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The Bus Came Back
"After months and months of rumors, flat-out denials, and almost certainly some begging by the producers, Michael Rosenbaum has agreed to reprise his role as Lex Luthor for the series finale of Smallville. When asked why he finally relented after refusing to return for so long, the actor explained that someone reminded him he was Michael fucking Rosenbaum, and what the fuck else did he have going on."
Rob Bricken, Topless Robot

After a main character gets Put on a Bus, we often never see them again. This trope is about when they return once again, to work with the current main characters.

This works several ways: we may get to find out what they've been up to, and then they go back to whatever it was; or it's used as a way to advance their character development even though they're no longer on the show. At the end of the episode, the character generally ends up on a different, longer bus.

In rare cases, the character in question returns for good and resumes their major role. This can happen when the character's been an Ensemble Darkhorse and the authors are either trying to fix the removal that was controversial in the first place, or simply attempt to win some favors from the fans. In this case the character has all the chances to turn into a Spotlight-Stealing Squad. Or it might be that it's the show with Loads and Loads of Characters and this particular one simply was Out of Focus, if maybe a bit too long. It may also occur when an actor recovers from an illness, finishes work elsewhere, or when legal issues are resolved.

Often The Bus Came Back is invoked as part of Gondor Calls for Aid, sometimes bringing back former villains to fight against the Big Bad because Even Evil Has Standards. If the returning character suddenly has a new personality than showcased before, it's a case of Not as You Know Them or The Other Darrin.

Compare with Commuting on a Bus, where a former major character turns into a recurring guest character (regularly getting on and off a bus); Back for the Dead, which is the subtrope where the character dies at the end of the return episode; and Back for the Finale, where a character returns expressly for a show's final episode. If, on the other hand, a character never comes back even though it'd be easy for the character to return for at least one episode, then it's a Long Bus Trip.

Not to be mixed up with He's Back, which is when a mainstay character recovers from a personal crisis.


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     Anime and Manga  
  • Mazinger Z: Kouji Kabuto, Sayaka Yumi and nearly all Mazinger Z characters were Put on a Bus at the end of the series. Several of them returned at the end of Great Mazinger, though: Kouji, Sayaka and Prof. Yumi. When UFO Robo Grendizer started, though, Kouji was the only character of both series was not Put on a Bus. The Bus Came Back for Boss for two episodes, and it was supposed to come back for Sayaka as well, but Executive Meddling prevented it.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Pokemon Chronicles special episodes were largely about this, showing the adventures of characters that the show had left behind.
    • The main series, being a Long Runner with only five characters being permanent fixtures (Ash/Pikachu/Jessie/James/Meowth) has this several times. Misty showed up in Hoenn for a two-parter and then later met up with Ash in Pallet Town and spent an episode revisiting Mt. Moon. May showed up in the middle of Sinnoh for a Tournament Arc. Even one-shot characters can randomly show up for another episode. Brock has left Ash's group four times so far, and has come back the first three; the fourth time was when he left to become a Pokémon doctor at the end of DP, and while he hasn't returned yet, he supposedly will later in the Decolore Island Adventure.
    • The Pokemon are even more prone to show up again. Since Ash drops off most of his roster at Professor Oak's lab these days, he has access to them at any time. In theory anyway - in practice they are mostly just seen when Ash returns home. Squirtle and Charizard also come back from time to time, there was an episode in Johto where Ash met up with Lapras again and, most recently, Ash's Gliscor came back just in time for Ash's Sinnoh League battle against Paul.
    • Charizard has now returned to Ash's regular team as of BW116.
    • In the first half of Best Wishes/Black and White, the previous generations' Pokémon (save for Pikachu and Meowth) were absent, but when the next season came up, they started appearing again.
    • Mewtwo appeared in a short special movie called Mewtwo Returns, which continued his story from Pokémon: The First Movie.
  • In the Oh My Goddess! manga, a lot of characters from Nekomi Tech, such as Megumi, Sora, Tamiya, Otaki, and Aoshima, were Put on a Bus, and have so far appeared only once since Volume 20, which is around the time Keiichi and Belldandy graduated. It may have been unintentional, due to the fact that the series itself slowed down considerably after Volume 16 or so. Also, Sayoko, the series' first Harmless Villain (there are two others, who appeared in subsequent chapters) has not reappeared since Volume 15.
  • Practically any character in One Piece can show up again, as long as they haven't died.
    • Shanks comes in some of the first episodes, saves Luffy's life, leaves, leaving a Chekhov's Gun in the process. 400 odd chapters later, he ends the Whitebeard War, before leaving again.
    • "From the Decks of the World" shows what every character who has been major at some point in the series has been up to since Monkey D. Luffy and his crew encountered them. If a major character doesn't appear in this sub-series and is not a villain, then odds are either they have already returned, or they're on a higher-class bus and will return to the main story later.
    • Even most of the villains came together for the Impel Down story arc. Luffy is certainly surprised to see them all again.
    • One character in particular seemed to have a Sound-Only Death when he was last seen or at the very least, he was likely to never show up in the series again even if he did survive. Exactly 401 chapters later in the manga, Bellamy the Hyena returns in Chapter 704.
  • After the horrifying school shooting in which her best friend was almost killed, many students died or were hurt, and she was almost raped by the younger Kuroda (with his gun), Noriko Kimura from Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest pretty much disappears from the story. However, we later learn that her family moved to Nara specifically for her sake. So when Inugami goes there to hide from Haguro, he ends up meeting with her again.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, Meiling comes back for an episode in the Sakura Card arc, having been Put on a Bus in episode 43.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, upon the revolt in Central, the bus not only comes back, but it's loaded to the brim with weaponry and ammo for the Mustang faction (supplied by Jean Havoc), with none other than second lieutenant Maria Ross at the wheel. Talk about a Badass Bus, eh?
  • Quite common in Fairy Tail. The first major example would be Lyon, Gray's old rival who completely vanishes at the end of their arc. He and Sherry come back for the Nirvana arc about 100 chapters later, and every other character introduced in that arc takes a page out of his book and pulls another 100 chapter vanishing act. There's also one of Erza's old friends (Milliana) who shows up again in the tournament arc.
  • In GUNNM Figure Four gets put on a bus when the original manga, Hyper Future Vision, started to gear towards the finale, and was nowhere to be seen for the most of the sequel run as well. However in the recent chapters of the Last Order he seems to return with the vengeance, and even takes the role of a protagonist (at least so far), instead of being The Lancer that he was earlier.
  • The concept of Steel Saints returned in season 2 of Saint Seiya Omega, several years after its first three representatives vanished without a trace.
  • A return few were expecting: Grell Sutcliffe from Black Butler was hauled away at the end of the Jack the Ripper arc. There's mention of a shinigami's suspension being lifted during the Noah's Ark Circus arc, but it isn't until the Campaniana arc that we get confirmation it's her.
  • In Beyblade, the teams from season 1 never appeared in season 2, but they came back in season 3. However, some of the bladers from season 1 never appeared in season 3, Team WHO (the Dark Bladers) never came back, and the Majestics were kicked out by the Barthez Battailions before the beginning of the World Championship. It also didn't help that most members of all returned teams are Demoted to Extra anyway.
    • While the teams from season 1 are back, the teams from season 2 disappeared.

  • When Willy Vandersteen started the Belgium comicseries Suske en Wiske in 1945, he orginally wanted it to be about Wiske and her older brother Rikki. However, this format didn't turn out the way he planned so after just 1 story Rikki was put on a bus; he left to go buy new shoes, but never returned and was never mentioned again. Over 50 years later, in 2003, the character finally returned for a single story to reveal what became of him.
  • The final storyline of the 2003-2011 Teen Titans series had several Titans who were put on a bus at the start of JT Krul's run (notaby Aquagirl and Bombshell, who were "fired" from the team off-screen and never mentioned again) coming back to aide the current team in their Final Battle. A number of other former Titans, many of whom weren't necessarily put on a bus, came back as well.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Legend of Total Drama Island, an eliminated contestant makes a guest appearance to help with a later challenge.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Trixie leaves Ponyville at the end of the Gaia Arc, and (minus an appearance in the "Retcon-Struction Blues" special episode) doesn't properly return until the Wedding Arc.
  • Inverted in "The Universe Doesn't Cheat", since it's a prequel. Lieutenant T'Var, Eleya's operations officer prior to Reshek Gaarra, only made a brief appearance in Bait and Switch before leaving the USS Bajor to take her first command, but is a supporting character here.

  • Ray - Ray Charles' mother was active through much of Ray's life but the film makes it appear as though she didn't have an active role in his young development. She died before he met his first wife. In fact, Ray's life is portrayed as a rotating support circle. Different bandmates and managers guided him along different steps of the way and then he outgrew them and moved onto a new support circle. In reality, Ray kept in touch with a lot of his earlier band mates and Ahmet Ertegun (Curtis Armstrong) knew Ray until the end of his life. Once Ray dropped him as a manager, he didn't appear again in the movie though.
  • Scarecrow in The Dark Knight Saga. He's assumed to be the Big Bad in Batman Begins until Ra's Al Ghul returns, and escapes on a horse during the final fight. In The Dark Knight, he's little more than a glorified drug dealer whose scene demonstrates how much Batman has changed Gotham's crime, and then is quickly arrested by Batman. And then he returns in The Dark Knight Rises as a "judge" in the anarchy Gotham has become. So everytime you think he's gone for good, he comes back.
  • Played for Laughs in Summer School: Jerome is excused to use the restroom on the first day, and isn't seen again until the Final Exam six weeks later.
  • Dr. Serizawa, not seen since the first film, is back in Godzilla (2014), being portrayed by Ken Watanabe. However, the character is a descendant instead of the original, and he's for Godzilla instead of against him. The sequel has been confirmed to have King Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra for the first time since the Millenium series (and not counting the IDW comics).
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Toad finally returns for his first appearance since the original X-Men movie.

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Phil in The Grim Grotto. Tons of examples in The Penultimate Peril, incluing Mr. Poe, Jerome, Justice Strauss, the teachers from Prufrock Prep School, residents of the Village of Fowl Devotees, Hal (running an Indian restaurant), Carmelita Spats, Sir, Charles, and Bruce (a minor character from The Reptile Room).
  • Discworld: Twoflower is put on a bus at the end of The Light Fantastic. He returns (or, rather, Rincewind returns to him) in Interesting Times, about a decade later. He has not been seen since, except for a small mention in The Last Hero.
    • Then there's Eskarina Smith. Admittedly she belongs in the earlier stranger parts like Twoflower, but it took her 23 years to return, and about 34 books.
  • Halfway through Galaxy of Fear, the droid DV-9 declared that he was tired of dangerous adventures. On a character level he wasn't really needed anymore, either; mostly he had contrasted with The Stoic Hoole as an adult-figure who was less forbidding around Tash and Zak, and by that point the kids and Hoole had finally come to trust and like each other. DV-9 was freed and went to be a research assistant on Koaan. In the last book the others visit Koaan and he meets them and helps find something they were looking for, but declines to come with them off the planet.
    "I am not programmed for philosophy, but I've seen enough to know that you and Tash are in for more excitement than my circuitry can handle. I belong here."
  • For Erik Night and Thanatos in The House of Night.
  • Dame Estelle Matsuko was a main character and ally of Honor Harrington's in the first novel of the series, On Basilisk Station. She then virtually vanished from the narrative for a dozen books thereafter; despite being name-checked as the incoming Home Secretary for the Grantville government in War of Honor and having gained a peerage in the meanwhile (becoming Lady Dame Estelle Matsuko, Baroness Medusa), she didn't properly reappear 'onscreen' until The Shadow of Saganami. As the Imperial Governor of the Talbott Quadrant, she is a major player in the Saganami Island spinoff series (of which The Shadow of Saganami is the first novel).
  • In the Protector of the Small quartet's third book, Squire, most of Kel's page friends are scattered all over Tortall with their own knight-masters and she doesn't see them at all. They come back in Lady Knight when they're all posted to the Scanran front.

     Live Action TV  
  • Most famously on The Dukes of Hazzard, with Bo and Luke returning after being absent for most of the show's fifth season due to contract issues with actors John Schneider and Tom Wopat. (Unlike most examples of this trope, the bus brought them back not just for a visit, but for good.)
    • Deputy Enos Strate, who'd left Hazzard in the third season for his own short-lived spinoff show, returned at the start of season 3 (just as Bo and Luke were leaving). He also stuck around for the remainder of the show's run.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Oz and Riley both get these. For Oz, it's "New Moon Rising"; for Riley, it's "As You Were". They both appear again in Season 8 for a bit.
    • Whistler appears in Season 9 and reveals he was behind Angel's actions in Season 8.
    • Actress Elisabeth Röhm (Kate Lockley) left to be on Law & Order and was a Brother Chuck in Angel from season 2, but makes a comeback in the Season 8 comics because of course, comics aren't hindered by pesky things like acting contracts. (She appears in Angel: After The Fall as a new member of AI in Aftermath.)
    • Simone in Season 9; last seen executing the general at war with the Slayers, is driving around San Francisco, armed to her back teeth, promising that she won't let the world forget about the Slayers. This...this can't be good.
  • Angel:
    • Cordelia got one in the last season, though it was something of a mixed visit.
    • Kate comes back in After The Fall.
    • The Groosalugg returns in After the Fall, long hair and all.
  • After being written out at the start of season 5 of Alias, Weiss returns eight episodes later in S.O.S. to help sneak APO out of Langley.
    • Will Tippin's bus returned twice after he was written out at the end of season 2. Once in the third season and again for the 100th episode in season 5.
  • Vicki and Anna return as ghosts that can only be seen by Jeremy in The Vampire Diaries. Later, Matt can see Vicki.
  • Having fled to Australia halfway through the second season of Veronica Mars, Duncan returned for a brief cameo in the finale, just long enough to earn himself a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
  • Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; eventually, this turned into a borderline between this and Commuting on a Bus. She's listed as a regular, but always misses a handful of episodes each season. William Peterson was rumored to be returning as well, but though he had a brief cameo in one ep, it was decided he wouldn't return for more yet, so as not to take the focus away from Catherine getting put on the bus.
    • Sophia Curtis got a one episode return as well.
  • CSI NY sort of did with Aiden Burn, but it was more a Bus Crash- she only showed up in a couple flashbacks and got Stuffed In The Fridge in the main plot ep itself.
    • Mac's ex-girlfriend Peyton, who returned in one episode a few seasons after her departure.
  • After Jonas goes back to his home planet in Stargate SG-1, he returns in "Fallout" and then never again. His home planet was mentioned in passing as one of a number of planets captured by the Ori, so it's possible he had a Bus Crash.
  • Denise in The Cosby Show
  • From Babylon 5:
    • Jeffrey Sinclair returns for the season 3 two-parter "War Without End".
    • Lyta Alexander, who appeared in the pilot film, made a couple of cameos before returning full-time in season 4.
    • Na'Toth, G'Kar's second aide. After the original actress decided not to reprise her role for season two she was recast. The new actress proved disappointing in the role so the character was given less screen time and seemingly killed off. Three seasons later Na'Toth returns (played by the original actress) in a single episode to receive a decent send-off.
  • In the original Battlestar Galactica, Dirk Benedict's character Starbuck returned in a single episode of Galactica 1980 after being put on a bus (due to Galactica 1980 being set at least 20 years into the future.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • "Yesterday's Enterprise" was originally supposed to be a Back for the Dead episode for Tasha (using ripple-effect time travel to get around the fact that she was already dead), but it got a Cosmic Retcon into the more general version of this trope in order to allow her to have a Romulan daughter.
    • Next Generation also has Wesley Crusher himself, who gets Put On A Shuttle to Starfleet Academy before returning for three episodes: one where he fights the spread of a brainwashing game aboard the Enterprise, one where the group of stunt pilots he's part of is charged with and reprimanded for trying a dangerous maneuver that killed a member of the team and a third where he returns to the Enterprise on leave, only to resign from Starfleet in order to save a Magical Native American settlement from getting kicked off their planet due to a Federation-Cardassian treaty. A Wesley cameo at Riker's wedding was filmed for Nemesis, but mostly didn't make it into the final movie (he is visible at the edge of one scene at Riker and Troi's wedding). He also had an appearance in an episode where Worf visited a parallel universe where Wesley had the role of a tactical officer.
  • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Fury" features Kes returning to the crew, harboring some sort of Irrational Hatred for them.
  • Brian Cassidy of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit transferred out of the unit in mid-Season 1 and was pretty much forgotten until he showed up as an undercover officer working a case — in the finale of Season Thirteen.
    • If this applies across an entire franchise, then Captain Cragen counts, with his casting in SVU being his return bus trip. He was Lt. Anita Van Buren's predecessor on the mothership show for the first three seasons.
    • In other cross-franchise examples, Executive ADA Michael Cutter make four appearances in Season 13 of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit after his own show, the original Law & Order ended in 2010, and Lt. Alexandra Eames makes two appearances in Season 14 of L&O: SVU, her first appearance since the ending of Law & Order: Criminal Intent in 2011.
      • Eames and Goren also get this in the Season 10 premiere of Criminal Intent, after both departing in the second episode of the ninth season.
  • Janice on Head of the Class came back for graduation (the final episode), despite having gone on to college.
  • Sharona returns for an episode of Monk in season 8.
    • As well as for one of the novels, aptly titled Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants.
  • On Smallville:
    • Pete Ross returns for an episode... With powers! ... and for Product Placement.
    • Subverted with Whitney's supposed return.
    • After being Put on a Bus at the end of Season 7, Lana Lang returns in Season 8 for a five-episode mini-arc.
    • Brainiac returns, sans evil, after what we thought to be his final defeat. He's been reprogrammed into Brainiac 5 by the Legion of Super Heroes (instead of a descendant, he is the fifth iteration of the same very-hard-to-kill machine.)
  • Richie and Ralph Malph returned for an episode of Happy Days (with Richie coming back again for the series finale).
  • Young Mr. Grace returned for a very brief cameo during a birthday celebration for his older brother in the episode of Are You Being Served? titled "Roots".
  • Randy returns for the last Christmas special of Home Improvement.
  • Glee: Sam moved away between the second and third seasons due to contract issues with Chord Overstreet, only to return for good in "Hold Onto Sixteen".
  • Sanford and Son: Good ol' Grady returned, then, seemingly not learning his lesson, did an equally short-lived spinoff after the parent show was cancelled.
  • Rose of Two and a Half Men manages to return twice. The second time offers no explanation as to where she came from and where she ended up after the episode, but that's not unusual for Rose... she's a little loopy.
  • Joel Robinson and TV's Frank both returned for the tenth (and final) season premiere of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • After leaving The Andy Griffith Show as a regular, Don Knotts returned as Barney Fife for at least one episode in each of the remaining seasons. Not quite often enough to be Commuting on a Bus, but still a notable variation of the trope.
  • The Ropers guested in a Three's Company episode following the death of their self-titled spinoff show.
  • Cynthia, the girl who liked Malcolm, on Malcolm in the Middle. She moves to Europe in that episode. Another episode she comes back more developed.
  • Happens with Sam, in an episode of Ace Lightning.
  • Power Rangers:
  • Basically everyone who'd been Put on a Bus to Mandyville (except Mandy) came back for Leo's funeral in one of the last episodes of The West Wing. Ironically, one of the few departed cast members not to put in an appearance was Sam Seaborn, who would return an episode or so later, and appear in several more remaining episodes.
  • ER had Carter return for four episodes in season 12. Susan Lewis, absent from seasons 3-7, returned as a regular in seasons 8-12 before leaving again. In the show's 15th and final season, all of the departed regulars from the original cast, including the deceased Mark Greene, came back for guest appearances.
    • Specifically, in the final season:
      • Carter ends up essentially becoming a member of the main cast as the series closes, appearing in "The Beginning of the End:, "T-Minus-6", "What We Do", and "Old Times", and "And in the End...".
      • Doug Ross and Carol Hathaway reappear together in "Old Times"
      • Mark Greene and Robert Romano (who had both previously been killed off) show up in a flashback in "Heal Thyself".
      • Abby Lockhart and Ray Barnett reappear to help send Neela Rasgotra off in the series' antepenultimate episode.
      • Kerry Weaver, Elizabeth Corday, Peter Benton and Susan Lewis all come back for the series finale to specifically meet up with John Carter's character, and all of them (minus Lewis) had made additional appearances earlier in the season.
      • Finally, several recurring characters reappeared throughout the season, including Jerry Markovic, Lydia Wright, David Morgenstern, Kem Likasu, Reese Benton and Rachel Greene (the latter, Mark's daughter, done to help to bring the series full circle).
  • Doctor Who
  • When René and Edith of 'Allo 'Allo! accidentally travel to London, they meet Hans, who had been stolen away by the Communist Resistance to England a few seasons previously. He now works for the British government and speaks English.
  • In Bones, Zack only really comes back once after being Put on a Bus to a mental institution, in "The Perfect Pieces in the Purple Pond". (He appears in two other episodes, but one is a hallucination and the other is a Whole Episode Flashback.)
  • On SVU, Alex Cabot came back.
    • But then she left again. And there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
      • Recently Casey Novak also came back for an episode.
  • Mad Men gives us a few examples.
    • Of the former Sterling Cooper employees who didn't jump ship for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce at the end of Season 3, Ken Cosgrove returned for good while other characters reappear occationally
      • Ken Cosgrove shows up for one episode, disappears again, and then joins SCDP after coming to a truce with Pete. He is a regular character in season 5.
      • Duck Philips shows up twice, both times not only hammered drunk but obviously far, far Off The Wagon. Ranting and raving, he fights Don, because Don is also drunk, and came in with Peggy. At the end of season 5, Peggy meets him in a restaurant to get some career advice and this time he is actually sober.
    • Paul Kinsey returns in season 5, really down on his luck and a member of the Hare Krishna. He is subsequently given a bus ticket to California so he can can get away from the cult and start a new life as a movie scriptwriter.
    • Two other more minor former Sterling Cooper employees show up again; both had left well before the sale of Sterling Cooper to McCann Erickson.
      • Smitty Smith resurfaces at the agency of Don's (self-declared) rival's Ted Chaough (pronounced "Shaw") in "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword".
      • After being let go for drunkenly pissing himself at a meeting with Samsonite in Season 2, Freddy Rumsen reappears in Season 4, a member of AA.
    • Rachel Menken popped up in one episode after her affair with Don ended to let the viewers know she got married. Don uses her husband's name (Tilden Katz) to get into a seedy underground casino as part of Freddy Rumsen's send-off.
    • Midge (the commercial artist and the first of Don's mistresses that we see) shows up again in Season 4, having since become a heroin addict and prostitute.
    • Glen, the creepy son of the Drapers' neighbor, returns in Season 4 as a key player and Sally's friend.
  • On Eureka, you'd think sacrificing himself to save continuity would be enough to get Nathan Stark out of Carter's life for good. Nope; he comes back. Turns out he was just a technology induced hallucination. But this is Eureka, after all.
  • On Gilmore Girls, Jess apparently has several round-trip tickets. His whole slew of issues came together and he ran away from town, only to be grudgingly dragged back to town to reclaim his car and attend his mother's wedding. He leaves town again when Rory impulsively rejects him and then resurfaces in Rory's life again to see how she's doing only for Rory to sadly reject him again.
  • Nurse Shirley Daniels returned to St. Eligius twice after going to prison for shooting doctor-turned-rapist Peter White: once for an appendectomy, and once in the series finale.
  • More actress-wise than character-wise, but Rachel Dratch returned to 30 Rock for the first time since the first season for its season 5 Live Episode, this time playing a wacky foreign janitor. Liz even comments, "Haven't seen you in a while."
  • In Growing Pains, Luke (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns briefly in the final episode. Oddly enough, he didn't technically interact with the cast face-to-face. He simply spoke to Mike on the phone in one scene. He was only a part of the cast towards the end of the series so there wasn't a long time between his departure and return.
  • On House, Cameron leaves both Princeton Plainsboro and Chase. She later comes back to finalize her divorce from the latter in a nice way.
  • The actor playing Steve Rhoades left in season 4, but made 3 guest appearances in later years (2 in-character, 1 as a pirate).
  • Desperate Housewives: After leaving Wisteria Lane in the first episode of seventh season, Orson Hodge appeared once again in "Assassins". However, it was just for that episode and his storyline with Bree wasn't resolved, so it's unknown if he'll appear again in the show.
    • He did return again in the final season.
  • Both A.J. Cook and Paget Brewster were forced out of Criminal Minds by Executive Meddling (reportedly because CBS needed to free up funds to bankroll the spinoff) during the sixth season. Outcries from the fans, the actors and even the writers (if one reads between the lines in "J.J.") led to the producers agreeing to bring the two of them back for Season Seven (though the cancellation of the spinoff helped there). Brewster left after Season Seven on her own accord, but Cook remains to this day.
  • In Boy Meets World:
    • The bullies' leader, Harley, was sent to military school near the end of the second season and almost immediately wound up being replaced by Griff Hawkins. Harley returns for one third season episode which pits him against Griff (after which neither are seen again).
    • During the last episode of the high school part, Minkus makes a return, lampshading the Put on a Bus trope while he's there.
  • Primeval: Jenny Lewis leaves the A.R.C. team partway through series three. She shows up towards the end of series four when an anomaly forms at her wedding.
    • Danny Quinn returns just in time to stop his brother Ethan in season five.
  • Gossip Girl:
    • Georgina seems to have several round-trip tickets.
    • Jenny also returned briefly for a couple of episodes in season 4 after being Put on a Bus in the season 3 finale.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • In the original series, after star Hiroshi Fujioka's leg was shattered during a stunt gone wrong, protagonist Takeshi Hongo went overseas to foil more of Shocker's plans while Hayato Ichimonji, the second Kamen Rider, took care of Japan. Hongo returned almost 30 episodes later and the two heroes fought side-by-side for 12 episodes, but then Ichimonji himself went overseas for training. He eventually returned for the final five episodes, and the Double Riders (as they're officially known) have been an inseparable Dynamic Duo ever since.
    • In Kamen Rider OOO, Akira Date goes abroad in episode 38 to get the shrapnel in his brain removed, but returns in the final three episodes to fight alongside his former apprentice, Goto.
  • On Charlie's Angels, Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett-Majors) returned for several guest appearances after leaving as a regular following the first season. These return appearances were actually contractually obligated, as part of a settlement to a lawsuit brought by producer Aaron Spelling against Fawcett over her early departure from the show.
  • How I Met Your Mother : Ted's first serious girlfriend in the series is Victoria, a baker he meets at a wedding. They break up near the end of season 1, and she's not seen again for 5 seasons. Ted finally runs into her again in season 7.
  • Dr. John Dixon on As the World Turns was written out without explanation after actor Larry Bryggman left the show over a salary dispute. Several years later, when the soap was canceled, Bryggman returned, remaining the last couple of weeks through the final episodes, with the explanation that Dr. Dixon had taken a position at NIH.
  • Happens frequently in the final two seasons of Friday Night Lights, with Lyla Garrity, Tyra Collette, Landry Clarke, and Jason Street returning for one or two episodes apiece after departing Dillon, and Matt Saracen for an impressive six, including the series finale. In fact, the only main character not to return for a sendoff at some point after their departure was Smash Williams.
  • Highlander did this with three characters. Charlie De Salvo left the series in late season 3, then returned in the second ep of season 4, where he was Killed Off for Real. Fitzcairn and Richie were variants of it. Richie was an alternate universe Richie in Duncan's visions, and Fitzcairn showed up only in flashbacks. (Fitzcairn, having been killed off in his second appearance, is in the unusual position of having shown up more often after the bus than before.) Tessa did once as well, with Alexandra Vandernoot playing her in a season 2 ep in flashbacks and playing a different character made to look like Tessa via Magic Plastic Surgery in the main plot of the ep.
  • Suits has Trevor, who leaves for Montana to escape angry drug dealers... only to return at the end of the season. On learning Mike has gotten together with his ex, Trevor, being the good Toxic Friend he is, promptly heads to the law firm to reveal Mike's lies.
  • Presumably out of respect for Phil Hartman, Khandi Alexander returns as her character Catherine Duke (who had left the show in the previous season) in the NewsRadio episode in which Hartman's character Bill McNeal dies.
  • 24 had Milo Pressman, who inexplicably disappeared after Day 1, suddenly return in a major role in Day 6, his absence explained as him having been working in another CTU division. He is eventually killed. This caught several people by surprise since 24 is notorious for its rampant Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.
    • Mike Novick was written out of the show at the end of the second season after being fired by President Palmer. He returned midway through the fourth season as the assistant to Charles Logan, lasting all the way to the end of season five where he aided Jack after discovering that Logan was the Big Bad.
    • Jack's ex Audrey Raines and her father James Heller were announced to be returning in the upcoming Live Another Day miniseries(aka "Season 9"), after both characters were written out at the end of the sixth season. Heller is the new President of the United States (and suffering from Alzheimer's) while Audrey is married to the new Chief of Staff, who wants Jack out of the picture in any way in any way possible.
    • Also in Live Another Day Tzi Ma returns as recurring antagonist Cheng Zhi in the final three episodes.
    • Charles Logan returns for last 8 episodes of season 8.
    • Before a lot of these every series regular (and every recurring character except for Chloe) was either written out at the end of season 3 or got Put on a Bus in the interim between it and season 4. Of those series regulars, Tony, Michelle and Palmer all returned in season 4 ( with the latter two eventually dying in season 5's first episode and Tony dying in the middle of season 5 and eventually coming Back from the Dead to create a particularly convoluted version of this trope) and Kim returned in seasons 5,7 and 8, while Wayne Palmer returned in seasons 5 and 6. Chase Edmunds though stayed on a Long Bus Trip.
  • The Mentalist had CBI Director Gale Bertram leave at the beginning of season four so his actor Michael Gaston could join the main cast of Unforgettable. After Unforgettable was cancelled after its first season, Gaston got his old role back.
  • Several characters return in series 5 of Merlin, most notably Mordred (with a Time-Shifted Actor) but also Queen Annis, Princess Mithian, King Odin and the sorcerer Alator.
  • Characters who are Put on a Bus in Chuck seem to come back more often than not. That's including Jill (arrested early season 2, returns towards the end), Daniel Shaw (twice: in the penultimate Season 3 episode, and then again in season 5), and Alexei Volkoff (arrested mid-season 4, returns for the finale)
  • Ray Vecchio, in the series finale of Due South.
  • Janette was brought back for one season 3 Forever Knight episode, though that ep is not well liked by fans.
  • Tracker did this with Jess, a few eps after her departure.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: The Wizards of Apartment 13B story arc loves this trope. So far, Mason, Gorog and other Wizards who've played large parts in certain episodes come back, and in the final episode, reaveled thanks to a commercial on Disney Channel, Juilet comes back, although it may or may not be her, since it is Gorog they're dealing with here.
    • On could also say that they came back because of Executive Meddling, in that they didn't want to lose the Alex/Mason shippers to another franchise - and because TPTB wanted to stamp any hint of anything un-Disneylike between the siblings.
  • Top Gear: in a special episode marking the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise, Richard Hammond briefly interviews one of the stunt drivers on the set of Skyfall, Ben Collins, formerly The Stig.
  • Every living former main cast member and all but one living recurring character (Ziggy Sobotka from season 2) made some sort of return appearance in the last season of The Wire.
  • With characters coming and going on a regular basis in the British sitcom Doctor in the House and its sequels, it is inevitable that a few buses returned.
    • Robin Nedwell as Duncan Waring left after Doctor in the House to appear in The Lovers, but returned for Doctor in Charge as the new central character; Waring was said to have been a research doctor in Baltimore during the events of the previous series.
    • Martin Shaw as Huw Evans left Doctor in the House after one series, but returned as a nervous expectant father in the Doctor at Large episode "Mother and Father Doing Well".
    • Jonathan Lynn as Danny Hooley left after the second series of Doctor in the House, and returned for the Doctor in Charge finale "Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?", having been struck off (unbeknownst to his friends at St. Swithin's).
    • George Layton as Paul Collier left after Doctor in Charge to start in It Ain't Half Hot Mum (Collier was said to have gone out for coffee and not come back until after his friends Waring and Stuart-Clark had also left the hospital to become ship's doctors), but returned as a regular for the final series in the franchise, Doctor at the Top.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • Chris Jericho appears to be turning into this, alternating stretches of helping to put over younger wrestlers or rookies on WWE programming with tours with his rock band Fozzy.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin also continues to make cameos, over a decade after he supposedly retired.
  • You can never tell when Mae Young will show up - although she's now in her 90s, so we probably won't be seeing much more of her in the future.
    • We sure won't be seeing her in the future: She passed away recently.

     Video Games  
  • Raelag, one of the main characters in Heroes of Might and Magic V, disappears in the first expansion Hammers of Fate — except for one mission in the final campaign, after which he is immediately put on a different bus which, this time, he doesn't return from.
  • Sam & Max:
    • Bluster Blaster, who left to Vegas with Bosco between seasons 2 and 3, returns in the fourth episode to deliver a note about how Bosco is stuck in Vegas paying off a debt.
    • And then Sybil comes back from her honeymoon one episode later.
  • Ammon Jerro from Neverwinter Nights 2 joins you for one mission in the expansion Mask of the Betrayer.
  • In the second Spyro the Dragon game, Elora was an important character. She's missing for most of the third game due to plot reasons, but appears in a cutscene toward the end. She however doesn't appear in any other games outside of the original trilogy.
  • Sonic Generations brought back several characters that hadn't made an appearance in a mainstream console Platform Game since Shadow the Hedgehog or Sonic the Hedgehog (2006); Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Colors made a point of only including side characters that contributed to the plot, the latter only having Tails.
    • Also, figurines of Jet, Omega, Big, and Chip, and posters of the long absent Mighty, Ray, Fang , Bean, Bark, Tikal, and Marine appeared on posters in City Escape.
    • A more egregious example was the Chaotix' unexpected return in Sonic Heroes, having been previously featured in only one game that had come out almost a decade ago.note 
  • After long ago accepting that any characters not named Chris, Leon, Jill or Claire would never come back, Resident Evil fans were quite surprised to learn that Sherry Birkin would be returning in Resident Evil 6, having taken a level or two in badass in her downtime.
  • New Super Mario Bros. Wii was this for the Koopalings, and they are now the main bosses of the New Super Mario Bros. series. Before that, they had returned in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, though that was a spin-off game.
    • Super Mario 3D Land was this to Boom Boom.
    • New Super Mario Bros. 2 was this for Reznor.
    • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team sees the return of Popple as well as Beanish and Hoohooligan civilians, who hadn't been seen in a Mario & Luigi game since Superstar Saga.
    • Super Mario 3D World brings back the Chargin' Chucks from Super Mario World after about 20 years of them not being in new Mario games. Also, the round Goombas from the same game returns alongside the traditional onesnote , complete with behaving the same as other Goombas, but being flipped over instead of defeated when they're jumped on (as in their original game).
  • Metroid: Other M brought back Adam, Nightmare, the Metroid Queen, Mother Brain (to an extent), and Phantoon.
  • Dixie Kong joined Donkey and Diddy on their quest in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze , making her first main game appearance since Donkey Kong Country 3
  • Soul Series character Sophitia makes her return in Soulcalibur: Lost Swords.
  • For all that Tekken is notorious for putting it's characters on a bus, for Tekken Tag Tournament 2, they brought back EVERYONE, including joke characters like Tiger and Dr. Boskonovitch...
    • Then, in a shock announcement, they announced that Jun Kazama isn't dead, and will be returning for Tekken 7.

  • The Order of the Stick: As of issue 789, the green-haired elf that's been hanging around the Palace of Blood is revealed to be Zz'ditri in disguise. "Parody is protected speech".
  • Dominic Deegan: Snowsong, who was last seen in 2007, makes a re-appearance in July of 2012.
  • Homestuck: God Tier Aradia was Put on a Bus by going off to delay Jack Noir, then turned up alive and well in a dream-bubble in Act 6, having appointed herself a caretaker of the dead.

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  
  • A number of characters on The Simpsons have shown up on what seems to be a one-episode basis, only to return unexpectedly years later: Bleeding Gums Murphy, Mona Simpson (Homer's mother), Artie Ziff, even the Grimes family. Sideshow Bob might count too, but then he's appeared on the show nearly a dozen times and is basically a semi-regular by this point.
  • The Inspector Gadget Spin-Off Gadget And The Gadgetinis had this with the characters of Brain and Chief Quimby. Quimby was about the same, except Gadget is now working for a different agency, while a shell-shocked Brain has retired to a riverfront house.
  • In the last season of Johnny Bravo, the prominent supporting characters from the first season came back and the newer additions like Carl and Pops stayed as well.
    • Except that Pops never had a line in the last season, and he was seen only once.
  • The Family Guy episode "The Splendid Source" has Peter and co. encountering their old buddy Cleveland in his new hometown during a road trip.
    • Similarly, Kevin, son of Joe and Bonnie Swanson, came back in season 10 during Thanksgiving when everyone had accepted that Kevin died in the Iraq war. He actually went AWOL.
  • Boom-Boom and Spyke in X-Men: Evolution. Tabatha gets kicked out of the Brotherhood by Mystique, and we don't really hear much about her until the X-Men go on vacation on a cruise, where they apparently invited her to come along (probably because she's best friends with Amara/Magma). She shows up again to help in the finale. Spyke/Evan joins the Morlocks and is gone for a season, until he gets his own episode a bit later on where he Took a Level in Badass and actually became useful, and again, he showed up in the finale too.
    • Tabitha actually rejoined the X-men following the season 2 finale. She just rarely shows up like most of the non main team characters/
    • That very closely mirrors the experience of Morph in the 90's X-Men. He was effectively written out after the season 2 finale, returns in a season 4 cameo (compete with increased badassness) only to disappear again until the final episode.
  • In an episode of The Penguins of Madagascar, many, many of the characters that were shipped off to Hoboken came back, complete with evil clones.
    • Dr. Blowhole came back in a 1 hour special.
      • As well as Alex the Lion from the original movie.
  • NEPTR from Adventure Time; apparently he hid as part of a game of hide-and-seek that Finn forgot about for months.
  • After being written out of the show at the end of the eight season, Shredder and Krang returned in the final season for a 3-part arc.
  • Moral Orel: Shapey was put on a bus (actually a moving van) when the Puppingtons and their brief neighbors the Posabules accidentally switched them with their own son. Realizing (about ten episodes later) that Shapey has been switched, Bloberta goes to their new residence to pick him up (said mother doesn't take back Block).
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, oneshot antagonist Trixie returned after two seasons for a rematch. (Having a fan following rivaling that of some main characters helped.) Although she left again in the end, rumors have it she will have more appearances in the fourth season.
    • After the major Internet Backlash regarding Derpy Hooves in the Season 2 episode "The Last Roundup" and hasty Orwellian Retcon, it was assumed she wouldn't appear again in the show. She did pop back up again in the finale of Season 3, though given she hasn't been seen in any promotional material for either that season or for Season 4 many saw it as simply a final farewell. And then she shows up again in "Rainbow Falls" as Rainbow Dash's replacement.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender , The Owl-Knowing One Wan Shi Tong appeared in one episode, "The Library" which ended with him pulling his library back into the spirit world so its knowledge couldn't be used by humans. In the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra, Aang's granddaughter Jinora meets him while trapped in in the spirit world. In the same episode we have Iroh
    • Later in the second season, we learn of the ultimate fate of Zhao. It's not pretty.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • The female terrorist Red Claw appeared as a relatively minor villain in "The Cat and the Claw" (which was actually about Catwoman) and then vanished - only to return a couple of years later as the Big Bad in "The Lion and the Unicorn."
    • Boxy Bennett, the crooked owner of a Gotham City nightclub, made a brief appearance in "Harlequinade" and then returned later for "Harley's Holiday." There's even a Continuity Nod to "Harlequinade" in the latter episode, with Boxy grumpily reminding Harley that his place got trashed the last time she visited him.
  • Thanks to the valiant efforts of a brand-new writing team, several characters returned in the Seventeenth Season of Thomas And Friends. These characters were Duck, Bill & Ben, and Harvey. The special that came before Season 17, King of the Railway, brought back Jack the Front Loader from the aborted spin-off "Jack and the Pack". The next special, Tale of the Brave, will see the return of Oliver, and Season 18 will bring back his brakevan Toad, as well as Donald, Douglas, and Duncan.

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