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"Miss Hudson? I hope you understand that this is only the beginning. In a way I feel sorry for you because from now on I'm going to do everything I can to break you down, do you understand? Doctor Fleming made one mistake and you're it. You're the weak link, Miss Hudson. Now you surprised me today because you were strong. But there's always tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and sooner or later you're gonna talk to me. Until you do you're gonna be questioned, you're gonna be followed, and you're gonna be hounded. And Doctor Fleming can't do anything about it. You're on your own, Miss Hudson, and I'm gonna get to him through you. That's a promise. "
Columbo's Crowning Moment of Awesome; "Prescription: Murder"

Instead of physically or psychologically torturing a suspect, the protagonist simply irritates the perp into making a crucial mistake. Can be done while Perp Sweating, or on the stand, as with The Perry Mason Method.

Examples of Exasperated Perp include:

Fan Fiction

  • Agent Romanoff tries to do this to Loki in Calculator, a Thor fic. Had it not been for the fact that Loki honestly didn't know, it might have worked. She says, over and over, in the exact same tone:

 Natasha: Now, where is the alleged robot?




 Moist: Look, I know how this sort of thing goes. You keep me talking in the hope that I'll suddenly forget where I am and say something stupid and incriminating, right?

Carrot: Thank you for that, sir.

Moist: Thank me for what?

Carrot: For telling me you know how this sort of thing goes, sir.

    • The Police Procedural apparently isn't a popular form of entertainment on Discworld yet.
    • Detritus attempts less subtly to apply this to suspects, primarily by asking "Did you do it?" for hours on end. The "correct" answer is something along the lines of "Yes! Yes! I did it! Now please tell me what it is I did!"
      • "Did you do it?" is merely the first of his probing questions. He usually followed it up with the persistent 'Are you sure it wasn't you wot did it?" and then the crafty "It was you wot done it, wasn't it?"
      • On the other hand, Drumknott managed to stump Detritus by simply answering "No", which is apparently not what the suspect is supposed to say.
  • Binder puts on this hat in the Dresden Files. Murphy sees it coming, but she, Harry, and Rawlins play along and convince Binder that he's pulled the wool over them.

Live Action TV

  • Angel does this to his demon perps.
  • In an episode of JAG, Bud irritates a Navy officer into revealing his homicidal views on incompetent members of the armed forces by making a large number of deliberate mistakes whilst cross-examining him.
  • Columbo was the king of this. Without letting on that he suspects the perp, he'd have long, seemingly innocuous conversations with the murderer about holes in the murderer's coverup, while the murderer got more and more exasperated as they tried to get off the topic. Just as Columbo seemed about to leave, he'd turn around and add "Just one more thing," throwing an already exasperated perp off-balance.
    • The quote at the top is from the pilot, where he has mixed in the above with more than a bit of bullying after the murderer becomes wise to his Obfuscating Stupidity. He confuses and harasses his accomplice instead, since she's the "weak link" while the killer is a more calculating sociopath.
  • This is also the main M.O of Monk, although Monk usually does this unintentionally. The most extreme example wasn't carried out by Monk at all. In "Mr. Monk and the Actor", the actor preparing to play Monk in a movie gets a little too Method about the part, and due to a misunderstanding believes that the suspect in Monk's current case killed Monk's wife, Trudy. When the police come to apprehend the murderer, they find the actor advancing on the terrified man with a gun and demanding to know why he did it. The real Monk arrives on the scene and tries to calm the actor:

 Monk: Listen, he didn't kill Trudy. He killed a woman named Michelle and a pawnbroker named Orlov--

Leverett: Yes, that's true -- I killed a woman and an old man -- I didn't kill Trudy, who the hell is Trudy?

  • Quite popular in the various CSI franchises when they've got just enough evidence to know who the Bad Guy is but not enough to take him to court.
  • The Doctor sometimes uses this technique on Doctor Who.
  • Used all the time in Law and Order to break down a perp without saying a word. Particularly memorable was a suspect that was gladly given cup after cup of coffee/water while waiting for an interrogation...for 4 hours. He repeatedly asked to go to the bathroom, but was told that it was broken and the line for the other one was far too long. When the detectives (who were watching behind the one-way mirror) finally got around to questioning him, he was more than glad to give any information they requested because he had to pee.
    • Lampshaded in one episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit when the Perp is particularly Genre Savvy. He comes this close to drinking before he realized what's going on.
    • Detective Goren from Law and Order: Criminal Intent is rather fond of this technique (seeming to prefer it to gathering actual evidence). Him being an expert in human behavior, he always knows exactly how to anger his suspect into confessing and/or implicating their partner.
  • In contrast to the hardball Perp Sweating techniques used by Gibbs and Ziva in NCIS, Tony favors the "annoy them into submission" method. Even Gibbs admits that it's bizarre but effective. SO effective, in fact, that he managed to annoy the head of Mossad (Israeli covert operations) into admitting that BOTH of the "rogue" Mossad agents that had threatened NCIS personnel were actually following his orders to encounter them. This resulted in Ziva getting very angry. At the time, Tony was the one being interrogated--he was so annoying that he turned the situation around!
  • Parodied in a recurring sketch on The Fast Show, in which police try this on a suspect to no avail, only for a George Smiley-like master interrogator to show up and casually ask the perp the question out of hand and have him reply without thinking.

Real Life

Western Animation

  • Duckman did this once after Cornfed cleared him of King Chicken's plot to frame him. After calling King Chicken to the stand, Duckman proceeds to "interrogate" him by rambling senselessly until an annoyed King Chicken finally confesses just to shut him up.
  • In one episode of the The Simpsons, Sideshow Bob is accused of rigging the election, based on getting so many votes as a convicted felon while the other convicted felon running got so few. After Lionel Hutz' intense interrogation fails, the kids badger Bob with accusations that only Rush Limbaugh Expy could pull off such an elaborate fraud, until he snaps, says it was him, and pulls out a very detailed account of his scheme. He wrote books on how he pulled off electoral fraud.