In Men in Black 3, when J is about to do the time jump thing, he asks Jeffrey why he remembers about K while no one else does. Jeffrey says something like "Oh, so you were there", but it's never actually explained (or at least, I didn't get it) what that means, or why J is the only one that has his memories from the other timeline. So, why is that?

  • 2
    Because terrible writing.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 10:36

11 Answers 11


As the Jeffrey says,

He was there.

Agent J, at the very end of the movie, sees K

neuralize a young child who has just seen his father shot by the villain

When K asks the child his name, the child responds

James, the name that J was born with, as seen in MiB 1 and 2.

Further, we see the child show K

a watch, which is the same watch J showed Griff earlier, saying it was his father's watch.

Therefore, it can easily be concluded that

J is the child.

Thus, he remembers it because he was there. J(ames) was there in the original timeline, as a witness to the event (no, he didn't see everything, but he played an important part in the timeline, which was significantly changed by the changed timeline.

No one else who played a significant part in the original timeline (Griff, O, or other MiB personnel) were present at the points where the timeline significantly diverged from the original timeline.

J could recall the true timeline because the changes in the timeline had a direct, personal, and significant change on his own personal timeline, and he was present when the timelines diverged, as is made patently clear in the movie.

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    I got the thing about J. I don't understand why that means he remembers everything about K.
    – Javier
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 23:09
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    @JavierBadia: Apparently, the rules of time travel in the MiB universe mean that if the past changes, people who were at the event when history was changed by a temporal interloper remember the true timeline.
    – Jeff
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 2:00
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    @AJotr: my response is direct from the movie, with examples and demonstrative quotes.
    – Jeff
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 15:11
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    @AJotr: Jeffrey's comment "That means you were there", along with the revelation that the child is James' younger self (meaning that he was there originally) isn't enough? Does it have to be explicitly spelled out, with visual aides? I was actually applauding the movie for not treating me like I was 4.
    – Jeff
    Commented May 31, 2012 at 13:42
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    Given the information provided to us by the movie, I'm not sure how we could assume other than what Jeff has suggested. That was certainly the impresssion I was left with when I left the movie theater. It certainly seemed to me that, even though the screenwriters didn't explicitly say that was the rule, that was the trail they were leading us down. Though I'm certainly open to hearing other interpretations.
    – Meg Coates
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 14:58

I just watched it last night. This what I am getting out of reading these answers. Older K nuerolizes Young J. He tells him something and walks away with him and I'm guessing brings him home. Now considering Js' father saved K. I going to guess their was a sense of obligation of debt that K felt he needed to pay back. Considering the military / agent both saving the world code. So maybe K in life watched out for him and time to time guided him in the right direction. Possibly neutralizing him more than once in life. Because I never got that from any of th MIB's that K actually physically took care of J. I'm going to leave the question how J was the only one to remember him. I kinda get it from the readings above. But still unclear. But it is a movie after all.

  • Sorry. In the beginning I said Older K nuerolizes young J. I mean young K.
    – Harry
    Commented Nov 20, 2012 at 23:20

The problem lies with the first timeline change. K gets killed, everyone knows that he's dead, and everyone in the future forgets about him living. At this point we can ignore everything J's arrival at the past is going to change, because of the way the movie works. Those things haven't happened at that point of that timeline, otherwise the movie would just go on without K ever disappearing at all. (I'm not completely sure how the timeline worked out during Boris' time there, so I can't say whether young J was there to see K die or not, not to mention how J's father died at that timeline. I'm assuming that he was there to get killed, since the movie implies that K had been taking care of J all along. Needless to say, Boris was successful, since everyone forgets about K.)

Now, the change affects the entire universe, including young J. His father lives, he never gets picked up by K for MiB, earth would probably have been screwed in the previous films if he hadn't been there. I can't see any reason why he wouldn't be affected.

The "You were there" line would indicate that either the young or old J being there would change something specific to that local place or time. (Which we all assume to be the moment K arrested Boris/K died/J's father died, since that's the only moment that seems to fit, right? Also, was J's father dying supposed to be the thing that turned K into a grumpy old man? Seems a little extreme for someone you've just met, especially when K works in MiB and I'm sure that wasn't the first time he's seen death up close. And if not, what was it?)

"Place" would indicate that something J witnessed or did in the past changed the entire timeline in a way that his personal timeline was in it's entirety ripped from the timeline and goes on as it would have, merging back into the regular timeline at the time Boris jumped. This seems highly unlikely. What this means is that the J who has the memories of the first timeline replaced the J from the changed timeline. The J who had that 10 hour stakeout with his "new" partner just disappeared. So we have some things from one timeline, and some from another. No amount of memories can make any sense of this.

"Time", as I see it, would mean that since he's been traveling in time, he had already been there once? It's a little far fetched, but he might've made more than one trip around this circle, and... well yeah, I'm completely out of ideas.

note: When Boris kills K, he seems to disappear at a strange time. Let me try to explain. A=The time of Boris' departure from the future towards the past. B=The time K disappears in the future. C=The time Boris arrives in the past. D=The time K dies in the past. What I'm trying to say is that the time between A and B, and C and D are equal, as if the future and past move side by side at a steady flow. This could probably be just for reasons of the movie looking cool and being more easily understandable, but that's a pretty cheap excuse. Could anything be deduced from this?

And I'm not even going to touch the whole paradox of Boris killing K, meaning that he never gets captured, meaning that he never goes back in time for revenge, meaning that he loses his arm and gets captured in the past, so he goes back in time to kill K, and so on and so on.

The only sensical thing to me seems to be that each person has his own personal timeline, and each possibility happens, J is just changing the timeline he is currently in. That would explain a lot of things, but I'm going to have to call bullshit on that one because of Griff. As he said, he sees all possibilities, but only one of them comes to pass. So, yeah. It's a popcorn time travel plot with lots of holes in it. Name one that doesn't, I dare you.

Also, the whole "There will always be death" bullcrap? I read that someone said that they appreciated that the movie didn't treat you like a 4 year old. One might wonder if you've been in some other timeline where this movie didn't just pull things out of it's ass.

Geez, this was supposed to be just a nice, calm and short plot analyze rant, did not mean it to become this long-winded and full of tangents. But hey, it's the internet, this is what people do, right?


Agreed, K neuralizes him. In the alternate reality K dies instead of J's father (where there is death there will be death) and Child J doesn't get neuralized so he would remember that day on the cape, BUT not the details of being K's partner as an adult. Scientifically there is no accounting for his memory. If this were a real scenario (srsly?) There would be no "reset" K would from hence forth remember meeting Agent J in 69

  • I'm sorry, but you are mistaken. Grossly mistaken, even. There's a Youtube video that describes the enormity of your mistaken response.
    – Jeff
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 2:02
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    Totally disagree with Jeff. I think Arcanan's idea is valid & logical, albeit hypothetical. That said, it does not explain why J DOES remember K, only that logically he should not. And the last sentence needs grammatical work to be more clear.
    – AJotr
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 2:39

jeffrey could be saying that (young) J was there when K did/would die (not necessarily witnessing it) or that he was there (again close by) at the time when boris did/would leave 1969 and return back in time (presumably into the present) ...


All answers here are plain simple wrong.

It's been a while since I watched the movie, but I am pretty sure that the correct answer involves Temporal Fracture and Chocolate Milk. When the original timeline was altered, he somehow became a paradox because of temporal fracture around him. And, due to this, he was shown to have affinity for Chocolate Milk.


I think it is a lot simpler then all of that.

J was always meant to be there I the timeline saving k

When he is told, it means your there tell me what it's like, it doesn't mean younger self it means older j.

This means that K has always known J would come back in time to save him he just didn't know when it would happen and so couldn't prempt things by opening up to J and risk changing the past/future.

K always knew Js father but he also always new J.

Now in this version however (the film version of the timeline) K kills Boris this stops the loop and allows j to return to his own time and he and K to continue.

The important charachter explaining all this is griffin who defines the facts that every action creates a new universe.


The Grandfather paradox must apply in a single timeline scenario. All possible outcomes must be explored and actuated by all beings possessing a minimum expression of awareness but that cannot manifest unless you expand into many worlds. It would require a type two civilization with the capacity to capture the amount of energy needed to expand the multiverse and attach the death dynamic to the story line of agent's J and K. As has been noted Griff is a 5th dimensional being that can live in ALL probability and outcomes simultaneously. The Griff that we see appears seamless but note the uncertainty as to which outcome he is about to experience. I would propose to you that his uncertainty is not his but ours. He would be aware of actual outcome but our fourth wall experience could not. Manifestation of a single reality under these conditions must be accompanied by uncertainty of the lesser observer or the outcome itself would subject to change. In effect we the lesser observer can never be aware of what dimension we are seeing. If we use the original Men In Black film as an introduction and a baseline I suggest that the realities of that possible outcome are not the same as the discussion here. We are looking at the Griff effect and another possible outcome similar but separate from our original experience.

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    Welcome to SFF:SE, does your answer address the question of "Why did J remember K when no one else did?". I can't seem to see a clear train of thought, but if it does or if you're able to clear up your wall of text (and if possible provide some forms of canonical evidence) feel free to edit them into your answer!
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 16:04

Because "before" young K was killed the older J was there with him in the past. Young K interfaced with an older J that was aware of future K and therefor old J must remember future K.

J went back in time to save K multiple times and didn't always save him but he always tried and therefore he has to always remember.

It helps if you don't think about there being one timeline that was modified. All timelines happen concurrently. Not only are the timelines happening concurrently but the future and the past are happening at the same time. It is indirectly explained by the alternate reality, space-time peeping unicorn alien dude.

  • That's entirely wrong. In fact, it completely contradicts everything that was in the movie.
    – Jeff
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 2:00
  • I think this is a good explanation as well. Yes he did "go back multiple times" - this was related in a very brief quip by the "snow hat alien" who gave them the Arc.
    – AJotr
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 2:57
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    Griff didn't say he went back multiple times. Griff sees every potential future, every possible event that could ever happen. He sees every way J could have gone about his mission, and all the ways it could have failed (not to mention the few ways it could succeed). There is a single timeline that actually happens, and he doesn't know which of the many possible ones it will be until he sees key details ("the one where K forgot to leave a tip") that differentiate the possible futures (like J's watch being broken)
    – Jeff
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 15:16
  • Giff didn't say it, the son of the guy that invented the time jump device said something like "because you were there" when J asks why he remembers.
    – Chase
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:25
  • Griff says "This has become my favorite memory of human history" and "Unless we’re in the one where K forgets to leave a tip".If he can see all possible futures and histories then they must exist.There no difference between a possible future and a timeline.Griff can't even tell which timeline he is in at any moment.Basically there are many-worlds(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation) but Griffs conscious is unlike ours and is spread across them, he is a 5th dimensional being after all.If there is only one timeline then wave form collapse is real and Griff can't be conscious.
    – Chase
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 23:55

we all saw how Boris killed J's father, then K neutralized J and he lost his memory. However, in the alternate version of the story - the one that made J travel to save K- K died instead of J's father.That means that J was not neutralized - at least by K -and thus he could remember him. Besides, Griff showed J's father the future or maybe different versions of the future or maybe EVERYTHING so that he could help K and J and of course Griff also showed J's father that grown up J was his son, so he knew that he had to die to save the world and that's the reason why he said he could not be a man in black as a response to young K suggestion. So, if J's father did not die and J did not lost his memory, J's father knew that grown up J could save the world because he would be the only man that would remember K. Probably, J's father took the neutralizer from K's pocket after he died and then he neutralized his son and told him only the things he had to know. Maybe he avoided telling him that he would die, maybe they spent an entire life together as father and son with J being neutralized several times as years went by or maybe J's father left him so that he could fulfill his destiny as the saviour of the world - so it was necessary to neutralize him anyway -and then J's father told his son everything he had to know about K even though J would forget his own father. So, back in the alternate future, K is the only man that remembers K - thanks to his father-. His travelling in the future changed the events - as Griff implied, there are alternate stories or versions or universes or whatever-. So this time, J's intrusion originated another version of the events, J's father died this time - that's the reason of K's rude manners since he knew that his best friend's father died for him and he could not save him because then the world would be destroyed. The only thing K could do was neautralize young J and take care of him until he was an adult so that he could become his mate or companion in the future. That's why he loves J, J's father saved him and K became J's father so he loves him as a son. Probably K spent an entire life taking care of J and neutralizing him through the years. Maybe it was painful for him to know that he had to wait 43 years until J knew the truth. K also was more aware of the importance of him as the other saviour of the world and when the time came when he had to leave his girlfriend - as stated in Men in Black I- to take care of J and save the world, that might have made K's manners even more rude. Maybe K met Griff again to have more answers and Griff explained him the entire plot. After all K always knows everything.

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    Wall of text answers rarely receive upvotes; uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Wall_of_Text. May I suggest you edit out the unnecessary detail and split this into paragraphs to highlight the important bits.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 14:48

Well as much as I enjoyed all the explanations above, there was a line in the movie where one of the characters describes observing an unusual "emotional connection" between K & J. LATER we find out that K is actually J's surrogate father, but prior to that J always had an obvious (albeit sometimes conflicted) bond with K as evidenced by J's devotion to his partner above and beyond mere camaraderie.

There are endless SciFi stories detailing that a strong emotional connection can transcend time & space, and in this case parallel universes and alternate time lines. BUT ADD TO THIS...

... the VERY REAL FACT that the University of Edinburgh, Scotland has one of the world's few Parapsychology departments wherein they are studying various levels of ESP and finding that EMOTIONAL CONNECTION is one of the Main Factors in thoughts being transferred between subjects in different rooms (i.e. Transcending Space-Time) - e.g. a couple in love performs better than two randomly paired individuals.

(+++ SOURCE - I actually sat with the head of the U. Edinburgh head of Parapsychology and went over all this with him PERSONALLY in his office +++)

If we can agree with that character in the movie (the guy who had the Arc???) who described J as being "unusually bonded / connected" to K than I think its a fair extrapolation that J's Emotional Connection (parent-child +) to K is what allowed J to make that final transference across the parallel realities where no one else could, despite the fact that in the resulting dead-K universe K would never have been J's father. Remember that J came from the universe where K WAS his father (surrogate-father that is) and he came in with the consciousness from THAT universe.

p.s. its pretty obvious that the surrogate-father connection is what is implied as J watches the scene at the end with the pocket-watch. Not my fave part of the story - too Darth & Luke for my taste.

  • I don't know, I don't think he's his surrogate father, or J would surely remember him. I think he just went for a walk and sent him to his mom or something.
    – Javier
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 3:10
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    I agree with Javier - there's no indication that K spent more than a few hours in James' presence. The scene where James shows K the watch (and J looks at his own) is purely there to confirm that James is J's past self - saying, "I've got to give this back to my father" is something a kid would do to explain why he has to see his father, and why his father can't be dead.
    – Jeff
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 15:13
  • Pretty sure K says something to little James r.e. [sic] "I am going to take care of you." If that is not an implication that K became James' surrogate father (albeit perhaps from a distance and / or secretive support) then what is?
    – AJotr
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 21:18

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