Step One: we land the Exodar.
Step Three: we defeat the Legion and go home.
There is only one detail missing...."
A hilariously ill-conceived scheme that lacks the "scheme", or at least a well-thought out one. Often, it's not even clear how The Plan is supposed to work — but the planner thinks it's such a good idea, it has to work somehow.
The goal can be anything, such as "financial profit," "get the girl," "world domination," and "win." The point is that the plan contains a specific first step and a final step that benefits the planner, but misses a way to connect the two ends.
The implementation of the scheme is sometimes, but not always, ridiculously more expensive than any money they could hope to make on the off-chance the scheme is successful. Sometimes, it just flat out does not make sense — but due to the Unspoken Plan Guarantee, if anyone points this out it will of course succeed without a hitch.
See also Cut Lex Luthor a Check for when the intellect and hard work used to advance the plan would be far more profitable to the character if he just did an honest day's work, rather than work on his Evil Plan. When the character develops the middle steps as he goes along, it becomes an Indy Ploy. Compare also the Slippery Slope Fallacy (which is sort of like "Step three: loss"). Murder the Hypotenuse is an extreme example of "then I get the girl"-style plan. When Steps One and Two are all nice and clear but Step Three (the actual goal) is lacking, see And Then What?.
- Invoked Trope in The Devil Is a Part-Timer!. Climb the economic ladder in MgRonald's. Conquer the World!
- Fascinatingly enough, the protagonist does have reasons for this: He started out as a lowly soldier before being rescued and taught several various topics that allowed him to rise up and eventually become Demon King. As such, he had prior experience. It makes sense he figures he could start as a fast food worker and make his way to the top.
- The SOS Brigade's Valentine's Day chocolate-making meeting in Haruhi-chan had the following steps:
Phase 1: Make chocolate.
Phase 2: Powder chocolate.
Phase 3: Wrap chocolate.
Phase 4: Unwrap and eat chocolate.
Phase 5: ?
Phase 6: Profit.
- Princess Jellyfish: Kuranosuke's plan to stop the tearing down of the Amamizu-kan boarding house:
Phase 1: Clean up nicely the Sisterhood.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Amamizu-kan saved
- The title character of Squid Girl has come up with a Take Over the World plot which goes like this:
Phase 1: Turn Lemon Beach House into a home base.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Conquer Earth.
- Buried under half a dozen plans in Touhou's official manga Silent Sinner in Blue are two protagonists and one vampire who have unabashedly embraced the Missing Steps Plan. There are hints early on the vampire might be deliberately playing the fool here; she really couldn't have planned a step 2, but may have known about step 4 (collect gratitude and compensation for pretending the Missing Steps Plan was your idea). The other two are just used to plans like this, as under the Video Games section below.
1. Go to the Moon
- Plan Madara Uchiha from Naruto to become a Physical God and conquer the world in the Lotus-Eater Machine approximately looks like this:
Step 1: Transplant your eyes into a boy from an almost extinct clan and leave him unattended in war-torn country.
Step 2: Find a boy from the clan Uchiha and drive him crazy to make him want to help you execute your plan.
Step 3: Teach him everything you know and commit suicide, telling him that in the future he will have to revive you, with the help of the boy whom you transplanted your eyes into earlier.
Step 4: ???
Step 5: Profit.
- In particular missing in Step 4 is how Obito should force Nagato to revive him, or what to do if Nagato dies before Obito can use him to resurrect Madara. Or what if Obito just doesn't want to resurrect him in the first place.
- In Saki Achiga-hen, Shizuno's plan after seeing Nodoka playing mahjong on TV is as follows.
1. Go to Achiga All Girls Academy2. ?3. Go to the nationals in the mahjong tournament4. Face Nodoka again!
- Shizuno gets the main flaws in her plan (she not only has to reform the Achiga mahjong club, but also get good enough to defeat Bansei) pointed out to her by her more level-headed friend, Ako, though, and realizes she has a point. Thankfully, their mutual friend Kuro has been cleaning the classroom for two years in the hopes that someone would come back, and brings in her sister and another friend.
- The King in Dragon Half starts the series trying to murder Mink's father so that he can marry Mink's mother. This at least will result in Mink's mother be available for marriage, though it's missing steps on how to make her interested in marrying the person responsible for her husband's death. After the King first encounters Mink, he discards that plan in favor of trying to kill Mink instead, a plan which makes even less sense in light of the ultimate goal.
- Virtually every plan by Team Rocket in the Pokémon anime. Throughout the middle of the series, almost every episode has the trio planning to steal the Pokemon of the week, followed by Meowth coming up with some way (usually far-fetched and trivial) that the boss could actually use it.
- Pretty much everything Ichigo ever does in Bleach revolves around this. Step 1: Invade the Soul Society. Step 3: Rescue Rukia... Step 1: Invade Hueco Mundo. Step 3: Rescue Orihime. It's even his view on combat. Step 1: Engage someone vastly more powerful than you. Step 3: Win. Of course thanks to being an Invincible Hero, he always manages to come out on top.
- The villains in Chick Tracts can sometimes fall into this, such as the gay rights group who wanted to make sure their children wouldn't be bullied by infecting the Red Cross' donor blood supply (which was kept in a huge vat) with AIDS.
- The evil organization F.AN.G. (Fear, ANger, Greed) from Disney Adventures's Spy Kids comics runs on this. On one issue, they stole the heads on Mt. Rushmore to mount them on a giant robot body, only to find they had no plan for what the giant robot was supposed to do afterward. In another issue, they planned to destroy all the cereal in the world so that their 1 million dollar cereal "Fang Flakes" would create a cereal monopoly. How did they plan to destroy all the cereal in the world? They forgot to figure out how.
- Jack of Fables never-ending series of get-rich-quick cons either fall into this trope, or Didn't Think This Through. The very first arc was the aftermath of his attempt to take advantage of the dotcom bubble (a fairly long time after it had already burst) via a scheme to have a notoriously amoral and vengeful Fable unwittingly finance it, and the ensuing "Fawlty Towers" Plot to cover it up. His partner in that particular escapade Rose Red also fell into this at first, though she gets loads of Character Development and matures, while Jack remains perennially incapable of foreseeing the likely consequences of his actions.
- In one issue of The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Skullcruncher - a former Decepticon who's made a career in comedy out of making jokes about his previous profession - jokes that the Infiltration Protocol is one of these.
Skullcruncher: Let em tell you, the Infiltration Protocol is the greatest mystery of our time. Phase 1 is Infiltration, obviously. Phase 2 is..."stirring things up," I'll accept that. Phase 2 is Destabilization. Okay, so phase 3. Can anyone tell me what phase 3 is? Anyone? No, because no one knows...Ah, but [Megatron's HeelFace Turn] is a ruse, that's what they say, the deniers. He's staging his own Infiltration Protocol...He's trapped on board this ship with these Autobots, he's pretending to be a good guy, he's agreed to stand trial for his crimes - he can't back down now - and he's like, "What the hell is Phase 3? I should know this! I invented this! Why didn't I write it down?!"
- Chapter 10 of The Last Pony on Earth has the protagonist make one of these, and this is when one of his priorities (apart from finding other survivors) is to regain his human body—therefore, the final step is "Human again!". He then adds that "hopefully whoever's reading this already knows what we did for six, because this crisis is over and everything's back to normal."
- In Lucys Unwanted House Guest, Lisanna's plan to deal with Lucy is as follows. Coincidentally, she happens to find just the thing she needs to fill in the missing step before it's too late.
1)Hire some guys to disguise as Team Natsu and beat up Lucy.
3)Everyone's convinced that Team Natsu beat Lucy up.
- Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv) changes Light Yagami's grand scheme to:
1: Kill celebrities.
2: Distract the media with their deaths.
4: Become god of the new world.
- In Sword Art Online Abridged:
- Yolko and Caynz's plan is to pretend to be ghosts and guilt the guildmate they believe to be responsible for Griselda's murder into confessing. But Yolko also got Kirito and Asuna involved, which serves no purpose in this plan.
Yolko: I'm sorry Caynz, I entangled him in our web of lies.
Yolko: Well, I mean it was very important that he, um... huh.
- The entire scenario turns out to be the result of one of these, with the person enacting it aware of it and deciding to fill in the blanks later. Kayaba accidentally created a glitch that killed players, and was losing his mind from sleep deprivation after rushing out the game, so the best solution he could come up with was to pretend I Meant to Do That. After two years he never manages to fill in the missing step, at least in part because he was forced to intervene after a fifth of the player population managed to die in just the first month.
1. Trap everyone in the game and tell them they have to Win to Exit.
2. Work on finding a better solution while keeping the players as hostages in case the feds come after you.
4. Avoid jail and bad Metacritic scores.
- Yolko and Caynz's plan is to pretend to be ghosts and guilt the guildmate they believe to be responsible for Griselda's murder into confessing. But Yolko also got Kirito and Asuna involved, which serves no purpose in this plan.
- In Violence Inherent in the System a daimon seed possesses Konatsu and sucks energy crystals out of Ukyo's customers.
Technically, its primary function was already complete. Daimons were originally designed to take Pure Heart Crystals and follow their master's orders. This daimon already had plenty of crystals... but there was no master around to give it further instructions apart from repeating step one. Sure, step three was 'profit', but there seemed to be no step two today.
- Professor Arc: Ruby's plan to win over Jaune is get him alone and then somehow they'd be in love. In a self-aware moment, she knows she's missing the middle part due to her lack of real-world knowledge of how romantic relationships work, but doesn't really have anything better to go off of.
- White Sheep (RWBY):
- When it comes to who leads the White Fang, Blake sees Sienna as the lesser evil to Adam and his followers. Blake's plan to dethrone the Cult of Adam in favor of Sienna is: "Get into the White Fang. Be recruited. Put our support behind Sienna. Find and close down the fanatics. Something. Profit." Blake hopes that as the team leader, Ren can fill in the gap.
- Subverted when Qrow and Ozpin meet up with Jaune's team. Jaune has a fine plan: Go to Mistral, get supplies and transportation from one of his mother's allies, go to the Grimmlands, infiltrate Salem's tower (which Jaune knows well because he grew up there), and rescue Pyrrha (who they know is alive because Salem sent them a selfie). The problem is, Qrow and Ozpin are Locked Out of the Loop regarding Jaune being the son of Salem, so it sounds like "Go to Mistral, get to the Grimmlands somehow, and rescue someone we have no proof is even alive." Jaune has to admit he wouldn't follow that plan either, and doesn't blame Ozpin for trying to take over.
- The MLP Loops: Most of Starlight Glimmer's plans, similar to those in the show, are lacking in forethought. And those are usually the better ones. One Loop has her trying to replace Applejack. Her attempt is terrible - the disguise is see-through, she doesn't look anything like Applejack, hasn't bothered to hide her horn, and her accent is atrocious. Applejack had already stopped her before Twilight even caught up to her. Another has her replace Pinkie Pie, and when "caught" admits replacing Pinkie Pie was the entire plan.
- In If I Could Start Again, Thor's plan for dealing with Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian to stop Thanos from expanding his army isn't well thought out at all. It basically amounts to 1.) find them, 2.) learn about the army they were gathering, and 3.) kill them and the army. As Black Widow points out, that's not a plan, but a list of objectives.
- The Avengers. Lampshaded by Tony in that same scene. "Right, got its attention. What the hell was step 2?"
Step 1: Macross Missile Massacre the alien dragon to get its attention.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Victory.
- Aliens: Done several times, most notably with their plans to escape once they discover the colony will soon self-destruct.
Step 1: Send Bishop up through a narrow shaft up to the relay tower, as the safest route.
Step 2: Bishop will remote-pilot the other drop-ship down to the relay tower.
Step 3: ??
Step 4: Everyone escapes!!
- Notably missing in Step 3 is how the rest of the team was planning on getting up to him or when they were planning to do so. At no point after sending him are they concerned about leaving in time until after the battle where they have fled from the aliens. They even use welding devices to barricade themselves in without considering the effects on an escape plan. It is only through the luck of Newt pointing out the ventilation shafts to them that they have a method to reach Bishop.
- Lesser examples would include the marines intending to rescue hostages while armed with weapons that will almost certainly cause collateral damage (flame-throwers, grenades, explosive ammunition, all against enemies that have acidic blood) and Burke intending to infect Ripley and Newt and then sabotaging the sleep pods of the remaining marines so he can bring the aliens past quarantine. While there *is* a Step 2 (use armed force to safely kill aliens while minimizing harm to civilians/sabotage all of the sleeping pods of the marines without them noticing, jettisoning the bodies, and then making up a plausible story), it's just that Step 2 is extremely unrealistic. The former is possibly justified because the marines are cocky and their commanding officer is inexperienced, while the latter is definitely justified because Burke is desperate.
- Batman (1989): The Joker plans to "run the city into the ground" and murder everyone at the Anniversary parade. He never gives any hint of what benefit that will be to organized crime, which is why the other mob bosses think he's crazy. Justified, in that Jack is crazy and just wants to watch the world burn.
- Team America: World Police: Played for Laughs with Tim Robbins' explanation for how corporations make money through the team.
Tim Robbins: Let me explain to you how this works: you see, the corporations finance Team America, and then Team America goes out... and the corporations sit there in their... in their corporation buildings, and... and, and see, they're all corporation-y... and they make money.
- Spider-Man's Green Goblin is never quite clear on what exactly his evil plan is, only that Spider-Man is the only one who can stop him from doing it and getting Spider-Man to join him in doing... whatever it is... will guarantee its success. However, this is slightly mitigated by the fact that the Goblin is completely insane, and is really just doing shit For the Evulz. (The Goblin has Norman's arrogance dialed up to eleven and with super-technology, and his obsession with making Spider-Man his protege mirrors Norman's greater fondness for Peter than his actual biological son, so at least the 'Spider-Man is necessary' part makes some degree of sense.)
Step 1: Kill all those jerks who took my company away.
Step 2: Get Spider-Man on board with Step 3, largely by hurting people he cares about.
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Profit.
- In the film Devil Fish, the creators of the eponymous sharktopus monster intend to use it to protect undersea resources so they can be exploited later. How they intend to kill the resulting swarms of infinitely reproducing horrors out of Lovecraft's worst nightmares is never made clear, nor is there any apparent impulse in the creatures themselves to seek out and defend areas with resources in them; they seem to prefer hanging around areas with plenty of divers and boats and eating people.
Step 1: Create hideous sea monster that can reproduce From a Single Cell.
Step 2: Hideous sea monsters protect undersea resources.
Step 3: ???
Step 4: We exploit the resources ourselves.
Step 5: Profit!
- Help!: The mad scientists never actually explain how an indestructible ring will let them Take Over the World. Sure it's neat and everything but...
- In the film and MST3K fodder The Blood Waters of Dr. Z the mad scientist's plan is:
Step 1: Transform self into fish monster.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Rule world.
- Hydrozagadka, which raises Makes As Much Sense In Context to an art form has the baddies try to execute the following Evil Plan:
Step 1: Turn all the water in Warsaw into steam.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: When clouds form over Kabur, sent up baloons with fridges attached to collect the water.
Step 4: Sell it to the locals. Profit!
- Pinocchio's plan at the beginning of the book (admittedly, he is only a day old or so):
In school today, Ill learn to read, tomorrow to write, and the day after tomorrow Ill do arithmetic. Then, clever as I am, I can earn a lot of money.
- Catch-22 has a comedic deconstruction, where Milo Minderbender spends chapters trying to figure out what step 2 is, including attempting to coat the cotton in chocolate and sell it as emergency rations.
Step 1: Buy up the entire harvest of Egyptian cotton.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Profit.
- In The Hobbit, both Bilbo and Gandalf note that the Dwarves' plan to reclaim the Lonely Mountain leaves out the whole question of what they'll actually do about the fire-breathing dragon that stole it from them in the first place. The film version actually had a somewhat plausible plan: Steal back the crown jewels, use them to crown Thorin as King, and then have him call in alliances from the other dwarf nations to help deal with the dragon.
- In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the computer Deep Thought was created to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. After calculating for seven and a half million years, it comes up with "42". Turns out the answer isn't very useful if you don't know the question...
- In The Masked Empire: This is how Felassan describes the attempts of the Dalish to reclaim their lost home:
"They have a wonderful new plan! It ends with the shemlen killing each other off, leaving the Dales free for the elves to rule. [It begins with] riding around in wagons pulled by deer. They're still working out the middle."
- In the Friends episode "The One In Vegas", Joey is convinced he's found his "identical hand twin", and that this will make his fortune. Somehow.
- The Office (US): At a Dunder-Mifflin shareholder meeting, Michael attempts to pacify the crowd with a 45-day, 45-point plan for staving off bankruptcy, to be generated during a 15 minute break.
Day 45, company saved. Day 44, go. What do we got?
- The business plan of the short-lived Michael Scott Paper Company basically amounted to this too, considering they had no real capital or paper to sell. (At some point they got some, although it's not explained how).
- Saturday Night Live had a sketch where a bank just made change, nothing else. When asked how they managed to stay in business, the spokesman replied, "Volume".
- Taken to another level on My Family with a plan that doesn't even have a Step One.
Nick: Im going to become a dot-com millionaire.
Ben: Really? Thats great. So, shouldnt you, like, get a good idea first?
Nick: But it is a good idea. Dot-com millionaire.
- The "Money Momentum" scam sketch from The Kids in the Hall, with Those Two Guys targeting senior citizens.
- In the 4th season of Parks and Recreation, Tom Haverford's friend and partner in get-rich-quick schemes, Jean-Ralphio receives a large sum of money. The two quickly begin to create their own business called Entertainment 720. Their goal being to have a large office filled with people whose only purpose is to entertain them, have a lot of merchandise with their name on it and being able to easily hand out expensive gifts like iPads to anyone who visit them. Their idea being that a successful company has such things and to be successful as well they just need those. What they completely ignored was the middle step that involves actually making money or knowing what their company is supposed to do at all (Tom actually does have a semi-coherent idea: organizing/promoting events. This even plays to his strengths: Tom's a great party planner — the one they throw to mark the end of e720 was agreed to be Pawnee's best ever. But by the time he tries going through with the idea, the company's already bankrupt).
- In season 3 of Shameless (US) this is essentially Jimmy's plan for the future. He is in love with Fiona but is also in a Citizenship Marriage with a drug lord's daughter. He is broke but cannot go back to stealing cars for a living since being arrested would get his wife deported and her drug lord father would be violently pissed off if that happened. Jimmy then hits on the idea to go back to university and become a doctor. Not only does he lack the funds to do so but there is no guarantee that he would graduate given his temperament. Everyone else sees the idea as horribly mistimed but Jimmy holds onto it like an Idiot Ball.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Barney is usually a master of the Batman Gambit when it comes to getting women to sleep with him. But one of his last plays, "Weekend at Barney's" falls into this. It's not clear how his plan of pretending to be dead while his friends "pretend" that he's still alive was intended to make women attracted to him.
- In Once Upon a Time episode "The New Neverland", Snow has one of these in regards to stopping the Evil Queen from casting her spell. Step 1: Kill Medusa. Step 2: ????. Step 3: Regina's defeated! This is even lampshaded by Prince Charming who asks how exactly killing Medusa will help, does she plan on sending Regina Medusa's head in a box? Not only does this plan fail miserably, but Charming is very nearly killed.
- In Blood & Treasure, Danny and Lexi track down Keeler, a man who masterminded the brilliant theft of ten nearly priceless rare paintings. Keeler had put major effort into a heist so amazing that professional thief Lexi is impressed by it. They track Keeler down to find he's working at a rough shack in Havana. They press him on where they can find one of the paintings and to their shock, Keeler pulls the entire pack out from under the counter. He sardonically notes that he was so focused on stealing the paintings that it didn't occur to him until too late that the paintings were so rare and priceless and the heist was such a huge deal that there was no way he could sell any of them even on the black market ("I couldn't give them away!"). Thus, instead of retiring as a rich man, he's been stuck eking out a meager living in Havana while sitting on a fortune in art.
- The Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "How to Do It" has instructions for how to rid the world of all known diseases: "Well, first of all, become a doctor and discover a marvelous cure for something, and then when the medical profession really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do, and make sure they get everything right so there'll never be any diseases ever again."
- The format has become a bit of a meme in certain parts of the internet. Can be combined with almost anything, and be any length as long as the last two steps are "????" and "Profit". Example using tropes:
- Subverted in LoadingReadyRun's "The New Old Thing" sketch where the idea to essentially sell pirated copies of MS Dos looks like this trope but there actually is a well reasoned argument made for why it might actually work and who their customer base would be. In the end it is the Profit step that fails to materialize since the business plan is simply impractical.
- Ladies and Gentlemen: How to Draw an Owl.
- A variant is presented in this video:
First you start the Skype call
Then you grab a beer
Then you start recording, and...
Something Kirby race!
- A well-known Sidney Harris cartoon◊ has two sets of complicated mathematics on a blackboard, with "Then A Miracle Occurs" written between them as the "explanation" of how one is derived from the other.
"I think you should be more explicit here in step two."
- This was a running gag in Doonesbury comics during the DotCom Boom. A character started a DotCom company and began Step One by finding venture capitalists to invest in his company. He was so successful at this that he never got around to figuring out what Step Two was supposed to be. To his great amazement the company actually developed a Step Two on its own but he does not find out what they were actually selling until the very end when Microsoft forced them out of business.
- In FoxTrot, Jason also had at least one arc where his plan amounted (as many other examples here) to Step 1: Create a DotCom company; Step 3: Profit when investors come running. He gets called on this twice. The first time, he claimed he'd just buy out another company with his profits, but when potential investors start asking, the only thing he could show them was a "dinky little program [he'd] written for fun".
Andy: And that killed off interest?
Jason: Actually, it killed off the Internet.
Coincidental Broadcast: Tonight's top story: the "Darth Jason" computer virus. Is there hope for mankind?
- On at least one occasion, it was obvious to anyone what Step 2 should be, except Jason himself. He created a website that contained nothing but repeated requests for the viewer to buy advertising space from him. When Peter asked him where the content is, Jason just got confused.
- In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the party is disappointed to learn that the reason Vulcanus tried to start a war between Celestia and the Netherworld was so that he could become God... somehow. Even Vulcanus wasn't quite sure how it was going to work out. Etna called this out much earlier.
Etna: See? I told you it would be something selfish and stupid.
- Trolls on the Runescape forums use this quite a bit on "How do I make money" threads. Step 1. Cut willows. Step 2. ? Step 3: Profit (Willow logs are very cheap, around 13 GP each, and as a reference, 2 million GP is considered broke by many players.)
- Recordshop Tycoon references this trope: Under the "The Office > Marketing Menu > Prices", you see a convenient illustration: Step One: Karma and Average Selling Price. Step 2: ? Step 3: Profit
- Utsuho, the Final Boss of Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism, has one of these as her "grand plan", with Step One being "Reignite the Hell of Blazing Fires" and Step Three being "Take Over the World!". Entirely justified though, as even before she went mad with power she was deeply stupid.
- This applies to pretty much every Touhou game.
- Dr. Ned in Borderlands indicates he is going to do evil for the sake of profit. Evil seems to be raising the undead for recreational use. Later on he admits that step two never materialized and he's broke.
- The Sims Medieval has a quest in which one of your heroes intends to learn the secret of creating life. The description ends with "...And somehow profit from it".
- The Apprentice from Orcs Must Die! sometimes says this gem when placing a coinforge, an item that increase the monetary reward of any mob killed on it:
- "Step 1, Put down coinforge. Step 2: Something with orcs but I forget. Step 3: Profit!
- A long-running joke among those who know Resident Evil is that the Evil Plan of the Umbrella Corporation is always:
Phase 1: Zombies!
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Profit.
- In Dragon Age II, Isabela needs to get rid of the crime boss Castillion before he has her killed, and hits on the idea of using his subordinate Velasco to get at him. She sums up her initial plan thusly:
Isabela: Step one, we go to Velasco. Step two... something exciting happens. Step three, profit.
- World of Warcraft provides the quote mentioned above. To make it even funnier, the Exodar crash landed on Azeroth.
- The Goblin quote doesn't even bother about a step one or two. "Skip to step three: profit."
- In Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, Johnny doesn't really have a detailed plan for saving the Boss beyond "shoot the Devil in the face". Kinzie calls him out on it, and later he admits it himself.
- One of the illustrations for the "Save the Princess" quest in Doodle God Blitz depicts a couple of adventurers lounging around a campfire with a list scrawled underneath.
Step 1: Take quest
Step 2: Find [dragon's] lair
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Profit!
- In Fallout 4, even the director of the Institute will admit that his faction is suffering from this. Its personnel like to talk about how their technology is the only hope for humanity's survival, technology that has let them develop Synths, incredibly advanced androids that are virtually indistinguishable from humans. The problem is that they've fallen into a sort of Synth feedback loop, so all their interactions with the rest of the Commonwealth involve either attacking or infiltrating them with Synths, without any wider plan or endgame.
Step 1: Build Synths
Step 2: Use Synths to undermine potential threats and steal or destroy rival technology
Step 3: ???
Step 4: The Commonwealth is saved!
- Benny in Fallout: New Vegas is a Big Bad Wannabe with aspirations to control the titular city, but he doesn't seem to have a plan for how to do this other than stealing the Platinum Chip and using it to upgrade the Securitrons. Anything past that is uncertain. (Keep in mind, pulling off the same plan in-game is a six-part questline concluding with a massive pitched battle.) If you ask him how he thinks he can succeed, he says "it's... it's coming together." The fact that he gets caught within minutes of trying to put the Platinum Chip to use in the Legion camp indicates that it wasn't coming together quite fast enough.
- In Day of the Tentacle, Dr. Fred's instructions to Bernard to save the world from Purple Tentacle are very concise: "Step 1: Find plan. Step 2: Save world. Step 3: Get out of my house!"
- In Hazbin Hotel, Charlie has an interview on the news to get people to come to the titular hotel. In spite of Vaggie's attempts to keep Charlie on track, Charlie doesn't really have a way to convince people to come. Charlie settles on "sing a song and hope that translates to more clientele" after her initial time goes bad.
- The Homestar Runner video Best Caper Ever revolves around Strong Bad trying to figure out what the middle steps of his plan were after successfully pulling it off. All he remembers was that step one was to steal Homestar's drink and step two was have the Cheat pee in Homestar's drink. Somehow, his plan got from that to Homestar ending up stranded in the Arctic Circle while Strong Bad somehow has a satellite feed of Homestar drifting on an ice floe.
Strong Bad: I think we might be missing a couple key steps there.
- Galasso appears to have the following long-term plan: "1. Dominate the toy store market, 2. ?, 3. Take Over the World."
- His Dumbing of Age counterpart seems to be attempting the same with a pizza parlor.
- Another Shortpacked example appears in this strip, where Ethan is trying to run the store. "1. Lie. 2. ??? 3. Profit."
- Galasso appears to have the following long-term plan: "1. Dominate the toy store market, 2. ?, 3. Take Over the World."
- Ganondorf's master plan from the Zelda Comic is shown at one point to be "Step I. Punch Link, Step III. Rule World." Brilliant! To hell with step 2, man; he's busy!
- 8-Bit Theater:
- In this Red Mage's escape plan consists entirely of "Jail, Action/Hijinks, Freedom!"
- Another plan is a variant on the theme. He reasons that the logic of his previous plans was their flaw (since a failure at any one step meant the whole thing fell apart), so he devises a plan utterly devoid of logic; that way, even if one step goes tits up, it didn't actually have any connection to the next step, so the plan as a whole coan soldier merrily forward regardless.
- When Freddie the Flying Fetus asks Bob the Angry Flower to fill in the missing steps in his plan, he actually does so. Sort of.◊
- In this strip of Loserz, in-comic:
1. FORCE people to get fat.
- Sluggy Freelance:
Torg: There's another one of me running around?
- Torg runs into this problem once.
Riff: You sound excited.
Torg: Two of me! Think of the possibilities!
Riff: Nope. Can't think of anything.
Torg: We could do a really cool Doublemint commercial!
Torg: How would that "save" us?
- In "Brie Meighsaton House", Riff has been staying up at nights to photograph the ghost of the sobbing woman that seems to haunt the house. When Torg asks him what good that will actually do, his response is "Do I have to think of everything?"
- In "Living Conditions":
Riff: It's big and clunky, better for head smacking!
Torg: What about the other two guys with guns?
Riff: I dunno. Hit them with a chair or something? Do I have to think of everything?
- Erfworld has a variant. Wanda admits she doesn't know what the missing step is but also firmly believes You Can't Fight Fate so she is going through with the plan anyway.
- In Rusty and Co., Madeline actually has a full plan. All the odder in that she's The Ditz.
1. Find Baddies.
2. Smite Baddies.
- Ask Axe Cop #75 has a race of gill-men who want to remove all the land from Earth, but even they aren't sure how.
- Peter Is the Wolf had a four step plan in an attempt to get the Titular character back with his girlfriend, who dumped him over a very much Not What It Looks Like misunderstanding.
Step 1 : Jean explains to Sarah what really happens
Step 2 : Jean persuades Sarah that I need to leave for good
Step 3 : How the hell do we get from there...
Step 4 : ... Getting me and Sarah back together again.
- In Champions of Faraus, Dave scares a merchant away from their(the merchants) goods(a chainmail shirt and barley enough leather armor to cover someone's torso that they were planning on selling for twenty gold a piece), and the merchant drops a piece of paper that reads:
- El Goonish Shive: Closeted lesbian Nanase is excited about an upcoming Gender Bender party because it will let her act on her attraction to women without outing herself. Just before the transformation actually happens, she suddenly realizes that this doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Nanase: [in an Imagine Spot] Hey Ellen! I find you attractive!
Ellen: Wow! If you weren't a guy right now, I would be highly suspicious about your sexual orientation!
Nanase: Would you like to cuddle under a blanket, watch a movie, and maybe make out while in the company of six of our friends? I only ask because I'm a guy, of course.
Ellen: I would love to! Yay!
[Imagine Spot ends]
Nanase: ... There's nothing quite like having a well thought out plan...
- The What If? entry "Pyramid Energy", asking if the energy it took to build the Great Pyramid would be enough to send a mission to the moon and back, uses this in the second image. Said image consists of the pyramid broken down and fed through a box marked "?", then launching a rocket.
- In his Sword Art Online sporking for Das Sporking, Raxis references this trope when he complains that the author needlessly spelled out everything for them.
Raxis: No kidding. Reki, do you have trust issues? I promise, we can follow your stupid little plot without having to be guided through it. Its basically sums up to:
1. Whacko computer designer traps 10K people for no reason.
2. Gary Stu frees everyone
4. Profit 8D
- Later, when the Big Bad reveals that he didn't actually have a reason for tampering with the MMORPG and trapped ten thousand people just for the sake of doing so, Raxis rages that his plan is even worse and now boils down to, "Make Game, Trap Players, ???, Players Trapped!!!"
- Jon's plan to kill Luigi in an episode of Game Grumps.
Jon: One: I'm going to shoot a bottle into space.
Jon: That's the end of my plans. I didn't think past there.
Arin: Then why did you number them?
- In the Eddsworld short Zombeh Nation, the boys are trapped in a haunted house infested with zombies, and Tord says they need a plan. In a case of Comically Missing the Point, Edd whips out a diagram of his plan to "Take Over the World Using Bacon", which is laid out as follows: 1) Bacon 2) Earth 3) ????? 4) WORLD DOMINASHUN!!! Earns a well-deserved smack on the head from Tord for his troubles.
- TheKillianExperience delves into this when discussing Aldrich of Dark Souls 3:
Killian: But to survive the end of the Age of Fire he would need to eat a god... I think he might have missed a few steps but he doesn't seem like the most mentally stable, does he?
1. Eat god
6. Survive world getting consumed by Darkness
- User-submitted art websites will inevitably collect art tutorials, which will inevitably invite parody tutorials that take this form.
Step 1. Draw a circle.
[a simple pencil circle]
Step 2. Draw the rest.
[completed pencil drawing of the subject, with photorealistic shading]
- The Underpants Gnomes from South Park, as seen in the image (and thus are the former Trope Namer from when the trope was called Step Three: Profit). They go around at night collecting vast quantities of underwear, which they will use to profit. Somehow. As shown, the chart has become a Memetic Mutation. Every gnome figured that some of the other gnomes knew what step two was, and that it was being kept secret for a very, very good reason, which is why they didn't question it.
- Season 12's "Canada on Strike" also has this, in which the Canadian President (or more accurately, Prime Minister?) Steven Abootman enacts that Canada will go on strike until the other nations cave in and give Canada more money. Canada however is not a staple center of exports for international trade, and the only ones suffering from Canada going on strike are the Canadian workers themselves since they're losing money from forgoing their jobs.
- Again in "Canada on Strike", the boys post a viral video which becomes an instant hit. However, they don't conceive of a method on how to convert the video's popularity into monetary value (at the time of the episode's airing, You Tube hadn't worked out a way to compensate creators for their videos), and so they only gain a theoretical paycheck for $10,000 instead of real money.
- American Dad! "Minstrel Krampus": Santa Claus plans to make a fortune by giving toys to everyone whether they are naughty or nice and buying shares in toy companies.
Santa: The naughty kids buy the most toys!
Roger: Wait. What? Kids don't buy toys. You give toys away. How does that make money?
Santa: Do not overthink this!
- Some of the plots of the Legion of Doom in Super Friends ran this way. They were foiled every time, of course, but their schemes would include an often equally expensive escape plan.
- They would go to some ridiculous expense to get some item that would brainwash the Super Friends into walking into a volcano, thus clearing the way for the Legion's conquest of the world or something.
- One time, Cheetah and Bizarro turned people into Cheetah- and Bizarro-people, for no adequately explored reason.
- This plot received a possible homage during the Legion of Doom arc of Justice League Unlimited, when Gorilla Grodd's master plan consisted of:
Phase 1. Use Applied Phlebotinum to turn every human on Earth into gorillas.
Phase 2. ???
Phase 3. Take over the world!
- Lex Luthor finds this plan so stupid that he immediately shoots Grodd and takes over the Legion. Later, the rest of the Legion is shown grilling Luthor about his masterplan, just to make sure that it's something that'll actually benefit them.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy:
- Parodies this trope by having Eddy start a smalltime corporation with the cul-de-sac kids that was only focused on "going up". Once people realize that the corporation was basically doing nothing, and that everybody was working without pay, everybody left except the Eds (which of course is Truth in Television).
- In the episode where Ed makes a scam, the plan goes from zany to ridiculous and disjointed. In the end, it turns out he was attempting to recreate the plot of one of his horror(?) comic books.
Phase 1: Put the rock on the
Phase 2: Dress Eddy and Double D outlandishly.
Phase 3: Have Double D give Eddy the pancakes.
Phase 4: Paint a cement mixer like an Aztec temple.
Phase 5: Steal teddy bear.
Phase 6: Bite into teddy bear's stomach.
Phase 7: ???
Phase 8: Curse of Evil Tim (Profit?)
- Many of Eddy's plans could probably be summed up as this, especially ones where he actually seems to go out of his own way to sabotage, such as randomly putting a bowling pin in a cream puff they were selling (to make it bigger maybe?)
- In one episode of Super Chicken, a villain named "The Geezer" attempts to steal the geyser "Old Facefull" from Yellowstone National Park. The narrator questions his motivation:
Geezer: There's a million things you can do with a geyser!
Narrator: Such as?
Geezer: Uh ... I'll think of something!
- Eventually, The Geezer does come up with a use for Old Faceful: He opens a car wash.
- One episode of TaleSpin had Rebecca coming up with a number of get-rich-quick schemes of this variety. The missing step two seems to be "get brutally slaughtered by hostile natives".
- The villain of Pound Puppies and The Legend of Big Paw takes this to an extreme:
Phase 1: Steal a MacGuffin that allows humans and dogs to understand each other
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: WORLD DOMINATION
- As an added note, here's his backup plan:
- In Dan Vs., Dan's plan to overcome the terrible traffic in LA:
Procure monster truck.
Crush all cars in way.
Live Happily Ever After.
- Dan is very prone to doing this. Chris even mentioned one time that his current plan was more of a goal than a plan, so Dan changes it to something more like a checklist.
- Freakazoid!! Lampshades this in a fight against a giant snake:
- Phase 1: Loud Conan warcry
Phase 2: Charge and grab giant snake by the neck
Phase 3: Make something up
- The Lobe once had a machine that could turn people into clowns, which he thought would help him take over the world because "Everyone likes clowns". Freakazoid ends up just talking him out of it by pointing out that no one likes clowns. After a dejected Lobe leaves, Freakazoid admits that it was an awesome plan.
- Brain's plans from Pinky and the Brain usually follow this route. He explains them as "implement some bizarre technological gizmo and rise to power in the ensuing confusion", never actually explaining how he was planning to seize power. Of course, he frequently doesn't even make it to that step, being forced to give up on Step -1: acquire funding/resources needed to make the gizmo in the first place.
- A minor cat-themed villain in Johnny Bravo outlines his Evil Plan to steal enough yarn to rule the world. His kitten sidekick immediately asks about Step 2:
- Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz' plans to take over the Tri-State Area often involves publicly humiliating his brother, the mayor, hoping this will create a power vacuum that he can use to his advantage. An example:
- In one case, he openly admits that there is absolutely no connection between the sceheme (sabotage a pretzel festival) and the goal (to take over the Tri-State Area), and even makes a graph that proves this. He brushes this off with a "But I'll work it out, you'll see."
- One of his schemes ran like this:
Phase 1: Collect all the zinc in the lake.
Phase 2: ????
Phase 3: Evil?
- The Simpsons: Homer Simpson has probably run through quite a few, but usually they're more Zany Schemes than this; however, he once ran an online business whose business plan was something like:
- Phase 1: The Internet.
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Profit. (Still gets bought out by Microsoft, though.)
- The internet dot com bubble basically ran on this exact plan, pets.com being the poster child of an ill-defined business plan relying on the mystical powers of the internet to make money when conventional business savvy dictated to look elsewhere. In fact, one business magazine cover questioning the viability of this model at the time even used the Simpsons as an illustration, showing Bart wearing a T-shirt advertising his internet start-up (bucks2bart.com) and Mr. Burns hefting a huge sack of money he was evidently planning to invest in it.
- When Artie Ziff went broke, his explanation started with him telling he was dot com billionaire and he was quickly told he didn't have to explain anything else.
- Homer tries to remember the fire safety plan at the nuclear power plant: "When the fire starts to burn, there's a lesson you must learn. Something something, then you'll see: You'll avoid catastrophe! D'oh!"
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Every plan concocted by the Cutie Mark Crusaders ever to get their cutie marks. Rather than try and figure out what their special talents are, they just keep trying random things, hoping they'll get their cutie marks in them. Whether or not they're good at the thing in question, or even like the thing in question, is hardly ever brought up.
- Applejack's business plan from My Little Pony: Friends Forever issue 8 turns out to be this. This is ultimately deconstructed (of all the things to deconstruct) when Rarity explains Applejack is supposed to strike a deal with a potential middleman, not just set up a fruit stand like she does in her home town.
Phase 1: Sell apples
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Turn a profit. (Somewhat more thought out than most.)
- The Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines episode "Have Plane, Will Travel" had the Vulture Squadron transferred to a desert island where Klunk uses whatever implements at hand to create a flying machine to stop Yankee Doodle Pigeon. One such machine is made out of a tree trunk which is catapulted through the air.
Dastardly: Now that we're up here, how are we supposed to stay up?
Klunk: Spin the (whirring and cracking noises) propeller.
Dastardly: (seeing no propeller at the plane's nose) Propeller? What propeller?
Klunk: Uh oh...I knew I forgot something! (plane nosedives into the ocean)
- The Red Lotus, Arc Villain of The Legend of Korra's third season, have a major problem with this trope. They have two major plans: topple the world's governments to allow a better world to rise from the ashes, and permanently kill the Avatar by forcing Korra into the Avatar State, and then killing her. Both plans ultimately lack a necessary middle step, and it comes back to bite the group in the ass, big time - Korra's power boost from the Avatar State leads to her getting free, and setting off a fight where two of the three remaining Red Lotus members die and the Sole Survivor is imprisoned, and their assassination of the Earth Queen ultimately paved the way for an even WORSE tyrant to take her place.
- From the Archer episode "Skorpio":
Archer: Okay, commence operation... something about I rescue Lana and she begs me to take her back, so then Cyril commits suicide.
- Have you ever wondered how the dragon scale got into Max and Emmy's house in Dragon Tales? Well, years ago, a lone dragon was so desperate for companionship that she invented mystical dragon scales that, when used in conjunction with a Magical Incantation, would send the user to Dragon Land, and scattered them across Earth. This allowed her to have human friendship. But, she'd forgotten to put in a way for the user to return to their home. So when Max and Emmy use their scale for the first time, they initially think they'll be trapped there. Fortunately, Quetzal knows magic too and modifies their scale to be able to reverse the teleportation as needed, albeit with a different incantation.
- Trolls: Poppy's plan to get her friends back from the Bergens is just "rescue everyone and make it home safely".
Branch: That's not a plan, that's a wish list.
- Subverted in Earthworm Jim; a common theme is that Jim's Rogues Gallery want to steal his supersuit to pursue universal domination. In "Bring Me The Head of Earthworm Jim", Professor Monkey-For-A-Head brings attention to the Fridge Logic.
Professor Monkey-For-A-Head: You know, we always say we'll conquer the universe when we get the suit, but now that we have the suit, how do you conquer a big thing like that?Psy-Crow: Simple. Just go to where the rulers of the universe hang out and- Ahh-ahh-ahh! -start blasting away like a lunatic.
- While Alvin the Treacherous and Dagur the Deranged were big enough threats in Dragons: Riders of Berk, their plans usually involved physical assault and lacked certain important details, usually involving kidnapping Hiccup and taking Toothless as their own (thinking the Book of Dragons was the only thing they needed, not thinking as to how they could get Hiccup to give into their demands without killing him, dealing with the other riders, getting Toothless to cooperate with them, etc).
- Bojack Horseman: At the "advice" of his accountant (who was pretending to be Todd at the time), Mr Peanutbutter buys all the spaghetti strainers in California, going bankrupt in the process. He has no idea how he can profit from this, and as time goes on, he becomes convinced that the longer it takes to reach the payout, the larger it will be. He's right, of course, because he's that kind of character.
- Flintheart Glomgold of Ducktales 2017 usually suffers from Complexity Addiction. His plans might rely on Insane Troll Logic, but they do include a multitude of steps. One that fits this trope crops up near the end of season one.
Step one: Recruit Scrooge's greatest enemies into an Evil Counterpart "family" to counter Scrooge's.Step two: ???Step three: Scrooge is defeated, Glomgold rules.