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Glitch Episode

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Gives "integer overflow" a whole new meaning.

So, there's an Artificial Intelligence in this work, perhaps a robot, android, sentient hologram, sentient computer, or a sentient version of a day-to-day machine such as a car or a toaster. Possibly they're only partly artificial. While these folks are immune to the Sick Episode and most of the Injury Tropes, they can have their own problem, and that's the Glitch Episode.

In a Glitch Episode, the AI goes a bit haywire— perhaps they're uncoordinated and leaking oil everywhere, perhaps they're not doing what they're programmed to do (e.g. the Robot Maid makes messes instead of cleaning up), or maybe they've even become a Murderous Malfunctioning Machine. Something is the matter with them, at least.

The plot of this episode will usually revolve around solving the glitch in some way, whether due to empathy for the AI, because the AI is needed for something, because the glitch is causing the AI to behave dangerously, or a combination.

If it's spreadable, it might overlap with Contagious A.I.. Sometimes they travel inside the robot (requiring becoming an Incredible Shrinking Man if the robot is not really huge), in a variation on a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot. Compare A.I. Is a Crapshoot and A.I. Getting High for other things that can go wrong with AI.


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    Asian Animation 
  • Mechamato: In episode 3, MechaBot's battery gets damaged in a fight, causing him to go loopy and fatigued. Amato and Pian bring him to the crash-landed prison spaceship that he came from to fix him.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • Inspector Gadget 2 involves Gadget being affected by glitches that cause him Power Incontinence, which prompts the Riverton PD to replace him with the improved Gadget Model 2. While G2 manages to outperform him in close-quarters combat, she has weaknesses that the original Gadget doesn't (since she's a fully robotic android made of metal, Claw is able to easily subdue her with an electromagnet). They ultimately team up to take on Claw together, with G2 giving Gadget one of her chips, curing him of his glitches.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Farscape episode "They've Got A Secret" features Moya suffering a cascade of glitches after D'Argo breaks one of her internal components: the freezer breaks down, chemical levels start going haywire, environment control fritzes out, Pilot faints, the DRDs turn violent, and Moya gives every impression that she's trying to kill the crew. As a result, Crichton comes to the conclusion that Moya has been infected by some kind of virus left by the Peacekeepers. In reality, it's because Moya is pregnant, courtesy of D'Argo breaking a contraceptive shield; the malfunctions were due to Moya diverting power to her baby, and the aggressive behaviour was prompted by the crew unwittingly threatening the child's safety.
  • Person of Interest::
    • Late in season two, the Machine is suffering from a virus. Early indications of problems are limited to odd bits of static in Machine-view, but eventually the numbers start coming too late, and ultimately stop altogether. Finally, the virus makes the Machine reboot itself, freed from some of the restrictions Finch had designed it with.
    • In season five, after the Machine is rebuilt, there are some bugs to work out. At first it's fun with the Machine's facial recognition not working right so it mistakes Finch, Reese, Root, and Fusco for one another. More seriously, it doesn't have a concept of when "now" is, so a lot of its first batch of numbers are long since dead, and it can't separate Root's criminal past, Reese's time as a CIA assassin, and Finch's killing of its previous versions from who they've become.
  • Pixelface: In "Hal", a regular console upgrade gets interrupted and the console comes alive and decides that she wants to be a gaming character as well, with her own costume and special move, and holds the regular characters hostage in an attempt to make it happen.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • "Quarantine": The plot of the second half of the episode centers around Rimmer the Virtual Ghost catching a holo-virus from the Monster of the Week and going insane, necessitating a luck virus assisted fix.
    • "Gunmen of the Apocalypse": Kryten (a humanoid robot) inserts a virus which had infected Starbug's navigation computer into himself to create an antivirus for it, necessitating an entry into his dreams to help him combat the virus.
    • "Beyond A Joke": Kryten loses his temper and glitches so violently that his head explodes; attempts to replace his head with spares only result in the backups exploding as well, forcing the crew to search for additional replacements and discover the reason for the bug. It turns out that this is the result of sabotage by Kryten's creator, who modelled the 4000 series on her boyfriend - and installed the exploding head glitch as a Take That! when said boyfriend dumped her at the altar.
  • Sesame Street: In Sam the robot's debut episode, he had a glitch which caused him to repeat himself, prompting someone to hit him and him to say, "Thank you".
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "Thine Own Self", Data the android has been damaged and thus has amnesia. He spends most of the episode on an alien planet with people who think he's an "ice man".
    • Downplayed for "The Naked Now". While it's mostly a Plague Episode, focusing on a strange compound making people act drunk, seeing as the compound isn't technically a disease, it manages to get into Data's circuits and make him haywire too.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • Played for Drama in "Imperfection", where Seven of Nine the cyborg is in danger of dying due to her "cortical node"; a gadget in her brain, no longer working.
    • In one episode, the doctor, who is a hologram, tries to add the personalities of various historical figures into his personality, only for the negative parts of their personalities to coalesce into one evil persona.
    • One episode focuses on the doctor losing his memory due to being left running for a long time. The Voyager crew needs to find a way to update the AI so he will be able to run for long periods of time.
  • WandaVision: The second episode sees Vision start acting drunk when a piece of gum gets stuck in his gears.
  • The pilot episode of Westworld has some of the hosts malfunctioning due to the Reveries update brought by Ford. The QA director put the hosts with the Reveries update for a systems check-up. Then, another host named Peter Aberthany, malfunctions after seeing a modern photograph left by a guest. It takes Ford to personally do the system check-up on him. During the check-up, Aberthany starts to quote Shakespheare, question his reality and vows revenge on his creators. By the end of the episode, Aberthany is sent into storage. However, unbeknownst to the personnel, Aberthany's programming glitch has already been spread to his daughter, Dolores after telling her the words, "These violent delights have violent ends".

  • In Wolf 359, the Hephaestus' AI Hera has frequent glitches in her speech, but there are a handful of episodes where she either has more serious issues or is offline completely. Since she controls the life support, the airlocks, and maintains orbit around the titular star, the plot of these episodes generally resolves around fixing her.

    Video Games 
  • In Mass Effect 3, the climax of the Citadel DLC features CAT-6 mercenaries taking over the Normandy with the aid of the Identity Thief, then sabotaging EDI so she can't stop them. As a result, (if she's with you) EDI's mobile platform abruptly shuts down; when she reboots, she's sporting a cross eye and missing her usual visor. As such, she spends the rest of the mission seething with rage at the violation of her body until Shepard is able to eliminate CAT-6 and restore EDI's control - whereupon she takes immediate revenge on the one surviving mercenary by using drones to repeatedly tazer him.

    Web Original 
  • An episode of Inanimate Insanity called "Theft and Battery" has MePhone4 glitch and eventually short out because of being affected by the condishawn, so the contestants have to go to Meeple to get a replacement battery.
  • The Petri Dish: One story arc involves Bob the cyborg repeatedly spouting ads and having spam (as in canned meat) inside him. It turns out that he has a virus, and when Larry the IT guy finds out who created it, Thaddeus gets revenge by engineering another computer virus which causes the hacker's computer to throw up.
  • Robotzi: In the second episode, "Defect", Mo seemingly glitches out when he starts repeating "A pink iron dick with lights" and "OMFG" for no reason while his eyes become red. F.O.C.A. spends the episode "fixing" Mo. At the end of the episode, Mo starts repeating what he has said earlier again, but this time it turns out that he did see what he described.
  • Strong Bad Email: The email "Virus" has Strong Bad get an email with malware attached. After using his antivirus system for the first time ever, he finds out that he has not one, not two, but 423,827 viruses active on his computer. And then all of reality starts breaking down.
  • Two More Eggs: In the CGI Palz episode "Glitching Out", the Palz (who are aware of, and proud of, the fact they're computer-animated characters) deliberately cause themselves to visually glitch for fun. When they peer pressure Arlington into giving glitches a try, he goes too far and winds up causing the entire world to glitch around them.

    Western Animation 
  • Doc McStuffins sometimes had these with the electronic Living Toys:
    • In "Li'l Egghead Feels the Heat", Egghead the trivia toy begins saying random words and phrases instead of what he intends to say. Doc discovers that it's because he's too hot.
    • In "A Good Case of the Hiccups", Millie the sentient microphone keeps repeating words, which other characters liken to the hiccups.
    • Subverted in one episode, where it seems like Ricardo the remote controlled toy racecar is broken, but actually he just needs to charge.
  • Happens a lot on Engie Benjy, due to being a programme about a mechanic and sentient vehicles:
    • In one episode, Boat keeps making strange noises reminiscent of sneezing and jumping around, which Engie Benjy describes as the "Sea Sneezes". He needs to catch up with her and prevent her from jumping so he can treat her.
    • In "Gobstoppers", three of the vehicles' "roly-poly poggle balls" malfunction, causing their engines to become noisy and unreliable. Engie Benjy eventually saves the day by using gobstoppers in lieu of replacement poggle balls.
  • Although the Invader Zim episode "GIR Goes Crazy And Stuff" plays out this way, it's essentially an Inverted Trope example: GIR normally is glitched out, and when Zim "fixes" him by locking him into his competent "Duty Mode," he (correctly) judges Zim to be a threat to their mission and tries to take him out.
  • The Jetsons: In "Rosie, Come Home", Rosie the Robot Maid becomes very clumsy and keeps repeating herself. It turns out that one of her components needs replacing, but when George and Jane try to buy a new one, the salesman wants to sell them a whole new robot. Rosie overhears him talking to them and runs away.
  • In The Midnight Gospel episode "Vulture With Honor," Clancy's universe simulator starts breaking down: it's unable to manifest new worlds, begins speaking with a Electronic Speech Impediment, becomes obsessed with the fact that you can never see your own eyes, and begins spawning horrific pie-based life-forms. Turns out that this is all due to neglect of regular maintenance - in spite of increasingly desperate reminders delivered by the simulator over the last few weeks, all of which Clancy ignored. Worse still, if allowed to break down entirely, the simulator will "Wobble" with apocalyptic results, sending Clancy on a desperate quest to retrieve the items he needs to repair his simulator before it's too late.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: Downplayed; most episodes that feature Jenny's "sister" XJ-3 will have her randomly falling apart as a Running Gag.
  • Robotboy: In "The Tune-Up", Gus pirates a game on Robotboy's hard drive, seemingly leading him to catch a computer virus. Robotboy sees everything as enemies from the game and begins to destroy things. Then it's subverted when Dr. Kamikazi reveals that Robotboy never had a virus and that he was destroying things because Dr. Kamikazi had implanted a chip within him.
  • Rolie Polie Olie: In "Home Sick", the Polies' sentient Smart House keeps making sneezing sounds, shaking the family around, and the central heating is out of whack. They wonder if the house has a cold, but it turns out to actually have a cat up its nose.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Karen's Virus", one of Karen's sick computer friends infects her with a virus, taking the form of a CGI-animated red monster. SpongeBob goes inside Karen's system, along with an idealized version of Plankton, to hunt it down and exterminate it. Meanwhile, Karen ends up taking a wild ride around town in an extremely delirious state, while the real Plankton tries to control her.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks - A running gag for Rutherford and his cyborg implant. In "Veritas", he has to update his implant with Romulan flight manuals. During the updated he passes out and wakes up after his implant has taken over - Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Teen Titans, Cyborg gets a virus in him when Beast Boy pirates a game on his recharger, and makes him have intense cravings for... literally everything in sight thanks making him think its all food, and it's up to Beast Boy to shrink down and get in him and solve it before it's too late.


Video Example(s):


MechaBot is Damaged

MechaBot gets hit in a fight, causing him to later act loopy, erratic and fatigued. Amato and Pian then take him elsewhere to repair him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / GlitchEpisode

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