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A Way Out of a Cave-In

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The main characters are trapped in a freshly-collapsed cave or building. All seems lost and they are ready to give up, when suddenly the hint comes — an indication that there are possible exits, and that savvy characters must pick up on them if they are to escape their location.

Not limited to cave-ins, this may also apply when the party is trapped in a sealed dungeon or cell, behind a locked security or blast door, deep in a maze, or some other location from which there seems to be no escape.

Variations of this trope include the trapped characters noticing a draft or air movement indicating a possible Air-Vent Passageway, or finding a place where dripping water or a faint light source enters the dungeon through the tiniest crack. This frequently overlaps with Follow the White Rabbit as well, with another common clue being an animal (wild or tame) suddenly showing up out of nowhere. The animal yelps and disappears, the characters wonder where said animal came from and, eventually, how it got in, then realize that they can follow it out to freedom. Said creature may be a Tunnel King or some other form of local wildlife, but this may also be a way of introducing the Team Pet, or at least of allowing the pet to make itself useful.

May result in an Involuntary Group Split. Contrast Buried Alive, for when there's no way out. See also Foreboding Fleeing Flock.


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    Comic Books 
  • In The Blue Lotus, the imprisoned Tintin notices a mouse disappearing between the cracks of the floor panels of his prison cell. He then tries to lift one of the panels but realizes that it's too heavy. Cue the panel being lifted from below where his allies dug a way up to reach him.
  • In Asterix and Cleopatra, Asterix, Obelix and Getafix find themselves lost inside a pyramid when Obelix nonchalantly reveals Dogmatix found them. Asterix realizes that he followed them inside by smell, so he can probably get them out as well. Obelix promises Dogmatix a huge pile of bones, which he is seen gnawing on after they escape.
  • In The Katzenjammer Kids, the eponymous kids are trapped in a cave after a plane crash. Starting a fire, one of them notices the smoke escaping through a gap in the rocks so they follow it, crawling through the conduit to safety.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Tangled, the protagonists are trapped in a rubble-filled cave with steadily rising water. It seems hopeless, but the Rapunzel remembers her Magic Hair! She sings to make it light up, and it illuminates a small gap in the rocks through which they are able to claw their way to safety. The small gap in the rocks is where water is leaking out, not in. The leak makes a small current that pulls her glowing hair towards the gap.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones realizes there is a hidden room in the Well of Souls by noticing that the snakes are coming into the main room from holes along one wall.
  • In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Resistance is holed up in a cave surrounded by the army forces of the First Order. Then they see the Vulptex herd fleeing towards the back of the cave, so they follow them and find another exit. Interestingly, Poe first suspects that there's another exit after Luke Skywalker walks in, not yet realizing that he's not actually there, being an Astral Projection from Atch-To.
  • In Star Trek: Generations Captain Picard is trapped on one side of a huge Force Field while Soran is working on his sun-killer weapon. He notices at the bottom of the field there is a small gap between an archway and the ground. He tosses a couple of rocks at the field which bounce off, then tosses one at the archway. It passes through, so Picard sets to work widening the space so he can crawl through.

  • In the Warrior Cats book Dark River, while Jaypaw is trapped in a flooding cave with his littermates and some young WindClan cats, he has a vision that shows him that Rock's notched stick had originated from the cave. Since he'd found the stick by the lake, he realizes that the subterranean river must lead out of the cave to the lake, and they use it to successfully escape.
  • From the Ciaphas Cain series: In Caves of Ice, an ambull is found wandering around the titular caves under a mining facility besieged by orks. A team is sent to investigate, as orks could easily use the backdoor into the facility. The fact that ambulls come from desert environments is brushed off until it turns out there's a dormant Necron facility with a working teleporter which the ambull probably wandered through... and then the Necrons start waking up.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Andy Griffith Show: Andy and Helen explore a cave and are victim to a cave-in. Barney stages a grass-roots rescue platoon for them, unaware that Andy and Helen discover a way out. But they don't want to embarrass Barney, so they go back into the cave and wait for him to rescue them.
  • Series/LOST: In season 1 episode 7, Jack and Charlie are trapped in a cave-in. As they're joking about making their final confession to each other, Charlie notices a moth flying about that leads him to an exit.

    Myths & Legends 
  • There is a legend that Aristomenes, the leader of a rebellion against Spartan rule, was once captured and thrown into a chasm. He managed to survive the fall, and later escaped by following a fox gnawing on his comrades' bodies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons module OA5 Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw. Played With in two encounter areas during the Player Party's trip up the underground River Hidden.
    • In Encounter 2: The Maze, the PCs have a choice of three passages they can enter. It doesn't matter which passage they choose, all of them will allow the PCs to reach the next encounter. If they try to determine which passage has the stronger current, the DM rolls a die to randomly determine which passage it turns out to be.
    • In Encounter 3: The Mermaids' Grove, there are two passages they can choose. One of the passages has a stronger current and leads to the next encounter. The other passage has "bursts of cool, fresh air" flowing along it and leads to the surface, where the PCs can find a city and buy any needed supplies before continuing their journey.
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventure "A Ballad of Times Past" in White Dwarf magazine #51. During winter travel, the Player Party is trying to figure out which branch of a river leads to a dragon's lair. If they examine the branches closely, they will see that one is flowing faster and is warmer than the other. That's because it's the one that flows through the hot lair. The other one is frozen along part of its length.

    Video Games 
  • Golden Sun series:
    • Golden Sun: The Mogall Forest is a maze with multiple-door Wrap Around areas that can be cleared by trial and error or by acquiring the (optional) Force Orb: On entering the forest, an ape jumps into a hollow stump. Hitting the stump causes the ape to jump out and run away, identifying which exit is the correct one. This is repeated several times throughout the forest, until the final stump where the dungeon boss (a gigantic ape) is hiding.
    • Golden Sun: The Lost Age:
      • During the infiltration in the Great Gabomba Statue (a giant statue filled with giant gears and clockwork), a rat jumps onto a gear when it sees you before fleeing out of sight. It might come across as a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, but it's actually a clue that you need to move on top of the gears to progress.
      • Gaia Rock's interior is a maze of four-doored rooms with a plant growing in the middle. Like Mogall Forest, you can go around guessing at which sequence of doors is the correct one (but Mogall Forest only had one Wrap Around screen between rooms, good luck getting all 14 of them right), or cast Growth on the plant to make its leaves grow into an arrow indicating the correct path.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, the protagonist and Tamara forced their way out of a crashed cable car on the way to the top of a ski slope. In a horrible twist, it started an avalanche that kills their parents and 10 other people.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Dennis the Menace episode, "Company Picnic", Dennis and Henry compete in Henry's company's father/son picnic against a troublemaking father/son duo. When Dennis and Henry catch up to the duo, they trap Dennis in a mine to keep him from competing in the final event, the tug-of-war. Dennis soon finds a mine cart and rides in it, crashing through a barrier and making it back in time for the tug-of-war.
  • In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Dexter's Detention", Dexter is placed into "solitary confinement": a small hole hidden under a single floor tile. While in there, he sees a small animal burrowing under the floor, which gives him the idea to turn the hole into an escape route.
  • In the Jonny Quest episode "Treasure of the Temple", the Quest team is canoeing along an underground river, trying to find a way out. Doctor Quest notices crocodiles on the shore of the river, from which he deduces that the river must lead to an aboveground jungle stream. When the team reaches a fork in the river, Doctor Quest decides to let the current decide which way they'll go. He believes that it will be strongest in the main channel - that is, the one that leads to the surface.
  • In the Thomas & Friends episode "Duncan and the Old Mine", Duncan comes across an Abandoned Mine, and when he goes inside, he bumps into a roof support, causing the roof behind him to collapse and seal him in. For a while, Duncan is trapped inside the mine with no way out, but when he biffs into what appear to be buffers, he hears a squeaking sound, revealing the buffers to be coal trucks. He uses the coal trucks as a battering ram to break through the boards on the other side.


Video Example(s):


Escaping the Well of Souls

Indiana Jones realizes there is a hidden room in the Well of Souls by noticing that the snakes are coming into the main room from holes along one wall.

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Main / AWayOutOfACaveIn

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