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Innocuously Important Episode / Live-Action TV

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  • Babylon 5. Several episodes of the first season.
    • The thirteenth episode "Signs and Portents". The episode's "A" plot is some fairly standard and unimportant thing involving Raiders [space pirates] and a Centauri artifact called The Eye. The "B" plot, involving the first appearance of the enigmatic Mr Morden and the question "What do you want?", turns out to be incredibly important and crucial to the rest of the series — but the episode's retrospective importance only kicks in at the first season finale.

      Its importance was lampshaded by the fact that the entire first season was also named "Signs and Portents" (though a casual viewer wouldn't know this - the season titles only appeared on fan sites.) "Portents", of course, are hints about future events.

      The A Plot does have one rather important thing happen in it: it's the first appearance of The Shadows. They even get name dropped, but in a way that most viewers would dismiss as unimportant on a first viewing.
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    • "Midnight on the Firing Line" is the former Trope Namer. The first episode after the pilot movie, it featured subplots and character moments that the show kept referring to throughout many of its best moments over the rest of its run.
    • "Infection", the fourth episode of the show, managed to introduce several elements that would become very important later on, including Interplanetary Expeditions, ISN, Earth's desire for advanced biotechnology and the first mention of previous Shadow War a thousand years ago - and certain revelations about Sinclair's past and how it drives his behaviour in the present. Not bad for what is almost universally considered to be a lackluster Monster of the Week episode.
  • The Battlestar Galactica first-season episode "Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down" was thought to be a comedy filler episode (the only intentionally comic episode in the entire show) revolving around a series of misunderstandings between Ellen Tigh (who unexpectedly reappears in the fleet) and Commander Adama (who believes Ellen is a Cylon sleeper agent). The whole episode climaxes in an amusing scene where everyone humorously works out their differences, and the matter is resolved. Three seasons later, in "Sometimes A Great Notion", it turns out this episode set up the eventual arc and reveal that Ellen was the final Cylon.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • "I Was Made to Love You" (and earlier, "Ted") seemed a bit out of place at the time of airing (robots? really?) but set up the suspension of disbelief needed for the Buffybot to exist in that series, which allowed Dawn to stay in Sunnydale after the events of "The Gift". Also, this episode introduced Warren, who would become a major villain in the following season.
    • "Killed By Death". Buffy is sick and ends up in hospital - a place she hates since her cousin died in a hospital when they were children. While the Monster of the Week in the episode (which was also responsible for her cousin's death) is dealt with, Sunnydale General ends up playing a big role in Season Five - not only does Buffy's mother Joyce end up with a brain tumor and spends a few episodes there, but we're also, at the same time, introduced to the character Ben Wilkinson, a young medical intern who serves as a possible Love Interest to Buffy and who turns out to be the mortal, human shell of Glory, the Big Bad of Season Five - Glory's plans, in turn, result in Buffy's death in the Season Five finale.
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    • In "Something Blue", Willow loses herself in magic as a way of dealing with Oz's absence and hijinks ensue, one example being Buffy and Spike making out passionately in what is viewed as an in-universe Crack Pairing. Things appear to be neatly resolved at the end of the episode, but both Willow's strong emotional reaction to the loss of a significant other (resulting in a misuse of her magical abilities) and the Buffy/Spike romantic chemistry are things that will pop up again in Season 5 and become prominent features of Season 6.
  • The Charmed season 2 episode "P3H20" has the trio meet their mother's old Whitelighter Sam Wilder, who helps them deal with the water demon who killed their mother at the cost of his own life. During the episode, Sam mentions that he and their mother were in love with each other, paralleling Piper's own relationship with Leo. This allowed the show to bring in Paige Matthews as the result of the affair and a replacement for the Charmed Ones sisterhood following Prue's death in the season 4 premiere.
  • Community foreshadowed Chang's rise to power at Greendale in several earlier season 3 episodes, including "Contemporary Impressionists".
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Daleks" was initially written as a space adventure story based on 1950s sci-fi serials, with anti-war themes and some quirky Nazi-like "bug-eyed monsters" as villains. Due to the extreme popularity of aforementioned villains, it is now impossible to watch the story without being aware that this is the Doctor's first encounter with the Daleks.
    • "The Tenth Planet" has three main points about it that get very important later. It introduced the "Base under Siege" formula that would dominate Troughton's tenure and influence the show's slide from a Genre Roulette format into Monster of the Week, introduced the Cybermen (though they were given a soft-reboot a few episodes later), and ended with a shock twist of the Doctor suddenly turning into a totally different actor. All of these at the time were just decisions being made for that particular episode and Real Life Writes the Plot, but due to Who's Kudzu Plot nature all became very significant (although some in terms of the show's feel rather than in plot points).
    • "The Web of Fear". Intended at the time as a sequel to an earlier story about the Doctor teaming up with the military and a now-older ally to fight killer robot Yeti in the London Underground. The impact is massive — here is where the Brigadier gets introduced (in fact, he's the prime suspect for being the Great Intelligence's vessel for most of the episode, something that would not have been done had they known he would be a regular), here is the start of the UNIT arc and here is the start of the "Yeti on the loo in Tooting Bec"-style horror that would form the Pertwee era of the show.
    • The first episode of Season 6, Episode 1 of "The Dominators", introduces us to Cully, an ageing Manchild from an alien species with two hearts, whose disgruntlement with his people makes him crave adventure and go travelling in his ship with a bunch of awkward teenagers. He lands and his entire crew gets murdered. This is an innocuous opening for a filler story at the time, but takes on a new meaning when you compare it to the last episode of Season 6, Episode 10 of "The War Games", in which the Doctor is confirmed to be a Time Lord on the run from his boring civilisation and his crew get sent back to where they were from by the other Time Lords (including the implicit death of Jamie).
    • "The Brain of Morbius" was intended as a Filler Bottle Episode, but several of the Doctor's throwaway lines in the story imply that the Time Lords aren't as godlike and advanced as they had previously been portrayed. This could easily be brushed off by the fact that the Doctor hates the Time Lords and (in that incarnation at least) has an unreliable grasp on reality, but Robert Holmes picked up on it and used it as Foreshadowing for his Wham Episode, "The Deadly Assassin", which revealed the Time Lords were a bunch of stagnant old politicians with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
    • "Silver Nemesis" had Cybermen vs Neo-Nazis, but it set up the "Wolves of Fenric" arc with Ace and the Doctor as Chess Master motif which concluded in rather sinister style in "The Curse of Fenric".
    • "The Unquiet Dead", which introduces the Rift in Cardiff. Without that rift, the events of "Boom Town", the show's first, third and fourth series' finales and "The End of Time" would not have taken place... nor any of Torchwood.
    • "The Long Game" sets up a lot of later events — including the Ninth Doctor's regeneration — as the Doctor's actions lead to "Bad Wolf". Meaning of course that it also has perhaps the most relevant title of the entire show.
    • "The Christmas Invasion" appears to be nothing but a Christmas Episode to establish the newly regenerated Tenth Doctor, but it actually set up many events for the next seasons. There's the first appearance of the Torchwood Institute, the Santa robots come back during Donna's first appearance, the Doctor deposing Harriet Jones, Prime Ministernote  ultimately results in Harold Saxon taking her place and last but not least, the Doctor's severed hand is later retrieved by Jack Harkness and become important to both this series and the spinoff Torchwood.
    • The ending of "The Shakespeare Code" includes William Shakespeare using words to stop the villains. The last episode in the season, "Last of the Time Lords", took that concept and turned it Up to Eleven. The relationship between the Tenth Doctor and Elizabeth I is later explored in the 50th anniversary special.
    • In series 3 of the new series, "The Lazarus Experiment" sets up both Martha's family's betrayal to Harold Saxon/The Master, and the aging device, which is used against the Doctor in the season finale.
    • Similarly, "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" appears to be an updated retelling of a tie-in novel, leading to a unique circumstance where fans familiar with the spinoff media were actually less likely to realize these episodes were this trope, which comes off as exceptional filler otherwise. In fact, they set up the Master's return.
    • "The Fires of Pompeii" initially appears to be a standard Monster of the Week/Historical Period of the Week episode, but even aside from the standard foreshadowing and Casting Gags, the events of this episode directly influence the Twelfth Doctor's choice of appearance 6 Real Life years later (about 1200 In-Universe).
    • "The Lodger" seems like a filler episode (albeit a fun one), but we later learn that the black TARDIS belongs to the Silence, the Big Bad of the next season. Craig returns that series for a single episode, where it turns out he's the source of the TARDIS-blue envelopes from the beginning of the season.
    • "Under the Lake"/"Before the Flood" is a Base Under Siege story that seems to have the least bearing on the "Who/what is the Hybrid?" Story Arc of Series 9, especially with the next episodes introducing the season's key recurring character, but "Before the Flood" ends up heavily foreshadowing the events of the Season Finale "Hell Bent", in which the Doctor is so desperate to save Clara from her fixed-point death that he effectively becomes the villain he defeats here and threatens the fabric of space and time, something he almost did in this episode.
  • Farscape:
    • "A Bug's Life" has a story about Peacekeepers and a virus capable of possessing people, but the repercussions of that episode would echo throughout the series and beyond.
    • "Beware of Dog" had a fairly ridiculous main plot, with a B plot of Crichton going crazy and imagining Scorpius around every corner — but it's a brilliant setup of the entire plotline for the rest of the season, one that would continue throughout much of the series.
    • The very first time Crichton hallucinated Scorpius was in "Crackers Don't Matter", a nutty, off-the-wall episode where everyone's going crazy and fighting over crackers.
    • "A Human Reaction", a well done though not especially memorable episode - until it's revealed a few episodes later that the major plot point of the entire series was set up during its events.
    • "Won't Get Fooled Again" seems like just another one of the series' frequent visits to Bizarroworld, but the ending reveals the existence of the neural chip in Crichton's head and its accompanying mental clone of Scorpius, both of which are crucial to the Myth Arc.
    • "Eat Me" is just another Monster of the Week episode, and just another episode where Crichton gets split into duplicates (yes, it happened more than once). Then at the end it turns out that the duplication of Crichton was permanent. Cue most of the rest of the season being split between two groups of characters on separate ships, each with its own Crichton.
  • Fringe's Bizarro Episode, "Brown Betty" (2x19) at first appears to be funny Breather Episode after some important revelations in the previous four episodes. Walter tells Olivia's niece Ella a drug-addled musical noir-style detective story using all the regular cast members... then gives the story an incredibly dark and bitter ending about how only one man can have a mechanical heart and one must die without it. The ending reflects Walter's guilt about stealing Peter and irrevocably damaging the alternate universe and how he feels the only good he's ever accomplished has come at the price of destroying children's lives (i.e., the cortexiphan trials). It reflects the major theme of the next season, that only one universe can survive; one must be destroyed, leading to the Bad Future glimpsed in the Season 3 finale, "The Day We Died". However, Ella rejects Walter's unhappy ending and creates an ending where the heart can be shared, symbolizing Peter realizing after seeing the Bad Future there is another option: he can bridge the two universes, which will heal them both. Peter even does this with the aid of a grown-up version of Ella Dunham, bringing it full circle back to "Brown Betty".
  • In the second season of GARO called Makai Senki, there is a flashback episode, in which the childhood of the main character Kouga is seen. The episode seems rather unimportant, until the final episode reveals Kouga knew the Big Bad as a child, who made Kouga promise to kill him if he ever turns evil.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • At first glance the "Showdown" episode seems like pure filler with Marshall and Lily preparing for their wedding and Barney going on The Price is Right. However, we learn two episodes later that Ted and Robin broke up at this time. It also sets up Barney's story arc of searching for his father that dominates most of season 6.
    • One episode features a jokey subplot in which Marshall is unable to have sexual fantasies about women other than Lily without first imaging an intricate scenario in which Lily dies of an unspecified disease and gives him her blessing to move on once she is dead. The widely-reviled ending of the show featured something similar, with the Mother dying of an unknown illness and Ted's children enthusiastically giving him the blessing to go after Aunt Robin years after the fact. Given that this ending was filmed between the first and second seasons, it's highly likely that the Marshall-Lily plot was completely intentional foreshadowing.
  • Lost had a lot of these.
    • Sometimes the writers themselves didn't realize how important an episode would be until later, as was the case with Season 2's "One of Them", which introduced Henry Gale a.k.a Ben Linus, originally intended as a recurring character who would die after a few episodes, but who went on to become the Big Bad for the next season and a half, and who remained crucial to the show's mythology even after completing a Heel–Face Turn later on.
    • Season 1's "House of the Rising Sun" appeared to be a standalone episode mostly intended to fill in the back story of Jin and Sun at first. Its B-plot included the discovery of two skeletons that weren't even mentioned after that point until season 6, but which turned out to be major figures in the island's history.
  • The Mad Men third season episode "My Old Kentucky Home." On its face, the Four Lines, All Waiting story serves as a series of character vignettes bound by the "work disguised as fun" theme. However, this episode introduces us characters that become prominent in later episodes (Connie Hilton, Henry Francis); and story arcs that carry through the next couple of seasons (Peggy's introduction to the counterculture, Joan realizing that marrying her doctor is not going to give her the life she thought she wanted, Betty looking for a way out of her marriage, among others).
  • Merlin had three:
    • In the first series "The Gates of Avalon" was a fairly basic Monster of the Week story, in which Arthur is targeted by two murderous Sidhe, but it also introduces the fact that Morgana is a seer which marks out her entire Character Arc from then on.
    • Series 2 has "The Lady of The Lake" introduce Freya, Merlin's love interest who dies at the end of the episode, but becomes The Lady of The Lake and helps Merlin retrieve Excalibur in the series 3 finale.
    • The third series had "Queen of Hearts", which seemed a one-off filler which once more returned to status quo by the end of the episode, but it also introduced the character of "Dragoon", Merlin's old-man disguise which he puts to even greater effect in series four.
  • Monk has its first Christmas Episode, which is a standard case of the week with a scene that reveals that Monk is still keeping the last gift his late wife left him wrapped up. It's set up as yet another moment showcasing Monk's undying love for her. Four years later however the Grand Finale reveals the gift contains all the evidence to find her murderer.
  • Power Rangers
    • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive's "One Fine Day" was a lighthearted episode featuring the Rangers on a camping trip which gets interrupted when their enemies erect a forcefield to search for part of the season's MacGuffin. A alien-powered human chain used as an attempt to pass through the forcefield is a major clue that that the Red Ranger isn't human when it breaks, foreshadowing his Robotic Reveal character arc a few episodes later and his death-seeking Heroic Sacrifice in the finale.
    • Power Rangers RPM's "Tenaya 7" not only properly introduces the titular cyborg villainess but also before she blows her cover, a throwaway line about a metal detector getting "false positives" gains new meaning when in the two-part finale Big Bad activates the sleeper drones among half of Corinth's populace including the officer who says said line.
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers season 3's "Master Vile and the Metallic Armor" introduces the Zeo Crystal which not only serves to reverse the time shift in the Alien Rangers arc, but also its later attempted theft causes the Command Center's bombing and later serves as the basis of next season's powers.
    • And than Zeo mentions its Big Bad's ties to an "alliance of evil" which is later prophised in the Millennium Message of Power Rangers Turbo, then abducts mentor Zordon and plays a big role the Zordon Era's Grand Finale Power Rangers in Space.
  • The Pushing Daisies episode "Circus Circus". No other episode sets up as many of the major arcs and themes in the second season: the corrosive effect of secrets; something new beginning as necessarily implying something else ending; stasis as the opposite of life/death/rebirth; the impossibility of simply picking up a relationship where it was left off; one's persona or public self versus one's True Self; a parent's inability to recognize his or her child.
  • A season 2 episode of Sliders introduces the Kromaggs as mere monsters of the week but they become the main antagonists in the last two seasons.
  • Stargate Atlantis: In the first season, they encounter a planet that had been developing a drug that would make them immune to the Wraith feeding on them, but also has a 50% chance of killing the person injected. It seems like a one-off story, until the middle of season 4 when their enemy, a Wraith-turned-human-turned-hybrid gets hold of the drug and begins to spread it across the galaxy. It plays an important role in several episodes from then to the end of the series.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • "Balance of Terror" and "Errand of Mercy" introduce the Romulans and Klingons, each of whom goes from Villain of the Week to major galactic power throughout the rest of the franchise.
    • The episode "Space Seed" seems at first like another example of episodic 60's-era TV—a bad guy named Khan tries to take over the Enterprise, Kirk outwits him and exiles him and his followers to an uninhabited planet, life goes on. Then Khan returns, and the ensuing events greatly influence the rest of the TOS-era movies and set up some plot points for the TNG-era series, Star Trek: Enterprise, and the reboot movies.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • An early Ferengi comedy episode "Rules of Acquisition" shows Quark haplessly navigating a complicated relationship while he pursues business opportunities in the Gamma Quadrant. In the process, he's told that he can't do business there without dealing with a major power known as "The Dominion". The war against the Dominion is the Myth Arc of the show.
    • Season 5's "Rapture" was a heavy Bajor episode, focusing on the planet's future and Sisko's role as Emissary. The main thrust of the plot is Sisko gaining visions of the future, which are slowly killing him. Before Bashir operates to remove this ability, one vision was of locusts hovering over Bajor before moving onto Cardassia. A later two-parter saw the Dominion enter the Alpha Quadrant and set up shop in its newest member, Cardassia. The same two-parter also revealed that Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling by this time, offering a new reasoning for "Bashir" wanting to operate on Sisko.
    • Also from Season 5, "The Assignment" is pretty much a standard "O'Brien Must Suffer" episode, as a malevolent alien called a Pah Wraith possesses his wife Keiko and threatens to kill her and their daughter Molly unless O'Brien agrees to sabotage the station. The Pah Wraiths would become major villains in Deep Space Nine's final season.
  • Supernatural
    • The early episode "Phantom Traveler" which appears to be a straight Monster of the Week episode with the brothers having to exorcise a demon who causes planes to crash For the Evulz. Not only do we learn later in the season that the one who killed the boys' mother and Sam's girlfriend is also a demon but demons become the major threat for the next few seasons with the rise in demonic possessions being a major plot point.
    • When Adam is first revealed as a third Winchester brother who was kept from Sam and Dean, he doesn't appear to have any relation to the main storyline at all, and the show even lampshades how out of nowhere it seems by naming the episode "Jump the Shark". However, Adam ends up being extremely important to the resolution of season 5, particularly for the finale.


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