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Subterfuge Judo

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Subterfuge is when a true intention is hidden by another reason or action; though, two parties may each have an intention they want to see through to completion. The opposing party to those serving the imposition, of course, want to prevent that or somehow get them off their back. They can't just say no or yes, though, depending on what the other wants, because things could get messy.

Much like Politeness Judo, where one of the two parties will politely trick the other into doing something they don't want to, this is Subterfuge Judo, where this can go one of two ways:

  • Scenario 1: Simply put, Party 1 (Imposer) and Party 2 (Imposee) are both aware of each others' plans. Each one will try to use politeness in some strategic fashion, similar to striking blows and defenses in a martial arts match, in an attempt to gain control of the situation or back out. Party 1 will usually use some insistence to keep themselves in the argument or force their will on the other.

  • Scenario 2: Same as Scenario 1, but this time, Party 1 is not aware, partially or fully, of Party 2's plan to divert/back out, and is instead working on instinct or from customs they have learned.

The two parties' intentions may not necessarily be polite, but neither side wants to be so blunt about rejecting, such that the situation gets out of hand, because they may lose control, their (the imposer's) only chance to get what they want, or (for those who are being imposed-on) someone could get hurt or killed.

In short, it's a "Through gritted teeth, one of us will have our way, and neither of us are backing down" situation, and neither will take the hint that the other is trying to convey.

If one side is especially sensitive, and they realize that the other is performing Subterfuge Judo to get out of their control (or attempt to defuse the situation), it may serve to anger the imposer, drop the polite act altogether, and make a mountain out of a molehill.

Other times, one person will be too stubborn to even inflict Subterfuge Judo on, set on a one-track mind, just because they can, or just because they have leverage that they wouldn't have otherwise.

Rarely, the knowledge involved will be one sided, because the first party is trying to prevent the second party from finding or discovering something that puts the first in a bad light, and the second brushes the first's reasoning off as no big deal. (for example, the first party is trying to hide the fact that they broke something valuable to the second, and yet the second party continues, or insists, on getting closer and closer to a possible action or place, where they will discover it.)

Compare Politeness Judo, where it's this trope, but is more-or-less one-sided. Also Compare That Wasn't a Request or Euphemism Buster, where, again, one side will just dispense altogether with the pleasantries. (Sometimes either or even both tropes will even be entangled with the Judo) See Comically Missing the Point when one of them doesn't follow the thread of conflict between the two parties, and Dramatically Missing the Point, where the person may similarly (and vocally) ignore any attempts at subterfuge. If one party's Subterfuge Judo is good enough, it may back the other party into a corner such that there is no escape. If such, or if the situation is that desperate, the party who is on the worse receiving end of the imposition may be Ain't Too Proud to Beg.


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    Films — Live Action 
  • Battlefield Earth: Extraterrestrials known as Psychlos have taken over Earth and enslaved what's left of its population. Terl is one of the main overseers, and seems to not like his job here on Earth:
    District Manager Zete: Home office is well aware of your academic achievements and obvious talents. That's why we decided not to keep you here for another 5 cycles.
    [Terl laughs in relief]
    Ker: [joining in the laughter] It's a joke!
    Terl: Oh, thank you sir. I don't know if I could have kept my sanity to be here another 5 cycles.
    District Manager Zete: [with thinly-veiled contempt] We've decided to keep you here for another 50 cycles! With endless options for renewal! [last line echoes as the camera slowly zooms in on Terl]
    [Zete laughs maniacally. Sound fades out, slow motion as Terl looks at Zete, his assistant, and the rest of the council laughing and sneering at him]
    District Manager Zete: [still echoing] Those options, of course...
    [echo ends]
    District Manager Zete: Those options, of course, being at home office's discretion, not yours. The senator... has a lot of friends. [last line echoes]

and later...:

Terl (with barely-disguised irritation): Please! Tell the senator that if I had even an inkling that that was his daughter--
District Manager Zete: [interrupting] Watch your tongue! The senator's exact words to me were, and I'm quoting, "If that blasted Terl tries to talk his way out of it, have him exterminated."
[Terl glares at him furiously]
District Manager Zete: But cheer up! There is one bright side to all this: one day, you're going to die. And when you end up in hell, at least it'll be a step up from this place! [He laughs mockingly]
  • RoboCop (1987): A case of Scenario 1: Emil Antonowsky, one of crime-lord Clarence Boddicker's cronies, robs a gas station one night, as well as forces the the innocent station clerk at gunpoint, who was doing his math homework, to give him free gasoline for his motorcycle. Emil starts to get a bit trigger-happy, looking for an excuse to shoot, as he's talking to the clerk, but the clerk doesn't say anything, to try to prevent agitating him. It doesn't work. Fortunately, RoboCop arrives just in time before Emil can get off a shot.
    Emil: [noticing the book] Hey, man, what you reading in there?
    [The clerk quickly shows him the "Plane Geometry" book he has]
    Emil: [laughing, mocking] You a college boy or something?!
    [The clerk only nods in fear, not speaking]
    Emil: [laughs] I'll bet you think you're smart. [brandishes his automatic rifle and aims it] Think you could outsmart a bullet?
    Emil: What do you say we find out, huh? [He kicks the wall, quickly losing patience] I'm talking to you!! What do you say, huh? Huh?!
    [The clerk shakes his head in fear, still quiet]
    [Emil kicks the wall again, while RoboCop arrives in the background]
    Emil: [enraged, no pretense of humor] I'M TALKING TO YOU!!!
    RoboCop: [now out of car, pistol aimed] DROP IT!
  • The Sound of Music: A case of Scenario 1: By the last quarter of the film, Austria has just been annexed by Nazi Germany by the Anschlüss, and one of Max Detwieler's former friends, Hans Zeller, has been made Gauleiter (3rd in rank below the supreme title of Führer). When Georg von Trapp is forcibly recruited to be in the German Navy, he makes a plan to smuggle his family out of Austria under the cover of night. Unfortunately, Zeller and the rest of the occupation anticipated their plan, where they catch the von Trapp family pushing their car out of their driveway hoping to make a quiet escape. Georg makes a few excuses (such as their car seemingly having starting trouble, and not needing an escort), but Zeller won't have it (although he's just as polite as Georg), insisting on an escort. It's only when Georg covers for their story by mentioning that they were off to perform in the singing competition, and they are escorted there, that the von Trapp family are able to make a getaway after they have performed.
  • Star Trek (2009): Played-with, using "Insult Judo", mixed with Stealth Insult! Spock is admitted to the Vulcan Science Academy, but the Academy council backhandedly insults his mother, Amanda, claiming she is a disadvantage. Spock, in that moment, decides to join Starfleet instead, shocking the council, who in-turn claim that no Vulcan has ever turned-down admission. Spock then shoots back, stealthily, that since he's half-human, their record remains untarnished, and with a hint of contempt in his voice...:
    Spock: Live Long and Prosper. [He turns around and leaves the council chamber]
  • The Ten Commandments (1956): A case of Scenario 1: The slimy-in-personality master builder Baka (played by the classical Vincent Price, no less!) takes Lilia, one of the Hebrew slave servants, from the brick-producing mud pits of the Hebrew slaves, to be his courtesan. She tries to push away his advances, but being of lower class than the Egyptians, she is unable to convince him to let her be, as Baka stealthily counters her every reason why she should not go with him. Joshua, the protagonist master stonecutter, is in love with her too, but Lilia, thankfully, only has the heart for Joshua.
    Baka: You there! Come here!
    Lilia: That is Baka, the master builder.
    Moses: [disguised, in the pits to learn the Hebrews' plight] Does he call me or you?
    Baka: [referring to Lilia] You, water girl! I'm thirsty.
    Lilia: He does not thirst for water.
    Other Slave: Beauty is but a curse to our women.
    [Lilia walks over to Baka, with a cup of water in-hand]
    Lilia: Water, Noble One?
    Baka: [tossing the water out of the cup, flirting] No, wine... the wine of beauty.
    Lilia: [nervous] What beauty can my lord find in these mud pits?
    Baka: A lotus flower blooms in the Nile's gray mud. Dathannote , she will do well as a house slave.
    Lilia: [pleading] Do not take me from my people! There would be danger.
    Baka: Danger from such lovely hands?
    Lilia: [referring to Joshua] There are other hands strong enough to kill!
    Baka: [jokingly] Our mud flower has a thorn.
    Lilia: [pleading] Oh, please, Lord Baka, I beg you!
  • American Playhouse: Three Sovereigns for Sarah: A mini-series dramatization of the events of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, which has this trope in spades. Several girls take part in a ceremony by a slave of one of the plantations, which seemingly corrupts them into being possessed by the devil. Later, when they have "recovered", they start making accusations against the townsfolk, of being witches or evil magic conjurers. In the conservative populace, no one could fight back against the charge of being a witch, and tensions started to rise between almost everyone in the town of Salem. In the film, during a trial, to prove her innocence and purity, the judge challenges one of the accused to recite The Lord's Prayer once, without mistakes or pauses. She recites it perfectly, and she is seemingly absolved of any crime. The trope occurs in this instance when one of the girls realizes that she has no allegation power, and quickly makes a claim that she sees the devil whispering the Prayer into her ear (thus cheating), to which the courtroom turns into an uproar of accusations.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder II, "Head": One of the rare times when the Subterfuge Judo succeeds, in Scenario 2, in a fashion. After Edmund accidentally orders the execution of one Lord Farrow, he finds himself having to play the role of the deceased, when the Queen orders Farrow's execution stayed so his wife can see him, but too late. Unfortunately, the idiosyncrasies of Farrow's characteristics keep piling up, as Edmund, in disguise (read: with nothing but a burlap sack over his head), attempts to match the basic appearance of Farrow. It works, but only just barely, as Farrow's widow attempts to pull the burlap sack off who she thinks is her husband. Later, the Subterfuge Judo doesn't work when Queen Elizabeth decides to pardon Farrow. After coming up with a plan to Make It Look Like an Accident note , Blackadder goes to check on Lord Farrow's head, but it's already too decomposed to look recent. Queen Elizabeth happens to arrive at that exact moment, and Blackadder tries to hide the evidence literally behind his back (with Nursie nearly blowing his cover). Queen Elizabeth, a bit suspicious, requests Blackadder to take a walk with her. Blackadder tries to politely brush it off, but Elizabeth is staunchly insistent. This forces Blackadder to awkwardly walk with Elizabeth, with the 3-foot-high pike column hidden under his coat.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Carnival of Monsters": Vorg and Shirna, two carnival swindlers, attempt to escape from Inter Minor this way when their Miniscope (in essence, a micro zoo of shrunken living creatures and beings) starts to break down. Unfortunately, one of the creatures, a Drashig (a worm-like carnivore), starts to attempt to bust out of the system. The pair are caught, as they attempt to leave on their own accord to another station, by the Chairman of the Minorian Tribunal. Vorg tries to brush off one of the Minorians insistence on choosing a transport for them, until the Chairman finally and bluntly orders them to remain in the arrival station, by pointing an energy weapon at the two.
    • "The Time Warrior": A case of Scenario 2: Linx, a Sontaran, has crash-landed on Earth in the Middle Ages, and has abducted several scientists from the 20th century to not only repair his spacecraft, but also provide weapons for Baron Irongron, one of which is a self-contained robotic suit of armor. Later, when the Doctor starts to put in-place a plan to rescue the scientists, he decides to use a second revision of the armor as a distraction. The Doctor, under the guise of an artificially-intelligent/voiced version, had planned to go into the main chambers of the castle and quickly leave, but as the Doctor tries to make up excuses on why he must leave, Irongron is insistent on the "robot" staying, to test how strong it is, and its fighting prowess. Unfortunately, this means Irongron is hot to up the ante in his own favor. The Doctor is only too happy to provide some snark about how Irongron is taking it too far, blowing his cover. However, this isn't as bad as it sounds:
      Irongron: We must slow this iron man's speed a little... [to his archer] Stick me some crossbow bolts in the creature. We'll see if it fights as well with a crossbow bolt or two in its gizzard... And if that fails... we'll lop off its head and try again then.
      The Doctor: Isn't that a bit unsporting, old man? I mean, sitting ducks, and all that!
      Irongron: [surprised] This iron man talks like some Norman ninny! Lift up your visor!
      The Doctor: I cannot reveal my face, Irongron.
      Irongron: Why?
      The Doctor: Because if I did, it might give you a seizure.
      [[Irongron lifts up the visor, revealing the lower half of the Doctor's face]]
      Irongron: [in shock] T-t-the Wizard!
      The Doctor: Well, I did warn you, didn't I?
      Irongron: Seize him!
  • Happy Days, "Kiss Me, Teach": Joanie gets in a bit too over her head when a burly student gets clingy with her at a run-down public school. She tries to use her authority as a teacher to get the student to back off, escalating further and further into anger, but the student doesn't get the hint as he closes and locks the classroom door, and also closes the window blinds. Tension mounts as he approaches her, then finally forces himself upon her. It's only with the timely arrival of Fonzie that the student finally gets the idea, and throws himself out of the (non-ground-floor) window in fear.
  • The Orville, "From Unknown Graves'': A case of Scenario 2: The Orville crew is hosting a negotiation with a strictly-matriarchal society, the Janisi, where males are treated as second-class citizens. This goes against the Planetary Union's cultural views, but with the Kaylon threat and the failure to ally with the Krill, they need all the help they can get. The Orville crew upholds an act to make it seem as though their male crew members are not authoritative, later planning to ease them into the idea of gender equality. Unfortunately, the talks break down when one of the Janisi delegates gets clingy with Ed. To prevent a non-consensual situation, Kelly tries to use her authority to absolve all responsibility (i.e. She doesn't have the authority to let him go.), Claire tries to claim that men are not commodity objects, and Gordon tries to go in Ed's place, but each time the delegate is insistent and will not let up. When the delegation demands to know why the crewwomen are being seemingly hypocritical, the crew is forced to reveal the masquerade ahead of schedule, angering the delegation.
  • Stargate SG-1, "Secrets": A case of Scenario 1: When Carter and O'Neil are set to be awarded for their actions during "Into The Serpent's Lair" (stopping Apophis' attack on Earth), O'Neil discovers that a civilian, a news reporter, has classified knowledge about the Stargate Program and the truth about the aforementioned attack that was thwarted, and is set to release it to the world. O'Neil tries his hardest (and with his best poker face, without bluntly saying "no") to explain away anything that sounds like it's not of this planet (e.g. instead of the Stargate being a transport device to other planets in the Milky Way galaxy, anything having to do with "Galaxy" is the code name for a prototype aircraft). The news reporter, though, is too stubborn and too cocky to believe a word that Jack says, and still decides to publish the information anyways. He would have, except immediately after deciding to do so, he's run down and killed (seemingly and completely on accident) in front of O'Neil, making the point academic.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series, "Patterns of Force": A case of Scenario 2: A planet, Ekos, is revealed to have taken on the mindset of Nazism, from the Federation historian who was sent to investigate it, who has taken the reins as the Führer of the planet. (although the original plan of cold order without murder and prejudice was hijacked by another.) When Kirk and Spock beam down, they steal some SS uniforms, and intend to waltz right into the Chancellery (Main Headquarters) undercover, except Spock and Kirk do not salute an SS Major properly, and...:
    SS Major: Lieutenant! Have you forgotten how to salute? [Spock salutes] Your papers.
    Kirk: Your orders, Lieutenant. He wants to see your orders in the jacket. [Spock begins to open the pocket on his uniform coat] The Lieutenant is a little dazed. He captured several Zeons note  singlehanded. One of the pigs struck him before he dropped. I promise that pig will never get up again.
    SS Major: Good work, Lieutenant.
    All: Hail to the Führer.
    Kirk: This is a day to remember, Major! [They start to walk away]
    SS Major: Lieutenant? Better see a doctor. You don't look well. Your color.
    Spock: Yes. I shall tend to it, Major.
    [A pause, the SS Major eyes Spock a bit]
    SS Major: [slightly more forceful, suspicious] Lieutenant! Your helmet. Remove it!
    Kirk: We have urgent business with the Führer. [starts to turn away to enter the Chancellery]
    SS Major: [steadfastly forceful] LIEUTENANT! Remove your helmet!!!
    [The entrance guards train their rifles right on Spock's head, and with no other choice, Spock slowly takes off his helmet, revealing his pointed ears.]
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Yesterday's Enterprise": A small, but notable instance. When the Enterprise encounters a temporal rift in the space-time continuum, history suddenly shifts when the Enterprise-C, an earlier counterpart to TNG's Enterprise, emerges. The Enterprise-D is now a battleship, its climate is more military, certain characters are missing or resurrected, and the Federation is at war with the Klingons, and losing. When the D crew discovers what the C really is, they try their best to keep the truth that the C crew have travelled into the future vague or secret. note  Unfortunately, upon arrival on the C Dr. Crusher accidentally lets slip that they need to get Captain Garrett of the C back to the Enterprise(-D). Garrett is taken to sickbay to be treated, and she notices how advanced it is, even for a starbase. Dr. Crusher tries to calm her down with her bedside manner, but Garrett insists on an explanation, forcing Picard to reveal that the C crew have traveled 22 years into the future.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • "Future's End": A case of Scenario 2: Rain Robinson (Sarah Silverman), employee of corrupt capitalist Henry Starlingnote  (Ed Begley, Jr.), tries, with Tuvok and Lt. Paris, to lure him to a business plaza somewhere in Los Angeles. Starling takes the bait, coming to "rescue" her, and bringing the now-mobile EMH. Rain tries to get Starling into her vannote , but Starling seemingly is suspicious, as he twice insists taking his limousine instead, forcing Paris and Tuvok, hiding somewhere in the plaza, to quickly change their plan:
      Henry Starling: Let's go.
      Rain Robinson: [pointing back] Oh, my van is this way.
      Starling: [insistent] We're taking my car.
      [They begin to continue walking]
      Robinson:[turning back] Oh, well, I left my stuff in the van.
      Starling: [insistent again] I'll send somebody back for it.
      [They pause for a beat]]
      Starling: [seemingly suspicious] Is there a problem?
      Robinson: Nope.
    • "Dark Frontier": Seven of Nine willingly rejoins the Borg Collective (but still as an individual) to spare Voyager from being assimilated (under threat from the Borg Queen) after successfully obtaining a transwarp core (an engine core that allows Borg cubes to travel much faster than Starfleet ships). During an assimilation of an entire species in-progress, Seven is tasked with Borg duties, and she finds three frightened aliens watching one of their own being assimilated. She disables the drone performing the assimilation, and beams them to a damaged, but still-operable ship somewhere in the debris field from the fight against the Borg. The Queen later congratulates Seven for her help, but detects the aliens in their escape and asks for her advice. Seven tries to coolly sweep the issue under the rug by claiming that it would be a waste of the Collective's resources to capture just four individuals. However, the Borg Queen will not have it and turns up the heat. To her, if four individuals escape, then the species as it is is not completely assimilated and subjugated; she coldly orders the ship tractored. Seven tries to plead with the Queen, but she comes back with false sympathy that this is a harsh lesson that she needs to learn. However, she relents, surprisingly, a few seconds later.

  • Housepets!: A case of Scenario 2: In the "Not All Dogs" story arc, King, an anthropomorphic corgi (actually a transformed human named Joel Robinson), happens to come across his own fate energy (mana) when a character in Heaven drops it, and it falls toward Earth, onto his head, transforming into a sports stopwatch. King doesn't think much of the fate stopwatch that falls from the sky onto his head and throws it into a dumpster, until Sabrina reveals that the watch is important to his very existence. Desperately going back, he can't find it; later, with Fox, King finds that Bino found the watch and is keeping it for himself. When King tries to demand it back here, saying that it doesn't have Bino's name on it, the latter says "Then let's see, who is this Joel person?" — at which point Fox perks up in fear, while King grits his teeth in frustration. Fox later changes his mind and stands his ground about Bino keeping the watch here, during which time King pleads to have it.
    Fox: That watch belongs to the guy that kidnapped me. For all I care Bino can do whatever he wants. Don't get mixed up in this.
    King: But I—
    Fox: My dad gives me a real big allowance. I'll buy you a watch if you really want one.
    King: But I need that watch.
    Fox: I am not being light about this, King. Unless you have a profoundly good reason to expect my support, I can't do anything. Is there something you need to tell me?
    [King has an Imagine Spot about Sabrina revealing the nature of the watch, who King really is, and Fox breaking off their friendship from those reasons, in anger.]
    King: [aside, to himself] Oh Thanks for that, Brain.
    Fox: What?
    King: I mean... No

    Western Animation 
  • King of the Hill:
    • "The Substitute Spanish Prisoner": A case of Scenario 1: When Peggy gets a bit too full of herself after taking an online IQ test to restore her confidence, she gets involved in a seminar, where she gains a PhD. Unfortunately, the seminar presenter, Dr. Robert Vayzosa, is a con artist, and has taken the Hill's retirement money, along with the other seminar attendees, and the PhD she got from the seminar is a phony. Peggy, along with the attendees, set up a false horse-racing ring scam to try to retrieve their stolen money (with some of the attendees in another room, acting as if they're at the local racetrack), and invite Vayzosa. Everything seems to be going well, and Vayzosa seems to be winning more and more money, until he suddenly decides to cordially cash out. Peggy tries her best to convince Vayzosa to stay (so his final bet makes him lose all of the money), but as he reveals later, he knew the whole setup was fake, and he leaves with the cash anyway. However, Vayzosa loses the money when he puts it into a closet safe that he thinks belongs to the hotel, that Peggy and Boomhauer abscond with, when he closes the closet door and is distracted by Hank confronting him.
    • "The Son Also Roses": Bobby gets into rose-growing, which Hank reluctantly helps him with, and eventually they get the idea to start entering into an official rose-presenting competition. Unfortunately, these competitions are very demanding and cutthroat in terms of precision, perfection and presentation, and on the day of the competition, as they are taking their rose out of its container for presentation, Bobby accidentally tips it over and bruises it slightly on the table. Worried about losing points for this mistake, they attempt to salvage the look, up until the (very up-tight and snooty) judge comes over to assess their rose. The judge notices that they had cut off a petal for a salvage attempt, when in actuality their rose was perfect, and deducts points. Hank and Bobby try to convince the judge that what is an imperfection actually adds to the look (mentioned earlier in the episode as "wabi-sabi"). The judge is steadfastly not convinced, bluntly demeans their effort, and awards the top prize to another individual.
  • The Simpsons: A small, short example in the episode "Bart of Darkness" note : a heat wave strikes Springfield, and the Simpsons get a new pool, attracting kids and people from all over the neighborhood, simply because they have one, and not because anyone knows them. Bart breaks his leg after falling from the treehouse, while preparing to jump into the pool. While he's healing, he tries to get the other kids to sign his cast; all of which completely ignore him for the pool. Milhouse is the last one to pass by, trying to sneak past, but Bart notices him.
    Bart: Milhouse!
    Milhouse: [caught off guard] Uh... Hi, Bart!
    Bart: [coyingly] Faithful Milhouse... You'll spend the long, hot days by my side... [forcing the marker into Milhouse's hand] ...won't you?
    Milhouse: [distracted, signing the cast] Uh, I think I left my glasses in your pool. I'd better go in and find them.
    Bart: But you're wearing your glasses...!
    Milhouse: No, I'm not. [runs off to the pool]
    [Bart looks down at the cast to see that Milhouse has haphazardly written "Milpool", with the marker trailing off at the end.]
  • Steven Universe, "Message Received": A case of Scenario 2: Peridot, having been stranded on Earth since "Jail Break", reveals a plan that her homeworld had planned since the end of the Gem War: the Cluster; a gargantuan collection of shattered Gems, incubated to form into a giant gem-super-being, and set to destroy Earth upon generating. Meanwhile, as the Crystal Gems form a counter-plan to destroy it, Peridot acclimates to Earth's environment, culture, and customs, somewhat... When they go to a Gem moonbase on the Moon to gain a crucial piece of information for the counter-plan, Peridot secretly swipes a Diamond communicator. After a bit of rough-and-tumble to stop her from contacting her superiors, the Great Diamond Authority, she succeeds anyways. However, her plan is not to betray the Crystal Gems, but instead to convince her superior, Yellow Diamond, to halt formation of the Cluster. Peridot tries to use the excuse of resources that the Gem Empire could use, but in no uncertain terms, Yellow Diamond spells it out for her:
    Peridot: The organic ecosystem creates resources unique to this world, we can't sacrifice all that potential just for one geo-weapon! I'd like to tell you some plans I came up with to utilize the planet without disrupting the local—
    Yellow Diamond: [annoyed] I've heard enough! I don't care about potential and resources.
    Peridot: What?!
    Yellow Diamond: I want my Cluster, and I want that planet to die. Just make that happen.