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Whenever characters play "I Spy" or similar guessing games, it means two things:
- Inevitably, they're really bored.
- Frequently, they're in an environment where there's only one thing around to guess, making the game trivial.
Anime and Manga
- 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, 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.
- 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 and 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.)
- Cleese and 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".
- 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?
- 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.
- As a variation of this, in the Father Ted episode "Hell", Ted and Dougal are playing hide-and-seek... Dougal stupidly "hides" by concealing just his face behind a curtain leaving the rest of his body plainly visible. When it's Dougal's turn to be "On", Ted finally concedes the fact that there just aren't many good hiding places in a caravan and hides himself in the very same way!
- 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.
Film -- Animated
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.
Film -- Live Action
- 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!
- 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?
- 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* Ok, just ask your questions.
Virgil: Are you a man?
Turk: Yes, nineteen.
Virgil: Are you alive?
Turk: Yes, eighteen.
Virgil: Evel Knievel.
- 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."
- 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."
- 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"...
- 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!
- 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.
- In Prince of Persia (not the original one, but the new one) 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?
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!
- In Dragon Age:
- 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.
- 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 and 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 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.
- As this page of Bite Me illustrates, sometimes the game is trivial no matter how hard you try for advanced technique.
- Order of the Stick, here.
- 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.
- In Intragalactic, two security-mercenaries play strip-I-Spy on a bank of monochrome security monitors. "Something gray?"
- In this 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 and Droids strip.
- General Protection Fault here.
- 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.
- Family Guy in the episode Untitled Griffin Family History:
Nate Griffin: Hey, Quagdingo, wanna play a game?
Nate Griffin: I spy something beige.
Nate Griffin: Yeaahhhh!
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.
- 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.