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The situation wherein one character has deeply wronged (or thinks s/he has deeply wronged) another member of the main cast, frequently in a Dead Pet Sketch or Broken Treasure plot. Worse, everyone else seems to know it except for the person they've wronged, and that isn't helping them prepare to face the music. Eventually, with a half-hearted 'I'll pay for your funeral' from the other members of the cast, s/he steps forward to tell the other character what they've done wrong...

...and the offended party doesn't even mind, or it's not as big a deal as suspected, or they knew all along and were just waiting for a confession. Whatever the reason, it's not nearly so dramatic as it had been expected. This builds up a sense of tension, but resolves in a fairly heartwarming fashion, so all that tension feeds into our good feelings. (Well, either that, or it's anticlimactic, lame, or even aggravating.)

It can end in a Shrug Take, but it doesn't always - it can simply be that the wronged character decides to forgive and forget, or that (s)he already knew and has come to terms with it off-screen, and is typically a meaningful character moment.

May often be prompted by the character receiving the confession having previously learnt of something even worse hanging over them beforehand (such as, say, a terminal illness); under normal circumstances they may have blown up, but have recently been prompted to reassess their priorities about what's 'really' important.

Named (by Eric Burns-White) for Randy Milholland of Something Positive, who does this quite frequently. Not to be confused with the lesbian relationship in Mulholland Drive.

Examples of Milholland Relationship Moment include:


Anime and Manga

  • In one of the Urusei Yatsura manga stories, Ran remembers how in their youth, Benten had ruined Lum's Cosmos Box and told her not to tell. She promptly starts trying to use this old memory to try and hurt Lum by disrupting her friendship with Benten. Instead when it's finally revealed, Lum is relieved because as it turned out, she had accidentally wrecked Benten's Cosmos box at the same time. And then the two of them start confessing and forgiving all sorts of past wrongdoings while Ran accepts that both of them are simply too forgiving for her to ever understand.
  • Subverted in Minami-ke, when Kana and Chiaki accidentally break Haruka's treasured souvenir and try their best to hide it from her, while frantically trying to repair it. They have all the reasons to fear Haruka's wrath (she is a legendary delinquent, after all), but it turns out Haruka didn't really care for the broken glass bird... but she is NOT happy about her little sisters lying to her.
  • In Vision of Escaflowne, Millerna asks Hitomi to do a tarot card reading on which man she should marry - her love Allen or her betrothed Dryden. When Hitomi obliges, she sees that Millerna's marriage to Dryden will go badly while her marriage to Allen will make her happy. Because Hitomi loves Allen too, she uses her power to switch a card (thereby altering fate) and tells Millerna Dryden would be the better choice for her. As a direct consequence of altering fate, the wedding is attacked by Guymelefs and nearly gets the couple killed. And what happens when Hitomi admits to Millerna that she basically screwed Millerna over so she wouldn't marry the man she loved? Apologises to Hitomi for putting her in such a hard position in the first place. *facepalm*

Comic Books

  • In Transmetropolitan, Yelena ends up ghost-writing one of Spider's columns for him after he is knocked unconscious and unable to write it. Given Spider's Jerkass nature, Yelena seems to prepare for the worst when she tells him... Spider kisses her forehead and tells her "thank you", in what is probably one of his most humanizing moments in the comic.
    • By that point, Spider was already suffering from an Information Pollen-related, Alzheimer's-like degenerative neurological disorder; making this moment, (at least in context) a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Although not the only one in the series. There are at least two more.
  • Two notable examples in Elf Quest: the first occurs when Leetah accidentally yells out Cutter's secret soul name in front of Cutter's best friend, Skywise. It turns out Cutter and Skywise have such a strong mental link, they've known each other's soul names since they were kids... and Cutter's just happy to see Leetah and Skywise again. The second one occurs when Big Bad Winnowill reveals that Leetah knows about Cutter's animal heritage. Cutter and Leetah both decide it doesn't matter.

Literature

  • In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Harry is in Dumbledore's office waiting for him, having been (falsely) accused of attacking others with very dangerous, unknown dark magic. He examines Dumbledore's old, sick looking bird for a moment, and it bursts into flames. Harry freaks out, but when Dumbledore shows up he explains that his bird is a phoenix, and points out the little chick poking its head out of the ashes.

Live Action TV

  • This occurs during an episode of Drake and Josh wherein Josh accidentally destroyed a very valuable guitar of Drake's. When Josh eventually admits it (after having spent the rest of the episode trying to get a replacement), Drake tells Josh that he already knows and forgives Josh immediately and compliments Josh on how much trouble he went to to get a replacement.
  • Happens in Scrubs a few times, for example when Turk tells everyone that Carla's pregnant, only to find that she wanted to tell everyone herself and he's ruined that opportunity for her. When JD tells her that he'd already found out from Turk, everyone prepares for her to blow up at him, but she's just more excited about having a baby than how everyone finds out.
  • In Home Improvement, Brad accidentally kills his girlfriend's goldfish while fish-sitting; he tries to cover it up, all the while agonizing over her reaction. When he finally comes clean with her, she's so impressed that he was worried about her feelings that she forgives him.
  • One episode of Friends features Ross agonizing over telling Chandler that he had a brief relationship with the latter's ex-girlfriend, Janice. Finally, at the end, Ross confesses and Chandler openly indicates that he doesn't care, what with having no lingering feelings for Janice.
    • A later episode of Friends features this trope again, when Chandler moves Monica's things to clean their apartment and can't remember where they all go. After an episode of his agonising over what she will think, she returns home and seems ready to blow up at him, though in the end she just thanks him for trying to be nice and do her a good thing by cleaning up for her.
    • And in yet another episode, Rachel borrows and loses an earring that Phoebe had borrowed from Monica. They spend the entire episode agonizing over it, until Phoebe decides to take the blame. She fesses up, and is instantly forgiven. Seeing this, Rachel admits that it was really her fault, expecting to be forgiven too. She isn't.
  • Almost done in How I Met Your Mother. Barney agonizes over telling Ted he slept with Robin, since it means he broke The Bro Code, but when he tells him Ted already knows and says he's not mad. Ted was lying; it turns out he's actually furious, and it ruins their friendship for the rest of the season. Weirdly, he plays this trope straight by being genuinely not angry with Robin (who told him about it first) since he expected her to have moved on by then.
  • In an episode of Castle, an affluent teenager who got caught up in drugs has been found dead, prompting a moment of paranoia on Castle's part about his own daughter, despite the fact that he knows that she's more responsible than he ever was. When he approaches her, Alexis assures him that she's not and hasn't been in any kind of trouble. The next morning, Alexis wakes him up, tearful and guilt-ridden about having lied to him in their earlier heart-to-heart, and painfully forces herself to confess the truth... she once jumped a subway turnstile without paying when she had a desperate need to catch the train. Needless to say, compared with what he could have expected, Castle is both relieved and bemused by this shocking revelation, and Alexis is forced to punish herself with being grounded for a week when the punishment her father gives her -- mandatory ice-cream for breakfast -- is found somewhat lacking.
    • It's worth noting that Alexis also apparently paid for the train the next day. Twice. Without even riding it.
  • On Frasier, Daphne loses her engagement ring and spend the entire episode covering her hands in front of her fiance, Donny. At the end of the episode, she finds the ring and is wearing it in front of him, believing herself to have covered up the whole incident. When he sees her the first thing he says is "Hey, you found your engagement ring!"
  • On 30 Rock, Liz tries hard not to reveal that she was the one who told a news columnist that Jack Donaghy was a "class-A moron." Jack's pain at the insult eventually guilt-trips Liz into confessing, but it turns out Jack already knew and was intentionally guilt-tripping her.
  • One episode of Family Matters had this regarding the new camera Carl got. Little Richie is playing with it, and he drops it, thus breaking it. Being a child, he tries to understandably hide it from Carl (who can have a ridiculously scary temper) and gets so upset about it that he can't sleep. He tells his mother, and Rachel eventually convinces him to apologize to Carl. Carl in turn says he already figured it out based on the video Richie took and was just waiting for the apology.
  • Jez of Peep Show agrees to take the blame when Mark wrecks Johnson's brand new BMW, but Johnson shrugs it off, as he is "insured out [his] arse."

Video Games

  • If Shepard presses Liara in Mass Effect 2, she reveals that she was the one who gave Shepard's body to Cerberus to be resurrected. It's clear that Liara feels terribly guilty, knowing full well Cerberus would use Shepard for their own ends. Shepard can brush it off and reassure Liara she did the right thing. Averted if Shepard chooses to be a heartless asshole and accuse Liara of manipulating him/her.

Web Comics

  • As noted above, Something Positive does this a lot. Probably the best example, with the most buildup, is when Monette has cut up valuable (both emotionally and monetarily) comics from Fred's childhood to turn into collages without realising their value, and when she finally tells Fred, he reacts not only calmly, but with pride at how nice her work is. Of course, he has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and seems more focused on what he feels is really important.
    • Also noteworthy:
      • The time Aubry and PeeJee 'killed' Davan's pet cat, Choo-Choo-Bear, by pouring him down the sink's drain.
      • The time Kim rapes Davan.
      • The time PeeJee insulted Faye to Fred's face without realizing it. Played with: Fred reacts angrily, but just to mess with her.
      • The time Jason accidentally ripped Aubrey's choker. While she blows up initially, it's more because of his other behaviour. She forgives him quickly, and the resolution of that arc even has then being engaged
  • A plotline of Kevin and Kell had Kevin and Kell, roleplaying in an online game as wolves, dating each other without realizing it and later breaking it off because the roleplaying online makes them more attractive to each other in real life. A later storyline had them both invited, separately, to a Jerry Springer parody. The producers assume that Kell, as a wolf, will devour her husband Kevin (a rabbit) on camera when the truth comes out. While she almost does, when the reality of the affair comes out, they end up loving each other even more and get kicked off the show for being too touchy-feely for the show's audience (oh, and that little thing about Kell devouring the host).
  • Shortpacked: Amber spends an entire storyline worrying about how to tell Ethan she's now assistant manager. He reacts like this.
    • Amber also knew along that Mike had set her Mom up to have sex with Jacob.

Western Animation

  • Done in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, with Bloo breaking Mr. Harriman's most prized possession, a bust of Madam Foster. Having already fallen victim to Herriman's occasionally arbitrary rules (earlier, Bloo, in desperate need of some toilet time, is forced to first go through an entire morning routine by the rabbit), he's now done something that even he has to acknowledge is legitimately worth punishing-and he can only imagine what horrors Herriman has in store for him. He goes to such trouble to cover up his mistake that at one point he even enlists the help of Madame Foster herself to impersonate her own bust. When Herriman turns out to have a collection of spares and a completely philosophical attitude towards their breakage, Bloo nearly explodes. Frankie later accidentally breaks the spares.
  • In an episode of Doug, Doug breaks a valuable piece of artwork (or artifact, or... something) and ends up locked into doing chores for his sister Judy, lest she tell Mom. Eventually, he gets sick of doing her chores and tells Mom anyway, who actually had no idea what the broken thing was and didn't care about it at all. (She grounded him anyway for hiding secrets from her.) In doing so, he also turns the tables on Judy, because she had expected Doug to do her chores, and now she doesn't have time to do them herself if she wants to go to a concert with her friends. Doug ends up doing them for her... for a price.
    • In another episode, Doug accidentally breaks Mr. Dink's expensive custom-made grill and he and Skeeter try to earn money to get it replaced. When they fail to make enough money and fess up to Mr. Dink he's so moved that they'd go through all that effort that he's not even angry.
  • The episode of ~Rocko's Modern Life~ where Rocko and Heffer take care of Filburt's bird while he's in hospital and Heffer ends up squashing it. When Filburt returns and Rocko tells him his pet is dead, he reveals that the bird was of a species with a notoriously short lifespan and Filburt was in fact surprised the bird had survived this long. (Minor inversion: Heffer then blurts out that he "sat on it", and we quickly cut before we can see Filburt's reaction to that news ...)
  • Happens in the Fanboy and Chum Chum episode "The Tell-Tale Toy". Fanboy is left alone with Chum Chum's new toy, and spends the entire episode trying to resist the urge to play with it. He fails, which results in getting the toy broken and he desperately tries to fix it. When Chum Chum comes home, Fanboy is frightened to confess about the accident. When he finally does so, Chum Chum reassures Fanboy that he only wanted the box.
  • Occurs twice in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Sweet and Elite". The first time occurs when Rarity expects Twilight to be upset that the dress she made for her is so simple (since she used time she should have been working on it to hang out with high class ponies), but Twilight is thrilled that it's plain and practical like herself. The second time occurs after Rarity is caught sneaking out of Twilight's birthday party to mingle with some socialites outside; she thinks Twilight will be upset, but Twilight not only thinks it's great that she's networking to boost her business, but completely understands why Rarity would try to hide it from her.
    • An earlier occurence is in "Green isn't your color": Rarity is jealous of Fluttershy's newfound modeling fame since no one pays attention to her dresses, but bites it down because she thinks Fluttershy deserves to have some attention. Meanwhile Fluttershy is very uncomfortable with all the attention and would like to give it up, but sticks with it because she thinks that Rarity is so proud of her for becoming a model, and doesn't want to disappoint her friend. What's worse, they've both confided their worries to Twilight, who is in excellent position to defuse the whole situation painlessly, except Pinky won't allow her to break the promise of confidentiality.
  • In the Adventure Time episode "Marceline's Closet," Finn and Jake sneaked into Marceline's house despite a note written in blood telling them not to, and spend the whole day hiding in her closet as she writes personal music, takes a bath, etc. When she finally catches them she doesn't mind at all. After all, she sneaks into their house all the time!
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