Fraser: I'm telling you a ghost story. It is customary to exchange ghost stories around a campfire in the wilderness.
Ray: We're not in the wilderness.
Fraser: ...An approximation of wilderness.
Ray: No it's not, Fraser, we are in a park in the middle of downtown Chicago! I had to step over a wino and kick two junkies just to get here.
Our heroes find themselves stranded or lost in an isolated location far from civilization... or so it seems. Turns out the place presumed to be uncharted wilderness was actually not so remote after all. The day is saved, and everyone has a good laugh.
Or maybe it's only the viewer who knows that civilization is a few short steps away, and the fact that the protagonists are going to starve thirty feet from a supermarket will be a source of Tragic Irony.
The converse can also be true, where the characters know they're near the heart of civilization but the audience is kept in the dark — at least until the camera pans out to show where they actually are. This type of Bait-and-Switch will invariably be Played for Laughs.
The characters may appear to be stranded on a Deserted Island, lost in a Hungry Jungle, disoriented in the Wild Wilderness, desiccating in a Thirsty Desert, adrift on the High Seas, abandoned in a Polluted Wasteland, or cursed to forever wander the forests; the only real constant is that they're mistaken about how unreachable they are.
Perhaps they went on the Horrible Camping Trip and nobody warned them Don't Go Into the Woods. Perhaps they were forced to Abandon Ship and have no way of knowing where they washed ashore. Perhaps they got caught in a blizzard and can't see more than six inches in front of their faces.
There may be an element of gullibility or cluelessness to our heroes' predicament, too: they may believe they're somewhere remote only because they got swindled into a Fauxtastic Voyage, were sold a Fool's Map, or spectacularly Failed a Spot Check. Maybe they just Gave Up Too Soon.
As a Reveal trope, the more dramatic examples may be spoilers, so beware!
- In one Blue Cross Blue Shield commercial, there's a montage of a man stranded on an apparently deserted island slowly developing survival skills. Then, the man uses his insurance card as a reflector to get the attention of a passing helicopter. He asks the pilot if she's with Search and Rescue and is informed that she is an employee of the resort on the other side of the island.
- Idées Noires features a subversion: A man is lost in a forest in winter. He sees lights in the distance and assumes he must be nearer to the city than he thought. He pursues the lights, confident he's no longer doomed to die of cold... and he's right: the lights were actually the eyes of a pack of wolves.
- In Doonesbury, Duke and Honey use a small ship to take a group of sightseers to view the British blockade of the Falklands. On the way there they're shipwrecked for months on what they believe to be a deserted island right up until they are found by some birdwatchers from the mainland, who reveal that it's actually Matagorda Island, right off the coast of Texas. He's rather amused to discover Honey had "claimed" the land for China.
- In an early 2022 Mary Worth storyline, Wilbur falls aboard on a cruise ship and lands on an island. He spends a few days fretting and worrying before finally climbing up a tree, desperate to get a coconut, his only possible nourishment...and from the height, spots a nearby pool with a tiki bar to realize he landed on a private island used for cruise ships. A week later, Wilbur returns home with everyone having worried he was dead, brushing off how "I wanted to surprise you" and honestly thrown they're all upset he couldn't even drop a phone call.
- In The Legend of Total Drama Island, two contestants get lost in the woods after getting separated from their team during the camping challenge. After spending the night in mortal peril, the still-conscious player carries her dying teammate on a desperate search for help, only to discover that they had walked in a circle after getting lost and spent that hellish night a stone's throw from base camp.
- In SpaceBattles.com's "How To Ruin A Kingdom," one chapter parodies the ending to Game of Thrones by showing just how badly Arya's voyage across the Sunset Sea could go. After murdering her entire crew out of sheer psychopathy, she's left becalmed, unable to navigate and unwilling to avoid drinking seawater. In the end, Arya dies and her body is eventually discovered by a passing merchant... who is absolutely baffled as to how this happened, given that she was just a few miles away from the shore.
- In one of the Pippi Longstocking movies, Pippi and her friends get picked up by a tidal wave while in a small boat and when the wave finally settles down after carrying them for several days, Pippi calculates in her head that they are hundreds of miles from the nearest known land, only for them to see land seconds later and think they have discovered a new continent. But after some time they discover railroad tracks and realize Pippi's calculations were completely wrong, and a train passing by coincidentally happens to have somebody they know riding on it, who pays for their ride back home.
- In Flying Down to Rio, Roger and Belinha have to make an emergency landing while they're, well, flying down to Rio. They think they're on a Deserted Island in the Caribbean, but it turns out they've landed at the Port-au-Prince golf club.
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The characters are wandering aimlessly through the desert when suddenly a Walmart appears. Thank heavens for well-timed Product Placement!
- In National Treasure Ben and Riley are left for dead in the Arctic by Ian, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. But after they dig themselves out of the wreckage of an exploded merchant ship, Ben says there's an Inuit village about ten miles away where they can catch a ride with a bush pilot.
- The first film by George Lucas, THX 1138, is about a Dystopia that sends its criminals to a bivouac seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Narcotics in the convicts' rations limit their vision so that everything in the distance appears as empty whiteness. The title character escapes this Cardboard Prison simply by walking far enough into the emptiness that he encounters a wall, which he follows to an exit.
- For most of Walkabout, the nameless teenage protagonist and her little brother are truly lost in the Australian Outback. But in one scene, they are shown resting on a ridge, no more than a quarter-mile away from a white settlement on the other side of the ridge. The Aborigine boy who saved their lives doesn't show it to them, maybe because he doesn't see a need to, or maybe because he doesn't feel their walkabout is over, or maybe because he's sweet on the girl.
- At the end of Road to Morocco, Hope and Crosby are adrift on a raft at sea. Just as Hope's starting to get wound up about the possibility of them dying out there, Crosby points out New York on the horizon. Hope complains that he's just cut short what could have been the most dramatic scene in the movie.
- At the start of Juan of the Dead, Juan and Lazero are (sort of) fishing on their makeshift raft, seemingly far out at sea, until it's revealed they're actually in Havana's harbor, maybe ten minutes from shore.
- Abbott and Costello Off to Mars: Abbott and Costello's rocketship crashes outside New Orleans during Mardis Gras. They assume they're on Mars and the people in costumes are aliens.
- "Crocodile" Dundee 2 opens with Mic fishing from a small boat. After lighting a stick of dynamite and throwing it in the water, the scene zooms out as a police boat pulls up alongside him, revealing that he's in New York Harbor.
- The Amanda Bynes ABC Family movie Love Wrecked has Jenny and her rock star crush, Jason seemingly landing on a desert island after a storm. While exploring, Jenny discovers that they're actually on the other side of the island as the huge resort they had left from. She decides to keep it from Jason in hopes that being "stranded" together for weeks will make him fall in love with her. A complication is when Jenny's rival Alexis finds out and also pretends to be marooned to get Jason herself. Eventually, he finally finds out and is at first outraged but later tries to talk them into supporting the "stranded" story as it's good publicity. Having come to realize what a jerk he really is (and how the co-worker who's been helping her is her true love), Jenny tells the media the truth and leaves Jason and Alexis looking like fools.
- Older Than Radio, as it happens to David Balfour in Kidnapped. Unable to swim, David is stranded on the island of Earraid, off the coast of Scotland. He finds himself stranded and starving for over four days. Fortunately, some fishermen come near the shore and tell him that the island is connected to the mainland at low tide. David could have simply walked to shore long before.
- The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King follows nine-year-old protagonist Trisha as she steps off the path and becomes lost in the woods. After walking for hours, she has to make a choice between following her plan to go in one straight line, which would mean wading through what looks like an impassable bog, or turning aside. She chooses to turn; the narrative "pans out" to reveal that the bog leads into a popular vacation lake and if it were summer she would already have been able to see boats.
- Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a YA novel in which the protagonist believes her insular little village is in rural antebellum Indiana. She really couldn't be more wrong.
- In Uncle Louie's Fantastic Sea Voyage, a story by Swedish illustrator and writer Jan Lööf, a boy and his uncle embark on an high-seas adventure to Africa on a vessel made from junk. One night at sea, the small ship crashes against some rocks and they are forced to take shelter after encountering a rhinoceros and other wild animals native to Africa. However, when they step outside the next morning, they discover that in last night's darkness, they have stumbled into the animal pen of the local zoo, where the zookeeper and astonished guests greet them.
- At one point in The Wind Eye Mike washes up on a mist-covered beach, not knowing where or when he is (there's time travel in play). After walking for over an hour and not finding anything but sand dunes and birds he almost loses hope. Finally the mist clears to reveal he's in Ross Links nature reserve.
- The Clive Cussler Numa Files novel Nighthawk ends with hero Kurt Austin, buddy Joe and a couple of Russians having bailed out of a runaway rocket craft and landing on an island. They spend a night keeping themselves warm by a fire while playing poker with the gold coins they had recovered. A man in a uniform shows up by boat to ask where they came from and if they're guests of the Ritz-Carlton on the other side of the island. The group all laugh as they use the gold to get the best suites at the place.
- Even better is this is right after Kurt's friends in Washington are feeling sorry about him and Joe "stuck on some remote island, fighting to survive until we can rescue them."
- On Barry, Fuches is shot in the desert, waking up in a quiet desert town with what appear to be Mexican locals tending to his wounds.
Fuches: (slowly) What do...you...and your people...call water?Woman: (in perfect English) Water. You know you're only 20 miles outside of L.A. There's a Starbucks right over the hill.
- An episode of Castle has a group of school kids watching video of a researcher in Antarctica who's in his tent as a storm rages outside apologizing for not being able to show them more. When a huge shape attacks, the kids scream, thinking the guy's been attacked by a bear. Castle and Beckett are confused when they get the case...until they find the crime scene is a tent on a soundstage with a huge wind machine in a New York apartment. It turns out the "researcher" has been scamming schools for years by getting them to finance his "trips" and then just faking them from his apartment.
- Cheers: "Get Your Kicks on Route 666" has Sam, Frasier, Norm, and Cliff take a road trip. They crash into a ditch somewhere in the desert and get stuck. They spend the rest of the night trying to survive in the middle of nowhere, then go to sleep. Sam, Frasier, and Cliff wake up to find Norm missing. Seconds later, he rolls up in a golf cart. It turns out there was a resort just over the hill.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch: In the penultimate episode, "What A Witch Wants", Sabrina, Roxy and Morgan are stranded on what they believe to be a desert island. It turns out to be Bermuda.
- Due South:
- In the Cold Open of "A Likely Story", Fraser and Ray seem to be out camping in the woods; it's quickly revealed that they're actually in a city park in the middle of Chicago.
- In "The Call of the Wild", Fraser is out on a lake, attempting to ice fish but getting no bites. The snowy hills that can be seen surrounding the lake appear heavily wooded. Then Ray shows up.
Benton Fraser: Ice fishing takes patience.
Ray Kowalski: Yeah. Well, you gonna need a lot of that, Fraser, cause there ain't no fish in here.
Benton Fraser: How do you know that, Ray?
[the camera zooms out to show the Chicago skyline]
Ray Kowalski: Cause it's the city reservoir. Drinking water, no fish.
Benton Fraser: Oh.
- The "Movie" of Even Stevens has the Stevens thinking they're won a tropical trip only to crash on a desert island with savage natives. After a few days, Tawny and Twitty show up to tell the family they're actually the victims of a huge prank TV show. When the family ask how the two managed to get all the way to the island, they're informed they're actually on the coast of California, just a hundred miles away from their house and while they've been handling the jungle, the "savages" are living it up at a posh resort not far off.
- Good Eats, of all things. In "Down & Out in Paradise," Alton is abandoned on a tropical beach after a shipwreck, and consequently spends the episode cooking desert island food. Turns out he's in Hawaii and only about a mile from the city, but he had no idea because he had lost his glasses.
- Hawaii Five-0: After Steve and Danny's attempt to go camping with Grace and the Aloha Girls gets ruined by a gun-wielding diamond thief, Danny takes Grace for a private father-daughter camping trip. It's revealed that they're actually in the middle of Danny's living room when Danny leaves the tent to let in the pizza guy.
- How I Met Your Mother: In "Arrivederci, Fiero," Ted tells a story of how he and Marshall went on a road trip and ended stranded in a snow storm in the middle of nowhere. They had to snuggle to keep warm over the night. Turns out, they stopped in front of a motel in a small town, as they found out in the morning.
- In the first season finale of La familia P. Luche, the family survives an airplane crash on a tropical island. After living there for a year, they discover in the next season opener that they were actually in a wildlife refuge just outside Cancun.
- M*A*S*H. In one episode Klinger and Charles are out in a Jeep (Klinger was taking Charles to the airport, as he was going to Tokyo for R & R) when a bad storm breaks out. They take refuge in an overturned truck and find several wounded Greek soldiers inside, whom Charles must treat without adequate medical supplies. The next morning Klinger goes out in search of more resources and discovers that they were only a short distance away from camp the entire time.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus. One sketch started with explorers and a native guide trekking through close-set trees and underbrush in Darkest Africa. Eventually they come upon a clearing with a nice outdoor restaurant right in the middle of the jungle, where they decide to have lunch.
- The classic episode of The Twilight Zone (1959), "I Shot An Arrow Into The Air". The first manned space flight goes off course and crash lands on an astronomical body with breathable air and Earth-normal gravity. The astronauts somehow come to the conclusion that they are on an uncharted asteroid, and without the resources to fix their rocket and limited rations, their hope for rescue or survival looks bleak. With two of the five astronauts having died due to the crash, the remaining three have to try to survive as long as possible. One of them, desperate and scared feels he has to resort to murder to survive and eventually kills the other two survivors for the dwindling water supply. He sets off and shortly finds the sign for the city of Reno, Nevada over a ridge, and breaks down knowing that his partners had died for nothing.
- The X-Files, "Quagmire": Scully and Mulder explore a lake at night, and their boat crashes and sinks. They spend quite a long time on a rock, and Mulder even brings out snarks about cannibalism. They are saved by Dr. Farraday later that night.
Scully: We would have been out here all night if you hadn't answered our distress call.
Farraday: Oh, I didn't. I was walking by, I heard you talking.
Scully: Walking by?
Farraday: Yeah, the shore is just a stone's throw from here.
- In an episode of Stargate SG-1, a gate mishap sends O'Neil and Carter into an ice cave. When they dig their way out, they think they landed on an ice planet. Turns out they're actually on Earth, in the Antarctic—still pretty danged remote, but less so than they initially thought.
- Not even that remote, they were close (about 30 miles) to McMurdo Ice Station
- Dad's Army. In one episode the platoon think they've landed in Nazi-occupied France, and only discover otherwise when trying to speak French to a bewildered Englishman.
- A variation on Van Helsing. Scarlett has been stranded on an island with a single lighthouse that's within sight of the mainland but too far for her to swim there. For twenty-seven days, she tries in vain to create a makeshift raft to get there with every attempt an Epic Fail. Frustrated, she tosses a book inside the lighthouse bedroom and when she looks under the bed for it...she discovers that for the last month she has been literally sleeping on top of a top-notch inflatable life raft with oars. Her You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me! reaction to how she could have rowed back weeks ago is priceless.
- The music video for the Huey Lewis and the News song "Stuck With You" shows Huey and a woman apparently get stranded on a deserted tropical island and undergo all sort of mishaps trying to survive. It ends with them discovering that they're right next to a large resort and relaxing with the guests.
- In an episode of American Dad!, Stan mistakes a nuclear attack drill for the real thing and rushes his family out to what he believes is a secluded wilderness. Not only does somebody already live there, it turns out to be a short walk from a diner, a summer camp and a cliff overlooking a bustling cityscape.
- CatDog: "The Canine Mutiny" revolved around Cat, Dog, and some of their friends getting Lost at Sea, with their only sign of civilization being a very distant light from a lighthouse. They decide to become pirates under the leadership of Cat, who quickly becomes Drunk with Power. In the end, it turns out they weren't at sea at all, but floating around in a fountain in a parking lot—and the "lighthouse" that they saw was actually a traffic light.
- The Critic: In "Jay of Arabia", Jay and some POWs are lost in the Iraqi desert and losing hope when they run across an International House of Couscous.
- In the Duck Dodgers episode "Just the Two of Us", Dodgers and the Martian Commander find themselves reliant on each other for survival on a deserted island, after the Cadet and the Centurions go on vacation. Eventually, the Cadet chases a volleyball through a thick clump of ferns and finds them.
- Family Guy: In "Road to Europe," Brian and Stewie are in the middle of the Arabian desert and their camel has died. Just as they've cut it open to use as an improvised shelter Brian notices a Comfort Inn over the next dune.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In the episode "Camp Keep a Good Mac Down" Mac and the imaginary friend's camping trip goes south when Bloo greedily eats all the food. The group is forced to hunt and trap for survival, and both Harriman and Madame Foster end up going wild. The episode ends when Frankie shows up out of nowhere with a ringing phone, revealing the entire camping trip was in the backyard of Foster's home all along.
- In "The Cryonic Woman," Fry and his ex-girlfriend freeze themselves again and woke up in a Mad Max-esque wasteland that they thought must be the year 4,000. Turns out it's just suburban Los Angeles a few days after they froze themselves.
- In the episode "In-A-Gadda-Da-Leela" Zapp and Leela crash land on an unknown planet with no way of returning home. Here, they witness the Earth's destruction at the hands of the V-Giny, a rogue death sphere hell bent on "censoring" indecent planets. Later, it turns out that they were on Earth the entire time and the Earth being destroyed was actually a hologram jury-rigged by Zapp as part of an elaborate scheme to get Leela to sleep with him (again).
- Prison guard Sam Schultz from the Looney Tunes cartoon "Big House Bunny" gets tricked into being locked in a cell, where he's given an escape kit by Bugs Bunny in disguise. Sam tunnels his way out of the cell, emerging in what seems to be a lush jungle. As he parts the leaves, Sam discovers he's actually among potted plants in the warden's office, whereupon the warden dresses Sam down mercilessly.
- In a "Peabody's Improbable History" segment from Rocky and Bullwinkle, Peabody and Sherman visit Robinson Crusoe, who instead of being stranded on a Deserted Island is on the deserted half of a very populated island, the other half being a tropical paradise vacation spot a la Club Med. Crusoe just wants to be left alone.
- Mad Jack the Pirate: in the episode "Shipwhacked", Snuk's blunders results in Jack and Snuk washed ashore on an island. They endure several hardships while trying to survive. Just as Jack gives up and begins a lengthy, dramatic monologue about his oncomming demise, Snuk discovers they are sitting next to a luxurious hotel (as in, there are only some bushes between them and the hotel).
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Pizza Delivery", SpongeBob and Squidward are lost in the middle of nowhere. SpongeBob suggests going one way because, according to the pioneers, moss always grows facing civilization.note Squidward goes in the opposite direction, with SpongeBob following him. The camera then reveals that the town was just over the ridge towards where the moss was facing.
- An episode of Timon & Pumbaa has them stop by on a tropical beach. After the events of the episode (dealing with some natives making Pumbaa their king), they return, only to find a modern city has sprung up.
Timon: Developers, oy.