Created By: NateTheGreat on July 18, 2011 Last Edited By: Westrim on May 14, 2013
Troped

Repeated Cue, Tardy Response

You expected an event to happen, but the spoken cue fails and you vainly keep saying it.

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This trope is when you repeat a word or phrase, hoping that just by the repetition you'll make something happen. Here's an example:

You and your friend have set up a scheme. When you say the word, your friend will trigger an event with perfect timing. Maybe you're going for dramatic flair. Maybe you're trying to fool an audience into believing you're magic. Or maybe you're just stalling until the villain is in the right spot to trap him. In any case, things have to go just as planned.

You're giving your speech. The big moment arrives, and you utter the code phrase...and nothing happens.

So you say the phrase again, hoping the event will now occur. Still no dice. Maybe your friend didn't hear you? You repeat it again, louder and with more emphasis...and still nothing happens.

Rule of Funny means that, if the event actually does eventually happen, it will always occur either after you've given up, or between recitations. Example: "Behold this event...Now!" (beat) "...Now!" (beat) "...No--" (interrupted by event)

This is an example of a phenomenon in behavioral psychology called an "extinction burst," which is where a behavior that's been consistently rewarded in the past suddenly isn't rewarded, and the behavior will briefly become more frequent before it stops.

Psych textbooks use the example of flipping a light switch, finding that the lights don't come on, and then flipping the switch on and off again a few times before you give up.

Examples:

Live-Action TV
  • Arrested Development: In Exit Strategy Michael is in a meeting with Wayne Jarvis. Wayne dramatically says, "[GOB]'s on the news right now," and turns the television on. He's not on the news. They wait for quite a while before the aforementioned news report finally comes on.
    Wayne Jarvis: And imagine the impact if that had come on right when we turned on the TV.
  • That 70's Show: Donna tells Eric to hide in the woods so he can jump out at the end of a ghost story she is going to tell.
    Donna: You'll know when she's coming because she screams before she kills. Let's see if we can hear her.
    [silence]
    Donna: I said let's see if we can hear her!
    Eric (off screen): Donna, I'm stuck in a thorn bush.

Movies
  • The climax of Mall Rats featured Brody setting up to expose the antagonist's previous crime (indecency with a minor) to be as public as possible, but it backfires in this fashion when the tape gets dropped. Cue protagonist yelling, "NOW!" several times while being hauled away before events turn and the tape plays, resetting Brody's plan.
  • In the Pixar film Cars, Lightning says the phrase "Is it getting dark out?" at which point the old lady car (can't remember her name) was supposed to activate the neon lights, but she didn't hear him. Lightning tries again, she actually forgot what she was supposed to do and Red decides to do her job for her.

Video Games
  • At the end of Team Fortress 2 tie-in video Meet the Spy, the BLU Soldier has killed the BLU Spy because he was "obviously" the RED Spy.
    BLU Soldier: Watch, he'll turn red any second now. ... Annyyy second now...

Community Feedback Replies: 95
  • July 18, 2011
    OmarKarindu
    "Cargo cult" is the real-world term for this sort of thing, based on analogy. But I think there's already a trope with that name.
  • July 18, 2011
    zero24
    Related to Tempting Fate?
  • July 19, 2011
    terrafox
    • The climax of Mall Rats featured Brody setting up to expose the antagonist's previous crime (indecency with a minor) to be as public as possible, but it backfires in this fashion when the tape gets dropped. Cue protagonist yelling, "NOW!" several times while being hauled away before events turn and the tape plays, resetting Brody's plan.
  • July 19, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    • Arrested Development: In Exit Strategy Michael is in a meeting with Wayne Jarvis. Wayne dramatically says, "[GOB]'s on the news right now," and turns the television on. He's not on the news. They wait for quite a while before the aforementioned news report finally comes on.
      Wayne Jarvis: And imagine the impact if that had come on right when we turned on the TV.
    • That 70's Show: Donna tells Eric to hide in the woods so he can jump out at the end of a ghost story she is going to tell.
      Donna: You'll know when she's coming because she screams before she kills. Let's see if we can hear her.
      [silence]
      Donna: I said let's see if we can hear her!
      Eric (off screen): Donna, I'm stuck in a thorn bush.
  • July 19, 2011
    Ryusui
    I know this trope.

    Missed The Cue, perhaps?
  • July 19, 2011
    SpiderRider3
    Real Life: When technicians try to reproduce software bugs.
  • July 19, 2011
    Shnakepup
    This seems legit. I know I've seen it before, but I can't think of any examples...definitely needs a more concise title. Missed The Cue might work, but this seems to focus more on the repetition of the cue.

    Maybe "Prompting Fate", as a riff on Tempting Fate, since they're related?
  • July 19, 2011
    Shnakepup
    Hope you don't mind, Nate, but since you had it listed as Up For Grabs I went ahead and rewrote the description. Let me know if I misinterpreted it or anything.

    @Ryusui - Now that I think of it, Missed The Cue might work better. If no one objects, I'll change the title.
  • July 19, 2011
    dangerwaffle
    This is an example of a phenomenon in behavioral psychology called an "extinction burst," which is where a behavior that's been consistently rewarded in the past suddenly isn't rewarded, and the behavior will briefly become more frequent before it stops.

    One of my psych textbooks used the example of flipping a light switch, finding that the lights don't come on, and then flipping the switch on and off again a few times before you give up.
  • July 19, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    Watching Finding Nemo right now and the Ring of Fire thing in the Mount Wannahockaloogie scene is making me wonder how essential the repetition is. It seems to me that it's just tempting the creation of another trope in the future that includes the non-repeated versions.

    I like Missed The Cue. It's much more concise and I think still gets the point across.
  • July 19, 2011
    NateTheGreat
    No, it doesn't. Missed The Cue implies that a person missed their cue. i.e. the person failed to do or say something at the appointed time. That isn't this trope.

    Mistimed Cue?
  • July 20, 2011
    Shnakepup
    "Missed The Cue" refers to the other person, who was supposed to trigger the event, not the guy repeating the phrase. Not sure what's the difference. But Mistimed Cue could work as well. Or go with dangerwaffle's idea and call it Extiction Burst, though that's probaly too confusing for people unfamiliar with psychology :P

    What about my original suggestion: Prompting Fate? Still works, methinks.
  • July 20, 2011
    billybobfred
    At the end of Team Fortress 2 tie-in video Meet the Spy, the BLU Soldier has killed the BLU Spy because he was "obviously" the RED Spy.
    BLU Soldier: Watch, he'll turn red any second now. ... Annyyy second now...

    Also, Example As A Thesis is one of those things we're trying to stop doing.

    Also also it's probably worthy of mention that "any second now" is one of the most common versions of this trope.
  • July 20, 2011
    Shnakepup
    I didn't intend for my description to come off as Example As Thesis, I was just trying to show a straightforward example so it was clear to people what the trope is about. But I'll add a short description to the beginning; if you can think of something better, go ahead.

  • July 20, 2011
    neoYTPism
    While specific citable examples aren't coming to mind right now, I can already think of a few personal examples. I'll save 'em for troper tales, though.
  • July 20, 2011
    NateTheGreat
    Not all of these examples are "Guy A says something to trigger Guy B into action". That's why it won't work.

    Consider a variant that I don't think actually happened, but will illustrate. "Old Faithful will blow...now. ...Now. ...Now. Ugh."
  • July 20, 2011
    Shnakepup
    Ah, I see. Hmm.

    billbobfred's Any Second Now seems like a good choice then.
  • July 20, 2011
    dangerwaffle
    OK, now that there's a few more examples, this is actually not quite synonymous with extinction burst; it would only count as an extinction burst if the event (or one like it) has happened properly on cue in the past. So I guess extinction bursts are pretty much a subtrope. Not sure if it should be mentioned in the trope description still or under Real Life examples.
  • August 15, 2011
    NateTheGreat
    Bump.
  • August 15, 2011
    Aspie
    • Thornton Wilder's play The Skin Of Our Teeth, which is about a group of actors putting on a play (which is also called The Skin of Our Teeth and appears to be about the same subject matter as the play the audience is watching) has an opening scene where the actress playing the maid continues to cue another actor, who never appears, leaving the maid to improvise.
  • August 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^Similar incidents happen in "Nothing On," the Show Within A Show of Noises Off.
  • August 16, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    Maybe we should bring this up in the YKKTW workstation thread to ask for title ideas?
  • August 16, 2011
    MegSweets
    In one episode of The Fresh Princeof Bel Air, Will and Carlton are telling Jazz about the time that the family got put into witness protection because Will got on the wrong side of an assassin. Will convinces some of his new neighbors (a bunch of stereotypical rednecks) to help him fight the assassin, but by the time the assassin shows up, the neighbors are in a drunken daze as Will helplessly repeats the code word that was supposed to signal The Cavalry.
  • August 16, 2011
    TonyG
    On Just Shoot Me, Jack got the winning lottery numbers, but Dennis never actually bought the ticket. To hide the fact, he concocts a plan that involves getting a fake ticket, then having it fly off the office window when Nina opened the door. The cue word was "lucky day", but Nina missunderstood it as "Marvin Gaye", so Dennis kept screaming "Lucky day!" over and over to no effect. Nina eventually does open the door, but only because she got tired of waiting.
  • August 17, 2011
    HiddenFacedMatt
    IIRC I've seen this in The Simpsons, (from Krusty in particular) but I forget the context, subject, and wording. Granted, that gives very little to go on, but hopefully I can refresh another user's memory...
  • October 23, 2011
    NateTheGreat
    Bump.
  • October 23, 2011
    NESBoy
    Invoked in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 showing of Space Mutiny. Mike and the bots see Kalgan's revival in the final scene of the movie coming, so when the camera got close enough to his face, they start saying, "And his eyes open."
  • October 24, 2011
    valbinooo
    Happens in The Dark Knight when the Joker hits a button to blow up the hospital. When it doesn't go off, he hits the button on the remote a few more times in frustration, and he jumps when it *does* blow up.
  • October 24, 2011
    AFP
    I would say Extinction Burst because it's the Real Life name for this... but yeah, we'd have to start an index for Easily Abused Tropes just to put this on right afterwards, since I know it will end up being used for huge explosions causing the End Of The World As We Know It.
  • October 24, 2011
    AFP
    So that was a wordy way of saying "I liked Missed The Cue"
  • January 1, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    Bump.
  • January 1, 2012
    JohnDiFool
    In the Looney Tunes short Rabbit Hood Little John shows up periodically to announce, "Duhh don't you worry never fear, Robin Hood will soon be here." Bugs Bunny Lampshades this each time after he doesn't show, but eventually at the end he does.
  • January 1, 2012
    Generality
    • In Mirror Mask, the protagonist's parents run a small family circus. In one scene, the mother must run offscreen, change into a gorilla costume, and come back on as a different character. Unfortunately, she has a sudden migraine and passes out, forcing another crew member to take her place. The delay results in the oblivious father repeating her cue (mention of bananas) with increasing pointedness until the replacement appears.
  • January 24, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    Bump.
  • January 25, 2012
    JobanGrayskull
    In Spider-Man 2, Mary Jane notices Peter sitting in the crowd at her play, and is distracted causing her to miss her cue. The stage manager is just off stage repeatedly whispering "I AM GLAD" to try and cue her line.
  • January 25, 2012
    ccoa
    Do they have to repeat the cue more than once?

    • In Avatar The Last Airbender, the Gaang hatches a plan to get Katara arrested for earthbending. When Katara says the cue, "I'll show you... Earthbending style!", Aang is distracted by a butterfly and doesn't perform his part. She then repeats the cue, angrily, "I said, 'I'll show you, earthbending style!'", causing him to wake up and make with the fake earthbending.
  • January 25, 2012
    Shnakepup
    That seems like it'd fit.
  • January 25, 2012
    Kayube
    In the Strong Bad E-mail "time capsule", Strong Bad says that he'll put one of his number one jams on a cassette tape and leave it in a time capsule, and that people in the future will send groupies and royalties back in time to him "riiiight... NOW!" At first he thinks it worked, but then it turns out to be just Homestar coming in. He tries again several times at the end of the e-mail but nothing happens.
  • January 25, 2012
    X2X
    It's revealed in The Fairly Odd Parents episode "Something's Fishy!" that Cosmo sunk the mythical city of Atlantis nine times, earning him the title "The Accursed One" from the angry Atlanteans, who put him on trial and sentence him to death by summoning Krakens to eat him. In order to save himself, Cosmo, and Wanda, Timmy (who has the powers of Aquaman Captain Ersatz Wet Willie for that episode) telepathically calls for a giant squid. It doesn't show up (despite Timmy repeating the above phrase), causing the people of Atlantis to mock him. That is, until the ending of the episode, right after Timmy convinces King Greg that Cosmo sinking the city nine times was a good thing by showing him the horrors of the surface world (namely, terrible entertainment in the form of a Wet Willie movie), causing them to redub Cosmo "The Beloved One." The giant squid destroys Atlantis, earning Timmy the title of "New Accursed One."
  • January 25, 2012
    MyTimingIsOff
    Is this in-universe or an Audience Reaction? I can't tell from the description.
  • January 25, 2012
    CaveCat
    Used in a Garfield And Friends short.
  • January 25, 2012
    MyTimingIsOff
  • January 25, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    In universe. The Audience Reaction equivalent would be Genre Saavy, I suppose.
  • January 25, 2012
    MyTimingIsOff
  • January 25, 2012
    Eomega123
    Red Vs Blue: In episode 3 of Revelation, Sarge sets a trap for Agent Washington that involves Grif crashing the warthog through a concrete wall when he says 'Shotgun', but Grif repeatedly misses his cue. Sarge starts off trying to work the word into coherent sentences but eventaully resorts to shouting "I said shotgun! Shotgun dammit!", at which point Grif remembers that that's his cue. A similar situation occurs at the end of the season when Sarge is fighting The Meta. He repeats 'shotgun' three times, again ending on "Shotgun dammit!", before Grif realizes that Sarge wants him to push the warthog, and The Meta tethered to it, off the cliff.
  • January 25, 2012
    acrobox
    Homestar Runner - the the Sbemail time capusle, Strongbad believes that a cassette tape of a self recorded song that he plans on putting in a timecapsule will cause future groupies to use a time machine to come meet him prompting this quote. :Man, I wonder when those groupies and royalties are getting here. What about right (hamina hooo) NOW! CRAP! OK, what about right... here it comes, just a little bit longer NOW! Ugh. This could take a while. Oh, the time is passing by, oh it's such a lovely day NOW! 5-4-3-2-1-NOW! 5-4-3-2-1-NOW! 3-2-1-NOW! 2-1-NOW! NOW! 1-NOW! NOW!
  • January 27, 2012
    Antigone3
    This shows up in the Kabuki play Shibaraku. Right before two characters are executed, the hero Gongoro shouts "Shibaraku" ("Wait a minute") and makes his entrance. At least, that's how it was supposed to go. In an early production, the actor playing the villain deliberately ignored the cue to get back at the actor playing Gongoro, who had to keep yelling from the far end of the hanamichi. The audience loved it, and it's been part of the production ever since.
  • February 18, 2012
    Westrim
    This needs a bit of cleanup, but it looks ready for launch.
  • February 18, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    In the Dresden Files/MLP fanfic My Little Deanarians, Harry expects a last second Big Damn Heroes rescue when situation turns grim. Nothing happens because by MLP standards he is an antihero and thus not eligible for the "good guys always win" rule.
  • February 18, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Sounds like a subverted tempting fate, assuming they have no influence over the event save trying to tempt fate.
  • March 7, 2012
    Westrim
    Bumping. This seems to have been abandoned, so at some point I'll clean it up and launch it.
  • March 17, 2012
    Westrim
    Just to make sure, does anyone see any issues with launching this?
  • March 17, 2012
    Nocturna
    No objections.
  • April 29, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    Just reminding Westrim to launch it if he still wants to.
  • April 30, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of The Simpsons Homer arranges for not-Martha Stewart to call Marge live during her show to wish her a Happy Birthday. He makes everyone wait while he says "three...two...one!" Nothing happens. He continues to say "one" for hours. Then it turns out that Marge's new pet rabbit (given to her by Bart for her birthday) had chewed through the phone wire, preventing the call from coming through.
  • June 22, 2012
    Noah1
    In Hey Arnold, Arnold, Harold, and Eugene are stuck up a tree, the latter optimistically saying "Any minute now" for hours.
  • February 1, 2013
    Westrim
    Going through YKTT Ws and finding ones that didn't get launched. This is good to go, I'll launch it in a few hours with any new examples.
  • February 1, 2013
    StarSword
    ^No, you won't. No New Stock Phrases.
  • February 1, 2013
    NateTheGreat
    You're free to come up with an alternative, Star Sword.
  • February 1, 2013
    Westrim
    It does perhaps need a new title, since the current title is a specific phrase while the explanation makes it clear that it can be anything that gets repeated hoping for an event. It doesn't seem to violate any of the bullet points on No New Stock Phrases.
  • February 3, 2013
    Westrim
    bumping for title suggestions
  • February 3, 2013
    StarSword
    Off By Two Minutes? Hoping For Event Repeating?

    TV:
    • In the Stargate SG 1 episode "Window of Opportunity" Jack and Teal'c get stuck in a Groundhog Day Loop. On an early cycle, he tries to prove to Sam and General Hammond that that is what's going on by predicting that another SG team will come back early because one of them fell and broke his ankle. Jack's guess was about a minute early and he used this trope when it didn't happen when he said it would.
  • February 4, 2013
    AP
    • In Blade III, Hannibal King is captured by the villains and reveals that he had a tracking device, allowing his teammates to know his exact location. He then gives a verbal cue, expecting a Big Damn Heroes moment. It doesn't come and he nervously asks for a cellphone.
    • Lampshaded in Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, Ethan Hunt shouts, "Mission Accomplished" just before hitting a button which would ensure the villain's plans were defeated. His teammates had gotten tied up dealing with The Dragon, leaving Ethan to frantically push the button until they could do their part. In the end scene, he amd his teammates have a good laugh about this.
  • February 4, 2013
    Lavalyte
    From Megamind :
    • Megamind: Minion, fire?
    • Minion: Uh, still warming up, sir.
    • Megamind: Come again?
    • Minion: Warming up, sir.
    • Megamind: Warming up? The sun is warming up?
    • Minion: One...second...more...and...just....tippy tappy, tippy tap, tap, tip, top more.
    • Megamind: Honestly!
    • Minion: And we are ready in just a few...hang on one second.
    • Megamind: [exasperated] Uuhh! I told you to have things ready. I told you countless times.
  • February 5, 2013
    Westrim
    Hmm, those don't work for me Star Sword. Maybe Premature Prediction? Premature Expectation?
  • February 5, 2013
    CastingCrowns
    The Jack Benny Program: On a Christmas show, Andy Devine was supposed to climb out of the chimney when Jack yelled, "Santy Claus will be here any minute!" When the time came, Jack yelled several times, louder each time. Eventually, Andy cuts him off and says he can't come because he's stuck in the chimney.
  • February 5, 2013
    chicagomel
    The Sound Of Music has one of these when the family escapes after singing in the concert. The announcer introduces them several times before someone else yells that they're gone.
  • February 6, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In another Simpsons, parodying Lady And The Tramp, Lady!Marge sings "Any Minute Now" while wating for Tramp!Homer to show up. But he doesn't.
  • February 6, 2013
    MokonaZero
    Happens very often in Real Life when students wait for a bell to ring.
  • February 6, 2013
    StarSword
    Saw a name suggestion up top that looks good: Prompting Fate.
  • February 6, 2013
    batgirl1
    But what does arranging a cue with other characters have to do with fate?
  • February 6, 2013
    Nocturna
    I think it's a play on "tempting fate".
  • February 6, 2013
    Chabal2
    From Animorphs, when Rachel and Cassie are trying to remove a powered-down Erek from a store and an employee is in the way, not seeing Marco in gorilla morph behind:
    Rachel: Look out, that lava lamp is about to fall and hit you in the head!
    Employee: Huh?
    Marco: <Huh?>
    Rachel: -Death Glare- I said, look out, that lava lamp is about to fall and hit you in the head!
    Marco: <Oh, right.> -Tap On The Head-

  • February 9, 2013
    billybobfred
    ^^^ The cue is not necessarily for a character. (See: BLU Soldier expecting BLU Spy to turn RED)

    I like Prompting Fate, but then, I caught the play on Tempting Fate immediately.
  • February 9, 2013
    Stratadrake
    I don't like Prompting Fate as a title, because of what Tempting Fate is.
  • February 12, 2013
    Chabal2
    The current image on Arent You Going To Ravish Me demonstrates.
  • February 13, 2013
    Westrim
    Maybe something other than fate. Prompt Delayed? Prompting Hold Up?
  • February 13, 2013
    Nocturna
    Hmm... It's not the prompt that's delayed, though; it's the response. Maybe Prompt Response Lag (Prompt-Response Lag)?
  • February 13, 2013
    azul120
    • Happens in "Metal by Numbers" by Brian Posehn, as he attempts to cue the solo, several times.
  • February 18, 2013
    Westrim
  • February 19, 2013
    Nocturna
    I like that one.
  • February 28, 2013
    Westrim
    The one problem I see with it is potential confusion about the definition of prompt. With prompting fate it was clear, but with response delayed it may be seen as a synonym for speedy. What about something like spur or trigger rsponse dlayed?
  • February 28, 2013
    Nocturna
    I thought the wordplay on "prompt" was deliberate (but apparently not), as it's both (what should have been) a timely response which takes longer than it should, and a delay in the response to a prompt.

    So I don't think the overlapping meanings are a problem.
  • February 28, 2013
    billybobfred
    The problem I see is that it's fairly likely that an uninformed reader will see "prompt" and "delay" in the same title, think "delay = slow, prompt = fast", and stop there.

    When it comes to double meanings, the obvious one should be the primary one, which in this case it isn't.
  • May 5, 2013
    Westrim
    Another two months went by. I've changed the name, let me know what you think.
  • May 5, 2013
    MonaNaito
    I know you've gone through quite a lot of arguing about names, so I hate to say this, but Tardy Response is rather nonindicative. It could be describing anything that is a delayed response to anything. Keep Repeating The Cue?
  • May 7, 2013
    Westrim
  • May 8, 2013
    Nocturna
    I kinda feel bad about saying this, giving the round-and-round that's been going on, but wouldn't Tardy Response Repeated Cue make more sense, as it's the lack of response that causes the repetition?
  • May 8, 2013
    Westrim
    Well, the most important part of the trope is the repetition, which is why I put it first, I think it should be okay. Don't worry about it, better to get it hammered out now than after launch
  • May 9, 2013
    Protar
    In Iron Man 3 Tony is trying to call his suit to him from Tennessee whilst in Miami. He repeatedly threatens the enemy mooks with their impending death before the parts of his suit finally reach his destination.
  • May 12, 2013
    Westrim
    If you think the name is okay, throw in a hat, and if not say why and give a suggestion.
  • May 12, 2013
    AP
    • In an episode of Full House, Michelle is in a play with her friend who has stage fright. She keeps giving the cue, "Look, here comes that Yanky-Doodle Boy" but he doesn't come out. She has to go backstage and talk him into giving his dance number.
  • May 13, 2013
    partner555
    In the Pixar film Cars, Lightning says the phrase "Is it getting dark out?" at which point the old lady car (can't remember her name) was supposed to activate the neon lights, but she didn't hear him. Lightning tries again, she actually forgot what she was supposed to do and Red decides to do her job for her.
  • May 14, 2013
    partner555
    I checked, and the old lady car's name is Lizzie.
  • May 14, 2013
    Westrim
    Alright, 5 hats and no more name suggestions, bumping one more time but launching in a couple hours.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=5pinmm7j2oaz7kglbnyrivaz&trope=RepeatedCueTardyResponse