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Broken Treasure

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"Annie, do you know how many sitcoms have done the 'secretly replace a broken priceless item' thing?"

Cousin to the Dead Pet Sketch, this plot involves one of the main characters accidentally breaking or losing another character's treasured item while they're away. Now they must repair it, get it back, or get a new one before the other character comes back and sees what happened.

A common subversion is for the plot to end with a Storm in a Teacup moment. This is frequently the other character, in the end, explaining that the item wasn't as valuable as the first character thought — in fact, it's nearly worthless. A more sappy variation is for the other character to come back, find the broken item, see the attempts to fix it, and forgive the first character, saying that they aren't angry or upset because love is more valuable than the material thing.

On the other hand, it's also common for the owner (oblivious that the item is broken/lost) to reveal that the item was in some way much more valuable than the other character had previously thought. Over the course of the story the owner reveals more and more information about the item's sentimental or monetary value, not to mention all the wonderful plans he has for the item for some important upcoming event. He may go on about it so much it makes you wonder if he's passive-aggressively revealing that he knows.

See also Dead Pet Sketch, Lost Wedding Ring, Doomed Autographed Item, and Never Lend to a Friend. Can lead to the creation of a Well-Intentioned Replacement.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted in BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad: Ryusuke gives Koyuki an old guitar, which he later claims was given to him by his friend Eddie from the band Dying Breed. Later, Koyuki accidentally drops it off a bridge and watches it get run over by a passing truck. A few episodes later, he gets it fixed, but then it gets broken again by Rikiya. We find out in the same episode that the guitar that Ryusuke gave to Koyuki wasn't Eddie's guitar after all.
  • In Eyeshield 21, Sena accidentally damages Monta's most prized possession, a baseball glove he received from his lifetime idol Masaru Honjou. The fact that Monta was in the middle of a Heroic BSoD about facing Honjou's son Taka at the Christmas Bowl didn't help, and he gets into a fight with Sena. They finally manage to resolve it in the end, with Sena frantically looking for a replacement glove... and ending up with a whole box of football gloves sent in by all the receivers and corner backs Monta had faced so far.
  • In an episode of Minami-ke, Chiaki and Kana break a rabbit necklace belonging to Haruka. They scramble to get other characters to find a replacement.
  • When, in Ouran High School Host Club, the group accidentally spills tea on Usa-chan, Hani-senpai's beloved stuffed bunny. Since Hani is known to be quite scary at times despite his cute and childish appearance, they all panic and scramble to fix it before Hani wakes up from his nap. Mori then diffuses the situation fairly easily, rendering the crazy scheme completely meaningless.
  • In Ranma , Kasumi's favorite china cup is broken. The family is terrified to find out what a mad Kasumi is like, so they prepare a surprise party and everything, but think she's about to erupt anyway. Finally, they resort to tying up Ranma and sacrificing him (as usual). When Kasumi discovers her broken cup, she goes into the classic Kasumi over-the-top sturm-und-drang response... she taps Ranma on the head and calls him naughty. (She then wonders if she overreacted.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Bean, Mr. Bean sneezes on the famed painting "Whistler's Mother", then blots it with his handkerchief, only to realize that his hanky is stained with ink from a leaked pen. So he wipes the painting with a cleaning chemical, which removes the ink from the painting... and the paint from the canvas. He finally replaces the painting with a poster he artificially aged, and hangs the ruined original in his bedroom back in England.
  • Dancing Trees: During a meltdown, Martha breaks a vase belonging to Nicky. Nicky is upset because her grandmother gave it to her. She tries to fix it, but can't figure out how to get the pieces to fit back together, and considers just throwing it out. But then Martha glues it together for her, and does such a good job that it looks like it was never broken.
  • The Drummer and the Keeper: During Gabriel's final manic episode, he breaks into Christopher's institution and sets his beloved LEGO mansion on fire, causing Christopher to suffer a Heroic BSoD. During Gabriel's next few months in the mental hospital, he spends part of his trust fund on LEGO sets so he can rebuild Christopher's mansion, then has it sent to him as part of his efforts to make amends to everyone he hurt during his episode.
  • Keep Off My Grass!: When Jerry leaves Suze for Twila, Suze gets revenge by lighting the giant candle shaped like a naked woman that Jerry made.
  • Psych-Out: Jenny and Steve's mother was a cruel, hate-filled woman who delighted in coming up with inventive new punishments. One day she took Jenny's box of personal treasures, made her scream and beg for it, and then threw it into the furnace anyway. This traumatized Jenny so badly that she went deaf.
  • Risky Business comes close to this, with the Tom Cruise character asked to mind the family home while his parents are away. After turning the house into a brothel, he only has an hour or so to get the whole house back in order, and a precious glass decorative item that his mother treasures highly almost breaks, though he manages to rescue it just in time. Unfortunately, it still gets a tiny crack, which his mother (somehow) notices.
  • The final plot of the normally slice-of-life movie The Sandlot was to get a Babe Ruth-signed baseball back from a mean junkyard dog after the main character carelessly hits it over the fence into the neighbor's yard where it lives. Turns out the dog's owner knew Babe Ruth, and he gives the boys a ball signed by all of the '27 Yankees. Something of a subversion, in that he doesn't try to pass it off as the original, but offers it as a replacement. He still gets grounded, but the punishment is greatly reduced.
  • In the 1925 silent film Stage Struck, Gloria Swanson's character accidentally ruins one of her love interest's shirts, and she buys a new one to replace it. He has no clue and marvels at how the laundry place manages to make his old shirts look so new.
  • Played both ways in Superbad. Seth has to bring alcohol to a party in order to impress Jules, and manages to succeed despite many setbacks. Evan has to bring a specific brand of vodka to impress Becca, but it breaks on the way. It all works out in the end though.

  • The Age of Innocence: May Archer wears her wedding dress to the Opera with her husband Newland. While it is a tradition for newlywed brides to do this in 1800's New York, it's likely that her real motive is to remind her husband of his marriage vows (she suspects—correctly—that he's having an affair with her cousin, Ellen Olenska). When they return home, the train of the dress gets caught on the carriage wheel and becomes torn and muddy, very symbolic of what's happening to their marriage.
  • In the American Girls Collection book Happy Birthday, Josefina!, Josefina dreams of being a healer like her aunt, Tía Magdalena, but loses hope when she accidentally breaks Magdalena's heirloom medicine jar. Her aunt easily forgives her once she apologizes, though, and soon afterward she proves her true skill as a healer when she saves her friend Mariana from a near-fatal snakebite.
  • A variation occurs in the Elephant & Piggie book "I Love My New Toy!" Piggie is madly in love with a strange new toy she's received; when Gerald throws and breaks it, Piggie becomes furious. The crisis is averted when a passerby identifies it as a "break-it-fix-it toy" that's intended to be repeatedly broken and mended.
  • Ethan Frome: Ethan and Zeena don't have the best of marriages, what with Zeena being a hypochondriac shrew; but during a visit from Mattie (whom Ethan likes), the cat is startled and breaks her wedding gift (a bowl), signifying that their relationship is in serious trouble.
  • In A Kind of Spark, Emily cuts up Addie's beloved thesaurus and writes "RETARD" inside. Addie beats her up and almost gets suspended for it.
  • The short story "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant has a nasty deconstruction: a proud and greedy woman of modest means borrows a friend's emerald necklace so she can look fancy at a formal dinner party. She loses the necklace and spends a large sum to buy a replacement rather than admit the loss to her friend. She and her husband are ruined by the act, and spend the next ten years paying back debts: they ruin their health and she loses her beauty. Eventually, she sees her happy and healthy friend walking on the street and pours her heart to her, to which the friend, aghast, replies that her original necklace was fake and not worth very much at all. (The replacement was real.)
  • In the Sesame Street picture book Bert and the Broken Teapot, Bert is minding Hooper's Store for David when he accidentally breaks David's special teapot, which was a gift from the late Mr. Hooper. After failing to get it fixed or find a replacement, Bert tells the truth and apologizes, and David easily forgives him, telling him the story of how he broke Mr. Hooper's cookie jar as a boy.

    Live-Action TV  
  • Adventures in Wonderland:
    • The episode "This Bunny for Hire" is a Lighter and Softer Whole-Plot Reference to The Necklace. The White Rabbit accidentally breaks the Queen's new vase, which he thinks is made of incredibly valuable crystal, and then runs himself ragged with various odd jobs to buy an identical new vase before the Queen comes home. He succeeds but then the Queen accidentally breaks the new vase herself, and then she reveals that the original (which she never finds out was broken and replaced) was only made of cheap glass.
    • Two other episodes also have the Rabbit accidentally damage something of the Queen's and scramble to fix or replace it before she can find out. In "Pop Goes the Easel," he rips a hole in a portrait that's just been painted of her, while in "Grape Juice of Wrath," he stains her throne cushion with grape juice.
  • An episode of The Big Bang Theory involves one of the most valuable of such "treasures" imaginable: a Mars rover that Howard secretly and mistakenly allows to be driven into a ditch. Unable to get the rover out of the ditch, he resorts to erasing all evidence of his association with it. At the end of the episode, it turns out that the rover found possible evidence of life in the ditch... an amazing scientific discovery for which Howard can never get credit.
  • In Black Books, Manny and Bernard accidentally drink a very expensive bottle of wine, due to be handed to the Pope, and attempt to emulate it with a variety of ingredients. In an odd example, they get away with it. After a fashion. It's revealed at the end that the Pope has actually died as a result of drinking the 'inferior wine' and the guy who was doing the presenting gets arrested for it.
  • Variation in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "The Takeback". During his time at Holt's desk, Terry threw away a business card with a piece of gum stuck to it that he had found because he reasonably assumed it was garbage. After Holt asks where it is, Terry spends the episode attempting to recreate the card, only for Holt to realize he had done so because what Holt cared about was the words on the back (as the card was a memento of an early failure in his career). Terry comes clean and later surprises Holt with a collection of business cards from people he had helped from successful cases instead.
  • In Community, when she breaks a limited-edition DVD in "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism", Annie is persuaded against the usual plot of trying to replace it, on the basis that her telly-addict roommate has seen all those sitcoms before. So instead, she resorts to Faking and Entering and it gets blamed on the landlord until she steps forward.
  • In an episode of The Cosby Show, Cliff loses his neighbor Jeffrey's drill. Apparently, not only did the drill have all sorts of great features, but (according to Jeffrey's daughter) it was a gift from his late father and was kept in its own drawer, marked "Drill".
    "If you don't find it, are you going to cry?"
    (laughs) no, I'm not going to cry."
    "I bet my dad will."
  • Degrassi Junior High: Yick has to do a class presentation on his family, and he doesn't think they're very interesting — so he buys a cheap vase at a knickknack shop and tells Arthur it's a "priceless family heirloom from the old country — Ming Dynasty". Arthur breaks the "heirloom" two days before the presentation and goes mad trying to re-glue it before Yick notices.
  • Frasier:
    • Played With in an episode in which Frasier meets an elderly, blind fan of his who reveals that he took the doctor's advice to keep something sentimental of his wife close by after her death - a mask that she had made of her face once. Frasier accidentally breaks it, and spends most of the episode attempting to fix it without the blind fan noticing. He actually manages to fix it covertly, but guilt finally gets the better of him and he confesses what has happened. Far from being angry, the blind fan genially waves it off and notes that he's broken it several times himself - he is blind, after all.
    • In another episode, Frasier fiddles with and breaks a precious carved figure of an animal in the middle of a job interview.
  • Several times in George and the Dragon. In one episode, George grinds up Gabrielle's WWII medals. In another episode, George breaks Gabrialle's records (big black round things that make music when placed in a thing called a record player).
  • The George Lopez Show did this with George's prized Steve Garvey signed baseball. His son took it to practice with and the dog chewed it up.
  • The Golden Girls: Rose and Sophia scramble to replace Blanche's broken plate. When Blanche returns, her feelings for the plate have changed, and she intentionally smashes the replacement plate.
  • Done and subverted in Lizzie McGuire, when the kids bust Dad's prized Walter Payton signed football and replace it with a Dick Butkus signed football... and Mom tells them that they should've just signed a football, like she did when she destroyed Dad's prized Walter Payton football.
  • Mama's Family: When ironing Fran's brand-new dress that she plans to wear to an important banquet, Mama accidentally burns a hole it. She and Ellen run to the store to buy a replacement, but it doesn't fool Fran: the new dress is full of tucks and looks more like a parachute than a dress.
  • In Modern Family, Phil breaks Jay's model lunar lander and struggles to repair it before Jay comes home. The whole thing plays out as an homage to the Apollo 13 crisis, with Phil getting instructions from his dad over the phone (who even goes on "radio silence" for a while) and a very tense moment at the end as the last piece is glued into place.
  • On Road to Avonlea, Janet receives an heirloom hair comb from one of her husband's relatives. It's hideous, but she doesn't want to say so, so her husband and in-laws are insulted when she won't wear it. Her kids lose it somehow, and when she finally agrees to wear it, she can't find it. She ends up spending a lot of money to have a replica made, and after taking a good look at it, her in-laws realize how ugly it is and don't blame her for not wanting to wear it.
  • Parodied in a Saturday Night Live episode. Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie appears on a TV Show with Nobel Prize Winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu (played by Eddie Murphy). Tutu breaks Flutie's statue, and during the remainder of the sketch, Flutie is asked to analyze the same signature highlight over and over again while Archbishop Tutu solders the statue back together, eventually using his Nobel Peace Prize to complete the repair.
  • Saved by the Bell did this with an Elvis Presley statute that belonged to Screech's mom, forcing the gang to scramble and find a replacement before she got back from visiting Graceland.
  • London Tipton from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody borrows and accidentally loses Maddie's great-grandmother's brooch in a restaurant. Maddie is furious. Instead of searching for it, London buys a replacement brooch, "with real emeralds instead of green glass". Maddie is even angrier because "this brooch has no sentimental value". At the end of the episode, the real brooch is found by a bag man after London searches the restaurant trash bins (in "so last season Arturo Vitalli" clothes, no less!)

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin breaks his dad's binoculars, but they're too expensive for a six-year-old to replace. Calvin has a nervous breakdown waiting for his dad to find out. At first his dad screams, but Calvin feels so bad that his father (sort of) forgives him. "In perspective, this isn't so bad... in another ten years you'll probably be wrecking my car." Further subverted when his dad buys Calvin a pair of toy binoculars so he'll at least be breaking his own things, and Calvin considers trying to obtain a set of power tools the same way.
    • Calvin goes for a brief "joyride" in his parents' car (he releases the parking brake and the car rolls straight back into a ditch). But, his parents are so relieved that he didn't get hurt and that he was honest with them that they don't get as mad as Calvin expected they would.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Puzzle Place: In the episode "I Love Kiki," Kiki accidentally breaks Julie's new toy horse and spends the rest of the episode dithering about whether or not to tell her what happened. In the end she finally comes clean, and similar to the Elephant & Piggie example above, it turns out the horse is a puzzle toy, made to come apart and be put back together.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Utawarerumono, Hakuoro ends up accidentally breaking Touka's doll and desperately tries to get it fixed. Then Oboro breaks it again as Touka walks in, resulting in a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from her.


    Western Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: In "It's A Swamp Thing" Lucky loses the Colonel's scarf in the swamp that the Colonel told him never to go. Lucky tries to get the scarf back, putting himself an the other pups in danger, only to find out that the Colonel has several scarfs just like it. The Colonel tells Lucky that scarfs can be replaced but that their lives cannot.
  • In the Arthur episode "Clarissa is Cracked", D.W. borrows Grandma Thora's old china doll Clarissa for a week, but she's very rough with the doll and later breaks her by accident. D.W. doesn't fully understand the consequences of her actions until her father explains how Thora got Clarissa and how much Clarissa means to her. Luckily, Mr. Ratburn is able to fix Clarissa since he has experience with fixing up his puppets.
  • Daria: Daria and Jane are filming a music video of Mystik Spiral in the Lane family gazebo while the Lanes are away. It suddenly collapses. They then go through much time, money, and a twisted Chain of Deals to make build a look-alike gazebo before the Lanes come home. They succeed. When Mrs. Lane comes back, she says that the gazebo is very old, run-down and fragile, and will probably collapse soon, so she's going to have it demolished.
  • Doug:
    • In "Doug and the Yard of Doom", Doug and Skeeter accidentally toss Patti's "Wacky Whizzer" Frisbee-esque toy into a yard guarded by a vicious dog. It gets chewed up at the end, but when they go to her house to apologize, she shows them a whole box of them her father had gotten free from work.
    • In "Doug is Slave for a Day", Doug accidentally breaks his mom's artsy statue and Judy sees the whole thing. She uses this to blackmail Doug into basically being her slave and she makes him sign an ironclad contract to enforce it - until Doug realizes he can get out of said contract by confessing to his mom. When he reveals this to Judy, he explains that, as usual, he had blown the whole thing out of proportion; Mom only grounded him for a week, mostly for waiting so long to come clean. She had even been planning on throwing out the thing he had broken. Since Judy had previously volunteered to do extra work before attending a party, thinking Doug was still under contract, she begs him to help her finish in time. Doug agrees... on the condition that Judy is his slave for that week. Karma's a bitch.
    • In "Doug Needs Money", Doug accidentally breaks Mr. Dink's fancy new grill with a stray baseball. A slight variation on the usual trope, in that Mr. Dink knows the grill is broken (and spends the whole episode crying about it); he just doesn't know Doug did it, and Doug spends the whole episode putting off telling him, while trying to earn enough money to replace it.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In "Tiny Timmy!", Timmy accidentally breaks his parents' $10,000 vase. It turns out that they bought it for only $1, meaning they'll be getting $9,999 in insurance...much to Vicky's frustration, as she was planning on breaking the vase and blaming Timmy for it.
    "WE'RE RICH...ER!"
  • In the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Busted", a statue of Madame Foster gets broken and much time and effort is expended attempting to repair it. It turns out that Foster has dozens of copies of the thing, because they're always getting broken.
  • Franklin: While not exactly a treasure, a variation of this trope is used at the start of the episode "Franklin and the Broken Globe." Franklin and Bear goof around in the one-room schoolhouse during recess as part of their "blackboard duty," and they start spinning the globe on Mr. Owl's desk, but end up accidentally knocking it off the desk and breaking it. They quickly set about to try and fix it before anyone finds out. They are able to simply piece the large broken chunks of the globe back together again, but recess ends before they can use tape to bond the pieces together. At first nobody notices the visible cracks on the globe, but just as Franklin and Bear prepare to tell the truth, Goose accidentally bumps into the damaged globe when going to sharpen her pencil, revealing to Mr. Owl and the others that it's broken, leading Goose to think she broke it and start thinking she is The Klutz, much to Franklin and Bear's relief... for a while.
  • Parodied by Futurama, twice. Once, Fry eats what he believes is jerky, only to find out it's a mummified, ancient Pharaoh. The Professor is furious, because he was going to eat that mummy! The second time, Dr. Zoidberg breaks a tiny piece of the Professor's model ship in a bottle and frantically tries to repair the damage. Each attempt only makes it worse, until the bottle and ship are both smashed to pieces. Zoidberg resorts to framing Fry, then toward the end tries to commit honorable ritual suicide. The joke is, the whole thing is worth $10. To Zoidberg this is a mighty, irreconcilable debt, but Fry is barely annoyed. But the sword with which Zoidberg attempts suicide turns out to be worth $5,000, and it gets ruined by Zoidberg trying to stab himself through his tough shell.
    Host: That sword cost five thousand DOLLARS DORRU!
    Zoidberg: Fry did it!
  • Gumby:
    • The 1957 episode "The Magic Wand" has magician Professor Hocus Pocus accidentally leave his magic wand at the lemonade stand Gumby and Pokey are running, and the wand goes crazy and ends up breaking Mrs. Gumba's good pitcher that Gumby was using to make lemonade in. But then after the wand ends up transporting Gumby to Magic Land, Pokey is able to sell enough lemonade to make almost enough money to get a replacement pitcher, though in Magic Land Gumby is able to successfully return the wand to Professor Hocus Pocus, and as a reward is given a miniature wand that can perform a single magic trick. Among returning home, Gumby decides to use his one trick to fix the broken pitcher so Mrs. Gumba won't notice and so they don't have to spend the money they've earned on buying a new one.
    • The 80s episode "Just Train Crazy" has Gumby have a model train layout set up in the barn, used to bring milk and cookies from the kitchen to the band's stage for rehearsal breaks. But after Gumby leaves for a dental appointment, Denali ends up stepping on and wrecking the locomotive for the train, and so Pokey and Prickle volunteer to go out into Toyland and get a replacement locomotive before Gumby returns. Even after their mission is derailed for a while (pun intended) from a magic toy train that can take them wherever they want to go (but never stops unless the emergency brake is pulled), they succeed and find a train engine identical to the one Denali smashed and bring it with them back to the barn.
  • House of Mouse: In the short "Mickey's Big Break", Mickey and Donald accidentally wreck a framed photo of Minnie and Daisy, prompting them to go through shenanigans that lead to them dressing like their girlfriends and having Goofy take a picture of them to replace it. At the end, after the boys confess everything to the girls, they admit they've always hated the picture and proceed to put up a new frame with a photo of them taken earlier in the day.
  • Kappa Mikey:
    • "Mikey Impossible": While producer Ozu is on vacation, Mikey destroys his favorite bonsai tree, and the gang tries to replace it. Of course, Ozu walks in just after Mikey destroys the replacement bonsai tree.
    • There was also the time Mikey lost all the pictures in Mitsuki's photo album and took new ones to replace them.
  • Taz-Mania had Taz break his mother's vase and sell off his treasured bottlecap collection to buy a new one, only to find that his mother was just going to sell it at a garage sale and didn't expect to get more than $5 for it.
  • Done in Recess when Spinelli loses Vince's lucky marble. After attempting in various ways to get it back, she finally tells him, only to have his reaction cut short by the discovery of a shiny nickel, which he proclaims to be "better than that crummy old marble".
  • In the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Wet Painters", Spongebob and Patrick accidentally get paint on Mr. Krabs' first—and most valuable—dollar while painting his house. They then resort to numerous, far-out ways to get the paint off—only to have Mr. Krabs tell them that the paint comes off with saliva.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "We'll Always Have Tom Paris", Tendi is tasked by Dr. T'Ana to bring her a Caitian libido post when it looks like the Dr. is in heat. Tendi brings Mariner along to make it a girls' trip but then Mariner accidentally breaks the post. Wacky hijinks ensue as they try to get it fixed but must ultimately abandon the quest and report back to Dr. T'ana. Mariner stages an accident to make it seem as though she broke the post so Tendi doesn't take any blame, but as Tendi is apologizing for the broken post, Dr. T'Ana just dumps the broken pieces on the floor as she was only interested in the box. As a cat person, she just wanted the box to play "If I fits, I sits".