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Derailing Love Interests

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There's no reason why Christine wouldn't be happier with Raoul than she would with the Phantom; he's closer to her in age, they've known each other longer, he's sincere, utterly devoted to her, and not psychotic; so Lloyd Webber and his cronies randomly turn him into a bitter, neglectful drunk with gambling problems, in order to smooth over the fact that they're trying to push Christine onto a guy who tends to strangle people when he gets upset.
Musical Hell's Diva describing Love Never Dies

When the author supports a relationship or resolves a Love Triangle by turning the hero's romantic rival into a complete jerkass.

Let's visit our old friends Alice and Bob. Alice loved Bob once, but he didn't or couldn't return her love, so she left him and took up with Charlie. In Charlie, she gets a boyfriend who is sweet, sensitive, responsible, and truly loves her: everything she ever wanted from Bob and then some. She's in love and everything is perfect. Meanwhile, Bob has realized what he had when Alice loved him. He returns to the field full of resolve to win her back before she marries Charlie and all hope is lost.

There's only one problem: Alice doesn't need or want Bob. She's got her ideal man in Charlie. And why should she believe that Bob, after not-loving her for so long, is genuinely in love with her now? She's done with Bob. He had his chance, he blew it, and she's moved on.

Fortunately for Bob, the writer (call her Dee) is in his corner. Bob's predicament leaves Dee with her own set of problems. She'll have to break up the happy couple so Bob can have Alice, but Charlie has no glaring incompatibility or other No Sparks-type issue with Alice that would justify taking him out of the story. Nor can Dee just let Alice marry Charlie and leave Bob out in the cold. That wouldn't be formulaic! More seriously, that kind of Genre Shift from Romantic Comedy to pure Drama might not please the viewers, since it punishes Bob after he'd seen the error of his ways. And even if Dee wants to make a happy ending for all (or merely Pair the Spares), that means spending time developing a fourth character to be the replacement love interest of whichever man does not get Alice.

So Dee solves the problem by diverting viewer sympathy away from Charlie. Typically this is done by turning him into an utter jerkass. Alice's sweet suitor starts showing traits that were never there before. He gets jealous or violent. He reveals (or Alice discovers) that he's cheating on her and has been for some time. She might even find out that he's already married. Rarely is this even foreshadowed before it all breaks loose. It's a very fast Character Derailment that serves only to cut off the audience's investment in Charlie and drive Alice into Bob's waiting arms.

If done without enough set-up, viewers will realize that Dee has pulled a plot device out of nowhere for the sole purpose of getting the Official Couple back together. It doesn't look good for Alice, either: if Charlie's new flaw is small in comparison to Bob's, she seems fickle and flighty to dump him for it; if his flaw is enormous, she seems like a Horrible Judge of Character for not noticing it sooner.

(Even though we have been discussing this trope with Alice, Bob, and Charlie, the three players can be any combination of genders.)

A subtrope of Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends; cousin to Disposable Fiancé, First Father Wins, and Romantic False Lead, and of Pandering to the Base when done to set up the Fan-Preferred Couple. Compare Minor Flaw, Major Breakup, Why Would Anyone Take Him Back?, and Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. See also Relationship Writing Fumble and Strangled by the Red String. Die for Our Ship is when this is done in fan works. If one of the feuding romancers is a friend, then it's Friend Versus Lover.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the shoujo manga The Devil Does Exist, Nice Guy Kamijou Yuucihi's character becomes derailed when he suddenly becomes a bit forceful towards Kayano. This doesn't really match his original character and was obviously done so that Kayano's decision to go with Takeru is justified. The saddest part is that, even when he turns more aggressive, he's still a much nicer guy than Takeru.
  • Dragon Ball Z has Trunks, the Kid from the Future of Bulma and Vegeta, two characters who had little interaction up to that point, claim out of nowhere that Yamcha, Bulma's boyfriend since the beginning mistreated Bulma and was seeing other women. This makes little sense as Yamcha is portrayed in the series as a Nice Guy who wanted to get married and was a gynophobic character who had issues with other women. The Unfair Sex is also heavily added to the mix as Bulma was constantly openly chasing other men throughout their entire relationship, yet Yamcha being derailed into being unfaithful is supposed to make him look bad. The Japanese voice actors even pointed out how little sense Yamcha's handling made, as did fans. A popular fan justification for Yamcha's sudden Out-of-Character Moment is Bulma made it all up, though Word of God explicitly denies this. The odd thing is, since Bulma's long been established as self-centered, it would be entirely in-character for her to just break up with Yamcha and hook up with Vegeta for no other reason than liking him more.
  • In the shoujo manga Stepping on Roses (Hadashi de Bara wo Fume), Nozomu was originally a sweet gentleman who had been the merciful one that donated money to Sumi when her kid sister got really sick. However, in order to justify that Sumi should stay with Souichirou, his character becomes derailed as he suddenly becomes possessive and eventually an out-and-out yandere for her. As if to make everyone no longer have any doubt who Sumi should end up with, he eventually goes so far as to try to rape her, only to decide to commit double suicide with her when the place gets set on fire.
  • Kunihiko Ikuhara has been accused of having done this in the Sailor Moon anime. Since he's an open Yuri Fan and has said that he doesn't like the character of Usagi's boyfriend Mamoru, many fans have accused him of deliberately reducing Mamoru's powers and importance to the plot so Usagi would look better with other female characters. He cheerfully admitted to repeatedly killing off Mamoru for this purpose, but of course the producers would always mandate that Mamoru be brought back, much to Ikuhara's irritation. Then again this is Ikuhara we're talking about, so who knows if he is really serious.
  • Xam'd: Lost Memories falls into this trap a little with its treatment of Furuichi: although his bad behavior toward Haru is foreshadowed fairly early on in the story, and does follow fairly believably from what we already know about him, it's still pretty jarring to see him get stripped of virtually all his redeeming qualities in the last couple of scenes he's in to prove he's not good enough for her. Doubly so because Akiyuki, who is Haru's official love interest, actually caused — albeit unintentionally — much of Furuichi's current torments yet he never faces any punishment for doing so or even acknowledges that he might have done wrong by him.

    Comic Books 
  • Chuck Austen loooooves this trope.
    • The Polaris/Havok/Nurse Annie triangle during his run of Uncanny X-Men. While Lorna has never been the most stable of people, Austen blew her mental issues into full-blown bitchy psychosis to justify getting Havok together with the nurse he telepathically dated while in a coma (caused by her telepath son, Carter, who wanted a daddy and wasn't above committing Mind Rape to force Havok to be his daddy). This ended with Havok dumping Polaris at the altar for Annie, and Polaris flipping her shit and attempting to kill them both before Juggernaut knocked her out. Polaris was put into psychic therapy with Professor Xavier; Havok and Annie ran off to Paris together, seemingly supported by all the other X-Men. Austen wasn't at all shy about telling people that Annie was a stand-in directly modeled off his own wife and that he envisioned himself as Havok; this did nothing to help fans accept the pairing... especially since, after all this, Annie was throwing herself at Iceman while still with Havok! It's no wonder that Austen, upon leaving the book, put Annie on a bus out of town with Carter to protect his much-reviled character from future reprisals. Though Austen did have her last issue feature a nebulous scene where it's implied that Carter has hooked up with Elias Bogan, a disembodied telepath who liked to trick kids into selling their parents to him to use as slaves to rape and torture for his own sick amusement...
    • Exhibit B is his run on The Avengers, in which he pulled his trademark three-way Character Derailment on Giant-Man, The Wasp, and Hawkeye. Giant-Man became a full-on misogynistic Jerkass in the vein of his Ultimate Marvel counterpart; Wasp became a Shrinking Violet Domestic Abuse victim (oh, yeah, the Infamous Hitting Incident was brought back yet again for this just to cover all the bases, even though it had been supposedly finally laid to rest about three issues prior, during the Geoff Johns run); and Hawkeye was derailed into secretly having had a thing for Wasp and hated Giant-Man since the Eighties. All of this was promptly reversed by the next writer on the book, who killed Hawkeye and reverted Wasp back to her 1960s self before breaking her and Giant-Man up for good (or at least until someone else comes along).
    • As proof that no company is safe, Exhibit C is his short career with DC. After being handed the reins to the Superman book, Austen proceeded to make it clear that he hated Lois Lane's guts (especially in interviews), hated the Superman marriage, and preferred Lana Lang as Supes's one and only. His reasoning was that Lois was a gold-digging bitch who only married Clark because he's Superman (even though she agreed to marry Clark Kent, not Superman) and tried his best to make readers agree with him. Since his "best" involved things like derailing poor Lois into a huge shrew who didn't give a damn about her husband and having Martha "Ma" Kent expressly make the point that she would have rather had Lana as her daughter-in-law, this went over like a lead balloon and ended with Austen being fired. Readers also rejected such retcons as Lana's reasoning for naming her son with Pete "Clark" (rather than it coming from respect for an old friend, Lana had picked the name because she was still hopelessly in love), seeing them as desperate and creepy rather than sympathetic. As with almost every other relationship Austen ever wrote, later writers either ignored or outright rejected his take on things.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Something similar happened to Black Cat in the comics. For publicity reasons it was decided to have Spider-Man marry at the same time in the newspaper strip and the comic book; unfortunately at the time, Peter was dating Felicia Hardy/Black Cat. The solution? Make Felicia go from morally ambiguous cat-burglar to the ally of an assassin for hire. Though the storyline was badly written and not helped by various production delays, this was no derailment. Peter and Felicia had broken up in 1984, about two years before the decision to have him and Mary Jane marry was taken. When the Black Cat started dating Spider-Man again — in The Spectacular Spider-Man #123 (published a mere five months before Peter proposed to Mary Jane in The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #290), she was in cahoots with the Foreigner, the assassin responsible for the murder of Ned Leeds (a.k.a. "The Hobgoblin"). It also was clear from the start that she was motivated by a desire for revenge against Peter for getting Doctor Strange to remove the bad-luck power she had bought from The Kingpin. This period of dating began with the Black Cat faking a bomb attack on her own apartment to get a pretext to invite herself in as Peter's new flatmate. Felicia is actually a victim of this repeatedly in the comics. The 1984 breakup was due to editors refusing to let Spider-Man have a long-term love interest at the time. As a result, despite showcasing that she would love Peter regardless, her attitude quickly derailed when the big moment came when he finally revealed who he really was to her. Now she refused to accept his Peter Parker identity and only loved him for being Spider-Man, repeatedly risked his identity going public over petty reasons, and constantly harped on Peter whenever he lied or kept a secret from her despite constantly lying about her own aforementioned Kingpin deal, ultimately turning into a full-blown selfish whiny brat. After Peter and Mary Jane were married, she was reintroduced and turned into a crazy Yandere who even physically threatened Mary Jane. After this period she finally went through some much-needed fixing, and for a good period of time, her character went back to the way she originally was. Then Superior Spider Man happened, having her arrested by the new Spider-Man and subsequently becoming a crime boss after getting out of prison, outright ignoring the fact that she was not wronged by Peter himself.
    • This happens to a few characters during the Brand New Day run. Thanks to having a rotation of writers, each writer seemed to have their own OTP. Carlie Cooper, however, was the intended love interest, so that led to the derailing of several characters to make room for her. Michelle Gonzales, Pete's Tsundere roommate, suddenly became verbally and violently abusive towards him, and Mary Jane, despite still apparently being deeply in love with him, becomes more distant and even turns into a Shipper on Deck for him and Carlie. Bizarrely, even Black Cat, who was still in love with Peter even when she knew he was Happily Married to Mary Jane, became an approver of the Peter/Carlie relationship, despite never having met her. However, once Dan Slott took over full-time as writer, it took him less than a year to sink the Peter/Carlie relationship and brought Peter and Mary Jane much closer together as friends again.
    • Happened during The Amazing Spider-Man (1999) by Howard Mackie and John Byrne, where Mary Jane became more bitter and angry at Peter for being Spider-Man, to the point where she left him for a long period of time. Then she was blown up in a plane (she got better). All of this was done to get Peter single again, so he could start dating other characters, most notably Jill Stacy (Gwen Stacy's cousin.)
    • The aftermath of the Superior Spider Man run? MJ and Carlie pulling a Screw This, I'm Outta Here and leaving New York because they're fed up with being potential victims to anybody who has a grudge against Spider-Man (and MJ starts to date a firefighter, who is pretty much Peter without the powers, though she does see Peter yet again in the "Who Am I" mini-series which her influence restores an amnesia-ridden Peter's memories and he saves her life), and Black Cat pulling a Woman Scorned Face–Heel Turn and wanting to destroy Spider-Man (and become the next Kingpin) because Otto destroyed her life and now she is not going to take Peter's apology unless she pries it from his dead body (and considering one of the first things she does is send Electro to kill Spider-Man, she is either teetering close to the Moral Event Horizon or has passed it but it's imperceptible). All to promote Silk as Spider-Man's new love interest.
  • Strangers in Paradise: It was certainly very convenient that Francine's husband turned out to be having an affair near the end of the series, thus freeing her up to finally get together with Katchoo.
  • Devin Grayson was a comic book writer who got to be in charge of the late '90s Titans run. So far, so good. There's a problem, though... her OTP was Barbara/Dick, but some writers preferred him with Koriand'r. What was Devin's solution? Bash the shit out of Kory by making her an absolute bitch to Dick, so he can run back into Babs's arms. Dick and Kory had been long broken up since the end of Wolfman's run, but Grayson's character derailment simply made things worse, especially since the two agreed that they could simply be very good friends at the end of The Technis Imperative (a mini-series co-plotted by Grayson and Phil Jimenez that led to her run).
    • Further complicated by the fact that when Grayson was writing Nightwing's series, she'd clearly intended for him to propose to Barbara when she wrapped up her run. However, at the same time in Judd Winick's Outsiders, he portrayed Dick as having had a one-night stand with Kory to rekindle their relationship. The lack of communication between editorial departments further agitated fans of both pairing options and had the result of turning Dick Grayson into a two-timer (which the character's reputation couldn't quite recover from for a while). Other writers like Chuck Dixon had also previously attempted to downplay Dick's past relationship with Kory as simply an ill-advised fling.
    • A later Nightwing annual by Marc Andreyko made the love triangle look even worse when it was retconned in that Dick had slept with Barbara the night before he was due to marry Kory. It was also revealed that in an earlier point of their relationship, Babs went to deliver him flowers but instead bumped into Kory (who he'd just had sex with as his "first time"). These revelations were meant to explain why the engagement plot point became nullified in the "One Year Later" timeskip. Instead, it just complicated the issue and only gave fans the impression that Dick was an unreliable and indecisive cheater.
    • What many writers don't seem to realize is that prior to the '90s, Dick and Barbara had never been a couple. This was mainly due to the fact that when he was Robin, Dick was still a teenager and Barbara was portrayed as in her mid-20s at least (she'd been in the US Congress). Dick had been pretty much eased out of the main Batman titles and eventually was with the Titans full-time. Becoming Nightwing was done so he'd no longer be under the control of the Batman editors.
  • Some writers at DC seem to adore Superman/Wonder Woman, as evidenced by the fact that many different Elseworlds either derail Lois Lane to get rid of the marriage or simply kill her off entirely. A stand-out example is JLA: Act of God, where a mysterious event de-powers every non-technological superbeing on the planet and made all magically powered heroes disappear, after which Lois breaks up with Clark because he lost his powers. Granted, the fact that Clark is busy being Angsty McWhineNCry about the whole thing really didn't help matters, but still. And of course, Wonder Woman, despite being, you know, magically powered, is still around for Clark to lean on. And then, thanks to the New 52 reboot, Clark and Lois have never been married, thus allowing DC to finally hook Superman and Wonder Woman together. Of course, this is lampshaded in the final issue of Justice League International when a time-travelling Booster Gold attempts to warn what's left of the team of something in the future, only to be interrupted by the two's first kiss and gawking in utter shock. Another pseudo-reboot later, however, and Lois was back to being married to Clark. Poor Billy Batson also gets this treatment in Superman: Distant Fires, where he goes from a boy scout on par with Superman to a megalomaniac who kills Diana when she refuses to get back together with him and wants to take over the world.
  • The infamous bitchslap that sent Sally Acorn into Jerkass territory has shades of this; after being romantically entangled for many years, a supposed mandate came down ordering Sonic to not be in a permanent relationship, and the next thing readers knew, Sally was bitching out Sonic for not ditching his duties to be her consort, which led to him getting into a torrid Love Triangle with Mina Mongoose and Fiona Fox. However, after a change of writers, the love triangle was dissolved and Sally was made Sonic's one-and-only canonical love interest (at least until the Continuity Reboot happened).
  • Similar to Chuck Austen, Grant Morrison went this way with his X-Men run. Joe Quesada wanted to break up Cyclops and Jean Grey, so he told Grant to kill her off. Perfectly normal in a superhero comic, but instead of just letting her die in a good, heroic way or even stuffing her in a fridge as most writers do, he decided the best way was to derail Jean, Scott, and Emma Frost in order to make a "love triangle" before killing off Jean so Scott can get together with Emma. To do so, he had Cyke, currently in a dark place following his merger with Apocalypse, seek therapy to deal with his issues, which Emma provides with her previously-never-mentioned Ph.D. in psychology. Then, she has psychic mind-sex with him to let him live out his deepest sexual fantasies that Jean would never do so while projecting the image of Jean. Jean at first is rightfully pissed at the two, especially Emma, but she receives no punishment since she 'did it out of love' for Scott, despite the fact the two had never previously had much interaction beyond the psychic sex, and Jean is called out for having no sympathy for her. So, Jean forgives them all, only to be killed by Magneto despite being the Phoenix (and as such, immortal) at the time with Jean then pushing Scott beyond the grave to move on. So in short, who was supposed to be 'in the right' was emotionally manipulating a man and is rewarded with becoming the second in command, the real victim of the situation is made out to be a boring and dull prude, and the man in the middle is essentially mind raped when he needed therapy (which he never got, possibly explaining his own latent Character Derailment) and ends up looking like a tool and a douche.
  • In Runaways (Rainbow Rowell) series, Julie Power suddenly became pushy and unreasonable, demanding that Karolina leave the Runaways and move to New York with her, despite their relationship previously being portrayed as healthy and mutually supportive. A lot of fans suspect that this sudden change came about so that Rainbow Rowell could break up Julie and Karolina and have Karolina hook up with Nico instead. Future Foundation managed to work with this, revealing that Julie's bad attitude was at least in-part due to developing depression over how badly she was handling college. It was previously established (in the comic that introduced Julie and Karolina's relationship, even) she had trouble with depression so it at least made sense, and mended the issue somewhat by Julie getting together with Action Girl Rikki Barnes.
  • In his run on the Doom Patrol, Keith Giffen singlehandedly dismantled not one but two married couples that went back decades into a handful of divorcees. The minor example would be Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher (originally of the Titans), who after decades of having been married in comics were revealed to be suddenly divorced, but that doesn't even remotely compare to the nuclear bomb he dropped on Steve Dayton and Rita Farr, retconning Steve to have always been a Covert Pervert abusing his Power Perversion Potential on her and having her put him in traction for it.

    Films — Animation 
  • Subverted in The LEGO Movie. Batman is clearly set up as a Romantic False Lead character, culminating in a scene where he seemingly announces Screw This, I'm Outta Here in the middle of a crisis, running off to the Millennium Falcon to hang out with Han Solo (and insisting to his girlfriend that part of his relationship is being able to ditch her and party whenever he wants). His girlfriend is furious, The Hero proposes that she stop going out with him because he's a jerk and doesn't respect her... and Batman reappears, having stolen a vital component from the Millennium Falcon that he needs to solve their crisis.
  • In Frozen, Princess Anna has two love interests in handsome, kind and supportive Prince Hans, with whom she falls in Love at First Sight, and rough mountain-dweller Kristoff, who is her companion on the journey to find her sister and shares Belligerent Sexual Tension with her throughout. Even after the journey, Anna is still ready to marry Hans, who then proves to be a sociopathic Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who was manipulating her in an effort to seize the throne and who has no problem killing her in order to get what he wants.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Carefree (1938), Stephen loves Amanda, who loves Tony. Any sympathy the audience may have for Stephen will likely disappear once he tries to marry Amanda while she's hypnotized into thinking she loves him and gets a restraining order to keep Tony from undoing the brainwashing.
  • Deconstructed in My Best Friend's Wedding; Julianne does not marry her best friend, and when she tries to break him up with his sort-of Womanchild girlfriend so she can get the guy for herself... she comes off as utterly clingy and unsympathetic. And she's the one who has to clean up all the mess she caused.
  • Sky High (2005) is an interesting example of this trope. The fact that Gwen starts to act more like the Alpha Bitch as the movie goes on is probably meant not just to make Will's best friend Layla seem more appealing, but also to hint that Gwen is the Big Bad. That said, Gwen acting bitchy to the sidekicks or acting jealous of Layla doesn't really make sense for her true motive or the preppy Nice Girl facade that she's putting on, so it still kind of comes off as random and forced.
  • Deconstructed in Young Adult. The main character Mavis - a whiny Girl-Child - is convinced that she can seduce her ex-boyfriend to be with her again, despite the fact that he has a new kid. It turns out his wife feels sorry for Mavis and leaving her never entered her ex's mind.
  • Run Fat Boy Run: a guy enters the London marathon to win his ex back, who has a new guy already. New guy went from friendly Ace to a child-hating Control Freak. Granted, there were some early hints to his inner bastard - his competitive streak, apparent annoyance at children, and... he's American!
  • Subverted in Once Upon A Time In The Midlands; events seem to be going this way, with Dek (the new, sweet, rather hapless love interest) kicked out of the house and Shirley letting Jimmy (bad-boy ex and father of her daughter) move in and starting to fall back into a relationship with him. The subversion being that Jimmy is then revealed to genuinely be a dick who hasn't changed in the least, and Shirley does, in fact, get back together with Dek in the end.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Lavender Brown doesn't do or say anything negative toward anyone until the very scene she and Ron break up. In the book, Lavender was a lot more clingy and annoying, to the point at which Ron pretends to be asleep so he doesn't have to deal with her, leading her to start annoying Harry for a third party's views on their relationship. Of course, the real reason Ron is with her was that she was pretty and likes him (and may have interpreted a vulgar "Uranus" joke he made to her in Goblet of Fire as an awkward attempt at flirting); before they hook up, it's Hermione he's crushing on, not Lavender.
  • Used with Johann in The Hottie and the Nottie. Johann is introduced defending June from humiliation, and is a dentist, enabling him to clean up her crooked, ugly teeth. He's also a former Marine, a Harvard graduate, a great guitar player, a male model, a pilot, and other things that make him absurdly perfect, and much better than loser protagonist Nate. But when June eventually becomes beautiful and starts going out with him, he turns out to be more or less a self-involved jerk. However, the extent of his jerktitude is a couple of selfish comments that offend Nate and June.
  • Woman On Top falls on the "informed flaw" side of things. The ex-husband is truly sorry about cheating on her, but they needed to get rid of her new love interest. They get in a fight when he (under orders from the producers) attempts to change elements on her show. She dumps him over this single fight, which isn't even his idea and goes back to the man who cheated on her just because he wasn't able to be on top while they had sex.
  • In The Karate Kid (1984), Ali Mills is a Nice Girl who was willing to stand up for herself and became attracted to Daniel LaRusso. Offscreen before the main plot of The Karate Kid Part II, she crashes his car, doesn't offer to pay damages, and leaves him for a football player all in one scene. Then it's revealed in season 3 of Cobra Kai that Ali "leaving him" for the football player was actually Daniel overreacting to her talking to a friend of hers, and the car wreck was because he ignored her warnings that the brakes were faulty, and lied to Mr. Miyagi to save face.
  • In Kick-Ass 2, Dave's girlfriend Katie, having been thoroughly established as a genuine Nice Girl in the first film, is suddenly derailed into a jerk that has been cheating on him, right before she dumps him. It's possible that having Katie as Dave's girlfriend in the movie wouldn't have meshed with the story in the comic where they never were together (in fact, she was already seeing someone and when Dave learned all of this from her, her beau punched him in the face). This is to facilitate his romance with Hit-Girl.
  • Similarly, in The Inbetweeners 2, Lucy changes from a Nice Girl who Simon got into a relationship with at the end of the previous film to a Yandere who deletes friends from his Facebook account, destroys his possessions and is cheating on him with Pete.

  • Gatsby is trying to invoke this in The Great Gatsby with Daisy by getting her away from Tom. Unfortunately, all Gatsby gets is to be the other guy in an affair and ends up dead when Tom's mistress is killed, and her husband murders Gatsby thinking he killed her, and Daisy and Tom stay together, despite their shallow marriage.
  • John Dickson Carr both exemplifies and subverts this trope in many of his mystery novels.
    • One great example is in The Problem of the Green Capsule, in which the lead police detective, after falling in love with the woman who is one of the main suspects of the murder, daydreams about arresting her fiancé (who is also another major suspect) and swooping in to save the woman. As it turns out, the fiancé was the true killer the entire time, and the police detective gets the pleasure of arresting him in front of everybody. The final page of the book strongly hints that the police detective and the woman will get together.
    • This is subverted completely in The Mad Hatter Mystery. Two important characters have been engaged to be married from before the events of the book start. The fiancé ends up being the murderer, but he is Let Off by the Detective, in this case Fell and Hadley, because it turns out he really committed manslaughter which was less his fault than the victim's; they leave the case officially "unsolved".
  • Ellery Queen also used this trope in their mystery novels, most blatantly in There Was an Old Woman. In that one, two of the main characters are engaged throughout the whole book, only getting married after Ellery provides a sensible solution. Of course, Ellery interrupts the wedding to reveal that the fiancé was the true mastermind of the whole murder scheme, playing Iago towards the culprit of the previous solution. In a bizarre final-chapter extra twist, the fiancée, now left behind by both lover and family, decides to change her name and become Nikki Porter, the secretary and love interest of Ellery Queen in his spin-off radio show!
  • In Pretty Little Liars Ezra, after being Put on a Bus after book 4 returns in book 10, only for Aria to find he suddenly has an insecure streak and is easily flattered by Klaudia. Aria questions whether he was always like this or if he’s changed.
  • Jonathan's behavior in the third book in Song of the Lioness series qualifies in spirit, if not all specifics. Up to that point, he'd been portrayed as a good, upright guy. He certainly was, in the second book, a bit focused on a girl, but charming enough for Alanna to be very in love with him. Then he Took a Level in Jerkass in the third book and starts acting like marrying Alanna is a done deal and flipping out when she wants time to think. Then in the span of one chapter, he is that and more, all to push Alanna into the arms of the lovable rogue George and later Liam. Pierce had originally intended Jon and Alanna to be the Official Couple, but it was while writing the third book that she came to believe they didn't work together.
  • While Cho's behavior in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is justified since she is in mourning and not really ready for another relationship after Cedric's murder, she becomes a Clingy Jealous Girl after hooking up with Harry. They don't last that long but do become Amicable Exes.
  • The House of Night:
    • Erik is pretty much the perfect boyfriend to Zoey for the first three books. Then he suddenly turns out to be a possessive jerk in later books, thus justifying Zoey's displays of interest in other boys. Though considering that Zoey wasn't exactly a faithful girlfriend to him, his new attitude toward her might be somewhat justified. In addition, he exhibited a surprisingly cold, condescending, and sometimes insulting behavior towards his ex-girlfriend Aphrodite, which everyone overlooked because they saw her as a borderline Dirty Coward Alpha Bitch with Skewed Priorities (instead of The Woobie Manipulative Bastard Broken Bird being a practitioner of Brutal Honesty).
    • Zig-zagged with Heath, he starts a drunk-jock-ex-boyfriend in Marked who looks in danger of being written off for good a number of times. He stays in the story almost completely by one virtue: the fact that he's taking advantage of Zoey's low self-control over her new bloodlust to essentially roofie-rape her every time she sees him by cutting himself and triggering her compulsion to drink: an action that's both intensely arousing, energizing, and creates a mystical bond between them against her control. Then, of course, she realizes he's her soulmate (one of them anyway) after he almost gets himself killed trying to win her back again, and all that is swept under the rug. He is then killed off in Tempted, but then is reincarnated by Nyx to be Neferet's Vessel, named Aurox. However, Aurox retains some of his free will and is eventually able to choose the side of Light, thanks to his soul connection with Zoey, so we don't know what to expect.
  • Perhaps the swiftest use of this trope is used in The Roman Mysteries. Throughout The Scribes of Alexandria Nubia spends months travelling to a Nubian settlement in the hopes that she'll find her own people there. She is eventually reunited with her betrothed, only to be torn between marrying him or returning to Rome with her friends. It's a tough decision, but luckily her betrothed goes from a nice guy to a potential wife-beater within the space of a paragraph.
  • Sweet Valley High and its spin-offs pulled this several times, usually to have the girls dump a one-shot love interest and return to their regular boyfriends because Status Quo Is God.
    • This is actually averted when Todd Wilkins returns to town only to find Elizabeth happily dating Jeffrey French. Though by the book's end Elizabeth does dump Jeffrey for Todd and Jeffrey is left hurt and angry, at no time does he ever turn into a psycho. He even manages to pull an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy in the midst of all his grief.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: As the series goes on, Isabelle Flanders forms a relationship with Stu Franklin, and Annie de Silva forms one with Little Fish. By the book Cross Roads, Stu and Fish end up suffering huge Character Derailment! Both men start treating their girlfriends like prisoners, neglecting them, turn out to be cold-blooded murderers, and also show a huge amount of Ho Yay for their boss Henry "Hank" Jellicoe. Deja Vu tries to justify it by saying that people only let others see the best of them most of the time.
  • In The Legend of Drizzt, Wulfgar was originally the main character and Cattie-brie his Love Interest. When Drizzt became the Breakout Character and both the fans and the author preferred Drizzt/Cattie-brie, Wulfgar was first killed off to allow the ship to sail, and then when Executive Meddling made R.A. Salvatore bring him back, it was after seven years of torture and Wulfgar was badly shell-shocked, causing him to mistreat Catti-brie and degenerate into a drunken thug. By the time he was over that, Drizzt and Catti-brie were together for keeps.
  • The first A Court of Thorns and Roses book is almost entirely about the romance between Feyre and Tamlin, who is sweet, nice, and protective; we also meet Rhysand, who seems to be The Dragon but is eventually revealed to be Good All Along and doing things for their benefit. (Even when that includes drugging Feyre and putting her in Go-Go Enslavement.) Then in book two, Tamlin becomes very controlling and dismissive towards Feyre so that she and Rhysand can be the new Official Couple. Tamlin's behavior is partly justified by the traumatizing experiences Under the Mountain, but some readers feel that Sarah J. Maas went too far in vilifying him to 'justify' Feyre leaving him for Rhysand and to make Rhysand look better, and that it seemed odd that he never really tried to resolve their issues. Other readers think what happened Under the Mountain simply brought out the worst in him, whereas previously Feyre had only seen his better qualities. Tamlin's characterization tends to be a major point of contention for fans.
  • In Oreimo, Manami Tamura went from being a sweet-natured childhood friend with a slight dislike of Kirino to an apparent diabolical mastermind who's been trying to keep Kirino and Kyousuke apart so she can have him all to herself since the age of seven.
  • In 365 Days, Laura starts out dating Martin, who comes off as a genuinely nice man who truly loves her, but just isn't a very good lover and prefers working to pampering his girlfriend. Laura even states the main thing wrong with their relationship is that she finds it dull. However, Martin then abruptly cheats on Laura and later becomes hostile towards her when she refuses to give him another chance, to justify Laura leaving him for Massimo. Notably, the film adaptation lessens this by making Martin more selfish and dismissive of Laura right off the bat (though he still doesn't kidnap her like Massimo).
  • In the Cormoran Strike Novels, Robin Ellacott is introduced smitten with her clearly Disposable Fiancé Matthew Cunliffe, who—while he doesn't come off as the pleasantest guy—has somewhat understandable reservations about Robin's increasingly close relationship with her new employer, Defective Detective Cormoran Strike, with whom she insists on staying after initially being hired as a temp. Matthew's concerns prove to be fueled by projection as it eventually comes to light that he's been unrepentantly cheating on her with his closest female friend for many years, an affair that continues even after he and Robin go through with their marriage. This renders Cormoran and Robin, who do harbor attraction to each other but had no intention of acting on it, far more sympathetic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in favor of the dramatic route on Battlestar Galactica, where Kara and Anders' relationship stays intact despite Kara's affair with Lee (Kara and Lee having been the Fan-Preferred Couple in the previous season).
  • Beverly Hills, 90210. Dan starts out as a sweet boyfriend to Andrea, then abruptly turns into a controlling jerk. To top it off, he turns into a racist too, making snide comments about her next boyfriend, who's Hispanic.
  • The Big Bang Theory subverts this to the point of parody when Sheldon and Amy temporarily break up and she ends up dating someone else. Obviously it's not going to last, so you would expect her new boyfriend to be derailed into a jerk. Instead, he's both a genuine Nice Guy and a Fanboy of Sheldon (leading to much awkwardness), and a few episodes later when Sheldon barges into the apartment to get back together with Amy in the middle of his date with her, he's overjoyed!
  • In Black Lightning (2018), Anissa's girlfriend starts the show as loving and compassionate, and their relationship is loving and full of passion, to the point where Anissa is comfortable telling her about her growing powers. Then, in episode 3, the girl inexplicably becomes jealous, paranoid, and racist, and Anissa suddenly claims that the relationship has been going downhill for a while. No sign of that has been shown in the two previous episodes. All this seems to be done to allow Anissa to hook up with Grace, who might be more supportive of her becoming a superhero.
  • Charmed:
    • Season 5 derailed both lovers in the relationship at different times with Phoebe and Cole. The relationship went through a LOT of drama (Cole became possessed by the Source of all evil, made Phoebe his queen, and got her pregnant with a demonic baby which forced her to kill him). She ended season 4 still loving him but just afraid to use magic to resurrect him. Then the first episode of season 5 she suddenly blames him for everything that's gone wrong in her life and threatens to kill him over a bad dream she had. The writers then realised Cole was looking too sympathetic and abruptly made him go mad and evil and thus had to be killed off permanently.
    • In one episode of Season 5, Paige's love interest of the week Nate Parks was introduced as a straight-up Nice Guy without enough screen time to show him as anything but a caring, supportive boyfriend - who even takes the time to turn up at the house when he thinks Paige might be ill. The next episode suddenly revealed him to be cheating on his wife with Paige and acting like a complete sleaze - with the flimsy excuse that it was a truth spell exposing his true personality.
    • Paige's Season 6 boyfriend Richard Montana fell victim to this as well. After several episodes of being a White Sheep who avoided his family's problems of using dark magic, he was suddenly bending the rules and using spells behind the sisters' backs - suddenly developing a magic addiction that was at odds with his established character, giving Paige a reason to break up with him. What makes this glaring is that an early episode had Phoebe not trusting Richard due to his family's history, and the show portraying her as being too judgmental. Then a few episodes later it looks like she was right about not trusting him?
  • Happened to Eddie LeBec, Carla's husband, on Cheers. They foreshadowed it for a few episodes but transformed him from the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet, to a cheater who married the woman he had his affair with and never told Carla (it became public at his funeral). This was deliberate payback on part of the producers for Jay Thomas having insulted Rhea Perlman's attractiveness on national radio.
  • Stuart Rosebrock on Coach; when he's introduced he has nothing but devotion to Kelly, despite Hayden not liking him and, though they have a few arguments during their dating & eventual marriage, are shown to be a good match. Then comes the season 4 premiere "The Kick Off & the Kiss Off," where he got a job on a popular kid's show over the summer in Los Angeles, and suddenly, he comes back, loving LA and thinking he's too good for Minnesota, having apparently met someone else on the show, and leaves Kelly behind just like that, despite him having shown nothing but love and affection for her before then. note 
  • Dawson's Creek: Pacey's girlfriends start to derail whenever they want him to get close to Joey. Andie, who's set up in Season 2 as his dorky yet cute soul mate, the first person who believes in him and helps him turn his life around, abruptly cheats on him in-between seasons, then hammers the point home by cheating at an exam and lying about nearly being raped. Audrey, who, in Season 5, is portrayed as the first girl to be Pacey's equal, suddenly turns from a lovable party girl into a screwed-up alcoholic who ends up in rehab the following season.
  • Doc Martin: Louisa reunites with her ex-boyfriend, who accepts a job in London after asking her to marry him. So she dumps him because he's disingenuous about living a life together in their beloved village, and not so much because he's an insufferable Jesus freak.
  • Downton Abbey: In series five, Anthony Gillingham suddenly becomes clingy, demanding, and possessive of Mary (even giving the implied threat of ruining her reputation if she tries to break up with him) in order to have her warm up to Charles Blake.
  • Repeatedly done on The Drew Carey Show as part of the central character's general run of bad luck. Nicki, his Formerly Fat fiancée, left after realizing how much weight she'd put on while they were together. Working-class Wrench Wench Sharon seemed perfect for Drew, but it was later revealed that Drew was, in fact, the other man when they meet her real boyfriend at a ballgame. The intended endpoint was a long-term thing with Kate, who was ironically derailed herself when Christa Miller ditched the show for Scrubs.
    • When Drew started taking night classes, he met an older woman, and they started dating. There's a lot of fun at their expense over the age difference, but they seem like a happy couple. But then in her last appearance, she begins mothering Drew (when previously she had treated him like an adult). He didn't mind at first until he saw his mom's face during sex, at which point they both agreed to end it.
  • Drop Dead Diva: Owen French, a sweet judge who dropped his own vacation plans to spend a romantic time with Jane, suddenly becomes a spiteful and petty Jerkass after Grayson kisses Jane on her wedding day. While Jane should have explained what happened from the get-go, when she finally does explain Owen refuses to forgive her for something that was not her fault and starts hitting on her best friend.
  • Family Matters: Myra's Clingy Jealous Girl behavior towards Steve is turned up a notch (even after they break up) in the final season to the point where she installed a spy cam in his glasses so she could watch him through a monitor in her bedroom. This so Steve, who'd been happily in a relationship with Myra for years, could be paired with Laura (whom he'd had a completely unrequited crush on, played for comedy, for a good while, but by now, had long been dropped.)
  • The writers of Frasier saw this trope looming at them from a mile away and nipped it in the bud by never bothering to make Niles's Romantic False Lead Mel Karnofski into a sympathetic character in the first place. From the very start, she was both characterized and described as a slightly-kinder doppelganger of Niles's first wife Maris, a controlling, domineering, hysterical Manipulative Bastard and Jerkass extraordinaire (whom all the characters despised), explaining Niles's attraction to her as a bad pattern (similar to how some women who leave an abusive boyfriend fall for men exactly like him over and over), instead of wasting time trying to make her into a person for whom Niles could fall for healthy reasons, but the fans would inevitably vilify anyway.
  • In Freaks and Geeks, Sam is hopelessly smitten with cute cheerleader Cindy Sanders. Toward the end of the show's first and only season, Cindy finally starts dating Sam, and they almost immediately learn that they have no common interests and don't have any fun together. The previously sweet-natured Cindy is also revealed to be (mildly) bitchy and manipulative, as well as a bit vapid and dull.
  • Friends has a few examples:
    • After Chandler moves in with Monica, Joey's new roommate is a woman, Janine; he's attracted to her and they eventually get together. Then, she inexplicably turns out to be unable to stand Chandler and Monica, which leads to Joey breaking things off and Janine moving out.
    • Paolo, Rachel's boyfriend in Season 1, is introduced as a dumb but harmless guy who enjoys being with Rachel... until he randomly becomes a Jerkass who tries to cheat on her. This was to make way for the Ross/Rachel relationship.
    • Repeated nine seasons later with Charlie, Ross's girlfriend. She seems pleasant, intellectual, and well-matched with him. Out of the blue, she dumps Ross to get back together with her ex-boyfriend right in front of Ross. And yep, this was to accommodate another Ross/Rachel hook-up for the end of the series.
    • Kathy, Joey and then Chandler's girlfriend in Season 4, is a very strange case. Although she does kiss Chandler while still with Joey, it was portrayed sympathetically as they'd genuinely fallen in love, while she and Joey are very casual. She eventually breaks up with Joey on good terms and enters into a proper relationship with Chandler, until eventually Chandler himself is the one who gets derailed. He sees her acting out a simulated sex scene with another guy in a play, and immediately assumes she must be having an affair with him. She denies this, but Chandler accuses her in such an immature and harsh way that she DOES end up having an affair with the guy. This a major wake-up call for Chandler and a turning point for his character as far as relationships were concerned, as he is notably a lot more mature with his next girlfriend (Monica) and they eventually end up Happily Married.
    • Played for Laughs with Gary, Phoebe's cop boyfriend who in season 5 was built up over several episodes as a nice, sweet person who Phoebe had genuinely fallen for. He rushed her into moving in with her, and she accepted even though she clearly wasn't ready. Instead of having them have a conversation about this and legitimately breaking up, their last scene together is them waking up together in their shared apartment and he shoots a crow through the window, completely out of the blue, for making too much noise.
    • Barry, Rachel's fiancé from before the series. Initially, he was a nice, but boring guy whom she left at the altar because she didn't love him. Later it's revealed he was a Smug Snake who cheated on Rachel with her best friend throughout their engagement.
    • David, to some extent. During his sporadic appearances in the first nine seasons, he's shown to be a kind and compassionate person with a successful career and genuine affection for Phoebe. In his final appearance at the end of Season Nine, he's suddenly a pathetic loser who can't even afford to buy a legitimate diamond ring for Phoebe.
    • Specifically subverted when Richard returns in Season 6. When he asks Monica to leave Chandler for him, he's portrayed as the Nice Guy he's always been: charming, intelligent, and, in Chandler's eyes at least, a much better prospect. The only problem is that Monica doesn't love him anymore, she loves Chandler, and there isn't anything he can do about it. This actually makes her decision to stay with Chandler much more heartwarming, as it becomes clear that she hasn't chosen him because she didn't have a better option — she's with him because he's the one she wants.
    • Emily, another bump in the Ross/Rachel road. They have a season-long courtship. Everyone, except the jealous Rachel, really likes her and they plan their wedding in England. After being humiliated when Ross says Rachel's name during their wedding vows and making the somewhat reasonable demand to not see Rachel anymore if he wants the marriage to work, suddenly everyone acts as if they never liked her and she was being unfair.
    • Taken to the point of self-parody with Elizabeth, a student in Ross's class that he dated for a while. She was consistently presented as smart, pleasant, and fun-loving. When he broke up with her, it had nothing to do with anything she did and was for the perfectly realistic reason that they were at very different stages in their lives and he didn't see a future together. Just as he's having second thoughts about the breakup, she sticks her head out the window to yell at him and throws a water balloon.
    • Pete, Monica's millionaire boyfriend in Season 3. After a period of Monica not being attracted to him, she starts to genuinely like him and the two start a serious relationship. As the group finds out about a "ring" designer everyone seems to think that Pete is going to propose to Monica. Turns out the ring designer is for a fighting ring, because Pete is suddenly obsessed with becoming the ultimate fighting champion. Their relationship starts to go south from there, and after two disastrous attemps and his unwillingness to give up, they eventually break up.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The show ran into this problem when adapting Shae, Tyrion's personal whore from the books. They gave her Adaptational Heroism - where she goes from a Camp Follower who's only sleeping with Tyrion for the money, to someone who genuinely loves him and develops a Big Sister Instinct for Sansa. They attempt to show her as getting jealous of Tyrion's forced marriage to Sansa as Foreshadowing for her testifying against him at his trial for Joffrey's murder, and his eventual murder of her in retaliation. There is zero explanation for why she turns on him that severely, even if he had to resort to breaking up with her painfully when she knew she was in danger of being murdered by his family's guards.
    • To say nothing of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen in the final season. Upon the reveal that they are actually aunt and nephew and Daenerys's character taking a 180 to become a homicidal maniac, it feels as though much of the deterioration in the relationship was rushed or skipped altogether. Characters just act as if Jon wouldn't marry her when there actually isn't any evidence for it or at least it doesn't get explored in too much depth. Characters just tell us the relationship is doomed, rather than us seeing it for ourselves.
  • A regular occurrence on Gilmore Girls:
    • Dean's wife Lindsay became a shrill harpy who overworks her husband as Rory suddenly becomes interested in Dean again (although Lorelai called her out on this one). Ironically, Dean would get derailed himself for the actor's exit from the show.
    • Jason threatens to sue Richard after he and Jason's father essentially destroy his livelihood, just in time for the Luke/Lorelai relationship to finally happen.
    • Marty is at first a sweet classmate who takes an interest in Rory but she spurns his advances and he takes a long bus ride only to return as a huge Jerkass in the last season.
  • Glee:
    • Jesse St. James zigzags this. After Rachel and Finn's sort-of relationship hits a rut, she meets Jesse, the lead singer of rival Glee club Vocal Adrenaline. Naturally, he's her equal, understands her perfectly, etcetera. When he is very obviously The Mole, he admits that he's starting to have feelings for her. Right after that happens, of course, he becomes utterly cruel with the egg-assault in the parking lot and him acting like she somehow did something to deserve it, especially since the last time we saw them they were perfectly happy together and she had done nothing to upset him. It's clear he's only doing it because he wants to go back to Vocal Adrenaline so that he can win a fourth national show-choir championship, and needs to prove his loyalty to the team above all else. Then The Bus Came Back with him on board and he ends up apologizing to Rachel and is obviously still very much in love with her. However, she didn't care and got back with Finn. Rachel dates Finn on-off in the coming years, but after Finn's death, she marries a reformed and adoring Jesse in the end.
    • Coach Beiste's husband is randomly revealed to be abusive. Granted, Dot-Marie Jones sold the storyline for everything she was worth and then some, but it came completely out of left field. Truth in Television, really — people with abusive tendencies often take great pains to be nice and charming up until they can't hold it in anymore or feel the other person is trapped with them.
    • In Season 4, Brody gets the Jesse treatment in his relationship with Rachel. He's a normal guy who adores Rachel as she is until it turns out he's actually an escort. It's even treated heroically when Finn beats him up for doing this to "his future wife."
  • Gossip Girl:
    • Louis steadily becomes less sympathetic over the course of Season 5, as Chuck becomes a better person. This is lampshaded by Blair, as well as explained by the fact that Louis is well-aware that in a competition against Chuck he'll lose no matter how nice and sweet he is, prompting him to become more underhanded in his desperation to keep Blair.
    • Dan becomes this to Blair when their romance arc is coming to an end and it's time for them to return to being the halves of their respective official couples. He cheats on her with Serena, blames the whole mess on Blair's feelings for Chuck (despite her having the decency not to sleep with the next guy before breaking up with the former - unlike Dan) and takes a whole new level on jerkass after their break-up, going after all their friends by writing hateful pieces about them in press. He however still carries a torch for Blair, so decides to release a flattering chapter about Chuck in order to get back into her good graces... and only after he realizes he's lost all the chances with her, he releases a chapter about her - vicious, in turn. All this while claiming he's publishing it only for the sake of truth. It's quite funny where one remembers that the show started with Dan as the Unlucky Everydude moral compass of the cast and Blair as a monumental Rich Bitch.
    • A very strange and brief derailment of Jenny occurs in Season 2 when she seems to be on the verge of getting together with Nate. Nate writes a letter to Jenny telling her his feelings but Vanessa steals it before Jenny can read it. Jenny, having worked out the general idea of what Vanessa's up to if not the specifics, is persuaded to get her own back and humiliates Vanessa by tricking her into going to a ball in a see-through dress. Despite knowing full well what Vanessa did, Nate abruptly dismisses Jenny, telling her she's not the girl he thought she was, and...gets together with Vanessa instead. When Jenny immediately defends Vanessa to the mean girls, it's hard to tell what Nate's problem is.
  • Hannah Montana did this to Jake Ryan in the Season Four episode "The End of Jake as We Know It" where it's revealed that Jake cheated on Miley. It came completely out of left field and was in opposition to all the Character Development that Jake himself had gone through over the course of the show. It's especially egregious considering that the show did a special in Season Three involving a Love Triangle with him, Miley/Hannah, and another love interest named Jesse, where a fan vote decided who Miley would choose. The fans voted for Jake, and Miley rejected Jesse after realizing it was Jake she loved. The episode right after Jake and Miley broke up, they reintroduced Jesse as Miley's final love interest. This implies that the writers were always planning on breaking up Jake and Miley (which was the longest-running couple on the show, mind you) in favor of Jesse and were planning on using the special as an excuse to do it, only to scramble for another reason after Jake proved to be far more popular than they thought.
  • Home and Away:
    • At first, Sam Tolhurst comes across as a sympathetic character, with a tragic backstory, (on the run from accomplices of her drug dealer husband) and is portrayed as a good match for Jack. Unfortunately, when they get engaged, and especially after getting married, she becomes a possessive controlling bitch, especially towards Jack's ex-wife Martha. At first, this is justified (specifically when she walks in on Martha wearing her wedding dress), but the writers derail her during her exit storyline. She murders a criminal who had been blackmailing her to force her to hide him, after which we learn that she had lied about her backstory — she was the ringleader in her husband's drug operation and was on the run because she'd allowed him to take the fall. After she's exposed, she kills herself and almost succeeds in framing Jack and Martha. The worst part is that the writers left several details out of this retcon, (the fact that she'd tolerated Shane's drug dealing up until she'd witnessed him killing someone in cold blood, and the fact that he'd been doing it to raise money for their terminally ill daughter). While it would have been entirely plausible by this point to handwave these as Sam's lies to Jack, they are unmentioned in the letter which reveals the truth, and Jack himself doesn't bring them up when he confronts her about it.
    • Dexter Walker's girlfriend Steph Green started out as a caring and likable nurse, who supported him when he found out his brother-in-law was dying, brought out his relaxed side, and even had the maturity to take a step back when he began to push too hard to make his family accept their relationship and tell him he needed a friend rather than a girlfriend. Then someone seemed to realise she was coming across as a better match than his One True Pairing with April Scott, so she abruptly became aggressive and controlling, pressuring him into having sex with her at work, then turned out to be neglecting her patients and making up results instead of doing the proper tests. She was promptly fired and reported Dexter's indiscretions with her as a parting shot.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Happens to Robin's boyfriend Nick, who was originally depicted as a hot guy who was both mature and had subtle snarker tendencies. Later in season eight, he becomes "girly", overly sensitive, has Granola Guy tastes, and is a complete idiot. There was attempted justification that he was an idiot all along but was too hot for Robin to notice that.
    • In the same episode where it was "revealed" Nick was overly sensitive, it was "revealed" that Victoria was a total slob at home, something that has never been hinted at in her previous appearances and given her occupation as a highly-skilled pastry chef, it seemed rather unlikely. Thankfully, it was averted in the episode that she and Ted broke up where her being a slob wasn't what caused them to break up and Lily acknowledged that Victoria had valid reasons for breaking up with Ted because of Robin.
  • iCarly used this in an episode, to break up Jonah and Sam. They spent 60% of the episode being sickeningly sweet to each other. All of Sam's attention was being spent on him, and it was causing problems in her friendships with Carly and Freddie. Also impacting on their webshow. Instead of Sam coming to realize that she can't spend all her time with him, or have Jonah realize the same and back off slightly, he suddenly tries to cheat on Sam with Carly, making all the potential issues moot when they wedgie-bounce the sucker for trying to cheat. Which actually made sense after "iKiss" with a bit of WMG. In "iKiss", which happened after she dated Jonah, Sam says that she's never kissed anyone, meaning that Sam must have never kissed Jonah. It's possible that Jonah got fed up with it and tried to kiss Carly instead.
  • Subverted in Janda Kembang. Kemal is suddenly revealed to be hiding the fact that he is married not long after asking Salmah out as if to set him up as a Romantic False Lead. But when Salmah finds out, Salmah merely breaks up with him and she doesn't choose the more-focused Malik either. Kemal's personality also doesn't turn out to be any different in spite of the lie, he is getting divorced anyway and his apology is earnest.
  • Jeeves and Wooster: In the second-to-last episode, genial if spineless Gussie Finknottle and insufferably saccharine Madeline Basset suddenly develop problems - Madeline becoming a tyrannical vegetarian refusing to let Gussie eat so much as a bacon sandwich, so he can run off with a cook, punctuating his departure with a spiteful bacon-sandwich eating as one last "up yours".
  • In the episode "The Grinning Man" of Jonathan Creek, Jonathan manages to land himself a pretty, intelligent, and caring girlfriend who (despite a slightly ditzy interest in magazine quizzes), is refreshingly normal compared to many of Jonathan's other love interests and is understandably worried when he goes investigating murders. At the end of the episode, she runs off with Joey's boyfriend despite having never met him, paving the way for a possible Jonathan/Joey relationship.
  • In Kamen Rider Kiva, there's a Love Triangle between Otoya, Yuri, and Jiro. Jiro proposes to Yuri, but then in order to have Otoya win her heart, Jiro is rapidly derailed into an obsessive lover who tries to kill her because she doesn't want to marry him. All is moot anyway because Otoya then breaks Yuri's heart by dumping her for Maya, the mother of the show's protagonist.
  • Juliet from Lost decides her three-year relationship with Sawyer is over as soon as Kate returns. She is sure Kate is the one for him, heedless of Kate's or Sawyer's opinion on the matter. In a subversion, they reunite in the afterlife while Kate is with Jack.
  • NCIS's Jake Malloy (husband of Ellie Bishop) goes from being a loving, adoring spouse to a cheating one. Adding insult to injury, the fact that her next boyfriend was killed off in two episodes indicates that this was done for no other reason than to make her have the same tragic, screwed-up love life that nearly everyone else does.
  • This was forced on Will Griggs on Neighbours, not because he was a Romantic False Lead, but because the actor had left the show early and they chose to bring in a Suspiciously Similar Substitute. At the time he was written out, Carmella was furious with Will for lying to her and hiding his real identity as Sebastian Barnes one of the richest men in the country, but he was still trying to get her to forgive him. Then suddenly he was gone, and his adoptive brother Oliver arrived to reveal that Sebastian's entire personality had been faked, and was based on Oliver. This led to Carmella and Oliver getting together, and apparently rendered insignificant Will's substantial number of good deeds, such as standing up to Paul's attempts at blackmail (his 2% share of Lassiters was enough to give Paul a controlling interest, and Paul used that to get Will's friend Ned fired); standing by Carmella when she was badly burned by her mentally unstable cousin, and thwarting an attempt by Janae's pervert of a boss to spike her orange juice. It got worse later in the year when Oliver's biological brother Declan was kidnapped, and Sebastian (offscreen) only agreed to pay the ransom if Oliver gave up his share in the Barnes hotel chain.
  • The Office (US):
    • The series gave this treatment to Karen. After Pam revealed she called off her wedding to Roy because of Jim, Karen, having served a whole season as a likable character and a decent match for him (sparking Ship-to-Ship Combat between the Team Karen and Team Pam factions in the fandom), is later shown pushing Jim into promising to move to New York with her if either got promoted to the open corporate job there (explicitly stating that she wanted to get him away from a certain other person) and leaving to have lunch with friends while he had his interview. Others questioned how the show could arguably portray her as a villain for these actions but have Jim abandon her in New York, after they drove up together, just so he could drive back home and ask Pam out right away (though he acknowledges his behavior in the season four premiere).
    • Played especially infuriatingly straight with Andy in the ninth season, which came after a whole round of Will They or Won't They? and Relationship Revolving Door between him and Erin, culminating with him risking his job to get her to come back from Florida and breaking up with his girlfriend Jessica to get back together with her at the end of Season 8. However, due to Andy's actor Ed Helms having to go film the last movie of The Hangover series (as well as the writers' constant attempts to recreate the Jim/Pam romance), the show writes him leaving Erin behind to go on a three-month boat trip with his family's old yacht and barely keeping contact with her, conveniently leaving the new guy Pete to comfort her.
    • Before Andy, there was Gabe. His relationship with Erin was accompanied by some episodes showing them as being like a normal couple, but there were also several episodes that exaggerated him as being distant, insensitive, or just weird (particularly his Nightmare Fetishist level of love for horror movies) in order to show Andy as the better match for her.
  • Once Upon a Time: Done in an interesting (if somewhat convoluted) manner in regards to the Regina/Robin Hood/Maid Marian triangle. Season 3 ended with Regina and Robin Hood falling in love and starting to date each other, but then suddenly Maid Marian (Robin Hood's wife who was originally dead in the present storyline of the show) is accidentally pulled out of time into present-day Storybrooke. Obviously, Robin goes back to her (since it's his long-lost wife and he made a commitment to her), making Regina furious at losing an actual love interest. One could infer that the writers wanted Regina and Robin to stay together (seeing as how quickly Robin and Regina hit back off when Marian becomes incapacitated at the beginning of Season 4), but with Marian present, they couldn't. In the end, Marian quite suddenly turns out to be Regina's spiteful older sister Zelena (the real Maid Marian turned out to be dead after all), leaving Regina and Robin free to continue their relationship without a hitch.
  • One is in the US version of Queer as Folk (US), where Justin leaves Brian for a much more romantic guy, who suddenly has an affair.
  • Played straight in the BBC's Robin Hood. Robin starts a relationship with Isabella, a seemingly intelligent, rational, and compassionate woman. However, halfway through the series, Isabella throws an inexplicable temper tantrum, goes insane and tries to kill him after Robin tells her that his mission must come before her. This is apparently done so that the writers can kick-start Robin's love story with Kate. Oh, and if you're wondering where Maid Marian is during all of this, she was murdered by Isabella's brother last season. Even more irritating was the fact that Robin cites his commitment to England and his inability to have a normal life as the reasons for breaking up with Isabella. Yet he hooks up with Kate two episodes later, having completely forgotten his own reasons why it's not a good idea to be in a relationship.
  • Riverdale: Among the other romantic loose ends between the main characters, Veronica divorces Control Freak Chad Gecko, but instead of going back with Archie, she restarts her relationship with Reggie.
  • Out of the blue, Tess on Roswell was revealed to have been repeatedly brainwashing their friend and conspiring with their enemies so they could break up her and Max.
  • Sex and the City's Alexandr is one of the best examples of this trope, going from an amazing, sweet, and sensitive guy to a jerk who ignores Carrie and proves to be completely self-absorbed before leaving for Paris.
  • Silent Witness: Nikki and Harry's underlying mutual attraction was extremely popular with fans (and later, after Harry left, Nikki turned out to have exactly the same attraction with Jack) so, if either of them gets a love interest who isn't killed off, this is what tends to happen instead. A typical example is in the story "Safe" where Nikki begins dating a paramedic that she met at a crime scene. He initially seems to be the perfect guy, but she soon works out that he's cheating on a wife or girlfriend with her, and he turns out to have a short temper too. The last straw comes when he goes on a racist tirade against the mother of two murder victims, causing Nikki to finally wise up and dump him (much to the delight of Harry).
  • Smallville made a habit of this with Lana's love interests. Jason Teague was thrown into the Title Sequence in his very first appearance, only to get less and less screentime until, at the end of the season, he was revealed as a member of some ridiculous secret society and then unceremoniously killed... by meteors. This was only one season after Lana's previous boyfriend, Adam, became increasingly unstable and villainous... before dying of delayed liver failure while trying to shoot her. This seemed to happen with Whitney, her original boyfriend who was Put on a Bus at the end of season one when The Bus Came Back in season two and he immediately started being sinister and throwing Clark through doors. However, it turned out that actually he was dead; the villainous version was her shape-shifting Stalker with a Crush.
  • Frequently used on Soap Operas, in scenarios that play out almost exactly as in the page description. A formerly decent third character is almost inevitably destroyed in order to prop up either the show's designated Super Couple or whatever couple the writers wanted to pair up.
    • A particularly good example is on As the World Turns, where Jack dumped the manipulative, scheming Carly to hook up with Julia. Fans clamored for a reunification of Jack and Carly, so within a year, Julia went from OP self-insert to Yandere, pulling increasingly horrific stunts that included attempted murder, kidnapping, and RAPE, giving Jack the perfect excuse to return to Carly — with whom he proceeded to have an on-again, off-again relationship that was just as unhealthy and destructive as their previous one (and included the sacrifice of even MORE examples of this trope for both of them) before finally marrying for good in the series finale.
    • An almost identical example played out on Guiding Light with Josh, Reva, and Annie.
    • An interesting subversion on General Hospital, where rather than being an obstacle, the Derailing Love Interest was part of the Fan-Preferred Couple — the male half of the pairing was already in a happy relationship, and of course, it would make no sense for him to break up with a woman whom he adored. But rather than inexplicably ruining her character, the writers instead had him develop complete amnesia following an accident, leaving him with no memory of or regard for her, thus paving the way for his new relationship.
  • Supernatural has an odd case of a love interest being derailed for reasons unrelated to their being a love interest.note  In season 4, Dean meets Anna Milton, a fallen angel who is shown to be much kinder, more reasonable, and more empathetic than other so-far Good Is Not Nice, borderline Light Is Not Good angels; Dean and Anna begin building a fairly tender relationship as they start confiding in each other, they eventually kiss and sleep together, and the stage looks to be set for her to continue to be a guide and love interest for Dean whenever she reappears. Adding to that, Castiel is confirmed as originally planned to be killed in "Heaven and Hell" (the second part of Anna's two-part introductory episode) and fans believenote  that part of the same plan was that Anna would then replace him as Dean's angel ally, which would make her a sort of Good Counterpart to Ruby, the heroes' demon ally and Sam's Friends with Benefits lover. If this was what the writers were thinking, they clearly changed their mind, since by the time it came to film the episode, Castiel had already become the show's Ensemble Dark Horse, with both fans and critics responding more positively to him than any character other than the Winchesters themselves. Thus, Castiel was spared and his role in the series expanded. This had the unfortunate side effect of making Anna redundant, however, and she only got a handful more scenes in the rest of the season, popping in on occasion to be the angel on Castiel's shoulder, before being Put on a Bus. When she does return, it's as a Well-Intentioned Extremist who's already decided she needs to kill Dean's family to erase Dean's brother Sam (along with Dean himself) from existence for The Needs of the Many, none of her former allies have any qualms about the new plan to kill her (and though it's suggested she may also be Brainwashed and Crazy, make no effort to deprogram her the way they did with Castiel in the previous season either), and she is never so much as mentioned on the show again after the episode.
  • Charlie in Ugly Betty went from sweet, likable girl to jealous, two-timing harpy in no time. Then again, the show is partly a soap parody...
  • The Vampire Diaries derailed Tyler harshly twice, first in favor of Klaus and Caroline, and then in favor of Caroline and Stefan.
  • Victorious: One episode involved Tori trying to help Beck get together with a girl he was interested, so he can get over his break up with Jade. Beck and the girl get together by the end of the episode. However, she's suddenly revealed to be obsessed with Beck, to the point of having no personality of her own. This causes Beck to leave her and get back together with Jade.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • For Better or for Worse:
    • Towards the final years, any non-Anthony entity that Elizabeth showed any romantic interest in, no matter how sweet and kind, were eventually shown to be cheating on her, stalking her, or otherwise completely disrespecting her. The record being her date to a wedding reception getting drunk and falling asleep the same night. Note that Anthony did, in fact, stalk Elizabeth and emotionally cheated on his wife, but these were brushed aside because he was Anthony. The dumbest break-up was with the helicopter pilot. First Liz mistook his sister for a secret girlfriend, then he said he couldn't be tied down.
    • Speaking of Anthony's wife: Similar to the Frasier example, Theresse had never been portrayed in a good light. She's jealous of Liz at her own wedding, is very ambitious, has no desire to be a mother (the most unforgivable sin in the Foobiverse), had Anthony do all the childcare, and in her final appearance abandons her child forever. Then again there's the fact that Anthony pretty much forced her to have a child and ignored what sure looked like post-partum depression.

  • Love Never Dies, the sequel to Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, does this to poor Raoul. In the first show, he was Christine's sweetheart: dashing, brave, and protective of his childhood friend. In the sequel, set ten years later, he is an alcoholic gambler who's blown his fortune, ignores his ten-year-old son, and is snippy with his wife. This is all an attempt to justify Christine considering running back into the arms of a mentally-unstable stalker and murderer. Actors portraying Raoul in the original The Phantom of the Opera have even been given direction to play the character as brash and unpleasant, to make it more of a seamless fit with the sequel show. It's quite noticeable if you've seen the show before Love Never Dies came about, and after.

    Video Games 
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!: This is made into a plot point. Natsuki and Yuri during Act Two have their negative traits amplified by Monika to make herself look better in comparison, making Natsuki much more abrasive and turning Yuri into a deranged Stalker with a Crush, also worsening their already strained relationship.
  • Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War has two characters, Eldigan and Lachesis, who give huge Brother–Sister Incest vibes despite Eldi being married to a lady named Grahnye and having a kid with her, Ares (who becomes a playable character in the second part of the game). One of the artists hired to make manga adaptations of the game, Mitsuki Oosawa, is an Eldigan/Lachesis shipper. What does she do? Aside from erasing one of Lachesis's prospective love interests, Beowulf, she writes Grahnye out of the story... via introducing an Expy of her named Iria and making her a Rich Bitch who clings to Eldigan and hates Lachesis to death while cranking up the canon incestuous subtext. This gets so bad that Iria gives Lachesis permission to join Sigurd's group solely to get her killed in battle, and when Eldigan is executed, she barely shows any pain for it, and quietly gloats about how unhappy Lachesis must be.
    • This is actually weird since the other Love Triangle she used in the manga averts this trope. The three parts of the deal (Rebel Prince Lewyn, Lady of War Ferry, and Genki Girl Sylvia) are portrayed in very human ways: while the manga leans more towards Lewyn/Ferry, the loser in this triangle (Sylvia) doesn't show bitchy or evil behavior in any way. In fact, she's given Hidden Depths and shown in an even kinder light than in the canon game!
  • Tales of Destiny: In the original game, Ilene Rembrandt is presented as a hard-working and idealistic woman Stahn very easily gets along with. The pair go on a date that goes quite well. But Stahn needs to end up with Rutee (who is violent and aggressive towards him, and generally not a very good suitor) in the end. So what happens? Ilene is shown to believe in Hugo Gilchrist's Final Solution and commits suicide when she loses to the party. Her situation is played sympathetically, but it's still a jarring twist. In the remake, the date and all elements of the Love Triangle are removed, making it simple Character Derailment.
  • One of the biggest criticisms of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is the unjustified retconning of Penelope Mouse from a smart Nice Girl who begins dating Bentley at the end of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves because of their similar traits, into a heartless Gold Digger who exploited Bentley, giving him a reason to dump her. Since the Bentley/Penelope shipping is well-liked, this is one of the reasons why Thieves in Time is considered non-canon by fans and critics, with the other being the Downer Ending Cliffhanger. Since Thieves in Time was not developed by Sucker Punch, fans see Penelope's betrayal as Ron the Death Eater instead of Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome.
  • Friday Night Funkin': Dating sim hero Senpai goes from crooning sweet nothings to snarling crass threats after Boyfriend wins the first song, horrifying his adoring fangirls.

  • Endtown: Holly Hollister's Character Derailment hit its most vicious point at about the same time the author introduced a new love interest, Kirbee, for which he himself has expressed great affection, holding her up as his favourite type of person (the eternal optimist). This is after spending the previous several years drawing large amounts of shipping art of Holly and her partner Wally before suddenly stopping around the time he had to go on a hiatus from the comic due to a bout of serious illness that threatened him with the loss of his legs. Notably, Holly had never previously lashed out at anyone close to her during her periods of infirmity (instead tending to flee and once attempting suicide), only doing so once plot circumstances meant it would handily push Wally away from her and into the arms of Kirbee, who had been made part of the main cast during the same rewrite that added the event that shattered Holly's remaining sanity.

    Western Animation 
  • Julie admitting in the Ben 10: Omniverse episode "Rules of Engagement" that she never liked Mr. Smoothies, only faking it in front of her ex-boyfriend Ben despite the fact that she is seen sharing smoothies with Gwen back in Alien Force without any objections.
  • Bob's Burgers:
    • When she was first introduced in "House Trap" Helen was a decent if somewhat unstable woman who had a budding mutual interest in Teddy. When she returns in "The Helent Hunt", she's impatient, unempathetic, and easily agitated with him. Considering her last appearance ended with the implication that she murdered her first husband, it's possible that her nice attitude before was just an act.
    • Inverted with Gene's recurring Love Interest Courtney Wheeler. She is introduced as a spoiled, self-centered, and arrogant girl who annoys the Belchers and pushes Gene into being her boyfriend. By her reappearance in Season 5, she is much nicer to everyone, including Gene, and although they compete, they end the episode in good terms. Subsequent appearances sometimes hint at a possible relationship between them as she is more often characterized as a Spoiled Sweet girl who enjoys Gene's company. Subsequently, her father is now an antagonist due to his Stage Mom tendencies.
    • Despite Josh being pushed as a possible love interest for Tina (and her potentially returning his feelings) in Season 3, his return in Season 10's "Tappy Tappy Tappy Tap Tap Tap" has him abruptly deciding they're Better as Friends with little foreshadowing beforehand, completely contradicting how he returned Tina's feelings in his first two appearances.
  • Family Guy:
    • Quagmire gets engaged to a calm and attractive maid. Throughout the episode, the relationship was loving and Quagmire even lost interest in other women. Peter and the gang's attempts to get Quagmire back to his old womanizing ways fail, up until the wedding reception, where Peter's actions with Lois remind Quagmire of what he really wants. Then his cheerful patient bride-to-be is revealed to be a self-destructive yandere out of nowhere, therefore absolving Quagmire of getting out of the relationship. Status Quo Is God in this show, so the relationship was unlikely to survive the episode.
    • Similarly, in another episode, Brian ends up dating an older woman - attractive, smart, a decent head on her shoulders despite her age (she's fifty, which isn't even really that old), and despite the entire family laughing at her for it (including Peter and Lois, who aren't much younger than her), Brian ends up proposing to her and it seems everything is going to be okay...until out of nowhere (this is where the trope comes in), she starts calling him for lunch far too early to be reasonable, complaining about her hip, and giving 'old-fashioned' names to things. This is, again, out of nowhere and doesn't match up with anything she'd done before, but as stated before, Status Quo Is God and the relationship would not have survived the episode no matter how you cut it.
  • Futurama: Season 6's "Proposition Infinity," which uses human/robot relationships as a metaphor for gay marriage, does this to Kif. He's suddenly Flanderized into such a wuss that he's afraid to watch cooking shows because they contain chopping, and Amy suddenly becomes utterly disgusted with him, when it was Kif's sweet nature that attracted her to him in the first place. All so Amy can wind up in a relationship with Bender that doesn't last to the end of the episode, the last scene of which has her reconcile with Kif.
  • The Simpsons used this in an episode where, before they were married, Marge goes to college and leaves Homer for a Strawman Liberal professor who is smart, worldly, and seemingly more attentive to her, while he actively sets out to make Homer's honest love and devotion look like pig-headed, Stay in the Kitchen misogyny (which could itself be seen as invoking this trope). Once they start dating, the professor suddenly becomes condescending, passionless, and passive-aggressively misogynist, the final straw being that he's anti-marriage. He'd been a pretty insufferable guy up to that point but became significantly worse once he'd gotten rid of the competition. Homer in fact lampshades it at the end; "don't worry, kids, she'd never have stayed with that professor... unless he'd been a little nicer to her at the beach!"
  • Total Drama:
    • The show had a sort of version of this in the second season. Trent became jealous of Duncan and Gwen's friendship, which makes some sense, but also became a ridiculously-clingy stalker and, weirdest of all, out of nowhere developed a supposedly-longstanding obsessive-compulsive fixation with the number nine. Seriously. Different than many of these examples because Gwen did not immediately run into another man's arms, though the show keeps teasing the idea of her and Duncan getting in a love triangle with Duncan's girlfriend Courtney. Basically, the whole situation was badly done.
    • Add Courtney's Character Derailment in Total Drama Action at the list, as well...
    • The Love Triangle between Duncan/Gwen/Courtney is a fact in Total Drama World Tour... and eventually Duncan cheats on Courtney for Gwen (destroying their budding friendship) with no explanation or motive, with Courtney receiving further derailment. Enough for Heather to compare Courtney to crazy Izzy.
  • In Season 6 of Totally Spies!, Blaine cheats on Clover with Mandy in a very out-of-character moment for him that seemed shoehorned in for the express purpose of getting Clover single again.
  • Averted/subverted/played with in X-Men: Evolution after the mutant revelation and the series cut up most of its romantic plot threads:
    • Duncan and Jean broke up because he acted like a jerk. However, he always was a jerk and Jean hadn't expressed a lack of interest in the relationship anymore beforehand because of his jerkitude. Only now he told Jean he was willing to "overlook her problem" and she could use her powers to help him cheat on tests. He totally crossed the line when he began attacking mutants with guns and bombs!
    • Scott and Taryn broke up in a slightly straighter example as while she was always nice, she apparently no longer wants anything to do with him, but then again she just found out he's a mutant who could accidentally smash planets with his eyes, and who knows what could've happened if given the chance to see beyond that.
    • Kitty and Lance broke up because she just found out he was a jerk and a villain, but Lance himself had previously been both a jerk and villain only attempting a Heel–Face Turn to be with Kitty. In some ways, their breakup made a lot of sense considering the fact that, before they broke up, he returned to 'villainy' alongside the Brotherhood and Mystique, and still had some contempt for the X-Men. And, just so he wasn't forgotten, he got an episode of Character Development later and a Pet the Dog moment. But, some would rather think he was always an ass or worse while others would rather think he was always a sweet guy with a troubled past and bad friends.