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Embarrassing Cover-Up

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Ms. Warren: What are you doing here? There's a dance.
Ned: Uh... I'm looking at... porn.

One of the best types of lies are ones which make people want to stop asking questions altogether. A good way to accomplish this is for the lie to be about something You Don't Want to Know.

An Embarrassing Cover-Up is great not only because it can cause the person questioning them to lose interest, but also because they are a good, easy-to-explain cover-up for suspicious behavior. Bob might be suspicious if Alice claims she snuck off in the middle of the night without telling anyone to get ice cream. If she claims she did so to replenish her tampon supply or masturbate, on the other hand, there's at least a 9 in 10 chance that Bob will leave it at that.

"Women's problems", in fact, are a very common use of the trope. There is even an example of this happening in biblical scripture, making this trope Older Than Feudalism. For men, explosive diarrhea is a much more popular choice.

Sometimes an Embarrassing Cover-Up can create friction in a group that's keeping a secret, particularly if someone makes an embarrassing cover up for someone else. For example: Bob and Alice are working on Project X in total secret. One day, Carol catches them together and asks what they're doing. To Bob's horror, Alice proceeds to invent a cover story which is hugely embarrassing to Bob. But Bob has to go along with it or risk making Carol suspicious.

Supertrope to Bathroom Search Excuse. This trope overlaps with Infraction Distraction if the cover story is an actual admission of guilt (albeit to a much smaller offense than the one being concealed) in addition to an embarrassing disclosure. Contrast Revealing Cover-Up, in which the lie only attracts more attention.

See also Too Much Information and Sure, Let's Go with That. For a more literal "embarrassing cover up," see Hand-or-Object Underwear (or maybe Naked Freak-Out).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Aggretsuko, when Retsuko fantasizes about quitting her Soul-Crushing Desk Job for a more enjoyable one, her coworker Kabae asks Retsuko why she looks so happy. Not wanting her Mean Boss to find out, Retsuko claims she's happy because she was finally able to poop after five days. Not only does this get spread everywhere, it mutates to the point that Haida thought Retsuko gave birth yesterday. On top of all that, her boss still finds out she wants to quit, just for other reasons.
  • In Boarding School Juliet, when he was almost caught during a secret rendezvous with Juliet, Romio makes up the excuse that he was "talking to his insect friends". It wasn't as degrading as other examples, but his friends call him pathetic for it afterward.
  • In A Certain Scientific Railgun, Mikoto and Misaki spend a few days fighting against the organization trying to take control of Mikoto's Sisters. After everything is resolved, Misaki covers for Mikoto by using her unspeakably powerful mind control to give everyone False Memories of Mikoto being locked in the bathroom with crippling diarrhea.
    Mikoto: I'm going to kill her.
  • In CLANNAD, Kyou has been riding her "bike" (actually a motorized scooter) to school (which is apparently against the rules), and keeps cutting off Tomoya after he gets out the morae "bai." A friend later asks what he was talking about, and he proclaims, for the entire class, that Kyou is bi.
  • In Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School, Nagito formulates a plan to spike everyone's drinks with laxatives in order to postpone the exams for his depressed class. To do this, he tracks down the Ultimate Pharmacist, Seiko Kimura, and tells her he's been constipated all week in the most unnervingly cheerful way possible.
  • Exploited in Death Note, when Light plants porn in his room for the investigation team to find, to make it look as if that's what he's trying to hide. He's not actually embarrassed about it, but his Dad sure finds it awkward. L sees right through it.
  • Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure: When Kazuki and Mitsuki return to their home dimension, they learn that Mitsuki's father has covered their disappearance by claiming they'd eloped.
  • In Girl Got Game, when Kyo is Recursive Crossdressing, the team captain recognizes her voice. When he mentions Kyo, Chiharu quickly shouts "He's sick with diarrhea!" much to Kyo's chagrin.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, England was performing a secret black ritual to curse Germany. Then America walks in and England quickly "invites" him to the costume party.
  • Inuyasha regularly features Kagome's grandfather inventing embarrassing or improbable explanations for her absence from school while she was cavorting around in the Feudal Era. Most of these were illnesses, getting weirder and weirder (and worse and worse) as the series went on. Kagome lampshades it after the first few times it happens, while her grandfather is telling a friend of hers another embarrassing illness. This was in the earliest episodes. How could it get worse? This included herpes at one point in the dub.
  • In Kanon, Mai and Yuuichi are talking about the demons she secretly fights at night and how there are "some days when it doesn't come out." When Sayuri comes in asking what's going on and Mai, as usual, won't explain, Yuuichi says they're talking about constipation.
  • At one point in My Bride is a Mermaid, Nagasumi has to help cover up Masa's past... by pretending to be gay and having a secret love for him. The episode ends with Nagasumi attempting to convince his (female) fiance that the whole "I'm gay and in love with Masa" thing was made up.
  • Seitokai Yakuindomo: Shino is concerned about her breasts, and then remembers a rumour that they become bigger if you massage them. So she starts to rub her breasts over her shirt, when Takatoshi walks in. It's quite awkward, but then Shino tries to save face. How? By declaring that she's 'just sexually frustrated'. Takatoshi mutters that that isn't a very good excuse.
  • SPY×FAMILY: When Loid is contacted by his handlers during a family outing to help them foil a terrorist plot, the excuse he uses to get away from his wife and daughter is that he's suffering from digestive issues. While he's normally enough of a Consummate Professional not to be bothered, he is a bit embarrassed when his daughter (who can read his mind and knows what he's really doing) is quite vocal about backing him up so that her mother won't get suspicious:
    Anya: Papa takes a real long time to take a crap, so we should go.
    Loid: (thinking) I appreciate her backing my play, but... uh...
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • In the manga, Yusuke gets embarrassed by Botan's lame explanation to Keiko of what he's doing after school. Instead of saving the world from demons, he's doing some kind of afterschool program for juvenile delinquents.
    • In the video release of the dubbed anime, Botan has him working for a private detective, with the implication of trying to "salvage" Yusuke. He's not any happier about that explanation.

  • Jeff Foxworthy advises this in one of his early routines if you have to call in sick to work. Basically, Jeff says to call in with something so gross and disgusting that the boss won't ask questions about.
    Jeff Foxworthy: If you're gonna fake an illness, fake something so gross that you know they won't ask too many questions about it — like explosive diarrhea. Then they will be like "No, that's okay, Jefferson. In fact, we'll pay you to stay home if you've got that."
  • Jimmy Carr has a similar joke in which he encourages women in the audience who want to leave work early to tell the boss they have "women's problems", since no sensible boss is going to probe them for further details after hearing that.

    Comic Books 
  • G.I. Joe: In the IDW series, Kwinn and Lighthorse are smuggling Snake-Eyes across a border in a coffin inside a hearse. Lighthorse looks nervous and the border guards ask him what is wrong. Lighthorse responds with the phrase that Kwinn taught him the local language. This translates as "I'm a little girl. I'm afraid of ghosts". The border guards laugh and let them through. Lighthorse, who has no idea what he has just said, wonders what they found so funny.
  • The Herder Witch: Being on the run from pursuing star seer assassins, Morie the witch wants to keep a low profile on her journey and hitches rides with passing villagers. When a few of them hear she's a witch, they ask why she doesn't use her magic to fly to her destination. Morie hems and hesitates to explain about the star seers, fearful the news about them could spread, and finally settles for lying: "I can't fly." She's embarrassed to claim such, especially since her apprentice Yanna thinks Morie's telling the truth.
  • Spider-Man: In The Amazing Spider-Man (J. Michael Straczynski) Vol. 2 #38, this is revealed to have happened accidentally to Spider-Man, which had kept Aunt May from guessing Peter's real secret. She'd had the feeling that he was hiding something, and noticed that he seemed to be a bit awkward around girls, so she thought that he might be gay.
    • May also used this to help Peter get past the TSA agents at the airport by implying that his web-shooters were gynecological equipment. She started explaining how they worked and the agents couldn't pack them back up fast enough.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Kanon Gender Flip fic Canon in G, Kaoru (m!Kaori) tells Yuuko (f!Yuuichi) not to disclose the contents of their conversation about the demons in the school. When pressed by Junri (m!Jun), who's likely to get the wrong idea if she's left with the knowledge that Kaoru's keeping something from her, Yuuko gleefully explains that they were instead discussing Kaoru's "embarrassing rash".
  • The Heroic Age: The second time Blake and Jaune miss the last Bullhead to Beacon while out acting as vigilantes, Jaune calls his mother (Glynda) to fly them back so their teammates don't ask too many questions. When Glynda demands to know why they were out so late, Blake "confesses" that they were having sex. Glynda immediately calls bullshit, only Blake to pull out the "gift package"note  from the love hotel they were forced to stay out the previous time.
  • Kingdom Hearts: The Antipode: During the Arendelle arc, when Hans asks Kristoff why he's holding Xaldin's dismembered (and frozen) arm, Kristoff lies that he's planning to sell it on the black market.
  • In Nymph and the Corrupted Miraculous: Marinette manages to temporarily get out of a hostage situation by faking her period. It works especially well since she's captured by Catastrophe, a teenage boy.
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged's second season, Asuna spends so much time breaking out of her cage and terrorizing Sugou's goons that when she's caught by Shoji, one of her recurring victims who happens to look like a tentacle monster, she's able to intimidate him into letting her go by threatening to eat his dog in real life. Unfortunately, another Mook shows up to intervene, and when the newcomer demands to know what Shoji was doing, Shoji stammers that he wasn't letting her go, he was molesting her.
    Kyle: WHAT?! Dude, what the heck is wrong with you?!
    Shoji: Gah, I, uh, I couldn't help myself... just had to give her a taste of that... sweeeet purp, y'know?
    Kyle: Ugh, that's disgusting! You know I'm gonna have to report this! You're gonna be on a list!
    Shoji: (brokenly) Y-yeah, that's fair... I'm such a d-dirty, dirty boy...

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 68 Kill, Chip and Violet are on the run when a highway patrolman pulls them over for a broken taillight. Violet distracts the cop by pretending to be drunk and explaining that she had persuaded Chip to drive her home by promising him anal sex. The cop waves them on after telling Chip not to blow it.
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy gets rid of her dad while Peter is in her bedroom tending to wounds he got fighting the Lizard, by claiming she has "cramps" and further implying they are menstrual in nature. She goes on long enough that you get the impression Captain Stacy has dealt with these sorts of lies from her in the past.
  • In Crash, an LAPD officer wants to be transferred away from his racist partner, but won't go on record explaining why. When he won't reveal his partner's racism on record, his black supervisor, well aware of his true motivations, refuses to allow the transfer unless he explains (officially, and on the record) that he has extremely embarrassing and uncontrollable flatulence, and that he wishes to be assigned to a personal squad-car in order to avoid imposing on a partner. The supervisor also explains that it would negatively affect both of their careers to go on record about the racism so the cover story is their only option.
  • Heathers: After murdering the two Jerk Jocks, and noticing the approach of police officers, the two Villain Protagonists scramble to their car, get naked (an Embarrassing Un-Coverup), and make out.
  • In Laughter in Paradise, Dennison visits Simon to ask permission to burgle his flat (It Makes Sense in Context). Simon refuses, because he is hoping to score with Lucille that night. As Lucille arrives, Simon hurries Dennison out. When Lucille asks who he was talking to, Simon says Dennison is an old crook who used to forge petrol coupons during the war and has now fallen on hard times and keeps hitting him up for cash.
  • Ruthless People: Judge Reinhold's character has kidnapped a woman. Some cops come in to question him, and he excuses himself saying he has a touch of stomach flu. They hear moans and groans from the back room and assume he's having serious diarrhea, but he's really trying to sneak out a back window. Meanwhile, the cops have received a call implicating the husband, so they just leave.
  • The Santa Clause Scott Calvin's ex-wife is commenting sarcastically on the Santa pajamas he got at the North Pole. As she's driving away with their son, Charlie, he yells back a few comments about how he sleeps, including, "I sleep buck naked!" right as his neighbor walks by.
  • In Seven (1979), the Professor deliberately uses this to get through airport security. When he opens his bag, an inflatable sex doll automatically inflates. Security are so busy laughing at this that they wave him through without checking the rest of his gear.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming: When Ned Leeds needs to be Peter's "guy in the chair", he uses the school's computer lab. When a teacher catches him and asks what he's doing in the lab during the homecoming dance, Ned provides the first reason that comes to mind for a single guy to be on a computer.
    Ned: Uh... I'm looking at... porn.
  • Superhero Movie has two characters doing it to themselves, in a parody of a scene from Spider-Man. They both note injuries the other has sustained in battle as their respective alter egos. Starts with the fairly innocuous "I burned [my wrist] on some hot coffee." Escalates with "[My lip is cut because] my crack pipe broke." Continues until the villain excuses himself because, "I shat my pants."
  • The Truman Show: When set accidents threaten to expose to Truman the truth about his whole life being a reality TV show, the director makes frantic efforts to provide cover-up explanations for the various little out-of-place details. Unfortunately, they soon snowball and become less and less convincing.

  • With the popularity among older people who like "My Little Pony" there's a running joke that "My parent/sibling/spouse/friend nearly caught me looking at MLP stuff on my computer, but luckily I was able to alt/tab to some [insert genre] porn I had open."
  • There's a joke about a man covering up his gambling problem by smearing lipstick over his face so that his wife thinks he "just" cheats on her.
    • And inverted via Sarcastic Confession when a man spends the night with his mistress and rubs talcum powder on his hands before leaving. When his furious wife demands to know where he was last night, he admits that he's cheating on her... and then she looks at his hands and triumphantly says:
    "I knew it. You've been playing pool again!"
  • There's one where a man and his friend are changing clothes at the gym. The friend asks "How long have you worn a bra?". The man replies "Ever since the wife found it in the jockey box."

  • The Bridge Kingdom Archives: Princess Protagonist Lara goes out of the house where she should be sleeping to do some spying. Caught on returning, she claims that she had a bout of diarrhea and the outhouse was occupied by someone whom she gave something to cause said diarrhea. She even muses that embarrassing excuses are the best, since most people would rather lie to avoid embarrassment and not the other way round.
  • The title of Paul Carter's memoir about the oil industry Don't Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs (She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse).
  • In one of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson books, Georgia believes her mother is having an affair with a builder working on the house, and skips school to spy on them. When they catch her, she pretends to faint and then lies that she stayed home because she was feeling sick - which she sees as this trope, since she's embarrassed to be tucked in bed and fussed over by her mother.
  • In For Love of Evil, this dynamic is part of Parry's Backstory, explaining how he was adopted by a Sorcerer. The Sorcerer and the Lord were planning to use baby Parry as a human sacrifice, but they were caught in the act by the Abbot. The Abbot would not have approved, and would have excommunicated both of them, so the Lord said that the sacrificial altar was just for sacrificing a sheep, and he explained what a baby was doing there by claiming that the Sorcerer was going to adopt this baby. So the Sorcerer had to go along with this and adopt Parry as his own son.
  • In The Girls Series, Ellie reluctantly agrees to accompany Magda and Nadine to the home of a guy they've just met, but he and his friends start taking drugs and leering at the girls. Looking for an excuse to get Magda and Nadine alone so they can sneak out, Ellie hides in the bathroom then says she needs their help because she's so drunk she has thrown up all over herself.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
    • Harry has secret lessons with Snape to learn Occlumency. When Malfoy comes upon a lesson, Snape explains that Harry is in remedial Potions.
    • The Dursleys tell their friends that Harry attends St Brutus' Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys in order to cover up the time he spends at Hogwarts. This is less embarrassing to Harry, however, as he generally cares very little what the Muggle neighbors think of him. (He was still understandably aghast when he first found out about this, though.)
  • Help I Am Being Held Prisoner: When Harry and Eddie are delayed outside of the prison after sneaking out to steal something, the rest of their group get corrupt guard Muttgood to cover for them during a head count by claiming the two are having sex on the roof.
  • How to Be a Superhero has an example of a swamp monster attempting to maintain a Secret Identity and trying to explain away the smell by claiming to have had 'an accident' in his pants.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's story "If This Goes On—", the protagonist is advised to conceal resistance secrets by using a code that makes them look like notes for an illicit gambling system. Thus, if the notes are discovered, there will be a credible explanation for why they were hidden and the protagonist will draw only minor punishment.
  • In The Most Incredible Work of Literature in the Entire Cosmos (a parody of Breaking Dawn), three of Frig's friends are standing guard outside her house to make sure an alien leader doesn't find her. When he does show up and asks why they're there, the girls claim they're prostitutes who were hired to go to the house.
  • In the Discworld novel Moving Pictures, Victor and Ginger get trapped by a rockslide while Victor is trying to stop Ginger walking in her sleep (and apparently trying to awaken an Eldritch Abomination). The characters who dig them out assume the obvious explanation for them being off in a remote spot together, and Victor agrees that they've got it exactly right; when Ginger objects, he asks her if she'd rather tell them what she was really doing. This is also a turning of the tables on a previous scene; when Victor is waiting by Ginger's bedside to stop her, she reassures him that her landlady will just think they're having sex. (Said landlady later gives him a big grin and a complicated gesture he was sure little old ladies shouldn't know.)
  • In Star By Star, Viqi Shesh tries to get out of an extremely awkward conversation on the Senate floor (she tried to have the Chief of State assassinated, and suspects he knows this) by claiming a "personal need". This avails her absolutely nothing.
  • In Wearing Black to the White Party by David Stukas, the protagonist Robert locks himself in Rex's office so he can snoop through Rex's papers in order to find out who has been sending threatening letters. When Rex asks why the office was locked, Robert claims that he was photocopying his butt.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 100 Things to Do Before High School: In "Pilot", Mindy wants to know where Crispo disappeared to during sixth period (he was actually involved in CJ's Zany Scheme and has come back in different clothes as a result). Crispo replies that he was in the bathroom. When Mindy says that he was gone for an hour, he adds "Yeah. It was so bad I had to change clothes". Mindy gets a disgusted look on her face and stops asking questions.
  • 30 Rock
    • Jack invites Liz to a party he wants to be kept secret. After he leaves her office, he tries to cover this by loudly saying "Well Lemon, that was a good chat. (Gestures to his crotch) Good luck with that alopecia problem of yours!" ("I don't have alopecia! I'm very hairy!")
    • Liz and Pete sneak around to find a new cast member, and eventually, to keep this a secret, they claimed to be in an intimate relationship. Of course, this backfires when just as they say this, Pete's wife shows up.
  • Agatha Raisin: In "Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage", Agatha and James need to investigate a detox clinic. James introduces Agatha as a raging alcoholic whose entire life is a tissue of lies.
  • In the The Almighty Johnsons episode "Bergerbar", Axl is flunking out of school because of his poor attendance. Axl's brother Anders tells the teacher that their other brother Mike is a transgender man (He's not.) and Axl has been missing school to support Mike through the transition. Being a major Jerkass, Anders doesn't tell Mike and Axl about his excuse before their meeting with Axl's teacher about the attendance issue.
  • The Amazing Extraordinary Friends: In "Attack of the Atomic Bombshell", Ben tells his mother that he missed the parent-teacher evening because Roy was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. They were actually out fighting crime as Captain X and Nitelite.
  • In American Horror Story: Freak Show, Barbara's forced to stay in a weight loss clinic on the excuse of being sent away to have an illegitimate baby. Although this would be considered hugely shameful for the time period, her well-to-do family believes it's less embarrassing than her morbid obesity.
  • The Army Game: In "The Take-Over Bid", Dooley tells Snudge that the letter he was typing on Snudge's typewriter was a lewd love letter to his girlfriend. Snudge decides that he doesn't want to read that; especially after Dooley has slobbered all over it in a failed attempt to Eat the Evidence.
  • Better Call Saul:
    • Daniel is horrible at hiding the fact that he deals drugs. When the police catch onto him, Jimmy has to come up with an excuse to explain how he got so much money, and why he has a secret compartment in his house. What does he come up with? He tells the officers that Daniel makes "Squat Cobbler" videos (a sex fetish involving sitting in pies while wearing a costume and crying) for a rich client. That would be embarrassing enough, but unfortunately for poor Daniel, the policemen ask to see the videos as proof, so he has no choice but to actually make such a video.
    • Near the end of season five, Jimmy transports Lalo's bail money through the desert, gets attacked, sees Mike kill all of his assailants, and has to walk a day and a half back to civilization with barely any water—which forces him to drink his own urine at one point. Jimmy leaves out the gunfight when talking to Kim and pretends having to drink pee was what traumatized him the most.
  • In the series premier of BlackAdder, the title character is secretly nursing Henry Tudor back to health in his room, hoping for a reward. His mother comes in, and when Edmund implies that there is someone in his bed, the Queen asks if it is a woman. Is it a man? Is it a sheep? He denies this. When she moves to see for herself, Tudor makes bleating noises. Her response: "Oh, Edmund. It's the lying I find so hurtful."
  • When Rainbow on black•ish discovers that, despite her claims of expertise, she doesn't remember any of her psychology classes, she tries to cover by surreptitiously watching some online Psych 101 lectures. When Junior discovers her, she nervously blurts out that she's watching porn.
  • Black Mirror: In the episode "Crocodile", Mia kills her ex-boyfriend when she is away on a business trip. She needs a false alibi, so she rents pay-per-view porn and plays it at full volume while she goes out to dispose of the body.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • In one episode Walter lies about having explosive diarrhea as an excuse for not helping Hank investigate his boss who is distributing methamphetamine.
    • In another case, Skyler tells Hank and Marie that Walter's illicit money came from gambling, rather than admitting he manufactures methamphetamine.
    • After getting kidnapped by Tuco and being held hostage for days, Walt explains his absence by walking out of the desert naked into a convenience store claiming he was in a fugue state, then after his doctors try to keep him in the hospital until they find an explanation for it, he tells his psychiatrist that he came up with the "fugue state" lie to cover up running out on his family but thought better of it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "So, Buffy, how'd the slaying go last night?", "Xander!", "I mean, how'd the laying go?, I don't mean that either."
    • "How could you love an umpire? Everybody hates those." (They were going to say vampire.)
  • In the Burn Notice episode "No Good Deed", Michael needs an explanation for how he met the man who is introducing him to the Villain of the Week Eve. After Eve sees through his first explanation, Michael claims that he and the other man met while being arrested as sex offenders.
  • Cheers: In the first episode Sam asks Diane what he should say if any of his regulars ask why she's hanging around the bar, she says he can tell them whatever he wants. The first time someone asks, Sam says she's a hooker.
  • Chuck: Chuck occasionally explains away Sarah's absence by blaming it on a spastic colon.
  • The Closer: In "Off the Hook", Provenza is trying to conceal that he is talking to Brenda on the phone:
    Pope: Is that Chief Johnson?
    Provenza: No, it's my proctologist.
    Pope: (confused) You're asking where your proctologist is?
    Provenza: Beat Yes.
  • Community: Jeff gets spotted at Greendale Community College, comes up with an alibi but then immediately bails on it:
    Jeff: I'm a... teacher. Wait, that's worse than the truth. I'm a student.
  • Coupling: This is Jeff's modus operandi and usually results in Digging Yourself Deeper.
  • Derry Girls:
    • Michelle makes scones with marijuana in them (since she doesn't know how to make brownies) and brings them to a funeral so her friends can try them. When some of the scones are accidentally handed out to elderly people at the wake, the girls try to flush the remaining scones down the toilet and end up flooding the host's bathroom. So that no one finds out about the drugs, Erin pretends she and her friends were in the bathroom because she was having terrible diarrhoea.
    • The Quinn family is stuck on a train that's broken down. An old acquaintance approaches Mary, Sarah, Gerry, and Joe; but none of them recognises her. Rather than admit they don't know who she is, Joe says he has dementia, and Mary excuses herself by saying she has Irritable Bowel Syndrome and desperately needs the toilet. Then Sarah claims to be having bowel problems as well.
  • Early in Dexter, the protagonist almost gets caught up looking court files for killers who got freed on technicalities, but he manages to tab the browser to some porn, then haphazardly tab out to something work-related. Doakes doesn't buy it, though, because "I checked your card, you've never bought any porn".
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Army of Ghosts", the Doctor got so excited about discovering the source of an anomaly that he quickly set off in the Tardis, unaware that Jackie, the mother of his companion Rose, was on board. When he finds himself surrounded by agents of Torchwood, he decides to pretend that Jackie is Rose (so the real one will remain undetected), and that the Time Vortex aged her.
    The Doctor: Not too quickly. Her ankle's going.
    Jackie (muttering): I'll show you where my ankle's going.
  • In Frasier, in the episode "Travels with Martin", Frasier decides to take his Winnebago vacation party to Canada on a whim, which is a problem for Daphne, as she doesn't have her Green Card yet. When they are pulled over trying to cross the border back into the US, there is a tense scene as we wonder whether Daphne's accent will give her away. However, Martin saves the day by inventing a story that the dog hasn't had his shots to explain why they all seem nervous.
  • Friends:
    • Chandler tries to stop Monica entering the apartment while he and Ross are trying to fix the furniture by saying "You can't come in! Ross is naked!". This is just as embarrassing for Chandler as it was for Ross, though.
      Monica: Why is Ross naked?
      Ross: Um, a "guy problem".
      Monica: Oh, is it the same thing Chandler had?
      • “Dude, what’d you have?”
    • Then there was the arc when Chandler and Monica were seeing each other but didn't want anyone else to know. Except Joey had figured it out and they had sworn him to secrecy. This, of course, meant that he had to cover for their slip-ups, such as when Chandler's underpants were found in Monica's apartment ("Oh, they're mine."). This culminated in Monica and Chandler "outing" Joey as a sex addict to the group, at which point he turns the tables on them by announcing that he had slept with Monica in London and she'd become obsessed with trying to get him back in the sack ever since. Monica's forced to endorse his version, thus keeping the secret, allowing Joey to get a little revenge for the way he'd been taken for granted and - most importantly of all - protecting his reputation as The Casanova.
    • Trying to get out of filming so he can officiate at Monica and Chandler's wedding, Joey almost lucks into one of these. Ultimately subverted in that his director just doesn't care.
  • In the Nickelodian series Game Shakers, an episode involves the main cast trying to impress Tripp's wealthy friends by "borrowing" Double G's private jet for a day trip to Florida. While the pilot is happy to fly the kids to Florida (as he'd been told that Trip's father said it was okay), he asks them first why Double G isn't coming with them. Babe blurts out that he had to see "his butt doctor". The pilot is embarrassed, asks no more questions, and goes back to the cockpit.
  • The Good Place: In "Tahani A-Jamil", Tahani knocks on the door while Chidi is lecturing Eleanor on ethics. To buy time so he can hide the blackboard, Eleanor calls out "Just a minute! We're kissing! And groping!"
  • Heroes invokes the trope when Claire covers for the super of the week by telling her mom that they were having sex in the closet.
  • Hetty Wainthropp Investigates: Whilst Hetty is away investigating another case, a client hires Robert and Geoffrey to Fidelity Test his fiancee; they hire an attractive man to see if she's willing to cheat. When the man takes her out to a jazz club, she notices Geoffrey and Robert watching, and says she's sure she's seen them around before. He tells her they're known drug dealers.
  • iCarly: When trying to build a robot security guard for their apartment, Spencer accidentally leaves it stuck in "Armed" mode, meaning it will blast anyone it sees with hot popcorn kernels. While trying to figure out how to disarm it, Mrs. Benson knocks on the door wondering what the noise is. Spencer keeps her in the hall by screaming that he's not wearing pants. She's known him long enough that she buys it.
  • Inside No. 9: In the episode "A Random Act of Kindness", Zach asks Helen why she is calling the hospital. She doesn't want him to know the truth (that she's awaiting the results of a test for cancer), and lies that it was to do with cervical screening so he won't ask any more questions.
  • The IT Crowd:
    • Roy grows obsessed with his girlfriend's bizarre story about her parents' deaths, and when she catches him researching the matter on his laptop late at night, he covers by quickly claiming that he was masturbating.
    • In another episode, Roy is at a singles' mixer and assigned to a woman who's had her entire face reconstructed after a serious accident. When she becomes offended by his repeated questions about the surgery, he makes the excuse that his mother wants breast implants and he's looking for a reputable surgeon.
  • The Latest Buzz: In "The Pet Peeves Issue", Amanda is attempting to hide her pet pony in the office. When the others complain about the smell of horse dung, Amanda claims it is her new perfume.
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "Tagumo Attacks!!!", Zari walks in on Rory writing his novel:
    Zari: Were you...?
    Rory: Yes. I was watching porn.
    Zari: On a typewriter?
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • The protagonist has to bring some comfort item to a person that secretly lives in Malcolm mother's workplace. When she questions him about having a pineapple, spare pants and a book with him, he explains that he is going through a very bad belly problem, justifying the need of fresh fruit, a book to read in the bathroom and well, spare pants. Self-inflicted trope.
    • Inverted when Reese finds out Lois' embarrassing secret; she can't ride a bike. When someone walks by, he covers up by pretending that she is doing something illegal.
      Reese: No lady, I don't want your drugs!
  • M*A*S*H: Because a majority of the main characters are doctors/surgeons/nurses, they can come up with a medical excuse on the fly that can either get someone a favor or cover up something else. In the episode where Hawkeye does foot inspections, Frank spends the entire episode trying to avoid his. When Hawkeye and BJ finally catch him, it's revealed that, while drunk, he and Margaret painted their toenails. Hawkeye agrees to cover this up, but he does so by stating that Frank has a rare, disgusting condition that left him with abnormally colored toenails. He can't lie on a military report, after all!
    • They also tend to use this just to help out soldiers who are suffering due to the inconsiderate officers in the Army. In the episode "Tell It To The Marines", the doctors help a Dutch soldier whose mother is about to be deported by getting his story published in American newspapers. There's nothing the soldier's commanding officer can do except tell Hawkeye that the soldier, who's three weeks away from finishing his tour of duty, is about to have "the hardest three weeks of his life." Hawkeye then says that the soldier has come down with a rare "twenty-one day flu" and isn't fit for duty. Double subverted in this episode because everyone knows that the doctors are talking out their butts, but they get away with it because Colonel Potter said that the soldier is sick and he's ranked higher than the Marine.
  • This trope abounds in Merlin, where Arthur constantly believes the most embarrassing excuse possible whenever Merlin can't explain something. (Merlin walking around with two dresses=Merlin cross-dressing in one occasion.) The one that actually became a Running Gag was mentioned in Queen Of Hearts, where Gaius says that Merlin is at the tavern. He's missing for two whole days once and Arthur believes he's been in the tavern the whole time. Is it any wonder he's the show's Master of Delusion?
  • Misfits:
    • When Curtis is busy cheating on Samantha and she turns up at the community centre demanding to know where he is, Simon and Nathan cover for him by saying he's been arrested for "exposing himself" to some Boy Scouts. She doesn't seem to believe them, but she leaves anyway, convinced they're nuts and eager to get as far away from them as possible (particularly when Nathan starts casually spraying her with cleaning fluid.
    • Attempted by Rudy in the Nazi timeline. He's caught in Curtis's bar during lockdown and tries to explain his presence by claiming to be Curtis's lover. As this is a Nazi timeline, this doesn't work out very well for them.
  • In a Murphy Brown episode, Murphy helps a fellow employee, Hillary, who she recognizes has a drinking problem. After Hillary realizes she needs help after screwing up an assignment, Murphy suggests using food poisoning as a cover story, as nobody wants to know the details.
  • The New Avengers: In "To Catch a Rat", Purdey and Gambit charge into a church expcting to confront an enemy agent. Instead, the confront two local ladies arranging flowers. Purdey immediately announces that this is wrong and he cannot force her to marry him and storms out. Gambit stands there for a few moments looking embarrassed before hurriedly stuffing some money in the poor box and slinking out after her.
  • The Office (US)
    • Darryl claims to have bought "nasty old-lady porn" after purchasing an e-book reader at a bookstore (potentially awkward when one works at a paper company.)
    • Angela slaps Dwight for being insensitive about her cat's death which he caused and people nearby notice and look concerned, he covers with "It's okay, I'm robbing her."
    • When Dwight refuses to talk to Pam on the phone (despite sitting opposite her), Nate gives the excuse that "Dwight is being questioned by the police in connection to a string of dognappings".
  • In Psych, Shawn loves to make these at Gus' expense. Oftentimes he'll do it even when telling the truth wouldn't get them in trouble. A favorite tactic of Shawn's is to pretend that he and Gus are gay lovers in situations where revealing their real relationship — Heterosexual Life-Partners — would work just as well.
  • In a Rizzoli & Isles episode, Frankie tells Jane that he thinks that Frost's mother is in a secret relationship with her (female) roommate. When Frost suddenly shows up and asks what they are talking about, they say that they are talking about their mother and whether she might be going through menopause.
  • So Awkward: In "Bug Brooch", Lily is delighted when Rob buys her a present for the first time - only it's a horrible bug-shaped brooch! Jas offers to break it accidentally-on-purpose so Lily won't have to wear it, but Rob catches Jas trying to smash it. Not wanting to drop Lily in it, Jas tells Rob she stole the brooch because she's in love with Rob herself and is so jealous of Lily. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In an episode of That '70s Show, Eric tries to hide the fact that he was reading Donna's journal by claiming to have been going through her underwear drawer and rubbing her underwear against his face.
  • In Three's Company, Jack's only allowed to share an apartment with two women by pretending to be gay.
  • Warehouse 13's cover story could count as this, as it makes the locals despise Warehouse agents, because The Powers That Be have told everyone the Warehouse is an Internal Revenue Service storage facility.
  • In the White Collar pilot, Peter and Neal need access to a church that is closed for renovations. Neal tells the priest that Peter is on the verge of committing adultery and that a visit to the church where he was married would help Peter save his marriage. They get access.

  • In the Cabin Pressure episode "Helsinki", Douglas is smuggling contraband orchids to Finland. He claims that he and the man receiving the contraband explored their Situational Sexuality together at Boarding School and that the flowers (and the fish the man gives Douglas in exchange) are presents given in fond memory of their time together.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible, Jacob and Rachel flee from Rachel's father, Laban. Without Jacob's knowledge Rachel steals some of her father's household idols as they go. Laban catches up to them and demands to search their tents for the idols. Rachel sits on top of them and when Laban gets to her tent and tells her to move, she claims that "the manner of women" is upon her, so she can't get up. Laban believes her and leaves. This one is compounded by the fact that objects contaminated by menstrual blood were deemed untouchables, so he couldn't search there anyway until the item the idols were in was cleansed, and he didn't have that kind of time.

  • In Avenue Q, Nicky tells Brian, Gary, and Christmas Eve he thinks Rod is gay. Rod overhears and...
    Nicky: Yes, definitely, I would say my buddy Rod is a closeted Homosexual.
    Rod: WHAT?!
    Nicky: yes, definitely, my buddy Rod has... uh... an undescended testicle.
  • Fangirls: When Edna is trying to prevent her mother from entering her bedroom so that she has time to conceal the Bound and Gagged Harry, she shouts out the first thing to enter her head, which is "I'm naked!". This confuses her mother more than anything else.
  • In the classic farce, No Sex, Please, We're British, Newly married Peter and Frances pull this on their friend Brian constantly throughout the play in order avoid a scandal. The best example would be when Peter tells his and Brian's boss, Mr. Bromhead, that Brian is suffering from — something — which is why the two need to talk alone. Bromhead recommends that Brian get some ointment for it as soon as possible.

    Video Games 
  • Deltarune: Near the start of Chapter 2, Kris and Susie are about to check out the door that leads to the Dark World to make sure it wasn't just a dream when Noelle walks up. She asks them if they're doing anything, and when Susie struggles to come up with an excuse she asks Kris for help. The only dialogue options you get are "Hanging out in a closet alone" and "Crime".

    Web Animation 
  • Hunter: The Parenting: During a police interrogation, Big D is asked why Kitten's house has a torture dungeon in his basement, complete with live camera feed. Since he can't say it's to interrogate captured vampires from a safe distance, Big D feigns disgust and refuses to answer at first. He waits for the cop to insist, and 'reluctantly' admits that it's Marckus's sex dungeon. For good measure, he throws in a bunch of Comic Sutra Noodle Implements in his explanation to ensure the cop wants to stay as far away from any elaboration as possible.
  • In the Strong Bad Email "licensed", Strong Bad catches Bubs selling a trenchcoat full of "unlicensed unlicensed" Strong Bad merchandise (as opposed to the "licensed unlicensed" Shoddy Knockoff Products that have his approval).
    Strong Bad: What's up with that trench coat, Bubs?
    Bubs: Oh, uh... I'm a public flasher!
    Strong Bad: Yeah, right! You ain't got no nudity under there.

  • In The Adventures of Shan Shan, Shan Shan embarrasses himself with attempts to explain why he eats alone.
    Cassie: Why are you way out here?
    Backpack: He's a loooser!
    Shan Shan: Ah. I uhh... I like the trees!
    Cassie: But there are trees in the quad too...
    Shan Shan: I mean I like the flowers!
    Backpack: Girly.
    [Shan Shan facepalms]
  • In Air Force Blues, the main character's assignment to the top-secret PreEmptive Nuclear Intercept Squadron is disguised as "remedial training."
  • In Ansem Retort, Aerith falls down and hits a doorknob, which gives her a black eye. Naturally, she blames it on Axel. Who is at first, furious, then quickly covers it up and goes with it. (Also an Even Evil Has Standards moment, since that is the only point Axel isn't outright enthusiastic about an act of violence.) He may be a mass murderer who will kill you sooner than look at you, but dammit he loves his wife.
  • Early in College Roomies from Hell!!!, Blue derails a Three Is Company plot involving her and Dave — without mentioning the kiss That Didn't Happen — by saying that when she was unpacking her panties, instead of just being Distracted by the Sexy, Dave had asked to try them on himself. In her own words, "who would believe a boring lie over an embarrassing lie?"
  • In Girl Genius, Mamma Gkika's has a notorious Jägermonster-themed burlesque show. Mamma also provides discreet medical care to people who cannot openly go to the hospital. Gil is brought there after he is injured while helping Agatha against his father's wishes. When told where Gil is, Klaus just raises the priority of finding Gil a girlfriend.
  • In Ménage à 3, when Yuki needed Gary to take a day off, she called his boss, and told her that Gary needs to have a foreign object removed that he inserted into his butt ("Who'd make that up?"). This eventually got Gary into trouble, when he ended up in a hospital (for completely different reasons) and met his boss there.
  • Misfile:
    • Just before Ash and Aiden's race, Rumsiel claims that Emily has "feminine problems" that can't wait as an excuse for the two of them to secretly avert a potential disaster.
    • Rumisiel explains his presence by pretending to be Ash's boyfriend. When Ash begins a relationship with Missi, she/he tells her that Rumisiel is (also) actually gay and she is just his cover.
  • In one strip of The Order of the Stick, Haley has a huge sack, and claims she didn't find any treasure. When Roy asks what's in the sack, she replies, "Feminine products." Roy decides to leave it there.
  • In Our Little Adventure, Emily hides Julie's secret by explaining that she's The Atoner.
  • In Cyanide and Happiness the comic strip The Bra has the man's wife asks about a bra that isn't hers that she found. He remembers when he used the bra to pretend to be a fly. After a brief pause he claims he is cheating on her.
  • In Questionable Content, when Hanners is helping Marigold with a budget because being a Virtual YouTuber is making more money than she expected or is comfortable with, Dora asks what the job is and Mar blurts out "NUDES. I'M SELLING NUDES." Dora has zero problem with this, but Marigold is horribly embarrassed.
    Hannelore: Why on earth
    Marigold: I need to keep my identity a secret!
    Hannelore: And that's the first thing that came to mind?
    Marigold: My brain is trash and I live on the internet!

    Web Original 
  • From the Scott The Woz episode "Memory Cards", when Scott reenacts a scene of a parent finding their kid's notes of game passwords and asking what the notes are for:
    Uh, coordinates... For a bomb.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, Jake tries to get Finn out of an accidental engagement to the Slime Princess:
    Jake: You shouldn't marry Finn. He pees his pants. Constantly. All the time.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Barely Legal", when Meg becomes obsessed with Brian:
    Meg: I'm going to the mall later, maybe you can come and help me pick out some underwear.
    Brian: Uh, I don't think that's going to be a possibility, uh, I have plans, with Chris! Chris and I have plans this afternoon!
    Chris: We do?
    Brian: Yeah, yeah! We're doing that thing, we're doing what you usually do on a Thursday afternoon!
    Chris: Masturbate?
    Brian: That's it, that's what we're going to do together.
    Chris: Well, maybe back-to-back, but I gotta tell ya, I'm not a hundred percent on this.
  • Futurama
    • Bender is watching a cooking show on TV and Leela enters the room, so he quickly turns it off. When Leela asks if that was a cooking show he claims it was porn. Subverted because Bender is not the kind who would be embarrassed to be caught watching porn.
    • In the beginning of "The Farnsworth Parabox," Leela tries to turn down Fry's constant requests for a date by telling him she has "sweaty boot rash." However, Amy's disgusted reply implies that this might be true, or at least that Leela's boots really smell.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Tony often excuses himself from class (so he can become Iron Man) by claiming he needs to use the bathroom. Pepper later takes it upon herself to explain his absence to some crooks by explaining that he spends more time in the bathroom than anyone she knows.
  • In the Life's a Zoo episode "It's Not Easy Being Chi", Ray explains what he is doing on the computer (he's actually selling Chi's belongings online) by claiming to be "downloading some internet porn".
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer does it to himself in "Mr Plow":
      Insurance Agent: Now this place you were at, Moe's, is this a business of some sort?
      Homer's Brain: Don't tell him you were at a bar! (gasps) But what else is open at night?!
      Homer: It's a pornography store. I was buying pornography.
      Homer's Brain: Heh heh heh. I would'a never thought of that.
    • Subverted when Marge had to cover up Homer missing a day of work due to passing out from drinking by saying he had violent diarrhea.
      Homer: Marge, couldn’t you come up with a less embarrassing lie?
      Marge: But you did have violent diarrhea. Nobody open the hallway closet until I say it’s okay.
    • In "Grade School Confidential," Principal Skinner and Bart's teacher Edna Krapabbel have a Secret Relationship which is discovered, causing them to be fired by Superintendent Chalmers. They protest their firing, and upon discovering that the problem was not so much the relationship itself as the rumor that they were having Sex at Work, Skinner publicly announces that he's, in fact, a virgin, causing Chalmers and the rest of the town to back away in embarrassment on the supposition that no one would lie about being a virgin at the age of 44. The ending leaves it ambiguous whether he told the truth or not.
    • Again in "The War of Art," when Marge disapproves of Homer's plan to track down the original seller of a valuable painting that has become a major Apple of Discord in the neighborhood, he does it anyway and brings Lisa with him:
      Homer: Just remember, if your mother asks, I took you to a wine tasting.
      Lisa: That's a terrible thing for a father to do!
      Homer: That's why she'll believe it.
  • In the South Park episode "Lice Capades", Clyde is so embarrassed by having lice that when a girl in the doctor's office asks him what he's there for, he says "I have AIDS".
    • In the episode "Tom's Rhinoplasty" Mr. Garrison mentions that he didn't want the school to know he was getting a nose job so he told them he has herpes.
  • Happens in one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, where SpongeBob is forced to play stupid so that Patrick will look smart in front of his parents. The problem is, Patrick then starts to believe that SpongeBob really is stupid, much to SpongeBob's frustration.

    Real Life 
  • Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina went missing for a few days, claiming when he returned that he had been "Hiking the Appalachian Trail." Little did he realize (because that's not what he was really doing) that this just happened to be during National Nude Hiking Day. News outlets had a field day with that one, even before the real reason for his disappearance was revealed roughly a day later — a trip to Buenos Aries where he had been conducting an extramarital affair. Suddenly a new euphemism was born.
  • This was a factor in the Lizzie Borden murder trial. She said that bloody cloths seen by a witness were menstrual cloths (they didn't have disposable feminine products back then). Everybody involved with the trial (all of them male) all got squicked out over this discussion of menstruation and decided to just accept that explanation and move on so they wouldn't have to hear about it anymore.
  • British mathematician & Codebreaker Alan Turing was briefly engaged with fellow code-breaker Joan Clarke. He eventually broke the engagement because he was gay and didn’t want to force her to live in a love-less marriage, but he could of course not give that reason to his friends and co-workers. So he explained his reason for the breakup was, of all things, that he had had a dream where Joan wasn’t accepted by his family.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): TMI Lie


Dust Disposal

Tina and Gene dispose the drywall dust in the trash by loudly calling it dandruff, cocaine, and baby formula.

How well does it match the trope?

4.56 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / EmbarrassingCoverUp

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