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"Now why didn't he do that before? Did he forget he can do that?"

"I wonder if that silly duck'll remember that he can fly."

(THUD!)

"Guess not."
Bugs Bunny, The Million Hare
"Oh no, he killed your dad! If only you had a time machine...in your pocket...you have a time machine in your pocket."
Jon Bailey (aka the Honest Trailer Guy, aka the Epic Voice Guy), adressing Agent J/Jay in the Men in Black 3 part of the Men in Black Honest Trailer.

When a character has the Idiot Ball slipped into their pocket while they weren't looking, causing them to forget to properly use their abilities, intelligence, or powers to stop a bad guy or get out of a situation, even though they may have used the ability in similar situations before (often many times). This happens often with superheroes and within the filler episode of Shonen Demographic anime.

This is used quite a bit when characters have extremely useful or increasingly powerful abilities or equipment, and some unfortunates tend to have this inflicted on them all the time, turning a Genius Bruiser or Badass Bookworm into a garden-variety Bruiser or Badass. Only some lines of technological jargon or displays of useless gadgetry will remind the reader that they have more brains than they normally use. Some might consider this a form of Informed Ability, with the "ability" being genius-level intelligence.

Amnesia Danger is a variant of this trope, when it's justified using convenient amnesia. The heroic version of Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?, except while at least villains don't have to answer to their actions, heroes should be obligated to stop evil-doers or disasters as quickly and efficiently as possible.

See Fridge Logic for when it occurs to the viewers a little later what the character could've/should've easily done. See Remembered I Could Fly when it occurs to the character Just in Time what he should've done long before. Plot-Sensitive Snooping Skills is a particular variant/sub-trope. If a device is discovered once, never becomes part of a character's standard bag of tricks, and is forgotten that is Forgotten Phlebotinum. Hollywood Tactics are a usual result. Compare Drama-Preserving Handicap.

As mentioned, this is a sister trope to Idiot Ball, the distinction being that Idiot Ball is when a character does something stupid to further the Plot, while with Forgot About His Powers the plot depends on a character failing to take an action they would normally take or that would make the most sense to solve the current crisis.

Compare Reed Richards Is Useless, where a character with superhuman abilities or ridiculously advanced technology reserves it for equally advanced problems and never applies it to mundane difficulties.

Examples of Forgot About His Powers include:


Anime & Manga

  • Usagi often used her disguise pen in the first season of Sailor Moon to get into areas where access was forbidden otherwise. In later seasons, it was completely forgotten... except for one odd season three episode when Minako borrowed Usagi's pen to act as an Identity Impersonator for Sailor Moon. Note that Minako actually had her own disguise compact in the Codename Wa Sailor V manga and in the Sailor Moon manga, although the fact that it was never shown in the anime may mean it simply doesn't exist in this continuity. Additionally, in the manga, both Usagi and Minako have devices (a mask and a compact respectively) that can reveal the disguised enemies' true forms; these conveniently get forgotten when it comes to fighting Witches 5 or the Dead Moon Circus, who do disguise themselves as normal people in areas that are known to have connection to the enemies...
    • In the first episode we see that she has super hearing through the gems in her hair and we never get to see her use them again ... ever.
    • Her scream/cry is also shown to be some sort of sonic weapon which she also uses only once.
  • Most Dragon Ball Z movies are also guilty of this, during which all Saiyan characters will magically forget to become Super Saiyan for the duration of the movie, or until then end. Averted slightly during the Freeza saga when Tenshinhan declares Goku has an ace up his sleeve with the kaio-ken technique, until King Kai responds that Goku had been using it the entire time.
    • In one Filler scene during the Goku vs. Freeza fight, Freeza opens the ground under Goku, who hangs for the edge as the lava rises from underground. Goku tries to climb, fails and gets his butt burnt by the lava in a comical manner. Except that Goku, like damn near everyone in the show, can fly.
    • In the original Dragon Ball, as part of a martial arts tournament, Krillin fought an enemy who never bathed, and who used the resulting stench as a weapon against his enemies, as they were so overwhelmed by the smell that they couldn't focus clearly. Krillin was losing badly, until Goku reminded him that he didn't have a nose, and thus couldn't smell his opponent.
  • This happens countless times with Tsuzuki from Yami no Matsuei. Even though he's supposed to be one of the most powerful ancient Gods of Death, he is rendered completely helpless when Muraki is around. He's not even able to throw a decent punch at the guy, and is made into a whining and crying wimp in his presence just for plot's sake. Example: Muraki is flying away on a helicopter, and Tsuzuki forgets that he can always summon or cast a spell that could blow the helicopter down. Stupid or... has a self destructive streak TEN MILES HIGH.
  • Along with Heroic Second Wind, this is probably the #1 reason anyone gets beaten in Bleach. Bad guys fighting the main heroes, or the Shinigami, will usually get killed because they suddenly forget that with the several seconds of warning they receive from their screaming opponents, they could have just Flash Stepped out of the way. It gets just plain ridiculous in the anime version because all fights take several times longer. The only time this is seemingly avoided is when Soifon decides to stop wasting time Obfuscating Stupidity and just Two hit KO her opponent with a Flash Step attack while he's doing his power up sequence.
    • Probably the most blatant example of this is when Kenpachi fights Tousen. Tousen uses his bankai and then proceeds to lecture Kenpachi about his worldview/how his victory is assured because of his abilities/how his abilities work/etc. rather than finish the fight giving Kenpachi enough time to figure out a winning strategy. Now that sounds pretty standard and while dumb, isn't egregious, until you remember that Tousen's bankai removes all of Kenpachi's senses including sight and hearing, rendering him completely ignorant to the fact that he's getting a lecture in the first place, never mind hearing or comprehending it.
    • Orihime has a spectacular example in the Bount filler arc. One of the Bounts manages to control Rukia. Orihime subsequently panics and spends a whole episode angsting, then eventually removes the control with her healing powers. The sad thing is that near the start of the show she had done almost exactly the same thing when Tatsuki was controlled by a hollow.
    • There are several characters in the show that intentionally do this; usually it's because they either don't want any additional responsibility (for example, openly displaying that they released a Bankai would be basically a near-instant promotion) or because it doesn't fit their style (such as a pure-physical fighter having a Kido-based release, or a stealthy assassin's Bankai basically being a gigantic, tactical nuclear missile).
    • Characters in Bleach are hit with this due to "Honor Before Reason" instead of "Reason Before Honor". Ichigo often forgets that he has a thing called "friends". He fights almost all of his fights 1 vs 1, and inforces it by telling his friends to "let him fight alone". He only ever leaves a fight when one of his friends are endangered, and seems pretty much hellbent on being strictly Honor Before Reason. He willing attacks Ulquiorra just because the Arrancar outright said he kidnapped Orihime, even though Ichigo was carrying a CHILD with him! He also forgets that he could land a mark by using his special move, and seems to use it whenever the opponent is least ready(and never when they're distracted).
    • Aizen forgets that he could just make illusions and kill everyone, speeding his plan up by 60%.
    • Of course, the stupidity ignored in the Lust chapters: what's the first thing you do when you see the man you just tore a hole the size of Kansas get up, don a Hollow mask, and seem perfectly alive despite missing his heart and lungs? Why, ask it who he is and not 'get the hell out of there. It seems that, during this, Ulquiorra forgets he has superior speed AND wings that could propel him out of there in a minute.
  • Happens all the time in Pokémon. The Team Rocket trio manages to capture Pikachu (and ONLY Pikachu) nearly once per episode, and Ash forgets half of the time that he has FIVE OTHER POKEMON that he could use to just blast Team Rocket's balloon halfway to Jupiter.
    • The fact that they're never able to recognize them even when they're all wearing a Paper-Thin Disguise is also an example of this. A talking Meowth and hair like Jessie's apparently is easy to forget.
    • In Pokémon Zoroark Master of Illusions, Ash forgets that he has arguably the strongest team he's ever had in a movie. Aside from one instance with Infernape in the beginning and Pikachu in general, he never uses any of them. The sheer raw power they packed would have made a huge difference against Kodai.
    • In the third episode of the Best Wishes series, there is a scene with a group of Pokémon stranded on a disintegrating island in the middle of a lake of boiling water. Some of these Pokémon are Flying-types. They're birds that remember they can fly when they are persuaded to cross a bridge the heroes make so that they can get to safety and that then proceed to FLY AWAY.
    • In the same episode, he almost orders Pikachu to use Thunderbolt on a grounded Sandile, who has Iris' Axew in its mouth. The only thing that stops him from going through with this plan is Iris reminding him that the attack would hurt Axew, not the fact that the Ground-type Sandile is outright immune to electricity. Sometimes, when actually remembers them, the kid forgets how to properly use his powers.
    • In Pokémon Arceus and The Jewel of Life, Ash and co. are thrown into a cell. A simple, no-tech cell. They wait around in it for god knows how long for a Pokémon to retrieve the key when they could've, I dunno, used their Pokémon to bust their way out. And because of this stall, Arceus gets killed. Not permanently, though.
  • In Detective Conan, one episode featured Conan attempting to stop a murder by "Shocking" the murderer into giving up. He shows up Just in Time and shows a plant that holds sentimental value to the murderer, causing her to break down and cry, saving the intended victim. What our diminutive detective seems to forget is that he wears a watch that shoots tranquilizer darts! Why risk the killer ignoring this when he could just tranq her?
  • Lina, Ameria, and Zelgadis all know Ray Wing, spell that lets them fly, faster than they can run. Yet they will frequently run away from enemies (including ones who can't fly), or stand around watching flying opponents as if they could not reach them.
  • In the New Vestroia season of Bakugan Battle Brawlers, our BBEG King Zenoheld wielded a Giant Mecha Bakugan called "Farbros" which could merge with more parts and become virtually unstoppable. So what does he do when the good guys arrive to confront him halfway through the series? Blow up his own machine. Without fusing to the special parts. For no adequately explained reason...
  • Blue Gender is one giant Wallbanger for many viewers because of this. Humanity knows The Blue can't swim or fly very well. (Hello there, aircraft carriers!) Humanity controls at least one giant orbiting space station. (Colony Drop!) Humanity also has literal Blue-detecting radar. And nukes. Does humanity use any of these advantages to fight the Blue? Nope! They'd rather take the Blue on in catastrophically designed, weaponless mechs.


Comics

  • Nearly any situation should be easily solvable by The Flash, since he can move hundreds and hundreds of times faster than anything else on earth. Yet he constantly forgets to use the full potential of his superpowers until it's time to end the story. Abilities the Flash consistently forgets he has: running faster than light, speed stealing, infinite mass punch, etc.
    • ... and it gets worse. On one occasion the villains have destroyed a bridge. The Flash runs to a university, teaches himself civil engineering, rushes back to the site of the collapsing bridge, scavenges for parts and builds an entire new bridge to replace the old one, all in the blink of an eye. This trope is the only reason anyone is able to beat him.
    • Lampshaded in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, since it's revealed that while the Flash can do all these things and more, he doesn't phase through things because it's fairly dangerous, and he can't approach his upper limits because the plot says it would kill him. Luthor, on the other hand, isn't so worried about it when his mind ends up in Flash's body.
    • It becomes even more ridiculous given the fact that at one point the Flash was able to (within a small fraction of a second) save a city from nuclear annihilation by carrying its half a million person population to a hill miles away one person at a time. And yet Central City's banks still get robbed on his watch.
    • In the 4 issue alternate universe DC tale, Kingdom Come, The Flash does become an unstoppable one man war on crime, where he never slows down and has made Keystone City a crime-less utopia.
    • To the point where he moves so fast, not only can he run through the air, he simultaneously exists in the physical and metaphysical planes.
  • Most of the above points also apply to other speedsters in the DCU. Heck, to most comic book speedsters, period.
  • Obviously, Superman suffers from the same forgetfulness both in the comics and in Smallville.
  • Marvel's Vision has occasionally fallen victim to similar attacks (though it's rarer). In one issue of What If?, he was killed by a parasitic alien vine that grew into his bodily systems. A fan wrote in to ask what was up; the editors eagerly latched onto his suggestion that "the plant in question isn't entirely tangible itself, and that's why the villain used it".
  • The Essential Silver Surfer is full of this. When he meets a scientist who invents a device that might let him leave Earth but needs money to make it, the Surfer decides to get a job. He can't (because he doesn't have a Social Security number, he's not in the union, and he's funny-looking) so almost robs a bank in desperation, forgetting he can manipulate matter and could just make the scientist's gear for him. He spends about eight comics looking for someone who won't hate him for being "a silver-skinned freak" before he remembers that the Fantastic Four were quite friendly... need I go on?
  • In Marvel Zombies, the zombies are attacking Doctor Doom's castle and the Scarlet Witch is infected by the Punisher. Gee, Scarlet Witch, did it never occur to you you could just teleport him and the other zombies away like you did with Ash earlier? Or teleport Enchantress away earlier so Dazzler wouldn't be infected? It is also never explained why Doom didn't just kill Enchantress in the beginning like he did later.
  • Green Lanterns have been variously shown as being able to warp time, move faster than light, contain supernovas, fight toe to toe with Superman, alter their own DNA, read minds, find subatomic aliens... Scratch that, if it's a superpower of any sort any given GL has used it at least twice. Now here's the thing. There are creatures other than Gods that bother them. Funny huh? It's somewhat justified in their case as their power require willpower and concentration to make anything happen. A GL who is having a bad day, is unfocused or demoralized will be less effective and the GL's are essentially human without their rings (or at least the human ones are.) Plus, their rings require a periodic recharge and anything yellow or anyone whose fast enough or crafty enough to remove a ring is a threat. Still, the idiot plot is somewhat less excusable in the case of veterans like Hal Jordan (or really, any of the Earth based GL's these days) as he is both experienced, and extremely strong willed.
  • The chronic and widespread amnesia over the Iron Queen's Magitek is one of the main causes of the Idiot Plot that is The Iron Dominion Saga; the Freedom Fighters are constantly clueless to the fact that their enemy can control machines with her mind, and wind up being shocked each time one of their cyborg or mechanical allies gets turned against them by her. They also keep forgetting that they have a counteragent to her spell right in their own backyard. And in case you're wondering, there's actually a time in the saga where the Iron Queen herself forgets that she has this power, and has to be reminded that the Freedom Fighters are holed up in a Gray Goo city that she can manipulate...after she successfully infiltrated and messed up said city with her powers.
  • Speaking of the Sorcerer Supreme, he is repeatedly in situations where his virtually unlimited mystic abilities could resolve the plot, or at least make it much simpler. Alas, the good Doctor's imagination is often limited to that of those who write him.
    • This is less of an issue now that Strange is no longer the Sorcerer Supreme. He's still the go-to occult expert for the Avengers, but he no longer has the "virtually unlimited mystic abilities" that come with the title.


Fan Works

  • In Getting Back on Your Hooves Trixie is feeding animals as part of a job working for Fluttershy, ending up falling down a steep bank and getting the list of animals she needed to feed muddy, resulting in a run in with a skunk. As she's getting cleaned up, this trope is lampshaded;

 Spike: Uh, Trixie, one thing.

Trixie: Yes, what?

Spike: Why didn't you just use your magic to float the food down to the animals?

Trixie: (slams her head into the side of the tub)

    • This is also subverted in other places. Trixie's special talent is stage magic, so she's frequently frustrated when Spike asks her why she didn't do something Twilight (whose talent is magic itself) is capable of, but she's not.


Films

  • The Mobile Infantry in Starship Troopers have rifles that come with underbarrel shotguns and nuclear rocket launchers, yet they seem to rely almost entirely on their rifles' regular firing mode -- even when faced with instances where such weapons would be most effective, such as close combat with the Bugs or when facing a horde of thousands of bunched-together aliens charging their fixed positions.
  • In The Return of the King, Gandalf rescues Faramir and his retreating troops by using his staff to shine a bright light at the Nazgûl, which scares them away. One might wonder how come he doesn't do that every other time the Nazgûl are around...
    • Commented by several cast members on the audio commentary. Ian McKellen mentions bringing the trope up to Peter Jackson, who shrugged and told him he used up all the batteries when he saved Faramir, and the shops in Minas Tirith were all out.
    • This is probably the reason why, in the extended edition, Peter Jackson had the Witch-king destroy Gandalf's staff shortly afterwards; something that could not have happened in the book.
    • This happens in the book, as well. The narrator's explanation implies that this was essentially a battle of wills, and the Nazgûl backed down because it wasn't the time yet to challenge Gandalf in all out battle -- their leader wasn't present and they didn't have an army behind them, and their quarry wasn't that significant at this point. Basically, Gandalf intimidated them to leave, but they could have chosen to resist if they had a good enough reason. It's possible to speculate that this beam of light had approximately the same strength as a stream of running water, which the Nazgûl also fear, but can overcome if they really must.
      • And by "this happens in the book as well" it means the face-off happened but nothing as egregious as Gandalf's staff exploding.
  • In The Neverending Story 2 Bastian has to save Fantasia with the help of the Auryn, which can grant him any wish he wants. He never thinks to wish for weapons, or an army, or even that Fantasia just be saved. Instead he wishes for things like a can of spray paint and individual steps to climb a huge cliff. And he only has a limited number of wishes before running out of memories (each wish removes a memory).
  • The Star Wars prequels retroactively introduce this trope to the original trilogy by establishing that R2-D2 has the ability to fly and torch his opponents, something he never does in the original trilogy even though it would have been useful to do so.
    • Word of God has it that R2's rocket boosters broke at some point in the intervening years, and Industrial Automaton (the company that makes R2 units) no longer manufactures that part.
  • Everyone who isn't a part of the Fire Nation suffers from this in The Last Airbender. Unlike the series, Firebenders (who aren't masters) need an available source of fire in order to bend it. This is all well and good, except none of the other characters ever put them out! Taken to truly ridiculous extremes when several Firebenders are literally bending from a single source they could not conceivably protect.
    • The Fire Nation imprisonment of the Eath-benders. In the show it was completely justified as they were on a metallic platform in the middle of the ocean. In the movie, they're at a mine. As in, surrounded by dirt and rocks. And they outnumber their Fire Nation guards by a minimum of a dozen to one. The very weak "their spirits are broken" excuse is washed away by a speech that boils down to "You're Earth-benders. You're completely surrounded by dirt and rocks. DO SOMETHING." They effectively imprisoned a bunch of soldiers, made them use their loaded guns to dig holes, and the soldiers never thought to shoot.


Literature

  • Harry Potter: A lampshaded example occurs in "The Philosopher's Stone". When Harry, Ron, and Hermione are trapped in the Devil's Snare (a constricting plant which can only be defeated via light) a panicking Hermione comments that it would be difficult to light a fire in their current position.

 "HAVE YOU GONE MAD?" Ron bellowed. "ARE YOU A WITCH OR NOT?"

  • This happens quite a bit in the Ancient Indian epic poem the "Ramayana". As an avatar of Vishnu, Rama should be completely over-powered in the human realm. Instead, Rama seems to forget that he is a god until the other gods remind him. In the original version of the poem, Valmiki's version, this happens more than once.
  • Flinx of Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series gets hit with this a lot in the novels after Flinx in Flux. Having been established as: (a) streetwise, (b) adept at survival, (c) having a ton of money, (d) being able to defeat just about any enemy with a combination of his Emotion Bomb and Superpower Meltdown powers; at least half of the scrapes he gets himself into are caused by a combination of him deliberately walking unprepared into lethal environments or conveniently forgetting about one or more of his Psychic Powers in order to allow a different character to get a Big Damn Heroes moment. There's also at least one scene in Trouble Magnet where he does rely on his Emotion Bomb power to get himself out of a scrape, only to have it not work on him thanks to Power Incontinence... a fact he really ought to have taken into account considering how frequently it happens to him.
  • In the Mallorean, Belgarath does this. He, Belgarion, and Zakath have to fight a dragon, which is immune to direct sorcery. He makes Garion and Zaketh immune to fire to face the dragon, and has no doubts that this will work, demonstrating that indirect sorcery can be used. Despite this and 7000 years of experience, the idea of translocating large rocks above the dragon's head, or something similar, never occurs to him.
    • Easily half of the entire content of any book written by David Eddings exists only because the protagonists don't make simple and forward use of the god-like (and we mean sometimes very literally godlike) powers they have. There is sometimes a flimsy reason given for this (and not used anymore when the plot dictates) but most of the time they just don't use a simple possibility they have - and rather go for an incredibly contrived method that somehow seems like a genius idea.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, Minerva walks up to the Not Quite Unconscious villain to taunt him and kick his shin in the middle of a firefight, costing Butler four precious seconds and allowing the henchmen to strap a bomb to Holly. That's what being the Designated Victim can do to you.
  • In Time Cat, Jason and Gareth are often captured and held somewhere against their will. Despite having the power to travel to any point in space or time, Gareth never uses his magic to allow them to both escape.
  • This happens many times in The Vampire Chronicles series:
    • Lestat is a skilled computer hacker in Tale of the Body Thief, but doesn't know how to use email when it becomes a plot point in Blood Canticle.
    • When Louis falls improbably in love with Merrick, it never occurs to David that something supernatural is going on, even though he's an expert in magic and he knows she's a witch.
  • Used in a subtle and clever way in The Dresden Files novel Small Favor. Harry has a small arsenal of magical tools on him (staff, shield bracelet, force rings, blasting rod, and various other odds-and-ends), and he has a wide range of spells he can draw from (bursts of flame, blasts of force, lighting bolts, wind, etc). Therefore, unless the reader is paying very close attention, they'll miss something important: Throughout the novel, Harry uses most of his gear and most of his spells, but he doesn't use either fire magic or his blasting rod beyond the initial brawl in the first chapter. It isn't until later on that the reason becomes apparent: Mab, queen of the Winter Court, took his blasting rod and put a lock in Harry's mind that kept him from using fire magic, so that the fire-based Summer Court couldn't track him down and kill him.


Live Action TV

  • Hiro Nakamura of Heroes is one of the most powerful characters in the series with the ability to stop time and teleport; he's just too much of a dork to think of using it when he needs to defend himself. This was even given a nod in the series when his friend, Ando, deliberately antagonized a group of peeved gamblers, assuming Hiro would use his power to put them all down. Hiro, not comprehending the situation, was almost immediately KO'ed by a punch to the face.
    • What about the time that Hiro and his friend have to find out what's in a safe, finally get it open, only to have the document stolen by a woman with super-speed powers? Hiro then spends several episodes trying to chase her so they can get the document back and see what it says. It never occurred to Hiro that he could have gone back yesterday and opened the safe and read the document before the thief stole it. He then could have replaced the document if he didn't want to cause a paradox or even replaced the document with a fake if he were really smart. This is also immediately after Hiro spent some time idly making time pass forward and backwards just to see a clocks hands move. So the speedster is so fast that, even when time is "stopped" she moves at normal speed. What about when time is rewinding?
    • Peter Petrelli is far worse than Hiro when it comes to being handed the Idiot Ball. But I guess they have to make him stupid to avoid having him fall into A God Am I status. By comparison, at least in the first season, Sylar usually used most of his arsenal to deadly effect.
      • Example in case: In the final episode of Season 2, Peter is using up immense amounts of telekinetic energy to break into a vault with a solid 24-inch thick riveted steel door. As impressive as this may have been for the special effects, Fridge Logic would note that he can walk through solid objects and could have saved himself a lot of time and exhaustion.
      • The best example comes in season 3. In a Mexican-standoff hostage situation, rather than using telekinesis or time-stopping, he uses newly acquired super-speed to attack one of the enemies. The fact he attacked the most harmless enemy is a whole another Idiot Ball...
    • In contrast, in Season 4 Hiro expends considerable time and effort using his powers to solve a problem that he easily could have solved without them. He meets a distraught cubicle worker on the roof, who wants to jump because he was fired for photocopying his butt. So Hiro travels back in time to sabotage the copier, only for the guy to do it again at the next opportunity. And again. And again. While it was a Crowning Moment of Funny, one wonders if there was another way Hiro Nakamura could have saved the guy's job at Nakamura industries.
  • The various Star Trek series regularly did this. It's the 23rd or 24th century, yet the crew is frequently in peril from threats that even 20th century technology could handle. They repeatedly forget that their own warp drive, shields, transporters, phasers, replicators, holodecks, sickbay, etc., etc., can perform miracles.
    • This is especially jarring in episodes in which transporter failure ("The Enemy Within") drives the plot. No one seems to recall the shuttles, the shuttles' transporters, or the cargo bay transporter system.
    • In any scene where there is a man-to-man on the ship/station, they could put the transporter to work, simply beaming the enemies into the brig or even just erasing their patterns without bothering to reconstitute them.
    • Another Deep Space Nine example, in the second season finale (which introduced the Dominion formally, with the Jem'Hadar and the Vorta), a Vorta is able to use a powerful psychic telekinetic attack in combat and to escape from a holding cell. No mention of these abilities are ever made again, let alone actually used by a Vorta, even in situations where it could have been a huge advantage for them.
    • The variable effectiveness of phasers is a common plot hole in Star Trek, especially the later series. In the Star Trek the Original Series a small handheld phaser the size of a smart phone could potentially disintegrate a person or blow the side off a building. In Star Trek the Next Generation Data once vaporized all the water in an aqueduct system stretching miles up a mountain using one. But in Deep Space Nine Federation troops fighting the Dominion are lugging around these huge phaser rifles that fire little bullet-like pops of energy that can barely put a hole in a wall, leading to many combat scenes distinctly similar to their major competing franchise.
    • Cloaking technology is a major source of tension, particularly between the Federation and the Romulon and Klingon Empires, who both use it extensively. The fact that the Federation could potentially counter the utility of cloaking devices by simply recruiting more members of telepathic races such as Betazoids into Starfleet seems to have somehow escaped their thought processes entirely.
  • In Fringe an episode pertaining to a flash forward tries to portray Olivia Dunham as having mastered her abilities by showing off her telekinesis. Dunham, a generally already battle hardened cop with lightning reflexes and an inexplicable penchant for headshots (before any brainwashing) is confronted by Walternate, brandishing a gun, and is promptly shot in the face after failing to react.
  • In Quantum Leap, there are several episodes in which Sam has to keep someone from being kidnapped, and the obvious solution -- have Al stay with the victim at all times until something happens -- rarely if ever occurs to them. Generally speaking, Al's potential for spying is greatly underused.
  • When the Charmed Ones become powerful, they keep on forgetting about their powers. Like when a criminal was holding a gun at Phoebe's head and ordered Paige to cast a spell to disguise him. Rather than just orb the gun, Paige killed him by demon. Piper didn't use her freezing powers several times because she just didn't try. And Phoebe stopped using her premonition powers to help innocents and just focused on herself.
    • In the noted example, Phoebe was only tolerating this criminal in the first place because he had effectively kidnapped and hidden a friend. Phoebe's logic was put up with him until he gave her the necessary information. Of course, at this time, Phoebe had empathic powers, which she never bothers to use here. It's not quite mind reading, but she used it in other situations before to help figure something out.
  • In No Ordinary Family Stephanie seems to constantly forget that she has superspeed and could solve their problem in a fraction of a second. It doesn't help that when not using her powers she doesn't seem to have any kind of Super Reflexes, and terrible normal reflexes, so she's been hit by attacks that even most non-speedsters could dodge. One particularly notable example comes in the finale, when they're encircled by men with guns and after about 30 seconds of them talking and trying to find another way out, she remembers that she can just punch them out before they do anything, and does.
  • In True Blood, Sookie has the ability to read most people's thoughts. There are many times where a character is able to trick her or give her false information, because she doesn't seem to remember this ability.
    • Especially since early episodes imply that she can't turn it off.
  • Warehouse 13 has the Character Jynx who is supposed to be able to detect when people are lying to him. Soon he begins to get lied to as much as the other characters without detecting anything.
    • This ends getting him killed.
  • Knight Rider tended to both play to and avert this trope. There were lots of things demonstrated that were used only once or twice and then never used again that would have been very helpful (usually involving scanning something, sensing something, or nearly-telekinetic power). On the other hand, sometimes functions would be brought back after a couple seasons and suddenly used again.
    • A few functions were explicitly mentioned as removed, such as the laser and water hydroplaner, but by and large KITT's functions were a fluid thing and you never knew which new thing might pop up.
  • In The Twilight Zone episode "Escape Clause", Walter Bedeker is given immortality and is unable to feel pain. Instead of setting out to have a long and happy life, he defrauds several businesses and confesses to killing his wife, which he didn't do. In court, he works to get himself convicted so he could try out the electric chair, but is then given life in prison instead, although it's not explained what he would have done after going to the electric chair. It is at this point that he uses the "Escape Clause" which causes his own death rather than face life in prison. At this point, he has apparently forgotten that in addition to being ageless, he is also invulnerable. How easy would it then be to escape from prison if he doesn't have to fear injury or death? He could wait for an opportunity and make a break for the barbed wire or electrified fence and just climb over it. What are guard dogs or gunshots to someone who is invulnerable? In the very least, he could wait it out.
  • In Merlin, Merlin deserves an honorable mention for deciding that POISONING Arthur is necessary to fake his death, when there have to be a million other ways to do it. Arthur gets bonus points for going along with it.
    • After the first few episodes, Merlin also completely forgets his original innate power of stopping time and telekinesis with nothing but a glare. As soon as he starts learning some spells that don't even have a fraction of this power, he only uses spells which could have him executed if anyone listens to his muttering.
  • M-16 users in Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 never once use the M-203 grenade launchers that are usually attached to their M-16s, even when faced with squads of Jaffa. In addition, the standard hand-held grenades are almost never used, despite multiple situations throughout both series where a single M67 grenade would eliminate their opposition. Even the M67 grenades "forget their powers" when the one grenade explosion in SGA Season 3, Phantoms, doesn't even damage Shepard, despite the 6 sticks of dynamite equivalent of the grenade and the blast being less than 15 feet away and nothing between the metal fragments lofted by the blast and Shepard. (At that close range, the effect would be somewhat like a hummingbird being hit by a 12 gauge shotgun blast.)


Video Games

  • The railroad ending options of Fallout 3 have this trope in spades. No matter what, someone has to die from radiation poisoning, either the player or an innocent secondary character. This is despite the fact that the player has three optional companions who are immune to radiation damage -- Fawkes (good players only), Charon (any player alignment), and Sergeant RL-3 (Neutral alignment). To add insult to injury, by this point in the game most players will have collected both a very high rad resistance through perks and a huge number of anti-radiation chems, and could probably stay in the chamber for weeks if necessary.
    • Broken Steel changes the fate of the both the player character and Paladin Lyons to being Not Quite Dead, no matter who went in and pressed the button. Also it allows you to send in one of your radiation-immune companions to activate the purifier instead.
      • Despite this, the ending cutscene will still call you a coward for not going through the deed yourself, likely because nobody felt like modifying it after the DLC and get Ron Perlman to re-do the voice.
    • Though to reiterate, the fact that 4 of your companions should enter for you is explained away by it being "your destiny" or it not "being in their contract".
  • In Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice both have methods of detecting when someone is lying. Phoenix only ever uses his outside of court, and Apollo only ever uses his inside court. Even then, they only show up in certain circumstances, not every single time someone lies.
    • Phoenix's Magatama lets the holder see "when a person they are talking too is locking something in their heart". Someone can lie yet said person could not consider the lie too be of emotional value too them, so they don't have said lie in their heart. Thus no locks would appear. Plus it's implied very strongly that in order for the magatama to pick up a lie, Phoenix must directly ask that person the question they are lying too. So someone can lie casually and it won't pick it up. Phoenix has too directly ask that person a question (such as "Are you the person who killed Ms. Victim?") in order for the magatama to pick up if the witness is lying or not. Also Pearls tells Phoenix that his Magatama only works "When he's going up one on one with someone". So it won't work in court because Phoenix is up against the prosecution as well as the witness. In terms of Apollo Bracelet, once again it's NOT a lie detector (I get a little annoyed when people call the magatama and bracelet lie detectors). It's something that lets Apollo know when a witness is acting nervous, so sometimes a someone will lie yet they won't cause his bracelet too react because they are not having a habit play up. Plus I'm sure the bracelet, while not used properly outside trials, does react sometimes too witnesses nervousness; such as when Apollo try talking to Machi, a foreigner, only for him too give up when he gets no reaction; His bracelet reacts when he talks to Trucy about how he does not speak English. Hinting too Apollo that maybe he does understand what they are saying.
  • At one point in Chrono Trigger, the characters are disarmed and rendered helpless. Ayla can still fight with her fists, but Robo forgets about his inbuilt lasers, and the rest of the party forgets how to use MAGIC until they're rearmed.
    • An almost identical occurrence happens in Final Fantasy VIII. The party gets disarmed, and only Zell, who is a fist-fighter, can go and retrieve the other members' equipment, never mind the godlike power their G Fs can unleash...
  • Lancer in Fate Stay Night. Granted, it's not entirely his fault considering he's actually been ordered not to just kill everyone. But he never actually does net a kill with his Noble Phantasm -- the only time he kills someone (Shirou in the intro, himself and Kotomine in UBW) is when he's doing regular stabbing.
    • He tried it against Saber at the beginning of the game. It didn't work because her Luck stat was too high. (Considering that, the only ones his skill would work against are Archer, Rider, True Assassin and Dark Saber.) And he clearly beat Archer in UBW with the stronger version of it but didn't finish him.
    • Gilgamesh is of course the king of this trope, but it's justified due to his massive Pride: He just never considers anyone 'worthy' of going all out on.
  • How many times can the dragon Spyro the Dragon forget he can breathe flames at the start of a new game in his series?
  • Valkyria Chronicles plays with this one in places throughout the game, but the most glaringly obvious and stupid one is when Alicia comes to Welkin, distraught and nearly in tears over her Valkyria powers and the huge responsibility that's been dumped on her, seeking his help. Welkin, despite being a genius and in love with her, chooses this moment to casually ignore Alicia, and she runs off fighting tears because obviously if Welkin doesn't sympathize with her problems, she's just whining. The only reason he does this is to set the next major scene, when Alicia tries to kill herself because Welkin wouldn't acknowledge her pain and he rushes in for the last-second Cooldown Hug.
  • In God of War II, Kratos starts the game off by deliberately draining his godly powers into a sword, just because Zeus tells him to. A guy who hates the gods and has no reason to trust ANY of them falls for a blatantly obvious trap, only to justify the game's Bag of Spilling.
  • Silver Surfer in the game of the same name for NES. The guy obviously forgets that he has cosmic powers, and tries to attack the bad guys normally. And is a One-Hit-Point Wonder. The result is legendary even among the Nintendo Hard games of the era. It's almost Bullet Hell with none of that genre's saving graces.
  • Daikatana: "You can't attack me, this is the same sword from two different parts of time and will destroy the universe!" "Damn, if only I had some other weapons on me..."
  • During the climax scene of Golden Sun Dark Dawn, Sveta briefly forgets she's an Adept and has to be prompted to use her powers by Tyrell.


Web Comics


Web Original

  • In Pooh's Adventures, if Pooh has anyone with superpowers, expect them to forget about those when the time is right.


Western Animation

  • When's the last time Daffy Duck flew under his own power?
    • This was lampshaded in the short The Million Hare, as Bugs Bunny witnesses Daffy plunging off a cliff, which was recycled so John Madden could make the same observation in Big Game XXIX.

 Bugs: I wonder if Daffy will remember that he can fly." (crash) "Nope, I guess not.

Madden: That's a good observation by Bugs. Why isn't Daffy using his God-given abilities?

    • Similarly, in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Daffy feels he's helpless and wishes that Duck Dodgers was there to save the day. Then he remembers that he's Duck Dodgers.
  • To move the Idiot Plot of a typical episode of The Fairly Odd Parents, either Cosmo and Wanda's magical wands are stolen, or more commonly Timmy has to stupidly forget that he is enabled to alter reality on a whim. Naturally this has been lampshaded quite a few times. For example, the quote from above comes from the episode "Where's Wanda", in which Wanda goes missing. Timmy proceeds to turn the world into Film Noir and become a detective in order to track her down... when he could have easily just wished her back.
    • Also lampshaded in "Nectar of the Odds": Timmy unsuccessfully tries to make his lemonade taste better using cheese, taco sauce, peas, and chocolate laxatives. While Timmy goes to the bathroom (after trying the laxatives), Wanda wonders why he doesn't just wish for sweeter lemonade.
    • In Timmy's defense, every single attempt he ever made at simply wishing the plot of the week to be magically resolved was always blocked by some arcane and obscure magic rule that would forbid magic from undoing his previous stupid wish. "Not Using Magic to Break True Love" came up a lot in this regard. By this point, Timmy may simply be assuming that wishing things back to normal will bring up the freaking rulebook, so he's saving himself the aggravation and solving things the hard way from the start.
  • Similarly, there are too many times to count in Danny Phantom where Danny seemingly forgets that he has the ability to become invisible or intangible at will. Early on it made sense due to it being clear he was still getting used to his abilities, and sometimes it was played for humor, but it seemed strange he would still sometimes forget this fact even in the later episodes.
  • In the first season of Justice League, characters would regularly forget their powers. In the season finale, Brainiac is holding everyone in an iron grip with tentacles. They struggle for an unreasonable time before Martian Manhunter remembers that he can turn intangible at will.
    • The Martian Manhunter is the king of this trope. He has the ability to transform into whatever Super Strong forms he can imagine -- an ability he uses three times in the entire series. He'll stare at incoming projectiles with a surprised look on his face instead of turning intangible, or super solid or transforming into a form that cannot be so easily hit.
      • In The Silver Age of Comic Books comics, he had even more powers, with new ones popping up all the time. Somehow, he just never used them with the slightest tactical sense. As my high school guidance counselor said many times, "You have so much wasted potential!"
      • On the other hand, with powers ranging from Super Strength to making ice cream with your mind, it's hard to create conflict.
    • Let's not forget the many, many instances where Superman would be felled by an electrical field, despite the fact that he is supposed to be invulnerable. This got to be so bad that in the second season the writers actually started to show less of Superman getting taken out by an electrical shock or something along those lines, and more of his invulnerable side.
  • And if you think the above examples are bad, you should watch the old Superfriends some time. "Gee, Jayna, here we are trapped under the foot of a giant space monster, touching each other. If only we had, I don't know, some kind of superpower that would allow you to turn into a small animal and me into something which could flow through the claws, we could escape!"
    • All of Superfriends was made of this trope. It was parodied openly in a sketch on The State, Superman orders the other heroes to basically cleanup duty and then says "I'll stop the missiles... all by myself!" And then grabs his crotch with a smug look on his face.
  • In Teen Titans, Raven is easily the most overpowered of the five, which is made glaringly obvious in season 4 (though one could Fan Wank this as her emotional state boosting her powers for the duration, given what was happening). As such, PIS is the only way to keep the entire team necessary. Raven often conveniently forgets that she can fly, teleport, and become intangible in situations where those powers would be highly useful. She also rarely uses her telekinesis to restrain opponents or hurl them away from the scene of a battle, rather than just tossing debris at them. She's done it before, to both allies and enemies, so it's not an issue of being unable. There's only one episode where she concentrates and simply cuts the baddie's armour with her power. One.
    • It's especially jarring in that several times she's proven to be much more powerful than the entire Green Lantern Corp put together. Let's see some one-off-powers: she slices her way though a horde of robots, she can toss bad guys around with dark energy talons (not even directly controlling them; taking the having to put her soul into the object argument out of the equation), can become completely intangible for long periods of time and still use her powers, removed a bad guy from his gear and armor, mentally scarred Dr. Light, and at one point, arguably, becomes a Reality Warper. She essentially spends the entire series forgetting about her powers. After the watching the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown she gives Slade in The Prophesy it's hard to watch her hold back/forget her powers so much.
    • She states she has to "put a bit of herself" in everything she moves or uses her powers on while her powers are active. It's possible it's harder to do this on living things, especially hostile living things in the middle of a battle, then it is to do it to inanimate objects.
  • No matter how many missions the characters in Code Lyoko go on, they always seem to forget that, first and foremost, while on Lyoko one cannot die from lasers and swords, they can only be devirtualized. They will also forget their most important abilities at the worst times. For example, Aelita could use her Creativity power to create terrain barriers around herself, but even in dangerous situations where she has enough time, she quite often forgets that she can do this. She is the most obvious offender, but the others are often guilty as well.
    • Aelita also forgets that XANA will NOT kill her starting with Season 2, despite this being proven in the first third of the season. The "dying" thing is somewhat justified though. While they do just devirtualize, it's implied they can't go right back into Lyoko.
  • This seems to be a staple of Drawn Together, especially in regards to Captain Hero, who takes this to The Ditz levels. More often than not though, he is just Sociopathic Hero.
  • In the Mighty Hercules cartoon series of the 1960's, Hercules had a magic ring that would endow him "with the strength of ten ordinary men" (according to his theme song). Along with invulnerability and superhuman reflexes. In each episode, Hercules would go to fight the episode's monster and get the snot beaten out of him. And then he would remember he has the ring.
  • Cheetara from The ThunderCats (2011) constantly forgets her Super Speed that can instantly defeat most of their enemies.
  • Apparently Bloom forgot about her healing powers in the 24th episode of the fourth season of Winx Club, since she didn't do anything to try to save Nabu.
    • The Winx get backed off a cliff in the Omega Dimension in season three. No explanation is given for why they don't use their wings.
    • There's also an episode in the first season (towards the end) where the girls go to Domino/Sparx. At the end of the first part (it's a two-part episode), Bloom, who's currently powerless, is about to fall into a chasm. Stella was transformed at this time and could've easily flown over and grabbed Bloom, yet she didn't!
  • Star Wars the Clone Wars. All too often the Jedi Knights seem to forget that they have the ability to lift anything as heavy as a spaceship without touching it, jump high distances, control minds and possess lightning quick reflexes. Curiously these bouts of stupidity come up when they're fighting a Badass Normal character such as Cad Bane, whom you think a Jedi could reduce to a pile of disembodied limbs within seconds. And of course it is not a coincidence that this always happens when around the series' original characters. Justified, as the Jedi were deliberately underpowered as a story choice (the Jedi were arguably too badass in Star Wars: Clone Wars, though even they had their PIS moments), but this fails to address the fact that even these underpowered Jedi regularly forget to use things like telekinesis, even when others around them don't.
  • Parodied on The Powerpuff Girls when the townspeople chase Buttercup. She starts running from them before reassessing the situation and flying away.
  • In one episode of Spider-Man the Animated Series, Doctor Octopus kidnaps Felicia Hardy and J. Jonah Jameson and holds them for ransom. Despite Super Strength explicitly being one of his powers, Spider-Man tries to untie the ropes instead of just breaking them, giving Doc Ock time to step in and stop him.
  • Some of The Land Before Time sequels have this problem, neglecting the fact that Petrie can fly.
  • The 70s The Fantastic Four series had Magneto unable to use his magnetic powers against a (fake wooden) gun. He suddenly concludes that his powers are gone. This is stupid enough itself, but he fails to use them even after being told it was a trick and the cops are arresting him. Cops with real guns, handcuffs and police cars.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has a moment of this in the episode "Feeling Pinkie Keen". Twilight Sparkle is forced to take a leap of faith off a cliff to escape a Hydra when she mysteriously forgets she can teleport, as has been seen in at least two previous episodes, including the pilot.
    • This happens basically anytime the plot requires her to be threatened by some impending doom. It is occasionally justified by her being under a great deal or stress at the time, such as a later example where she is blocked by a simple locked gate.
  • This happens to a number of characters in X-Men Evolution. The worst offender is Kitty, who seems to forget that she can become intangible with some regularity. One especially egregious instance has her running through a series of barriers in the danger room seemingly without problem...until she runs into the last one and is knocked unconscious. Xavier also seems to forget that he has telepathy sometimes.
    • The danger room instance isn't an example, it's a case of her not being able to sustain her intangibility for long enough.
    • Wolwerine suffers from this as he is constantly surprised by people sneaking up on him even through he can smell people from distance.
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