Not Important to This Episode Camp

nicklj: "Question: Where was Julie again? A soccer camp or something?"
kostgard: "I think she was at Not Important To This Episode Camp."

So, the game is afoot. The scene is set for an exciting Chase Scene or Final Battle. Or maybe two characters just want to hang out and exchange Witty Banter.

Except, wait a minute - don't these people have kids? Where on Earth is that newborn baby we spent half of last season waiting for? What about their Mouthy Kid who helped save the day last week? Have they been Brother Chucked?

Never fear, because they are enjoying a stay at Not Important to This Episode Camp. Don't worry, they'll be back next week.

And it isn't just camp. Maybe they've gone to visit that Disappeared Father we never hear about, or being looked after by some unnamed babysitter.

Also happens when a previously valuable young character has served their purpose and is now surplus to requirements. A swift packing-off to an unnamed (and often way beyond the character's shown means) Boarding School is an extended version of this.

And so their parent is able to throw down everything and depart in the company of our hero on that crazy road trip or whatever. Hilarity Ensues, and all without interference from Child Services.

See also Put on a Bus, where a character is written out in a way that can easily be reversed, and Shoo Out the Clowns, when the young and impressionable make a hasty exit stage right before the nasty stuff gets underway. Chuck Cunningham Syndrome is when this happens permanently without any explanation. Tangentially related to Chaste Toons, which often uses the "not really the main character's kids" justification to send the kids back to Mom and Dad when the plot demands. Compare Parental Abandonment, especially the examples where the characters have parents supposedly, but they're just never around. See also Offstage Waiting Room. If they are important to this episode, but not there, you might have a case of Absentee Actor.


Comic Books
  • A quite literal example from The Simpsons, where Lisa refuses to take part in a reality show Homer's gotten onto as part of community service (long story), and is promptly shoved onto a bus by the director and taken to a camp before she can object further. She's not seen again for the rest of the issue, although Homer does eventually notice she's missing at the very end.

  • This happens to Wheelie in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. After serving an important role for much of the film, he inexplicably vanishes to Not Important to This Scene Camp in the final scenes.
  • In the Thin Man series, Nora has her baby Nicky prior to movie three, he is a baby (and thus little more than a Living Prop) throughout that movie, but by movie four he is old enough to talk and involve himself with the plot a bit. For movie five Nick and Nora visit Nick's home town and leave Nicky at home, claiming they didn't want to take him out of school, so he doesn't appear in that film.

  • Grown-up example: In the Sherlock Holmes stories, after Dr. Watson's marriage, his wife is frequently off visiting relatives to allow him to move back in with Holmes for more mysterious hijinks.
    • Including a rather careless inversion in "The Blanched Soldier" where Conan Doyle's Holmes says Watson has 'deserted him for a wife', apparently forgetting that she was supposed to be dead at this point. He made these kinds of errors persistently all through the canon, leading to 100 years of Fan Wank.
  • In the Nancy Drew Files Spin-Off series, they occasionally had trouble fitting all of Nancy's circle of friends (Bess, George, Ned,) into each book. Often a story would only include one or two of them, with the others having some reason for missing the action. Ned would have assignments for school, George would be attending some type of sports tournament, or she or Bess would be away at a wedding for family reunion.

    Live Action TV 

  • Happens all the time in Monk. Justified, due to the mysteries suddenly occurring and needing investigation.
    • Sharona frequently sent her kid off to her sister Gail, despite the fact that she was shown to hate her. Natalie has so far preferred the ubiquitous babysitter, or the Trope Namer camp.
  • Road to Avonlea was notorious for this.
  • According to the producers of the Alien Nation TV movies, Baby Vessna was at daycare after every film since Dark Horizon (except when we saw her in a kind of cocoon).
  • Dexter can't watch the kids and murder people at the same time.
    • The step children get Put on a Bus to live with their grandparents after Rita becomes incapable of taking care of them.
    • Dexter buys the adjacent apartment for the babysitter so baby Harrison can be abandoned with ease without making him appear negligent.
  • Happens to Ben and later Emma a lot in Friends. Justified with Ben, since Carol and Susan are his primary caregivers. However, Emma was always explained as being at somebody else's house.
  • Gigi on Gilmore Girls. After she served her convenient function of breaking up Christopher and Lorelai/making Lorelai angst in seasons 2 & 3, she was always conveniently at Grandma's or whatnot. This was especially glaring in season 7 when Lorelai and Christopher moved in together, got married and still Gigi was being shuttled off to Grandma's/Paris, etc.
  • This happened to just about every kid on any Star Trek series, with the exception of Wesley Crusher, and possibly Naomi Wildman. It was especially noticeable on Deep Space Nine, where Sisko could come home and find anyone but his son Jake sitting on the couch. DS 9 however managed to justify it pretty well; Jake was a fairly responsible teenager and wouldn't necessarily need much adult supervision, though on one or two occasions he did get up to mischief while hanging around with Nog and caused his father a bit of grief, and the series made a point of addressing the fact that Ben's job took up a lot of his time and made it hard to raise his son single-handed. Eventually the trope stopped applying altogether when Jake turned 18 and moved into his own place.
  • Lizzie McGuire did this at the end of its run with Miranda (while Lalaine was shooting other Disney projects). Once she was "visiting her Grandma". Another time she was "sick". In The Movie, she was visiting relatives in Mexico City.
  • Richie Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, once hilariously described on an older Nick At Nite promo as "Richie Petrie: low-maintenance boy".
  • The Desperate Housewives kids get this a lot. If one of them is involved in a storyline with a parent, suddenly any siblings they might have are completely forgotten. Especially odd in Lynette's case, where her character is "the one with all the kids," yet we barely see most of them all season while the chosen kid gets all the storylines.
    • This is especially bad in season five. You would think the time skip would give the now older children more opportunities to be more involved with the storylines, but oh no...
    • And it appears in spades in season six as well - MJ, whose older sister was attacked in the season premiere, has only appeared significantly in one episode (understandable, since the character is six), and Ana, who was brought on to give Gabby a hard time, has been put aside so that Gabby can instead suffer the 'joy' of homeschooling her own daughter.
  • In the "Ariel" episode of Firefly, it's mentioned Book is temporarily off the ship due to a stay at an Abbey - to Inara, who is currently on her way to camp. She shows up again at the end of the episode, and Book shows up next episode.
    • In a later episode, "Trash", it looks like Inara has another stay at camp, but it turns out to be a plan, which in turn turns out to be a unexpected contingency plan.
  • On one of Faith's disappearances in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy says: "Sorry. It's just with Faith on one of her unannounced walkabouts, I feel like somebody should be patrolling."
  • For that matter, this became a problem on the series finale of Angel. The story goes that David Boreanaz was upset that Sarah Michelle Gellar declined appearing. Apparently it was actually Joss Whedon who rejected her invitation to guest star, not wanting her character to detract from the spotlight.
  • Happens frequently on CSI, particularly with the lab rats. There isn't always mention of where the character is instead, but characters are inexplicably missing rather frequently. Take Wendy Simms for example, the lab rat who got more screen time before she became a main character...
  • For at least two episodes of Chuck, Shaw has been doing Very Important Stuff that we seldom learn anything about beyond the fact that it will be keeping the Romantic False Lead of the show safely out of the way as Chuck and Sarah figure stuff out.
  • El Chavo del ocho: The vencidad tenants went to Acapulco for a vacation. When The Landlord, Señor Barriga, learned this from El Chavo, he decided to go there as well and, taking pity from El Chavo, takes him as well. Señor Barriga's son, Ñoño, was at a boy scout camp at the moment and, aside from when his Dad mentioned this as an explanation not to take him to Acapulco, wasn't mentioned in the whole story arc.
  • In the earlier seasons of 30 Rock, Jenna seemed to spend many episodes here, apparently just because the writers couldn't think of anything to do with her. This ended after she was Flanderized into a crazy Attention Whore.
  • In Andromeda, in one episode Harper was off on an intergalactic surfing competition and another had Rev Bem at a religious retreat. Rev Bem had this happen again for much of the first half of season 2 before officially leaving the crew.
  • ER would often pack supporting characters off to medical conferences for an episode, just to get them out of the way.
  • Arrested Development had an extended subplot about Lucille accidentally adopting a Korean boy named Annyong towards the end of the first season, and he makes it a handful of episodes into the second before he's unceremoniously sent off to boarding school and forgotten. Of course, this being Arrested Development, he turns out to be The Mole the family spends much of season three concerned about.
  • On Homeland, Frannie, Carrie's child with Brody, ends up here a lot. This becomes a minor plot point as her mother has left the baby in the care of her sister, who is disappointed with the mother's neglect of the baby.
  • In the Doctor Who story "Dark Water/Death in Heaven", Clara is given a child to look after. It is a temporary arrangement (she is asked to find the child's real parents) but nevertheless the child is absent with no explanation by the next story, "Last Christmas".
  • Lost with its Lots And Lots Of Characters frequently leaves out the people who're supposed to be present at the main camp, but don't feature in the episode's story.
  • This increasingly became an issue in Supernatural with regards to Castiel: as his bonds with the brothers increased and his dealings with heaven became more and more fraught, it began to make less and less sense over the seasons that he didn't just stick around with the brothers full time. However, the showrunners were very unwilling to have him around all the time, as it'd interfere with the core dynamic of the show, the brotherly relationship between Sam and Dean. Because of this, each season from season 6 onwards had to come up with something for Cas to do in the episodes he wasn't in, usually involving him getting involved in often-Handwavey angel drama. This was also not well received by parts of the fandom however, as said angel drama tended to involve Cas being hurt, badly, over and over. Season 11 however finally gave up that whole excuse and had Cas staying in the bunker, justifying his non-presence on cases by having the brothers comment that he's busy healing up and, to many Cas fans' relief, enjoying himself binge-watching tv shows on Netflix.
  • Orphan Black puts Kira on the bus for pretty much all of season 3 after the previous season's central conflict revolved around her.

Video Games
  • RPGs often feature a "Too Powerful for This Episode" camp for Crutch Characters and the like. For example, in Fire Emblem 9 and 10 (the GC and Wii games), Caineghis is unavailable most of the time because he's dealing with something that's more important than large-scale wars that are embroiling his country. While some speculation is possible, it's never really spelled out what he's doing.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • Miranda Lawson. Most of the ME2 squadmates get a single mission, followed by a brief catch-up on the Citadel. Miranda makes sporadic appearances throughout the game, busy avoiding Cerberus hitmen and tracking down her sister. This pays off near the end, when she and Oriana both show up at Sanctuary.
    • Doctor Chakwas doesn't appear in the Citadel DLC despite being a long-standing crewmember. During the party, Samantha Traynor explains that she was called to an emergency medical consult.
    • Mordin Solus, another squad member in the second game, also doesn't appear in Citadel, even if he's convinced to go along with the sabotage on Tuchanka, averting his otherwise-unavoidable Plotline Death. This is probably due to him being too busy working on the Crucible as well as his faked death needing to remain classified in order for the alliance with the Krogan to hold.

Web Animation
  • Hilariously lampshaded in at least 2 Homestar Runner cartoons, which involve the characters who weren't involved (The King of Town and Homsar most often) having a meeting, or partying.

Web Comics

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in The Simpsons, but not all the time.
  • In an episode of Transformers Animated, Prime mentions that Sari and Bumblebee have gone on "an important fact-finding mission this morning. To someplace called... 'Five Banners Roller Coaster Kingdom'."
    • And this is the one they did bother to mention...
  • Happens to many characters in Skyland, mostly Wayan and all the ones that appear in one episode yet had potential for great importance later on.
  • The writers of The Venture Bros. mention multiple times on the DVD commentaries that they're constantly having to resist the temptation to do this to Hank and Dean. After they plot out what happens with Doctor Venture and Brock Samson, they struggle to figure out what stupid thing the boys will get up to in their sub-plot.
  • Inverted in Batman Beyond when Wayne would be mentioned to be in some foreign country whenever the writers needed Terry to handle things on his own.
  • Lampshaded magnificently in Chowder. In the episode "The Sleep Eater", Chowder is being given the old "Its up to you" speech from Mung when Truffle suddenly enters the scene and asks "What about me?". Chowder, in a suddenly serious and low voice, declares "No... you're not in this episode!" and Truffles just poofs out of existence.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Look Before You Sleep", "Spike is away in Canterlot on royal business".
  • Sing along with Garfield in Garfield and Friends episode "Truckin' Odie":
    If you're wondering what became of me
    I was nowhere near the road!
    I can't rescue Odie!
  • There are several episodes of Ruby Gloom where there is at least one main character missing for some unexplained reason.
    • In "Doom with a View" Scaredy Bat was absent simply because Boo-Boo needed to scare someone to become a full ghost and if Scaredy was there the plot would have been over in a few minutes.
  • Every principal character on Goof Troop has been sent to the camp at least once, which is sometimes justified by the setting, especially if it focuses on one family in particular, but is usually not explained: "Cat's Entertainment" is exceptional for explaining that PJ is visiting his grandmother at the beginning of the episode. Pistol is the most likely to be sent to the camp, while Goofy and Pete are only absent in two episodes each.
  • This happens in many of the first season episodes of Ewoks.
    • Teebo does not have a speaking role in The Haunted Village and The Three Lessons.
    • Paploo does not appear in To Save Deej and Sunstar vs. Shadowstone.
    • Latara does not have a speaking role in The Cries of the Trees and The Three Lessons. She does not appear in To Save Deej, The Land of Gupins and Asha. One would wonder why is she even listed among the main characters for the first season and Paploo isn't.