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The Plot Thickens

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The plot "thickens," as they say. Why, by the way? Is it a soup metaphor?
Gustave H., The Grand Budapest Hotel

Stock Phrase often said after a turning point in the plot.

It usually refers to things becoming overly complex or mysterious. Today this term is often Played for Laughs. Coined in the 17th century, it originally described the plot of a play that was overly intricate, and by the late 1800s it was used for increasingly complex mysteries in detective stories.

The phrase is sometimes parodied as "The plot sickens." You may also hear "the plot thins" - usually uttered after a major Anti-Climax.


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    Films — Live-Action 

  • Famously used in the Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet, as uttered by Holmes himself.
  • One of the chapters in The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust is titled "In Which The Plot, Behaving In Much The Same Manner As A Soup To Which Cornstarch Has Been Added, Begins, At Last, To Thicken."
  • A chapter heading in Making Money refers to it, but is "the pot thickens". This makes sense in context because Moist believes temporarily that Gladys, his golem secretary, is cooking his dog in the pit she's stirring. It turns out to be the sheep's head Adora Belle ordered for dinner.
  • One of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles books has a chapter titled "In Which The Plot Thickens," which is followed shortly thereafter by one titled "In Which The Plot Positively Curdles."
  • Every book in The Incredible Worlds Of Wally Mc Doogle has a chapter called "The Plot Sickens."

    Live Action TV 
  • Hawaii Five-O (1968) pilot episode.
    Wo Fat: As we clever Chinese say, "The plot thickens..."
  • Knight Rider episode "Mouth of the Snake"
    Michael Knight: So, the plot thickens. I bet this guy David Dalton is not down in Mexico looking for the world's biggest burrito.
  • The League of Gentlemen
    Pauline: It's about Mickey. He's getting married.
    Ross: Oh-ho. The plot thickens.
  • M*A*S*H: Inverted as Hawkeye, Henry, Trapper, Klinger and Radar are watching home movies of Frank's wedding.
    Hawkeye: The plot thins.

    Newspaper Comics 

  • Roald Dahl used this to customary darkly comic effect in his retelling of Cinderella
    Ah ha, you see, the plot grows thicker,
    And Cindy's luck starts looking sicker.

One episode of I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, had this exchange between the narrator and a character:
Narrator: The plot thickens
Other voice: And tho do the joketh

    Video Games 

    Western Animation