In which a main character is exposed to or infected with something very bad, usually potentially fatal and the exposure/infection is a main focus of the episode. In television, unless a character experiences a near-death revelation that completely changes them or dies, these episodes are typically not wham episodes, but are still usually a big deal, often airing during sweeps.
The infection usually advances Character Development
by causing the character to rethink their life. In television, you can also usually expect a good moment or two from the golden couple
In television, this is most prevelant on crime and medical dramas, not surprisingly. The exposure/infection usually, but not always, happens to a leading character as opposed to a supporting character. A common exception occurs when a lead character's love interest is a supporting character.
There are also countless films based on this premise.
All Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
- In Contagion, Matt Damonís character is infected with a virus, but is immune to it. Later on, one of the main characters has been infected with a virus and uses this to test the cure. Another main character dies from it.
- In The Last Man on Earth, Vincent Price is the only person left and is immune to the virus turning people into vampires, but does have the virus.
- In I Am Legend, the dog is infected with a virus that turns him into one of the mutants. Robert Neville has to kill his dog.
- In 28 Days Later, one of the main charactersí friends is infected, and she must kill him.
- In The Cassandra Crossing, one of the main characters, a doctor, is infected with a virus and is considered to be an engineered biological weapon.
- In Airplane! the mysterious sickness gets both the pilot and copilot.
Live Action TV
- In Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince, Lady Barbara Booker relates how her childhood friend left his stuffed bear at her house the day before he came down with polio (this was in the 1920s, decades before any vaccine). She innocently tried to visit Mikhail to return the bear, and her father "went spare" and gave her a severe spanking. Although she was kept informed of his progress in recovery, "Basha" and "Misha" did not see one another again until Lori ad Bree's investigation prompted Barbara to pay an unannounced visit to Mikhail's family home.
- House had three: "Euphoria" in season two, where Foreman is infected from a patient, "Airborne" in season three, where House and Cuddy are on a plane with someone who is suspected to have meningitis, and Cuddy thinks she has it, and "A Pox on Our House" in season seven, where House is exposed to an contagious patient.
- Bones had one in season one ("The Man in the Fallout Shelter".). The entire team is exposed to an infectious body.
- Fringe did theirs in season two. Peter contracts a pathogen at a crime scene.
- In an episode in season one, Charlie becomes an incubator for a supernatural creature.
- On 24, after Jack contracts a pathogen from a bio-weapon, the entire second half of the seventh season is a string of contamination episodes.
- The penultimate episode of the second season of NCIS, "SWAK", centered around Tony and Kate's exposure to the pneumonic plague, which was sent to the team in an envelope.
- In the late season four episode "Amplification" of Criminal Minds, Reid is exposed to anthrax by a serial killer.
- In the season four episode of Psych, "Death is in the Air", a deadly virus is stolen and released on a public place, Shawn then discovers that its part of a Poison and Cure Gambit from the company that makes the cure for the virus, as it was about to be closed down because the government didn't think the virus was a threat enough to fund the cure. The culprit dies before he can release more of the virus, since the cure dosage needed wasn more than he anticipated, but then Juliet gets infected with the virus when recovering the last batch, so they have to race to the culprit's hiding place for the rest of the cure before she succumbs.
- In an episode of Sliders, one of Quinn's friends gets the plague.
- In Helix, the series begins in the immediate aftermath of Dr. Peter Farragut's infection with a Synthetic Plague, turning him into Patient Zero and the ensemble's Tragic Monster, a carrier of The Virus who spreads it throughout the Research Inc where he works. The CDC rapid response team includes his brother Alan and his ex-lover Julia, both of whom want to see him saved despite interpersonal tensions and shared estrangement. Peter soon infects Julia, and she in turn, has to cope with realizing her fate and being the sole CDC member in quarantine with other infected.
- In Futurama, Fry has a dormant 20th C. strain of the common cold, which had been erradicated centuries earlier. It leads to the entire island of Manhattan being quarrantined and then launched to the sun for good measure.