Created By: Unknown Troper on September 14, 2008

Underpants Gnome Gambit

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Step 1: Steal Underpants. Step 2: [under construction] Step 3: Conquer world.

A plan in which the early steps do not seem to have any logical causal relationship to latter portions. We are expected to believe that the one will lead to the other, but it's really hard to see HOW. A logical step is missing to make the actions of step 1 lead to the results of step 3.

Distinct from a Xanantos Roulette, in that a Roulette claims a complicated chain of events with large chance factors was all planned from the start. An Underpants Gnome Gambit instead cuts out the middle and has the desired results stemming from apparently unconnected actions. Generally becomes apparent through Fridge Logic

Can be played for laughs as a way of lampshading the ineptitude of the chessmaster, but appears in straight form very often.

If this is just the result of people making things up as they go along, this is an Indy Ploy.

  • The trope maker example is a South Park episode, and if somebody could tell me which one that would make things a lot cooler.
  • Webcomic example: In Penny & Aggie, Karen recently pulled off a straight one of these. How exactly does spreading a rumour that Penny is a lesbian result in her making an angry fool of herself at Karen's party when she doesn't know Karen was behind it?
  • Return of the Jedi: Luke Skywalker's actions in the second half are a fairly well-known example. Luke appears to have the plan; 1, Get captured. 2, Redeem my father by making him feel bad, 3, Destroy Death Star and save the rebellion. He managed part 2, but it lead to part 3 only by the unconnected actions of the other characters. There have been attempts to explain away this one.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • September 14, 2008
    The South Park episode is apparently called "Gnomes".
  • September 14, 2008
    Seen It A Million Times in the form:

    1: Do X
    2: ?????????
    3: Profit!
  • September 14, 2008
    Dr. Regal's plan in the fourth Megaman Battle Network game.

    1. Steal asteroid. 2. ??? 3. Create a new world of pure evil.

    Maybe there's some Fridge Brilliance that I missed, but I didn't get the connection.
  • September 14, 2008
    From Johhny Bravo:
    Villain:Soon I will have enough yarn to rule the world! Cat: How are you going to do that with yarn, boss? Villain:...uh...SILENCE!
  • September 14, 2008
    I think it was a Far Side comic, but I'm not sure, involving a mathematical proof with a well placed "then a miracle happens" at one point.
  • September 14, 2008
    @ Falcon Pain - it's actually by Sidney Harris

    "I think you should be more explicit in step 2"
  • September 14, 2008
  • September 14, 2008
    I'd shorten the title to just Underpants Gambit.
  • September 14, 2008
    Underpants Gambit is pretty good.

    Alternately, Phase Three Is Profit.
  • September 14, 2008
    Was it really Luke's plan that he'd destroy the (second) Death Star by himself?
  • September 14, 2008
    Nate the Great
    Dr. Drakken's plan in Kim Possible: So The Drama looks like this, but it isn't.
  • September 14, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    @Prfnoff: No, that was never Luke's plan. His plan was to confront Darth Vader, convert him, and leave the Death Star without even seeing the Emperor. This part failed, but was salvaged (mostly) later. Luke had complete faith in his friends destroying the Death Star, even without his aid. Hence his line to the Emperor, "In a few moments, you and I will be dead," referring to the fact that, since his gambit with his father had appeared to fail, he was willing to do nothing and let his friends blow up the Death Star with him on it.
  • September 14, 2008
    Sir Psycho Sexy
    Agreed with Micah.
  • September 14, 2008
    I've always seen it as a four step plan.

    1) Do X
    2) Do Y
    3) ????
    4) Profit!
  • September 14, 2008
  • September 14, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    Yeah, we can lose the Skywalker example. I like Underpants Gambit. The problem with the "step x/phase X" titles is that there can be more than 3 steps. Just so long as one of them is missing.
  • September 15, 2008
    I think Step Three Profit sums up the trope better. Underpants Gambit invites all sorts of other interpretations. It's not really a gambit, either.
  • September 15, 2008
    If you know the origin of the similar 4chan meme (hint: involves Fate/Stay Night) then the Underpants title might seem a bit more appropriate.
  • September 15, 2008
    Unknown Troper
    . "Underpants Gambit invites all sorts of other interpretations. It's not really a gambit, either"

    True on both counts. But it is funny.

    How about Today Underpants Tomorrow World?

  • September 15, 2008
    @Recon5: The ??? -> Profit is a rather universal 4chan meme, it's used in almost any context...
  • September 15, 2008
    I've seen it better used as a four part plan. Part one is a normal step, part two is a logical step or progression from there, part three is (obviously) unspecified, and four is profit/victory/success. The four parts help establish that there is a basic plan in place (which requires forethought and planning), which helps establish the cognitive dissonance when there is no logical step 3. Like, Example:

    1. Buy Fishing Gear
    2. Catch world's largest shark.
    4. Coronation as Prom Queen 1974!! FTW!!!

    Meh. I should remember, Never Explain The Joke.

    I think Underpants Gambit is fine.
  • September 15, 2008
    Sunder the Gold
    I might mention in Luke's example, he might have been following the prompting of The Force. From the Force's point of view, if Luke DOES "steal the underpants" it WILL end up destroying the Emperor and the Deathstar. Call it Omniscient Causality Lisense.

    Adell from Disgaea 2 was a similar case. "1) Challenge a Demon Overlord much more powerful than me. (2) ??? (3) Save the world!" Truly, if The Force wasn't with him, SOMETHING was.
  • September 15, 2008
    When Pinky gets to make the plan instead of Brain, he sketches out a plot of this type which is wildly successful.
  • September 16, 2008
    I vote for Step Three Profit.
  • September 16, 2008
    Step Three Profit. The underpants reference is obscure to me, and most of the times I've heard it it was without mentioning underpants. (Admittedly, it's become a meme on Slasodot.)
  • September 16, 2008