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A subplot (usually in a drama) that is so disjointed from the main plot that you can't figure out why anyone would care about it, when the fate of the world is being decided elsewhere.

There are several reasons why this might happen. Maybe the author has introduced Loads and Loads of Characters and doesn't want people asking What Happened to the Mouse?. Maybe he doesn't want a new character to come out of nowhere. Maybe a comic relief character keeps getting scenes during a dramatic or serious portion of the plot, causing Mood Whiplash. Maybe the principal character is just a Creator's Pet, and you can't get anyone to care about it, meaningful or not. Or maybe the writers just needed to fill up time somehow.

This trope is named for Kim Bauer and her escapades in season 2 of 24. Whereas Kim was integral to the storyline of the first season, by season 2 the show had Elisha Cuthbert under contract and no way to work her character into the main plot. This resulted in a series of B-stories where Kim is chased by her employer's homicidal husband, briefly detained after said employer's corpse is found in the trunk of her stolen car, causes an auto crash that severs her boyfriend's legs, gets lost in the wilderness, is caught in a bear trap and surrounded by mountain lions (thus the trope name), held prisoner by a lonely mountain man who tricks her into thinking the world has ended, becomes a hostage in a liquor store holdup, and is menaced by the husband again when she goes to his house to get her stuff and he somehow manages to kill the trained law enforcement professionals escorting her. In the meanwhile, her father tries to find and defuse a nuclear bomb. (It was a busy day.)

Compare Wacky Wayside Tribe, where the entire cast is involved and there is no A-story. See also Deus Exit Machina, Filler, Padding, and Big Lipped Alligator Moment. Romantic Plot Tumor is a subtrope of this, as is Wangst. Compare The Greatest Story Never Told.

Examples of Trapped by Mountain Lions include:


Anime and Manga

  • Any scene with Bulma during the Freeza Arc of Dragon Ball Z. Amusingly enough, there's one segment in the show where Krillin and Gohan hear her screaming in the distance and wonder if she really was literally Trapped by Mountain Lions (to which Krillin responds "I'd feel sorry for the lion." None of these scenes were in the manga.) Most of these scenes are Played for Laughs rather than being considered serious moments, since who would honestly worry that Bulma was in genuine mortal danger at that point in the story?
  • Likewise for scenes with Orihime and Ishida during the Soul Society arc of Bleach, though these were at least tangentially connected to the main plot (and led to arguably the most awesome battle of the arc). The Post Episode Trailer for one Uryu-focused episode lampshaded it, as Yoruichi broke the news to Ichigo that he wouldn't be in the next episode either.
    • The problem with that part of the arc is that nothing that Uryu and Orihime did had any impact on Ichigo's saving Rukia. They don't even find him until after he stops the execution and defeats Byakuya. Chad has a similar problem (although he once unknowingly helped Ichigo escape from some Mooks), but doesn't get as many scenes.
      • Well, it's possible at least Uryu distracted others from potentially going to hinder Ichigo, like Mayuri Kurotsuchi. There's also the fact that while Ishida's battle with Mayuri had no impact on the overall plot, it was still a very important step in Ishida's character development. Pity it was never followed up on. Also, it was Orihime's actions after fleeing from the battle that led to Kenpachi allying with Ichigo, Chad, Ganju and Ishida getting broken out of their cells and Ichigo's gang being present for the Final Battle of the arc. so nope, they weren't really trapped.
    • Amusingly, some fans find that Ichigo himself veers into this during Soul Society. The real drama of the Arc revolves around the intrigue within the thirteen Captains, and at the end, all of Ichigo's efforts are only good for stalling Rukia's execution by a few seconds (and it is made clear he could not have kept it up) while two of the more Out of Focus Captains enact their plan to really save Rukia, as well as drawing of the retrubution from Yamamoto that would have curly-fried Ichigo, Rukia, and company if Ichi had been the one to save her. And then Aizen shows up, and there's nothing the heroes or the captains can do anymore, so the arc ends. Hell, the villain planned for Ichigo to serve as a distraction to keep the Gotei 13 off his trail while his plan came to fruition.
    • At an angle, this was all of Orihime's scenes with Ulquiorra. They serve no real point than to keep Orihime in the story, show Ulquiorra isn't fully horrible compared to others, Mind Game Ship Tease, and make Author Appeal. Now, one could argue that these scenes were worth it, but really, all it amounted to was a Heel Face Door Slam. This could only be subverted IF Ulquiorra came back and was one of the heroes, but at this point (and Tite's ability to draw more characters if he's stuck), some are sure it isn't going to amount for any.
      • It has been recently confirmed in interviews that Ulquiorra "is just ashes". So yeah, Ulquiorra was Killed Off for Real and he ain't coming back.
  • For most of Mobile Suit Gundam 00's first season, civilian teens Saji Crossroad and Louise Halevy seemed to serve no purpose at all. Until a Wham! Episode comes as it makes them innocent victims of war, with Saji losing his sister Kinue and with Louise being orphaned and mutilated. In the second season, then, Saji becomes the main character Setsuna's partner and co-pilot of sorts, and Louise is an artifically enhanced enemy soldier..
    • The second season had shades of this trope as well, with side characters such as Graham Aker (under the guise of one "Mr. Bushido"), Marina Ismail, Wang Liu Mei, Nena Trinity and Ali al-Saachez carrying on with their own stories without much relevance to the larger outcome of the story.
  • At one point in Code Geass, Ohgi, Viletta, and Sayoko are at the top of a waterfall. Sayoko tries to kill Viletta, and Ohgi jumps in the way. He falls off the waterfall toward some sharp rocks. This scuffle was never mentioned again, and didn't have anything to to with what was going on.


Film

  • Everything dealing with former reporter Steve Martin (played by Raymond Burr) and the American army in Godzilla 1985. These scenes were inserted into the original Japanese production, mimicking the original importation of Godzilla, King of Monsters... but none of the American characters actually do anything, so we're left watching other people effectively watching this same durn movie. (At least Burr got marginally smushed by Goji in the first movie).
  • The lengthy "Broadway Ballet" sequence in Singin in The Rain seems to divide fans on the question of whether it is entertaining enough to justify leaving the plot on hold for over ten minutes.
    • Ditto the long ballet segment in the middle of (the uncut version of) Ken Russell's The Boy Friend.
  • The second half of A Day at the Races has an extended musical interlude which starts with Allan Jones singing "Tomorrow Is Another Day," which is followed by Harpo using his flute to summon a black chorus which sings "Blow That Horn, Gabriel" and "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm." (The chorus has nothing else to do in the movie except reappear to sing the finale.) Most Marx Brothers consider this sequence as objectionable on an Ethnic Scrappy level, but it's not really that bad by itself -- it just stops the plot dead and its earnestness clashes painfully with the Marxes' usual slapstick and wisecracks.
    • There's also the water ballet sequence, which even the film historian on the DVD commentary advises you to skip!
    • Pretty much all of the MGM Marx Bros. movies have a disposable musical number or two - 'Races' at least has the exceptional talents of Ivy Anderson and Whitey's Lindy Hoppers on full display.
  • The Transformers Film Series has a lot of this. The first movie has a subplot involving hackers that, in retrospect, does absolutely nothing to move the plot forward (it didn't help that the scenes were a little boring and featured some spectacularly bad Hollywood Hacking). The Romantic Plot Tumor in both movies tends to fit the "Why should we care?" aspect due to how jarring it is next to the action that everyone came to see.
  • The original The Last House on the Left would occasionally cut away from the main plot to show the antics of a pair incompetent cops trying to get back to the Collingwood house.
  • In the third Matrix movie, the machines are plotting to destroy Zion. They have done this six times before, and there is nothing special about this Zion. The only hope is that Neo can stop the machines at the source. This does not change that about 60%-70% of the movie is about the battle at Zion, with Neo's adventure as almost an afterthought.
  • The subplot with the teenage couple in the car in Manos: The Hands of Fate is completely irrelevant to what's going on with the rest of the cast.
    • For those who haven't seen it: For "subplot" read: "completely pointless scene of two kids making out in a car and being harassed by a sheriff's deputy."
    • This subplot briefly appears to have gained a shred of relevance when the couple points the police in the direction of where the main characters are. The police go to investigate... and then immediately leave, thus making the subplot entirely pointless again.
      • It's actually worse than that. The police investigating hear a gunshot, but still decide to leave because "sound carries a long way at night." Your taxpayer dollars at work!
        • Did we mention that their investigation consisted of walking to the front of their cruiser and looking off into the distance before deciding to leave?
  • Parodied briefly in The Emperors New Groove. "Wwwwhat's with the chimp and the bug? Can we get back to me?"
    • Kuzco-as-narrator also tries to claim that spending plot-time with Pacha and his family is an example of this trope.
      • That movie has all sorts of "narration confusion" (is there a trope for that?) At the start, he's narrating events he couldn't possibly have witnessed, then his own narration gets sidetracked by the chimp and the bug as mentioned, then Kuzco-as-narrator briefly converses with Kuzco-as-character. Fortunately, there's very little fourth wall in this film.
  • In Stealth, after Jessica Biel's character gets shot down, she manages to safely land in North Korea, meaning the audience has to be repeatedly subjected to scenes of her attempting to flee the North Korean army. The main plot of the film (about an AI fighter jet which goes rogue and attempts to instigate nuclear war) is pointlessly and awkwardly dropped off so that the climax of the film can be about saving her from North Korea.
  • According to Roger Ebert, Pearl Harbor is "about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle."
  • According to Kevin Smith, during the initial writing for the ill-fated Superman film, Jon Peters demanded a scene about Brainiac fighting a polar bear.
  • The cop subplot (if you can even call it that, considering how thin it is) from the original version of The Amityville Horror.
  • The excuse for the stunt flying competition in State of the Union is that the protagonist is an airplane tycoon. It's still strikingly irrelevant sequence for a political comedy, especially one based on a play.


Literature

  • Subversion: In the second book of the second Warrior Cats arc, the protagonists are heading home after a long journey, but get abducted by the Tribe of Rushing Water who want them to fight a mountain lion for them. However, the Tribe of Rushing Water become important later on, when they give shelter to the Clans who have left their forest forever after its destruction.
  • During his Malloreon series, David Eddings would frequently insert a chapter which revealed what minor characters from all over the world were doing. These were semi-interesting but ultimately had little bearing on the real plot (other than the ones with the ride off the island at the end).
    • It did help to alleviate the "Dragonlance syndrome" where the hero party seems to be walking through an RPG world where nothing happens if they are not directly involved. Eddings used it far more succesfully in the Belgariad, though, where the war in the south was far more interesting than the walkabout of Garion, Belgarath, and Silk.
  • The Star Wars: Legacy of the Force books are plagued by this, from Jaina's unending token Love Triangle to the Mandalorian subplots in Karen Traviss books, which are notably being ignored by the other two writers. Guess the main plot, with Jacen Solo and his quest to become a Sith Lord, is just that irrelevant.
    • The Black Fleet Crisis is even worse, with two entirely separate stories, having no connection except that they take place at the same time and end up with characters in the same star system after everything has been resolved, and one of them serving no purpose except to include Lando in the book.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is a strange case when it comes to this - due to the books' sprawling, as-yet-vague Myth Arc, relatively slow pace and Loads and Loads of Characters, people have accused both the currently-central gritty civil war & politics plot and the currently-in-the-background more fantastical elements (Daenerys' and Jon's plots specifically) of being this, although both camps could be seen as missing the point of the series.
    • Then came A Feast For Crows, which features Brienne looking for Sansa and Arya Stark, who by this point the readers know are finally relatively safe and near impossible for her to find, following numerous leads that the readers know are false and finally getting herself hanged and lots of new POV characters in parts of the setting a long way away from the established centre of the conflict - Dorne and the Iron Islands. Lots of people found the new plots to be a case of Trapped by Mountain Lions, which was exacerbated by the fact that the book didn't include roughly half of the older POV characters. It's easy to see that the new POVs might intersect with the established plotlines, but A Feast For Crows did little more than set things up...which is in keeping with the author's description of it as "scene one of act two".
      • Of course, the by now legendary Schedule Slip of A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book, may well have made the hate directed at A Feast For Crows that much worse.
        • Unfortunately, A Dance With Dragons has a major Trapped by Mountain Lions plot, the infamous Meereenese knot. One could argue that this plot will have an impact in the overall arch of the series but, since no closure is given after roughly a thousand pages, it definitely feels like this trope.
    • For those unfamiliar with the series: The first three novels covered characters and events over a very large geographical area, roughly in chronological order. Book four was mostly written in the same manner, but eventually the author split it into two books based on geographical area - A Feast For Crows was released in 2005 and A Dance With Dragons in 2011, after its release date had been pushed back multiple times. At the conclusion of A Feast For Crows, three major plot threads still going at the ends of the previous volume, A Storm of Swords, were left unaddressed. While two characters, Jon and Danerys, saw some level of resolution in the end of A Storm of Swords and weren't in any immediate danger since last we saw them, Tyrion had been last seen fleeing for his life and the cliffhanger established in the previous book wasn't resolved until the publication of A Dance With Dragons - more than 10 years after A Storm of Swords was released.
    • And, for those unfamiliar with the series: no one's sure, but so far as anyone can tell, here's what the overall plot will be: Jon Snow, who serves in a sort of border patrol called the Night's Watch, becomes aware that The Others, semi-mythical ice creatures who have not been seen in more than 8,000 years, are going to invade Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen, last scion of the former ruling dynasty of Westeros, acts as the Big Damn Heroes, as she owns the only three dragons known to man. The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros can't send much help because they are still recovering from a massive civil war. What causes problems is the series' structure: the third plot is the main focus of the first four books, with the other two only boiling over in the remaining three.
  • Any chapter containing the character Fletcher Kale in Dean Koontz's Phantoms. It's made even worse by the fact that, with the exception of the first chapter he appears in and the final epilogue chapter, he never interacts with any of the other main characters at all, and nothing else in the story would have been affected if his character had been cut. It's hard to find the escape of a murderer sociopath the least bit compelling, or find the character the least bit menacing, given the Eldritch Abomination everyone else is dealing with several dozen miles away.
  • A large amount of Iain M. Banks' Look to Windward is concerned with a subplot in which a character discovers what is happening in the main plot and tries to warn or help. However, because of the timing and the huge distances involved between the locations of the two plots, it is obvious from the beginning that nothing he does will be able to have any effect on the main plot, and though the subplot runs through the entire novel, it never makes contact with the main plot.
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, Nasuada's chapters in the second book, Eldest, which were primarily centered around solving disputes and economic problems within the Varden while Roran and Eragon follow much more meaningful plots. In Brisingr, Roran's chapters can also be considered this, as his role and importance are reduced and he spends most of his chapters fighting inconsequential battles against small numbers of Imperial forces, wrestling down a troublemaking urgal, and spending time and dealing with the matters surrounding his newly-wed and pregnant wife, while Eragon is, as usual, doing more important things. Saphira's chapters are also generally negatively considered, as they only serve to show how arrogant she is, the fact that she misses Eragon, and that her inner-monologue has a bizarre use of adjectives that never turns up in her telepathic speech.
  • The necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach in Memories of Ice, the third book in the The Malazan Book of the Fallen. They travel to a city that later comes under siege, interact with various of the main characters, but contribute nothing at all to the overall story. (They do get a series if spin-off novellas, though).
  • Dear Lord, the "Perrin rescues his kidnapped wife" subplot in The Wheel of Time. It wasn't remotely interesting in the first place, and the sheer number of books through which it managed to drag on -- keeping Perrin perpetually mopey and unable to do anything cool -- was simply infuriating.
    • Everyone agrees, Mat Cauthon is the best of the Two Rivers characters. Robert Jordan remedied this by having him spend an entire book unconscious, and when he finally wakes up spend another book, nearly one thousand pages, as sex-slave to a deranged queen through blackmail and threat of force, while the supporting characters actively encouraged it. And he's sad to leave. A man with the power to attract evil like a beacon and Badass Normal fighting skills, the memories of a thousand conquerors trapped in his brain... and his entire role in that book was to have chapter after chapter dedicated to describing the pink frills he was forced to wear.
      • Luckily Robert Jordan realized that the one character people actually liked was shut away in a closet somewhere (almost literally) and Mat spends the next book showing everyone just how Badass a Four-Star Badass can really be. And then he got about 3 chapters in the book after that. Figures.
    • Averted in "Knife of Dreams". At the end, when Tuon finds out she is the new head of the Seanchan, she kisses Mat and rides off to claim her throne. Normally, this would have been at least a books worth of writing. Thankfully, it is cleaned up by the Epilogue.
  • The original novel of The Godfather contains two sub-plots which were cut from the movie for their total irrelevance to the main plot. One of the sub-plots involves Frank Sinatra Johnny Fontane and his buddy in Hollywood; the other follows the adventures of Sonny's mistress in Las Vegas and contains, among other things, no less than twenty pages on the subject of women's reproductive health. Presumably the author felt that this was an anvil that badly needed to be dropped on 1950s America, but still...
  • The Waterloo sequence in Les Misérables. Several other chapters qualify, but Waterloo gets the mention because it's 60 pages long and only the last 2 are at all relevant to the rest of the plot. That said, it is brilliantly written.
  • Theo Willoughby's whole plotline in Kate Furnivall's The Russian Concubine. Why do we care that the heroine's high school teacher is being blackmailed by his girlfriend's father into participating in the drug trade? Much less his sexual exploits with said girlfriend?
  • Subverted, interestingly enough, in Ian Irvine's The Three Worlds Cycle, with the inclusion of various plotlines that, while all containing major characters, are usually completely seperate from each other. Then, just as it looks like a Trapped By Mountain Lions moment, the plot strands all come together to form a major twist. Though this arguably happens in every book in the series (and this is literally eleven books already), the best example from the first Story Arc (the first quartet in the Cycle) would be in The Tower On The Rift, where the main heroes are essentially split into three groups. One group is Karen and Shand who seem to be making their way across a desolate wasteland desert for no reason except that Karen has a 'feeling' that her lover is in the random fortress in the dead centre (that has blatantly been placed there for no other reason than to extend the series by one extra book). Guess where the Big Showdown takes place...
  • The adultery and organized crime subplots in the novel Jaws. It's utterly obvious why those plots didn't make it into the movie.
  • The crazy state trooper subplot from Friday the 13th: Road Trip, and everything involving the two FBI agents from Friday the 13th: Hate-Kill-Repeat.
  • The FBI's search for the terrorists who caused the subway bombing in Final Destination: Destination Zero; it eventually culminates in an abrupt yet brief Genre Shift from horror to action, involving stuff like a warehouse shootout and a high speed chase through the city during rush hour.
  • In The Lord of the Isles series, at least two out of the four main characters are Trapped by Mountain Lions for a significant portion of each book, after the first novel. Of course, Fridge Brilliance suggests that because of this when three characters visit The Underworld in a book called The Gods Returnit is not readily apparent that this is more than yet another trippy side trip. On the other hand, was it really necessary to have eight books worth of Trapped by Mountain Lions?
  • Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows has been accused of having this as its main storyline, which is the only point of view given after the first chapter. Obviously Harry, Ron and Hermione hunting down the Horcruxes is a big deal, but with its difficult pacing and long stretches of Dumbledore backstory only tangentially necessary to the plot, it sort of falls short compared to Voldemort having taken over the Ministry of Magic and Neville running La Résistance inside the school, which the Golden Trio (and thus the readers) only hear about secondhand.
  • The Tom Bombadil scene in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Really, several parts of Twilight. Even when there's this huge vampire war looming, the focus of the book is still on the relatively shallow romance between the two main characters.
    • Stephenie Meyer released a few scenes cut from the book. It's clear why her editor nixed them--one interrupted the whole "fleeing from a psychotic vampire" plot so that Alice could take Bella shopping for expensive clothes, while another one, set after the battle, had them and Edward randomly stop to gamble in Vegas on the way back to Forks.
    • In Eclipse, right at the final battle, Edward and Jacob decide to take Bella away from it to keep her safe. The battle is almost completely ignored so that we can focus on Bella (predictably) choosing Edward over Jacob.


Live Action TV

  • The trope-naming incident involving Kimberly in 24. Kim Bauer and her father interact so little throughout the entire series that it's clear her role exists only due to contract requirements and her ability to fill a wet T-shirt.
    • The show's first season was originally going to have Teri Bauer falling asleep for a few episodes (thanks to the show's Real Time format), since her storyline ended once she escaped from the terrorists that had captured her. However, the producers demanded that she stay in the show and so she ended up contracting amnesia and walking around not doing much for a few hours instead.
    • The sixth season's story arc regarding Morris's alcoholism has similarly been identified as pointless by some fans.
    • Every season of 24 has at least one of these. It's almost unavoidable. Sometimes the plot threads get tied back into the main thrust of the story. Even the villain of season 3 calls out Jack's heroin addiction, saying it's completely irrelevant to the story.
    • The 'redneck' subplot from the start of season 8 annoyed many. Made even more annoying by revelations later in the season proving the actions of a certain character COMPLETELY out of character.
    • This is somewhat subverted in season 5 when a seemingly pointless subplot involving Lynn's drug addict sister ends up causing his keycard to fall into enemy hands, which in turn allows them to attack CTU.
  • From Season 2 onwards, most of the scenes in Kyle XY which do not concern the eponymous protagonist or the central plot-line can come across as this. When Kyle is frequently being hunted down by a Mega Corp and developing his mental abilities, it can seem a little strange when he receives less screen time than the other main characters' love lives.
  • Most scenes with Lana Lang in Smallville.
  • Maya y Alejandro Herrera on Heroes didn't even manage to be plot-relevant by hanging out with Sylar.
    • Though that was due to the writer's strike, which caused a lot of planned storylines to be truncated and several plot threads to be cut and forgotten (e.g. Caitlin). Maya was apparently supposed to be instrumental to dealing with the virus, among other things.
    • That season of Heroes is largely split into four completely un-interacting plotlines. Aside from the main, there's Maya y Alejandro; Bennet, Claire and West; and Monica and Micah. That season was so obviously unfinished that Tim Kring had to write a public apology. Then, It Got Worse.
  • Lost has this sometimes, from little-importance Flash Backs to stupid subplots just to give some characters screentime. (Sawyer crossing a jungle to kill a tree frog comes to mind.)
    • Nobody cared how Jack got his tattoos. Not when there are bigger questions involving Smoke Monsters. Nobody except the writers, apparently, who weren't as willing as the audience to accept that they belong to the actor, not the character. So we got an entire episode of an origin story for Jack's tats.
      • And yes, Sayid is guilty of war crimes in the service of his nation. We got this in Season One. No really. While it's fun to see him tied up we did not need a whole episode of it.
    • Though largely avoided in seasons 4 and 5, there is one instance where this is used subversively. In any episode featuring Flash Forwards to Sun giving birth, there are concurrent flashes to Jin rushing to buy a toy and get to the hospital while avoiding comical setbacks. It's edited to make it seem, at first glance, like the two stories are concurrent; only at the end is it revealed that Jin's story was an irrelevant and inconsequential anecdote from many years earlier. His flashback was included specifically to mislead the viewer and disguise that, at the time of Sun giving birth, he had been left behind and is presumed dead.
    • To some fans, the flash-sideways. Sometimes (most blatantly in "Recon") they just recycle plot threads from years ago. They also, by the halfway point of the season, have yet to cross over with the main plots or have any clear relevance to them. Just one hint from the premiere that they mean anything. And they take up as much of each episode as flashbacks or flash-forwards did, while not resolving any questions or developing any characters (outside of the ones in its own arc, mind).
      • With the introduction of Desmond in the flash-sideways world, it appears the two are finally going to be connected.
      • As shown in the series finale The 'flash sideways' was shown to be a kind of purgatory and the characters all met because they meant so much to one another and were destined to spend eternity together. So, while it could be considered a waste of time showing action that wasn't answering questions about the shows many mysteries, it was still important for the characters arcs.
  • Debatably magnificently subverted and parodied on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in an episode where Xander finds himself in a comical series of completely unrelated misadventures while his friends are off literally preventing the apocalypse and fighting the greatest battle of their lives. The twist is that XANDER'S storyline is the a-plot, and everyone else's save-the-world adventure is only glimpsed at in a few context-free scenes which mostly serve to parody the show. The joke is clear: since Xander is the type of character who would routinely get trapped by mountain lions on any other show, we're going to do the exact opposite.
    • Lampshaded by the episode's title (The Zeppo) which refers to the one of the Marx Brothers often seen as having no particular talent for comedy.
      • And of course, as every Marx fan knows, Zeppo was hilarious, just not in a way that gets appreciated. Just like Xander.
  • Pretty much all of the Gibby only sub-plots in Season 4 of ICarly. Most recently, his attempt to get a $5 bill out of a tree.
  • In the final season of The Shield, there's a subplot about Sgt. Danny Sofer gradually losing her gung-ho desire to be a street cop, and wanting to settle down with a desk job and her new baby. This would ordinarily be a fine end to her character, but meanwhile Vic, Shane, Ronnie, and Aceveda are all busy scheming and manipulating international drug cartels, federal law enforcement, and each other to escape their fates. It comes off as incredibly small-time by comparison.
  • Kate from Robin Hood had several of these. She was always getting captured or injured, but special notice has to be made of the episode Something Worth Fighting For. In it, Isabella manages to plant one half of a broken locket in Robin's belongings, leading Kate to believe that Robin is cheating on her. She bursts into tears and runs back to her mother, wangsting all the while about how she thought she loved him. No one cared. What makes this really grating is that this is the second to last episode of the entire series, and most of it is wasted on the Romantic Plot Tumour, to the point where a beloved character's death scene is completely short-changed.
    • It's technically meant to be part of the general theme that the outlaws are being torn apart right before the big battle, but what the writers don't realize is that the outlaws are better off without Kate. When she does return after realizing that she's been tricked, she doesn't actually accomplish anything except sabotage a peaceful protest that Tuck and Little John are staging, and then stand around telling the more competent characters to "hurry up".
  • The "New Cap City" storyline of Caprica was accused of this, being less interesting than other plotlines that were stalled at the time and home to some strange Fridge Logic as well. However, some interesting ideas were introduced- such as "New Cap City" being a Black Box of unknown purpose- and Tamara and Joseph received significant Character Development. It may prove to have been significant later on.
    • This is a BIG YMMV, as a lot of people found it more interesting than watching little Adama get gangster lessons (who, according to Word of God, wasn't even the Adama from BSG, but rather some previously unmentioned brother who died long before the plot of BSG.) The show was supposed to be about the creation of the Cylons, after all.
  • The Bryce-Keiko subplot on FlashForward. Although it had one or two heartwarming moments, the bottom line was that it was a subplot about the main character's estranged wife's coworker (who also has terminal cancer, which is rarely mentioned) and his futile search for the Girl Of His Dreams who lives in Japan, but then she leaves to find him, and they continue to have a series of near-misses in LA, eventually leading to Bryce having a relationship with the main character's daughter's babysitter while Keiko works in an auto shop and then gets arrested by the INS. Then in the season finale, they finally meet, at the exact moment prophesied by the flashforwards, meaning they needn't have bothered spending months looking for each other. And then the show got cancelled. The subplot is clearly an artifact of a version of the show with a more widespread, interconnected cast a la Lost and a less-focused plot. Except that it sticks out like a sore thumb when it was the only unconnected subplot, while the rest of the show was about the FBI investigation and related conspiracies.
  • From Dexter Season 4 (and so far in 5), the scenes involving Angel Batista and Maria Laguerta's romantic subplot has absolutely nothing to do with what is happening in the show's main arc. Many viewers find the banality overwhelming. The same goes for Deb and Quinn's romantic sublot, which mostly just distracted from Deb's own much more important development.
    • Masuka's intern in season 6, who's obliquely hinted to maybe-possibly be a future serial killer himself, only for it to be completely dropped.
      • This remains to be seen. It's more likely that his scenes were set up for a bigger plotline in season 7.
  • In Chuck especially in the later seasons any Buy More employees subplot is at serious risk of falling into this. While sometimes they tie back to the main plot in an interesting manner or manage to stand on their own, often they're just there, because the show's always been set in Buy More and so they have to have Buy More subplots. One example is that week's Greta being stalked by Jeff and Lester. Morgan tells them off, they don't stop, she threatens them, Morgan has to intervene, she tells him that their operation is unprofessional. Casey steps in to defend Morgan, giving their relationship a tiny bit of development that could have been gained by any other method, and she leaves. Jeff and Lester's behavior doesn't affect the main characters. Greta's presence has nothing to do with the main plot.
  • True Blood's third season suffers a bit from this with many characters being disconnected from the main plot and having nothing to do and even more infuriating is that at the end of the season none of the subplots are tied up in the slightest and seemingly hinting at new Mountain Lion traps for the future including Andy's sudden dependence on V. Ultimately, by the beginning season 4, a few of these are revealed to have been subtle build up to the season's main plot. However, a few- namely the aforementioned V dependency, Sam's storyline involving his brother (which ultimately dove tails into an equally extraneous and yet to be resolved love triangle with his shifter girlfriend and her werewolf baby daddy) and Jason's subplot with werepanthers in Hot Shot- have all been resolved or dropped without ever really affecting the main plot in any meaningful way.
  • During Babylon 5, a recurring subplot in season 3 dealt with Dr Franklin's struggle with a stim addiction, and his quest to eventually find himself and pull himself together. Now there's nothing wrong with a bit of character development... if it weren't for the fact that this plot occurs at the crossroads of two major plotlines with galaxy-wide implications (The Shadow War and Babylon 5's secession from the Earth Alliance.). This particular arc felt rather minor and unimportant in the face of the others, and like a diversion from more important events.
  • In the fourth season finale of Merlin Morgana takes over Camelot (again) and proceeds to do absolutely nothing of importance. Having locked the knights in the dungeons, she forces Gwaine to fight her mercenaries for bread to feed his imprisoned friends, resulting in a completely plot-less sequence of scenes that add absolutely nothing to the more important activities that are occuring outside Camelot.


Theatre

  • "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" from The King and I is a Show Within a Show that runs on for 15 minutes, with only An Aesop near the end linking it to the plot. The ballet music is unmelodic and represents more the work of an arranger than of Richard Rodgers.
  • The Shriners ballet in Bye Bye Birdie.


Web Comics

 Kubota: My trial will last a few weeks, at most, and when it is over Hinjo will look like an out-of touch buffoon for even bringing up charges against me -- a beloved pillar of the community -- while his people waste away at sea. Now, come along. Bring me before your master so that we may begin the Trial of the Century.

Elan: Yeah, well, we'll see what they believe. The Katos and I will testify against you and then--

Vaarsuvius: Disintegrate. Gust of Wind. Now can we PLEASE resume saving the world?


Western Animation

  • In the Generator Rex episode "Breach", Rex awakes in a creepy abandoned town and must figure out where he is and how to get back to headquarters. Meanwhile Six and Bobo are Trapped By Scorpions.
  • In the Ice Age movies, the small clips of Scrat constantly trying to grab a hold of a sole acorn come off as this. Subverted at the end of the second film, when his eventual retrieval of the acorn ironically saves everyone from The Great Flood. Though it must be considered that Scrat's the most beloved part of the series despite having little to no bearing to the main plot.
  • Season 3 of The Animals of Farthing Wood devoted a lot of time to the pointless antics of Weasel, Measley and their children after they leave White Deer Park and cause all sorts of trouble on a farm.
  • In the first episode of a Family Guy two-parter, Stewie sees a man on TV and becomes convinced that he's Stewie's real father and, as such, sets out on a cross-country trip with Brian and Quagmire to find him. Oh, and Lois is teaching Chris about how to appeal to women. That subplot, however, is dropped by the second episode.
    • Debatable if it was really dropped, as the type of girl she tells him to go after is the type of girl Vanessa is. It's still not important, as it still only affects another subplot that no longer exists, but it was there.


Video Games

  • In Katamari Damacy there are cutscenes in between every few levels and after you create a new constellation when some Lego-looking kids comment on the stars being gone/coming slowly back. It has no bearing on what little plot there is, especially since nobody listens to them anyway.
    • They do, however, contribute to the overall weirditude of the game. Since this is Katamari Damacy we're talking about, that may actually count.
  • Rose, the Stop Helping Me! girlfriend from Metal Gear Solid 2, won't stop calling and insisting on talking about her relationship with Raiden. Even though he's, you know, in the middle of a highly-dangerous mission all by himself.
  • Because the students got seperated when they were pulled into the evil Heavenly Host school in Corpse Party, there were multiple sub-plots as each chapter focused on different characters. Most of these involved trying to find a way out, dodging sadistic ghosts, getting possessed, being brutually murdered ... and in the case of Satoshi and Yuka, trying to find a working toilet so she could go potty. It dragged on for a ridiculous amount of time, tracking down various toilets only to move on because they were damaged or full of hanged girls, to the point that any normal person would have just peed in the corner and be done with it. It got worse when it tied into a 'Find Yuka' sub-plot, simply because they got seperated when she tried peeing outside (and she still didn't end up doing it).
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 suffers from this, as Sonic is attempting to rescue Princess Elise, who never stays put, Shadow and Silver are actually doing much more plot-critical activities, such as attempting to figure out the identity of Mephiles the Dark and save the future.
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