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Pretend to Be Brainwashed

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For whatever reason, a character is able to avoid being Brainwashed or Mind Controlled, whether it be Psychic Block Defense, Disability Immunity, Slept Through the Apocalypse, or not being in a situation to be affected. However, instead of immediately escaping or retaliating, our hero(ine) merely bides their time for an opportune moment to act. Maybe there are too many other people who are hypnotized in the vicinity that would outnumber the character should they act suspiciously, or there's a chance where they can undo the mind control while continuing the charade.

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Of course, during all this, it's important for the character to sufficiently act being mind controlled. Any act out of the ordinary will immediately out the character and put them in grave danger. In cases where a Hypno Trinket is involved, the character must find a way to obtain and wear one that isn't working or a replica of it.

Contrast with Not Brainwashed where a character is thought to be brainwashed but actually willingly follows the one who does the brainwashing. Compare with Pretend We're Dead.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop episode "Brain Scratch". Faye goes undercover to join the SCRATCH cult and pretends to have been brainwashed by acting like the other cultists.
  • Dragon Ball: In the anime-only Garlic Jr. Saga, Piccolo and Krillin both fake being under the influence of the Black Water Mist in order to get close to Garlic Jr. and get the Sacred Water to reverse the effects of the mist that he has unleashed on the world.
  • Played for Laughs in Lucky Star, when the comic store owner tries to geass Konata into buying a rare DVD—she takes it, goes to the counter, then promptly reveals that she doesn't actually have enough money to buy it and puts it right back.
  • Naruto: when Orochimaru launches his surprise invasion in Chunin Exam arc, Kabuto puts a sleeping spell that affects the tournament spectators. Shikamaru is among the few ninjas in the audience seats who escaped the jutsu, but he still pretends to sleep so he doesn't have to bother with whatever happened rather than wait for an opportunity to act.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, Diamond notes the Galactic mooks with their Hive Mind don't even notice him marching with them after he knocks out a stray one and steals his uniform. His cover only gets blown after he stops a moment to plan his next move... thus showing that he isn't a brainless mook like the rest of them.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Judai, Johan, and Yusuke have a three way duel. Yusuke tries to brainwash Judai and Johan into fighting each other so that he can win more easily. It apparently works and the two inflict damage on each other. Just as Yusuke starts to gloat, the two start laughing at him and reveal damaging each other was necessary in order to activate a card to break Yusuke's combo.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • NICOLE does this when freed from the Iron Queen's control; she pretends to be subservient until the heroes can turn the tide.
    • Earlier in the series, Sonic's roboticized parents retained their free will when all other Robians were remotely controlled thanks to their Power Ring-based wedding bands, and only pretended to be enslaved to Eggman to prevent him from discovering this and removing the rings and their free will.
  • In Fantastic Four #s 347-349, Reed Richards is brainwashed by a Skrull infiltrator pretending to be Sue, but he's only pretending in order to rescue the other three, who are being held in stasis. Skrull!Sue contacts Hulk, Ghost Rider, Wolverine & Spider-Man to become the "New" Fantastic Four, who end up rescuing the originals.
  • Tintin: In The Blue Lotus, Tintin is injected with a liquid that will make him mad. Lo and behold, Tintin starts acting like a madman. The man who injected Tintin lets Tintin out of his grounds. Tintin gets away and then reveals to Snowy (who had seen Tintin acting like a madman) that he was only pretending and was in fact sane, but doesn't know why he hasn't gone mad as he was definitely injected with something. The reader then learns that the madness serum got switched with coloured water, and that was what Tintin got injected with.

    Fan Works 
  • In Fellowship of the Raven, Ireena eventually gains an immunity to Strahd's Charm Person abilities, but intentionally pretends to be under its effects until she can surprise him and roll a critical Searing Smite on him.
  • Marionettes:
    • Trixie is in a train when Gear Shift and Cover Story appear and put all the passengers under their control. Trixie isn't affected, but she nervously pretends to be in an effort to not be noticed. Unfortunately, they spot her when her hat gets blown off and give chase.
    • Twilight pretends to be affected by the mind control to lure Gear Shift and Cover Story into a trap.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Roll and Bass do this when Splash Woman tries to brainwash them. Roll does it to catch her off-guard, while Bass hides that he can resist her powers until it's too late for her to do anything about it.
  • Pony POV Series:
    • In the Wedding Arc, Moondancer is under the Changelings' control and is eventually freed by her friends. When some Changelings show up, she pretends to still be under their control until they leave.
    • In the Finale Arc, a Brainwashed and Crazy Zecora starts slapping magic masks that take over whoever wears them on the heroes. When Apple Bloom is the only one still free and all seems lost, Scootaloo suddenly reveals she used her innate Pegasus tactile telekinesis to stop her mask from actually touching her face, and gets the drop on the others.
  • In With Strings Attached, Paul is zapped by the same mind-controlling pink sword that hit John earlier in the book. It makes him fall hopelessly in love with the woman (Bayanis) wielding it. She proceeds to spend a day and a half trying to get him to learn a critical spell, but he's been made so dopey by the sword that he continually screws it up. Eventually, when the others are sneaking around intending to rescue him from Bayanis's clutches, she orders him to go out and kill them. That's when he reveals he's been faking it all along, doing his bit to delay the baddies' plans.
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    Films — Animation 
  • Princess Jasmine in Aladdin does this towards the end. Jafar wished for her to fall in love with him (which is not possible to wish for), but when she sees Aladdin trying to sneak closer, she instantly plays the part to distract the wizard.
  • In Barbie & The Diamond Castle, Lydia uses her flute on Liana and Alexa and commands them to drown in the whirlpool. When it seems they are mind controlled, they are really faking it — they are hiding their heart stone necklaces (which protect them from the spell) behind their backs, and instead of jumping into the whirlpool, they steal their flute instead.
  • In Freddie as F.R.O.7 (a.k.a. Freddie the Frog), Daffers is captured and taken to be brainwashed, but isn't affected for reasons that are never explained. She maintains her cover by chanting "The snake will rule the world" until she's rescued.
  • At the end of Strange Magic Princess Marianne is hit with a Love Potion by her ex-fiancé, Roland. She is unaffected because she has already fallen in love with the Bog King over the course of the movie and true love renders the potion useless but plays the part so she can get close enough to deck him.
  • In Zootopia, Nick does this during the climax after being getting shot with a drug that forces the victim into a savage, animalistic state. He and Judy were able to swap the rounded pellets in the gun out with blueberries prior to this scene, with Nick's pretending to attack Judy being done to buy time for the police to show up and push the Big Bad into vocalizing their plan to a hidden tape recorder.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Cypher, a bunch of sales people are drugged from served drinks and then brainwashed. Amongst them, the protagonist manages to stay sober by means of an antidote. He then continues to act like everyone else while observing what is being done to the group.
  • In Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., Tom Campbell is about to be converted into a Roboman when the process is interrupted. He then has to try to blend in with a squad of fully-converted Robomen.
  • In Equilibrium, everyone uses a drug called Prozium designed to block out emotions so that there will be no more violent conflict. Refusal to administer it is punishable by death. The hero stops taking the drug at some point but in order to maintain his cover, he has to act emotionless from then on. The Big Bad is doing the same.
  • In Flash Gordon, Klytus, the metal-faced head of Ming's secret police, performs a brainwashing procedure on Dr. Zarkov where his whole memory is supposed to be wiped out. When he is rescued later, he reveals that he resisted the brainwashing by using Psychic Static.
    Dale Arden: So that's why they let us escape. Klytus thought he'd wiped out your memory.
    Zarkov: But do you know why it really failed? [...] As I was going under I started to recite Shakespeare, the Talmud, the formulas of Einstein, anything I could remember, even a song from The Beatles. It armored me, girl. They couldn't wipe those things away. You can't beat the human spirit.
  • In an overlap with Pretend We're Dead, because they're Technically Living Zombies, in The Mummy (1999) Jonathan escapes Imhotep's mind-controlled horde by shambling slowly alongside them chanting "Imhotep" until they've passed him by.
  • As a teenager, Na-mi from Sunny scared off some bullies by pretending to be demon possessed.

    Literature 
  • Comes up in Divergent, where the Dauntless faction is mind-controlled into attacking Abnegation. The Divergent are resistant to this; Tris and Four blend in while another Divergent, not knowing what is going on, is shot dead.
  • In Guardians Of Gahoole, a "moon-blinked" owl is one who has fallen asleep facing the full moon, and so has forgotten their identity. The "orphanage" in the first book uses this technique to bring owls under its control, and when Soren and Gylfie realize they can resist it, they act as if it has worked on them.
  • Priest-Kings of Gor: The Priest-Kings have a neural implant they use on people who then become puppets of the Priest-Kings. During a Priest-King civil war, Tarl is captured by the other side and is implanted, with the intended use of being a Laser-Guided Tyke-Bomb to kill the leader of the opposition - but he isn't really implanted. The Priest-King who is supposed to have implanted it didn't because Tarl kept his two pet humans from being killed. Tarl is quietly informed how to pretend to be under control during a testing phase.
  • In the third book of the Lionboy trilogy, Charlie is captured and taken to the Corporacy. The people within are brainwashed by something in the air within the area, but Charlie discovers that he is immune thanks to the leopard blood within him, other animals also being unaffected. To avoid being found out while planning out a way escape and free the others being kept there, he pretends to be under the effects of the air whenever the people working at the place are paying attention to him.
  • In Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. the Voodoo Vultures from Venus, the eponymous vultures have hypnotized the entire city of Squeakyville. Ricky and his Robot hatch a plan to feed them cookies with hot peppers, but Ricky has to pretend to be hypnotized when he gives them the cookies.
  • Star Wars Legends: In The Truce at Bakura, Luke manages to use the Force to free Dev from the brain-washing the Ssi-Ruuk had done to him, but he's still surrounded by them so he has to pretend he's still under their influence, forcing himself not to show any signs of nervousness, as a brainwashed person would not.
  • In the first novel of the Sword of Truth series, Wizard's First Rule, The Hero, Richard Cypher, accidentally falls victim to the intense Glamour powers of the female lead, Kahlan, which turns him into a submissive and Weak-Willed lackey who is completely devoted to her and will do anything for her sake. The Big Bad thus takes her hostage and forces Richard to execute the final strokes of his Evil Plan. But, as you may have guessed, Richard was faking the whole time. It turns out that because Richard is in perfect, true love with Kahlan, her powers can't change him, because he's already completely devoted to her and will do anything for her sake.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Superman, "Drums of Death". Jimmy Olsen and Perry White's sister Kate had been captured by the Villain of the Week, who gave Kate drugged tea so that she believes him when he puts paper chains on her and says they're magic iron chains. Jimmy never drank the tea, but he pretended to be brainwashed until he had an opportunity to escape (or Superman showed up).
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In "Yes Men", Coulson runs into Fitz, realizes he's under Lorelei's control, pretends to be under her control as well and walks away.
  • 1960's Batman: in the episode "Tut's Case is Shut", King Tut arranges to slip Batman a mind control drug. Batman appears to be under Tut's control, but later turns the tables on Tut. He reveals that the drug did not affect him because he coated his stomach by drinking buttermilk ahead of time.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a variation in one episode. The Mayor hires someone to remove Angel's soul, reverting him to his villainous alter ego Angelus. After that happens, he and slayer-turned-evil Faith capture Buffy and take her to their hideout. But it turns out that the demon hired to remove Angel's soul was secretly in league with Giles and only pretended to remove Angel's soul. This is revealed here:
    Faith: What can I say? I'm the world's best actor.
    Angel: Second best.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Age of Steel": Rose and Pete, with the help of fake earpods, infiltrate the Cyberman factory by pretending to be two more of the mind-controlled civilians marching in to be Cyberconverted.
    • "The Lie of the Land": The Doctor turns out to have been pretending to be under the control of the Monks so he could infiltrate their ranks and try to bring them down from the inside.
  • An episode of Dollhouse has five Actives wake up without the base programming. When they meet other Actives and see what they're like, they try to act like the others; one fails and has programming restored, but the other four are able to fake it long enough to make a getaway. As it turns out, DeWitt and the others were aware that the Actives weren't normal, and had deliberately caused the event in hopes of fixing their glitchiness. All four are recovered and returned to Active duty by the end of the episode.
  • In Falling Skies, the alien Espheni have children in a Hitler Youth-style "reeducation camp". Matt Mason is fortunately Genre Savvy enough (having watched a lot of The History Channel) to realize what's going on and resist the brainwashing, but he pretends to go along with it.
  • One episode of Farscape has the ship taken over by a group of Nebari who then "cleanse" the crew. However, Crichton turns out to be partially immune to the brainwashing and decides to play along. Amusingly, this includes talking like a surfer. Later, Rygel also gets in on the act when it's revealed his high metabolism made the cleansing wear off earlier than expected.
  • In House of Anubis Sibuna did this in season 2. They had managed not to be brainwashed simply by knowing what Vera and Victor were planning to do, and pretended the brainwashing worked so Victor would use them as pawns for the Senet game, believing he'd win the game for them and they could free Nina/Get the mask before the three days are up.
  • Jessica Jones (2015):
    • This is how Jessica defeats Kilgrave. Jessica is immune to Kilgrave's mind control, and Kilgrave knows it. After he's tried to upgrade his powers she imitates being under his control long enough to walk up to him, and then break his neck.
    • Several people are very worried that once the fact of Kilgrave's powers becomes public knowledge, basically everyone will pretend to have been brainwashed by him to get away with crimes. This is why Jessica initially needs to keep Kilgrave alive; the only way to exonerate her client is to conclusively prove that Kilgrave can brainwash people, otherwise no one will believe it.
  • A stretch of Kamen Rider Drive sees Gou Shijima pretend to be brainwashed by the mind-controlling abilities of the Freeze Roidmude, which he has a rare genetic immunity to, in order to steal an important MacGuffin that the villains are using. Reality Ensues when the stress from his actions as part of this gambit leaves him even more bitter and jaded than he was before.
  • An episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers has Lord Zed kidnap Kimberly and brainwash her to act like Rita. The brainwashing fails, but Kimberly plays along: she acts like Rita and starts bullying Zed's henchmen.
  • In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Straight and Narrow", a young man attending a boarding school realizes that the other students are brainwashed by a chip inserted in their heads. He and one other student are immune to the mind control chip because of a drug they take for stomach ulcers. The protagonist has to pretend to comply with the demands of the institution to blend in until he can attempt escape.
  • Sledge Hammer!: Sledge is kidnapped by an evil TV company to turn him into a Manchurian Agent so he will assassinate the mayor. Attempts to give him The Ludovico Technique fail because he howls with laughter at all the violence they show him, but when they tap into his subconscious it seems to work. Sledge later reveals that he was just playing along, saying he doesn't have a subconscious.
  • On the Israeli teen drama series Split, Leo, a vampire, tries to wipe the memory of discovering that he's a vampire out of human Omer, repeatedly failing because of the protective metal that happens to be in Omer's hat. Omer eventually begs Leo to try again instead of killing him, and pretends it worked, and manages to fool Leo.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode "Conspiracy", Picard uncovers an alien plot to infect the leadership of Starfleet with Puppeteer Parasites in preparation for an all-out invasion. He goes straight to Starfleet Command to scope out which of his superiors haven't been infected, but he walks into a trap and is captured. Then Riker appears and seems to have been taken over by a parasite, but it was really a ploy so he could help Picard take them out (he couldn't reveal this to Picard without blowing his cover).
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager two parter "Unimatrix Zero" Janeway, Tuvok & Torres get captured by the Borg and assimilated; but they had had neural inhibitors implanted before the mission so they aren't Borgified in mind, although they act like regular Borg when others are around. Tuvok's inhibitor malfunctions and he becomes fully Borg.
  • In True Blood, Sookie pretends to be glamoured by Eric Northman so Mr. Gus and his Yakuza boys won't kill her but will let her live and leave.
  • In Ultraman Mebius Gaiden: Ghost Rebirth, (the 2-part prequel to Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends), Ultraman Hikari acts like he has been enslaved by the Four Heavenly Kings into serving them by taking down and imprisoning both Ultraman Taro and Ultraman Ace all throughout Part 1 of the Gaiden. In Part 2 however, just as Mebius returns with the Giga Battle Nizer to help revive Alien Emperor per the Kings' demands, Hikari reveals his true colors just as the Heavenly Kings receive their prized possession, revealing that he was never under their control and it was all a ruse to help free his comrades and stop the Kings' plan.
  • In the finale of The X-Files, Mulder is arrested as a murder suspect. The conspiracy obviously want to break him, make him plead guilty and have him executed. He appears brainwashed and complying in front of Scully and Skinner when they come to see him and try to get him a lawyer. Only few scenes later, Mulder is his own self and it's clear it was an act for the conspiracy.
    Scully: Damn it, Mulder. It's not funny to see you putting on that act.
    Mulder: No, that is funny... What's not funny is what they do to you in here if you don't put on that act.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pathfinder has this as a feat that Player Characters can take: if they successfully withstand a Charm Person, Mind Control, or similar spell, it registers to the spellcaster as a success rather than a failure. Further bluffing might be necessary to maintain the ruse once the spellcaster starts giving them instructions, however.
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 has the spelltouched feat "False Pretenses" in the Unearthed Arcana, which works the same way. Even if the subject resisted a Domination effect involving telepathic commands, the character still receive them — he's just not obligated to follow the instructions.

    Video Games 
  • One of the puzzles in INSIDE (pictured) requires you to blend in with an inspection line of controlled humans, and mimic their movements. Fail to do so, and you're toast.
  • Metal Arms: Glitch in the System has a level where Glitch infiltrates a Mil spy-droid assembly center by pretending to be a crate of droid parts and reassembled into a spy-droid himself (he can disassemble and reassemble himself at will, so this is not actually as detrimental as it sounds). When rebuilt, he retains full control of himself, but has to pass the various tests set up for the dozens of rebuilt and reprogrammed droids. The trick is properly acting the part of an obedient spy-droid until such time that he can meet up with other infiltrators to sabotage the place.
  • Prosecutor Sae Niijima from Persona 5 pretends to have had a Change of Heart at a critical time, buying time for the Phantom Thieves to pull a Change of Heart on the Big Bad. She did indeed receive a Calling Card, but never had a chance of heart, instead coming to the side of the Phantom Tieves during the time she spend interrogating the Player Character and learning exactly what kind of Government Conspiracy the Phantom Thieves have been dealing with.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police: In "The Mole, the Mob and the Meatball", Harry Moleman uses a hypnotic teddy bear to brainwash Sam and Max, not knowing that Sam has mind control-blocking technology built into his hat and Max is simply naturally immune to all forms of mind control. They play along so they can sabotage the Toy Mafia's operation while he isn't looking.
  • Star Wars Legends: In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, if you attempt to Mind Control a certain Toydarian with the Force, he will pretend it worked for a while before spectacularly No Selling it.
  • In System Shock 2, Bayliss is for some reason not affected by the Many's mind control, but goes along with the other soldiers as they load the Many's eggs onto the Rickenbacker.
  • In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Nate's ally Charlie Cutter is placed under the influence of a mind control drug by Desmond Talbot, which wears off after a short period of time. When Nate and friends run across Talbot again, a Mexican Standoff ensues and Charlie fakes still being under the drug's influence to get the drop on Talbot and his men. However, this backfires when Nate's group thinks he's actually still brainwashed, and they drop their guns to surrender because of it.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-4498 is the result of a testing accident that caused all of the staff of Site-53 to believe themselves to be Dr. Jack Bright with his Bunny-Ears Lawyer tendencies cranked Up to Eleven. That is, all of the staff except Dr. Alto Clef, who was late for work and simply decided to join the antics when he arrived, even when it devolved into attempted physical violence against a visiting group of doctors and a task force sent to restore order.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears has Duke Igthorn using magic bagpipes to put all of Duwnin into a trance. He also accidentally entrances most of the Gummi Bears when he plays the bagpipe again near their lair. However, Grammi avoids the effects due to being temporarily deafened in an accident. She tries to rescue them, but then has to pretend being under the bagpipe's influence after she's captured.
  • On Adventure Time, Finn and Jake are trapped in the Fight King's cursed battle arena and have to fight the various spirits there to get out; Jake is just letting Finn fight, and Finn seems to be getting more psychotic with each battle. Eventually the Fight King orders Finn to kill Jake and he seems to go along with it, but it's only a ploy to get the Fight King to lend Finn his sword, allowing them to defeat him.
  • In Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, when brainwashed by the villain Torque with a personality adjusting helmet, Booster pretends to be brainwashed since his personality center is located near his pelvis rather than his skull. Thus he fakes going rogue until he tries to convince his comrades Buzz, Mira, and XR that the helmet didn't work on him, and he is faking it to try to ambush Torque off-guard.
  • The Flintstones: Fred actually pretends to be one of his own clones from outer space, who can't say anything but "Yabba Dabba Doo" in a monotone. So he imitates them. It's only when he stops that they recognize he's not one of them and kick him out.
  • In the second Futurama movie "The Beast with a Billion Backs", Leela pretends to be attached to the Tentacle to infiltrate a worship sermon honoring it. Her "tentacle" turns out to be a rubber hose.
  • G.I. Joe: Renegades. In one episode, most of the team gets hypnotized (except for Tunnel Rat due to being Properly Paranoid to not get captured and brainwashed in the first place), but while Snake Eyes is captured, he merely pretends to be brainwashed.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002): In "The Monster Within", with Beastman's ability to control animals, he can control Man-E-Faces whenever he takes on his monster face. However, the last time Beastman tries this, Man-E-Faces is able to fight it off, then pretends to be under his control to get close enough to free a trapped He-Man.
  • The animated series (based on the movie) The Little Mermaid has an example in the episode "The Evil Manta" where the titular villain appears (to both Ariel and the viewer at home) to have successfully brainwashed Flounder into accepting his message of prejudice, only for Flounder to reveal he wasn't really listening to him.
  • In the Mega Man cartoon, Mega Man does this when freed from Wily's control in "Mega-Pinochio" to fool Wily's robots.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Cutie Map", Starlight Glimmer locks the heroes in Room 101 to brainwash them into joining her cult. It actually does start to affect them, but Fluttershy pretends to succumb early so she'll be let out. She then spies on Starlight while trying to figure out how to free everypony from her control.
  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends: Firestar and Iceman pretend to have been subsumed into the Swarm hive mind.
  • Static Shock. A Control Freak with Mind Control powers calls everyone out of their bed at midnight. Virgil, who wasn't affected due to his powers, follows them by acting like them.
  • In one episode of Ultimate Book of Spells, Cassy pretends to be under a mind-control spell so she can come up with a plan for how to stop one of Zarlack's evil schemes without having to worry about getting captured.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), the mutant parasitic wasp's virus brainwashes Leonardo and Raphael. Donatello starts work on a cure, but is infected before he can finish it, so he tells Michelangelo how to finish it in an act of desperation (Mikey isn't exactly known for his scientific knowledge). But then, after the virus takes over Donnie, he infects Mikey. A bit later on, Mikey approaches his brothers, acting mind-controlled, and then forces the antidote on them when he gets close. As properly revealed in a later episode, Mikey actually has a photographic memory, and he perfectly finished the antidote before the infection could take him over completely.

 
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Barbie & the Diamond Castle

Liana and Alexa pretend to fall under Lydia's spell so they can save Melody. They are not affected because of the protection from their heart stones.

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