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Western Animation / Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?

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Where on Earth can she be? ♫
"Is there no one on Earth who can catch Carmen Sandiego?"
Scotland Yard Chief, "A Higher Calling"

Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? is a Saturday-Morning Cartoon based on the Carmen Sandiego Edutainment Game series. Where on Earth... ran on Fox Kids in the 1990s. It is not to be confused with the PBS Game Show by the similar name Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego.

In this series, Brother–Sister Team Zack (Scott Menville) and Ivy (Jennifer Hale) track Carmen (Rita Moreno), who gradually becomes more and more of a Friendly Enemy than she ever was in the computer games. Earth seems to be set in an Alternate Continuity in relation to the rest of the series, although Brøderbund did include some characters from it (Zack, Ivy, and the Chief) in Carmen Sandiego: Junior Detective Edition.

A character sheet is currently in the works.

Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: Pretty much the plot of "Curses, Foiled Again" - everything in the episode takes place on Friday the 13th.
  • The '90s: The show's internal chronology places the events of the series in the 1990s, when it was produced.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Carmen leaves a clue in the Paris Sewers Museum for Zack and Ivy. And yes, it still reeks down there.
  • The Ace: Lee Jordan, initially. Despite having solved over a hundred cases in four years, capturing Carmen at one point in his career, and having saved Ivy's life in the most dramatic way possible, though, his poor treatment and disrespect towards Ivy (along with sabotaging the Pentagon's computer systems, forcing Zack to pull out of the case temporarily) and Carmen (when he starts working for her after defecting from Acme) deconstructs him into the Jerkass and much worse.
    • Similarly, Carmen herself, who was so good at her job that she pulled a Face–Heel Turn because she wanted to be challenged.
  • ACME Products: Acme Detective Agency, Acme Bug Net...
  • Action Girl: Ivy, with her multiple black belts. Carmen could also kick a fair amount of ass back in her detective days as well.
  • Action Survivor: Zack is nowhere near the fighter his sister or Carmen are, but he's still quite athletic, good at thinking on his feet and capable of at least holding his own against most opponents.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Carmen went from brown hair to black hair.
  • Affably Evil: Carmen.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: There's an "evil" twin of the Chief in one of V.I.L.E.'s training facilities. He's very-much patterned after the ACME chief, though he has dark hair and a handlebar moustache.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: "Follow My Footprints".
  • Aloof Big Sister: Ivy towards Zack. The first episode suggests they intentionally worked as far away from each other as possible within Acme.
  • Alternate Continuity: The Where on Earth arc is separate from the rest of the Carmen Sandiego series. The black-haired Carmen in this cartoon has not appeared in any other story; even in the Junior Detective computer game, her canon foes Zack and Ivy were chasing the original, brunette Carmen. The Facebook game may possibly be the closest version to match Carmen's characterization from the cartoon, not only in described appearance (black hair, light-colored eyes), but also her Backstory as an orphan and aversion to violence.
  • America Is Still a Colony: One episode had Carmen going back in time and altering key points in the The American Revolution, which resulted in America losing the war and the Chief speaking with a bloody British accent.
  • Androids and Detectives: Carmen and The Chief back in the 1980s, before she turned to crime and he discarded the (very glitchy) robot body for his desk job as Head of ACME.
  • Anti-Villain: Carmen, especially later in the series. In fact, she often gets to the point where the Anti-Hero label could even apply sometimes.
  • Artistic License – History: Despite being an educational show, the time travel arcs tended to be a little loose on the implications of Carmen's thefts of historical objects before they impacted history. For example, stealing the horseshoe from Paul Revere's horse would probably not have changed the course of the Battle of Lexington - there were multiple riders sounding the alarm, and Revere was one of the riders who failed to make it to their ultimate destination, anyway. Not to mention the fact that he seemed to have no broken bones or mentioned being knocked unconscious when he fell, so there was no reason why he couldn't have just gotten another horse!
  • Badass Longcoat: While her appearance here is slightly different than her standard look, Carmen's still got her trademark red coat.
  • Big Sister Instinct:
    • Ivy often has to protect Zack as he's the younger and weaker of the two. But of course, she takes every opportunity to pick on him.
    • Carmen has also demonstrated having one for both Ivy and Zack.
  • Birthday Episode: The episode "Scavenger Hunt" is about Carmen trying to steal things that were presents, like a Faberge's egg to the Czars, Elvis Presley's Cadillac to his mother. It's her way of celebrating her birthday.
  • Brains and Brawn: Zack and Ivy, respectively. Though Ivy's clearly still very cunning and possesses good deductive reasoning and Zack is athletic enough to keep up with her, their specialties are entirely physical for Ivy and entirely technical for Zack.
  • Brains Evil, Brawn Good: As an ACME agent, Carmen was an Action Girl on par with Ivy. As a thief, she eschews violence entirely.
  • Brand X: The Illuma Pad toy in "Moondreams" looks and seems to function very similarly to Hasbro's Lite Brite toys.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Zack and Ivy.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Henchwoman Hannah Lulu. She's so good at disabling alarms that Carmen puts up with her superstitious nature.
  • But Not Too Evil: Brøderbund on the title character; the show's writers responded, ultimately, by making Carmen into an Anti-Villain.
  • Call-Back:
    • When Zack tells Tatiana he could kiss her after solving one of Carmen's clues, she tells him, "I never kiss on the first case." Later in the series, Lee Jordan says the exact same thing to Ivy, and Ivy shoots him down with the same exact words Tatiana said to Zack.
    • After getting the history of the American Revolution back to normal in "A Date With Carmen: Part II", Zack sets down the Chronoskimmer just for a second — in which it gets swiped. In "Labyrinth: Part I", Zack recalls the stolen Chronoskimmer and the Chief recalls his British accent from the first time travel incident.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Zack fancies himself to be a ladies' man, with dubious results.
  • Canary in a Coal Mine: Subverted and discussed in-universe: Zack and Ivy found a dead-looking canary in a modern mine, and she told Zack they had to leave immediately. Zack told her not to worry, because (a) modern miners use electrical gas detectors, and (b) the canary was a mechanical bird, and in fact a clue planted by VILE.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': In "Labyrinth Part 2: Woman of the Year, 2101", Zack and Ivy immediately get C5'd on top of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, which immediately results in Russian Police chasing them down on hoverbikes, as they've identified that Zack and Ivy are not registered people in the World Person Database in 2101.
    • After Future Moscow, as soon as they C5 off to Abidjan, Ivory Coast where the 2101 Worlds Fair is, they accidentally land in a Dutch Tulip stand, which also garnered the attention of the Ivory Coast's Police forces, which they follow pursuit of Zack and Ivy because of their previous transgressions in Moscow.
  • Character Catchphrase: Carmen's signoff, "Until/See you next crime."
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • In episode one, Ivy seemed to have a personal grudge against Carmen for a Noodle Incident that occurred pre-series. Later, Ivy is the first to show sentiment and sorrow whenever Carmen plays the part of The Woobie.
    • Also, in an early episode, Ivy spends the whole caper bemoaning her bad luck due to her horoscope, while Zach chides her on superstitions. Later, in "Curses, Foiled Again", Zach is the one fretting over a lucky rabbit foot, with Ivy providing the Aesop about superstitions.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The anti-crime sticky foam Carmen had stolen at the beginning in "Deja Vu" becomes this when the time came for Carmen to make her getaway. Interestingly enough, Suhara knew from the beginning the sticky foam didn't fit Carmen's MO in the episode, and prepared a Batman Gambit, but not without subjecting Zack to some Trickster Mentoring.
  • Christmas Episode: "Just Like Old Times".
  • Common Tongue: Regardless of the country, nearly all the cop cars have "POLICE" emblazoned on the sides instead of the local equivalent.
  • Continuity Cameo: The Chronoskimmer is based on the one that appears in Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?, albeit slightly redesigned. note 
  • Cool Car: The C-5 car could qualify as one. All the V.I.L.E. vehicles certainly count, too.
  • Criminal Mind Games: Are you kidding? That's what most of this show was all about!
  • Da Chief: Uh, The Chief
  • Deface of the Moon: The episode "Moondreams" is about Carmen trying to ink the moon into showing her logo.
  • Digital Destruction: Eleven of the episodes included on the Complete Series DVD are encoded to play stretched to fill an HDTV when viewed with a Blu-ray player.
  • Ditzy Genius: Zack is a technological genius as well as an excellent detective, but frequently tends to put his foot in his mouth, causing several unnecessary screw ups.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Carmen and ACME. Carmen doesn't believe in brutal direct violence—relying entirely on skill and intellect. Carmen even chastises Lee and his men for using weaponry as their approach is more vicious. And ACME doesn't want their employees using guns of any kind. Well of course, they don't; they're all children!
  • Doppelmerger: Time travelers have demonstrated the ability to fuse with their past selves if they come close enough.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Zack and Ivy end up dressed as V.I.L.E. henchmen a few times, and Ivy takes on the mantle of The Tigress to make Carmen jealous of a new thief in town. And on one notable occasion, Ivy and Carmen were dressed as each other.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Ever hear the "original" theme song? You'll be glad they changed it to the more soothing version we've become familiar with. Shout! Factory replaced that with the newer intro on their DVD.
  • Easily Forgiven: In "When It Rains", Dr. Sarah Bellum committed a series of violent and destructive crimes, disguised as Carmen, so that if her plans failed, Carmen would take the blame. In later episodes, we see her working with Carmen again, and no mention of her previous treachery is made.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Suhara.
  • Enemy Mine: A good chunk of the "Retribution" episodes. A minor example also happens in "When It Rains". Also happens in the second parts of "Boyhood's End" and "Can You Ever Go Home Again?", both involving Lee Jordan.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Carmen and Lee Jordan have a falling out over his unwillingness to play by her "rules," which included an attempt to murder Zack and Ivy by cutting them from a rope hanging high above the ocean.
    • Carmen's non-violent brand of thievery as contrasted with Maelstrom's and Sarah Bellum's.
    • With Mason Dixon, Carmen's higher standards are those of intellect, as Dixon is a total moron.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Carmen and Lee Jordan.
  • Evil Is Petty: While Carmen has more common sense than some of her goons, at least two heists were done for petty reasons: in one she stole a bunch of Wild West-level tech from museums (a stagecoach, many horses, a whole lot of dynamite, etc) to pull off a train heist the Old West way strictly to show the Player that she could do her typical epic crimes without using her standard Bond-style super-tech and in another she stole a dozen rockets from around the world, several thousand gallons of paint and a computerized Day-Glo board... So she could paint her logo on the face of the Moon.
  • Expy: Russian ACME agent Tatiana bears an unmistakable resemblance to Russian Planeteer Linka. They also share the same voice actor: Kath Soucie. (This is likely because DiC Entertainment made the first two seasons of Captain Planet before it switched to Hanna-Barbera, as well as this show.)
  • Face–Heel Turn: Carmen's Back Story, just like in the game canon. Ditto for Lee Jordan not long after he was introduced. Dr. Maelstrom was also mentioned to have been a brilliant marine archaeologist before turning to a life of crime.
  • Faceless Goons: Any generic V.I.L.E. henchman. Thugs wearing caps, goggles and uniforms.
  • Faking the Dead: In "Follow My Footprints", Carmen fakes her own death and leaves a set of clues for her henchmen and Acme to solve. It's all to figure out who was worthy to be her successor. Ironically, Zack and Ivy are the only ones to actually solve all three clues.
  • Fallen Hero: Lee Jordan.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Most of the "weapons" shown are grappling guns or nets, with Lee Jordan's thugs using laser beams in the finale.
  • Fanservice Extra: Pearl Diver, who appears only in "A Date with Carmen" and has very few lines. She does, however, have a gratuitous scene in which she climbs out of the water onto a ship wearing a skimpy bikini.
  • Featureless Protagonist:
    • The player(s). We can see his skin, get a vague notion of age (around 12 or so), and he appears to be white, but that's about it.
    • Some episodes had a dark-skinned girl as the player who seems slightly younger. We still never see a face, and ultimately know nothing of the player's personality other than having a solid determination to catch Carmen.
  • Fedora of Asskicking: Carmen's red fedora.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Zack initially assumes this is how Ivy decided on her costume in the Halloween Episode, complete with a Paper-Thin Mask. It turns out Ivy was really dressed as Carmen, and Carmen had disguised herself as Ivy with a eye-mask.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Generally Zack is the foolish one, but Ivy's hotheadedness occasionally makes them switch places.
  • For the Evulz: Carmen.
  • Friendly Enemy: Carmen.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: Mild version, since Zack and Ivy don't seem to have last names - Zack is rarely called by his given name (Zachary) unless he's done something to royally piss off Ivy.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Back in Carmen's detective days, the Chief was better known as the Computerized Holographic Imaging Educational Facilitator.
  • Game Between Heirs: In "Follow My Footprints", Carmen's will placed her main henchpeople and the main detectives on a scavenger hunt to decide who's fit to inherit her place as head of V.I.L.E. Zack and Ivy win, and we learn the whole thing was a Batman Gambit so Carmen could choose her heirs.
  • Genius Bruiser: Ivy is well read, and appreciative of the arts. She has also been seen to hurl various henchmen who tried to restrain her. Or chase her. Or escape her. Or try to whip her. And not just V.I.L.E.'s henchman.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Carmen's pretty fond of saying "blast" or "blasted."
  • Guest-Star Party Member:
    • Non-video game example (Fanon Discontinuity notwithstanding). In some episodes, Ivy and Zack will request the assistance of other Acme detectives when they need help, other times the Chief will tell them who they'll be working with.
    • It gets reversed in "Skull and Double-Crossbones", where Zack and Ivy are the Guest Star Party Members.
  • Halloween Episode: "Trick or Treat".
  • Handy Cuffs: Usually averted, but played straight in "The Tigress," where Carmen's escape is facilitated by having her hands cuffed in front of her.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Maelstrom delivers one to a young Carmen about how he knows she'll be a thief.
  • Hard Light: The Chief's hologram will sometimes behave like this, but at other times things will pass right through.
  • Hate Sink: Out of all villains on the show from Carmen herself on down, two stand out as unadmirable and loathsome: Lee Jordan, a treacherous, sociopathic Jerkass willing to do anything to win, and Mason Dixon, a racist, brutish idiot who betrays Carmen for petty reasons.
  • Heroic BSoD: The Chief has one through the majority of "Follow My Footprints".
  • Hologram: How the Chief is usually displayed while the detectives are out in the field, via their communicators.
  • Hot-Blooded: Both Zack and Ivy are prone to getting fired up, and while Zack is the more frequent victim of this, Ivy will undoubtedly surpass him whenever she slips into it.
  • Impossible Thief: Serial Escalation.
    • She manages to swipe Mona Lisa's smile and even tries to make off with the Statue of Liberty in the opening. And that's leaving out the things she swiped in her first time travel heist that changed history, or technology to steal musical talent!
    • Lampshaded in "The Stolen Smile", where the Chief, after saying Carmen has stolen all the world's TV signals, adds quietly, "Don't ask me how she did it."
    • And yet she tops herself in "By a Whisker" when she steals a beach (Kaimu Beach in Hawaii) which she planned to use as a huge litter box for two white lion cubs. Ivy's response? "The entire beach?!"
  • Improbable Age: Zack, the promising up-and-coming ACME agent is only 14 years old. His sister Ivy, a seasoned veteran, is the ripe old age of 18. The player, essentially Zack and Ivy's Mission Control, seems to be even younger than Zack. Especially noticeable in comparison to the other agents, who all appear to be fully grown adults.
  • Inside a Computer System: The C5 malfunctions due to Carmen's interference, dumping Zack and Ivy inside the Acme Mainframe.
  • Jerkass: Lee Jordan, a star ACME detective, who later devolves into a complete sociopath.
  • Jolly Roger: Carmen commits a crime while sporting a Jolly Roger with a skull and a pair of crossed cutlasses.
  • Kick Chick: Ivy's preferred combat technique involves flying kicks. She's also kicked open doors bolted with heavy lumber by kicking them open, and her legs are apparently powerful enough that she once freed herself from a pillory. She's something of a black-belt.
  • Killer Yoyo: Zack is quite fond of doing Yo-yo tricks.
    • In "Labyrinth Part 3: When In Rome," Zack and Ivy manage to escape from an Ivory Coast Police Prisoner Transport in 2101 AD, by swinging a Yo-yo out from the jail cell bars, deactivating the forcefield where the Chronoskimmer that was confiscated from them was being kept, and then rocking the transport to nudge the Chronoskimmer back to them, where they finally escape by going back in time.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Lee Jordan and Dr. Maelstrom, both far more dangerous adversaries than Carmen.
  • Last-Name Basis: Dr. Gunnar Maelstrom is only referred to by his full name once.
  • Latex Perfection:
    • How Carmen pulls off her disguise as Marcus Aurelius in "Labyrinth: Part III". Unlike other examples, it explains that she used a bust of him to pull it off.
    • Frank M. Poster also engages in this trope as well. See The Real Remington Steele below.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Everyone on the show, ACME detectives and V.I.L.E. henchmen alike, suffers from this.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: This is how Zack and Ivy get into one of Carmen's training facilities.
  • Leotard of Power: The Tigress, a.k.a. Ivy.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: There's an episode where one of the clues Ivy and Zack have is a song that one of Carmen's henchmen was whistling. Zack calls it catchy and starts whistling it himself. The song is then revealed to be "Waltzing Matilda," which is anything but child-friendly.
  • Mad Scientist: Sarah Bellum. She eventually has a Villainous Breakdown stemming from a Noodle Incident that was never fully explained.note 
  • Magical Computer: The ACME Mainframe can do damn near anything, including teleporting the detectives the whole way to the Moon at one point.
  • Magic Countdown: In "Follow My Footprints", Zack and Ivy have 60 seconds to catch Sarah Bellum on the Moon, and if the Chief missed with the C5 they'd all be stuck there. As the mainframe is going into its final countdown, the Chief pops up to have a Big Damn Heroes moment which takes longer than the 5 seconds remaining.
  • Master of Disguise: Carmen occasionally dons various outfits and costumes depending on what she's trying to accomplish. Gets turned up to eleven in the Halloween Episode when she disguised herself as Ivy, even fooling Zack. Carmen's henchman Frank M. Poster was also described as this trope.
  • Mission Control: The Chief.
  • Mock Headroom: The Chief is an Artificial Intelligence shown as a floating head wearing sunglasses in a screen. He has a zany sense of humor similar to Max.
  • The "Mom" Voice: "Rules of the Game" sees Carmen pulling a "Mom" voice on Ivy when Ivy is in danger of falling from a castle tower that Carmen is stealing. Ivy refuses Carmen's help, causing Carmen to chide her, "Don't be childish, Ivy. I'm trying to help you!" At that point, Ivy sees the wisdom of accepting Carmen's help. Unfortunately, she cannot get a good grip on Carmen's hand, and falls anyway, even as Carmen calls her name in alarm and concern. She is saved, however, by her brother swooping in and catching her in the canvas wing of a biplane he borrowed.
  • Monumental Theft: In this series, it was slightly toned down. As in, "This blank sheet of printer paper weighs slightly less than this sheet with the word 'Hello' printed on it." Specifically, the writers take the time to show exactly how Carmen and her crew pull off their thefts, which practically always involve the use of a lot of different high-tech gadgets.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Maelstrom and Prof. Sarah Bellum.
  • Motor Mouth: Carmen's attorney, Lee Galease, is one.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ivy in "Labyrinth Part 3", when she wears a mini toga dress.
  • Mundane Utility: Zack and Ivy have occasionally used the Acme Mainframe to play trivia games or just to keep score when playing indoor sports.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In "Follow My Footprints," as Zack and Ivy prepare to take the C5 to the Moon to stop Sarah Bellum from stealing Neil Armstrong's footprint from the Apollo 11 landing site in the Sea of Tranquility, the Chief tries to talk them out of it, even up to when the C5 plots the departure location and the arrival location, to no avail, leaving him to lament what he has allowed them to do, bringing him out of his Heroic BSoD from mourning Carmen's supposed death.
    Chief: [as the C5 passageway opens] Oh no! What have I let them do?!
  • Mythology Gag: In first episode of this series, the Mona Lisa is stolen. The Mona Lisa was also stolen in the first episode of the PBS game show.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: Done in the Louvre Museum in the very first episode. Subverted when Carmen's V.I.L.E. grunts spot them instantly and capture them, and Ivy berates Zack for coming up with such a stupid plan.
  • No Fourth Wall: The characters are not aware that they're characters on a TV show, but they are aware that they're characters in a computer game, and speak directly to the player often.
  • No Inner Fourth Wall
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Carmen gets betrayed by her henchmen no less than three times during Season 2 alone. And ACME hotshot Lee Jordan turns against everyone—going into business for himself and becoming especially mad-sadistic.
  • Not Herself: Zack and Ivy wonder if Carmen has lost her mind when some of her crimes border on pure destruction, especially with the theft of the Spruce Goose and torching the Amazon rainforest. They become even more suspicious with some of the clues they receive, saying it wasn't like Carmen to leave extremely easy clues. It was actually Sarah Bellum impersonating Carmen, during the midst of a Villainous Breakdown.
  • Noodle Incident: The first episode has Ivy tell the Player that she owes Carmen for a particularly humiliating defeat pre-series, details of which are never given.
  • Not Me This Time: The only time that Ivy and Zack actually catch Carmen is when she didn't do what they caught her for.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • Both Lee Jordan and Dr. Maelstrom tell Carmen that she is no better than them, despite her "lofty moral superiority." She proves Lee wrong on his charges, but Maelstrom isn't refuted on his.
    • Subverted in that Carmen never says this to Zack and Ivy, even though she considers them her successors.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Conversed with between Zack and an archaeologist detective.
    Zack: Amati, if I fell, would I survive?
    Amati: Sure, until you hit the bottom.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Despite Ivy being only four years older than Zack is, he is presented as the hotshot young prodigy quickly rising through the ranks with everything to prove while she is presented as the more seasoned and cynical veteran agent.
  • Omniglot: Zack. See Translation Convention below.
  • One-Steve Limit: Subverted. There are three characters who share the name Lee: the first one is Lee Jordan; the second is Lee Galease; and the last one is a Guest Star Acme Detective who works in Macao. Granted, the Guest Star Detective's name could be spelled a variety of ways and might even be his surname and not his first name, but short of closed captioning, his name spelling remains unknown.
  • Orient Express: In "The Good Old Bad Old Days", Carmen Sandiego and her V.I.L.E. gang set out to prove they don't need all their high-tech toys and gadgetry to pull off several western-themed heists. Carmen's goal is the train.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Carmen's locket, unseen until the series finale.
  • Paperwork Punishment: After a car chase has caused a considerable amount of property damage, Zach and Ivy are forced to fill out the corresponding paperwork for all the claims against ACME.
  • Parental Abandonment: Zack and Ivy's parents are never seen, and Carmen is apparently an orphan. The latter was foreshadowed in a Season 1 episode. It also provides a Red Herring Twist subplot near the end of the series, where Carmen learns she might be the long-lost daughter of the wealthy industrialist she's stealing from.
  • Playful Hacker: Carmen, her henchman Manny Mistakes, and Zack.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Used "Singt dem grossen Bassa Lieder" by Mozart as the opening theme, but with a more "modern" sound and obviously different lyrics. The ending theme was sometimes an instrumental version.
  • Punny Name: But of course; it wouldn't be V.I.L.E. otherwise. Sarah Bellum, Ace Bandage, Claire E. and Cora Net, Paige Turner, Phill M. Critic, Al Loy, every one of Carmen's henchmen who wasn't a Faceless Goon had a job-specific name.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until She Turned to Evil: Carmen was this for Suhara.
  • The Real Remington Steele: Played with. Sir Nigel Fenwick, an inspector working for Scotland Yard, appears briefly in "A Higher Calling", but Zack and Ivy don't actually meet him until much later in the series. Who they thought was Sir Nigel Fenwick in "By a Whisker" was actually Carmen's henchman Frank M. Poster impersonating him. They meet the real deal in "Birds of a Feather".
  • Recurring Dreams: Carmen suffers from nightmares in the episode "Shaman Spirits".
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: The Chief is effectively an Omniscient Database with an AI interface, but he's still capable of all the emotions a human is.
  • Rogues Gallery: V.I.L.E., and the occasional outside evil force.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: In one episode, Carmen decides to play the ultimate game of chess, and sets out to steal the appropriate pieces. She steals the floor of the Citadel in South Carolina (famous for its red and white checkerboard pattern) for the board, and various statues for the pieces. However, what does she get for her rooks? Actual castle turrets that are way too big to fit on the gameboard (hell, the gameboard should have fit inside the turrets).
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: See Temporal Paradox below.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Ivy swaps out her usual action garb for a ballroom dress in the ending of "Cupid Sandiego".
  • Short Teens, Tall Adults: Zack is notably one of the shorter characters in the show, and while his sister Ivy appears to avert this, being a good head and shoulders taller than him, she stands at roughly half the size of Carmen.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of The Chief's lines in "The Stolen Smile", "Get up on the wrong side of the web, did we, Charlotte?", is a reference to Charlotte's Web.
    • The Chief makes a reference to The Twilight Zone (1959), complete with a Suspiciously Similar Song.
    • The climax of "Skull and Double-Crossbones" takes place on a Russian submarine that is one of the most hi-tech subs in the world and virtually undetectable on SONAR. Sound familiar? The sub's interior looks almost the same as well, and the captain even looks like an animated Marko Ramius.
    • In the Christmas Episode: Zach says the famous "Bond. James Bond" line from James Bond; Carmen says "Eat your heart out, Mary Poppins!"; while the Chief makes a The Wizard of Oz reference with "It was a dream, wasn't it Aunty Em?"
  • Sibling Rivalry: Zack and Ivy went their separate ways in "Split Up" when Ivy wanted to handle the case via old-fashioned detective work, Zack felt his security system was more than enough to handle Carmen's thefts, and the two simply could not cooperate together with their constant bickering.
  • Silicon Snarker: The Chief has been known to deliver a few snarky remarks from time to time, particularly while making pop culture references.
  • Smooch of Victory: Subverted in "Rules of the Game" when Zack offers Tatiana a kiss as a reward for solving Carmen's clue, only to be turned down. This gets a Call-Back in "Boyhood's End, Part 1" when a similar scene occurs between Lee Jordan and Ivy.
  • Snap Back: Besides the fact that almost every episode or Story Arc is completely standalone, the Cardboard Prison nature of the show goes even beyond Carmen herself. The writers never seem to keep track of who's been sent to jail and who evades capture, as various V.I.L.E. henchman are often seen alongside or mentioned to have done work for Carmen even if they were arrested in a previous episode. The most prominent example of this is Sarah Bellum, who went full Starscream on Carmen in "When It Rains" and got captured at the end, and then is seen back in V.I.L.E. in "Follow My Footprints" as if nothing ever happened. Lee Jordan's breakout may be the only time they even attempted a Hand Wave at this.
  • The Sociopath: Lee Jordan and Dr. Maelstrom. Carmen even outright calls the latter a psychopath at one point.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Downplayed; in one episode, Zack calls a song a guard says one of Carmen's henchmen was whistling "catchy" and whistles himself briefly before realizing the song is "Waltzing Matilda" which, while a well-known Australian song as he states, isn't exactly upbeat in its actual lyrics or subject matter.
  • Spot the Imposter: The climax of "When It Rains".
  • Standard Snippet: Carmen's Himalayan chase at the start of "Follow My Footprints" is underscored by Ride of the Valkyries.
  • The Starscream: Sarah Bellum in "When It Rains" and Mason Dixon in "Timing Is Everything".
  • Steal It to Protect It: In "The Tigress", Carmen keeps running into a new thief, the eponymous Tigress, who keeps making off with Carmen's intended loot. The Tigress is actually Ivy in disguise, and the reason she keeps running into Carmen on her heists is because Ivy and Zack were able to solve Carmen's clues in advance, then placed the items Carmen was going to steal in protective custody and made sure Carmen encountered Ivy in her Tigress disguise leaving the scene every time. This was all a plan to lure Carmen to Antarctica where they had set a trap for her.
  • The Stinger: Each episode from the last season has an extra scene play during the end credits.
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal: The first episode ends in this. The reveal comes not from the fact Zack and Ivy recovered the stolen artwork, but from the fact that Ivy replaced whatever masterpiece Carmen had in mind from what basically amounted to vandalizing three priceless artworks with a picture of the detectives drawn in stick-figure form.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Dr. Maelstrom is very fond of it. Several times, he is shown using what appears to be C4 plastic explosives.
  • Stylistic Suck: Arguably a large part of the show's humor is how it frequently switches from the normal animation to Stock Footage and collage-like sequences for explaining the elements of Carmen's clues.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The episode "All for One" makes it clear that Carmen is not only V.I.L.E.'s CEO, she's also its Only Sane Employer. Also seen in "Follow My Footprints", in which only four of Carmen's henchpeople manage to solve any of her clues.
  • Team Pet: Stretch, a K-9 basset hound. Only appears in "The Remnants", Where in America's Past, and the Junior Detective game, though.
  • Teen Genius: Zack, and according to her backstory, Carmen.
  • Teleporters and Transporters:
    • The C5 Corridor, highly prone to dumping you in the last place you want to be.
    • This was lampshaded when the detectives travel to the future during Carmen's second time travel heist. After being dumped into yet another ridiculously precarious location, Zack complains that having been 100 years since they left, you'd think they could have worked out the kinks by now.
    • And in one episode, when Carmen and the detectives are engaged in an Enemy Mine situation, Carmen expresses her distaste for the C5.
  • Temporal Paradox: Happens several times in the series.
    • "A Date With Carmen": Carmen swipes things from the American Revolution, and causes it to fail. The Chief turns British and the USA is still a colony. A little later on in that heist, she swipes Ben Franklin's key and takes out electricity (along with both time machines) until it's returned.
    • "Timing Is Everything": Mason Dixon steals a ride in Carmen's time machine, and screws up the past to the point where Carmen's just a second-banana sidekick member of V.I.L.E. with poor self-esteem. She even wears gray from there on in like those of the South Confederate. And has a gray persona to match.
  • Tempting Fate: Happens every now and then. Zack is generally the instigator when it looks like things can't get any worse.
  • There Are No Therapists: This would explain why Carmen is talking to a hypnotist after the traumatic events of the series finale, instead of... you know... a shrink.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Whenever Carmen escapes custody, it's usually due to a hidden gadget or an oversight on Zack or Ivy's part. But on two occasions, "Curses, Foiled Again" and "Can You Ever Go Home Again?", they are able to successfully arrest Carmen without her slipping through their fingers. While she does escape later on in both instances, neither one is on Zack or Ivy's watch, meaning they have technically succeeded in catching Carmen twice.
  • Time Machine: Three of them: two ACME Chronoskimmers, which look like a PDA or remote control and are used in conjunction with the C5 Corridor; and Carmen's timepod, which looks like a more traditional time machine.
  • Title Drop: The Player drops the title of "Music to My Ears" in his end talk with Carmen Sandiego.
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: A variation; in "The Remnants", Zack is saved from sliding off an icy rooftop when he gets his tongue caught on the gutter. Ivy is quickly squicked out when she works out his garbled explanation.
  • Toon Transformation: Several title cards in the first season show a photo of the opening setting, which then fades into its animated counterpart.
  • Translation Convention: Averted. Instead of everybody around the world speaking English, people in non-English-speaking countries actually speak their native language (often with subtitles). Fortunately, Zack knows a large-but-never-specified number of languages and can almost always translate.
  • Universal Driver's License: Played with in Zack's case, interestingly enough. He can barely drive the C5 Car, but seems to have no problems operating single (or double, at most) passenger hovercrafts and vehicles, even if they belong to V.I.L.E.
  • Valentine's Day Episode: "Cupid Sandiego".
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: A one-off villain from the past named Maelstrom had a lackey with a typically amusing name: Bilge. Downplayed, in that Bilge's only comical aspects were his name and the fact that he is afraid of a giant squid kept in the ship's hold who attacks the heroes at one point.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Zack and Ivy always get to Carmen just in time to watch her escape, after which one of them says something like, "Maybe next time!" Yeah, right. Admittedly, they do actually manage to catch and turn Carmen in to police early on in the finale, but we all know no cell can hold her, and she breaks out on her own very soon afterward.
  • Villain Protagonist: Emphasized in the finale: Carmen has a heart of gold that she wears on her sleeve; Lee Jordan is sadistic and seemingly without any conscience at all.
  • Villainous Rescue: Carmen saves Zack and Ivy's bacon numerous times, but it especially applies to her defeat of Maelstrom and Lee Jordan.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Literal example in "Moondreams", where Carmen and two of her henchpeople went to a toy store and actually paid for a toy. Subverted when the Chief mentions an uptick in V.I.L.E. activity around the world and that Carmen was possibly planning something in the works.
  • We Would Have Told You, But...: Zack and Ivy actually try to tell their AI Chief about something they're doing, but then Carmen brags about how she's hacked the Chief, and they realize they can't tell him that Ivy is pretending to be a rival thief to Carmen, "The Tigress", as part of a plan to catch her once and for all...a plan that almost works.
  • Wham Line: From Lee Jordan very early into "Boyhood's End: Part 2" - "I didn't come all this way to arrest you, Carmen...I came to join you!"
  • When I Was Your Age...: Carmen points out she didn't have all the fancy technology Zack and Ivy take for granted back when she was an Acme detective. The flashback in "Retribution: Part I" shows how justified she was.
  • Where Does She Get All Those Wonderful Toys?:
    • Zack and Ivy undoubtedly wonder that of Carmen, and the master thief herself said something like that of Maelstrom in a flashback episode.
    • In "The Good Old Bad Days", the player dares Carmen to try something without using any of her high-tech equipment. She agrees to this, and actually pulls it off, hijacking the Orient Express with only conventional tools. But as Ivy suspected, Carmen keeps an escape craft around to flee after she's made her point.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Carmen is sometimes depicted as genuinely liking Zack and Ivy, and enjoying the ongoing battle of wits she has with them.
    • Zack and Ivy seem to have some form of respect for Carmen as well, even letting her have a Mercy Lead in one episode.
    • Carmen and Malestrom, both in the past and in the present.
  • Xanatos Gambit: One episode has Carmen creating a huge diamond, which she then uses to scramble the laser that somehow runs ACME's main computer system, effectively shutting it down. Zack then re-configures it so that, instead of scrambling the system, the diamond increases the computer's efficiency, letting them almost catch her. Toward the end, Ivy mentions that Carmen must have known that was a possibility, and she and Zack are left wondering if she did the whole thing to give herself more of a challenge.
  • You Mean "Xmas": At least some prints of the Christmas Episode avert this: After Zack and Ivy dare Carmen to steal the sheet music for George Frederic Handel's Messiah, Carmen explains to her crooks that Christians call Jesus the Messiah, and spend Christmas celebrating his birth. Later, during a segment about La Befana, she refers to Baby Jesus as "the Christ child."
  • Zebras Are Just Striped Horses: Averted. Zack says "Zebras don't tame easy" and instead the two ride ostriches to chase after the title character.

Player: Looks like you couldn't steal them, Carmen.
Carmen Sandiego: That may be true, but next time, I won't be the only one that will ruin your life. Until next time, Player.


Video Example(s):


Carmen in pillory

Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? S4E4 - Retribution Pt. 2: In Memoriam

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / StockPunishment

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