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Unexplained Recovery

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Mad Jack: Didn't you die a while back?
Angus Dagnabbit: Aye. I got better.
Mad Jack: You were dead! How do you get better from being dead, you Scottish twit?!

This trope occurs whenever a character is last seen with a serious injury, a situation that no one could survive, or was flat-out clinically dead; and then is returned in full health with no real explanation for their recovery. And Death Is Cheap.

In other words, the only reason the character is still whole and alive is because Status Quo Is God and the writers invoked the First Law of Resurrection: they just did not want him to remain dead. Alternately, the writers just plain forgot the character died/was injured.

Also one of the possibilities in a Bolivian Army Ending or Left Hanging.

Characters will quickly recover from critical injuries due to Hollywood Healing. If returning from the dead is an explicit power of the character, see Resurrective Immortality.

Common in comedy involving Slapstick such as Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry and Laurel and Hardy, but is all but guaranteed to be seen as a cheap Ass Pull by the audience if implemented after a serious dramatic moment, unless it's a Deconstructive Parody e.g. having other characters point out how ridiculous it is for them to make such an Unexplained Recovery. If the work in question features both comedy and drama, expect the characters to make Unexplained Recoveries after being injured in the comedic moments, but not after the serious ones.

Compare Snap Back, Staying Alive, Joker Immunity, Made of Iron, and Good Thing You Can Heal. The inversion of Instant Illness.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Comic Strips 
  • In Fearless Fosdick, the "comic within the comic" in Al Capp's classic strip Li'l Abner, the titular Fosdick (a satirical Captain Ersatz of comic strip detective Dick Tracy) would often be ventilated by flying bullets in the course of his adventures, and left resembling a Swiss cheese by the end of an episode. Nevertheless, he always recovered from his "injuries":
    The Chief: Fosdick! I thought you were dead!
    Fearless Fosdick: Yes, but it didn't prove fatal. Just a mild case.
  • In Pearls Before Swine, Whale, a killer-whale character who was killed off via packaged explosive in 2006, inexplicably returns in a 2008 strip for a baseball game. When Rat confronts author Stephen Pastis about this, Pastis just casually answers that Whale had "undied". Partially subverted in the next day's strip, when Rat takes Whale off their team for being "technically dead". The irony is that the excuse of "[character] undied" is something Rat first used. He periodically writes a story called "The Adventures of Angry Bob", which invariably ends with the protagonist dead (most memorably after being assaulted while expressing happiness via a kazoo: "Many toots-for-joy later..."). To explain how he could write sequels, he started the first one with, "Angry Bob undied." (Goat reacts as one would expect.)
  • Scary Gary: Given that the bulk of the series almost practically runs on Black Comedy, this happens to the main cast a lot, and a few other characters, although, also because of the nature of the series, their recoveries can at least be chalked up to their supernatural nature, or some other reason.
    • Gary frequently, although since he is an undead vampire, the list of things that would kill him for good is pretty small.
    • Owen is sometimes reduced to a pile of ashes and a pair of glasses, but as a ghost, he's already dead, so it doesn’t stick.
    • Travis is sometimes reduced to a skull, but since Leopold seems to enjoy keeping him in a tortured existence as a living head trapped in a jar of formaldahyde, it's unlikely he would let Travis die to avoid a Mercy Kill.
    • Leopold should have died a few times too, but he seems to be Made of Iron, and probably has a fix for whatever ails him in his lab.
    • Leopold's parents drive off a cliff (he cut the brakes in their car), but when we next see them, they're fine. Given that Leopold is their kid, and says he grew up near a nuclear waste dump, along with their Nonstandard Character Design, they’re not exactly that "normal" to begin with.
    • Possibly Leopold's lab rat (the one often seen riding on his head), although it's not clear if it's the same lab rat, or one of the many rats in his lab.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Pinocchio", the Talking Cricket is killed the first time that he tries to lecture the title character. Later he appears to Pinocchio as a ghost. Then, he is inexplicably alive as one of the doctors whom the Fairy calls. He meets Pinocchio in the last chapter and even tacitly alludes to the fact that Pinocchio killed him, but there's no explanation for why he's alive now.
  • "Little Otik": The titular monster eats six persons before being stopped. When its belly gets cut open, all its victims come out of it, alive and unharmed.

    Fan Works 
  • In A Hero, absolutely no indication at all is given for how Dalek Sec managed to come back to life in the world of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Or how his previous condition was negated. Or how he got his casing back. Sec is as curious about it as us, but won't investigate any further.
    • The Doctor later gives at least some of these answers.
  • In Christian Humber Reloaded, the main character, Vash, tears out Soku's throat in revenge for turning him in to the police. She comes back toward the end of Part 1, apparently wanting revenge against Vash, but he kills her again. His recurring enemies tend to come back to life, but Soku never returns.
  • In the Battlestar Galactica and Stargate Atlantis crossover Encounter At Dawn by JA Baker, Kara Thrace gives this explanation as to how she's not dead anymore after she's de-ascended.
  • The plot of the Undertale fan comic Growth Spurt hinges on Asriel Dreemurr not only being restored to normal, but given an inexplicable Age Lift to boot. How either of these happened is never explained.
  • Homestuck high; Karkat allegedly kills himself at the end of the first chapter, for no reason. He turns out to be alive, albeit injured, and inexplicably turns into Tavros.
  • In Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami, some of the characters returning to life are explained as being due to the Life Note being able to bring people back to life, but some, such as Blud, come back from being killed with no explanation.
  • From a novelization of Metroid Fusion:
    Samus: You're not pissed off because I waxed [Kraid]?
    Ridley: Nah. He'll get better.
  • In the infamous My Immortal, Draco commits suicide by slitting his wrists. But a couple of chapters later "Voldemort had him bondage" like nothing ever happened...
    • Not to mention Willow, who B'loody Mary killed after she was expelled. This was apparently "kawai", but in the next chapter Willow is alive again with no explanation.
  • My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic:
    • Nightmare Moon, who has survived her demise at the end of Elements Of Harmony, and Titan, after being blown up halfway through the story.
    • Speaking of Titan, turns out he survived getting THROWN INTO THE SUN and becomes the Big Bad of The Movie.
  • Nightfall: All the characters are alive again post game, including John's Dad who unlike everyone else was Killed Off for Real without reappearing in a dream bubble. The only exception, so far, are Bec and Jadesprite who're both merged with the current Jade.
  • Played for laughs in John Biles' Infocom / Love Hina parody, Photo Sticker Quest, when The Player finds himself up a mountain, talking to Millard Fillmore:
    Player: >SAY "AREN'T YOU DEAD?"
    Millard Fillmore: I got better.
  • Barely averted in Sherlock Season 4. Watson dies at the end of Episode 1, but the only explanation we get for his recovery is this:
    Watson: No I survived by hiding in basement.
  • Played for laughs in the Transformers fic, They Just Don't Care Anymore, where characters are often resurrected with little more than a Hand Wave.
    Reflector: Thundercracker? Weren't you shot?
    Thundercracker: I got better.
    Reflector: ...And then thrown out into space?
    Thundecracker: I got better.
    Reflector: ...And then reformatted into Scourge?
    Thundercracker: Look, what part of "I got better" don't you understand?
    • Note that this indeed happened, with the characters who became Cyclonus and the Sweeps (Scourge's clone army) appearing later without comment. It has to do with a lot of the production of Transformers: Generation 1 being rushed, so the animators and script writers also aren't always on the same page.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series manages to get away with this trope due to its lack of having a fourth wall and Rule of Funny:
    • Serenity, the younger sister of Joey Wheeler, ends up going blind after her eye surgery turned out to be a failurenote . Eventually, Serenity ended up regaining her eye sight when "the writers" decided to make her a regular character.
    • In episode 58, Joey suffers a horrible injury during his duel with Melvin that nearly killed him. However, he's shown to be perfectly okay when he reappears at the end of the next episode. When Yami questions this, Joey literally responds by saying, "I just woke up while I was offscreen."
  • Dragon Ball Abridged had this happen to an entire species, the Kanassans, who were quite visibly murdered to extinction, but just inexplicably all just... got better one day. Much to the consternation of those around them. Presumably, this is related to their ability to SEE THE FUUTUUUUUUURE.
  • Sailor Moon Abridged has Molly’s Mom as the first Monster of the Week (with her monstrous appearance hand-waved as alcohol-induced rage) and thus, the first victim of Sailor Moon’s Moon Tiara Magic. However, she shows up alive and well as soon as the plot calls for her to return.

    Film — Animation 

  • The pirates in Cosmo Jarvis' Gay Pirates walk the plank... and somehow get better. It's not explained, but that doesn't matter.
  • In The Lonely Island song "Like a Boss", the titular boss recounts his typical daily life, which ends in turning into a jet (like a boss), bombing the Russians (like a boss), flying into the sun (like a boss), and now he's a dead (like a boss). His performance reviewer expresses incredulity that he can chop his balls off and die every day. The boss just shrugs it off.
  • Michelle Creber and Black Gryph0n's "Getting Stronger" starts off with the subject of the song being *offended* that their foe is surprised by their mysterious return.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A staple of wrestling from its earliest days. Several times, one wrestler might be expected to compete in two or three matches a night. For instance, someone might be "severely hurt" in one match and carried out on a stretcher (to sell the injury), only to come out an hour later in full health to compete in a battle royal. During the television era, two wrestlers might compete in a main event-caliber match early at a television taping and sell a bloody brawl, only for one of the wrestlers to come out 25 minutes later and make short work of a jobber, with no evidence that he had even been hurt, much less involved in a match. (This was the case when segments were taped out of order, rather than sequentially, especially before the Internet era.)
    • This was also common when stations aired two programs from the same promotion the same weekend, with one of the shows showing a particular wrestler being "badly injured" (such as to begin a new feud) and the other show depicting him in full health and taking on a jobber. This became confusing to unsophisticated viewers, particularly if the latter example aired after the show where said wrestler was "injured."
    • A blatant example was at the end of the 2000 Survivor Series Pay-Per-View, which ended with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin hijacking a forklift and dumping a car containing Triple H from high up in the air. The next night on Raw Is War, it was revealed that Trips had only suffered "minor injuries" and seven days later, he reappeared on television looking as good as new aside from some medical tape around his ribs.
  • A strange example occurred when John Cena was supposedly "injured" after getting stabbed by Carlito's bodyguardnote , as Cena then returned a couple of weeks later at Survivor Series without stab wounds whatsoever.
  • On 4/19/10, the Guest Host of RAW MacGruber accidentally blew up R-Truth. Yes, as in he accidentally blew him up with the pyrotechnics. The next night on NXT, Truth was indeed present as if nothing had happened. The weirdest part about all of this? R-Truth is a face; you wouldn't think a face would be the Butt-Monkey of elaborate pranks on the part of the guest host.
  • This happens in a lot of storylines involving The Undertaker. It's somewhat justified by the fact that he's portrayed as a supernatural being. It also seems to apply to the people around him. In 2004, he buried manager Paul Bearer alive, filling the tomb with concrete. Bearer returned with no explanation. Justified in the Bearer case: the live audience saw an extended ending to the burial clip, with Bearer surfacing for air and being stretched out of the arena. The following Smackdown he was announced as alive but "gravely injured" to write him out of the storyline. It also helps that said return took place about six years later.
  • A particularly egregious example comes from WCW, which just seems to go Serial Escalation for pure strangeness, even for wrestling. After a Monster Truck Match on a rooftop for a PPV, Hulk Hogan and the Giant (now The Big Show in WWE) have a scuffle at the edge of the roof. And, yup, the Giant takes a tumble over the edge. Hogan's in shock... and then for the main event regular match between the two, on the same night, the Giant comes out without so much as a scratch. Not much in the way of explanation is ever provided, although Bobby Heenan once said that they wanted the Giant to come to the ring with a fish in his tights, to explain that he fell into the river.

  • Bleak Expectations: Through series 1, Aunt Lilly returns from increasingly strange deaths, including being devoured by a pack of squirrels who have explicitly bitten at least one of her limbs off, with no explanation, until the series finale when she's run through with a sword. However, the novelisation implies even that didn't completely do her in.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) ended its first radio series with Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin being eaten by a shape-shifted alien. The Christmas special that launched the second series brought back Zaphod and Marvin (and changed Trillian's fate to Put on a Bus). Zaphod's first words in the episode were "I've recovered." Marvin had lost an arm shortly before getting eaten; as this was never referenced again, it presumably got better too.
    • Since he was a robot, it was probably replaced. Every other part of his body was replaced at some stage, except of course the terribly painful diodes all down his left side.
    • In episode 13, it was revealed that Zaphod's adventures on the Frogstar and Brontitall had simply been induced by being extremely drunk. Marvin had, in fact, had his arm welded to his side, thanks to being trapped on a ship as it flew into the nearest star.
  • The first 2011 run of BBC Radio 4 statistics show More or Less ended with host Tim Harford falling off the roof of Broadcasting House, in a parody of the death of Nigel Pargetter in The Archers. The second run opened with the show now presented by Graham Seed, the actor who played Nigel, only for Harford to return and quickly take back control.
    Harford: I ... got better.
    Seed: I see. I wish I had.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse: During the storyline in which the heroes defeated the Chairman, Mr. Fixer was killed fighting the Operative, but came back. For more than two years, the most fans got out of the creators was that he wasn't revived with the Lazarus Vats that the Chairman and the Operative bathe in, because while they rejuvenate, they can't actually bring back someone already dead. (This is consistent with the card game, in which they heal both, but do not revive them if incapacitated.) Eventually, coinciding with the appearance of his Dark Watch Variant GTG finally revealed the secret. Mister Fixer was revived by his old nemesis Zhu Long as a brainwashed minion, before Nightmist was able to restore his mind.

  • In Candide, Candide meets Cunegonde, who was earlier apparently killed, and in the duet "You Were Dead, You Know" asks her how she escaped death. She dodges the question.

    Web Animation 
  • In the final chapter of Broken Saints, Raimi and Oran are miraculously alive and well, despite that fact that in the Grand Finale the former was hit with some crazy mind blast thing that threw him across the room and made him unable to move, and the latter had his hand cut off and was later stabbed about ten times with a big ol' knife, with no suggestion that they received immediate medical attention.
    • One possibility is that when Shandala reversed the broadcast to positive energy, it manifested in some kind of healing magic that kept Raimi and Oran alive, although even if so, that they survived long enough to be healed is itself a miracle.
    • And then of course there are the Epileptic Trees: Raimi and Oran aren't alive in the final chapter.
  • Dreamscape: How Dylan was brought back after his soul was shredded during Death-T, which Keela mentions off-handedly in the flashback in "Tale of the Unworld".
  • DSBT InsaniT: Not only with Balloon, but also with the groups campsite in 'The Camping Webisode', which is heavily pointed out by Bill!
    Bill: Wow. Despite the fact that everything was burned and broken, we STILL managed to recover all the food to its natural state, fix the tents without stitches or anything, and repair the flashlights!
  • In the early days of The Frollo Show, Frollo tended to come back from the dead quite a lot, sometimes through outside help (like a 1-Up Mushroom) and sometimes without any explanation whatsoever. This got better later on. The third time he died, he made good friends with Hades, who let him out. This specific time was also the only canon death, with the other "deaths" being gags.
  • Homestar Runner: Within seconds of his first appearance, Homsar is killed by Strong Bad dropping a large weight on him. Despite this he continued to come back for more bit parts in future animations. Given his nonsensical, borderline Reality Warper nature it's probably not worth questioning how he came back.
  • HTF +: It is revealed in HTF+CC 1 Evil Pinkie Pie killed Rainbow Dash and comes back as a ghost to get revenge but in HTF+FI/RF 1 she is alive somehow.
  • In first season finale of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, Fabricator General breaks down and explodes mid-word. Nobody seems to notice this, and he's back in the next shot without as much as a word of explanation, or anything else for that matter.
    • Subverted later in the series however; he has recently been revealed to be utilizing the Proteus Protocol to survive repeated explosions.
    • Though Vulkan being a Perpetual means that his ability to resurrect is explained in-universe, no one in the setting actually knows he's a Perpetual, leading to them being confused, elated, or resigned (in Corvus Corax's case) when he repeatedly keeps coming back to life.
  • Happens several times in Potter Puppet Pals. Several people get Avada Kedavra'd (Harry and Ron in "Bothering Snape" and Snape in "Trouble At Hogwarts) and the whole rest of the cast gets blown up by Voldemort in "The Mysterious Ticking Noise", but everyone's always as good as new in the next episode. It remains to be seen whether Gourd!Neville is permanently dead, however.
  • Race to the Mansion of Tomorrow: Characters often get critically injured, especially AJ and OJ due to being made of glass, but they always seem to be fine right in the very next scene.
  • In one of the (non-canon) endings to Red vs. Blue, Sarge is shot in the head at close range by a sniper rifle. He shows up less than a minute later, and Tucker says "I thought you were dead!" and he responds "I was dead, Doc revived me!" He is then killed again.
    • Flowers mysteriously comes back to life, just in time to die before he can tell Tucker how to fix everything.
    • Season 9's Quirky Miniboss Squad was shown being dispatched in a number of unpleasant ways (being punched into a wall mid-flight, getting catapulted off of a freeway, taking a Kill Sat shot to the face), but all except for Sharkface return for Season 10.
    • AT least one of the other Mooks is seen with a new metal arm and a desire to get back at the Freelancers for it, so at least they didn't all get out unscathed.
  • Something About: The beginning of Something About Super Mario World shows Mario and Luigi relaxing on the beach, even though Mario had sacrificed himself in his previous appearance, Something About Smash Bros World of Light, to defeat Dharkon. When Luigi questions it to Mario, he responds "To answer that, we need to talk about Parallel Universes."
  • In issue 3 of Teen Girl Squad, The Ugly One gets "MSG'd!", destroying her stomach lining and leaving her, if not necessarily dead, limp on the ground with X'd-out eyes. In the next scene she reappears good as new, finally saying "My stomach feels better."
    • The whole idea of Teen Girl Squad is the various Teen Girls dying in wild and creative ways, with each of them returning as good as new in the next episode.
    • Also, Homsar after Strong Bad drops a heavy weight on him in his first appearance. Later lampshaded in a message on Marzipan's answering machine when he mentions being in the hospital after the incident.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, episode 9, the Fabricator General hits a fatal error while pronouncing "buttcheeks" and explodes. He is back within 15 seconds.
  • Little Baby Bum: In this animated version of Five Little Monkeys Swinging In The Tree, all five monkeys are eaten by the alligator one by one, and are inexplicably fine in the end, riding on his back.
  • PONY.MOV: In one of the panel videos, Spike asks why Rainbow Dash is still alive. She explains that the video isn't canon.

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • Finnish fighter ace Ahti Laitinen (10 kills) was shot down 17 July 1944 and his Bf 109G went down in flames. He was reported to have been killed in action. Miraculously, he had survived and was taken as a prisoner of war. His family thought he was dead and published his obituary in local newspaper. When Capt. Laitinen returned from captivity 1945, he later added his own obituary on his pilot's scrapbook.
  • Wild Bill Hickock, while grossly exaggerating the odds against him in a fight would answer the breathless question "What happened next, Bill?" with "Why, boys, they killed me!"
  • Mark Twain's famous "quote": "The report of my death is an exaggeration." (New York Journal, June 2, 1897)
  • Averted with Rasputin the Mad Monk, who was simply shot in the head and thrown in a lake. All the rumors and exaggerations about the allegedly numerous attempts to kill him were invented by his assassins years later while in exile in France.
  • Towards the end of the Winter War, Simo Häyhä was shot in the face, supposedly shot the guy who shot him in the face and fell into a coma he woke up from eleven days later.
    • Half of his jaw was blown off by an exploding round. Not only did he get up eleven days later, he demanded to get back to the front, request which was denied by the government due to the war ending. That's right - Simo Häyhä terrified the Russians so much, they pulled out of Finland when he woke back up. He lived on for fifty years after the events, dying of old age.
    • The information of the incident that reached his hometown led people to believe he had actually died. Häyhä had the rare privilege of reading about his own memorial service from the newspaper.
  • Before the Catholic Church declares an event (usually a healing) to be a miracle, a careful investigation is conducted to rule out any natural explanation.
  • During the Battle of the Coral Sea (World War II), the Japanese thought they had fatally damaged the CV Yorktown. After 3 days of repair in Pearl Harbor (and some time while the ship was underway), USS Yorktown sailed to take part of the Battle of Midway, to be sunk by a submarine following the battle.
  • Accidental example from the US after the loss of USS Lexington, registry CV-2. They introduced USS Lexington, registry CV-16, renamed as such in honor of the first lost ship. The end result was that some Japanese thought Lexington had mysteriously been restored, until they realized this was a more modern vessel. Amusingly, Lexington CV-16 would go on to be announced as sunk by the Japanese navy no less than four additional times in the course of the war by Japanese propanda mouthpiece Tokyo Rose, meaning that anyone who took Rose at her word would have to wonder how this same carrier was inexplicably un-sinking and being sunk each subsequent time.


Oh My God, They Killed Kenny

"You bastards!"

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