"Three... two... one..."
The outcome happens exactly when the countdown ends.
Can also be done in silence by counting down on one's fingers.
Related to Exact Time to Failure and Improbably Predictable. Not to be confused with the gameshow 321 or the Class 321 Electric Multiple Units. See On Three for characters synchronizing a joint action.
- Dilbert proposes adding a battery backup to a company product. Hearing no immediate response, he counts in his head until the Pointy-Haired Boss suggests it as his own idea — whereupon Dilbert points out that the product doesn't use batteries.
- Garfield: Jon decides to wear his Eiffel Tower hat in the yard right after Garfield watches a weather report about thunderstorms.
Garfield: Annnnd 3... 2... 1... (Boom! Zat!)
Jon: Gah! I've had better ideas.
Garfield: Like the one with the kiddie pool and the high dive?
- The Heart Trilogy: In the 17th chapter of Heart of Ashes, Kathryn goes to explore the abandoned fortress she and Smaug are inhabiting while the control freak of a dragon is away. When she hears him returning, she counts the precise moment he discovers her missing from the "den" and roars her name so loud it can be heard in the entire fortress.
- By the time of the final arc in Son of the Sannin, Fu has gotten so used to people asking "What the hell do they feed you?" when she shows off her super strength that she's able count down to when the First Hokage says it.
- Anastasia: Dimitri counts for the moment Anastasia changes her mind and calls him back.
- Ice Age: Manny and Diego do this in unison as Sid sits in a geyser, with Manny mentioning how faithful it is.
- The Lion King II: Simba's Pride: Kovu counts down the time until Kiara tries to pounce on him.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Sunset's Backstage Pass: As Sunset Shimmer is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, she can start predicting events with great precision from having lived them already. Like Snips tripping himself and sending his ice cream in Sandalwood's face.
Sunset: Cue Snips, and push Sandalwood out of the way in three, two...
- My Little Pony: The Movie: Capper does a silent one on his fingers before his Bavarian Firedrill scam succeeds on the Storm King's guards.
- Once Upon a Studio: As Goofy prepares to take the group photo atop an unsteady ladder, everyone present wears expressions of dread for the inevitable, while Iago eagerly does the countdown.
Iago: Ooh, ooh! Three, two, one...
- Batman: The Joker in The Dark Knight, waiting for the bombs to go off at the end. Subverted that time.
- In The Goonies, Mikey passes the framed treasure map to Chunk because he knows Chunk will smash it open by accident which will give them an excuse to scrutinize it. Mikey even counts down to the crash.
- in “Groundhog Day”, Phil Connors steals a bag from the armoured truck by knowing exactly when the hapless guards will be distracted by the dropped pennies, and that their incompetence is so great that they won’t remember how many bags of money they had in the van until later in the day. Phil counts down from 10 as he crosses the road, commenting in advance on what is about to happen.
- In a first-season episode of Babylon 5, Sinclair and Garibaldi prank Ivanova into thinking that she has slept through breakfast. As she bolts for the command deck, Michael starts counting down:
Garibaldi: Three... two... one...
Ivanova: [offscreen] Argh! Garibaldi, you're a dead man!
- Double subverted in Cheers episode "Don't Paint Your Chickens". A beautiful woman walks into the bar while Sam is in his office, and Carla does the countdown. It's as if the show is admitting how predictable it is, but Sam is two seconds late. He comes out, asking, "Where is she"?
Carla: He's slowing down, but he's still got it.
Sam: Gimme a break, Carla. There's lead pipes down there. Interferes with the radar.
- By Community's third Christmas episode, the glee club have become so predictable that Annie can count down to their "hip-hop remix" of carols.
- In the Sky adaptation of Discworld's Going Postal, Moist von Lipwig finds out the missing letters of the sign outside the Post Office headquarters ended up on the sign of a hairdresser salon labeled "HUGOS", without the apostrophe. When the employee refuses to let him talk to Mr. Hugo, he leaves the message that he'd hope to avoid it, but they might get in trouble with Lord Vetinari. As Moist exits, he's counting to three before being anxiously called back.
- In The Golden Girls, Stan walks out the front door. Someone is about to say something when Dorothy cuts them short and counts down. "Three... two... one..." Stan walks back in and Dorothy shouts, "Out, Stan!"
- Nathan Ford does a non-verbal version of this when on Leverage when negotiating with a Russian mobster. The mobster has one of her people highlight Nate with the tell-tale red dot of a Laser Sight. Nate looks at it, uninterested, then counts down with his fingers. The dot suddenly shifts from him to the mobster, because Parker had gotten to the sniper exactly as Nate had intended, and incapacitated them.
- Married... with Children: Al has gone outside to fix the roof. Predictably:
Peggy: You know how you are always complaining that your father never does anything with the family? Well, just watch that window and your father has a big surprise for us. Right about now — three, two, one...
[Al screams and falls past the window, family laughs and claps]
- Frequently used for dramatic effect on NCIS and its spinoffs. In most cases they use Hand Signals to count down, since they're in tactical situations where counting out loud would be a bad idea.
- Out of This World: When the uncle has been wearing some Love Potion in the form of cologne, and is about to take a swim, the daughter and mother count down for when the instant harem will abandon him.
- Power Rangers: In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers episode "A Bad Reflection on You", Kimberly tries to sneak out of a detention. However, Bulk and Skull are so experienced with detentions that they simply count from three to one, and Mr. Caplan shows up bringing Kimberly back.
- Sports Night episode "Quo Vadimus":
[Isaac has told Dana about a new bid from Quo Vadimus]
Dana Whitaker: Isaac doesn't trust that when he tells me something, I can be cool. He thinks it's gonna spread around and the information'll get all twisted and I'm going to show him he's wrong.
Isaac Jaffe: [while in his office] Three, two, one...
Jeremy Goodwin: Isaac, I don't know if you heard. Six this morning there was a bid from an Italian airline called Platypus.
- Stargate SG-1: In the episode "Window of Opportunity", O'Neill and Teal'c are stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
- Since he knows exactly what is going to happen, at one point Jack can be seen counting from three on his fingers, and right on cue Daniel calls him in the hallway to talk to him.
- On the next loop, to convince Hammond and the rest of what's happening, O'Neill tries to count down to the exact moment of the unexpected arrival of SG-12, but he's off by a few seconds.
Colonel O'Neill: So close...
- One of the ODSTs in Halo 3: ODST does this with explosive charges that he set, as they fly away.
- Captain Briggs in Limbo of the Lost, in circumstances that are truly indescribable.
- Robert Baxter in Time Crisis 5 does this to Keith Martin so the latter can hand over the case containing data about VSSE's traitor, but charges forward anyway before he can finish counting.
- MLP Analysis:
- In "The Fairy Fountain", Dr. Wolf counts down from three after Silver Quill calls Lightning Bliss "cute", knowing it will annoy her. Right on cue, this is followed by an explosion and Silver Quill is on fire.
- TF2 Analysis: In "Mission Unpossible", when Goldenfox rushes in blindly into the teleporter to try saving Keyframe, Voice of Reason lower his head and fatalistically counts down from three... cue explosion, followed by Fox sent flying away screaming and crashing.
Keyframe: [through radio] You know he kind of deserved it for calling me "Schmoopy-Doo". Urk.
- In El Goonish Shive, Sarah does this in her head when Elliot forgets his uniform.
- Home On The Strange, with the drinking game.
- The Order of the Stick: In "Unfinished Business", Roy Greenhilt counts down from three while the party rests, fully expecting a visit from the ghost of his dead father.
Eugene Greenhilt: What, I'm that predictable now?
- Bronies React:
- In the review for the season 7 finale ("Shadow Play"), after Twilight Sparkle says, "I guess I hoped we'd get here and the mystery would just magically be explained," Dustykatt quips, "Magical explanation in three... two... one..."
- At the beginning of the review for the Season 8 Premiere, Dustykatt again states, "Movie recap in three... two... one..."
- Channel Awesome:
- The Nostalgia Critic: In the review for Blade II, it is a running gag for Guillermo del Toro to pitch some (silly) new idea for a movie, only to give up on it a few seconds later. When suggesting a Blade and The Powerpuff Girls crossover, the Critic counts down from three on his fingers, and Del Toro says "Maybe not..."
- Kickassia: A Running Gag is for the Nostalgia Critic to shut down any idea suggested by Phelous, and then claiming the idea as his own. When Phelous suggests promoting tourism to Kickassia and gets shot down, he counts down from three on his fingers, and right on cue the Critic suggests promoting tourism to Kickassia.
- Derrick Comedy has a sketch with a time-traveling Thomas Jefferson. One of his buddies relates a story from 9/11, where Jefferson showed off by counting down to the exact moment of the terrorist attack.
- StacheBros: In "Koopa the Quick Saves the Day?", Princess Peach is able to predict exactly when Bowser will kidnap her and Mario will rescue her by counting down.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius has an episode called "Send in the Clones", where Jimmy creates clones of himself to try to get everything he has to do finished in one day. One of the clones, of course, is evil, and does this trope under his breath shortly after swapping the signs on a public restroom.
- BoJack Horseman has Todd and BoJack watch the Horsin' Around Christmas special. When Sarah Lynn realizes Santa didn't bring her the gift she wanted, Ethan started the countdown to the waterworks... starting at 50, which BoJack fast-forwards to this.
- Danny Phantom: In "Kindred Spirits", Sam and Tucker repeatedly get in trouble for the collateral damage caused by Danny fighting a ghost. At one point, after the cafeteria gets trashed, they both count down to when Mr. Lancer will angrily burst in.
- DuckTales (2017):
- In "The House of the Lucky Gander!", Scrooge makes a bet with Liu Hai, a spirit who is feeding off of Gladstone Gander's luck, that Donald can beat Gladstone to get him to set him free. After Donald manages to win, Scrooge suggests to him that if Donald bested the luckiest duck in the world, he should be his new prisoner.
- In the Season Three premiere, "Challenge of the Senior Junior Woodchucks!", Scrooge sees a portrait of his childhood hero and starts getting nostalgic, prompting a bored prediction from Louie:
Louie: Cue story about Scrooge as a lad, in three, two, and...
Scrooge: When I was a lad...!
- In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield does this when Jon has walked out of the house without pants. Slightly inverted as he counts up instead of down. In another episode he does to see how long it takes for Jon to realize that Garfield accidentally brought a baby home.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Celestial Advice", during Twilight's third fantasy vision for Starlight's future, Spike realizes it will take the same pattern as the previous two and counts down to the moment Twilight starts to panic again.
- In "To Change a Changeling", Starlight reports to Thorax that Pharynx has left the hive and all other Changelings begin cheering. Trixie just says "wait for it," and Starlight finishes that the maulwurf is on its way to the hive. When the Changelings panic Trixie just says "told you." Justified as the exact same thing happened moments ago outside the hive.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- Bubbles in The Powerpuff Girls, during an episode in which the girls try to defeat a particularly tough monster in their own ways. She goes "Three... two... one...", correctly anticipating when Blossom and Buttercup — each unsuccessfully trying to fight the monster — will get knocked to the ground.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- In "Dying for Pie", Squidward hesitantly counts down the sunset to SpongeBob's request, when he believes his explosion is going to happen any second.
- At the end of "CopyBob DittoPants", Plankton is surprised that he doesn't seem to get comeuppance for his plan-of-the-day to steal the formula. Cue Squidward (under the belief that he can fly because of said plan) trying to fly and jumping in Plankton's direction.
Plankton: Comeuppance in three, two... [gets crushed] OW!
- In Superman: The Animated Series, Gsptlsnz counts down how many seconds it takes Superman to defeat Mxyzptlk. She actually overestimated; she didn't even get to down to one.