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Failed A Spot Check / Live-Action TV

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Failing to notice the highly obvious in live-action TV.

  • 1000 Ways to Die:
    • A criminal planning to rob a jewelry store at gunpoint failed to notice that he entered the wrong store... and found himself attempting to hold up a gun shop.
    • Related is the tale of a would-be robber who tried to hold up a gun store, despite walking past a marked police cruiser sitting outside. Featured in the Darwin Awards.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • A surprisingly non-lethal variant, when Simmons walks into the lab and immediately starts telling Fitz about the covert research they've been conducting together, failing to notice that May is standing literally right next to him. Luckily, Fitz is able to stop her from giving away anything definitely incriminating, and the other agents are mercifully better at spot-checks.
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    • Another benign one in "Parting Shot" where Hunter and Bobbi, the former being an expert soldier and mercenary and the latter one of the best spies in the world, somehow fail to notice that all of their former co-workers are in the bar with them at the end of the episode. Especially strange since they managed to peg a complete stranger as a tail in the same scene. Luckily, the people involved aren't hostile.
  • Happens all the time on The Amazing Race when a team walks by a clue, and their cameraman points it out for the audience.
    • Particularly good in season 17 when almost every team somehow fails to notice the cypher key covering an entire building wall.
    • In season 3, several teams happily fill up their cars with unleaded gasoline, despite the warning on the gas cap that the vehicle takes diesel fuel only.
  • Bones: In season 12, Max gets a pacemaker implant. Neither he nor anyone else realizes that, since the guy who’s after Brennan and the whole family is a paramedic,he knows how to access data from said pacemaker. He follows it right to where Max and the kids are supposed to be kept safe and besides the agents in the safe house dying, Max dies protecting his grandchildren because his heart can’t take it.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • The Nazis just plain forget to check under the damn car until Walt points it out.
    • In "Face Off", the final episode of the 4th season, Tyrus Kitt, a goon of Gustavo Fring does a thorough check for cameras, wires, etc., in Hector "Tio" Salamanca's room at Casa Tranquila Nursing Home, however, he still misses the bomb underneath Tio's wheelchair, which Tio detonates to kill Tyrus and Tio, and also blow half of Gustavo Fring's face off (and he still survives barely long enough to fix his tie).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Xander doesn't even notice Willow's bloody shirt after Tara is killed, because he's so shocked over Buffy taking a bullet.
    • Throughout the early part of Season Six, Buffy repeatedly fails to notice that Willow has developed an addiction to magic, even after said addiction drives Tara away; it isn't until said addiction leads to Willow causing a car crash that lands Dawn in the hospital that she finally catches on.
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    • Played for Laughs on several occasions when Buffy is waiting for a vampire to Rise from Your Grave, but doesn't notice because she's too busy yakking to one of the Scoobies. At least one vampire is smart enough to quietly sneak off when he sees the waiting stakes and crossbows.
  • In a 2008 game of Deal or No Deal, host Howie Mandel secretly invited a player's sister to appear as a model with a suitcase. He'd tried prodding the player into realizing her sister was there, but she, and her parents who were also there, kept missing it. It was a good thing Howie shaved off his hair otherwise he'd have ripped it out. One wonders if the sister was The Un-Favourite in the family.
    Player: Am I missing something?
    Howie: Are you missing something? YES! Look at the model holding the briefcase!
  • In Doctor Syn ("The Scarecrow"), Syn, Mipps, and John all sneak into Dover Castle disguised as a press-gang to free the prisoners inside. Lieutenant Brackenbury sees through at once, but he lets them through as he's doing a Heel–Face Turn. When General Pugh berates him later for "not recognizing" them, Brackenbury points out that Pugh met them himself and failed to pick up on it, despite seeing Syn all the time at the Squire's house.
  • Doctor Who:
    • This trope is common throughout the classic series, where the Doctor and/or his companions will be "concealed" so long as the villain doesn't casually glance in their direction. Which they never do, of course.
    • "The Dominators": The Doctor notes that a volcano is erupting on the island he is on, but needs to have it pointed out to him that he should probably leave because a volcano is erupting on the island he is on.
    • "The Mind Robber": The Doctor spectacularly fails to remember what Jamie is supposed to look like when he has to reassemble his face. This gave rise to a headcanon that Time Lords are slightly face-blind, or don't recognize other people in the same way as others.
    • "Earthshock": In the first episode, a pair of assassin robots dart down a corridor just before a soldier turns to look. While the robots themselves are out of view, their shadows are clearly visible retreating down the passage; however, the soldier completely fails to notice despite staring straight at them.
    • The technology of "perception filters" are often used as a Handwave whenever the plot demands that something not be noticed until it needs to be dramatically revealed. The basic principle is that perception filters don't stop you seeing something, but will stop you noticing something unless you are either already aware of it or are specifically looking for it, and even then it takes effort to consciously spot it. For things that you would never consciously think about, like the number of rooms in your house or whether your house actually has an upstairs, the filters are pretty fool-proof, and even the Doctor is not immune to their effects. At one point the Doctor incorporates the technology to sneak around. While demonstrating it and telling Martha to focus on looking at him, she described the effect as "It's like... I can see you, but I don't want to."
    • "Rose": The Ninth Doctor and Rose are discussing the Nestene invasion plans by the Thames, with a clear view of the London Eye, and the Doctor mentions that the Nestenes will need an enormous transmitter. "What's it look like?" "Like a transmitter, round and massive. Smack dab in the middle of London, must be completely invisible." She has to make him turn around three times before the penny drops.
    • "Bad Wolf": Captain Jack Harkness finds himself on an, unbeknownst to him, killer version of What Not to Wear, and doesn't notice that the host robots are pulling out chainsaw and blade attachments until they are almost used on him — whereupon Jack retrieves his gun and uses it on them.
    • "School Reunion": After the school is locked down, Mickey, trying to get in, asks Robot Buddy K-9 if he has any kind of lock-picking device. K-9 has to state that they are in a car several times before Mickey catches on.
    • "Human Nature": John Smith gets so nervous and flustered while talking to the attractive Joan Redfern that he fails to notice that he's backing towards some stairs, which she tries to point out. He promptly falls down them.
    • "Utopia": No one in the bunker notices the Futurekind woman who snuck in, despite the fact that she's constantly hissing or snarling and baring her fangs. Her not having the tattoos and piercings that the others do is enough of a disguise, it seems.
    • "Partners in Crime":
      • The TARDIS noise had been previously established in the new series to be quite loud, especially to those who have been previously exposed to it. Donna does not hear it when it materializes in the same alleyway where she just parked her car as she walks away.
      • When hiding in the women's toilets at Adipose Industries, Donna fails to notice that reporter Penny Carter is in the stall next to hers, possibly for the entire time Donna was hiding in the stall, until her presence is revealed during the Searching the Stalls scene.
      • During the climax, for the laughs, Wilfred Mott, stargazing with headphones on, fails to notice the extremely loud and visible Adipose spaceship fly behind him. He does, however, get to see the TARDIS fly by at the end of the episode.
    • The Master isn't immune either. In "The End of Time", he converts 99.9999999...% of the human race into copies of himself and still fails a spot check, something which the Tenth Doctor is only too delighted to point out.
      The Doctor: Six billion pairs of eyes and you still can't see the obvious, can you?
      The Master: And what's that?
      The Doctor: [gesturing to the guard aiming a gun at Wilfred Mott] That guard is one inch too tall. [guard knocks the Master flat on his back]
    • "The Eleventh Hour": The Doctor fails to notice anything unusual about the "policewoman" who's captured him, such as the fact that her skirt is just a bit too short...
    • "The Time of Angels": The Eleventh Doctor and River Song fail to notice that while the Aplan race who built the catacombs had two heads, the statues they supposedly put there only have one... so all the statues are Angels that had lost their wings.
      River Song: How could we miss that?
      The Doctor: Low-level perception filter, or maybe we're thick.
    • "The Pandorica Opens" has Eleven do it again. He's in ancient Britain during the time of the Roman occupation when one of the Roman soldiers who've joined his cause turns out to be Rory Williams, who had died thousands of years in the future and then was erased completely from ever having existed by a crack in the universe. The Doctor is the only person who still remembers him. He tries to approach the Doctor but the Doctor, lost in thought about the other aspects of their situation, asks him to be quiet while he tries to figure it out.
      The Doctor: I'm missing something, obvious, Rory! Something big, right slap in front of me, I can feel it!
      Rory: Yeah, I think you probably are.
      The Doctor: Well, I'll get it in a minute. [walks out of the room carrying two Cyber guns]
      [a loud clatter is heard from outside]
      The Doctor: [slowly walks back into the room, staring at Rory, and pokes him in the chest]
      Rory: [rocks back on his heels from the poke]
      The Doctor: ... Hello again.
    • "Let's Kill Hitler": A flashback establishes that Amy took ten years before she realized that Rory was not gay and that there was one girl he paid attention to: Amy.
    • "The Wedding of River Song": With all of time crashing in on itself, the Doctor pleads with Amy to remember who he is... while absently picking up a model of the TARDIS on a nearby table and ignoring various sketches on her office walls depicting her adventures with the Doctor.
    • "Time Heist": Early on, the Doctor ponders why he isn't just using the TARDIS to do this job. Clara then brings up the more obvious question: where is the TARDIS? The Doctor admits he should have led with that.
    • "Dark Water": While touring 3W, the Doctor massively fails to notice all the Cyberman imagery everywhere.
    • "The Pilot": Bill takes a while to realize the TARDIS is Bigger on the Inside after entering it — mainly because she's known the Doctor for months by then and has only ever seen the TARDIS parked in the corner of his office, flush against two walls, and thus assumes it's a knock-through. Even after he pulls the lever to take off, she assumes it's a lift. It takes exiting in a completely new location for her to catch on, which is lampshaded by the Doctor and Nardole.
    • "Arachnids in the UK": Graham and Ryan get so wrapped up in conversation they don't notice the spider the size of a van on the ceiling.
    • "The Tsuranga Conundrum": The Doctor berates herself for doing this because, after waking up in a medical facility and wandering around looking for an exit, she failed to notice the telltale engine vibrations signifying she's on a spaceship.
    • "Demons of the Punjab": Upon finding the body of the holy man in the woods, the Doctor examines it, but fails to notice the gunshot wound that killed him, only realizing the cause of death later.
  • It takes Father Ted a few minutes before he realizes the living room is full of rabbits.
  • Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers completely fails to notice that one of his guests has died as he's serving him breakfast in bed. Basil, we suspect, tends to think of most of his guests as somebody else's problem.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In "Baelor", Arya is by far the most conspicuous person in the crowd, yet no-one but Ned notices her outright.
    • Despite suffering Flaying Alive Fingore on an X-shaped crucifix, Theon fails to guess his torturers are House Bolton, whose sigil is literally a flayed man on just such a cross.
  • One episode of The Golden Girls has Sophia get misplaced while in the hospital. She ends up in an elevator. Meanwhile, Dorothy and Blanche go to the hospital to search for her. At one point, they get into said elevator, take it to a different floor, and get out without Dorothy and Blanche or Sophia noticing each other.
  • Good Omens (2019): Shadwell filled his Witchfinder organization with fake names to justify a bigger budget (since their pay rates are centuries out of date). Crowley never notices anything odd about the obviously fake ledger because he doesn't care enough to check. Aziraphale, on the other hand, honestly believes that there are Witchfinder officers named "Saucepan" and "Milk Bottle".
    Aziraphale: Oh, and I should have asked about Witchfinder Major Milkbottle. I was so sorry to hear of his untimely end. I sent flowers.
    Shadwell: Aye, the flowers were appreciated.
  • In the House episode "Skin Deep", Dr. Wilson gave a patient an ultrasound and failed to notice that she doesn't have a uterus. Actually tends to be a common medical hangup among less experienced doctors (or alternatively, medical technicians and such who have worked so long everything has become routine). Generally caused by patients having a specific problem, and the doctor searching for and then treating that specific problem... only to miss the cancerous growth over the heart.
  • iCarly:
    • Gibby in "iWin a Date":
      Carly: We have to keep the game clean and fair.
      Gibby: How would I know which one is Shannon?
      Sam: Listen. There will be three girls: Girl Number 1, GIRL NUMBER 2, and Girl Number 3.
      Gibby: So, which one is Shannon?
      Carly: If you want TWO go on a date with Shannon, you got TWO choose carefully.
      Carly & Sam: That is all you have TWO do.
      Gibby: O-kaaaaay!
    • Spencer runs into the apartment excited about a girl he just met in "iThink They Kissed", and doesn't notice that the Power Trio is tied together with duct tape.
  • GSN game show Idiotest exploits this as its premise. The visual puzzles presented to contestants are designed to test their observation skills. While often filled with misleads and misdirection, the correct answer is usually blatantly obvious, and the host is not afraid to call you out if you can't figure it out.
  • The Knights of the Round Table, Karadoc and Perceval, from the French Kaamelott TV series are rather oblivious as a general rule. In the spin-off comic book Le Serpent Géant du lac de l'Ombre ("The Giant Snake from Shadow Lake"), they however take it to a whole new level. While rowing on the title lake in search of the eponymous giant snake, a huge coil of said monster rises above the water behind them... and they don't notice. Then its tail strikes their boat, and they wonder if they hit a rock. Finally, a stronger tail lash capsizes their boat and sends both in the water. Their conclusion? There's no giant snake in this damn lake, they're just wasting their time.
  • Played for Laughs in the Crossover between Kamen Rider Gaim and Ressha Sentai Toqger, where Takatora gets a phone call about the Humongous Mecha vs. Giant Monster battle going on, then looks out the window at the exact moment the two giants leave his field of vision. He tells the person on the other end of the line "That's ridiculous, get back to work" and wonders if he's the Only Sane Man in the company.
    • He usually is.
    • The gag was repeated the next year in the crossover between Kamen Rider Drive and Shuriken Sentai Ninninger, except this time Brain saw the battle and desperately tried to point it out to a disbelieving Heart and Medic.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid
    • This happens to Kuroto Dan in the web spin-off Kamen Sentai Gorider where he fails to understand the nature of the Kamen Rider he is disguised as, leading to his plans falling apart in spectacular fashion.
  • Like the aforementioned Gaim-Toqger examplenote , Played for Laughs in the Den-O-Decade crossover movie The Onigashima Battleship, where Kuchihiko (the Big Bad of the movie) fails to notice Teddy/Neotaros standing right in front of him when he was riding the Denliner. To a lesser extent, the GelNewts also did this, not noticing the other Imagin, the crew of the Denliner, Ryotaro, and Kotaro faking the train passing through time.
  • In Legends of the Hidden Temple, if a team enters with 1 and a half pendants (used to make a temple guard go away, and you need a whole pendant to do so), another half pendant is hidden somewhere in the temple. It's usually hanging from a button that needs to be pressed to open the only unlocked door, but the teammate that needs it usually walks right by it.
  • Played for Laughs in one episode of Leverage, where Parker and Hardison have a conversation in front of the mixing desk in a recording studio... and completely fail to notice Eliot fighting a bunch of goons behind the soundproof window next to them.
  • On the Discovery Channel series Mind Blast, to demonstrate this trope in action, they had a clown on a unicycle ride through a crowded plaza. The people on their cell phones were completely oblivious to the existence of said clown, even saying they saw no clown when they were asked about it later.
  • For more British goodness, a blow-away priest in one Monty Python's Flying Circus episode utterly fails to notice a very large cannon pointing out of a grave at his face, just so the Bishop could get there too late to save him.
  • NCIS:
    • In an episode, Gibbs comes upon the aftermath of a shootout in Mexico. Ocean on one side, desert on the other, and as soon as Gibbs dismounts there's a man with a gun behind him. We guess he was hiding behind the horse?
    • In the episode "Jurisdiction", Gibbs and DiNozzo go into a house with guns drawn and searching for bad guys, and DiNozzo calls "clear!" on a room with a CGIS agent in it that DiNozzo would have easily seen, if he'd bothered to look anywhere but straight ahead.
  • Lily Charles of Pushing Daisies misses the fact that Chuck, her daughter who thinks she's her niece, is back from the dead despite Chuck standing right in front of her. While Lily is missing an eye, it's her right eye that's missing/blind, and in the scene in question the obstruction was to her right — so the eye that was best placed to see Chuck was actually her good eye.
  • Strange Empire: Very few recognized Kat as having First Nations ancestry (aside from Caleb, who's of mixed heritage like her), although it's fairly obvious. They then act like she "lied" about it to boot.
  • The final task of series two of Taskmaster involves the contestants building a bridge that can support a potato on a model field using materials like spaghetti, straws, elastic bands, playing cards, etc. Nobody notices the three separate clues that there were useful building materials attached to the underside of the table; the words "debajo de la messa" — Spanish for under the table — painted on the side of a toy boat; a button on the table which lights up a clue under the table; and a sign above the doorway that tells the contestant to look under the table.
    • An earlier task in the same episode requires the contestants to transfer two large bags of grocery items from one side of a canal to a shopping trolley (with sabotaged wheels) on the other side. One of them grabs the bags, charges through the canal, and throws the items into the trolley, all of which would have looked like a very impressive and decisive piece of action... had he not seconds later noted the presence of not one but two nearby bridges he could have used, in a tone of loud astonishment. The contestant was still kicking himself in the studio weeks later.
  • The tape 00083 for the family 00437 in This House Has People in It has the family failing to see the very obvious presence of the pink humanoid.
  • The Walking Dead, being a horror series, naturally has a few of these but episode 1 of season 2 has a particularly egregious example. Dale, who is perched on top of his RV on a highway, specifically being there as an outlook, somehow manages to completely overlook this horde of walkers until it almost hits the group.
  • When They See Us: One of the cops interrogating Matias Reyes failed to notice the similarities between his attacks and the attack on Tricia Meili, despite one having taken place very near to where Meili was assaulted only two days before.
  • Wipeout has the infamous "Where's the pole?" incident (at 1:30). To wit, the contestant was doing great (and was also the first to ever successfully clear the course's infamous Big Balls obstacle) until she was unable to find a thirty-foot pole that was right in front of her. According to her, "I thought the pole was yellow!"
  • In episode 2 of the British kids' show The Witches and the Grinnygog, the children's mother reports a theft from the store where she works, a dummy wearing a white dress and yellow wig. Later, she takes in a pair of lodgers, a woman, and her ill daughter. The daughter is being carried by a local boy and is quite blatantly a dummy in a white dress and yellow wig. Absolutely no one realizes it, not even the boy carrying her! Possibly justified in that the woman is a witch, after all, and might be manipulating what the children see.
  • Wonder Woman: In early episodes, Wonder Woman protected her Secret Identity via Clark Kenting, but towards the end of the series she didn't bother to wear glasses or a ponytail. So Diana was essentially walking around looking exactly like Wonder Woman — and the entire world failed their spot check for reasons that were never addressed.


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