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Surprisingly Mundane Reason

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During a conversation, Bob mentions that he once traveled from Florida all the way to Japan by boat instead of by plane. Alice and Charlie speculate for the entire episode (or at least the B-plot) what his reasons for doing that were. Is he terrified of heights? Was the whole trip a lie and he went into the Witness Protection Program? Did he spend that time as a pirate? At the end of the episode, Bob admits that none of their ideas are right: he went by boat simply because he likes boats.

This is the Surprisingly Mundane Reason. A character, no matter how wacky or absurd they are on a daily basis, will have a completely mundane reason for why they did/didn't do something, have/don't have something, or know/don't know something. It doesn't matter why they have to explain themselves, so long as the answer is surprisingly mundane.

Compare with Mundane Solution, where the answer to a problem is something simple yet reasonable, Surprisingly Normal Backstory, Humble Goal, and Surprisingly Realistic Outcome. Also compare Disappointed by the Motive if people are put off when a villain's motive for their actions is surprisingly petty. For when the characters believe there's some kind of pattern deriving from Bob's mundane and seemingly unrelated actions, see Apophenia Plot. May cross over with Mundane Utility, if the character has superpowers or a special tool that they use to complete mundane tasks for mundane reasons. Contrast with Noodle Incident and You Do Not Want To Know, as both tropes won't explain how Bob did something but will imply that it was the result of something outlandish/unbelievable. An aversion of Mundane Made Awesome, as the mundanity here is seen as boring by the other characters. See also Impossibly Mundane Explanation and Mistaken for Profound. Often the result of Exact Eavesdropping. Will often overlap with Bait-and-Switch (especially if Played for Laughs), while Bait-and-Switch Sentiment is a subtrope.


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    Fan Works 
  • A Monster and a Saint: Deerie kicked C.H.E.R.U.B. out of Heaven not because they accidentally murdered Lyle, but because it was easier than dealing with the paperwork that would have resulted.
  • CONSEQUENCES (Miraculous Ladybug): Considering how awful a person Lila is, many might think she has a Freudian Excuse behind her actions. She doesn't: she lies and manipulates people simply for popularity, free stuff, and the fact that she takes a sadistic pleasure in seeing how much she can destroy people's lives. In SINS OF THE PAST, she admits this aloud. The akuma she confessed to, the Inquisitor, expresses utter disgust that she'd be so evil for such petty reasons.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: After a recently injured companion winces during breakfast, Ami's concerned about her healing not being as good as she thought, but it's not even an injury that caused a wince:
    [Ami] put down her own sandwich in concern. "Do the burns still give you trouble?"
    Deciding that going with the truth would cause the least trouble in the long run, he said "If you must know, I bit my tongue."
  • Harry Tano: Zig-zagged. When four-year-old Harry Potter not only disappears, but it becomes clear that he was rescued from an abusive home by his kidnapper, many wizards (including Remus and Sirius) have theories on who could have taken Harry, why they did so, and how they're keeping him hidden. Some theories are highly outlandish and involve the prophecies. The real reason was that Ahsoka wanted to find somewhere quiet and peaceful to raise Harry and train him in the ways of the Jedi, settling on a cave near Cornwall, and taking Harry in the first place because she couldn't bear leaving a child in such a bad situation. While Jedi training is far from mundane, it's much less outlandish than what some of the wizards theorized.
  • The New Recruit: Downplayed. One might wonder how Matt Garetty, a teenager who (in this continuity) grew up in the MCU, doesn't know anything about Captain America and the Howling Commandos. The reason why? He was never very good at history, and either didn't study that portion of World War II history or didn't remember doing it.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man: Lost in Gotham:
  • Unity (Finmonster): When Mirage is assigned the task of recruiting the monsters from Area 51, a job usually reserved for lower-ranking agents or interns. Lucy goes off at Agent Dicker, thinking that Mirage's past is the reason they're giving her what Lucy sees as a demeaning assignment. He stops her by saying it isn't out of mistrust: they just don't have anyone else they can send as they are short-staffed. Lucy immediately calms down and is then given a similar assignment to Mirage.

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek 2: After it's revealed Fiona married Shrek instead of Prince Charming as the King and the Fairy Godmother agreed, the King at first believes that he's being taken somewhere to be "done away with"...only for it to turn out that the Fairy Godmother (while warning him about fixing the marriage problem) also just wanted to go out for fast food.
  • Zootopia: Zig-zagged. Judy sees Nick walking into the elephant-owned ice cream store and believes (due to prejudices she hasn't acknowledged yet) that he's doing some form of criminal activity... only to feel terrible when she sees him supposedly trying to buy ice cream for his son. To make up for her behavior, she stands up for him against the bigoted ice cream elephant and even buys the ice cream... only to realize she was partially right when she sees Nick and his "son" (actually an adult fox, just a smaller species than the better-known red fox) reselling the popsicle as a dozen smaller ones.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Doctor Strange (2016): Once accepted for training in the sorcery, Strange is handed a card with the word, "shamballa". He asks, "What is this, my mantra?" Mordo looks at him funny as he explains, "It's the wifi password."
  • Forrest Gump: Feeling low after Jenny walks out on him following their one-night stand, Forrest goes out for a run — the one thing that has always made him happy since he was a boy — and ends up running to the end of town, then the edge of the state, then the West Coast, then doubling back and running to the East Coast... As he's making his fourth crossing of the US, stopping only to eat, sleep, and use the toilet, he's surrounded by reporters eager to know why he's been running for the last two years, asking if it's for world peace, women's rights, etc. Forrest, confused, replies that he just felt like running, and is clearly bewildered that they would think he needed any other reason.
  • Hot Fuzz: Nicholas Angel investigates a series of grisly "accidents" in the small village of Sandford—he's convinced they're all murders, but he struggles to find the thread connecting them. Eventually, he hits on a theory about a real estate scam which handily explains every single death so far. But when he confronts the ringleaders of the scam (who are actually the whole Neighborhood Watch Alliance) they explain it's not about real estate at all. They're just murdering anyone with any minor flaws that could conceivably hurt Sandford's chances of winning the Village of the Year award. Nick is appropriately horrified that so many people died for such a petty reason.
  • Star Trek (2009): Early on, Spock asks his father Sarek why he married a human (his mother Amanda) and had a child with her, knowing that Vulcan society would discriminate against them. Sarek gives a typical Vulcan response: having been appointed as Vulcan ambassador to Earth and tasked with studying humanity's behaviour, marrying a human was "logical". However, after Amanda is killed in Vulcan's destruction, Sarek reveals a much more mundane (though no less logical) reason: he married her because he loved her.
  • Transformers: The Last Knight: When Lennox asks Megatron why he's willing to help the TRF and by extension the Earth's governments go after the Autobots despite the latter's Fantastic Racism against humans, Megatron replies that he's simply doing it to be able to go home again.

  • There's the story of a woman who, whenever she baked a ham, would cut the ends off. When a person asked why, she said, "That's how my mother did it." Intrigued, the person then asked her mother. The mother shrugged and said, "That's how my mother did it." Further intrigued, the person finally asked the matriarch of the family. She thought it strange anyone should ask, and stated simply, "That's the only way it would fit in the pan."
  • One old joke deliberately plays on the Magical Native American stereotype for a laugh. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, a director is setting up an on-location Western shoot when an elderly indigenous woman walks by, looks up at the sky, and remarks "Tomorrow brings rain." Sure enough, there's a downpour the next day. On the following afternoon, the same woman comes back, looks up, and says "Tomorrow brings wind"—and the next day sees a massive windstorm. The director thinks that he's found a psychic and insists on hiring the woman to predict the weather for the whole shoot. Things go swimmingly until he asks for a prediction before filming a major scene...and the woman shrugs and says "I don't know—my radio broke this morning."
  • And this old chestnut from the Army. A new camp commander was appointed and, while inspecting the place, he saw two soldiers guarding a bench. He asked them why they were doing it, and they said "We don't know, sir. The last commander told us to do so, and so we did. It's a regimental tradition." So he looked up the previous commander and contacted him to ask why he had soldiers guard that particular bench. "I don't know," he said, "The previous commander had guards. I just continued the tradition." Going back another three commanders, who all said the same thing, he eventually contacted a now 100-year-old retired General. "Excuse me, sir. I'm now the CO of the camp you commanded 60 years ago. I've found two men assigned to guard a bench. Can you please tell me more about the bench?"
    What?! Is the damned paint still wet?!

  • The Cat in the Hat Comes Back: When the Cat in the Hat enters Sally and her brother's house on a snowy day, their pet fish thinks that he's there to play bad tricks, due to his actions in the first book. As it turns out, he just came to get out of the snow (although he does cause trouble anyway by staining the bathtub with frosting.)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: When Mike Teeve and Charlie are the only children left on the tour of the chocolate factory, Wonka takes them to the Television Room, where he showcases his latest invention, Television Chocolate. To demonstrate how it works, several oompa-loompas place an oversized chocolate bar, as in weighing dozens of pounds and with a surface area of several square feet onto a machine that zaps it. The chocolate bar then travels across as a tv signal, and reappears in a nearby television, and Wonka encourages Charlie to reach into the television and he picks up a normal chocolate bar and eats it. Wonka says that this new invention will allow people to eat his chocolate without stepping outside their home and going to a store. In the 2005 adaptation, Mike Teeve calls out Wonka for his Mundane Utility for a matter teleporter.
  • One Chicken Soup For The Teenage Soul story has a young woman who suffers from such a severe eating disorder that she ends up hospitalized. While her doctors, family members, and others try to get to the bottom of what bigger reason she may have that's causing her illness (depression, peer pressure, etc.) to the point of frustration, the girl's reason is "I just wanted to be skinny".
  • Darksaber: It took a long time before Bevel Lemelisk (well, his clone) could work up the nerve to ask the Emperor why he used molten copper, specifically, to slowly burn Lemelisk to death. The Emperor replied simply that that was what the smelter happened to be processing at the time.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Harry is forced to hide (as he's in Hogsmeade without a permission slip) when several Hogwarts teachers enter the same tavern that he, Hermione, and Ron are at. The kids briefly wonder what could be going on that would involve the teachers showing up in town... before Hermione realizes that this is the last week before winter holidays not only for the students, but the teachers as well. It makes sense that they'd want to go out and have some fun as well. Subverted, however, in that part of the reason they came to town was so they could discuss business regarding Sirius Black without any students (namely Harry) overhearing.
  • Jam: How did the grey goo-esque sample of man-eating jam break loose from containment to begin spreading and growing across the country? It turns out, it let loose while it was under the care of two secret agents. Specifically, they put the box containing the jam on top of their car, and then drove off having forgotten to take it back down.
  • Ratburger: Towards the end, Tina says that she wants to say something she's never said to anyone before. Zoe wonders if Tina has a drastic secret, like having a second head or secretly being a boy named Bob, but it turns out that what she wants to say is "Sorry".
  • In the Sherlock Holmes story "How Watson Learned the Trick", Dr. Watson attempts to pull off a Sherlock Scan on Holmes himself. He concludes that Holmes must be especially preoccupied (because he's normally quite tidy, but this morning he's neglected to shave), that he has a client named Barlow whose case is not proceeding well (because he opened a letter from Barlow and groaned upon reading its contents), and that he's taken up financial speculation (because he opened the newspaper to the financial page and gave a loud exclamation of interest). Upon hearing Watson's iron-clad logic, Holmes sarcastically congratulates him, then gives the real explanation for all these facts. He couldn't shave because he'd sent off his razor to be sharpened; Barlow is the dentist, and his letter was confirming Holmes' appointment that morning; and Holmes was looking up the cricket scores, which just happened to be adjacent to the financial page.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: In "The 43 Peculiarity", Howard and Raj try to figure out what Sheldon does every day from 2:45-3:05 PM. After following him to a mysterious basement room, they theorize he may have chained up someone like Bill Gates or Stephen Hawking there, or that he's working on a secret wormhole experiment, driving themselves crazy until Sheldon pranks them and says they have no right to know. At the end of the episode, it's revealed to the audience that he simply uses the room to practice hacky sack.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: In one episode, Phil's mother tells stories about Phil being a trailblazer for civil rights as a boy: he was the first Black president of their town's agricultural society and once sparked a protest by using a whites-only bathroom in a department store. When Will asks Phil about his record, Phil (who's generally embarrassed about his past as a farm boy) reveals that he feels guilty claiming credit for those things because he didn't intend for them to be statements of any kind—he won the presidency by virtue of being the single person who ran that year and only used the white bathroom because he'd drunk too much lemonade and raced into the first restroom he saw without reading the sign on it beforehand. Will points out that his work still inspired others to stand up for themselves and encourages him to be proud of himself regardless of the mundane reasons behind his actions, even comparing them to Rosa Parks, which Phil takes to heart.
  • The Nanny: In "Fashion Show," Fran recruits her cousin Toddy — aka fashion designer Todd Oldham — to help design costumes for a scene for a Broadway revue. Reviewers love Todd's work, specifically the fact that he put everyone in blue. They ask for the deep symbolic reasoning behind the choice, and Todd replies with a simple "I like blue."
  • Ohsama Sentai Kingohger: In #38, Rita ends up being one of the participants in Goma and Minongan's idol competition. The others are surprised to see the stoic and strict Rita in an oddly-public, upbeat position and each begins coming to various conclusions — there must be Hidden Depths to such an oddball choice, right? Well, after having spent the episode questioned and analyzed, Rita reaches their Rage Breaking Point and states outright that no, they really were just there to investigate the Jesters' plans for Gokkan and nothing else.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The episode "Starship Mine" has Picard singlehandedly trying to stop a bunch of bad guys from stealing the ship's dilithium, because they intend to use it to make a powerful explosive. Picard assumed they were terrorists with a political agenda. Turns out, they were Only in It for the Money.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): When the alien being from "Chameleon" is asked why they came to Earth, they respond with "Just curious."

    Puppet Shows 

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: As Willy Wonka leads the tour group to the factory's Nut Room, they pass several storerooms for unusual objects that have a function for Wonka's products such as whips for whipping cream, turkeys for Turkish delight, etc. As they pass the Scotch room, they ask if he uses that for butterscotch. Wonka admits in this case, he just likes drinking Scotch.

    Video Games 
  • The Secret of Monkey Island: After Guybrush takes the rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle from the International House of Mojo, the Voodoo Lady allows him to take it for free. Guybrush thinks it has an ancient voodoo curse, but the Voodoo Lady tells him the pulley squeaks.

    Web Animation 

  • Batman: Wayne Family Adventures: In one of the later issues, the Bat kids notice that Bruce has something on his calendar that he's clearly stressed about. They believe that it's some kind of sting or criminal investigation, so they suit up and go to the scene... only to find out that Bruce was really planning a date night with Selena.
  • In The Order of the Stick, after escaping from an ambush by frost giants serving the demigod Thrym, the party correctly concludes that the latter must be in cahoots with the goddess Hel to stop them from ruining her nefarious plans. Roy muses, though, that they can't possibly comprehend what dark pact could bind the god of frost giants to Hel's service. Next panel reveals that Thrym simply hopes to become Hel's consort when she'll be usurping Odin's throne.

    Web Videos 
  • Solid jj: In "The Beautiful Simplicity of Rhino", Spider-Man confronts Rhino about why he's causing so much destruction. Rhino responds that he simply likes running head-first into walls; he has no other motive beyond just doing something he enjoys. Spider-Man is so impressed at how refreshingly simple Rhino's motive is that he lets him go (which ends poorly).

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball, in “The Dream”, Gumball has been traumatized of a nightmare he had of Darwin kissing Penny, so Darwin helps him overcome this dream by taking it on themselves.

    (In the Watterson children's room, Gumball and Darwin are wearing connected tinfoil hats and capes and holding glasses of milk)
    Gumball: Uh, is this gonna work?
    Darwin: Yeah. The tinfoil reflects our brainwaves into each other's heads. So, when we go to sleep, we'll share our dreams! And we can stop me from kissing Penny, and everything will be fine.
    Gumball: Well, that, that makes irrational sense, but why are we wearing these capes?
    Darwin: Uh, 'cause they're awesome. Now take my hand and drink your warm milk.

  • Arthur:
    • In "Francine's Pilfered Paper", Francine plagiarises a website and then has a Guilt-Induced Nightmare about the author showing up to tell her off. He is wearing a mask, and she wonders if it's because his rage has disfigured him. He responds that, while he is filled with rage, the mask is just because he has sensitive skin.
    • In one episode, Binky sees Nemo the cat coughing and behaving erratically, he thinks that Francine, his owner, must have mistreated it. It turns out to have been an allergic reaction to the milk he was given. note 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Early in the series, Zuko sees that the Avatar sightings are completely erratic, and he believes that Aang is deliberately trying to throw his hunters off course. In actuality, Aang's geographical skills are a century out of date and he has no idea where he's going.
    • While having tea with his uncle after "The Chase", Zuko wonders aloud if there's a spiritual reason behind drinking tea, as his uncle had been discussing unity between the mind, body, and spirit. Iroh all but admits that he actually just really likes tea.
  • Bojack Horseman: In one episode, Todd is meeting with a group of his fellow aces, and the topic of marriage among asexuals comes up. One couple mentions that they had a nautical-themed wedding. Todd begins to wonder if there's some tie between asexual marriage and boats... only to be told, no, there isn't. The couple just really like boats.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: In one episode, Dexter is haunted by the ghost of the recently-deceased Fishy, the family's pet goldfish. He promptly runs screaming from the room and finds Dee Dee doing the same thing. When he asks if she was also visited by Fishy's ghost, she says no and further explains that she just likes to run around and scream sometimes.
  • Futurama: Bender's reason for never voting.note 
    Fry: Because you're a robot?
    Bender: Nah, convicted felon.
  • Gravity Falls: Ford is shown near the end of the series to semi-regularly set his face on fire. He admits that he does it as an alternative to shaving (to Dipper's horror/confusion).
  • Justice League: In "Double Date", Huntress asks the Question why he went out of his way and risked his life to help her. It turns out that it's not connected to his usual conspiracy theories... it's just that he likes her. After her initial surprise, she realizes that she likes him too and leads him offscreen for some private time.
  • Martha Speaks:
    • In "Truman's Secret", the main characters wonder why Truman doesn't want to hang out with them, then later doesn't want to show his face, wondering if he doesn't want to be their friend, has been chopped into pieces (because initially, they only saw glimpses of him), or is a vampire. As it turns out, he was only hiding a bad haircut.
    • In "Tomato, You Say?", T.D.'s friends wonder why he wears a tomato on his shirt, thinking there has to be some deep reason. As it turns out, he only wears it because his parents bought him the shirt.
  • Numberjacks: In "The Dreaded Lurgi", Zero falls asleep. Four thinks this means he has the titular disease, but it turns out that he's just a Sleepyhead.
  • Phineas and Ferb: This trope applies to various characters at times, especially the titular duo and Dr. Doofenshmirtz:
    • In one episode, Phineas and Ferb decide that, for once, they're going to have a "do nothing day" where they just lie on the grass and enjoy a sunny day. Candace refuses to believe that they would take a break like that and spends the episode obsessing over what their real plan is. There was no "real plan"; they just decided to relax for once.
    • In the Sherlock Holmes-themed episode, Candace spends the day investigating what the boys are doing. She sees what they acquire and manages to figure out all but one thing:
      Candace: The tires, the pipes... I can see what those were for but what was with the pineapple?
      Phineas: Oh, that was for Ferb. He was hungry.
    • In another episode, Dr. Doofenshmirtz created a device that could latch on to a person's head and fly them through the air to a location of his choice. Why? Because he had to pick his daughter up from her class but he didn't want to leave his building. Many of his schemes are either this trope or the result of something petty.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In "Pee Pee G's", the Powerpuff Girls discover that Mojo has been pouring water on their sheets to trick them into thinking they wet the bed. They accuse him of doing this to ruin their self-esteem and distract them so that he can take over the world. He looks at them in confusion for a moment before clarifying that he just did it as a childish prank.
  • The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest: Seen in the episode "Trouble on the Colorado." After Jessie, Jonny, and Hadji go looking for Bandit, they're greeted by a pair of Native Americans. Jonny is amazed they know his name, until one of them says, "Yes, I know your name, Jonny Quest. It's written on your dog's collar." as they present him with Bandit. Then they reach the site where they were supposed to meet Dr. Quest and Race, only to find them missing. One of the Native Americans says it looks like several people were taken in a helicopter.
    Jessie: How'd you know that? You must have noticed how the rotor had flattened all the brush. Then you saw the tracks the landing gear made...And you figured it had to be a helicopter, right?
    Native American Man: Actually, I saw a big Chinook skirting the north rim, just before we found you three.
    Jessie: Oh.
  • Regular Show: This show usually subverts this trope, as the characters will start off doing something mundane only for a series of strange circumstances to turn it into something crazy/unusual. But occasionally, this trope will be played straight. For example, in one episode Skips tries to help Mordecai and Rigby with their computer. They keep refusing his help, and he takes it to mean that they don't believe he can fix it (which deeply hurts him, seeing as how he's the park's handyman). When the episode ends and the computer's fixed, however, it's revealed that the real reason why they didn't want Skips to help. The computer broke while they were trying to print something: a thank-you note to Skips for all of the times he's helped them get out of trouble. Skips is touched.
  • Rugrats: In "Potty Training Spike", Chuckie's friends see him curled up in a ball, and wonder if he's hiding something. He responds that he's not hiding anything, he just has to pee and is too shy to use the toilet because the adults plan on watching him (they think they're being helpful because he's learning to use the toilet).
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man: Early in the series, the audience sees Spider-Man racing across the city, panicking as he tries to go as fast as possible. At the end of the scene, we see why: he was trying to make it to school on time.

  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "One Krabs Trash", Mr. Krabs is confronted by an army of zombies for trying to take a rare hat from a fish's grave and assumes they're going to act like the ones he's seen on a TV show:
      Mr. Krabs: Oh, no. I've seen this on the late show! You ghoulish fiends hold me down and take turns nibbling on my innards. Then you eat my brain and leave my body for the buzzards!
      Smitty: That's ''disgusting!'' We just want the hat back.
    • In "Wet Painters", SpongeBob and Patrick accidentally get permanent paint on Mr. Krab’s first dollar, and once he found out, they were worried he was gonna hang their butts over his fire place. But then, Mr. Krabs easily licks the paint of the dollar, as the paint was washable all along. SpongeBob believed he told them this was so they’d be more careful and not get paint on anything, but actually Mr. Krabs just said that to mess with them.
  • Steven Universe: In the episode where Lapis and Peridot show off their "meep-morps" (art), Steven sees a statue made by Lapis that's made of a TV playing a character saying "I just feel trapped." on a loop while surrounded by mirrors. Steven asks if the sculpture represents the millennium she spent trapped in the mirror. She stares blankly before saying no, she just likes the episode the loop is from. Considering how Lapis had PTSD for most of the series, though, it could be that she either built the sculpture without seeing the significance behind it until Steven pointed it out or she did build it with her trauma in mind but didn't want to admit it.
  • Teen Titans: In the episode "The Quest", Robin journeys to see the greatest martial artist in the world, and is tasked with climbing up a mountain before nightfall by a seemingly random old woman. When he arrives at the summit and discovers that the old woman is the master in question, he asks why she didn't reveal herself, and her answer is that he didn't ask, and when he asks why he had to make it up before sundown, her reason is that it's just easier to see the path when it's not dark out.
    Robin: All this time I thought there was some deep meaning to everything you were saying!
    The Master: Ah, young warrior. You take things much too seriously.
  • Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!: In "The Nasty Nose", Wubbzy gets a swollen, polka-dot nose. He then sees Huggy, Buggy, and Earl wearing a helmet, big shoes, and big gloves respectively. When Huggy and Buggy take their garments off to reveal that their ears and feet respectively were also swollen and polka-dotted, Wubbzy assumes the same thing happened to Earl's hands, but he clarifies that he just likes the gloves.

    Real Life