Follow TV Tropes


Calling Out for Not Calling

Go To

"Where have you been? You could have called!"

A person who's absent for longer than he's supposed to be is setting himself up for trouble when he finally returns home. Whether it's his parents, his roommate, his coworkers, or his wife, the person he left behind will be furious that he wasn't there and didn't send some message as to where he was and that he was going to be late. The person(s) may launch into a ranting fit, or not speak at all.

When the absence is extended in years, it can be the return of a Prodigal Hero, a Missing Mom, a Disappeared Dad or a prodigal son. The Dutiful Son will be hostile, sometimes because he had to make sacrifices because the other was gone.

When this event is recurrent, the individual may be warned that he'll lose his position (if it's a job) or be the death of the person waiting (if it's a relative).

While there are many examples of this trope that are sympathetic to the person waiting, It's not always justified. It may be the other person is just too much insecure (however, this is likely to be for cases where the period of no communication is very brief).

An opposite of this trope is the Faked Kidnapping when the victim want to deliberately worry someone. The false kidnappers don't forget to call.

Compare to Suspicious Missed Messages, when the lack of communication leads someone to assume a character is in danger.

Often related to Anger Born of Worry.


    open/close all folders 

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: In "What if the series was set in modern times?", Jake's parents are concerned that he frequently goes for hours at a time without responding to his phone.
  • In Episode 30 part 3 of Dragon Ball Z Abridged, this is the reason Bulma gives for dumping Yamcha. Nevermind that he had been dead for several months—and, at that point, was still dead. Bulma points out that he's called her right then while still dead, so he should've done so sooner.
  • In The Weaver Option, the first thing that Bjorn the Fell-Handed, last survivor of the original Vlka Fenryka, says to his Primarch upon their reunion is to chew him out for not having called or written once in the past four thousand years.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Cecil B. DeMille movie Four Frightened People has the said quartet getting stranded in the Indonesian jungle with no way to communicate with the outside world until they reach civilization some months later. One castaway's wife and mother-in-law castigate him for not writing or at the very least sending a telegram, seeming not to get the whole "no way to contact the outside world" thing.
  • In Gaz Gar Blues, the Boss asks sarcastically to his son Guy if there is no phone in Saguenay when he returns in Quebec city after a couple of days. Considering his father didn't have any news except seeing his total loss car, Guy could have indeed called him.
  • In Machete, Sartana is totally worried and frantically checks her cellphone until...
    Sartana: Where the fuck have you been? You could have least texting me.
    Machete: Machete don't text.
  • The 1986 comedy Miracles has a recently divorced couple going though wacky hijinks. The use of this trope is The Reveal and therefore a Spoiler; a key factor in their divorce was the husband, a doctor freaking out at her because she was late and didn't call. He had spent the afternoon/evening in surgery for a woman in a horrific car crash, but failed to communicate that to his wife during the freak-out.
  • Connor and Murphy are overjoyed to meet up with detectives Dolly, Duffy and Greenly again in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, but Connor still takes a moment to upbraid them for never writing or calling in the ten years since they worked together to take out "Papa" Joe and his underlings.
  • Mystic River
    • Celeste Boyle becomes suspicious toward her husband Dave who's been acting weird lately and who came back shaky from an unexplained trip the other night. There's also Sean, whose wife who left him some months ago without saying why. She's always calling him, but she is unable to talk.
    • Inverted with "Just Ray" Harris who went to a bar thirteen years ago and never returned. He never gives any news, but he sends $500 each month, so his wife never reported him missing.
  • In the 1997 movie Nothing To Lose, Nick's wife is finally relieved to have a call from him after two days without any news. She makes him realize he did all that for nothing, since it was not her and his boss who were having sex in the bedroom.
  • In Rocky, Paulie says that his sister Adrian will call the hospital (presumably to ask if Paulie was in an accident) if he is even ten minutes late to come home.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, an alien species that used to chat with humpback whales before their extinction sends a probe to determine why they haven't called for the last 300 years. The probe removes water from the oceans to find them.
  • Star Trek: First Contact. Captain Picard and Lily hide in the Dixon Hill holodeck program where Picard plays the title character, a 1930's private eye who quickly gets snogged by a ditzy blonde.
    Picard: Ruby! This is not a good time.
    Ruby: It's never the time for us, is it, Dix? Always a good excuse. (glares at Lily) Some 'case' you're working on...
  • The World Is Not Enough. M refuses to use James Bond for an upcoming mission because he's recovering from a dislocated collarbone. Fortunately the MI6 doctor is one of his conquests, and he's able to convince her to clear him by renewing their affair.
    Doctor: You would have to promise to call me. (jabs her fingers into his injured shoulder, making Bond wince) This time.
    Bond: Whatever the doctor orders.
  • The Guns of Navarone. When Maria meets her brother Spiro (who had been in America for many years), she slaps him as a reminder to write more often.
  • Boomerang (1992). Ladykiller in Love Marcus ends up saying a pathetic "Call me" after Jacqueline decides she's Not Staying for Breakfast.

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
    • Fred, George, and Ron take Harry to their house with the flying car. Molly is very upset with all of them for not having written a note (to be fair, she was also upset with them for going, period), except for Harry, who she doesn't blame because he wasn't involved in planning it.
    • Harry himself is depressed because he thinks Ron and Hermione haven't written to him, only to find out that the messages were deliberately intercepted by Dobby in one of his attempts to stop Harry from going back to Hogwarts. He assumed that if Harry thought his friends had forgotten him, he wouldn't want to go back.
  • In Hit List by Lawrence Block, Keller has a sex-only relationship with an artist who eventually tells him not to call her any longer. He's confused when he has to call her for another reason, and she complains about him not calling her back. Turns out she had been leaving messages on his answering machine which Keller's handler had been deleting.
  • Two Kinds of Truth: Madeline flips out when her dad, Detective Harry Bosch, does not answer her calls for a whole weekend. She's afraid that he's done something to himself (he is facing a possibly career-ending lawsuit), while in fact he was on undercover ops and without his phone.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun. The episode "Dick is from Mars, Sally is from Venus" has Sally going out with a student at the college, only to be unceremoniously dumped. After waiting by the phone overnight, thinking he's going to call, she ends up paying a visit to his apartment....
    [Brad sitting on a couch in his apartment; suddenly, the door is kicked inward, revealing Sally]
    Sally: Hello, Brad.
    Brad: Sally!
    Sally: I've come to check your phone.
  • Andor: Syril's mother calls him out for never inviting her to visit while he was working for Pre-Mor. He says he gave her an open invitation but she didn't see that as a real invitation.
  • Arrow. At the start of Season 2, Thea Queen gives her brother Oliver a mild reprimand for not contacting her for several months, saying it was like he was marooned on the island again. Turns out that's exactly where he was, as he'd exiled himself on Lian Yu again until Felicity and Diggle convinced him to return.
  • Burn Notice
    • The show has a recurring argument between Michael and his mother Madeline about how he was mostly out of contact with home, with some exceptions, since the early '90s. This comes to a head in "Breaking and Entering":
      Madeline: What about me, Michael? All these years, and finally, I see what you do. You tell me I have to leave town at a minute's notice. I can't talk on the phone, we're being chased by men with guns. How am I supposed to deal with this?
      Mike: All these years you wondered why I didn't come home, why I didn't call. This is why, Mom. I never wanted this for you. I'm sorry.
      Madeline: (Beat; somewhat mollified) Well, it still doesn't explain why you didn't write.
    • He did, however, make a habit of calling her on her birthday, and she got very upset when he didn't one year. When she finally asked him about it in a counseling session in "Turn and Burn", it turns out he had been wounded in action and was laid up in a field hospital that didn't have a phone.
    • In one episode Fiona is nearly burned to death in a bombmaker's Booby Trap, and Michael goes frantic all afternoon trying to reach or find her. He finally comes back to his apartment to find Fiona there waiting for him. Turns out the fire destroyed her cell phone but she got out with her skin intact. In a subversion, he's so relieved to see her alive they end up in bed.
    • Another has a variant. Sam and Fi spend the whole episode arguing with each other about Michael having apparently called Sam first when he got in a jam.
      Michael: Sam! For the record, I called Fiona first. (Both of them look surprised. Michael turns to Fiona.) You didn't pick up. So from now on I'm calling Sam first.
  • Played for Laughs in Dans Une Galaxie Près De Chez Vous. Captain Charles Patenaude's been missing for some months between two seasons. When he's reunited with his lover Valence, she embraces him then slaps him, saying he could have called her. He says it would have been too expensive.
  • Doctor Who. In "Aliens of London" the Doctor brings Rose home after adventuring in space, saying it's only been 12 hours Earth time since they left. It turns out it's been 12 months. Her mother is quite relieved and upset when she just shows up, not knowing what the big deal is.
    Rose: I meant to phone, I really did, I just... I forgot.
    Jackie: What, for a year? You forgot for a year?
  • Friends: Chandler goes out on a date with Rachel's boss, Joanna, and has a terrible time, but at the end of the date he says "Well, this was fun; we should do it again sometime. I'll call you" because that's what you do at the end of a date. Joanna then obsesses over him and wonders why he doesn't call. After a week or two Rachel forces Chandler to go see Joanna, because too much time has gone by for him to just call, and they go out to lunch where he tries to explain all the little things about her that irritate him (such as having a lump of mascara in the corner of her eye). After the lunch, Chandler says "Well, this was fun; we should do it again sometime. I'll call you." Rachel forces Chandler to turn around and tell Joanna that he's not going to call her; they have no chemistry. After a few moments of awkward silence, Chandler then says "Well, this was fun; we should do it again sometime. I'll call you."
  • Played with in Hunter (1984). The episode "Unfinished Business" reveals that Hunter had a one-night stand with his partner Dee Dee, who then had to leave for a six week course at Quantico. Hunter says that he called Dee Dee twice a week but she only wanted to talk business; she in turn wants to know why Hunter didn't raise the subject of what happened between them either. They end up not discussing it for the next three years.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "...After the Phantoms of Your Former Self", after Louis de Pointe du Lac moves into Lestat de Lioncourt's townhouse, he seldom visits his family at their mansion, which annoys his mother. However, he does point out that she could visit him in the French Quarter, but she chooses not to.
    Florence: Move half a mile away, don't come see your family for half a season. (sighs) Don't come back fragile, son.
    Louis: Haven't heard a knock on my door. It's a half-mile both ways, Mama.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: In the second episode, Durin is upset because Elrond hasn't visited or even contacted him in twenty years, but still expects to be welcomed as a friend. As Elves are immortal, Elrond doesn't consider two decades much time at all, but for a mortal like Durin, it's a significant period of his life. To his credit, Elrond is genuinely sorry once Durin explains this and apologizes.
    Durin: You cannot barge into my mountain and demand I welcome you with open arms. You cannot claim that which you discarded.
    Elrond: Discarded? Durin, I...
    Durin: Twenty years might be the blink of an eye to an elf, but I've lived an entire life in that time. A life you missed.
  • In one episode of Nash Bridges, Nash goes missing during an investigation. The rest of the SIU is worried because the last place he was seen was blown up by the villains. He later returns with the bad guys in tow to the relief of the others.
    Joe: Nash! Where have you been? Why didn't you call?
    Nash: My cell phone battery was dead. I was out on the water.
    Joe: Why didn't you call?
    Nash: I told you. My battery was dead.
    Joe: You had us so worried! You should have called!
    Nash: Hey, am I speaking English here?
    Joe: Well, we thought you were dead!
    Nash: You thought I was dead because I didn't call?
    Joe: No, we thought you were dead because of the massive explosion up at the storage yard!
    Nash looks at him in shock
    Joe: The whole place went up. There's nothing left.
    Nash: Not the 'Cuda! The 'Cuda's gone?
    Joe: No, the 'Cuda's fine.
  • In The Odd Couple, Felix complains when Oscar comes home late without calling, usually ranting about how hard he worked on the ruined or uneaten dinner.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • Lampshaded in "Friday's Child".
      Spock: Our check-in signal is one hour, twelve minutes overdue. Since no reconnaissance party has appeared, and since Mister Scott is notably efficient in such matters...
      Kirk:...I must assume that something's keeping them busy up there. The Klingon ship.
  • In the two-part episode "Unification" of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard and Data are sent on Romulus to bring back a 130-year-old Ambassador Spock who went there without telling anyone. According to his dying father, he had already this bad habit when he was a child.
    Sarek: When he was a boy, he would disappear for days into the mountains. I asked him where he had gone, what he had done, he refused to tell me. I insisted that he tell me. He would not. I forbade him to go. He ignored me. I punished him. He endured it, silently. But always he returned to the mountains.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: T'Pol returns home to Vulcan with her human boyfriend and gets a chilly reception from her mother.
    T'Les: My daughter's always been fascinated by alien worlds. She was all too eager to finish her schooling and leave Vulcan.
    T'Pol: As I recall, you encouraged me to leave.
    T'Les: A mother is expected to push her young out of the nest. At some point, they're supposed to return.
  • Star Trek: Picard: Raffi is angry at Picard for never once contacting her in fourteen years to see how she was doing after Picard resigned from Starfleet and Raffi was fired, only finally doing so when he wanted something. She compares his palatial chateau in France to her prefab hovel in the middle of nowhere.
  • One Two and a Half Men episode has Alan dating Rose. After they sleep together, he promises to call her, then goes out to pick up Jake. As Alan's driving Jake back to the house, Rose pulls alongside and pulls this trope.
    Rose (visibly upset): You never called me!
    Alan: Excuse me?
    Rose: You said you'd call me and you didn't call!
    Jake: Hi, Rose.
    Rose (suddenly calm): Hey, Jake.
  • Vincenzo: Cha-young to Vincenzo in episode 10, as the former was unaware that the latter was in the middle of a gunfight.
    Cha-young: I was scared to death. Why didn't you answer your phone? That's what technology is for.

    Video Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham City, the first thing Talia does is slapping Bruce, probably because he didn't call her after that night they spent in Metropolis.
  • In Delta Rune, after Kris returns from the Dark World Toriel calls to tell Kris off for not calling. Kris was unable to due to being in the Dark World but Toriel didn't know that, and she drops the issue when she finds out Kris was spending time with a friend.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, one of the first things Fang does when she finally gets in touch with Snow is lay into him for not checking in.
    Snow: "It's me, what's up?"
    Fang: "You damn well know what's up! Why haven't you called in?"
    Snow: "Sorry. Slipped my mind."

    Visual Novels 
  • In Melody, Bethany tracks down the protagonist at his new home. One of the first things she says is to chide MC about not calling her. Downplayed, as she’s not making a fuss, but trying the persuade him to come back to her.

    Web Video 
  • Referenced on Todd In the Shadows music review show, he reviews Will Smith's Lost and Found. Todd shows a video of Will on BET's 106 & Park featuring him hopping on the beat to "How We Do" and starts rapping "I Wish I Made That" in front of an unenthusiastic black audience, essentially shaming them for not supporting him enough (even though they're watching him live on stage that second).
    Todd: This is like when I call home and my mom complains that I don't call home enough. It doesn't make me wanna call home more!

    Web Original 
  • Exaggerated with the Overly Attached Girlfriend Internet meme. The OAG becomes violently clingy with any man she is dating, (or that she imagines she's dating, or that she made eye contact with, or whose profile she saw on a dating website) so any time when he's not around her may result in her doing this, or going much further and, say, tying him to a chair so he never leaves her alone again. In some of the memes she secretly employs any number of creepy and even scary ways to always keep tabs on him, including secretly planting a GPS tracker in his car, following and spying on him when he's out, etc.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond. Bruce to Terry in the show's epilogue.
    Bruce: Where the devil have you been?
    Terry: I had some stuff to take care of.
    Bruce: Enigma's overrated, especially at 3 AM. You could've called. I made you some soup, but it's cold.
    Terry: Sorry. Don't mean to worry you.
    Bruce: I was worried about Gotham. If Batman's not around.
  • Bojack Horseman. In The Telescope, while Herb was giving Bojack his Reason You Suck Speech, he said this.
    Bojack: You have to believe me, I did everything I could.
    Herb: Yeah? Then why didn't you call me? Huh? Twenty years... and you didn't call me.
  • The Simpsons
    • At the end of "Marge Be Not Proud", Marge automatically concludes Bart was out to steal another game.
    • A major theme of "Mother Simpson". Mona initially refuses to explain where and why she was gone for 27 years.
    • In "$pringfield", Marge develops a gambling addiction and Lisa is the first to be worried by her sudden lack of presence and dedication.
      Lisa: Do you get the feeling this family is disintegrating? I mean, we haven't had a meal with Mom all week. And she hasn't even started my costume for the geography pageant.
    • The end of the "Treehouse Of Horror XVI" segment "Survival Of The Fattest" shows Marge saving Homer from Mr. Burns and Smithers's manhunt, knocking them out with pans and then whacking Homer with one, scolding him about being out of the house all night without trying to call her.
  • One Sheep in the Big City skit advertises a restaurant where the customer is "treated like family." As in the staff will come to your table and start complaining about how you never call, write, or call saying you're going to write about calling.

    Real Life 
  • An offender on parole who fails to report to his/her parole officer will be sent back to jail.
  • In the documentary Last Days Here, Joe Hasselvander talks about one of his last-show with Pentagram where the singer Bobby Liebling didn't show himself until the last song.
  • According to Dave Barry, one of the privileges of growing old is calling or writing to your children solely to complain that they never call or write (and on the occasion that they do call or write, complain that they never call or write anyway).