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Written-In Absence
A character who should be here isn't here, and the extent of acknowledgment of the absence is limited to a few lines in the dialog, as if to say, "Yeah, we know s/he's not here, so here's an explanation and let's move on." (Well, usually we get some sort of explanation for the absence).

Prevalent in movie sequels, when casting is just too lazy to rehire the actor of a significant character and don't feel like trotting out Poor Man's Substitute. (Or they are trotting him out, but as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.)

Compare Absentee Actor, where no explanation is given for the actor's absence (especially when their presence would likely be crucial to the plot.) A few of these are justified in that the actor died in the interim (and some are categorized in Author Existence Failure). Also compare Not Important to This Episode Camp, where the character isn't there because they aren't important to the plot.

Examples also exist in regular TV series, and often in this case the absence is only temporary. This is often an excuse to bring in a Temporary Substitute in live-action, but some just acknowledge the absence and move on, especially in Animated Series.

Often a case of Real Life Writes the Plot.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • During the Pain Invasion Arc in Naruto, an ANBU named Ko Hyuuga mentions to Hinata that Hiashi and Hanabi are out of town on a mission, which is relevant since the original Ino-Shika-Cho trio is actively involved in the battle, and is Kiba's mom.
  • A truly bizarre case is the second story of the Urusei Yatsura manga, which is the only story in the manga that doesn't contain Lum at all. In fact, Lum is not even mentioned, and Shinobu takes her place in the story.
    • Not bizarre at all when you consider that Ataru is the actual protagonist, was meant to be the actual "star" of the manga, and that that he was originally supposed to be in an OTP with Shinobu. Takahashi originally wanted UY to be an anthology revolving around Ataru, with Lum as a throwaway gag character for that story. but Lum became the most popular character in the series and so, barring one other story, she figured in all of the manga. (This is also why, for the first year or so, Lum is a lot more malicious in the manga than the later sweet-with-a-twist-of-Tsundere character she became. It seems that Takahashi toyed with making her at best an antagonist or, at worst, a borderline villain before realizing that just didn't work.)

    Film 
  • In The Cheetah Girls: One World, Galleria's absence is explained by her going off to college in England. The movie then proceeds as if the group only has 3 girls and never mention her again, despite her being a pivotal member and their best friend. The real-life explanation is Raven-Symone who played Galleria in the first two movies couldn't return due to her busy schedule.
  • Back to the Future 2 had its entire plot reworked when Crispin Glover wanted too much money to reprise his role as Marty's father. Instead of a trip to the 60s (where George was a flower child), we go to an alternate 80s where Biff had become extremely wealthy thanks to a certain book, and George was dead.
  • Men In Black 2: Jay (Will Smith) and his boss (Rip Torn) are talking about how Jay is burning through partners really fast. Somewhere in there, Jay says "You can't count L. She wanted to go back to the morgue." L, played by Linda Fiorentino, had been first shown as a morgue worker, then shown as Jay's partner at the end of the first movie, and then carried over to the Animated Series.
  • The Klumps, sequel to The Nutty Professor remake with Eddie Murphy: This one has a lab hand talking about Sherman Klump's (Murphy) previous partner/love interest (Jada Pinkett) transferring to another university. Janet Jackson serves as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Jada as his new partner/love interest.
  • xXx: State of the Union: In another case of Poor Man's Substitute as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, Ice Cube gets the job previously held by Vin Diesel, and we're told that the Vin Diesel version has died in a jet-skiing accident. The end of the film even has the government already searching for a new one.
  • Early in Ocean's Thirteen, we're told that Tess (Julia Roberts) and Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones) aren't participating in this caper because "it's not their fight."
  • In Batman Returns, we're informed that Vicki Vale (previous love interest) couldn't handle Bruce's dual life and left him.
  • Another justified example is in Species II where Dan Smithson is said to be unwilling to help track another alien, having been deeply disturbed by the events of the first movie. In reality, Forrest Whitaker was unable or unwilling to appear in the sequel.
  • Partly avoided in the second Austin Powers film, where we actually see the departure of Austin's wife (Liz Hurley, who gets an opening credit mention despite exploding before the opening credits) and are told she was a robot all along.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull features Indy talking about how his father and Marcus have both died in the last year. Denholm Elliot, who played Marcus, died shortly after the third film was released. Sean Connery is still alive, but retired from acting and turned down a chance at a cameo.
  • This happens in Hellboy II, when Liz explains the reason John Myers (from the first movie) is gone is because Red had him transferred to Antarctica.
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, it is said that Sarah Connor died of leukemia in 1997. The actress, Linda Hamilton, would not play a part because she felt that T2 was the proper ending and there was no reason for shooting more pictures in the franchise.
  • Tank of The Matrix was said to have died between it and The Matrix Reloaded (by Tank's sister, Zee, who said she lost two brothers on the Nebuchadnezzar) after Marcus Chong's salary demands and conflicts with the Wachowski brothers led to him being fired.
  • Roy Scheider's absence from Jaws: The Revenge was explained by saying that his character, Martin Brody, had died of a heart attack between movies. His wife says he died from fear though.
  • After the death of Anita Mui, her character in House of Flying Daggers was written out of the film almost entirely, only appearing in one scene played by an anonymous actress with her face covered. Director Zhang Yimou had felt it would be disrespectful to simply recast the role.
  • Megan Fox was fired during production of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, so Sam got a new girlfriend named Carly and Wheelie offhandedly mentioned that Mikaela dumped him.
  • In 1984's Supergirl, the producers couldn't get Christopher Reeve to make a cameo appearance, so the movie includes a radio news report that Superman has just left Earth on an intergalactic peacekeeping mission. Reeve's Superman does briefly appear once in the movie (sort of), as a poster in Lucy Lane's dorm room.
  • The Hudson Hornet Memorial Piston Cup.
  • In The Avengers, several characters from other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are conspicuously absent.
    • Natalie Portman was unavailable to appear as Jane Foster due to pregnancy. Her absence was explained as Jane being transferred to a secure location in an observatory for her protection since the villain abducted one of her colleagues.
    • Neither Odin nor any of the other Asgardians save for Thor appear, and Loki explains why; the Bifrost Bridge had been destroyed at the close of Thor, and Odin had to expend a dangerous amount of dark energy just to send Thor back to Earth.
    • War Machine from Iron Man was absent as well, but no explanation was given. The prequel comic to Iron Man 3 finally cleared this up by stating that he was busy fighting terrorists in China during the events of The Avengers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • House had this quite a lot:
    • The first episode of the fourth season shows the absences of Foreman, Chase and Cameron (who quit in one episode of season 1 before coming back). All of them were fired or resigned. By the following of the fourth season, only Foreman appears in the team while the others failed to participate in a few episodes.
    • Done also to Wilson after he left temporary the hospital due to an argument with House regarding Amber.
    • In the first episode of the sixth season, House was temporarily deprived of his medical license and also had to stay in a mental hospital without any visits except a call from Wilson.
    • Taub and Thirteen were dropped out with Taub being absent for four episodes while Thirteen only missed two and were present in the two others although she wasn't on the team anymore.
    • Cameron and Thirteen had it worse. The first left the team and only came back for two episodes while the second abruptly vanished in sixteen episodes of the seventh season before returning until the end. She also came back for three episodes of the final season.
    • Cuddy wasn't on the show anymore after the seventh season. Foreman wanted to tell House her new place but he cut him saying that he didn't need any details.
    • Also, Chase and Taub didn't appear in the first four episodes, leaving House to find the money in order to rebuild a team. Taub also missed one episode where he must take care of his daughter while Chase left the hospital (because Jesse Spencer was cast on an other show) near the end of the series.
    • Foreman missed a few episodes for the final season while Wilson only was absent in two. Adams and Park weren't present in one (not the same) . Possibly explained by the fact that the actors agreed to drop their salary out in order to save the show.
  • An especially poignant example occurs in Dad's Army, in which Captain Mainwaring reads out a note left by Private Walker to excuse his absence - the actor who portrayed Walker, James Beck, had fallen into a coma before the episode was filmed and passed away, meaning that he never returned.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • In "Bad Guys" Sam Carter was absent from the team. One of the characters explained that she was in Washington briefing the President about the events of a previous episode. "Bad Guys" hinged on the fact that the team couldn't get the Stargate working and had she been present, the episode would have lasted all of ten minutes (the time for her to hook up her Naquadah generator). So it was a good thing overall.
    • Sam was also absent from the first few episodes of season 9, appearing only briefly by video feed, to accommodate Amanda Tapping's pregnancy.
    • When Michael Shanks wasn't available to film an episode due to appendicitis, the writers had to explain why his character Daniel didn't accompany the team on the mission. Showing some very straightforward thinking, they decided that Daniel had appendicitis too. Interestingly, he is still recovering in the beginning of the next season, filmed months later, but set a few weeks in the future.
    • Other episodes where Daniel needs to be absent for most or all of the episode will explain that he's on a dig on another planet. Teal'c will go to spend time with the Jaffa army for the same reasons. Of course, Teal'c has a nearly perfect attendance record in terms of actually appearing in the episodes (only missing one episode in season 8; other episodes which didn't involve him actually showed him leaving or coming back).
    • Parodied in "200" - when one of the leads for Wormhole Extreme looks like he could be an Absentee Actor, the SG-1 crew suggests they write his character as turning invisible - and use fake flashbacks of this happening to O'Neill to set the precedent.
  • iCarly:
    • Sam is absent in "iWon't Cancel the Show". It is mentioned that she is in juvie for shoving a hot chili dog down a foreign dignitary's pants. In this case, though, her absence is pivotal to the episode's plot.
    • The actor that plays Gibby is the only main cast member still under 18 and can't work as many hours per day during shooting. This normally leads to his character mentioning how he has to leave all of a sudden (usually making a comical exit) halfway during scenes that he initially was slated to have lines in the entire scene, while his original lines are rewritten for someone else such as Freddie or Sam to say. Sometimes if an episode runs long, they will edit a scene out that Gibby was supposed to do on the webshow, from the actual episode. The writers will then have the other characters mention how they plan to cut Gibby from that week's webshow. Occasionally Hilarity Ensues.
    • Carly was sent off to take care of her grandfather in Yakima and only seen at the beginning and end of the episode. This was because Miranda Cosgrove had broken her ankle in a bus accident while touring and had not healed enough yet.
  • Star Redd Foxx got into a salary dispute with the producers of Sanford and Son during its fourth season and was said to be gone to St. Louis for a funeral. The funeral apparently lasted a few months. Luckily, the supporting cast, especially Grady, was more than capable of filling the void and Foxx returned for the final two seasons before his (and costar Demond Wilson's) salary dispute killed the show for good.
  • Frasier
    • "Cheerful Goodbyes" had Frasier and his family attending the retirement party of Cliff Clavin, Frasier's old friend from Cheers. The party was not at Cheers but somewhere else, and only Norm, Carla and a few of the recurrers were at the party. Sam and the Cheers bar itself were explained away by Sam hosting a Red Sox reunion at Cheers that night, and thus unable to make it.
    • Kelsey Grammer missed the episode "Head Game" because he was in rehab. Niles took Frasier's place starring in the episode - an introductory scene with both characters was recorded later.
  • Firefly:
    • Shepherd Book was absent from one episode; the explanation given was that he was off meditating.
    • Zoe's injury in "Out of Gas" was contrived so Gina Torres could get away for her marriage to Laurence Fishburne.
  • By the second season of Farscape, Virginia Hey, the actress who portrayed Zhaan, had bad reactions to her extensive makeup. Zhaan eventually decided to focus on her spiritual training, allowing her to spend a lot of time meditating while the rest of the crew got themselves in trouble. Zhaan is eventually killed off by having her sacrifice herself to save the ship and crew.
  • 'Allo 'Allo!:
    • Helga Geerhart was absent from two episodes. Her absence was filled by a terrifying woman called Elsa Bigstern.
    • Two other characters, Maria the Short Waitress and Captain Alberto Bertorelli, had their disappearances explained away in a similarly perfunctory manner - Maria, in an effort to escape a Nazi POW camp where she was hiding while in drag accidentally mailed herself to Switzerland; and when the Italians dropped out of WWII, Captain Bertorelli disappeared (perhaps back home, perhaps shot by the Nazis - the exact nature of his vanishing is left vague).
    • Herr Flick is missing from the epilogue, without any explanations.
  • A season premiere for Sabrina the Teenage Witch has Sabrina (and her aunts) getting ready for Valerie, one of her prominent classmates from last season, to move in, but then later receiving a call from her and finding out that Valerie's staying in Alaska.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Quite a few episodes from season four needed some mention of why Joyce wasn't around, as Joss Whedon got second thoughts about killing her off, and then had to work around the schedule she had set up thinking she would be off the show that season.
    • Prior to her Face-Heel Turn, Faith did not appear in several episodes in Season 3 when her presence would have made quite a bit of sense. One episode described her as being on a "walkabout", which is more than was given for any of the other absences.
    • The season 2 episode "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" is noticeably Xander-centric, and Buffy spends much of the later half transformed into a rat due to a witch's spell. This is because Sarah Michelle Gellar was leaving for a while to appear on Saturday Night Live, so the episode was written in a matter of days and her scenes were filmed first. The rushed schedule doesn't seem to have hurt the episode, as it's a personal favourite of many fans and production members (plus, having an episode with Buffy unable to come in and save the day adds a higher level of tension).
  • In the Angel episode "Destiny" (season 5), Angel and Spike have a conversation in the teaser where Spike's asking for an office, and asks if he can just take Wesley's because Wesley's gone. Angel retorts that he's not gone, he's taking a leave of absence, which was given the in-universe justification that he had thought he had killed his father in the previous ep "Lineage". In real life, Wesley's actor Alexis Denisof was having his wedding with Alyson Hannigan.
  • During the filming of series four of Only Fools and Horses, Lennard Pierce (Grandad) was suddenly taken into hospital, which was explained by having a character ask after the missing Grandad's health. Pierce then died; in the next episode, Grandad's funeral is held and he is replaced by his brother, Uncle Albert.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit does a variation on this a lot, with characters appearing in the first five minutes and being told to handle paperwork for an active case (or in Stabler's case, something involving his family), and the partner doing the rounds with Munch instead.
  • M*A*S*H did this occasionally; Father Mulcahy would be visiting the orphanage or someone would be on leave.
    • Radar spent an unusually large amount of time "away on R&R" in the character's last couple of seasons, due to actor Gary Burghoff's contractually-limited appearances.
  • In a non-temporary example, perhaps the weirdest subversion of this in the history of ever came in the third season of Due South. When David Marciano left the show, his character, Ray Vecchio, was actually recast with a replacement character who, at first, shared the same name. His replacement was actually supposed to be an undercover cop pretending to be him, while they explained that the real Vecchio was undercover elsewhere. (If you can think of a weirder way to explain in-story why an actor is gone, I would be very interested to hear it.)
    • This explanation isn't entirely accurate. The person who replaced Ray Vecchio was actually named Stanley Raymond Kowalski. "Ray Vecchio" was not his given name, but just his undercover name, so the two characters didn't actually "share the same name."
  • The direct-to-video release of Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, attempted this on a grand scale. Set ten years after the end of the series, the only original cast members it features are John Sheridan and Captain Elizabeth Lockley. Dr. Franklin and G'Kar, whose actors had died in the interim, are explained as having gone "beyond the Rim". Delenn has remained back on Minbar, and almost all the other cast members receive brief explanations of their current status.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the first 6 seasons of the classic series, the actors playing the Doctor and his companions were often given a week or two off per season, due to the long, frenetic, stressful filming schedule (40 to 44 episodes a year). Since the characters travel randomly throughout time and space, they can't just go on vacation. So the reasons for missing an episode or two vary—sometimes they're held hostage and/or prisoner, a few times the Doctor was in a coma (played by a double, from the back), once he was being put into permanent suspended animation, once a Sufficiently Advanced Alien made him invisible. (Brief pre-filmed scenes were also used.)
    • In the modern revival, they've had a few "Doctor-lite" episodes where it focuses on someone who has never been seen on the TV show, to give the Doctor and his companion some time to film the Christmas specials.
      • Although in series 4, this method was changed to have one episode focusing all on the Doctor, and another focusing on Donna.
      • And in series 5, they had an Amy-lite episode, but not a Doctor-lite one, despite him also doing The Sarah Jane Adventures, The Proms, and the video scenes for the Doctor Who Experience!
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Crusher's absence (throughout season two) was explained as being "transferred to head Starfleet Medical". In real life, the writers were having trouble developing the character and tried a different approach in Dr. Pulaski. This didn't work out, and there was pressure to bring Crusher back, so she returned in season three, where she remained for the rest of the run.
  • In Torchwood, Martha's absence in Children of Earth was explained by her being on her honeymoon. Which, per Word of God and a scene in the Doctor Who story The End of Time would explain Mickey's absence as well.
  • Several episodes from Season 6 of The Bob Newhart Show only had Bob in them for one scene, in which he would do one of his patented one-sided telephone conversations from "out of town."
  • One episode of Taxi, shot while Judd Hirsch was filming his Oscar-nominated performance in Ordinary People, only has Alex (his character) in it for one scene — a phone conversation at the very end — saying that he was on a skiing trip.
  • A variation occurred in the 2009 season finale of Grey's Anatomy. George is absent for most of the episode, but the writers have people constantly talk about him. This was supposed to distract viewers from noticing that he is in fact never on screen, because the episode's wham ending (where he turns out to be the John Doe that saved a girl from being hit by a bus only to get hit himself) absolutely requires this. It actually works rather well.
  • Lalaine's character Miranda was left out of the last few shot episodes of Lizzie McGuire, and Lizzie always had some excuse for her not being there (Usually, she said Miranda was on vacation in Mexico). Then The Movie came out without Miranda. Poor girl missed her own middle school graduation.
  • The actor playing Henry isn't in Grounded For Life's final season. In the final episode, his Grandpa casually mentions that "he's around here somewhere".
  • That '70s Show episode where the gang tells of how they all met each other. When Eric met Donna, her mom wasn't there because she "got her finger stuck on something". Actually Midge had left the show.
    • Done with Leo too as Tommy Chong was in prison.
  • In the final season of That's So Raven, Tanya (Raven and Cory's mother) is said to have went off to law school in England. Or course, she was absent for the entire season because her actress had left the show.
  • During the second season of WMAC Masters it originally looked like Eric "Panther" Betts had suffered from Chuck Cunningham Syndrome as he disappeared between seasons without mention, however a few episodes in Tracer tells Warlock that Panther was previously The Mole working for Jukido (a role the two of them now had) but had become the mask so they had to take him out. In reality he had broken his hip and thigh during a fight with The Machine and could not compete.
  • In Dead Like Me, Betty is gone for one episode due to being trapped in a morgue. We don't see her there, but we hear her shouting for help.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: In the third season Required Spinoff Crossover, "The Galetea Affair". In the The Teaser, Solo and Kuryakin are attacked by THRUSH agents while on the Venetian canals, and Solo winds up diving into the canal to save his life. In the first scene of Act I, it's mentioned that Solo has caught pneumonia as a result of his swim in Venice, and for that reason Mr. Waverly teams Kuryakin with The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.'s partner, Mark Slate. The Girl of the Week is built up for the entire episode as Slate's Love Interest, only to have Solo appear in The Tag to sweep her off her feet and away from Slate.
    • In the The Girl From Uncle episode "The Mother Muffin Affair" broadcast three days earlier, Slate does not appear. Solo teams up with April Dancer.
  • How I Met Your Mother did a good job hiding Alyson Hannigan's pregnancy during season 4, but had to cover her absence in episodes 20-23. In the Cold Opening to episode 20, Barney tells her a dirty joke. She's so offended she doesn't return for three weeks, the end of episode 23, having finally got over the joke. In case you're interested, The Other Wiki says the joke is as follows; "What's the difference between peanut butter & jam? I can't 'peanut butter' my dick down your throat."
  • One of the leads of Route 66, George Maharis, took a leave of absence due to illness, and a few lines of dialogue assign his character Buz the same fate. When Maharis left for good, there are one-line mentions for about two episodes afterward about how Buz is ill and in hospital again, but no resolution is ever really given - it turns into a Chuck Cunningham Syndrome scenario when Tod never mentions his former best friend Hetero Sexual Life Partner again. Maybe he died.
  • During production of season 5 of All in the Family, Carroll O'Connor temporarily walked out on the show due to a salary dispute. The producers rather cleverly responded to this by crafting a three-part story arc in which his character, Archie Bunker, goes missing after leaving to attend a lodge convention.
  • After David Duchovny decided to leave The X-Files, his character's absence was written well in one case and badly in another. Season 8 had him abducted and returned for the last few episodes, which fits well with the show's premise. Season 9 starts off with Mulder gone completely, and fans are never given a straight answer as to why he was missing, save for the flimsy excuse that it wasn't "safe" for him to stay with Scully and their new baby, though no one could remember a threat that would warrant such a measure in season 8, and that him leaving goes against his character.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a good number of instances of this in its KTMA season, but seeing as Joel and the 'bots can't leave the Satellite this resulted in such bizarre episode plots as Crow being frozen and decorated as a Christmas tree and Joel being locked out of the ship stark naked—although sometimes it wasn't explained at all. In the season, Trace Beaulieu (Crow/Dr. Forrester) was absent three times and Joel Hodgson was absent once.
  • Tracy Morgan was absent from a few episodes of 30 Rock as he was undergoing a kidney transplant. In-universe, Tracy Jordan went on a fake trip to Africa (It Makes Sense in Context well, kinda).
  • Smart Guy has an episode where the eponymous character, TJ Henderson, was absent. It was explained away that TJ was away at a science camp for a week. In addition, it was also somewhat important to the episode, because Floyd Henderson had spent most of his finances on the tuition for the camp, meaning Marcus and Yvette had to get jobs to buy what they wanted. Yvette ended up working in a department store with her (white) best friend; the latter's sole job was following black customers around the store since the owner feared they would shoplift. Marcus got a job at a late-night radio station, despite his dad's insistence that he not get that kind of job.
    • Similarly, in Sister Sister, one episode had Tia and Tamera being absent for most of the episode because they were out of state. They returned in the last few moments of the episode in question, when Tyreke and Jordan were waiting for them at the airport, but they learned from an announcement that the twins flight had been redirected (or so they thought), so they decided to wait out for them, only for the twins to come off shortly after they left.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard:
    • Deputy Enos Strate was absent for two episodes in season two, being temporarily replaced by the debuting Cletus Hogg. The Balladeer explained that the doctor had to "separate Enos from his appendix". This write-in was Truth in Television; actor Sonny Shroyer really was in the hospitalófor appendicitis.
    • Also in Season 2, Sheriff Rosco Coltrane was missing for a short stretch due to a contract dispute with actor James Best. His absence was explained as Rosco having been forced to go to the police academy for re-certification. Several actors filled in as cameo substitutes during the interim before the dispute was settled and Rosco returned to Hazzard. One of the temporary replacements was, appropriately enough, Dick Sargent.
  • Gil Grissom was absent for several episodes on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation when William Petersen did a play. Grissom was sent to a college for a seminar, in the same city where Petersen was doing the play.
  • The character of Mike Brady was 'out of town' for the final episode of The Brady Bunch because actor Robert Reed thought the storyline was too ridiculous and demanded script changes. To avoid an ugly showdown, the producers wrote him out of the episode.
  • Two different examples from NUMB3RS: When Peter Nichols took a temporary leave of absence during the second season to be in 24 his character, Larry Fleinhardt, (a professor of Cosmology) spent six months on the International Space Station. Since the show runners knew about it well in advance, they wrote in a several-episode build-up to the launch. In the second example(s), due to budgetary concerns the secondary characters were written out in increasingly flimsy excuses. In fact, in the last two seasons, the secondary characters rotated in and out literally once character per episode. To the point that one of the (once-again) absent characters lampshades it in a phone conversation with his partner, saying that his misses him.
  • Has happened once on Glee: When Darren Criss left for two weeks to replace Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway, they wrote in a storyline in which Blaine gets hit in the face with a slushie laced with rock salt and injures his eye. Thus they could explain in-universe that the reason Blaine was absent for two episodes was because he had to have surgery on his eye and stay home from school.
  • During Warehouse 13 season 4, we are told that "H.G is god knows where." In reality, Jaime Murray was too busy filming Defiance to be on Warehouse 13.
  • Charmed has made that for various characters as Dan does not show up in four episodes of the second season (it's been said that he is on a vacation in Astral Monkey) Cole is absent in Pardon My Past, because he wants to know his personality and Darryl moved to the east cost since his actor was suddenly dropped out. Also Leo, who was frozen.
  • Sliders had an episode in which Quinn is absent during half of the episode. In reality, Jerry O Connell asked to have some more time in order to participate to Jerry Maguire.
  • In the episode "25 to Life" of Criminal Minds, Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner does not appear, with the only explanation being a few seconds of dialogue where Rossi is seen ending a phone conversation with Hotch telling him to "take as much time as he needs". This was due to Thomas Gibson, who plays Hotch, taking time off to take in a golf tournament.
  • This happened often in London's Burning. A line of dialogue will mention that a missing character has moved on, usually early in the opening episode of a new series.
  • Teen Wolf has several examples of actors leaving before their characters planned arc is over. In some of the cases the actor gave enough notice for them to write in a death scene, but others left without that, forcing the writers to improvise.
    • Colton Haynes, who played one of the main characters Jackson Whittemore waffled over leaving at the end of season 2, to the point where they actually shot a death scene for him. Then he indicated he would be back for season 3, so they aired the version of the finale where Jackson survived... only to not come back for season 3, forcing the writers to throw in a bit of dialogue about him moving to London with his parents, and he was never mentioned again.
    • Adelaide Kane who played Cora Hale left after only one season, so she was written as moving back into hiding in South America.
    • Daniel Sharman who plays Isaac Lahey will apparently not be returning for season 4, but asked the writers to leave the door open to return, so he is being written as moving to France to recover after Allison's death.

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty explained that the reason Otacon was saving the game for Snake during the Tanker Chapter was because Mei Ling was busy during the mission with SSCEN. Of course, that didn't stop her from making a voice cameo after Otacon botches various sayings to tell him off.
    • In Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, it was explained that Zero was absent for most of the game because he was under arrest by the Pentagon for supposedly instigating the FOX revolt. This actually turned out to be a very major plot-point, because this ends up being the reason why Snake has to quell the FOX rebellion and take in the person responsible.

    Web Original 
  • In the 7th episode of Four Swords Misadventures, the voice actor for Uncle Alfon was unavailable, so they explained his absence as him going to the Kakariko Village milk bar (and Blue implies that this isn't the first time Alfon does something like leaving a note as to where he went).
  • In Neopets, once Shenkuu joined the Altador Cup in 2007, there were 17 possible teams competing, so an odd team out was always written out (due to training accident or some such) in order to make a nice, neat, 16-team bracket. Now fixed in 2010, as Moltara has joined and made it an even 18 teams.

    Western Animation 
  • Rugrats, "All Growed Up" gives us a triple dip of this trope:
    • First, the Pickles brothers are boarding a bus driven by their Grandpa:
    Dil: Hey Grandpa. How's Grandma?
    Grandpa Lou: Still off cruising the Nile. She sends her love. (to the others) Hang on kids, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!
    (Grandpa Lou re-married in the second Rugrats movie, but the new Grandma, Lulu, only ever appeared sporadically. Her absence here ends up being a minor plot point, since this means Grandpa Lou has an extra ticket for Angelica to go to a pop concert. Seriously.)
    • Later, we have two back-to-back character absence acknowledgements while everyone who's left is practicing for a disco dance:
    Didi (Tommy's mom): Poor Kira is missing all the fun.
    Betty (Phil and Lil's mom): Hey, Chazzster, thanks for filling in after Howie's little mishap practicing his dance moves.
    (Character guide: Kira is Chuckie's new stepmom who first appeared in the second Rugrats movie, "Chazzter" is Chuckie's father Chaz, and "Howie" is Phil and Lil's dad Howard.)
  • All Grown Up! (which incidentally, the above Rugrats episode spawned) had a Christmas special without Angelica (a feat in and of itself, because on Rugrats, Angelica was the main plot of that show's Christmas episodes), with Susie saying one line about Angelica spending her holidays in Aspen. They also explained Dil's general absence in a vacation episode by showing him sick in his room and having Tommy mention that Dil had the flu.
  • Winx Club: In the premiere of the 3rd season, Tecna notes that all the Specialists except Sky, plus Mirta (a student witch who transferred to the fairies' school last season, falls under Recurrer status, much loved by the fandom), have RSVP'd for Stella's princess ball. In the next episode at the ball, we see only Brandon and Sky, and in the 4Kids dub Flora notes, "I can't believe Helia's ship broke down," thus explicitly explaining his absence, and implicitly everyone else's (although original Flora was merely noting how Solaria was absolutely splurging for the ball). (It's Flora who notes this because she and Helia are one of the series' couples.)
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Lightspeed", the titular heroes are nowhere to be seen. The replacement squad, Titans East, had "Returned to Steel City" so the villainous H.I.V.E. five thought they could have free run of the city. A hero does show up later, but he's apparently not affiliated with the Titans (yet).
  • Justice League
    • It was often said that Superman was averting a natural disaster somewhere; after all, having Superman around every episode would often undermine the tension. Subverted once when he actually showed up later in the episode saying the disaster turned out to be relatively minor.
    • This happened pretty often to other members too, as most episodes were missing at least one of the Leaguers, although the absences weren't always explained. One example would be the Christmas episode, which explains that Batman is busy doing monitor duty, although the other absence from that episode - Wonder Woman - is never explained. Of course, even when it's not explained, given that they're superheroes it is easy to assume that they're just busy handling their own crises. Or in that case, she doesn't really celebrate Christmas, given she has actually met Greek gods and is a literal Amazon.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Look Before You Sleep" (which only has three main characters to begin with) showed Twilight explaining that Spike is away in Canterlot.
    • Notable mainly because there are many episodes where main characters don't appear, including Spike several other times, but this is the only one that actually bothers to explain why no appearance was made (although, admittedly, since they were explaining why Spike wasn't asleep in his own bed, they at least had a good reason for explaining this one if no other).
    • The episode "Just For Sidekicks" explains why Spike doesn't appear in "Games Ponies Play", the episode that aired immediately after.
  • An odd variation occurs where an absence isn't stated in the episode itself, but is hinted at by the viewers: In the Hercules/Aladdin crossover episode "Hercules and the Arabian Night", Iago is notably the only Aladdin character who has not made an appearance in the episode. Aladdin fans who have seen Aladdin and the King of Thieves will know the reason is because Iago left with Cassim, Aladdin's father, to start a new life.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Fraudcast News", Sweat is absent from Blood Sweat And Tears' performance at Geezer Rock. His absence is hinted by Quimby's line of "Thank you, Blood and Tears! Sorry to hear about Sweat." to be due to his either having died recently or had something bad happen to him that forced him not to attend.
  • Many episodes of Young Justice won't feature the full team. Since there's a lot of super heroic antics going on outside of what we see in the main plot, the reasons given for whatever member's absence, if any, vary.
  • Like Young Justice, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes often had various members of the team missing for one reason or another, which was usually justified with a Hand Wave line of dialogue. Ant-Man might be conducting a scientific study, Ms. Marvel might be busy with her S.W.O.R.D. work, Black Panther might be dealing with politics in his native Wakanda, Thor might be visiting his family in Asgard, and so on.
  • Avengers Assemble does the same thing. Black Widow is often missing due to her work with S.H.I.E.L.D., while the Hulk is sometimes implied to be off with his other team.

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