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Locked Out Of The Loop / Live-Action TV

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People being Locked Out of the Loop in live-action TV.

  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives are only told that their current access rank is the highest available. Basically, if an agent's clearance level is Level 6, they're not supposed to know anything about Level 7 and higher projects, personnel, or activities.
  • The series Agent X has newly sworn-in Vice President Natalie Maccabee learning of a secret clause in the Constitution that allows the VP to send out an agent on special missions that only she knows of. By the rules, only the VP and her closest aides know of his existence, no one inside the government does, including the President. This is to give plausible deniability in case a job goes wrong. That does lead to the downside in that the Agent is totally on his own and unable to call on any support while the VP can't give warnings for what he's discovered without revealing where it came from.
    • Unsure of this, Natalie goes to President Eckhart who, having been VP himself, would know of Section 5 and seeks his advice. Careful not to say anything about the Section itself, Eckhart makes it clear to Natalie that she is never to discuss it with him again, even if such a case involves a threat on his life. He basically tells her that no only does he not want to know but he can't know in order for the whole thing to work.
  • Londo Mollari is locked out of the loop regarding Centauri attacks on the Interstellar Alliance in Season 5 of Babylon 5 because the other main characters fear he will actually get to the bottom of it and be killed by his own government.
    • Earlier in the show, Lieutenant Corwin is locked out regarding Sheridan's Benevolent Conspiracy because the command staff aren't sure he can be trusted. Zack Allen meanwhile gets locked out because his signing on with Night Watch means he genuinely can't be trusted, even if he tries to avoid the more unsavory aspects of it, at least until they convince him to turn coat.
    • And finally, G'Kar was locked out because he was trying to alert everyone to the Shadows' return, and the heroes didn't want the Shadows to know they were preparing to fight them.
  • In Batman (1966), Dick Grayson's Aunt Harriet lives in Wayne Manor along with Bruce, Dick, and Alfred. Despite occasionally getting caught up in their adventures, she was unaware of the Batcave or that Bruce and Dick are Batman and Robin.
  • Played for laughs on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. To get close to mobster Sheamus Murphy, Jake and Charles decide to target the guy's nephew, Kyle. They figure to befriend him and use that insider knowledge to get some dirt on what Sheamus is up to. However, they soon discover a major flaw to the plan: Kyle is an absolute moron who's been deliberately kept out of the family business because Sheamus knows he can't trust this idiot with anything important.
  • Both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel have quite a few examples:
    • Buffy season 2: Jenny Calendar (aka Janna Kalderash) was only told to keep Buffy and Angel apart. She was not informed that Angel's happiness with Buffy would be his Curse Escape Clause until after the damage was done.
    • Buffy season 3: The Scooby gang neglects to include Faith in the intervention when they find out about Buffy hiding Angel. This winds up making her less trustful of them, and allows Gwendolyn Post to manipulate her into fighting Buffy.
    • Buffy season 4: "A New Man" reveals that the Scoobies actually neglected to inform Giles of Riley and the Initiative.
    • Buffy season 5: Buffy only tells Giles that her little sister Dawn is the Key. She's then forced to tell this to the other Scoobies, who unfortunately tip off Dawn with their changed behavior to her.
    • Buffy season 6: In the final three episodes, Buffy elects not to let Dawn know that Spike tried to rape her previously. She finds out when Xander lets it slip while they're fleeing from Dark Willow, and is not happy.
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    • Buffy season 7/Angel season 4: The Scoobies elected not to warn Faith of the danger that the First Evil and its minions posed to the Slayer line because they thought that she would be safe from them in prison. Faith ended up finding out the hard way when one of the First's minions infiltrated the prison she was kept in and attacked her.
    • Angel season 4: In the season premiere, Gunn and Fred are trying to find Angel alongside Connor, unaware that Connor himself is responsible for Angel's disappearance, having attacked him, sealed him in a metal coffin, and sunk him to the bottom of the ocean. They eventually do find out from Wesley, who had been searching for Angel this whole time, and give him a What the Hell, Hero? over the fact that he didn't tell them or warn them of Connor's actions; Wesley justifies himself by stating Connor wouldn't hurt humans, and he felt they were safer not knowing.
  • Pretty much the entire point of Dark Skies. The backstory was an executive order signed by one president that kept the existence of Majestic and the aliens secret from his successors. It's brought up when, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, John goes to Majestic boss Frank and demands to know why Kennedy and Kruschev are risking World War III when there's an alien threat out there. Frank's silence makes John realize Kennedy knows nothing about any of this and Frank's the one deciding who "deserves to know."
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead": David Tennant's confusion when he first meets River Song is absolutely genuine. Writer Steven Moffat refused to tell anyone where he was going with the character, and David Tennant didn't know any more about her than his character, the Doctor, did.
    • In "The Impossible Astronaut"/"Day of the Moon", everyone but the Doctor knows that the Doctor was shot and killed in the middle of a regeneration, so he refuses to be goaded into following the clues they have, since he has no reason to. River Song insisting he must only exposes his mistrust of her, but Amy is able to convince him to do as she asks without question (the implication being that this is reciprocation for her always doing this for him). The following lovely moment is an uncommon expression of mutual respect between the Doctor and one of his companions.
      The Doctor: My life in your hands, Amelia Pond.
    • "Rosa": Despite meeting all five time travellers present in the episode, the title character never finds out who the Doctor is or that there are two groups of time travellers duking it out behind her back to ensure she makes history the way she's supposed to.
  • Apparently something that people still do in 21st-century Korea, if Emergency Couple is any indication. In Episode 18 Jin Hee treats an old lady for pneumonia. Jin Hee mentions the old lady's lung cancer, which is a surprise to the old lady. It turns out her son had left instructions for the doctors not to tell her.
  • In the Series Finale of Everybody Loves Raymond, when Ray went to the doctor for an operation, there was a brief moment where his heart stopped while he was asleep, and the others decided not to tell him about it. He was pretty upset that they didn't tell him when he found out.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • In the first season, the majority of the main characters except Iris knew that Barry is the titular superhero and the Particle Accelerator incident is the cause of the metahumans. Barry, Cisco, Caitlin, Joe and later, Eddie agreed not to tell her because it would put her in harm's way. However, Iris eventually learned about Barry's secret identity and is so understandably pissed that she called out on him and her father about it.
    • The first nine episodes of Season 1, Iris was also the only person who didn't know Barry was in love with her, though unlike the above example, it was less about not telling her and more about her being oblivious to what many saw as obvious — even Barry's biological father Henry knew, and he was in prison for most of his son's life. Barry confessed to her in the midseason finale, and eventually the above example causes a delayed reaction in which she rails against Joe and Barry for not telling her about that either. While Joe and Barry do take the heat for not telling her about Barry being the Flash, for this, Joe simply replies that it wasn't his secret to tell, while Barry calls out her for lying to him about her feelings (as it's obvious to everyone, including Barry, that she feels the same way about him).
    • In the second season, Barry's current love interest, Patty, doesn't know that he's the Flash and doesn't actually find out until she's about to leave Central City. Even when she'd pretty much worked it out, everyone still kept it from her, and Barry had a hard time trying to tell her the truth.
    • Wally West is introduced midway through the second season, and even after Zoom kidnaps him and forces Barry to give up his speed in return for his safety, everyone still keeps the Flash's identity from him until he finds out just before the season finale.
    • In the third season, after Barry accidentally travels to the future and sees Iris being killed by the season's Big Bad, he eventually tells Iris and they decide to tell the others but keep it a secret from Joe, fearing that he would not react well to hearing that his daughter may be dying soon.
    • Subverted in season 5. When Ralph meets a time traveler from the future, he is annoyed that no one ever told him about time travel, alternate worlds, and all the implications of the multiverse. Everyone else points out that they did tell him, and he has met multiple people from other worlds, including one man on the team who interacts with alternate universe versions of himself on a regular basis.
      Caitlin: What did you think we meant when we said Harry was from Earth-2?
      Ralph: I thought he was from Earth, also!
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ned Stark, Jon Arryn and the Lannister government know who Gendry is. He has no idea until Season 3.
    • In season 7, Tyrion presses Daenerys to launch an attack on Casterly Rock as it's home to the Lannister gold mines and by seizing them, they can deal a blow to Cersei. However, Tyrion is unaware of a key fact Tywin secretly revealed to Cersei two seasons earlier: The mines ran dry years ago and the Lannisters having been living off their reputation of power. Thus, Cersei has no problem letting the Rock be taken as it doesn't mean anything anymore.
  • Grand Hotel begins with Alicia Mendoza returning to the hotel her mother owned and rocked to find her father, Santiago, is about to sell it to a developer. Alicia assumes her stepmother Gigi, is behind it, using the wedding of the developer to her daughter. Alicia sabotages the wedding by revealing the woman cheated on the groom. She tells her father she's sorry but she had to fight for her mother's legacy. At which point, Santiago fires back that the hotel has been losing money for years and now, rather then being able to sell it off for some profit, he has to start letting people go and other cuts to try and keep on budget. More importantly, Santiago has been trying to pay off the debts via loans from a local cartel.
    Alicia: We can work hard, we can pay back the bank...
    Santiago: It's not the bank.
  • At the start of season 3 of House, House is depressed because he thinks he was wrong about a patient; by two-thirds of the way through the episode, four out of the other five main characters know he was right, but don't tell him in an attempt to teach him humility. Eventually they have to tell him as it's affecting his work to the point that he's ready to simply give up the current case.
  • In Kamen Rider Den-O, Ryotaro is locked out from learning that the entire conflict was started by the birth of his Singularity Point niece, primarily because those involved (his sister and her "lost" fiancé) actually changed history in order to protect the important thing in question from the Imagin. He only learns the truth by going back in time to before the alteration and posing as his past self to get the information from his sister.
  • In the Law & Order: SVU episode "Identity", one of a pair of twins is unaware that she was born a boy, then given a sex-change operation after a botched circumcision damaged her penis. Her parents, physicians, and psychiatrist had kept this a secret ever since, in accordance with the latter's agenda of "proving" that gender identity is environmental, not innate.
    • When a cartel hitman's case falls apart in court, Casey Novak immediately charges him with the murder of ADA Alexandra Cabot. Benson and Stabler can barely hide their horrified looks arresting the they know Cabot is very much alive and in witness protection. DEA agent Jack Hammond bursts into Cragen's office, snapping on what a stupid move this is and how, if he's ordered to testify on Cabot's "murder", he won't perjure himself. It's when Cragen blurts "she's alive?" that Hammond realizes Cragen had no idea himself. Cragen is naturally livid at Benson and Stabler not only for keeping Cabot's secret but how they just signed the arrest report for a murder they knew never even happened. This forces Cabot to reveal herself to the world to testify to put the guy in jail but Benson and Stabler still hear it from Internal Affairs for knowingly making a false arrest.
  • The 2018 series Life Sentence has Stella learning that her supposedly terminal cancer is cured. While at first happy, Stella learns that her family, either to help her recovery or because they thought she was going to die, have long been keeping her in the dark on various things. Her father is broke and about to sell the house; her mother is now sleeping with another woman; her brother is basically a drug dealer; and her sister is having family issues. Stella has to handle this new knowledge affecting her life.
    • A big example is when Stella decides to apply for a manager's job and can't find her high school diploma. It turns out that she never actually graduated and her parents forged the diploma she saw, making Stella realize how behind she is with adult life.
    • Also, Stella tries to defend her marriage to Wes as not just being about him getting a green card from a dying girl. But the fact she had no idea he lived for two years with another woman in London seriously weakens her case.
  • Keeping track of who knows what on Lost can be confusing even for the cast. In one episode, Hurley expresses his frustration over remembering who is in the need to know about what.
  • King Uther in Merlin is Locked Out of the Loop about Morgana's prophetic dreams so that he will not have her executed as a sorceress. All the rest of the main cast knows that she foresaw the Sidhe woman Sophia trying to kill Prince Arthur. Morgana is herself Locked Out of the Loop by Gaius and Merlin, the only ones aware of how powerful her magic ability is; Gaius doses her up with heavy sleeping draught in an attempt to make her forget her dreams.
  • The My Name Is Earl episode "No Heads and a Duffel Bag", show's that Earl's parents were completely kept out of the loop of the events centered around season 3. In this case, Earl's months in prison, intervention and current coma.
    Randy: He got hit by a car a month ago...
    Carl: A month ago?! And you didn't think to mention that when you were here for lunch last week!?
    Randy: I got distracted, okay?
  • As of "A Moroccan Christmas", everyone in The Office knows that Angela's been sleeping with Dwight except for Andy, Angela's fiancée.
  • Lily and Vivian in Pushing Daisies weren't told that Chuck is alive. Olive knows, but thinks she faked her death when she actually died for real only to be resurrected.
    • Subverted in the (sniff) Series Finale.
  • On Quantum Leap, it's eventually revealed that Sam has a loving wife in his own time. This fact is kept from him, because knowing the truth would hinder his ability to cope with leaping from one life to another.
  • When Remington Steele begins, Laura has two aides, Bernice and Murphy, who are aware that Remington is just a shady guy stepping into the identity Laura created. After they both leave, the duo hire Mildred, who totally believes Steele is the brilliant investigator and Laura just his assistant. Thus, often, Mildred fails to relay messages from one to the other, figuring Steele doesn't need to know about the "underling" and that Laura isn't privy to Steele's work. They finally take her aside to lay it out.
    Mildred: So, Mr. Steele is the boss but Ms. Holt is the one actually in charge.
    Steele: Surely, Mildred, having worked for the federal government, this shouldn't be too hard a concept to grasp.
    • In the third season, Mildred is heartbroken by nearly botching a case and ready to quit. To cheer her up, Steele finally tells her the truth so she knows the real deal.
  • In the Rosewood episode "Ballistics & BFFs", the police department tries to lock Rosewood out of the loop regarding their plan to expose and arrest Detective Hame, a murderous Dirty Cop, because Rosewood is a civilian and prone to recklessness. Unfortunately for them, Rosewood independently figures out that Hame is a murderer, and everyone's efforts to keep Rosewood locked out of the loop while he's trying to warn them about Hame convince Rosewood that they're all being Horrible Judges of Character and that he needs to rescue them. Rosewood lampshades how not letting him in nearly caused the entire thing to blow up in a tragic mess.
  • The Shield: This usually happens to Ronnie when the Strike Team is dealing with something significant. It comes to a head in the Grand Finale when he finds out that Vic lied to him about the immunity deal. And he is PISSED!!!
  • In Stargate Atlantis, the cast uses a retrovirus to transform Michael from a Wraith into a human. His memory is erased as a side effect, and they decide to hide his true nature from him. Needless to say, he is pissed when he finds out. In fact, in one Bad Future, he ends up as the ultimate Big Bad of the Pegasus Galaxy, defeating both the Tau'ri and the Wraith with his new hybrid faction.
  • In the second season of Star Trek: Voyager, Janeway, Tuvok and Paris all conspire to have Paris act like a malcontent in order to flush out a mole working with the Kazon. They deliberately left Chakotay out of the plan because they suspected the traitor was a former Maquis member, which would put him in an "awkward position".
  • Played for laughs in the penultimate episode of season three of Stranger Things. When the entire group finally gets together, they have a talk where it becomes clear each part of the group has been totally unaware of events of the others: the main Party are thrown to discover there's a secret Russian base under the mall; The Scoops Troop have no idea the Mind-Flayer has returned; Robin is thrown to discover El and her secret powers; and Erica still can't believe her brother has been part of this whole thing. Then Hopper, Joyce and Murray show up to detail how they know all of this already.
  • This happens to Sam in Supernatural quite a few times. When he dies at the end of season 2, Dean pretends Sam was badly hurt but recovered, as Dean doesn't want Sam to know about his deal. In Season 6, they keep the fact that Sam returned from the pit without a soul from him. Again in Season 9, Dean hides the fact that an angel is possessing Sam from Sam.
  • On Teen Wolf, Lydia. Which is a mistake, given that she's been hallucinating Peter Hale all season. She ends up finding out and getting involved by the end of Season 2.
    • Scott and Stiles' parents are the same for most of the first two seasons. Scott's mother ends up witnessing Scott's werewolf form near the end of Season 2, while in Season 3A Stiles finally just tells his father everything, but he doesn't believe it until he gets kidnapped by a druid.
    • Subverted by Danny. For most of the series both the main characters and the fans assumed that Danny didn't know about the supernatural. Then in the 3B finale he reveals he's worked out what's going on, and interviews with the creator imply he's known all along, and was just smart enough to stay out of it.
    • By the end of Season 3B the only named characters not in the know are the school staff and Agent Mccall.
  • In The Thick of It specials "The Rise Of The Nutters" and "Spinners And Losers", Malcolm Tucker is constantly kept out of the loop despite being the Prime Minister's spin doctor.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Passage on the Lady Anne", Alan and Eileen Ransome are the only people onboard the Lady Anne who do not know that she is headed towards the afterlife.
  • On Veep, White House Press Secretary Mike McLintock intentionally will lock himself out of the loop when Selina Meyer's team starts to discuss sensitive information so he can go in front of the press and claim deniability.
  • On The West Wing, CJ is often Locked out of the Loop by the other senior staff on important confidential issues, because if she knows something and is asked about it directly during press briefings, she would be forced to lie to the public, which could jeopardize the White House's relationship with the media. This creates a lot of uncomfortable situations where everyone knows something except CJ, and CJ wants to know the truth, but no one can tell her for her own good. This happens to an extent in real life.
  • The Wire sees this happen with the docks plot in season 2. When the MCU makes their arrests, a lack of communication with the Homicide Unit means they don't learn about Ziggy's murder of the Greek's fence Glekas until they read about it in the newspaper two days after it happens. Cedric Daniels rightfully chews out Jay Landsman for failing to get this information to them:
    Cedric Daniels: Let me ask you, who exactly am I working all these dead girls for? The Homicide unit, right? The same Homicide unit that can't put two and two together and pick up a phone leaving me to read it a day-and-a-half later in The Baltimore Sun. (Beat) What did you take from the scene?
    Jay Landsman: Photos, latents, spent casings... Fuck, they cleaned everything else?
    Cedric Daniels: Even for a supremely fucked-up police department this takes the prize.


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