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Chandler: Oh, I think this is the episode of Three's Company where there's some kind of misunderstanding!
Phoebe: Oh. Well then I've already seen this one. [Turns off TV]

A result of a principal character misinterpreting something. In comedy, this often leads to further and further misunderstandings, each more comical than the last, until things get straightened out at the end of the episode. In dramas, the principal character usually exerts much effort trying to prepare for a "showdown," only to discover at the last second it was "all a huge mistake."

This trope is one of the basic elements of Farce, but can lead to an Idiot Plot. Related to Poor Communication Kills.

See also Public Medium Ignorance.



Live-Action TV

  • Coupling does this a bit, too: Sally approaches Patrick's bisexual girlfriend, trying to get a confession that she "fooled around" with Jeff (when no such thing had occurred), and the girlfriend thinks Sally is hitting on her; Jeff talks about how Jane's clinginess to Steve means "he's got an unflushable", and Susan, who just met Steve in the bathroom, thinks it means something else entirely.
    • In another episode, Steve and Susan are watching a TV show which mentions the number of men who continue to masturbate when in a committed relationship. In the awkward silence that follows, Steve starts whistling, in an attempt to seem relaxed. He justifies it by saying that he felt like some music but wasn't in the mood for a whole CD. "Sometimes you want a full orchestra, and sometimes you just want a... quick whistle?" Susan tells him that she doesn't mind his whistling, as long as he doesn't get "whistled out." Later in the episode, Susan's parents come round for a visit, and while Susan is out of the room her father mentions that Susan told him that Steve's been "going solo, and Steve interprets it how you'd imagine. This leads to the classic line, "If music be the food of love, then masturbation is just a quick snack between meals." And then Susan walks back in and says, "I was just telling Dad how you've started whistling to yourself." Later in the episode, we see Steve throwing them out for an apparently out-of-line comment, which Steve starts to repeat to Susan before self-censoring the end of it: "With all that whistling, by the time Susan gets home you'll be too tired to—" Susan then finishes it for him to make it clear just how badly he misheard it: "pucker."
  • Three's Company:
    • From the episode when the main characters met the British Ventriloquist Leslie and his puppet Pamela. Because he kept Pamela a secret for certain reasons (she was kept in a large suitcase that he would not let anyone touch), several misunderstandings came out. First Pamela was mistaken by Jack as Leslie's crime partner after reading a news article on the "Duke and Duchess" (Leslie was mistaken for being the "Duke"), then she's mistaken for being Leslie's girlfriend when Jack lets Janet and Terri hear Pamela's (actually Leslie's) voice through his bedroom wall. There's a case of Mistaken for Murderer when the trio break into Leslie's apartment, and Jack opens the suitcase thinking that's where Leslie kept the stolen money in, only to pull out Pamela's hand. Cue the trio screaming in terror and fleeing the scene in the most hilarious fashion.
      • This was lampshaded in an early episode of Friends (which would later still use this trope plenty anyway):
      Chandler: Oh, I think this is the episode of Three's Company where there's some kind of misunderstanding.
      [Studio audience laughs]
      Phoebe: Well then I've already seen this one. [Turns off TV]

Alternative Title(s): Oops I Did It Again