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Caretaker Reversal

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"Give and take" in relationships isn't supposed to go this far.

Someone you love might help take care of you. They might tuck you in or make you soup, and if they get sick one day, you can take care of them in the same special way.

A character gets an illness or an injury and another character spends most of the episode nursing him back to health. By the end of the episode, the "patient" got over his illness, but realizes The Caretaker has caught the illness from him. He decides to take care of the now "patient".

Another manifestation of the trope is when a parent/protector used to take care of the child and, a few years later, the child takes care of the aging parent/protector.

May also happen to the Cloudcuckoolander's Minder if they take a blow to the head or visit Cloudcuckooland.

This can be Truth in Television in many families with small children and a stay-at-home parent. It is not rare for the stay-at-home parent to get an infection from the kids before the parent who works outside the house. Also, if a person gets an illness and accidentally spreads it to another member of their household, they might recover before the other person does, leading to this trope.

A typical ending of the Sick Episode (which may overlap with Here We Go Again!). Compare to Now, Let Me Carry You. A subtrope of Hourglass Plot.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • One episode of Crayon Shin-chan set in the Matazuresou Apartment arc have everyone in said apartment except the Nohara family catching a cold, and Misae have to be the caretaker to most of the apartment residents (with Shin-Chan getting dragged into the hijinks as usual). Come by the episode's end, Misae somehow had caught all their colds, and now Yonroh, Yuu, Susan Koyuki and Prince Omata are now Misae's caretakers (which ends up annoying her to no end).
  • Subverted in Himouto! Umaru-chan: In one arc Umaru gets sick and expects her brother Taihei to baby her, but he has to work. When Taihei ends up catching Umaru's cold, she plots her revenge by subjecting him to nasty "cures" like shoving a leek up his butt...but then she feels genuinely guilty when she sees how sick he is and actually proper care of him.
  • The minuscule mummy Mii-kun of How to Keep a Mummy is generally too small to be able to take care of Sora during the show's Sick Episode. He's still able to help by using his own body as a cool washcloth for Sora's forehead. It's all well and good, except by the next day it turns out Mii-kun has caught Sora's cold.
  • In Kamisama Kiss Nanami is an Ordinary High-School Student who winds up with a Little Bit Beastly Kitsune, Tomoe, as familiar. However, when Nurakami uses a magical artefact that turns Tomoe into a child Nanami ends up caring for him. Also, when Nanami winds up playing around with time travel she winds up rescuing a wounded Tomoe from a riverbank in the past and nursing him back to health.
  • In an episode of Midori Days, Seiji accidentally drinks a bottle of sake, and Midori tries to take care of him (including scaring off door-to-door salesman by impersonating a zombie). When he wakes up, he feels great, but Midori is sick. However, in the manga, Midori gets sick first.
    Seiji: My right hand caught a cold...?
  • Invoked, then subverted in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Kanna's Daily Life. Kanna takes care of Saikawa when she comes down with a fever, then tries to catch a cold herself a few days later so Saikawa can take care of her. Being a dragon, she has Ideal Illness Immunity, so her attempts to get sick fail.
  • In Naruto, Guy has spent most of his life attempting to take care of Kakashi, in regards to both his physical and mental well-being. However, after permanently injuring his right leg against Madara, it's shown in Kakashi Hiden that a large part of Kakashi's life is now spent at Guy's side, happily helping his crippled friend adapt to being confined to a wheelchair.
  • A variant occurs in Pokémon the Series: XY. A flashback shows that Ash and Serena first met in a summer camp when Ash came upon an injured and lost Serena in the woods, bandaging her injured leg and leading her back to their camp. In the present time, during, coincidentally enough, another summer camp, Ash and Serena fall off a cliff, but this time around, Ash is the one who got an injured leg in the process, so Serena had to take care of him until help arrived.
  • Happens in one episode of Sailor Moon R, when Minako plays nurse to her friends, but ends up sick herself by the end of the episode, when Usagi and Chibi-usa return the favor.
  • In Mini Sengoku Basara, Motonari has a fever and Motochika insists on trying to cure him by strapping a fish to his head and cooking up some stew which looks...kinda like the inside of a black hole. Later Motochika gets sick and receives a visit from Motonari, who repays him in kind.
  • In Trinity Blood, after Ion is shot by Tres, Sister Esther ends up caring for him (including replacing his bandages). A few episodes later, Esther is knocked unconscious and wakes up to find Ion at her bedside.

     Fan Works 
  • Defied Trope in As Fate Would Have It during Yancy's Sick Episode. Nate, a movie actor awaiting the release of his next big project, fully knows that getting Yancy's cold and taking sick leave would give him problems down the line, so he refuses to touch his girlfriend directly during his visit to her place.
  • In Nurse Jet, Jet looks after Sean while he is sick. In its sequel, Patient Name: Propulsion, Sean looks after Jet while he is sick.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash gets badly injured saving his Pikachu from a flock of Spearow, and Misty takes him to the Viridian City Pokémon Center. Later, Misty gets poisoned by Vileplume pollen, so Ash has to take her to a hospital in Cerulean City.

  • The Avengers (1998). After Steed is attacked by Mrs. Peel's clone, the real Mrs. Peel takes him to her home to recover and nurses him back to health. Later on, after Mrs. Peel is captured and brainwashed by Sir August, Steed rescues her and takes her to his home to recover.
  • An emotional variation in Little Women (2019): After Beth's death, Marmee's eternal strength crumbles and she breaks down sobbing into Jo's chest. The script explicitly describes Jo as taking on the parental role in this moment while her mother is like a child in need of comforting.
  • Murder by Death: Happened during the backstory, where Miss Marbles has a nurse but Miss Marbles takes care of the nurse, rather than the other way around.
  • In the Akira Kurosawa film Red Beard, Dr. Yasumoto takes care of a feverish girl, abused to the point of madness, named Otayo. When the doctor himself falls ill, Otayo tends him, which helps her mental recovery. (In an amusing bit, she even tries reading his medical texts to stay awake.)

  • In Ethan Frome, this happens three times with Zeena: Before their marriage and life together in Starkfield, Zeena was healthy and knowledgeable about medicine, taking care of Ethan's mother. During the majority of Ethan's story, Zeena spends her time claiming that she's ill and having Ethan care for her. Then, after Ethan and Mattie's Bungled Suicide, when they both acquire crippling injuries, Zeena takes care of them, even 20 years after the accident.
  • In Frog and Toad, Toad tries to cheer up Frog because he's sick. Frog gets better but then Toad gets sick and Frog takes care of him.
  • In Ivanhoe Rebecca first acts as Ivanhoe's caretaker, then Ivanhoe acts as her champion.
  • Little Women has an emotional variation: Marmee is usually a pillar of quiet strength, wisdom and comfort to her daughters, but in moments of extreme crisis, she reveals that she's Not So Stoic and her daughters comfort her:
    • When they receive the news that Mr. March is dangerously ill in Washington, Marmee faints, and then stretches out her arms to her daughters and begs them to help her, and they all gather around to comfort her.
    • When the family realizes that Beth is dying, Marmee again stretches out her arms to Jo "as if for help," and Jo goes to comfort her mother. The film versions from 1933, 1994 and 2019 likewise all have Marmee sobbing in Jo's arms, as does the 2017 miniseries; the 1994 and 2017 versions before Beth dies and the 1933 and 2019 versions afterwards.
  • Flip-flopping through this trope is how Jaime and Brienne's friendship gets started in A Song of Ice and Fire. Originally, Brienne is Jaime's guard, and has to protect him from all kinds of dangers (including some that he gets into on purpose to get on her nerves). Later on, when the two of them are taken prisoner by the Bloody Mummers, Jaime winds up spending a lot of time protecting *her*, since of the two of them, he's the hostage who's too valuable to kill, and therefore has a little bit of leverage. By the time they're freed, they're pretty much protecting one another.
  • The ending of Bear Feels Sick in Karma Wilson's Bear series has all the other animals catching Bear's cold and Bear taking care of them the way they took care of him.
  • In Orange Clouds, Blue Sky, Skye's mom spends years taking care of Skye's autistic sister Starr, giving her whatever she wants and trying to "protect" her from any negative experiences or any kind of work. When Mom becomes a drug-addicted Sleepy Depressive, Starr is the only family member who sticks around. Starr feeds her, washes the dishes, and does chores to keep the house somewhat sanitary. She refers to her as "Baby Mommy."
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee: It's usually Amos who wipes the rhino's nose, but the rhino wipes Amos's nose when he gets sick.
  • Subverted in The Return of Tarzan. William Clayton takes care of fellow castaway Monsieur Thuran after Thuran catches an unidentified jungle fever. When Clayton catches the same disease, Thuran leaves him to die.
  • Love Over Gold: Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic, Katrien catches the virus, and Diane takes care of her while she's too weak to do anything for herself. Then, just as Katrien is getting better, Diane starts coming down with the illness, and Katrien nurses her back to health.
  • Hayy ibn Yaqzan is about a Wild Child who is adopted by a gazelle, who nurses him when he's an infant, and brings fruits and nuts for him when he's a little older. When the gazelle becomes old and infirm, Hayy cares for her and brings her food until she finally dies.
  • In Are You Seeing Me? Justine has been The Caretaker for her autistic twin brother Perry ever since their dad died of cancer. After Justine is injured in the earthquake, Perry takes care of her while she recovers.

     Live Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: in Season 1, Sheldon gets sick and makes Penny take care of him. In Season 3, Penny gets injured and makes Sheldon take her to the hospital and take care of her afterward. What connects these two instances most solidly is the song "Soft Kitty." Sheldon teaches the song to Penny to sing to him ('cause that's what his mother did when he was sick as a youngster). Then when Penny is injured she makes him sing it to her.
    Penny: Sing "Soft Kitty" to me.
    Sheldon: "Soft Kitty" is for when you're sick. You're not sick.
    Penny: Injured and drugged is a kind of sick.
  • In the Clarissa Explains It All episode "The Flu," the parents both get sick, and Clarissa and Ferguson have to take care of them and of the house. In the end, the siblings get sick just as their parents get well, and in the last scene the parents are shown bringing them soup as they rest on the couch.
  • Played for Drama in the second episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Dr. Mike works herself to exhaustion during a deadly flu epidemic and must be cared for by Sully when she catches the disease herself.
  • Horatio Hornblower, "The Duchess and the Devil": While imprisoned in Spain, Horatio saves his suicidal, starving friend Archie and nurses him back to health. Later Horatio gets tortured (he is put in a small hole in the ground for a week) and then Archie helps him.
  • In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Robin is sick and Ted takes care of her. When he goes to kiss her, she tries to refuse, but he goes ahead anyway. Immediately after, we see Ted in bed, Robin taking care of him.
  • Kung Fu (1972): in "Besieged: Cannon at the Gates", Caine is lying on the ground mortally wounded after he sabotages a cannon firing at the Shaolin Temple, and his Girl of the Week is leaning over his body comforting him. Then the Dragon with an Agenda stabs her; she becomes limp, and Caine reverses positions with her as she dies. Suddenly he's fine. See it here, starting at 3:55.
  • The M*A*S*H episode "Carry on, Hawkeye" is mostly about the majority of the camp (including three of its four doctors) falling ill, leaving Hawkeye and Margaret to run things. At the end, Hawkeye finally succumbs to the flu as the rest of the camp begins to recover. In the final scene, he's a) almost alone in the post-op and b) the recipient of the camp's gratitude.
  • Our Miss Brooks: A Caretaker Reversal revolving door, in "Old Age Plan."
    • The story begins with Mrs. Davis having cared for her sister Angela, and falling ill from Angela's complaining. By the end of the episode, Mrs. Davis has recovered and Angela has again become ill from Mrs. Davis' complaining.
    • Meanwhile, Miss Brooks had spent the episode shilling Mrs. Davis and Angela's club's old age plan to Mr. Boynton and Mr. Conklin. The two men end up suffering psychosomatic symptoms of old age.
    • Miss Brooks decides to invite them over to Mrs. Davis' house, and fake the symptoms of old age to distract Mr. Boynton and Mr. Conklin from their symptoms. The climax of the episode has Miss Brooks, Mr. Boynton and Mr. Conklin rapidly experiencing illness and being placed on the sofa with a blanket and ice pack in turn.
  • On an episode of The Rifleman Lucas takes care of Mark who has the measles. At the end, Lucas has the measles while Mark takes care of him.

  • In the beginning chorus of Jamie O'Neal's "Somebody's Hero", the titular "hero" is a mother taking care of her young daughter. In the ending chorus, the roles have swapped, and now it's the daughter taking care of her aging mother.

  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: Before coming to work for Mrs. Hawking, Mary's sole occupation in life was to keep house for her father and take care of her unwell mother, causing her to see her only worth and purpose was her usefulness to others.

     Visual Novels 
  • Early in the story, the protagonist of Daughter for Dessert comes home drunk from the bar. Amanda invokes this trope while helping him into their apartment and into bed.

     Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In "Storytelling", Jake gets sick and Finn takes care of him, obeying all of Jake's requests, including the one to find a true story to tell him. At the end of the episode, Finn gets sick as well, and Jake rushes to do everything for him as well...until he realises that Finn has just fallen asleep.
  • Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: Discussed in the song in "Mom Tiger is Sick", which notes that someone might take care of you if you get sick, and if they get sick, you can take care of them.
  • Doc McStuffins: In "Doctoring the Doc", Doc, who is usually The Medic to her Living Toys, catches the flu. As such, her toys try to be the ones to take care of her for a change, helping her get water and trying to diagnose her.
  • "Is There An Ed In The House" of Ed, Edd n Eddy. At the beginning, Sarah has a cold, and Double-D, Ed, and Jimmy take care of her. Near the end of the episode, Double-D comes down with Sarah's cold, which leads to Jimmy rushing up to Double-D saying: "Jeepers! You sound sick, Double-D! You shouldn't be outside; you need some TLC, mister!" He leads Double-D back into his house to take care of him, much to Double-D's objections while Eddy just stands there.
  • Little Princess: In "I Don't Want a Cold", the Princess catches a cold. At the end of the episode, when she thinks the adults have caught her cold, she gives them blankets, foot baths, and broth.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: The episode "Nurse Stimpy" has Stimpy tending to a sick Ren and trying to cure him in his own stupid ways. At the end, when Stimpy gets sick from all the grueling work, Ren is a little too eager to return the favor.
  • Happens in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Yarn Benders", which begins with Filburt getting sick after being caught in the rain and ends with Rocko and Heffer catching the illness after mangling a few fairy tales that they're reading to Filb.
  • The Tick: "Tick vs. The Uncommon Cold'": The episode Bookends with Arthur bringing Tick soup in the opening and Tick returning the favor in the closing scene.


Video Example(s):


Take Care

Doc's toys take care of her because she has the flu, while noting that usually, *she* is the one who takes care of *them*.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / CaretakerReversal

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