A character on the show has been less than forthcoming about information that would have certainly helped the protagonist figure things out faster. Often, there's a good reason — a Big Secret or an Awful Truth, for example. In reality, the writers just needed a way to protract the story or build the suspense.
There are two ways this trope is generally employed:
Version one: The detectives or crime labs find evidence that their main suspect in the crime couldn't possibly have committed the murder because he had some other alibi. Usually, the secret they are keeping is illegal, immoral or highly embarrassing, but scriptwriters usually fail completely in getting viewers to accept that the perpetrator wouldn't have volunteered that information anyway to avoid going to prison for the primary crime. Usually used ham-handedly in crime dramas to get the Red Herring out of the way and move suspicion off of the patsy.
Cop: You didn't tell us that you were having an illicit affair with your secretary while betting on backroom cockfights. Perp: You didn't ask.
Version two: Used when a Forgotten Superweapon is in the pocket of a non-primary character. This can often feel a bit like Deus ex Machina, if the viewer was not given enough advanced warning that the character actually had this in their pocket.
Hero: Why didn't you tell me you had that Applied Phlebotinum in your pocket? Sidekick: You didn't ask.
Similar excuses include forgetfulness ("Didn't I tell you this?"), not realizing that the other person actually needs the information ("I thought you already knew."), or underestimating the importance of the information ("I didn't think it was important."). The last can be somewhat justified if said information is of an embarrassing nature. A Trickster Mentor, vague prophet, or similar enigmatic figure may deliberately withhold information until asked, either because they can't reveal it otherwise or they need the other characters to keep consulting with them.
This idea is often used when computers or Artificial Intelligence are involved. Because computers are extremely literal, it often happens that the computer or AI knows the answer to solve the problem, but since they weren't asked (or weren't asked correctly)...
A stock response to You Never Did That for Me. Compare Didn't See That Coming & Locked Out of the Loop. Often they Didn't Ask about something that could have prevented the whole mess.You Can Talk? may also figure in the conversation.
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In a recent commercial for Ally Bank, there are two girls in a room with a man. He asks one "Would you like a pony?" When she accepts, gives her a small, plastic toy pony. He then asks the other "Would you like a pony?" When she accepts, clicks his tongue a few times to bring out a real pony for her.
Girl with toy: You didn't say I could have a real one. Businessman: Well, you didn't ask.
An Australian radio ad for a company capable of cashing cheques without a waiting period or something of the sort:
Bloke 1: Why didn't you tell me about [company]? Bloke 2: You didn't ask, mate. You didn't ask.
Anime & Manga
Xellos from Slayersloves this trope, and often cheerfully informs the group of such hidden things when they finally ask him about them incredulously. Examples include the fact he used their entire planned heist as a distraction for his, his nature as a mazoku (demon), and numerous other such subjects. However, he does have limits: if he doesn't feel like revealing something, his trademark Catch Phrase "That... is a secret!" is all anyone's going to get from him.
This is very justified in Xellos's case, since he feeds on negative emotions and gets quite a bit of pleasure out of watching the others squirm. There's also the fact that his goals are often different from those of the group...
In Ranma Ĺ, this is literally UkyŰ Kuonji's explanation for not revealing that Wholesome CrossdresserTsubasa Kurenai was a boy she met while infiltrating an all-boy's school until after Ranma has been running around trying to "out-girl" him. For added bonus, she claims that since nobody asked, she figured they must have known — Akane immediately Lampshades how stupid an assumption that is.
Urusei Yatsura: In one manga chapter, Ataru, Lum and several of their friends went camping. Lum was making lunch and everyone were happy... but Ataru. He adamantly -who usually eats ANYTHING and EVERYTHING he can have his hands on- refused eating. His friends nagged him about rudely rejecting Lum food... and then they tried it. Right away they dragged it away and asked him why he had not warned them Lum's food is very spicy. His answer? They did not ask (And he did not want to warn them).
Second variation in Naruto Shippuuden #111. Naruto decides he needs a fire element attack. One of his summoned toads casually mentions that he can use one. Of course, when asked why he never mentioned this before, the reply was that he never asked.
The manga has been going on for hundreds of chapters and only now do we learn that the tailed beasts actually have names. The shinobi typically consider them to be nothing more than mindless monsters or weapons, so they never thought to inquire about their names, which leads to quite a bit of anger on the beast's part that none of the ninja ever bothered to ask them.
In Dragon Ball, Goku's response to Bulma and Krillin realizing the Red Ribbon Army was after him was "No one ever asked me about the Red Ribbon Army."
In Bleach, Kisuke Urahara spams and subverts this trope. He's a Well-Intentioned ExtremistGuile Hero. He'll do the right thing, sure, but he'll lie, trick and manipulate just about everything he says and everyone he meets. However, as Ichigo observes in Chapter 491, if Urahara is asked to give the information, he refuses rather than playing this trope straight and revealing it when asked.
Avdol's survival after his first "death" during the third arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was a well-known fact among the heroes except for Polnareff, who was intentionally kept out of the loop by the others.
A variation of this appears in Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid. During a mission where Mao and Kurz are escaping from the enemies chasing them, they end up getting into SŰsuke's car, resulting in a car Chase Scene complete with the enemy shooting at them. Both Kurz and Mao lament "if only we had the weapons to shoot back at them," and SŰsuke proceeds to ignore them. Then, they notice the enemy catching up, resulting in them realizing they need to lighten the car so they can go faster. They contemplate throwing out their kidnap target from the car.
SŰsuke: Throwing out his body won't be enough and I think the weapons in the backseat are weighting us down, too. Let's scuttle everything. Mao and Kurz: Weapons?! (they pull down the backseat, revealing a whole arsenal of rifles, ammo and a rocket launcher) Why didn't you tell us?!? SŰsuke:(deadpan) I thought I did. Mao: But you didn't, dumbass...
To be honest, considering this is SŰsuke we're talking about here, they should have known he'd have a dozen weapons on him. Mao and Kurz frankly came off as startlingly Genre Blind for not making the first thing they said to SŰsuke, "Where's the arsenal?"
In the fourth sound stage of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Erio and Caro are shocked when Lutecia tells them that her mother has been out of her coma for over a week. When they ask why she didn't tell them when they last visited her, she says they never asked.
in the first series, Yuuno shocks Nanoha by revealing that he was actually a Human boy. He thought that he told her already.
Luffy evidently knew since childhood that Ace was the son of Gold Roger, but never mentioned it. Somewhat justified as Ace is touchy on the subject and doesn't want it to be known for obvious reasons! Sort of funny, considering how bad he otherwise was at keeping secrets.
It's justified because Luffy doesn't care about stuff like that and thus, doesn't have a reason to tell anyone.
A smaller example came in the Alabasta arc: After traveling across half the kingdom to get to the rebel based in Yuba, they find out it was moved to Katorea, a city near where they started. They could have been saved most of the trip if Eyelash(es) (the camel who Chopper was able to talk to) mentioned that the wagon full of guns that accidentally brought Chopper to Katorea was being used by the rebels. He was promptly kicked in the face by Luffy, Sanji, and Usopp for not mentioning this, scoffs it off, and is then kicked in the face again.
Death Note. Used by Ryuk whenever Light comes across a new Death Note rule that hinders his plans.
This is Kyubey's response when asked why he never mentioned that the process of creating a magical girl involves removing their soul from their body.
In fact, that's his standard MO. He has never told an outright lie, not even when asked a direct question, but he never tells the whole truth either. He frequently fails to mention key pieces of information, like the one described above, or magical girls risking, if not being outright doomed, to turn into their enemies, witches, through The Corruption, which might harm his goals. (The one time he had to be deceptive — in ascribing motives to his antagonist Homura — he merely provoked another girl into speculating about her, then nodded and said nothing.) One might chalk this up to his Orange And Blue Morality, and suggest that he doesn't understand why humans consider this information important... but he knows that they think it's important, and so he deliberately avoids it: "This is exactly why I didn't tell you. I always get the same reaction every time I say it."
Given the amount of mistaken dialogue present, this could clear up most of the confusion of the story. One of the characters seems to have gotten Genre Savvy about this. Granted, sometimes it's refused, even when one of the girls is asked directly, she can't answer.
In Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu just kind of forgot to tell all his coworkers (sans Antonio) - for at least a year - that he's a widower with a preteen daughter. They were understandably surprised. EspeciallyKarina.
In Sankarea, the girl attached a GPS to Sanka. Professor Boil berates her for not telling anyone as they have been looking for her for the past few days. She causally replies in her defense, "no one asked me".
In Heartcatch Precure, when Tsubomi, Erika and the recently-recruited Itsuki arrive at the Great Heart Tree for the first time, Itsuki makes mention of the Cure Moonlight dream. Erika wanted to know why she didn't say anything about it and Itsuki really didn't think too much of it. To their credit, though, Tsubomi and Erika was going to ask Itsuki over it, but Itsuki's concerns over her ailing brother took precedence.
Comics — Books
X-Men did this with Wolverine's real name. From his first appearance all the way to the end of the (first) Dark Phoenix Saga, his teammates only knew him as "Wolverine". The audience first learned it second-hand from a leprechaun, and first-hand later on in a conversation with his then-love interest. But the X-Men themselves only learned during a reconciliation with Alpha Flight that his name was "Logan". When asked why he didn't share this information, well... you can guess his answer.
Wolvie was the living embodiment of this trope while Claremont was building him up. "You speak Japanese?" "You worked with them?" etc. For a while it was practically his Catch Phrase.
It was also turned around one time, when Wolverine was surprised ("I didn't know.") to learn the Beast speaks Pashtun, and Hank replied....
Nick Fury once showed up in one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s FlyingCars to pick up The Mighty Thor's civilian identity — yeah, S.H.I.E.L.D. knew who he was, anyway. When Thor made his transformation, Fury nearly lost control of the car, and exclaimed, "Why didn't ya warn me about the special effects?!" Thor's response: "Thou didst not ask."
In the Green Lantern miniseries Emerald Dawn, when Hal Jordan asks why the lantern never told him it could talk, it responded "No inquiry was made". Immediately lampshaded by Hal.
Hal Jordan: "You never asked." Right. Silly of me.
Elbees reason in Knights of the Old Republic for never mentioning a very crucial fact from #10 until 37 issues later. That the Mandalorian warrior Rohlan Dyre weightes 17 kilos less after returning from picking up the unconscious war criminal Demagol.
In Eiga Sentai Scanranger, a story set in Japan has a member of the team dumbstruck to learn that their mentor can speak Japanese (whereupon she quotes the line). This isn't that big a deal to begin with, but it's even dumber because not only is the one who notices a Japanese guy who also speaks Japanese and English, the mentor knowing a second language doesn't even come in handy because a friendly alien uses her powers to enable everyone to understand each other.
In Harry Potter and the Dream Come True Harry asked a sentient sword why it hadn't previously mentioned its ability to turn into a ring and to speak to him telepathically rather than out loud and its response was "You never asked."
In On the Shoulders of Giants, Rabbi Noah Bergman gives this as the reason he never told his friend, an Asari with AI-phobia (He didn't know about the phobia) that he, himself, was an AI. It's more of a case of cultural differences, as AI's are considered no different from other citizens in the group Bergman is part of, and he's honestly confused as to why Tela (the Asari) is freaking out.
In The Hero and the Veela Harry went to a voodoo practitioner for help with the results of a dark flaying curse. When he revealed his Parseltongue ability she said "Why didn't you tell me you were a speaker? Or that you had venom in your veins?" and he replied "You didn't ask."
A Small Crime: Siv seemed to have neglected to tell Kit about their amazing healing abilities.
Lootie:(hollering insistently from the castle grounds) Princess Irene!!! Curdie:"Princess?!" You didn't tell me you were a princess! Irene: You didn't ask.
Films — Live-Action
In The Lord of the Rings when Frodo and Sam hook up with Gollum to guide them, Frodo asks Gollum to "take us to the Black Gate" of Mordor, which he does. They see how massive and impenetrable the entrance is, and when they are about to make a charge for it anyway, Gollum pulls them back and tells them there is another way in. Sam asks why he didn't mention this before. Well... you didn't ask...
In the live-action Death Note movie, this is Ryuk's explanation for why he hadn't told Light why, if you have a Death Note, your lifespan is hidden from a human who has traded for Shinigami-sight (which allowed Misa to discover who he is). In the manga and anime, he says he didn't know.
In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, this is more-or-less Spock's excuse for never mentioning he had a dangerously insane brother running around the galaxy.
In The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, a subplot involves taking a rich man's lazy stoner son with him on the voyage, basically to just get him out of the house.
Haroun: Dangerous? Dangerous?! You never told me it would be dangerous! Sinbad: You didn't ask.
In the Don Knotts film How to Frame a Figg!, Figg learns that the computer with the evidence that would clear him had been buried at the local cemetery. After digging it up, Figg and his sidekick try to buy enough extension cords to plug it into the nearest outlet... which is about a half-mile away. They wind up jury-rigging a whole bunch of cords together (including a mixer and a neon sign) and get within three feet. That's when Figg notices an outlet sticking up out of the lawn... about six feet from the grave. The sidekick, of course, knew it was there all along. Why didn't he speak up? GUESS.
In Rush Hour, Jackie Chan's character is Obfuscating Stupidity by pretending to not understand English. A few minutes, a chase scene, and a held-at-gunpoint later, he demonstrates that he does speak English.
Detective James Carter: Why din't you tell me you spoke English? Chief Inspector Lee: I never told you I didn't. You assumed I didn't.
And then this is reversed near the very end of the movie, with Carter thanking the Chinese flight attendant in Chinese.
However, in the sequel it's revealed that his knowledge is very poor and spotty, and that he's more likely to accidentally insult your grandmother than say anything useful. Plus, all he really said was "thank you". That's not the same as speaking the entire language.
Daniel: Why didn't you tell me? Mr. Miyagi: Tell you what? Daniel: That you knew karate. Mr. Miyagi: You never ask.
Also done in Some Kind of Wonderful at the end when Watts, the tomboy, finally gets with Keith. When he asks "Why didn't you say anything?" to Watts, she answered "You never asked."
In A Few Good Men, Pvt. Downey reveals on the stand that he didn't actually hear Lt. Kendrick's order to give a Code Red to Pvt. Santiago, and instead the order was relayed to him by Cpl. Dawson. In the next scene Lt. Kaffee demands to know why Dawson didn't tell him that Downey wasn't there. The answer? "You didn't ask, sir." Kaffee is very angry.
Two in a row in The Princess Bride; although Westley did ask, this trope is referenced in the dialogue:
Westley: Why didn't you list [the wheelbarrow] amongst our assets in the first place?
A particularly sinister example comes from cult classic Return to Oz. The Nome King has transformed The Scarecrow into an ornament for his palace, and offers Dorothy and her friends the chance to play a guessing game to change him back. Of course, the penalty for losing the guessing game is to be transformed into an ornament yourself, which the Affably Evil Nome King didn't even mention until the first member of their party lost. When called on it, he gives them a reasonable second option they can take instead of the guessing game.
In The Elephant Man, Treeves assumes and even hopes that John Merrick is an idiot. (If he is an idiot, it means he won't realize just how unlucky he is.) Merrick surprises Treeves when it's revealed that he can read and recite an entire passage from Psalms from memory. When Treeves asks him why he didn't tell him he could read his answer is, "You didn't ask."
In Laurel and Hardy's Block Heads, Ollie reunites with old war buddy Stanley, who is sitting in a chair in a way that makes him look like he'd lost a leg. Putting on a cheerful front, Ollie offers to take Stanley home, even carrying him quite a while under great strain. After a couple of spills, and only after Stanley helps him up, Ollie growls "Why didn't you tell me you had two legs?" And, you know...
Mrs. Peel: Do you always obey orders? Steed: Always. Except when I don't. For example, if I were, perish the thought, under orders to kill you... Mrs. Peel: Pity you never told me. Steed: You never asked.
Colonel Jones: As I recall, there was some former Ministry land used as a secret military installation and sold by us to Sir August years ago. And authorized by Father. And this is the site. Steed: But where is it? Colonel Jones: According to your map, it's an island right here in the middle of London. It must be where he's controlling the weather. Steed: Why did you never tell anyone? Colonel Jones: Nobody ever asked.
In Reservoir Dogs, this is Mr. Blonde's response to why he didn't mention earlier that he has a kidnapped cop in his trunk. Mr. White deadpans, "Hardy fuckin' har."
In The Toy, Jack and bratty kid Eric are trying to break into Eric's father's printing press, when Eric casually mentions that he has the key. Richard Pryor asks Eric why he never told him he had the key.
In Labyrinth, one of the hurdles that Sarah has to overcome is knowing not only to ask, but how to ask to get any useful information; early in the film when she laments that it's useless to ask Hoggle anything, he retorts, "Not if you ask the right questions!" It takes a while for the lesson to sink in properly.
Reversed in Batman, when pre-Joker Jack is preening himself in the mirror:
Alicia Hunt: You look fine.
Jack Napier: I didn't ask.
Used quite often in J.D. Robb's In Death series about Roarke, Eve's billionaire husband, who went from Rags to Riches with roots in criminal activity. The first time this happened, when Roarke casually picked a set of locks.
Eve: You never told me you could do that. Roarke: You never asked. Eve: Remind me to ask, and ask a lot.
Used in the Star TrekExpanded Universe novel Imzadi. The Guardian of Forever doesn't tell anyone that the timeline in which Troi dies is the modified one, and that she lived in the original one. Thus, attempts at changing or maintaining the timeline are actually having the opposite effects. When the characters realize this and ask the Guardian why it didn't tell them, it literally says, "You did not ask."
It was established in the original episode that the Guardian has A Thing about answering questions.
In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo and Sam hook up with Gollum to guide them, Frodo asks Gollum to "take us to the Black Gate" of Mordor, which he does. They see how massive and impenetrable the entrance is, and when they are about to make a charge for it anyway, Gollum pulls them back and tells them there is another way in. Sam asks why he didn't mention this before. Well... you didn't ask...
This actually makes a kind of sense. For all Gollum knows they just want to go to the Black Gates, they don't say anything about getting inside Mordor.
In Dorothy L Sayers's Thrones, Dominations (finished by Jill Paton Walsh) a secondary character does (indirectly) tell the police about his illicit alibi for a murder. However, he completely fails to mention that he visited the victim that afternoon (well, before she was last seen alive) and gave her a gift that then allowed the REAL murderer to establish an alibi.
In Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series, protagonist Taran encounters talkative young redhead Eilonwy in the first book, and she introduces herself as "Eilonwy daughter of Angharad daughter of Regat daughter of...oh, I never can remember all that." It's not until the very end of the book that Taran (and the reader) learns from resident Ancient Keeper Dallben that Eilonwy is, in fact, a princess. Although this knowledge would not have had too great an effect on the plot of the first book had it been known, it does have direct bearing on the plots of the third, fourth, and fifth books. (Note that this applies only to the book; in The Film of the Book she introduces herself to Taran, and anyone else she meets, as Princess Eilonwy.)
Done in a particularly bastardly way by — who else — the Master in the Doctor WhoPast Doctor Adventures novel Face of the Enemy. Gee, Master, it would've been awfully nice if you'd've told the suicidal man (who just told you he had nightmares about women he loved dying in car wrecks) that the woman who died in the fiery burning car wreck wasn't really his wife. When Ian found out, the Master justified himself by claiming that angry-and-grieving-Ian was in a more useful frame of mind for taking on the enemy. Ian was rather justifiably annoyed by this, but then one should never trust the Master in the first place.
In Larry Niven's short story The Patchwork Girl, the accused murderer refuses to reveal why she couldn't possibly have committed the murder due to a misunderstanding of the way the law works on the Moon vs how it works on Earth. She was visiting her clone at a cloning clinic. On Earth, she would have been condemned to the organ banks for having a clone made after using one of her birthrights (having a child takes two birthrights, one from each parent) AND the clone would have been sterilized. On the Moon, she probably would have been sterilized and the clone would have been left alone.
In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000Gaunt's Ghosts novel Straight Silver, Mkoll devotes most of his attention to one of the soldiers he is training as a scout, to the frustration of another aspiring scout, who believes Mkoll is ignoring her because she's A) not from Tanith, and B) a woman. When she finally asks Mkoll about it, he says that he was the one that needed more training; she was ready.
In Isaac Asimov's short story "Victory Unintentional", a trio of robots is sent to Jupiter, which is inhabited by a xenophobic race that has announced its intention to exterminate humanity as soon as they build spaceships capable of leaving Jupiter and holding Jovian atmosphere. The Jovians make several unsuccessful attempts to destroy the visitors, and finally deign to talk to them in a very arrogant tone, revealing that they are close to their goal. Suddenly, the Jovians do a total about-face, groveling and pleading for peace and friendship with humans. As they leave, one of the robots realizes that they never asked whether their super-strong and indestructible visitors were the "humans" they'd planned to fight....
Subverted in the Discworld book Interesting Times: Rincewind meets Twoflower, a character he last met in the book The Light Fantastic. Twoflower talks about having a daughter, much to Rincewind's surprise, as they had spent a good length of time together without him ever mentioning it, despite Twoflower's insistence that he "MUST have done".
Justified, His wife was killed by the main villain of the story when he destroyed the village where they lived, so Twoflower probably just tries to forget. Maybe he even left to travel the world to forget..
In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Marvin reveals in passing that he could see The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything — for which the characters had been searching for some time — imprinted on Arthur Dent's brainwave patterns. His response to why he never mentioned it...
This gets Played for Laughs and Played for Drama at the exact same time in the Heralds of Valdemar series. In Winds of Change, Elspeth is in mage training with the Tayledras when her Companion, Gwena, reveals out of nowhere that she's also a mage. Cue an absolutely withering lecture from Elspeth about hiding things; a deserved one too considering that Gwena had been trying to herd Elspeth towards a Glorious Destiny for two complete novels.
In Anne of Avonlea, Gilbert Blythe publishes a bunch of "notes" in a local newspaper, heavily implied to all be deliberate and amusing falsehoods. One implies that a neighbor, Mr. Harrison, is engaged. Mr. Harrison's very indignant wife shows up as soon as she reads this. Anne points out that none of this would have happened if he hadn't pretended to be unmarried.
Mr. Harrison: If anybodyíd have asked me if I was married Iíd have said I was.
Used directly in Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure series. Anacho has spent the first two books assuming that Adam Reith is crazy because he claims to have come from some other planet called "Earth". Until Traz mentions that he saw Reith's space boat.
Minor occurence in Mistborn with the Kandra Ore Seur, when he doesn't tell Vin about a letter he knows she is interested in. In this case, it's simple passive-agressiveness, he's required to follow her orders, not to be helpful. Plus he's ticked off about his broken legs.
Said word-for-word in Laurence Yep's short story "The Rainbow People" after the flute player frees the rainbow people from slavery and it turns out that they were transformed dragons.
Played horribly straight in The Lost Fleet. A character was involved in a monstrous secret project, and for security reasons, was conditioned to be unable to talk about it (or about the conditioning); this is gradually driving him insane. Fleet regulations require that he be allowed to speak of it to a fleet admiral, but only if the admiral orders him to speak, in a secure environment (with no other witnesses or recording devices). And since he can't talk about his problem, the odds that a fleet admiral would ask him about it are very slight. note It's suggested that the security forces that gave him the conditioning figured that eventually the burden would drive him to suicide.
In "Philbert the Fearful," from Jay Williams's The Practical Princess and Other Liberating Fairy Tales, the title character and three other knights went off to rescue the emperor's daughter from Brasilgore the Enchanter. Somewhere along the way, they rescued a girl named Victoria from a castle guarded by a giant. She was, of course, later revealed to be the emperor's daughter. When Philbert asked why she didn't happen to mention that Brasilgore the Enchanter was a giant she said "You didn't ask me."
In Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen books, Captain David Kaufman is US Army Air Corps pilot. He ends up getting captured by the Grik and is forced to watch as the other prisoners are being cooked and eaten one by one. Then the Japanese show up, and the Grik hand him over to their new allies. Naturally, the Japanese have no intention of treating Kaufman as their enemies would a POW (a true warrior doesn't get captured). The Japanese Number Two Sato Okado is the only one who treats Kaufman with any kind of respect (he recognizes that Kaufman didn't let himself be captured but was merely overwhelmed by the Grik). By that point, Kaufman is on the verge of insanity and has told his captors all they asked. Later, an American plane is sighted spying on the Grik-Japanese forces. Captain Hisashi Kurokawa orders his XO to question Kaufman about it and punish him if the prisoner withheld information. Kaufman admits he knew about the plane but thought it lost. When asked why he didn't mention it before, he answers with this trope.
In the book Blood Bound in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, Mercy is trying to find out where Adam and Samuel went to look for the demon-vampire's lair after they went missing and Warren was left for dead. When talking with Darryl if Warren said where they were looking, Kyle, a human, states that Samuel had received a phone call right before they left the night they disappeared. In this case it was a matter that the werewolf's Fantastic Racism overlooked Kyle because he was human, Darryl didn't ask Kyle and never gave Kyle a chance to tell him when Kyle tried to bring it up.
In the Starfleet Corps of Engineers story Some Assembly Required, this is the Keorgans' response when Carol Abramowitz and Bart Faulwell demand to know why the danger facing the Keorgan capital wasn't explained in the report they were sent before arriving.
In Croak, this is Pip's answer when Lex finds out about his climbing ability. She tells him that not everything has to be learned by asking.
In Doom, the squad crosses the LAX parking lot planning on hijacking a plane. They briefly discuss who will pilot it and none of the Marines can. They hijack the plane, with enemies trying to get in the cockpit, and then bring up the pilot question again. Jill volunteers and when asked why she didn't speak up before says "You didn't ask".
In Murder on the Orient Express, this is the reason that the owner of the handkerchief found at the crime scene didn't admit to it; no one told her about it or asked it if it was hers. As soon as she does find out (or at least can admit she knows about it), she tells the detectives right away.
In Lisa Goldstein's Walking the Labyrinth, the protagonist sees the attic and says no one ever told her about the it. Alex replies, "Callan would say that you have to know the right question to ask. Though I don't think you'll find anything very interesting there."
In the Richard North Patterson book Eyes of a Child, Terri Peralta is testifying at the trial of her boyfriend Chris Paget, who is accused of murdering Terri's ex-husband Ricardo Arias. The main physical evidence against Chris is that, despite the fact that he claimed he'd never been to Ricardo's apartment, carpet fibers from the apartment were found in his house and car (which could be explained by Terri visiting Chris after dropping off her daughter with Ricardo), and his fingerprints were on Ricardo's answering machine. During her testimony, Terri explains the answering machine used to belong to her, and she believed that Chris had touched before she gave it to Ricardo. The prosecutor accuses Terri of making the story up, and wants to know if it was true, why she hadn't come forward with this evidence sooner. Terri says that it's because no one asked her or told her precisely what the evidence against Chris was; if anyone asked her about the fingerprints on the answering machine, she would have explained how they got there.
Just about every episode of House features this trope, as the patient of the week and their relatives fail to provide crucial medical details and end up being misdiagnosed.
In one episode, the team asks a vet so many questions that they have medical and non-medical histories going back to the patient's great-grandparents, leaving the patient with literally no excuse for not mentioning he once had an issue with nosebleeds and had his nostrils cauterized; which, of course, was the clue they needed. "Didn't ask", indeed.
Also subverted in another episode where they're sure it's something but the patient continually insists that he's never been anywhere tropical, ruling it out. Finally House gets mad enough to where the guy defensively yells "I've never been south of Florida!" only to meet the team's glares and then weakly ask "that counts?". Apparently no one had ever defined "tropical" enough for him to know.
A variation occurs in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit where a rape victim refuses to give the detectives the identity of her rapist with the statute of limitation ticking because she's sure he's no longer a threat. When they find him, they discover he'd been involved in an accident and was paralyzed from the waist down, thus no longer a threat. If she'd told them that, they likely wouldn't have jailed her for obstruction.
In the Homicide: Life on the Street episode "In Search of Crimes Past", Bolander discovers that the reason that the wrong man was jailed 16 years ago was because he didn't ask whether the victim was having an affair with the true killer's wife. He later wonders how many other cases he might have unknowingly stuffed up because he failed to ask the right question.
Character A: Why didn't you tell me you were an all-state hockey player? Character B: You didn't ask.
On Red Dwarf, this exchange followed a self-destruct scare:
Holly: We haven't got a bomb... I got rid of it ages ago. Rimmer: Why didn't you tell us? Holly: You never asked!
Mash: In "The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan," Cpl. Klinger's failure to inform Potter that Major Houlihan had gone to deliver a baby led to the cast being subjected to the antics of Col. Flagg for the entire episode. Subverted in that they did ask Klinger; he was just too groggy to fully register the question and his answer - "She's having a baby" - made absolutely no sense out of context.
In one of her earlier episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, Seven of Nine gets the crew out of a difficult situation with some desperate refugees by mentioning she has the knowledge to help them. When asked why she didn't volunteer this earlier she gives this answer. Justified in that she was used to working with the Borg, who share a hive mind so would all have had access to her knowledge anyway.
Deep Space Nine. In "Trials and Tribble-ations" Captain Sisko has to explain to a couple of humorless agents from Temporal Investigations about his jaunt back in time to the days of Star Trek: The Original Series. They conclude that minimal damage has been done, but after they leave Sisko is told that Odo wants a word.
Odo: Did you tell them?
Sisko: They didn't ask. I'm open to suggestions, people.
Dax: We could build another station.
(Reveal Shot shows the Promenade is overrun by tribbles)
Subverted in Doctor Who, "Remembrance of the Daleks":
Doctor: Ace, give me some of that Nitro-9 you're not carrying!
A notable example is also given in The Janitor's name from Scrubs. It is revealed in the final episode that J.D. had never asked, "What's your name?". It is revealed in the final episode when asked to be Glenn Matthews; however, right after this revelation another person walks by the janitor and calls him Tommy.
Assuming the radio version of Yes, Minister is similar to the TV version...
Bernard: Why haven't you told the Minister? Sir Humphrey: Because he hasn't asked. Bernard: But how can he ask if he doesn't know there's anything to ask about?
Incidentally, later Hacker does ask. Sir Humphrey goes out of his way to avoid giving a straight answer.
The 1980 TV adaptation of Agatha Christie's Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (and possibly the original novel) has a rare entirely justified instance of You Never Asked. Late in the piece, the hero finally discovers that the villain is [X], and consequently that he's wasted a lot of time suspecting the wrong man. Minutes later, a friend who has been providing occasional assistance catches sight of [X] and remarks that they were at university together and [X] was already bad news then. The hero asks why, if he knew [X] was a bad lot, he didn't say so earlier and save them a lot of trouble. The friend says "You never asked", then forestalls the obvious objection by pointing out that the hero has been playing his cards so close to the chest that this is the first he even knew [X] was involved in the case.
In The Office, Andy explains to the camera that he never told Erin he was engaged to Angela because she never asked.
In Get Smart, Max learns that Agent 99 has introduced herself to another man as "Susan Hilton." He jealously points out that she's worked with him for years and never told him. It's rare for 99 to say the punchline, but this was one such occasion. It turned out to be a mere code name.
In an early episode of Stargate SG-1, Teal'c neglects to mention that the writing on an alien planet is Goa'uld. When Daniel asks why Teal'c didn't say anything sooner, Teal'c replies "You never before inquired."
In one episode of Dad's Army, the platoon has to help a farmer's widow to gather in the harvest. Mainwaring assumes that Sponge, who is a farmer, knows how to operate a threshing machine; and asks him to demonstrate. Sponge responds that he is a sheep farmer and has never had to use one. When Mainwaring tersely asks why Sponge never said so before, Sponge uses this line.
In Lost Girl, Lauren reveals to Kenzi (and the audience) that she spent time as a doctor in Afghanistan. note Whether it was with the military or Doctors Without Borders is not specified, but the latter is more likely. When Kenzi asks why she never mentioned that before, Lauren replies with this. Their (to that point) mutual animosity makes it a pretty good explanation.
In Bewitched, Esmeralda has made a mess of things, and can't undo the damage because she can't remember the spell she used. Near the end of the episode, preschooler Tabitha declares that she remembers it. Order is restored. Why hadn't Tabitha spoken up sooner? "Nobody asked me."
The then director of NCIS asks the head of the FBI when it's revealed that the FBI had a database of fingerprints of every known terrorist. Cue trope title.
Paranoia: One official mission has the GM offhandedly mention that there's a bot in the middle of the briefing room. It is, in fact, a Vampire Bot 666, every bit as visibly lethal and Squicky as the name implies, but the GM is specifically instructed not to describe it in any further detail unless the PCs think to ask.
In Spamalot, King Arthur needs to find a Jew. After some searching, his servant Patsy reveals that he is Jewish on his mother's side. When King Arthur asks why this information wasn't revealed previously, Patsy responds with, "That's not exactly the sort of thing you say to a heavily-armed Christian."
Tales of Graces: Pascal tells the party she's an Amarcian (a race where everyone is a Gadgeteer Genius) when suggesting they go to the Amarcian Enclave. Hubert angrily asks why she didn't mention it earlier. Pascal says the trope verbatim. Hubert is the only one frustrated by this.
In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and its sequels, the main character invariably must guess his way to the truth before the witnesses will admit that they were not murdering the victim. Some witnesses are instructed (read: threatened) by prosecutors to not mention certain events or evidence unless asked about that event of evidence specifically.
Solid Snake does this multiple times (he says "you never asked") in Metal Gear Solid 2, so much it becomes a Running Gag. Details never asked about include: Snake's real identity; the fact that they're hiding a Humongous Mecha-Forgotten Superweapon-Elaborate Underground Base hybrid under the sea; and numerous lower-key pieces of information involving the personal lives of the characters. He seems to enjoy it greatly. At least Snake has a good reason not to tell Raiden his entire life story - he is a terrorist who had faked his own death.
Plus, Snake is probably at least partially aware that Raiden is the brainwashed minion of the Ancient Conspiracy that he is fighting against, as well as having a personal connection to Solidus.
On discovering that Mizuti is a "Child of the Earth" (part of a race of sorcerers) in Baten Kaitos, the heroes question why she never said anything. Her response: "You not ask." The trick here is that she actually told them as such outright twice — they just didn't pay attention.
Also in Baten Kaitos, the main party accuses Savyna for being a spy. Instead of denying it, she simply says, "You only asked for my name, not who I was."
In Mass Effect 1, while talking with Wrex about his past, he'll casually mention he's met and worked for Saren, the Big Bad. When asked why he didn't tell anyone sooner, well, you can guess what his response is. Not as egregious as some others on this list, since he genuinely doesn't have anything new to say, and didn't even realize who Saren was until he met up with you, but still...
Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana: After Delsus' refusal to give up the information he knows has led the party to fight a dragon, he will excuse himself with this. Subverted when the rest of the party promptly point out that they did ask. Repeatedly.
In Planescape: Torment, Morte, a flying skull that accompanies you from the moment you wake up in the morgue actually served you in all your incarnations, and knows more about you than you do yourself. "You didn't ask" often comes up.
Morte actually has a good justification for everything, including not mentioning "Don't trust the skull" being written on your back!
In Snatcher, Metal knows all about the circumstances around Gillian's discovery and revival. Gillian doesn't. Metal refuses to tell him until the beginning of Act 3, when Gillian becomes the highest ranking Junker operative following the Chief's death.
In Lost Magic, you Love Interest and Mysterious Waif sidekick Trista is one of the Sages. The Rune she shoves in your hand after a tedious boss fight would have helped a lot with said boss fight.
Kotomine gets to do this a lot in Fate/stay night. Since he Will Not Tell a Lie he finds it highly amusing to mention, for example, 'Oh yeah, I do have an ulterior motive for saving Sakura. I wanted her to eat everyone and give birth to an Ultimate Evil. Shirou actually tries to avoid asking for awhile because when he does Kotomine tends to make him either look like an idiot or depress him.
Kotomine tends to drone on at such length on the information he will reveal that if Shirou hasn't forgotten the question, he's reluctant to ask.
At one point in Narcissu, the protagonist finds himself broke and unable to pay for the gas he's just filled his car with. Just as he's about to floor it and attempt to escape without paying, his normally-silent traveling companion hands him enough money to pay for the gas, and reveals that she has quite a bit more stashed away.
Protagonist: Y-you have money on you? Why didn't you say so before? Setsumi: ... did you ask? Protagonist: Er, well, that is, I, no... Setsumi: That's why.
Halo. In the first game, when Master Chief finds out that the halos destroy all life in the galaxy, and not just the flood, and he confronts 343 Guilty Spark on the matter, Spark's reaction is "you didn't ask." Guilty Spark was legitimately confused as to why Master Chief didn't already know what the halos did, since he was well on his way to activating them. After all, who would activate a giant gun without first finding out how it worked?
In Solatorobo, several hours into the game the main hero discovers that the boy he's been travelling since the beginning is in fact a girl. She uses this trope to justify not correcting him in the first place.
In Poacher, when you complete the Underwater Boss Battle, Derek, who so far has been getting air from bubbles made by underwater plants, is finally about to choke, when Rebecca reveals that she can enable him to breathe underwater. She didn't do it earlier, because with her being a disembodied spirit, it didn't occur to her that regular humans need air to survive, and Derek literally couldn't ask, being unable to speak underwater until she gave him the power to do so.
In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword, swordsman Karel asks Dart the pirate in their support conversations if he knows any strong enemies. Dart then tells him about a few he heard rumors about, only to find out they are all already dead. Then, in the final conversation, Dart remembers one more: a man named Karel, better known as the "Sword Demon", who only lives to kill and has done some pretty brutal stuff according to the stories. Karel answers that he cannot duel himself, leading to the following exchange:
Dart: Hunh...? You're joking... No way... So you're the... You're THAT Karel?!
Karel: I am only one Karel, but that is my name.
Dart: Well, pucker my portside! Why didn't you say so?
Karel: You didn't ask.
Red vs. Blue: When Gary effortlessly disables a bomb about to blow up the base the cast is standing in:
And again when Grif's sister was supposed to replace the dead Blue captain:
Simmons: Oh my God what's wrong with you? Why didn't you tell us you were a Blue?
Simmons: And don't say "because nobody asked"!
Sister: But nobody did ask!
In RPG World, Cherry is revealed to be an elf, after the strip had been running for several years, much to the surprise of the other characters. As a bit of subversion, however, her pointed ears are clearly visible in her first appearance. Though the early images are a bit inconsistent.
In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, this turns out to be why Dracula hadn't saved humanity from the dinosaurs with his giant moon laser until more than a decade after the initial invasion. They don't usually like the laser, after all, so best to wait until asked.
Doc Scratch from Homestuck bases his whole existence around this. He claims that only he can know all the facts, and he's only saving time by not telling everybody everything. However, it's clear he has his own agenda, and he fulfills it by leading people to the wrong conclusions through Exact Words.
In one Global Guardians story, a villain tries to hold inoffensive precog heroine Second Sight hostage in order to escape. Second Sight, whose powers all revolved around her clairvoyant ability to see the future, took the villain apart with previously unseen Kung Fu skills. When her amazed teammates questioned her about them, her response was the classic, "You never asked." It turns out the skills had been there since the creation of the character. They'd just never been needed before.
In the [title of show] show, the cast ask Mindy why she didn't tell them Cheyenne Jackson shot her (they had been trying to catch her killer in front of her the whole episode). She replies with this.
In Noob, Sparadrap didn't bother telling anyone that getting his avatar banned then starting all over again whith a new one did not get him rid of his Clingy MacGuffin / Artifact of Doom until his guild was about to out of its way to get him a new equivalent to the very item that the artifact was replacing. Justified as it was his first time interacting with his guild after several days of levelling up under his brother's wing and he was told to not mention the Clingy MacGuffin / Artifact of Doom to anyone outside his guild.
This happens often to Henchman 21 and the other Monarch henchmen in The Venture Bros., so much so it's practically become a running gag in the show.
(The Henchmen are trying to see in the dark.) Henchman 21: Dude I canít believe we didnít get blown up. Weíre like those guys on TV who never get shot. Yeah weíre like main characters. Henchman 24: Donít jinx it! See anything? Henchman 21: No I canít see squat with these tinted goggles on. Henchman 24: Douche, use the night vision. Whatís wrong with you? (he hits 21 on the side of his head and 21′s night vision goggles turn on) Henchman 21: I can see everything! This is so cool, when did we get these? Henchman 24: Like, 1994. Henchman 21: Why donít I know this stuff?!
SWAT Kats: T-Bone's answer to Chance asking why he never mentioned to his best friend and fellow Swat Kat that he can't swim.
Fenton in DuckTales never dared ask his prospective Love Interest out until he could get a promotion. Where she replies that she'd have dated him even if he'd just been a bean-counter. He asks her why they never did and she responds: "You never asked."
In the last few episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender , Zuko becomes more and more hostile in trying to get Aang to train. Aang, not understanding, asks what his problem is, and Zuko tells him about Ozai's plan to burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground. The others want to know why he didn't mention this earlier, and Zuko responds that they didn't ask — and that he was under the assumption that the plan was to stop Ozai before the comet arrived, which would make telling them moot and just another thing to stress Aang. This is just after Zuko yells at them for not taking the impending deadline to fight the Firelord seriously, and they finally mention that they apparently have all discussed and agreed they're actually not doing it on the timetable he thought.
The inverse is also true: the Gaang didn't tell Zuko about their plan to wait until the Comet passed, because he never asked them about their plans regarding it.
In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Mid-Life Crustacean", SpongeBob and Patrick lure Mr. Krabs into going on a "panty raid" — and they do so, of all places, in Mama Krabs' house.
Mr. Krabs: Why didn't ya tell me this was me mother's house? SpongeBob: Why didn't ya ask?
In Class Of The Titans, Atlas reveals that he knows the location of Atlantis, which the heroes were searching for, having been raised there. He points out the location after Odie discovers it, prompting Odie to ask why he didn't just tell them. Atlas simply replies, "You Never Asked."
From the TaleSpin episode "In Search of Ancient Blunders", while Baloo, Wildcat, and Myra are trying to get out of the pyramid...
Baloo: Come on, this way. Wildcat: No, this way. Baloo: Wildcat, why didn't you tell us you knew the way out? Wildcat: You didn't ask.
An episode of Dungeons & Dragons has the group meet a tribe of tree-dwelling bear-like creatures. When they're surrounded by orcs, one of the bears surprises Eric by suddenly descending from the trees in Bamboo Technology elevator and tells him to hop in. Eric asks "Why didn't you tell us you had an elevator?" The bear replies "You didn't ask."
An episode of Donkey Kong Country has Klump and Krusha hiding in barrels on Kaptain Skurvy's pirate ship while it sails off:
Klump: Now when the coast is clear, we'll jump out of the barrels, steal the Crystal Coconut back, and then swim back to shore. Krusha: Duh, I can't swim. Klump: Well, why didn't ya say so before we snuck on board?! Krusha: Well, you never asked.
Jonny: Whoa! Iris, you never said anything about these things duplicating! Iris: You never asked.
In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, guest character Mistwalker is seen as a mostly harmless Witch Doctor. She proves to be anything but and does the bulk of fighting off the Black Hole Gang armed with her knowledge of the Death World she lives on. After the gang's been chased off, she explains to the heroes that she's led them back to their ship. Audra is shocked that Mistwalker can speak their language. Mistwalker shrugs it off.
Mistwalker: One who asks many questions. You never asked that one.
Subverted in Kim Possible with Ron Stoppable. His parents have a habit of making life-changing decisions without telling him, leaving him to find out when it's already happened (e.g., he didn't know his parents adopted a baby girl til he came home and found a crib where his room used to be, didn't know they were moving til the moving van came to pick him up). When he asks why nobody told him, his parents, rather than saying he didn't ask, say, "This is our way of telling you."
It could almost be labeled as Abusive Parents, but seeing as how at least his father is otherwise pretty good with his son, it's more like Parental Neglect. Or Parental Obliviousness, since they really don't seem to understand that this is not a good way to break important news to their child.
A more straightforward example occurs in "A Sitch In Time", after Shego escapes while Kim is primarily focused on Drakken:
Kim: Shego is the Supreme One? Well, you could have mentioned that! Rufus 3000: I thought it was obvious.
A more sarcastic version occurs on an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes, where it turned out Heloise had an app on her phone that could have solved all their problems after an episode where Lucius was going gung ho against technology.
Lucius: Why didn't you say so before?
Heloise: Oh, so now he likes technology.
In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Ticket Master", Twilight Sparkle is torn between who to give her second ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala to. When the frustration becomes too much, she gives her two tickets back to the pony who gave them to her with a note of explanation. The reply? "Why didn't you just say so in the first place?" followed by a ticket for everyone.
In "Hearts and Hooves Day" Sweetie Belle reveals to Applebloom that a cure for the love potion that's causing the episode's problems only after Applebloom had had a panic attack about the potential chaos they had caused.
At the end of the Recess episode "The New Kid", Gus is allowed to be referred to by his real name instead of "the new kid" after standing up to King Bob, to which King Bob replied that he only had to ask if he wanted his name that badly. The old new kid (real name "Morris") who had to put up with being called "the new kid" for three years, complains to King Bob about this treatment. Again, King Bob nonchalantly tells him that he should have said something.
In The Koala Brothers Outback Christmas, this is Frank's stated reason for not mentioning that he had a photo of Penny the penguin.
In the Trek episode of Futurama, we get this exchange between William Shatner and George Takei:
George Takei: Have I ever given you any indication that I know karate?
William Shatner: No, but ... you never talk about yourself.
George Takei: Maybe if you showed a little interest ...
In the Teen Titans episode "The Quest", Robin figures out that the eponymous True Master is the old woman he keeps bumping into during his walk up the mountain path. Why does he learn this at the end? "Because you did not ask!" (In fact, this is one of many ways she seems similar to Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid; see above.)
In the South Park episode "My Future Self 'n' Me", Stan discovers that Butters had his future self appear several months ago. When Stan asks Butters why he never told anyone, he said no one had bother asking him.
In the She Zow episode "SheZow For a Day", when Kelly tells Guy that he's on call 24/7, he jokes that isn't a real rule. Shelia slaps Guy in the face with a large book.
Kelly: There's a SheZow rule book. Guy: Why didn't you tell us before? Shelia: You didn't ask.
Played with in Legend Of Korra. After finding out Eska is insane, Bolin asks Korra why she didn't warn him that Eska "has the power to reach into my heart and crush my soul with her bare hands"? Korra tells him she thought it was obvious.
In The Snorks, a shady peddler known as the Snailsman shows up occasionally to sell items to the characters. Said merchandise has some kind of drawback and when the buyers complain about not being told, the Snailsman would reply that they never asked.
Anyone who has worked in the accounting or tax-preparation fields has heard this one (or its sibling "I didn't think it was important") at least once per client, if not more.
Accountant: Why didn't you mention your thousands of dollars in [overseas investments]/[margin purchases}/[gambling losses]? Client: You didn't ask. I didn't think it mattered. Accountant:(bangs head on table)
Or tech support.
Once heard a story: A married couple is arguing, and right out of the blue the wife yells that the husband doesn't say "I love you" anymore. The husband is completely stunned by this and replies, in that tone people get when they have to explain things to very slow children, "I told you that when I married you. If I change my mind, I'll let you know."
In the late Tip O'Neill's first Congressional election, he campaigned all over Cambridge, Massachusetts and worked hard, but he found out that his next door neighbor, an elderly woman, had said she would not vote for him. He went to her house and said, to paraphrase, Mrs. Finley, you've known me all my life; I shoveled your driveway, mowed your lawn, delivered your paper, beginning when I was 10 years old. Why aren't you going to vote for me? Tommy, she answered; you never asked me. After that, O'Neill asked as many of his constituents as he could if they would vote for him.
Richard Lee calls this statement "the bane of anthropologists everywhere." He mentions it as part of a hilarious story about trying to buy a cow for a village full of people to thank them for helping him, only to have them complain about it and make fun of it and call him an idiot for buying such a terrible cow. Turns out, that's what they do to anyone who seems to be getting too high an opinion of himself - and they would have told him that if he'd thought to ask if they were serious.
A relatively popular method used by teachers who like the problem based learning model. Critical info is specifically left out of the project description and the students are encouraged to "use all your resources". The idea is that the teacher IS a resource so as long as the students come up with the right questions (and start on the project earlier than two days before it's due) the teacher will tell them the missing info.
In most legal systems, witnesses are instructed to only provide as much information as asked for. As in, only speak within the parameters of the questions asked, and nothing more. Therefore, if something vital gets left out of a testimony, it's actually the attorney's fault for not asking a question that would have brought it up (assuming the witness wasn't flat-out lying).