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Unspoken Plan Guarantee

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"When there is a plan, things cannot go according to it. If they do, the plan becomes a spoiler."

The chances of The Plan succeeding are inversely proportional to how much of the plan the audience knows about beforehand.

As corollaries, you can ensure A Simple Plan's success by making it an unspoken plan, and guarantee failure by telling the audience the full details of the Zany Scheme. Expect to hear the phrase "I've got a plan" spoken by one of the characters with no further explanation before the cut to the next scene. Explaining The Plan after it's been carried out is optional.

This, by the way, is why heroes always manage to thwart the villains' Evil Plan. The villains always insist on boasting about their evil plan and how exactly they're going to pull it off.

Admittedly, the reason for revealing only failed plans to the audience is obvious. There's no drama in something going wrong if no one knows what was supposed to happen. Conversely, where's the drama in seeing exactly what you were just told would happen? The only exception is when the plan is Crazy Enough to Work; when every bullet point could Go Horribly Wrong, then each success is a big, suspense-building deal. As a general rule of thumb, if things do go according to how the audience is told, you can expect that the characters are walking into a trap.

This often overlaps with The Law of Conservation of Detail — if a character mentions what they intend to do, rather than just letting us see what they do, it must be because their intention is relevant — which means that their intention and what actually occurs are different.

If the characters are keeping the plan a secret in-setting (rather than merely not letting the audience in on it), authors have a number of justifications handy. Perhaps the hero's allies are under enemy surveillance, or the bad guys can read minds. Perhaps they have other methods for making people talk. Maybe somebody on your team might be an enemy agent. If so, the only way to keep your opponents in the dark is to lie to the people on your side about what the plan is, or not tell them the plan at all.

A few other justifications include:

Related to the above, there are a few snags that can crop up when this appears in a video game — since the audience is also often one of the executors of the plan, and giving a player a scenario to clear without telling them what they're supposed to do to clear it is a fast way to really annoy players.

See also Obstacle Exposition, Gambit Roulette, "I Know What We Can Do" Cut, Despite the Plan, Impossible Mission Collapse, This Is No Time for Knitting. This rule is sometimes violated as a form of Padding. If you want the plan to succeed the way it's explained, consider the Unfolding Plan Montage. Contrast Million to One Chance, where a plan is spoken of, expected by others to fail, yet succeeds. Some Mischievous Body Language may make it clear they have a plan, even if we don't hear it.

Can be undone by "The Villain Knows" Moment.

May contain spoilers.



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  • The "War of Wits" series of commercials for Halo Wars 2. We're given a narrated montage of how Cutter plans to outwit Atriox in a mundane situation, such as getting a car at a lower price or claiming the armrest at a plane, but Atriox always has the last laugh.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Angel Beats!, this is zig-zagged with Otonashi and Angel's plan to lure Yui away from the rest of Girls Dead Monster by insulting her guitar playing and stealing her guitar, which they discuss on-screen. Angel follows the plan to the letter, but since the rest of the band had previously criticized Yui's poor performance, she gets depressed instead of angry, and doesn't give chase. Otonashi and Angel sneak back to the band's room, and when Yuri storms out again, she sees Angel and gives chase, enabling Angel and Otonashi to execute the second phase of their plan as they'd originally envisioned.
  • Everyone in Assassination Classroom is out to kill Koro-sensei, an unstoppable octopus who will destroy the world if he isn't killed within a year. Expect every assassination attempt on Koro-sensei's life to fail miserably and hilariously if the plan is explained to the reader beforehand. The most successful attempts, which merely injure him or catch him off guard, have always been kept as a surprise to the reader until the last possible moment.
    • Subverted during Nagisa's second duel with Takaoka. All of the conditions, drawbacks, and psychological aspects behind the "secret killing technique" are explained in meticulous detail right before Nagisa flawlessly pulls it off on Takaoka and wins the fight.
  • Attack on Titan: Erwin invokes this by keeping everyone but a handful of trusted individuals in the dark about his real plan to capture the Female Titan because he suspects (rightly) that an infiltrator would alert the Female Titan to the plan. Subverted in that she manages to break free and escape anyway. Fortunately, the protagonists are still able to identify the Female Titan, thanks to Armin's encounter with her.
    • Subverted during the Battle of Shinganshina: Erwin explains his plan for the audience to hear, and it plays out exactly as he describes. The remaining soldiers sacrifice themselves to distract the Beast Titan, allowing Levi to swoop in and tear him apart. Unfortunately, Erwin forgot to account for the Cart Titan, who rushes in to rescue Zeke as Levi is planning his next move.
    • Played straight during the final arc: After obtaining his future self's memories, Eren never once discussed a single detail of his own hidden agendas to anyone — not Mikasa, not Armin, not Zeke, nor anyone else in the Survey Corps. It all pays off. He gets everything he'll ever need to end the war against Marley and then some. His plan was to increase tension between Paradis and Marley so much that they would have to launch a surprise attack on Paradis, and using the battle to travel to the Paths, to convince Ymir to end the world outside. And to realize that the readers of the story didn't have any clue what his goal was, until it was far too late.
  • In Koimonogatari, Kaiki tells Senjougahara in advance the lie he plans to use to con Sengoku. Sure enough, when he finally pulls the trigger on his plan, Sengoku doesn't believe him for a second.
  • Black Lagoon. Eda explains an extremely dubious plan for extorting Greenback Jane, involving Jane barely escaping with her life from a hotel room while chased by a Carnival of Killers. Revy is just about to drive off in disgust when Jane turns up right on cue. Unfortunately everything after that goes to hell, because if Eda has explained the plan earlier, Revy and Rock could have told her their getaway boat was out of the harbor.
  • Used in varying degrees throughout Code Geass, most notably with the Zero Requiem. Although Lelouch and Suzaku refer to it in nearly every scene from R2 22 onwards, its true nature isn't revealed — or even hinted at — until the climax of the final episode, as it's being executed. Naturally, it works perfectly.
  • Averted in Death Note, but only at the end of the least important story arc. The details of the other two arc-concluding Batman Gambits are sprung when there's nothing anyone could realistically do about it, and the many Gambits in between as well as the final one fit this trope to a tee.
  • Inverted and then played straight in Digimon Fusion, with Yuu's plan on how to defeat team Xros Heart. It's only over the course of the battle that we learn the plan was to counter the tried and true strategy of Taiki leading the front line, Nene providing reinforcements, and Kiriha striking out on his own to flank the enemy. A pity Kiriha had his own unspoken and unmentioned plan consisting of swapping their digimon, completely outmaneuvering him and shooting for the ultimate goal of defeating the opposing general.
  • Double Subversion in Dragon Ball Z. Goku intentionally kept his plan to have Gohan kill Cell instead of him since he knew all too well he was far too weak to do it a secret from everyone, including his own son. When the time came to kill Cell in a weakened state, Gohan instead opted to let him suffer since he went a tad Drunk with Power, regardless of how much Goku begged him, Cell took this time to become a living bomb that would destroy Earth. Goku ended up having to pull a Heroic Sacrifice because of this, which in and of itself was subverted when Cell by incredible luck ended up regenerating From a Single Cell and becoming even more powerful, Gohan was just barely able to permanently kill him. The plan also almost failed before that, because Goku overlooked the fact that Gohan lacks Goku's innate love of combat (something that Piccolo angrily berates Goku about) and thus has a much harder time awakening his full power than Goku or Vegeta would have. Luckily for all the people of Earth, Cell is intrigued by the idea of fighting Gohan at full power, and gleefully pushes him past the Rage Breaking Point to awaken it.
  • Happens a lot in Eyeshield 21 when the Devil Bats use a trick play. Interestingly, the memorable onside kick against Shinryuji was literally an unspoken plan — Hiruma never spoke the plan to the rest of the team due to them being out of time to do so, but they picked up on it anyway. The plan succeeds despite being revealed to the audience directly before its execution.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: When Lt. Ross is implicated in an investigation into Gen. Hughes' death and then escapes jail with Barry the Chopper's help, Col. Mustang appears to believe she is the guilty party and goes after her without waiting for evidence or orders. In reality, he helps her fake her death and get out of Amestris. This works because neither the audience or even the Elrics are privy to his plan until the next episode after the plan has been implemented.
  • Frieren: Beyond Journey's End: On several occasions, characters are seen discussing plans with each other, but with no dialogue to let the audience in on the plan. The discussion is usually depicted after the plan goes off, with the speech this time.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • This is how the manga operates. Heroes come across a bad guy with some crazy, never-before-seen power. The heroes look like they're in a tight spot. Some craziness happens which leaves the villain either dead or begging for mercy. Hero explains their brilliant plan at the end of the chapter arc. And it's all glorious.
    • A double subversion happens in Joseph's fight against Esidisi. Joseph has internal monologue explaining his plan to the audience. While at first it seems Esidisi outsmarted the spoken plan, it ends up working anyway. Then it's revealed that there was a secondary part of the plan that hadn't been explained to the audience ahead of time.
  • In the end of the first season of K, the audience doesn't hear as Shiro describes his plan to the Gold King. There's just the implication that it'll involve him risking his life.
    • There's also Fushimi's fake defection in the second season — he and Munakata made the plan and enacted it, making it a "We Would Have Told You, But..." to the audience and the rest of their Clan.
  • Generally played mostly straight in Kaiji, where we usually only find out the least important half of the plan in advance, such as when we see Kaiji use balance theory to win a game with scissors but don't know that he expects the opponent to discover balance theory and thus walk into a second trap, or when we see him deliberately mark the cards against Tonegawa but don't know that he wants Tonegawa to realize it's a trap. Played painfully straight in the final game; Kaiji explains his grand scheme to overthrow the chairman in meticulous detail four episodes before the end of the series. No prizes for guessing that it blows up in his face.
    • Used in both arcs of the second season, too. Kaiji's initial plan is explained in great detail, but inevitably fails. Kaiji figures out the trick to winning, but we only see hints of what he's thinking and have to wait until the plan unfolds to learn about his successful plans. Especially satisfying against The Bog, where there are 3-4 steps to the plan that are revealed as each one comes into play.
  • Kirby: Right Back at Ya!:
    • Episode 10 has Tuff decide to go on a crime-spree to prevent the only cop in town, Chief Bookem, from being fired.
    • Dedede and Escargoon do this to each other quite often as well.
  • In Liar Game, every spoken plan is either fatally flawed or already used by a rival. And every unspoken plan is either a bluff or the winning masterstroke.
  • Referenced in the Lucky Star OVA during the volleyball match, where Konata announces that it's time to use the "Jet Stream Attack" and Konata, Tsukasa, and Misao get in position... until Misao asks just what is a "Jet Stream Attack", whereupon Konata bemoans how she wasn't supposed to say that and now the plan won't work.
  • Lupin III is a frequent abuser of this trope. No matter how clever the bad guys are, Lupin always one-ups them at the last minute with a new gadget or a brilliant ruse — the audience knows he always has something up his sleeve, but we're almost never told what. The more thought and planning we see go into a caper, the less likely the gang will have any loot by the end.
    • This trope is subverted at the beginning of the Made-for-TV Movie Lupin III: Seven Days Rhapsody. The special starts with, as with every special, a successful heist (this time, taking the money off the hands of some rich men during a horse race), but it turns out to be a flashforward as part of Lupin explaining the plan to Jigen one week before the heist will take place. The "Seven Days" the two of them are waiting for. Then, at the end of the special, a Double Subversion takes place, as Lupin gets to the tracks, but the horse race was cancelled due to weather conditions.
    • It was averted once: One of Monkey Punch's only rules for Lupin III: Dead or Alive was that Lupin and the gang had to get the treasure in the end.
  • Zigzagged in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, where Aeolia Schernberg's unspoken plan doesn't necessarily succeed or fail, just that it's hijacked and changed halfway through by the Big Bad. Even after the plan is put back on track by the heroes and eventually does succeed, the details of what the original plan was supposed to be are never revealed.
  • Played with in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, where ZAFT's strategy is to capture the Earth Alliance's three mass drivers. However, the invasion force thought (by both sides) to be used to capture the third one is instead suddenly given orders to attack the EA's HQ, which was the real plan all along. It seems that the EA is set up for an ambush when its revealed that a commander who knew about the plan is a double agent and tipped off the EA in time to set up a trap.
  • In Muhyo and Roji, Tomas uses forbidden magical law to give himself armor, and allow him to use a magical vacuum, resulting in him forcing the eponymous duo on the defensive. Muhyo then comes up with an idea, and after getting his attention, the scene cuts to Tomas, then back to Roji, who's incredulous as to whether it will work. Roji then throws out several Wards of Dissipation, which Muhyo's envoys then ride, enabling them to cut Tomas to pieces. The plan works, until Tomas reveals his armor's true strength, forcing the heroes to come up with a new plan to defeat their opponent.
  • Can frequently act as a spoiler in battle in Naruto. If we're hearing the Inner Monologue of someone thinking up a plan it's pretty guaranteed to fail unless they had some failsafe we didn't hear about.
    • On a broader strategic level, the discussed plan to capture Sasori's spy (Kabuto) in Orochimaru's men fails when Kabuto attacks Yamato, who is disguised as Sasori, instead of Orochimaru when he comes to interrupt the meeting, a possibility Yamato had not accounted for at any point in the discussions or his internal monologues.
    • There are frequently heroic examples. If, at any time, someone pulls off a gambit towards his enemy, the perspective shifts towards the enemy himself (showing his thoughts about the situation and assumption about enemies plans) or a bystander. Shikamaru is notorious of this. Having an IQ of 200 he usually outgambits his opponents.
      • The fight between him and Temari, a skilled plotter herself, shows her line of thoughts figuring out his technique and how he plans to catch her with it. (Un)fortunately he is still one step ahead of her.
      • During the Sasuke Retrieval Arc, Shikamaru is facing off against a kunoichi that is able to control a group of monsters through flute-playing, and Shikamaru can't fight three opponents at once. He takes cover behind a tree and then goes over the inventory of the tools he has in his pouch. That's it. Next he's just throwing things at a way precisely calculated to get her into the optimum position for him to use his final tool, a flash bomb that allows him to use his Shadow Controlling Jutsu to take control of her monsters and control them the way she does.
      • During their first battle against Zabuza, Naruto comes up with a successful paln for him and Sasuke to free their teacher Kakashi from Zabuza's water prison, without even speaking a word. He simply tosses a Fuuma Shuriken to Sasuke and expects him to know what to do. It turns out that the the shuriken is actually Naruto himself, who covertly switched places with one of his own Shadow Clones. Despite not remotely being friends and rarely having worked together at this point, Sasuke figured this out because Naruto had transformed into a copy of Sasuke's fuuma shuriken, and he knows that Naruto is terrible at throwing shuriken and thus obviously wouldn't have devoted space in his backpack to carrying one. So Sasuke covertly pulls out his own shuriken and throws them both together. Zabuza catches the real shuriken, notices the second one behind it and jumps to dodge...and then it transforms back into Naruto who throws a kunai from behind. To evade that attack, Zabuza had to remove his hand from the water prison he'd created, allowing Kakashi to escape.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi pulls this off perfectly, during the festival arc. Chao's plan to reveal magic to the world is not explained until after Negi and company are forced a week into the future, where it has already succeeded. Upon learning HOW the plan goes, they proceed to go back in time using Cassiopiea. This plan almost fails because it is explained, mostly, before hand, however several parts of the plan are left vague until the end... all of which succeed perfectly. Upon returning to the 3rd day of the festival, Negi and Company attempt to avert the plan. They technically FAIL, which is either a subversion because they knew the plan, or upholding the trope because it wasn't Chao who explained it to them, but Negi defeats Chao in combat, so she changes her wish.
    • In Chapters 240-248, this trope is played straight, subverted, and toyed with. Negi goes into the match with some crazy plan to defeat Rakan that only he knows. Negi reveals one new ability after another, but it's never enough to defeat Rakan. Finally, Negi tricks Rakan into using one of his insanely powerful magical blasts on Negi. It's then revealed that the match was planned as a set-up by Negi: during an earlier lightning-fast attack which seemed too weak to defeat Rakan, he had also set up a magic circle that allowed him to absorb Rakan's attack. Negi then uses Rakan's own insane attack against him. This still isn't enough to defeat Rakan, but both of them are exhausted, breaking it down into a mere fistfight that ends in a draw.
    • Played straight in the most over the top way possible later on. There's a chapter dedicated to explaining exactly how the plan is supposed to proceed, complete with diagrams explaining every little detail. The following chapter sees the plan ruined by a series of Wham Episodes. Good thing that most of the exposition was still relevant anyway.
    • Also played straight in that Negi has a plan to save the Magical World from its seemingly inevitable destruction which he has apparently explained to no one, even the people he should be convincing he can do it.
  • Played straight in both variations in One Piece. During the civil war of Arabasta, Zoro comes up with a plan to tell each other apart, just in case the one guy that can copy people's bodies tries to interfere. They all wrap bandages around their left arm. When the time comes, the body-copier also has the bandages on his left arm. The kicker? Beneath the bandages was an X on their arms, which we were not told.
  • Chapter 41 of Pluto has Professor Roosevelt about to go into his plan on a surefire way to kill Gesicht, but the chapter ends before he can do so. The plan works and Gesicht dies.
  • Averted in Chapters 32 and 33 of The Promised Neverland. Emma and Ray's plan to set the house on fire in order to distract from their escape works perfectly. The following chapters play it straight, as it turns out Emma and Norman had been planning certain details on the side, keeping Ray Locked Out of the Loop.
  • Played with in the second half of Re:CREATORS, where the heroes invoke the trope in their backup plan to defeat the Military Uniform Princess note  by not talking about it until it was already underway. After she foils the backup by absorbing Sirius, the team then inverts it by jinxing their backup-backup plan while using Magane's reversal powers.
  • Saki managed to subvert this while maintaining the suspense: At times, multiple characters' secret plans would be revealed to the audience, but the plans would directly conflict each other, some being plans to out-gambit an opponent. (For example, Koromo trying to use her luck manipulation abilities to win with haitei raoyue, while the others catch on and try to call tiles to affect the turn order in a way that would make it impossible for Koromo to do so.) So several fully-described plans (such as Hisa's bad-wait strategy) would work perfectly, as the suspense came not from whether or not a single plan would work, but rather from the question of which gambit in the Gambit Pileup was going to win out.
  • Beautifully invoked, subverted and inverted by Rio from Spiral. Her plan to outsmart Kanone worked precisely thanks to her explaining it to him.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Every episode up till the 8th features unspoken (or even unplanned) plans, and then they spend half an episode preparing for a well-described plan. Tropers, now is the time to get nervous. The plan actually does work, but Kamina dies (twice) executing it.
  • Subverted in Tiger & Bunny, where Kotetsu's awesome, unspoken plan to Clear his name and get his fellow heroes to remember him turns out to be not very awesome at all. Conversely, the plan that does work is the one he explains onscreen to Barnaby, just with one critical detail left out to fool Barnaby's telepathic opponent: that sonic grenade Kotetsu gave him was actually a flash grenade.
  • Averted in Tokyo Mew Mew; the group discusses a plan to deal with a school of fish chimera anima, and the plan is successfully executed exactly as discussed. Then again, the threat they dealt with was a diversion (which the reader already knew about, as part of Pai's discussed plan to pollute Tokyo Bay, which fails). Most other combination attacks are discussed before being executed.
  • Touhou Bougetsushou has a double subversion. Details of Yukari's plan to invade the moon get revealed as the plot advances, like relying on Remilia's ego to set her up as a distraction. However, during the actual invasion Yukari gets caught and it seems like she failed...then at the very end it's revealed that she was also a distraction, while Yuyuko sneaks into the Lunar Capital undetected. Carrying the "unspoken" part a step further, Yuyuko didn't even get an explanation herself; Yukari just trusted that she'd be able to figure it out on her own with only the vaguest of hintsnote .
  • Episode 18 of The Wallflower has one of these plans as to how the tenants are going to save Sunako from a mob.
  • Wedding Peach: Played with in the first piano episode. First Parodied: Yuri's plan consists of invoking the ghost of a friend's dead sister with piano music so she will encourage the friend to resume practicing piano. Both Momoko and Hinagiku think this plan is ridiculous. Played straight in that their real plan, have Momoko pretend to be said dead sister, is interrupted by a devil attack, but ultimately subverted as the plan never actually goes into motion because the real ghost actually shows up, just as in the original conception.
  • Used frequently in Ya Boy Kongming! by Kongming, as would be expected of a reincarnated military strategist. He goes as far as invoking it after getting Eiko a spot at a music festival Owner Kobayashi is interested in Kongming's plan to draw singers to Eiko's stage to which Kongming replies: "A secret plan is all the more a sure-fire strategy when it remains concealed." The plan proceeds to work flawlessly.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! not only does this straight, but makes it extremely obvious where many duels go where the face down cards of hero and villain alike often go unknown until they are used much like a spectator would see. Almost every time this trope is employed the flow is broken where the character would not only completely explain his plan in a drawn out monologue, but often visualize what could have happened. This even occasionally goes for face-up cards, when their abilities go unmentioned until the point where they become relevant, even though in the real card game it's important to know all the abilities of your opponent's cards. In general, if a character starts internally monologuing about how they're going to win next turn, expect that they won't get a next turn.
  • YuYu Hakusho: One notable occurrence has Kurama attempt a suicide plan to defeat his opponent, which he completely thinks to himself. It goes completely according to plan, except for Kurama dying.

    Asian Animation 
  • Most plans in BoBoiBoy are either not spoken or the planning scenes are skipped, sometimes with flashbacks to the planning scene once the plan works. Inverted in "Kidnapped!", where the only part the audience hear from Tok Aba's plan (let Adu Du capture Gopal) succeed, while the part the audience don't hear (Gopal is supposed to pretend to sleep, then get BoBoiBoy inside) failed.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: Whatever the First Doctor's plan for defeating Kali Korash was in Tales from the Vault, it obviously worked. However, the listener never gets to hear it because the wax cylinder is so deteriorated that the recording fades out before Steven can explain it.

  • In Fause Foodrage, also inverted; the queen tells Wise William that if they exchange children, they will each raise the other's child properly and when they meet, exchange code words to ensure that they can tell that the child is doing well without being caught. Then it cuts to the time when Wise William tells the queen's son Secret Legacy.
  • Tam Lin inverts this: he describes in great detail exactly what she is to do — and then we are told, in one verse, that she did exactly that. (Does prevent the repetition problem just as well.)

    Comic Books 
  • Odds are you'll find out Batman had X gadget after he's used it. Not before.
  • In the Marvel Fear Itself crossover, we have yet to be told what Loki's plan for defeating the Serpent is (outside of the fact that he seems to be the only person with a plan at all and that it's a brains-over-brawn plan). Since we have no clue, it is therefore likely to succeed, according to this trope. And the fact that Loki is a Magnificent Bastard.
    • Likewise, Odin's "destroy Earth to stop it" plan would never happen once they mentioned it (and because it would end the comic).
    • Iron Man also had some sort of a plan here, and went to explain it to Odin in an effort to get him to not destroy Earth. It wasn't revealed until the finale, when he returned to Earth with a set of uru-forged weapons for all of the Avengers.
  • Subversion: In The Sandman (1989) #22, Morpheus announces to the population of the Dreaming his plan to go to Hell. He mentions that he has "made certain plans" in case he is captured, but not what they are. However, he isn't captured, and the subject doesn't come up again.
  • X-Men teams frequently use telepathy to communicate privately; the "Breakworld" arc of Astonishing X-Men gleefully takes advantage of this to have them set up a plan without cluing in the reader at all. Not until after most of the plan has taken effect do we get to hear what they were really saying in that scene. In issue 22, they discuss the plan out loud. Then, in issue 23, that page is reprinted, but faded into the background and with a second telepathic conversation printed over it.
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool: No Fourth Wall Genre Savvy Gwen explains to the team her basic plan, but not the super-secret backup plan because she knows that plan will not work if she reveals it before the dramatically appropriate moment.
  • In Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze's plan to defeat Lucifer is only revealed after he's delivered the penultimate blow, although the stage was set for the final confrontation a few issues previously.
  • The Avengers: In The Kang Dynasty, Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man make a plan for him to break out of one of Kang's concentration camps that is not revealed until it has succeeded.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): A villainous case with the Many. The heroes don't realize until it's too late that the Many's attack on Castle Bravo was a diversion, meant to draw Godzilla away and cut off the humans' communications, so that Monster X will have no warning and no backup from Godzilla when MaNi comes for them.
  • After has a couple of versions of this — Lauren sends Antonio to distract Jayden, he doesn't tell anyone what he's going to do, and it works, though only because Jayden lets himself be distracted. Later, Lauren explains a plan to the team. The narration says only that she lays out the plan, and then the others start complaining. It works.
  • Arc-Ved Protagonists:
    • When Jaden is dueling Sora in "Dark Fusion", he never reveals what card he added back to his hand with Supreme Command the second time that effect went off. He latter uses it as Fusion material to summon a monster that wins him the duel.
    • Played with in "Coming Right Back". Yoko and Syuzo mention a potential combo Yuya could pull off with the cards in his hand and Graveyard, that could allow him to inflict damage to Yugi every turn without leaving a monster with weaker attack then Dark Magician out on the field, for Yugi to attack. Whether Yuya is aware of this or not is never revealed, and the turn before he could pull it of if it he were, he loses.
  • Happens every so often for KJ in Death Note II: The Hidden Note. We often learn a little bit about the start of the plan, but not how it's supposed to play out.
  • In Curious George Goes to Paris, The Man in the Yellow Hat discusses a plan to save the British soldiers with Corporal McFluffin, which the reader never hears about. The plan goes well until Nazi tanks show up.
  • Didn't Expect That uses a Chekhov's Armory trick where the narrative lays out all the elements of a plan without explaining how they fit together until Kanril Eleya actually puts it into effect. The real trick, there's two plans: she sets a trap to counter the Albino's trap for her, and then sets a different trap to arrest Franklin Drake.
  • In Dungeon Keeper Ami, the reader doesn't get to know what the plan to rescue Jadeite is until it's already being executed, with Tserk going into a Light temple all on its own.
  • In Fallout: Equestria, the plan for defeating the Goddess. Notable in that this trope applies in-story as well; after coming up with the plan, Littlepip tells each member of the party their part in the plan and ONLY their part, and then has her own memories removed. The reason is that the Goddess is telepathic, and Littlepip herself will be facing the Goddess directly. Letting your opponent read your mind and figure out your plan would kind of put a damper on it.
  • In Game Theory, Precia does not reveal to anyone that she has found a way to revive Alicia without traveling to Alhazred, and that she intended use the battle on the Garden of Time to fake their deaths, which works flawlessly. The justification was that if Nanoha or Fate were captured by the TSAB, they could not give her real plans away if they were ignorant of what they were.
  • Hop to It:
    • Played with when Ladybug's plan to lure Cottontail out of her hiding place is only explained after we've seen it fall apart. Played straight with her plan to actually beat her.
    • Played straight again with Rabbit's Batman Gambit to beat Nanny Mite while also drawing out Chameleon. All we get is Rabbit saying, "I have an idea… But it’s dangerous and stupid and we have to split up." Cut to them implementing it almost perfectly — the akuma is defeated and Chameleon falls for their trap by trying to impersonate Ladybug, but he gets away at the last minute because none of the heroes have enough time on their Miraculous for a fight.
  • More Than Enemies:
    • Subverted with Sakura’s nearly suicidal bet to kill Orochimaru’s gigantic summon. Her improved chakra-sensing and her fine chakra-control are enough for her to learn chakra-coating from Ahika while both of them are within the snake’s gastric tract. She then activates an overpowered explosive tag and, miraculously, the snake is torn from the inside and both her and the other shinobi are alive if in severe need of medical aid.
    • Played straight with Kakashi’s idea to bring down Río. The narration spends some time with him pondering just how to defeat a mind-reader and Jiraiya’s failed and awkward bonding attempt with him revolves around creating a seal to cancel out her abilities. When the time comes, it seems to have worked but her resourcefulness and his reluctance to deal the killing blow prompt his plan to fail.
    • Zigzagged with both of Río's crazy plans during the Konoha Crush. The plans do succeed as the unease ROOT-ANBU joint team manages to break the Fuinjutsu barriers caging the former Hokage, Orochimaru, the Sandaime, Danzo, and the Clan Heads, but they derail at some point or another. The first plan goes without a hitch (throw the Hokage Tower to the barrier and exploit the glitch to saturate with chakra the inner layers, then use a ROOT agent’s Kekkei Genkai to support the remaining structures), but the Kekkei Genkai refuse to care about collateral damage. It involved letting the agent be possessed by a psychopath, long-dead Nara whose only goal was to set a score with one of the people inside the barriers. When the Nara gets his fight, his attacks’ splash damage affects Oto, Suna, and Konoha nin indistinctly. Regarding the second plan, Río fakes her death so she can wet the seal tags with a time-consuming and precise Water jutsu. Only one remains when the Clan Heads inside the barrier realize she’s very much alive and stare at her, thus alerting a Suna nin of her ploy. Kakashi warns her in time for her to dodge, but they now need to rely on a third teammate to destroy the last tag.
  • Lampshaded but ultimately averted in the story A New Order. Hino-sensei (Rei's grandfather) has been arrested, but Usagi needs his help to tell when the Dark Kingdom bus is coming, so she decided to secretly reveal to him that she is Sailor Moon and ask for his help. The rest of her team object to this and she explains her plan to them (and the reader). The next day it goes off without a hitch, but because of the previous discussion the audience is expecting it to go catastrophically wrong.
  • Yukari Yakumo initiates an extremely ambitious Thanatos Gambit in A New World, but only feeds her close friend Yuyuko a tiny bit of her plan, knowing she will in turn give the info to Maribel... ensuring her gambit's success.
  • Used in Taaroko's Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 when the gang infiltrate another dimension to rescue Lorin, one of Oz’s band mates, from his people; the author even explicitly notes that she took the idea from the fact that the characters’ plans in the show only worked perfectly when they never revealed what they were doing until it was over.
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni, this is played with in Operation:Steel Lighting, we only know the most basic part of it (that it involves getting a mask on Jackie and somehow using that to steal the masks from Section 13, due to Jade remembering what happened with Jackie Dark in Season 1). The first part doesn't go as planned, with the mask ending up on Captain Black instead, but the plan goes ahead, NEARLY succeeding, and Jade getting a Consolation Prize out of it.
  • The end of Radiance deliberately averts this, making for a couple of very boring chapters.
  • In Spirit Of Redemption the characters acknowledge several times that a good, solid plan will last about thirty seconds.
  • Defied in the Five Nights At Freddys fanfic, Something Always Remains. Mike, Vanna, and William Wickes come up with a plan offscreen. It goes pear-shaped before it can be executed.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged:
    • In Episode 3, Kirito, Sachi and their three NPC "guildmates" fall into an ambush, and Sachi tries to come up with an escape plan on the fly.
      Sachi: (near-panic) It's okay, we'll just grab one of the Teleport Crystals from Gary!
      Kirito: Who the fuck is Gary?!
      Gary: We must save my family! (teleports out alone)
      Sachi: That was Gary...
      Kirito: Of course it was!
      Sachi: No no no, it's fine! Charlie's got a bunch of health potions!
      Kirito: Which one's Charlie?! (an NPC dies) Nevermind, I got it.
      Sachi: Well, we still- (the last NPC dies)
      Kirito: Oh god, STOP!
    • In Episode 9, Kirito goes through an Imagine Spot strategizing for his duel with Heathcliff, and comes out of it just in time to find he's already lost.
      Kirito: (thinking) Alright, I think this'll work! Time to do this thing why am I on the ground?
      Announcer: And the winner, with a blistering four-second knockout is... Heathcliff!
      Heathcliff: Heh. Noob.
  • In Zero Context: Taking Out the Trash, Aldonza and Zapana are discussing how to deal with a giant mecha. Most of Aldonza's attacks can't phase it; while Zapana fares better, she risks the mecha's reactor going nuclear and obliterating the neighborhood. In addition, the mech is coated with magic-nullifying armor that can shut down any attacks from their supernatural allies. The suggestion is eventually made to hit it "with the type of magic that doesn't care one whit for magic negation". How they plan to do this isn't clear at first, since everyone's combat capabilities had already been well-established, leaving both the readers and the story's antagonist to wonder what's going on. Turns out that one more character who had been previously introduced in a throwaway line back in the first chapter was lying in wait for the right moment; when Zapana serves the mecha over to her, she annihilates it in style.
  • Invoked in Z To A; when Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Stephen Strange, Wanda Maximoff and Peter Parker arrive at Voromir to retrieve the Soul Stone and learn of the price that must be paid to get it, Strange reveals that he already looked to the future and confirmed that this combination of visitors are the only ones who can visit Voromir and leave with the Soul Stone without losing anyone. This is because Peter and Wanda have been sent back in time by the Stones from a future where Wanda "already" sacrificed Peter, with this deal still applying even though Peter and Wanda won't do that again.

    Films — Animation 
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Finding Nemo with Gill's plan to escape the fish tank, which involves sabotaging the filter so that the dentist will have to clean the tank, during which he'll put all the fish into water-filled bags that they'll use to roll out of the office and to the ocean. The first attempt fails completely, and almost gets Nemo killed. The second time Nemo tries, he succeeds, and the plan seems to be in motion — until the dentist installs a new filter, wrecking the plan. Nemo still manages to escape down the drain into the sewer system, thanks to a series of events that have nothing to do with the plan. At the end, the new filter breaks, forcing the dentist to clean the tank—and the rest of the fish finally escape as planned... until they realise, while stuck in plastic bags bobbing in the ocean, that they hadn't properly thought through the plan anyway!
  • Played with in Kung Fu Panda 3: preparing for his final battle with Kai, Po reasons that he needs to get close enough to Kai to employ the Wuxi Finger Hold. We then see a Training Montage where Po drills the other pandas not in kung fu but in skills they already possess (hugging, hacky-sack, ribbon dancing), then moving on to weaponizing those skills (hugging logs so hard they splinter, using fireworks instead of hacky-sacks and nunchucks instead of ribbons). Even amid the training, Po's plan is still not revealed; when he announces, "They are ready," Tigress is scratching her head. Finally, when Kai arrives with the jade-zombie army of martial arts masters, Po springs his plan and the other pandas succeed in holding their own against the jombies and distracting Kai enough for Po to get close enough for the Wuxi. Which does not work on Kai because he is no longer mortal. The parts of Po's plan that we don't fully know about in advance work flawlessly. The part he discusses in the beginning (the Wuxi Finger Hold) doesn't.
  • Averted in The Land Before Time, where Littlefoot explains in detail how they're going to kill Sharptooth and things work out more or less as advertised.
  • Mulan has the title character and the Guy Trio not saying anything onscreen about how to get into the palace, save the emperor, and defeat Shan Yu. They just enact the plan as if they had. What little there is of it, as Mulan admits to Mushu that she's being forced to think on the fly.
  • Toy Story:
    • In the first Toy Story, Woody's rescue of Buzz Lightyear (and cause Sid to become scared of his toys) wasn't elaborated upon until the plan was executed. It went off without a hitch.
    • In Toy Story 3, there's the plan Woody makes to have the toys escape from Sunnyside. The only detail we get to hear is that they will use the garbage chutes to escape, and everything works perfectly up until that stage of the escape.
  • In Zootopia, Judy and Nick's climactic Batman Gambit was very successful, but the audience knew nothing about it other than Nick's desperate reassurance, "We'll think of something."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Used in All the President's Men when Woodward and Bernstein plan out a conversation they will have with a reluctant informant. (They say that they know things they really only suspect and wait for her to confirm them by saying "How did you know that?") Justified because it's necessary for the audience to understand why they spoke to her the way they did.
  • In The A-Team this is part of the plot. When we see the team planning the mission to steal the counterfeit money-printing plates early in the film, we are not told the whole plan. Why? Because B.A. isn't supposed to hear it either, since it is necessary for him to not know that he's going to end up locked in a cargo container being flown away by a helicopter piloted by Murdock as he would not agree to it. Then the plan goes awry after its completion because they're attacked by the Private Military Contractors whose job it originally was, who kill the general who had given them the off-the-books orders (actually, he was working with them and faked his death) and make off with the plates.
  • Back to the Future:
    • Zigzagged in all three Back to the Future movies. In the climax of all three films, Doc creates an elaborate plan to get Marty and himself out of whatever time travel trouble they find themselves in, which the audience is told in great detail by Doc. All three times, something goes wrong, but the plan ultimately works out.
      • In the first film, Doc's plan to use the clock tower's lightning bolt is almost undone when the cable is broken apart by a tree branch falling on it, as well as the engine to the time machine dying. Marty manages to get the car restarted, and 1955 Doc just barely gets the cables reconnected just as the lightning bolt strikes. Turns out 1955 Doc's timing was off, anyways.
      • The second film plays with this more. The plan boils down to "don't interfere in 1955 events until we can avoid a Time Paradox," and that plan works as stated. It just takes a lot longer with a lot more close calls than Marty and Doc would have liked.
      • The final film spells out the plan to use a train to push the time machine up to 88 miles per hour, which almost fails when Clara nearly becomes a Spanner in the Works after coming back to give Doc an Anguished Declaration of Love. Doc saves her from falling off the train, but misses out on climbing into the time machine, meaning Marty goes back to 1985 alone.
      • Marty's plan to use an iron stove door to survive being shot by Mad Dog Tannen, on the other hand, is not revealed to the viewers ahead of time, and works perfectly.
      • Subversion as the plan was foreshadowed, but in Part II, rather than Part III. Right as Marty confronts Biff about the Sports Almanac, Biff is seen watching A Fistful of Dollars, specifically the scene where Clint Eastwood's character does the same exact name. In Part III, Marty identifies himself as "Clint Eastwood" early on, and before Marty pulls the stunt, he's reminded of this when one of the saloon patrons asks if he's really going to let people say Clint Eastwood was the biggest coward in the West.
    • In the first film, Marty tries to warn 1955 Doc with a note that in 1985, terrorists are going to kill him during the DeLorean experiment at the Twin Pines Mall (referring to a scene earlier in the film). Doc seems to disregard the note and shreds it up, saying it's dangerous to try to change the timeline like that. When Marty returns to what is now Lone Pine Mall in 1985, Doc appears to be shot dead just like in the original iteration...but Doc comes out fine and reveals to Marty — and the audience — that he taped the note back together and put on a bulletproof vest for the occasion.
  • Played with in Bad Times at the Battle Royale. Most aspects of the hide-and-seek and cup-stacking sabotages don't exactly work because key details are said aloud by Jason. By the time the penalty shootout is about to start, Emily catches on and outright lampshades it to him.
    Emily: Although next time you tell me your plan, you don't say tiny parts of it or the whole thing out loud.
    Jason: Why not?
    Emily: Anytime you do, the plan tends to backfire. If those movies I watched on my cable box were of any indication...
  • The Boondock Saints: several times we see the brothers about to embark on some plan or other, then the movie cuts to the scene of the crime and we learn how it was done as Agent Smecker narrates how it must have happened. Usually, he gets it right.
  • Played both ways in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day; in an early scene, the brothers discuss their plan for assaulting some gangsters, complete with voice-over cinematics. In the next scene, the police mention that "whatever happened, it was a botched plan", with voice-over cinematics showing exactly how it was botched. Much later in the movie, they are about to discuss the plan when the camera focus leaves the group; Cut to the police discussing the precision and deftness with which the attack was carried out, as a voice-over to them succeeding.
  • Played straight in A Bridge Too Far. Immediately after the outline of Operation Market Garden is given to the Allied generals, the first sign that it will fail is given when the Germans send an SS Panzer Corps to one of the target cities to refit by sheer coincidence.
  • In The Criminal, Bannion has been working on a plan for robbing the racetrack for years while he has been in prison. However, the audience never finds out exactly what the plan is as we are never privy to his discussions with his gang. It is not even shown on screen, as Bannion. Ted and Charles enter the bookies office and the camera stays on Quantock in the getaway car. Whatever the plan is, it works, as the trio exit the office with the cash. It is only after The Caper that things start to fall apart.
  • In Daybreakers, when Edward and Audrey are captured, cured Edward is pushing Bromley to feed on him because Frankie was cured after biting cured Elvis. We aren't told this until quite a bit after the scene.
  • Shows up in The Dirty Dozen, as the Dozen go over their infiltration plan multiple times, including a mnemonic for memorizing all 16 steps. The plan starts breaking down almost immediately but they have enough redundancy to compensate. When halfway through the mission things really go wrong, the plan falls apart and they have to improvise the rest of the way.
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Ex Machina. Caleb's escape plan is discussed in full before being put into action, leading viewers to expect something to go wrong. Sure enough, Nathan reveals he saw the whole thing via a battery-powered camera. Then it turns out Caleb anticipated that, and did all the legwork the first time he got Nathan drunk, before even mentioning the plan to Ava. And then things go sideways anyway, because Ava turns on Caleb.
  • Pulled at the end of 2 Fast 2 Furious. All we know about the plan Brian and Roman are hatching is that 1) they need two more cars, 2) said cars need to be outfitted with something made from nitrous tanks, and 3) they need a nearby warehouse. When the plan is pulled off, everything works perfectly. Except for the part where Brian's passenger-side ejector seat fails. However, Carter Verone has an unspoken plan of his own that also works.
    • Averted in Fast & Furious 6. Shaw is planning to attack a convoy to acquire one of the MacGuffins, while Dom's team puts together a plan to spot him. We never hear Dom's plan, but it gets rendered moot once Shaw hijacks a tank.
  • In his review of A Few Good Men, Roger Ebert was disappointed that the third act contained an aversion — things played out how the protagonist outlined they would.
  • Un Flic has two unspoken plans, one goes better than the other.
    • It starts with a vanilla bank robbery, which starts going wrong when the teller hits the alarm.
    • Later, The robbers talk vaguely about a Train Job. This turns out to involve their leader being lowered onto a speeding train from a helicopter at night, and goes perfectly.
  • Carefully laid out plans are made for the overthrowing of Emperor Commodus in Gladiator involving the release of Maximus and a coup against the empire. The plan fails when they are betrayed by a Senator.
  • The Godfather
    • Michael's scheme for wiping out all of the Corleone Family's enemies at the end of the movie. He never spoke of it and actually continually gave away details of planning to do the exact opposite to cover himself. Needless to say, the plan works perfectly.
    • Surprisingly averted earlier in the movie. The Corleones' plan to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey works almost exactly as intended, the only suspense coming from Michael's hesitating a bit longer than he was advised to before pulling the trigger.
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch: Billy fully explains his first plan to kill all the Gremlins, which is to have them all go into the lobby and then get killed by the sunlight. This plan fails. For his second plan, Billy only tells a horrified Mr. Futterman to fire water into the Gremlins, but does not explain the part about releasing the electric Gremlin. This plan succeeds.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Double Subverted. The Guardians' plan to infiltrate the Dark Aster and kill Ronan before he can reach Xandar's surface is gone over in detail beforehand, and despite a number of obstacles, manages to go off perfectly. Until they actually fire the killing missile shot at Ronan, and he tanks it without a scratch. They're able to defeat Ronan through hasty improvising after that.
  • In Hangmen Also Die!, we hear that the Resistance has a plan to save the hostages without surrendering Heydrich's killer, but we don't find out what it is. It turns out that their plan is to frame a collaborator in their midst for the assassination. The plan is only partially successful; the traitor gets blamed for the assassination and is killed by the Nazis (though he is posthumously determined to have been innocent thereof), but the hostages including Professor Novotny are killed regardless.
  • Lampshaded in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
    Harry: We've got to go there. Now.
    Hermione: What? We can't do that! We've got to plan! We've got to figure out—
    Harry: Hermione! When have any of our plans ever actually worked? We plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose!
  • The Heist, directed by David Mamet, is this trope extruded out for 90 minutes. Thankfully, all the double-crosses and surprises make sense at the very end.
  • The Home Alone franchise typically shows a series of brief clips of the protagonist child preparing his traps before the climactic showdown, with the intent of the traps not being fully revealed until they've each been sprung on the Bad Guys.
  • Inglourious Basterds has a variation. Shoshanna's plan to burn down her theater while it was full of Nazis goes off perfectly, but she doesn't live to see it. She wasn't planning to survive the fire anyway, but she also wasn't planning to get shot out of nowhere by her admirer.
  • In Into the Woods, unlike the stage show, we don't know the full plan to kill the Giant until it's executed.
  • Iron Man 2: After the glowing description of the Ex-Wife's effects, did anybody expect it to actually work? It works in the novelization.
  • The Matrix Reloaded spends a good five minutes describing the plan and showing it being executed in the intercuts. As soon as all details are established, things get wrong.
  • Megaforce: The first act closes with Ace Hunter explaining "Operation Hook, Line and Sinker" in complete detail (the "Hook" part being ticking off evil General Guerrera by blowing up a munitions depot and the "Line and Sinker" parts being to have Guerrera chase the Megaforce into the country of Sardun for his arrest). It goes without saying that the operation goes completely to hell when the country of Gamibia sues Sardun for the destruction and Sardun decides to close its borders, turning it into "get out any way we can".
  • Miss Sloane features a number of plans. A major twist at the end reveals the whole thing was a mastermind plan from the beginning, suggesting the main character's life and career — as well as the movie's plot — may have been just one huge instance of this trope.
  • All over the place in the Mission: Impossible movies:
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Inverted when Sir Bedevere says, "I have a plan" to storm the French castle, but only tells King Arthur the particulars after the Trojan Rabbit is already inside the castle, sans the invasion force.
  • Moon has a variation on the I Work Alone version: the plan for escape is never laid out in detail because presumably the two Sams think enough alike that it can be assumed that it's understood, and the viewer probably has a pretty good guess. It works — except none of the three Sams takes the role originally planned. There's still a Sam who escapes, a Sam who remains and a corpse.
  • Averted with the Olsen-Banden films (as well as the series' Swedish and Norwegian spinoffs), as the criminal mastermind Olsen/Sickan will explain his latest Zany Scheme over a montage of them gathering props and setting things in motion. The plan will almost always work out (mostly due to the humor of seeing the whole absurd thing unfold), and things only go wrong when they're betrayed by the movie's real Big Bad... followed by another Zany Scheme to get back at him.
  • Ocean's Eleven (at least, the modern remake) — in fact, this is a tool of most con genre stories, since you'd lose a lot of tension if you knew exactly what the plan was to begin with — the tension relies on the appearance of it all going wrong, when it's actually going to plan, after all. However, a lot of minor things go wrong. For instance, Yen injures his hand and gets it stuck in the vault door, he misses a jump and nearly trips a laser, they forget the batteries for the signal box to blow the vault door, and so on.
  • Ocean's Twelve too. What the audience believes to be "the plan" is shown to fail miserably. In fact, the real gambit is carried out successfully and silently in the middle of the movie, unannounced, and everything from there on is just a ruse to fool the antagonist.
  • Ocean's Thirteen: The unspoken portion of the plan is focused solely on screwing over Benedict when he tries to screw them.
  • Ocean's 8: It's only after the theft that Daphne reveals she didn't fall for Rose's act. It's only after the revenge plan is fulfilled that Daphne and the audience learn that Debbie's team took advantage of the distraction caused by Daphne's necklace being stolen to steal other jewels from the museum.
  • In The Pink Panther 2, it is only after late into the movie, when the Pink Panther has been stolen and seemingly destroyed, that it is revealed the protagonist Clouseau had swapped the real Pink Panther with a replica and had the real one with him the whole time, meaning the real one was never in any danger- had this been known from the start, a lot of the tension would have been lost.
  • The Producers follows this trope when Bialystock tells Bloom all about his plan, moments after Bloom tells him "Under certain circumstances, you could make more money with a flop than with a hit..."
    Bialystock: "Step One! We find the worst play ever written! Step Two! We hire the worst director in town! Step Three! We raise two million dollars — one for me and one for you! Step Four! We hire the worst actors in New York, and open on Broadway, and before you can say Step Five! We close on Broadway, take the two million, and go to Rio!"
    • Unfortunately, their play somehow becomes a hit, and Step Five never happens. For Max Bialystock, at least.
  • Justified in Push: the Watchers can only predict your future by decisions, i.e., they can only know what you're going to do next if you make a decision to do something and they can see how that interacts with other people's decisions. So to get the better of the bad guys the hero writes letters to each of his team with what to do next, which they open at specific times. He also writes one to himself before having his memory erased.
  • Race to Witch Mountain: Jack Bruno relays his plan to Sarah via telepathy, so that the government agents won't know how they plan to get away.
  • A classic plan that's destined for disaster occurs, complete with visualization in Shaun of the Dead. If the heroes could really "wait for all this to blow over," it wouldn't be much of a horror movie...
  • Shenandoah: When Carter offers to let the boy join his escape plan, he doesn't describe his plan. That night, he, the boy, and their companions wait until the guards are busy shooting after whoever inevitably tries to escape by swimming across the river, then go into the water themselves but cling to the river bank, just out of sight of the nearby guard, and then slowly move off to the side until they're out of sight rather than cross the river.
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009):
    • Played Straight: Lestrade arrests Holmes, and seems to enjoy the thought of turning him in to Lord Coward. However, he was shown to be working with Holmes the time, even slipping him the key to his handcuffs to facilitate his escape.
    • Inversion: Holmes' internal monologue specifically and graphically describes exactly what he's about to do to whatever poor schlub he's fighting and why it'll work, and then does it, and it works. Out-Of-Universe, this is because the enjoyment comes from being able to enjoy the beatdown in slow motion with snarky detailing of the moves and then see it in all its lightning fast brutal glory.
  • Desirée and the Countess' plot to solve their romantic troubles in Smiles of a Summer Night is not revealed to the audience.
  • Star Wars:
    • Played with in A New Hope. The exact Rebel plan to blow up the Death Star is somewhat obvious, and the main briefing is simply about how heavily defended it is. And in the end it is also played straight. Han Solo didn't exactly plan to save Luke and so when he intervened it worked perfectly. (It's also worth noting that it took three tries for the attack to succeed, and the last one was touch-and-go.)
    • Played straight in Return of the Jedi. The Rebel Alliance has a nice elaborate plan involving the operation on both the moon of Endor and in space to sabotage the shields around and destroy the second Death Star respectively. Unfortunately the Emperor had anticipated this. He had a massive legion on Endor and a major fleet to defend the Death Star, and the Death Star itself was operational. In the end the Empire loses due to several unplannable things. The Ewoks never planed to intervene, Chewie never planned on stealing an AT-ST, Han never planned to use it to open the bunker, Lando never planned to use desperate tactics for the Rebel fleet to survive the Death Star, and most importantly Vader never planned to betray the Emperor (at least, not in that particular way).
      • Also, Luke never gives any specifics about his plan to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt, but despite Han's worries, succeeds after all.
    • More generally, when one is opposing a Jedi or Sith, this is often played straight given their ability to predict the future and read minds. But they have a hard time predicting things that are unplanned.
    • Played straight in Rogue One. The heroes' detailed plan to steal the Death Star schematics from the Imperial Database Archives on Scarif goes awry very fast. They send the plans to their Rebel reinforcements, but the outpost gets destroyed by the Death Star itself, killing everybody on the surface, including our heroes.
  • ''RRR: There are two rescue plans in the movie. The audience has enough information about Bheem's plan to rescue Malia and Ram's plan to rescue Bheem to know they won't go smoothly.
  • In The Sting we are led to believe that the spoken plan is doomed to fail because we are not told that the man we think is an FBI agent is actually part of the scam. By the same token, we are not told two other important things: Salino's first name is "Loretta", and Gondorff hired a bodyguard for Hooker.
  • In ¡Three Amigos!, while trying to come up with a plan to fight El Guapo, Lucky thinks of something from their films, but doesn't explain what specifically it was.
    Lucky: Remember our film "Amigos, Amigos, Amigos!"?
    Ned: Yeah?
    Lucky: Remember what we did in that film?
    Ned: Gee, do you really think that could work?
    Lucky: It's got to work. It's our only hope...
  • Played with in Tora! Tora! Tora!. The Japanese are shown discussing and practicing their attack on Pearl Harbor, and it seems to go pretty well for them — except that their primary targets (the aircraft carriers) aren't there and are therefore spared. Admiral Yamamoto knows exactly what the repercussions will be...
  • Trading Places:
    • The Caper at the train goes down almost as planned because nothing about it was revealed beforehand.
    • Afterwards, the heroes don't go into the details of their commodities trading plan with their friends whom they had just given their life's savings, but the heroes are 100% confident their plan is going to work.
      Coleman: My life savings, sir. Try not to lose it.
      Billy Ray Valentine: Lose it? Coleman, in a couple of hours, you're going to be the richest butler that ever lived!
  • In V for Vendetta, V had an iron vest underneath his clothing near the end, although he was fatally wounded.
  • Nodded to in Watchmen. The quasi-villainous antagonist tells the heroes about his morally questionable plan to unite the world by faking an attack by a superhuman force. When the heroes state their determination to stop him, he pauses as if puzzled and says, "Why would I be telling you this if you had any chance of stopping it? I triggered it 35 minutes ago."
  • The scheme that Lutetia and Amber cook up in the restroom in What's the Worst That Could Happen?. While Kevin's elaborate heist to retrieve the ring is going down, Amber manages to slip the ring off Max's finger by posing as a masseuse, and presents it to Kevin at the end of the film.
  • In The Wolfman (2010), Maleva tells Gwen that there might be a way to lift the curse, albeit very risky one... but we don't get to hear it. Cruelly subverted: looks like it's working, but ultimately the plan fails due to hunters arriving.

  • Jim Butcher:
    • Happens in every damn book in The Dresden Files.
      • Most notably in Turn Coat, when the reader and Molly only find out about Harry's contingency plan after it looks like the main plan has completely failed.
      • Changes and Ghost Story tie the trope completely in knots. To get out of having to be the Winter Knight and have his magic twisted to Queen Mab's use, Harry hires Kincaid to kill him, and then has Molly erase it from his memory so even he doesn't know what the unspoken plan is. Then subverted when this ultimate unspoken plan fails due to Mab pulling his body from the harbor and putting it on magical life support. Then Double Subverted when the Archangel Uriel points out to Harry that even if he is the Winter Knight, Mab cannot control Harry's morality so he has less to be worried about than he thought.
      • In Skin Game, Harry figures out Goodman Grey is on Nicodemus' short list for the team and hires him as his own mole before Nicodemus can. Neither the reader nor Harry's other allies are aware of this prior to The Reveal. Naturally, this ends up being what tips the inevitable conflict with Nicodemus in Harry's favor. This is actually justified in-universe, as Nicodemus' fallen angel Anduriel is capable of spying anywhere a shadow is cast, unless a sufficiently powerful being like Mab is there to block him. Harry knew Anduriel would be watching him like a hawk during the heist, so he couldn't tell his allies anything without tipping Nicodemus off to his plans.
    • Happens five times in every book in the Codex Alera. Most of the time it's due to scene cuts or chapter breaks, but there's at least one instance where it happens in-universe as well. Faced with an enemy with some degree of mind-reading powers, Tavi uses a fiendishly complex series of nested written orders, including multiple orders for each contingency imaginable. If people don't know the plan they're following, the mind-reader can't find it out. Tavi muses later that the best part of the plan is he doesn't have to explain anything to anyone.
  • Mercedes Lackey inverts this in most of her books. Her characters often discuss the importance of keeping flexible and that "no plan survives contact with the enemy", but in fact in the vast majority of cases everything discussed by the characters or in the narration either comes to pass exactly as planned, or the only surprises and unexpected moments are lucky breaks that make the plans go even more smoothly, and while characters often think "I got lucky!" they never consider themselves as very fortunate overall. You know things aren't going to go well for her characters if they enter a situation without having discussed or considered a plan.
    • This applies too many times to count, but just in Heralds of Valdemar Take A Thief there are five or six times when characters plan or consider thefts in detail, anything from picking pockets and giving the spoils to a go-between to stash, to breaking and entering, to not being suspected by watchmen even when singled out as being in an odd place, only for them to go exactly as or even better than planned.
      • At the end of the book this trope is almost played straight, as Skif has an idea for how to catch a band of child-slavers and doesn't explain it on page... until the plan has started and he's disguised as a Street Urchin, at which point he tells the reader about his begging bowl that serves double duty as a helmet, and how he has backup waiting to track him when he's carried off "unconscious".

  • Accidental Detectives: Happens almost once per book, with there having been some preparations made to do things like gather incriminating evidence, escape from their captors or sabotage the villains getaway vehicles which Ricky only explains to the reader (and often to someone else, like the police officers on the scene) after the fact.
  • Animorphs: The team needed to figure out how to stop David, a rogue Animorph. They sat around discussing how to do it, while David was actually hidden nearby, listening. When they enact the plan, it seems to fail... but then they reveal that they knew he'd be listening, and while they discussed the "plan", they were passing notes around, which detailed the real plan.
    • That said, it's fairly obvious to an attentive reader that the spoken-aloud plan is fake, as they refer to Tobias as dead when discussing it. He's not, but David believes that he is. But the real plan is only revealed to the reader while it's in progress either way.
  • Played straight and subverted in Best Served Cold. Duke Rogont's plan has already failed by the time Monza tells it back to him, then it suddenly works exactly as planned due to an unspoken factor. Benna was fond of unspoken plans that he could reveal to Monza as fait accompli; The Reveals of when they worked foreshadow the real Reveal.
  • The Black Company uses this frequently. In the early books, Croaker is often in the dark about the Captain's, Lieutenant's and Darling's plans, meaning the reader is too, and they very rarely go wrong. In later books when Croaker is Captain, there is a change of viewpoint character to avoid his plans being exposed. The plan leading up to the battle of Charandaprash is kept in the dark for several years in the book, and kept secret from the readers for about 2 books of build up. Needless to say, it succeeds.
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): When Anthony agrees to help the queen of Liria to retake her throne in exchange for reasonable compensation, he refuses to let Tiny the ape participate, but the narrative doesn't say why, except that "He has other stuff I need him to do." Fast forward to the end of the assault, and it turns out that Anthony sent Tiny to raid the queen's treasury, expecting that she would betray them, and intending to take his payment and run. It goes off without a hitch, although he's disappointed at having to resort to it.
  • Daemon: In Freedom, we don't get to learn what instructions Loki/Gragg gave Oberstleutenant Boerner in order to save him after the Major mutilates him or catch the Major using his biometrics, but both work out. Similarly, how the Major gets into the darknet to hijack Pete's quest thread never gets revealed and succeeds. In contrast, the other villains go into some detail about their plans, which get foiled.
  • The Dark Forest: Justified. The sophons can eavesdrop on any spoken or written communication anywhere in the world. The four people tasked with resisting the Trisolarans have to put their plans into effect without explaining the meaning of their orders or giving instructions which make their plan obvious, or the Trisolarans will simply counter them. Two of the four fail in relatively short order, the third one has his own goal other than resisting the Trisolarans, and the Trisolarans figure it out anyway. The fourth plan eventually succeeds, playing the trope straight as the reader doesn't learn the truth until Luo Ji explains it to Trisolaris.
  • Deliberately set up in The Day of the Jackal. The whole reason why the OAS hired the Jackal, an outside killer for hire, in the first place was because of internal security concerns, so Jackal makes a point of not telling anyone any more than they need to know. Most of the details of Jackal's plans are a mystery to everyone on both sides until Lebel figures them out. The only reason Jackal failed was because his target bent over just as he was pulling the trigger, followed by Lebel confronting him before he could line up a second shot.
  • Dead Famous : The Inspector clearly (and correctly) has a suspect in his sights well before The Summation but never says who. Even when he comes up with a Bluffing the Murderer plan (about fifteen pages before naming the killer), none of the details are given beyond how the plan involves wigs. Things work perfectly and the murderer is Caught on Tape confessing after the bluff (pretending to have a videotape of the killer preparing for the murder when really it is a disguised Constable Trisha) makes it seem like the police have evidence.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld: In Going Postal, Moist von Lipwig and the Smoking Gnu work out a plan to destroy the semaphore company by blowing up the signal towers. The reader is told exactly how this plan will work. Just before they do it, though, Moist realises this would cause more problems than it solves, and comes up with a plan to destroy the company but leave the system in place. We aren't told how this one works until the payoff.
  • Played with in Dune.
    • Baron Vladimir Harkonnen reveals all the details of his plan to the reader to annihilate the Atreides and their forces, and it goes only partially as planned: Duke Leto is captured and his army destroyed, but Leto's woman and heir escape due to a co-conspirator defecting. Later, Paul's plan for revenge is outlined in the middle of the book and goes exactly as planned at the end.
    • The sequels contain the two of the greatest examples anywhere: Paul and Leto II use their prescience to plan out millennia, without revealing the plan to anyone.
    • Outright subverted in Dune Messiah. The Tleilaxu, Qizarate, Fremen naysayers, Bene Gesserit, and Spacing Guild hatch (a) plan(s) to remove the Atreides from power that seems to revolve around a clone of dead Atreides retainer Duncan Idaho. It turns out that the plan was much more complicated and the clone only played a minor role, but for all the plotting it only ends up making Paul blind and by the end of the book all the conspirators are dead save for a High-Heel–Face Turn. What's strange is that even after the plan fails it still remains largely unspoken, especially strange since each group of the conspiracy had different agendas, meaning that each group, save for the Tleilaxu who put it in motion, was an Unwitting Pawn.
    • Played straight in Children of Dune, as the book covers in excruciating detail the plans of everyone conspiring against the children, but Leto II's plan remains a secret until the very end and completely trumps everyone else's.
  • Dungeon Crawler Carl: A rare In-Universe example - because Carl is literally on (intergalactic) television all the time (except in the bathrooms), anything he says out loud is seen by the showrunners or sometimes other participants.
    • In Book 4 The Gate of the Feral Gods, the Royal Court loudly announce that they intend to use the titular artifact to drop a stray god on their enemies, and their various adversaries go on a multi-layered round of Xanatos Speed Chess to stop them. Which of course puts those adversaries right where the real plan needs them to be - the City that the Royal Court is actually using the Gate to flood.
    • In Book 5 The Butcher's Masquerade, Carl twice attempts to blow up Zockau. He doesn't tell anyone about his first plan (including his teammate along for the ride), and it (mostly) succeeds, but he brags about planning to do it again, and is foiled before he can act.
  • David Eddings had a habit of averting this. In all his books, he had a strong formula regarding plans that went as follows: the protagonists would find out about the villain's plan, usually due to coincidental Exact Eavesdropping. They would concoct their own counter-plan, with each party member contributing something and everyone smugly congratulating everyone else on their collective brilliance. When the time came, the plan would usually go off without a hitch. What Eddings was drawing on here, instead of the reader's suspense about the success of the plan, was the anticipation of the complete chagrin and despair the villain would suffer when they were foiled. And to keep things interesting, much of the time the heroic plan would be defeated by some small detail that no one was aware of, or succeed but prove to have been ineffective at pursuing the protagonists' ultimate goals.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: In Kingsbane, after Eliana is abducted by Harkan, Remy insists on going with Simon to find her. Simon mentions a plan, but it isn't stated what this plan is. Whatever it was succeeds for not only does Simon find Eliana, he manages to get her to use her powers in a constructive way for the first time. Later in that same novel, Eliana and a few members of Red Crown discuss ways in which to defeat the Undying Empire. The one plan that gets any detail is Simon's suggestion of going back in time to convince Rielle to kill Corien, the angel who created the Empire centuries ago. Naturally, this plan fails.
  • In Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte, Endo and Kobayashi know what will happen in the Magikoi world and how to prevent it, but opt not to tell Siegwald any of these. Instead, they give him commentaries on what's happening around him, and in particular, explaining Lieselotte's mannerisms. This is because they recognize Siegwald, being the Wise Prince, would feel compelled to love Lieselotte for the country's good against his feelings if they told him what would happen, something Lieselotte will eventually notice and thus will still cause her Demonic Possession. The commentators want Siegwald to sincerely love Lieselotte, since Lieselotte knowing this is the key in preventing the tragedy.
  • Eyrbyggja Saga: Brought into a quandary by the demand of the berserk Halli to marry Styr's daughter Asdis, Styr goes to Snorri to ask him for a good plan to get rid of Halli. Snorri suggests they go to the top of Helgafell (the local holy mountain) to talk, because "Plans made there have never been known to fail." "They went to the top of the hill and sat there in conversation till evening, but nobody knew what they were talking about." We are not told about their intentions until Styr kills Halli in a well-prepared trap.
  • The Famous Five: George often plans things without telling anybody else, usually when she fears for Timmy.
    • In Five Run Away Together, she tells her cousins that she has a plan, but flatly refuses to tell them what it is.
      George: It's my secret, private, plan.
      Julian: I really think you might tell us your plan, we are your best friends.
      George: You might try to stop me.
      Julian: Then you'd certainly better tell us.
    • In Five go to Smuggler's Top, George is told that she is not allowed to take Timmy the dog to Smuggler's Top. She sulkily agrees to go, having asked which road they will take. On the way there, she asks the driver to stop, and she opens the car door and whistles: Timmy then bounds into the car. In the same book, she does not tell the others about her intention to raid Mr Lenoir's study.
    • In Five on Kirrin Island Again, she sneaks to the island in the dead of night to rescue Timmy, without telling anybody.
  • Frederick Forsyth is fond of this trope:
    • Zig-zagged in The Day of the Jackal: the Jackal doesn't tell anyone about his plan to kill Charles de Gaulle on Liberation Day (the one time de Gaulle was guaranteed to appear in public), but a combination of a dogged detective and de Gaulle being a Spanner in the Works means his plan is doomed to fail.
    • Subverted and then double-subverted in The Dogs of War. In order to convince Sir James Manson to hire him to carry out his coup d'état of an African state, mercenary Cat Shannon writes a detailed professional report (including costs) on the pros and cons of such an attack. After Manson reads this section, the reader is then told that six more pages detailed exactly how Shannon planned to recruit, arm, and transport his force and carry out the attack. Which all goes according to plan, except for some hitches during the attack which get a couple of Cat's men killed. Oh, and he left out how he was planning to double-cross Manson and put his own leader in place.
    • Played straight in The Devil's Alternative; though we know Adam Munro has persuaded the Powers That Be to Take a Third Option in regards to their Sadistic Choice — the "Devil's Alternative" of the title — we don't find out what that actually is until after it's been carried out.
    • Similarly, in The Fourth Protocol, we don't find out until the end that a courier sent to meet with Valeri Petrovsky was actually sent by the KGB because they knew said courier would raise a red flag with British authorities and allow John Preston to follow the courier to Petrovsky, preventing him from setting off an atomic bomb.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation. Hari Seldon and his team of psychohistorians set in motion a plan for the next 1000 years. The basic premise of their science is that history can be pretty accurately calculated mathematically, but only if the participants don't know what's supposed to happen, otherwise the calculations would become way too complicated to be feasible. So they specifically tell nobody about the plan.
  • A "plan" (actually a course on proper dining etiquette, It Makes Sense in Context) is only explained to the reader once in Girls Kingdom, and in that case, a competing scheme by two other characters to mess with a third for lulz screws it up. The rest of the time, the story cuts away before we hear a word of the plan the characters are concocting and it always goes off without a hitch.
  • The Great Greene Heist: Zigzagged. Jackson and Charlie openly talk about their plans (which go off flawlessly) well before the final act. However, they use code phrases that readers may or may not be able to decipher (e.g. "Anakin Skywalker" means they are anticipating someone will betray them and have planned around that).
  • Frequent in the Honor Harrington books, particularly with combat planning.
  • Justified in Jeeves and Wooster: Bertie, the first-person narrator, is kind of a fool, while Jeeves, who keeps things to himself, is a genius. Therefore, when Bertie comes up with a Zany Scheme, the reader will automatically know all about it, but since we don't see Jeeves' thoughts, he's able to keep Bertie — and therefore the reader — in the dark about what he's plotting until the last possible second. Another common setup is for Jeeves to explain his plan beforehand: the plan appears to fail, then succeeds due to some factor which Jeeves didn't mention in his initial explanation.
  • In Last Sacrifice, no one tells Rose about their plans on the prison break. So that Rose wouldn't have tipped the guards off by acting suspicious.
  • The Left Behind series subverts this, demonstrating aptly that Tropes Are Not Bad: The authors, who believe their Biblical Prophecies Are Always Right in the real world, wrote a novel where the characters have access to these prophecies. Since the series is a massive Author Tract, those prophecies then all come true without a single Prophecy Twist, making the story far more boring than a story of The End of the World as We Know It has any right to be. In a later book, The Antichrist tries to take those Bible prophecies and using it where to predict where and when Jesus will arrive so he can have his army ready to fight him. For some reason, the fact that those prophecies broadly end with "and then Jesus totally kickes their asses" does not discourage him.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, Geary and Desjanis discuss her plan, the danger inherent in it, and how it's the best plan without giving any details of what it calls for. When Rione asks what they are trying to do, Geary says trying to get the aliens to do what they want them to.
  • In Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn, Starr keeps "Bigman" Jones in the dark about his plan, because it involves him apparently turning traitor and he's concerned that Jones might be so anxious to defend his partner's good name that he'll accidentally give the game away.
  • Notably averted in The Martian. Near the climax, NASA control and Mark Watney agree on and elaborate in full detail what their plan to rescue him is. It goes off without a hitch.
  • In The Mental State, Zack's plans and machinations are mostly revealed through a series of flashbacks and internal monologues. Inevitably, his plans always work.
  • The Millennium Trilogy: Double-subverted in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth comes up with a plan to get revenge on her abusive guardian, which we don't get to hear about. When she arrives, the narration informs us that, "The plan began to go wrong almost immediately." However, it turns out later that if anything, the plan worked better in the long term than expected; she wanted blackmail material, and she sure got it. Could also be considered a case of Gone Horribly Right, though, since what she had to suffer was infinitely worse than she was expecting.
  • In the Modesty Blaise novel The Night of Morningstar, the principle is demonstrated in both directions. The villains' Operation Morningstar is described in great detail, and is comprehensively derailed by Modesty and Willie just as it's getting started with the result that none of the planned events occur. Conversely, Modesty's plan for the derailing is conveyed to Willie in two cryptic sentences about a conversation they had with a friend before the book started, and the reader doesn't get a description of what it actually involves until after it's kicked off.
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress: A whole-book version. The plan for the revolution is planned out in an early scene, without it being revealed to the reader. The rest of the book is the plan coming to fruition without a hitch.
  • The Proteus Operation: The version where a plan you know the details of will fail spectacularly. The attack on Hammerhead goes wrong in almost every way possible, from their equipment not making it on-site to the SS realizing where they are attacking just as they arrive.
  • Older Than Print: Many of the plans and stratagems in Luo Guanzhong's Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
  • Averted in Room, in which Ma's escape plan worked out despite the fact that all of its details were spelled out to the audience beforehand.
  • Both played straight and averted in The Salvation War. The battle plans of both the human armies and the forces of Hell are laid out in exquisite detail. The deciding factor, in this case, is who applies the most dakka — and Hell doesn't have guns.
  • Sam the Cat: Detective: Sam develops a careful plan with the other cats to catch Quark (who will attack him in person, calling the police and screeching into the phone like a hurt child and then physically subduing the burglar) which isn’t mentioned beforehand and works out perfectly.
  • In James White's early Sector General novels, Dr. Conway did this frequently at the end of a story, when he'd finally correctly diagnosed what was wrong with his latest patient-from-an-unknown species. Somewhat Justified Trope in that the situation was by its nature time-critical by that point.
    • Hospital Station, "The Trouble with Emily": In this case, Dr. Conway figures out what Dr. Arratepec is trying to achieve with the titular character but will not reveal the information to the Chief Psychologist (and thus to the reader). Justified Trope in that he does not reveal his deduction to the rest of his colleagues because he may have reached his conclusion on the basis of privileged information, since the telepathic Arratepec had touched his mind. He also does not reveal his conclusions to Arratepec, whose people have been keeping quiet about the purpose of the Emily experiment for fear of public ridicule if it doesn't work out.
    • Star Surgeon, "Resident Physician": When Conway deduces what is wrong with Lonvellin, who is suspected of murdering and eating his personal physician after an argument over the latter's treatment, Conway doesn't explain to his colleagues why he has called for a wooden stake and is very slowly pushing it against the patient's skin. The personal physician was actually a symbiotic organism who was isolated and removed from Lonvellin while trying to defend its "employer" from the stake by concentrating itself into a hard bony plate. Sector General's staff resolved the quarrel between the patient and the symbiote by giving the latter more information on the physiology of the former.
  • This seems to be how plans in Septimus Heap work out, given that most detailed plans go wrong and Xanatos Speed Chess is often more successful.
  • Sherlock Holmes regularly arranged sting operations to catch culprits red-handed, without letting Watson or the police in on what he was up to. Lampshaded by Holmes himself in The Valley of Fear, where he admits that it's mostly his own taste for drama that makes him keep his associates in the dark about such plans.
  • This occurs frequently in A Song of Ice and Fire. The choices and plots leading up to most Wham Episodes can be discerned from looking over the details of previous chapters. There are also subversions. Indeed its more common in the fourth and fifth book — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons where two very long term complicated plans prove difficult to sustain when the time to act arrives, causing one plotter to declare that he's "tired of prudence", unwittingly acting out a plan improvised on the fly by a skilled improviser by the name of Tyrion Lannister.
  • Spice and Wolf: The armor Lawerence bought ends up leaving him in debt due to a market crash. Holo comes up with a plan to repay Lawrence's debt, but that plan is never related to the audience until it's under way.
  • In the Star Wars Legends universe:
    • Timothy Zahn's novel Outbound Flight features an interesting use of this trope. Protagonist Car'das, a guest/captive of Thrawn, escapes and sets into motion an unspoken plan that enlists the aid of the Planet Looter villains. It appears to go pear-shaped, until we learn that Car'das' plan was actually part of Thrawn's plan, which we didn't even know existed. It would have worked out perfectly except for Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth's final descent into megalomania; instead, some Vagaari escaped, and fifty thousand innocent people died. Thrawn is unhappy about this.
    • New Jedi Order:
      • Edge of Victory: Conquest averts this as Anakin's unspoken plan to escape Yavin 4 with Master Ikirt (size of a small dog) in his X-wing fails when other Jedi apprentices stay behind to rescue him.
      • Star By Star is another example of this. Anakin and the other Jedis' plan to infiltrate the Yuuzhan Vong headquarters is discussed early on and goes horribly, tragically wrong. Justified in that is was a suicide mission from the get go and everything worked to get them to the worldship.
    • The "Wraith Squadron" novels within the X-Wing Series frequently feature this trope.
      • Notably done in a training sim in Wraith Squadron. The candidates for the unit are told the sim is a fairly typical strike mission scenario, but then they're mobbed by TIEs the second they leave the hangar. The real objective of the sim is to survive and escape.
      • Explicitly justified in the last novel Mercy Kill: The characters admit that their officer, "Face" Loran, tells each "Wraith" only the information he or she strictly needs, for security reasons — and maybe because Loran enjoys monitoring the utterly confused Wraiths.
  • "A !Tangled Web (1981)": The reader doesn't find out Navarro's final deal until the !tang do.
  • In the novel Unwind, Risa is being chased by Connor who is also being chased by an officer. Connor catches up and tells Risa that they need to work together to escape. Risa replies "What do you have in mind?" The very next chapter shows the two successfully knocking out said officer.
  • Subverted in Vampire High. Cody and Justin talk in extensive detail about their plan to find jendi students who can survive in water to save the save the water polo team, and the thing works perfectly. Played straight in the sequel, when Cody and Turk plan out the opening night of the gadji/jendi art museum and, after things start to go well, someone sets the building's basement on fire.
  • Averted in The Three-Body Problem, the plan to stop the Judgement Day ship by slicing it apart with a monofilament wire net is explained in great detail and then goes off exactly as predicted.
  • Water Margin uses this frequently, often upping the ante by having the comrades of The Strategist hail it as a brilliant plan immediately after it is not described to the reader.
  • In Richard Adams' Watership Down, not only is the audience never informed beforehand of Hazel's plan to steal does from Efrafa, he doesn't even tell the other rabbits, realizing that if any of the rabbits are captured "They'll make you talk, all right." Only those crucial to the operation (like Bigwig and Kehaar) or who planned it (Fiver, Blackberry and Hazel) know the full plan. Fortunately they've gained enough trust that everyone goes along with this.
  • The Witchlands: Safi — and, by extension, the reader — is never told what Eren and Mathew's plan is, despite the fact that she's a key part of it, as they're worried that she'd spoil it if she knew, and there's no time to explain anyway.
  • Enforced in The Wheel of Time. The Good Guys spends over a week planning for The Final Battle, only to learn that The Dark One could have learnt about their plans at any point. Mat immediately discards the plan, and goes for plan B...
    Elayne: [weakly] "You're going to keep it in your head. You're going to lead the battle, and none of us are going to know what in the Light you're planning, are we? Otherwise, someone might overhear, and the news would travel to the Shadow."
    [Mat nods]
    Elayne: "Creator shelter us all."
    Mat: [scowls] "You know, that's what Tuon said."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Early in The 100 episode "Blood Must Have Blood, Part 1", Clarke lays out a meticulous, step-by-step plan for how her army's going to invade Mount Weather; she even has visual aids. Meanwhile, inside Mount Weather, Dante tells Cage he has a plan for how to stop the invasion, but we cut to a different scene before we can hear what his plan is. Take a guess which plan works.
  • The Season 1 finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a variation: Coulson does summarize the plan on-screen, but does it so quickly and uses so much code that the audience won't understand it until after the fact.
    Coulson: We only get one shot at this, so let's go over the plan one more time so we're clear on exactly what we're doing, OK? Trip will crest the ridge, use the noisemaker to grab a three-wheel, maybe something with more fireworks, and open a window for you two. You crawl in, grab the dealer, force his hand, he'll get us our ace in the hole and then Bob's your uncle.
    Skye: Roger that.
  • Alex Rider (2020): Kyra decides she has no choice but to try escaping, but Alex has decided to stay and try to find James. When he asks what her plan is, she refuses in case he gets caught and gives her away. He does get caught, and is pleasantly surprised when she reappears to untie him. Turns out she made a show of heading out into the mountain, then doubled back.
  • Used a lot in Alias Smith and Jones. If Heyes verbalises his plan, it is guaranteed to fail, to the point where people wonder how on Earth he managed to get his reputation as the most successful outlaw in the West. Unspoken plans, especially those which he doesn't even tell the Kid about, are guaranteed to succeed. He tends to placate his annoyed partner in these cases with the assurance that he "wasn't sure it would work and didn't want to get your hopes up."
  • Babylon 5:
    • In the first episode of Season 2, Sheridan's debut, he doesn't bother to explain his order to hold fire until afterwards, starting with a "Just as I suspected ..." At least a pilot is later seen complaining about this.
    • Sheridan does it again later on, when he orders his staff to do several strange things, such as sending a White Star to destroy some completely normal asteroids, and asking Ivanova to report on the news that that absolutely nothing happened in a specific area of space. In fact, his plan (a Genghis Gambit to get the other governments to unite in the face of a completely fictitious enemy) absolutely hinges on him not telling anyone what it is!
    • Londo Mollari demonstrates great mastery of this trope, when he devises a plan to lure his nemesis G'Kar into a trap and lays it out to his aid Vir. Londo's rival Lord Refa captures Vir, wrings the plan's details out of him and hijacks the plan to capture G'Kar himself and humiliate Londo. Turns out Londo anticipated this move and his true plan was to lure Refa into a trap by collaborating with G'Kar. This part he kept between himself and G'Kar, and it worked.
  • Battlestar Galactica. Played straight in several episodes, but the two-parter "Resurrection Ship" averts this spectacularly. Both the plan to destroy the Resurrection Ship, and the plans of Cain and Adama to assassinate the other, are set out beforehand. The action then jumps right into the middle of the attack, witnessed from a detached POV (Lee drifting in space after ejecting from his craft) as the suspense is provided by us wondering whose assassination plan will succeed. Then Cain and Adama both decide to call off each other's assassinations at the last moment, with both of them realizing exactly what almost happened. And then she gets killed by a third party.
  • Better Call Saul
    • The first half of season 6 is dedicated to Jimmy and Kim meticulously planning a scam to bring about Howard Hamlin's downfall, with tiny bits of information being meted out episode by episode but the full plan never being explained. The plan finally goes off exactly as planned in the seventh episode, though it leads to something they had never expected. Series creator Peter Gould even mentioned having this trope and the Back to the Future example above in mind when developing the season's arc.
    • Mike Ehrmantraut usually works alone, and as such, has no-one to lay out his schemes to. We do get to see his preparations, often rather bizarre and with heavy use of Noodle Implements, and then - the plan itself unfolding perfectly.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, when the guys plan to neutralize a 15-year-old prodigy by getting him to a party with a bunch of teenage girls. Once the party starts, they spend several minutes coming to the realization that the whole thing actually has no chance of working, and are flummoxed when they realize it worked exactly as planned.
  • Spoofed in the Blackadder episode "Witchsmeller Pursuivant", when our inability to hear Baldrick's plan to escape is blatantly lampshaded... and then we don't see the plan either, we're just told it worked!
  • In the episode entitled "Norman" of the vampire detective series Blood Ties (2007), the heroes Vicki and Henry are forced to give a magic dagger to the demonic villain Norman when he kidnaps Vicki's secretary and holds her hostage. Norman needed the dagger to complete a spell to release the uber demon Asteroth into the world. However, unknown to the audience, Vicki and Henry had first taken the dagger to a priest to have it blessed before they gave it to Norman, so that when he used it, his spell of summoning failed and he was sucked back down to Hell.
  • Averted in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "Show Me Going", where Jake's plan to defy Holt and get weapons from the armory to head out and help Rosa in a shooting crisis is described fully before being executed, and goes more-or-less as planned. Holt does catch on and finds Jake just before he heads out, but by that point Jake already had everything ready and only stopped because Holt talks him out of it.
  • Breaking Bad
    • Gustavo Fring's plan to take down the Cartel is kept between him and Mike, but we get some hints, such as when he conspicuously takes some pills we never saw him using before, and when his gift to his boss turns out to be a bottle of premium tequilla.
    • Averted in the "Dead Freight" episode. Walter and his crew discuss their plan to rob the train extensively, then scope the location, then make preparations and explain the plan to their associates in details. Despite an unforeseen complication, it goes exactly as they planned it... until after they succeed.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The Season 3 finale demonstrates this perfectly. Two enemies make plans; one of the plans is fully detailed to the audience, while the other one is kept vague. The vague one is the one that succeeds. The planning processes are superimposed over one another. Buffy will be just about to go into the details of her plan, and it then switches to Wilkins giving instructions to his vampires, then back to Buffy making vague allusions, and so on.
    • And in Season 5, where they talked in vague terms about what they might have in the way of weapons, but never go into detail about all the parts of their plan. Meanwhile, the Big Bad has been getting pretty specific. And so...
    • In Season 7 we have a literal unspoken plan, made via telepathy.
    • And in the final episode you always know what the Big Bad is going to try to do, but it's not until almost the very end, when the action is well under way, that you find out Buffy is having Willow use the scythe to activate all the potential Slayers into full ones.
  • Burn Notice: In a later episode, the gang finds themselves trapped with a smuggler who's being targeted by his enemies. Said enemies promise to let Michael, Fi and Sam go if they turn the smuggler over to be killed. Michael distracts Sam and Fi, then marches the smuggler out. At the last moment, he shoots an electric substation, causing an explosion that allows them to escape. Michael claims that everything went according to plan and insists that he couldn't explain in advance because everyone's reactions needed to look real. In a subversion, the smuggler points out that Michael couldn't have known the substation was there until they were already outside, suggesting that things hadn't actually gone according to plan.
  • Played straight in an episode of Castle: Castle appears to be captured by the villain while trying to plant a bomb as part of his father's plan, not spoken, to break Alexis free from said villain's hideout. The kidnapper announces that his father has 10 seconds to come out as well, or he'll shoot both Castle and Alexis. His father responds, that's not going to happen, because the kidnapper will be dead. The kidnapper looks confused, and then the real bomb, which had actually been planted exactly according to plan, explodes and kills him. His father was actually just waiting for the kidnapper to stand in the right spot. As for Castle, he grabs Alexis the second the real bomb goes off and makes a beeline for the US embassy.
  • In the Cheers episode "Pick a Con... Any Con", Coach is bilked out of a large amount of money by a con man. Recurring character Harry The Hat, himself a con man, devises a plan involving most of the Cheers regulars to get Coach's money back. The plan seems to fail miserably because Coach's bumbling reveals the scheme, but later they learn the ruined plot was actually a ruse to cover the real con, known only to Harry and Coach, which was successful.
  • Chuck: In "Chuck vs The Zoom", Chuck comes up with a plan to rescue Sarah and Casey from Bale, by posing as an I.T. tech. When he is seemingly cornered by Bale, Chuck tells Sarah and Casey to leave him behind so they can survive. Once Sarah and Casey make it to their van, they find a video of Chuck saying, "For God sakes, don't leave me behind! I have a plan!"
  • Invoked and lampshaded, naturally, on Community. Abed announces he has a plan, calls a huddle, and then stands there moving his lips soundlessly. After a Beat, Jeff points out that in the real world, you have to actually tell people the plan. Abed reluctantly agrees... and there's a cut away before we hear him describe it.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). In "Sad Clown A-Go-Go", Jet Black lays out the plan for the three of them to take down Mad Perriot with kitchen props and insists they memorize it with a rhyme ala the The Dirty Dozen. The moment Spike Spiegel flies off to enact Phase One, he activates a computer virus to kill the power on the BeBop so Jet and Faye can't follow him.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Played with in "The Sea Devils", when Jo comes up with a plan to break the Doctor out of prison. We do see her telling the Doctor, but since she's stuck on the other side of some soundproofed glass at the time we see her communicate the plan through mime. It's just difficult enough to understand that when we see the Doctor and Jo perform parts of it, it feels less like a spoiler and more like, "oh, that's what that hand gesture meant".
    • In "The Three Doctors", the Doctors discuss their plan in front of everybody... with a psychic link. Of course it works perfectly.
    • In "Frontier in Space", when the Doctor explains to Jo how they will escape from their cell, all he says is: "So this is what we're going to do..." Cut to execution of the plan.
    • In "Remembrance of the Daleks", when the Doctor's allies ask what his plan to stop the Daleks is, he tells them "It's a surprise." It works perfectly, of course.
    • In "The Sound of Drums", the Doctor has a plan to expose the Master, which he explains onscreen. Naturally, it fails. In the next episode, "Last of the Time Lords", the Doctor has another plan that works, because it's not revealed until the climax.
    • In "The Girl Who Died", the only thing mentioned beforehand about the Doctor's plan to get the Mire to flee is that it involves the village's electric eels. It goes off flawlessly.
    • In "Face the Raven", Clara explains to Rigsy her plan for buying them more time to solve the mystery on the trap street. It goes wrong. It goes horrifyingly, tragically, wrong, and Clara winds up Killed Off for Real.
    • Justified in "Oxygen", as the Doctor refuses to reveal his plan because he might be overheard (which happened earlier). "I try never to tell the enemy my secret plan." As per this trope, it works perfectly.
    • Lampshaded in "The Eaters of Light", wherein Bill points out the Doctor never tells her his whole plan. The Doctor appears genuinely surprised by this. "I probably just get interrupted."
    • In "World Enough and Time", just like Clara did in "Face the Raven" by explaining her plan to take on the chronolock to Rigsy, the Doctor fully explains his plan to test Missy to his companions... and thus it winds up completely failing.
    • "Spyfall": Stuck in 1943, the Doctor comes up with a plan to return to the 21st century by getting the Master out of the way so she can steal his TARDIS. This plan is not explained until after it's kicked off, so it goes perfectly.
    • In "Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror", the plan to destroy the Skithra ship is explained in advance, so naturally it hits a snag when it turns out that the Queen has actually come down from the ship. The Doctor's response is not explained ahead of time, and works.
    • In "Ascension of the Cybermen", the companions take the time to explain what each of the Doctor's devices is supposed to do and how it will stop the Cybermen. Therefore all of the devices are destroyed by the Cyberdrones without even having a chance to do anything.
  • Averted somewhat in Firefly, like in "Ariel". The whole plan was described in minute detail, complete with scenes of the characters rehearsing their parts, and except for the temporary arrest, both the heist and River's diagnosis are completed as planned. Same with "The Train Job", except for the Captain and Zoe getting trapped. And the opening scene of the Big Damn Movie, except for the Reavers. However, "Trash" and "Objects in Space" are perfect examples of unspoken plans going perfectly (almost). Also, this line from the movie sums it up:
    Mal: I don't plan on any shooting taking place.
    Jayne: Yeah, well, what you plan and what takes place ain't ever exactly been similar.
    • The aversion in "Ariel" is very much the exception that proves the rule. The plan was described in minute detail and worked (almost) exactly as planned, with all possible external threats perfectly anticipated. The suspense came from internal threats (like Jayne betraying the Tams), and suspense aside, it was funny or at least fun to see how the ragtag crew of "Serenity" handled a plan organized to the last detail. One component of the plan that they stressed as necessary — memorizing some medical jargon — turned out to be totally unnecessary, but Jayne delivered his line anyway because he'd finally memorized it, dammit. And it's worth noting that it was Simon who planned the heist in Ariel, rather than Mal, who is usually the one making the plans.
    • "Trash" double-subverts the trope: the detailed plan for removal of the Laser goes off almost without a hitch (and is ultimately successful) and the unspoken backup plan in case of treachery is pulled off successfully.
    • In "The Message", the regular crew have an unspoken plan to pretend to surrender and spring an ambush which would have worked flawlessly, except they didn't tell the guest star who thought they really were going to give him up to the cops and takes a hostage. It doesn't end well for him. The Fridge Logic gets pointed out by the cast in the DVD commentary (i.e. "Why didn't we just tell him the plan?" note )
  • Game of Thrones: The best schemes are kept obscure even from the audience until they come to fruition in a Wham Episode.
    • The only hint of Tyrion's plan to use wildfire at the Battle of Blackwater is a vague Call-Back to his meeting with Pyromancer Hallyne.
    • Dany's advisors are appalled by her trading a dragon for an army. Neither they nor the viewers are aware that she plans to turn her dragon against the buyer and use the army to conquer Astapor.
  • Averted in the live-action version of Going Postal. Moist von Lipwig describes his plan, and yet it works.
  • Both ends are in play in the Greek episode "The Great Cappie". The Simple Plan, detailing a secret Prohibition drinking party under a rule-following Great Gatsby theme party, is described in great detail...and is derailed when the dean shows up as an unexpected guest. Said party is saved by Plan B, which isn't known to the audience until it's put into motion.
  • In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, the smooth-talking Barney carefully lays out to Marshall how to get away with not cleaning the dishes for his wife. Sure enough, Barney's well-thought out lines become garbled and only succeed in making Marshall's wife hate him for an episode.
    Barney's Plan: If one day, I look up at the living room ceiling and think, "Hey, I'd like a replica of the Sistine Chapel up there," would it be your job to paint it?
    Marshall's Execution: You want me to go ahead and wash my dish. But maybe... I want you... to paint the ceiling, right? Like, maybe I should say, "Okay, yeah. I'll wash my dish if you get up there and just—you paint naked babies on the ceiling." You know?
  • Almost every episode of Hustle features a moment when it looks like the plan has failed, but it turns out that either the real plan was something else all along, or there was some brilliant improvisation that we weren't shown at the time.
    • The best one is where Danny and Mickey go head-to-head to see whose methods work better. While Danny works a series of cons, Mickey tells Ash he's got a mark he's been saving for a rainy day, and begins elaborate preparations including preparing a forged stamp, and arranging a series of meetings. Towards the end Danny figures out Mickey's con, swoops in, buys the stamp from the forger, and attempts to take over, only to discover the supposed mark has no idea what he's talking about, and doesn't even collect stamps. Flashback to Mickey saying to Ash "I do have a mark I've been saving for a rainy day ... Danny." And then it turns out the whole thing was a con by Albert to win money from Ash and Stacie, by betting he could get Danny and Mickey naked in the middle of London. (The terms of the contest were they both started out with nothing).
    • In "Picasso Finger Painting", when the team goes to steal a painting and they begin describing their plan in what looks like a straight set-up of this trope. The plan does end up needing to be aborted, as expected; later in the episode they end up in the exact same situation, with the exact same mark and use the exact same plan with great success.
  • Jeremiah:
    • Zigzagged in the two-parter "Letters from the Other Side". The scene cuts away before Lee Chen reveals his plan to end the war between Thunder Mountain and the Valhalla Sector to Kurdy and Meghan. But Kurdy's horrified expression as he leaves the room? and part 1 ending with Lee Chen telling the Valhalla Sector that Meghan (who is really a carrier) is immune to the Big Death and that they will trade her for Markus and the other prisoners, make it obvious what the plan is even though no one says it out loud until near the end of the next episode. Half of the plan, exposing the Valhalla Sector to the Big Death through Meghan works flawlessly, but getting all of the prisoners out beforehand fails after the Valhalla Sector decide to keep Jeremiah and Devon as hostages as the part 1 cliffhanger. The last minute plan on how to keep them safe from the virus is also discussed offscreen, has very few clues to its workings, and goes off perfectly.
    • "The Face in the Mirror" has an unspoken plan with a short-term payoff (the plan is revealed after less than a minute) when Kurdy is talking to some nearby allies over the radio during a car chase and says he has a plan to escape. The scene then briefly cuts to their pursuer before he witnesses Kurdy's plan (to make him unsure which truck his antagonist is in after they rendezvous) work.
  • Kingdom Adventure: When the main characters need to find a way to rescue the princess, they huddle up and start coming up with a plan, their talk unintelligible to the audience except for Pokum declaring, "That's a great idea!" They are successful in rescuing the princess, but how much of it is according to plan and how much of it is successfully reacting to the enemy's moves isn't altogether clear.
  • Nearly every episode of Leverage involves this trope. Almost always their stated "Plan A" fails or was a deliberate bluff. When everything works out, a flashback shows the intermediate scenes that were not previously revealed to the audience.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Hearing the Numenorian army approaching, Adar, calls Waldreg and tells him he has a task for him and tries to handle him the sword hilt, but the scene is cut to the Numenorians attacking the Orcs, making it very ambiguous if Adar managed to give Waldreg the hilt or not. Later scene shows Adar having the hilt with him, wrapped in garbs and trying to escape with it. But, everything is just a Batman Gambit, because later in the same episode, Waldreg is shown having the hilt with him, executing Adar's original plan of provoking Orodruin's eruption with it. Adar pretty much gambled on Waldreg's unflinching nostalgia for the times his ancestors were allied with the Orcs.
  • Every episode of Mission: Impossible employs this. But in an unusual way: They show the last part of the team's discussion of the plan, so we know what equipment they're going to use, but we don't know what the equipment is for until we see it in action. Usually with the slight twist that after the first couple seasons most IMF's plans requires some quick improvisation halfway through the episode, due to some unexpected factor.
  • NCIS loves this trope. If you hear a plan, it will fail; but if they don't show us the plan until the last minute it will be a massive and awesome success.
  • Actually averted in the Person of Interest episode "If-Then-Else". The episode is a series of simulations in which The Machine predicts what will happen if the characters take a different set of actions. After the final simulation, things go according to that plan. But then the simulation ended before things could play out, leaving the characters with a 2.07% chance of survival. At least until Shaw shows up.
  • In Prison Break Season 1 Michael's first attempt (mid season) at the breakout fails. Everything goes as planned until it turns out a corroded pipe has been replaced making it impossible for them to break it and escape.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • In "White Hole", Lister is trying to knock a planet into the white hole, using the principles he's picked up playing pool. It misses. After every planet in the system has been knocked against each other and one of them has sunk, he explains he was going for a trick shot. This is what anyone who gets lucky in pool will tell his friends even if it's blatantly obvious that it isn't.
    • A subversion of the trope occurs in "Legion". With the crew being held captive by the titular character, Lister comes up with a "truly award-winning escape plan" from the movie Revenge of the Surfboarding Killer Bikini Vampire Girls, but doesn't go into details on screen. When Legion shows up, he immediately sees right through the plan (involving Lister hiding behind the door ready to hit him with a heavy piece of artwork, while an obvious decoy of him made from other artwork sits in his place), namedrops the movie where it came from, allows it to happen and watches as it fails miserably. As Legion was comprised of the collective consciousness of Lister, Rimmer, Cat and Kryten he had obvious knowledge of the plan beforehand, even though it was so dumb as to fail anyway.
  • The Rockford Files: This trope is used every time Jim Rockford plans a con. The only time the plan is described at the beginning, everything goes south and turns into a game of Xanatos Speed Chess.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures pulls this off in "The Eternity Trap" after Erasmus Darkening easily steps around the trap Sarah Jane set for him.
    Erasmus: I'm disappointed, Miss Smith.
    Sarah Jane: Well, I hate to disappoint. [triggers the real trap]
  • You could set your watch by this in Stargate SG-1. As Jack O'Neill puts it once, "It's time for Plan B."
    Sam: We have a Plan B?
    Jack: No, but it's time for one.
    • In "Exodus", SG-1 and the Tok'ra famously plan to incinerate Apophis's fleet by blowing up a sun. They're caught flat-footed by a cloaked Goa'uld bomber that disables their ship, Jack and Teal'c get shot down going after it, and Teal'c is captured. Then the supernova does something funky to the hyperdrives aboard their ship and Apophis's flagship and they all get shot into another galaxy.
    • In "Fallen", SG-1 plans to pull an Airstrike Impossible in an F-302 to disable the Wave-Motion Gun aboard Anubis's flagship so their frenemy Lord Yu can mob it and destroy it. The first part works perfectly, but Yu is going senile and sends the fleet to completely the wrong star system.
    • Played with in "It's Good to Be the King". Maybourne translates a prophecy (really, a historical record written by a time-travelling Ancient) that says heroes will arrive and destroy invaders. SG-1 instead plans to evacuate the planet's inhabitants and destroy the Ancient's Puddle Jumper so the Goa'uld won't get it, but the Goa'uld arrive early and trap them on-planet. They're forced to fulfill the prophecy with the Puddle Jumper to get out of the mess.
    • The Ori actually pull one of these on the good guys in "Beachhead". Because the Ori Prior refuses to tell them the plan, they end up playing right into the Ori's hands.
    • In "Prototype", Carter rigs the DHD on Khalek's planet to send him straight back to Earth if he attempts to go back there, but doesn't get the chance to tell anybody about it before all hell breaks loose. She later says that if she had mentioned it, the plan probably wouldn't have worked as Khalek, with his super hearing, would have overheard.
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • Used repeatedly in "The Siege", which sets up several plans then dashes our hopes just to drive home how unrelenting a threat the Wraith are. The Ancient defense satellite takes out one hive ship and burns out, the nuclear mines the SGC hoped to use to defend the planet are knocked out by Colony Drop, the Daedalus only manages to take out a few hives before they devise a defense...
    • "The Return" uses this trope masterfully. The audience is misinformed about the protagonists' plan of liberating Atlantis. When all seems lost and the plan (as the audience knows it at that time) has been countered, their true plan immediately works out and only then is explained. Specifically, Rodney tells O'Neill and Woolsey that they plan on blowing up the city's shield generators with C4 strapped to the control crystals then escaping the city, but gets a Dope Slap from Sheppard for leaking the plan. When the Asurans extract the plan from their minds and counter the sabotage, turns out the actual plan was rigging the shield generators with an Anti-Replicator Gun crystal, which the Asurans failed to notice due to being distracted by the C4. Sheppard expected that the captives will be interrogated, hence he had Rodney "leak" the fake plan on purpose as a distraction.
  • Used in the seventh-season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Badda-bing Badda-bang", in which the plan is detailed to the audience throughout the fourth act, not only with explanations but being acted out on-screen; this is only so that the audience knows what's supposed to be going on in the fifth act, when everything goes wrong.
    • The plot of the season 6 episode "In the Pale Moonlight" rests on this trope. The episode unfolds as Sisko tells the "computer" (i.e., the audience) what happened when he tried to engage in underhand and quite illegal methods to bring the Romulans into the war on the Federation's side. As it unfolds it seems like a Zany Scheme gone horribly wrong that brought the Romulans into the war on the Dominion's side. Actually, it turns out Garak pulled this trope on Sisko (who then pulls it on the audience) by hiding his real plan from Sisko from the outset. What Sisko thought of as their plan going horribly wrong actually goes (from Sisko's point-of-view) horribly right. Justified in that Garak knew all along just what it would take to bring the Romulans into the war on the Federation's side and he also knew Sisko would never have had the stomach to go through with it had he known from the start what it would take. When Sisko realises the truth, he also ends up accepting Garak was right all along... and is deeply troubled by the fact he can accept it.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: "Dark Frontier" involves a raid on a Borg cube, which we see the characters rehearse on the holodeck first. They actually fail, but not by much, and something very different goes wrong when they try it for real.
    • On the other hand, the second-season Voyager episode "Resolutions" averts this trope. Tuvok goes into painstaking, on-screen detail about his plan to beat the Vidiians and get the medicine Voyager needs. It then goes off without the slightest hitch.
    • The episode "Basics, Part I" has the staff discussing a battle plan against the Kazon, which actually works for a while — until a Kazon suicide bomber screws everything up.
    • The season 6 cliffhanger "Unimatrix Zero" involves an unspoken plan which several characters think is nuts, and indeed, it seems to go spectacularly wrong. But then Chakotay says "So far, so good", letting us know the plan isn't actually over yet. We get to see the rest in part two.
  • An example of the telepathic enemy example can be found in Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Return to Tomorrow". A good alien makes Kirk think that Spock's mind has been destroyed and McCoy think that a hypo contains a deadly poison so a telepathic Big Bad will read their minds and be tricked into leaving Spock's body when in reality the hypo was harmless and Spock's being was installed into Nurse Chapel.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In "The Emissary", Worf tells Picard that there may be an alternative option in stopping a 23rd century Klingon Sleeper Ship, but we aren't told what it is until we actually see him and K’Ehleyr sitting in the command chairs in full Klingon regalia.
    • In "The Defector", Picard calls Worf to his ready room, but their meeting is not shown. Later, he sends Worf off the bridge to deal with a message from a Klingon ship. These are the only hints shown that Picard has called in the Klingons for backup, since there are no other Federation ships close enough to help. The sight of three Birds-of-Prey decloaking is enough to get Tomalak to back down.
    • Happens twice in "The Best Of Both Worlds: Part II":
      • The audience is told nothing of Data and Worf's "special mission" — to physically retrieve Picard/Locutus from the Borg cube.
    • While wondering how to separate Picard from the Borg collective consciousness, Data simply tells Crusher "perhaps there is a way I can access the machine, Doctor.", and we aren't told what that plan is till we see Data linking with Locutus.
  • Supernatural:
    • Any hunt that is explained beyond what has to be done to kill the Monster of the Week is going to go awry. Perhaps best exemplified by the episode "Mommy Dearest", where the heroes are shown discussing both a Plan A and a Plan B. Both are easily foiled by the episode's villain. Dean then kills her with a previously unmentioned but obviously thought out beforehand Plan C.
    • Subverted in "The Rapture". Sam and Dean have to figure out a way to rescue Jimmy Novak's wife and daughter from a group of demons holding them hostage. Dean says he has a plan. We never find out what this plan was, but apparently it didn't work too well, because in the next scene they're captured and Sam is telling Dean "Nice plan."
  • Subverted in Torchwood: Children of Earth, "Day 4" where the unspoken plan fails miserably, resulting in Ianto's death, along with the deaths of almost everyone else in the building and the government's decision to go ahead and give the children to the alien threat.
  • In the Korean Series W, the characters make two elaborate plans to end the W webcomic/world happily, both of which we see far too much of to believe they'll work. Similarly, Yeon-joo spends half an episode just imagining the happy events that will follow after she saves Kang Chul and her father, making it painfully clear that at least one of them won't be with her when the dust settles.
  • Also subverted on The Young Ones, where a character announces his plan, and then the characters huddle to make whispering noises about it. After the huddle, the planner asks, "Got it?", to which someone replies, "Yeah, we go 'Psst, psst, psst' — great plan!"

    Myths & Religion 
  • From The Bible, Judith 8:32–34. "Judith said to them, 'Listen to me. I am about to do a thing which will go down through all generations of our descendants. Stand at the city gate tonight, and I will go out with my maid; and within the days after which you have promised to surrender the city to our enemies, the Lord will deliver Israel by my hand. Only, do not try to find out what I plan; for I will not tell you until I have finished what I am about to do.'"

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blades in the Dark is likely the first Tabletop RPG on record to mechanize this trope (i.e. offer mechanics that implement it). Although the player characters are assumed to plan their scores extensively, the players don't specify anything ahead of time, except the score's objective, the attack point, and their respective maximum loadouts. This way, the latter can retroactively introduce contingencies into the former's "plans" that had never been mentioned before, and thus have much better chances of success than if the players had planned their scores in detail.
  • Adeptus Evangelion has several skills for Operations Directors that work explicitly like this, including retroactively designating any structure as a defensive fortification the others weren't told about and personally showing up out of nowhere as long as they haven't done anything location-specific for a while (ie. nobody knows what they're doing). Then there's the "Pack Rat" skill which allows a character to arbitrarily whip out a small item they need at the moment, even if nobody knew they had it on their person.
  • Eidolon: Become Your Best Self has the "Reveal Your Master Plan" move, which allows the player to declare that they've already enacted a scheme without anyone else's knowledge. The GM has the ability to state if something is impossible, but as long as the player has enough wiggle room to justify the actions that occurred offscreen and rolls well enough, it can go off without a hitch.

  • Shakespearean examples:
    • In Romeo and Juliet, Friar Lawrence's plan involving the faked death of Juliet is described to the audience. The plan fails thanks to some spectacularly bad timing and poor communication, resulting in both Romeo and Juliet dying.
    • One of the main differences between Shakespeare's tragedies and his comedies is that the tragedies are more likely to play this trope straight, whereas the comedies are more likely to avert it. For example, the second half of Much Ado About Nothing centers on another false death gambit, also hatched and explained in detail by a friar, but in this case the gambit actually succeeds.
  • In Thrill Me, Richard suggests two plans in "The Plan". One is killing his brother John, which Nathan talks him out of. One is killing some random kid, which he is absolutely certain they will get away with, since there's no motive. It doesn't work out. Additionally, Nathan puts together another plan which is not revealed until the end, and goes off without a hitch, landing them in prison — together for the rest of their lives.
  • In Utopia, Limited, an operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan, the wisemen plot to overthrow the king's company, but do all their plotting by whisper, concluding, "At last a capital plan we've got/ We won't say how and we won't say what:/ It's safe in my noddle —/ Now off we will toddle,/ And slyly develop this capital plot!"

    Video Games 
  • This trope happens all the freakin' time in the Ace Attorney games. Often his assistant or even Phoenix himself will mention that they've finally figured out the case, give some vague clue as to what conclusion they've reached, yet it's still up to the player to figure it out. Largely justified, since combining evidence to solve cases is the entirety of the gameplay, so having the whole thing spelled out for you at the last minute would kind of defeat the purpose.
  • Subverted in the Assassin's Creed franchise; the main characters often undergo a series of investigations including eavesdropping, pick pocketing important items, and interrogating people close to the target. Then they announce a plan they've used those details to come up with in broad strokes, allowing the player to determine the actual plan of attack. Although some targets spring surprises that simply can't be avoided and force the character into an Indy Ploy.
    • Brotherhood onward introduced full synchronization bonuses for completing certain objectives like not being seen or killing a certain amount of people. So while the plan can fail in gameplay and result in you having to chase the enemy, canonically your player character really did kill the guy while staying unseen, or slaughtering hundreds of guards single-handedly.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum has a few cases of Batman not saying anything and ultimately surprising the opposition, such as calling the Batmobile to run over Bane, just after the guy has (supposedly) been defeated. And there is one with the player too, as you'd better figure it out before Killer Croc reaches you, or you're toast.
  • Subverted in Call of Duty: Black Ops, where all the prisoners in Vorkuta are familiar with Reznov's plan for everyone to riot and escape:
    Reznov/Prisoners: "Step One! Secure the keys! Step Two! Ascend from darkness! Step Three! Rain Fire! Step Four! Unleash the Horde! Step Five! Skewer the winged beast! Step Six! Wield a Fist of Iron!...Ah-hahaha! You know what to do! Step Seven! Raise Hell!"

  • Final Fantasy VIII features a long and involved plan to capture Deling. One part of the plan goes better than expected (the heat sensors the guards were supposed to use didn't work)... and the plan still fails because Deling was swapped with a body double ahead of time. Then came the planned assassination of Edea, explained once again in great detail, which (despite almost failing for umpteen other reasons) almost makes it through, only to fail at the last minute because Edea blocks the bullet Irvine fires, and in the direct attack, she defeats Squall. But then, later in the game, a much more convoluted plan averts the trope (Odine's plan to have Ellone trick Ultimecia into a partial time compression actually works and helps the heroes reach and defeat Ultimecia.)
  • Played almost perfectly straight in the "Poacher's Day" storyline of Granblue Fantasy. The unspoken parts of Carren's plan, like having Lunalu draw a giant lifelike picture of the Urkin Queen to distract the Odajumoki ships, or Tweyen and Izmir firing ice-imbued arrows from over the horizon to stop the leader from dropping their giant crab's remains and setting the queen off to lay her eggs early, goes almost completely without a hitch. Afterwards comes actually removing the shell from the Urkin Queen, which was described in great detail, so naturally the Duskbringer gets stuck in the Urkin Queen's shell. Fortunately, Seofon's sword duplication saves the day.
  • Happens in Halo 3 when Cortana sends a vague message to the UNSC telling them of a solution for the Flood at the Ark. As it turns out, the Ark contains a foundry at its core that can build Halo rings, with it having already almost finished building a replacement for Installation 04; John-117 activates it to eradicate the galaxy-threatening Flood as well as their Gravemind. Justified since the knowledge could have fallen into the hands of the Gravemind had anyone known the details due to the Flood's ability to assimilate the knowledge of its victims, which would have led it to not send all its Flood forces to the Ark in an effort to avoid being killed by the activation of the other Halo rings. In fact, Cortana herself wasn't quite sure what was at the Ark, making this less of a plan and more everyone hanging onto something Cortana had vague knowledge of that they didn't even know existed. It also helps that each Forerunner installation's Monitor had important details of other installations removed from its mind as a precaution; otherwise the Flood would have had enough information to guess the plan.
  • In Completing the Mission from the Henry Stickmin Series, on the Government Supported Private Investigator/Convict Allies path, the final choice involves choosing between Henry's, Ellie's, and Charles's plans to stop the Toppat rocket before it reaches orbit. Charles's and Ellie's plans are shown to the player as they're explained, and both result in failure. Meanwhile, the player hears nothing of Henry's plan while he's explaining it, and it ends up succeeding. The plans in question are as follows:
    • Charles: Charles would've ramed his helicopter into the cafeteria window. Ellie gets confused as to how this would work, much less help. By the time they decide to go through with the plan, the rocket is too far away for Charles to actually do it.
    • Ellie: She and Henry sabotage the engine and then bail out of the rocket through the forward left vent. While the sabotage is successful, Charles ends up going to the wrong vent and fails to save Henry and Ellie.
    • Henry: He and Ellie make their way up to the cockpit where Ellie deals with Sven while Henry changes the rocket's course. They then bail out of the rocket and Charles catches them.
  • Played straight in Kira☆Kira at d2b's first concert, before which Shika and Murakami have some kind of secret plan they talk about but never clarify until it actually happens onscreen. There's at least one example of the trope going the other way too, where a concert is expected by all characters to go fine but winds up going horribly wrong when Kirari falls victim to a Heroic BSoD onstage.
  • Nasuverse:
    • Tohsaka refuses to elaborate on her plan to defeat Caster in Fate/stay night. Shirou assumes it's because it's some sort of plan that won't work as well if he knows about it. While this may be true, the real reason is obviously so that Tohsaka can surprise us with her hand to hand combat skills and utterly floor Caster. The plan actually works because Caster didn't know Magi had picked up martial arts skills, but it's not enough to win. It was only enough to distract her until Archer showed up.
    • This is justified in Fate/Grand Order. Doctor Roman's plan to defeat Goetia wouldn't have worked if the rest of Chaldea knew about it, because he needed to be able to get close to Goetia in order to activate Ars Nova (it requires all ten rings to be gathered together in order to activate, though not necessarily in possession of the same people). If the rest of Chaldea knew about Roman's true identity as well as Ars Nova, then Goetia would have learned about it as well and could have easily adapted his plans to keep Roman out of the picture.
  • Persona 5: Anything involving the Wham Episode at the end of Joker's interrogation isn't made clear until it actually happens. In particular, the Phantom Thieves discussing the plan is fast-forwarded and blurred, along with all dialogue being muted, so the audience can't hear what the Thieves are talking about. This is because Joker was heavily drugged by the corrupt police force, and legitimately did not remember that there was a plan until the last minute. Still, the plan goes off without a hitch, exposing the identity of the traitor as Goro Akechi, letting the Phantom Thieves get some clue as to who's heading The Conspiracy, and getting Joker safely out of police custody, all at once.
  • This trope shows up in Psychonauts. The plan Shegor's talking pet turtle comes up with that goes off without a hitch and very nearly solves everything is blanked out when discussed, then carried out in a cutscene.
  • In the second Robopon game, Big Bad Dr. Zero exploits this trope. He doesn't tell you a thing about his plan until it's already enacted, ensuring you have no way of finding or stopping him beforehand.
  • Mostly averted in the Sly Cooper series, where Bentley describes in detail what must be done in each mission, and the mission usually goes just as planned. Not all of them, but exceptions are the exception rather than the rule. After all, it's considerably more fun to play through something you've heard about than to just watch it. There is a straight example of this trope, though, in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves. In the final mission against Pirate Captain LaFwee, Bentley's plan appears to fail due to LaFwee's counter-planning, but it turns out to be much more elaborate than the plan described to the player.
  • Used superbly by Eggman in Sonic Adventure 2. Eggman hints that he has some sort of plan made, and proceeds to go through his last level. When he arrives he almost kills Sonic, exposing the Fake Chaos Emerald and obtaining the real one. On Sonic's side of things, he states his Evil Plan out loud, where it proceeds to blow up in his face spectacularly. This scene is practically scrapped in Sonic X.
    • Averted earlier in the game. About midway through the dark story, Eggman explains to Shadow and Rouge his plan to steal the Chaos Emeralds from the military and destroy their command base at Prison Island. The plan hits a few snags due to Rouge slipping up and the arrival of Amy and Tails, but ultimately succeeds, gets the villains three more chaos emeralds, and effectively cripples GUN's ability to interfere with them further.
  • In the Sword of the Stars novelization, the Tarka commander uses an unspoken plan to win against a race of telepaths: She gives her Human and Hiver allies a straight-forward battleplan and has a conspirator in the fleet (who the telepaths can't mind-read) 'betray' them. She then backstabs the telepaths while they're gloating over their victory, with their captives being unable to give them any useful information because they have no idea.
  • An interesting twist is presented in the fifteenth installment of the Touhou Project series, Touhou Kanjuden ~ Legacy of Lunatic Kingdom. The fourth boss, Sagume Kishin, is a Lunarian Goddess with the ability of reversing a situation with her words. This means whatever she'll say or any plan she'll speak of will have fate invariably twist itself over its head and turn what she's said into a lie every time, so she has to carefully choose her words should she not want an undesired result from her ability. This effectively makes her a Consummate Liar, but not by vice, just because her words eventually end up becoming lies with time. After a Moon invasion caused by Junko, Hecatia Lapislazuli and their army of fairies supercharged with life force which turned them into the embodiment of impurity (a concept Lunarians flee from like flies from lavender) had the Lunarians relocate themselves elsewhere (first in the Dream World, which ended up not working as planned due to being cornered by Hecatia anyways), their sights were set on the Earth and they decided to invade and purify it in order to make it an actual safe location for them to live. However, this was just a plan B for Sagume, because as soon as she encounters the heroine in the Lunar Capital and tests her skills, she realizes there's no use trying to purify the Earth anymore and wholeheartedly spills all the beans to the heroine, activating her ability and effectively putting the kibosh on her plan B coming to fruition. She essentially took a Batman Gambit as she betted on the reason for her plan to fail being the heroine defeating Junko and Hecatia, thus freeing the Moon from its rampant impurity. It can thus be concluded Sagume is the reason why you win the game in the first place.

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: In 'The Camping Webisode', despite the fact that the viewers are not told about it, Frog's plan to capture the opposing teams flag in Capture The Flag only has a 50% chance of success, according to Robo. Killdra's team ends up winning.
  • Homestar Runner example: In Looking at a Thing in a Bag, we don't hear The Cheat's plan to get some drinks, and it goes perfectly. It still doesn't make any sense at all though.
  • Subverted in Red vs. Blue by Caboose's plan while he and Sarge are stuck in Battle Creek.
    Caboose: I have a plan, Sergeant, but we will have to move quick. Listen: whisper whisper whisper Do you think that will work?
    Sarge: That's your plan? All you said was "whisper whisper whisper."
    Caboose: I know. I just wanted to be the one with the plan for once.
    • It happens for real several times later on, though most of it's really spoilery.
    • In the climax of Revelation, a heavily injured Washington hands Sarge something and tells him he'll know what to do. He then proceeds to charge the Meta and get put in a Neck Lift, before signaling Grif to do something ("Shotgun, damnit!"). It's not until Sarge puts the final steps into action and gets a Pre-Mortem One-Liner in that we find out what the plan is: Sarge attached the wrecked Warthog's tow cable to the Meta, while Grif and Simmons pushed said vehicle off a cliff, thus sending the Meta to his Disney Villain Death.
      Sarge: Hey Meta... settle a bet, would ya? Does that thing kinda look like a big cat to you?
    • In The Chorus Trilogy, two of these happen in rapid succession in the crew's assault on the Space Pirates. First, the pirates didn't count on Freckles being there and part of a trap. Second, Tucker's fight with Felix was actually just so he could pull an Engineered Public Confession using Felix's Evil Gloating.
    • The Chorus Trilogy's finale includes a Kansas City Shuffle version of this. The Chorusians aren't attacking the Communications Temple and the Purge Temple. They're attacking the Communications Temple and the tractor beam, and using it to pull the Tartarus down onto the Purge Temple, while Carolina and Wash distract Felix and Locus.
      • Even later, Grif's incompetent infiltration of the Blues and Reds' lair was actually a diversion for Locus's own infiltration.
  • In Unforgotten Realms, Schmoopy at one point refuses to tell his allies his plan for this very reason.
  • Zigzagged in Dragon Ball Z Abridged. In episode 60 it's revealed that Goku had been planning for the Cell arc to go the way it did so he could get a situation where Cell wouldn't destroy the planet and Gohan would be strong enough to defeat Cell. Unfortunately, because he never told anyone else what the plan was, no one was able to point one massive flaw in the plan; that Gohan hates fighting.

  • 8-Bit Theater references this idea in the final panel of this strip. The plan in question actually an extremely roundabout way.
    ...And now that I've described the plan in full, nothing can possibly go wrong!
  • Played straight and played with in Antihero for Hire. He tells Wrench he has a plan, almost explains it to the enemy, but stops when he realizes the folly of doing so, then actually does explain it after implementing it.
    Shadehawk: I've got a Plan. With a capital P and everything.
  • Prominent in Bob and George, and referenced in this strip's commentary.
  • Zigzagged throughout Commander Kitty. Mittens' plan to trick Ace into thinking they have a working transporterizer goes about as well as can be expected, but his later plan to trick Zenith into leading them back to her base of operations works with barely a hitch. Then MOUSE's plan to get rid of Zenith on route fails because it was said out loud. Played straight with Zenith's master plan, which she can't seem to shut up about; as it turns out, it never had a chance of working in the first place.
  • Parodied in this strip of Dragon Tails.
  • In Drowtales, for unclear reasons (implied to involve a mixture of Poor Communication Kills and Snadhya'rune's manipulations, but never actually explained), most of the Sarghress clan, lead by Sang, denounces their own colonists as traitors and sentences them to The Purge. Ariel describes in advance her plan to lure Sang's forces to Felde, trick them into a war with their own Nidraa'chal allies, and then escape. Naturally, every single element of the plan completely backfires. Their airship gets hit beyond repair, so they lose the option of escaping. Felde's forces do in fact briefly mistake Sang for Ariel's reinforcements, but Sang's forces quickly manage to resolve the confusion. In the end, the only thing that saves Ariel's forces from mass execution is Sang's death and the fact that her son is less eager to kill fellow Sarghress, taking them prisoner instead.
  • Lampshaded in this strip of Get Medieval.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Used in Chapter 24, "Residential". "Kat, this is what you need to do..."
  • Played straight and inverted in at the end of Act 5 of Homestuck. Rose's plan, which had been discussed at length, goes about as awry as it's possible to go, whereas Jade's plan, which had been arranged mostly off-screen, succeeds better than anyone had hoped (despite some minor complications). However, WQ's plan, the most mysterious of the three by far, is quite firmly dashed by outside circumstances:
    • Rose's plan was to fly Derse's moon and the Tumor to the Green Sun using her dreamself, using the Tumor to destroy it. Instead, both she and Dave died and transferred to their dreamselves. Then DD attacks a defenseless Rose while she's trying to fly away unnoticed. Finally, both she and Dave get the Tumor to the place it's supposed to be, only to discover that the Tumor isn't what destroys the Green Sun, it's what created it in the first place. It's not all bad, though; Rose and Dave got God Tiers out of it, and the Green Sun is now powering two of the heroes as well.
    • Jade's plan was to escape through the fourth wall at the last moment, to ensure that the Scratch goes off without a hitch. Not only does this succeed, but she ascends to God Tier due to an unforeseen attack and manages to take their planets through the Fourth Wall too.
    • WQ's plan was to use the transportalizer in WV's station to escape to the troll's session, then blow up the stations once they arrived so that nobody could follow their trail. It would have worked, if only Jack hadn't been hiding in the frog temple the entire time, and was released a mere ten seconds after the White King arrived...
    • Subverted by GAME_OVER, in which several unspoken plans collide to ruin everything. For example, Jane, Dave, PM and Jack all want to resurrect Jade, but they can't co-operate resulting in PM and Jack killing Dave and Jane Killed by Aranea.
  • In Impure Blood, Caspian is reviewing the plan, but we only see a few details before Elnor shuts him down because she knows already.
  • Justified in L's Empire. No one tells L's Empire about Dark Star and the plan to defeat him because if they find out, the audience finds out, which means Dark Star finds out (since he's a god, Dark Star remembers anything that happens on screen). At a much later point, Temporary Dark Samus refuses to tell his plans to the rest of LEET. It's Foreshadowing that he gained Viewers Recognition.
  • League of Super Redundant Heroes has Lazer Pony comment about this trope after they discuss a plan.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Not that this webcomic needs in-universe explanations other than "it is a narrative trope", but still this is justified in that Lien knows Elan is dumb as a brick and can't bluff so telling him WOULD be a sure way to ruin the plan.
      Lien: Anyway, given that, we had to keep a close eye on Elan, waiting for you to make contact.
      Elan: Why didn't you tell me about it, though?
      Lien: Because we wanted it to work! Seriously, how many times do I have to go over the, "Good, not dumb," thing?
    • Genre Savvy Elan believes in this as a force of nature:
      Elan: Everyone knows that plans only work if you keep them a secret first!
      Roy: What? That's not true at all!
      Elan: Sure it is! If you talk about them and then they happen exactly that way, there's no tension!
    • Nale and Zz'dtri's plan to murder Malack remains unspoken until they actually pull it off. Justified as they had been plotting it together for a long time and waited for the best opportunity, which arrived after the Draketooth Pyramid exploded.
    • Lampshaded again later on, when Team Tarquin specifically avoids talking about their plans onscreen. The plan mostly works and only fails at the end due to Tarquin's Wrong Genre Savvy.
    • Deliberately invoked by Elan not telling anyone except Durkon, so he could send the message, that Elan had called on Julio for help before the party ever entered the pyramid. Julio, aware of mentor occupation hazards, had at first blown Elan off -but then Elan challenged Julio to defy the trope. Julio bit.
  • Inverted in Penny and Aggie with Aggie's big plan to take down Karen. She doesn't tell the plan in panel (and in fact the last panel before the scene cut is a frazzled friend insisting she "tell us already!") Then it turns out that the real reason the author was hiding the plan was because the audience would say "that'll never work!" Which it doesn't. The plan after they regroup is much better.
    • Later played straight when Sara teams up with Rich (and blackmails Martin) to take charge of the "drama" on her reality show, rather than becoming its victim.
  • Lampshaded and spoofed in Real Life Comics:
    Greg: Wow... That's a hell of a plan. Quick question though... now that you've gone over the plan in such detail, what point is there in watching us go through the motions here in the comic?
    Tony: Hmmm... That's actually a very good point...
    [an irrelevant amount of time later...]
    Greg: Holy crap... Can you believe how crazy things got back there?
    Tony: That was truly a series of events I will never forget. Just... Wow.
  • Invoked in this Schlock Mercenary strip, where Gasht'g'd'g'tang explicitly says he's not going to discuss F'sherl Ganni plans, especially with the narrator, as "nefarious plans must remain secret".
  • Sluggy Freelance had ... well, see for yourself. Yup. We didn't even see how the plan failed.
  • Terror Island subverts this trope with the first time Demon-Jame possesses Jame. First Folio describes the plan clearly to Stephen and Sid, and the plan goes off without a hitch.
  • In this strip of Two Evil Scientists, after the titular scientists propose an Enemy Mine:
    Sonic: What's the plan?
    Wily: Get us out of here and we'll let you know.
    Mega Man: Why, you don't want to tell us now because if you say it on panel, it won't work as planned?
    Robotnik: No, because if we tell you now, Doppleganger will overhear it and won't let it go as planned.
    • Also these two strips and the commentary on the latter.
  • Averted in The Wotch: They had an Unspoken Plan, but Miranda had to Tempt Fate...
  • Lampshaded in The Young Protectors with a combat strategy that the Commander develops and meticulously describes: the Platinum Priestess mockingly compliments her for near-perfectly executing it, then plays a few of the tricks up her sleeve and promptly derails the whole thing.
    "It really does look like you've dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's. So, I can hardly blame you for thinking that you're close to checkmate."

    Web Original 
  • In the Glowfic "Mad Investor Chaos and the Woman of Asmodeus", the Queen finally understands the nature of the universe, when she proclaims:
    "A thought, then. Suppose we are to - Wait! I believe, on reflection, that I should say no more. I should not speak any of my plans or thoughts on the subject aloud. I have not already lost Hell's victory thereby, I think, but I cannot speak out loud of how victory is to be achieved and especially not while speaking with the Most High in a tower overlooking my city's sunset."
  • Most of the plans formed and executed by the Undersiders from Worm. They tend to work very well, but there is actually a good reason for that.
  • Zhuge Liang weaponizes this in Farce of the Three Kingdoms with his manila envelopes, although several characters suspect he's just being dramatic.
  • This trope is one of the reasons why Dream is so successful in Minecraft Manhunt. Dream plans where and what he will do in a specific situation for one of his videos. Then he tells no one until he actually executes his plan. Meanwhile the Hunters are multiple different human beings, and must coordinate plans between them in real time. This often leads them to speak their plan and thus ruin it by tipping Dream off, or spend time communicating it privately which is slower and buys Dream time. The trope is displayed in the different strategies in the first and last 3 Hunters videos: in the former, Bad tells nobody about his trap and Dream lets his guard down and falls for it; while in the latter, the Hunters brag about how they're setting up an unbeatable trap, and Dream — knowing that there's a trap — figures out a way to beat it.

    Web Videos 
  • Played with by way of No Fourth Wall in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Dr. Horrible's plan fails because it turns out that Captain Hammer and the police have been watching the video along with the audience. Also subverted with his revenge plan — we are told nothing, save that it will be both vicious and final. It... almost works.
  • Noob, that is set in a MMORPG, has a character tell this to her teammates in the middle of chatting with enemies:
    Gaea: Quick, everyone do what I just wrote on the discussion board!
  • In the Potter Puppet Pals episode "Trouble at Hogwarts", Voldemort is invading the school but Dumbledore, Harry, and Hermione are all stumped on how to respond. It's Ron who runs in and says "I have a plan!" and then the scene transitions. Turns out the solution is to Just Shoot Him — not with magic spells, but submachine gun bullets!
  • Star Wars Down Under. The rebels planning to attack Darth Drongo's base discuss the matter in the laconic Aussie style.
    Merve: So that's the plan, eh?
    Bear: My oath it is. So whaddya reckon?
    Merve: [shrugs] Aw yeah.
    Bear: Good. Go get yourself some tucker.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • Subverted in "What Is Life?" when Finn and NEPTR are being pursued by an ice monster:
      Finn: It's a lightning shaped door—and we're gonna smash right into it! Hold on NEPTR, I have a plan.
      [Finn slides up the ice wall and the beast shatters smashing down the door]
      NEPTR: That was a great plan.
      Finn: Nah, that wasn't my plan. We got lucky.
    • Invoked by Finn in "Morituri Te Salutamus" when he doesn't mention his plan to his sidekick Jake so that he won't mess it up.
    • Subverted in "Reign of Gunthers", where Finn keeps his plan to distract Gunther and his army with a huge pile of glass bottles a secret for the sake of being "mysterious". Unfortunately, while Finn, Jake, and Princess Bubblegum try to figure out what to do next, the Gunthers break all the bottles and go right back to rampaging.
    • Double subverted in "Walnuts and Rain", where Finn devises — in an Imagine Spot — an escape plan relying on an extremely unlikely set of Rube Goldberg Device steps. The first few steps of the plan proceed exactly as he imagined it before he is spotted and the plan goes off the rails.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Anais' level of intellect seems to hang on this formula. She's great at rolling her eyes and explaining all the things wrong with her brothers' latest Zany Scheme, but when it comes to pulling off her own plans, she tends to fall flat on her face.
    Gumball: Hey, where is everyone?
    Anais: I don't know! I prepared everything and no one came [to my party]!
    Darwin: Did you invite anyone?
    Anais: Of course not. I have no friends.
    *Moment of realization kicks in.*
  • One of several reasons the invasion plan in Avatar: The Last Airbender was doomed from the start. The heroes spend almost a whole season talking over it, culminating in an on-screen briefing. Unfortunately, the bad guys knew about the invasion and had several off-screen meetings, preparing a trap for the protagonists.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: During Darkseid’s invasion, the heroes discuss a detailed plan to deal with the invaders, with Aquaman assuring us that it won’t fail. Turns out Booster Gold decided to text his publicist about the end of the world, allowing Kalibak to hone in on their location and forcing them to improvise.
  • Pay close attention whenever Ben 10 goes for the Omnitrix. If he specifically says which alien he is becoming before slapping it, odds are he's about to turn into the wrong alien. This eventually gets lampshaded a few times in Omniverse:
    Ben: Big mistake, Charmcaster. Way Big! (transforms into Shocksquatch)
    Shocksquatch: Uh, or Shocksquatch...
    Skurd: Why do you even bother to call them out before you transform?
    Shocksquatch: I don't know. I've been asking myself the same question, eh.
  • Averted in Chaotic. Kaor's plan to steal Maxxor's new battle gear is one of the first things the audience learns in the episode. It goes off without a hitch.
  • Double Subversion in a grand fashion in an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door. We're given a step-by-step breakdown of the team's plan for infiltrating an assembly of villains complete with accompanying imagined footage of them enacting the plan. Numbah 4 expresses his doubts about the plan... and then says how it worked perfectly. The double subversion comes when Numbah 1, who was missing during the plan, was actually captured by said assembly, forcing the team to rush in to save him.
  • Averted in the Cybersix episode "Gone With the Wings". Cybersix tells Data 7 and Julian (and by extension the audience) her plan is to lure the goblin creatures onto a subway train and propel them out into the daylight, which will kill them. It goes off without a hitch.
  • Danny announces such a plan in a Danny Phantom episode. Though Danny didn't suspect Walker to use the Fenton Thermos against him, he didn't suspect Danny's plan, so it all works out in the end.
  • Every contraption Klunk devises on Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines will be detailed by Zilly (who always translates Klunk's bizarre mode of speech). And naturally, they do not work. Dick Dastardly does the same thing on the show which he started, Wacky Races.
  • Subverted in The Dragon Prince in the episode "The Cursed Caldera": Callum goes over a battle plan in detail onscreen, and while it takes more than one try, it ultimately works.
  • Double Subversion in the Fairly Odd Baby Made-for-TV Movie of The Fairly OddParents!. Timmy comes up with an Unspoken Plan that appears to fail miserably... but it then turns out it wasn't actually finished, and once it is, it does work perfectly.
  • On Family Guy, Lois asks Peter to stop the toad licking problem. Peter announces he has a plan, then we cut to Peter saying "And that's my plan," in the principal's office of the local high school. The principal's response is, "What plan? You just came in here, sat down, and said, 'And that's my plan.'" We get a similar cut, and the principal now knows the plan. The problem is soon stopped.
  • Played for laughs and almost-but-not-quite inverted in Freakazoid!. In an episode, Freakazoid and his pals are hiding from a villain. He then says not to worry, for he has a plan. He proceeds to make his location known to the villain by openly mocking him and daring him to come get them. When Freakazoid's friends ask for the rest of the plan... turns out he forgot. So he explains another plan they could do instead.
  • Futurama:
    • Subverted in "Mars University":
      Leela: Now here's my opinion: What we should do is... [begins to whisper plan]
      Professor Farnsworth: What?
      Leela: [rolls eye] I said, we'll go to the jungle and let Guenter decide once and for all.
      Professor Farnsworth: [Beat] What?
    • Later played straight by Amy Wong in "Viva Mars Vegas". She intentionally and willfully doesn't explain how the crew is going to pull off a casino heist until they're already doing it!
  • Gargoyles: Played straight with any plans made by David Xanatos. If he's involved in an episode and has not revealed a plan, then the episode ends with him saying everything went the way he planned it. If his plans are known from the start, then more often than not, they don't work.
  • Generator Rex episode "Black and White" uses this trope excessively. The team's mission to infiltrate Providence is made up of plans within plans, and each little piece is explained, as it is being executed, by multiple short flashbacks to their meeting in the Situation Room beforehand.
  • Used straight in Jem's first episode, "The Beginning". After summarizing the gifts from her late father, Jerrica states, "I know how to stop Eric Raymond." We don't get the plan — until we learn who Jem is!
  • Subverted in an episode of Kappa Mikey, where part two of the plan turns out to be...
    Mikey: And now we just have to stay in this room for the rest of our lives!
  • Kim Possible:
    • In "A Sitch in Time", Drakken, Duff Killigan, and Monkey Fist concocted elaborate plans to defeat Kim using the Time Monkey Idol. They failed. Shego yawned and rolled her eyes as the guys schemed away, not revealing her own plans (until she finally succumbed to Evil Gloating), and sure enough she became The Supreme One.
    • In So the Drama, Drakken's most successful plan to Take Over the World was the one where he didn't even tell Shego what he was planning until Kim was safely captured. When Shego presses him for an explanation, he reveals that he kept her in the dark to test whether the plan was clever enough — if Shego didn't figure it out, neither would Kim.
  • One King of the Hill episode had the following exchange:
    Dale: [on cell phone] Help! I'm being held hostage! I need you to [whispers into phone]
    Hank: [on other end of the line] Dale, you're just going "pst, pst, pst" into the phone.
    Dale: [panicked] Well, I can't think of anything!
  • In "Brain Drain" on Legion of Super Heroes (2006), Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl both announce their plans to capture Brainiac 5's wayward headless body, and both plans fail. Lightning Lad then asks Saturn Girl to read his next plan from his mind for no apparent reason, and that plan is the one that succeeds.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends: In "The Quest for the Princess Ponies –- Part 4", when Primrose decides to fight back against Lavan, she tells Sludge that she'll distract him, after which he plan is rendered as unintelligible whispering. The rest turns out to consist of Sludge shooting fire beams at his feet to unbalance him and make him fall and for the bushwoolies to steal the dropped wands, and sure enough it works.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
      • "Viva Las Pegasus": Zigzagged. Applejack and Fluttershy work with the Film-Flam brothers to expose Gladmane for manipulating his employees. Partway into the plan it is reveal that they have disguised Fluttershy as "Impossibly Rich" to trick Gladmane into confessing that he has manipulated his employees, but Gladmane sees through the plan. It turns out that this was part of the real plan all along and while Gladmane is bragging, he doesn't realize he has been tricked into confessing, which the viewer doesn't find out was part of the plan all along until after it happens.
      • "Sparkle's Seven": The initial plan Twilight makes to become Sibling Supreme and steal the toy crown is explained in detail and completely predicted by Shining Armor. The gang make a new plan to be unexpected, but it ends up backfiring too. They eventually try the original plan and it almost works, only to be caught during the final stage. It's then revealed that Spike managed to successfully steal the crown, due to secretly getting help from Princess Luna behind the scenes, which both the viewers and characters are unaware of until the big reveal.
      • "The Summer Sun Setback": Early in the episode, Chrysalis comes up with a plan and whispers it to her allies as the camera fades out. The audience only knows that they plan to use Twilight's friends to set up a distraction so as to break into the archives, but not the details. The plan works.
  • Towards the end of the second season of The Owl House, Eda, Lilith, Raine, their fellow Bards, Steve, Darius, and Eberwolf come up with a plan to stop the Emperor's Draining Spell, which involves Eda getting a Bard Coven Sigil and disguising herself as Raine, taking their place among the other Coven Heads. Eda's curse would then hopefully interfere with the spell and prevent it from killing everyone. Since this plan is explained in detail onscreen, it fails easily; Belos somehow knew about their plan and arranged for the Coven Heads to stand in a different position to make it easier for Eda to be exposed, as well as have some of his scouts capture the others.
    • Meanwhile, Luz, King, Willow, Gus, and Hunter have gone to rescue Amity, only to be cornered by Odalia and Kikimora, who gloats that the Emperor knows about the plan, and about how she's going to enjoy taking Hunter back to him. Luz then tells Gus she has a plan but we don't find out what it is until after it's happened; Gus disguises Luz and Hunter as each other so that Luz can get Captured on Purpose, allowing her to reach Eda and the others while protecting Hunter, who isn't even aware of the plan until after Luz is taken.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Subverted when Mojo Jojo whispers a plan to defeat an alien invader. Although it initially works, its eventual failure leads to him having a break down that fuels an unstoppable beatdown of rage against the enemy.
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). When Rudolph, his girlfriend Clarice and parents are trapped in the Abominable Snow Monster's cave, Yukon Cornelius whispers a plan to Hermey (a would-be dentist) that the audience can't hear (Herbie will oink like a pig to lure the hungry Abominable outside the cave and Cornelius will drop snow and boulders on it to knock it unconscious. Then Hermey will pull out the Abominable's fangs, rendering it harmless.). The plan works like a charm and the Abominable is defeated.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • Any episode where the plan to capture the monster is spoken out loud will be ruined, usually by Scooby and Shaggy's incompetence and at times because of Daphne foiling it, though it will invariably succeed in a different way because of this.
    • Doubly Subverted in The Movie, along with most other Scooby-Doo cliches, by having the spoken plan... actually work after it almost fails.
    • Similarly, in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated Fred's traps may or may not work, in the intended way or otherwise, and may fail even if he hadn't explained exactly how they would work.
    • Another double subversion in an episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo?, where Fred's trap on the vampire monster worked within the first few minutes of the episode. Daphne and Velma are surprised by this, but it turns out the case wasn't over because while he was kept in captivity, his twin kept the mystery going by being the vampire in his place.
    • Done on every episode of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. If you listen closely, you can hear what Velma's saying: "So here's what we're gonna do, okay?..."
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in the episode "The Joy of Sect":
      Burns: We're getting screwed. There must be something we can do about this... Wait! Yes, I think I know just the thing.
      [Burns laughs, and the screen fades to black. After a few seconds, it fades back in the same room]
      Smithers: Uh... Sir? You have to tell me what your plan is or... or nothing will happen.
    • Spectacularly averted in "Dangers On a Train", where Homer devises a scheme at the beginning of the episode to fix up a steam train he and Marge rode on their first anniversary. Outside of a brief setback involving the train falling apart, it goes exactly as planned. The main conflict of the episode is the fact that his attempts to keep it a secret from Marge causes her to believe that he forgot their anniversary, and spends the episode resisting a man named Ben's continuous advances.
  • South Park:
    • Played with in the episode "The Succubus". Kenny tells the other boys his plan to get rid of the succubus in detail on screen, but it's Kenny, so the audience doesn't understand a word he says.
    • And the classic episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die", where Cartman is constantly trying to get revenge on the episode's namesake. He tells Stan and Kyle (and thus the audience) a fairly ridiculous plan to get a pony to bite Scott's penis off; this plan already seems likely to fail. Furthermore, Stan and Kyle warn Scott of this plan just to spite Cartman. It turns out Cartman was expecting Stan and Kyle to undermine him, and this was actually part of a larger, unspoken plan by Cartman that does work spectacularly.
    • When the boys need to retrieve an important list from the girls, Cartman' first plan is thoroughly laid out: "ambush the girl with the list in the passway and kick her in the balls", but it fails. Of the second plan we only hear the first part ("Kenny spits on the floor"), and the plan succeeds off-screen.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: "Where Pleasant Fountains Lie": It looks as if Boimler was tricked by Agimus, but he was actually manipulating the computer into letting him use his power source while covertly wiring him into the ship's dimmer switch instead of navigation. The viewer just doesn't learn about his intentions until the plan has come to fruition.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: The episode "Butterfly Trap" has it revealed at the end that Eclipsa's trial was a method by the Butterfly family to force the Magic High Commission to reveal what happened to said character's daughter. This example is notable in that this plan was a last-minute decision in-universe, being a direct result of the previous episodenote , while the trial itself had been planned for weeks prior.
  • Playfully averted in the second season of Star Wars: Clone Wars. Obi-Wan and Anakin are leading the siege of a city when Anakin discovers a secret way inside past the shields. In a deadpan voice, Obi-Wan says, "So your plan is to sneak in through the sewers, under the shield and into the main generator, destroy the generator and have our troops swarm in?" They then do exactly that.
  • Star Wars Rebels, on the other hand, plays it straight very frequently:
    Zeb: Why don't we just plan on the plan changing?
  • Star Wars Resistance: Early in "No Escape, Part I", Kaz lays out his plan to rescue Yeager and Tam, steal the First Order's shuttle and escape to Hosnian Prime for reinforcements. By the end of the episode, Tam has been turned against her former friends, and Hosnian Prime has been blown up by the First Order.
  • Played with in Storm Hawks. One episode has a character narrate a plan beforehand over what looks to be an Imagine Spot of the plan actually playing out. The narration continues even when everything starts going wrong, and the spot is shown to really be a flash-forward.
  • Mad Mod takes over and absorbs Robin's youth in the Teen Titans episode "Revolution". The remaining Titans each have their own strategy on how to save the day, which all fail. Starfire then says that they need to combine their ideas into one plan. The unexplained one works at first, but it seems Mad Mod is going to win again as he catches Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire. When Mod asks where Beast Boy is, Starfire explains he was the plan, leading to victory.
  • Subverted in Transformers: Animated the first time the Autobots fought Starscream: After a short The Power of Friendship speech, Sari quips in by saying "Okay, here's my plan...". Cue the next scene, where Sari is running after the Autobots, asking them to hear her plan.
  • Young Justice:
    • Averted — Robin is so used to this when working with Batman that he forgets that the rest of the team are not familiar with this, which leads to a lot of problems.
    • Played straight when Aqualad reveals his trap to shatter the connection between The Reach and The Light in "Summit" after already executing said plan.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Unspoken Plan


Ron Has a Plan

When Voldemort attacks Hogwarts directly, all hope seems lost until Ron declares he has a plan. The plan in question? Gunning the Dark Lord down, of course!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / UnspokenPlanGuarantee

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