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Flashback Fail

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It's like my mother always told me
"*mumble* *mumble* *mumble* *mumble*
*mumble* *mumble* *mumble* codeine"

Alice has told Bob something very important. "Bob, I want you to take this money straight to the bank. Don't stop anywhere on the way, and especially don't stop to talk to that skank, Carol! Bob? Are you listening, Bob?"

Unfortunately, Bob is either not listening, or he's kind of a ditz. As he walks to the bank, he tries to remember what Alice said...

"Blah blah, I'm naggy and whiny, blah blah, talk to Carol".

Oh, right!

This trope is basically a flashback that doesn't quite match up to what was actually said in the prior scene or chapter. It's not necessarily a Self-Serving Memory, but may be a Super-Trope.

Compare "Rashomon"-Style, in which multiple flashbacks fail to sync up with both the truth and each other, and Crazy Memory where the memory makes no sense at all.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Film — Animated 
  • Shark Tale: Angie gives Oscar her grandmother's pearl so he can get the money to pay Sykes. As he goes to the racetrack to give Sykes the money, he overhears a hot tip on a horse and considers betting the money instead. He thinks back to Angie's words, which come out "Bet it all!"

    Live-Action TV 
  • This sort of thing happens a lot to constant flashbacker/daydreamer JD from Scrubs.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, Marshall recalls how Lily became a compulsive worrywart in the weeks leading up to their wedding. Cue a series of flashbacks of Lily running up to Marshall with a series of increasingly irrational complaints, ending with a tearful: "Iggy Wiggy Wiggy!"
    Marshall: After a while it was just... noise.
    • Since the whole series is Ted's flashbacks, this happens quite a lot. For example, a character being named "Blablah" because Ted couldn't remember her name.
  • Hilariously demonstrated by The Kids in the Hall sketch "Never Put Salt in Your Eyes". The main character asks "What did my mother always say about taking care of my eyes?" Unfortunately, he fails to accurately recall her advice.
  • In the NewsRadio episode "Catherine Moves On", Mr. James asks around to find out why Catherine is leaving. Each flashback to the event is different, as the characters' minds were occupied when it happened: Dave was obsessed with Bill making noise when he ate, which from his perspective sounded deafening; Bill imagines Catherine coming on to him while the others sound like muted trumpets a la Peanuts; Lisa (who was the boss at this point in the series) was overwhelmed by work; and Matthew seems to recall a dream of him and Bill on a raft in the Mississippi.
  • Better with You plays with this trope from time to time, usually with the flashbacks being of scenes the audience saw just a few minutes prior.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Lois gets into an accident that security believes she was at fault. She stands firm that she is innocent and claims her sons can attest to that as they were in the car with her during the accident. When the boys tried to recount what happened in their head, however, Malcolm blanked out Lois who mutters a series of blahs while he was picking a piece of gum off his shoe, Reese could only hear Lois quacking like a duck while he was doodling a pirate stick-man on his arm, and Dewey not only had Lois happily chant Dewey's name repeatedly, but believed he was the one that was driving.
  • Occurs in Boy Meets World, when, by the time Eric Matthews reaches the bank, Jack Hunter's "Take the money to the bank, deposit it, and come right back" to Eric becomes "Take my mom to see Frank, clean my closet, take a nap. Where am I?"

  • In Skin Horse, "Keep your cell phone on at all times, and that's an order!" somehow becomes "Turn on your cell phone, la la, I'm a fuzzy puppy and want scritches".

    Web Animation 
  • In, a My Little Pony parody video, Spike has several flashbacks in which Fluttershy tells he and his friends not to go into her shed. Spike determines that it is okay to go in her shed.
  • In the Manwhore Industries episode "Ultimate Street Yacht Battle", Gooseman and his friends steal a load of bullion from the local Russian dealers and then split up to sell it. Gooseman instructs Fernando to take the Italian bullion dealer two streets over from the Russians. Fernando almost remembers — but then goes on a crazed yoghurt binge, and from that point on all he can remember is, "Fernando, you take brah-brah-brah-brah-brah-brah-brah the Russians". Oops.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Homer often suffers from this.
    • In "The War of the Simpsons", Homer tries to remember the events of a late party night at home where he got seriously drunk and embarrassed Marge to their guests. At the end of that flashback, he does remember his stupid behaviour.
    • In "Homer Defined", he tries to recall his safety training when the nuclear plant is about to go into meltdown. He remembers being told there was a button to press, but was distracted by a Rubik's cube so can't remember which button it was.
    • In "Little Big Mom", Homer tries to remember his skiing instructor's advice, but gets distracted by thoughts of Ned Flanders in his skin-tight ski suit.
    • In "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)", Homer claims to have a "phonographic" memory of Marge's objection to legalized gambling. His "memory" features a nagging Marge with green hair, himself sporting rippling muscles, and several other illogical happenings.
  • Chowder: Chowder gets some sort of fruit punch from Gazpacho, who warns him NOT to shake it up. Later on, he's trying to remember what Gazpacho said, and it's along the lines of, "Remember to shake it nonstop! Make sure it's completely shaken up!"
  • Happens to Gumball and Darwin in The Amazing World of Gumball twice in the same episode. Miss Simian instructs the class to AVOID the Forest of Doom, NOT go through it, repeatedly and in great detail saying "Avoiding the Forest of Doom!" at least thrice. Immidiately after, we get this.
    Darwin: "Did she say AVOID or go through the Forest of Doom?"
    Gumball: "Oh, what would you do without me, Darwin? She said go THROUGH the forest!"
    • Then at the end of the episode, after finally surviving (barely) in the Forest of Doom, they reach the picnic, only to binge out on a trash can and realize the others have left.
    Miss Simian: Everybody, back to the bus! We go around the path, avoiding the Forest of Doom. I repeat: Avoiding the Forest of Doom! [walks away]
    Gumball: [pops up out of trash can] That was so good... Huh!? They're gone!
    Darwin: ...Did she say avoid or go through the forest?
  • An episode of The Brak Show had Brak pet-sitting Thundercleese's goldfish. Before he left, Thundercleese sang a song warning Brak that "Three hams will kill him!" Later on, when Brak tries to remember the fish's feeding instructions, he hears the song as "Three hams will fill him! Three hams will thrill him! Why don't you feed him...three hams!"
  • In the CatDog episode, "Catdog Doesn't Live Here Anymore", Winslow and the Greaser Dogs reminiscence about bullying Catdog; after the first two stories, Lube tries to tell one, only for him to babble incoherently among an empty white void with the characters showing up and not knowing what to do.
  • Luz from The Owl House has a bad habit of remembering traumatic incidents as being even worse than they originally were, best seen in "Follies at the Coven Day Parade" when a flashback of her mother making her promise to stay with her once she has a working portal ends up morphing into a promise to never return to the Boiling Isles ever again.

  • Mentioned by Dave Barry in a column about his dog Zippy. Spend an hour repeatedly telling him NOT to pee on the rug, that doing so will make him a BAD DOG, etc. Then when they leave, all Zippy remembers is that his masters told him to do something involving the rug. When they return, the dog is proudly sitting beside the wet spot on the rug, eager to show off that he remembered what to do.
  • Truth in Television. One should try to frame instructions in "DO do X" terms instead of "DON'T do Y" because people have a tendency not to hear (or remember) the negative and only remember the active thing to (not) do, so they end up doing it.