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Meaningful Echoes in live-action TV.


  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Face My Enemy", while on a mission together, Coulson begins reminiscing about past missions, May gives a short but to the point speech about facing reality and not getting misled by sentiment. At the end of the episode, when May tells Coulson she won't Mercy Kill him if he becomes like the Clairvoyant, he gives the same speech back to her.
  • Angel:
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    • From episode 2x10, "Reunion": "And yet I just can't seem to care." Also doubles as an Ironic Echo.
    • Also, "Let's get to work", the final line of the series, was said by Angel in the first episode before he stormed the bad guy's lair.
    • In the episode "A Hole in the World", the episode begins with the characters light-heartedly debating who would win in a fight: Cavemen or Astronauts? Fred is infected by the spirit of an ancient demon and it becomes apparent that none of their powerful, modern magics can stop it. As she nears death, she whispers "Cavemen win. Of course the cavemen win."
    • In the Season 1 episode "Hero", the words Doyle says at the end of the commercial Cordelia films become painful when the commercial is replayed at the end, after he dies. "Is that it? Am I done?"
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008) - In the first episode of Series 3, Gene comments on how he accidentally shot Alex at the end of series 2, saying 'you fell all wrong', and Alex replies with 'Sometimes in life, you can't help which way you fall.'. At the end of the episode, a woman who got involved in a kidnapping because she was in love with a criminal repeats this exact line to Alex, which now has new meaning because it makes Alex think about whether she might be falling for Gene (in the metaphorical and not literal sense).
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  • Season 3 Battlestar Galactica episode "Maelstrom" had Kara say "I'll see you on the other side" to Lee before she got killed. During the series finale, Samuel Anders utters the very same words to Kara following their farewell before he directs Galactica and the rest of the Fleet into the Sun. Many fans take this to mean that they have both Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence and will be Together in Death, and that Lee will also gain that status when he eventually dies.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Repeated twice by Tara in Buffy's dream in the season 4 finale, and then repeated by Dracula in the season 5 opener:
      "You think you know: what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun."
    • In the episode "The Gift", Buffy tells Dawn that "the hardest thing in this world is to live in it" before making a Heroic Sacrifice. Towards the end of "Once More With Feeling", Dawn repeats those words.
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    • In Season 6 "As You Were" Riley Finn, having seen his relationship with Buffy collapse because she doesn't love him, returns to find Buffy at a low point in her life. He states that he loves her regardless, that nothing he's seen her do affects that in the least, and concludes by saying "You're a hell of a woman." In "Touched" Spike, having seen his own relationship with Buffy end for exactly the same reason, rallies her at a low point in her life with a Love Confession that concludes with the same words.
    • Dark!Willow says "Bored now" just before killing Warren. The line was used by the evil Wishverse vampire Willow, yet Willow herself had never heard the line being used, making its use in this context particularly chilling (well, that and the whole flaying-alive thing).
    • Angel tells Buffy just before they make love for the first time; "I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop." When Buffy becomes involved with another vampire, Spike, she insists their relationship is purely sexual, because she is terrified that history is repeating itself.
      Spike: I love you.
      Buffy: (upset) No, you don't!
      Spike: You think I haven't tried not to?
      (Buffy punches Spike clear across the alley) Try harder!
    • And that dialogue is then echoed in the series finale, as Spike makes his Heroic Sacrifice.
      Buffy: I love you.
      Spike: No, you don't. But thanks for saying it.
  • Castle:
    • In "Tick Tick Tick..." when Castle felt responsible for a serial killer inspired by his Nikki Heat novels (played for both drama and humor),
      Beckett: Really? Like The Beatles are responsible for Charles Manson because of 'Helter Skelter'? Or is it more like Jodie Foster's responsible for John Hinckley shooting Reagan?
      [Later, when Beckett is visibly disturbed by the killer using the character she inspired as an excuse to kill]
      Castle: A very wise woman once told me, "You can't blame Jodie Foster for John Hinckley." But you can blame her for Nim's Island.
    • At the end of their first case ever, after Beckett turns down Castle's advances:
      Castle: It would have been great.
      Beckett(whispering teasingly in Castle's ear): You have no idea.
      [Four seasons later, after they finally get together]
      Castle: You were right. I had no idea.
    • In "Poof, You're Dead", when a street magician attempts to disappear in a cloud of smoke to avoid Beckett's questioning him regarding the murder of another magician, Beckett opens the chest he ducked into and says "Alakazam, jackass." Later, Beckett, with the help of the victim's twin brother, cons the real killer to declare, "You're dead, I killed you!" Beckett's response to the confession; "Alakazam, jackass."
  • Dexter:
    • Season 4: "It doesn't matter what I do, what I choose... I'm what's wrong." First said by Debra when she is breaking down in guilt over Lundy's death, and her ruined relationship with Anton. Later said by Dexter when he finds his son sitting in Rita's blood.
    • Dexter does this consistently throughout the series. Since he often doesn't know what to say in a given situation, or how to articulate his emotions, he ends up parroting other people's words, sometimes with success, sometimes inappropriately.
    • An excellent example is when he listens in to the police interview of a female stalker who has murdered a man she has never met because she was obsessed with him. Dexter later uses the bizarre outpouring of her feelings for this man as his word-for-word proposal of marriage to his girlfriend, Rita. Rita is, of course, thrilled by the romantic phrasing while the viewer, knowing the previous context, has chills down the spine.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The First Doctor casually uses a similar construction about 'going back, yes' in several significant scenes. "One day, we will go back. Yes, we will go back" ("An Unearthly Child"). "One day, I will return. Yes, I will return." ("The Dalek Invasion of Earth") Then, during his Heroic BSoD in "The Massacre": "I should go back. Yes, I should go back. ...But I can't. I can't." In "The Savages", he riffs off that version of the phrase when Security Clinging onto Dodo after his friend Steven leaves the team — "We must never look back. No, we must never look back." The changes in this phrase reflect his character development from an arrogant man who assumes he makes the rules to an enthusiastic eccentric learning when to break the rules to an insecure old man struggling to deal with his own loneliness. A few stories later he dies of old age and is transformed into another body.
    • In "Shada", variations of the phrase "he seemed like a nice old man" get used a lot, usually by characters describing Charm Person Professor Chronotis. At the very end of the story, however, it is used by the Doctor to describe himself.
    • There's a lot of running in Doctor Who. In fact, the Doctor's first sentence in the new series is "Run." When the Eleventh Doctor is facing down the first major threat to Earth in his new body, what does he say to them, after a Badass Boast to end all Badass Boasts? "Run."
    • In "The End of the World", the Ninth Doctor says of Lady Cassandra, "Everything has its time, and everything dies." In "School Reunion", Sarah Jane repeats it almost word-for-word to the Tenth Doctor.
    • "Father's Day" does this with the episode's score: when Rose makes a fateful decision, it's marked by a discordant note in the Background Music. When Pete makes another such decision near the story's end, the note is heard again.
    • "The Satan Pit": "Regret to inform, sir, I was a bit slow," as Mr. Jefferson is trapped behind a sealed door in the maintenance duct. This is close to what Rose said when she was in a similar situation.
    • "Smith and Jones": Martha Jones exudes so much calm confidence that she promises the Doctor that she'll get him home. Those are usually the Doctor's words, and he looks slightly nonplussed.
      Martha: I promise you, Mr. Smith, we will find a way out.
    • "Blink": Sergeant Billy Shipton asks Sally out for a drink. Why? "Because life is short and you are hot." A few minutes later, when they see each other again, he's aged about forty years and on his deathbed, he tells her that "life is long... and you are hot."
    • "The Doctor's Daughter": "It's not impossible. Just a bit unlikely." First said cheerfully by the Doctor when Jenny backflips through a Laser Hallway. Later said sadly after Jenny's been shot and (apparently) killed, and she doesn't revive. (Jenny doesn't come back to life for good until after the Doctor and his companions leave.)
    • "Forest of the Dead": River Song does this twice.
    • "The Waters of Mars" sees the Doctor briefly going off the deep end, grandstandly declaring that the Laws of Time "are mine! And they will obey ME!!!" This of course echoes the classic Catchphrase of his Arch-Enemy, the Master: "I am the Master, and you will obey me!"
    • "The End of Time". The first time, it's the Doctor taking a third option, and not killing anyone. The second time, it's the Master, doing... pretty much the opposite.
      The Doctor: [aims at the Master] Get out of the way. [shoots a console]
      The Master: [aims at the Doctor] Get out of the way. [shoots Rassilon]
    • "The Beast Below": "Gotcha." First said by the Doctor to Amy when he makes it clear that he's serious about wanting her to do something or he'll take her back home. Then, after Amy convinces him that she knew exactly what would happen if she freed the Star Whale, she says it back to the Doctor.
    • Various companions and other characters ask "Doctor who?" after meeting the Doctor, and as well as a reference to the show's title, it turns out to be the oldest and most important question in the universe.
    • In "Asylum of the Daleks", Oswin's line to the Doctor as she blows up the asylum (and herself with it), "Run you clever boy, and remember," with a sly glance at the camera. She later appears as Victorian Clara and dies, her last words being "Run you clever boy, and remember." Then modern day Clara says the same thing before running into the Doctor's time stream to save him — and then, two seasons later, a modified version becomes her final message and mission statement to the Doctor.
    • Two separate exchanges in "The Angels Take Manhattan":
      The Doctor: You just changed the future!
      River: It's called marriage, honey. Now hush! I'm working.
      [later, when Amy is prepared to jump off the building with Rory to set up a time paradox]
      The Doctor: What the hell are you doing?!?!
      Amy: Changing the future. It's called marriage.
    • In Series 9, "I had a duty of care" starts out as the Twelfth Doctor expressing borderline-overprotection of his companion, Clara. When uttered at the end of the season, after the Doctor has spent 4 1/2 billion years on a Batman Gambit to try and save her life, risking all of time and space, it takes on a completely different meaning. Clara's response is to say "People like me and you, we should say things to one another," which is a meaningful echo of something said about two different people who had grown close during an episode earlier in the season.
    • In Doctor Who S35 E8 "The Zygon Inversion", The Doctor jokingly tells Kate "No, it's not a game, sweetheart." A moment later, he emphatically declares, "Because it's not a game, Kate!"
  • The Eureka episode "I Do Over" does this with several lines. Granted, you'd expect an episode centering around a time loop to repeat lines, but this episode does it in such a way that the lines echo, rather than simply repeating, and the meaning changes with the timeline.
  • Firefly:
    • In "War Stories", Kaylee wins a game against River and jokingly declares "No power in the 'Verse can stop me." River uses the same line near the end of the episode after gunning down three of Niska's men with her eyes closed to save Kaylee, giving the line a much more chilling effect.
    • From "Message":
      Tracey: When you can't run, you crawl. And when you can't do that... well, when you can't do that-
      Zoe: You find someone to carry you.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower episode "Retribution", Hornblower says of Captain Sawyer "he was a leader of men, and he died in battle" to Hobbs, who was personally loyal to Sawyer and suspected foul play in injury that removed him from command. In the present, Buckland testifies that Hornblower pushed Sawyer down the hatchway so that the surgeon would be forced to certify him incapable of command and calls on Hobbs as a witness. When Hobbs is on the stand, however, he looks directly at Hornblower and repeats the same sentence that Hornblower said to him, indicating that he will not corroborate Buckland's accusation.
  • In the pilot episode of House, House says: "As the philosopher Jagger once said, "You can't always get what you want." At the end of the episode "Wilson's Heart" House has a vision in which she's on a bus with Amber, who just died because of a bus accident. He tells her that he wants to die; she responds: "Well... you can't always get what you want." The sheer amount of times that song is either referred to or played in the soundtrack approaches the level of absurdity.
  • In How I Met Your Mother:
    Barney: It's a poem,Ted!
    later:
    Ted: It's a poem, Barney!
    • Lily tries to force Barney and Robin to define their relationship in the aptly named "Definitions", but they're less than thrilled with the idea.
      Barney: The Talk sucks. You have to, like, talk. And be all, "I don't know... It's not that I don't like you, it's just that I haven't had a girlfriend in a really long time. Hope that doesn't make you mad." Blegh, who needs it?
      • Later, Lily forces them to have The Talk, with the help of the promise of bacon.
        Robin: "Where do you see this relationship going?" Oh my god, that sounds so cheesy. But, um... Where do you see this relationship going?
        Barney: [sincerely] I don't know. I mean, it's not that I don't like you, I just haven't had a girlfriend for a long time. I hope that doesn't make you mad.
  • Lexx Kai died in the first scene of the series singing while flying to battle. Four seasons later, he beats the devil in chess to win a chance at life again, but the devil disappears and Kai still seems to be undead. A while later, in the series finale, Kai embarks on a dangerous mission that will save countless lives by destroying a monster, and the devil reappears unexpectedly to fulfill his end of the bargain by returning him to life. As an undead assassin, Kai had a chance of returning intact, but as a mere mortal, it's a hopeless suicide mission. That's when he starts singing again...
  • Used quite a bit in Lost, mostly with "live together, die alone," and "don't tell me what I can't do."
    • Most awesomely?
      Rose: Jack, if you say 'live together, die alone' to me I will slap you in the face.
    • A more plot related example occurs when the person posing as Locke reveals his true identity to Richard via a phrase—"it's good to see you out of those chains"—which the man, in his original form, said to Richard 140 years earier.
    • The physical therapist who taught John to use a wheelchair said, "You fell eight stories and survived, okay? I don't wanna hear about what you can't do."
    • And in the series final, when Jack tells Desmond "I'll see you in another life, brother." He does, literally.
    • Hurley's Berserk Button is people calling him "nuts", "insane" or "crazy", even if it's just in jestnote , leading to his other Catchphrase, a very insistent, serious declaration that "I'm not crazy". In the epilogue, Hurley visits Walt, a similarly "special" individual.
      Walt: They said I was crazy.
      Hurley: You're not crazy, dude. Not even close.
  • In Mama ist Unmöglich (Mom is Impossible), episodes 1 and 4 both end with Carol saying "Mom, you are impossible". The first time, she says it in frustration but the second time, she says it in admiration.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • In the episode "A War for All Seasons", Colonel Potter rings in 1951 with the heartfelt and hopeful toast "Here's to the new year. May she be a damn sight better than the last one, and may we all be home before she's over." After an episode taking place over an entire year where nothing changes, we end with Potter giving the same toast in a far more somber fashion.
    • In the season 3 episode "O.R.", visiting psychiatrist Sidney Freedman tells the 4077th staff: "Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice." In the show's final episode, he repeats the line while departing camp for the last time.
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • In a flashback of the second episode of Season 2, Regina tries to escape her abusive controlling mother. Her mother uses a spell to stop her, and tells her she can use magic to get what she wants. Regina desperately pleads "I don't want that. I don't want to be you. As an adult Regina uses magic to get Henry to come with her, uses the exact same spell her mother used when he tries to escape, and then they have the exact same conversation. This causes Regina to realize she has become the one thing she swore she would never be, her mother. She later lets him go, and tries to be The Atoner.
  • "Sorry I'm late" appears four times throughout the entire run of the show. It first appears in the Pilot, in its most sinister appearance, spoken by Regina as she crashes Snow and Charming's wedding. It appears again, much more sincerely delivered, in season two's 'The Cricket Game' when Regina arrives late at the welcome home party for Emma and Snow. It is spoken again by Regina in "Wish You Were Here" as she crashes Wish!Henry's knighting ceremony in an attempt to wake Emma up. It appears for a fourth and final time in the finale, spoken by Emma as she arrives late to Regina's coronation.
  • One Tree Hill: When Dan has a heart attack, everyone related to him needs to get tested because the heart condition he has has a 1 in 2 chance of being passed on genetically. Keith gets checked and happily tells Lucas that he does not have the condition, hoping it'll encourage Lucas to get tested, to which Lucas replies, "1 in 2, right?"
  • In Parks and Recreation, Andy does this to Ron… accidentally.
    Andy: A wise man once told me that we are adults and that means we don't run away from our problems. [Beat] I just remembered, it was you who said that, Ron. You told me that!
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures has a real Shout-Out of an echo in "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith", featuring an appearance from the Doctor. Their last words to each other echoing a phrase spoken between them twenty years ago, with the Doctor asking her not to forget him: and this time Sarah Jane has an answer. Even more poignant is that this is almost David Tennant's last appearance as the Doctor. The next time she sees him will be the last, at least in this form.
    The Doctor: Don't forget me, Sarah Jane.
    Sarah Jane: No one's ever going to forget you.
  • During the Saved by the Bell: The New Class episode "Oh, Brother", when Ryan notices his stepbrother Nicky wearing a sweater that belongs to Ryan (something Ryan doesn't appreciate) and points it out, Nicky responds with: "Looks good, doesn't it?" At the end of the selfsame episode, when Ryan and Nicky work out their issues and Nicky agrees to Ryan's suggestion to stay:
    Ryan: Good, because that's my shirt you're wearing.
    Nicky: Looks good, doesn't it?
  • Scrubs: Season 5, "My Lunch" - Dr. Cox lectures J.D. about how, once you start blaming yourself for other people's deaths, it's a "slippery slope that you can't come back from," and that he's seen it ruin people. At the end of the episode, after the three patients, including Dr. Cox's friend, die from rabies, J.D. reminds Dr. Cox of the same thing. It almost does ruin him, as seen in the following episode. Guess who pulls Dr. Cox out of his slump?.
  • In Selfie Eliza and Henry get invited to the boss' ranch for the weekend, and Henry wonders why she got invited, since he thinks he's being vetted for a promotion. Eliza points out she might be in line for a promotion, and Henry says its more likely she's his plus one. Eliza reacts vehemently, saying "I'm not a plus one. I'm VIP bitches." (prompting Henry to say, "Bitches? It's just me. One bitch") Its quickly revealed Eliza is Henry's plus one, and at the end Saperstein says he invited her because she makes Henry more life-like. Henry then says "Actually sir, she is more than a plus one. She is a VIP."
  • ''Sherlock: "If you're looking for baby names". This is said ironically by John (along with his fall name, John Hamish Watson) as a joke in "A Scandal in Belgravia", when he sees Sherlock and Irene having a Held Gaze. Four episodes later, Sherlock states his full name (William Sherlock Scott Holmes) and the aforementioned quotation during his last conversation with John and his wife Mary. Sherlock's words are only moments before he is heading on a MI6 mission that could potentially get him killed, as penance for shooting the Big Bad in an attempt to protect John and his family. He is suggesting this because Mary is pregnant, meaning that he wants John to have someone to remember him by.
  • Smallville, in the episode "Reckoning" Jor-El tells Clark that they are not gods, and that altering the past can have unforeseen consequences, as Clark wishes to save Lana before she is killed in a car accident. He changes the past, by not reveling his secret to her, and Jonathan dies instead. At the end of the premiere of Season 9, a much darker Clark vehemently refuses to accept Chloe's request to save Jimmy from being killed by Davis stating: "I am not a god! The last time I tried to rewrite fate my own father died. He died right here in my arms because of me."
  • Sons of Anarchy has visual examples. Jax finds an old picture of his parents posing together. In the fourth season finale, he and Tara assume the exact same pose, implying that they are recreating the tragic story of Jax's parents. In the fifth season finale, Jax and his mother assume the pose, but this time Jax is weeping and Gemma is consoling him.
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • In an episode, we meet McKay's sister for the first time, as they had been estranged for some time after she quit her education. She hated him particularly because he never even wrote or called, even on holidays (even before he was trapped in another galaxy). "Just two or three times a year? Are you happy? Are you okay? That would have been enough!" At the end, Rodney admits he's wrong (a very rare occasion), and as the two tearfully embrace, Rodney asks, "Are you happy? Are you okay?"
    • Rodney McKay said the following to Jennifer Keller when he thought he was about to die, which Keller echoed several episodes later after Rodney saved her life:
      I love you. I have for some time now. I just thought you should know.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation - "The Most Toys": Interstellar thief, "collector", kidnapper and ultimately murderer, Kivas Fajo, tells Data in Evil Gloating that Data can't feel as he's "only an android". At the end, when Fajo's been brought to justice, Data tells him that his entire collection has been confiscated, leading to this:
    Fajo: It must give you great pleasure.
    Data: No sir, it does not. I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android.
    • His demeanor makes it quite clear that Data is lying (for the second time that day).
  • The last scene of the pilot of Supernatural features Sam (who has just lost his home and his girlfriend) tossing a shotgun into the trunk of the car and saying, "We've got work to do." Two seasons later, at the end of the season finale, Dean (who has just sold his soul) throws the Colt into the trunk and says the same thing.
  • Taken:
    • In "Jacob and Jesse", Sally Clarke says, "I love you. Every day and twice on Sundays" to her son Jacob several times. Jacob repeats it, first to his mother when she is forced to leave Lubbock after Tom and Becky fake his death later in that episode and again to his daughter Lisa not long before he dies in "Charlie and Lisa". In the final episode "Taken", Lisa repeats it to her own daughter Allie just before Allie goes with the aliens.
    • In both "High Hopes" and "Charlie and Lisa", Jacob collapses while playing baseball due to his Psychic Powers having a deleterious effect on his health. In the latter episode, it marks the beginning of the end for him.
  • Teen Wolf has this. Scott said it to Allison at the formal, then after the fight, the exchange is reversed.
    Allison: Why did you do that?
    Scott: Because I love you.
    • It only becomes meaningful in hindsight, but Allison echoing Kate by shouting "COME ON!" to goad an unseen adversary foreshadows how very like Kate she becomes over the course of the season.
  • Torchwood: Children of Earth: In Day One, Jack gets Ianto out of a dangerous situation, saying "I can survive anything." In Day Four, he must add "but you can't." And Ianto dies.
  • The Vampire Diaries has this:
    • As Liz, the sheriff, is torturing Damon for information and about to kill him, he says "But you're my friend." She says their friendship was a lie. Later on, when she's at his mercy, everyone expects him to kill her, but he reassures them he won't.
      Damon: "RELAX, guys. No one's killing anybody." (To the sheriff) "You're my friend."
    • In the Season 3 premiere Stefan who has become a Ripper greets Damon by saying "Hello, brother" which was how Damon greeted Stefan in the very first episode.
  • Veronica Mars: The pilot establishes that "Who's your daddy?" is Keith's (somewhat oddball) way of saying he has his daughter's back. This is repeated twice later on: first is part way through the first season when Veronica's paternity is in question, he reveals after a test that he is indeed her biological father, and again in the last episode of season one where he rescues his daughter from being burned alive by the season's villain.
  • The West Wing has several, but perhaps the most moving is here:
    Leo: Don't help me.
    Josh: I'm gonna help ya, 'cause y'know why?
    Leo: 'Cause you walk around with so much guilt about everyone you love dying that you're a compulsive fixer?
    Josh: No, Leo, no, it's 'cause a guy's walkin' down the street and he falls in a hole.
    • This is an echo from the previous season when recovering alcoholic Leo explains why PTSD-suffering Josh doesn't need to worry about his job security.
      Leo: A guy's walking down the street and he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can't get out. A priest walks by, the guy calls up, "Hey, father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" Priest writes him a prayer and throws it down in the hole. A doctor walks by. "Hey, you, can you help me out?" Doctor writes a prescription, throws it in the hole and keeps walking. His friend walks by. "Hey, Joe, it's me." The friend jumps down in the hole with him. Our guy says, "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here!" The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out." (beat) As long as I've got a job here, you've got a job here.


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