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Single-Episode Handicap

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When the protagonists are struck by a short-lived disability - often blindness - forcing them to rely on other skills for the duration of the episode, but cured by the all-powerful Reset Button, restoring the afflicted parties to normal in time for their next adventure. Sometimes it's intended to teach some sort of moral lesson; sometimes it's treated as just another challenge for the heroes to overcome. Either way, expect much moping around until the heroes come to grips with their situation.

Those experiencing a Single-Episode Handicap will frequently learn to make up for it in other ways, resulting in a (temporary) Disability Superpower. (Of course, since status quo is restored at the end of the episode, the heroes generally lose their Handicapped Badass permits immediately.)

Related: Hollywood Healing, Temporary Blindness, Compressed Vice, and some forms of Soap Opera Disease.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Used in Himitsu no Akko-chan, in the aptly named "_____" episode. To make herself more empathetic to the new deaf kid in her class, Akko-chan asks her magic mirror to make her deaf and mute, forgetting that her magic mirror could only obey spoken commands. Not only did she not learn to make up for her self-inflicted handicaps, but lost every shred of self-reliance and independence, becoming unable to even try to communicate her plight and risking certain death by running blindly into a ravine. She gets her Aesop when the deaf boy himself, with an impressive (at least to her) show of his abilities, manages to track and save her. The Reset Button comes with a lecture about his Handicapped Badass status.
  • Rock Lee in Naruto gets seasick while training on a boat, which allows him to use the loopy fist technique. Usually he has to get drunk to use it.

    Comic Books 
  • In one issue of the original series of Jonah Hex, Jonah was left temporarily paralysed from the waist by an accident. Leads to a memorable scene where he has to take on a gang of outlaws during a storm while being unable to walk, and with his guns useless because they had become clogged with mud.
  • Kid Colt (2009): Colt, who's right handed, is shot in his right arm when Sherman Wilks first attacks him. He spends the rest of the limited series with that arm in a sling, shooting and fighting left-handed. Itís downplayed to the point where it doesn't slow him down at all, though - he's still a great shot, he wins an unarmed Trial by Combat and he's fast enough to win a Quick Draw duel against Wilks.
  • Technically not "single episode", but for a 7-issue stretch of comics (#242-#248) in the Bronze Age, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by Psycho Ex-Girlfriend Kathleen Dare. He cured himself by buying a company called Cordco International and using their experimental nerve-reconstructing biochips on himself.

    Fan Works 
  • In this Harry Potter fic, a spell gone wrong causes Harry to suddenly go both blind and deaf. While he's at the Quidditch pitch. In the air. Alone. At night. Without having told anyone where he was going. Oh, Crap!, indeed. He breaks his ankle and loses his wand trying to land, and then basically lies around on the ground, waiting for someone to find him. Draco does. The very next morning, Snape and Lupin have managed to make an antidote and Harry gets his senses back.


  • Tao the cat from The Incredible Journey temporarily loses his hearing after nearly drowning. He recovers once the water finally makes its way out of his head.
  • A part of the Faceless Men's training in A Song of Ice and Fire is to temporarily blind/cripple/deafen the apprentice so they can learn to fight in any circumstance and not rely too heavily on any one thing. As a result, Arya is blinded for a chapter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team:
    • In the episode "The Beast from the Belly of the Boeing", Murdock is temporarily blinded by a gunshot and has to guide Hannibal into landing the plane.
    • There was also an episode in which BA got shot in the leg.
  • On Charmed, an evil monkey steals Paige's voice, Phoebe's hearing and Piper's eyesight. (No, really.) They get better, though, of course.
  • CSI: NY's "Rear Window" Witness episode, "Point of View" opens with Mac falling a few stories during a foot chase/fight scene. He spends most of the episode cooped up at home with his foot propped up, a sprained right arm, and a few broken ribs. When he does venture out, he's either limping or shown sitting down. He's completely healed by the next ep.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Sarah-Jane Smith is temporarily blinded in "The Brain of Morbius", although neither she nor the Doctor knows how long it will last. She turns out to still be very effective against the titular villain.
    • "The Tsuranga Conundrum" has a downplayed example. After taking the brunt of a sonic mine blast early on, the Doctor is still recovering during the rest of the episode, frequently stopping because of pain from internal injuries. It doesn't slow her down much, though.
  • Fraser was temporarily paralyzed in the Due South episode 'North', aside from also having Temporary Blindness.
  • A comedy example: in a Friends episode Joey wants to make some money to donate sperm and is therefore forbidden to have sex for a while. Therefore he learns to pleasure his temporary girlfriend by other means and is excited about how good it feels and how it is like a man going blind and improving his other skills. And the end of the episode when he is allowed to have sex again, his friends wonder why he returns to his former behavior. His answer: "When a blind man regains his eyesight, you think he keeps stumbling around with his eyes closed!?"
  • The Grand Tour: In a Real-Life example, Richard Hammond had a serious car crash that required him to have knee surgery. In the next episode, he and James May must engage a race with two of them on public transportation vs. co-presenter Jeremy Clarkson in a car. However, May refuses to help Hammond out most of the time, reasoning it's Hammond's fault he's hurt since he was dumb enough to crash the car in the first place. As a result, Hammond struggles in getting from place to place on crutches and in wheelchairs, slowing the two down significantly. Richard notes later in the show how difficult it was for him to get around during the race, even with so-called accommodations for the disabled. Likewise, James remarked in a TV interview he did not help Hammond out since it was in-character on the show for him to do so, but he fully expected others would. He was surprised at how few people offered any assistance to his traveling companion, even when Hammond clearly needed help.
  • Happy Days Fonzie is temporarily blind in one episode, he manages to rebuild a broken motorcycle by relying on his sense of touch.
  • The Incredible Hulk (1977):
    • In "The Harder They Fall", David Banner gets paralyzed from the chest down and has to learn how to move around in a wheelchair; when he Hulks Out at the midpoint of the episode we see the Hulk confused as to why his legs don't work, before his Healing Factor kicks in, partially repairing his spine. The second half of the episode has David hobbling around in leg braces, and he has to figure out how to drive a car through rush-hour traffic to stop a friend of his from robbing a bank. The stress triggers the climactic Hulk Out, which fully restores his ability to walk.
    • In "Blind Rage", a chemical being developed for the military is found to cause blindness. David is the second person afflicted. (He's exposed when the Hulk handles a canister.) While reading the researchers' notes before that, he had an idea that anger might cure it. Predictably, it cures him just after he Hulks out.
  • The Invisible Man: Darien Fawkes has this happen to him all the time, including a blindness episode. The gland in his head tends to make conditions that afflict him unique, but also makes them surprisingly easy to cure.
  • On Law and Order: SVU, Stabler is attacked by a perp and smashes his head against a car window, rendering him blind... except that everything's just sort of blurry, and he gets over it in a few days. Seemed to be more of an excuse to show Chris Meloni in glasses than anything else.
  • In among the many episodes in which he was temporarily deprived of his various powers, Clark Kent in Lois & Clark was blinded for an entire episode by a laser weapon (developed by a reimagined take on normally C-List Fodder villain Dr Light of all people), before being miraculously restored at the end.
  • On MacGyver, the titular hero steps into a bear trap, injuring his leg. He conjures up ways to help himself get around, including turning a coatrack into a crutch.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • In the episode "Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind", Hawkeye is temporarily blinded by a heater explosion. While he is blind, he comes to rely on his sense of hearing more, to the point where he can replicate Radar's ability to predict incoming choppers.
    • The same happens to Klinger when he temporarily goes deaf. He regains his hearing just in time to not get a medical discharge.
    • Similarly, in the episode "C*A*V*E", Hawkeye is claustrophobic and refuses to enter a roomy cave, although he's never mentioned this phobia before and has often hidden in tiny spaces, including a nurse's footlocker and small closets.
  • Monk uses this trope in a lot of episodes. Not just to Monk, but also to other characters. A short list of examples:
    • In "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing", Monk spends the episode blind after an attacker bludgeons a firefighter and throws cleaning solvent in his face.
    • In "Mr. Monk on Wheels", Monk spends the episode in a wheelchair after he is shot in the leg.
    • In "Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine", Stottlemeyer is shot in the shoulder in a drive-by shooting and spends the episode with his right arm in a sling. Monk, meanwhile, takes Dioxynl and becomes "the Monk".
    • In "Mr. Monk Goes to a Wedding", Randy uses a wheelchair for most of the episode after someone tries killing him by running him over with a car.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In the episode "Marinated Hearing". Walter Denton sets off an old cannon from the Spanish-American War. Mr. Conklin's standing too close, and suffers from temporary deafness as a result. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Quantum Leap: Sam Beckett leaped into the body of a blind concert pianist, sight intact. After demonstrating his sightedness in front of the wrong person, he is momentarily blinded by a camera flash right before said person tries to make him flinch to prove he can see. His sight is back to normal as soon as she's out of earshot.
    • Sam had several of those, including leaping into a soldier who lost both of his legs.
  • Happens far too often in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Sabrina can't use magic, Sabrina can only use a certain type of magic, Sabrina can use magic but it will have a certain negative effect...
  • "Rules of the Game" from Sliders. Arturo is briefly blinded during a wargame.
  • Smallville: Green Rocks were involved in both cases:
    • In "Whisper", Clark was temporarily blinded by some sort of laser, causing him to develop Super-Hearing. The episode was not at all derivative.
    • Likewise, when he caught a cold in "Sneeze", it caused him to develop Super-Breath, which in this version of the character doesn't actually mean freezing breath like in some of the comics but simply lets him generate massive gusts of compressed air.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "New Grounds", Teal'c is blinded by a weapon blast, forcing him to rely on the assistance of a native for the remainder of the episode. (Admittedly, it's a native with a nerve regenerator, so he does all right.)
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Operation - Annihilate!", Spock is blinded after they blast him with "the complete spectrum of light" to rid him of a parasite that is UV-sensitive. It's okay, though, because Vulcans actually have third eyelids that somehow restored his sight by the end of the episode. This extra set of eyelids is thereafter never mentioned again.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the episode "The Enemy," Geordi La Forge relies on the help of a Romulan when his VISOR stops working.
    • In the episode "The Loss", Counselor Troi temporarily loses her empath powers. Interestingly, although obviously no one has this ability in the real world, the show got fan letters from disabled people saying they related to her struggle.
    • In the episode "Ethics", Worf is paralyzed when a cargo crate falls on him. He seriously contemplates suicide before another doctor offers a never-before-tested surgery to give Worf a new spine.
  • On Who's the Boss?, Tony sprains one ankle and then breaks his other leg (both because of things Angela did), confining him to a wheelchair for most of the episode.


    Western Animation 
  • In the American Dad! episode "Stannie Get Your Gun", Stan is accidentally shot in the neck and becomes a quadriplegic. He regains his mobility after being shot again, as the second bullet dislodges the first one from his spine.
  • Beast Wars:
    • "Dark Voyage". The Maximals are blinded by an Energon explosion, requiring that they rely on their hearing to fight off the Predacons note 
    • In another episode they wind up trapped in their beast modes, losing access to weaponry and (in most cases) opposable thumbs. Tigatron teaches them to embrace their animal side to avoid being slaughtered by the Predacons.
  • Beast Machines:
    • The Maximal are, again, trapped into technorganic beast modes, as their current bodies now controlled by embracing their "spiritual" side.
    • Subverted with Rattrap: while the other Maximals can overcome their newfound handicap quite fast, Rattrap spends a bunch of episodes becoming a liability for himself and his allies, even briefly considering a deal with Megatron to buy himself some enhancements. Ultimately, he finds out his new, diminutive form has enhanced hacking abilities, thus becoming useful again.
    • Interestingly, this was much closer to the original concept for Rattrap. He was going to be disfigured and misshapen with exposed organs, but (a) Nightmare Fuel, (b) that doesn't sell toys, and (c) the CGI wasn't up to making it look right. A lot of this plan was used with the Transmutate. In Beast Machines, they were able to return to this idea by having Rattrap not be zen enough to relearn transforming, and so using an ill-advised shortcut that gave him a robot mode that was not up to the standard of his past ones, or everyone else's current ones. Parts of his body even resemble muscle or bone, making a more robot-y, less terrifying version of the "guts exposed" idea. It ends up not being the single-episode version; he never gets a more standard robot mode. He had to learn to overcome his disability as per the Transmutate-like original concept. He gets by with his hacking ability, and while being a weapons specialist whose new body has no weapons is kind of an embarrassment, he does have the skills to invent new means of asskicking.
  • One episode of Transformers: Prime has Bumblebee losing the ability to transform after having his T-Cog stolen by MECH. It's recovered by the end of the episode and even though it was damaged during the fight it turns out to be just fine. Starscream, however, loses his T-Cog at the end of the episode (MECH takes it in retaliation for losing access to Bumblebee's) and spends most of the rest of the season unable to transform until he gets a new one.
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode "Blind Ambition," a temporarily-blinded Peter only engages in acts of heroism because he doesn't have any idea what's going on.
    • Occurs in "No Meals On Wheels", when after denying Joe and other handicaps access to his "fancy restaurant," Peter loses the function of his legs in the ensuing mecha-battle.
    • Inverted in "Believe It Or Not, Joe's Walking On Air": Joe gets a leg transplant, but later shoots himself in the spine after realizing that his new legs have made him a jerkass.
    • Played straight in "Brokeback Swanson": Joe temporarily becomes a quadriplegic after Dr. Hartman accidentally leaves his phone in Joe's back.
  • "Blind as a Bat" from Batman: The Animated Series.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In one episode Bart visits a sequence of doctors who treat him for lazy eye, fallen arches, and other maladies, which turns him into a Jerry Lewis-patterned nerd for the remainder of the episode.
    • Bart also has a case of this in one episode where he's allergic to shrimp, but the allergy is never mentioned before or after the episode.
    • Lisa has at least two of these. In one episode, she's told that her fingers are too stubby to ever be a true jazz musician. This is despite her playing the saxophone quite well in every other episode. There's also an episode where she has no dancing abilities (partly due to clumsiness and lack of coordination), but in another episode, she's a perfect gymnast.
  • In one episode of Darkwing Duck, the title hero was blind for one episode. In another, he had his legs broken.
  • Futurama: Bender is paralyzed from the neck down in the episode "Bendin' in The Wind". He recovers mid-episode, but since by that point his paralysis had made him a famous musician, he has to fake it. Bender being Bender, he blows it.
  • King of the Hill has a few:
    • Bill is told by a doctor that he has diabetes, which is cured by the end of the episode.
    • Hank is temporarily blinded after seeing his mom and her new husband have sex.
    • Bobby gets gout from eating too much at a new restaurant in town.
  • The Jackie Chan Adventures episode "The Good, the Bad, the Blind, the Deaf, and the Mute" has Daolong Wong kidnapping Uncle and using a cursed monkey statue to randomly strike people blind, deaf, and mute, including our heroes (Tohru loses his sight, Jade loses her hearing, and Jackie loses his ability to speak).
  • In an episode of The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin, Grubby accidentally eats a plant that can make you temporarily mute (the effect is known to last "anywhere from one hour to ten years"). So Leota teaches the Trio sign language, allowing them to communicate not only with each other but also with Leota's deaf student.
  • In one episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), He-Man is rendered temporarily blind thanks to some Applied Phlebotinum. Fortunately, it just so happens that this is the same episode in which he befriended a local blind boy, who teaches him how to manage without his sight.
  • The Smurfs had Hefty stuck in a wheelchair in one episode after breaking his leg.
  • An Episode of X-Men: Evolution. Scott Summers is left basically blind after Mystique swipes his special glasses and then leaves him for dead in the middle of Mexico.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series has one episode, titled "Yaarp", in which the loud experiment named in the title causes Stitch to temporarily become severely deaf.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
    • Two episodes of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog have situations where Sonic is unable to run fast. The first is when Sonic's shoes get stolen and when Sonic tries running without them his feet would literally burn up. The second is during one of the Chaos Emerald Saga episodes, when a wizard working for Robotnik against his will puts a spell on Sonic's feet, turning them to stone, and Sonic has to find him to reverse the spell.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) has two of these kind of episodes as well. The first is when Robotnik builds a machine to track Sonic when he runs at super-sonic speed, and the second is when a wizard puts a spell on Sonic that prevents him from running fast, holding his speed ransom until Sonic reclaims a computer of magic spells that Robotnik stole.
  • In an episode of Arthur Brain has an accident and breaks his knee right before the big school basketball game. Confined to a wheelchair he must learn from a physically handicapped pro-player how to play while confined to his chair.
  • In the Curious George episode "Housebound!" George breaks his leg after a high fall and is left confined to his house in a wheelchair and in the care of Hundley, a dog who is used to seeing him hyper, bouncy, and messy.
  • In the "Eye of the Beholder" episode of The Lion Guard Ono receives an eye injury and has to wear an eyepatch. His vision issue is a major problem considering he is the "eyes" of the titular group.
  • Happens to Kshin in the Defenders of the Earth episode One of the Guys. While on a class field trip, he and his new friend, Marty (who is already disabled) stumble across a plot by Ming to turn the human race into "helpless cripples". During the episode, Kshin is exposed to a paralysing gas, leaving him unable to walk; at first, he thinks all is lost, but Marty teaches him that having a disability doesn't have to leave you totally helpless. The episode ends with Kshin recovering from the effects of the gas, though his joy at being able to walk again is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that Marty's condition cannot be so easily cured.
  • In one episode of "The Cleveland Show", the titular character becomes temporarily deaf from Lester shooting too close to him during a secret hunting trip. Unfortunately, Donna was thinking about going back to school for a Marine Biology degree shortly after he decided to fake his deafness.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "Demolition Doofus", Mrs. Puff loses her ability to inflate after another one of SpongeBob's failed driving tests. She later regains it after crashing into her own school along with SpongeBob.
    • SpongeBob also loses the ability to use his thumbs in "Two Thumbs Down."
  • In the Dragons:Race to the Edge episode "Blindsided", Astrid becomes temporarily blinded by a lightning bolt that nearly hit her. She remains blind throughout the entire episode, having to rely on Hiccup to get around and feeling useless in situations involving violence and peril. Later, her enhanced hearing helps her and Hiccup evade danger and even uses them to calm the Triple Stryke.
  • In the Littlest Pet Shop (2012) episode "What Did You Say?" Blythe catches a cold that somehow causes her to lose her ability to talk to the pets. By the end of the episode, it turns out that Blythe's cold wasn't causing her to lose her ability, it was caused by a side effect from the medicine her dad was giving her.


Video Example(s):


Listen Up!

After Cricket disobeys Bill and sets off a series of poppers, this triggers an unforseen side-effect which gives him a temporary hearing loss.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / SingleEpisodeHandicap

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