A gentle Retcon
to allow a previously unmentioned love-of-their-life
to pop up for a main character in an episode. Characteristically a Temporary Love Interest
, this is a simple way to skip all the boring foreplay and jump right to the intensity. Sometimes the long absence and sudden reappearance is explained by a Fallback Marriage Pact
Usually, it ends in death, Put on a Bus
, death on a bus
, or with some similar Reset Button
; a less dramatic way to end it is for the couple to simply realise they don't have the same connection they once did
Often, the character with the New Old Flame
is already (re-)married
, and it turns out it's not just the audience that's surprised.
Clumsily done, this can mess with the memory of a previous relationship carefully established over a Story Arc
, and anger 'shippy
fans. Elegantly done, it can leave us with The Woobie
The inverse situation, where the character does remember the love-of-their-life, but the reunion cures them of it, is Old Flame Fizzle
Compare to Remember the New Guy
, Romantic False Lead
, The One That Got Away
, Relationship Revolving Door
. Contrast Psycho Ex-Girlfriend
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Anime and Manga
- Done in the Kannagi manga, triggering an absurd amount of Fan Dumb in Japan wherein people were burning their copies of the books simply because the character was no longer "innocent" despite the lack of anything sexual being mentioned in the story.
- Done in Hayate the Combat Butler, concerning the past of Athena and Hayate. Except that, while Hayate still holds a flame for her, it's not clear if she has the same for him. Their former relationship was left at the point of her and/or the spirit possessing her, wanting to kill him.
- This trope is the basis of Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi where the main character works under his high school crush at his new job. Played with in that he does not even recognize that person.
- In Soul Eater Marie's New Old Flame Joe Buttakaki shows up. They both have leftover feelings for one another and are about to rekindle their relationship when said New Old Flame suffers from Death On A Bus. It set off the Stein/Marie shippers, since Stein is the one who consoles her.
- Done in the Spain arc of Ashita no Nadja, with Carmen as José's NOF. It really doesn't go well.
- In the Daredevil comics, Elektra was introduced as Matt Murdock's previously unmentioned college girlfriend and love of his life. She died, but got better.
- Lori Lemaris was this in the Silver Age Superman comics: Clark Kent's sweetheart from college (who turns out to be secretly an Atlantean mermaid).
- Glittering Goldie is Scrooge McDuck's one true love. They break up due to poor communication kills ... and some accident and bad choices and such. "The Prisoner of White Agony Creek", "Hearts of the Yukon" and "Last Sled to Dawson" show as much.
- In the epilogue of Dark Reign, during the funeral of Sentry, Rogue reveals that they were in a relationship.
- Billy Powers, an old high school boyfriend of Michael's, who turns up in the Ms. Tree story "Drop Dead Handsome". It doesn't feel especially forced as very little about Michael's high school days had been revealed. It ends about as well as any of Michael's relationships do.
- A while back, we learned that Bruce Banner of all people had an incredibly hot girlfriend in college, but dumped her because he was a neurotic twit. She's now an evil Hot Scientist, and still bitter about the breakup.
- In an issue of Matt Fraction's Defenders series, Doctor Strange accidentally brought his college crush Back from the Dead. They spent a few days "renewing acquaintances" before he had to tell her what he'd done.
- Happens to Wolverine all the time, due to his long life and Expansion Pack Past. Notably, when Jean Grey first manifested as the Phoenix way back when, Wolverine spend some time thinking about how he'd never loved anyone as much as he loved her. Given that at least a half-dozen apparently serious relationships have since been added to his pre-X-Men days, it suggests that either he didn't really love them, or he loved Jean (a girl who, at the time, regarded him as nothing but annoying) beyond all reason.
- In Birds of Prey, readers learn that Black Canary has an ex-husband whom she married (and divorced) while in college.
- The Star Trek Online Foundry mission 'The Interwarp Experiment' has this as one option for the backstory between the Player Character and Commander Jerrod Dalton. He was either your madly-in-love soulmate at Starfleet Academy, or he was your bitter rival. He dies of radiation poisoning during the mission.
- In Tomorrow Never Dies, the villain's wife, Paris Carver, is an old lover of James Bond. Given Bond's history, this probably happens a lot.
- The titular Robin Hood and Maid Marian, who had been childhood friends and were in love before they were separated for some time and later reunited.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jack has one in The Dragon, Angelica, Blackbeard's daughter. Notable in that she is the only woman he has ever truly loved.
- Done with a twist in Robot And Frank. Frank is smitten with Jennifer, the small town's librarian. As it turns out, she's actually his ex-wife from before, but he doesn't remember due to his growing Alzheimer's.
- In The Hollows is Pierce, Rachel's guy she compares all other guys to, show up even though we have never heard of him before. When explaining his back story, they bring up that he had helped her defeat an undead vampire. While this incident is occasionally mentioned over the course of the books, this is the first time where it is mentioned that she had help.
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Ferdinand reappears. With even a reasonable explanation of why he didn't show up for their wedding. Then it turns out he's a fake, then it turns out — let's just say this trope gets zigzagged in this work.
- Chad in the Tales of an Mazing Girl story "Weirder Spreadsheets of love [[Spoiler:it turns out he was less a lost love, then a guy she slept with once to boost his popularity]]
- The Star Trek novel Shadows On A Sun brings back McCoy's ex-wife and has the start of a romance before she dies.
- In Son of Summer Stars, Ses eventually reconnects with Calydor after Korr dies. It's all but outright stated to actually work out for them.
- Legacy of the Dragokin: Jago had a close relationship with Daniar in the past; expecting-a-child close. However he is not mentioned in the previous book, Trapped on Draconica, where Daniar starts a relationship with Kalak that ends with marriage and a kid by the time he is introduced.
- The Last Dragon Chronicles: Arthur Merriman to Liz Pennykettle.
- In the Discworld novel Lords and Ladies, though neither character is actually new, it does come as a bit of a surprise to learn that Mustrum Ridcully and Esmerelda Weatherwax were, at one time, An Item (and are explicitly stated to be married in an alternate reality).
- In Överenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt, Lily Tremaine is this to Seth (the story's male protagonist). But in the end, they break off their engagement, so Lily can be with her new love Alexandre and Seth can be with Beatrice (the story's female protagonist).
Live Action TV
- Frasier's first wife in Cheers. She appeared twice more in Frasier, each time played by a different actress.
- Babylon 5:
- Sheridan's real first wife in the fifth season. Interestingly, in this case the "former wife" angle wasn't used for any of the normal reasons, but to explain why Sheridan knew he could trust Locksley, even though she'd fought on the opposite side of Sheridan during the war. This is brought up again in Crusade, just to tease Gideon about his hero.
- Lise Hampton, Garibaldi's former significant other, shows up mid-fourth-season (after a couple mentions in the first season) married to his new boss, William Edgars. To Garibaldi's credit, he kept things remarkably professional. In a strange twist (for this trope, not for the overall storyline, in which you could see it coming a mile off), Edgars dies (no, Garibaldi didn't do it, nor did he even necessarily want it to happen) and the two get back together by the end of the season. Not only that, but Garibaldi essentially inherits Edgars's financial empire through her (though this is considered a side effect of the marriage), quitting as security chief and moving to Mars Dome.
- Catherine Sakai, Commander Sinclair's old flame, shows up unexpected on the station in season one. In the season one finale they get engaged. Sinclair's recall to Minbar and travelling back in time to become Valen put a temporary stop to the wedding, though, until Catherine got yanked through a time rift and it all worked out — about a thousand years ago.
- MacGyver, at least twice, in "Flame's End" and "Jericho Games".
- The same plot mechanism is put to different use (with shades of "Luke, I Am Your Father") in The Pretender episode "At the Hour of Our Deaths", which revolves around Miss Parker's adoptive sister — never hinted at before, dead by the end of the episode, and never referred to again. The series also included several straight instances.
- Lucille in the last two episodes of Chef served this purpose.
- Reconstructed in River Song from Doctor Who. She is most likely a new old flame from the Doctor's personal future. When the Tenth Doctor meets her for the first time, she is extremely intimate with him right from the start, even knowing his true name and calling him sweetie and pretty boy. Then she sacrifices herself to save 4400 people, including the Doctor, and dies in front of him. After he regenerates into the Eleventh Doctor, they spend several episodes flirting, during which Amy Pond decides she must be the Doctor's future wife. By the end of the fifth series, he may or may not have proposed to her. (He seems unsure himself whether he just did or not.)
- And now, as of the end of the sixth series we see on-screen Eleven and River Song getting married.
- Jack Harkness and John Hart on Torchwood, John is also Jack's Evil Counterpart.
- Unsurprisingly, Jack has a few more of these. The radio plays gave us Stella Courtney (from 30 years ago) in The Dead Line, and the Duchess in Golden Age (very much a New Old Flame: he hasn't seen her since 1924, she hasn't aged a day.)
- And again from the series itself, Estelle from the episode "Small Worlds". The twist in that case being that Jack is passing himself off as the son of her former lover (himself), apparently not wanting to explain his immortality to her. However, when she's killed by the fairies, Jack is clearly heartbroken.
- Plus, in Children of Earth, there's Jack's former lover and mother of his daughter. We never meet her as she has already died by this point, but she definitely counts.
- Then there's Angelo in Torchwood: Miracle Day, who ends up the reason this whole mess started. Unfortunately, he comes back on his deathbed, in a coma, and dies shortly after.
- Ranger Ben served as one of these for C.J in The West Wing.
- Happened in an episode of Angel when Doyle's ex-wife, Harry, popped in to get their divorce papers signed. Needless to say, Doyle's new love interest Cordelia was surprised by how much that bothered her.
- Due South:
- Victoria and Fraser at the end of the first season.
- In season 2, Ray V's high school sweetheart, Irene Zuko, was introduced and killed in the episode "Juliet is Bleeding".
- An episode of M*A*S*H had womanizing Hawkeye's "one true love" from med school show up.
- Used in the aptly-named Hogan's Heroes episode "Klink's Old Flame." It's played with, though: Klink hears that his old flame is coming to the stalag, but she is now married to an influential general. Knowing that if she rediscovers her old feelings for him, he could end up fired or shot, he takes drastic measures to make himself as unattractive to her as possible. Ultimately subverted though, as it's later revealed she never got past a handshake with him, and she's actually an underground agent who arranged the 'reunion' to meet with Hogan.
- Not quite. The woman is engaged, not already married, which is a key sticking point, because she is using the general's jealousy of Klink to get him to stop messing around and marry her already. She's not an underground agent either, the boys at Stalag 13 just use the car - bound for Paris for the wedding as a convenient way to get some radios to another resistance cell.
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined):
- Lee Adama is angsty when he is reminded of his ex-girlfriend, whom he ran from after she told him she carries his child. Which is reasonable, just that he is the closest thing to a protagonist in this show, and the first time this is mentioned is the 14th episode of the second season.
- In the minisodes we discover that Gaeta was involved with an Eight model Cylon on New Caprica. It doesn't end well. Although there's been no mention of this up till now, the webisode cleverly works in a previously unexplained Noodle Incident — what Baltar whispered in Gaeta's ear before he found that The Pen Is Mightier.
- The A-Team:
- Although not a lover, one episode is based around the funeral of their old army buddy. There's a lot of tender reminiscing, and even a lingering close-up on a photo of the five of them standing together in uniform. This is made only slightly less poignant by the fact that we've never heard of this guy before, nor will we again.
- A more traditional version of the trope is "The Only Church In Town", in which Face's first love Leslie Bektall turns up after a fifteen-year absence. (During which time she's become a nun. Ouch.)
- The war buddy version is seen in the Firefly episode "The Message" with Tracey.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Jadzia Dax and Lenara Kahn had technically never met before their one-episode romance, but the previous hosts of their symbionts were married.
- Played straight in the DS9 episode "Profit and Loss", where Quark's old flame from the Bajorean Occupation, a Cardassian woman, returns to the station.
- Dr. House and the now-married Stacy. More recently, it was revealed that Wilson has been dating his first ex-wife.
- Mad Men introduces an old flame of Roger Sterling's, whom he dated in Paris before the war.
- Subverted in Earth: Final Conflict: William Boone's old flame appears after several years of absence and, in spite of Boone's wife recent death, he's unusually inflamed with passion, something extremely out of character for him. It's later revealed that the Boone's memories of their life together are false and were included in his cyberviral implant as a loyalty test by the Companions, and they had recruited an FBI agent to play the part of the former girlfriend.
- It's also unclear if she really is working against the Taelons or was just saying that to test Boone.
- An oft-ignored season one episode of Supernatural introduces us to Dean Winchester's ex-girlfriend Cassie. We get a glimpse of what Dean looks like in love, and it turns out he's kind of a sap. Sam has fun needling him about it until he realizes who dumped whom and why, and how badly Dean actually got hurt.
- Another introduced Lisa, who now had a son with a suspicious resemblance to Dean, born about the right time after he knew her. It's not his. Lisa returns at the end of the fifth season and in the sixth, where Dean settles down with her and she actually has yet to die.
- In another episode Dean returns to a foster home where he briefly stayed as a boy. He is then reunited with the girl who was his first real girlfriend. She does not seem to remember who he was but then reveals that she remembers Dean quite well and is still pissed at him for leaving without an explanation the day they were supposed to go to their first dance together. She represents a life that Dean could have had if he chose to remain with the foster family rather than go back to his father and Sam.
- In one episode of Castle, he and Beckett investigate a murder that took place during the wedding of one of Castle's exes. There's jealousy from Beckett's side, a lot of talk at the station, and a brief rekindling between Castle and the girl before she does get married and tells Beckett, "He's all yours."
- Bobby for Hilda on Ugly Betty. Seeing how he came along towards the end of the series, they ended up getting married in the Grand Finale.
- Casey has had two of these in Chuck.
- Averted with Chuck's own ex, who was mentioned in the first 5 minutes of the pilot. Of course, he had no idea at that point that she was a Fulcrum agent and was forced to dump Chuck; she also lied about sleeping with his best friend, who never bothered to deny it.
- There's a good reason for this. Bryce did everything he could to keep Chuck from being recruited (Chuck's father asked him to). Telling Chuck that he didn't sleep with Chuck's girl would prompt Chuck to investigate further and get dangerous close to either CIA or Fulcrum.
- Charmed has a variant, where in the first season Prue's love interest is the same guy she dated in high school (which, since he's introduced that way right away, doesn't feel jarring). The "skipping foreplay" part is sort of deconstructed: they sleep together on the first date of their new relationship, but Prue objects when Piper argues that that's equivalent to sleeping with the guy on the "first date," since they already know each other.
- In Alias, Noah Hicks, Sydney's former partner, shows up for a few episodes at the end of Season One.
- In Fringe season one, Olivia runs into a former flame, Lucas in "In Which We Meet Mr. Jones." Peter also has a run-in with a supposed past lover, Tess, in "The Dreamscape."
- Amanda in Highlander: The Series is introduced this way, early on. Duncan's current girlfriend,Tessa,is not amused. (She later comes back after Tessa dies, and they are an on and off couple for much of the series.)
- Det. Jo Rosati is Luke's ex-girlfriend in Rookie Blue. She joins 15th Division at the start of season 2 and forms a love triangle with Luke torn between her and his girlfriend Andy. Jo and Luke sleep together which leads to Andy dumping Luke.
- In season 3 a new rookie joins the division. He happens to be Gail's old boyfriend from before she became a cop. After they broke up he joined the army, served in Afghanistan and then became a cop himself. They still have lots of UST and other unresolved issues since they apparently broke up while they were in Vagas and about to get married.
- In the season 3 finale, Chris' old girlfriend showed up...with their son.
- Tony's ex-fiancee Wendy showed up mid-season 8 of NCIS. Whether she will become the Romantic False Lead, or the actualy Love Interest, remains to be seen.
- Malcolm in the Middle: Otto's conscience was finally starting to tormenting him for having tricked his rival out of the way so he could marry Gretchen. Otto then invited said rival over. However, when it turned out said rival was still in love with Gretchen all those years, Otto expelled him before Gretchen ever knew he came back.
- On The X-Files, two Mulder's ex-girlfriends made an apparance, and there were also two past relationships of Agent Scully.
- "Fire": Mulder receives a visit from Phoebe Greene who asks for his assistance on a case. She's his old flame from his university days at Oxford and works now as a Detective in Scotland Yard. They get it on, but she cheats on him once more and at the end she leaves for England.
- "Lazarus": Jack Willis used to be Scully's teacher at the FBI academy and her boy-friend. They don't re-new their relationship, but the case involves a body-switch with the villain and he later dies. Scully is obviously shattered.
- Agent Diana Fowley appeared in the finale of season 5 and was a part of Myth Arc in season 6. She's Mulder's ex-partner who worked with him on the X-Files and they used to be lovers as well. She might also be his ex-wife. There is some tension between them, but Mulder refuses to follow this path again.
- "all things": Scully used to date her professor from medical school. He reveals that he has been in love with her for all those years and begs her to be with him. She considers it, but ultimately refuses as she doesn't want to ruin his family. In addition, there is all the UST and Will They or Won't They? with Mulder, and this particular episode is one of the hottest candidates for They Do.
- Hustle: Emma encounters new old flame named Joe Ryan, who is everything the grifters are not, in "Old Sparks Come New".
- On My Name Is Earl, many of Earl's exes have been on The List, including a clingy girl Earl broke up with in a horrible way, and the last woman he dated before his Accidental Marriage to Joy, and a one-legged one-night-stand. His first ex-wife Joy is listed several times as well.
- New Tricks: Sandra acquires one in the form of DCI James Larson in "Objects of Desire". This does not end well when James turns out to be a Dirty Cop.
- In the second series of The Hour, we are introduced to Randall, the new head of news, who, as it turns out, has history with Lix.
- The New Adventures of Robin Hood: In "First Love", Robin's former fiancé Olivia seeks the outlaw hero's help in rescuing her husband.
- In Once Upon a Time, Emma's ex-boyfriend and the father of her son, Neal, makes a reappearance in Seasons 2 and 3, creating a difficult situation for her; she's still in love with him, but is so stung by the depths of his past betrayal that just can't bring herself to trust him. And when you factor in how Neal's best friend/Big Brother Mentor is vying for her affections as well...
- The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "King of the Lake", the mother of the Victim of the Week turns out to have been Lucien's first serious girlfriend.
- Many Modesty Blaise stories begin with the appearance of an ex-lover of either Modesty or Willie who needs help.
- In Peanuts, Snoopy once spied an old girlfriend at the beach. He tried to show off surfing, which ended badly. The girlfriend never noticed; Charlie Brown tells him that he saw her with a golden retriever.
- In Dorothy L Sayers' The Emperor Constantine, downplayed. Helena is very stiff and formal with Flavius, when they meet years after he divorced her for a political match, but softens enough to ask after his health.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Jean's ex-boyfriend Slick Simmons has recently appeared. He has some connection to the town's new lake monster.
- Flipside: In Chapter 30, Bernadette encounters her former lover in Marvallo, revealing the reason for her neurotic insecurity about monogamous relationships.
- This is in addition to the 26 chapters of book 0.
- Elita One from The Transformers, who showed up, helped Optimus Prime and the gang, and then was never seen again.
- Although she sort of showed up in a later episode in the form of her younger self Ariel.
- Zuko and Mai of Avatar: The Last Airbender (pun probably intended) — textbook "skip all the boring foreplay and get right to the intensity." Contrast with the heroic Official Couple, who were in the foreplay stage for fifty episodes. In this case we see a flashback of them as childhood friends before the reunion. For all intents and purposes, are engaged to be married by the series finale.
- Désirée D'Allure, Monterey Jack's ex-fiancée from the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Love Is a Many Splintered Thing". Complete with a Reset Button, yes.
- Grandpa Lou in Rugrats had Morgana, who reappears several decades after leaving town believing he'd cheated on her. She only appeared in one episode, but was mentioned several times throughout the season before vanishing entirely.
- From what I can remember, the girl who Grandpa Lou was "cheating on" had fainted (or maybe something of that sort) so he performed CPR. To Morgana it looked like he was making out with her.
- Lou's second wife also qualifies, as she was a USO singer he was crushing on during the war, but they only spoke briefly once back then. 50 years later, they run into each other again.
- Juandisimo was this to Wanda in Fairly OddParents.
- Lawrence and Linda in Phineas and Ferb are probably this. They appear to have been dating sometime in the early 90s, but they married to each other when they both had kids with other people.
- Likewise, Linda was revealed to have one in Dr. Doofenshmirtz.