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Harry: You've known that all this time, and you pick now to tell me?

Butler: I thought this would be the best time to tell you the truth.

Harry: I took a grenade to the face, dude!

Most heroes have a Deep Dark Secret of some kind hidden somewhere in their past. It seems to be something of a job prerequisite, as well as providing an easy jump-off point for character development. Reveal the secret, and hey presto! Suddenly everyone looks at you a little differently. On occasion, the Deep Dark Secret will come as just as much of a surprise to the hero as to their fellow cast. This is especially true if they've been the target of Laser-Guided Amnesia, memory-wiping magic, or (more usually) have just never been told about it.

There's that. And then there's Locked Out of the Loop.

In Locked Out of the Loop, most of the main points still stand. The hero still has a Deep Dark Secret, and is still oblivious to it. The catch is, every other significant main character is fully aware of the secret and its implications, and they're all collectively conspiring to keep it hidden from the hero - either for the hero's own good or because it's crucial that the hero not know for some reason.

It hardly ever works. If they're lucky, though, the hero won't hate them too much when it finally comes out.

A favorite and none too successful technique so that he will not Turn Out Like His Father. Unfortunately, this usually results only in the mysterious parent taking on the allure of Forbidden Fruit -- which may result in a harder than usual crash.

See Tell Me About My Father. Compare Metaphorically True, a common method of obscuring the loop. Can lead to It Seemed Trivial, when someone who knows something is Locked Out of the Loop, and doesn't know the importance of his knowledge.

When more generally applied, you might have an Unwitting Pawn.

Examples of Locked Out of the Loop include:


Anime

  • Haruhi Suzumiya has an alien, a time-traveller, an esper, and Kyon trying to prevent the titular character from realizing that she's omnipotent, in fear of what she'd do with the power. Note that she's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, not a Complete Monster -- they're mostly worried that she'd get too bored with the world and instantly recreate it as something more "fun". Which she already subconsciously does on a smaller scale out of boredom rather frequently.
    • They also must keep it a secret that they are an alien, a time-traveler and an esper because they fear if she had proof they existed, she would subconsciously create more of them.
    • In fact, all of that is just what they think Haruhi's secret is. Or rather, it's what Kyon and most of the readers think, thanks to Itsuki "Completely Trustworthy" Koizumi. Yuki and Mikuru's factions have their own theories. They're keeping watch on her because none of them are entirely sure what she is or what she's capable of, but they're all pretty confident that letting her find out about and/or overuse her powers would be very dangerous.
  • Detective Conan AKA Case Closed. Protagonist must keep his identity a secret from his lover in order to secretly protect her and not drag her into trouble.
  • Naruto had the entire adult population of the village concealing the fact that the eponymous main character had the nine-tailed demon fox that nearly destroyed the village sealed inside him, so he could live a 'normal' life. It didn't work. He just thought they hated him for no good reason instead.
    • Of course, the point of them being ordered to not talk about was because the Third Hokage figured he might get treated even worse if they could (see Gaara).
    • Although it did work with the children of the village (which was probably the Third's intention). While Naruto was never very popular, his peers lack the naked fear of him you see from the kids Gaara tried to befriend in his flashbacks.
      • The loop pretty much no longer exists as the adults and Naruto speak openly about the Kyubi now, including around some of Naruto's friends.
      • Another loop they tried to keep Naruto out of was the fact that Tobi/Madara and Kabuto decided to declare a fourth world war. Justified in that they kept it from him to protect him, as Tobi's goal was to capture the Hachibi and Kyubi.
  • Misaki from Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer is locked out of the loop about her mother's real whereabouts until the very end of the story. This is a spoiler for the manga, but is revealed early on in the anime.
  • Nikora in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch wants to keep Lucia Locked Out of the Loop about many things -- her lineage, Saving the World, her boyfriend's disappearance -- but it never seems to work out. Also, it appears that the entire mermaid world is being misled so that they don't interact with humans, thinking that they'll turn into foam.
  • Lillia of Allison and Lillia is a shining example: she is the only member of the main cast unaware that her childhood friend Treize is a bona-fide Prince, and that her dead father is still alive under an assumed identity, and a spy... oh, and dating her mother. Considering the fact that both of these things make her a potential assassination/kidnapping target, you'd think someone would be nice enough to clue her in, but instead, they actively keep this information from her.
    • It takes a villain forcing him at gunpoint to finally make Treize reveal his true identity to her. Later he comments that he would have preferred it if she had never found out… even though their relationship was already becoming increasingly serious by that point. She forgives him, but it still seems like a very disrespectful way to treat the one you love.
  • In Tsukuyomi Moon Phase, male lead Kouhei (and the audience) is led to believe that his immunity to ghost attacks and his inability to see them at all was because he was "Spiritually retarded" and possessed no spiritual powers unlike his immediate family. It is eventually revealed that he is, in fact, an incredibly powerful psychic whose abilities were sealed for his own protection when he was a baby, at least partly by telling him repeatedly that he had no powers. Even in this sealed state, however, he was powerful enough to banish evil spirits by denying they were even there.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, Botan, Yusuke, Kurama, and Koenma (and in the anime, Shizuru) know that Yukina is Hiei's sister. Whether or not Yukina has figured it out is left as an exercise for the audience (she calls Hiei "brother" at one point, then backtracks and says she would like her brother to be like him), but Kuwabara definitely doesn't and Hiei will probably kill you if you change that.
    • Kuwabara thinks this is in play when he's the only one who doesn't realize Genkai was dead until he fights Elder Toguro in the Dark Tournament finals, and believes that he was left out because they think he would be scared off if he learned the truth. Kurama tells him that Yusuke didn't tell anyone else, and Yusuke says that he merely couldn't bring himself to say it and admit that it was true.
  • Tatsuki in Bleach knows that something's going on, just not what. Does she ever get pissed when Ichigo refuses to tell her.
    • Also happens to Rukia, Byakuya ordered everyone in his estate to not tell the real reason why she was adopted into the Kuchiki family. Rukia thought it was because she resembled Hisana, Byakuya's dead wife (and, unknown to her, also her older sister), but it was actually Hisana's dying wish to her husband.
      • This seems to have happened to a lot of characters in Bleach. Ichigo never found out that Urahara was actually former captain of the Soul Society's Twelfth Company, who was involved in the creation of the item Aizen staged the entire plot to obtain and used Rukia to hide said item because the latter thought Ichigo would refuse to go along with his plans otherwise..
      • Urahara also neglects to tell Orihime that Aizen is after her powers, instead telling her that she isn't suited to fighting, causing her to go to Soul Society with Rukia to train, which means that when she is travelling back to the real world she gets ambushed and forced into a very cruel Sadistic Choice by Aizen's envoy Ulquiorra. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Major plot point in the first arc of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. Keiichi's friends don't tell him crap, so he gets paranoid and bludgeons them to death. They just didn't think it was much of a deal to tell him... and holy crap they were wrong.
  • Guld in Macross Plus, who sexually assaulted his ex-girlfriend Myung but due to trauma and drugs used to suppress his aggressive Zentradi nature he's forgotten most of it, other then the image of his friend Isamu with the partially disrobed and crying girl... so he thinks that Isamu was the rapist. Not exactly made better by how the also emotionally broken Isamu and Myung actually decided to not tell him anything about it.
  • The second season of Code Geass opens with Lelouch suffering from Laser-Guided Amnesia and an entire government surveillance team camped out at his school to keep it that way. Predictably, that doesn't last long.
  • Miya in Sekirei goes out of her way to keep her nature as the 1st and most powerful Sekirei hidden from the protagonist (and only him, as everyone else seems to know already), as well as severely hindering exposition , largely by "subtly" threatening people who say more than she wants them to.
    • Well, actually, it seems like most of Minato's Sekirei don't know either. Well, any that didn't live at the Izumo Inn, anyway. Because they're new, and Miya doesn't like to talk about it.
    • There doesn't seem to be any reason for this, either. Presumably something about Minato is relevant to her past. Perhaps his as yet unidentified father. His mother seems to be Minaka's right-hand-woman, after all, so there's definitely a story there.
      • Well, it looks like you're locked out of the loop, because everyone already seems to know that Minaka is Minato's father. Well, everyone who knows about Miya, anyway. The naming should have been a giveaway, too. Even Yukari knows, and she's supposed to be one of the ones locked out of the loop.
  • Renton suffers a lot from this in the first season of Eureka Seven. Since he's technically a full member of Gekkostate, he ends up getting involved in a lot of missions without being informed as to what exactly is going on...and then the others (particularly Holland) actually blame him when he messes things up.
  • Everybody in The Bride of the Water God knows that Habaek is only a child during the day and regains his handsome adult form at night... except for Soah, Habaek's wife, who is in love with the adult Habaek but thinks he is a completely different person named Mui.
  • Misato Katsuragi in Neon Genesis Evangelion (the series, not Rebuild) decides it wouldn't be a good idea to tell Shinji that the fourth child is Toji. When she does try to tell him, her message gets cut off just at the last moment. He ends up finding out in the worst possible way: he sees Toji's body in the remains of the Eva 3 plug which Shinji had just been forced to crush with his own (Eva's) hands. Toji is Not Quite Dead (though he does lose limbs), but Shinji, who is otherwise pathologically passive, threatens to destroy half of headquarters and then decides he'd rather not save the world after all, so he leaves. At least Katsuragi's better than Shinji's father, who locks everyone out of the loop whenever possible.
    • This is horribly, horribly Subverted Trope in the manga version. Touji does NOT survive. And that's the least fucked up part.
  • In Elemental Gelade, Coud was informed that Edel Garden, the place Ren was planning to head to, was a very dangerous place and warned never to bring her there at the end of vol 8. Coud decided to go ahead anyway without telling Ren.
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka, Onizuka was informed by the hospital doctor that he would really die if his head suffered any further serious blow. He ended up not telling anyone about it in order not to cause any worry, but some students found out anyway through the doctor.
  • Due to Mustang's plan to smuggle an accused Maria Ross to Xing in Fullmetal Alchemist, her partner Denny Brosh wasn't told of her true fate until late in the final arc (though for good reason, as he couldn't lie to save his life). Her parents were also excluded on her request.
    • And in a more minor example, Mrs. Bradley never had a clue that her husband and son were Homunculi until after the final battle.
  • Soul Eater has a couple. The existence of the Kishin to everyone who isn't Shinigami or Asura himself. Everyone else gets a watered down version they can deal with - Spirit's early version of the meister who gave normal souls to his Weapon fits neatly as a warning tale to students to follow the rules and be brave. The Death Scythes get their initial instructions on the basis of Asura being a potentially dangerous monster in hiding. The truth, for the moment, appears to be a good deal more complicated and deranged. Kid gets a personal lockout regarding his origins. Shinigami's Weapon seems to know more about Kid than the boy himself does.
  • Kozue, from Mahoraba. Every single person at Narutakisou knows about her disease. Except for her.
  • In Romeo X Juliet, the Capulet sympathisers keeps Juliet's true identity as the last heir to the throne a secret from her until her sixteenth birthday. Considering that the story is based off a tragedy, this turns out to be a horrible, horrible idea.
  • In Tiger and Bunny, Kotetsu's daughter Kaede is the only member of his family that's unaware that he's a superhero. Word of God says it's an attempt on his part to protect and not worry her. While the secretiveness is a Fatal Flaw on his part, he might have something of a point as the very first thing that Kaede does after discovering her father is Wild Tiger is run off to Sternbild alone to try to save him.
  • The sisters in Magikano are quite persistent in making sure Haruo doesn't use any magic or realize they're witches.
  • Hitomi Shizuki from Puella Magi Madoka Magica ignores that her best friends Sayaka and Madoka, as well as their classmate Homura and their sempai Mami, are involved in the whole Magical Girl stuff. This bites everyone in the ass later.


Comics

  • Comic book example: Flycatcher in Fables is constantly searching for a way to return to the Homelands to find his wife and children. Everyone else in the Fabletown office knows, from his ramblings whenever he's drunk (which he forgets completely afterwards) that his wife and children were tortured, his wife and daughters in fact raped in front of him, and killed when his kingdom was invaded, but they let him believe they're still alive for his peace of mind. There's some evidence that magic is being used to keep his memories suppressed.
    • Recently, Flycatcher regained his memories, and was last seen having something of a breakdown and lashing out at Santa Claus, who restored them.
  • Early on, Zoot the shrew was so nearsighted that he didn't realize he was sharing the margins of Cricket magazine with insects and other invertebrates. Everybuggy else carefully nurtured his belief that he was hanging out with moles, rabbits and other small mammals, because shrews normally eat bugs. (Zoot later got some glasses and learned the truth, fortunately after he became a vegetarian.)


Fan Fiction


Film

  • In Moulin Rouge, the theatre cast hide Satine's imminent death from tuberculosis so she can clinch a deal with the Duke.
  • In A Scanner Darkly, Bob Arctor's police superiors know his identity even though his Substance D abuse has split his personality to the point where he thinks Bob Arctor is the man he's chasing and that his undercover identity, Fred, is his real identity. His reaction is not overly positive.
  • The Skywalkers in Star Wars are basically ruled by this trope.
    • Not to mention Parental Abandonment...
    • This seems to be a common theme in Star Wars; see Knights of the Old Republic for an even more extreme example - accompanied by an ironic lampshade hanging if the amnesiac Darth Revan tells Carth "you were born out of the loop."
  • In Independence Day Area 51 exists, and nobody told the President. He's not happy when he finds out.

 Whitmore: Why wasn't I informed of all this?

Nimzicki: Two words, Mr. President: Plausible Deniability.

    • The general is even more pissed, as this news isn't brought up until after they try launching a counterattack, one that fails miserably.
  • Transformers has a similar situation when Sector Seven head Tom Banachek shows Secretary of Defense Keller a frozen Megatron being kept in Hoover Dam:

 Keller: And you didn't think the United States Military might need to know that you're keeping a hostile alien robot frozen in the basement?

Banachek: Until these events, we had no credible threat to national security.

Keller: Well, you've got one now!

 Walter Sobchak: Were you listening to The Dude's story, Donny?

The Dude: Walter...

Donny: What?

Walter Sobchak: Were you listening to The Dude's story?

Donny: I was bowling.

Walter Sobchak: So you have no frame of reference here, Donny. You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know...

The Dude: Walter, Walter, what's the point, man?

Walter Sobchak: There's no reason - here's my point, Dude, there's no fucking reason why these two...

Donny: Yeah, Walter, what's your point?

  • Goodbye Lenin: Alex tries to hide the fact that East Germany is gone from his mother, who was in a coma when the Berlin Wall fell. And it turns out that his mother has kept a secret of her own from her two children - Their father didn't leave for the West because of a woman, he left because of harassment he received for not joining the Party, and he planned for his family to join him in West Germany. He even sent scores of letters which his wife hid behind the cabinets.
  • Friendship: Veit's father never made in to San Francisco, but died at the Iron Curtain. The postcards were sent by a proxy of the state security.
  • The Truman Show is a classic case. Truman's life is being aired 24/7, and he's the only one who doesn't know it. Everyone he's ever met has been an actor paid to keep the secret.


Literature

  • In David Eddings' Belgariad, it is feared the sorcerer Belgarath has lost his powers at one point. The remaining sorcerers keep the information secret so the neighbouring countries won't invade and because the magic in this universe is based partially on one's self-confidence -- if you don't believe it'll work, it won't. (Therefore, while Belgarath might have lost his power if he was left in the dark, he definitely would have had he been told.) Later on, it is shown that he's perfectly fine, and is actually rather surprised at the idea.
    • Also possibly a subversion in that Belgarath is fully aware that Polgara and Belgarion are hiding something from him - he's just not sure what, although he's pretty sure it's going to be something important. An additional possible subversion is that he's not terribly bothered when he finds out what they were hiding - he understands exactly why they were doing it.
    • Garion and Ce'Nedra's 'courtship' could be viewed as a masterful senselessly negligent arrangement of keeping the concerned parties in the dark until it was too late to run. Polgara, a very poor mother figure but an excellent manipulator, ensures the two spend time together until they were prepared to admit they liked the other. After a year of being around each other more or less constantly, the bomb is dropped on them: A five-hundred-year-old treaty dictates that the first Rivan King (Garion) to return will have an Imperial Princess of Tolnedra (Ce'Nedra) as his wife. Ce'Nedra was aware of the treaty, but thought the Rivan line was extinct and that the ceremony was meaningless. Garion was not aware of his ancestry or of the treaty. After a predictably bad start, the marriage somehow works itself out.
    • Garion not being told that he is the Rivan King. Even though he's told he is descended from Polgara's sister at the end of the first book and that there was always only one son of that line... (Retconned in the prequel).
  • In her introductory book, Princess Ida from Piers Anthony's Xanth series was constantly trying to find out what her magical talent is, only to have everyone who knew tell her it would be counterproductive for her to know at that point. It turns out that her talent is the Idea, where whatever she thinks of will come true as long as the idea originates with someone who doesn't know what her talent is. As soon as she found that out, she stopped being able to grant her own wishes.
    • Later, it becomes a frequent strategy to bring someone along who is Locked Out of the Loop when you talk to Princess Ida, so that they can suggest ideas that would help the quest along and trigger her talent that way. Usually this is explained to them as soon as they leave Ida's company, even though that means they can't be used for that purpose again. In one case Demoness Mentia, Metria's half-crazy alternate self, has an elaborate plan to free someone from a curse this way.
  • His Dark Materials, in which it is prophesied that Lyra will change the fate of the worlds (plural)--but only if she doesn't know about her destiny and what she will have to do to fulfill it. Naturally, every adult in her life knows and is busy trying to manipulate her to their own ends.
  • Ender's Game.
  • Mark Twain's short story "Californian's Tale" revolves around this trope.
  • Harry Potter suffered from this to a large degree in his interactions with Dumbledore (and, well, everyone). In Deathly Hallows, one of his main sources of angst is the possibility that he might be doing exactly the same to his own allies.
    • Averted in Order of the Phoenix when Dumbledore explains that there was a prophecy made about Harry that Dumbledore kept wanting to tell Harry about (And Harry had even asked him about in book one), but he had succumbed to the "Old man's error" each year in feeling Harry was too young for such heavy information. Dumbledore then actually does get Harry up to date on things - but only on the things Dumbledore is absolutely sure of at the time.
    • In Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore, Mr. Weasley, all the teachers, Hagrid, and Malfoy all knew that Sirius Black was Harry's godfather, and they thought they knew that he was partly responsible for the deaths of Harry's parents. Nobody told Harry this.
    • Harry was told his parents were mundane muggles who died in a car accident and he never even heard of the wizarding world until his Hogwarts letter comes on his eleventh birthday. It's explained later on that Dumbledore wanted it this way. He was afraid Harry would grow up to be a spoiled and useless boy if he was raised by wizards who constantly reminded him of his status as "the chosen one."
  • The Druids of the Shannara series have a long history of doing this to people they need help from. Walker Boh absolutely hates them for this tendency, and is less than pleased when he realizes that he has to do the same thing when he becomes a Druid himself.
  • Harry Dresden mentally picks the lock to the loop that Charity is keeping her entire family locked out of.
  • In A Wizard Alone, the autistic wizard-to-be Darryl is actually an avatar of God. His very life depends on his being Locked Out of the Loop.
    • The reasoning is rather convoluted, but logical. An abdal, like Darryl, is a channel that passively allows The One's power into the world. If he were told what he is, he could no longer be passive and would no longer be usable as an abdal, so The One's power would leave him. Since that power is the only reason he exists, losing it would mean no longer existing.
  • Percy Jackson and The Olympians, like Harry Potter, had this problem, extending even to his primary love interest.
  • In Talking to Dragons, nobody will explain to Daystar who he really is, what he's supposed to be doing with his mysterious magic sword, or any of the backstory involved. Justified in that the sword is being hunted by wizards who can only find it if its bearer knows what it is.
  • The John Marsden book Looking For Trouble is about a trio of sixth-grader kids who form their own detective club and investigate a suspicious family who have just moved into their neighbourhood. It turns out that the father was on trial for fraud and embezzlement -- and that everybody knew, including the kids' parents and some of their classmates. Their parents deliberately left them Locked Out Of The Loop for no good reason, merely saying "We knew you'd find out soon enough".
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe Eighth Doctor Adventures, the Doctor blows up Gallifrey[1] and develops Trauma-Induced Amnesia. Afraid that the Doctor will have a Heroic BSOD if he regains his memories, his companion Fitz keeps him Locked Out of the Loop... until he decides the Doctor has probably figured it out ages ago and is just pretending to still have amnesia to be a Jerkass. Way to be, Fitz.
  • In Robert Buettner's Jason Wander series, the title character constantly deals with this. He is good friends and works closely with Howard Hibble, a former civilian professor who now works for military intelligence. The problem is that Howard has an obsessive need to compartmentalize information, a habit that working as an intelligence operative has not helped, and feels the need to lie about sensitive information to Jason (who is a very high-ranking officer) at least once every book.
  • There's a bit of an inversion of this in David Weber's Safehold series. The main character Merlin is the one with the secret, knowledge about the Safeholdian Church of God Awaiting's origins as a Path of Inspiration, but his plan is to eventually make the whole world aware of it. Who to tell and who to keep locked out becomes a significant plot point from the second book on.
    • Most of the cases its either a case of trust or worrying about the crisis of faith that might be created when a person learns not only is the Church of God Awaiting a Corrupt Church but it was founded as a Path of Inspiration. Then there's Baron Seamount, local One-Man Industrial Revolution, who remains Locked Out of the Loop because his mindset of scientific enquiry is important enough to Merlin's long term sociological plans to outweigh the drawbacks of not letting him have access to Merlin's high tech database.
  • This happens unintentionally in the Prince Roger books. The entire court knows Roger's father was both a vain fop and a dirty traitor, but it's such a sore topic with the Empress no one ever brings it up. So everyone assumes Roger's arrogance and vanity are a deliberate attempt to emulate his dad, because surely someone must have told him. Roger, meanwhile, spends his entire life being seen as worthless and borderline traitorous for no reason he can understand. He is royally pissed when he finally finds out about this.
  • In The Dark Elf Trilogy, it is heavily insisted that even slaves know who Drizzt's father is. Oh, the supposed father and the real father know it. But when her sister reminds Malice's husband that he has only one son, Drizzt ask himself who is his father.
  • Read enough Cthulhu Mythos fiction, and you'll be forced to conclude that educated upper-crust Anglo-Saxons are the only people on Earth who don't have a clue that Cosmic Horror lurks all around them: everybody else, from classical civilizations to backwater native tribes to superstitious blue-collar laborers, knows what's going on.
  • Jenna isn't informed about Septimus's undertakings very often in Septimus Heap, commonly leading to trouble.


Live Action TV

  • At the start of season 3 of House, House is depressed because he thinks he was wrong about a patient; by two-thirds of the way through the episode, four out of the other five main characters know he was right, but don't tell him in an attempt to teach him humility.
    • Eventually they have to tell him as it's affecting his work to the point that he's ready to simply give up the current case.
  • King Uther in Merlin is Locked Out of the Loop about Morgana's prophetic dreams so that he will not have her executed as a sorceress. All the rest of the main cast knows that she foresaw the Sidhe woman Sophia trying to kill Prince Arthur. Morgana is herself Locked Out of the Loop by Gaius and Merlin, the only ones aware of how powerful her magic ability is; Gaius doses her up with heavy sleeping draught in an attempt to make her forget her dreams.
  • As of "A Moroccan Christmas", everyone in The Office knows that Angela's been sleeping with Dwight except for Andy, Angela's fiancee.
  • Lily and Vivian in Pushing Daisies weren't told that Chuck is alive. Olive knows, but thinks she faked her death when she actually died for real only to be resurrected.
    • Subverted in the (sniff) Series Finale
  • Londo Mollari is locked out of the loop regarding Centauri attacks on the Interstellar Alliance in Season 5 of Babylon 5 because the other main characters fear he will actually get to the bottom of it and be killed by his own government.
  • Keeping track of who knows what on Lost can be confusing even for the cast. In one episode, Hurley expresses his frustration over remembering who is in the need to know about what.
  • Pretty much the entire point of Dark Skies. The backstory was an executive order signed by one president that kept the existence of Majestic and the aliens secret from his successors.
  • In Kamen Rider Den-O, Ryotaro is locked out from learning that the entire conflict was started by the birth of his Singularity Point niece, primarily because those involved (his sister and her "lost" fiance) actually changed history in order to protect the important thing in question from the Imagin. He only learns the truth by going back in time to before the alteration and posing as his past self to get the information from his sister.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, the cast uses a retrovirus to transform Michael from a Wraith into a human. His memory is erased as a side effect, and they decide to hide his true nature from him. Needless to say, he is pissed when he finds out.
  • Keeping Ellie locked out of the spy loop on Chuck turns increasingly problematic as the series goes on.
  • On The West Wing, CJ is often Locked Out of the Loop by the other senior staff on important confidential issues, because if she knows something and is asked about it directly during press briefings, she would be forced to lie to the public, which could jeopardize the White House's relationship with the media. This creates a lot of uncomfortable situations where everyone knows something except CJ, and CJ wants to know the truth, but no one can tell her for her own good.
    • This happens to an extent in real life.
  • On the Doctor Who sixth season premiere, "The Impossible Astronaut," everyone but the Doctor knows that the Doctor was shot and Killed Off for Real in the middle of a regeneration, so he refuses to be goaded into following the clues they have, since he has no reason to. River Song insisting he must only exposes his mistrust of her, but Amy is able to convince him to do as she asks without question (the implication being that this is reciprocation for her always doing this for him). The following lovely moment is an uncommon expression of mutual respect between the Doctor and one of his companions.

  The Doctor: My life in your hands, Amelia Pond.

    • In series 4, David Tennant's confusion when he first meets River Song is absolutely genuine. Writer Steven Moffat refused to tell anyone where he was going with the character, and David Tennant didn't know any more about her than his character, the Doctor, did.
  • In The Thick of It specials "The Rise Of The Nutters" and "Spinners And Losers", Malcolm Tucker is constantly kept out of the loop despite being the Prime Minister's spin doctor.
  • On Quantum Leap, it's eventually revealed that Sam has a loving wife in his own time. This fact is kept from him, because knowing the truth would hinder his ability to cope with leaping from one life to another.
  • The My Name Is Earl episode "No Heads and a Duffel Bag", show's that Earl's parents were completely kept out of the loop of the events centered around season 3. In this case, Earl's months in prison, intervention and current coma.

 Randy: He got hit by a car a month ago...

Carl: A month ago?! And you didn't think to mention that when you were here for lunch last week!?

Randy: I got distracted, okay?


Video Games

  • In Assassin's Creed, modern-day Assassin Desmond was never told that the Assassins are still very much at war with the Templars. His ancestor, Ezio, wasn't even aware of his heritage.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Snake believes his team knows more about what is going on around him (Anderson and Baker's deaths, the ninja being Gray Fox, etc.). He is 100% right : everybody was holding back some info so nobody knew who or what was behind Shadow Moses. The Patriots. Liquid wanted to take them out or free Big Boss from their clutches; they didn't give him the chance to try.
  • In Planescape: Torment, the hero has amnesia. Near the end of the game, you find out that Morte, who has been with you since the introductory scene knew almost everything you had to work so hard to find out.
    • Also, the reason Dakkon joins up with you so quickly is he has an existing life-debt to you and for all we know was hanging out in the bar because he knew you would be showing up soon.
    • Something similar happens in Baldur's Gate, lots of people seem to know about your heritage and pointedly refuse to tell you. At most offering vague hints.
  • In Fire Emblem (the first one released in America), Hector's brother dies, but the secret is kept from him until much later in the game.
  • In Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World, Lloyd locks his former comrades out of the loop on why he hunts for the Centurion Cores. It's only with the revelation that Emil is Ratatosk that Lloyd decides to reveal why he did so: he was on a task by Martel to collect the cores so Ratatosk can be sealed away before he gets revenge on humanity. Lloyd couldn't risk anyone else on the chance they might let slip the name of the new tree, which would allow Ratatosk to take over and begin his revenge.
  • Aside from Zero, almost all major characters in Mega Man Zero 3 (Ciel, X, Weil, and maybe even the Four Guardians) seem to know about the truth that Zero (the real one and The Hero) is inhabiting a clone, while Omega is using Zero's original body.
    • Ciel only finds out in the end of the game, when X tells her. The Four Guardians only as much as suspected, since Harpuia was present when Weil referred to Zero as that body. Of the four, only Phantom knows the truth, since he died fighting Zero in a previous battle and now wanders the Cyberspace afterlife, where all history is gathered.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, the player character is running around the galaxy trying to stop the Sith Empire from finishing a war of conquest started by Darth Revan. The secret is that the PC is Revan, with his memories brainwashed out, and that the Jedi Council is trying to use him to uncover the location of the same superweapon that allowed him to begin his war in the first place. No one tells the protagonist all this, of course.
  • It is sometimes assumed Flandre Scarlet of Touhou Project fame doesn't know she's a vampire, as her maid Sakuya serves her blood under the appearance of normal food. Whether Flandre really doesn't know she's a vampire or not is up to debate, but Word of God says she at least doesn't know how to properly feed on humans. She just blows them up on the spot. All because Remilia won't let her outside, because she had the bad luck to be born with the power to destroy anything by clenching her fist. Cannon appears to joss it though.
  • In Jak X, no one wants to tell Rayn that Jak killed her father. Inevitably, she finds out and gets pissed.
  • In Fallout 3, every adult inhabitant of Vault 101 knows that James and the Lone Wanderer were both born in the Wasteland (even that the Vault was opened in the past) yet they hide it from the kids, including the LW. Of course, he/she ultimately finds out from Moriarty and the rest of the gang gets to know about it when Amata overhears someone saying that they should never have let James into the Vault 19 years ago. Needless to say, they are so pissed that the Overseer declares martial law to try and keep everyone in line. It doesn't really work with the youth demanding to open up to the outside and Vault Security planning to stage a raid on the "rebels" using live ammo without the knowledge of the Overseer. The outcome depends on the player's actions.
  • Wakka of Final Fantasy X is never clued in on Yuna being half-Al Bhed, and later Rikku being Al Bhed herself. When he did find out, he was not pleased, at first. And then, later Tidus learns that he was also Locked Out of the Loop concerning the fate of summoners when they summon the Final Aeon, i.e. they die.
    • Tidus also never tell Yuna and the rest about his impending doom if Sin is permanently killed off, until the final battle. Yuna became speechless upon hearing from Tidus about it....
  • In Vagrant Story, both Ashley (the main character) and Hardin (the Anti-Villain's henchman) are largely unaware of the main plot up until the final cutscenes.
  • The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker: Tetra's mother apparently locked her out of knowing that she's the eponymous Princess freakin' Zelda!
  • In Brutal Legend, nobody bothers to tell Eddie who Succoria is, leading him to conclude it was Ophelia and driving her away. Her Face Heel Turn drives the entire second half of the plot.
  • Mass Effect 2 does this to whichever human squadmate survives the first game. It's one of the main reasons why the reunion doesn't go so well. Garrus and Tali find out Shepard's alive firsthand, while they only hear rumors about him/her being alive and working for a terrorist organization.
  • In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Jonathan Morris's father left him the legendary Vampire Killer, but never told him how to draw out its full power. It turns out he was trying to spare Jon the risks involved in wielding it (but apparently not the risks of being an inadequately-armed vampire hunter). Over the course of the game, he meets several characters who know all about it. Those characters being Eric Lecarde and his daughters.
  • Dragon Age loves this trope. All of the Grey Wardens, including Duncan and Alistair, keep everybody locked out of the loop regarding the risks of joining their order and indeed why they're necessary, fearing that no one would become a Grey Warden if they knew. Morrigan keeps you locked out of the loop regarding why she joined your quest until almost the end of the game. Zathrian really, really isn't telling you the whole story about those werewolves. And so forth.
  • Yuki from The King of Fighters was like this at first, in regards to her boyfriend Kyo's double life as an Ordinary High School Student and a street fighter. In the tie-in manga "KOF: KYO" she learns about it and isn't happy, but forgives him. (It doesn't help that she only learned aobut it when Athena transferred to this school and then Iori Yagami showed up.) However, she remains outta the loop in whart concerns her heritage and destiny in the whole Orochi story... as the as-of-now last descendant of Princess Kushinada, the legendary Barrier Maiden that must be ritually sacrificed so Orochi will return to this world. When she's kidnapped for that and then rescued, Kyo and others keep the reason behind it outta her knowledge.


Visual Novels

  • Angie in Shikkoku no Sharnoth thinks that Mary has become the mistress of a rich man out of despair at her friend Charlie's condition. She's wrong, of course, but Mary only clears up the misunderstanding without actually explaining what she is doing.
  • Tsukihime. Honestly, does anyone tell Shiki the stuff he really needs to know? The only one who's really honest with him, Arcueid, doesn't actually know a thing about his backstory. Even the other sane love interest never feels that it's necessary to tell him or flat out lies about the Twin Switch so Kohaku doesn't realize he simply mixed them up until far too late.


Web Comics

  • Antimony in Gunnerkrigg Court was rather shocked to discover some facts about herself and her mother while all Surma's friends knew. And then it turns out this wasn't the only secret and this was even more widely known... "Seems like people enjoy keeping things from Annie" indeed.
  • Girl Genius had fun when Lars discovered who Agatha really is.

  Krosp: The grownups knew.

  • Head Trip on Michael proposing to Kat.
  • Off White: Iki doesn't know he's a white spirit. Raigho started to tell him, but was interrupted.
  • Dan and Mabs Furry Adventures: Dan's an incubus. His mother was one of the most powerful and infamous 'Cubi around. No one told Dan this until his 'Cubi heritage started manifesting itself. His half-sister, Alexi, didn't think he'd take so long to ask.


Western Animation

  • Winx Club: In the first season, Bloom does not know she is the princess of a dead planet, and the guardian of a special power called the Dragon Fire. That is, until the Trix, who do know, take it away from her.
  • It is painfully obvious to everyone that Dale's son Joseph on King of the Hill is actually John Redcorn's lovechild. Everyone, that is, except Dale, and no one tells him because... well, because he's crazy enough already. When he does figure out that Joseph is not his son, he immediately concludes that Nancy was impregnated by aliens, and everyone leaves it at that.
    • The irony, of course, is that Dale mistrusts EVERYONE and accuses everyone ELSE of trying to backstab him... Except John Redhorn. Go fig.
      • That's because one of the many, many bogus "hidden truths" Dale is convinced he's figured out is that Redcorn is gay.
    • He genuinely loves his wife and trusts her (and pretty much only her) implicitly. So, while he may be (sometimes insanely) suspicious of other men desiring her, she is beyond reproach, since in his mind she'd never cheat on him.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Earth King Kuei is being kept in the dark by his "cultural authority" the Dai Li as to the fact that there's been a hundred-year war between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation. The Dai Li is mostly engaging in this to maintain power and to "prevent chaos." They also maintain an oppressive control over the city itself; people who disrupt the city or talk about the war are either terrified into silence or hauled off for "reeducation" into Dai Li sleeper agents.
  • In the Futurama episode Parasites Lost, the crew has to make sure Fry doesn't know their plans to rid him of the worms. If he finds out, the worms will know too and can mount a defense.
  • These were prominent in Season 3 of Steven Universe.

Real Life

  • Adopted children sometimes don't know they were adopted until adults.
  • In the first half of the 20th century, quite a few U.S. doctors considered it most merciful to tell a terminally-ill patient that they were sure to recover soon, but clue in the family to the real state of affairs.
  • Pakistan was locked out of the loop while the US conducted an operation to kill Osama Bin Laden. The operation succeeded in 40 minutes, while the news came to Pakistan three hours too late.
    • Considering that Osama has been living just down the street of the Pakistani military academy in one of the suburbs of the capital city for six or seven odd years with any trouble, it might have been a good idea.

Notes

  1. not in the Time War; he seems to do this a lot. That's right, folks, he apparently brings Gallifrey back just to blow it up again!
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