Any plot which is dropped halfway through an episode in favor of a brand new one. Often involves Genre Shift
Can be seen as a version of Two Lines, No Waiting
, except with the A-Plot and B-Plot being showcased one at a time, and with a rather tenuous chain of events tying them together. Not to be confused with a Malignant Plot Tumor
which is where what seems to be the B-Plot (or even C) turns out to be the A-Plot. Frequently caused by a Conflict Killer
If the plot switch occurs while wrapping up
the story, it's a Gainax Ending
. A Sacrificial Lion
may fail to survive the switch. Can seem similar to First Law of Tragicomedies
, but that only applies to a specific change in tone (comedy to tragedy), where the plot is unaffected.
Compare Developing Doomed Characters
, which is about the time spent examining the mundane lives of the characters before something extraordinary happens that starts the "real" story.
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Anime And Manga
- Cadillac Man starts out following a sleazy two-timing used-car salesman with a quickly expiring Karma Houdini Warranty, dealing with the prospect of losing his job, having his qirlfriends find out about each other, and a rebellous teenage daughter running away. Just as these combined issues begin to overwhem the lead, the story takes a dramatic left turn, and turns in to a hostage crisis, with the lead as one of the hostages.
- The South Korean film Phone starts as a thriller about a journalist who uncovered a pedophilia scandal being stalked by one of the people she accused. She moves into a friend's empty house and changes her phone number. Then her friend's daughter answers her phone and becomes possessed, and the the plot suddenly becomes a supernatural horror movie about how the phone number is cursed by an angry spirit. Said spirit actually kills off the stalker halfway through the movie to put that plot thread permanently to rest.
- The Thai horror film Phii Khon Pen (called The Victim in the US) starts as a movie about an aspiring actress who gets a job playing the victim in crime re-enactments and landing the role of a murdered supermodel, only to become caught up in the investigation of her death when the real model's ghost begins haunting her. Just as that mystery is solved and the plot comes to a climax, it's revealed that we've been watching a movie-within-a-movie. The plot then switches to following the cast and crew of the movie we've just watched, who are experiencing real supernatural events on the set, which they believe to be related to the true story they based their film on. By the end, it turns out the haunting of the film set actually has nothing at all to do with the story of the movie-within-a-movie after all.
- Funny People was advertised as a funny yet touching story of a famous comedian coming to terms with the value of his own life when he's diagnosed with a deadly disease. About halfway through the film, however, he's cured, and he spends the rest of the film getting entangled in a romance with his married ex-girlfriend.
- From Dusk Till Dawn starts off as a crime-thriller about a pair of brothers on the lam who kidnap a family. Halfway through, they stumble into a slapstick-gore film with vampires. The second sequel rehashing the plot switch structure with a western with a post carriage theft plot preceding the horror.
- Psycho starts out following a woman who succumbs to temptation and steals money from her employer. The film changes to a horror story about forty minutes in when she's murdered out of the blue by a psychotic motel manager, and the rest of the film follows him. Alfred Hitchcock threw his original audience off even further by hiring a well-known actress to play the Decoy Protagonist.
- The Sound of Music. A cute heart-warming family-friendly musical romp about a nun-turned-governess who teaches her wards the joy of music, and redeems their father, winning his love. And look, at the two hour mark they marry in a show-stopping number. Cue end-credits any time n— oh wait no, that's right: Nazis. Cue 45 minutes of defiance, heartache, quislings, and dark reprises.
- The Cottage, a British movie begins as a black comedy about a bungled kidnapping before turning into a dark horror comedy about a Leatherface-type slasher killer half way through. Presumably it was inspired by From Dusk Til Dawn.
- The classic Predator starts with Arnie Schwarzenegger trying with his fellow soldiers to save a US politician from a band of South American terrorists. After he discovers that this was just an excuse to save some Black OPS agents, this plot is conveniently thrown out of the window when an alien with an explosive plasma Shoulder Cannon and a cloaking device begins hunting them. Unlike some other examples, this wasn't a surprise to original audiences, and the film begins with something falling to Earth from space and they encounter the remains of the alien's previous victims early in the film.
- A View to a Kill starts out with an investigation of Corrupt Corporate Executive Max Zorin and his sale of EMP resistant microchips to Soviet Russia. James Bond investigates by attending a horse sale, where he finds out that Zorin is also trading in illegal augmentations. Neither of these plot points make much of a difference in the end because right after Bond escapes, the real plan to destroy Silicon Valley is introduced and a relatively minor clue (a check made out to a woman from San Francisco) brings Bond to California.
- Miracle Mile: What starts out as an indie romance-comedy suddenly takes a right turn when the male lead picks up a ringing payphone and someone at NORAD tells him that World War III has begun and the missiles are on their way. The rest is about finding his love interest, telling other people that the city is about to be nuked and figuring out how to escape and survive the end of the world.
- Letter Never Sent starts off as a story about four geologists trying to find diamond deposits in the forests of Siberia. The main plot conflict seems to be the Love Triangle between the pretty young female geologist, her boyfriend, and the older male geologist who covets her. Then the forest catches fire, the second half of the movie is a desperate struggle to survive and escape the burning hell, and the Love Triangle part is completely forgotten. (Even before Dwindling Party kicks in.)
- Stanley Kubrick did this a lot with his later films. It's actually a trademark of his that his films were split into two distinct halves, and it got to the point where he'd even explicitly label them.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey does this not once, not twice, but four times. The first plot focuses on the evolution of man, and then we switch to a plot centered on Dr. Floyd participating in a top-secret mission to the Moon which turns out to be because they had found the first conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial life. Then much of the rest of the film is switched over towards showing the lifestyles of the two conscious astronauts aboard a long-distance flight when some strange things happen, before taking a dark turn where Hal kills everyone except David Bowman at which point it becomes an incredibly surreal series of occurrences that lead to the next stage of human evolution.
- Like the book it was based on, A Clockwork Orange was specifically divided into three parts. The first introduces Alex and shows us the dystopian world in which he lives as we see him and his droogs go out and do all kinds of nasty things. Then we get to the second plot centered around the experimental rehabilitation technique, and finally the third story where Alex must deal with the effects of the technique.
- Full Metal Jacket starts off with Joker in boot camp, focusing on the decaying mental state of Private Pyle and his interactions with Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. After Pyle's murder-suicide, the film follows Joker to war.
- The first half of Stripes deals with the irreverent recruits just barely pulling it together to pass boot camp. The rest is about their first mission as they're sent to Italy to recover a militarized RV.
- The Descent is somewhere between this and Developing Doomed Characters, as the film spends a while dealing with the personal interactions and physical hardships of a group of female spelunkers, then adds subterranean cannibals.
- Hancock, rather infamously. It starts as a comedy about a superhero who really sucks at his job. Then halfway through, it turns into a dramatic action movie when his PR person's wife turns out to be another superhero who was Hancock's former wife and they're both immortal.
- Life Is Beautiful: Starts off as a romantic comedy, where Guido Orefice eventually wins the affection of Dora and they have a son named Joshua. Switch time — Let's send them all to a concentration camp! Guido tries to make the best of the situation for Joshua by telling him that if he doesn't complain/cry and hides from the guards he would gain "points". 1000 would win a tank. Just before the camp is liberated by the Americans, Guido gets caught by a guard and unceremoniously shot. The movie ends with an American tank at the gates to the camp, and Joshua exclaiming that he won. Damn you, Roberto Benigni.
- Rat Pfink A Boo Boo. The plot was altered during filming to accommodate anything and everything that passed through the director's hands. Most notably, when a gorilla suit became available, they wrote a gorilla into the movie. It suddenly shifts from being a gritty crime drama to a superhero spoof.
- Mortal Thoughts starts off as a Black Comedy, then morphs into a Psychological Thriller.
- Death Proof is about a group of attractive girls hanging out at a bar who meet a mysterious older named Stuntman Mike. And then... he kills them all, and we move onto a different group of girls.
- Frequency goes from a dramatic story about a son reconnecting with his dead father into a Set Right What Once Went Wrong thriller.
- Baz Luhrmann's Australia hits this midway through the film. Once Lady Ashley and the Drover deliver the cows to the dock, there's a Time Skip, and it's suddenly revealed that the main villain has been fed to crocodiles by his second-in-command, the narrative has jumped forward several years, and Australia is suddenly in the midst of World War II. During all this, the plot changes from "deliver the McGuffin" to "rescue the child protagonist and save the Aboriginal children in the midst of Japanese bombing runs".
- This shows up in a science documentary, of all things. Called The Dark Secret of Hendrik Schon, it's about the titular scientist, a titan in the field of theoretical physics. The first two-thirds of the program are about his early career and work in nanotechnology. It builds up some drama around the unnerving applications — a weapon of assassination, an engineered biowarfare agent, the feared Grey Goo scenario, and so forth. Then around the forty-minute mark, a student reading one of Schon's papers picks up a clue that leads to his real "dark secret": He was a fraud. His papers were lies built upon fake experiments he never conducted and "evidence" he made up out of whole cloth. Whether this is a masterful subversion of Science Is Bad hysteria, a piss-take on the idea that the scientific community knows everything, a Stealth Parody of sensational documentaries, or just a flaw in one such documentary is up to the viewer.
- The little known 1988 film Permanent Record spends about twenty minutes convincing you it's just throw away teen angst when the kid we thought was the protagonist leaps off a cliff to his death between jump cuts.
- Trail of The Pink Panther's (1982) first half has Inspector Clouseau investigating the latest theft of the Pink Panther diamond. Then he goes missing, and the film switches to the adventures of a TV reporter investigating this via interviewing his friends, foes, and family. Why? Clouseau's actor Peter Sellers died in 1980, before this film was written, and his scenes in the first half are mostly-deleted scenes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again put into a new context. The second half boils down to a Clip Show of the previous films. All of this sets up the next film, Curse of... (1983), which introduces a new protagonist and leads up to the revelations of what happened to the diamond and Clouseau.
- Lost Highway by David Lynch is a particularly wild example. Out of nowhere, Bill Pullman simply turns into Balthazar Getty and a completely different story unfolds...but not really.
- Tokyo Zombie: The first half of the movie centers on the main characters trying to escape the zombies on the streets of Tokyo. Five years later, and it's set in a bizarre society controlled by the rich, and Fujio is now a professional 'zombie-wrestler'.
- Private Benjamin starts out as a story about a woman making it through basic training, but mid-way through the movie, she's not even in the Army anymore and the conflict revolves around her and her lover.
- The "Oedipus Wrecks" segment of New York Stories has the Woody Allen character's Beloved Smother vanishing during a disappearing act of a magic show. Audience expectations are Subverted, however, when she appears as a giant head floating over Manhattan, to torment her son in front of the entire world.
- To the extent that Napoleon Dynamite has a plot, it pulls one of these. There's little plot to be seen in the first half, but once Pedro decides to run for school office, most all focus goes to his campaign.
- Rupert Everett and Madonna movie The Next Best Thing starts off with a rather sweet and interesting idea about a gay man and his female friend who have sex after a night of drinking and she becomes pregnant — they decide to raise the child together. The second half of the movie veers unexpectedly when Madonna's character reveals that Everett's character isn't the real father and she wants full custody. Cue courtroom drama.
- The Invention of Lying has this. The first half of the movie is about a man in a world where everyone tells the truth discovering he can say falsehoods and people believe him, and the second half turns into a commentary on love and religion.
- House of Flying Daggers starts out as a story about a soldier trying to infiltrate a rebel organization, with the implication that he's going to end up falling in love with the blind girl who is his only lead and have to choose between love and duty. Then the political aspects abruptly get discarded in favor of a love triangle story between the hero, the girl, and his boss.
- The Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds starts out as a romance and then shifts gears about half way through the movie, turning into a horror movie about the titular animals.
- Probably not at all unexpected by the audience, since they had that "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock" credit to tip them off.
- Not surprisingly this also applies to Birdemic, which meant to be a modernized tribute to The Birds.
- Vertigo starts out with a detective falling in love with his friend's suicidal wife. After he fails to save her from jumping out of a church tower, he meets a young woman who looks kind of like her, and tries to make her his Replacement Goldfish.
- The Paul Giamatti film Win Win starts out as a comedy about high school wrestling with Giamatti coaching a young wrestling prodigy...then the kid's mother shows up and the second half becomes a drama about a battle over an estate. It still works though due to Giamatti and Tom Mc Carthy's direction.
- DC Cab changes from a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits trying to make it as a cab company in D.C. to a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits trying to save one of their own and a couple of kids from kidnappers in the third act.
- In the French "thriller" Cache, a couple is being sent video tapes of their house, and they can't figure out who's video taping them; this starts to grate on their marriage, leading to their son ending up missing though he really just went to stay with a friend overnight without telling his parents, and the wife finding out about her husband's dark past. Halfway through the movie, we find out that the husband, George, when he was little, had an adopted Algerian brother whose parents died in Paris in a rally, and George ended up framing the Algerian kid for something, getting him sent to an orphanage. The rest of the movie involves the Algerian massacre in Paris while ignoring the thriller plot, to the point where it's never even revealed who was making the tapes.
- While it's never revealed who's sending the tapes, the husband still tries to blame the brother for it, which leads to the plot switch.
- The film Knowing starts out as a thriller about strange numbers, written down by a Creepy Child. The protagonist, a Science Hero, tries to stop accidents from happening, after he understands what the figures mean — but utterly fails, as The End of the World as We Know It is near, leading to a Apocalypse How Class X Event . Though, Nicolas Cage's character has a rather spoilerific Chekhov's Skill, if you think about it.
- The John Sayle's film Limbo starts off as a movie about a fisherman in a small Alaskan town who starts a romance with a single mom and the trouble he has bonding with her daughter. Then they go on a boat trip with his wayward brother who is suddenly attacked and murdered by drug dealers the brother owes money to. The three characters are then forced to seek shelter and fight to survive on a nearby uncharted, uninhabited island.
- The Kaiju film Rodan starts with a mining company dealing with a localized infestation of quite-large prehistoric insects, and then switches to two gigantic pterosaurs emerging from the mine and causing havoc across Japan.
- Birdemic does this somewhat jarringly. The first half is mostly about the male and female meeting and falling in love as their careers are taking off then the movie takes us live to a bird assault already in progress.
- Another documentary that manages it is Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows. It starts as a straightforward year-in-the-life documentary of one of the most popular wrestlers of the era. Then comes the Montreal Screwjob, and all of a sudden it's about one of the most dramatic betrayals in wrestling history.
- No Country for Old Men starts off as a thriller about a young man who is trying to get away from a murderous psychopath, all building up to a big showdown at the end whilst the Sheriff tries to understand what's going on. In the last 30 minutes, Llewellyn Moss is killed offscreen by a few minor Mexican criminals, and most of the rest of the film is centered around Sheriff Bell trying to cope with his inability to keep up with the community's high crime rate.
- Arguably, the new plot was really the main plot all along. It just didn't seem that way. (The movie's really about subverting every audience expectation possible.)
- 1980s Melanie Griffith/Jeff Daniels vehicle Something Wild starts off like it's going to be a wacky romantic comedy, but then takes a dark turn halfway through when her ex-con husband shows up.
- Flight Plan starts with a recently-widowed woman waking up on a plane with her daughter nowhere to be found with no one on the flight crew or among the passengers remembering a little girl. Soon, even she begins to doubt her own sanity, especially when the captain proposes that her daughter died along with her husband, and that she's in deep denial over this. After discovering that it's all a plot to blackmail the airline for a lot of money and frame her for it, the movie promptly turns from a psychological thriller into an action flick, where she tries to find her daughter, while trapped on a plane with a killer and his accomplice.
- 1980s Russian movie Air Crew (Экипаж) starts off as a Kitchen Sink Drama and then switches to a Disaster Movie.
- Another Russian Movie, "The Arrows of Robin Hood" ("Стрелы Робин Гуда") has the heroes spent the first half helping an impoverished knight reunite with his Love Interest. They succeed, and the two get married, only to be fatally shot immediately afterwards. They are then never mentioned again, and the rest of the movie is devoted to Robin rescuing Maid Marian from the Sheriff.
- Evil Dead Trap starts off as a Slasher Movie about snuff films, then becomes a near-incomprehensible supernatural horror story.
- Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome starts off as a typical post-apocalyptic action flick until Max is brought to the Oasis. Suddenly, the whole situation in Barter Town is left behind, and the theme changes to something akin to the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. Only when Max and the kids reach the Barter Town Underground are the two plots combined.
- Space Cowboys starts out as a comedy about a group of elderly former astronauts training to go back into space on the space shuttle. The second half of the movie suddenly becomes an Apollo13/Armageddon-esque thriller where the same elderly astronauts have to deal with the revelation that the "communications satellite" they were sent to repair is actually a nuclear weapons platform, a malfunctioning craft and find a way to get back to Earth safely.
- 28 Days Later switches from a zombie survival film to dealing with a group of sociopathic soldiers.
- The Australian film Japanese Story is billed as a romantic drama involving an Australian scientist (played by Toni Colette) who ends up having an affair with a married Japanese businessman. About 2/3 of the way into the film, the businessman dies in a freak accident while swimming, and the rest of the film is spent on Colette's character dealing with the corpse and the aftermath of this man's death.
- Blind Date starts with the first half being about a man trying to survive a horrible blind date. In the second half, he's avenging himself and trying to ruin her wedding.
- Two MST3K'ed movies, Riding With Death and The Girl in Lovers' Lane, do this. The former is a result of the film being made from two TV episodes, the latter because the girl from the romantic first two-thirds of the film is outright murdered half-way through the final act.
- In Benand Arthur, the first half features the titular homosexual characters trying to have the state of California legally recognize their marriage; the second half focuses on the two dodging the sinister machinations of Arthur's religious brother Victor.
- The movie Night Claws was pretty much Jaws with Reb Brown, Bigfoot, and a horror-flavored Cliché Storm. Suddenly, near the end, the female lead straight up snaps Reb's neck, is revealed to be a bounty hunter in one of the most ass pulled manners, and then suddenly, Frank Stallone, who despite being named beside Reb Brown had NO screen time up to this point, comes out of nowhere and confronts a generic antagonist who was a Sasquatch hunter about something completely different from the main freaking plot! After that plot's finished, it's never mentioned again.
- The main characters of The Usual Suspects are initially arrested for questioning in an armored car robbery. Later on, they (and the audience) finds out who really stole it, but they have so much bigger problems that it is shrugged off immediately.
- In Mulholland Dr., everything changes after Rita drops the blue box.
- The first 30-40 minutes of Total Recall (1990) are a surprisingly faithful, if at times somewhat over-the-top, adaptation of Philip K Dick's short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. The rest of the movie is kinda weird and a bit more like what you'd expect from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie with a bit of Mind Screw and Body Horror thrown in for good measure.
- The World's End starts off as a rather bittersweet comedy about a forty-year old Man Child screw-up getting his high school gang back-together to try and complete an incredibly difficult pub crawl. Then, about half-way in, they discover their old town has been replaced by alien replicants, and it turns into a sci-fi action flick.
- Also present in their earlier film, Hot Fuzz, which starts off as a parody of buddy cop movies with some 'small town murder mystery' elements thrown in. Then half-way through it zooms off into a parody of slasher/conspiracy theory films.
- Very much so in "Brainjack", where the beginning is about a Cracker who ends up being hired by a government White-Hat hacker group after hacking the White House and a major telecommunications provider for a neuro-headset. The plot then brutally murders its previous self and becomes about a group of the hackers trying to subvert the neuro-headsets' Hive Mind from destroying them. Can also be considered a Malignant Plot Tumor.
- Double Image by David Morrell: A photographer takes pics of something in Bosnia that really pisses off a bad guy. As soon as that plot line is resolved, said photographer becomes obsessed over a mysterious woman in some pictures he finds.
- Friday The13th The Jason Strain starts off in the Deadly Game genre... then shifts to Zombie Apocalypse.
- Sidney Sheldon's If Tomorrow Comes is divided into three "books". Books One and Two, which take up a little over a third of the novel, tell the tale of Tracy Whitney's horrifying Break the Cutie experience when she's framed by the Mafia for a robbery and wounding, and how she gets her revenge on the guilty parties. In Book Three, her struggle to make an honest living while paroled from prison leads to her becoming a Classy Cat-Burglar who finds herself matching wits not only with European authorities but a fellow con artist. The main nemesis is an insurance investigator who briefly met up with her in Book One as part of his investigation of the false crimes; he becomes obsessed with tracking her down when his employer is besieged with claims for things she's stolen.
- The children's book Mandie and the Secret Tunnel starts out as a drama that turns into a mystery/treasure hunt midway through the story.
- Arguably used in Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow where a routine murder mystery trope dives off the deep-end into X-Files-esque killer bug from space about halfway through the novel.
- The Tawny Man trilogy starts out with a book about prince Dutiful's abduction by the Piebalds, with his upcoming betrothal to an Outislander princess a background detail. The Outislands plotline becomes more prominent in the second book and completely makes up the third book, while the Piebald storyline becomes less prominent and is ultimately resolved off-page in the third book.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land starts out mainly with a plot about Valentine Michael Smith's (the human raised as a Martian) land rights to Mars, but then this issue is resolved with surprising ease, and the plot transitions to be primarily about Smith creating a religion and becoming a Messianic Archetype.
- Most of Robert A. Heinlein's longer stories tend to have this structure to some extent, though not quite as tenuous.
- Twilight. Though, this is more of a 3/4 way plot switch, which is how long it seems to take the author before she suddenly remembers she was planning on writing a vampire novel, as well as an angsty May-December romance. To quote Cracked.com:
"[T]he plot arrives late to the party, drunk, in a beat-up '53 Chevy pick-up truck. It drives away about fifty pages later and crashes into a tree, gets sent to the hospital, and is rarely heard from again throughout the course of the series."
- The same things happen in the other books. In New Moon, most of the book is devoted to Bella recovering from Edward leaving her, finding out about the werewolves, and the werewolves hunting for Victoria. Suddenly, the climax of the novel goes to being about Edward planning to commit suicide via the Volturi, and Bella and Alice having to save him. In Eclipse, most of the story is devoted to the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle, and only gives focus on the matter of the vampire army and Victoria near the end of the book. In Breaking Dawn, the first two sections of the book (as well as a bit of the start of the third) are focused on Bella and Edward marrying and her having and raising her half-human daughter. Most of the third section is about the Volturi arriving to use Renesmee as an excuse to kill the Cullens, with flavors of a vampire conspiracy and the set up for an epic battle that never happens.
- This actually happens twice in Smeyer's The Host: It starts out being about an alien adjusting to life as a bodysnatcher, then devotes the entire second act, and much of the third, to developing platonic & romantic relationships with the rebels, before focusing on saving the humans near the end. Really, this is practically Smeyer's signature style.
- The Kneebone Boy starts with three kids dropped off at their aunt's house while their single-father goes out of town on business. Upon finding out their aunt is away on vacation, they go to a small town with a castle, where they find out about the legend of the Kneebone Boy, which says that the first-born child of the family who owned the castle would always be born as a deformed monster. The middle of the book sets up several intriguing plot threads which leave the reader guessing... then drops them all in the last few chapters without resolution to reveal that the castle is now a mental institution where the children's mom is.
- The first chunk of The Twits is vignettes about how horrible the twits are. The second chunk is about the family of monkeys trying to escape.
- Another Roald Dahl example is Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. The first half has the elevator and its occupants accidentally ending up in orbit and ultimately rescuing most of the crew of a space hotel from carnivorous aliens. Once the elevator returns to the chocolate factory, the second half has the three still-bedridden Bucket grandparents overdosing on reverse-aging pills that Willy Wonka invented, neccessitating a journey far beneath the factory to rescue one of them. The events of the first half aren't brought up again until the last chapter.
- The first chunk of Little Star is effectively about Lennart and Leila raising Theres before she kills them. Then there's a significant chunk about Theres growing up, followed by a section on Theresa's life before the two finally meet around the midpoint of the novel.
- Neale Stephensons Ream De does this in a big way. It starts off (very broadly) with a group of Chinese hackers planting ransomware on victims' computers and using the virtual currency of an on-line game (the game in question being a major theme of the early plot) as a money collection/laundering device. When a Russian mafia boss falls victim to this scam, he sends an outfit to China to bust the hackers. It just so happens that the hackers are working from an apartment right next to one that's been hired by international terrorists ... at which point the story quite simply ditches the hacking/online game plot in favour of a terrorist version of Wacky Races.
Live Action TV
- Tom Lehrer's song Poisoning Pigeons in the Park starts out as your typical ballad about the wonders of spring... and then in the first chorus suddenly moves on to being about, well, poisoning pigeons in the park.
- Also I Hold Your Hand In Mine which starts out like a regular love song but then reveals that the hand isn't attached to her body.
- The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" is the ultimate Halfway Plot Switch song. Paul even confesses that the middle part was a piano piece that he was initially working on independently.
- "Charming Weather" from Lionel Monckton's The Arcadians. It starts off obviously leading into a marriage proposal — until they realise they aren't alone, and it turns into banal smalltalk for the chorus. Unusual since, being music, it can do it all over a second time. Youtube has a rather badly performed recording of it.
- Katrinah Jospehina by Universal Hall Pass. The first half of the song is the tale of a girl (the eponymous Katrinah) who decided to explore beneath the earth. The second half consists of a twisted, echoing beat accompanying backwards-sounding fragments of the lyrics. This change is never really explained, but it's heavily implied that Katrinah is either mentally ill or trapped in hell... or both.
- Arlo Guthrie starts out "The Alice's Restaurant Massacree" by telling about how he was arrested for littering on Thanksgiving, but he switches halfway through to talk about going to visit the draft board. Eventually it all ties together.
- Gorillaz's Empire Ants song, in the new Plastic Beach album. It starts with 2D singing, backed by sweet almost lift-like tropical tunes. Then, full stop, and it starts what appears a new song, with electro-techno sounds, bass, and even new vocals, from guest artist Little Dragon. And it's awesome.
- "Miserable Lie" by The Smiths seems constructed out of three separate songs, opening with a slow, gentle, serious introduction that seems to represent the end of a relationship. The song then turns on a dime to an uptempo number with a series of bitter, (yet comical) stream-of-consciousness lyrics. This shift in tone gets escalated to a manic level in the final part of the track, as Morrissey switches to a falsetto voice, howling about his perceived inadequacies in life and love. It can be argued that the theme of the lyrics stays constant, but then again, said theme is dominant in most of The Smiths' songs, as well as Morrissey's solo work.
- The Good, The Bad and The Queen's song, Three Changes. It doesn't take a genius to see why it's named like that. The song starts and goes all well, up after the second chorus, and it switches to a latin-like song, and later, it changes into a slower and minimalistic version of the first part.
- So there's only two changes?
- The first half of Laserdance's 1995 album The Guardian of Forever is the same style as the previous two albums, but halfway through it undergoes a total Genre Shift to tech-trance.
- David Bowie's "Cygnet Committee" starts with the singer bemoaning the intellectual passengers in his circle and shifts into a tale of that circle leading a Full-Circle Revolution.
- Billy Joel's "Themes from an Italian Restaurant" switches tone and subject three times. The first and final sections are about the restaurant, or more accurately its wine list. This restaurant is not mentioned in either of the other two more upbeat sections, one of which is about a teenage romance that eventually turned into a failed marriage. Also, the original title was "The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie", according to Word of God.
- FoxTrot uses this sometimes.
- One 1995 story had Jason entering a chess contest with Roger and wins $50, thus turning the story into Jason using the money to taunt his siblings. Then, the plot shifts to Jason spending all his money on 5,000 gumballs, which he eats all in one weekend. THEN, the plot shifts to Jason getting his first cavity as a result of eating all the gumballs, before finally leading up to Jason's first dentist visit.
- Probably a bigger one occurred in 1999, with a big story of Roger going on a business trip out of state, then returning home to find Jason in stitches following a Hot Wheels accident. After two days focusing on Jason and his stitches, the plot switches to Roger quitting work to spend more time with his family. He then gets scammed out of $199.99 in an infomercial. He then tries trading stocks on the internet, and winds up losing $11,000 in the second hour (after earning $3,000 in the first hour). After everyone at Roger's work goes crazy without Roger there to mess things up, he gets his job back. However, Roger threw away the family computer after losing the money in the stocks, so the plot finally goes to Andy buying the iFruit.
- A Calvin and Hobbes story had Calvin and Hobbes creating their G.R.O.S.S club and then accidentally pushing Calvin's mother's car out of the garage, leading to the duo running away from home.
- In another arc, Calvin is trying to do his homework when gravity reverses, causing him to get stuck on the ceiling. Just after everything reverts to normal, he starts to grow bigger and bigger until he falls off the Milky Way Galaxy. As he puts it, "this has been a very peculiar afternoon." The 10th anniversary special has Watterson admitting that the story was "weird for weirdness' sake".
- A Heart of the City seven-week arc started with Dean mourning the end of Star Wars, and ended with Heart dreaming she was in summer school. It starts here.
- "Buck Buck", one of Bill Cosby's routines from his stand-up days. The first half is about Buck Buck, a game in which one group of kids gets jumped on by another and tries not to fall down (Bill's team is good on defense, but their real secret weapon is Fat Albert). It then segues into a story about young Cosby and Fat Albert getting scared by their friends with the help of a Frankenstein statue. Originated the line "I told you that story to tell you this one", which has become a stock phrase sometimes used as a Lampshade Hanging.
- Fantasy Games Unlimited's Year of the Phoenix. The players are told to create astronaut characters for a science fiction/space game. Partway through the first adventure the game suddenly changes to an After the End saga in Soviet controlled America 200 years later.
- A Lesser Shade Of Evil seems inordinately fond of this idea (non-GMs are asked not to even read the book's introduction), especially given that the "switch" happens during the first session. PCs are asked to make Exalted-esque demigods in a High Fantasy setting... only to learn during a centuries-spanning fast forward that there is no magic in this world, all their powers come from genetic engineering, the people who chose them for this duty are having a falling out, and the results of this falling out lead to an After the End setting in which the PCs have mastered a variety of scientific principles and must use them to help humanity cling to life. Whew.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Adventure S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks starts off as a standard "clean out the monster-filled dungeon" scenario. After the PCs enter, they discover that the dungeon is actually part of a derelict spacecraft and they're fighting alien monsters armed with high tech weapons.
- After half the total turns in Fiasco have elapsed, an event called the Tilt occurs, which adds a bunch more conflict elements to the game. This has the effect of splitting the story into two halves — before the shit hits the fan, and after the shit hits the fan, so to speak. Good players also modulate their playing before and after the Tilt — before the Tilt, more gentle Character Development scenes and Anachronic Order are usually possible, but after the Tilt characters with a Need should go from pursuing it to a big Jump Off The Slippery Slope in pursuit of it, and everyone is expected to take more unpredictable, unreasonable and direct actions. The rulebook also notes that killing other characters before the Tilt is bad form.
- The play Done To Death. Act 1 is all about meeting the 5 lead characters and setting up their writing styles and the show's fantasy sequences. Then there is a sudden death at the end of Act 1. Act 2 is then all about solving the murders.
- The Winter's Tale, by William Shakespeare, consists of a first half that is tragedy, and a second half that is comedy. Much scholarly ink has been spilled over the exact relationship of the two parts. (Either way, 'Exit pursued by a bear' is around where the shift happens.)
- The mother of them all, Metal Gear Solid 2. The player spends roughly the first two hours playing as Solid Snake, the protagonist from the previous game. Then the plot moves forward two years, to a different location, with the player in control of an entirely new character (ambiguously implied to be Snake for the first few minutes) for the rest of the game. The game's creator, Hideo Kojima, went out of his way to minimise the risk of anyone seeing this twist coming. Some thought the twist was brilliant. Some wanted Kojima's head on a stake.
- Guild Wars Prophecies starts of as the story of a war between the human kingdom of Ascalon and the Charr that's not going well for Ascalon. You leave Ascalon after the fourth mission, and most of the rest of the story is about a religious war in rival kingdom Kryta. After the first few quests in Kryta, Ascalon and its refugees are only occasionally mentioned, and even then only in passing. (Ascalon's King Adelbern lampshades this in the endgame area: "Maybe now that you are finished with this nonsense, you can come back to Ascalon and help deal with the filthy Charr infestation.") To be fair, it does all tie together pretty well from a Myth Arc perspective.
- Star Oceans 2 and 3 featured this. Halfway into the second game, the planet you're on (and its relevant prophecy) is essentially destroyed, throwing away nearly the entirety of the plot that preceded this event. In addition, halfway into the 3rd title, you come to realize that the entire universe you live in is a computer simulation, pretty much throwing away the entire "war" plotline that had been going up 'till then.
- Portal starts off with apparently no plotline, apart from a computer that acts as The Voice, giving basic information about the tests and promising cake if the players finishes puzzle after puzzle. Then it turns out this voice is an insane AI, who intends to kill you when the test is done.
- Xenogears. At first, the plot is about two nations that have waged war on each other for generations. Then, the plot changes to overthrowing Solaris, a hidden country which ruthlessly manipulates world events behind the scenes. After that, the plot switches to killing god (not the God, who is also in the game and apparently being used as an extremely long-lasting battery, but a sentient interstellar war machine that created humans on the planet to serve as its biological components).
- Happens more than once during the course of Chrono Cross. The game starts with Serge finding himself in another world where he died as a child, and needing to figure out how and why it happened. Then Serge's body gets switched with Lynx and you need to find a way to undo it. Then you finally defeat the guy who's been presented as the Big Bad most of the game, only for the dragon gods to merge together to form the "Time Devourer" resulting in another Big Bad to face who has nothing to do with the first. Then you defeat that Big Bad, and discover you have to save Schala from the true Time Devourer, who was manipulating the false one.
- In Tales of Vesperia, the game starts with the main character on a journey to recover a stolen piece of technology from his hometown. That plot eventually gives way to a semi Government Conspiracy, and even that is resolved by the end of the first act. The rest of the plot consists of the protagonist becoming a Vigilante Man and an analogy for global warming, and the thief plot is never mentioned again. (The Japan-only Updated Re-release added a sidequest that lets you catch the thief and finally bring that plot to a close, but by then it's hardly relevant anymore)
- The Stealth-Based Game Spy Fiction starts off as a campy spy game about secret agents investigating a virus being made by a weapons manufacturer. Then these characters are all killed off and the last half of the plot is about fighting a terrorist who's disguising himself by wearing glasses and pushing his hair back who is the protagonist's brother who was probably created in a government soldier cloning project and then the protagonist's father (who is a secret agent turned terrorist and wears an eyepatch) shows up out of nowhere and the protagonist abruptly starts lecturing people about the meaning of war and... I guess they knew their audience.
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 starts with Nick Fury invading Latveria illegally, which leads to the Registration act coming into effect. A super hero Civil War breaks out... for three missions. Then it is dropped for The Fold, a sentient network formed from nanites injected into super villains in order to control them. As the world descends into chaos, everyone, naturally, stops caring about whose side they are on, and both forces unite to defeat The Fold. Afterwards, the Registration Act is pretty much made redundant and void by the Government. Despite the fact that no one actually dies because of their conflict, and neither side really does anything incredibly bad to the other, Cap and Iron Man feel that their team won't be quite the same as it was before the war. But they still are happy to work with one another again.
- Disgaea. The first half of the game focuses on Laharl's quest to claim his throne. After he succeeds, the second half, a Space Opera spoof, focuses on the human world. When the mastermind behind the invasion is revealed, it leads to a Rage Against the Heavens story, and the two stories intertwine together.
- The whole Blorbs disease in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. It was at the start an important issue alongside the whole 'Fawful taking over the kingdom' thing, but very quickly got dropped and rarely ever mentioned again (the last reference is how the Miracle Cure cured all cases of the disease in the kingdom, just as it smashes down the Dark Star barriers).
- Final Fantasy tends to do this a lot, beginning the plot with the heroes rebelling against The Empire and escalating it to averting an Apocalypse How caused by an Omnicidal Maniac
- Final Fantasy IV begins with a rogue knight rebelling against his kingdom when he realizes the monarch has gone mad with power and is trying to conquer the world. At some point it becomes about fighting the monarch's airship general who wants to go to the moon to release the Sealed Evil in a Can there.
- Final Fantasy VI starts off as a campaign against the Gestahlian Empire until halfway through, The Dragon becomes a god and destroys half the world, leaving you to recover your lost allies and destroy him.
- Final Fantasy VII begins with Cloud and AVALANCHE's brave struggle against the evil Shinra company executives, who are draining the life out of the planet to maintain an electricity monopoly. About five hours into the game President Shinra is killed and the Shinra's relevance to the plot dies with him, the focus then shifting to leaving Midgar to pursue Sephiroth across the planet and stop his scheme to summon Meteor and become a god.
- Final Fantasy VIII has a very, very clear line in its plot where the focus shifts completely. The first two disks of the game consist of Squall and the forces of SeeD battling Sorceress Edea and Rival Turned Evil Seifer as they use the country of Galbadia to try and conquer the world. The very first event after Disk 2 is The Reveal that Edea was just Brainwashed and Crazy, and the real antagonist is Ultmecia, a Sorceress in the future who wants to destroy the entire space-time continuum. That's in terms of the overarcing plot—otherwise focus from this point shifts to Squall searching for a way to get his comatose love interest Rinoa back to normal.
- Final Fantasy IX, the first part of the game focuses on Queen Brahne's conquest of the continent, the plot switch occurs when the party decides to go after Kuja, Brahne's weapons supplier, and he becomes the main antagonist when he promptly offs her at the end of the current disk. A plot switch then occurs a second time with The Reveal that Kuja is an alien from Terra sent by Garland to destroy the world, and Zidane was meant to be his successor and spiritually is his brother that Kuja abandoned on Gaia.
- Mostly averted in Final Fantasy X, where the overarching plot is always the pilgrimage to destroy Sin. Once Seymour is revealed as an antagonist, rebelling against Yevon and uncovering the secrets of the organization becomes another major plot point, but it never overtakes the fight against Sin as the game's focus.
- Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath starts off with The Stranger as a Bounty Hunter who's earning money for an unspecified operation needed to save his life by capturing outlaws until he's finally captured and stripped of any upgrades he has. His captors soon find out that The Stranger is actually a Steef, a species that have been hunted to near-extinction and the operation is an attempt to transform him into a true bipedal creature. With this revelation, The Stranger is now hunted down by everyone, including the Clakkerz he used to do business with. However, he soon comes across the Grubbs, the oppressed indigenous population who worship Steefs and eventually takes up the mantle of their protector and fights to bring down Corrupt Corporate Executive Sekto. This affects the gameplay as well since although Stranger has now lost any health upgrades he previously bought, he later gains access to upgraded versions of his ammo and now that he is no longer a bounty hunter, he no longer needs to take enemies alive.
- In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn the children of the last two games' heroes go on a quest to investigate mysterious Psynergy sucking vortexes. This gets derailed by the appearance of villains, war hungry countries, xenophobic semi-human cities, and so much else. After about a quarter of the game, you hear nothing more about them until the Mother of All Vortexes appears during the ending.
- Perfect Dark switches half-way from Cyber Punk to Space Opera.
- World of Warcraft's Vashj'ir zone. In the wake of the Cataclysm, a new island is formed several miles off the coast of Stormwind. Both factions begin sending troops, with the Alliance seeking to secure Stormwind's coast and the Horde wanting the island as a staging point for an attack. However, on the way there, the Player Character's ship is attacked and destroyed by the Kraken-like Ozumat, and from then on Vashj'ir is about helping the Earthen Ring fight Ozumat and the Naga. Exactly what happened to the island is never explained, and while you can travel to it, other than a flightmaster there's nothing there.
- Zig-zagged in the first case of Ace Attorney Investigations 2. It begins with an assassination attempt on the president of a foreign country, with Edgeworth looking for the perpetrator. About halfway through, you find out that the president is fine, but one of his bodyguards has been found dead, shifting the case to a more traditional murder investigation as per the rest of the series. Then you learn that the assassination attempt was staged, and the murder plotline is put on hold until you can prove it. Afterwards, the murder plot resumes, but at the end of the case you find out that amidst the fake assassination, someone planned to kill the president for real, setting up a Sequel Hook for the next four cases.
- Dark Souls starts out implying that the player is trying to cure the Darksign, but halfway through the game after ringing the Twin Bells of Awakening, the story switches from focusing curing undeath and instead about an Ancient Conspiracy and the Forever War regarding the First Flame. This event even has its own Sacrificial Lion.
- The freeware Visual Novel Ristorante Amore is presented as a romance game in which the player takes the role of a young woman working in the eponymous restaurant. When the prologue ends, however, the role of the game's viewpoint character changes to Pierre, whereupon it's revealed that all of the characters are actors in an alternate reality feuled by feelings of love from the inhabitants of the real world, and they're staging a Visual Novel in order to encourage those feelings. Pierre isn't even really named Pierre; his name is actually Josh.
- Xenoblade starts off as a typical revenge plot, with The Hero going on a quest to defeat the army of soulless robots that destroyed his hometown and killed his Love Interest. The Big Bad at this point is a Jerkass Humongous Mecha known only as "Metal Face". Eventually it's revealed the Mechon aren't quite as soulless as you once thought. Metal Face is promptly dispatched, and his Well-Intentioned Extremist boss becomes the new Big Bad. Now the plot is still Man Versus Machine, but the focus has shifted from getting revenge on a villain to stopping a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds from betraying everything he once stood for. Once you confront and defeat him... Zanza, the real Big Bad reveals himself, and the plot shifts from Man Versus Machine to Man Versus Jerkass Omnicidal Evil God.
- Halo. The plot was a well-handled but ultimately rather generic "human Space Marines versus Scary Dogmatic Aliens" affair with a side order of "mysterious Precursors who might or might not become relevant to the plot sometime soon", for the first half, but then we got... The Flood. Bonus points for this not being revealed in advertising or the previews of a very high-profile game.
- In-universe example: In The Stanley Parable, the Narrator's story begins with all of Stanley's co-workers mysteriously disappearing, only to drop this plot thread completely when Stanley stumbles across his boss's secret mind control facility.
- When it began, Ciem was about how Candi was different from other girls. Then, it was about her sister being murdered. Then, it was about her going to college. Then, trying to find love. Then, it was about her sexual frustrations. Then it was about some guy in a shrew costume murdering everyone. Then, it was about her finding true love again.
- In the popular The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, an entire story arc (part 2 in a 4-part mega-arc) is based on this storytelling format, to the extent that it is called "I Told You That Story So I Could Tell You This One". The stories concerned are the titular main character's dilemma when every person he ever killed returns as a zombie to plague him, which leads into an exploration of his family and his sidekick's family when he leaves his sidekick to stay with them instead of bothering him.
- YU+ME: dream . Goes from a very typical Coming-Out Story about a girl named Fiona who goes to a Catholic high school and falls in love with another girl called Lia, to finding out that it was all a dream, Lia is 900 years old, has been captured by the Queen of Dreams and now Fiona, a bear called Mrs Butterfield, a woman with a removable head, Fiona's conscience, a blue haired girl called Clandestine, and a bisexual male called Don must travel through Fiona's dreams to get her back. You... you have to read it to wrap your head around it.
- Close to being standard practice for Mountain Time, such as here, when the plot switches to an entirely new set of characters in a completely different scenario, and much more pronounced in longer story arcs like this one.
- XKCD: What would happen if everyone on earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant? After concluding that earth would continue to spin, Randall goes on to elaborate how our civilization would come to a halt and humanity would die out, not having any food or water supplies to feed even a fraction of the entire world population until they could get back to where they're from.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd's review of Super Mario Bros. 3 starts with a normal review of the Wizard and SMB 3... until he starts pointing out satanic references in the game. After that... well... let's just say that all hell breaks loose. Literally.
- Bonus Stage did this constantly.