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In many series (most notably sitcoms), Status Quo Is God. Therefore, any time a character gains something valuable enough to change the status quo, they must lose it by the end of the episode.
If the character gets a financial windfall, then it'll disappear or turn out to be Funny Money. If they get the supermodel's phone number, then they'll lose it. If they gain a seat of power, then they'll be forced to give it up.
As these plots repeatedly happen to characters over a long period of time, it creates a world in which some people seem to experience insane amounts of good fortune, only to squander it every single time. Easy Come, Easy Go.
In a variation of this trope, a handicapped character is temporarily cured, but is re-handicapped soon after. Usually used for comedy.
- Commonly used in TV commercials: a chronic loser is about to inexplicably score, until his target realizes he's been using an inferior version, and not the product being advertised.
Anime & Manga
- Lupin III and crew have the uncanny tendency to lose every big score minutes after they get it, or have it turn out to be something they're better off not getting their hands on. As Lupin is a kleptomaniac of titanic proportions, all he does is shrug it off and seek the next heist.
- Cowboy Bebop gives this kind of feeling throughout the series; the expensive bounty heads they try to capture normally end up dying right before they reach them, often ending the plot or starting it. In fact, one of the songs from the series, "Don't Bother None," portrays a similar air of easy come, easy go.
- In episode 3, the ending text, normally "See you Space Cowboy," is replaced with "Easy Come, Easy Go."
- In Eyeshield 21 the Devil Bats' coach, Doburoku Sakaki, wins $17 million betting on their game against the Shinryuji Nagas. A few chapters later, he loses it all betting on another game, when the Taiyo Sphinx get stomped by the dark-horse Hakushu Dinosaurs.
- Happened in Spider-Man around Secret Wars II, where Spidey got a notebook from a building that the Beyonder changed to gold, but needed the money for Aunt May. Somehow it was exactly the amount needed.
- X-Men Big Good Professor Xavier has repeatedly been healed of the spinal cord injury that keeps him in his wheelchair. It never seems to take; the entire universe is conspiring against that poor man's legs.
- In the parody Robin Hood: Men in Tights, blind character Blinkin falls off a tower and proclaims "I can see!" Then he walks into a tree (which he apparently didn't see) and is blind again.
- Happened to Pinocchio at the end of Shrek 2, when he is turned into a real boy by a stray magic blast and back by another one.
- The trope name is said verbatim by Harry in Condorman, as the expensive diplomatic car he just successfully stole falls off the end of a boat ramp into the water. Hilariously set up with the Famous Last Words: "Oh, Russ, if you could see me now!"
- Also said verbatim in a Laurel and Hardy film. Laurel and Hardy are standing under a street lamp, with Hardy holding a small bag, which he explains is full of money. They skimped, scraped, and saved, but now they have enough money to retire. A man appears from the darkness, with a knife in one hand, and takes the money. Hardy looks downcast and unbelieving, while Laurel simply shrugs and says "Ah, well. Easy come, easy go."
- Conan the Barbarian lives his life like this. He may find great riches in one book, but he'll spend or lose them quickly and be broke again by the time the plot calls for the next tomb to be robbed. (Unlike the RPG heroes who followed in his footsteps, he didn't spend his loot on better gear that he could use to loot bigger tombs, ad nauseam.)
- This is not uncommon with Robert E. Howard's barbarian heroes. Consider Bran Mak Morn in "Worms of the Earth":
He had drunk deeply and gambled recklessly, after the manner of barbarians, and he had had a remarkable run of luck, due possibly to the indifference with which he won or lost. Gold to the Pict was so much dust, flowing through his fingers. In his land there was no need of it. But he had learned its power in the boundaries of civilization.
- Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser also cheerfully piss away fortunes.
Live Action TV
- In Mash, Klinger is deafened when landmines start exploding due to cold contracting the soil they are buried in. Klinger's hearing quickly recovers, but his elation is instantly deflated when he is told that he would have been invalided out of the Army for being deaf. True to form, Klinger then attempts to fake it, but Col. Potter doesn't buy it.
- Even when they succeed in their various criminal activities, the Trailer Park Boys usually end up blowing the money in a matter of days or weeks, forcing them to come up with next season's get-rich-quick scheme.
- Micro Men: Chris Curry and Clive Sinclair build huge personal fortunes on the back of the personal computer boom of the early eighties, only for it to all be wiped out again when the market comes crashing down in '84
- ICarly: Carly, Sam and Freddie resolve a potential lawsuit with Spencer's intervention, winning thousands of dollars in a settlement. They waste it all by the end of the episode. In another episode Sam ends up with $500 to pay back Carly and Freddie, then wastes it on an trampoline that is never seen again.
- Even the Only Fools and Horses "upper" ending of the 1996 Christmas special, where they finally become millionaires because of a lucky find, and end the episode in a mansion was overturned when the next special episode showed them back in the flat in Peckham.
- Played with in Desperate Housewives. In between season four and five Bree went from being an unemployed housewife to a nationally renowned celebrity chef and cook book author, and owned her own well off catering company. Though by the end of season six she loses the company, but is not too bothered by it, as she says she can simply build a new empire all over again.
- In the classic "Honeymooners" series, Ralph finds a bag of cash on his bus. Convinced he's rich, he sets out to buy various things including a boat with three propellers (only three propellers will do). In the end of course the cash turns out to be counterfeit.
- In Radiata Stories, Jack meets an old man who turns out to be the fire dragon that pays him one million dagols to find a member of the castle hierarchy. But, by the time the old man is gone, Jack discovers it's fake money. He even falls for the same trick again later in the game!
- In Suikoden:
Grady: Please take this. A small gift from the villagers.
- Sam and Max Freelance Police acquire massively inflating amounts of money that they casually drop on Bosco for 'inventions' that experience has already shown will be a lame household item. A billion dollars for a snot rag? Sure, here you go!
- As part of the Running Gag about Bob's roof repeatedly getting destroyed in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, Bob will frequently wind up, through some Deus Ex Machina, with a sum of money that is just enough to cover the expense of repairing the roof and whatever other collateral damage happened during the story.
- In Sluggy Freelance Aylee and Torg's web design business is shut down after legal charges are filed against their Parent Company, Hereti Corp. Six years later, however, the charges are dropped, their accounts unfrozen, and suddenly Torg and Aylee are millionaires.
- In Ozy and Millie, Timulty is given a lot of money just for mentioning that he knows something about the internet (the comic was parodying the dot com bubble before it burst). He immediately blows all of it on candy.
- Stimpy once won 47 million dollars and instant celehbritydom as part of a television contest. When Stimpy finds that his newfound fame and fortune are meaningless without his best friend Ren he "gives away" all his money and returns home. Ren is less than joyous about this.
- In an early episode of Futurama, Fry discovers his savings account has ballooned to
millionsbillions of dollars through 1000 years of compound interest, but loses them when Mom's sons trick him into revealing his PIN number. Like most characters who go through Easy Come, Easy Go a lot, he is surprisingly unbothered by this.
- His pin number, by the way, is 1077 - the price of a large pizza and soda at the pizza place he used to work at.
- The amount of money in Fry's account after a thousand years of compound interest is accurate. They've Shown Their Work.
- Good thing it wasn't adjusted for inflation and deflation.
- In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, Mr. Krabs acquires a novelty hat worth a million dollars, but when he tries to sell it he discovers it has become worthless.
- Easy comes? He had to fight an entire army of undeads in order to recover it, even if he fooled spongebob to buy it from him in the first place, you can't avoid feeling a little bad for the poor guy.
- An earlier episode has Spongebob and Patrick ending up in possession of a magic pencil, with the latter promptly asking to have a magic mustache drawn on him, so that his dreams could come true (no, we don't know what they are). When said mustache flies away, Patrick says the trope name word-for-word.
- In Family Guy, Joe Swanson falls down a hill and temporarily regains the use of his legs. He loses them again a second later when his son plows into him.
- Not to mention the episode "Believe It or Not, Joe's Walkin' on Air." He gets donor legs, only for the episode to end in an inversion of We Want Our Jerk Back, since before he was a nice and mostly relatable guy before he became a massive prick.
- An odd implementation of the trope in the episode "Peter Peter Caviar Eater." One of Lois' forebears dies and leaves her a luxurious home. Peter, attempting to fit in with upper-class society, bids $100 million for a vase at an auction -- more than the luxury home is worth. He tries to raise the value of the home by fabricating historical events, only to discover that it was actually a presidential brothel. This somehow allows him to trade the home for the vase (which is never seen again). Selling the story to a tabloid leaves him with enough cash to re-purchase their former home. Throughout the episode, Lois is more upset with Peter for acting phony than she is that he spent $100 million on a vase, and then gave away a mansion that actually belonged to her.
- Although Lois never seems to mind the fact that she grew up incredibly rich only to marry someone with little money and live as middle class.
- May be an inversion: In American Dad Stan Smith is put in a wheelchair by a bullet only to be later be brought out of it - by a bullet.
- Another episode had Klaus get a new human body (that of a black man) and he flushes his goldfish body down the toilet. Later, his human body is injured so the Smiths buy a new fish looking exactly like Klaus' old body for him to be in.
- In The Simpsons, Jasper had his cataracts removed by a laser home defense system, only to be re-blinded by the laser's second pass. He even says the trope's name before walking away like nothing happened.
- Also in an early episode when Homer was able to grow hair from a miracle hair formula which allowed him to be promoted to executive. At the end of the episode, Homer lost his hair and demoted back to his old position.
- Additionally, there was an episode where Homer became the sanitation commissioner of Springfield. Naturally, he lost the position in a matter of days, and even got horse-whipped for doing such a bad job.
- Kim Possible, an odd example because the character actually did something to get their new loads of money - Ron had invented the "naco" in a previous episode, and is given a nickel for every one sold by the Bueno Nacho chain since then. By the end of the episode, it's all gone. Well actually, it ends up in the hands of Drakken and Shego, then they squander it. One has to wonder why he isn't still getting money for it though.
- Fanon says that he is, but it's going into a trust fund for when he's older and/or less dumb.
- How did Ron lose the money? By having $90,000,000 in his back pocket because the Alpha Bitch thought it was cool. Doy.
- Though, one must wonder how exactly you carry $90 million in cash in one pocket...
- The Flintstones - a variant example is used where Fred and Barney earn a cash reward for capturing some crooks. Instead of losing the money, Wilma announces that the money will be saved for Pebbles' and Bam-Bam's post-secondary education which means that the money would not be mentioned again, while serving to explain how the kids get into college without the expense being a major issue.
- Tale Spin used this trope often.
- "The Road to Macadamia": When Baloo and Louie save the desert kingdom of Macadamia from an Evil Chancellor, they expect a huge cash reward. Instead, the king pays them only the paltry sum he owed them at the beginning of the episode.
- "Your Baloo's in the Mail": Rebecca wins a lottery, then entrusts Baloo to turn in the winning Lottery Ticket before the deadline. To make a long story short, he doesn't.
- "Pizza Pie in the Sky": When Baloo opens a pizza-delivery service, the money he earns is just enough to pay for all the health code violations he racks up while running the operation.
- "Idol Rich": After going through alot of trouble to obtain a valuable idol, Baloo loses all the money it was worth to a tab he had run up at Louie's.
- "Baloo Thunder": Sher Khan gives Baloo a sizable reward for helping to keep his secret project (a helicopter) out of the hands of his competition, only for his secretary (under Khan's orders) to reclaim it for outrageous purposes.
- A lot of episodes of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers have this happen, and it's usually the villain of the episode who has it happen to them. Typically, they steal something and by the end of the episode the Rescue Rangers will have either returned the item themselves or left it somewhere for the police to find.
- Not to mention the number of times they've turned Professor Nimnul's inventions against him, often leading to his arrest.
- An episode of Goof Troop takes the "worthless currency" variant up a notch. Pete acquires a chest full of valuable-looking coins, only to be informed that they are Pestoozas, which happen to be worth less than nothing.
- Happens on one episode of Earthworm Jim. Jim has lost his super suit, and tries to gain super powers in order to fight evil, using ideas from comic books. One of his attempts involves flying into a cosmic storm, but according to Peter Puppy that's actually how the hero met his untimely end. Luckily, Jim and Peter not only survive, but become Wonder Worm and the Dog of Destiny.
Narrator: However, our heroes are oppositely charged and their handshake dissipates their powers.
- Used often enough in Danny Phantom that it seems like a stock plot point. There's Tucker's ghost powers in What You Want, Danny getting Paulina as a girlfriends in Lucky In Love, the Fentons getting rich in Livin' Large, etc. This isn't helped by the fact that the "good luck" is usually part of some nefarious plot, either.