in a certain amount of Foe Yay.
They did several of these, most famously "Comrades In Arms" in which Hawkeye and Margaret are trapped behind enemy lines and take shelter in an abandoned hut. Debate rages as to whether or not They Did It.
On Kate And Allie, when the two title characters were having a fight, the kids handcuffed them together in the kitchen, through a counter - and then left.
In Moonlighting, David Addison and Maddie Hayes get stuck in an elevator, and finally have to deal with Maddie's pregnancy and her avoidance of David going on for months prior to this.
The Goodies managed to trap themselves in their apartment...by being encased in a block of concrete.
In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica episode "No Exit", Ellen Tigh, a Sharon, and a Cavil are in one room together for the whole episode, with the point being Cavil getting his existential issues off his chest. It doesn't work
In the Eureka episode "If You Build It...", Larry and Fargo get locked in the trunk of a car together.
An interesting version appears in Heroes, when Peter gets himself stuck inside Sylar's head while the latter is in a telepathy-induced coma. Naturally, they start seething at each other, complete with Sylar getting punched in the teeth. They end up having to draw an truce at the end of the episode, which allows them both to escape and wake up from their comas.
In the Castle episode "Setup" Beckett and Castle are locked up while they are tested for radiation poisoning and again in the same episode when they are locked in a freezer to freeze to death.
And then again in the episode "Cuffed" where Castle and Beckett wake up in a locked room, handcuffed together on a bed with no memories of how they got there. Tensions mount when a hungry tiger breaks into the room.
In the BritcomPeep Show, Mark and Jeremy spend the best part of an episode locked in a stairwell.
Happens more than once on Diagnosis: Murder . One episode sees Steve and Jack locked in a room where Jack proceeds to have a panic attack due to his severe Claustrophobia. Another episode sees Steve and Jesse trapped in a room in the hospital after the hospital is blown up by a bomber and the door is blocked. The latter lead to the pair discussing what careers they would have chosen had they not became a policeman and a doctor. Jesse mentions that he wanted to own a BBQ restaurant, which he and Steve then do in the following episode and continue to do for the next 3 seasons.
On Benson, this seemingly happened at least once per season.
In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Mom and Dad", Barney notices his divorced parents Jerome and Loretta are Amicable Exes, and gets them trapped in an elevator as part of a Zany Scheme to get them back together. They realise what Barney is trying to do, and Barney's half-brother James (who wants his own dad to be reunited with Loretta) eventually rescues them.
Happens twice in Red Dwarf. First with Vitriolic Best Buds Lister and Rimmer were stuck in Starbug that crashed onto an ice planet in Marooned, then with the whole cast (Lister, Kryten, Kochanski, and The Cat) in the air ducts of Starbug in Duct Soup.
An episode of Adventures in Odyssey had Whit trapped in an elevator with a loud-mouthed radio personality...and a bomb. In the end the bomb turned out to be fake and it was all a mean-spirited practical joke.
The play No Exit (Huis Clos, in the original, by Jean Paul Sartre) has three people, each with their own issues, trapped together in a room in hell. But not only can't they help each other, but they were specially chosen to keep each other company for eternity, tormenting each other's weaknesses with their own character defects.
The 1972 play 6 Rms Riv Vu has a man and woman, strangers to each other and both married, responding to a newspaper ad for an apartment to rent, and developing a romance after getting locked inside together when they show up to look at it.
In Wicked, Elphaba and Glinda unwillingly become roommates at school. They can't stand each other at first, but later become friends.
In Sweet Charity, almost immediately after Oscar and Charity meet, they get trapped together in an elevator between floors.
CLANNAD's storage room curse does exactly this. Perform the necessary ritual, think of somebody you want to be locked up with, and later that day you'll be locked up in a room with that person. You could end up being locked with Kyou, Nagisa, Tomoyo, Akio, or Sunohara. The anime adapts Kyou's version. The weirdest part is that it's part of a route that does not involve any of them.
Joker's relationship with EDI in Mass Effect 2 runs much more smoothly after the two are forced to run the ship by themselves after the Collector attack.
The core aspect of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is this. You go through a door, and try to get the required key and escape. The entire premise is you and the other people being trapped as well. Oh, and you can get Locked in a Freezer too if you follow a certain path.
Fate/hollow ataraxia features a scene that meets all the criteria, but instead of a room it's in a magical chest with Rin and Shirou trapped inside. This chest has properties including making outgoing cell phone calls get received in the future and having a Time Dilation effect.
In Homare's epilogue in Class Trip Crush, he and the protagonist end up accidentally locked into the library overnight. After considering their options, they decide to make the best of it and sneak out when the library opens in the morning.
In the KateModern episode "Trait Positive", Charlie and Gavin get locked in the G&T IT office together over the course of a weekend, spanning seven episodes. Over that time, they bond. In the later episode "False Alarm", it is revealed that they also slept together that weekend.
Used as the Framing Device in the Rugrats Passover special: Tommy, Chuckie, and Angelica (and eventually the rest of their families) get locked in the attic with Grandpa Boris, and Boris passes the time by telling the story of Passover, Whole Plot Reference style.
The same happened to most of the cast on Sealab 2021, in the episode "Trapped In The Closet". One by one, over the course of the episode, they were locked into a storage closet by a malfunctioning hatch. In an ironic inversion of Locked in a Freezer, the outside of the closet turns out to be the dangerous area, with angry attack dogs running around.
The second episode of Clerks: The Animated Series revolved around this. The old friends locked in an industrial refrigerator together started to reminisce about their wacky adventures, turning the trope into the framework for a Clip Show...except, since this was the second episode, there was only one episode to show clips from. This got even more surreal when the second episode was broadcast first, meaning viewers had never seen the clips it kept referencing.
One memorable episode of Animaniacs had Dr. Scrathensniff stuck in an elevator with Wakko Warner..
Ron Stoppable and Mr. Barkin spent an episode of Kim Possible locked inside a truck. They hardly got to know each other, because Barkin got goofier and crazier.
Used in the made-for-grade-school Arthur: While the titular character and his little sister, DW, are locking in a refrigerator of a restaurant, they learn to use their imagination as they listen to an old radio show on the ancient radio in the fridge.
Another time Arthur and Francine were locked in the library overnight while they were mad at each other, and made up during the course of the story.
In The Simpsons, when Mr. Burns and Homer wound up getting snowed in a log cabin, they both end up getting paranoid about the other's intentions.
Also invoked in another episode, where the characters lock Skinner and Krabappel in a room to get them to work out the teacher's strike. After banging on the door for several hours they finally agree to talk.
Inverted in SpongeBob SquarePants. Spongebob and Patrick get "trapped" in a cave, already really close (a little too close). Eventually, they decide to eat each other out of hunger.
The Family Guy 150th episode "Brian and Stewie" center on Brian and Stewie locked in a bank vault for a weekend.
In Angels Friends - Raf and Sulfus get trapped in the Caves of Obscurity.
One of the most common cliches of theater-style Live Action Roleplaying. The game has only limited space to play in, so locking the characters in a room (duly equipped with a Conflict Ball) is often used to explain why no one just leaves.