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Alice and Bob
are in a relationship. Carol, who Bob chucked acrimoniously, turns up at a social event that the first two are attending. Either there will be a fight
, Bob will get chucked by Alice or the two ladies will strike up a friendship. If the latter happens, Alice and Carol will usually bond over making fun of Bob. Either way, Bob will be highly uncomfortable.
As the title implies, this is usually a guy's missus and ex, but it can go the other way, too.
Often given a Perspective Flip
where the focus is on the "ex" character, who has the added awkwardness of being single where their partner has found someone new.
Made especially difficult if a Psycho Ex-Girlfriend
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- A man is at a party talking to a friend when he happens to see his wife talking to his ex, heading in his direction, and makes a swift retreat behind a plant. The friend asks him what the problem is, and is told that the wife and ex were just spotted. The friend goes to check... and promptly gets behind the plant as well, saying "Small world".
- Played with in Tamora Pierce's The Immortals: Daine and Numair aren't in a relationship—they aren't even aware of their feelings yet—but when one of Numair's exes, Varice Kingsford shows up, it starts getting awkward, and Daine gets jealous.
- In the High Profile, one of the Jesse Stone novels, Jesse's ex-wife Jenn winds up being guarded by Jesse's current squeeze Sunny Randall after she's assaulted, and much to Jesse's relief they get along quite well and without the hostility this trope tends to result in. Sunny is also the person to convince Jenn that she needs to get therapy after it's revealed that she wasn't actually assaulted, just threatened with it, and that she's still not over Jesse.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who sometimes has this dynamic with current and previous companions.
- In the trope-naming instance: Rose and Sarah Jane in the above-quoted episode. They have a funny argument, but quickly become friends. As the quote also shows, Mickey is delighted to see it; mainly because Rose was his girlfriend before she unceremoniously ditched him for the Doctor.
- In a later episode, Donna and Martha meet. The Doctor worries there will be a repeat of the events of "School Reunion", but since Donna has no romantic attachment to the Doctor and Martha got over hers, the two become pretty friendly and pick at the Doctor a bit, who ends up wishing they would fight.
- Amy Pond has a similar conversation with River Song in the fifth season, even though it is not entirely clear just what kind of relationship River and the Doctor have (or will have, or have had). And it's pretty clear that Amy isn't in it for the "long-term" like Rose or Martha might have been. Given that Amy's marriage is a long time ago tomorrow morning, it's understandable. Turned out that River was Amy's daughter, and she knew it, so in retrospect, the sub-text is subverted.
- Neither one is anything close to a love interest, but a couple of deleted scenes from "Battlefield" provide an example of the companion not warming up to an older one right away: The Brigadier manages to offend Ace by referring to her as "the latest one," and a line about how looking after the Professor is her job reveals that she may feel a bit threatened. By the end of the serial the Brig has managed to prove that he can be trusted to take care of the Doctor and the two bond over a nice big explosion. In the Brig's case, at least, it's less "mutual hostility" on his part and more "old-fashioned stuffy social awkwardness":
- A more tragic example comes from Waterloo Road. An ex-girlfriend of Earl Kelly's showed up and Maxine chucked Earl when she discovered what he was doing to the previous girlfriend's baby (selling it). Maxine was shot dead by the end.
- In the NCIS episode "Ex-File", Gibbs has to deal with the combination of his current girlfriend Lt. Col. Hollis Mann, his third ex-wife and his former lover Jenny Sheppard. All redheads.
- Gibbs friendship with FBI Agent Fornell is complicated by the fact that Fornell married and then divorced one of Gibbs's ex-wives. When Fornell and the ex-wife think about getting back together they both seek Gibbs's advice despite him vehemently insisting that they keep him out of it.
- This is how the first season of Grey's Anatomy ends, the characters in question being Meredith, Derek, and Addison.
- In Two and a Half Men Alan's young, hot girlfriend Kandi starts complaining about him to his ex-wife Judith. They go out, get drunk, and Kandi moves in with Judith. In the next episode it gets worse, or at least weirder.
- Ross's girlfriend Emily becomes friends with his ex-wife's wife Carol. He assumes that the interest is sexual because it's what happened last time, and is horrified.
- Emily and Ross broke up because she wanted him to stop seeing Rachel even as a friend.
- A running gag is that Chandler's obnoxious Janice keeps showing up, even once Chandler happily dates Monica.
- In at least one episode of Cheaters, the girl being cheated on and the other girl became friends, much to the horror of the cheating boyfriend.
- In One Tree Hill, Karen (the ex of Dan, who got her pregnant and then left her) becomes friends with Deb (Dan's wife, whom he met after dumping Karen... and got her pregnant three months later).
Dan: You haven't worn out your welcome (at the cafe) yet?
Deb: No, in fact Karen made me her partner.
Dan: I hope you mean in the business.
- An episode has Lilith Crane tangling with Frasier's first wife, children's entertainer Nanny Gee (Emma Thompson).
- Carla and Nick Tortelli's second wife Loretta were the "striking up a friendship" variant.
- This happened in the Dream On episode "Three Coins in the Dryer". Martin imagined all kinds of craziness about them viciously fighting each other. It turned out that they were indeed rather awkward and uncomfortable with each other, but perfectly nice to each other. Martin's ex-wife only reacted with a friendly detached amusement that they had so obviously been having sex.
- Episode 2.4 of Ashes to Ashes in which Jackie Queen shows up claiming to be pregnant with Gene's baby. Barely hidden hostility ensues between her and Alex ("are you sleeping with my future husband?"), with Alex looking horrified as Gene proposes, until Jackie reveals it isn't his, and they're best buds.
- Happened on The X-Files, though it encompassed a season and a half instead of just an episode. And while Mulder and Scully were not a couple at the time, when Mulder's ex-partner and ex-lover shows up and tries to steal him away, Scully does not take kindly to that. It doesn't help that the ex-partner is evil, and in cahoots with Mulder and Scully's arch-nemesis. Mulder ditches Scully several times for Fowley, and ignores all evidence pointing to the fact that she's evil. Seeing Scully's claws come out, though, made it all worth it.
- The entire premise of Reba, where Reba's husband cheats on her, gets his mistress pregnant, and marries the mistress. The highly obnoxious Dumb Blonde mistress wants to be friends with Reba, but Reba doesn't want anything to do with her. Hilarity Ensues.
- There was an episode of Forever Knight in which Nick, the vampire cop, is about to get hot and heavy with Janette, the French vampire who is his sometimes friend/lover, sometimes enemy going back centuries, and Natalie, his human best friend/love interest/something walks in. There's no explosion, instead Natalie is nervous, Janette seems fascinated, and says to Natalie, "We must get together and... talk." We see the look on Nick's face and it's clear that this is not an idea he finds pleasing!
- Played with in Eureka. Sheriff Carter enters the diner and sees (or rather the audience sees) Allison Blake (the missus), Tess Fontana (the ex and the missus' best friend), and Nathan Stark (the missus' ex-husband, and bane of Carter's existence) all sitting at a table waiting for him. Amazingly, he doesn't instantly run. In a subversion however, only Carter and Allison are real. Allison can see Tess, and Carter can see Stark, but neither of them can see both.
- The season three finale of Fringe teases this scenario when Olivia (Peter's girlfriend) and Fauxlivia (Olivia's Alternate Universe counterpart who was pretending to be Olivia when she was with Peter) are suddenly brought together. However, that's the least volatile pair who are suddenly brought together at the same time, and then other stuff happened.
- Leonard from The Big Bang Theory deals with this trope in the episode "The Engagement Reaction" when Priya, his current girlfriend, and Penny, his ex, become friendly. He doesn't see a problem with it until Raj brings it to his attention.
- Happens (in a loosest sense) in the Firefly episode Trash. YoSafBridge is currently married to Monty when the pair of them encounter Monty's war buddy Malcolm Reynolds, whom she had previously married. Like most The Missus and the Ex scenarios, this doesn't work out well for her, however in this case it's because her marriage to Mal was part of a scam and all logic suggests she's pulling some sort of con on Monty as well. She's Genre Savvy enough to realize immediately that her Feminine Wiles, however considerable, will also be entirely useless against the "War Buddy" brand of loyalty that Mal and Monty have towards each other, and immediately resorts to pulling a gun.
- In Scrubs, Dr. Cox comes in to find his ex-wife Jordan chatting to his new girlfriend. He greets them with "Well, isn't this horrible."
- Gender Flipped as Arthur and Guinevere are about to be married when Lancelot reappears. Arthur ain't happy.
- Appears in "Another's Sorrow" when Mithian comes to King Arthur (now married to Guinevere) for help. It's handled quite maturely: Gwen never shows any jealousy or suspects that Arthur is acting out of feelings for Mithian and Mithian never tries to seduce Arthur or cause trouble for the marriage.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In episode "New Moon Rising", Willow is just starting to slide into relationship territory with Tara when her werewolf ex-boyfriend Oz comes back into town. Things simmer for a good chunk of the episode since Oz, having missed his Willow's Suddenly Sexuality, doesn't realise that he's in one of these situations. When he finally gets wise, he freaks out and kinda tries to eat Tara. It's a thing.
- It pops up in Willow's "What Do They Fear?" Episode a few episodes later, where Willow is clearly freaked out by Tara and Oz whispering together and giggling at her.
- From the same season, Riley and Angel meet and come to blows. It really ends up like a dick-waving competition.
- At the time of Earl's Accidental Marriage to Joy, he had started dating a woman named Jessie. When Jessie (who works as a receptionist at a bail bond clerk's office) hears that Joy has a bounty on her head for failing to appear in court, she volunteers to bring Joy in, and puts herself through Training from Hell to do so. They meet up, and Earl is afraid things will be ugly... he was right.
- Ringer has a couple of episodes featuring the Ex and the Missus' Twin Sister Pretending to be the Missus.
- Occurs in the Drake & Josh episode, "The Storm" when Drake's girlfriend of the week and two ex-girlfriends are at the same house party together. They constantly giggle at each other while saying Drake's name, which makes Drake freak out more.
Drake: I can't have my current girlfriend and my ex-girlfriend in the same house. You want the universe to explode!?
- The Cosby Show had a Thanksgiving Special in which Denise invited Martin's ex-wife to join the family for dinner. Everyone in the house (especially Martin) was on edge anticipating a horrible blow-up. However, when the ex arrived, Denise was genuinely glad to meet her and the two quickly became friends with no drama at all. It was especially sweet to see Martin's daughter, Olivia, spending time happily with her birth-mom and step-mom together.
- An unusually non-romantic example occurs in Monk when Monk's first assistant, Sharona, comes to visit and meets his new assistant, Natalie. Although neither woman has romantic feelings for Monk, they both care about him and very protective of him, which leads to a lot of friction.
- In Mad Men Betty can't stand the idea of Don Draper rebuilding his life with another woman and she is particularly mean and malignant whenever his new wife Megan is involved or crosses her path.
- In Castle, Castle makes the mistake of inviting his ex-wife to stay at his place to help tend to his sick daughter while Beckett, now his girlfriend, also happens to be staying there due to her apartment being fumigated. Needless to say, the atmosphere gets quite tense quite quickly. Beckett and Meredith end up becoming quite friendly, however.
- In Leverage, we have Sophie and Maggie, with the writers/producers referencing the trope by name in at least one audio commentary in the season four episode "The Last Dam Job." Interestingly, they also tease the idea of Maggie and Sophie being involved when Nate isn't around.
- It happens all the time on How I Met Your Mother as Robin and Ted broke up but remained close friends, and later the same happened with Barney and Robin. Sometimes it's a Girl of the Week who's either friendly with Robin or frustrated with Ted/Barney, or she may be a steady girl-friend. The most drastic example was Victoria telling Ted that he has to cut off all contact with Robin or she will break up with him. Ted chooses Robin/
- Doctor on the Go features a gender-inverted version in the episode "For Your Own Good". Dr. James Gascoigne's father has been admitted to St. Swithin's Hospital with a head injury, and Mrs. Gascoigne turns out to be an old flame of the Professor of Surgery, Sir Geoffrey Loftus. The elder Gascoigne seduced his future wife away from Loftus while the latter was away on holiday several decades earlier; Loftus and Mrs. Gascoigne have a chance encounter in the corridors of the hospital, their first meeting since their relationship ended.
- Babylon 5: This becomes an issue at the end of the third season when Captain Sheridan's wife (who everyone thought was dead) shows up at his quarters while he's spending the night with Delenn. As it turns out, Anna was changed by the Shadows, and Sheridan knew it, and both of them were dead by the end of the season. Sheridan would get better in the next season, but Anna was gone for good.
- And in the fifth season, Delenn is unhappy to learn that Sheridan has arranged for his first wife, Elizabeth Lochley, to assume command of the stationnote . Delenn and Lochley have no problem working with each other, but Delenn is upset because Sheridan didn't tell her about the prior relationship.
- In Season 2 of Series/Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok takes on the princess and mystic Aslaug for his wife, after conceiving a son with her. Ragnar's first wife, Lagertha the shieldmaiden, leaves him with their firstborn son. Lagertha returns a few times in season 2, and now Ragnar gets to enjoy all the awkwardness of sitting between them at the dinner table.
- On Rush, Dr. William Rush goes to a medical conference where he encounters his ex-girlfriend Dr. Sarah Peterson. Sarah is there with her new boyfriend Dr. Griffin Wagner. Rush still has strong feelings for Sarah but is trying to let her go so he makes a token attempt to befriend Griffin. Griffin is a great guy and a splendid doctor but he is very insecure about his relationship with Sarah because he heard so many things about the wild and exciting William Rush and knows that Sarah is not yet fully over Rush. After a few drinks Griffin tries to show that he can be as spontaneous and unpredictable as Rush and performs a dangerous stunt that almost gets him killed. Rush saves his life but the two men get arrested. Much to Sarah's chagrin, they end up bonding over the experience.
- Carrie Underwood's "Two Black Cadillacs" is a variation on this trope. A man's wife found out he had a mistress, who likewise wasn't aware that he was married. It's implied that they're the reason the song is primarily set at his burial, though that's the first and last time they ever met face to face.
- Blithe Spirit is all about this, with the added twist of the ex being dead.
- Happens in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves when Nathan and Chloe unexpectedly run into Elena in war torn Nepal, causing the latter to introduce herself to Chloe as 'last year's model'. However, Nathan and Chloe aren't in a relationship per se (they seem to be more "friends with benefits" than anything).
- Mass Effect 3: If you romanced Ashley in Mass Effect 1, then romanced Tali in Mass Effect 2 and bring them both along on the Geth Dreadnought mission, things get, um... tense. If you romanced Liara then Tali, Liara mentions that Tali's suit has a built-in vibrator if you bring Liara along (Tali being required if she's alive).
- Vixen (Green Lantern's girlfriend) and Shayera (GL's ex) get put on a team in Justice League "Hunter's Moon". They end up getting along pretty well.
John: Why did you do that? [...] Sending my girlfriend and my ex on the same mission?
Difficult as it may be for you to believe, I don't take your love life into consideration when I make command decisions.
- Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures episode "The Robot Spies": Race Bannon's ex-wife Estella, and his ex-girlfriend Jade, both make an appearance. Save for a few tense moments, it's not as bad as one would expect.
- Kim Possible refused to admit that she was jealous when she first met Yori, a girl Ron made friends with while attending the Yamanouchi Ninja School. This despite Ron being oblivious to Yori's obvious attraction to him. Later, after Ron and Kim became a couple, Ron broke the news to Yori, who seemed to take it in stride. Later, when Kim and Yori were working together to retrieve a mystic monkey artifact from a temple, they bonded.
Kim: So, Yori, are you really okay with Ron being off the market?
Yori: Off the market?
Kim: You know, mine.
Yori: I believe Stoppable-san is your destiny, Kim Possible. Like change, we must always welcome destiny.
Kim: Yori, you sorta, kinda rock.