There are pretenders among us. Geniuses with the ability to be become anyone they want to be. In 1963, a corporation known as the Centre isolated a young pretender named Jarod and exploited his genius for their research.
Then, one day, their pretender ran away...
The Pretender is a television series, which ran for 86 episodes over four seasons from September 1996 to May 2000. Boy genius Jarod was raised in a secret science-with-a-capital-$ laboratory (known, in a further example of the series' remarkable reticence with full names
, only as "the Centre") where his talents were put at the service of the highest bidder. As an adult, he discovers that the information gained from some of his simulations has been used for evil so he escapes The Centre. Once out, he also discovers bit by bit that that pretty much everything he's been told about his (supposedly long-dead) parents is a lie, and makes it his goal to find his real family.
Jarod is a mental chameleon: he can "become anyone he wants to be". This doesn't just cover language, culture, mannerisms; given a well-stocked library and a week, he can teach himself the skills needed to pass as anything from a janitor to a brain surgeon. In addition to his own search, each episode sees him using his abilities to uncover some crime or injustice. When he finds the person responsible, he puts them through a non-lethal version of what their victims endured, attempting to convey what his abilities allow him to grasp intuitively. (Sabotaged that safety line? Set up that industrial accident? Buried your enemy alive? Let's see how you
Jarod has a relatively mild case of No Social Skills
. Although he functions normally in social situations, his secluded upbringing meant that popular culture largely passed him by. In early seasons, every episode contained a sequence where Jarod discovered and gleefully explored something — slinkies, Twinkies, Mr Potato Head, Curious George — that everyone around him takes for granted. This thing would then be incorporated into Jarod's plan for teaching the Villain of the Week a lesson, or used to send a taunting message to the Centre agents trying to track him down and take him 'home'.
The remaining regular characters are the team trying to track Jarod down
. They themselves come across as relatively sympathetic characters; the recurring villains of the series are their superiors and colleagues, who threaten them as much as they do Jarod.The core members of the team are:
- Snarky team leader Miss Parker, whose issues with her own parents (her emotionally-distant father is the head of the Centre; her mother's murder when she was a girl was never solved) form an ongoing part of the series.
- Sydney, a psychiatrist who was Jarod's handler and surrogate parent, and is often caught between his duty as he sees it and his genuine affection for Jarod.
- Broots, The Lab Rat and Punch Clock Villain. A basically ordinary guy who somehow wound up working in this insane asylum, Broots is the audience's surrogate in reacting to the Centre's oddities; perhaps for this reason, he managed to remain normal to the end, the only regular character with no Mysterious Past and no previously-unknown relatives suddenly appearing from the woodwork.
Miss Parker gets her own nemesis in the second season, as her team's lack of success in catching Jarod prompts the creation of a rival team under the charming sociopath Mr Lyle. (Renewed menace to Jarod also, since Mr Lyle has considerably fewer scruples than Miss Parker.) In addition to being her professional rival, Mr Lyle's presence eventually squishes Miss Parker's personal hopes as it's revealed that he is, literally if fraternally, her Evil Twin
, and therefore the son her father has always wanted, rendering moot Miss Parker's attempts to fill that gap which had shaped her adult life.
Family was a Central Theme
of the series. Many episodes explored fatherhood in various ways. Also that whole thing with the unexpected relatives.
Early seasons of The Pretender
were marked by a real sense of playfulness. Later seasons, when the series lost its humour and became increasingly more like The X-Files
, were weirder but not as fun.
The series is being continued by Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle with a series of novels and graphic novels, the first of which came out October of 2013.
Not related to the Argentinian series Los Simuladores
(which kinda translates to The Pretenders
) or the band The Pretenders
The Pretender provides examples of the following tropes:
- AB Negative: Jarod has it; so does his brother. In "Red Rock Jarod", there's a boy who needs a heart donation and is said to be having trouble finding a donor because of his AB- blood.
- Abusive Parents: Mr Lyle's adoptive father, as revealed in "Crash". Could have been a Freudian Excuse, except for the bit where he got his revenge by faking his own death and framing his father for murder (in the process murdering one of his schoolmates to obtain a suitable corpse).
- Adventure Towns
- Affectionate Pickpocket: In "Crazy", Jarod, doing time as an inmate in a mental asylum, hugs the orderly and thanks him for caring. The orderly immediately makes him give back his keyring. (After he leaves, we learn that the keyring was just a decoy theft, and Jarod also lifted something else.)
- Air-Vent Passageway:
- Seems to be the main way of infiltrating and escaping the Centre, especially during the first season finale. The air vents were probably made for this very purpose seeing as how big they were.
- Air vents also come in handing for getting around the insane asylum in "Crazy".
- All in the Eyes: Jacob, during the Twin Telepathy scene in "Jarod's Honor".
- Almost Dead Guy: Fenigor in "Bloodlines"
- Almost Kiss: Quite a frustrating one in the 2001 movie Island of the Haunted between Miss Parker and Jarod.
- Always Identical Twins: With one notable exception (Miss Parker and her brother Mr Lyle), all the twins who appear in the series are identical twins (and many are creepy, single-minded, or both).
- Amazing Freaking Grace: Played on bagpipes for Jacob's funeral.
- Amnesia Danger: Jarod in "Amnesia"
- Ancient Artifact: The scrolls in "The Island of the Haunted".
- And I Must Scream: A drunk doctor hits a bum. She injects him with something that paralyzes him, making him indistinguishable from dead, and when the bum is bought in for autopsy, kills him on the table. Jarod does the same thing, deliberately, except he makes sure the doctor is awake and can see what's going on. He was just screwing with her, and the hospital staff were in on it. The evidence was given to the police.
- And I'm the Queen of Sheba: In "Someone to Trust":
Deputy sheriff: Who are you, Mr Burns?
Jarod: I already told you. I'm a designer.
Deputy sheriff: And I'm Cindy Crawford.
- And Starring: Patrick Bauchau as Sydney.
- And This Is for...:
- Sydney in "Hazards", confronting the man who killed his family.
- Miss Parker in "Red Rock Jarod": "That's for my mother — and this is for me."
- Answer Cut: In "Nip and Tuck"; the question is "If you didn't do it, who did?"
- The Atoner
- Part of Jarod's motivation is to try to balance the harm he unknowingly did in his years at the Centre.
- Sydney takes on this role in seasons two, three, and four, most explicitly in "Donoterase", when he mentors Gemini, Jarod's clone, to keep the Centre from abusing Gemini the way they abused Jarod.
- Babysitter from Hell: Subverted. You'd think letting Miss Parker look after Debbie Broots would be the worst. idea. ever., but as it turns out, it's good for both of them.
- Back for the Dead: Jarod's brother in Red Rock Jarod
- Bad Habits:
- The antagonist in the first part of "Dragon House" briefly disguises himself as a monk after his target hides out in a convent.
- The villain in "Betrayal" disguises himself as a priest to commit a terrorist act at a church service.
- Bad Humor Truck: At the beginning of "Past Sim", it's mentioned that Jarod most recently dealt with an ice cream truck that was a cover for a drug peddling operation.
- Bald of Evil: Mr Raines
- Bald Women: Several episodes have included bald women among the randomly surreal background characters in scenes at the Centre.
- Basement-Dweller: In "Bomb Squad", suspicion for the series of bombings falls on an unemployed guy who lives in his mother's basement and is very much this trope.
- Berserk Button: The point of the series is Jarod helping those that have been victimized in some way, but he really does not like it when someone's misery is caused by the misuse of his own Simulations. In "Past Sim," Jarod's hostage rescue Simulation is used by Mr. Lyle to abduct a murder witness (which also leads to the death of a federal agent) - prompting Jarod to declare war. In "Betrayal," Jarod's work is corrupted for terrorist operations. Damien, the man behind it, also murdered one of Jarod's friends at the Centre just to break him. When Damien threatened to kill Broots in a final confrontation, Jarod shot him dead.
- Jarod is also pushed to the edge when families are in danger, especially if the matter somehow mimics his own experiences.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: Alex in the Pretender 2001.
- Big "NO!":
- Jarod, in the flashbacks in "Back From the Dead Again". Which is fair enough, considering what's happening to him.
- Jarod again, in "The Dragon House, Part 2", after seeing the van his brother was in explode.
- Big Labyrinthine Building: The Centre seems to have an infinite number of annexes and sub-basements, each more nefarious than the last.
- Big Red Button: In the fourth season episode "Survival", Jarod leaves his pursuers some Schmuck Bait in the form of a big red button with a sign saying "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON".
- Bigger Bad: The Triumvirate
- Bilingual Bonus: Several episodes have Jarod conducting conversations with people in their own language, with no subtitles. In the pilot he speaks Greek with a woman keen to avoid surgery for something that can, lucky for her, also be fixed by some tea and a foot massage. In "Flyer", he converses with a deaf woman in sign language. In "Curious Jarod", he speaks with a Hispanic woman in Spanish.
- Billy Needs An Organ: There is a terrible, terrible episode with this plot premise.
- Blind Seer: In "Mr. Lee", the title character is blind but has a special insight into the character and motivations of others. At one point, he suggests that the two are connected.
- Blind Weapon Master: Mr. Lee is also this, in the "his walking stick is a staff weapon" subtype, capable of curb-stomping someone who attacks him from behind.
- Bolivian Army Cliffhanger: The season finale that ends with SL-27 blowing up with everybody inside. Everybody survives except a character who wasn't even present in the scene.
- Bond One-Liner: In the first-season finale, Mr Raines is about to shoot Jarod when an unidentified third party shoots Raines' oxygen tank, setting him on fire; when she arrives on the scene, Miss Parker says, "I thought he gave up smoking."
- Boyfriend Bluff: Jarod uses it to rescue a woman being harassed about her jailbird father in the episode "Prison Story".
- Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: In "Dragon House", Jarod spends some time as an orthodontist, and has a patient with these.
- Brand X: Insta-Cheez in "The Better Part of Valor" is actually just about the only example: the show generally makes a point of using the real names of products Jarod gets enthusiastic about (including Pez, Silly Putty, Mr Potato Head, Cracker Jacks, SPAM, and on and on).
- Breaking Bad News Gently: In "Bloodlines", Broots suggests Miss Parker sit down, before sharing his discovery that she had a twin brother who was declared stillborn by the attending doctor but actually carried off to an unknown fate by the Centre. Miss Parker prefers to stand.
- Building Is Welding: When SL-27 is being renovated in "Bloodlines", there's inevitably a guy doing spark welding.
- Bullet Proof Vest:
- The episode "Bulletproof" revolves around the death of a SWAT officer who was killed in the line of duty, while wearing a bullet-proof vest, by somebody using armor-piercing "cop killer" bullets.
- Jarod does the "fortunately, I'm unharmed, because I was wearing a bullet-proof vest under my clothes" trick a few times.
- Buried Alive:
- The victim in "Back From the Dead Again" was buried alive.
- In "Red Rock Jarod", the villain of the episode buries a hostage alive in a remote location — with an air pump, but if he doesn't get what he wants before the pump runs out of fuel...
- The Cameo:
- In "Indy Show", where Jarod is being a racing driver, he gets some advice from a more experienced driver, and later gives the same advice to another driver, who remarks that it sounds familiar. The first driver is Mario Andretti; the second is his son, Michael Andretti.
- In the Viva Las Vegas episode, "Cold Dick", Wayne Newton makes a brief but significant appearance as himself.
- Camera Spoofing:
- Used by the gang in "Scott Free".
- Jarod uses the hack-the-wiring method in "Homefront".
- Car Cushion: In "Stolen", Jarod escapes his pursuers from the Centre by jumping out a second-floor window onto the roof of their parked car. He dents the car roof and gives a nasty shock to Broots, who was waiting in the car and holding a cup of hot coffee.
- Car Fu: In "Mr. Lee", Miss Parker and her crew are staking out a building when they realise the occupants know they're there. Rather than waste time getting out of the car, running, opening doors, and so on, she just fires up the engine and drives straight through the wall.
- Cat Scare: In "Amnesia", a Centre mook sneaking up on the building where Jarod's been staying hears a noise, and investigates with gun drawn... but it's just a small dog that's been hanging around all episode. He relaxes — and then Jarod pops out behind him and knocks him out.
- Celibate Hero: Jarod's not completely asexual, and has had a couple of girls-of-the-week, but his lifestyle doesn't allow long-term relationships and he doesn't go in for casual encounters. Particularly notable is the episode "Gigolo Jarod", in which he spends a week as a gigolo without having sex with anybody, because he's able to figure out what his clients really need and give them that instead. (He's just lucky he never got a client who really needed sex.)
- Cement Shoes: "Unsinkable" has a variation where a loan shark has his enemies chained to anchors before being thrown off a pier. He acknowledges that it's a cliché, but says he already owned the pier (his legitimate front is a seafood restaurant) so he figured he might as well use it.
- Chair Reveal:
- In "Keys", when Miss Parker goes to see her father, and there's somebody else sitting in his high-backed chair. (Also The Unreveal for Mr Parker's appearance.)
- In "Back From the Dead Again", when Miss Parker goes to see her father, and there's somebody else sitting in his high-backed chair — Mr Lyle, making his entrance to the series.
- Character Name Alias: Whenever he does a pretend, Jarod adopts the surname of a relevant real-life person or fictional character: examples include Jarod Wright, test pilot; Jarod Marley, in the Christmas episode; and Jarod Shatner — in honor of the host of Rescue 911 — when he was working in a search-and-rescue team. And then there's the episode where his boss-to-be is a Dr Fein, so he adopts the alias of Jarod Howard, leading to a scene with somebody innocently calling out "Dr Howard! Dr Fein! Dr Howard!"
- Character Witness: In several episodes, including the pilot, Jarod takes time out from his mission to help an unrelated somebody in trouble, and they repay him at the end of the episode by helping him evade the Centre operatives hunting him.
- Check Please: Guy-getting-lucky version, with the guy Miss Parker hooks up with in "The Better Part of Valor".
- The Chosen One: Jarod. Who is Jesus. Or something.
- Cigar Chomper: In the episode "Homefront", Jarod adopts the persona of an arms dealer, and takes up chomping enormous cigars.
- Cigar Fuse Lighting: Near the end of the episode, he uses his cigar to light the fuse on a diversionary explosion, then throws it away and is cigarless thereafter.
- Cleanup Crew: The "sweepers". In "A Stand-Up Guy", we see them in action cleaning up one of the Centre's branch offices after a rogue Centre executive kills everybody there and steals an important file.
Broots: (watching a bodybag being carried out) What happens to them?
Miss Parker: Nothing. They don't exist any more.
- There were also Centre mooks called "Cleaners", which Brigette actually was and what Miss Parker used to be. They seem to be more active assassins, going after people the Centre wants kept quiet permanently.
- Clip Show:
- "Amnesia" (season 2): Jarod gets amnesia, and Miss Parker's team are called before a tribunal to explain why they haven't caught Jarod yet.
- "Mr. Lee" (season 3): Miss Parker's team learns someone else is after Jarod (the titular Mr. Lee) and has tracked down various people Jarod has encountered. They all proceed to interview these people to gain insight into his psyche and his current whereabouts.
- "Ghost from the Past" (season 4): Angelo has visions that someone from Jarod's past will try to kill him.
- Cloning Blues: "Donoterase"
- Coincidental Broadcast:
- In "Betrayal", while Jarod and Broots are trying to figure out what the villain's target will be, Jarod turns on the television and immediately gets a news bulletin that provides the answer.
- Used and subverted in "Meltdown".
- Cold-Blooded Torture:
- What happens to Jarod when Mr Lyle is left unattended.
- What happens to Mr Lyle when Jarod's brother gets hold of him.
- Miss Parker's interrogation of a severely-burned Raines. She needles his skin grafts to make him talk.
- Combat Stilettos: Miss Parker is fond of these. They also don't keep her from running after Jarod, though they also don't really contribute to her success.
- Con Man: Jarod, using his powers for good.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: Kyle.
- Conspicuous Secret: Miss Parker's first name. It may or may not be revealed in one of the last episode, with genius Foreshadowing during the series, but most probably not.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Jarod meets one (of the "Black helicopters! My television is watching me!" persuasion) in "Flyer", listens sympathetically to his concerns, and gives him some information about the Centre to spread around the conspiracy-theory underground.
- The radio show host in "PTB" is a milder version. He believes in exposing bad conspiracies and is quite paranoid (but the latter is because someone actually is trying to kill him).
- Consulting a Convicted Killer: The episode "Once in a Blue Moon", Jarod is helping to catch a Copycat Killer, and consults the serial killer who is being copied.
- Continuity Creep / Kudzu Plot: And how.
- Conveniently-Placed Sharp Thing: Miss Parker employs the 'crushed hand' variant in one episode when she dislocates her own thumb to allow herself to slip out of a set of handcuffs.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Centre's bosses. Also several villains-of-the-week.
- Courtroom Antic: When Jarod is being a defense attorney in "The Paper Clock", culminating in a Smoking Gun.
- CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): "Jarod's Honor" has a pretty woeful example of TV CPR from Jarod (who, considering he's been a paramedic and several types of doctor by this point, has no excuse for not knowing better).
- Crashing Dreams: Sydney's dream sequence in "Indy Show" is interrupted by the ringing of a phone that is suddenly sitting on a pedestal, in a spotlight, in the middle of the room. He wakes to find his actual phone ringing.
- Creepy Child / Creepy Twins: Several episodes briefly show Sydney engaged in his research before being called away to deal with the latest Jarod situation. Most of his research subjects are creepy twins, creepy children, or both. The pair in "Every Picture Tells a Story" speak in unison, and the pair in "Not Even A Mouse" exhibit Synchronization. It's revealed in the second season that Sydney himself is one half of a set of twins who were experimented on during the Holocaust.
- Criminal Mind Games: Especially in the early seasons, Jarod was fond of doing this to Miss Parker, Sydney, and Broots.
- Cross Over: The series did two Cross Throughs with Profiler, which aired immediately after it. "End Game" crossed through into "Grand Master", and "Spin Doctor" crossed through into "Clean Sweep". Outside these multi-part crossovers, Jarod also turned up on a separate Profiler episode, "Pianissimo", towards the end of both series' runs.
- Cut Short
- Daddy's Little Villain: Miss Parker.
- Dark Action Girl: Miss Parker
- Dating Catwoman: Jarod and Miss Parker.
- Daydream Surprise: In "To Serve and Protect", Jarod looks around the cafe he's sitting in and notices a woman who looks like his mother sitting in a distant chair with her back to him; he gets up, approaches, touches her shoulder, she turns... then a waiter drops a tray, and suddenly he's back in his seat, and the other chair is empty.
- A Day in the Limelight:
- "Betrayal" is a Broots-centric episode in which he becomes a target of the villain of the week, and ends up joining forces with Jarod to save the day.
- "Cold Dick" features Jarod's capture at the hands of... Broots. Alas, it's All Just a Dream.
- Dead Man's Hand: Jarod learns about it in a card game at the beginning of "The Assassin"; at the end, he arranges for the villain to be holding it at the moment he realises Jarod's outsmarted him.
- Dead Person Impersonation: In "Stolen", a suspicious character does a background check on Jarod's current identity, and finds that Jarod borrowed it from someone who's been dead since 1979. (In "Under the Reds", another suspicious character does another background check, but on that occasion the proper owner of the identity is still alive, though a house-bound invalid on the other side of the country.)
- Jarod pulls this earlier in "Jarod's Honor," after he enters the wrong hotel room and a man drops dead in front of him. He turns out to be a hitman, so Jarod pretends to be him in order to protect the targets and bring down the people after them. Unlike the other examples, no one finds out until Jarod chooses to come clean.
- Defrosting Ice Queen / Emotionless Girl: Miss Parker.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Flashbacks to earlier times in the Centre are in monochrome, just like the Centre's surveillance footage. (Many of them actually are surveillance footage, distinguished with a timecode in the bottom corner.) Relatedly, Miss Parker's flashbacks to happier days in her home life are in color, but kind of washed-out, like an old home movie.
- Description Cut: In "Curious Jarod", Jarod meets his first Elvis impersonator, who takes offense when his reaction is more puzzled than impressed:
Elvis impersonator: There is not a human being on God's green earth that has ever demanded the attention and respect of the man you are looking at this very moment.
Passing waitress: Hey, Bernie, some guy at the craps table says he'll give you five bucks to goose his wife.
Elvis impersonator: I'll be right there.
- Detective Mole: In "Someone to Trust", the sheriff leading the murder investigation is the murderer — although not the mastermind.
- Did Not Die That Way: Jarod was told that his parents had been killed in a plane crash; his discovery that they weren't is one of the things that prompts him to break out and start Walking the Earth.
- Die Hard on an X: "Toy Surprise"
- Dies Wide Open: Jacob in "Indy Show"; Sydney does the respectful closing-the-dead-man's-eyes thing.
- Disability Superpower: Angelo is mentally damaged and psychic. In his Flowers for Algernon Syndrome episode, it's explicitly shown that as his mentally functioning improves, he loses his psychic ability.
- Disastrous Training Sim Opening: "Bazooka Jarod" opens with Jarod serving on a naval vessel facing down a rogue submarine. After Jarod's quick thinking averts a near-disaster, it's revealed to be a navy training exercise.
- Diving Save: Jarod saves a boy from being run over this way in the episode "Homefront".
- A Dog Named Dog: Argyle's dog. In "Unsinkable", Jarod lampshades it as one of the signs that Argyle is not somebody to be trusted to come up with a well-thought-out plan.
- Do Not Adjust Your Set: In "Jaroldo!", set at a TV station, Jarod somehow arranges for the Engineered Public Confession to be broadcast live over every TV channel in the city.
- Do They Know It's Christmas Time?: "Not Even A Mouse"
- Dramatic Dislocation: In "Keys", Miss Parker dislocates her own thumb in order to escape a set of handcuffs.
- Dramatic Gun Cock:
- Just count the number of times the shotgun in "Red Rock Jarod" gets cocked before it actually gets fired.
- In "Parole", Jarod dramatically cocks his pump-action shotgun a couple of times.
- Dream Within a Dream: In "Stolen", Jarod wakes from a nightmare of his abduction as a child; as he catches his breath, he is attacked from behind by an identically-dressed abductor — then he wakes up again.
- The Drifter
- Dumb Struck: "Silence" revolves around a small child who hasn't spoken since he witnessed a murder.
- Dysfunction Junction: See Tangled Family Tree. This show runs on this trope.
- Elvis Impersonator: in "Curious Jarod"
- Empathy Doll Shot: When Jarod is examining the plane crash wreckage in "Crash".
- Engineered Public Confession
- Enhance Button: In several episodes. Particularly impressive is the one in "Exposed" that can take a photo of a curtain with a person silhouetted behind it and produce a clear image of the person's face.
- Establishing Character Moment: "Ma'am, the materials on board are highly explosive!"
Miss Parker: (stubs out cigarette) So am I.
- Ethnic Menial Labor: Blanca, the Hispanic hotel maid in "Curious Jarod".
- Eureka Moment: "Betrayal" has one, where a secret message is unravelled after Broots makes an offhand remark about what he's getting his daughter for her birthday.
- Even the Dog Is Ashamed:
- After the villain is defeated in "Parole", there's a shot of his beloved dogs looking dolefully at him.
- In "Unsinkable", the fuss Argyle makes over getting a bullet wound treated is followed by a shot of his faithful dog hiding its face in its paws.
- Everyone Is Related: Is what happens when the writers begin running out of ideas.
- Everything Is Online / Omniscient Database: Jarod manages to get a great many files from the internet...even things that most likely weren't available online in 1996.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: In "Flyer", Jarod glances at a set of Magic Eye images: "A penguin at the Sphinx. A penguin riding a camel... A penguin on a Nile barge — now that's something you don't see very often."
- Evil Albino: Mr. White
- Evil Counterpart:
- Mr Raines & Sydney
- Mr Lyle & Miss Parker
- The first season finale introduces Kyle, a Pretender who was under Mr Raines' control at the same time Jarod was under Sydney's, and who has the same powers as Jarod but puts them to less admirable uses. He's not only Jarod's Evil Counterpart, but his brother. This is underscored in a sequence where he uses his Pretender powers to put one over on FBI agents who are after him, which is structured exactly the same way as when Jarod pulls a similar trick on a villain.
- A straighter example for Jarod is Alex from 2001. Unlike Kyle (who was clearly warped by a bad upbringing), Alex wants revenge because Jarod left him behind (thinking he had died) during his escape and because everyone thought he was inferior to him.
- Evil Cripple: William Raines
- Evil Sounds Raspy: Mr. Raines
- Evil Twin: Mr Lyle, to Miss Parker.
- Exact Progress Bar:
- "Past Sim" has an electronic funds transfer with a progress bar that shows how much of the money has been transferred into the second account — and starts going backward when somebody else hacks into the second account and begins transferring the money out again.
- The "stock portfolio liquidating" progress display in "Hope and Prey".
- Expansion Pack Past: Nearly every character, and especially Jarod.
- Expose the Villain, Get His Job: "Curious Jarod" begins with Jarod exposing a scam being run by a casino's head of security, and being hired as the new head of security.
- Fake Guest Star: Jon Gries as Broots
- Faking the Dead: Mr Lyle, with both the Centre and the yakuza out to get him, pulls this in "A Stand-Up Guy", although we're supposed to think he was Killed Off for Real until he re-appears a few months later.
- Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: This conversation between Jarod and Mr. Raines:
Jarod: You stole me from my parents. You had the FBI kill my brother, and now you're trying to kill my family. What have I ever done to you?
Mr. Raines: You exist.
- Finally Found the Body: At the end of "Once in a Blue Moon".
- Finger Gun: In "To Serve and Protect", in which the victim of the week was shot while trying to prevent a burglary; after taking down the bad guy, Jarod mockingly "shoots" him with a finger gun.
- Fingertip Drug Analysis: The drug dealer in "Silence" does it, after Jarod hints that his stash has been been tampered with. This is how he discovers that Jarod has replaced his stash of brown heroin with an equivalent quantity of chocolate milk powder.
- Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Millie and Tillie Pilcher, in "Jarod's Honor".
- Fire-Forged Friends: Miss Parker and Broots meet for the first time in the second episode. She starts out considering him beneath contempt, but after two seasons of hunting Jarod — and, perhaps more importantly, watching each others' backs when Centre internal politics get nasty — it's reached the point in "Betrayal" where she's taking serious risks to protect him and describing him as like a brother to her actual brother.
- Flag Bikini: In "Collateral Damage".
- Flashback: Flashbacks to Jarod's time at the Centre appear frequently for plot or theme reasons.
- Flashback Nightmare: The opening of the third season.
- Flanderization: The Centre is portrayed more straighforwardly as evil the later on the series gets. In the first season Jarod has a sort of apartment within the Centre and then in later seasons, he's kept in a cell. Also the Centre's use of the simulations becomes more diabolical.
- Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: In "Bloodlines", an experimental treatment repairs Angelo's mental damage. Miss Parker does the obligatory name-check. Of course Angelo winds up back to his version of normal after giving up the final dose, which would have made the repair permanent, to save a boy who had been kidnapped by the Centre and subjected to the same procedure that damaged Angelo in the first place.
- Fun with Foreign Languages: In "Past Sim", Miss Parker volunteers to translate between Mr Lyle and a Japanese gangster who happens to be one of her old boyfriends. They have much fun discussing their opinion of Mr Lyle in front of his uncomprehending face. (Miss Parker also manages to slip a detail to her own advantage into the negotiation, letting each side think it was the other's idea.)
- Gilligan Cut: In "Unsinkable", Miss Parker and her team get caught in a storm after following a dead-end lead. Miss Parker complains that while they're stuck, Jarod is enjoying himself somewhere with sun and surf. Cut to Jarod being thrown off a pier in New Jersey by a trio of mobsters.
- Going Fur a Swim: A couple girls in a commercial being shot in the episode "Collateral Damage".
- Good News, Bad News: In "Keys":
"I got good news and bad. Bridge is washed away, power is out, phone lines are down, we're just gonna have to ride out the storm here."
"What's the good news?" "That ''is'' the good news."
- Go On Without Me: Jarod's brother in the first season finale; unlike many instances of this trope, they do, however regretfully, go on without him.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking:
- Miss Parker, especially. Her Establishing Character Moment has her reluctantly stubbing out her ever-present cigarette around explosives, then snarking that she's more explosive.
- In the episode "Homefront", Jarod adopts the persona of an arms dealer, and takes up chomping enormous cigars.
- Gray Rain of Depression: In "Betrayal", it's dark and rainy in the scene where Jarod is feeling guilty about having killed the villain.
- Groin Attack: What happens to the guy Miss Parker hooks up with in "The Better Part of Valor" after she finds out the truth about him.
- Handwave: Mr. Raines' lung cancer. He even starts to talk normally.
- Handy Cuffs: "Once in a Blue Moon" has an instance of handy-cuffs-as-improvised-weapon. The prisoner starts the scene with his hands properly cuffed behind him, but talks his way into getting them re-cuffed in front. (Jarod is too smart to fall for that usually, but in this case letting the prisoner get away is part of the plan.)
- Hard Work Montage: Jarod gets one in most episodes, setting up his takedown of the villain.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Miss Parker's father for most of the first season. Mostly The Ghost, although his voice is heard on the phone in "Not Even a Mouse" and he is seen as a sinister silhouette in "Ranger Jarod". Finally in "Keys" there's a fake-out Chair Reveal (his chair, but the reveal turns out to be that there's somebody else sitting in it) and then he appears on screen for real, and is thereafter a normally-visible character.
- He Went That Way: In the pilot episode, Miss Parker and Sydney nearly catch Jarod, but are misdirected in this fashion by somebody he helped earlier in the episode. Happens again in "Keys".
- Headphones Equal Isolation: The photo enhancer in "Exposed".
- Herr Doktor: Sidney's old nemesis in "Hazards."
- Historical In-Joke: Jarod's childhood as a Centre test subject has left him rather ignorant of popular culture, but also privy to a lot of weird history.
- He recognizes a Magic Eye image immediately — because he unofficially created the underlying technology.
- He's intimately familiar with the Apollo 13 incident — because he came up with the gravity slingshot used to rescue them.
- He can smell a conspiracy from across a continent — because his assessment of Who Shot JFK? was that a single gunman couldn't have fired enough shots.
- He knows the Trilateral Commission is up to no good — because he knows they came to the Centre for a number of projects.
- He also did an assessment of Marilyn Monroe's death in which he learned to recognize suicides, but we don't get to hear his conclusions.
- He reviewed the case of Julius Rosenberg, and concluded that Rosenberg was innocent.
- One of the other Pretenders at the Centre did a review of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
- That Pretender and Jarod did a joint re-enactment of the capture of the USS Pueblo during the Korean war.
Senator: You a registered voter, son?
Jarod: No, sir, but I did help manipulate the Nixon landslide in 1972.
- His response to being asked whether he ever made model cars as a kid: "I carved the design for what later became the AMC Pacer out of a bar of soap. It wasn't my best work."
- Hometown Nickname: One of the characters in "Hope and Prey" gives Jarod the nickname 'Delaware'.
- Hostage Situation: "Bank"
- How Unscientific!: "Island of the Haunted.". It's exactly what it sounds like. And the series finale to boot.
- Human Shield:
- I Am a Monster: In "F/X," Miss Parker, Sydney and Broots investigate a boy named Timmy that was subjected to then-Dr. Raines' experiments. Something went horribly wrong, with Timmy gaining empathic powers at the cost of his own mind. Timmy became Angelo, who is aware of his past and mourns his former self.
- I Don't Pay You to Think: Said by the villain to the crooked lawyer in "Someone to Trust". It's the villain-hubris version: if the villain had heeded the lawyer's thought, they would have gotten away with it.
- Ice Queen: Miss Parker, so much that it became her nickname among colleagues.
- Identical Grandson:
- The actress who plays Miss Parker in the present also plays her mother in flashbacks.
- Jarod's clone, being considerably younger than him, is played by one of the actors who plays Young Jarod in flashbacks.
- Sydney and his twin brother Jacob are played by the same actor.
- If I Wanted You Dead...: Miss Parker to Raines.
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: In The Teaser of "A Stand-Up Guy", Jarod, in the role of a gangster, is called on to show his stuff by shooting an inconvenient witness. This kind of thing was a fairly frequent occurrence for Jarod, who would always Take a Third Option by coming up with pragmatic reasons not to do the evil deed just yet.
- I Have a Family: One of the hostages in "Bank".
- I Have Your Wife:
- In "Scott Free", Jarod helps a reformed burglar (named Scott) whose former colleagues kidnap his son to make him work for them again.
- In "Red Rock Jarod", Mr Lyle kidnaps a pregnant woman and buries her alive to gain the cooperation of her husband, the local sheriff.
- In "The Assassin", Jarod helps a woman whose children have been kidnapped by a rogue CIA agent to secure her co-operation in an assassination.
- I Never Told You My Name: How Miss Parker identifies that the person she's talking to is working with Mr Lyle, in "Red Rock Jarod".
- Important Haircut: Angelo, halfway through his two-part introduction.
- Incredibly Obvious Bomb: The bomb in "Toy Surprise" beeps audibly and has a green flashing light.
- Infant Immortality: "Crash" provides an exception that is not a major plot point, but illustrates the overall tragedy of the plane crash. While waiting at an airport terminal, Jarod briefly plays with a little girl holding a doll. Later while investigating the plane crash, Jarod sees the recovered personal effects of the killed passengers, including a charred doll. (For an added emotional punch, Jarod can't help but consider what the last moments on the plane were like and viewers get to hear it. Among the screaming and panic, we hear the girl crying out for her mother.)
- Innocent Innuendo: In "The Better Part of Valor", Miss Parker reconnects with an old college friend. A scene begins with them in mid-conversation:
Parker: ...so he's on the floor, I'm on top of him, we're both... spent — covered in sweat...
Patrick: And you're still doing this?
Parker: At least three times a week.
Patrick: Isn't it hard to maintain that level of intensity?
Parker: Not if you're doing it right.
Parker: (grinning) You're not doing it at all, are you?
- "It" turns out to be fencing.
- Instant Cultured: Minor example in "Bloodlines", when Angelo gets an experimental treatment to improve his mental functioning. One of the signs it's working is a shot of him drinking tea out of fine china with his pinky sticking out. (Maybe it was a test of his physical co-ordination, which the treatment also improved, but if so nobody says so.) Then he starts playing the piano, but that at least is justified as a resurfacing skill from his childhood.
- Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: Heck, it's the very first teaser of the series!
- Instant Expert: Justified in Jarod's case; this is the whole point of his character.
- Interrupted Suicide: In "Jaroldo!", Jarod (posing as a news cameraman) is sent to cover a man planning to jump off a building, and winds up talking him out of it.
- Invasion of the Baby Snatchers: The Centre is very aggressive in its adoption practices.
- Ironic Echo:
- Jarod often uses these on the Villain of the Week.
- "Thanks, Jarod, you really saved my life" in "Crash".
- "Red Rock Jarod", playing on the well-known conversation from the first episode and title sequence: "Are you a doctor?" "...not at the moment."
- And later when Kyle appears. "They said you were dead." "Not hardly."
- It Only Works Once: In "Bloodlines", Sydney mentions repeatedly that Angelo's treatment is a one-off, and if it is interrupted not only will Angelo revert to his usual state, but it will be permanent and no future treatment will be able to help him. It's like foreshadowing, only much less subtle.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Used off-screen in "Red Rock Jarod" to get a kidnapper to reveal the location of his victim, who has been buried alive and has less than an hour's air left. The character who does it is explicitly presented as psychologically damaged and more inclined to violent solutions than he should be — but on the other hand, Jarod is right there the whole time and lets him do it his way.
- Japanese Ranguage: Invoked in "Collateral Damage", by a Vietnamese immigrant flogging self-improvement videos ("I here to show you how to get lich quick, with my new video selies, 'How To Get Lich Quick'!") who reverts to utterly normal English as soon as the camera stops rolling.
- Jitter Cam: Used in "Past Sim" when Jarod visits the crime scene (which unsettles him more than usual because the crime is an abduction staged by the Centre using a hostage-rescue strategy Jarod invented).
- Just Testing You: In "Bank", Mr Parker attempts to do the affectionate father thing, complimenting Miss Parker on a painting she has hanging in her house and reminiscing about when she was little and took piano lessons. When she points out that he gave her the painting as a graduation present, and that he's wrong about what her favorite piano piece was, he claims unconvincingly that he was just checking to see if she remembered.
- Kangaroo Court: In "Amnesia," Miss Parker's team is put before the T-Board (administered by Mr. Raines and Brigette), as it is believed one of them is the one leaking information to Jarod. Brigette actually arranged this herself - cutting a deal with the Triumvirate at the others' expense and save herself reprisals for previous actions.
- Kick the Dog: In "Homefront", the villain is gradually revealed as a nasty piece of work, but for the impatient there's his second scene, in which he's practicing his baseball and cripples the underling whose pitch accidentally hits him.
- Kill It with Fire: Sydney shoots out Raines' oxygen tank, immolating him.
- A subversion, though, as Sydney hit the oxygen tank by accident. He was quite willing to just shoot Raines dead.
- The Lab Rat: Broots
- Lampshade Hanging: From "Crazy":
Dr. Blythe: What's your name?
Dr. Goetz: What's your last name?
Jarod: I don't know. It changes every week.
- Land Mine Goes Click: In "Collateral Damage".
- Laser-Guided Karma - Most of Jarod's plots manufacture some punishment for the Villain of the Week based upon their crimes. Positive examples abound as the people he helps often thwart the Centre's team and help Jarod escape.
- Laser Hallway: Not a very effective one.
- Laser Sight:
- The SWAT gunman in "Bank" has one. Which he uses while taking out a target only a few feet away, in broad daylight.
- The killer in "Betrayal" has one. Which he uses while taking out targets only a few feet away, in broad daylight, with a machine gun. There is a scene where one of his targets escapes because the person they're talking to notices the red dot on their head in the nick of time.
- Laxative Prank: One episode had Jarod as a school teacher. To help a student who was being bullied, they prepared an laxative brownie, knowing the bully would take it from the kid and eat it. They also locked all but one of the porta-johns on the playground except one, so the bully would have to use that one - which they had rigged so the door would fall off while he was in there.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In "Crazy":
"What's your last name?"
"I don't know. It changes every week."
- Letting Her Hair Down, self-confidence version: In "Nip and Tuck", the victim of the week is a girl whose face was disfigured by botched reconstructive surgery. At the start of the episode, she has her hair down covering her face. After several conversations with Jarod, she's wearing it tucked back behind her ears. At the end of the episode, she has a formal hairstyle with her hair pinned right up away from her face.
- Lie Detector: In "Bomb Squad", Miss Parker, Sydney and Broots are subjected to a lie detector test to find out which of them is leaking information to Jarod. It's not a troperiffic two-state lie detector, though, but a more realistic polygraph-like device (the word "polygraph" is actually used) that outputs squiggly lines which need to be interpreted. The test fails to accurately identify the leak; a scene at the end of the episode implies that the true leak was the guy who was interpreting the squiggly lines.
- Light Bulb Joke: In "Hazards", Sydney, in an unusually good mood, tells the standard psychiatrist light bulb joke. ("One. But the light bulb has to want to change.")
- Line-of-Sight Name:
- In "Ranger Jarod", when a sudden emergency prompts Jarod to volunteer his assistance without having time to prepare a cover identity in advance, and he has to make up the answers to various questions about his background as he's asked them.
- In "Red Rock Jarod", someone asks Jarod his name when he's between pretends and doesn't have a surname ready, so he borrows one off a nearby barber shop's sign.
- In "Hope and Prey", between pretends again, Jarod gives his surname as 'Green', off a nearby Greenpeace sign. He doesn't fool the person he's talking to, who claims in return that her own surname is 'Peace'.
- Little People Are Surreal: The Centre tribunal in "Amnesia" features a variety of surreal touches to put the subject off-balance, including a dwarf stenographer.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Faith, in "At the Hour of Our Death", who is also Miss Parker's never before seen and never mentioned again adoptive sister.
- Location Doubling: The Centre is in Delaware, but the exteriors are really in Toronto.
- Locked in a Freezer: In "Under the Reds", with Miss Parker and Sydney trapped in the basement of a building that has been scheduled and prepped for demolition.
- Long Lost Sibling: At the end of the second season, Miss Parker learns that not only did she have a twin brother who was Separated at Birth, he's somebody she's met frequently in her adult life.
- Longest Pregnancy Ever: Brigette provides a curious example. We learn she is pregnant towards the very end of Season 3, and she gives birth about the half-way mark in Season 4 - roughly spanning nine months in real-time. However, because of other continuity it actually has been one year In-Universe. Brigette gives birth on the anniversary of Thomas' murder, but she didn't learn she was pregnant until one episode after it.
- Ludicrous Precision: In "Not Even A Mouse", Jarod, working as a coroner, takes a body whose time-of-death his colleagues consider impossible to estimate, and deduces that it occurred "somewhere between one forty-five and two a.m. My guess would be one forty-eight. Ish."
- Madness Mantra: Kyle's "I decide who lives or dies", in "Dragon House".
- Mad Scientist: Several of the Centre's employees, definitely including Mr Raines and arguably also including Sydney.
- The Mafiya: "Bulletproof" involves an arms smuggler with links to the Russian mafia.
- Magic 8 Ball: In "Past Sim", Jarod learns about the Magic 8-Ball, and near the end of the episode he leaves one for his pursuers, displaying the message "Don't count on it".
- Magical Defibrillator: Used to revive a flat-lined experimental subject in "Back From the Dead Again".
- Magical Native American: Ernie Two Feathers in "Mirage", playing the trope less than entirely straight.
- Magical Security Cam: The surveillance footage of Jarod at the Centre which serves as flashbacks is prone, except in a few early episodes, to include dramatic pans, zooms, cuts, etc. Probably the high point is in the episode "Exposed", in which footage of Jarod complaining to Sydney about being watched by a camera all the time is punctuated with a shot of the camera itself.
- Making Love in All the Wrong Places: In "The Better Part of Valor", Miss Parker hooks up with a guy, and it becomes a running gag that they never seem to make it all the way to the bedroom.
- The Man Behind the Man: Mr. Parker, the head of the Centre, starts out as the Big Bad, then the first season finale shows that there's someone above him who treats him as peremptorily as he treats his subordinates. The second season elaborates that Mr. Parker answers to an international conspiracy of Corrupt Corporate Executives called the Triumvirate.
- Man Hug: Jarod and his brother share a clearly heartfelt and not-at-all self-conscious hug when they're reunited.
- Meaningful Echo:
- When Jarod's brother rescues Jarod in "Red Rock Jarod", their first words to each other are the same (but with the speakers reversed) as on a previous occasion when Jarod rescued him. (Made really obvious by including a flashback to that occasion for anybody who'd forgotten.)
- In "Betrayal", the first shot of Broots shows him removing some Pop-Tarts from a toaster, and the first shot of Jarod shows him doing the same thing. In subsequent conversations, they each independently quote the same statistic about the supposed vitamin content of the Pop-Tarts. The meaningful part is that this ties into the episode's theme of Broots and Jarod having common ground.
- In "Parole", Sydney in the B-plot tells a man who never knew his real father that the man who raised him, who was there when he was sick and taught him to ride a bike and tie a tie, was just as much his real father as his genetic parent was. At the end of the episode, during a conversation with Jarod, he straightens Jarod's tie and complains "Didn't I teach you to tie a tie?"
- "Homefront" opens with a flashback in which young Jarod worries about what he'll say to his parents when they're reunited, and Sydney gives him some reassuring advice. The episode plot involves Jarod rescuing some children who were stolen from their mother, and when the mother is worried about what she'll say when they're reunited, Jarod gives her the same reassuring advice Sydney gave him.
- Memento MacGuffin: Sydney's pocketwatch is revealed in "Bulletproof" to have been a gift from the love of his life.
- The Men in Black: Loads.
- Miranda Rights: There's a scene in "A Stand-Up Guy" where a gang lawyer gets his clients out of police custody on the grounds that they weren't read their rights when they were arrested.
- Mirror Scare: Used in "Past Sim", with Miss Parker as the monster in the mirror.
- Missing Floor: Sub-level 27.
- Missing Mom: Miss Parker's mother is the series' most obvious example. Actually, Broots may be the only character this doesn't apply to.
- Moment Killer: Jarod and Miss Parker can never hold a private conversation for more than a minute.
- Mooks: The Centre's "sweepers".
- Mr. Exposition: The title character of the episode "Mr. Lee" studies Jarod, attempting to discover what makes him tick, as a device for introducing the show and its main character to new viewers. The scenes where Mr. Lee explains to his employer what he's learned about Jarod often sound like he's quoting the Universe Bible verbatim.
- Mundane Object Amazement: Jarod, frequently, in the couple of seasons.
- My Card: Mr Lyle's says only Mr. Lyle
- My God, What Have I Done?: Jarod has a number of these moments when he discovers how his simulations were twisted to hurt people rather than help them.
"How many people died because of what I thought up?"
- Sydney also has his fair share when he contemplates how he contributed to "the theft of Jarod's life."
- In "Crash," Jarod gives a college freshman he befriended his plane ticket so he won't miss registration. When the plane goes down and his young friend is a confirmed fatality, Jarod is beside himself with grief.
- My Greatest Second Chance: Twenty years ago, Jarod's profile of a serial killer helped the police catch him, but not in time to save the last victim. "Once in a Blue Moon" is the rematch.
- Mysterious Past: Any recurring character who didn't have one to start with gained one sooner or later, except for Broots.
- Myth Arc: Find Jarod's family. They are remarkably elusive.
- Nazi Grandpa: Dr. Krieg in "Hazards".
- Nerd: Broots — he's good with computers, bad with social interaction and dress sense. In "FX" he identifies one of the lesser Frankenstein (1931) sequels from a single line of dialogue. In "Once in a Blue Moon" he voluntarily admits to having wanted to be Aquaman when he was a kid.
- Never Found the Body:
- Jarod's brother in the first season finale — and sure enough, he eventually turns out to have survived.
- Seemingly averted in "A Stand-Up Guy" after Mr Lyle is shot and falls into a river: Miss Parker sends somebody down to make sure he's really dead, and a body is found. A badly-damaged body that's only identifiable by the clothing and the thumb. Genre Savvy viewers are instantly and rightly suspicious.
- New Old Flame:
- In "The Better Part of Valor", Miss Parker happens to meet an old flame from college, and they hook up again. It ends badly after it turns out he works for the Centre, and set up their reunion so that he could piggyback on her efforts and grab some workplace kudos by catching Jarod himself.
- "Bulletproof" introduces Michelle, who was the love of Sydney's life but one day broke off their relationship and left town without saying goodbye. After Jarod arranges a reunion, Sydney learns that she was warned off by the Centre, who didn't want Sydney distracted from his work. Unlike many instances of the trope, it's not used as a shortcut to a relationship; Michelle has moved on too far to pick up where she and Sydney left off, and the three episodes she appears in are more about exploring the consequences of the relationship they had and the way it ended.
- One case that definitely is about the shortcut is "At the Hour of Our Death", which revolves around Miss Parker's adoptive sister — never hinted at before, dead by the end of the episode, and never referred to again.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands:
- In the first season, Angelo is said to have a variant of the Pretender ability that allows him to study a specific person's possessions, assume their personality, and instinctively predict their present and future actions; on his first appearance, it takes most of an episode of study before he's ready to start predicting. By the end of the series, this has developed into full-blown psychometry, where he can pick up an object and know what the person it's associated with is doing right now. (At each stage, everybody else acts as if his powers have always been what they currently are.)
- Miss Parker is shown to be psychic near series' end.
- Nice Guy: As ruthless as he can be to his prey (who are almost always guilty as sin) Jarod is incredibly sweet and kindhearted. This is because Jarod's primary fascination, first and foremost, is people. Human contact and socialization was utterly denied to him.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In "Betrayal," viewers learn that while Jarod was still at the Centre, he was befriended by Damien. He gained Jarod's trust and convinced him to complete a potentially dangerous Simulation. However, it was all a ruse to force Jarod's compliance and Damien kills Jarod's janitor friend Kenny to further break him. All this did, though, was confirm Jarod's doubts and fears about the Centre. He escaped a few weeks afterwards.
- No, Except Yes: The character in "Amnesia" who tries to sell Jarod to the Centre tries this, complaining "That's cold" when Jarod refers to himself as a prisoner. When Jarod challenges him to say what he'd call it instead, though, he can't think of anything, and changes the subject.
- No Name Given: To a ridiculous extent; of the main recurring characters, only William Raines, Debbie Broots, and Catherine Parker (née Jamieson) get full names.
- Jarod, Sydney, Jacob, Brigitte, Sam the Cleaner, Willie the Cleaner, Angelo, Major Charles, Margaret, Emily, and Kyle are only known by their first names, and no last names are ever given.
- Miss Parker, Mr. Parker, Broots, and Mr. Fenigor are only known by their last names, and no first names are ever given.
- Mr. Lyle is an interesting case, as that's an alias he adopted, and he may not even have a first name. One episode does reveal his full childhood name — Bobby Bowman — but he would probably argue that that's not his name any more, if it ever really was.
- "Parole" has a scene where Sydney rather awkwardly introduces himself to someone as "Dr. Sydney" rather than let the audience find out what his surname is. (At this point, the audience begins to suspect that even the writers don't know.)
- Non Indicative Name: "Unsinkable" features a pair of mob enforcers known as "the Africans", who are white (they're from South Africa), and a loan shark known as "the Cuban", who's an Irishman named Denis O'Quinn (never explained).
- No Social Skills: Jarod, Angelo, and most of the Centre kids.
- Noodle Incident / Noodle Implements: Jarod drops these all the time. Usually concerning a Pretend he did off-camera.
- Nostalgic Musicbox: Miss Parker has one that used to belong to her mother.
- Nothing Personal:
- "Scott Free":
Nick: Scotty, that was business.
Scott: This is personal.
- "Someone to Trust":
Villain of the week: It was never personal.
Jarod: You're wrong. It was very personal.
- Not In Kansas Any More: In "Road Trip", Jarod sets Miss Parker and her posse following a chain of clues that begins with the team following GPS co-ordinates to the edge of a field. As they approach the location of the co-ordinates (which turns out to be a scarecrow with the next location clue on a yellow brick), Broots looks up from the GPS to announce that they've just crossed a state line and aren't in Kansas any more.
- Not Quite Dead: "Red Rock Jarod" has two characters come back from the supposedly-dead in a single episode. Miss Parker is not impressed: "Doesn't anybody ever really die any more?"
- Not So Different: "Hazards", where Sydney faces the Nazi scientist who experimented on him and his brother when they were children, who points out he's carried on the same work at the Centre.
- Obfuscating Insanity: In "Crazy", Jarod pretends to be insane so he can investigate a corrupt psychiatrist.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: More like Obfuscating Arrogance, in most of his cases Jarod acts like he's only in it for the money and/or the fame, making it even sweeter when he confronts the Monster of the Week because they don't think he would really do what he's doing.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: There's always the infrequent reference to an unseen pretend, where Jarod has resolved an unpleasant situation. The most notable may be the one referenced at the start of "Til Death Do Us Part," where Jarod has dealt with a clown that molested children. According to Broots, the clown was found locked in a tiger cage and with a piece of meat tied to his privates.
- Oh, Crap: Jarod being instantly recognized by a Skinhead gang leader, who already knows him from a previous episode.
- The Old Convict: Jarod meets one in an episode when he's trying to help a wrongly convicted murderer.
- Once a Season: The (increasingly-wacky) misadventures of Argyle, beginning with "Amnesia" in the second season.
- Once per Episode: Jarod discovers a novelty item, food, or television show he's never heard of before.
- One Last Job: In "Scott Free", reformed burglar Scott is persuaded to come in for one more job: "The deal is, one job and you and I are history". (He survives, because he has Jarod looking out for him.)
- One Phone Call: "Everyone who's arrested has the privilege of making one phone call." — "Red Rock Jarod"
- Only a Model: The property developer in "Gigolo Jarod" displays a model of the development she's going to build in place of the tenement that's being condemned.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Miss Parker's determination to be the one to catch Jarod had moments of this. Justified, in that capturing Jarod would ensure her freedom from the Centre, as per the deal she and her father struck. She had to bring Jarod in, and it would be her final case.
- Opening Narration: Full of many, many memorable quotes, but of particular note are:
Sydney: The Centre wants [Jarod] alive.
Old Woman: Are you a doctor?
Jarod: I am today.
- Papa Wolf: Sydney does want Jarod back at The Centre, but he also wants him safe and alive. As he tells his brother Jacob:
"Since your accident, I've done things - terrible things to protect Jarod, to protect you. I even tried to shoot Dr. Raines, but the bullet hit his oxygen tank."
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: "Scott Free" reveals that Broots's idea of a secure password is his daughter's name. (And this man is their computer security expert?)
- Perma Stubble: Jarod in some of his roles. Gangster Jarod in "A Stand-Up Guy" is one example.
- Perp Sweating: The Centre tribunal in "Amnesia" takes place in a darkened room, with the subject and the tribunal sitting on opposite sides of a table that has built-in bright lights shining into the subject's eyes. Broots's session also includes a variation on the taunting-glass-of-water routine: nobody keeps it out of his reach, but he can't bring himself to drink it once it occurs to him to wonder what might be in it apart from water.
- Phrase Catcher: Any time Miss Parker meets someone who knew her mother, it's guaranteed that the very first thing they say to her is "You look just like her".
- The Plan: Mr. Parker claims credit for these, though it's hard to tell if it's an Indy Ploy.
- Pistol-Whipping: In "Betrayal", Broots knocks out a guard with the butt of his gun rather than shoot him; it's then pointed out that it's a good thing he made that decision because he was in such a panic when he picked up the gun that he never actually loaded it.
- Plummet Perspective: Miss Parker's shoe, during the climb in "Toy Surprise".
- Polar Bears and Penguins: "F/X" has a Show Within a Show example, with two idiot protagonists so lost that they've ended up in the Arctic, signified by snow, ice, polar bears, Santa Claus, and of course penguins.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Jarod indulges in a couple while taking down a Corrupt Corporate Executive in "Gigolo Jarod". (Of course, being Jarod, he doesn't actually kill him afterward.)
- Precious Photo: Jarod's photo of his mother.
- Previously On: At the beginning of part two of two-part episodes; also at the beginning of some arc episodes, recapping previous points of the arc.
- Punk in the Trunk:
- In "Amnesia", the guy who tries to sell Jarod out to the Centre, once he tells the Centre agents where Jarod is, gets locked in the trunk of their car so they can deal with him once they've got Jarod.
- In "Unsinkable", the villain is locked in the trunk of his own car to await the arrival of the police.
- The Rainman: Angelo.
- Ransacked Room: In "Hazards", Sydney disappears, and his office is ransacked. The audience is shown that he ransacked the office himself, looking for something he'd hidden away and now suddenly urgently needed.
- Reading Lips: In "Flyer", Jarod takes lip-reading lessons and applies them to surveillance footage of a conversation between Sydney and Mr Raines.
- Rearrange the Song: Four times in as many seasons. Seasons 2 and 3 actually utilized the same intro and theme in general, but a couple late episodes of Season 2 aired with a modified theme that didn't last the season.
- Reverse Mole: The end of Season 1 reveals Angelo to be this.
- Room Full of Crazy:
- The stalker in "Exposed", with photos of his target covering the walls.
- Kyle in "Dragon House" does the more restrained version: no writing on the walls, but he keeps a journal which contains nothing but his Madness Mantra written over and over.
- The razor-wielding maniac in "Silence", with the walls covered with his (murderous alternate personality's) name written over and over.
- The copycat killer in "Once in a Blue Moon" has a room with photos of his target covering the walls, etc.
- Sadly Mythtaken: The pilot episode has a scene in which a winged sculpture created by Jarod is identified as "Onisius, the Greek god of retribution"; according to one of the DVD extras, the show's script editor spent months trying to obtain reference material on Onisius before the series creators admitted they'd just made him up.
- Safecracking: Jarod poses as a safecracker in "Scott Free", and the skill comes in handy again in "Bank".
- Sarcastic Confession:
- If anybody asks Jarod how he learned some impressive skill, he will tell them; since he usually learned it by reading books and MacGyvering training aids, his reply is always taken as a joke. It gets better when he is called on a skill in a later episode; when one of his "projects" asks him how he leaned to drive so well, he honestly answers, "Indianapolis!" (It turns out he learned how to race at an ARCADE in Indianapolis...)
- Then there's "Crazy", in which he poses as a psychiatric patient with paranoid delusions about a shadowy organization called "The Centre" that's out to get him.
- Schmuck Bait: In the fourth season episode "Survival", Miss Parker and Mr. Lyle are investigating one of Jarod's "lairs" (a shipping container) when they see a Big Red Button with a sign saying "DO NOT PUSH THIS BUTTON" in Jarod's handwriting. Parker tells Lyle not to push it, saying it's probably a trap. Lyle pushes it, and it is a trap. They also encounter a big red lever marked "DO NOT PULL THIS LEVER", which they treat with considerably more caution; it is eventually revealed to be the lever that lets them out of the trap.
- Scotty Time
- In the episode "Every Picture Tells a Story", Miss Parker corners Broots right after he enters the Centre. She asks him how long it'll take him to do something. He says 24 hours, she gives him 12, and after she leaves, he says to himself that he coulda done it in 8.
- In the episode "Scott Free", Jarod poses as a safecraker. During the job, the head of the gang asks him how long until he's into the safe, he says five minutes, and the boss says he has three. In this case, it's not just the superior being annoying; that's genuinely how long they have until security notices something's up.
- In the episode "Homefront", Jarod plays for time by claiming it will take him two weeks to do something; his employer, who's already suspicious and doesn't want him hanging around, gives him 72 hours.
- Second Episode Introduction:
- Miss Parker's mother, along with an extra heap of backstory for Miss Parker herself.
- Raines is introduced in the third episode (which is the second episode not counting the pilot).
- Separated at Birth: Miss Parker, thought to have been an only child, is revealed at the end of the second season to have had a twin brother who was separated from his family at birth.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: When Jarod and Nia act on their feelings for each other, the camera pans away to the fireplace...
- Sexy Shirt Switch: ...and in the following scene, Nia is wearing Jarod's shirt...
- Shirtless Scene: ...and Jarod is wearing no shirt at all.
- She's Got Legs: Miss Parker. And she likes to accentuate them with high heels and miniskirts. It leads to a rather weird scene◊ with Mr Raines.
- Shoe Phone: Jarod's briefcase, which hides a video monitor and discs.
- Shout-Out: Jarod's Character Name Aliases.
- In "Dragon House", there's a throwaway line identifying three FBI agents as Agents Charles, Foster and Kane.
- In "Countdown," after being told he is not a doctor:
: No, but I do enjoy that ER
- Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Miss Parker, complete with the obligatory "What happened to you?" "I grew up" conversation in the first episode.
- Single-Minded Twins: In "Jarod's Honor", Sydney visits a hotel hosting a Twins Convention, which apparently consists entirely of identical twins walking around in pairs wearing matching outfits. The pair we see most of, Millie and Tillie, have Theme Twin Naming, move in unison and finish each other's sentences. Averted, though, with Sydney himself and his identical twin Jacob; personality conflicts are an endemic feature of any flashback in which they both appear. Also averted by Miss Parker, and her twin brother Mr. Lyle.
- Sounding It Out: Broots doing romantic online chat in a first-season episode. Jarod and a fellow science project secretly communicating using morse code, in a flashback in "Dragon House". (Both notable as cases where, in real life, they'd not only have no reason to speak out loud, but would have good reason to keep their mouths shut for fear of being overheard.)
- Splash of Color: In "Indy Show", Sydney dreams he's having a conversation with his brother Jacob, who appears as he does in the flashbacks: that is, played by the Young Jacob actor and in black and white. Then he starts bleeding, and his blood is red.
- Split Personality: In the B-plot of "Silence", Miss Parker's crew learn about a secret Centre project that resulted in a man with a murderous alternate personality. Although Sydney refers to it by name as "dissociative identity disorder", it's made clear that it was artificially induced by the Centre (which conveniently waves away any differences from natural DID) — the medical records they uncover state that when he fell into the Centre's hands, his initial diagnosis was mild depression.
- Staged Shooting: In The Teaser of "A Stand-Up Guy", Jarod, pretending to be a gangster, shoots an inconvenient witness in cold blood — but it turns out that he's actually pretending to be an undercover RICO agent, the guy he shot was another agent, and the 'shooting' was a set-up to establish his bona fides with the mob.
- Stalker Without a Crush: In "Nip and Tuck," Broots gets the feeling he's being watched and is later sent photographs of him doing everyday things. At the end of the episode, Miss Parker and Sydney receive similar photographs. It turns out to be Kyle, who is stalking them in the hopes of being reunited with Jarod.
- Stealth Hi/Bye:
- Ernie Two Feathers does it to Jarod a couple of times in "Mirage"; at the end of the episode, Jarod does it to Ernie.
- Jarod does it again in the episode "Jaroldo!", leading the episode's villain into a trap and then disappearing on him.
- Jarod pulls one on Sydney in "Parole".
- Stern Chase
- Stock Episode Titles: "Ties That Bind", "'Til Death Do Us Part", "Betrayal", "Survival", "End Game", "Countdown", "Crash", "Bloodlines", "Meltdown"
- Stock Yuck: The inedible fruitcake trope was Jarod's new discovery in "Not Even A Mouse".
- Stuff Blowing Up: Three out of four season finales, plus various in-season examples.
- Super Identikit: Used in "Past Sim".
- Swiss Bank Account: In "Collateral Damage", Jarod hacks into the villain of the week's Swiss bank account to confirm that he's been receiving payoffs from a drug cartel.
- Swiss Cheese Security: Jarod and Angelo can just breeze in and out of the Centre at will.
- Take Five: In "The Better Part of Valor":
Patrick: I would ask you to join me for a drink with me at the bar, but I can see that you're both—
Parker: (very fast) Oh, Sydney was just leaving. (gives Sydney a Look)
Sydney: Yes, apparently, uh, Sydney was just about to leave.
- Take That: In "F/X", Jarod is working with the effects crew shooting a beer commercial. This entails him having the premise of the commercial explained to him:
Jarod: So let me get this straight: There are people out there who will buy your beer based upon two guys who are not only too ignorant to read a map, but simple-minded enough to drive through an exploding billboard?
Beer company executive: That's our target market!
- Taking the Bullet: Jarod's brother, for Jarod, in "Red Rock Jarod".
- Tangled Family Tree: Originally it's just Jarod searching for his parents, but then he finds he has a long lost brother, a sister, a clone, and a genetically altered half-brother. Said half-brother is also Miss Parker's half-brother, and her Evil Twin brother is Lyle, neither of whom are really sure who their father is. Mr. Raines and Mr. Parker are actually brothers, and could both be Lyle and Miss Parker's father. Both Jarod and Parker regard Sydney as a father-figure, and he may have been sleeping with Catherine Parker as well as being her psychiatrist, thus possibly being Lyle and Miss Parker's father. Sydney also has a mysterious twin brother named Jacob. Basically everyone but Angelo, Brigette, and Broots are related.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Jarod's video message to the villain at the end of "The Assassin" pauses at one point just long enough for the villain's reaction, then continues with a remark that fits what the villain said perfectly and would have been really incongruous if the villain had said almost anything different.
- Tap on the Head: Happens quite a bit, including more than once to Jarod. Except in the episode straightforwardly titled "Amnesia", he never seems to suffer lasting ill effects.
- Tarot Motifs: In "Hazards", Miss Parker, Broots, and Angelo are looking through Sydney's ransacked office for clues to his whereabouts, and Angelo finds the picture of the man Sydney has gone to find. When Miss Parker asks who the man is, Angelo replies by picking up a card from the Tarot deck spilled on the floor: Death.
- Tattooed Crook: Jarod takes on the role of one in "Parole".
- Technical Pacifist: Jarod
- Technicolor Science: Jarod's chemistry set-up in "Gigolo Jarod".
- Theme Twin Naming: Millie and Tillie Pilcher, in "Jarod's Honor".
- Think Nothing of It
- Time for Plan B: In "Bank":
Harold: What are they doing?
Jarod: Working on Escape Plan B.
- To Know Him, I Must Become Him: Inverted in the episode "Once in a Blue Moon", where Jarod has to catch a serial killer, and attempts to do so without Becoming Him, because he's afraid that once he starts thinking like a homicidal psychopath he won't be able to stop.
- Trademark Favorite Food:
- Jarod and his Pez
- Angelo and his Cracker Jacks
- Transvestite: Isaac the cab driver in "The Paper Clock" is a fairly typical TV transvestite, with swishy mannerisms and an eye-watering dress sense (not to mention the cab, which is upholstered in leopard print).
- Triple Take: When Jarod confronts the villain of the week, he often tells them what he's deduced about what really went down... "[And then|But instead], you [whatever it was they did] — didn't you?", with a Triple Take on the "didn't you".
- True Companions: Sydney, Jarod, Miss Parker, and Broots are much like family - a decidedly dysfunctional family.
- Twin Telepathy: It's implied in "Jarod's Honor" and "Indy Show" that Sydney had this with his twin brother.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance: Miss Parker and her mother.
- Undisclosed Funds: At the end of the episode "Homefront", Jarod gives a cheque to the woman he's been helping; we're not shown how much it's for, only her impressed reaction.
- Unexplained Recovery: Raines, a ridiculous number of times.
- Vader Breath: Mr. Raines
- Valentine's Day Episodes: "Gigolo Jarod" in the second season is set around Valentine's Day, the first since Jarod broke out (and thus the first he's ever experienced). This results in much pondering of love and belonging, the nature of Jarod's relationship with Miss Parker, and Jarod's hypothesis that those chubby infants with bows on the greeting cards are so chubby because of all the chocolate.
- Van in Black: The Centre goes in for shiny black SUVs with tinted windows. In the 90's, no less.
- Vehicle Vanish: Jarod, in "Exposed".
- Vertigo Effect: Used when Broots is about to be shot in "Bank".
- Villain of the Week
- Villain Episode: "Toy Surprise", which relegates Jarod to the B-plot and focuses on Miss Parker uncovering and defeating a plot to assassinate her father.
- She also gets "At the Hour of Our Deaths" and "Wake Up" in the third season.
- Viva Las Vegas: "Cold Dick"; "Curious Jarod" happens to be set in Vegas, but doesn't have most of the 'Vegas episode' tropes.
- Walking the Earth
- Wall of Weapons: In "Bulletproof", Jarod's preparation for his investigation includes spending some time inhabiting the skin of a gun nut with a wall of weapons.
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: For as long as he could remember, Jarod wanted to leave the Centre. Once he is out, he is constantly hunted. Jarod himself even acknowledges this in "PTB":
"You don't know the first thing about prison! Sometimes the worst kind of prison is the kind that you have to wake up to every morning! When you think you're out free in the world, you're being hunted and stalked!"
- Wealthy Yacht Owner: In the episode "Collateral Damage", Lenny Duc claims in his infomercial that he came to America on a tiny boat, "and now I own big boat!" We never actually get to see the big boat, and it may be as fictional as the tiny boat (Lenny later admits he actually came to America in an airplane).
- Weapon Stomp: Miss Parker, during the climactic fight in "Bank" — only instead of stepping on the gun, she steps on the bad guy's hand. In high heels. Ouch.
- We Can Rule Together: Mr Lyle tries it on Miss Parker in "A Stand-Up Guy" and on Jarod in "Red Rock Jarod". It's not clear in either case whether he's sincere or just trying to get under the other person's skin.
- We Help the Helpless: Jarod considers it his duty to do so, as just about every project he did for The Centre was ultimately used to help some megalomaniac profit at the expense of innocent people.
- We Named the Monkey Jack:
- In "Keys", Jarod spends some time working with alligators, and names the one with the largest teeth "Miss Parker".
- In "Under the Reds", Jarod names a lab mouse after Sydney's brother, as a way of sending Sydney a private hint about the nature of the research it was used in.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy:
- Miss Parker and her father, of the will-never-say-it subtype.
- Also Jarod and his father-figure, Sydney. In both present and flashback scenes of "Scott Free," Jarod actually asks for acknowledgement, but Sydney won't give it to him because he feels it would be improper for a host of reasons. Of course, viewers then see that Sydney has kept several mementos of Jarod, including a Father's Day card made by him.
- Wham Line: The end of "The Dragon House, Part 1," after Jarod questions why he was stopped from opening fire.
Harriet: I stopped you because Kyle is your brother.
- What Have I Become?: In "Hazards," Sydney has the opportunity to exact revenge against a Nazi doctor that had his parents killed and performed experiments on him and his brother. However, he can't pull the trigger because of Jarod. Sydney feels this makes him Not So Different from the monster from his past.
"Don't you see? I became the monster."
- What's an X Like You Doing in a Y Like This?: In "A Stand-Up Guy", Jarod strikes up a conversation with a woman whose restaurant has become a gang hangout, and asks her in a joking tone what a nice girl like her is doing in a place like this.
- Whole Plot Reference: "Meltdown", to Reservoir Dogs
- With Due Respect: In "Bomb Squad":
Jarod: With all due respect, sir—
Lt. Chomsky: You know, when people say 'all due respect', they generally don't have it.
- Wrap It Up
- Write Who You Know: "Gigolo Jarod" has an in-universe example, when it's revealed that Jarod has written a novel, The Saddest Little Valentine, whose protagonist is basically Miss Parker.
- Written-In Infirmity: In "Dragon House", a handyman Jarod talks to happens to have his arm in a cast — because the actor broke the arm shortly before filming.
- Yakuza: Featured in "Past Sim", where Jarod protects the key witness in the trial of a yakuza gang leader.
- You Didn't Ask: In "Every Picture Tells A Story", after Miss Parker learns that, when she was asking a guy earlier in the episode about his interactions with Jarod, Jarod was in the room next door.
- You Can't Fight Fate: According to one of the later episodes, after the series took its turn for the woo-woo, the formation of The Centre was "foretold", as was Jarod's arrival.
- You Look Familiar:
- Jake Lloyd had a one-off role in the first season, as the son of a pilot whose death Jarod investigates, then had a recurring role as young Angelo in the second and third.
- Kelsey Mulrooney had a one-off role as the littlest orphan in the first season's Christmas episode, then returned in the second season for a recurring role as Broots's daughter.
- You're Insane!: "Red Rock Jarod", after Mr Lyle cheerfully explains what he's been up to recently:
Jarod: You're insane.
Mr Lyle: Psychological diagnosis can be really subjective.
- You're Cute When You're Angry: In "Hope and Prey", Mr Lyle tells Miss Parker that she's beautiful when she's angry; in this case it's a blatant attempt to rile her even more. (Her response is to smile sweetly and tell him he's never seen her really angry.)
- You Wouldn't Shoot Me: The villain of the week tells Jarod this at the climax of "Betrayal". Normally he would be right, but it turns out Jarod is prepared to make an exception just for him.
- Yubitsume: Mentioned in "Past Sim", and one of the yakuza is shown to have his pinky finger missing. The particular yakuza leader is established to up the ante to thumbs when somebody really pisses him off, setting up a plot point where Mr Lyle cuts a deal with him, Jarod interferes, and Mr Lyle spends the rest of the series minus a thumb. (Which is more dramatic than a little finger, but also, to be churlish about it, much easier for the makeup people to fake on an ongoing basis.)