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Rewind, Replay, Repeat

Someone is watching a video presentation or listening to a recording of themselves or someone else. They catch a moment on the recording of a crucial misstep, or something important. They rewind and play it again to be sure they heard it. They rewind and play it again, to get it for sure. They rewind and play it again to help commit it to memory. They rewind, and play it again, to be sure they can repeat it accurately. They rewind and play it again ...

Sometimes The Hero will do this as a form of self-torture, replaying over and over and over again the moment they consider My Greatest Failure.

While it can and is often Played for Laughs, the trope is often used in dramatic scenarios. Detectives who stumble across clues will rewind and replay. Grieving family members or lovers watching the last happy moment with a now-missing-or-departed loved one will rewind and replay. Determined people who wish to prove someone is guilty or innocent will rewind and replay in hopes of finding something to exonerate or condemn.

This trope is used by heroes and villains alike and can be a Sister Trope to Engineered Public Confession or, in an entirely different way, to Enhance Button. Common in Crime and Punishment Series, and in Speculative Fiction, one can expect to see the video's speed slowed down to a frame at a time, and/or enhanced to focus on a tiny, miniscule but very important detail.

If the movie is old enough, or the scene in the medium old enough, (or in completely inappropriate contexts, because of The Coconut Effect), expect to hear the gibberish noise of a tape being rewound.

Since this trope is closely associated with The Reveal, expect unmarked spoilers ahead.


Examples:

Advertising
  • A 2011 Canon printer ad spends the entire ad doing this to illustrate that the printer can find the exact frame of a movie and turn it into a still.
  • This British public information film depicts a grieving mother repeatedly rewinding a video of her dead child, before the voiceover tells the viewer to get a smoke alarm.

Anime & Manga
  • In the 2009 anime of Golgo13, Golgo is hired to shoot a single violin string without damaging either the violin or the player. He's provided with concert footage of the target, and plays out this trope when he notices a moment when the player tilts his violin enough so that the string is exposed.

Comic Books
  • In Avengers Academy, the more anti-heroey of the students decide to find the Hood, beat him up, and put him begging for mercy on YouTube, in revenge for his attack on Tigra. While Tigra believes this was a totally inappropriate action and chews them out for it, she can't resist watching the scene, again and again...

Film — Animated
  • The Incredibles: The teacher tries to catch Dash by taping him. When he shows it to Mrs. Parr and the Principal, they only see a quick blink in the film. The teacher is dismayed, and the implication is he played it over and over to spot that tiny blink before he brought it into the office.
  • At the very beginning of Monsters, Inc., Flint actually notices that Phlegm Bile, a monster-in-training, had accidentally left the closet door open in the simulation room by watching his actions on her monitor. Later, at the end of the film, Mike Wazowski actually uses Flint's technique to expose Waternoose after Sulley and Boo lure him inside the simulation room as an attempt to get Boo back inside her "bedroom."

Film — Live Action
  • Back to the Future has: "They found me... I don't know how, but they found me... RUN FOR IT MARTY!" replayed by a Doc Brown who was told not to by Future Boy Marty.
  • Batman Returns: Batman recorded remarks the Penguin made believing he was more or less in private, only to replay them for Gotham City. The gibberish rewind noise was there even though the recording was on compact disk. Going for a cheap laugh, Bruce even did some scratching with the disks, as if they were vinyl records.
    Penguin: [on recording] I played this stinking city like a harp from Hell! [rewind, replay]
  • The Michael Antonioni film Blowup is something of an Unbuilt Trope version, revolving around a detail in a photograph that may or may not indicate a murder, which the photographer obsessively enlarges and examines to no conclusion. It directly inspired The Film/Conversation (arguably the Trope Maker or at least Trope Codifier) and the much later Brian De Palma film Blow Out.
  • In Casino Royale, Bond checks the security tapes at the Ocean Club.
  • Click has at least these two:
    • A debatably funny one. Michael uses the rewind function to serve his own Male Gaze and rewatch bouncing boobs and behinds over and over...
    • And an extremely Tear Jerkery one. The magic remote given to Michael behaved according to his preferences — choices of how and when he used the remote. So since he had developed a habit for fast forwarding past moments he considered not worth living through — moments usually involving spending time with his family in favor of work, the remote fast forwarded him past several important and milestone moments in his life ... including the death of his father. Grief stricken, he tries repeatedly to rewind reality back to before that moment. The one who gave him the remote tells him it can't be done, because he wasn't there. So instead, Michael rewinds to the last time he ever saw his sweet, doting father alive. This also causes him to repeatedly watching himself be a huge Jerk Ass and giving his father a brusque, negligent brush-off, resulting in the poor old man having to hide his tears... and replays that moment over and over again.
  • The Conversation is this trope turned Up to Eleven: almost the entire movie revolves around it.
  • Featured in Ed Wood. After Bela Lugosi dies, Ed spends the day re-watching cuts of the last footage he shot with Bela over and over.
  • This happens in The Fugitive (1993). While Deputy Gerard and his subordinates are listening to Dr. Kimble's phone call to his lawyer, Gerard asks for part of it to be enhanced and repeated so they can hear it clearly. They use it to figure out that Kimble has returned to Chicago.
  • There is a scene in Hannibal where Agent Starling replays a recording of Hannibal Lecter talking to her.
  • I, Robot: "One day they'll have secrets... one day they'll have dreams..."
  • In the Oliver Stone film JFK Jim Garrison uses it to show the jury that Kennedy's head snaps "back, and to the left...back, and to the left...back, and to the left..." (That this contradicts his previous statement of Kennedy's head going "back and to his left" is left uncommented.)
  • In Stone's follow-up film Nixon, Richard Nixon hears the taped conversations of The White House over and over again.
  • In Johnny English Reborn, Kate checks CCTV footage recorded before an assassination, revealing an important clue.
  • The first Saw film has Dr. Gordon replaying the part in his Hannibal Lecture-via tape that he has received from Jigsaw where Jigsaw says that "Diana and Alice will die".
  • Sneakers. The protagonists are trying to find a "Little Black Box" that Dr. Gunter Janek is working on. They repeatedly watch a videotape of Janek in his office, trying to see him enter his computer password. A woman in the room is saying "I leave message here on service, but you do not call," each time. Finally one of the group realizes that since Janek uses a phone message service, he doesn't need an answering machine, so the answering machine on his desk must be something else - the Little Black Box.
    Whistler: Guys, the little black box is on his desk, in between his pencil cup and the desk lamp.
    Mother: Uh, Whistler, I hate to tell you this, but you're blind. [Which he was!]
    Whister: Don't look! Listen!
  • Star Wars: A New Hope has, "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi! You're my only hope!", because R 2 D 2's playback is slightly damaged. The full version plays when Ben Kenobi repairs R2.
  • Taken contains this. Bryan Mills replays the recording of the kidnapper's voice over and over in order to be able to later recognize him by sound.
  • The third Planet of the Apes film, Escape From The Planet Of The Apes did this with the tape of Zira's accidental slip of the word 'dissection' during her talk before the committee.
  • In Quiz Show Dick while watching footage of 21 spots the clue he was looking for, noticing a surprised double take from the host. He rewinds and replays it three times.
  • In The Fighter, Dickie Eklund relives his Glory Days by constantly watching the boxing match where he scored a knockdown of Sugar Ray Leonard, even though Leonard eventually won that fight.

Literature
  • Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella has Stalnaker catching Dr. Kellis saying "distribution channels" and rewinds, repeats, replays a few times as an idea forms in the Journalist's mind for a method to spin the story a certain way.
  • In the Discworld novel The Truth, William de Worde finds a Demonic Organiser that "recorded" a conversation between Those Two Bad Guys and their employers. He gets the imp to repeat the last sentence over and over, because it's his father's favourite phrase, and the clue that Lord de Worde is involved.
  • There's a scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where, at the Quidditch World Cup, Ron spots a wizard picking his nose with some Omnioculars...
    Ron: "Blimey, I can make that bloke down there pick his nose again... and again... and again..."
  • In the New Jedi Order novel Rebel Dream, Danni Quee is doing this with a piece of footage recorded by holocam operator Tam Elgrin, which shows footage of Yuuzhan Vong soldiers pursuing Tam and his group. She eventually realizes the problem was that there were too few footsteps on the soundtrack; after she has the Wraiths analyze the recording, it's revealed that there only were enough footsteps in the recording for the eight Yuuzhan Vong warriors in pursuit, plus one more person—Tam himself. He'd not been part of a group as he'd claimed; he'd been alone, and had in fact been captured by the Yuuzhan Vong.
  • The book version of Michael Crichton's Sphere has a minor running sub-plot of Beth watching a particular part of a surveillance video where she and one of the Navy women are talking again and again. This is thought of at first as a sign of mental fatigue by protagonist Norman Johnson (because this conversation was one of the last times that said woman was seen alive, and everybody's running on empty at this point in time). In reality, Beth keeps watching the video again and again in order to determine that the titular sphere, which was on a monitor on the background and opens at one point of the conversation, can be opened if you think about it hard enough because it runs on Your Mind Makes It Real.

Live-Action TV
  • Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined): Starbuck watching her gun camera footage, over and over again, to an almost creepy effect.
  • The Brady Bunch: Greg has become the photographer for the high school football team (after his injury makes him ineligible to play). During a crucial, contested touchdown he was taking pictures of his girlfriend, a cheerleader. But he manages to catch the foot of the player as he was making the catch in the endzone, so he and his father spend the day blowing the frame up and up and up until they can see whether his foot was inbounds or not. (It was.)
  • Chuck's Harry Tang, extremely upset over an apparent dalliance by his wife, insists that the video footage of her, apparently, setting up the tryst be played over and over and over.
  • Columbo did this several times in order to prove that the tape the murderer was using for his alibi was faked somehow.
  • On Death Valley, Steuback is trying to figure out who broke into the armory so he is watching footage of the captain changing the security code for the armory door. His gut tells him that The Mole obtained the code by watching the captain enter it but the footage does not show anyone else present. He keeps replaying the recording over and over till he realizes that, since the footage came from the documentary crew filming in the station, the other person present was the camera man.
  • Grimm: "Beeware" has Nick repeatedly rewatching the Flash Mob videos taken by various security cams in hopes of finding the person killing people at each Flash Mob event.
  • At the end of the MST3K episode which featured Daddy-O, Joel becomes obsessed with the "apple-slapping" scene and replays it over and over, mouthing the line "I want an answer!"
  • The Seinfeld episode "Magic Loogie" parodies JFK's use of this trope.
  • Happens in an episode of UFO when Straker catches a subliminal clue about UFO attacks from a documentary film, and insists on watching the clip over and over until he figures out what triggered the association.
  • This happens Once an Episode on Unforgettable except there is no video or audio recording. Carrie has Photographic Memory and can replay in her head anything she experienced. She will go over the memory over and over again until she finally spots the clue that she missed when the events actually happened.
  • Happens quite often in The X-Files, usually when Mulder catches a glimpse of something in the footage that everyone else overlooked.
  • A variant during the Babylon 5 episode "Point of No Return": Sheridan gets a message from a superior, General Smits, that warns him of orders issued from the Political Office that would give more power to Nightwatch—specifically, all security personnel would have to become part of Nightwatch or turn in their badge. Later in the episode, Sheridan gets a Eureka Moment which prompts him to replay parts of the conversation. It turns out General Smits was subtly trying to encourage Sheridan to Bother By the Book: the Political Office was outside the military chain of command, so their orders were illegal and could not be implemented. With the help of security officer Zack Allan, who was part of Nightwatch but uncomfortable with their policies, all the members of Nightwatch in Security (excluding those few who wouldn't "play ball") were lured to one place and imprisoned for following illegal orders. It could only buy time until President Clark himself issued the same orders, which he acknowledged freely. As it turned out, the events of the very next episode made the "chain of command" issue a moot point.
  • In an episode of 21 Jump Street, Officer Tom Hanson witnesses his girlfriend being shot in a convenience store robbery and feels guilty that he was unable to stop him. He spends his days watching the surveillance camera tape, replaying the same moment over and over, being obsessed over how much time it would take for him to have been able to stop the murderer.
  • From In The Flesh Freddie is caught replaying his wedding video over and over again, focusing on his (now) ex-wife says she loves him. Kicks off major problems between the couple and her present husband.
  • In Hawaii Five-O, Steve plays and replays one part of a taped conversation between himself and a man who plans to kill someone else, but who is giving Steve a chance to figure out who the intended victim is and protect him. Steve thinks there might be something significant about what the man said, and he's right.

Theatre

Video Games
  • It's up to the player in the endgame of Heavy Rain whether Ethan does this to discover Shaun's location or gets it the first time around.
  • The opening cinematic of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is a Happier Home Movie given this treatment.
  • Ace Attorney: There are several points in trials where you need to review a tape to find the points on it where something either proves or disproves a theory, sometimes rewinding and replaying the same tape several times to find different important things.

Web Animation
  • In Red vs. Blue, The Director, aka Dr. Leonard L. Church, was left a broken man who spent his final days constantly re-watching a recording of his last meeting with his wife Allison before she died.

Western Animation
  • Dexter's Laboratory episode "sdrawkcaB" shows Dexter building a device that causes this in his actual life. Dee Dee gets him in trouble playing with it, then Dexter takes revenge by making her fall on her bottom repeatedly by reversing the moment and replaying it, over and over.
  • Played for laughs in Ed, Edd n Eddy, where Ed presses down on Edd's head, causing Edd to rewind his statement about fruitcake and Christmas, especially the Christmas part.
  • Jimmy Neutron uses time travel to rewind a moment in time over and over again, making Cindy and Libby relive snorting smoothie from their noses over and over again.
  • The Mighty B!: Honeybee Scouts founder and headmistress Miriam Breedlove watches a number of videos from Honeybee scouts all over the country trying to win a contest whose prize is lunch with her. Bessie Higgenbottom's retro-style video indicates Bessie knows the legend of "The Mighty B", which implies the Honeybee who earns every single badge will be endowed with superheroic powers. As Breedlove comes upon this part of the video, she pauses, rewinds, and replays several times so as to rewatch Bessie enthusiastically shouting, "The Mighty B!" over and over.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: Blowhole's Revenge: Blowhole orders a lackey to rewind a few times so he can catch the exact moment of Skipper's demise, including freezing his death scream.
  • In Phineas and Ferb:
    • The boys' Cloud Cuckoo Lander dad, Lawrence, is seen listening repeatedly to the jingle of an audio tour from a museum; "Fossils! dun dun dun. Fossils! dun dun dun. Fossils...."
    • In "Phineas and Ferb Interrupted", Perry goes to OWCA to rewind and replay the tapes of his most recent fight with Doof; the rewind-and-replay reveals that Doof's latest -Inator fired off hit the boys, and turned them boring.
  • In The PJs episode "Operation: Gumbo Drop", Thurgood discovers that Muriel taped over his "happy tape" to film a documentary about the projects. When he realizes that the footage contains Juicy making his own Gumbo (Thurgood's main conflict in the episode), he decides to take advantage of this and use the tape to study Juicy's cooking methods.
  • The Simpsons: Chief Wiggum does this to a recording with Chincy Pop in the background to isolate it.
  • In the Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Urges", Moltar asks Space Ghost if he remembers his explanation of mantis mating habits earlier in the show. Space Ghost promptly heads into the "little ghost's room" to replay it. "...the female typically eats the head and brain of the male... (rewinds) the male... (rewinds) the head..."
  • The Critic parodies the JFK example in a clip from the "director's cut" of the movie: "Back and to the left... Back and to the left... Back and to the left... Back and to the left... Back and to the left..." and it's implied that this goes on for an hour or so.
  • Much like the Critic example above, Hank Hill does this with a video tape of George Bush shaking someone's hand.
    Hank Hill: Look, surprise, then disappointment. Surprise, disappointment. Surprise, disappointment.
  • The Powerpuff Girls have to endure Mojo Jojo repeating a tape of him being bitten in the butt by one of them in dog form and repeating it. Ending with him dropping the artifact that turns people into dogs...and he repeats it on a videotape.
  • In X-Men: Evolution, Wolverine drops in on Pyro watching footage of Magneto getting killed by Apocalypse and laughing his ass off. Later, when Wolvie leaves, Pyro rewinds the tape just to see Magneto getting blown up again so he can keep laughing his ass off.
    "I never get tired of that part!"

Real Life
  • Increasingly used in professional sports leagues. Contemporary rule changes often surround how and when they are used, but they are almost invariably used to sort out complex situations, like brawls. Obviously, video recordings are essential to officiating, and reviewing them can cause extensive delays.

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Returning to the SceneCrime and Punishment TropesRogue Juror
Revenge RomanceAdded Alliterative AppealRewriting Reality

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