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Closed Circle / Live-Action TV

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  • American Horror Story: Murder House, anyone who dies in the house has their ghost become trapped in the house for all eternity. An example is shown when Violet attempts to leave the house, only to come through the back door, again and again.
  • Ascension (Miniseries): The show is about a murder that takes place aboard a Generation Ship that has been in space for 50 years, so the murderer has no way of escaping.
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  • Babylon 5. The episode "Intersections In Real Time" consists entirely of Sheridan's interrogation in a dark room with no windows in an undisclosed location. The lack of a B-plot means the audience shares Sheridan's sense of isolation. He has no idea if the war is going badly or well.
  • Being Human (US): Sally is unable to leave the house at the beginning, describing the outside as just "dropping off". However, she eventually learns to leave the property and venture outside. In the UK version, Annie is always able to leave the house, but usually chooses not to.
  • Bones had this with “The Proof in the Pudding” Who Shot JFK? episode. It didn’t stop Booth sneaking into the lab though. And another episode “The Pathos In The Pathogens” combined it with a deadly virus situation. Then there was “The Man in the Fallout Shelter” with exposure to Valley Fever.
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  • Bring 'Em Back Alive: In "Storm Warning", Buck escapes being murdered aboard a ship, then is forced to wait out a storm with his shipmates, one of whom is the would-be killer.
  • Used in one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Dawn wishes to a Vengeance Demon that everyone would stop leaving her (really, she has abandonment issues, and for a very good reason, her father left them when she was 9, her mother's dead, her sister died for a few months, came back and then ignored her, the people who have been taking care of her split up, one of them leaving and it just keeps getting worse throughout the show. They end up trapped in the house. With a demon.
  • The CSI revival CSI:Vegas had an episode where the killer was someone in the lab. The lab went on lockdown until the case was solved.
  • The Death in Paradise episode "The Man with the Golden Gun" is set on a millionaire's private island; there were only a specific group of suspects who could have committed the crime, and as the episode unfolds a storm traps the suspects and the detectives on the island until they have solved the case.
    • In "Murser on Mosquito Island", the team investigate the death of a survival instructor. He was found dead in the woods while giving a training course on a small deserted island off the coast of Saint Marie.
  • This is the premise of the Doctor Who episode "Midnight", in which the Doctor and a bunch of tourists are trapped in a train car with a mysterious and probably malevolent alien.
    • Actually, it seems almost every other episode of the new series the TARDIS is lost, stolen or thought to be destroyed, only to turn up once the plot's been resolved.
      • Happens a lot in the original series, as well, to the point that "small group of people trapped in a base, being killed of by a monster/monsters" is pretty much the standard Who plot. Hell, in the second serial The Daleks, the Doctor fakes this scenario by deliberately sabotaging the TARDIS so he can explore Skaro. This backfires when the Daleks steal the piece he took from the TARDIS, making this a real Closed Circle scenario.
    • In one particular Rory/Amy era episode, there's two closed circles. One is entirely within the Tardis (though the other eschews it, for one traditionally nebulous reason or another). Only the antagonist has control over travel between the two. Oh, and one of them is imaginary, apparently. What's real is a feature of the eventually resolved plot twist(s), of course.
  • This trope, which means that Ted has to put up Bishop Brennan, who he has to kick up the backside as a forfeit, is bizarrely parodied in an episode of Father Ted:
    Mrs. Doyle: I've got some bad news Your Grace — I just heard on the radio that they've taken the roads in.
    Bishop Brennan: They've "taken the roads in"?
    Ted: Yes. They roll them up when it gets too stormy and store up in a big warehouse on the North side of the island so they don't get damaged.
  • From: The town that the series is set in is impossible to leave. One you enter, attempts to exit via the only road just takes you back where you started. And going into the woods surrounding the town is basically a death sentence, as it's filled with monsters.
  • Gilligan's Island, so much so that people ask why they don't Just Eat Gilligan.
  • In Helix, several factors conspire to keep the CDC rapid response team at Research, Inc. Arctic Biosystems during their investigation of an outbreak of The Virus. It's CDC protocol to achieve full containment of a pathogen before leaving, the helicopters that transported them can't stay, due to the Hostile Weather's ability to coagulate fuel, and satellite communication to the outside world, though instantaneous, is only active for an hour a day. Then the satellite is sabotaged directly after the CDC's lead researcher decides he's lost control of the situation and states that he intends to call for backup.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: The Kamen Sentai Gorider special uses this premise. Emu Hojo wakes up in a mysterious amusement park that seems to be on an island floating in the void. He (and the five other Kamen Riders who subsequently show up) quickly discover that it's impossible to leave the park; no matter which direction you go, you'll always end up back where you started. The plot thickens when the six realize that besides being Riders, the other common bond between them is that they're all dead...
    • Kamen Rider Revice: The Kamen Rider Revice: The Mystery miniseries also uses this premise. Ikki, Vice and Hiromi chase a Deadman into the mountains, only to find themselves stranded at a pension house when a sudden storm prevents them or any of the house's residents from leaving. Then one of the residents is later found dead...
  • Les Revenants: Towards the end of the first season, a few characters decide to get the hell out of the sleepy French town where a bunch of weirdness is happening. They keep driving through the same tunnel only to end up right back in town.
  • The Leverage episode "The Ten Little Grifters Job" — whose title is also an Agatha Christie homage — plays with this trope.
  • Lost, which starts with the survivors of a plane crash. Then in season five, most of the ones who left the island returned.
  • Lost Tapes: Most settings in various episodes are usually some variation of this, with the characters ending up in an isolated or enclosed area that they can't easily get out of, such as the North American wilderness, an Australian rainforest, an old house, the Gobi Desert, a condemned boarding house, or a sewer.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Happy Families", Barnaby and Winter go to investigate a murder in a mansion on island accessible only by a chain ferry. After the body is removed, a storm wrecks the ferry, stranding Barnaby and Winter on the island with the suspects.
  • Midnight Mass (2021): There's thirty miles of ocean between Crockett Island and the mainland, and the only way to make the journey across it is by ferry or, in a pinch, fishing boat. So when certain members of the cultish congregation send away the ferries, sabotage the fishing boats, and cut the power and phone/internet signal, the characters are trapped.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: "Murder Under the Mistletoe" takes place in an isolated chalet. A snowstorm leaves the chalet Snowed-In, with roads to icy to drive on, and engines of all the vehicles frozen. Cut Phone Lines complete the isolation.
  • Happened infrequently on Murder, She Wrote, such as the episode where a murder took place on the victim's private island, one where Jessica and others are stuck at a 24 hour diner during a storm after their bus breaks down, and another where people are Snowed-In at a ski resort due to a blizzard, and also one episode had a murder happen in a plane mid-flight.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • "Stairway to Heaven" is set at a lodge on an island during a heavy thunderstorm. Detective Murdoch arrives soaking wet and tells everyone there that the ferry to the mainland won't operate again until the storm lets up, so he and Dr. Grace have to work the murder case entirely onsite.
    • "Friday the 13th 1901" starts as a "hen party" (a bachelorette party) on an island over a weekend. The boatman isn't scheduled to return for several days, the only boat on the island is found to have a gaping hole in it, and the period setting means there's no communications technology. Thus Drs Ogden and Grace have to take the lead in solving the problem of the ax-wielding killer.
  • In Once Upon a Time, the Dark Curse keeps the inhabitants of Storybrooke from leaving the city and keeps (most) visitors away. Even after the Curse is broken, those who cross the city's boundary lose all memory of their fairy tale selves, until Mr Gold/Rumpelstiltskin takes specific precautions to avoid that.
  • The Village Head in Saengchori controls who comes and goes in Once Upon a Time in Saengchori.
  • Orange Is the New Black for the most part takes place in a women's prison.
  • In an episode of Sanctuary, the characters were trapped because of a severe snowstorm which was delaying the rescue team from arriving.
  • Built into the DNA of Sapphire and Steel; it occurs in every serial. It was handwaved in various ways, generally along the lines of "Time won't let us leave", and contributed to the series' sense of unsettling claustrophobia.
  • A Bottle Episode of Scrubs is set up when JD offhandedly wonders if a patient may have SARS. The hospital is automatically locked down and quarantined until the events of the episode are over and the hospital is declared safe.
  • Common in Stargate SG-1 back in its early years, since the Stargate is the only way off of a planet and it's plausible that the team's access to it would be blocked.
    • Even more common in Stargate Universe. The castaways have no control over Destiny's course or how long it lingers in a star system; they're just along for the ride.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Our Man Bashir" has Bashir and Garak playing a James Bond holosuite program for fun, until a transporter malfunction raises the stakes by replacing five of the characters with five of the station's senior staff. What makes it this trope is that, if they try to leave, hide, or otherwise go Off the Rails before their friends outside can fix the problem, the program will end and erase the crew.
  • Used in at least one episode of The Twilight Zone, "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" They don't find out the true identity of the titular Martian — or if there even is one — before they finally leave the circle to their doom.
  • A couple of episodes of The West Wing. Lampshaded in "Holy Night," the fourth-season Christmas Episode in which everybody is waiting for it to stop snowing so they can leave the White House.
    Leo: Dr. Keyworth, Dulles and International are both closed.
    Stanley: Ah.
    Leo: You mind being our guest for a little while?
    Stanley: Thank you.
    President Bartlet: And now we're one-third of the way through an Agatha Christie story. [leans forward] "Won't nobody be goin' nowhere. The bridge is warshed out." [awkward pause] Well, I'm finished. But I was doing the guy that says that in the Agatha Christie stories.