Halfway Plot Switch

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"So you think they ever settled that bag boy strike?"
Homer Simpson while rafting down the Zambezi River, "Simpson Safari"

Any plot which is dropped halfway through an episode in favor of a brand new one. Often involves Genre Shift.

Can be seen as a version of Two Lines, No Waiting, except with the A-Plot and B-Plot being showcased one at a time, and with a rather tenuous chain of events tying them together. Not to be confused with a Malignant Plot Tumor which is where what seems to be the B-Plot (or even C) turns out to be the A-Plot. Frequently caused by a Conflict Killer.

If the plot switch occurs while wrapping up the story, it's a Gainax Ending. A Sacrificial Lion may fail to survive the switch. Can seem similar to First Law of Tragicomedies, but that only applies to a specific change in tone (comedy to tragedy), where the plot is unaffected.

Compare Developing Doomed Characters, which is about the time spent examining the mundane lives of the characters before something extraordinary happens that starts the "real" story.

Examples of Halfway Plot Switch include:

Anime and Manga

Narrator: Will anyone learn Hokuto's Lackey's name? (second plot) What will happen with the Boss Championship? (first plot) Many questions will be answered in the next episode of Cromartie High School... and many will not. We hope you'll join us then.


  • Funny People was advertised as a funny yet touching story of a famous comedian coming to terms with the value of his own life when he's diagnosed with a deadly disease. About halfway through the film, however, he's cured, and he spends the rest of the film getting entangled in a romance with his married ex-girlfriend.
  • From Dusk till Dawn starts off as a crime-thriller about a pair of brothers on the lam who kidnap a family. Halfway through, they stumble into a slapstick-gore film with vampires. The second sequel rehashing the plot switch structure with a western with a post carriage theft plot preceding the horror.
  • Psycho starts out following a woman who succumbs to temptation and steals money from her employer. The film changes to a horror story about forty minutes in when she's murdered out of the blue by a psychotic motel manager, and the rest of the film follows him. Alfred Hitchcock threw his original audience off even further by hiring a well-known actress to play the Decoy Protagonist.
  • The Sound of Music. A cute heart-warming family-friendly musical romp about a nun-turned-governess who teaches her wards the joy of music, and redeems their father, winning his love. And look, at the two hour mark they marry in a show-stopping number. Cue end-credits any time n--- oh wait no, that's right: Nazis. Cue 45 minutes of defiance, heartache, quislings, and dark reprises.
  • The Cottage, a British movie begins as a black comedy about a bungled kidnapping before turning into a dark horror comedy about a Leatherface-type slasher killer half way through. Presumably it was inspired by From Dusk Til Dawn.
  • The classic Predator starts with Arnie Schwarzenegger trying with his fellow soldiers to save an US politician from a band of South American terrorists. After he discovers that this was just an excuse to save some Black OPS agents, this plot is conveniently thrown out of the window when an alien with an explosive plasma Shoulder Cannon and a cloaking device begins hunting them. Unlike some other examples, this wasn't a surprise to original audiences, and the film begins with something falling to Earth from space.
  • A View to a Kill starts out with an investigation of Corrupt Corporate Executive Max Zorin and his sale of EMP resistant microchips to Soviet Russia. James Bond investigates by attending a horse sale, where he finds out that Zorin is also trading in illegal augmentations. Neither of these plot points make much of a difference in the end because right after Bond is escapes, the real plan to destroy Silicon Valley is introduced and a relatively minor clue (a check made out to Stacey Sutton) brings Bond to California.
  • Miracle Mile What looks like an indie romance-comedy suddenly takes a right turn when it looks like the world is going to end.
  • When the Cat's Away/Chacun cherche son chat like the Simpsons badger example above- the missing cat just wanders back into the movie and is found, but the plot keeps going.
  • Full Metal Jacket starts off with Joker in boot camp, focusing on the decaying mental state of Private Pyle and his interactions with Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. After Pyle's murder-suicide, the film follows Joker to war.
    • Stanley Kubrick did this alot with his later films. It's actually a trademark of his that his films were split into two distinct halves, and it got to the point where he'd even explicitly label them.
      • To name a particularily ineresting example, 2001: A Space Odyssey does this not once, not twice, but four times. The first plot focuses on the evolution of man, and then we switch to a plot centered on Dr. Floyd paricipating in a top-secret mission to the Moon which turns out to be because they had found the first conclusive evidence of extratterestrial life. Then much of the rest of the film is switched over towards showing the lifestyles of the two conscious astronauts aboard a long-distance flight when some strange things happen, before taking a dark turn where Hal kills everyone except David Bowman at which point it becomes an incredibly surreal series of occurences that lead to the next stage of human evolution.
      • Like the book it was based on, A Clockwork Orange was specifically divided into three parts. The first introduces Alex and shows us the dystopian world in which he lives as we see him and his droogs go out and do all kinds of nasty things. Then we get to the second plot centered around the experimental rehabilitation technique, and finally the third story where Alex must deal with the effects of the technique.
  • The first half of Stripes deals with the irreverent recruits just barely pulling it together to pass boot camp. The rest is about their first mission as they're sent to Italy to recover a militarized RV.
  • The Descent is somewhere between this and Developing Doomed Characters, as the film spends a while dealing with the personal interactions and physical hardships of a group of female spelunkers, then adds subterranean cannibals.
  • Hancock, rather infamously. It starts as a comedy about a superhero who really sucks at his job. Then halfway through, it turns into a dramatic action movie when his PR person's wife turns out to be another superhero who was Hancock's former wife and they're both immortal. Needless to say, people weren't pleased.
  • Life Is Beautiful: Starts off as a romantic comedy, where Guido Orefice eventually wins the affection of Dora and they have a son named Joshua. Switch time—Let's send them all to a concentration camp! Guido tries to make the best of the situation for Joshua by telling him that if he doesn't complain/cry and hides from the guards he would gain "points". 1000 would win a tank. Just before the camp is liberated by the Americans, Guido gets caught by a guard and unceremoniously shot. The movie ends with an American tank at the gates to the camp, and Joshua exclaiming that he won. Damn you, Roberto Benigni.
  • Rat Pfink A Boo Boo. The plot was altered during filming to accommodate anything and everything that passed through the director's hands. Most notably, when a gorilla suit became available, they wrote a gorilla into the movie. It suddenly shifts from being a gritty crime drama to a superhero spoof.
  • Mortal Thoughts starts off as a Black Comedy, then morphs into a Psychological Thriller.
  • Death Proof is about a group of attractive girls hanging out at a bar who meet a mysterious older named Stuntman Mike. And then... he kills them all, and we move onto a different group of girls.
  • Frequency goes from a dramatic story about a son reconnecting with his dead father into a Set Right What Once Went Wrong thriller.
  • Baz Luhrmann's Australia hits this midway through the film. Once Lady Ashley and the Drover deliver the cows to the dock, there's a Time Skip, and it's suddenly revealed that the main villain has been fed to crocodiles by his second-in-command, the narrative has jumped forward several years, and Australia is suddenly in the midst of World War II. During all this, the plot changes from "deliver the McGuffin" to "rescue the child protagonist and save the Aboriginal children in the midst of Japanese bombing runs".
  • This shows up in a science documentary, of all things. Called The Dark Secret of Hendrik Schon, it's about the titular scientist, a titan in the field of theoretical physics. The first two-thirds of the program are about his early career and work in nanotechnology. It builds up some drama around the unnerving applications- a weapon of assassination, an engineered biowarfare agent, the feared Grey Goo scenario, and so forth. Then around the forty-minute mark, a student reading one of Schon's papers picks up a clue that leads to his real "dark secret": He was a fraud. His papers were lies built upon fake experiments he never conducted and "evidence" he made up out of whole cloth. Whether this is a masterful subversion of Science Is Bad hysteria, a piss-take on the idea that the scientific community knows everything, a Stealth Parody of sensational documentaries, or just a flaw in one such documentary is up to the viewer.
  • The little known 1988 film Permanent Record spends about twenty minutes convincing you it's just throw away teen angst when the kid we thought was the protagonist leaps off a cliff to his death between jump cuts.
  • Trail of The Pink Panther's (1982) first half has Inspector Clouseau investigating the latest theft of the Pink Panther diamond. Then he goes missing, and the film switches to the adventures of a TV reporter investigating this via interviewing his friends, foes, and family. Why? Clouseau's actor Peter Sellers died in 1980, before this film was written, and his scenes in the first half are mostly-deleted scenes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again put into a new context. The second half boils down to a Clip Show of the previous films. All of this sets up the next film, Curse of... (1983), which introduces a new protagonist and leads up to the revelations of what happened to the diamond and Clouseau.
  • Lost Highway by David Lynch is a particularly wild example. Out of nowhere, Bill Pullman simply turns into Balthazar Getty and a completely different story unfolds...but not really.
  • Tokyo Zombie - the first half of the movie centers on the main characters trying to escape the zombies on the streets of Tokyo. Five years later, and it's set in a bizarre society controlled by the rich, and Fujio is now a professional 'zombie-wrestler'.
  • Private Benjamin starts out as a story about a woman making it through basic training, but mid-way through the movie, she's not even in the Army anymore and the conflict revolves around her and her lover.
  • The "Oedipus Wrecks" segment of New York Stories has the Woody Allen character's Beloved Smother vanishing during a disappearing act of a magic show. Audience expectations are Subverted, however, when she appears as a giant head floating over Manhattan, to torment her son in front of the entire world.
  • To the extent that Napoleon Dynamite has a plot, it pulls one of these. There's little plot to be seen in the first half, but once Pedro decides to run for school office, most all focus goes to his campaign.
  • Rupert Everett and Madonna movie The Next Best Thing starts off with a rather sweet and interesting idea about a gay man and his female friend who have sex after a night of drinking and she becomes pregnant - they decide to raise the child together. The second half of the movie veers unexpectedly when Madonna's character reveals that Everett's character isn't the real father and she wants full custody. Cue courtroom drama.
  • The Invention of Lying has this. The first half of the movie is about a man in a world where everyone tells the truth discovering he can say falsehoods and people believe him, and the second half turns into a commentary on love and religion.
  • House of Flying Daggers starts out as a story about a soldier trying to infiltrate a rebel organization, with the implication that he's going to end up falling in love with the blind girl who is his only lead and have to choose between love and duty. Then the political aspects abruptly get discarded in favor of a love triangle story between the hero, the girl, and his boss.
  • The Alfred Hitchcock classic The Birds starts out as a romance and then shifts gears about half way through the movie, turning into a horror movie about the titular animals.
    • Probably not at all unexpected by the audience, since they had that "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock" credit to tip them off.
    • Not surprisingly this also applies to Birdemic, which meant to be a modernized tribute to The Birds.
    • AND it certainly applies to Vertigo too
  • The Paul Giamatti film Win Win starts out as a comedy about high school wrestling with Giamatti coaching a young wrestling prodigy...then the kid's mother shows up and the second half becomes a drama about a battle over an estate. It still works though due to Giamatti and Tom Mc Carthy's direction.
  • D.C. Cab changes from a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits trying to make it as a cab company in D.C. to a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits trying to save one of their own and a couple of kids from kidnappers in the third act.
  • In the French "thriller" Cache, a couple is being sent video tapes of their house, and they can't figure out who's video taping them; this starts to grate on their marriage, leading to their son ending up missing though he really just went to stay with a friend overnight without telling his parents, and the wife finding out about her husband's dark past. Halfway through the movie, we find out that the husband, George, when he was little, had an adopted Algerian brother whose parents died in Paris in a rally, and George ended up framing the Algerian kid for something, getting him sent to an orphanage. The rest of the movie involves the Algerian massacre in Paris while ignoring the thriller plot, to the point where it's never even revealed who was making the tapes.
    • While it's never revealed who's sending the tapes, the husband still tries to blame the brother for it, which leads to the plot switch.
  • The film Knowing starts out as a thriller about strange numbers, written down by a Creepy Child. The protagonist, a Science Hero, tries to stop accidents from happening, after he understands what the figures mean - but utterly fails, as The End of the World as We Know It is near, leading to a Apocalypse How Class X Event . Though, Nicolas Cage's character has a rather spoilerific Chekhov's Skill, if you think about it.
  • The John Sayle's film Limbo starts off as a movie about a fisherman in a small Alaskan town who starts a romance with a single mom and the trouble he has bonding with her daughter. Then they go on a boat trip with his wayward brother who is suddenly attacked and murdered by drug dealers the brother owes money to. The three characters are then forced to seek shelter and fight to survive on a nearby uncharted, uninhabited island.
  • The Kaiju film Rodan starts with a mining company dealing with a localized infestation of quite-large prehistoric insects, and then switches to two gigantic pterosaurs emerging from the mine and causing havoc across Japan.
  • Birdemic does this somewhat jarringly. The first half is mostly about the male and female meeting and falling in love as their careers are taking off then the movie takes us live to a bird assault already in progress.
  • Another documentary that manages it is Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows. It starts as a straightforward year-in-the-life documentary of one of the most popular wrestlers of the era. Then comes the Montreal Screwjob, and all of a sudden it's about one of the most dramatic betrayals in wrestling history.
  • No Country for Old Men starts off as a thriller about a young man who is trying to get away from a murderous psycopath, all building up to a big showdown at the end whilst the Sheriff tries to understand what's going on. In the last 30 minutes, Llewellyn Moss is killed offscreen by a few minor Mexican criminals, and most of the rest of the film is centered around Sheriff Bell trying to cope with his inability to keep up with the community's high crime rate.
  • 1980's Melanie Griffith/Jeff Daniels vehicle Something Wild starts off like it's going to be a wacky romantic comedy, but then takes a dark turn halfway through when her ex-con husband shows up.
  • Flight Plan starts with a recently-widowed woman waking up on a plane with her daughter nowhere to be found with no one on the flight crew or among the passengers remembeing a little girl. Soon, even she begins to doubt her own sanity, especially when the captain proposes that her daughter died along with her husband, and that she's in deep denial over this. After discovering that it's all a plot to blackmail the airline for a lot of money and frame her for it, the movie promptly turns from a psychological thriller into an action flick, where she tries to find her daughter, while trapped on a plane with a killer and his accomplice.
  • 1980's Russian movie Air Crew (Экипаж) starts off as a Kitchen Sink Drama and then switches to a Disaster Movie.
  • Another Russian Movie, "The Arrows of Robin Hood" ("Стрелы Робин Гуда") has the heroes spent the first half helping an impoverished knight reunite with his Love Interest. They succeed, and the two get married, only to be fatally shot immediately afterwards. They are then never mentioned again, and the rest of the movie is devoted to Robin rescuing Maid Marian from the Sheriff.
  • Evil Dead Trap starts off as a Slasher Film about snuff films, then becomes a near-incomprehensible supernatural horror story.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome starts off as a typical post-apocalyptic action flick until Max is brought to the Oasis. Suddenly, the whole situation in Barter Town is left behind, and the theme changes to something akin to the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. Only when Max and the kids reach the Barter Town Underground are the two plots combined.


  • Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land starts out mainly with a plot about Valentine Michael Smith's (the human raised as a Martian) land rights to Mars, but then this issue is resolved with surprising ease, and the plot transitions to be primarily about Smith creating a religion and becoming a Messianic Archetype.
    • Most of Robert A. Heinlein's longer stories tend to have this structure to some extent, though not quite as tenuous.
  • The Winters Tale, by William Shakespeare, consists of a first half that is tragedy, and a second half that is comedy. Much scholarly ink has been spilled over the exact relationship of the two parts. (Either way, 'Exit pursued by a bear' is around where the shift happens.)
  • Double Image by David Morrell - A photographer takes pics of something in Bosnia that really pisses off a Big Bad. As soon as that plot line is resolved, said photographer becomes obsessed over a mysterious woman in some pictures he finds.
  • Friday the 13th: The Jason Strain starts off in the Deadly Game genre... then shifts to Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Sidney Sheldon's If Tomorrow Comes is divided into three "books". Books One and Two, which take up a little over a third of the novel, tell the tale of Tracy Whitney's horrifying Break the Cutie experience when she's framed by the Mafia for a robbery and wounding, and how gets her revenge on the guilty parties. In Book Three, her struggle to make an honest living while paroled from prison leads to her becoming a Classy Cat Burglar who finds herself matching wits not only with European authorities but a fellow con artist. The main nemesis is an insurance investigator who briefly met up with her in Book One as part of his investigation of the false crimes; he becomes obsessed with tracking her down when his employer is besieged with claims for things she's stolen.
  • Very much so in "Brainjack", where the beginning is about a Cracker who ends up being hired by a government White-Hat hacker group after hacking the White House and a major telecommunications provider for a neuro-headset. The plot then brutally murders its previous self and becomes about a group of the hackers trying to subvert the neuro-headsets' Hive Mind from destroying them. Can also be considered a Malignant Plot Tumor.
  • Arguably used in Miss Smillas Feeling for Snow where a routine murder mystery trope dives off the deep-end into X-Files-esque killer bug from space about halfway through the novel.
  • Twilight. Though, this is more of a 3/4 way plot switch, which is how long it seems to take the author before she suddenly remembers she was planning on writing a vampire horror novel, not an angsty May–December romance. To quote Cracked.com:

"[T]he plot arrives late to the party, drunk, in a beat-up '53 Chevy pick-up truck. It drives away about fifty pages later and crashes into a tree, gets sent to the hospital, and is rarely heard from again throughout the course of the series."

    • The same things happen in the other books. In New Moon, most of the book is devoted to Bella recovering from Edward leaving her, finding out about the werewolves, and the werewolves hunting for Victoria. Suddenly, the climax of the novel goes to being about Edward planning to commit suicide via the Volturi, and Bella and Alice having to save him. In Eclipse, most of the story is devoted to the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle, and only gives focus on the matter of the vampire army and Victoria near the end of the book. In Breaking Dawn, the first two sections of the book (as well as a bit of the start of the third) are focused on Bella and Edward marrying and her having and raising her half-human daughter. Most of the third section is about the Volturi arriving to use Renesmee as an excuse to kill the Cullens, with flavors of a vampire conspiracy and the set up for an epic battle that never happens.
  • The children's book Mandie and the Secret Tunnel starts out as a drama that turns into a mystery/treasure hunt midway through the story.
  • The Tawny Man trilogy starts out with a book about prince Dutiful's abduction by the Piebalds, with his upcoming betrothal to an Outislander princess a background detail. The Outislands plotline becomes more prominent in the second book and completely makes up the third book, while the Piebald storyline becomes less prominent and is ultimately resolved off-page in the third book.

Live-Action TV

  • This happens frequently in ER, when a character-oriented episode will be interrupted by a large-scale medical emergency which will provide the drama for the rest of the episode.
  • In episode 24 of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger Umeko interrogated an alien about a bomb; then the rest of the episode was about the alien, and they only picked it up at the end.
    • An episode of Turboranger subverts this. It seems to do this with the earlier problem of Youhei being poisoned by the monster of week being quickly overshadowed 5 minutes later by the fact that in attempts to recover the antidote for him Haruna received a blow to the skull and now thinks she's part of the bad guys with poor Youhei forgotten about. However it turns out Haruna was only fooling to get the antidote and both plots wind up tying together after all.
  • Law and Order Special Victims Unit is fond of this, especially as seasons continue. They often end up handling cases that only look sexual that change halfway in to something completely unrelated. They never bother to explain why the non-special victims case isn't handed to another department.
    • One example is the episode "Vulnerable", which starts out as a case about an old woman being sexually assaulted and turns into a tangentially related storyline about another, non-sexual victim in a nursing home where the first victim just happened to be.
    • One particularly bad example from recent memory was "Responsible" where the entire reason for SVU to be there was "We found her on a bed that had ejaculate on it" and any sexual motive was ruled out right after the opening credits so that the plot could dive into a pretty Narm-ful examination of teenage drinking.
      • I guess and this is kinda stretching it but it could be considered a child endangerment case (which is SVU territory if I remember) because they were minors.
    • An even worse one would be "Wildlife" where they were called to a case because a bodily fluid was found on a victim saliva. The murder weapon was described as a number of sharp uneven pointed things (obviously teeth) and there did not appear to be any sexual aspect to the crime. This did not stop them from investigating animal smugglers which resulted in them nearly blowing an FBI investigation getting an innocent man (and his pet tiger) eaten by wild hyenas and having Elliot shot (granted it was implied he took the case so he would not have to spend time with his family).
    • Possibly the weirdest, though, was the one that had what looked like a case of child molestation somehow turn out to actually be a Government Conspiracy to test new poisons on poor immigrants, essentially For the Evulz.
  • Due to the high unlikeliness of drawing out a single plot over 24 hours, 24 often switches plots midseason.
    • This was justified in the first season because they only had a 13 episode contract to start, so the plot begins at Midnight and every thread is resolved by 1PM. When the series was extended, they dropped in a Sequel Hook scene and continued the plot from there.
  • The first five or six episodes of Cougar Town are about Jules entering the world of the cougar, and after that, the show shifts to a more ensemble-y show about Jules and her family and friends.
  • Happens in a couple of Red Dwarf episodes, including the Series VIII finale: the first half is about how Lister & Kryten playing pranks on each other turns into a potentially lethal situation... then halfway through they discover that a virus is eating the ship, most of the crew evacuates, and our heroes have to cross into a mirror universe to find the antidote. This was set up at the very beginning of the episode, but most of the events from the first half have no effect on the second half.
    • In the episode "Emohawk: Polymorph II" it happens twice. First the crew is being chased by a rogue Space Corps police probe... this leads them to crash onto a Gelf moon, where they have to deal with the locals to fix their ship's oxygen system... this leads them to being back on the ship with the titular emohawk on the loose. Apart from the connections mentioned above, none of the previous parts have any effect on each new plot.
    • The first episode uses this, as well. The first half of the episode is a general snapshot of the routine on board the Dwarf and an introduction to some of the technology they have. The second half is, well... Everybody's Dead, Dave.
    • "Justice" begins with the crew finding a stasis pod drifting in space. They determine that it came from a Prison Ship and contains either a living human woman or an insane, murderous simulant - and it will open automatically in a matter of hours. They go to the prison station to learn more, only for the prison's AI to scan their minds and find Rimmer guilty of causing the accident that killed Red Dwarf's crew. Most of the episode is then devoted to getting Rimmer released. That done, they decide to head home...

The Cat: Come on, let's get out of here. I don't know what made us want to come to this hellhole in the first place!
Lister: (staring at the now-open pod) I do.

      • In the end, the key to defeating the new threat is in how Rimmer dealt with imprisonment.
  • Father Ted 's "A Christmassy Ted" starts off being about the characters getting prepared for Christmas, which involves getting lost in the largest lingerie section in Ireland. Halfway through the plot changes to being about Ted being eligible for a Golden Cleric award. Graham Linehan has admitted the plots would have worked better as separate episodes.
  • The Doctor Who serial The Seeds of Doom started as a The Thing-like story about three scientists in Antarctica recovering an alien plant and unwittingly causing great danger to the rest of Earth. The Doctor gets called in to help and arrives after one of the scientists is infected, with the resulting story apparently centering around the Doctor and Sarah having to work with the remaining scientists to stop the plant. By the second part, all three of the scientists have been killed and the base gets blown up, destroying the plant. The rest of the episode focuses on the Doctor and Sarah Jane trying to stop a second plant that's now in the possession of a mad herbologist living in an estate in England.
  • The two-part finale of the second season of 3rd Rock from the Sun is about the aliens experiencing dreams for the first time (with elaborate, Three Dimensional Dream Sequences) and thinking they're going mad. This ends up as a season-ending Cliff Hanger in which Sally, Tommy, and Harry have left Earth without Dick. When they return at the start of the next season, they've brought another alien (Roseanne Barr) who has been assigned Dick's wife by the Big Giant Head. The rest of the two-part season premiere is about this storyline. So essentially, it's a four-part episode in which the first two parts are about something completely different than the concluding two parts.
  • The plot of Kamen Rider Decade, where Decade is the destroyer of worlds, is outlined in the first episode. The rest of the series is about Tsukasa visiting alternate Rider worlds and solving their problem of the week, all the while wondering why people think he's the "destroyer of worlds." We don't actually get back to that plot until the last episodes and the second movie. The first movie and some of the last episodes didn't exactly help as they introduced a new plot in the form of Dai-Shocker.


  • Tom Lehrer's song Poisoning Pigeons in the Park starts out as your typical ballad about the wonders of spring... and then in the first chorus suddenly moves on to being about, well, poisoning pigeons in the park.
    • Also I Hold Your Hand In Mine which starts out like a regular love song but then reveals that the hand isn't attached to her body.
  • The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" is the ultimate Halfway Plot Switch song. Paul even confesses that the middle part was a piano piece that he was initially working on independently.
  • "Charming Weather" from Lionel Monckton's The Arcadians. It starts off obviously leading into a marriage proposal - until they realise they aren't alone, and it turns into banal smalltalk for the chorus. Unusual since, being music, it can do it all over a second time. Youtube has a rather badly performed recording of it.
  • Katrinah Jospehina by Universal Hall Pass. The first half of the song is the tale of a girl (the eponymous Katrinah) who decided to explore beneath the earth. The second half consists of a twisted, echoing beat accompanying backwards-sounding fragments of the lyrics. This change is never really explained, but it's heavily implied that Katrinah is either mentally ill or trapped in hell... or both.
  • Arlo Guthrie starts out "|The Alice's Restaurant Massacree" by telling about how he was arrested for littering on Thanksgiving, but he switches halfway through to talk about going to visit the draft board. Eventually it all ties together.
  • Gorillaz's Empire Ants song, in the new Plastic Beach album. It starts with 2D singing, backed by sweet almost lift-like tropical tunes. Then, full stop, and it starts what appears a new song, with electro-techno sounds, bass, and even new vocals, from guest artist Little Dragon. And it's awesome.
  • "Miserable Lie" by The Smiths seems constructed out of three separate songs, opening with a slow, gentle, serious introduction that seems to represent the end of a relationship. The song then turns on a dime to an uptempo number with a series of bitter, (yet comical) stream-of-consciousness lyrics. This shift in tone gets escalated to a manic level in the final part of the track, as Morrissey switches to a falsetto voice, howling about his perceived inadequacies in life and love. It can be argued that the theme of the lyrics stays constant, but then again, said theme is dominant in most of The Smiths' songs, as well as Morrissey's solo work.
  • The Good, The Bad and The Queen's song, Three Changes. It doesn't take a genius to see why it's named like that. The song starts and goes all well, up after the second chorus, and it switches to a latin-like song, and later, it changes into a slower and minimalistic version of the first part.
    • So there's only two changes?
  • The first half of Laserdance's 1995 album The Guardian of Forever is the same style as the previous two albums, but halfway through it undergoes a total Genre Shift to tech-trance.

Newspaper Comics

  • FoxTrot uses this sometimes.
    • One 1995 story had Jason entering a chess contest with Roger and wins $50, thus turning the story into Jason using the money to taunt his siblings. Then, the plot shifts to Jason spending all his money on 5,000 gumballs, which he eats all in one weekend. THEN, the plot shifts to Jason getting his first cavity as a result of eating all the gumballs, before finally leading up to Jason's first dentist visit.
      • Probably a bigger one occurred in 1999, with a big story of Roger going on a business trip out of state, then returning home to find Jason in stitches following a Hot Wheels accident. After two days focusing on Jason and his stitches, the plot switches to Roger quitting work to spend more time with his family. He then gets scammed out of $199.99 in an infomercial. He then tries trading stocks on the internet, and winds up losing $11,000 in the second hour (after earning $3,000 in the first hour). After everyone at Roger's work goes crazy without Roger there to mess things up, he finally gets his job back and everything is back to normal.
  • A Calvin and Hobbes story had Calvin and Hobbes creating their G.R.O.S.S club and then accidentally pushing Calvin's mother's car out of the garage, leading to the duo running away from home.
    • In another arc, Calvin is trying to do his homework when gravity reverses, causing him to get stuck on the ceiling. Just after everything reverts to normal, he starts to grow bigger and bigger until he falls off the Milky Way Galaxy. As he puts it, "this has been a very peculiar afternoon."
  • A Heart of the City seven-week arc started with Dean mourning the end of Star Wars, and ended with Heart dreaming she was in summer school. It starts here.

Recorded and Stand Up Comedy

  • "Buck Buck", one of Bill Cosby's routines from his stand-up days. The first half is about Buck Buck, a game in which one group of kids gets jumped on by another and tries not to fall down (Bill's team is good on defense, but their real secret weapon is Fat Albert). It then segues into a story about young Cosby and Fat Albert getting scared by their friends with the help of a Frankenstein statue. Originated the line "I told you that story to tell you this one", which has become a stock phrase sometimes used as a Lampshade Hanging.

Tabletop Games

  • Fantasy Games Unlimited's Year of the Phoenix. The players are told to create astronaut characters for a science fiction/space game. Partway through the first adventure the game suddenly changes to an After the End saga in Soviet controlled America 200 years later.
  • A Lesser Shade Of Evil seems inordinately fond of this idea (non-Game Masters are asked not to even read the book's introduction), especially given that the "switch" happens during the first session. Players are asked to make Exalted-esque demigods in a High Fantasy setting... only to learn during a centuries-spanning fast forward that there is no magic in this world, all their powers come from genetic engineering, the people who chose them for this duty are having a falling out, and the results of this falling out lead to an After the End setting in which the Player Characters have mastered a variety of scientific principles and must use them to help humanity cling to life. Whew.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Adventure S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks starts off as a standard "clean out the monster filled dungeon" scenario. After the Player Characters enter, they discover that the dungeon is actually part of a derelict spacecraft and they're fighting alien monsters armed with high tech weapons.


  • The play Done to Death. Act 1 is all about meeting the 5 lead characters and setting up their writing styles and the show's fantasy sequences. Then there is a sudden death at the end of Act 1. Act 2 is then all about solving the murders.

Video Games

  • The mother of them all, Metal Gear Solid 2. The player spends roughly the first two hours playing as Solid Snake, the protagonist from the previous game. Then the plot moves forward two years, to a different location, with the player in control of an entirely new character (ambiguously implied to be Snake for the first few minutes) for the rest of the game. The game's creator, Hideo Kojima, went out of his way to minimise the risk of anyone seeing this twist coming.. Some thought the twist was brilliant. Some wanted Kojima's head on a stake.
  • Guild Wars Prophecies starts of as the story of a war between the human kingdom of Ascalon and the Charr that's not going well for Ascalon. You leave Ascalon after the fourth mission, and most of the rest of the story is about a religious war in rival kingdom Kryta. After the first few quests in Kryta, Ascalon and its refugees are only occasionally mentioned, and even then only in passing. (Ascalon's King Adelbern lampshades this in the endgame area: "Maybe now that you are finished with this nonsense, you can come back to Ascalon and help deal with the filthy Charr infestation.") To be fair, it does all tie together pretty well from a Myth Arc perspective.
  • Star Oceans 2 and 3 featured this. Halfway into the second game, the planet you're on (and its relevant prophecy) is essentially destroyed, throwing away nearly the entirety of the plot that preceded this event. In addition, halfway into the 3rd title, you come to realize that the entire universe you live in is a computer simulation, pretty much throwing away the entire "war" plotline that had been going up 'till then.
  • Xenogears. At first, the plot is about two nations that have waged war on each other for generations. Then, the plot changes to overthrowing Solaris, a hidden country which ruthlessly manipulates world events behind the scenes. After that, the plot switches to killing god (not the God, who is also in the game and apparently being used as an extremely long-lasting battery, but a sentient interstellar war machine that created humans on the planet to serve as its biological components).
  • Happens more than once during the course of Chrono Cross. The game starts with Serge finding himself in another world where he died as a child, and needing to figure out how and why it happened. Then Serge's body gets switched with Lynx and you need to find a way to undo it. Then you finally defeat the guy who's been presented as the Big Bad most of the game, only for the dragon gods to merge together to form the "Time Devourer" resulting in another Big Bad to face who has nothing to do with the first. Then you defeat that Big Bad, and discover you have to save Schala from the true Time Devourer, who was manipulating the false one.
  • The Stealth Based Game Spy Fiction starts off as a campy spy game about secret agents investigating a virus being made by a weapons manufacturer. Then these characters are all killed off and the last half of the plot is about fighting a terrorist who's disguising himself by wearing glasses and pushing his hair back who is the protagonist's brother who was probably created in a government soldier cloning project and then the protagonist's father (who is a secret agent turned terrorist and wears an eyepatch) shows up out of nowhere and the protagonist abruptly starts lecturing people about the meaning of war and... I guess they knew their audience.
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 starts with Nick Fury invading Latveria illegally, which leads to the Registration act coming into effect. A super hero Civil War breaks out... for three missions. Then it is dropped for The Fold, a sentient network formed from nanites injected into super villains in order to control them. As the world descends into chaos, everyone, naturally, stops caring about whose side they are on, and both forces unite to defeat The Fold. Afterwards, the Registration Act is pretty much made redundant and void by the Government. Despite the fact that no one actually dies because of their conflict, and neither side really does anything incredibly bad to the other, Cap and Iron Man feel that their team won't be quite the same as it was before the war. But they still are happy to work with one another again.
  • Disgaea. The first half of the game focuses on Laharl's quest to claim his throne. After he succeeds, the second half, a Space Opera spoof, focuses on the human world. When the mastermind behind the invasion is revealed, it leads to a Rage Against the Heavens story, and the two stories intertwine together.
  • The whole Blorbs disease in Mario And Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. It was at the start an important issue alongside the whole 'Fawful taking over the kingdom' thing, but very quickly got dropped and rarely ever mentioned again (the last reference is how the Miracle Cure cured all cases of the disease in the kingdom, just as it smashes down the Dark Star barriers).
  • Final Fantasy tends to do this a lot, beginning the plot with the heroes rebelling against The Empire and escalating it to averting an Apocalypse How caused by an Omnicidal Maniac
    • Final Fantasy IV begins with a rogue knight rebelling against his kingdom when he realizes the monarch has gone mad with power and is trying to conquer the world. At some point it becomes about fighting the monarch's airship general who wants to go to the moon to release the Sealed Evil in a Can there.
    • Final Fantasy VI starts off as a campaign against the Gestahlian Empire until halfway through, The Dragon becomes a god and destroys half the world, leaving you to recover your lost allies and destroy him.
    • Final Fantasy VII begins with Cloud and AVALANCHE's brave struggle against the evil Shinra company executives, who are draining the life out of the planet to maintain an electricity monopoly. About five hours into the game President Shinra is killed and the Shinra's relevance to the plot dies with him, the focus then shifting to leaving Midgar to pursue Sephiroth across the planet and stop his scheme to summon Meteor and become a god.
    • Final Fantasy VIII has a very, very clear line in its plot where the focus shifts completely. The first two disks of the game consist of Squall and the forces of SeeD battling Sorceress Edea and Rival Turned Evil Seifer as they use the country of Galbadia to try and conquer the world. The very first event after Disk 2 is The Reveal that Edea was just Brainwashed and Crazy, and the real antagonist is Ultmecia, a Sorceress in the future who wants to destroy the entire space-time continuum. That's in terms of the overarcing plot—otherwise focus from this point shifts to Squall searching for a way to get his comatose love interest Rinoa back to normal.
    • Final Fantasy IX, the first part of the game focuses on Queen Brahne's conquest of the continent, the plot switch occurs when the party decides to go after Kuja, Brahne's weapons supplier, and he becomes the main antagonist when he promptly offs her at the end of the current disk. A plot switch then occurs a second time with The Reveal that Kuja is an alien from Terra sent by Garland to destroy the world, and Zidane was meant to be his successor and spiritually is his brother that Kuja abandoned on Gaia.
    • Mostly averted in Final Fantasy X, where the overarcing plot is always the pilgrimage to destroy Sin. Once Seymour is revealed as an antagonist, rebelling against Yevon and uncovering the secrets of the organization becomes another major plot point, but it never overtakes the fight against Sin as the game's focus.
  • Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath starts off with The Stranger as a Bounty Hunter who's earning money for an unspecified operation needed to save his life by capturing outlaws until he's finally captured and stripped of any upgrades he has. His captors soon find out that The Stranger is actually a Steef, a species that have been hunted to near-extinction and the operation is an attempt to transform him into a true bipedal creature. With this revelation, The Stranger is now hunted down by everyone, including the Clakkerz he used to do business with. However, he soon comes across the Grubbs, the oppressed indigenous population who worship Steefs and eventually takes up the mantle of their protector and fights to bring down Corrupt Corporate Executive Sekto. This affects the gameplay as well since although Stranger has now lost any health upgrades he previously bought, he later gains access to upgraded versions of his ammo and now that he is no longer a bounty hunter, he no longer needs to take enemies alive.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn the children of the last two games heroes go on a quest to investigate mysterious Psynergy sucking vortexes. This gets derailed by the appearance of villains, war hungry countries, xenophobic semi-human cities, and so much else. After about a quarter of the game, you hear nothing about them until the Mother of all Vortexes appear at during the ending, Oh Crap.
  • Perfect Dark switches half-way from Cyberpunk to Space Opera.
  • World of Warcraft's Vashj'ir zone. In the wake of the Cataclysm, a new island is formed several miles off the coast of Stormwind. Both factions begin sending troops, with the Alliance seeking to secure Stormwind's coast and the Horde wanting the island as a staging point for an attack. However, on the way there, the Player Character's ship is attacked and destroyed by the Kraken-like Ozumat, and from then on Vashj'ir is about helping the Earthen Ring fight Ozumat and the Naga. Exactly what happened to the island is never explained, and while you can travel to it, other than a flightmaster there's nothing there.
  • Zig-zagged in the first case of Ace Attorney Investigations 2. It begins with an asassination attempt on the president of a foreign country, with Edgeworth looking for the perpetrator. About halfway through, you find out that the president is fine, but one of his bodyguards has been found dead, shifting the case to a more traditional murder investigation as per the rest of the series. Then you learn that the asassination attempt was staged, and the murder plotline is put on hold until you can prove it. Afterwards, theb murder plot resumes, but at the end of the case you find out that, amidst the fake asassination, someone planned to kill the president for real, setting up a Sequel Hook for the next four cases.
  • Dark Souls starts out implying that the player is trying to cure the Darksign, but halfway through the game after ringing the Twin Bells of Awakening, the story switches from focusing curing undeath and instead about an Ancient Conspiracy and the Forever War regarding the First Flame. This event even has its own Sacrificial Lion.

Web Comics

  • When it began, Ciem was about how Candi was different from other girls. Then, it was about her sister being murdered. Then, it was about her going to college. Then, trying to find love. Then, it was about her sexual frustrations. Then it was about some guy in a shrew costume murdering everyone. Then, it was about her finding true love again. Ciem 2 is about where Miriam's been hiding the whole time. The plot changes at least as many times as she changes hairstyles.
  • In the popular The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, an entire story arc (part 2 in a 4-part mega-arc) is based on this storytelling format, to the extent that it is called "I Told You That Story So I Could Tell You This One". The stories concerned are the titular main character's dilemma when every person he ever killed returns as a zombie to plague him, which leads into an exploration of his family and his sidekick's family when he leaves his sidekick to stay with them instead of bothering him.
  • YU+ME: dream. Goes from a very typical Coming Out Story about a girl named Fiona who goes to a Catholic high school and falls in love with another girl called Lia, to finding out that it was all a dream, Lia is 900 years old, has been captured by the Queen of Dreams and now Fiona, a bear called Mrs Butterfield, a woman with a removable head, Fiona's conscience, a blue haired girl called Clandestine, and a bisexual male called Don must travel through Fiona's dreams to get her back. You... you have to read it to wrap your head around it.
  • Close to being standard practice for Mountain Time, such as here, when the plot switches to an entirely new set of characters in a completely different scenario, and much more pronounced in longer story arcs like this one.

Web Original

  • The Angry Video Game Nerd's review of Super Mario Bros 3 starts with a normal review of the Wizard and SMB 3... until he starts pointing out satanic references in the game. After that... well... let's just say that all hell breaks loose. Literally.
  • Bonus Stage did this constantly.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons is to this trope what Family Guy is to Manatee Gags, and listing all the examples would be pointless for the same reason. But here are some highlights:
    • The Lampshade Hanging page quote comes from the episode "Simpson Safari", just as the family is about to go over Victoria Falls in southern Africa.
    • Lampshaded again in one episode which was about a badger invading the Simpsons' back yard, until Homer tried to call animal control, at which point the plot became about area codes. This then dovetails into the town splitting into two halves, Homer becoming the mayor of his side of town, and climaxes with a concert by The Who, of all things. When the badger comes back, Homer is able to casually wave it off since it is now just interfering with the plot:

Homer: Go away! We have bigger problems now!

    • One recent example is Homer being too sick to blow out candles which causes a fire which causes the family to get a fire-proof safe in which the family album is burned which causes them to retake all of their photos in which they take a picture of a celebrity scandal and become paparazzi. * gasp* Not one full storyline, but bits and pieces of several others. Like the extra bits of the cow they sweep off the slaughterhouse floor to make hotdogs.
    • "Tennis the Menace" opens with Grandpa winning a free autopsy when he dies. This simply provides the buildup to Homer buying a tennis court.

Homer: I bet you didn't see that coming.

    • A notably clever use of this is the episode "Jazzy and the Pussycats", Bart takes up the drums. At a jazz brunch, he overshadows Lisa's performance, making her envious. To make her feel better, Marge lets her adopt a puppy from the animal shelter. This springboards into her rescuing lots of abandoned animals, including former circus tigers. Then one of the tigers bites Bart's arm, stopping him from playing the drums again.

Lisa: All I wanted was to save those animals while Bart became a drummer, but I never thought the two stories would intersect!

    • One of the show's most infamous examples of this came when Maude Flanders died. The episode jumped tracks from the Simpsons taking a nature walk to them having a day out at a racetrack, then Maude died in an accident, and the episode became one about Ned coping with his loss. Then another plot switch came about thirty seconds later, and the rest of the episode was devoted to Homer's wacky attempts at setting up Flanders with a new girlfriend.
    • Lampshaded in Brawl in the Family the first bit involves a social worker fixing the family's problems. By the time they've resolved it, Lisa wonders it was the "end of our series...of adventures". They then meet with Homer's Vegas wife from a few seasons ago.
    • Two particularly glaring examples are "Homer The Moe" and "Crook And Ladder" For the former, the story begins with Bart digging a hole for some inexplicable reason, which turns out to be one of Homer's crazy bar stories, then the plot becomes about Moe losing passion for bartending and returning to college while Homer takes over the bar, then the story takes another shift with Moe remodeling the bar into an upscale nightclub and alienating himself from Homer, Lenny and Carl, then Homer opens his own bar in his garage and finally the plot hinted at in the episode title gets started 2/3s through the episode.
    • The plot of "Crook And Ladder" starts with Marge taking away Maggie's pacifier and Maggie destroying the house as a result, then Maggie gets calmed down with Santa's Little Helper's squeaky dog toy, only the squeaking leads to Homer being unable to sleep, so he takes sleeping pills and becomes a "zombie" of sorts and Bart and Milhouse take advantage of him, which then Homer accidentally crashing into the fire department and injuring all the volunteer firefighters, and FINALLY the main plot of Homer and his friends becoming firefighters gets under way.
  • Family Guy loves it too. In one episode, they go through four six plots in rapid succession: Peter ruins his suit, and buys some adult-size footy pajamas, he becomes a faux-superhero by rubbing his feet on the carpet and shocking people, a fed-up Lois rips up all the carpet in the house, and finds a coin worth a lot of money, which the Griffins use to open a restaurant, the restaurant then becomes a favorite of crippled people, Peter bans the cripples and fights against them and then becomes crippled himself. The remainder of the plot is devoted to him coming to terms with being in a wheelchair and apologizing to Joe for banning him.
    • Lampshaded in one episode. Peter takes Brian to the vet and gets the ownership of a parrot while there, which inspires him to become a pirate, and he finds three pirate buddies. They attack a car filled with spices, and the parrot dies in the resulting fight. Chris, who has a crush on the receptionist, tells her Peter will just find some other wacky adventure. Indeed, he finds a pipe organ immediately, and when he breaks that ten seconds later, the deeds to a cattle ranch. The rest of the episode ignored Peter's hijinks in favor Chris's relationship with her. To make matters worse, this particular episode is named "Long John Peter" and the promotional poster makes the pirate-theme out to be the main focus of the episode.
    • Lampshaded again, this time averted, in "Welcome back, Carter", an episode which mostly sticks to one plot. After repairing the relationship between Lois' parents, and in the last five seconds, Peter exclaims, "Hey, I found a magic lamp! No? Maybe next episode."
    • In another episode, Peter "accidentally" kills Quagmire's cat. On the way to burying it and hiding the evidence, Peter and Brian are stopped by a cop, who is completely oblivious to the dead cat and the shovel in the back, but charges Brian with possession of marijuana. The rest of the episode is about Brian trying to get marijuana legalized. Lampshaded at the very end, when Peter goes to Quagmire's house and tells him that his cat is dead and then leaves; the audience had most likely already forgotten about the cat by that point.
    • "I Dream of Jesus" starts with Peter being obsessed with his Surfin' Bird record and annoying everyone with it until Brian and Stewie steal and destroy it. Peter goes to a record store to find a replacement and finds Jesus working at the register. Following that scene, Surfin' Bird is never brought up again until the very end.
  • An episode of The Jetsons did this, with the first half featuring a plot about George trying to get the day off from Mr Spacely and the second half befriending a bunch of alien circus fleas.
  • Futurama does this now and then. In "The Cryonic Woman", the first part of the episode was about Fry, Bender and Leela losing their jobs at Planet Express, but that plot was dropped in favor of Fry's reunion with his old girlfriend. The Reset Button issue of getting their jobs back was only picked up at the end.
    • Far more obvious in Bender's Game. The first two episode-length quarters are about the Planet Express crew trying to stop Mom from getting a special die. The second two quarters are pretty much the same plot again, in the crazy D&D reality that Bender's accidentally created.
  • Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy did this almost all the time, giving the impression that the viewer wasn't watching just a 11 minute show, but a brief snapshot of the Eds' lives, implying that this sort of thing goes on 24-7.
  • The second episode of Clone High, "Episode Two: Election Blu-Galoo". The whole episode centers around the student body presidential election, but the only reason JFK runs is to abolish term limits and reinstate Cleopatra. By the time Abe enters the race, JFK and Cleo's plan is completely discarded for the story of Abe and JFK's competition for Cleo's affection. By the end of the episode Cleo's presidential ambitions have evaporated in favour of seducing whoever's in office, a plotline abandoned within the first two minutes of the next episode.
  • Two animated shorts from House of Mouse starring Goofy are like this: One short, called "How to be a Waiter", is actually about Goofy becoming an actor as a result of him being tired of being a waiter (ironically, at the end of the short, it's revealed that the first character Goofy played in his entire film career is yes, a waiter), while another, called "How to Wash Dishes", is actually about Goofy using a credit card to go on vacation as a result of him being tired of washing dishes. However, at the end of the short, Goofy uses up his entire credit card money, and as a result he had to make up the lost money by yes, washing dishes.
  • Tom and Jerry: The Movie starts off as an hour-and-a-half long Tom and Jerry cartoon. But when Puggsy shows up, things start to go downhill...
  • The Fairly OddParents: School's Out The Musical switches plots, like, four or five times. It starts out about Timmy on summer vacation...okay, then it's about his parents trying to send him to a boring camp, that's still related...but wait, now it's about kid's ruling the world? And now it's about the Pixies taking over Fairyworld? And half of it's about some business guy who's actually a clown? What?
  • Sonic Underground used and invoked this in "Wedding Bell Blues." Since Queen Aleena didn't show for her forced marriage to Robotnik, they'll instead crown Sonia queen in her stead—with Robotnik as the real power.
  • In one episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie go on a pranking spree. You may think the outcome will be that one prank goes too far or something, but soon an old friend of Rainbow Dash comes back and the rest of the episode is focused on her.