Reggie: Take this walkie talkie and hide. You'll know what to do.
Stock phrase when the hero is presented with a Plot Coupon
Played for laughs when the item in question May Help You On Your Quest
Usually translates as "We're not going to tell you what the magic amulet does yet in order to keep the audience in suspense," or, more cynically, "We don't actually want to do the work to prevent a Deus ex Machina
ending, so we're throwing this in now to make it look like we had it planned all along." Sometimes, in a very long arc, it can also mean "We haven't worked the resolution out either, so we're tossing in a random item now. The author will work out what it's for later." Perhaps they know that an unspoken plan always works
The general gist of things is that the item will go forgotten for the rest of the story, and then, at a key moment, when all else has failed, he'll suddenly realize what the Plot Coupon
is for, pull it out, and save the day.
Can refer to a character's generally-useless special ability
instead of an actual physical object.
Often parodied these days by having the coupon itself be something not merely innocuous, but outright ridiculous.
An offshoot of Chekhov's Gun
and often used as ammo for Schrödinger's Gun
. Related to Figure It Out Yourself
, and occasionally answered with I Just Knew
Expect things to go badly if the character doesn't know what to do with it
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Anime and Manga
- In Rave Master, Haru Glory, wielder of the Ten Commandments sword, initially can only create the "Explosion Sword." Eventually, he is given the Rave of Wisdom, which gives him knowledge which is only gradually unlocked and told "You Will Know What to Do." From then on, he's able to whip out new forms of his sword as the plot demands. This comes with understanding of how the powers work, so he can from then on also call them forth at will.
- In the "Fate" story path of Fate/Stay Night, Archer takes time before his Heroic Sacrifice to tell Shiro that he is a "maker" not a "fighter", and that this will save him. Of course, Archer is speaking from personal experience, as he's Shiro's older self.
- This was sort of the case in Yu-Gi-Oh! where Kaiba gave Yugi his copy of Fiend's Sanctuary before the Final Battle with Marik in Battle City. Kaiba knew it was an effective weapon against the Winged Dragon of Ra, but he just told Yugi to take it and nothing else, figuring that if Yugi was capable of winning at all, he could figure out how to use it on his own. (Fortunately, he did.)
- Zigzagged in the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. After Judai defeats Daitokuji-sensei, he gives Judai the Emerald Tablet before his physical body dies. Later, before he duels Kagemaru, Judai finds a card called Sabatiel - The Philosopher's Stone in the book, and figures he should add it to his deck. Just as he's at the end of his rope, he draws the card, but still has no idea how to use it. Daitokuji's spirit appears, and is about to tell him exactly how to use it, but then he's swallowed by his cat Pharaoh before he can tell Judai the complete effect. Fortunately, Judai is able to figure that out on his own.
- Comic book example: In Exiles, when Beak joins the team, they're told that he has "an important task ahead of him" and that "several worlds will hang in the balance", essentially making the character into the Plot Coupon.
- In Catherine and Her Fate, Catherine appeals to her Fate, to soften her hardships. Her Fate responds by giving her — a skein of silk thread. Catherine nearly throws it out in annoyance.
- In Perry Moore's superhero novel Hero, the protagonist's mother gives him a thinly-disguised Kryptonite ring with this instruction. Why she doesn't use it herself is less than clear.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Each child gets a pleasant but seemingly useless gift from Dumbledore by his estate's executor with cryptic hints. Each proves critical to their quest. Justified because Dumbledore is dead and since the aforementioned executor takes anything he deems "suspicious" he can't outright tell them.
- It does however raise the question why he didn't just give it to them earlier, transfigured if necessary, since he knew he was going to die almost a year in advance. But hey, it's Dumbledore.
- Subverted in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In the beginning of the book, Sirius gives Harry a package with instructions to use it if Harry needs Sirius' help. Knowing that any attempt to help Harry by Sirius would bring with it an unacceptable risk of being captured and re-imprisoned, Harry resolves never to use it, promptly forgets about it, and doesn't consider that it could be equally useful should Sirius need Harry's help. It turns out to be an enchanted mirror allowing safe, easy two-way communication between the two. A lot of tragedy could have been avoided if Sirius had just told Harry what it was instead of being mysterious about it.
- In John Moore's Bad Prince Charlie the titular prince is given a charm and told 'you'll know what to do when the time comes'. Given what kind of books Moore writes, when the time comes to actually use it as a last resort in the face of an enemy army they mock him by reciting the same phrase back at him.
- In David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, the character Zach'ry in the section "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After" is given a series of mystical and seemingly nonsensical clues by a fortune teller, explaining only that he will know what they mean when the time comes. The clues end up saving his life in the climax, as they are detailed instructions on how to evade a band of savages that is attempting to capture him.
- Metro2033: Artyom is sent out by the Brahmins (who he's never met) to the Lenin Library (where he's never been) to find a lost book of prophecies (which he's never seen). They totally guarantee that he'll know where it is, though.
- Done several times in the Sword of Truth. Prophecies given 3000+ years ago can be pretty nonspecific, you know? Additionally, the irrational use of this trope is lampshaded by Richard himself, who, as Seeker, is somehow expected to know how to solve everyones' problems. He actually ends up subverting his own lampshade by being an unusually bright and logical protagonist, and its revealed that one of the primary characteristics of a true Seeker is that they have this trope or the ability to invoke it before they get the sword.
- In The Lord of the Rings, Galadrial gives Sam a phial of water from her fountain, saying "May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out". While this has an obvious literal meaning, it takes on a new significance when Sam is fighting Shelob and it turns out that the light from a Silmaril is a more potent weapon against the daughter of Ungoliant than the sharpest of swords could ever be.
- In Lovely Assistant (by Geoph Essex), when Jenny finally gets the chance to take a lesson in Grim Reaping from Caravel, Caravel essentially says "You Will Know What to Do" when it comes to using the sword and guiding people to the afterlife. As it turns out, it's literally true: Jenny instinctively knows what to do when she gets there, and is pretty surprised by that fact herself. (The implication that the experience is better than drugs or sex for Grim Reapers suggests that it's just a "natural" thing for them to do, like fish swimming or birds flying.)
- Near the end of the book, Caravel invokes this trope verbatim when Jenny is leaving for her appointment with the Ice Cream Psycho.
- The amulet from the final episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Prison Break: Linc (when he and Michael go to break LJ out) tells his son "On the third, look out for otis right." and when LJ goes "huh?" Linc answers with the You Will Know What To Do.
- Merlin had the Fisher King giving Merlin a waterglobe artifact in season 3 and telling him "When all seems lost, this will show you the way." But Merlin himself had to figure out what to do with it (and did so on accident,dropping and smashing it so the water fell into the bucket and Freya appeared.)
- In the Supernatural episode "Appointment in Samarra", Death instructs Dean to keep researching the souls, and says that he will understand when he needs to.
- Older Than Feudalism: The Bible is full of this trope. For example, God directs Abraham to take his son to the wilderness and offer him "in a place I will show you." When he gets there, he finds a sheep waiting to be sacrificed instead.
- Parodied by Maddox in his review of The Matrix Revolutions, which he hated. He particularely critizes the Cryptic Conversations between Neo and the Oracle.
Neo: What do I need to do?
Oracle: You KNOW what you need to do.
Neo: Where do I need to go?
Oracle: You KNOW where you need to go.
Neo: Who do I need to see?
Oracle: You KNOW who you need to see.
Neo: What do you want?
Oracle: The same thing you want.
Neo: How will I know I'm making the right choice?
Oracle: You will KNOW...!
- Parodied in Family Guy, where Quagmire is told this and given... a banana. Further subverted when Quagmire is running for his life, recalls the cryptic advice, and throws the banana at his attacker. It bounces off harmlessly, falls to the ground, and both parties look expectantly at it. Nothing happens, and after a moment, the chase resumes.
- Of course nothing happens, because Quagmire was too Genre Blind to do a banana peel gag. Cleveland was probably looking at it less expectantly and more "Did he just throw a banana at me?"
- In one episode of Xiaolin Showdown, Omi is given the puzzle box that is the key to resealing Wu Ya, but isn't told how it works, save that, "it will open when the person who needs to open it opens it."
- Episode 52 of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: The Annunuki, in the host body of Nova (Brad and Judy's Cocker Spaniel), tells Scooby this during the final battle with the Nibiru Entity.
- Common with sex and romance. No one will tell you how they work, but it's assumed that you'll know what to do.