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Crack Defeat

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A character is in a competition of some sort, and it is clearly apparent that they are the best of the competition and are deserving of the grand prize. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the character ends up losing to an obviously inferior character. Often used to effect the Status Quo Game Show trope, while still showing how good the character is at what they do. Can be extended to a character fit for a certain job being spurned in favor of someone inferior. Usually the dubious decision goes unexplained, but in some examples, there is an excuse for such dubious judging; sometimes fair, but other times the contest turns out to be rigged in favor of the undeserved winner.

Related to Dark Horse Victory, Dude, Where's My Reward?, "Shaggy Dog" Story. A common victim of One Judge to Rule Them All. To add insult to injury, the victor could be an Inanimate Competitor.

Real-Life examples fall under Shocking Elimination and/or Elimination Houdini.



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  • A commercial for Dunkin' Donuts that normally airs around Halloween has an office costume party. Most of the participants have rather elaborate costumes. (The woman at the front is heavily made up as Cleopatra.) The winner, however, is Steve who's only wearing an arrow-through-the-head headband...and presenting a box of Dunkin' Donuts as a bribe.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In one episode of Pokémon the Series: Black & White, Ash, Iris and Cilan enter the Wishing Bell Festival, a multi-structured competition which sees them doing various activities. One event was dressing up as certain Gym Leader and imitating them and their Pokémon. Cilan draws Elesa and actually does a decent job of imitating her. But the judge, Miles, disqualifies him because he's a fanboy of hers and really picky about the imitation. Even Cilan lampshades how biased this is.
  • Kengan Ashura: This happens a few times to the Kengan fighters during their fights against Purgatory in Omega. Based on the Purgatory rules, the fighters lose if they got out the ring, or if they caused their opponents to die. Kaolan Wongsawat, despite inflicting brutal damage to his opponent Carlos Mendel (while remaining relatively unscathed himself), lost the first match because Carlos managed to trick him into a ring out. Raian for his part outrights give the win to his opponent by killing him on the spot.

    Comic Books 
  • In one of The Simpsons comic books, the school has an art competition. Everyone turns out something, and some of them are pretty good. The winner, however, is Bart who submitted a blank easel still in its packaging. He claimed that he was 'Drawing a blank', and the art critic who was judging the competition loved it.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Emma Watson version of Ballet Shoes, Petrova gets the part of Mustard Seed in A Midsummer Night's Dream over the far more talented Winifred - because the directors are in a rush and Winifred is late to the audition. In the book she gets a starring role over Winifred again - only because her adoptive sister Pauline is playing her character's brother, so it's more convenient to cast her as the sister. Likewise Winifred strikes out earlier in the book when she and Pauline are up for the part of Alice. Winifred is recognised as the solid all-rounder of acting, dancing and singing while Pauline is good at acting but merely competent at the rest. Pauline gets the role because she "looks right" whereas it's said that Winifred looks shabby at auditions due to how poor her family is.
  • Hairspray:
    • Played straight when Velma sings about her former stint as Ms. Baltimore Crabs.
    "Those poor runner-ups might still hold some grudges. They padded their cups, but I screwed the judges."
    • Inverted as well, at the film's end. Velma attempts to stuff the ballots for another contest, so that her own daughter will win. However she is caught. This prevents future Crack Defeat from happening, not only for her own family personally, but destroys the ability for the network execs to meddle based on race from then on.
  • In Hot Dog The Movie, Harkin Banks is a newcomer to the world of competitive skiing, and delivers clearly the best skiing of anyone. But he is given far worse scores than his snobby rival, Rudi Garmisch, who admittedly delivers excellent skiing, but who is given top scores so he can continue to attract money and fame to the ski lodge.
  • The Denzel Washington film The Hurricane opens up with Rubin Carter finishing a fight against Joey Giardello and inexplicably losing even though Giardello hardly seems able to stand up (although it is highly implied that this was done because of racism). Interestingly, this isn't how the fight actually happened. In Real Life, Giardello pretty much controlled the fight from beginning to end. Giardello sued the filmmakers for libel, angrily claiming that he won the fight fair and square.
  • School of Rock:
    • One of Dewey Finn's lies has him telling about how he auditioned for an orchestra and ended up getting spurned in favor of a relative of Yo Yo Ma's. Dewey: "A little nepotisssss!"
    • By film's end, Dewey suffers what he feels is a Crack Defeat at a band contest, at the hands of the very band that kicked him out at the film's start. Until his band gets a call for an encore.
  • In Stick It, one of the gymnasts performs a difficult vault with impeccable skill, but loses points because of a technicality; her bra strap was showing. As she herself points out, the judges were overtly biased against her coach and were exploiting this rule as a covert means of revenge. This event causes the rebellion that makes up the remainder of the film, and is apparently a problem in real life; in actual gymnastic competitions, the complex rules and unnecessary penalties confuse viewers and allow biased judges to deliberately alter the outcome.

  • Apprentice Adept:
    • Justified in the novels, where main character Stile and master musician Clef compete in a harmonica-playing contest. Clef plays a flawless rendition of a technically demanding but uninteresting piece, but Stile puts on a more entertaining show and freely improvises while performing. Clef gets the Game Computer's point for technical merit, but Stile is voted the audience's favorite, so the two will have to play again to break the tie. This time, they will have to play a duet, and the winner will be judged by a panel of expert musicians. During the duet, Clef incorporates Stile's techniques into his own playing, and gives a truly great performance; the two of them end up winning a special award for having performed the best harmonica duet in the history of the competition. However, although both the Game Computer and the audience both recommended that Clef be named the winner, the judges instead award the victory to Stile: Clef showed more improvement when playing with Stile than Stile did when playing with Clef, which, to them, demonstrated that it was Stile's superior skill at being a supporting performer which was really responsible for the amazing duet they played together.
    • Stile wins an upset victory against a superior Go player by unnerving him with a Death Glare during the match, resulting in uncharacteristically poor play on the part of Stile's opponent.
  • Obligatory Discworld example: At the end of Maskerade, Agnes's annoying and tone-deaf roommate Christine is the one who looks forward to a brilliant future as a diva while Agnes, who actually did all the singing every time Christine appeared onstage, is shunted off to one side. The stage manager Walter Plinge tells her that yes, she was very good, better than Christine will ever be even after years of training — but Christine is naturally a star, which in the opera world is more important than being talented.

    Live Action TV 
  • Parodied with a talent skit on The Amanda Show. The first two contestants whose lame talents are balancing a hat on the head and pouring salt on an egg respectively, get standing ovations. The third, a girl who pulls off some impressive gymnastics, gets the lowest score.
  • It has also cut the other way: there isn't much applause for the Bradys' act in a talent show in The Brady Bunch Movie, but they win it anyway because the judges are The Monkees!
  • 8 Simple Rules: Bridget and Kerry try out for cheerleading. Bridget is the clear favorite, but Kerry gets the spot.
  • Family Matters:
    • An episode had the Winslows engage in a rivalry with another couple in a dance competition. Right before the final showdown, the couples reconcile and decide to split the top prize. Unfortunately, they are told that this is illegal so first place goes to "the commissioner's kids."
    • Another episode has Laura and Myra competing for the job of a sales associate at a department store. Myra is very friendly with the customers and racks up a larger number of sales than Laura. Then it's realized that Laura's mother Harriet is very friendly with the manager and Myra suggests that if she loses, it's because of this. The manager assures that this will not happen, but he picks Laura anyway. Myra complains that she had twice as many sales as Laura and the manager responds that she also had three times as many returns. It turns out Myra didn't know when to stop complimenting the customers and ended up telling them they looked good in outfits when they actually didn't. (When all is said and done, Laura asks for confirmation that was the reason she got the job. It was.)
  • The Father Ted episode 'A Song For Europe' sees Ted's hopelessly lame song "My Lovely Horse" (whose melody consists of one note played over and over again) triumph over Father Dick Byrne's obviously superior effort to be nominated as Ireland's Eurovision Song Contest entry... because the Irish organizers are sick of always winning Eurovision because it was getting too expensive to host (Which was true, because at the time, Ireland had just had a three-year winning streak at the ESC.) Needless to say, they don't tell Ted this and Ted doesn't win Eurovision, a rare case of Springtime for Hitler actually working.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Will and his never-seen-before-or-since comedian friend go to an interview for a comedy club. Will gets the gig by accident (then bombs leading to An Aesop).
  • One season finale of Glee had a singing competition between New Directions, Aural Intensity, and Vocal Adrenaline. We don't see Aural Intensity's performance, and Vocal Adrenaline does "Bohemian Rhapsody". New Directions did a Journey medley that had people dancing in the aisles, yet they got THIRD PLACE OUT OF THREE. Showing the judges' deliberations helps somewhat; actual talent seems to be not even on the criteria list. One judge even moves his vote off of New Directions just to spite Sue. And one member of New Directions remarks that Aural Intensity's performance is a mash-up of two songs sung by two of the judges. Is it against contest rules to suck up? Vocal Adrenaline's performance was (allowing for differences in taste) quite good, however, it was clear that the intent of the episode was that the New Directions should have at least taken second place.
  • In the Good Eats episode "Scrap Iron Chef", despite much cheating on both sides and Alton being the obvious winner (the judges praised his cooking and called the Scrap Iron Chef's food crap), the Scrap Iron Chef won anyway. This is certainly a jab at the Iron Chef series, where the Iron Chefs always seem to win. (Also Hilarious in Hindsight, as Alton would go on to be the commentator and de facto host of Iron Chef America.)
  • This kicks off the plot of a Kamen Rider Double story arc. Shotaro's Joshikousei informants Queen and Elizabeth enter an American Idol-style singing contest, and do well in their first two weeks.note  In the third week, they come up against Jimmy Nakata, whose singing is so terrible it knocks birds out of the sky and causes earthquakes, but the judges absolutely adore him. Naturally the girls are suspicious, so they hire Shotaro to investigate. Of course a Dopant is involved, but Jimmy is innocent; a girl who had a crush on him hired the Dopant to rig the contest in his favor.
  • Parodied in a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch imagining what The Apprentice (UK) would look like if all the contestants were competent businesspeople. Since they all successfully completed the first task, and none of them lied, cheated, sabotaged the others or just did something ridiculously stupid, Sir Alan decides to fire "the fat one".
  • Played for laughs in Monty Python's Flying Circus. In the "Summarizing Proust" Competition, the host feels that none of the contestants delivered an award-worthy performance, so he gives it to "the girl with the biggest tits", who wasn't even in the competition.
  • In one episode of The Prisoner, Number Six enters an art contest to get access to tools and equipment that are normally forbidden in the Village. He produces an abstract sculpture rather than the portrait of Number Two that was the intention (not that anyone informed him of this). He wins nevertheless, as the competition was a Batman Gambit intended to goad him into trying to escape.
  • In the UK robot fighting show Robot Wars, Hypnodisc vs. Nasty Warrior in a one-off UK vs. Germany exhibition match. Hypnodisc, representing the UK, was The Dreaded for literally ripping its opponents to shreds with the huge spinning disc it takes its name for, and is to this day known as the greatest robot to never win a title. Nasty Warrior, in defiance of Germanic Efficiency, was a robot made from wood. Hypnodisc lost because the splinters from the wooden body got in and jammed the internals, Hypnodisc ceased all movement and was counted out and Nasty Warrior left the unlikely winners.
  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch when auditioning cheerleaders for a student film, none of the potential actresses are chosen. Roxie gives a sarcastic audition and gets chosen.
    Roxie: I guess all those years of making fun of cheerleaders finally paid off.
  • Saved by the Bell: Zack receives a 1500 SAT score and is accepted by Stansbury (an obvious Shout-Out to Stanford) ahead of straight-A student Jesse, who had 1205 on hers (the exact opposite, of course, of criteria that many colleges and universities use for judging "overachievers" and "underachievers").
  • In an episode of She Spies, one of the girls has to go undercover as a model. D.D., who is excited about it, auditions first. Cassie, who finds the whole idea of modeling revolting, makes her disgust obvious. Of course, since all models are cold, bitchy, and rude, Cassie wins by a landslide.
  • Small Wonder: Vicky and her neighbor vie for the title of "Little Miss Shopping Mall", and the other competitor doesn't seem to be of much trouble since she keeps dropping her baton. Vicky seems to have the advantage over her neighbor. But in the end, baton girl wins simply by being the daughter of the shopping mall owners.
  • In one episode of That's So Raven, Raven and Chelsea apply for jobs at the department store. Chelsea is clearly completely useless at the job, but is chosen over the more competent Raven. It turns out the manager is racist.
  • The Torkelsons: Dorothy Jane Torkelson is in the finals of a contest whose winner will get to be a foreign exchange student in Paris. Her family situation gets high marks, and the judges do seem to like her... but still loses anyway because the family in France wanted a boy. Thus making the finals completely meaningless since there was only one boy out of the three finalists. Mind you, when Dorothy first meets said finalist, she pretty much says, "There's no way I'll lose to you" before getting concerned at the other finalist.
  • In an episode of Two of a Kind modeling auditions are held at school. Ashley, who is an avid fan, doesn't make the cut. Mary-Kate does with a sarcastic tryout. It then gets subverted when it's revealed that Mary-Kate does have a secret love of modeling. Subverted even further when Mary-Kate easily persuades the photographer to let Ashley pose with her in some of the pictures. The twin thing probably helped.
  • Shown in the TV documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family. Brother and sister Zak and Saraya both try out for WWE. Zak has been wanting to be a wrestler since he was thirteen years old. Saraya meanwhile only fell into it and trained for fun. Saraya is hired immediately and goes onto become WWE Diva Paige - first ever NXT Women's Champion.

    Video Games 
  • When developing a Fighting Game, beginners being able to beat experts is widely seen as the thing to avoid at all costs, sometimes regardless of how well-made the rest of the game is.
  • In the backstory of Ann, an art contest was held for various different departments in the Delta Academy of Arts to be displayed to visitors, and one student, James, created a perfectly symmetrical sculpture to enter in the competition. It ended up losing to a sculpture that the visitors themselves describe as ugly because the woman who made the sculpture traded sex with the principal for first place, which led James to trash his statue and disgust.
  • In Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island, you need to win the gold prize in all six challenges to win the competition and get the two best endings. If you fail in this, Julian wins instead. Where this trope comes into play is that whenever you win a gold prize, you run into Julian in a cutscene whining about how he only got the silver this time. So if you win 5 out of 6, Julian wins the prize despite only getting one Gold to your five. Even if your non-gold trophy was a silver! Another ridiculous ending is even if you got first place all the time, if you have not maxed out everyones friendship levels, you still lose due to not being successful enough at making your businesses profitable, even if you are a multimillionaire a dozen times over.
  • In Breath of Fire II, Petape hits upon the idea of flushing out the impostor pretending to be her brother Tapeta by holding a cooking contest. For all his Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies, Tapeta is a superb chef, and Petape suspects rightly that he will easily beat the impostor, especially with the high-quality ingredients the party obtains from the powerful insect monsters lurking in the castle's basement. While the head chef gives high marks to the impostor's dishes, he's positively ecstatic about Tapeta's - but each time, he finds some nit-picky reason to deduct points. This comes to a head when the chef comes to a dessert made using only the most rare and exquisite fly in existence and Petape calls him out. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the impostor has rigged the vote.
  • In NCAA Football, players who utterly dominate the league to the tune of doubling or even tripling NCAA records will often lose the Heisman trophy. On a Meta-level, this is done to oppose AI abuse. But within the game they track a player's sportsmanship, and it is not possible to so thoroughly destroy existing records without ruthlessly running up the score every single week.
  • Princess Maker 2 has a dance competition where you can influence the sole judge beforehand. If this affects the results, the second place finisher will ask why your girl won if it was based on merit.
  • Punch-Out!!: In the NES game, you'd better KO your opponent in the title bouts, or else the judges will always vote for the other guy. Mr. Sandman must also be KOed even though he isn't a circuit champion. Same with King Hippo who isn't a champion either, though it only takes one knockdown to defeat him anyway. The worst case is the Bald Bull rematch: Usually, you can win on points in other matches, though it takes a ludicrous amount; but this rematch is particularly egregious as it's possible to dodge every single one of his punches and hit him several times and still get a loss from the judges.

  • In Bob and George, the robot Ran Cossack's backstory is that Kalinka Cossack built him for a Science Fair. They lost to a giant model volcano, because Kalinka is a girl. And we obviously can't give the prize to a girl, right?note 
  • In PepsiaPhobia, Phobia and Klepto have a cooking match to prove who's the better cook. Phobia makes squirrel-bacon applesauce. Klepto invents apple pie. Phobia wins by default because Klepto is just a slave.
  • The Sluggy Freelance arc "Torg Potter and the Sorcerer's Nuts" does this as a direct parody of the "last minute points" scene in the first Harry Potter film/book. House Wunnybun (the equivalent of Slytherin) has won the house cup with 534 points, while House Snackewyrm (the equivalent of Gryffindor) comes in last with minus a billion. At the awards ceremony, headmaster Gandledorf announces that's he's granting his Snackewyrm niece a trillion points for "being so gosh darn cute," making Snackewyrm the winner instead. He later confides to Torg that he just didn't want to mess up his paperwork by treating Wunnybun with respect.

    Web Original 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the Strong Bad Email "pet show", the Cheat is the only actual pet entered — the competition consists of the cookie jar version of Pom Pom's dog Trivia Time, the King of Town's George Foreman grill, and Homestar Runner (entered by Marzipan). After sabotaging the contest by (A) tainting the least favorable judge's water with "Puke Drops", (B) breaking Trivia Time, and (C) gnawing on the grill's power cable, the Cheat winds up disqualified "for flagrant use of relish-foot" — a prank Homestar played on Strong Bad when he wasn't looking. As in, Homestar scooped relish onto Strong Bad's own foot and somehow this led to a disqualification. Homestar probably didn't even know it would affect the outcome; he'd just been trying to do that since the beginning of the cartoon.
    • In the Strong Bad Email "senior prom", despite being "the only girl" in the Homestar Runner universe, Marzipan loses the title of prom queen to "Strong Bad with no pants on". Her reaction ("Every freakin' year...") implies this isn't the first time something like this has happened.
  • In a character-based Yugioh tournament held by Youtuber JCD Godot, Don Thousand (the Final Boss of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL and one of the strongest decks of all time in the anime) lost 3-0 to Bastion Misawa from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX (due to a combination of sheer luck and JCD not knowing how to properly play Don Thousand's deck.)note 
  • Kilian Experience's video on how to become the Super Smash Bros. world champion ends with Kilian losing the finale... Against a level 2 bot playing as Pichu.
  • The WWWF Grudge Match has had a few matches where the winner wasn't quite who you would expect:

    Western Animation 
  • In 6teen, when Caitlin wanted to apply for a job at Albatross & Finch, Jonesy comes along for moral support. She gets passed over in favour of Jonesy for his blase attitude.
  • All Grown Up!:
    • "Truth or Consequences": Tommy Pickles' entry in a student film competition is chock-full of footage of him and his friends when they were young. However, Kimi comments, after the contest, "You should have won, that 'Mad Cow from Planet Moo' was a snore fest..."
    • "The Science Pair": After Tommy forfeited his entry in the school science fair, the winner is a project that involves the culturing of mold... played mostly as comic relief.
    • "Interview with a Campfire": No-talent Angelica Pickles and talented singer Susie Carmichael are auditioning for the lead in a camp musical. After all is said and done, both Kimi and Lil think Susie had the better audition for the lead role in the play (although we have to take their word for it). However, come play time, she's only in a supporting role.
  • Celebrity Deathmatch:
    • David Spade manages to kill Steven Seagal in a David & Goliath matchup, near literally too as Seagal is actually taken out by Spade slingshotting a rock through his brain.
    • This also happens in the fight of Genghis Khan vs Mahatma Gandhi... Gandhi actually wins without Khan even landing a single hit. Though it's later justified as it's revealed that the time machine that brought them to the arena switched their personalities.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door, "Operation ELECTIONS": Nigel walks out to a presidential podium to make a speech before he finds out that he lost his 4th Grade President election to the Delightful Children. After being told that he in fact did win the election (in a scene where we find out that the Delightfuls weren't even on the ballot), he spends the rest of the episode involved in a war between the elementary school and middle school (including a blatant parody of the Death Star trench run). At the end though, he finds out that he was lied to, and the real election results gave the win to another student — minor background character, Eggbert Eggelston who was once shown trying to eat a candy bar while forgetting that he was wearing a space helmet, so that should give some idea about how terrible Eggbert (and the student body who elected him including Nigel's squadron!) is.
  • An episode of Doug had Doug, Skeeter, and Patti (with later help from Connie) trying to write a song for a town anthem competition. Theirs may or may not have been the best entry (and turned out to be more of a poem with accompaniment than a song, thanks to Patti being Hollywood Tone-Deaf), but by no account should Fentruck's overly-long and barely-intelligible song, "Bluffington, You Do Not Disgust Me", have won.
  • DuckTales (2017): In "The House of the Lucky Gander," the cartoonishly, supernaturally lucky Gladstone Gander is pitted against Unlucky Everydude Donald Duck. Gladstone walks at leisurely stroll and skips half the race through luck, while Donald struggles through a Death Course and is left hopelessly in the dust. Gladstone suddenly stops to pick up a dropped twenty-dollar bill, and Louie uses the time to deliver a pep talk that drives Donald into a rage-fueled rampage that carries him past the finish line.
    • "GlomTales" concludes the story arc of Scrooge and Glomgold competing against each other in a bet over who can accumulate the most money in a set amount of time; the winner gets both of their companies. Out of desperation, Glomgold strikes up a partnership with the rest of the villains the McDucks have faced so far and attempts to sabotage the contest by raiding the manor, but Louie, who was grounded at the time, is the only one to be in the manor while the rest of the family was away. He convinces Glomgold to pool their resources together before having Glomgold sign him up as his partner, knowing from an earlier episode that "Flintheart Glomgold" is a pseudonym. So by using his real name on the contract where Glomgold wouldn't dare to do the same, all the money, which Glomgold had planned to steal anyway to win the bet, gets forfeited to Louie along with both Glomgold and Scrooge's enterprises, to everyone's surprise. The following episode deconstructs this somewhat, however, showing that Louie wasn't prepared to deal with actually running the business despite having earned it, so he gives Scrooge his company back at the end of the episode, while Glomgold later weasels his way into reacquiring his own company during the Season 2 finale.
  • In the Futurama episode "Raging Bender", Leela lost a martial arts match after beating up the other competitors because she lacks the 'will of the warrior'. In other words, she's female.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • Playing with this trope is "Family Man", where restaurant cook Hyunh (see Celebrity Is Overrated) is concerned that his new boss will pick an inferior cook as his new head chef because he has a large family, and Hyunh only has a daughter (who doesn't even appear in the story). Though it's averted later when the boss says he was always going to promote Hyunh over the other guy 'because' he is a better cook.
    • In one episode, Stinky sits out an audition for a soda commercial and cheers Arnold on, but the powers that be end up rejecting every single auditioner and pick Stinky. Of course, there's a reason behind that. (And they would do it again with Helga, the only kid in class who doesn't want to try out for modeling, ending up getting picked by a model scout over those who actually wanted to get the job.)
  • Kim Possible:
    • "Hidden Talent": In yet another hybrid of Crack Defeat and Dark Horse Victory, Ron stalls for Kim (who is trying to escape an especially elaborate death trap) in the school talent show with an eclectic (and exhaustive) list of vaudeville acts (e.g., ventriloquism, breaking bricks with his head, and performing the National Anthem by running his fingers across the rims of wine goblets), and ends up winning first place over Kim and Bonnie's big, flashy acts (Bonnie dances ballet, while KP performs "Say the Word", a song by Christy Romano, her voice actress). Barkin proclaims, "Proving that quantity is indeed better than quality".
    • "Job Unfair" does it with a twist: At a career fair, Ron and Kim get assigned jobs. One of them gets secret agent... which bewilders Kim since she got janitor. It turns out that the janitor acting as her mentor was trying to teach her to deactivate a weather machine and was also Ron's mentor.
  • King of the Hill: After having a heart attack, Mr. Strickland asks Hank to "take care of my dogs", and he thinks that Buck is metaphorically telling him to take care of the company, so he accepts the job. Turns out Buck literally does mean to take care of his dogs, while he puts Lloyd Vickers, a brown-noser, in charge of the company simply because he's got a business degree; Vickers ends up raising propane prices, and puts "tattleboxes" in the propane delivery trucks, which royally pisses off the drivers and ruins productivity. Strickland fires Vickers over this blunder (as they were in the middle of a rare Texas snowstorm and now they didn't have any drivers, they needed HAZMAT-certified ones).
  • The Legend of Korra: While both teams are quite skilled, the probending championship is won by the Wolfbats who blatantly cheat, having paid off the referees. However, this quickly pales in view of Amon's uprising happening just after their victory, using their cheating as proof that benders need to be eliminated. Plus, in a nice case of karma, the Equalists strip the Wolfbats of their bending, so their victory here was their last.
  • In an episode of Pepper Ann, the eponymous character completely wins over the judges of a beauty pageant with her heartfelt speech about being herself... but another girl wins because the entire pageant was rigged to give her the prize — she's the daughter of the president of the company that organized it.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Unfair Science Fair", Doof enters a grade school science fair because of a long history of entering them as a child, always with creations remarkable for someone his age (or anyone really), and losing every single time to a baking soda volcano. He later gave up science fairs and tried writing poetry, but, curiously, still lost to a baking soda volcano. This also contains a weird double subversion, as the winner of that science fair was a girl with an impressive set of self-made, Doc Ock-style mechanical arms... that she used to build her real project, a baking soda volcano.
  • A Popeye cartoon from the Brodax series pitted the sailor against Powerful Pierre (Brutus) in a ski race. The course takes them through bear's cave and when they come out, the bear is on the skis carrying Popeye and Pierre in his arms as they cross the finish line. Pierre thinks he's the winner until the judges rule winner to be the bear.
  • The Proud Family: In "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", Agatha loses the singing contest to Lacienaga despite having a much better singing voice. It later turns out Wizard Kelly had the votes rigged because Agatha is ugly. After Penny informs her of this, Lacienega refuses to believe her. But when LaCienega is about to take the stage with Alicia Keys, knowing full well that Agatha should be there, Agatha, who has no idea she's the real winner, genuinely wishes her good luck, which makes Lacienaga guilty enough to do the right thing and gives her prize, performing on stage with Alicia Keys, to Agatha. Later, karma rewards Lacienaga for her honesty when Alicia Keys invites her to perform in her next music video along with Agatha.
  • Rocket Power included a sand castle contest. The various entrants spent lots of time and effort on elaborate sand sculptures, but first place went to a little girl who made a tiny sand tower with a bucket. Reason? It was a sand castle contest, and hers was the only one that could be called a "castle".
  • Straddling on the fence... Rugrats, "Moving Away": Angelica Pickles' mom Charlotte has packed her bags, and is ready to move (with Angelica and hubby Drew) cross-country to New York to be the new Vice President of her company. After Angelica recounts with the rest of the Rugrats on how they met in the first place, Charlotte's plans have hit one major snag: her assistant, Jonathan has taken the job ahead of his apparent superior. "There's no loyalty in this town!"
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Saddlesore Galactica": In the subplot, Lisa's school plays "Living in America" at a state fair band competition; the winner, however, is some school who plays "The Stars And Stripes Forever", but has red, white, and blue glow sticks at the end (Lisa believes that those are illegal, and indeed they are). It takes President Clinton himself to overturn this decision, resulting in a Spoof Aesop.
      Lisa: Thank you Mr. President!
      Bill Clinton: Thank you Lisa for teaching kids everywhere a valuable lesson. If things don't go your way just keep complaining until your dreams come true.
      Marge: That's a pretty lousy lesson.
      Bill Clinton: Hey, I'm a pretty lousy President.
    • "Lisa's Rival": Lisa reluctantly enlists Bart's aid in attempting to defeat her new rival in a diorama competition. However, Ralph Wiggum's 'diorama', which is nothing but a bunch of Star Wars action figures in their original packaging, wins the competition, making this an example of both a Crack Defeat and a Dark Horse Victory.
    • In "I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can" Lisa is being bribed to lose a Spelling Bee for a crowd favourite to boost their ratings in exchange for getting a free scholarship to an university of her choice, which she refuses to do, at which point she's told she doesn't have a choice in the matter and the crowd favourite is going to be rigged to allow them to win either way. She then ends up misspelling her final word regardless even without any obvious rigging from the organizers' end, costing her both the victory and the scholarship, but she and her family still treat her as the moral victor.
    • In "Duffless" Lisa decided to use Bart as a guinea pig for a science project (out of spite for him ruining her original one on a practical joke) dubbed "Is My Brother Dumber Than A Hamster?". When it comes time to show her results at the fair, she's shown up and actually beaten by Bart who simply dresses up a hamster with a tiny scarf and goggles, puts him a model plane and appeals simply for cute factor. (He does later apologize to Lisa though, you have to see the scene on DVD as syndication cuts out that part.)
    • In "Deep Space Homer'', Homer loses the Employee of the Week award to an inanimate carbon rod, then, after damaging and accidentally repairing the door on the space shuttle using a rod - and being credited as such by Buzz Aldrin - the crowd again focuses only on the carbon rod.
    • "Lisa's Substitute" deconstructs this. Everyone is so sure that Bart will win the Class President election that only two students (Bart's opponent Martin and a friend of his) actually vote, so Martin wins.
    • In "Homer's Enemy", Martin loses the "Design Your Own Power Plant" contest to Homer even though (a) Martin built a functioning power plant instead of a simple diorama and (b) Homer is an adult entrant in a contest for children. The absurdity of it triggers Grimes' Villainous Breakdown.
    • A flashback scene in one episode shows that Sideshow Bob got his job as Krusty's right-hand man during his brother Cecil's failed audition - waiting offstage, aloof in a three-piece suit, Krusty threw a pie at him to show that "pie takes are only funny if the sap's got dignity", and was so amused by his reaction that he hired him.
  • Spongebob Squarepants:
    • The episode 'The Great Snail Race' had Spongebob, Squidward, and Patrick's pet snails (Gary, Snellie, and Rocky respectively) pitting against each other. Snellie, who is a purebred snail, would've won, but she forfeited and comforted an overworked Gary. So the winner? Rocky! Yes, a literal rock.
    • While it might be straddling the fence, it's also the big motivating factor of The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. Despite being employee of the month for months on end, being a damn good cook and always willing to sacrifice everything for Mr. Krabs, when said boss opens up a second Krusty Krab, it goes to... Squidward, on account that Spongebob's just "a kid".
  • Teacher's Pet: Ian (the gross kid) somehow manages to squeak past both Scott and Leonard to win class president in an election Decided by One Vote.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: In a film competition (which, among other entries, had a 42-hour "tone poem"), Plucky Duck wins with a five-second film chosen because it was short. His entry was originally longer, but he had to keep cutting due to the 42 hour film.
  • Total Drama:
    • In Action, Courtney's losses post-merge are repeatedly invoked by Chris whenever he can, who evidently didn't like that she won a lawsuit against him for her rigged elimination in the previous season.
    • In "Super Hero-ld", the contestants have to come up with a superhero identity and powers and create their own costume, judged by originality. Courtney makes up a cricket-themed superheroine with a sound-based superpower. She loses to Lindsay, who merely dressed up as Wonder Woman.
    • In "Rock 'n Rule", the contestants have to win a Guitar Hero-esque challenge. Courtney gets a perfect score, and loses to Duncan who got the lowest score and smashed his guitar. Chris's reasoning is that Duncan played the role of a jerkass musician perfectly.
  • The Weekenders, "Talent Show": Lor, The Ditz, is the only member of the gang competing in a local talent show instead of the gang's artistic genius Tish. (Tish's snub goes unexplained.) Lor's act: Playing guitar and singing "Home on the Range". After all is said and done, Tish is adjusting Lor's 2nd place ribbon backstage, as Lor doesn't understand how Bluke won with his act: throwing hams in the air. Just to be clear, Bluke's act wasn't juggling hams. His act was just throwing hams in the air and letting them fall back down.
  • Seems to be a Running Gag for Tobey on WordGirl, though occasionally justified by having cheated in the first place. Even then, however, the fact that Violet usually wins instead makes the defeat rather cracky.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Ironic Inversion


Homer loses to Rod

...By which we mean an inanimate carbon rod, not a guy named Rod.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / CrackDefeat

Media sources: