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Unintentional Backup Plan

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Where although the original plan didn't work out, something else that may or may not be completely unrelated accomplishes the same goal. When played for laughs, expect the person who made the original plan to still say, "Just as planned." May also involve MacGyvering if the unplanned event simply gives the hero what is necessary to recover from the failed plan. Might also turn a Funny Background Event into a Chekhov's Gun.


Often used to invoke an I Meant to Do That. Might also involve the plan going horribly wrong and then what caused it to go wrong yielding the intended result. Contrast Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! and Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!, for when they unintentionally rescue their enemies' plans. Compare and contrast Xanatos Speed Chess and Gambit Roulette, which involve planning for things that could ruin your plans or adjusting your plans when they might fail. Inverse of Spanner in the Works, where someone or something causes what would have been a perfect plan to not accomplish its goal.



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     Anime & Manga  

  • Dragon Ball: Doctor Gero created several androids to kill Goku. Unfortunately for him, either they were too weak to kill him or they performed a Heel–Face Turn. It was Cell, Gero's supreme creation — who wasn't involved in the plan to kill Goku at all — who completed Gero's objective by self-destructing and killing Goku in the process.
  • In the last episode of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, after Panty and Stocking beat the Big Bad, Garterbelt comments that things went "approximately as planned", reflecting on the fact that he temporarily died during the battle and that the Big Bad managed to go One-Winged Angel. This follows up on two "just as planned" comments and one "not as planned" comment earlier in the episode.
  • In Death Note, Light Out-Gambits Near by fooling him into stealing a fake Death Note. However, because of Mello's own unrelated failed Indy Ploy to kidnap Takada, Near realizes the note is fake and is alerted to the location of the real Death Note, which he also steals and replaces with his own fake, allowing him to outwit Light.
  • Just before he dies, Uchiha Itachi plants a mysterious crow inside of Naruto with the message, "I hope you never have to use it." Jump to the 4th Ninja War where Itachi has been revived as a zombie under the enemy's control. He and Naruto fight, that crow appears, and suddenly Itachi is on the good guys' side. Itachi explains that the crow contained a pre-prepared genjutsu that would hypnotized whoever saw it to protect Konoha, programmed to only to respond to the presence of Itachi's eyes. The plan was that if Sasuke decided to turn on the Leaf and use Itachi's eyes to power himself up, the genjutsu would turn him good. However, now in control of himself, Itachi can work to undo the resurrections and talk some sense into Sasuke personally.
  • The climax of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency plays this to ridiculous extremes. Confronted by Kars, who has managed to become the Ultimate Lifeform, Joseph decides to grab the Red Stone of Aja and run. Eventually Joseph manages to dump Kars into a volcano, but he survives thanks to his Adaptive Ability. Kars then proceeds to cut off one of Joseph's hands and decides to kill him using the Ripple to invoke Ironic Death, but Joseph ends up blocking it with the Red Stone of Aja, triggering the volcano to erupt, sending both of them on a rock high into the sky. Kars tries to escape by growing wings, but Joseph's severed hand ends up distracting him long enough for stray volcanic rock to hit him and launch him even higher, outside of the Earth's atmosphere. Jojo comments to himself that he planned none of this out, but his reputation for cunning schemes allows him to claim that he planned everything from the start, knowing the Kars would be pissed off thinking that.
  • In One Piece, Blackbeard planned to capture series protagonist Monkey D. Luffy and hand him over to the World Government in order to get appointed as a Warlord. But then Luffy and his crew got shot up into the sky right when he approached them and, sometime later, Luffy's brother Ace (who's an even more notable pirate than Luffy) showed up to confront Blackbeard over unrelated matters. Blackbeard captures Ace instead and his plans go even better because of it, as a series of crazy events ultimately leads to Blackbeard getting himself a Next Tier Power-Up.

  • Played straight over the course of the Star Wars saga. Qui-Gon's original plan was for Anakin to bring balance to The Force. However, he ends up falling to the Dark Side and it seems that he won't. In Return of the Jedi, however, he does bring balance to the Force by ensuring that the last of the evil aspect of the Dark Side of the Force dies with him.
  • In Predator, Dutch's plan to lure the titular menace into a deadly knife-trap fails when the Predator spots what he's up to and simply goes around it. Just as its about to kill him, Dutch notices its standing right under the trap's triggering mechanism... a giant log.
  • In Licence to Kill, James Bond is trying to assassinate Franz Sanchez to avenge his friend Felix Leiter and his wife Della. However, he gets stopped by Hong Kong narcotics moles who were infiltrating Sanchez's syndicate. However, he gets Sanchez to believe one of his associates was behind the attempt instead. Sanchez has the associate brutally executed and he gives Bond a place in his inner circle.

  • Harry Potter:
    • In a rare villainous example, Voldemort is unaware that Harry is his final (de facto) Horcrux. As a result, he gave himself a way to win even after the other sources of his power were destroyed. He ruins it, though, by using the Killing Curse on Harry again.
    • The heroes had one in place as well. Dumbledore originally planned to depower the Elder Wand by having Snape kill him by consent. This was ruined when Draco Malfoy Disarmed him during their encounter, and Dumbledore never got a chance to reclaim it. Later, Harry Disarmed Draco of his usual hawthorn wand, taking it for his own—and by doing this, Harry (by pure luck) became the master of the Elder Wand, essentially preventing Voldemort from ever becoming its master. This is eventually what allows Harry to win against Voldemort.
    • It happens all the time in the series. Harry even lampshades this.
    "We plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose."
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf and Aragorn's Batman Gambit pays off in getting the One Ring to Mount Doom, but the One Ring itself spans their plans by finally corrupting Frodo at the last crucial moment. Fortunately, Gollum shows up to take the ring for himself before accidentally falling into the volcano and destroying it.
  • Foundation and Empire: Devers constructs an elaborate plan to defeat Bel Riose and The Empire, only for it to do nothing. Instead, political infighting on Trantor wins the war for them. This is taken as a sign of the inevitability of the Seldon Plan's success.
  • When the heroes of Relativity encounter a powerful telepath named August Moon, they find it nearly impossible to fight him because he can read their minds and know what their attacks will be before they make them. At one point, however, Ravenswood sadly recalls how he and August used to be friends before he became a villain. The memory distracts August long enough for him to be defeated.
  • In the Isaac Asimov short story Waterclap, an engineer from a moon colony tries to sabotage an Underwater City via a suicidal 'accident', believing that space colonization resources are about to be cut in favour of ocean colonization. The ocean city administrator's wife bluffs that she's part of the science budget council, and that the ocean city is prototyping technology intended for colonising Jupiter, which convinces him that his sabotage would backfire. When the engineer stands down and entire thing is over, it is revealed that while the wife was bluffing, the husband is a member of the council, and while they might not have been thinking in that direction before, his wife made a very good argument for why they should conisder colonizing Jupiter...


     Live Action TV  

  • Freqently on The A-Team, prompting Hannibal to spout his Catchphrase, "I love it when a plan comes together."

     Web Animation 
  • RWBY: While Ozpin makes it clear that he doesn't think the teenaged heroes are anywhere near ready take on Salem's forces, he and Qrow try anyway because they have no alternative plan for protecting either Haven Academy or the Relic of Knowledge. During the confrontation, the group unsurprisingly does not do well against the villains. What Ozpin doesn't know is that there are two other plans in play at the same time: Blake rallying the Faunus of Menagerie is what stops the White Fang assault on the school and Raven playing Cinder like a fiddle is what prevents Cinder from obtaining the Relic. While the heroes all learn about Blake's plan, only Yang knows the role that Raven played.
    Qrow: I don't know how, but we did it, Oz.

     Web Original  

  • In Noob: Le Conseil des Trois Factions, Gaea's The Scrooge attitude in Noob turns out to have had ulterior motives. Besides a bunch of money, the plan needed one of the game's larger guilds as a target. When she excecutes it on Roxxor, the biggest guild of the Coalition, she admits that her initial target was Justice from the Empire, her former faction. What happened between the two? Mid-way through Noob, a Frame-Up made her hated in the Empire and she got a literal fan club whose members were convinced that she was a Double Agent faithful to the Coalition. She spent some time basically giving the Sure, Let's Go with That treatment to the fan club while staying in the Empire, but a moment of disappointment with her Empire guild made her change factions, which was made easier by her fan club welcoming her with open arms. With the new faction came a new large guild to target.

     Western Animation  

  • Scooby-Doo loves this trope. Fred's plan to capture the Monster of the Week usually backfires because of Scooby and Shaggy's stupidity but somehow, in a way usually unrelated to Fred's plan, the monster is still caught at the end.
  • At the end of the two-part My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Princess Twilight Sparkle", it is revealed that before he was turned to stone over a thousand years ago, Discord planted magic seeds meant to steal magic from the Tree of Harmony, capture Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, and spread across Equestria. However, the tree's magic prevented the seeds from flourishing. After over a thousand years, the tree weakens just enough for the plants to resume Discord's original intent. By this time, though, Discord had undergone a Heel–Face Turn, though it still amused him to sit back and see how it played out as an impromptu test for Twilight.
  • In Young Justice it seems like the Aqualad double agent plan is doomed to failure thanks to Miss Martian inflicting a Mind Rape on him to "avenge" Artemis who wasn't really dead. Artemis manages to bring her onto Black Manta's sub via a staged kidnapping to fix the damage, but now Miss Martian can't escape without exposing the scheme. Cue Sportsmaster and Chesire raiding Manta's sub also trying to avenge Artemis and inadvertantly breaking her out, allowing her to escape and cover her tracks.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Gem Drill", Peridot and Steven drill into the depths of the Earth to reach the Cluster, an enormous conglomeration of shattered Gem shards left beneath the surface by Homeworld, and destroy it before it awakens and destroys the Earth. Peridot's drill is unable to damage the Cluster, but Steven is able to use his empathetic powers to communicate with the Cluster and convince its components to bubble each other and save the Earth.


  • The Old Spice commercials fit this trope pretty well. It was supposed to advertise a body wash, but no-one seemed to buy that particular product. However, the Old Spice brand as a whole has become far more popular.
  • Go Fish. A house rule (so common that most people don't know it's not a base rule) is that if you ask for the wrong card and your normally turn-ending penalty draw either completes a pair or it's what you asked for, it doesn't end your turn.


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