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Aborted Arc

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And oh yes, there's this murder mystery plot set up early on. Six different members of a military squad are introduced and established with names and slightly anemic personalities, but then it transpires that there's a traitor among them picking them off. You even have a boss fight with him, his face cunningly concealed by camera angles and bits of scenery. So, do you want to know who the traitor turned out to be? So the fuck would I, because the game kind of forgets about this whole subplot and hopes you do, too.

When a Story Arc disappears off the face of the storyline without warning, never to be heard from again.

For a long while viewers will likely be under the impression that the disappeared major Plot Point will pop up any minute now — an impression which will eventually give way to a dawning comprehension that the story has moved on, none of the factors that made this plot point important matter any more and it would be just ridiculous for someone to suddenly recall the whole thing now, after all this time.

Why did this happen? It's anyone's guess. Maybe the introduction of that plot point had fans complaining, so it was quietly discarded to appease them. Maybe a crucial cast member quit the show, and said plot can't be continued without their character. Maybe the powers that be didn't like it and demanded it be dropped. Maybe they did want to continue that arc, but were writing by the seat of their pants and didn't know where else to go, or they didn't have the budget to film it. Or maybe the writers just realized it was a lousy idea that was cluttering up the plot, or just lost interest in it. This weighs rather heavily on the Willing Suspension of Disbelief, but sometimes the best way to execute an Author's Saving Throw and get rid of an element that isn't doing the story any favors is to just pretend it never happened. Then again, it's harder to pass the throw if the arc had significant buildup; such buildup retroactively becomes Fauxshadowing.

Mainly a series trope; writers will usually avoid this if they can, and you can always go back and edit a stand-alone work before publishing, unless the deadline is really pressing. At best, it's a gross violation of The Law of Conservation of Detail; at worst, this is done for no reason whatsoever and rends the plot asunder to create a fresh new Plot Hole.

Jokes tend to have this trope in spades, as the whole point is to build up to an unexpected pun or twist ending by any means necessary — then full stop, no closure. People who have No Sense of Humor (and people trolling) will then say "And then what happened?"

Cases where there is a resolution eventually, no matter how trite or sudden, aren't this trope — though really bad cases of Four Lines, All Waiting, Out of Focus or Sequel Gap usually end up emulating the effects for all intents and purposes; when the plot point does get brought out of cryogenic suspension, fans have long since lost all hope for it or interest in it.

If the arc does eventually come back, that's Plot Archaeology.

Compare with: What Could Have Been, Kudzu Plot, The Chris Carter Effect, Creator Breakdown, Franchise Killer, What Happened to the Mouse?, and They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot. See also: Dummied Out, Left Hanging, Cut Short and Conclusion in Another Medium.

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Other examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • In as much as there is continuity, one Dilbert comic involved Dogbert raising an army of cloned vegetables. It was supposed to be longer, but Scott Adams found it wasn't as funny as he thought it would be, so he actually stated in comic he was ending the arc by "skipping ahead to the big finish." Another arc, featuring the death of Dilbert, was also resolved quicker than planned when Adams ran out of ideas (he also mentioned doing it to shake things up, but the strip was so early that nobody cared). Another early arc involved Dilbert building a robot that became gradually more intelligent before being dropped without comment a few weeks later; the plotline was revisited more than a decade later with a different robot, who went on to become a regular.
  • Doctor Who Magazine comic strip:
    • During Steve Parkhouse's period as writer in the early 1980s, the Fifth and Sixth Doctors had repeatedly clashed with the amphibian alien Corrupt Corporate Executive Josiah W. Dogbolter. After Parkhouse left as writer, this was abandoned, with Dogbolter being a Karma Houdini for his many crimes (including being responsible for the murder of the Fifth Doctor's comics-only companion Gus). Many years later, in the #500 issue, the Milestone Celebration strip "The Stockbridge Showdown" finally revived this and gave Dogbolter his comeuppance.
    • A lengthy planned character arc for Dark Action Girl turned companion Destrii was dropped when the TV show was revived, and it was decided that the Ninth Doctor comic strips would be tied strictly into the TV continuity. As a result the Eighth Doctor and Destrii got an And the Adventure Continues ending and the comic switched straight into the Ninth Doctor and Rose.
  • A two-week 1995 FoxTrot storyline had Paige getting the role of Cleopatra in the school's Antony and Cleopatra play, (with Morton playing Antony). The story ended before the play started, with Roger noticing Paige's name in the play program. The play itself was never seen.
  • Luann:
    • At one point creator Greg Evans had planned a storyline which revealed the reason Satellite Love Interest Aaron Hill was so uninterested in Luann's (or anyone else's) advances: he simply wasn't interested... in girls. Evans got cold feet, fearing he didn't have enough of a subscriber base to absorb the potential loss of paper slots, like Lynn Johnston did when she pulled a similar storyline. So he altered the story so that Aaron was hiding a relationship with the much older Dianne.
    • After Aaron was put on a plane to Hawaii, the strip signaled his reunion with Luann in a storyline where she wins a contest flight to Hawaii. What happens when she reunites with Aaron there? She sees him once with another girl, doesn't even bother to confirm she's his girlfriend, and then doesn't speak to him again after that. Aaron's return was teased again with a strip where he sends Luann a Myspace friend request and a message suggesting he's single now, but nothing came of it after that.
  • Doonesbury decided to celebrate its 20th anniversary year (1990) with a big epic storyline in which all the strip's various plotlines and characters converged together, with practically the entire cast all ending up at Mike's apartment. Creator Garry Trudeau ended up writing himself into a corner with the arc, which had everyone together but didn't give them anything to do. The arc got weirder when Mike's house was mistaken for a crack den and raided by federal agents. Trudeau decided the whole thing had gotten out of hand, and undid the entire arc by revealing that the last several months worth of strips had been All Just a Dream.
  • Heart of the City story arcs often end suddenly with no further explanation. An example is an arc where Heart's mom agrees to go on a date, which Heart dreads until she learns that the man is a talent agent. After that, the arc ended.
  • Lampshaded in a Peanuts strip in which Snoopy is writing a novel. One part of the plot involves a king living in luxury while his people starved. In tying up the plot threads, Snoopy left him out.
  • Subverted in Pearls Before Swine. One story arc involving beer can-shaped aliens coming to Earth and Rat making enemies with them gets abandoned without explanation, and then a second one where Pig and Guard Duck travel to space in a cardboard box spaceship has the same thing happen, with the two stranded in space without air. When Rat asks Stephan Pastis if he ever plans on finishing a storyline, he quickly writes a sloppy conclusion to both: the beer can aliens see Pig's spaceship and attack by throwing oxygen canisters, saving them.
    Rat: Tell me they don't pay you for this.

    Films — Animation 
  • BoBoiBoy Movie 2: The start of the film informs of BoBoiBoy's positive track record as a TAPOPS member but also a tendency to save those who hinder their missions. After Retak'ka enters the picture as an intergalactic threat, this issue is never touched on again.
  • Because the DC Animated Movie Universe ended with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, a number of plots set up in various stingers will never be followed up on, including Ocean Master teaming up with Lex Luthor, Jericho surviving H.I.V.E.'s attempt to kill him, and Veronica Cale swearing revenge on Wonder Woman.
  • An early scene in Cat City, a film about a "race war" between the benevolent mice and evil cats, introduces the kitten Cathy, the daughter of the despicable Fritz Teufel's abused assistant Safranek. She seems to be the only cat on friendly terms with mice, something extremely unusual in the film's world. But this revelation, her relationship with her "pet mouse" and her indirect connection to the main villains lead nowhere and she ends up as a superfluous character. Her inclusion was due to Executive Meddling, as the financiers wanted a positive cat character in the film. The creators reluctantly put her in a few scenes but had no use for her otherwise.

  • The release of the album "Fangs!" seemed to be something of a new beginning for the experimental rock band Falling Up. It was both a New Sound Album and a Concept Album that was the beginning of a story arc... then the band broke up. The band reunited in 2011, but their album doesn't really continue the story line of Fangs.
  • David Bowie's 1995 concept album 1. Outside was supposed to be the first of a series leading up to the millennium. Bowie first planned to release one new album for each succeeding year from 1995 to 1999, then cut it down to a trilogy, then scrapped it altogether. Bowie devised characters for a second installment during production of Earthling, and 1. Outside's producer, Brian Eno, considered starting the project back up again during the 2010s, but in the end, further albums continuing the "non-linear gothic drama hyper cycle" never appeared. According to Bowie, the main obstacle was having to scour through hours of jam sessions to find material that he could stitch together into coherent albums.
  • Sufjan Stevens was initially advertising with the release of his 2005 album Illinois — itself a quasi-follow-up to his 2003 album Michigan — that it was the second part of a "50 states project", an ambitious multi-Concept Album project of tackling the history, folklore, and cultural impact of all states of America. No album following this format has been released since (sans maybe Carrie & Lowell, with some elements believed to have been reworked from an Oregon-themed project). Stevens came clean in 2009 that he had no intentions of really doing that much work, and that the claim was just a "promotional gimmick".
  • John Linnell intended his 1999 album "State Songs" to be the first part of a trilogy... which has never been continued, and probably never will be. This album was recorded during They Might Be Giants' 1996-1999 downtime (their only studio album of this period — "Long Tall Weekend" — consisting largely of old, unreleased material), and since then, the group have been much, much busier. The idea of the "State Songs" project was to record fifty songs titled after each of the U.S. States, but he only got to sixteen of them note 
  • The Beatles:
    • The band had planned to record an theme album about their childhoods with "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" being the first two songs written for this endeavor. "When I'm Sixty-Four" was the next song recorded for the album, though it had been written years earlier, and eventually the concept shifted to a fictitious band putting on a performance, yet with every song being impossible to do live (for them at the time) and thus Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was born. While the title song and its "reprise" relate to this theme, none of the other songs do.
    • In 1969, the band decided to record some songs together in a studio, and later in an impromptu concert on the Apple rooftop, in what would become the album Get Back, all while filming a documentary about the experience. The Glory Days revival would even be illustrated with an album cover replicating the Please Please Me one. The whole ordeal wound up just raising tensions and ultimately leading to the Beatles' breakup, but not before they decided to make Abbey Road before calling it quits. Then the Get Back sessions were submitted to Phil Spector for an orchestral makeover, and the result was Let It Be. The cover was famously repurposed for the compilation 1966-1970, aka The Blue Album.
  • Lupe Fiasco's fourth studio album Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, released in September 2012, intended on being released as a double disc album. However, Lupe's label Atlantic Records refused to do the arrangement, so the album was divided into two separate projects (hence the addition of "Part 1" in the album title). The second part of the album was intended to be released in the Spring of the following year, but on January 17th, 2013, it was announced on his Twitter that Lupe was scrapping the second part altogether.
  • Gorillaz had set up their most ambitious phase surrounding Plastic Beach, intended to be merely the first of a trilogy of albums surrounding the lore of the band, an extensive multimedia project following the virtual band's plights on the titular island. However, halfway through the album's rollout — marked by the extensive, lore-setting music video of "On Melancholy Hill" — the project was abruptly cancelled, seemingly because it was too expensive to ever keep going (the last word on it was a storyboard to a music video for "Rhinestone Eyes"). Following the band's hiatus for several years, the only definite resolution the plot received were heavily-compressed "books" serving as pretext to the band's reunion and new status quo, and it's unlikely that the Plastic Beach saga will ever be finished in its intended glory.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street: Human characters Maria and David were hooked up until the mid-1980s. According to Louise Gikow, who wrote for various international co-productions, the reason why the David–Maria romance angle was dropped was due to health problems involving David's actor, Northern Calloway. Calloway had been battling mental illness since the 17th season began in 1985, and by the time the 20th season ended in 1989, he became so ill and ill-looking and his behavior had become so erratic that he had to leave the show, dying of excited delirium complications only a year later in 1990.

  • Behind The Veil has several, mostly due to players leaving and never returning. Key mention would be the long-running feud between Kathleen Allan and May Lawrence which ended when the latter's player disappeared and never returned.
  • Campus Life:
    • The Scourge VS Sonic arc. Though the Anarchy Berly he brought to the world is still around, Scourge has long since disappeared and Sonic is now rampaging around as Dark Super Sonic.
    • The original B-Plot to the RP where the characters had to deal with the Slenderman.
  • Dino Attack RPG:
    • This is the fate of any character's story when their player leaves the RPG. Probably the most infamous example of an Aborted Arc would be Databoard's quest to rescue Stealth, which was left unresolved after Chronicler of Ko-Koro left Dino Attack RPG.
    • Players do not even need to leave Dino Attack RPG for their story arcs to be aborted. For example, TakunuvaC01 had some plans for the Dino Aliens that were ultimately aborted with the introduction of Dino Attack RPG's Story Arc formula.
    • The alternate ending L.E.G.O. was aborted after only two chapters.
  • In Greatest Hit a war with Algeria never materializes, nor does The Moon's Band Toon.
  • Happens so often in Super Smash Brothers Life Itself due to players leaving most of the time; the missions they made just often get sent to the Sites Archive.
  • Given that the basis of Survival of the Fittest is for characters to be killed off, this tends to happen a good deal. Many a character has died before fulfilling every goal their handler wanted to achieve with them. Outside circumstances — such as other characters in the planned arc being unavailable, also contribute to this occurring. For example, Madelaine Shirohara (of the first game) was originally supposed to be killed by Psychopathic Manchild Cillian Crowe, then his handler abruptly disappeared. The arc that replaced this one, though, was arguably one of the best in SOTF history, so it isn't all bad.
  • In Tamrielic Adventures, this occurs twice; both times, it's due to a change in DM:
    • The first DM's plot, involving two secret organizations at war, was abandoned when the second DM took over; this point was hammered home when the characters' ship, en route from Morrowind to Hammerfell, wrecked on the coast of Skyrim.
    • The second DM had planned an arc where the characters travel on the way to the Imperial City to bring the newly-captured fugitive to face justice, and there being conflict within the group as they learn more about his past and that he's actually half innocent. This was dropped when the third DM took over; the fugitive was just brought to the prison in Windhelm (from which he subsequently escaped), and the next arc, involving pirates attacking the city, began.
  • In We Are All Pokémon Trainers the Warriors sub-arc in Holon lacked a resolution due to the player responsible for managing it losing motivation.
  • We Have All Become Pokémon has had its fair share of this itself, with arguably the biggest example being the Slak Rock arc, a major arc that ended without resolution when the player managing said arc abruptly abandoned it. The arc ran on fumes for a while until the playerbase gave up and moved on to the next one. Some smaller-scale examples of this include:
    • The epilogue of the Hoard arc was not meant to end at the point that it did, but did anyway due to much of the playerbase having grown tired of the arc by that point and wanting to move on from Hoard.
    • The music competition during the Gleamscape arc ended early due to the player managing it having to take a hiatus from the RP.
    • During the aforementioned Slak Rock arc, Marlon the Gallade was tasked with training a feisty Meinfoo named Sho. This plot was abruptly cancelled shortly afterwards when Sho's player decided to call it quits.
    • An ongoing plot about Jani the Diglett needing to evolve into a Dugtrio alongside two other Digletts (Lilly and Tilly, the sisters of Milly, the Diglett Jani became through a "Freaky Friday" Flip) lest all three's respective mental states begin to deteriorate ended up being put on indefinite hold due to their player finding writing for Diglett/Dugtrio characters awkward (since Digletts are moles that never leave the ground; considerably limiting their mobility and interaction options) and the fact that Jani has become a Purrloin (which Jani did in an attempt to escape the dilemma) and is expected to remain as such for a while (which is partially due to her player admitting to preferring Jani as a Purrloin), rendering Tilly and Lilly superfluous and needing to be Put on a Bus until their plot comes back into relevance again.
    • A sidequest involving the aforementioned Jani, Milo the Umbreon, and a host of native Pokémon exploring an ancient fallout shelter deep within a canyon that was intended to have a significant effect on the setting was quietly ended without resolution after its GM unexpectedly took a hard indefinite hiatus from the RP and the rest of the players involved could not think of a satisfying way to conclude the plot after multiple IRL months of no progress with it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade had innumerable half-finished non-runners, especially when it came to details like the end of the world. Most notable was the pathetic Rasputin plotline, wherein Rasputin the Mad Monk was actually a Tremere who had somehow found a way to essentially become Caine, so that God/Karma could kill him instead, thus averting complete obliteration of the vampire species.
    • In truth, many Old World of Darkness splats laid claim to Rasputin, not just the vampires. The one that stuck? He's a wraithly Puppeteer who enjoys bodyhopping various supernaturals.
    • Vampire: The Requiem has a lot of potential aborted arcs. The possibility that Anoushka (Vlad Dracula's childe) is The Unholy (superpowered urban legend force of nature) is toyed with again and again, and finally thrown away in the Immortal Sinners supplement. Thankfully, the in-character artifact clanbooks allowed the various freelance writers to wrap up their pet storylines, with the unfortunate side effect of so many of those favorite storylines being given pat Word of God bullshit tie-ups to shut the fans up.
    • The "Glass Armonium" MacGuffin shut down many plot hooks.
  • The pre-revision Magic: The Gathering comics were leading up to the Planeswalker War, but the comic line was cancelled before it could be published. Some of the characters involved, like Freyalise, Taysir and Tevesh Szat have turned up later in modern storylines, but details on what actually went down are extraordinarily vague.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The game is infamous for its plot never advancing. Almost all major events or story lines that might have an actual impact on the larger universe are almost never brought up or touched upon after the expansion in which they take place.
    • The "Eye of Terror" summer event from 2003 was billed as having a huge impact on the 40k universe - if the Imperium and their allies won, the Eye of Terror would shrink, the Imperium could expand to entirely new sectors of space, and an upswing of faith could generate new crusades and a (relative) golden age for mankind. On the other hand, a victory for Chaos would hasten the Imperium's collapse, see increased Chaos incursions, and possibly even lead to the fall of the Cadian Gate and a huge resultant tide of Chaos Marines and daemons into realspace. It had the potential to introduce enormous changes to the setting and there were even rumours that significant characters from the losing side could be killed. However, none of this panned out - once the results were in and announced (a minor victory for Chaos - stated in-game to be Abaddon succeeding in gaining a foothold on Cadia, albeit with his fleet in tatters), Games Workshop did absolutely nothing with it before quietly sweeping the whole thing under the rug with a series of retcons a decade later.
    • As of 8th edition in 2017 (said event occurred shortly before the release of 4th edition), status quo has finally been dumped and nearly everything promised back then has actually happened; the Cadian Gate has fallen and Chaos has spread across large parts of realspace, splitting the galaxy in half. Of course, this more than likely brings a couple of decades or so of the new status quo.
    • Games Workshop had reportedly planned an arc that would see the Tau raised as the chosen race to defeat Chaos, with the Ultramarines discovering this fact and opting to ally with them, possibly against other elements of the Imperium. The Tau were even flagged as "Battle Brothers" for Space Marines in the 6th Edition rulebook (the highest tier of alliance, indicating deeply trusted allies). However, possibly in reaction to the negative reception this idea received, the idea was quietly shelved and the Tau-Space Marine alliance capability was reduced in future editions.
  • Shadowrun does this on purpose, allowing game masters to run self-written adventures that "fill in the blanks" and tie-into the game's lore.
  • Traveller had the whole "Empress Wave" Meta Plot arc in The New Era 3rd edition. Some sort of psychic wave coming from the galactic core that drove psions mad was just about to reach the Regency...and then Game Designers Workshop went out of business. The next version of Traveller by a different company was set more than a thousand years earlier, and all the versions that have come after have been set in roughly the same time period as the original game, with no sign of a meta-plot, so we may never find out what was supposed to happen next.

  • The American version of Kristina från Duvemåla cuts out the significant plot point of the majority of the immigrants being killed in a Sioux attack after Kristina's miscarriage. (Presumably for the sake of political correctness, since the songs are left in their full length but with different lyrics, thus saving no time.) However, the event is still foreshadowed in "Queen of the Prairie"/"Wild Grass" through the fur trader's warnings, leaving it as an unresolved thread to audiences unfamiliar with the original story.
  • The Taming of the Shrew begins with the premise that the play is a play within a play being presented to a drunkard named Christopher Sly, who is being fooled into thinking he is actually a rich and prestigious man as a prank. After the initial set-up, this is never brought up again. Some versions of the story have him appear at the end, planning to go home and deal with his own shrewish wife in a similar way to the story he just heard (though due to his drunkenness he just remembers it as a dream).
  • Rosmersholm, written by Henrik Ibsen in 1886, has an interesting set-up. It begins with a rather political premise, setting up the strife of the times, with the main character positioning himself in the middle. Then the play turns around and gets more and more introverted, putting politics firmly in the background, to focus mainly on the inner struggles of the main character. This can be seen from the beginning of the second act.

    Theme Parks 
  • Sometimes, at Disney Theme Parks, Imagineers will add something to an attraction while it's being built for some purpose, only to eventually go in a different direction, leaving an element in the attraction that leads nowhere. These are also a form of Dummied Out. Some examples:
    • The nods to dragons and unicorns in Disney's Animal Kingdom were hinting towards a land that they ended up never building, Beastly Kingdom, focusing on fantasy creatures. The only things left of that (so far) are a dragon-shaped rock formation near Pandora, a bridge that looks like the entrance to a castle, and the big dragon who appears on the park's logo to the confusion of many a guest. The concept of including mythological creatures into the park was eventually picked up by Expedition Everest's Yeti, but has yet to be paid off in full.
    • The animatronic raven in The Haunted Mansion was originally going to be the "narrator" of the ride, which ended up being much better implemented with the "Ghost Host" being piped in through the Doom Buggy's individual speakers. The ravens, however, are still situated throughout the ride, flapping and moving their beaks as if they were saying something, possibly because the Imagineers saw it looked like a creepy effect.
    • In the super-secret-invite-only Club 33 restaurant, several disused animatronic animal heads hang from the wall. Walt had planned to be able to speak through them to his guests. The idea was abandoned because it was deemed too silly for a high-class restaurant, and because of privacy concerns. The idea sort of came to fruition at the shut-down Adventurers' Club in Disney World's Pleasure Island.
    • The original vision for Epcot was an aborted arc. Disney's plan was for an actual city (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow) where people lived and worked. The Monorails and the People Movers were to be part of the infrastructure.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The final chapter of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney makes a big deal about the introduction of jury trials, with the Big Bad ultimately being convicted via jury. Come the sequel, the courtroom is still running according to the rules set up in the old games and the matter of jurists are scarcely mentioned.
    • The anime prologue of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice features Maya being attacked by a rebel in Khura'in in the middle of a phone conversation with Phoenix. Her mobile phone is broken, and Phoenix thinks something bad has happened to her. Not actually, because Nahyuta Sahdmadhi happened to drop by and immobilize the rebel before he could do any harm to her, but Phoenix decides to go immediately to Khura'in to check up on Maya.

      In the game proper, this assault is never talked about. It's said that Phoenix just went there because Maya was finishing her training to be the Master of Kurain Village.

    Web Animation 
  • When Two arrived in Battle for BFDI, the entire show split and nearly all ongoing arcs were voided like Book's Arc to be a better leader for Taco and Team Ice Cube as a family unit. The only arc carried over to Battle for BFB is Leafy and Firey's Arc, continuing from SEASON 1
  • In the first episode of Camp Camp, Max is trying to escape Camp Campbell and drags his new friends Nikki and Neil with him. After his plan inevitably fails, he swears to the councilor David that he and his new friends will escape, setting up the main plot of the series... which is dropped after being brought up again in only one episode. Justified, as in said episode, Max realizes that his problem isn't that he hates the camp... it's that he hates everyone.
  • In Murder Drones, Uzi imposes an exile on herself at the end of the first episode, setting out to kill all humans in revenge. The very next episode not only shows that her exile was not taken seriously at all by anyone at the Worker Drone base — even her guilty father views it more as her grounding herself rather than anything more serious — leading to her openly returning partway through, but her desire for a human genocide is shoved into the background in favor of investigating the show's lore and characters' pasts, including the question of what the Absolute Solver is and what the JC Jenson company was really doing on the planet.

Alternative Title(s): What Happened To The Elephant