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"I have seen everything that is done under the sun and, behold, all is vanity and chasing after the wind."

In Alice 1, Alice sacrifices everything she cared for — her home, her reputation, the love of her family and friends — all in order to save the world. In Alice 2: Back for More, the police clear her and her family forgives her.

Bob spends months of agonizing time and effort to kick some booze. He manages to become sober, then falls Off the Wagon again five episodes later.

Chris spends a whole season learning to trust his rival at the agency. Then it turns out the rival was The Mole all along, and every single thing Chris learned in this season was all just a chump's lesson.

Why even bother with the first half of each story again? It was All for Nothing!

Sometimes, a Story Arc completely destroys the point of an earlier arc in the same story. It could contradict the early story's message, or it could reveal that the events we cared about never happened or weren't what they seemed. A hero's decisions don't seem so heroic if it turns out that they were manipulated every step of the way. And if a character goes through a Face–Heel Turn or Heel–Face Turn, their earlier stories become irrelevant when we know they'll disavow it all.

This trope can be used to set a story on the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism — nothing lasts forever, and something that seems so important may be just a passing moment. Yes, the farm boy may have risen to become king and gotten the girl, but his life doesn't end there, and things can still go downhill. Another use for this is to deliberately shock the audience — a Face–Heel Turn hurts so much when the character we cheered for six seasons turns on us.

In general, it's more forgivable when it's done as an event, rather than as a Retcon. If a hero's efforts are undone, that's not as frustrating as if it turns out that they never mattered in the first place. The audience is also more likely to forgive it if we're shown the change, rather than it being done with Second-Hand Storytelling.

A storyline that is All For Nothing is not always a happy thing ruined by bad events. A tragic scene of people losing everything can feel very cheapened if things get better too easily; it's also not uncommon for this trope to come into play for villains after a Near-Villain Victory.

Remember, Tropes Are Tools, and when done properly, this can have a large impact on the audience, invoking things like Bait-and-Switch, Hope Spot, and Despair Event Horizon.

Common forms include Shoot the Shaggy Dog, Yank the Dog's Chain, Worthless Treasure Twist, and Happy Ending Override. If done too often, leads to the Broken Aesop, Lost Aesop, and Yo Yo Plot Point.

Compare and contrast "Shaggy Dog" Story, in which the events of an entire story — either the main story or a subplot — ends up completely meaningless in the end but there's usually no changes to the status quo.

If this was on the villains' perspective, it would be Meaningless Villain Victory. May even involve Pyrrhic Victory.

Distinct from Status Quo Is God in that it doesn't always bring things back to where they started — it often leads to genuine change.

The story of the first three Jewish kings in the Bible (Saul, David, Solomon) make this trope Older Than Feudalism.

Not to be confused with All or Nothing. Possibly related to Hard Work Hardly Works.

As this is an Ending Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


Categories with their own pages:

Examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 45, Paddi wants to send Little Knife Goat some snow since he's never seen any before, being from the desert. Paddi goes far away into the desert just to deliver the snow, but at the end of the episode his effort is wasted because Mr. Slowy invited Little Knife Goat to the snow-covered Goat Village.

    Audio Play 
  • In the Doctor Who audio spin-off "The Lady in the Lake", the character of Lake learned that he had the ability to regenerate after death as he was one of various 'proto Time Lords' cloned from River Song, and subsequently manipulated his fellows into giving up their own lives so that he could work out how long he himself would live. However, he eventually realised that this was pointless because they all have a different amount of regenerations, ranging from two to nine, and therefore there was no way to know how many lives he might have himself.

    Game Shows 
  • This is rather common on Taskmaster, where a character will misinterpret the rules of a task and do it wrong, resulting in last place or an outright disqualification:
    • "Slice The Loaf As Neatly As Possible" had a simple task: pick one tool from the caravan, go to the lab, and slice the loaf of bread. However, there was also a loaf of bread in the caravan where the task began. Aisling Bea brainfarted, grabbed the loaf in the caravan, and began slicing it, doing a decent job and cutting herself twice in the process (she used an aluminum can lid)... while Alex stood awkwardly in the lab waiting for her.
    • The most notorious example was also poor Aisling Bea during the task (take a breath) "Make the tallest tower of cans on this table. Also, whilst building your tower, you must shake Alex's hand and say you're from a different country once every 10 seconds. Alex will blow his whistle every 10 seconds." Alex whistled for her to begin, and she mistook the instructions and thought she didn't have to shake his hand until the next whistle blow, and thus failed to shake his hand within the first 10 seconds. She didn't realize she missed the first one, continued on long enough to name 61 countries and got the tower 10 cans high, and thought she'd done well until she watched the playback months later on the show itself and realized all it was worth was one can high. All she got was a measly one point.
  • Happened to a contestant named Matthew on the Press Your Luck revival's June 17, 2021 episode: he ended up the winner by default after the other two contestants hit four Whammies each, knocking them both out of the game, but had no money or prizes going into the Bonus Round. He reached the Big Bucks Bonanza and accrued nearly $140,000 in cash and prizes, only to lose it all to a Whammy on his very last spin, becoming the first person in the history of this run of the show to leave with absolutely nothing.

    Music 
  • The 60s anti-war song One Tin Soldier tells of the Valley Folk who covet the great treasure of the Mountain Kingdom. The Kingdom are more than happy to share, but the Valley folk greedly want the whole stash, going to war with the Mountain and wiping them out. In the end, the "treasure" turns out to be a simple engraving of 'Peace on Earth' on the bottom of a rock.
  • The Portishead song "Mysterons" from Dummy uses this trope verbatim in its lyrics, to imply someone who had everything they could ever want or need and threw it all away.
    All for nothing
    Did you really want
  • Rainbow: The song "Stargazer" tells the story of a wizard who enslaves people to spend nine years building a tower in the desert for him so he can channel his magic to fly. His first attempt ends with him falling to his death, rendering the whole endevour completely pointless.
  • Spanish balladeer Camilo Sesto has a song titled "Todo Por Nada"note .

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Happened at the main event of Survivor Series 2014. After a massive series of screwjobs, Dolph Ziggler finally gets the better of The Authority, complete with a Big Damn Heroes moment from Sting, and, as promised, the Authority is banished from WWE television… For all of five weeks before Seth Rollins manages to get them back via a hostage situation. Then the Authority fires all of Team Cena anyway, and for his troubles, Sting gets buried by Triple H.

    Sports 
  • The New Orleans Saints' play known as the River City Relay has become infamous due to this trope. With the Saints trailing by 7 on the final drive of a game they needed to win to have any chance of staying in the playoff race, they pulled off one of the most incredible lateral plays of all time to score a last-second touchdown... only for usually-reliable kicker John Carney to miss the extra point that would have tied the game and forced overtime. Doubly fits the trope in that even if Carney had made the extra point, other results that day eliminated the Saints anyway.
  • After decades of playoff futility normally involving clutch moments going against them, the Minnesota Vikings finally had a miracle play go their way in the 2018 Divisional Round against the Saints with the Minneapolis Miracle play... only to get completely blown out in the NFC Championship Game one week later against the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • The defining buzzer-beater shots in the NBA careers of both Michael Jordan and LeBron James happened in playoff campaigns their teams ultimately lost:
    • For MJ, it was the series-clinching buzzer-beater against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. The Chicago Bulls would beat the New York Knicks in six games in the Conference Semifinal, then fall to the Detroit Pistons in six games in the Conference Final.
    • For LeBron, it was the buzzer-beater against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Final. The Magic would ultimately win the series in six games.
  • Spectacularly averted by the 1980 US Olympic hockey team (depicted in Miracle) thanks to a last-minute goal that salvaged a tie in the team's first Olympic game against Sweden. While that goal was a confidence builder for the rest of the tournament, it wound up avoiding what would have been the most baffling and anticlimactic result in sports history. Since 1992, the medal round has been played as a knockout tournament, as is standard in almost every other sports tournament in the world. Not so in 1980—the top two teams from the two pools advanced to the medal round and played the top two teams in the other pool. The medals would then be determined by the points standings after these games. Just to make it even more confusing, teams carried their points they’d earned against the team who also advanced in their pool into the medal round, but not the points against the teams that did not advance. Since the Soviets had beaten Finland in pool play they came into the medal round with two points, but the USA and Sweden entered with only one point since they had tied. Finland entered with zero points since it had lost to the Soviets. After Team USA's famous upset of the Soviets in its first medal-round game, it still had to beat Finland to win the gold medal, as correctly depicted in the film. But... had it not tied Sweden in the last minute of that first game, it would have finished the medal round with four points instead of five, meaning the USA and Soviets would be tied. Okay, so the USA gets the tiebreaker for beating the Soviets, right? Nope. The first tiebreaker is goal differential, which the Soviets had the edge in due to beating Sweden 9–2, giving them a +6 differential compared to just +3 for the USA. In other words, that one last-minute goal against Sweden spared the USA, and possibly the entire world, said anticlimactic result.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Apocalypse Stone was a Dungeons & Dragons adventure designed to destroy a Second Edition world to allow a fresh start with Third Edition. In the default ending, nothing the PCs do ultimately matters. Even if they succeed at every task flawlessly, by the time they confront the final villain, the world is too far gone to prevent an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. However, it did also allow alternate endings, such as the fabric of reality being altered in ways that would accommodate Third Edition mechanics.
  • Downplayed in Sentinels of the Multiverse. The heroes Visionary and Omnitron-X supposedly travel back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong (saving her younger self from being Strapped to an Operating Table for Visionary, and destroying his past selves before they could do too much damage for Omnitron-X). Unfortunately, it turns out that neither of them actually traveled back in time, but instead to another reality (that reality being the timeline the game takes place in also known as the "Prime Timeline") meaning that they didn't change the future at all. On the other hand, they managed to do quite a bit of good in the prime timeline so it wasn't entirely for nothing.

    Theatre 
  • Both The Fantasticks and Into the Woods do this deliberately as a Deconstruction of fairy tales. The first act is a mythic tale with beginning and end, and the second act is life going on and not ending so neatly.
  • In Henry V the titular king, unhindered by civil war, takes his "noblest English" into France and, despite overwhelming odds, defeats the French at Agincourt. Not only does he win the country (or a big chunk of it), he charmingly woos the French Princess Katherine to seal the deal and the last action has the two of them getting ready to be wed. Then the Chorus reminds the audience that, like in real life, Henry would be dead a few short years later, and his son's reign would see all those French territories lost and the country of England plunged into one of its most famous and bloody civil wars.
  • Taken across the three Henry VI plays and Richard III itself, the actions of the House of York fall intot his. For years, Edward, George, and Richard fought to avenge their father and put a York on the throne in place of the Lancasters. But Edward proved feckless, George untrustworthy, and Richard disposed of them both so that he could get the crown and do it right. But his paranoia and indulgence in villainy continues after he becomes king, and rather than securing peace, he drives away most of the allies he didn't murder and gives Henry Tudor ample justification for declaring war. In the end, Richard's actions destroy not just York but Lancaster as well, leading to the end of the Plantagenet dynasty altogether.
  • In legally blonde, Elle goes to great lengths to keep Brooke’s alibi of Liposuction a secret. Unfortunately, Brooke blurts said Alibi out.
  • The entire plot of Tosca. In chronological order: Mario Cavaradossi's efforts to protect and hide his friend Cesare Angelotti, even under torture, are undone by their enemy Baron Scarpia bullying Mario's lover Floria Tosca into revealing Angelotti's location. Her unwilling betrayal of Mario's trust is then rendered worthless by Mario mocking Scarpia about Napoleon's victory at Marengo, sealing his fate. Napoleon's said victory also renders the risks that Angelotti took meaningless, as Angelotti was jailed for leading a pro-French rebellion, and Napoleon will take over Rome within days; if he'd just stayed put for a little while longer, he would have been freed anyway. Meanwhile, the very government that Scarpia works for will be overthrown as soon as the French take over, and Angelotti kills himself rather than be captured again, rendering the whole affair pointless. And finally, Tosca's daring murder of Scarpia, who planned to have Mario executed, achieves nothing, as Mario is executed by firing squad anyway. Broken and about to be arrested for killing Scarpia, Tosca has nothing left but suicide.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The villain of Farewell, My Turnabout killed the victim to avoid a scandal becoming public. Even if he's found not guilty, the investigation and subsequent trial reveal the scandal to the world. And that's only if Phoenix gets the Bad Ending. If he gets the normal ending, then all Engarde has to look forward to is a Guilty verdict, or being hunted down by the assassin he hired. He chooses to face prison rather than the angry assassin.
    • The main villain of Trials and Tribulations commits several murders to cover up a fake kidnapping scam. The valuable diamond that they were after is lost when the fake kidnapping goes wrong, and is never retrieved.
    • In the flashback trial during Apollo Justice, Klavier asks the judge to clear the courtroom before accusing Phoenix of forging evidence because he knew that such an accusation could have serious ramifications for the legal system. Come Dual Destinies, we find out that despite his efforts, his accusation against Phoenix and subsequent disbarment was one of two incidents that kickstarted the Dark Age of the Law, where the public lost its faith in the legal system.
    • The villain of Duel Destinies' second case wants to steal a gold ingot to solve their money problems, and creates a ridiculously complex plan to get to the chamber where the ingot was. The ingot was stolen by Phineas Filch's grandfather, so good luck to the bad guy paying down their debts with that empty room.
  • Danganronpa
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Monokuma loves this. After all, what's more despairing than going through hell and becoming a murderer to escape a Gilded Cage only to find out that the reason you did it never mattered at all? He outright gloats during the final trial that all his motives were meaningless, since the Tragedy ruined the outside world.
      • The general motive is 'escape the school'. However, the students locked themselves in there willingly to wait out the Tragedy, and escaping would put them right back into the middle of it.
      • The first motive is videos that imply the students' loved ones outside are in grave danger, which is why Sayaka snaps and tries to kill Leon, only to get killed herself. Problem is, it's been a year since the Tragedy. Whatever happened to said relatives, it's not like the students could do anything about it now (though Ultra Despair Girls reveals that many of the loved ones mentioned in the videos are alive).
      • The second motive is promising to embarrassing secrets. While it's up in the air how the students themselves would judge each other with their secrets revealed, it's highly unlikely that anyone left in the outside world would care- for example, Mondo worries about his secret being revealed (which eventually leads to him murdering Chihiro) because the Crazy Diamonds would fall apart if they knew. It's highly unlikely that they made it through the Tragedy intact.
      • The third motive is money. Money isn't all that useful in an apocalypse, and Celeste's dream of living in a castle with handsome butlers dressed like vampires now simply doesn't have the infrastructure to support it.
      • The fourth motive is revealing the identity of The Mole: Sakura Oogami. By this point, Sakura had already turned against Monokuma, so killing her wouldn't hurt him at all and would in fact get rid of a powerful loose end.
      • This happens again in the 4th case with Aoi trying to frame herself. She wants to get everyone killed out of revenge for dragging Sakura past the Despair Event Horizon, but Sakura never fell to despair; she killed herself for altruistic reasons, namely fulfilling her bargain with Monokuma (thus causing him to release his hostages) and so that the students wouldn't kill each other over her. Her suicide note begs Aoi to live for her, but Monokuma replaced it with a fake that claimed she died in despair. Had Aoi succeeded in her frame job, she'd have completely invalidated Sakura's Heroic Sacrifice.
      • Junko's whole plan. Sure, she created a Villain World and trapped her classmates inside the school, but she also trapped herself inside the school (and restricted herself further by playing Monokuma in the killing game), and Makoto manages to rally her remaining classmates against the game and her. In the end, she loves this, since it allows her to feel the despair of such an important plan failing horribly. She then promptly executes herself to complete it.
    • As usual, most of the murders in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair are, on some level, meaningless. It's a Monokuma trademark. "Graduating" wouldn't even mean leaving the island, since they're in a VR game and their real bodies are in a Future Foundation compound and observed by the previous game's cast. Even if they woke up, they likely wouldn't get very far.
      • Teruteru committed murder to be able to escape and see his mother. Aside from the above problems with escape, He was a member of Ultimate Despair, who were known for killing their loved ones so they could feel despair at their deaths. It's highly likely that either his mom died from the Tragedy or was killed by Teruteru himself.
      • Fuyuhiko and Peko fall into this in different ways. Fuyuhiko didn't get the chance to kill Mahiru, but he wanted to in order to avenge his sister. Mahiru really didn't have much to do with his sister's murder; Monokuma just implied this was the case to mess with Fuyuhiko. Peko killed Mahiro partially to protect Fuyuhiko (which did work) and partially because she saw herself as his tool and thought that he would be counted as responsible for anything she did (and thus he'd be the real Blackened and could escape at the cost of her life). However, neither Fuyuhiko nor Monokuma thought of Peko as a tool, so she gets executed as the sole culprit.
      • It's heavily implied that the "love" Mikan killed for was Junko, who aside from being a psychopathic manipulator has also been dead for years, having killed herself at the end of the previous game.
      • Nagito schemed to make The Mole the Blackened so that they, as the only non- Remnant of Despair, could escape. Thing is, the mole was there on behalf of the Future Foundation to rehabilitate the Remnants of Despair, so surviving at the cost of everyone else would be failing that mission (and incidentally handing the bodies of the students to Alter Ego Junko on a silver platter). And to top it all off, the mole is an AI and thus couldn't leave in any case. The mole ends up figuring out his plan and confesses in order to spare the other students, so the only one killed is the only one he didn't want to die.
  • Katawa Shoujo does this on multiple occasions:
    • Lampshaded in Hanako's Bad and Neutral Endings. In the Bad Ending, she screams how nothing has changed in her life before delivering a Player Punch and a Get Out!. In the Neutral Ending, she tentatively clarifies that nothing has changed, with Hisao agreeing.
    • Played straight in Lilly's Neutral Ending: she leaves for Scotland, never to return. Hisao feels that his relationship with her was completely pointless.
    • In Rin's first bad ending, which you get by selecting "Then explain," Hisao and Rin break up after an argument, and the last line of Hisao's inner monologue is about how much time he wasted on their relationship.

    Web Animation 
  • The Amazing Digital Circus: "Candy Carrier Chaos!":
    • Gummigoo goes through an extensive existential crisis and decides that he's willing to try living in the Circus with the rest of the cast. However, Caine blows up Gummigoo as soon as he does so due to him not wanting to risk mixing up real people with NPCs.
    • To a lesser extent, the gang returning the Candy Canyon Kingdom's syrup is rendered moot when Jax intentionally leaves the front gate unlocked for the Fudge to sneak in and start devouring people again.
  • RWBY:
    • Raven spends the fifth volume concocting plan to oppose Salem by obtaining the Relic of Knowledge for herself, and actually succeeds in reaching the Relic. However, the very act of her success reveals her entire plan was a lost cause, instantly undoing all the effort she went to. Raven is a Dirty Coward who wants Salem to leave her alone, but the Relic attracts Grimm and would make Raven an even bigger target. When Yang forces her to confront this, Raven is left to flee, having lost her brother (he disowned her for good), her lieutenant Vernal (died as a Maiden decoy), and revealed herself as the Spring Maiden in return for nothing whatsoever.
    • Ironwood spends the entire Atlas Arc attempting to save the city of Atlas from Salem and tried to stop her from getting the Relics in his possession. Unfortunately, this all ends in vain. Ironwood begins using extreme measures such as declaring martial law and abandoning the people of Mantle to die when Salem is on her way and orders Winter to kill the Winter Maiden. Team RWBY and the rest of the heroes turn against him because of it, Penny obtains the Winter Maiden's powers instead and goes with them and Salem eventually finds a way to get through Atlas' defenses and launches a Grimm attack on the city. After Salem is temporarily taken out, Ironwood decides to threaten the heroes with bombing Mantle himself in order to get what he wants and leads to his remaining allies in the military abandoning him as a result. Even when he planned on Winter becoming the next Winter Maiden, she turned against him by the point it happened as he is left to die on the falling city of Atlas with everyone else in the Kingdom being evacuated and Cinder and Salem claiming the two relics as he gives up when attempting to shoot them.

    Webcomics 
  • Alice Grove: Both Alice and Jesper. Alice's efforts to keep her town low-tech in order to prevent another war is invalidated by the Praeses' escapees "awakening" humanity within a few years, while Jesper's plan to bully the Praeses into helping him uplift humanity is rendered moot by those same escapees doing exactly what he'd hoped for... which he doesn't even learn about before Alice kills him.
  • In Girl Genius Lady Margarella Selnikov kidnaps a monk and forces him to lead her through the vaults of his monastery, which contain various confiscated mad science inventions. When what's in one vault does not match her guide book, she panics and begins opening all the vaults in an effort to find it, eventually releasing The Beast, which kills her. We later learn she wasn't even in the right vaults to begin with, rendering her death and the damage caused by The Beast all for nothing as far as she was concerned. (Agatha got a great ally out of the mess.)
  • In Latchkey Kingdom chapter "Titan", Willa does manage to defeat the Titan... but the reward for doing so was so small, it wouldn't cover the cost of replacing the how-to guide she destroyed in the process.
  • Played for laughs in Penny Arcade, where Gabe had spent months bringing the Sea of Thieves experience to Dungeons & Dragons, painstakingly crafting rules for every aspect of it, only for an RPG of the game to come out. It takes Tycho a few moments to realize why Gabe isn't happy about it.
  • Tomboy GF: When Shion's mom Akari recalls the time she met her husband back in high school, the latter was the class rep and tried constantly to get her, a notorious delinquent, to stop skipping school. Then, during a fight with a gang, Shion's dad took a blow to the head for Akari during a fight and that inspired her to finally start taking school seriously. However, once she began a relationship with him, she refused to let him use a condom when they started having sex, which resulted in her getting pregnant with Shion and thus dropping out of school, making Shion's dad's efforts to get Akari to stay in school ultimately pointless.

    Web Original 
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd goes through a lot of trouble to get the Atari 5200 set up: he tries to plug in the 5200 in the back of his main TV, then realizes that there's no room in the back, so he switches to another TV, but the cable is too short, so he gets an extension cord, then the 5200's adapter box doesn't reach, so he has to move the TV and drops it onto his foot. Finally, he gets the console to start up... and he can't even play any games because the controllers don't work. So he orders a third-party controller, but the plug isn't compatible with his console's ports.
  • The Death of Russia: The reforms put into place by Gorbachev and thought to be solidified by Yeltsin died with the latter, as Russia goes through their own version of the Yugoslav Wars that shatters the nation.
  • Dream Shorts: In "Dream Team Stranded On An Island," Sapnap proposes they eat Patches, Dream's cat, so they don't starve. Though he resists at first, Dream eventually relents and lets Patches be killed, only for the team to be rescued mere seconds later.
  • The Final Minutes: Zombie Plague eventually culminates in The United States deciding to "sterelize" Australia with nuclear weapons in a last-ditch effort to slow the spread of XMNV. Part Two reveals that these did nothing to slow the spread of XMNV, with Australia's post-devastation emergency broadcast even outright announcing that the strikes failed to wipe out the mutants.
  • Heart of Elynthi:
    • It is revealed that the ancient warforge found in the Pallitrios ruins was in fact just an automaton made to look like an ancient warforge as part of a death trap for explorers who came to explore the ruins. This upsets Sergi, as that means that his friends who explored the ruins died for nothing and the 'warforge's heart' is completely useless in helping him stop the Blot.
    • This is Buck's greatest fear. It is revealed that, due to Buck's obsession of meeting Lady Luck again, he had been abandoning the relationships he made in order to continue search for Lady Luck. Buck is well aware that he basically rendered himself all alone, and that only serves to further push him into finding Lady Luck just to make sure all of this wasn't for nothing (even if it is at the cost of any further relationships he could make, like with the other party members).
  • The Minecraft Multiverse makes it extremely clear that any and all attempts to create a monopoly on a Minecraft SMP will be in vain.
    • 3rd Life SMP: At the start of the series, in an attempt to gain a monopoly over all the dark oak wood on the server, Grian and Scar spent an hour on Day 1 chopping down a dark oak forest to ensure they'd be the only one with saplings... not knowing that there was a second dark oak forest in a secluded corner of the map, right by Scott and Jimmy's base. When they hear on Day 2 that Scar scammed both Joel and Cleo out of their items by promising them dark oak saplings sometime in the future, they start distributing free dark oak saplings to everyone else out of spite.
    • Minecraft SOS: Oli spends his entire 1st episode trying to make a monopoly on cherry trees and petals to scam everyone out of their resources. Within the same episode, the monopoly is broken twice — first by Lizzie bone-mealing the free pink petal sample she was given to obtain infinite petals and dye, then by the Blossom Bandits alliance raiding his supply for saplings, allowing them to grow cherry trees by themselves.
  • Minecraft Utopia: Most of Utopia 1's citizens tried hard to protect the city from several threats and achieve their goals. Despite managing to survive the Upside-Down Dimension, defeat Evil Carlin, and being succesful to destroy the aliens' mothership, their efforts were in vain since Luiz got bored with them and just activated hardcore mode, killing most of the players and causing the abandonment of the city.
  • The possibility is considered by Gaea in Noob: La Quête Légendaire, where the Cliffhanger from the previous movie could cause a Game Over in the fictional MMORPG in which the story is set. Gaea has just recently accomplished something that took four years of preparation and is hence worried about having it all vanish in just a few days.
  • Party Crashers: In "The WORST Board in Mario Party 1...", Nick throws the co-op minigame Running of the Bulb to ensure no one (including Sophist) would receive any coins, as Sophist would've had enough to steal a Star from Brent, putting Nick in dead last. But despite his efforts, Nick still ends up in last place, as Sophist manages to overtake him in 3rd place through coins.
  • PBG Hardcore:
    • Most series end with the cast failing to achieve their goal as the last men standing are killed off. The only exceptions to date are Minecraft #1, Diablo II, and Minecraft #4.
    • In Minecraft #5, Ray, Dean and McJones risk their lives finding Nether Wart, ultimately dying in the process. When Jeff, who eventually becomes the Sole Survivor, tries to make potions in episode 22, he doesn't know how to do so and is unwilling to look it up. So he decides not to bother, rendering the hunt for the Nether Wart pointless.
  • shadypenguinn and TheKingNappy's playthrough of Pokémon Trading Card Game has one instance where Nappy sets up his Water types to take a trainer out, only to have him use his Kadabra to win the game.
    • Another instance comes up during the battle against Murray, where Nappy gets a huge amount of damage on Murray's Pokemon. When Pokemon Center comes up...
    TheKingNappy: "Remove all damage counters from all of your own Pokémon with damage counters on them, then discard all Ener-" WHAT?!
    shadypenguinn: That's a broken deck.
    TheKingNappy: His Kangaskhan and his Chansey...have 10 damage left before they're knocked out!
    shadypenguinn: Wow...
    TheKingNappy: And his Snorlax is at over half heath gone. THAT'S LIKE 200 POINTS OF DAMAGE...GONE!
    shadypenguinn: That's so broken.
    TheKingNappy: (laughs) What?! (Snorlax is healed) Healed 60 from him. (Abra is healed) Healed 20 from Abra. (Chansey is healed) Healed 100 from Chansey.
    shadypenguinn: Wow...
    TheKingNappy: I mean, they have no Energy. But I was about to- (beat) I have no words! This game hates me!
  • The Scott The Woz episode "Borderline Forever", which has Scott going on all sorts of adventures in an attempt to break free from the blue border in all of his videos, ends with Scott allowing himself to be contained by the border for good, with the knowledge that everyone else will be spared by it. Lampshaded by one of his friends who tagged along for the ride:
    Jerry: THAT GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING WE'VE JUST DONE!!
  • In Screen Rant Pitch Meetings, The Producer greenlights Fantastic Four (2015) despite its major problems in large part because it will keep the Fantastic Four out of Marvel's hands for a long time. Cue news article confirming that the Fantastic Four will join the MCU.
  • Slimecicle Cinematic Universe: Slimecicle, Bizly, Condi, and Grizzly go through trial after trial trying to beat "The HARDEST Minecraft Difficulty", dealing with much deadlier enemies, unpredictable random events, and even Grizzly undergoing a Face–Heel Turn after being sent to Hell for making Diamond Pickaxes squeaky and single-use, mandating a detour to kill him off for good... only for it to be revealed that Eyes of Ender are now crafted from seeds and tree saplings.
  • SpongeBob Conspiracy: Alex talks about how he spent three years in film school, only for him to end up making Spongebob videos.

    Real Life 
  • The assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar is one of the biggest own goals in political history. Caesar was no saint, and the methods to get to the height of his power involved exploiting every weakness the Roman Republican system had, along with the Third Servile War. But he was still a competent leader; and more importantly, a very popular one. His opponents in the Senate feared he would become king — which he was already — and decided that killing him would restore the Republic to how they believed it should be. Unfortunately for them, Caesar's assassination in 44 BC not only did not restore the Republic, but outright accelerated its demise. Caesar's supporters rallied the furious public against the "liberators", chasing them out of Rome. Caesar's adopted son Octavian renamed himself Augustus, and became the first Emperor of Rome. Most of the conspirators were hunted down and killed in the intervening years; the few that weren't had been Driven to Suicide before they were caught. And the Republic became ruled by kings by another name when Emperor Augustus took over. So the only thing the "liberators" achieved was killing Caesar himself, but Rome became ruled by a Caesar anyway... and one even more ruthless than the last, after seeing how well mercy had worked out for his father. The conspirators didn't restore Rome; they helped kill it. And at the end of it all, the conspirators got exactly none of what they wanted.
  • This trope can be applied to the League of Nations. Created just after World War I by President Woodrow Wilson, it was intended to maintain world peace from then on. But although the League successfully mediated a number of disputes, especially surrounding borders, the opium trade, and slavery, the United States never joined the League, much to Wilson's embarrassment. Perhaps not surprisingly, this led to problems for the League in the 1930s. To make a long story short, Germany turned to Adolf Hitler and Those Wacky Nazis, who repeatedly ignored the League's cries for peace, and in 1939, World War II, which the League was trying to prevent in the first place, had begun.
  • King Henry VIII and his attempts to preserve the Tudor Dynasty by having a legitimate son — by any means necessary. His efforts included separating England from the Catholic Church and forming the Church of England just so he could get an annulment from his first wife Catherine of Aragon so he could marry his mistress Anne Boleyn (causing centuries of religious strife in the process), then executing Anne three years later on trumped up charges just because she couldn't give him a son fast enough, and then the Death by Childbirth of Anne's successor Jane Seymour (Royalty). Henry's actions ended up condemning the Tudor dynasty for good, as Jane's son Edward was Delicate and Sickly and died at age 15 without any heirs of his own, and neither of his daughters, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I had any children partially because of his behavior towards them and their mothers. Henry's obsession with continuing his dynasty with a male heir meant that he prevented Mary from marrying (and thus having kids who could potentially start a Succession Crisis with said male heir) until after he'd died and she'd ascended to the throne, and by that point she was 38 and past her biological prime and died childess at the age of 42. Elizabeth, on the other hand, rejected the idea of marriage out of hand, both because Henry kinda soured her on it by killing her mom and Henry's clear preference for a male heir made it very clear to her that if she did marry, she would lose all her power in favor of he husband. And while Elizabeth had a long and prosperous reign, she ultimately died childless at age 69 and the throne would pass to the Stuart dynasty, descendants of Henry VIII's older sister Margaret.
  • Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy leader,note  found out about Operation Barbarossa in 1941, and became concerned that Germany could not feasibly fight a war on two fronts. He had heard through his contacts that there was enough desire for peace in Britain that King George VI would dismiss Winston Churchill's government and give the Prime Minister's job to Lord Halifax — who had nearly become PM in Churchill's place the previous year and was known to be more open to negotiating with Hitler — should Germany make an acceptable offer, and that the Duke of Hamilton would be a good person to serve as an intermediary. Hess therefore flew to Britain on a self-assigned peace mission, but evading radar caused him to use up all of his fuel and crash before he could find a safe landing spot. When he was caught, he was arrested and informed by the British authorities that Hitler had publicly disavowed him and sentenced him to death for treason, meaning he had no entitlement to diplomatic immunity, and would be executed if he returned to Germany. Worst of all, the underlying rationale for his mission had been wrong on nearly every count; Hamilton was not, and never had been in favour of negotiating with Hitler, the general population were just as opposed to any peace agreement that favoured Germany, and Halifax was in no position to form a government even had anyone wanted him to, having been sent to Washington, D.C. to serve as ambassador. Operation Barbarossa went ahead anyway, and was just as much of a disaster as Hess had feared; his actions would probably have made it even worse if not for Stalin stubbornly refusing to believe warnings from his advisors that the only reason Hess could possibly have had for wanting to make peace with Britain would be if Hitler needed the troops to attack the Soviets.
  • The Vietnam War is one of the prime examples of this tropes in real life, at least in the Anglosphere. After nearly decade of deploying troops to in the war to fight in Vietnam and nearly twenty years of supporting the South; the North Vietnamese eventually won out. This is doubly so in the sense that the official reason for fighting the war in the first place was to hold back the tide of Communism that geopolitical experts at the time believed would spread if Saigon fell. However in the end, not only would the now-reunified Vietnam would end fighting with other Communist states (first Cambodia under the Khmer Rogue and then later China) but would also become trade partners and unofficial allies with the US despite their nominal ideological difference.
  • This trope applies to the 2021 fall of Afghanistan back into the hands of the Taliban. Twenty years of freedom followed its liberation by NATO forces only a couple of months following the 9/11 attacks and start of the War on Terror. When then-president Joe Biden pulled America out of the war, everything that the United States, United Nations, and NATO worked for when they liberated Kabul in 2001 was apparently destroyed in just ten days. The Taliban launched a massive offensive and recaptured key provinces (allegedly with the aid of a conspiracy within the Afghan government) and, within ten days, secured Kabul, putting them back in control of most of Afghanistan as terrified Afghan civilians fled to the airport to escape with U.S. troops and those American citizens evacuating the U.S. Embassy as well. It was like the Fall of Saigon all over again in the eyes of some people. However, cracks began to show in the Taliban shortly thereafter, and there were still some groups fighting them...
  • This is, at least according to Nihilism, what everything is eventually going to boil down to: Everything everyone's accomplished, everything everyone's done, every hardship conquered, every triumph enjoyed, every tragedy suffered, they are all going to be for nothing once you die. If not when you die, then when everyone has died and there are no humans left. If not when there are no humans left, then when everything has died and there is no life left. If not when there is no life left, then when the Natural End of Time comes along and reduces everything to inert molecular dust forever trapped in entropic stasis.

 
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The VCR

Milo suggests his baby brother Thor to watch a video together, and he chose to watch "The Singing Turnip" again. However, the VCR wasn't working right due to Thor shoving over his raspberry toaster tart into the machine. As a result, Milo must get the VCR fixed before his parents find out about it. When the tart eventually pops out of the machine and fixes it near the end of the episode, his parents surprised him with a new DVD player and an ultra-sound version "The Singing Turnip", which makes Milo's plan on fixing the VCR pretty much pointless now.

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