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Improbably Predictable

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Ruffian: Ooh, but sad for you, you look awful dangerous in the uniform... MISTER GRA SOLDIER! Ha! Soon as the prince sees you, 'e'll say, "Yow! It's an enemy ambush!" — And that'll be the end of you.
Marth: Yow! It's an enemy ambush!

A friend or someone else who knows a character well will tell another person how the first character will react to some piece of news. Often, he will quote the character's reaction directly. Later on, when the first character receives the news, he or she will react exactly, down to the letter, how the friend said he would. Similarly, this trope can often involve one character preemptively pantomiming a character's response as they stand behind them, showing off exactly how predictable their friend is (or how well they know him or her). This trope could also involve a predictable character's friend finishing his sentences for him. If they're really showing off, they will have the response written beforehand to show them. Finally, this trope is illustrated when a person counts down "three... two... one..." to the other character having a reaction about something.

Compare The Tape Knew You Would Say That and Strange Minds Think Alike. This trope is often utilized for a Batman Gambit because this type of plan requires knowledge of likely character behavior. If the one making the prediction is not established knowing the other person well, this trope crosses into Gambit Roulette.

Compare The Anticipator, Badass Minds Think Alike and Parents Know Their Children.


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  • A 2011 radio ad for Verizon's high-speed network has a woman talking about how fast her connection is. She goes on to say "[my friend] will forget about that ticket soon. Because 52 seconds ago, her boyfriend just changed his relationship status to single." She goes on to talk some more about the network, and then returns to count down "Three, two, one" at which point there is the sound of shattering glass and a scream.
  • An AT&T ad from around the same time one tries for this and falls a bit flat, when the friend without AT&T says "Oh yeah? You don't know what I'm going to say next" which is (apparently) disproven by the AT&T customer by... revealing he had videotaped the friend when he said that and posted it online already.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, Joseph Out Gambitting his opponent is usually punctuated by guessing their next line. He always gets it exactly right to the word. One memorable moment has Esidisi turn it around on him, which indicates the fight's not going so hot.

    Audio Drama 
  • A conversation in the Big Finish Doctor Who story Pretty Lies, between a journalist and his editorial computer:
    Schandel: Right. Mind the store, I won't be long.
    E.D.I.T.O.R.: You'll be twenty-four minutes.
    Schandel: Just for that I'll walk slower. You can't always be right!
    (Door closing)
    E.D.I.T.O.R.: (smugly) Childishness already compensated for. Twenty-four minutes, precisely.

    Comic Strips 
  • Once in Dilbert the Pointy-Haired Boss complained to Catbert that Dilbert thought he was predictable.
    Catbert: Gesundheit in advance.
    PHB: [thinking] Must control sneeze. Must not be... predictable. [head inflates]
    Catbert: Yesterday I drew a picture of what this would look like.
  • Peanuts:
    • In a Sunday Strip, Linus and Lucy drew pictures for their grandmother. Linus had Lucy take the drawings and ask which one Grandma liked better. He successfully predicted that Grandma would like both drawings equally.
    • A second strip around the same time had Linus tell Lucy to ask their grandma why there's a Father's Day and a Mother's Day but no Children's Day, and he correctly predicted that she would reply "Every day is Children's Day". Both strips are an inverted parody of the then-current child psychology craze of Dr. Benjamin Spock, with Linus saying "You just have to understand the adult mind!"
  • In a Zits strip, Jeremy comes down for breakfast with a stack of cards, and answers each of his mother's questions ("Orange juice? Eggs?") with the next card. Finally she insists, "I am not that predictable!" and he reveals the card which reads, "Wanna bet?"

  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry predicts how Ron and Hermione will react to his dream about Voldemort, and they both react more-or-less exactly as he thought they would.
  • In The Running Grave from the Cormoran Strike Novels, at the end of the novel, Strike meets with Amelia, the sister of his former girlfriend Charlotte, who committed suicide earlier in the novel. Amelia reveals that Charlotte left behind a lengthy suicide note. She admits to having burned it in anger, but tells him that she still remembers the essentials. She offers to share the portion relevant to him, but he tells her he can guess essentially what it said and proceeds to do so. She admits that he basically nailed it.
  • In Warbreaker, Lightsong goes to meet Blushweaver and, after talking to her for a while, produces a written account of their conversation so far that he prepared in advance. It's not completely accurate, though for the most part that's because it's exaggerated for comedy (e.g., at one point it claims that Blushweaver was so overcome by Lightsong's eloquence that she was Dumb Struck for several minutes).

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: Jack makes a joke, and Liz hands him an envelope predicting that joke. Then Jack hands her an envelope, predicting her prediction of his joke. By later seasons, this is simply an accepted character trait, that Jack knows absolutely everything about Lemon. For example, he uses this to describe precisely how Liz's holiday went (down to the tree ornaments), and not only the movie that she's going to, but when/where/how/why. Then it's revealed she has a boyfriend. Who he knew nothing about, and never saw coming.
  • Babylon 5:
    • During a season one episode, Garibaldi (with the help of Commander Sinclair) pranks Lt. Commander Ivanova into thinking she slept through breakfast, at which point she hurriedly leaves, placing a call to the station's command-and-control center. As Sinclair moves to another part of the mess hall, Garibaldi counts down...
      Garibaldi: Three... two... one.
      Ivanova: [offscreen] Ugh! Garibaldi! You're a dead man!
    • In another episode, Talia is standing outside an elevator and tells Sinclair that she's afraid to get into one, because every time she does, Mr. Garibaldi seems to be there. (This was, in fact, a subtle Running Gag throughout season 1.) Sinclair informs her that Mr. Garibaldi is good, but he's not omniscient. Cue the elevator doors opening, and... well, you fill in the rest.
      Talia: I think I'll take the stairs.
      Sinclair: I think I'll join you.
  • The Big Bang Theory, "The Lunar Excitation":
    Sheldon: Please. Even assuming you could answer any question the way I would, the algorithms used by matchmaking sites are complete hokum.
    Howard: And that's exactly the answer we gave to the question, "What is your attitude towards online dating?"
    Raj: Howard wanted to write mumbo jumbo, but I said no, our Sheldon would say hokum.
  • In one episode of Bones, Booth reveals that he knows Brennan's computer password because he knows how she thinks. He also knows what she changes the password to — twice.
    Booth: I know your password too. It's daffodil.
    Brennan: I never told you that!
    Booth: What? I got eyes. I mean, you guys aren't exactly CIA material.
    Hodgins: Daffodil?
    Brennan: What? They're pretty. And I'm changing my password.
    Booth: Daisy.
    Brennan: How did you know?
    Booth: It's your second favorite flower. I know you, Bones. Try a planet!
    Brennan: [entering password]
    Booth: Jupiter!
  • Abed on Community is so good at predicting his friends' responses that he can mimic them while they're talking and his videos foretell the future.
  • In one sketch on Dave Allen at Large, Dave is playing Sherlock Holmes. He is with Watson
    Holmes: At exactly midnight, the light will go out for three seconds and a man will be shot. He will say exactly five words, then die.
    Watson: Now, Holmes, nobody respects your methods more than me, but isn't that a bit too much?
    [the clock strikes midnight, the lights go out, and we hear several gunshots; when the lights come back on, we see Holmes holding a smoking gun, pointed at a dying Watson]
    Watson: My God, Holmes, you're incredible!
  • In The Golden Girls, Stan walks out the front door. Someone is about to say something when Dorothy cuts them short and counts down. "" Stan walks back in and Dorothy shouts, "Out, Stan!" This is used to contrast a later moment in the episode when she attempts the same prediction and fails, indicating that Stan has changed.
  • In one episode of Horrible Histories, Henry VIII's jester gives an accurate countdown to Henry's Delayed Reaction to being told his wife is cheating on him.
  • An entire episode of Just Shoot Me! ("Nina's Choice") revolved around the principals betting against each other nonstop.
    Jack: Morning, boys.
    Finch: Yes!
    Eliot: Damn. [pays up to Finch]
    Finch: [boogie dancing] I told you! He never says "good", only "morning"!
    Jack: Ha!
    Eliot: Damn! [pays up to Jack]
    Finch: What?
    Jack: I knew you'd dance like a jackass before noon! Come to poppa!
    Eliot: Yes!
    Finch: Nooo! [pays up to Eliot]
    Jack: What?
    Finch: Who says 'come to poppa?!
    Jack: Everyone says 'come to poppa!"
    Eliot: And again!
    Finch: No, no, you didn't say I have to pay every time.
    Jack: So are you questioning the rules?
    Finch: You're freakin' right.
    Jack: YES!
    Eliot: DAAAAMN! [pays up again]
  • Kamen Rider OOO: Kougami offers Eiji and Ankh access to his Medal System, in return for 70% of the Core Medals they take from the enemies. Ankh, of course, wants it for free, but when that fails he resorts to haggling - starting low with 40% and going up, while Kougami just sticks to 70%. He finally spits out a reluctant "60%!", and Kougami accepts... and then uncovers a birthday cake he'd prepared earlier, with "60%" written in blueberries.
  • M*A*S*H's early seasons with Henry Blake in command often had Radar O'Reilly, the company clerk, do this. Radar was often known for popping up out of nowhere behind Blake whenever he needed him, and often had what he needed before Blake even asked for it. He remains a Hypercompetent Sidekick to both Blake and his replacement, Colonel Potter, for the entirety of his run on the show, leaving his replacement, Klinger, with big shoes to fill.
  • QI's gimmick is that it's a quiz that penalizes boring/obvious answers rather than wrong ones. When this happens, a klaxon goes off and the answer appears on the huge screens in the studio to prove that it was expected. Generally speaking, this means Common Knowledge answers, but sometimes the show predicts the panellists' jokes (specific panellists, in a few cases). The very first episode had an example of this, when the revelation that Caravaggio had cut a guy's testicles off over a game of tennis led to Danny Baker saying, "New balls, please!" They also predicted that Jo Brand would give the answer "have you been talking to my husband?" in response to the question "What was the Great Disappointment?" In another example, Jimmy Carr was taken aback to set off the klaxon when his answer to the most dangerous thing to do in bed was "reverse cowgirl".
    Jimmy: Really? They had that locked and loaded?
    Sandi: We know you too well.
  • Scrubs:
    • The Janitor tells J.D. that he is incredibly predictable, to which J.D. objects:
      Janitor: You're very predictable.
      J.D. and Janitor: [simultaneously] No I'm not. Stop doing that! Peanut-butter-egg-dirt!
    • Reversed earlier when J.D. predicts the Janitor's plans to a T.
      Janitor: Listen, crash in my garage. I guarantee you there will not be another person in there.
      [J.D. has an imagine spot]
      J.D.: You're gonna slather jam on my face and sic a family of raccoons on me, aren't you?
      Janitor: Damn it. I've become predictable.
  • In So Random!, in a school news sketch, one of the anchors keeps handing the other letters responding to his response to the previous letter. At one point, the other anchor asks "when did you find the time to write all these letters and how did you know what I was going to say?", which is replied to with a letter saying "Because you're very predictable".
  • In the premiere of Star Trek: Enterprise, Malcolm Reed accurately predicts how Trip Tucker will respond to his supply problems.
    Malcolm: No doubt Mister Tucker will reassure me that my equipment will be here tomorrow. (imitating Trip's Floridian accent) Keep yer shirt on, Lyoo-tenant.
    Trip: Keep your shirt on, Lieutenant. Your equipment will be here in the mornin'.

    Web Comics 
  • In one strip of Everyday Heroes, we get simultaneous Spit Take prediction.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court. Here (and here), Andrew Smith demonstrates that he's the only person who can predict when Parley is going to arrive via teleportation. (Word of Tom is that Smitty is just guessing, but because of his order-causing powers, his guesses just happen to be right.)
  • In Narbonic, Artie is smart enough to carry on a conversation by responding to the next thing the other person says.
    Dave: You cannot foresee what I'm going to say. I'm not that predictable and you're not that smart.
    Artie: It certainly did. You're not thinking ahead.
    Dave: Huh? That didn't follow.
    Artie: I feel fine. It's only gibberish if you don't grasp my point.
    Dave: All of a sudden, you're talking gibberish. You feel okay?
    Artie: And at last we catch on. Good work.
    Dave: Wait a minute...
  • Schlock Mercenary played Tagon's double-dealing habits for Ironic Echo Cut. He's predictable that way.

    Western Animation 
  • Dilbert: Dilbert talks with a pre-recorded message left by his mother, ending with:
    Dilbert: Am I really so predictable that you can record your half of the conversation in advance?!
    Recording: Yes, you are really so predictable that I can record my half of the conversation in advance.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, this takes place when Timmy wishes his parents had superpowers, then when he finds they are too busy with fighting evil that they can't take care of him, and wishes that they weren't superheroes, but Cosmo's and Wanda's wands don't worknote :
    Timmy: Let me guess,
    Timmy, Cosmo, and Wanda: They're so superpowerful, they're invulnerable to magic.
  • In an episode of Johnny Test, Johnny tells his dog that his father will come out soon, warning him that dinner is in thirty minutes, and Johnny will be in trouble if everything is not normal by dinner.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • The show will occasionally Self-Parody its use of Once an Episode gags and catchphrases by having the characters predict exactly when they will happen.
      Phineas: Somebody should make an all-terrain vehicle that really goes over all terrains!
      Ferb: 2...3...4...
      Phineas: Ferb! I know what we're gonna do today!
      Ferb: 5...6...7...
      Phineas: Hey, where's Perry?
    • "Run Candace Run": The boys are watching as a nature documentary describes the Cheetah as being the fastest land animal. Candace looks at her watch, then up expectantly. The sound effects lampshade this with the sound of a timer going "ding!" as Phineas says "I know what we're gonna do today!"
    • Candace also does this in one episode where she's able to predict what's happening after Phineas and Ferb finish another daily adventure, including their mom calling the boys in for snacks and Ferb giving out his Once an Episode non-sequitur, such as "You know the gladiators were Roman, not Greek."
  • The Simpsons, "Viva Ned Flanders":
    Ned: Can you believe it? It almost seems like those folks were... were making fun of ol' steady Neddy!
    Maude: Well, you may be a bit cautious. What's wrong with that? Some people like chunky peanut butter, some like smooth!
    Ned: Mmm-hmm, and some people just steer clear of that whole hornet's nest! I'll stick with just plain white bread, thank you very much, maybe with a ...
    Maude, Rod and Todd: "... glass of water on the side for dippin'!"
    [Ned stops the car]
    Ned: Gosh darn it! Am I that pre-diddly-ictable? [sigh] I've wasted my whole dang-diddly life.
  • South Park:
    • In "Butt Out", Cartman asks his friends to help him hide from the anti-smoking activists who want to kill him, and they decide to get help from the Big Tobacco Company. However, Kyle is against the idea because he thinks it will go about the way many episodes do.
      Kyle: What we really should do is go to our parents right now and take responsibility for smoking ourselves, even if it means getting grounded.
      Stan: Why?
      Kyle: Because, if we go to the tobacco company, I know exactly what'll happen: they'll take us in, and then Rob Reiner will show up with all the townspeople holding torches or something, and there'll be a big showdown until we talk about what we learned, and changed everyone's minds. This is all following a formula!
      Stan: So it's either deal with all that, or be grounded for three weeks...
      [cut to a torch-wielding mob outside the Big Tobacco Co.]
      Kyle: Goddammit!
    • This trope is paired with Self-Referential Humor in "South Park Gets Cancelled." Early on in the episode, Stan and Kyle notice that things are happening exactly like they did in the very first episode of the show. Eventually, they start perfectly reciting the things that people will say and realize that they're somehow reliving the same day again. It's eventually revealed that the lives of the South Park citizens are aired as a reality show on an alien planet, but the show has been cancelled, leading to the creation of real-life reruns.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks, when Boimler returns to the Cerritos at the beginning of season 2, he explains to his friends that he got transporter cloned. This is immediately followed by Tendi paying Rutherford for guessing that would be the reason Boimler was inevitably transferred back. When asked how he guessed, Rutherford explained that it seemed like "a Boimler thing to do."
  • The Venture Brothers, "SPHINX Rising," when Henchman 21 and Sergeant Hatred discuss The Monarch's tactics as his giant flying cocoon approaches:
    21: All right, she's coming in low and slow. That's classic Monarch look-at-my-cool-new-thing approach.
    Sgt. Hatred: Should I ready the extinguishers?
    21: Please. He only uses fire and lasers at night. I got my money on acid or a magnet kind of thing.
    [cut away]
    The Monarch: Ready the acid magnet!


Video Example(s):


It's my scientific specialty!

Urgl knows her nerdy husband so well that she can predict his response when Atreyu reveals that he is looking for the Southern Oracle.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / ImprobablyPredictable

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