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Ass Pull

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"And I say, bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish–
That's the way we do things lad, we're making shit up as we wish;
The Klingons and the Romulans?
They pose no threat to us,
'Cause if we find we're in a bind,
We're totally screwed, but nevermind,
We'll pull something out of our behinds!
We just make some shit up!"

A truly great Plot Twist is one of the hardest things to pull off in fiction writing. Optimally, the writer will want to reveal the twist in a way where as much as the audience as possible is caught off-guard by it, but also make it a satisfying experience for any audience members who decide to go through the story again to be able to see the subtle hints towards the twist, and realize that the twist was an integrated part of the story from the beginning and the writer really was building up to it all along. This page, however, is all about when that fails to happen, for whatever reason.

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An Ass Pull is a moment when the writers pull a narrative development out of thin air in a less-than-graceful fashion. This development violates the Law of Conservation of Detail by dropping a plot-critical detail without Foreshadowing or dropping a Chekhov's Gun earlier on.

In cases where a character suddenly gets a new skill without explanation, it's usually explained away as a Chekhov's Classroom or Chekhov's Skill, except the audience never saw the character attending the lecture in question, or any prior examples of him or her using, or even training that skill.

Generally speaking, an Ass Pull is more likely used to resolve a conflict instead of create one. Strange coincidences and details aligning in just such a way to cause conflict usually doesn't break the Willing Suspension of Disbelief on the part of the audience, especially if it's done early in the story. But the later in the story that the Ass Pull is used, the more likely the audience is to cry foul and have their disbelief broken.

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An Ass Pull used to resolve an unwinnable situation for the protagonists is a Deus ex Machina. An Ass Pull used in the same way for the villains is a Diabolus ex Machina. An Ass Pull doesn't necessarily have to resolve or derail a situation, though — many times, an Ass Pull is just used without any greater plot implication and Played for Laughs. Alternatively, they could come up so as to prevent your characters using a Mundane Solution and shortening your 20 minute episode into 20 seconds. Please limit examples on this page to ones that don't fit in either of the other two.

The term is also used to describe something that the characters make up on the spot. See Writing by the Seat of Your Pants. Sometimes called Sulu's Foil, since it's the opposite of Chekhov's Gun. In Russia, it's called "grand piano in the bushes". Spanish-speaking fandoms refer to it as "Guionazo" or "Poder del Guión" (Power of the Script). Pulling a useful object out of seemingly nowhere is related to Hammerspace. A particularly bad Ass Pull can even produce a Plot Hole or two.

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As this trope frequently concerns plot twists, all spoilers will be unmarked.

This trope is not about donkeys that pull carts. Also, as much as it sounds like it, it is not the opposite of Ass Shove (when a character literally pulls an object out of someone's rear, or the opposite). It's also not related to Wing Pull, though there is a surprising amount of overlap.


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    Comic Books 

  • The DC Comics Crisis Crossover Armageddon 2001 (back in 1991!) has a mystery villain called Monarch, who was originally meant to be the hero Captain Atom. The problem was that the foreshadowing for this is so obvious that fans figured it out well before the story was over and posted about it on the Internet. The DC brass, desperate to preserve the shock value, changed the ending at the last minute and had a completely different character, Hawk (one of the few characters who the story up to that point had explicitly said couldn't be Monarch), Freak Out and turn evil after his future self kills his partner Dove in front of him, because his series was getting cancelled anyway. When they reintroduced a "new" Monarch to be one of the villains in Countdown to Final Crisis, they didn't even bother hiding his identity anymore - Captain Atom, natch.
  • Batman does this frequently, often in the form of exaggerating his Crazy-Prepared tendencies. A lot of his weirder or more “specialized” gadgets (such as the infamous Shark Repellent spray or Bat-Credit card) are often either the result of various writers having written themselves into a corner for one reason or another and desperately needing Batman to do something miraculous to pull himself out of a situation that should logically be unwinnable under normal circumstances, or because the writer loves Batman and wants to make him look as cool as possible by making him do something seemingly impossible, no matter how little sense it makes.
  • Batman: Three Jokers had two:
    • The first being the Comedian Joker, the Joker from The Killing Joke turning out to have been abusive even prior to his fall, with one fan pointing out that Alan Moore's notes even stated he wasn't abusive before then. Then again, it was stated that the Joker doesn't remember things the same way and Brian Bolland himself ignored some of Moore's notes.
    • The second and biggest being Batman stating he knew who the Comedian was a week after they met. One: it was established in the series itself that the chemical deforms identifiable features, two: a long-running feature in the Batman/Joker relationship is Bruce not knowing who the Joker is, three: the whole "three Jokers" thing was kicked off by Bruce sitting in Metron's Mobius chair during Darkseid War and using the chair to figure the mystery out — only to be surprised to learn it was three guys, and four: if he figured out who the "Comedian" was, why didn't he figure out who the "Clown" and "Mastermind" were?
  • Avengers Disassembled and House of M. The Scarlet Witch spontaneously becomes nigh-omnipotent with no explanation. On a scale where she can annihilate the entire omniverse without really trying. Marvel attempted an Author's Saving Throw explanation in The Children's Crusade, where it was established that Scarlet Witch had been possessed by an elemental entity called the Life Force. Her subsequent killing spree was then stated to have been due to Doctor Doom's manipulations.
  • Judd Winick's first issue of The Outsiders introduces us to Black Lightning's daughter Anissa, who ends up becoming the heroine Thunder. His 20-something-year-old daughter who had never been seen or mentioned in any prior series featuring Black Lightning, despite his wife being a fairly prominent figure in many stories. Geoff Johns then took this even further in his JSA run by introducing us to another previously-unseen daughter, Jennifer. Jennifer had been foreshadowed in the Bad Future story Kingdom Come; this still qualifies as an ass pull by virtue of Black Lightning having no references to children just a short time before this, and his age in The Outsiders comics previously being about Batman's age at the oldest. He'd have already had to father these women by the time of his introduction.
  • The Beano: In one of the modern issues, Dennis the Menace's strip has some great examples of arsepulls. First Walter and his friends get struck by lightning and possessed by Viking ghosts, then it turns out there's an unexploded missile at the bottom of the lake, along with a WWII submarine. Then the editor rightfully asks why it's there in the first place, breaking the 4th wall. The writer's excuse? There's a "secret tunnel" connecting it to the sea, and the Germans were stupid enough to go into it during the Second World War.
    • This is probably inspired by the TV The Avengers (1960s) episode "Castle De'Ath", which also inspired the Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD story "Dark Moon Rise, Hell Hound Kill" — and was in its own turn inspired by a Tommy Hambledon short story by "Manning Coles" — which was later rewritten to change the U-boat full of escaped Nazis to a Russian sub full of spies...
  • The Clone Saga from Spider-Man, where back in 1975, an exact clone of Spider-Man appears, and at the end of that one issue, seemingly dies. Except he didn't die, showed up again in an issue some 20 years later, and mentioned out of absolutely nowhere that he was the original the whole time and that the Peter Parker the comics had been following for the past two decades was really the clone. Fans were so angry at this revelation that they essentially just said that the clone was lying and was created by the Green Goblin, who died in 1972, but to pull this off, was also actually alive the whole time.
  • Countdown to Final Crisis: Bob and Solomon suddenly being revealed to have been working together all along. Comes out of nowhere and contradicts everything Bob and Solomon have done up until that point.
  • Dilbert describes this trope as the source of his company's documented process:
    ...and our documented process was pulled out of someone's lower torso.
    • Also this:
      Next week, a doctor with a flashlight shows us where sales predictions come from.
    • And again.
  • The Flash (Rebirth) has the revelation that Eobard Thawne caused several out of character moments for the Flash Family throughout the DC Rebirth era. Things like Barry and Wally butting heads, Wallace going along with Damian Wayne's dark methods, Bart ignoring the Flash Family in favour of Young Justice and Wally covering up his accidental murders at Sanctuary are all the result of Eobard Thawne using superspeed and time-travel in conjunction with an until now unmentioned Negative Speed Force hypnosis power to make the characters do these things. This ability has not once been foreshadowed and has no relation to any other power any speedster has ever demonstrated, and Eobard could have used it any number of times before this, so it truly does come out of nowhere. However, it exists as an Author's Saving Throw for disliked moments in the era, and readers generally accept it as a very, very clumsy way of salvaging the characters.
  • Heroes in Crisis revolves around a murder mystery, where there was a massacre at Sanctuary. Booster Gold and Harley Quinn each remember the other doing it, but it turns out it was Wally West's Speed Force energy electrocuting everyone to death, because he had a mental breakdown and wasn't working to contain the energy like he always does, then he used the Sanctuary AI to create holograms that showed Booster and Harley their version of events. This doesn't make sense on a few levels. One, the Speed Force is not something that the Flashes internalise; it's something they tap into, consciously. Two, speedsters don't have to work to keep that energy from killing others, with many speedsters being extremely casual in its use and in their lives (the Flash characters are the more chill characters in the DCU in general) and nobody has ever used a Speed Force connection to this effect, even if it would be beneficial. Three, electrocution should have been noted as the cause of death immediately by the investigators — and even if the Speed Force way was different, Barry Allen is one of the investigators and is the Flash, so he would notice it anyway, since if this "burden of Speed Force" thing was even true, he would know about it. Four, Wally is not a computer whiz and should not have been able to reprogram anything.
  • The Avengers (Jonathan Hickman): During the Time Runs Out arc, the Cabal are stranded on another Earth as it's about to be blown up, with no possible means of survival... and then a completely unprecedented double incursion happens, allowing them to escape to the other Earth with no-one in the regular universe the wiser. Exactly why there's two incursions happening simultaneously is not explained, and the Cabal are never shown pondering why it might have happened.
  • The Justice League of America once went up against Despero (an alien with vast mental powers, at the time recently powered-up to be almost as strong and invulnerable as Superman) with a mostly C-List team. How to beat him? With an innate Martian power that the Martian Manhunter had never before mentioned that he had, because using it was so stressful that any given Martian can only do it once in their life. Despite that, it was still a fairly well-received story. Another weird power of his was the ability to see through the flow of time. This somehow resulted in him being immune to the powers of an opponent who completely rewrote reality. Pulling never before seen powers out of his ass is the Martian Manhunter's shtick. And then getting lit on fire the next time said power would have been useful.
  • In an arc of The Mighty Thor, Jane Foster found herself separated from Mjolnir and with her back to the wall, surrounded by her enemies. Because she was separated from Mjolnir for so long, she transformed out of her Thor form and back into Jane Foster. The villains see her civilian form, seemingly destroying her Secret Identity... nope! Mjolnir randomly developed the ability to cast illusions off-panel and casts one of Thor holding Mjolnir, allowing Jane to escape and leaving the villains unaware of Thor's secret identity.
  • Appears a lot throughout the Silent Hill comics written by Scott Ciencin. Way too many to list as the situations that called for the sphincter-tugging is due to Voodoo Sharks put in by the author everywhere in the comics, but one fact bears mentioning: Lauren getting the magic book she needed to fight the whole story's Big Bad, which is coincidentally made out of something he is specifically weak to, by buying it from E-bay. (This one's actually one of the (slightly) more excusable ones, though. She tells her friends (the friends she's planning on turning into Cannon Fodder) that she got it on eBay, but it's probably a lie, covering for a more disturbing answer.)
  • Silver Age Superman stories were notorious for coming up with convenient new powers for the main character all the time. For example super-ventriloquism. It was inverted when they simply dropped one power used regularly in the Golden Age, the ability to change his face and hair to look exactly like someone else. Would this be an Ass-Shove?
  • In an old issue of Superman Family, Lois decides to help out two Russian ballet dancers who want to defect while they're in Metropolis to perform Swan Lake. In order to save the male lead, she ties up and gags the actress playing Odette and steals her costume. Despite being a reporter, Lois is able to keep up the charade and hold her own alongside highly-trained professionals, which she chalks up to having had "years of ballet lessons" when she was a kid.
  • Per Word of God, Peter David wrote himself into a corner in an issue of Incredible Hulk where Rick Jones is trapped on a crashing Skrull ship with no way to escape, so after the ship crashes he shows up parachuting down to safety. He explains that he always carries a hidden parachute just in case he is ever trapped on a crashing Skrull ship and needs to escape. Bruce doesn't buy it. "Why not? I needed to, didn't I?" This one scene changed the entire character of Rick Jones from a hanger-on to Batman-level Crazy-Prepared with Medium Awareness.
  • Original Sin has the sudden revelation that Dum Dum Dugan was killed back in 1965 and his every appearance since has been a Life Model Decoy. The fact Dugan has been captured by everyone from Hydra to Skrulls without anyone discovering his true nature was a bit hard to swallow.
  • There's an In-Universe example in Peanuts. Snoopy is writing a story. The story goes like this: "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon!" With an Aside Glance and a grin after writing this last part, Snoopy thinks "This twist in the plot will baffle my readers..."
  • In the Power Girl ongoing, the body-swap of Terra and the Ultra-Humanite feature neither any foreshadowing nor rational explanation, and actually directly contradicts previously established facts (in the issue before the reveal, Satanna actually comments that her sources are still looking for Humanite, and so far have not had any luck in locating him). Even Terra's half-explanation after she is rescued doesn't clear up all the points, since she refers to lengthy torture sessions and stays in a psychiatric hospital, even though the entire affair occurred in only a single day.
  • Secret Empire has this habit of having a sudden twist at the end, with issues 3-5 particularly having a random hero being revealed as a HYDRA agent of some sort.
  • Secret Invasion: D-lister superhero 3-D Man (who's powers up to that point had just consisted of being roughly three times stronger and faster than a normal person) spontaneously developed the ability to see through the the otherwise-impenetrable disguises that the Skrulls were using thanks to the 3-D goggles he wore as part of his costume. This was explained as being because his powers were "old school" instead of relying on magic or technology (good luck figuring out what that was supposed to mean). Then the Skrulls figured out what he was doing and smashed his goggles... at which point he spontaneously gained the ability to do so without the goggles! Sadly, this resulted in him killing Crusader, a Skrull who'd decided he liked Earth better and was fighting against the invasion.
  • Suspense has a particularly hilarious example in "If!" (#27, 1953). A fellow falls for a pretty blonde only to find that she and her entire family are monsters... or he would have, if he weren't run over by a truck first!
  • During Warren Ellis' brief Thor run from the 90's, the title character was depowered as part of a Brought Down to Badass plot. When Peter David wanted to have Thor fight the Hulk in his Incredible Hulk run, he realized Thor would need to be at full strength. To that end, he wrote a scene where Thor banged Mjolnir on the ground while reminiscing about the good old days, which somehow magically restored his powers. The closest thing to an explanation given was "Even a god may believe in miracles," which still isn't much of an answer.
  • Deliberately invoked in The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers. Almost all of the deaths happen out of nowhere and in extremely avoidable manners, as part of the book's subversion/deconstruction of glory-fest war stories and Central Theme of how people die stupid, pointless deaths in war.
  • The Ultimates: Tony's brain tumor was actually an Infinity Gem. How that makes sense is anyone's guess.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Much like Superman, and partially because she was intentionally designed to be a woman "as powerful" as him, Diana gained powers that had never been hinted at before and were promptly forgotten about starting at the tail end of the Golden Age, the most notable being her ability to glide on the winds which stuck around and eventually became true flight making her invisible plane make far less sense than it did when she had no powers resembling flight.
    • In the Post-Crisis continuity the previously malleable powers of Diana's Lasso of Truth became much clearer and more set, which caused fan backlash when the thing didn't work properly at all in her confrontation with Max Lord—being wrapped in the lasso did not free Superman from illusions, despite the thing being able to free people from Darkseid's mental control and the Anti-Life Equation, and the lasso was unable to make Max think twice about his diabolical plot even though it had previously permanently altered Ares' outlook on life and humanity through showing him his plot would be his downfall just as it showed Max—forcing her to kill him with no explanation as to why the lasso's powers had been significantly altered for the tale beyond the writers needing it to malfunction to facilitate her killing Max Lord.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Blue Heaven's Feel, the Fate-verse apparently has real, powerful deities — one of whom conveniently empowers the protagonist at a critical moment. Admittedly, this scene was foreshadowed, but there's still no explanation as to why or how gods exist in that universe — or why nobody knows about them, given how obviously willing they are to interfere in human lives.
  • Captain Dragon: Throughout the story, Yang has been aided by a Mysterious Benefactor, always giving her just what she needed when she was really stuck. In the penultimate chapter, we find out it's Professor Oobleck, who never appeared in the story at all. The kicker is that he was working on behalf of the Vale Secret Service, an organization from a completely different fic by the same author without any indication that there was a crossover element between the stories at all.
  • Citadel of the Heart: The author was going through a mental breakdown while writing Chapter 16 of Digimon Re: Tamers. While he wasn't public about it initially, he admits the only reason he made Chapter 16 to begin with was to attempt to Torch the Franchise and Run should his own sanity decline to a point where he could no longer write anything coherently. Thankfully, he recovered, and thus it was obvious with how Chapter 16 ended that it was going to be rendered null and void by revealing the whole ordeal to be a simulation and proceeding to continue the story from there. The author considers it a sort of Necessary Weasel with the existence of the fic because of the massive Creator Breakdown and Reality Subtext Chapter 16 was filled to the brim with, thus why he doesn't regret having rendered Chapter 16 almost effectively all but non-canon.
  • The Gainax Ending of Dante's Night at Freddy's 2: Animatronic Boogaloo is rife with this: The revelation that Dante and his daughter Evie were sent back in time by a third party is never foreshadowed, the battle damage that the old animatronics suffered that appears to be a carry over from the previous story turns out to be the result of a Contrived Coincidence regarding Dante's twin brother and they return to modern day because Bill & Ted of all people just happen to bump into them. The author openly admitted he wanted to take the story in a more absurd, farcical direction, so it was intentional, but whether it was any funnier for it is up to the reader.
  • The climactic misunderstanding of The Dark Heart centers around a fertility goddess not knowing what virginity is.
  • DOOM: Repercussions of Evil: "No, John. You are the demons." Spoken by Cernel Joson (presumably, as he had been speaking on the radio before), as the second-to-last line of the story, after John Stalvern insists that he has to fight the demons. This contradicts Joson sending John out to fight the demons. This is then followed by the trope-naming line And Then John Was a Zombie.
  • In the story within a story in "Equestria: A History Revealed", the ending to the fic's version of the Hearts and Hooves Day legend certainly qualifies as this, when near the end, a giant ponyeating dragon suddenly descends upon high and burns every pony alive in the kingdom. But it's Played for Laughs though. By the title of the book it was pulled from, "How the Sea-Pony Wished Upon a Star and Unknowingly Started Racial Prosecution Under An Emergent Fascist Regime: A Collection of Filly's Tales and Legends That Start Off Whimsical But End in Destruction and Death", it seemed as though that was only the first of many legends that ended up in such a way.
  • In the Fantasia Times story "Fantasia Dreamscape Adventure", it's revealed at the end that Sera's boyfriend Finn was a Love-Interest Traitor who was secretly working with the villains. Except there's nothing in any of his sparse previous appearances that even hint towards this being a possibility, and the fact that he and Sera were explicitly set up as soulmates in his first appearance is ignored completely. Add in the fact that Sera was flirting with a different character who appeared in the arc before the reveal was made, and it becomes frustratingly obvious that the author only tacked this twist on because Sera's real-life counterpart no longer had a Celebrity Crush on Finn.
  • In Chapter 8 of Forbiden Fruit: The Tempation of Edward Cullen, Tiaa gets out her previously unmentioned samurai sword (she often has it with her!!!) but never gets a chance to use it. Unfortunately, it can be said without exaggeration this is the very least of the fic's problems.
  • Forged Destiny:
    • The revelation of most of the Hunters' Levels, as they receive so little focus, their growth rate not being shown due to the First Person Narrative, and they aren't thrown in as many specificly dangerous situations as Jaune has throughout the story, that their Levels once revealed come off as mostly made up on the spot.
    • Raven's monstrous Level also comes off as this, since it ignores most of the whole mechanics of the Leveling system that's fleshed out throughout the story (specifically in regards to growth curves and "diminishing returns"), that it's just a number that was used to make her too invincible for anyone to normally beat.
    • The existence of 'Leveling addiction' in the later Books is also this. It's a rather egregious instance given that not only does the RPG mechanics of growth curves make Leveling far easier and frequent in the beginning, and was seen as such in the early Books, but was never hinted of being a thing till it's needed in Book 7 for personal melodrama. Its full implications also causes problems for the story.
  • In Girls und Panzer: Hope Dies, it turns out that the one who killed Miho and kicked off the plot was none other than Yukari Akiyama, Miho's biggest fan. Her motive- anger over Miho rejecting her advances- is completely Out of Character, and it doesn't help that her actions end up dooming Oarai to closure (Yukari not only goes to school there, but her parents run a hair salon on the ship). It also doesn't gel with the apparently genuine surprise Yukari shows upon finding Miho's body.
  • In the Death Note fic Gods of This New World, out of nowhere, L is piloting a harrier jet! (Wouldn't he have to sit normally?)
  • Infinity Train: Blossomverse
    • Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail
      • Miss April's ability to read the room being tainted because she's leaving an abusive boyfriend can come across like this, because it kinda popped out of nowhere and had little to no Foreshadowing prior to the reveal of her nearly committing suicide.
      • During the courtroom scene, it turns out that the paint can incident was filmed on camera. How filmed evidence of someone getting bullied was not posted on the Internet and thus revealed to the Pokemon World (or at the very least, the recorder showing it to someone.) earlier in the story is anybody's guess. The rewrite for Chapter 11 has Chloe reveal that video footage did make it to the local news and then was forgotten after a week or so.
      • The reveal in the Cyan Desert Car that Chloe actually DID want to be friends with Ash, despite the fact that she never expressed any prior indication that she ever wanted his friendship at all, and made it very clear she wanted him out of her life for existing. It's also implied that even if Ash had done more to make her try, she still would've refused out of personal dislike for him.
    • Infinity Train: Voyage of Wisteria The reveal Kurune and Ikuo never went to any parent-teacher conferences is already a tough pill to swallow unless these were very few, but the fact they missed them and nobody tried to tell them about it is practically this trope, since even an incompetent school like Vermillion City's would at least try to contact the parents themselves to see if something was wrong besides work schedules.note 
  • Inner Demons: The Face–Heel Turn of Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle is regarded as this, given the severity with which they abandon their old lives and the high unlikelihood of such a thing happening.
  • At the end of Latias' Journey, it turns out Mewgle had stuffed everyone, including the Physical God Big Bad and Big Good, into a giant virtual-reality simulation so he could take over the multiverse. And then Leo the Squirtle comes out of nowhere and beats the crap out of him. The Author tacked on this ending years later when they decided the original one was too pretentious, and realized that when including the huge cast that Squirtle was forgotten about. Notably, the new ending's events were first discussed in the sequel, and backported later.
  • Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami has too many examples to include a complete list, but perhaps the best one is when L tests the Death Note on Light's mom, then takes out a Life Note to revive her. The story gets weirder from there. Part of the fun is trying to guess what ludicrous ass pull will happen next.
  • Many examples in My Immortal. At one point the characters need to find Draco (whom Voldemort has bondage, whatever that means). To solve this, Vampire "has an idea" and teleports them into Voldemort's lair. Enoby whines endlessly about stuff much easier to solve than this, like choosing between Draco and Vampire.
  • Here's a short list of examples from My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic:
    • Lightning suddenly being able to summon the Uniforce because he remembers to believe, right when Titan is going to kill him.
    • Brain turns out to have a spaceship in his backyard, which the others use to escape the exploding Unicornicopia.
    • Celesto and Celestia fusing and turning into the Great Celestial Ruler, who destroys Titan.
    • The MLP and Starfleet ponies being able to reconstruct a planet through the power of belief.
    • Lightning is the last of a race of creatures known as Enticorns, which, as the author confirms, is partially based off of Super Saiyans.
  • My Heroes Reborn: In the climax of the Stain arc, the author randomly tried to Nerf Izuku and purposely made him forget about his powers from his past life as Sanji via a self-imposed subconscious mental block. We know it was random because in the author's note she outright admitted to writing the twist in on a whim to reintroduce some tension into Izuku's future fights. Up until that point, Izuku was as strong as Sanji would theoretically be at the end of One Piece and there was no foreshadowing whatsoever of such a mental block ever developing. Unfortunately for her, the decision was not well-recieved; Izuku being so overpowered was one of the draws of the story, and the twist itself was poorly written and seen as cheap. The backlash was bad enough that she had to backtrack and promise to end the subplot as soon as possible.
  • A New Circle starts off as a Tenchi Muyo! Self-Insert Fic, before the author reveals that the voice speaking to Adam is Setsuna a.k.a. Sailor Pluto. At no point was it ever hinted that this story was a crossover of any kind.
  • The Next Frontier is intentionally written to have absolutely no foreshadowing whatsoever for The Reveal of exactly what it's a crossover with, and waits until almost halfway through Act 2 to drop the bombshell.
  • In The Prayer Warriors, there are a few.
    • In The Evil Gods Part I, Jerry somehow realizes in the middle of his first fight with Percy Jackson that Percy placed a traitor inside his group. A later chapter reveals that God told him there was a traitor the night before Percy attacked, but didn't say who it was.
    • The retconning of Michael's death at the end of Battle with the Witches. The POV character, who is assumed to be Michael, kills Dumbledore at the cost of his own life, but the next chapter reveals that it wasn't Michael.
    • In The Titans Strike Back, when the Prayer Warriors' weapons and prayers fail to defeat Lola, Draco prays for God (never mind that Lola had the ability to make that impossible with her wind powers) to turn his sword into a holy vacuum cleaner, which sucks her up and kills her.
  • RealityCheck's Nyxverse:
    • Nyx's Family, the infamous Chapter 11, whereas it is revealed that, during the founding of Equestria, Luna and Celestia used a magic mirror to request the advice of several HUMAN economists (all right-wing or libertarian economists mind you; a footnote mentions that she found the left-wing economists completely useless) in order to create an economic system for Equestria. Up to this point in the narrative there was absolutely no indication that the Alicorns nor any other Equestrians were even aware of the existence of humans, let alone in contact with them, and definitely no reason given why they should value human knowledge or seek out human advice.
    • In another example from Nyx's Family, Bright Eyes saves Nyx from a bunch of Diamond Dogs by :turning invisible to scare them. It was never mentioned before that crystal ponies had this ability. One mild mitigating factor is that its main function was to turn the scene into a Shout-Out to The Hobbit.
  • Soulless Shell: This fic appears to be merely a poorly-written Redwall Transplanted Character Fic until Chapter Three, whereupon we abruptly and without warning come upon the line "then he shot a beam from his paw which the rat teleported away from". (For those unfamiliar, Redwall is a medieval fantasy about talking animals, and has a definite lack of magical laser beams.)
  • Teenage Jinchuriki Shinobi: Himeko's true, TRUE form, Empress Isis, who pops out of nowhere to defeat Kira. There was no explanation for this whatsoever, especially since Kira was a demon god.
  • Spartianfox's self-insert character in his Videogame Rescues series has this as a stated power. His great uncle (who introduced him to the series' Multiverse and gave him his supertech portal armband) told him that his powers include "any weapon, item, and powerup from a video game." Effectively, his power is "pull whatever I need right now out of nowhere." The series is still fairly well-written and the author has gone on to write and publish original works.
  • Can be found in many Deadliest Warrior fanfictions, such as when numbers of kills are provided at the end of a fight. Unless there's a home version of the Slitherine Studios battle simulator available, there's no way the "kills" represent one thousand actual simulated battles (especially if the author admits they chose the winner based on a vote, or just their own personal opinion). Also occurs when a chosen character lacks a weapon that fits into one of the short range/mid range/long range/special weapons categories. The solution? Make something up! The categories MUST be adhered to, even though the actual show was never so strict as to only deal with that set of criteria.
  • The Locking Ladle of Ranma ½ always seems to conveniently show in fanfiction where its application would prove useful in the storyline, for better or worse, no matter where its current location in canon is. Besides that, there are a million other ways of locking a Jusenkyo curse in fanon by now. Locking rings, water treated by the Locking Ladle which is no longer in it, special potions...
  • The Hetalia: Axis Powers Troll Fic "Canada Goes Bonkers" includes this literal as well as figurative example:
    Germany jumped up from his chair and shouted "YOU'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!" he reached in2 his pants and pulled out teh machine gun he always kept lodged up in his buttocks in case he ever needed a machine gun.
  • In The Great Starship Battle, the Valeyard's presence was not hinted at anywhere in the story so his appearance at the end comes right out of nowhere.
  • In Relic Of The Future, Pyrrha's father Alexander Nikos is established early (and regularly) to be a massive Jerkass who's only ever cared about the family name, to the point of trying to sue Jaune over his daughter beating Pyrrha in a tournament, and is implied to have connections to organized crime. It's also established that both his children despise the man and want nothing to do with him. Then in chapter 92, Pyrrha's older sister Helena starts insisting Alexander was a caring and loving father until Pyrrha's fame went to his head and that before Pyrrha became famous, the Nikos name meant nothing despite lifelong efforts by Alexander.

    Films — Animation 
  • BIONICLE: Mask of Light: The Hero fuses with the Big Bad, the fusion is crushed by a gate, and according to the original script and storyboards, the former just walks out of the dust intact. For the sake of added drama, the movie has him simply disappear save for his mask. Thus, the others have to perform a ritual, recite the Three Virtues they live by, place the mask on the Three Virtues symbol conveniently carved into the floor of the villain's balcony, which somehow re-materializes his body. No explanation is offered as to how this worked, how anyone knew it would work, and why they never use this "ritual" any other time.
  • Played for laughs with The Emperor's New Groove where Yzma and Kronk fall off a cliff during the race back to the palace and still manage to beat Kuzco and Pacha. Even Yzma and Kronk wonder how they pulled it off for a moment before going back to business.
  • The climax of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls reveals that Princess Twilight Sparkle doesn't need the other five Elements of Harmony to be present in order to tap into their power. It seems like the power of the bond Twilight shared with the human versions of her friends — humans she's known all of two days — was sufficient to not only allow Twilight to reclaim the powers of the Element of Magic, but also summon the powers of the other five Elements from another dimension. None of this had ever been hinted at in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, of which Equestria Girls is a spinoff. The most justification given is a handwave about how magic and the Elements might work differently in different universes.
  • Titan A.E.'s big revelation in which one of the protagonists turns out to be working with the alien enemies. In order for this to work, the character in question is required to throw out everything his character had been established as, in every scene, right up until The Reveal.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Every Game Master will occasionally resort to this to keep things moving. If necessary to end the game after going Off the Rails, they may employ the "nuclear option".
  • GURPS:
    • The game has several advantages that let the players do this, including Gizmos, which allows you to pull out a small item out of nowhere, as long as it is something your character would have, and Wild Talent, which lets you perform an untrained skill, and learn it permanently with an enhancement.
    • Several supplements have expanded on these rules to specifically model this trope, and explain the rationale for it in drama/action/comedy. GURPS also includes psionics rules, including powers similar to this that allow a precognitive character to retcon a counter to a situation they would have foreseen, so long as it doesn't contradict events that have already happened. So a character who is captured and hauled before the Big Bad could have a derringer on them... but only if they haven't actually been searched "on camera".
  • The meta-plot of Legend of the Five Rings RPG's second and third edition may be considered full of ass pulls with killing off main NPCs and gods, as the authors simply interpreted the outcomes of official L5R CCG tournaments instead of coming up with something more coherent themselves. Way less than graceful. Made even sadder by the fact they've been doing it with the game's metaplot since day one. Some are great twists, others... not so much.
  • In Mutants & Masterminds, you can spend hero points to pull stuff out of thin air. For example, your superhero Hypervolt might spend a hero point to pull some some smoke grenades from his utility belt, to pick up that Improved Grapple feat when you really need to grab the enemy, or even buy an Alternate Power feat for his electrical control and turn out to be able to create an aura of lightning around himself. There's also the Gadget power, which functions like the Device power (you have a piece of super-powered equipment, whether it's a magic sword or Powered Armor) except that you can actively switch out the function of the Gadget on the fly for whatever you currently need, up to the power level of the Gadget. So you could take a laser pistol, turn it into a jetpack if you needed to fly, or an extendable ladder, or a cloaking device, it's really limited to how many power points you spent on your Gadget.
  • Mutant City Blues indie system has a special stat named Preparedness. Specifically called for to make convenient ass pulls for players in an assumption that the character had thought it out beforehand.
  • Toon, another title by Steve Jackson Games, also features Gizmos, which can be set to be whatever you need at a specific time. In practice, this usually means anvils.
  • Warhammer 40,000's Eye of Terror campaign involved an ass pull from Games Workshop. Namely, the Eldar came in just behind the guard and marines yet ended up losing Eldrad and all the Blackstone Fortresses — i.e., the sort of result that might be expected from coming in last. And the loss of Eldrad may or may not have happened, as Games Workshop took down the .PDF with the results from their site, and materials published after the Eye of Terror campaign speak of Eldrad as alive. He is still included as a fieldable character in the Eldar codex published afterward.
    • The main result also became this, as GW had to reconcile the forces of Evil coming first in the normal game but being utterly smashed in the specialist games (specifically Battlefleet Gothic). Eventually it was decided that the baddies managed to take half of Cadia, but are now cut off in a Stalingrad-style pocket due to the Imperium smashing their spaceborne assets.
    • The Eye of Terror campaign wound up with the Imperium getting really screwed over. Not just with Cadia being overrun by Chaos though. The Orks campaign was supposed to be stopping the Tau from increasing their empire, and allegedly the Ork fanbase was pissed at this, so they co-ordinated and focused all their efforts on a system called Thracian Primus (which appeared in Eisenhorn), which has a Forge World on it; long story short, the Orks essentially smashed it to bits in what they called "The Green Kroosade", and renamed the world Mo'Dakka. As a result the Tau expanded unopposed. Furthermore, the Eldar and Dark Eldar managed to curbstomp the Thousand Sons, locking them out of the webway and preventing them ever reaching the Black Library, and supposedly Commorragh got sealed off into a pocket universe for good. Games Workshop then decided to retcon the whole thing to right before the campaign started for whatever reason out there. The forces of Disorder being a lot more organised certainly helped their cause.
    • The resolution of the Storm of Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy was similarly filled with randomness and has also been mostly ignored since. In fact, the entire Storm of Chaos campaign appears to have been completely reset, as all the army book timelines printed since then, if they even mention the forces of Chaos, merely end on an ominous note about how the forces of Chaos are massing under Archaon's banner and will soon sweep southwards. With the obvious exception of Archaon himself, most of the other Storm of Chaos characters have been completely erased from the setting (poor Valten)
  • One of the main struggles with the Storm of Chaos campaign was that the forces of evil were doing so poorly. A week into the campaign several of the Chaos armies were stalled, forcing the Games Workshop writing staff to find a work-around lest their summer-long campaign fail to get out the gate. The climactic battle planned at Middenheim was scrapped, with the campaign instead concluding in a nonsensical battle where the orc horde (which was previously a bit player) suddenly defeats Archaon, then let him go for... reasons. Likewise, the forces of order were rewarded by having the Skaven assassinate Valten.

    Theatre 
  • The song School for Monsters in Avenue Q has Trekkie Monster donate $10 million to fund Kate's monster school. There's literally no foreshadowing that Trekkie would have this kind of money and this moment solely exists so that Kate's dreams can come true, contradicting the main point of the musical. Why he's still living in a crappy apartment is anyone's guess. Also a Critical Research Failure, as porn is not actually a stable investment at all in America during the show's run, as free sites like Pornhub have driven most pornographic production companies to near bankruptcy.
  • The Book of Mormon has Elder Cunningham do this in-universe. He tries to use the Book of Mormon to convert the Ugandans in his mission area to the church with no success. When Elder Cunningham can't find specific passages that condemn things like genital mutilation or baby rape, he resorts to pulling from pop culture references instead. While this convinces the Ugandans to learn more about Mormonism, it weighs on Cunningham's conscience that he had to resort to it. It really comes back to bite him in the ass when a high-ranking Mormon official comes to see how things are progressing, sees how badly Cunningham has been twisting the word of the Mormon book, and decomissions the entire area.
  • The Pirates of Penzance: This rendition of the Major-General's Song contains a literal example.
    Where did they come from? Oh! There you are my dear. Put those in some water, will you? ...and then wash your hands.
  • The "grand piano in the bushes" mentioned in the description is a Russian idiom that comes from a Soviet-era theatric parody of the period's documentaries tendency for fake improvisation. In it, the interviewer is asking the exemplary worker walking in a park on his day off how he likes to spend his free time.
    Worker: Oh, I like to play on a violin. Matter of fact, I randomly took a violin with me. I'll play you Oginsky's "Polonaise" on it. [pulls out the violin and plays]
    Interviewer: Bravo! Exceptional! You've got a real talent!
    Worker: Yeah!... And I also play the piano. Look, there's a grand piano standing randomly in the bushes. I'll play you Oginsky's "Polonaise" on it.

    Toys 
  • The events of the BIONICLE story serials are deliberately made up on the spot with the least amount of planning. The only thing the writer plans ahead is to make sure every chapter ends with a cliffhanger. See for instance: Velika having been a Great Being in disguise all along. Tuyet being alive and her corpse belonging to her Alternate Universe-self. Ancient's reveal of having been a mole from the Order of Mata Nui all this time which was rendered pointless due to the Shadowed One killing him for completely unrelated reasons. Or the conclusion to Brothers in Arms in which the characters are sucked in by a random dimensional portal.

    Web Animation 
  • In Dusk's Dawn when Breeze Rider swipes the scepter. It was never explained or foreshadowed outside of a Chekhov's Gun moment.
  • Done purposedly in EVERY SIMS MACHINIMA EVER (Parody) to go with the parody nature of the video. The story ends with a pregnant Ella being shot by Madylynne for having slept with her boyfriend Brandon. It wasn't even implied that Madylynne and Brandon were dating.
  • GoAnimate "Grounded" videos will pull out all the stops to make sure a character gets grounded and humiliated. Recently, many video makers have taken to the term "GoAnimate Logic" to explain how anyone can do anything and how everything gets put back to normal.
  • The last-episode twist of TOME, that Rubirules was the main villain, has been accused of coming out of nowhere. However, the author did plan it from the beginning.

    Web Comics 
  • For years, Maytag of Flipside would at least proposition anyone who wasn't actively trying to kill her, and a few people who were; meanwhile, her paladin Bernadette seemed more-or-less asexual, even toward her. During a Retool, it was revealed that the two of them were not only monogamous lovers, but had been all along, followed by a series of unconvincing, probably accidental "hints". Not only that, but Bernadette had, before the series started, been involved with a minor character whose only role on camera was to be killed by The Dragon, and left her for infidelity. And in a later arc, a mage uses a magical truth spell that people can't help but reply to to try and ruin their relationship, wherein Maytag admits to infidelity and Bernadette admits to being relieved to hear it.
  • Cinema Snob Reviews Frozen (a fan comic where The Cinema Snob reviews Frozen) discusses this in terms of Snob calling out how the film doesn't seem to have limits on Elsa's powers. When she says she didn't know what she's capable of, Snob says the script didn't know either.
  • Collar 6:
    • It manages this when Butterfly conjures a SIXTY-FOOT INFERNO OF FIRE... for a freakin' spanking contest. With no explanation except that the comic started taking the "Fantasy" part of being a "BDSM Fantasy Comic" literally, and a hasty explanation a few strips later.
    • Sixx defeats said column of fire with a "submissive shield," drawing from the same hasty explanation. What's worse, as Sixx is a dominant by trade, she somehow drew the power to do it from her submissives, one of whom had no idea what was happening at all.
  • In Commander Kitty, Zenith's "resurrection" and subsequent takeover of CK's ship is explained as the result of her having installed a virus on the ship beforehand. Which would have required her to predict in advance that she would 1. be disabled at some point in the near future and 2. plugged back into the same ship afterwards. Considering that Zenith fell for a transparent ploy to dupe her into leading CK's crew back to her base of operations and her master plan was doomed from the start due to a comically obvious oversight, the notion of her having such an elaborate contingency plan seriously strains willing suspension of disbelief.
  • Dumm Comics: Skadi has one that doubles as a literal ass pull, on the last page of the Gamebook arc.
  • The Electric Wonderland comic "The New Adventures of the Nettropolis Narvel" contains the most unpredictable ending that Peter Paltridge could think of for a love story, using Schrödinger's Butterfly to subvert a "Truman Show" Plot. In order to keep it a surprise, he kept foreshadowing to a minimum.
  • Homestuck:
    • A certain cool dude was assumed dead some time ago, but later turned up alive with little explanation. It's unclear why Davesprite's missing wing and yellow blood weren't seen at the scene of his presumed death]]. However, an earlier event could be interpreted as foreshadowing of his survival. Jade sees through her spectaGoggles that there are 13 Daves in the incipisphere, including Davesprite. But when one (other than Davesprite) dies, the count goes down to 12.
    • Dirk's Auto-Responder pulls a minor one, although it references the trope by name. "The algorithms are guaranteed to be 96% indistinguishable from DS's native neurological responses, based on some statistical analysis I basically just pulled out of my ass right now."
    • Act 6 has Brain Ghost Dirk appearing out of nowhere, which makes sense since Jake's hope powers have amplified him into existence, and then he tears Aranea's soul from her body; a power not previously established (though his power set can be inferred by the name of his mythological role, being one of the few that have been explained outside of Fanon), and by a borderline-Creator's Pet character as well. It's later revealed during Caliborn's masterpiece that this is what Dirk needs to do beforehand so he can destroy the soul, which justifies it somewhat, and many characters who have ascended to the god tiers display sudden and immense increases in competence involving their powers shortly after ascension without any prior knowledge or practice.
    • The Rings of Void and Life seem to be ass pulls. Before Act 6 there were minimal references to them despite playing a more and more significant role. They are then revealed to have abilities unlike the previous rings seen in the comic, like being used by players (it's a hard rule that the "regular" rings only transform Prospitians or Dersites) and the ability to be transported to and from Dream Bubbles. They seem to directly parallel Life and Void players Jane and Roxy. When one goes missing, the other is miraculously discovered.
  • Homestuck^2 has the story behind Candy Timeline-Jade's secret daughter, Yiffy. While it was foreshadowed/discussed in The Homestuck Epilogues that Jade could have Rose act a surrogate mother thanks to implied complications with Jade's anatomy, what was not was that Rose helped raise the child in secret for fifteen years, behind her own wife's back. This even went to the extent that she gave the daughter her last name. The twist's explanation came off as out-there by the standards of the story, and to some readers, made Jade and Rose both come off as cheatersnote  living a double life.
  • In Irregular Webcomic!, the "Me" character announced he was going to permanently kill off a popular major character. The death was himself, which was particularly shocking to him, as the "Me" theme was one of the few that didn't have a character in mortal danger at the time. He then tried to get out of it by retconning the prophecied death into being Gwen Stacy from Spider-Man.
  • The Keiki comic "Beefer Madness" started out with Beefer getting placed in an afterschool support group and meeting strange kids, such as a girl named Darcy who had a strong obsession with DC Comics. As Peter Paltridge continued the story, he realized Halloween was approaching, but he didn't have time to start a new, supernatural story. As a result, he decided to throw in some dramatic revelations about Darcy being a vampire and the support leader being a vampire hunter.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Parodied with Vaarsuvius's familiar Blackwing the raven, who actually is supposed to be there and visible all the time. His popping in and out of existence makes fun of how familiars (and horses, or any living or bulky possessions) are often treated in D&D sessions: Only there when they are needed, never when it would be inconvenient or difficult to bring them along.
    • A more serious ass pull showed up later, however. The Potion of Glibness, which Elan claims he bought while they were separated despite it never being mentioned before. At least he and Hinjo went to several island states giving him plenty of opportunity to buy it. This too is a parody of the tendency of gamers to squirrel away random potions and other single-use magic items that they promptly forget about, then somewhere down the line get into a situation where they suddenly remember that they have this thing that might actually be helpful.
  • In early strips of Questionable Content, the relationship between humans and their Anthro PCs is clearly that of owner-and-possession. A few thousand strips later, the creator finally noticed that, if the Anthro PCs were really intelligent, this was slavery. Out of nowhere, it was made clear that the relationship is a non-binding "friendship" contract, and the term "owner" became offensive. This makes some of the early strips (where Pintsize appears to have no say in what is done to him or his chassis by Marten, Faye, or the government) kinda creepy.
  • Parodied/invoked in Terror Island, which brings us "Bartleby, Sid and Stephen's other roommate who only exists once every 100 strips", and always immediately resolves the plot, even inexplicably resurrecting Aorist!

    Web Videos 
  • Mega64: The episode "What the Hell Happened to Mega64?" starts with one of Dr. Poque's college friends coming to see him. In the first five minutes, they're taken hostage by a Mafia and the friend is killed, complete with blood splattering. The rest of the episode has Rocko, Derek, and Shawn trying to rescue him. The episode ends with them learning the friend was the head of the Mafia. It's never really explained why he wants to kill Dr. Poque, why the Mafia were selling plush parrots, or how the friend is even alive. It gets even weirder when the friend is shot in the back by a guy wearing a sombrero, who then warps out. The creators said that it was a twist for the sake of a twist, and even the characters question it.
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • The commentary to the review of The Secret of NIMH 2 discusses this, with Doug giving as an example a reveal that the hero is a piece of broccoli.
    • Also, in his review of Devil he complains about the reveal that the old lady was the devil all along and says that sure, you weren't expecting it, but that doesn't make it a good twist. "I wouldn't be able to predict if they all turned into snowmen of George Takei, but that doesn't make it a good twist."


 
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Alternative Title(s): Tracto Ex Culo, Tractum Ex Culo, Shocking Swerve

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Convicted Troublemaker Appears

When Cole is about to perform his stunt on his motorcycle, he discovers his sidecar is loosen. Molly reveals an escaped convict (portrayed by Bitsy) broke into his house and sabotaged it, despite the fact that this was never foreshadowed. Paige points this out, but Molly insist it totally works.

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