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Operation Game of Doom

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Major Blair: Now pull the handle straight up with an even tension.
Colonel Hogan: Okay.
Major Blair: Now comes the tricky part. There are two models: One, you turn the handle clockwise, and the other, you turn it counterclockwise.
Colonel Hogan: Which one's this?
Major Blair: There's no way of telling.Take your choice. But not to worry...If you made a mistake, you'll never know it.
Hogan's Heroes, "The Empty Parachute"
When a character has to remove something from a container very carefully, or nasty things will happen. Typically speaking, simply touching the item against the side of the container is enough to set off the "nasty things", because it's either Made of Explodium or a Death Trap.

Named for the board game "Operation", which greeted every failure with an earsplitting buzz. Can overlap with Nitro Express or Wire Dilemma. Should not be confused with this.


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  • In Iron Man, Pepper helps Tony replace his mini-arc reactor with an upgraded version and he warns her not to touch the sides of the casing. When she does, there's a loud "bzzzt" sound and the heart monitor behind them immediately starts displaying a page-full of red text. Tony even compares what she's doing to the game Operation by name.
  • The nerve gas rockets in The Rock.
  • Removing the detonator from a nuclear warhead in The Spy Who Loved Me. There's a similar sequence in Octopussy.
    • It's magnetic too, just to make it even more difficult.
  • The bomb onboard the plane in Executive Decision had a core that would explode if anyone touched the laser security grid around it.
  • When Left-Ear is setting up some explosive devices for the final heist in The Italian Job, Charlie urges him to work faster until Left-Ear notes that if any part of the pin he's inserting touches the outer edge of the socket, the whole thing will go up.


  • Crowley using tongs and thick rubber gloves to handle his holy water in Good Omens. Him being a demon, the tiniest drop on him can mean his doom.

     Live Action TV  

  • The Black Rock dynamite in Lost qualifies. And a guy gets blown up to show it's really serious. Not that that stops Locke fooling about and lampshading the trope.
  • An episode of MacGyver (1985) had Mac and his former college professor trying to defuse a bomb containing a "mercury switch": a blob of mercury in the middle of a Petri dish lined with sensors set to detonate the bomb if the blob touches the side of the dish. Opening the bomb is out of the question, because the screws are also wired to the detonator. Initial solution? Move the bomb very carefully...
  • The surgeons in M*A*S*H occasionally had to remove a live grenade from a patient.
    • Also, played for laughs with the "Propaganda bomb," since they didn't know it wasn't gonna go boom. This is a particularly hilarious example, since they actually do set it off:
    Henry: (reading instructions over the PA system) Cut the blue wire...
    Hawkeye: (cuts the blue wire)
    Henry: ... but first...

     Tabletop Games  

     Video Games  

  • Bomb-defusing sequences in Dead to Rights required the player to pull bombs out of cylinders in this way. Each bomb had a small pin which ran inside a channel on the inside of the cylinder. Touching the pin to the side of the channel had a predictable effect.
  • In the Trauma Center series, several of the viruses get particularly nasty if you don't remove them carefully enough, or touch something you're not supposed to while moving the parts to the surgical tray. In a more literal example, the first game has Derek actually defusing a bomb with his surgical equipment while taking care to avoid detonation.