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Evil Cannot Comprehend Good / Live-Action TV

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  • Angel:
    • This is also the reason that the Circle of the Black Thorn make Angel sign away his role in the Shanshu Prophecy after he joins them, in an effort to prevent him betraying them for his divine reward. It never occurs to them that he would do good without the prospect of a divine reward, and that brings about their downfall.
    • Marcus Hamilton also demands to know why Angel continues fighting the Senior Partners despite having signed away his rights to the Shanshu Prophecy, to which Angel tells, "the people who don't care about anything will never understand the people who do." Hamilton retorts that they won't care.
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    • Angelus is completely unable to understand why Angel does what he does or the "human condition," firmly believing that humans only exist to suffer and die.
  • Arrowverse;
    • In Batwoman, Alice expected Kate to share her joy that Catherine was dead and Jacob framed for it. What Alice failed to understand was that, no matter how Kate felt about Catherine, Kate didn't want her dead because she was still Mary's mom and she was still a person. Kate, while still being a little bitter about Jacob giving up the search for Beth, also didn't want anything bad to happen to him, not only because Jacob is her father but because he's a good person who didn't do anything wrong. Even Mouse calls Alice out on still believing that Kate will join her after everything she done.
    • In Supergirl (2015), Lex Luthor fits this in so many ways;
      • Sending Red Daughter to learn about America almost backfired on him, as she started to see that the people there weren't as bad as she had been told.
      • In "The Quest for Peace", he firmly believes that the truth is meaningless, and that using "spin" to manipulate the people will gain him their everlasting trust.
      • In Crisis On Infinite Earths, Lex is utterly dumbfounded to discover Earth-167 Superman gave up his powers to raise his family as a normal man. The idea of giving up all that power to be happy is impossible for Lex to comprehend. He also assumes that only Earth-167 Clark is Superman, refusing to believe it's the same for his Clark Kent.
      • In "Deus Lex Machina", he genuinely didn't consider that arranging for the death of Jeremiah Danvers would cause Lena to have sympathy for Kara, and lead her to try and mend fences.
      • In "The Missing Link", he believed the failure of Lena's project would convince her that taking over the world would be the only sane option. He turned out to be very wrong on that.
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  • On Babylon 5 the Shadows brought Sheridan to Z'Ha'Dum figuring they could convert him, either willingly or forcibly. It never occurred to them until it was too late that he might crash a ship loaded with nuclear bombs into the city he was currently inside just to slow or stop them.
  • One of Cavil's major miscalculations in Battlestar Galactica was the naïve assumption that just living as humans would convince the Final Five Cylons that human life was crap. He didn't even bother to give them abusive parents in their fabricated backstories. Compounded by his inability to comprehend that killing off people would cause the Final Five to mourn them, not stop loving them.
  • Blindspot: Briggs's plan to destroy the FBI from the inside by erasing Remy's memory and sending her to infiltrate the FBI has a fatal flaw that she doesn't anticipate. It doesn't occur to her that a person with no memory would naturally be horrified by her master plan.
  • As with many crime dramas, Bones has killers who never consider how people may react differently than they expect.
    • In one episode, hacker/killer Pelant gives Hodgins a seemingly Sadistic Choice: Shut down a computer server that is draining Hodgins' millions of dollars or keep it running to stop a drone that would blow up a school in the Middle East. Pelant assumes Hodgins will either shut it down or at least waste time trying to Take a Third Option, choosing money first and breaking Hodgins' relationship with the rest of the team. It never occurs to him that Hodgins has always hated being rich and thus has no problem sacrificing his money to save innocent lives.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Season 4 episode "Who Are You?", Faith has taken over Buffy's body and experiments by trying to live Buffy's life. She gets very confused and rather upset when people are nice to her. Especially Riley. It seems that "emotionally intimate and loving" is the only way Faith hasn't had sex yet.
    • In Season 4's "The Yoko Factor", Spike shows that he knows what The Power of Friendship is ..., but also shows that he doesn't understand it yet. He identifies Buffy's friends as strong assets ... but is absurdly confident that he of all people can cause a permanent falling out between Buffy and the Scoobies on the eve before their big fight with Adam. Spike's sowing of discord causes a semi-dramatic quarrel that angers the Scoobies for all of a half episode. Then they rally about, and unleash epic ass-kicking. Friends fight, but friends apologize and make up too. Adam, being evil, is also waayyyy too eager to imagine that a squabble will be enough to cause a serious rift between the Slayer and her friends.
    • In Season 6's "Dead Things" Buffy thinks she's accidentally killed an innocent bystander. Spike wants to dispose of the evidence and sweep the matter under the rug, and can't understand why Buffy wants to turn herself into the police.
      Spike: Why are you doing this to yourself?
      Buffy: [tearful] A girl is dead because of me.
      Spike: And how many people are alive because of you? How many have you saved? One dead girl doesn't tip the scale.
      Buffy: That's all it is to you, isn't it? Just another body! You can't understand why this is killing me, can you?
    • This becomes inverted when Spike says that he won't let Buffy turn herself in because he loves her. Buffy responds by savagely beating Spike, implying that she's the evil thing who can't comprehend Spike's selfless actions.
    • Much earlier, The Master waffles with this trope. In the Pilot, The Master understands a heroic slayer well enough to know she'll risk life and limb to save Jesse, and baits his first trap for her accordingly. Twelve episodes later, the Master never pauses to consider that the Slayer herself has her own friends who will risk life and limb for her... and is blindsided accordingly. In his defense, he though he'd already finished her off.
      • It also has to mentioned that the Council thought similarly. It's been mentioned several times that Buffy is the only Slayer in recorded history to survive longer than a few years, and it can only be attributed to her friends and allies. Seen in a certain light, it might not be that evil can't comprehend a Slayer having people willing to risk their lives but that evil not expecting something that has never happened before.
    • In "The Gift", Glory reveals to Dawn that the ritual to activate the Key can only be stopped if Dawn herself dies, so even if Buffy does show up, it may very well be to kill her rather than save her. Glory couldn't be more wrong; Buffy adamantly refuses to even consider killing her own sister, even to save the world.
    • In Season 6's "Villains", after killing Tara and nearly killing Buffy, Warren is informed that Willow is out for his blood... and honestly doesn't seem to understand why.
      Rack: She's gonna blow this town apart... starting with you.
      Warren: Me? What did I... What did I do to her? beat Okay, okay. I-I shot her friend.
      Rack: I feel death.
      Warren: But the Slayer's alive! And she heals!
      Rack: She might, but somebody's stone cold. And that... is why the witch wants your head.
  • On Burn Notice Larry has this problem with Michael in that he can't realize why Michael won't be more like him and enjoy his work as a Psycho for Hire. Michael but says it outright after yet another failed attempt by Larry to corrupt him before he leaves him to the police (with Sam on a nearby building ready to shoot him dead if he tries to run).
    "You know the difference between us? I really do understand you. You only think you understand me."
  • Charmed
    • When Cole is possessed by the Source, the rest of the demons assume he is only keeping Phoebe around because he needs someone to give birth to his son and that he only wants an heir. His secretary Julie suggests casting a spell to allow her to carry Phoebe's baby and says he would be free to rule without her love holding him back. She and the others don't seem to realise that Cole loves Phoebe and that he doesn't just want to have an heir, he's excited about being a father. Unfortunately for them, the Seer can comprehend good and uses this to her advantage.
    • The Seer in season 7 (played by Charisma Carpenter) is a Demon and therefore can't feel human emotion. But she knows of it through her visions—which is why she strikes a deal with the sisters to become human. This trope is arguably inverted as the sisters initially wonder why a Demon would willingly give up their powers for the things they themselves take for granted.
    • The Triad are wise enough with this trope to appoint Cole as the one to take out the sisters in the first place. As he's half human, he would be able to blend in better and pass for human long enough to gain their trust. They then veer into Genre Blind in the same way, not anticipating that he might actually fall in love with Phoebe and be prompted to protect her instead.
    • When The Triad return in Season 8, they appear to have learned from this mistake. They become aware that Christy's love for her parents could bring about a Heel–Face Turn for her—so they have them killed. They guess (correctly!) that eliminating Christy's one Morality Pet will unite her and Billie together to turn on the sisters.
  • In Chinese Paladin, villain Bai Yue cannot for the life of him comprehend what love is, or why the heroes keep surviving his death traps because of it.
  • In one episode of Columbo, he explains that because the killer has no conscience, she was incapable of thinking her stepdaughter would demand money as a way to expose her as the murderer rather than for the selfish reasons her stepdaughter presented.
  • In Community, Cornelius’ will states that Pierce and seven of his closest friends must participate in a video game contest with the prize being Pierce’s inheritance. He assumed that they would all fight each other for the money, and Pierce would be left either with no inheritance or having lost all his friends. It never occurred to him that the study group would work together to help Pierce win, which is what they all decide to do immediately.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Zoe's Reprise", the UnSub says that he is a big fan of Rossi's books, but doesn't understand what he means when Rossi says that he fundamentally doesn't understand why people choose to kill. The UnSub states that the urge to kill is normal for him; he doesn't understand why everyone else doesn't have that urge.
  • In Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Lex Luthor of Earth-38 drops in on the Clark Kent of Earth-167 with the intent on killing him. When Clark No-Sell's a chunk of Kryptonite by revealing he gave up his powers, Lex goes on a rant not understanding why he did such a thing. And when he realizes that he did so to have a family, he just gets angry.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Dæmons", when Jo Grant throws herself in front of the Doctor, the idea of this actually destroys Azal.
    • The Doctor ends up in a Mexican Standoff with the Daleks in "Destiny of the Daleks": he is threatening to destroy Davros with a bomb unless they let him leave with his captive, but the Daleks respond by bringing in several human captives and exterminating them one by one until the Doctor surrenders. He threatens to set off the bomb right on the spot, but the Daleks argue that such an action would be irrational and impossible because it would kill the Doctor as well. Davros tells them that the Doctor is actually willing to do just that since "his logic is impaired by irrational sentiment".
    • "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit": The Beast underestimates the Doctor's drive to save the universe, particularly when it believes the Doctor won't risk losing Rose to do so.
    • In "Doomsday", the Cybermen stage an invasion of Earth, and the Cyberleader demands a complete surrender from humanity, telling them that they will be converted into Cybermen and have their emotions, fears, and differences taken away. When humanity forms a resistance and tries to fight off the Cybermen, the Cyber-Leader reacts with confusion; the Doctor informs it that humans aren't going to willingly surrender the very things that make them human.
    • "Last of the Time Lords": The Tenth Doctor's entire plan for defeating the Master hinges on making the Master believe that he sent his companion Martha around the globe to collect the pieces of a special gun designed to completely kill a Time Lord, when her actual purpose is something far less simple and violent. And, even though the Master had fought the Doctor many times before, it works perfectly.
    • Played straight in "Victory of the Daleks". They have given a robot the memories of a real human, to use as an infiltrator, and reveal that said robot is actually a bomb capable of destroying the world. They activate him, knowing the Doctor will let them flee to go save the Earth. The Doctor tries to disarm the robot by reminding him of his human emotions — feelings of loss, pain and misery. Unfortunately the Daleks are perfectly familiar with this kind of emotion and it doesn't work. Amy, however, reminds him of love, something Daleks could never comprehend. The robot's essential humanity asserts itself and the bomb is disarmed.
    • Inverted in "The Big Bang". The Dalek presumes that since River Song is an associate of the Doctor, she won't shoot it while it's vulnerable.
      River: I'm Doctor River Song. Check your records.
      Dalek: Mercy?
      River: Say it again.
      Dalek: Mercy!?
      River: One more time.
      Dalek: MERCYYYY!!!
    • In "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", the Doctor finds an ark containing the last of the dinosaurs that survived the cataclysm that wiped them out 65 million years earlier, and Solomon, a Bounty Hunter intent on selling the dinosaurs to the highest bidder. When Solomon assumes that the Doctor's interest in the dinosaurs is purely financial, like his, the Doctor berates him for assuming that everyone in the universe shares his values.
    • Reiterated in "The Doctor Falls", when the Cybermen's first wave is defeated on floor 507: they assumed they were doing the unconverted humans a favour, and aren't prepared when the humans don't see it that way.
    • Comes up in various spin-offs; for example, in the Eleventh Doctor comic story The Blood of Azrael, the Doctor faces Danny Fisher, a former soldier who has adopted a twisted anti-alien vendetta because he is convinced that every alien in existence wants humanity dead, with Danny so convinced of his belief that he explicitly asks the Doctor to tell him the 'truth' about his reasons for saving humanity for so long when he believes he is about to commit mass genocide of an alien culture, unable to comprehend that an alien might help humanity just because he likes them.
  • In Fargo, Agent Budge challenges Lester with the fox/rabbit/cabbage logic puzzle, which he solves immediately. Later, he's unable to comprehend Molly Solverson's story about a man who lost a glove and, figuring that one glove is useless, threw the other away on the off chance that someone might find both. How to manipulate circumstances to his own benefit is second nature, but a selfless act is beyond him.
  • Farscape:
    • John Crichton was this in several episodes involving alien mind control and/or drugs. Part of it is an acquired immunity; since it happens to him so often he's quick to Spot the Thread. He's also of highly questionable sanity at the best of times, for more or less the same reason.
    • Harvey, being a mental clone of Scorpius, is particularly confused when Crichton chooses love over revenge—he wasn't programmed to consider any opinion but those of Scorpius worthwhile.
    • Averted in the case of the real Scorpius, who correctly guessed that Crichton would trade his wormhole knowledge for Aeryn's safety, and quietly engineered a situation in which his help would be required to rescue Aeryn. Even Crichton was impressed—and more than a little bit embarrassed, since he'd claimed that Scorpius didn't understand him two episodes ago:
  • Firefly: When Captain Mal catches up to Saffron, she claims that the reason she plays mind games and acts like a manipulative, murderous Femme Fatale is because, she believes, that's just how people are. Mal begs to differ.
    Saffron: Everybody plays each other. That's all anybody ever does. We play parts.
    Mal: You got all kinds a learnin’ and you made me look the fool without even trying, and yet here I am with a gun to your head. That’s 'cause I've got people with me, people who trust each other, who do for each other, and ain't always looking for the advantage.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • Captain Cold thinks Flash became a superhero for the adrenaline rush, which is the reason why he became a criminal.
    • Hunter Zolomon/Zoom kidnapped Caitlin, convinced he loves her and can get her to love him again through Stockholm Syndrome. He doesn't understand that she fell in love with Jay Garrick, a good man with a heroic drive, not a Serial Killer.
    • Zoom is also convinced Barry is a hero so he can feel clean and that it's all an act. Because Zoom spent so long pretending to be Jay Garrick, he's convinced Barry finds it exhausting, not realizing Barry is a hero because he loves helping people.
    • In season 4, the Thinker is brilliant at predicting so much of what the Flash will do without fail. However, he's utterly thrown when a confonfrontation between him, Flash and Siren-X fails as Barry doesn't stop her. That's because Thinker had mocked Barry on his failure to save Ralph Dibny and Barry froze. DeVoe honestly cannot grasp how Barry could have been affected by such a trauma. It shows how his growing intellect is robbing him of understanding human emotions and sets up his eventual defeat.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Joffrey seems genuinely baffled but intrigued when Margaery stops to donate some toys and spend time with the children in an orphanage of Flea Bottom in "Valar Dohaeris". During dinner, we hear Joffrey speak of her work (in a positive light, mind you) as if charity were some strange and obscure, but totally alien concept. When Jack Gleeson was asked in an interview what sort of thing Joffrey would never do, he has to think hard before responding with "charity work" instead of something vile.
      Joffrey: Well as Ser Loras said, Lady Margaery has done this sort of, uh... charitable work before.
    • Kraznys mo Naklos and his fellow slave masters cannot comprehend that Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil.
    • Tywin shows shades of this:
      • In "Kissed by Fire", he expresses confusion and annoyance over Tyrion's protests over his reward of a forced marriage to Sansa Stark, remarking that she's both beautiful and the remaining heir to Winterfell once Robb's dealt with. Thus, in Tywin's eyes Tyrion is ungratefully complaining about becoming one of the most powerful men in Westeros, rather than forcing a child who's suffered at Joffrey's hands to have to marry him and essentially ordered to exert Marital Rape License.
      • In "Mhysa", they once again have a clash of opinions over the Red Wedding. Tywin attempts to point out that it's no different than a victory on the battlefield, even sparing lives in the long run. However, Tyrion, despite not being adverse to cheating in war, believes that such an action crosses a line that will never be forgotten and may only serve to fuel a future conflict.
      • Even when Tyrion has him at crossbowpoint on the privy and has made it very evident how he felt for Shae, Tywin continually dismisses her as "just a whore" when trying to compliment and reassure Tyrion of his esteem for him, not thinking Tyrion would be offended by such a callous dismissal of the woman he loved. Tyrion proves him dead wrong.
    • Well, "Evil" is pushing it, but Bronn cannot wrap his head around the Unsullied fighting for Daenerys on their own free will because they believe in her and what she is trying to build. For a sellsword that fights for money, fame, and women, which are things that the Unsullied have no use for, their motivations are quite alien to him.
    • This is Littlefinger's fatal flaw in season seven. He spends his time trying to turn Sansa and Arya against one another, playing on the idea of their jealousy and giving "clues" and "advice" to Sansa on how Arya wants to kill her and take over Winterfell. But Littlefinger has failed to realize three things. First, after so long apart, the sisters are too eager to reconnect to be split apart. Second, they never had the deep-set jealousy that would enable his scheme to work. Third, and most importantly, he thinks Arya is like Sansa in wanting to be Lady of Winterfell. In truth, Arya (a lifelong tomboy having spent years training to be an assassin) could care less about becoming Lady—and Sansa knows Arya doesn't want it. Thus, any attempt to make it look like a "coup" is being planned is for naught and as it happens the sisters use this to trick Littlefinger into his own demise.
  • The Good Place plays with this a lot. Eleanor was a very bad person on Earth and much of the first season has her struggling with how to be good. Tahani was an arrogant egomaniac who likewise fails to understand how regular people react to her.
    • Season 1 ends with the revelation that the main four have been in the Bad Place all along and Michael is a demon. Season 2 has Michael trying to help the gang out but focuses on how a demon naturally has a very difficult time understanding such simple concepts as killing people is wrong and how morals work.
    • Michael's entire season 1 plan fails because he didn't grasp that people can change and grow. His assumption was that Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason would be the exact same people for eternity, thus making them predictable. Eleanor actually learning from Chidi's ethics lessons blows his plan out of the water, and leads to her figuring out the actual nature of the "Good Place".
    • In season 3, the main four are sent back to Earth to live new lives. Not happy with this, demon Trevor, a former foe, is sent to put them back on their wicked tracks. Trevor imagines himself coming off as a good friend and master manipulator to pit the group against one another. In reality, because he doesn't understand human behavior, Trevor just comes off an obnoxious jerk so the gang barely pay attention to any of his "subtle" manipulations.
  • A key character trait of Dr. House is his unshakable belief that people only do good things for selfish reasons. He even states that people who value others' lives more than their own are idiots who should just kill themselves to free up their organs. Which doesn't stop him from risking his life to save Wilson's girlfriend Amber. He fails.
  • In the second series of the British version of House of Cards, the Villain Protagonist, Prime Minister Francis Urquhart, simply cannot understand why the King of England repeatedly speaks out against his government's cruel social policies when none of these policies have affected the King directly. When the King personally explains his reasons to Urquhart, namely that he wants to see all of his subjects prosper and be happy, Urquhart laughs off the notion and simply believes the King is attempting to make a power play.
  • In one episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney details the aftermath of his hooking up with Wendy, the waitress at McLaren's (the main cast's favorite bar). It ends badly when notorious-womanizer Barney can't pick up women in McLaren's without Wendy's disapproval. Wendy eventually recognizes that their hookup and quasi-attachment was a bad idea and lets Barney have his bimbos back, but Barney continues to throw out every drink she serves him because he can't comprehend that she isn't plotting some kind of revenge.
  • Jekyll:
    • Inverted in the first episode, Tom Jackman is very careful to keep Hyde from discovering that he has a wife and children; when Hyde actually finds out and pays a visit to the Jackman household, Tom fears the worst... only to find that Hyde has spent a happy evening playing with the kids and chatting with his wife, Claire.
    • And again in the third episode: when Tom wakes up one morning, soaked in blood, with a few hazy memories of meeting Claire the previous evening, he assumes that Hyde has murdered her: in fact, Hyde got soaked with blood while cutting Benjamin Lennox's throat—after he threatened Claire and her children.
    • Jekyll's a subversion of this in general, since in the end it turns out that the source of Jackman's transformations isn't malice, it's a profound sense of true love and the need to be loved in return. Hyde's sadism is destructive because it's undirected until he knows that he has a wife and children to protect.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, tell Diend about a treasure greater than the cool weapon he's trying to steal, and he assumes you're talking about some kind of better weapon. Though sometimes, mainly in the later part of series, he does get it. And on one occasion he gets that the greater treasure is friendship and tries to take it away anyway just to be a dick.
  • Kingdom Adventure: Pitts has a lot of trouble understanding the motivations of the protagonists; he assumes every intruder is after his castle's treasury, which is never true when the protagonists are the ones sneaking in. He also doesn't understand that they can't be bribed, or that it takes a pure heart to accomplish the things they do.
  • Kung Fu: In "The Nature of Evil", when Kwai Chang Caine confronts the unnamed murderer at the end, the villain assumes Caine is after him for the bounty on his head. Caine explains he's not interested in the bounty; he wants to bring him to justice for killing a little boy and beating an old man, and stop him from hurting anyone else. The villain says he doesn't understand why Caine would care, as the little boy and old man had nothing to do with him.
  • Legend of the Seeker: The D'Haran officer whose family Richard saves in "Deception" is mystified as to why he'd go out of his way saving the loyalist village where they live, which some extreme rebels were intent on destroying. Richard has to explain that his mission doesn't involve killing innocent people before letting him go.
  • The Devil With Yellow Eyes from Legion doesn’t really understand human emotions like love and altruism, nor does he understand why humans bother with things like friendship. He can convincingly fake such things, but they carry no real meaning to him, and he discards the charade the second it stops being useful. His attitude towards goodness is summed up in this chilling monologue:
    ”Do you know what love is? A chemical. Electrons in your brain sending signals. Are you familiar with Ophiocordyceps unilateralis? It's a fungus that infects ants. It's amazing, really. The spores take over their central nervous systems and force them to climb to a high point, and then the fungus begins to grow up, bursting from the tops of their heads like a branch. And it kills them, of course. All so it can spray new spores over the jungle, infecting more ants. When people say love, that's what I think of.”
  • On Leverage, the Big Bad of season 3 is this. He genuinely cannot understand why the protagonists are targeting him. He fails to realize that it might just be because he deserves it.
    • More generally many of their targets are this way in that they can't realize why anyone would go to that much trouble.
    • The first season finale has the team going after Blackthorne, the CEO of the insurance company who refused to help Nate treat his dying son to a possible cure because it wasn't "cost-effective". It's one thing for Blackthorne to be amazed Nate is going to such lengths to go after him. It's another that he appears honestly shocked that Nate's ex-wife Maggie (the boy's mother) can't accept this was just a business decision. He really goes to her to ask for help only for her to punch him in the face and Blackthorne acts like he's the one betrayed.
  • Lost, "Everybody Loves Hugo":
    The Smoke Monster: Why aren't you afraid?
    Desmond: What is the point of being afraid?
    [The Smoke Monster hesitates, then throws Desmond down the well]
  • Happens a few times on Madam Secretary as politicians (both foreign and American) assume Liz is acting out to get her name out there and push her political career rather than actually wanting to help the U.S. and the world.
    • Liz and Henry confront a rich donor on how he hired a guy to stalk them to get Liz to resign. The man thinks that Liz's "progressive views" are hurting President Dalton and arrogantly says Dalton needs him far more than Liz. He then smugly tells Dalton that if he wants funding for re-election, he'll fire Liz. The donor takes it for granted that Dalton will put his own political survival over any loyalty. He's thus struck speechless when Dalton introduces the Attorney General who has lots of questions over the man's illegal activities.
  • Monty Python's merchant banker sketch involves a banker who is utterly unable to grasp the concept of charity, until he realizes what giving gifts is really about: getting a tax write-off.
  • A crucial piece of the plot of the NUMB3RS episode "End Game". Ryan Ferraro, a disgraced former Army captain, captures the family of Clay Porter, the soldier who blew the whistle on him for torturing a POW to death, and holds them hostage to force Porter to come to him. At first the team suspects that he wants Porter in order to kill him, but when that theory starts to fall apart, they piece together the true motive: it all comes back to the POW. The POW had stolen over a million dollars in cash, and Ferraro had tortured him to find out where he hid it; the prisoner died before he could get the answer, but Ferraro believed that the prisoner had given it up to Porter. When the FBI questions Porter, it turns out the prisoner didn't tell him anything, nor did Porter give Ferraro a reason to think he did; Ferraro was just certain that the only reason Porter would report him was if Porter had something to gain by Ferraro's arrest.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • Regina, The Evil Queen, seems incapable of understanding good, like how Snow White's childhood mistake (that resulted in the death of Regina's lover) was not meant maliciously and how she honestly thought that Emma would leave her to die in a fire. This and her Genre Blindness are why she doesn't understand how her power in Storybrooke is weakening, nor why Gold (Rumplestiltskin), who seems to understand good quite well, is rather confident that Emma will break the curse on the town.
    • Regina's mother, Cora, also fails to grasp goodness. She firmly believes that love is weakness, and when she tries to steal Snow's heart, Emma jumped in front of her to save her, and Cora couldn't rip out Emma's heart because Emma's (untrained) magic, based on love, is far stronger.
    • Hook doesn't understand why Belle won't help him kill Rumplestiltskin.
  • Happens sometimes with the villains in Power Rangers:
    • Itassis in Mystic Force, for example, cannot comprehend how the courage of the Rangers are able to help them defeat her fellow Terrors, despite the latter being physically stronger than the former. But in a subversion, she actually betrays her people in order to learn how, being a Terror focusing more on knowledge than power.
    • Lord Zedd devises a plan to break up the team by capturing Kimberly and a civilian in Aisha's presence so quickly that Aisha can't do anything about it. His hope: That when the other rangers find out she did nothing, they'll rebuke her for it and the infighting will commence. Instead they just work together to try to save them. This actually shocks Zedd.
  • In Quantum Leap, invoked in the final confrontation with the Evil Leaper project; while Sam is trying to help Alia escape a prison with the aid of one of the guards, Alia asks the guard to explain why she's helping them because she wants to understand why someone would risk their life for someone else.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures, "Warriors of Kudlak": Mistress is incapable of understanding why peace is worthwhile or desirable to anyone, seeing it only as an end to the usefulness of soldiers and generals. She's a computer created by a race that was caught in a war they never expected to end—she was never programmed with any understanding of peace, and actively covered up that the Uvodni—the race that created her—had been at peace for ten years by the time of the serial. The eponymous Kudlak—an Anti-Villain who does not share her outlook at all—is pissed when he finds out.
  • A downplayed example in Seinfeld; Elaine can't understand why her religious boyfriend isn't pressuring her to convert, and concludes that he must not really care about her. The idea that he merely respects her right to choose never occurs to her.
(earlier in the episode)
Jerry: So you prefer 'dumb and lazy' to 'religious'?
Elaine: 'Dumb and lazy' I understand.
  • The Shield: In the Grand Finale, Vic's plan to make himself into a Karma Houdini ends up instead turning into an Ironic Hell, in part, because he honestly doesn't seem to have considered that his new bosses at ICE, a federal law enforcement agency, might be skittish about having a confessed liar, thief, extortionist, drug dealer, torturer, con man, and cop killer (in short, an overall absolute Dirty Cop) in anything close to any position of authority or influence, even if they are contractually obligated to give him a paycheck.
  • In Smallville:
    • Hydro, Linda doesn't understand why Chloe would not seize the chance to publish all she knew about Clark Kent.
    • Sacrifice, Zod doesn't understand why Oliver doesn't kill him when he has the chance.
    • Tess also thought Chloe would leave her to die.
    • Mentioned in Hostage:
      Martha: [to Tess] You can't comprehend what it means to truly protect someone you love.
  • In the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror", Kirk and friends manage to infiltrate the evil mirror Enterprise easily, but their mirror counterparts stand out like evil sore thumbs in our universe.
    Spock: It was far easier for you, as civilized men, to behave like barbarians than it was for them to behave like civilized men.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Borg genuinely cannot understand why other species would rather die than join their "perfect" Hive Mind. Depending on your point of view, this may be less an example of flat-out evil and more of a Blue-and-Orange Morality problem: individuality is such an alien concept to the Borg that they consider it less a valid lifestyle choice and more a mess that needs cleaning up.
    • The Borg outlook borders on Values Dissonance, as they see assimilation as a liberating act, and can't comprehend how anyone would reject the Collective.
    • Another serious case of in-universe Values Dissonance occurs when Worf discovers a prison-colony of Klingon warriors who were taken captive by Romulans and forced to adopt Romulan culture rather than their own (even raising their children with such beliefs). To a Klingon, dying honorably in combat is the highest honor one can receive, and being taken prisoner rather than being executed is the cruelest mercy possible (with being forced to raise children with the beliefs of one's enemy being icing on the cake). To the Romulan who's running the colony, he's sick of all the killing and torment he's spread over decades as a soldier and saw the chance to take these Klingons hostage and give them a second chance as a much better alternative than execution of war prisoners. Neither can understand the other's stance on the matter, but both are disgusted by their enemy's "cruel" outlook on the situation.
    • General Trek backstory holds that the Ferengi, a race whose culture is entirely based around personal gain, delayed proper first contact with the Federation for as long as possible, because they considered the Federation's commitment to altruism to be proof that the Federation were completely insane.
  • Several examples from Supergirl
    • Like Lex Luthor, Maxwell Lord has a hard time accepting Supergirl is sincere in wanting to help people and not having an ulterior motive of some sort. His attempts to prove she's not a true hero involve exposing Kara to Red Kryptonite which ironically turns her into the very menace Max feared.
      • In the season finale, Max is baffled by Kara's refusal to accept the "acceptable losses" of a few thousand people to save the entire planet.
    • Astra and Non cannot understand why Kara feels so much closer to the people of this "primitive" planet that she grew up on rather than the race she long considered dead.
    • When he engages his ultimate plan to take over the minds of everyone on Earth, Non makes it clear he truly believes he's doing humanity a favor by "freeing" them of such distractions as emotions and individuality so they can focus on the problems of Earth. Kara, Cat and even Max all argue that saving the planet means nothing if the people aren't free to enjoy it but Non doesn't grasp what he's doing is wrong.
    • James Harper is convinced J'onn J'onzz must be playing a "long game" to conquer Earth as there's no other reason for an alien with shapeshifting and telepathic powers to pretend to be a normal human and help another planet.
    • Siobhan Smythe assumes that being as successful as Cat Grant means being an Alpha Bitch who takes shortcuts and manipulates those around her. Siobhan never quite gets that Cat got where she was through hard work and holding to a code of ethics.
      • When Cat is unsure of publishing a story of Supergirl going rogue, Siobhan tries to sell it to the Daily Planet, assuming they'll jump at the chance to out-scoop a rival. It never occurs to Siobhan that Perry White would have the integrity to call up Cat and tell her about the offer first.
    • Lillian Luthor actually seems surprised that after treating daughter Lena as garbage all her life, Lena would refuse to have any loyalty to the Luthor name.
      • Lillian works with Supergirl to rescue Lena from the Daxamites but double-crosses her to keep her daughter safe. Lillian intends to destroy the ship with Supergirl on it and when Lena protests, Lillian can't understand why her daughter cares about the people who helped save her life.
      • In season 3, Lillian tries to help Lena by killing Morgan Edge. She honestly thinks her daughter will appreciate the "favor" of murdering a man who's been against her.
        Lillian: Do you know of any mother that would kill for her daughter?
        Lena: No, I don't. That's probably a good thing for society.
    • Just like her son, Lex, and Max Lord, Lillian refuses to believe Superman and Supergirl are sincere about wanting to help others, convinced every act they do is to "prove" how superior they are to mankind. Lillian also refuses to accept there can be good aliens, believing all to be evil invaders polluting Earth.
    • While they may not be purely evil, Mon-El's parents, Lar and Rhea, are shown to truly not understand how it was wrong that in their rule of Daxam, they basically kept the populace enslaved and lived the high life on the backs of the poor. When Mon-El (who's changed his attitude due to living on Earth) refuses to go back and rebuild it, his parents are baffled as to why he thinks the old Daxam was so wrong.
    • Off of that, Rhea believes that by killing Kara, Mon-El will just naturally come back to Daxam...ignoring the tiny fact that she'd have murdered his girlfriend. Lar finally understands Mon-El wants to stay and lets his son choose his path, telling his wife they need to let him grow and live his own life. Rhea's response is to murder her husband and continue to "save" Daxam.
    • Reign can't seem to grasp why Kara or the public would have a problem with her brutally killing criminals at a whim or those who try to defend them as she's a tool of "justice."
    • Ben Lockwood was once a decent man but a horrible series of bad breaks have turned him into the alien-hating Agent Liberty. He basically takes to the tenth level the mentality that all aliens are monsters who want to wipe out humanity. That the majority of aliens want to fit in on Earth and Supergirl is sincere caring about humanity is impossible for Lockwood to accept.
      • At one point, Lockwood tries to recruit Jimmy Olsen to his campaign, assuming it's only natural that, as a human, James will join him. That James will side with aliens against these bigots leaves Lockwood baffled why someone would "betray his own kind."
    • When Lex Luthor arrives, he naturally continues to push his idea that he's trying to "save" humanity from an alien overlord. There's also Luthor thrown that people won't accept his crusade as if he's forgotten the tiny detail he's a multiple mass murderer.
    • Red Daughter nearly ruins Lex's schemes when, sent to National City to pose as Kara, she starts to enjoy this life of freedom and realizing not everyone are the selfish monsters Lex paints them as. It takes Eve warning Lex for him to bring down more control before Red Daughter grows a mind of her own to break away from him.
    • Lena warns Lex that Kara has proof of his activities and will publish it. Lex scoffs it doesn't matter as people are weak and easily led and nothing Kara says can stop his plans. Even as he's talking, Kara's expose of Lex's entire evil plot (including how the President of the United States is his puppet) is going viral and folks are turning on him big time. In the end, Lex is brought down and the President also goes to jail thanks to the "stupid sheep" Lex assumes would never be smart enough to fight back.
    • In the Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019) event, Lex meets the Clark Kent of Smallville and is thrown to discover he's given up his powers to raise a family. Lex cannot fathom how anyone with Superman's power would choose instead to live a human life. He also assumes that only this Earth's Clark Kent is Superman, refusing to accept the possibility it's the same with his own Earth's Clark.
    • Lex again during the season 5 finale. He knew that Lena's plan was going to fail, but he wanted to her to see it for herself. Why? Because that way, she would be swayed to his idea of thinking that he needed to take over the world. Lena rejecting his way of thinking and returning back to Supergirl's side floors him.
  • In Supernatural, this is ultimately averted with the demons. As we learn a few seasons in, this is because they were all human before being tortured for centuries in Hell. Ironically, this is ultimately played straight starting about the same time we learn that secret, with Heaven's angels. They're all dicks and, having never been human, can't understand humans.
  • As well as in its parent franchise Super Sentai:
    • Perhaps the most notable example is Enter in the last arc of Go-Busters, whose immortality is assured by the backup of himself kept inside Hiromu. His plan is essentially flawless, the only mistake he ever makes being that he can't comprehend the idea that someone would willingly sacrifice their life for someone else.
  • On the Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains seasons of Survivor, this was a huge source of contention for fans of Russell Hantz. Through all of his bragging, double-crossing, and generally making game life a living hell for foe and ally alike, he honestly hasn’t considered that the jury is made up of real people playing for real money — in fact, the exact same very real purse for which he would go on to qualify. He assumed that they would think and vote according to how he – and the Hantz Nation – believed they were supposed to vote. On Samoa, Natalie used this line of reasoning to shape her strategy (and get the big bucks). And on HvV, it kept up especially after the jury – including an original ally who also had to make her own case to her own jury – went to great pains to spell out exactly why ignoring their sensible warnings was a moronic idea. There is a valid reason that, out of the 18 jury votes he was up for, he received only two.
  • Torchwood:
    • In Children of Earth, this is the attitude of the 456. Since humanity was willing to trade 12 orphans to prevent a viral pandemic in 1965, the aliens believe that Earth will give up millions of children the second time around, even after the authorities learn it would doom them to a Fate Worse than Death. When Jack Harkness claims that most of humanity would risk genocide rather than accede to the 456's demands, the aliens flat out refuse to believe him.
    • And just to prove how much Darker and Edgier Torchwood is, the 456 are largely right. Most humans really are pragmatic enough that they're willing to sacrifice millions of children for their own safety (at least as long as it's not their children on the line). Even Jack ends up explicitly breaking his own "an injury to one is an injury to all" ideal when he manages to defeat the 456—by the sacrifice of a single child: his own grandson.
    • In a parallel plotline, the PM seems to think that Frobisher will be able to sacrifice his own daughters. Frobisher isn't and does indeed commit his own private genocide.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "One More Pallbearer", Paul Radin sets up a fake nuclear war scenario and expects Mrs. Langsford, Reverend Hughes and Colonel Hawthorne, who all of whom humiliated him in the past, to apologize to him in exchange for their lives. He seems mystified that they would rather spend their last moments with their loved ones than try to save themselves.
  • Victorious: In episode 3, Jade is paired with Tori for a stage fighting lesson and pretends to be hit in order to get Tori in trouble, and sentenced to clean the messy auditorium after a play with a nasty food fight. When an accidental splash of water on Jade's black eye makeup reveals the truth to Andre, Tori chooses to remain silent to avoid inflaming further conflict with Jade, reasoning that "going to school isn't going to be very fun for either of (them) if (they're) fighting all the time." When Jade confronts Tori on this, she is immediately confused.
    Jade: You can't be nice to me after I've been mean to you! That's not how it works.
    Tori: How about you try being nice to me once in a while. Maybe that would work.
    • Jade decides to voluntarily assist Tori in the cleanup, and the two girls eventually trick an overzealous security guard into helping them, and they escape, leaving him with the mess. Tori and Jade's relationship does become more of a frenemy type after this.
  • The Worst Witch: While Ethel Hallow was just extremely arrogant and self-centred in the original novels, adaptations make her significantly more ruthless; in the 2017 series in particular, she repeatedly shows an inability to understand why she is hated for her constant vendetta against Mildred, to the point that the season three finale sees Ethel create a threat against Cackle's solely so that she can stop it and be the 'hero', incapable of understanding the difference between her creating a situation and Mildred's genuine efforts to help others even before her plans fail when she finds herself unable to vanquish the threat she created.


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