You have your standard plot, with all the drama and conflict and what have you. But when everything is resolved and wrapped up, the characters realize that much of the plot, if not every bit of it, could have been avoided if they had done something different. That's right it's an In-Universe realization on behalf of the characters, not the audience.
It often happens due to Poor Communication Kills (talking things out would've helped majorly), but it's not restricted to that. Whatever it is, it must be something that would've rendered the plot unnecessary at a reasonably early point in the episode/work, thus it is oftentimes dismissed as being "the easy way out".
It may serve as An Aesop if doing the moral/ethical thing from the start would've improved everything. If the drama happened because a character or more behaved in an uncharacteristically dumb or aggressive way, then the Idiot Ball or the Conflict Ball was used, respectively. If everybody involved was being stupid, you may have an Idiot Plot or Plot-Induced Stupidity.
Compare Didn't Think This Through, where a plan proves to have crippling flaws after its execution, and Stating the Simple Solution, when a character points out that a plan is impractical and offers a much easier one before carrying it out. Can overlap with "Shaggy Dog" Story. Please remember this trope allows In-Universe Examples Only, and do not confuse with events unfolding according to the Theory of Narrative Causality.
- In Adachi and Shimamura, after the main duo move up a year, Shimamura ends up meeting and talking with a few classmates. While Shimamura doesn't really care about those girls, to the point at which she can't even clearly remember their names, Adachi becomes depressed and spends days angsting about the state of their relationship, and whether Shimamura cares for her. Eventually, Adachi realizes that if she'd just talked to Shimamura, the entire misunderstanding would have been cleared up.
- Attack on Titan: In Chapter 64, Rod Reiss claims that Wall Maria could have been saved seven years before if Eren's father didn't murder/devour the crown princess, who had the power to control the Titans. In Chapter 65, Eren freaks out from the revelation that he and his father were indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and begs Historia to eat him, obtain the power to control Titans, and kill them off while there's still hope. But then Historia calls her father out on this by asking why her sister, or any of the previous holders of the power for that matter, never lifted a finger to stop the Titans. Rod admits that when someone in the royal family is holding the power, they also inherit the "king's ideology", which makes them not want to save humanity, since the original king wished for humans to be ruled by Titans. This makes Historia realize that even if she devoured Eren, she wouldn't want to save humanity anymore.
- Bakugan Battle Brawlers: Honestly, a lot of the plot in the first half of Mechtanium Surge could have been side-stepped easily if Dan had informed his fellow Brawlers about the visions of Mag Mel and Razenoid he and Drago had. But, being the idiot he was, Dan made no mention of it and boy, does it come back to bite him in the ass. During his battle with Anubias, Zenthon suddenly appears on the field and nearly kills him. The result was Dan being disqualified from said battle, losing his fanbase and the trust in his comrades.
- Berserk: The King of Midland realizes this as part of his Dying Dream. He realized that he didn't want to be king anymore, seeing his position as restrictive and leaving him lonely and isolated, and had a perfect chance to abdicate his position and have Griffith take over the throne as his daughter Charlotte's husband — and he was on the best way of doing so during the Golden Age arc. But then he found out that Griffith had slept with Charlotte, and made the king realize that he was lusting after his own daughter, which shattered his world-view and focus the rest of his time on seeking revenge against Griffith. He realized that, had he kept his temper and not succumb to petty feelings of jealousy and revenge, he could have been free of his position and enjoy the rest of his life with a happy daughter and a peaceful kingdom.
- Bleach: In one of the anime's Filler episodes, Yumichika, Hanatarou, and Rin have to make a cake for a deceased patissier's mother, who died before his mother could ever taste one of his recipes. Since he's a ghost who cannot be seen by ordinary people, they have to make the cake and present it to his mother for him. Being Soul Reapers, they don't even know what cake is so are appalling chefs who take the entire episode to produce an edible cake. At the start of the episode, Rin is working with a device that reveals spirits, but it's only at the end of the episode that the device accidentally reveals the chef's ghost to his mother, allowing him to communicate directly with her. In The Stinger, Yumichika irritably points out that they could have done this at the very beginning, thus negating the entire episode.
- Blood+ has the Schiff, escaped bioweapons that really would like nothing more than to live normal, happy lives. Unfortunately, they have a very, very short life span. They believe that drinking Saya's blood will help... and savagely attack her. They eventually ask politely, and Saya gives them some of her blood willingly. Too bad her blood is actually poisonous to them, and it was all set up as a Let's You and Him Fight. It's actually somewhat justified; having been raised as living weapons, the Schiff have No Social Skills, and thus simply asking nicely for something is an alien concept to them.
- Cells at Work!: The allergy plot is a subversion. As the plot ends, the character realizes that the whole turmoil and disaster was caused by them overreacting to a mostly harmless allergen. However, the characters are cast of anthropomorphized cells, and since an allergy is your body overreacting to something, White Blood Cell comes to the conclusion that even knowing this, they wouldn't be able to stop it, since they are doing their job the way they should and it is the only thing they can do, much like your body can't decide to not overreact to an allergen.
- A Certain Scientific Railgun:
- The first major villain's machinations led to a bunch of kids landing in comas, connecting them in a psychic network that she uses to gain several superpowers at once. It's ultimately revealed that she did this in order to gather the supercomputer-level processing power needed to figure out how to save a bunch of other kids that have been in comas since a past tragedy. Subverted in that while the heroes essentially call her out on the fact that she wasn't open about such an altruistic motive, she counters that she did try the easy way first. Dozens of times, in fact. This scheme was actually the last resort after the administration of the city continued to block her at every turn.
- During the School Festival, Misaki kidnaps Misaka 10032, sets all her resources to finding the other Sisters, brainwashes Mikoto's friends, and altogether causes lots of problems for everyone. Her goal was to rescue 10032, keep her and the other Sisters safe, and destroy the organization that was trying to take advantage of their Hive Mind. As Mikoto angrily points out, if she had explained this to Mikoto, then they—two of the most powerful individuals in the city—could have done all this with little hassle. But Mikoto is immune to Misaki's telepathy, and Misaki is far too paranoid to work with someone she can't mind-read.
Misaki: What if you had decided to betray me? What if you had used the opportunity to gain the advantage? What if you didn't care about them at all, and I had tipped my hand?
- A Certain Magical Index:
- Ouma Yamisaka kidnaps Index (blowing up Touma's apartment, a restaurant, and Touma's homework in the process) and tries to extract knowledge from her mind to lift a curse from a woman he loved. Touma tracks them down and says that he and Index would have been happy to help save the woman if Ouma had just asked for their help. Touma easily lifts the curse off-screen.
- Last Order becomes gravely ill, so Accelerator frantically tries everything to cure her. When he runs into Touma, he becomes enraged that Touma is a hero, yet is not doing anything to help Last Order, and attacks him. After a long and destructive fight, Touma defeats him and points out he can't be everywhere at once and didn't know about Last Order's condition, and he would have helped if Accelerator had just asked for his help instead of attacking him. Touma temporarily heals Last Order and gives Accelerator instructions for a permanent cure.
- In the first season of Date A Live, Kotori's date, which took place in episodes 11 and 12 could have been avoided completely. Reine tells Shido at the end of episode 12 after he successfully seals her that her love meter was already maxed out back when he talked to her in the isolation room and could have sealed her right then and there. However, she tells him that Kotori had her keep it secret so she could go on a date with him anyway. Kotori then claims Reine was lying, and that the readings were wrong, then bribes her with a dessert. Reine then states the readings were off. For his part, Shido says he loves her... as a sister, which prompts Kotori to kick him as a result.
- Dragon Ball Z: Throughout the Buu Saga, there were many points at which the heroes could have ended it earlier:
- Assuming Goku couldn't handle Majin Buu after witnessing what he assumes to be Goku's full power, Vegeta sucker punches him and goes to do it himself. It ends disastrously and Vegeta is forced to blow himself up to kill Buu, which still fails. Later, Vegeta and Goku argue over this with Goku calling out Vegeta for his pointless self-destruct and Vegeta blasting Goku for concealing Super Saiyan 3 from him, motivating his reckless decision.
- Gotenks hides his ability to transform into Super Saiyan 3 from Piccolo and fakes losing to Super Buu, wanting to reveal the form dramatically before winning the day. Before he can get that far, Piccolo blows up the door to the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, imprisoning them with Buu until the latter manages to escape. Gotenks tries to put the blame on Piccolo, accusing him of jumping the gun, but Piccolo turns it back on him and chews him out for making a game of the battle.
- Most of the Android/Cell Saga could have been avoided if the Z-Fighters had simply tracked down Dr. Gero and put an end to him before he activated the Androids, especially since Future Trunks warned them three years in advance. Bulma even suggested they do just that, but the Z-Fighters unanimously shot that possibility down. Goku and Vegeta are Saiyan Blood Knights who can't resist the opportunity to fight a strong opponent, and Krillin suggests it would keep Vegeta in line if they had a common enemy.
- In HappinessCharge Pretty Cure!, Iona spends about half of the series demonizing Hime for her Dark Secret of opening the Axia Box, releasing the Phantom Empire. After circumstances end up knocking Iona down a few hundred pegs, she finally asks Hime why she did what she did. When Hime explains and Iona responds why she didn't say so earlier, she's hurt pretty bad to realize Hime tried to, but when you spend most of your time calling her names and trying to turn her friends against her, explanations like that aren't going to get through.
- One episode of Hell Girl features a girl who takes in a stray cat and is promptly harassed by her neighbor, presumably because the neighbor hates cats. She is ultimately driven to sending the neighbor to hell when she finds bagged (presumably cat) meat outside her neighbor's door, with no sign of the cat anywhere. No, it turns out. One of two major twists that episode is that the neighbor had previously grown affectionate with that cat and resented the girl for taking the cat away from her. She hadn't killed the cat; simply stolen it. At the end of the episode, Ren specifically asks the neighbor why she didn't try talking to the girl in order to find a solution, and she says it never crossed her mind. After that, the girl discovers the missing cat in the neighbor's apartment alive and well, along with a zillion photos of the cat all over the walls.
- In Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu, a benign example happens in Mayo's arc. Bocchi is worried about a possible class shuffle undoing her efforts to befriend her entire class (since the friends she's made could end up in different classes next year), and tries to stop that from happening. Bocchi eventually finds out that the school doesn't shuffle classes around after Mayo confesses that she asked about it, so she had nothing to worry about. That said, her efforts helped Bocchi befriend Mayo and put her one step closer to her goal, so it's not as though it was a complete waste of time.
- In Junjou Romantica, Nowaki disappears from Hiroki's life for a year without so much as leaving a note. Hiroki is understandably pissed off, and when Nowaki comes back they have a fight that lasts for weeks before finally being resolved. It's not until after they've made up and decided to move in together that Hiroki remembers that, um, actually Nowaki did tell him he was going to leave... and, in fact, Hiroki encouraged him to do so... it's just that Hiroki wasn't paying enough attention to the conversation to remember it afterwards. Ooops. Like Hiroki says, "Wow... that sure makes me look like the bad guy here."
- In K, after Mikoto kills the Colorless King and Shiro, his Sword of Damocles starts to plummet, forcing Reisi to kill him before the destruction would kill thousands of innocent people. Reisi bitterly says this could have been avoided if Mikoto wasn't consumed with Revenge Before Reason and took action to prevent this earlier.
- In the second season of Lyrical Nanoha, the Wolkenritter assume that stealing others' magical powers is the only way to save their master. That's obviously wrong but they don't realize that until the late episodes, joining forces with the heroes. Generally, Nanoha herself believes that everything can be avoided and always inquires about the baddies' motivation (usually, to no avail) before befriending them into submission.
- Unlike many examples of this trope, Nanoha and the other heroes didn't have any alternate ideas for saving Hayate, although it took them a while to find out about the Wolkenritter's goal. The incident is resolved when the Book of Darkness is completed, Hayate manages to reach out to the book itself, and the heroes, the Wolkenritter and Hayate team up to defeat the defense program.
- In the first season, Fate Testarossa refuses to ask for Nanoha's help in recovering the Lost Logia, even though Nanoha's only objective was that they were safely sealed. Although this probably wouldn't have worked in the long run anyway, considering the Fate's Mom was going to use them to break reality.
- Fate agrees to Nanoha's help in sealing the six Jewel Seeds in the ocean in Episode 9, dividing them between them... which gets her another whipping from her mother for wasting a precious opportunity.
- In Magic of Stella, after Yumine saves Tamaki from what they believe to be a sex-crazed Kayo, Tamaki realizes that when Kayo refers to her babies, she probably means her compositions, and that the whole thing was a misunderstanding.
- In My Hero Academia, Twice's Quirk allows him to create clones of himself that fade away if they suffer injuries equivalent to a broken bone. After an incident in which his clones started killing each other, the original Twice becomes traumatized and wonders if he is, in fact, a clone. During the Meta Liberation Army arc, one member of the eponymous vilain organization breaks Twice's arm, causing him to realize that he is the original and not a clone. Twice admits to himself that he could have hurt himself at any time to test whether he was a clone, but didn't because he was scared that he'd end up fading away.
- In Nyaruko: Crawling with Love!, a time-traveling alien named Yithka appears and attempts to use a mind-swapping gun to "borrow" Nyarko's body, but messes it up and instead swaps Nyarko and Mahiro with each other. After Yithka explains her situation (she needs help dealing with extremists from her time period) and the gang agrees to help, Hasta asks "Why didn't you just tell us that in the first place?" Yithka responds by beating a hasty retreat.
- In One Piece, in order to reach Skypeia, the Straw Hats had to track down and ride this massive geyser that can shoot whole islands into the sky. After getting to the White Sea, Ganfor tells them that there are other ways to reach the Sky Islands, and is stunned that the Straw Hats rode the Knock-Up Stream, as it's an All-Or-Nothing shot. Nami goes ballistic on Luffy at the idea that there were safer ways of reaching Skypeia.
- Paranoia Agent: Sagi Tsukiko created Shonen Bat only to avoid her strict father's scolding for losing Maromi. But Maniwa revealed that her father always knew the truth: He only went to search for Shonen Bat to avoid the fact that he was so strict and her own daughter feared him, so he lied to the police and took a bat and pretended to search for Shonen Bat to show Tsukiko he cared for her.
- Poison Berry in My Brain: For most of Chapter 7, Ichiko stews over whether or not to leave a note at Saotome's door. When he finally opens up again, he points out that she could've just sent him a text since his number is in the caller history on her phone.
No one thought of that...
- In Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers, after the crew of the Yamato is forced to destroy the Gamilas (Gamilon) homeworld, Kodai (Derek) is depressed about it, particularly because he and the crew had learned that the invasion of Earth was just to help save Gamilas, and the entire war could have been avoided if the Gamilas had just asked for help...
- In Space Battleship Yamato 2199 the human characters at some point that the war could have been avoided had one of their ships not opened fire without provocation at first contact, and the whole devastation of Earth could have been avoided by simply surrendering (in fact a number of Gamilas characters openly wonder why they don't just surrender).
- In the Tales of Eternia anime, Marone refuses to give the party a lift off the island, which makes Farah get upset at her, which leads to the two fighting, which leads to a swimming contest, which leads to a sea monster attack. Turns out Marone had a very good reason for saying no, her drake was injured and needed time to recover before flying such a great distance. Farah points out she should have just explained herself, then all the drama could have been avoided.
- In chapter 13 of We Never Learn, Uruka realizes too late that not only did she forget to wear a bra to school, she did so on the day a sports tournament was being held. Only on the last panel of a chapter full of awkward physical activity does Uruka, a star swimmer, realize she could have just worn her swimsuit as a substitute.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX manga, Chronos threatens Sho with expulsion for getting a 0 on a test, having him to duel Judai to stay (with Judai losing his deck if he loses). After Judai wins, Midori Hibiki reports that Chronos read a provisional report, and that Sho got a high score, only having it counted as a 0 for the preliminary report because he didn't write his name. Then again, given that Chronos is a Sadist Teacher with a grudge against Judai, it's possible he never cared if the report was accurate.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Yusei points out to Z-One at the end that his attempts to save the future from The End of the World as We Know It could've gone a hell of a lot easier had he simply warned Past!Neo Domino City of the dangers of Momentum and Synchro Summoning than attempting to destroy the city, like he planned. Especially egregious considering how fresh in the minds of its citizens Zero Reverse was, in Past!NDC.
- In a 1970s Archie story, a young man kidnaps Betty, under the assumption that she's Mr. Lodge's daughter, in retaliation for Lodge not promoting his father to a middle-management position. When the crook is caught, Lodge tells him that he had in fact made him a vice president.
- Played for Drama in Astonishing X-Men. After the Danger Room becomes a sentient lifeform named Danger and puts the X-Men through all manner of misery, including the forced death of one new student at their academy, it's revealed that Professor X knew about the problem months ago, after Danger called out to him telepathically. Rather than help her, or at the very least inform the other X-Men what was going on, Charles instead kept Danger a secret—which also meant keeping her imprisoned within the room so she could keep running simulations for him. Professor X tries to claim that he was doing what was necessary to keep the X-Men well-trained and safe, but they don't buy his claims, pointing out that his treatment of a non-human life is identical to the extremist views that Magneto espouses and Charles rejects.
- Berrybrook Middle School:
- Peppi says this a lot in Awkward. She tells Mari that if they act as the better person compared to the Science Club, then they have a good chance of getting that School Fair slot. Unsurprisingly, Peppi is frustrated when Mari steals the remote and dumps it on Peppi in a desperate attempt to win the challenge. She tells off Mari though Mari moves away before she sees the full brunt of their actions, and later shames both clubs by pointing out their stupidity and selfishness got them both suspended.
- The principal points out, in a stern tone, that he asked for the clubs to contribute to the community with their projects. If they wanted to get greenlit for the fair, they had to show good sportsmanship. Their failure to do so and causing giant brawls means that they get suspended.
- As Liv puts it at the end of Crush, that Garrett apologized doesn't make up for the fact that he said mean things about her and her friends in an online chatroom in the first place. He had a choice to be a better person from the beginning but made his life all about impressing James. Jorge admits she has a point, and Garrett has to do a lot of work to get into her good graces again.
- Green Lantern: Untold amounts of suffering and hardships could have been prevented had Abin Sur simply considered the possibility that Atrocitus was right in his prophecies. Almost every single thing Atrocitus foresaw (Abin Sur's ring failing him, Sinestro turning evil, a "War of Light", the Black Lanterns, etc.) would happen, but Sur initially thought it was all just blustering. By the time Sur finally acknowledged that the prophecies may be correct, it was too late and his attempts to investigate them led to his ring failing and him dying. This does not go uncommented upon.
- Robin (1993): When Tim encounters the Langstroms and realizes he needs some of the serum that helps them return to human form as they're stuck as Man-bats he contacts Nightwing who has Tim suit up as Robin and join him in traveling to and breaking into the last lab Francine worked at, only for an annoyed Tim to ask him why they had to do things the hard way when they scale the building and Tim realizes it's a new Wayne Enterprises building west of Gotham. Dick responds it's more fun to break in and test the building's security, and then ends up having to send Tim to ask Jason Bard for the serum anyway as Francine's lab doesn't have any.
- Sillage: Heiliig is a member of a race that requires extremely high temperatures, so he is on a mission to find a new planet for them. He finds a jungle planet and starts transforming it by moving it closer to the sun, making it burn. When it is discovered that the planet has an inhabitant, the human Navis, Heiliig's robot assistant Snivel attempts the standard procedure contacting the Sillage fleet so that they can relocate the native, but Heiliig takes him apart and says he wants the planet transformed right away and not to waste time relocating a single native. Navis fights to defend her home and manages to convince his Slave Race, the Migreurs, to express independence. Heiliig is then arrested by the Sillage fleet because it is illegal to terraform a planet without consideration of the natives. At his trial, he is told all the damage like the loss of the Migreurs and his arrest could have been avoided if he had just called them to relocate Navis, since it wouldn't have taken long to do.
- In one issue of The Simpsons, Mayor Quimby passes a law intended to abolish Daylight Saving Time. Thanks to the wording of this law, Springfielders are now free to set their clocks to whatever time they choose. Springfield descends into chaos, and the mayor forgets about his power until Lisa points it out.
- In Nick Spencer's Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson invites Spider-Man into his inaugural podcast and they get to talking about their problems. Jonah points out that a lot of Spidey's problems have been caused by his I Work Alone mentality of his early days and that, instead of webbing him up and insulting him every chance he got, Spidey could have stopped Jameson's editorials by talking to him.
- During the "Gauntlet" arc in Amazing Spider Man, The Rhino had retired from villainy to be with his wife. Then a new Rhino shows up, and calls the original out in order to defeat him and claim the title. Rhino is ready to suit up and fight, but Spider-Man urges him not to, and he stands down; then the new Rhino kills his wife in order to goad him into fighting. Rhino suits up and easily kills the new Rhino before he can get off a single attack. And he tells Spider-Man that he'll never forgive him for talking him out of suiting up earlier, which would have saved his wife.
- The Transformers: Robots in Disguise: After the events of Combiner Wars, Optimus tells Arcee that if she'd told him about what Prowl was up to, they could've avoided at least some of the preceding debacle.
- Ultimate Marvel:
- Ultimate X-Men:
- Magneto was killed by Xavier in the first act of Ultimate X-Men... or so it seemed. Actually, Xavier staged the whole thing, brainwashed Magneto and tried to rehabilitate him. Things got wrecked when the Brotherhood discovered it and restored his mind. Everything that Magneto did since that point (from Ultimate War to Ultimatum) could have been avoided if Xavier had killed Magneto when he had the chance, and he was frequently called upon it.
- Quicksilver thinks that the Brotherhood doesn't need to hire Wolverine to kill Xavier, when he could himself. Magneto rejects it, saying Xavier could close his mind before he reaches him. Also, Magneto really hates Quicksilver.
- Ultimate X-Men:
- In War World story, Superman seeks his missing cousin Supergirl but The Spectre forbids him from going past the limits of the universe. Superman yells at him, punches him and tries to outrun him but it is useless because The Spectre is too powerful. Then Superman asks him for help in finding Kara, and The Spectre teleports her in his arms, stating that all Superman needed to do was ask.
- Wonder Woman Vol 1: Wonder Woman and the Holliday Girls end up fighting, and disarming the Space Police force the Golden Women because of a misunderstanding that was perpetuated by one of the policewomen interrupting with accusations every time the earth women tried to explain themselves, and saying things which implied they were the evil oppressors of the Geni, rather than holding the Geni because they were murders on a planetwide scale. Once an understanding has been reached the leader of the police group is rather embarrassed by the misunderstanding and how easily it could have been avoided.
- A great many of the tragedies that occur in the later arcs of Grendel are only able to happen because of Hunter Rose, the original Grendel, tearing out a page of his journal describing a vision of the future he had. Absolutely insane amounts of death, betrayal, destruction, and general heartbreak could have been prevented if not for this single act. Unlike many examples, this is treated (quite understandably) as Rose's Moral Event Horizon; he knew what was coming yet let it all happen anyways for no other reason than being too arrogant to accept the idea of other people using his secret identity.
- In the Russian fairy tale, "Tsarevitch Ivan, the Firebird and the Gray Wolf", Ivan has to retrieve first a firebird, then a magic horse. In both cases, he breaks into the palace of the Tsar that owns the object and is caught. Afterwards, both Tsars tell him that if he'd simply come to court and asked like a prince, rather than sneaking in like a thief, they would have given him what he needed as a gesture of friendship.
- In Ambience: A Fleet Symphony chapter 74, Damon points out to the leader of the Granite Quarry gangsters that he was perfectly willing to pay and go his way in peace, but the other guy just had to be obstinate and pull a gun.
- In the Italian remake of Battle Fantasia Project, the Guardians of Kandrakar have this reaction when they learn their training was as messed up as in canon because their training manuals had gone lost and could not be recovered due the spell enforcing the masquerade and the Congregation had debated on recreating them for fifty years. In his defense, the Oracle agrees with them and is quick to avert another instance (the trouble with Ari of Arkhanta, who has an autistic son and a banshee powerful enough to threaten Kandrakar. As now it's possible, he has the Guardians bring the child to a therapist).
- In Contact at Kobol, at the end of the war, a Libran general notes that the whole conflict could have been averted if the Twelve Colonies had just left the Tauri alone as they wished.
- An interesting variation of this occurs in the Infinity Crisis spin-off Counterpart Conferences; when Oliver starts hearing reports of increased anti-metahuman legislation, he uses the precedent set by the Sokovia Accords on the Avengers' Earth to contact Barry and Jefferson immediately so that the three of them can discuss how best to handle such rules to avoid the better metahumans like Flash and Black Lightning being lumped in with their enemies.
- In Dangerous Tenant, when Wesker discovers the Survivors location based on the computers theyre using, the Doctor muses that he should have realised that might happen but he just didnt think of it in time.
- While they couldn't have avoided the entire problem, in the Demented Verse fic "Vile Violent Vacations", after the Winchesters learn that Harry and Hermione worked out that Dean was the one who broke the First Seal during their first meeting, Sam observes that they should have told Dean at the time rather than leave him to learn that fact from the demon who broke him as he might have taken it better from an ally.
- Don't Go: Played for Drama. The fic (which was probably written by series creator Noelle Stevenson) takes place shortly after Catra's HeelFace Turn. Adora casually mentions she's been waiting for Catra to join the Rebellion since the beginning, and Catra realizes that she was never Forced into Evil—Adora would have welcomed her with open arms at any time. This means everything was All for Nothing even more than she thought, and she has a breakdown.
- Jiraiya remarks in The Hat Hangs Heavy that Naruto would have never become Hokage (and Hiashi wouldn't have forced a Sadistic Choice on Naruto, forcing him to marry Hinata) if Hiashia had simply argued about Naruto's competence rather than making the debate into a vote between Naruto and Hiashi.
- In He's Just Hiding Mrs. Weasley suggests that Minister Shacklebolt put an article in the Daily Prophet announcing Snape's innocence.
Harry: Wait. You mean I've been keeping this man in my house, keeping a huge secret, when all I had to do was tell you? [Shacklebolt nods.] No! That's stupid! That's too easy! We thought prison, with thought Azkaban and youyou're telling me
- In the crossover story A Hollow in Equestria, Ulquiorra points out that if Discord had simply asked for his help, he would've been willing to provide it, before pointing out that they could've saved weeks of effort and potentially avoided a great deal of suffering in the process. But considering the story has taken a Cosmic Flaw route by that point, it's questionable if his evaluation was right or not.
- In How to Fake a Marriage, Adrien and Marinette, after falling in love, keep their relationship secret for almost two years, because Gabriel banned Adrien from dating while in London. Once they reveal their relationship (well, engagement by then) to him, it turns out the ban was mainly to prevent Adrien from settling down with some girl in London, and had Gabriel bothered to remember Marinette was only there for temporary internship instead of a long-term job, he would have been fine with them dating.
- Infinity Train: Knight of the Orange Lily:
- Had Gladion chosen to inform anyone about Faba's late-night experiment, it's entirely possible that Lillie's trauma could have been dealt with much sooner. Gladion himself briefly considers this before dismissing the idea, reassuring himself that he did what he had to do in order to protect his sister. Lillie doesn't agree.
- Dulse later brings up another point to consider: if Lillie told her mother about her traumas, most of her problems would have been lessened since Lusamine would have been there for her since the beginning.
- Played for Laughs in the crossover fic J-WITCH Season 1. In the chapter "A Shady Service", Jackie has Captain Black do a background check on Professor Collins to prove he's not the disguised Cedric. They then point out that the Guardians and Jade could have done that in the first place instead of spending all day stalking and ultimately attacking him for no reason.
- Throughout The Karma of Lies, Plagg repeatedly warns Adrien against letting Lila continue to bilk his friends and isolate Marinette. His refusal to do so causes her karmic backlash to hit HIM instead... and as it turns out, telling others about what she was doing would've made it much easier to convince others of the truth after she she stole from him. Plagg notes as much, only for Adrien to continue ignoring him, insisting that he hasn't done anything wrong.
- Kingdom Hearts Ψ: The Seeker of Darkness: Land of Oblivion has Aqua, Kairi and Naminé traveling to Castle Oblivion in search of where Aqua hid Ventus's body, with them being forced to climb the castle and relive various painful memories. Some time later, Child of Oblivion has Aqua and Naminé return to the Castle with Terra and Ventus. After Naminé explains the system that allows them to warp to the highest floor they've been to before, Terra points out that if they had brought along Sora or Riku the first time, they wouldn't have had to climb the floors one by one. (Though it was probably to their benefit that they did, considering what they each learned from the experience.)
- Leave for Mendeleiev: After discovering just why Hawk Moth began terrorizing Paris, Ladybug and the Miraculous Team are able to solve the problem by sending Tempavo after Emilie, who was lost while misusing the Peafowl's Astral Flight. Afterwards, Tempavo expresses sympathy for his plight, only for Ladybug to remind him that Hawk Moth chose to abuse the Butterfly's powers rather than simply seeking out help. Not only that, but he didn't ask for help after his defeat, instead taunting the heroes by gloating that Tempavo would fall into a coma as well, unaware that the Peafowl Pin had been fixed.
- In Marry Me, Rodimus accidentally becomes the ruler of another species. The aliens, hating the idea of an outsider ruling over them, place an Explosive Leash on Rodimus, forcing Magnus to pretend that he needs Rodimus to officiate his wedding to Swerve, which in turn forces him and Swerve to get married for real (although they're not too bothered by that). When Ratchet finds out, he points out that Magnus could have simply told the aliens that Rodimus was a Prime and thus forbidden to take on another role.
- Played for Drama in Missing (Miraculous Ladybug): after Marinette disappears, Adrien blames himself for not helping her expose Lila as a Consummate Liar, as he wanted to avoid causing more conflict... but staying silent instead of standing beside her only allowed Lila to go unchecked. Alya is also struck by guilt after realizing Lila's true nature, as she'd brushed off Marinette's attempts to warn her without ever bothering to check her sources — something she'd chided Marinette about while dismissing her efforts as being fueled by envy.
- The MLP Loops: Due to the looping nature of reality, we get to see this happen many times. In addition to using nigh-infinite power or knowledge that they didn't have in baseline, several times we see loopers deliberately only using powers and knowledge they had in baseline, but simply making better choices. They're all super bored, so "Let's see what would have happened if I was smart" is a common pastime.
- In canon, Twilight gets one spare ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala, and all her friends compete for it. It's only resolved when she refuses to take just one of them and decides not to go at all, but then Celestia sends her extra tickets. In one loop, Twilight skips the angst and just tells Celestia the problem straight off.
- Speaking of the Gala, everypony was disappointed that it was nothing like they were expecting. In the loop, Twilight explains what it's actually like and helps them achieve their goals without making fools of themselves. For example, Applejack wanted to sell her products out of a stall; Twilight points out it's a catered event with free food, but instead helps her get a catering contract.
- In one loop, Nightmare Moon is defeated by having the town greet her with a "Welcome back Princess Luna" party, proving that she was not forgotten and her subjects did love her night after all. Celestia says they should have tried this the first time. However, Twilight notes that this only worked because they know how Luna and Nightmare Moon think. Without that experience, trying it would have been irresponsible and dangerous.
- In canon, Timberwolves attack and everyone runs around in a panic until they are barely able to defeat them. In the loops, Twilight reminds Spike that he is a dragon with fire against creatures made of wood. And then it turns out that fire doesn't work that great against magical, living wood.
- One of Twilight's most embarrassing moments in canon is generally referred to as "the Smarty-Pants Incident;" Twilight, panicking over the fact that she doesn't have a problem to talk to Princess Celestia about, enchants her old doll Smarty-Pants to make everyone obsessed with it, which nearly destroys the town. In the vast majority of loops, this problem is solved by her doing nothing whatsoever. However, in at least one loop Celestia starts freaking out because she figures that if Twilight isn't having any problems, that just means that the next problem is going to be much, much bigger. And in the rare loops where everyone else has to deal with unAwake Twilight, it turns out that the Smarty-Pants Incident is surprisingly difficult to stop; even if they prevent the first time it could happen, sooner or later the opportunity will arise again and Twilight will have her Freak Out.
- Twilight Sparkle says this in The Negotiations-verse regarding the war Celestia started with the humans, as she chose to believe in the worst of humanity without even trying to make peace with them, opened the conversion bureaus under false pretenses, and then attempted to force humanity into becoming ponies when it became clear that the majority of them didn't want to change.
- Parting Words: Twilight Sparkle calls Celestia out on how easily most prior conflicts could have been solved if Celestia had simply explained what was going on.
- In Persephone, Astrid is somewhat put out when Hiccup realises that he could have released them both from Berk's cells the moment they were locked up, as he helped make the cells in question and was so distracted when Astrid started wearing short skirts that week that he never disabled the failsafes designed to prevent anyone being locked in during construction.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Its sequel Picking Up the Pieces has a relatively mild example - Sweet Surprise, who's been worried about her reputation affecting that of her husband and wife unless she works very hard to improve it (by doing a lot of overtime work in her office), realizes (after some supporting words from her husband) that she could have avoided quite a bit of drama with them if she'd just spoken to them about her worries, and Sound Minds additional support when she arrives on the scene helps as well. Fortunately, they're both very understanding about the whole thing.
- In The Hobbit fic Prayers to Broken Stone, Thorin and Bilbo are faced with the seemingly unsolvable dilemma of how to stop Thorin's transformation into a power-mad dragon. It turns out that Gandalf had known all along about the dragon transformation curse and how to reverse it but had never told Thorin or the other dwarves about it. When Gandalf tries to justify him withholding the information by saying that he was afraid that the dwarves would embrace the transformation as a way to become more powerful, Bilbo chews him out for buying into the worst stereotypes of dwarves as only caring about gold especially since Thorin loathed dragons after one of them razed his home kingdom and would never have willingly become one just to gain power or gold, and Gandalf admits that Bilbo is right and he should have told Thorin and the others about the curse beforehand.
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
- In Act I, Apoch and Astreal brainwash Rason and Dark in order to get them to help them fight off their master Ghaldin, but it backfires when Ghaldin arrives and takes control of all four of them. When Ghaldin is defeated, Apoch and Astreal apologize and insist that they only wanted help; Tsukune informs them that the entire group would have willingly helped them from the very beginning if they had simply asked and let them act on their own accord.
- In Act VI, Kokoa and Sun's conflict over Gin escalates to the point where Sun spies on them having sex and outright tells Kokoa to her face that she doesn't deserve Gin, after which Kokoa loses her temper and beats Sun so brutally that she ends up brain dead; while Gin acknowledges that Kokoa undoubtedly went too far, he also states that the whole thing could have been prevented if he had just put his foot down with Sun and gotten her to stop her advances sooner.
- The Miraculous Ladybug fic Satisfaction Brought It Back has a subplot involving Marinette being extorted by Adrien's former boss Marcel Dubois who wants him to come back to work. She keeps this from Adrien for months despite the damage to her business, not wanting him to sacrifice himself by returning to a job he hated and doesn't need. When Adrien does find out, he and Alya immediately start planning to get Dubois fired, and when Marinette raises her previous concern with Chloe and Nino, they tell her how badly she misjudged Adrien:
Chloe: Marcel might have been able to pull Adrien back in if he had made it look like the company was floundering without him or fed him another line where it put the burden of the company back on his shoulders. In fact, he could have still triggered the Agreste Self-Sacrifice Switch if he hadnt jumped the gun and threatened you first. The minute that happened, not only would Adrien have not gone back, but he would have probably kickstarted this whole plan to put Monsieur Dubois out on his fat wrinkly ass all the sooner.
Nathaniel: Marcel crossed a line. After he did that, his fate was sealed.
Nino: Hate to say it, but that definitely tracks. As dumb as this whole plan is, it probably would have shook out the same way if had you just told him back in February.
Marinette: Well, gee whiz, that makes me feel super! Why didnt you tell me this earlier?! (Beat) Oh yeah, I would have had to tell you first, right?
- In The Secret Keeper, Ron is annoyed when Bella and Hermione realise that vampire venom may be able to destroy horcruxes; he explicitly expresses frustration that he and Hermione had to go all the way down to the Chamber of Secrets to get a basilisk fang when they could have just asked one of the Cullens to bite the cup.
- Solidarity (was the Movement that Turned the Direction of History: The entire plot could have been avoided if either Aizawa or Nedzu had confirmed the latter's suspicions at all before expelling Izuku. Given that there's at least two dozen people they could have asked who'd have cleared things up in a couple minutes, including a Living Lie Detector, it's rather shocking they both jumped straight to "Midoriya is working for the League of Villains".
- Starcrossed, a Lucky Star fic taking place seven years after the anime. The main four find themselves in very bad situations, some of which themselves are their own fault. It's only after they cross the Despair Event Horizon that those still alive remember the promise of friendship they made to each other upon graduating from high school, to be there for and seek help from one another, a promise which they had broken and lost everything they could have salvaged for. Minami does the same thing in the epilogue, running away from whatever problems she was having instead of asking Yutaka for help (and at a time when Yutaka herself needed help with certain problems courtesy of Konata), and subsequently dies in a divine plane crash out of Japan.
- SV Wishes: Shen Yuan gets increasingly annoyed when he realizes that so many conflicts, including his predecessor's death and their failing marriage, could have been avoided had Yue Qingyuan and Shen Qingqiu actually talked to each other. Or at the very least Yue Qingyuan respond to Shen Qingqiu's attempts to talk him.
- TMNT: Turtle Power: After Leonardo kills the Shredder, Karai descends into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, expending a lot of time and effort focusing on avenging her father's death at the Turtles' hands. In the process, she leaves Shredder's empire defenseless, leading to every crook in the city fighting to fill the Evil Power Vacuum by the time of the City at War arc. When the Turtles ask her why she didn't do anything about it sooner, Karai admits she had fallen into Revenge Before Reason, but also makes the point that at the time, the gang squabbles were minimal and she just assumed they'd take each other out and leave the Foot to pick up the pieces; she never anticipated the Mob War to get so out of hand.
- In Vengeance of Dawn, Twilight would have gladly helped Breaking Dawn regain Celestia's love if she had just asked. But, when Twilight points this out, Dawn just throws this back in her face, saying that she doesn't want her pity.
- Vow Of The King: Zigzagged. Yoruichi comments that she could have rescued Nemu and escaped within fifteen minutes if Urahara had sent her alone. But doing so would leave Aizen in a position of power. Instead, the teens were sent to do it as they'd be able to grow stronger in a relatively safe environment and Yoruichi could step in to save them if things went sideways.
- In When Harry met Wednesday, Rufus Scrimgeour is outraged that both Dumbledore and Slughorn knew Voldemort had created horcruxes and told no one about it, the former for a few years and the latter for decades. According to him, the entire second war could have been avoided if either one had ever come forward with their information. Dumbledore's defense that no one listened when he said Voldemort wasn't dead yet is destroyed when Rufus insists they would have listened if he explained about horcruxes, as they're so vile that most have never even heard the term before.
- In the Alternate Universe Harry Potter fanfic Why Dumbledore Would Have Done Well to Look After Harry Properly, part of Harry's Rage Against the Mentor/"The Reason You Suck" Speech against Dumbledore includes him stating that a lot of unnecessary deaths (most especially Sirius') and other close calls could have been completely prevented if Dumbledore hadn't kept Harry in the dark about the prophecy and actually spent time helping everyone prepare for Voldemort's return instead of pulling the strings behind the scenes.
- With Strings Attached: After the epic battle on the Plains of Death, George points out to the Hunter that after he learned he could become a dragon, he could just have flown everyone away from the Plains and up to the Twisted Temple, thus avoiding the battle, which was never necessary to their quest.
- In Chicken Run, the chickens could've escaped that farm a long time ago if they'd actually listened to Fowler's war stories. He was always rambling on about the R.A.F. and the 'old crate', but since they never paid any attention, they never realized he was describing the ideal means of escape. They finally listen near the climax, build an aircraft, and escape.
- In Frozen, Anna (who admittedly is missing some important context) complains that her sister didn't need to run away in shame after accidentally freezing half the castle.
Anna: Of course, none of this would have happened if she had just told me her secret. She's a stinker.
- In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, the whole plot could have been avoided if Ariel had simply told Melody that Morgana would kill her if she were to explore the sea; Ariel even acknowledges that she blew it.
- In The Nightmare Before Christmas, after Oogie Boogie's defeat, Santa Claus berates Jack for trying to steal Christmas, angrily claiming he should listen to Sally ("the only one who makes any sense in this insane asylum" and who'd repeatedly tried to warn Jack that his version of Christmas would not go over well) the next time he gets the urge to take over someone else's holiday. This would lead Jack to have his Love Epiphany as he looked at Sally in wonder.
- Over the Hedge. Outright invoked by Verne that RJ only needed to tell them he needed food to placate an angry bear, because they'd adopted him as a member of the family and would have helped him without question. He then admitted Poor Communication Kills is a part of being in a family, too.
- The Pagemaster: In yet another example of It's the Journey That Counts, when Richard Tyler, Adventure, Fantasy, and Horror all reach the exit and finally meet the Pagemaster in person, Richard berates him for making him go through all the hell he had to go through until the Pagemaster reveals that the point of the whole adventure was to help Richard learn to face his fears. If he'd just been brought to the exit right from the start, he wouldn't have learned anything and his friends still wouldn't have been checked out.
- 22 July: A commission panel investigating the July 22nd attacks reveals that the attacks could've been stopped, or at least the destructive effects mitigated, had they beefed up the security and taken steps to monitor Breivik beforehand.
- In The Adventures of Robin Hood, Robin Hood's first meeting with Friar Tuck results in the two of them crossing blades in the middle of a small lake. After a few minutes of requisite Flynning, Robin offers Tuck free food and ale if he joins his Merry Men. Tuck answers, "If you had said so sooner you could have saved us both a wetting!"
- In Andhadhun, Simi berates Manohar for bringing his gun to their tryst, saying that they wouldn't be in the mess they're in with her husband dead and them trying to avoid getting caught if he hadn't.
- In Before Sunset, the sequel to Before Sunrise, Jesse and Celine's plan made at the end of Before Sunrise to meet each other again in six months is revealed to have failed because Celine's grandmother died close to their agreed-on date and she had no way to contact Jesse to tell him. The two of them acknowledge that if they had just exchanged phone numbers before parting instead of being romantic fools who thought they could just magically reunite with no problems, they wouldn't have had to wait nine years to find each other again.
- Black Panther (2018): The entire conflict could be blamed on T'Chaka. Had T'Chaka brought his orphaned nephew N'Jadaka back home instead of abandoning him in the slums of Oakland to preserve Wakanda's secrecy, N'Jadaka wouldn't have turned into the super-terrorist Killmonger and the Wakandan civil war would never have happened. Needless to say, his son T'Challa angrily calls him out on his poor judgement in the spirit realm.
- A mild but fun example in Captain Blood. Peter Blood and his band of prisoners became pirates after being unjustly imprisoned thanks to King James. They find themselves near Port Royal, under attack by the French. Lord Willoughby says he was sent to find Blood and offer a pardon and a commission as privateers in the King's navy. Naturally, Blood and his men refuse, putting down the King constantly with Willoughby thrown by how upset they are. It takes a line from Blood for Willoughby to realize the pirates have no idea the Glorious Revolution has taken place, James exiled and King William III offering the pardon. In seconds, the pirates have joined up with Blood openly saying "why didn't you just tell us this in the first place?"
- In Django Unchained, after their plan to rescue Broomhilda fails, Calvin Candie spells out to Django and Schultz that he would have sold her to them for next to nothing if they had just been honest about wanting to buy her in the first place. Sure, Candie and Steven would still be alive and Candyland would still be in operation, but at least Django and Broomhilda would be reunited and Schultz wouldn't be dead. Sadly, Schultz had to come up with a needlessly complicated plan that got him killed and nearly got Django sold back into slavery.
- All of the mayhem in First Blood wouldn't have gone on had a small-town sheriff allowed a Vietnam War veteran to eat at a restaurant within town limits, instead of arresting him on trumped-up charges of "vagrancy" (i.e. being homeless) among others and letting his deputies rough him up. The veteran's former commander has to show up to lend his aid in getting him to surrender, and the first time they talk, the veteran explains himself in part:
Rambo: There wouldn't be no trouble except for that king-shit cop. All I wanted was something to eat, but the man kept pushing, sir.
- The Framing Device of Forrest Gump fits. The story is him telling his life story while waiting at a bus stop to several other folks waiting, the listeners rotating as passengers board the bus and others come to wait for theirs. Eventually, he gets to the here and now and tells the current listener that he's waiting for a bus to Jenny's new house, having gotten a letter from her. The woman currently listening tells him the place he wants is only a few blocks away, and he doesn't need the bus; he quickly excuses himself and starts walking there, leading to the finale.
- Good Boys: When Hannah learns why the boys were spying on her with the drone, she observes that they could have just looked up 'How to Kiss' online rather than go to all this trouble.
- The Guilty: After he finds out the truth, Asger asks Michael why he did not simply call the police. Michael replies that he has no faith in the societal institutions that have failed him in the past.
- Honeymoon in Vegas lamp shades this. The movie starts with Jack, a private eye, telling the audience, via voice over, that he has an amazing story to tell, and it begins with him stringing along his girlfriend, Betsy, because he promised his dying mother he would never marry anyone. When she threatens to break up with him due to his fear of commitment issues, he decides to take her to Las Vegas to get married in a chapel and have a nice honeymoon at the same time. He tells the audience he could have taken to city hall, but the story would have ended right there.
- John Wick: Chapter 2: If Santino D'antonio had the sense to just leave John alone, especially after hearing about what he did to the Tarasovs a few days prior, then the events second movie (and by extension the third) would not have come to pass. Winston even calls him out on this.
- Knives Out: As Detective Blanc points out near the end of the film, Harlan's death could have been avoided if he had simply listened to Marta and let her call an ambulance. But he had to be dramatic...
- Sarah comes across a worm who helps her into the titular Labyrinth. She almost turns left into a path, only for the worm to tell her to not go that way. Sarah turns around and goes right. When Sarah is out of earshot, the worm says: "If she had kept going down that way, she'd have gone straight to that castle!". The trope is subverted however; if she had gone straight to the castle she wouldn't have gathered her companions and could never have defeated the Goblin army guarding it.
- There's also a case of This Scene Could Have Been Avoided within the movie itself. When Sarah first meets Sir Didymus, he clearly states that he won't let anyone pass without his permission. It takes a violent fight between him and Ludo that ultimately ends in a draw before Sarah finally considers asking his permission. (Which even he didn't realize, it seems, he was free to give, which he does.)
- Trust is one of the main themes of Lantana, and in fact Valerie never would have died if mistrust had not come into play. Nik D'Amato confesses to his role in her death and it turns out it was accidental with no direct involvement from Nik; he gave her a lift home and took a back road shortcut and she got the wrong idea, panicked, fled from the car and accidentally fell down a ravine.
- Godzilla (2014): Discussed. Ford questions why Monarch, who had access to the male MUTO's cocoon for fifteen years while studying it, didn't just kill it while they had the chance before it hatched (which if successful, would've probably also stopped the female's awakening without the male calling out to its formerly-dormant egg). Graham states that they didn't know what the cocoon was doing with all the radiation it absorbed and they feared killing it could've had Chernobyl-level global consequences. Nevertheless, the look on Serizawa's face suggests it was partly Just Think of the Potential! and that he now regrets it.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Ultimately averted. Early on in the film, Dr. Mark Russell (who is no fan of Titans) points out they wouldn't be dealing with the threat of all the dormant Titans being awakened by Western Terrorists (or for that matter the later threat of King Ghidorah controlling the other Titans and attempting to eradicate man and nature with an extinction event) if Monarch had done the job it was commissioned to do and killed the Titans whilst they were still dormant. His points are simply dismissed by Monarch's leaders, who have an almost religious reverence for the Titans. However, it's heavily implied in the film and outright confirmed by the Godzilla vs. Kong novelization that if humanity had attempted to kill the dormant Titans it would've only awoken them and provoked them into attacking — not to mention that King of the Monsters establishes that the Titans' deaths would likely cause even more problems for the world in the long term than awakening them would have due to their essential role maintaining the balance of the planet's ecosphere. In the novelization, Mark following his Break the Haughty when things go From Bad to Worse contemplates that Monarch could've probably avoided the threat of Ghidorah entirely if they tried to kill it while it was frozen, but concedes that attempting to do that would've only awoken the living extinction event.
- Godzilla vs. Kong: As it turns out, the reason Godzilla seemingly turns feral is actually because Apex Cybernetics was trying to create Mechagodzilla to replace him as the new Alpha. Worse, they use one of the heads of Godzilla's archnemesis King Ghidorah to do it. Madison even calls Walter Simmons out on this later in the movie, saying that Godzilla was on neutral terms with humanity until Apex tried to give him a challenger. The entire conflict, and indeed even Godzilla's feud with Kong, could have been avoided if Mechagodzilla was never created.
- In The Sandlot, if they had realized the stories about The Beast were urban legends, and had just gone to Mr. Mertle in the first place about the baseball, the whole thing could've been avoided. Mr. Mertle even asked why they didn't go to him first. Scotty had actually suggested going over and asking before being rejected in favor of Squints' convoluted plan.
- Those Who Wish Me Dead: A villainous example. Jack repeatedly and frustratedly notes that if his boss hadn't been too cheap to hire a second team of hitmen, then the two teams could have killed Owen and the D.A. (and their families) at the same time. Instead, Owen hears about the D.A.'s murder on the news and immediately goes on the run with his son while the Blackwells drive toward his house after the first hit, kicking the plot into motion.
- Played for Drama in Us. Red tells Adelaide this in their final confrontation, during The Reveal that Adelaide is the real Red who switched places with her. However, the idea itself is very dramatically central to the plot, as it's really about how there must always be a "Tethered" who lives a miserable life underground so that Adelaide can have her happy above-ground life.
I never stopped thinking about you. How things could have been. How you could have taken me with you.
- Summed up by the final lines of Valdez is Coming:
Frank Tanner: I shoulda killed you three days ago.
El Segundo: Or gone to Nogales.
Bob Valdez: Or paid the hundred dollars.
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?: If Blanche had come clean about being behind the wheel the night of her accident, her torture and eventual death at the hands of her sister Jane would have been avoided.
Jane Hudson: "You mean all this time, we could have been friends?"
- In The Wizard of Oz, it becomes clear, that Dorothy could've left Oz almost immediately after arriving, but Glinda deliberately kept it from her, in order to teach her a lesson. Thus everything that happened while Dorothy was in Oz could've been avoided. This has been lampshaded on many other series. This point was absent from the book because the book had two separate characters which the movie merged into Glinda.
- In The Annals of the Chosen Sword is furious when he learns that after killing the Dark Lord in the first novel the other wizards decided to create a new Chosen: The Traitor, whose special ability was to avoid the Wizard Lord's notice and earn their trust. Not knowing the nature of the new Chosen made Artil increasingly paranoid, which resulted in him attempting to kill off the Chosen when they requested he step down as Lord.
- Matt Stover's Blade of Tyshalle: In the book's prologue, protagonists Kris Hansen and Hari Michaelson plot to get Hari out of Magic School and into Battle School. Their plan hinges on getting Hari to demonstrate his fighting prowess by "saving" Kris from a rival, crippling him in the process. Afterward, the head teacher tells them their plan has succeeded, but laments that another person's dream was crushed so that they could have theirs, adding plaintively "Couldn't you have asked?" It's played also as a sort of "What the Hell, Hero?" moment. The dean who has been depicted as an antagonist jerk is completely at the end of his rope, almost in tears because whatever else he is, he is a teacher who cares for his students.
- Jeff Stage's Chasing Jenny: The Big Bad's goal is to obtain a rare stamp to sell for lots of money. Towards the end, his The Dragon points out that if he really needed the money so badly, the villain could simply have sold the copy of the stamp he already owns. This would have saved several murders, arson and grand theft auto, as well as avoided the strong possibility of getting caught. (The villain's ulterior motive appears to be a grudge against the owner for being a better person than him.)
- In The Croning, Don Miller is told by Barry Rourke, one of Les Collaborateurs, that he only has himself to blame for getting involved with the Ancient Conspiracy and the Humanoid Abomination behind it. If only he had just allowed his wife to be alone for some days and tend to some undisclosed business after getting a mysterious phone call...
Rourke: Man, you don't know when to let sleeping dogs lie. Always meddling. You simply had to go hunting for Michelle instead of listening to sage advice and spending a couple of extra days drunk at the hotel bar.
- In the first Vlad Taltos booknote , Vlad makes a complaint of this nature to Sethra Lavode and Morrolan after learning his embezzling employee was their plot to meet with him. Subverted in the next two sentences when he acknowledges that he probably wouldn't have come if they just asked.
- The entire goal of Fornia in Dragon is to release the Great Weapon concealed within the sword he stole from him. To do so, he waged a massive war against Morrolan on the off-chance that they would come into single combat in battle, which ends up getting him killed. Later, Vlad comments that Fornia could have just challenged Morrolan to a duel, except that Morrolan had already declared war on him, and a Dragonlord can't resist a good war.
- One Encyclopedia Brown case has him investigate when a friend's bicycle gets a wheel stolen. The culprit was a young artist who was collecting junk to use in his works. When he's caught, he returns the bicycle wheel. He also tries to return the rest of the junk to the other people he stole from only to find they didn't want it back because it was junk. They even tell him they would have let him have it if he'd just asked, something he admits he never thought to do.
- Harry Potter:
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron take Mr. Weasley's flying Ford Anglia to Hogwarts after they miss the Hogwarts Express thanks to Dobby's interference. The car's invisibility malfunctions mid-flight, and six or seven muggles see the flying car, getting them in hot water when they arrive at Hogwarts after crashing the car into the Whomping Willow. Professor McGonagall asks Harry why he didn't just send his owl Hedwig to Hogwarts with a letter explaining their predicament, forcing him to admit he hadn't thought of that.
- Most of the troubles in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix are caused by Dumbledore's insistence to keep Harry Locked Out of the Loop for as long as possible, and spending the better part of the year ignoring him without so much as telling him why (he's afraid Voldemort could use their mental link to possess Harry's mind and use it to spy on him). At the end of the year, Harry explodes in anger and lets Dumbledore have it, and then Dumbledore finally acknowledges Harry was long ready to know the truth, and he should have told him everything from the beginning.
- At the end of the same book, Harry also realizes he could have prevented Sirius' death if he had remembered to check the gift he gave him (a two-way mirror they could use to contact each other).
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry gets the gang caught when he yells Voldemort's name, despite knowing full well that it had been jinxed to notify the bad guys of anyone who mentions it — and having been reminded right before yelling it. He later admits it was his fault and apologizes, but the whole ordeal resulted in Hermione getting tortured, Ron's family being forced to go into hiding, and Dobby losing his life rescuing them. Whoops! The film changes it to Xenophilius Lovegood summoning the Death Eaters to save his kidnapped daughter.
- In The Hearts We Sold, Dee tells the Daemon that he could've avoided a lot of hassle if he'd just been upfront with his charges from the start, telling them what, exactly, he needed them for before they made a deal with him, and then letting them decide for themselves, rather than tricking them into it. The Daemon explains that he doesn't think anyone would willingly lay down their lives if he was honest with them from the start, even though it's for the greater good.
- In Heartless (2016), Cath's parents spend the entire book denying her what she truly wants, insist that she must marry the King, and forbid her from starting her dream bakery. Towards the very end, after Cath has clearly gone into Sanity Slippage and is about to become the Queen of Hearts, her alarmed mother tells her that all they've ever wanted is for her to be happy, and asks if this wedding will truly make her happy. Cath bitterly points out that things could have turned out a lot differently if they'd just asked her that question from the beginning.
- In I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Azusa's search for a cure to the gnome mushroom's effects is one of these on multiple levels. When she asks the demons for information, Pecora points her towards Yggdrasil, which she spends a sizable amount of time (and money) climbing. When she finally makes it to the pharmacy at the top, she discovers that the cure is Eno's Mandragora Pills. The thing is that 1) Azusa is good friends with Eno and could have just asked her, 2) she still has a bottle of the pills in question at home, 3) it turns out the while dragons can't fly up the tree, smaller sized wyverns can, as proven by Eno showing up to drop off a shipment at the pharmacy, and 4) Eno also ships to Vanzeld Castle and Pecora definitely knew already, all of which means that she wasted all her time climbing a giant tourist trap tree for a solution she already had at home.
- Steven Kellogg's The Island of the Skog: A group of mice set sail to find a new home, and they find an island that their guidebook says is inhabited by a Skog. Some of the mice make a show of force by firing cannons. Then, the next morning, their boat is gone. They lay a trap for the Skog, which turns out to be a mouse-size creature wearing a huge, terrifying disguise.
Skog: I was frightened by your cannons and your trap. I cut the line to the ship because I thought you were sleeping on board. I thought it was better to be alone than to be afraid.
Jenny: If only we'd trusted each other.
- Jinxed: Edward is an actor and con artist about to marry a wealthy woman to get his hands on her fortune. He's worried that her sister will recognize him from an acting class they took together and has his brother kidnap her. It gets totally out of hand and all ends with both arrested. At which point, Edward is stunned to discover that the sister has no recollection of him whatsoever. He openly thinks that had he just kept his cool, he'd be a rich man as he's hauled off to jail.
- Lord Peter Wimsey:
- In Clouds of Witness, Sir Impey points out in his closing speech that the mystery could have been cleared up within hours: all it would have taken was for someone to investigate the bag of outgoing letters at the Lodge rather than just taking them down to the post office as usual.
- The antagonist in Unnatural Death murders three people, and attempts to murder another four, before finally killing themself, all to secure a fortune that, as we discover in Gaudy Night, they would have inherited anyway.
- Princess Academy: Miris false Maternal Death? Blame the Child! perception of her father could have been avoided if shed known the full story of her mothers death sooner. Her friend and Parental Substitute Dottor lampshades this trope when she tells Miri the truth.
- Guy de Maupassant's classic short story "The Necklace": A young lower-middle-class woman named Mathilde dreams of being an aristocrat, and seems to get her chance when her husband receives an invitation to a grand ball. She makes herself a dress and borrows a gorgeous diamond necklace from Jeanne, her actually-wealthy friend, and has the time of her life at the dance, only to find that she's lost the jewelry along the way home. Mathilde and her husband discover a replacement necklace at a jeweler's shop for thirty-six thousand francs; he uses all his savings and takes out a huge loan ("at ruinous interest") to pay for it. The couple spends ten years working like dogs and scrimping wherever they can to pay off the debt, which destroys both their marriage and Mathilde's youth and beauty. After they're finally free of the loan, Mathilde has a chance encounter with Jeanne and tells her the whole tragic story...only for Jeanne to sadly reveal that the diamond necklace was a fake worth less than five hundred francs. Had Mathilde been honest about losing the jewels in the first place, she could have quite literally lived a completely different life.
- In Queen Zixi of Ix (by L. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz series), the title character is a Vain Sorceress who attempts to steal a magical cloak that will grant one wish to each person who wears it. In the end, when her schemes are discovered, the cloak's owners tell her that they would have been willing to let her borrow the cloak and make her one wish, so she had no need to resort to theft. However, this incident convinces the fairies who made the cloak that humanity is no longer worthy of such a gift, and they take it back—so Zixi still never gets to have her wish granted.
- In Baum's last Oz book, Glinda of Oz, Ozma and Dorothy get entangled in a conflict between two equally unpleasant tribal leaders out on a distant fringe of Oz and end up trapped in a domed underwater city; Dorothy bemoans the fact that they're only there because she idly read about the looming conflict in Glinda's magic records book.
- In the Dale Brown novel Shadows of Steel Big Bad Buzhazi is told that he could have avoided getting into trouble with the US had he only destroyed their spy ship but let the crew be, since the US would have swallowed the destruction of the ship in exchange for not letting the truth about it out.
- The Tales of the Otori series ends with a fairly spectacular disaster that was considerably worsened by Takeo not telling Kaede that he had gotten another woman pregnant when he left her and thought they would never see each other again. It is worth noting that there were sixteen years during which this information could have been imparted, but every time he considered telling her he kept putting it off. He does, at least, fully acknowledge how stupid he's been, but by then it's too late to solve the problem.
- Threadbare: King Melos spent fifteen years trapped in a situation of his own making, with absolutely no one who he could share the burden with. Near the end, it is pointed out that if he had been willing to explain everything to literally any single person besides the daemon trickster he summoned, then the vast majority of the plot would have been averted. Partly justified by the fact that he was in a constant and literal state of Sanity Slippage, but that was his fault too; there was a device that drained his sanity, and because he didn't trust anyone else enough to explain the situation, he couldn't share the burden.
Garon: It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're not a paranoid jackass!
- At the end of Too Many Magicians, it is revealed that the crimes were committed by an officer who was Trapped by Gambling Debts in an attempt to recruit him as a double agent under threat of speaking to his superior about it and ruining his career. Lord Darcy remarks that had the offer to recruit come a bit earlier, the officer, instead of all the crimes, would have simply told his boss he suspected there was a spy ring, and the debts were a deliberate gambit.
- In the Wars of Light and Shadow, the Koriathain Order had been searching for the Waystone of the Koriathain, an enormous Crystal Ball that could amplify their power immensely, for five centuries. Upon learning that Sethvir of the Fellowship had it, they try breaking into his tower and seizing it by force. After being violently repelled by the wards, they are forced to ask him for the return of the Waystone when he returns from a business trip. At which point he mentions that they had asked for the return of the stone (Or assistance in finding it) at any point in the 500 years since they had misplaced it, they would have given it back without any fuss.
- In Angel, Wesley abducted an infant Connor, in order to save him from a prophecy which stated that Angel will kill his own son. Later, as Wesley lies injured in the hospital after his plan led to Connor being kidnapped into an unreachable hell dimension, an angry Fred tells him that the prophecy was a fake, and if Wesley had simply talked to anyone else, the tragedy would have never occurred.
- Breaking Bad:
- In "Say My Name", Mike tells Walter that he wouldn't be in the danger of DEA capturing all of them if Walter had simply done what he was told, among other things.
- In the same episode, after shooting Mike, Walter just realized that he could have just gotten the names of Mike's security team from Lydia, thus negating the final conflict between him and Mike.
- Earlier, Saul even points this out to Mike saying his lawyer the DEA got to flip was unreliable and if Mike stayed with Saul, that wouldn't have happened!
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In "When She Was Bad", Buffy, having Took a Level in Jerkass since "Prophecy Girl", leaves Giles, Willow, and Xander alone in the library to confront the Order of Aurelius at the Bronze, insisting she can handle things herself. As it turns out, she walked into a trap, and Giles and Willow are kidnapped by the Order to be used as Human Sacrifices while Buffy's away. When she realizes the trick and goes back to find the library ransacked and Xander beaten and bloody, Xander wastes no time calling her out and invoking this trope:
Xander: I don't know what your problem is, what your issues are... and as of right now, I officially don't care. If you had worked with us for five minutes, you could've stopped this.
- In "Blood Ties", when Dawn finds out that she's the Key and Spike helped her break into the Magic Box, Buffy's immediate response is to storm into his crypt and start beating him up for helping her. Spike immediately turns the tables on her, pointing out that Dawn would have done so anyway and he just went along to keep her safe, and telling Buffy point-blank that if she had just told Dawn the truth in the first place, none of this would be happening. Later, Buffy admits that Spike was right.
- In "When She Was Bad", Buffy, having Took a Level in Jerkass since "Prophecy Girl", leaves Giles, Willow, and Xander alone in the library to confront the Order of Aurelius at the Bronze, insisting she can handle things herself. As it turns out, she walked into a trap, and Giles and Willow are kidnapped by the Order to be used as Human Sacrifices while Buffy's away. When she realizes the trick and goes back to find the library ransacked and Xander beaten and bloody, Xander wastes no time calling her out and invoking this trope:
- In the Community episode "Basic Genealogy", Pierce plays a game of Pictionary with the others. The clue is windmill, so he attempts to draw one. He starts by drawing what appears to be a swastika. Chang's brother, a rabbi, is offended and a fist fight occurs. Afterwards, a police officer points out that the fist fight could have been avoided if Pictionary would just ban the word windmill.
- Corner Gas: While showing a family album, it's noticed Oscar and Emma do not have any wedding photos. They claim they were never married, which makes their son Brent a bastard. Lacey convinces them to get married and spends the rest of the episode preparing a wedding while Brent angsts about being born out of wedlock; Lacey also mistakenly assumes Oscar was illiterate because he was trying to discern the difference between ketchup and catsup. At the end, Oscar and Emma reveal they were married (and Oscar can read, a fact Lacey witnessed before), but were embarrassed because it was an Elvis-themed wedding. Brent points this out.
Brent: You could have said "we lost the photos". Mind you, that would have been less emotionally scarring.
- In an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, "Anatomy of a Lye", a young attorney tried to dodge a DUI hit-and-run by letting the victim die while lodged in his windshield, then soaking his body in lye and burying him in a playground. Just one problem: the investigation found that the victim had actually jumped in front of his car in a suicide attempt. Had he called 9-1-1, the attorney may have gotten off with the DUI charge at worst. Instead, he will face dozens of years in prison for murder if he's lucky.
Sara: You were off the hook...
Grissom: ...until you let him die.
- In another episode, a recently released ex-con is a suspect in the murder of two sisters. As it turns out, the guy had made a real connection with one of the sisters during his time in prison, and when he got out they met at her place for dinner. Her furious sister showed up and in the resulting fight accidentally killed her, at which point she turned on the ex-con and said she was going to blame him for the whole thing. So he killed her. Grissom points out that he hadn't done anything wrong until he killed the other sister, the evidence would have backed him up and if he had just called the cops he would be free, instead of facing a murder charge, and the guilty sister would be in jail. The ex-con points out that he was, well, an ex-con, and "Who would believe me?" Grissom very sadly says, "I would."
- Doctor Who: In "The Beast Below", this is Played for Drama. Starship UK has an imprisoned Star Whale serving as its engine, tortured to keep it moving. It turns out that they didn't need to capture or torture it at all, as the whale voluntarily came to help them all those years ago.
- Frasier: In "Daphne Hates Sherry", Daphne storms out of the apartment after arguing with Martin and Sherry. She ends up at Niles' place where the heatwave almost leads them to act on their Unresolved Sexual Tension before Daphne suddenly realizes she left her medication at home. When they stop by to pick it up Frasier resolves the argument meaning Daphne can stay and doesn't have to go back to Niles' apartment. Niles bitterly "thanks" Frasier for ruining his chance with Daphne. Frasier points out that Niles sabotaged himself.
Frasier: You're a doctor, why didn't you just use your prescription pad?
Niles: ...Oh my god.
Frasier: And isn't there an all-night pharmacy across the street from your building?
Niles: OH MY GOD!
- In "The One With All the Haste", Rachel and Monica steal their apartment back from Joey and Chandler (having lost it in a bet several episodes earlier), and get them to agree not to take it again by kissing in front of them. Afterwards, Phoebe points out that if the girls had just done this after losing the original bet, nobody would have had to move at all.
Monica:[Beat] Let's pretend that's not true.
- In "The One Where Everybody Finds Out", Phoebe and Rachel have just found out about Monica and Chandler's secret relationship and start messing with them, but Monica and Chandler find out and start messing with them too pulling the I Know You Know I Know plot. Joey, while not usually the brightest, justifiably points out that the entire situation and awkwardness could have been avoided if Phoebe and Rachel had just confronted Monica and Chandler about knowing their relationship in the first place.
- In "The One With All the Haste", Rachel and Monica steal their apartment back from Joey and Chandler (having lost it in a bet several episodes earlier), and get them to agree not to take it again by kissing in front of them. Afterwards, Phoebe points out that if the girls had just done this after losing the original bet, nobody would have had to move at all.
- The Full House episode "The Bicycle Thief" turns out to be a case of this. Michelle loses her bicycle and assumes someone must have stolen it, getting the whole family — plus Kimmy and Mrs. Carruthers, the neighborhood "crime catchers" — tangled up in the whole affair, only for Derek to return her bike at the end of the episode, reminding her that she left her bike at his residence while his mother gave her a ride back. Had she asked her peers, of whom Derek is one, about her bike, instead of jumping to the wrong conclusion and getting others for help based on said wrong conclusion, the whole mess in this episode would have been averted. Not surprisingly, everyone else reacts to the news by giving Michelle a look of utter annoyance.
- Game of Thrones: It is frequently noted in Season 2 how much better the Lannisters' prospects would be if Joffrey hadn't had Ned Stark executed.
- The first season of The Guest Book has a running story arc where Wilfred goes to the local Bikini Bar and gets photographed there by the proprietor Vivian. She then tries to blackmail Wilfred by threatening to show the picture to his wife Emma. After some drama which gets the police involved, Vivian is forced to back off from her blackmail. Wilfred celebrates by taking Emma to a dance where she reveals that she knew about him going to the bikini bar.
- On How I Met Your Mother Marshall has a weird phobia about going to the bathroom at work; he feels like all his co-workers are judging him as they see him walk to the bathroom. He tries various ways to go to the bathroom secretly, until finally he just gets over his fear and uses the public bathroom at work without shame. Then Barney (who was also his co-worker) reveals he has a private bathroom in his office that Marshall could have used at any time. In this case, however, Barney was well aware of Marshall's bathroom problem; he just never mentioned the solution because he's a Jerkass.
- At the end of the Season 4 premiere of House, Cuddy points out that the case of the week would have been resolved a whole lot faster (and likely with fewer mistakes) if House had had a team helping him.
Cuddy: You were content with your "people are idiots" theory, but Cameron would never have accepted that this guy knew nothing about the love of his life. And as soon as you claimed it was multiple conditions, Foreman would have done anything to prove you wrong, and then Chase would have done anything to prove you right. Any one of them would have solved this days ago. Hire a team. I don't care how you do it. Just do it.
- Happens a few times on Just Roll With It.
- Owen is annoyed his dad insists on going through with his ultra-lavish birthday parties which involves taking on a wild rapper character and nutty games. He finally brings himself up to tell Byron he's outgrown this and was never a fan in the first place. A stunned Byron relates that he's hated this whole thing for years and only did it because he thought Owen loved it.
- Blair is upset Owen is hanging out with Ruth, her one time best friend who, after she jumped a grade ahead, became "too mature" to hang out with Blair. They have a fight with Blair snapping on how she figured Ruth was going to be hanging with older girls so cut her off before Ruth could do it to her. A surprised Ruth relates she never wanted to stop being friends at all and was hurt Blair refused to hang out with her anymore as they both realize they've lost a couple of years of friendship.
- An episode focuses on the family stuck in an elevator with Rachel, Blair and Owen all relating how, in some small way, they must have played a part in causing this. At the very end, Byron is forced to admit that the elevator company called him up hours ago to tell him the elevator was broken and shouldn't be used but Byron was too busy with his newly bought robot to pay attention.
- Kamen Rider has a few instances of this, due to multiple instances of Poor Communication Kills
- Megid end up getting made from humans starting in the second act, as part of the Big Bad's plans to increase their power. Touma, one of the few people who finds this out, ends up getting put through hell trying to find a way to save the person being converted while also keeping his former allies from killing him, not helped by his new ally, Yuri, seemingly apathetic to their plight, stating he simply needed to cut them down. What he fails to mention is that he can actually separate a human from a Megid without killing the human, leading to a very risky plan from Touma and Yuri catching flack for not simply explaining.
- This is what kicks off Leverage. Victor Dubenich hires a pack of crooks (and Nate) to "steal back" some information from a rival. They do it but then find none of them have been paid. They gather together to realize Dubenich is trying to eliminate them to cover up the pure theft. Escaping, the team band together for the first time to take Dubenich down. As the man is about to go to jail, Nate calls him up to openly point out that had Dubenich just paid the gang right off, they'd have gone their separate ways and never given him a second thought. Instead, he created the team that will put him (and scores of other corrupt scumbags) behind bars.
- One episode of Lewis revolves around a twenty-year rivalry between an Oxford professor and her ex-boyfriend, who dumped her for cheating on him while they were students and has spent the past twenty years accumulating wealth so he can bulldoze their old favorite place, while she writes a famous book about why women don't need men. After she's murdered, Lewis discovers in the course of his investigation that she didn't cheat and wrote her ex an explanation of how she was set up by their other friends. Lewis points out that if the man hadn't pridefully refused to open her letters, he could have saved them both two decades of loneliness and bitterness.
- Mimpi Metropolitan: In episode 59, after Prima earned Mami Bibir's anger by sending her an Irrevocalable Message by mistake, Juna points out that Prima could have deleted the message from his own phone instead of trying to crack Mami Bibir's. Prima in turn is ired that Juna only comes up with a solution now instead of when Prima asked before Mami Bibir read it.
- In My Secret Identity, Dr. Jeffcoate, the inventor of the ray that gives Andrew Clements his powers, invokes this on him at the end of the pilot, saying that if he had hired a "real gardener" none of what they both went through would have ever happened (at least, according to the pilot's novelization).
- On Schitt's Creek David succumbs to Alexis's teasing about his low results on a relationship quiz and invites Patrick on an adventure date to spice up their relationship, despite his fear of heights and Patrick clearly wanting to stay and work at their store. Alexis eventually confesses that the quiz was rigged, and fear-ridden David declares he loves his relationship with Patrick just as it is while Patrick is grateful but also reminds him that this could have been avoided if David had just talked to him.
- The key plot of The Shannara Chronicles is that mystic Allanon was told by mentor Brennan that he would have a successor who would surpass him. Allanon was convinced Brandon would be that man and soon pushed him to learn more of magic and frustrated at his lack of progress. All this did was make Brandon turn to darker magics, transform into an evil mage and cause huge destruction. When wounded, Allanon meets the spirit of Brennan who reveals that his successor all along was going to be Mareth. Allanon lampshades how so much trouble could have been avoided if at any point Brennan had simply used a gender pronoun to indicate Allanon's successor would be a woman.
- In Spaced, Tim, Daisy, and Brian have just finished watching the original Star Wars trilogy, when Tim lampshades that the plot of all three films could have been railroaded if the Star Destroyer Gunner had destroyed the (supposedly) empty life-pod.
- Pointed out in a Stargate Atlantis episode. Dr. Keller has been kidnapped by a Runner (no, not Ronan) who wants her to treat an injured little girl. Keller would have, of course, treated the girl without a problem, and asks the guy why he didn't just ask. He replies that she might have said no, which doesn't seem to satisfy anyone very well.
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Ship" has this trope as its main premise. The main characters (and several Red Shirt characters) capture a Dominion battleship. The rest of the episode involves the Dominion trying to capture the ship by surrounding it, leading to many deaths on both sides. In the end it is revealed that the Dominion were only interested in rescuing a Founder who dies during the siege. They would have gladly given the ship to the heroes in exchange for the Founder, but they were too afraid to ask for fear that the heroes would kill it. The episode ends with the characters lamenting the fact that all of these people died unnecessary deaths because they wouldn't trust each other.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "11001001", the Bynars, a cybernetic and mildly hive-minded Federation species whose "hat" is binary thinking, seize control of the Enterprise in order to save their planetary database, tricking most of the crew into evacuating the ship and then trapping Picard and Riker in the holodeck. When Picard learns about their predicament and asks why they didn't just ask for help, they explain "you might have said no". Riker observes that, as the Bynars only think in all-or-nothing absolutes, the mere possibility of being turned down seemed as bad as a certainty to them.
- In an episode of Two and a Half Men, Jake starts being rude to his mother Judith, having picked up how Alan and Charlie treat their mother, Evelyn. Alan proposes that they start treating her with more respect. After Evelyn takes advantage of this and the caterers for the party cause trouble, Charlie, exasperated, says:
Charlie: You wanted that clown to be nice to his mother. Did you ever think to tell him, 'Hey, clown! Be nice to your mother!!' No, we have to throw a party for our crazy-ass mother!
- Played for laughs in Season 3 of Van Helsing (2016). Scarlett has been stuck on a small island with a lighthouse its only building. She's there for twenty-seven days and every attempt at building a life raft is Epic Fail as she's reduced to talking to a volleyball. While mulling things over at the lighthouse, she looks under the bed to discover she's been literally sleeping on top of an inflatable raft with oars this entire time.
Scarlett: You gotta be fucking kidding me.
- Supernatural: It's a common joke in the fandom that 80% of the Winchester's traumas could be avoided if they just talked to one another. A particularly egregious plot thread in Season 9 happens when Gadreel is possessing Sam, ostensibly to heal him. Dean lies to both Sam and Castiel, even going so far as to kick a vulnerable, human Castiel out of the bunker so he won't discover the possession. If Dean had told Castiel what was happening, they could have worked together to communicate to Sam what was going on. Instead, Gadreel kills Kevin, absconds with Sam's body and goes on a killing spree, leaving Dean devastated.
- In The Walking Dead's second-season episode "Cherokee Rose", after a solid day of trying (and failing) to pull a bloated walker out of a well to prevent contamination, the group nearly loses Glenn in the process of tying a rope around it and pulling it up... only for it to fall apart and its guts to spill back into the well. Maggie then informs the group that they have five more wells on the Greene family farm, meaning the whole exercise was pointless from the get-go.
- Into the Woods:
- Probably one of the most blatant examples in theater history. When the characters all encounter the Giantess who is looking for the lad Jack who killed her husband, they decide to offer her somebody else as a sacrifice. Unable to figure out what to do, they decide to offer the Narrator. The Narrator reminds them that if he is wiped out, they won't know the outcome of the story. Regardless of this, however, the Witch herself gives the Narrator to the Giantess. Seeing that the Narrator isn't Jack, the Giantess drops the Narrator and he is killed. The Baker's Wife, apparently concerned about how the story will go along without the Narrator, inevitably points out: "We might have thought of something else."
- Though a more or less justifiable example would be after the Witch lays a major Reason You Suck Song on Cinderella, Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Baker pointing out what their actions from Act I have gotten them into:
Jack: Maybe I shouldn't have stolen from the Giant.
Little Red Riding Hood: Maybe I shouldn't have strayed from the path.
Cinderella: Maybe I shouldn't have attended the ball.
Baker: Yes, maybe you shouldn't have.
- The events of King Lear are set in motion by a completely avoidable decision by Lear to disown Cordelia and give the kingdom to Regan and Goneril simply on account of his vanity. As early as scene 4 he realizes that this was a terrible mistake.
Lear: Beat at this gate, that let thy folly in,
[Striking his head]
And thy dear judgment out!
- The Matchmaker has a subplot in which Ermengarde is sent to stay with an old family friend, Miss Van Huysen, to keep her away from her boyfriend Ambrose, who her uncle and guardian disapproves of. This inspires Ermengarde to run off with Ambrose instead of going to Miss Van Huysen's house, and they face various difficulties all through the play while they try to figure out where they're going to go and how they're going to straighten things out with Uncle Horace. In the final scene of the play, they finally end up at Miss Van Huysen's house, where it turns out that she's entirely in sympathy with them and if Ermengarde had gone to her house as planned Ambrose would have had no trouble visiting and they could have spent the same amount of time making plans in comfort and with Miss Van Huysen's help.
- Assassin's Creed:
- In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Tarik Barleti, the captain of the Sultan's bodyguards, agrees to smuggle weapons on behalf of the Templars so he can learn the location of their hideout and ambush them. The Sultan's grandson Suleiman, unaware of his intentions, suspects him of betraying the Ottoman Empire and orders Ezio to assassinate him. Tarik laments his own hubris with his final words, and Suleiman, upon learning the truth, expresses regret that he was so secretive and chose a terrible way of doing a good thing.
- In Assassin's Creed: Forsaken, when Charles Lee tries to 'blame' the resurgence of the Colonial Assassins on Haytham Kenway's fathering of their lead member about twenty years before, Haytham answers back that it was actually Charles Lee's mistreatment of the four-year-old Ratonhnhaké:tonnote that convinced the boy that Lee — and by extension his associates — were the enemy.
- In Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, during the Last Maharajah DLC, Jacob and Evie go through a long night at a fancy party at the tower, having to protect Duleep Singh from being framed for theft of the Koh-I-Noor while trying to nab it themselves, and when they get back to their fellow Assassin Henry Green, he smashes the diamond with a hammer, revealing it's a fake. Then he tells them if they'd included him in their plan, he could've told them this.
- In Dragon Age: Origins: The Warden can lampshade and berate Loghain for this when they meet near the endgame. A Blight is threatening Ferelden, the Grey Wardens are elite fighters specifically tasked with stopping Blights, and military genius Teyrn Loghain has been trying to stop the Blight too by seizing the throne and forcing the whole nation to unite under his banner. Seems like a no-brainer that they would unite for a common goal, yet Loghain spends most of the game doing everything in his power to try to discredit and kill off all Grey Wardens (after leaving the king and his army and most Grey Wardens to die in battle and then pinning the blame on the surviving Grey Wardens), dividing the nation into a needless (and gridlocked) civil war, and preventing the surviving Grey Wardens from doing their jobs of stopping the Blight. The Player Character can spend most of the endgame trying in vain to convince Loghain that they could have joined forces from the beginning and then addressed whatever issues they have with one another, and can even offer to join forces on the spot. Loghain, of course, rejects the Player Character's offer, forcing them to spend yet more time running around gathering proof that he's corrupt and support from other nobles to depose him, so they can finally direct their focus on the Blight rather than fighting each other. And all of this is due to Loghain's paranoia about the Grey Wardens being covert agents for Orlais, who he'd helped lead a rebellion against as a young man.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the main plots is a bloody Civil War between the Empire and the rebels lead by Ulfric Stormcloak, who kicked off the conflict by killing Skyrim's High King Torygg during a duel. According to court wizard Sybille Stentor, Torygg had a great deal of respect for Ulfric and probably would have declared independence if Ulfric had simply asked him to do it. However, Stentor is also of the opinion that there were other factors in playnote , so the whole "you should have just asked" portion would never have come into play in the first place.
- Far Cry:
- This is actually a secret ending in Far Cry 4. At the beginning of the plot, the main character, Ajay Ghale, has been captured by the dictator of the Himalayan nation of Kyrat, Pagan Min, while trying to find "Lakshmana" to bring his mother's ashes to. Min orders Ajay to stay in a dinning room in a compound and enjoy the plate of crab rangoon he has given him. If Ajay explores the mansion, he is liberated by Min's enemies, the insurgent group The Golden Path, who take Ajay off to the plot of the game. However, by simply staying put at the dinner table for about 13 minutes and thereby following Min's command, a cutscene triggers where Min returns and takes Ajay along for a helicopter ride to Lakshmana, during which he casually reveals several key plot points and twists in the process, and Ajay accomplishes his original objective, without getting involved in the Kyrati Civil War.
- Far Cry 5 has a similar secret. Refuse to put the handcuffs on Joseph Seed when ordered to, and the Sheriff and Rookie will walk away, despite the threats from the US Marshal present, and the game will end when they exit the church.
- Kid Icarus: Uprising: Viridi outright states that the entire Chaos Kin fiasco could have been avoided if Arlon had simply told Pit and Palutena that the Lunar Sanctum that they destroyed was a Tailor-Made Prison for the creature.
- If you're playing a Lightside Exile in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, then a great deal of the problems that crop up in your game (including at least one instance of an entire mining station being murdered) are a direct result of Goto's attempts to capture you to get you to do things he could've just asked you to do, as you can point out when you meet.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Princess Zelda had a prophetic dream warning her that Ganondorf wasn't truly loyal to the king and was plotting to steal the Triforce, and concocted a plan to stop him by having Link get to it first. Naturally, it would've been a very short game if it worked. Link proves too young to stand up to Ganondorf and their opening the Sacred Realm to get the Triforce hands it on a silver platter to Ganondorf who couldn't have accessed it otherwise. One Time Skip later an Older and Wiser Zelda admits this would't have happened if not for naive planning and in the ending sends Link back in time in order for them to avoid this.
- The Mass Effect universe has a centuries-long war being fought between the quarians and the geth, because the quarians saw the geth becoming self-aware and tried to destroy them, but lost the war and got driven off their planet. It turns out that the geth actually want peace with the quarians, and would happily give them their planet back if they just agreed to stop attacking the geth. Instead, the widespread (though still understandable) bigotry of the quarians in general, and the blind hatred of one individual quarian will get one of the species completely wiped out unless Shepard does literally everything right in their interactions with both sides. The paragon option to convince the quarians to make peace is to point this out.
Shepard: The geth don't want to fight you. If you can believe that for just one minute, this war will be over!
- In Neverwinter Nights 2, you can speak these words to a warlock who just murdered his own granddaughter, one of your allies, in a fit of rage. The warlock in question is trying to achieve the same thing you are, reforging the Sword of Gith so that the King of Shadows can be defeated, but he's spent the past two chapters trying to kill anyone who might own a shard of the sword, including you. You can also say this to the githyanki high commander after the boss fight against her. Like the warlock, she too wants the sword reforged so it can be used against the King of Shadows, but is so incensed by a crime she believes you committed against her race that she believes killing you is the only acceptable outcome.
- Paper Mario:
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door: After Mario and his party win the Boss Battle with Cortez, he gets up again, pointing out that he's a ghost and you can't kill him. Then he finds out that all you wanted was the Star (he had thought you wanted his entire treasure) and says he never liked that gem anyway, and gives it to you.
- Paper Mario: Color Splash: The main plot of the game surrounds Bowser being covered in black paint because he jumped into Prisma Fountain and mixed the colors together. Near the end of the game, Huey figures this out and says that the plot could've been resolved if a sign instructing not to mix the paint was added near the fountain.
- In Persona 5: When the Phantom Thieves confront the traitor of their group, they learn that the Traitor is not only in cahoots with the Big Bad, but that they're actually a Dragon with an Agenda. The traitor, Goro Akechi, plans to help Masayoshi Shido become Prime Minister, and then utterly destroy his political career by exposing his crimes, as well as admitting to being Shido's illegitimate son, which would ultimately cause Shido to have to finally care about Akechi as a son. The party rightfully points out that the plan has become basically pointless, as the traitor now knows they can simply steal the Big Bad's heart and force him to become a better person. The traitor refuses to acknowledge that solution, because it would mean their work and all the crimes he committed in the last two years would be for naught, and that they'd have to admit being second-best to Player Character Joker. It's implied that this may have possibly been invoked by Yaldabaoth as another part of Fixing the Game by giving Akechi his powers said two years ago, while giving Joker his at the beginning of the game itself. Assuring that the two would come into conflict with each other while he watches to see which of them would win, having already rigged the outcome for his own plan.
- During the Dénouement of Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, the Storyteller admits he really could have avoided his whole elaborate charade if the story he came up with to warn his young daughter off ringing the town bell wasn't that a witch would possess her if she did. A second example comes up when it turns out that Eve, not Espella, rang the Bell of Ruin, and the Storyteller knew all along. Eve claims that if the Storyteller had come out and said that Eve was responsible, then everything could have been avoided, but the Storyteller points out that he knew Eve had honestly believed Espella to be responsible for the fire, and he had no desire to call Eve a liar.
- In the Resident Evil 2 (Remake), the whole reason Claire gets trapped in Raccoon City during a Zombie Apocalypse is she went there to find her brother Chris. When she learns from Marvin that Chris left Raccoon City weeks ago to go on vacation in Europe, and that coming to the city was a complete waste of time, her morose response of "Vacation? That's... that's great news" is simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious.
- The first season of Sam & Max: Freelance Police has a Running Gag where the duo visit Bosco's store and Sam asks him if he has a number of items. Bosco almost always answers "no". However, Sam does this again in the season finale, asking for a few items that would have helped solve various puzzles in the previous episodes. This time, Bosco has everything he asks for. When Max hears this, he yells "Why didn't we ask sooner?"
- A minor example in Shantae and the Seven Sirens: Rottytops only disguised herself as Fillin the Blank because she assumed she wouldn't get invited to the island vacation by Shantae. Naturally, Shantae actually did want to invite Rottytops; the only reason she didn't was because she couldn't find her zombie friend. Because Rottytops had already enacted her plan. Also a downplayed example, as both Shantae and Rottytops later acknowledge that the latter was a Spanner in the Works that inadvertently helped save the day, meaning it was probably a good thing that misunderstanding occurred.
- Spec Ops: The Line is built around this trope. At the end you're told the whole game could've been over if Walker and co. had just completed their recon mission and radioed command. Instead, Walker treated his mission like an America Saves the Day plot, and not only did he doom Dubai, and his teammates, he also destroyed his sanity along the way. The game even chastises the player for continuing to play the game rather than stopping at a certain point. This trope is definitely Played for Drama.
- In test versions of the game, players actually had the option to report in when they were supposed to, but unsurprisingly, pretty much all of the playtesters did it without a second thought, prematurely ending the game.
- Grendor the Rhynoc, the Big Bad of Spyro: Season of Ice, captures all the fairies in an attempt to reverse the spell he accidentally put on himself. When Spyro defeats him and frees the last fairy, she flat out asks Grendor why he didn't just ask for help, then cures him with a wave of her wand.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Sith Inquisitor PC can tell their Arch-Enemy Darth Thanaton several times that the only reason they're fighting is because Thanaton is trying to kill them, and they're not going to just sit down and let him. They can even offer to accept him as their new Sith Master upon their first meeting. Thanaton is too stubborn to listen, insisting that Sith tradition demands their death.
- In Tales of the Abyss massive chunks of the game could have been skipped had Asch been more cooperative with The Team instead of taking turns leading them on with little explanation or antagonising Luke. This is lampshaded several times later on, as Luke is as baffled as the player by his stubborn uncooperativeness. Not to mention, outside of Asch, if the group hadn't kept Luke Locked Out of the Loop Akzeriuth might not have been destroyed something that Jade acknowledges as he in particular had information that would have most likely changed everything if it had been revealed before that happened.
- In Undertale, there are two examples during the True Pacifist route.
- When Toriel intervenes, saving you from Asgore, she lambastes him for his actions, saying that rather than wait for seven humans to fall down into the underground so that he could kill them and use their souls to destroy the barrier, he only needed to kill one human (a monster with a human's soul and vice versa can pass through) and then pass through the barrier to take the other six souls. Toriel concludes that Asgore was too cowardly to go out and kill humans or let his people down, and simply waited, hoping that no more humans would come.
- In the ending, if you ask to stay with Toriel, she'll tell you that if that's what you wanted, you should have said that near the beginning of the game, when your refusal to stay in the Ruins leads to the first major boss fight against her. Of course, she's also aware that your decision to leave the ruins ultimately resulted in the destruction of the barrier and freedom for all monsters.
- About 80% of the plot of Xenoblade Chronicles turns on a misunderstanding between Egil and the peoples of Bionis writ-large. Egil didn't have a vendetta against them personally, it was their forgotten god Zanza that he had a minor dispute with. It turns out though that Zanza was as much of threat to the peoples of Bionis as he was to the Egil and his people, though it was inconceivable to Egil that they would either a) actually stand up to oppose Zanza or b) even have the strength to stand against them in the first place. When Shulk and his friends prove him wrong spectacularly on both fronts he not only admits he was wrong, but makes amends for his horrific crimes in the most literally epic way possible.
- In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, once Zeke finally explains himself, pretty much everyone in the party calls him out on the fact that just saying his piece instead of persisting with his theatrics would have saved everyone a lot of grief. This is an example of that being a good thing, though. Sure, taking Rex to Indol much earlier would have alleviated the pressure of the party's status as wanted men, but the lack of resources and Character Development would have completely doomed Rex when he met the Big Bad.
- The entire main plot of Yakuza1, tragically enough. When travelling to the final showdown with Nishiki, Kiryu muses that if he had chosen to let Nishiki take responsibility for the murder of Sohei Dojima, he could quite likely have protected both Yumi and Yuko while Nishiki was in prison and let Nishiki build a strong career on the fear and respect he would have as a patriarch killer, and that in spite of his good intentions, his actions throughout the game did a lot more harm than good.
- Yes, Your Grace: The plot is kickstarted when Beyran, the bandit to whom King Eryk promised his first-born daughter for marriage in a bid to get away with his life, prepares to invade Eryk's kingdom unless the promise is kept. Eryk, however, has no intention of keeping his promise and marries his daughter to the Prince of a foreign kingdom with a large army. It later turns out that Beyran is actually leading a large group of peaceful refugees outside his home country, knew Eryk respecting his promise was a long shot, and was genuinely ready to discuss an alternative that wouldn't end with just-barely-of age girls married off to strangers. Meanwhile, Eryk's son-in-law is an abusive jerk who kills his new wife a few month into the marriage. After finding that information out, Eryk realizes he made a big mistake by assuming Beyran was coming to invade and wasn't open to discussion, and that many deaths and ill feelings could have been avoided.
- Ace Attorney:
- In the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations, Godot admits to Phoenix Wright that if he had warned Wright about the plot to kill Maya from the get-go, they would have avoided all of the drama, to say nothing of the death of Maya's mother. He even admits that he cared more about proving himself to his dead lover, Wright's mentor and Maya's sister Mia, than he did about Maya herself. He basically set up the whole scheme as a way to make up for sleeping through her death due to being in a coma.
- In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Phoenix was disbarred seven years ago (not long after Trials & Tribulations) because a rival tricked him into presenting forged evidence. When he meets the client from that case in the present day, said client, Zak Gramarye, reveals he had the real evidence, to Phoenix's shock.
- Phoenix notes in Spirit of Justice that both Tahrust's death and Maya's trial could have been completely avoided if Tahrust had asked Phoenix to defend his wife of murder accusations for Puhray Zeh'lot's death, which was simply on self-defense because Zeh'lot was trying to kill her. Instead, Tahrust, knowing that his wife would likely be sentenced to death for being a rebel and that any lawyer who defended her would share her fate, hid Zehlot's body under snow to hide the time of death and killed himself in order to frame Maya for his and Zeh'lot's deaths. As a result, Maya(and by extension, Phoenix) is convicted for killing Tahrust, and is nearly convicted for killing Zeh'lot before Phoenix uncovers the truth. Tahrust admits this, but says that he didn't trust lawyers that much.
- A Little Lily Princess: Mariette's route causes this to happen with a Contrived Coincidence that is present in the plot regardless of player choices. Focusing on Mariette during Act 2 results in her turning out to still be in London and eventually getting hired by Mr. Carrisford as he's preparing to move to France to follow one of his leads in searching for Sara. At the end of the story, Mariette realizes that paying more attention to the reasons for the eventual move to France could have potentially allowed her to tell Mr. Carrisford where Sara was much earlier. Sara points out that there were plenty of other missed opportunities to set things staight, such as Sara and Ram Dass forgetting to tell each other their respective names, which is an event common to all routes.
- How It Should Have Ended:
- In the Avatar video, the human scientists tell Jake that instead of leading the Na'vi to war, he could just have told them about the Unobtainium beneath their home tree, which would have led to a peaceful solution to the conflict. Jake admits he forgot about that just to hook up with Neytiri; and when one of the scientists remarks that people died, Jake can only sheepishly apologize.
- In the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice video, Superman says that Batman could have just talked to him, instead of trying to kill him.
- In the Winter Soldier video, Steve and Natasha have successfully escaped from all the HYDRA goons, and are now planning their next move. She then mentions the mask allowing her to mimic any face. Once they discuss it, they realize that they could have both avoided all that escape, and that there was a much simpler way to defeat HYDRA.
- Cucumber Quest mixes this with an Armor-Piercing Response. The original objective was to stop the Big Bad from collecting all the Disaster Stones, which would allow her to summon the Nightmare Knight. However, she eventually does get all the stones and resurrect the Knight. When Cucumber's sister Almond tries to shame him for his attempts at talking things out with one of the antagonists and he tries to defend himself, she tries to taunt him by asking if he thinks everything is her fault then. He bluntly says yes; the world wouldn't even need saving if Almond hadn't treated their quest as a game and voluntarily given one of the villains the last Disaster Stone just because she wanted to go on an adventure.
- 8-Bit Theater example: After traveling through a poison swamp, poison tundra, and plains of poison, the Light Warriors finally return to the entrance of Sarda's cave. He immediately teleports them inside.
Black Mage: Wait one damn second. Could you have done that at any time?
Sarda: No, not at any time. Don't be so stupid. Just any time I felt like it.
Black Mage: YEARGHBLEBLE!
- Of course, the 'irony' of this particular example is mitigated somewhat due to the later revelation that the sage Sarda - beyond simply being a general jerk - actually holds a bitterly vitriolic, personal grudge against most of the members of the Light Warriors and actively desires to see them suffer, making this seem less like an accidental oversight on Sarda's part and more like a contemptuously purposeful snub...
- In the El Goonish Shive storyline "So A Date At The Mall", Tara the gryphon attacks Elliot because an Immortal has told her that he's responsible for her wife Andrea not returning, and she believes Immortals can't lie, since this is the case in her plane of reality where they're called Ancients. After this has been resolved and they find Andrea, she says she told Tara about the difference between Immortals and Ancients, and Tara remembers a conversation she wasn't really listening to. Elliot and Nanase are not amused that Tara almost killed Elliot over a misconception that she was told otherwise about.
Tara: Whoops.Elliot and Nanase: "Whoops"?!
- In The Order of the Stick, dwarven cleric Durkon Thundershield was exiled from his homeland because of a prophecy that his next return would bring disaster to his people. Except that this prophecy was never told to Durkon himself, and this led to a buried resentment for his exile developing over the years. When his adventuring career ends due to his being turned into a vampire, the evil spirit that takes over his body as part of that is fueled by this resentment, giving it an edge in controlling him. And by that point, he'd actually successfully petitioned for permission to return, which was granted because nobody outside of a small circle knew about the prophecy. That not telling the Lawful Good dwarf about the reason he was exiled was a bad idea is lampshaded mercilessly in comic #1096:
Roy Greenhilt: You've met Durkon! I'm pretty sure if you'd told him it would help innocent people, he'd break his leg trying to boot his own ass out the door!
- At the end of the Kings War arc of Roommates James, the local hero who even fought a freaking war he didn't want, got confronted with the fact that the Conclave could have stopped the whole thing, but they didn't, they just congratulated the winner and told the loser about her coming punishment. They believe in Written by the Winners you see, so first they wanted to see who wins. This not only means that this arc's plot could have been avoided if they weren't so damn neutral, but also that they will let such things happen again.
- Scarlet Lady: At the end of the "Lady Wi-Fi" arc, Marinette points out to Alya that, had she bothered to think for two seconds and remembered that Marinette had been there during Scarlet Lady's debut or just asked her about the stuff she accidentally saw, she would have saved herself her problems and akumatization.
- Shortpacked!: One strip makes fun of Transformers: Prime when Megatron abducts the Autobots' friends and holds them hostage. Optimus points out Megatron could've literally chosen any three random humans and gotten the same effect, then quietly mutters to himself this is why their war's lasted so long.
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Gohan asks Krillin if "he used his Kienzan to chop Freeza in half" after using his Solar Flare. Krillin didn't.
- During JonTron's "StarCade" series, Jon's confused as to why Arin went through all of this trouble to capture him and stick him in the Millennium Falcon for six months playing bad Star Wars games, he tells him that he just wanted to play games for old time's sake. Jon responds by saying that he had his phone number, he could have called.
- Red vs. Blue: Forced to undertake Mental Time Travel, Washington tries to discover where Carolina was hiding when she faked her death. His problem is that the Freelancers he used to work with, especially Carolina, don't respect him enough to want to listen to him. At his wits end, he vents his troubles to the three worst Freelancers. It's the most mentally-challenged Freelancer in the entire program who points out that Wash could just travel to a point in time where he and Carolina are friends and ask her directly. When Wash does that and discovers Carolina is indeed receptive to his question, he can't hold back his frustration at having missed such an easy solution.
- Reviewed In 10 Words Or Less sums up Cinderella with this:
"If the evil stepmother used a mousetrap, she would've won."
- The Shark Pool trailer is based around this. There's a shark in the pool. They have no idea how to stop the deaths.
Girl: I can't believe she's dead. How many more people is this thing going to kill?
Guy: What? Uh, none. Just don't go in the pool.
- Sword Art Online Abridged: Kayaba locked the players in Sword Art Online to cover up a glitch that accidentally killed people by making it look intentional. That part was justified by Exhaustion-Induced Idiocy, as he had been awake for several weeks due to the launch crunch. However, Asuna asks him why he didn't just blame his actions on hackers pretending to be him, since that would make more sense than the actual reason, and then he could get real help from the government. Kayaba says the problem with that plan is that he didn't think of it and wished he did two years ago.
- One of the first lines of The Veronica Exclusive is Veronica saying, "You know, it didn't have to be this way. We could've been okay, we could've been..." The rest of the show is a How We Got Here, showcasing what, exactly, we could've avoided. Towards the end of the show, Jane says almost the exact same line, word-for-word.
- Considering that Duels Decide Everything and many of the characters (usually the antagonists) tend to have Complexity Addictions, this trope frequently occurs in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. One example would be Yami ranting to Pegasus about all the unnecessary death, expense and pointless angst he caused by setting up the Duelist Kingdom tournament just to try and cheat Yugi out of the Millennium Puzzle.
"Did you ever consider just asking me for it? I mean, do you have any idea how much time and money you've wasted with this whole façade? People have died because you wanted a necklace! I killed a gay clown for Ra's sake!"
- In the Adventure Time episode "Princess Potluck", The Ice King sabotages Princess Bubblegum's party, because he was angry and lonely due to not being invited. When he gets around to asking why he wasn't invited, it turns out he actually was, he just never got the invitation since he never checks his mail.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius:
- In the pilot episode, Carl points out that if Jimmy just picked up his pants regularly, none of the events in the episode would have happened.note
- In The Feud, though none of them say so directly, the Neutrons and Wheezers are angry at Sheen since he never told Hugh that Sam at The Candy Bar borrowed Hugh's Lawn Lopper. Now realizing that they started the whole feud for nothing, everybody becomes furious with Sheen and they menacingly advance on him as the episode ends.
- The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3: In "Tag Team Trouble", Toad is tasked with bringing a donation to an orphanage. He falls asleep outside of the door and isn't woken up to be informed that the orphanage got the money. Only after the Mario Bros. win the wrestling tournament is he told this which results in the orphanage getting double the original donation.
Toad: Another bag? Wait a second! Then Koopa didn't steal it! And the orphans had it all along! Then I didnt need to... AAAAHH!
- In the Adventures of the Gummi Bears episode "Duel of the Wizards", a wizard gets ticked off because his magic key was stolen by Duke Igthorn, and he gets in a fight with Zummi and Gruffi. After he finally tells Zummi what he was looking for...
Zummi: If you had just accepted our help when we first offered it, we could have avoided all this trouble.
- The Arthur episode "Arthur the Wrecker" sees Arthur wanting to play a game on his mother's computer, despite her telling him not to until after dinner. When Buster persuades him to do it anyway, the boys end up making the screen go black. They can't fix it and assume the worst, so Arthur desperately tries to cover up the mistake and lies to his mother even further. When she finally does find out, though, she fixes the problem in seconds (there's a reset switch on the back of the computer) and tells Arthur that if he'd called her sooner or told the truth, he'd have saved himself a lot of unnecessary grief. As punishment for lying and disobeying her, Jane forbids him from playing any computer games for a week, which only adds to the trope—had Arthur just listened to her instead of letting Buster convince him to break the rules, he would have avoided any kind of punishment.
- Danny Phantom: Danny spends one episode fighting a ghost genie, Desiree. He learns about a third of the way in that she must grant wishes asked of her, one wish per asker; she doesn't have a choice. It's the end of the episode before Danny thinks of wishing her into the Fenton Thermos. Danny even lampshades it by commenting on how he should have thought of that a lot sooner.
- One episode of Doug sees Doug accidentally breaking a ceramic knickknack that his mother Theda owns. Judy witnesses him do it and promises not to tell, but only if Doug will do whatever she says. After slaving away under Judy's demands, Doug angrily reviews the contract she made him sign and discovers that it will be null and void if their mother ever finds out the truth. He promptly confesses what happened to Theda himself, and receives the fair punishment of being grounded for a week. Doug promptly lampshades the trope when he remarks that he would have been punished less had he gone to Theda sooner—she was more upset with him trying to cover up his mistake rather than shattering the knickknack, which she already hated.
- An episode of Ewoks named "The Haunted Village" features the evil Duloks trying to steal some of the Ewoks' soap in order to chase insects away. By mistake they steal a magic one which shaman Logray has developed to hide the food supply from the dragon-like Mantigrue. This not only allows them to cause all sorts of trouble, but also leaves the Ewoks no way to protect their food. Upon learning of the theft, Logray fumes that the he would have shared the regular soap with the Duloks if they'd only just asked.
- The episode "Eye of the Storm" features Odin trying to retrieve the eye of Odin from Goliath. Instead of explaining the situation and asking for it back, Odin leaves Elisa for dead, then tries to steal it before finally trying to kill them all to get it back. If he had just asked Goliath would have returned it, but his actions ensured Goliath would never give it up. Goliath then uses the Eye to stop Odin, and nearly kills everyone. Odin and Goliath then both lament that they could have prevented this if they acted more appropriately.
- In an earlier Halloween episode (also involving the Eye of Odin), Xanatos reserves asking the gargoyles for help as Plan D, which the clan immediately lampshade. Considering Xanatos was delaying calling them in on a case that involved a human-sized, very fast and strong, magic fox released by the Eye, and Xanatos doesn't want the fox hurt, and the clan were able to take the fox down quickly once they knew of the problem, the lampshading and snarking were thoroughly earned
- In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), a technomancer named Sortek disrupts all the technology on Eternia in order to force He-Man and Skeletor into assisting him with a task. The task turns out to be so trivial that He-Man tells Sortek he would have helped if he'd just asked nicely.
- The Jackie Chan Adventures episode "Return of the Pussycat" has Jackie accidentally freeing the evil troll Spring-Heeled Jack, who was turned into a statue centuries ago by Simon Magus. Spring-Heeled Jack sets out to devour Magus's descendants as punishment. As the heroes chase Jack all over the city and wonder who he could possibly be after, they're shocked when he ends up at Jade's school to devour a friend of hers named Simone...which is when Jade realizes that she should have known exactly where the troll was going:
Jade: Spring-Heeled Jack is after Simone?!...Simone...Magus. Big giant DUH!
- In the last episode of Jumanji Alan finds out that to leave the game permanently he had to remove a thorn from the paw of a lion that had been chasing him since the moment he was pulled into the game. He succeeds and is free from the game, but is momentarily stunned that he could have been free within minutes instead of spending most of his life inside if he had confronted the lion instead of running away.
- King of the Hill: In "Naked Ambition", Boomhauer goes tubing but mistakenly winds up in Houston. Since he's wearing nothing but a speedo, sunburned and has his indecipherable way of speaking, he gets mistaken as a crazy man and taken to a mental hospital. When Boomhauer calls Dale to get him out, rather than walking in and calmly talking to a psychiatrist and explain what happened, Dale decided to "rescue" Boomhauer by infiltrating the hospital, and both of them sneaking out unnoticed. Unfortunately, Dale gets locked inside, and when he goes to talk to the psychiatrist, Dale simply convinces the doctor, accidentally, that he's just another delusional patient. When they call Bill for help, he starts off trying to tell them there was a mistake before voluntarily admitting himself, later inadvertently blowing an escape plan that they thought up. When the guys finally call Hank, he explains that Boomhauer had fulfilled his 72 hours of observation and was found to be harmless and is allowed to go, Dale is also free to go since he wasn't admitted into the hospital (but the doctor recommends he keeps taking his medication), and Bill is allowed to stay as long as he wants (although Hank still makes Bill leave with them).
- Looney Tunes: Wile E. Coyote, trying to capture Bugs Bunny, envisions this trope in action after calmly explaining to Bugs why Bugs stands no chance against a powerful and intelligent predator, when Wile E. wonders why "they always want to do it the hard way!"
- The series finale of Mighty Orbots plays out this way. The Orbots' birthday is approaching and they're wondering what Rob is planning for them. So, they hack into his computer and find plans for robots that look just like them. They set out to prove their worth and interfere with Umbra's latest scheme. After they get in over their heads, Rob comes to help them out and they end up defeating Umbra once and for all. After all is said and done, Rob asks why they did that and Ohno reveals they found the plans. Rob asks them if they checked the date on the file and informs them they were looking at their own plans. He had something more festive in mind for their birthday and had no intention of replacing them.
- Muppet Babies (1984):
- One episode opens with the babies playing hide and seek. When they finish, Animal is missing. They go to search for him, but decide not to tell Nanny because they're afraid of getting in trouble. They fail to find Animal before lunch and decide to tell Nanny anyway. It turns out that Animal was with her watching television the whole time.
- Another episode has Rowlf taking care of a neighbor's pet mouse when the rodent goes missing. Again, they decide not to tell Nanny because they're afraid of getting into trouble and launch a search. The search gets interrupted several times by Animal playing with a toy police car only for the others to stop him. When they fail to find the mouse, Nanny gets involved and asks Animal to find it. He again plays with the toy police car, but this time they let him finish. When he finishes, the mouse comes out of hiding.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "The Ticket Master", after Twilight receives two tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala, all of her friends (and eventually everyone else in Ponyville) attempt to "convince" her to give them the extra ticket. Twilight eventually sends both tickets back to Princess Celestia, saying that if she can't bring all of her friends, then she doesn't want to go either. Celestia's reply is "Why didn't you just say so in the first place?", after which she sends extra tickets for all of the mane cast (and Spike).
- In "A Bird in the Hoof", Fluttershy, being a Friend to All Living Things decides (without asking permission) to look after Princess Celestia's "sick" bird. Fluttershy struggles to nurse the bird back to health, but apparently "fails" as the bird seemingly turns to ashes. It then turns out that the bird is actually a phoenix, after which Fluttershy learns that if she had just asked Celestia first, she would have known ahead of time.
- In "Lesson Zero" Twilight's friends realized that if they had taken Twilight's worries seriously from the start (even if they did think she was blowing things out of proportion) they could've acted to help Twilight and avoid the hilarity that ensued at episode's end. Celestia also comments on the trope, remarking that had Twilight simply asked her for more time to write a letter or explained the situation, she would have reassured her that it was OK to skip a week.
- In "Swarm of the Century", after spotting the parasprites for the first time, Pinkie Pie starts scrambling around town for random musical instruments, without telling anyone else why. The rest of the town has been preoccupied with preparing for Celestia's visit, so they chalk it up to Pinkie being Pinkie. Had Pinkie told them ahead of time that music was the only way to stop the parasprites, or had somepony stopped Pinkie to ask her about the instruments, they could've avoided the town getting overrun by the parasprites. Twilight acknowledges as much at the end of the episode, once Pinkie's led the parasprites out of town.
- The second Season Finale "A Canterlot Wedding - Part 1" combines this with Aesop Amnesia regarding the previously mentioned "Lesson Zero": if everyone else had just paid more attention to Cadance's acting instead of assuming Twilight's outburst was only fueled by jealousy, they might have figured out much sooner that "Princess Cadance" was actually Queen Chrysalis, a shapeshifting succubus plotting to feed on Shining Armor's love for the real Cadance and launch a full-scale invasion on Equestria with her army of Changelings, which she very nearly succeeds at doing in "Part 2", even overpowering Princess Celestia thanks to her love-induced power-up—but not before rubbing this trope in the faces of Twilight's ashamed friends.
Queen Chrysalis: It's funny, really. Twilight here was suspicious of my behavior all along. Too bad the rest of you were too caught up in your wedding planning to realize those suspicions were correct!
- In the third season episode "One Bad Apple," the whole situation regarding Babs Seed could've been resolved if Apple Bloom and Scootaloo had just listened to Sweetie Belle and told Applejack about it. Applejack tells them this at the end of the episode. However, Applejack falls into this as well. A lot of Babs's behavior made sense to the Cutie Mark Crusaders once she told them about what Babs had gone through in Manehattan. She did, however, explain she intentionally chose not to say anything to avoid getting Babs singled out over things the kid would rather forget.
- The fifth season episode "Brotherhooves Social" has Apple Bloom devastated over not being able to participate with Applejack in the Sisterhooves Social. Big Macintosh overhears Granny Smith telling her that that it shouldn't matter who her partner is as long as they both represent the spirit of the social. He dresses in drag and a wig and pretends to be Apple Bloom's cousin "Orchard Blossom" so he can participate with her. After Big Mac is disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct, the judges point out that his "Orchard Blossom" getup was pointless because there never was a rule barring stallions from the social.
- In "Grannies Gone Wild", Rainbow Dash is asked to chaperone Granny Smith and her buddies on a trip, while Rainbow desperately wants to go on a roller coaster. Rainbow eventually loses her patience with the old folks and ends up disrupting things. When the old folks find out what Rainbow really wanted, they point out she should have just told them. They would have been happy to go and they have a lot of influence, allowing them to get past the long lines. This was partially Applejack's fault because she assumed the old folks must avoid strenuous activity and told Rainbow this, underestimating their resilience. The episode ends with Rainbow and the old folks enjoying the roller coaster.
- In "Horse Play," Applejack repeatedly tells Twilight that lying to Celestia about how terrible her acting is will only spell disaster. Twilight ignores the warnings, saying that she wants Celestia's dream of acting in a play to come true. When Twilight eventually snaps about the terrible acting, Celestia is right behind her, and admonishes Twilight not for saying she's a bad actress, but for not knowing to just be honest about it. Celestia even lampshades that Twilight should have listened to Applejack in the first place.
- In the season 9 premiere "The Beginning of the End," Discord initially refuses to help the Mane Six deal with the resurrected King Sombra, stating that since Twilight and her friends will be ruling Equestria once the princesses retire they should be able to handle this on their own. He eventually relents and lends a hand when things start getting out of hand, only to apparently be beaten by Sombra when he jumps in the way to protect Fluttershy from him. He gives a Rousing Speech to the Mane Six that gives them the confidence needed to beat Sombra and is seen recovering from his injury afterwards. But once the princesses announce they will wait a little longer before retiring to give Twilight time to prepare, Discord angrily reveals he faked being injured to give everyone the confidence they need to rule Equestria and since it is not happening immediately now he feels his efforts were wasted. The others actually realize this means he could have defeated King Sombra whenever he wanted to, though Fluttershy says he didn't because he cares about them.
- An episode of Phineas and Ferb, "Fireside Girl Jamboree", features Candace attempting to join the Fireside Girls so that she can go to an exclusive Paisley Sideburn Brothers concert. The only way for her to become a Fireside Girl without having to wait for the next meeting is to earn 50 patches in one day. Phineas and Ferb help her by plotting a course that takes Candace across Danville and helps her to earn her patches, ranging from normal items such as senior service and delivering cupcakes to oddities like ice-cream juggling, chainsaw-sculpting, and wrestling an alligator in a sewer. She narrowly succeeds and becomes a Fireside Girl, but it turns out that each of the Fireside Girls could invite guests to the concert.
- PJ Masks: In "Owlette's Terrible Pterodactyl Trouble," when Connor scares Amaya as a joke in a school trip, Amaya begins to give him the cold shoulder to the point where she, on a mission, begins to disobeys his orders, unless he apologized, but refuses to accept it for not being a "very big sorry", which jeopardized the mission and then put Connor in danger when he lost control of the Pterodactyl model to Romeo, while chasing after her. Amaya feels ashamed of all of that.
- The Powerpuff Girls:
- The episode "Fallen Arches" has a group of elderly supervillains known as the Ministry of Pain come out of retirement, but Blossom refuses to let her sisters fight them out of a misguided sense of respecting your elders, causing the rest of the town to think that they're afraid of the Ministry's notorious reputation. Blossom then convinces the equally elderly Captain Righteous and Lefty to come out of retirement as well. The episode ends with all the elders being taken to the emergency room and the news reporter commenting that all this could've been avoided if the Powerpuff Girls had just saved the day. To top it off, the usual closing shot instead features Bubbles and Buttercup glaring angrily down at poor Blossom.
- The episode "Three Girls and a Monster" has a giant, Nigh-Invulnerable Captain Ersatz of Yellow Taoking show up and lays waste to Townsville. Blossom and Buttercup spend the entire episode trying to beat it individually to show whether Brains or Brawn is the best way. Finally Bubbles, annoyed at the other two, just flies up and asks the monster nicely if it could stop destroying the town and leave. It does.
- One episode has Dot partially erased by a magnet and in need of extremely slow food from Al's Diner to reverse the condition, sending Bob on a quest to find some and ultimately ending up in a game cube with the food trying to get out in time to rescue Dot. She shows up in the game cured, though, as she is a business partner with Al and just called him up for an order. Granted she did try to tell him, but in her messed up condition he couldn't understand through her stuttering.
- Played for Laughs in one episode where Hexadecimal is musing over how she could enter the Super Computer with a snap of the finger whenever she feels like it but really can't be bothered, while Megabyte's entire driving motive has been to invade it but has been foiled at every turn. She laughs about how she'd be more than happy to whip up a portal for him if he'd just ask her nicely. Assuming she's not just messing around of course, every plot where Megabyte has tried to get into the Super Computer could be avoided.
- Rocket Power: In "Big Air Dare", Reggie and Otto compete against each other to see who is better at snowboarding. A guard escorts them off "The Big Air", a slope meant for experienced adult snowboarders only. They return to have the challenge the following morning where Otto breaks his leg. The same guard from before tells Ray that if Otto listened to him, he wouldn't have gotten hurt.
- In Silverwing, the bat colony loses their home because Shade looked at the sun, a rule that their rivals, the owls, had laid down for the bats to follow. His rival Chinook gets chewed out by his friend Todd for this, saying that if he hadn't insulted Shade and dared him to look at the sun, they would still be at home.
- South Park:
- "Coon 2: Hindsight" features Captain Hindsight, a superhero whose superpower is to instantly be able to tell people how they could have avoided something from happening, even if he wasn't there when it happened.
- "The New Terrance and Phillip Movie Trailer" deals with the boys trying to watch the premiere of the new trailer for the Terrence and Phillip sequel, but Cartman accidentally destroys Stan's TV, leading them to run all over town to try to watch it. Throughout the episode, Butters tells them watching it at his house is an impossibility. When they finally ask why after they've exhausted every other option, he tells them it's because his parents aren't home and he doesn't have a babysitter. Furious that there was a TV with no distractions this entire time, they declare they will kill him after they watch the trailer at his house.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- In "I Was a Teenage Gary", Squidward offers to take care of Gary while SpongeBob and Patrick are out of town for the weekend. Squidward neglects Gary the entire time, to the point where he becomes severely emaciated. A doctor gives SpongeBob and Squidward snail plasma, but Squidward accidentally injects SpongeBob with it. When Squidward sees its results, he's horrified and acknowledges that all of this could have been avoided had he just fed Gary.
- In "Pranks a Lot", SpongeBob and Patrick buy invisible spray and trick Bikini Bottom into thinking they're ghosts. At the end, their ruse is discovered while they're caught naked in front of the entire town, no less. SpongeBob tells Patrick that they should have bought a whoopee cushion instead.
- In "Tea At The Treedome", after SpongeBob and Patrick are shown looking really dehydrated, Sandy tells SpongeBob and Patrick that they should have asked for water. Subverted in that SpongeBob actually did ask for water earlier, but as he brought Sandy some flowers as a present, she thought he meant he wanted a vase of water to keep the flowers in.
- In the Steven Universe episode "Onion Trade," as Onion floods the town with Dave Guy action figures from Pearl's Replicator Wand, Pearl asks Steven why he didn't just use the replicator to duplicate another Ranger Guy instead of trading it to Onion. Cue "Dang it!" from Steven.
- An episode of VeggieTales, "Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space", Larry-Boy constantly asks Alfred what he can do to stop the Fib. While waiting for the answer, he wastes tires, causes the Larryplane to crash, and gets squeezed so hard a plunger comes off. When it does come, Alfred tells him that he can do... absolutely nothing. This was his response:
Larry-Boy: N-nothing? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME THAT BEFORE I JUMPED AT HIS HEAD?!!Alfred: Well, my calculations were not finished.