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One-Episode Fear

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A character is afraid of something, but only for one episode.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Unicorndance on Nov 4th 2017 at 12:13:15 AM
Last Edited By:
Unicorndance on Dec 3rd 2017 at 9:05:33 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Sometimes, characters are afraid of something, some are scared of a lot of things, and sometimes, they used to be afraid of something, but it went away.

However, sometimes, a character is only scared of something for one episode. Maybe they've always been scared of it or have been scared of it for a while, but it's only cropped up in that episode because it simply wasn't around in previous episodes. Maybe they developed a fear over the course of that episode, but whatever the case, they are never shown or said to be afraid of it before and they are never shown or said to be afraid of it since. If someone mentions in later episodes as a Continuity Nod that the character used to be afraid of it, it still counts, but the character needs to only actually be afraid of it for one episode for it to qualify.

The episode will usually focus on the fear, either as a main plot or a subplot, and usually the focus is on either facing it or making it go away, whether because the character has to do what they're afraid to do (for example, Alice Speaks Fluent Animal but is afraid of lions and she and the others have to face up to a lion) or they recently developed the fear and it's related to something they do all the time (for example, Alice becomes afraid of cats and has to get rid of the fear so she can play with Bob's cat, which they like doing). At the end of the episode, the fear will either already be gone, or the character will state or imply that they're almost not afraid of it anymore (and will effectively not be afraid of it anymore come the next episode, or else it won't be this trope).

The One-Episode Fear can also count as a Compressed Vice if the character is stated to have always had it but previous episodes prove otherwise, or an Informed Flaw if they're mentioned in passing to be scared of something in one episode but act like they're not. Compare Idiot Ball (and its subtropes Villain Ball and Hero Ball) and Smart Ball for other personality traits that disappear as quickly as they appear. May result in Conflict Ball if the fear causes a conflict.


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  • In the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book "The Ugly Truth", Greg the main character says that he is nervous around eggs because of an incident where he dumped devilled eggs into his neighbours' pot plant, leading to them rotting, the neighbours not being able to identify the smell, and moving out. He's never been shown or stated to be afraid of eggs before or since.
  • Mister Men: In her title book, Little Miss Somersault discovers she is afraid of heights, which doesn't show up in any of the subsequent books, or the cartoon.
     Live-Action TV 
  • Charmed: Barbaras makes Prue afraid of water in one episode, which she gets rid of of her own accord.
  • Sesame Street:
    • In the episode "Afraid of the Bark", Zoe becomes scared of dogs after Barkley gives her a fright and it goes away by the end of the episode.
    • In another episode, Elmo becomes scared of fire due to a fire in the convenience store.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The episode "Realm of Fear" focuses on a secondary character Reg Barclay's fear of transporters, that goes away by the end of the episode. Reg is quite nervous in general, but this is the only time he was afraid of transporters.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "One", Tom Paris has to be in stasis but keeps getting out because he has Claustrophobia (because closed spaces remind him of coffins, apparently) and he apparently has always had it, but it's never been relevant before or since.
  • 21 Jump Street: When Penhall and Hanson go undercover in a juvenile prison, Penhall reveals to both the viewer and his best friend that he is claustrophobic and gets shipped out. In a later episode, Penhall is in a very small prison and not claustrophobic at all.
     Western Animation 
  • Arthur:
    • In "Shelter From the Storm", the Brain develops a fear of wind after the titular storm. Leans slightly more towards Played for Drama than other examples, in that he required a psychiatrist, but it's gone by the end of the episode.
    • In "April Ninth", Arthur becomes scared of being separated from his father after the father was in a fire. The fear goes away after a pep talk from his dad and a story about a similar experience he had with Grandma Thora being in a car accident.
    • In "D.W. All Wet", D.W. becomes so scared of octopuses that she doesn't want to swim. She stops being afraid of them by the end of the episode, and it hadn't shown up previously because that was the first time she'd seen an octopus. She does use a lake of octopi as an obstacle when she writes a story, but isn't scared of them herself anymore.
  • Little Princess: The Queen is scared of heights in "I Want to Be a Queen", which seems to surprise her because when she initially climbs the tree, she doesn't know why she's scared due to thinking she isn't scared of heights, but then she concludes that she is. When the Princess tells her the fear will go away, it does.
  • Rugrats:
    • "Down the Drain" focuses on Tommy (who has recently developed the fear) and Chuckie (who used to have the fear, then it went away and came back) being afraid of being sucked down the drain (they're little kids).
    • In "The Slide", Chuckie becomes afraid of slides for the episode after being pushed down a too-big slide. His fear goes away after Susie tells him to face it by saying he's a big, brave dog.
  • The Simpsons: The episode "Fear of Flying" deals with Marge's fear of, well, flying. While it is justified that it doesn't show up in later episodes, because her therapist helps her come to terms with the phobia, which could well have made it go away, it's odd that it didn't show up before, because she travels by plane in previous episodes such as "My Lisa Goes to Washington", and the incident that made her afraid of flying happened in her childhood.
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • In one episode, Spongebob is afraid of clowns, which is odd, because, not only was he never afraid of clowns before or since, he actually likes them in a previous episode "Krabby Land".
    • In "One Course Meal", Plankton is afraid of whales, which he never seemed to be previously or later.
  • In one episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), Leonardo was scared of snakes. They were his greatest fear in fact, until the end of the episode, by which he is no longer scared of them. It was never mentioned until that episode,

Feedback: 22 replies

Nov 4th 2017 at 7:19:26 AM

The Simpsons has "Fear of Flying" has Marge attending a therapist in order the address her fear of flying. While it's justified that it doesn't come up in later episodes since the therapist helps her come to terms with her phobia, it's odd that it didn't come up in earlier episodes such as "Mr Lisa goes to Washington" when the family are shown travelling by plane, as the event that caused her phobia happened during her childhood.

Nov 5th 2017 at 3:41:38 PM

  • In Ozy And Millie, Llewellyn has a fear of dentists due to dentistry being less developed when he was a child. A couple of strips after it's first mentioned, he visits the dentist and gets over his fear, and the issue is never mentioned again.

Nov 5th 2017 at 4:14:51 PM

@Wild Kat Girl: If it's mentioned in one ep and gets over in another, it's technically a two-episode fear, so it doesn't count.

Nov 5th 2017 at 7:47:58 PM

  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • In "One Coarse Meal", Plankton is shown being deathly afraid of whales, even though he wasn't at any point before or after the episode.
    • In "Krabby Land", Spongebob is shown being excited for a clown's arrival, but a later episode portrays him being scared of clowns.
    • In general, the show keeps going back and forth on whether Squidward and Mr. Krabs are afraid of ghosts.

Nov 5th 2017 at 8:24:29 PM

@Zu The Skunk, if it goes back and forth, it's a several-episode fear, and not an example.

Nov 5th 2017 at 10:05:30 PM

Also from Arthur:

  • In "DW All Wet", DW becomes terrified of octopuses, to the point of being afraid to go swimming. In later episodes, she's fine with swimming, although in one episode she does make a lake full of octopuses an obstacle in a story she's making up as a nod to her previous fear of them.

Nov 6th 2017 at 10:36:28 AM

In one episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987, it was a plot point that Leonardo's greatest fear is snakes. It was never mentioned earlier, and he got over it by the end.

Nov 6th 2017 at 10:53:50 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't this the What Do They Fear Episode trope?

Nov 6th 2017 at 1:54:27 PM

@Mr Nightmare Fuel, that's the episode for finding out what someone is already scared of.

Nov 6th 2017 at 5:50:56 PM

I think it can be flexible enough to cover two episode fears, the important thing is the temporary nature of the phobia.

Nov 7th 2017 at 1:17:33 AM

  • {{Series//Charmed}}: Prue was scared of water because Barbas imposed it on her, but she overcomes it by the end of the episode.

Nov 7th 2017 at 2:50:55 AM

Live-Action TV

  • Twenty One Jump Street: When Penhall and Hanson go undercover in a juvenile prison, Penhall reveals he's claustrophobic; this was previously unknown to both the viewer and his In Universe best friend Hanson. Because of it, he freaks out and has to be shipped out, so it was just a plot device to leave Hanson alone in the prison. In a later episode, Penhall is incarcerated in an even smaller prison in El Salvador, and he isn't claustrophobic at all.

Nov 7th 2017 at 9:35:21 AM

Literature: Mr Men: In her titular book, Little Miss Somersault discovers she's afraid of heights. This fear never shows up in any subsequent books or the 1995 show(which is the only series she appears in that has original episodes; the 2014 anime is made of adaptations of the original books like the 1974 and 1983 series).

Nov 7th 2017 at 9:49:07 AM

I still think I'd rather have it be just one episode.

Nov 7th 2017 at 10:28:14 AM

Honestly curious, why though? Tropes Are Flexible, and if it's a two episode fear that never comes into play before or after the two-parter, I'd say that hits this trope in spirit.

Nov 7th 2017 at 3:44:40 PM

  • In The Big Bang Theory, Bernadette's debut has her reveal she has a strong dislike for puppies because "a puppy once bit [her] face", but later episodes has her fine with dogs and even giving Raj a pet dog named Cinnamon.

Nov 7th 2017 at 6:25:40 PM

I don't really know why. :/. I guess that if it's more than one, it's kind of confusing, like Negative Continuity. P.S. Is a strong dislike the same as a fear?

Nov 19th 2017 at 9:08:02 AM

A bomb?! How can I improve?

Dec 3rd 2017 at 9:05:33 AM

I guess it's because...I'm a rookie troper, so I'm worried that if tropes get too flexible, they'll spiral out of control.