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Patience Plot

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"The waiting is the hardest part."

Hello! Have a seat and relax! We'll be with you in a............................................................................moment.

Waiting for something, or someone, or an event to occur, or the aftermath of an event, is part of the story. There's nothing for the characters to do but wait and see. The story may even end on this, leaving the audience left to wonder what exactly did or didn't happen.

The waiting can become an important plot point, with characters either calmly waiting, or cracking under the pressure of the suspense of having nothing to do but worry about what will happen or not happen. There may be a big build-up to an even bigger climax, or an anti-climatic end which shows all their nervous waiting and antici.......pation was for nothing.

Can overlap Bottle Episode. Compare with Waiting Puzzle and We Wait.


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  • Commercials for Heinz ketchup showed a young man in a diner opening a bottle of the product and waiting for it to come out. These commercials feature the tag line "Good things come to those who wait." There were two such commercials:
    • In one, the young man orders a cheeseburger and opens the ketchup bottle then. Everyone else looks on nervously as the ketchup slowly makes its way to the mouth of the bottle. Then, just as the ketchup is about to pour onto the counter, the cheeseburger arrives and the ketchup hits it instead.
    • In the other, the young man's friends get tired of waiting for the ketchup to come out and leave him there. By the time the ketchup comes out of the bottle, a group of cute girls have arrived.
  • In this commercial for toy store Children's Palace, a young boy is impatient to open the gift his mom purchased him.
  • An ad for Chuck E. Cheese claimed that the main reason fancy restaurants are boring to kids is that patrons often have to wait a long time for things to happen.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man: In ''Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #4, a character called the Hitman was given a contract to kill Spidey. The Vulture gets involved, and the Hitman tags both Spider-Man and the Vulture with a tracer so he can track them down. Later, looking at a tracking screen in his hideout:
    Hitman: Both Spidey and Vulture's blibs are stationary. Looks like they've both settled in for the night. Only thing to do now is wait. [sits at a table and starts cleaning his guns] Waiting. That's something I could never teach them back in the old days. Either they were naturals who knew it instinctively, or they never learned... and died because of it. So simple. You wait. And then, you strike.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: In "Investigation", three trolls are waiting for a vampire to arrive so they can question and maybe ambush him:
    "Just sit at the portal and wait for him to get back, eh?"
    "That's what the bartender said, boss," the darker-coloured of the two female orcs grunted.
    "Well, can't be helped, then. Come on,"

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Empire Strikes Back:
    • A significant chunk of the B-plot involves Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO hiding from the Empire in an asteroid field; they have little to do but make repairs, wait, and in Han and Leia's case bicker and flirt with each other; their Belligerent Sexual Tension boils over into a Big Damn Kiss. Things get moving again when they realize they've parked their ship inside a giant space worm and they have to flee to Cloud City.
    • Luke spends a lot of the movie training with Yoda on Dagobah, where he has to learn the importance of being patient and not rushing into situations unprepared. It doesn't quite stick because in the third act he goes rushing off to save his friends and fight Darth Vader, which does not end well for him.
  • Personal Shopper: As embodied by the Arc Words that Maureen is "waiting." She's waiting for a sign for her twin brother, Lewis, after his sudden death. She never gets a clear answer if she gets one.
  • The Ruins: The teens spend the entire movie and book waiting for the Greeks to show up (because they have one of their number with them), and so hold onto this as their hope of survival. In the book, everybody is dead before the Greeks show up (a few days later); in the film, everybody but Amy is already dead, and, as Amy is frantically fleeing from the Mayans, the Greeks can't do anything, there's nobody there to warn them, and they step on the vines and begin the cycle over again.
  • The Skeleton Key: From the villains' perspective, the whole story is this. They're waiting for Caroline to believe in the hoodoo so that they can possess her. She tries to deny it, but it happens at the end.
  • Saw II: Jigsaw's test for Eric is pretty much designed around this, wanting him to simply listen to his life story and philosophy for why he does his actions under a certain time limit so he can see his son again, who's currently trapped in a building with others that's being pumped with nerve gas. Eric however becomes too impatient at the halfway mark and ultimately threatens Jigsaw to tell him where his son is to which Jigsaw trick him into going into a false location. Turns out Jigsaw was being truthful as the game that was being played on the other end and shown on the monitors was pre-recorded meaning the events of the building had already transpired. His son had already survived the game and was put in a safe underneath Eric the entire time. If Eric's anger hadn't got the better of him and he managed to wait out the time limit, he would've found his son safe and sound.
  • The Thing (1982): The movie ends with the entire facility in flames and only Macready and Childs left alive, facing each other down. Neither one of them knows if the other is a Thing or not, and there's no way to prove it to themselves because they don't dare get close to each other. Once the fires go out, if they're human they'll freeze to death. If they're a Thing, they'll go into hibernation and wait for a rescue team to arrive. The film ends with both of them sitting and staring at each other. Waiting.
  • 3:10 to Yuma (1957): Dan Evans joins a posse transporting the captured outlaw Ben Wade to prison, mostly because Evans needs the reward money to save his struggling ranch. They arrive at Contention City and hole up at a hotel, waiting for the 3:10 train to the Yuma prison. Much of the film is Wade and Evans' back-and-forth as they wait in the room, with Wade tempting Evans to just let him go.
  • Titanic: Invoked after the Titanic sinks and the few remaining survivors who went into the ocean are rescued; stranded hundreds of miles from shore and unable to communicate, Rose narrates that the survivors in the life boats could only wait to see what happens. They're eventually rescued by another steamer, the Carpathia.
    Old Rose: After that we could only wait. Wait to die, wait to live, wait for an absolution that would never come.

  • The Crying of Lot 49: The story ends with Oedipa waiting at an auction of Inverarity's possessions, waiting on the title bidding of Lot 49, which contains his stamp collection. Having learned that a particular person is interested in the stamps, Oedipa wants to find out if the guy is a member of the Trystero secret society (which may or may not be all in her head).
  • In Firestarter by Stephen King, the antagonist Rainbird is staying in a hotel. Rainbird is basically a assassin employed by a government agency called The Shop, and his assignment is to kill someone in the hotel who knows too much. He's described as simply sitting in his hotel room, waiting for it to get dark. Then he'll wait for it to get late. Then he'll wait for it to get early. Finally, when the hotel is absolutely quiet and no one is moving, he'll go to his target's room and kill them.
  • Room: Ma and Jack, due to being locked in Room, can't act and can only wait, plan, and try to live happily together as Ma plots their escape. This changes when they actually do escape.
  • In the short story The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke astronauts find a strange, obelisk-shaped device on the Moon. It's protected by an invisible force field, and its only function is apparently to continually send a radio signal into space. Judging by the accumulated dust around it, it's been there for millions of years. Unable to penetrate the force field by any conventional means, the scientists finally nuke it. This destroys the device, and it stops sending the signal. The narrator hypothesizes that the device was left millions of years ago by a race looking for other intelligent life. Deciding that Earth may someday produce intelligent life, they left the device on the Moon. Destroying the device and stopping the signal is a sign that man has evolved enough to both leave the Earth and develop weapons powerful enough to destroy the device. He realizes that mankind has now set off the fire alarm and can do nothing but wait. He wonders from where the creators of the device will come, and thinks that they are undoubtedly a very old race...and the old are often insanely jealous of the young. He ends by saying he very much fears that mankind will not have to wait for long...
  • The plot of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars takes place over the course of slightly less than a standard Earth year, but over half of this time is spent on prolonged FTL jumps. While this is not an issue for most characters, who spend this time frozen solid, the protagonist Kira does not have this luxury and has to contend with excruciating boredom and loneliness while she waits to literally arrive at the next plot juncture.
  • To the Lighthouse: In Part One, Mrs Ramsay promises James they will go to the lighthouse. They don't. Years pass, and Part Three finally deals with the remainder of the family actually taking the trip to the lighthouse. It concludes just before they get there.

    Live Action TV 
  • Babylon 5 - in "Severed Dreams", the heroes have a scene where they wait for the forces of Earth's President Evil to begin their assault, the camera pans across the command deck as the tension mounts.
  • Boardwalk Empire: In "Two Boats And A Lifeguard," Nucky has been battered by Jimmy and the Commodore outmaneuvering his business and almost assassinating him; Arnold Rothstein surprisingly advises him to wait, reasoning that in gambling sometimes there's no move to make, and you have to let the opportunity to strike come to you. Nucky follows his advice and simply waits at home... And then a board game with his family inspires him to seek out a new ally: The IRA.
  • Donkey Hodie:
    • "The Waiting Game" revolves around Donkey Hodie having to wait to open a present she recieved from Harriet Elizabeth Cow until all of her friends arrive.
    • "Chili Jamboree" involves Donkey Hodie and Purple Panda teaching Bob Dog to have patience while he waits for Grampy's slow-cook chili to cook.
  • The Mandalorian: The two stormtroopers who kidnap Baby Yoda have to wait for Moff Gideon to stop killing his own men before they can deliver the prize, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Married... with Children:
    • Al and Peggy go on vacation, leaving Steve and Marcy to baby-sit Bud and Kelly. But the Bundy children prove too rambunctious for their neighbors. Marcy suggests that Kelly and Bud can have a house party (after Peggy instructed them not to have any parties) in hopes their parents will find them irresponsible and never ask them to baby-sit again. The plan goes wrong when the party destroys their house as Steve and Marcy keep watching the window, waiting in vain for Al and Peggy to come home (unaware they decided to stay another day).
    • In the 5th season episode "Follow the Sun", Al decides to take the family on vacation on Labor Day, but they get stuck in traffic before they even leave Chicago. After spending the majority of the episode completely immobile, the jam starts moving - but the car immediately gets a flat tire.
  • The Noddy Shop episode "Be Patient" is about the consequences of not being patient as demonstrated through Aunt Agatha not testing her new hats and Kate and DJ picking and selling apples while they are still green.
  • In the Seinfeld episode ''The Chinese Restaurant'' Jerry, Elaine, and George wait interminably for a table at a Chinese restaurant. They never get a table, spending the episode conversing, complaining, and bickering among themselves. There's also a sub-plot of George waiting for someone to get off the pay phone so he can use it. The "waiting for the pay phone" thing is much more relatable to older viewers. The episode aired in 1991, nearly 30 years ago, well before cell phones became commonplace or were even a thing.
  • Sesame Street has several songs about patience:
    • In "But Me Wait", Cookie Monster sings about how he can control his impulses and wait for snack time to have a cookie.
    • In "You've Got to Be Patient to Be a Patient", someone (the song was sung about a little girl, Big Bird, and Maria on different occasions) is told that they must wait until their sickness (it was flu for the little girl, a lung infection for Big Bird and a stomach infection for Maria) goes away to play.
    • In "Good Things Come to Those Who Wait", Cookie Monster again waits for a cookie. This time, it's part of a game show.
    • One episode involves Big Bird asking many of the adults to go on a walk with him, but being told "later". At the end of the episode, they arrive and say in unison, "It's later!". This was to teach Big Bird a lesson about patience, and about how his friends kept their promise to him.
  • V (1983): The miniseries ended with humanity sending out a call for help to the Visitors' enemy, another alien race. The implication was that humanity could only wait and hope that the enemies would hear the signal, and be willing to help humans. The 2008 novel V: The Second Generation (which ignores the second miniseries and following TV series) revolves around that help arriving some twenty years after the message was sent.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Bear in the Big Blue House episode "Wait for Me." Ojo, Pip and Pop must practice patience as they eagerly await for a package sent by Ojo's Uncle Koala. Meanwhile, Tutter is eagerly waiting for his cheesy juice pops to freeze and ends up being set up with an alarm timer by Bear so that he'll know when they're done. Bear sings a song called "Worth the Wait" about how it can be difficult to wait for things, but it's worth doing so.

  • Waiting for Godot: The entire story is this trope, with the two main characters stuck waiting in one place, unable to leave because they are waiting for Godot. Who Godot is or why they are waiting for him is never explained. They encounter other people, talk nonsense, argue incessantly, try to find ways to pass the time, but cannot leave because they are waiting for Godot. The story ends with them both deciding to leave, but remaining standing where they are.

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!: A race can only be done if the starting countdown is waited through.
  • EarthBound: You have to wait 3 minutes at the waterfall in Grapefruit Falls before you can enter Master Belch's factory.
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: At one point the Mario Brothers have to fix Bowser's back by drilling into a specific nerve. After doing so, they have to wait a while for things to take effect; Toadsworth and another Toad decide to have some tea in the meantime. However, there is a secret button combination the player can input to jump to the end of this sequence.
  • One of the many endings in Please, Don't Touch Anything can be achieved by...just waiting a minute without touching anything. After that, the guy from the start of the game who told you to wait for a minute while he takes a bathroom break actually returns and thanks the player for waiting (and not touching anything).
  • The single-player release of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst has two puzzles that require the player to do nothing for 15 minutes in order to solve the next puzzle. One involves waiting in a small room for an event that was triggered elsewhere, while the other requires standing perfectly still under a spotlight in accordance with instructions in a book of prophecy. These puzzles were implemented to change the game over from a multiplayer experience that had different solutions. A batch of content in the online version also added a series of zoo enclosures, in which a portal to a new area will appear once a day, within a certain margin of error. So the "solution" is to enter the room well in advance and then wait around for the portal.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed: If the player goes back to Riku's workshop after the existence of Lucky Seven is revealed, Riku will tell Matthew that once his obligations to the City are completed, he plans to integrate himself into a Kevesi Colony and wait for however long it takes to give the sword to the right person. While it's unknown exactly how many years he waited, it's fair to say that the task was successful.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: The episode "Waiting to Go" is about the Brain and Binky waiting to be picked up and driving each other nuts.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head: The episode "Killing Time" is about Beavis and Butt-Head looking for ways to burn 2 hours when the TV channel shows a golf game. Highlights include staring at an electric meter and having a (failed) conversation with Stuart.
  • Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood:
    • "Daniel Waits for Show and Tell" is about Daniel being excited to show a book he made to the class, but having to wait for his turn. Soon, the class waits for an egg to hatch, and it hatches into a duckling.
    • Its sister episode "A Night Out at the Restaurant" has Daniel and Caterina going to a restaurant and having to wait for their food. They learn that when they're waiting, they can find something to do in the meantime.
  • The Dragon Prince: In "The Cursed Caldera", the group gets split up looking for higher ground to get away from a giant leech. Rayla is with Ezran; and Callum with Ellis. While they wait for the leech to give up and go away, the older teens open up about their insecurities about their powers and responsibilities, while the younger kids give them a You Are Better Than You Think You Are talk.
  • Ni Hao, Kai-Lan: In "Wait, Hoho, Wait!", the kids are trying to build a small car for them to ride in. Unfortunately, Hoho is too excited to wait for it to be finished.
  • Peep and the Big Wide World: In "An Inconvenient Tooth: Part 2", Beaver Boy buries acorns and waits for them to grow into trees, but learns the hard way that trees take a very long time to grow. He eventually snaps and decides to bite down another tree, but Peep suggests that he can chew trees that have already fallen down.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In "Don't Even Blink", the kids are trying to see what happens to their inventions every day. They build the contraption and then proceed to wait, watching it, knowing that any minute it could disappear somehow. They even sing an entire song about it, called "Watchin' and Waitin'". At the end of the episode, Ferb points out to Candace that it's believed observing the subject can change the results of an experiment, making their effort pointless. Not that it mattered, as it was again disposed of by that episode's -Inator, which made it invisible and then disintegrated it.
    • A subplot in "Backyard Aquarium" has Candace waiting for Jeremy to call her like he promised. Every time she tries to call him, he tries to call her, leaving a busy signal. There's even a musical montage depicting her waiting by the phone. At the end of the episode, she sees Jeremy in the crowd and he tells her that he did try to call her several times, much to her delight.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Spoofed in "Mr. Plow", after the commercial for Homer's snowplow business first airs.
      Homer: And now we play the waiting game. (Beat) Ah, waiting game sucks. Let's play Hungry, Hungry Hippos!
    • In "The Cartridge Family", Homer spends five days sitting outside the house, waiting for his background check to be completed so he can buy a gun.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode aptly titled "Waiting" is about SpongeBob waiting by his mailbox for a cereal box prize to arrive. As time passes without the toy arriving, he gets more and more frustrated throughout the episode, even missing his own birthday party. The prize (a little green frog toy with springy limbs) finally arrives at the end of the episode.
  • The Teen Titans Go! episode "Just A Little Patience... Yeah...Yeah" has Robin fed up with the rest of the Titans being Attack! Attack! Attack! when they keep interrupting Brother Blood trying to reveal his latest scheme. For that, he tries to teach them a lesson by taking away their modern comforts of streaming television by making them watch TV on only one channel, that it's only on a specific time, and for the episode they're watching to end on a literal cliffhanger. Since that doesn't work, he takes drastic measures and pumps the blood of the most patient person ever: Matthew McConaughey. It becomes a case of Gone Horribly Right when the Titans are so utterly chill that they take the LONG way around to get to the city while Brother Blood is destroying Jump City in a giant robot.
  • Time Squad has a three-minute short titled "Killing Time", which is simply about the titular characters having to wait for Larry's time travel software to boot back up while they're all stuck in medieval Poland after a brief mission at the beginning.