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Ass Pull / Live-Action TV

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  • Angel: In the episode "Guise Will Be Guise", Wesley is kidnapped at gunpoint from the office in front of Cordelia. With no clues to the abductor's identity, she decides to try to look at LAPD mugshots to see if she can identify the man. After awhile of searching through mugshots, she gets bored and decides to randomly read a celebrity gossip-rag and happens to come across a picture of the man, who it turns out is a bodyguard to a celebrity. You can tell the writer was on a deadline, or just didn't care to come up with something better.
  • Charmed:
    • In the Post-Script Season, there are suddenly two sisters with an Ultimate Power that is supposed to be even stronger than the Charmed Ones, after seven seasons hyping up the Power of Three.
    • In season six, they eventually determine that Chris is a good guy, Piper and Leo's Kid from the Future, and that Wyatt causes the Bad Future. Try squaring that with anything he had done up until this point in the series, and it's quite clear they had another idea/were making this up as they went along.
    • The introduction of the Magic School in season six sort of negates the very premise of the show: the sisters discover their powers in their twenties because their grandmother bound them to protect the girls from the warlock Nicholas. What's the best way to protect the girls: keep them completely in the dark about their powers, legacy and the threats they'll have to face, or let them be taken care of by experienced witches and even Elders in a place where evil can't even enter and they'll be able to take their skills to the next level?
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  • Dallas: Perhaps the ultimate television ass pull is the infamous reappearance of Bobby Ewing in the shower.
  • In Doctor Who:
    • So many episodes end with the villains being foiled by some brand-new, never-before-seen trick of time, space, the TARDIS, or the Doctor's sonic screwdriver that it's difficult to keep count.
    • The First Doctor didn't have a sonic screwdriver but he was able to use the ring he wore to fix the TARDIS's sabotaged lock. His explanation was that the ring had "certain properties" and he didn't want to discuss it any further.
    • It may sound incredible, but the now core concept of regeneration was itself an Ass Pull. William Hartnell was getting too ill to play The Doctor, but they didn't want to end the show — so Hartnell himself came up with the idea that Time Lords could regenerate into a new body.
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    • The Doctor managing to disrupt the Daleks' power supply in "The Power of the Daleks".
    • The glass-shattering scream that Gallifreyans are capable of, which resolved a cliffhanger in "The Power of Kroll" but was never mentioned before and will probably never be used again.
    • The Doctor's previously unmentioned 'respiratory bypass system' which saves him from strangulation in "Pyramids of Mars" note .
    • Undoing Peri's death off-screen. Actress Nicola Bryant didn't even know about this until years later, to boot!
    • Then there's Captain Jack Harkness' performance in "Bad Wolf". While completely naked he reaches behind himself and produces a small laser gun. This is immediately lampshaded when he is asked where he got it from. While the act in itself is an Ass Shove, it also qualifies as Ass Pull as there was no indication that he had it prior to using it. It was a scene played for laughs though.
    • The Gallifreyan mind meld in "The Girl in the Fireplace". Has there really never been a suitable reason to use it at any time in the previous 27 seasons?
    • "Journey's End" features some of the biggest Ass Pulls in the history of the show. Suddenly the Doctor is able to send enough regeneration energy into a severed hand to conveniently grow a half-human Doctor when a human touches it. And when the human touching it is electrocuted she suddenly gets Time Lord intelligence, just in time to stop the Daleks destroying the Universe.
    • In "Journey's End", the Doctor is forced to wipe Donna's memories, saying that if she ever remembers him, her head will be incinerated. A year and a half later in "The End of Time", she does remember him — only then the Doctor says he added a "defense mechanism" which knocks out her and everyone in the vicinity. This comes very handy in incapacitating an enemy that the Doctor could not possibly have foreseen, though this can be handwaved by the fact that it could very well have been set up for any general enemy. However this is still a rather odd mechanism if she begins remembering, as it might not even have been an enemy and all it does from what we see is take down a few foes close to her.
    • The concept of Time Lords undergoing Gender Swap at regeneration had literally never been so much as hinted at in the 48 years prior to the 2011 episodes "The Doctor's Wife", when it was tossed into a script as a joke, one that was later taken seriously, much to the chagrin or delight of fans.
    • "Let's Kill Hitler" resolves the plotline from the previous episode of Amy and Rory's daughter been kidnapped by explaining that she somehow made it to Leadworth from New York and became their never seen before best friend, Mels. Unfortunately, it also establishes something of a timeline issue since she was in NYC in the late 1960s but grew up with them as Mels decades later. The intervening years are never mentioned or explained.
    • "Robot of Sherwood":
      • Clara's sudden and previously unrevealed knowledge of TaeKwonDo, though a downplayed trope since it has no effect on the plot.
      • Although the spoon has relevance to the swordfight, it does seem to appear out of nowhere in the TARDIS. The Doctor is discussing Robin Hood, he's flipping through a book, he turns away from Clara, we hear a "CHING" sound effect and suddenly there's a big spoon in his hand, covered with either icing or cream, which the Doctor proceeds to lick. Clara doesn't even seem to notice. And the spoon immediately appears to vanish when the Doctor starts hunting for the Polaroid. (And it should be noted there is no indication of a table or anything else holding the source of the cream/icing either.) If the Doctor hadn't later needed the spoon for the swordfight, this would have met most of the criteria for a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
    • In "Kill the Moon", the moon creature lays a second egg right after it's born, without any sign given before that it could, neatly sidestepping any problems destroying the moon would cause and proving Clara was right.
    • Steven Moffat has been accused of this trope with regards to retroactively establishing both River Song and Clara Oswald as bisexual in Series 9, despite neither character displaying any tendencies in this direction previously. Possibly justified as an attempt at future-proofing the canonical romance between the Doctor and the two women in anticipation of the Doctor undergoing a Gender Swap at some point.
  • Arrowverse:
    • Arrow: The series has had quite a few minor ones over the years, but there are some big ones too.
      • In general, every time the Human Target shows up, it's with zero foreshadowing to get the team out of an otherwise impossible spot.
      • In season 6, Cayden James was supposed to be the overarching Big Bad, but then his actor decided to leave. The second half of the season quickly had to be rewritten to get rid of Cayden and elevate Diaz (who had originally just been Cayden's ally) to a true threat.
    • The Flash (2014) has several, often lumped under the general category of "because of the Speed Force."
      • One case that averts abuse of the Speed Force is the solution to the problem in season 2's Christmas episode, where The Trickster has randomly distributed bombs in Christmas presents to children around the city. They have no way of finding all the bombs in time, so Harry and Cisco come up with a solution to throw one of the bombs through the dimensional breach and this will cause the other bombs to be magnetically attracted to the first and suck them all through the same breach. Somehow involving magnetism.
      • Towards the end of the second season, this pretty much became one of Zoom's Required Secondary Powers (the other being to infect the heroes with an Idiot Ball when needed). One of the biggest examples being in the penultimate episode, the team figure out a way to disable all Earth 2 metahumans using a frequency that will cause them all intense headaches (this itself being a bit of an Ass Pull). How does Zoom get out of this one? He punches a hole into another universe and escapes; bare in mind, before this point Zoom had never demonstrated this ability, and in fact it was a plot point that they'd trapped him on Earth 2 and he needed Cisco to let him out, and while it could maybe be explained by his taking Barry's speed (Barry had, after an upgrade, demonstrated he could run through to other universes, itself an Ass Pull to justify the crossover with Supergirl (2015)), they never even offer so much and the heroes react as if this was a completely expected action of his.
      • Another example is Zoom's motivation, which repeatedly keeps changing without any foreshadowing, but treated as if this was his plan all along. Firstly he just wants to kill Barry, but then Harry figures out actually he's after Barry's speed, wanting him to improve so he could have more to steal. We then, later, discover that he's doing this because he's Secretly Dying, and with virtually no foreshadowing, it turns out all along he was really Jay Garrick (or rather, Hunter Zolomon assuming the identity of Jay Garrick), who had similarly revealed he was Secretly Dying when Caitlin performs some secret tests on his DNA (despite the fact she'd done so already when they first met and never picked this up). Once this is resolved, he then suddenly wants to invade Earth 1 with an army of metahumans, with him claiming to have 'conquered' Earth 2 (something that was never shown to be true, but is treated as such; he terrorized Earth 2 Central City, but its police force were still actively fighting against him). When they defeat this army, however, it turns out he was actually building a device to destroy the Multiverse so that he could rule the only universe left, something that had no foreshadowing to even be possible and he'd never demonstrated this level of scientific capability.
    • Supergirl (2015): Season 3 hit a bad spot of Troubled Production when the lead writer was fired for sexual assault allegations. They had already filmed half the season, but didn't want to use his scripts for the remainder (morality aside, it would have required paying him royalties). This resulted in some hasty rewrites, plots going in different directions than they were foreshadowed, and a minor sympathetic villain suddenly becoming much more evil to help join a couple plots together. While season 3 was generally considered reasonably good despite these problems, the shift was so obvious that everyone noticed.
    • Legends of Tomorrow: Used pretty shamelessly in season 4. The first half of the season was written with the intent of Hank Haywood being fully evil and willingly in league with a demon. However, the writers loved the actor so much that they decided they didn't want him to be evil after all, and changed it so that Hank's plan was to build an amusement park to share the magical creatures with the world. Nate facepalms at this and says it's such a stupid plan that the Legends really would have liked him more if they had gotten to know each other better.
  • The reveal that Dan Humphrey, with some help from Jenny is Gossip Girl comes out of left field and makes no sense at all unless you disregard pretty much every Gossip Girl blast from the first five seasons. Given the way the show was written, this would have happened no matter who they revealed it to be.
  • iCarly:
    • Inverted in the episode "iSpace Out", where Carly is suddenly revealed to be aggressively claustrophobic, and breaks the window of a training space station module to escape, despite multiple occasions earlier where Carly is perfectly normal in spaces that are half that size or less. The inversion is that the ass pull isn't used to resolve the plot, but in fact to fail the plot and bring about an end to the episode. This was done because the writers knew that having iCarly IN SPACE would be seen as a Jumping the Shark moment and therefore had to find a way to stop it.
    • Played straight with Sam liking Freddie in "iOMG". It's an ass pull because of the desire to create a Shocking Swerve season ending Cliffhanger ending. In "iOMG" Sam liking Freddie just happens. There's no previous episode arc or foreshadowing or explanation to the audience that Sam likes Freddie. The focus is on protecting a cliff-hanger ending where Sam only reveals she likes Freddie right at the end of the episode, leaving Freddie's response as the cliffhanger. Having any indication that it's Sam and Freddie would kill the swerve. They also use Brad as a Red Herring. In fact, the characters on the show itself make reference to how suddenly and strange it is, as they only mention that Sam's behaviour only started when Brad showed back up, which was only for that episode. Sam was showing signs of liking Freddie before it would kill the plot of the episode and spoil the dramatic ending. Later on in the short arc the reason is revealed to have been an incident that was never shown and took place entirely off screen, with no reference as to when it happened.
  • Life with Boys: Tess begins dating her wrestling rival Bobby and Allie, who was dating Bobby prior is not okay with it at first but then is, feels left out. Tess sets time aside to spend with Allie when Bobby gets sick, but ends up pretending to be sick to get out of it so she can go to a playoffs game. It turns out Bobby pretended to be sick so he could go to the game too. Tess breaks up with him for lying, but then realizes the hypocrisy when Allie catches her lying and decides since Allie forgave her, she can forgive him too. Cue Bobby getting another girl's number immediately at the end of the episode and the break up is permanent. That one ass pull makes the whole arc an ass pull in itself.
  • Lost:
    • Everything regarding the Man in Black/Smoke Monster during the final season:
      • His conflict with Jacob, which had the added bonus of replacing the much hyped conflict between Ben Linus and Charles Widmore.
      • His nature and Freudian Excuse.
      • Plus his getting Mode Locked as John Locke. We never learn why, or how Ilana knows this. Basically, it was just an excuse to keep Terry O'Quinn on the show in the final season.
      • The claim that the Man in Black can't leave the island unless he kills all the candidates. This is never really explained properly. It's essentially a Hand Wave so that the character can do evil things, and thus give the audience a reason to root against him. For that matter, how was Jacob keeping him on the island?
    • In season 4, Hurley gets the ability to talk to ghosts out of nowhere, which is never explained. Even weirder, this is the same season that introduces a new character who can also talk to ghosts, so what was wrong with using him for these scenes?
  • In Law & Order, Serena Southerlyn's "Is this because I'm a lesbian?" Word of God is that he wanted people talking about it at the water cooler the next day, making it a Shocking Swerve.
  • The Lost Room: The business about the Law of Conservation of Objects comes out of nowhere in the last five minutes of the series and is crucial to the resolution of the main plot.
  • In The New Adventures of Old Christine, Christine's brother Matthew is a nanny for her son Ritchie during Season 1. Then he enters medical school, drops out later that season and then is suddenly a therapist seeing patients. He even says that he "glad he's a doctor" now, indicating that he has somehow obtained a Ph.D. in psychology over the course of a semester.
  • Power Rangers:
  • After spoilers for The Reveal were supposedly leaked on Reddit, the writers of Pretty Little Liars wrote in an ending for the series that angered many fans, making a long-running villain a character that had been around for half a season and garnering accusations of transphobia. The reveal shown could have been what was always planned, but many fans speculate that this trope was invoked as a result of the spoiler leak.
  • Though this is more of an in-universe example than a proper ass pull, Psych employs this when Shawn, desperate for an explanation, claims that a man was killed by a T. Rex. Then it turns out he was a paleontologist and, on dying, fell on a skeleton. Even Shawn is surprised by this.
  • The fourth season of Sons of Anarchy has a whopper in the season finale. The season spends a good deal of time focusing on an Assistant US Attorney who spends the bulk of the season building a big RICO case against the Sons that eventually sees two of their members flip (albeit one of them under duress) and one of them go to prison. The aforementioned Attorney and his people are all set to move on a gun deal the Sons are planning and they're sure to at least make some arrests. Suddenly, the Cartel guys introduced early in the season drive up, reveal that they are in fact CIA agents and tell them to close down the investigation because the CIA is using the club to take down bigger fish. This plot twist (alongside the Irish's sudden refusal to deal with anybody but Clay) not only crushes the RICO investigation but prevents Jax from killing Clay, Jax from being able to leave Charming, saves Bobby from going to prison, allows Juice's disloyalty to stay a secret from everyone in the club and leaves Jax forced to do the CIA's bidding with the threat of them letting the RICO investigation go through should Jax turn on them.
  • Stargate Atlantis needed a "dramatic" way to get Atlantis involved in the battle with the Super-Hive, so Zelenka pulled "ass drive" out of McKay's wormhole.
    • Every previous season finale ended on a big cliffhanger. It was obvious that the cliffhanger this time was going to be a Wraith ship in orbit of a defenseless Earth; but when they found out they were canceled, they had to wrap the plot up in-episode. A little bit of ass pulling seemed like the better alternative...
    • The whole "moving the control chair to Area 51" bit also seems like an ass pull, simply to put the chair (and the research facility with it) in a position to be blown up before it can be used to fight the Super-Hive. The reason given for moving it doesn't make sense at any possible level, either. The (real-life) treaty banning militarization of Antarctica certainly would not apply to an artifact predating humanity itself, and the IOA (which was founded for the explicit purpose of preventing America from monopolizing alien technology) would never have insisted that the chair be moved to America; as international territory, Antarctica would've been the perfect place for it from their perspective. Not that it would've done much good, given how well Atlantis's own drones do against the enemy ship.
    • Stargate SG-1 referenced this trope in "Redemption, Part 2":
      O'Neill: (to Carter) Well, you do have a talent for pulling solutions out of your butt. (beat) Head!
  • Star Trek:
    • Spock's "internal eyelid" in "Operation — Annihilate!" Never mentioned before. Never mentioned again, right up until a single episode in the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise.
    • Similarly, in the Next Gen episode "Ethics", Worf is injured seriously enough to be paralyzed. He asks Riker to kill him before finally submitting to experimental surgery. The surgery fails and Worf is declared dead. Then, in the words of Memory Alpha, "Due to the redundancies of Klingon physiology, where every organ in the Klingon body has a backup organ that activates whenever damage occurs to the first, his internal backups were initiated and Worf woke up." And everyone watching sat up and said, "...the hell??" These "redundancies" were never remotely alluded to before and, though they were discussed in a random Star Trek: Voyager episode, this theoretically extremely important and useful feature of Klingon biology is plot-relevant exactly once, in "Ethics"—incidentally making mincemeat of the episode-titling moral considerations of euthanasia, experimental medicine, etc.
      • Particularly glaring due the fact that the Klingon's Hat of being a Proud Warrior Race who value combat above all else. Seems like this would come up fairly often with them.
    • In-Universe:
      • For an example of the "Character Made It Up On The Spot", in The Original Series episode "The Corbomite Maneuver" Kirk pulls some Corbomite out of his ass, calling it a material that can reflect the attackers' destructive potential back on them and everything else in a large area and then some. It was entirely a bluff to get Balok to back down. It worked so well, he pulls it out again for some Romulans in "The Deadly Years". Then they actually made a Corbomite Reflector — it's the special equipment of The Federation capital ships in Star Trek: Armada. It was simply named after Kirk's bluff and that games don't count in Star Trek canon. Notably, Harlan Band tries the exact same maneuver (in a bit of a Shout-Out) against the Spung in an episode of Space Cases. It doesn't work, apparently because the Spung warlord is played by George Takei.
      • Kirk is clearly the master of this maneuver, as in "A Piece of the Action," he generates the card game Fizzbin from the orifice mentioned in the trope's name, complete with nigh-indescribable rules (thus doubling as a Bavarian Fire Drill). Suffice it to say, you don't want two jacks and a king on a Tuesday night. Kirk's mastery of this extends as far as confusing people long enough to get a good grip on the table that's going to be upended. Fizzbinn was later mentioned as a game in Quark's (in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
    • This trope is so endemic to Star Trek that musician Aurelio Voltaire made a song that's entirely about hanging a lampshade on it, the end of which is the page's quote.
  • Thank God You're Here is a sketch/game show where various comedians are brought into different sets with different plots and as different characters. They aren't told what they're going to be doing or who they're supposed to be — though costumes can occasionally give them hints — and they are required to play the role they're given as best they can. It's like Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but without the explanations.
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun: The Reveal in the Grand Finale (well, the first half of it) that Don, Sally's cop boyfriend, was actually a coward and joined the police force hoping he wouldn't have to fight crime. Yes, that certainly explains all the times he left the police station to deal with crimes and often showed up gun at the ready. It seems like the main plot Mary learning that Dick and company were aliens was apparently not enough to fill the hour, and they needed something extra.
  • 24:
    • It was decided only towards the end of the first season that Nina would be the series's major mole, despite it contradicting some of her actions as seen earlier in the season.
    • Also, in the final season, the reveal that Dana Walsh is a mole. Not only does it come out of nowhere, but suddenly the way she dealt with her criminal ex-boyfriend in the season's first half makes no sense, as with her new characterization she clearly would have just killed him.
    • Alan Wilson comes out of nowhere and is revealed to be the true mastermind behind Day 7 and Day 5 events.
  • The Vampire Diaries:
    • Towards the end of Season 2 Bonnie's magic has become this, with her coming up with incredibly convenient spells for numerous bad situations the characters have found themselves in.
    • In the final season (revolving around psychic powers), Bonnie states that her Grams once told her she is psychic. This only raises the question of why the latest Big Bad tries to mentor her rather than simply eliminating a potential threat.

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