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Double Aesop

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Jordan: What are you doing?
JD: Oh, I'm doing this thing where I take advice for other people's problems and apply them to my own problems.
Jordan: That seems awfully coincidental.
JD: And, yet, I seem to do it almost every week.

At the end of an episode, one character will describe the Aesop they’ve learned from their experiences, and the character they’re talking to will silently realise: My gosh, what they’re saying applies just as well and just as precisely to my situation! This realisation will finally lead the character onto the right course of action.

A variation is that the wise old mentor-type is explaining the Aesop to the naive protagonist... and suddenly realises that it applies to something they've been doing as well. A good way to provide character development for the kind of character who doesn't get it much.

A Sub-Trope of Plot Parallel. Compare Mirror Character.


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    Films — Animated 
  • There's one in Mulan II. Shang learns that one should follow one's heart but it can be argued that Mulan also learns a lesson by discovering that following one's heart without minding one's duties may potentially lead to a tragedy.
  • The song "Fixer Upper" in Frozen. The trolls are singing about a potential romantic relationship with Kristoff, but the song applies perfectly to Anna's sisterly relationship with Elsa as well.
  • In The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Emmet learns than growing up doesn't mean becoming a tough and rude person, but rather, accepting that everything is not awesome, while Lucy learns to embrace her cheerfulness rather than her toughness.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • There's a great one in Salaam-E-Ishq. One of the couples in love has the woman have amnesia, which unusually, never gets healed. At the end she tearfully asks her husband, "What happens if I never remember you?" and he says to her, "Then we'll start over. We'll rebuild our memories. Because you may have forgotten me, but I know your heart hasn't. Because love isn't about good times or having fun. It's about who you love. And I love you." Watching is the playboy boyfriend of another girl who has been afraid to get married, who suddenly realizes how true this is, and runs out the door to go to his girl, who is about to get married to someone else.

  • Achoo!: The cow teaches the others not to be rude, but also learns a lesson in manners herself due to being too bossy and jumping to conclusions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of How I Met Your Mother, Robin is explaining the events of the previous week to a psychiatrist, who keeps telling her to stick to the A-Plot and stop bringing up the B-Plot. At the end of the story, Ted tells her what he's learned from the B-Plot, to which she replies that she's going to go and apply this to her own life. Naturally, the psychiatrist lampshades this.
  • Arrested Development
    • George Michael tries wearing leather to appear butch to his cousin, while Michael decides to stop being the family doormat and start being more ruthless. Near the end George Michael gives up the leather thing, and being questioned about it by Michael, goes on about not being able to change who you are. Michael realises this applies to him as well.
    • In "Best Man for the GOB", George Michael wants to participate in Maeby's band but is kept away from it when his father Michael decides to schedule a fishing trip to avoid GOB'S bachelor party. George Michael talks to his father about "wanting to be there for family" and how he'd "hate to miss it because he was too proud," tying both their situations together.

      The episode hangs a lampshade on it; after realising the value of George Michael's insight, it occurs to Michael that George Michael's situation had nothing to do with being "too proud". George Michael admits he threw that bit in to make sure Michael saw the parallel.
    • Michael decides to break a rule to escape a family member. Said member goes on a wacky adventure while Michael languishes for no apparent reason. They reunite and family member apologizes to Michael, stating the Aesop. Michael suddenly realizes that's why he was languishing. They try to do something together but Hilarity Ensues and we're back to square one.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • The string of season six episodes where Willow's magic addiction and Buffy's ahem Spike addiction are repeatedly played against each other. Even when it made no sense. Just run with it.
    • A double Aesop was also in effect in "New Moon Rising" when Buffy realized that her inability to accept that Willow was in a lesbian relationship was every bit as ridiculous as Riley's intolerance of Willow's former werewolf boyfriend.
      Buffy: You realized that Willow was in a... less than conventional relationship, and it gave you momentary wiggins... it happens.
  • In Castle, especially in earlier seasons, Rick would regularly get something from his daughter that he can apply to his own problems. One notable example is the season 2 pilot: Alexis complains about her friend who stood her up, and asks why is it that boys never apologise. Castle was recently thrown out of the team by Beckett for something he did in the end of season 1 — so, he realises that apologising is something he should have done first.
  • CSI: Grissom once realised the way this week's killer felt about his victim reflected the way he himself felt about Sara Sidle. Grissom is a pretty weird guy.
  • Scrubs:
    • A variation on this is employed in every episode. JD’s closing narration describes the Aesop he's learned, and goes on to apply that lesson to every other subplot from the episode.
    • Dr. Kelso tells a patient that if you really want something, you have to pursue it yourself. This lesson also applies to Turk's situation in the episode. The patient asks Kelso, "What if it's too hard?" and Turk chimes in, saying "Yeah, what if it's too hard?" Kelso remarks that he has no idea why Turk chimed in, but decides to tell the Aesop to both of them.
    • This is later lampshaded (see page quote), when JD takes advice given to Turk by Cox and Jordan and applies it to his own situation with Elliot, and it works.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation managed an anvilicious triple aesop in the two-part episode "Secret." Emma is in the school play as Mina Harker (one of Dracula's victims), and realizes that her relationship with Jay is just like Mina's relationship with Dracula. But that's not all. Emma got the part as a replacement for a girl who is sick with a social disease...which she caught from Jay.
  • Lost has an episode where the Aesop "To find something, stop looking," as stated by Locke, applies to both the current plotline and the flashbacks.
  • In The Nanny, the butler attempted this scenario several times when talking to Fran Fine or Maxwell Sheffield, usually involving food or cleaning implements in his (contrived) version. They almost never made the connection.
  • Pushing Daisies
    • Something about the murder being investigated often proves instructive for Ned in how to deal with his personal problems.
    • It's also parodied when Ned gets arrested, and the narrator explains that he briefly reflects on how being in prison is a lot like his own situation, and then realizes that prison is actually much worse than some silly lesson about honesty.
  • Wonderfalls had one episode ("Safety Canary") end with Jaye explain to another character that she was creating relationships with non-sentient animals because she didn't want to forge relationships with her fellow human beings. Jaye's eyes widen as the penny drops...
  • Rumpole of the Bailey was fond of this. In one episode, a nice young woman is sent to jail after she confesses a crime to Rumpole. Later, he refuses to tell a friend of his that the friend has a terminal disease, reasoning that it is often better to keep one's mouth shut.
  • House did it too. Wilson hung out with a friend that House didn't like. Later said friend needed a liver and Wilson gave part of his. Wilson wanted House there. The friend wanted his ex-wife there with him instead of his current girlfriend, and said to Wilson "The person you want with you when you're dying isn't always the person you want with you when you're living.", which made Wilson realize "Woah, wait, I like House."
  • On Magnum, P.I., this was often part of the formula. Higgins would often drone on about some war story and the lessons he learned, and Magnum would realize it applies to whatever case he was working on.
  • Aliens in the Family: One episode has Doug and Spit both learning to be themselves and not do things just to impress others. Spit notices how odd it is for both of them to have the same problem at the same time.



    Western Animation 
  • Every episode of Special Agent Oso has this.
  • Sushi Pack practically runs on this trope, although they usually use a variation where the villain should learn the lesson that the Pack member does, but doesn't.
  • In Transformers: Animated, Bumblebee, Bulkhead, and Sari learn important lessons about not "bending the rules" after infiltrating an illegal street racing circuit. This leads Bumblebee to realize that breaking the law is bad and to Sari's chagrin he stops pirating the cable they used to watch the races in the first place.
  • In Kim Possible, Kim learns from her mission assisting top agent Will Du (read: doing almost everything for him) to give credit where credit is due. Ron immediately points out where this can be applied in her life, where she develops instantaneous Aesop Amnesia, claiming Bonnie isn't as worthy of being head cheerleader as her. (Kim does let her have the position, but thinks she'll quit in two weeks tops once she finds out how much work it involves.)
  • South Park:
    • In one episode Cartman fakes mental retardation to enter the Junior Special Olympics. Though he loses, Cartman receives a trophy for showing the most "spirit." Jimmy (who has been taking steroids to win) becomes enraged, until he realizes that his actions aren't so different, leading him to confess and give up his own trophy. (The judges and crowds watching are so impressed by Jimmy's sudden honesty that they actually cheer him, and it is implied that he will ''not'' be disqualified from competing next year.) Of course, in this as well as many cases, the "Double" part gets a subversion — Cartman never really learns a thing.
    • Also happens in the Fishsticks episode, where Cartman's speech about how giant egos cause self-delusion applies (in his mind) to Jimmy, but it actually applies to both Cartman and Kanye West.
  • Every single episode of Corduroy Bear had this, due to the parallel plots of the titular bear and his owner.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • The episode "Bridle Gossip" does this with the lesson of not judging books by their cover. The main plot of the episode focused on the cast misjudging a zebra they knew nothing about, believing she put a curse on them. The doubled Aesop comes in when Twilight (who, ironically, had been denying the idea of a curse) dismisses the book that ultimately proved to have their cure due to misreading its title, "Super Naturals" (as in herbal remedies), as "Supernaturals" (as in the supernatural that she'd been debunking).
    • In "Lesson Zero", Twilight learns not to let herself turn a small problem into a big problem, while the other Mane Five learn to always take their friend's worries seriously, no matter now small they seem.
    • The season 4 episodes where the Mane Six receive their keys to the chest at the Tree of Harmony seem to involve both the Mane character and a Character of the Day learning a lesson related to their respective Elements of Harmony.
    • In "Daring Don't", Rainbow Dash learns not to let her idolization of Daring Do undermine her own self-worth, while A.K. Yearling (aka Daring Do) learns a lesson in trusting others.
    • In "Bats!", Applejack learns that the quickest solution sometimes isn't the best one, while Fluttershy learns that she shouldn't be pressured into doing something that's not right, even if by her friends.
    • In "Twilight's Kingdom Part 2", Discord learns that friendship truly is magic after losing both, and Twilight learns that friendship is more important than the combined magic of all the alicorn princesses.

Alternative Title(s): Double Moral