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Ziva: In my professional opinion, the potential for serious injury is substantial.
Director Shepard: I agree. But there are protocols that have to be followed.
Ziva: Which are useless if it doesn't provide a tactical advantage!
Director Shepard: Don't underestimate appearances, Ziva. I have known entire missions to fail because an asset didn't button her lapel properly.
Ziva: [starts to speak but stops] I see your point.
Director Shepard: So we are in agreement?
Ziva: [nods]
[They both turn around to reveal Abby, holding a pair of heels in one hand and her boots in the other.]
Director Shepard and Ziva: Heels!
NCIS, "Bloodbath"

A trick, usually used for jokes, with a similarity to the Trick Dialogue.

Several characters appear to have a slightly cryptic conversation about how troublesome and dire their circumstances are. The cameras remain close to their faces, so the viewer gets a full view of their agonization, and sees the sweat dripping down the face. However, once a decision has been painfully accomplished, it's revealed that the characters are in no significant danger, but are just taking something mundane far too seriously. Board games are possibly the most common example as they allow discussion of tactics or how to spend resources, but there are plenty of other examples.

This can require some camera trickery to pull off, and the fact that a closeup of a character's faces is the only thing shown should be a major tip off, especially during The Teaser, where many of these take place.

See Trick Dialogue, where the participants of the conversation aren't who we think they are. See also Reveal Shot. Compare Anti-Climax Cut, Imagine Spot.


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  • A commercial for Pepperidge Farms has a group of military men being given the order to "set them all off". One of them can't remember the code he has to put in until his superior reminds him he gave it to him at breakfast. Then he remembers the code due to remembering the Pepperidge Farms pastry he had for breakfast. He successfully puts in the code and sets them all off..."them" being the lawn sprinklers.
  • This Navy Federal Credit Union commercial.
    Marine: I stood outside, assessing the situation. I knew it could be rough in there, but how rough, there was no way to know for sure.
    (flashback of marine entering his daughter's freshly-painted room)
    Marine: (hesitantly) Hey, guys...
    Daughter: Daddy, it's pink!
    Marine: (narrating) But hey, a new house, it's a blank canvas, and we got a great one, thanks to a really low mortgage rate from Navy Federal Credit Union.
    Marine: (in flashback of daughter's room) ...Pink...
    Marine: So she's a princess. You got a problem with that? OO-RAH!
  • The Nissan Almera Adverts spoofing The Professionals and The Sweeney. Bodie and Doyle get the call from coach a football game. Regan is alerted by Carter about a "bank job" by some shady characters posing as interior decorators. Turns out they really are decorators and they're using the wrong paint.

    Audio Plays 

  • Done in a couple of sketches on album The First Family. In "Astronauts" several NASA personnel have an intense discussion which sounds like it's about re-entry and splashdown after a mission - then one of them says "Okay, go down to the dock and put on those water skis; Jackie's waiting." Similarly, in "The Decision" what sounds like a political discussion turns out to be several Cabinet members playing Monopoly.

    Comic Books 
  • Most The Simpsons comics open like this, with an overly dramatic title page before showing the scene from another angle.
    • One Bartman story has him swinging through town, with increasing close-ups as his inner monologue becomes... more... and more... spaced out... turns out he's just practicing thinking in dramatic pauses, as is required of super-heroes.
  • In Tintin: The Broken Ear, Tintin becomes aide-de-camp to General Alcazar. On taking up his duties we see the two of them apparently pondering strategy, but they're actually playing chess.

    Comic Strips 
  • September 1st, 2000: U.S. Presidential Election season draws near. In today's The Boondocks strip, Robert Freeman and his grandson Huey somberly discuss the decision that lies ahead. Granddad says that it's important to "weigh the facts" and not be swayed by the media. Huey notes that "neither choice is very good for us", but they must press on. Finally, Granddad makes his call: Krispy Kremes over Dunkin' Donuts.

    Fan Works 
  • The Harm in Trying:
    Harry: Draco, I can't do this!
    Draco: Of course you can. The baby's done. Just push when Hermione says so.
    Hermione: Go Harry!
    [Harry pushes a button on his game controller and the words "You Win" appear onscreen.]
    Hermione: And if you think that's hard, try changing a screaming baby for real.
  • This Pokémon comic shows Gear Station in disarray. The Single and Multi Battle train lines have been cancelled, and the Subway Boss Ingo, who runs them, is nowhere to be seen. The implication is that this is the day Ingo was abducted to Hisui... until the last page shows reveals that Ingo misread the timetable and was waiting at the wrong station. According to the author, a train driver, this is not an uncommon occurance.
  • One segment of the Sherlock Holmes fic 221B takes Holmes' point of view as he tries to intimidate or think of some way to escape from a person who has cornered him and is amused by his desperation. As he realizes he has no workable options and tries to steel himself for the inevitable, the truth is revealed: Holmes is sick and Watson has arrived to administer cough syrup.

  • In Charlie's Angels (2000), Alex and her boyfriend are trying to solve a Wire Dilemma, but they're just practicing lines for his movie.
  • Played with in The Meg. As the giant Megalodon shark swims towards a beach where hundreds of people are bathing, a swimmer climbs up on a raft, stares out to sea and gasps: "Oh my god!" Turns out he's checking out the hot bikini girls on another raft.
  • In Top Secret!, Nick Rivers is captured and put in prison in East Germany. In the next shot, a clearly unwell Nick is scratching a tally mark on the cell walls, which seems to show he's been inside for at least 20 days, if not months. His lawyer arrives and Nick says "Thank God you're here. It's been 20 minutes already!"
  • In Splitting Heirs, when we hear that Kitty's gone into labor, the scene cuts to Tommy and Henry wearing surgical masks and sweating over a nerve-racking procedure, which turns out to be opening a rare bottle of champagne in a pub. Shortly after they get it open, they get a phone call telling them the baby was born.
  • Toy Story 2:
    • The opening of the film sees Buzz Lightyear confront Zurg and get disintegrated... and then it's revealed it's a video game Rex is playing.
    • Buzz fails to catch-up to Al before he leaves Al's Toy Barn, and consigns himself to defeat as he watches him drive away... to the apartment building across the street, and his spirits are raised again.

  • Discworld, of course!
    • In Jingo, Sergeant Colon is sweating and in a very difficult situation... as it turns out, he's playing the Discworld version of Scrabble with Lord Vetinari, and thankfully, he manages to lose.
    • In Thief of Time, War is watching a deadly battle between red and black armies... as it turns out, he's watching an anthill from very close up.
  • In Faith of the Fallen in the Sword of Truth series, one chapter, following a timeskip, has Richard and Kahlan locked in a swordfight with one another, with the narration treating it like a battle to the death...until Kahlan scores a hit and it turns out they're using wooden swords for practice.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel:
    • In "Eternity", Wesley and Angel are panicked that there's no escape from the horror. The "horror" in question being Cordelia's acting...
    • "Blood Money" opens with Wesley and Gunn staring each other down and talking about "facing the odds." Turns out they're playing a board game.
    • "Disharmony" was originally to include a scene where Gunn and Cordelia are apparently discussing some bloodstained bodies, but they're actually complaining about Angel's unwashed mugs cluttering up the place.
    • In "Fredless", Wesley is apparently being threatened at sword point. Actually Cordelia was showing him the sword for cataloguing.
    Wes: [Close Up On Head] "You wouldn't dare. [Reveal Shot] You were just going to toss in a Prothgarian broadsword with a third-century ceremonial Sancteus dagger?"
    • In "The Price", the Groosalugg takes Angel aside, very seriously reminds him of their long history as champions for everything good and the many battles they've fought together, and begs Angel to just this once consider his advice:
      Pomegranate Mist is the wrong colour for this room.
    • "Supersymmetry" opens on shots of the Hyperion and the sound of a Screaming Woman. Who turns out to be Fred Squeeing over a magazine article featuring her.
    • In "A Hole in the World", Angel and Spike are having a VERY heated argument that makes everyone around them nervous. The topic of the argument is revealed to be "Who would win in a fight between Astronauts and Cavemen?"
  • One episode of Babylon 5 has Ivanova and Brother Edward assessing how much trouble the Captain is in and whether his skill for tactics are up to the task. He gets checkmated one move later.
  • In the Being Human episode "Being Human 1955", Hal and Pearl argue over who should kill "Hal's friend" who has been causing trouble for Hal. Hal can't do it, and Pearl refuses to have the blood on her hands. Leo settles the argument by suggesting that they take the spider outside under a cup.
  • Occurs at various points in Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "The Witch" begins with Giles talking about how Buffy has gone mad and joined a cult. It turns out he's referring to her wanting to be a cheerleader.
    • "Hell's Bells" begins with Buffy and Willow, accompanied by Dramatic Thunder, discussing how horrible "that thing with the arms" is. It turns out they're discussing the dresses they're supposed to wear for Anya's wedding.
    • In the final episode, "Chosen", before a final attack on the evil lair, several of the gang are shown looking at a map, discussing where they're standing, and what they're planning to do. It turns out that they're not planning the final battle which may well decide the fate of the world; they're playing Dungeons & Dragons instead.
    • In "Where the Wild Things Are", a frat house is taken over by the lingering feelings of abused children who use Buffy and Riley's sex life as a power source (really). At the end, everyone's sitting around talking about how disturbing it was...and further conversation reveals they're actually talking about Giles' singing.
    • "When She Was Bad" had Cordelia complaining about her recent ordeal (captured and strung up by vampires)...because of how tough getting the stains out of her clothes was going to be. 'Band Candy', wherein the town's adults are mentally regressed to being teenagers, ends with Buffy reliving how terrifying her exams were.
    • "Flooded" began with Buffy wandering around a dark creepy area which turned out to be her basement and she's there to fix a leaky pipe.
    • In "Bargaining, Part 1", the Scoobies are preparing the Buffybot for its most dangerous trial yet. Parent-Teacher Day at school.
    • In "Doomed", Xander enters the basement but there's no sign of Spike. Then...
      Spike: Don't turn around. [Scare Chord]
      Xander: Spike, what is it? What happened?
      Spike: Don't look at me.
      [Xander turns around to see Spike dressed like a Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist.]
    • "The Body" has an example of this not being played for laughs. Buffy says she'll have to tell Dawn about her mother's death. Dawn is then shown in tears...about something mean a classmate said about her. She rallies herself and returns to class, only for Buffy to enter with the news, whereupon Dawn breaks down completely.
    • A lampshaded example in "Graduation Day, Part 2", after the battle with The Mayor.
      Oz: Guys, take a minute and just think: We survived.
      Buffy: It was one hell of a battle.
      Oz: Not the battle. High school.
    • From "Real Me":
      Anya: Xander, I'm dying.
      Xander: What?
      Anya: I might have as few as 50 years left!
    • In "Lessons", Buffy tells Dawn that "vampires [and] demons" are "nothing compared to what's coming". Dawn notes that she "can't believe it's back" and Buffy tells her that there's "only a few more days 'til it starts. Then we'll never know what's coming next." "It" being Sunnydale High School, which has just been rebuilt after its destruction at the end of Season 3.
  • Chuck does this a lot. Some examples:
    • "Pilot" - The very first scene with both Chuck and Morgan was an Establishing Character Moment that qualifies as they go to great lengths to sneak out a window covertly... to avoid a party, because they're socially awkward. And they might have got away if they hadn't gone to such great lengths, because the window was on the ground floor.
    • Also in the pilot, Chuck and Morgan shoot each other... with toy guns
    • "'Chuck vs. The Helicopter" - Someone's pointing a gun at Chuck. It's just a kid showing him a broken toy gun.
    • "Chuck vs. The A-Team" - Chuck and Sarah look like they're defusing a bomb but they're just playing Operation.
  • Dexter:
    • An episode in season two opens with Dexter doing his usual Inner Monologue. He goes on about how this is the night, he must do this to survive, how he's coiled and ready to strike...cue jaunty music and pull back to show him in a t-shirt holding a bowling ball.
    • Debra has a very intense, aggressive conversation with what sounds like a suspect. The camera then pans to reveal that she's interrogating... a potential nanny.
  • Doctor Who: In "Aliens of London", after Jackie reports the Doctor to the alien helpline, the military swoops in on the Powell Estate … not to arrest him, but to escort him and Rose to 10 Downing Street because the government needs his help with the current crisis. Rose is even initially surprised that "getting arrested" is that posh.
  • Used as part of an actual episode plot and not a one-off joke in Elementary. A super bug, able to defeat New York City's ultraviolet and chlorine screen regimens, allowing it free reign to run within the city's water system if Holmes hadn't caught it in time. Turns out the super bug only gives people a mild case of the runs.
  • Get Smart. The episode "The Wax Max" opens with Max and 99 apparently sniping at a KAOS agent. Turns out they're at a fairground shooting gallery.
  • Knight Rider. The episode "Deadly Maneuvers" has KITT warning Michael Knight to slow down, as he's approaching a dangerous curve and his chances of survival are 0.04%! Turns out KITT is driving itself while Michael is playing a computer racing game.
  • The writers of Lost apparently really like the game variant:
    • Early on, before any major details are revealed, it's hinted that Locke is a skilled military man ("Colonel Locke, is this line secure?"). Although it's a few scenes later that it's revealed that he's talking to his wargaming friend.
    • Later on, Michael and Jack are seen having a troubled discussion about how their game of golf is going. (Somewhat ruined by the fact that they were last seen on the golf course only a few minutes ago).
    • In "The Shape of Things to Come" Hurley worries about how their enemy is making them fight amongst themselves, and that there's no way they'll survive. It's then revealed that they're playing Risk.
  • A M*A*S*H episode opens with the camera panning from one grim-faced character to another. It finally settles on Hawkeye, who asks for a knife (implying that some important surgical procedure is about to take place)… before the "operation" is revealed to be the cutting of a birthday cake in the mess tent.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has this example, combined with a Large Ham Laurence Olivier impression:
    Judge: Mr Larch, you heard the case for the prosecution. Is there anything you wish to say before I pass sentence?
    Harold Larch: Well... I'd just like to say, m'lud, I've got a family... a wife and six kids... and I hope very much you don't have to take away my freedom... because... well, because m'lud freedom is a state much prized within the realm of civilized society. It is a bond wherewith the savage man may charm the outward hatchments of his soul, and soothe the troubled breast into a magnitude of quiet. It is most precious as a blessed balm, the savior of princes, the harbinger of happiness, yea, the very stuff and pith of all we hold most dear. What frees the prisoner in his lonely cell, chained within rude walls, far from the owl of Thebes? What fires and stirs the woodcock in his springe or wakes the drowsy apricot betides? What goddess doth the storm toss'd mariner offer her most tempestuous prayers to? Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!
    Judge: It's only a bloody parking offense.
  • Ms. Marvel (2022): During the Training Montage in the second episode, Kamala builds up the courage to create a hard light platform off the edge of the roof she's practicing on — which immediately collapses, and Bruno barely grabs her before she falls but can't pull her up or hold her much longer. She begs Bruno to let her go... and it cuts to a wide shot that shows she was just practicing above a slightly lower section of roof and is only a few feet off the ground.
  • An episode of The Munsters opened with a close up on Herman Munster monologuing to himself about how nobody would ever suspect he was the killer, ending with the phrase "continued next issue", revealing that he was reading a magazine specializing in crime stories.
  • NCIS, as shown by the page quote above.
    • And again in another episode when Ducky and Palmer look with dread at an unpleasant task that they can no longer put off: paperwork.
  • In The Office (US), the Stamford branch's boss angrily enters the room while the team is playing Call of Duty, calling Jim and Andy into a meeting to criticize them. After a few seconds, it becomes clear that the meeting is about their Call of Duty performance.
  • Person of Interest. John Reese turns up at a hotel to investigate this episode's case to find a police officer waiting for him. After dire warnings about how things could get out of control unless Reese is ready to back him up, the cop bursts into the room and starts taking off his clothes.
  • The pilot episode of Quark opens with a spaceship apparently engaged in a highly dangerous docking maneuver. Turns out it's just a glorified garbage scow picking up a load of trash from the other ship.
  • The Red Dwarf episode "Meltdown" had Rimmer telling a story about how he was in a dangerous situation and needed to use all his skills to survive. He then listed the sequence of dice rolls that enabled him to win that game of Risk.
  • Scrubs
    • In one episode, there is an intense argument between Dr. Wen and Turk during a crucial surgery, but it turns out they're discussing what music to listen to when they operate.
    • Also:
      "I've lost an engine... Oh God, I've lost another engine!"
      "Calm down, the engines are on the top shelf."
      "Oh, there they are."
  • An episode of SeaChange opens with Sergeant Grey arguing on the phone with someone, talking about how he's "been through this many times before" and is not putting his people through it without some serious backup - "a minimum three squad cars and some basic show of weaponry or we might as well seal off the whole bloody town and let them run riot." His subordinate, standing in the doorway, asks if he knows what the theme is for this year, to which he answers, "Latin". It soon transpires that the conversation is about the Country Fire Authority's annual dance.
  • On episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation opened with a tense bit of dialogue between Riker and Dr. Crusher — it turned out they were rehearsing a scene from a play. Became a sort of Chekhov's Gun later in the episode where enacting that same scene got them out of a jam.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. "Q-Less" opens with Dr Bashir thrilling a beautiful Bajoran woman with a tale of how he faced a great peril alone without a friendly face by his side. Turns out he's referring to his oral exam at Starfleet Medical, where he made salutatorian.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • Janeway summons Tuvok and reveals that though they've known each other for twenty years and served on three ships together, she's just learned he's been keeping something from her. It took an exhaustive amount of research, but she's finally got to the truth. Today's his birthday.
    • The Season 3 episode "Coda" opens with a discussion between Janeway and Neelix concerning each other's performances during an apparent sexual orgy. It was actually a talent show.
    • In the World of Ham holodeck program The Adventures of Captain Proton, the evil Dr Chaotica threatens to unleash an invincible opponent upon our heroes. The spaceship hatch opens and the Damsel in Distress shrieks in terror at...the Emergency Medical Hologram, who's barged in to complain about them monopolizing the holodeck (though the Tin-Can Robot Chaotica was actually referring to is hardly more terrifying).
  • An episode of Star Trek: Enterprise opens up with Archer and Hoshi yelling abuse at each other... and finally deciding they've practiced enough to be ready to negotiate with the Tellarites, whose hat is arguing.
  • Supergirl (2015). The episode "Schott Through the Heart" starts with the gang lined up as Kara gives them a Rousing Speech of steeling themselves as if for battle...and it turns out to be karaoke night.
  • On Weeds Nancy is talking at an outdoors family gathering when suddenly a laser sight dot appears on her forehead. It's her niece playing with a laser pointer. Subverted when we are shown that the actual sniper targeting her is using a regular sight.

  • "Here I Am" by Lyle Lovett:
    I understand "too little, too late"
    I realize there are things you say and do you can never take back
    But what would you be if you didn't even try?
    You have to try.
    So after a lot of thought,
    I'd like to reconsider.
    Please, if it's not too late,
    Make it a... cheeseburger.

  • One episode of The Men from the Ministry opens with One and Two talking about an alarming national catastrophe that's threatening the entire nation's pride. Then we find out they're talking about losing a cricket match to Australia.

  • Done in 8-Bit Theater; Black Mage gives an impressively Lovecraftian monologue about the horrors of the ocean deeps and the terrible fates that befell his companions, and soon him, in the course of their voyage... only for the rest of the group to appear, alive and well, right next to him and reveal they've only been at sea for two and a half hours.
    Red Mage: What kind of dark wizard in league with nameless forces of primordial evil are you that you can't even make a successful sanity check versus boredom?
  • One strip of The Order of the Stick features Belkar groaning in anguish as the rest of the party desperately searches for something, Roy coolly informing everyone that though Belkar's the only one suffering now, if they don't find success soon they'll all be in trouble. And in the very last panel... they find the bathroom.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of Dexter's Laboratory used this when Dexter and Dee Dee overheard their parents having an increasingly angry discussion involving both sides "cheating" both now and in the past, a "letter" hidden in Dad's pocket and the word "passion" appearing a couple of times. The viewers are aware right from the start that the parents are, in fact, playing Scrabble, but the kids naturally assume they're listening to the breakdown of their parents' marriage.
  • In the Hey Arnold! episode "Freeze Frame", Arnold and Gerald stumble upon two shady guys talking about how they're going to "Get" someone named Marty, with the implications that it's a murder rising as the epsiode goes on. At the end, it turns out that they were just preparing a surprise birthday party.
  • Kim Possible
    • In the opener of one episode, an alligator closes in on her and snaps its jaws shut. The dreadful consequences: Kim has to resort to buying a replacement pair of pants at Smarty Mart.
    • Another episode has the opening fight end with Kim caught in a hot steam blast. Quick cut to Ron desperately asking how bad it is, and Kim's mom (a surgeon) pronouncing the situation hopeless. Pull back to reveal that they're talking about Kim's torn pants.
    • In "Pain King vs. Cleopatra" Kim and Ron are fleeing from an ominous mob in an alley only to reveal that they're attending a wrestling promo event at the mall.
    • One episode has them jumping out of a plane, parachuting and removing their helmets dramatically, just before the school bell rings.
  • The Looney Tunes short "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" has Daffy Duck dreaming that he's "Duck Twacy, the famous detect-a-tive". The dream starts with Twacy appearing to interrogate a suspect, saying "I'm gonna pin it on ya, see? I'm gonna pin it on ya!" Turns out he's playing Pin the Tail On the Donkey.
  • The Simpsons
    • Chief Wiggum and the other cops walk into the police station with what appears to be an arrested criminal (hidden from sight). They utter phrases like 'I can't wait to get a piece of you' and 'You think you're so hot? Well, we've got everything we need on you'. It turns out that they were talking to a pizza.
    • Homer's Jury Duty episode ends with him telling Marge about how everyone was against him in that jury room, but he stood by the courage of his convictions and he prevailed - and that's why they had Chinese food for lunch.
    • One of the Halloween specials did a parody of King Kong. Homer, as Kong, grabbed Marge (a human), and began re-enacting the famous "climbing up the Empire State Building" scene. Of course, Homer being Homer, he runs out of stamina partway up (the airplanes need to refuel a few times). Eventually, the strain of climbing causes him to pass out and fall off the building... only for the camera to zoom out and reveal that he was about 1 ape-length from the ground the whole time.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, one episode opens with the wall-crawler webslinging across town at top speed, reflecting on his dire circumstances and noting that not even his powers could save him now. Then we hear a bell ringing. Spider-Man looks down on his school and says, "Man! For once, I'd like to be early to school!"
  • One Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode opens with the turtles running frantically down the street.
    Donatello: Hurry, Raphael!
    Leonardo: We don't have much time!
    [The turtles stop and stare in horror.]
    Leonardo: We're too late! The video store is closed.


Video Example(s):


Climbing Exercise

Lem and Phil have a trust-building exercise.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / NotSoDire

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