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WARNING: Prolonged exposure to the idiot ball can cause severely reduced intelligence, complete social ineptitude, and death.


Obi-Wan: Wait a minute. How did this happen? We're smarter than this.

Anakin: Apparently not.

A moment where a character's stupidity fuels an episode, or a small plot line. If multiple characters have the Idiot Ball it becomes an Idiot Plot. Temporary (or permanent) Genre Blindness is often a cause of this trope.

Coined by Hank Azaria on Herman's Head: Azaria would ask the writing staff, "Who's carrying the idiot ball this week?" This is generally not a compliment on the writing because the person carrying the idiot ball is often acting Out of Character, misunderstanding something that could be cleared up by asking a single reasonable question or performing a simple problem-solving action, but that he isn't doing solely because the writers don't want him to. It's almost as if the character is being willfully stupid or obtuse.

Unsurprisingly, this provokes a What an Idiot! response from the audience. However, sometimes, the purpose is to help the audience. Sometimes, the holder of the idiot ball asks the dumb question to allow a certain amount of exposition to occur that wouldn't organically be talked about, but needs to be stated for the audience.

On the other hand, making stupid mistakes can be the hallmark of Character Development if the person recognizes it in the end. Seeing someone discarding the idiot ball can be a rewarding moment when they are Taught By Experience.

See also Villain Ball, Hero Ball, Distress Ball, Idiot Plot, Forgot About His Powers, Alcohol-Induced Idiocy, Oops I Did It Again, Three Is Company, Too Dumb to Live, What an Idiot!, Conflict Ball, Bullying a Dragon, Mugging the Monster, Failed a Spot Check, Ping-Pong Naivete, Third-Act Stupidity *big breath* , and Out-of-Character Moment. A Stupidity-Inducing Attack is essentially what happens when a character deliberately throws the Idiot Ball at another character.

This trope is the Opposite Tropes of Smart Ball, and probably not closely related to Sanity Ball, Happy Fun Ball or Advantage Ball. And not even remotely related to the Timey-Wimey Ball.

Examples of Idiot Ball include:

Films — Animation

  • Thumbelina. Every time she gets kidnapped, she keeps letting the kidnappers take advantage of her. She could be excused since she's lived a sheltered life, but common sense should have stepped in at some point and while she does eventually stand up for herself, it's not until the last ten minutes of the movie. Yeah...
    • Jacquimo, too. He should have realized that Thumbelina kept being swept off and taken advantage of after the second time it happened and given her a ride home, or at least take her with him and keep her at his side while they looked for Prince Cornelius. Instead, he continually loses track of her or abandons her, shows up to give advice, and flies off without so much as offering her a ride.
  • Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers has Mickey getting this temporarily when confronting Pete about his wrongdoing. He stands tall and alone against someone much bigger and stronger than he is instead of making a strategic retreat to get Goofy (who he doesn't know has been captured) or some other reinforcements.
  • Aladdin is taken in by a suspicious creepy old man who shows up in his jail cell, despite being pretty savvy and street-smart up to and after this point, just because he has to in order to facilitate the plot/genie. Given how harsh the law seems to be in Agrabah, I.E. getting your hand cut off for stealing, the penalty for kidnapping the princess is almost certainly death. Aladdin was going with the option that looked less likely to get him killed.
  • In Rugrats Go Wild, Spike seems to be pretty clever for a dog. He spends a musical number dodging and humiliating a huge leopard... but then he stupidly mentions that there's a group of lost, helpless infants somewhere on the island, and the leopard immediately goes looking for them to eat them.

Films — Live-Action

  • Both versions of The Time Machine involve their protagonists holding Idiot Balls at different times. In the original, the protagonist falls asleep at the wheel, finds himself in a cave and reasons that he has to keep going forward in time until the cave is no longer there. Later, he gets out of a dome by going back to his own time, moving the time machine into his backyard and then going back to the future. Why didn't he think of that in the cave? In the remake, the protagonist can't figure out why he can't save his girlfriend even though any viewer who's ever seen a time travel movie can. Genre Blindness doesn't cut it.
    • And by the way, the reason is because he invented the time machine for the purpose of saving her, so if she never died, he never had a reason to invent the time machine and therefore couldn't have saved her in the first place.
  • In Open Graves, the hero wishes to reverse time to a week ago, without wishing for his memories to remain, and thus damns himself to a horrific time-loop. What makes it especially idiotic is, even the villain granting the wish takes pity on him, warns him that it is a stupid wish, and gives him a chance to try a different wish. He does it anyway.
  • Parodied in Scary Movie, when the "Walking Dead teens" are in the theater wondering who the killer could be — when the Killer is right in plain sight in his Grim Reaper costume, mopping up the blood from his most recent victim.
  • Roger Ebert also ponders this during his review of Paranormal Activity 2:

 "The movie numbers the days as they tick away, and along about Day #12 I'm thinking, why are these people still here? The screening I attended was treated to a surprise appearance by three stars of that cable show about Chicago's Paranormal Detectives. These are real Chicago detectives. If the Sloats lived in Chicago, they'd have a SWAT team out there by Day #7."

  • In Pulp Fiction, Butch's storyline requires a number of idiot balls. Butch decides to risk going back to his apartment to get his watch, a precious family heirloom, despite the fact that he knows people are out to kill him. When it gets to his apartment, no-one seems to be there, so he decides to hang out and cook some Pop-Tarts rather than thank the gods for his good fortune and flee immediately. It turns out that Wallace and Vincent were waiting for Butch at his apartment, but Wallace decided to go get some snacks and had to leave his MAC-11 machine pistol behind. Vincent meanwhile went to use the restroom, leaving Wallace's gun sitting out in plain sight. Vincent had already shown several previous instances of stupidity.
  • Played for Laughs in Pirates of the Caribbean. A crew finds Elizabeth's dress on board after she sneaks on board, prompting a mad rush to find the stowaway naked lady. None of them even stop to think said lady would be wearing men's clothes?
  • One must seriously wonder why the workers in Metropolis do not notice a difference between the moderate, kind, and properly-postured Maria and her psychotic, scowling, hunched over robotic duplicate.
  • King Leonidas in 300 brusquely rejects Ephialtes's offer to join his army because his deformity would cause a weakness in the ranks. Leonidas apparently doesn't realize that pissing off a man who knows your position's only weakness isn't such a smart idea. He also never thinks to suggest that Ephialtes fight with the other Greeks, who are mere "brawlers." It's also worth noting that the Spartans only fight a single battle in formation before breaking up into single-man wrecking crews anyway. There are several possible justifications for this. The first is that Spartans despised deformity, and it is true to Spartan culture for Leonidas to reject him out of hand. It also may be a case of Delios being an Unreliable Narrator who embellishes the truth to make a better story. The real life Ephialtes was a regular man who was simply greedy.
    • More like Frank Miller was embellishing the truth (no surprise there). History doesn't say much of anything about Ephialtes (who may or may not have been from Sparta); he was probably motivated by greed, but even that's far from certain. Regardless, Leonidas wasn't concerned about him revealing the goat path mainly because he knew he wasn't going to win the battle. The whole point was to unite the divisive Greek factions and give the Athenian navy time to mobilize. Although he didn't get to take quite as many Persians with him as he wanted, he succeeded. More reckless bravery than idiocy.
      • Though in real life, despite sometimes being described as a successful delaying action or Pyrrhic victory for the Persians, the Battle of Thermopylae was not only a decisive tactical defeat, but a strategic defeat as well. The loss made the concurrent naval battle at Artemesium pointless, and the Greeks there, in a tactical stalemate already, had to quit the field (fortunately doing so without incurring additional losses). As a delaying action, it was utterly insignificant. The only way the Greeks' strategy would have worked is if the Spartans (and Thespians and Thebans) had both held out a little longer—long enough to force the Persian army to quit for lack of supplies, thus securing the land route—and if Artemesium had been won, securing the sea. The disaster at Thermopylae, though it demonstrated the tenacity and bravery of the Greek defenders, allowed Xerxes to conquer Boeotia.
    • In the comic, Ephialtes is shown to attempt suicide by jumping off a cliff right after Leonidas rejects him. He is later found alive by the Persians and decides to collaborate. Hence perhaps Leonidas thought he was dead and thus no longer any threat? This does not happen in the movie though.
  • At the end of Firefox where the climax is dependent on the fact that Clint Eastwood's character has momentarily forgotten to think in Russian, even though he's been kicking the snot out of everybody for the last fifteen minutes by doing just that.
  • Trinity gets a big one in The Matrix. It's right after they've rescued Morpheus and are in the subway waiting for the phone. After Morpheus "wakes up" Trinity decides right then and there, when they both know they're not safe yet, to tell Neo about something important the Oracle told her. The phone just keeps ringing while they both ponder this, conveniently enough time for Smith to catch up with them so he and Neo can have their final fight.
  • Marlene from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle holds it firmly in her hands when she reveals to Peyton that she knows who she is, prompting Peyton to lure her to her death.
  • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Prince Nuada and Princess Nuala share a telepathic link that lets them know what the other is thinking and causes them to share any physical damage they incur. When Nuada is sentenced to death, Nuala accepts the verdict, sacrificing herself to prevent her brother's scheme. When Nuada escapes, Nuala tries to stop him, but she could, at any time, kill herself to stop him, as she was already prepared to do earlier. In a later scene, she allows herself to be taken to the heroes' headquarters, but neglects to inform them that Nuada can find her anywhere and knows everything they tell her, allowing him to progress in his scheme. When Nuada throws his magic bean into the gutter, Nuala neglects telling the others to keep it away from water until it's too late for them to do anything. Only in the end does Nuala finally put two and two together and kill herself to stop Nuada.
    • Abe gets it rather badly shortly after spinning the "my brother knows everything I know" idiot ball — what does he do when he is informed of this rather critical piece of information? Go inform HQ that they'll probably be getting a PO'd elf prince breaking in? Work on evacuating everyone to safety? No, he and Hellboy get drunk and sing love songs.
    • At any point in the movie someone could have thwarted the prince's plan by destroying part or all of the crown that controlled the Golden Army, which is exactly what they end up doing in the end.
  • Nero, from the new Star Trek movie has just seen his planet destroyed, and immediately falls into a time warp, sending him some 100 years into the past. What's his first idea? Destroy the planet of the man who was too slow in saving his planet. Not once, NOT ONCE is it ever mentioned that HE IS IN THE PAST. Had Nero simply returned to Romulus, he could have told his home of the disaster in the coming future, AND given knowledge of superior technology a century ahead of the times. The Romulans being the kind of folk they are would then take this technology, refit their ships, decimate the Federation and remember to evacuate their planet before their sun explodes (if they can't solve the problem altogether). He has 25 years to realize that his plan is stupid. Never crosses his mind.
    • He's gone insane from the loss of his home, people, and family. He even says at one point that the Romulus of this time isn't his Romulus.
      • Particularly since going back in time caused a split timeline. Whatever happens to the Romulus of the new timeline, his home and family are irrevocably destroyed.
  • In Star Trek Generations the Enterprise-D was destroyed because four of the seven main characters passed the Idiot Ball around.
    • First up: Mr. Worf. Gee, what's the typical way to penetrate shields besides just pouring fire into them? Match frequencies with the shields! How is that halted? Rotate shield frequencies! Even if the Duras Sisters picked it up again, it'd take time and a quick eye to pick it up from Geordi's bugged visor again.
      • Even better, just tell Data to do the exact same thing that he did in "The Best of Both Worlds" — change the shield frequencies, constantly at a speed only he can keep up with. The Borg couldn't keep up, how is some Klingon supposed to?
    • Second up with the Idiot Ball is Commander Riker. He should have told Worf to fire at will. The Enterprise is one of Starfleet's big sticks, she should have been mercilessly whaling on that Klingon rust bucket. Even without shields, the Enterprise is covered stem to stern in phaser arrays, and is loaded with torpedoes. Instead, we get one piddly phaser strike before Data's technobabble solution.
    • The idiot ball then gets passed down to Engineering into Geordi's hands, after the Duras Sisters bite the dust. Gee, that main powerplant channeling immense energy has a chance to explode if it catastrophically malfunctions, it would be a great idea if the ship's designers worked in a means to dump it overboard if it did! Even stranger is the fact that they DO have a core ejection system. It is mentioned in the Enterprise-gets-destroyed-and-stuck-in-a-time-loop episode. The core ejector on Galaxy-class starships never seems to work (the cited episode, "Cause and Effect," being a good example), and maybe Geordi had figured that out and was just telling it like it is. This punts the idiot ball back to Starfleet's ship designers.
    • And again, back up to the bridge, into Troi's hands. Woman Driver jokes aside... seriously: Wouldn't it make sense to fly away from the planet with its looming gravity pull as well as the other half of the ship counting down to explode? The only plausible explanation is that the saucer section didn't have enough power to escape the gravity well or that it was damaged in the main hull's explosion. This one in particular is a hilarious Idiot Ball hand-off because Troi's incompetence doesn't even BEGIN with her it begins with Riker (again!) shouting, "DEANNA! TAKE THE HELM!" Okay so... what? Riker, who has been stated to be one of the best pilots in Starfleet, is commanding the Ship's Counselor to fly the goddamned ship? The therapist? Who failed her officer's exams how many times? Her? Piloting the Federation flagship in the middle of a freaking crisis situation? ... Really?!
      • Her first maneuver? Turn all the main weapons away from the enemy, and turn the engineering section toward the enemy. Deanna's crap piloting killed the Enterprise-D.
    • Captain Picard. While his crew was playing Idiot Ball Hot Potato, his plan to prevent a genocidal maniac from blowing up a star...was to beam down to the villain's base alone and try to talk him out of it. To be fair, he didn't know that Soren was packing a force field, but it's never clear why Picard went down without his phaser or communicator. When that fails, Picard changes strategies by sitting on a rock and waiting until he conveniently spots a hole in the force field. After he gets sucked into the nexus, he learns from Guinan's ghost that he can leave the nexus and go anywhere, anytime. Given this supreme tactical advantage, he plans to go right back to the planet's surface where Soren was kicking his ass and was moments away from winning, rather than an earlier time and place, such as when he was speaking to Soren in Ten Forward and could get his hands on a phaser to make a public arrest. Even better, he asks Guinan, who has no fighting skills at all, to come back and help him (she refers him to Kirk instead, since she's only a ghost).
    • The Duras sisters are none too bright either. They agree to turn over Geordi and give the Enterprise Soran's location on the planet because Picard promised to take Geordi's place after talking with Soran. With Picard on the planet surface and Geordi safe aboard, Riker could easily have ordered Picard beamed back up and obliterated Soran's launch site from orbit. Meanwhile the sisters hang around, having lost their only bargaining chip, apparently so they can destroy the Enterprise rather than allow it to get blown up when the star goes nova.
  • Most of the trapped characters in the Saw movies. One very small point in their defense is that people might not mentally be at their best when they're about to die.
  • The Doctor's Wife in Blindness is the only sighted person in the entire asylum. So what does she do when a blind guy in another ward starts waving a gun that he can't aim, stealing food and possessions, and demanding women? Why, lead a bunch of other women to him and let him rape all of them, herself included.
  • Lyra at the end of Northern Lights. She just goes to sleep, knowing full well her father/uncle is hiding something. She decides not to ask the alethiometer for details because she's afraid to know the truth, which is not at all in sync with her character — probably Because Destiny Says So.
  • Every James Bond villain, by explaining the whole plot to James Bond, and then putting him in an easily-escapable trap with an inept guard. (Naturally, this is lampshaded in Austin Powers, where Scott says "Why don't you just shoot him?" And Dr. Evil doesn't explain, but simply cuts him off by going "SHHH!" every time, saying "I've got a whole bag of 'SHHH!' right here!")
  • In Dreamscape, Max von Sydow figures out Christopher Plummer's evil plan and tells him so, right to his face. The response? "Have You Told Anyone Else?"?
  • Mom and Dad Save The World involves a literal Idiot Ball. One of the weapons used on the Planet Spengo is called a Light Grenade. If you pick it up, you disappear in a flash of light, leaving the grenade behind. The clever part is that the grenade says "Pick Me Up" on the side. That works because the people of Spengo are really, really stupid. A squad of attackers encounters a Grenade, and several cutscenes later, we see the squad has been reduced to two or three, surrounded by empty uniforms and scattered helmets, staring intently at the grenade. One says, "We're gonna need reinforcements."
    • The entire planet is an Idiot Ball. Says so within minutes of the film starting.
  • In Anchorman, Ron Burgundy jumps into a pit full of hostile bears to "save" his girlfriend, then realizes he has no plan and immediately regrets the decision.
  • Ethan Glance in Space Cowboys. He decides to, without telling anyone, take an unauthorized spacewalk on the secret orders of Bob Gerson, and with everyone shouting at him not to connect the PAM rockets on the IKON satellite, decides to do it anyway, thinking that doing so will allow him to singlehandedly move the satellite into a stable orbit (which has dozens of problems even if he was successful). But when he connects it, the satellite activates, swings around, crashes into the docked space shuttle damaging it, and the satellite starts jettisoning its outer casing. One of the panels hits Ethan, somehow just knocking him out though it doesn't damage his helmet enough for it to leak air, and leaving him unconscious tethered to an activated Soviet orbital platform. The movie ends without touching on what happened to Ethan when he got back to Earth, but if he survived, he likely faces:
    • An expulsion from NASA, considering his actions lead to the destruction of expensive NASA equipment.
    • Jail time considering he endangering NASA astronauts, damaged Russian equipment, and jeopardized the lives of thousands or even millions, because even if the missile warheads didn't detonate in the atmosphere (nuclear weapons aren't like gunpowder, and they require everything working perfectly to create critical mass), they would still shower weapons-grade nuclear material on the ground or water below, creating an environmental catastrophe.
    • Life imprisonment, court martial, or even capital punishment for collaborating with Bob Gerson, knowingly withholding critical mission information, and following secret orders which could have caused nuclear catastrophe.
  • The Black Guy's death in the first Resident Evil, getting ginsu'd by a moving laser grid... Watching the scene, one wonders: why didn't he just take a few more steps back?
    • Red Queen would've just inched the beam a few steps forward. That trap...really had no escape. The Idiot Ball moment was everyone deciding to walk in without checking the psychotic computer for another boobytrap and not trying to, say, shoot the lights.
      • Roger Ebert thinks the hallway itself is holding the ball, by wondering that if the laser grid is indeed inescapable, then what was the point of the escapable patterns in the first place?
        • To be efficient.
    • In Resident Evil Apocalypse, the STARS sniper gets to hold it. The first we see of him has him sniping zombies. The first he hits in the chest, then seeing that didn't kill it, he gives it a headshot. When he spots LJ, he calmly pops the head of the zombie sneaking up to him. So, we've established that he has learning skills and has figured out that if something doesn't die from a shot to the chest, to shoot it in the head. Then Nemesis shows up. Sniper guy puts a round through Nemesis's chest; despite this exact same tactic not killing the regular zombies less than a minute ago, he is shocked that Nemesis, clearly much bigger and tougher than a zombie, doesn't die. So, does he take a headshot, like he did before? Nope. Another bullet to the chest, another round of "Why isn't it dead?!" and the sniper is blown up before he can take a third shot.
    • Also from the second movie, when the survivors need to find and rescue Angela, the daughter of Doctor Ashford, who will send in a rescue chopper to pick them up once they have Angela. So Jill arrives alongside Terri and LJ, who they had just picked up. Jill is a trained officer, and LJ has guns as well, so Jill suggests they separate and hands Terri a gun. A clearly nervous Terri points out the fact that she has never even held a gun in her life. Does Jill care about this important piece of info? Does she stop for two seconds to consider that maybe it's best if Terri remains with her rather than sending an untrained civilian off on her own when there are zombies and other deadly creatures roaming the entire city? Nope. She just stupidly sends Terri on her way, and she is quickly killed off by a group of zombified children. Though admittedly, Terri herself holds the idiot ball for not insisting on sticking to one of the others like glue.
    • In Resident Evil Extinction, LJ gets bitten through no real fault of his own, and becomes a Zombie Infectee. He survived the second movie just fine, has been travelling with other survivors for five years, yet he tells no one he's been bitten.
  • In Silent Running, Lowell has spent eight years as the sole botanist taking care of one of the last living forests, preserved in a space station. He's implied to be the only person to still care about preserving nature and is the best man qualified to oversee the return of nature to Earth. Despite all this, towards the end of the film he suffers a crisis because he simply can't figure out why his forest is dying. In the climax, he suddenly remembers that plants need sunlight! Why did it take him that long to figure that out???
  • During the Vulgaria plot in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jeremy and Jemimah are left alone and instructed to not go outside for any reason, because they would immediately be caught by the Child Catcher and imprisoned. When the thinly-disguised Child Catcher shows up trying to tempt the hungry children outside with delicious treats, Jeremy immediately wants to go outside and get something to eat, but Jemimah reminds him of the danger and says it's probably a trick. A moment later, however, she changes her mind and they both go outside and into the colorful stranger's wagon... only to be surprised that it was actually a trick and they've been imprisoned in a cage. And worst of all, there are no delicious treats inside!
    • And the townsfolk are perfectly happy to shout "No! It's a trap!" from their doors, but apparently can't be bothered to oh, say, pick up the children and/or drag them inside?
      • Children are outlawed — picking up the children and taking them inside would have gotten them arrested, so taking no action beyond a verbal warning (itself possibly risky) is understandable.
  • The Big Bad in Gamer. He's a tech genius and pretty media savvy, but makes two mistakes so laughable... First, the end reveals that he has the ability to take control of the Hero at anytime, he neglects to do this anytime during the film when it would be most advantageous to do so... like taking control for a split-second while the hero is playing Slayers, something he could easily do and make it look like a normal death in the game. Instead, he just hires a goon to kill him in game. Then he waits to usurp control of the hero until he is in the same room with him, and the hero has a weapon! Idiot ball indeed. Secondly, for someone so tech and media savvy to fall for the oldest trick in the book, having his villainous monologue broadcast to the world, is so pathetic that it doesn't bear a second thought.
  • In the first Jurassic Park movie, while Grant and Ellie are holding back a velociraptor, a gun that was knocked out of Grant's hands and is just barely out of their reach. Lex is meanwhile hacking into the security system, and Tim, not doing anything else, decides to just stand off to the side cheering her on instead of picking up Grant's gun.
    • The the sequel The Lost World. "Not into the long grass! Long grass!" Sage advice, the only problem being he was running into the long grass to tell them...
      • Also from the second film is Sarah, a scientist who disregards every piece of common sense in existence in regards to interacting with wildlife, and Nick, who sabotages the hunting party's every step regardless of the cost in lives. Both are responsible for every death on the island.
  • In Highlander II the Quickening, the villain picks up a massive idiot ball (yes, I know, let's ignore the nonsensical pissing over the canon for a moment). Connor is old and probably going to die in the next 10 years from natural causes. The villain, despite waiting for the last 500 years for the exiles to do whatever it was they were doing and finally claim the prize, decides that killing Connor is paramount and sends his mooks to try and kill him. Instead of waiting a few extra years for the guy who is nearing death, has no means of interstellar travel and no interest in returning, to die, he sends his insane and incompetent mooks to try and kill him. They instead get killed, which turns Connor young and immortal again. So the villain then heads to Earth to face off in person, instead of sending less incompetent mooks to kill him.
    • What makes it even worse is that the blithering idiocy of this plan is lampshaded not just by Conner, BUT ALSO BY THE TWO DUMBASS INSANO REJECTS HE SENT IN THE FIRST PLACE.
  • Lily and Zach in The Secret Life of Bees live in the Deep South during the 1960s. You'd think they'd be aware that black men were killed for even looking at white women during that time. They sit together in the black section of the town movie theater and, unsurprisingly, Zach is carted off by the local rednecks. He escapes, but not before the emotionally fragile May, distraught over what happened, commits suicide. Good job kids.
  • Fracture (2007) — The fact that there'll be a 'fracture' in the villain's otherwise great plan is well foreshadowed not only with the title, but also with a rather complicated prop. Will it be the planting of a gun? Or an unexpected friend to the DA judge? Maybe the DA will take justice in his own hands...? Well... he just admits everything upfront in a BBG monologue, not suspecting that the man of law might be wearing a wire. Can't blame him though — the cash was on some kind of digital sound recorder, maybe like the one built into his cell phone.
    • It's worse than that. As he points out himself, the villain still would have gotten away with it because one can't be tried twice for the same offense in the American legal system. If only he hadn't forgotten that the first time he was charged with ATTEMPTED murder, meaning when his victim died it was possible to try him with murder, a different crime.
  • Zombieland: In a zombie-infected world, Bill Murray chooses to frighten armed strangers while dressed as a zombie. He announces his plan to Woody Harrelson, who also thinks it's a good idea. It doesn't go well. To be fair, they were high at the time.
  • In Reste Avec Moi, a elderly man is being beaten to death with a pipe in a case of road rage. The man's adult daughter and a group of big burly men just stand there and gape, leaving the daughter's husband to run over and stop the attack — which results in his losing control and nearly beating the attacker to death (for which he is arrested).
  • Duncan in one scene in Mystery Team. Though nowhere near the "boy genius" he claims to be, he is still shown as being competent and the smartest of the group... except for the scene where he drank dog urine to disinfect his HAND.
  • In the film Cobra, the final confrontation between the titular police officer and the villain (a serial killer named the Night Stalker) begins by the villain pointing out that cops have to play by the rules even when dealing with a man as evil as him and as such couldn't just gun him down. Now this would be a perfectly logical and interesting argument if Cobra hadn't gunned down at least two dozen men in a car chase five minutes beforehand. Not only this, but he's well aware from the news that Cobra is trigger happy and is famous for solving problems with his gun. Why he thought a man with the body count of at least thirty would care if he shot a serial killer guilty of molesting a child in cold blood is, perhaps, best left to himself.
  • In Masters of the Universe, Evil-Lyn tricks Julie into handing her the Cosmic Key by disguising herself as Julie's dead mother. Not once does Julie question how her mother is alive, where her father could be, or why her mother would want the Cosmic Key.
    • Somewhat understandable — grief can make people extremely irrational, and her mother had only recently died. She also felt somewhat responsible for her mother's death.
  • The police drama Blitz is a pretty intense and tight movie about tracking a vengeful cop-killing lunatic, but at one point it hits a scene that would have completely derailed the entire movie if a single character had not acted like a moronic sheep. An informant is moments away from telling a reporter the name of the killer, but he first decides to go count the money he's being paid in the bathroom of the pub where they're meeting. The killer, however, knows he's there and follows him into the bathroom. The killer confronts the informant, who quivers in panicked fright, until the killer calmly and almost casually pulls him into a bathroom stall and drowns him. If the informant had instead bolted for the door leading back into the crowded, public pub where at least a dozen people were located and started screaming for help at the top of his lungs, he likely not only would have survived but the killer would have been caught either in the pub or immediately afterward once his name became public knowledge.
  • Tank Girl. Tank Girl, Jet Girl, and Sam probably could have gotten clear of Liquid Silver without much trouble after taking the Madam hostage, but instead Tank Girl decides to stop for a musical number and as a result Sam is recaptured by W&P.
  • Toward the end of Twilight, Bella's mother visits her in the hospital after Bella was assaulted by a vampire before being saved by Edward. The vampire crushed her leg, threw her into a mirror where a shard cut into her femoral artery, and bit her wrist. Humans can't know about this. So Carlisle explained to Bella's mother what happened: Bella fell down TWO flights of stairs and THEN INTO A WINDOW!! The idiot ball is being held by Bella's mother, father, and the hospital staff for believing such a ludicrous story!
  • Justified in noir film Where Danger Lives to explain why the hero runs off with The Vamp: he has a bad concussion and isn't thinking straight.
  • In Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan, Kirk enabled his ship to be damaged and many of his crew lost when he ignored regulations dictating a defensive posture with shields up when being approached by a non-communicative ship.
  • In John Carter, Dejah gets to hold one when the main villain gets on his knees, gives her his sword, and tells her to just kill him if she doesn't want to marry him She has been very vocal about how staunchly against it she is the whole movie, she's a fully capable swordswoman, and she puts the sword to his neck... Her next scene has her in a wedding gown.
  • Clash of the Titans : The vain Queen Cassiopeia had the nerve to proclaim that her daughter, Andromeda, was more beautiful than the city's patron goddess, Thetis ... and she did this inside of Thetis's own temple, no less. In typical form for the Greek gods, Thetis does not take kindly to the insult, and as punishment, she demands that Andromeda be sacrificed to the Kraken, or else the entire city would be destroyed.
    • Also, at the beginning of the film, the arrogant and vengeful King Acrisius of Argos condemns his own daughter, Danae, and her infant child, Perseus — who happens to be the son of Zeus, the leader of the gods — to the sea. It never seems to occur to Acrisius that Zeus just might be a little P.O.'ed by this. (Zeus commanded Poseidon to unleash the Kraken on Argos, destroying the entire kingdom. Acrisius may not have noticed, however, since he was busy being crushed to death by Zeus's hand.)


  • Talismans of Shannara does this to Wren, who just spent the last entire book learning how easy it is for trust to be betrayed, but who still falls for the trap of a character everyone (including her) suspected, just to get her kidnapped and in contact with the other good guys to tell them what she knows. When she gets back, nothing horrible seems to have happened to her army in her absence.
  • Grace in Vampirates takes forever to figure out that she's on a ship crewed by the titular creatures, despite knowing that they exist before they find her.
  • The Draka series of Alternate History novels, in which enemies of the Dominion outright ignore it until it's too late. Repeatedly. Knowing it's happened before. As one synopsis put it, the first 'alternate' in the setting's history must have been an 11th Commandment reading "Thou Shalt Not Attack the Dominion of Draka".
    • How much of Europe had Hitler taken before the Allies finally did something? All through history you will see people saying "Maybe if we just ignore it it will go away!"
    • This is actually directly addressed in the novels. The Europeans of the time viewed the Domination as a barbarian (nonwhite) nation with a thin veneer of civilized (white) rulers, certainly not a threat to the masters of the universe in Paris, Berlin, Rome, etc. And hey, who had they conquered up to that point? Some spear-chuckers in Africa, ragheads in the mideast, buncha Chinese out in the Orient, and the Turks? Nobody important or formidable, right? Racist and stupid, sure, but that's not even remotely unusual. Even in the real world, the Nazis and the Japanese military had convinced themselves that a 'mongrel' country like the USA could never be a real threat, despite the reality of the economic, industrial, and military situation.
      • Interestingly enough, the Draka themselves begin to fall victim to this same attitude, referring to the Alliance as "feral humans" even before their genetic engineering programs really got going. They still won the Final War, but it's clear they weren't expecting to take the casualties they did in the process.
      • This Alternate History page actually points out all the historical problems the canon timeline has and how illogical the entire idea is.
      • For the Europeans to view the Draka as harmless requires them to ignore an empire which controls all of Africa and the Middle East, has the world's largest GDP, possesses the most technologically advanced military in the world (as demonstrated in multiple wars Europeans were involved in), and a displays a tendency to kill hundreds of thousands of revolting slaves. Ignoring a entity like that when it's just across the Mediterranean is flat-out insane.
  • Herodotus tells of a king named Croesus who consults an oracle to determine whether or not he should attack an enemy's kingdom. The oracle says that if he attacks, "a great kingdom will be destroyed," at which point Croesus commits his army and ends up losing his capital city and being enslaved. He could've just asked which kingdom would be destroyed, but that's not nearly as fun, is it?
    • The Oracle was always intentionally vague, and there was even a quote upon the entrance to her temple saying, in effect, "Know thyself." In that respect Croesus held the idiot ball in that he overestimated his forces.
    • Also, asking just one question to the Oracle was a huge deal, as the questioner was expected to make an offering to the Oracle before asking. Croesus brought a HUGE load of loot all the way to Delphi, so asking "Which Empire?" would mean a trip back to Lydia, emptying more of his treasury, then another trip back to Delphi. Not the most economical way of divination, or maybe Croesus was just stingy.
  • In Eldest, two of the Big Bad's henchmen show up in the hero's hometown looking for the hero's cousin. The two characters in question are instantly recognized as the monsters who killed the hero's uncle by the townspeople, who tell the henchmen that the hero's cousin is out hunting and they don't know when he'll be back. Let's repeat that: the townspeople, in order to protect the hero's cousin, tell two known arsonists/murderers that he's out and will be back later, apparently expecting the henchmen to turn around and go home.
  • Mara Jade didn't even find it a little suspicious that she couldn't sense Nom Anor with the force. If she'd confronted him on it right off the bat, she'd have prevented about half the problems in the entire New Jedi Order series. Way to go, Jade.
    • Nom Anor grabs it too. After ten years of spying on them, he doesn't even think it's a little dangerous to try and kill Luke's wife.
  • In the X Wing Series, Corran Horn is an ex-cop turned fighter pilot for the Rebellion. He's given a cover identity and put on Coruscant Imperial Center, the capital city-world of the Empire, to gather information as part of an operation to take the planet. But one day, after one of his companions tries to have sex with him and he refuses, he decides to go walking while ruminating on his past, and pays no attention to where he is going. At all. He finds himself at a Wretched Hive and as it turns out the whole thing acted as a Shaggy Search Technique, but really, wandering an enemy-held world and heading into the depths of its seedy underbelly while not paying attention to where he's going? The Force looks after fools.
    • Corron was mostly distracted by Tycho being on the planet and dumb luck on a planet of billions(Maybe trillions) that the one criminal with a grudge finds him. The real ball comes from Corron who 'cop instinct' just won't let him stop believing Tycho was a traitor despite the fact if he was brained wash Issard could have used him at any time in the countless missions to to take Imperial Center.
  • Sylvester And The Magic Pebble: Sylvester would like to add that this page makes him wish he was a rock. On the other hand, he was about to be eaten by a lion and just blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
  • Charles Todd's A False Mirror starts off with several characters playing "catch the Idiot Ball":
    • Stephen Mallory, confronted by local detective Bennett about the mysterious disappearance of Matthew Hamilton, husband of Mallory's former girlfriend Felicity, immediately charges off to see Felicity. This despite the fact that Mallory is automatically the prime suspect, since he is still obviously obsessed with Felicity.
    • In the course of evading Bennett, Mallory runs over Bennett's foot with his car. This does not make Mallory more popular with the local constabulary.
    • When the police catch up with Mallory at the Hamiltons' house, Felicity has the brilliant idea of pretending that Mallory is holding her and her maid, Nan, hostage. At gunpoint. It belatedly occurs to her that this is the epitome of an Idiot Ball maneuver.
    • To make matters worse, Nan tells two different people, including Inspector Rutledge, that Felicity set up the mock hostage situation. Nobody feels obligated to inquire further.
  • In "The Marching Morons" by Cyril M. Kornbluth, the population of Earth has literally "Bred for stupidity" by smart people choosing to have fewer children while idiots continue to breed indiscriminately. They have to resort to reviving a Human Popsicle to solve the problem.
  • Frankenstein, in Mary Shelley's original novel, is warned that the monster will visit him on his wedding night. So he leaves his new bride alone while he goes outside to reconnoiter the area. And he's surprised when the monster breaks into the bedroom and kills his wife? Not only that, Frankenstein could have avoided the whole problem if, instead of "aborting" the creation of a bride for the monster because he was worried about hordes of the creatures overrunning the world, he'd simply made her infertile. (As for the last, though, it has been argued that perhaps it wasn't obvious to the writer — back in those days, their science being whatever it was — that this should have been a possibility for someone who could create an approximation of a human being out of nothing much.) To be fair, the creature often watched Frankenstein work, so even rendering the bride infertile wouldn't have stopped the creature from making more like itself. No, Frankenstein's turn with the idiot ball comes when he doesn't talk to his creation, pointing out that while the creature had promised to go away and live quietly with its new bride, neither of them could assume that the bride would agree to the same arrangement. No, he just panics and destroys the bride while the creature watches, because Poor Communication Kills.
  • Huge example in the Mortal Engines series: The protagonist is just about to escape from a city under siege using an air balloon, which is about to fly to the place his love interest is staying. One idiot ball later, he jumps out of the balloon, while it's taking off, while everyone's shouting at him to stay in the basket, while the city's being destroyed, and runs off to fetch a letter from said love interest. A letter he's already read. Needless to say, the balloon's gone when he gets back.
  • The plot of The Demolished Man begins with an exchange of coded messages using a key described in the book. Check the translation.
  • In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, said King and Yankee decide to do some legwork among the peasants. What gives away their disguises? The King babbling on about how turnips grow on trees and apples below ground.
  • Every named character in The Wheel of Time. Notable incidents:
    • Arguably, Rand leaving Callandor in the Stone of Tear. However, he did leave magic traps to protect it.
      • Also he was following prophecy and, although he didn't know this at the time, leaving Callandor behind turned out to be a smart choice because it lacks all safeguards against the taint on saidin when not used in a circle with women. The one time he had used it before, it turned him into a megalomaniacal madman with a god complex. He wasn't very keen on using it again anytime soon after that experience...
    • Pedron Niall employing Padan Fain as an advisor.
    • Everything Eladia has done from book 5 onward, assuming she was actually smarter than that to begin with. She only got worse after being corrupted.
    • Moiraine insisting on upholding the tradition of Aes Sedai superiority by withholding information (even from the ta'veren).
    • Suian Sanche sending untrained girls after a group of thirteen Black sisters. She didn't trust anyone else, but that's no excuse.
      • Said untrained girls manage to carry the ball themselves. When Mat breaks into possibly the most heavily guarded fortress in the world to save them and rather reasonably objects to them assaulting a helpless woman they decide to handle this complaint by tossing him around with their powers. Yes, the woman was blocking them from using their powers and they needed to punch her to stop that but they never bothered to explain that, simply deciding to threaten Mat. It isn't until many books later (with the prodding of one of the few intelligent characters) that they actually give a half-hearted thanks.
  • A moment in the first Kingdom Keepers book. Finn and Philby, looking for clues, search Splash Mountain. Since the ride inactive, they don't take a car, facing Hazardous Water. Philby waits until they are well into the ride before telling Finn that they can't get out on the sides without setting off alarms. Meaning they have no plans to survive a four story drop.
  • Cergorn in the second Shadowleague book is definitely holding this when he imprisons Veldan and Kazairl in their home, sets their good friends to guard them and expects them to stay put.
  • The Eighth Doctor Adventures give the Doctor a Worthy Opponent who is about twice his size and apparently has twice his brainpower, having to explain to the Doctor the Whoniverse's second-most-obvious explanation for someone becoming a bit slimmer than they were previously[1]:

 "Your suit distracted me for a while," [the Doctor] added. "I couldn't understand how you managed to squeeze your rather ample form inside it."

Sabbath was amused rather than angered by the comment. "Really, Doctor?" He raised an eyebrow. "I didn’t expect you to have any trouble understanding how something can be bigger inside than it appears from without."

    • An Eleventh Doctor book called "Hunter's Moon" has Rory, probably the most level-headed one between him, Eleven and Amy, gambling away the TARDIS and getting himself kidnapped to a place where humans are hunted.
  • Digital Fortress, where a half dozen computer scientists and mathematicians spend six pages scratching their heads before realizing that the word PRIME in a password could refer to Prime Numbers instead of Prime Ribs.
  • The Crucible probably wouldn't have resulted in a Downer Ending if Elizabeth said to the court that Proctor cheated on her. Abigail along with the girls would have been thrown out of the court, and no one would've been hanged. Instead, the honest woman lies, resulting in Abigail proven innocent, and eventually Proctor's death. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
    • Not quite a case of the Idiot Ball- she had no idea who mentioned the affair or why she was being brought in to the trial- if it was Abigail, then John was standing accused and telling the truth could get him locked up or hanged; if it was John (and it was), then it was a desperate attempt to end the madness by exposing the lead accuser as a liar and a slut and undermining her credibility. The judge has her dragged in and refuses to let her so much as look at her husband, or anyone else, never mind tell her what this was all about. She gambled that it was Abigail (since this was the best-case scenario; if it was John he was damned either way), and the gamble failed. But a Witch Hunt is pretty damn stressful at the best of times, when you aren't pregnant and you and your friends and husband aren't facing the noose because the whole town has gone mad.
      • For the record, in Real Life this particular subplot never happened. Not least because Abigail was 12, and John Proctor was not Daniel Day Lewis.
  • In Atlanta Nights Bruce Lucent spends a chapter trying to find out if his parents were his bio-parents when it turns out he's black when his parents aren't.
    • Nobody else noticed either.
  • In The Temporal Void, Troblum has software in his implants that can read other people's facial expressions and body language, since he's not so good at doing it himself. When he notices the people around him behaving oddly in one scene, instead of activating this software (which would be completely inconspicuous and take a split-second), he rationalizes that it's probably nothing and blunders into a trap. Once the Big Bad springs her trap, then he activates the software and sees that, yep, everyone else is scared out of their minds because the Big Bad has been holding them at gunpoint and lying in wait for him.
  • Although she's by no means presented as being particularly intelligent any other time, Anne Steele (Lucy's sister) picks this up big time in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. She is well aware that Lucy's engagement to Edward Ferrars is a closely guarded secret. But as they're staying in the home of Edward's sister, she decides that she should go ahead and tell her hostess the truth because surely that will work out...
  • In the Secret Series, Cassandra Truth loudly remarks that a gourmet chef's cooking might be improved with the MacGuffin of the book. The only people who know about its existence outside of her friends are part of the Midnight Sun, and Cass knows firsthand that they're willing to abduct and murder people who expose their plans. When Senor Hugo asks Cass if she knows exactly what the Tuning Fork is, she tells him, which results in Hugo (an agent of the Midnight Sun) abducting her mother. Although this isn't the only time Cass slips up; in the first book, she decides to investigate the Midnight Sun's spa alone by posing as a celebrity, not stopping to think that they might have caller ID, and falls into a trap. Later, she and another character eat pieces of chocolate laid out in the villain's hideout (especially glaring since they know that enchanted chocolate is Hugo's M.O.), getting them captured. Then Cass eats ANOTHER piece at the end of the book, which puts her into a coma.
  • The Race does this a lot in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series. To be fair, though, human behavior is as alien to them as they are to us. However, they will mindlessly believe anything their superiors tell them, even when there is evidence to the contrary. Case in point, the Race medics have come up with a Truth Serum that works on humans and have claimed that it is 100% effective. It is then tested by a Race commander on a human, who is obviously lying, and the serum fails. While the commander is still suspicious of the man, he concludes that he must be telling the truth based solely on what he has been told by his superiors.
  • Actually justified (at least in one case) in David Eddings' Elenium. The Dark God Azash has no grasp of subtlety, and this quality creeps into those who serve him. Thus, formerly renowned Manipulative Bastards are found concocting infantile plots which are undone with incredible ease. They seem to get over this, however, and serve a greater threat toward the end of the series.
  • Semi-example in the Dungeons and Dragons fourth edition novel The Mark of Nerath. A death knight gets his hands on a vial of mysterious liquid which compels him to do things that are... not in his best interest.
  • As Noah Antwiler points out, a great deal of agony and stress in Twilight could have been avoided if Edward just let Bella be on top when they have sex, avoiding the problem of him being too strong and breaking her. Given his vampiric super-hearing, he should have known something unusual was going on inside Bella's body before she revealed to him that she was pregnant.
    • In spite of Carlisle's doctoral degrees, when Bella was starving to death, it took an unschooled haughty teenage boy to tell him that a half-vampire fetus needs blood.
    • As well as the one Rosalie took on when she took over responsibility for the newborn baby and immediately let her guard down, despite knowing full well that there was a vampire-slaying werewolf in the house.
    • As for the entire series, Bella isn't just holding the idiot ball, she is the idiot ball; with a small handful of exceptions, every character she comes into contact with tends to lose all common sense (and that's assuming they had any to start with).
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: In the book Lethal Justice, Charles Martin uses powerful connections to force reporters Maggie Spritzer and Ted Robinson to relocate to New York and stay there, where they can be constantly watched. That's fine. What's not fine is how the next book Free Fall has Maggie and Ted move back to Washington, D.C., without Charles and the men with presidential gold shields being aware of this development at all! Maybe Charles and those men were not as smart as they believed they were!
  • Septimus Heap:
    • A lot of trouble in Magyk could have been avoided if Queen Cerys hadn't taken the Custodians as her bodyguards.
    • Without Silas Heap opening the Sealed room in the Palace and unwittingly releasing Queen Etheldredda in the process in Physik, the whole plot wouldn't have occurred.
  • World War Z: A good deal of the entire world (except Israel) seems to have become complete idiots for large portions of the book, by burying their heads in the sand and trying to ignore/suppress the zombie problem until it was too late. Most notably the Battle of Yonkers. The galling part is that many of the same people responsible for that had a Smart Ball before that and later on. The US military suddenly became absolutely incompetent for that one sequence to happen.

Live-Action TV

  • In the original V, our hero has been captured by the alien leader, Diana, and injected with a truth serum so that he will have no choice but to reveal the identity of the spy within her ranks. The serum doesn't work as well as it should and our hero is able to resist it. Does he pretend that it's worked so that he can lie convincingly to Diana and throw her off track? No. He defiantly lets her know that it hasn't worked by answering her first easy question (What colour are my eyes?) wrongly. Unsurprisingly, Diana's response is to inject him again. This time it works fully and he is forced to tell the truth, causing near disaster for the resistance.
  • Falling Skies has a few in just one episode. Tom tells us a few times that Pope is a really bad guy, so when they take him to find motorbikes he's guarded by Dai. Dai and Pope end up in a back of the bike shop and for some reason Dai turns his back on Pope and looks for something. Pope then knocks him out and flees from the group. In the same bike shop one of the skitters wall crawls his way to an advantageous spot above Tom and Dai who are completely focused on escape from the child soldiers, so what does it do? It jumps on the desk below it, makes a bunch of noise and gets filled with lead.
  • Friends, when Monica believed that Chandler found sharks sexually arousing ("The One with the Sharks").
    • Also the one where Chandler believes Monica wants plastic surgery.
    • Perhaps half, if not more, of Friends episodes center on someone grabbing the Idiot Ball and making a hash out of situations that should be very simple. Ross and Rachel spent ten years playing Idiot Ball hot potato.
    • Joey's level of stupidity bordered on the inane at times, including being unable to repeat the simplest of French syllables.
  • Every episode of Three's Company.
    • Friends even had a Take That against the show in one episode, when they're all watching the show and Chandler says something to the effect of "Oh, this is the episode of Three's Company where there's some sort of misunderstanding." Phoebe replies "Then I've already seen this one," and switches the TV off. On the other hand, if it's constantly in play it's not the idiot ball: they may be just idiots in general.
  • Hogan's Heroes had a good deal of this for Those Wacky Nazis.
  • Every episode of Bewitched.
  • The Star Trek the Next Generation episode "Unification part 2." So, the villainous Romulan Sela has revealed her plan to invade and occupy Vulcan, but it's critical that Star Fleet not be warned ahead of time. Across from her is seated Captain Jean Luc Picard, Lt. Commander Data, and Ambassador fuckin' Spock-three of the smartest and most bad ass characters in all of Star Trek — whom she has managed to capture. So what does she do now? Leave the three of them in her office. Unattended. And with access to her computer. Geez, it's like she wasn't even trying.
    • The invasion force consisted of a mere 2,000 soldiers. Pacifists or not, that's a very pathetic number.
      • Sela also held an idiot ball in "Redemption Part 2." where she was supplying the House of Duras during the Klingon Civil War. The Federation decided to make an anti-cloak net by having some Applied Phlebotinum beams between a fleet of ships, resulting in a standoff. Not once does Sela or the crew of any of the other ships think that maybe, since Space is big and all, that she could just fly AROUND the net.
    • There's also Tasha Yar in "Datalore". The rest of the crew didn't do much better, but special mention must go to the chief of security for failing to recognize that a perfect twin of the second officer might possibly represent a security risk.
    • Then there's Deanna Troi in "Disaster". Regardless of whether you like or dislike the character, one has to admit that for a Starfleet lieutenant commander to have to be told what happens when the warp core breaches (answer: the ship explodes!) is sheer idiot ball.
    • Captain Picard takes the lead in "Descent". Desperate to find Data and the Borg he orders most of the crew to a planet to look for them leaving a skeleton crew led by Crusher, and apparently mostly consisting of ensigns, to look after the ship. Most people, when deciding how to split their resources, would go with using their highly experienced officers to operate the ship; leaving wandering about looking behind bushes to the lesser lights.
    • It was Riker's turn to hold the Idiot Ball in "Samaritan Snare." Riker sends LaForge over to a Pakled ship (the crew of which seems exceptionally slow) to do some requested repairs. Worf objects to sending them the Enterprise's chief engineer, but Riker blows it off. Troi tells him directly that she's suspicious and feels that LaForge is in danger. Riker blows if off again. Then Geordi gets captured because Worf and Troi were right and Riker ignored them. Scriptwriter Dennis Russell Bailey, who wrote the screenplay for "Tin Man" in the following season said, "The point at which we became serious about trying to write a script for the show was about five minutes after watching 'Samaritan Snare,' which in my personal opinion was the most abysmal piece of Star Trek ever filmed. My objections to it were that it always resorted to idiot plotting to make the story work, and that offended me a great deal worse than some of the awful shows which were done on the original series. I thought the way in which it was plotted and the way it was dealt with was an insult to the intelligence of the people who watched the show and the actors and characters in the show. None of the plot could have happened if all of the characters hadn't suddenly became morons that week."
  • Star Trek Voyager's Captain Janeway practically is an Idiot Ball, and the members of her crew toss her around for exercise in each episode. In one episode, Janeway contracts a fatal illness that gets suppressed on a certain planet, and the crew is faced with a choice... leave her on a planet where she can comfortably live the rest of her life, or make a deal with the Vidiians, a race with a documented history of hijacking star ships and harvesting the organs of everyone inside. One unusually rational member of the crew makes it clear that negotiating with the Vidiians is a recipe for disaster, only to be ignored with the expected results. Winning decisions like this are made throughout the series, making you wonder if the HoloDoc is there to remind them to breathe every five seconds.
  • In the episode "Hatchery" of Enterprise, the entire crew of the Enterprise is playing a 40 minute game of Idiot Ball. The captain gets exposed to a biological alien substance and shortly after starts acting strange. He soon has anyone who tries to reason with him confined to their room and starts to become completely delusional. When things get worse Tucker and Phlox talk about relieving him off duty on medical grounds, but don't go through with it because they can't force the captain to get an examination without having proof he's sick! Then the senior officers agree to start a mutiny an ambush the teams of soldiers stationed all over the ship, because they don't trust Major Hayes, who's in charge of the soldiers, to believe them that the captain is acting very strange. At the end of the episode, Hayes even points it out to them, why they hadn't just told him what's going on.
  • In I Dream of Jeannie, Major Anthony Nelson constantly waves off Jeannie's amorous advances despite her being rich, having MAGICAL POWERS, and also being more beautiful than his usual dates. He did finally get around to marrying her in the sixth season.
  • In the Corner Gas episode "Whataphobia", Lacey is revealed to be terrified of balloons. The rest of the episode centers around different reactions to this fear, such as Hank's misguided attempts to "cure" this fear. In fact, anything Hank does.
    • Hank's not really carrying the Idiot Ball so much as he's just an idiot.
  • Every main character of Torchwood's first two series has been directly responsible for at least one of the crises they've had to face — Gwen in "Day One", Ianto in "Cyberwoman," Toshiko in "Greeks Bearing Gifts" and Owen in "End of Days". People also chalk Ianto's up to the fact that his love for Lisa has blinded him to the fact that, no, that isn't Lisa anymore (even though it looks like her)
    • Captain Jack's been Idiot Balled twice in series 2:
      • If he knows that Captain John Hart is dangerous, why not go with him himself, instead of sending someone who he thinks that John may get the better of?
      • Using the resurrection glove to raise Owen just to give him two minutes to prepare for death (by which we mean "panic"), when he knows full well that good things do not happen when the gloves are used, and this is a new glove he just stole so whatever side-effects it might have are unknown. The side-effects? Summoning Death himself to walk the Earth and destroy all humanity. Nice job, "Captain".
    • In the first season episode "Countrycide", the team goes off to inspect a body all together as a group. In doing so, they abandon their camp with some of their supplies and equipment and leave the keys in their SUV. As far as they knew, there were aliens capable of who-knows-what on the loose, and were thus giving them access to their supplies. As would be expected, the SUV is stolen.
      • From the same episode, you have two people ready to kick down a door and probably get shot at, one's a rookie with little combat experience, the other's FRELLING IMMORTAL! Which one do you send in first?
    • How about the opening of "Fragments"? Lapse of judgment number one: "Hmm, there seem to be alien life forms registering... let's split up not once, but TWICE, despite the fact that we have no idea what this alien might be or if we'll even be able to fight it alone." And number two, which is somehow even WORSE?: "Oh, look, it's not aliens after all... it's bombs that are set to go off any second now. Let's all stand and stare at them instead of running away!" While the rest of the episode makes up for it, it's pretty hard to get through those opening scenes without outright laughing at the pathetic stupidity.
    • To summarize a conversation between Jack and Ianto in the radio play Asylum: "Let's mess around with this unknown possibly alien technology that appears to be extremely powerful! Oh, drat, we foolishly cut off all communication and gridlocked the traffic around us. Wanna hot wire a motorcycle and steal it? Hello pussycat! Meow!" (And that italicized bit is direct quote.)
    • The Children of Earth miniseries has an Idiot Ball of a political kind, namely the British government, which, having made what turns out to be a massive blunder in 1965, tries to resolve its present consequences by attempting to cover its ass while at the same time giving the villains what they want, rather than spending any time looking into a way to stop them. Sadly, there may definitely be a bit of Truth in Television there.
      • Ianto's death in Children of Earth is caused by one giant Idiot Ball shared by Jack and Ianto. Because their big plan to make the aliens go away is... to threaten them. Yup. That's it. Jack, who has been fighting aliens on Earth for over 100 years, and who was once a Time Agent and traveled with the Doctor, can't think of anything better than that. And Ianto goes along with it and with him... just because. So when the aliens call Jack's bluff and release a virus, there's nothing either one of them can do but die.
  • The Drew Carey Show lampshades and inverts this by having the characters pick up an object called an Epiphany Ball while snooping around in a laboratory at night. Whoever holds the ball suddenly gains understanding to all their problems. Predictably, after it gets passed around a bit, they fight over the ball and it is shattered as it dropped to the floor.
  • The companions on Doctor Who are regular recipients of the Idiot Ball, even if by that point they're shown to be relatively intelligent and Genre Savvy people.
    • A glaring example is from the new series episode "Father's Day", wherein Rose ignores the Doctor's warning about interference and stops her father from dying, despite seeing firsthand exactly what happens when you ignore the Doctor.
    • The Ninth Doctor himself seems to be holding one in "The Unquiet Dead", where he urges helping the Gelth cross a space-time rift without even bothering to wonder why the corpses they have so far taken over all turned homicidal immediately. Possibly justified in that he feels responsible for the Gelth as victims of the Time War.
  • Sarah Jane Smith in The Sarah Jane Adventures story The Temptation of Sarah Jane, and her temptation to stop her parents' death, with numerous lampshade hangings. Thankfully, she's a good actor, and it's built up (she is also Genre Savvy enough to know how screwed she is).
  • The Mentalist: Way to go, Jane. It's a brilliant idea to break into a suspect's house to get proof he's a hitman. Jane would have gotten away with it if he hadn't made himself a cup of tea and left his fingerprints and DNA on the cup. Shockingly, the suspect was released.
  • Described quite nicely in a Blakes Seven episode.

 Avon: None of us showed conspicuous intelligence on this occasion.

    • Perhaps it was Idiot Dodgeball?
  • Let's face it Heroes has so many of these that it'd be easier to point out when they AREN'T being stupid.
    • If anything the frequency and size of the idiot balls has increased exponentially as the seasons passed from a reasonable suspension of disbelief to characters regularly choosing the most utterly insane, illogical and downright stupid course of action.
      • One notable incident occurs when Peter has spent several episodes attempting to retrieve a box while suffering amnesia. He get it open and finds his driver's license, and then complains that knowing his name doesn't help him know who he is. Peter, use the Internet.
  • The entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast in the episode "Intervention." No one wonders why Buffy's acting oddly and using highly unusual speech patterns only three episodes (to be fair, the time that passed between episodes is unknown) after a robot with identical behavior and mannerisms showed up, and everybody could immediately tell it was a robot then, despite next to zero hints.
    • Lampshaded in the very same episode, when Buffy herself walks in the house and comes face to face with her duplicate. The other characters are stunned and bewildered, to which Buffy (having heard all of two sentences from the Buffybot) responds:

 Buffy: No, she's a robot. She acts just like that girlfriend-bot that Warren guy made. You guys couldn't tell me apart from a robot?!

    • The Initiative were portrayed as staggeringly stupid and incompetent, simply because the whole nature of the show required it.
    • In Season 2, Jenny Calendar is lobbed the Idiot Ball when it's her time to die. Knowing there's a powerful, homicidal vampire with a mad-on for her clan targeting the Scoobies and anyone close to them, the Watcher's girlfriend decides that rather than go home, where vamps can't enter without invitation, she'll stay in a darkened Sunnydale High late at night and alone to work on her soul-returning spell.
      • To be honest, this really isn't fair; the Scoobies have made a habit out of staying late at night in the school library, a vampire-friendly zone, ever since the first episode. Ms. Calendar is hardly alone in this respect. For all their experience with monsters, characters aside from Buffy really are not that Genre Savvy.
    • And then Angel picks it up a few episodes later when he's trying to awaken Acathla. He has to torture Giles for hours to find out that he has to use his own blood for the ritual, even though the Latin part contains the phrase Sanguia Meam. Roughly translated, it means my blood. And Angel definitely understands Latin.
    • Also in "This Year's Girl"; after Faith has woken up from her coma, Giles and Xander are out searching for her, and try to enlist Spike's help — only for him to remind them that he hates them all, and despite his ongoing Spikeification would be more than willing to sick a rogue psycho Slayer on them. Promptly lampshaded:

 Xander: We're dumb.

  • If there weren't moments (and even an entire hour at the end of the miniseries) when he actually had a clue and wasn't screwing things up, Tony Lewis of The Tenth Kingdom would actually be Too Dumb to Live. With those additions to the character, he just carries the Idiot Ball for the entire adventure only to finally drop it during the assault on Wendell's castle. But the most obviously idiotic moment (aside from breaking the magic mirror) has to be in part one, when he proves he definitely never paid attention to Aladdin or any other wish-granting story. For his third wish on the dragon dung bean, he wishes for a vacuum cleaner which would clean the entire apartment so he would never have to lift a finger... even though for his first wish he caused his building's superintendent and his entire family to become his slaves forever.
    • Of honorable mention is his decision in Little Lamb Village to take the Traveling mirror, which had already shown a penchant for disappearing and being hard to track down, and hide it on the only movable object in the barn.
    • We'd have to nominate the Midas Touch incident — mostly because by that time he'd been in the Nine Kingdoms long enough to know it ran on fairy-tale tropes, AND was warned by Wolf, who was actually native to the area, to forget it, but accepted the spell anyway, and managed to turn one of his friends to gold. Wolf later remarked, "It was almost... predictable."
    • He walks in on the Wolf Man angrily backing his daughter up against a wall... and just goes on with what he was going to say, apparently not even noticing.
  • Why, Supernatural? Why on earth would Sam and Dean even let Bela see the Colt, let alone leave her alone with it? They know she can easily unlock the safe and they certainly know that she can't be trusted.
    • They must have got it from their father. What was he thinking? Meg and her brother were obviously going to test the Colt out and they would obviously want to tear him and his sons apart when they found out that it was a fake.
    • And another one for Sam in Long Distance Caller. Leaving your unstable, few-seconds-away-from-losing-it brother alone in the hotel room, just telling him not to go anywhere and expecting him to actually stay? I thought you would have known better by now, Sammy.
    • For such a smart boy, Sam has grabbed a lot of idiot balls. The most glaring was in Nightshifter. He might be acting even colder/bitchier than normal and he certainly has all his attention on the job but telling Dean to get the guard outside where the news and police are waiting? Here's an idea, Sam, why don't you (y'know, considering you aren't the one being wanted for murder) do it while Dean takes care of the shifter. That would have made a lot more sense.
    • And then Dean in "Swap Meat". They live in a world full of demons and shape-shifters (granted, the tattoos block out the demons) and have angels hounding them to say yes to being possessed by Lucifer, in Sam's case, and yet Dean goes almost the entire episode without realizing that Sam is not Sam. Particularly glaring when Sam noticed Dean wasn't Dean in "Skin" immediately from a miniscule hint.
    • "The Song Remains The Same": Even after it is established that you can't change the past ("all roads lead to one destination"), Anna attempts to go back in time to kill Sam and Dean's parents. She also insists on walking in slow motion when fighting them.
    • The whole show has always been driven by idiot balls, from the beginning. The deals with the crossroads demon are the most irritating, but, also, a lot of their problems with the law would have resolved themselves if they'd just taken proper precautions and cleaned their crime scenes.
      • As of Season 6, the idiot balls now seem to be superglued to the Winchester brothers' hands. Most of their wangst--and the survival of so many individuals--could have been prevented if not for their incredibly dumb decisions.
  • In Numb3rs the entire FBI hauls around an idiot ball the size of the shop. While for the sake of the plot it's all right that every case they meet requires advanced math to solve, it does not explain why the FBI is incapable of any police work. One of the more outrageous example concerns a fugitive whom the FBI has been after for months. They know the man is on the run, but has not left his home county. Even with that they still cannot find him, but even worse is the fact that the show's resident math genius uses advanced math to reveal to the FBI that the fugitive is regularly stopping at his old home to visit his wife. Indeed, at no point in those long months has it ever occurred to any of the FBI's agents that the fugitive who's staying in his home county may be contacting his loved ones and that they could just catch him by putting up surveillance on the man's wife. The whole show is like this, featuring FBI agents whose only qualifications are that they are damn good at kicking down doors while shouting for people to drop their weapons.
  • Generally inverted on Reno 911... During every sketch, one of the idiotic policemen seems to be handed the Smart Ball, demonstrating an inconsistent amount of skill and intuition in dealing with the idiot criminal or idiot partner. This could be Handwaved by the necessity of the comedic Straight Man.
    • The Smart Ball seemed to go to all the bit-characters, making them practically Mary Sue perfect in order to make the regular actors look idiotic... and more annoyingly than ordinary Mary Sue characters, since it would usually end up with the regular characters being injured or humiliated in some way, but they were also center-stage while the bit-characters were barely visible.
  • CSI's season 8 pilot gave the Idiot Ball to Sara, who should have encountered basic survival stuff at some point during her lifetime, either from a job safety kind of lecture (given how much wandering the CSIs do) or from a case involving a dead guy in the wilderness, as both San Francisco and Las Vegas have nearby places to get lost and noob hikers to get lost in them.
  • Celebrity Jeopardy, where every contestant is holding the Idiot Ball except Sean Connery.
  • Lampshaded at the end of a Malcolm in the Middle episode:

 Policeman: So you found the gun, removed it from the original holder, touched it again to move it to a different spot, used a hacksaw to try to disable it and shot it, and didn't think to call the police until after that?

Malcolm: Yeah.

Policeman: What's your IQ again?

    • Actually Malcolm, despite his high IQ, has had many Idiot Ball episodes, especially in the later seasons. Though these actions seem to stem from the belief It's All About Me
  • An episode of How I Met Your Mother revolves around this. Robin and Lily spend the episode on a chase around New York to find Ted, who has (according to the stories of the people they ask) been apparently cheating on Robin and generally doing things that really "don't sound like Ted". It later turns out it was Barney the whole time, who gave Ted's name to prove that the line "Ted Mosby, architect" makes girls want you. If only either of the girls had thought to ask any of these people what Ted looks like or what he was wearing... I guess hearing "blonde" or "in a suit" would have killed the entire episode's plot in five minutes.
    • Wait — so you ask if somebody knows your friend. Said person replies with your friend's first and last name and his job and your immediate thought is "I should ask them to describe his physical features." Personally I think it's more logical to assume Ted was drunk/showing off than that some impostor had assumed his identity.
    • This trope is vividly Lampshaded and Justified in "Dowisetrepla", where a string of increasingly hand-bangingly moronic decisions on the part of Marshall and Lily ends with them buying an apartment they don't need to own located near a sewage plant they never bothered to find out about with a slanted floor they never inspected for and a mortgage they can't afford due to debt they could have avoided. Future!Ted, narrating from the year 2030 and gifted with 20/20 hindsight, lampshades every idiotic decision by showing them saying something level-headed and mature, interjecting with " what he/she/we SHOULD have said", and then showing the stupid thing they actually did. Basically, a cautionary tale to his kids showing them how even people who should know better do really stupid things sometimes, so that they won't repeate their Aunt and Uncle's mistakes.
  • ICarly: All of them. Spencer is especially prone, as he can switch between intelligent protective older brother into someone who will build a machine seemingly intended to fling hammers at high velocity at head height, or a "sculpture" which seems tailor-made to catch fire at random.
  • Wesley's actions during the latter part of Angel Season 3 seem to consist of one-half Deathgrip on the Idiot Ball and one-half Badass, stirred to taste and left to simmer. Why he a) first went to Holtz instead of, how you say, one of his own goddamned friends and b) beat the everliving crap out of Lorne when Lorne got a partial reading of him while Wesley was singing instead of continuing to sing, letting Lorne carry on reading him and figuring out just why Wesley was abducting Connor is an abiding mystery, the answers of which are known only to Angel's writers.
    • But Wesley does not carry the idiot ball alone there. Just as Angel is about to walk out the door with the baby, the gang already learned most of the evil plot, yet rather than say walk in the door and say "Hey the bad guys have been feeding Angel his own son's blood, making him act crazier than usually," for no reason on one even brings it up, to Wesley, who at the time was the boss.
  • Several examples in Stargate Atlantis:
    • The death of Carson Beckett. Exactly when did walking slowly away from a BOMB DISPOSAL UNIT taking care of a high-explosive tumour nobody's ever handled before seem like a good idea?
    • McKay and Daniel Jackson got it in Season five's "First Contact". If any other member of the cast had been held at gunpoint by aliens demanding that they activate an unknown device which had originally been shut down due to "unforeseen consequences" great enough that it was worth letting the Wraith live, they would have taken the bullet first. You can hand the ball to the Ancients as well, for not sending around an email saying "don't use any Stargates for the next month or so while we go pick off our stranded enemies" before switching the device on.
    • Michael and his Hybrids are suddenly afflicted by this in their final appearance in 5.14 'Prodigal'. Specifically:
    • In Stargate Atlantis "Sanctuary", every member of Shepard's team has the Idiot Ball with the exception of McKay, who is ignored and castigated throughout the episode. Even Dr. Weir is holding the Idiot Ball in this one, as she, just like Shepard, Teyla, Ford and everyone but McKay, ignore what is before them, from the obvious lies and contradictions in the initial story told by the Ancient, to an Ancient lying through her teeth throughout the episode, to an Ancient allowing and facilitating her own worship as a false goddess. It was frustrating for the audience to sit through what amounted to a 42 minute group of Idiot Balls, wondering why they didn't see what was before them and wondering why McKay, of all the characters, was the only one who was actually seeing clearly.
  • There's an especially wacky example in the late Stargate SG-1 episode "Bad Guys". The heroes go through a gate and find themselves trapped in a museum storage area with a loud party in the next room. They think they can hide six hours until rescue arrives, but then a lady shows up, screams, and runs away. Col. Mitchell's response? He chases her, rifle drawn, into the room where the party's taking place. When a security guard quite reasonably opens fire, Mitchell shoots him in the leg and takes the entire party hostage. The kicker is that Ben Browder, Mitchell's actor, cowrote the episode.
    • Mitchell has proven that recklessness is an established part of his character. It was actually Maj. Gen. Landry who was handed the Idiot Ball when he made Mitchell the leader of the team. Carter had her flaws, but at least she seemed to think before she acted, and Mitchell's youth makes you think that he was promoted immediately after his injury, which makes it quite likely her silver oak leaves were older than his. Go figure.
    • Several members of the cast, Michael Shanks in particular, have expressed their disgust with the idiocy of that episode.
    • In SG-1's first season, there's also "Hathor". What's known about the Goa'uld so far? They masqueraded as Egyptian deities, all known examples were among the bad guys and they wield several strong close-ranged powers, including, but probably not limited to, energy blasts, stunning and persuasion. A woman appears outside the Stargate base and identifies herself as the Egyptian deity Hathor. Hey! Why not put her into a room with the senior command staff of the base? Surely no harm will come of that, right?
    • In the beginning of the SG-1 episode "Forever in a Day", several cast members pass around the Idiot Ball in order to contrive the circumstances that result in Sha're's death. First, the SG teams are pinned down by an ambush of superior numbers just behind the nearest hillside, leaving Daniel to wander into Sha're/Amounet's tent alone, armed with a pistol rather than a zat'nik'tel. Unwilling to kill Sha're, he is almost killed by her ribbon device when Teal'c enters the tent at the last moment, also carrying only a lethal staff weapon.
    • In the last half of the episode "Rite of Passage", the entire cast held the Idiot Ball together in order to create a moral division, which was actually a false dilemma. Daniel might forget it, but O'Neill, Hammond, Carter and Teal'c would certainly remember that firstly, they were under absolutely no moral or other obligation to keep their word to the bad guy of the week, who was responsible for various genocides, and if they were, the Pentagon would never allow it. Still, they could have had it both ways. The ultimate aim for this was so that Doc Frasier could lose patience and save the day. But it did the rest of the pragmatic-at-heart members of the cast a terrible injustice.
    • In the episode "Gemini", Carter is handed the Idiot Ball so that she'd fall for Repli Carter's Reverse Psychology and lets the walking security breach access her brain and the computers at the Alpha Site.
  • In the season finale of Stargate Universe, there's a particularly annoying example when the main cast is faced with the possibility of the Lucian Alliance boarding the ship and taking it over. Col. Young's plan is to suck the air out of the gate room after the Lucian Alliance gates through; the problem is that Rush-in-Telford's-body shows up with them. Now despite the fact that he just drained the air out of the cabin where he was holding Telford in Rush's body, and then revived him, he chooses to not drain the air out of the gate room altogether.
  • Lee Adama is the usual carrier of the Idiot Ball in Battlestar Galactica. It's lampshaded when Roslin tells him she knows she can count on him to do the right thing, but the smart thing? Not so much.
    • The funny thing? He doesn't always do the right thing either. When it comes to the Cylons he's quite the Knight Templar, in fact. The true Honor Before Reason and champion of justice? Karl "Helo" Agathon. Though he has a fairly massive one of his own in "Someone to Watch Over Me", when he mistakes Boomer for Athena to the point of sleeping with her, after he's already noticed something's up with her, has been living with Athena for four years, and their deep, true love being an important plot point.
    • Kara Thrace also has a few of these, although the absolute king of this trope has got to be Dr. Gaius Baltar.
    • His crowning moment at the end of season 2 involves giving a suicidal Cylon he wants to keep alive a nuke that she didn't know existed, much less asked for. Oh, and she has religious problems with actually committing suicide, but she's been abused by humans, she's now hiding on a human ship, and dying while fighting humans seems to be no problem. The results are predictable.
    • Baltar pushes her to have sex with him. Only a few months after she was gang-raped and beaten repeatedly. She must have blown up the ship because being pushed into sex with her only friend finally broke her sanity.
    • Col. Tigh also get his hard by this trope. One amusing example was when, after ordering in the Marines to quell rioting in the fleet and being told that there weren't enough Marine officers to lead all of the necessary teams, he came up with the brilliant idea of assigning Viper pilots to lead the teams. You know, those guys who spend all their time flying around in Vipers and have absolutely no experience whatsoever at leading men into combat. To be fair, he does get told off by Doc Cottle, but still.
    • Cottle is usually immune, but when he gets hit, he gets hit badly: such as participating in the lie about Hera not surviving her birth. As if there wouldn't be consequences once Helo and Athena discovered the truth! It seems like he's picking up the ball again when he refuses to even listen to evidence that a colleague might be hurting a historically persecuted ethnic group, but he demonstrates some off-screen competency by actually going to check up on the patient files and autopsy on his own, coming to the conclusion that something actually is up.
    • Tom Zarek and Lieutenant Gaeta also get this during their attempted coup. So, they are in control of Galactica's CIC, have Admiral Adama and the humanoid Cylons in custody, but Lee and Starbuck are still at large, there are unsecured/unguarded areas of the ship, and Laura Roslin is on the Rebel Basestar (which might be beat up, but still has its weapons). So, what do they do instead of consolidating their hold on Galactica and the fleet? They spend two hours putting Adama on trial for "betraying humanity and providing aide to the enemy", taking a break to murder the entire Quorum of Twelve. At least Zarek was genre savvy enough to know that Adama was a liability as long as he was alive. Gaeta was the one who pushed to have him stand trial.
  • Every so often, House or one of his team will miss something ridiculously obvious so the plot can be padded out to 42 minutes:
    • "Maternity" — Every doctor at Princeton Plainsboro managed to conveniently forget that newborns carry the same antibodies as their mothers.
      • Admittedly kinda silly, but they were more concerned with dying babies and they were only stumped for a short time before the "Oh that's right!" moment
    • "Histories" — Foreman didn't make a connection between the bats he found at a homeless patients shelter and rabies.
      • Normally that'd be forgivable — rabies is ridiculously rare in the western world. Unfortunately this is House's team; masters of the rare
        • I'm not sure how forgivable it was. Surely someone on the team would have seen the episode of Ben Casey they ripped off the plot from (complete with George Hamilton as a rabid dying anthropologist with an australian accent that will make you wish for Dick Van Dyke).
    • "Distractions" — Every doctor failed to notice the cigarette burn and nicotine stains on the patient.
    • "Skin Deep" — Every doctor managed to miss the fact that their patient had no uterus and didn't notice the pair of undecended testes in "her" abdomen despite numerous ultrasounds and scans.
      • She only had the one ultrasound as far as I can recall — Wilson mucked it up thinking her ovaries were simply undersized and wouldn't be looking for a uterus when he was searching for ovarian cancer. When they got a proper scan, that's when the problem reared its ugly head
      • A lack of uterus is a pretty big thing to miss in an ultrasound, even if you aren't specifically looking for it. That would be like looking at a chest x-ray to see if your patient has lung cancer and not noticing that he doesn't have ribs.
    • Foreman fired Thirteen, because her working as his subordinate would break them up. There is no way she would dump you after that, genius! Say it with me.
      • There's also no way your female boss would have any problem with the fact that one of your first official acts as a manager was to open the hospital up for a crippliing sexual harassment lawsuit by telling a female subordinate that you're firing her specifically so she'll have sex with you.
    • Also applies for at least 50% of the patients... as an example, I cite the parents who didn't mention that their son was adopted (thus invalidating his medical history) because "he didn't need to know."
      • Truth in Television unfortunately. What's important to the patient is usually not what's important to the doctor. In the given case, they gave the medical history of the birth mother and to not want to share that is understandable, given that they saw themselves as his parents in every way except biologically. Would have been simpler had they admitted it, but the scenario in the show is (for that little part at least) fairly realistic.
    • In The Itch Cameron carries an Idiot Ball the size of a house. She keeps making idiotic decisions to keep the shut-in patient at his house (or at one point BACK to his house), because if they got him to the hospital they could give him a real test and the episode would be over.
    • Actually, this happens in House almost every episode, and a huge number of their cases would have been incredibly brief had they done simple things (like the standard physical examination every doctor three seconds into med school knows to give), things they do regularly (if they don't administer antibiotics early on you know it's an infection) or things that should be on their mind (last week we ruled out an obscure disease because we couldn't find the rash it presents with, maybe we should be more thorough on our exams in the future).
  • In Spooks, it was sometimes held by Adam. Dies while holding it because he does a handbrake turn in a bomb-rigged car and then parks it instead of jumping out and letting it run for another twenty/thirty yards.
  • One episode of Bones has Temperance convinced it is outright irrational to think her book could be connected to the series of murders that mirror exactly the ones she wrote about.
    • That's not really fair. Brennan later admitted that she knew they were connected, but she didn't want to believe it because that would make her responsible for the murders. She wasn't stupid, she was just feeling guilty.
  • Have any of the losties from Lost ever asked the Others the rather relevant question: "Why?"
    • It would help. How much, we won't know, considering how the Others are cryptic (and in the case of Ben, outright liars) in their conversations.
    • The whole "Nuke the Swan" plot line in the last few episodes of Season 5. The A-Team are convinced that setting off the nuke will prevent the Incident. Ten minutes before they're going to do it, the resident Deadpan Snarker Miles asks if they ever considered that the nuke might cause the Incident. The silence leads to Miles to mentally facepalm and say, "I'm glad you all thought this through." And by the way, it does.
    • Ilana had been training all her life for her mission and probably knew everything about the candidates (such as the fact that they can't kill each other or themselves). So in "Everybody Loves Hugo" she not only handles dynamite herself for no reason, but handles it more carelessly than Arzt and dies because of it.
    • In the pilot of Lost, some of the survivors find the plane's cockpit and the pilot still alive inside. Then they are attacked by what is obviously a very large, powerful animal which tosses the cockpit around like a chew toy. So what does the pilot do? He sticks his head and shoulders out of the broken cockpit window in order to try and see what it is. Is anyone even remotely surprised that he is promptly hauled out of the cockpit headfirst and eaten?
  • Mitchell gets one in Being Human, in the episode where Tully moves in. He comes home and finds that Annie is outside, scared and crying, after Tully tried to rape her. At this point, it has begun to show that George and Tully were starting to bond over their lycanthropy, so he protests over Tully's forced eviction. Instead of Mitchell taking George aside and explaining to him what Tully tried to do to Annie, he makes out like he's simply tired of Tully being a permanent guest, which leads George to become angry (which is somewhat reasonable, since Mitchell spent the entire first part of the episode encouraging the neighbors to visit whenever and all but forced George to spend time with Tully in the hopes that it would help George deal with his condition). The result is that when Mitchell finally does think to mention the assault on Annie (as a sidenote in the argument, more or less), George is too worked up to really care. Granted it was a very icky situation and Mitchell was shown to be very protective of his friends, but still...
  • The title character from Robin Hood. After assembling his Merry Men, he has Will Scarlett craft the team their own small wooden "army tags" that are inscribed with a bow and arrow and worn around their necks. This is silly enough, but then Robin breaks into Nottingham Castle and shows one of these tags to the Sheriff, informing him that anyone wearing one of them is in Robin's gang. Buh? Sure enough, a few episodes later the Sheriff captures some men who are wearing these identification tags and duly has them executed an hour before Robin's rescue attempt. Seriously, what on earth was Robin thinking?
    • While it does have adverse consequences, this actually lines up with Robin's wisdom and character. They had just been unjustly accused of killing a nun and a child (and targeting the Sheriff) and were dealing with a huge PR problem because of it. This made it a matter of ego and necessity. It was also noble, given the Sheriff tended to assume anyone in Robin's remote vicinity was part of his gang and immediately sentence them to death. Also, Robin was never shown giving the tags to the men who were captured and killed for wearing them four episodes later. It is much more likely that Alan-a-Dale's brother and his band of thieves stole them along with the clothes, money, and horses, since the scene immediately following their betrayal is the first time you see them proudly wearing the tags. Robin specifically withheld them earlier, explaining they would need to be earned, since it was a matter of not only his reputation, but their safety.
  • Dollhouse has the entire staff hold this to create a certain plot element in the second season. The in the first season near the end Alpha destroys the backup of Caroline, Echo's original persona and steals the main copy of her, which is retrieved. In season two they opt to bring her back, only to find the main copy is now missing. So that leaves them with only the smashed backup that needs to be reassembled. Creates a plot element there, until you wonder why they didn't make yet another backup of the original copy with the backup effectively destroyed. Keep in mind that there is a timespan of approximately a year between these two events.
  • In Naeturvaktin, the two employees miss several obvious opportunities to get Georg, their bullying boss, fired. Instead, they grab the idiot ball at the crucial moments so the series can run to its conclusion.
  • Little House On the Prairie has a few of these.
    • In "The Award", Mary takes a lot of character derailment and sets in motion a chain of events that make you question her sanity and sense of reason. The plot can only take place because Mary acts like a complete idiot.
    • In "The Good Shepherd", Pa and Laura act like complete idiots. Pa goes on and on about his new son so much that Laura feels inferior, refuses to pray for the baby, and runs away. Laura's resentment for the baby had been building for a year and a half and it was never noticed by Pa; moreover, Laura, who is usually outspoken and very close to her father, never says a word to him about it.
    • In one episode, Mr. Edwards sends himself a letter to make the mail lady jealous. Never mind that he can't read. It may not really matter. The letter was blank anyway.
    • In "The Monster of Walnut Grove", Laura sees Mr. Oleson chop the head off of a mannequin. She runs home and tells Pa that Mr. Oleson killed his wife. Pa grabs the idiot ball when he tells her it was just her imagination and leaves it at that. This is necessary for the plot of the story, but out of character for Pa.
    • In "The Runaway Caboose", Willie Oleson trades Carl Edwards some fireworks for an aggie. Carl decides to set them off in a barn.
  • In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit detectives often show abysmal timing in escorting their jittery, easily disturbed witnesses out of the building at the exact same time through the exact same door the violent rapist/abusive boyfriend/evil family member is being brought in.
    • Subverted in the episode "Savant" in which the crucial witness in a brutal assault is a little girl who can recognize any voice she's heard. She manages to identify the boy who put her mom in a coma when she hears his voice as he's walking by to collect his dad, who was previously the main suspect.
  • Peter from Fringe is meant to be a genius, with an insanely high IQ and perception enough to realize that he's from another universe. He's also known Olivia for over 2 years now. At the end of last season, he and Olivia finally admitted their feelings, to some extent anyway. Then the two Olivias, the one from the parallel world and the one from our world, switched, and he somehow hasn't noticed even though a) he's noticed how different she is, b) he's surrounded by cases of imposters from Over There, and c) he's spending so much time with her that they've slept together. Even Peter's actor admits he's gotten the Idiot Ball this season. When a reckoning came around, Olivia chewed him out for it, and their relationship was somewhat rocky thereafter, until they finally go together.
  • In season 6 of The Office, Jim takes the Idiot Ball and runs with it. Jim is often the voice of reason, or at least the one able to point out when someone is being foolish. However, when he accepts a management job he suddenly becomes irrational and does stupid things like sharing management responsibilities with Michael and giving an unfair raise to the sales staff. Why he suddenly becomes an idiot after six years of relative sanity is unclear. To be fair, Jim was promoted with zero management experience, and was initially more concerned with keeping everyone happy than doing the best job he can do; the joke being that despite years of poking fun at Michael's, erm, erratic management skills, it was very easy for Jim to fall into that trap as well.
    • Plus, the raises to the sales staff issue is only unfair if you know absolutely nothing about how business works. The problem was that, due to Dunder Mifflin's decline, there wasn't enough money to give raises to everyone, and Jim makes the completely valid point that keeping the sales staff happy is important if Dunder Mifflin plans to dig themselves out of the hole they're in; this is actually a very common occurrence in business, and is a lose/lose situation no matter what you try. Jim's main mistakes were actually believing that the people of the office might actually have the decency to be even remotely mature about it, and then giving in to their petty whining.
  • It's shared around pretty equally in Are You Being Served; the characters' intelligence level can be extremely variable. However, Miss Brahms seems to get stuck with it a lot later in the series, which is odd considering she was generally quite smart earlier in the series.
  • LazyTown's Robbie Rotten has one goal and one goal only: Get rid of Sportacus and return the town to its original lazy state. So when he gets his hands on a genie's lamp, what doesn't he wish for? Sportacus to disappear!
    • Admittedly, Robbie eventually did use his final wish to get rid of Sportacus, but by that point, the genie was so sick of him he got rid of Robbie instead!
  • After the first season, Blackadder got a major upgrade and became the snarky, Genre Savvy Only Sane Man that everyone knows and loves. This didn't stop him being handed a major Idiot Ball in the Series 2 episode "Bells", where he cannot figure out that "Bob", his manservant, is really a girl. (She doesn't make any effort to disguise her face or voice — it is obvious to every viewer from the moment Bob appears onscreen.) They have a rather sweet courtship anyway — which in itself was an Out-of-Character Moment for him.
    • This is particularly notable as even the writers seemed to regret it — they brought "Bob" back in Series 4 episode "Major Star" and this time Blackadder recognizes her real sex right away, and doesn't even attempt have a relationship with her. Everybody else is still fooled, but this fits perfectly with their characterization and Blackadder's status as the Only Sane Man. To be fair, Blackadder II was set during Shakespearean times when this was a recognised trope (even Baldrick in a dress managed to attract both Percy and Flasheart).
  • The Twilight Zone has many, especially the episodes with time travel. Some examples:
    • In "Walking Distance", Martin Sloan finds himself in his own past where he encounters his mom and dad and a younger version of himself. Instead of playing it cool, he acts like an idiot, scaring his mom and his dad. When he encounters the younger version of himself, he chases him, then later finds him and does the same thing again. Instead of offering some sage advice to his younger self, he gives himself a broken leg, which causes him to limp the rest of his life.
    • In "Escape Clause", Walter Bedeker is given immortality and is unable to feel pain. Instead of setting out to have a long and happy life, he defrauds several businesses and confesses to killing his wife, which he didn't do. In court, he works to get himself convicted so he could try out the electric chair, but is then given life in prison instead, although it's not explained what he would have done after going to the electric chair. It is at this point that he uses the "Escape Clause" which causes his own death rather than face life in prison. At this point, he has apparently forgotten that in addition to being ageless, he is also invulnerable. How easy would it then be to escape from prison if he doesn't have to fear injury or death? He could wait for an opportunity and make a break for the barbed wire or electrified fence and just climb over it. What are guard dogs or gunshots to someone who is invulnerable? In the very least, he could wait it out.
  • In Community episodes Physical Education Señor Chang comments on this when everybody, including Annie, forgets to check the front cover of a schoolbook to see who owned it last. (She blames Britta's pronunciation of the word "bagel" as "baggel", saying it was distracting.)
  • The final storyline of Kamen Rider Blade dealt with trying to stop the Joker from winning the Battle Fight and causing The End of the World as We Know It the problem being they don't want to seal him because he's become a human and friend. Tachibana suggests unsealing the Human Undead and then sealing the other two, but no one wants to seal Joker still, leading to him being the winner and Blade having to turn into another Joker to Take a Third Option and save both. Alright, fair enough. Except for the fact Kamen Rider Leangle has the power to unseal Undead and they've got the Tarantula Undead, whose a very nice guy who had no intent of doing anything wrong and they spent a storyline trying to prevent from being sealed. If they'd just unsealed him before sealing the Catagory King of Diamonds Undead, then the entire final storyline wouldn't have happened in the first place! Leangle even attempts this after Joker wins but the Undead can no longer be unsealed by then, but nothing was stopping him before!
  • There are many specific examples for Smallville, most of which are listed under Idiot Plot. There is, however, one very general one: Any time someone is spying on Clark, expect him to suddenly start talking about how his only weakness is meteor rocks. Not kryptonite, meteor rocks. That way the Monster of the Week knows what he's talking about, and can use it against him.
    • When Chloe went out of her way to tell Tess that red kryptonite, for lack of a better phrase, makes Clark evil. Chloe is lucky that not long after Tess underwent a Heel Face Turn, because who knows what she could've done with information like that.
  • Suits: Is it possible for the Wunderkind lawyer, who remembers everything he reads and passed the bar (twice) without actually going to law school, to be able file a simple patent without assistance from his suave mentor or the sexy paralegal? Short answer: no.
  • This has happened a lot in Survivor, but one example is the Ometepe tribe in Redemption Island. Both teams were put with two of the biggest Creator's Pets in the show's history. Both of them are credited with knowing the game inside and out. The Zapatera knew that if any of them wanted to win, Russell had to go ASAP. (Unless your name was Stephanie Valencia.) Unfortunately, most of the Ometepe seemed to think that they could win against Rob and never once seemed to think about tossing him; the ones that did know were gone quick. Once again, Rob manages to be placed on the Buffoon tribe... and the stupidest tribe to ever play.
    • Except that he didn't have a problem with their buffoonery.
  • Warehouse 13 seems to be relying upon this for it's plots more and more. You would think that agents who have been tracking down mystical artifacts for three years, seeing everything from earth-tremour causing walking sticks, to density manipulating spandax underwear, to a machine that can bronze people in such away that can be revived with no problems, that whenever shit doesn't make sense, they'd realize it's an artifact that caused and start trying to think of something that could do it, or looking on the computers. What does Pete do? Immediately thinks it's some wicked plot by the baddie du jour, rather than yet another artifact mishap which he seems to attract like moths to an open flame.
  • In Scrubs, one episode in season 6 has Turk hurt his hands due to playing with a ceiling fan. That on its own wouldn't be too bad, except multiple episodes beforehand (even one in the same season) had Turk stress that his hands were incredibly important since he was a surgeon and that he couldn't risk damaging them. At one point, he gets pissed that JD tried to ambush him with a tennis ball. The writers made Turk an idiot with that ceiling fan in order to allow the plot to happen.
  • In the Sanctuary episode "Metamorphosis", Henry has Will pull a dangerous stunt (that does not end well) in order to change a light bulb on a chandelier that is out of reach. Nevermind that Henry is a technical genius, or that he has lived inside the Sanctuary for most of his life and should therefore know about the switch that lowers the chandelier. Even a simple folding ladder would have worked.
  • Lois Lane is known for plot-driven stupidity involving her constantly missing the increasingly obvious clues about the other vertices of her love triangle, but it gets particularly bad by the end of season 2 of Lois and Clark:

 Clark: Lois, I'm Super--- [phone rings]


 Lois: Clark, you were in the middle of telling me something!

Clark: Was I?

Lois: Yes! You said, "Lois, I'm Super---"

Clark: Lois, I'm super late for my appointment.

  • The main character from Merlin kick-starts an episode's plot by conjuring the smoke of a camp-fire into the image of a galloping horse. A woman sees it, tells King Uther, and a witch-hunt begins. Merlin spends the remainer of the episode lamenting just how stupid he was.

Myths & Religion

  • In The Bible, Delilah asks Samson how to take away his Super Strength. Samson tells her that he can lose his strength if he is bound with new ropes or if his hair is braided, both of which are lies. Delilah tries both of these and fails. Then, after she tries to take away his strength twice, Samson tells her to cut his hair, which works. Memorably pointed out by Orson Scott Card's character Alvin Maker.
    • Then again, Samson is established as not the sharpest knife in the drawer to begin with.
    • Abraham is traveling through Egypt with his lovely wife, Sarah in tow. He fears that the Egyptians would kill him and take her away because of her beauty. So, what does he do? He stuffs her into a box. He didn't stop to think that maybe, just maybe that box would, you know, have to pass through customs. Then when she is discovered, he tells them that she's only his sister, which results in Sarah being taken into the Pharaoh's harem. The real icing on the cake? This happens twice!
  • Hey, Eve, don't eat the apple.
  • Probably not the only case in Greek Mythology, but the biggest: Rhea fooled her husband Kronos from devouring little baby Zeus by giving him a stone in diapers. To be fair, she did get him drunk first.
    • "Orpheus, you vanquished every obstacle in your path and made us weep, you love your girl so much. She can come back to the living world, just don't look back, okay ?" "Derp!"
  • In Norse Mythology, Frigg went on a pilgrimage throughout the world and extracted a promise from everything in existence that they would not harm her beloved son Balder. The other gods even made a game out of it, putting the amused Balder in the middle of a circle and throwing things at him just to watch the things dodge him. That's not the Idiot Ball; that's cute. The Idiot Ball shows up when Loki disguises himself as an old woman who manages to get Frigg to explain that she didn't get this promise from one thing — mistletoe, because she deemed it "too young" to be bound to such a vow. He immediately gets mistletoe and tricks Balder's blind brother into throwing it at him, resulting in Balder's death. Frigg, you twit, why would you tell anyone about that, especially knowing that there's a nasty trickster god running around who's really good at disguises?

Professional Wrestling

  • After a rift with Arn Anderson, Ric Flair recruited Sting to be his partner in a tag match against Anderson and Brian Pillman at WCW Halloween Havoc 1995. Sting accepted. Then, as soon as he tagged Flair, he got himself an old-fashioned Horseman Beatdown.
  • Lex Luger carried it frequently in his WWF stint, but the worst instance of them all was when he had to fight off rumors of selling out to Ted DiBiase. The loudest voice of said rumors happened to be Tatanka. The two faced off at Summerslam 94 with the Native American coming out on top. After the match, Luger still couldn't figure out what the Million Dollar Man had to do with this.. until Tatanka beat him up post-match.
  • Randy Savage carried it in the 1993 Royal Rumble. After dropping his flying elbow on Yokozuna, he went for a pinfall. Problem is, pins do not count in a Royal Rumble match. Yoko powered out of the pin, sent the Macho Man over the top, and secured a WWF Championship match at Wrestlemania IX.

Video Games

  • No More Heroes has the viewpoint character hug the idiot ball and never let go. It's not clear whether this is meant as a This Loser Is You, or just for Rule of Cool, but it. never. stops. If there is a trap, no matter how obvious, Travis will walk right into it. If there is a trick, no matter how old, Mr. Touchdown will fall for it. If there is a foe, Travis will charge them head first. Those trip mines might be obviously placed, but Travis Touchdown will never resist the urge to pass right over them. Good thing he's nearly invulnerable.
      • This is justified since he Genre Savy enough to know he's in a game and that he can't die so long as the player isn't in control. One has to wonder if Dante knew he was in a game as well.
    • The Rank Seven fight apparently straps six or seven extra idiot balls to Travis. That's probably as a Kick the Dog thing for the bad guy, though it does get a little ridiculous.
    • Perhaps the best use of this, though, is during the Rank Two fight, in which leaves the Idiot Ball out for the player to grab. Periodically, the boss will just collapse on the ground and start weeping. If the player decides that this is a perfect opportunity to take her out, the boss immediately parries the blow, and proceeds to beat Travis to death, regardless of his current health.
      • There is a catch to this though. There are two different animations, one is her Playing Possum and the other animation is the real deal. She is open for attack should the latter occur.
  • Many characters from "Starcraft II" have a white-knuckle grip on the idiot ball.
  • Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe gives essentially the whole cast bar a few the Idiot Ball for essentially the whole plot. Even when they weren't hopped up on interdimensional Unstoppable Rage, the characters did a bang up job of not trusting eachother and, at times, straight up not noticing clues that maybe the other fighters from the other universes are possibly going through the same thing they are. As a result, massive Let's You and Him Fight. It doesn't help that whenever anyone starts to wonder whether they weren't fighting enemies, someone would suddenly appear going through said Rage and attack, though even then the symptoms of the rage are obvious (they recognize it when it affects each other, for instance). This mainly just hinders them from doing anything relatively productive, and, ironically, the only person doing anything towards fixing things is Lex Luthor. Meanwhile, the only other people who aren't held back either use it to go on a spree of destruction (Joker being Joker, really), or loses opportunities to figure things out once they arrive ( Batman). Superman, being Superman, is the only other one who remains optimistic and friendly despite aggression from everyone.
    • Granted, this is absurdly common in most Fighting Games, just this is one of the more recent big offenders.
  • A glaring one in Mortal Kombat 9 has Raiden standing back and doing nothing as Lin Kuei cyber-ninjas attack Sub-Zero and take him away, even going as far as to stop Smoke from helping out. This is despite the fact that, in a nearly identical situation involving Smoke, Raiden didn't hesitate to blast all of the cyber-ninjas with lightning, taking them out and saving Smoke. He stated that if he got involved that it would make the situation worse, but even then that was a weak excuse...especially considering his attempts to not intervene in the game's events were only making things worse.
    • Also, if Raiden had sent his past-self a more specific message, the amount of casualties suffered on the heroes' side would have most likely been avoided. Though to be fair, he was about to be killed when he sent the message which might've left him little time to clarify.
  • In God of War II, Kratos happily drains all of his power into the Sword of Olympus and is promptly betrayed at his weakest, even though he was doing perfectly well in the fight without the blade.
  • Although not exactly under the scope of this article, the overly stupid Cirno from the Touhou games is known as "⑨" or "Nineball". Thus, she's an idiot and she's a ball.
    • However, Marisa does get ahold of the Idiot Ball in the Ex Stage of Cirno's own game, Fairy Wars. Cirno states that while she can freeze danmaku, she can't freeze lasers, prompting Marisa to break out non-lethal lasers. Whether she was bored and wanted to play with Cirno or not, this ends up with Marisa getting her butt handed to her by a fairy.
      • In defense, Marisa was going extremely easy on her (Master Flashlight) and the only reason it plays like a normal extra stage is because the entire game is designed to be harder than usual in order to emulate how weak Cirno is.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion, you'd think that one of the two Blades who accompany you through the tutorial/opening quest would think twice about leaving the Emperor in a side passage alone with a barely-armed and unskilled prisoner, rather than sending the PC out to be assassin fodder while one of them protects the Emperor.
    • Or, even just break down the gate which prevents you from getting to the sewers in the first place. It's barred from the other side sure, but the PC has access to a flame spell at the very start of the game, and considering the Blades are higher in rank than the Imperial Legion guards, their swords may be able to break or force a heat-weakened lock.
    • There is a Mage Guild quest where you must retrieve the Ring of Burden for a recommendation. In reality, he is really trying to kill you via drowning. One would imagine he knows that Argonians can swim and breath underwater. If you are an Argonian, he fails to recognize this point and will still try to kill you with the same method.
      • The real idiot in this quest is the guy who was sent to retrieve the ring the first time around: he goes down the well, grabs the ring, finds himself stuck at the bottom because of the ring's weight...and stays there and drowns. He never considered simply dropping the damn ring and getting out of there.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, when Tails brought the fake Chaos emerald AND the real one to the Space Colony ARK, when he could have left it back on Earth and Eggman would probably had never known.
    • In consequence, when Sonic is handing over the fake emerald in exchange for Amy, Eggman captures him into a capsule to send him out in space, exclaiming that he couldn't be fooled by that fake emerald. To which Tails asks. "How did you know it wasn't the real one?" On to which Eggman responds "Because you just told me, Foxboy!"
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, Quistis tells off Rinoa at General Caraway's (Rinoa's father) residence, then leads her group away to perform its mission (pulling a switch that will imprison Sorceress Edea and provide a clear shot for Irvine.) Once Quistis and the others have arrived, she feels guilty for hurting Rinoa's feelings and takes everyone back to the mansion to apologize, despite the severe importance of the mission and the extremely limited time they have to pull it off...only to end up locking herself and her group in the mansion when Rinoa (who never even saw her) accidentally springs a trap. It's nothing short of a miracle that Quistis' group found a way out of the mansion in time to perform its mission. Rinoa, meanwhile, came up with a "brilliant" plan to neutralise Edea by asking her to wear a magic-suppressing bangle (though its not like she could force her to wear it) and gets captured in the process.
  • If the player pays attention in the beginning of Half-Life, he will likely wonder how Dr. Freeman even made it to the testing chamber for all the Idiot Balls the science team is juggling. Disregarding safety protocols because Breen says so? Going ahead with the experiment after a power outage toasts half the data in the computers? Ignoring an EXPLODING CIRCUIT after safety protocols are overridden? Using a super-pure crystal sample at super-high intensity? It's a wonder Gordon survived the tram ride.
    • It clearly affected him too. As noted in the IJBM page for Half-Life 2, he climbs into inescapable Stalker pods not once but twice in the citadel and is only saved by two lucky breaks.
  • In Advance Wars at one point, in order to give the player tutorial information on airports, Andy (who's supposed to be a whizzkid when it comes to machines) infamously asks "What's an airport?".
    • Also done to Will in Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict. Despite being one of the above average students in the military academy, and having just gone through a continent and a half, STILL had to consult a textbook to figure out how to check the range of a Talon Gun.
  • Valkyria Chronicles is really an Idiot Plot for everyone but the main villain; the Gallian Army repeatedly does truly stupid things when you consider how awesome but unrealistic everything is. Admittedly this is mostly so that player-controlled Squad 7 can remain the central force of the game, but you can watch every scene and find somebody doing something stupid that's preventing their side from winning the war until the romance plot is over.
    • Faldio shoots Alicia to awaken Valkyria powers in her. If he had just asked and let her make the decision herself, the second half of the game could have been avoided.
      • It's made pretty clear based on their personalities that she would have said no, and his other friend would have gone off on him for even suggesting it. Rather than waste time explaining the situation, Faldio acted entirely on his own initiative. The fact that she awakened just in time to fight the other Valkyria, Selvaria, as she was decimating the Gallian soldiers, was rather convenient. But if he HADN'T shot her, she probably would have died in the slaughter instituted by Selvaria anyway.
    • Here's a hint, guys out there: if your girlfriend is on the verge of an emotional breakdown in front of you, the proper course of action does not involve you standing there doing nothing while she runs away, nearly in tears and telling herself (and you) she'll be okay.
    • Also if they'd just made sure to secure the area before just sitting down to relax Isara would still be alive today.
  • The entire playable cast grabs the idiot ball at one point in Final Fantasy VII. They're trying to stop Sephiroth from getting the Black Materia, and they know that Cloud is vulnerable to being Brainwashed by Sephiroth. So what do they do once they've reached the Black Materia first? They give it to Cloud.
    • This is made even worse by the fact that Cloud told them not to give it to him, under any circumstances. The character holding the Black Materia is left behind before the big confrontation, and told to stay put. Then, Sephiroth uses an illusion to trick them into thinking Cloud is in trouble, they rush forward to help, and when they see Cloud surrounded by a group of Shinra, they calmly hand it over.
  • In Mana Khemia Alchemists of Al Revis, all the characters get their stupid moments (mostly seen in their personal sidequests). Though this is intentional, the things they do are so dumb (up to and including using deadly force on each other, only to be Easily Forgiven) that it breaks the Suspension of Disbelief.
  • Silent Hill games often force the player to accept the Idiot Ball in order to advance, possibly deliberately as part of the ongoing torturous Mind Screw. Consider the number of times in one particular game that the player is asked whether James will stick his arm into a dark hole or leap into a pit whose bottom he cannot see.
    • James is a different case entirely — his suicidal actions are supposed to instead be a demonstration of how completely uncaring he is about his own life. At first, this seems Idiot Ball, but once you find out what he did to his wife you realize that in reality James' willingness to jump possibly to his death and stick his arms into dangerous holes with no apparent regard for his own safety is actually a show of his own guilt. The fact that he'll do it before he even truly remembers what he's done actually ends up being like Fridge Brilliance.
  • Midori of Devil Survivor loves playing with this. Once she gets her own COMP, she promptly goes Leeroy Jenkins on the demons and simply will. Not. Listen to anyone's warnings. Even running into an invincible demon doesn't shake her grip on it.
    • The only reason she listens is when she was nearly Lynched because she never considered the idea that people would be afraid of a weirdly-dressed girl summoning demons.
  • The Amiga game Nemac IV takes places in a facility of the same name, housing a supercomputer designed to oversee defence and with complete control of non-human military assets. Fortunately, the people who created the computer decided to test it with a simulated invasion to see how it would respond, feeding it almost all the information it needed to act. Unfortunately, the one piece of information they left out was the fact that the invasion was simulated.
  • In terms of player vs. player combat, World of Warcraft forces this on you. The storyline makes it abundantly clear that the war between the Horde and the Alliance is counterproductive at best, and yet it only rewards you if you take on the role of a rabid patriot.
    • This is especially evident in Wintergrasp, which enables the faction controlling it to raid the Vault of Archavon, enabling the player to get 4 extra Frost Emblems per week (currency to buy tier 10 gear, and a considerable bonus for players who can't go to Icecrown Citadel or do the weekly raid quest), and pick up tier 9 and tier 10 gear. As such, there's a fair amount of pressure to win the battle. This happens again in Tol Barad, with the added bonus of several daily quests that give money and emblems that allow you to purchase things such as raid-quality gear and mounts (although, with one exception, the quests themselves are against various groups on the island rather than the opposing factions).
    • Sylvanas Windrunner get the ball at the beginning of the new expansion Cataclysm. She has new Warchief Garrosh Hellscream summoned to Silverpine Forest in order to show him she's found a way to create new Forsaken (an undead race, of which she's the queen) by simply raising people from the dead. When Garrosh points out that this makes her no better than the Lich King (Big Bad of the previous expansion/episode), she replies "Well, the difference is that I do it for the Horde", hitting Garrosh's Berserk Button.
      • One would wonder why Sylvanas didn't simply tell him that she gives the raised dead FREE CHOICE between joining her or leaving! As opposed to the Lich King, who would simply enslave his fallen enemies.
      • A point of contention among fans, and the cause of many a flame war. The free choice thing mostly comes up in Deathknell, where all of the "Rotbrain" rebels that leave are turned into insane anti-Forsaken strawmen by their condition. Lilian Voss is allowed to remain independent, but she is too powerful to do much about. In Silverpine, it gets a little more confusing, and no immediate defections are seen. Vincent Godfrey and co join the Forsaken willingly, though they become even more twisted, but later betray Sylvanas Windrunner and go off on their own. Archmage Ataeric and his army, after losing a battle to the Forsaken and dying, are raised and switch sides without a word. In the beta, mind control was used, but currently it is stressed that no mind control is involved. Please draw your own conclusions.
    • Garrosh himself has been carrying the Idiot Ball since his creation in the Burning Crusade:
      • What's that you have there, plans for an attack on my home by the enemy? I have no time to study these, an attack could come at any minute!
      • There's a group of undead getting ready to attack my base? You go alone, Saurfang don't help them.
      • Whoa, a Death God has been raised and is attacking us? What's that boss, behave myself? Well okay but- hey that Human just scuffed my boots!
    • The worst instance came in the Twilight Highlands opening quests, where Garrosh enters enemy Black/Twilight Dragon skies and as soon as he hears two words about Alliance ships orders every member of his escort party to attack them leaving his own Zepplin defenseless against said dragons just so that he could have a Punctuated! For! Emphasis! moment...
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption the main villain, Dark Samus, is able to kill you with a non-standard game over if you are ever fully saturated by phazon radiation. The Idiot Ball goes to the Galactic Federation for making this possible in the first place. When Samus, and a group of fellow bounty hunters, is zapped by Dark Samus's phazon beam at the beginning of the game, they find that all the bounty hunters have been genetically altered by the beam to allow their bodies to generate phazon energy. Rather than trying to fix the problem, they install a device to draw on this deadly, unpredictable energy directly into your power suit. This is justified in that every major boss in the game can ONLY be defeated using this device.
    • Well, no, at the time the Federation didn't know what they'd find inside the Leviathans so it wasn't clear that Samus would definitely be using her Hyper Mode self to combat the problem. The actual justification is that the Federation has already been equipping their soldiers with this technology but are limited by the amount of Phazon they can use. If Samus can produce Phazon naturally, then she in turn becomes a living battery and thus can make the best use of Hyper Mode.
  • The heroes of Persona 4 miss many a glaring contradiction in their investigation of the kidnappings and subsequent murders taking place in their hometown. One particularly explicit use of the idiot ball is when the entire team leaves a known potential victim completely unprotected so that they can apprehend a balding, overweight voyeur climbing up a telephone pole in broad daylight, believing him to be the true culprit. It seems highly unlikely that a group of high school students would mistake such a character for a villain who up to that point had been so discreet and efficient that even the police didn't have the slightest idea regarding his identity. They were encouraged by inept policeman Adachi, who wanted to clear the team out for the real kidnapper, but this is hardly an excuse.
    • A similar and possibly worse example is the team's conviction that Mitsuo was the murderer even after he made statements that outright contradicted things they knew about the case and had no idea who several of the former kidnap victims were.
    • Even worse is the scene leading up to Nanako's kidnapping. Neither Dojima nor Souji think that Souji might be able to demonstrate his claims of being able to enter TVs by sticking his hand in the one not ten feet away. Trained policeman Dojima then proceeds to leave his daughter alone and unprotected, immediately after Souji receives a letter threatening someone close to him with death.
    • Let's be honest. Taro Namatame had this going on too. All the while he was "saving" people and he never once considered that the TV world and the Midnight Channel might be connected to each other. If he had thought of that, he might have considered that the TV world had caused the deaths of Mayumi Yamano and Saki Konishi.
  • Dear god, Luna's Disney Death in Star Force 3 could have been completely avoided if she didn't casually walk up to Megaman, stick around long enough to point out two of the characters hanging around are people she knows, and not notice Joker until he was in front of her and not just threatening, but outright saying he was going to destroy her. And Megaman/Geo is no better, chasing after Joker when he TELEPORTS AWAY, leaving Luna a sitting duck to his attack from behind. This wouldn't be so stupid if he didn't just witnessed him teleporting in front of Luna in the first place.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, this kind of thing fuels the plot, from Bowser getting stepped on by everything too big to fight normally and eating dangerous shrooms from lunatics. But the defining moment? Bowser EATS the DARK STAR. Keep in mind that the Dark Star is an Artifact of Doom... and an Eldritch Abomination. In turn, it copies him by absorbing his DNA, mutates bacteria type creatures inside him, proceeds to eat whole the remains of the last villain he fought after Mario and Luigi battle it in a Boss Battle, capture Peach and nearly cause the end of the world.
    • Still, Bowser didn't so much as actually eat it as the Dark Star just teleported it inside of him. Nonetheless while Bowser is guilty of this trope it's fitting for him and he usually manages to turn it into a Crowning Moment of Awesome or a Crowning Moment of Funny either through the Mario Brothers helping him out or just through being a Badass.
    • Bowser holds the Idiot Ball in general in the RPG games, with the exception of the first Paper Mario (and even then he had his moments).
      • It's a running gag that a villain will ask one of the protagonists what things Mario fears most, and then accept their answer even if it's something they logically should know Mario is not only not afraid of, but actually likes or is empowered by.
  • In Grandia II, Elena. Full stop. Once it is revealed that she and Action Girl Millennia are one and the same person, with the latter being a superpowered, "inner demon" alter ego of the former, Elena decides to have herself exorcised--this despite the fact that Millennia has done nothing more evil than testify quite blatantly to her sexual attraction to Ryudo, wreck an empty building and display a love of fighting and killing...but only of monsters and villains. The pope then proceeds to tell her, quite explicitly, that if he exorcises her, he will use the shard of Valmar within her to reconstruct the demon and with him, destroy the world. He could not have been any more explicit. What does she do? Ignore what he said, and still agree to the exorcism just because, in her Incorruptible Pure Pureness, Purity Sue nature, she cannot stand to have anything demonic within her. So just to recap, what is being weighed here is: Millennia versus the release of the Big Bad and The End of the World as We Know It. What does she choose? To top it off, this stupidity of Elena's gets one of your party members killed--the Proud Warrior Race Guy, Gentle Giant Mareg who was also the strongest and arguably most useful in a fight, right after he received his ultimate weapon — leaving you with the Joke Character, Spoony Bard Prince Roan. So, you lose an utterly awesome, superlative fighter for one 40 levels weaker whose best move is throwing rocks at the enemies, AND doom the world... all to get rid of a pair of wings and a slightly oversexed action junkie? And even before she learned of what the Big Bad was really going to do with all the shards of Valmar, she appeared to be perfectly willing to commit ritual suicide (What she originally believed the plan was) in order to get rid of a pair of wings and a slightly oversexed action junkie.
  • In Luigi's Mansion, this is lampshaded in game by King Boo, with the plot itself relying on insane amounts of idiotic decisions by the characters. Luigi actually believes he won a free mansion in a contest he didn't even enter (already the setup for your standard scam)? Then Mario explores the place early... and gets captured. And Luigi finds out the mansion looks nothing like the picture and is haunted. Later, Luigi presses the switch that says 'do not press', unleashes the fifty odd Boos trapped under the grate, and approaches various suspicious events without hesitation.
  • Mother 3 has Lucas and company hit with one wrecking-ball-sized Idiot Ball after beating Tanetane Island's boss. Just as they're about to pull the needle, the Pig Mask Army theme starts playing, they land, pull out the red carpet, and has the Masked Man pull the needle out right in front of them. The whole scene plays out for about five minutes.
    • An Idiot Ball about as big also propels the first half of Chapter 5. By that point it has already been established that Claymen can be revitalized with electricity. And where does Duster hide the ever-so-precious Hummingbird Egg? Inside a Clayman. That happens to be revitalized by a lightning bolt and runs away with the egg. Therefore, much time and energy is wasted by the main characters chasing after that Clayman to retrieve the egg, involving many enemies and other shenanigans along the way.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum is really, really good, but holy mother of god, are there some truly blatant idiot ball sightings. The best is in the beginning of the game. The Joker is apprehended by Batman, who even ADMITS that the situation seems fishy. Who is assigned to take the Joker, the most dangerous criminal in all of Gotham to his cell? 2 guards who have their backs turned the entire time as they wheel him in and one, high-strung, widely disliked guard. Arkham may be easy to break out of but it could've been done in a less moronic manner.
    • In addition to the genius idea of temporarily relocating lots of Joker's gang members from the prison to an insane asylum due to a fire. Albeit one that, due to recent Waynetech upgrades, is probably more "secure" than most prisons. Plus there's the fact that the highly-strung guard is being paid to help him escape.
  • The Prophet in Warcraft 3 isn't really trying to convince anyone that Lordaeron has to be evacuated. He refuses to tell anyone who he is, how he supposedly knows about the future, or even why the people should flee their homeland and travel to a mythical continent, and just claims they should trust him, without providing any evidence that he's not just some mad old man. Telling them his name might not have helped his cause, but there was really no reason to keep all the other things hidden from the nobles.
  • In Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, this is sadly a fairly accurate way to describe Terra during his story. For the entire story he goes around trusting the very first person he ever meets in a given world. Most of the time, that person is a villain (except possibly Jumba). To his credit, he ultimately does wise up each time, but sometimes this happens too late to halt the villain's evil plan, as was the case for Maleficent (who possessed him into stealing Aurora's heart, kickstarting her plot in the original game) and Master Xehanort (who pulled a Grand Theft Me on Terra and came very close to reigneting the Keyblade War had Aqua not intervened).
    • Ventus and Aqua, although ultimately faring much better, still made some major blunders. Ventus is told multiple times that he absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, fight Vanitas, but does so anyway (granted, it was only because Vanitas was threatening to kill an incapacitated Aqua). Aqua, meanwhile, had Maleficent completely at her mercy, but allowed her time to escape, thus leading to her plot in the first game.
      • A less serious moment happens briefly during Aqua's storyline. During her visit to Castle of Dreams, Aqua has to protect Jaq while he carries the key to Cinderella's room across a room infested with Unversed, conveniently forgetting for a moment that her keyblade can open any lock on its own.
  • Mentioned in a news article in Freelancer: 500 years ago, the Emperor of Rheinland at the time commissioned a project to install gigantic mirrors on the great space-station orbiting the planet, with the intent to use these mirrors to reflect sunlight onto the dark side of the capitol, New Berlin. The mirrors ended up focusing the sunlight into a gigantic laser beam and burning a city to the ground. The Rheinlanders now commemorate the anniversary of this event — and the chief custom is to go out and do something stupid.
  • Most of the characters on Rokkenjima in Umineko no Naku Koro ni are pretty intelligent in their actions, at least most of the time. Then we get to the end of EP 7. "Hey everyone, we've found a pile of gold and we'll never have to work again! Let's kill the only one who has the connections to make the gold useful, then continue to kill each other and then blow up the island!"
  • Genevieve Aristide has the Idiot Ball permanently glued to her hands in both F.E.A.R. games. In the first game, as a multitude of phone messages reveal, multiple experts dealing with Alma Wade and Paxton Fettel advised Aristide not to reopen the Vault in a hope of restarting Project: Origin, and they were ignored. Subsequently, the team sent in disappeared and Alma began reaching out to Paxton again. Then, multiple people noticed certain unexplained indicators in Paxton Fettel that he was building towards another synchronicity event, and that the results of such would be exponentially more catastrophic than the original one. Aristide and possibly others in charge completely ignore their warnings, and Fettel is psychically directed by Alma to send his army of telepathically linked clone soldiers to start conducting mass murders. In the second game, Snakefist, another expert, repeatedly tells Aristide that Alma cannot be contained and that the only option is to try to kill her. Aristide again disregards advice from people who know a lot more than her and tries to continue doing things her way. Everything is her fault, and she still has yet to pay for her crimes.
  • In Okami, the priestess Rao asks Amaterasu to find the Fox Rods for her, as they are the only way to stop the Water Dragon that's been terrorizing Ryoshima Coast. When she does find them, it's revealed that they are the exact opposite of that, and that Rao was lying through her teeth. When Amaterasu meets Rao next, she... gives the Fox Rods to her?! Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!
  • Disgaea 3 has a great example of this. A second version of Baal in his tyrant overlord form shows up at the school. Naturally, being the greatest most deadly most evil villain in the entire Nippon Ichi Multiverse ever everyone is intimidated by him. Shortly, they realize why he's there, for a teaching position, and Mao, with his stunningly high intellect, figures it might be a good idea to test a battle with Baal to see if he can handle the school when less than five minutes ago Mao nearly died of panic at the fact that Baal can destroy their entire planet.
  • In Portal 2, Wheatley is literally an Idiot Ball. And an example of the trope too; in a desperate attempt to keep GLaDOS under control, Aperture Science engineers created Wheatley for the sole purpose of making him the best moron in existence. When attached to GLaDOS he dampened her intelligence by supplying a constant stream of bad ideas.
    • He does manage to come up with a good idea or two now and then, but even when he does (G La DOS comments on the success of the trap in "The Part Where He Kills You) he still manages to hold the idiot ball (if he just wanted to kill you, why bother with such an elaborate death trap? His plan would have worked much better if he'd simply made the spike-plates move quicker and killed you as soon as you landed, or at least plugged up the Conversion Gel.)
  • The Allied powers in Command and Conquer Red Alert can be handed one for their actions between the first and the second game. In Red Alert 1 the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin has caused a massive war that embraced all of Europe and is responsible for millions of deaths, numerous war crimes, and the development of atomic weapons, and is only barely defeated by the European allies. You'd think that after a war this horrific they would completely dismantle the Soviet communist state structure, but unstead they leave it completely intact albeit under a nominal puppet ruler, and allow it to form a new ComIntern of sorts (called the "World Socialist Alliance" in the game manual). The US even barely bats an eye when the Soviets stage a military intervention in Mexico (a member of said alliance), providing them with a staging ground for their invasion of the continental US. In that case there wouldn't be any sequels at all, so this is more than justified.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Snake and Meryl are walking down a corridor, when a red dot begins to shine on Meryl. Instead of automatically deducting that it's from a sniper and taking cover, both Snake and Meryl proceed to stare at the beam and make confused noises for several seconds until she is shot.
  • Fate/stay night, Heaven's Feel example. Rin, what on EARTH possessed you to taunt Dark Sakura's 'family life'
  • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn all of Daein is handed a massive idiot ball, instead of going after Begion's senate who hold the blood contract that they're using to black mail them with, they decide to fight Sanaki's army who are trying get rid of the corrupted senate. The massive idiot ball comes in into play when its apparent that the one they should kill to destroy the blood contract is Lekain the instantiated the contract instead of having Pellas pull a Senseless Sacrifice. Thankfully, from the second playthrough onward the player can avoid the sacrifice.
    • Ephraim and Eirika both catch it briefly in The Sacred Stones when they chase after a possessed Lyon. In Eirika's case, the Demon King appeals to her gentle nature and concern for her old friend to manipulate her into giving him the stone. In Ephraim's case, the Demon King freezes him in place and takes the stone by force, but Ephraim continues to play into his hands by giving him exactly the kind of enraged reaction the Demon King wants.
    • Seth catches a bit of this, too, by refusing to explain to Eirika early on how important her bracelet is. He only does so when she willingly hands it to one of Grado's minions to spare the lives of some civilians...and he tries to have them killed anyway.
  • In The Reconstruction, after the Watchers are killed and the party decides to wait for someone to show up and tell them what to do, the only attempt Tezkhra (if you have him in your party) makes to stop them from trancing out is saying that they should tell him if they "feel anything unusual". Even though he knows that emitter radiation, which they're currently being exposed to, causes trancing if people sit around and do nothing, which is exactly what they said they would do. He should at least have done something to keep himself from trancing... But despite all this, he just goes along with them and sits there like an idiot.
  • In Saint's Row The Third, Senator Monica Hughes seems to be almost completely encased in an idiot ball, given that she handed over her constituents to the trigger-happy morons at STAG in order to stop a gang war, and didn't even consider the possibility that introducing a large military organization armed with incendiary and explosive weapons into the already-violent city might make things worse. And if the Daedelus is unleashed at the end, the "Butcher of Steelport' ends up becoming the de facto Mayor of Steelport. Then again, since both Killbane and Temple are both dead by that point, thus leaving the Saints in power, one could argue that the Daedalus does, in fact, play a role in ending Steelport's gang problem.
  • A literal, just for visual pun example: In Vattroller X, the only way to beat opponents is to turn them into balls and then knock them into a pit. A special attack lets characters turn into ball monsters which are vulnerable to falling. The CPU kills itself frequently while using the more powerful version of it.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II the villains need The Hero (and specifically The Hero, mind you) to take out The Heartless to restore the titular MacGuffin. Thing is, he was already doing that. They completely shot themselves in the foot by even exposing their existence to him, let alone pushing his Berserk Button to try and blackmail him. If they'd just quietly let him do his hero thing, or even asked for his help (since their grand goal wasn't all that villainous to begin with), they probably could have gotten out of the game with at least half of the members still alive. (The ones in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, not so much). This is especially annoying, because them showing up and taunting him convinces him right away that they're evil, and considers specifically not killing The Heartless to prevent them from getting what they want.
  • Dragon Age II ends up with several scenes where characters pick up an Idiot Ball. An especially sad case is with Keeper Marethari, who suposedly is one of the sanest and wisest characters of the series, which is not especially known for its level headed cast. Her apprentice Merrill wants to restore a broken magic mirror, to learn about ancient elven magic, but she only warns her that it is dangerous and will end badly if she doesn't stop, trying repeatedly to persuade her for ten years. While Merrill was very set on her goal and accepted exile from her clan, there was no need not to tell her that the imprisoned demon who gave Merrill advice on restoring the Mirror would use it to escape. While she thought she could handle the demons influence and was willing to risk her own life, she would never willingly let it escape and slaughter countless innocents. In the end, Marethari sacrifices herself to destroy the demon before Merrill can release it, which causes the rest of her clan to blame her for the keepers death, and she's either forced to kill the clan in self defense or be permanently exiled.
  • Carmen Sandiego has plenty of these. ACME apparently has a battery powered translator. Seems reasonable, except they never learned to provide you with backups or a charger considering you're traveling around the world.
    • "Great Chase through time" has some almost hilarious ones. Carmen orders her Mook to steal something and then gives them hints to hide some place. Some of these places make a bit of sense (Baron hiding over the edge of a ship, Jacquelyn Hyde hiding inside a cave), others are soemtimes a bit funny (General Mayhem managing to hide inside a tapestry) but other times, they're hilariously obvious and they're hiding in plain sight. Adventure-Fetch Quest aside, some cases could ahve been over in a few minutes if people simply looked around a bit. (Julius Caesar apparently never thought to look behind the column that was right next to him, the servant holding the camel that Bugg Zapper was hiding behind never noticed it was a cardboard cutout, Isabella somehow didn't notice a chart in her room that detailed landmasses that at the time were unknown to her, Beethoven doesn't immediately identify the foreign instrument in his orchestra, and Thomas Edison doesn't even think to look at the battery that is right in front of him.)

Web Animation

  • Coach Z on Homestar Runner. It seems that he only keeps his "more than two praeblams" (other than his butt fixation) for one episode. The whole cast plays dodgeball with the proverbial Idiot Ball.
    • The titular character IS an Idiot Ball, which is really almost the point of any short with him in it.

Web Comics

  • In a case of a literal Idiot Ball, Xykon from The Order of the Stick wipes out the Azure City paladins by tossing a superbounce ball inscribed with a Symbol of Insanity into their midst, causing them to turn on each other in a tremendous bloodbath of confusion.
    • When Vaarsuvius decides to take on Xykon by himself, it's not nearly as stupid an idea as it might seem due to a Deal with the Devil (and the Demon, and the Daemon) s/he made recently to gain a massive amount of power. Too bad s/he's carrying an Idiot Ball for the entire fight. Used to trigger character growth when it makes him/her realize that simply throwing spells at a target isn't enough to take it down without strategy — soon after, V and a paladin manage to severely inconvenience the Big Bad with a third-level spell and a class feature.
  • Hazel from Girls with Slingshots goes through an insane level of mental gymnastics in her belief that Jaime's new love interest must be male, despite knowing she's been with girls before. When Jaime tells Hazel her new "boyfriend" is Erin, Hazel (who, admittedly, doesn't remember Erin's name) hears it as "Aaron", even when Jaime repeats it several times, and when Erin herself points out her own name with a meaningful stare. They then go on a double date, where Erin shows up in a bowler hat, glasses, and a fake moustache, and not only does Hazel not recognize her, but has to be told by her boyfriend that Erin is female, after she and Jaime have gone to the restroom together.
    • "Aaron" and "Erin" are homophonous in many regions in North America. Erin is an androgynous name, also.
  • A rather in-character Idiot Ball is given to Jade in Jade 6, when she helps with a rather... dangerous-sounding deal. Thing is, she said she'd help, the person really needs it, it SHOULD all go okay, right? (She's shown ALMOST catching herself, but she keeps slipping back.) Partially caused by a massive Hero Ball, as well.
  • Jim in Darths and Droids has a lot of idiot ball moments, though, in this case, it's a more integral part of the character, and generally gets used for laughs. The entire plot of the series effectively starts because of such a moment.
    • The entire plot of the comic is based off of people refusing to let go of the Idiot Ball (usually Jim, but everyone gets a turn). Not to mention the entire point of the comic is to explain the large amount of Idiot Balls in the prequels (see above).
  • In The Dreamer at the end of issue #10, Alexander offers to take Beatrice to safety to Washington's headquarters, but Beatrice stays put with Alan and Nathan. Alan is supposed to take Beatrice to Washington for interrogation about what happened when she was with Howe — and Alexander could easily have taken her to Washington himself!
  • This strip from Chaff City features a literal Idiot Ball for sale in a gadget shop — the characters experiment with picking it up, and as the title of the strip states, Hilarity Ensues.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In the Ben 10 episode "A Change Of Face", Grandpa Max doesn't notice that Gwen is acting odd, the reason being that villainess Charmcaster has swapped bodies with Gwen. Even later on, after the ruse has been revealed and more body-swapping has occurred, Grandpa Max still can't tell who's who without a scorecard... This is pretty glaring, given that Max is a former Plumber (this show's The Men in Black equivalent), has been repeatedly shown to be pretty clever, and above all is their grandfather.
    • Another example is in the Alien Force episode "Good Copy, Bad Copy". You'd think that, considering how much weird stuff they've seen, Kevin and Gwen would immediately be suspicious of "Ben" (really a Galvan named Albedo) claiming he's looking for Ben. Instead, they just assume he's the real thing and has lost his mind, setting up for the old "Which one is which?" bit.
    • Also "Duped" from Ultimate Alien. With Ben splitting into three of himself, each a different aspect. Sending the sensitive part to fight Forever Knights and the asshole part to Julie's tennis game is an idiot ball the size of Texas.
  • In the Gargoyles episode "Vows", Demona gains possession of an artifact known as the Phoenix Gate, which allows the holder to travel to any place at any time at will. She travels back in time and informs her past self (also in possession of the past version of the Gate) that SHE should use the Gate to change history, instead of just doing it herself with the Gate she already possesses. The ultimate lesson is that history is immutable, though the reason for this apart from a large, conspicuous Idiot Ball is unclear.
    • Made worse by the fact that present day Demona says she remembers the whole incident (well, Goliath's talk after she got knocked out), but if she remembers that, it's pretty odd to think she'd have forgotten meeting herself and seeing her other self's defeat. So if she already had memories of her plan failing, why go through with it? It reeks of Dr. Manhattan style pre-destination.
    • The aforementioned PALES in comparison with the sheer idiocy Demona displays in "Hunter's Moon". Goliath and Co. break in when she's about to deliver the fatal blow against humankind and unleash the enchanted virus lethal to all sentient beings (Gargoyles will be protected by a magical figurine she has on her table). Not only does Demona start monologuing, in the worst Bond Villainesque manner possible, but she actually POINTS at the figurine as if asking Goliath to smash the thing. He obliges.
    • This is actually an explicit feature of Demona's character. She's such a mess of contradictory issues, topped with a healthy dose of repressed self-loathing, that she has a noticeable tendency to sabotage herself. Word of God even outight says that Demona is, and always has been, her own worst enemy.
  • Batman the Brave And The Bold, specifically when Grod thought turning Batman into a 400 pound gorilla would ensure his total victory.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
    • Honorable Mention: The Orb of Confusion — a literal Idiot Ball (pictured above).
    • The trope applies to several episodes, with varying results — SpongeBob, Patrick, Mr. Krabs, and/or Plankton will be saddled with the idiot ball at any time whatsoever. The only ones safe are Sandy and Squidward... and even then...
    • Squidward has been known to hold the Idiot Ball. In "The Snowball Effect", Squidward tells Patrick to think of him as SpongeBob, to teach him how to have a snowball fight. Squidward throws a snowball at Patrick and says, "Now, what are you going to do?" Patrick throws a snowball back at Squidward, who had said not five seconds ago to think of him as SpongeBob. Squidward asks why Patrick didn't throw it at SpongeBob.
  • The same goes for The Fairly Odd Parents, where in most episodes it's Timmy's idiocy that gets the plot moving.
  • This very web page is referenced and linked to in Ed Liu's Toon Zone review of The Flintstones sequel series The Pebbles and Bamm Bamm Show. To wit:
    • "[Pebbles is] the one most often saddled with the Idiot Ball, since most of the episodes rely on her misunderstanding something and then finding the worst possible way to fix her mistakes."
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Iroh, usually The Obi-Wan, Retired Badass and The Caretaker in one, once almost killed himself by drinking tea made of the leaves of a perceived delicious tea plant that wasn't (well, he and Zuko desperate for food at the time). Followed by a small Find the Cure plot. (Though this may have been a bit of character exposition, meant to demonstrate exactly how much Iroh enjoys his tea.) However, this also could have been a Batman Gambit on his part. As up until then Zuko refused to go to a village for help, and Iroh did this to make him decide to go.
    • Also, using Firebending to heat his tea while they were trying to stay incognito... in the Earth Kingdom... surrounded by refugees from the invading Fire Nation forces. Zuko immediately lampshades: "What are you doing firebending your tea?! For a wise old man, that was a pretty stupid move!" Iroh doesn't make that mistake again, though- a later scene has him borrowing spark rocks for their stove even though as far as he knew nobody would see him lighting it himself.
  • Despite being relatively sane, Slinkman of Camp Lazlo likes to carry the Idiot Ball around a lot.
  • In the Sonic Sat AM animated series, Antoine would occasionally be used for this. The mini-episode Fed Up with Antoine was the most blatant example of this trope.
  • The Simpsons
    • In one episode, Lisa is no less smart than she usually is, but she's feeling like an idiot because a new girl in class, Alison, has proven to be better than her at everything. Visiting Alison's house, Lisa attempts to play an anagram game with Alison's father but fails miserably. Taking her to be a simpleton, Alison's father hands Lisa a red rubber ball, saying "this is a ball. Perhaps you'd like to bounce it."
    • "Pranksta Rap". The plot revolves around Bart faking his own kidnapping and gives rise to two idiot ball moments. Bart handwrites the ransom note. Marge fails to recognise her own son's handwriting.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has an episode where Obi-Wan and Anakin are sent to negotiate with some Weequay who have captured Count Dooku. Right from the start, they go in expecting a trap, yet apparently did not bother to think of any countermeasures. They quite willingly hand over their lightsabres rather than hide them and worst of all, at the end when they've finally broken free and have the Weequay leader at blade point, ready to give up and come to prison quietly, Obi-Wan tells Anakin to let him go. Why? Why? Why? They never even try to explain why Obi-Wan suddenly wants to let someone who lied to them, drugged them, kidnapped them, and tortured them get off scot free!
    • That's not necessarily true about the scot free part. Obi-Wan did a little instituting of paranoia by saying that while the Jedi would let it slide, Count Dooku wouldn't. Implying that the Sith Lord would probably come back soon with a nice chunk of his forces, all gung ho for vengeance in which he will end them. Kinda workable to make the bounty Weequay look over his shoulder now at all times from now on.
    • The Clone Wars also has Cad Bane, a bounty hunter who seems to have the power to hand out idiot balls to all of his enemies. In every one of his appearances, he manages to succeed by turning the Jedi into complete morons. Bigger idiots than they usually are in the prequel era, that is.
    • Also, once Obi-Wan and Anakin were drugged, they seemed to magically forget that Jedi have poison-neutralizing powers.
    • The entire clone army seems to be equipped with standard issue idiot balls. While it is reasonable for the droids to not really have any sort of care for self-preservation, the clones will often completely ignore cover and tactics to charge enemies head-on.
  • Lion-O of Thundercats runs headlong down the field with the Idiot Ball held very tightly ("I'm going to go exploring! Uh-oh, trouble I can't handle myself! Wait, can't call the other Thundercats, the episode's not three-quarters over yet!") though he occasionally passes it off to other Thundercats. Tygra, especially, seems willing to run with it. Lion-O has the justification of being a child in a grown-up's body, but Tygra and the others have no excuse.
  • Every character in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon would carry the ball when the plot required. A stand-out moment includes a scene in the series' third episode, when, left to their own devices in April's apartment, the turtles suddenly become retards: Leonardo begins throwing tubes of lipstick at a painting, calling it "target practice"; Raph interprets "insert capful of Shampoo into tub" as referring to an actual baseball cap; Donny starts fiddling with April's answering machine with no regard as to her privacy; and Mikey proves incapable of making instant pizza which he had no permission to touch. April is understandably furious.
  • Transformers Generation 1: Optimus Prime gets whacked hard in the face with this in the episode "Heavy Metal War". He's been fighting Megatron for centuries, long enough to know which powers Megatron does and doesn't have...and yet he doesn't realise that Megatron cheated during a one-on-one battle until Teletraan-1 spells it out for him. Even though Megatron uses powers that he has never used before.
  • Thrust is actually pretty smart in Transformers Armada when he first shows up. After several Deus Ex Machina-induced failures he starts spending a lot more time around the Idiot Ball, culminating in getting his rear kicked by human children.
  • In a Justice League Unlimited episode, you have rebelling young twin heroes, one of whom can turn into different animals, real or not, and the other can turn into water. When these two heroes (and other young, misguided heroes) try to blow up the base they live in after the reveal, a group of Justice Leaguers tries to stop them. The twins attack a member of the Justice League by drowning him in a room filled with water and have a T. rex, obviously not an aquatic creature, attack said hero, underwater. Again, this happened underwater. Who's the Justice Leaguer they fought? Aquaman. Though the characters were in the middle of a mental breakdown, so thinking clearly was not exactly something to be expected. If they're inspired, as it seems likely, by the Wonder Twins of Superfriends, then one could say they keep pretty true to the original characters.
  • Teen Titans hands Robin a huge idiot ball at the end of "Trust". After spending an episode fighting against a shapeshifter who had both shown that she could mimic both the appearance and voice of anyone, cannot replicate powers, and loses her structural integrity when she's exposed to strong heat. What does Robin do after a fight where the result isn't clear? Immediately trust the Not!Hot Spot, and handed over a spare communication device — which allowed The Brotherhood of Evil to track down every. single. superhero. that the Titans gave the com device to. Nice Job Breaking It Robin. This makes it worse since Robin is supposed to be the smart, suspicious one.
  • Inverted by Inspector Gadget, bizarrely enough. While Penny and Brain were typically the ones who saved the day, there were quite a few isolated moments when Gadget himself could actually show competence when the plot demanded it.
  • Episode 12 of Sym-Bionic Titan has some Idiot Ball moments when you consider two things: One, why didn't Lance and the others consider stomping and or obliterating the supposedly dead Monster of the Week's body just to be safe. Two, wouldn't it have occurred to Ilana and Lance by now that Octus isn't a normal robot considering his build and powers? It's made clear early on that everyone on the show occasionally picks up the ball for the plot (episode 4, anybody?).
  • The Animals of Farthing Wood: Weasel conveniently forgets Fox's message for Adder to kill Scarface and mixes it up as simply killing a blue fox, despite she being the one who suggests they get Adder to kill Scarface.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Many of the episodes hinge on one or more of the cast picking up the Idiot Ball. Among the ones that stand out are Applebuck Season, A Bird in the Hoof, Green Isn't Your Color, Lesson Zero and Luna Eclipsed.
  • In Voltron Force S 2 E 1 (Inside the Music), Pidge picks up the Idiot Ball and runs with it for a touchdown. He's so heavily invested in keeping his secret identity as the mastermind of the band "Stereolactic" a secret, that he doesn't even tell his True Companions. This results in the Cadets wasting time and effort chasing him down, believing that he's the Drule agent, that could have been used finding the real agent.

Real Life

  • There is a whole website about people who managed quite impressing feats of stupidity. Quite honestly most of the following examples look pretty harmless in comparison.
  • Bernie Madoff ran an elaborate Ponzi scheme for years. The SEC was repeatedly given tips and warnings over the years, but completely failed to discover the massive fraud. He was only stopped when his own SONS turned him in.
  • Anyone who starts a riot in a scene with a tense atmosphere. Seriously, who comes across one of those and thinks "Wow, this could use some violence!"
    • The thing about mobs is that they become collective idiots.
    • Villains can manipulate mobs that way.
  • HBGary was a very important and security company, so much that the founder wrote the book on rootkits and it worked for the federal government and big corporations. Yet somehow, when Anonymous hacked one of their employees and then the whole company, it was evident that HBGary had made tons and tons of security mistakes that are dealt with in even a beginner's book. Unable to suspend your disbelief? Read this arstecnica article. The hindsights made in HBGary are so hard to believe that some people in the security world are speculating that maybe HBGary were acting as some kind of Honey Pot to trap anonymous later.
  • For the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in 1915, the British very carefully calculated exactly how much artillery fire they would have to apply over how long in order to break through the German defences. They picked up the Idiot Ball after that, though, hardly even bothering to do the same calculations again until much later (with predictable results). To be fair, by the time they were running assaults on the scale of the Somme, the pre-war arms industry hadn't grown enough to supply them with enough shells and they had to settle for firing off everything they had and hoping it was enough (which it too often wasn't). Later, when they had all they wanted and could break any German defence system at will, they handed the idiot ball to the Americans... who refused to learn from experience and were determined to reinvent the wheel.
  • Adolf Hitler grabbed the idiot ball during the later years of World War II and hung on for dear death.
  • In the NHL, if a team pulls the goalie in overtime, they lose the one point they would normally acquire after forcing OT. Los Angeles Kings coach (at the time) Andy Murray pulled Cristobal Huet to bring in the extra attacker in a late season game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Andrew Cassels scored the empty netter, and the Kings lost that overtime loss point.
  1. Turns out the most obvious explanation, diet and exercise, doesn't apply, but probably continues to plague the Doctor with confusion to this day