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Inner Thoughts, Outsider Puzzlement

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Above is what Kronk sees; a dramatic inner conflict between good and evil.
Below is what everyone else sees; some musclebound idiot talking to himself.

Nale: [Thinking] My machiavellian plan is beginning to come together. Now that I have secured the aid of these gullible saps, the Talisman shall soon be mine! Indeed, I have worked for years for this very day. It seems like just yesterday when my father took me aside and told me—
[beat panel of Nale, Haley, and Roy standing around]
Haley: [whispering] Why is he just standing there?
Roy: [whispering back] Internal monologue. Give him a minute.

The Inner Monologue, Flashback, Imagine Spot, and other such tropes are great ways of illustrating character, showing inner conflict, etc. Normally these tropes are shown taking place almost instantly with other characters around either not noticing or barely noticing that the character temporarily zoned out, so it's pretty rare for Alice to end an internal monologue, flashback, or Aside Comment to the audience only to see Bob standing there staring at her and wondering what the heck Alice was doing and why her mind was off in another world.

In this trope, however, the other characters around do notice. While Alice is mentally taking a time out, everyone else can see the prolonged silence, distraction, or strange behavior, (especially if Alice is in the middle of talking to people who aren't there, like an Imaginary Friend, the Good Angel, Bad Angel, or figures from her past) and then they react or comment to the situation.


Often played as a form of Bathos, especially if Alice was thinking about something serious and it draws a comedic reaction.

Ofter revealed via Cutting Back to Reality. Compare and contrast Not So Dire, (where an audience is misled by serious-sounding dialogue into believing that a situation is critically important when it's actually over a much more trivial matter) Anti Climax Cut, and Acting Out a Daydream. Compare the various "x is a free action" tropes, Plot Time, Imagine Spotting, and Caught Monologuing. Can overlap with, or be a sort of meta Failed Attempt at Drama.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Just before the final fight of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Dio drains the blood of Joseph right in front of Jotaro. In the midst of Dio's Evil Gloating, Jotaro has a vision of Joseph's spirit leaving his body, giving some last minute advice. Dio eventually notices Jotaro staring up at nothing and asks what he's looking at.
  • For drama effect in School-Live!, Yuki views her time as school as the happiest she's ever been. The real matter at hand is the city is in the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse, and Yuki is psychologically damaged. Her friends try to let Yuki live close to a school life as they could manage, and through these efforts find it within themselves to survive the zombies.


    Fan Works 
  • In the Dragonball Z Abridged related Cell vs. videos, (where Big Bad Cell takes on the stars of various other series/franchises) when Cell fights Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter, Ryu has to suddenly wrestle with the Dark Hadou. From Ryu's point of view, we see a dark, evil energy enveloping him and trying to take control of his body. As he tries to avoid being taken over, we switch to Cell's point of view and see the scene as he does: all he sees is Ryu (who came off as a Cloudcuckoolander who was spouting Ice Cream Koans when they first met) on his knees for no reason while twitching and mumbling to himself.
    Ryu: The-the Dark Hadou! It's coming out! I... can't control it... it's going to overtake me!
    Cell: [staring at Ryu in confusion] ... have you tried praying it away?
    • And in the series proper along with Dragon ShortZ, fans have pointed out the fact that Piccolo talking in his head or aloud to Nail and Kami results in this, though only the latter outright lampshaded it.
  • In Friendship Is for Adults Episode 5, Rainbow Dash faces a moral dilemma and consults her conscience (represented by the gang from Scooby-Doo) about it. In the middle of the lengthy conversation, the scene cuts back to the rest of the cast, who are beginning to wonder why Rainbow's been silently staring into space for so long.
  • Humorously referenced in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series during the dual between Yami and Marik. Kaiba starts to give an dramatic inner monologue about it, only to get interrupted by Yami's inner monologue, and somehow they have a conversation. Yami is surprised that Kaiba also monologues, to which an irritated Kaiba asks what he thought was happening whenever he would "stare off into space not talking for like ten minutes". Yami just assumed that he was being really slow. Their conversation is then interrupted by Tristan's inner monologue, and it turns out he thought both them were really slow.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Izuku meets Jirou at the U.A. Entrance Exam and begins looking off into the distance while having an internal monologue about how he was going to pass and make Peter proud. Jirou sees this and waves her hand in front of his face.
    Jirou: Hey, dude. [waving her hand in front of his face] You kind of zoned out there for a second. [gives a coy smile] You having a dramatic inner monologue or something?
    Izuku: [shaking his head in a panic] W-What!? No... no. Just pre-test jitters! [laughing nervously and thinking] Please buy that.
    Jirou: Riiiight.
  • In Half Past Adventure, this sometimes happens to OC protagonist Macy during her frequent Imagine Spots.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, the second time Kronk is visited by his shoulder angel and devil, it's with the other characters around. So when he begins talking to them about how he's feeling conflicted about obeying Yzma's orders to kill the good guys, everyone else hears him, and they react incredulously at Kronk, who as far as they can see is suddenly having an intense debate with thin air.
  • During the course of Turtles Forever, the ninja turtles from the 1980s cartoon keep up their trademark wacky antics, like Breaking the Fourth Wall and making Aside Comments to the audience, much to the increasing frustration of other characters, who simply see those turtles as randomly stopping to look at nothing and then talk to nobody.
    Hun: Why do you keep doing that?! Who are you talking to?! THERE'S NO ONE THERE!!!

  • Played for drama in The Wheel of Time: Rand is the reincarnation of a man called Lews Therin, and at one point starts hearing the previous persona's voice in his head, and responding in kind. Chapters written from other characters' points of view show that he clearly seems to be listening to someone during these moments, and eventually starts unconsciously responding out loud. Naturally, the other characters take this as a sign that he's losing his mind.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • Inverted when Jake is in prison and accidentally gets high on meth while trying to infiltrate a criminal gang. Jake tries to act normal in front of them and he has an inner monologue where he tells himself to stay cool, but it turns out he's talking out loud, and the gang heard him repeatedly telling himself to be cool. On the bright side, his behavior convinces the gang that he really isn't a cop, since they can tell he's extremely high and reason that no cop would have done that.
    • Played straight in the same arc with Rosa. While Rosa is in prison, she has Lieutenant Hawkins, the Dirty Cop who framed both Rosa and Jake, come in to talk so the rest of the squad can act while Hawkins is distracted. Rosa knows that she has to keep Hawkins distracted for a certain amount of time, however she's so enraged by being so close to Hawkins and having to endure taunts and humiliation from Hawkins that Rosa begins fantasizing about smashing the protective glass between them and beating Hawkins all around the room before violently murdering the other woman. Hawkins gets bored when she notices that Rosa is zoned out and not even listening to her taunting anymore, and leaves after snapping Rosa back to reality.
  • On Married... with Children Kelly goes out on a date with Vinny, after Al threatened to kill him if he touched Kelly. He spends the entire night talking to the angel and devil on his shoulders about what to do. Kelly notices.
    Kelly: If your shoulders are talking about me, I have a right to know.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide has Ned develop hallucinations of Abraham Lincoln and Benedict Arnold in one episode after several hits to his head. In a later episode, these hallucinations return when Ned feels conflicted, which his friends inform the confused onlookers watching him talk to himself that this is normal for Ned now whenever he has a conflict between good and bad.
  • The Cloudcuckoolander main character of Scrubs, J.D., is horribly prone to going off into Imagine Spots at the drop of a dime when his friends say something that his imagination can seize a hold of. As time goes by, the other characters realize this and increasingly are shown reacting in various ways to J.D. getting lost in his own imagination, such as trying to snap him out of it, making themselves comfortable until his imagine spot is over so they can pick the conversation up again, or even invoking an Imagine Spot and then standing around and watching him in amusement. Later it is also deconstructed and Played for Drama when we find out that J.D. has hurt himself due to how abrupt these Imagine Spots are, and he does not keep note of his surroundings when they happen, making him trip, crash or mishandle stuff and his friends have tried to make him stop.
  • In season three of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Titus intentionally triggers Kimmy into a "bunker flashback," saying he'll have enough time to get some cheese. He successfully triggers a flashback and when we return to the present, he's unwrapping a slice of cheese. Apparently, Kimmy always zones out when we see a flashback.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Daigo is with half of his gang and is asked by one if he wants to call the rest of them over. This prompts him to enter an Inner Monologue where he plans out their immediate future and contemplates their options from there on out. Meanwhile, his gang is still sitting around him, awkwardly waiting for a response to their question.

    Video Games 
  • In Pillars of Eternity, the Watcher is able to communicate with the dead and see visions of the past that involve either a past life or someone else's death. Every time they do, however, it's in real-time, so everyone else in the party has to just stand around while they experience it.
  • The Reveal in Mark of the Ninja is that Ora isn't real and is only a hallucination caused by The Ninja's mark.
    Azai: Who are you listening too?
  • At several points during The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Link has flashbacks where he begins to recover his memories while others are around. Every time there are others around they notice that he has zoned out for these flashbacks and comment on it when he snaps back to the present.

    Web Comics 
  • El Goonish Shive references Scrubs tendency to use this trope.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • When the heroes first meet Nale and company, Nale goes into an Internal Monologue that makes clear that he's up to no good. However he's lost in his own thoughts long enough for the others to notice, and the scene cuts from a closeup of Nale's face as he monologues to a shot of everyone standing around staring at him until Haley finally asks Roy what the hell Nale is doing.
    • Much later in the comic's run, the vampire spirit possessing Durkon's body thinks that Durkon is trying to invoke this so that Durkon's friends will notice the odd behavior and realize that Durkon is Not Himself. It's then defied in that the interactions are happening at the speed of thought, so only a split second is passing no matter how long the in-head discussion seems. Eventually this goes from being defied to played straight; Durkon shows the vampire spirit a memory of such emotional weight and which is so antithetical to everything the vampire thinks and believes about mortals that it does, in fact get distracted long enough for others to notice. Long enough for all his followers to be killed off and lose a battle that the vampire's side appeared to have already won, in fact.
  • In RAIN, after being asked for her thoughts, Rain goes through a variety of facial expressions while thinking but says nothing. This weirds out Emily and makes Kylie think she's holding in a sneeze.

    Web Animation 
  • Bravest Warriors: In the mini-short "Terrabeth Bytes", as Beth prepares to wrestle with Wallow, there is an Art Shift to a manga style as Beth dramatically thinks to herself. The scene then cuts back to reality, where Wallow is watching Beth stare into blank space like a weirdo.
  • The first seconds of the original first episode of Fist Master starts with Kid Hero Akio monologuing about his goal to be a legendary martial artist known as a "Fist Master", when all of a sudden his silent internal monologue gets interrupted when his sensei Panchi punches him. Turns out Akio was in the middle of a sparring session when his Inner Monologue started, which is a bad idea when sparring with a Sadist Teacher like Panchi.
    Panchi: Oh, I'm sorry, did I interrupt your daydreaming? Try actually paying attention to your surroundings, idiot!
  • In a rare moment of serious contemplation, the Emperor in If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device recalls the last moments of his old friend Malcador, one of the few people he will not see insulted, in complete silence. Cue the Custodian poking him with his spear to see if he's still alive. The worry's understandable, given that he's an immobile skeleton whose only signs of life are the text-to-speech device and psychic outbursts.

    Web Videos 
  • The Nostalgia Critic: In his review of Doug's 1st Movie, Critic wonders what happens in reality while Doug has one of his Quailman fantasies, leading to a cutaway showing Skeeter being concerned about his friend as he stares into space.
    Critic-as-Skeeter: Why do you go where I can't follow?
  • In the ProZD sketch When your friend doesn't know a character dies but you do, two friends are playing a video game, (The King Dragon Canon that ProZD has done a number of skits about) with one having already played before and one who hasn't. The friend who hasn't played the game begins gushing about a character who is going to die before long, and the friend who has already played does an internal reaction that includes Evil Laughter, then crying internally and mourning over the character's fate and begging to have them back. This goes on for a solid 15 seconds (with things like him blinking being sign that real time is actually passing) before the friend who has played the game finally manages a response. Something of a variant, since the video never shows his friend's reaction, it's more for the benefit of the audience.

    Western Animation 
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force:
    • In one episode, Carl sees Bart Oates appear in front of him and asks him to do favors, except nobody can see Bart and turned out to have been caused by a B.B. that was lodged in Carl's head.
    • In another, Shake is continually punished by the spirit of a man he advertly killed, and apart of Frylock who can also see it, nobody else does.
  • Kelsey from Craig of the Creek is prone to doing Inner Monologues while striking a heroic pose under an imaginary spotlight. In at least one episode, the other characters watch bemusedly as she poses silently.
  • In the fifth season of Samurai Jack, Jack has been wandering for fifty years, unable to return to the past due to Aku destroying all the time portals, and has constantly been under attack by Aku's minions and been witness to the devastation those minions cause. This has all taken a toll on Jack's mind, and he's become prone to having visions of people he couldn't help, including his parents and Aku's victims. When Jack starts talking to one of these visions in the middle of his duel with Scaramouche, we briefly see the scene from Scaramouche's point of view, who sees Jack talking to nobody. Scaramouche promptly decides that Jack has gone nuts.
    Child in Jack's Vision: Jack. Help us Jack!
    Other Children: Help us, help us! Jack, help us!
    Jack: Please, no! You must understand!
    Scaramouche: [stops playing his magic flute, stares at Jack] That samurai has gone beaucoup cuckoo.
  • South Park: In "Cartman Finds Love", Cartman plays with an imaginary cupid version of himself called "Cupid-Me", but all his mother sees is him spinning around giggling to himself.
  • In a scene from The Simpsons parodying The Wonder Years, as the narrator is talking, Homer gets creeped out by Bart staring blankly into space and asks him to stop.
  • An episode of Pepper Ann has the title character and her visiting father in a taxi. As Pepper Ann daydreams, as she frequently does, she apparently acts out her daydreams. Her father is apparently acting out his own daydream at the same time, causing the taxi driver to wonder what's in the water.


Video Example(s):


YuGiOh Abridged: Mai vs Mai

While comparing the two Mai's, Joey attempts to show Yugi, how tall Old Mai used to be...problem is, Yugi can't see his flashback.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / InnerThoughtsOutsiderPuzzlement

Media sources:

Main / InnerThoughtsOutsiderPuzzlement