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A character who should be here isn't here, and the extent of acknowledgment of the absence is limited to a few lines in the dialog, as if to say, "Yeah, we know s/he's not here, so here's an explanation and let's move on." (Well, usually we get some sort of explanation for the absence...)

Prevalent in movie sequels, when casting is just too lazy to rehire the actor of a significant character and don't feel like trotting out The Poor Mans Substitute. (Or they are trotting him out, but as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute.)

Compare Absentee Actor, where no explanation is given for the actor's absence (especially when their presence would likely be crucial to the plot.) A few of these are justified in that the actor died in the interim (and some are categorized in Author Existence Failure). Also compare Not Important to This Episode Camp, where the character isn't there because they aren't important to the plot.

Examples also exist in regular TV series, and often in this case the absence is only temporary. This is often an excuse to bring in a Temporary Substitute in live-action, but some just acknowledge the absence and move on, especially in Animated Series.

Often a case of Real Life Writes the Plot.

Examples of Written in Absence include:

Anime and Manga

  • During the Pain Invasion Arc in Naruto, an ANBU named Ko Hyuuga mentions to Hinata that Hiashi and Hanabi are out of town on a mission, which is relevant since the original Ino-Shika-Cho trio is actively involved in the battle, and is Kiba's mom.
  • A truly bizarre case is the second story of the Urusei Yatsura manga, which is the only story in the manga that doesn't contain Lum at all. In fact, Lum is not even mentioned, and Shinobu takes her place in the story.
    • Not bizarre at all when you consider that Ataru is the actual protagonist, was meant to be the actual "star" of the manga, and that that he was originally supposed to be in an OTP with Shinobu. Takahashi originally wanted UY to be an anthology revolving around Ataru, with Lum as a throwaway gag character for that story. but Lum became the most popular character in the series and so, barring one other story, she figured in all of the manga. (this is also why for the first year or so, Lum is a lot more malicious in the manga than the later sweet-with-a-twist-of-Tsundere character she became... it seems that Takahashi toyed with making her at best an antagonist, at worst, a borderline villain before realizing that just didn't work.)


  • The Cheetah Girls: Raven-Symone's character Galleria goes off to college in the third movie, mainly because she didn't want to play her anymore.
  • Back to The Future 2 had its entire plot reworked when Christopher Glover wanted too much money to reprise his role as Marty's father. Instead of a trip to the 60s (where George was a flower child), we go to the 80s where Biff had become extremely wealthy thanks to a certain book.
  • Men in Black 2: Jay (Will Smith) and his boss (Rip Torn) are talking about how Jay is burning through partners really fast. Somewhere in there, Jay says "You can't count L. She wanted to go back to the morgue." L, played by Linda Fiorentino, had been first shown as a morgue worker, then shown as Jay's partner at the end of the first movie, and then carried over to the Animated Series.
  • The Klumps, sequel to the Nutty Professor remake with Eddie Murphy: This one has a lab hand talking about Sherman Klump's (Murphy) previous partner/love interest (Jada Pinkett) transferring to another university. Janet Jackson serves as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute for Jada as his new partner/love interest.
  • XXX: State of the Union: In another case of The Poor Mans Substitute as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, Ice Cube gets the job previously held by Vin Diesel, and we're told that the Vin Diesel version has died in a jet-skiing accident. The end of the film even has the government already searching for a new one.
  • Early in Ocean's Thirteen, we're told that Tess (Julia Roberts) and Isabel (Catherine Zeta-Jones) aren't participating in this caper because "it's not their fight."
  • In Batman Returns, we're informed that Vicki Vale (previous love interest) couldn't handle Bruce's dual life and left him.
  • Another justified example is in Species II where Dan Smithson is said to be unwilling to help track another alien, having been deeply disturbed by the events of the first movie. In reality, Forrest Whitaker was unable or unwilling to appear in the sequel.
  • Partly avoided in the second Austin Powers film, where we actually see the departure of Austin's wife (Liz Hurley, who gets an opening credit mention despite leaving exploding before the opening credits) and are told she was a robot all along.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull features Indy talking about how his father and Marcus have both died in the last year. Denholm Elliot, who played Marcus, died shortly after the third film was released. Sean Connery is still alive, but retired from acting and turned down a chance at a cameo. Indy's father being dead is also an especially egregrious explaination when one remembers how his dad survived the third movie.
    • Not really. The immortality the Holy Grail provided only worked within the shrine, as the Knight cautioned. Since Jones, Sr. left the bounds of the shrine, he remained mortal.
  • This happens in Hellboy II, when Liz explains the reason John Meyers (from the first movie) is gone is because Red had him transferred to Antarctica.
  • In Terminator 3, it is said that Sarah Connor died of leukemia in 1997. The actress, Linda Hamilton, however, would not play a part anyway because she felt that T2 was the proper ending and there was no reason for shooting more pictures on the franchise.
  • Tank of The Matrix was said to have died between it and Matrix: Reloaded (by Tank's sister, Zee, who said she lost two brothers on the Nebuchadnezzar) after Marcus Chong's salary demands and conflicts with the Wachowski brothers lead to him being fired.
    • Also, The Nth Doctor-ing of The Oracle and its justification in Revolutions are both due to Gloria Foster's death.
  • Roy Scheider's absence from Jaws the Revenge was explained by saying that his character, Martin Brody, had died of a heart attack between movies. His wife says he died from fear though...
  • After the death of Anita Mui, her character in House of Flying Daggers was written out of the film almost entirely, only appearing in one scene played by an anonymous actress with her face covered. Director Zhang Yimou had felt it would be disrespectful to simply recast the role.
  • Megan Fox was fired during production of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, so Sam got a new girlfriend named Carly and Wheelie offhandedly mentioned that Mikaela dumped him.
  • In 1984's Supergirl, the producers couldn't get Christopher Reeve to make a cameo appearance, so the movie includes a radio news report that Superman has just left Earth on an intergalactic peacekeeping mission. Reeve's Superman does briefly appear once in the movie (sort of), as a poster in Lucy Lane's dorm room.
  • The Hudson Hornet Memorial Piston Cup.
  • Natalie Portman was unavailable for The Avengers due to pregnancy. Her absence was explained as Jane Foster being transferred to a secure location in an observatory for her protection after the villain abducts one of her colleagues, and it never came up again.

Live Action TV

  • An especially poignant example occurs in Dad's Army, in which Captain Mainwaring reads out a note left by Private Walker to excuse his absence — the actor who portrayed Walker, James Beck, had fallen into a coma before the episode had filmed and passed away, meaning that he never returned.
  • In one episode of Stargate SG-1, Bad Guys, Sam Carter was absent from the team. One of the characters explained that she was in Washington briefing the President about the events in a previous episode. Bad Guys hinged on the fact that the team couldn't get the Stargate working and had she been present, the episode would have lasted all of ten minutes (the time for her to hook up her Naquadah generator). So it was a good thing overall.
    • Sam was also absent from the first few episodes of season 9, appearing only briefly by video feed, to accommodate Amanda Tapping's pregnancy.
    • When Michael Shanks wasn't available to film an episode due to appendicitis, the writers had to explain why his character Daniel didn't accompany the team on mission. Showing some very straightforward thinking, they decided that Daniel had appendicitis too. Interestingly, he is still recovering in the beginning of the next season, filmed months later, but set a few weeks in the future.
    • Other episodes will explain Daniel being on a dig on another planet if he shouldn't be in all or most of an episode. Teal'c will go to spend time with the Jaffa army for the same reasons. Of course, Teal'c has a nearly perfect attendance record in terms of actually appearing in the episodes (only missing one episode in season 8). Other episodes which didn't involve him actually showed him leaving or coming back.
    • Parodied in "200" — when one of the leads for Wormhole Extreme looks like he could be an Absentee Actor, the SG-1 crew suggests they write his character as turning invisible — and use fake flashbacks of this happening to O'Neill to set the precedent.
  • ICarly: Sam is absent in iWon't Cancel the Show. It is mentioned that she is in juvie for shoving a hot chili dog down a foreign dignitary's pants. In this case, though, her absence is pivotal to the episode's plot.
    • The actor that plays Gibby is the only main cast member still under 18 and can't work as many hours per day during shooting. This normally leads to his character mentioning how he has to leave all of a sudden (usually making a comical exit) halfway during scenes that he initially was slated to have lines in the entire scene. While his original lines are rewritten for someone else such as Freddie or Sam to say.
      • Sometimes if an episode runs long, they will edit a scene out that Gibby was supposed to do on the webshow, from the actual episode. The writers will then have the other characters mention how they plan to cut Gibby from that week's webshow. Occasionally Hilarity Ensues.
    • Carly was sent off to take care of her grandfather in Yakima and only seen at the beginning and end of the episode. This was because Miranda Cosgrove had broken her ankle in a bus accident while touring and had not healed enough yet.
  • Star Redd Foxx got in a salary dispute with the producers of Sanford and Son during its fourth season and was said to be gone to St. Louis for funeral. Said funeral apparently lasted a few months. Luckily, the supporting cast, especially Grady, was more than capable of filling the void and Foxx returned for the final two seasons before his (and costar Demond Wilson's) salary dispute killed the show for good.
  • The Frasier episode "Cheerful Goodbyes" had Frasier and his family attending the retirement party of Cliff Clavin, Frasier's old friend from Cheers. The party was not at Cheers but somewhere else, and only Norm, Carla and a few of the recurrers were at the party. Sam and the Cheers bar itself were explained away by Sam hosting a Red Sox reunion at Cheers that night, and thus unable to make it.
    • Kelsey Grammer missed the episode "Head Game" because he was in rehab. Niles took Frasier's place starring in the episode — an introductory scene with both characters was recorded later.
  • Shepherd Book was absent from one episode of Firefly; the explanation given was that he was off meditating.
    • Zoe's injury in "Out of Gas" was contrived so Gina Torres could get away for her marriage to Laurence Fishburne.
  • By the second season of Farscape, Virginia Hey, the actress who portrayed Zhaan, had bad reactions to her extensive makeup. Zhaan eventually decided to focus on her spiritual training, allowing her to spend a lot of time meditating while the rest of the crew got themselves in trouble. Zhaan is eventually killed off by having her sacrifice herself to save the ship and crew.
  • Helga Geerhart was absent from two episodes of Allo Allo. Her absence was filled by a terrifying woman called Elsa Bigstern.
    • Two other characters, Maria the Short Waitress and Captain Alberto Bertorelli, had their disappearances explained away in a similarly perfunctory manner — Maria, in an effort to escape a Nazi POW camp where she was hiding while in drag accidentally mailed herself to Switzerland; and when the Italians dropped out of WWII, Captain Bertorelli disappeared (perhaps back home, perhaps shot by the Nazis — the exact nature of his vanishing is left vague).
    • Herr Flick is missing from the epilogue, without any explanations. Though seeing that he worked for the Gestapo...
  • A season premiere for Sabrina the Teenage Witch has Sabrina (and her aunts) getting ready for Valerie, one of her prominent classmates from last season, to move in, but then later receiving a call from her and finding out that Valerie's staying in Alaska.
  • Quite a few episodes from season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer needed some mention of why Joyce wasn't around, as Joss Whedon got second thoughts about killing her off, and then had to work around the schedule she had set up thinking she would be off the show that season.
    • Prior to her Face Heel Turn, Faith did not appear in several episodes in Season 3 when her presence would have made quite a bit of sense. One episode described her as being on a "walkabout", which is more than was given for any of the other absences.
  • In the Angel episode "Destiny" (season 5), Angel and Spike have a conversation in the teaser where Spike's asking for an office, and asks if he can just take Wesley's because Wesley's gone. Angel retorts that he's not gone, he's taking a leave of absence, which was given the in-universe justification that he had thought he had killed his father in the previous ep "Lineage". In real life, Wesley's actor Alexis Denisof was having his wedding with Alyson Hannigan.
  • During the filming of series four of Only Fools and Horses, Lennard Pierce (Grandad) was suddenly taken into hospital, which was explained by having a character ask after the missing Grandad's health. Pierce then died; in the next episode, Grandad's funeral is held and he is replaced by his brother, Uncle Albert.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit does a variation on this a lot, with characters appearing in the first five minutes and being told to handle paperwork for an active case (or in Stabler's case, something involving his family), and the partner doing the rounds with Munch instead.
  • M* A* S* H did this occasionally; Father Mulcahy would be visiting the orphanage or someone would be on leave.
    • Radar spent an unusually large amount of time "away on R&R" in the character's last couple of seasons, due to actor Gary Burghoff's contractually-limited appearances.
  • In a non-temporary example, perhaps the weirdest subversion of this in the history of ever came in the third season of Due South. When David Marciano left the show, his character, Ray Vecchio, was actually recast...with a replacement character who, at first, shared the same name. His replacement was actually supposed to be an undercover cop pretending to be him, while they explained that the real Vecchio was undercover elsewhere. (If you can think of a weirder way to explain in-story why an actor is gone, I would be very interested to hear it.)
  • The direct-to-video release of Babylon 5: The Lost Tales, attempted this on a grand scale. Set ten years after the end of the series, the only original cast members it features are John Sheridan and Captain Elizabeth Lockley. Dr. Franklin and G'Kar, whose actors had died in the interim, are explained as having gone "beyond the Rim". Delenn has remained back on Minbar, and almost all the other cast members receive brief explanations of their current status.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the first 6 seasons of the classic series, the actors playing the Doctor and his companions were often given a week or two off per season, due to the long, frenetic, stressful filming schedule (40 to 44 episodes a year). Since the characters travel randomly throughout time and space, they can't just go on vacation. So the reasons for missing an episode or two vary--sometimes they're held hostage and/or prisoner, a few times the Doctor was in a coma (played by a double, from the back), once he was being put into permanent suspended animation, once a Sufficiently Advanced Alien made him invisible. (Brief pre-filmed scenes were also used.)
    • In the modern revival, they've had a few "Doctor-lite" episodes where it focuses on someone who has never been seen on the TV show, to give the Doctor and his companion some time to film the Christmas specials.
      • Although in series 4, this method was changed to have one episode focusing all on the Doctor, and another focusing on Donna.
      • And in series 5, they had an Amy-lite episode, but not a Doctor-lite one, despite him also doing The Sarah Jane Adventures, The Proms, and the video scenes for the Doctor Who Experience!
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Crusher's absence (throughout season two) was explained as being "transferred to head Starfleet Medical". In real life, the writers were having trouble developing the character so tried an different approach in Dr. Pulaski. This didn't work out, and there was pressure to bring Crusher back, so she returned in season three, where she remained for the rest of the run.
  • In Torchwood, Martha's absence in Children of Earth was explained by her being on her honeymoon. Which, per Word of God and a scene in the Doctor Who story The End of Time would explain Mickey's absence as well.
  • Several episodes from Season 6 of The Bob Newhart Show only had Bob in them for one scene, in which he would do one of his patented one-sided telephone conversations from "out of town."
  • One episode of Taxi, shot while Judd Hirsch was filming his Oscar-nominated performance in Ordinary People, only has Alex (his character) in it for one scene — a phone conversation at the very end — saying that he was on a skiing trip.
  • A variation occurred in the 2009 season finale of Grey's Anatomy. George is absent for most of the episode, but the writers have people constantly talk about him. This was supposed to distract viewers from noticing that he is in fact never on screen, because the episode's wham! ending (where he turns out to be the John Doe that saved a girl from being hit by a bus only to take the bus himself) absolutely requires this. It actually works rather well.
  • Lalaine's character Miranda was left out of the last few shot episodes of Lizzie McGuire, and Lizzie always had some excuse for her not being there (Usually, she said Miranda was on vacation in Mexico). And then The Movie came out...without Miranda...Poor girl missed her own middle school graduation.
  • The actor playing Henry isn't in Grounded for Life's final season. In the final episode, his Grandpa casually mentions that "he's around here somewhere".
  • That 70s Show episode where the gang tells of how they all met each other. When Eric met Donna, her mom wasn't there because she "got her finger stuck on something". Actually Midge had left the show.
  • In the last few episodes of That's So Raven, it was mentioned once or twice that the mom had gone off to Law School
  • During the second season of WMAC Masters it originally looked like Eric "Panther" Betts had been Brother Chuck as he disappeared between seasons without mention, however a few episodes in Tracer tells Warlock that Panther was previously The Mole working for Jukido (a role the two of them now had) but had Becoming the Mask so they had to take him out. In reality he had broken his hip and thigh during a fight with The Machine and could not compete.
  • In Dead Like Me, Betty is gone for one episode due to being trapped in a morgue. We don't see her there, but we hear her shouting for help.
  • The Man From UNCLE: In the third season Required Spinoff Crossover, "The Galetea Affair". In the The Teaser, Solo and Kuryakin are attacked by THRUSH agents while on the Venetian canals, and Solo winds up diving into the canal to save his life. In the first scene of Act I, it's mentioned that Solo has caught pneumonia as a result of his swim in Venice, and for that reason Mr. Waverly teams Kuryakin with The Girl From UNCLE's partner, Mark Slate. The Girl of the Week is built up for the entire episode as Slate's Love Interest, only to have Solo appear in The Tag to sweep her off her feet and away from Slate.
  • How I Met Your Mother did a good job hiding Alyson Hannigan's pregnancy during season 4, but had to cover her absence in episodes 20-23. In the Cold Opening to episode 20, Barney tells her a dirty joke. She's so offended she doesn't return for three weeks, the end of episode 23, having finally got over the joke.
    • In case you're interested, The Other Wiki says the joke is as follows; "What's the difference between peanut butter & jam? I can't 'peanut butter' my dick down your throat."
  • One of the leads of Route 66, George Maharis, took a leave of absence due to illness, and a few lines of dialogue assign his character Buz the same fate. When Maharis left for good, there are one-line mentions for about two episodes afterward about how Buz is ill and in hospital again, but no resolution is ever really given — it turns into a Brother Chuck scenario when Tod never mentions his former best friend Heterosexual Life Partner again. Maybe he died.
  • During production of season 5 of All in The Family, Carroll O'Connor temporarily walked out on the show due to a salary dispute. The producers rather cleverly responded to this by crafting a three-part story arc in which his character, Archie Bunker, goes missing after leaving to attend a lodge convention.
  • After David Duchovny decided to leave The X-Files, his character's absence was written well in one case and badly in another. Season 8 had him abducted and returned for the last few episodes, which fits well with the show's premise. Season 9 starts off with Mulder gone completely, and fans are never given a straight answer as to why he was missing, save for the flimsy excuse that it wasn't "safe" for him to stay with Scully and their new baby, though no one could remember a threat that would warrant such a measure in season 8, and that him leaving goes against his character.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 had a good number of instances of this in its KTMA season, but seeing as Joel and the 'bots can't leave the Satellite this resulted in such bizarre episode plots as Crow being frozen and decorated as a Christmas tree and Joel being locked out of the ship stark naked--although sometimes it wasn't explained at all. In the season, Trace Beaulieu (Crow/Dr. Forrester) was absent three times and Joel Hodgson was absent once.
  • There are reports that the beginning episodes of the third season of Sonny With a Chance will be restructured to resemble the Show Within a Show, "So Random", to allow star Demi Lovato time to recover following her Real Life Creator Breakdown, without added pressure.
  • Tracy Morgan was absent from a few episodes of Thirty Rock as he was undergoing a kidney transplant. In-universe, Tracy Jordan went on a fake trip to Africa (It Makes Sense in Context... well, kinda).
  • Smart Guy has an episode where the eponymous character, TJ Henderson, was absent. It was explained away that TJ was away at a science camp for a week. In addition, it was also somewhat important to the episode, because Floyd Henderson had spent most of his finances on the tuition for the camp, meaning Marcus and Evette had to get jobs to get what they want (with Evette going to a department store where her boss basically ordered her friend to stalk her throughout the store simply because Evette was black and thus suspicious of shoplifting, and Marcus getting a job at a late-night radio station, despite his dad's insistance that he not get that kind of job, respectively).
    • Similarly, in Sister Sister, one episode had Tia and Tamera being absent for most of the episode because they were out of state. They returned in the last few moments of the episode in question, when Tyreke and Jordan were waiting for them at the airport, but they learned from an announcement that the twins flight had been redirected (or so they thought), so they decided to wait out for them... only for the twins to come off shortly after they left.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Deputy Enos Strate was absent for two episodes in season two, being temporarily replaced by the debuting Cletus Hogg. The Balladeer explained that the doctor had to "separate Enos from his appendix". This write-in was Truth in Television; actor Sonny Shroyer really was in the hospital—for appendicitis.
    • Also in Season 2, Sheriff Rosco Coltrane was missing for a short stretch due to a contract dispute with actor James Best. His absence was explained as Rosco having been forced to go to the police academy for re-certification. Several actors filled in as cameo substitutes during the interim before the dispute was settled and Rosco returned to Hazzard.
  • Gil Grissom was absent for several eps on CSI when William Petersen did a play. Grissom was sent to a college for a seminar, in the same city where Petersen was doing the play.
  • The character of Mike Brady was 'out of town' for the final episode of The Brady Bunch because actor Robert Reed thought the storyline was too ridiculous and demanded script changes. To avoid an ugly showdown, the producers wrote him out of the episode.

Video Games

  • Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty explained that the reason Otacon was saving the game for Snake during the Tanker Chapter was because Mei Ling was busy during the mission with SSCEN. Of course, that didn't stop her from making an voice cameo after Otacon spent his time botching the various quotations with Snake where she essentially told him off.
    • In Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops, it was explained that Zero was absent for most of the game because he was under arrest by the Pentagon for supposedly instigating the FOX revolt. This actually turned out to be a very major plot-point, because this ends up being the reason why Snake has to quell the FOX rebellion and take in the person responsible.
    • In Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, the only characters from Peace Walker to reappear (not counting Paz) are Big Boss, Kazuhira Miller, Chico, and to a lesser extent Huey Emmerich.[1] The briefing files explained that Strangelove had been laid off thanks largely to AI development hitting a wall (and Miller doing so without Big Boss's knowledge because the latter had been undergoing a mission at the time) prior to even their getting the UN inspection letter the first time around, Huey was busy preparing for the impending inspection (which was largely his fault since he was the one who claimed without Miller or Big Boss's knowledge that they changed their minds), Amanda and the rest of the FSLN were sent to Cuba as R&R, partly to have them leave Mother Base in a more calm manner to avoid bringing too much attention on Mother Base to the upcoming inspectors due to their technically being Soviet Bloc (and Chico was supposed to accompany them, but snuck off while their ship was being refueled at Santiago de Cuba in a reckless attempt at rescuing Paz), with Amanda already being there, and Cecile was sent back to France in order to ensure no civilians were present during the inspection.

Web Original

  • In the 7th episode of Four Swords Misadventures, the voice actor for Uncle Alfon was unavailable, so they explained his absence as him going to the Kakariko Village milk bar (and Blue implies that this isn't the first time Alfon does something like leaving a note as to where he went).

Western Animation

  • Rugrats, "All Growed Up" gives us a triple dip of this trope:
    • First, the Pickles brothers are boarding a bus driven by their Grandpa:

 Dil: Hey Grandpa. How's Grandma?

Grandpa Lou: Still off cruising the Nile. She sends her love. (to the others) Hang on kids, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!

(Grandpa Lou re-married in the second Rugrats movie, but the new Grandma, Lulu, only ever appeared sporadically. Her absence here ends up being a minor plot point, since this means Grandpa Lou has an extra ticket for Angelica to go to a pop concert. Seriously.)

    • Later, we have two back-to-back character absence acknowledgements while everyone who's left is practicing for a disco dance:

 Didi (Tommy's mom): Poor Kira is missing all the fun.

Betty (Phil and Lil's mom): Hey, Chazzster, thanks for filling in after Howie's little mishap practising his dance moves.

(Character guide: Kira is Chuckie's new stepmom who first appeared in the second Rugrats movie, "Chazzter" is Chuckie's father [who's really named Chaz], and Howie is Phil and Lil's dad [and really named Howard].)

  • All Grown Up (which incidentally, the above Rugrats episode spawned) had a Christmas special without Angelica (a feat in and of itself, because on Rugrats, Angelica was the main plot of that show's Christmas episodes), with Susie saying one line about Angelica spending her holidays in Aspen. They also explained Dil's general absence in a vacation episode by showing him sick in his room and having Tommy mention that Dil had the flu.
  • Winx Club: In the premiere of the 3rd season, Tecna notes that all the Specialists except Sky, plus Mirta (a student witch who transferred to the fairies' school last season, falls under Recurrer status, much loved by the fandom), have RSVP'd for Stella's princess ball.
    In the next episode at the ball, we see only Brandon and Sky, and dub Flora notes, "I can't believe Helia's ship broke down," thus explicitly explaining his absence, and implicitly everyone else's (although original Flora was merely noting how Solaria was absolutely splurging for the ball). (It's Flora who notes this because she and Helia are one of the series' couples.) In a review of the episode, Frank Maggiore even notes (in midst of his disappointment at Mirta's absence) that it seemed to be a convenient excuse to keep the others out of the episode. (Helia ended up missing half of the season, while the others gradually re-appeared.)
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Lightspeed", the titular heros are nowhere to be seen. The replacement squad, Titans East, had "Returned to Steel City" so the villainous H.I.V.E. five thought they could have free run of the city. A hero does show up later, but he's apparently not affiliated with the Titans... yet.
  • Superman in Justice League often was said to averting a natural disaster somewhere, after all having Superman around every episode would often undermine the tension. Subverted once when he actually showed up later in the episode saying the disaster turned out to be relatively minor.
    • This happened pretty often to other members too, as most episodes were missing at least one of the Leaguers, although the absences weren't always explained. One example would be the Christmas episode, which explains that Batman is busy doing monitor duty, although the other absence from that episode — Wonder Woman — is never explained. Of course, even when it's not explained, given that they're superheroes it is easy to assume that they're just busy handling their own crises.
  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Look Before You Sleep" (which only has three main characters to begin with) showed Twilight explaining that Spike is away in Canterlot.
    • Notable mainly because there are many episodes where main characters don't appear, including Spike several other times, but this is the only one that actually bothers to explain why no appearance was made (although, admittedly, since they were explaining why Spike wasn't asleep in his own bed, they at least had a good reason for explaining this one if no other).
  • An odd variation occurs where an absence isn't stated in the episode itself, but is hinted at by the viewers: In the Hercules/Aladdin crossover episode Hercules and the Arabian Night, Iago is notably the only Aladdin character who has not made an appearance in the episode. The Aladdin fans who have seen Aladdin and the King of Thieves will know the reason is because Iago left with Cassim, Aladdin's father, to start a new life.
  • In The Simpsons episode Fraudcast News, Sweat is absent from Blood Sweat And Tears' performance at Geezer Rock. His absence is hinted by Quimby's line of "Thank you, Blood and Tears! Sorry to hear about Sweat." to be due to his either having died recently or had something bad happen to him that forced him not to attend.
    • A variation occurs regarding a character's absence during part of the episode is explained: In C.E. D'oh, when Mr. Burns returns to the plant under the pretense of seeing how Homer is running the plant in his absence, Homer notes Smithers' absence (he had been "fired" alongside Mr. Burns by Homer earlier via a coup) and asks what happened to him. Mr. Burns then explains that Smithers was caught in a drug bust in Morocco and sentenced to 80 years at a Turkish prison as a result, as well as offhandedly expressing confusion on why Smithers was oddly happy to be taken there.
  • The first episode of The Transformers season three reveals that the reason Metroplex didn't take part in the battle of Autobot City despite the fact he, you know, IS Autobot City is because his T-cog was damaged, thus rendering him unable to transform into robot mode.
  • In Recess, this trope is invoked a couple of times.
    • In Mikey's Bad Hair Day, Gretchen and Spinelli were not involved in TJ's latest scheme, with it being explained just before TJ and the others conduct their scheme that they had to attend to a science fair due to Gretchen's project getting the nomination. They don't appear until the very end where they unknowingly expose TJ and the others' scheme (which was mostly to save face regarding their botched job on Mikey to help bail him out of getting him into trouble with his parents for doing bubble gum yet again as he had been covered with bubble gum after a Kindergartner caused it to pop, including his hair), with Gretchen wearing a ribbon that clearly implied that she won the fair.
    • In The Barnaby Boys, Hank was replaced with Old Man Raymond regarding janitorial duties, with it being explained by Randall that Hank was vacationing in the Bahamas during the events of the episode. It also played a major role, since Old Man Raymond was giving pretty obvious signs that he was up to no good and TJ and the others intended to get to the bottom of what he was truly plotting.
  • Relegated to a voice cameo in the actual game
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