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Relationship-Salvaging Disaster

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"It's funny, my whole life I didn't think I had any family. Turns out I got two. So, the world is a bit of a mess right now, I'm going to go break a few of them out of prison, see if I can help patch things up."
Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow (2021)

Two characters used to be friends or lovers, but now they aren't even on speaking terms. The odds don't look good that they'll patch things up on their own. Fortunately, the plot is on their side: some external disaster happens and the characters get back together as a direct result.

Variants include:

  • Alice is ticked off at Bob, and then disaster strikes and Bob has to rescue Alice. This rescue convinces Alice that Bob isn't so bad after all.
  • Alice is ticked off at Bob, and then disaster strikes, and Bob is in danger. Alice has to put aside her anger to rescue Bob.
  • Alice and Bob are ticked at each other. The disaster forces them to put their differences aside and work together.

Of course, shared disasters aren't exactly a great foundation for (re)building a relationship. Hopefully, in Bob and Alice's case, the disaster is simply a catalyst for spending more time together and genuinely reconciling; or it reminds them that life is short and their relationship is more important than whatever it was that drove them apart.

Very, very common in the Disaster Movie genre. May involve The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People. If a third party is involved, the disaster may cause the Death of the Hypotenuse. It may overlap with Nice Job Fixing It, Villain, if a Big Bad with a grudge against Alice or Bob sets the disaster that reunites them.

Compare Fire-Forged Friends, Rescue Romance, and Conflict Killer. If the two characters were divorced but get together again, it can overlap with Divorce Is Temporary. It also can make a Broken Pedestal turn into a Rebuilt Pedestal. Contrast Grief-Induced Split, where a couple is driven apart instead.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Future Diary, a few days after Yuki is released from Yuno's confinement, the attacks of the 7th force Yuki and Yuno to come back together to beat the 7th. It helps that after this Yuki was convinced by the 7th to reevaluate their relationship and give Yuno an important Armor-Piercing Question about her love for him.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • The Kyoto arc serves as this to Konoka and Setsuna. For several years, Setsuna distanced herself from Konoka due to feeling ashamed of her failure to save her from almost drowning when they were kids. In the Kyoto arc, Konoka is kidnapped and Setsuna helps to save her. After that and Konoka telling Setsuna that her wings are beautiful, they become close again.
    • In the Beach Episode, some of the girls from Negi's class try to pull this off to help Negi and Asuna make up after a fight. They throw Negi in the water and get him attacked by some fake sharks, played by Natsumi and Ku Fei, and have Asuna go save him. The plan fails miserably.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: When Tim's parents were kidnapped with Batman showing up to save them, it looked like it would help their relationship recover since Tim had said they'd been fighting and implied they were looking at divorce and their shared trauma has pushed them closer together. Instead, Janet is killed and Jack is left paralyzed in a coma due to poisoning.
  • Darkwing Duck: A platonic example; Launchpad and Darkwing are not on speaking terms at the beginning of The Duck Knight Returns thanks to a previous incident with Negaduck. When the Quackwerks Crime-bots start becoming more severe in their crime-fighting work, Gosalyn suggests Darkwing look into it, and then sets off on her own and brings Launchpad into the investigation. The two work together, initially grudgingly, but by the time the situation's reached its climax, they're crime-fighting partners again.
  • This happened with Tim Drake & Stephanie Brown in a crossover between Red Robin and Batgirl.
  • In Runaways, Karolina gets fed up with Xavin's behavior during the team's adventures in 1907, and comes this close to dumping them, but between their near-death during a huge battle and the collapse of Nico and Victor's relationship, the two decide to work out their differences instead. Of course, Xavin dissolves their relationship shortly afterwards by posing as Karolina when a bunch of her fellow Majesdanians come looking for a scapegoat for the destruction of their homeworld.

    Fan Works 
  • In the The King of Fighters now-unreadable fanfic A Cruel Angel's Thesis, Kyo and Yuki's relationship has become very distant and even the Original Character protagonist Kira has called him out on it, specially after Yuki almost believes that Kyo is cheating on her with Kira. The "disaster" that fixes it is Yuki being kidnapped and slated to become a Targeted Human Sacrifice in front of Kyo, Iori, and Kira (who by that moment is acting as The Mole within the Orochi clan).
  • Experimenting Fear: Nando's parents are on the brink of divorce due to a variety of issues, like Ronaldo's gambling debt and Alice's mother intentionally driving a wedge between them, as well as abusing her grandson. After Nando gets kidnapped, Alice learns how cruel her mother is and banishes her from their house, allowing his parents to repair their relationship and fall in love with each other all over again.
  • The Second Try: Shinji and Asuka had spent the entire show unable to admit to themselves and each other their feelings. Their relationship got worse and as a result of it they were unable to prevent the demise of everyone in the world but them. The end of the world forced them to carry with only each other, living and working together. In the process, they not only matured but also learnt to open up to each other and got together and eventually married.
  • What if Noelle Lost Her Way?: When Noelle goes missing, Toriel asks her ex-husband Asgore to look after Kris while she helps with the search efforts. Asgore clearly hopes that this is a sign their relationship is improving, gushing to Kris about what the future might hold... right in front of an unimpressed Toriel, who takes him outside and reads him the riot act.
    • Played somewhat straighter in its Snowgrave counterpart, What if Noelle Lost Herself?. Rather than blatantly hoping that this disaster will help bolster their relationship, Asgore offers Toriel sincere and honest support, which she clearly appreciates. Sadly, Kris poisoning his tea puts a stop to that.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Frozen (2013), due to the accident where Elsa accidentally hurts Anna with her powers, their parents made a decision to separate the two. Also, the trolls that Anna was taken to for healing independently decided to wipe her memory of Elsa's powers. This ultimately strains their relationship, and for 13 years, they remained estranged from each other. But all that changes when Elsa accidentally outs her powers during an argument with Anna and plunges Arendelle into an Endless Winter in the process and through all the hardships, obstacles, and sacrifices, it ultimately allowed both Elsa and Anna to reconnect with each other and rekindle the relationship that they had as children.
  • The Incredibles has Bob and Helen Parr going through relationship troubles due to the former trying to relive the Superhero Glory Days instead of spending time with his family to the point that Helen thought Bob was possibly cheating on her. Then Syndrome enters the picture, which forces Helen to go on a rescue mission due to Bob being taken captive. After they defeat Syndrome, they are able to mend the rift between them and are shown by the end to be much closer.
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines: Rick Mitchell tries to bond with his estranged daughter Katie by taking her to her new college during a family road trip, with limited success. What ends up actually causing them to bond is having to work together to save the world from a rebellious AI.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 2012: Our lead starts as a divorcee, but gets back together with his wife despite her new fiancé being there for most of the film as well. It helps that her new fiancé gets brutally killed in the last act of the film, as well.
  • The Abyss: In the Back Story, the marriage of Bud and Lindsey Brigman was on the rocks because they fought all the time. The deep sea rig they're in is cut off from the surface during a storm, and while they await rescue, they fall in love again.
    • Interestingly enough, early on, they have a fight that prompts Bud to toss his wedding ring down the toilet. He quickly fishes it back out. It turns out to be Chekhov's Gun later. He may have seen that as a sign.
  • Airplane!, which is a direct parody of Zero Hour! (1957), involves a character named Ted Stryker, who reunites with his ex-wife Elaine as a result of his heroics during a crisis.
  • Babel: Richard and Susan's became strained after the death of their infant son, and their trip to Morocco is a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage. It's not until Susan accidentally gets shot and nearly dies that their relationship slowly gets rekindled.
  • In the 2010 film Beautiful Boy, Bill and Kate were separated when their son Sam committed a school shooting and killed himself. While they're laying low from the local media, they rekindle their relationship.
  • Cloverfield starts with Rob and Beth having a fight. Then, Kaiju happens. A good half of the movie is about Rob & Co. looking for Beth. Naturally, they reconciled after they meet — for what little time they got left.
  • Die Hard: John gets back together with his ex-wife as a result of saving her from robbers who took over the Nakatomi building. Unfortunately, they divorce in the later sequels.
  • For Richer or Poorer: Brad and Caroline save their marriage while hiding from the authorities inside an Amish community. When they are cleared, they thank the guy who framed them.
  • In Jurassic Park III, the divorced Paul and Amanda Kirby trick Alan Grant into accompanying them on an expedition to save their son Eric after he got stranded in the dinosaur-filled jungle on Isla Sorna with Amanda's new boyfriend Ben Hildebrand. After locating Ben's corpse upon arrival, through the dangers on the island they reconcile their differences and reunite as a family after Paul is almost killed saving them from the Spinosaurus.
    • Also Owen Grady and Claire Dearing: while the trope is downplayed in Jurassic World, as their prior romance had been a single disastrous date, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom starts with them having broken up again, coming back together over the course of the return to Isla Nublar and the incident and Lockwood Manor, with Jurassic World Dominion confirming that they had stayed together since the events of Fallen Kingdom.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are not on speaking terms after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and it takes Thanos snapping half of the entire Universe out of existence, plus some five years for Tony to even consider working together with Steve again. And even then, they don't explicitly reconcile until one of their plans goes awry halfway through Avengers: Endgame, and they must team up to find an alternative solution.
      Tony: Do you trust me?
      Steve: I do.
    • Black Widow (2021) is the story of how two estranged sisters manage to reconnect to each other and their now separated parents by facing a shared problem together. Of course, since this is a superhero action movie, the older sister is a spy, the younger sister is an assassin, the father is a former Super-Soldier, the mother is a mad, er, morally dubious scientist, the only reason they consider each other a family at all is because they spent three years pretending to be one for a deep-cover assignment, and the shared problem is their former control officer and his not quite dead black-ops agency.
  • In Passengers (2016), Jim and Aurora's relationship understandably falls apart when Aurora learns that Jim woke her up and stranded her with him just so he wouldn't be alone. However, a conveniently timed series of malfunctions that nearly destroys the ship gets them to team up and save it, and ultimately brings them back together.
  • The 2005 Film of the Book The Poseidon Adventure has Richard Clarke, taking his family on a New Year's cruise. It's shown at the beginning that Richard's marriage is on the rocks. His wife actually kicks him out of their room. He ends up having an affair with a female crewmember. After the ship flips over due to a bomb planted by a terrorist, the Clarke family and a few other survivors try to make it to safety. As the survivors climb a damaged catwalk, the female crewmember ends up falling to her death, leaving Richard to reconcile with his family.
  • The Radioland Murders: The leads are on the brink of divorce because the male lead (probably) had a one-night stand with Ms. Yo-Yo Knickers. A Locked Room Mystery Clear My Name plot somehow comes into being at the same time as Hilarity Ensues, during which the female lead realizes anew just how many common points the two share. (As she saves his butt repeatedly.)
  • In San Andreas, Ray and Emma are separated and are going to divorce, but this is interrupted when they have to save Emma from a major earthquake. The disaster also goes on to cause the Death of the Hypotenuse, so of course they end up getting back together.
  • Shaun of the Dead is billed as "a romantic comedy with zombies" for this reason.
  • More like relationship-beginning disaster, but lampshaded in Speed when Annie notes that relationships that begin under intense circumstances never work out. Turns out to be true — by the sequel, she and Jack have broken up.
  • Peter and Mary Jane's relationship had been falling apart throughout Spider-Man 3. Mary Jane felt like Peter wasn't there for her after she got a bad review from the play which eventually got her fired, got jealous when Peter as Spider-Man kissed Gwen Stacy, reenacting their upside-down kiss from the first film (even though it was just a publicity stunt), and was eventually threatened into breaking up with him by an evil Harry. Peter, meanwhile, was acting like a jerk towards her under the influence of the symbiote, and the two had been distant for most of the film. Cue to the climax when Mary Jane is kidnapped by Sandman and Venom, and Peter teams up with a Heel-Face Turned Harry to rescue her, which ultimately mends their relationship and gets them back together.
  • Taken: Although Brian Mills stays divorced from his ex-wife, his heroics in the first movie put him on much better terms with her and their daughter for the remainder of the franchise.
  • Twister. Bill Harding meets with his former wife Jo Harding to get her to sign their divorce papers. They end up going on an adventure together involving dangerous tornadoes and discover that they still love each other.
  • A mild, preschool-friendly version in Wee Sing in Sillyville: All the Sillyville citizens used to be friends, but have since adopted Fantastic Racism – no one will talk to anyone who wears different colors than they do. The only mutual friend of all the groups is the white-clad sprite Sillywhim. But at the climax, Sillywhim hurts her ankle, and all the others work together to bandage it with their different colored scarves, ties, and ribbons. This finally reminds them of how well their colors - and they as friends - go together.
  • Welcome Home (2018): Cassie and Bryan have a weekend vacation at an Italian villa to try to repair their relationship following Cassie cheating on him. Things aren't going so well until the voyeur stalker that rented them the house attacks them, and the two fighting him off brings them closer together.
  • In Woman on the Run, Frank witnesses a murder and goes into hiding. His wife Eleanor tries to find him, and in the process, rekindles their dead marriage and love for one another.
  • Zero Hour! (1957): Ted Stryker's Grew a Spine moment is what saves his marriage in the end.

  • Jake and Cassie in Animorphs may represent the flipside of this trope, as they break up after the war ends. They played it straight(er) at first, given that they had mutual crushes at the start of the series, but their relationship doesn't become (slightly more) official until mid-war.
  • In Moonlight Becomes You, the villain's attempt to murder Maggie does wonders for her and Neil's relationship. They weren't on the best terms for much of the novel due to a misunderstanding and had only just started to make up. Then when Maggie is abducted and Buried Alive, Neil does everything in his power to find her, horrified at the thought of something terrible happening to her. Meanwhile, Maggie's Near-Death Experience results in a Love Epiphany. After Neil rescues Maggie from the coffin, they start a romantic relationship, with the implication they'll eventually marry.
  • In Ramona Forever, Ramona got into an argument with Beezus and the two refused to speak to each other for a few days. When their cat, Picky-picky, died, the sisters reconciled as they tried to give him a proper burial.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ashes of Love: Run Yu and Xu Feng eventually reconcile after Jin Mi, the woman they both love, dies in the crossfire of their war.
  • The first-season finale of Arrested Development sees Lindsey and Tobias Funke contemplating divorce, as it seems obvious that they have Incompatible Orientation. However, when Lindsey's father, George Bluth, Sr., suffers a heart attack, and Tobias rushes to her side to offer emotional support, Lindsey decides that maybe there is still something worth saving in their relationship.
  • Amy and Rory on Doctor Who. It took being kidnapped by Daleks to get those two to work things out. Although the fact that the initial reason for the split was Amy's ill-advised case of I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy may have been a factor in their reconciliation.
  • Rachel runs out on her wedding in the pilot of Friends, sending her to Monica, the only person she knew who lived close by. After being inseparable in school, they had drifted apart in their adult lives and hadn't kept in touch, and Monica even briefly balks at Rachel inviting herself to stay with Monica. They quickly become best friends again and stay that way.
  • Jax and Tara in Sons of Anarchy. After Abel gets kidnapped at the end of season 2, throughout season 3, Jax tries to push Tara away. But when she gets kidnapped and he saves her, and he finds out that she is pregnant with his child, things smooth out.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Junction", Melissa Parker discovers on September 15, 1986, that her husband John cheated on her with another woman. The next morning, after John has spent the night on the sofa, she tells him that she will pack his things for him and she expects him to move out once his shift in the mine is over. John pleads for forgiveness, asking if he has to apologize for one mistake for the rest of his life, but Melissa is too hurt to listen. Shortly afterwards, John becomes trapped in a cave-in and is transported back in time to September 16, 1912, where he saves the life of another trapped miner named Ray Dobson. Ray writes a letter to Melissa and tells her that John was only thinking of her and how much he hurt her in what he thought would be his last moments. After John is located using the information in Ray's letter, Melissa is delighted to see him. She tearfully accepts his now much more heartfelt apology and takes him home.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Luna and Ivy were Childhood Friends who drifted apart after Luna got herself embroiled with Nadine's gang and started to look down on her old geeky hobbies in order to impress her new leader. After the Mass Super-Empowering Event the two of them meet up to discuss their newfound powers, which in turn leads to them becoming closer again, something that Luna lampshades:
    "I wish it didn't take the whole world crumbling for us to talk again- am I right?"

    Video Games 
  • Deconstructed in ENIGMA: An Illusion Named Family. The Yoo family's various issues with each other don't simply go away when they're trapped in their manor with an unknown killer. What's more, one of the main routes climaxes with the mastermind revealing they were trying to invoke this, only to watch everything snowball far beyond their control.
  • One of Ethan's possible epilogues in Heavy Rain implies that he's going to get back together with his estranged wife despite the fact she's responsible for getting Blake to think he is the Origami Killer.
  • This happens twice in the first Kingdom Hearts game.
    • First is Sora and Donald beginning to bicker over landing in a world because Sora thinks his missing friends are there, but Donald thinks it is a type of world where Mickey wouldn't enter (anymore, in hindsight). Their friendship is mended after defeating the predator Arc Villain... and slightly torn over a petty fight over who pilots the Gummi Ship later on.
    • Second is when Donald and Goofy are both forced into a Face–Heel Turn when Riku retakes the Keyblade from Sora. But when Riku later tries to kill Sora, both imminently rejoin him to protect him, which also gives Sora the strength to retake the Keyblade from Riku.
  • The very first game of the Ratchet & Clank series has the titular duo on negative terms after the events of Umbris, because Ratchet is obsessed with revenge against Captain Qwark, to the point of ignoring Clank's warnings that billions of lives are at stake because of Drek. It takes the destruction of Oltanis and a good chunk of its population for Ratchet to finally get a Heel Realization and set things right again, with him and Clank finally getting along again.


    Web Original 
  • In Thalia's Musings, Thalia thinks Eros' disappearance will be this to Hephaestus and Aphrodite's troubled marriage. Averted when the resolution culminates in their long-overdue divorce.
  • In the latest Helluva Boss episode oops, despite the hell their kidnapping was, both Blitz and his cybernetic friend Fizzarolli managed to repair their relationship together

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls: The Weirdmageddon event did a number of effects on other characters, but the most prominent one is the relationship between the Stans. Prior to the event, Stan and Ford are completely at each other's throats, the former accusing Ford as an Ungrateful Bastard while the latter demands Stan to stop the Mystery Shack business by the end of summer and move out. But during the apocalypse, the two agree to work together to stop Bill and save the kids after their argument initially bothced a way stop him. Afterwards, they reconciled with each other, and finally travel the world together on their new boat, the Stan O' War II, like they always dreamed of.
  • Total Drama:
    • Averted. Jo and Brick used to have a pleasant rivalry before Jo's survival-of-the-fittest mentality clashed with Brick's belief to look out for others. In "A Mine Is a Terrible Thing to Waste", they finally partake in a challenge as part of the same team once more and through the danger are on their way to reconciliation. Then another situation comes up where either they go for an assured victory or risk losing to save their former teammates from certain doom. Jo wants victory, but Brick saves the others at the cost of his team's victory. With that, it's over and Brick gets voted off by Jo and Lightning that evening.
    • Shawn and Jasmine had a solid romance growing until Shawn chose his own safety from perceived zombies over hers and attacked her. In "Hurl and Go Seek", Shawn spots Jasmine being chased by a mob of what he thinks are zombies and realizes he can't let history repeat itself. He jumps into the fray to save her and ultimately sacrifices himself to ensure she survives. In reality, his actions ensure Jasmine has immunity that evening while he loses out on his near-certain immunity. All the same, Jasmine is touched, and her and Shawn's romance gets back on track.