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I Never Said It Was Poison

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Anastasia Spencer: ...Busting into the welfare office, stealing the car, and framing me.
Percy Spencer: Welfare office? Car? Shitting on a desk? Why, I don't know what you're talking about!
Anastasia Spencer: Then how'd you know about taking a dump on the desk?

The usual response to a perp Saying Too Much. The perp, while maintaining their innocence, reveals information they could not have possibly known if they were innocent, usually the specific details of a murder. It can take the form of a Suspiciously Specific Denial. For full dramatic effect, the interrogator does not immediately point out this discrepancy, but continues the interview, often saving the kicker to the very end, as a sort of And Another Thing... epilogue. Even more dramatically, the interrogator may insist it wasn't poison and then probe the perp's reaction to this lie.


This trope must be handled carefully; when sloppily done, it's likely to turn what should be a dramatic moment into a case of Fridge Logic. The most common mistake is making the piece of information something that the person who makes the "slip" could reasonably have found out without committing the offense. The second most common mistake is making the "slip" an assumption that could reasonably be made even by an innocent person.

One of The Oldest Tricks in the Book, and something the police do, in fact, do in real questioning. Real police detectives usually hold back specific details of a crime and/or crime scene when making public statements. This has the dual benefits of possibly identifying a suspect and helping separate valid witnesses from useless leads. (Knowing these details may not automatically make someone the guilty party, but it's a big clue that they were at least present for the crime.) This is one of the reasons civil rights advocates warn that you should never to talk to the police without an attorney present. Even an innocent person can make assumptions about a case, and you'll look guilty if they turn out to be right. For example, you might say, "I don't even own a gun", when you were told the victim was murdered, but were never told the victim had been shot. It's even possible for the police to forget (or "forget") while testifying that they actually did tell you the victim was shot before the interview/interrogation began. Then you're screwed.


This trope can be invoked in works during a character's confession. Innocent characters attempting to take the fall for a crime they did not commit will probably guess facts about the crime that may not be true. If the facts are incorrect, they will be most likely be called out on it immediately or in a And Another Thing... manner. If the character is guilty, they could willingly give information only the perpetrator would know. This could be played to induce Squick.

See also: Conviction by Contradiction, Bluffing the Murderer, and I Never Told You My Name.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • L tries this strategy on Light several times in Death Note. Unfortunately for him, Light is too smart to fall for it, always carefully keeping his comments to common knowledge and believable deductions. However, it backfires for Light since the fact that his answers are so perfect only strengthens L's conclusions. Furthermore, L even states clearly, in a loud voice, that he thinks Light's answers are absolutely flawless, and that he would not expect less from Kira. He mostly seems to do that just to push Light's irritation to the point he would make some mistake.
  • Happens all the time in Case Closed a.k.a. Detective Conan. Things like, "I have an alibi for 8 to 9 pm!" "How did you know when the victim died?"
  • Fushigi Yuugi has this during the Kodoku arc. Tamahome meets Miaka in the place they were supposed to before Nakago placed him under his control. He tells her, quite convincingly, that he only played along with Nakago's plans... at which point he asks her where Tasuki and Chichiri were, in spite of the fact that Miaka never told him Tasuki, whom he didn't even know at that point, would be coming along.
  • Sei Arisaka does this in Himechan No Ribon by saying that he knew who Pokota was even though Hime-chan had never told him, which is how she realised there was something more to him than original thought.
  • Liar Game used this too. The fact that Yuji knew that the stolen money was in the form of a check rather than cash told Akiyama that "she" was Mr. X.
  • Monster has this happen once too. In Episode Six, a couple of detectives are apparently transporting Tenma and Anna Liebert to their police station. (They actually work for Johan Liebert.) Tenma eventually figures this out when one of them calls him "Dr. Tenma", even though he only told them his name and not that he was a doctor.
  • Near the end of the Patlabor manga, three detectives are interrogating the CEO of a company they're almost certain is the maker of the Griffon (which is still known to the general public as "the Black Labor").
    Detective #1: So, you say you have nothing to do with the Black Labor?
    CEO: How many times do I have to tell you? I don't have anything to do with the Griffon! Or do you want me to just admit my "guilt"?
    Detective #1: If you did that in the first place, it would have saved us a lot of time. [turns around] Did you hear that?
    Detective #2: Yup.
    Detective #3: Sure did.
    CEO: What...?
    Detective #1: Sir... How did you know the Black Labor is called "Griffon"?
  • In the third season of Sailor Moon, Mistress 9 is posing as Hotaru to talk to Sailor Moon. Eventually, she refers to Sailor Moon by her real name, which tips her off: "Hotaru... how did you know I'm Usagi Tsukino?"
  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service uses this one when they find a corpse of a girl that turns out to be parts of seven different girls professionally embalmed and sewed together. Sasaki and Makino decide to go consult a guy who also studied embalming in America. They find he is running a beauty parlor, and he says he doesn't know anything about the body in the photo the girls show him. He offers them a free session when they get tired of chasing serial killers. Sasaki thanks him for his time and leaves. Makino protests that they didn't find anything out about the killer, and Sasaki answers it was the guy they just talked to, as they never said anything about serial killers, and there was only one body in the photo.
  • In Loups=Garous, Ayumi figures out Kunugi is an enemy when she asks him what time it is and his response is to pull out his monitor, indicating that he knows she doesn't have her monitor with her.
  • Armin in Attack on Titan makes good use of this. When trying to bluff the Female Titan, he uses the phrase "that suicidal bastard". Based on the subsequent results, he correctly deduced that the Female Titan is actually one of his classmates, since that name was the 104th trainee class's nickname for Eren, and only people who know Eren and Armin personally would recognize it.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, "Bandit" Keith Howard accuses Jonouchi of using someone else's entry card to qualify for the semi-finals of Pegasus' tournament, in a bid to get Jonouchi disqualified after losing to him. Jonouchi freely admits that he was given his current entry card by Mai Kujaku after losing his original one... but Keith had no reason to know that, unless he was trying to sabotage the other competitors' progress through the tournament by stealing their entry cards. Pegasus, who already knows that Keith was cheating during his duel against Jonouichi, has Keith ejected from the tournament instead.
  • Inverted in Episode 4 of Haganai Next; Yoroza accuses Sena of wetting her pants a bit out of fear on a roller coaster. Sena replies "How did you kno—?", in which Yoroza then says, "Wait, you really did?" Sena becomes very defiant.

    Audio Play 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who audio Cortex Fire, the Sixth Doctor realises that the Cortex- a vast local computer network on the planet Fessin- is aware that a nearby star has gone supernova two days ago when a linked robotic investigator asks him how he knows that rather than why he believes it will happen, allowing the Doctor to realise that the Cortex has advance knowledge but has concealed that fact from the general populace for some reason.

    Comic Books 
  • Used in Identity Crisis, when Jean Loring mentions the note at Jack Drake's crime scene to Ray Palmer, despite Batman removing the note from the scene before the press found out. Oops.
  • Transmetropolitan:
    • A journalist accuses the presidential candidate of killing his aide, to which the response is along the lines of "Of course we wouldn't kill her, she was a friend and a vital part of the campaign". See there how they admit that murdering some people would be okay in their book?
    • Later, The Smiler's campaign manager refers to the assassin as "he". Spider asks how he can be sure the killer was a man if he or she was disintegrated immediately after taking the shot.
  • In Hellboy: Conqueror Worm, local guide Laura Karnstein is leading Hellboy and Roger to an abandoned castle. While making conversation, Laura casually mentions that she read Hellboy's file and was impressed by his past exploits. As they reach the castle, Laura goes on ahead, but Hellboy stops Roger to warn him that Laura couldn't have read his file. Sure enough, Laura is not who she claims to be.
  • Jimmy Olsen: In one early story, Jimmy is being held hostage and forced to give crooks trying to win a million-dollar game show answers about Superman. As one of his answers, he slips in a detail that only he and Superman were aware of. Superman realizes he's in trouble and flies to the rescue.
  • Shermans Lagoon. When Sherman gets a job as a telemarketer, this happens:
    Megan: This is the fourth time he called today!
    Sherman: Why won't you buy his Ginsu Knives, Megan?
    Megan: How did you know he was selling Ginsu Knives? Was that you on the phone?!
    Sherman: I need to make my quota!
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Bloo once Jackie Khones found Madame Foster's favorite doily in "Penny Saved".
    Bloo: I wonder how that got shoved under the squeaky top stair?
    Jackie: Hey! How did you know it was under the squeaky top stair?
    Bloo: Lucky guess?
  • In issue four of the Marvels miniseries, photojournalist and protagonist Phil Sheldon interviews Doctor Octopus in prison with the motive of retrieving information that might clear Spider-Man of suspicion of police captain George Stacy's murder. When Sheldon relates eye witness testimony asserting that Octavius somehow lost control of his robotic appendages, Doc Ock is quick to refute that notion, stating "Spider-Man doesn't have the brains to interfere with the workings of my amazing arms!" Sheldon quickly points out that he never even mentioned Spider-Man at that point, strongly suggesting that that is indeed what happened, to Octavius' extreme consternation.
  • In All-Ghouls School, Elle gets a perfect score on the history test by answering a bonus question that wasn't covered in class. Their teacher explains she only put the question on the test as a lark and doesn't normally expect anyone to answer it. This causes the girls to ask how Elle knew the answer to a question that was never covered in class or alluded to beforehand, making them realize she cheated.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Get Fuzzy, Rob asks who took his package. Bucky says he never saw that sweater, leading Rob to ask "How did you know it was a sweater?" Grounding ensues.
  • A similar situation happens in Zits, when Jeremy gets suspicious because a note in his room has changed positions while he was gone. When he asks Connie about it, she denies any involvement, asking why she would be interested in "some silly note from a girl." Cue Jeremy asking "How did you know it was from a girl?"
  • In the Calvin and Hobbes storyline where the duo lock Rosalyn out of the house, the story starts with Calvin hiding his mom's shoes so his parents can't leave. When Calvin tries to send Rosalyn away, his dad asks what he's doing, causing Calvin to ask how his parents are going anywhere when Mom can't find her shoes. The only problem: Calvin's parents hadn't mentioned to him that her shoes were missing. Whoops.

    Fan Works 
  • Turnabout Storm:
    • The victim's identity is kept secret, no-one who's not involved in the investigation or wasn't present in the courtroom should know anything about who he is. Cue characters that know too much info: Cruise Control, who knows the victim's identity; and Gilda, who knows he was a pegasus despite having no chance of directly seeing him according to her testimony.
    • Then there's Sonata, who refers to the broken and burnt Pinkie Iron Mk. V as a golf club, when it had only been referred to as a stick since her arrival.
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Case 5: Turnabout Substitution: Rhea makes this mistake twice during the final trial. She is able to handwave it with a hypothetical the first time around, but the second mistake ends up being her downfall. Apollo himself notes that Rhea would have gotten away with everything if she had just paid a tad more attention to what she was saying.
  • In Pokéumans Mindy gives herself away by accusing Brandon of stealing the Gemstone Files—documents that no-one in the base except the headmistress know even exist.
  • In The Stalking Zuko Series has a non-mystery related example. Katara eavesdrops on a conversation between Zuko and Aang about love. Zuko then asks her if Aang is also asking her personal questions, prompting Katara to say no, but also muse that Zuko must be the only one Aang's asking about love. Zuko then realizes that he didn't specify what he and Aang talked about. She manages to deflect suspicion before Zuko fully catches on that she eavesdropped on him, though.
  • In another Avatar: The Last Airbender fic, Blood of the Dragon, a recovered Azula's firebending has weakened severely, the same way Zuko's did in the show after his Heel–Face Turn. Zuko takes her to see the Sun Warriors in hopes of getting it back, and this happens when he's trying to explain why he brought her to their island.
    Zuko: I thought it would be a good idea for you and I to come here and train together.
    Azula: And why exactly do you think that this is in any way a good idea, Zuzu?
    Zuko: [hesitantly] Because it will help you improve your firebending.
    Azula: [realizes what he means and grabs him by the shirt] There's nothing wrong with my firebending! Did you bring me out to the middle of nowhere just to insult me?! Why would you think my bending is weakening?!
    Zuko: I never said your bending was weakening. I had my suspicions before, and you just confirmed them. If there really was nothing wrong, you would never have reacted so strongly. You'd have laughed it off, probably teased me a bit. But you didn't do that, so now I know.
  • The Doctor Who fanfic The Ice Throne- which has been written featuring both Christopher Ecclestone's Ninth Doctor and a fan-created Tenth Doctor played by Billy Connelly- features the Doctor investigating assassination attempts against his old ally, Ice Lord Ixlyr, eventually exposing the culprit when they confront the suspects and one of them mentions that poison was the first method used to try and assassinate Ixylr before any of the Doctor's allies brought it up.
  • Relevant in a roundabout manner in Spider X, which sees Spider-Man join the X-Men; although Spider-Man tries to give the impression that he has no connection to the Xavier Institute when he is first confronted by Magneto, the fact that he specifically takes Magneto’s helmet off in the subsequent fight is enough to prove to Magneto that the wall-crawler knows his old friend as only Xavier’s students would know why his helmet is so important.
  • In Reflections, Ensign Andrews realises that the Merchants are trying to trick the crew of Deep Space 9 when they mention a recently-destroyed runabout by name before anyone on the station brought up the name, allowing her to realise that the runabout survived its trip through the breach that the Merchants used to reach the station in turn.
  • In The Shattering Of Oz, a variation of this is used when Glinda is confronted in her dream by Elphaba and the Nome King posing as Elphaba, with Elphaba explaining the truth of the situation, including her own survival, and the Nome King claiming to be Elphaba's 'ghost' while telling Glinda that 'Elphaba' is just a parasite trying to invade her mind. After asking both Elphabas a series of questions about their shared pasts that could be answered by the real Elphaba, a mind-reader, or someone who's been spying on them for years, Glinda then asks "What was my nickname at the Across-Oz Summit last month?", which only the Nome King answers, allowing Glinda to identify 'her' as the fake Elphaba.
  • In The Elements of Friendship, this is how Madam Oleander outs herself as a mole for NightMare Moon — she knows far more about the Mane Six's quest than they've shared with the deer villagers sheltering them.
  • The Daredevil (2015) fanfic What They Wouldn't Do uses this to answer the question of how Matt Murdock would find out that Karen Page had killed Wilson Fisk's henchman James Wesley. Matt is romantically involved with Sarah Corrigan, a young woman working at one of Fisk's former shell companies after being blackmailed by Wesley into taking over her father's debts to Fisk. While on an errand, Sarah runs into Karen at the post office, unaware of who she is. By chance, Sarah's purse strap breaks and the contents fall out, including a police photograph of Wesley's body. Karen's face turns pale upon seeing the photo, which leads Sarah to realize Karen has bad memories of encountering Wesley. Karen later invites Sarah to dinner at a Thai noodle place. Their conversation eventually comes around to Wesley and the photograph in Sarah's purse. Karen suggests it's not a coincidence that she ran into someone who worked at one of Fisk's companies and who happened to possess a photo of Wesley's body, with Sarah noting her odd wording. Recalling how Wesley threatened her family to get her cooperation, Sarah remarks that he liked playing mind games with subordinates under his thumb, to which Karen says, "Yeah, well, that kind of shit's how you end up getting shot with your own gun." Sarah knows from gossip that Wesley was shot seven times in an abandoned office building, and Fisk beat up one of his bodyguards for not going with Wesley, but she'd never heard anything about Wesley getting shot with his own weapon. The fact that Karen then mentions she's been keeping tabs on the investigation into Wesley's deathnote  further cements Sarah's suspicions.
  • Friendship and Honour:
    Regan: Is it legal to purposefully steal money from a child's legacy? Is it legal for you to willfully disregard a legal document regarding the placement of an orphan? Is it legal for you to imprison people without a trial? Is it legal for you to employ a former Death Eater at a school full of vulnerable children?
    Dumbledore: Professor Snape has my full confidence - he was my spy during the war. And I did what I thought was best for Harry Potter.
    Regan: Snape might have been a spy, but he was not a spy legally on the books of the DMLE, Department of Mysteries or any other Ministry agency. And I never mentioned Harry Potter... Something you want to tell us?
  • Harry Potter: Half-born:
    Vivienne: Those are documents stating that if Lily was ever under any type of potions or enchantment, I was to take Harry to a safe place, immediately.
    James: WHAT! How dare you. Lily has never been under the effects of any mind altering potions or enchantments.
    Vivienne: I never said that the potions and or enchantments were mind altering, Mr. Potter.
  • We Are the Four Elementalists:
    Minister Shacklebolt: You have been arrested on countless charges. One: For the kidnap of Miss Luna Lovegood. Two: For the use of two of the Unforgivables on a student, and possibly other people. Three: For the attempted use of the killing curse. Four: For the forced bonding of a phoenix, that would of caused the bird to experience indescribable pain. Five: Forced legilimency. And six: Accessory to the murders of Lily and James Potter. There may be more, but we have Aurors on the case, working out just exactly went on.
    Dumbledore: Hang on just one minute! It's all a load of codswallop! I didn't do any of those things! Especially setting Lily and James up to be killed! That's preposterous. They were my friends!
    Minister Shacklebolt: I never said you "set them up" Mr. Dumbledore.
  • My Name Is Yasha Romanov has Sirius doing it to himself when Dumbledore tries to make him confess Harry's guardian's identity by claiming the boy went to Hogwarts under the name "Romanov" and Sirius answers he never said Yakov Romanov was Harry Potter. Sirius's reaction when he realizes he accidentally confirmed Harry's new identity is classical Oh, Crap!.
  • Harry Potter and the Unexpected Friend:
    Lucius: What are you doing?
    Harry: That's the wrong question. The question is 'what did you do'? You gave a dangerous dark artifact to a schoolgirl. You put the students of Hogwarts in danger for political gain.
    Lucius: You don't know what you are talking about. You have to prove I gave it to the Weasley girl, giving it to me now proves nothing!
    Harry: I never said who you were supposed to have given it to. I just said a schoolgirl.
  • In this The Most Popular Girls in School oneshot, Brittnay receives a note in her locker, telling her to meet her at the Oak Park Mall. She finds Mackenzie there, who hints her about the note. Brittnay then asks Mackenzie how she knew about the note. Blushing and confessions ensue.
  • Stress Relief: Agent Carolina gets Agent South Dakota to implicate herself in molesting Agent Connecticut using this trope by using South's impulsive nature against her. When she tells the Director about the molestation she witnessed, she left out the fact that it was in the showers. She waited for South to mention the showers first while she was denying the allegations (which she did). Thankfully for Carolina, the Counselor picked up on the fact that Carolina never mentioned the showers before South brought them up, and that one slip-up gained a lot of credibility for Carolina. The smirk that she gives South after she realizes the mistake proves that it was her plan all along.
  • In the Zootopia fic, 'A New Dawn', this is how Judy finds out about Dawn having feelings for Gideon.
    Judy: I think you really like him.
    Dawn: What? That's ridiculous! He's just a friend!
    Judy: ...That's all I was implying.
    Dawn: ...Oh.
  • In The Web Of The Spider Man, Tony Stark flatly denies being a superhero when asked about the mysterious "Iron Man" he claims to be his bodyguard. The reporter asking the question points out that he never said anything of the sort. Tony outs himself about five seconds later.
    Reporter: I’m sorry Mr. Stark, but do you honestly expect us to believe that was a bodyguard in a suit? That conveniently appeared despite the fact that-
    Tony: I know it’s confusing. It is one thing to question the official story and another to make wild accusations or insinuate that I’m, uh, a superhero.
    Reporter: I never said you were a superhero.
    Tony: You didn’t…
  • Fractured Fates: This is how the killer is first implicated during the second trial. When asked to testify about his missing hunting knife (which was also the murder weapon), Itachi mentions how he and Shiro had searched everywhere possible for it, including the greenhouse, where the killer eventually hid it. The issue comes in that, at that point, nobody had brought up where the murder weapon had been hidden, and besides the killer only the ones who had found it during the investigation (Hana, Akira, and Hinata) should have known about that fact.
  • Pack Street: In "Field Day" Remmy and Wolt travel to Bunnyburrow to visit Anneke's ex Rasher, and retrieve a prized locket that he kept after their breakup. When Rasher stubbornly insists that he doesn't have the pewter locket, Remmy asks him how he knew it was pewter. Rasher admits that he had the locket appraised, but he still doesn't realize he's given himself away until Remmy spells it out for him.

    Films — Animated 
  • This trope reveals the villain in Zootopia. After discovering the cause of why predators were going savage, Nick and Judy are rushing to the police to pass off the evidence. They have just shaken off the mooks that were pursuing them and cut through the Natural History Museum. As they are passing through, now Acting Mayor Dawn Bellwether is waiting and praises them for their work... just as Judy is about to hand over the evidence, she suddenly wonders how they knew where to find them.
  • In Aladdin, Princess Jasmine uses this to ferret out Prince Ali's true identity as Aladdin, by saying "It's a shame Abu had to miss this." Instead of asking who Abu is, Ali ends up saying "Nah, he hates fireworks." (He then tries to pretend that he really is a prince, and him showing up as a peasant was a disguise.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ed Exley from L.A. Confidential likes doing a variant of this in his interrogations. In particular, he tends to say something about the person he's interviewing being guilty as if it were a fact, and note that the person doesn't react the way an innocent person would. For example, in his first interrogation he tells the perp "It's a shame you didn't pull this a few years ago when you were a minor, you being an adult makes it a gas chamber offense." Later, after he's done and is leaving the room, he stops to say, "You know Ray, I'm here talking about you getting the gas chamber, and you never asked me what this is about. You've got a big guilty sign on your forehead." The kicker in particular case is that the guys he's interrogating are guilty but not of the crime he's investigating. A different interview gives us this exchange.
    Exley: What do they have on you, Loew? Pictures of you and Matt Reynolds with your pants down?
    D.A Ellis Loew: [Hesitates] Do you have any proof?
    Exley: The proof had his throat slit. And so far, you're not denying it.
  • Minority Report has the villain realize the protagonists are onto him when he's caught in one of these. Anderton's wife asks about Anne Lively's death, and Burgess pretends not to know about it, but says he'll see if "anyone drowned a woman by the name of—what did you say her name was?". "Anne Lively... but I never said she drowned."
  • In Alone With Her, the tip off that the protagonist has planted surveillance cameras in the house of the girl he's courting is when she rejects him and he starts ranting: "...I did everything for you, but you want to go back? To what? Huh? To being alone? To this empty room? To that brush?" Earlier in the movie, he'd caught a live feed of her masturbating with the hairbrush.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets movie, Dobby the house-elf repeatedly does this, accidentally admitting to having intercepted letters from Harry's friends, sealing the entrance to Platform 9 and 3/4, and bewitching a Bludger to attack Harry, although the last two may have been intentional.
    • In the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie, a disguised Death Eater blows his cover by mentioning the graveyard Harry was sent to before Harry does. The Death Eater in question may not have cared at that point, though.
  • In The Departed, Billy Costigan, an undercover cop within the Irish Mob, narrowly escapes being ambushed by the rest of the gang during a meeting with his police superior and pretends to have arrived late after they have killed the superior. Another member of the gang, who is about to die and turns out to be an undercover cop himself, privately tells Costigan that even though he accidentally gave the wrong address for where the informant was going to be, Costigan was at the right one.
  • Used lightly in 1408 when Mike Enslin calls a hotel for a reservation in the eponymous room, which the staff says is unavailable, despite not knowing when he'll be visiting, since they don't want anybody staying in the room ever. Actually could be a rare example of Inverted Trope, since it is not ruled out that they were consciously performing a Reverse Psychology trick to get Mike in.
  • Averted in Sleuth; Wyke mocks Inspector Doppler for trying this tactic on him, pointing out that he hasn't said anything that wasn't an obvious inference from what Doppler had said.
  • In Sudden Death, one of the villains gives himself away by mentioning Darren's daughter by name when Darren had only told him he has a daughter and that she's being held hostage. He immediately Lampshades his mistake.
    Damn it. I always do things like that. You never said her name, did you?
  • Subverted in the murder mystery Knight Moves wherein the protagonist knows the latest word in the serial killer's message without being told directly, because the killer namedropped a chess master and the word is that master's watchword.
  • Although the protagonist never realizes it and the film never makes a point of it later on, early in Red Eye Jack ends up letting slip the name of the protagonist's father, which at that point she had never told him.
  • Played straight so often in The Woman in the Window that it stops being suspenseful and becomes hilarious; the guilt-ridden professor lets slip every possible detail, including knowing the man was murdered (when the body hadn't turned up yet), knowing where the body was placed, that it happened at night, etc. His friends are so dense that they wave off every comment and never suspect him, but you would think he'd just learn to keep his mouth shut, especially when having casual conversations with the district attorney.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, Mercedes realizes that the mysterious Count really is Edmond when he tells her that "Edmond Dantes is dead." She had told him that her lover Edmond was dead, but not his last name.
  • A version of this is in the movie Patriot Games, after Jack Ryan's IRA informant gives him pictures of the people who had attempted to kill Ryan (and in a separate attack, his wife and daughter). Jack's superior dismisses the information, believing that mole is trying to mislead Jack. "All he has to do is show you a few pictures of a girl..." Jack realizes he never told the man he was looking for a female assassin and realizes the information must be legitimate.
  • In Wild Child, when Poppy is before the Honour Court for setting fire to the school, head girl Harriet accidentally reveals that she was actually the one who started the fire by talking about the very specific lighter that Poppy supposedly used, when no one has mentioned anything about a lighter.
  • Lethal Weapon 3:
    Mook: Like I told you before, asshole, I don't know no Jack Travis!
    Riggs: Hey, I didn't say his name was "Jack" — you'd better start telling me more than Jack Shit.
  • In Scream 3, when John Milton tries to play down his connection to Rena Reynolds a.k.a., Sidney Prescott's Mom.
    Milton: Do you know how many actors I've worked with? Hundreds, thousands.
    Gail: Dewey didn't say she was an actor...
  • And then Scream 4, Jill's master plan falls apart once she comments about having a similar wound to Gail, a fact only the one who attacked her could know.
  • In The Godfather Part II, Michael realizes that Fredo betrayed him when they were in a sleazy Cuban nightclub, and Fredo says "Watch this part of the act, it's really something", even though earlier Fredo had told Michael that he had never been to Cuba before. Fredo also mentions how "old man Roth" would "never come here", but that Johnny Ola showed him the place, despite an earlier claim of never having met either Roth or Ola. Actually kind of a double Inversion since Michael never tries to trip him up, but not being very bright, Fredo just blurts it out. The look of betrayal on Michael's face is classic and a definite example of Foreshadowing.
  • In Basic, this is subverted when Hardy is chatting with Styles about the death of Kendal. Styles mentions Kendal being poisoned, and Hardy immediately starts asking him how Styles would know that Kendal was poisoned. Styles points out that one minute Kendal was fine and the next he was coughing up blood, and then Kendal died for no apparent reason, so poison is a reasonable guess under the circumstances.
  • Averted in Highlander. Lieutenant Moran, the lead detective investigating the beheading of Iman Fasil, tries to get Connor MacLeod to implicate himself using this sort of technique twice in the same conversation, but it doesn't work either time.
    Moran: Okay. What's that? [indicates the plastic-wrapped Toledo Salamanca on his desk]
    Connor MacLeod: [who knows exactly what it is] A sword?
    Moran: It's a Toledo-Salamanca broadsword worth about a million bucks.
    MacLeod: So?
    Moran: So you want to hear a theory? You went down that garage to buy this sword from that guy — what's his name?
    MacLeod: [who also knows who Iman Fasil was] I don't know. You tell me.
  • In The Fugitive, a hospital worker Dr. Kimble spoke to slips up with Suspiciously Specific Denial, claiming he hadn't seen Kimble before the Marshal even asks.
  • Played with in the film, Primal Fear. Aaron is a suspect charged with murdering a Catholic Cardinal. The played with part comes in when Aaron claims to have spit personality disorder and doesn't remember what his other personality, named Roy, does. It helps him beat the first degree murder charges for an insanity verdict. During the trial, Aaron turns into Roy and he attacks the prosecutor while he's on the stand. This is causes a mistrial and the judge to find him insane. After the trail, arrogant defense attorney Martin Vail, who begins to feel sorry and care for Aaron, feels proud of himself, only for Aaron to intentionally let a detail slip that only Roy would know: Roy attacking the prosecutor. It's at this point that Aaron confesses that he never had split personality disorder and faked his Aaron personality to con everybody.
  • In Reindeer Games, when everything's seemingly over and Rudy, Ashley and Gabe—the survivors of the casino robbery—have gathered, Ashley mentions Rudy's cellmate Nick was stabbed with a shiv... but Rudy only told her his cellmate was killed; he never told her how. A few moments later, a now-doubting Gabe gets offed by Ashley, and Nick turns out to have been hiding...
  • In the film Cheetah, a brother and sister visiting their parents in Kenya adopt an orphaned cheetah cub whom they call Duma. When they have to return to the U.S., they plan to train her to hunt and release her back into the wild, but she disappears the night before they were going to leave. As their parents are driving them to the airport the next morning, they stop at the local general store where the owner says that it must be a sad day for the kids: leaving Kenya, losing their pet... The brother immediately jumps on this, asking why he thinks Duma is "lost." The store owner insists that by "lose," all he means is "releasing back into the wild where you will probably never see her again," but the brother is convinced that the owner wouldn't have used the word "lose" unless he knew about Duma's disappearance, and the only way he could know about the disappearance is if he was involved. The brother is right.
  • In Olympus Has Fallen, Mike Banning is a Secret Service agent who is apparently the only free survivor of an attack on the White House by Korean terrorists. He then comes across another survivor and fellow Secret Service agent who claims to have been hiding during the whole attack, but during their conversation mentions "This Kang guy is insane" referring to the leader of the attack. Banning then realizes that there's no way he could've known Kang's name if he was indeed hiding out in the White House the whole time and correctly deduces that he is a traitor working with the terrorists.
  • In High School Hellcats, a girl dies in a (seemingly accidental) fall down a staircase at an illicit party, and the teenage party-goers try to cover up the fact that they were involved. When the girl, Connie, has been missing for several days, a detective comes in to question her classmates individually. Everyone claims they haven't seen her and don't know where she is. The detective happens to ask one of them if the missing girl had any enemies, and receives the response, "No, everyone liked Connie. She was a regular guy." The detective immediately seizes on the use of the past tense. (It doesn't help that the girl being interviewed explodes into a sudden screaming fit when confronted by this. She later gloats about pushing Connie down the stairs to a third girl she's trying to kill to cover it up, even though as far as anyone knew, she was only guilty of the same comparatively minor crimes as the other kids.)
  • Played with in the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. In an early scene, when Fache still suspects Langdon of murdering Jacques Sauniere (but hasn't yet told Langdon that he's a suspect), Langdon's extensive knowledge of art gets him into trouble when he says that Sauniere was murdered in the Louvre's Grand Gallery before Fache actually tells him where the body was found. Langdon actually knew because he recognized the Grand Gallery's distinctive parquet floor in a crime scene photo, but Fache has a hard time buying that excuse.
  • In Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Tom and Susan are giddy with relief after Tom has been cleared of the murder of Patty Gray, hours before he was scheduled to be executed. Tom offhandedly wonders who killed "Emma". The fact that Patty Gray's real name was Emma Blucher is still a secret. Susan, who knows that secret, realizes that Tom is guilty after all.
  • In Self/Less, after undergoing shedding and waking up in the new body, Damien starts experiencing hallucinations of a woman and a child. Albright explains that the hallucinations are probably just a combination of Damien getting used to the new body and having past memories getting jumbled. The Latino woman he's seen is probably a woman he used to date and forgot. Damien points out that he never said the woman was Latino.
  • Masked Avengers: The Mole is revealed when he mentions one of his victims being killed with a spear, even though the protagonist said nothing about that, and just said the victim was attacked.
  • In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when Brad asks if he can use the phone, Frank smirks into the camera and comments on Brad and Jane getting a flat tyre, even though Brad never mentioned it. Though Brad doesn't pick up on this.
  • In New Town Killers, the protagonist Sean is offered a large sum of money by two businessmen for them to hunt him throughout the city until either they kill him or he survives the night. At one point he goes to hide out at his friend Sam's house and tells him there are guys trying to kill him. Sam later mentions the two guys. "I never said there were two of them."
  • In Matilda, Miss Honey makes a visit to Matilda's parents, to express how bright she is. When her parents laugh this off, making several jabs at educated people, Miss Honey tries to describe how an educated person would treat them in a hospital, or, say, defend them in court if they were accused of selling a faulty car. Mr. Wormwood, who does partake in such a shady business, replies "What car? Sued by who? Who you been talking to?"
  • When Newt is interrogated in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Graves says that the Obscurius is useless without his host, prompting Newt to respond that an Obscurius is a parasite that killed a kid, and what would it be used for?
  • Bibi And Tina 2 begins with a burglary that steals Falko von Falkenstein's prized monocle collection, among other things. Later, when Tarik is complaining about how stuck up he is, he says "Seriously, who has a castle and a monocle collection?". The only problem is that this was never reported in the newspapers.
  • A subtle one from The Jinx when Robert Durst is asked what divers would be looking for in the lake behind his former house, Durst blithely replies "Body parts", rather than "A body." The specific detail of the former statement seems to foreshadow later events, or could have been how he would have said it anyway.
  • Woman on the Run: Only the killer, the detective, and Eleanor know that the murderer shot at Frank but missed because he was aiming at his shadow. Danny inadvertently gives this slight information away, tipping Eleanor off right away that he's the murderer.
  • Bad Genius: When Pat describes Bank, he lets slip that Bank was beat up and found in a landfill. The problem? Bank never told anyone he was found in a landfill — only someone involved with beating him up would. He quickly deduces that Pat was responsible for it.
  • The cops in Basic Instinct try to invoke this when they go to question Catherine Tramell and her girlfriend Roxy about her boyfriend's murder, asking "How did you know he was murdered?", but it fails miserably, as both women point out that the men have identified themselves as homicide detectives and that it's the most natural conclusion to come to.
  • My Bloody Valentine 3D: Tom when he says that the message written in blood above Megan's body was the same one she had written in her Valentines card to Axel. Sarah then asks how he knew that Megan was dead, or what was written above her body.
  • In Tomorrow Never Dies, MI-6 becomes suspicious of corrupt media mogul Elliot Carver's involvement in a diplomatic incident between the UK and China when his newspaper, Tomorrow, reports certain details of the incident (such as the British corpses being machine-gunned with the same type of ammo issued to the Chinese air force) before British Intelligence was able to confirm them.
  • Dave: Ellen Mitchell finds out Dave is impersonating her husband after mentioning something Bill Mitchell did in the state legislature (which he wasn't part of) and Dave confirms.
  • Rehearsal for Murder: The murderer gives themselves away by revealing that they knew Monica had a flashlight in her dresser drawer: something only someone who was in her bedroom on the night she dies could have known.
  • In The Terror of Tiny Town, Bat Haines tells Nancy that Tex has been murdered before anyone except the murderer could have known that he was dead.

  • The Radix: Hunting for Wurm, an escaped asylum patient, Adriana Borjia interrogates Cori. After Cori says "I didn't see him", Adrianna smiles and says: "I never said the patient was a man".
    • But to be fair, it wouldn't be a bad guess to assume that someone able-bodied enough to escape an asylum would be a man...
  • Literature/Brotherband: Hal and his band ensnare Zavac by telling the Korpaljo, the leader of the town they're in, that Zavac is hiding their share of plundered emeralds in his hold, from the mines in Limmat. When the Korpaljo interrogates Zavac:
    Zavac: "That's not true! I was never anywhere near Limmat!"
    Korpaljo: "Who said anything about Limmat?"
  • Used at some point or another in almost every single book in the In Death series.
  • This happens in Encyclopedia Brown books quite a bit. Not generally for murders, but it happens.
    • One story had Encyclopedia figuring out which member of a gang robbed a grocery store, his only piece of evidence being a knife left stuck into a watermelon. When confronting the gang, one of the members says the blade of his knife is a half-inch longer... despite the knife never having been taken out of the melon, and the watermelon specifically having been described as "huge" so that even the longer knife blade would still be completely hidden. True to form, the member in question turns out to have been the robber.
    • Another Encyclopedia Brown story has someone getting shot in the foot by a BB gun. One of Bugs' friends shows up, and Encyclopedia tells him to run to the kid's house and get his shoe. The kid grabs the correct shoe, and Encyclopedia points out that unless he was the one who shot him, he couldn't have known which shoe to get. An innocent person would have had a 50 percent chance of guessing right, but would probably have asked 'Which shoe?'
    • Another story had a pair of rollerskates stolen from Encyclopedia while the latter was at the dentist. He asks the main suspect (a kid who had a doctor's appointment in the same building) if he was in Dr Vivian Wilson's office. The kid claims "I never heard of him until you mentioned his name" and that he didn't go near Wilson's office because he "had a sprained wrist, not a toothache" meaning that not only did he know that Dr. Wilson is a dentist but that he is a man despite his first name being "Vivian".
    • Also common in Two-Minute Mysteries, by the same author—things like "Dr. Smith was murdered, where were you at the time?" "I haven't been to a dentist in years."
  • In Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow:
    • Achilles slips up and tells the other orphans that Poke had been stabbed in the eye, when he couldn't possibly know that. Nice show, Achilles, nice show.
    • Colonel Graff does a slip up on the phone to Bean's caretaker (a very intelligent nun) when he says the name Bean told him about, Achilles (pronounced uh-kill-eez). The nun points out that since Bean is from the French section of Rotterdam he would have pronounced it ah-sheel and correctly calls him out for spying on Bean's journal.
  • This happens in the third Brother Cadfael book, Monk's Hood. The prime suspect (the victim's stepson) thinks the murder was a stabbing, when it was actually a poisoning.
  • In a short mystery story called "True Lies," starring Lieutenant Johnson and Sgt. Bolton, the genius detective sergeant has narrowed down the possible murderers to two, but doesn't know which one. Since he thinks his lieutenant partner (who is the Narrator, and who would be Too Dumb to Live if he didn't know how to hide it from his fellow cops) is the genius detective, and so is dependent on him for his own genius, he asks the lieutenant for the solution. Our narrator doesn't know and is eating dry granola, so he chokes and says (as an excuse) "Tense!" This gives the sergeant the solution; the murderer was the one who referred to the victim in the past tense before it was generally known that she was dead.
  • Timothy Zahn's last book of The Thrawn Trilogy, The Last Command, features Niles Ferrier attempting to accuse Talon Karrde of hiring an imperial assault team to attack a group of smugglers as an example of the threat the Empire posed. He slips up when he mentions the name of the lieutenant leading the assault team before it's brought up by the person reading the planted evidence. He nearly slipped up before that by mentioning that incriminating evidence was on the datacard before anyone announced it had been found, only for Ellor to immediately confirm it had been found.
  • Janet Tashjian's novel Multiple Choice has the main character fall victim to this. Monica chooses to write something nasty about her best friend on the upstairs school bathroom's stalls. When confronted about it, she denies vehemently, and convinces her friend that she wasn't the one who wrote it. As they walk away, she lets slip that "I'm never even up there"—despite her friend never saying which bathroom it was. A fight ensues.
  • In Jo Walton's novel Farthing, the murder victim appears to have been stabbed. The police forensic techs figure out that he actually died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but don't reveal this to the press. A bit later, one character reveals that they know that the victim was gassed.
  • From Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • In Guards! Guards!!, Lupine Wonse's immediate response to Vimes reporting the destruction of the Elucidated Brethren's headquarters was a suspiciously specific "Any of them get out?" Because Vimes was distracted, he doesn't pick up on this until a Eureka Moment later on.
    • Inverted in Feet of Clay when Carrot becomes sure that Dorfl didn't kill Dr. Hopkins when he agrees to Carrot's statement that Dorfl beat him to death with an iron bar, when in fact he was killed with a loaf of dwarf bread.
      • Played straight later in the book, when Vimes figures out how the Patrician was being poisoned, with arsenic in candles. He confronts the vampire he suspects being behind it, as well as many other suspicious events, and knows he is guilty when he implies the vampire got A Taste Of His Own Medicine and sees him glance at the candles in the room, despite having no way of knowing how Lord Vetinari was being poisoned.
    • Played with in Night Watch. After an antagonist officer tells Vimes of a break-in, Vimes asked what had been stolen. The other officer tries to invoke this trope, replying "Did I say they stole anything, sir?" and Vimes shuts him down with "Well, no, you didn't. That was me jumping to what we call a conclusion. Did they steal anything, then, or did they break in to deliver a box of chocolates and a small complimentary basket of fruit?" (Although to be fair to the officer, Discworld is home to anti-crimes such as 'breaking and decorating'.)
    • Vimes uses it once again in Thud! when talking to the Troll crime boss Chrysoprase. Chryosprase lets slip that his knowledge of a crime scene is greater than what the public would know. When Vimes calls him out, Chrysoprase dismisses the accusation as gossip that he heard from the Dwarfs. Or well, had Dwarfs beaten up or threatened until they told him. He did in fact have no connection to it.
    • Used in a sort of meta way in Making Money. Moist is being interrogated by Carrot, all while under the guise of being an upstanding pillar of the community businessman. When he tries to shut Carrot down due to him, Moist, being aware of this trope...
    Moist: Look, I know how this sort of thing goes. You just sit here and ask questions and eventually I slip up and reveal something incriminating, right?
    Carrot: Thank you, sir.
    Moist: For what?
    Carrot: For telling me that you know how this sort of thing goes, sir.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Loken knows that Erebus is lying to him because he pointed out that the interex had accused them of stealing a kinebrach's sword—and in fact, the interex had only accused them of stealing a weapon.
  • Inverted in A Widow for a Year when the policeman deliberately gives the press false information about a murdered prostitute, saying she was killed WITH a struggle when there was no struggle. This enabled him to dismiss the two men who confessed as they were covered in bruises and scratches.
  • Used near the beginning of The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray- the hero finds a young woman in the part of London infested by gribbly things, and asks the governor of a local mental asylum if he's lost any patients- he mentions her being found in the Old Quarter, despite not being told. In this case, it could be a reasonable assumption but the hero decides to be careful and gives a false description- a good idea, since said governor is part of the cult that had captured the girl...
  • This is how George Smiley discovers The Mole in the Secret Intelligence Service in John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: the man in question turned up at the Circus with not enough information about the unfolding Operation Testify crisis for him to have got it from the radio report, but too much to have overheard it from a phone conversation.
  • In the Thursday Next book First Among Sequels, Thursday and Spike accuse a plumber of stealing money from a pensioner. His boss joins in with the accusation, saying "A thousand pounds, from a defenceless pensioner? How could you?" Thursday and Spike had never mentioned the amount.
  • Reversed in Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger, when the FBI is investigating the mistreatment of prisoners on a Coast Guard ship. He says that one of the prisoners was executed (he wasn't, but they staged an execution by hanging to get a second prisoner to confess everything) to which the captain replies "We captured two prisoners, we gave you two prisoners alive, so who did we shoot?"
  • In one of the Fire Thief trilogy, the Avenger almost pulls this off and discovers the boy he is talking to is helping Prometheus when the boy mentions the shopkeeper looking for a spade (to dig up some buried treasure). But the boy quickly says he was running down the street shouting "half a million dollars for a spade."
  • A Nancy Drew book had a Jerkass character being poisoned, but ultimately recovering. A few days later, his ex-girlfriend taunts him about it as he tries to eat breakfast, stating, "You know, poison doesn't have to be a powder. Something could have been injected into that orange..." The only way she could have know what type of poison was used was if she was the assailant. Just change "doesn't have to be" to "wasn't" and you've got an admission of guilt that still wouldn't stand in trial.
  • The Three Investigators had a case involving a whale where a suspect accidentally blurted out its species.
    • On another occasion, someone asks what the "???" on their business card means. This is a Once an Episode thing which wouldn't normally be significant, but one of the group notices that they didn't actually read the card, and must have seen it before.
  • Used in one children's mystery, in which an unknown student was sending anonymous letters to the teacher, telling her all of the mean-spirited things said behind her back. This causes the teacher to be miserable and make all of the students feel horribly guilty. The only clues are that the mysterious student spells "sincerely" incorrectly and leaves a glob of ink as a signature. Eventually, they narrow it down to one person and trap her by innocently bringing up the ink blob. She blurts out "That's not an ink splotch, it's the shadow -". Busted.
  • In Katherine Kurtz's The Quest for Saint Camber, a member of the secretive Camberian Council is found dead in a secret passageway of the king's palace. In a conversation with Nigel (King Kelson's uncle/regent/heir presumptive), his eldest son Conall says the victim's entire name, which the younger man is not supposed to know. Nigel realizes Conall had been secretly working with the dead man (to obtain arcane powers reserved for the monarch) and killed him in that stairwell; Conall attacks his father with those powers and leaves him in a coma.
  • A case of the villain inadvertently using this against the protagonist occurs in Scorpia, when Julia Rothman tells Alex that Scorpia intends to activate a bioweapon that will kill a significant portion of the population. Alex, knowing that the weapon is designed to specifically target schoolchildren, blurts out that they can't murder children, causing Rothman to realise that Alex is a triple agent for MI-6, and that MI-6 have figured out how the weapon operates.
  • In the Father Brown short story "The Green Man", the victim is an Admiral who is found dead in a pond close to his home, on the evening when he was expected to return home from a longer sea voyage. Upon being told that the Admiral is drowned, the murderer asks: "Where was he found?" which tips off Father Brown. Note that Father Brown is older than radio. If the Admiral had drowned at any time during the voyage, his family would probably not have found out until his ship came back to England. Unless you know that he drowned in the pond, the reasonable thing would have been to assume that the body was lost at sea. Father Brown bites his tongue at the actual tip-off, but this trope comes into play in the big reveal at the end.
  • At the end of the A to Z Mysteries book The Lucky Lottery, the three main kids confront their prime suspect over a stolen lottery ticket.
    Ruth Rose: And your fingerprints are on the mantel where you stole the Christmas card!
    Dot Calm: You're crazy, kid. I was wearing glov...
  • In the Waco series by J.T. Edson, Waco uses this trick a few times to trip up a killer.
  • In Death in the Clouds, Hercule Poirot mentions to the main suspect that fingerprints were found in a bottle of poison used to kill the daughter of the first victim. The suspect says that is impossible, because he was wearing gloves.
    • In one of Agatha Christie's short stories, a man is killed by a blow on the head with a bronze statue. Two of the suspects—his wife and her lover—both confess to the crime: she says that she shot him, and he—that he stabbed him with a small dagger. On further interrogation, both tell that they assumed the other one was guilty and so lied to protect each other. But actually this trope is invoked: they are both guilty. They have planned the murder together and made the false confessions to make the police believe them to be innocent.
  • In Han Solo at Stars' End, Han finds that one of the three rebels he's transporting has murdered their leader, who just managed to scrawl the name of the destination planet, Mytus VII, in the table in front of him before he died. Han figures out who the traitor is by telling each one separately that he suspects another, and then telling them they're going to Mytus VIII, IX or X. He gets them all together, supposedly to research the target, and makes them show their datapads; the traitor is the one who mentally corrected it to the planet he already knew was the real destination.
  • In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, Jack tells Jenny that after seven long years, her brother was gone. But she only told him she was after her brother, not how long ago he had vanished.
  • In Star Trek: Millennium, Vash knows exactly what neurotoxin she was attacked with without being told, alerting Bashir that she's pulling a Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
  • The Crowner John Mysteries: In The Sanctuary Seeker, a suspect gives himself away when he says he has never heard of the victim Aelfgar of Totnes. John had said the victim was named Aelfgar, but not that he came from Totnes.
  • Spenser gets one of several hints the Stapleton family in Small Vices is lying about their son and his alleged non-involvement in the case Spenser has been hired to investigate when they specifically refer to it as a sex crime, since the fact that the victim was also murdered was far more likely to be of note to people who had supposedly only heard of it in passing. Their referring to it only a sex crime makes sense when, at the end of the book, it's revealed it wasn't actually a murder—the victim and their son were playing a sex game involving Erotic Asphyxiation and she accidentally died during it.
  • In The Scorch Trials, while Thomas never mentions to Brenda that his group calls themselves Gladers, she ends up mentioning it in casual conversation. This foreshadows the fact that she and Jorge had actually been working for WICKED all along; she most likely knows the term because she heard them call themselves that while she monitored the Maze.
  • Nick Velvet:
    • In "The Theft of the Lopsided Cobweb", the killer gives themself away when they say Nick should be more careful when being shot at. As no one else was present, only the killer could know Nick was shot at.
    • In "The Theft of the Picture Postcards", Nick deduces the identity of a blackmailer when they mention they amount of money demanded, despite the victim never mentioning it.
  • In one of the minor adventures the protagonists have while traveling from place to place in The Balanced Sword, they're asked to investigate a murder, and the murderer gives himself away by mentioning a detail he shouldn't have known.
  • In Wings of Fire, Tsunami and Starlight figure out that Blister killed Kestrel when Blister tells Tsunami that she would have wanted to slash her mother's throat like what happened to Kestrel, even though she was only told that Kestrel was stabbed by a SandWing's tail.
  • In The Robots of Dawn, Elijah discusses the matter of Jander's deactivation with Amadiro, and suddenly Amadiro states that the woman at whose house the Ridiculously Human Robot was had a very unusual definition of husband. While it might have made sense for him that the robot was her lover (it's a Free-Love Future), there is no way he could have figured out the husband part; for Aurorans, marriage is a union with a potential for kids, so a Robotic Spouse in totally ridiculous. As such, he manages to prove Amadiro was attempting a Grand Theft Prototype (he desperately needed such robots, and their designer refused to cooperate) by thoroughly questioning Jander, so the guy is forced to fold before the investigation destroys his career completely.
  • In the short story "Death of the King" by Theodore Matthiason, Alexander the Great is dying, not of sickness as the historical records will claim, but of poison. He and his physician are trying to find out Whodunnit to Me?, until the physician offers Alexander a cushion "for the great pain in your back", and the emperor realises he knows more about how this poison works than he admitted.
  • Two Kinds of Truth: Terence Spencer tries to avoid a subpoena by telling the person delivering it he doesn't know a "Terry Spencer" but she points out she only called him "Mr. Spencer".

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the various Law & Order shows, the detectives will often hold back certain details of the crime from the press, so they can test the veracity of any account from a suspect or witness. As many times as it's used to trip up the guilty, it will also expose someone attempting to confess falsely. For instance, a father taking the rap for his son's crime, not being able to describe at his allocution in court how and where he hit the victim.
    • Avoided in one Law & Order episode when McCoy decides to go through with a generous plea deal with a suspect that covered "miscellaneous crimes" after the police told him the suspect's partner was dead. He exploited a loophole that allowed him to charge the defendant with crimes the DA didn't know about before making the plea; since the police never said the partner was murdered, he had no way of knowing his death was a crime.
    • Detective Goren in Law & Order: Criminal Intent was a master of getting suspects to incriminate themselves. In one episode ADA Ronald Carver tells Goren to try one of his "tricks" to make the suspect reveal incriminating information.
    • Explicitly lampshaded in Law & Order: LA when the prosecutor asks the defendant, a Secret Service agent, if based on his long career and investigations that he'd agree that a suspect displaying knowledge of the crime was probably guilty. Defendant says yes. Prosecutor presents the text messages (sent from a smartphone they'd found concealed in the defendant's cell) to the victims' husband/father revealing information that only someone present in the house just before the attack would have known.
    • Subverted in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. After a lengthy interrogation, Olivia catches a suspect mentioning a scarf that only the rapist would know about. The man confesses, is convicted and sent to jail. Eight years later, she discovers that there had been a mistake in the evidence report, and the suspect's confession had matched the report, not the reality. Olivia realizes that someone, quite possibly her, must have mentioned the scarf early in the interrogation and let the detail slip without realizing it. She essentially browbeat a tired and confused man into confessing to something he never did.
  • One episode of Cadfael has the titular monk use this to determine a suspect's innocence when he tells the man that his father was "cut down." The man denies ever drawing a blade against him, which provides one of the two pieces of evidence that Cadfael needs. The other is when he hands the fellow some monkshood oil as a refreshing drink to see if the man will recognize it; when he starts to raise it, Cadfael snatches it away and says that he's just proved himself innocent to the crime of poisoning his father.
  • Standard operating procedure in Criminal Minds as well.
    • Best use was probably "The Fox", where the killer, profiled as probably having OCD, has a minor Freak Out during questioning when he notices the pictures of his victims are out of order (which was done on purpose by the investigators).
    • The episode "A Real Rain" has the BAU chasing down a vigilante, killing criminals by stabbing them through the head. When they are questioning an impostor, Gideon asks him: "Is that why you stabbed him in the groin?", and realizes that he was lying by his affirmation.
    • In yet another episode, their usual plan of withholding things from the media was thwarted by a leak and they had to find it quickly.
  • In one case of CSI, Brass (after the fact) realizes that he should've been suspicious of the husband of a woman drowned in the bathtub from the beginning when he remembers that, while she is being carted away by the EMTs and it's not yet clear whether she is going to make it or not, the husband says: "I loved my wife." Whoops!
  • Subverted in Community in "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking". Chang, apparently suffering from "Changnesia" and calling himself Kevin, mentions Jeff being a lawyer. When Jeff points out that he shouldn't know this, seemingly catching him out, he recites a conversation Jeff and Shirley had earlier, wherein she mentioned him being a lawyer.
    Chang: Jeff, thank you. When the Dean told me you were going to help me, I couldn't believe it. A cool, smart lawyer like yourself, reaching out to a little nobody like me.
    Jeff (smirking): I never told you I was a lawyer.
    Everyone exchanges concerned glances and looks at Chang suspiciously.
    Chang: No, you didn't. Shirley said it, remember?
  • Monk:
    • In one episode, the Captain shows a gun that had been used to murder the victim to the victim's friend. The friend points out the cracked handle on the gun and says that the victim was bludgeoned to death (which he was). Near the end, the Captain realizes that anybody who didn't know would assume that the victim had been shot, not beaten, and arrests him as he's about to kill Monk.
    • When an infant in foster care is found handling a kidnap victim's severed pinky in the park, Monk deduces at the very end that it was his foster parents, one of whom was told the child found a finger but replied back that he found a pinky.
    • In another episode, a man suspected of killing his wife points out that the police already have a suspect, calling him a "chain-snatching, dope-sniffing punk." Leland points out that the police hadn't revealed that the kid in question had stolen a chain to the public, thus only someone present when it happened could know about it. (On his way back from killing his wife, he broke his tail light. If he got pulled over for it, it would break his alibi, so he had to get it fixed. While he was there, he witnessed the kid robbing the auto shop and realized he was on camera, so he killed the shop clerk and took the camera footage.)
    • There was a hilarious subversion on the episode where Monk's medication interferes with his deductive talents. Monk attempts to nail the killer with "guilty knowledge":
      Monk: How did you know she was wearing a bathrobe? No one said anything about a bathrobe!
      Killer: You did! Two minutes ago!
    • In yet another case, Monk is called in to help along the investigation of what appears to be a woman's suicide. When the woman's co-workers are told about it, one of them immediately asks about the suicide note. Later, Monk points out that suicide notes aren't especially common, and the guy didn't ask if there was a note—he knew there was a note. Pay no attention to the fact that most people don't know about the frequency of suicide notes.
    • Monk identifies the culprit in one episode when he realizes he knew the victim's widow - the two were lovers and had colluded in the murder. Monk had seen the two speak to each other as if they'd never met while she mourned her husband in church, but the man gave himself away by referring to her as a widow even though she hadn't told him it was her husband she'd lost.
  • Features in a roundabout way in Murder Rooms, when Doyle identifies the true killer in "The White Knight Stratagem" when he reads a description the man wrote of a complex chess game; the account was far too detailed for the unobservant idiot the man had been presenting himself as to Doyle and Bell, which prompted them to analyse his actions up to that point from a new perspective and realise that he was the guilty party.
  • Stitchers features a particular version of this in the episode "Pretty Little Lawyers"; after they accuse the killer of poisoning the victim, he names the exact poison used to kill her before anyone else brought it up.
  • NCIS
    • One of the several clues that a midshipman's training sergeant had been guilty of his murder was that when Gibbs notified him of his (missing-presumed-deserted for several days) student's death, without mentioning that his death was murder, the sergeant's first question was 'Do you know who killed him?' note 
    • In a later episode, the suspect's wife assures Gibbs that her husband would never shoot a woman in the back. Of course, Gibbs hadn't mentioned to her or her husband how the victim had died.
    • Used in season 3 when a lieutenant working in the Cryptology unit was found murdered. Her boss asks Gibbs about her having shot herself, and Gibbs says later that only two people know how the Lieutenant died... one of her coworkers (who he'd interrogated) and her murderer. He then turns to the boss and asks, "How did you know she shot herself?'
    • An example from season 2: A woman with amnesia comments that "someone bashed that poor man's head in," when no one had told her how the man was killed. Unfortunately, by the time Kate realizes this, it's too late.
  • Played straight in the MacGyver (1985) episode "Hell Week," in which MacGyver catches a cheating contestant in a physics competition. The object of the competition is to create a barricade to a room with some unorthodox way to "unlock" the door. The good guy creates an optical illusion using a periscope to make the door look locked when it's really unlocked and vice versa. The villain eavesdrops on a conversation between his rival and a friend, and thus "wins" the competition...but he never actually looks into the room to see the periscope. Naturally, our hero notices this and...
    Jeffrey (the cheater): You all saw it. The door was opened; it was an optical illusion. He used that periscope.
    MacGyver: That's right, he did. That's exactly what he did. But you had no way of knowing that. Jeffrey, you opened the door, but you never looked inside. You never saw a periscope—at least, not this afternoon.
  • Subverted on Homicide: Life on the Street: In the episode "Bad Medicine," Detective Lewis tells Villain with Good Publicity Luther Mahoney that a recently deceased thug obviously committed suicide. Mahoney scoffs, pointing out that the victim was shot in the back of the head and the gun was left on the table next to him. Lewis gleefully pounces, proclaiming that neither piece of information was released to the public and placing Mahoney under arrest. In the end, though, the state's attorney figures that there are any number of ways Mahoney could have learned it, too many to be beyond reasonable doubt.
  • The Wire
    • Inverted in the Season 2 episode "Stray Rounds", in which Bodie's Barksdale Organization crew got into a gunfight with another gang over control of a corner, leading to a stray round going through a window of a nearby house and killing a 9-year-old civilian. Stringer ordered Bodie to clean all the guns and drive with Shamrock to the harbor to dispose of them. Bodie doesn't look off the bridge when he tosses the bag with the guns and it falls onto a a passing barge. The cops get ahold of the guns, and Bodie is arrested and hauled downtown to the Homicide interrogation room. Detectives Cole and Norris try their hand at Bluffing the Murderer by showing Bodie three of the guns the cops recovered and claim that they found his fingerprints on one of them. Bodie knows that he cleaned all of the guns very thoroughly, so he asks the detectives which one supposedly had his fingerprints on it. Cole points to a gun Bodie never used.
      Cole: *pointing to gun, smiling* That's you right there.
      Bodie: *shaking his head* Lawyer.
    • Another example is tragic. During an interrogation, Herc accidentally reveals too much about his informant (Randy), which gets the kid branded as a snitch, his house firebombed, his foster mother killed, and generally ruins his life.
    • An example entirely between criminals: Brother Mouzone clues in to the fact that Stringer was responsible for Omar coming after him because Stringer seems to know that there was more than one assailant.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In "I Robot, You Jane", Willow realizes that Malcolm, a person she is talking to on the internet, is not who he claims to be after he mentions that Buffy burned her old school down, information that Willow hadn't actually told Malcolm before.
    • Towards the end of season four, Spike and Adam cause Buffy to fight with her friends, then realize she needs Willow's help for their plan to succeed. Spike gives away his involvement by encouraging Buffy to make up with Willow, when she of course hadn't mentioned the fight.
  • Used frequently in Murder, She Wrote. In one episode, the suspect is asked to the police station and, while waiting outside the detective's office, is passed by the office security guard (not in uniform). He's then called in, where Jessica tells him her theory. His murder plan involved working late every night so the guard wouldn't know what he looked like, then re-entering the office building disguised as a delivery guy.
    Suspect: Is that what this is about? You drag me here to see if the guard recognises me? Well, it didn't work! He didn't know me from Adam!
    Jessica: What makes you think that man was the security guard?
    • One episode had Jessica Fletcher tell a group of suspects the murder weapon was found and the killer was identified because he later referred to it as a pizza cutter.
    • An early episode had a murderer identify the as-yet unspecified color of a shoe found at the scene of the crime. Arguably a downplayed example here, though, because Jessica had already worked out the culprit; the slip-up simply allowed Jessica to set up an Accidental Public Confession.
    • Yet another episode had a woman insist that she knew nothing about the murder of a private investigator who had been investigating her. Jessica had only said that the PI was dead, not that he was murdered. Interestingly, while her slip did reveal a connection to the PI, she was not involved in the murder.
    • Jessica relates how a woman was poisoned via the special cigarettes someone slipped her.
    Killer: You're balmy. My aunt only smoked British cigarettes, nor Turkish.
    Jessica: And how did you know the cigarettes were Turkish? We only got the lab report back an hour ago.
    • Another episode had this happen with an actual poisoning, though in this case the culprit (a newspaper man) was exposed because he pushed a front-page story that identified the effect of the poison (a cerebral hemorrhage) as the cause of death, even though that effect was not revealed until an hour after the paper was published.
  • Happens in the Bones episode "Mayhem on a Cross." Bones and Booth are interrogating a suspect, and tell him that another person has confessed to the murder. The suspect scoffs, saying that the confessor was not a real man, and it would take a real man to strangle someone with barbed wire. Of course, no one had told him how the killing was done.
  • A suspect in Without a Trace makes a pretty bad one of these. After only hearing a missing man's name and seeing a headshot of him, claims he'd "never hurt a guy in a wheelchair". Whoopsy.
  • Firefly:
    • In the episode "Bushwhacked" an Alliance official tries to use this one on Mal, telling him they're looking for a brother and sister without mentioning the two are adults. Without batting an eye, Mal pretends to assume he's talking about children.
      Harken: Alliance property, too. You could lose your ship, Captain. But that's a wrist slap compared to the penalty for harboring fugitives. A brother and sister. When I search this vessel, I won't find them, will I?
      Mal: No children on this boat.
      Harken: I didn't say "children." Siblings. Adult siblings.
      Mal: I misunderstood.
    • Also averted in "The Train Job", where Mal very carefully asks the sheriff (paraphrased) "Why are we being held up? Was someone murdered on the train?", while knowing full well that the real reason was because people had just noticed that the cargo he had stolen was missing.
    • In the episode "Trash", Mal meets an old friend Monty's new bride, an old enemy. They pull guns on each other and fight. After Monty separates them, Mal explains their mutual history to all present, and then:
      "Bridget": You're a liar, Malcolm Reynolds!
      Monty: I ain't never got to tellin' ya his name.
      • Thereby proving, at the least, that she and Mal weren't strangers, as she had said. Had she not made that mistake, she still would have had to explain why their first reaction upon seeing each other was to pull a gun on each other.
  • Played for laughs in The Games- after taking an Albanian delegation sightseeing and setting fire to one of the members of the delegation's wigs, Gina confesses this to Bryan, who tells it to John... who tells it to a gossip columnist. Gina arrives at his house on the weekend and says she'll lynch Bryan for leaking the story, as she only told him, and John plays along before mentioning the name of the columnist. Gina immediately says 'I never said it was in Manny's column. How did you know it was Manny's column, John?' and he stammers until she gets up and walks out.
  • Used on This Is Wonderland. A white woman beats up a black man, thinking he was trying to rape her. He takes her to court, and she is so expecting the race card to get played that the following conversation ensues:
    Crown Prosecutor Kaye: Or was it just because he looked like a rapist?
    Defendant: This has nothing to do with him being black!
    Crown Prosecutor Kaye: Black? I just said he looked like a rapist. You're the one who attached "black" to "rapist".
  • Frequently used in Columbo.
    • In "A Deadly State of Mind," Columbo finds a witness to a crime—a blind man. So they bring their suspect, Dr. Collier, in, and have a guy in shades walk in, sit down, and identify Dr. Collier as the man who nearly ran into him while driving away from the Donner house on the day of the murder. Dr. Collier says his his medical training tells him the man is blind, and hands him a newspaper... which he reads perfectly. Columbo reveals it's actually the blind man's similar-looking brother, and there was no way Dr. Collier should've thought he was blind. Unless, of course, he saw the real blind man while fleeing the scene of the crime.
    • In "Negative Reaction," Paul Galesko incriminates himself by grabbing the incriminating camera used to take pictures of his wife. The mistake is that he grabs the correct one right away, instead of mistakenly grabbing a different one from a shelf full of cameras.
    • In "Butterfly with Shades of Gray," there is a subversion, since Fielding Chase mentions that the victim was shot in the back. Most viewers assume that Chase only knows this because he is the shooter, but Chase does give a reasonable explanation to make it seem like he didn't commit the crime (since he made it seem like he was on the phone with the victim when he was killed)—by stating that the victim would have told him over the phone that someone was aiming a gun at him, but since he didn't, he obviously was turned away from the shooter.
  • A non-criminal example from The Cosby Show: Claire discovers her favorite mug has been damaged, poorly glued back together, and replaced. Heathcliff expresses his shock that one of the children would put it back in the cupboard. Claire never said it had been put back in the cupboard. Rather than quickly covering by stating that that's naturally where a mug would be, Cliff further steps in it by saying "way back in the cupboard"
  • In the episode "Red Badge" of The Mentalist the team knows who the killer is but lacks evidence. As his goal is to convince Lisbon she was the culprit, she lets him prompt her with details about the crime until he slips up.
    Dr. Carmen: The reek of the garbage, the filthy alley walls, the faded cross there. God might have mercy on William McTeer, but you sure as hell wouldn't. He deserved to die, but you're still a good person, Teresa. You can get through this.
    Lisbon: Cross.
    Dr. Carmen: Uh, what?
    Lisbon: The cross, Roy. How did you know about the cross? It was inside the door. Only the killer saw.
    Dr. Carmen: Well, Teresa, you told me about the crime scene.
    Lisbon: No, I didn't.
  • Used to determine the Dean's real murderer in Veronica Mars.
  • In the The X-Files episode "Small Potatoes", Mulder stops a seemingly innocent man in mid-speech, saying, "Hey wait a minute, wait a minute: how did you know my name was Agent Mulder?" The man runs.
  • Inverted in Human Target: Chance suspects the cops escorting his client of being the ones trying to kill her contact. They're too clever to let this slip, so he openly mentions an unknown fact about the meeting place (that it was on a bridge) and uses their lack of response to this "new" information to confirm his suspicions.
  • The Shield:
    • There was an episode that used this trope very subtly. They mention to a suspect that the victims' clothing was found. When the suspect mentions the burned clothing, the interrogator doesn't react at all, and if you're not watching very closely you won't even know why she has a contented look on her face after the interview. Unlike most instances of this trope, the detectives don't gloat to the suspect or do anything else to let the audience in on what's going on.
    • During season 3, while the Money Train heist is being investigated, Vic lets slip the name of a club he shouldn't know about to Dutch (one of the best detectives in the station). Vic even has a tiny, private Oh, Crap! reaction right after letting it out.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the serial "The Keys of Marinus", Susan is kidnapped and her captor forces her to speak to Barbara over a futuristic alien phone. Later, the kidnapper accidentally lets it slip in conversation that she is aware they have spoken to Susan, even though it was not mentioned. This allows Barbara to realize her guilt.
    • Used again in "The Time Meddler" when the Meddling Monk (who is holding the Doctor prisoner) claims that he hasn't seen the Doctor but gives himself away by knowing what the Doctor looks like without Steven having told him. This is a subversion: The Monk wanted to lure Steven and Vicki into his base, and made the "mistake" on purpose.
    • In "The Daleks' Master Plan", the Doctor realizes that Daxtar is a traitor because he knows that the Daleks' doomsday device requires a core of taranium even though the Doctor never mentioned it.
    • In "Marco Polo", Tegana mentions the location of a passageway in a cave he claims never to have visited.
  • In Supernatural episode The Man Who Would Be King, Bobby admitted to Castiel that he had suspected Cas of working with Crowley against The Winchesters. Hardly a breath later, Cas (who had just regained Bobby and Sam's trust) referenced an earlier conversation... that he heard while he was invisibly spying on the boys. Oops.
  • The League of Gentlemen, end of first episode in the Local Shop: just as a policeman investigating a missing person is about to leave the shop and go on his way, Tubbs blurts out "We didn't burn him!"
  • An episode of General Hospital had the cops interrogating a man found driving a missing woman's stolen car (He had carjacked her and left her on the side of the road, but had otherwise left her unharmed). The man tries to claim that he found the car abandoned and denies having ever seen the woman, but when the cops accuse him of foul play, he angrily declares, "I would never hurt a pregnant lady!" The cops had never told him that that the woman was pregnant.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Window of Opportunity", several planets, including Earth, are trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, but only O'Neill and Teal'c are aware of what's happening. During one of the cycles, they arrive to the planet that has an Ancient device that causes the loop and meet an archaeologist O'Neill remembers from the first cycle. The man mentions Carter by name, causing O'Neill to notice that he didn't introduce her this time around, which means that the archaeologist is perfectly aware of the loop and is the one causing it.
  • Debra Morgan from Dexter realizes who really shot her and Lundy when the perpetrator asks her what it was like to watch the life go out of the eyes of the man she loved. This was far from common knowledge even in the station. She does consider that the person could have figured it out or been told by another cop, and investigates accordingly, but eventually concedes that there is no other explanation.
  • Castle:
    • This is how Castle and Beckett identify Beckett's mother's killer. A man suspected of hiring the same contract killer is trying to cut a deal for full immunity from all charges, by insisting it's the only way she'll ever find the guy who killed her mother. Beckett later realizes that she never told the suspect which of her parents was murdered, and that he is the contract killer.
    • On another episode, Castle and Beckett interview the brother of a serial killer who had previously been convicted at a trial whose key witnesses are now being murdered one by one. He points out that he's been locked in an insane asylum since the trial, so who could he have sent to kill the two witnesses? Castle points out they only mentioned "one" murder. (Turns out he totally didn't do it, he was just having someone follow the murders and try to stop the real killer, precisely because he knew he would look guilty.)
    • It is also how they catch the serial killer in the first episode. When they ask him where he was during his sister's murder, he immediately provides an alibi for all three murders. As Beckett points out, knowing where he was when his sister died is understandable, but the other two were strangers to him.
  • On Psych, when the killer of the week is told that he was identified by a witness.
    Killer: Al Mooney is insane! Nobody will believe what he says.
    Lassiter: Hang on a minute! I don't believe anyone said the witness' name. You're under arrest.
    • An earlier example from Season 2, Episode 9 (Bounty Hunters) when Shawn and Gus identify the killer:
    Juliet: Do you have an alibi?
    Cole: I don't need an alibi, I'm not guilty.
    Juliet: Oh, well, that's okay. 'Cause we can just look at the security cameras from the parking garage.
    Cole: There were no cameras in that parking gara...
    • Season Six has Henry talking with his old partner after solving a case involving a couple of dirty cops from back in his days on the force:
    Henry: I don't understand how they could do something like that.
    Partner: Well, fifty thousand dollars was a lot of money back then. (Cue Eureka Moment when Henry realizes that he never told the partner how much the other cops were being paid, and eventual season finale when Henry is shot for uncovering the secret.)
  • Home and Away had a guest character accidentally incriminate herself by identifying a fishing knife as a murder weapon. The police just called it a knife. (It turned out that she was just a witness to a killing that was actually in self defense)
    • A later episode had Xavier end up taking heat for April's crime when he said that he was looking up the chemicals she stole. Gina figured it out because she hadn't specified what the stolen chemicals were.
  • In an episode of Warehouse 13, an agent is discovered murdered under strange circumstances, and the team tracks down his old girlfriend to ask her some questions, during which she asks whether there have been any more electrocutions. Later, they realize nobody ever mentioned he was killed by electrocution. (Turns out she was also a Warehouse agent, who ran off when her boyfriend was killed during an investigation, and knows exactly what did it.)
  • In an episode of The Pretender, only the actual killer of a young girl knew what the victim looked like: There were no pictures in the news of the crime.
  • In the iCarly special iPsycho, Gibby, coming to rescue his friends from Nora, an Ax-Crazy Fangirl who kidnapped them, he asks her if she's holding his friends here. She replies there's no one in her basement, confirming Gibby's hunch that they'd been kidnapped, as he then points out by saying that he never mentioned her basement.
  • Subverted in Terra Nova: after a false confession is revealed to be false despite knowing specific details of a crime, Shannon and Washington realize the actual guilty party made sure that the details were spread around to the colonists to cover any potential slip-ups he might make.
  • JAG: Played straight in "Washington Holiday", when the team were witnessing a failed assassination attempt on the Romanian royals. Told that the would-be assassin had named him as being behind the plot, the Evil Chancellor protested that it was ridiculous to accept the word of a woman who had been subjected to lengthy police questioning. Of course, nobody had mentioned that the assassin was female...
    Minister Kepish: Your Majesty, how can you possibly believe the lies of a woman tortured by the Belgian police?
    King Josip: How did you know the assassin was a woman, minister? They didn't even tell me that until an hour ago.
  • In an episode of Covert Affairs, Annie is looking for a mole in a training academy, and realizes that one of the trainees was out buying illegitimate booze the night of a leak. She asked why that night, he said he knew he could sneak out because everyone would be busy dealing with another trainee who'd just been cut from the program. None of the other trainees knew she'd been cut until the next morning. (Circumstantial, except when she mentioned that, he attacked her.)
  • An episode of the new Hawaii Five-0 has the kidnapper of some college students ask for a woman who'd hid from them during the initial kidnapping, by name, be the one to deliver the money. She shows up to do so...and breaks into a smile, revealing that she was working with the kidnappers all along. They open up the bag only to find it packed with newspaper instead of money and the police burst in to arrest them all. When asked later how he knew she was in on it, Steve points out her name had never been published in the media to protect her identity.
  • On One Life to Live, a woman pretended to be a modeling scout in order to befriend a young co-ed and convince her to file a sexual harassment complaint against her professor (she wanted to get back at him for writing a tell-all book about her). When the scheme was discovered and everyone confronted the woman, she repeatedly and emphatically lied through her teeth about it and scornfully derided the girl's modeling aspirations—only no one had mentioned that this was how the two had met.
  • In the Sanctuary episode "Folding Man", the body of a Rebellious Rebel Abnormal named Aaron is found stuffed in a washing machine. When the group the man belonged to captures Zimmerman, Zimmerman asks them what they're going to do about "what happened to Aaron". The killer mentions the washing machine in his answer, and Zimmerman points out that the killer has no innocent explanation for knowing about the washing machine. The group turns on the killer.
  • Square One TV has an unusual variation where a guilty person is trying to frame an innocent, but then gets details of the innocent man wrong. In the Mathnet segment "The Trial of George Frankly", George confesses to the bank robbery, and says how sorry he is to his wife and children. The real George Frankly has no kids, proving that this George is an imposter; he was really a criminal George arrested years ago, who was trying to frame him for a bank robbery in revenge.
    • Another Mathnet example was "the Case of the Missing Air", involving a shock jock, Byle Dupe, suspected of robbing businesses who stopped sponsoring his radio show. While Dupe eventually is captured in the act, George Frankly and Kate Monday are convinced he's their man earlier on. Why? While questioning him on the robberies, Dupe claims to have been doing his radio show when the robberies took place—yet the time the robberies occurred were not made public.
    • The most ridiculous use, however, would be "The Case of the Poconos Paradise". Main villain I.O. Privacy had a rather interesting scam going: She would use the mailing house she ran to offer free weekend getaways to certain people, and while they were gone, her goons would rob them blind. When Frankly and Tuesday begin to suspect her, she jumps through several hoops to pin the crime on their earlier suspect (the owner of the titular resort), most importantly sacrificing her goons by cooperating the police in a sting operation. She leaves immediately after she sees one get caught to complete her frame-up; and then she blows it at the last minute by giving the correct number of henchmen during The Summation, a detail the protagonists only learned after she left.
  • In one episode of Flashpoint, when trying to find a kidnapped girl and her mother, the team goes to see the estranged grandmother who was visiting. She said she didn't know she even had a granddaughter and yet knew the granddaughter's name, alerting the team that she knew more than she claimed.
  • The Closer: Brenda's questioning of a suspect rattles him to the point of mentioning a detail of the murder he shouldn't have known in "A Family Affair".
  • A variation in Person of Interest had (ex-Army) Detective Carter interrogating several suspects to determine which was former military. All of them were, but were hiding it due to being mercenaries. During the interrogation, Carter demands one suspect's military service number, but uses an obscure term for it. When he angrily replies he never served in the military, she demands to know how he knew the term.
  • Played for laughs on 30 Rock:
    Kenneth: I'm afraid I have some bad news.
    Jenna: (eerily calm throughout) Jenny McCarthy died? But who could have been slowly poisoning her? Was she poisoned? I have no way of knowing, because I'm just hearing about it.
  • A Touch of Frost: The eponymous Frost pulls off a straight "but I never said it was murder" version. It fails as the suspect calmly points out the police don't send senior officers to inform people that their employee has been in an traffic accident.
  • In an episode of Becker, Dr Becker is accused of being racist after a journalist construes angry comments he made about people he knows and confronts the journalist on a radio station and clears himself by pointing out he was angry on those people not because of their race but the things they did which annoy him (eg. Disliking rap music being played in public because it's too loud, not liking his Asian taxi driver because he crashed his car before). But when the journalist talks about Becker's Puerto Rican neighbor, Becker asks how the journalist knew his neighbor's race when Becker never mentioned it. It is then when Becker figures out that the journalist was the real racist as he was using Becker's comments to hide his own racist stereotyping.
  • In a second season episode of White Collar, an old friend of Neal's landlady shows up, fresh out of prison, looking for another big score. Neal has to go undercover with the guy to try and take down the murderer running the scam. The old friend almost pooches it by letting slip a bit of info he shouldn't have. Good thing Neal can tap dance on air when things get sticky.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In "Turn, Turn, Turn", Garrett accidentally outs himself as The Clairvoyant when, in an attempt to convince the team to kill the loyal agent they've mistaken as the Clairvoyant, he lists all of the Clairvoyant's crimes... including something Coulson learned from Raina that he never told anyone else, meaning there is no logical way that Garrett could know it. You can see the moment that he realizes what this means.
  • In Homeland, when Carrie and Brody are having a romantic getaway at her family's cabin, she tells him that unfortunately she doesn't have any of his favorite tea, Yorkshire Gold. Unfortunately for Carrie, that is, seeing as Brody never told her what his favorite tea was, and he realizes instantly that she must have been spying on him.
  • Longmire: In "Dogs, Horses and Indians", the killer mentions that the Victim of the Week was murdered on the reservation; a fact that only the killer could have known.
  • Justified: When the marshals yank a pair of suspects out of a car in "Save My Love", one of them immediately says she doesn't know anything about a bomb threat and doesn't even have a cell phone. Gutterson's response is that no one mentioned a bomb threat.
  • In Downton Abbey, Mary mentions to Rosamund that Edith has taken a strong interest in the Drewes' foster child. Rosamund (who suspects that Edith has recovered her illegitimate daughter; which Mary does not know about) tries to ask more about Edith's relationship with the little girl. Mary, who didn't mention the child's gender, asks how Rosamund could have known it's a girl.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "The Murdoch Appreciation Society", the real murderer is a bit too eager to point toward the man he's trying to frame (his ex-professor who fired him from university), and tells Detective Murdoch they have to stop him before he strangles another person. Murdoch is prompt to note that he never revealed the victim was strangled.
  • In one episode of The Office (US), the Scranton branch has a surplus at the end of the year and splits into two camps trying to figure out how to spend it. Michael learns from the CFO that he can Take a Third Option by returning the surplus and get a 15% bonus. He then gives himself away by adding "dollars" to the sum when Oscar asks what 15% of 4300 (the surplus) is.
  • In Day Break, Hopper often reveals that he knows more than he should due to his expanding knowledge from previous time loops which gets him into tricky situations.
    • In episode 10, Hopper wants Battle to look into all murder cases done execution style. When Spyvak hears this he notes that this further incriminated him since Garza was killed that way and the information was not released to the public. Battle is not impressed by this detail and sticks with Hopper.
    • In episode 11, Hopper tells Rita in the morning that he did not kill Garza though he should not have known about the murder at this point which makes Rita suspicious.
  • Sherlock: In Sherlock Special The Abominable Bride, Holmes mentions the name Ricoletti to Sir Eustace, and Sir Eustace says that he has never heard of her. Holmes then observes that he never said that Ricoletti was a her.
  • Parodied in Angie Tribeca:
    Angie Tribeca: One last question. Any idea how your cufflink was found inside an illegal ferret?
    Mr Frontbutt: Well, I travel all over the world. It may have fallen when I was in the mountains. You know, these Himalayan soft bellies, they'll eat anything.
    Angie Tribeca: I didn't say it was a Himalayan soft belly.
    Mr Frontbutt: Well, you didn't say it wasn't.
    Angie Tribeca: Damn it, he's good.
  • In an episode of The Golden Girls, Blanche is accused of committing a murder (actually a staged murder mystery). When Blanche is being charged her work rival offers her idea of how the murder occurred, but describes Blanche's dress having been flung over a chair - a specific detail of the crime scene she could not have seen unless she was present at the time of the murder.
  • Played with in the Jonathan Creek episode "Satan's Chimney", when Jonathan's new investigative partner, Carla Borrego, comes on stage to tell Alan Kalanak "It's Vivian" (referring to his ex-wife, Vivian Brodie, the murder victim of this episode) while holding a phone. As Jonathan later notes, anyone else would assume that Carla meant that it was Vivian on the phone, but Kalanak instantly asks what has happened to Vivian, planting the first seeds in Jonathan's mind that Kalanak was involved in her death.
    • In an earlier episode, "The Problem at Gallows Gate (Part 2)", the murder victim's housemate makes a snide comment about Maddy being burgled. As Maddy points out after revealing her to be the killer, she never told her about her burglary. The only way she could have known about it was her hearing Maddy mention it on the night of the murder while she and Jonathan were trying to enter the house.
  • In an episode of Blindspot, a New York cop inadvertently reveals to Mayfair that he's in on a blackmail racket when he mentions one of the victims, a closeted gay football player, whom he would only have known about had Mayfair told him.
  • Subverted in the Shetland episode "Blue Lightning Part 1". When Perez tells Peter Latimer that Dr. Blake has been murdered, Latimer refers to her as Anna. Perez calls him out on this, pointing out that he could have been referring to Anna's husband, to which Latimer replies that he assumed Perez was talking about Anna because they were colleagues. It turns out Latimer is in fact innocent.
  • The Coroner: In "Perfectly Formed", Lee Milar refers to dead baby as 'him', prompting Jane to ask how they knew it was a boy.
  • Father Brown: Father Brown identifies the killer in "The Eve of St John" when he realises that they knew the eye colour of the victim despite claiming never to have met them.
  • In an episode of Limitless, a CEO denies having had an affair with an intern, but the FBI didn't know the woman's identity or that she was an intern.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Future Imperfect", this is how Riker sees through the second fantasy world. In the first, he recognizes his dead "wife" as a fictional character, and the illusion is shattered. But he realizes he's still not in the real world when his cellmate refers to their captor as "Ambassador" Tomalak. Tomalak would be properly addressed as "Commander", and he was only called an ambassador in the previous illusion. Riker never mentioned this, so he deduces that his cellmate is the only real person in both illusions.
  • Vera: A slight variation in "Old Wounds", as the police already know the man they are arresting is guilty of murder, but his words reveal other information he should not have known. A man murders the man he believed he murdered his daughter (although he was actually innocent). When Vera arrests, the father says that he had only done to the victim what he had done to his daughter: sneaking up on him and killing him by surprise. Vera notes that the daughter's manner of death had not been made public, meaning that someone with access to the investigation has been leaking information.
  • On The Magicians, Quentin wakes up in a mental institution and told all his experience with the magic school were a delusion. Other characters appear as patients to explain them in his "dream" but Quentin is convinced he's trapped in an illusion. When his friend, Julia shows up, Quentin creates magic which she appears not to see. But one slip of the tongue makes Quentin realize that Julia actually helped trap him here.
    Julia: I wish I could have seen the fireworks.
    Quentin: How did you know they were fireworks?
  • In the Miami Vice episode "Everybody's in Showbiz," Crockett is questioning a suspect about a stolen briefcase, without mentioning that it was stolen from a limousine. The suspect says that he "ain't been in no limo," to which Crockett replies, "What limo? Did I say limo?"
  • On S.W.A.T. (2017), Hondo and Deacon are investigating attacks by a mountain gang called the Mercs on a team called the Jackals. They head to the mountains to check with Deacon's old partner, Hawkins, who had gone deep undercover with the Mercs. Hawkins talks to them on the Mercs and how they act up, not surprised they'd attack the Jackals. At which point, Hondo snaps that they never said which gang the Mercs were targeting. It turns out Hawkins has gone dirty and taken up leadership of the Mercs for real.
  • On Lethal Weapon (2016), DA Erica is talking to a man who claims he was set up for a murder by a corporation. She's with him going over the evidence and how he knows more of the company's dark deeds. She mentions a murder and the man notes how the victim was killed by garden shears...which was a detail that no one but the killer could have known.
  • In the Shoestring episode "The Teddy Bears' Nightmare," Eddie tries to return a stolen handbag to its rightful owner. She tells him it can't be hers because she gave the handbag she bought to her mother, who would have told her if it was stolen. Eddie replies, "I didn't say it was stolen."
  • On The Gifted, Erg is with his lover, Pam, who tells him the rest of their mutant group was split up. Erg is eager to go back and help Evangeline with Pam insisting they have to just run. She tells him that "once she gets across to Flint, she'll be okay." Erg realizes he never tells anyone where the "mutant crossings" happen and that Pam has been flipped by Sentinel Services.
  • An unusual variant in Breaking Bad, not connected to crime. Elliot, a former business associate of the protagonist Walter offers him a job. Walter refuses, citing personal problems, and Elliot assures him that they can sort those problems out, as the job comes with a great health insurance. Since Walt didn't elaborate that the problems are health-related, he deduces what happened: his wife told Elliot about his recent cancer behind his back, and the job offer is basically dressed-up charity, something Walt despises and would've never accepted even if he didn't hold a huge grudge against Elliot.
  • In the Starsky & Hutch episode "Texas Longhorns," the detectives are questioning a man about a Latino and a white man with tattoos accused of rape and murder. The man says, "I don't know any Puerto Rican or Anglo with tattoos!" Starsky replies, "I didn't say he was a Puerto Rican. Hutch didn't say he was a Puerto Rican. You said he was a Puerto Rican. I think you know the man."
  • Agatha Raisin: In "Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate", the killer gives themself away when they mention what a close call James had had. Agatha remarks that no one knew James had been present at the murder, not even the police, and that the only person who could have known was the murderer.
  • Done in the Jake 2.0 episode "Arms and the Girl", when Jake figures out that Theresa is really the bad guy thanks to her knowing how many times the fake version of her father was shot before the NSA does.
  • In the Future Cop episode "The Mad Mad Bomber," Cleaver breaks Haven out of the Synthetronics lab where he's about to be dismantled. Later, Captain Skaggs and Dr. Tingley show up at his apartment to ask where Haven might be. Cleaver asks, "Are you accusing me of taking him?" Skaggs replies, "Who said anything about taking him?" Cleaver protests, "Well, she said it was missing! Didn't you say that, ma'am?"

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Cranes of Ibycus is a classic example of this trope making it Older Than Feudalism. According to a legend first recorded in the 2nd century BCE, the ancient Greek poet Ibycus was murdered by bandits on his way to Isthmian Games. Only the Cranes flying above witnessed the murder. Later the criminals gave themselves away by pointing out "The Cranes of Ibycus" to one another in public.

  • A "Five Minute Mystery" titled The Return of Mr. Lawrence plays it by the book: a murdered woman's maid accuses the woman's former husband of poisoning her. The police never said it was poison.
  • Parodied in Season 3, Episode 1 of Bleak Expectations:
    Pip Bin: The body was covered in hundreds of tiny wounds?
    Inspector Whackwallop: Aha! I never said the body was covered in hundreds of tiny wounds!
    Ripley: Actually, you did.
    Whackwallop: Did I? Damn, that normally works. Aha! I never said he was an apprentice blacksmith!
    Pip Bin: And nor did I.
    Whackwallop: Damn.
  • In NPR's radio adaptation of Star Wars, Leia's rebel allies inform her of the Death Star's existence. Later, she's being told about the weapon by an Imperial officer, and accidentally slips the weapon's name even though the officer hadn't mentioned it. Things get ugly from there.

  • In David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, this is how the culprit of the office robbery reveals himself. Levene calls Williamson out on lying about cashing Lingk's check. But the previous night was the one night in Williamson's entire life that he forgot to cash the firm's checks at the bank. That means the only time Levene could have possibly seen Lingk's check was last night when the robbery occurred, thus implicating Levene as the thief.
  • From RENT:
    Angel: Have compassion, Benny just lost his cat.
    Benny: My dog, but I appreciate that.
    Angel: My cat had a fall, and I went through Hell.
    Benny: It's like losing a—how did you know she fell?
    Collins: CHAMPAGNE!?

    Video Games 
  • In Catherine, when Vincent shakes down Boss, demanding to know if he saw Catherine or not, it was simply to find out if Catherine was really an illusion. Boss, thinking Vincent had figured out that he was the mastermind, gives his Motive Rant and spills the whole story to him.
  • In the Touhou fangame Aya Shameimaru: Touhou Attorney, based on the Ace Attorney games, the very final choice you have in the last case in the game hinges on this. While it's easy to miss, a player can easily pick up on the extra detail without even considering the situation. Specifically, outside the detectives and the attorneys, no one but the one who planted the evidence would know in which pocket it was found.
  • During the first big plot twist of Chrono Cross, Lynx had just switched bodies with Serge, and was about to kill his old body with Serge in it. Lynx tells Kid that he was going to do it to "avenge Lucca" for her. Kid stops him, pointing out that, while she did tell Serge that Lynx had taken away Lucca from her, not once had Kid said Lucca's name. Of course, this revelation comes too late... Needless to say, it seemed like a bad choice of words for Lynx.
  • Persona:
    • In Persona 2 Eternal Punishment, Katsuya's "Investigating" Contact references the trope. On a second use, Katsuya claims that the demon said something only the criminal would know; finish a Contact session with it, and Katsuya will state that he never said anything about the victim being a woman. This being a generic set of lines used for every demon, we're never told exactly what crime Katsuya's investigating, or what the demon actually said in response to his interrogation.
    • In Persona 4, Adachi reveals himself to be the killer by saying that he thought everyone was sure that "Namatame put them in [the television]" — no one but the murderer and the protagonists could have known that that was how the victims were killed. He had also cast suspicion on himself in an earlier instance when the protagonists find a list of everyone that Namatame had put into the television: Adachi shows no surprise at the contents of the list despite the fact that it included people who were rescued before they could be murdered (and were therefore classed as mere "disappearances" that had no relation to the murders).
    • Persona 5: This is how Joker and Talking Cat Morgana figure out who the traitor in the Phantom Thieves is. Goro Akechi mentions a silly comment Morgana made about pancakes when Akechi was first encountered at a TV station on June 9th. Only those who have entered the Metaverse can understand Morgana's speech as anything except a cat's meowing, but Akechi later claims he didn't gain access to the Metaverse until much further into the year. This allows the Phantom Thieves to eventually deduce that Akechi has been lying to them from the start.
  • In Mass Effect, when Saren is facing (correct) accusations of attacking a human colony and killing another Spectre, Nihlus, he addresses Shepard as "the one who let the beacon get destroyed." Shepard can respond by saying the only way he could have known that is if he was there. However, Saren quickly rebuffs him/her, saying that Nihlus' files transferred to him upon his death.
  • In Fahrenheit, taking too long to answer Detective Tyler (or Detective Carla depending on previous choices) can lead Lucas to blurt out one of these leading to an instant arrest and game over. Specifically, Tyler or Carla is in the middle of asking Lucas where he was on a certain night, and if you take too long to answer, Lucas blurts out that he wasn't even at the restaraunt where a guy got murdered...then as Tyler or Carla points out, since they mentioned neither a restaraunt nor a murder, why would Lucas randomly assume they're asking him about that particular murder unless he had something to do with it?
  • In Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, the fake "Flora" is revealed when he looks at a photograph of the Elysian Box and mentions the cute goat on it. The picture was missing a piece that identifies the emblem as a goat (it looks more like a frog without it), meaning "Flora" had seen the mysterious box before, making him the thief.
  • In Professor Layton and the Last Specter, a surprisingly spoiler-free AND murder-free version of this is when Layton and co. are looking for some medals with certain parts of a raven on them. One of the kids you confront says "We don't know anything about a medal with a raven's tail on it!" To which Layton replies "I never said anything about a tail."
  • Layton also employs this tactic to identify Bloom as the traitor within Scotland Yard in Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy.
  • In L.A. Noire, the DLC case "A Slip of the Tongue" features one of these. If Phelps and Bekowski manage to catch up to Jean Archer, they'll mention Belasco (another suspect, and Archer's accomplice). She later drops his full name "James Belasco", which confirms to Phelps that she's connected to the case.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, an exchange something like this takes place during one quest:
    Courier: Can you help me find some missing people?
    Slave trader: I don't know anything about the refugees going missing from the Aerotech Office Park.
  • Baten Kaitos Origins uses the "innocent character taking the fall" variation. When Juwar is asked for more details of what he did in the city of Mintaka as the Mourning Mistral, he tells Sagi that he planted the bomb in a nearby building after the election speeches...not knowing that the real Mourning Mistral broke their pattern of targeting buildings to target an airpod instead.
  • In the video game of Batman Begins, Arkham Asylum doctor Emma Thomas (not in the film) has been suspicious of Dr Crane for a while. When Crane's thugs ask her why she was in the basement looking at the canisters, she claims she got lost and doesn't know anything about the toxin. The thug replies "I never said anything about a toxin."
  • In The Witcher Geralt finds an old diary potentially implicating a traitor to the kingdom; the author of the diary, Ostrit, is dead, but new notes were scrawled into the margins. Later, he meets a Count who, after hearing of the book, asks for "Ostrit's diary". Geralt quickly notes that, in the conversation, he never said that the diary was Ostrit's.
  • Call of Juarez: Gunslinger centers around bounty Hunter Silas Greaves describing his revenge quest against a gang of three outlaws who murdered his brothers to the patrons of a bar. At one point in his story, he is tracking down one of them, who Silas only refers to as "Jim". However later on, the bartender refers to said outlaw as "Jim Reed", to which Silas replies "Yes, that was his last name", sounding oddly pleased. This is one of the things that confirms to Silas that the bartender is actually the Big Bad leader of the gang, Roscoe "Bob" Bryant.
  • In the Revelation path of Fire Emblem Fates, Gunter ends up outing himself as Scarlet's killer this way. He mentions a flower that she pinned onto her armor after everyone else but Corrin left the area, so the only time he would have been able to see it was during the murder.
  • In Final Fantasy IX, Steiner asks Alleyway Jack if he'd seen a young woman, referring to Garnet. Jack (who had earlier stolen money from Garnet) replies that he hasn't seen any beautiful girls with long black hair. He then immediately freaks out as Steiner glowers at him, and he hands Steiner the object he'd bought with the stolen money as he runs off.
  • In Quest for Glory V, a string of assassinations (including the King himself) has been causing chaos in Silmaria. It's fairly obvious that Minos is behind it, but without proof you can't do anything. After defeating the assassin, you have the option to bluff the prime suspect by saying that the assassin confessed before dying. The suspect responds "So Bruno sold me out, did he?" and the king's advisor Logos points out that nobody never said the assassin's name. At this point Minos drops all pretense of innocence and delivers a Motive Rant.
  • In Layton Brothers: Mystery Room, the culprit of the fifth case used a bottle of female perfume to hold the poison he used to kill his victim, since he was trying to make her death look like a suicide. Unfortunately for him, the victim managed to use the last of her strength to hurl the bottle at a nearby wall in a desperate effort to leave some kind of mark to show that she was actually murdered, causing it shatter it into pieces. The culprit didn't know she did this, and ends up referring the shattered container as a perfume bottle three times before even the police knew what it originally was. Alfendi even recorded the entire thing and plays it back to him when the culprit makes the desperate claim that they must have misheard him.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Ace Attorney games use this a lot.
    • Trials and Tribulations:
      • In the second case, "The Stolen Turnabout", a witness reveals that he knew the defendant was wearing the Mask☆DeMasque costume when he entered the victim's office. The issue is, this information was only revealed while the murderer was on trial for a different crime in a different courtroom, so the only way he could have known possibly about it is if he was in the victim's office at the time of the murder.
      • In Case 3, "Recipe for a Turnabout", this is done by saying it was poison. Specifically, Phoenix lies and says that a completely useless green bottle that has the witness's fingerprints on it contained the poison used to kill the victim. The witness laughs and calls Phoenix an idiot, since he should already know that the poison was in the brown bottle, not that one, so his evidence doesn't prove anything. And yes, Phoenix did already know that, and so did everyone watching the trial. But this witness hadn't been watching the trial, so the only way he could have known what the poison bottle looked like is if he had used it himself.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney:
      • The first case plays with this. The decisive evidence is, unbeknownst to Apollo, a fake duplicate of the real decisive evidence, specifically an ace of spades with a bloodstain on it. But the culprit can't reveal the evidence is fake without also revealing that he took the real one. Either way, he's going to jail.
      • In the third case, a witness who's trying to convince the court that she didn't see the crime slips up and mentions that the victim was shot. The crime was put on a "gag order", so no one apart from those investigating it, or someone who saw the crime happen, should know those types of details. It turns out she didn't see the crime. She's secretly blind, and only heard the shot.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2:
      • In the first case, Shelly de Killer refers to the victim by his full name during a cross-examination, while up until then Edgeworth had only ever refered to him by surname (and, in fact, didn't even know his first name until that point). It doesn't mean what you think it means, but it does reveal him as more connected to the case than he claims.
      • In Case 2, Frank Sahwit comments that he swears he didn't hear the scream of the person who discovered the body. Edgeworth points out that, normally, if someone is told a scream rang out during a murder, that'd they'd assume it belonged to the victim, not a witness, and that he never mentioned who they believe the scream belonged to. Frank admits at this point that he was the one who found the body.
      • Sawhit mentions a ring on the body of Case 2's victim. Since the body was positioned such that a sheet covered his hands, Frank couldn't have known it was there if he had only observed from outside the room, as he claims. It turns out he'd managed to enter the room and look at the body up close.
      • During a Logic Chess segment in Case 2, a witness refers to Edgeworth as "Prosecutor Edgeworth". Edgeworth points out that he never once told them his profession leading Edgeworth to conclude that the witness was eavesdropping on his earlier conversations (particularly since he was pretending to be a defense attorney's assistant at the time).
      • It turns up often in Logic Chess segments. Chances are that, if you see a witness mention something you haven't heard of before, or that they couldn't possibly have known, you need to jump on it.
    • Spirit of Justice:
      • The final witness of case 3 knows a handful of things that only the killer would know. For example, that Zeh'lot died between 2 and 3 PM, and that the stone slab fell onto him, even though he shouldn't reach that conclusion from the rebel hideout's photo alone. However, he's not the killer; his wife did it, and she told him how the crime happened.
      • In "Turnabout Time Traveler", Larry says that there were two pegabulls at the reception hall in the night of the crime... yet that's something only someone who was in the cargo hold that night would know, because the court didn't tell him. And he wasn't supposed to wander through the zeppelin.
  • Souma Miou is outed as the one who had been bullying Rizu in A Profile because when confronted with a little evidence blurted out the location the evidence had been found in.
  • Virtue's Last Reward:
    • This is how Sigma gets Dio to reveal they were the one who planted the bombs in some of the routes. Sigma reveals, from information he gathered from time jumps, that this person knows about the Myrmidons, and about Brother. Dio insists they don't know anything about who the Myrmidons are, and they don't know anything about some old fart like Brother. Well, Sigma never actually mentioned the Myrmidons were people or that Brother, their leader, was an old man, so how would Dio know that... unless the Myrmidons sent them?
    • Subverted at another point of time when the players discover Alice's body. When Dio says that the victim was stabbed with a knife Phi asks how did he know it was a knife when all they can see is a handle. Dio however points out that anyone would assume it was a knife, if they saw someone with a weapon protruding from a stab wound. Although this makes sense, Phi was still right to be suspicious, since he knew about the knife because it was his knife. But he's not the killer.
  • A kidnapping suspect in Kara no Shoujo admits that he has some relation to the person witnessed actually taking the person away before the name of the person is revealed. Woops.
  • In Danganronpa:
    • This is how you discover who the culprit of Chapter 2's murder is. Celeste tells Makoto that she saw Chihiro stuffing a blue tracksuit into a duffel bag before heading to the gym, where he was murdered. When Celeste recalls this during the class trial, only she and Makoto know the color of the tracksuit. At that point, while everyone's trying to find out how that could be relevant, Mondo asks if the killer was wearing the same blue tracksuit as the victim, and hastily points out that his is black. Unfortunately for Mondo, neither Celeste nor Makoto mentioned the color of the tracksuit, and this, along with a few other pieces of evidence, implicates him as the killer.
    • In Chapter 3 Celestia is nailed by this: shortly after the discovery of Ishimaru's body she comments that the everyone is going to die, "just like those guys died," despite having remained in the same floor with Yamada's body the whole time and thus had no way of knowing that two people were murdered.
    • Then in Chapter 4, Hagakure trips over this, though he isn't the culprit. He points out the message written in blood naming Fukawa as the killer... only, among other things, the magazine was hidden in the rack at the time the body was found, and Asahina had kicked him out of the crime scene before he could take more than a look, so how did he know about it?.
    • Chapter 3's culprit of the sequel is also uncovered like this. Mikan, who's accused of being the killer, is confronted with how she apparently impersonated Ibuki's in the latter's "suicide video." Mikan fervently denies it, and says that, among other things, the camera angle should contain no proof that it was her and not Ibuki in that video. Hajime asks how she could know about the camera angle, which he never mentioned, unless she saw the crime. Mikan also makes a smaller mistake later on when she says that the tote bag used to cover Ibuki's head would have to be two places at once, and casually shrugs off inadvertently revealing another detail she shouldn't know.
    • A variation happens in Chapter 5 of Danganronpa 2, which leads to Chiaki being confirmed as The Mole. While investigating Nagito's death, they find a diary that Monomi claims to be hers in order to protect Chiaki's cover as the Future Foundation's spy. One of the entries revolves around Hajime nearly risking his life during a short-lived Sanity Slippage in the previous chapter. However, not only could Monomi not have learned about the incident on her own (as she was trapped in a different part of that chapter's Closed Circle until the following morning), but only one student other than Hajime knew about it— Chiaki, due to her being the one to talk him down from doing it, meaning that the diary is either hers to begin with, or she's the one working with Monomi, either of which proves that she's the spy. This evidence ends up being the smoking gun that finally convinces the other students to believe that she's telling the truth about being the spy despite how badly they don't want to believe it, and makes them realize that she's the student who the supernaturally lucky Nagito arranged to accidentally kill him in a way that he hoped the other students couldn't solve as part of a convoluted plan to use his death to allow the spy, whose identity he did not know to "graduate" while killing off everyone else via the "graduation" rules.
  • Eroge! Sex and Games Make Sexy Games: In Kisara's Bad Ending, after Tomoya cheats on Kisara with Tomoko, later on, Tomoko asks Kisara if she used Tomoya's penis as a reference for her (Kisara's) drawing, prompting Kisara to ask "Why do you know about his cock?" Disappearing ensues.

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Popular Girls in School:
    • Parodied in Episode 9. Note that this exchange entirely takes place in the bathroom stalls of the girls' room.
      Trisha: Apparently, the Van Buren family poisoned our pre-pep rally Pineapple juice.
      Deandra: Oh yeah, I already knew about that.
      Mackenzie, Trisha, and Brittnay: WHAT?
      Deandra: I mean... I-already—did—notknew—about that.
    • Played straight in Episode 21:
      Mackenzie: I wanted to ask you about the Atchison High Cheer Squad.
      Deandra: What? I don't know anything about them. Never heard of 'em.
      Brittnay: I find that hard to believe.
      Mackenzie: You did go to Atchison right?
      Deandra: Yes. Maybe. I don't know. All I know is I don't know them and they sure as fuck don't know me. Why? Did you talk to them? What did they say? Because they're liars. They're all fucking liars.
      Mackenzie: I thought you said you didn't know them.
      Deandra: I don't.
      Mackenzie: Well, then how do you know they're all liars?
      Brittnay: Yeah, Deandra, what are you hiding?
      Deandra: Nothing, I'm an open book. Ask me anything.
      Mackenzie: Alright, tell me about the Atchison Cheer Squad.
      Deandra: Not that. Anything else.

    Web Comics 
  • In Namir Deiter, Ferdinand is drinking away his sorrows after a run in with Joy. Isaac, Joy's most recent ex, talks to him when Blue tells him about Ferdinand and Joy. Isaac slips out Joy's name, and Ferdinand wonders how Isaac knows about Joy. Isaac tells him that he saw Ferdinand and Joy earlier, guessing that he was upset about her.
  • In chapter 48 of Drowtales Waes'soloth Val'Beldrobbaen catches the culprit behind the spread of a parasitic flower poison into their home using this, as the girl's family had closed the gates to their tower before any of Waes' messengers were formally able to contact them. And since Waes had only just learned of the poison when a messenger finally managed to get inside, the only way the family could already know about it was for one of their members to have been at the gathering where it was distributed.

    Web Original 
  • In it one chapter of New York Magician, Michel confronts a suspect in a girl's disappearance. Every word out of the man's mouth somehow gets him into more trouble.
  • In one Shadow Unit episode, the gamma, whose manifestation involves causing real bullet wounds with a broken, unloaded gun, gives herself away by being the only person to have heard a gunshot at the death of her latest victim.
  • Not Always Right:
  • Chakona Space: Chapter 3 of Doove's Flight of the Phoenix series features a pair of "Ambassadors" who kill their servant and dump hir body at the base of a stairwell. Captain Yote announces the death of said servant (without including details) to them and one of them snarks about making sure the stairwells are properly safe, instantly implicating "him"self in said death.
  • Nan Quest: This is how Henry gives himself away as the Pilgrim- making a reference to Nan's previous encounter with the Pilgrim, which he shouldn't have known about.
    Henry: I'm not too worried about you, though. If anyone's gonna make it through this, it's you. You're a survivor. Besides, worst case scenario, if he comes for you, you can just go out the window again.
    Nan: Henry.{beat] How did you know that?
    Henry: What?
    Nan: I never told you that I escaped out the window. You weren't there.
    Henry: [beat] Oops. [attacks Nan]
  • Although no one was able to pick up on it, Ryan nearly gave himself away with this when Achievement Hunter was playing some Trouble in Terrorist Town. Ryan was the traitor and had taken out Michael, who was the detective. A short while later, Ryan asked "Who's the detective this round?" He's told the answer, then replied, "Michael was?" The only person who caught this slip was Michael himself, who couldn't warn the others on account of his character being dead. After the round was over, Michael immediately chewed out the others for not picking up on Ryan's slip of the tongue.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons (as always) spoofed it:
    • In "The Great Money Caper":
      Lawyer: Will you tell the court your whereabouts at the time of the carjacking?
      Willie: I was alone in me Unabomber-style shack; I had nothing to do with that carjacking.
      Lawyer: Carjacking?! Who said anything about a carjacking?
      (galley and jury murmurs)
      Willie: But, didn't you just say—?
      Lawyer: I'll ask the questions here, Carjacker Willie!
    • Another instance in a Simpsons adaptation of Hamlet. Prince Hamlet (Bart) is trying to get his uncle Claudius (Moe) to confess that he killed King Hamlet (Homer):
      Krusty: (as a jester) Now we would like to warn you, our performances tend to make audience members blurt out hidden secrets.
      Moe/Claudius: (nervous) Oh, boy...
      Krusty: Okay, we're going to up open it up with a little improv. Somebody shout out a location.
      Bart/Hamlet: This castle!
      Krusty: Okay, how about an occupation?
      Bart/Hamlet: Usurper of the throne!
      Moe/Claudius: (tugs at his collar nervously)
      Krusty: I think I heard usurper of the throne. Now, finally I need an object.
      Bart/Hamlet: Ear poison!
      Moe/Claudius: (nervously to Gertrude/Marge) Do you have diarrhea? I have diarrhea... (tries to leave)
      Gertrude/Marge: (annoyed) Sit down.
      (Sideshow Mel, Krusty and the Monkey begin acting out a situation in which Mel starts pouring ear poison down Krusty's ear)
      Moe/Claudius: Wait a minute, I didn't use that much poison!
      (everyone gasps)
      Moe/Claudius: I mean, I didn't use that much poi, son, at the royal luau. Hehheh.
    • Used in a "Treehouse of Horror" segment parodying A Nightmare on Elm Street.
      Lisa: Mom, Martin died at school today!
      Marge: Oh my! I don't see that that has to do with Groundskeeper Willie.
      Lisa: Um... We didn't mention Groundskeeper Willie.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head went on trial for throwing eggs at Mr. Anderson's house. They were almost set to be pronounced not guilty when the plaintiff's lawyer noted that Butt-Head had called them "rotten eggs" instead of just "eggs". How did they know they were rotten? They could only stammer, and within a minute the jury pronounced them guilty. (Can you blame the jurors?)
  • Averted in Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. A girl who works for the villain approaches Beast Boy and calls him "otaku". Beast Boy takes it to mean that she thinks he's cute, when it actually means "comic book geek", which is something only someone who had been watching him could have known about.
  • Fillmore!: Fillmore is discussing a case with an old friend who's one of the witnesses, and he mentions that 4000 counterfeit baseball cards are still missing. She tells him not to worry, because "it's not like four thousand Cal Ripken cards are gonna just disappear." Fillmore realizes that she must have the cards, because he never told her what player was on them.
  • Batman Beyond: Terry visits Willy Watt in Juvie hall, whom he suspects is the "ghost" terrorizing his high school with telekinetic pranks. During their conversation, Willy brings up the school incidents, even though he's had no visitors or callers since having been locked up (and presumably the incidents never made the news).
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In the episode "The Hidden Enemy" one of the clones betrays his brothers. Captain Rex and Commander Cody discover a listening device planted in their command center, and begin to question a squad of suspected clones about it. The turncoat mentions the Jedi had left—something only Rex and Cody knew at the time. Though strangely enough, he wasn't one of the suspects.
    Clone: No! Sir! I'm telling you, I did not—
    Slick: It's okay, you don't have to say anything till the Jedi come back and talk to you.
    Cody: What did you mean, "'til the Jedi come back?" How did you know the Jedi were gone?
    Slick: I really wish you hadn't noticed that, Sir...
  • Spoofed in the American Dad! episode "Black Mystery Month". A detective quizzes Steve at the scene of a murder and is instantly suspicious when Steve mentions details that are clearly visible at the scene.
    Detective: I'm afraid the curator has been murdered.
    Steve: Oh my God, someone killed him?!
    Detective: Funny, I never said he was murdered.
    Steve: Yes... yes, you did. God, he's wedged into the mouth of a giant bust of George Washington Carver!
    Detective: That's classified, how do you know that?
    Steve: Uh, I can see it from here.
    (the detective takes half a minute confirming that the body is visible from where Steve is standing)
    Detective: Okay, that checks out.
  • In the Sally Bollywood episode "The Party", Sally and Doowee are investigating who gatecrashed a party. Whilst interrogating a known-gatecrasher, the gatecrasher points that it couldn't have been him and his buddies, since they don't wear masks when they gatecrash. It's then pointed out that no-one had mentioned that the gatecrashers were wearing masks, and a Chase Scene ensues.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • One of the villains in Big Top Scooby-Doo! gives himself away by referring to the black diamond, despite supposedly having been kidnapped when the gang learned that carbonado referred to a black diamond.
    • This was done often on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, usually cutting to Velma making a note of what was just said.
    • In Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, Scooby finds the Headless Horseman's horse is automated, and ends up running the Sheriff into the pond. Just before he's sent into the drink, Sheriff Buzby yells to Scooby, "Push the button!" and that gets Shaggy wondering- how did the Sheriff know the horse was mechanical?
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Jungle Duck", Scrooge and his nephews discover the eponymous Nature Hero, and then find that he's the missing Prince Greydrake and have to return him home before his Evil Uncle is crowned king. Leading to this confrontation:
    Uncle: That's impossible! Prince Greydrake's plane went down in the densest part of the African jungle!
    Jungle Duck: Ungh, how you know where crash?
    Uncle: (nervously) Uh... Lucky guess?
  • "Operation: C.L.U.E.S.," a Whodunit episode of Code Name Kids Next Door, features one of these in the ending. Numbuh Two's family has Numbuh Three and her family over for dinner, but when Mrs. Gilligan brings out what's supposed to be a turkey, the group discovers a stabbed Rainbow Monkey doll in its place. After Numbuh Two solves that crime, Mrs. Sanban suggests that he try to figure out what happened to the missing turkey. Hoagie claims that figuring out "who ate a lemon-basted turkey with cranberry stuffing" is a daunting task... and Mrs. Sanban points out that no-one ever mentioned what kind of stuffing Mrs. Gilligan used for the bird. Cue an Oh, Crap! expression from Hoagie.
  • In an episode of Rugrats, someone broke Tommy's clown lamp and the babies reunite to determine who's the culprit, with Angelica (who was "taking a nap") serving as the attorney. Phil and Lil are suspects because, as Angelica pointed out, they were running around the hall and very likely hit the lamp which derived into its crash, while Chuckie is suspect because of his well-known fear of clowns. When the accusations get out of hand, Tommy takes control and calmly tries to rewind the facts to examine them better: Chuckie didn't break the lamp because he only ran away from it and hid under a sofa, while Phil and Lil didn't break it because they were running elsewhere when the lamp fell and thus they couldn't hit it. But when Tommy recalls that Angelica "couldn't do it because she was taking a nap", he and the other babies realize that there was no way she could otherwise know what they were doing when the lamp broke. Angelica confesses her crime and tries to pull a Karma Houdini by pointing out that they can't denounce her in front of the adults because they don't know how to speak with them yet; too bad Angelica was speaking loud enough for the adults to hear her.
    • In another episode, Angelica tries to get a new Cynthia doll, along with the other babies' stash of candy, by faking her Cynthia's kidnapping, complete with a ransom note and a phone call with the kidnapper (actually her). However, the babies realize something's up when they figure out that the "ransom note" is just a page torn out of Angelica's coloring book; soon after, Angelica (with chocolate smeared all over her face) tells the other babies that the kidnapper demanded more candy...even though she wasn't there during the phone call. The babies immediately call her out on this, and Angelica's plan is exposed.
  • Bratz: In "Not So Hot For Teacher", the Tweevils frame the Bratz girls by putting up an embarrassing picture of Burdine all over school. When Kirstee and Kaycee pretend to call out the Bratz for doing such a thing the next morning, Burdine questions the twins of when they saw the pictures, revealing that she took them all down last night. Runaways ensue.
  • Family Guy: In "And Then There Were Fewer", Tom Tucker is arrested for allegedly murdering several people at James Woods' mansion when Lois speaks to his partner Diane Simmons about the matter. Diane then shows off a blouse that her mother bought her for new first solo newcast, causing Lois to wonder how could she have known prior to the murders happening the night before.
  • On X-Men, the Beast is the only X-Man to escape when the alien Phalanx attack the mansion. He get away with renegade member Warlock to contact President Kelly about a huge threat. After getting their location, Kelly tells Beast that a helicopter is coming to "pick you both up at once."
    Warlock: Self-friend Hank, you did not tell the President about Self.
    Beast: We can explain that in person...
    Warlock: Query: Then why did the President refer to "both" of us?
    (Cue Oh, Crap! look from the Beast)

    Real Life 
  • As noted, police actually do rely on this as part of real life interrogation techniques. However, over-reliance on this technique has caused a significant number of false confessions and erroneous arrests. Police will either feed the suspect information he didn't know before and he'll repeat it back, and they'll use that to browbeat a confession out of him, or the suspect will make inferences that make it seem like he knows more about the crime than he really does (it's very easy to assume that the victim was shot in a murder case, for example). This has caused police in some countries to abandon the technique entirely.
  • Suspicion that Wallace Souza had ordered or coordinated Brazilian gangland murders for his TV show Canal Livre grew when he approached a still-smoldering body in a forest, saying "It smells like a barbecue," he says. "It is a man. It has the smell of burning meat. The impression is that it was in the early hours... it was an execution," even though the police had never given a time of death. Also, he tended to arrive a little too quickly at the scene of the crime. He died before he could be prosecuted.
  • As seen on the Saying Too Much page, where a woman was arrested as a suspect in the murder of a man that had won the jackpot and had disappeared, then turned up dead several days later. She was also under suspicion of embezzling it, and after being released from a round of questioning tearfully professed that she had been falsely accused of shooting another human being. Police had yet to release exactly how the man had died.
  • Paul Powell killed a teenage girl and raped and attempted to stab her sister, and was sentenced to death. There was insufficient evidence that Powell had attempted to rape Stacie Reed before killing her, so he could not be convicted of Capital Murder and the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed his death sentence. So Paul believed he no longer faced a death sentence because of Double Jeopardy, and he sent the prosecutor a taunting letter where he confessed, in detail, to attempting to rape Stacie before killing her. The letter was used by the Commonwealth to send him back to the electric chairnote . He was named an At-Risk Survivor by the Darwin Award.
  • Macedonian crime reporter Vlado Taneski became a suspect of being the Serial Killer that stalked Taneski's own hometown and he often wrote about, when he included copious details about the crimes that had not been disclosed to the public, such as the type of phone cord used to strangle the victims, or the fact that it had also been used to tie them.
  • Judge Judy once handed down a judgement in less than thirty seconds because of this. The plaintiff was arguing that the two defendants had stolen her wallet, hence the trial. After the plaintiff was finished listing the items that were in the stolen wallet, one of the defendants piped up that there was no earpiece in the wallet...but he had to have stolen the wallet to know that.
  • During the well-publicized trial of Aaron Hernandez for the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft testified that Hernandez had professed his innocence to him, claiming he was at a nightclub when Lloyd was killed. Even now, no one knows exactly what time the murder took place. Jurors specifically cited this testimony as part of their reasoning for finding Hernandez guilty.
  • This was how WFAA sportscaster Dale Hansen managed to trap three officials at Southern Methodist University into admitting they were still paying players on their football team. Hansen had gotten an envelope from a former SMU player who had alleged that he'd been paid by the program and that the envelope had money in it. Hansen then showed the envelope to the officials, and at first, administrator Henry Lee Parker admitted that he'd sent the envelope, but then immediately backtracked, as did the other two officials. At this point, Hansen knew the allegations were true because he'd never mentioned to Parker what had allegedly been in the envelope. Until then, all he had was the word of the former player (David Stanley). If the officials hadn't sent money, they wouldn't have backtracked from their original admission. This eventually led to SMU's football program being given the NCAA's "Death Penalty", resulting in the cancellation of their next two seasons and severe restrictions on their program like limits on coaching hires which so devastated the previously-successful program it took them over twenty years to play in another postseason bowl.
  • In 1995, the Spanish murderer Serafín Cervilla raped and killed his girlfriend due to her intention to leave him, then played the afflicted boyfriend on TV to cast suspicion off himself. However, the police had him as their main suspect from the beginning, and he only put himself in more trouble when, at the end of a massive demonstration clamoring for justice, he deposited a bouquet of flowers in the exact spot where the woman had been murdered... which wasn't in the same place where the body was found, and nobody had told Serafín about.
  • Seen in the police interview with Texas serial killer Steven Hobbs on the episode "Predator" of The First 48. During interrogation, he asks what he's being arrested for. The detective replies that some prostitutes had accused him of getting rough during tricks (which they had, and how he'd been identified as a suspect in the murders).
    Hobbs: I never killed nobody.
    Detective: I never said you killed anybody.
  • This along with Hoist by His Own Petard is how Stephen McDaniel is arrested and eventually convicted for killing fellow college student, Lauren Giddings. During a local news report about Lauren Giddings being missing, Stephen was interviewed as one of the witnesses who last saw her. During the interview, he was trying to act shocked and confused about her disappearance, but was saying things that were a little too detailed for someone who didn't know anything. The reporter caught on to this and revealed that a body was found, but she is not sure if it was Giddlings. The facial expression from McDaniel gives him away, along with his panicking during the rest of the interview where he gives more details about things he shouldn't know.


Example of: