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Talk About That Thing

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"About this blank piece of paper..."
Mr. Starchman, Paranatural

A type of Room Shuffle where a character wants to talk with another character in private, so comes up with some random excuse for the two of them to leave the room together, usually just stepping into a hallway or a bathroom or something for a minute or two.

The excuse may range from completely vague ("Hey Jimmy, we need to talk about that thing? Remember? That thing?") to oddly specific ("Say Jimmy, didn't you want me to show you my walk-in closet?")

About one in three times, the second character will totally miss the point. "What are you talking about? I've seen your closet like a million times." "Not since I painted it. You said you wanted to see it now that it's painted, right?" "I don't remember saying that..."

Bonus points if the person in question deliberately misses the point because he simply is a Deadpan Snarker and either just wants to mess with the asker for a bit or in fact really doesn't want to talk about it. That doesn't happen often, though.

Contrast with Take Five, where the extra character is sent out of the room, and Talk About the Weather, where they can't get away and use innocuous talk about the weather instead. If "that thing" is something like "where do babies come from", you'll be talking about in sexual euphemisms instead. Compare I Need to Go Iron My Dog, where only one person needs an excuse to leave the room.

(Contrary to the title, these conversations rarely involve Marvel Super Hero and Fantastic Four member Ben Grimm, or a certain member of The Addams Family, or the creature from John Carpenter's classic horror film, or the blue-haired troublemakers in Dr. Seuss' The Cat In The Hat.)


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tohsaka to Shirou at one point in Fate/stay night involving Archer. He just tried killing Shirou the night before and the incident was creating a bit of an awkward mood. Shirou didn't notice and just sat around chatting like always and rather failed to understand that Tohsaka was trying to get the conversation to end so things could go back to normal.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, Mion, in order to get Keiichi away from Rena to talk to him privately, says that she was going to lend him some manga.
  • In Bakuman。, Takaagi meets with Miyoshi's father to discuss marrying her and mentions Mashito's uncle. Miyoshi's father, who was friends with Mashiro's uncle and was in love with the same woman, has Takagi call Mashiro over, supposedly wanting to challenge him to a sparring match, but instead has them go to a restaurant to talk about it without his wife and daughter hearing.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, when Hayate is hospitalized as a result of the Book of Darkness draining more of her life, Dr. Ishida calls Signum and Shamal, the two members of Hayate's family who are privy to the less pleasant news about her condition, from her hospital room to the hallway to ask them a few questions and inform them she will have to be hospitalized for the time being.
  • In Naruto, after Sakura's injuries force her to stop pursuing Orochimaru, Yamato orders the team to stop because of Sakura's importance as The Medic. He then tells Naruto to come with him, supposedly to discuss new strategies now that Sai, Naruto's partner for tactical purposes, has betrayed them. As soon as they're out of earshot, Yamato tells Naruto that he was responsible for injuring Sakura while under the fox's control, and that if he wants to rescue Sasuke, he must do so with his own power.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used in Miss Congeniality. Since the person using it is an FBI agent, you'd think he'd be slightly more inventive.

  • Used by Hermione in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as an excuse to get herself, Harry, and Ron out of the room before Mrs. Weasley blows up at Fred and George. Mrs. Weasley allows it... but goes for the block when Fred and George try to tag along.
  • Documentarian Hallis Saper uses the more-specific variant in Starfighters of Adumar to get the four New Republic pilots out of a bugged room onto a balcony she knows isn't bugged. For the benefit of the listening devices, she uses the excuse of having seen someone tampering with the X-wings on that balcony.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Named for the Keatons' repeated invocation of "the thing" in an episode of Family Ties. In one such invocation, they even worked in a mention to the movie The Thing (1982).
  • Also "You know, the thing...", a very common line in The West Wing.
    • Another version: Abby's exchange with the President asking him if he wants a glass of water after his election victory speech. When she ends with "you can hold it in you hand," the President realizes she was referring to his MS episode.
    • Occasionally, it will be "Will you please excuse us? So-and-so and I want to talk about old times." Also, "I'd like you to meet an old friend."
  • Used to hilarious effect in the Sports Night episode "Shoe Money Tonight", where it somewhat subverts its author's usual preference for Walk and Talk:
    Jeremy: I'm just gonna run to the bathroom. You wanna come with me to the bathroom, Dan?
    Dan: Why, no, Jeremy, I don't.
    Jeremy: You don't want to step outside with me and talk on our way to the bathroom?
    Dan: (beat) Sure.
    Jeremy: (addressing the room) We're just stepping out and going to the bathroom.
    (Dan and Jeremy move outside.)
    Jeremy: I didn't really have to go to the bathroom.
    Dan: (wryly) Really?
    Jeremy: I just wanted to talk.
    Dan: (wryly) I don't think anyone saw through your clever ruse.
  • The IT Crowd: Upon meeting Jen for the first time, Roy attempts to pretend that he and Moss were having a high-brow conversation about Tolstoy. Unfortunately, Moss isn't quite as sharp as Roy:
    Moss: I don't remember this conversation at all!
    [gets hit by thrown object]
    Moss: Why are you giving me the secret signal to shut up?
  • Bottom: Richie wishes Eddie to join him in the pub toilets to purchase condoms. Eddie doesn't immediately follow along. So Richie's brilliant idea for alerting him is to shout "Edward Hitler, will you please join me in the lavatory this instant!" — in front of everyone in the pub. Naturally, this has got everyone's attention, so Richie's brilliant excuse to explain his eagerness to see Eddie in the toilets? "We're toilet inspectors."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The show overdoes this to the point of subversion, such as when Xander and Cordelia are looking for an excuse to go and make out.
      Cordelia: [about someone no one else in the episode has registered as in danger] Well, his body could fall out of a closet somewhere. So we should check out some closets to see if he's in a closet?
      Xander: You're right. There could be a closet. Let's go.
    • Then there's the thing where Buffy wants to back out of having group fun with her mom's new boyfriend Ted:
      Buffy: We were gonna do that... thing.
      Willow: ...oh, right. That thing!
      Xander: Hey. We can do that thing anytime. I'm tired of doing that thing! We're on!
    • In "Blood Ties", Xander is trying to get Anya out of the room to stop her from giving away to Dawn that she's the Key.
      Xander: Anya, you wanna help me with that thing?
      Anya: Xander needs help with his thing!
    • In the Angel spin-off, Detective Kate Lockley is naturally reluctant to discuss demons or vampires in front of her police colleagues, so suggests they use this trope instead. Hilarity Ensues when they get confused over which "thing" they're talking about.
      Angel: It’s just that the ah, Evil Thing—turns out it wasn’t an evil Thing.
      Kate: The evil thing wasn’t an Evil Thing?
      Angel: Well, it was an Evil Thing in terms of that word. It just wasn’t an evil Evil Thing.
      Kate: There are Not Evil Evil Things?
      Angel: Well—yeah.
  • Used on the Saturday Night Live recurring skit "Coffee Talk." The lead, a heavily stylized Jewish lady would get choked up and stall for time by saying, "Talk amongst yourselves. Here, I'll give you a topic—; discuss!"
  • Frasier:
    • "Niles/Daphne/Dad, can you help me in the kitchen?"
    • In one episode, Frasier gets Martin out of the way by telling him he wants to show him how to set up the closed captioning on his TV. Sounds like a lame excuse to leave, but it's a Call-Back to Roz telling him that she was listening to the television while they were having sex.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two" (S02, Ep22), Bobby asks Sam to looks at his map of demonic omens and then asks Dean to help him lug in some books from his truck. He wants to speak to Dean alone about Sam's resurrection.
  • In the 2006 TV movie Coup!, someone hears one of their less-than-bright fellow conspirators discussing their impending plot to take over Equatorial Guinea with a 'former' member of British Intelligence at a cocktail party. He interrupts with the 'urgent phonecall' excuse, then tears strips off the man, who's not paying attention because he's wondering why there's no-one on the other end of the phone line.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode King of the Hill, it is revealed that in high school Hank, Dale, and Bill crashed Boomhauer's car into a lake and never told him about it, leaving to assume it was stolen. Years later, Hank discovers that the lake is being drained, and tries to warn Bill and Dale. It's especially awkward since Boomhauer is the only other person present.
    Hank: Uh, Dale? I just remembered that I left my workbench in your basement. I need you and Bill, just you and Bill, to come help me move it back into my basement. (The three leave Boomhauer alone in the alley.)
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Green Isn't Your Color", Fluttershy ends up working with fashion photographer Photo Finish as a model. At one point, Photo Finish interrupts a conversation between Fluttershy and Rarity to remind Fluttershy that they have to go do "the thing at the place," and drags her off. Rather than making an excuse, it just serves to demonstrate that Fluttershy is too busy to be with her friends.
  • In the Adventure Time episode "Ricardio the Heart Guy", when Finn embarrasses himself at a party by loudly denying that he's jealous of Ricardio and Princess Bubblegum ("I'm not jealous, I'm weird!"), Jake drags him away to give him some advice with the excuse "I need you to help slay these peanut monsters at the bar."

Alternative Title(s): Take You Aside Talk