A Stock Phrase
, generally delivered by a superior or employer to their subordinates, implying they engage in some piece of procedure or protocol that they are familiar with. Expect it to be immediately followed by a Smash Cut
to the characters engaging in the implied act. Can be used dramatically or comically, but either way the point of the phrase is either a simple ploy to keep the audience from knowing what the characters are up to, or just to avoid the redundancy of having a character describe an act, only to immediately show it being carried out.
If you think about it
, this is really a very odd phrase to use in a regular professional capacity, as that kind of vagary can easily lead to misunderstandings and somewhat belies the usefulness of giving orders in the first place. But it can be justified
when the order is given over an insecure channel, like a public telephone, to avoid incrimination. Often the "you know what to do" involves killing somebody
. May involve nonverbal communication like handing someone a gun. May be subverted, if the recipient decides to turn the tables and do something unexpected, or just misunderstands and takes the phrase in a different way than intended. Still, despite its particular age, this trope is more often played straight than lampshaded.
See also Unspoken Plan Guarantee
Tony Lupino: If you don't hear from me, you know what to do.
- California Frontier (1938)
Mal Halstead: And in case you should happen to find any Mexicans camping out on the place, you know what to do.
Buck Pearson: Why, no. Just exactly what do I do?
Mal Halstead: Throw 'em off! They don't belong there. And if they holler, gun 'em off! This land is for Americans.
- Cats & Dogs
Mr. Tinkles: If they ever show their faces again, you know what to do.
Calico: Yes. Tell them to wash with a loofah sponge. Kidding! Hello? Joke!
- Hot Shots! Part Deux
Topper Harley: You're the only one that knows how to get to the copter pad. If I'm not there in 15 minutes, you know what to do.
Colonel Walters: Yeah, we get the hell out of here!
Topper Harley: No! Wait another 15 minutes!
- Revenge of the Ninja
Braden: Keep an eye on the girl and don't let her out of the house. If she gives you any trouble you know what to do.
- Toy Story
Woody: Sergeant, establish a recon post downstairs. Code Red. You know what to do.
- War and Peace (1956)
Dolokhov: [re: French prisoners] Take them away! You know what to do with them!
- In Hot Fuzz, after Chief Inspector Butterman is finally convinced that the scene of an "accident" might be a murder, he rattles off orders to each of the police officers on the scene, finishing with this phrase to the two main characters. Cut to them standing around, holding down the crime scene.
- Lampshaded in Reign of Fire:
Quinn: Anything happens, you know what to do.
Creedy: Errr... no, I have no idea.
Quinn: Me neither.
- Rico's sargeant in the film version of Starship Troopers utters this but the movie makes it pretty clear what that means.
- The Witch says this to Maugrim in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as she sends him to hunt down the Pevensies.
- Family Guy
Lois Griffin: Peter, give Chris a spanking.
Peter Griffin: Okay. Chris, I'm watching the game. You know what to do.
[Chris begins spanking himself]
- Futurama: In "A Fishful of Dollars", Mom uses a security video to instruct her sons on how to bankrupt the newly-rich Fry.
Mom: You know what needs to be done.
- In Donkey Kong Country, King K. Rool sends Klump and Krusha find out what's causing a banging noise that's keeping all of Kongo-Bongo Island awake (it's Eddie the Mean Old Yeti, by the way). While communicating with them, K. Rool notices the Crystal Coconut flying around.
K. Rool: It's heading for the Barrel Factory! You know what to do!
Klump: Yes, sir! Put a stop to the banging, sir!
K. Rool: (Sputters) No, you lunkhead!
Klump: Uh...silence Krusha?
K. Rool: I'll take care of the yeti, you get me that coconut! Now!