Half an hour after the show is over, a random viewer is staring into his refrigerator, vaguely bemused by the fact that his six-pack of beer has somehow become a two-pack of beer. Rather than work out how this might have happened, it occurs to him to wonder how in the hell Alias Sydney Bristow went from Hungary to Melbourne, Australia, then to LA, all within 24 hours. It didn't bother him during the show. It wasn't until he discovered he was running short of beer that it became an issue.
Fridge Logic has been the writer's-room term for these little Internal Consistency issues for a good while, as in "Don't sweat the Fridge Logic, we've got bigger fish to fry. We've only got 20 minutes left to work in three costume changes, a foreign language, and a weird wig." It refers to some illogical or implausible plot point that the audience doesn't realize during the show, but only long afterwards. This naming is highly subjective, since not every person follows the same train of thought. Some people will never even realise there was a problem, while others will call it a Plot Hole, since they already noticed the problem during the show.
The concept was first suggested by Alfred Hitchcock. When asked about the scene in Vertigo when Madeleine mysteriously and impossibly disappears from the hotel Scottie saw her in, he responded by calling it an "icebox scene": a scene that "hits you after you've gone home and start pulling cold chicken out of the icebox."
It is also known under a variety of other names:
- In science fiction circles, this is also known as a "Jellybean Moment". This refers to a story by Harlan Ellison titled "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, where the climax of the story involves gumming up the works of the society with the application of jellybeans. It's only after the story has been read that the average reader thinks "Where the heck did he get the jellybeans?" This phrase is at the core of a famous story involving Ellison at a Worldcon. This is also Lampshaded in-story: "Where did he get jelly beans? Nobody has made jelly beans for more than a hundred years!"
- On the commentary track for the Hot Fuzz DVD, the filmmakers refer to this as "popcorn logic." It's five minutes after the movie ends, you're walking out of the theater, finishing off your popcorn, and—wait a tick!
- The writer David Gerrold refers to this as the "refrigerator door question" in his book on writing, Worlds of Wonder. He also gives an example: If ET can make the bicycle fly, why didn't he use it at the beginning of the film to avoid pursuit?
- It has a long history as a famous French idiom: lesprit de lescalier the wit of the stairs. Its the clever remark that occurs to you only as you are going down the stairs at the end of a party.
Ronald D. Moore talks about Fridge Logic extensively on the commentary to Battlestar Galactica (2003) episode (2.02) "Valley of Darkness," likening it to the type of logic used to figure out whether the light in the fridge stays on when the door is closed.
Stories with a Tomato Surprise or Through the Eyes of Madness may count on this phenomenon to prevent you from questioning oddities in what appears to be happening. By the time the Fridge Logic would have hit the audience, they've explained what was really going on, and those problems are explained to be clues that something was up.
See also Fridge Brilliance for when there's actually a really good explanation when you think about it, and Fridge Horror when something is incredibly nightmarish when you think about it. Sometimes Fridge Logic (and/or a heaping helping of Values Dissonance) can turn an otherwise happy ending into a bittersweet or outright Downer Ending (such as by pointing out the possibility of an Inferred Holocaust); for this, see Esoteric Happy Ending. This is also related to the MST3K Mantra, which allows you to just go along for the ride and not sweat the details. When fans notice these during the show, it's a plain old Plot Hole. Not related to Stuffed into the Fridge. Also not to be confused with Bridge Logic, the un-tasty Oven Logic, Frege logic or Bathroom Logic. If the characters themselves fail to ask questions about a given plot development or device, then it's because Apathy Killed the Cat.
By the way, we have whole sections of This Very Wiki dedicated to these issues. This article just defines a term. It neither needs nor wants any examples. To discuss Fridge Logic issues that bug you — which can be a lot of fun — see Headscratchers, or any of our fine Forums, or the "Fridge" tab on a work's page. If what occurred to you later was a wild theory, see Wild Mass Guessing.