- In the season one finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson has a question for Ward:"You devoted your entire life to a deranged narcissist who never gave a damn about anyone, and now he's dead. You've got the rest of your life to wrestle with the question: who are you without him?"
- Angel: While Kate is confronting the rest of Angel Investigations over Angel's supposed murder of Mr. Kramer, Gunn pulls this, asking how Angel got into the house and if he was invited in. Kate responds that no, he wasn't, and immediately realizes what he's getting at: Angel's a vampire, so he couldn't possibly have just stormed in and killed someone in their own home unless he was explicitly invited in or the real owners were already dead.
- Babylon 5:
- "Who are you?" by the Vorlons, "What do you want?" by the Shadows; both of them are asked until the subject stops giving superficial answers and starts revealing things about themselves. J. Michael Straczynski has a degree in psychology and cited Synanon as an inspiration.
- Sinclair shouts "Who are you?" and "Why are you doing this?" at the Grey Council. Imagine how chilling that must have been coming from their savior.
- Kosh loses his cool only two times when Sherridan gets fed up with his obfuscating elusivness. The first time is when he demands to know "What do you want?!"
- In the fourth season, Sheridan and Delenn point out that the Shadows and Vorlons don't have answers to their own questions anymore. This is part of what convinces them to leave the galaxy once and for all.
- Later, more get added. Lorien asks "Why are you here?", and the Spin-Off series Crusade adds "Who do you serve, and who do you trust?" for the humans, and "Where are you going?" for the Technomages.
- Actually, "Where are you going?" and "Why are you here?" are very subtly laid in all through the original five seasons of Babylon 5. JMS himself states that those four questions (Who are you? What do you want? Where are you going? Why are you here?) are critically important to the whole show. "Who do you serve and who do you trust?" is pretty unique to Crusade, though, but it may have just been a cunning way to introduce the supporting cast.
- In "Comes the Inquisitor", the titular Inquisitor (Sebastien) comes specifically to ask these of Delenn and later Sheridan. The big one is, of course, "Who are you?", as he works for the Vorlons, but one notable failed attempt at an Armor-Piercing Question comes when he asks Delenn whether she'd ever considered that she could be wrong. It fails because she has an answer: "Yes, sometimes." It's one of the few times Sebastien quiets down during the performance of his task. Delenn also attempts a few times to pierce his armor with questions of her own, but he's very good at his job, and (mostly) manages to keep his composure.
- When Morden asked "What do you want?" to G'kar to see if he could be manipulated to serve the Shadows, G'kar gave an answer fueled by his anger towards the Centauri for what they did to him and his people. This answer didn't give Morden true insight into G'kar's character, so he followed up the question with And Then What? G'kar is caught off-guard — having spent so long hungering for revenge that he didn't give much thought to what he would want after killing off the Centauri — and answers that "as long as my homeworld is safe, I don't see how it matters." Morden realizes that G'kar is ultimately a humble man who just wants his people to be safe, meaning he is of no use to the Shadows.
- And then there's Vir, who came up with his own Armor-Piercing Response to the same query from Morden: that he'd like to live long enough to see Morden, himself, killed for his own despicable manipulations and "bargains". Vir, unlike G'kar, gets exactly what he asks for.
- The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon gets hit with one at the end of "The Robotic Manipulation". After his date with Amy, he considers having a child with Amy through artificial insemination throughout the episode, much to Penny's chagrin. Having enough, she threatens to tell his mother, but Sheldon doesn't see the issue, believing his mother would be happy to have grandchildren. This only sets up Penny to strike:Penny: Really? Your deeply religious born-again Christian mother wants a test-tube grandbaby born out of wedlock?
Sheldon: (realizes her point) Curses.
- The final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, already bleaker than the other episodes, had Baldrick ask one of these, specifically why World War I happened and why couldn't they all just stop fighting. Even Blackadder had no real response. Not long after, they all go over the top.
- Used very emotionally in the season three finale of Bones, Brennan to Gormogon's apprentice. Not quite a question so much as a series of logical statements, as Brennan explains to Booth as he keeps asking Zack to give up the Gormogon without getting a response, "Zack responds to logic." Brennan proceeds to give a series of arguments that seem to justify Zack and the Gormogon's motives, and then delivers the armor-piercing line: "Yet you risked it all so you wouldn't hurt Hodgins.""There was a flaw in my logic..."
- Breaking Bad: From "Ozymandias", "Where is Hank?".
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- An accidental example in "Gingerbread". The corpses of two children are found and a literal witch hunt ensues. When Buffy finally meets up with Angel, she fills him in on the situation. When she mentions the dead children, he asks "What were their names?" Suddenly, Buffy realizes that the children were never claimed and something is very wrong.
- In "Pangs", Sunnydale is being menaced by Hus, a Native American vengeance spirit, but Willow, suffering from White Guilt over what her ancestors did to his people, is reluctant to fight back and suggests they try to reason with him. Spike of all people gives her one of these, pointing out that Hus simply doesn't care about their White Guilt; he's angry and vengeful and just wants them all dead. And even if Hus was willing to talk, there's very little the Scoobies could actually say that would make up for said atrocities, their inaction isn't helping the situation, and if they want to survive they've got no choice but to fight Hus and destroy him no matter how bad they feel about it.Spike: You exterminated his race. What could you possibly say that would make him feel better? It's kill or be killed here. Take your bloody pick!
- Criminal Minds has Constantly Curious Ellie Spicer ask Tim Curry's character (a serial killer) why he kills people. Subverted when he replies that the best question would not be why he kills people, but why he doesn't kill all of them.
- There's also this exchange during "A Beautiful Disaster":
- Doctor Who
- "The Pirate Planet": The Fourth Doctor is confronted with a room filled with entire planets compressed into football-sized spheres and held in place by technobabble. The Doctor has questioned the Captain several times already about his motives, but here is where he truly loses his composure in the face of such destruction:The Doctor: The concept is simply staggering! Pointless, but staggering!
The Captain: I'm gratified that you appreciate it.
The Doctor: Appreciate it? Appreciate it? You commit mass destruction and murder on a scale that's almost inconceivable, and you ask me to appreciate it?? Just because you happen to have made a brilliantly conceived toy out of the mummified remains of planets?
The Captain: Devil storms, Doctor! It is not a toy!
The Doctor: THEN WHAT'S IT FOR?! What are you doing? What could possibly be worth all this?!
- As the titular creature is about to kill Henry van Statten:Rose: You don't have to do this anymore. There must be something else not just killing. What else is there? What do you want?
Dalek: [Silence. Turns back to van Statten, and then back to Rose] I want... freedom.
- Rose gets another one when the Ninth Doctor, filled with rage, comes running in to shoot the Dalek. Rose's question stops the enraged Gallifreyan in his tracks.Rose: It couldn't kill van Statten, it couldn't kill me. It's changing. What about you, Doctor? What the hell are you changing into?
- As the titular creature is about to kill Henry van Statten:
- "The Christmas Invasion": The Doctor's question to all of Britain about one Harriet Jones, Prime Minister. "Don't you think she looks tired?"
- Which was not actually intended to be an APQ about that particular person, but rather to make them so paranoid that they would fulfill the requirements. The Doctor at his finest.
- "Doomsday": Rose has a question for the Cult of Skaro on learning they survived the Time War by hiding in the Void Between the Worlds: "Don't you want to know what happened? What happened to the Emperor?" Dalek Sec is completely shocked. "The-Emperor-SURVIVED?!"
- In "Daleks in Manhattan", Dalek Sec asks his fellow Daleks:Sec: There are millions of humans, and only four of us! If we are supreme, why are we not victorious?
- "The Family of Blood": At the end, Joan Redfern calls the Doctor out on his recklessness. His facial expression in response says it all, really."If the Doctor had never visited us, never chosen this place on a whim would anyone here have died?"
- "Utopia": Martha asks Professor Yana how he knows his watch is broken if he's never used it, getting him to admit he doesn't know... and shattering the perception filter keeping Yana from becoming the Master, the Doctor's nemesis.
- "Amy's Choice":
- Amy gets one aimed at her by "The Dream Lord", aka the Doctor's Enemy Within. He mocks her belief that the Doctor trusts her, and when she stands up to him, he simply asks "So what's his name?"
- Amy also gets an armor piercing statement from the Dream Lord. It's effective nonetheless.Dream Lord: Poor Amy. He always leaves you, doesn't he? Alone in the dark. Never apologises.
Amy: He doesn't have to.
Dream Lord: That's good. Because he never will.
- The Dream Lord gets a hefty bag of armor-piercing questions to throw at the Doctor:The Doctor: I have to find my friends.
Dream Lord: "Friends"? Is that the right word for the people you acquire? Friends are people you stay in touch with. Your friends never see you again once they've grown up. The old man prefers the company of the young, does he not?
- "Journey's End": Davros asks the Doctor something along the lines of "How many people have died for you, Doctor?" The answer is: a lot. As we are told, via a brief flashblack to all their faces from just the past three out of 45 years alone.
- "Asylum of the Daleks": When Oswin says she has been making soufflés while holding off Daleks for a year the doktor asks her where she gets the milk. This slips by as a quip in the beginning of the episode, but hammers home the nature of the situation at the end of it.
- "The Name of the Doctor": Clara, like Amy to the Dream Lord before her, tells Madame Vastra that the Doctor can trust her with anything, and Vastra refutes this, saying the Doctor doesn't share his secrets with anyone, before asking her, if she really is the exception to that, what his name is.
- "The Day of the Doctor": "Did you ever count?" How many children there were on Gallifrey that day. Cause both Ten and Eleven to freeze up, and their answers say a lot about them. Ten says "Two point four seven billion", and Eleven forgot, asking "What would be the point?"
- "Twice Upon a Time": Bill gets in a good question when she asks the First Doctor why he left Gallifrey. It's good enough to give the Doctor pause:Bill: I don't mean what you ran away from. What were you running to?
First Doctor: That's rather a good question.
Bill: Questions are kinda my thing. How are you with answers?
- "The Pirate Planet": The Fourth Doctor is confronted with a room filled with entire planets compressed into football-sized spheres and held in place by technobabble. The Doctor has questioned the Captain several times already about his motives, but here is where he truly loses his composure in the face of such destruction:
- Two examples from Frasier:
- The episode "Ask Me No Questions" combines this trope with a Driving Question; the story begins with Niles asking Frasier if he thinks he and Maris are meant to be together. Frasier then spends the rest of the episode wondering what his answer will be.
- In "Dark Side of the Moon", Daphne is in anger management therapy as part of her court sentence for inadvertently causing a four-car pileup. As Daphne recounts the events that led up to the traffic accident, she reveals that she had been invited to Niles's apartment for the evening for a bridal shower; she didn't know about the party, and spent the whole day leading up to it suffering from numerous mishaps. While she tells the story, she repeatedly mentions that she planned to wear her favorite dress to see Niles. As the session closes, her therapist asks her a seemingly small question: if the bridal shower was supposed to be a surprise, why was Daphne so intent on wearing that particular dress for what she believed to be a casual get-together? This forces Daphne to admit that she actually wanted to spend a romantic evening with Niles, making her realize that she loves him as he does her—which is highly problematic, considering that she is about to marry Donny.
- Game of Thrones:
- Varys tells a riddle to Tyrion about a king, a priest, a rich man who each command a sellsword to kill the other two. Varys asks Tyrion who lives and who dies. Tyrion immediately says the sellsword is the one who decides, since he has the sword. Varys then asks why people still believe in nobility, religion and wealth if the sword is the only real power in the world. Tyrion's only response is "I've decided I don't like riddles".
- Later in the series, Tyrion, having had enough of Varys' secrecy, bluntly asks him what he wants. Varys turns it around and asks Tyrion the same question. Tyrion admits that, after being marginalized his whole life, he likes being the acting Hand of the King and is happy about being able to make a real difference in the world. Which is something that actually has an effect on Varys (among other things), as he later refers to Tyrion as "the only person capable of saving the realm".
- Arya asks her father how she can let Sansa marry someone like Joffrey. Ned Stark can't think of an answer.
- Throughout the series, whenever someone asks Sansa of Joffrey, she gives her careful answer of a declaration of love. When someone asks her to be honest about it, however, she virtually collapses. "He's a monster."
- When Renly asks Ned, "Tell me something: do you still believe good soldiers make good kings?" the older man remains silent.
- Theon delivers an epic one to his father.Balon: We do not sow. We are Ironborn! We are not subjects, we are not slaves. We do not plow the fields, nor toil in the mine. We take what is ours! Your time with the wolves has made you weak!
Theon: You act as if I volunteered! You gave me away, if you remember?! The day you bent the knee to Robert Baratheon! After he crushed you! Did you take what was yours then?
- Theon is on the receiving end later, from Bran: "Did you hate us the whole time?" He didn't, but he's torn between loyalty to his birth family and birth culture (which he succeeded in holding onto, despite what Balon Greyjoy thinks) and the adoptive family he loves and probably loved him (at least Robb did) but always kept him feeling like an outsider.
- Shireen asks Stannis if he's ashamed of her, implying that the cause is her greyscale. Stannis is actually proud of her, but since he's taciturn, distant and cold, it takes him a direct question to spit out the answer. He answers with the most heartfelt, reassuring speech he likely ever disclosed, which ends with father and daughter embracing.
- Varys strikes absolute terror into Ned in Season 1 by asking, "And what of your daughter's life, Lord Stark? Is that a precious thing to you?"
- Talisa rattles Robb by asking, "And Then What?" of his plan to depose and execute Joffrey.
- When Davos insists on being humble about his mistreatment by Blue Blood lordlings, Stannis asks, "And where were those lords when Storm's End starved?"
- Quaithe's query to Jorah concerning Daenerys. "Will you betray her again?" is unsettling for coming from someone who had no way of knowing he had.
- When Jon angrily points out he and his family are of the same blood as the wildlings and have just as much claim to the North, Ygritte asks, "Then why are you fightin' us?" for which Jon has no answer. Apparently the wildlings' frequent Rape, Pillage, and Burn and overall intent to overrun his homeland with primitive anarchists doesn't occur to Jon.
- Jaime devastates Brienne with one in "Kissed By Fire":Jaime: Tell me, if your precious Renly commanded you to kill your own father and stand by while thousands of men, women, and children burned alive, would you have done it? Would you have kept your oath then?!
- Brienne looks like a deer in the headlights when Cersei asks her directly if she loves Jaime in "The Lion and the Rose". While she doesn't answer in the affirmative, this sputtering reaction tells Cersei all she wanted to know.
- When Jaime is balking at seeing Tyrion, Bronn says, "He named you as his champion because he knew you'd ride night and day to come fight for him. Are you going to fight for him now?"
- Hizdahr zo Loraq confronts Daenerys about her execution of the masters with the question, "Is it justice to answer one crime with another?"
- When Tyrion tries appealing to The Power of Friendship to talk Bronn into fighting for him, Bronn replies, "Aye, I'm your friend. And when have you ever risked your life for me?"
- Jorah cannot bring himself to answer when Daenerys demands to know, "Did you tell them I was carrying Drogo's child?"
- Ralf Kenning unintentionally hits the nail on the head when he demands of Reek, "Are you a woman, boy?"
- Jaime has no answer when Bronn asks if his lover shares his desire to die in each other's arms.
- In "The Dance of Dragons", Dany has no answer when Hizdahr asks whether she thinks the pit fighters (who are ostensibly free men) have no ability to know their own minds and make their own judgements about what they're willing to die for. Tyrion interjects with a Shut Up, Hannibal!, but doesn't actually say he disagrees.
- When Davos accuses Melisandre of stringing Stannis along with the Chosen One line, Melisandre protests she didn't lie, she was just wrong. Davos sadly replies "Aye, you were wrong. How many died because you were wrong?", and Melisandre can't answer.
- In Season 6, when Kevan initially is reluctant to go along with Cersei's plan to seize control from the Faith Militant, Cersei asks him, "Do you want Lancel back? Or have you given him up for good?"
- Jaime delivers one to Walder Frey in "The Winds of Winter".Jaime: We gave you the Riverlands to hold the Riverlands. If we have to ride North and take them back every time you lose them... why do we need you?
- In "Eastwatch", Jaime tells Cersei about Olenna Tyrell confessing her part in Joffrey's death. Cersei, who had been so adamant about charging Tyrion with the crime and seeing him die over it, initially dismisses Jaime's information with disgust. However, one set of questions from Jaime immediately forces Cersei to process the truth.
- During the last conversation Sandor and Arya ever have, he manages to finally, finally dissuade her from self-destructive vengeance with one of these at the end of a small speech. Specifically, "Do you want to be like me?". Arya, knowing just where a life of looking for revenge has taken Sandor, has the realization that helps take her off the same path.
- Glee: After Karofsky's suicide attempt, Figgins, Will, Emma, Sue, and Shannon are all processing it and discussing how to handle breaking the news to the students. Sue blames herself for not doing enough when she was principal.Will: Guys, we were all hard on Dave. We thought he was going to hurt Kurt. I just never thought he'd hurt himself.
Figgins: It wasn't our job to know.
Emma: Then whose job was it? [no one answers]
- In an earlier episode, we finally get to see Quinn's motivation for all the Prom Queen insanity when Rachel asks, "What are you so scared of?" "The future, when all of this is gone." Becomes a Heartwarming Moment when Rachel assures her she has nothing to be afraid of."You're a very pretty girl, Quinn, prettiest girl I've ever met, but... you're a lot more than that."
- In an earlier episode, we finally get to see Quinn's motivation for all the Prom Queen insanity when Rachel asks, "What are you so scared of?" "The future, when all of this is gone." Becomes a Heartwarming Moment when Rachel assures her she has nothing to be afraid of.
- Heroes: Season 3, shortly after Claire is finally caught and victimized by Sylar, her biological mother Meredith (a pyrokineticist) accedes to her wishes to train her in combat inside a trailer so that she can fight villains like Sylar. Instead, Meredith repeatedly asks her "why do you want to fight bad guys?!" while superheating the air inside the trailer, causing Claire to admit the true reason behind her vigilante urges - revenge on Sylar for what he did to her (tantamount to rape.)
- On House:
- Dr. House frequently does this to enlighten or enrage. It can be hard to tell at first why he's so persistent. He may think it relevant to a diagnosis, he may be trying to manipulate, he may simply be "trying to solve a puzzle", or all of these.
- In the first part of the Season 4 finale, "House's Head", the mysterious female bus passenger repeatedly asks House "Who am I?" and "What is my necklace made of?" until House realizes the mysterious woman is a subconscious substitute for Wilson's girlfriend Amber.
- In "The C-Word" from Season 8, while undergoing a massive dose of chemotherapy, Wilson hallucinates an 8-year-old deceased former patient, who asks why he died if he did nothing wrong. The question is even more devastating to him than the pain of chemo.
- In How I Met Your Mother, the episode "Platonish" is a flashback episode where Barney continually bothered Lily and Robin to get more challenges. Their latest challenge led him to meet the Mother, chronologically the first one out of the core group, who then realized Barney was only accepting challenges to cope with him being heartbroken over Robin and asked him, "Do you want to keep playing or do you want to win?" This inspired Barney to come up with "The Robin".
- In the episode of iCarly where Carly's friend Missy returns to her life and secretively tries to remove Sam from Carly's life, Sam gives a good one to Freddie when she asks for his help and for him to believe her about Missy's manipulative ways.Freddie: Tell me one reason why I should believe you.
Sam: Because I came here. Have I ever come to you for help before?
- JAG: In "Ice Queen", the NCIS Backdoor Pilot, Harm is arrested as the prime suspect for the murder of Lieutenant Singer and as hes being handcuffed Gibbs ask a question he wasnt prepared for:Commander Rabb: Can you tell if someone's guilty by their eyes?
Special Agent Gibbs: I can.
Commander Rabb: Yeah? Well, look in mine. Ask me. Ask me.
Special Agent Gibbs: Would you kill for your brother?
- Jonathan Creek: In "Jack in the Box", Maddie proposes an elaborate solution for the Locked Room Mystery they are facing, only for Jonathan to bring her to a screeching halt with a single word: "Why?"."Why would anyone undertake this extraordinary series of actions you have just described?"
- In the fourth season of Judging Amy, we get a particularly good example. After Kyle goes behind the other doctors' backs to make sure a patient gets the treatment she needs, the head doctor at the hospital calls him out on his maverick behavior and her disappointment in him:Lily: Every time I think I'm getting closer to you, you do something stupid, or foolish, and I catch just a glimpse of what you must have been like before you got kicked out of med school.
Kyle: I was an addict back then, I was using!
Lily: "Back then?" ...what's your excuse now?
Kyle: (Stunned Silence, mouth agape)
- Mirabelle puts one to Devin in The Kicks episode "Choosing Sides", which focuses on Devin's reluctance to replace her friend Zoey as the team's goalie. Despite Zoey's well-established unsuitability for the position, Devin is afraid of hurting her feelings. During a game of Truth or Dare, Mirabelle asks her this in front of the whole team:Mirabelle: Do you think Zoey is a good goalie?
- Law & Order has tons of examples of these on the witness stand. Some include:
- Ben Stone's cross-examination of an anti-abortion activist who had tricked a woman wanting an abortion into carrying a bomb to the clinic. After the woman self-righteously declared what she had done was just, and that the victim, a former follower of hers who had become pregnant, deserved what had happened, the question came that left her speechless."If abortion is murder, then no matter how you feel about Mary Donovan, aren't you guilty of the murder of her unborn child?"
- Another episode involving the killing of an abortion clinic doctor had Jack McCoy questioning the man who had arranged the murder. The defendant was trying to use justifiable homicide as a defense (that he had to protect all those unborn children by having this woman killed). McCoy pierces his armor by asking why then, if he was so sure it was right and justified and necessary, he hadn't done the deed himself instead of just arranging the murder? The man is forced to admit that he believes any killing is morally wrong and thus couldn't go through with it himself, destroying his own defense completely.
- Ben Stone's cross-examination of an anti-abortion activist who had tricked a woman wanting an abortion into carrying a bomb to the clinic. After the woman self-righteously declared what she had done was just, and that the victim, a former follower of hers who had become pregnant, deserved what had happened, the question came that left her speechless.
- During season 2 of Legend of the Seeker, Richard became affected by a magic-induced rage, and to help him control it, the wizard Zedd kept asking Richard "What are you angry at?", knocking down each of Richard's answers until they got to the real answer: Richard was angry at Zedd for lying to him about heritage and bringing him into the conflict in the first place
- Cal Lightman of Lie to Me uses this all the time to get a reaction he can read off of someone.
- In Season 1, Locke leaves Boone and Shannon tied up in the jungle, allowing the monster to kill Shannon. After Boone gets free, he comes after Locke with knife, screaming accusations. As soon as he says the words "she died in my arms," Locke delivers his first APQ: "Then why is there no blood on you?" This forces Boone to realize that the whole thing was a hallucination. But then Locke drops his second APQ, asking Boone how he felt when he thought Shannon was dead. Despite his rage, Boone says "relieved," effectively concluding his arc as he sheds his emotional dependence on her.
- Season 3.Sayid: [to Juliet] You said earlier that if you told me everything you knew, I'd kill you. I'm going to test the validity of that statement.
Sawyer: He means "talk".
Juliet: We don't have time for this.
Sawyer: We cleared our schedules. We got all the time in the world.
Juliet: You know it's interesting... that you two are now the camp's moral police. I'm curious Sayid, how long was it before you told everyone on that beach exactly how many people you've tortured in your life? Do they know about Basra? And I'm sure the first thing you did when you got here, James, was to gather everyone in a circle and tell them about the man you shot in cold blood the night before you got on the plane. So why don't we just skip the part where you two pretend to be righteous? I'm taking that medicine back to Claire, and you're going to let me. Because if she doesn't get it, she's going to die. And the last thing either of you need right now... is more blood on your hands.
- Jacob to Ben in the season 5 finale: "What about you?"
- In Mad Men, there's a particularly effective one where Peggy is upset at the way the mother of a child actress acts towards her, which makes Stan think that she was upset that she never had children, which is obviously not true. After a flippant joke from Stan about the possibility of have illegitimate children, Peggy talked about the unfair double standard of women having to pay for a mistake while men can just walk away. This leads to Peggy revealing one of her deepest secrets.Peggy: Maybe she was very young and followed her heart and got in trouble. And no one should have to make a mistake and not be able to move on. She should be able to live the rest of her life, just like a man does!
Stan: You're right...
Peggy: I know (pauses) Maybe you'd do what you thought was the best thing.
Stan: What did you do?
- And then, of course, from "Seven Twenty Three"Bert Cooper: After all, when it comes down to it, whos really signing this contract anyway?
- And then, of course, from "Seven Twenty Three"
- Malcolm in the Middle:
- In one prominent instance, Commandant Spangler asks Francis "Can you name one thing wrong with your life that you don't blame on your mother?". Having blamed his mother for every problem he's ever had, regardless of how much Insane Troll Logic it took, Francis is stumped.
- Malcolm is trying to burst Reese's charade of wanting Cynthia's help with homework, so that he can get close enough to her to grope her. When flat-out telling her what his plan was doesn't work, Malcolm asks Reese one question, to show that he doesn't care a single bit about Cynthia.Malcolm: What's her name?
- In the final episode, Lois prevents Malcolm from taking a high-paying job, so he can go to college. When Malcolm objects, she insists that college is part of "the plan", which ultimately culminates in him becoming President of the United States. When he objects to her outsized expectations, her only response is "you look me in the eye and tell me you can't do it."
- In the final episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye is committed after an incident on a bus. Sidney Freeman has him relive the scene, where they pulled off the road to hide from an enemy patrol and needed to keep completely quiet, but a woman's chicken wouldn't stop making noise. He says she killed the chicken to keep quiet...but Sidney then asks "She killed the chicken?" This sparks Hawkeye's real memory, that she'd actually smothered her own baby to keep it quiet.Hawkeye: You son of a bitch. Why did you make me remember that?
Sidney: You had to get it out in the open. Now we're halfway home.
- Tony on NCIS manages to turn his interrogation around while being question by Eli David, the Director of Mossad. He's being interrogated about killing a Mossad officer, who was romantically involved with Ziva but whom Tony thought had nefarious ulterior motives for being the US.Tony: You send all your rogue agents to D.C., make it our mess? Guess I shouldn't be surprised, since you did the same thing with Ari, and he was your son. Speaking of family, what kind of a father would throw an out-of-control assassin at his own daughter? What kind of business are you running here, huh? Everyone just runs around, doing whatever the hell they want?
Eli David: (grabs Tony by the throat) They do as I say.
Eli David: Always.
(Tony looks up at the security camera, knowing Ziva is on the other side and heard the whole thing.)
- The Prisoner (1967):
- "The General" shows Number Six defeating a highly advanced computer by Logic Bombing it with a question which he is certain its predictive and logic circuits will not be equipped to answer: "Why?"Prisoner: It's insoluble, for man or machine.
- And in "Hammer into Anvil", after exploiting Number Two's paranoia all episode:Two: Sent here by our masters to spy on me.
Six: ... Just supposing for argument's sake that I was planted here? ... What would have been your first duty as a loyal citizen?
Two: (Oh, Crap! face)
Six: Not to interfere.
- Shattered Visage, the comic follow-up to the series, has this one: "Does the presence of Number Two require the existence of Number One?"
- "The General" shows Number Six defeating a highly advanced computer by Logic Bombing it with a question which he is certain its predictive and logic circuits will not be equipped to answer: "Why?"
- In Red Band Society, Kara incessantly acts like an Alpha Bitch, whether at her school or in the hospital where she's currently confined. When she throws yet another inane insult at Leo, he simply responds, "Can you ever just give it a rest?" Kara actually stops for a second, gives a bitter smile, and somberly replies, "If I could, don't you think I would?"
- In Red Dwarf, Kryten delivers one to the Inquisitor when making his case for existence.Inquisitor: In a human, this behaviour might be considered stubborn.
Kryten: But I am not human. And neither are you. And it is not our place to judge them... I wonder why you do?
- Parodied in Saturday Night Live guest starring Christoph Woltz with a game show sketch called "What Have I Become?". He asks the contestants the titular question and they all Freak Out in different ways. Finally one contestant asks him the same and he guess crazy.
- In one of the most emotional episodes, Dr. Cox is headed to his son's birthday party and is talking to his best friend, Ben. In the middle of the conversation, the camera switches so that Cox's face is in the foreground, and J.D. walks up to him and asks him what he's talking about. When Cox gives him the expected answer (the topic of the conversation), J.D. waits a Beat and asks "Where do you think we are?" The camera then switches back to where Ben was, except he is no longer there. They were headed to Ben's funeral the entire time; he, not the elderly Patient of the Week, had died earlier in the episode.
- In "My Fifteen Seconds", Jill Tracy is back at the hospital for unexplained poisoning. Every time Cox and J.D. talk with her, she behaves in her typical over-the-top and frivolous way. It's only later that the two doctors understand she had tried to kill herself. They rush back to the hospital and the question "How have things been going recently?" finally prompts her to tell the truth.
- Happened during Season 5 when J.D. saw a dead Jill Tracy wheeled in to the hospital and her mom asks : "Could someone have done anything?". This hits J.D. hard due to him having seen signs that Jill was a Stepford Smiler with suicidal tendencies but kept avoiding her because she's a Motor Mouth. He answers with no but thinks "Unless you mean me."
- In the historical drama miniseries Speer Und Er about Nazi Germany's chief architect Albert Speer, there's a scene where Speer is questioned after the war by a group of Allied officers. After Speer basically casts himself as an Anti-Villain and Only Sane Employee, he gets reminded that this possibly makes him worse than the outright fanatics. An officer points out that Speer fully understood that the people he worked for were murderers and thugs, yet knowingly applied his skills to prolong the war. He then asks Speer "How can you explain that to me? How can you justify it? How can you bear to live with yourself?"
- Sports Night has a relatively trivial example. The coach at Casey's alma mater calls a disastrous play, and Casey spends the next week making fun of him on air for it... until someone asks him "What play would you have called?" and he realizes he has no idea.
- Star Trek: The Original Series:
- "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" has the Enterprise sent back to the 60's and accidentally cause an Air Force jet to crash. They beam the pilot on board, then debate whether or not to return him to his time. McCoy argues for taking him back to their time while Kirk argues for returning him to his time. Kirk's argument is mostly about how he doesn't fit in with their time and technology. McCoy counters that he can be trained. Kirk's response: "Can he be trained to forget his family?"
- In "Errand of Mercy", an impending Federation-Klingon war is interrupted when the Organians run out of patience with their visitors' violence and reveal their true nature. Both Kirk and Kor protest, until Ayelborne cuts to the heart of the issue:Kirk: You have no right to dictate to our Federation...
Kor: ...or our Empire!
Kirk: ...how to handle their interstellar relations! We have the right...
Ayelborne: To wage war, Captain? To kill millions of innocent people? To destroy life on a planetary scale? Is that what you're defending?
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- In the classic James Newcomer episode "The Measure of a Man," Picard is forced to defend Data's rights when Commander Bruce Maddox claims he is not sentient and is Starfleet's property, giving Maddox the right to disassemble Data against his will to study and replicate him. Picard's defence is one giant Moment of Awesome where he questions the real implications of Maddox's work that eventually leaves Maddox shaken and silent.Picard: A single Data, and forgive me, Commander, is a curiosity: a wonder, even. But thousands of Datas, isn't that becoming a race? And won't we be judged by how we treat that race? Now tell me, Commander, what is Data?
Maddox: I don't understand.
Picard: What is he??
Maddox: A machine!
Picard: Is he? Are you sure?
Picard: You see he's met two of your three criteria for sentience, [intelligence and self-awareness,] so what if he meets the third, consciousness, in even the smallest degree? What is he then? I don't know, do you? (to Riker, who'd been forced to argue for Maddox's side) Do you? (to the judge) Do you? Are you prepared to condemn him and all who come after him to servitude and slavery?
- Picard himself is taken aback by Data's question earlier in the same episode, after he suggests to Data to agree to Maddox's procedure for the sake of Starfleet.Data: Sir, Lt. La Forge's eyes are far superior to human biological eyes, true? Then why are not all human officers required to have their eyes replaced with cybernetic implants?
[Picard is at a loss for words and turns away]
Data: I see, it is precisely because I am not human.
Picard: [shaken] That will be all, Mr. Data.
- In "Rightful Heir", Gowron disputes whether the Klingon claiming to be Kahless returned is the real thing. The apparent Kahless recounts an age-old anecdote about a man who, out of foolish pride, defied a storm and died for it. Gorwon, rather than conceding the point, promptly asks "Kahless" - whose historical counterpart supposedly saw the man die - what the defiant Klingon's name was. As he's actually a clone programmed with knowledge of the anecdote, not a true witness, "Kahless" doesn't know.
- In "Future Imperfect", Riker realizes he's gotten put through a Faked Rip Van Winkle scenario, so he starts asking rapid fire questions to his "crewmates":Riker: Worf, where did you get that scar?
"Worf": In combat.
Riker: What battle? When? Which sector? Which unit? Mister Data, if we left immediately, when would we arrive at Outpost 23?
"Data": At warp 1, in three days, four hours.
Riker: How about at warp 7? (pause) At warp 8? At warp 9? What's the matter, Data? What happened to those millions of calculations per second?
- In the classic James Newcomer episode "The Measure of a Man," Picard is forced to defend Data's rights when Commander Bruce Maddox claims he is not sentient and is Starfleet's property, giving Maddox the right to disassemble Data against his will to study and replicate him. Picard's defence is one giant Moment of Awesome where he questions the real implications of Maddox's work that eventually leaves Maddox shaken and silent.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- In the pilot episode "Emissary", the Prophets have one for Sisko: "Why do you exist here?"Further explanation
- The show clearly channeled a bit of TNG's "Measure Of A Man" when they had Captain Sisko dismantle a Kangaroo Court that tried to frame Worf in "Rules of Engagement".Sisko: No. You are an expert on the Klingon Empire. So, tell me, Advocate. Isn't it possible that there were no civilians on the transport Worf destroyed? Isn't it possible that the ship he saw was sending out false sensor images and that this whole affair was staged so that the only Klingon officer in Starfleet would be accused of a massacre and the Federation would be forced to stop escorting the convoys? Tell me, Advocate, isn't. It. Possible?
- In "Tacking into the Wind", Worf discovers Gowron is setting Martok up to fail in battle to either get him killed or disgraced, making the war with the Dominion even tougher. Worf's attempts to resolve the problem fail, and he seeks advice from Ezri. She points out that Gowron is "a symptom of a larger problem": the Klingon Empire itself being corrupt. Worf initially disagrees, but Ezri asks him to name the last Chancellor he respected or one who wasn't involved in some corruption. Her conclusion is what really gives Worf something to think about.Ezri: Worf, you are the most honorable and decent man I have ever met. And if you're willing to accept men like Gowron, then what hope is there for the Empire?
- The same episode sees Kira trying to help Damar's new resistance movement against the Dominion. Damar is dealt a nasty blow, though, when he learns the Dominion hunted down and killed his wife and son.Damar: What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and children? What kind of people give those orders?
Kira: Yeah, Damar, what kind of people give those orders?note
- This particular question shakes up Damar so much that Kira considers apologizing, but Garak talks her down, saying that Damar's romanticized view of the old Cardassia desperately needed a reality check. Later, Damar rescues Kira and Odo from an old-guard Cardassian, killing the latter, completing an important bit of Character Development in the process. To quote Damar: "He was my friend. But his Cardassia's dead... and it won't be coming back."
- The same episode sees Kira trying to help Damar's new resistance movement against the Dominion. Damar is dealt a nasty blow, though, when he learns the Dominion hunted down and killed his wife and son.
- Taken: In "Dropping the Dishes", Allie Keys says to Mary Crawford, "Your grandfather wasn't a very happy man. Why are trying so hard to be like him?" Mary is very disturbed by the question and is left atypically speechless.
- In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, "Will you join us?" - pierces through Cameron's literal armor, which is saying something. This prompts, amongst other things, an Oh Shit Moment for her, with John even bewilderedly pointing out she's upset, not him.
Funnily enough, the same question actually gives her the same reaction twice. First in the future hearing it from Jesse, then again in the present from Ellison.
- In the first season finale of Transparent Maura asks Ally, "I have a question, now that you're not on the payroll anymore. Do you like me? If I didn't give you any money, would you even talk to me?"
- In the episode of The Twilight Zone (2002) "Shades of Guilt", a man who allowed an African-American professor named John to be beaten to death, when he could have saved him, is forced to transform into said black man. With nowhere else to go, he turns to John's family, leading to the man's wife telling him he first has to answer a question:Wife: If my husband was white, would you have saved him?
- In the Voyagers! episode "Voyagers of the Titanic", Pasteur is about to give up on the rabies vaccine, saying he couldn't deal with the mockery that would likely result from his continuing. Bogg snaps him out of it by questioning how he's going to deal with it if Jeff dies because he was too afraid to remake the vaccine.
- Several examples of this occur in The West Wing, since it's a show about career politicians with rhetorical training. Sometimes it's the White House staff trying to cut through political facades, like when Oliver Babish interviews Bartlet over his MS, and sometimes it's a reporter, such as Danny Concannon investigating the assassination of a foreign national by US intelligence.
- Central to the second-season episode "Noel" is a psychologist asking Josh "How did you hurt your hand?" over and over until he tells the truth.
- An amusing sequence occurs in the introduction to the re-election arc, where a potential candidate for President completely flubs the question "Why do you want to be President?". Bartlet's staff giggle incessantly over the completely unorganized and unconvincing response, until one of them asks the other "What would Bartlet say to that question?" and they realize they don't have an answer either.
- Abbey Bartlet helped her husband conceal his MS by secretly prescribing him medication. When his medical condition is revealed, Abbey is forced to submit to a hearing which might result in a year's suspension of her practitioner's license, a prospect that greatly upsets her. This comes to a head in "Dead Irish Writers," when Abbey, C.J., Amy, and Donna all sneak off to drink during a White House party. Amy and C.J. can't figure out why the suspension is such a problem: Abbey's done great work for health care (and will continue to do such work after her license is restored) and has a family. She repeatedly replies "I'm a doctor"—to which Donna remarks, "Oh, Mrs. Bartlet, for crying out loud, you were also a doctor when your husband said 'Give me the drugs and don't tell anybody' and you said 'OK.'" This stuns Abbey into silence, and prompts her to voluntarily give up her license for the remainder of her husband's time in office.
- The MS subplot brings out a bunch of these, including:
- Leo asking Abbey, "This has happened before. This is me. What does he have that he can't tell people?"
- Abbey shouting at Jed, "Do you get that you have MS? Do you get that your immune system is shredding your brain and I can't tell you why? Do you have any idea of how good a doctor I am and I can't tell you why?"
- Abbey has one when she confronts Jed about his State of the Union speech that had had multiple changes made to it, including removing a section about fighting domestic violence."When did you decide you were going to run for a second term?"
- It's the nature of the office that even the President's playful banter can bring about one of these, such as when he attempts to resist being administered a flu shot by his Navy physician:Bartlet: I don't need a flu shot.
Doctor: You do need a flu shot.
Bartlet: How do I know this isn't the start of a military coup? I want the Secret Service in here right away.
Doctor: In the event of a military coup, sir, what makes you think the Secret Service is gonna be on your side?
Bartlet: [subdued] Now that's a thought that's gonna fester.
- The Wire:
- In the second-to-last episode of Season 1, D'Angelo Barksdale decides to quit the Game:
- And a possible callback at the end of Season 4, when the System fails Randy:"You gon' help, huh? You gonna look out for me? You gonna look out for me, Sergeant Carver? You mean it? You gonna look out for me? You promise?! You got my back, huh?!"
- In the fourth episode of Wolf Hall, Thomas More is imprisoned for not signing the Oath that confirms Henry VIII as head of the Church in England. He makes his defense silence, saying that he doesn't speak against it, and that he thinks none harm and does none harm. Thomas Cromwell says "What about Bilney? What about Bainham?" Both men were Protestants (and friends of Cromwell's) who were tortured and executed under More's authority—Bainham just at the end of episode three. It's one of the only times that Cromwell makes an open display of anger in the series.
Armor Piercing Question / Live-Action TV