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 ó 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.
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 were 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. Please remember this trope allows In-Universe Examples Only, and do not confuse with events unfolding according to the Theory of Narrative Causality.
- 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!New 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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."
- Letter Bee: In the "Letter to Jiggy Pepper" arc, a girl named Nelly and her brother Nello were once friends with Jiggy Pepper before he left town to become a Letter Bee. Nello, dying of a disease, wrote a letter to Jiggy and confessed to being "so angry," which Nelly believed meant that he was angry with Jiggy Pepper, and caused her to steal Lag's crossing pass in order to deliver Nello's letter herself. It turns out that Nello was angry with himself for not being able to get better so that he could protect his sister, he encouraged Jiggy to follow his dreams, and Jiggy left to finance building a church in the village.
- 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.
- In Katekyō Hitman Reborn! if Checkerface aka Kawahira had sought help from the humans rather than use them as living batteries he could have saved many lives. It is Talbot who invents a device that keeps the rings powered for eternity.
- A Certain Scientific Railgun:
- The first major villain's machinations lead 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. The heroes essentially call her out on the fact that she wasn't open about such an altruistic motive, but she counters that she tried the easy way first, dozens of times in fact, but the administration of the city blocked 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 her telepathy, and she 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 Haiyore! Nyarko-san, 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.
- 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 Happiness Charge 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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 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.
- 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 War World story, Superman seeks his missing cousin Supergirl out 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 all what Superman needed to do was ask.
- 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 wreched 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 did kill Magneto when he had the chance, and he was frequently called upon it.
- 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.
- In the Russian fairy tale, "Tsarevich Ivan And The Grey 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 hadnít 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 didnít you tell me this earlier?! (Beat) OhÖ yeah, I would have had to tell you first, right?
- 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.
- 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 Mindís additional support when she arrives on the scene helps as well. Fortunately, they're both very understanding about the whole thing.
- Disney Animated Canon:
Woody: I'm lost, Andy is gone, they're gonna move from their house in two days, and it's all your fault!
- Toy Story plays this straight when Woody and Buzz, stranded at the gas station, argue about whose fault it is that they ended up there.
Buzz: My... my fault? If you hadn't pushed me out of the window in the first place...
Woody: OH... yeah? Well if YOU hadn't shown up in your stupid little cardboard spaceship and taken away everything that was important to me...
- 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 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.
- The entire plot of Brother Bear would never have happened if Kenai had simply secured the basket of fish properly like he was supposed to. This is even pointed out in the DVD Commentary by Rutt and Tuke.
- In Chicken Run, the chickens could have escaped that farm a long time ago had they 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.
- 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 meet the Pagemaster, Richard inconclusively berates the Pagemaster for making him go through all the hell he had to go through until the Pagemaster points out that he sent Richard through it all for a purpose: if Richard had been brought to the Exit, let alone gone home, right from the start, he wouldn't have learned how to face his own fears and his friends still wouldn't have been checked out.
- 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!"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Author Matt Stover presents an interesting twist on this one in 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.
- 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.
- A funny version in the Carol Higgins Clark novel 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.
- 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.
- 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 the Jeff Stage novel 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 Steven Kellogg book 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.
- Guy de Maupassant's classic short story "The Necklace" is one of the most heartbreaking examples of this tropes in fiction. 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.
- As said in Broken Gate, Nezumi would have lifted her curse, had Ryuuji, her older brother, accepted his chance for forgiveness or had not have opted to abuse her in the first place (a reason as to why she put a curse on him).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Angel Wesley abducted an infant Connor, believing a prophecy which stated Angel would kill his own son. Later, as Wesley lies injured in the hospital after his plan led to Connor's disappearance into a 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. Everyone else agrees Angel could never kill his son.
- 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, justificably 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.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
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 the Season 2 premiere, Buffy, having Took a Level in Jerkass since the Season 1 finale, 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 Season 5, 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 Community episode "Basic Genealogy", a police officer points out that a fist fight could have been avoided if Pictionary would just ban the word windmill.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 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).
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- About 80% of the plot of Xenoblade 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Paper Mario: Color Splash, Huey claims that they could've avoided the entire plot if the paint fountain had a sign that said not to mix all the paint together.
- In 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.
- 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.
- Itís 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 could see who would win over the other, having already rigged the outcome for his own plan.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Ace Attorney
- In the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials & 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 years ago 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. Phoenix demands to know why the client withheld the evidence, and Zak explains that the evidence, while clearing him, would have gotten his troupe-mate indicted in his stead, and Zak was hoping to avoid that.
- 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 Zehlot's death, which was simply on self-defense because Zehlot was trying to kill her. Tahrust admits this, but says that he didn't trust lawyers that much.
- In Cucumber Quest, 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. Why is this? Well, as Cucumber bluntly points out to his sister Almond, none of that would have happened if Almond hadn't voluntarily given her 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!
- 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.
- 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.
Tara: Whoops.Elliot: "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 told him it would help innocent people, he'd break his leg trying to boot his own ass out the door!
- The fictional 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.
- 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.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, Yami rants to Pegasus about all the unnecessary death, expense and pointless angst he's caused by setting up the Duelist Kingdom tournament 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!"
- During Jon Tron'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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Gargoyles 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 episode (also involving the Eye of Odin), Xanatos reserves asking the gargoyles for help as Plan D, which the clan immediately lampshade.
- 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, afterwhich Fluttershy learns that if she had just asked Celestia first, she would have known ahead of time.
- While Spike did try to take steps to prevent a bad outcome, much of "Lesson Zero" could've been avoided had Twilight simply accepted Spike's advice that missing one letter to Celestia wouldn't doom her to Magic Kindergarten. More significantly, 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.
- 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 Twilight or one of the others 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 listened to Twilight Sparkles concerns instead of assuming her outburst was fueled by jealousy, they would 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 the 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.
- 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. In the result, 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: WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME THAT BEFORE I JUMPED ON HIS HEAD?!!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 season 6 episode "The New Terrence and Phillip 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.
- The Adventure Time episode "Princess Potluck": When Princess Bubblegum forgets to invite him to her party, The Ice King, who is very lonely and pissed off, sabotages it before he asks why she forgot to invite him. It turns out he didn't get his invitation because he never looks at his mail.
- In the pilot episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Carl says that if Jimmy just picked up his pants regularly, none of the events in the episode would have happened.note
- Also in The Feud, Though none of them say directly, the Neutrons and Wheezers are angry at Sheen for this at the end of "The Feud" since he never told Hugh that Sam at The Candy Bar borrowed Hugh's Lawn Lopper prior to the titular feud. Now, they are at feud with the Estevezs for their stupidity.
- 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.
- 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.
- The episode "Three Girls and a Monster" has a giant, Nigh Invulnerable Captain Ersatz of Yellow Taoking shows 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.
- 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.
- In the Steven Universe episode "Onion Trade," as Onion floods the town with Dave Guy action figues 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.