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Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee
The Private Detective comes into the station to ask Da Chief for some information regarding a well-known case. The chief resists commenting on an ongoing investigation, just as official regulations demand. But while verbally telling the gumshoe that he's out of luck, Da Chief very obviously lays the appropriate file on his desk. They stare at each other for a minute before Da Chief says something akin to, "I'm going to go get a cup of coffee. Whatever you do, don't read this Top Secret file that just happens to be about the case you were asking about, and just happens to be on my desk, do you hear?"

And as soon as Da Chief is out of the room, the Private Detective starts reading the file, just like Da Chief knew he would.

A staple of cop shows, but occasionally seen elsewhere, Stepping Out For A Quick Cup Of Coffee is when someone (usually Da Chief) uses an ostentatious display of deliberate carelessness in order to allow someone else to skirt procedure, without making him technically guilty of assisting the violation. It can also be used to allow someone to leak confidential information without technically violating confidentiality (such as a lawyer or doctor constrained by attorney-client/doctor-patient privilege). Compare Could Say It But.

See also Donut Mess with a Cop. If the authority figure feigns ignorance without actually stepping away from the situation, it's I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That. Not to do with a father stepping out for coffee.


Examples

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     Anime And Manga  

  • Bleach: In the Captain Amagai anime filler arc, the captains are baffled when Ichigo and Rukia apparently turn against Soul Society (they're protecting a high-ranking noble child from a plot to destroy her family that's being kept secret from the Gotei 13). The captains are ordered to hunt them down which is a problem for the Sixth Division as its captain is Rukia's brother, Ichigo's friend, and an even higher ranked noble than the affected family. He abandons the mission to Renji, an ally of Ichigo and Rukia's, locking himself out of the loop so he can turn a blind eye to anything Renji might do.
    Byakuya: "You are in charge of the search party. Something wrong?"
    Renji: "Captain, what are you going to do?"
    Byakuya: "About what?"
    Renji: "Ichigo and Rukia! There's got to be some sort of explanation for this! They'd never do something like this without a good reason!"
    Byakuya: "And what of it? I have no compassion for those who threaten the peace of Soul Society. I will repeat myself: I am leaving the search party to you."
    Renji: "Oh?! You're leaving it completely to me?! Understood, sir!"
  • Silver Spoon: Hachiken, while working on the Mikage farm, is offered a wide variety of fresh foods. When it comes to milk, though, he is sternly told off by Grandpa Mikage, who points out that it is illegal to sell unpasteurised dairy products. He then points out that the law says nothing about the portion farmers keep for themselves, and that he couldn't be held responsible if someone were to open the bulk cooler and take a sip or two while he... goes out for a bit.

     Comic Books  

  • In the Ultimate universe's adaptation of the Clone Saga, Peter and Jessica Drew (his Opposite-Sex Clone) find themselves trapped in a warehouse, with Nick Fury and a bunch of SHIELD soldiers there to arrest them. Before that can happen, Doctor Octopus comes waltzing in and smugly informs them all that he got off scot-free from all of the crimes he did and was able to more or less pervert Peter's life and all he stood for, by being signed on to run the CIA's cloning program and making a bunch of Spider-Man clone soldiers. Because of his protection with the CIA, Fury can't touch him. So Fury orders all of his soldiers to take a five minute coffee break, leaving no one to stop Peter and Jessica from beating the shit out of Doc Ock. Bonus points for Peter actually asking for Fury to invoke this trope, just so he can have a chance to beat Doc Ock up before being arrested.
  • In Marvel Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is confined to base after shooting down his wing guard; he's having a crisis of faith and wants to escape the hostility of the Rebels, so Lando lets him borrow the Millennium Falcon... by saying he has to report Luke coming into the hangar, and he will - after he goes and has his cape laundered.
  • During the first, extended Hobgoblin storyarc in Spider-Man, Spidey wants police information on crook Lefty Donovan, whom he suspects is the Hobgoblin (actually, he's Hobgoblin's Dragon). He goes to speak to Detective Lou Snider, and asks to see Donovan's criminal history. Snider tells him that's information only for cops, as he places the information on his desk, and then steps out of the room, saying he had something in his eye.
  • A combination of this and Could Say It But shows up in one issue of The X-Files comic. Scully is doing an autopsy on a person who died under seemingly miraculous circumstances. A woman and a crippled child come in to see the body of the "saint."
    Scully: I can't let you in. However, I am going for coffee in a few minutes, and, well, maybe I'll forget to lock the door.

     Film  

  • Done in Absence of Malice. The District Attorney tells his secretary to wait for five minutes into his meeting with a reporter, then call him. During his meeting with the reporter, he casually mentions that the information is in the folder he's holding, but that he can't show her the file. When he gets the call from his secretary, he steps out of the office, leaving the report sitting on his desk. The reporter, still in the office, takes the bait and reads the contents of the folder. The reporter's paper runs the story the next day, which is exactly what the District Attorney wanted.
  • This was done in the 1987 Dragnet movie. Joe Friday goes to get coffee so that Pep can use Torture for Fun and Information on a captured mook. This works at first, but when the perp tries to clam up again, Pep comments that "some donuts would go real nice with this coffee".
    Pep: Well... Emil... I guess it's just you and me and... your balls... and this drawer.
  • The Dark Knight: After a bit of fruitless interrogation of the Joker by Comissioner Gordon:
    Gordon: If we're gonna play games, I'm gonna need some coffee.
    The Joker: (sarcastically) The old Good Cop/Bad Cop routine?
    Gordon: Not exactly.
    Gordon leaves. After a moment, the lights turn on, and Batman is revealed to have been behind the Joker the whole time. He immediately slams the Joker's head into the table.
  • A variant at the end of The Jackal. Declan, the IRA terrorist helping to find The Jackal, doesn't get his early release in exchange for helping take him down and stop him from assassinating the First Lady of the United States. (His handler Preston does say that he'll get transferred to a minimum-security prison.) At the end of the movie, Preston says that he'll go to get a cup of coffee and that he'll be back in...30 minutes. Declan understands that that's his cue to just walk away a free man.
  • In Thor, Heimdall does this at the Bifrost Bridge to allow the Warriors Three and Lady Sif to travel to Earth without disobeying Loki's orders.
  • A variant happens in Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising. The GMPC paladin wouldn't allow the characters to torture an NPC, so they fool him into thinking there are more evil doers outside.
    I shall spread the buttery justice of Therin over the toast of your inequity!
    The succulent jam of light shall sweeten the sougherdough of your evil ways!
    The creamer of light will dull the bitterness of your evil unholy coffee taste!
    The spatula of purity shall scramble the eggs of your maleficence!
    • Later on, when they have a demon in their custody. They threaten to torture him, but the demon points out that a paladin won't just stand by for this. The paladin's response:
    Paladin: My, what fine yet rustic architecture.
    • And then he walks off to check it out.
  • In the 2004 version of Jackie Chan's New Police Story, Jackie and his sidekick are in a jail cell, with the entire police force sympathizing with him. Their guard makes a show of announcing that he needs to go take a piss, "carelessly" dropping his keys on the floor as he walks out. His partner (who is also his daughter) makes a big show of chasing him out, nagging that he drinks too much coffee, kicking the keys into the jail cell just in case Jackie didn't get the hint. Once Jackie and his partner unlock the door and try to quietly sneak out of the station, they come face to face with Da Chief, a vocal critic of theirs. Who turns around and walks back into his office without comment.
  • In The Notebook, when the ailing Noah wants to visit his equally ill wife Allie. The nurse on duty gently but firmly tells him that it's not allowed. . .then declares her intent to go and get herself some coffee before very pointedly turning her back and walking away.
  • We're the Millers: As a DEA agent, Don cannot allow them to leave once he finds out they are drug smuggling. Especially since they endangered his family with Pablo Chacon chasing them. He states that he will have to fulfill his duty of arresting them...just as soon as he finishes turning around to hug his family.

     Literature  
  • Happens in Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, except that cop Bigfoot Bjornson does this at a Greasy Spoon with the protagonist.
  • In the Mercy Thompson series Blood Bound, Tony tells another cop to do this when Tony realizes who is involved with the situation.
    To the other cop, "Hey, John. Why don't you grab us both a cup of coffee?"
    "How long should I take?"
    "This won't take more than ten minutes."
  • In Hornblower and the Hotspur, Hornblower's new steward, Doughty, is due to hang because he struck an officer in a rare fit of anger. Hornblower ends up arranging a series of seeming coincidences such that Doughty is unrestrained, unguarded, and most of the crew's attention is directed forward when Hornblower leaves him alone in his cabin at the stern of the ship with the window open, and an American ship, the USS Constitution, a short distance away.
  • In Proven Guilty, Harry needs to illegally pick a lock, so tells Murphy (a police detective) to "look at that zeppelin" while he does so. She concedes to necessity and turns her back, but isn't happy about it.
  • One Monk novel, Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop, plays this when Monk and Natalie visit the police station to confront Randy, now an acting captain instead of a lieutenant, for arresting Stottlemeyer (who had been framed). Randy even does that "get a cup of coffee line" and leaves the case file out on the desk for them.

     Live Action TV  

  • In New Tricks, Sandra Pullman does this after a celebrity chef she believes (but cannot prove) murdered her husband pulls a Hannibal Lecture on her.
    Pullman: While we can't prove anything, it's possible that someone carelessly left the file lying around in a public place, where a journalist could find it.
    Journalist: ...and where would this place be?
    Pullman: [places file on the table] How should I know?
  • This happens in Yes, Minister.
  • Life On Mars as well.
  • And Police Squad!.
  • One episode of Law & Order has a lawyer who has confidential attorney-client information which holds a clue to helping the detectives solve the murder. His client isn't a suspect or even related to the crime investigation at all - but the detectives need the information, so the lawyer conspicuously leaves them alone in the room for exactly five minutes (he even says how long he'll be out), and they read it. Not admissible in court, obviously, but it's just one tip-off in a long line of clues, so it doesn't become an issue.
  • NCIS. When Franks located the location of the killer of Gibbs's family before he was working with him, he stated that he certainly couldn't tell Gibbs this, before leaving the folder on his desk and heading to the bathroom. Sure enough the killer was mysterously already killed by a sniper round when the FBI tried to arrest him.
  • Deconstructed in an episode of JAG: An up-and-coming attorney, Lieutenant Singer, arranges for Mac to find a file with information she wasn't authorized to see for a case she was working, which results in Mac getting thrown off the case (allowing Singer to take the lead on it).
  • Happens in the series of Hornblower. Horatio allows his steward, under sentence of death for striking a superior officer, to escape by leaving him alone in his cabin, commenting "You're a useful man. You can cook... and you can swim." Later when he is seen swimming to safety on a nearby American ship (which happens to be the USS Liberty), Horatio says something along the lines of "Oh, damn, I left the window open. Silly me." He even ensures that his men won't fire at Doughty, warning them not to shoot in the direction of the neutral American ship he is swimming towards.
    • The original book version goes into a fair bit of detail regarding how Hornblower arranges a complex series of coincidences to ensure Doughty was left alone and unguarded, in a room with an open window, with the attention of the watch crew focused elsewhere, less than 70 yards from the USS Constitution. Hornblower was understandably very stressed about the possibility that Doughty would be spotted too soon, or that Bush would realise how Hornblower had arranged it all (and be duty-bound to report it).
  • Discussed and averted on Babylon 5. The security chief, Garibaldi, has been shot in the back by his second in command, who is later found out and arrested by the station personnel. The other security guards offer to "keep an eye" on the prisoner while The Captain "goes for a walk", an offer which Captain Sheridan declines.
  • In an episode of Law & Order: SVU, a woman is raped, and Benson tries to talk her into undergoing a rape kit. But all she (the woman who was raped) wants to do is take a Shower of Angst. Benson collects the panties the woman was wearing when attacked off the floor while she does so. The panties have all the DNA evidence needed to convict the suspect, but since they were obtained illegally (Benson had neither a search warrant nor permission from the panties' owner), that evidence cannot be used. And Benson does get in trouble with Cragen...and Warner is pissed at her too, for dragging her into that mess.
    • In the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Courtship", a psychologist hands over his file on the detective's lead suspect (known only as "Client X" at this point) with a casual "I never gave you this", and then leaves his own office, allowing the detectives to read the file.
  • A variation in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine occurs when Sisko has to warn Cardassia of an impending Klingon invasion without breaking the treaty with the Klingons. So he calls in Garak, a former Cardassian spy turned tailor in exile, to take his measurements while he just so happens to be discussing the Klingon force in detail with his senior staff.
  • A variation occurs in one episode of The Closer. When a detective at a rape treatment center tells Brenda and Provenza that she can't let them see the examination results of one of their patients, Provenza suggests that she might want to read her notes out loud to herself, and it's not like it's her fault if they happen to overhear.
  • In Elementary, Sherlock and the police need a file, but the man who has it can't give it to them due to confidentiality. Sherlock takes the man aside, says he knows he's using meth, and if he hands over the file it will remain a secret. He even recommends a rehab center. The man puts the file on his desk, and goes to the bathroom.
  • On Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, there are several instances where the titular character begs Horace, the local telegraph operator, to reveal the contents of telegrams that he has sent or received (usually because of her efforts to help someone who might be the topic of one of the those messages). He refuses, as he's taken an oath to ensure people's privacy. But in one instant, he hands her the notepad that the message was written on (he's destroyed the paper, but the imprint of the message is still there), and in another he declares his intent to go for a walk, leaving Dr. Quinn alone in the office and thus able to snoop until she gets the info that she needs.
  • There was an episode of Malcolm in the Middle wherein Reese ran away from home and joined the army with the help of a fake ID. When Lois goes to fix the problem ( i.e. forcibly bring him back) she is basically informed that that's impossible. She is told this by Reese's drill sergeant who sympathizes with Lois's desire to protect her child (in her own trademark, sadistic way) and so he offers up this gem:
    Drill Sergeant: "I wish I could help you. I wish I could just open this drawer up [opens drawer] and show you the information you need. But I can't. [gets up to go to the window] It's got me so frustrated that I just want to stare intently out this window for, oh, say, a hundred and twenty seconds."
  • In an episode of Burn Notice, Sam and Jesse convince an employee that they can get him hired at a much nicer job, but on condition that he lets them have his employer's personnel files. He settles on this trope as a way to appease his conscience.
  • In an episode of Titus, after finding out Amy was raped as a little girl by a family friend and confronting the perp in the bathroom, the school principal (who'd heard the whole thing) says he'll call security... and that it'll take him about 5 minutes or maybe 30... in the end he tells Titus and his family to let him know when he's done calling them.
  • A non-police example comes in the form of Kamen Rider Gaim in which, after he gets practically threatened by Mitsuzane into giving him a Sengoku Driver, Sid "leaves" one on his couch complete with a working Lock Seed, "trusting" that Mitsuzane would return them to him.

     Tabletop RPG  

  • Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Paladins used to have to follow extremely strict Lawful Good rules, including not torturing prisoners (or allowing them to be tortured). It was stated in early writings that paladins couldn't allow themselves to be "led away" from the party for a while so the rest of the group could torture a prisoner for information.

     Video Games  

  • In Chrono Cross, Nikki's personal storyline involves his desire to learn a song that will make the monsters haunting Marbule tangible, so that they can be destroyed. The only person who knows this song is Marbule's Sage, who is now a janitor on a cruise ship. The Sage initially refuses to teach it to Nikki, but (after Nikki proves he honestly wants to help) declares he has to sweep the upper decks... "while I hum myself a tune".
  • In Jade Empire, the Minister of Tien's Landing is strictly prohibited from enlisting the aid of adventurers in stopping the Assassin plot at the dam. But if he were to leave the key lying around and someone were to find it... (One of your possible responses is "Hey! Did you just give me a key?")
  • Escaton of Might and Magic VIII does not want to do what he is doing, but his programming keeps him from stoppingnote . His solution that we actually see is not quite this tropenote . The version that the game tells us are told in taverns all over Jadame, on the other hand, has him put plot-relevant magical keys on the table in front of him, tell you that if they disappear while he isn't watching, "how will he know how they went missing?", and then turn around to study the wall.
  • RuneScape: In the quest "Diamond in the Rough", Spymaster Osman takes you and Ozan to the room from which the two of you tried to steal a jewel in a previous quest, for very good reasons. Osman officially can't let you do that, and he was surprisingly lenient last time he caught you. He gives a hint as to where the real jewel is (the previous one having been fake), then leaves, locking the door behind him. He was kind enough to retie the rope to the skylight from your previous visit.

     Visual Novels  

  • In Ivan's route in Lucky Dog 1 Ivan is forced to rescue a kidnapped Rosalia alone while the rest of The Mafia fight a rival gang. Gian wants to go with Ivan - worried that he's going to get killed - so Bernando, charged with the task of watching Gian, gives an unsubtle command to his guards to look in the opposite direction so Gian can "escape". Of course, when Gian gets in trouble for this Bernando swears blind no such thing occurred and that Gian just happened to jump out of the slow-moving car in Ivan's at precisely the right moment.

     Real Life  

  • It is believed by many that several leaks about upcoming UK government spending cuts were made on purpose since all these leaks happened in the form of a government minister (usually Danny Alexander) walking out of Downing Street with a bundle of files with the relevant portion on top, uncovered, and surrounded by long lens cameras.
  • This teacher says the Trope almost word-to-word, hoping that no protesting students get up to mischief while he's on his break. He especially hopes that they don't push that BIG BUTTON over there. That would be terrible.


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