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nicklj: "Question: Where was Julie again? A soccer camp or something?"kostgard: "I think she was at Not Important To This Episode Camp."
—Television Without Pity Monk Forums
Except, wait a minute - don't these people have kids? Where on Earth is that newborn baby we spent half of last season waiting for? What about their Mouthy Kid who helped save the day last week? Have they been Brother Chucked?
Never fear, because they are enjoying a stay at Not Important to This Episode Camp. Don't worry, they'll be back next week.
And it isn't just camp. Maybe they've gone to visit that Disappeared Father we never hear about, or being looked after by some unnamed babysitter.
Also happens when a previously valuable young character has served their purpose and is now surplus to requirements. A swift packing-off to an unnamed (and often way beyond the character's shown means) Boarding School is an extended version of this.
And so their parent is able to throw down everything and depart in the company of our hero on that crazy road trip or whatever. Hilarity Ensues, and all without interference from Child Services.
See also Put on a Bus, where a character is written out in a way that can easily be reversed, and Shoo Out the Clowns, when the young and impressionable make a hasty exit stage right before the nasty stuff gets underway. Tangentially related to Chaste Toons, which often uses the "not really the main character's kids" justification to send the kids back to Mom and Dad when the plot demands. Compare Parental Abandonment, especially the examples where the characters have parents supposedly, but they're just never around. See also Offstage Waiting Room.
- This happens to Wheelie in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. After serving an important role for much of the film, he inexplicably vanishes to Not Important To This Scene Camp in the final scenes.
- He's a two-foot tall RC car, and there's a giant robot battle for the fate of the planet going on. I'd get my arse out of there too.
- Grown-up example: In the Sherlock Holmes stories, after Dr Watson's marriage, his wife is frequently off visiting relatives to allow him to move back in with Holmes for more mysterious hijinks.
- Including a rather careless inversion in The Blanched Soldier where Conan Doyle's Holmes says Watson has 'deserted him for a wife', apparently forgetting that she was supposed to be dead at this point. He made these kinds of errors persistently all through the Canon, leading to 100 years of Fan Wank
- Happens all the time in Monk due to the mysteries suddenly occurring and needing investigation.
- Sharona frequently sent her kid off to her sister's, despite the fact that she was shown to hate her. Natalie has so far preferred the ubiquitous babysitter, or the camp from which this trope takes its name.
- According to the producers of the Alien Nation TV movies, Baby Vessna was at daycare after every film since Dark Horizon (except when we saw her in a kind of cocoon).
- Happened a lot in Friends, with Ben and later Emma. Ben's lesbian mom and her life partner managed to serve both as plot-convenient carers (in fact, their being the primary carers meant Ben was effectively a Drop in Character) and joke opportunities.
- Hand Waved a couple of times when a character would ask "Where's Emma", to which somebody would reply it's fine, she's with [insert person here].
- Gigi on Gilmore Girls. After she served her convenient function of breaking up Christopher and Lorelai/making Lorelai angst in seasons 2 & 3, she was always conveniently at Grandma's or whatnot. This was especially glaring in season 7 when Lorelai and Christopher moved in together, got married and still Gigi was being shuttled off to Grandma's/Paris, etc.
- This happened to just about every kid on any Star Trek series, with the exception of Wesley Crusher, and possibly Naomi Wildman, who was around so much, this viewer often wondered "Doesn't she have a mother or something?". It was especially noticeable on Deep Space Nine, where Sisko could come home and find anyone but his son Jake sitting on the couch.
- Lizzie McGuire did this at the end of its run with Miranda (while Lalaine was shooting other Disney projects). Once she was "visiting her Grandma". Another time she was "sick". In The Movie, she was visiting relatives in Mexico City.
- Richie Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, once hilariously described on an older Nick At Nite promo as "Richie Petrie: low-maintenance boy".
- The Desperate Housewives kids get this a lot. If one of them is involved in a storyline with a parent, suddenly any siblings they might have are completely forgotten. Especially odd in Lynette's case, where her character is "the one with all the kids," yet we barely see most of them all season while the chosen kid gets all the storylines.
- This is especially bad in season five. You would think the time skip would give the now older children more oppurtunities to be more involved with the storylines, but oh no...
- And it appears in spades in season six as well - MJ, whose older sister was attacked in the season premiere, has only appeared significantly in one episode (understandable, since the character is six), and Ana, who was brought on to give Gabby a hard time, has been put aside so that Gabby can instead suffer the 'joy' of homeschooling her own daughter.
- In the "Ariel" episode of Firefly, it's mentioned Book is temporarily off the ship due to a stay at an Abbey - to Inara, who is currently on her way to camp. She shows up again at the end of the episode, and Book shows up next episode.
- In a later episode, "Trash", it looks like Inara has another stay at camp, but it turns out to be a Plan, which in turn turns out to be a unexpected contingency plan.
- On one of Faith's disappearances in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy says: "Sorry. It's just with Faith on one of her unannounced walkabouts, I feel like somebody should be patrolling."
- Happens frequently on CSI, particularly with the lab rats. There isn't always mention of where the character is instead, but characters are inexplicably missing rather frequently. Take Wendy Simms for example, the lab rat who got more screen time before she became a main character...
- For at least two episodes of Chuck, Shaw has been doing Very Important Stuff that we seldom learn anything about beyond the fact that it will be keeping the Romantic False Lead of the show safely out of the way as Chuck and Sarah figure stuff out.
- El Chavo Del Ocho: The vencidad tenants went to Acapulco for a vacation. When The Landlord, Señor Barriga, learned this from El Chavo, he decided to go there as well and, taking pity from El Chavo, takes him as well. Señor Barriga's son, Ñoño, was at a boy scout camp at the moment and, aside from when his Dad mentioned this as an explanation not to take him to Acapulco, wasn't mentioned in the whole story arc.
- RPGs often feature Too Powerful for This Episode camp for Crutch Characters and the like. For example, in Fire Emblem 9 and 10 (the GC and Wii games), Caineghis is unavailable most of the time because he's dealing with something that's more important than large-scale wars that are embroiling his country. While some speculation is possible, it's never really spelled out what he's doing.
- Lampshaded in The Simpsons, but not all the time.
- In an episode of Transformers Animated, Prime mentions that Sari and Bumblebee have gone on "an important fact-finding mission this morning. To someplace called... 'Five Banners Roller Coaster Kingdom'."
- And this is the one they did bother to mention...
- Happens to many characters in Skyland, mostly Wayan and all the ones that appear in one episode yet had potential for great importance later on.
- The writers of The Venture Brothers mention multiple times on the DVD commentaries that they're constantly having to resist the temptation to do this to Hank and Dean. After they plot out what happens with Doctor Venture and Brock Samson, they struggle to figure out what stupid thing the boys will get up to in their sub-plot.
- Inverted in Batman Beyond when Wayne would be mentioned to be in some foreign country for no adequately explained reason whenever the writers needed Terry to handle things on his own.
- Lampshaded magnificently in Chowder. In the episode "The Sleep Eater", Chowder is being given the old "Its up to you" speech from Mung when Truffle suddenly enters the scene and asks "What about me?". Chowder, in a suddenly serious and low voice, declares "No... you're not in this episode!" and Truffles just poofs out of existence.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: In "Look Before You Sleep", "Spike is away in Canterlot on royal business".
- Sing along with Garfield in Garfield and Friends episode "Truckin' Odie":
If you're wondering what became of me
I was nowhere near the road!
I can't rescue Odie!
I'm not in this episode!
- Hilariously lampshaded in at least 2 Homestar Runner cartoons, which involve the characters who weren't involved (The King of Town and Homsar most often) having a meeting, or partying.