Booker DeWitt: We tell them we got lost looking for the bathroom.
Elizabeth: And that works?
Booker DeWitt: Not usually, no.
The Bathroom Search Excuse is when a character claims to be looking for a bathroom as an excuse for snooping around in a restricted area.
There are two main ways the excuse is generally used. Sometimes, the character will just outright ask to use the bathroom—since it's considered polite to allow people to use these facilities in one's home, any friendly host should be happy to give them directions and send them on their way. Or, sometimes, the character will attempt stealth at first and simply fall back on this excuse once they've been caught. Note that the second option is probably less likely to work out in the snooper's favor, unless they're dealing with some particularly inept guards.
This claim can easily be Played for Laughs if the snooper is very obviously not looking for the bathroom. It is on its way to becoming a Discredited Trope, as authority figures in fiction seem to be catching on to its existence, but straight examples still occur.
Subtrope of Embarrassing Cover Up and Talking Your Way Out. Sometimes a subtrope of Refuge in Audacity and/or The Infiltration. Sister trope to Beneath Notice, Delivery Guy Infiltration, Room Disservice, and Janitor Impersonation Infiltration. If the character really does go to the bathroom and attempts to escape from there, it's Bathroom Breakout. Compare Bavarian Fire Drill and its subtropes, which are similarly audacious. May overlap with Fake Period Excuse and/or Calling Your Bathroom Breaks. Not to be confused with Searching the Stalls, when a search takes place already in the bathroom. It can overlap with Grossout Fakeout if they phrase their excuse graphically.
- In a Looney Tunes comic, Granny wanders into the Queen's office in Buckingham Palace, then tries to cover her tracks by saying, "Excuse me, I was looking for the loo. I think that's what you call it."
- Tintin: In "King Ottokar's Sceptre", Tintin tracks a Syldavian saboteur to the local Syldavian restaurant. Tintin goes in as a customer and asks where the bathroom is, being shown the way by the owner. Tintin then sneaks into the back, overhearing the saboteurs talking about him and Professor Alembick, making Tintin figure out that he's stumbled onto something.
- In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne is caught sneaking around in Lex Luthor's mainframe. He claims he had one too many drinks and desperately needed the bathroom.
- Charlie's Angels (2019): When they spot a security guard while infiltrating Alexander's party, Sabina pretends to be a lost partygoer looking for the bathroom to distract the man; while his guard is down, Jane attacks him and knocks him out.
- In one scene of The Secret of My Success, Brantley Foster is running from another employee who has seen through his executive director disguise, and he barges into Christy Wills's office. When she notices him, he says "This isn't the men's room?"
- Stormbreaker: When Alex slips away to look around the Stormbreaker facility, he's caught by Nadia Vole trying to get through a sealed door, and claims he thought the bathroom might be through there. This incident makes her suspect that he's more than he seems.
- At the beginning of True Lies, after Harry infiltrates the party, he sneaks onto the closed off second floor to plant a bug so that Faisil can hack the party's host computer. As he's sneaking out of the home office, he asks a nearby guard where the bathroom is because he has to "take a major leak." The guard seems to fall for it, but as soon as he's gone the guard calls for reinforcements.
- Ascendance of a Bookworm: Played literally. Myne is left alone in a medical room after fainting and, upon waking, sets out to actually look for the bathroom. She finds it, but it has no water, and so she goes looking for someone to bring more and ends up by genuine accident in a part of the temple meant for people of higher status than her, only managing to go further into it while trying to get back to the medical room. This incident results in her stumbling upon the temple's small library. This is a very big find because Myne is a Bookworm reincarnated in a world in its pre-printing press era, making books way too expensive for someone of Myne's low economic status.
- In the story "Apt Pupil" in the Stephen King collection Different Seasons, Dussander sneaks into the medical supply room at a hospital, looking for pills to commit suicide with. He prepares to use this trope as an excuse, but no one notices him.
- Chasing Vermeer: Calder gets a job delivering books to one of the antagonists. While there, he asks if he can use her bathroom (which is conveniently located upstairs) and takes the opportunity to peek into all of her rooms looking for a stolen item.
- In the Emma Donoghue story "Looking for Petronilla," the protagonist, visiting an old tavern, relates:
I ask to be directed to the Ladies; this seems the best excuse for poking around.
- In Midnight, Violet's friend Marnie sneaks into Violet's adopted brother William's bedroom and claims she was just looking for the bathroom.
- In A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, Jim purports to have been looking for a bathroom when he was actually checking out the area in preparation for a robbery. The guards have no trouble buying the story, since it happens at an Amusement Park.
- Ray K in Due South Mountie on the Bounty. He stumbles over the proper term for a ships bathroom, the head.
- Elementary: Sherlock Holmes does this all the time, asking somebody for directions to the bathroom and then poking around for evidence.
- Killing Eve: When undercover as Billie in "I Hope You Like Missionary!", Villanelle asks to go to the bathroom so she can snoop around the Peele house. When Aaron busts her, he expects her to claim to have gotten lost, but instead Billie/Villanelle immediately owns up to being nosey, which surprisingly endears her to him.
- Mako Mermaids: An H₂O Adventure: Evie wants to investigate the strange goings on by the residents of Rita's house, so she insists on tagging along with David's seafood delivery and then uses the bathroom excuse to wander the halls. She improves her odds by waiting for David and Sirena (who have a mutual crush) to be distracted by each other and asking Sirena, who is too lost in David's eyes to consider Evie's intents.
- The Mandalorian: In the first episode a bounty the title character captured claimed he needed to use the toilet as an excuse to snoop around his ship, even trying to play up his Bizarre Alien Biology as an excuse for taking a while. It doesn't work for very long, and the bounty ends up spending the rest of the flight in a carbonite slab.
- The Mentalist: In Blinking Red Light, Jane pretends to work with James Panzer, blogger and self-proclaimed expert on the serial killer the team are hunting. He visits Panzer's home to see what he's got, and asks to use the bathroom as an excuse to snoop. A look around there makes him certain Panzer is the killer, because his bathroom is "too neat."
- Mindhunter: Holden asks to go to the bathroom in Wayne Williams's house aka the Atlanta child killer. He instead uses it as an opportunity to snoop, but gets busted quickly when Wayne's dog (which he claims he didn't have) starts barking. Holden claims to be lost, but Wayne doesn't buy it.
- Ace Attorney Investigations Alba gives bathroom-searching as the excuse for leaving a play in the middle of the show and ending up in the changing room of the actors. To the surprise of nobody, he's lying.
- Played With in BioShock Infinite. At one point Elizabeth asks Booker what they'll do if they're caught. He says that they'll say they got lost looking for a bathroom. Elizabeth asks him if that works, and he says "Not usually".
- Little Inferno: At the end of the game, you have the opportunity to explore the HQ of The Tomorrow Corporation. You first have to speak to the secretary, who informs you that the elevator to the rest of the building is off-limits to anyone but employees. Then you can ask to use the bathroom, which is apparently fine, despite it being up that very elevator.
- The Legend of Korra: In the second episode of the first season, Korra sneaks into the pro-bending arena practice room and gets caught by the arena's owner, and she claims to have needed the bathroom. He doesn't believe it, however, and calls it "the old 'I had to pee' excuse".
- Played with in The Loud House episode "Rocket Men", when Lincoln and Clyde are trying to escape from a space-themed camp that they hate because the food tastes bad and the rides make them nauseous, a worker catches them and they claim they were on their way back from the bathroom.
- Hercules: The Animated Series: When Hades catches Zeus trying to leave the pool in "Hercules And The Pool Party", Zeus claims he was looking for the bathroom. Hades flatly tells him to get into the pool, which Zeus misinterprets. He questions if that is sanitary.