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Sequencing Deception

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A trope commonly seen in mysteries:

Cut from Scene A to Scene B, or alternate between two scenes. Viewer assumes that B shortly follows A in the first case, and that both are occurring simultaneously in the second. In truth, there is a much larger gap, or the scenes do not occur in that order.

Often used for temporally-based examples of Cut Apart. See also Meanwhile, in the Future… and Flashback B-Plot, for when events from different time frames are edited together for the sake of suspense or exposition, without necessarily being deceptive.


All examples will contain spoilers. You have been warned.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Ending to Watanagashi-hen. Scene cuts from a woman announcing she's killed all her targets to police investigating outside the last target's apartment. In fact, the last target is still alive at the time of the announcement.
  • Your Name: Two Japanese teenagers, Taki and Mitsuha, begin switching bodies at random. They've never met, but as they keep switching they start learning more about each other. Eventually Taki decides to take a train to meet Mitsuha- but discovers she died three years earlier, and they've been switching through time as well as switching bodies. The rest of the plot involves them trying to stop her death from occurring.
    • Another example occurs much earlier in the film. The very first scene is "Mitsuha" waking up, and we quickly deduce that it's actually Taki, a guy, in Mitsuha's body. The very next scene is "Mitsuha" coming down the stairs...except it actually is Mitsuha. The next day. She (and the viewer) then proceed to find out what all happened in the day between those two scenes.

     Comic Books  

  • Watchmen: The protagonists' confrontation with Ozymandias is intercut with the on-the-street scenes in New York. Once he explains his Genghis Gambit, he adds "I did it 35 minutes ago." Cut to all those people being killed, which we then know all happened before the other scenes began. Note there are clocks all over the place in both the Karnak scenes and New York scenes so people paying careful attention wouldn't be surprised.
  • At the end of the first part of Tag and Bink Are Dead, the two protagonists are on board the Death Star, disguised as Imperial soldiers (with helmets hiding their faces). Darth Vader shows up, informing that Rebel ships are incoming and orders them to follow him. The next scene shows, apparently, Tag and Bink fighting in the battle of Yavin as Vader's wingmen, then dying when the Death Star is blown up. However, the beginning of the second part reveals that these were just two random Imperial Soldiers; Tag and Bink ran off as soon as Vader turned his back, and by luck they escaped the Death Star in time. Then the author, Kevin Rubio, makes a brief appearance and comments on the trick.

     Fan Works  



  • Saw:
    • Saw II: There are two subplots, people in a death trap filled house and people including the father of one of the people in the house watching them on closed-circuit TV. It later turns out that the closed-circuit TV footage is recorded and his son is in fact in the same building in which he's watching the recordings. It's an interesting example since the characters have the same mistaken impression as the viewer — to tragic effect.
    • Saw IV plays a similar trick. The first scene is chronologically the last; everything else takes place during the previous film.
    • Jigsaw goes even further — the barnyard game takes place *ten years* before the present day.
  • Ocean's Twelve: There was a segment where we see Ocean's team and a rival thief both trying to steal a MacGuffin, but find out that the rival got there much earlier and the Macguffin is gone.
  • Babel: The four story threads appear pretty much concurrent. At the end, it turns out the subplot involving the deaf girl takes place about a week after the three others.
  • In Kamen Rider: The First, there's a sub-plot of a man in a hospital and a girl who tries to befriend him (against his will) that seems to have nothing to do with anything. Slowly, she gets him to defrost, and we find she is ill as well and just likes making people happy. They plant flowers together near the end. We cut from that to the field where the two defeated Shocker lieutenants have landed - it's the same one, and the flowers have grown, as the hospital scenes were in fact years go. The two generals, seeing the flowers, remember their true selves as the two from those scenes, just before dying.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: The first scene, where Joel goes out to Montauk and meets Clementine, actually takes place after most of the events in the rest of the film, right after Joel's memories are completely erased.
  • Mulholland Dr., in its last act (which conflicts with much of what is shown before), does some rapid intercutting between scenes that take place before and after the second-to-last scene.
  • Arrival: The movie starts with Louise raising her daughter only for her to die at twelve years old, giving her quite a tragic backstory. Except it isn't a backstory - she actually hasn't been born yet and this sequence being at the beginning represents how the heptapods allow her to know this will happen in the future.


  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Dr. Sheppard, the narrator of the mystery, turns out to be the murderer. When he says that he entered the study with Ackroyd at 8:40 and left at 8:50 he is telling the factual truth, but does not mention that in that ten-minute interim he murdered Ackroyd. When he describes coming back to the house and finding Ackroyd dead he says "I did what little needed to be done." It comes off as innocuous when he says it, but at the end he admits that "what little needed to be done" included altering the crime scene to cover his tracks and support his alibi.
  • The Three Coffins: The murders actually occurred in the opposite order from what appears.
  • The Reader (2016) makes it seem like Lon and Mareah's studies are taking place at the same time as Sefia's quest. In actuality, they happened years before, and Lon and Mareah are Sefia's parents.

     Live Action TV  

  • Lost:
    • An episode that appears to be a flashback is actually a flash forward.
    • An episode that appears to be a flash-forward featuring two characters is actually a flashback for one and a flash-forward for the other.
  • Jonathan Creek, episode Angel Hair: Events that we think were recorded days in advance actually turn out to be happening live over a closed-circuit TV system rigged to look like a VCR. An exact inversion of the trope use in Saw II.
  • House invokes this during the Three Stories episode. House is telling the medical students about three cases involving leg problems and each with its own diagnosis. At one point, the flashback scene shows House talking with his own staff about one case, then brings up one of the other cases — only his team looks confused, and House reveals that that case didn't occur until three months later.
  • How I Met Your Mother had a season 4 episode that used this effectively: the title itself, "Three Days of Snow," was already a hint.
  • The big twist in The Prisoner (2009) involves a series of flashbacks that turn out to be something rather more complicated.
  • Sherlock: After Moriarty's apparent death in "The Reichenbach Fall", the show starts teasing the possibility that he actually survived. This culminates in "The Final Problem", where Moriarty shows up in person on the island where Sherlock and John have just been taken captive — only it turns out that Moriarty's visit to the island actually took place years earlier, before "The Reichenbach Fall". It is then explained that the person he met then has been faking Moriarty's continued existence using recordings he made before he died.
  • Westworld:
    • In the first season, William and Logan's story is strongly hinted, and eventually revealed by the ninth episode, to be taking place years before the other events of the series, with William going on to become the "Man in Black" seen elsewhere in the story.
    • It's revealed that several scenes of Bernard chatting with Dolores actually took place decades ago, before the park even opened, and feature Arnold; Bernard is a Host made in Arnold's image.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • "Broken", the first episode of Season 2, alternates between events in Storybrooke, and the Enchanted Forest version of Sleeping Beauty. Since Season 1 has primed the audience to think of Enchanted Forest scenes as flashbacks, and "What happened to the Enchanted Forest after the curse?" is not a question that's even been asked at this point, the lack of regular characters is not enough to clue the audience in that the scenes are happening simultaneously.
    • Similarly, Season 7's "Is This Henry Mills" interweaves Adult Henry resisting the truth in Hyperion Heights with Young Henry finishing school back in Storybrooke (shortly before he leaves for the New Enchanted Forest, as seen in the season opener). Not until Roni tells Adult Henry that the reason nobody in Storybrooke knows they're missing is that the curse sent them back in time, does it turn out that Young Henry's graduation is happening now. (This is the least of the chronological confusions in this season, but most of the others are explained as they come up.)


  • Funeral for a Friend's album Tales Don't Tell Themselves is mostly a concept album about a man who is having trouble at sea and hopes to get back to his family. However, the tracks are arranged to flow rather than to tell the story in a coherent order. The opening track, Into Oblivion (Reunion) seems to imply it's actually one of the last tracks chronologically. Confusingly, some of the tracks concern the character walking home through the desert but it isn't explained how he made it to land.

    Video Games 
  • The Five Nights at Freddy's series manages to do this across games. The second game initially presents itself as a direct sequel to the first game, with emphasis on a brand new restaurant with shiny new animatronics and the originals in disrepair. The game eventually reveals it's actually a prequel, with the new restaurant getting closed down to move to a small location, the 'Toy' generation getting scrapped, and the decayed animatronics getting refurbished and used instead.

     Visual Novels  

  • Infinity series:
    • The prologue of Ever17 switches back and forth between the two possible protagonists (Takeshi and the Kid). The two viewpoints are made to appear as though it is a mere perspective flip (including some scenes in which the viewpoint character changes in mid-conversation), but are actually similar events that take place on either side of a 17-year gap.
    • Throughout the entirety of Remember11, the viewpoint switches between Kokoro and Satoru's bodies (though not their minds). Roughly halfway through the game, it is confirmed that there is a 1-year gap between the two time periods. Additionally, the end of the game also reveals that there was an additional 33 minute gap between perspective switches, which had remained undetected until then due to an inaccurate clock.
    • Similar to Ever17, 12Riven's opening features what appears to be a mere perspective flip of the same incident. In the final route, we find out that these perspective flips are actually between two very similar events, exactly 24 hours apart.
  • Lucy ~The Eternity She Wished For~: The game is interspersed with what appears to be flashbacks but are actually flash forwards. The short interludes with the Doctor and Lucy are in actuality you and Lucy interacting 15 years after the original ending.
  • The fan-made Ace Attorney Online mini-case The Tangled Turnabout features a Locked Room Mystery that appears to be impossible to solve due to everyone seemingly having an alibi. The solution micro-case, The Untangled Turnabout, reveals that most scenes were out of chronological order (as the case's name suggested), making the murder not a locked room at all and solvable by realizing that everyone but one character was with someone else around the time of the murder (you're told in advance there is only one culprit and no accomplices).
  • In Zero Time Dilemma, after "Coincide", the camera alternates between the three teams as all of them receive the game rules by Zero. However, each team is getting information at completely different times, with each exposition separated by two hours. The scene the player sees is the conjunction of every scattered exposition in the form of a quick summary, effectively fooling the player into believing that all three teams are listening to Zero at the same time when actually they're not.


  • This Wapsi Square strip contains a particularly extreme example. The transition from panel two to panel three looks almost instantaneous, but there is actually a time difference of roughly 80,000 years.
  • Used to convey the impression that Amber and Ethan are waking up next to each other in Shortpacked!, before The Reveal that they are both waking up next to Mike. The next strip continues alternating between the two scenes, but the last panel establishes the Ethan one happened first, and then Mike went back to Amber's room.

     Western Animation  

  • In an episode of Young Justice, one of the heroes is cornered by two supervillains; the show cuts to commercial and then returns to what seems to be the same moment, with the hero starting his escape. It later turns out that the hero is an unwitting Manchurian Agent pawn of the villains, and spent the commercial break in a trance as they gave him his instructions.
  • The Bojack Horseman episode "The Old Sugarman Place" alternates between BoJack fixing up his family's summer house in the present, and flashbacks to the childhood of BoJack's mother, Beatrice, in the 1940s. At one point, BoJack and his neighbor, Eddie, travel to a barn to retrieve the summer house's weather vane; at the same time, Beatrice is shown attending a party at the same barn years earlier, celebrating the end of World War II with her mother, Honey. Eddie starts playing the piano and singing to provide a distraction; it's the same song Honey used to sing with her recently killed son, Crackerjack. The result is shown as Eddie and Honey performing the song as a duet, even though the two scenes are happening decades apart.


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