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Counting to Three

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King Arthur: "One! ...Two! ...FIVE!"
Sir Galahad: "Three, sir!"
King Arthur: "THREE!"

"Troper, I'll give you to three to stop reading this description."


"Don't try to defy me! This technique is very effective. Parents, especially Sitcom parents, use this technique to keep their kids in line all the time! And it's most definitely based on a very effective real-life technique! All it takes is a slow count to three delivered in The "Mom" Voice. Sure, the kids always defy their parents at one, but then we get to..."


"Sometimes, fighters subvert this trope by launching into action here. Of course, in our case, this is when the kids bolt to their rooms for fear of punishment. What's the punishment, you ask? Eh heh... Um... The other option here is that the kids realize that the parent doesn't want to punish them, and so they continue to be defiant instead. In that case, you might notice that the pace of the numbers becomes comparable to a Magic Countdown."

"Two and a half..."

"Come on now... Wouldn't you much rather read up on Rule of Three, Timed Mission, Just in Time, Race Against the Clock, Exact Time to Failure, or Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, which are all somewhat related to this trope? Or maybe you'd like to look through Insufferable Genius or Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist - the kinds of people who are often on the receiving end of this trope. And the Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy also gets this a lot, but he actually lets the counter get to three before demonstrating that he knows kung fu. At least have a look at Knight Templar Parent, which is one type of character who often employs this trope. And this is not to be confused with On Three."

"Two and three quarters..."


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Lagoon. In "Roberta's Blood Trail" the Power Trio of Action Girls are about to attack the American special forces on the count of three, but the Russian Mafia snipers shoot their weapons from their hands.
  • From the Metroid Manga:
    Samus: Ridley! I'll defeat you on the count of three. If you're capable, let's count together.
    • With each number she fires a different weapon, and Ridley's down after "Three."
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bandit Keith, angry over losing in the semi-finals of the Duelist Kingdom tournament (never mind the fact that he cheated), holds a gun to Pegasus' head and demands the prize money, giving him until the count of three. Pegasus calmly says, "Fine, one two three," and taps a button that opens a trap door under Keith, sending him falling into the ocean.
    • This is then subverted by Blood Shepherd in Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS, who tells people that he's counting to three before shooting at the count of two to catch his opponent off guard.

    Comic Books 
  • Wolverine counts to 3 with his fist under another person's chin as added incentive for the person not to defy him.
    "One." [Left claw *SNIKTs* out.]
    "Two." [Right claw *SNIKTs* out.]
    The victim usually begins singing before he gets to three.

    Fan Works 
  • In Alone, Together, Will Du thinks he has Shego cornered and announces that he's coming in on the count of ten. He counts to two, bursts in, and tasers a green neon sign Shego left to cover her retreat.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, an irate John gives the guy pounding on their door in the wee hours of the morning a count of ten to take himself off before the four do something nasty to him (like drop him out of their tenth-floor window “like the last set of buggers, and this time we might not be nice enough to catch you before you hit the ground!”). John starts counting, but the guy hastily explains who he is just when John gets to three.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act VI: In chapter 25, an HDA officer does this; refusing to believe that the rylo demon is not their pet and that Moka and co. aren't involved in the attack on the city, he gives them to the count of ten to either call it off or kill it before he just has his men gun them all down, and only then will they listen to anything they have to say. Just as he reaches ten, Astreal, aided by Hex's power, manifests the powerful Artimus Arrow and shoots the rylo down. The HDA gives in at that, and the director agrees to meet with Moka to talk things out.

    Films — Animated 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Roarke gives the Atlantean King to the count of ten to show him where the Heart of Atlantis is hidden.
    Roarke: One...two...nine...te- ["Eureka!" Moment]
  • In Despicable Me, Gru tells the girls he's going to count to three and they better be in his, erm, vehicle by three. He counts one, then two, then the scene cuts to the girls' ballet class as the teacher says "three, four", showing that the girls overruled Gru.
  • At the climax of The Jungle Book (1967), when Mowgli finally comes face to face with Shere Khan, the tiger decides to toy with him a bit by closing his eyes and counting to ten because "it makes the chase more interesting."
    Shere Khan: One...two...three... [peeks and sees Mowgli wielding a branch] four... You're trying my patience. Fivesixseveneight, nine, ten! *ROAR!*
  • In The LEGO Ninjago Movie, when Lord Garmadon orders Lloyd to free him from a bamboo cage that Wu trapped him in, he resorts to counting to three to try and get him to comply, which Lloyd doesn't adhere to.
    Garmadon: Hmm, thought that was supposed to work with kids...
  • In The Lion King 1 ½, when Simba is jumping around in a tree.
    Timon: Young lion, get down from there!
    Simba: Yahoo! All right! Hey, you guys look like ants down there!
    Timon: I'm counting to three!
    [Simba jumps onto a weak branch, it breaks]
    Pumbaa: Uh oh!
    [Simba continues to fall]
    Timon: One! Two!
    [Pumbaa jumps onto Timon, making a pillow for Simba to land on]
    Timon: [Gasping for air] Threeeeee.
  • In Tarzan, Jane does this when trying to get a sketch picture of the baby baboon from said baby baboon. But when she reaches two, she just makes the baboon look one way for bananas before getting it back.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 
  • This fits perfectly with the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, as seen in 24
    Jack Bauer: I am going to ask you one last time. Who are your co-conspirators? You have until the count of three, or I will kill you.
    • That particular instance is a subversion, though. Jack Bauer needed President Logan alive so that he could plant a recording device on him. He never actually intended to follow through with his threats.
  • Blake's 7.
  • Doctor Who. In "Survivors of the Flux", Karvanista is not amused that Bel has stolen a Lupari spacecraft, and gives her the count of one to evacuate it before he comes on board and kills her. She doesn't.
  • In one episode of The Honeymooners, Ralph is worried that the I.R.S. is investigating his taxes. Ed Norton tries to relax him and to get his mind off of it, but Ralph becomes so agitated that he orders Ed to leave.
    Ralph: Norton, I'm gonna count to five, and when I get to five, you better be out the door. Now I'm gonna count!
    Ed: I'm not a-scared of you. If you could count, they wouldn't be investigating your taxes!
  • Jessie: In "Karate Kid-Tastrophie" when Emma enters wearing an inappropriate outfit, Jessie slowly does this in an attempt to get her to change her clothes. She does not move once, and instead stares at her with a smirk and her arms folded as if saying, "Make me."
  • An episode of Malcolm in the Middle had Lois enter a room, walk to the center and announce that she knew exactly where Dewey is hiding and that he'd better come out by the count of 3. Then she counts down, waits a second, and goes to do that until she hits the room where he is.
  • On an episode of M*A*S*H, Winchester storms into Rosie's bar, furious to find out that Hawkeye and BJ are in the middle of a drunken party when they're supposed to be relieving him for Officer of the Day duties. He announces that he is "going to count to one." Unfortunately, he doesn't even get that far before the other officers hog-tie and gag him.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus, uses a count-down version of this trope as a warning of death by bazooka:
    Brian: Right, you've got five seconds...Where are the fillings? [slowly] Five, four, three, two, one, Zero! Zero! Oh! Hah! Forgot to fire it!
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Waking Moments" hostile aliens use a device to make the crew fall asleep. Chakotay tells an alien to shut off the device at gunpoint. He starts to count down from five and falls asleep on two.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: In "Strange Things", Derek discovers a bunch of photos of his protege John Connor in the apartment of his New Old Flame Jesse. When she comes out of the shower wearing just a Modesty Towel, she finds him pointing a gun to her and he gives her three seconds for her to explain herself before he shoots her.
  • The Untamed: Inverted. When Jin Zixun continues to be reluctant in telling Wei Wuxian where the surviving Wens are being detained, Wei Wuxian threatens to use lethal force if he doesn't start talking and begins to count down from three to one. Jin Zixun caves after Wei Wuxian counts down to two.

    Oral Tradition 
  • A few jokes are based around this trope:
    • There's a joke about a newlywed settler couple. Every time the horse trips, the husband says "that's [insert number under 3]. Once he gets to three, smack-dab in the middle of death valley, he shoots it. The wife gives him a talking-to, and his reply is "That's one."
    • "You have until I count to ten. I'm counting by fives/in binary".
    • [bang] One. Two. Three.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Referees will count certain things besides pinfalls, which they generally never get to the end of or it takes a long time.
    • Illegal holds are to be let go of by the time the ref counts to 5 or the holder will lose by disqualification, but it's more likely that the ref will count, "1, 2, aw come on, get offa him!, 3, seriously, I mean it this time, 4, all right that's it break it up..."
    • If a wrestler leaves the ring they have a 10 count to get back in or lose by countout. Different refs have different cadences but it's always at least 5-10 seconds between counts. Plus it's in the actual rules that if they get interrupted for any reason they have to start over at 1.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Atmosfear: Baron Samedi in Nightmare II tells Dirtbag to get out of the room before he counts to five, or they'll miss that many turns. He counts "three, four, five" particularly fast.

  • When Cyrano de Bergerac first appears, he gives Montfleury (an actor he dislikes) to the count of three to leave the stage.
  • In Heathers, JD repeatedly subverts this trope. During "Our Love is God", he interrupts Kurt and Ram after they reach two. In "Meant to Be Yours", he interrupts himself after two.

  • In BIONICLE, Axonn gives Reidak five seconds to put that rock down and leave in one piece.
    "One...two...FIVE!" [throws axe]

    Video Games 
  • Batman will occasionally threaten Riddler informants this way in Batman: Arkham Knight.
    Batman: I'm going to count to one, and then I get mad.
    Informant: You wanna know about Riddler?! I know lots about Riddler!
    Batman: Thanks. [knocks him out anyway]
  • In the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 mission "Cliffhanger", Major Petrov, the commander of the Russian military base Soap and Roach are sent to infiltrate, pulls this after his men capture Soap, giving Roach to the count of five to surrender himself before his partner is executed.
  • William does this to his brother Ray in the end of the Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. It doesn't end well.
  • In the trailer for Darksiders Genesis, Malgros the Defiler tells Strife he has until the count of three before he kills him, and feeds his corpse to his minions. After "one", Strife pulls out his pistols and ventilates two of Malgros' heads, calling "two" and "three" with his shots.
  • Deus Ex: JC Denton does this to a punk for harassing a lady.
  • Dota 2: If Sven is pestered with pressing one of his skills while it's still on cooldown, he might respond with this line:
    "I'm going to count to one. ONE..."
  • Calo Nord in Knights of the Old Republic does this to some thugs who were harassing him in a Lower City bar on Taris, killing them after they foolishly kept bothering him. If the player character tries to talk to him, his only reply is to implicitly tell them to go away before he finishes counting down.
  • Murder in the Alps: When Max Frost appears to help Anna Myers against three thugs who're harassing her in Ladies of the Night, he tells them to scram before he starts counting to three. He doesn't get to start counting as Anna takes two of the perverts down by herself, leaving for him the last one to deck.
  • In Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, Inspector Carmelita Fox has Sly dead-to-rights at the end, but because he just helped her take down Clockwerk, she gives him a ten-second head start to escape if he chooses. He counts down the seconds in the narration while dawdling at the scene, leaving her very puzzled... until he finally gets to one, planting a big kiss on her lips. This distracted her long enough for him to handcuff her to a nearby railing.
  • Spec Ops: The Line: At the end of the game, Colonel Konrad has Walker at gunpoint and counts to five before pulling the trigger. Walker has the choice of shooting him first, letting himself get shot, or shooting himself.
  • Subverse: Admiral Maeyomodo catches up with the Mary Celeste crew at the most inopportune moment: after their ship has been almost completely disabled by the Huntress' ambush. When the Captain does not immediately agree to surrender, Maeyomodo is irritated but starts a countdown from ten before opening fire on them. Fortunately, he only gets down to about seven before Sova butts in into the conversation and offers the Mary Celeste sanctuary on the authority of the teelee royal family, leaving Maeyomodo no choice but to stand down.
  • Time Crisis 5 has Robert Baxter give Keith Martin this trope to hand the briefcase, which contains data on VSSE's traitor, over to him.
    Robert: I'll give you to the count of three. Hand over the case. Three... two...

  • Subverted and lampshaded in Schlock Mercenary, here.
    Tagon: One. Two. Ten.
    [opens fire]
    Tagon: I'm sorry. I think I skipped seven.
    Kevyn: My mother would argue that you also skipped nine-and-a-half.
  • Girl Genius: Vole yells that the Heterodyne has till the count of three to give themselves up before he starts shooting bystanders, and starts his count on two, but still gets interrupted before he has a chance to kill anyone.

    Web Original 
  • In Jerma985's video "CS:GO Jailbreak: Grandpa Takes Control!", Grandpa, playing a warden, spotted a prisoner who went down the ramp without his permission and he gave the prisoner on a count to five or he will get shot. Of course, this being Grandpa, he got stuck to saying 3 three times during the countdown.

    Western Animation 
  • In the All Dogs Go to Heaven TV series, Charlie and Itchy come across a guard dog chained up. Charlie's solution?
    Charlie: Itchy, on the count of three, run like a mad dog. [Guard dog gets close, and Charlie runs off] Three!
    Itchy: Hey, what happened to one and two?
  • In The Crumpets, one episode ends with Ms. McBrisk counting to three (including 2.8 and 2.9) to offer a punishment to her daughter Cassandra. At three, she's unable to force her daughter to her bedroom because their house unfolds by opening the front door.
  • When Danger Mouse instigates a circumstance with an "after three" rule, he bypasses one and two and goes straight to three.
  • Occurs in Droopy short Blackboard Jumble, when a group of pups hide from the Wolf in a closet.
    Wolf: Alright, you smart-alecs, I'm givin' y'all three to come out of there! One...
    [the pups stick their arms out from under the door and pull the rug out from under him]
    Wolf: Two, three!
  • A favorite of the team in Extreme Ghostbusters, compared to their predecessors:
    One of them: On the count of three!
    Altogether: THREE!
  • In the Futurama episode "The Problem with Popplers", Nd-Nd, (an alien from the planet Omicron Persei 8) does something like this:
    Nd-Nd: Little one, get out of there. I'm going to count to blorx!
    Little Omicronian: But, elder one—
    [Nd-Nd starts counting off her fingers]
    Nd-Nd: Flingle ... glorg ... glorg and a gloob...
  • In Goliath II, when the mouse has managed to scare off all the elephants except for Goliath II, the mouse tells him sternly that if he does not run away by the time he counts to three, "I'LL TEAR YA TO SHREDS!!!" Then he starts counting, all the while warning Goliath to run while he can. When the mouse reaches three and sees that Goliath had defiantly stood his ground, the mouse shouts, "OKAY — YOU ASKED FOR IT, BUSTER!!!!!" and charges at him, and they get into a tussle.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Cowboy Stackhouse gives Jimmy to the count of three to get out of the house with Sandy. Luckily, Jimmy gets out right on three.
  • Happened once on Jungle Cubs. Louie said "two and a half" twice, the cheater.
  • Justice League: In "Initiation", the heroes are trying to get information about a rampaging robot:
    Soldier: Don't answer them! That's classified inform—! [Supergirl grabs him]
    Supergirl: I've just about had it with you guys! You've got to the count of five. One... four... [primes her heat vision].
    Captain Atom: I'd speak up if I were you.
  • In one Looney Tunes sketch, Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam were about to duel. Bugs counted off to 10, but stretched the count between 9 and 10 with crazy fractions just long enough to get Sam into the street to be hit by a bus.
    Bugs: [checks his watch] Eeeeeyep, she's right on time!
    Sam: [dazed] Ooh, what a night...
    • In Wild and Woolly Hare, when Sam rides on his horse to rob a train, and Bugs follows to save it, Sam threatens to shoot Bugs on the count of five. He only gets to four before crashing against a post. He reaches Bugs already on the train and threatens with only counting to three, and this time he gets only to two before crashing into a tunnel. The third time, he says he's gonna count only to two and he does... only to pass by a bridge and fall into the river below.
  • The "Two and three quarters" variation shows up in a Prometheus and Bob sketch.
  • South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet"
    I'm gonna give you a count to three to open this closet door. One - I'm gonna shoot you both; Two - I'm gonna cap some bitch. Three...

    "Two and two hundred fifty-five two hundred fifty-sixths..."
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Gary Takes a Bath", Gary does everything to avoid having SpongeBob give him a bath, at one point trapping him in a tree. When SpongeBob reaches his breaking point due to Gary's defiance, Gary crawls towards a mud puddle. SpongeBob tells Gary that he's giving him three seconds to get away from the mud puddle. The closer SpongeBob gets to three (even counting to two and a half), the closer Gary gets to the puddle as an act of defiance.
    • In "That Sinking Feeling", SpongeBob and Patrick dig a tunnel under Squidward's house so they can easily go to each other's houses without walking through Squidward's front yard, which results in Squidward's house collapsing. Squidward then threatens them to dig it out by the count of three, which frightens them.
      Squidward: I'm warning you: If you don't put my house back where it belongs by the count of th-ree- *raises hand but only raises two so he uses his nose* Three. I am going to grind you into Chum! One!
      Patrick: AHH!!! He's counting, anything but counting!!! Quick, SpongeBob! Dig for your life!!!
      Squidward: Twwwwwwwwwooooooo!
      Patrick: He's already at Number Two!!! Who knows how many numbers we have until he reaches three?!!
      Squidward: Th-ree!
      Patrick: (gasp)
      SpongeBob and Patrick: AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
  • Superman: The Animated Series. Lobo of course doesn't have the patience to play it straight, as shown in his Establishing Character Moment.
    Lobo: I'm givin' you geeks ten seconds before I frag everything in sight. One... TEN!

"THREE!" [bang]


Video Example(s):


Squidward counts to three

Squidward forces SpongeBob and Patrick to dig his house out on the count of three, which frightens them.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / CountingToThree

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