Just in Time
"Simmons, you get an F in efficiency, but I have to give you an A+ in dramatic timing!"They're in deep trouble. The Dragon or perhaps the Big Bad himself have them cornered, their heaviest hitters worn out. Their enemy is just about to unleash an attack that will no doubt kill them. Cue The Hero, standing all cool-like, deflecting the Finishing Move and saying "Sorry I'm late" for effect. Alternately, the hero is in dire straits until The Cavalry, his ragtag band of acquired friends, arrives to save the day. A Sister Trope to Big Damn Heroes. A sports variety is Down to the Last Play. Contrast You Are Too Late, Remembered Too Late. No relation to the eponymous time-traveller, Justin Time (which is just a pun on the term). And if you're looking for animated television series seen on PBS Kids Sprout or Disney Junior depending on where you live, go here.
—Sarge, Red vs. Blue
- Always Close
- Bedouin Rescue Service
- Big Damn Heroes
- The Cavalry
- Chain of People
- Changed My Mind, Kid
- Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind
- Cooldown Hug
- Courtroom Antic
- Desperate Object Catch
- Deus ex Machina
- Drop the Cow
- Forgotten Superweapon
- Giant Flyer
- Gunship Rescue
- Heroic Sacrifice
- Horseback Heroism
- I Got You Covered
- Instant Cooldown
- Let's Get Dangerous
- Magic Countdown
- Memory Gambit
- Misfit Mobilization Moment
- Mobile Menace
- No Time To Think
- Not Too Dead to Save the Day
- Scotty Time
- Suspiciously Specific Sermon
- Take My Hand
- Villainous Rescue
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Anime & Manga
- In one of the Appleseed movies, Deunan gets to the console that can shut down the rampaging mechas with more than a minute of time to spare before they are in position to fire their main guns. But this doesn't do her any good when it happens that the keyboard of the console has been damaged in the fight and the M key isn't working to enter the password.
- This is common in Bleach. One notable case is when Grimmjow's rampage gets interrupted twice in the same episode. Ichigo turns up at Rukia's execution to stop the supposedly unstoppable...giant magical bird that would destroy even her soul. As soon as it's mentioned Ichigo can't possibly block it twice, Ukitake and Kyoraku blow the thing up, with the former apologising for being late.
- The fight in Naruto against Kimimaro, which has three. To summarize: Naruto is fighting Kimimaro, and Kimimaro is about to kill him. At the last possible second, someone shows up and saves Naruto, though you at least saw him coming there. He ends up not doing so well, and Kimimaro is about to kill him, but then at the last possible second someone else shows up out of absolutely nowhere and saves him. That person manages to seemingly defeat Kimimaro, but Kimimaro survives and starts off one last attack to kill them, and then at the last possible second he dies from his illness.
- It also included Kimimaro about to kill one of the persons mentioned, only to be interrupted because it was time for that person to take medicine. Wow!
- Kakashi's fight with Kakuzu. First he got saved by Shikamaru, then Naruto and Yamato.
- There was also the time in the Land of Waves when Naruto showed up just in time to save the kid from the bandits, and he even lampshaded it by saying something along the lines of "A real hero always arrives right before it's too late!" He (probably) went on to say "BELIEVE IT!" several times.
- Again in the Sasuke Retrieval arc, when Shikamaru is saved in his fight with Tayuya by Temari, and Kiba and Akamaru are saved in their fight with Sakon and Ukon by Kankuro.
- There were plenty of those moments in the Sakura and Chiyo versus Sasori battle.
- There was one involving Kakashi's first successful use of his Kamui, wherein he successfully saved Gai's team and his own team from Deidara's massive bomb at the last moment.
- This is lampshaded in the Black Cat manga, where Sven initially compliments Train for arriving at the perfect time to rescue Tearju, only to be told by a happy Train that he had actually arrived much earlier, but had waited until the critical moment to save her because it would be "cooler". Sven punches him.
- Son Goku manages this a few times in Dragon Ball Z. Most notably in the Namek arc when he is Just In Time to save Gohan, Krillin and Vegeta from the Ginyu Special Taskforce; and when he later does the same thing when he saves Vegeta from getting killed by Frieza (in an attempt to Screw Destiny when King Kai foreshadows Vegeta's demise at the hands of Frieza); however, after Vegeta tells the villain about Goku, Frieza becomes annoyed and kills the Saiyan prince anyway, fulfilling the prophecy. Also in the Saiyan arc when he saves Gohan and Krillin from Nappa, although in that case He Was Too Late to save his other comrades.
- How Roy, Hawkeye et al execute their Big Damn Heroes to save Ed from Scar in chapter 6 of Fullmetal Alchemist. Also in chapter 93, where Ed lampshades it:
Ed: Stop waiting so you can make a grand entrance, Colonel!
- In Macross Frontier, Mikhail has a habit of doing this for Alto with a dramatically timed snipe, saving Alto from vaporization just in time in episode 2 and 13. The last episode has two such moments, once even with a "You're late" being leveled.
- Done in episode 13 of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Judai duels a monkey named SAL to save one of Asuka's friends, and tells the scientist to promise that he'll set SAL free when he's done. In the end, Judai wins, but the scientist refuses to let SAL go. Just when all hope is lost, Daitokuji-sensei sics Pharaoh on the scientist's men and gives all of them a warning.
- A Cruel God Reigns: Ian finds Jeremy just in time when he is Driven to Suicide and tries to drown himself. Considering how much water Jeremy swallowed, it looks like he barely made it.
- In Pokémon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life, Arceus uses Flamethrower at Ash and the gang and their new friends but Giratina appears and takes the flames for them. Good thing it's not very effective.
- Subverted in Watchmen: Rorschach and Nite Owl II arrive "just in time" to challenge Ozymandias; but it turns out he knew they were coming and set his plans irreversibly in motion.
- Spoofed in the "His Code Name Was The Fox" series of strips in FoxTrot: Roger's Marty Stu self-insert has less than a fraction of a second left to disarm a bomb, yet still correctly decides which of the 186 wires to cut.
- Played straight near the end of The Joker: Devil's Advocate: the executioner is about to throw the switch to electrocute the Joker when a phone call rings out just in time for one of those attending the execution to get a call from the governor, who indicates that the real culprit for the poisoned stamps has been found and that the Joker is now in the clear and granted a death row pardon. Another few seconds, and he would have been toast before he ever got exonerated of the incident.
- In Perrault's "Sleeping Beauty", the heroine, her children and the merciful servants are already lined up with their hands tied and are just about to be pushed into the queen's Snake Pit, when the king unexpectedly returns to the castle, causing the execution to stop and the queen's evil plan to blow up.
- In Equestria: A History Revealed, upon the monsters' encircling and ambush of Celestia's forces in the Battle of the Everfree Fields, the long awaited pegasi reinforcements from the west arrive just in time to save them.
- Little Shop of Horrors: Audrey II eats Mr. Mushnik as he's about to blackmail Seymour.
- In the original Miracle on 34th Street, Kris Kringle's lawyer, Fred Gailey, interrupts the judge just as he is about to sign the commitment order for Kris. However, Fred immediately points out that even if he had been too late to stop the judge, he could have simply filed a habeus corpus motion and challenged the commitment anyway, meaning the nick of time entrance just meant that Mr. Gailey was spared some extra work for his client.
- It's pointed out in the movie Galaxy Quest: the main characters star in a Star Trek-like show that makes frequent use of this trope, and the aliens that catch the signal and then base their entire society on the show don't realize it's fake. So they design their bombs to stop at exactly 1 second to go, since they always do so on the show.
- Star Wars
- Attack of the Clones. Having subdued Anakin (via force lightning) and Obi-Wan (via asskickery), Count Dooku is just about to deliver the fatal blow to Obi-Wan when... Anakin makes a miracle recovery and blocks Dooku's lightsaber just in time. Or look earlier in the film, when Yoda arrives on Geonosis with the clone army. Or when Anakin and Obi-Wan save Padmé from the poison millipede... things.
- A New Hope. Vader is just beginning to fire his lasers at Luke when Han Solo comes back at the nick of time and blasts one of Vader's wingmen, causing a much needed distraction. And the Death Star was destroyed right as it was about to fire at Yavin IV (exact same thing appear to have also happened in Episode VI - there was a green flash right before the Death Star II exploded over Endor)
- In Saw VI, William reaches the end of his tests just as the timer is at 1. The true game begins here.
- Unique subversion in Saw IV. Rigg reaches Detective Matthews right when the timer is at 1, only to find out that he was supposed to get there in OVER 90 minutes, and since he got there before the timer reached zero Eric Matthews was killed.
- In Jurassic Park, the Tyrannosaurs Rex appears and kills the velicoraptors before they can kill the humans.
- Argo has several added to the climactic airport scene, none of which happened in the true story it was based on.
- The Lord of the Rings takes this to outrageous extremes, right from the prologue where Isildur defeats Sauron just before he's about to vanquish the Alliance, to the scenes on Mount Doom where Frodo and Sam keep escaping the rising lava by a hairsbreadth.
- Spider-Man 3 gives us this exchange when Harry has his Heel-Face Turn and subsequent Big Damn Heroes moment:
Peter: You came.
Harry: Just in the nick of time, it seems.
Peter: A couple minutes ago would've been nice.
Harry: What are you gonna do?
- In the novel Moving Pictures, Victor ponders the idea that since the Theory of Narrative Causality would ensure he arrives in the Nick of Time, he could stop to catch his breath but decides against it, because that would break the rules: he'll inevitably arrive in the nick of time, so long as he dramatically gives his all to get there.
- Subverted in the beginning of Going Postal: Moist Von Lipwig (under an assumed name) is about to be hanged in the morning when a courier from Lord Vetinari arrives. Lipwig's relief vanishes when the message is delivered: "Get on with it, it's long past dawn!"
- Around the World in 80 Days ends the third to last chapter with Fogg concluding he has arrived too late and lost his bet, leaving him ruined. However, the penultimate chapter has him suddenly arriving just in time to win after all. As the surprised reader wonders how he pulled that off, the narrator explains that Fogg forgot to account for gaining a day after crossing the International Date Line, meaning he arrived early without knowing it and would never have realized his mistake in time if his love, Aouda, hadn't set off a chain of events that alerted Fogg he still had time to win the bet.
- Considered an actual duty by the Roving Reptilian Rescuers in Walter Moers' The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear. Unless it's absolutely vital, they refuse to show up at any point before the last moment. One of them is actually named Deus X. "Mac" Machina.
- Doubling as a Big Damn Heroes moment, in the Darkest Powers series, Derek tracks down Chloe in just enough time to save her from having her face carved up by a vindictive street kid.
- Matthew Reilly uses this often, but one that just begs to be mentioned comes from Scarecrow: a nuclear missile is prevented from being launched with less than a second left. And a different nuclear missile is shut down in mid-flight.
- In Robert E. Howard's "The Slithering Shadow", Conan the Barbarian, running away from a Zerg Rush, gets dropped through a Trap Door to where Natala has been abducted, just in time to save her from the Living Shadow.
Live Action TV
- Walker, Texas Ranger: Regularly used, to varyingly degrees. A frequent use will be a split second before the villain is about to leave town, kill someone or carry out a particularly evil act (e.g., committ a huge bank robbery and kill hundreds of people inside), only for Walker and Trivette to arrive at the last second – with an army of police officers and, after interrupting the vile act, beat up the bad guys.
- The Twilight Zone: In the 1980s revival premiere, "A Little Peace and Quiet," a woman who finds an amulet that can stop time uses her gift selfishly; unable to control her chaotic household/bratty children/henpecking husband/rude neighbors, she stops time to regain her senses. The backstory – rapidly deteriorating tensions between the Untied States and the Soviet Union – marches to the forefront at the end of the story, when the USSR unleashes a large-scale nuclear attack on the United States. Just a split second before her neighborhood is swallowed up in a nuclear blast, the woman manages to freeze time (with the words, "Shut up!"). This leaves the woman forever in a state of frozen time, living alone in what is thought to represent the last instant before the explosion and resulting blast envelopes her hometown. (Indeed, in the distance, a large fireball – presumably growing – is seen; that explosion could be heard in the final second before the woman manages to freeze time.)
- Lampshaded in Doctor Who with the following quote:
The Doctor: Thank you, Brigadier. But do you think for once in your life you could manage to arrive before the nick of time?
- Subverted in an episode of My Parents Are Aliens: a countdown clock reaches zero — and goes on down into the negative numbers. "On our home planet, countdowns go to minus 10!"
- Subverted in Monty Python's Flying Circus: In one scene, a Russian rifle squad is about to execute a "spy" when a messenger runs in at the last second and stops them. The message? "Carry on with the execution."
- This is used countless times in Stargate SG-1. In one case several SG teams come to rescue SG-1 from Hathor minutes before they were to be executed. Most cases of this trope, however, are when someone or something is "beamed" away with transporter technology at just the right moment. In most cases the heroes are beamed away to safety, but in some cases an enemy or weapon is beamed away just as it is about to kill someone. There are a few cases in which the trope is inverted, such as when someone (usually Jack or Daniel) is whisked away just as they are about to say something important. These "Just In Time" moments are lampshaded almost every time, especially in the 200th-episode special when the team is reading a script for a sci-fi movie based on their experiences and the movie's heroes are beamed away right before the base collapses on them. They comment that this is "too convenient", and the movie's producer replies that they can simply "hang a lantern on it" (lampshade) and move on.
- The main difference between the standard use of this trope and this use of it is that the heroes are typically the ones being rescued just in time, rather than the ones performing the just-in-time rescue. That's not to say that this is always the case, though—but when they do rescue someone just in time, it is usually one of their teammate heroes.
- On Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson once faced the challenge of running a Jaguar S-Type diesel around the Nürburgring in under ten minutes — for testing purposes, the clock was set as a countdown timer. On his final run, he made it with one second to spare.
- Dexter has the random workmen who show up at exactly the right moment to prevent Dexter from dropping the season's Big Bad off a building.
- In the second episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, Blackadder is cheerily quipping on his way to be Shot at Dawn, because he expects George's uncle to let him off. When they get as far as "Ready, aim..." he starts to get nervous, and then a message arrives. Blackadder comments "I think that's what they call the nick of time", but it's a card reading "Here's looking at you, from all the boys in the firing squad". They get as far as "Fi.." before the real message arrives.
- Almost always happens in Criminal Minds. Because the UnSubs are usually serial killers, they'll still have targets after the team has identified them, and sure enough, as the team visits the UnSub's house, they discover that he's moved on to his next kill, and they catch up to him when he's seconds away from finishing his next murder.
- In Sherlock, John Watson shows up Just In Time to shoot the serial killer before Sherlock takes the pill that may or may not have killed him.
- Averted in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While the crew of the Defiant looks like they'll be able to save a stranded Federation officer they've been in contact with it turns out they were too late. Worse, they were several years too late because they had actually been unwittingly sending messages to the recent past before she had died.
- Sega Pinball's Golden Eye has the "Eject or Die", a magnetic ball saver that captures pinballs which drain down the outlanes. It flings the ball back onto the playfield, and you have six seconds to shoot the Eject Target, or lose the ball outright.
- Dungeons & Dragons has a feature called the "Magic Save", which (if the player presses a button fast enough) raises a block to deflect a draining ball back to the flippers.
- In Zaccaria's Farfalla, when the ball goes down an outlane, the player can use the "React Feature" for a split-second chance to use a smaller flipper and knock it back into play.
- Similarly, Embryon has the "Flipsave", a small flipper next to the right outlane. When activated, the player can use a well-timed button press to knock a drained ball through a gate and back to the playfield.
- The "just in time" trope is a very common staple in professional wrestling. Several ways this can be carried out:
- A face wrestler who is on the verge of defeat will either 1. Kick out (sometimes, rather emphatically) out of a sure pinfall at the last possible instant before the referee completes the three count – almost always, after the heel wrestler performs a powerful finishing move on the face; 2. appear to pass out from a very powerful submission hold, only to rally by either powering himself out of the hold or reaching the ring ropes, which, under the rules, almost always requires the aggressive wrestler to break the hold.
- A "weaker" wrestler – a jobber or one of the mid- to upper-card faces – will suffer a severe beatdown by one or more heels (often including a monster heel). Just as the face/jobber is about to be finished off for good, the head babyface will run out to the ring and run the bad guys off.
- Often reversed, usually by the face about to complete giving a heel wrestler his comeuppance, only for the heel's associates or a monster heel (under which he might be serving) to run out and begin a beatdown just before the three count is completed.
- In Nobilis, players can take the Perfect Timing gift. In its lesser form, it ensures they arrive just in time whenever it's physically possible to do so. Its greater form does the same without any of that pesky causality getting in your way, so feel free to take a week to prepare for the evil cult's sacrifice tomorrow evening.
- In 3e, this is one of the basic powers of an Aspect 3 Miracle— it ensures that whenever you use it to take some physical action, you complete it either 'instantly', 'at just the right time', or (in an absolute worst case) 'just in time.' Unless opposed by another Miracle, you are always guaranteed to be at least just in time when using Aspect 3.
- This is one example of what fate points can be used for in the Dresden Files RPG, especially if the arriving character (or one already on the scene) can point to a relevant aspect they have — just spend the point to declare somebody's arrival is an example of this trope, and it is. The True Faith power Guide My Hand allows a character to do this without having to spend a fate point as long as their timely arrival where they are needed is in line with their holy mission, providing an in-game model for the ability of the Knights of the Cross (and Father Forthill) to regularly be in the right place at the right time in the books.
- Multiple attractions at Universal Studios make use of this trope:
- In The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Transformers: The Ride, the riders are sent plummeting off a building, only to be saved right at the last second by Spider-Man and Bumblebee, respectively.
- The riders are just narrowly saved from getting their souls sucked out by the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey by the titular hero himself.
- In Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, the riders are saved from suffering under Voldemort's torture methods by the main trio along with the dragon they ride on.
- Due to the way that actions are triggered in videogames, players cannot help but arrive in the nick of time. This can result in the appearance of a world which is so dangerous that it begs the question of how anyone survives long enough for the hero to arrive on scene. The answer in System Shock games is...they don't survive. The player is always too late, up to the nick of time, and can only witness the remains and read the Apocalyptic Log.
- There is a straight example in the first System Shock game, however - no matter how long it takes for you to escape, you will always be in time to reach Citadel's bridge before it separates from the rest of the station.
- Ace Attorney:
- Several cases in the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series have everything seem lost, only for a casebreaking piece of evidence to appear at just the last moment. A particularly extreme example occurs in the first game. The judge declares a Guilty verdict and starts to go through the normal game over sequence before being interrupted at the last second.
- Taken Serial Escalation in the final case of Investigations, where this happens four times in succession whenever the Big Bad tries to make his escape. First Shi-Long Lang and his Interpol men appear to strip Alba of his diplomatic immunity, then Gumshoe arrives with the pushcart used to sneak the murder victim across the embassy, then Larry Butz and Wendy Oldbag show up with proof of how the body could've gotten back over to the embassy's other side, and finally an unnamed police officer arrives with the final damning evidence. To be fair, the last two were already there.
- Alternatively, a literal example occurs in Dual Destinies when the panicked people in the courtroom manage to all fumble their way out in time before the time bomb that's been planted explodes, thus saving people from dying. Although in actuality, Juniper Woods and Apollo Justice didn't manage to get out in time, but they both survive.
- A chilling subversion comes in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. Your squad of highly trained covert anti-terror badasses arrive in a Rec Center where hostages are being held... just in time for the terrorists to fill the area with poison gas, killing the civilians.
- At the end of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary story, all the heroes are gathered before Tabuu, who prepares to simply blow them all away with another helping of his One-Hit Kill Off Waves... only for Sonic The Hedgehog to zoom in out of nowhere, smash the wings giving said attack power, and join in for the final battle. It just goes to show; "Heroes always arrive late."
- Sabin in Final Fantasy VI. Turns into a Duel Boss battle.
- Final Fantasy XIII: Fang and Lightning appear just as Hope is about to be squashed by a Hopeless Boss Fight (Snow had already been taken out in one hit) to save the day.
- In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus learns that her ship is under attack while it's parked. As she returns to her ship, the damage gets progressively worse, before arriving to the scene of the crime, finding that a corrupted Ghor is pounding at its hull. Ghor himself looks at Samus to say "just in time!" before attacking her.
- In the true ending of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Junpei and the others open the Q door with only a second to spare before their incineration.
- Impure Blood: Roan has to escape by sunrise. Naturally it's dawn by the time they get him to the gates
- Downplayed in Ears for Elves — Tanna is in trouble with her mother for not observing perfect high-class etiquette, by expecting the elves to reuse wine glasses. Zalanna shows up with clean glasses just before Lady Trylia is likely to get really mad.
- In El Goonish Shive, Nanase wakes up in her fairy doll summon just as Abraham is swinging the axe to kill Ellen and manages to deflect it a fraction of a second later.
- Not only that: magic in EGS is stated to have a flair for the dramatic, and seems to work kind of like Narrativium in Discworld. After Nanase's left without magic for an undetermined amount of time, Susan jokes that she'll get it back right after hearing "dun-dun-dun!". And indeed, she gets it back right in time for fighting Not-Tengu.
- The Smurfs: Several instances, but one perfect illustration is the 1984 episode "The Kaplowey Scroll." The scroll allows its bearer to shout out the word "Kaplowey," destroying whatever the word was aimed at, be it a boulder, a pesky fly ... fellow Smurfs and their exploding boxes ... the list went on. The Smurfs abandon the scroll when they see it as nothing but trouble, before Papa Smurf realizes that Gargamel also is after the scroll. Gargamel indeed finds the scroll and learns about its powers. Just as he learns what it is and tells Azrael the cat, "K-A-P-L-O-W-E-Y. Do you know what this means, Azrael?" – the cat nods his head in wicked approval – the Smurfs arrive just in time and ultimately destroy the scroll. Had they been just a few seconds later, Gargamel and Azrael could have easily kaploweyed the entire Smurf population out of existence.
- W-a-a-a-y overused in the first season of Code Lyoko, to the point where it was practically a Once per Episode deal. There was even an episode called "Just In Time," but it was much closer to "By A Hair" in the original French (a more fitting pun, since one of the important plot devices was a strand of Aelita's hair which Jeremy managed to materialize and used to revirtualize her when she was deleted near the end of the episode).
- Although, the most egregious example was probably "Satellite." XANA possesses a military satellite with a laser on it, precise enough to shoot down objects within a range of a few feet FROM SPACE. When he begins firing, one of the lasers stops right in front of Yumi's face (a few centimeters), showing that they literally were Just In Time (the timing had to be within a millionth of a second...).
- In Between the Lions, this is the source of a Punny Name for the protagonist of a book series that one of Lionel's friends likes instead of Cliff Hanger. The apparent structure is that Justin Time is relaxing in a hammock when some random oblivious threat comes along. He gets out of the way just in time, and goes back to relaxing.
- In Rocky and Bullwinkle's Treasure of Monte Zoom arc, there's a joke about the heroes always showing up in "the 'Ta-da' nick of time," leading Bullwinkle to wait around instead of going to save the day and arriving too early.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King", this trope is zigzagged: The title villain wants revenge against Gotham's Mayor, but he knows that Batman always appears just in time to stop the villains. So he starts his plan 6 hours (and 20 minutes) earlier, so he can get Batman Lured Into a Trap and get revenge on Hill. Unfortunately, Clock King's own Bond Villain Stupidity ruins his plan, and Batman saves mayor Hill in a Big Damn Heroes moment... just in time. It's even lampshaded:
Temple Fugate: The Batman. It's about time you showed up.
- The Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light episode "Lion Hunt" contains a variation of this trope, where the hero is the one who needs saving. In this episode, the Darkling Lords use a magical potion to trap Leoric in his Totem form. If the spell is not reversed by the setting of Prysmos's Three Suns, Leoric will never be able to revert to human form again. Needless to say, Witterquick, having gone to get the antidote, returns just as the third Sun is about to set, freeing Leoric with moments to spare.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magicepisode, "Rarity Takes Manehattan", Rarity makes it to a fashion competition with her wares at the very last second, but is criticized by the organizer about how that is unprofessional.