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MFF Special: National Treasure: The Mystery of the Lemons

December 6, 2017

In honor of the 13th anniversary of National Treasure, I decided to clear up (with educated guesswork) the infamous lemon mystery.  Why is a scene involving lemons infamous? Having lemons in a refrigerator is nothing groundbreaking or worthy of internet snark. It is the way the lemons are presented that has confounded audiences for well over a decade.  The issue the nitpickers have revolves around the lemons resting nicely in a big bowl in the middle of Jon Voight’s refrigerator.  It is a one-second scene in a two-hour movie that has joined the ranks of world-famous mysteries like Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, and magnets.

Watch the clip below to get a feel for the scene:


In my quest to be more like Benjamin Gates I’ve watched the scene over and over and did some lemon research to best guess why he had those lemons in a bowl in the middle of his refrigerator.

Between the soda, leftover boxes and lack of other ingredients I’m guessing he doesn’t use these lemons for cooking.

Here is how the scene plays out. Nic Cage and crew steal the Declaration of Independence in Washington D.C. and make their getaway to Philadelphia to hideout in Jon Voight’s house. They realize they need lemons for the declaration and the scene starts to take place.

Here are the clues I’m working with:

  1. They start their drive from Washington D.C to Philadelphia well after sunset (7:30PM) around 9:00PM.
  2. Mr. Voight has a sizable bar that looks to be loaded with cognac, gin and Irish whiskey. Also, to the left of the bar there is a decanter filled with a mystery booze.
  3. If you look to the left of the characters during the clip you will see several glasses filled with iced tea and lemon.
  4. When Harvey Keitel is at the house later on you will notice there is a half-filled iced-tea pitcher.
  5. There is a bowl of apples and bananas in the same place where the iced tea glasses are
  6. There is a massive library inside the house
  7. Next to the apples and iced tea glasses there are poker chips.

Here are the Benjamin Gates style deductions:

  1. They arrived in Philadelphia around 12:30AM which means a late night lemon pickup was pretty impractical. Also, the van they were driving in was being searched for so they would want to keep it off the road. This means the lemons had to be in the house.
  2. Before they say “we need more lemons” they already have a cut up lemon in a tiny bowl. This means that they must’ve found the lemons in the refrigerator, taken them out of the bag and placed them in a bowl in the middle of the refrigerator. Nothing in his refrigerator looks organized, so I highly doubt that Voight would organize them in a bowl.
  3. After looking at various retailer websites it seems that there are approximately ten lemons in a two pound bag that is commonly sold. Due to the contents of his fridge it seems clear that he would rather grab a bag of lemons then pick them individually. If you look at the picture above you will count nine lemons. The tenth was used for the initial tea and lemon plate.
  4. Due the contents of the refrigerator and the large pizza box I’m guessing that Voight rarely cooks. Thus, I don’t see him making lemon chicken or anything of the sort. Also, you won’t see him making any lemon cheesecake bars.
  5. There were no lemons in Harvey’s iced tea. Thus, they were all used or Jon Voight straight up dissed Harvey.
  6. The inclusion of poker chips means that Voight most likely has a weekly game with several of his friends. The lemons could easily be used with iced tea and various drinks.

Lemon hot take: After several discussions about the lemons I’ve learned there is a small group of people who believe Voight placed the lemons in the bowl himself. The reasoning is he decided to wash all the lemons at once instead of cleaning one at a time. After the cleaning he placed them in the bowl. This would make it easier for him to access. I think these people are delusional.

Why were the lemons in the refrigerator?

  1. The loaded bar and empty contents of a wine bottle suggest that Jon Voight likes the occasional drink. I didn’t see any mixers in his bar or house so it looks as if he likes his booze neat or on the rocks. Lemon may seem like an odd garnish but it combines nicely with a whiskey hot toddy or gin/vodka tonics.
  2. During the inspection of the declaration I’m deducing that Voight set them up with a nice pitcher of caffeinated iced tea. It was already late so they needed something cool and refreshing to keep them up. The fact that there are lemons inside the drinks show he is used to entertaining people (Poker) at his house and has no problem using lemons in their drinks/cocktails.
  3. He has a massive library and since he is eating dinner at 12:00AM I’m assuming he likes to stay up late and read. Since he loves making iced tea,  he most likely enjoys brewing tea. Perhaps he likes to make lemon tea (needs half a lemon for squeezing) or cuts up a piece of lemon for his tea. The lemon has a nice detoxification element and helps with immune system building and digestion.
  4. After researching lemon drinks in Philadelphia I found a treasure trove of articles talking about drinks and lemons. People love their iced tea, lemon shandys, and lemonade. Also, I managed an annual event in Philly and many of my volunteers could be seen with half gallon iced tea jugs from WaWa (they were obsessed). Thus, the dude loved his city and embraced drinks that could benefit from a lemon.

Conclusion: The lemons were already at the house and were most likely used for cocktail garnishes and iced/hot tea flavoring. They were in the middle of the refrigerator because Nic Cage pulled the lemons from the crisper and placed them in the bowl for easier future use. The mystery has been solved (or potentially creates more mysteries….)!

A Quick Pitch: If National Treasure 3 is ever made I think it should be about Nic Cage and crew rescuing a kidnapped Kurt Russell (dude is a national treasure).

If you like my dumb data make sure to check out the other posts that feature more weirdness.

  1. Jet Ski Action Scenes Are the Worst
  2. How Long Did it Take The Joker to Setup the Weapon Circle in Suicide Squad?
  3. Michael Myers Hates Blinkers
  4. Jason Voorhees Can’t Teleport?
  5. How Far Did the Merman Travel in The Cabin in the Woods?
  6. How Far Did Matthew McConaughey Jump in Reign of Fire?
  7. How Fast can Leatherface Run?
  8. Deep Blue Sea and Stellan Skarsgard
  9. How Far Did Michael Myers Drive in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
  10. How Did the Geologist Get Lost in Prometheus?
  11. People Love a Bearded Kurt Russell
  12. A Closer Look at Movies That Feature the Words Great, Good, Best, Perfect and Fantastic
  13. An In-Depth Look At Movies That Feature Pencils Used as Weapons
  14. Cinematic Foghat Data
  15. Explosions and Movie Posters
  16. The Fast & Furious & Corona
  17. Nicolas Sparks Movie Posters Are Weird
  18. Predicting the RT score of Baywatch
  19. The Cinematic Dumb Data Podcast
  20. What is the best horror movie franchise?
  21. How Fast Can the Fisherman Clean a Trunk in I Know What You Did Last Summer?
  22. It’s Expensive to Feature Characters Being Eaten Alive and Surviving Without a Scratch
  23. How Long Does it Take Your Favorite Horror Movie Characters to Travel From NYC to San Francisco?
  24. What was the Guy’s Blood Pressure in Dawn of the Dead?


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