The Anticipator is a character who (whether villain or hero) can somehow sense the presence, or, without fail, await the supposed-to-be-a-secret arrival of another character. Sneaking up on someone, or trying to get past them, can be an excellent strategy if done correctly. But some people are simply too Badass to be surprised. This is the essence of The Anticipator. No matter how hard another character tries, they cannot manage to sneak up on or get past the Anticipator. Because the Anticipator is expecting them to try. Although it seems as if the Anticipator is Crazy-Prepared, usually they are simply cool, wise, or are very seasoned. They expect you to be sneaking through the window, hiding behind that pillar, creeping in the shadows, and even using that Invisibility Cloak of Invisible Fabric... and don't even think about opening a door to stakeout in a room to surprise them later: they'll already be waiting for you there. As such, The Anticipator is usually Genre Savvy (or at least the failed sneak is Genre Blind). The Anticipator is very likely to say one of the following:
- "I've Been Expecting You..."
- "I've Been Waiting For You."
- "Ahh... you've finally made it."
- "You Can Come Out Now..."
- "I Know You're Here..."
- Light Switch Surprise: A character stays up at night to catch a rebellious teenager who has snuck out, or a significant other who's getting in a little too late.
- Chair Reveal: A character waits for another in a spinning armchair.
- Trespassing to Talk: A character breaks into another's home and waits to confront them when they arrive.
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- Spider-Man is fond of abusing his Spider-Sense for this purpose; he can sense when someone, especially an enemy someone, is coming, and can quickly set up a nice little alleyway confrontation with them. Or simply just not be surprised when someone's behind him; his Spider-Sense averts this trope happening fully to him for the same reason of his power being able to sense when someone hostile is lurking about.
- Batman plays the Anticipator on many occasions. One such story has Batman entering an apparently unoccupied room. After standing there a beat he says "you four men may come out now". Cue four ninja assassins.
- Played for Laughs in a Heathcliff strip, where a mouse is able to sneak past a sleeping Heathcliff with ease, before getting hit with a rolling pin by his wife who then tells him, "Sneak by Heathcliff, but you won't sneak by me!"
- In a FoxTrot strip, Peter tries to sneak by his mom, only to have her say, without looking, "No going out until you finish your homework." He sulks back to his room, wondering how she always manages to catch him. A moment later, she again says, "No going out until you finish your homework." Apparently she just says it every minute or so, anticipating Peter's actions.
- Parodied in the Pink Panther films starring Peter Sellers. Inspector Clouseau has directed his manservant Cato to attack him at random to sharpen his defensive skills. Though he knows Cato has The Determinator perseverance, only inconceivably foolish counters and stupefying luck have thwarted all of Cato's attempts.
- In Thor: The Dark World, this trope is played with straight (Loki) and as an inversion (Thor). Some moments after Frigga's death, Thor visits Loki's cell and the latter acts as cocky as always. Thor, knowing that their mother is Loki's most important person, doesn't buy it and tells Loki to drop the illusion. He then promptly drops it and reveals a messed-up room and himself.
- In Man of Steel, while standing at Jonathan's grave Lois tells Clark she knew he'd show up if she just kept digging. Naturally, he's right behind her.
- In the first Spy Kids when the Cortezes escape their imprisonment and start roaming Floop's lair, they fall through a trap door which leads to where Floop is waiting for them, dinner spread out, and was timing how long it took them to escape. He thought it would be a little sooner.
- In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug this trope is subverted: Bilbo uses the ring to disappear and he stumbles onto the chambers of Legolas's father, Thranduil. Thranduil subverts this trope, asking why he is hiding in the shadows, and stating that he can come out now. However, Bilbo finds out that Thranduil is not speaking to him after all, but to Tauriel who had also been lingering in the shadows as well.
- James Bond is famous for the "I've been expecting you" lines in many of the movies.
- In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond drops into Willard Whyte's penthouse suite and, having been observed by Blofeld, is greeted by Willard Whyte (actually Blofeld with a disguised voice) with the words, 'Howdy. Welcome, son. We've been expecting you'.
- In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond goes to Atlantis to rescue Anya Amasova before Atlantis is blown up. Again, Bond's entrance is noticed by Stromberg, who says "good evening, Mr Bond. I've been expecting you."
- In Octopussy, Bond introduces himself at the reception of an Indian hotel and is told, "We've been expecting you," albeit in a more positive context than the others.
- In Dr. No, Bond and company dive behind a dune at Crab Key as a boat crewed by Dr No's henchmen motors round the bay. One of the men shouts out, 'Come on out. We know you're there. We've been expecting you' to Bond. Though it's implied they only suspect Bond is there and are hoping to bluff him into revealing himself.
- Parodied in Loaded Weapon 1. Mr. Jigsaw (Tim Curry) does the "I've been waiting for you" line. And sure enough, he has a little chair set up with snacks and a TV in the warehouse where he was waiting.
- In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss finds that President Snow is waiting for her at her own house to confront her. He sits in a chair and doesn't even address her immediately and continues reading a book to show Katniss who's the boss.
- Katniss is surprised, yet again. This time it is by the Peacekeepers in her living room and she has to feign normalcy. They somehow both embody and avert this trope because they set a trap up for her and expected her not to come home. So they were actually surprised by her survival, but were still waiting to see if she came home crispy fried by the electric fence, which she didn't.
- Katniss is surprised by President Snow in The Hunger Games Mockingjay when she is walking around in his garden after District 13 has attacked the Capitol. He is shackled in his garden by orders from President Coin, but he was obscured from view by some flowers. He speaks up and she is startled by his voice.
- In Pyramids, Teppic considers doing this to Mericet, his Assassin's school examinator (managing to kill the examinator gets you an automatic pass, because it's nearly impossible), but decides against it. Mericet was in fact hiding as a gargoyle, tells Teppic where to go next (involving an obstacle course worthy of Assassin's Creed), and somehow shows up there before Teppic.
- Galder in Terry Pratchett's The Light Fantastic manages this by being Crazy-Prepared: "A floorboard creaked. Galder had spent many hours tuning them, always a wise precaution with an ambitious assistant who walked like a cat. D-flat. That meant he was just to the right of the door." However, his Anticipator status kicks in when he recognizes who it is. 'Ah, Trymon,' he said, without turning, and noted with some satisfaction the faint in drawing of breath behind him. 'Good of you to come. Shut the door, will you?'"
- In the Black Bat pulp story The Nazi Murders, the Black Bat, who is a master of stealth and can see in the dark, enters a penthouse apartment by a window no ordinary man could reach, that is not set with an alarm. He then proceeds silently through the unlit apartment, sidles through an ajar door without touching it, and discovers the mastermind in a darkened room waiting to greet him. How it's done is never explained. The title turns out not to be about Nazis killing people, but the Black Bat killing Nazis.
- Naturally, this is among Grand Admiral Thrawn's many talents. In Vision of the Future, he is casually lingering in the hangar as Han and Lando almost-but-don't escape from the Imperial capital of Bastion unscathed. Of course, it's not really him, and he didn't really figure out their docking bay the way he said he did, but it's the look of the thing.
- In Larry Niven's story "What Good Is A Glass Dagger?", an intruder sneaks up on the Warlock using an anti magic device to block his foresight. However, the Warlock was waiting for him anyway, having foreseen the appearance of a magic-free dead zone. The ploy wasn't a complete failure, though; the Warlock got only a generic "somebody's coming" without any of the details he normally could have seen.
- Invoked in The Wheel of Time by the Living Legend Cadsuane, who often addresses people coming up behind her by name without bothering to look at them. Her internal monologue lampshades that even powerful Aes Sedai are always too startled to notice the silver teapot in which she can see their reflections.
- In American Horror Story: Asylum, Lana plays the Anticipator trope straight; Lana is having an interview on the final episode. Unbeknownst to TV crew someone is hiding amongst them.Bloodyface, Lana's son, is among the crew masquerading as a worker. After the crew leaves someone stays behind, and tells the hiding person to emerge.Lana, who knew Bloodyface was there all along, tells him that he can come out now, as she anticipated his presence.
- This comes up in Arrow where some of the bad guys take extra precautions in case Oliver aka the Hood tries to get them such as posting a lot of mooks in order to deplete his arrows or ambush him in areas where he can't easily use his bow. Laurel does this as well when Oliver shows up in the Starling City Police Department's main office, having a contingent of Special Operations officers waiting to take him down.
- It was subverted and then subsequently played straight in 30 Rock. These are the lines:
Jack: You've been avoiding me, Lemon.Liz: How do you do that? Without turning around?Jack: To be perfectly honest, the first couple of people I did that to, were not you... but, here we are.
- Liz approaches Jack from behind.
- This is practically the MO of Columbo. Frequently he will depend on a crook returning to where they hid a key piece of evidence and then arrest them there.
- In The Dead Zone, Johnny plays this trope very well by sometimes exploiting his Spider-Sense and sometimes just being really intuitive.
- In the episode Vanguard, when Stilson returns to his limo in front of the lab, Johnny is sitting in the other seat already, which temporarily surprises Stilson. It is unclear whether his powers had anything to do with it.
- Johnny, since he is psychic, exploits Spider-Sense to invoke this plenty of times. However, some instances stands out; in the episode "Double Vision" Johnny knows fellow psychic Alex will be in a parking garage so he waits for her casually. However, this trope gets weirdly subverted when Alex also anticipates him being there in the parking garage. They are expecting each other, but both refuse to be the one to open the door. Neither ever see each other in that scene.
- Alex becomes the Anticipator later when a clue she leaves for Johnny leads him to a fancy restaurant. She cranks this trope Up to Eleven: she has prepared for him a sports coat he likes, but pretends not to; she has ordered his favorite foods, and she begins rambling about what he'll think of the meal.
- In House the titular character tries to invoke this trope with Cuddy. Thinking Cuddy is coming, he says "I did it all by myself, Mommy" after he'd resolved a case without help (contrary to her instructions). It backfires, however, as the person who comes in is actually just the janitor.
- One episode of Babylon 5 had Delenn being questioned by an inquisitor to determine her worthiness using harsh methods. When he hears the door open he says, without looking, "And the third player in our little drama arrives at last," implying he knew it was Sheridan and that he'd been expecting him to show up eventually.
- In the show M*A*S*H Radar has the uncanny ability to appear at the side of his commander before he asks for him, as well as finish his sentences.
- Parodied in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Bloodlust. In the movie being made fun of, Dr. Balleau knows that the heroes are hiding in his lair, and begins doing an evil speech as he slowly turns on light switches to reveal them. Mike and the Bots joke that he actually gives this speech tons of times of day, just on the off chance that someone actually IS hiding there.
- Rumpelstiltskin does this in the Pilot of Once Upon a Time: When Prince Charming and Snow White go to consult him, they are warned to do three things: 1) Stay out of the light, 2) keep their faces hidden, and 3) not mention their names. All three turn out to be useless, as Rumpelstiltskin not only knows who they are, but has been waiting for them to show up. Justified because he A) can see the future and B) has been planning for this moment for years.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Glory, the Big Bad of Season 5, does this all the time as she's a Physical God.
- This happens in virtually every Nancy Drew game. No matter what, the villain knows exactly when Nancy will finally thwart their plans. The Antagonist is nearly always waiting for Nancy in a final area in order to do away with her. Permanently. Some notable occurrences are:
- In The Final Scene, Joseph is waiting for Nancy to enter the secret room where Maya is found.
- In Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake Emily Griffin is waiting for Nancy to solve a puzzle so she can trap Nancy. She even tries to club her to death with a bone of all things!
- In Dragon Age: Origins, when the party of new Grey Warden initiates comes to her house to retrieve some Binding Ancient Treaties, the hermit witch Flemeth mentions that "she's been expecting them." The player character (a.k.a. Warden) can call her on it, however.
Warden: Are we really supposed to believe you were expecting us?
- In Resident Evil 4 Salazar is waiting for Leon and Ashley on a balcony, where they have this exchange:
Salazar: Me llamo Ramón Salazar, the eighth castellan of this magnificent architecture. I have been honored with the prodigious power from the great Lord Saddler. I've been expecting you, my brethrens.Leon Kennedy: No, thanks... "bro".
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, at the end of the Thieves Guild arc, the player and his companions have caught up to the villainous Mercer Frey after stealthily tracking him through a vast underground ruin:
Karliah: He's here and he hasn't seen us yet. Brynjolf, watch the door.
Brynjolf: Aye, lass. Nothing's getting by me.
Karliah: Climb down that ledge and see if you can...
Mercer: Karliah, when will you learn you can't get the drop on me?
- in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Edward and James are secretly tailing Governor Torres and the slaver Laurens Prins while they negotiate for the release of the captive Sage. However at the last moment, Prins backs out of the deal:
Prins: Perhaps another day.
Prins: Next time, see to it that we are not followed! [To his guards] Deal with this!
- Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda likely knew that the Furious Five would try to ambush him that day, but he couldn't know where or how. Nonetheless, Master Shifu easily thwarts all five forays against him, giving critique on their technique as he does so.
- In Batman: The Animated Series Batman does this quite a few times:
- In one episode, two mooks are sent to look for Batman in a house. Batman is waiting for the two mooks to enter the bedroom he is hiding in. When one of them looks inside, Batman gives him a daring look. The other mook asks if anyone is inside the room. The mook says there's no one there.
- Master Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles usually plays this role in the show, as he is very wise and skilled. And a ninja, of course.