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A character leaves the usual setting, and is worried that things will fall apart without him or her around. When the character finds out that things are just fine, they feel useless and unneeded.
In fact, any number of crises have occurred, and a massive cover-up operation has taken place to keep the character from worrying about the home situation.
Compare Achilles in His Tent
, Holding Out for a Hero
, The Heart
and Vetinari Job Security
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- In Robert Asprin's Hit or Myth, the protagonist's mentor is MIA for the first half of the book. Upon returning, he discovers that his student has resolved all his problems by himself and feels upset and useless...but he gets over it pretty quickly when loose ends start appearing.
Live Action TV
- The Andy Griffith Show, "Andy and Opie Housekeepers": Aunt Bee leaves the boys to mind the house, which is in ruins within hours, but a friend cleans the house before Aunt Bee gets back. Aunt Bee mopes until Andy has Opie recreate the disaster area. She catches Opie in the process of recreating the disaster, but thinks he's instead trying to clean up to hide his mess.
- Actually the two had cleaned up the mess not long after they made it but Andy was Genre Savvy to realize that Aunt Bee will think they don't need her if she comes home to a clean house. So they willingly messed it up again, its then that a friend of theres saw the mess and re-cleaned it leading to the to two to frantically mess it up again.
- Mash did this in the episode "The Young and the Restless." Potter's phlebitis forces him to stay in bed, while a new, young surgeon shows everybody up. When Radar assures him that they don't need him at all, he feels sorry for himself until a crabfest against Charles snaps him out of it.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show also went through this in the first season episode "The Meershatz Pipe."
- Subverted in Malcolm in the Middle. After spending hours cleaning up the house after learning (they think) that Francis will be allowed to come home if they don't mess up their time spent alone in the house, the kids realize their parents will never believe it and proceed to make things messier than they were before.
- Scrubs' Dr. Kelso was certain that what he wanted was to "not be needed" around the hospital. He got his wish in His Story IV, much to his chagrin.
- On an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Raymond takes maternity leave to help Deborah. When he goes back to work during his break to check on things, he is disappointed and put out when he finds out his temporary replacement is doing fine.
- One episode of Arrested Development focused on this, Michael thought the company would fall apart while he was at the hospital for surgery. He rushed to the office still in hospital clothing to find that in his absence, his staff had successfully saved the company from bankruptcy by moving the offices one floor down to benefit from lower rent and subleasing their old office floor. This is a subversion of the usual theme of the show where everything does fall apart in his absence.
- In Power Rangers S.P.D., the B-Squad and Boom attempt to do this for Kat Manx when she gets Kicked Upstairs by Fowler. The result is them finding out how tough her job really is and how indispensable she is to SPD's Earth branch. Thankfully, she gets sent back at the end of the episode.
- In one episode of Drake and Josh, Josh decides to stop being friends with Drake. Drake figures Josh can't get by without him, but it turns out that Josh gets by fine on his own and Drake needs Josh more than the other way around.
- In The Fairly Oddparents, Wanda returns from vacation and is delighted to discover that in her absence, Timmy and Cosmo nearly allowed the world to end, and covered it up (unsuccessfully!) in order to make sure she had a good time.
- Done in an episode of The Simpsons, where Mr. Burns wants Bart to stay with him forever. He shows Bart a video that's allegedly a surveillance video of the house, where the family is sitting on the couch acting wooden. They're actually bad actors, and one of them messes up Homer's trademark "D'oh!".
- Also done in another episode where Smithers hand-picks Homer to fill in for him to ensure his replacement won't show him up while Smithers is gone. Unfortunately for Smithers, Homer assaults Mr. Burns after being endlessly insulted which prompts Mr. Burns to become self-sufficient, so Smithers is promptly fired when he returns from his vacation.
- When Marge went away to a day spa, Homer tried to keep things in order. He lost Maggie at one point.
- Futurama used this as the setup for an episode: The Planet Express crew goes out on a delivery without Fry. Even though he is the delivery boy, everything went fine without him, better than usual even.
- In The Smurfs episode "Papa's Day Off", the Smurfs try to show how self-reliant they are in taking care of their own problems in order to encourage Papa Smurf to take a day off. During his day off, Papa Smurf feels like his little Smurfs would be better off without him — until Homnibus shows him through his Imaginarium that in dire situations like Bigmouth eating up their smurfberry patches, they're still in need of him. And upon Papa Smurf's return to the village, he proves just how much he is needed by the other Smurfs when a log floating downstream nearly destroys the village dam.