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Deus ex 'Scuse Me

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Any quick, cheap device that serves to remove a character from a scene so a plot point can take place.

Example: A kid wanders into an antiques store, and the owner tells him not to touch anything. Suddenly, the phone rings. When the owner leaves to answer it, the kid touches some valuable item and it breaks. Cue plot. The Deus ex Scuse Me in this scene is the off-screen phone call— it draws the owner out of the scene so the kid can break the antique.

The inciting incident in a Deus ex Scuse Me often requires immediate attention, so the character has to rush out quickly. Phone calls are used frequently nowadays. Other urgent excuses include oven timers, guests arriving, someone calling for the character, forgetting an item and having to go back for it... the options are as endless as the writer's imagination.

Sub-Trope of Room Shuffle. Compare I Need to Go Iron My Dog when it's the character making an excuse to call themselves away from a room and Conveniently Timed Distraction when a moment comes that unintentionally creates a distraction and a character takes advantage of that. This trope may be induced by others when We Need a Distraction. Name derived from "Deus ex Machina"— instead of something randomly showing up to save the day, it's something randomly showing up to cull the cast.


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  • The Avengers (1998). Steed and Mrs. Peel are at Wonderland Weather getting a tour from the receptionist. There's a noise (telephone ring?) elsewhere and the receptionist leaves, allowing Steed and Mrs. Peel to look around unnoticed.
  • Speed (1994). Howard Payne happens to be using the bathroom precisely when the police activate the camera spoof, thus allowing the deception to work.
  • Bastian always has something happen that lets him swipe The Neverending Story from the librarian's grasp.
  • The heroes of Galaxy Quest are left hanging for a dramatic moment when their contact on Earth has to run to take out the trash.
  • In The Sorcerer's Apprentice Balthazar leaves the front room of his shop to get a book so he can begin training Dave. This gives Dave the opportunity to open the Grimhold, releasing Horvath and setting the stage for the battle ten years later.

  • In Please Don't Tell My Parents You Believe Her, the two Pennies are able to fight each other without interference, and without the agony of having her superhero parents watch her fight to decide which one must cease to exist, because the First Horseman has made his first public appearance in decades, and all of the superheroes are downtown, fighting him.
    • Invoked Trope. Robot Penny was good friends with the First Horseman.
  • At the start of The Neverending Story, Coreander is called away for a long phone call, allowing Bastian time to steal the titular book.

     Live Action TV  

  • Used twice in the Goosebumps (1995) episode "The Haunted Mask", both with a ringing phone — the first time, the mask shop owner is called away, allowing Carly-Beth to explore the forbidden section of the mask shop where she finds the haunted mask. Second time, Carly-Beth's mother wants to check on her costume (she thinks Carly-Beth is going out as a duck), but a phone call draws her into another room, allowing Carly-Beth to slip out.
  • Wonderfalls uses this from time to time. Once, Eric faints at a wedding chapel and the receptionist goes to help him, allowing Jaye time to steal info from their records. Another episode, Jaye's mother leaves suddenly because she "has to pee like a racehorse;" once she's gone, Jaye can speak privately with her therapist.
  • Law & Order does this a lot - pick a series, pick an episode, someone answers their cell and walks out of the scene.
  • All three of the CSIs do that, too.
  • Often seen in non-comedic candid camera shows like What Would You Do?, To Catch a Predator, and Mystery Diners, where the actor playing whoever it is will often be asked to give an excuse to get away from the action to see what the mark will do when left alone / what, if anything, the marks will say to the other actor they temporarily left behind.
  • In the Enemy at the Door episode "No Quarter Given," Major Richter is called out of a meeting with Dr Martel to deal with an urgent message from Generalmajor Miller, giving Martel an opportunity to notice and read the plot-relevant paperwork on his desk.

     Role Playing Games  

  • From Dino Attack RPG:
    • When Rex and Chompy were captured and held in the Dino Island Laboratory, Dr. Rex was conveniently brought out of the room to interrogate another batch of prisoners, giving them their opportunity to break free. Then, said batch of prisoners were also able to escape when Dr. Rex was, again, conveniently led away by Libo in disguise.
    • Amanda's search for "Gun" left Rex alone in the headquarters lobby, allowing the Second Headquarters Squad to rush in and drag him into their mole hunt without Amanda's intervention.
    • Numerous times, Ben Gunn conveniently exits the scene just before Frozeen enters, preventing readers from ever confirming that one theory regarding Ben Gunn's true identity.


  • In One Touch of Venus, Savory is called away by Molly to settle something with Customs House about that ancient statue of Venus he has just acquired, leaving it alone with Rodney. When Savory returns, the statue is gone. So is Rodney, the only person who saw Venus come to life.

     Video Game  
  • During the second half of drowning, drowning, Amphithoe suffers a Food Coma and has to be carried home by Clio and Eudora, meaning that none of them will be there to stop Maia from wandering into the trench on her own.
  • At the beginning of Far Cry 4, the protagonist Ajay is captured by soldiers of the tyrant Pagan Min, leading to a tense No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine scene. During the meal, Pagan Min has to leave to deal with urgent tyrannical business, giving Ajay an opportunity to sneak away. The game does allow the player to choose not to take the opportunity, in which case Pagan Min will return after a few minutes and short-circuit the entire plot by explaining things that his mother refused to for no particular reason.
  • In Heavy Rain, if Madison Paige is knocked out by Dr. Adrian Baker during her investigation of him, she will wake up tied to an operating table in Baker's basement by Baker who intends to use those tools to torture her to death. Before he can do so, he's distracted by a persistent salesman trying to sell Bibles, giving Madison ample time to escape her bindings. This distraction happens up to three separate times; if Madison doesn't escape the third time, Baker kills the salesman offscreen and then returns to ensure she dies.

     Western Animation  

  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "A Bird in the Hoof" has Princess Celestia, who is in town for a meet-and-greet with the locals, called off to a meeting with the town mayor after she introduces her pet to Fluttershy, but before she can explain that her pet is a phoenix near the end of a molting cycle. Fluttershy assumes the Princess is too busy with her duties to care for a sick pet, and Hilarity Ensues.