Compressed Vice

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Bender: It's just... neither of us can get up when we get knocked on our back.
Fry: What? I've seen you get up off your back tons of times.
Bender: Those times I was slightly on my side.


The plotline has a character display some vice, flaw, prejudice, or other negative attribute/behavior, which said character has never before this point shown any signs of suffering from, but which they then engage in solely as the setup for some sort of One Shot gag or An Aesop. (In some cases, the plot claims/suggests that they've always had this problem, even though previous episodes show otherwise.) It then vanishes totally after the end of the gag and/or plot. Sometimes this is meant to serve as Character Development, but due to the entire process being constrained to that one single episode, it's not very convincing. If the creators are more consistent about the issue, it becomes a largely Informed Flaw which drives several distinct episodes, but still is never observed in a character outside them. Shows up frequently in Very Special Episode, although rarely in the Too Smart for Strangers variant for obvious reasons...

This is distinct from writers adding enduring flaws to a Flat Character, or hypocrisy no one notices with Moral Dissonance. If the character has to try and lose the vice in the same episode, they'll find Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere.

Compare Compressed Abstinence, Long-Lost Uncle Aesop, Can't Get Away with Nuthin', Characterization Marches On.

This trope is a sub-trope of Backstory of the Day.

Examples of Compressed Vice include:

Anime and Manga

  • ×××HOLiC manages to give a Compressed Vice to a character who only appears in two episodes. After Watanuki manages to help convince a shy girl that her negativity is literally cursing her to fail and that she should try to be more positive, her more upbeat and outgoing twin suddenly turns into the sister from hell, psyching her out even worse than she ever did to herself until the poor girl is on her knees and paralyzed by the feelings of uselessness her sister is laying on her. Then, after Yuuko intervenes and the Aesop is learned, all is sunshine again.
  • Himitsu no Akko-chan, the original 1969 series, manages to literally wish a Compressed Vice to the main character, just to scare her into her personal Aesop. In episode 32, aptly named "_____", upon meeting a deaf-mute kid, Akko-chan, out of empathy and curiosity, wishes to her magic mirror to be a deaf-mute version of herself. Upon discovering that, being speechless, she can't wish anymore, and she'll be stuck that way forever, Akko-chan literally breaks apart, feeling scared and useless until the mirror, reasoning that she got her Aesop about hasty wishes and physical ailments, and she understood the true courage of her new friend (who, of course, will never be seen around for the rest of the series), lifts the wish on its own accord.
  • On more than one occasion in the Pokémon anime, Ash has gotten so full of himself specifically to get a Break the Haughty moment by the end of the episode, and then go back to being a reasonably humble trainer afterwards. Instances of this include his battles with Prima, Brawley, and Drake of the Elite Four. May also got this in one of her contests when she gained a Coordinator Superiority Complex out of nowhere and was reprimanded for it, and then it never comes up again.
  • The original Japanese version of Digimon Adventure 02 gave Hikari a crippling reliance on her brother in the infamous Dark Ocean episode. It may have been an attempt to keep her from looking too perfect, but while she does freak out at the Dark Ocean in a later episode, she doesn't mention Taichi at all.

Comic Books

  • In Blackhawk #240 (which is towards the end of the New Blackhawk Era), André Blanc-Dumont has been given a crippling fear of beautiful women. He declares himself cured after punching out a man disguised as a woman. Click here for an in-depth recap.

Live-Action TV

  • An episode of The Golden Girls revealed that Rose has been addicted to prescription strength pain-killers for decades. It also strongly implied that her perpetually sweet disposition is at least partially the result of taking these drugs. Despite the coda of the episode having her statement that she'll be fighting this addiction the rest of her life (albeit filled with hope that she can pull it off), it's never truly referred to again.
    • Similar events happened to Dorothy, who had two relapses of former addictions she had beaten (smoking and gambling.) Aside from the episodes in question, they were never mentioned again.
  • Joey from Blossom hates a gay guy in one episode, revealing a prejudice that hadn't previously been mentioned in the show. Later in that episode, his black sister-in-law tells him a story about how she faced discrimination as a child, causing him to renounce his prejudice as quickly as he developed it.
    • Wasn't it more a resistance to a friend coming out to him by revealing that he had feelings for him (Joey gets note from "Leslie," doesn't know which Leslie it is, and then his friend Les says that it was from him)? In that case, Joey being angry for a while makes sense since Les knew he was straight. I don't remember it being "Joey hates the gays."
  • A particularly offensive episode of Lizzie McGuire featured her pal Miranda becoming anorexic and then getting over it within the course of a week.
    • It also had Gordo becoming addicted to Deeandeeaproximine... and then getting over it within the course of a week.
    • As does an episode of The Facts of Life, which had Sue Ann getting, and recovering from, anorexia.
    • D.J. had anorexia for fifteen minutes on Full House. They literally reduced it to skipping a couple of meals before being saved by Aunt Becky.
  • Likewise, an episode of Diff'rent Strokes has Kimberly getting bulimia.
  • An early episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers showed Sixth Ranger Tommy being forgetful. After that, he forgot about being forgetful.
    • The most common excuse as to why Tommy turned up late to the battles was that he had "forgotten his morpher". The real reason was that in the original Super Sentai Zyuranger, his counterpart had to turn up at the last minute because he was living on borrowed time and his place of residence delayed the inevitable.
      • Those are fan based rumors. Tommy never in fact forgot his Morpher ever. The reason he was always late for battle were because he was otherwise indisposed through various reasons (captured by mooks, finishing his Halloween costume, knocked out the Monster of the Week, working on a talent show, taking kids trick or treating) throughout the arc between his initial joining and his powers weakening and once they weakened he was ordered to stay out of battle at all costs unless absolutely needed as a trump card. That said Tommy was always slightly forgetful but it only really was a problem for him in that one ep.
    • There was a later episode when someone (I believe it was Tanya) said "Tommy's always late".
    • Several episodes give this a form of justification in which the character flaw is the result of an evil spell cast by the villains. Often the affected characters have to overcome the flaw as if it were natural anyway, at least for long enough to defeat the Monster of the Week and break the spell.
  • An episode of Spin City had Carter trying to quit smoking, despite having never been seen touching tobacco before (or since). This episode also featured Paul getting addicted to nicotine gum.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, "Guide to School Records"- Ned is a basically well-intentioned, "smart but lazy" kid in the rest of the series, but this episode shows him pulling all sorts of deliberately mean pranks on his way to accruing the biggest permanent record in the school. Flashbacks are used, which (unusually for the show) were filmed just for this episode, not taken from earlier ones, further playing up the trope.
  • If a young attractive female character is introduced to a series and some fuss is made over the "fact" that she smokes, then it is near certain that that will be the last time that she is seen with tobacco, or that it will even be mentioned. Examples-
    • Lois Lane in Smallville;
    • Mimi Clark in Jericho;
    • Marissa Taylor in the defunct Australian comedy/drama Always greener (Wikipedia link). Admittedly this last one could be regarded as just a set-up for a joke about an exploding cow, but credibility was stretched in a later episode where she stood right next to another character who was smoking, without batting an eyelid.
    • Gia from Full House
  • A particularly extreme example appeared on Rome, with the reveal that Octavian was deeply in love with (as in, wanted to have sex with) his own sister. Not only had nothing even hinting about this ever come up before, but the episode itself has zero hints about it until Servilia lets his sister know—which actually justifies it, as he was clearly very good at keeping it secret.
  • In Friends, in the first episode where we see Chandler smoke and the others disapprove of it, he delivers a speech about how he accepts their flaws and only expects them to accept his in return. Said flaws include Joey cracking his knuckles, Monica snorting when she laughs and Phoebe chewing her hair—none of them appeared before, or after this episode. The one about Ross overpronouncing every word applies, though.
    • A Friends episode that shows less respect for continuity comes in the Season Five New Year's episode where Rachel suddenly turns into a gossip who can't shut up about her coworkers' dirty laundry. The whole thing turns out to be a plot device to launch us into a Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere plot as Rachel resolves to stop gossiping, and then immediately discovers the unkeepable secret that Chandler and Monica are doin' it.
  • Aesops about snoring tend to suffer from this, as characters spontaneously develop the habit and then no reference is made to this afterwards. Examples include Joey from Friends (Chandler can suddenly hear him through the wall after living with him for five years with no problem), Charles Winchester from M*A*S*H (his tentmates don't notice until it's made a plot point), and Homer Simpson from The Simpsons (he suddenly starts snoring loudly after years of sleeping with his wife).
    • In the case of Charles, he was only snoring because of allergies acting up, leaving him unable to breathe normally.
  • Done in Red Dwarf where the crew is forced through the air ducts of Starbug. Lister is revealed to have claustrophobia. Subverted somewhat when Cat lists a number of examples where he's been trapped in a confined space and didn't freak out, naturally this didn't help Lister.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Worf was the victim of this in the episode where a genderless alien species showed up, and he was saying things like it being "unnatural" and the like. This particular prejudice wasn't seen previously in all the cases where he met aliens who didn't have a traditional gender setup, and never appeared again.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: There was a late episode, where there was a homicidal shapeshifter on the station, and the other main characters responded by revealing their prejudice against shapeshifters, which had never been hinted at before, even after years of fighting a Dominion run by shapeshifters. Might have been partly explained by that particular shapeshifter constantly harping about how everyone else was prejudiced against him for being so superior to them (which inclined them to treat him like a jerk). Odo's friends make an effort to be nice to the stand-offish stranger at first, but he brushes them off and accuses them of trying to make Odo an Uncle Tom.
  • Similar example in Star Trek: Voyager, in an episode where the Doctor found out that Janeway had tampered with his memories to prevent him going "insane" over an old triage case, and Janeway and the entire crew suddenly seemed to develop an anti-AI prejudice which then immediately vanished again next episode.
    • Made worse because another episode had them arguing the Doctor was human, not just an AI, when he was denied rights over the publishing of his holonovel for being a hologram.
  • This happens all the time in Degrassi.[context?]
  • Tommy from 3rd Rock from the Sun is revealed in one episode to have been hiding sandwich bags full of spices to indulge his secret cooking hobby in secret ("It's marijuana, I smoke it with friends I swear!"). This is never mentioned again.
  • M*A*S*H: the plot of episode "C*A*V*E" is based on Hawkeye's suffering from crippling claustrophobia, which had never been mentioned before and was never referred to again.
    • Likewise Colonel Foster in the UFO episode "Sub-Smash".
  • The Professionals. In "Klansmen" Bodie displays overt racist behaviour never shown previously by his character, and due to the events of the episode (in which his life is saved by a black doctor) we never see it again. Actor Lewis Collins was not pleased.
  • Subverted in the Malcolm in the Middle episode where Francis turns out to have been in AA despite never having been shown getting drunk in previous episodes. The other characters find out that he had all the signs of alcoholism except for drinking.
  • An episode of How I Met Your Mother deals with the annoying habits of the group. The bad habits of Ted, Marshall, Barney and Robin are noticeable prior to the episode (although Robin's misuse of the word 'literally' was subtle before it was pointed out), and they still have them in later episodes. Lily's habit of chewing too loudly is a true Compressed Vice, as it appeared only for that episode.
    • Justified in later episodes featuring the characters throwing "interventions" to stop each other's similar minor annoying habits: though Barney's use of magic was featured in previous episodes, other character's habits had just never been incorporated into Future Ted's unreliable narration.
    • Another episode shows all five characters being habitual cigarette smokers. Previously, Barney and Robin had been seen smoking cigars, and it was hinted that Robin smoked cigarettes, but this episode portrayed Robin as practically a chimney. The other characters don't smoke nearly as often, but obviously way more than has ever been let on before. Ted's children are stunned at the news. Justified in this case, because Future Ted confesses that he had intentionally been leaving out references to them smoking.
  • How can we leave out Jessie Spano's one-episode caffeine pill addiction
  • Blair Warner in The Facts of Life develops a one-show gambling addiction in a 1986 episode. At the end, she swears it off only for a woman behind her to hit the jackpot using the same machine. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In the Lent episode of Father Ted, while Ted's smoking and Jack's drinking have been previously established, Father Dougal's addiction to roller blading only exists in this episode. However, as the whole series runs on Negative Continuity and Rule of Funny, this scarcely seems to matter.
  • An odd example from 24 in that Jack's heroin addiction from season three is dealt with over multiple episodes, but since those episodes take place over one day, he really should be suffering for far more than the first few hours. But then, many examples can be taken from the show where people get over things (emotionally or physically) way faster than they should realistically be able to - Tony having major surgery after being shot but getting straight back to work just a couple of hours later, for example.
    • The heroin thing was actually dealt with by Jack being given some vague other drug that would mask the withdrawal symptoms for about a day, i.e. the rest of the season, after the writers realized it was becoming more trouble than it was worth.
  • On one almost-Very Special Episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, Herb Tarlek had a problem with alcohol which had not been mentioned previously and which he overcame by the end of the episode.
    • Actually it had been subject to Foreshadowing in an episode a couple of weeks before, where it was mentioned that his three-martini lunches were causing him to forget things he'd said and done. And he mentioned still having his drinking problem in a couple of other episodes.
  • Eri in Tensou Sentai Goseiger is revealed to be very messy and lazy in Epic 9, causing her to clash with Moune as part of their focus episode. These bad habits are never mentioned before or since.
  • For the Glee episode "The Power of Madonna", the boys are suddenly shown mistreating the girls in various ways to a highly exaggerated extent, in order to setup the feminist message of the episode. This is incredibly jarring because, for instance, Artie is shown being rude and misogynistic to Tina, even though he has never displayed this attitude before.
  • Stumpy's gambling addiction isn't mentioned at all in season one of Carnivale, even though by the beginning of the second series he has the debt collectors after him and a $400 debt (in old-timey Great Depression-era money).
    • Adjusted for inflation, $400 in 1934 would be worth about $6443.73 in 2010's dollars.
  • In one Very Special Episode of Boy Meets World, Shawn gets drunk for the first time and then has a drinking problem for about a week before his friends convince him to give up drinking altogether. However, he does turn back to alcohol in an episode two seasons later after he learns some devastating news, though only for that episode.
  • In one episode of Alice, Alice, Flo, and Vera all try to help each other kick their previously-unmentioned vices: Alice eats too many sweets, Flo drinks too much coffee, and Vera very uncharacteristically smokes. None of these vices, or the fact that at the end of the episode, they had all switched vices, was ever mentioned again.
  • In the Community episode "Regional Holiday Music", Glee Club instructor Mr. Rad insists that Britta play the part of a mute tree, and when we finally see Britta sing her awkward song, we understand why - she's terrible. Thing is, we've heard Britta sing in other episodes. We hear Britta sing in the very next scene. She's not terrible at all unless the plot requires it.
  • The The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "Mary's Insomnia" has Mary turning to sleeping pills to get over a new-found case of insomnia, becoming dependent on them, and getting over her addiction, all within one 25-minute episode.
  • Samantha in Bewitched experienced pregnancy-related food cravings in a single episode: "Samantha's Curious Cravings".
  • Subverted in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dee and Dennis spend an episode addicted to crack, but by the end they're off to a recovery program. In later episodes, no mention is made of their previous addiction... until "Frank's Pretty Woman," where they encounter crack again. Dennis immediately flees the scene, saying that it's not a safe place for him, then almost immediately afterwards convinces Mac that crack is awesome and they should go get some.

Web Comics

  • Inverted and possibly subverted in Narbonic, where Dave's chain-smoking habit is established early on and continually referenced. However, after Dave goes back in time and alters the event that causes him to start smoking, he is surprised to find that he has no addiction at all... and the other characters assure him he never did, smoking was never relevant to any of their adventures, and they are confused when he brings it up. The author even devotes a filler comic to two fans explaining how the previous plots where his habit was a key point make sense without it.
  • Subverted in Unshelved. A storyline deals with Colleen quitting smoking — when there was no indication of her being a smoker before, and even the other characters are surprised to hear about it. At the end of the storyline, it turns out this is because she quit decades ago, when she was still a teenager; she made it sound current as an excuse for being rude to a patron at the library.

Western Animation

  • The Garfield and Friends episode "Sales Resistance" revolves around Garfield's obsession with buying useless stuff off the Shopping Channel - an obsession which he has only in this episode.
  • Danny Phantom does this frequently, with Danny himself being the usual suspect.
    • Tucker had one of these in "Doctor's Disorders." He had a horrible fear of hospitals that we'd never seen or heard of until he had to wear a paper bag over his head just to walk past the nurse's office.
  • The Simpsons has been doing this just about every week for the past decade. Though some have come to receive Continuity Nods every now and then. One memorable aversion came with Marge's gambling problem, which was expected to become forgotten by the next episode like most but has been managed to be referenced countless times. In some cases, outside of the show.
    • One of the most glaring examples of this in the episode "Fear of Flying", which suddenly introduced Marge's titular phobia and linked it to several incidents in her childhood despite an earlier episode ("Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington") having had the family go on a flight with no incident whatsoever.
    • Also a Running Gag in the form of Homer's "life-long ambition" changing every time it comes up, and Marge pointing this out.
    • One episode had Bart's hellion tendencies stemming from Homer's inability to punish Bart for his bad behavior. The same Homer who routinely strangles him for misbehaving.
      • Which was then the focus of another episode when he went to a parenting class because strangling Bart as punishment was inappropriate.
  • One of the most horrid cases takes place in the later seasons of Static Shock. In one of several Very Special Episodes, Adam Evans (aka Rubber-Band Man) out of nowhere suddenly has dyslexia, and from what we're told, has had it since he was a child. And not just a mild case for that matter, more like sees a stop sign written in Arabic type. The episode ends with Static and Adam giving a brief speech about dyslexia a la And Knowing Is Half the Battle and Adam's reading disorder is never brought up again. This is particularly egregious, since Adam was previously shown reading. In fact, one episode had him mention aloud (With nobody around for him to be trying to lie to) "I still have all this fan-mail to read" as he picks up, opens, and begins to read said mail (Even more of a retcon since when his dyslexia appears in this episode, the fact that none of his fan-mail was open becomes a clue that he could not read).
  • Futurama:
    • In one episode, Bender reveals that he cannot get up if he is knocked onto his back. By the end of the episode, he learns how to overcome his erectile dysfunction.
    • One episode gave Bender an obsession with being remembered - something he'd never even hinted that he might have had before. It never came up again.
    • In another episode, four of Bender's ten most frequently used words were words he only used in that episode. (Obviously, a parody.)
    • Bender's irrational hatred of Nibbler lasts exactly one episode.
  • Haven't seen enough episodes to be sure, but an episode of The New Woody Woodpecker Show, "Automatic Woody", has Woody dreaming about eating "Butterscotch Finger Pies", and then waking up and finding tons of empty wrappers in the various places he's stashed some for midnight snacking, and then going through lots of trouble to buy some more.
  • Unfortunately, most of Kim Possible's Character Development is about getting a character flaw of the week that must be conquered by the end of the episode. This includes her being extremely competitive in one episode (never mentioned again) and telling white lies constantly (brought up but then presumably ignored, because it was never brought up again and she continued to do it).
  • Brenda's slovenliness was revealed in the same episode of Teamo Supremo as it was cured. (At least her desire to be a famous pop singer cropped up in more than one episode.)
  • The Producing Parker episode "The Skinny on Parker" had Parker developing anorexia and immediately getting over it after being force-fed a sandwich.
  • One episode of The Fairly OddParents revealed that Trixie Tang was actually a Tomboy who liked "boy things" but is embarrassed to show that side of her to any of her friends in the popular crowd. Like a lot of things in this show brought up in just one episode, it was never mentioned again.
  • An episode of King of the Hill revolves around Hank's obsession with his guitar. Peggy claims that he pays more attention to the guitar than to her despite the fact that it's the only episode in which the guitar appears. It was eventually replaced with a similar vice: him treating the family dog Ladybird extremely well, sometimes better than he treats Bobby or Peggy. This one, however, stayed through the entire series.
    • She again does this when he was spending more time with Bobby who was doing well in Home Ec. Something she herself encouraged him to do and started to feel that she was being replaced by her own son.
      • To be fair this is more from the longer-running character flaw of Peggy to be the center of attention and the 'best' at everything. Bobby taking up cooking was something she supported at first until it became clear he was better at it and getting more attention from Hank as a result.
    • They also had an episode in which the whole family took up smoking, and was over it by the end credits.
  • In Total Drama Action, Trent demonstrates an unhealthy obsession with the number 9, which he claims he's had since childhood even though he never showed any signs of it in the previous season.
  • An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Beezy have a severe cell phone addiction which is never mentioned before or after. He never gets over it, in fact his addiction saves everyone.
  • In one episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Dale has the same reaction to chocolate that Monty usually has to cheese. It never really comes up before or after that mission.
  • In one episode of Slacker Cats Buckley becomes a gambling addict and there's no notion before that he has that sort of characteristic and it never happens again.
  • An episode of American Dad reveals that Francine has a hatred of left-handed people. This is because she was originally left-handed as a child, but a nun she was raised by was convinced that lefties were evil and disciplined her into using her right. At the end of the episode when Steve and Hayley get her to accept the fact she's left-handed she tries to get used to being a lefty again and handles tasks like you would expect a right-handed person doing tasks with their left would do, from writing on the shopping list illegibly to slitting Steve's throat with a butter knife (he got better, of course).
    • Also, "The Wrestler" has Stan obsessed by his wrestling record from high school, with an entire room in his house devoted to the trophies, and Francine is sick of hearing about his wrestling career and touring his museum. Odd, then, that none of the previous 126 episodes had mentioned any of this. (Partially lampshaded by Steve commenting that he's lived in the house all his life and has never seen the wrestling museum before.)