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Locked Out of the Loop

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Harry: You've known that all this time, and you pick now to tell me?
Butler: I thought this would be the best time to tell you the truth.
Harry: I took a grenade to the face, dude!

The hero has a deep Dark Secret, and is still oblivious to it. The catch is, every other significant main character is fully aware of the secret and its implications, and they're all collectively conspiring to keep it hidden from the hero - either for the hero's own good or because it's crucial that the hero not know for some reason.

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It hardly ever works. If they're lucky, though, the hero won't hate them too much when it finally comes out.

A favorite and none too successful technique so that he will not Turn Out Like His Father. Unfortunately, this usually results only in the mysterious parent taking on the allure of Forbidden Fruit — which may result in a harder than usual crash. More often than not, this will be Not Quite the Right Thing.

See Tell Me About My Father. Compare Metaphorically True, a common method of obscuring the loop, and You Didn't Ask, where the person in question could have resolved everything for themselves by just posing a few queries. See also Learned From The News, where a character finds out about both the secret itself and that they were Locked Out of the Loop because the news media found out and published it. Can lead to It Seemed Trivial, when someone who knows something is Locked Out of the Loop and doesn't know the importance of his knowledge. Compare Unwitting Muggle Friend.

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If people think a character is Locked Out of the Loop but they turn out to have known all along, you have a Secret Secret-Keeper.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Flycatcher in Fables is constantly searching for a way to return to the Homelands to find his wife and children. Everyone else in the Fabletown office knows, from his ramblings whenever he's drunk (which he forgets completely afterwards) that his wife and children were tortured, his wife and daughters in fact raped in front of him, and killed when his kingdom was invaded, but they let him believe they're still alive for his peace of mind. There's some evidence that magic is being used to keep his memories suppressed.
    • Recently, Flycatcher regained his memories, and was last seen having something of a breakdown and lashing out at Santa Claus, who restored them.
  • Early on, Zoot the shrew was so nearsighted that he didn't realize he was sharing the margins of Cricket magazine with insects and other invertebrates. Everybuggy else carefully nurtured his belief that he was hanging out with moles, rabbits and other small mammals, because shrews normally eat bugs. (Zoot later got some glasses and learned the truth, fortunately after he became a vegetarian.)
  • Kup of The Transformers (IDW) was once marooned on a planet with radioactive crystals. The crystals caused him to view other Autobots as vicious zombies, leading him to brutally slaughter several rescue parties. He was ultimately saved, but had to be constantly be fed modified doses of the crystals to keep the hallucinations at bay. Everyone aware of what happened was sworn to secrecy to avoid burdening the ancient bot with guilt of having killed his own comrades.
  • Knuckles' Guardian lineage, the number of echidnas still around and his family in general in Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, at least pre-Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide. Up until Robotnik's Ultimate Annihilator went off, Knuckles thought he was the last of his kind, save for the power-mad Enerjak. Then, the Dark Legion came knocking. Then Echidnaopolis showed up, with his mother there still alive. Within a year, Knuckles would also find out about the Guardians and their purpose and that his dad was alive.
  • This is Batman's schtick, especially during the period between the late 1990's to the mid 2000's, to the point where things would blow up spectacularly because he never bothered to tell people things at all. Some of the worst case scenarios include his backup plans against the Justice League (they were meant to be secret and he didn't want anyone to know... until Ra's al Ghul got them), his gang-controlling plan (He purposely locked Stephanie Brown out from it because he adamantly distrusted her) and not outright telling the Bat-Family that he might have let The Joker know that he might know their identities (how was he supposed to know he'd figure it out?)
  • Deconstructed in W.I.T.C.H.. Will chose to keep Elyon in the dark about her and the others' double lives as Guardians and her true identity as the princess of Meridian... which bites them in the ass when Cedric and Phobos do tell her the truth and use it to manipulate Elyon into joining their side. Cornelia gives Will quite a bit of flak over it.

    Fan Works 
  • Done with secondary characters in The Parselmouth of Gryffindor: Neville is the only one in Hermione's group of friends who didn't know about Maximilian actually being a Boggart rather than a human being. When he off-handedly learns it after a whole year of considering himself, Harry and Neville best friends, he... doesn't take it well.
  • After breaking the loop from the original series, Kyon: Big Damn Hero creates another one... locking Koizumi and Kyon out. For now. The girls aren't letting them know about their plans to marry Kyon.
  • In Decks Fall Everyone Dies, the other duelists hide Joey's deadly tuberculosis from Tristan and Duke.
  • Given the more action-packed nature of the Calvinverse, Calvin's parents' disbelieving nature gets taken to extreme lengths. In fact, a Fortune Teller calls them out on it in the Series episode "Dark Laughter Part 1"!
    Dad: Yes, we're well aware of his reputation.
    Fortune Teller: And yet, you do not know him at all.
    Dad: I'm sorry?
    Fortune Teller: You only see what you choose to see, and you see only the negative in your son's persona. You are blind to what he sees.
    • Also, Socrates is the only one of the five protagonists to not know about his transmitter chip. This is finally subverted in Retro Chill, as Calvin tells him about it, much to Sherman'snote  horror. He reacts about as well as you'd expect.
  • In A Delicate Balance, Applejack is the last pony to find out that Twilight has a crush on her. Spike is (inadvertently) left in the dark about Twilight's crush for even longer, and he feels rather slighted that no one thought to tell him.
  • In Dirty Sympathy Phoenix and Trucy does not know that Klavier and Apollo made a "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder to get rid of their abusers and they both knew each other before the Witaki trial. Trucy never finds out about the former, but she eventually found out about their relationship and realized on her own that they had been together longer than they said they have. While Phoenix saw they had feelings for each other, he didn't know they were already together. He finds out about the plot when he accidentally asked an Armor-Piercing Question and Apollo flees the country. Both Trucy and Apollo never find out that they're siblings because by the end Apollo fled the country, never to return and Phoenix feels it would be too cruel to tell them.
  • In the Love Hina fanfic For His Own Sake this trope is deconstructed. Since Keitaro being maintained ignorant about the identity of his 'promise' girl was the thin tread that kept the plot of the original series going and, in this fic, the hope that the Reset Button could be pressed at some moment, the minute he gets in the loop about the spoilered point is the moment when he definitely decides to step away from the situation ASAP, and specially, from the specific people who locked him out knowingly on the first place. What makes it worse is that the person who got him in the loop was the same one who benefited the most of him being locked out, and only confessed in the misguided belief that once he knew the truth he would feel thankful (instead of feeling absolutely betrayed as Reality Ensues.)
  • In the Persona/Puella Magi Madoka Magica crossover Puella Arcana Somniator Madoka, Homura is the one who knows next to nothing about what goes on with Madoka, who holds a different type of power called Persona, made a different contract with the Velvet Room, and is traversing through a strange world in her dreams. Considering what goes on in the anime, this is very ironic.
  • In the Elfen Lied fic Family Sticks Together, it's stated that Alex's father, Zale, was deliberately kept away from the prisoners and test subjects in the Diclonius Research Institute so he would believe Kakuzawa's lies that the Diclonii were nothing but Always Chaotic Evil monsters and killers, with his only contact with the girls being to contain an escapee. He eventually did discover the truth and turned on the institute.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: Dark Kuyumaya was once one of Fairy Tale's top agents, but was left in the dark about their anti-human agenda until he discovered they planned to destroy Yokai Academy for encouraging human-monster co-existence.
  • Sakura doesn't know that R!Syaoran and Kurogane have been sleeping together and became lovers in Shatterheart during the latter half of the Infinity Arc. She is heart-broken when she finds out after she finally reunites with Syaoran in Clow Country.
  • In the Facing the Future Series, Walker ended up doing this to himself by keeping himself isolated in his prison, so he wasn't up to date on Sam's status as a half ghost until after he captured her.
  • In Advice and Trust, Rei wanted to reveal to Shinji and Asuka all NERV's dark secrets, but she kept her mouth shut because she feared that SEELE would find out and kill them. Nonetheless, she explained them why she was keeping things from them, and Shinji and Asuka understood her reasons.
  • Thousand Shinji: Shinji and his comrades -Asuka and Rei- went to great lengths to keep their powers and their activities from their commanding officer and guardian Misato. She never suspected anything.
  • The Second Try: When they return to the past, Shinji wants to tell Misato everything, but Asuka argues that she'll not believe them or she'll believe them but she'll get too worried or cautious, so they keep their time-travelling status from her for a while.
    "What about Misato?" he carefully tried again eventually. "We could tell her at least."
    But Asuka shook her head before he even finished formulating his idea. "She already cares more for us than it's good for someone in her position," she mumbled. "If she were to know what we're going to endure in the upcoming fights, she might try to find some way to keep us out of them or at least somewhat safe, which would most likely just make them end up for the worse."
  • In the My Hostage Not Yours trilogy, this happens to Dib in every. Single. Story. Zim and Gaz get involved in something extremely dangerous, but don't tell Dib about it until it's well under way.
  • The Jackie Chan Adventures fanfic The Ultimate Evil concludes at the end of the show's Demon World arc, after which Valerie returns to Toronto to patch things up with her mother. The sequel, The Stronger Evil, picks up with her coming back to San Francisco and arriving at the climax of the Noble Animals arc. As such, she has a season and a half of catching up to do.
  • The title of Better Off Not Knowing applies not only to the viewpoint character, but to her adoptive parents as well: Thanks to the information being deliberately withheld, they're no more aware that their daughter is the biological child of Zaheer and P'Li than Hakini herself is.
  • In This Bites!, thanks to Cross and a special function of his transceiver, Spandam is completely unaware of the degree to which the Straw Hats are decimating Enies Lobby until they are practically right outside his window.
  • Titania Falls: Ford is the only member of the Pines family to have no knowledge of Fairy Tail's history (Stan has known Erza for years while the twins grew up on stories about the guild). Thus, for the first time in a long time, he finds himself lacking in knowledge and often confused about things. For example, he has no idea what the significance is of Jellal naming his and Erza's youngest daughter "Simone".
  • Children of Elm Street: A Nightmare Tale: Jake and his friends initially make sure to keep Taylor in the dark about Freddy, knowing that he feeds on fear and if she doesn't know about Freddy, then she can't fear him. She ends up finding out the full story after Cameron's death in chapter 21.
  • In Sam & Mickey's series of Barbie videos, Ken's parents—Carl and Edna Carson—somehow didn't know about Barbie's and Ken's breakup, or the fact that they had daughters out of wedlock, until 2015's "Family Reunion".
  • No one in the Pokemon School is aware of what Ash has done pre Sun and Moon in A Professor And A Student, and Ash has no interest in changing that.
  • Defied in Son of the Sannin. When Hiruzen Sarutobi intends to keep Naruto's lineage and birth circumnstances a secret, Jiraiya is quick to point out the reasons why that's a bad idea, and eventually tells Naruto himself the whole truth once he's old enough.
  • In Weight Of The World RWBY and JNPR are completely unaware that their new friends are nations from another world. At the end of The Shattered Soul, Pyrrha finds out the truth when she is taken with them to Earth.
    • The nations who were not involved in the Remnant rescue are completely unaware of Remnant's existence and everything that entails (including the existence of Aura and Grimm). They eventually find out the truth to mixed reactions. Some are focused on taking care of Earth's new Grimm problem while others are furious Remnant's existence and crimes against Earth were kept from them.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, the Chans and the Guardians deliberately keep Section 13 in the dark about the true nature of the Guardians' powers and about everything relating to Meridian, for fear that word will leak and the world's governments will try to take advantage of it.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Frozen, after Elsa's magic powers accidentally hit Anna in the head and knock her out, their parents choose to have the castle sealed, and Elsa isolated from almost everyone, including Anna. Anna subsequently not knowing about why Elsa shuts everyone out in her life (because of the trolls erasing her memories of Elsa's magic) is a key factor that kicks off the main plot.
  • Deconstructed in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. After Morgana threatens Melody's life for Triton's trident, Ariel decides it's best to keep Melody's mermaid heritage a secret and forbid her from going into the sea. This comes back to haunt her 12 years later since Melody goes to Morgana for help and the sea witch uses Melody's ignorance to her advantage; Ariel even acknowledges that if she had just told Melody the truth in the first place, the entire mess could have been avoided.
  • In Justice League vs. Teen Titans, it turns out Superman, who had been dating Wonder Woman ever since Justice League: War, never told her about kryptonite.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, nobody bothers to tell Flash Sentry what is really going on or that the human Twilight Sparkle is not the same person as Princess Twilight Sparkle. As a result, he spends most of his screen time confused and heartbroken when the human Twilight avoids him. Also, in this and later films, nobody bothers to tell him Sunset Shimmer has a magic journal that can communicate with Princess Twilight.
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    Film — Live-Action 
  • 36 Hours (1965): Just before D-Day, the Germans construct an elaborate hoax involving an entire cast of English-speaking German spies in a fake hospital, all to make a captured American intelligence officer believe that he has had amnesia and the war is in the past. Their motive is to get him to reveal details of D-Day as part of his "therapy".
  • Causes a bit of Conflict Ball late in The Bells of St. Mary's. A doctor diagnoses Sister Benedict with early-stage tuberculosis, decides that she should go to someplace dry like Arizona to recover, and prevails upon Father O'Malley not to tell her why she's getting transferred. Father O'Malley caves just as Sister Benedict is leaving and tells her why. She is relieved.
  • The Big Lebowski has Donnie.
    Walter Sobchak: Were you listening to The Dude's story, Donny?
    The Dude: Walter...
    Donny: What?
    Walter Sobchak: Were you listening to The Dude's story?
    Donny: I was bowling.
    Walter Sobchak: So you have no frame of reference here, Donny. You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know...
    The Dude: Walter, Walter, what's the point, man?
    Walter Sobchak: There's no reason - here's my point, Dude, there's no fucking reason why these two...
    Donny: Yeah, Walter, what's your point?
  • Captain America: Civil War:
    • The reason Spider-Man fights for the Pro-Registration side is because Tony Stark told Peter that Steve Rogers and his team of heroes are going against the law and they're dangerous. Cap lampshades this and points out that there's more going on than what Stark told him. Unfortunately, Spidey tells Cap that Stark told him Cap would say that and doesn't listen to him.
    • A very tragic example would be when Helmut Zemo played a surveillance footage of a brainwashed Bucky murdering Tony's parents, Tony angrily demanded Steve if he knew this. Steve confirmed that he knew that his parents were killed by HYDRA but he himself didn't know that it was Bucky who did it. But this still sends Tony into rage and tries to kill Bucky. It doesn't help that Steve and Tony were in middle of reconciling their differences. Towards the end of the movie, Steve sends a letter to Tony, apologizing that he should have told him about his parents' death earlier and hope that there might be a chance of reconciliation.
  • In Dark Victory, Bette Davis' doctor and friend decide to not tell her that her surgery failed and her brain cancer is terminal. She is super-pissed when she finds out.
  • Friendship: Veit's father never made in to San Francisco, but died at the Iron Curtain. The postcards were sent by a proxy of the state security.
  • Goodbye Lenin: Alex tries to hide the fact that the German Democratic Republic is gone from his mother, who was in a coma when the Berlin Wall fell. And it turns out that his mother has kept a secret of her own from her two children: Their father didn't leave for the West because of a woman, he left because of harassment he received for not joining the Party, and he planned for his family to join him in West Germany. He even sent scores of letters which his wife hid behind the cabinets.
  • The Hasty Heart: The doctor doesn't tell Lachlan that he's doomed to die of a failed kidney in a matter of weeks. Lachlan is bitter and angry at everyone else for keeping the secret, once he finds out.
  • In Independence Day Area 51 exists, and nobody told the President. He's not happy when he finds out.
    Whitmore: Why wasn't I informed of all this?
    Nimzicki: Two words, Mr. President: Plausible Deniability.
    • The general is even more pissed, as this news isn't brought up until after they try launching a counterattack, one that fails miserably.
  • Played for Laughs. Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon 4 doesn't know that his oldest child married a cop or who she married. Even Riggs knows!
  • Pops up in the classic romance film Love Story, when the doctors and the husband decide to just not tell the wife she's terminally ill, right up until it's blatantly obvious she won't be getting better.
  • In Moulin Rouge!, the theatre cast hide Satine's imminent death from tuberculosis so she can clinch a deal with the Duke. This one is notable in that even Satine herself has this hidden from her (she knows she's sick, but not how bad it is) until Zidler suddenly tells her at literally the most inopportune moment.
  • Spider-Man 3: The Osborns' butler waits until after Harry is disfigured by Peter and one of his own pumpkin bombs to tell him that Norman/the Green Goblin died from being Hoist by His Own Petard, not by Spider-Man's hands.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Skywalkers are basically ruled by this trope.
    • Early in Return of the Jedi, C-3PO is clearly unaware of the whole plan unfolding around him regarding Jabba the Hutt. Compare R2-D2, who was carrying Luke's lightsaber the entire time to give to Luke at the right moment. Presumably, this was because the heroes thought C-3PO being made aware of the plan would have made it much less likely to succeed.
    • This gets Deconstructed during The Last Jedi: Holdo doesn't tell anyone what the plan is to save them from the First Order ship following them, even refusing to say there actually is a plan. This not only leads Poe to send off Finn and Rose on an unauthorized mission to break into the enemy ship to destroy the tracking device (a mission that completely failed and almost got them executed by the First Order because they trusted the wrong codebreaker), but he and several others end up convinced that Holdo is a traitor and mutiny against her. These two combined events kickstarted the chain of events that wiped out 95% of the resistance. Loong story short, if Holdo reassured everyone that they did have a plan to escape, even if that plan needed to be on a need-to-know basis, none of that would have happened, and nearly all of the rebels could have survived the movie.
  • Thirteen Days: During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy is initially trying to keep it under wraps so he can deal with it without everyone hounding him, which means not telling the press, which means not telling his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, who keeps getting the runaround when he tries to find out what's going on.
  • Through a Glass Darkly: While Karin is definitely aware she has schizophrenia, no one has told her that during her last hospital stay the doctors judged her to be incurable. She is not at all happy when she finds this out by reading her father's journal.
  • Transformers has a similar situation when Sector Seven head Tom Banachek shows Secretary of Defense Keller a frozen Megatron being kept in Hoover Dam:
    Keller: And you didn't think the United States Military might need to know that you're keeping a hostile alien robot frozen in the basement?
    Banachek: Until these events, we had no credible threat to national security.
    Keller: Well, you've got one now!
  • The Truman Show is a classic case. Truman is the star of his own reality show, and he's the only one who doesn't know it. Everyone he's ever met has been an actor paid to keep the secret and the town he lives in is a massive set.

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed I, modern-day Assassin Desmond was never told that the Assassins are still very much at war with the Templars. His ancestor, Ezio, wasn't even aware of his heritage. Later games make it clear that Desmond was vaguely aware of this while he was a kid in the assassin camp in South Dakota, but couldn't really understand it.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Snake believes his team knows more about what is going on around him (Anderson and Baker's deaths, the ninja being Gray Fox, etc.). He is 100% right : everybody was holding back some info so nobody knew who or what was behind Shadow Moses. The Patriots. Liquid wanted to take them out or free Big Boss from their clutches; they didn't give him the chance to try.
  • In Planescape: Torment, the hero has amnesia. Near the end of the game, you find out that Morte, who has been with you since the introductory scene knew almost everything you had to work so hard to find out.
    • Also, the reason Dakkon joins up with you so quickly is he has an existing life-debt to you and for all we know was hanging out in the bar because he knew you would be showing up soon.
    • Something similar happens in Baldur's Gate, lots of people seem to know about your heritage and pointedly refuse to tell you. At most offering vague hints.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In The Blazing Blade, Hector's Ill Boy older brother dies, but the secret is kept from him until much later in the game per his instructions. Oswin was ordered not to tell him if anything happened to Uther.
    • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, King Fado tells Seth to keep Eirika from learning that her bracelet is one of the keys to unlock very powerful Sacred Relic Weapons until it's time. Too bad Seth only spills it after it gets stolen twice, as Eirika had no reason to think that the bracelet was anything other than a sentimental keepsake due to this.
    • In Fire Emblem Fates, Felicia did not know that she and her sister Flora are hostages rather than simple maids, and believes they were just commissioned with the job. On the other hand, Flora knew from the start but her and Felicia's dad Kilma told her to keep it quiet.
      • In another example from Fire Emblem Fates, Kaze didn't realize that Kotaro and his clan were responsible for the death of his and Saizo's father because Saizo never told him of his suspicions until much later; as a result, Kaze thinks for years that their dad was simply killed in the line of duty. Additionally, he was unaware that Saizo's scar was a result of him trying to confront Kotaro, since Kaze was apparently away from their village on the day this happened.
    • In Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, only a select few people (like Mycen) are aware that Alm is actually Rudolf's son and the true heir to the Rigelian throne. This is a particularly devastating loop for Alm and for Alm's cousin/Rudolf's ward Berkut to be locked out of: the first only finds out after he has already fatally wounded his father Rudolf and suffers a nasty Heroic BSoD, complete with him calling out Mycen for it, and when the latter discovers that his entire life and everything he ever fought for was all a lie, he completely loses his shit.
  • In Tales of Destiny 2, there are three loops being kept secret:
    • Loni and Rutee are keeping Stahn's death secret from Kyle, fearing he couldn't handle the truth and might end up like his father (which turns out about as well as one might expect).
    • Reala is keeping her origins and Elraine's powers and motives secret from everyone, though Judas knows some of it because Elraine tried to recruit him.
    • Judas himself is (poorly) hiding his own identity as Leon Magnus from everyone.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Lloyd locks his former comrades out of the loop on why he hunts for the Centurion Cores. It's only with the revelation that Emil is Ratatosk that Lloyd decides to reveal why he did so: he was on a task by Martel to collect the cores so Ratatosk can be sealed away before he gets revenge on humanity. Lloyd couldn't risk anyone else on the chance they might let slip the name of the new tree, which would allow Ratatosk to take over and begin his revenge.
  • Aside from Zero, almost all major characters in Mega Man Zero 3 (Ciel, X, Weil, and maybe even the Four Guardians) seem to know about the truth that Zero (the real one and The Hero) is inhabiting a clone, while Omega is using Zero's original body.
    • Ciel only finds out in the end of the game, when X tells her. The Four Guardians only as much as suspected, since Harpuia was present when Weil referred to Zero as that body. Of the four, only Phantom knows the truth, since he died fighting Zero in a previous battle and now wanders the Cyberspace afterlife, where all history is gathered.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, the player character is running around the galaxy trying to stop the Sith Empire from finishing a war of conquest started by Darth Revan. The secret is that the PC is Revan, with his memories brainwashed out, and that the Jedi Council is trying to use him to uncover the location of the same superweapon that allowed him to begin his war in the first place. No one tells the protagonist all this, of course. Until Malak and Saul Karath find out he's still alive and Malak tells him, that is.
  • It is sometimes assumed Flandre Scarlet of Touhou Project fame doesn't know she's a vampire, as her maid Sakuya serves her blood under the appearance of normal food. Whether Flandre really doesn't know she's a vampire or not is up to debate, but Word of God says she at least doesn't know how to properly feed on humans. She just blows them up on the spot. All because Remilia won't let her outside, because she had the bad luck to be born with the power to destroy anything by clenching her fist. Canon appears to joss it though.
  • Persona 4: Both Detective Ryotaro Dojima (the MC's uncle) and Naoto Shirogane (freelance detective) are working on the same case as the Heroes, but the Investigation Team keeps them out of the know for rather understandable reasons. Like many other things in the game, this is Deconstructed:
    • Dojima's instincts catch onto the MC and the investigation team almost immediately, but he can't bring himself to suspect the person who watches over his daughter. And when he gets concrete evidence that the Protagonist is definitely involved in some way, a bad combination of Cassandra Truth and Idiot Ball leads to Nanako getting thrown into the television.
    • Naoto is damn well aware that information is being withheld from him, or rather her, and becomes frustrated enough that she resorts to rather drastic measures. Once this is settled, the Investigation Team lets her have it for being so stupid that she deliberately let herself be thrown into the TV.
  • In Jak X Combat Racing, no one wants to tell Rayn that Jak killed her father. Inevitably, she finds out and gets pissed.
  • In Fallout 3, every adult inhabitant of Vault 101 knows that James and the Lone Wanderer were both born in the Wasteland (even that the Vault was opened in the past) yet they hide it from the kids, including the LW. Of course, he/she ultimately finds out from Moriarty and the rest of the gang gets to know about it when Amata overhears someone saying that they should never have let James into the Vault 19 years ago. Needless to say, they are so pissed that the Overseer declares martial law to try and keep everyone in line. It doesn't really work with the youth demanding to open up to the outside and Vault Security planning to stage a raid on the "rebels" using live ammo without the knowledge of the Overseer. The outcome depends on the player's actions.
  • Wakka of Final Fantasy X is never clued in on Yuna being half-Al Bhed, and later Rikku being Al Bhed herself. When he did find out, he was not pleased, at first. And then, later Tidus learns that he was also Locked Out of the Loop concerning the fate of summoners when they summon the Final Aeon, i.e. they die. He's furious when he finds out and demands to know why they hid it, but Wakka and Lulu explained that they simply found it too difficult to say.
    • Tidus also never tell Yuna and the rest about his impending doom if Sin is permanently killed off, until the final battle.
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy is an interesting case, in the fact that a majority of the heroes know nothing of the truth behind the cycles of war. Only Cid (The Great Will), Garland, Shinryu and Cosmos know the full truth. While many of the villains are able to piece together "what" is going on, none of them ever learn exactly why.
  • In Vagrant Story, both Ashley (the main character) and Hardin (the Anti-Villain's henchman) are largely unaware of the main plot up until the final cutscenes.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: Tetra's mother apparently locked her out of knowing that she's the eponymous Princess Zelda. She also fails to mention why the necklace she gave Tetra is so important. Then suddenly it is revealed that it is a piece of the Triforce, the almighty artifact of the Goddesses, which can grant absolutely any wish when fully assembled.
  • In Brütal Legend, nobody bothers to tell Eddie who Succoria is, leading him to conclude it was Ophelia and driving her away. Her Face–Heel Turn drives the entire second half of the plot.
  • Mass Effect 2 does this to whichever human squadmate survives the first game. It's one of the main reasons why the reunion doesn't go so well. Garrus and Tali find out Shepard's alive firsthand, while they only hear rumors about him/her being alive and working for a terrorist organization - which had been leaked by the terrorist group in question in an attempt to isolate Shepard from anyone who was likely to make Shepard see through the charade Cerberus was putting on. In Mass Effect 3, fixing this is an important part of getting back on their good side. If the player chooses not to let them back in the loop, it will potentially end with their death because they can't be convinced that it's Not What It Looks Like. Why Liara didn't pay them a visit to explain things before it became an issue is never addressed.
  • In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Jonathan Morris's father left him the legendary Vampire Killer, but never told him how to draw out its full power. It turns out he was trying to spare Jon the risks involved in wielding it (but apparently not the risks of being an inadequately-armed vampire hunter). Over the course of the game, he meets several characters who know all about it. Those characters being Eric Lecarde and his daughters.
  • Dragon Age: Origins loves this trope. All of the Grey Wardens, including Duncan and Alistair, keep everybody locked out of the loop regarding the risks of joining their order and indeed why they're necessary, fearing that no one would become a Grey Warden if they knew. Morrigan keeps you locked out of the loop regarding why she joined your quest until almost the end of the game. Zathrian really, really isn't telling you the whole story about those werewolves. And so forth.
  • Yuki from The King of Fighters was like this at first, in regards to her boyfriend Kyo's double life as an Ordinary Highschool Student and a street fighter. In the tie-in manga "KOF: KYO" she learns about it and isn't happy, but forgives him. (It doesn't help that she only learned about it when Athena transferred to this school and then Iori Yagami showed up.) However, she remains outta the loop in whart concerns her heritage and destiny in the whole Orochi story... as the as-of-now last descendant of Princess Kushinada, the legendary Barrier Maiden that must be ritually sacrificed so Orochi will return to this world. She only learns that when she's kidnapped for that by the New Face Team (who spill the beans in front of her), and then rescued by Kyo and his friends.
  • In Tales of the Abyss this trope is somewhat exaggerated: from the start of the game, every single party member except one has a different part of the loop that they're keeping Luke fon Fabre locked out of, for their own reasons, and for the most part unaware of all the others. Guy has been plotting with Van for years to kill Luke in front of his father as revenge for his own family's deaths. Anise is secretly reporting on all of their actions to Grand Maestro Mohs because he has her parents hostage. Tear wants to kill her brother Van because he actually wants to destroy the world, but she doesn't think anyone will believe her if she just says so because he's a Villain with Good Publicity. Jade figures out that Luke is a replica about two scenes after you meet him, but doesn't want to deal with the hassle of explaining when it's not relevant to the mission. The only one not deliberately keeping secrets from him is Natalia, and that's only because she doesn't know her own secret - that she's not the actual Princess, but was Switched at Birth. All of this is massively deconstructed to say the least as all those secrets screw them over in various ways; at the very least, Luke knows they are hiding things from him and it doesn't improve his attitude at all. Much less makes him able to trust them.
  • Nira Oni: After the group gets trapped in West Nira Hospital and the titular monster starts stalking them, Cassey's little sister Ryan thinks that it's some kind of fake haunted house. Hiroshi goes out of his way to keep her believing this, framing the whole thing as a game. For instance, after hearing the monster nearby, he tells Ryan that they're going to play hide and seek, and she needs to find a good hiding place.
  • In Injustice 2, Kara Zor-El was sent to Earth alongside her cousin Kal-El to teach him the ways of the Kryptonians, but arrived many years later due to her cryopod being knocked off-course to find a world where her infant cousin had grown into an adult. Par for the course for Supergirl, except that in the Injustice Alternate Universe, Superman went completely insane, becoming a ruthless Knight Templar dictator. Unfortunately for Supergirl, she is recovered by Regime loyalists who fail to mention this.
  • In Fazbear and Friends, one of the audiologs reveals that the pizzeria's management knew about shady goings-on at the restaurant and the night guards going missing, but chose to mention none of this to the guards themselves - while ordering them to go everywhere armed and in pairs. How this worked out is unclear.

    Visual Novels 
  • Angie in Shikkoku no Sharnoth thinks that Mary has become the mistress of a rich man out of despair at her friend Charlie's condition. She's wrong, of course, but Mary only clears up the misunderstanding without actually explaining what she is doing.
  • Tsukihime: Honestly, does anyone tell Shiki the stuff he really needs to know? The only one who's really honest with him, Arcueid, doesn't actually know a thing about his backstory. Even the other sane love interest never feels that it's necessary to tell him or flat out lies about the twin switch between Kohaku and Hisui, so Kohaku doesn't realize he simply mixed them up until far too late.
  • In Little Busters!, Riki and Rin are the only ones in the main cast who don't know the secret of the world - that this world is a fake created after a bus crash left all but Riki and Rin near death. Why he's locked out varies - Kengo just wanted to be able to live happily in this world forever without worrying them about reality, while Kyousuke was deliberately trying to build them up and make them stronger so when they went back to the real world they could function on their own.
  • Zero Escape:
    • At the beginning of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, only Junpei and Lotus have no information about the Nonary Game at all. Two characters masterminded the original Nonary Game, four competed in it and one was a detective involved in the case. When characters finally start sharing information to aid their escape, Lotus is - much to her frustration - kept in the dark until the epilogue.
    • In Zero Time Dilemma, Junpei is tetchy with Akane because he knows she's plotting something and Akane herself admits this, but she still refuses to tell him about it. Given that her last plan involved mass murder, it's unsurprising that he feels a right to know.
  • Shall We Date?: Ninja Shadow, Shintaro tends to be this. Twofold, even!:
    • Regarding Saori/"Kaname" being a Sweet Polly Oliver, the Vigilantes who find out early tend to keep this from him since he Cannot Talk to Women and they want to "spare" him the embarrassment. The exception, logically, is his own route where, after lots of awkwardness, he becomes her Secret Keeper.
    • In Makoto's route, Makoto goes through huge efforts to keep him in the dark about his once-mentor Toru's Face–Heel Turn because he knows that Shintaro's heart will break if it happens. This throws quite a wrench in the group's dynamics since Yuzuki believes that it's unfair to Shintaro.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: As revealed in Volume 4, members of the White Fang are able to roam about Blake's hometown of Menagerie freely, because the inhabitants don't know that the White Fang chapter led by Adam Taurus played an instrumental role in the invasion of Vale and the destruction of Beacon Academy; Blake's parents only find out when Blake and Sun inform them as such when White Fang representatives of another leader, Sienna Khan, come to visit her father. Said representatives are able to avoid suspicion by claiming that the group led by Adam is a rogue splinter faction and they're trying to apprehend him, which is a lie.

    Web Comics 
  • Antimony in Gunnerkrigg Court was rather shocked to discover some facts about herself and her mother while all Surma's friends knew. And then it turns out this wasn't the only secret and this was even more widely known... "Seems like people enjoy keeping things from Annie" indeed.
  • Girl Genius had fun when Lars discovered who Agatha really is.
    Krosp: The grownups knew.
  • Head Trip on Michael proposing to Kat.
  • Off-White: Iki doesn't know he's a white spirit. Raigho started to tell him, but was interrupted.
  • Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: Dan's an incubus. His mother was one of the most powerful and infamous succubi around (it's later revealed that his maternal grandmother was even moreso). No one told Dan this until his 'Cubi heritage started manifesting itself. He essentially locked himself out of the loop since everyone who knew about Destania (Dan's mom) either assumed Dan already knew, hence didn't bother bringing it up, or were waiting for Dan himself start asking questions. No one anticipated his utter lack of curiosity on the subject.
  • Homestuck: The other characters deliberately avoided telling John that Vriska had died because they knew it would upset him.
    • Similarly, his genetic mother, Jane, is the only one of her session who doesn't know that two of her other players live 4 centuries in the future and that one of them is her genetic daughter's pen-pal who is ensuring their very existence. Naturally, things get very confusing for her.
  • Everyone except for the main characters in L's Empire seem to know the significance of Beware the night of five lights. Since Dark Star is a god, he's able to know anything that has happened on screen. If the main characters found out, he would find out.

    Web Original 
  • In Worm, Crucible, a new member of the Brockton Bay Wards, is completely unaware of the circumstances of Cauldron's presence in the PRT and Protectorate due to having joined after the events of Echidna. His teammates regularly bait him about this.
    Crucible: Again with the Echidna thing. Can't you tell—
    Clockblocker, Kid Win, and Vista [in chorus, with Kid Win not even looking up]: Classified.
    Crucible: Fuck you guys.
  • In Pact, both of the main characters Blake and Rose are unaware of their true natures, namely that They are two halves of an original person, who was split into two by a demon who was possibly contracted by their grandmother in order to create an "ideal" heir and a shield for that heir. Rose later discovers this but keeps trying to keep Blake out of the loop because they are prophesied to destroy each other and she fears letting him know could accelerate that process. Unsurprisingly, when Blake finally discovers this it only feeds his sense of betrayal and appears to be leading to the very confrontation she was trying to avoid.
  • In Funny Business the protagonist's parents are forbidden to know about her powers.
  • The first Wham Episode shared by all incarnations of Noob reveals that Fantöm had been cheating for several years without knowing it.
  • In These days, Ayane makes it a point to not let Rea know about her or that she's an anomaly, claiming dangerous consequences should she ever find out.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In the episode "Haylias", Stan believed that Project Daycare, which he put Hayley in, was discontinued because the subjects lost their free will permanently after seven days of activation. It isn't until after he activates Hayley and misses the deadline that he discovers from Bullock that the project was actually discontinued because the subjects turned on their handlers and killed them after seven days.
  • Jake's father in American Dragon: Jake Long is a normal human who unwittingly married into a family of dragons (though the ability to turn did conveniently skip his wife's generation). Throughout the series, everyone else in his family goes out of their way to not let him realize the magical goings on around him. Jake at one point gets so fed about having to keep it a secret from his father that he goes back in time in an attempt to tell him before he ever married his mom. It didn't go well. He does eventually find out and is accepting of it in Grand Finale.
    • Trixie and Spud were as well, for the first few episodes.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Earth King Kuei is being kept in the dark by his "cultural authority" the Dai Li as to the fact that there's been a hundred-year war between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation. The Dai Li is mostly engaging in this to maintain power and to "prevent chaos." They also maintain an oppressive control over the city itself; people who disrupt the city or talk about the war are either terrified into silence or hauled off for "reeducation" into Dai Li sleeper agents.
    • Happens in The Legend of Korra to the titular character, who always got upset that the Order of the White Lotus kept her at the training compound, but was kept in the dark from the fact that the Red Lotus tried to kidnap her at a young age. The only people outside of the White Lotus who knew were Tenzin, her father Tonraq, Lord Zuko, Lin Beifong, and even her Evil Uncle Unalaq.
  • In the Futurama episode "Parasites Lost", the crew has to make sure Fry doesn't know their plans to rid him of the worms. If he finds out, the worms will know too and can mount a defense.
  • King of the Hill: It's essentially an open secret that Joseph Gribble is the product of his mother Nancy having an affair with John Redcorn. The only people not aware are Joseph himself and his "father" Dale. The episode revealing this showed that Peggy Hill didn't know either, but Hank never told her because he figured it was so blatantly obvious he didn't have to say anything. Nobody tells them because it would destroy the Gribble family. Notably, later on in the series Dale comes to the conclusion that aliens impregnated Nancy...with his own sperm, in order to produce a race of super-warriors. Hank decides to let him believe this.
    • This is also the case involving the one-episode character, Hoyt Platter, Luanne's father and Peggy's older brother. Luanne was told that her father works at an oil rig when actually been in prison the whole time. This even surprised the others too when he was released. Hoyt ends up committing another felony and sentenced for life under the "three strikes law". Luanne never knows the truth of her father being a disgraced convict which Lucky covers it up saying he is back at the oil rig, preserving her image.
  • In the Men in Black episode, "The Out to Pasture Syndrome", Zed decides to retire and puts K in charge of MIB. When Alpha returns more powerful than ever, he captures J and uses a Mind Probe to discover Zed's location. After he leaves, Agent L rescues J and reveals Zed had not retired: every last one of J's fellow agents (and Frank the Pug) had been in on a scheme to capture Alpha, J being kept in the dark so that Alpha's probe wouldn't learn the truth. Unfortunately, J was confused as to why Zed's eyes didn't glaze over when he was neuralized, and Alpha picked up on that.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • In the first season, Hera keeps the rest of the crew in the dark about the existence of other rebel cells and the wider Rebellion as a security precaution in case any of them get captured. As the Ace Pilot, she's the one least likely to be in a direct combat situation, and thus the least likely to be captured.
    • At the end of "Through Imperial Eyes", Thrawn and Yularen know that Agent Kallus is the traitor in the Imperial ranks. However, they choose to keep the rest of the Imperial officers in the dark so that Thrawn can Feed the Mole, necessitating letting Kallus' framing of Lieutenant Lyste stand.
  • Through the first four seasons of The Venture Bros., Hank and Dean didn't know they were clones. Dean finds out in the interlude Halloween episode between seasons 4 and 5, but chooses not to tell Hank.
  • Winx Club: In the first season, Bloom does not know she is the princess of a dead planet, and the guardian of a special power called the Dragon Fire. That is, until the Trix, who do know, take it away from her.
  • This really backfired early on in W.I.T.C.H.. The girls learn that Elyon's a princess and that her brother, Big Bad Prince Phobos, is looking for her. Cornelia's all for letting her know right away, but Will isn't so sure of doing so. Then, she finds out from Phobos and Cedric, leading to Elyon believing all of their lies and running off with them. Corny isn't too happy with that bit.
  • In one episode of Yin Yang Yo!, When Master Yo has to retrieve a powerful weapon, he keeps it a secret from Yin and Yang and pretends that he's taking them to an amusement park so that the Night Master would follow them and be thrown off the trail. At the end of the adventure, when the two correctly guess that Yo used them as bait, he offers them a dollar bill to not tell anyone he deliberately endangered children.
  • In Macbeth's first appearance in Gargoyles, he set his entire plan to capture the Manhattan clan into motion with the assumption that Demona was still with the clan in order to lure her out of hiding. When Macbeth finds out the clan and her had a falling out and she left them, he is furious.

    Real Life 
  • Adopted children sometimes don't know they were adopted until they become adults. Sometimes, they never find out.
  • In the first half of the 20th century, quite a few U.S. doctors considered it most merciful to tell a terminally-ill patient that they were sure to recover soon, but clue in the family to the real state of affairs.
    • This happened to Richard Feynman's first wife, who died while he was busy building the first atomic bomb.
    • After Rudolph Valentino's perforated ulcer had deteriorated into peritonitis and pleuritis—massive, runaway infection of his guts and his lungs, that is—the doctors figured out he was going to die. They didn't tell him. Just hours before his death on August 23, 1926, Valentino was conscious and lucid, and talking about going home.
  • Even today, many doctors believe it is best to keep a woman from knowing if something is wrong with her unborn child — as stress increases the likelihood of something going wrong with unborn children.
  • Pakistan was locked out of the loop while the US conducted an operation to kill Osama bin Laden. The operation succeeded in 40 minutes, and Pakistan was only informed a couple hours later. This has been happening on a more general basis in US Pakistan relations, for the simple reason that things the US told them kept getting leaked. The recent revelation that elements of the Pakistani intelligence service were actively helping Osama bin Laden to hide in Pakistan only highlights why this type of thing is sometimes done.
  • Intelligence agencies that normally cooperate (such as the American and British agencies) will start keeping things closer to their chests if they think their ally has a mole or a leak.
  • In politics, aides, advisors, and operatives often take actions without telling their boss— precisely so that if the situation does blow up in their faces, they can (truthfully) claim that they'd acted alone and their boss didn't know. This is called "plausible deniability". (The word is often misused to refer to a politician who did know but pretends not to.)
    • Can also lead to politicians not monitoring certain of their aides, advisors, and operatives too closely so that if they are doing anything improper and keeping it from them, they won't accidentally find out.
  • One can easily argue every wartime American President has done it, but Richard Nixon was especially notorious for this kind of activity. Under the smoke and mirrors of withdrawing 150,000 American troops from the frontlines during the Vietnam War, Nixon secretly expanded the conflict into neighboring Cambodia. Not just the government of Vietnam; but Congress and the Supreme Court were unaware and/or lied to about the invasion for at least FOUR YEARS until the full truth was revealed (and some information is still classified to this day). Nixon knowingly suppressed knowledge and ruined the career of several officers questioning the legality of it, because the overall action was a severe abuse of Presidential authority. The only reason Nixon wasn't impeached for the affair? The Watergate trials were also occurring and he was already being impeached for that. It was a major contributing factor for Nixon's resignation, given that even if he survived Watergate, there was another case of underhanded activity Congress could (and would) throw at him.
  • The United States Vice Presidency was considered an unimportant office for most of its existence, and the VP was often not privy to secret government projects or information of what the government was up to. This kind of bit the US government in the rear when Harry S Truman succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt as president when the latter died—right at the tail end of World War II. He didn't even know the US had a nuclear bomb project.
    • Speaking of Vice Presidents, immediately after the JFK assassination, security agents surrounded Lyndon Johnson and rushed him to a secret room in the hospital, fearing that someone might attempt to kill him too. The effect of this was that virtually every member of the presidential staff in Dallas knew that JFK was dead, and thus that Johnson was now President, before Johnson himself did.
  • This is the entire concept of Need To Know access. It's not enough that you have the clearance to access classified information, if it's not necessary to know it to perform your duties, you don't get to look at it.
    • And Plausible Deniability. An intelligence agency carries out the intentions of their government but without explaining the fine detail of what they're up to (espionage is illegal, after all), so if something goes wrong the government can truthfully claim they didn't know about it.
  • Domestic abusers can do this, telling their victims something but selectively omitting critical details, leading the victim to screw up and "justify" the resultant abuse. Example: A man calls his wife and leaves a message to tell her they'll be going out for dinner that evening. Based upon their past history, she understands that this means they will be going to a casual dining restaurant, and dresses appropriately. What the husband failed to mention was that this dinner is at a very up-scale establishment, and it is with a very important person who is expected to significantly impact the husband's career. He comes home from work to pick up his wife, with no time to spare, only to find that she is grossly underdressed for the occasion. Abuse follows, in which he berates her and accuses her of intentionally trying to sabotage his career, and brushes off her legitimate defense as a lame excuse and an attempt to fix the blame on him.


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