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Missed the Call

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The Chosen One receives the Call to Adventure: picking up the Applied Phlebotinum dropped off on their doorstep, stepping through the portal to a Magical Land, impressing the Mentor seeking to pass on the mantle. It takes some longer than others, but either way they do the job. They fight the Evil Minions, collect the magical charms of power, and master the ins and outs of the Swiss-Army Weapon.

Then, as soon as they've adjusted to the heroic lifestyle, Destiny calls back. "Remember when you answered The Call? Turns out I had the wrong number; I was actually trying to find that other orphan with a plot trinket."

What? The Hero was actually just an Innocent Bystander in the "wrong" place at the "wrong" time? The real chosen one Missed The Call? Those who Jumped at the Call suddenly feel jealous and cheated, robbed of their right to enjoy the adventure. Those who just want to be normal feel even more cheated — What do you mean I never actually had to give up my normal, happy life for this?! And those who personally learned that The Call Knows Where You LiveWhat the hell, Destiny!? Gimme back my Doomed Hometown!

Either way, their feelings are irrelevant. Destiny may not have planned it this way originally, but it did ultimately choose them, and the Hero who started this adventure will be the Hero to see it through. They'll either be all the more angsty about it or they'll triple their efforts to prove themselves worthy of The Call. And either prove to be The Poorly Chosen One when they mess things up even worse or else get their shot when the "actual Chosen" makes things even worse.

Caution: there will be a problem if the "real" chosen one discovers they Missed The Call. Then again, both Chosen and "True" Chosen may merely be two among Multiple Choices for Chosen.

Compare I Just Want to Be Special, The Chosen Wannabe.

See Refused by the Call for when you answer the call but end up being rejected.


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    Films — Animated 
  • In The LEGO Movie, Wyldstyle's first appearance is searching for the Piece of Resistance destined to make whoever touches it the Special. Unfortunately for her, Emmett gets there first.
  • This trope functions as the center point of Shrek 2, as Prince Charming shows up to woo Princess Fiona as part of his role as the hero, but instead finds out that Shrek had saved her during the events of the first film. This causes the catastrophe of events that follow in the sequel.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 2010 Alice in Wonderland (2010) movie has Absalom declare Alice to be "not hardly" the Alice they're looking for. Later, Absalom tells Alice that at the time, she was "not hardly" Alice; by the time they meet again, she's "almost" become Alice.
    • One interpretation of his statements, that all the other characters miss, is that she is not the Alice shown on the scroll because it is not yet the Frabjous Day.
  • Cats & Dogs: The Big Bad manages to abduct Buddy, the dog agent posing as the Brody family's pet (he's fine). The dogs need a new agent in place immediately, and when Mrs. Brody goes to a farm to find a new puppy, Dog Intelligence has replaced the existing litter with handpicked new recruits. However, Lou's quest for adventure kept him away from the switchout, and he ends up being picked over the recruits.
    Recruits: Not good!
  • The Fourth Wise Man: In a strange confluence of this and refused/was refused by the call, Artaban's own decency prevents him from traveling with the other Magi to Bethlehem when he delays his journey to tend to a grievously sick man. He spends thirty years trying to catch up and present his gift of gems, but time and again stops to help the needy and giving them away one by one. At the last, he nearly saves Jesus from crucifixion, but chooses instead to spend the gem saving a young woman from slavery. He dies and is embraced by his Lord who tells him that in tending to the sick and poor, he was doing exactly as he should have all along.
  • Subverted in The Matrix. Neo asks the Oracle if he is the one, and she replies "Sorry, kid, maybe in your next life." After Morpheus gets nabbed by the Agents, Neo says Screw Destiny and goes to confront the agents and free Morpheus even knowing he's not The One. The reveal is that he just needed to decide he was The One to become The One.
  • Nearly happens to Brian in Monty Python's Life of Brian, when the wise men come to the wrong stable. Luckily, they realize the Messiah they were looking for is just down the road. Though they have to get their gifts back.
  • Wholly Moses! revolves around the lost Book of Herschel, when Moses' half-brother, Herschel, thinks he's God's Chosen One due to thinking the Almighty was talking to him on Mount Sinai, and not Moses.

  • In the Dragonriders of Pern novel The Skies of Pern, it's said in T'lion's backstory that he was never meant to Impress his bronze, Gadareth — his brother was the actual candidate — and though his brother, K'din, Impressed a brown, to K'din, his little brother — who was barely old enough to be a candidate — Impressing a dragon of a higher rank was completely unforgivable.
  • In the book Good Omens, an order of Satanic nuns accidentally misplace The Antichrist, switching him at birth one too many times. For eleven years, a perfectly normal child gets groomed to be the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan, and Lord of Darkness. Most importantly, though the real Antichrist ends up getting groomed to be... a perfectly ordinary little boy. Phew!
  • Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter: Both Harry and Neville fit the conditions of the prophecy of the one who would defeat Voldemort, but Voldemort unknowingly made Harry The Chosen One by "marking him as his equal." Harry suspects the other could still be the one to defeat Voldemort, but he is shot down by Dumbledore saying that while Neville may once have been a candidate, he is no longer, as Voldemort chose Harry. That's what happens when you go by half a prophecy.
  • In Jujutsushi Wa Yuusha Ni Narenai, the protagonist Kotaru fell out of the classroom that was being summoned to the new world as a result of his panicking classmates shoving their way past. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on who you ask, he soon shows up not too far from them.
  • In Holly Lisle's Minerva Wakes, Minerva and her husband were sold wedding rings that were supposed to wake their innate magical abilities and turn them into magical guardians who stand against the Unweaver. When this is finally explained to her, Minerva is startled but ready to step up and meet her destiny; she's less than thrilled when it is further explained that the people who were supposed to get the rings showed up half an hour later.
  • The Rise of Kyoshi: Kyoshi is an interesting example as she technically doesn't miss the call, but instead she receives it and then hangs up mid-call. She came to Jianzhu and Kelsang's little Yokoya experiment and had selected one of the true Avatar relics (which Jianzhu notes had not attracted any of the other kids), but when Kelsang urged her to pick more, she promptly ran away with her singular prize. Had she stayed and continued to correctly select the other three relics, she would've been correctly identified as the next Avatar right there and then.
  • Sir Apropos of Nothing, of the series of the same name, collects a lot of missed calls. He's not at all happy about it.
  • In C.T. Phipps' The Supervillainy Saga, Merciless receives the cloak of the Nightwalker in the mail and goes on a crime spree. He later learns that the cloak was intended for his wife. This causes Gary no end of angst as he feels he stole their destiny.
  • In The Westing Game, Sydelle Pulaski is noted as being the only heir with no connection to Sam Westing. This is discovered to have been because she was never supposed to have been an heir in the first place. The invitation to the game she got was actually supposed to have gone to a Sybil Pulaski who was friends with Westing's wife.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A variation happens in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, seventh season. Dawn and everyone else believes she's been chosen as one of the Potential Slayers, due to Willow's location spell seeming to aim right for her. Unfortunately, she later finds out it was in fact aimed at the girl behind her, behind the door, in fact, just outside the house. The spell also frightens the girl, causing her to run away, further delaying the reveal. She takes it remarkably well, considering her history. Almost... heroically well.
  • In Kaamelott, King Arthur seems to be The Chosen One: he is the only one who can pull Excalibur out of the stone, and Excalibur only glows when Arthur wields it. But it is later revealed that Excalibur glows even brighter when Percival wields it, and Lancelot was the first choice of the Gods. When Arthur puts back Excalibur into the stone so that everybody can try to become the new king, they both don't try. Perceval refuses to try it because he is loyal to Arthur, and Lancelot is hiding in a remote location.
  • On The Middleman, Wendy happens to run into Tyler, who it turns out was another candidate considered to become the Middleman's sidekick. As luck would have it, he missed the call: his roommate forgot to give him a phone message, and by the time he got it Wendy had the job.
  • An unusual case is how Harry Stone — the youngest, goofiest judge you'd ever meet — got the job that kicks off Night Court. As he explains, he was home when the outgoing mayor called him and appointed him a judge...because said outgoing mayor was trying to fill city government posts with people he appointed. Harry was the only one on the list of potential judges since everyone else missed their calls (it was a Sunday afternoon, pre-cell phones). As he put it, "I may have been at the bottom of the list, but I was on that list!"
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Kick the Can", Ben Conroy's failure to step out of his comfort zone, even for a moment, and play kick-the-can bars him forever from joining the other Sunnyvale Rest Home residents and becoming young again.

    Religion & Mythology 
  • Older Than Print: In Arthurian Legend, Galahad missed the call and it went to his father Lancelot instead.
  • Very nearly happened all the way back in The Bible: Samuel knows he must anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the next king. The first son he sees looks every inch a king to him. His name? Eliab. Samuel goes to give him the king makeover, only to be told by God that it isn't Eliab he's after... it's David.
    • There was actually quite a number of sons and all but one of them were gathered in the house because they were apparently that impressive. The runt of the litter (David) was outdoors tending sheep.
    • You could argue it was played Straight with Saul, except it's repeatedly made clear God rejected him for what they did after being Chosen, and he's still considered the LORD's anointed.
    • Then there was that whole Jacob-Esau mess. Esau eventually mellows.

  • Ozma in The Kansas Collection is the real Lost Princess of Oz of prophecy who was hidden away by the deceased King Pastoria long ago. Unfortunately for her, she was trapped in limbo while another girl saved Oz. This girl, Dorothy Gale, was dubbed the Lost Princess by many Ozians. This ended up making Ozma jealous and angry upon being brought back to Oz.

  • During the Metru Nui storyline of BIONICLE, the Toa Metru learned that they only became Toa because the Big Bad Makuta interfered with the Call, directing it away from the intended recipients. Ultimately subverted, as it was a Kansas City Shuffle by the Hero Secret Service: Makuta was going to make dang sure someone Missed The Call, so fake targets were set up to be passed over in favor of the real heroes.

    Visual Novels 
  • Subverted in Fate/stay night. Shirou ends up with the gamebreaking Saber, the best Servant in the Holy Grail War (except she's not as strong as she should be) out of a sheer fluke when Tohsaka had previously been setting up a ritual in a very careful manner in order to get said hero class. Instead, she got Archer because her timing was an hour off. But then it turns out Tohsaka was going to get Archer no matter what due to the pendant he has and Shirou could never hope to summon another Servant other than that very Saber due to having her sword's sheath inside his body.
    • And according to some theories, Tohsaka was trying to summon the most powerful Servant in her current cycle. Archer is probably the strongest Servant, despite several of the other ones being outright breaking the game.
    • Inverted with Bazett from the sequel, Fate/hollow ataraxia. She was supposed to be one of the seven Masters in the Fifth Holy Grail War back in Fate/stay night, but Kotomine put her into a coma and stole command of her servant, Lancer.

  • The Real Light Warriors from 8-Bit Theater: as they were Level Grinding, the dysfunctional protagonists got the Designated Hero job. And later they become recurring comedy victims, for missing the call repeatedly due to the Light Warriors getting first.
    • Though near the end of the series it is revealed that they went on a different adventure of unspecified details. We're told that it involved other dimensions, but beyond that, it's never made clear.
  • Captain SNES: The Game Masta suggests that Ryan was originally supposed to be the Game Master, but Alex ("Second best Captain SNES") ended up filling the role instead. The reasons why are not entirely clear, but it's fairly clear that the certified perfectly ordinary cat was somehow involved.
  • This is the premise of the Footloose sub-comic Cherry: Origins of a Magical Boy. Steve Lewis is standing ( in drag ) on the sidewalk, when the opportunity to be a magical girl drops from the sky, just barely missing the girl it was probably intended for. Steve decides to take on the role. He's straight, by the way.
  • In Guilded Age, Payet Best fulfills almost all the requirements of a prophecy made by a mad woman in the town and is declared the "Epic Hero". The real Epic Hero (who fulfills the one requirement Payet missed) shows up after a few days, but the mad woman has a heart attack right after due to the strain of shouting "THE PROPHECY!" over and over. This turns into a Zig-Zagged Trope because Payet technically was chosen to be a hero - by a Corrupt Corporate Executve who slowly lost his mind to the science experiment that killed Payet's original body.
  • Harrison the Shark of Nedroid constantly pines away to be swept up in some big heroic adventure like Beartato and Reginald often are. He's offered several chances practically on a silver platter but turns his nose up at all of them until recently. Then he comes across Beartatonote  and Reginald, who fell into the same thing he was chosen to do.
  • In Spacetrawler, the alien Nogg uses a powerful computer to find the six humans most likely to help him on his mission. One of them, Bill Landing, is located in Australia. Nogg swoops down to Bill's address, stuns the guy who matches the picture, then leaves with his newest "volunteer". After getting too far to turn back, Nogg realizes he grabbed Bill's brother, Dustin, by mistake. Dustin, of course, wants nothing to do with the mission and is little more than a thorn in his shipmates' sides for the rest of the adventure.
  • In Spying with Lana, Lana is given a long overdue vacation and is sent to her boss' favourite vacation spot, an island resort. While musing how she pictured her boss vacationing in a riviera instead, the island is invaded by a Cuban-inspired revolutionary force. After spending the entirety of her vacation covertly sabotaging the invasion, Lana returns to work and accuses the boss of setting it up, but he realises he mixed up the tickets and sent a team of operatives to a hotel in a riviera by mistake.
  • In The Drunk Duck webcomic The Wrong Hero, a top hat-wearing cat ends up 'waking' the wrong man. It's too late for the right guy as his house explodes, so Simon (the titular Wrong Hero) is stuck with it, whatever it is...

    Web Original 
  • Nara of JourneyQuest seems to feel like this about the Sword of Fighting going to Perf instead of her.
  • In I'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC, Lex Luthor attempts to bring a hero to a post-apocalyptic future in order to prevent it from happening. He was aiming for Superman, but instead, he got Deadpool and the Green Goblin.
  • As revealed in To Boldly Flee, JesuOtaku missed his chance to be one of the Suburban Knights because he doesn't check his mail often. (The cast of Suburban Knights were all lured into the quest with the promise of a free car, and JesuOtaku is introduced in To Boldly Flee by coming to claim said car.)
  • In WarpZone Project, this happens to Edouard due to one of the worse cases of Mentor Occupational Hazard ever. The mentor only has time to say, "I'm here to mentor that guy who just started developing super-powers." before getting killed by the villains.