Milholland Relationship Moment
Alice has done something which will deeply hurt Bob, but he doesn't know that yet. Of course, everyone else
seems to know, and they constantly remind Alice that she needs to go face the music. Eventually, with a half-hearted "we'll pay for your funeral" from other members of the cast, she steps forward to confess...
...and it turns out that Bob doesn't mind
, or it's not as big a deal as Alice feared, or he knew all along and was just waiting for her to tell him. Whatever the reason, it's not nearly as dramatic as everyone expected. The tension has been building and building, but since it resolves in a fairly heartwarming fashion, all that emotion feeds into our good feelings. (Well, either that, or it's anticlimactic, lame, or even aggravating.)
It can end in a Shrug Take
, but it doesn't always. Bob may decide to forgive and forget, or he might reveal that he already knew and had come to terms with it off-screen. These work best when the injury to Bob is genuinely deep, not something he could just shrug off, so that offering a free restoration of their relationship to Alice is something that they both know will cost him.
One way to run these is to have Alice approach Bob to confess her crime — say, she broke his favorite lamp — after he's learned of something even worse
(e.g. he's just been diagnosed with terminal cancer). Under normal circumstances he might have been angry, but now he's all-too-aware that life is short and that Alice means more to him than a lamp. Bonus points if he hides this second, devastating piece of news from Alice.
The name is a riff on the Sorkin Relationship Moment
(a phrase coined by Eric Burns-White
) and Randy Milholland of Something Positive
, who does this quite frequently. Not to be confused with the lesbian relationship in Mulholland Drive.
Anime and Manga
- Near the end of Code Geass, C. C. asks Lelouch if he hates her for the secrets she kept from her. He doesn't.
- In one of the Urusei Yatsura manga stories, Ran remembers how in their youth, Benten had ruined Lum's Cosmos Box and told her not to tell. She promptly starts trying to use this old memory to try and hurt Lum by disrupting her friendship with Benten. Instead when it's finally revealed, Lum is relieved because as it turned out, she had accidentally wrecked Benten's Cosmos box at the same time. And then the two of them start confessing and forgiving all sorts of past wrongdoings while Ran accepts that both of them are simply too forgiving for her to ever understand.
- Subverted in Minami-ke, when Kana and Chiaki accidentally break Haruka's treasured souvenir and try their best to hide it from her, while frantically trying to repair it. They have all the reasons to fear Haruka's wrath (she is a legendary delinquent, after all), but it turns out Haruka didn't really care for the broken glass bird... but she is NOT happy about her little sisters lying to her.
- In Vision of Escaflowne, Millerna asks Hitomi to do a tarot card reading on which man she should marry - her love Allen or her betrothed Dryden. When Hitomi obliges, she sees that Millerna's marriage to Dryden will go badly while her marriage to Allen will make her happy. Because Hitomi loves Allen too, she uses her power to switch a card (thereby altering fate) and tells Millerna Dryden would be the better choice for her. As a direct consequence of altering fate, the wedding is attacked by Guymelefs and nearly gets the couple killed. And what happens when Hitomi admits to Millerna that she basically screwed Millerna over so she wouldn't marry the man she loved? She apologises to Hitomi for putting her in such a hard position in the first place, since she had no idea that Hitomi had feelings for Allen as well.
- Early in Girl Friends, Mari kisses Akko while she's asleep. This freaks her right the hell out and she proceeds to spend several hours trying to figure out a way to tell her. Then when she finally does... Akko is beyond relieved that that's it - Mari looked so nervous that she was seriously getting worried there! But to Akko, girls kiss all the time - it's just a way of showing affection. This actually ends up biting her in the arse later, though, when she kisses Mari and intends for it to come across like a love confession, but Mari just thinks she's being a friend.
- Towards the end of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Real!Syaoran admits it's possible that his messing with time to save Sakura could have caused Fay to be born a twin, which is the root cause of his ridiculously tragic life. He clearly feels incredibly guilty, but after a moment, Fay simply forgives him.
- In Transmetropolitan, Yelena ends up ghost-writing one of Spider's columns for him after he is knocked unconscious and unable to write it. Given Spider's jerkass nature, Yelena seems to prepare for the worst when she tells him... Spider kisses her forehead and tells her "thank you", in what is probably one of his most humanizing moments in the comic.
- By that point, Spider was already suffering from an Information Pollen-related, Alzheimer's-like degenerative neurological disorder; making this moment, (at least in context) a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Although not the only one in the series. There are at least two more.
- Two notable examples in ElfQuest: the first occurs when Leetah accidentally yells out Cutter's secret soul name in front of Cutter's best friend, Skywise. It turns out Cutter and Skywise have such a strong mental link, they've known each other's soul names since they were kids... and Cutter's just happy to see Leetah and Skywise again. The second one occurs when Big Bad Winnowill reveals that Leetah knows about Cutter's animal heritage. Cutter and Leetah both decide it doesn't matter.
- After Conner/Superboy dies, his best friend Tim/Robin and his girlfriend Cassie/Wonder Girl begin a relationship that could be interpreted largely as Sex for Solace (except without the sex, because, you know, Tim Drake). They break up, but after Conner comes back to life both are worried what he'll think of them. He doesn't care; it's not like they knew he was coming back, after all.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry is in Dumbledore's office waiting for him, having been (falsely) accused of attacking others with very dangerous, unknown dark magic. He examines Dumbledore's old, sick looking bird for a moment, and it bursts into flames. Harry freaks out, but when Dumbledore shows up he explains that his bird is a phoenix, and points out the little chick poking its head out of the ashes. He follows this up by revealing that he never suspected Harry of attacking his fellow students in the first place.
- Dumbledore is good at these; at the end of Chamber of Secrets, Ginny is terrified that she'll get expelled for her role in the opening of the titular chamber. Instead, Dumbledore lets her off on the (rather sound) logic that she was being manipulated by a master of the art.
- In Half-Blood Prince Harry realizes he has feelings for Ginny, and spends months worrying what Ron would say if he tried to date his sister. His reaction basically comes down to "Ew" and, in the next book, a (relatively mild) warning not to break her heart.
- In The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer, the heroine nerves herself to tell her husband that she played cards with his worst enemy and lost a lock of her hair to him, only to find that her husband had anticipated the villain's plan and taken his place halfway through the evening.
- In the Peter Wimsey novel Clouds of Witnesses, Mary Wimsey has just confessed to the murder of her fiancee to Charles Parker, just before hearing that Peter has been shot. When they're hovering over him as he recuperates, trying to figure out how to tell him the news, he suddenly comes out with "So what have you been talking about? have you been telling him that you did it, Mary?". Parker is not amused. Turns out Peter's so unconcerned because he knows she's lying.
- This occurs during an episode of Drake & Josh wherein Josh accidentally destroys a very valuable guitar of Drake's. When Josh eventually admits to it (after having spent the rest of the episode trying to get a replacement, a feat which cost him the only $1,200 he had), Drake reveals that he'd already found out, forgives Josh immediately, and tells Josh that his spending his life savings on a replacement is "the coolest thing anyone's ever done for me."
- Happens in Scrubs a few times, for example when Turk tells everyone that Carla's pregnant, only to find that she wanted to tell everyone herself and he's ruined that opportunity for her. When JD tells her that he'd already found out from Turk, everyone prepares for her to blow up at him, but she's just more excited about having a baby than how everyone finds out.
- In Home Improvement, Brad accidentally kills his girlfriend's goldfish while fish-sitting; he tries to cover it up, all the while agonizing over her reaction. When he finally comes clean with her, she's so impressed that he was worried about her feelings that she forgives him.
- Friends: "The One with Chandler's Work Laugh" features Ross agonizing over telling Chandler that he had a brief relationship with the latter's ex-girlfriend, Janice. Finally, at the end, Ross confesses and Chandler openly indicates that he doesn't care, what with having no lingering feelings for Janice.
- "The One Where Phoebe Runs" features this trope again, when Chandler moves Monica's things to clean their apartment and can't remember where they all go. After an episode of his agonising over what she will think, she returns home and seems ready to blow up at him, though in the end she just thanks him for trying to be nice and do her a good thing by cleaning up for her.
- In "The One Where Ross Can't Flirt," Rachel borrows and loses an earring that Phoebe had borrowed from Monica. They spend the entire episode agonizing over it, until Phoebe decides to take the blame. She fesses up, and is instantly forgiven. Seeing this, Rachel admits that it was really her fault, expecting to be forgiven too. She isn't. This is probably because she is said to have already borrowed and lost many of Monica's things.
- Almost done in How I Met Your Mother. Barney agonizes over telling Ted he slept with Robin, since it means he broke The Bro Code, but when he tells him Ted already knows and says he's not mad. Ted was lying; it turns out he's actually furious, and it ruins their friendship for the rest of the season. Weirdly, he plays this trope straight by being genuinely not angry with Robin (who told him about it first) since he expected her to have moved on by then.
- In an episode of Castle, an affluent teenager who got caught up in drugs has been found dead, prompting a moment of paranoia on Castle's part about his own daughter, despite the fact that he knows that she's more responsible than he ever was. When he approaches her, Alexis assures him that she's not keeping any secrets, and hasn't done been involved with any kind of trouble that he doesn't know of. The next morning, Alexis wakes him up, tearful and guilt-ridden about having lied to him in their earlier heart-to-heart, and painfully forces herself to confess the truth... she once jumped a subway turnstile without paying when she had a desperate need to catch the train. Needless to say, compared with what he could have expected, Castle is both relieved and bemused by this shocking revelation, and Alexis is forced to punish herself with being grounded for a week when the punishment her father gives her — mandatory ice-cream for breakfast — is found somewhat lacking. And then we found out that Alexis also apparently paid for the train the next day. Twice. Without even riding it.
- On Frasier, Daphne loses her engagement ring and spends the entire episode covering her hands in front of her fiance, Donny. At the end of the episode, she finds the ring and is wearing it in front of him, believing herself to have covered up the whole incident. When he sees her the first thing he says is "Hey, you found your engagement ring!"
- On 30 Rock, Liz tries hard not to reveal that she was the one who told a news columnist that Jack Donaghy was a "class-A moron." Jack's pain at the insult eventually guilt-trips Liz into confessing, but it turns out Jack already knew and was intentionally guilt-tripping her.
- One episode of Family Matters had this regarding the new camera Carl got. Little Richie is playing with it, and he drops it, thus breaking it. Being a child, he tries to understandably hide it from Carl (who can have a ridiculously scary temper) and gets so upset about it that he can't sleep. He tells his mother, and Rachel eventually convinces him to apologize to Carl. Carl in turn says he already figured it out based on the video Richie took and was just waiting for the apology.
- Jez of Peep Show agrees to take the blame when Mark wrecks Johnson's brand new BMW, but Johnson shrugs it off, as he is "insured out [his] arse."
- Occurs toward the end of Henry IV Part 2. The Lord Chief Justice once sent Prince Hal to prison for punching him in the face. As such, he expects retaliation once Hal assumes the throne. However, when Hal (or rather, Henry V) finally confronts the Lord Chief Justice, it turns out he agrees that getting sent to prison was the best thing for him at the time, and congratulates the Lord Chief Justice on a job well done.
- If Shepard presses Liara in Mass Effect 2, she reveals that she was the one who gave Shepard's body to Cerberus to be resurrected. It's clear that Liara feels terribly guilty, knowing full well Cerberus would use Shepard for their own ends. Shepard can brush it off and reassure Liara she did the right thing. Averted if Shepard chooses to be a heartless asshole and accuse Liara of manipulating him/her.
- Subverted in Escape from Monkey Island. The owner of the SCUMM Bar reluctantly goes on a voyage with you, knowing there's a good chance his competitor will buy him out while he's away. Sure enough, the SCUMM Bar is the Lua Bar once you return. When you fearfully approach him to break the bad news, he reacts calmly to the various (false) accounts of disaster you can give him, but as soon as you give up and say "Oh, actually nothing's wrong" he instantly deduces the truth and flies into a rage.
- In Twokinds, Flora spends three months agonizing over telling Trace that she's pregnant, even though it should be impossible unless she cheated on him. When she tells him, he describes himself as "kinda freaking out... But it's the normal kind of freaking out, I think" and he believes her when she says that she didn't cheat on him.
- As noted above, Something Positive does this a lot. Probably the best example, with the most buildup, is when Monette has cut up valuable (both emotionally and monetarily) comics from Fred's childhood to turn into collages without realising their value, and when she finally tells Fred, he reacts not only calmly, but with pride at how nice her work is. Of course, he has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and seems more focused on what he feels is really important.
- Also noteworthy:
- The time Aubry and PeeJee 'killed' Davan's pet cat, Choo-Choo-Bear, by pouring him down the sink's drain. Of course, it helped that it'd happened quite often prior to this.
- The time Kim rapes Davan - mitigated by the fact that Davan would have consented if he'd been conscious, but all the characters involved do acknowledge that it was rape and he goes with Kim to a support group to address how wrong the behavior was.
- The time PeeJee insulted Faye to Fred's face without realizing it. Played with: Fred reacts angrily, but just to mess with her.
- The time Jason accidentally ripped Aubrey's choker. While she blows up initially, it's more because of his other behaviour. She forgives him quickly, and the resolution of that arc even has them being engaged
- A plotline of Kevin & Kell had Kevin and Kell, roleplaying in an online game as wolves, dating each other without realizing it and later breaking it off because the roleplaying online makes them more attractive to each other in real life. A later storyline had them both invited, separately, to a Jerry Springer parody. The producers assume that Kell, as a wolf, will devour her husband Kevin (a rabbit) on camera when the truth comes out. While she almost does, when the reality of the affair comes out, they end up loving each other even more and get kicked off the show for being too touchy-feely for the show's audience (oh, and that little thing about Kell devouring the host).
- Shortpacked!: Amber spends an entire storyline worrying about how to tell Ethan she's now assistant manager. He reacts like this.
- Amber also knew along that Mike had set her Mom up to have sex with Jacob.
- In Go Get a Roomie!, when Roomie feels guilty about having snuck into Lillian's bed after having been specifically told to sleep on the couch, Lillian, who had just had a dream about Roomie being the harbinger of Lillian reconnecting to the outside world, isn't angry at all.
- Archipelago: Raven makes Blitz cry by yelling at him that he's useless and that they're better off when he's in control of his body. He later attempts to apologise, only for Blitz to have no idea what he's talking about. Raven angrily takes this as Blitz being too stupid to remember the incident (despite it just happening), until Credenza tells him that Blitz is simply too pure-hearted to care anyway.
- Done in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, with Bloo breaking Mr. Harriman's most prized possession, a bust of Madam Foster. Having already fallen victim to Herriman's occasionally arbitrary rules (earlier, Bloo, in desperate need of some toilet time, is forced to first go through an entire morning routine by the rabbit), he's now done something that even he has to acknowledge is legitimately worth punishing-and he can only imagine what horrors Herriman has in store for him. He goes to such trouble to cover up his mistake that at one point he even enlists the help of Madame Foster herself to impersonate her own bust. When Herriman turns out to have a collection of spares and a completely philosophical attitude towards their breakage, Bloo nearly explodes. Frankie later accidentally breaks a number of the spares.
- In an episode of Doug, Doug breaks a valuable piece of artwork (or artifact, or... something) and ends up locked into doing chores for his sister Judy, lest she tell Mom. Eventually, he gets sick of doing her chores and tells Mom anyway, who actually had no idea what the broken thing was and didn't care about it at all. (She grounded him anyway for hiding secrets from her.) In doing so, he also turns the tables on Judy, because she had expected Doug to do her chores, and now she doesn't have time to do them herself if she wants to go to a concert with her friends. Doug ends up doing them for her... for a price.
- In another episode, Doug accidentally breaks Mr. Dink's expensive custom-made grill and he and Skeeter try to earn money to get it replaced. When they fail to make enough money and fess up to Mr. Dink he's so moved that they'd go through all that effort that he's not even angry.
- The episode of Rocko's Modern Life where Rocko and Heffer take care of Filburt's bird while he's in hospital and Heffer accidentally squashes it. When Filburt returns and Rocko works up the nerve to deliver the bad news, Filburt correctly guess that his pet is dead, then reveals that the bird was of a species with a notoriously short lifespan and Filburt was in fact surprised the bird had survived this long. (Minor inversion: Heffer then blurts out that he "sat on it", and we quickly cut before we can see Filburt's reaction to that news ...)
- Happens in the Fanboy and Chum Chum episode "The Tell-Tale Toy". Fanboy is left alone with Chum Chum's new toy, and spends the entire episode trying to resist the urge to play with it. He fails, which results in getting the toy broken and he desperately tries to fix it. When Chum Chum comes home, Fanboy is frightened to confess about the accident. When he finally does so, Chum Chum reassures Fanboy that he only wanted the box.
- Occurs twice in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Sweet and Elite". The first time occurs when Rarity expects Twilight to be upset that the dress she made for her is so simple (since she used the time she should have been working on it to hang out with high-class ponies), but Twilight, thinking this was by design, is thrilled that it's plain and practical like herself. The second time occurs after Rarity is caught sneaking out of Twilight's birthday party to mingle with some socialites outside; she thinks Twilight will be upset, but Twilight not only thinks it's great that she's networking to boost her business, but completely understands why Rarity would try to hide it from her.
- An earlier occurrence happens in "Green Isn't Your Color": Rarity is jealous of Fluttershy's newfound modeling fame since it distracts everyone else (including celebrity fashion photographer Photo Finish) from her dresses, but bites it down because she thinks Fluttershy deserves to have some attention and would resent Rarity's jealousy. Fluttershy, meanwhile, is very uncomfortable with all the attention and would like to give it up, but sticks with it because she thinks that Rarity is so proud of her for becoming a model, and doesn't want to disappoint her friend. What's worse, they've both confided their worries to Twilight, who is in an excellent position to defuse the whole situation painlessly, except Pinkie Pie won't allow her to break her two promises of confidentiality.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Marceline's Closet," Finn and Jake sneaked into Marceline's house despite a note written in blood telling them not to, and spend the whole day hiding in her closet as she writes personal music, takes a bath, etc. When she finally catches them she doesn't mind at all. After all, she sneaks into their house all the time!
- This is probably a subversion. It looks like Marceline hears them while their hiding, and probably does all that just to freak them out.
- In Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures the titular heroes once broke a vase and went through great lenghts to replace it before Bill's parents (father and stepmother to be precise) found out. They did get a replacement vase but ended up breaking it and Bill's stepmother showed up soon after. She then told the boys the vase was just some free prize they got at some restaurant. (Basically how the boys got the replacement vase in the first place).
- Taz-Mania also played with the broken vase story.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: When Hamton's parents went on a trip and Hamton stayed at home, Plucky invited everyone to a party there. Hamton thought his parents would punish him for this but it turns out they actually liked that he had friends. However, Hamton wasn't so off the hook about the party having destroyed the house. Fortunately, when Hamton's parents were about to punish him, it was announced he won a new house from the contest he entered when he bought a magazine. (Irony considering somebody had previously commented Hamton was the only one who bought that magazine for the magazine itself)
- In the first season of Young Justice, three members of the team (Superboy, M'gann and Artemis) are keeping secrets that they think would get them kicked off if the others knew. In the penultimate episode of the season, they all come clean and find out nobody cares. In fact, Robin already knew Artemis' secret and Superboy knew M'gann's (and he was the one she was most worried about). Word of God says this was an intentional Aesop that secrets can be a bigger deal when you hide them than if you just admit the truth.
- Played with in the Sponge Bob Square Pants episode "Wet Painters", in which SpongeBob and Patrick are asked to paint Mr. Krabs' home with paint that supposedly doesn't come off. While painting, they accidentally get paint on Krabs' first dollar earned and try to hide it from him. When Krabs finds out, they prepare for the worst, but then Krabs simply licks the dollar clean. The "permanent" paint, it turns out comes off with saliva. SpongeBob figures Mr. Krabs just told them the paint wouldn't come off so they would do a good job, but Krabs confesses that he just did it to mess with them.