Dr. Franklin: Boxes.
Marcus: ...Right. I spy something beginning with "M"!
Dr. Franklin: More boxes.
Marcus: ...Right again.
Dr. Franklin: And that's when I shot him, Your Honor...
Whenever characters play "I Spy" or similar guessing games, it means two things:
- Inevitably, they're really bored.
- Frequently, they're in a Void Between the Worlds with only one thing in it, or otherwise in a place full of many instances of the same thing, making the game trivial.
If The Ditz is on board, expect whatever he's spying to start with a letter other than the one he says, much to the annoyance of everyone else.
- In an episode of Transformers: Car Robots, the Car Robot brothers play this while they are stranded underwater.
- In the English dub of episode 30 of Shaman King, Rio and Horohoro play I Spy whist Lyserg leads the gang through the desert.
Rio: Now it is my turn, I spy something brown.
Horohoro: Is it... a rock?
Rio: Hey you guessed it! And on the first try!
Horohoro: My go! I spy something orange.
Rio: Is it by any chance a rock?
Horohoro: Hey! How did you know dude?
Rio: Okay, I spy something red.
Horohoro: Let me guess, a rock?
Len: Enough! We get it! The scenery doesn't change much.
Horohoro: The scenery doesn't change EVER!
- It shows up in Cerebus the Aardvark, but the earth-pig born has no patience for it.
Lord Julius: I spy with my little eye, something that is purple.
Cerebus: Extensive bruising about your head and shoulders if you try to keep playing idiot games.
- Twice in this chapter of The Tale of Westala and Villtin.
- The Ed Of The World: While the kids are in Ed's basement, Edd asks what to do to pass the time. Eddy suggests I Spy. Kevin calls it lame and Nazz calls it childish. Jimmy, however, would be satisfied with the game. The kids then reluctantly agree with him. The following sequence then occurs:
Edd: [Sighs] I'll go first. I spy with my little eye something... blue.
[The kids all murmur to each other.]
Nazz: Rolf's hair?
Edd: Yes! [To himself] Can this day get any worse?
- In Bring Me All Your Elderly!, there's a sequence where Toph and Suki are waiting while Sokka teaches his movie counterpart sarcasm. Suki suggests I Spy to pass the time, but...
Toph: I'll give you three seconds to figure out why that was the dumbest thing you have ever said.Suki: Oh, right... Sorry.
- In Doubling Down, the Iron Bull gets his pals to play "I Spy" while in the massive desert region of the Hissing Wastes. When he says that he spies something that starts with S, another character is quick to warn him that the answer had better not be "sand."
- Those Two Moose in Brother Bear do this while they're riding the mammoth herd:
Rutt: Wanna play "I Spy?"
Tuke: Okay. I spy something...green.
Rutt: Tree? Okay, my turn. I spy something...tall.
Tuke: Tree. I spy something...with bark—
Rutt: Tree. Okay, I spy something, uh...a vertical log—
Tuke: Tree. Okay, I spy some—
Rutt: Tree. Okay, my turn—
Rutt: Hey, I didn't spy anything!
Tuke: It counts!
Rutt: Oh, okay. Tree.
Tuke: Ugh, let's play something else.
- In Balto, the characters are walking through a vast snow field, and one of them says, "I spy with my little eye something beginning with S."
- Dory attempts to play this with Marlin in Finding Nemo. He's... less than enthusiastic about it. Especially since he's the only thing around to "spy", as they're swimming through blankly open ocean. And, of course, Dory's short-term memory loss doesn't help anything.
Dory: I'm thinking of something orange... and it's small...
Marlin: It's me.
Dory: Right! Okay, orange... and, uh, small...
Marlin: It's me.
Dory: Right! Oh hey, Mister Smarty-Pants! [some time later] Okay, orange and small... and white stripes...
Marlin: [annoyed] It's me. And the next one, just a guess: Me.
Dory: Okay, that's just scary.
- Toyed with in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, where the main characters fall into what is effectively a bottomless pit. And play 20 Questions:
Bill: Are you a mineral?
Bill: ...Ted? Are you a tank?
- Featured in the first movie adaptation of Children of the Corn (1984), when a young married couple drives through middle-of-nowheresville, Nebraska:
Burt: I spy, with my lttle eye, something that starts with C.
- Averted in Jeepers Creepers, in which the siblings' vanity-plate-decryption highway game actually becomes relevant to the plot when they try it on the menacing vehicles. No, it's not "Beating You"...
- Ocean's Eleven also had the 20 questions version with the Mormon twins.
Turk: (continuing an obnoxious conversation about whether he's thought of something yet) Okay, just ask your questions.
Virgil: Are you a man?
Turk: Yes, nineteen.
Virgil: Are you alive?
Turk: Yes, eighteen.
Virgil: Evel Knievel.
- In Spice World, Ginger tries to play "I spy with my bionic eye" while waiting for their friend's baby to be delivered. "Something beginning with H" is- what else- "hospital."
- A deleted scene from Stardust has the royal ghosts playing during a ride. "Something beginning with R" is all too often "ribcage."
"Then it wouldn't be called I Spy, would it? It'd be, I Can Randomly Think of Something."
- On UHF, Stanley tries to play a similar game with the thugs who kidnapped him. While blindfolded.
Stanley: I'm thinking of something orange! Something orange... Give up? It's an orange!
- An Ungentlemanly Act (1992). Governor Hunt's children do this to keep a Stiff Upper Lip after they see the building where their father is being hit by tracer fire and grenade explosions.
"I spy with my little eye, something beginning with A."
- Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts. In "Alone", a synthetic left alone on an abandoned and deteriorating spacecraft has resorted to counting the rivets on the bulkheads. She sees that there are two more than in the technical specs and makes a note to tell someone when she gets home.
- Q, Ben, Radar, and Lacy play metaphysical eye spy on the road trip in Paper Towns. They're definitely bored, but the "metaphysical" part stops it from being trivial.
- Wallace & Gromit: Cheese Lover's Yearbook contains an extremely rainy caravan holiday, during which the duo spend all of one day playing I Spy...according to Gromit's typewritten notes, "R for rain featured regularly." (The next day is apparently even duller, since the entry for that day gives a precise count of the number of flowers on the caravan's wallpaper.)
- In Dinoverse Janine and Canadayce play this while on the long trek to try and find the boys. They've managed to put aside most of their enmity, but lots of the other things they could talk about still result in bristling on either side, so... I spy, with my little eye...
- Future Monty Python members John Cleese and Graham Chapman do it in this bit of How To Irritate People, about 30 seconds in.
- While in hiding aboard a freighter on their way to Mars on Babylon 5, Marcus takes an increasingly frustrated Franklin through B for "boxes", M for "more boxes", and E for "even more boxes". Franklin is heard to mutter, "'And that's when I shot him, Your Honour'."
- Blackadder Goes Forth has a scene like this:
Blackadder: I spy with my bored little eye something beginning with 'T'.
Baldrick: Breakfast! My breakfast always begins with tea.
George: I spy with my litle eye something beginning with 'R'.
Blackadder: For God's sake, Baldrick! 'army' starts with an 'A'. He's looking for something that starts with an 'R'. RRRrrrrr!
Blackadder: What begins with 'come here' and ends with 'ow'?
Baldrick: I don't know.
Blackadder: Come here. (punches him)
- The episode of The Goodies where they're sealed inside a block of concrete.
- In the Top Gear Polar Special, Jeremy and James do this while driving through the ice.
James: I spy with my little eye something beginning with...'S'.
Jeremy: I spy with my little eye something beginning with...'S'.
James: I spy with my little eye...
Jeremy: If it's something beginning with 'S', I'm going to kill you.
- In the Doctor Who story "Dragonfire", Mel and Ace play this when bored, in an ice cavern. The word of course is "ice". By the time the Doctor returns, Ace has spotted something beginning with 'M'. We don't find out what it is, but it's probably "more ice" (or possibly "Mel").
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In a variation, Spike and Harmony play twenty questions. First question: is it bigger than a breadbox? Second question: is it smaller than a breadbox? It was a sodding breadbox.
- Also this gem, when Resident Badass and Resident Nerd were trapped in a empty room:
Andrew: I spy with my little eye something that begins with a T.
Andrew: Hey, good one. How did you?
Spike: Tapestry's the only thing in the whole bloody room.
- Outnumbered does this in an episode where the family's stuck in the airport; Sue is stupendously bored with the game (she's playing with her 6-year-old daughter Karen, who's coming up with things like 'time') and fails to guess what might start with 'm', whereupon Karen turns and points at a Middle Eastern man shouting "MUSLIM!" at the top of her voice.
- Spitting Image - A pair of Soviet generals watches a parade of tanks going by in Red Square:
General #1: I spy with my little eye something that begins with "t".
General #2: Tank?
General #1: Yes. (after a pause) I spy with my little eye something that begins with "a".
General #2: Another tank?
General #1: Yes. (a bit later) I spy with my little eye something that begins with "y".
General #2: Yet another tank?
- In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj play 20 Questions over dinner, picking characters from sci-fi movies, like C-3PO. When it comes to Sheldon, however, the first question he's asked is if he's Spock. Sheldon immediately declares that he doesn't like the game.
- Hancock's Half Hour: "The Train Journey". Just one of the many ways in which Hancock and Sid try to alleviate the boredom, alienating their fellow passengers in the process.
- In Frasier, Frasier and Niles play while at a basketball game with their father, who is especially annoyed by the "with my little eye" part.
Frasier: I spy with my little eye something that begins with "V".
Niles: [disgusted at what he sees around him] Vagabonds.
Niles: Vienna sausages.
Frasier: Where do you see Vienna sausages?!
Niles: Well, I thought that vendor might have—VENDOR!
- Only Fools and Horses: Del and Rodney do this when stuck in a lift; they come up with "Walls".
- Rik on The Young Ones tried to get the other lads to play Botticelli, a guessing game, but Mike is the only one willing to even try to guess a famous person's name; when it was Rik's turn to guess, Mike made up his famous person rather than use a real one.
- The Ferals indulge in this at one point. Rattus eventually develops his own way of making it more amusing. It involves a cricket bat.
- C'Mon Midffîld. While in prison, the crew play Eye Spy. Naturally, Wali screws it up. (Translated into English)
- Star Trek: Voyager. Stuck in a damaged turbolift in "Year of Hell", Harry and BElanna play a quiz game (most fanfic writers would make them have sex instead, but BElanna has internal injuries). In "Night" she plays Variant Chess with Tom and they end up having a lover's quarrel, because nothing is happening and they've played the game for so long it's become boring as well.
- You'll Have Had Your Tea: The Doings Of Hamish and Dougal, when they're trapped on a broken escalator. With a double Brick Joke.
Hamish: I spy with my little eye, something beginning with "P".
Dougal: Hamish, take your head out from between your knees.
Hamish: Give up? It was "panty-hose". I did get dressed in a hurry!
- Cabin Pressure. The pilot and co-pilot have a lot of time on their hands, and one of the main draws of the series is all the travel games they play, ranging from I Spy to listing all the people named Brian they can think of - and yes, Mr. Blessed is one of the first they can think of. One episode has them flying to Limerick, Ireland, and trying to come up with as many limerick poems as possible.
- ElvenQuest: In series 3, episode 4, Lord Darkness, Kreach and Penthesilea have been locked up in a dungeon and are playing the game. Problem is, the only thing they can see is manacles. And Lord Darkness manages to zone out on that one.
- The News Quiz Series 101 Episode 3, talking about Cabinet ministers not appearing on the Today programme (Radio 4's flagship current affairs show):
Nish Kumar: I don't know if you've heard the show recently; it's just Justin Webb playing I-Spy with Nick Robinson, and the answer is always "microphone".
- In Dragon Age: Origins:
- This priceless exchange is a variant:
Alistair: You know, you never did tell me how you passed the time in that cage for so long.
Sten: No, I didn't.
Alistair: So... what did you do in there?
Sten: A training exercise. I would observe an object and then try to think of all the words in your language which began with the same letter as its name.
Alistair: That... wait. Just wait. You're joking again, aren't you?
Alistair: You are not telling me that you played, "I Spy," against yourself for twenty days.
Sten: There are a lot of things in Lothering that begin with "G".
- A more straight example also occurs:
Alistair: Hmmm... I spy with my little eye, something that begins with... "G."
Sten: Is it a Grey Warden? Is it, in fact, you?
Ailstair: Oooh. You're really good at this.
- This priceless exchange is a variant:
- Operation Flashpoint:
Soldier #1: I spy with my little eye something beginning with... G.
Soldier #2: Gun.
Soldier #1: Er, no, it's not "gun".
Soldier #2: It's "gun", isn't it? I saw you looking at it. Geez, you even cheat at I Spy.
Soldier #1: It's not "gun", it's "jeep".
Soldier #2: "Jeep" doesn't start with G, you meathead!
- Which is a Genius Bonus, as "jeep" is a phonetic rendition of GP, which means Government Purpose or General Purpose, the official designation of the jeep.
- In Prince of Persia (2008), if you talk to the princess enough you play I Spy with her. She's not impressed.
The Prince: S.
Elika: Are we still playing that?
The Prince: S...
Elika: Fine, I give up.
The Prince: Soulless Follower of Ahriman.
Elika: ...how is it that nobody has killed you yet?
- Second Sight has this in its "Conspiracy" level, where you catch two NSE security guards playing this game.
Guard 1: Elevator?
Guard 2: No.
Guard 1: Exit?
Guard 2: You can't see that from here.
Guard 1: Okay, uh...Energy Field?
Guard 2: That would be EF, not just E.
Guard 1: Extinguisher?
Guard 2: No.
Guard 1: Surely we could pick somewhere better to play?
Guard 2: Keep guessing!
Guard 1: Okay, um...Eeeeeediot.
Guard 2: Now there's no need for that.
- While sailing to a previously visited island in My Sims Kingdom, Buddy may play a game of I Spy. One such conversation may be 'B' for 'boat', where Lyndsay points out that all there is to see is boat, sky and ocean. Another is '<player name>' for '<player name>'. He is scared when Lyndsay guesses correctly.
- As this page of Bite Me! illustrates, sometimes the game is trivial no matter how hard you try for advanced technique.
- The Order of the Stick, here.
Roy: Before meeting Elan, I would never have weighted the pro's and con's of being eaten by a dragon.
- These strips of Irregular Webcomic!.
- This strip of Code Name: Hunter; after their boat explodes, Max and Ruby are floating on a piece of wood, along with an unconscious sailor, Roberts.
Ruby: Hmm... I spy with me little eye, something that begins with 'wa'.
Max: It wouldn't be 'water', would it?
Ruby: Now, chief, just because you don't want to play doesn't mean you should spoil it for the rest of us. Right, Roberts?
- Subverted in Cwen's Quest when this is used to deliver a load of snark; the characters are still bored at the time, though.
- Faux Pas: A pair of raccoons have progressed to "even more" and the inevitable "That's when I killed him".
- In Intragalactic, two security-mercenaries play strip-I-Spy on a bank of monochrome security monitors. "Something gray?"
- In the Victorian bonus strip for Narbonic, two alien guards play "I Spy" while guarding the heroes' spaceship.
- In this Footloose strip, Iordain attempts to relieve the boredom of a carriage ride.
- Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic: one of Arachne's prisoners tries to play when in a yoke and facing a plain wall.
- The members of Dead Cell in The Last Days of FOXHOUND give this game a go while awaiting rescue. Unfortunately they're in a very dark, rather deep, featureless holding cell.
- Pete/R2 tries this in this Darths & Droids strip.
- General Protection Fault here.
- Hero Oh Hero opens with this trope.
- Spacetrawler, as Gurf, Pierrot, and Martina are flying towards the G.O.B.:
Gurf: I spy, with my little eye, something small white and tinkly.
Pierrot: [not remotely amused] A star.
Gurf: Nope! That one's a planet.
- The lonelygirl15 episode "On The Run", although they don't make the joke (and we don't find out what the something began with).
- Red vs. Blue.
Grif: I spy something beginning with—
Simmons: (frustrated) Dirt!
Grif: Damn! How did you guess?
Simmons: Well, you said rock last time. And those are the only things out here. Rocks and dirt.
Grif: Yeah. This canyon sucks.
- The Very Secret Diaries had Sauron, who was very bored, playing "I spy with my big-huge-nasty-flaming eye."
- Weebl & Bob:
Weebl: I spy with my sexy eye.... somethings begin with 's'.
Bob: Is it 'sign'?
Weebl: [thinking] Arse Fez!
Weebl: Err... no. no it isn't.
Bob: Yes it is!
Weebl: How you know?
Bob: 'Sign' only word you can spell.
Weebl: I can spell 'beefs' too.
Bob: But you can't see any beefs.
Weebl: I hate being beef blind.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series in the Season 2 episode "Sore." Although, strictly speaking, Yami isn't bored, and he's having an Inner Monologue rather than speaking to anyone.
Yami: I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with "Gay clown."
- In The Lord of the Rings parody One Ring To Rule Them All 2, the hobbits are tied up in Mt. Doom and slowly lowered into the inferno below.
Samwise: "I spy with my little hobbit eyes something that is hot."
Frodo (annoyed): "Is it lava?"
- In The Guild, on the way to a conventation, Zaboo tries to start up a game of "I Spy", but the others, namely Tinkerballa, puts an end to it.
- On American Dad! Steve wants to play a game, but Stan doesn't want to have very much fun. So they play I Spy. It is indeed not very much fun.
Stan: So, kids, wanna play 20 Questions until we die? I'm thinking of a person.
- Used again when the family is trapped in a collapsed cave.
Steve: Ronald Reagan.
- Family Guy in the episode "The Griffin Family History", one segment features Peter's black ancestor Nate Griffin being taken to America on a slave ship:
Nate Griffin: Hey, Quagdingo, wanna play a game?
Nate Griffin: I spy something beige.
Nate Griffin: Yeaahhhh!
- The Simpsons:
- From "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner"
Milhouse: I spy with my little eye, something that begins with D.
Nelson: Dingus! (whacks Milhouse on the head, knocking him out)
Homer: God bless you, Nelson Muntz.
Nelson: I'm no hero. I just like hitting people on the head.
- In "The Girl Who Slept Too Little", Marge uses the "I Spy" phrase to scold Lisa, but Homer believes it's an actual game.
Marge: I spy with my little eye, a girl who's not sleeping in her room like she promised.
Lisa: I know. I'm sorry.
Homer: And I spy with my little eye, something with four legs that can't run.
Marge: Homer, we're not really playing...
Lisa: Oh, is it the chair?
Homer: Exactly! Now, what has two ears but can't hear?
Homer: Tragically, yes.
- From "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner"
- Gravity Falls: In "Bottomless Pit!", Mabel plays this with Soos as they are falling in an endless abyss.
Mabel: I spy with my little eye, something that is black!
Soos: Ooh, ooh, everything.
Mabel: Yay for Soos!
- In the Aardman Animations Greenpeace short "Turtle Journey", when the turtles' migration (which is portrayed as a long family car trip) has been blocked by two massive whales.
Mother Turtle: I spy with my little eye, something beginning with "wuh".
Baby Turtle: Um ... Whelks!
Mother Turtle: So close.