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Searching the Stalls

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A character hides inside a toilet stall in a big public or hotel bathroom, and to find him, another character enters the bathroom and begins a systematic search of each stall, opening each stall door. Sometimes accompanied by a Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are taunt. If it's our protagonist hiding from the villain, then five things may happen (and none of these count as subversions!).

  • The villain gets interrupted before he makes it to the hero's stall. Perhaps the Big Bad contacts him on the walkie-talkie or he hears a noise outside.
  • The hero stands on the toilet lid and a lazy henchman decides to make do with checking for feet, without opening all the doors.
  • The bad guy does open all the stall doors, but our hero escapes unseen, e.g. by means of an Indy Hat Roll, an Air-Vent Passageway, or a Ceiling Cling, and his stall is either revealed to be empty or the villain Failed a Spot Check.
  • Less commonly, the hero surprise attacks the villain before or after his stall is opened. A Bathroom Brawl may ensue.
  • If the villain is smart and armed with a gun, he'll shoot into each stall or machine-gun the whole row. Even if the bathroom stalls look like Swiss cheese, the hero will luckily avoid getting shot due to his Plot Armor (the story needs the hero to live for the final showdown with the Big Bad).

Who is searching for whom varies widely, but it always involves a linear process-of-elimination search of the stalls. Expect a shot at foot-level at some point, and a Scare Chord when the last stall door is flung open. Variations on the basic structure are quite common.

Compare Camping a Crapper, where a character kills another character when the victim is using the toilet, and Toilet Horror, general scenes of horror in a bathroom. Not to be confused with Bathroom Search Excuse, where a character claims to be looking for the bathroom.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Gunsmith Cats, May drags an injured Rally into a bathroom to hide from Radinov. Played straight despite Radinov not checking the stalls because of the obvious blood trail. She is, however, dealing with Minnie May now.
  • In Part 3 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the villain Mariah hides in the women's bathroom of a hotel the heroes are staying at. Joseph and Avdol follow her in, reluctantly, and Avdol begins looking at the feet under the doors. Joseph hadn't gotten a good look at Mariah but could describe her legs well enough. When Avdol finds legs that match the description, it turns out that it's actually an old lady, and Mariah had escaped out the window. Then the rest of the stalls open, filled with women who have no idea why there are two men snooping around.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: After hearing Big M. and Little M. discussing their evil plan in a public restroom, Smart S. goes to search the stall where he heard them from. They evade him by hiding in the vents.

    Comic Books 
  • In an issue of MAD, Jimmy Olsen goes to the bathroom of the Daily Planet to see if Superman is in there. Notably, there are some Superman boots peering out from the bottom of one stall.
  • In the The Punisher storyline The Punisher: Suicide Run, a bunch of mafia mooks hide in the bathroom. The Punisher is not sure which stall contains what, so he shoots through all of them.

    Fan Works 
  • In the second chapter of Not the intended use (Zantetsuken Reverse), Soma Cruz is cornered in a bathroom after accidentally destroying Daisuke's lunch. Daisuke breaks down each of the stalls, much to the bemusement of the occupants, until Naoki shouts at him to stop. Soma was using mirror magic to hide in the world of the mirror.

    Film — Animation 
  • Monsters, Inc., when Mike, Sulley and Boo are hiding from Randall. He punches them open one by one, and Sully flinches as every door opens. Randall actually slams open the stall the trio is hiding in, but isn't looking at the time. Momentum closes the door before Randall can see them.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 9 to 5: Happens during an Imagine Spot.
  • In Air Force One, while he's being pursued by the terrorists through the plane's passenger levels, the President hides in the bathroom section. The terrorists then shoot up each stall and check each door, only to find they're empty. Turns out the President used a different method to evade them.
  • The American Astronaut has Sam hide in a bathroom stall from a pair of men after him. The two forego individually opening the stalls to sing the number "Hey Boy", then kick in his stall's door and photograph him.
  • The first Black Cat film have Cat escaping into a courthouse washroom, while an assassin searches the stalls for her. The assassin then realize one of the stall's toilets doesn't have a lid - cue Cat coming up behind him and using the lid to smash his brains out.
  • Cast a Deadly Spell: As Mickey is trying to escape Tugwell in the train station, he goes into the bathroom and tries to hide in the last stall. Tugwell uses a magic spell that lights a fiery trail to him and blows him out of the stall.
  • The officer accompanying Dr. Hudson does this before she goes to ladies room in the prologue of Copycat. However, he is fooled by Daryll Lee Cullum having rolled his pants legs and wearing high heels (and seemingly having shaved his legs).
  • Dance of the Dead: The surviving prom-goers are found hiding in the bathroom stalls.
  • Edge of Darkness: Craven is being followed, and to lose his tails he goes into a highway rest stop bathroom. A moment later the tails enter the bathroom and search the stalls, only to discover that Craven has escaped out a window and lost them.
  • Detective Arrosio does this when he hunts for the killer, having almost put the pieces together, in the bathroom at the train station in Four Flies on Grey Velvet so eager to solve the case that he reverses the usual roles. It ends badly for him.
  • Jack Carter (Michael Caine) does this in the toilets in the dancehall in Newcastle while looking for the weaselly Thorpy (Frank Windsor) in Get Carter; Thorpy is not pleased to be found.
  • High School Musical used this to show us how Gabriella was able to turn invisible. Seriously: Sharpay hears her singing in the loo, sees nobody, checks out the stalls, kicks the lone closed-yet-vacant stall open, then spies herself in the mirror and leaves. Gabriella then reveals that she was behind the entrance wall (beside the basins). In a place Sharpay looked. True, we don't actually see Gabriella's hiding place (so she could very well have been under the basins), but the way it's played makes us wonder why she doesn't slip out while Sharpay's back was turned.
  • The Initiation: When Alison gets spooked and goes looking for Andy, she enters the men's room and starts pushing open the doors of the stalls one by one. She finds Andy propped up in one of the stalls with his throat slashed.
  • Max Payne: Max Payne does this using his gun, to an awesome effect.
  • In New Town Killers, Alistair and Jamie do this when the Tracking Device they planted on Sean tells them he is hiding in toilet of the nightclub.
  • One Crazy Summer: The leader of a biker gang opens each stall and finds the person he was looking for in the last one.
  • In Problem Child 2, Trixie hides in the bathroom and stands on the toilet seats so her feet don't show. Junior looks underneath each stall and doesn't see her feet, but he isn't fooled.
  • Lash in Sky High (2005) searches the stalls for Ethan. When he finally finds the stall he was hiding in, it seems as though he flushed himself, which Lash finds in disbelief, considering he and Speed regularly give him swirlies, but Ethan surprises Lash from behind and kicks his head into the toilet, giving him the ultimate swirlie.
    Ethan: Sucks for you!
  • In The Sting, Johnny Hooker is trying to escape a hit man trying to kill him. He goes into a restroom to hide. The hitman enters and starts opening doors to find him. He gets to the last stall and realizes there's a woman inside. He figures Hooker went out the window and does the same. It turns out Hooker was inside the stall with the woman — she was helping him.
  • The Tripper: When Frank Baker is fleeing from the killer, he hides in one of a row of portable toilets. The killer moves along the row, opening each door as as he comes to it. However, he is distracted by a patron exiting one of the other toilets before he gets to Frank's.
  • True Lies: Tasker hides from a gun-wielding terrorist inside a bathroom stall. The terrorist hoses down the stalls with his machine gun, and begins opening each stall. Before he gets to Tasker's hiding place, Tasker bursts out of his stall and escapes.
  • In Pink Floyd's The Wall, Pink is found hiding in a bathroom stall after the Hammers overrun England.
  • The Warriors. The Punks follow the Warriors into the public toilet at Union Station, lining up to kick all the stalls open at the same time. The Warriors open the doors first and a Bathroom Brawl ensues.
  • Witness: Amish boy Samuel Lapp, who is hiding in a toilet cubicle after witnessing a murder, crawls underneath the wall to the neighboring cubicle by the time the killer (who is kicking the cubicle doors open) gets to his cubicle. Samuel reaches and grabs his hat just as the killer opens the door.
  • Zombieland: Our hero has to relieve himself and to be on the safe side, he searches each stall in the bathroom before doing so.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica: This situation occurs during a hostage crisis in season 2, at least, until Lee Adama jumps the guy supposedly hunting him from behind.
  • CSI: Miami: In "See No Evil", a blind man is public bathroom overhears an abduction taking place. The blind man accidentally makes a noise that the kidnapper hears and hides in a stall. The kidnapper then pushes open all of the stall doors till he finds the blind man. On discovering he is blind, he decides to leave him alive.
  • Doctor Who: In "Partners in Crime", it turns out that the bad guys are actually searching for a different person, also a spy, who happens to be in the stall next to Donna's.
  • ER. Pratt goes into the bathroom and overhears incompetent resident Morris on the phone with someone who he's asking for information and promptly goes ballistic.
  • Law & Order: UK: While pursuing a suspect through Waterloo Station, DS Matt Devlin realizes he must have fled into the bathroom to hide. Sure enough, he searches the stalls till he gets to the one that won't open and realizes the guy must be in there.
  • M.I. High: One of Colt Winchester's henchmen does this while searching for Frank in the deserted school in "Dark Star". Figuring Frank must be in the last stall, he burst in. Frank is actually hiding behind the bathroom door and has rigged the toilet to blow up in the mook's face.
  • Mr. Bean winds up with someone else's trousers. They're too short, so he goes looking for the person who got his trousers by mistake. He finally spots them in a bathroom stall. Of course, being Mr. Bean, explaining the mix-up and asking politely for his pants back is apparently not an option.
  • Nowhere Man. In "Marathon", Thomas Veil is investigating a suspicious office building, and as a pretext for checking the place out asks the receptionist to show him where the men's room is. Just when they get there a squad of assassins burst in and start killing everyone. He drags the receptionist into the toilet to hide, but a mook with a submachine gun starts checking the stalls. Fortunately he's asked to help check the upper floors before he can kick open the last stall, so the mook just takes a quick peek underneath to check no-one's there, and Veil and the receptionist are sitting with their feet up so aren't seen.
  • The Secret World of Alex Mack: Alex Mack once avoided detection this way, when her stall was opened for examination, she had liquefied and hid in the toilet bowl.
  • The Sentinel Blair is in the stalls when the terrorists take over the building. As the searcher is about to open his stall, Blair grabs the walls, pulls himself up, and kicks the door as hard as he can. Knocks the terrorist out cold. (Later in the same episode he's hiding behind a vending machine and tips it over on another terrorist, squashing him flat.)
  • Molly and Mia do this in a You're Skitting Me sketch about why girls go to the bathroom in pairs. It turns out it's because of the risk of a ninja attack.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • There's a Japanese Urban Legend about Hanako of the Toilet, the ghost of a schoolgirl murdered in a bathroom stall who kills anyone who happens to be using that particular toilet. According to the story, if one is unfortunate enough to be using that stall, they'll hear Hanako herself checking each stall, giggling to herself "No one in here," until she finds the victim. Then she kills them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Burgle Bros. the Lavatory tile starts with 3 Stealth tokens. When a character is in the Lavatory when a guard enters (or vice versa), a Stealth token from the Lavatory tile is lost in lieu of the character losing a Stealth token. This represents the character hiding in one of the stalls of the Lavatory.

    Video Games 
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Players can hide in Portajohns to avoid detection by the enemy. Thus, shooting the toilets to ferret out opposing players is a common tactic. However, the hiders can also shoot back; a clever player with a powerful gun like the AWP is capable of actually killing you first, leading to a surreal inversion of the trope.
  • In the first level of Duke Nukem 3D, if you check the bathroom stalls in the movie theater you'll find one enemy trooper taking a crap.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV has a mission where a guy you're chasing runs in the bathroom. You have to open stall by stall to get him.
  • In Life Is Strange, Chloe checks the bathroom stalls to see if anybody was there to overhear her talk with Nathan. However, she Failed a Spot Check and missed Max hiding in the janitor space at the end.
  • In The Lost Crown, you can have Nigel search the bathroom stalls in the museum basement. He won't find anyone when he looks, but when he's facing away, you can spot young Verity standing in one of them: when you're a ghost, option #2 (remaining unseen) is easy to achieve.
  • The Punisher (2005): A male mook sometimes will try to hide in the women's restroom (at Central Park Zoo). Doesn't work out, as Frank can explicitly drown him in the toilet. That's going to give a tourist a scare.
  • In the first stage of Revolution X, you have to pick the right bathroom and check the stalls in order to find Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton. Other stalls may randomly have enemies sitting on their toilets.
  • In The Walking Dead, Michelle searched for Clementine and ordered her to come out with her own gun.
  • In Prey (2017), Morgan can do this with the many, many bathrooms aboard Talos 1, hunting for mimics in hiding. Every stall is empty, except for ONE that has a poltergeist in it.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Smosh Babies episode, "Potty Training", when Ian starts to suspect that Anthony is acting weird, he follows him into the bathroom and searches each stall for him. When he reaches the last one, he is shocked to find Anthony using the toilet.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • "King-Size Homer". To paraphrase, "I've never seen anyone so desperate to avoid ten minutes of calisthenics".
    • In "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", the soldiers search the port-o-lets for Bob, but only find Grandpa. (Who tells them, "This elevator only goes to the basement. And someone made an awful mess down there.")
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Karate Choppers", SpongeBob is told by Squidward to clean the stalls. Since he and Sandy are obsessed with karate, SpongeBob searches each stall for Sandy. When he finds what he thinks is her, it is revealed to be Mr. Krabs, who has had enough of SpongeBob's karate, and tells him that if he catches him doing it again, he will be fired.
  • The Venture Brothers: Brock is looking for Phantom Limb inside a bathroom. He begins searching each stall, encountering a different villain in each one, before finding his target.

Alternative Title(s): Stalling For Time, Hiding In A Bathroom Stall


Restaurant bathroom brawl

Shawn wants to search Gus's fiancee's purse. A battle for the bag ensues.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BathroomBrawl

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