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Quotes / Xanatos Gambit

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    Anime & Manga 

"Izaya doesn't care if he dies, he wants society to reject Shizuo. If he beats him, cool. If he dies, then Shizuo's a murderer. No matter what happens, he gets his way."
Aoba Kuronuma, Durarara!!

"Listen well... when I find myself with a goal, I'm sure to plan out a number of routes to the goal, shall we say. To be exact, I weave my plots years or even decades prior so that I may employ a viable route when the time comes. A route that inevitably achieves my ends."
All For One, My Hero Academia

    Film — Live-Action 
Hamilton: My Lord, the princess might be taken hostage, or her life be put in jeopardy.
Longshanks: My son would be most distressed by that. But if she were to be killed, we would soon find the King of France a useful ally against the Scots. You see, as king, you must find the good in any situation.

"You win, I steal from you. He wins, I steal it from him. Good... luck."
Arsène Lupin III, Lupin the 3rd

Neville Flynn: Eddie Kim somehow managed to fill the plane with poisonous snakes.
Hank Harris: Wait, hold on. What kind of insane plan is that? He can't possibly guarantee that the snakes are gonna get to Sean!
Flynn: Yeah, well, he doesn't have to guarantee it if he brings down the whole plane down!


"It's Caesar's trump card, his last resort, so even if he loses, he still wins."
Shane Schofield, Area 7

"Look what your true goal is, then start looking for the ways to reach it."

"He seemed to have made triumph possible and ruin impossible. At the worst, he would stand as well as he had stood before I crossed his path [...] at best, there would be none left to stand against him."

Littlefinger stroked the neat spike of his beard. "Lysa has woes of her own. Clansmen raiding out of the Mountains of the Moon, in greater numbers than ever before... and better armed."
"Distressing," said Tyrion Lannister, who had armed them. "I could help her with that. A word from me ..."

Captain Pellaeon: We're attacking Mrisst?
Grand Admiral Thrawn: It's certainly ripe for the taking. And a base there would give us the capacity to launch attacks into the very heart of the Rebellion.
Pellaeon: Except that the Rebellion must know this. They'd launch a massive counterattack, sir, if we so much as made a move toward Mrisst.
Thrawn: Exactly. Which means that when we're finally ready to draw the Coruscant sector fleet into ambush, Mrisst will be the perfect lure to use. If they come out to meet us, we'll defeat them then and there. And if they somehow sense the trap and refuse to engage, we'll have our forward base. Either way, the Empire will triumph.

"Someone who only wins when he's dealt a great hand of cards is a fool, not a gambler."
Fortunato, Void Dogs

"The key to strategy... is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory."
Cavilo, The Vor Game

"Reason? Singular? Dear boy, you really did learn nothing from me, didn't you? Never run with any plan in which there is only one desirable outcome."
Parson Miles, The Zombie Knight

But there were degrees of misfortune, levels of random chance that her masters were willing to accept — even encourage. What looked like chaos to an outsider was actually the end result of careful manipulation. Management, for want of a better word. It was, after all, the greatest skill Thorne's masters possessed. To control the uncontrollable, to influence and guide the elements that appeared impossible to govern.

    Live-Action TV 

"What I came here to get, I got. Even her. Guess you could call it a bank shot. Yes, I've had a nice day."

Garak: You, on the other hand, seem to have left your retirement far behind. Unless you're simply on a pleasure cruise with your pointed-eared friends...?
Tain: (to Odo) Cunning, isn't he? He makes a racial slur within earshot of two Romulans, putting me in the position of either defending them — thus giving away my allegiance to them — or letting the comment pass, in which case he's managed to plant a seed of discord between us.

Spock: T'Pring, explain.
T'Pring: Specify.
Spock: Why the challenge, and why you chose my captain as your champion.
T'Pring: Stonn wanted me; I wanted him.
Spock: I see no logic in preferring Stonn over me.
T'Pring: You have become much known among our people, Spock; almost a legend. And as the years went by, I came to know that I did not want to be the consort of a legend. But by the laws of our people, I could only divorce you by the kal-if-fee. There was also Stonn, who wanted very much to be my consort, and I wanted him. If your captain were victor, he would not want me, and so I would have Stonn. If you were victor, you would free me because I had dared to challenge, and again I would have Stonn. But if you did not free me, it would be the same; for you would be gone, and I would have your name and your property, and Stonn would still be there.
Spock: Logical. Flawlessly logical.
T'Pring: I am honoured.
Spock: Stonn — she is yours. After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.

Holt: With fewer officers at our disposal and none of them trying to hit CompStat numbers, we made fewer bad arrests. Number of complaints against officers: down 32%. Number of cases thrown out at arraignment for insufficient evidence: down 34%. And here's the most important thing we didn't do: we didn't make the community less safe. Rates of major and violent crime, what actually matters, stayed the same.
O'Sullivan: What are you saying?
Holt: I'm saying the Nine-Nine just became a case study for how a police force can work better with fewer police.
O'Sullivan: Are you actually talking about laying off cops!?
Holt: If these numbers persist, I may have no choice.
O'Sullivan: Then I'll just end the Blue Flu!
Holt: Great, that's what I want.
O'Sullivan: Well, then I won't end the Blue Flu.
Holt: Great, fewer cops! That's what I want.
O'Sullivan: You just said that you—... This is a very frustrating conversation.


"There is a small rahi, called a Water Wraith. So small, so insignificant is it, that larger fish do not even consider it a worthy meal. But every now and then, a bold water wraith will attack a fish much larger and more powerful than it. It is a one sided battle, of course, that ends with the poor Water Wraith in the mouth of its foe. Of course, what the larger fish quickly discovers is that the outer shell of a water wraith is coated with deadly poison. The larger fish dies instantly and the water wraith escapes to feast for months on its foolish and very dead opponent. Sometimes, my brothers, the best way, the only way to win... is by losing."
Makuta Teridax, BIONICLE

"Little Toa, you have not yet begun to see even the barest outlines of my plans. I have schemes within schemes that would boggle your feeble mind. You may counter one, but there are a thousand more of which you know nothing. Even my... setbacks... are planned for, and so I shall win in the end."
Makuta Teridax, BIONICLE


"Every way makes my gain."
Iago, Othello

    Video Games 

"They have seen all of history, all of its possibilities. They have seen all the endings. But they must know, the goddess Etro is already dead. Her end is final. No man, woman, or god can bring her back now. Ignorant and blind to their true mission, they did exactly what I wanted."
Caius Ballad, Final Fantasy XIII-2

"You are just one of many roads I might choose to take. Trust me. I made certain of that."
Master Xehanort, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Eraqus: You never admit when you lose.
Xehanort: That's because I never lose.
Kingdom Hearts III, during a flashback after the Final Boss

"Thirty years hence, I am presented with a dilemma - let's call it a two-sided coin. If the coin falls one way, I sacrifice myself and thus restore the Pillars. But as the last surviving vampire in Nosgoth, this would mean the annihilation of our species. If the coin lands on the reverse, I refuse the sacrifice and thus doom the Pillars to an eternity of collapse. Either way, the game is rigged. [...] But suppose you throw a coin enough times. Suppose one day... it lands on its edge."
Kain, Legacy of Kain

"I've lost time and time again... but now, I've finally won. Look! We launched them off safely. There's my victory. As long as they're in the air, I haven't lost. And I know they'll succeed."
Captain Nicholas A. Andersen, Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, after he launches the player's squadron on their penultimate mission before his carrier sinks.

"All I had to do was entrust the last Crystal Star to my least competent underling! I don't suppose Crump had any idea of my plan, though! Gaaack ack ack ack ack! So, whether he beat you or lost to you... The Crystal Stars would be together and mine either way! Pure genius!"

"I provide people with two options: do what I want, or do what I want but with more steps."
Renata Glasc, League of Legends


    Web Comics 

"Let us assume that Batman wins. Doom's machinations are such that even if Batman manages to be triumphant, his victory will only come about in a way that somehow furthers Doom's overall villainous schemes."
Black Mage, 8-Bit Theater

"That's nothing, because MY plan included everything in your plan, but also some other stuff that gives me the upper hand after all!"

Parson: Ansom is bound to capture me for you? That's what I'm guessing, anyway.
Charlie: Good guess. Yes, you and your artifact, of course.
Charlie; When you're working for Charlescomm, you'll learn. We prefer to play games that don't even contain a losing outcome. You see?
Parson: Yeah, yeah... You turned it into a no-lose situation by rejoining him.
Charlie: Oh, no!
Charlie: No, I got paid to turn it into a no lose situation. :)
Parson: :P

If I win, I get to be a king. If I lose, I get to be a legend.
General Tarquin, The Order of the Stick

Elan: Aren't you going to rant about how they escaped your clutches?
Tarquin: Hey, I know a daring escape when I see one. Besides, the crowd LOVES that stuff. Listen to them cheer. Good thing, too. These games were starting to suck.
Elan: I don't get it. They defied your authority! Doesn't that make you angry?
Tarquin: Sure, but not as mad as spending fifty grand on a propaganda event that no one even remembered would have. Plus we confiscated the bounty we paid them, right?
Kilkil: Yes, sir. As well as the full WBL for an NPC of their level, times two, minus their gladiator equipment and the cost to replace the soldiers that just got eaten... I calculate that the empire turned a total profit of 66,435 gp on their capture.
Tarquin: See? Why should I get upset, they paid for these entire games and—
Gannji: HEY, TARQUIN! Choke on this!
(the hurled spear hits the wall just over Tarquin's head)
Kilkil: Correction: 66,437 gp.
Tarquin: (evil grin) Their every move makes my victory more complete.

Minion: We finally got to nuke something and nothing blows up!
Mister Green: All according to plan.
Minion: You meant to fail?
Mister Green: No, but I prepared for that contingency.
Minion: Then it's not according to plan!
Mister Green: Scheming means having enough plans to win no matter what.
Minion: As long as you get to be smug.
Mister Green: Enough plans and a nice swivel chair.

    Web Original 

"Taker is a master of Mind Games, his entire career shows that. And he's also a man to [not] ignore unpleasant possibilities. He'll plan for any occasion, he'll have back ups and back ups for back ups. I guess he might have a back up for the back up of the back up, but that's merely confusing speculation."

"It's like, even when we win... he wins."
Strong Bad, Homestar Runner

"You know, I look at it this way: either A, we go through there, and get the flag back, or B, we stay here, and I get to kill you. Either way, I win."
Church, Red vs. Blue

Hera: There has to be something we can do to stop them. Cutter wouldn't generously give us this ship if he didn't want us far away from here.
Eiffel: Or... I'm just gonna throw this out there: what if Scrooge McLannister is just pulling a bit of the ol' reverse psychology on us? What if he actually wants us here? Or, since it is Cutter...
Lovelace: ...what if he's got it wired both ways. Yeah.
Wolf 359, "Brave New World"

    Western Animation 

"Win/Win for me... Win/LOSE for you."
Mozenrath, Aladdin: The Series

"So even in defeat, the detective manages to achieve some small measure of victory..."

Owen: It would seem that your plan has gone awry, sir.
David Xanatos: Not really.

If he uses the roar against other lions, he'll lose it forever. And if he doesn't use the roar...well, he'll just lose. Either way, we win. Without the roar, Kion is harmless.

Norman Osborn: Something occurs to me — either Spider-Man is destroyed, or you get Oscorp. Whatever happens, you win.
Kingpin: That's why I'm the Kingpin.

Agent Kallus: You seem in surprisingly good spirts, considering this loss.
Grand Admiral Thrawn: Loss, you say? The rebels may have protected the location of their base for now, but in doing so they have narrowed my search. Before today, they could have been hiding in any of a thousand systems. But I know they are almost certainly on one of the 94 planets surveyed by my infiltrators. The rebels have won this battle, but the war will be ours.

    Real Life 

Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy. Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

We didn't call it the Xanatos Gambit back in the day. We called them Xanatos tags, because it was always a tag at the end of an episode. It tickles me beyond belief that the trope is named after us. I have no idea whether we created it — there must be somebody before us who did it — but we definitely honed it. [Laughs] Part of it was in discussions with myself, Michael Reaves, and [supervising producer] Frank Paur. We didn't want our villains to decay. We wanted Xanatos to be smart in a way that we hadn’t seen villains be in the past. I didn’t want him to be petty, that was the main thing. I didn't want him to be vengeful.

We sometimes would play into the notion that Xanatos was trying to take vengeance, and then we'd do a twist on it, you'd find out it wasn't him after all, and the real Xanatos didn't give a damn about vengeance. There's a moment when he's got the gargoyles pinned down in a deathtrap, and he's like, "This is my first real attempt at cliché villainy. How am I doing?" The idea was that he had his goals, and if the gargoyles got in the way, they were expendable. But all else being equal, he'd rather keep them alive, because you can’t exploit something you've killed. And Xanatos was all about this exploitation, all about preparation. So he would have a plan A and a plan B. And then we did one episode where he has plans C, D, and E.

That idea of keeping him smart, and saying "I'm going to feint left, because what I want here is to the right, and if I get the left and the right, that's great, but at minimum, I'll get the right" — that notion became an essential part of his personality. One of the things I'm proudest about in the show is that Xanatos and Demona, who are very different, feel like truly original villains, of a kind I just don't think had been seen on TV up to that point. There have been more like them since then, but back then, I think they were pretty unique and special.
— Thoughts from Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman on his show being the Trope Namer as published in a Polygon article on May 14, 2020, titled Gargoyles was nearly the center of a vast Disney Cinematic Universe.