Created By: PaulAMay 12, 2013 Last Edited By: PaulAAugust 6, 2014
Troped

Crisis Makes Perfect

If a character is seen failing at a skill to begin with, the climax is going to depend on them getting it right.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
At the beginning of the story, the protagonist attempts to demonstrate a skill, and fails dismally. This is a sure sign that at the climax they're going to save the day by attempting this skill again and getting it right (usually for the first time ever).

A sister trope of Chekhovs Skill and Chekhovs Hobby, in which the protagonist mentions or demonstrates that they can do something which will turn out to be valuable later. Crisis Makes Perfect is when the protagonist demonstrates that they can't do something right up until everything depends on them being able to.

Compare Becoming The Boast, where a character who has been boasting about their ability all story is called on to demonstrate it, admits they can't, and then has to do it anyway; Die Or Fly, where a crisis brings out a previously-unsuspected ability; and One Bullet Left, another trope demonstrating that the hero can do amazing things when the climax of the story depends on it.

Examples:

Anime/Manga
  • FLCL episode 4 "Full Swing". Naota is so bad at swinging a baseball bat that he refuses to swing during games. At the end of the episode he swings a guitar perfectly to stop a falling satellite bomb in its tracks.
  • In Naruto, Naruto is given a week to learn Rasengan. He doesn't manage it until the last day, when Kabuto is about to kill Tsunade and the only move Naruto knows that will put Kabuto out of the fight is Rasengan.

Film — Animated
  • In Happily Ever After, Thunderella has trouble focusing her storm-control powers. In the climax, she successfully throws a lightning bolt at the villain, which creates a distraction for Snow White to deal the final blow.
  • The opening of How To Train Your Dragon 2 has Hiccup and his dragon Toothless practice rider-less flying combined with squirrel-suit flying, a difficult task for both of them because Toothless can't make tight turns without a rider to control his prosthetic tail fin and because Hiccup can't gain altitude, only glide. The climax relies on the two of them both pulling off these tricks again, aided by Toothless' discovery of stabilizing back spines to let him turn sharper even with a stiff tail fin.
  • In the The Hunchback Of Notre Dame sequel, Madellaine struggles with her ambition to become a tightrope walker. At the end, she pulls it off to save Zephyr.
  • In The Land Before Time, Petrie is a young pterodactyl who doesn't know how to fly, but he learns pretty quick when he has to save Ducky from the Sharptooth.
  • In The Tigger Movie, Tigger shows Roo the Whoopty-Dooper Loopty Looper Alley Ooper bounce. Roo can't do it at first, nor later when he's practicing before bedtime. At the end, he has to do it to save Tigger from an avalanche.

Film — Live Action
  • In Down Periscope, the diving officer screws up her maneuvering early in the film, but then in the crucial moment near the end gets it exactly right thanks to the captain Obfuscating Stupidity and giving incorrect orders to induce her to jump in with the correct ones.
  • In the climactic game of Major League, veteran pitcher Eddie Harris is flagging at the top of the ninth inning, when Yankees power hitter Clu Haywood comes up to bat. The Indians' manager calls Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in as relief pitcher, even though Vaughn has never failed to give away a hit to Haywood in the season. The catcher protests, but the Indians' manager insists, saying, "I've got a hunch he's due." Vaughn throws three straight fastballs and strikes Haywood out.
  • In Maverick, Maverick has a superstition about being able to draw exactly the card he needs, which fails every time he tries it except during the climactic poker game with everything riding on it.
  • A running gag in One Crazy Summer has Hoops repeatedly failing to make improvised basketball shots (wastebasket, trash can, Ack-Ack). During the boat race, one of the villains cheats by using a sniper rifle to shoot out the line for their sail. Unfortunately, they have to repair it by putting the line back through the halyard hole and they don't have the equipment to do so. Their solution: tie the line to a metal ball and have Hoops throw that through the hole. Somehow, he makes it. Even he is surprised.
  • In Santa Claus The Movie, Santa attempts to show Joe the Super Duper Looper maneuver he's been trying to teach his reindeer, but Donner's acrophobia forces the reindeer to abort it. At the climax of the movie, when Santa has to save Patch and Joe from an endangered Patchmobile, he is forced the perform the Super Duper Looper in order catch them, shouting encouraging words to Donner. The Super Duper Looper is performed flawlessly, and Patch and Joe are rescued.
  • In Shanghai Noon, Owen Wilson's character is shown to be a terrible shot. When it comes to the final shootout, however, he manages to put his only remaining bullet through his opponent's heart. It's hard to tell who's more surprised by this.
  • In Space Camp, the pilot trainee is unable to recover from a spin in the simulator. After being inadvertently launched into space, she finds herself having to do it for real.
  • A Running Gag in Steel is John Henry Irons (Shaquille O'Neal) not being able to make basketball shots. Then he successfully lobs a grenade through a vent in a very similar way to save lives.
  • In Willow, Willow attempts to perform a disappearing trick and it goes disastrously wrong. At the climax, he foils the evil sorceress by successfully vanishing the Mac Guffin.
  • Mole's catchphrase in the film version of The Wind In The Willows is "But I can't throw for toffee!" But near the end he manages to literally throw a spanner into the works of the Weasels' dogfood machine.

Literature
  • In The First Law, there's a couple of scenes where Nicomo Cosca, an infamous mercenary turned seedy drunk tries to do a knife throwing trick where he points out a target and says he will hit it. Inevitably, the knife hits way off course, which doesn't exactly instill confidence in his allies. However, in a climatic fight, he actually succeeds in doing the trick and hits an opponent right between the eyes.

Live-Action TV
  • In Chuck season 3 when he was training to be a "real" spy, Chuck had to do an Improvised Zipline using a power line and his belt as the pulley, but failed. Then at the end of the ep in a real situation he was forced to use a power line as a zip line with his belt as the pulley. This time he succeeded.
  • In Fringe, a villain threatens a biological attack unless Olivia can make a box of lights switch off with her mind. Fringe Division assumes he's mad, and prepares a rigged box to fake the effect - but the episode ends with Olivia having to use her latent mental powers to switch off another box, wired directly to the bomb that will release the contaminant. She succeeds.

Web Original

Western Animation TV
  • In Bionicle: Mask of Light, Takua's new Kohlii move, a Catch And Return front-flip, ends up missing spectacularly. His move becomes the deciding blow in the match against Makuta.
  • In the Duck Tales episode "Top Duck", Launchpad (unsurprisingly) crashes spectacularly the first time he attempts the "Treetop Bebop Tuck and Roll". At the episode's end, he manages it to save Scrooge and the Money Bin.
  • In The Legend Of Korra, Korra manages to get a grip on the Airbending stance she struggled with earlier just in time to turn around her Pro-Bending match.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Sonic Rainboom", Rainbow Dash struggles to pull off the title maneuver while practicing for a flight competition. Come the day of the competition, she pulls it off to save Rarity and several Wonderbolts from falling to their deaths.
    • In "Hurricane Fluttershy", Rainbow Dash sets the goal for every pegasus to achieve 10.0 wingpower so they can make a tornado and lift water to Cloudsdale. Fluttershy initially gets 0.5 wingpower, and trains to get up to 2.3 wingpower. When the pegasi try to create the tornado, they don't have enough wingpower to lift the water, so Fluttershy joins and manages to fly faster than she ever did before.
  • In Regular Show, season 5 "Dodge This", when the park workers form a dodge ball team, Rigby practices his dodge ball throw, the "Rignado", but he can't aim it properly. When his team is against "The Magical Elements" and Rigby and Reginald, one of the giant flying babies, are the only ones remaining, Rigby does the "Rignado" again but this time it hits his opponent and his team moves on to the finals.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Homie the Clown", Homer is repeatedly shown flubbing Krusty's spin-cycle trick (which Krusty describes as "a great piece of buffoonery if you pull it off, but if you blow it, you'll look like a fool"). At the climax of the episode, he is forced to perform the trick by a Mafia Don threatening to execute him if he fails. He's delighted to find that he's actually pulling it off... only to fail horribly at the last moment. Krusty himself was made to ride the bike when he and Homer had to do the trick together, yet Homer (who had to ride on top of Krusty) still manages to nearly jeopardize it.

Rolling Updates

(old title ideas: "But That Trick Never Works", "Crisis Creates Competence")
Community Feedback Replies: 73
  • May 12, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    In Happily Ever After, Thunderella has trouble focusing her storm-control powers. In the climax, she successfully throws a lightning bolt at the villain, which creates a distraction for Snow White to deal the final blow.
  • May 12, 2013
    somerandomdude
    The payoff isn't at the end, but in Harry Potter And The Sorcerers Stone Ron is shown to fail miserably at most magic, especially the Wingardium Leviosa spell (a levitation charm). The one time he's shown getting it right, he successfully uses it to raise a club and drops it on a troll's head.
  • June 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In Chuck season 3 when he was training to be a "real" spy, Chuck had to do an Improvised Zipline using a power line and his belt as the pulley, but failed. Then at the end of the ep in a real situation he was forced to use a power line as a zip line with his belt as the pulley. This time he succeeded.
  • June 11, 2013
    Lightblade
    In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Sonic Rainboom", Rainbow Dash struggles to pull off the title maneuver while practicing for a flight competition. Come the day of the competition, she pulls it off to save Rarity and several Thunderbolts from falling to their deaths.
  • June 11, 2013
    justanotherrandomlurker
    We're not allow to use stock phrases anymore, you'll have to change the title.
  • June 12, 2013
    dvorak
    Invoked along with Million To One Chance in Guards Guards. Slaying the dragon is supposed to be done with an incredibly difficult trick shot while singing a Bawdy Song.
  • June 12, 2013
    kjnoren
    Used in The Karate Kid with the crane kick.
  • June 13, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    ^ I don't quite remember the context on that one outside of the final match. Does Daniel practice the pose earlier in the film?

    Also, how about Crisis Makes Perfect as a title?
  • June 13, 2013
    Chabal2
    • When you first meet the Besaid Aurochs in Final Fantasy X, they're the absolute worst Blitzball team in the world. By the time you enter the Inevitable Tournament, you may have acquired a Game Breaker move that allows you to win the tournament (though if you lose, it only changes one cutscene).
    • One of the comics based on Superman The Animated Series has the scientist character flashback to his extremely unathletic youth, as an alien bomb is falling to earth, but he picks up an Anti Gravity bat and hits the falling bomb safely away (Superman was busy elsewhere).
  • June 13, 2013
    JonnyB
    In the climactic game of Major League, veteran pitcher Eddie Harris is flagging at the top of the ninth inning, when Yankees power hitter Clu Haywood comes up to bat. The Indians' manager calls Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in as relief pitcher, even though Vaughn has never failed to give away a hit to Haywood in the season. The catcher protests, but the Indians' manager insists, saying, "I've got a hunch he's due." Vaughn throws three straight fastballs and strikes Haywood out.
  • June 23, 2013
    PaulA
    New title: Crisis Creates Competence?
  • June 23, 2013
    kjnoren
    Re Karate Kid: Yes, he does try it out (while Miyagi tells him to not bother).
  • June 25, 2013
    MetaFour
    Related to Becoming The Boast.
  • June 25, 2013
    KingZeal
    This overlaps with Die Or Fly. The difference is that this is a plot mechanic while Die Or Fly is a singular moment.
  • June 25, 2013
    Tarlonniel
    In the My Little Pony example, they're Wonderbolts, not Thunderbolts.
  • January 29, 2014
    XFllo
    Bumping.
  • January 29, 2014
    StarSword
    TV:
    • Double Subverted in the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode "Take Me Out to the Holosuite". Rom was previously kicked off the baseball team for uselessness, but they call him in after Sisko gets thrown out of the game. The dugout tries to figure out how to play him and start to give him the signal for a bunt. He turns to try and figure out what they're telling him and bunts the ball by accident, letting the team get its only run of the game.
  • January 29, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    In The Hunchback Of Notre Dame sequel, Madellaine struggles with her ambition to become a tightrope walker. At the end, she pulls it off to save Zephyr.
  • January 29, 2014
    DAN004
    I've seen this YKTTW before...
  • February 4, 2014
    Polarbear2217
    Also in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic in "Hurricane Fluttershy", Rainbow Dash sets the goal for every pegasi to achieve 10.0 wingpower so they can make a tornado and lift water to Cloudsdale.Fluttershy initially gets 0.5 wingpower, and trains to get up to 2.3 wingpower. When the pegasi try to create the tornado, they don't have enough wingpower to lift the water, so Fluttershy joins and manages to fly faster than she ever did before.
  • February 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare Die Or Fly or Sink Or Swim Mentor for when this is invoked.
  • March 11, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    By the way, comics related to the Superman animated series might be classified under The Superman Adventures.
  • March 12, 2014
    Arivne
  • March 12, 2014
    TonyG
    In The Land Before Time, Petrie is a young pterodactyl who doesn't know how to fly, but he learns pretty quick when he has to save Ducky from the Sharptooth.
  • March 25, 2014
    StrixObscuro
    Comics
    • Throughout the "Dead End Kids" arc of Runaways, Xavin and Karolina hit a rough patch in their relationship and both are questioning whether or not they're a good match for each other. In the final issue of the arc, they're able to work together to create a giant force field that protects a whole crowd from an explosion.
  • March 26, 2014
    DAN004
    Is the OP there?
  • March 26, 2014
    Arivne
    The OP Paul A is still on the Wiki but hasn't been here in a while.

    His last post/edit to this YKTTW proposal was in June 2013, so by the rules on that page this is Up For Grabs.
  • March 26, 2014
    DAN004
    So who wanna grab this? :D
  • March 27, 2014
    PaulA
    Me! Pick me! :)

    ...I think we probably have a reasonable number of examples now. What else do we need before it's ready to launch?
  • March 27, 2014
    DAN004
    Please add the examples in the comments.
  • March 27, 2014
    notShemp
    • In Regular Show, season 5 "Dodge This", when the park workers form a dodge ball team, Rigby practices his dodge ball throw, the "Rignado", but he can't aim it properly. When his team is against "The Magical Elements" and Rigby and Reginald, one of the giant flying babies, are the only ones remaining, Rigby does the "Rignado" again but this time it hits his opponent and his team moves on to the finals.
  • March 27, 2014
    robinjohnson
    • In Fringe, a villain threatens a biological attack unless Olivia can make a box of lights switch off with her mind. Fringe Division assumes he's mad, and prepares a rigged box to fake the effect - but the episode ends with Olivia having to use her latent mental powers to switch off another box, wired directly to the bomb that will release the contaminant. She succeeds.
  • April 6, 2014
    PaulA
    DAN004, I already had added the examples from the comments.

    And now I've added the new examples from the comments.

    And I'm still waiting for somebody to suggest what, apart from yet more examples, is the reason for this lacking hats.
  • April 6, 2014
    eowynjedi
    • In the Horatio Hornblower book Hornblower and the Hotspur, a petty officer named Cargill puts the ship in irons while trying to tack. Months later, during a delicate night operation, Cargill makes the maneuver perfectly. (Since part of naval routine involves endless, endless drilling, this is less tense than it might otherwise be.)
  • April 7, 2014
    Ominae
    Video Games

    • Near the end of Persona 4, Tohru Adachi begins to get more serious with his work after Ryotaro Dojima is severely wounded while chasing a suspect in a vehicle. This later gets subverted in the end he was trying to hide his involvement in the murders of Mayumi Yamano and Saki Konishi.
  • April 7, 2014
    CrypticMirror
    If there is a competent mentor around then they'll often try to invoke a Blunder Correcting Impulse to create this effect.
  • April 8, 2014
    robinjohnson
    • Subverted in an episode of Leverage in which the scam of the week involves Hardison pretending to be a virtuoso violinist, and he unwittingly becomes the soloist at a concert performance. He hasn't played violin since high school, but when the moment comes, he's able to play the solo perfectly. It turns out Nate hypnotised him.
  • May 27, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • July 9, 2014
    Tuckerscreator
    • The opening of How To Train Your Dragon 2 has Hiccup and his dragon Toothless practice ridler-less flying combined with squirrel-suit flying, a difficult task for both of them because Toothless can't make tight turns without a rider to control his prosthetic tail fin and because Hiccup can't gain altitude, only glide. The climax relies on the two of them both pulling off these tricks again, aided by Toothless' discovery of stabilizing back spines to let him turn sharper even with a stiff tail fin.
  • July 9, 2014
    Statzkeen
    In Down Periscope, the diving officer screws up her maneuvering early in the film, but then in the crucial moment near the end gets it exactly right thanks to the captain Obfuscating Stupidity and giving incorrect orders to induce her to jump in with the correct ones.
  • July 9, 2014
    Hodor
    • In The First Law, there's a couple of scenes where Nicomo Cosca, an infamous mercenary turned seedy drunk tries to do a knife throwing trick where he points out a target and says he will hit it. Inevitably, the knife hits way off course, which doesn't exactly instill confidence in his allies. However, in a climatic fight, he actually succeeds in doing the trick and hits an opponent right between the eyes.
  • July 9, 2014
    f1shst1x
    • In Shanghai Noon, Owen Wilson's character is shown to be a terrible shot. When it comes to the final shootout, however, he manages to put his only remaining bullet through his opponents heart. It's hard to tell who's more surprised by this.
  • July 9, 2014
    MrL1193
    Thirding Crisis Makes Perfect as a better name than the current one.
  • July 9, 2014
    GuyIncog
    Related to Lets Get Dangerous?

    Film:
    • In Space Camp, the pilot trainee is unable to recover from a spin in the simulator. After being inadvertently launched into space, she finds herself having to do it for real.
  • July 9, 2014
    Chabal2
    Lords And Ladies: Throughout the entire book we get to see that Magrat is a soppy, wishy-washy wet hen who thinks she knows better than the older witches and whose magic is basically out of a teenager's understanding of Wicca. When the elves invade, the narration mentions that the elf queen's attack starts flaying Magrat's soul... exposing the core. Asskicking ensues, as Magrat stops trying to use her silver-ornaments-and-astrology magic.
  • July 16, 2014
    PaulA
    (changed title from "Crisis Creates Competence" to "Crisis Makes Perfect")
  • July 16, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    I like the new name. It fits with the trope and it's a clever play on an existing phrase.
  • July 17, 2014
    BKelly95
    Film-Live Action
    • A running gag in One Crazy Summer has Hoops repeatedly failing to make improvised basketball shots (wastebasket, trash can, Ack-Ack). During the boat race, one of the villains cheats by using a sniper rifle to shoot out the line for their sail. Unfortunately, they have to repair it by putting the line back through the halyard hole and they don't have the equipment to do so. Their solution: tie the line to a metal ball and have Hoops throw that through the hole. Somehow, he makes it. Even he is surprised.
  • July 17, 2014
    Koveras
  • July 18, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • July 18, 2014
    DaibhidC
    Film-Live Action
    • A Running Gag in Steel is John Henry Irons (Shaquille O'Neal) not being able to make basketball shots. Then he successfully lobs a grenade through a vent in a very similar way to save lives.
    • Mole's catchphrase in the film version of The Wind In The Willows is "But I can't throw for toffee!" But near the end he manages to literally throw a spanner into the works of the Weasels' dogfood machine.
  • July 20, 2014
    Noah1
    • In Bionicle: Mask of Light, Takua's new Kohlii move, a Catch And Return front-flip, ends up missing spectacularly. His move becomes the deciding blow in the match against Makuta.
    • In The Legend Of Korra, Korra manages to get a grip on the Airbending stance she struggled with earlier just in time to turn around her Pro-Bending match.
  • July 20, 2014
    PaulA
    Ooh, hats.

    Okay, any last-minute changes/additions before this gets launched?
  • July 21, 2014
    BKelly95
    Live-Action Television
    • On Cheers, Woody is an actor in a community theater. But when he gets the lead in Our Town, he's unable to express affection to the actress playing Emily (coincidentally [[The Danza also named Emily). After several tactics fail to elicit the necessary reaction, Emily finally tells Woody that the director will recast him if he can't get it right. He tries again and recites the line perfectly. When everybody reacts with surprise, he comments "So, that's the secret to acting. Fear!"
  • July 21, 2014
    Kelnius
    How is this different from Chekov's Skill? It doesnt' seem like a "subtrope" it just seems like the trope. Chekov's Skill doesn't stipulate that the person need be proficient at the skill being learned/shown, it just says:

    "Training in any kind of skill, ability, or knowledge that will likely later come in handy".

    This is not tropeworthy.
  • July 21, 2014
    BKelly95
    The way I see it, Chekov's Skill is when the character is taught to do something seemingly innocuously and what they're taught to do comes in handy later. This trope is when the character is taught to do something and his attempts to perform it end in failure. Later, he's called upon to use this skill during a crisis and finally does it successfully.
  • July 21, 2014
    DAN004
    Subtrope indeed.
  • July 21, 2014
    MrL1193
    This is quite the opposite of Chekhovs Skill. That trope still shows that the character is capable of doing something as an explanation for how they can pull it off later on. This is about when the character is explicitly shown to be incapable, but suddenly becomes capable in a crisis due to Rule Of Drama. A straight example of Chekhovs Skill would call for the character to fail at the climax like they did before.

    Compare One Bullet Left, another trope about characters succeeding exactly when they most need to.
  • July 22, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    In The Tigger Movie, Tigger shows Roo the Whoopty-Dooper Loopty Looper Alley Ooper bounce. At the end, Roo has to do it to save Tigger from an avalanche.
  • July 22, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Is Piglet shown to fail the move at first?
  • July 22, 2014
    eroock
    Often coincides with Took A Level In Badass.
  • July 22, 2014
    MrL1193
    ^^It's Roo, not Piglet. And yes, he does—more than once, if I recall correctly.
  • July 22, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    ^ Yes. He fails at first when Tigger shows him, then again when he's practicing before bedtime.
  • July 22, 2014
    PaulA
    I've expanded the trope description and gone into more detail about how it relates to Chekhovs Skill.
  • July 25, 2014
    NESBoy
  • July 27, 2014
    NESBoy
    • In Santa Claus The Movie, Santa attempts to show Joe the Super Duper Looper manuver he's been trying to teach his reindeer, but Donner's acrophobia forces the reindeer to abort it. At the climax of the movie, when Santa has to save Patch and Joe from an endangered Patchmobile, he is forced the perform the Super Duper Looper in order catch them, shouting encouraging words to Donner. The Super Duper Looper is performed flawlessly, and Patch and Joe are rescued.
  • July 28, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    By the way, the "comics based on Superman The Animated Series" are called The Superman Adventures.
  • July 28, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    In the Duck Tales episode "Top Duck", Launchpad crashes spectacularly the first time he attempts the "Treetop Bebop Tuck and Roll". At the episode's end, he manages it to save Scrooge and the Money Bin.
  • July 29, 2014
    NESBoy
    It should be noted that Launchpad is typically an example of Captain Crash.
  • July 29, 2014
    PaulA
    Added the Duck Tales example.

    Removed the Superman Adventures example, because I finally got around to tracking down a copy of Superman Adventures #13 and I don't think it really fits.
  • July 30, 2014
    Arivne
    Anime and Manga
    • FLCL episode 4 "Full Swing". Naota is so bad at swinging a baseball bat that he refuses to swing during games. At the end of the episode he swings a guitar perfectly to stop a falling satellite bomb in its tracks.
  • August 5, 2014
    Hero_Gal_2347
    Bump.
  • August 6, 2014
    PaulA
    Ooh, hats.

    Okay, any last-minute changes/additions before this gets launched?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable