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Caught In The Ripple

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Huge change that goes unnoticed by the characters because they are affected by the change.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
ampthelectrifing on May 18th 2013 at 4:38:24 AM
Last Edited By:
Morgenthaler on Aug 9th 2017 at 11:03:44 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

YKTTW now sponsored by Morgenthaler per Up for Grabs rules.


An installment in a series begins with a radical change to the status quo that the characters don't seem to notice or comment on.

Say you're watching your favorite TV show. All of a sudden, and usually at the beginning of an episode, something happens - a character who died is now alive, or the setting is completely different. Something is obviously up here, and you can't wait to see how the characters react. But then, they don't. It's not that they don't notice this change, but it's treated as if it's completely normal.

This could be anything from a dream to an alternate universe. The point is, the audience doesn't know what's going on because the characters are, at first at least, treating this interlude as a completely normal occurence. Like In Medias Res, the audience only finds out what is happening later on. Compare Elephant in the Living Room, when characters aren't talking about it but do notice, and contrast Ripple Effect-Proof Memory. When a timeline has been changed, everyone who doesn't have a Ripple Effect-Proof Memory is covered by this trope. Examples of that trope don't have to be added here.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The "Endless Eight" arc in the Haruhi Suzumiya anime was like this too during the beginning of the "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • The aborted anime Usagichan De Cue has Mimika, a bunny-girl formed from skilled fighter Mikami Inaba merging with a pet rabbit. When Mimika appears in the home of Haru, the rabbit's keeper, nobody seems surprised, not even noticing that Mimika has rabbit ears and a powderpuff tail. Mimika explains that she can project thought control similar to a Perception Filter, so that people regard her as perfectly normal.
  • Ushio and Tora: Towards the end of the series, the Hakumen causes Ushio's existence to be entirely forgotten. Every human character meets him for the first time, and are quite angry at the familiarity he displays with them. Even one of Ushio's father's allies doesn't recognize him, saying he never had a son. Fortunately, it turns out Tora still remembers him, and together they end the curse.

    Comic Books 
  • Wanted: At some point every supervillain banded together to rewrite reality so that not only did the world forget superheroes were real, the superheroes forgot as well (the supervillains, for their part, operate in secrecy). One villain killed his nemeses (Batman & Robin expies) by dunking them in a vat of acid, they kept screaming that they weren't superheroes, they'd just played them on TV.

    Literature 
  • In Robert Sheckley's Mindswap, the ending is the protagonist getting his body back in a parallel dimension, and then doubting whether he's back in his own universe, or still in a parallel one. He checks carefully, but... no. Same three red suns, same egglaying mother.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. When Reality Warper George Orr has an "effective dream" and changes the world, no one remembers what the original world was like except him and anyone who was present when he had the dream.
  • Animorphs: Megamorphs #3's first chapter ends with the Wham Line about people ownig slaves, with nobody seeing a problem. It gets worse from there, with Rachel nowhere to be seen, Jake being a egomaniac asshole considering selling out Cassie to the Yeerks for talking back to him, and writing off entire chunks of humanity called Primitives. When the Drode restores their memory to the real timeline, they retain the branch timeline's memories and feel sick to their stomachs. For the rest of the book they have Ripple Effect-Proof Memory, but retain the memory of what will happen if they fail.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Light Fantastic, a Change Spell affects the entire world, beginning in Unseen University and rippling outwards to encompass the entire world. The wizards, who are trained to recognise and act on this sort of thing, realise what's happening and speed to a high vantage point to watch the ripple in reality spread out first over the city and then onwards. note .
    • It recurs in Sourcery when the repentent super-magician, Coin, reverses the damage he has caused and restores the entire world. In Mort, a kind of ripple effect caused by Death's stand-in not killing a Queen when he should have done creates two worlds, superimposed on each other: the dominant world, where the Queen died, tries to restore order by rippling back into the second reality where she still lives. And in books like Thief of Time, the History Monks are revealed to be the super-secret organisation that manages the time-line and seeks to stop things like this from happening.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In the episode "Superstar" even the credits are changed to show the change of a spell that makes Jonathan into a Black Hole Sue.
    • The first episode of season 5 introduces Dawn, Buffy's younger sister who didn't exist before this episode. Everyone (including Buffy) remembers Buffy as always having a younger sister.
  • Supernatural
    • "My Heart Will Go On" features a fallen angel going back in time and changing the timeline, preventing the Titanic from sinking, and causing all sorts of ripple effects. Sam and Dean are blissfully unaware that they're living in an altered timeline until they discover it over the course of the episode.
    • Another episode has Sam & Dean Winchester leading completely different lives as unrelated people Dean Smith and Sam Wesson, an executive and an IT guy working at the same firm who get sucked into a supernatural mystery. Turns out it's a ploy by some angels.
  • One episode of the Weird Science sitcom (based on the movie) starts with Gary and Wyatt getting bullied which they're used to, but they seemingly have no knowledge of Lisa. They then discover evidence of her existence and look into her. It's later discovered they told a classmate about Lisa and the classmate made Lisa her slave. One of the first things she did was wish Gary and Wyatt forgot about Lisa.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" opens with the Enterprise-D coming upon a time rip with the Enterprise-C (lost decades earlier) emerging. Suddenly, reality is changed and the Federation is now involved in a war with the Klingons. On top of that, Tasha Yar (killed in season one) is still on the bridge crew. No one notices anything is different, although Guinan suspects something is wrong.
    • The episode "Conundrum" has an unknown alien ship cause a bit of Laser-Guided Amnesia on the crew and alter the computer records of the ship to make the crew think they are at war with another alien race called the Lysians, who are enemies of the race that screwed with their minds. For good measure, they also have a member of their race infiltrate the crew and pretend to be the Number Two. Everyone is initially caught in the ripple, but Picard eventually does some Spotting the Thread.

    Video Games 
  • Blazblue Centralfiction: from the beginning of the game, the game somehow seems to revert the timeline and events to that of the first game, i.e 2199. Most people act like they would during that partof history. There are a few people, however, who notices something's wrong. It's revealed later that the world they're in aren't the same world they (or the audience) know, but rather a Pocket Dimension called "Embryo", and most people's memories are reverted to the events of the first game. They do, at least, regain their memories around the end of the second act.
  • In Dishonored 2, if you somehow manage to restore Aramis Stilton's sanity by manipulating the past, he will join you on the Dreadful Wale in the next mission, acting like he's been your ally all along — which he has, in this new timeline. What's more, Meagan Foster also suddenly has a right arm, which she had lost in your original timeline while trying to discover what happened to Stilton. Nobody except the protagonist (Emily or Corvo) notices the changes, however, since only the protagonist (and the Outsider) have Ripple Proof Memory.

Feedback: 32 replies

May 18th 2013 at 8:55:27 AM

Contrast Ripple Effect Proof Memory.

In another episode of Supernatural has Sam & Dean Winchester leading completely different lives as unrelated people Dean Smith and Sam Wesson, an executive and an IT guy working at the same firm who get sucked into a supernatural mystery. Turns out it's a ploy by some angels.

May 18th 2013 at 10:01:57 AM

This may sometimes be an Elephant In The Living Room, where the characters refuse to talk about or otherwise acknowledge it.

May 18th 2013 at 10:24:34 AM

In Robert Sheckley's Mindswap, the ending is the protagonist getting his body back in a parallel dimension, and then doubting whether he's back in his own universe, or still in a parallel one. He checks carefully, but... no. Same three red suns, same egglaying mother.

May 20th 2013 at 4:41:54 AM

I suggest expanding "contrast Ripple Effect Proof Memory" to "When a timeline has been changed, everyone who doesn't have a Ripple Effect Proof Memory is covered by this trope. Examples of that trope don't have to be added here."

Also, when this trope is launched the sentence "Everyone else will only remember the new reality..." on Ripple Effect Proof Memory can be Pot Holed to this trope's page.

And an example:

Literature

May 27th 2013 at 12:20:24 AM

Anime

  • The aborted anime Usagichan De Cue has Mimika, a bunny-girl formed from skilled fighter Mikami Inaba merging with a pet rabbit. When Mimika appears in the home of Haru, the rabbit's keeper, nobody seems surprised, not even noticing that Mimika has rabbit ears and a powderpuff tail. Mimika explains that she can project Thought Control, so that people regard her as perfectly normal.

May 29th 2013 at 12:01:22 PM

I don't know about those names. They sound cool, but this trope would cover any change, not just time travel.

May 29th 2013 at 12:30:13 PM

^ Well a ripple effect also has nothing to do with Time Travel. It has that association because of the cause and effect messing around that would ensue if that were possible. I'd go with Caught In The Ripple.

May 30th 2013 at 12:49:10 AM

Would the aftermath of the Crisis On Infinite Earths count? It basically leads to all Post Crisis superheroes forgetting their pasts before the Cosmic Retcon, with only a single minor villain remembering the truth.

Sep 5th 2016 at 1:11:12 PM

Since it seems the OP has forgotten about this one, I'll take up sponsorship.

Sep 5th 2016 at 6:36:49 PM

I don't understand this trope... can someone explani it to me?

Sep 5th 2016 at 9:17:32 PM

Animorphs: Megamorphs #3's first chapter ends with the Wham Line about people ownig slaves, with nobody seeing a problem. It gets worse from there, with Rachel nowhere to be seen, Jake being a egomaniac asshole considering selling out Cassie to the Yeerks for talking back to him, and writing off entire chunks of humanity called Primitives. When the Drode restores their memory to the real timeline, they retain the branch timeline's memories and feel sick to their stomachs. For the rest of the book they have Ripple Effect Proof Memory, but retain the memory of what will happen if they fail.

Sep 6th 2016 at 12:56:59 AM

^^ Contrast Ripple Effect Proof Memory. Something in the story suddenly changes as a result of something like time travel or being in an artificial reality without anyone in-universe commenting on it or treating it out of ordinary until The Reveal. Only the audience notices this discrepancy.

Sep 6th 2016 at 1:32:58 AM

Literature

  • In The Light Fantastc, a Change Spell affects the entire world, beginning in Unseen University and rippling outwards to encompass the entire world. The wizards, who are trained to recognise and act on this sort of thing, realise what's happening and speed to a high vantage point to watch the ripple in reality spread out first over the city and then onwards. note . Terry Pratchett is fond of this trope. it recurs in Sourcery when the repentent super-magician, Coin, reverses the damage he has caused and restores the entire world. In Mort, a kind of ripple effect caused by Death's stand-in not killing a Queen when he should have done creates two worlds, superimposed on each other: the dominant world, where the Queen died, tries to restore order by rippling back into the second reality where she still lives. And in books like Thief Of Time, the History Monks are revealed to be the super-secret organisation that manages the time-line and seeks to stop things like this from happening.

Sep 6th 2016 at 3:06:24 AM

Live Action TV

  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer
    • "Superstar" example
    • The first episode of season 5 introduces Dawn, Buffy's younger sister. Everyone remembers Buffy as always having a younger sister.

Sep 6th 2016 at 5:24:54 AM

So this trope is aboit the general ripple effect?

Sep 6th 2016 at 7:35:32 AM

Live Action Television

  • One episode of the Weird Science sitcom (based on the movie) starts with Gary and Wyatt getting bullied which they're used to, but they seemingly have no knowledge of Lisa. They then discover evidence of her existence and look into her. It's later discovered they told a classmate about Lisa and the classmate made Lisa her slave. One of the first things she did was wish Gary and Wyatt forgot about Lisa.

Sep 6th 2016 at 9:09:58 AM

  • Ushio To Tora: Towards the end of the series, the Hakumen causes Ushio's existence to be entirely forgotten. Every human character meets him for the first time, and are quite angry at the familiarity he displays with them. Even one of Ushio's father's allies doesn't recognize him, saying he never had a son. Fortunately, it turns out Tora still remembers him, and together they end the curse.
  • Wanted: At some point every supervillain banded together to rewrite reality so that not only did the world forget superheroes were real, the superheroes forgot as well (the supervillains, for their part, operate in secrecy). One villain killed his nemeses (Batman And Robin expies) by dunking them in a vat of acid, they kept screaming that they weren't superheroes, they'd just played them on TV.

Sep 6th 2016 at 9:27:04 AM

^^^ Not quite. The Ripple Effect is any change resulting from some sort of tampering. This is about a conspicuous change that no one comments on.

Sep 6th 2016 at 4:12:26 PM

  • Blazblue Centralfiction: from the beginning of the game, the game somehow seems to revert the timeline and events to that of the first game, i.e 2199. Most people act like they would during that partof history. There are a few people, however, who notices something's wrong. It's revealed later that the world they're in aren't the same world they (or the audience) know, but rather a Pocket Dimension called "Embryo", and most people's memories are reverted to the events of the first game. They do, at least, regain their memories around the end of the second act.

Sep 16th 2016 at 7:51:17 AM

Updated to here. Also guys and gals, don't forget to add namespaces to your examples.

Oct 11th 2016 at 7:56:20 AM

Live Action Television

  • The Star Trek The Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" opens with the Enterprise-D coming upon a time rip with the Enterprise-C (lost decades earlier) emerging. Suddenly, reality is changed and the Federation is now involved in a war with the Klingons. On top of that, Tasha Yar (killed in season one) is still on the bridge crew. No one notices anything is different, although Guinan suspects something is wrong.

Oct 15th 2016 at 8:46:12 AM

  • Fixed a few red links
  • Rewrote certain examples to make them flow better or to better demonstrate the trope to people who wouldn't be familiar with the works.

  • The Star Trek The Next Generation episode "Conundrum" has an unknown alien ship cause a bit of Laser Guided Amnesia on the crew and alter the computer records of the ship to make the crew think they are at war with another alien race called the Lysians, who are enemies of the race that screwed with their minds. For good measure, they also have a member of their race infiltrate the crew and pretend to be the Number Two. Everyone is initially caught in the ripple, but Picard eventually does some Spotting The Thread.

Jun 7th 2017 at 5:25:40 PM

Webcomics

  • Misfile centers on goofball angel Rumisiel fumbling some files in the Celestial Filing Depository: essentially, where God keeps track of everything. Rumisiel's goof causes senior Emily McArthur to lose two years of schooling, setting her back to sophomore. Street racer Ash gets gender-swapped into a tomboyish girl. Nobody notices anything amiss, as the misfile error reshapes the universe to fit the elements. Only Ash and Emily are aware of Rumisiel's Reality Warper screw-up.

Jun 7th 2017 at 8:23:18 PM

^I don't think the Misfile example counts because the audience never sees the old timeline and the main characters never have their memory change. This trope is about the audience noticing the change before the characters do.

Jun 7th 2017 at 11:01:19 PM

Instead of having Example As A Thesis in the first paragraph, start with a brief summation of what the trope is. "An installment in a series begins with a radical change to the status quo that the characters don't seem to notice or comment on."

Jun 8th 2017 at 8:33:10 AM

Sorry for not being able to write this up better because it's been ages since I've seen the show, but this also happens in Lost, the 6th / last Season - where the characters suddenly are not shown in a flash-back or flash-forward, but in a flash-sideways or some sort of alternate reality.

Actually also happens earlier in the series, because the first years only show flash-backs, and after a few years they suddenly change to flash-forwards.

Aug 8th 2017 at 3:15:03 AM

  • In Dishonored 2, if you somehow manage to restore Aramis Stilton's sanity by manipulating the past, he will join you on the Dreadful Wale in the next mission, acting like he's been your ally all along — which he has, in this new timeline. What's more, Meagan Foster also suddenly has a right arm, which she had lost in your original timeline while trying to discover what happened to Stilton. Nobody except the protagonist (Emily or Corvo) notices the changes, however, since only the protagonist (and the Outsider) have Ripple Proof Memory.

Aug 9th 2017 at 11:03:44 AM

^^ Sorry, not enough info to add anything. Otherwise, updated to here.

This has already attracted 9 hats. Anything else to do here before launch?

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