Follow TV Tropes


The Anticipator

Go To

"But fortunately I anticipated your anticipation of my anticipation of your anticipation of my anticipation of your anticipation of my treachery!" cried Zarkendorf.

The Anticipator is a character who (whether villain or hero) can somehow sense the presence, or, without fail, await the supposed-to-be-a-secret arrival of another character.

Sneaking up on someone, or trying to get past them, can be an excellent tactic if done correctly. But some people are simply too badass to be surprised. This is the essence of The Anticipator. No matter how hard another character tries, they cannot manage to sneak up on or get past the Anticipator. Because the Anticipator is expecting them to try.

Although it seems as if the Anticipator is Crazy-Prepared, usually they are simply cool, wise, or are very seasoned. They expect you to be sneaking through the window, hiding behind that pillar, creeping in the shadows, and even using that Invisibility Cloak of Invisible Fabric... and don't even think about opening a door to stakeout in a room to surprise them later: they'll already be waiting for you there.

The Anticipator is very likely to say one of the following:

  • "I've Been Expecting You..."
  • "I've Been Waiting For You."
  • "Ahh... you've finally made it."
  • "You Can Come Out Now..."
  • "I Know You're Here..."

Sometimes, in a tragic-dramatic twist of fate, the Anticipator will be waiting for their opponent calmly and patiently after uttering one of the above phrases, because there's Nothing Left to Do but Die. If they are tired of fighting, then they may enjoy One Last Smoke before the big showdown.

This is a Super-Trope of the following tropes. Only add examples here that don't fit in one of these categories:

  • Caught Coming Home Late: A character stays up at night to catch a rebellious teenager who has snuck out, or a significant other who's getting in a little too late.
  • Chair Reveal: A character waits for another in a spinning armchair.
  • Trespassing to Talk: A character breaks into another's home and waits to confront them when they arrive.

It the character actually possesses real live Clairvoyance or Psychic Abilities, they have Spider-Sense. This type of character may exploit their power to invoke this trope. If the enemy has an unfair advantage due to artificial intelligence, programming, or an ill-placed cut-scene, then it's The All-Seeing A.I..

Compare Out-Gambitted, Crazy-Prepared, and Seen It All. Contrast With Catlike Tread.

Compare and contrast Stealth Expert.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Years of chasing Lupin III, the world's greatest thief and Master of Disguise, has shaped Inspector Zenigata into this. No matter how elaborate or bulletproof Lupin's plans are to sneak out with something, if Zenigata is around, Lupin will find Zenigata waiting for him where Lupin least expects him due to Zenigata having learned all of Lupin's tricks and knowing exactly what he will do. That being said, Lupin has a far superior ability to improvise and think laterally, and in the times when Zenigata DOES successfully arrest Lupin, Zenigata, as a cop, doesn't have the authority, time, or skill to keep Lupin in prison.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman plays the Anticipator on many occasions. One such story has Batman entering an apparently unoccupied room. After standing there a beat, he says "you four men may come out now". Cue four ninja assassins.
  • Blacksad has good instinct and cat hearing which allows him to pull this off once in a while, even telling someone he is not the first person trying to lure him into a trap before elbowing the assailant behind him.
  • Spider-Man is fond of abusing his Spider-Sense for this purpose; he can sense when someone, especially an enemy someone, is coming, and can quickly set up a nice little alleyway confrontation with them. Or simply just not be surprised when someone's behind him; his Spider-Sense averts this trope happening fully to him for the same reason the power is able to sense when someone hostile is lurking about.

    Comic Strips 

  • Communication has Lynette, Captain of the First Aerial Company, who is able to predict any plan and formation enemy airships take on and appropriately come up with an counter against them.
  • Infinity Crisis: When Ray, Scott and Hope shrink down and enter the Soul Gem, they are met by Doctor Strange, who notes that he expected someone to get there a day earlier.
  • Happens all the time with Doctor Strange in Child of the Storm, as he's both a Magnificent Bastard and a Seer. He'll use his abilities to anticipate others sometimes as part of his own greater plans and sometimes just to mess with others. For example, in the second book, the scene cuts from Harry doing something stupidly to him reading a book, written and given to him by Strange a while back. The title of the book? Blood Magic For Morons.

    Film — Animated 
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Terry McGinnis (the new Batman) tries to sneak up on Tim Drake (the old Robin) in his invisible Batsuit, only for Tim to inform him that he still remembers his old training and knows he's there. However he misses the fact that Terry has departed their conversation.
  • Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda likely knew that the Furious Five would try to ambush him that day, but he couldn't know where or how. Nonetheless, Master Shifu easily thwarts all five forays against him, giving critique on their technique as he does so.
  • The soothsayer in Kung Fu Panda 2 (justified as she is a seer, after all).
    Shen: That's impossible, and you know it.
    Soothsayer: It is not impossible, and he knows it.
    Shen: Who?
    (Wolf Boss comes running up the stairs)
    Wolf Boss: Lord Shen, I saw a panda!

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in the Pink Panther films starring Peter Sellers. Inspector Clouseau has directed his manservant Cato to attack him at random to sharpen his defensive skills. Though he knows Cato has The Determinator perseverance, only inconceivably foolish counters and stupefying luck have thwarted all of Cato's attempts.
  • In Thor: The Dark World, this trope is played straight with (Loki) and as an inversion (Thor). Some moments after Frigga's death, Thor visits Loki's cell and the latter acts as cocky as always. Thor, knowing that their mother is Loki's most important person, doesn't buy it and tells Loki to drop the illusion. He then promptly drops it and reveals a messed-up room and himself.
  • In Man of Steel, while standing at Jonathan's grave, Lois tells Clark she knew he'd show up if she just kept digging. Naturally, he's right behind her.
  • In Spy Kids, when the Cortez parents escape their imprisonment and start roaming Floop's lair, they fall through a trap door which leads to where Floop is waiting for them, dinner spread out, and was timing how long it took them to escape. He tells them he thought they would've arrived a little sooner.
  • In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug this trope is subverted. Bilbo uses the ring to disappear and he stumbles onto the chambers of Legolas's father, Thranduil. Thranduil subverts this trope, asking why he is hiding in the shadows, and stating that he can come out now. However, Bilbo finds out that Thranduil is not speaking to him after all, but to Tauriel who had also been lingering in the shadows.
  • James Bond is famous for the "I've been expecting you" lines in many of the movies. As stated in multiple real-life interviews, this one-liner has become one of the main reasons that the real life MI6 would consider James Bond to be a terrible spy, because "no matter where he goes, he's expected".
    • In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond drops into Willard Whyte's penthouse suite and, having been observed by Blofeld, is greeted by Willard Whyte (actually Blofeld with a disguised voice) with the words, 'Howdy. Welcome, son. We've been expecting you'.
    • Happens several times in Live and Let Die due to Dr. Kananga's organization being so widespread he's able to track Bond at every stage. He also has an apparently genuine fortune teller in Solitaire. Then in their final confrontation Bond and Solitaire (who has defected to Bond's side) enter his underground base to find Kananga waiting for them, as his guards found Bond's wetsuit where he hid it after swimming into the Island Base.
    • In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond goes to Atlantis to rescue Anya Amasova before Atlantis is blown up. Again, Bond's entrance is noticed by Stromberg, who says, "Good evening, Mr Bond. I've been expecting you." He thoughtfully sends his private elevator to bring Bond to him—as the audience already knows, the elevator floor is a Trap Door to the Shark Pool.
    • Octopussy. The title character observes Bond sneaking into her lair on her CCTV cameras, right up to the moment he opens the door to her boudoir. She later reveals she has her own personal reasons for knowing who Bond is.
      Octopussy: Good evening. (Face-Revealing Turn) I wondered when you might arrive.
      Bond: So you are the mysterious Octopussy.
      Octopussy: And you are James Bond, 007, licensed to kill.
    • In Dr. No, Bond and company dive behind a dune at Crab Key as a boat crewed by Dr No's henchmen motors round the bay. One of the men shouts out via loudhailer, "Come on out. We know you're there. We've been expecting you," though it's implied they only suspect Bond is there and are hoping to bluff him into revealing himself. Played with later when a maid babbles cheerfully over the confusion caused by exactly when Bond was going to be captured.
    "We simply didn't know when to expect you. First it was teatime yesterday, and then dinner, and it was only half an hour ago that we really knew you were on your way."
    • Played for creepy effect in Spectre with Blofeld, who always seems to know when Bond is about to turn up, thanks to having access to the smart blood MI6 has injected into Bond to keep track of him. In one case, Bond and Madeleine find rooms in his Supervillain Lair have already been fitted out for them, including personal photos.
  • Parodied in Loaded Weapon 1. Mr. Jigsaw (Tim Curry) does the "I've been waiting for you" line. And sure enough, he has a little chair set up with snacks and a TV in the warehouse where he was waiting.
  • The Dark Knight Rises. Selina Kyle is waiting in the subway for Batman, and gives the "come out, don't be shy" line. Of course, it's all a trap set by Bane, even Batman's face-off with Bane.
  • In Drive Angry, Milton is having sex with a waitress in a motel room when she asks why he hasn't taken his clothes off. He answers, "I never disrobe before a gunfight" promptly followed by a several people breaking into their motel room armed with various weapons. He just proceeds to kill them all while still having sex with the waitress.

  • Discworld:
    • In Pyramids, Pteppic considers doing this to Mericet, his Assassin's school examinator (managing to kill the examinator gets you an automatic pass, because it's nearly impossible), but decides against it. Mericet was in fact hiding as a gargoyle, tells Pteppic where to go next (involving an obstacle course worthy of Assassin's Creed), and somehow shows up there before Pteppic.
    • In Thud!, Commander Vimes appears to be this to Sergeant Colon, able to say, "Come in, Fred," before the man has even knocked at the door. However, Vimes is simply noticing the way the floorboards (which are bisected by his door) move when Fred stands on them. He learned the effectiveness of this trick from the Patrician, Lord Vetinari, who truly is The Anticipator, and able to notice the head of the Guild of Assassins silently approaching him.
    • Vimes is eventually The Anticipator to the Assassin students the Guild sends to surveil him as a training exercise. Vimes has his butler help them get out of whatever trap they fall into as a result and sends them back.
    • Galder in The Light Fantastic manages this by being Crazy-Prepared: "A floorboard creaked. Galder had spent many hours tuning them, always a wise precaution with an ambitious assistant who walked like a cat. D-flat. That meant he was just to the right of the door." However, his Anticipator status kicks in when he recognizes who it is. 'Ah, Trymon,' he said, without turning, and noted with some satisfaction the faint in drawing of breath behind him. 'Good of you to come. Shut the door, will you?'"
  • John Rain: In The Killer Ascendant, Professional Killer Rain is hunting rogue CIA agent Jim Hilger. Knowing that Hilger is planning to murder a Dutch official when they return home after work, Rain decides Hilger will be staking out his victim from a park across the road. Then Rain wonders if Hilger has anticipated his arrival, and is actually waiting in ambush for Rain. So he enters the park from a different direction, and sure enough sees a man with a gun lying in wait. It's then that Hilger springs his trap — the man lying on the ground is an innocent bystander that Hilger murdered and left there as a Sleeping Dummy, so he can ambush Rain in turn.
  • In the Black Bat pulp story The Nazi Murders, the Black Bat, who is a master of stealth and can see in the dark, enters a penthouse apartment by a window no ordinary man could reach, that is not set with an alarm. He then proceeds silently through the unlit apartment, sidles through an ajar door without touching it, and discovers the mastermind in a darkened room waiting to greet him. How it's done is never explained. The title turns out not to be about Nazis killing people, but the Black Bat killing Nazis.
  • Star Wars Legends: Naturally, this is among Grand Admiral Thrawn's many talents. In Vision of the Future, he is casually lingering in the hangar as Han and Lando almost-but-don't escape from the Imperial capital of Bastion unscathed. Of course, it's not really him, and he didn't really figure out their docking bay the way he said he did, but it's the look of the thing.
  • In Larry Niven's story "What Good Is a Glass Dagger?", an intruder sneaks up on the Warlock using an Anti-Magic device to block his foresight. However, the Warlock was waiting for him anyway, having foreseen the appearance of a magic-free dead zone. The ploy wasn't a complete failure, though; the Warlock got only a generic "somebody's coming" without any of the details he normally could have seen.
  • Invoked in The Wheel of Time by the Living Legend Cadsuane, who often addresses people coming up behind her by name without bothering to look at them. Her internal monologue lampshades that even powerful Aes Sedai are always too startled to notice her peeking at their reflections in her silver teapot.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in a 30 Rock scene when Liz approaches Jack from behind.
    Jack: You've been avoiding me, Lemon.
    Liz: How do you do that? Without turning around?
    Jack: To be perfectly honest, the first couple of people I did that to were not you... but, here we are.
  • In American Horror Story: Asylum, Lana plays the Anticipator trope straight; Lana is having an interview on the final episode. Unbeknownst to TV crew someone is hiding amongst them.Bloodyface, Lana's son, is among the crew masquerading as a worker. After the crew leaves someone stays behind, and tells the hiding person to emerge.Lana, who knew Bloodyface was there all along, tells him that he can come out now, as she anticipated his presence.
  • This comes up in Arrow where some of the bad guys take extra precautions in case Oliver aka the Hood tries to get them such as posting a lot of mooks in order to deplete his arrows or ambush him in areas where he can't easily use his bow. Laurel does this as well when Oliver shows up in the Starling City Police Department's main office, having a contingent of Special Operations officers waiting to take him down.
  • One episode of Babylon 5 had Delenn being questioned by an inquisitor to determine her worthiness using harsh methods. When he hears the door open he says, without looking, "And the third player in our little drama arrives at last," implying he knew it was Sheridan and that he'd been expecting him to show up eventually.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Glory, the Big Bad of Season 5, does this all the time as she's a Physical God.
  • This is practically the MO of Columbo. Frequently he will depend on a crook returning to where they hid a key piece of evidence and then arrest them there.
  • Daredevil (2015): Thanks to long-term scheming from behind bars, Wilson Fisk is able to pull this off in season 3 repeatedly.
    • He has a bunch of guards and inmates lined up to orchestrate a riot on the off-chance that one of the lawyers who put him away stops by the prison, even having a phone line at the prison to call so he can make clear to Matt how much he's screwed before leaving Matt at the mercy of his henchmen.
    • Fisk goes after Foggy through his family. He has the suppliers stop doing business with the shop, making Theo desperate to get a loan. Then Fisk has his people at Red Lion Bank swoop in and encourage Theo to commit fraud so that the loan application will go through, and lets the suppliers do business again with Nelson's Meats. This gives him something to then blackmail Foggy when the time comes.
  • The Dead Zone: Johnny plays this trope very well by sometimes exploiting his Spider-Sense and sometimes just being really intuitive.
    • In "Vanguard", when Stilson returns to his limo in front of the lab, Johnny is sitting in the other seat already, which temporarily surprises Stilson. It is unclear whether his powers had anything to do with it.
    • Johnny, since he is psychic, exploits Spider-Sense to invoke this plenty of times. However, some instances stands out; in the episode "Double Vision" Johnny knows fellow psychic Alex will be in a parking garage so he waits for her casually. However, this trope gets weirdly subverted when Alex also anticipates him being there in the parking garage. They are expecting each other, but both refuse to be the one to open the door. Neither ever see each other in that scene.
    • Alex becomes the Anticipator later when a clue she leaves for Johnny leads him to a fancy restaurant. She has prepared for him a sports coat he likes, but pretends not to; she has ordered his favorite foods, and she begins rambling about what he'll think of the meal.
  • In House the titular character tries to invoke this trope with Cuddy. Thinking Cuddy is coming, he says "I did it all by myself, Mommy" after he'd resolved a case without help (contrary to her instructions). It backfires, however, as the person who comes in is actually just the janitor.
  • M*A*S*H: Walter "Radar" O’Reilly got the nickname for his uncanny ability to appear at the side of his commander before he asks for him, as well as finish his sentences and provide paperwork to be signed before it is asked for. He could also hear incoming medical copters long before anyone else could.
  • Parodied in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Bloodlust. In the movie being made fun of, Dr. Balleau knows that the heroes are hiding in his lair, and begins doing an evil speech as he slowly turns on light switches to reveal them. Mike and the Bots joke that he actually gives this speech tons of times of day, just on the off chance that someone actually IS hiding there.
  • Rumpelstiltskin does this in the Pilot of Once Upon a Time: When Prince Charming and Snow White go to consult him, they are warned to do three things: 1) Stay out of the light, 2) keep their faces hidden, and 3) not mention their names. All three turn out to be useless, as Rumpelstiltskin not only knows who they are, but has been waiting for them to show up. Justified because he A) can see the future and B) has been planning for this moment for years.
  • Cassie Nightingale of Good Witch could give Batman a run for his money. She (and the other Merriwicks) have some kind of magical ability to always sense whenever someone's around, and knows when someone is going to open the door—and who it is—before they even knock.
    Cassie: Now I have to help the mayor.
    Abigail: Oh, is the mayor here?
    Martha: (coming up behind) Yoo-hoo!
  • Xena: Warrior Princess does this specifically to Ares, as she can somehow sense when he's invisibly lurking around and will call him out if she notices his presence.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • One of Broken Matt Hardy's stand-out lines heavily suggested this, though it seemed his anticipatory power never got beyond detecting his own brother.
    Broken Matt Hardy: BROTHER NERO!note  I knew you'd come!!

    Video Games 
  • This happens in virtually every Nancy Drew game. No matter what, the villain knows exactly when Nancy will finally thwart their plans. The Antagonist is nearly always waiting for Nancy in a final area in order to do away with her. Permanently. Some notable occurrences are:
    • In The Final Scene, Joseph is waiting for Nancy to enter the secret room where Maya is found.
    • In Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake Emily Griffin is waiting for Nancy to solve a puzzle so she can trap Nancy. She even tries to club her to death with a bone of all things!
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, when the party of new Grey Warden initiates comes to her house to retrieve some Binding Ancient Treaties, the hermit witch Flemeth mentions that "she's been expecting them." Alistair (the junior Warden accompanying you) will try and call her on it, however.
    Alistair: Are we really supposed to believe you were expecting us?
  • In Resident Evil 4 Salazar is waiting for Leon and Ashley on a balcony, where they have this exchange:
    Salazar: Me llamo Ramón Salazar, the eighth castellan of this magnificent architecture. I have been honored with the prodigious power from the great Lord Saddler. I've been expecting you, my brethrens.
    Leon Kennedy: No, thanks... "bro".
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, at the end of the Thieves Guild arc, the player and his companions have caught up to the villainous Mercer Frey after stealthily tracking him through a vast underground ruin:
    Karliah: He's here and he hasn't seen us yet. Brynjolf, watch the door.
    Brynjolf: Aye, lass. Nothing's getting by me.
    Karliah: Climb down that ledge and see if you can...
    Mercer: Karliah, when will you learn you can't get the drop on me?
  • in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Edward and James are secretly tailing Governor Torres and the slaver Laurens Prins while they negotiate for the release of the captive Sage. However at the last moment, Prins backs out of the deal:
    Prins: Perhaps another day.
    Torres: What?!
    Prins: Next time, see to it that we are not followed! [To his guards] Deal with this!
  • In Batman: Arkham Origins, Batman manages to successfully trail Black Mask and his thugs all the way out of Blackgate Penitentiary to their escape helicopters. Who is is that works out his presence? Killer Croc, whose unbelievably powerful nose enabled him to detect the Dark Knight, and who then orders the rest of the Mooks to Leave Him to Me!.

    Web Original 
  • What makes a Content Cop so devastating is Ian's ability to know exactly how his subjects will respond. This is perhaps best shown in the Content Deputy videos, which is essentially Ian sitting back and enjoying Leafy and RiceGum displaying the exact character flaws he criticized them for in their attempts to save face.
  • Parodied in Red vs. Blue by Sarge in the episode The Haystack, much to Donut's confusion.

    Western Animation 
  • In Batman: The Animated Series: In one episode, two mooks are sent to look for Batman in a house. Batman is waiting for the two mooks to enter the bedroom he is hiding in. When one of them looks inside, Batman gives him a daring look. The other mook asks if anyone is inside the room. The mook says there's no one there.
  • In one episode of Kaeloo, Stumpy is turned into a genius who is smart enough to predict the future. When Olaf suddenly shows up and scares everyone, Stumpy is unfazed, and reveals that he knew Olaf would be coming.
  • Master Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles usually plays this role in all incarnations of the show, as he is very wise and skilled. And a ninja, of course.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Dr Doofenshmirtz is rarely surprised whenever Perry the Platypus show up to thwart his latest scheme and usually has a trap ready.