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"Not Important to This Episode" Camp

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nicklj: Question: Where was Julie again? A soccer camp or something?
kostgard: I think she was at "Not Important to This Episode" Camp.

So, the game is afoot. The scene is set for an exciting Chase Scene or Final Battle. Or maybe two characters just want to hang out and exchange Witty Banter.

Except, wait a minute — don't these people have kids? Where on Earth is that newborn baby we spent half of last season waiting for? What about their Mouthy Kid who helped save the day last week? Have they been Brother Chucked?

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Never fear, because they are enjoying a stay at Not Important to This Episode Camp. Don't worry, they'll be back next week.

And it isn't just camp. Maybe they've gone to visit that Disappeared Father we never hear about, or being looked after by some unnamed babysitter.

Also happens when a previously valuable young character has served their purpose and is now surplus to requirements. A swift packing-off to an unnamed (and often way beyond the character's shown means) Boarding School is an extended version of this.

And so their parent is able to throw down everything and depart in the company of our hero on that crazy road trip or whatever. Hilarity Ensues, and all without interference from Child Services.

See also Put on a Bus, where a character is written out in a way that can easily be reversed, and Shoo Out the Clowns, when the young and impressionable make a hasty exit stage right before the nasty stuff gets underway. Chuck Cunningham Syndrome is when this happens permanently without any explanation. Tangentially related to Chaste Toons, which often uses the "not really the main character's kids" justification to send the kids back to Mom and Dad when the plot demands. Compare Parental Abandonment, especially the examples where the characters have parents supposedly, but they're just never around. See also Offstage Waiting Room. If they are important to this episode, but not there, you might have a case of Absentee Actor.

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Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • A quite literal example from The Simpsons, where Lisa refuses to take part in a reality show Homer's gotten onto as part of community service (long story), and is promptly shoved onto a bus by the director and taken to a camp before she can object further. She's not seen again for the rest of the issue, although Homer does eventually notice she's missing at the very end.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the The Thin Man series, Nora has her baby Nicky prior to movie three. He is a baby (and thus little more than a Living Prop) throughout that movie, but by movie four he is old enough to talk and involve himself with the plot a bit. For movie five, Nick and Nora visit Nick's home town and leave Nicky at home, claiming they didn't want to take him out of school, so he doesn't appear in that film.

    Live-Action TV 
  • According to the producers of the Alien Nation TV movies, Baby Vessna was at daycare after every film since Dark Horizon (except when we saw her in a kind of cocoon).
  • Arrested Development had an extended subplot about Lucille accidentally adopting a Korean boy named Annyong towards the end of the first season, and he makes it a handful of episodes into the second before he's unceremoniously sent off to boarding school and forgotten. Of course, this being Arrested Development, he turns out to be The Mole the family spends much of season three concerned about.
  • Baywatch: Mitch's son Hobie would frequently be "with his mother" (who lived out of state), whenever having Hobie around would be inconvenient to the plot.
  • El Chavo del ocho: The vencidad tenants went to Acapulco for a vacation. When The Landlord, Señor Barriga, learned this from El Chavo, he decided to go there as well and, taking pity from El Chavo, takes him as well. Señor Barriga's son, Ñoño, was at a boy scout camp at the moment and, aside from when his Dad mentioned this as an explanation not to take him to Acapulco, wasn't mentioned in the whole story arc.
  • Cobra Kai: Daniel’s son, Anthony, didn't do much during the first season other then eat, play video games, and mouth off at his family. In the second, he appeared in just two episodes and was explicitly stated to be at summer camp the rest of the time.
  • The Desperate Housewives kids get this a lot. If one of them is involved in a storyline with a parent, suddenly any siblings they might have are completely forgotten. Especially odd in Lynette's case, where her character is "the one with all the kids," yet we barely see most of them all season while the chosen kid gets all the storylines. This is especially bad in season five. You would think the time skip would give the now older children more opportunities to be more involved with the storylines, but oh no... And it appears in spades in season six as well - MJ, whose older sister was attacked in the season premiere, has only appeared significantly in one episode (understandable, since the character is six), and Ana, who was brought on to give Gabby a hard time, has been put aside so that Gabby can instead suffer the 'joy' of homeschooling her own daughter.
  • Dexter can't watch the kids and murder people at the same time. The stepchildren get Put on a Bus to live with their grandparents after Rita becomes incapable of taking care of them. Dexter buys the adjacent apartment for the babysitter so baby Harrison can be put away with ease without making him appear negligent.
  • Richie Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, once hilariously described on an older Nick At Nite promo as "Richie Petrie: low-maintenance boy".
  • Doctor Who: In "Death in Heaven", Clara is given a child to look after. It is a temporary arrangement (she is asked to find the child's real parents) but nevertheless the child is absent with no explanation by the next story, "Last Christmas".
  • Happens to Ben and later Emma a lot in Friends. Justified with Ben, since Carol and Susan are his primary caregivers. However, Emma is always explained as being at somebody else's house.
  • Gigi on Gilmore Girls. After she served her convenient function of breaking up Christopher and Lorelai/making Lorelai angst in seasons 2 & 3, she was always conveniently at Grandma's or whatnot. This was especially glaring in season 7 when Lorelai and Christopher moved in together and got married - and Gigi was still being shuttled off to Grandma's/Paris/etc.
  • This became the permanent fate of Ralph's son on The Greatest American Hero. After featuring prominently in the first couple of episodes, he began disappearing increasingly frequently during the first season, until he and the custody battle over him vanished altogether with no explanation. We're left to assume that the mom got custody and Ralph got no visitation, which is pretty weird considering his status as a squeaky-clean school teacher.
  • Molly on Heroes gets sent off to stay with the mother of one of her temporary foster fathers between seasons 2 and 3, and stays gone aside from an appearance in an alternate timeline, the comics, and Heroes Reborn (2015). Her exact destination seems to be a bit of a retcon, since Mohinder starts talking about going back to India himself right after sending her there as an unaccompanied minor on what would have been a 24-hour flight. It seems like her exact destination might have been undecided before being resolved in the comics.
  • On Homeland, Frannie, Carrie's child with Brody, ends up here a lot. This becomes a minor plot point as her mother has left the baby in the care of her sister, who is disappointed with the mother's neglect of the baby.
  • On I Love Lucy, the Ricardos could always depend on Mrs. Trumbull to watch Little Ricky at a moment's notice (it's even explicitly stated that she babysits for free). During the first half of the Hollywood arc and the entire Europe arc, Lucy's mother stayed with him in New York.
  • Monk: Sharona frequently sent her kid off to her sister Gail, despite the fact that she was shown to hate her. Natalie has so far preferred the ubiquitous babysitter, or the Trope Namer camp.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: The science fiction sketch about killer blancmanges has the camera passing a couple the narrator says is not relevant to the story. At the conclusion, it turns out the couple was relevant—they eat killer blancmanges.
  • Orphan Black puts Kira on the bus for pretty much all of season 3 after the previous season's central conflict revolved around her.
  • This happened to just about every kid on any Star Trek series, with the exception of Wesley Crusher, and possibly Naomi Wildman. It was especially noticeable on Deep Space Nine, where Sisko could come home and find anyone but his son Jake sitting on the couch. DS9 however managed to justify it pretty well; Jake was a fairly responsible teenager and wouldn't necessarily need much adult supervision, though on one or two occasions he did get up to mischief while hanging around with Nog and caused his father a bit of grief, and the series made a point of addressing the fact that Ben's job took up a lot of his time and made it hard to raise his son single-handed. Eventually the trope stopped applying altogether when Jake turned 18 and moved into his own place.
    • The trope is strangely zig-zagged on TNG in regards to Alexander. When Worf gets custody of him following his mother's death, his first instinct is to shuttle him off to live with his adoptive parents on Earth. While this seems to work for a while, it isn't long before his parents show up and explain that they're too old to keep up with a little boy, and Worf has to take care of Alexander himself. After that it's pretty much even money on if Alexander will be present in episodes related to his dad or not; half the time he's either explained to be visiting his grandparents or just conspicuously absent with no excuse.
    • The episode when Alexander finally showed up on DS9 lampshaded and rather mercilessly deconstructed this trope; he had some pretty major abandonment issues and was justifiably pissed off with his dad while still trying desperately to earn his approval.
  • This becomes a very dark plot point on WandaVision when Vision starts to wonder where all the children in Westview are, causing Wanda to bring them all out for the Halloween Episode. After Agatha temporarily frees all of the inhabitants of Westview from their brainwashing, Dottie (whose real name is Sarah) begs Wanda to "write" a storyline involving her daughter just so she could be with her again. Here, we learn that Wanda keeps all the kids locked in their rooms, because they're not needed for the story.
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    Video Games 
  • Despite its intent to bring the entire surviving crew of the Normandy back for one last hurrah, Dr. Chakwas had to sit the Citadel DLC of Mass Effect 3 out, with Specialist Traynor mentioning that the doctor is attending an emergency medical consul. She did drop off some liquor for the party, though; if only Shepard had been early enough to try some! Kelly Chambers likewise does not attend, but between her crippling case of PTSD regarding the Normandy and taking care of refugees in the Wards, she has her hands quite full.

    Western Animation 
  • Inverted in Batman Beyond when Bruce Wayne would be mentioned to be in some foreign country whenever the writers needed Terry to handle things on his own.
  • DuckTales (1987): In spite of living at Scrooge's mansion, Webby, Mrs. Beakley and Duckworth are absent in multiple episodes taking place mostly or partly "at home":
    • Webby's inexplicably absent in "The Uncrashable Hindentanic", "The Bride Wore Stripes" and "Nothing to Fear" among others.
    • Mrs. Beakley is likewise nowhere to be found in "Nothing to Fear". She's also mysteriously absent in "Armstrong", "Bubba's Big Brainstorm", "Luck o' the Ducks" and "Time Teasers" to name a few.
    • Duckworth also takes off "Luck o' the Ducks", the loyal butler isn't around for the home scenes in "A Whale of a Bad Time" or to visit Scrooge in "Duckman of Aquatraz".
  • Nearly all major characters from DuckTales (2017) have an episode or two where they don't even get mentioned.
  • Futurama:
    • Farnsworth's cloned son Cubert was originally intended to be a series regular, but he only appeared sporadically after his initial appearance. "The Route of All Evil" explains his absence by establishing that he goes to boarding school along with Hermes and LaBarbara's son Dwight.
    • Children are conspicuously absent from "The Beast With a Billion Backs," by design of the writers since the plot involves a randy interdimensional Physical God molesting every sapient human and alien in the universe with millions of Naughty Tentacles. This gets even weirder at the point where everyone decides to move to an alternate dimension to collectively marry the being in question, including Farnsworth and the Conrads, with no explanation as to the whereabouts of their school-aged children.
    • After Farnsworth's famous "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" moment in "A Clockwork Origin," he does relocate to another planet, leaving the crew—who are helping him move—asking what he did with Cubert. It turns out he left him in the care of his godfather, Doctor Zoidberg, indefinitely. Naturally, Farnsworth has taken the kid off Zoidberg's claws again by the end of the episode.
  • In an episode of Transformers Animated, Optimus Prime mentions that Sari and Bumblebee have gone on "an important fact-finding mission this morning. To someplace called... 'Five Banners Roller Coaster Kingdom'."
  • The writers of The Venture Bros. mention multiple times on the DVD commentaries that they're constantly having to resist the temptation write out Hank and Dean. After they plot out what happens with Doctor Venture and Brock Samson, they struggle to figure out what stupid thing the boys will get up to in their subplot.
 
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Ms. Bustier is pregnant!

Ms. Bustier announces that she is pregnant and this is why she does not join her students in their trip to New York City.

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