"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 or forgive, 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 (let's 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. Romantic comedy, 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 moment. Compare with Third Act Stupidity, Liar Revealed, Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure and Second Act Break Up.
— Elan, The Order of the Stick
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- 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. He never was actually a jerk (although he think he was one when he made the aforementioned mistake), but it nevertheless creates a "something from the past come back, friends abandon the character" situation.
Films — Animation
- 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.
- 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 Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, this occurs when after the London show the Zoosters are discovered for not being circus animals (courtesy of a flyer DuBois brought with her). It was very heartbreaking.
- Towards the end of Mulan, Mulan's true sex 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 sex.
- In Strange Magic, enemies Bog and Marianne form a tentative truce while trying to find an antidote to a love potion that's making her sister obsessed with him, and then her ex attacks Bog's home and Bog thinks Marianne was in on it.
Films — Live-Action
- 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 heated letter explaining why he wants the chipmunks to leave, which he immediately throws out because he realizes he cares too much for them, but weeks later, they find the crumpled piece of paper and assume that Dave is pretending to enjoy their company — just when they had been getting along — so they decide to leave him, join forces with Dave's former boss, and go on their contractually-obligated worldwide concert tour.
- In Avatar, 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.
- 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.
- 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: the first being Anna belief that William had betrayed her by going to the press and the second being William overhearing comments Anna made while filming.
- Madea Goes To Jail had this when the male main character's fiancé 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.
- 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.
- In Daddy's Little Girls, Monty is in a hearing for custody of his kids when the mother's lawyer brings up his prior conviction for raping a minor. That pretty much ends the hearing, and Monty's lawyer goes bananas - as his lawyer she's furious that he didn't tell her about this "surprise"; as his Love Interest, well, Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil. She refuses to hear his explanations and simply asks "Did you go to jail for rape?" to which he can only answer "yes." Shortly thereafter, Monty winds up on the local news, and the anchor almost casually mentions that viewers might remember him as a former high-school teacher who had been falsely accused of raping a student. Such a high-profile local case and subsequent exoneration seems like something that legal professionals, say, lawyers and judges, should already be aware of.
- This trope is invoked by a seemingly-jealous Sid James character in Carry On Loving. His long-time job partner Sophie goes to meet up with a stranger in his mansion, hoping that he will ask for her hand in marriage. Sid is furious and seeks out the stranger's address to gatecrash on the date, with the help of a client that he's had eyes on for months. The client storms into the house and pretends to be a vulgar ex-girlfriend that wants Sophie's date back, and jumps on the man just as Sophie marches into the room. Before they all know it, an angry wrestler (who's the ex-boyfriend of the client of Sid's affections) arrives at the front door after receiving a phone call from Sid about his "girlfriend" being kidnapped by the lunatic master of the house. Sophie storms out of the mansion in annoyance.
- Averted in , where Finn's stormtrooper past and lying about being part of the rebellion is brushed aside quite easily and doesn't lead to any conflict with Rey.
- 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.
- Friends was very prone to abusing this trope.
- 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.
- 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.
- Brütal 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 (or rather Succhoria's son) and not her. Or if Eddie, having promised to trust her no matter what, had trusted her no matter what.
- Lampshaded in The Order of the Stick by Elan (see page quote). While separated from his girlfriend Haley, Elan spent a plotline fending off an unrequited crush who ends up sacrificing herself for him. In the Dénouement, Elan explicitly talks about the importance of acting out this trope, but decides to tell Haley all about it.
- Doug Walker lists it as number 3 on his "Top Ten Worst Cliches" video for it's predictability and for killing the potential for far more interesting drama. The Nostalgia Critic even mocks it in his The Princess Diaries 2 review.
- In Dino Attack RPG, there was much tension between Rex and Amanda at the end of the LEGO Island Story Arc, after the Brickspider Bot revealed the truth about Roger's fate, which Rex kept secret from Amanda because he wanted her to be happy. Needless to say, this blew up in Rex's face, and for most of the remainder of the mission, Amanda wouldn't even look at him. Luckily, they got over it by the end of the Story Arc.
- 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.
- 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.
- Subverted in "Filli Vanilli" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic when it's revealed Big Macintosh's singing was actually Fluttershy lip-synching. Applejack confronts him and we get this legendary exchange:
Applejack: Big Mac, you got some 'splainin' to do! Turkey call?
Big Macintosh: Eeyup.
Applejack: Trash your voice?
Big Macintosh: Eeyup.
Applejack: Zecora remedy?
Big Macintosh: Eeyup.
Applejack: Not quick enough?
Big Macintosh: Nnope.
Applejack: Needed a deep voice?
Big Macintosh: Eeyup.
Applejack: Poison joke?
Big Macintosh: Eeyup.
Big Macintosh: Eeyup.
Applejack: Better now?
Big Macintosh: Eeyup.
Applejack: And that shy filly was livin' her dream in the shadows because she couldn't bring herself to come into the spotlight?
Big Macintosh: Eeyup.
Applejack: Well, for corn's sake! Let's go!
- The penultimate episode of Steven Universe's second season, "Message Received". Immediately after the previous episode, Steven confronts Peridot about a device she stole from an abandoned Gem communications tower on the Moon. After some prodding, Peridot reveals that it is a direct communication line to the leaders on Homeworld, and that she intends to contact her leader, Yellow Diamond. Peridot's rant about the failure of the Crystal Gem's emotional approach to problems is interpreted as her betraying them, leading to the rest of the episode having Peridot fight with the rest of the group for control of the device. Once its activated, it's revealed that Peridot's intent was to convince her leader not to destroy the Earth, using a logic-based appeal on the value of the planet. Naturally this doesn't work, but the attempt and Peridot's subsequent insulting of Yellow Diamond's intelligence leads to regained trust and cements Peridot as a member of the Crystal Gems.