Just Eat Gilligan

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Gilligan screwed it up! Why don't they just kill him?"

Red Forman, That '70s Show

Plot Induced Stupidity on a grand scale. An entire show whose continued existence depends on its castmembers not doing one simple, easy-to-think-of thing that could solve all of their problems and wrap everything up in a neat little package. It's the Helen Keller of Genre Blindness. It's any question the viewer may have to which the only sensible answer is: "Because then there'd be no show/movie/novel/game, that's why." 

Note that there's no guarantee that doing that one thing would definitely result in the show's resolution, but there's at least enough potential there to make that one thing worth a try. Or maybe several tries, to hammer out all the bugs, if the fundamental concept is particularly rational...

The trope name comes from a question raised by Joel Hodgson during an Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode while discussing Gilligan's Island. Another question raised was "Why didn't they just fix the two-foot hole in the boat?"; a mid-series episode resolved the entire 'fix the boat' issue by having it damaged beyond repair in a hurricane.

Not to be confused with Just Eat Him. When a villain falls prey to this trope, it is often Never Recycle Your Schemes. See also The Millstone, when one character is the cause of this situation, and Fawlty Towers Plot, when the source is a lie. If they did eat Gilligan, that would be an example of there being No Party Like a Donner Party. Contrast with For Want of a Nail, Who Will Bell the Cat?. If there are sound reasons given within the work for why the "single simple action" can't be taken, or won't work, it's not this trope. Don't add it as an example. If the characters do try the single simple solution and it doesn't work, it's also not this trope. Again, don't add it as an example.

Examples of Just Eat Gilligan include:

Anime and Manga

  • Ranma ½ has the age old question of why the people cursed by the Jusenkyo springs didn't just cure themselves while they were still there.
    • Well, in at least a few of the cases: Ranma and Genma are freaked out and fighting and run away from the place, and it's a while before they calm down and think about doing so. Also, they're idiots. Ryoga freaks out at being cursed and goes running as well, and with his sense of direction he'd never find his way back (intentionally). Also, he's an idiot. Mousse is so nearsighted that he can't find the right spring even if it's pointed out to him... and he's an idiot. For Shampoo, it's a punishment; she isn't allowed to. And Pantyhose Tarou likes his curse.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! features several occasions where a bad guy could achieve his goal without an obligatory Duel, but nevertheless does one for some unknown reason. Repeatedly lampshaded in Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series.

Yami Yugi: Did you even consider just asking me for it? I mean, do you have any idea how much time and money you've wasted with this whole facade? People have died because you wanted a necklace! I killed a gay clown, for Ra's sake!

    • And again in the second season...

Rare Hunter: We are here to take your rarest card.
Joey: You mean you're gonna kick the crap out of me and steal it?
Rare Hunter: No. First we will challenge you to a children's card game. Then we will kick the crap out of you and steal it.
Joey: ...wouldn't it be much easier just to skip the first step?
Rare Hunter: Yes. Yes, it would. (proceeds with card game)

    • And in one of Marik's Evil Council meetings:

Marik: "We are going to challenge him to a card game! But this will be no ordinary card game. This one will take place... On a boat!"
Bakura: "Why a boat?"
Marik: "Because, uhm, when he loses the card game, we'll, uh, throw him over the edge. Into the sea. His hair will be so soaked, it'll take him hours to dry it!"
Bakura: Why do we need to play a card game against him?
Marik: "Foolish fool! The card game is integral to the plot. The evil plot, of which I am the evil mastermind!"

    • And from another Council Meeting:

Bakura: "Can't we just kill him?"
Marik: "No, and even if we did, those EFF-tards would just censor it."

    • In the Yu-Gi-Oh GX manga, Misawa admits that he could have just asked Judai for Asuka's phone number instead of dueling with him, but that his pride would not allow him to do so, and that he wanted to duel Judai.
    • But it's in the 5D series where they really went too far with it. The police have this device that fires a tether between themselves and the vehicle they're pursuing, which can disable the other vehicle... but only if they defeat the other driver in a children's card game.
      • The police weren't exactly the most competent for a variety of reasons; the criminal marks were supposed to be tracking implants, but it seemed anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of hacking and a laptop could nullify the signal.
  • In Patlabor, SV2 Division 2 is often derided for the massive collateral damage they cause while fighting crime... and 90% of those are caused by Ohta. Now, his gung-ho, gun-loving attitude is supposed to be played for laughs, and he is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold really, but just the same, getting rid of him would've saved much of SV2's troubles.
    • Note that in the manga version, Ohta is shown to be less incompetent than his anime counterparts.
    • Also note that one of the later TV shows, points out that Ohta is very skilled, "He's never hit a cockpit" Gotoh remarks. Besides, the only other suitable pilots were on command track/or slated to go back to the US in a year.
    • This is reinforced in the second movie, where he cooly demonstrates that he's capable of aiming from the hip with their Humongous Mecha and nailing a moving target; the recruits he was drilling at the time couldn't fathom the purpose of the exercise but are impressed nonetheless.
  • In Inuyasha, the heroine has the ability to travel back and forth in time to Ancient Japan. Presumably, she and her friends who remain in the past after the defeat of Naraku could arrange to preserve the information on how it was done in such a way that Kagome could easily discover it in the present, take the information back to the past where the as-yet-undefeated Naraku is still wreaking havoc and use it to defeat him. Of course, trying to explain the logistics of such a paradox-based plan would most likely make all of the characters heads' explode, which would itself end the series right there.
  • Blue Seed has this as its central concept. If they had just killed Momiji (normally, that is), the monsters will all be gone and peace would be restored. However, the basis of the series is to find a way to get rid of the monsters without killing her.
  • Dragon Ball Z plot lines tend to play out along the following lines: A powerful foe appears, none of the Z fighters are strong enough to defeat him (or they spend so long messing around that he is allowed to reach full power), he kills lots of innocent people whilst the Z fighters train to become stronger, the villain is confronted and the strongest fighter barely manages to scrape through with a win, and then the magical dragon balls are used to wish all of the dead civilians back to life. However, The dragon balls grant wishes, so the protagonists could wish for pretty much anything they want (within certain ill-defined boundaries). Not once does anyone think to wish for the villain to be weaker, or to be frozen in ice, or to be put to sleep, or to be transported to the centre of the sun. Vegeta is at least smart enough to try to wish himself to be more powerful, but this is only before his Heel Face Turn and so naturally he fails. The idea apparently never reoccurs to him. The show highlights the ridiculous ease with which the good guys are able to gather the balls so it is unclear why they never think to use them for anything other than resurrection. Even if they 'wasted' their wish by using it to destroy the villain the innocents would only remain dead for a year until the next wish could be made.
    • It is stated several times that the Dragonballs are unable to grant any wish that is beyond the power of the creator of the Dragonballs. This means that said creator would have to be able to defeat the villain my normal means in order to harm them in any way with the Dragonballs.
    • This needs an edit. Krillin HAS tried to wish the villain of the month defeated, and was informed by the Dragon that it was not powerful enough to do so. How powerful are the dragons? Well, the first one we see in the series is One-Shotted by Evil Picollo back when Goku was still a kid. So, overall, very weak compared to ANY enemy by the time Goku's grown up, due to power inflation. Kuririn also failed to wish the Androids into humans for the same reason, the dragon was too weak.
      • Really, any questions about "Why don't they just wish for ______?" are answered by actually watching any of the episodes where they summon the dragon. The characters try most of the "hurr durr it's so simple" wishes, only for Shenlong to say that it's beyond his power. Basically he can only do so much and is not as omnipotent as people assume of your typical genie.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Why doesn't Madoka or any of the other girls just wish for something like a universe where everyone is happy and magical girls are unnecessary? It would totally negate all the bad stuff that happens to the girls. Madoka herself tries something like this at the end of the series, but her version has a pointless sacrifice tacked on for some reason.
    • The reason why no one else did is fairly simple: Most girls come in ignorant of what's going on, and none of them would have the power to make the wish if they did (Madoka having phenomenal cosmic power thanks to Homura messing with the time-space continuum). Madoka's wish was as limited as it was because incubators are necessary for human civilization. The sacrifice... she probably didn't want to leave something like that to an impersonal cosmic force, and may not have been able to create one.

Comic Books

  • Rogue From Marvel Comics is a mutant who broods constantly because her mutant power has the potential to kill anyone she comes physical contact with. However, since mutant negation technology is widely available (and has been shown to work on her in the past), it should be no problem to simply make a necklace or something with the embedded technology and just put an on/off switch on the circuit. End of meaningless brooding.
    • This depends on which incarnation you are discussing. It also depends on what the technology does specifically. In Evolution, Nightcrawler's hologram machine is only able to change the appearance, but is still a blue furry humanoid with three fingers on each hand. The animated series had devices that nullified powers on the mutant-hating Genosha, but the controllers would be a hassle to carry everywhere and she would need to hide it so it does not get damaged or turned against her. And they also send shocks to the wearer if I am not mistaken.[please verify] And this is one of the best examples of your proposed 'mutant negation technology' that exists in the many X-Men incarnations.
    • One of the explanations is also that most of the technology was developed by people who hate mutants and want to kill them, and thus using their inventions for her own benefit offends her morals. It would be roughly equivalent to taking a vaccine developed by Nazis who had experimented on imprisoned Jews to perfect it... some people wouldn't have a moral problem with that, some would, Rogue can simply be assumed to be the latter.
      • However, at least one version of the 'power nullifier' technology was invented by Doctor Doom for keeping people locked up in his prison cells. And while Doom is still a supervillain, he is not only not one of the mutant genocide advocates but is also someone the X-Men (including Rogue) have demonstrably been willing to temporarily ally with in the past. And while it could be argued that Doom's prices might be prohibitive, by this point Reed Richards has fully analyzed this technology of Doom's in order to be able to defeat it -- which means he can also build it. And Reed wouldn't charge Rogue a thing.
        • The entire plot arc of X-MEN VS. FANTASTIC FOUR was based on the fact that the X-Men are willing to deal with Doctor Doom for help with mutant power crises, if no other solution is available.
      • Additionally, one of the X-Men's recurring allies -- Forge -- has invented a device that is capable of permanently neutralizing a mutant's powers. Which means he has already made the basic theoretical leap re: neutralizing mutant powers. At this point, building a version of the device that only acts temporarily, or is conveniently portable and easily reversible, is only a matter of application. So somebody get Forge and Hank McCoy into the lab already. Or ask Reed Richards or Tony Stark for a consult.
  • Another X-Men example, the villain Arcade. He himself admits (to his assistant Ms. Locke in the graphic novel Wolverine/Nick Fury: The Scorpio Connection) that he might be better off leaving the X-Men alone:

Arcade: Hey, call me stubborn, call me obsessive, but no matter how many commissions I’m offered, I just can’t resist another try at killing them!

  • And to drive the point home, the (visibly angry) mutant heroes crash into his control room two panels later.
  • Played for laughs with another X-Men villain, the already Laughably Evil Mojo. One story starts with him crushingly bored because there is nothing good on television ever since he stopped broadcasting Longshot’s rebellion. (Nobody’s fault but his own, seeing as he holds a monopoly on television in his home dimension.) Of course, simply turning the TV off, as his assistant Major Domo suggests, is out of the question


  • Bob Denver, a.k.a. Gilligan, hung a lampshade on Gilligan's Island himself in the film Back to the Beach.

Bartender: Hey, I knew a guy who could build a nuclear reactor out of coconuts but couldn't fix a two-foot hole in a boat.

  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: Chuck, you could have just asked to be reassigned to administrative work, you know.
    • Not an answer the entire movie, but they could've pretended to be bisexual instead of gay.
  • Blood Simple justifies this with its title; people in those situations aren't in the best of mental states, generally.
  • Bio-Dome could easily have been solved if the main characters were forcibly removed from the dome (not a hard thing to do—they're not exactly badass, and they're dumber than rocks). Yes it would violate the closed system and you'd have to start again, but seriously you were two minutes into it when you realized they were there, and they themselves are a clear disruption unless they spontaneously decided to check to see whether the Bio-Dome was idiot proof.
    • They did discuss that very option at the beginning of the experiment. The one person does make the valid-at-the-time point that it would disrupt the experiment and make the entire time they spent preparing go down the drain; which when faced with two people of unknown talents is logical. They did eventually kick out the idiots after a certain point, but the idiots then went back in to genuinely help. You have to remember that part of the movie.
    • They do hammer on the precise amount of days for the sake of stability, but really, it does stress the suspense of disbelief to not worry at least as much about the exact amount of people present.
      • The scientists bring this up as well, with the head scientist replying that the system will have to adapt to the two extra bodies. Also one thing you have to keep in mind that the movie comes right up to the point of saying outright but doesn't quite is that the biodome is primarily a huge publicity stunt... the fact that it won't open up again for an entire year is part of the publicity that the investors have been using to build hype, and thus why the door is sealed so thoroughly the scientists can't open it even if they want to. If they opened the dome to eject Bud and Doyle, the publicity of "it won't open for an entire year" would be tanked and everyone involved would be out a lot of money.
  • Rosemary's Baby. Call home to Mom, have her buy you a train ticket. Since everyone around is being creepy and lying to you, and the honest ones are dying, just go back to Nebraska or wherever. And since those special witch foods aren't available back home, that should solve the problem of the inconvenient pregnancy.
    • Maybe harder to understand several decades later, but Rosemary doesn't do this because of her several personality traits, for which she was specifically chosen by the witches. She's the type of good Catholic girl who won't leave her husband, or have an abortion, no matter what. She's also the sort of person to remain in denial about a situation as long as she possibly can, so that she will continue to convince herself everything is just fine long past the point that another woman would go running for help. In fact, that was the mistake the witches made the first time was not being careful enough to select someone who would keep telling herself all the warning signs were just her imagination, and had to help her into suicide.
    • And that goes for you, too, last human Stepford Wife. Yes, you at least have more reason to stay, as you're tied to your kids, but you're the one who was making so much over wanting a career. You're not even fighting for independence at this point, you've already achieved it; and you've already figured out what's rotten in Denmark, so you're the last woman (actually, she literally is) who should be sticking around for the inevitable.
  • In Enchanted, Giselle is teleported to the real world by going out from a sewer. It seems that to come back to her original world she just had to go back to said sewer and throw herself in it as it was shown in the ending by Prince Edward and Nancy
    • Giselle has the mentality of the typical Damsel in Distress, making her brain the size of a walnut to figure that out, its her time the real world does she become Genre Savvy enough to save the day.
  • "Stagecoach". John Ford was once asked why, during the climactic chase scene, the Indians didn't just shoot the horses to stop the stagecoach? "Because the movie would have ended right there", he replied.
  • Armageddon: in which Ben Affleck asks the obvious question:

I asked Michael why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers, and he told me to shut the fuck up, so that was the end of that talk.

    • Although Michael Bay was actually correct on this issue -- in the real-world, NASA has used Payload Specialists on the Space Shuttle multiple times, in situations where a warm body with a particular specialized skill set not available in NASA's normal astronaut corps was needed for a single space mission. And given that the drilling task in question required experienced, master-level oil drillers it would make more sense to take already-experienced drill crews and give them basic space training than it would to take experienced astronauts and try to instantly turn them into master drillers.


  • In Ella Enchanted, it seems that Ella's curse could have been completely nullified if her mother or Mandy had just ordered her to make her own decisions about orders instead of obeying them. Whether it would have worked or not is debatable (some people argue that the next order would countermand it, but it's possible that if an order is about orders, it must be obeyed to the exclusion of other orders, meaning the only thing that would mess her up is if someone says "Obey me"), but it couldn't have hurt to try. It was tried (and failed) in the movie, but we have several tropes for that.
    • It's established in-story that a subsequent order overrides an old one (Ella is at one point worried about Hattie ordering her to explain why she's so compliant, because that would break the order her mom gave her not to tell anyone). The solution would be, at best, temporary.
  • In Journey to the West, almost every story features Xuanzang believing Zhu Bajie's lies about Wukong, taking his bad advice, or taking his side in arguments. He gets captured by demons as a result, and despite this happening dozens of times in the story, he never realizes that Bajie is always wrong. Every single time.
  • In the second Twilight book, Edward thinks Bella is dead and goes to try and kill himself, leading to a rush to save him. That part of the book could've been taken out entirely if he just called or texted someone to confirm that she really is dead.
    • He does call to confirm the information. He just stupidly leaps to conclusions when he hears that Bella's father is at a funeral.
    • The real example of this trope is why ALICE didn't just call, since presumably she knows that her visions aren't always set in stone and can be altered. Or why she didn't wait to tell her family what was going on before she left to confirm what was up. It couldn't have taken more than a day or so to figure out.
    • On the subject of Twilight, it would have saved a whole lot of trouble if the Cullens had just banded all seven of themselves together and ripped off the heads of the three vampires threatening Bella. One could argue that the Cullens were trying to be more peaceful than that, but their immediate plan after James and Victoria are out of sight and making plans of their own is to lure the two vampires away and kill them!
    • Eclipse would have been a lot shorter if the Cullens decided to drop on by Seattle and have a quick look in on the newborn who was going on an insane killing spree, if only to keep away the Volturi if not to prevent further human deaths.
    • If Bree Tanner had realized that she could have run away as soon as it became evident that the leaders of the newborns she was with were dangerous (which she figured out very early on), there would have been no plot to the novella at all. Even if Bree didn't want to risk hiding in shade during the day, she still doesn't think to run away when she does learn that direct sunlight is safe!
  • Harry Potter has some cringe-worthy examples:
    • Voldemort would have been able to kill Harry many times in the series if he hadn't arrogantly insisted on having to kill Harry personally. Since his wand and Harry's are linked and unable to work properly against each other, Voldemort instead spends half the series being thwarted by this connection and half the final book trying to find a loophole by using other wands, when at any time he could have just ordered his servants to kill Harry on sight for him.
      • Though there is the point that Voldemort runs a fairly EVIL group, which has mixed loyalties, a near amatuer can take out the best Magician given surprise or some other advantage (Draco vs Dumbledore, Harry vs whoever) means that theoratically any of the Death Eaters could take out Voldemort, and the fact that Voldemort's ace in the hole, immortality, merely means he is reduced to a wandering spirit instead of outright killed... You must realize that Voldemort rules through FEAR and by keeping an image of supremacy and invulnerability. So... no, he CAN'T ask one of his minions to destroy his arch-nemesis for him. One, it makes him look bad. Two, it makes his minion look TOO GOOD...
        • One, Draco took Dumbledore only because Dumbledore was both already dying of poison and not resisting. Two, its not like Tom necessarily has to tell his minions the truth about how Harry died. Heck, thanks to the handy Obliviate spell, Tom doesn't even have to let whatever minion does the job for him remember how Harry really died. And third... well, see the Bellatrix point below.
      • Also, the prophecy in a round about way said that only one could kill the other, so he most likely decided not to waste the manpower doing something he believed to be pointless anyway.
        • The prophecy is a valid objection, but the former one doesn't quite fly—Voldemort's most fanatically loyal Death Eater, the one who serves him because she genuinely worships him and not because of fear, is also his #1 killer. Asking Bellatrix to soften Harry up first and then putting in the kill shot himself would have worked for Voldemort far better than what he actually tried. To be fair, Bellatrix isn't out of Azkaban until book five, leaving Voldemort a good excuse for the first four books.
        • Ironically, the heroes suffer the same failure in reverse—they keep acting as if the Prophecy means that Harry is the only one who should fight Voldemort, when all it specifies is that he is the only one who can kill Voldemort. Harry would very likely have had an easier time pulling that off, with less reliance on giant strokes of luck, if Dumbledore had simply beaten Voldemort until he couldn't move and then asked Harry to finish up.
          • This is made particularly worse by the part where the climax of book 5 is someone else fighting Voldemort -- specifically Dumbledore, who (book version) pretty much manhandles the dude at will and only fails to take him down then and there because he didn't block Voldemort's escape route[1] before stepping out to fight him.
    • In the first book, when Harry, Ron and Hermione discovered that Quirrell planned to steal the Philosopher's Stone, rather than trying to stop him themselves, why didn't they tell the school's teachers or staff about Quirrel's plans? Granted, they tried to inform Dumbledore about it and were told he wasn't at the school at that moment. But there were so many other teachers and members of the school's staff who were far more capable than three first-year students and would have handled the situation much better.
      • They did try to tell McGonagall, but she refused to listen and just insisted that the stone was protected well enough. Still, they might have tried harder or tried other teachers.
        • To be fair, McGonagall is the Deputy Headmistress—in Dumbledore's absence she's the most senior teacher in the school. Going to any other staff member would not be likely to do anything useful, as she'd just pull rank on them. As for the kids being more convincing, they're eleven. Plus, McGonagall was being singularly obtuse; since the entire plan of putting the Philosopher's Stone down there was to decoy the villain into going after it, an attack on the Stone should have been expected. And Dumbledore's first absence from the campus in months is the most obvious time for that attack to occur, yet she still considers the kids' story to somehow be intrinsically unbelievable. Really, Adults Were Useless here.
    • In Goblet of Fire, Voldemort had Barty Crouch Jr. impersonate Moody, arrange so that Harry's name would come out of the Goblet of Fire thus making him one of the participants in the Triwizard Tournament, and help Harry win by rigging the tournament's events and manipulate other characters to to aid him. All of this was done so that Harry would touch the tournament's trophy, which had been turned by Crouch into a portkey that would teleport Harry to Voldemort, who would then use his blood to restore his (Voldemort's) body. Here's the funny thing: Crouch could have turned anything into the portkey; it didn't have to a object as hard to reach as the trophy. And of course, there's no way Voldermort or Crouch would have been certain that Harry would win the tournament (even with all of their efforts), or that he would be allowed to participate in the first place (what with him being too young and all). Surely there would have been a much less convoluted and more fail-proof way of doing this, like Moody (Crouch) turning a random possession of "his" (like Moody's Sneakoscope) into a portkey, placing it somewhere in his office, calling Harry there to have a talk with him, and then casually saying "Can you pass me that Sneakoscope you see over there?".
        • Don't forget, you can't get off the school grounds with Apparitions and Portkeys (the closest to this is Floo Powder). But the area right around the castle itself, (since Snape and Malfoy apparate away right as soon as they enter the forest) makes me think that Moody had to have Harry get off the school grounds. Since the maze would not be in school grounds, Harry could be taken directly to Voldemort, everyone would think his death was an accident, and Moody would not be suspected at all.
          • 'Not being suspected' is irrelevant to Barty's purpose, as his only reason for being there at all is to set up Harry's kindapping. So long as he can physically carry Harry off of Hogwarts grounds, Barty has no reason to come back after that's done. So he really has no excuse for not assigning Harry a detention in the Forbidden Forest, escorting Harry out there himself, and then sapping the kid over the head and bamfing away with him the instant they're outside the Hogwarts immediate anti-Apparition zone. Heck, there's a gift-wrapped opportunity for him to do that in the series; when Barty Sr. caught up to them at the edge of the Forbidden Forest and tried to warn them. Instead of leading Barty Sr. off to be murdered, he should just have left him there with the people and escorted Harry "to Dumbledore's office", and then yoicks and away. Instead, Idiot Ball.
        • In the books, the maze was on the Quidditch Pitch so it was on the school grounds, even though the much larger movie maze may not have been. But this doesn't mean you're wrong as it's implied portkeys can be used in Hogwarts if the person has the authority to do so - Dumbledore made one to send Harry and the Weasleys to Grimmauld Place in Order of the Phoenix. Crouch Jr. wouldn't have been able to make one until Dumbledore gave him permission to do so. (I believe it's pretty widely accepted that the cup would have sent the winner back to the entrance of the maze - he just set a different location!)
        • For that matter, nothing requires the villains to actually wait until Harry's at Hogwarts before kidnapping him. He spent the last part of that summer at the Burrow, which in year 4 was not yet warded with any special security precautions. And Wormtail is intimately familiar with how to sneak in and out of the Burrow, as he lived there as Scabbers the rat for over a decade. Creep in at 3am, drop a portkey on sleeping Harry, done.
      • Also, why did the school's staff let Harry participate? They were aware of the suspiciousness of Harry's name coming out of the goblet, as he said that he didn't put it there, and him participating goes against the rules, which stated that there would be only 3 participants, who also had to be older than what Harry was at that point. Not to mention that Harry himself wasn't even interested in participating in the first place. If they hadn't made him participate, Voldemort wouldn't have been able to restore his body, and Cedric wouldn't have been murdered.
        • It was mentioned earlier that anyone chosen by the Goblet was put under a powerful, binding magical contract, which meant that they had to participate. Dumbledore warns of this when he tells the students who are of age to not sign up frivolously, but to be certain that they want to potentially go through with it.
        • On the other hand, the judges allowed him to continue after he went over the time limit in the water challenge. If they had stuck to the rules of the challenge, Harry would have been disqualified, and Voldemort would have stayed dead.
        • Worse yet, one of the contest rules is that contestants are not allowed to receive help from staff. Any teacher in Hogwarts could have DQ'ed Harry at any time, with Dumbledore's permission or not, simply by handing him a cheat sheet in front of witnesses. (While Fleur and Viktor broke this rule several times and still remained in the contest, the key words here are "in front of witnesses".)
  • In Stationery Voyagers, Alhox has a legitimate excuse (his head trauma) for not immediately figuring out what the Mystery Wanderer so plainly is. The other characters really have no excuse for being so easily manipulated. Still, they begin to have suspicions about him. However, the most Pinkata does is say: "I have a feeling he's a really bad man." Had she voiced her "crazier" suspicion that he was Melchar, Alhox would have put two and two together - and a third of the series' entire plot would immediately disintegrate. All this trouble because the Only Sane Woman Cannot Spit It Out.

Live Action TV

  • Named after what is likely the most Egregious example: the title character from Gilligan's Island, whose bungling so often sabotaged the rest of the cast's attempts to get back to civilization, that one has to wonder why they simply didn't eat him -- or at least arrange for some sort of "accident" to happen to him. Or if they didn't want to be killers, they could've just locked him up until they got off the island (which would likely only take a week), then send someone back for him afterwards. Or they simply could have given Gilligan a less critical role in the plan. 
    • Lampshaded on an episode of That '70s Show, when Red, watching Gilligan's Island, wonders why the rest of the cast doesn't just kill Gilligan.
      • Rebecca's father on Cheers made the same point:

"As a man who has thirty years of naval experience, I can say with all confidence that if that crew got together and shot Gilligan, they'd have been off that island in a week. Problem solved."

    • Evidence from the show itself actually help's Gilligan's case. Statistically speaking, out of 98 episodes, only 37 involved a direct possibility of escaping the island. Of those 37, only 17 potential rescues were foiled as a result of Gilligan's actions. Admittedly, that's still a lot of rescues for one man to screw up, but the series also has a large number of episodes where Gilligan's actions save everybody - from death, enslavement, imprisonment, etc.
      • The backstory between Gilligan and The Skipper is that Gilligan saved The Skipper's life by pulling him away from a land mine. This sets up an even more interesting paradox: Gilligan saved the Skipper, and as a result they teamed up to eventually strand themselves and five other people on an island. If Gilligan just let him die, there would have been no series at all.
    • Alternate question: if the professor is such a genius on every subject, how come he doesn't know how to build a new boat?
      • Russell Johnson's (The actor who played The Professor) stock answer: If you were a mega Science Geek trapped on an island with two beautiful girls...would YOU be quick to get rescued?
    • Third question: if the Minnow had, as passengers, one of the world's richest men, and one of Hollywood's favorite actresses, why weren't there more exhaustive rescue attempts? Considering how many people managed to stumble onto the island, it couldn't have been all that far from the mainland, and since the boat was still in one piece, even if it wasn't sea-worthy, it should have been visible from a low-flying plane specifically searching for it. It was probably really all Thurston Howell's fault. Someone had plotted to eliminate him, and when he wasn't killed in the shipwreck, then to keep him on the island, in order to have control of his money. Either his nearest relative, or estate trustee probably knew where he was the whole time.
  • Just about any show which features Time Travel as a plot device has the potential to suffer from this trope if the heroes are too stupid to figure out a way to use that device to its full potential.
    • Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure falls victim to this until almost the very end, when the two not-so-bright heroes finally realize that, duh, they have a time machine, and proceed to arrange it so that, in some future time, they will go back into the past and cause certain events to happen in the present which will allow them to escape from jail and make it to the school in time to deliver their fateful history report. The climax of the sequel features both Bill and Ted and Big Bad Nomolos DeNomolos playing this game, each attempting to get the advantage in a Mexican Standoff... until Ted rightly points out that only one side gets to win, then go back in time and stage everything just right, and they had in fact planted all the items he thought he planted to lull him into a false sense of security. Probably not so much of a concern, because the film is too silly to be taken seriously.
    • A similar stand-off occurs between the Doctor and the Master in the Doctor Who parody film The Curse of Fatal Death. The Doctor wins the fight by arranging for the architects to have built a trap door under where the Master's feet would have been after the race goes extinct.
      • The Doctor Who series proper handwaves this by saying that the Doctor "can't interfere with established events"—which is code for "can't use time travel in any fashion that would make the dilemma of the week too easy to solve."
      • The in-universe explanation for this is that The Doctor and other "time aware" species like the Daleks are aware of fixed points in history that cannot be changed. This is usually indicated by their significance in subsequent history books. It seems that the more an event is ingrained into legend, the less power the Doctor has to alter it. Like the Titanic Sinking, the volcano which destroyed Pompeii, the mysterious destruction of the first Mars colony, etc. Attempts to push against these boundaries seem fruitless as Fate keeps making them happen anyway. It is implied that it *is* possible to beat fate, but only by accepting all the ramifications to the stability of time. Even a Dalek is shown sparing someone's life because it realizes she isn't meant to die yet.
        • Of course this makes absolutely no sense even by Doctor Who standards, since the Daleks were in the middle of both slaughtering the entire human race and/or unraveling time itself, in either case that person would not have gone on to have the fate recorded in the history books. But oh well, it was meant to be a dramatic moment so don't think too hard about it.
      • Series 6 shows what happens when a "fixed point" is altered; it breaks history. The entire history of Earth is altered so it all takes place at once, and it's always the moment when time is broken.
  • In Lost in Space, Dr. Smith is a sanctimonious coward who constantly gets the whole ship in trouble through his greed. A great many potential future problems could have been solved simply by leaving him to get killed in the mess he's caused for himself. A later comic continuation by Innovation Comics partially addresses that by the Robinsons and West finally losing their patience with Smith, throwing him in one of the ship's cryo tubes and keeping him there. At least the movie adaptation gave an explanation as to why he wasn't immediately thrown out the airlock after his first treachery, and they did eventually leave him to die after his betraying them yet again.
    • The third season episode 'Time Merchant' establishes that had Dr. Smith not been aboard the Jupiter 2, it would have been destroyed in space by a collision. Dr. Smith's additional mass changed the ship's trajectory enough to avoid the collision but also threw the Robinsons off course. It seems that Dr. Smith is incompetent all around.
      • In the original pilot (and the first few episodes) Dr. Smith was a scarily competent, utterly ruthless spy and saboteur who sneaks aboard the ship, disables (or kills) a guard with his bare hands, reprograms the robot to sabotage the ship, and only stays aboard because he miscalculates the amount of time he has to get off (he may have been set up by his controllers so he wouldn't still be around to answer any embarrassing questions). He was changed into the bumbling, cowardly character we all love to hate because the producers (and Johnathan Harris himself) realized that otherwise, they couldn't possibly justify the rest of the crew not getting rid of him somehow. In fact, Irwin Allen originally planned to kill off the character for exactly that reason, but was convinced it would be better to use him as comic relief.
  • Power Rangers: Many a fan has wondered why the Big Bad never just sends all the monsters at once instead of doing it one at a time, or simply launched an attack themselves if they were so powerful. Immediately, that is, not at the final episode where the heroes get an inexplicable power boost either. Similarly, more than a few seasons had the Rangers know exactly where the villain's base was located, but it never occurred to them to take three or four Humongous Mecha to the location and stomp on stuff until a final battle was forced.
    • The monster sending was justified in Power Rangers Time Force as the Big Bad isn't strong enough to control all the Mutants if he released them all at once, as pointed out by Linkara.
    • Explained in Shin Kenjushi (New/Heart Gunman) (Née Jushi Sentai [Musketeer Squadron]) France Five, an Affectionate Parody of Super Sentai and French culture. The Eiffel Tower projects a forcefield around planet Earth, meaning that the Big Bad can only send small squadrons of troops to Earth at a time, including a monster, some Panous-panous and his two lieutenants.
    • As per Tony Oliver at Power Morphicon 2007, quoting Haim Saban: "Because if they call 911, then I don't have a TV show."
    • Also makes sense in Power Rangers RPM. The city of Corinth is surrounded by a forcefield, meaning that each monster has to have some way to get around that and into the city. Also, finding out where the enemy's base is is a major plot point.
    • The lead villain in the delightfully self-aware Power Rangers Ninja Storm actually attempts to supersize all of his monsters at once, only for the computer to respond with a memory error and his underling pointing out that he skimped on the memory upgrade that would let him supersize more than one monster at a time.
      • Knockoff series Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverley Hills (which was about as serious as the name suggests) actually addressed the whole "using a bunch of monsters" issue in one episode. The main villain goes on vacation and leaves his assistant in charge. The assistant sends out a monster to fight the good guys, but just as they're about to kill it, teleports the monster back and sends a fresh one in instead. When the good guys are about to beat the new monster, he does it again. Then he pulls that one and sends in the first one again, since it's rested and healed up. Just as the heroes are about to succumb to exhaustion and built-up damage, the main villain returns, flips his shit on his assistant because that's just not how it's DONE, allows the heroes to beat the current monster, and declares that they're done for the week.
    • Similarly, "Why don't you just get the Zords from the beginning and stomp the monster?" was discussed (while not done in a way that justifies it for the whole series) when the Rangers were having trouble fighting multiple monsters who managed to break the Conservation of Ninjutsu (oh, and they actually were ninjas, working for the ninja-based villain faction.) Ronny suggests sending the Zords even though "we don't normally do this," but they couldn't be launched due to an earlier monster-inflicted computer virus.
    • The Zords couldn't be sent "all at once" because the "laws of Good" prevent Good from "escalating" the violence. The bad guys, especially in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers most likely have limits such as the magic taking a heavy toll on the user. In fact Ivan Ooze in The Movie needed to hypnotize people to build the technology so that he could use it.
    • It's also Lampshaded in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic—one of the team asks why they don't just go straight to their Megazords and squish the villain while he's still small. The response is that Zordon has instructed them to only match force for force against their enemies, due to some pseudo-Eastern mystic from space logic about fair play... of course this means that the enemy will cause more suffering, death, destruction and damage than if they'd fought "un"fairly....
    • Then again, it's probably a giant waste of energy to send the robot to squish the not-yet-big monster. Zord fuel can't be cheap.
    • "Why don't villains just blow up the Rangers' houses at night?" has also been dealt with, once again, by Ninja Storm. The Dragon suggests attacking them at the sports shop they work at, but Lothor says that a Ranger's power can only truly be destroyed while the Ranger is morphed. (Mind you, we've seen that prove untrue more than once in the past, but hey, they tried.)
  • Of course, Kamen Rider usually avoids this trope by not using the same "Big Bad sends a minion to defeat the hero each week" format as Super Sentai, but there are exceptions. More recent series (notably Den-O and Kiva) have the villains start using mass produced MotWs as Mooks, but by that point the hero's gotten his Super Mode and they're no challenge (as seen when Kiva takes out six with a single Finishing Move). Meanwhile, in Kamen Rider Double, the villains of the week don't actually work for the Big Bad, whose plan just requires observing the thugs he's sold powers to, and he is perfectly happy to have Kamen Riders fighting them and getting them to show their true strength.
      • If the Guild of Calamitous Intent has taught us anything it's that provoking massively powerful superbeings with private armies is a bad idea. The good guys are five teenagers who are invariably placed against nigh-impossible odds. Escalating the war would cause the villain to actually get off their duff and start actively trying to destroy shit. Sure a few buildings are destroyed along the way but it's better than the alternative.
    • In another terrible Power Rangers rip-off, Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills, the bumbling sidekick of the Big Bad gets a chance to be in charge while the villain is away, and implements an ingenious Genre Savvy tactic of sending down a monster, recalling it when it was close to death, and sending a new one, repeated until the heroes were worn down and defeated. On the verge of success, the Big Bad returns from his trip and proves that he had a firm grip on the Villain Ball by demanding that things be returned to the proven-to-fail "one monster each week" strategy.
  • Almost invariably in the early seasons, the Monster of the Week would be trashing the Power Rangers, and Rita would declare, "If you think you're having it rough now, wait until you see this!" before making the monster grow to a preposterous size. At this point the Power Rangers would use their cool toys and destroy the monster, every single time. If only Rita had left the monster at its original size, she could have won easily. For that matter, why didn't the Power Rangers just use their giant mechas on the "human-sized" monster? Another thing: every villain in Power Rangers ever has had the ability to teleport at will, anywhere, through walls, and even bring along passengers or cargo. Picture the cataclysmic implications if they were to use this power intelligently.
    • In the Alien Rangers arc of MMPR, Goldar and Rito did just that, only with a bomb of the usual villains' making.
  • In Beetleborgs, a new villain showed off his Genre Savvyness by waiting until the heroes' base rose out of the ground and then having the monster-planes bomb it while the vehicles were still inside. Though the heroes eventually got new, cooler, vehicles, it was a devastating blow. It also made you wonder why absolutely no-one's ever thought of that before.
    • Which is really strange, because in the rest of the many-parts episode, this monster didn't use Genre Savvyness. On the contrary, at this point he destroyed all the other weapons playing by the rules, just to show he could do it. And when the heroes get new weapons and match him, he won't be Genre Savvy anymore.
  • In the third, fourth, and fifth seasons of Degrassi the Next Generation, more than half of the plots could have been resolved in ten seconds if the characters had chosen to just eat Jay Hogart. What did his victims do when they finally realized he was manipulating them? They glared at him really angrily, and sometimes even spoke harsh words. Some of these kids have beaten each other up because of his tricks, but when they find out the brawl was his fault, they don't even throw a punch at him. However, he does become a semi-helpful member of the cast in the sixth and seventh seasons.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. If the crew had simply tossed the Lawful Stupid Captain Janeway out the airlock after her silly Starfleet rules prevented them from getting home the first time, they'd have gotten home by the next week.
    • At one stage Q hints that Voyager would get back home a lot quicker if Janeway "mated" with him. As a feminist icon the captain rightly refuses to use her body as a bargaining chip, but in later episodes so much emphasis was placed on how much Janeway is willing to sacrifice to get her crew home, fans couldn't help wondering why she didn't just boff him.
      • SF Debris neatly solved this conundrum by pointing out that it wasn't just sex, it was having a child. This is fundamentally life-altering and adds many more factors to the decision.
    • SF Debris also noted that judicious use of a Time Bomb in the pilot would have turned the series into little more than a TV movie. The Sadistic Choice at the end of "Caretaker" was, should Voyager destroy the Caretaker Array and leave themselves with hoofing it home, or use the Array to get home and let the Kazon enslave the Ocampas? Janeway chose to blow the Array. Chuck Sonnenburg's solution was to set a time bomb aboard the Array, set to go off just after it chucked Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant.
    • For more information on Janeway's questionable actions and possible justifications, check out Trek Nation's The Court Martial of Captain Janeway.
    • Then there's Neelix. At his best, he's a useless, obnoxious, egocentric buffoon with the intellect and emotional capacity of a toddler. At his worst, he's gotten several crew members killed and endangered the entire ship on multiple occasions. In one Very Special Episode, he went beyond reckless endangerment and committed bona fide, premeditated treason. Not only does he never earn anything worse than a stern reprimand for the multiple fatalities he causes, he actually gets put in charge of people. Despite not being an officer, or even a member of Starfleet, nor having any noteworthy abilities beyond the sheer gall to appoint himself "morale officer". The bastard child of Spock and Marvin the Paranoid Android would be better for morale than Neelix.
      • The sad thing being that, in the pilot episode, Neelix was comic relief, but he was competent comic relief. He owned his own starship, was a combat-hardened veteran, was a successful businessman, and had the stones to manipulate the Voyager crew into being weapons against his enemies. Next episode, he suddenly becomes The Scrappy.
      • He's not just put in charge of morale, but also of cooking, of all things. His food is so awful that in one episode he actually poisons the ship with his cooking fumes. Not the ship's crew, but the actual ship itself.
      • In "Investigations" Neelix conducts a rogue investigation, makes an accusation using weak evidence, and violates the privacy of fellow crew members.
      • A youtube clip on how one person thinks Neelix should have been handled in the series.
      • In the episode "Memorial" Neelix is more overbearing than usual. He insists that a memorial that transmits painful memories into others be left active. The only person who supports him is Janeway.
      • What makes the above example even more ridiculous is that his reaction to experiencing those traumatising memories was to hallucinate, pick up a phaser and hold Naomi hostage in the Mess Hall, believing he was protecting children in a combat-zone. It took a while for Tuvok to talk him down. And that is one of the memories you want someone else to remember? The poor sod who next undergoes that could easily kill half of his crew, blow a hole in the side of the ship or get himself shot!
      • Also, is asking someone who witnessed the destruction of his homeworld, and has demonstrated long-lasting psychological scars from that event on more than one occasion, really the best person to give advice on subjecting people's mental health to images of a massacre? You'd think, given his background, he'd be against this?!
      • That's a typical busybody commissar, what's about the plot?
  • In Arrested Development, GOB routinely screws up Michael's plans to save the company, week after week after week, even to the point of undoing what good Michael has achieved. Given how often this occurs, it is surprising that Michael always has a change of heart right after he decides to finally get rid of GOB for good. Indeed, the humor of the series mainly stems from the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that Michael should stop caring about his family, but he is unable to.
    • If only Michael had moved away from his incompetent, irresponsible and immoral family, he wouldn't have to deal with their shenanigans. To his credit, he did try to leave in the beginning of season two. But the SEC was extra suspicious at that point.
    • The show actually ends with the SEC coming after the Bluths again and Michael finally going, "Y'know what? Fuck this."
  • In the obscure children's TV show The Legend of Tim Tyler, the title "hero" sold his laugh to an evil baron for the ability to win any bet. It took until the end of the 13 part series for Tim Tyler to discover the one way to screw the baron over... to make a bet that he could laugh.
    • In the German book Thimm Thalers Lächeln, which seems to be the source, this is both lampshaded by Thimm and made plausible because he couldn't make this bet with just anyone - he was not allowed to tell anybody about the deal, so he had to find someone who figured it out by himself as a partner to his bet.
  • Played hilariously straight twice in Robin Hood with the obligatory female Kate, though both times it happened without the writers noticing what they'd done. That this girl is a liability to the team is undeniable; she's constantly getting kidnapped, injured and sabotaging outlaw plans thanks to her reckless stupid behaviour. Therefore, it's rather amusing in the episode "Too Hot to Handle" that Kate is kidnapped (again) while the outlaws are on route to the River Trent. Instead of organising a rescue, they just continue on their way without any attempt made to go after her. Later in "Something Worth Fighting For" she marches off in a huff after being tricked into believing that Robin is cheating on her. Despite the amount of shilling that goes on, nobody seems to care about or even really notice her absence—though luckily she arrives back just in time to completely ruin their successful attempt at a peaceful sit-in protest.
  • Lost thrives on this, which is not surprising considering the connections to Gilligan's Island. All the survivors of 815 had to do was to hold a big meeting and compare notes about this VERY odd island to keep their cool and work more as a cohesive group, but noooo.....
    • This is what the survivors tried to do initially. Except there were people trying to act in the best interests of the group, such as Sayid and co. keeping the French transmission a secret. And then people acting in their own interests, like Kate trying to keep her past a secret or Sawyer making everyone hate him because he's a Jerkass Woobie. And then there's Locke, who... is Locke. Arguably, part of the show's point is that when left to their own devices, people are prone to conflict and self-destruction.

They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.

    • As a specific example, you could rename this trope to Just Eat Ben and it would still work. This man who has frankly random people kidnapped and murdered for his own desires, manipulates the protagonists continually, and is a flat out bastard with only a few sympathetic traits (which he is quick to exploit for his own means) is constantly put into scenarios where the protagonists can kill him... and they don't. Every time this happens it comes to bite them in the ass later.
  • In the first season, many problems encountered in Farscape could have been averted if they'd "Just Ditched Crichton", as he was always the primary target of the BBEG. Unfortunately, this stopped being an option when Scorpius (and later Grayza) started putting bounties on anyone that could lead them to Crichton, meaning that dumping Crichton would have been pointless; more to the point, around this time the crew had bonded to an extent that they wouldn't have done this even if they had to.
    • Farscape also gave Rygel a great many opportunities to prove himself a life-endangering nuisance in the first season: at one point, trying to fool a gang of mercenaries into believing that he still holds a position of authority, he "borrows" a critical part of Moya's circuitry to decorate his sceptre- and almost gets the entire crew killed when the mercenaries kidnap him, sceptre and all. And after almost erasing Moya's data banks in an attempt to get home, releasing a virus on the crew, he eventually goes on to sell out his shipmates to Scorpius... only for the crew to begrudgingly accept his return when the attempted betrayal goes sour. Even the second season took a while to actually transform him into a useful character...
  • For some reason, the characters in Keeping Up Appearances never just refuse to do whatever Hyacinth says. When Hyacinth ignores a "No", the characters appear resigned to obey her.
    • It gets turned into a running gag when Emmet tries to coach Liz into refusing coffee with Hyacinthe. She's just. that. SCARY.
  • Merlin, You could make a case for it, but the title character's steadfast refusal to tell anyone about the fact that he has magic has caused more problems than it's solved. In particular, his treatment of Morgana led at least partially to her Face Heel Turn.
    • Particularly as she likewise discovers she has magic in the second series. Her neck is on the line just as much as his, as it doesn't seem like that Uther would have been merciful.
  • In the fifth season of Supernatural, the main characters are desperately trying to come up with a way to stop Lucifer. After the Colt and Gabriel fail, all seems lost and they resort to sacrificing Sam to lock him away... despite being presented with several other options as the series goes on which they never even consider. The two that come to mind are the Antichrist (who can apparently "destroy the host of heaven with a thought" and seems a nice enough kid), and Deaths Scythe (which is apparently capable of killing even Death, but they never think to use it against Lucifer).
    • Remember that shortly before obtaining Death's scythe they had already witnessed the failure of the 'stab Lucifer to death' plan with Gabriel's sword—while Gabriel was wielding it. If an archangel can't survive long enough in close combat to even get within stabbing range of Lucifer, much less actually finish stabbing him, then what hope does Sam or Dean have?
      • In addition, the entire plot arc of season 5 is based on the problem that engaging Lucifer in mortal combat will, assuming you're powerful enough that he can't just crush you effortlessly, involve enough collateral damage to destroy the Earth. If getting Lucifer dead was the only problem they had then all they'd have needed to do was sit back and let Michael have his shot. It was getting rid of Lucifer without the apocalyptic battle was the tricky part.
  • |Mission Impossible actually has this inverted. Whenever there seems to be an easier, alternate way to accomplish the goal for the episode, one of the characters will bring it up in the pre-mission briefing and then an explanation as to why that can't work is given. In fact, the standing reason why the Impossible Mission Force can't just assassinate targets (which is obviously much easier than the convoluted schemes on the show) is because of a "policy decision" on behalf of the higher-ups in the United States.
    • Which anticipated the real-life Executive Order banning US involvement in political assassinations by almost a decade.
  • Dennis the Menace. Mr. Wilson's life would be much better if the Mitchells would move away. The worst part is that the man is Genre Savvy enough to know this, and his warnings to the other characters are tragically ignored.
  • In Survivor, several seasons had people shouting, "Just vote out x!" at their TVs. Especially recent seasons, wherein players seemed to have become afraid to rock the boat and try taking control of their alliances and vote out the designated "leader".
    • Redemption Island would have had a very different outcome if the Ometepes realized Rob was too dangerous to be allowed to run the game. Especially jarring considering the very first tribal council, Kristina reveals she has the idol meaning that Rob doesn't, and has a very big sign reading, "Vote me out" on his face. Unsurprisingly, he wound up winning.
    • South Pacific. Did it simply never occur to the Savaiis that they probably should have voted out Cochran? Especially after all they did to him?
    • One World. Viewers very quickly began to expect that everyone would just let Colton walk all over everybody. He did- until he was medevaced.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Seven would have had far less complications ensue in the second half of the season had the main characters invented some kind of mandatory "touch" system where they would have to make regular physical contact with each other to see if everyone present was corporeal. The First Evil caused so many problems by imitating other characters as an illusion that it seems odd that no system is invented to regularly verify that everyone there is really who they say they are.

Newspaper Comics

  • The Gilligan-specific question is subverted in the comic strip Monty (formerly Robotman, then Robotman and Monty), when the main character is trapped on the island from Lost. He discovers that the mysterious other inhabitants of the island are commanded by Gilligan, now oddly reminiscent of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Gilligan reveals that he was only feigning incompetence to ensure that no-one ever escaped the island, being actually an evil mastermind.


Prince: Desist! Desist, I say!
Sampson: But then there'd be no play.
Prince: Oh. Carry on, then.

Tabletop Games

  • Iron Kingdoms: You'd think, that with an enemy that's known for stealing the bodies of the dead and using them for shock troops, somebody would've come up with the idea of cremation by now.
    • To be fair, Cryx tends to steal most of the bodies from battlegrounds, usually while the battle has died down for the night, and before both sides agree to a cease-fire to collect the dead and wounded, so it's a bit hard to cremate them.
    • Also, while Cygnar (don't know about the other nations) does cremate the dead after a battle, there isn't really anything preventing the Cryxians from raising their own living troops, or raiding isolated villages for more bodies.
  • Averted in the Battlestar Galactica Board Game. Sending a troublesome character out the airlock will only force a now terribly pissed human player to pick another character, or regenerate a Cylon player onto the Basestar. If playing a Cylon, it only eliminates a suspect and puts suspicion back on you.
  • The argument has been made many times for detractors of the game that the only way to have a successful character in the Call of Cthulhu (tabletop game) RPG is to never follow any clues. Being based on the themes and moods of Lovecraftian stories, curiosity has less of a tendency to kill the cat as it does to trepan it, rearrange its anatomy as much as possible without killing it, magically reversing the labotomy and then suspending it in complete darkness while an unseen dog barks at it for all eternity.
    • Then again, in CoC getting killed in new and exciting ways (or going permanently insane) is kinda the point.

Video Games

  • Villainous example: In Mega Man Battle Network, it takes the villains until the second-to-last non postgame cut scene in the series to realize that three adults taking on Kid Hero Lan in real life is a better idea then taking on Megaman in Cyberspace.
    • Also, for any part of the game that involves Lan and Mega Man having to go to the Big Bad's place and stop him before he uploads "The Virus of Doom," instead of jacking-in Mega Man and fighting the virus/evil navi/whatever, wouldn't it just be easier to give Lan or an official an AK, and have him fill the computers and servers with lead, thus destroying the virus/evil Navi?
    • Not really. Presumably the virus/Navi will just escape and then all you've done is destroyed some random chunks of silicon while the world is still gonna end. Not to mention the risk of accidentally shooting someone...
  • Another Villanous Example: in Persona 3, Bad Dude Takaya has a gun that reliably kills anyone it shoots. He also doesn't want the heroes to succeed in their goals, which is first killing the twelve shadows, and then defeating Nyx. He actually does shoot a couple of SEES members, but only one sticks. One wonders why he didn't just go on a shooting spree, even if he is convinced of the inevitability of his victory.
      • What? He wants them to kill the twelve shadows so Nyx will show up. That's why he only put up a token resistance on the bridge. Once the twelve are dead, nothing they do matters; but he would like to get to see Nyx before he dies, which is why he sent Jin on a suicide mission to slow them down.
    • It's even worse because even if he WAS convicted, he'd just have to wait a while until the dark hour and just up and leave. They couldn't hold him for more than a day.
    • In the same line of idea, why the hell didn't the good guys actively tried to get their hands on Takaya and Strega in general. During the dark hour to have their personas and the ability to locate stuff during the day, by, uh, involving the police ? The Kirijo Group manages to make a policeman sell friggin' weapons to teenagers (including firearms), and they have their own crewmen who could look for them, maybe even helped by Aigis who with or without persona would certainly be able to overpower the thin, sickly, looking Takaya, gun or no gun.
  • The protagonists in Persona 4 are positive that the mysterious TV world they've discovered is linked to the series of killings occurring in their town. Of course, the police would never believe such a ridiculous story. Who would accept that people can jump through a TV? Unless, of course, they simply demonstrated their powers by shoving their hand through a screen. In one absolute wallbanger, Dojima and Adachi refuse to believe the Protagonist when he tells them the truth--despite there being a TV IN THAT VERY ROOM which he could use to prove it! Though in the latter's case, he was behind it all and was feigning stupidity.
  • If RED stopped building railway tracks leading from their base to the BLU base, it would be harder to blow up their base in Team Fortress 2.
    • They want to send a cart of their own to blow up the BLU base. But the Administrator gives all the cart bombs to BLU.
      • Not in Payload Race, where they're either trying to blow up each other's bases, or trying to blow up the same pitfall.
  • Makai Kingdom: It would have taken maybe 50 mana to wish Lord Zetta some arms. He gets to wish for whatever he wants with his near limitless mana and poof! Game's done!
    • Granted, Zetta actually DID ask for arms back at the start. And if he did get them, the game wouldn't be as hilarious as it was.
      • Pram was responsible for Zetta's predicament in the first place. Of course she wasn't going to let him bypass her plan.
  • If any of the three heroes in Fable 2 died, the villain would be completely unable to complete his plan. Conveniently, one of them is a Complete Monster. Not that Theresa would have let that happen.
  • This is a recurrent theme in many genres of games, usually on the part of the villains. Why didn't Super Mario Bros.' Bowser build a tall, sheer wall... anywhere? Why didn't Dr. Robotnik just line up enough spikes that Sonic the Hedgehog could never clear them? Why didn't Diablo send a lone overlord to the first level of the Tristram cathedral? Because then we wouldn't have any of these games. Or if we did, they would suck.
    • It's repeatedly noted that the villains enjoy fighting against their foes. For example, in the Japanese version of the Sonic X episode "Memories of the Wind" Eggman sounds happy when Sonic shows up to do battle with him, and he even outright says in Sonic Unleashed "It's no fun having your plans succeed without a challenge!". In Super Mario Galaxy it's implied in the regular battles that Bowser's like Eggman in that he enjoys fighting his respective nemesis. And Diablo did send an Overlord to guard the entrance. He sent The Butcher, also known as That One Boss, who single-handedly slaughtered almost the whole town.
  • The plots of Grand Theft Auto IV and its expansion The Ballad of Gay Tony would be enormously shorter if the main characters were allowed to use the massive amounts of money they earn to just pay off the debts of the characters they are protecting. By about the middle of IV specifically, Niko can easily be sitting on over a quarter million dollars but you'll still be doing missions for loan sharks that Roman owes money to without the option of just paying them off. This wouldn't solve all the problems but it would make them much more manageable.
  • The plot of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, although the cast can be forgiven for not realizing it under the circumstances. It takes them 6 full stories of them slaughtering eachother to finally halfway the 7th episode realize that none of that would happen if they'd just trust eachother for once. When they start the 8th story with this information and work together from the start, it becomes no more than a Curb Stomp Battle against the true enemies.
  • In the first Spyro the Dragon game, you rescue around eighty full-grown dragons. Most of them give you some helpful advice, sure, but why don't any of them help you fight Gnasty? Because the game wouldn't be as fun, of course. The sequels at least give reasons for it, e.g in Gateway to Glimmer/Ripto's Rage, Spyro's the only dragon available. In Year of the Dragon, he's the only dragon who can fit through the hole left by the intruders.
    • Given that the dragons you rescue in Gnasty's World are dragons you freed previously, the implication is probably that if the dragons helped fight him, they'd just be encased in crystal again.
  • Most Pokémon villainous groups are professional bastards or tools for the head honcho to use in his own malicious plot, and stay to the shadows for their work. And then there's Ghetsis, whose very first act is to go on a cross-region tour and profess Pokémon liberation to the people of Unova. Unfortunately, nobody even thinks to bring up a valid counterpoint to Pokémon liberation - a good example is that it makes it easier for villainous groups (like, surprise surprise, Team Plasma) to steal and abuse Pokémon for their own benefit. Had someone brought up a convincing counterpoint, Ghetsis could have been forced to take his plot back to the shop, if not outright derail it altogether.
  • Terraria has the "Guide" who does things like letting monsters into your safe house, prompting many a player to think this trope.

Web Comics

Carl: It's like they were so confused by the weird conundrums inherent in their wacky technology that they couldn't see the solution staring them right in the face.
Vexxarr: Wait, I thought that show was all about solving weird and needlessly complex problems.
Carl: Complex? BAH!

Western Animation

  • In the 1990s Incredible Hulk animated series, the military would invariably show up and ruin everything at the exact moment Bruce Banner was undergoing a procedure that would eliminate the Hulk once and for all. If they wanted to get rid of the Hulk so badly, they could have left him alone.
    • Of course, this assumes that the military was watching the cartoon. That they're in. General Ross was convinced Banner was a dangerous villain, it was sort of the point of his character, it's not like he could read that week's script and say "Oh, if we don't interrupt him Banner will cure himself, let's just stay home this week."
      • This works for the first few times, but if General Ross never clues in after multiple attempts then he is legitimately guilty of professional negligence; one of the things his military intelligence people and scientific advisors should be doing is analyzing the bits that Banner keeps leaving behind to try and figure out what he's up to (if the guy you believe is a dangerous monster keeps trying to do something, then by your own logic its a potential danger and needs to be paid attention to), and after collecting enough bits a pattern should start to be obvious.
  • There is not an episode of The Fairly OddParents which couldn't have been solved or averted by creating the standing wish of "always warn me before any wish that might take away my power to make wishes" and then just flat undoing anything left. Of course, both protagonist Timmy and fairy godparent Cosmo are supposed to be idiots. One episode actually commented on this concept. One time Timmy wishes that he loses his emotions and after that, has nothing to do but think. He comes to the conclusion that "the reason they couldn't build a boat on Gilligan's Island is because it would end the series...", which is somewhat similar to his situation.
    • This was at its absolute worst in the episode where Timmy enters the TV. They didn't even give him some paper-thin reason as to why he couldn't wish the remote back to him and away from Vicky. It's never even mentioned.
      • Actually, there was a time Vicky accidentally got a hold of a magic reality resetting watch. He couldn't wish it back. Apparently you can't wish magical items away from whoever's using it.
    • And sort of inverted during the Magic Muffin thing.

Cosmo: I don't get it, why don't you just wish you had the muffin back?
Timmy: Good idea, Cosmo! I wish I had the muffin back!
Wanda: We can't do it. You know as well as I do that the muffin is more powerful than we are.
Cosmo: Yeah, I just wanted to know why he hadn't tried.

  • Wile E Coyote and The Road Runner seems to have the ability and resources available to send away for any sort of gizmo he desires, and have it arrive immediately to aid him in his quest to catch the roadrunner. It never occurs to him to simply order some food.
    • Creator Chuck Jones liked to quote George Santayana's observation, "A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim." Meaning, to Wile E., eating the Road Runner is largely not the point anymore.
      • Indeed, as Cliff Claven pointed out on Cheers, "What he wants is to eat that particular Roadrunner. Very existential."
    • Lampshaded in Night Court of all places, with Judge Stone presiding over Wile E. Coyote and telling him that next time he's hungry he should just go to a restaurant or supermarket.
    • In the shorts where Wile E. is pitted against Bugs Bunny, it's made clear that he's in it for the intellectual challenge as much as for a meal. One would assume this is probably the case in the Road Runner shorts as well.
    • Lampshaded in one of his shorts. Wile E. explains that the reason he compulsively chases the roadrunner is because roadrunners are the most Goddamn delicious things on Earth, including a meat chart with all the flavors of a roadrunners various cuts laid out.
    • A Looney Tunes comic book does actually establish that Wile E. gets his food via mail order, and that catching Roadrunner is just his hobby. Word of God, people.
    • This is hilariously lampshaded in a short in which Wile E. is successful in his attempts to capture the Roadrunner. Of course, he's now a comically puny size thanks to Rule of Funny so the Roadrunner is much...much bigger than him. Wile E. then points out to the audience that he's absolutely clueless as to what to do next.
      • There's at least one other short where he catches the Roadrunner, in a bit of a Take That to people who over-think cartoons. Two chubby bespectacled kids speaking in big words watching the cartoon note that with his greater intellect, the Coyote should succeed, and explain exactly how in a very simple plan—and the Coyote is listening, and then catches the Roadrunner! He's then informed by the director that he's now fired, as there can't be any more show. He surreptitiously lets the Roadrunner go, and says, "Oh, no, he's escaped!", and is hired again on the spot. The kids are then seen again, saying, "Oh, THAT'S why he never catches the Roadrunner."
      • The heights of Wile E.'s obsession is underscored by the large number of his plans that, had they succeeded, would have destroyed the Road Runner, or at least rendered its carcass inedible.
      • Really one of his main problems is that he keeps buying shoddy products from Acme. Which one episode reveals as being owned and operated by the Road Runner!
  • Over the course of Thundercats Mumm-Ra was revealed to have an incredible array of powers and resources at his disposal. If he had used several of these at once instead of one per episode, he could have won easily.
    • Using too much at one time weakens him too much for the next time, probably. And if he went too far, then the Good Guys would be more than able to crush him.
    • He's also Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living. If he wants his world to himself, all he has to do is wait until the Thundercats have died of old age. With most of them closely related to each other, and only two females in the gene pool anyway, it won't take that long.
      • We're talking about cats, anyone who ever grew up on a farm will tell you there is no incest taboo in feline family groups, plus they reproduce in litters, if either let alone both of these real cat traits exist in the Thundercats' Universe then waiting is the worst thing he can do
  • Why doesn't Bluto just eat spinach to beat Popeye? There was one cartoon in which they were trying to be hospitalized, and Bluto did indeed eat spinach and beat up Popeye.
    • If that's the one I'm thinking of, Bluto didn't so much "eat" the spinach as have it forced down his throat by Popeye. At a guess, Bluto hates spinach even more than he hates Popeye.
      • This is underscored by one cartoon where Bluto invents a powerful herbicide to destroy all of the world's spinach to incapacitate Popeye. Popeye pleads to the audience, and some kid with a grocery bag throws it into the screen. Popeye beats Bluto, and cures all the spinach.
    • The movie at least Hand Waves this by implying that it was not that spinach itself had magical power-up properties, but that Popeye's family had long drawn strength from a diet of spinach.
  • Entire episodes of Tale Spin are often driven by Baloo's incompetence, laziness or audacity, or Rebecca's hardheadedness, blind ambition or naivete. What could be solved simply with some logical thinking often snowballs into a very big problem. Sometimes Kit or Molly's recklessness or need for adventure complicates matters, too, though not as often as Baloo and Rebecca's character flaws do.
    • Played with in one episode, where Rebecca wins a contest and needs to get her winning entry to a radio station on time to get a large sum, but she's too busy to get it mailed herself. She knows that Baloo is lazy except when something doesn't matter, so she tries to use Reverse Psychology, telling him that she'd appreciate it if he could take care of mailing it out for her, but that it wasn't important. Unfortunately for her, Baloo, already experienced with how much trouble arises from her hardheadedness and blind ambition, figures that her laissez-faire attitude means it really isn't important, so he spends the fare for the letter on himself (after Rebecca said he could keep the change) and sends it via the cheapest possible postage. Cue scramble when both parties realize what they had done.
  • Ulysses Feral from Swat Kats invokes this for the title heroes' origin; despite clearly being told they had a target lock, his stubborn obsession to be the only one allowed to bring Dark Kat down not only caused the Enforcers to lose the villain (which the aforementioned target lock would've likely prevented), but also forced Jake and Chance into the crash that ended their Enforcer career and began their career as the titular gang. True, there would be no cartoon, but at least they would've been able to bring a dangerous criminal to justice. Even after the incident, Feral insists on fighting against the SWAT Kats and bringing them to "justice", even though it's been shown time and time again the supervillains they deal with are more than the Enforcers can handle, on their own, and other, more reasonable members of his force (like his niece Felina) can see the benefit of allying themselves with them.
  • The Transformers: Good thing the Decepticons never thought of getting rid of Starscream. He's the only reason the Autobots kept surviving, or even woke up in the first place. One time he even saved the cornered Autobots just for the sake of ruining Megatron's plans. Right in front of him, complete with a smug one-liner.
    • However, one could argue Starscream had the right idea. If they just blew up the Ark (or at least slagged the Autobots in their stasis lock), they could have conquered Earth without Autobot interference.
    • Sometimes, Megatron does sum up the intellect to kill Starscream. He does so in The Movie after one nearly successful attempt, and in at least one reboot, Megatron practically makes it a habit.
      • Some other comics and whatnot have pointed out that Megatron doesn't get rid of Starscream because he's a talented scientist capable of truly remarkable feats of engineering. It's just that Starscream being a scientist was usually a case of an Informed Ability on the show. One of the only times he displayed his abilities was building an entire combiner team... after Megatron kicked him out of the Decepticons. Of course, his creation of Bruticus basically got him back in Megatron's good graces, so lather, rinse, repeat.
      • There's also that when you're in a situation where you cannot replace casualties, you cannot really afford to get rid of anyone. If there were more Transformers lining up outside a recruiting office to become Decepticons then Megatron could afford to dispose of one of his more competent squad leaders and fighters. But there aren't, so its either 'rely on being able to keep Starscream in line' or 'Try to fight a war with a big hole in the TO&E'. A similar dynamic existed with Beast Wars Megatron and Tarantulus—if BW Megatron had anybody to replace him with, and wasn't so direly short-handed, he'd gladly have shoved Tarantulus into a lava pit. But he didn't, so he didn't.
  • Anyone who grew up with Jem will most likely be astounded on revisiting the show and realizing that the rival band of Jem and the Holograms (The Misfits) would often indulge in felonies such as kidnapping, blackmail, sabotage and slander in order to boost their own sales and discredit their opponents. A simple phone call to the police would have seen them locked up for a very long time.
    • Made worse by the fact that Jerrica owns Starlight Music and could probably do a lot more to ensure that Eric Raymond would stop causing trouble as a record executive than a pop idol.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987, almost every time Shredder and Krang fail it is because of Bebop and Rocksteady's bumbling. Simply getting rid of the two or at least locking them up would result in far less humilation for Shredd-Head and Krang.
    • This gets taken to the logical conclusion in the series finale of both the original and 2003 cartoons, in which Utrom Shredder, AKA a villain that was besting three separate generations of Turtles as well as fairly powerful allies, has already destroyed entire universes, and is scarily competent... is defeated by their screwing up.
    • Building the universe-conquering superweapon with a working power source would have done it. Given some of the stuff they used to get it temporarily working, it probably could have run at full power on a diesel engine.
  • Nicely subverted in the Squidbillies episode "A Sober Sunday." The Cuylers spend the episode trying to lift the banning of liquor sales on Sunday, but are unable to do so. At the end of the episode Granny asks why they don't just buy their Sunday liquor on Saturday. Early throws her in a fire and claims that it's too inconvenient.
  • Considering how many times he screws them up, if Brain got rid of Pinky or at least kept him as far away from his plans as he could manage, he'd rule the world within a week, if that.
    • It would seem so - but in "That Smarts," Pinky becomes as intelligent as the Brain, to the delight of the latter... until a) Pinky starts indicating flaws in every single planet-conquering scheme and b) the Brain realises that the only way any of his plans will succeed is if one of them is an idiot. So he makes himself as "smart" (i.e. as stupid) as Pinky normally is... unfortunately, Pinky's seen how miserable the Brain is now that the balance of power has shifted, and he makes himself as stupid as he was before! Needless to say, this doesn't stick for the rest of the series.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, Chloe is a mean girl and Alpha Bitch who's bullying and underhanded ways cause a great deal in resentment, depression, and anger in her classmates, making her ultimately responsible for a vast majority of akuma-related threats. Often, these corrupted villains deliver Laser-Guided Karma to Chloe herself... Or rather, they would, but Ladybug always rescues Chloe. Many fans would agree that about 90% of Ladybug and Cat Noir's troubles would be gone if they simply let one of these villains have her, but such a morally questionable brand of justice isn't their type.
  1. A quick Anti-Apparition Jinx would have saved you a tremendous amount of trouble, Albus.