Third Act Misunderstanding
If there are zombies involved, it ends with the man eating the woman's face.
"I'm torn, because on one hand, I want to share something important that happened to me while we were apart... But on the other hand, bardic tradition demands that I withhold it all so that at some later point, you can accidentally learn an incomplete version and jump to all the wrong conclusions—thus leading to entertaining dramatic conflict later in our relationship."
Alice is keeping a secret, perhaps even a hidden agenda, from Bobnote
and his True Companions
. She may benignly want to befriend or romance him, or less scrupulously steal something from him, or gain his trust as The Mole
and betray him. Regardless, she's holding back key facts about her background which would make him doubt her honesty or outright hate her. But before long she genuinely develops feelings for him
, and may find she's Becoming the Mask
This being drama, her secret comes out in the third act and Bob and Co. reject her
utterly. For extra pathos
, it'll be at an important event like their wedding or after winning some award. Protests to the contrary
are chalked up to "more of your lies!
" Of course, this revelation comes just as Alice needs Bob to believe her
. The Reveal
can come in the form of a friend or enemy from their past life
who doesn't want to let go
, a randomly found memento or internet search.
To solve this, Alice will have to make a large, impressive and risky act of "contrition" to prove she's not the original liar anymore. Alternately, a third character (lets say Charlie) reveal to Bob that Alice really is
a different person and likes him, and he runs to the airport to forgive her before she leaves.
Often, Alice could have avoided
this situation if she'd thought things out
and revealed her secret earlier when it wouldn't be as damaging. On the plus side, this is one narrative circumstance in which it is all but guaranteed that The Reveal Prompts Romance
, as a genre, abuses this trope
. Most Chick Flicks
need to have the characters break up without losing audience sympathy, so some sort of misunderstanding usually drives the third act. This might even come through a Not What It Looks Like
Compare with Third Act Stupidity
, Liar Revealed
and Second Act Break Up
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Almost exactly what happens in Dr Koto Shinryojo (Doctor Koto's Clinic), both in the manga and in the drama (although that's even more egregious in the drama) : the hero is at first rejected, but after spending countless hours helping the villagers, he eventually become appreciated. And then a grudge-holding man with a dead little sister arrive and reveal that the eponymous Dr Koto made a mistake in the past. The villagers immediately turns against him, even tough he saved the life of almost everyone on the island. So yeah, he never was actually a jerk (although he think he was one when he made the aforementioned mistake), but there's definitely the "something from the past come back, friends abandon the character" part you're describing.
- Played straight as an arrow in It Happened One Night, almost to the point of deconstruction. After Ellie confesses love to Peter, he leaves without telling her to make arrangements for them to get married (including trying to gather enough money to have her marriage annulled). Ellie misunderstands the situation, thinking he abandoned her and went to collect the reward money, and goes off to have a proper wedding with King Westley. Meanwhile, the newspaper headlines have Peter believe Ellie changed her mind about him and thus he refrains from making an effort to explain the situation and win her back. Fortunately, Ellie's father comes to save the day, even though Ellie brushes him off the first time he tries to set things right.
- Mr. Deeds, the Adam Sandler remake of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, features Deeds learning that his love interest Pam, to whom he's about to propose, is actually a reporter named Babe Bennett whose network was smearing his name. Babe initially wanted to help smear Deeds, but found he was so nice to her and generous with his money, she fell in love with him. She goes to try and explain... just as a report about the whole story is broadcast on TV. Not only does a heartbroken Deeds leave New York City, he signs away his $40 billion dollar fortune.
- Another Adam Sandler example: In The Wedding Singer, after angering Julia by pointing out that she's only interested in Glenn because of his wealth, Robbie sees her play-acting different marriage introductions as either his or Glenn's wife through her bedroom window. He mistakes this for play-acting her marriage to Glenn and, out of devastation, gets drunk and temporarily returns to his previous love interest Linda.
- In the first Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, Dave writes a letter explaining why he wants them to leave, which he immediately throws out because he realizes he cares too much for them. Of course, a few weeks later they find the crumpled piece of paper (I think it fell behind the bed?) and assume he really does hate them. This despite their marked improvement in their relationship. You can probably guess what's spoilered here, but they eventually reconcile. The moral of the story? Always destroy hatemail you don't intend to send.
- In Avatar, the thing where The Mole is revealed at the point where he's already past Becoming the Mask, and he tries to explain to his teammates that he's on their side now, but they don't believe him. Seems to be different from Reformed, but Rejected as the character has already switched sides, but is rejected in light of past events.
- Legally Blonde, when Vivian sees Callahan hitting on Elle, and Vivian assumes she's using her looks to get ahead.
- She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You both use a variant where a bet is placed and after The Hero ends the bet or stops following it, the Love Interest only then finds out and rejects him.
- The first Shrek movie has the eponymous ogre overhearing a conversation between Princess Fiona and Donkey about "who could ever love something so hideous." She's talking about herself, as she turns into an ogre at nightfall, and changes back in the morning. Shrek, however, creates his own misunderstanding after telling Fiona he heard everything, even though he hadn't. This makes Fiona believe that Shrek won't accept her for what she is, and she accepts Lord Farquaad's marriage proposal.
- Parodied in Not Another Teen Movie where the guy revealing the truth goes into almost excessive detail.
- The third act of Hitch has Sara discover that Hitch is the Date Doctor she thought was responsible for breaking her friends heart, so she runs a scathing report that reveals his identity and destroys both his business and the burgeoning relationship of his latest client... all because of a misunderstanding of the independent actions of someone who Hitch refused to work with because he was a sleaze. Strangely zig-zagged when Sara goes to apologize to Hitch and ask for a second chance in the reversal of the usual roles. Hitch rebuffs her, but then for some reason ends up chasing her down and apologizing to her.
- Two misunderstandings in Notting Hill: First Anna believing that William had betrayed her by going to the press and Second William overhearing comments Anna made while filming.
- Film Madea Goes To Jail had this when the male main character's fiance is exposed (and left) on the altar after he finds out that she's been padding cases with other crimes to bolster her conviction rating.
- Towards the end of Mulan, Mulan's true gender is revealed. Fortunately, Shang's life debt to her saves her life; but when she tries to tell her friends that there are Huns still alive and heading for the city, they disbelieve her both on account of her deception and her gender.
- In Bolt, the titular dog arrives back at the studio, only to find that he's been replaced with another dog, who Penny is telling their special phrase. Bolt runs off unseen, missing Penny turning away to cry moments later because she does miss him.
- In Toy Story, Woody is trapped in Sid's house and trying to escape. He manages to recontact his friends and convince them to toss him a line to climb back, but his broken ruse with Buzz's detached arm causes them to think he murdered him.
- In Safe Haven, the protagonist's love interest finds himself under the impression that she is a murderer. Rather than stop and explain that she is not, she decides to try and run away from town while declaring she doesn't blame him for hating her.
- Pick a Sarah Dessen novel. Any Sarah Dessen novel. This will happen.
- Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw has one of these when Mara, originally hired as a spy (twice, once by each side), becomes sympathetic to (and has fallen in love with) one side, at which point she is promptly found out by that side and the critical information she bears them is treated as suspect.
- Catherine Anderson is a bit too fond of this trope. She does avert it in a few of her later novels, however, where the climax of the story is something else entirely and driven by the antagonist. If it's not a Coulter or Harrigan novel, though, watch out, because this trope will probably be in play.
Live Action TV
- Friends was very prone to abusing this trope. For example, in the season two episode "TOW The List", Ross decides to dump Julie for Rachel after (under Chandler's advice) making a list of the two women's positive/negative traits. He (actually Joey) announces to Rachel that he broke up with Julie, and they officially hook up. Only for Rachel to notice the list on Chandler's computer, read it and misinterpret it as a list of reasons why Ross doesn't want to be with her, even though he just told her he left Julie to be with her. She refuses to hear what the list was really about, and the episode ends with Ross and Rachel moping in their respective apartments. Yes, it's every bit as contrived as it sounds.
- Another example: In "TOW Ross And Rachel Take A Break", after Rachel decides that she and Ross should take a break from their relationship, Mark invites himself over to her apartment to console her. While he's over, Ross calls to reconcile with her, only to abruptly hang up when he hears Mark's voice in the background - not even giving Rachel a chance to explain what's going on. This is particularly jarring when you consider that the fight leading up to this contrived misunderstanding was actually very realistic and expertly written.
- Series 1 of Gavin and Stacey, when the fact that Stacey has already been engaged six times, which has been kept a secret, is revealed when one of Stacey's ex-fiances runs into Gavin on his makeshift second stag night. Unusual in that we never see the two lovers settle the ensuing argument; the episode ends with them possibly breaking off their relationship, the next episode begins by simply stating they've made up.
- In Philoctetes, Neoptolemus is persuaded by Odysseus to lie to Philoctetes in order to force him to come to Troy. Once he meets Philoctetes, he begins to feel genuine sympathy for him. As Neoptolemus begins to contemplate doing the right thing, Odysseus shows up, the lies are revealed and Philoctetes becomes very bitter and angry towards Neoptolemus. Neoptolemus does make it up to him in the end, even at the risk of The Trojan War ending in failure for the Greeks.
- Brutal Legend plays this straight - the entire third act with the Drowning Doom could have been avoided had Ophelia just told Eddie that he was Succhoria and not her. Or if Eddie, having promised to trust her no matter what, had trusted her no matter what.
- Teen Titans had Terra experience this in the aptly named "Betrayal". Just as she's about to confess to Beast Boy, Slade shows up and reveals it instead, taunting and baiting him with the news that not only was Terra working for him as The Mole, but his robots were attacking Titans Tower at that very moment, while BB was distracted by their date. She didn't take BB's rejection well.
- Which leads to a moment of Fridge Brilliance when you think about the episode's name. Yes, Terra betrays the Titans, but just moments before finding out the truth, Beast Boy had promised that he would be Terra's friend no matter what. So it refers to his betrayal as well.
- Defied in the 25th episode of Young Justice: throughout the entire season, Superboy has been getting power upgrades from Lex Luthor and actually has some of his DNA. Artemis's father is the Sportsmaster, an enemy, and her sister is Cheshire, another assassin. Miss Martian is really a white Martian, and her true form averts Cute Monster Girl. All were expected to have betrayed the team. In the penultimate episode, they trust each other enough to reveal their secrets themselves, and the team accepts them, because they've proven themselves for the entire season. Though Robin and Batman did know of Artemis's secret, and Superboy learned Ms. Martians when they mind melded.