: You knew my father. Captain Jack Sparrow
: I knew him. Probably one of the few who knew him as William Turner. Everyone else called him Bootstrap or Bootstrap Bill. Good man. Good pirate. I swear you look just like him.
A Stock Phrase
that strikes terror in the hearts of single parents and Parental Substitutes
the world 'round. (Can be Gender Flipped
, but usually is the father.)
Generally indicates that the child, who has no memories of the parent, has an unrealistic view
of Disappeared Dad
(or Missing Mom
). As such, particularly hard on the child with a villainous parent, or even a No Hero to His Valet
father. But hearing tales about, or actually meeting
, the father, is almost always a shock.
However, if the child has heard the parent vilified
, it can lead to his learning that his parent was better than he had been told. (If not perhaps all that he had dreamed of.) This may lead to a "Your father would be So Proud of You
." Bonus points if the child has recently done things that were very brave or noble, and, when he asks about his father the response is "You remind me of him
Or, of course, both. As the page quotes show.
If the child knew the parent, but Parental Abandonment
happened after, the child will want to know about changes since then — as when a father went to war and the child wants to know about his service.
A parent or other relative who wants him not to Turn Out Like His Father
, especially when it's dangerous
, will resist as long as possible
. Unfortunately, this usually results only in the mysterious parent
taking on the allure of Forbidden Fruit
— which may result in a harder than usual crash
In cases of Parental Abandonment
, the child is usually curious about only one parent, to simplify the plot
. Perhaps he knew one parent but not the other, but sometimes, he is just fixated on one — usually
Muggle Foster Parents
usually try to evade this, partly because it brings up Secret Legacy
, partly because they think his safety lies in being Locked Out of the Loop
If Dad ran off, possibly without even knowing about the kid, Mom is particularly apt to be bitter about it. The child's idealism sets them up for a clash.
If the parent is dead, may overlap with To Absent Friends
for the people telling the child.
Dead Guy Junior
may express this about the person he was named for, even if unrelated.
Often happens if child is Someone to Remember Him By
Not to be confused with Tell Me About Your Mother
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Anime & Manga
- Gon of Hunter × Hunter was always asking his adoptive mother, Mito about his father, who left him with Mito to follow his dreams, which he saw as more important than Gon. Gon ends up following in his father's footsteps and tries to become a Hunter for the purpose of finding out just why it is worth abandoning your only son over.
- Hare pulls this in Hare+Guu with his mother, Weda. He asks her about his father. She tells him pretty blankly that it's Dr. Clive, the doctor who's just come to work in the village. Since Dr. Clive is a Chivalrous Pervert without the chivalry, Hare is not pleased.
- Negi Springfield, titular character of Mahou Sensei Negima! sort of counts. He thought his father the Thousand Master really was a man of a thousand powerful spells, when really he only knew five or six and had to look through a cheat sheet of complex incantations (of course his romantisizing son was rightfully disturbed). Despite all that, Nagi was a talented hand-to-hand fighter and his sheer power could more than accommodate for his lack of spells; for the spells he could do, they were often over-powered (including basics) or his natural ability made complicated magic a cinch for him. There's a reason they called him an invincible hero.
- Also, Negi's recently started asking old allies of his dad's to "Tell me about my mother."
- Later someone does tell him about his mother and calls her the "Queen of Calamity" who destroyed her own country. According to chapter 257, she was framed for being the mastermind behind the Omnicidal Maniac terrorists, tried, and officially executed... eight years before Negi's birth. As such, just about everybody thinks that Nagi busted her out, and nobody cares because they're pretty damn sure she didn't actually do it.
- Shinji asks Kaji to tell him about his father Gendo in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Even though Shinji sees his father on a near-daily basis, he knows nothing about him, and, indeed, regularly declares that he hates his father. Kaji's response about how it is impossible for one human being to understand another seems like a cop-out to avoid saying, "Shinji, your father is the biggest dick on the planet."
- Shinji asks Rei about his daddy too. It turns out that she doesn't know much about Gendo either.
- He also asked Gendo (in probably the only point in the series where he interacts with Shinji without attempting to force him do something) about his mother.
- Subverted a bit in One Piece. Idiot Hero Luffy doesn't initially ask about his father. When his grandfather does supply information on the man's identity and motivations, Luffy's response is "Huh? My dad? What do you mean, my dad...? Wait, I have a dad?" He then turns to his crewmate Nico Robin to ask about him because everybody else is too busy freaking out about his father's identity being the most wanted and feared revolutionary in the world.
- Averted in Naruto, which is especially glaring when you would think that a boy who has grown up orphaned and isolated his whole life would ask anybody and everyone he could about his parents if a chance presented itself. Worse yet is that the adults who know who Naruto's parents are never sit him down and tell him about them either.
- Sad to say, the chance never did present itself. Naruto spent the entirety of his childhood trying to survive, though how bad it really was is debated between fans from 'everyone trying to kill him' to 'everyone hates him.' It was pretty much established that Naruto was supposed to be told everything when he officially turned 16, else he would be too weak. Too weak to handle Minato Namikaze aka the Yondaime's enemies, that is. Naruto is his son, after all.
- Considering how Naruto was a kid, it's probably for the best they didn't tell him. It would have gone straight to his head.
- He finally does ask a little when he meets his mother Kushina while on a Journey to the Center of the Mind. Not nearly as much as he should have, but he had other, more pressing concerns at the time.
- Explained in the anime during a flashback in Shippuden episode 257: Naruto apparently asked Hiruzen about his parents many times, but Hiruzen refused to tell him anything. Eventually, he must have decided that it wasn't worth asking.
- Renton was shocked and anxious when he found out at episode 38 that Eureka knew his father Adrock Thurston all along in Eureka Seven, and urged Eureka to tell him about his dad. This sudden outburst made Eureka confused and uncomfortable, so she ran away. Eventually, she did come back to Renton and shared her experience with Adrock after learning from Stoner that Renton is eager to learn about his dad very much.
- Subverted in Gundam Wing. Right before Relena's adoptive father kicks the bucket, he manages to briefly tell that she's adopted and that her dead parents were the monarchs of the Sank Kingdom, but dies before giving her the details. She later cuts off her adoptive mother when she's gonna tell her how she came into the care of the Darlians, begging her in tears to not stop being her mom.
- In the Alternate Bad Future in Dragon Ball Z, Trunks asks Gohan and his mother Bulma about his father, Vegeta. As Trunks is a fairly nice kid growing up in a hellish nightmare world, both of them try to spare his feelings by giving him a rather whitewashed version of the the man who, at one point, was trying to kill everyone on Earth — Gohan just refers to him as "intense" (which was true enough) and Bulma tries to play him off as a sort of Jerk with a Heart of Gold, although she does say he's probably in hell. Since he travels back in time, Trunks does eventually get to meet his father, and is rather horrified by Vegeta's callousness (although that doesn't stop him from wanting his dad's approval anyway), thinking he'd been lied to. After Vegeta does eventually have a Papa Wolf moment with his son, Trunks happily reports back to his mother that she'd been right all along, while Bulma thinks to herself she hadn't really expected Vegeta to go that far.
- In Digimon Adventure, Izzy asks his parents this when they tell him that he's adopted, although he already knew about it. Apparently, his dad was a genius too.
- In CLANNAD the main character Tomoya's wife dies giving birth to his daughter Ushio and he ends up leaving her to be raised by her grandparents, who make a point of not telling Ushio about her mother. When he decides to take care of Ushio again, one of the first things he does is tell her about her mother. This leads to a heart breaking scene where Tomoya breaks down in tears part way through talking about his dead wife, crying over her death for the first time in years.
- Jesse Custer of Preacher by chance meets an old Marine Corps buddy of his late father, who had been shot dead in front of Jesse when he was a young child. This meeting serves for two non-consecutive breaks from the main storyline as the army friend tells Jesse about their time in Vietnam. John Custer is revealed as a tough but fundamentally decent and loyal man, much like his son.
- When DC's Damage discovered he was the son of the Justice Society's Atom, two members of the Society, with him, talked about finding the others, and every surviving member came with Damage to his parents' grave.
- Further, in the same universe, when Kate Spencer (Manhunter) wanted to learn more about her past, she visited her grandmother, Sandra Knight (Phantom Lady), who proceeds to tell the tale of her supposed grandfather and real grandfather.
- When Skaar, the son of the Incredible Hulk, first met the Hulk's Warbound, he asked them this same question. Subverted in that he later clarified he meant "Tell me how I can kill him."
- In an interesting inversion, Daken, the son of Wolverine, asks his father about his mother. Due to the fact they're in a mental plane of existence, Logan decides to show him rather than just tell him. It's a sweet moment until Daken can't touch her and demands more, which Logan can't give.
- In an issue of Uncanny X-Men, Cable invokes this trope by name when he asks Cyclops (his father) to tell him about his mother, Madelyne Pryor (presumably the woman she was before she became The Goblin Queen). This scene is given an odd dissonance, given that thanks to time travel Cable is old enough to be Cyclops' father.
- Runaways has an entire plot arc based around this trope where their Sixth Ranger Victor Mancha attempts to find out the identity of his super villian father at first it appears to be Doctor Doom but then it turns out to be Ultron yes, that's right Technically he is an android made from Ultrons programming and his human mother's DNA.
- In The Shadows of their Fathers, an arc of the Star Wars Rebellion comic, Luke Skywalker gets his first inkling that his dad wasn't as heroic as he'd been thinking ever since finding out that Anakin had been a Jedi. It happened in the most dramatic way possible, of course, when he went to help out the people of Jabiim, who Anakin had left to die back in the Clone Wars. They found out who he was, they wanted to kill him, cooler heads prevailed and he was taunted and beaten up until a more sympathetic Jabiim started protecting him. Just the idea that Anakin was actually terrible practically breaks Luke, who pleads "Did my father really behead Jabiimi children?◊" before absolutely throwing himself into the cause of helping them however he can, trying to make it up to them. At the end of the series this attitude gets a soft reset, with Leia assuring Luke that his father had still been good and helped so many people even if he'd failed the Jabiimi, and Luke swears that if anything this just made him love Anakin more.
- In Whispers in the Dark, Taylor was told all her life that her father drowned when she was a baby and that's why she doesn't remember him. But when she actually meets him, she's pretty pissed to find out that he's the one and only Luke Castellan, who betrayed the gods to join Kronos.
- In the My Little Pony Fanfic The Son Of The Emperor Charles doesn't really know much about his father Napoleon, so when he meets someone who does he quickly starts asking about him.
- In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf novel, Papa Smurf tells Empath about his mother in the revelation that Empath is Papa Smurf's only biological son.
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope does this, but what's told is From a Certain Point of View. It's also implied that Luke has asked his aunt and uncle about Anakin, but that they refuse to discuss him.
- Also, though it took two and a half films, Luke develops some curiousity about his mother as well, and asks Leia to tell him about her. Which was turned into a retcon when the prequels came out - Death by Childbirth took their mother, so the only mother Leia knew was her adoptive mother, Queen Breha Organa.
- The Recruit
James Clayton: Tell me about my father.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Will Turner realizes that Captain Jack Sparrow knew his father, and asks — getting a real shock when he learns that Bootstrap Bill was a pirate. Though when Will was prisoner in the Black Pearl, the tales told there about how he realized how treacherous they had been wins Will over.
- In the Superman film, Supes gets the lowdown on Dad from the Fortress of Solitude, via an interactive recording.
- In the new Star Trek movie, young Kirk doesn't ask about his dad, but Captain Pike tells him anyway.
- But he does ask Spock Prime about if he knew his dad in Spock Prime's world.
- At one point in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout asks Jem about her mother as they're falling asleep.
- In the Lindsay Lohan remake of The Parent Trap, Hallie (posing as Annie) asks her mother to tell her about "the F-word" - "You know, my father."
- In The Lion King 2, Kovu learns about his adoptive father, Scar, from Simba. Turns out Scar wasn't quite the unsung hero mom told him he had to avenge, but a psychopathic killer.
- Played with in Back to the Future Part II — Marty, in 1985-A, asks the alternate version of his mother to tell him about the alternate version of his father.
- Big Fish is heavy on this
- Top Gun does this when Viper tells Maverick about his father's last mission after Maverick's confidence is shaken by Goose's death, and how his father saved Viper's life at the cost of his own.
- In John Ringo and David Weber's March Upcountry, Prince Roger is considered a jerk, a fop, and a possible traitor by the other characters, mostly because he takes after his father who shares all the same qualities. The catch — he has never met his father and no one has ever told him why. The real reason for his being like this is that he has been sidelined all his life on the grounds that he MIGHT be like his father. Everyone simply assumes he knows his father's history, but no one has ever checked to make sure. Because of this suspicion, he ends up trapped on a Death World. So when he finds out, the result is an entirely justified temper tantrum.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, in many flashbacks, Gaunt is trying to learn how his father died, which is classified. He is finally told by a Chaos-tainted witch.
- In Only In Death, Dalin Criid, who vaguely remembers Kolea from Vervunhive, asks him about his parents. Kolea assures him that his parents would have been glad that he and his sister were taken under the wing of the two Ghosts who act as their parents, and proud of how he turned out, and that they were died. (He's lying. In fact, he is their father, but he learned that they had lived only after the two Ghosts had raised them for some time. Thinking their lives had been disrupted enough, he did not tell even their adoptive parents the truth.)
- Harry Potter:
- Harry asked the Dursleys about his parents growing up, but they never told him anything except "They died in a car crash and don't asks questions." After learning the truth, he never directly asked but got good reports from his teachers and elders. The only dissenting voice was his cruel bullying teacher Snape who he had little reason to believe. Then, in Order of the Phoenix, Harry experienced one of Snape's memories and then saw for himself that James Potter was kind of a jerk when he was fifteen. This led to him directly questioning Sirius and Lupin, who assured him that James deflated his head once he grew up.
- Harry's mother, Lily, was established as the reason he survived Voldemort early on, but isn't always mentioned alongside James. It's slowly revealed that Harry has at least as much in common with her as with James, and that's without getting into Snape's motivation.
- The Odyssey: When Odysseus went to war, he left a wife and newborn son at home. Twenty years later, the war is ten years over, but Odysseus has still not returned. His son Telemachus, now just barely an adult, goes on a road (and sea) trip to find out where the heck he's gone off to. As he interviews Ulysses' old war buddies (in books III and IV) he tries hard to keep it strictly business — when did you last see Odysseus, and which way was he going? — but the Tell Me About My Father vibe is unmistakable, making this one Older Than Feudalism.
- In Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn novel Hereticus, after the death of the man who killed her father, Medea realizes that her desire for Revenge was really displaced desire to have known her father, and asks Eisenhorn to tell her about her father.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Vor Game, Emperor Gregor worriedly asks Miles if any of the more horrific stories about his Axe Crazy father are true. All Miles can offer is the faint reassurance that not all of the stories are accurate.
- Later, in A Civil Campaign, it falls on Gregor to tell Nikki Vorsoisson the truth about his father. Although the goal is to counteract some Malicious Slander about Tien Vorsoisson's suspicious death Gregor also tells him some unpleasant facts about his father straight, perhaps so he will not be blindsided later.
- In The Dresden Files, Harry specifically notes that his father told him so much about his mother that he never felt the need for this.
- In American Gods, we briefly witness this being a point of contention between young Shadow and his mother (who didn't know/remember the father), which Shadow witnesses again while he is walking on the way to his judgment in the afterlife. A few pages later, we see why mother didn't divulge.
- Subverted in John Varley's Steel Beach as Hildy's mother flatly refuses to even identify her father, let alone tell her anything about him. The resulting animosity causes periodic breaks in their relationship, But that doesn't prevent Hildy from resolving to similarly conceal the father's identity from her own child Mario.
- Robin McKinley:
- In The Hero and the Crown, Aerin asks her nursemaid about her dead, foreign mother very early in the book. Even though by this time she's heard just about everything the woman ever knew about the queen, every so often she comes out with another word or so, and besides, Aerin likes to hear it again. Of course, it's important later, and comes up a lot in various contexts, since taking after her outlander mother is one of the defining facts of the main character's life.
- Similarly, Beauty in Rose Daughter tries to find out, with the help of one of her maids, what scent her mother wore, as it's the strongest memory she has of her. The maid is able to find out that the scent was of roses, and this and Beauty's mother's origins are inevitably plot-relevant.
- Percy Jackson often wondered about his father (before finding out that his father was Posideon) and despite his mother Sally often repeating carefully selected details about him, he never got tired of hearing them.
- In Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth the character Jack asked about the demise of his father Jack Shareburg.
- Pretty thoroughly averted in Dragonriders of Pern. Lord Jaxom's mother died in childbirth, and his father died in a duel minutes later. Jaxom grows up knowing that his father was a cruel, power-mad tyrant.
- Eragon to Oromis
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Daenaerys Targaryen believed that the stories of her father being an insane tyrant were lies spread by the Usurper Robert and his supporters. When she asks Barristan Selmy to tell her more about Aerys, she is not happy when she realizes that her father really was a monster.
- Jon Snow grew up having no clue of who is his mother because his father Ned never speaks of her for unknown reasons. He later wants to ask him who she was, but too bad that Ned dies before telling him about her.
- Subverted in Septimus Heap: While Jenna does at a time inquire about her father, she doesn't really care about the issue any further, partially because fathers aren't considered important in the royal dynasty.
- Ukiah Oregon does this twice. Raised by Wolves, the only parents he knows are the women who found him in the Oregon woods and took him home. He's kidnapped and nearly killed by his father's side of the family, and learns that his long-dead father was a rebel from an alien invasion force and he's a Half-Human Hybrid. Later he meets his mother's side of the family, the Cayuse Kicking Deer family. His initial demands for information are rebuffed because he's believed to be an impostor, and no one alive knew his mother, who died centuries ago. He is eventually able to regain some memory of her.
- Claire does this on Heroes after her powers start to manifest.
- Smallville has Clark asking The Fortress AI (a recording of Dear Old Dad), Brainiac, Raya, and Supergirl about his parents, but mainly Jor-El. He also gets to interact with a simulation of his mom Lara (played by Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the 1984 film Supergirl).
- Used in Criminal Minds, after Reid had been having nightmares about his dad being involved in the killing of a kid when Reid was little. In an inverse of the Broken Pedestal trope, Reid's father managed to prove that he's more sympathetic than previous revelations would grant.
- Played with by "100", where it becomes "Tell Your Son About His Father": in her last moments, Haley pleads with Hotch to tell their son Jack about how he used to be; how he wasn't so serious, how he and Haley fell in love, how he used to make her laugh.
- Happens at the end of a season 5 Las Vegas episode when Piper Nielsen aks AJ Cooper about her dead father, who was his best friend when they were soldiers but died in a military conflict. He had promised to take care of the recently born Piper from a distance as a Last Request to him, but circumstances led Piper to suspect Cooper was in fact her father but had simply abandoned her for the past twenty-five years.
- The Series Finale of Rome comes within a hair's breadth of being named after this trope: "De Patre Vostro" (About Your Father...).
- There's also a scene a couple of episodes earlier in which Caesarion asks Lucius Vorenus to tell him about his father. Vorenus, of course, is one of the few people who knows that Caesarion's father isn't Caesar. It's Titus Pullo.
- Gender Flipped in several season 4 episodes of China Beach as Karen inquires about her mother among the group of veterans who knew her. She also eventually meets her father in the process. He's a jerk. No wonder she wasn't looking for him.
- In Power Rangers in Space Astronema/Karone asks Andros 'what were mom and dad like?', so beginning the first honest and open conversation between the reunited siblings. Andros tells her they were 'the best parents any kid could hope for'.
- Legend of the Seeker: Richard asks his sister to tell him in "Bloodline," but unfortunately she knows nothing because their mother refused to discuss it-not even whether they have the same one. His father is later revealed to be Panis Rahl. It's then inverted and gender flipped in the same episode when he laments he never got the chance to talk to his mother, and it ends with Zedd saying, "Then let me tell you about her."
- In Kamen Rider Hibiki, the main character Asumu is a teenage boy living with a single mother. When his rival is constantly talking about surpassing his father, Asumu begins wondering what his own father is like. His mother is acting very distant about is, but gives him his father's address. Asumu indirectly gets to know his father by the testimony of other people. The episode ends with him asking his mother if its okay to like him, after which his mother encourages him to do so.
- This happens on CSI NY in a gender flip after Reed Garret comes to town looking for his mother, Mac's late wife Claire. At first, he backs off when he finds out she's dead. Mac doesn't push him, but his caring persuasion and wanting to do it for Claire eventually gets Reed to open up and he eventually asks Mac about her.
- JAG: This trope always is played with in some fashion every time Harmon Rabb meets Thomas Boone, the wingman of his MIA father.
- Given a slight extra spin in The City Hunter. Yoon Sung asks his mother this, and she responds, very carefully, with a description of her deceased husband, Mu-Yeol. Who, it turns out, is not Yoon Sung's father.
- "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" by the Temptations literally IS this trope.
- The character Sophie, in Mamma Mia!, doesn't ask her mother about her father, but finds her mother's diary describing 3 possible fathers, leading to the entire plotline.
- Used in Fate/stay night's "Heaven's Feel" scenario after Shirou learns that his foster father fought as a Master in the fourth Grail War. While Saber is reluctant to talk about him, Kotomine is only too pleased to.
- Played with: Shirou knew plenty about Kiritsugu in the first place, it was just the bit about being a Master in the last Grail War that he wanted more info on.
- In World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, we have Arator the Redeemer, the son of Alleria Windrunner and Turalyon. As an infant, Arator was separated from his parents after they left him on Azeroth to go fight a war on Draenor. Unfortunately, Alleria and Turalyon got trapped on the planet when the Dark Portal blew up. Twenty years later, the Dark Portal has reopened, and Arator has come to Outland (formerly known as Draenor) hoping to reunite with his parents (or more specifically, his father). As Arator never knew his father, he asks several of the veteran members of Alliance Expedition about Turalyon, including Turalyon's second, Danath Trollbane, for information and leads on Turalyon's current location. Several people then gave their opinion on how great a guy Turalyon was, but sadly, he has been MIA for 15 years. Arator is convinced Turalyon is alive, because he has the same vision of his father every time he sleeps, and vows to search for him. Unfortunately, Blizzard chose to abruptly end the storyline here.
- In Aion's second area, Altgard Keep, you meet an Archon that hands you an expensive pendant and his story. He had been abandoned as an infant with only this pendant and now wants to know who his parents were, although he suggests that they were mere mortals. You track the owner of the pendant down and she tells you that a)she has lost that pendant long ago and therefore the boys parents must've been thieves and b) that she and her husband have no children. She does, however, hand you the box that belongs to the pendant and tells you to give it to the Archon with best wishes in regards of finding his true parents. In the box you find a letter detailing that said owner of the pendant is in fact his mother, the father being not her husband but a dead Archon that courted her and that he died because of political 'difficulties', namely her father, the High Priest of the Daeva himself and the girls family-in-law and that she barely was able to abandon him to let him live, that it broke her heart and that this scandal must never come to light.
- Toyed with in Fire Emblem Seisen no Keifu, when Leen the Dancer asks Prince Levin if he knew her parents, who left her in an orphanage when she was a little girl. He doesn't tell her almost anything, but tries reassuring her that her parents will come back to her. The thing is... the conversation only happens if Levin is her father, via pairing him up with Leen's Missing Mom Sylvia in the first half of the game.
- A rare example of learning about one's mother, from her son no less - Patrokles, protagonist of Soul Calibur V, desired to learn about his mother, Sophitia, from his Non-Action Guy father Rothion.
- This is inverted in Worm, where the supervillain Tattletale threatens to tell the superhero Panacea about her father-specifically, about the horrible crimes that he committed that got him imprisoned in a maximum security facility for the rest of his natural life-in order to get away from a bank robbery gone wrong.
- Batman: The Animated Series: One episode featured a doctor who lost his license and only got to practice because his gangster brother set him up as "the Crime Doctor". At the end of the episode, Bruce bails him out, and the doctor is instantly suspicious - until Bruce says this trope's name (the doctor had been good friends with Dr. Thomas Wayne in medical school).
- Inverted in Justice League Unlimited. Shayera sits down beside Batman and asks him to "Tell me about my son." (Time Travel was involved.)
- Zuko's father is a major character in Avatar: The Last Airbender and there is only little his son could - or would like to - ask about him. Instead, after the war is won and Ex-Fire Lord Ozai is imprisoned, Zuko comes to his cell and demands one thing. "Where. Is. My. Mother?"