Third Line, Some Waiting

"Meanwhile on Cylon-Occupied Caprica"

Somewhat of a variant on Two Lines, No Waiting, this is a minor C Plot on a show that is somewhat removed from the main plots, often geographically (but sometimes temporally), that recurs every episode but is only featured very briefly in each episode. It may eventually link up with the main plot, or it may not. What differentiates this from a standard B Plot is that if you skipped those five minutes every episode, you would not miss a thing until possibly much later in the show.

The scene in the story that is devoted to such a seemingly low-priority ploy is a Meanwhile Scene.

If the show is composed entirely of C Plots being alternated this way, then it's Four Lines, All Waiting.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The plot involving Nabeshin and Pedro and Pedro's effort to reunite with his sexy wife in Excel Saga.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GiG had two major plot lines as well as episodes devoted to individual missions. In the end, they all tied into each other. The film that followed which was very obviously planned as a third season tried to up the ante.
  • Once an episode, Samurai 7 has a "Meanwhile, at the Mobile Oppression Fortress" scene that focuses on Ukyo, son (actually clone) of the Evil Overlord. His plotline eventually links up with the main one around episode 18, at which point the show takes a sharp upwards turn in quality.
  • CLANNAD's otherworld scenes does not tie in with the rest of the series before (Nagisa performs it as a play) and finally when it is revealed that (the girl was Ushio, and the Robot was the father Okazaki.)
  • Baccano!! covers three plots taking place a few years apart, with the 1931 Flying Pussyfoot plot being the centerpiece. It's only around half way we find out the truth about the mysterious Rail Tracer, and one character introduced in the very beginning only becomes an active player in the Gambit Pileup near the end.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! for the Magic World arc has the main line following Negi, a second line for Yue and on rare occasions a glimpse back to Mahora to see how things are developing there. As of now (Chapter 287) there's about two lines with Yue having met back up with Negi finally, while Mahora is gearing up to deal with whatever Fate is going to do upon reentering the real world. Then there's a third line following Anya and Asuna while they're held captive by the Big Bad.
  • In One Piece, the plotline about Ace's search for Blackbeard and Shanks meeting Whitebeard is slowly advanced between the arcs about Luffy's adventures, which finally gains significance in the main storyline when Ace catches up to Blackbeard but Blackbeard captures Ace and sells him out to the Marines, prompting Luffy and Whitebeard to attempt a rescue.
  • Mekakucity Actors has this with the story of the monster after the credits of most episodes.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first half John Byrne's X-Men: The Hidden Years, Havok and Polaris get a subplot that goes nowhere, despite them traveling to Antarctica and back. They basically spend several issues looking for their teammates without success or incident.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The Ice Age films have Scrat, which is a separate plot (if a bunch of gags involving an unlucky squirrel qualifies as plot...) from the other main characters. Yet is the most beloved part of the franchise.

    Literature 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Some chapters focus on Daenerys, currently on a different continent than everybody else. It's clear that it'll be important eventually, but as of four books, she has had no interaction whatsoever with any other major character and only recently has she even really been mentioned by POV characters bar a few fleeting references in the first book. According to The Other Wiki, the HBO adaptation is already setting up Daenerys's storyline like this.
    • Dany is an odd example; decisions made in the main plot actually do quite clearly affect her. The first major example that springs to mind, if we don't include Ser Jorah's real purpose for being there, is when Robert Baratheon learns of her new husband and his 50,000 warriors and immediately raises the bounty on her head. This news takes a few months to cross the ocean, so it's some time before the attempt is made on Dany—less attentive readers might not have made the connection at all. It's also the reason that The Reveal of Barristan Selmy's defection is so shocking— it's literally the first time someone from one of the other two plotlines has had direct contact with her.
    • By A Dance With Dragons more characters from Westeros are beginning to have influence on the geographical area that Dany is in, leading to more continuity between plots.
    • Jon Snow is another example. For most of the books he is far away from other POV characters and fighting a very different war.
  • Peter and Valentine — or, rather Locke and Demosphenes — storyline in Enders Game by Orson Scott Card.
  • A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge has this, with the Qeng Ho/Emergents and the Spiders as the A and B stories, and Pham Nuwen's biography in slot C.
  • The Prophecy of the Stones does this between the three main protagonists and the Supporting Leader on their separate quests, and a seemingly unrelated Parisian girl from the present. But the twist is that the Parisian girl is dreaming of the future .
  • The Belisarius Series has a humorous C plot in The Dance of Time where a luckless Malwa assassination squad attempt to assassinate the main characters. They travel some three thousand miles from India to Greece, to Egypt, to Persia and back to India in a long series of missed opportunities.
  • Cryptonomicon: Goto Dengo's plotline only catches up with the main plot at the end of the book. Interestingly, even the 21st century plotline could be considered this - or the actual main plotline. The two allied WWII plotlines are much closer in both time and space.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Lando's story in The Black Fleet Crisis. It gets so bad, that in the third book of the trilogy chapters of his plot are called "Interludes" and have a separate number sequence from the chapters in the "main" story.
  • Holes has three stories running separately, but parallel to each other in different times. One story is Stanley's in the present, the other is his great-great-grandfather's story that explains the origin of the curse and the third is the story of Kissin' Kate Barlow. They all end up interwoven.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On the first season of Battlestar Galactica each episode had about five minutes of the Mauve Shirt Helo's adventures stranded on Cylon-occupied Caprica; everyone else assumed he was dead.
  • The first half of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica featured Baltar on the basestar.
  • Most episodes of Malcolm in the Middle would have a unrelated subplot featuring Francis first at a military academy, then in Alaska, then on a German-run dude ranch. Very rarely would these at all connect to the main plot.
  • Heroes has a lot of very unconnected B Plots:
    • Hiro stranded in Shogunate Japan.
    • The Central-American Wonder Twins.
    • Not to mention Peter being stranded in Oireland.
    • One of the problems with Season two was that all of the above-mentioned storylines happened at the same time, resulting in Four Lines, All Waiting.
  • The whole "a traitor is contacting Seska" thing from Star Trek: Voyager Season Two.
  • CSI often has a background C Plots about the character's personal lives.
  • A lot of That '70s Show episodes have three storylines per episode: the A and the B story about the teenagers, and the C plot about the adults, mostly the Formans.
  • LOST:
    • Season two has the Tailie plot for the first seven episodes. You could skip these segments until they meet the main survivors and not really miss anything.
    • The flash-sideways. You have to wait until the sixth season's eleventh episode for them to have any impact on the main plot, and the central revelation of the episode (that they're remembering love) has little to do with the earlier flash-sideways. You could skip them all until "Happily Ever After" and miss nothing... until the Series Finale reveals the true, massively important nature of the flash-sideways: it's the afterlife.
  • In Chuck, Ellie and Awesome's trip to Africa in "Chuck versus the Role Models" is completely removed from the A and B plots and only serves to set up next episode in the last minute.
  • Once Upon a Time: Season Two splits the Two Lines, No Waiting format of Present Storybrooke and Past Enchanted Forest by adding Present Enchanted Forest. Most episodes have two as the main plot and then has a scene or two from the third.
  • Cougar Town tends to have 2-3 plotlines in a given episode. At one point in the 4th season, Bobby's boat is renamed "The Sea Story" in reference to this.
    Laurie: Don't you get it? Everything that happens on this boat is a "Sea Story"! Even us sitting here trying to come up with a new name for the boat!
  • On Awkward., in season 1 there was usually an A plot with Jenna and Tamara and a B plot with Ming or an A plot with Jenna and a B plot with Tamara and Ming. The second and third season usually had an A-plot involving Jenna and Matty, a B-plot with Tamara and usually Sadie is involved, and sometimes a separate C-plot with Ming that usually interacts with one of the two plots at some point. The fourth season maybe have an A plot with Jenna, a B plot with Tamara and a C plot with Matty and Jake (and maybe Sadie or Eva)
  • Dexter: Plot A is usually Dexter and Miami Metropolitan pursuing the Murderer of the Week and solving suddenly relevant cases, and Plot B is either Dexter tracking and murdering other killers (usually the aforementioned Monster of the Week), or working his way towards the supervillain for the series. Plot C is the filler about Dexter's (and his colleagues') personal lives — expect periods of Dexter seeing Rita and the kids, Deb jumping between relationships, and Dexter recalling his father's advice.
  • This was the basic storytelling style on Doctor Who in the William Hartnell years — the stereotypical plot is that everyone would get split up, and the plot would juggle between, say, Barbara trying to escape from somewhere, Ian trying to rescue someone, and the Doctor and Vicki doing something Crazy Awesome (see "The Crusades", "The Romans" and "The Web Planet" for three consecutive stories with this exact formula). When Ian and Barbara left and were replaced with/composited into the single character of Steven, the format noticeably opened up, incorporating a plotline focusing on the people in the location itself — so it would now be split between Steven and Vicki (or Dodo) trying to outwit the villain, the Doctor doing something on his own, and the natives (see "The Time Meddler", where the 'native' story focuses on Edith and her village dealing with the Vikings, and "Galaxy 4", where the 'native' story focuses on the villain, Maaga, for just two examples).
  • Malcolm in the Middle has possibly the funniest example of this in one episode.
    • Malcolm, who works with his mother at a department store, was given the job of advertising their products on stilts and in an Uncle Sam costume. The result is being humiliated in front of hot teenagers who ridicule his "Do Not Bang" appearance. The guy who got fired was a drunk who happens to feel very strongly about his job. Once he's fired, he takes the loss very seriously. So later on, while Malcolm's working, the drunk guy comes back, having fashioned his own stilts out of trash, and gets into a fight with Malcolm, and almost kicks his ass. Meanwhile, his co-worker Craig tries to be a big damn hero by getting out an RC Airplane toy, but finds out it has to be assembled. So while he looks for a screwdriver, Malcolm runs away and tries to use shopping carts as roller-skates, which only ends in the carts rolling opposite directions and giving him the most scrotum-tearingly painful split in the entire world. Then Craig's toy airplane comes out of nowhere and hits Malcolm, getting lodged in his hat and continuing to spin miserably.
    • Reese was caught spying on Sorority girls, and was offered a chance to test out untested drugs by companies for money. He winds up going to about two dozen other companies and testing out their drugs as well, which doesn't work out for him. He wound up getting incredibly high, and somehow stealing a policeman's horse, which he rode home on, backwards and lying down on the saddle. He calls Francis for advice, but the horse moves, disconnecting the phone cord, which whips back and hits the horse, causing it to run off in a random direction, taking Reese with him.
    • Dewey finds Jamie with some stolen jewelry, so he comes to the conclusion that Jamie somehow found "The Stash" (Lois' jewelry that Francis stole and hid somewhere before getting sent to military school.) He and Jamie look for The Stash, but later find out that Jamie made his way into a neighbor's house and stole their jewelry. So the neighbor calls the cops on him, and he's taken into custody.
    • Hal checked the phone bill and noticed someone spent alot of money on phone sex. So he goes and calls the phone sex line to demand a refund, but it fails miserably. So he hangs up, but it didn't hit the receiver right, so the call went on for the entire night, accumulating almost $1000 of debt. So when he finds out, he tries to butter Lois up so she won't freak out at him by buying her some equally-expensive shoes. So he goes to her workplace and surprises her with them, eliciting "Awwww~"s from the customers around them. Then he breaks it to her that he accidentally spent $1000 on phone sex, which makes the customers look like they're about to be sick. Then Lois uses the opportunity to tell him something she did which was worse. Then Hal tells her something else he did in the past, and it just goes on and on and on...
    • After all this happened, we cut back to Malcolm, still stuck in the shopping carts, at the drunk Uncle Sam's mercy. Right when Uncle Sam is about to finish him off, he prays to God for "the lamest, most pathetic miracle he has lying around." Right then, Reese comes out of nowhere, still overturned on the police horse, high off his fucking gourd, and bumps into Uncle Sam, knocking him to the ground and getting his stilt caught in a footrest, dragging him into the store. Meanwhile, Hal and Lois' Past Mistake-off ends with Lois saying "I'm two years older than you think I am!" Then a police officer carries Dewey into the store to them, and Reese on the horse comes in and crashes into a stack of coup cans. (The horse belonged to said police officer.) And it all ends with Malcolm getting medical attention, Lois forgetting about the debt because of the new shoes, and Malcolm getting Uncle Sam a job at a circus. (In a depressing cubicle-farm in an office run by a midget ringmaster.)

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary occasionally rotates to "Meanwhile, at the Galactic Core..."
  • Breakpoint City has an occasional detour from "Adventures in the Future with Ben and Dan" to "Adventures In Space with bounty hunters and alien mobsters", and "Waffledog" will occasionally receive a few pages here and there. There are also a few minor characters that get their own sporadic mini-plots. The bounty-hunters side-story recently merged with the main storyline.
  • During the first few acts of Homestuck, the subplot involving the Wayward Vagabond and his fellow refugees from Prospit and Derse fills this role. It's set in the future upon a post-apocalyptic earth, but the characters are able to interact with the protagonists via technology. However, as more and more characters are introduced in later acts, the plot moves in the direction of Four Lines, All Waiting.
  • Goblins splits its screentime between two groups of Goblins and one group of non-Goblins.

    Web Original 
  • Noob:
    • Some of the plots rely on the availability of one or two actors to progress and hence are shown to do so quite infrequently if they happen to be busy. Those involving larger groups can do with an Absentee Actor for some time and tend to be more proeminent.
    • Tenshirock and Judge Dead's plot in Noob: Le Conseil des Trois Factions can be singled out as this. They only interact with one other player, all while setting off a course of events that none of the other players aren't aware of.

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars had some of these in the form of long-simmering, foreshadowed schemes: Tarantulas building up a lair and an escape ship, Dinobot wrestling with the implications of the original Golden Disk (not the alien one), Blackarachnia gathering components for Transmetal 2 transformation...
  • The X-Men cartoon had several of these, most notably Magneto and Professor X in the Savage Land throughout season two.
  • Occasionally, along with a project Phineas and Ferb do and Doof's regular plan, Candace may have her own subplot. In "The Great Indoors", Doofenshmirtz makes it rain so a Mexican soap opera he's been watching ("It has three simultaneous story lines that interconnect. Genius!") won't be preempted by a soccer game, so Phineas and Ferb build a biosphere to help the Fireside Girls earn their Desert Exploration merit badges. Candace puts off her efforts to bust her brothers when Jeremy thinks the biosphere would be a great place to have a picnic, as she wants to find out why he likes her.
  • The Tribunal's role on Metalocalypse tends to fall into this.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: "Castle Mane-ia" has two pairs of the main cast, separately and unaware of the other pair's presence, exploring a creepy castle and getting into various antics with numerous traps and secret passages, while Twilight Sparkle and Spike, further unaware of the others' presence, calmly spend time in the castle library and providing exposition for why said traps and passages exist.


Alternative Title(s):

Three Lines Some Waiting