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Third Line, Some Waiting

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"Meanwhile on Cylon-Occupied Caprica"

Somewhat of a variant on Two Lines, No Waiting, this is a minor C Plot on a show that is somewhat removed from the main plots, often geographically (but sometimes temporally), that recurs every episode but is only featured very briefly in each episode. It may eventually link up with the main plot, or it may not. What differentiates this from a standard B Plot is that if you skipped those five minutes every episode, you would not miss a thing until possibly much later in the show.

The scene in the story that is devoted to such a seemingly low-priority ploy is a Meanwhile Scene.

If the show is composed entirely of C Plots being alternated this way, then it's Four Lines, All Waiting.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baccano! covers three plots taking place a few years apart, with the 1931 Flying Pussyfoot plot being the centerpiece. It's only around half way we find out the truth about the mysterious Rail Tracer, and one character introduced in the very beginning only becomes an active player in the Gambit Pileup near the end.
  • CLANNAD's otherworld scenes does not tie in with the rest of the series before (Nagisa performs it as a play) and finally when it is revealed that (the girl was Ushio, and the Robot was the father Okazaki.)
  • The plot involving Nabeshin and Pedro and Pedro's effort to reunite with his sexy wife in Excel♡Saga.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GiG had two major plot lines as well as episodes devoted to individual missions. In the end, they all tied into each other. The film that followed which was very obviously planned as a third season tried to up the ante.
  • Mekakucity Actors has this with the story of the monster after the credits of most episodes.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi for the Magic World arc has the main line following Negi, a second line for Yue and on rare occasions a glimpse back to Mahora to see how things are developing there. As of now (Chapter 287) there's about two lines with Yue having met back up with Negi finally, while Mahora is gearing up to deal with whatever Fate is going to do upon reentering the real world. Then there's a third line following Anya and Asuna while they're held captive by the Big Bad.
  • In One Piece, the plotline about Ace's search for Blackbeard and Shanks meeting Whitebeard is slowly advanced between the arcs about Luffy's adventures, which finally gains significance in the main storyline when Ace catches up to Blackbeard but Blackbeard captures Ace and sells him out to the Marines, prompting Luffy and Whitebeard to attempt a rescue.
  • Once an episode, Samurai 7 has a "Meanwhile, at the Mobile Oppression Fortress" scene that focuses on Ukyo, son (actually clone) of the Evil Overlord. His plotline eventually links up with the main one around episode 18, at which point the show takes a sharp upwards turn in quality.
  • Yuri(o) Plisetsky's story arc in Yuri!!! on Ice is often criticized as underwritten due to basically being this; it was obviously tertiary to the A and B plots of "Yuri Katsuki's skating comeback" and " Victor and Yuri's romance." The show didn't even feature Yurio's first Grand Prix event (it was turned into a blu-ray short), while it followed all of Yuri's. In-between the "Hot Springs on Ice" showdown and the Rostelecom Cup (where both Yuris competed), Yurio was both geographically-removed and Out of Focus, only getting brief scenes to remind us he was still training or show his commentary on Yuri's performances.

    Comic Books 
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Shattered Grid separates this into this, though done in an odd way: the main MMPR title deals with the Rangers battling a multidimensional conquering Lord Drakkon and trying to save their timeline counterparts; the sister title, Go Go Power Rangers deals with both the Ranger Slayer being trapped in the Rangers' past and how the Ranger Slayer went from a member of the Coinless rebellion to The Dragon.
  • In the first half John Byrne's X-Men: The Hidden Years, Havok and Polaris get a subplot that goes nowhere, despite them traveling to Antarctica and back. They basically spend several issues looking for their teammates without success or incident.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The Ice Age films have Scrat, which is a separate plot (if a bunch of gags involving an unlucky squirrel qualifies as plot...) from the other main characters. Yet is the most beloved part of the franchise.
  • In The Rugrats Movie, when the babies disappear with the Reptar Wagon, a third line is formed with Angelica and Spike racing off on their own to find the babies as Dil had taken Angelica's Cynthia doll. While this ties into the A plot of the babies lost in the forest and the B plot of the parents trying to find them, neither of them have any bearing until the end.

  • 1Q84: Book 3 includes POV chapters from Ushikawa's perspective. His story is somewhat separate from Aomame's and Tengo's; Ushikawa is tasked with tracking Aomame down, but- when direct leads dry up and he finds a connection with Tengo- he decides to shadow Tengo instead, thinking that Aomame will eventually try to contact Tengo. He gets uncomfortably close to finding Aomame once or twice, but gets killed by Tamaru before he can.
  • The Belisarius Series has a humorous C plot in The Dance of Time where a luckless Malwa assassination squad attempt to assassinate the main characters. They travel some three thousand miles from India to Greece, to Egypt, to Persia and back to India in a long series of missed opportunities.
  • Cryptonomicon: Goto Dengo's plotline only catches up with the main plot at the end of the book. Interestingly, even the 21st century plotline could be considered this - or the actual main plotline. The two allied WWII plotlines are much closer in both time and space.
  • A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge has this, with the Qeng Ho/Emergents and the Spiders as the A and B stories, and Pham Nuwen's biography in slot C.
  • The Dinosaur Lords mostly jumps between Rob and Melodía's plotlines, with rare visits to either Jaume's, Falk's or Shiraa's heads and their problems.
  • Peter and Valentine — or, rather Locke and Demosphenes — storyline in Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
  • The Heroes of Olympus becomes this in the last two books, after maintaining a consistent plotline in the third (the Seven traveling to Greece) despite its multiple points of view. In The House of Hades, there are three separate plot threads occurring at the same time: Percy and Annabeth's travel through Tartarus, the remaining members of the Seven continuing the journey from Italy to Greece, and Reyna dealing with demigod politics back in the US. These three converge at the end, but The Blood of Olympus still splits the story in two: the Seven traveling to the Acropolis, and Reyna, Nico, and Hedge going back to Camp Half-Blood to deliver the Athena Parthenos. Three-fourths into the book, Nico and Hedge separate from Reyna to organize the resistance at the Camp while Reyna deals with Orion.
  • Holes has three stories running separately, but parallel to each other in different times. One story is Stanley's in the present, the other is his great-great-grandfather's story that explains the origin of the curse and the third is the story of Kissin' Kate Barlow. They all end up interwoven.
  • The Prophecy of the Stones does this between the three main protagonists and the Supporting Leader on their separate quests, and a seemingly unrelated Parisian girl from the present. But the twist is that the Parisian girl is dreaming of the future.
  • The Reflections of Eterna series has the storyline of Marshal Carlo Capras expand from a sidenote in Face of Victory to a massive subplot from Orb of Fates onward, comparable in scope to that of any long-established main character. The problem is, however, that with Capras being neither an Elemental Lord, nor a sidekick to one, his story is largely irrelevant to the Myth Arc of the series, and one can skip all of his chapters without missing out on any important details. His promotion to main character thus serves, at best, as a Lower-Deck Episode to flesh out the Worldbuilding of Kertiana or, at worst, only to satisfy the author's desire to write an even more grounded political and military intrigue than her already very Low Fantasy cycle.
  • The Sherlock Holmes novel The Three Locks by Bonnie MacBird has Holmes and Watson investigate two seperate cases involving locks, an escapologist whose trick was sabotaged, and a missing person seen at a canal lock. The third lock is on a mysterious box left to Watson, which gets brought up periodically whenever events in the actual cases are slow enough for him to return to it. This leads to a bit of Fridge Logic because it's implied that the contents of the box are why Watson decided the manuscript was too personal to publish ... but he could have excised it from the story completely without affecting the rest of it at all.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Daenerys, one of the main POV characters, spends her time on a different continent, making her chapters almost totally self-contained. The interplay between the storylines slowly gets greater as the series progresses.
  • Star Wars Legends: Lando's story in The Black Fleet Crisis. It gets so bad, that in the third book of the trilogy chapters of his plot are called "Interludes" and have a separate number sequence from the chapters in the "main" story.
  • Warbreaker follows three protagonists, and while their stories intersect with each other, none of them are really aware of the events of the others until the climax - first is the princess Siri trying to figure out how to survive her Arranged Marriage to the ineffable God-King and to untangle the conspiracy taking place in his court. Second is her older sister Vivenna operating in secret to stage a revolution and save her sister. The third is the Returned god of courage Lightsong trying to solve a crime and to navigate the plots of his fellow gods. There's also occasional glimpses of the mysterious and sinister Vasher, whose pursuit of his own unknown agenda influences all three plots at times until the final third when he's revealed to be Good All Along and becomes The Mentor to Vivenna.
  • We Sold Our Souls: The main story is told from Kris's perspective as she tries to unravel the truth about the devil and UPS conspiracy. The early chapters introduce Melanie, a hardworking, lower-class metal fan from West Virginia trying to make her way to the farewell tour, but leaves her for a huge chunk of time while Kris tries to escape (the A plot) and goes through her memories (the B plot). We check in with her a couple of times until she and Kris meet in person and then the POVs are split up more traditionally.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Awkward., in season 1 there was usually an A plot with Jenna and Tamara and a B plot with Ming or an A plot with Jenna and a B plot with Tamara and Ming. The second and third season usually had an A-plot involving Jenna and Matty, a B-plot with Tamara and usually Sadie is involved, and sometimes a separate C-plot with Ming that usually interacts with one of the two plots at some point. The fourth season maybe have an A plot with Jenna, a B plot with Tamara and a C plot with Matty and Jake (and maybe Sadie or Eva)
  • On the first season of Battlestar Galactica each episode had about five minutes of the Mauve Shirt Helo's adventures stranded on Cylon-occupied Caprica; everyone else assumed he was dead.
  • The bulk of Season 3 of Bosch is a Two Lines, No Waiting plot with plot 1 being an attempt to frame Harry Bosch for the murder of one of his suspects, and plot 2 being some murderous Army Special Forces goons smuggling money home from Afghanistan. But there's also a plot 3, about a Serial Killer called the "Koreatown Killer" because he's stalking the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. This plot gets less screen time than the other two, and it functions as a Sequel Hook because the KTK isn't caught. The end of the season shows the KTK casually pedaling past an unawares Bosch, on his bicycle.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Most episodes feature two or three separate plots containing various combinations of the main cast. In some instances all the plot threads are all tightly connected, like when everyone is dealing with different elements of the same event, but in many instances some or even all of the plot lines are totally unrelated apart from maybe connecting back together at the end.
  • In Chuck, Ellie and Awesome's trip to Africa in "Chuck versus the Role Models" is completely removed from the A and B plots and only serves to set up next episode in the last minute.
  • Cougar Town tends to have 2-3 plotlines in a given episode. At one point in the 4th season, Bobby's boat is renamed "The Sea Story" in reference to this.
    Laurie: Don't you get it? Everything that happens on this boat is a "Sea Story"! Even us sitting here trying to come up with a new name for the boat!
  • CSI often has a background C Plots about the character's personal lives.
  • Dexter: Plot A is usually Dexter and Miami Metropolitan pursuing the Murderer of the Week and solving suddenly relevant cases, and Plot B is either Dexter tracking and murdering other killers (usually the aforementioned Monster of the Week), or working his way towards the supervillain for the series. Plot C is the filler about Dexter's (and his colleagues') personal lives — expect periods of Dexter seeing Rita and the kids, Deb jumping between relationships, and Dexter recalling his father's advice.
  • Game of Thrones: From the very beginning, Daenerys has been on a separate continent from the rest of the story, with only Barristan Selmy, and, later on, Tyrion Lannister and Varys, directly involved in both arcs. This is ended in the Season 6 finale, as Daenerys finally decides to sail for Westeros.
  • Heroes has a lot of very unconnected B Plots:
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Harfoots' subplot is completely divorced from the main plot dealing with the Orcs and the mithril. They don't even know of each other's existence.
  • Lost:
    • Season two has the Tailie plot for the first seven episodes. You could skip these segments until they meet the main survivors and not really miss anything.
    • The flash-sideways. You have to wait until the sixth season's eleventh episode for them to have any impact on the main plot, and the central revelation of the episode (that they're remembering love) has little to do with the earlier flash-sideways. You could skip them all until "Happily Ever After" and miss nothing... until the Series Finale reveals the true nature of the flash-sideways: it's the afterlife. Even then, it's technically a very Distant Finale that, due to that time gap, is still mostly irrelevant to the rest of the series.
  • Once Upon a Time: Season Two splits the Two Lines, No Waiting format of Present Storybrooke and Past Enchanted Forest by adding Present Enchanted Forest. Most episodes have two as the main plot and then has a scene or two from the third.
  • The whole "a traitor is contacting Seska" thing from Star Trek: Voyager Season Two.
  • A lot of That '70s Show episodes have three storylines per episode: the A and the B story about the teenagers, and the C plot about the adults, mostly the Formans.
  • This was the basic storytelling style on Doctor Who in the William Hartnell years — the stereotypical plot is that everyone would get split up, and the plot would juggle between, say, Barbara trying to escape from somewhere, Ian trying to rescue someone, and the Doctor and Vicki doing something bizarre (see "The Crusades", "The Romans" and "The Web Planet" for three consecutive stories with this exact formula). When Ian and Barbara left and were replaced with/composited into the single character of Steven, the format noticeably opened up, incorporating a plotline focusing on the people in the location itself — so it would now be split between Steven and Vicki (or Dodo) trying to outwit the villain, the Doctor doing something on his own, and the natives (see "The Time Meddler", where the 'native' story focuses on Edith and her village dealing with the Vikings, and "Galaxy 4", where the 'native' story focuses on the villain, Maaga, for just two examples).
  • Kamen Rider typically uses this as the structure of any given episode or two-parter: the A-plot will focus on defeating the Monster of the Week, the B-plot will be some sort of character drama either directly or indirectly related to the monster, and the C-plot will be the lead villains scheming against the heroes and/or each other. While the C-plot is usually the only part of the episode that's actually important to the larger story as a whole, it's also usually irrelevant to the plot of the episode itself.
  • Most episodes of Malcolm in the Middle would have a unrelated subplot featuring Francis first at a military academy, then in Alaska, then on a German-run dude ranch. Very rarely would these at all connect to the main plot. It also has possibly the funniest example of this in one episode.
    • Malcolm, who works with his mother at a department store, was given the job of advertising their products on stilts and in an Uncle Sam costume. The result is being humiliated in front of hot teenagers who ridicule his "Do Not Bang" appearance. The guy who got fired was a drunk who happens to feel very strongly about his job. Once he's fired, he takes the loss very seriously. So later on, while Malcolm's working, the drunk guy comes back, having fashioned his own stilts out of trash, and gets into a fight with Malcolm, and almost kicks his ass. Meanwhile, his co-worker Craig tries to be a big damn hero by getting out an RC Airplane toy, but finds out it has to be assembled. So while he looks for a screwdriver, Malcolm runs away and tries to use shopping carts as roller-skates, which only ends in the carts rolling opposite directions and giving him the most scrotum-tearingly painful split in the entire world. Then Craig's toy airplane comes out of nowhere and hits Malcolm, getting lodged in his hat and continuing to spin miserably.
    • Reese was caught spying on Sorority girls, and was offered a chance to test out untested drugs by companies for money. He winds up going to about two dozen other companies and testing out their drugs as well, which doesn't work out for him. He wound up getting incredibly high, and somehow stealing a policeman's horse, which he rode home on, backwards and lying down on the saddle. He calls Francis for advice, but the horse moves, disconnecting the phone cord, which whips back and hits the horse, causing it to run off in a random direction, taking Reese with him.
    • Dewey finds Jamie with some stolen jewelry, so he comes to the conclusion that Jamie somehow found "The Stash" (Lois' jewelry that Francis stole and hid somewhere before getting sent to military school.) He and Jamie look for The Stash, but later find out that Jamie made his way into a neighbor's house and stole their jewelry. So the neighbor calls the cops on him, and he's taken into custody.
    • Hal checked the phone bill and noticed someone spent alot of money on phone sex. So he goes and calls the phone sex line to demand a refund, but it fails miserably. So he hangs up, but it didn't hit the receiver right, so the call went on for the entire night, accumulating almost $1000 of debt. So when he finds out, he tries to butter Lois up so she won't freak out at him by buying her some equally-expensive shoes. So he goes to her workplace and surprises her with them, eliciting "Awwww~"s from the customers around them. Then he breaks it to her that he accidentally spent $1000 on phone sex, which makes the customers look like they're about to be sick. Then Lois uses the opportunity to tell him something she did which was worse. Then Hal tells her something else he did in the past, and it just goes on and on and on...
    • After all this happened, we cut back to Malcolm, still stuck in the shopping carts, at the drunk Uncle Sam's mercy. Right when Uncle Sam is about to finish him off, he prays to God for "the lamest, most pathetic miracle he has lying around." Right then, Reese comes out of nowhere, still overturned on the police horse, high off his fucking gourd, and bumps into Uncle Sam, knocking him to the ground and getting his stilt caught in a footrest, dragging him into the store. Meanwhile, Hal and Lois' Past Mistake-off ends with Lois saying "I'm two years older than you think I am!" Then a police officer carries Dewey into the store to them, and Reese on the horse comes in and crashes into a stack of coup cans. (The horse belonged to said police officer.) And it all ends with Malcolm getting medical attention, Lois forgetting about the debt because of the new shoes, and Malcolm getting Uncle Sam a job at a circus. (In a depressing cubicle-farm in an office run by a midget ringmaster.)
  • Many episodes of Community work like this. One episode had Jeff befriending Chang so he'd loosen up on the class, only to end up entangled in his love life; Pierce trying to assist Shirley in her business pitch; and Troy having to conquer his fear of rats so he could help Abed find their biology class rat, all culminating in once musical number finale.
  • Season 1 of The Expanse works like this, with Holden and Miller's storylines more or less splitting amounts of screen time, while Avasarala's is mostly just her reacting to the political fallout of everything that's going on. By the end of the season, Holden and Miller have become intertwined, so it looks like this will be averted in the future.
  • In the 1978 special Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, Plot A is Big Bird trying to find out how Santa Claus gets down the chimney, Plot B is Ernie and Bert acting out a Gift of the Magi Plot, while Plot C involves Cookie Monster trying first to write a letter to Santa, then to call him, but always getting too excited about the cookies he imagines Santa will bring him and eating the pencil, the typewriter and the phone. None of these three plots intersect with each other and Plot C is the only one to be entirely Played for Laughs.
  • Stranger Things: The second season juggles the Joyce/Will lab plot, the Nancy/Jonathan conspiracy plot, and the Dustin/Lucas Dart plot, but takes some time every episode to showcase Eleven's solo departure and adventure of self-discovery through her mother and Kali. All of these converge again by the finale.
  • Today's Special: In many episodes, Muffy will get her own minor subplots separate from the rest of the cast. For example, in "Adventure", while the others are in the main plot to get the magic potion, she's back at the store looking after an ailing Waldo.

  • Schlock Mercenary occasionally rotates to "Meanwhile, at the Galactic Core..."
  • Breakpoint City has an occasional detour from "Adventures in the Future with Ben and Dan" to "Adventures In Space with bounty hunters and alien mobsters", and "Waffledog" will occasionally receive a few pages here and there. There are also a few minor characters that get their own sporadic mini-plots. The bounty-hunters side-story recently merged with the main storyline.
  • During the first few acts of Homestuck, the subplot involving the Wayward Vagabond and his fellow refugees from Prospit and Derse fills this role. It's set in the future upon a post-apocalyptic earth, but the characters are able to interact with the protagonists via technology. However, as more and more characters are introduced in later acts, the plot moves in the direction of Four Lines, All Waiting.
  • Goblins splits its screentime between two groups of Goblins and one group of non-Goblins.

    Web Original 
  • Noob:
    • Some of the plots rely on the availability of one or two actors to progress and hence are shown to do so quite infrequently if they happen to be busy. Those involving larger groups can do with an actor being absent for some time and tend to be more prominent.
    • Tenshirock and Judge Dead's plot in Noob: Le Conseil des Trois Factions can be singled out as this. They only interact with one other player, all while setting off a course of events that none of the other players aren't aware of.
  • Suburban Knights splits the main characters into two groups at the end of the first episode, and they only reunite in the penultimate one. A third plot follows the villain, who eventually meets up with the groups.

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars had some of these in the form of long-simmering, foreshadowed schemes: Tarantulas building up a lair and an escape ship, Dinobot wrestling with the implications of the original Golden Disk (not the alien one), Blackarachnia gathering components for Transmetal 2 transformation...
  • The X-Men: The Animated Series cartoon had several of these, most notably Magneto and Professor X in the Savage Land throughout season two.
  • Daria did this a lot in its final season, with Jake generally getting the C-plot.
  • Occasionally, along with a project that Phineas and Ferb do and Doof's regular plan, Candace may have her own subplot. In "The Great Indoors", Doofenshmirtz makes it rain so a Mexican soap opera he's been watching ("It has three simultaneous storylines that interconnect. Genius!") won't be preempted by a soccer game, so Phineas and Ferb build a biosphere to help the Fireside Girls earn their Desert Exploration merit badges. Candace puts off her efforts to bust her brothers when Jeremy thinks the biosphere would be a great place to have a picnic, as she wants to find out why he likes her.
  • The Tribunal's role on Metalocalypse tends to fall into this.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: "Castle Mane-ia" has two pairs of the main cast, separately and unaware of the other pair's presence, exploring a creepy castle and getting into various antics with numerous traps and secret passages, while Twilight Sparkle and Spike, further unaware of the others' presence, calmly spend time in the castle library and providing exposition for why said traps and passages exist.
  • Family Guy's Halloween Special had three subplots; one focusing on Stewie and Brian getting revenge on a group of bullies who stole the former's candy, Peter and Joe pranking Quagmire, and Meg and her friends sneaking into a Halloween party run by popular kids.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Three Lines Some Waiting


And there was Roundtree

Fatima gives Roundtree the lowdown. Callen's working on another case, Sam's away due to a family emegency while Kensi and Deeks are deployed to the USS Allegiance.

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