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Temporary Love Interest
In an arc-less show, one in which each episode stands alone, the hero cannot be allowed to have long-running relationships. A girl/boy friend would interfere with opportunities to insert romantic tension.

Thus, the Temporary Love Interest who shows up has a brief idyllic relationship with the hero, then dies tragically, is left behind or is otherwise written out. After that, she's usually never mentioned again. If she's put out of the picture without dying, she's a Girl of the Week. If a character has loads and loads of Temporary Love Interests, they may have a Cartwright Curse.

Stories involving Drifters or Knights Errant tend to involve this, if only because the lone wandering hero archetype tends to require that friends and love interests encountered during an adventure be left behind at adventure's end.

Related to Romantic False Lead, except that relationship must die for the Official Couple to be able to get together. Contrast to Disposable Love Interest, who is a kind of Satellite Character only there for a Token Romance and tends not to even get the dignity of being killed off. See also The Plot Reaper, a similar mechanism for killing off characters who'd ruin the status quo if they live.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Kirby of the Stars: Whispy, of all people, who is a talking tree gets his Temporary Love Interest in the form of a flower. Dedede has her transformed into a monster, and Kirby has to kill her. To make things even more bizarre, when Whispy fell for her, she wasn't even sentient. She didn't come to life until after the transformation started.
  • Four Murasame from Zeta Gundam.

Comics
  • When the kids from Runaways went back in time to 1907, Victor found himself falling in love with a girl named Lillie. Their relationship followed this trope to the letter, except that she didn't die; she just decided at the last minute that she couldn't go with him back to the present.

Film
  • Austin Powers (all of them).
    • Which in itself parodies the same concept from James Bond.
  • Even when James Bond has a love interest that actually manages to survive the entire movie, she's almost invariably completely forgotten in the next movie.
    • Parodied in a Robot Chicken sketch which shows that he turns into a clingy wimp (and a selfish lover) whenever he actually gets the girl. The reason he's always single again for the next film is that each of the girls dumps his ass when they realize how lame he is.

Literature
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Luke Skywalker went through girlfriends like most people go through socks. It was so sad. Fortunately, the suffering ended was substantially delayed when he married Mara Jade.
  • The Mortal Engines quartet has two of these: Kate Valentine; in an interesting variation, Kate also has a Temporary Love Interest Bevis Pod.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower book Flying Colours, Hornblower has an affair with a French widow named Marie, the daughter-in-law of the Comte de Gracay, while the Comte shelters Hornblower, Bush, and Brown after they escaped French captivity. While she survives the novel's events, she is killed near the end of the next book she appears in, Lord Hornblower.
  • Myth-O-Mania provides a possible explanation for the existence of this trope through Cupid's description of the different arrows he fires. Love induced with yellow-tipped arrows only lasts an hour. Orange-tipped arrows create romantic effects that wear off after three days. Red-tipped arrows avert this trope by making people permanently fall in love.

Live-Action TV
  • Most Dom Coms, especially ones with teen-agers, had temporary love interests. Usually, they were used to enforce that episode's moral.
  • Stargate SG-1: Samantha Carter is a total black widow, and Daniel Jackson hasn't done too well either; nearing the end of the series, she just got a seemingly-long-term boyfriend that still made an extended stay in the hospital during his introductory episode, and the height of Daniel Jackson's success is a love interest that merely spent a couple of seasons possessed (and effectively dead). The SG-1 team, like so many other heroes, may be effectively bulletproof, but best not to get involved with them: it does not rub off. Dr Jackson eventually averted this by hooking up with a fellow member of SG-1 in the finale...only to have the relationship fall victim to a (literal) Reset Button.
  • These happen in Stargate Atlantis too: Sheppard and very rarely McKay are on the receiving end. While, to some people, Sheppard had tons of UST going on with Weir, her disappearance mid-series left him without a single potential relationship that would last beyond a single episode. McKay on the other hand took his time and ended up with Keller in the final season.
    • Surprisingly averted with Teyla and Kanaan. Kanaan was kidnapped by Michael and clearly considered disposable by him. However, Kanaan survives to raise his child with Teyla.
  • Early seasons of The X-Files did this with Scully dating random dudes for an episode, Mulder had porn.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place thrives on this. Although some love interests last a couple episodes or so, there are still a few who only manage to last one.
  • The early first season episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess were notorious for providing both Xena and Gabrielle with a doomed Temporary Love Interest, including what is perhaps the most extreme example of the form as a whole, Marcus: he actually died twice. No wonder they quickly shifted to Ho Yay.
    • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was just as bad at introducing them. Even though Iolaus had more romantic interests, there was no shortage of girls that would flirt and throw themselves at Hercules.
      • Most notorious is Serena, played by Kevin Sorbo's real life wife, who Hercules marries at the end of her second appearance (only having known her a few days) she is killed off in the very next episode
  • Smallville had two for Clark. The first one died, and the second one was put in prison. However, Shipping was so great they decided to bring her back for two episodes and kill her to stop it. The latest season introduced a third who also died in her second appearance. Of course we know who he'll end up with, which makes temps a requirement until the show ends. Lex has also had several, and married a few of them.
  • Happens in an episode of Knight Rider, when Michael Knight's bride is killed before the wedding ceremony ends.
  • Gilina Renaez (The PK Tech Girl) in Farscape's first season. In fairness, she had more than one appearance. It's just that in the second she found out her true love who she was risking her life for had the hots for someone else. Then she died tragically.
  • Supernatural Any girl with Sam or Dean, especially Sam who is known for his Cartwright Curse. In general, most women in the series either get killed off or don't show up again after being introduced.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Any girl who asks the Doctor if she can travel with him but who would obviously not make a good companion for one reason or another in the David Tennant era:
      • Jabe from "The End of the World". She and the Ninth Doctor flirt outrageously, Rose tells them to 'go off and pollinate' and a line in the Twelfth Doctor story "Deep Breath" states that they did have a physical fling. She dies in a Heroic Sacrifice to save everyone else on the space station.
      • In "Voyage of the Damned", this is done particularly badly — she practically commits suicide through stupidity (see, after you use the forklift to push the bad guy off the edge, you could at least try to jump out...). He then tries to save her through a mild Deus ex Machina, but it was broken in the wreck, and she turns into a glowy remnant of herself that goes off into space and gets to see the Universe like she wanted.
      • Rose Tyler. In Journey's End, she chooses to remain in Pete's World the Doctor's half-human clone, aka "Handy", after Handy whispers in Rose's ear what the Doctor would not - presumed by many fans to be "I love you". Handy also offers to spend his one, human life with Rose, saying that he will age and die as she does ("I could spend it with you, if you'd like"). The Doctor and Rose then part ways, presumably forever.
      • Done for legitimate characterisation by River Song. In Forest of the Dead, she sacrifices herself to prevent the deaths of thousands of other people and stabilize the Library's mainframe computer]]. Despite this, we see her past self go on many adventures with the Doctor, his companions, and eventually marry the Doctor (the Eleventh). Much later, a 'data ghost' of her from after her death gets to say goodbye to him properly. She still dies to preserve the status quo, but thanks to the Mayfly-December Romance factor that was fairly inevitable and their relationship is meaningful to both characters nevertheless.
      • Christine de Souza in "Planet of the Dead", a Classy Cat-Burglar who (as both she and the Doctor constantly announce to the audience) would be a perfect partner for Ten. Notable in that she doesn't actually die - they part amicably and she gets a flying London bus out of the deal.
      • Madame de Pompadour, who is dead at the the end of "The Girl in the Fireplace" after The Doctor comes back for her too late.
    • Whilst the Doctor was mostly immune in the original series with a couple of exceptions, this happened to an awful lot of companions.
      • Barbara has a fling with Blond-Haired Space Boy Alydon in "The Daleks" but leaves him, as well as several more. Lampshaded in the Eleventh Doctor comic "Hunters of the Burning Stone" where the Doctor, upon hearing Barbara was going to marry Ian, reels off a long list of 'broken hearts' she was going to leave.
      • Steven has a brief, tragic fling with Anne Chaplet, a girl he meets in 17th-Century France. It's brief and tragic in part because he knows her for a couple of days leading up to a genocide against everyone belonging to her religion.
      • Jo Grant seemed to leave a string of broken hearts in her wake, from Peladonian kings to Thal spacemen.
      • Ace is full-on Cartwright Curse, with anyone she so much as smiles at dying in the last episode (even a female cheetah isn't immune). The New Adventures ran with this a lot.
    • In "The Aztecs", the First Doctor has a fling with, and gets an Accidental Engagement to, an Aztec healer named Cameca. They are seen through much of the serial cuddling or holding hands and both Ian and Barbara tease him affectionately about his fiancée ("you old rogue!"). The Doctor is clearly even conflicted about whether he needs to move on immediately at all, until Barbara's meddling puts them all in danger. Cameca admits she knew that the invention he was working on (the wheel) would take her from him, and she gives him a ring as a gift, which he attempts to discard but can't bring himself to.
    • The Sarah Jane Adventures gives us Peter Dalton.
    • Occasionally happens to temporary companions in Expanded Universe stories. This especially happens in stories set during periods of solo travel, when a meaningful and quick connection is required without upsetting television canon:
      • Miss Lamb in Ghost Ship, who has a ton of UST with the Fourth Doctor (between "The Deadly Assassin" when he's just left Sarah and "The Face of Evil" when he picks up Leela) and dies.
      • Ali in The Beast of Babylon, who expresses a desire to travel with the Ninth Doctor and flirts with him about what kind of girls he likes (directly before the Doctor reappears in front of Rose at the end of "Rose"), but gracefully suggests that Rose would be a better partner for him before the Doctor has her Put on a Bus.
      • The Eighth Doctor short story "The Queen of Eros", where he gets all but married to a tyrannical alien queen, but eventually negotiates his freedom after transforming her into a better person.
      • The novelisation of "Shada" has Skagra's Sapient Ship Promoted to Love Interest for the Fourth Doctor. They have a bit of awkward, semi-accidental G-Rated Sex in which he talks her through achieving time travel which she massively enjoys and she falls in love with him soon after, but as she is an enormous invisible spaceship she is obviously unworkable as a companion, so she and the Doctor respectfully part so she can achieve independence (and punish Skagra).
  • Averted on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by Benjamin Sisko's long-term girlfriend Kassidy Yates (although she did get Put on a Bus at one point, by the end of the series she was a fixture in Sisko's life).
    • Kira's love interest Bareil dies eventually, but doesn't really fit the trope. He was around for over a full season (even making a few appearances before he and Kira got together) and Kira spends quite a while mourning after he dies. Both of her next two love interests (or three if one counts Dukat's one-sided flirtations) talk about how important Bareil was to Kira and the impact of his death on her. Odo even sends her away while on his deathbed because he doesn't wanted her haunted by witnessing it the way she did when Bareil died.
      • His Mirror Universe counter-part is a better example. He popped up for one episode only, they quickly found themselves in an intense romance, and then he disappeared with Kira's counter-part (who casually mentions she later killed him when she next appears)
    • Odo had one in "A Simple Investigation", she doesn't end up dead exactly but he never sees her again and she's never brought up thereafter.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series has what might quite possibly be the Trope Codifier: Edith Keeler of the truly exceptional episode "The City on the Edge of Forever."
  • In the original Charlie's Angels, any man an Angel shows interest in usually turns out to be the villain, and is then never mentioned again, which makes the Hand Wave explanation of Sabrina leaving the team to get married rather inexplicable.
    • In one episode Kelly is shown to be in a loving relationship with an obviously nice, decent man, but she has to end it because she has to go and work undercover. He doesn't know what she does for a living so she ends it by hinting that she no longer cares for him. However, it's clear her heart is breaking as she says it.
  • The vast revolving cast of the main characters' love interests in Seinfeld. Often Lampshaded as examples of how dysfunctional the core cast are.
    • The only subversions would be Susan (for George) and Puddy (for Elaine). Then again, Susan dies and Puddy tells Elaine he will not wait for her in the finale. Even Jerry's fiance only lasts one episode (appearing briefly in a flashback sequence in the next one to explain that they mutually dumped each other).
  • Horatio Hornblower: In the fourth episode "The Frogs and the Lobsters", during the mission in Mouzillac in France as supporters of the French Royalists, Horatio has an innocent brief romance with a local peasant girl turned into a teacher. Horatio persuades her to run away with him, though it's not clear what he wants to do with her once they get aboard his ship or to England. When they reach the bridge which the Navy is supposed to blow up, she's shot by French republican soldiers and dies instantly. Horatio cries Big NO and is shattered for the rest of the episode, but that's the last time we ever heard of Mariette. Note that this isn't too different from the fate of Marie, Hornblower's mistress in the original books, making Mariette a likely Expy.
  • Although not nearly as prevalent as in Michael Landon's earlier series Bonanza, there were scattered episodes of Little House on the Prairie featuring tragic heroines coming into contact with a male teen-aged character.
    • The best example is Sylvia, Albert's girlfriend in the two-parter named for her that aired in early 1981. Sylvia lives in a horrifying, cold world — she is teased mercilessly at school because of her early puberty, she is stalked by and impregnated by a rapist, her father calls her a whore, and Mrs. Olesen spreads malicious gossip suggesting that Albert had gotten her pregnant — and Albert her only hope of happiness. Alas, even this is taken away from her when the rapist finds her hiding in a barn (Albert unknowningly reveals her whereabouts) and returns to rape her a second time; She tries to flee by running up a rickety ladder, but a rotted step breaks under Sylvia's weight and she falls to her death; however, death does not come about until after she is brought home, and she and Albert are allowed to share tender words.
  • The titular character from Merlin had Freya, a Mysterious Waif who is introduced and dies in the same episode - though she pops back occasionally as the Lady of the Lake.
  • Angel Fred is one for Wesley, very temporarily. They were love interests for a while, but she was killed off shortly after they finally became an Official Couple.
  • JAG: Harm and Mac had through the years various love interests, none of them lasted more than a season. Also Admiral Chegwidden had several short-lived love interests. Averted with Bud and Harriet, who remain married from season 3 to the end of the series.
  • Super Sentai is more fond of Girl of the Week, but uses this trope occasionally. Examples include Mahou Sentai Magiranger, where Tsubasa falls for a beautiful Idol Singer who turns out to be Dead All Along; and Gosei Sentai Dairanger, where a villain is introduced to fall in love with Rin and then gets killed by Gara in the same episode.

Newspaper Comics
  • Parodied in a Dilbert strip where the title character comments it's strange he has a girlfriend, and that it reminds him of Star Trek episodes where Kirk falls in love and you know she'll end up dying horribly — meanwhile, a flaming meteorite hits the ground just behind them and the girlfriend looks freaked out. Ironically, she goes on to dump him because he isn't as fun to be around anymore. Maybe she only loved him for the meteors?

Western Animation


Reformed RakesRomance Novel PlotsLove Letter Lunacy
Satellite Love InterestGender Dynamics IndexAlways Save the Girl
Super Bowl SpecialDouble StandardTomboy and Girly Girl
Sugar and Ice PersonalityLove InterestsThird-Option Love Interest
Telepathic SpacemenCharacters as DeviceTemporary Scrappy

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