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The Exit Is That Way
That would have been a very dramatic exit, if only her room was down that hall.
Dr. Frasier Crane, Frasier

Alice and Bob have an argument, usually with Alice questioning Bob's planning or general capability.

Either way, Bob acts indignant and shocked, insists he knows exactly what he's doing and storms off.

After a brief pause, Alice politely points out that Bob is going the wrong way. Bob makes an embarrassed excuse and sheepishly wanders out in the right direction.

Common variations include Alice not saying anything, but seeing Bob go one way, then hurriedly switching to the opposite direction, or Bob entering a closet.

Similar scenes can be used to show that a character is particularly flustered or worried, or to show that a character is infiltrating. As a variant, Bob may have just expressed sudden resolve and set off to do some dramatic, plot-important event, but his conviction turns into comic effect by his mistake in direction.

See also Your Other Left, House Amnesia, Door Focus, Crossing the Burnt Bridge. Often used as a tool of providing a Failed Attempt at Drama.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The pilots break into their HQ using air vents. Asuka pompously begins leading off, before Rei points out she's going the wrong way.
  • A variation is used in the final arc of Ranma 1/2: upon hearing about the bird people coming after Plum, Ryoga detects that two of them are in the room and makes a show of hurling his bamboo parasol in the direction of their hiding space...only to realize that, true to form, he threw it in the exact opposite direction.
    • A second variation comes from the anime adaptation of the Breaking Point storyline. After turning down Cologne's initial offer to train him, Ryoga takes his leave. The next scene shows him wandering into the living room and sheepishly asking them to tell him the way out... again. The subbed version has Shampoo claim that this is the tenth time Ryoga has had to ask. And he still gets it wrong- he follows Shampoo's directions and ends up at the toilet. Ryoga has No Sense of Direction.

    Film 
  • In the film It's a Wonderful Life, a drunken Uncle Billy walks home, needing George to point him in the right direction.
  • Done by the title character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, when after Eddie refuses to help him, he walks out in a huff... or tries to, anyway. Eddie helpfully shouts "That's the closet!"
  • In The American President, President Shepherd (Michael Douglas) and lobbyist Sidney Wade (Annette Benning) get into a heated discussion in the Oval Office. She starts to storm out and the President stops her, telling her that that door goes into his private study, and then points out the proper exit.
  • In the Extended Edition of Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf tells Frodo to lead the Fellowship out of Rivendell. When he gets to the gate, Frodo whispers to Gandalf: "Mordor, Gandalf - is it left or right?" Gandalf, of course, gives him the right answer: left...
  • During the second of the Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant's character is in a hotel room when the bride and groom enter, intent on consummating right there and then. Charles edges his way towards a door and slips through. Later we cut back, just as the bride and groom are in the middle of yet more noisy sex, and the door creaks open. Charles is sitting on a sink in a hidden en-suite, looking distinctly uncomfortable. Eventually, he gives up, steps boldly out of the cupboard, flourishes a pencil, exclaims "Found it!" and leaves by the real door.
  • The Ben Affleck film Man About Town features this as a Running Gag with a boardrooms door being right next to an identical door to a closet. Afleck at one point dramatically storms out of the boardroom, slams the door behind him and then reappears a second later to shout about the bad layout of the room.
  • In the film Adams Rib, two characters conclude an argument by going to adjoining apartments and slamming the doors shut...then sheepishly crossing the hall, as each has accidentally gone to the other's apartment.
  • In the movie of The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy, Zaphod has just set their course for the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, only to have Marvin point out that the restaurant is at the other end of the universe.
    • This could be a more extreme example. In every adaptation where the restaurant is actually shown, it's at the temporal end of the universe.
  • Happens to Sam and his military escort at the start of Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe as they get turned around on the way to Sam's court martial.
  • In The Israeli independent movie Hamossad Hasagur, Michal, who always wanted to be a kindergardner, is told by Rami to go take care of the career soldiers' children. She walks in the direction of his hand movement, but then comes back only to tell him that it's the other way around.
  • In Mel Brooks' Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Dracula hypnotizes Mina from outside her bedroom window and instructs her to leave her room. She dreamily flows to a door, opens it, steps through, and closes it behind her.
    Dracula: Mina ... you are in the closet.
  • In The World's Greatest Athlete, a bumbling coach gives the football team a pep talk in the locker room. When he tells the team to go, they all race out the door with renewed determination. A few seconds later, the team comes back in through the door, soaking wet. The door they went through led to the showers, not the field!

    Literature 
  • Inverted in The Last Continent, when Rincewind is told he's needed for a dangerous quest, and immediately starts running like hell. The quest-issuing creature follows; when Rincewind shouts that he's not going to stop for anything, he's told he's already running in the right direction.
    • Played with in Jingo, when two rival fishermen grab their sons and rush for the beaches, frantic to sail back to their home cities and lay claim to a newly-discovered island. Each man reaches the shore, realizes they grabbed the wrong boy, then rushes back to exchange sons while accusing the other of kidnapping.

     Live Action TV 
  • Red Dwarf
  • Scrubs uses this a lot.
    J.D.: Now let's see how you like it when I walk away from you.
    [Exits right]
    [Walks back on screen]
    J.D.: Actually, I need to go this way.
    [Exits left]
    [Walks back on screen]
    J.D.: Right the first time.
    [Exits right]
  • In an episode of Frasier, Daphne has an argument with Frasier about her whereabouts before storming off to her room. Alas, she goes the wrong way, leading to the quote at the top of the page.
    • There's another episode where this trope is used in spirit; Frasier and Diane have a long heart-to-heart and they come to terms with their history together, and Frasier says his heartfelt goodbyes and turns to leave in this perfect moment... only to accidentally walk out the stage door, which has been designed to look like the Cheers bar, and have to sheepishly turn back and find the right door.
      Frasier: Force of habit.
      Diane: I've been doing it all week.
  • A more dramatic version is seen on an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent when a the victim's mother asked the detectives for directions to the elevator in the court house. They gave her the directions and they talked for a little bit. The woman left and then Detective Logan said, "The elevators are this way." The woman nodded politely and walked away.
  • There is an instance involving Ainsley Hayes, Jed Bartlet, Leo McGarry, and a closet which is not a bathroom on The West Wing.
    • In the episode "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen Part II", C.J., after falling into her pool, says she's going into her house to change and then she'll discuss the job Toby's offered her. Because she's not wearing her glasses or contacts, Toby has to point out she's walking in the wrong direction.
    • Played for Drama in "Ellie"; after Ellie gets chewed out by Bartlet in his office, she starts to leave, only to indicate she has no idea where the exit is. He points it out to her.
  • In Boy Meets World, Cory saved face after walking into a closet by saying "And I'm taking back my sweater!" and storming out with it.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Army Of Ghosts", The Doctor strides out of a Torchwood lab and heads left. Yvonne Hartman immediately says "No, Doctor" and he heads right.
    • In "The Shakespeare Code", the Doctor and Martha run down a street, with Martha protesting that they're going the wrong way, and the Doctor assuring her that they're not. Two seconds later, they're running in the opposite direction, and the Doctor admits that they were going the wrong way.
    • Also done in "School Reunion". Mickey assures Rose that he knows what he's doing and saunters off. He returns sheepishly a moment later to ask her for directions.
  • Angel, "Ground State": Angel, Gunn, and Fred are breaking into an auction house. Fred has just explained the plan in detail. The men boldly head off, one to the left and one to the right... at which point Fred shouts "Guys!" Embarrassed, they switch directions.
  • On an episode of The Mighty Boosh, Howard has a flashback of when the soul of jazz tricks him into signing away Howard's soul to him. After the evil jazz soul gets mad at Howard for not telling him his hat is on fire (and "ruining his exit") he stomps off to the right of the screen. Seconds later, he comes back, saying "There isn't an exit there, it's a damn toilet." and walks off to the left of the screen.
  • Once on Australias Got Talent, in real life, on national television: after a successful audition, Nobel Lakaev skipped off in the wrong direction before he figured out that off-stage was over there and skipped right back across the stage, pointing sheepishly.
  • A variant occurs in Black Books: Fran yells at Bernard for how his grumpy, misanthropic behaviour drove Manny off, says she doesn't want to see him for a while, and storms out of the shop. She immediately returns, having forgotten her purse, and storms off again.
  • Variant on American Idol: "Other door" practically became a Catch Phrase in the seventh season. The audition rooms were always double-doored, but only one of these doors ever opened, and, having entered through one of those doors, auditioners would inevitably try to leave through the other one. Which did not open. This also happened to Simon once. (This seemed to be a problem at every location they visited, making you wonder if they weren't setting the doors up like that on purpose to further embarrass the contestants.)
  • Leverage, "The Three Days of the Hunter Job", when Sophie takes a turn planning a con. She finishes telling the team all about the mark, but her closing line falls flat. Nate tells her she should turn and leave the room at that point to make it more dramatic. She does, and Nate quietly remarks, "She's walking into the closet."
  • A two-in-one example from Castle; Castle is dating a Hollywood actress. Beckett is pretending not to be bugged by this. They have an argument about her intentions, which ends with Castle turning around to get a cup of coffee from the squad room and Beckett turning to go to the murder board. Unfortunately, both are pulling an Exit Is That Way, meaning they must turn around and walk sheepishly past each other to get to where they actually want to go.
  • In the Top Gear Botswana special, James May manages to set off in the wrong direction - towards Zimbabwe. (At a time when the BBC were banned from Zimbabwe.) Fortunately he quickly realises his error.
  • A particularly unusual (and funny) example occurs in Father Ted; the shot is composed so the viewer can only see the open door, and when Father Dougal walks behind it, apparently to leave the room, he sheepishly re-emerges a few seconds later, having walked the wrong side of the open door, missing the exit entirely.
    • The same joke has, however, been repeatedly used thirty years before on Get Smart.
  • In the Being Human episode "Puppy Love", Emrys, believing that he has completed his unfinished business, tries to cross over and walks into a cupboard.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Kevin Hart discusses this in his special Seriously Funny. He talks about when he gets in a fight with his wife and storms out the house, only to run back in to get his keys and wallet. Or even worse, pack his son's baby bag so he can go with him.

    Theater 
  • A variation of this is done in the Musical Wicked. After helping Elphaba rescue a lion cub and an awkward romantic moment, Fiyero takes the cub and runs off stage to take it to safety. Then, Fiyero runs back across stage pointing in the other direction and miming 'that way'.
  • The play Play On, which is about a community theater production, has a moment when one of the actors accidentally exits through the door to the servant's quarters instead of the door to the stairs. One of the other actors calls after him to tell him he's going the wrong way, and he turns around...only to go all the way past the windows instead. The other actors try to cover for him, saying, "He must be using the outside staircase."
  • Subverted in Legally Blonde The Musical, with Elle making a dramatic exit with the parting line, "I'm never wearing that [a navy blue suit] again." When one of the other characters points out that she's in the supply closet, she replies, "I know! I said I'm never wearing that again...I'm wearing THIS!" and emerges in a hot pink suit.
  • Used in the production of Hamlet in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). Hamlet declares, "The time is out of joint—O cursed spite, that ever I was born to exit RIGHT!" He then starts to exit, only to realize that he is exiting stage left and quickly reverse direction.

    Video Games 
  • Done towards the end of The Secret of Monkey Island when Guybrush is heading for the church to rescue Elaine, but only if the player directs him to walk the wrong way.

    Webcomics 
  • Not about the exit, but definitely the wrong way: In this strip of Loserz.
    "Uh, guys? Jodie would be that-a-way."
    • Also in a Loserz strip, a sleep drunk Eric walks into the closet instead of leaving the house for school one morning.
    Eric: Who left all these coats out here?
  • Kyran from Emergency Exit:
    Delaine: Door's that way.
    Kyran: BAH! I don't need doors!
    ...
    Kyran: Ok, yes I do. But gosh dorn it, I'm going to use it dramatically!
  • Claire from Bite Me!:
    Claire: This is a matter of life and death! RESCUE HO!
    SLAM!
    Luther: I believe she just strode into a closet.
    Lucien:Yes, but it's very big, so it'll take her a while.

     Web Original 
  • Legendary Frog's parody Flash animation of the Lord of the Rings had Frodo eagerly tell Sam after destroying the One Ring, "Let's go home!", and walks off. A moment later, he walks back the other way and says, still as cheerful and eager as he was before, "The Shire is this way."

     Western Animation 
  • In Disney's Hercules, Hades frees the Titans with mighty fanfare as they all march forth to destroy Zeus. Hades interrupts their cries of "Destroy Zeus!" with the comment, "Uh, guys? Olympus would be that way."
    • Continuity Nod in the TV series episode "Hercules and the Twilight of the Gods": All the baddies of the Norse pantheon march off in much the same way, with cries of "Ragnarok!", and a prominent sign indicates that they are, indeed, heading to Mount Olympus. Loki interrupts to let them know that, since they're Norse monsters, they should be heading to Valhalla instead.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Bart breaks into a blind man's house to get his dog back. When the man comes downstairs, Bart attempts to flee.
    "I may be blind, but you just ran into a closet!"
    • In The Movie: Burns has sent the dogs. After a small bit of chasing, he reminds his "visitors" of where the exit is.
  • On a very special episode of Clone High, Abe Lincoln, while talking to Joan of Arc on a dock, attempts to dramatically stride back to shore. "Goodbye, Joan." He walks the wrong way, and falls into the water. "Goodbye, Joan."
  • In a Terrible Thunder Lizards segment of the Eek! The Cat cartoon Mr. T.Rex lead the Thunder Lizards away from the command center... into a bathroom.
  • Variation in The Movie of Dexter's Laboratory. Dexter uses a time machine to go into the future, only to discover that his house is very different in the future, and runs into random rooms trying to find the front door. Unable to find it and frustrated, he uses a secret escape hatch underneath a lamp, which apparently was never changed.
  • As the cliffhanger to the Legion of Doom episode of Justice League, the heroes all dramatically walk away in different directions, indicating the end of the League. However, they are in an enclosed warehouse. Fridge Logic dictates that at least some of them had to turn around and find another exit. Although if they were proud enough, most of them they could have just made one...
  • Pixar's A Bug's Life has Manny the mantis magician walking offscreen and causing a loud crash in an attempt to get to the circus tent. His wife Gypsy, used to this, doesn't even look up as she corrects him.
    Gypsy: The stage is the other way, dear.
    Manny: Yes of course!
    • Happens to Atta as a sign that she's beginning to fall for Flik
      Atta: I've got to go... uh.. check on the bird. [walks off]
      Atta: [reappearing] Bird's.. um.. that way...
      Flik: [seeing all the other insects looking at him with 'isn't that sweet' expressions] What?
  • Looney Tunes loves this trope. From "Fallin' Hare":
    The Gremlin: Hmm! That way! *points in two directions, eyes crossed*
    Bugs Bunny: Gee, thanks a lot, George! *knocked out*
  • Seen in one episode of American Dad!.
    Francine: Stan, honey, that's a closet.
  • In Bolt, Rhino sets off after Bolt with a long monologue beginning with "If Bolt's taught me anything, it's that you never abandon a friend in a time of need!", but he sets off in the wrong direction.
  • Variant in Transformers: Robots In Disguise: Team Bullet Train arrives in search of the Predacons, and Midnight Express starts carefully picking his way among the civilians - but then Railspike points out that they're in the opposite direction.
  • In the VeggieTales episode "The Star of Christmas", Cavis (Bob), thinking that Millward (Larry) and Seymour (Pa Grape) are walking out on him when their musical isn't going as planned, "shows them the door" with an indignant face, and it turns out to be the closet. When he opens the right door, he checks quickly before making the face.
  • An unusual version is seen in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Boast Busters", after Twilight Sparkle and Spike have an argument that involves her creating a door in the middle of the room in front of him. In the end, he slams it on her again, but of course has to come away from behind it after that to actually leave.
  • An episode of The Weekenders involved Tish forcing the others to participate in a radio play. During rehersal (in Tino's room) she becomes more and more demanding, until finally Carver has a prima-donna moment and declares, "I can't work under these conditions! I'm going to my trailer!" and walks into Tino's closet, slamming the door. When this is pointed out? "A real actor can make the audience believe a closet is a trailer."
  • And also in My Life as a Teenage Robot.
  • Simultaneously lampshaded and averted in the Gravity Falls episode "The Hand That Rocks the Mabel":
    (Grunkle Stan exits, slamming door behind him)
    Soos: Dude, wouldn't it be funny if that was a closet, and he had to come back out again and walk out the real door? (opens door and looks out) Nope, real door.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: In "The Wild Brood", Sheriff Stone attempts to leave Daphne's bedroom and instead walks into her closet. Where he gets lost.
  • In an early episode of Family Guy, Peter and Chris's favorite show Gumbel And Gumbel is cancelled, leading Peter to storm to the networks headquarters and demand it be brought back.
    Secretary: Sir, you can't go in there.
    Peter: Oh yeah? Just watch me! (Peter attempts to burst through the door only to smack into a brick wall, as it turns out the door is just a scenery prop.)
  • In the 1977 Christmas Special A Flintstones Christmas, Mr. Slate asks Fred to perform as Santa at a charity event their wives are hosting. Fred, relived due to thinking Slate was firing him, takes the costume and leaves through the nearest door, not looking to see which one.
    Mr Slate: Flintstone, will you get out of my closet?!

     Real Life 
  • According to Dick Nunis, who was the area manager for Adventureland at Disneyland at the time, he once got into an argument with Walt Disney about making changes to an area in the park to improve guest flow. Apparently, after Disney refused, Nunis called him an asshole and tried to dramatically leave the room... only to accidentally walk into the closet.

Failed Dramatic ExitThis Index Has Left the BuildingHouse Amnesia
Thanks for the MammaryAlice and BobThe Matchmaker
Failed Dramatic ExitComedy TropesHouse Amnesia

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