Fisher: And how do you know this?
Kirsten: Because we hacked into her brain after she died, and read her memories. It's called "stitching."
The plot focuses on Kirsten Clark, a college student at Caltech who is recruited into the Stitchers program, a covert government agency that helps solve murders by "stitching" their agents into the consciousness of the deceased, allowing them to view the memories of the dead.
There is also a virtual reality game Stitchers: Hack the Case.
Tropes in this series include:
- Ambiguous Disorder: Kirsten has a neurological condition called "temporal dysplasia", which presents with a combination of symptoms: She can't experience the passage of time, meaning she has to use estimates about the amount of time things are said to take in order to mathematically deduce how much time has passed between events. Also, she suffers a reduced (but not completely absent) ability to experience emotion and she has trouble picking up on the emotions of others; in her youth, she had to use flash cards to learn the different facial expressions, similar to people with autism. The upside to her condition is that it makes her the ideal person to use the stitching technology. The tech works for her because her father designed it specifically with her in mind and it was an initial use of the tech that caused her neurological damage in the first place.
- Artistic License Biology: "Fire in the Hole" has the Victim of the Week infected with a deadly strain of flu virus. The victim proceeds to become "symptomatic" despite being, you know, dead and stored at near-freezing temperatures. Bonus points for the sample being a medical researcher who injected herself with the virus to test her own cure on herself. The cure needed elevated body temperature to work so therefore when the body was cooled down it made the virus contagious again... somehow. The lab's lockdown and quarantine procedures are as dramatic and counterproductive as can possibly be managed. And at no time is any other expert on infectious disease called upon for advice or aid.
- Bottle Episode: "Fire in the Hole" takes place entirely within the lab, thanks to an accidental release of a contagious flu virus.
- Cannot Tell a Lie: Kirsten can lie, but she can see no point in trying, probably because she rarely ever considers how the other person would respond to what she says.
- Closest Thing We Got: On a few occasions, Camille has had to take Cameron's place 'steering' Kirsten through the stitch- the first of these being Cameron rendered himself temporarily dead so that they could access a memory of his- with relatively minimal training in the equipment, because she was the only person in the lab who could be spared for that role.
- Deadpan Snarker: Kirsten gets some moments:Cameron: You're not supposed to be able to touch things. It's an intangible.
Kirsten: Oh I'm sorry, did I break your super-secret technology?
Suspect: [to Fisher] What is this, "Take Your Kids To Work Day"?
Kirsten: No, it's "Interrogate a Douche Day". Go on, Dad.
- Disability Superpower: Kirsten's temporal dysplasia impairs her sense of time and seemingly reduces her capacity to experience emotions, but it also makes her a perfect candidate for the Stichers program. The first season finale, however, reveals that the Stitchers program had always been centered around Kirsten, since its prototype was used by her father as an attempt to help his wife regain consciousness. The temporal dysplasia was an unforeseen consequence of the prototype's failure.
- Disappeared Dad: Kirsten's father left her with his friend Ed Clark for an unexplained reason and literally did not look back.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Kirsten wears shoes, but apparently when you are "stitching" into someone's memories, you have to be barefoot in the "fish tank".
- Fanservice: Part of the stitching process requires the stitcher to wear a shiny black catsuit. Kirsten lampshades this but Linus says the alternative was going into the tank naked.Kirsten: I have to dress like Catwoman?
- The second episode of season 1 involves investigating a rave, so naturally Cameron, Camille, Kirsten, and Linus have to dress in club wear.
- In season 3, episode 7, Kirsten strips down to her bra and undies in front of Cameron, saying, "We're all adults here." It turns out she did this in a kind of "stitch dream sequence".
- Female Gaze: At the end of "I See You," Kirsten gets a glimpse of Cameron changing clothes after taking a bath. Until she sees the scar in the middle of his chest, she's visibly torn between apparent curiosity and Eating the Eye Candy.
- Five-Man Band:
- Forgotten First Meeting: The first season finale reveals that Cameron and Kirsten actually first met when they were kids, before Kirsten got her temporal dysplasia, but this reveal is later subverted when it turns out Cameron was never at that place and the "younger Cameron" was all a creation of Kristen's mom to trap her.
- Government Agency of Fiction: Averted, the stitching project works for the NSA, to the point of Maggie carrying an NSA badge and very large expense accounts. For some reason, they still have no jurisdiction, even when they are actually assigned to a case.Maggie: We're NSA...ish.
- Halloween Episode: "When Darkness Falls": It involves Kirsten's first experience with fear since the inset of her condition, her belief that she's being haunted by a ghost ( it turns out to be an Evil Twin), and Camille's efforts to plan an annual Halloween party.
- He Had a Name: Kirsten points this out regarding her deceased Parental Substitute:Kirsten: The sample has a name: Ed Clark.
- Hero Ball: You would think that a government program involving top secret technology would make investigating the death of one of the co-developers of said technology a priority over anything, much less a local homicide case. Nope. Kirsten suspects an ulterior motive on Maggie's part.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: More specifically, they never said it was that poison; in "Pretty Little Lawyers", the team's prime suspect incriminates himself after they accuse him of poisoning the victim because he identifies the specific poison used before anyone else brought it up.
- Idiot Ball: In Episode 2, Maggie, the theoretically competent head of the Stitchers program, chews Camille out for revealing her participation in the Stitchers program...without bothering to determine whether she actually did first. This results in Camille's cover being blown to Kirsten. Lampshaded by Camille herself.Camille: You know, I actually hadn't told them I was with the program so that one's all on you.
- In that same episode, Maggie allows a fresh body from a local homicide investigation, which could wait several days before degradation, to supercede the last chance at stitch-based investigation of the man who raised Kirsten and co-created the stitch technology in the first place. This is either the biggest Idiot Ball so far or, if intentional, the biggest Villain Ball so far. It is revealed in Season 2 that Maggie's boss Turner sidelined the Ed Clark investigation.
- In Medias Res: "Connections" starts with Kirsten and Cameron confronting the killer while being held at gunpoint.
- Insistent Terminology: The deceased subject of a stitch is "the sample." The window of opportunity to successfully perform a stitch is the "best-by date."
- Inspector Javert: Fisher. Kirsten just decides to let him in on the Stitchers program rather than let him continue hindering her fieldwork.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Kirsten's roommate Camille is revealed to be on the program's payroll in the second episode. She's integral to the team from then on.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Cameron starts doing this after his Near-Death Experience.
- Literal Metaphor: After arrested, Fisher is brought in looking roughed up. He says "you should see the other guy" and when Cameron presses him on being okay, he replies "no, seriously, you should." He then nods to where an agent is being dragged off on a stretcher.
- Magic A Is Magic A:
- Although Kirsten's neurological condition is vague, the stitcher tech itself has some clear-cut rules: The tech reads the information from the neurons of the sample's brain but needs another living mind to interpret it; thus the "stitching" together of stitcher and sample. Each stitch is five minutes long although subjective interpretation can make it seem longer (and Kirsten can't tell the difference anyway). The team can "bounce" the stitcher within the first two minutes but after that the stitcher has to implement it themselves or suffer shock. After each stitch there's a refractory period while the sample's neurons recover that lasts a variable number of hours. The equipment can only be configured for one sample at a time and reconfiguring it takes about 12 hours, much longer than the refractory period; this effectively limits the team to working one sample at a time. A properly preserved sample is good for about 3 days after death but once it decays it is completely unusable. And the stitcher will often retain residual emotions that the sample was feeling in the memory.
- The team manages to break the "one sample at a time" rule in "Red Eye" when stitching into the minds of the victims of a recent plane accident, to the extent that Kirsten was tapping into six of the victims at once (some of who she'd already 'accessed'), but it causes Kirsten a great deal of stress (amplified by the fact that she had already performed several consecutive stiches.)
- Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Kirsten and Cameron.Cameron: Hey. You did good today, Stretch.
Kirsten: You too, girlfriend.
- Misapplied Phlebotinum: Given the potential of the tech towards providing intelligence for national security and the large investment of resources each stitch requires, you'd think they'd use it for something other than solving local crimes in L.A. They don't even apply it towards investigating the suspicious death of one of their own team members. However, it is strongly hinted by the middle of the first season that in fact the program is a testbed for something much more involved.
- Missing Mom: Kirsten barely remembers her mother and apparently she wasn't around when her dad took off. However, like her dad and Ed, Kirsten's mom was a co-developer of the Stitcher tech.
- The Mole: Kirsten's boyfriend Liam is revealed to be one in "Future Tense".
- The Nicknamer: Cameron, only with Kirsten though, it seems.
- Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Although the show does not actually visually reveal this, the dialog makes it clear:Kirsten: (looking through telescope) The girl in 6C is tipping the pizza delivery guy, and she...
Camille: (watching camera feed on a monitor) Holy... pepperoni.
- Police Psychic: A high-tech variation. Stitchers are not psychic, but advanced technology allows them to briefly read the minds of the deceased. From here they deduce what happened.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: A Star Wars reference goes over Kirsten's head in "Finally."
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: In a more literal sense, the Stitchers program counts as this. Although it's unclear (but heavily hinted at) if the creators of the program always had Kirsten in mind, it's clear that no other subject was as successful with the program as Kirsten. And for bonus points, she really was a forsaken child.
- Professor Guinea Pig: One of the Stitcher samples is a medical researcher who injected herself with a lethal virus so she could test her experimental treatment on herself. Her motives for doing this are not made very clear.
- The Profiler: Subverted in "The One That Got Away": Not only is the profile of "The Ripper" inaccurate, it's outright fake, having been delivered by The Ripper himself.
- Properly Paranoid:
- Cameron. The victim in "I See You" turns out to be the occupant of Cameron's previous apartment, which makes him believe that he was intended to be the target. He wasn't... at least not by the killer. The end of the episode reveals that a mysterious person is spying on the Stitchers program, and is seen watching Cameron's apartment.
- Marta's warning to Kirsten that the Stitchers program is being used for something less benign than solving murders is initially waved off as little more than a conspiracy theory. However, the end of that episode makes it clear that there is indeed something shady going on.
- Race Against the Clock: Due to the fact that consciousness is only stored in a deceased brain for a short time, all "stitches" are these. Stitchers have to gather as much information as possible before the deceased brain loses viability.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Despite her claimed inability to feel or process emotion, Kirsten is the Red to Cameron's Blue.
- The Reveal: Almost reaching Once an Episode levels.
- Episode 1: Ed Clark, Kirsten's guardian, and Daniel Stinger, her biological father, co-created the Stitchers program.
- Episode 2 has a big one: Kirsten's roommate is part of the Stitchers program. On a more emotional note: Marta, the former occupant of Kirsten's position in the Stitchers program is currently comatose.
- Episode 3: Maggie Baptiste was in a relationship with Ed Clark.
- Episode 8: Maggie reveals to Kirsten that her father stole credit for the Stitcher tech after her mom died.
- Episode 10: Cameron had actually met Kirsten when he was a young boy, and Kirsten's unusual capacity for stitching is revealed to have been a product of a failed prototype stitch between her and her mother.
- Revision: The season finale reveals that the carousel in "Connections", the sudden powering on of which allowed Cameron to disarm and knock the killer out, was caused by one of the Stitchers program's former security officers turning it on while secretly watching Kirsten and Cameron.
- Saying Too Much: In the face of classified data being revealed all over the place, Maggie calls out Camille for revealing her involvement with the project. Only Camille never did.
- Secret Test of Character: Maggie uses Camille's momentary softness towards Ivy against her later as she nixes temporarily promoting her to Stitch Lab Leader in favor of Cameron instead.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Cameron and Fisher. One of the show's running gags is Cameron trying to make friends with Fisher.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Kirsten. Linus's comment on Camille's getup is a more succinct "Woof," which is quickly reciprocated.Cameron: [on seeing Kirsten's rave attire] Kirsten cleans up... good!
- Sherlock Scan: How Kirsten compensates for her temporal dysplasia and autism. She has to deduce the passage of time and others' emotional states by analyzing external cues.
- Ship Tease: Despite the serious context of the scene in the season finale, it's pretty telling that almost all of Cameron's memories as viewed by Kirsten stitching into them have her as the central character. Note that Kirsten's presence in certain memories correlates to the subject's emotional attachment to them.
- Shout-Out: To iZombie in "2.0"Soldier:' So she can see his memories?
Maggie: It's called stitching.
Soldier: Does she have to eat his brain?
Maggie: No! She's not a zombie.
- Spy Catsuit: What Kirsten is forced to wear to get into the "fish tank."Linus: Originally, you're supposed to be completely naked, but there was some push-back.
- Sociopathic Hero: Kirsten. The stitches are starting to sort of cure her sociopathy, however.
- The Stoic: Kirsten doesn't display a lot of emotion in the Pilot and explains that her condition has always prevented her from doing so. However, she becomes Not So Stoic after her first stitch. Later episodes explain that this is caused by residual emotions from the stitches, and it turns out that Marta was rendered comatose due to being unable to deal with said residual emotions during a stitch.
- Thanatos Gambit: In the season finale, so that they can find out who's going after the Stitchers program, Cameron volunteers to render himself clinically dead in order for Kirsten to stitch into his memories.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Invoked by Maggie as Fisher gets his first glimpse of the Stitchers program.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: The frequent stitching is doing a number on how Kirsten is starting to see Cameron. On Cameron's part, it's still a bit ambiguous whether his constant worrying about Kirsten stitching too often is due to not wanting what happened with Marta to reoccur, or he's genuinely concerned for her well-being. This is cleared up when Cameron acts jealous when meeting Kirsten's boyfriend, Liam.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Another aspect of Kirsten's disorder is that it somehow causes her to have a 100% failure rate on polygraph exams.
- Wham Episode: Season 3's premiere "Out of the Shadows" reveals that Kirsten's mother is definitely alive and in a coma. The entire purpose of the Stitchers program has been to 'train' Kirsten to be able to stitch back into her. It also reveals that stitching itself is designed to essentially accelerate the development of the human brain in order to induce telepathy.
- What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: As Kirsten gets more exposure to emotions through the stitches, she begins to understand what love feels like, and often asks Cameron about it.Kirsten: Is this what love is? Intense connection and then heartbreaking loss?
Kirsten: Is it worth it?
Cameron: "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all." Tennyson.
Kirsten: Do you think he's right?
Cameron: I don't know. But if you figure it out, tell me?
- What the Hell, Hero?: In the season three premiere, Blair is out to rip the team apart and basically treats Kristen as just a tool. When Blair's son is killed in a car accident, he wants Kristen and the team to Stitch and find out what happened. Kristen actually refuses unless Blair lets the team stay together full time. Maggie chews her out for it as Kristen argues she has leverage but Maggie gets her to back down on how "you're better than him."
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: In "Just the Two of Us," Kristen has a complex stitch that has her spending the better part of a week in a subject's mind to solve his murder. When she awakens, she babbles about it to the confusion of everyone. Kristen then comes to Cameron, saying she's sorry she had him so worried as he must have been going crazy seeing her lost in the stitch for days. Staring at her, Cameron tells Kristen the entire Stitch took three seconds.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: When Kirsten is stitching she's vulnerable to anything that was influencing the subject in the recollection, even though it should just be a memory. When she comes out, she often retains residual thoughts and feelings from the subject. The previous stitcher, Marta, went into a coma because she couldn't deal with this.