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"Shaggy Dog" Story

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"What?! That is it, I've had enough! This whole goddamn adventure has been nothing but pointless build ups towards pay offs that never happen."
Black Mage, 8-Bit Theater

A "Shaggy Dog" Story is a plot with a high level of build-up and complicating action, only to be resolved with an anti-climax or ironic reversal, usually one that makes the entire story meaningless. The term comes from a type of joke (called "gildersome" in The Meaning of Liff) that worked the same way—a basic premise, a long amount of buildup, and a deliberately underwhelming punchline. The best and most famous of these jokes is the Cheerio joke, which is a potentially hours-long story ending in the main character going to get some punch, and finding that "There is no punchline."

A classic example of this is a man living in the US who finds a shaggy dog similar to one in a "Lost Dog" poster from a rich family in England, and flies over there, trying to return it to them for the reward money — when he finally makes it there, he's told by whoever answers the door that the dog "wasn't that shaggy" before the door's slammed in his face. The End.

For television, these stories tend to be found in two varieties: serious and comedic.

Serious shaggy dog stories generally put the protagonist on a quest or goal, only to undermine the purpose at the last minute. For instance, a cop spends all episode trying to convict a criminal, only to watch the perp be hit by a car and die before he's brought to justice; or a doctor searches all episode for the cure to a mysterious illness, which seems to miraculously cure itself. Or the characters spend all their time on a quest, only for it to come about that someone Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin, which means No MacGuffin, No Winner. This plot highlights the futility of characters' jobs, or the cruel ironies of life. When the ending is not just absurd, but actively tragic, the result is Shoot the Shaggy Dog.

Comedic shaggy dog stories are often parodies, undercutting typical plot structures by offering a ridiculous coincidence or unforeseen twist, or even just making the entire episode irrelevant. Comedic shaggy dog stories can be frustrating in their randomness, but often succeed in execution.

Super-trope of Apophenia Plot, where the characters interpret a sequence of random events as being connected, and the rest of the plot revolves around this.

See also Gainax Ending. Can compare to All Just a Dream and Overly Long Gag, and overlap with Happy Ending Override, Cruel Twist Ending, Shock-and-Switch Ending, and "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot. A reveal that It Was with You All Along may feel like this to the protagonist. For short stories which build up to an unbelievably wretched pun, see Feghoot. Compare with Non-Protagonist Resolver which may or may not involve this trope note . Contrast with "Shaggy Frog" Story, where a familiar story is mangled for comedic purposes. It can also lead to a "What Now?" Ending, should the protagonist himself realize that his adventure is all for nothing.

This trope is slightly different from All for Nothing, which tends to revolve around specific events in a story rather than the whole story itself, and often averts the status quo in some way. That is not to say the two don't frequently overlap.

When this is the result of a writing pitfall, it may be a Writer Cop Out and is likely to become an Audience-Alienating Ending.

Super-Trope of Storm in a Teacup when the stakes are way smaller and the whole point is that the efforts weren't necessary.

Not to be confused with Disney's The Shaggy Dog nor the web series Shaggy Dog Stories. Also unrelated to "Shaggy God Story", an alternate name for Earth All Along.

As this is an Ending Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.

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  • Happens in the Alka Seltzer commercial with the commercial for Mama's Meat Sauce. The actor has one line ("Mama Mia, that's a spicy meatball!"), but repeatedly fails to deliver it to satisfaction. They go through so many takes with the actor eating spicy meatballs, he has to take Alka Seltzer to calm his stomach. As the commercial ends, he finally delivers the line to perfection...only for the oven door to fall open and ruin the shot.
  • This commercial for Bridgestone tires. It even has dogs. The ad starts with a dog finding its lover having sex with another dog. The dog is so shocked it starts running away and arrives at a road with lots of cars passing. The dog jumps in front of a car, which stops almost instantly thanks to its Bridgestone brand tires. The end.
  • Kia has a commercial where a family of three is vacationing at a ski resort when the baby daughter starts crying. The mother says it's because the father forgot her "binky". He runs outside, saying something about the binky, jumps into his Telluride, and drives home. Meanwhile, someone overheard his comment about the binky and reports it to her friend, getting the father significant media coverage on his quest. He drives through various harsh terrain which the SUV easily handles (even driving through a large pipe). When he gets home, there's a crowd of reporters waiting for him along with a group of well-wishers. He goes into the house and emerges with the binky, a green pacifier, to the cheers of everyone. He returns to the resort and gives the pacifier to his daughter. She spits it out and the mother tells him she only likes the blue one.

  • The spoken-word piece "Moose Turd Pie", the most famous version being done by folksinger/historian Bruce "Utah" Phillips. A guy joins a work-crew of some sort (logging, railroading, etc) where the person that complains the most about the food is forced to become the Camp Cook. He gets assigned this duty, and decides to get out of it by making the eponymous dish. He serves it up for dessert, the biggest, meanest guy on the crew takes a single bite, throws down his fork, and loudly declares: "That's moose turd pie!!" ...and hastily adds "It's good, though!"
  • Nipsey Russell once delivered a great example on Conan O'Brien's original late show. He tells a long fable about a delusional turtle who believes it's actually a corn muffin, leaves home, and finds what it believes to be its real family in a New York bakery. Just then, a policeman (played by Russell) comes in and orders a corn muffin, only to have the lady behind the counter insist on selling him the turtle:
    And the moral of the fable is: When you go into a bakery, make sure it is not run by... A STUPID BITCH!
  • Norm Macdonald makes sure to add one of these every time he's interviewed, usually with Conan O'Brien.
    • One example was when he was on Conan, and it tells the story of a moth who goes to a pediatrist's office, and laments about how his life. His job is soul-sucking, his life has no purpose, his marriage is joyless and lacking love, his youngest child died, he can't love his other child, and he has contemplated suicide. The Pediatrist asks the moth why he would tell him instead of a psychologist. The moth replies: "Cause the light was on".
    • Another involves his encounter with two midgets in Vegas. The two midgets proceed to hire several prostitutes. They take the ladies to their rooms, but one of the midgets is too drunk to "perform", and blames the prostitute, kicking her out. He then goes by the wall where his buddy is in the other room and hears from the other side "One, two, AAH! One, two, AAH!" The first midget thinks that the other midget is having a good time. The next morning, they talk about the previous nights and how bad they were. The second midget also explains that he was having a bad time because he couldn't even reach the bed.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • When the extended flashback in the strip 9 Chickweed Lane began, it was promoted as being the story of how Gran fell in love with her husband; it finished as being how marrying O'Malley was a consolation prize because her true love and Juliette's birth father had to return to Austria.
  • Some Calvin and Hobbes storylines end this way. Calvin particularly had it bad when he brought his Stupendous Man costume to school on the day of a test. He gets stuck in his own locker while changing, his teacher drags him kicking and screaming to the principal's office, and he has his costume confiscated by his mother. After everything has blown over, he tells Hobbes that he flunked the test.
  • This Dilbert comic. Scott Adams in general is fairly fond of this trope, often times inspired by real life stories from readers about Pointy Haired Bosses.
  • In Garfield, Jon's attempt for a BBQ cookout in the July 3, 2022 strip ends up not panning out because... he forgot to put charcoal into the grill. Cue Garfield starting to order pizza.
    Garfield: (to Odie) Thick or thin crust?
  • The Luann story with her latest Love Interest Quill seems to be ending up as one of these. After constant Will They or Won't They?, they finally decide to get romantic... and just then his phone rings with news that he has to move back to Australia. He leaves to pack, and decides not to even see her again to say goodbye. Averted as Luann and Quill continue their relationship online. Quill even visits again in June 2013.
  • In the German series Nick Knatterton most cases turn out to be such, often by the culprit and the intended victim forming an alliance, marrying or similar. For example, a spy attempts to smuggle out secrets in a pivot tooth put into a singers mouth- which ends up being ejected by the sound waves and thrown into the Mediterranean Sea, where it is promptly swallowed by a fish.
  • Peanuts:
    • There was a very long series of strips involving Peppermint Patty training for an ice skating tournament that ran over a whole winter. First, she hired Snoopy as a coach. Then she convinced Marcie to make her a skating dress; Marcie tried her best, but she couldn't sew, and made an awful dress. It almost ruined their friendship, until Marcie's mother made Patty a beautiful dress. Then Patty needed to get a new hairdo to go with it; Marcie was no good at that, so Patty went to Charlie Brown's dad - who's a barber. Unfortunately, he mistook her for a boy, and gave her a boy's haircut. Patty averted another disaster by buying a wig... but in the end, it all turned out to be pointless, because the tournament was actually a roller skating competition.
    • In another long arc, Linus' teacher Ms. Othmar asked him to bring eggshells to school so that his class could make model igloos, but again and again, Linus either kept forgetting or something would happen to foil his plans. (One time he remembered to bring them - on Saturday.) Finally, he remembered, and brought them to school, only to find that Ms. Othmar had quit her job and was getting married. (As Linus said, "I knew the eggshells were only a manifestation of a deeper problem!") The story did end on a high note: Linus sent her a box of eggshells as a wedding present.
    • In another story, the gang has a baseball game, but Charlie Brown isn't available. He has to push around his sister, Sally (only a toddler at the time and officially making her debut in this storyline), in a stroller. Everyone is upset including Charlie Brown himself. Linus informs him they're at the bottom of the 9th and still have a chance to win. Charlie Brown ends up leaving Sally to finish up the game. Naturally, he strikes out and is chewed out by everyone, and on top of that, his mother is now angry with him for ditching his sister. He tries to complain to Lucy who gave him the hardest time about everything, and how he's in trouble at home, and she just ignores him. In the end, all he can do is apologize to Sally and promise to be there for her when she needs him.
    • One storyline revolves around Linus and his anticipation over an upcoming solar eclipse. He spends the entire story telling everyone about it, warning them not to look directly at it when it occurs, and the proper procedure to watch it safely without damaging their eyes. Finally, the big day comes, and there’s a torrential downpour, so there’s no way to see it.
  • In The Wacky Adventures of Pedro, Pedro's roughly two-year search for fruit that could make his homemade ice cream blue and flavorful becomes this when upon returning from outer space, a friend offers him some blue and flavorful indigo plum ice cream.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In a bizarre invocation of the Fleeting Demographic Rule, WCW's Halloween Havoc 2000 pay-per-view featured a Sting vs. Jeff Jarrett match, with Jarrett dressed up in Sting face paint. Throughout the match, several fake versions of Sting interfered in the match (reminiscent of 1990's Halloween Havoc, when Sid Vicious fought Sting and was later attacked by a fake), and the real Sting easily handled all of them. One would expect there to be a big payoff from all the fake Sting madness, but the match ended with Jarrett whacking the real Sting with his guitar to win the match.
  • WWE one - John Cena made a shocking comeback to win the 2008 Royal Rumble just four months after an injury that was said to put him down for at least seven months to a year. He invoked his title match against Randy Orton (who was awarded the WWE Championship upon Cena's injury) at No Way Out instead of WrestleMania... and then won by DQ, which meant he didn't get the title. Then he got another two title shots, and lost both of them before moving into another feud without ever getting any revenge on Orton.
  • During a TNA AJPW crossover, Knockouts Champion Madison Rayne agreed to give Angelina Love a title shot if Love could beat her old rival, the undefeated Jersey All Pro Women's Champion Sara Del Rey. When Love did what no one though possible and beat Del Rey Rayne immediately ran out and hit Love with the belt, a literal title shot. But Angelina Love wasn't knocked unconscious, the referee, Earl Hebner, had the match get officially underway and despite Rayne's huge early advantage Love started to make a comeback...only for Hebner to kiss her, causing enough of a distraction for Rayne to retain.
  • The 1/21/13 episode of RAW held a "Beat the Clock Challenge," the winner of which would choose their own entry number in the upcoming Royal Rumble match. The winner was Dolph Ziggler, however when he goes to turn in his victory and choose his place as the last guy to enter, Vickie Guerrero informs him that he would only have his choice of entering the Rumble first or second, which function exactly the same except for how it goes into the record books. So it turns out that after three matches to determine the winner, the winner's prize is literally being given the worst possible entry in the Rumble. Vickie Guerrero hated Dolph Ziggler for dumping her the month before, which is probably why she did that to begin with.
  • The rules of the Royal Rumble state that a competitor is eliminated when both feet hit the floor. In 2012 Kofi Kingston walked on his hands to the steel steps and was able to reenter the match. In 2013 he leapt onto the back of another competitor and ended up on the announcers' table. He struggled to think how to get back to the ring and finally figured he could use a rolling chair. Only this time, Cody Rhodes eliminated him before he could get back in.
  • In 2014 former Vendetta Pro Wrestling Tag Team champions the Ballard Brothers told an inspiring story about a man named Sunami who spent all year clawing his way towards a title shot against them, persevered through their under handed attacks and mind games, ultimately winning the belts only to have to vacate them because his partner no showed during a defense, making his entire year a big waste of time. They told this story to Sunami himself, who indeed was waiting in vain for his partner, leading him to give up on tag team wrestling and take on an It's All About Me attitude.
  • While Mercedes Martinez was largely to blame for Las Sicarias being mollywhopped by rival SHINE Power Stable C4, Martinez legitimately positioned herself for a shot at the championship belt Ivelisse Vélez was forced to vacate and should have won it. She had Allysin Kay beat in the three way dance and LuFisto was too slow to stop her, except LuFisto was given the winning pin on a one count. Furthermore, Martinez was put in another match with the woman she by rights beat, rather than the one who was basically given her win. Kay proceeded hit Martinez with a shame motivated flurry...that nonetheless only got Kay to a time limit draw. If Martinez was champion as she logically should have been, she would have retained, and the trap C4 laid on the returning Velez and Rosa Negra wouldn't have set Las Sicarias back so far.
  • The 2015 edition of Survivor Series centered around a Tournament Arc for the WWE Championship following Seth Rollins, who was a member of The Authority, getting injured. The dog won, unfortunately, at the end of the tournament, Sheamus cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on said dog and, with aid from Triple H, won the match thus won the title, leaving the Authority no worse for wear than before and the fans even more agitated at their invincibility. The dog in question? Roman Reigns.
    • 2018 got worse for poor Roman with his rivalry against Brock Lesnar. Roman fought as hard as he could to get the Universal Championship off Lesnar out of disgust for Brock's bad work ethic and tendency to be an absentee champion, facing Lesnar at multiple PPVs throughout the year, getting incredibly mixed reactions at every stepnote  on top of repeatedly losing to Brock. He got beat up, hospitalised, cheated out of a victory and more as the feud rolled on to the point where Roman himself told everyone he was sick of talking about Brock. Then, after he finally won the damn belt at SummerSlam, he only got to hold it for a relatively short two months before invokedhis cancer returned in Real Life, forcing him to drop it. Ouch. Oh, and then Baron Corbin's interference meant that the belt went back to Lesnar at Crown Jewel, completely invalidating Roman's efforts to bring the belt back to regular syndicated television. Double ouch.


  • The Book of Revelation from The Bible, in which the entire Bible and history of the world is one long battle where God ultimately wins and in context it makes our day-to-day struggles seem pointless in context of eternity.

  • In A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Monty has already murdered several people to get closer to inheriting the D'Ysquith family fortune. But the next target, Lord Asquith D'Ysquith, Sr., had shown him nothing but kindness and treated him like a son, and he can't decide if he has the nerve to kill the man. Lord Asquith dies painlessly of a heart attack mid-song. Monty doesn't waste a beat plotting the next and final murder.
  • Gyorgy Ligeti's opera Le Grand Macabre: Death (called Necrotzar) announces the end of the world. People prepare for the final moment. At the end: nothing happens, except Death dies. Cue Epileptic Tree justifications.
  • The entire play Waiting for Godot consists of two guys waiting for a guy named Godot, who never shows up.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Two episodes of The Rise of Tiamat turn out to be big wastes of time. In one, Varram the White—one of the five wyrmspeakers who lead the Cult of the Dragon—travels to the Tomb of Diderius to use the divination pool there so he can find his stolen white dragon mask. He gets captured by the yuan-ti living in the tomb, but not before he used the pool and saw that the mask had already been retrieved by other members of the Cult by the time he got there. In the other, the party travels to Xonthal's Tower to extract a defecting cultist who is offering the blue dragon mask in exchange. The cultist's treachery is found out shortly before the party arrives, and he will be dead by the time the party reaches him. Worse, the mask turns out to be a forgery.
  • Warhammer: The tale of the dishonor of the Ironfists. The family had suffered a dishonor so severe it required one member of the family to swear the Slayer Oath and seek death in battle. Ungrim Ironfist took the oath so his son Garagrim wouldn't have to. Garagrim Ironfist took the oath so his father Ungrim wouldn't have to. Garagrim eventually found the honorable death he sought, thus discharging the family's debt of honor and freeing his father from his Slayer Oath. However, his death drove Ungrim mad with grief and caused him to take the Slayer Oath in order to shed the dishonor of sacrificing his son to save his own skin, rendering Garagrim's sacrifice completely moot.
  • In the premade campaign for Scion 1E, all the player characters' work in capturing and detaining the Titans is rendered completely pointless by Loki's plan to usurp Surtr, which frees all of them anyway.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, if the Safe ending hasn't been cleared beforehand, then the True ending route ends with several of the group, including the main character, forced to hopelessly try and work out a passcode for which they lack the necessary clue.
  • In the brilliantly-written Time Hollow, the intrepid hero finds himself in a completely altered reality, with no memories whatsoever of how it happened and no idea how to set things right. All he has is a mystical pen with the ability to alter something that happened in the past, each time changing his present reality in drastic and unpredictable ways. Sometimes solving a problem creates an entirely different problem, which he must then seek out and fix. After countless twists, turns, harrowing confrontations, and narrow escapes, the pieces ever-so-gradually fall into place (with several pieces falling out in the meantime). It turns out that if the hero goes to a certain location to save a certain person's life, this will avert the long chain of events which caused time to go out of whack, and everything will return to normal. Of course, by then it should be readily apparent that had he just known that beforehand, he could've just done that right away and saved several weeks of trouble. Even better, once you finish the game, you can start a new one and do just that! Meet your enemy on the street, let him know that you're onto his scheme, and offer to set things right. He'll grudgingly give you one night to make good on your offer, which is more than enough. Go to the school, get the pen from your dad, save the girl, done. You even get a special ending for your trouble.

    Web Animation 
  • Monkey Wrench: "The Ghost Egg": Shrike and Beebs need to perform an escort mission for Nobert, a very paranoid and annoying bird who drives Shrike insane. After suffering through 6 days of Nobert, delivering him to the agreed spot, fending off rival forces, and cornering the assassin Kara, Monkey Wrench's contract is rendered void when Nobert's mother, Queen Potoo, arrives and aggressively convinces him to return to his princely duties. Kara leaves, having completed her bounty, while Shrike is left distraught and Beebs needs to carry him away.
    Shrike: "After all of that, w-we didn't get paid" (proceeds to laugh/cry maniacally)

    Web Original 
  • In the Achievement Hunter Let's Play Minecraft mini-series "YDYD" (short for "Ya Dead, Ya Dead"), bit by bit, each of the Achievement Hunters are Killed Off for Real, leaving Michael Jones the Sole Survivor. In the final episode, he moves on, lives fifty years later and dies of old age in a castle he built. He ends up arriving in Hell, where the other Hunters are waiting for him. As it turns out, they've remained young and will always will be and Michael will remain old and decrepit. Even worse, his wife Lindsay gave up on waiting for him and hooked up with a demon named Gary.
  • In the Atop the Fourth Wall storyline "Contest of Champions" ends with this: after spending five years competing in trying to obtain the Infinity Gauntlet so no other evil entity can use it, Linkara learns that the Gauntlet is useless. In fact, the entire contest hinges on the fact that no one realizes any of the items don’t work outside of their native universes.
  • Chapter 2 of "Axe Cop" (the Moon Brothers arc) is this. The Moon Brothers find their family turned into bats, travels to Earth to defeat the villain who did it, meets up with Axe Cop's party, gains a bunch of utterly random power-ups, defeat the villain... and finally realize that they had a magic potion all along that could have turned their family back into humans, making the entire story-arc mostly pointless.
  • Challenger Andy's video "Can You Beat a Level 100 Hoppip With a Level 5 Totodile?" ultimately ends this way, several times. After spending more than 20 hours theorycrafting a way to make it past the first mandatory victory in a copy of Pokémon Crystal that has been hacked to make all the wild and trained enemy Pokémon level 100 while resetting any of his own catches to Level 1, using information from Pokémon Showdown and Bulbapedia, he first finds out that the calculations used by Showdown, according to which his question would indeed be answered in the affirmative, are based on a false premise. This forces him to reverse-engineer the Pokémon damage formula by hand, which also turned out to be pointless since Bulbapedia, his source, was also wrong, which he didn't suspect for another 35 hours. He then had to consult with dataminers for another 10 hours after that to determine the true damage formula... which revealed that it is mathematically impossible to beat a level 100 wild Hoppip that retains the moves it would normally have when encountered at its intended level before the Trainer Joey battle with a level 5 starter Pokemon obtained from Professor Elm that has not won a single battle in Pokémon Crystal, only after the viewer sits through 22 minutes and 10 seconds of the video. Then after that, he reveals that while this particular event is impossible, his original challenge (beating a hack of the Generation II games in which all enemy Pokemon are level 100 and none of the player's Pokemon are) is still possible, and implied that he would release a follow-up video explaining how he did it Explanation... only for him to lose the ROM file, preventing him from finishing the challenge or ever making the follow-up video.
  • Charlie the Unicorn usually ends up on nonsensical quests that wind up to be excuses for the Blue and Pink Unicorns to rob and screw with him. The Grand Finale subverts this as Blue and Pink's latest quest and straight up attempt to kill Charlie leads him to the means of finally banishing his two tormentors for good.
  • This satirical video from the YouTube channel "Circlejerk" (devoted to parodying Reddit) starts out like a typical rant about "social justice warriors." The punch line (based on a popular meme of 2015) is that one of the SJW Reddit moderators is actually John Cena.
  • The first half of Episode 24 of Critical Role. Tiberius is attempting to access a teleportation sigil that will take him and his team to Kraghammer to retrieve some reward money. After muddling around in the Lyceum bureaucracy, flying back to the keep to pick up a bribe, then flying back to the Lyceum with the rest of the party, he finally gets access to the sigil... only to realize that he's burnt through all his spells for the day, and needs to sleep for another eight hours before he can actually cast the teleportation ritual.
  • The last sentence of "How David Weber Orders A Pizza", after several thousand words exhaustively describing the ordering and delivery of a pizza, is:
    Then a nuclear weapon detonated in midair above them, vaporizing the city.
  • Shortly after the release of Grand Theft Auto V, a YouTube user known as TheJimmyJ57 put together a series of videos in which he would customize the various vehicles in the game. Episode 27 of this series features the Canis Crusader. After six unsuccessful attempts to steal one from the army base, he discovers that one can be purchased online. So, he does...and discovers the vehicle cannot be modified.
  • The Story Guy videos from LoadingReadyRun are based almost entirely around this trope. Installments such as Gilled Cheese and Rare Book have the Story Guy go on at great length for what is eventually revealed to be no point at all.
  • The Nostalgia Chick's Dark Nella Saga didn't change the show's Black-and-Gray Morality at all. The Chick's still a jerkass, Nella's still the abused friend, and Dr. Tease is still evil. Tropes Are Not Bad however; the Dysfunction Junction they have going is just too fun to die.
  • Party Crashers: In "Mario Party 3 is the MOST TOXIC, and this game proves why...", Sophist receives the Koopa Kard from a Hidden Block on turn 1, a rare item that allows the user to receive all of the coins saved up in the Koopa Bank by simply passing it rather than landing on the space... Nick then steals it with his Plunder Chest the very next turn and then (to add insult to injury) never uses it due to the Bank never having enough coins to justify using it.
  • PeanutButterGamer did videos about Goodwill games. In the sixth installment, the final game he plays is a Call-Back to the second installment, in which he plays the first game from the Mia's Big Adventure Collection, Mia's Reading Adventure: The Search for Grandma's Remedy. At long last, PBG had come prepared with everything that prevented him from completing a single Mia game; he never encountered a single Game-Breaking Bug, and he had the second disc, and he is excited to see what finally happens after all these years...only to discover that it went to nothing. All that happens is that Mia simply hops on a bird, thanks the player for helping her before saying farewell to the player, and it just cues an Iris Out with Mia giggling. PBG is not pleased.
    PeanutButterGamer: THAT'S IT?! After all this time, we finally beat a Mia game, and that's it?! Nothing happens?!
  • In Red vs. Blue, Project Freelancer was created as a means to fight aliens and find a way to bring back Allison. To do so, the Director tortured the A.I. Alpha into fragmenting itself so it could provide A.I.s for experimental purposes. However, the Project practically failed in its objectives, with all its Freelancers becoming crazy, going rogue, abandoning the project or dying and Allison/Tex staying dead.
  • The Saga of Biorn ends with the noble, aging Death Seeker Viking, seeking entry to Valhall, succeeding at dying in battle by saving a convent of nuns from a giant... Except the nuns end up burying his corpse in consecrated ground and sending him to Christian heaven at the last moment instead.
  • The SCP Foundation has SCP-4290, a massive, ravenous Humanoid Abomination locked away with thaumaturgical seals that have to be restrengthened by performing specific rituals every couple millennia. In 2022, the ritual failed and the seals broke, releasing 4290 back onto the Earth... at which point it was found to have starved to death inside its prison 9,000 years previously, meaning that all the effort that'd been put into renewing the seals, and into preparing to fight the entity should it emerge, had been entirely pointless.
  • Sonic for Hire:
    • In Season 3, Sonic and co. attempt to rob Casino Zone of all its loot. After the initial disaster of their first attempt, they manage to get everything out, until they realize all they've stolen are rings, which have no value anywhere.
    • At the end of Season 7, after having tracked down The Creator, Sonic kills him after a mild disagreement, just as Tails points out they didn't get to ask why The Creator was screwing with them in the first place.
  • This story is the best and most perfect incarnation of this trope. Be warned, it's a very long read.
  • In Survival of the Fittest, this occurs more often than not, due to the brutal nature of the game. Entire arcs can be left either unresolved or rendered entirely meaningless when someone integral simply dies.
    • This is more or less Simon Wood's entire arc is one of these. Poor guy couldn't even pull a Heroic Sacrifice off right.
    • Alex Rasputin; killed two people in v4, and was on the path to redemption. Suddenly, Liz Polanski destroys a camera, and Danya blows his collar.
  • Techmoan invokes the trope by name in his video “The 3-in-1 Oddness of the Triplecorder”. Investigating a combination radio, record player and tape recorder released in Japan in the 1960s, Mat uncovers some patent documents with the application date “15th July 37” on it (“37.7.15”, as dates are written year-month-day in Japan) and spends several minutes speculating how a design using 1960s components could have been submitted in 1937. He speculates it was some incredibly forward-thinking futurist, and even goes as far as suggesting a time traveller sent the designs back in time to try and make money, before finally admitting he knows that the year on the patent was given in Shōwa (the number of years into emperor Hirohito’s reign), with Shōwa 37 being 1962 CE, and he just strung out the explanation as an excuse to delve into the history of tape recorders.
  • In his review of Taylor Swift's Fifteen, Todd in the Shadows tells the story of a heart wrenching break up from his past. He then destroys the mood of the story by revealing that it never happened to him but was instead the plot of an episode of Saved by the Bell.
  • Twitter chains, which the longer they get, more pissed people who followed them will be.
  • This video about World of Warcraft.
  • "Why are you gay?" "Well, a long time ago, I was sitting at home on the computer..."

  • The Great White Sheet Game: Typically played at co-ed college parties with some amount of alcohol, often on road trips where the participants have multiple hotel rooms. One person who has never played before is chosen as the Player, while all those who have played before take on the roles of "Master" (for the leader of the game) and "Others". The Player sits on a bed, and has a sheet tented over him. The Master then explains that this is a test, and that the Player must follow the instructions that the Master or the Others give, to the letter. The game then proceeds, first with the Master describing a scene: "You are walking through the desert. It is hot, and you are thirsty. You realize you don't need to be wearing as much as you are. Take something off, and pass it to me." Usually, the Player removes something inconsequential—jewelry or shoes. The Others then continue in the same vein—embellishing and otherwise confounding the statement, but always with the admonition to remove something the Player is wearing needlessly. As time goes on, articles of clothing start coming off and getting passed out. The game ends when the Player figures out he's supposed to take off the damn sheet. If he's already naked underneath, well, then the Master and Others won the game.
    • Boy Scouts of America has a version where a number of newer scouts stands before a crowd and all place blindfolds on themselves. They are ordered not to make a sound for the duration of the game and are told to take an article of clothing off. The ones who take the blindfold off are quietly told to remain silent and the game is ended when the boys all have their blindfolds off or there are any boys reduced to their undergarments.
  • There are cards in Munchkin that can make a battle this: say you've encountered a Plutonium Dragon and its Evil Twin, facing painful death should you fail to beat them or run away. After numerous bonuses and anti-bonuses have been played on the monsters, the dragon's Baby Clone, and its Mommy, have been introduced to the fight, multiple one-shot items have been used to help or hinder you, several different methods of backstabbing have been employed, lengthy negotiations of teaming up have been had, and you're ready to reap your whopping eight levels and twenty-five treasures... Some asshat plays a few cards, making the dragon and its twin, clone, and the clone's mommy already dead (and dead broke), or something to the effect, leaving you without any levels or treasure, and everyone many cards poorer. Which is, of course, very munchkinly indeed, and highly recommendable in the spirit of the game.
  • This GIF is an extremely abridged version of The Lord of the Rings movies, except the characters forgot the Ring at home and find out only at the end.
  • The plot of the SpongeBob SquarePants 4D ride has SpongeBob chasing after Patrick who took the last pickle which he needs to complete a krabby patty for a customer. At the end, SpongeBob gets the pickle and puts it in the patty. However, it turns out the customer requested no pickles due to being allergic.


Video Example(s):


Fox Pledge Drive

After Homer rings the Chapel bell too loudly, an earthquake occurs, starting a flow of lava. Just as Homer and a native girl he calls "Lisa Jr." are about to be consumed by lava (presumably to their doom), the cliffhanger cuts to a Fox pledge drive hosted by Rupert Murdoch and Betty White (also featuring cameos of Hank Hill, Bender and Thurgood Stubbs among others pledging to the network), who urge viewers to keep crude, low-brow comedy programs such as Family Guy on the air. The episode ends after Bart pledges $10,000 to the network and saved it. This tied in to the start of the episode, where a Britcom he's watching on PBS gets cut short by the announcement of a pledge drive.

How well does it match the trope?

4.74 (19 votes)

Example of:

Main / NoEnding

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