Created By: ledge on July 19, 2009
Troped

The Answer Is CONNECTION LOST

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This trope is about that scene where someone is receiving, or has found, some important piece of information only to have <CONNECTION LOST>

<CONNECTION REESTABLISHED> then the battery gets plugged into <CONNECTION LOST>

<CONNECTION REESTABLISHED> except the coconut gets in the way <CONNECTION LOST>

<CONNECTION REESTABLISHED> and then the goat <CONNECTION LOST>

<CONNECTION REESTABLISHED> but the absolutely most important part is when <CONNECTION LOST>

Note: Rolling Updates

Also note: desperately Needs a Better Title

It's a subtrope of Poor Communcation Kills and can be related to Sound Effect Beep. There are a couple of variations on the trope:

Type 1a: Some list of important information is being conveyed. Whether because of technical reasons (network failure, radio static, the tape breaks, etc) or unintentional stupidity, some of the information is lost. Inevitably it is going to be the most important piece of information. It's the one single piece required to complete the task you are being given, or prevent you from being killed while performing the task. The last clear part of the message will invariably be something like "Under no circumstances should you ever..." or "It's vitally important that you...". See the Gla DOS example.

Type 1b: There's a variation of this where it's the audience that's left in the dark, but in-universe everyone is clued in. See the Planet Terror example.

Type 2: You have some kind of communication or tome of information, part of which has been either intentionally or unintentionally redacted, leaving something much more mysterious, suggestive and/or humorous than the original could possibly have been. There doesn't necessarily have to be important missing information, you just wind up with a non-sequitur without the information that would have naturally linked Point A to Point Z and you are left wondering just exactly how the heck Point A and Point Z could possibly be connected. See the Monty Python and World of Warcraft "Nat Pagle" examples. Note: It's not just redaction, it's redaction where the result is something funny. See the SCP Foundation example.

You can also mix the two in the same instance, see the article intro and the Ask A Ninja example.

The important thing is you wind up with something funny (or humorously dangerous) at the end. You aren't simply missing necessary information as with a puzzle or in context of a mystery. It's also not a case of misunderstanding what was said or translation error. You know there is another piece and there is no way for you to get it; communication has effectively become a one-way street and you are getting all you are going to get without the chance to ask "Can you please repeat yourself?" In a best-case scenario you are left going "Huh?" in a worst-case scenario you are left holding a pair of wire snips and a dead cellphone going, "Hello? It's still ticking. You just said 'Never ever do...' Never ever do what? Are you still there? It's started to make beep-beep noises now. Hello?"

  • This "Ask a ninja" episode
  • Gla DOS' opening lines from Portal:
    "For your own safety, and the safety of others, please refrain from *crackle* *static* Por favor de donde fallar muchos gracias de fallar gracias. *crackle* I'm back."
  • In Planet Terror, we get a "Missing Reel" screen. During the missing reel, it's implied, we'd have gotten to see Rose Mc Gowan totally naked, plus the entire plot surrounding Ray's mysterious origins would have been explained.
  • The Harvey Birdman episode with the "Sebben & Sebben New Employee Orientation" film has plenty of instances where the audio or filmstrip skips, skipping a piece of information that was about to be disclosed, or connecting two unrelated topics in the middle of the topic
  • Monty Python had a sketch in episode 30 where periodically the scene would cut to a set of instructions being read that included "and paste down the edge of the sailor's uniform, until the word 'Maudling' is almost totally obscured." Near the end of the show, the scene cuts to BBC Newsman Richard Baker at a newsdesk making increasingly strange hand gestures, however there is a voice over preventing us from hearing what he says. Finally the voice over ends and the normal audio concludes with Richard saying "... until the word 'Maudling' is almost totally obscured." Bonus points for never knowing what the instructions are supposed to be for to begin with.
  • In World of Warcraft there's an item called "Nat Pagle's Guide to Extreme Anglin'" that's missing every page but the last. What does it say? "... and so that's where you'll find the legendary sword of the Scarlet Highlord, Ashbringer. Ain't it amazin' what you run into in an ordinary day of fishin'?"
  • The Jonathan Coulton song Chiron Beta Prime
    "That's all the family news we're allowed to talk about/ We really hope you'll come and visit us soon/ I mean we're literally begging you to visit us/ And make it quick before they -MESSAGE REDACTED-"
  • A song from this troper's childhood involving a billboard that had been pasted over with innumerable new advertisements. The top layers had begun peeling off, leaving words from underneath exposed. When putting the whole thing together, you had a wonderful medley of nonsense made from mixing up phrases from all the various ads.
  • If you've ever seen copies of those documents concerning the military's UFO research, you'd wonder if someone didn't just block out 80% of the text just to screw with you. Its in weird places too. Half a paragraph will be blocked, only to pick up on stuff like "...to which, the witness responded, 'I don't know WHAT they would want with my cattle, that's why I called you.'"
  • The SCP Foundation uses this to a great extent to ensure that humanity isn't exposed to [REDACTED] or [REDACTED] the bottle [REDACTED] except for the balloon.
  • The Paranoia RPG is chock full of this kind of stuff. "Instructions on how to use your newly-assigned experimental Personal Fuel/Air Explosive Knapsack and Lunchbag are classified at your security level. You will be held fully accountable for any damage caused to the device or facilities due to misuse of the device, Troubleshooter."
  • This exchange from Ocean's Eleven
    Linus (receiving instruction)
    Rusty: ...Don't use three words when one will do; don't shift your eyes, look always at your mark but don't stare; be specific but not memorable; funny but don't make him laugh; he's gotta like you then forget you the moment you've left his sight; and for God's sakes whatever you do, don't under any circumstances --
    Livingston (off screen): Rust, can you come here a sec?
    Rusty: Sure thing. (leaves)
    Linus: ...
  • This troper is certain he's seen at least one sitcom involving a video will that plays out something like:
    "If you are seeing this, I must be dead. I hate all of you. There's only one of you that I like, and to that person I leave my entire vast fortune.." [tape suddenly cuts to a hand-held shot of the dead person in front of the bathroom mirror singing "You Light Up My Life" into a brush, then back to video will] "... and so that is the person who will be receiving my entire vast fortune."
  • An episode of kids' show Martha Speaks has the kids and Martha hiding a tape recorder to record the plans of what they think are a couple of criminals getting ready to rob a bank. They retrieve the recorder later and take it to the police. When they play the tape, just as the criminals are starting to discuss their plan, the tape has been recorded over with Martha singing pop tunes. (No explanation over how she managed to get time to record herself singing between the time they retrieved the tape and arrived at the police station... Even for a kids' show, that always bothered me about this episode.)
  • In the GDI campaign of the original Command And Conquer, there's a mission where you must sneak a Commando into a Nod base and blow up one specific building. Which one? Well, your mission briefing was over a black and white, fuzzy, static-filled channel: "Make sure you take out the - (bzzzzzzz) - and get the hell out of there!"
    • If you blow up the wrong building, you get to do a follow-up mission where you attack the base with a conventional force, but the enemy has had time to expand their defenses.
  • This trope can be invoked if you are about to explain something about the Candle Jack trope, like how it's very important to
Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • July 18, 2009
    Earnest
    Check Poor Communication Kills, that's the catch all for this sort of thing, though if you have a Sub Trope in mind, please elaborate.
  • July 18, 2009
    Amazingly Enough
    I think I know what you're talking about, and it would be a distinct sub trope of Poor Communication Kills where the characters receive or find some sort of message or information, but key points are either lost somehow or blocked out deliberately. Often the missing parts will be the most important.

    This kind of thing frequently shows up in puzzle/adventure games where you have to solve the puzzle by finding the missing information or cracking some kind of code.

    Also makes me think of the hatch orientation videos on Lost which mysteriously have missing parts. I think at one point they do find one of the missing reels.
  • July 18, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    In Planet Terror, we get a "Missing Reel" screen. During the missing reel, it's implied, we'd have gotten to see Rose Mc Gowan totally naked, plus the entire plot surrounding Ray's mysterious origins would have been explained.
  • July 18, 2009
    ledge
    Good grief, I just spent half an hour writing a solid description with examples and the site ate it. let's try again. Also yes the "Planet Terror" just above is a perfect example.
  • July 18, 2009
    ledge
    sigh. once more, in smaller chunks.

    It's definitely a subtrope of Poor Communication Kills. Specifically it's where some information is being conveyed, and there is a very important step or key piece of information that, usually because of technical problems (network failure, radio static, the tape breaks, etc) is omitted. It's NOT because a key step is intentionally omitted.

  • July 18, 2009
    ledge
    This is NOT an example:

    • We are sitting around our campfire in the woods after having just escaped Mysterious Facility and stealing the plans on how to build a perfectly function anti-gravity device with normal household materials! Oh no! The middle 20 pages with all the important information have been blacked out by Secret Agency X!

    This is a much closer example:

    • We are sitting around our campfire in the woods after having just escaped Mysterious Facility and stealing the plans on how to build a perfectly function anti-gravity device with normal household materials! Oh no! The middle 20 pages with all the important information are missing!
      Dumb Guy on the Team: Good thing I found all that paper to start the campfire with or we'd be freezing our butts off about now!

  • July 18, 2009
    ledge
    This is NOT an example:
    Giles: The summoning spell for Gachnar can be shut down in one of two ways. Destroying the Mark of Gachnar...
    Buffy destroys the mark
    Giles: ...is not one of them, and will in fact immediately bring forth the Fear Demon itself.

    This IS an example:
    Giles: "The summoning spell for Gachnar can be shut down by gathering the following ingredients: [list of improbable ingredients with no intuitive relationship]"
    Giles turns the page and looks puzzled. "It is imperative that the ingredients be arranged around the Mark of Gachnar specifically as instructed on the previous page ..."
    Buffy: "Well? What does the previous page say?"
    Giles: "I don't know ... it's been torn out."

  • July 18, 2009
    ledge
    More examples:

    • This "Ask a ninja" episode
    • Gla DOS' opening lines from Portal:
      "For your own safety, and the safety of others, please refrain from *crackle* *static* Por favor de donde fallar muchos gracias de fallar gracias. *crackle* I'm back."
    • The Harvey Birdman episode with the "Sebben & Sebben New Employee Orientation" film has plenty of instances where the audio or filmstrip skips, skipping a piece of information that was about to be disclosed, or connecting two unrelated topics in the middle of the topic
    • Monty Python had a sketch in episode 30 where periodically the scene would cut to a set of instructions being read that included "and paste down the edge of the sailor's uniform, until the word 'Maudling' is almost totally obscured." Near the end of the show, the scene cuts to BBC Newsman Richard Baker at a newsdesk making increasingly strange hand gestures, however there is a voiceover preventing us from hearing what he says. Finally the voiceover ends and the normal audio concludes with Richard saying "... until the word 'Maudling' is almost totally obscured." Bonus points for never knowing what the instructions are supposed to be for to begin with.
  • July 18, 2009
    dotchan
    Related to Sound Effect Bleep.
  • July 18, 2009
    ledge
    whew that worked.

    I believe it's a distinct enough trope to have its own, cool name. Something like "The Answer Is <NO CARRIER>." Only probably cooler ...

    I think the variation as the Planet Terror example where there is just a blank spot to the viewer, but in-universe everyone starts referring to "that thing that just happened, good thing it did so we now have a perfectly logical explanation for everything that is happening!" is pretty much the same thing, modified to where it's only the viewer left in the dark.

    Hopefully the examples are good enough to give a good understanding of what I'm talking about.
  • July 18, 2009
    Unknown%20Troper
    RL example: The De-classified black bar.

    If you've ever seen coppies of those documents concerning the military's UFO research, you'd wonder if someone didn't just block out 80% of the text just to screw with you. Its in weird places too. Half a paragraph will be blocked, only to pick up on stuff like "...to wich, the witness responded, 'I don't know WHAT they would wan't with my cattle, that's why I called you.'"
  • July 18, 2009
    Stormtroper
    In World Of Warcraft there's an (useless) item called "Nat Pagle's Guide to Extreme Anglin'" that's missing every page but the last. What does it say? "... and so that's where you'll find the legendary sword of the Scarlet Highlord, Ashbringer. Ain't it amazin' what you run into in an ordinary day of fishin'?"
  • July 18, 2009
    Wulf
    Uh... I think I have an example, not really sure.

    From Jonathan's Coulton's "Chiron Beta Prime"--
    "That's all the family news we're allowed to talk about/ We really hope you'll come and visit us soon/ I mean we're literally begging you to visit us/ And make it quick before they -MESSAGE REDACTED-"
  • July 18, 2009
    ledge
    I was also thinking of "Chiron Beta Prime" when I was making the list. Contemplating the examples so far it is probably close enough to also qualify. They are a kind of variation of Sound Effect Beep in both cases; one is intentional redaction that results in something funnier than the original, the other is unintentional redaction that results in something funnier (or humorously dangerous) than the original. I think the key is the comedic value, not just that there is information missing, as with a puzzle game or in context of a mystery.

    The "redacted" or "missing information" obscures some kind of link between the opening subject and what looks like a complete non-sequitur ending. It doesn't necessarily have to be a list of instructions. Just some missing piece(s) in between that would link the beginning and end so they made more sense, although it's OFTEN used with bits of non-sequitur interspersed as with the Ask A Ninja examples.

    You can also reverse the concept it to make something boring seem much more sensational. As with the black-bar example, "This report has determined that UF Os [REDACTED] a complete set of cutlery embedded in his [REDACTED] sheep, which was unharmed [REDACTED] wife was complaining about the size of his [REDACTED] smokestack [REDACTED] known as 'Big Joe' [REDACTED]"

    In elementary school we had a song about a billboard that had been overlaid with so many new signs, and pieces had been falling out from top layers so underneath layers would show through and combining the words would make for some really nonsensical verses very much like this sort of thing. And I have no idea what the song was called or what the words were anymore.
  • July 18, 2009
    Andygal
    SCP Foundation has "DATA EXPUNGED" and the black bars. Lots and lots.
  • July 18, 2009
    Shjade
    The Monty Python example above sounds related to Relax O Vision, though sort of combining the two by both interrupting ongoing scenes and not completing the interruption's instructions. Similarities, but not the same thing.

    I would've called this sort of thing a situation of Can You Hear Me Now, but that seems to be in use for the complete loss of communication rather than fractured throughput...though the Domino example on that page is a match in that she misses a couple of words and ends up removing more than intended from a target.

    Perhaps this idea fits there, or subbed under it?
  • July 18, 2009
    ledge
    The Domino example would be a perfect example if the call had said "It's very important that you remove his" and then been disconnected and unable to reconnect.

    The key difference is that the example on that page is a misunderstanding of the message. Here, you know that you are missing some part of the story, but you have no way of getting it because the communication is effectively a one-way street at this point.

    I could maaaaaybe see a real stretch to some crossover if you had a situation like:
    Adam: "Bob!"
    Bob: "Hey Adam, I'm driving. What's up?"
    Adam: "Tell me, cut the red wire or blue wire!"
    Bob: "Oh man, ok what do you have?"
    Adam: "It's a X-405 Explodinator."
    Bob: "All right, oh hey I'm going in a tunnel, real quick, absolutely never ever *zzt*"
    Adam: " .... Bob? Hello? Never do what, Bob? Hello? It's ticking, Bob. Are you there?"

    And Bob is the only possible expert available. Still, way more whatever this trope is called rather than Can You Hear Me Now.
  • July 18, 2009
    Shjade
    Mm, fair enough. The Adam/Bob example makes me think of Ocean's Eleven...
    Linus: receiving instruction
    Rusty: ...Don't use three words when one will do; don't shift your eyes, look always at your mark but don't stare; be specific but not memorable; funny but don't make him laugh; he's gotta like you then forget you the moment you've left his sight; and for God's sakes whatever you do, don't under any circumstances --
    Livingston (off screen): Rust, can you come here a sec?
    Rusty: Sure thing. leaves
    Linus: at a loss

    Not a communication barrier caused by technology, but almost the same cutoff. I suppose there are really a lot of variations of this idea and things like it.
  • July 19, 2009
    Lavalyte
    Occaisionally played for laughs when someone pretends that their phone is cutting out.... "Sorry I ... you... there's a fi...must...sunspots... (click).

  • July 19, 2009
    BassBlues
    • In Teen Titans, Robin said "Do not split the ship," and the "not" part got obscured by static.
    • One episode of The Simpsons had Ned trying to tell Homer to not push the red self destruct button, but the static of the speaker system warped his message into pushing the red button.
  • July 19, 2009
    ledge
    @Shjade: yup, the Ocean's Eleven example is this trope precisely.

    @Bass Blues: Those are both examples of a message being received, but misunderstood. This trope (whatever it winds up being) is about having some key piece of information cut off. So to take the Teen Titans example and warp it to fit this trope, it would have to have gone "Do not under any circumstances *static* ..." (And then for extra laffs have hold music come on.)
  • July 19, 2009
    Wulf
    I would think "not" is a key piece of information in that particular example, but hey, it's your trope.
  • July 19, 2009
    ledge
    @Wulf: dropping a word to invert the meaning isn't what I'm going for here. If nobody on the receiving end is even aware that the message has been inverted, then it's just plot-induced communication failure. (i.e. there's no reason for the message to have been misunderstood, except to drive some essential part of the plot in the wrong direction.) This is about the recipient left knowing there was something there that got left out. And used for funny in every example I can think of. See, well ... basically the entire write-up on the trope at the top.
  • July 19, 2009
    Tacitus
    • In the GDI campaign of the original Command And Conquer, there's a mission where you must sneak a Commando into a Nod base and blow up one specific building. Which one? Well, your mission briefing was over a black and white, fuzzy, static-filled channel: "Make sure you take out the - (bzzzzzzz) - and get the hell out of there!" If you blow up the wrong building, you get to do a follow-up mission where you attack the base with a conventional force, but the enemy has had time to expand their defenses.
  • July 19, 2009
    ledge
    Still desperately needs a new name.

    A couple of variations of an idea:

    • "Please Refrain From Crackle" (using GlaDOS as the trope namer yet again)
    • "Under No Circumstances Should You Static"

    I kinda like "Crackle" as the cut-off because it's very onomatopoeic

    I think the trope should be clear enough and has enough examples that it can be launched if I can come up with a decent title for it.
  • July 19, 2009
    Shjade
    The Crackle listing isn't bad. Maybe "Lost Pre-Translation" to point away from the above examples that are more about misinterpretation, whereas this trope is more about not even having the material to interpret.
  • July 19, 2009
    ledge
    I like Lost Pre Translation. It also works for both trope uses, where my idea only really covers the first variation.

    I'll leave this open for a little while longer to see if there are any more suggestions and then probably launch with that title.
  • July 19, 2009
    ledge
    Thinking about Shjade's title idea, this one popped into my head. I think it's the winner:

    Lost In Transmission
  • July 19, 2009
    Shjade
    Definitely better. I was trying to get a different rhythm to the same idea, but you landed it.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=fj3o54uf95eq9vrifkoxu0ex