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Revenge Reveal Story

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Revenge that is Best Served Cold can be intensified in a suspenseful manner by telling your target one of these stories, a backstory exposition that will let them know, bit by bit, that they are receiving their comeuppance, and why, in a more suspenseful and tension-building manner than simply announcing that My Name Is Inigo Montoya. The story typically begins in the guise of a fiction, ostensibly referring to abstract characters instead of "you" or "I" - and perhaps even beginning with "Once upon a time there was a man/woman..." - but it becomes increasingly clear to the target (and the audience if they don't already know) what the story is really referring to, generally occasioning an Oh, Crap! moment when the penny drops. The story might well follow an …And That Little Girl Was Me format and involve the words No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me.

The character who tells one of these stories has been grievously wronged in the past by the one to whom the story is being told, who is initially unaware of the teller's identity, and may not even remember the incident in question (compare But for Me, It Was Tuesday). The narrator of the story may have either already orchestrated his or her revenge, or be about to do so after incapacitating the target. The revenge often (but not always) consists of killing the target; poisoning is a popular method for this, as a way to seal the victim's fate beforehand while leaving them conscious for long enough to be told the story.

This trope may be either villainous or (anti-)heroic, and may function either as The Reveal (possibly a Twist Ending) or an Internal Reveal, depending on whether the audience is aware of what is going on beforehand.

Overlaps with Motive Rant and It's Personal. Compare Unknown Rival, My Name Is Inigo Montoya, You Killed My Father and But for Me, It Was Tuesday. A subtrope of Prepare to Die. Related somewhat to the Original Position Gambit if the latter is used on an intended revenge target (involving supposedly hypothetical questions posed to the target rather than a supposedly fictional story) and to Trial Balloon Question, which is usually less malicious. And This Is for... may serve as an abbreviated version for a more practical or less talkative character.


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    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in a comic from The Far Side, where a man at a phone booth is cornered by a trenchcoat-wearing elephant with a gun, with the caption: "Remember me, Mr. Schneider? Kenya. 1947. If you're going to shoot at an elephant, Mr. Schneider, you better be prepared to finish the job."

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Count of Monte Cristo: Edmond Dantès is falsely accused by two men and imprisoned by a third to avoid a career-ruining political scandal. As the titular Count, he returns to make their lives hell:
    • As Caderousse (who was a witness to the whole thing, but said nothing) lays dying, refusing to believe there is anything like a benevolent God due to the misery he's witnessed in his life, the Count reveals his identity to him. This makes Caderousse sit up and beg for redemption.
    • Morcerf demands a duel with the Count after Morcerf's betrayal of Ali-Pacha is revealed to the world. The Count hits him with his real identity, completely annihilating Morcerf, who returns home in a daze to find his wife (Dantes' fiancée) and son leaving, unwilling to stay in a house built on lies and treachery. He commits suicide right after.
    • Villefort sees his entire life collapse around him with the death of his in-laws and daughter (by his new wife, who wants her son to inherit her stepdaughter's fortune) and then wife and son. When the Count shows up to state his vengeance, Villefort instead shows him the last two corpses (which the Count hadn't intended). Villefort goes mad shortly after, prompting the Count to decide to spare the last one (despite the entire thing being Danglars' idea in the first place).
    • Danglars is imprisoned for a few days without food, and the Count doesn't reveal who he is, only asking if Danglars is sorry for what he did. Danglars is then freed with a relatively large amount of money without knowing what happened.
  • In The Dresden Files book, Dead Beat, one of Harry's antagonists is an old man who Harry descriptively nicknames "Liver Spots". Just before the book's climax, Liver Spots has Harry at his mercy, and as he's getting ready to go To the Pain, describes how his arm and legs don't move as well as they used to after he was beaten with a baseball bat. This eventually causes Harry to realize the man is Quintus Cassius, who Harry beat with a baseball bat to get information from in Death Masks and who Harry failed to recognize due to suffering Rapid Aging after losing the item that kept him immortal and ageless.
  • In The Odessa File, German journalist Peter Miller investigates the suicide of a Jewish man who happens to be a Holocaust survivor. After reading the dead man's diary, Miller sets out to investigate Eduard Roschmann, a former commandant of the Riga concentration camp. Initially, readers are led to believe that Miller wants Roschmann for his job and possibly to pay him for his actions during the Nazi regime. But it turns out he wants to avenge his father, who was the Army Captain that Roschmann shot while escaping during the end of the war.
  • In Tales from Netheredge, the Calisto enforcer who captures, imprisons and tortures Galen reveals himself as the survivor of a massacre by the Thunder rebels, and that his reason for doing this is to torment the rebellion leader who is in love with Galen.
  • In the Warrior Cats book Crookedstar's Promise, Mapleshade tells her story at the end of the book: her mate had cheated on her while she was pregnant with his kits, and then blamed her for their deaths when her Clan had exiled her and she tried to bring them across the river to him. She reveals that the reason she's been tormenting Crookedstar is because she wants revenge on her ex-mate and his bloodline, and Crookedstar is her mate's great-grandson by the other she-cat.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Done in the climax of numerous episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (and the short stories on which they are based).
    • In "The Right Kind of House", a woman puts her house up for sale for a ridiculously high amount, and when after five years she gets a prospective buyer, she invites him to have lemonade with her, and tells him some of the history of the house and of her son's death, gradually revealing that she knows that her son went down the wrong path and committed a huge robbery together with the buyer, the son hiding the money somewhere in the house and being murdered by the buyer in the course of trying to find it; hence, the excessive price she was demanding for her house was a trap to lure in someone who knew there was even more money hidden there. She has, of course, poisoned the buyer with the lemonade.
    • In "Road Hog", a man's son suffers an accident that proves fatal solely because they were delayed on the road by the epynomous character who slows them down and runs them into a ditch while they are rushing the son to get treatment. The father tracks down and invites the offender for a drink and then tells him the story of his son's death and that he has just poisoned him, resulting in the road hog panicking and driving away to go to hospital, only to meet with the dead son's brother, who deliberately obstructs and slows down the "Road Hog" and runs him off the road in the same way, resulting in him crashing and dying. The twist: the father didn't really poison him.
    • "Man with a Problem" features an apparently suicidal man preparing to jump off a building after his wife had run away with a man called Steve. After a policeman comes out to talk him down, and persuades him to have a rope tied around him for safety, the man thanks the policeman and then asks "Do you know why I chose this hotel on your beat?" before explaining that he had a wife until the previous night, when she killed herself "...because of you, Steve." at which he pushes Steve the policeman to his death in revenge.
    • Played with and subverted in "Invitation To An Accident". A man who suspects a husband of trying to murder his unfaithful wife takes the husband fishing, and over coffee, obliquely tells him he knows of a "man I knew who intended to commit murder" before a mutual friend intervened. The husband replies that it sounds very similar to a situation he knows, in which a husband knows his wife is cheating and acts to "protect his property" by isolating and offing the man she's cheating with. It becomes increasingly apparent that the husband wrongly thinks the other man is the paramour and has just poisoned him with arsenic; the dying man reveals the truth and the name of the true paramour, to the husband's horror that he just killed the wrong man.
  • In a staged scenario of Scare Tactics (Series 4 Episode 1), the scare victim is given a job serving food at a birthday party (at which all the other characters are actors), when an uninvited guest (also an actor) enters and professes to want to let "bygones be bygones" with the birthday man, presenting a cake from France, which is then cut and served to everybody. Once they have all eaten, the uninvited guest begins telling a story of "two friends", one of whom screwed over the other by using their joint business idea to make millions for himself. He is, of course, referring to the birthday man and himself, then reveals that the cake is poisoned, and he will give them a DVD with the antidote in exchange for $50m. A woman knocks him out and grabs the DVD which the victim frantically puts in the DVD player, only to be greeted by a video of Tracy Morgan telling her she's on Scare Tactics.
  • In Season 2 of Once Upon a Time, Arc Villain Greg tells one to an incapacitated Regina, who caused the disappearance of his father when he was a little boy.

  • The Decemberists: "The Mariner's Revenge Song" is a Revenge Ballad in which the narrator relates to his fellow sole survivor of a shipwreck while the two are Swallowed Whole by a whale the story of how the narrator and his mother's lives were ruined by the other man and how he came to hunt down this man for vengeance with his mother's Madness Mantra forming the chorus of the song.

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    Western Animation 
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Near the end of "If It Smells Like an Ed", Jimmy reveals that he was the one who framed the Eds for ruining Friendship Day as revenge for something relatively minor Eddy did to him earlier.
    Eddy: Revenge?! What the heck did we do?!
    Jimmy: You ruined a perfectly good pair of underpants, you big brute!
    Edd: Oh, the wedgie!
    Ed: Oh yeah! That was funny.
  • Family Guy: In "And I'm Joyce Kinney", the new female news anchor interviews Lois and publicly reveals a secret she tells her, that she starred in a porno, to destroy her reputation around town. When Lois confronts her about it, she reveals that is was revenge for a humiliating prank she pulled on her in high school (Lois didn't recognize her because she had a different name then and used to be fat).