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The Cat Came Back

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"And you can fly to the other side of the world
You know you'll only find
I've reserved the seat behind you
We can talk about old times."
Marillion, "The Uninvited Guest"

No matter how hard you try to get away from a person, there they are ahead of you. A comic version of Offscreen Teleportation.

The trope is named after the song and cartoon The Cat Came Back, where a man desperately tries to get rid of a cat, but no matter what he does to get rid of the thing, the cat comes back "the very next day" (and brings massive misfortune to anyone who tried to take it away).

With just a tiny tweaking, such a plot can easily go from comedic into horror territory: variations of the story of the demon (or corpse, or spoon-wielding killer) you just can't get rid of, no matter what you try...

If you're dealing with an object of similar tenacity, see Clingy MacGuffin. For characters who keep coming back after being killed off, see Death Is Cheap. For people you can't get rid of even temporarily, see The Thing That Would Not Leave. Also may overlap with Joker Immunity, when a hero can never dispatch a villain for good.

Not to be confused with The Bus Came Back, The Cat Returns, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, or The Cat That Came Back (an alternate title for Ghost Cat).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Early in Love Hina, Keitaro and Naru both go on a trip to the same place on the same train at the same time in an attempt to get away from each other.
  • Schrödinger from Hellsing has this as his in-story power: As long as he is able to observe his own existence he cannot die/cease to exist; and as long as he is able to observe his own existence, he can exist whenever and wherever he wants to exist. This was actually the key to defeating Alucard: by letting himself get absorbed by Alucard, he no longer is able to observe his own existence, being only one among millions of souls Alucard absorbed, and it causes Alucard to disappear. It takes three decades for Alucard to kill all the other souls he absorbed so Schrödinger could be aware of himself again. This also has the effect of Alucard basically gaining Schrödinger's powers.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics:
    • More than one comic in has centered on this with regards to Mr. Lodge or Mr. Weatherbee trying to get away from Archie. Fly to Rome, he's inexplicably hustling tips at the cafe. Head for Japan, he's three rows ahead of you in the audience at the Kabuki. This has actually driven Mr. Lodge over the edge into temporary mental collapse. Although in Mr. Lodge's case, it's often more that Archie is trying to hang around with Veronica, rather than Mr. Lodge himself.
    • A straighter example is He-Man Woman Hater Jughead and his Abhorrent Admirer Ethel.
  • "You will not find The Phantom; he will find you." — Old Jungle Saying
  • If Batman gets on someone's case, there is no shaking him. Well, there was that one guy, but he had to go through three clubs and two subways. And when he came back home Batman was waiting for him there.
  • The Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire graphic novel PSmIth has fun with this one. A man shows up at the bar with a gun, ready to shoot the bartender. He is defeated, and thrown into the "sleep room". Then it happens again. And again. After thirteen times, the robot that's been taking the man to the sleep room complains that he can't do it again because the room is full. Further investigation shows that thirteen identical clones with a Hive Mind have all tried to kill the bartender.
  • In the Tintin comics, Captain Haddock can never escape opera singer Bianca Castafiore. If she doesn't show up in person to plague his life, a Tibetan porter or a Middle Eastern trader will be listening to her singing the Jewel Song on the radio at ear-splitting volume. Cue cursing from Haddock.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Thimble Theater storyline that would lead to Popeye's introduction was that Castor Oyl's uncle Lubry Kent had an exotic pet bird — a Whiffle Hen named Bernice. Whiffle Hens are famous for their ability not to be contained or killed, and Lubry bet a million dollars that Castor can't kill Bernice. And he doesn't, though not for lack of trying. After a month's worth of strips featuring Castor trying to off Bernice in increasingly outlandish ways, Lubry leaves, taking Bernice with him. Initially relieved, Castor is stunned to find Bernice following him! As Lubry explains, this is because Bernice has taken a liking to Castor:
    Castor: LIKES ME!! Why, I've tried to kill her a hundred times!
    Lubry Kent: That's the reason; she thinks you're playing with her. Yeah, a very peculiar bird.
  • The Tom the Dancing Bug strip for January 4, 2003 had Lucky Ducky trick Hollingsworth Hound. Lucky Ducky has died, but the wealthy dog found him alive in more than one place, consuming too many government services. It turned out that Lucky Ducky is a group of identical ducks.

    Fan Works 
  • The Cat Came Back is a Merlin fanfiction about how Uther finds out about Merlin's magic and throws him into the dungeons. Merlin keeps breaking out, thus in turn forcing Uther to throw him back in. They both find it fun and end up bonding in a way. Though Uther won't admit it.
  • Ruby Pair: Zim just cannot get rid of Keef, the annoyingly cheerful human boy who always tries to be his friend, no matter how hard he tries.
    Tenn: Why not just get rid of him, then? I've literally seen you blow up more for less of a reason.
    Zim: I've tried! I've ripped his eyes out, blown him up, vaporized him, even tossed him into a tree shredder one time, and nothing works, he just comes back! I think he's not even really human, but some kind of force of pure annoyance that wills itself into existence just to make my life miserable!

    Films — Animation 
  • A major plotline in The Aristocats. After greedy butler Edgar abandons the titular cats in the French countryside, he assumes they're lost for good, unaware that they had met friendly animals that helped them find their way back home. Upon arriving back at the house in the climax, Edgar is in disbelief they returned, and decided to mail them to Timbuktu to ensure they wouldn't come back again.
  • The Oscar-nominated National Film Board of Canada short called The Cat Came Back from 1988, based off the trope-namer song, features a cat that keeps returning to its owner after he tries getting rid of it.
  • One scene in Looney Tunes: Back in Action shows DJ Drake throwing Daffy Duck out of his car, only for Daffy to inexplicably pop out of the glove box seconds later, and the ensuing conversation reveals that this has been going on for quite some time.
    DJ: You know, I'm getting pretty tired of throwing you out of the car.
    Daffy: That's my plan in a nutshell!
  • In Up, after Carl tries to get rid of Dug and Kevin, they each show up exactly where he and Russell were running to. Of course, they are an old man and a kid with a house tied to their backs versus a hyperactive dog and a very fast bird.
  • Toy Story 2: After Mr. Potato Head saves three Squeeze Toy Aliens, they begin following him around saying, "You have saved our lives. We are eternally grateful!" Eventually, Mr. Potato Head snaps and shouts at them, "WILL YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!"
  • Young Buddy Pine does this for a little while to Mr. Incredible at the start of The Incredibles. A desperate attempt to be named sidekick and an interesting likeness to this trope. He also sort of does it in appearing to him later as the older, improved supervillain known as Syndrome, having been driven to villainy due to Mr. Incredible rejecting him.
  • The Good, the Bad, and Huckleberry Hound has the Dalton Brothers spend a bit of the movie trying to out run Sheriff Huckleberry Hound, only for him to keep showing up whenever they stop. Eventually one of the brothers points out that they outnumber him four to one so there's no reason to run away; a fact that Huck hoped they wouldn't figure out.
  • Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz: One scene pays homage to the Droopy cartoons by having Tom and Jerry trying to run away from Droopy, only for the dog to constanly show up right next to them.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has a rather depressing example. Before Perrito ended up in the cat shelter and met Puss, he once belonged to some owners. The problem is, that his owners didn’t want him, so they tried to get rid of him every way that they could, but every single time, Perrito would come back, as loyal to his owners as he ever was. One day, they were fed up with him, so they wrapped him in a sock, tied it to a rock, and tried to drown him. Thankfully, Perrito survived, but he isn’t mad at his owners in the slightest. He even kept the sock, which he wears as his signature sweater.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders. The demonic Cymbal-Banging Monkey, though it's shown how it keeps coming back.
  • No teleportation, but in What About Bob? Richard Dreyfuss' character cannot escape Bill Murray's character.
  • Played for laughs masquerading as horror with the doll in Doom House.
  • The film Malicious is an example of the "horror" variation of this trope.
  • The film It Follows is another example of the horror variation - no matter how far one runs, or even passes the curse, it can always, eventually, come back.
  • In Redemption, a Perestroika-era Georgian film, the body of the local Party official keeps getting dug up and left exposed no matter how often people put it back in its grave.
  • Played for horror in The Grudge; in fact, most of the terror comes when you realize that the curse is inescapable. The final line of the film captures this quite nicely: "We managed to save the house!"
  • While they don't even bother with some of the houseguests in Madhouse (1990), they do try to get rid of Claudia and her son. Both eventually return. Also, on a more literal note, Scruffy the cat keeps coming Back from the Dead to destroy more of the household (until the finale, when he's much more pleasant towards the actual house owners).
  • The Uncanny: In both the "Quebec province, 1975" and "Hollywood, 1938" segments, Aunt Joan and Valentine (respectively) make multiple attempts to dispose of a cat, only to have the feline return to plague them.
  • Dr. Terror's House of Horrors: In the "Disembodied Hand" segment, Franklyn Marsh makes multiple attempts to dispose of the hand; including throwing it into a fire, and sealing it in a box and tossing the box into a river. No matter what he does, the hand returns and tries to kill him.
  • In Strays (2023), Reggie's abusive owner tries to abandon him only for him to keep coming back. Reggie just thinks he's playing a game.

  • Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat: One night in a drunken rage the narrator strangles his black cat Pluto, sometime later he comes upon another black cat that looks uncannily identical to Pluto, save for a white patch on his chest that the narrator becomes convinced is in the shape of a noose...
  • Harry Potter:
    • The first book features the Dursleys being dogged by magical postal owls in this fashion. Taken to its logical conclusion in The Film of the Book, where Harry looks out the window, while Uncle Vernon is happily spouting about how "there's no post on Sunday." Their lawn, car, and roof are covered in owls, as are the neighbors' lawns, cars, and roofs, and their neighbors' lawns, cars, and roofs, and so on. The entire subdivision is besieged with owls, all to get Harry his acceptance letter. All while Hedwig's Theme plays quietly and cheekily in the background.
    • Harry tends to have this problem with various admirers who mean well but make him very uncomfortable with their hero-worship. In Chamber of Secrets, Harry finds himself constantly followed by Colin Creevey, which leads to the poor kid getting Petrified when he tried to visit Harry in the Hospital Wing at night. Ron, meanwhile, has this problem with Lavender Brown in the sixth book and there's a brief period of time when Harry has to also dodge Lavender, along with Cormac.
    • Let us not forget Romilda Vane, she of the love potion which, by sequence of events, very nearly gets Ron killed.
  • Appears in Joseph Heller's classic novel Catch-22.
    • Yossarian spends much of the second half of the book trying to escape Nately's Whore, going to such lengths as to take her up in a plane, fly over Italy, strap a parachute to her back and kick her out (over German held territory), only to return to Pianosa and find she's already waiting for him.
    • Genial sociopath Aarfy combines this with Implacable Man in a scene as well.
  • Discworld:
    • The early book The Light Fantastic has an extremely elderly wizard preparing an elaborate method of escaping Death. The last step is climbing into a tiny airtight box and locking it from the inside. Just as he settles down, he hears a voice in his ear: "Dark in here, isn't it?"
    • Inverted with the Igors, who stay out of your way most of the time but appear behind you right when you need them. In Going Postal, an employer of an inquiring turn of mind stands in front of a bear trap and calls for his Igor. He hears the bear trap go off, then turns around to see an uninjured Igor holding the sprung trap. Igor tells him this isn't the first time, for him or for any Igor; one of his uncles was employed by a man who liked to stand with his back to a pit of spikes when he made the call. Then one day he forgot it was there. "Oh, how we laughed, marthter."
    • In Going Postal, Moist von Lipwig finds that he is being relentlessly and cheerfully pursued by Mr. Pump, his parole officer. Mr. Pump, being a golem, has a definite advantage over Moist in that he never needs to eat, rest, or even breathe.
    • Also shows up in Guards! Guards! which has the villain at the end of the book futilely fleeing from the supposedly imprisoned Vetinari.
    • Discussed by Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax in Wyrd Sisters when they need to get rid of a crown, but are afraid that someone will find it sooner or later. Nanny compares it to a magic ring that, even if you throw it into the sea, will be right there waiting for you when you get home. Granny however claims this has never actually happened to either of them... but it does happen to Granny's student, Tiffany Aching, with a necklace, in Wintersmith.
  • No matter how much the nameless protagonist of Green Eggs and Ham protests and runs, Sam-I-Am will always be just around the corner to attempt to get him to try the eponymous dish...
  • "The cat that kept coming back" is an important plot point in the Jeeves and Wooster novel Aunts Aren't Gentlemen.
  • In O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief", one of the kidnappers, Bill, gets so fed up with the titular kidnapee he tries to send the boy home. As he's reporting this to his partner Sam, the kid has unbeknownst to him snuck up behind him, and Sam gently points this out to Bill, after checking to see if there's any history of heart disease in his family.
  • Psmith takes deliberate advantage of this trope to drive his employer up the wall in Psmith in the City.
  • No matter how hard Garrett, P.I. tries to give away, drive off, or "accidentally" permit the escape of the Goddamn Parrot, the Foul Mouthed Parrot keeps returning.
  • A very non-funny case occurs in the Pine Hollow book series, as Callie Forester finds that a fellow rider, a boy she finds annoying, constantly seems to be wherever she is in the stable or at the school they both go to. When this begins happening even in places where he has no reason to be, she finally realizes he's doing it on purpose.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played for Horror in the Tales from the Crypt episode "Loved to Death". In the episode, the main character gives a love potion to a beautiful woman who won't give him the time of day. It works far too well. Eventually he kills himself to escape (albeit accidentally while trying to kill her), and on the escalator to Heaven, finds her right behind him, now hideously mangled because she killed herself by jumping out of a window.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide:
    • Two episodes have Ned facing this from his mad Clingy Jealous Girl Missy.
    • Also, there's one other episode where Missy's cheating off of Moze, and when the other girl moves her paper so Missy can't see it, Missy's instantly on the other side of her and continues to copy the answers.
  • A rather literal instance of this happened in the pilot episode of Early Edition, when Gary, trying to evade the newspaper-bringing cat, left town and went to a very remote area. The cat had no problem at all finding him and delivering his paper.
  • An episode of Hancock's Half Hour has Hancock trying to entertain a group of fellow passengers on a train, and predictably alienating them instead. To avoid meeting them on the return journey he takes the (slower) bus, only to find that they've all had the same idea.
  • A Mr. Show sketch has two old friends/acquaintances say their heartfelt goodbyes after meeting each other for a goodbye drink... only to keep bumping into each other as they stop off to perform various errands on their way home, to their increasing irritation. Things get really surreal when one of them expects the other to show up, is surprised when he doesn't, panics and begins to check the sites of their previous accidental encounters in increasing hysteria, only to learn the other one has died at some point during the night.
  • In Flash Forward, an oddly dramatic example, Dr. Benford has a vision of the future in which she's having an affair with another man, who turns out to be the father of a boy under her treatment. To try to avoid this, she transfers the boy to another department, but he's promptly transferred back. (episode "Black Swan")
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • The Twilight Zone (1959): Decidedly non-comedic example in the episode "The Hitch-Hiker", in which a young woman is taking a road trip by herself across a couple state lines. Her first day out, she sees a hitchhiker standing by the side of the road, thumb out, and after she passes him she keeps seeing him, state after state and night after night, until finally she panics, goes to a phone booth and calls her mother. Who thinks that she is a prank caller, because her daughter died in a car crash two weeks ago. When the woman gets back in the car, the hitchhiker is in the back seat, staring at her in the rearview mirror.
    • The Twilight Zone (2002): A variant. A woman continually sees a bus driven by a creepy guy no matter where she goes. Eventually, her dog jumps onto the bus, while she yells at the driver to "get out of [her] life!" The driver replies "It's not your life, it's the life you could have had," and we learn that the woman and the dog were both hit by a car at the beginning of the episode. The dog is brought back to life and, had the woman had the courage to board the bus as well, she could have been revived. Instead, she fades away.
  • The Colbert Report: This was used by Stephen Colbert in a fake audition tape shown at the Correspondent's Dinner, featuring Helen Thomas in a Droopy-like role, pursuing Colbert after asking an Armor-Piercing Question.
  • On The West Wing, after the president's entourage is shot at while leaving a public event, C.J. realizes her life was saved by someone who pulled her to the ground. She eventually figures out it's Sam and asks why he didn't tell her, and he invokes this in his response:
    Sam: I didn't want you to feel beholden to me. I didn't want it to be like an episode of I Dream of Jeannie, where now you've gotta save my life, and the time-space continuum, and you have to follow me around with coconut oil and hot towels...
    C.J.: Coconut oil?
    Sam: I'm just saying.
    C.J.: Sam, I don't feel beholden to you.
    Sam: Why not? I saved your life!
  • The Goodies: Bill's attempts to dispose of the eponymous robot in "Robot". At one point he seals the robot in a box, which he places inside a larger crate suspended from a crane, only to turn around and find the robot is now driving the crane.
  • In the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor", the War Doctor shoves the raggedy blonde girl (the avatar of the Moment as Rose "Bad Wolf" Tyler) through the door for daring to sit on the Moment. Once he turns his head, she's back in the exact same spot. In a later scene he walks away from the girl... in order to sit down next to her.
  • In one episode of Seinfeld, Elaine grows frustrated over the barking of her neighbor's dog keeping her awake all night, and when her neighbor refuses to do anything about it, she enlists the help of Kramer and Newman to kidnap the dog and dump it off beyond the state border. In one of the most extreme example of the dog somehow manages to find its way all the way back to its home. Even worse, thanks to a piece of Kramer's shirt it had ripped off while being abandoned, the police were able to implicate him, Elaine, and Newman for dognapping.
  • Frasier: Unintentionally (on the part of the "cat") in the episode "The Seal Who Came To Dinner". No matter what Frasier and Niles do to get rid of it, the body of a dead seal keeps washing up on the beach outside the house where they're throwing a big party.
  • Fawlty Towers: In "The Psychiatrist", the titular psychiatrist Dr Abbott keeps appearing every single time Basil is up to something awkward: when he listens at Mr Johnson's door, when he sneaks into Raylene's room, when he tries to peer through Mr Johnson's window (and accidentally looks into the Abbotts' room instead), when he drops Mr Johnson's champagne bottle, when he shakes Manuel upside down in the corridor, when he tries to accost Mr Johnson's illicit guest by brandishing a broom.

  • The Trope Namer, the 1893 Harry S. Miller song "The Cat Came Back", sees Old Mr. Johnson stuck with a yellow cat who keeps coming back despite endless attempts to get rid of him, which usually end badly for the other people involved. Mr. Johnson gives the cat to a man going up in a balloon; the balloon comes down many miles away, with no sign of the man. He gives the cat to a man going west by train; the train jumps a rail, and everyone aboard is killed. He gives the cat to a man going across the sea; the boat sinks in a storm, taking everyone aboard down with it. He gives the cat to a boy going up the river who ties a weight around the cat's neck; the authorities end up dragging the river in search of the boy's body. A neighbor loads up his shotgun "with nails and dynamite" to blast the cat to kingdom come; "ninety-seven pieces" of the man are all that remains. And every time, the cat comes back "the very next day".
  • Canadian children's singer Fred Penner's 1979 debut album is named for, and leads off with a cover of, "The Cat Came Back". His second album, 1981's The Polka Dot Pony, includes a sequel with three more verses about Mr. Johnson's failed attempts to get rid of the yellow cat. This time, he tries locking the cat in a box and throwing it in the sea, sending the cat up in a rocket that collides with an asteroid, and letting a Mad Scientist send the cat back to the Prehistoric Era in a time machine with a lab rat. All to no avail; as in the previous song, the cat comes back "the very next day" every single time.
  • Joel Polowin's parody "The Bug Came Back" features a programmer futilely trying to fix an error in his code. In the final verse:
    We set up an experiment that Schrödinger inspired:
    A box; a cat; some poison; a computer system wired
    Such that IF the program failed, the little moggy would be gassed.
    A quasar was — almost — the only remnant of the blast...
  • The country music song "What'll You Do About Me" (which has been recorded by Randy Travis, Steve Earle, Doug Supernaw and others) features the narrator having a Cowboy And The Lady-esque one-night stand and becoming a stalker afterwards. Sample lyrics: "You can change your number, you can change your name, you can ride like hell on a midnight train. That's all right, mama, that's okay, but what'll you do about me?"
  • Nickelback sings a similar song, "Follow You Home", where the stalked girl rigs a car without brakes and buries the stalker to try and escape, among other things.
  • The novelty song "Little Blue Man", in which a woman is continuously stalked by a Little Blue Man who professes his love for her. Finally she drops him off a building in desperation, only to have him return one last time to announce that he doesn't love her anymore.
  • Paul Dehn's poem Mrs. Ravoon, memorably set to music by Tom Mastin. "You are too much with me, late and soon."
  • "You'll never get rid of the *boom-boom-boom* no matter what you do!" This song is "The Thing", by Phil Harris (the singer/comedian who voiced Baloo and Little John in Disney's The Jungle Book and Robin Hood).
  • Alexander Rybak's song "OAH" has Alexander stalking a girl everywhere, while singing "I love you o-aah". The fact that everyone else than the girl gleefully sings and dances along doesn't help her at all.
  • The title quote from Marillion is ostensibly about an annoying person who keeps following the song's protagonist...although the annoying guest is almost certainly a metaphor for the AIDS virus.
  • "Bernd das Brot", the famous depressive German, wasn't able to get rid of the annoying Cha Cha Cha. ("Ich hab ein kleines Cha Cha Cha")
  • "Creepy Doll" by Jonathan Coulton has the eponymous Creepy Doll act like this, gradually driving the protagonist insane.
    When you come home late the doll is waiting up for you
    And when you fix a snack the doll says it would like one too
    The doll is in your house and in your room and in your bed
    The doll is in your eyes and in your arms and in your head
    And you go crazy!
  • Directly parodied in Theory of a Deadman's "The Bitch Came Back", right down to the chorus. The song's plot is about a girl whose attention the singer can't seem to shake.

    Myths & Religion 
  • One of the stories about Coyote in Navajo myth has him courting a woman who doesn't want him. As part of her Engagement Challenge she tells him that he must let her kill him four times (four being a major Arc Number in Navajo myth) and come back. By the fourth time she is so aggravated that she takes up a club, beats Coyote to pieces, crushes the pieces into dust, burns the dust, and scatters the ashes to the winds. He still comes back due to his Soul Jar.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show:
    • The eponymous song is performed by Rowlf the Dog in one sketch, with Gaffer the Cat and other Muppets acting out the story.
    • The little yellow Muppet that sings "You Are My Sunshine" in the famous "Hugga Wugga" sketch pulls this trick off.
  • Self-referential in "The Chicken Song" from Spitting Image — you can't escape this song even if you holidayed on Mars.
  • The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: "The Grinch Meets His Max" reveals just how Max came to be adopted by the Grinch. When Max first came to Mt. Crumpet, the Grinch tried to send him away, but no matter what he did, Max would always return. The Grinch eventually decided to adopt Max when Max was able to scratch an itch on his back that he couldn't reach.

    Video Games 
  • In NetHack, after you've picked up a certain Macguffin, The Wizard of Yendor will respawn or teleport near you at regular intervals. Even killing him won't stop him for long. The only way to stop him from respawning and attacking you is to reach the Astral Plane, the final level of the game. He will stop harassing you, but there you'll have an even bigger problem to deal with...
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud attempts to sneak out of Aerith's house during the night because her mother told him to leave before she goes with him on a dangerous trek through the slums. He sneaks past her bedroom as she's sleeping, sprints across the Sector... only to find her waiting for him at the entrance to the next area, earning a well-deserved gesture of shock from Cloud. But how... you were... and I ran...
  • In Clock Tower for the SNES, when you are being chased by ScissorMan, if you duck into an elevator, when you reach the floor you were heading for, ScissorMan will step out of the nearby room. It's doubtful this was intended as part of the game, but it is certainly freaky if you don't expect it.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:
    • The Staff of the Everscamp compels whoever has it to never let go of it, and whoever holds it is followed by four daedric (demonic) scamps, though they do nothing more than follow the owner (and emit a terrible odor). The only way to get rid of the staff is for someone else to willfully take it, or to return it to its shrine. Consider this: You can kill them infinitely for the hell of it. You could literally set up an entire mini-story based around that staff... People also use it as a source of infinitely-spawning enemies for Level Grinding.
    • But nothing in Oblivion has reached such memetic status as the aptly named Adoring Fan. After gaining notoriety in the Imperial City arena, he will begin to insist on following around and being completely freaking useless. If he dies, whether naturally or by "accident", he will respawn in the exact spot you first met him. Many players actually make something of a sport out of this, trying to find out just how many ways one might be able to kill him.
  • In the 2D Sonic The Hedgehog games, Tails will respawn and follow you eternally. Trying to shake him off has become something of a sport among Sonic players.
  • In the Professor Layton games, Layton adopts the orphaned Flora after the events of the first game. In all the subsequent games, he attempts to leave her at home rather than bring her along on dangerous investigations — not that he doesn't want her around, but because he worries about her so much, as is made clear in his journal entries. She sneaks along anyway. It's justified by an intense case of separation anxiety and monophobia.
  • In one chapter of the shareware game Spandex Force, there's this creepy bearded guy in a Robin-type getup who keeps following the PC around, claiming that he's called "Wonder Boy" and that he wants to be his/her sidekick.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes game Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis, Watson acts like this. The game doesn't animate him walking anywhere — he just always appears behind you, wherever you go. Silently. Watching.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, a Nemesis with the Unkillable title will keep coming Back from the Dead and popping up to torment you unless you decapitate him. In the sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of War even that might not stop them, as they might come back as a zombie, or as a Frankenstein's Monster with their head stitched back on.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • In Homestuck, the ever-creepy Cal is a reoccurring puppet, that keeps coming back no matter how many times it appears it has been dealt with.
  • You can't get rid of Party Cat, even when you get rid of Party Cat.
  • The Orb of Bliss in The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred Unlike the magical swords, she floats and can move freely about, thus following Mordred everywhere. And even when he tried to get rid of her, she comes back. Most recently he got fed up listening to her chatter and stuffed her in a box which he tossed out the 2nd story window, only to have it, and the undamaged orb, returned in the next page by the downstairs neighbor.
  • Igor in Nodwick is able to confront the title character a number of times when he's fleeing from the Henchmen's Guild, only to be fast-talked into going back empty-handed.
  • Girl Genius: Othar Tryggvassen (Gentleman Adventurer!) is very hard to shake off, especially when he has set his eyes on a "spunky sidekick". Throw him in a pit, he'll walk back through another door a few seconds later. Lampshaded by Tarvek after he and Violetta tries to escape him with a "down and up" (that doesn't work):
    Tarvek: This is why he's a hero. He's very, very good at this.
  • In Realm of Owls, no matter how far behind AD Moslo is left, he finds his way back to haunt Gheralf.
  • A strip from xkcd expands upon Napoléon Bonaparte's escape from Elba by having him escape from St. Helena, and continue evading exile (and mortality, apparently) until the Apollo program is launched for the purpose of stranding him on the Moon. The alt text addresses the possibility that he'll escape from there, too.

    Web Original 
  • From The Grand List of Console Role Playing Game Clichés:
    Most villains in RPGs possess some form of teleportation. They generally use it to materialize in front of the adventurers when they reach the Obligatory Legendary Relic Room and seize the goodies just before you can. The question "if the bad guy can teleport anywhere at any time, then why doesn't (s)he just zip in, grab the artifact, and leave before the adventurers have even finished the nerve-wracking puzzle on the third floor?" is never answered.
  • Several of the anomalies the SCP Foundation has to contain are characterized like this, with the standout example being a literal dog, SCP-3042. It's also one of the reasons why SCP-682 is so hard to dispose of — its Adaptive Ability not only makes it virtually unkillable, but also helps it find a way back to Earth should the Foundation somehow send it away or seal it in a nigh-inescapable place.

    Web Videos 
  • The short film Perv: The Cat, featuring a cat that consistently gets in the way of a couple about to make love, is essentially this trope.
  • A Doug Walker skit features him making the mistake of asking Kyle Hebert to demonstrate his narrating technique. The result is Hebert following Doug around for the rest of the day, refusing to ever shut up, and eventually he even climbs into bed with him, at which point Doug smothers him with a pillow. Not even death could stop Kyle Hebert.
  • The Nostalgia Critic Throughout the 2019 commercial special, Critic tries to escape the boring man who lectures Doug about the history of the Flintstones Gummies jingle, even sending him off a cliff and to outer space. Somehow, he keeps coming back to the house. Then after Critic finally successfully gets him out of his house for good, he realizes the guy was Michael Salvatori, a widely-acclaimed composer for video games who actually is cool.
  • The Spoony Experiment: Spoony has crossed over with Bennett the Sage a number of times to review crummy anime (always against Spoony's will). The Diatron 5 review had Spoony lock the door to keep Bennett out, only to find that he's already in the room, right behind him.

    Western Animation 
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • In most episodes, Shaggy and Scooby will find themselves in such a situation with the villain of the day. This also happens in both movies.
    • We got a serious one in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: In "The Legend of Alice May", Mr. E uses Alice May in a ghost girl plot to give the gang a old Crystral Cove yearbook. In "Pawns of Shadows", the gang unmask the Oliberatax as Alice May.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In the short Yankee Doodle Daffy, Porky Pig is a talent agent trying to go on vacation, who first has to get away from Daffy Duck, who is trying to convince Porky that his young client "Sleepy LaGoon" has star quality, mainly by demonstrating his apparent talents himself.
    • A similarly-themed cartoon (Draftee Daffy) has Daffy trying to evade "The Little Man from the Draft Board", who even follows him into Hell.
    • Subverted in the Bugs Bunny short Tortoise Beats Hare. It wasn't the original tortoise that kept inexplicably escaping Bugs' methods of leaving him behind. It was a series of identical tortoises which the first one bribed to screw with him.
    • Pepe LePew. No matter where That Poor Cat goes, Pepe is there to hold her in his arms.
    • That red hairy monster, Gossamer, is also quite persistent in following Bugs in that one cartoon.
    • This also happened to Ralph Wolf, when he proved unable to evade Sam the Sheepdog. Like the Tortoise Beats Hare example listed above, it turned out that there were multiple Sams.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: Droopy is an undisputed master of this trope. Of course, there often is more than one of him.
    • The short "Northwest Hounded Police" is pretty much nothing but this trope.
    • The Cartoon Network short "Thanks a Latte" has Droopy doing this trope in a present-day setting, with the Wolf as a cheapskate businessman who refuses to tip barista Droopy.
      Wolf: Here's a tip, get a real job!
    • There was also Billy, the always hungry goat in Billy Boy. The Southern-accented Wolf sends him on some railroad tracks, then he comes back with stamps all over him.
  • Tom and Jerry has Jerry doing this to Tom in "Million Dollar Cat". After learning that Tom might be eligible for a million dollars as long as he avoids inflicting any physical pain on any other animal, including mice, Jerry takes advantage of this by showing up everywhere Tom is in and deliberately annoys him every chance he gets. It gets to a point where Tom finally loses his temper and starts attacking Jerry, feeling that a million dollars isn't worth getting harassed by a mouse.
  • Animaniacs:
    • The Warner siblings are fond of doing this as well. Apparently, they can even bi-locate (stand in two positions at the same time in the same room).
    • They meet their match in the short "Chairman of the Bored", in the form of Francis "Pip" Pumphandle, who follows them home and only leaves when his monotonous anecdote is complete, several days later and shrugging off several murder attempts). At the end they decide they actually miss him, and chase after him, wanting to hear more of his stories.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Bart and Lisa escape from Mr. Burns through a laundry chute, only to find him waiting for them when they hit the ground. Lampshaded when Bart incredulously points out that it's physically impossible for Burns to have arrived first.
    • Mr. Burns gets another example when he uses the trapdoor in his office and the victims fall out of the ceiling in the same office, despite this being physically impossible. Burns simply responds exasperatedly "Oh, it's doing that thing again..."
    • In a "Treehouse of Horror" episode, with Homer threatened by a psychotic Krusty doll; Homer drops the doll into a Bottomless Pit, but it comes back by riding back home under the car.
    • In "Homer Loves Flanders", Homer finally starts to like Flanders... to the points that their roles end up getting reversed and Flanders tries as hard as he can to get Homer off his back. It doesn't work.
    • In the episode "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story" Moe tosses Barney out of his bar only for Barney to immediately appear behind Moe in the bar. This scene has since become meme shorthand for reoccurring problems.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the episode "SpongeBob meets the Strangler", SpongeBob actually so annoys his attempted murderer, the Tattletale Strangler, that he locks himself in prison to get away from SpongeBob... only to find Patrick (who he had had tricked into thinking that he was the strangler) in the same cell as him.
      Strangler: At least I'm safe from that yellow idiot!
      Patrick: Hey, Mack! What're you in for?
      [close episode]
    • In "Jolly Lodgers", Squidward goes to Hotel Halibut for some alone time away from SpongeBob and Patrick while his house is being de-contaminated. However, SpongeBob and Patrick happen to be staying at the hotel as well, and Squidward is right between their rooms, because the hotel is hosting a jellyfishing convention which they want Squidward to come to. Not wanting to be bothered, Squidward tries to get away from them, but sadly wherever he goes, SpongeBob and Patrick show up in the hotel activity of his choice, prompting him to flee the scene. It is to the point the two start appearing in the hallways one after the other and cornering him until he enters the convention like they planned, and it never stops until Squidward tells pest control to evacuate the hotel in the end.
  • A Running Gag in Garfield and Friends, where Garfield will often send the annoyingly-cute Nermal off to Abu Dhabi, but he will find his way back into Garfield's house just seconds later. Also in the newspaper comics as well.
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
    • A pretty standard version of this one in the episode "The Continuum of Cartoon Fools", in which Deedee repeatedly found ways to get into Dexter's Lab, and only by figuring out the obvious entrance Deedee could use every time to get inside (the secret book case entrance) could Dexter seal her off once and for all. The kicker? He locked himself out of the lab. He then spends the last thirty seconds or so of the cartoon going on a tirade about how he's no better than "that stupid coyote or that crazy duck".
    • Also done in "Sister's Got a Brand New Bag", where Dexter goes to increasingly desperate attempts to escape Deedee showing him her new dance. The ending is the most amusing part: he gives up and watches her dance, admits that it's pretty good, and the two say goodbye amiably.
  • The robin in Krypto the Superdog, whose desire to be Bat-Hound's partner, drives the normally implacable Caped Canine to hide in Krypto's spaceship with the lights out.
  • In an episode of Recess, a kid follows the Recess gang around, causing them bad luck. They do everything they can to lose him, but he always seems to catch up somehow, invariably greeted with sheer disbelief by the troupe. In one of their more extreme plans to get rid of him, Vince boots a ball all the way to China and tells the kid to retrieve it. The gang are momentarily relieved that he's finally gone, until he inexplicably returns from China a few seconds later, complete with a hat and a bowl of Chinese food.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Perry Lays an Egg", Perry the Platypus discovers Dr. Doofenshmirtz's latest scheme is simply to ridicule the whale who stole one of his old girlfriends, and promptly turns around with an annoyed look on his face. Doof has to chase Perry down in this manner and demand Perry thwart his "evil scheme". "I just insulted the macaroni and cheese recipe of a whale! How is that not evil?"
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, where Shake, Frylock and Meatwad attempt to rid themselves of a murderous ventriloquist's dummy, only for it to reappear every time they look away. Their final attempt to get rid of it involves Shake burning it with a flamethrower while Frylock and Meatwad watch several surveillance monitors looking in every direction. The dummy then appears from above in a parachute.
  • One of Robot Chicken's Star Wars skits involves Jar-Jar Binks visiting Darth Vader. Vader tries to shoo him away before finally tossing him out the air lock. Vader sleeps peacefully that night... until Jar-Jar appears, somehow learning the blue shiny trick. Without need to eat or sleep, Jar-Jar can hang with Vader all day, any day! YAAAY!
  • The Angry Beavers:
    • Bing the chameleon is very persistent once he decides you're his friend.
    • There was also an episode with a large barbarian who was trying to hunt down Norbert and Dagget. Every time the brothers think they got rid of him, one of them says "That's the last we're ever see of him," to which he immediately reappears and says, "Helllooo!"
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes has Heloise, who just wanted to read her book, being pestered by Jimmy and Beezy, who were having a contest to see who could make the most annoying sound.
  • Pinkie Pie in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic does this so often it's practically a superpower:
    • Happens to Rainbow Dash at the start of the episode "Griffon the Brush-Off", where Rainbow tries to avoid Pinkie Pie, only for Pinkie to follow her all across Ponyville. Hilariously, Dash is fleeing by air at near-supersonic speed while Pinkie is simply bouncing along at a casual pace.
    • Pinkie does it to Dash again in "Party of One", while trying to find out why her friends are skipping one of her parties and why they're keeping it a secret — although this time Pinkie follows Dash at full gallop. Exaggerated (like most everything Pinkie Pie does) when Rainbow Dash hides inside the bell of the town bell tower. As she's clinging to the dark inside of the bell, the bell's "clapper" opens its eyes...
    • In "A Friend in Deed", Pinkie gives Cranky Doodle Donkey this treatment when she chases him around Ponyville trying to get him to accept her apology for damaging his scrapbook. This includes the likes of putting on a beaver costume and actually chewing down a tree, and replacing a statue of Princess Celestia. Doodle actually wins the second chase by boarding up his house, although Pinkie still tries to squeeze in through his keyhole.
  • The Aracuan Bird (originally from The Three Caballeros) in many of his appearances, especially if Donald Duck is trying to get away from him.
  • W.I.T.C.H. has this with Irma, who is constantly hounded by a boy, Marvin, who has a massive crush on her (which she pretends not to appreciate as time wears on).
  • American Dad!: This seems to be Roger's thing; if you have something he wants, or if you've slighted him, there is no escaping him.
  • South Park:
    • "The Entity" focuses on this trope with Kyle getting rid of his cousin who's also named Kyle. In the end, Cousin Kyle leaves because of how much of a douchbag Kyle and his friends have been.
    • In "The Succubus", Chef's parents spend much of the episode reminiscing on their encounter with the Loch Ness Monster, who kept hounding them to loan him "about tree fiddy".
  • When Freakazoid! has to deal with Fanboy trying to become his sidekick, this trope is in effect. Nothing Freak' tries gets Fanboy off his back... up until he pawns the nerd off on to Mark Hamill.
  • Woody Woodpecker has this problem in the classic short "A Fine Feathered Frenzy". An anthropomorphic bird who was a gigantic geriatric named Gorgeous Gal fell in love with him instantly. In her mansion, she rode an escalator down towards him so she could greet the woodpecker with a big smooch. Woody liked her sexy voice but was turned off by her appearance. So he turned the escalator on full blast in reverse knocking her out of a window. He thinks he's rid of her but when he goes to sit down he winds up right on her lap. Woody tries to run away but Gorgeous appears behind every door he opens and every corner he turns ready for some flirting and kissing. Woody runs clear across the country and swims to a small island but Gorgeous Gal grabs him, marries him and presumably ravishes him in a golden submarine on their honeymoon.
  • Used in the infamous Rugrats episode "The Mysterious Mr. Friend", where the eponymous Creepy Doll keeps coming back no matter how many times the babies try to get rid of him Throw it down the laundry chute? Didi finds it while doing the laundry and puts it back outside. Bury it? Spike digs it up. Then they make it get lost by going through a lose board in the fence. It seems to have worked. But then, a whole army of Mr. Friends comes marching to them. The babies have an all-out battle with an army of Mr. Friends and win the war. Even then, the original Mr. Friend still comes back.
    Angelica: Hey, babies! Guess what? When my daddy and me were coming over here, I found the neatest, greatest, bestest toy in the whole world. Look! (pulls out the original Mr. Friend doll that the babies sent away through the fence earlier)
    Tommy, Chuckie, Phil & Lil: AAAAAAAAAAH! (they flee in terror, leaving Angelica utterly confused)
    Mr. Friend Doll: Let's all think of happy things; and laugh, and skip, and dance, and sing!
    Angelica: Well, I thought he was neat.
    (The letters "The End" followed by a "?" appear at the Mr. Friend's head as the episode fades to black)
  • Blackfly: No matter where the main character goes, the black flies find him, even when he goes to the moon.
  • Teen Titans Go!: In the episode "Boys vs. Girls", Raven and Starfire get the cooties and Robin refuses to use the cootie catcher to cure them unless they admit that boys are better than girls. Then Raven states that if they touch the boys they will be contaminated with cooties as well, and she and Starfire attempt to touch Robin, Beast Boy, and Cyborg. The boys leave the tower to go hide somewhere in the city, but no matter where they hide, Raven and Starfire find them. The boys get cornered in a bank vault and they get touched by the girls, and are contaminated by cooties, prompting Robin to admit that girls are better than boys and uses the cootie catcher to decontaminate themselves.
  • Wishfart: In the episode "Clip, Clop, We Won't Stop", Dez tries to get rid of his talking baby shoes when they refuse to leave him alone over an impossible task. First, he puts them in the mailbox, only for the shoes to escape. He then tries burying them, but the shoes dig themselves out. Finally, he throws them into the ocean, but Tsuni finds the shoes and returns them to Dez.
  • A literal variant happens in the T.O.T.S. episode "You Gotta Be Kitten Me!". Pip and Freddy deliver a kitten, but her parents are not home. The kitten thinks that Pip and Freddy are her parents, and keeps following them back.
  • Similar to Droopy, an early Huckleberry Hound cartoon had Huck flummoxing a western outlaw by persistently escaping his death traps. Huck lets on to the outlaw that he used his six lookalike cousins in the act.
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes: As Techno waits for his liver transplant in China, a cat keeps appearing in his hospital room. Robert keeps taking the cat out of the hospital room and depositing it in the courtyard in the back, only for the cat to reappear in the hospital room. Once he sees a hand poking through the door and returning the cat.
  • The Owl House: In "Hunting Palismen", Luz sneaks on board the Golden Guard's airship and sticks a fire glyph to his back, which launches him off the ship and across the horizon. While Luz is mumbling to herself trying to figure out how to land the airship, the Golden Guard tells her from off-screen to pull a cord above her head, before the camera cuts to him laying across the console with his hand on his cheek. Justified, as the Golden Guard actually has established teleportation powers.

    Real Life 
  • A frequent British Newspapers reaction to the latest inevitable return of Peter Mandelson.
  • When recounting politics in Dave Barry Slept Here, Dave Barry refers to Nixon's numerous bids for presidency like this. At one point, he mentions that Nixon had holes in his chest "from the numerous times people had stuck wooden stakes into him."


Video Example(s):


The Tattletale Strangler

By the end of the episode, the Strangler has been driven so crazy by SpongeBob's antics that he's actually relieved to be in jail and away from him. Unfortunately, he finds that Patrick is his cellmate

How well does it match the trope?

5 (26 votes)

Example of:

Main / PreferJailToTheProtagonist

Media sources: