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It doesn't matter how the hero stopped the villain's nefarious plot (be it through outsmarting the dastardly fiend, merely finding a weakness the insidious fiend overlooked, or sheer dumb luck). When his plan to take over the world is stopped, the villain has to start completely from scratch. He can't retool the previous plan to prevent the hero's method from working again; rather, he has to think up some new and creative way to bother the hero. This usually causes the villain to quickly run out of plans, something that may or may not be lampshaded.

Sometimes, the villain will take on the attitude that, since the scheme failed once it won't ever succeed. Other times, the villain will openly insist on coming up with a new way of doing something every time, even though the previous version would have worked if they only changed one tiny thing...

Possibly justified, however, by the fact that if a plan is reused, even with modifications, it is reasonable to think that the heroes will figure out pretty quickly that they've seen this before, and will have a pretty good idea of how the plan is supposed to work. As such, they can probably find another way to defeat it pretty readily, even if their original solution would no longer be effective.

This is probably due to Rule of Cool, because if the villain did the same scheme over, modified to account for the hero's last successful attempt, the viewers would expect the bad guy to win (and then there'd be no more show/comic/book/etc.) and if they tried and failed with the same scheme, the villain would get predictable and the viewers would get bored.

A subtrope of It Only Works Once. Compare So Last Season, Forgotten Phlebotinum, Holding Back the Phlebotinum, No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup. Compare Adaptive Ability, where it's the heroes that can't recycle the original means of the villain's defeat, and Reed Richards Is Useless.

Examples of Never Recycle Your Schemes include:


Anime & Manga

  • Mazinger Z: Big Bad Dr. Hell played straight it most of the time, coming up with a new Robeast, weapon or device put Kouji or Mazinger Z through the wringer (Gromazen R9's acid blaster could melt Aphrodite A's armor, Kingdan X10 projected mirages, Holzon V3 set eathquakes off, Jinray S1 flew at Match 5, Aeros B2 could absorb Mazinger's attacks and hurling them back, Desma A1 caused hallucinations, Gumbina M5 was nearly impervious to all Mazinger's weapons...) and then he never again used it. However, sometimes he averted the trope, improving some old weapon or reusing formerly intended strategies.
  • Orochimaru of Naruto had the ability to bring any dead person Back From the Dead and under his control which can only be killed by sealing its soul away, for the cost of any other one person (which he would gladly give up). Yet he only uses it one time.
    • The scheme is eventually recycled on a mass scale later on and, true to the trope, is quickly figured out by the heroes, until the technique brings back multiple Physical Gods from the dead and gives them improvements.
    • To clarify, its used by his Bastard Understudy Kabuto for the puroposes of global war. Oro was crippled following that fight took several hundred chapters / episodes to recover, so he never really had the chance to use it again. It could also be a question of their different fighting styles- Oro used it mainly for psychological warfare, and he is more than willing and able to take on some of the toughest characters in the series man to man-, or that Oro is more Genre Savvy since most of these zombies are beaten by teamwork relatively easily (Oro used used them to overwhelm a single powerful opponent) and Kabuto is implied to overestimate how effective the jutsu actually is, especially since many of the zombies actually tell their opponents how to beat them because they just don't like being controlled, or don't want to hurt their old teammates.
  • While played straight for the most part in Samurai Pizza Cats, one episode Big Cheese decided to build a giant killer robot that was an amalgam of every single one of the giant killer robots they used before. Not only did it look even more ridiculous than usual, but it was destroyed rather unceremoniously when Lucille panicked and unloaded her missile hairdo on it.


Comicbooks

  • Played straight by Doctor Doom. When he reviewed a brain tape replay, he realized that one of his very old plans could be made to work with just a little bit of modification. He stopped the replay before it got to the actual plan.
    • Another time, Kristoff (standing in for Doctor Doom), dusts off one of Doom's old plans and corrects the fatal flaw which allowed the Fantastic Four to escape destruction the first time it was used. Needless to say, the Four come up with a different way to thwart the plan the second time around. (This may be why villains don't bother recycling their plans.)
      • They point out in story that while he eliminated the flaw, he didn't account for Sue having force field powers (she hadn't developed them when the plan was originally put into practice).
      • This was also how the fake Doctor Doom was noted: the real Doctor Doom never recycles his schemes.
  • Lex Luthor suffers from this. Unless it involves exploiting one of Superman's various KryptoniteFactors (Kryptonite, magic or red sunlight), whatever scheme used against Superman is guaranteed not to be reused, especially since eidetic memory is one of his talents.
  • "The Trouble With Dimes" by Carl Barks had Donald Duck try a scheme of buying rare coins from Uncle Scrooge for their face value and then selling them for a huge profit to collectors. Scrooge got wind of the scheme and tricked Donald into flooding the market so the coins were worthless. Don Rosa's "The Money Pit" had Donald remember this flaw and try the plan again but this time vowing only to sell a few, very rare coins. After searching through Scrooge's coins for the rarest, most valuable ones gets him buried alive in the money bin, Scrooge expressly forbids the scheme from being recycled in any way again on the grounds of it being too dangerous: "I won't risk you being buried in my bin again. Why, my insurance rates would skyrocket!"
  • This is inverted in the Polish comic series Kajko i Kokosz. The villain Hegemon likes to reuse a simple plan of capturing the heros' village: build a siege tower and use it to get his soldiers over the village wall. He also has the habit of setting fire to the tower after everyone else has climbed to the top so none of his men dare retreat. This means that he has to rebuild the tower every time he recycles the plan. The trope is played straight with the heroes who will use a different method every time they have to foil his plan.
  • Invoked in Adventures of Superman #520: on Christmas Eve, 100 criminals plot to commit acts of theft at midnight; rounding up the criminals strains the resources of the police, even with Superman's help. Supes and the Metropolis P.D. have to round up every single criminal in order to hammer home the message that this type of scheme doesn't work because if word got out of its success, criminals in other cities without a big name superhero could overwhelm the local police by copycatting the original 100.


Film

  • Ocean's Thirteen: "You don't run the same gag twice. You move on to the next gag!"
  • In Jack the Giant Killer (the 1962 version), the bad guy, Pendragon, is known as the Prince of Witches, and he surrounds himself with them, hideous monsters with amazing powers. The one time he sends them out to do his bidding in the entire film, they completely and easily overpower our hero and the entire crew of a ship to carry off Pendragon's evil plans with complete success, the only time in the film any of his plans actually works. So, naturally, he never uses them again. They just hang around looking evil and hideous while Pendragon sends easily defeated monsters after Jack. The witches are eventually destroyed when the castle blows up, having done not one other thing.
  • Batman and Robin: Robin heads to Poison Ivy's lair, pretending to be under her spell. Ivy has poisonous lips and has been trying to kiss Batman & Robin the whole film. Ivy kisses Robin, at which point he pulls off rubber coating on his lips, demonstrating how he survived the kiss. Ivy then pushes him into a sea of vines that try and drown him instead of having the vines hold him in place so she could kiss him again.

Live-Action TV

  • All of the several ways to counter the Borg in Star Trek the Next Generation only ever worked once. This was used for suspense, and explained as the Borg being masters of adaptation. Apart from this, however, Star Trek the Next Generation was known for solving problems through technobabble and rarely referring to the same solution again.
    • During the course of Star Trek the Next Generation, the Federation either encountered, captured, or developed several different pieces of technology that would have made dandy anti-Borg weaponry. The soliton wave (originally intended to be a "warp drive for ships without a warp reactor") and the sentient nanites, just to name two. But did Starfleet use such weapons? Of course they don't...
      • Let's not forget the grand-daddy of all forgotten weapons technology, Project Genesis from Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan. Let's see the Borg adapt to that!
    • And of course they never reproduce the one technology that has proved itself repeatedly effective against the Borg: bullets and other such kinetic energy weapons. The fact that the Borg haven't already adapted to it proves that they can't -- what are the odds that of all the species the Borg have assimilated, they never encountered one that used guns?
  • Venjix and Tenaya 7 of Power Rangers RPM have this problem.
    • Power Rangers generally suffers from this, but there are more than a few occasions (including RPM) where the villain recreates a monster than was defeated before, only with improvements.
    • Subverted in the last episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Master Vile reveals his scheme to turn the Rangers into powerless children and Zedd responds with "I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but we tried this once before and it failed!" Of course, to Zedd's chagrin, Vile's version of the plan worked surprisingly well and came much closer to wiping out the Rangers than Zedd or Rita ever did.
  • Lampshaded by the Big Bad in the first season of 24, when Ira Gaines points out he can still use Jack Bauer's daughter as leverage. Ironically, Drazen would end up kidnapping Jack's daughter later on and using her in the same fashion.

 Andrei Drazen: When Plan A fails you go to Plan B, not Plan A recycled.

  • In the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer The Master, angry that Buffy has been killing so many of his servants, sends a trio of vampire warriors to kill her. They almost do, but Angel shows up and they run away. When they return to report that Angel intervened, he has them killed, and has Darla try to remove Angel as a factor. While this at least shows he's paying attention to what caused the plan to fail, it doesn't change the fact that even if Darla gets rid of Angel, he's just killed off the only vampires he's got who not only survived their encounter, but sent her running.


Professional Wrestling

  • It is common in wrestling to see special no-DQ matches where the goal is to do something other than pin your opponent (e.g. to escape from a cage or unhook a belt/contract). These objectives can often be rendered trivial by handcuffing your opponent to an immovable part of the scenery so that they cannot interfere. Since it is apparently extremely easy to render a wrestler completely senseless for a few seconds but almost impossible to knock them out for the thirty seconds or so it takes to complete the objective this seems like a very practical and effective tactic. Whilst it does occasionally happen you would think that wrestlers would just do this at every opportunity.
  • In WWE the identical Bella twins would frequently get the upper hand by switching places during a match when the referee wasn't looking. Kelly Kelly once hit upon the idea of drawing on one of the twins with a marker pen so that she and the referee could easily tell which twin was which, making this tactic impossible. Even though it worked no one ever thought to do this again, including Kelly herself.


Tabletop Games

  • In the Timemaster game, the primary alien villains never reused a plan. And in a time travel game, you really could keep trying until you got it right. Justified by said aliens being obsessed with "perfection" -- if a plan failed, it obviously wasn't perfect and wasn't worth repeating.


Video Games

  • In Shining Force II, a non-villainous scheme involves Sarah gets the party into Granseal castle by pretending to have a package that Sir Astral needs while he's checking up on the King. Later, after having broken out of Galam jail and fought your way outside, Slade, your newest recruit, attempts to do the same thing to the Galam soldiers in exchange for safe passage into Granseal, under siege by Galam. However, this time, it horribly backfires.


Webcomics

  Terra: He {{[[[Mega Man (video game)|Mega Man]] Dr. Wily}}] then gives them [duplicated artifacts of power] to an android which manages to defeat the entire team! They only finally win by exploiting the thing's humanity. But does Wily try again with a less human robot? Noooo! Next episode he's making a fricken' robocat to lure Duke into Bayou Billy's swamp! And it wasn't just once! That stuff happened all the time!


Western Animation

  • Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants. "I've used every plan from A to Y!" He then proceeds to use Plan Z.
  • Averted in the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons. Wily frequently reuses his plans, either in that short or in the following ones, to the point that most episodes start with a bowl of "Free Birdseed" in the middle of the road. If the Road Runner didn't stop for suspiciously free birdseed every time, most of the Coyote's schemes wouldn't even begin. Its rather redundant since they never, ever succeed no matter what, and many of his failures aren't actually a result of any flaw in his plan or anything the Road Runner does- he just has ridiculously, all but supernatural bad luck and reality bending backwards for his prey (eg. catapults that break in impossible ways, or the Road Runner not being affected by gravity or able to run into paintings) - to the point where the real flaw in his plan is thinking that he stands a chance in the first place.
  • Non-villainous, lampshaded example: in The Simpsons episode Today I Am A Clown, Maggie has locked herself in the bathroom. The family try various ways to get her out including using a coat hanger. All attempts to open the door fail. The family is just about to try their zaniest scheme yet when Lisa announces she got Maggie out. Everyone asks how. Lisa replies, "I tried the coathanger again. I don't understand why we only try things once."
  • Pinky and The Brain seemed to not only use each plan once, but would often consider the plan a failure if the funding stage failed. Brain then hangs a lampshade on this by spending one episode trying to find new methods when he thinks all his old plans amount to the same thing...
    • This reached its peak when Pinky had accidentally activated Brain's robot army, who then proceeded to take the President hostage, with him in the act of signing a surrender, only for Brain to intervene and, without knowing about his machines' progress, deactivated his wildly duplicating robots. When he saw the news report of his "failed" coup, his only response was sadness (it was a non-talking episode). The robots weren't destroyed, just deactivated, and he could have simply turned them back on and become ruler of America, but his only response was to give up and hit Pinky.
    • Even worse Brain's plans often failed due to wildly improbable circumstances that had little or no chance of recurring.
      • Worse than that, many of Brain's plans ended during the financing or resource gathering phases. Brain never seems to imagine that he could simply postpone the plan and use a different resource-gathering method and abandons the plan as a failure before it even begins.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zhao went to some trouble to get the Yu-Yan archers in his service for capturing Aang. The archers accomplish this easily, but we never see them used again. The Abridged Series, of course, didn't let this go without comment.
  • Not only does Dr Claw of Inspector Gadget never use the same evil plan twice, he always hires a new specialist agent for each new plan (but uses the same generic mooks for everything else).
  • In one episode of Gummi Bears, Toady suggests to Duke Igthorn that they build another catapult to attack Castle Dunwin (as they did in the first story). Igthorn scornfully remarks that they tried that idea already.
  • Doubly subverted for laughs in The Powerpuff Girls: Mojo Jojo actually repeated one of his previous plans down to the tiniest detail, much to the surprise of the girls, who didn't believe it at first. When they confront Mojo, he says he studied the footage of his plan and figured out the fatal flaw: turning the girls into dogs, which allowed them to bite his butt and lead to his defeat. So in this new version, he doesn't turn the girls into dogs and wears a metal plate to cover his rear (rather redundant, considering he doesn't turn them into dogs). Which of course, leaves him open to the girls just punching the stuffing out of him, as he discovers a moment later.
    • The Powerpuff Girls also features a villain named HIM who has openly stated, as a point of pride, that he never uses a plan more than once, after having demonstrated his power to make all of Townsville attack the girls in a murderous frenzy, which the girls overcame by being perfectly willing to beat the stuffing out of the brainwashed citizens. Considering his Reality Warper powers, he really wouldn't ever 'need' to repeat a plan, though his later schemes were all over the map in terms of whether they were more interesting uses of his powers than "corrupt the town with murderous evil".
  • The plans of Koopa in Super Mario Bros Super Show were always foiled because the heroes just happened to be around whenever he carried out his plan. If Koopa ever went back and tried again after the heroes left he could have succeeded.
  • In one episode of Superfriends, Braniac uses a super vacuum to suck the ring right off Green Lantern's finger. He never uses this again despite it being capable of immediately disabling one of the most powerful Superfriends.
    • Challenge of the Superfriends was notorious for this. The Legion of Doom would come up with matter teleporters, time travel devices, and all matter of wonder weapons -- they'd use them once to try and rob a bank, and then never use them again. The dumpster out in back of the Legion of Doom's headquarters is probably full of trillion-dollar patents that will never see the light of day.
  • Dr. Wily in the Ruby-Spears Mega Man show never repeated a plan. Sometimes Justified by Dr. Light coming up with a counter to whatever he had tried.
    • In "Cold Steel" he tried to recover his device so he could start the plan over later, but Mega Man stopped him.
  • Phineas and Ferb had Doofensmirtz recycle his scheme from the first episode, with his only change being switching out his giant magnet for a giant magnet-inator. It ended the exact same way as before, with Doofensmirtz barely realizing his mistake. Mind you, the rest of the episode was about recycling the first episode's plot AS A MUSICAL!
  • Justified in the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe episode where Skeletor dams and attempts to drain the Sea of Eternia to cause a massive drought to devastate the plant life to lower the oxygen level of the planet. He-Man makes a new ally with an insectoid people to stop the plot and afterward they agree to guard the Sea to prevent Skeletor from trying again.
  • Superman: The Animated Series had Desaad send a probe/automaton to battle Superman in "Father's Day". Superman beats the automaton but Desaad tells Darkseid that the probe was designed to fail, so that it would gather battle data in preparation for building "the ultimate weapon", presumably a more powerful automaton that would account for the failures of the first one and stand a much greater chance of beating Superman. Darkseid dismisses this, stating "That was your ultimate weapon" and refuses to allow him to even pursue the making of such a weapon.


Real Life

  • Compare the German attack on France in 1914 with the German attack on France in 1939. The difference? In 1914 it didn't work.
    • An imperfect example, since Fall: Gelb (aka Operation Sickle-Stroke) was significantly different from the Schlieffen Plan. In 1914, the Germans tried to bypass the French army and take Paris by going through central Belgium. In 1940, they feinted as if they were going to do that again, drawing the best and most mechanized British and French units into northern and central Belgium to stop them, and then cut through southern Belgium to encircle those British and French units, forcing them to retreat through Dunkirk. In short, Sickle-Stroke succeeded largely because the Allies were expecting a repeat of Schlieffen.
  • During the US Civil War, the Army of the Potomac got within five miles of the Confederate capital at Richmond during the Peninsular Campaign, and only got driven back because of the timidity of Gen. McClellan, even though the Army of Northern Virginia took more casualties during the Seven Days' Battle, (and was smaller to begin with). Despite this, the North never again made any serious attempt to capture Richmond by moving northwest from Ft. Monroe. Justified by the fact that redeploying the Army of the Potomac from in front of Washington to Ft. Monroe left the Union capital vulnerable.
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