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Never Recycle Your Schemes

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Plankton: I've exhausted every evil plan in my filing cabinet — from A to Y!
Karen: A to Y?
Plankton: Yeah, A to Y, you know, the alphabet.
Karen: What about Z?

It doesn't matter how the hero stopped the villain's nefarious plot (be it through outsmarting the dastardly fiend, merely finding a weakness the insidious fiend overlooked, or sheer dumb luck). When his plan to take over the world is stopped, the villain has to start completely from scratch. He can't retool the previous plan to prevent the hero's method from working again; rather, he has to think up some new and creative way to bother the hero. This usually causes the villain to quickly run out of plans, something that may or may not be lampshaded.


Sometimes, the villain will take on the attitude that, since the scheme failed once, it won't ever succeed. Other times, the villain will openly insist on coming up with a new way of doing something every time, even though the previous version would have worked if they only changed one tiny thing.

This is probably due to Rule of Cool, because if the villain did the same scheme over, modified to account for the hero's last successful attempt, the viewers would expect the bad guy to win (and then there'd be no more show/comic/book/etc.), and if they tried and failed with the same scheme, the villain would get predictable and the viewers would get bored. Furthermore, much of the action in many of these stories revolves around figuring out what the villain's scheme actually is, or discovering that there even is a scheme in the first place. If he's just doing the same thing again, there's no mystery, and you must now stretch the typically climactic act of thwarting him across the entire episode.


At the same time, a villain who modifies his prior scheme is liable to be predictable to the heroes or anyone trying to stop him. After all, given what the heroes will know what to expect, it would just make it easier unless the schemes were different enough (and even then, the difference probably would not be enough.)

Compare So Last Season, Forgotten Phlebotinum, Holding Back the Phlebotinum, No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup. Compare Adaptive Ability, where it's the heroes that can't recycle the original means of the villain's defeat, and Reed Richards Is Useless.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: During the first big confrontation with them, Armin manages to distract and freak out Reiner and Berthold by telling them that Annie was being tortured by the government. It succeeds in shaking them up enough that the squad can escape. Then the trope becomes deconstructed when Armin attempts to pull this off a second time during the next confrontation, specifically wanting to use it on one of them to get them to agree to avoid fighting and talk things out. However, Berthold bluntly tells Armin that they don't care anymore and attacks, with Armin only managing to survive because of Mikasa's fast intervention.
  • Mazinger Z: Big Bad Dr. Hell played straight it most of the time, coming up with a new Robeast, weapon, or device that put Kouji or Mazinger Z through the wringer (Gromazen R9's acid blaster could melt Aphrodite A's armor, Kingdan X10 projected mirages, Holzon V3 set eathquakes off, Jinray S1 flew at Match 5, Aeros B2 could absorb Mazinger's attacks and hurl them back, Desma A1 caused hallucinations, Gumbina M5 was nearly impervious to all Mazinger's weapons...) and then he never tried to use it again, as well as never thought to combine many of them in a single superior robeast that compensates for the weakness of each individual weapon. However, sometimes he averted the trope by improving old weapons or reusing formerly successful strategies.
  • While played straight for the most part in Samurai Pizza Cats, one episode Big Cheese decided to build a giant killer robot that was an amalgam of every single one of the giant killer robots they used before. Not only did it look even more ridiculous than usual, but it was destroyed rather unceremoniously when Lucille panicked and unloaded her missile hairdo on it.
  • Team Rocket, particularly the Jessie/James/Meowth trio, from the Pokémon anime plays with this a bit. In a general planning sense, they avert it, as they do enjoy digging pitfall traps, using Paper-Thin Disguises, and using giant machines to try to capture Pikachu/the Pokémon of the week. However, they play it straight when it comes to more specific plans. Often times, their plans would go off without a hitch if not for the interference of the "twerps." If they'd simply wait for the "twerps" to move on and then try again, they could quite possibly steal every Pokémon in the show not named Pikachu.
  • Tiger Mask usually averts this, as Tiger Mask's Finishing Move proves itself effective again and again... But it also provides a very good justification for the trope, as some wrestlers do come up with counters:
    • His original finisher, the Ultra Tiger Drop, consists in bowing at a charging enemy and lifting him on the shoulders, running on the ropes, and then jumping and dropping him on the ring. While it is just as devastating as it's described (and in fact the first use ended up killing a bear), after first seeing it, Star Apollon comes up with the very easy counter of keeping his legs shut and not moving, his superior skills allowing him to do just that until a desperate Tiger Mask doesn't jump on his face and hits his head until he has to open his legs or fall down. Then in a later encounter, Mr. Question (the most skilled wrestler in the series) simply grabs the ring ropes, ultimately neutralizing the move for good.
    • The second finisher, the Fujiyama Tiger Breaker, consists in using a Tomoe Nage and then, before he falls, kicking the opponent in the back three or four times before kicking him very high, stand up, catch his fall with the head and execute a backbreaker. While devastating enough that one of the first victims compared it to being thrown from the top of Mount Fuji (how the move got its name), a number of wrestlers came up with counters... And found that Tiger Mask was ready for those: Bobo Brazil thought of landing on his incredibly hard head only to learn that Tiger Mask could turn it in a devastating piledriver; Black V, being too elastic for submission moves to work on, thought he was immune to it, only to cry in terror when he saw that Tiger Mask had come up with a follow-up that even he couldn't take; the Convict had the smarts of suckering him in a chain deathmatch so that the handcuff would prevent him from being thrown high enough but found out the ring post was an acceptable substitute for Tiger Mask's head. Then Miracle 3 landed on his longer arms and did this to make sure Tiger Mask's legs would give up before his arms, and Tiger Mask could not come up with a counter for that.
      • In the anime, Tiger the Great used the same counter as Black V with a variation: after landing on the hands he took advantage of Tiger Mask's sheer shock at what just happened to just jump away.
    • The sequel of the anime, Tiger Mask W, continues with the theme, as the new Tiger Mask gets both his finishers countered after a while, something that happens also to Tiger the Dark and Tiger the Great the Third.
  • Justified in Assassination Classroom. Once Koro-sensei knows how to defeat a tactic, he's smart enough and aware enough that it will never have a chance of working on him again.

    Asian Animation 
  • Discussed and defied in the BoBoiBoy episode "Emotive Chemical Y". When Adu Du runs out of ideas for evil plans, Probe suggests they recycle their old plans, and they choose the plan from "season 1, episode 11". Adu Du at first objects, saying that the audience will be bored, but Probe convinces him that the audience won't realize it.

    Comic Books 
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Played straight by Doctor Doom. When he reviewed a brain tape replay, he realized that one of his very old plans could be made to work with just a little bit of modification. He stopped the replay before it got to the actual plan.
    • Another time, his adopted son Kristoff (standing in for Doctor Doom), dusts off one of Doom's old plans and corrects the fatal flaw which allowed the Fantastic Four to escape destruction the first time it was used. Needless to say, the Four come up with a different way to thwart the plan the second time around. (This may be why villains don't bother recycling their plans.) This was used to prove to Kristoff that he wasn't the real Doom (as memory implants had caused him to believe), because the real Doom would never repeat a scheme.
    • More than that, it was clear it was run from a recording because it didn't account for Sue's force-fields (which tells you how old the plan was, she got them by issue #30 or so).
  • Superman:
    • Unless it involves exploiting one of Superman's various various weaknesses, whatever scheme is used against Superman by Lex Luthor is guaranteed not to be reused, especially since eidetic memory is one of his talents.
    • Subverted with Lesla-Lar. In The Unknown Supergirl, she kidnaps, brainwashes and swaps places with Supergirl as part of a scheme to get Superman and Lex Luthor killed and then take over the world. In The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, Lesla kidnaps, brainwashes and swaps places with Supergirl's friend Lena Thorul, albeit the second part of her evil plan is markedly different.
    • Invoked in Adventures of Superman #520: on Christmas Eve, 100 criminals plot to commit acts of theft at midnight; rounding up the criminals strains the resources of the police, even with Superman's help. Supes and the Metropolis P.D. have to round up every single criminal in order to hammer home the message that this type of scheme doesn't work because if word got out of its success, criminals in other cities without a big name superhero could overwhelm the local police by copycatting the original 100.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • "The Trouble With Dimes" by Carl Barks had Donald Duck try a scheme of buying rare coins from Uncle Scrooge for their face value and then selling them for a huge profit to collectors. Scrooge got wind of the scheme and tricked Donald into flooding the market so the coins were worthless. Don Rosa's "The Money Pit" had Donald remember this flaw and try the plan again but this time vowing only to sell a few, very rare coins. After searching through Scrooge's coins for the rarest, most valuable ones gets him buried alive in the money bin, Scrooge expressly forbids the scheme from being recycled in any way again on the grounds of it being too dangerous: "I won't risk you being buried in my bin again. Why, my insurance rates would skyrocket!"
    • The Black Knight: Defied. In his first raid on Scrooge's Money Bin in the Black Knight armor, Lusène just walks right up to the main entrance until Scrooge disposes of him by pulling on a red carpet, causing Lusène to fall through the floor in his dissolving armor until a vault filled with diamonds breaks his fall. He recycles the scheme in his second appearance, but takes preparations to stop Scrooge's trick from working a second time by installing a hook on the back of the suit that will stop his fall.
    • Averted in a few Italian stories about the Beagle Boys, where they use variations of the same scheme on several occasions. Lampshaded at the opening of a story, where Scrooge easily defeats an "ingenious" attack because he is already overly familiar from it from their previous attempts to use it. He chastises them to stop repeating themselves and start being creative, because he is getting bored with them and how predictable they have become. Unfortunately for him, the Beagle Boys take the advise to heart and start using new and more effective methods.
    • In Paperinik New Adventures, Two lampshades this trope, predicting that his brother One could escape Duckburg's destruction by recycling Two's escape plan (quickly transfer himself to various hardwares across the country) and made sure he couldn't do it.
  • Inverted in the Polish comic series Kajko i Kokosz. The villain Hegemon likes to reuse a simple plan of capturing the heroes' village: build a siege tower and use it to get his soldiers over the village wall. He also has the habit of setting fire to the tower after everyone else has climbed to the top so none of his men dare retreat. This means that he has to rebuild the tower every time he recycles the plan. The trope is played straight with the heroes who will use a different method every time they have to foil his plan.
  • Averted by Robotnik in Sonic the Comic. The original Metallix Project results in rogue killbots that nearly take over the world; the second results in Robotnik's strongest, most reliable Badniks which can take Sonic in a one-on-one fight. The first Cybernik is an ultra-powerful Phlebotinum Rebel that is a persistent threat to Robotnik; the second Cybernik is loyal and a useful foil to the first. The first time Robotnik tried to absorb the power of the Chaos Emeralds Knuckles stopped him with the Control Emerald (the Grey Chaos Emerald), the second time Robotnik succeed in absorbing the powers of the Chaos Emeralds, and after spending some time as a crystal statue while his body adjusted to the power he became a Omnipotence Omniscience Reality Warper with Eye Beams.
  • Done by Diabolik and Ginko:
    • If Diabolik recycles a scheme, Ginko will be ready for it and slap him into jail (possibly long enough for that death sentence on his head to be executed), and if Ginko recycles a successful defensive ploy the next time, Diabolik will bypass it with ease. Best shown by Diabolik's perfect masks: as soon as Ginko confirms their existence, every single defensive ploy of his involves pinching people's faces (including his own) to check for a mask, but once in a while Diabolik walks right through the checks thanks to theatrical make-up, wigs, and, in one occasion, shaving his own head (admittedly, the latter was improvisation and he wasn't dealing with Ginko... But it worked).
    • That said, Ginko is liable to recycle a defence once in a while... But only if Diabolik has no idea of what Ginko did to foil him. As that happened only with a single gold bricks escort scheme (namely leave the armoured truck empty and hide the gold in the escort motorbikes), that doesn't happen often.
    • In one occasion, a Diabolik copycat had his hired accomplices recycle some of Diabolik's schemes... And Ginko promptly identified him as a copycat and prepared to shut him down by using knowledge of what schemes were usable in a given situation and applying the obvious counters to arrest the accomplices until nobody was willing to accept a job for him. The only reason he didn't was that Diabolik tracked the copycat down first...
  • Notably lampshaded and subverted in Mirror Universe Transformers: Shattered Glass. In the original comic, Optimus is building a shuttle platform that will allow him to send his forces to space, and Cliffjumper uses his metal-destroying glass gas to wreck it. In Do Over, Optimus then promptly rebuilds the platform, but posts doubled guards and adds stone to the construction to make it immune. Cliffjumper is shocked at this, as he's used to villains who throw out their whole plan after one mistake.
  • Averted in Queen Chrysalis' issue of My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic. Her original plan to invade Trot by impersonating Emperor Incitatus' fiancé and draining his love, which failed because he was too self-absorbed, is identical to what she used to much greater success in "A Canterlot Wedding" hundreds of years later.
  • In Masters of the Universe comic series He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse, the Skeletor of one universe managed to avert this and conquer Eternia by combining all the mystical artifacts that failed in the past, such as the Diamond Ray of Disappearance and the Ram Stone, with his Havoc Staff until he became unbeatable.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Dick Tracy, actor Harley Naiv is disfigured in an accident and given a special surgery that, for an hour, allows him to look anyone he wants. "Putty-Puss" (as his gang calls him) starts robbing banks disguised as celebrities with the media calling him "the Man of a Million Faces." After being caught, Naiv breaks out of jail with Tracy surmising he'll go back to a criminal spree but...
    Tracy: Not as the Man of a Million Faces. Harley Naiv never repeated a role.

    Fan Works 
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, this is played straight most of the time, but averted in episode 11 where Wily decides to repeat a semi-successful plan in the hopes of hurting Mega more.
  • Averted in the Facing the Future Series where Technus tried to repeat his plan of taking control of the Cybertron satellite. As he stated "A good idea is a good idea". Granted, this is one time where it would've succeeded this time as Danny couldn't use the same method he stopped him with the first time.
  • Played with in The Calvinverse: Holographic Retro started off attempting to fulfill his human counterpart's goal of re-creating the Imaginator. Once Electro explained how stupid that idea was during their Villain Team-Up, Holographic Retro abandoned that idea and started following his own agenda.
  • Averted in Season 2 of The New Adventures of Invader Zim, where Nyx proves her loyalty to Zim by presenting him with a datafile relating to one of his earlier plans, which makes him realize that he can modify the plan and make it work this time. What exactly that plan is, however, is currently unknown.

    Film — Animation 
  • Catwoman: Hunted: Since Catwoman knew Cheshire used jellyfish poison for her weapons, she deliberately built an immunity to it. Cheshire admits she should use different toxins.
  • Subverted, and borderline inverted, in The Incredibles. Syndrome started his villainy with the Omnidroid 1 and had never stopped using Omnidroids for the rest of his life. Each time a superhero was able to defeat an Omnidroid, Syndrome would observe what caused it to lose, then build another Omnidroid to cover those vulnerabilities. By the time Mr. Incredible fought an Omnidroid, it was Syndrome's 8th. When he returns, Syndrome's made a 9th one, and after that beats him (though he fakes his death to throw Syndrome off), he decides to incorporate its design into the 10th and final model.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Ocean's Thirteen: "You don't run the same gag twice. You do the next gag!"
  • In Jack the Giant Killer (the 1962 version), the bad guy, Pendragon, is known as the Prince of Witches, and he surrounds himself with them, hideous monsters with amazing powers. The one time he sends them out to do his bidding in the entire film, they completely and easily overpower our hero and the entire crew of a ship to carry off Pendragon's evil plans with complete success, the only time in the film any of his plans actually works. So, naturally, he never uses them again. They just hang around looking evil and hideous while Pendragon sends easily defeated monsters after Jack. The witches are eventually destroyed when the castle blows up, having done not one other thing.
  • Batman & Robin: Robin heads to Poison Ivy's lair, pretending to be under her spell. Ivy has poisonous lips and has been trying to kiss Batman and Robin the whole film. Ivy kisses Robin, at which point he pulls off rubber coating on his lips, demonstrating how he survived the kiss. Ivy then pushes him into a sea of vines that try and drown him instead of having the vines hold him in place so she could kiss him again.
  • Subverted in Star Wars.:
    • What's the plot of A New Hope? The Empire has constructed a super-weapon called the Death Star, and the Rebel Alliance has to exploit a fatal flaw to destroy it. What's the plot of Return of the Jedi? The Empire has constructed a second Death Star without that fatal flaw, so the Rebel Alliance has to destroy it before it's complete or it will be basically unstoppable.
    • In The Force Awakens, the First Order, the Empire's successor organization, constructed Starkiller Base, a planet-sized version of the Death Stars that can destroy whole star systems, without the fatal flaws from the first two. Although like the Second Death Star, it's up to a small team to infiltrate the base itself to make it vulnerable to attack.
    • In The Phantom Menace, the protagonists take out the bad guys' droid army by destroying the singular control ship, without which the droids all shut down immediately. In Attack of the Clones, the coalition of bad guys field an even larger droid army, and this time the protagonists fight back with a clone army of their own, and no one even brings up the possibility of destroying a single control point to take out the entire droid army again. Apparently there was a deleted scene where a small group of Jedi attempt to reuse the strategy from The Phantom Menace and destroy what they think is the new droid control ship—but the droid army only shuts down for a few seconds before reactivating, revealing the bad guys added redundant control systems specifically to prevent that strategy from working again.

  • A Zigzagging Trope in Animorphs. On the one hand, many Yeerk plans just come down to "promote The Sharing and try to get more hosts," with the only change being the particular fundraiser/stunt of the week; they also tried to locate the Pemalite ship in Book #36 after losing access to it in Book #27. On the other hand, they never make a third attempt (the second only failed because of random amphibious mutants), and despite its build-up over several books, the Anti-Morphing Ray was quickly abandoned after one apparent failure, possibly as a result of No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup (Visser Three had its creators fed to Taxxons). The plot to find the "Andalite bandits" in the forest is also quickly abandoned when their fake logging company is defeated, despite this logically being their biggest security issue on Earth.
  • Averted in the Honor Harrington stories taking place in the Talbott Quadrant. The machinations of Mesa in the second story, Storm From the Shadows are noted as being a second attempt at their first plan in Shadow of Saganami, the previous book. In both cases, the general plan was to use locals to stir up incidents that undermine Manticore, call in the Solarian League for aid, then ideally start a shooting incident between the two powers. The first attempt failed when a Manticoran commander stumbled onto evidence of the plot. The second time succeeded thanks to their Unwitting Pawn giving them exactly the shooting incident they wanted.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All of the several ways to counter the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation only ever worked once. This was used for suspense, and explained as the Borg being masters of adaptation. Apart from this, however, Star Trek: The Next Generation was known for solving problems through technobabble and rarely referring to the same solution again.
    • During the course of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Federation either encountered, captured, or developed several different pieces of technology that would have made dandy anti-Borg weaponry. The soliton wave (originally intended to be a "warp drive for ships without a warp reactor") and the sentient nanites, just to name two. But did Starfleet use such weapons? Of course they don't...
    • Also the grand-daddy of all forgotten weapons technology, Project Genesis from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Let's see the Borg adapt to that!
    • And of course they never consistiently reproduce the one technology that has proved itself repeatedly effective against the Borg: bullets and other such kinetic energy weapons. The fact that the Borg haven't already adapted to it proves that they can't — what are the odds that of all the species the Borg have assimilated, they never encountered one that used guns? The Federation did, in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, reveal the prototype TR-116 rifle, but it was dropped for regenerative phasers.
  • Super Sentai and its adaptation Power Rangers generally suffers from this, but there are more than a few occasions where the villain recreates a monster than was defeated before, only with improvements.
    • An unusual example comes from the final few episodes of Choujuu Sentai Liveman — where it's revealed Professor Bias has previously led groups of students like the ones who serve as his underlings and reduced them to Brain in a Jar status, all to use as a Fountain of Youth so he can repeatedly become young again. So he was recycling a scheme, with the usual Monster of the Week tactics basically serving to kill time until A: he could get the aforementioned youth effect going and B: see through his main plan — Mass Hypnosis across the planet, which actually succeeded; only Yusuke having snuck aboard the Brain Base and Kemp rebelling at the last moment prevented him from continuing.
    • Subverted in the last episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Master Vile reveals his scheme to turn the Rangers into powerless children and Zedd responds with "I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but we tried this once before and it failed!" Of course, to Zedd's chagrin, Vile's version of the plan worked surprisingly well and came much closer to wiping out the Rangers than Zedd or Rita ever did.
    • Also subverted during Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers. Vile decides to blow up the Command Center with a bomb which Alpha detects and quickly disarms. Later on that season Zedd recycles the scheme by sending Goldar and Rito to tunnels underneath the Command Center where they can place a bomb that won't be so easily detected.
    • Subverted in Ressha Sentai Toqger. The villains send out a Monster of the Week with the power to manifest desires into real life, followed by him literally crushing them to cause the victim great distress. After the rangers nearly destroy said monster, Schwarz, one of the villainous generals, saves it in order to start an improved version of said scheme.
  • Depending on the series, villainous factions in Kamen Rider avert this trope by bringing back earlier defeated monsters and upgrade them to have a better chance at defeating the hero(es). Each series in the Showa period of the franchise featured at least one episode in which the Rider had to fight recycled monsters.
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki: It turns out that Big Bad Shiro Kanzaki recycled his scheme to sacrifice 12 Kamen Riders to save his sister's life countless times through the use of time travel, but it failed each time due to several wild cards in his scheme not doing what he wants and because his sister doesn't want to be revived at the cost of other people's lives.
    • The movie Super Hero Taisen GP Kamen Rider 3 averts this trope, as the villains use the exact same plot as they did in OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Riders, which is altering history so they rule the world, while having the brainwashed Kamen Riders fighting at their side.
    • Phantoms, the villainous race in Kamen Rider Wizard procreate by making Gates, humans with the potential to become wizards, succumb to complete despair. If a Gate does succumb, he or she will turn into a Phantom themselves. Earlier episodes of the series show the Phantoms think of creative plans to humiliate the victim into feeling despair. Later on, the Phantoms simply resort to repeatedly attack their victims to turn their fear of death turn into despair, utterly averting this trope.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid had an arc where monsters were coming back with minor changes to their physical appearance. Because the monsters are manifestations of The Virus, the justification is that the returning monster is a mutant strain of the former one and the series is themed after classic Video Games, it's generally seen as a homage to recycled boss fights.
  • Lampshaded by the Big Bad in the first season of 24, when Ira Gaines points out he can still use Jack Bauer's daughter as leverage. Ironically, Drazen would end up kidnapping Jack's daughter later on and using her in the same fashion.
    Andrei Drazen: When Plan A fails you go to Plan B, not Plan A recycled.
  • In the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer The Master, angry that Buffy has been killing so many of his servants, sends a trio of vampire warriors to kill her. They almost do, but Angel shows up and they run away. When they return to report that Angel intervened, he has them killed, and has Darla try to remove Angel as a factor. While this at least shows he's paying attention to what caused the plan to fail, it doesn't change the fact that even if Darla gets rid of Angel, he's just killed off the only vampires he's got who not only survived their encounter, but sent her running.
  • Colditz: Any escape plan which the guards discover tends to get new security procedures installed to prevent it happening again. Some of the schemes fail for other reasons and are able to be retried later, though.
  • Blake's 7 - Notably the marble-sized plague sphere which came within a gnats whisker of killing the crew in Project Avalon. There should have been any number of ways of smuggling that weapon about the Liberator, and it would have been a short show if Servalan had bothered to try.
  • UFO. Each episode has a different alien plot to destroy SHADO headquarters, kill Ed Straker, release nerve gas or whatever. Each time a plot fails the aliens never try it again even if it has a good chance of working. On the human side, Straker builds a billion dollar electron telescope in an effort to obtain information on the aliens' home planet. The mission fails because of an oversight that made it impossible to accurately interpret the images that it sent back, and SHADO never builds a second telescope.
  • In Stargate SG-1, one episode's plot concerns the Ori unleashing a Synthetic Plague on Earth. This plague is nigh-impossible to treat and extremely contagious, and rapidly spreads across most of the planet. All of Earth's medical science fails to come up with a treatment, and ultimately the plague is cured by one of the Ori's own Priors (priests) defecting to Earth's side and using his Ori-granted powers to cure the plague. Said Prior is immediately killed by the Ori for his betrayal. What isn't explained is why the Ori don't simply re-release the plague on Earth, considering that it is extremely unlikely that Earth would be able to convert any further Priors, and as stated, Earth's medical sciences were simply not up to containing the plague.
  • V (1983): In the TV movies, the Visitors' plan to befriend humanity so they can eventually enslave/destroy them was thwarted by the heroes. In the series proper, after Diane escapes imprisonment, she knows that they can't pretend to be humanity's friend again, and instead opts to just attack Earth directly.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • It is common in wrestling to see special no-DQ matches where the goal is to do something other than pin your opponent (e.g. to escape from a cage or unhook a belt/contract). These objectives can often be rendered trivial by handcuffing your opponent to an immovable part of the scenery so that they cannot interfere. Since it is apparently extremely easy to render a wrestler completely senseless for a few seconds, but almost impossible to knock them out for the thirty seconds or so it takes to complete the objective, this seems like a very practical and effective tactic. Whilst it does occasionally happen, you would think that wrestlers would just do this at every opportunity.
  • In WWE, the identical Bella Twins would frequently get the upper hand by switching places during a match when the referee wasn't looking. Kelly Kelly once hit upon the idea of drawing on one of the twins with a marker pen so that she and the referee could easily tell which twin was which, making this tactic impossible. Eve Torres also tried it, but it didn't work for that referee and it was never used again.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Time Master game, the Demoreans never reused a plan. And in a time travel game, you really could keep trying until you got it right. Justified by said aliens being obsessed with "perfection" — if a plan failed, it obviously wasn't perfect and wasn't worth repeating.

    Video Games 
  • In Shining Force II, a non-villainous scheme involves Sarah gets the party into Granseal castle by pretending to have a package that Sir Astral needs while he's checking up on the King. Later, after having broken out of Galam jail and fought your way outside, Slade, your newest recruit, attempts to do the same thing to the Galam soldiers in exchange for safe passage into Granseal, under siege by Galam. However, this time, it horribly backfires.
  • Mega Man (Classic): Dr. Wily averts this trope ten times over. He's got one plan — build/steal eight Robot Masters and use them to take over the world. Depending on the game, he may tack on an addition like "make it look like someone else is responsible for the mayhem", "steal a single, giant robot too", or "use something special to make the robots stronger". None of it has stopped Mega Man from breaking all of his dangerous toys.
  • Conversely, Tiesel Bonne of Mega Man Legends is very careful to play this trope straight. Aside from relying on big machines he never uses the same scheme twice, even holding review meetings after each scheme (successful or not) to go over the strengths and weaknesses of the operation. In the first game alone he tries to attack the city to coerce the keys to the ruins from City Hall, then tries to dig to the treasure directly, then tries to steal Mega Man's keys, then tries to wait for Mega Man to unlock the treasure for him, then tries to fake his death and bide his time until he can strike at an opportune moment, and ultimately feigns admitting defeat to steal the treasure behind everyone's backs, which works. Even Barrel admires the man's tenacity. In the end of the series, when he's run completely out of schemes, he more or less just calls it quits and decides to just side with Barrel and Roll to try and rescue Mega Man.
  • Played with in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair by the Junko Enoshima AI. On one hand, the ultimate goal of the mastermind is far different than it was the first time around, playing the trope straight in end goal department to the point of Motive Decay, going from simply creating more despair to a Grand Theft Me plot for all of the tiny remains of humanity. On the other hand, the method used to accomplish this new goal is identical to the method used for the mastermind’s goal in the first game. However, due to the change in end goal and the new tools available to the mastermind, they would have been better off not recycling the plan and in fact would have been best off just brainwashing the cast again like the original Junko did instead of running another killing game.
  • Averted in Azure Striker Gunvolt. While the goal The Big Bad of the second game, Zonda, is more or less the opposite of the first game's Big Bad Nova in that she wants to Kill All Humans for the sake of Adepts while he wanted to subjugate all Adepts to force peace between humans and Adepts, her plan is nigh-on identical: Merge with the Muse Septima and use its power for herself. Unlike Nova, whose plan failed because Joule was Fighting from the Inside at the end, Zonda takes the extra precaution to weaken Joule's will and adapt her Septima to herself before commencing the merging. And it works, and she's only stopped because the heroes were just strong enough to stop her despite her newfound powers.
  • In Pokémon Black and White, Ghetsis manipulated N into convincing Unova to free all their Pokémon so that they would have no Pokémon to defend themselves with and he would be unstoppable, but the player character manages to defeat him in foil his plans. Two years later, in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, Ghetsis' plan this time involves force and revolves around having captured Kyurem and using it to freeze the world and steal every Pokémon directly.
  • LEGO Dimensions: Averted during the Sonic the Hedgehog Level Pack, Doctor Eggman reuses the Death Egg again. And rebuilds the Egg Robo. Sonic promptly lampshades it.
    Eggman: Oh, Eggman, you genius! Who would've expected a Death Egg Robot?
    Sonic: Well, anyone... this is like the fourth time you've used it...
  • Averted in Metroid: The plot of the first game involves the Space Pirates trying to weaponize the Metroids in their hidden base on Zebes. The plot of Super Metroid is the exact same, with the slight wrinkle that they have to steal the Baby Metroid first. The Prime subseries expands on this, showing that weaponizing the Metroids is more or less a constant project for the Pirates, which makes the Federation's decision to hire Samus to exterminate the Metroids in Metroid II much more understandable.

  • Mentioned here in Captain SNES: The Game Masta with regards to Captain N: The Game Master:
    Terra:[Dr. Wily] then gives [duplicated artifacts of power] to an android which manages to defeat the entire team! They only finally win by exploiting the thing's humanity. But does Wily try again with a less human robot? Noooo! Next episode he's making a fricken' robocat to lure Duke into Bayou Billy's swamp! And it wasn't just once! That stuff happened all the time!
  • In Shortpacked!, after her plan to steal a lizard with apparent Mind Control powers fails, Sidney Yus lampshades that she won't try it again.
    Sidney: Curses! And I won't try this specific scheme ever again even if the reptile is always readily available because I've already done this one!
  • Averted in Exterminatus Now, where Morth, in his second appearance, attempts the same plan as in his first appearance: summon a daemon to the mortal plane, offer it a multitude of souls, be ascended to daemonhood himself in return and rule the universe. And, barring a few hiccups, it actually works: Morth becomes a full-fledged daemon prince, exactly as he planned. Unfortunately for him, he gets locked in a rune-sealed room with another daemon he'd tricked during said hiccups, who proceeds to eviscerate him until they both fade into the ether.

    Web Original 
  • Zigzagged by HitTheTarget in Stampy's Lovely World. While several of his schemes are relatively one-off in terms of how they are carried out — e.g. outright assault, sabotage, and invisibility potions, some recycle concepts used in previous attempts.
    • Both Episodes 184, Clone Calamity and 700, Tragic Day make use of the You Again Cloning Contraption in Stampy's Secret Base, and the battles that occurred in the episodes as a result of using armies of clones end up getting someone Killed Off for Real.
    • Both Episodes 261, Christmas Rescue and 575, Polly-Bot rely on kidnapping a trusted Helper (the latter coupled with a robotic imposter to lower suspicion).
    • Both Episodes 291, Egg Hunt and 455, Revenge involve Stuff Blowing Up.
    • Both Episodes 418, I Can't Win and 670, Hacked have HTT getting a set of Armor of Invincibility.
    • From what we can see over the years, taking hostages always seems to work, whether it be a dog, a Helper, or Stampy's control over his own vocal cords.

    Western Animation 
  • Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants. "I've used every plan from A to Y!" He then proceeds to use Plan Z.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Averted in the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons. Wily frequently modifies and repeats plans in the same short. Even so, step one of each plan is usually a bowl of "Free Birdseed" in the middle of the road, and this part nearly always works. If the Road Runner didn't stop for suspiciously free birdseed every time, most of the Coyote's schemes wouldn't even begin. Of course, this will be the last thing that works as it's supposed to, as the laws of physics are always on the Road Runner's side.
    • In "Porky Pig's Feat", Daffy pulls the rug from under the hotel manager, causing him to fall down the stairs, screaming. However, he quickly runs back up, causing Daffy and Porky to run into their hotel rooms and Daffy to once again pull the rug. They hear the manager making the same screaming sounds he made previously, but it turns out he didn't actually fall - his painful reactions were just a ploy to make them think they had succeeded again.
  • Non-villainous, lampshaded example: in The Simpsons episode "Today I Am A Clown", Maggie has locked herself in the bathroom. Homer tries using a coat hanger to get her out. He inevitably bungles it up. Bart then uses Homer as a battering ram, and Homer yells at him to hit harder when Lisa opens the door and gets Maggie out. Marge asks how she did it. Lisa replies, "I tried the coat hanger again. I don't understand why we only try ideas once."
  • The Emperor's New School: During one of Yzma's moments of planning how to get Kuzco to fail, she starts by saying that she'll turn him into a rabbit. Kronk tells her they've "been there". Yzma then starts over and considers turning Kuzco into a tree frog. Kronk tells her they've "done that". Yzma then asks if they've done a llama which has Kronk express disbelief.
  • Used increasing straight in Pinky and the Brain: in the initial Animaniacs shorts, their plans really did have to be abandoned because they missed a one-time opportunity (like a Convenient Eclipse that would let them steal the crown jewels of Russia) or the plan was fundamentally flawed (trying to rob Fort Knox when they couldn't carry a single gold bar). Later on, Brain seemed to not only use each plan once—even when failure was due to wildly improbable circumstances that had little or no chance of recurring—but would often consider the plan a write-off if the funding stage failed. He never seems to imagine that he could simply postpone the plan and use a different resource-gathering method and abandons the plan as a failure before it even begins. Brain once hangs a lampshade on this by spending one episode trying to find new methods when he thinks all his old plans amount to the same thing and opening a "casting call" for new creative talent, but hitting a boredom breaking point when all other people (writers) that approached him with an idea for a plan just used all of the same old schemes again and again.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zhao went to some trouble to get the Yu-Yan archers in his service for capturing Aang. The archers accomplish this easily, so it was a flawless plan, but we never see them used again.
  • Not only does Dr Claw of Inspector Gadget never use the same evil plan twice, he always hires a new specialist agent for each new plan (but uses the same generic mooks for everything else).
  • In one episode of Gummi Bears, Toady suggests to Duke Igthorn that they build another catapult to attack Castle Dunwin (as they did in the first story). Igthorn scornfully remarks that they tried that idea already.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • Doubly subverted for laughs. Mojo Jojo actually repeated one of his previous plans down to the tiniest detail, much to the surprise of the girls, who didn't believe it at first. When they confront Mojo, he says he studied the footage of his plan and figured out the fatal flaw: turning the girls into dogs, which allowed them to bite his butt and lead to his defeat. So in this new version, he doesn't turn the girls into dogs and wears a metal plate to cover his rear (rather redundant, considering he doesn't turn them into dogs). Which of course, leaves him open to the girls just punching the stuffing out of him, as he discovers a moment later.
    • HIM has openly stated, as a point of Pride, that he never uses a plan more than once, after having demonstrated his power to make all of Townsville attack the girls in a murderous frenzy, which the girls overcame by being perfectly willing to beat the stuffing out of the brainwashed citizens. Considering his Reality Warper powers, he really wouldn't ever 'need' to repeat a plan, though his later schemes were all over the map in terms of whether they were more interesting uses of his powers than "corrupt the town with murderous evil".
  • The plans of Koopa in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show were always foiled because the heroes just happened to be around whenever he carried out his plan. If Koopa ever went back and tried again after the heroes left he could have succeeded.
  • In one episode of Superfriends, Braniac uses a super vacuum to suck the ring right off Green Lantern's finger. He never uses this again despite it being capable of immediately disabling one of the most powerful Superfriends.
    • Challenge of the Superfriends was notorious for this. The Legion of Doom would come up with matter teleporters, time travel devices, and all matter of wonder weapons — they'd use them once to try and rob a bank, and then never use them again. The dumpster out in back of the Legion of Doom's headquarters is probably full of trillion-dollar patents that will never see the light of day.
  • Dr. Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog adheres to not repeating the same scheme throughout most of the series, even in episodes where the evil gadget of the week is not shown being destroyed.
  • Dr. Wily in Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) never repeats a plan. Sometimes justified by Dr. Light coming up with a counter to whatever he had tried. In "Cold Steel" he tries to recover his device so he can start the plan over later, but Mega Man stops him.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Doofensmirtz recycled his scheme from the first episode, with his only change being switching out his giant magnet for a giant magnet-inatornote . It ended the exact same way as before, with Doofensmirtz barely realizing his mistake. Mind you, the rest of the episode was about recycling the first episode's plot AS A MUSICAL!
    • On the non-villainous side, Candace rarely uses the same busting strategy more than once. Even though she has a camera phone, she very rarely thinks of using it. The only character who does this is Irving.
  • A He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) episode where Skeletor dams and attempts to drain the Sea of Eternia to cause a massive drought to devastate the plant life to lower the oxygen level of the planet. He-Man makes a new ally with an insectoid people to stop the plot and afterward they agree to guard the Sea to prevent Skeletor from trying again.
  • Superman: The Animated Series had Desaad send a probe/automaton to battle Superman in "Father's Day". Superman beats the automaton but Desaad tells Darkseid that the probe was designed to fail, so that it would gather battle data in preparation for building "the ultimate weapon", presumably a more powerful automaton that would account for the failures of the first one and stand a much greater chance of beating Superman. Darkseid dismisses this, stating "That was your ultimate weapon" and refuses to allow him to even pursue the making of such a weapon. It's implied Desaad was lying about the probe being designed to fail and was trying to come up with an excuse, and Darkseid saw right through it.
  • In Code Lyoko, XANA almost never tries the same attack twice. Sometimes, especially in the first season, the group takes action to prevent him from repeating a scheme. Other times you have to wonder why he doesn't just repeat an attack with a few modifications, considering the kids are so often only Just in Time to defeat him, sometimes within a few seconds.
  • In Young Justice (2010), T.O.Morrow stuck with his plot to "build a humanoid android to infiltrate the Justice Society" no matter what. His first attempt Red Torpedo found out he was an android, his Second attempt Red Inferno was KIA, and his third creation Red Tornado choose to be a superhero for real. This didn't work out well for him as he had wasted his life away for nothing. The one shown on screen was actually a robot — the real one was a comatose old man.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Averted to ridiculous extremes in the episode "Once Bitten, Twice Ed", where Eddy continuously reused the same scam with a minor tweak. Even when the kids stopped bothering to show up for his scheme, Eddy just kept "tweaking" it with a new theme, going from raccoons, to space mutants, to food, to jogging pants, to bathroom fixtures...
  • Played with in SilverHawks. Stargazer, who has been battling Mon*Star and his minions for a lot longer than the Sliverhawks have, explains that the bad guys recycle their schemes once in a while and he's ready for most of them. The Silverhawks and the audience are just seeing them for the first time.
  • In ThunderCats (1985), Mumm-Ra pretty much never did the same plan twice. Played with in "Spitting Image". He uses a device to create a clone of Panthro, has the ghost of the evil warrior Hammerhand animate it, then sends him to terrorize the people and frame the real Panthro for it. When the clone is defeated, Mumm-Ra mocks Hammerhand and says he'll just make more clones and have stronger ghosts animate them. An angry Hammerhand smashes the cloning device, putting an end to that.
  • Subverted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic with Queen Chrysalis who is the queen of this trope. Granted, it's hard to fault her for it when said scheme is fairly effective against the Genre Blindness of the main cast and tends to only fail due to bad luck on her part. When she invades Equestria a second time in To Where And Back Again she uses the same tactic she used in A Canterlot Wedding, only expanding it to replace all the princesses and all the Mane Six instead of just Princess Cadance. Again, it only fails because Starlight Glimmer, who Chrysalis didn't even know of, was around this time to rally a rescue team. She presumably intended to pull the same scheme again in The Mean 6 by using the clones as replacement henchmen and, again, it fails because the clones decide to tell her to shove her orders and fight back. She's also pulled this stunt in the Loose Canon tie-in comics a few times with varying levels of success.
  • Aku tends to never try the same scheme scheme against the titular Samurai Jack more than once. Actually justified as Jack is savvy enough for most tricks to only work once: He fell for Aku's "Ikra" disguise once, but when Aku shows up in a later episode disguised as a Yoda-esque figure Jack immediately has him pegged, baits him into a corner, and proceeds to kick the crap out of him.
  • Averted in Miraculous Ladybug. Hawk Moth is fully willing to bring back the same akuma for another try, repeatedly akumatizing Mr. Ramier into Mr. Pigeon and August into Gigantitan, among others. However, the basic idea of the trope remains in play, as only a handful of these attempts are interesting enough to get an episode out of:
    • In "Gamer 2.0", he akumatizes Max into Gamer again, giving him a power boost but using basically the same concept as the first time around. This episode runs completely differently than the first because Max has different frustrations that made him vulnerable to the akumatization in the first place, and his strategy as Gamer 2.0 is completely different.
    • In "Stormy Weather 2", he once again akumatizes the same weathergirl as in the pilot episode, again just giving her a power boost while keeping the same concept. While she apparently escalates to being able to destroy the planet, her fight is nearly all offscreen, as the episode is a Clip Show about the characters reflecting on their development.
    • In "The Puppeteer 2", Hawk Moth akumatizes Manon once more, but as she happens to be in a wax museum at the time, he gives her the power to control the wax statues directly rather than messing about with the control-via-doll power she had the first time around.
    • In "Félix", Hawk Moth mostly just wants the title character to leave, so when Félix insults Adrien's friends while pretending to be him, he uses their shared anger to akumatize three of them into the "Punishers Trio", giving them back their old akuma powers to seek revenge on him.
    • Hawk Moth's grand plan from the season 2 finale, to turn his Dragon into a villain capable of boosting his powers and engineer widespread despair to akumatize people en masse, is reenacted in the season 3 episode "Ladybug" and very nearly succeeds this time to boot. However, it's cut short by aforementioned Dragon suffering the aftereffects of using the broken Peacock Miraculous, causing Hawk Moth to detransform for the sake of her safety, and the rest of the episode focuses on a new plan.
    • A few episodes see Hawk Moth akumatize several people and form a Legion of Doom, such as "Gang of Secrets".
  • An odd case from Fantastic Four: The Animated Series, where the series finale has Doctor Doom stealing the Silver Surfer's powers again — it's noted that he tried this before in the previous season's finale. He simply makes sure that Galactus (who had kicked his butt before) was far away from Earth this time. (It should be noted they did it again because the second season's production team felt that the infamously poor first season had done the story a disservice, and sought to adapt it right this time.)
  • Donkey Kong Country: K. Rool never recycles his plans. Not even the ones that actually got him the Crystal Coconut.

    Real Life 
  • At first glance the German attacks on France in 1914 and 1940 seem eerily similar. In reality this is an imperfect example. Fall Gelb was significantly different from the Schlieffen Plan. In 1914, the Germans tried to bypass the French army and take Paris by going through central Belgium. In 1940, they feinted as if they were going to do that again, drawing the best and most mechanized British and French units into northern and central Belgium to stop them, and then cut through southern Belgium to encircle those British and French units, forcing them to retreat through Dunkirk. In short, Fall Gelb succeeded largely because the Allies were expecting a repeat of Schlieffen.
    • The first plan for the 1940 attack actually was a tweaked repeat of the Schlieffen plan, but after an airplane carrying officers with documents that gave away the plan made a forced landing in the Netherlands, Hitler decided to use the alternative plan cooked up by Manstein.
    • The Ardennes Offensive of 1944 (aka the Battle of the Bulge) is often seen as an attempt to repeat the "Sichelschnitt" (sickle-cut) of 1940.
  • During the US Civil War, the Army of the Potomac got within five miles of the Confederate capital at Richmond during the Peninsular Campaign, and only got driven back because of the timidity of Gen. McClellan, even though the Army of Northern Virginia took more casualties during the Seven Days' Battle, (and was smaller to begin with). Despite this, the North never again made any serious attempt to capture Richmond by moving northwest from Ft. Monroe.
  • Completely averted by Italian Marshal Luigi Cadorna in World War I. His campaign plan was to attack up the Isonzo River and break through the Austrian line there. He tried it twelve times over the course of two years. It was part of a Xanatos Gambit: due large numerical superiority the Austrians had no way to successfully attack back, if he broke the line there, he'd have free access to the maritime part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, thus effectively eliminating half of the Central Powers fleets in the Mediterranean and cutting off trade, and for every failure at breaking through the Austro-Hungarian Army was even nearer to collapse, at which point the Italian Army would have been free to attack Vienna itself, eliminate the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the war and invade Germany from south (what effectively happened at the end of the war, when both sides had effectively exhausted their reserves but the Italians were still more numerous). And it would have worked, had the Russians not collapsed before the Austrians, thus freeing the manpower needed to mount an effective counterattack
  • There is a saying among military historians that the generals always prepare for the last war. In 1870 France thought any conflict with Prussia would play out more or less like the Napoleonic Wars, French Levée en Masse and Elan winning the day before the stuffy old aristocrats of Europe knew what hit them. Instead Prussian rapid mobilization and the use of railways caught the French totally by surprise and most of its armies were surrounded and captured before they could be a significant force in the fighting, negating France's theoretical manpower advantage (Prussia and her allies mobilized more troops, but France had a higher military age population than Prussia). In 1914, Germany had a meticulous plan for rapid offensive into France knocking out France before anybody else could even mobilize. Germany did mobilize rapidly and did initially advance into France, but instead of encircling and capturing French armies like 1870, the French retreated and ultimately entrenched, delaying the German offensive long enough for Russia to mobilize and attack East Prussia (which, as the place where the ruling elite had their estates was militarily worthless but politically crucial to hold at all costs). The war bogged down into trench warfare and Germany had to give up exhausted four years later. In 1939/1940 France initially assumed an almost entirely defensive posture as that was the winning strategy in 1914, but they somehow overlooked the developments of tanks and airplanes which while present in 1918 had come a long way in the two decades since and Germany made very effective use of them, surprising even some in the High Command. However, unlike twenty years before even though France signed a humiliating peace treaty like the Soviets did at Brest Litovsk, France never ceased resisting the occupation, binding troops and the attempt to do to the Soviets what Germany had done to France - rapid tank and airplane based advance, capturing key points before manpower and other advantages of the Soviets became a factor, failed. The Soviets for their part proved to be unwilling to negotiate a peace on the lines of Brest Litovsk even when the Germans advanced further than they ever had in the First World War as this war wasn't a needless slaughter started by a hated Czar for hardly any reason that made sense to the average peasant but a shameless attack by a racist genocidal regime hell-bent on making Slavs a Slave Race. While Europe has thankfully not seen any large scale war since 1945, some observers say that the war plans and war games drawn up since still suffer from the "fighting the last war" disease.
  • The "Definition of Insanity", often mistakenly attributed to Albert Einstein note , cautions that insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over and expecting different results.