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The Simple Gesture Wins

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Said the Alligator King to his seventh son, "My son, you win the crown."
"You didn't bring me diamonds or rubies, but you helped me up when I was down."
— Song about the number 7 on Sesame Street

After several different formal, grand, or troublesome efforts on behalf of a friend, lover, or another loved one, someone else comes along and performs a gesture that seems lackluster to the In-Universe audience... but their effort is the one that is appreciated the most.

A Sub-Trope of Friendship Moment and Act of True Love. Aversion of Grand Romantic Gesture (when it involves romance).

See also Because You Were Nice to Me and You Were Trying Too Hard.

For a similar narrative trope for comedic purposes, see Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle: In Episode 9, Lux goes on back-to-back-to-back dates with three girls from his Unwanted Harem: upperclasswoman Celeste, The Ojou Krulcifer and his Childhood Friend, Philuffy. For the first two dates, the girls take him out for a romantic walk and a dance, respectively, where they discuss their feelings and goals for the future. For the final date, Lux is confused when Philuffy brings him to a cathedral, but then she tells him to simply lay his head on her lap and go to sleep. She does this because she knows he's exhausted after the first two dates and greatly needs the rest. When the date is over, Lux says that he really needs to thank her for the gesture.
  • Gamers! (2015): Karen Tendou is the most popular girl in her school and has to turn down dramatic Love Confessions almost daily. Which comes as a shock to everyone when the boy who wins her heart is Keita Amano, a socially-awkward loner. Tendou falls head-over-heels for Amano not because of any romantic gesture he made, but simply because (even after declining Tendou's invitation to join) Amano defended Tendou and her club from ridicule without even knowing she was around to see it.
  • Oni Ai: When Akito becomes ill, the girls he dorms with decide to take turns nursing him, with each of them competing to see who does a better job. They try feeding him, warming him with their bodies, talking with him, and other various methods. The final girl, Arashi, simply walks into his room, exchanges the warm towel on his forehead for a fresh cold one and leaves. The next day, when the girls demand to know whose methods worked best, Akito says it was Arashi, to the horror of the other girls. note 
  • Love Tyrant:
    • Akane Hiyama is the most popular girl in her school, whom protagonist Seiji Aino has a massive crush on. He finds out that she has an even bigger crush on him, which completely takes him off-guard. It turns out that the reason she developed this crush on him is that while everyone (including Seiji) admires her for her looks and the fake personality she puts on, Seiji once met her while blinded by a cat and when she helped him, he just called her a nice person. He was unable to see who she was at the time, which meant he wasn't lying to impress her and wasn't influenced by her beauty. He was the one and only person to see something good in her, when she saw herself as a monster.
    • Another example comes when she's trying to kill her sister Yuzu to prevent her from coming between her and Seiji. After all of the attempts to plead and reason with her fail, Seiji stops her by calling her by her first name, which makes Akane too excited to be angry anymore.
  • Attempted in The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. When Kaguya sends out her suitors to retrieve five mythical items in order to win her hand, most return with tall tales or forgeries. However, the fourth suitor, whom she had tasked with retrieving Buddha's begging bowl, returns with only a simple wildflower. He explains that, after considering the task, he felt the flower was the more accurate representation of his devotion to her - simple and blooming. Ultimately subverted when Kaguya discovers that this suitor has made the same speech to multiple other girls, including his wife who he is still married to. When the suitor is giving his speech, Kaguya - sitting behind a screen - quickly swaps out with the wife, who then tears a strip off the man, before sending the suitor away.

    Fan Works 
  • Queens of Mewni: When trying to choose a husband, Vesper the Morning Star rejected two suitors who made Grand Romantic Gestures and chose Caspian, who merely brought with him evidence of corruption in her court, because he rightly interpreted what she wanted in a husband: a loyal number two to be her eyes and ears.

  • Beauty and the Beast: In some tellings, Belle has greedy, grasping sisters. Belle ends up the favorite to their father, and thus the one he is most devoted to because her sisters demand expensive gifts from his travels, but Belle makes the same request every time: come home safe and if you happen to run across a rose, that would be lovely. This backfires because her father is willing to go to extremes for her simple request and that's what gets him in trouble with the Beast.
  • Vampire High: Ileana, at her birthday, receives many expensive gifts. Cody's gift is a personalized scrapbook, which most of the crowd look down on, but it's that which touches her the most.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Sesame Street: From the segment "Alligator King"...
    The king snagged his foot on the royal red rug and crumpled up his nose.
    The seventh son of the Alligator King was a thoughtful little whelp.
    He said, "Daddy, appears to me that you could use a little help."
    Said the Alligator King to his seventh son, "My son, you win the crown,"
    "You didn't bring me diamonds or rubies, but you helped me up when I was down."
  • Breaking Bad: During Elliot's birthday party, most of the guests bring extravagant presents. One guest gives Elliot a Stratocaster signed by Eric Clapton. Walt gives him a package of the dirt-cheap ramen noodles they subsisted on while they were working on their thesis. Elliot absolutely loves it, and gushes about how those noodles were responsible for his success.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Played with. When Rebecca decides to go on three dates with her potential love interests, Josh and Nathaniel both make the most extravagant date they can, but Greg's car breaks down and she has to bail him out with them sharing some quality time together in the waiting room. It's implied that this was her favorite date because of how natural and stress free they were, but ultimately, she chooses none of them because she realizes that she doesn't want to be in a relationship, she wants to find her passion. She then spends one year learning to be a songwriter before she finally feels ready to be in a relationship again, and the series ends without saying who she picked.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In Books of Kings, Elijah climbs a mountain for a planned meeting with God. He witnesses a sequence of dramatic, flashy events such as a firestorm and earthquake but (correctly) concludes that God was not present in any of them but was truly present in a small, simple voice that he heard soon after.

  • Tragically subverted in the beginning of King Lear. When the eponymous, senile king declares that he'll give the largest share of his kingdom to the daughter who loves him the most, only Cordelia refuses to resort to flattery like her sisters, bluntly declaring that the bond between her and her father is more than enough to prove her love. Instead of appreciating this gesture, an enraged King Lear proceeds to kick Cordelia out of his kingdom, before dividing Cordelia's share of the kingdom among his other two daughters. Needless to say, this decision eventually comes back to bite him in the ass.

    Web Animation 
  • Barbie's Birthday Episode on Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse features the characters giving Barbie extravagant presents, which she doesn't appreciate because she already owns multiples of all of them. Ken gives her a charm bracelet he picked out personally (and which he didn't give at first because the girls didn't think it was good enough for Barbie). Barbie is delighted by the thoughtful gesture.

    Western Animation 
  • Hey Arnold!: In "Arnold as Cupid," Arnold is trying very hard to get Oscar and Suzie back together. Shame Oscar is... kind of terrible, and completely ruins every (manufactured by Arnold) Grand Romantic Gesture. However, at the end of the episode, he actually does something unselfish and refuses money from Suzie and she's so moved by this that she takes him back.
  • Played for Laughs in one SpongeBob SquarePants episode where the Krusty Krab holds a night show event. The audience has mixed reactions towards the characters performing on the stage, ending with Squidward's "artistic dance" being booed and tomatoed. Then SpongeBob walks onto the stage to clean up the mess... And somehow the audience treats it as the best performance ever.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has an episode were Big Macintosh is trying to win over a pony named Sugar Belle. The Cutie Mark Crusaders step in and convince him he should be using grand, fairy tale-esque gestures to win her over, only resulting in him getting rejected along with his rival suitor, the Justin Bieber expy Feather Bangs, after they destroy her bakery with their song battle. Then he decides to rebuild her bakery complete with a new display counter, and that's the gesture that wins her heart for it being based in something she actually wanted while still being something relatively easy for Big Mac and the Crusaders to accomplish.
  • In The Backyardigans episode "Legend of the Volcano Sisters", the boys have to find out what the titular Volcano Sisters, portrayed by Uniqua and Tasha, want in order to prevent them from having the island's volcano erupt. After two unsuccessful grand gestures by Tyrone and Pablo, Austin comes up with the idea of giving them flowers as a way of inviting them to take part in the luau, and it's this gesture that manages to win them over.
  • Sofia the First: During the second winter holiday episode, Sofia meets a faun named Winter who needs to present a gift to a forest witch so that she'll remove Winter's "ice touch". Winter and Sofia go through a lot of trouble to track down ice lilies, one of the rarest, most beautiful flowers of the season. The witch scoffs at the lilies because everyone who wants to earn her favor brings her ice lilies or similarly valuable things, so they're no longer special. Following Princess Tiana's advice, Sofia encourages Winter to play a song for the witch. This simple gesture melts her heart, and she happily removes Winter's ice touch.