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Series / Unforgettable

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Carrie and Al.
Unforgettable is a TV series featuring Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, a policewoman who can remember everything she's experienced in her life, except the details of her sister's death. It's loosely based off a short story by Prof. J. Robert Lenon, "The Rememberer".

The series initially only got one season (2011-2012), but CBS Un-Canceled the show for a summer run starting August 2013 to stop it from moving to TNT or Lifetime; it ran for two shorter runs before being axed in October 2014. Then it was uncancelled a second time by A&E, only for the fourth season to wrap with another cancellation in February 2016.

As the series starts, Carrie, a former homicide detective with the Syracuse, New York police department, is living in New York City making her money by using her talent to break the bank at underground casinos. When her neighbor downstairs is stabbed to death, however, she encounters her former supervisor and lover Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), now a lieutenant with the NYPD and the investigating detective. She assists in solving this first murder and Al recruits her into his unit afterwards.

After the 2013 retool Carrie and Al move to the Major Crimes unit, helmed by Captain Eliot Delson.

Not to be confused with Unforgotten

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Carrie.
  • Actor Allusion: Marilu Henner guest-stars as Carrie's aunt, and at one point says she wishes she had Carrie's powers of recall. In real life, Marilu Henner is one of the very few people who DOES have a memory like the fictional Carrie does.
  • All Women Love Shoes: Both Nina and Carrie name-drop (and drool over) Louboutins in "Friended".
  • Anchored Ship: There are still strong residual feelings between Carrie and Al, but they're both so committed to their jobs and solving the murder of Carrie's sister that nothing will happen. They also remember how their previous relationship went sour, and that they regret things that happened. Even Al's girlfriend is fairly trusting of them.
    • Averted as of the season finale, plus Al's comments about having "been kicked out".
  • Berserk Button:
    • Don't threaten Carrie around Al, or badmouth honest cops.
    • Don't hurt children around Carrie.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Carrie looks pretty nonthreatening . . . until you try to hurt an innocent person and realize she's a bit of a Cowboy Cop.
    • Al as well, with a pinch of Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. Just watch "With Honor" and watch him level in badass.
  • Black and Nerdy: Arnold, the hacker in the bank robbery gang in the episode "Incognito". In the end, it's all an act; he's actually the secret mastermind behind the bank robberies.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Carrie's Photographic Memory makes her an excellent investigator but also means that she will never be able to forget any details of the grisly crimes she comes across. She also has issues with personal relationships since she cannot really "forgive and forget" when a relationship goes sour on her.
    • We also learn that there were five other people like Carrie, and that a memory researcher deduced a common factor between all of them was a tendency to risk-taking. He concluded that the release of adrenaline interferes with memory formation and that's why they seek these thrills. Not all of them have great lives either.
      • One person committed suicide since the study.
      • Another has become a thrill-seeking flimflammer who peddles all kinds of products of dubious usefulness.
      • The oldest of them has become an alcoholic.
      • Yet another moved away to become a Buddhist monk.
      • The last (except for Carrie herself) is an accountant who seems to have it all together, but who has a Troubled Past and has turned to murder as the ultimate memory-erasing thrill.
  • Broken Bird: Carrie. She's cursed to remember every day in its entirety, yet her mother has Alzheimer's and doesn't even recognize her most of the time. The one day she can't remember is the day her sister was murdered and she was there.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In "DOA" Carrie is poisoned with a nerve agent that interferes with her memory even as it's slowly killing her.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: In "Cashing Out" it turns out Eliot knew all along about Carrie's underground casino habit (even Al didn't know she was still visiting them) and let it slide on account of she's a damn good detective. He does, however, warn her to be discreet, since if word got out it would only hurt the Major Crimes squad.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Al, though that kind of goes out the window in "With Honor" when his ex-partner is accused of being dirty. Ditto this inversion for Carrie, who normally can be trusted to follow procedure, when Al is accused of murder.
  • The Casanova: Al has a lot of exes (one of the show's Running Gags is Carrie finding out about them and acting jealous), though he seems to have only dated one woman at a time.
  • Call-Back: The images Eliot shows Carrie of herself at several underground casinos in "Cashing Out" are actually stills from the series pilot.
  • Cliffhanger: Thanks to its third cancellation, the fourth season finale ends with one.
  • Cool Old Lady: Dr. Joanne Webster.
  • Cowboy Cop: Carrie, due to her ability, and to Al's everlasting irritation. Justified by her condition making her something of an andrenaline junkie: since the stress hormones interfere with long-term memory formation, risk-taking behavior is one of the few ways someone with hyperthymesia can do something they won't remember.
  • Custom Uniform of Sexy: Carrie always comes to crime scenes in tank tops and jeans, despite this being New York. The impropriety is discussed by Carrie and Al in the pilot, where Carrie admits that she's useful enough to get away with it.
  • Cutting the Knot: Lampshaded. Faced with an anarchist hacker who likes to reference Greek Mythology and is about to wreck the financial system from his computer, Carrie asks him if he's heard of the Gordian knot. He answers with the trope namer, and she demonstrates by shooting his laptop.
  • Da Chief: Starting season two, Captain Eliot Delson, a somewhat metrosexual, well-connected rich guy and Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Nina and Saunders have a double-act thing going. The real stealth snarker of the gang is Al, though.
    • Dr. Webster's getting in on the act, though it's understandable. She's played by Jane Curtin.
  • Dude, She's A Lesbian: In "Cashing Out" Al starts to insinuate a possible affair angle between a slain zoning commissioner and his lovely assistant, but then Carrie sees a wedding photo of the assistant and shuts him down because the spouse is female.
  • Fair Cop: Carrie and Nina, for the guys. Al for the ladies.
  • Fiery Redhead: Carrie.
  • Five-Man Band: For the first season:
  • Insistent Terminology: Carrie always tells people to call her Carrie, and introduces herself as such, rather than "Detective Wells".
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: In "Lost Things", a suspect trying to throw the detectives off invents a story about the victim using a dating service. He gets the idea of a dating service from the screen of a nearby computer, the names of guys she met through it from wanted posters, and the name of the service from a different poster.
  • Lock and Load: Carrie locks and loads her gun to intimidate a mobster after he tells her to put the gun down because she obviously doesn't know anything about guns (insert prejudiced reason here). Carrie almost contemptuously ejects the mag then slides it back in place and puts it back on target.
  • The Missus and the Ex: In a fun subversion, our heroine Carrie is the Ex, and Temporary Love Interest Elaine is the Missus. Luckily for Al, they get along. However, Elaine later breaks up with Al because he's still half in love with Carrie.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Carrie's risk-taker streak gets the better of her in a Running Gag in "New Hundred". A Secret Service agent trying to break up a counterfeiting ring keeps getting out the new super-hard-to-counterfeit $100 bills, and Carrie keeps pocketing the real ones (and a bundle of the fake ones at the denouement, which Al puts his foot down about and tells her to throw on the bonfire with the others).
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: According to "Cashing Out" Carrie and Al apparently had their first time in the bathroom of a bar.
  • Mock Millionaire: One Victim of the Week was an abused West Virginia housewife who fled to New York and successfully passed herself off as the heiress to a fictional Texas oil tycoon. She was murdered by her publicist when she tired of living a lie and wanted to come clean.
  • Manipulative Bastard: "Fred"/Walter Morgan/John Fox, who prefers manipulating unstable people into committing murders to doing them himself.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Carrie, when she wears tight dresses.
  • Myth Arc: For the first season at least, Carrie's quest to identify and arrest her sister's killer. This arc is dropped after the retool without resolution, despite the Sequel Hook in the first season finale.
  • Nice Guy: Al.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Between Eliot and Joanne.
    • Jay Lee back in prep school.
    Jay: ... where I also had the chance to help a classmate of mine pass his philosophy of art final in our junior year. (mumbling) Though I'd rather not say how.
  • Opening Narration:
    Carrie: "My name is Carrie Wells. Only a few people in the world have the ability to remember everything. I'm one of them."
  • Photographic Memory: The core premise of the show is that Carrie never forgets anything she experiences. A lot of emphasis is placed on the fact that she can go over a memory in her mind multiple times and reexamine it for details she missed originally. The ability is portrayed both as a great gift and a curse since she will always perfectly remember the best moments of her life but will also never forget the grisly details of the crimes she investigates.

    Carrie doesn't just have photographic memory, but rather, Hyperthymesia, which is an explicit fact per the pilot. The difference between the hyperthymesia and photographic memory is that hyperthymesia tends to go "one step further": in addition to perfect recalling of images, senses including scents, sounds, taste, and the like, as well as events and conversations, are recalled with ease, whereas photographic memory is more often than not entirely visual. This is demonstrated in several episodes when Carrie can recall odors and muffled gun shots that allowed her to determine where they were shot from at the crime scene. As of now, a mere twenty cases of hyperthymesia are confirmed to exist.
  • Put on a Bus: As of season 2, the Queens detective contingent Nina, Mike and Roe. It looks like they've basically been replaced by ex-FBI Agent Cherie Murray and in-house Major Crimes liaison and computer tech Jay.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Eliot. It turns out he's actually known about Carrie's sideline moonlighting as a gambler and hasn't fired her because she's that good at her job.
  • Retool: Due to the show being canceled and Un-Canceled a season and a half later, the second season onward have completely different sets, replaced most of the supporting cast, and dropped Carrie's Myth Arc in favor of a straight Body of the Week format.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: This happens Once an Episode, except using Carrie's photographic memory instead of video.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The storyline about the hotel maid that killed the businessman who allegedly raped her is similar to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn rape allegations.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: A murder suspect, while being interrogated by the cops, realizes that they have discovered that the murder scene was staged, so he has to come up with a new story to distract the detectives. He uses the "take names from the bulletin board" technique to tell a believable story and the detectives spend a fair chunk of time chasing this red herring.
  • Ship Tease: Between Al and Carrie in Season 3.
  • Shipper on Deck: By season 3, Dr. Joanne Webster, the coroner, is telling Carrie to her face to just get together with Al already.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To 2 Broke Girls when the Victim of the Week was a very poor girl posing as a very rich girl who was cut off from her family. Unlike the girls on 2BG, the victim's main problem was that she had no friends: her rich boyfriend panicked and fled when she revealed the truth; her real friend had to pose as her enemy and couldn't comfort her; her ex-husband was abusive and blackmailing her; and her manager wouldn't let her leave the "act".
    • To Die Hard implicitly in "Omega Hour" when a building is taken over by terrorists demanding an impossible ransom, and then explicitly when Jay mentions "Hans Gruber".
    • To Carrie in a scene where she is talking to a guy about who had the worst prom:
    Carrie: Okay, so, at my prom, all of these kids poured a bucket of blood on my head, and then the gym caught fire, and the whole school burned down.
    Guy: Wow. I thought I knew your name from somewhere.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: Season one is Arc-Based Episodic, with a Myth Arc of Carrie trying to identify a man she saw the day her sister was murdered, in between solving a weekly homicide. After the retool the Myth Arc is dropped and the series changes to Subtle Continuity, unconnected Body of the Week episodes with the odd Continuity Nod.
  • Sticky Fingers: Carrie has a tendency to swipe money if she can get a chance.
  • Tank-Top Tomboy: Among Carrie's Cowboy Cop tendencies is that she almost invariably turns up at crime scenes in a tank top and slacks, weather permitting. By contrast the female detectives in the supporting cast (Nina in season one, Murray post-retool) wear pantsuits.
  • Temporary Love Interest: Al's girlfriend Elaine.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Elaine is a psychologist on liaison with the NYPD.
  • Trail Of Breadcrumbs: A kidnapped child leaves a trail of jelly beans behind when he attempts to find his way out of a maze of passages under the abandoned factory where he'd been left.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Nina, who is black and female.
  • Unexplained Accent: Carrie suddenly develops one in "Friended". Five episodes of a standard Midwestern accent, and in this episode, she has a noticeable Southern drawl.
  • Wham Line:
    • At the end of "Friended", which has Carrie's mother saying, "Carrie, why do you have a picture of Jonathan?" The killer that Carrie can't remember finally has a name.
    • At the end of "DOA", as a possible Sequel Hook, we get a man approaching Eliot & co. with the line, "I'm Carrie's husband."
  • Will They or Won't They?: Will Carrie and Al reignite their old relationship? They acknowledge that's "not who [they] are anymore", but the spark's clearly still there.
    • It may be moving in a "they will" direction, now that Elaine has dumped Al saying he's still in love with Carrie.
    • As of the season 1 finale, they get together.
  • Working with the Ex
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Season 1's ending. The guy Carrie has been spending the whole season trying to identify turns out not to be her sister's killer, dies, and leaves behind a Sequel Hook for the next season's Story Arc.