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Wild Card Excuse

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Dad: Say! Where'd you get the nice tank, son?
Timmy: Uhh... internet?

Chester: Killer Crash suit, dude!
A.J: Yeah — wherever did you get it?
Timmy: ...Internet?

Dad: Where did you get heat vision?
Timmy: Internet?
Cosmo: Oh, he's good.

The Wild Card Excuse is a Subtrope of Blatant Lies. It often consists of a Blatant Lie or an excuse that is elevated to a Running Gag in the series.

In a game of cards, a wild card can be played in any situation. The wild card excuse is the same way. Late for class? You hit your head. Acting strange? You hit your head. You were seen lighting things on fire with your mind? You hit your... Okay, you get the point. What matters is that the same excuse is always used, no matter how implausible it is in the given situation.

Compare Blatant Lies, Global Ignorance, Bad Liar, It's for a Book, I Have This Friend. Weirdness Coupon relates to how people react to the perceived wildcard.

Contrast Hurricane of Excuses, Suspiciously Specific Denial. See also Excuse Plot, and the actual Wild Card.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: The usual explanation anytime one of the main characters shows up at school injured is "I fell down the stairs", which everyone immediately sees through.
  • In Case Closed:
    • Conan often blurts out smart observations in a crime scene in front of the grownups. His excuse of knowing this? He watches a lot of television, hiding the fact he's a 17-year-old Teen Genius inside a 7-year-old body.
    • Due to the movies being more action packed then the television series, Shinichi has to come up with an excuse for how a seven-year-old child is able to pull off extreme stunts like piloting a helicopter or using a jet-ski. The answer? His dad taught him in Hawaii.
  • In one of the omakes for The Disastrous Life of Saiki K., the author via the titular Saiki tries to Hand Wave his drawing errors as a result of Saiki's Mind Control ability going out of hand, but eventually admitted the truth at the end.
  • In Fairy Tail, Happy's answer to questions such as "Why are you blue?", "Why can you fly?", or "How come you can talk?" is always "Because I'm a cat!" cheerfully and likely intentionally ignoring the fact that these questions are due to the fact that he is a cat.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: The Mages Hand Wave things like people flying, shooting fireballs, or giant demon mecha with "It's CGI." This one actually makes a little sense: The original Japanese phrase means "special effects," which includes CGI, but also fireworks and other stagecraft. But somebody translated it as CGI by accident, and the other translators thought it was funny enough to keep.
  • The Prince of Tennis: Ryoma's excuse for being late: "I was helping a pregnant woman to the hospital." Called back later when Oishi is late because he actually was helping a pregnant woman to the hospital.
  • School Rumble: "... cause this is the Tea club, after all."
  • Touhou Suzunaan ~ Forbidden Scrollery:
    • In a yonkoma omake Shinmyoumaru Sukuna uses the excuse "It's an effect of the Miracle Mallet" to explain away any weird occurance. A believable enough explanation when inanimate objects begin to move of their own accord, not so very believable when there are tiny bite marks in Reimu's food and Shinmyoumaru's mouth is stuffed.
    • In chapter 34 of Touhou Ibarakasen ~ Wild and Horned Hermit Marisa tries to cheer up Reimu with an exotic meal. When Reimu gets a bit adverse to eating pickled narcissius, Marisa tells her not to worry as she cooked the narcissius for as long as she could in order to get rid of all poison. Then she presents the next meal: Hemlock salad. Complete with telling Reimu not to worry because she cooked out the poisons... from a salad... Either way Reimu looked at that one, it was still a Lethal Chef credential.
  • The World God Only Knows is the Trope Namer, where Elsie frequently tries to excuse Keima's weird behavior by saying he's been playing too many video games, and a caption in chapter 83 "christens" it as it is now.

    Fan Works 
  • Shirou of In Flight, every time someone calls him on anything strange about him. Eventually his flock start completing the sentence for him.
    Shirou: Legacy of a misspent youth.
  • In Oh God, Not Again!, anytime a character asks Harry how he knows seemingly impossible things.
    Harry: My psychic scar told me.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Iron Man: It only comes up once, but Tony Lampshades it when Rhodey asks how he's supposed to explain Tony's first outing as Iron Man, pointing out that the military uses "training exercise" for anything they can't or don't want to explain. Rhodey protests that it's not true. Cue Gilligan Cut to the press conference where he announces just that.

  • Discworld:
    • In Interesting Times, Rincewind visits the Agatean Empire, where foreigners are routinely executed. He's advised to tell anyone who gets suspicious that he's from Bes Pelargic, an Agatean town looked down on by everyone else for being a bit weird.
    • Likewise, when the Patrician, Nobby and Colon are undercover as Klatchians in Jingo, Sgt Colon is explained as being from Ur, a town proverbial for stupidity. Every time someone gets suspicious about him (he doesn't know what a minaret is, he's unfamiliar with couscous, he's surprised by a flying carpet), the Patrician deftly turns it into an Ur joke, and everyone laughs and relaxes. Colon did it by accident the first time, when after claiming he spoke Klatchian he's called out on it by a couple of locals who ask where he's from, and while trying to think, he says "Er..."
  • In Everworld the characters often pretend to be traveling minstrels as a cover for the fact that they're from an alternate dimension
  • Terry Pratchett parodied this one in the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy.
    A project. If Saddam Hussein had said he was doing a project on Kuwait, the Gulf War might never have happened.
  • Tortall Universe: In the first book of the Song of the Lioness series, Alanna always uses "I fell down" to explain her black eyes, and broken bones, and other conspicuous injuries obviously gotten from fighting. This is Justified in that this is the traditional response for brawling pages. Later on, in Protector of the Small Kel upholds the tradition after each fight she gets into with the other pages.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: When Coulson needs to hold off the local army for long enough for May to rescue the special forces squad sent in to contain a situation, he briefly mutters to himself over whether to go with nuclear or biological, before settling on biological. "Biological always works."
    Coulson: You can't go in there! There's been a biological weapons release! Bad, flesh-eating stuff. Deal went bad with the Russians.
    Commander: Did you say biological?
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer mostly averted this, our heroes generally coming up with new, individualized (if implausible) excuses each time. On the other hand, Sunnydale's police department (when not suffering from Sunnydale Syndrome) usually covered up monster attacks by explaining that it was "gangs on PCP".
  • Chuck tends to explain away everything as the effects of Sarah having a spastic colon, even if said excuse makes no sense whatsoever.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A variation, the question being "Who are you?" and the answer being "I'm the Doctor," rarely yielding any further questions. There are sometimes further questions (hence the show's name), but very rarely answers, at least none that are directly relevant.
    • In "The Day of the Doctor", a conversation reveals that UNIT's go-to excuse for weird happenings is to say that Derren Brown did it.
      Kate Stewart: So what's our cover story?
      Osgood: Derren Brown.
      Kate: Again?
      Osgood: We've sent him flowers.
  • Fawlty Towers - Manuel being from Barcelona. It explains his bad English. It fails to explain anything else.
  • Firefly: According to Officer Harkin, "Reavers did it" is a popular but ineffective criminal defense. Though Harkin doesn't believe that Reavers are real to begin with.
  • On Lost, mentioning Canada is always a clue that the speaker is lying. Fugitive Kate tells Ray she's Canadian. Ethan claims to be from Ontario. The Others believe Bonnie and Greta are on assignment in Canada, not jamming signals in the Looking Glass Station. In "The Other 48 Days", Nathan tells Ana-Lucia he's from Canada, which is probably true, but the audience is meant to think it's a lie because Ethan said the same thing.
  • Kelly Kapoor in the American version of The Office has a melodramatic wild card up her sleeve:
    Michael: You cannot say "I was raped" and expect all your problems to go away Kelly, not again. Don't keep doing that.
  • Quite often the males of Rescue Special Ops use this. Jordan and Chase offer to help two women move into their new apartment in hopes of getting a date out of them, they just happen to be using the Rescue car and use the excuse that they are going to get the tyres checked out. When Vince finds out he ropes the guys into helping him move his own furniture on their weekend off effectively making their plan Failure Is the Only Option as they don't even get the women.
  • Saturday Night Live - The Coneheads handwave their weirdness by claiming to be from France.
  • One episode of Scrubs had Jordan repeatedly justifying her Jerkass tendencies with "My parents were mean to me". Everyone immediately accepts this as a sufficient explanation. At one point she even says it out loud in response to something she was merely thinking. And of course, it turns out to be a lie anyway.
  • In Sliders, whenever the team lands on a new world and has to explain why they don't know what's going on, they use the excuse "We're from Canada." We've hardly ever seen it fail. Although one time they had to pretend to be illegal immigrants from Canada the entire episode, who had snuck south into Mexico for work (thanks to the non-existence of America in the middle, and Mexico ending up with California).
  • Used often in Smallville during the earlier seasons, when any questions Clark Kent was asked about his interest in the caves or any Native American symbols that were related to his Kryptonian heritage were met with "It's for a term paper" — to the point where Lex Luthor himself actually lampshades it later. What makes it doubly strange is that he had a perfectly reasonable excuse: his dead girlfriend died to protect the caves, and he is trying to honor her memory by learning as much about them as possible. He uses this excuse all of once, and Lex actually buys it.
  • On Stargate SG-1, Jack O'Neill, who was very poor at keeping up with the show's Technobabble, tended to explain any and all unknown phenomena as simply the work of "magnets".
  • Supernatural has a minor variation: The brothers have fake identities every case (FBI agents, doctors, etc), and stick with that for the entirety of the episode—which makes sense, considering they're stuck in a small town. This has led to truly ridiculous claims, such as managing to get everything for a case by being health inspectors.
    Naked Woman: Wh-what are you and that kid doing in the women's showers?
    Sam: Don't worry, ma'am. I'm with the health department.
  • Veronica Mars: "It's a project for health class" seems to be Veronica's go to excuse to slip all kinds of stuff past her dad.
  • The X-Files: In "Bad Blood": "We were drugged."

    Video Games 
  • Near the beginning of Final Fantasy X, Tidus learns to say "I got too close to Sin's toxin" (which is known to cause confusion and memory loss) to cover for his ignorance of life in Spira. Tidus mentions in his narration that it's "funny, and a little sad" that he has to keep relying on this excuse over and over.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: In Endwalker, the Warrior of Light time travels to a time before the world and its people were Sundered into fourteen parallel universes. Their unsundered incarnation at this point in time was Azem, an important member of the Ancients' ruling council who's infamous for their weird antics. Thus, the Warrior of Light learns to excuse their strange behavior, abnormally small aether reserves (compared to the Ancients), and the similarity of their souls by claiming to be a familiar created by Azem.
  • In Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don't Dry, whenever Larry is confronted for anything, a possible dialogue option is "It was dark and I'd been drinking!" Since this excuse has nothing to do with what he got in trouble for the first time, one wonders why he's so fond of that line in particular.
  • Yes, Your Grace: Asalia's friend Maya claims to be the daughter of traveling merchants to explain anything unusual about her, even when the evidence points towards her parents actually being part of an invading army.

    Visual Novels 

  • Kubera: The disguised Fire God Agni attributes anything that endangers his secret to his jacket. Including his survival of Kubera's Megaton Punch and spontaneous combustion.
  • One-Punch Man: King's standard excuse for not being somewhere is that he was fighting monsters/raiding monster lairs. He's telling the truth, in a way - he's a hardcore video gamer, and said monsters/lairs were in an RPG.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: When Krieger is caught doing one of his weird science experiments, he'll claim he's not really there and it's a hologram programmed to take his place. Although this is slightly plausible, given that his wife is a hologram.
  • The Fairly OddParents! has a Running Gag in the early episodes where a character will ask Timmy where he got his wished-for stuff from and get the quick response "Internet". See also the page quote.
    • In one episode, while trying to explain why he was suddenly rich, he tried both an inheritance claim, and the usual claim, before settling on "I inherited the Internet!".
    • The peak is him claiming that his Superman-esque HEAT VISION is from the Internet... before the Internet existed.
    • It finally breaks down when Timmy's Dad asks him where he got the Internet from, at which point Timmy is reduced to stammering. In this particular case, Timmy's parents were suspicious of him because he recently wished for a bunch of things that were reported stolen on the news. When Timmy tries to prove his innocence later, the usual excuse breaks down again because he hooked himself up to a lie detector and they asked where the lie detector came from. At the end of the episode, when Timmy is proven innocent, the usual excuse works again.
    • Interestingly, one of the earliest uses of the gag was a subversion: Vicky asks where Mr. and Mrs Turner bought a Priceless Ming Vase for almost nothing and "the internet" was the apparently-truthful answer. Which might explain why they're so willing to believe it as a lie.
  • Invader Zim runs through all the popular UFO denials, including GIR as a robot Man in Black claiming that Zim, a squishy green humanoid with red eyes and antennae, is an "experimental government aircraft".
    UFO Cult Leader: That's an aircraft?
    Zim: Fool! What else could I be?!
  • Johnny Test: Dukey the speaking dog is always "a kid with a rare hair disorder".
  • In the "Knifin' Around" episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast featuring Thom Yorke from Radiohead, Space Ghost takes a break from the interview to discretely reveal to his director, Moltar, the fact that he has illegally copied Radiohead CDs. When Yorke appears to be listening in, Space Ghost covers by saying, "Don't look at me... we're talking about dragons!"
  • Subverted in a promo for the 4Kids dub of Winx Club: The troll who starts the series as the henchman of The Trix is being interviewed about his many losses to the Winx girls. His excuse each time is he wasn't wearing his glassesnote , at least until the last time when he blurts out how much better the girls are than him before switching back to the glasses excuse.

    Real Life 
  • Weather balloons have bit of notoriety amongst UFO enthusiasts as it's probably the most often used explanation ever for UFO sightings, even against the testimony of people who claimed to have flown next to it.
    • It doesn't help that during the Cold War there really was an Air Force project focused on what were basically highly secret weather balloons (it involved detecting hidden nuclear testing by sending devices to record low-frequency sounds high in the atmosphere), and that the Air Force took a while getting the hang of covering up the project's existence. While the convenient public perception that they were really covering up alien contacts evidently came about by incompetence rather than planning, the result worked... and the connection stuck around.
    • There's a humorous picture floating around the internet with various aircraft profiles (some real, some imagined, and some from media) and the "official" USAF explanation for them. (The one that actually looks like a balloon is labeled "Swamp Gas", another notoriously frequent explanation for UFO sightings.)
  • A perennial joke among archaeologists is that any artifact you can't identify is a "ritual item". This one even got used by Overly Sarcastic Productions' video about H. P. Lovecraft. Biologists have a similar joke, that any external characteristics you can't identify are sexual displays.

Alternative Title(s): Universal Excuse