Relating to this question: Explain the exploding pipe in The Shawshank Redemption. In that scene Andy is timing his strikes on the sewage line to the match the lightning strikes (shouldn't it be the thunder he waits for?).

What would he have done if there was no lightning?

He has already followed his plan to a point that he couldn't just slip back into his cell and replace everything. So he needed to crawl out through the pipe, but he hadn't made a hole in it already or even weakened the pipe in any way. I always assumed it was the pressure in the pipe that kept him from making a hole before, like he had in his wall, but "Explain the exploding pipe" shows that it was a drama effect only.

He needed to go out that pipe, he had only a short amount of time to escape and if the storm hadn't come through he wouldn't have been able to make so much noise breaking into the pipe.

Andy is meticulous, so I don't believe he would have left this detail to such a great chance as a lightning storm (even if he checked for a storm before he switched the books there would be no guarantee of lightning); so how else would he have gotten the pipe open within the limited time frame he had to do it?

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    I kinda feel like this is trying to poke a hole in the movie and that any answers are mostly speculative.
    – DForck42
    Dec 26, 2012 at 20:54
  • @DForck42 It may very well be a plot-hole. I'm hoping there is some information somewhere that may shed some light such as deleted scenes, pages of script that weren't used, interviews with Stephen King or the screenwriter, etc. I just normally don't like to place limits on sources since sometimes movies have all of the visual clues needed to solve perceived plot-holes but are sometimes missed. Dec 26, 2012 at 22:10
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    The answer movies.stackexchange.com/a/1822/3707 to the linked to question mentions that the escape story is told from the perspective of Red, who wasn't there. So it might be that Red invented this to make the story more dramatic.
    – sharptooth
    Dec 29, 2012 at 12:23
  • @sharptooth That may be but my only problem with that answer is that Red isn't talking to anyone. So why is he making the story of his escape dramatic when he hasn't dramatized much else? Dec 31, 2012 at 15:00
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    If it's a warm, humid stretch of weather and you have a massive cold coming in behind it, triggering thunderstorms and violent weather the whole way, then, yeah, you can be pretty certain of lightning. Aug 23, 2016 at 13:03

3 Answers 3


My guess is that he would have had to go ahead and break the pipe anyway (as you point out, he has already carried out his plan past the point of no return). The thunder provided a way to mask the sound and give him more chances to open the pipe, but if there had been no storm, he probably would have still broken open the pipe and hoped that either no one figured out what the sound was or that it would take the guards too long to figure out where the noise was coming from.

  • Or he could have use the hammer.
    – A J
    Aug 5, 2017 at 12:49

In many parts of the country, thunderstorms are common—even predictable some days in advance.

If it was where storms are random, or if a storm hadn't materialized, presumably he wouldn't have smashed his way in, but instead broke it less noisily: perhaps weakening the pipe with grinding and scratching and then breaking the remainder with some sound insulation like towels, blankets, etc. Whatever he did, there is great strategic significance to making noise during instants when it is masked by other noises: showers running, garbage truck activity, sirens going off, riots, etc.

As for the explosion, I always assumed that was due to concentrated sewage methane. Maybe I should look at the other question.


He could have had the tunnel complete for a long time, and just waited for the right night with a thunderstorm to actually escape. There was no reason to escape on that particular day, he was just sat waiting for the right time. It was only once the pipe was broken that he had to act fast, because then somebody would have been down to investigate the leak and would have seen the tunnel, so he had to escape there and then as soon as the pipe was broken. However the bigger plot hole is that a) sewage is unlikely to explode, b) it wouldn't explode enough to create a hole big enough to get into, and c) at that high pressure, it would never have drained that quickly. But all in all it's a good film and probably doesn't require this much attention to detail.

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    This seems more like speculation as opposed to a verifiable answer. I suggest checking out the Tour to get a better idea of how to ask and answer questions. We're not a typical discussion forum. Don't be discouraged, we were all new here at some point. Apr 21, 2014 at 1:06

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