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Dilbert: Am I so predictable that you can record your side of the conversation in advance?
A character is playing a message recorded for them by someone else. Either through precognition, Timey-Wimey Ball, or really good prediction of what the viewer will say, the recording appears to respond to what the character says or does in reaction to what is being played.
Related to The Television Talks Back. Sometimes overlaps with Video Wills. Occasionally mixed with an Apocalyptic Log. Often used as a variation of the Batman Gambit. Compare Inner Monologue Conversation.
Anime and Manga
- In Air Gear, Spitfire leaves a Video Will behind after he appears to die. This Video Will coaches Kogarasumaru, using 'a R.E.A.D. program that analyzes data and relays it using Spitfire's synthesized voice.' Most characters simply come to the conclusion that he's still alive and is spying on them.
- Lelouch from Code Geass is probably the best example of this trope, prerecording his part of two full length conversations with three different people as part of a Batman Gambit in each with varying believability. The Kallen one doesn't count because he didn't give her a chance to respond.
- Used by Pegasus in Yu-Gi-Oh!, although justified by the tape being cursed and actually allowing two-way communication.
- The Governor General's tape in Mahou Sensei Negima gives a nice pause while Ala Alba discuss whether to go or not, and then says that he knows Negi plans to decline... Wouldn't it be a shame if he flexed his legal right and sent a fleet of battleships after him and all his students, including the muggles? After all, all he wants to do is have a nice a chat!
- Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok has this. After Loki is kidnapped, he sends a message to Yamino and Mayura via recorded message in a doll. After his greeting, Mayura shouts about the mystery, to which said doll responds "Let me start off by saying that this is a recording and NOT a mystery for Mayura to get worked up over. She's really not that hard to figure out though...
- Occurs in xxxHolic as a letter which correctly predicted Watanuki's reaction four times in a row. It helps that it was written by Yuko.
- In a JLA story arc, the Justice League went back in time and got killed. Nightwing assembles a back-up League as per Batman's instructions. When the new team is brought together, they watch a video Batman made for them. Green Arrow starts ranting at some point, to which video Batman yells, "SHUT UP, QUEEN!"
- Not a tape, but in X Factor v.3 #200-201 Longshot gets a psychometric reading off a bobby pin to find out where Sue Reed has disappeared to. He ends up in a vision of Latveria, having a conversation with Layla Miller. Layla is not actually there, but is replying to Longshot because she knows what he will say.
- In the Blake and Mortimer story The Time Trap, Mortimer finds the time machine along with a recorded message from Miloch, which seems at times to know what Mortimer is doing or saying (not always, however, but enough to unnerve Mortimer). This being a time travel story, Miloch may have been spying Mortimer in advance to record his message, though.
- The letters Kyon receives from the future in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, though it is justified in that Future!Kyon knows what Haruhi asked/will ask when Present!Kyon gets the letter.
- Likewise, in Takamachi Nanoha of 2814 spinoff FATE: Holy Grail War of 2814, Archer's video will knows exactly how everyone present will react (allowing him to throw in several snarky insults), which is justified because his past self is one of the people watching it.
- In Elementals of Harmony, Tezzeret has Ditzy Doo send Jace Beleren a courier capsule with a message. Tezzeret lampshades this before giving his real message (forcing Jace to teach Ditzy blue magic).
Tezzeret: Firstly, you should know that this was all prerecorded, so you can stop talking to the courier capsule. And yes, you are that predictable. Usually.
Films -- Live-Action
- A variant in The Master of Disguise starts with "I am a prerecorded hologram; what is your question?" and goes from there.
- Scream 3 uses this to bring back Randy, who was killed in the previous film. He drops comments and has recorded responses to Dewey's reaction to his comments, leading them into a bit of back-and-forth dialogue.
- In Superman II, Supes asks for love advice from a recording of his late mother. Subverted when Luthor infiltrates the Fortress of Solitude and selects the data crystal with information about General Zod.
Lara: I had hoped that you would not have to ask me this question.
- In Ferris Buellers Day Off, Ferris prepares one to answer the intercom if anyone rings the doorbell at his house. The responses are keyed to the intercom, so he gets around the awkward pauses, and his responses are vague enough to work for nearly any response. Subverted when the principal keeps ringing the doorbell, cycling back to the first message and betraying the ruse.
- The movie I Robot inverts this. Dr. Lanning leaves a hologram at the scene of his death, which is only programmed to respond to a few specific questions, and so Spooner has to figure out just what exactly the tape "knew" he would say.
Dr. Lanning: I'm sorry, my responses are limited. You must ask the right questions.
- It's not so much to give Spooner answers, as to get him to ask himself the right questions, the first being for Spooner to find out the reason for Lanning's 'suicide'.
- A very early example (possibly the earliest example) is in the 1932 movie The Greeks Had a Word for Them in which a deceased character leaves a will recorded on a phonograph record. When one of the listeners complains about being explicitly left nothing in the will the recording blandly states "I knew you'd say that."
- This happens in Iron Eagle. Chappy Sinclair is the wingman for Doug Masters in a plan to use two Air Force jets to rescue Doug's father. Just in case something happens, Chappy makes a tape recording of advice the night before so his voice can continue to guide Doug. Somehow, Chappy manages to predict exactly when he was shot down and doesn't bother to give advice about anything up to that point. The strangest part is when the tape says something like, "You did a good job shooting at the refinery. Now that that's out of the way..."
- In the 1985 version of Brewster's Millions starring Richard Pryor and John Candy, Monty Brewster's great-uncle Rupert uses this trope with his Video Will.
Rupert: One more thing. You can't tell anybody why you have to spend the money.
- A variant in Primer: Aaron records all his conversations before traveling back to the first day of the storyline, then listens to them and repeats his lines to ensure that everything goes as before. The ploy is revealed when Abe travels back and takes his past self's place - he deviates from the original conversation, resulting in Aaron responding to something he didn't say.
- True Lies: Harry uses this on his wife (who is in the room with him) to disguise his voice.
- "Now dance for me." When she starts hand-jiving, "No, dance sexy."
- A moment later, the tape clearly doesn't know what she's going to say. Harry has to fast-forward past a bit of the tape where the speaker thought she'd be wearing nylons, and then he has to rewind it to repeat a request when she protests.
- In Tapeheads, the main characters' office space is protected by a video of a security guard firing at anyone who trips the system, as shown when Norman Mart's men bust in, and they fire back, not realizing it's only a video. The video guard even scoffs at them when they run out of bullets, and puts down his gun and salutes just as the main characters (who had been out) walk in.
- A couple of scenes later, a limbo band shows up, and the guard on tape is seen dancing along to the music.
- Spoofed (of course) in the movie Spy Hard staring Leslie Nielsen. The Big Bad of the movie, who was thought to be dead, sends a tape to the government agency with the typical threat of blowing something up with a stolen warhead. When we first see the scene you aren't really sure it's just a recording, as it seems to be responding perfectly to the men watching. But used later as a Brick Joke when Nielsen's character is watching the tape in his house and it runs in the background including all the pauses.
General Rancor (on tape): Yes, it is I, General Rancor. Big as life, and twice as ugly!
General Rancor (on tape): All Steele did is blow off a couple arms! I got plenty of arms!
- Technically, though we never see it working, Sarah Connor's answering machine in the first Terminator is a tiny example of this. "Hi! (beat) Ha, ha, fooled you, you're talking to a machine."
- Done with a business card in Oh God! You Devil, just after talent scout Harry O. Tophet pulls a Stealth Hi Bye on the main character, but uses his disembodied voice to deliver a few parting words about keeping in touch.
Bobby Shelton: I'm flipping out!
- The Big Red One. The Squad are listening to a German propaganda truck broadcasting a recording of a woman's voice telling the GI's that their wives back home are shagging other men, etc.
Sarge: "Knock off the bratwurst, Brunhilde, and sing us a lullaby."
- Red Stevens in The Ultimate Gift takes this trope to the extreme. One scene that perfectly sums this up is when his nephew gets a check and walks out with it, only to find that he can't cash it in and comes crawling back to Red Stevens, who knew that he'd do something like that. Oh, and it's a Video Will.
- Videodrome: TV culture critic Professor Brian O'Blivion only interfaces with others through taped messages, and in an early scene is even portrayed as responding to an interviewer's questions.
- Cousin Henry's Video Will in the 1970 movie Some Will, Some Won't does this, allowing a pause for the beneficiaries to object before telling them to shut up.
- A variant in In & Out: the tape the main character buys in order to re-affirm his heterosexuality somehow knows that the main character is not doing what it asks him to do, knows he has fallen in a trap and, after the song it puts ends, it knows he has been dancing.
- Subverted in Last Action Hero. When Slater's ex-wife calls him at work, he gives a few verbal nods before placing the phone's headset over a taped recording of his responses to her. He later reveals to Danny that it's just an act:
"You think she can't tell the real voice from a taped one? I pay a cashier to call me at work, so the guys think I have a life. My ex-wife is happily remarried; she never calls."
- I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. When Kung Fu Joe calls Slade, Slade leaves a blank stretch of tape on his answering machine just long enough for Kung Fu Joe to leave his message before revealing that it was the answering machine talking and not him.
- Lampshaded and subverted in Philip K. Dick's Ubik. Protagonist Joe Chip's TV suddenly switches on to show his boss, Glen Runciter, who has apparently died in an explosion a few weeks before. At first, the two engage in a perfectly coherent, real-time conversation ("You know I'm here. Does that mean you can hear and see me?" "Of course, I can't hear you and see you. This commercial message is on videotape"). However, towards the end of the conversation, Runciter's answers lose meaning and become detached and inappropriate until the TV switches itself off, leaving Joe to ponder:
- Had Runciter been able to hear him? Had Runciter only pretended to be on videotape? For a time, during the commercial, Runciter had seemed to respond to his questions; only at the end had Runciter's words become malappropriate.
- John Dies at the End has a video recording of a precognitive man holding what looks like a one-sided conversation. The heroes can't make sense of it the first time they watch it, but when they replay it later on, the man's girlfriend is present, and she ends up (reluctantly at first) holding a full conversation with the recording.
- Came in the form of a written will in The Westing Game, which incorporates into its text the interjections that the deceased has predicted his audience will make during its reading. The deceased millionaire even has a stored away message that informs the characters that they're all wrong in their deductions on his murderer. There turns out to be a legitimate reason for this uncanniness, though: Mr. Westing actually isn't dead and is disguised as one of the main characters, which enables him to keep track of other characters' progress in his "game."
- "Sit down, Grace Windsor Wexler!"
- The Time Vault in Foundation contains sealed messages from Hari Seldon which unfailingly predict events many decades into the future.
- Until the Mule comes along. The fact that another century or so down the road the messages are correct again is a plot-point.
- In the third book (Second Foundation)it turns out a secret group of people had been making sure the recordings came true.
- Until the Mule comes along. The fact that another century or so down the road the messages are correct again is a plot-point.
- Done in the fourth Artemis Fowl book, so the main character can have the first stimulating conversation he's had in the book.
- Arguably justified, as Artemis is watching a video of himself. It's not too much of a stretch to think that Artemis would know how Artemis would respond.
- Not from the dead, but in The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison, a recorded message from Professor Coypu is sent back in time. At one point, Coypu's voice says he believes there are supply ships on the way which can rescue the listeners (except for Jim and Angelina, who have another way out). He pauses, and one of them acknowledges that the ships are expected in fifteen days. The recording of Coypu picks up again with the words, "Fifteen days, more than enough time."
- Semi-example in Thud; there's an ancient recording of the dwarf king talking about peace with trolls, and a warhungry dwarf listening shouts that it must be a fake, a trick. The recording then says that there will be people who think this is a fake, a trick.
- In The Magic School Bus book about the Solar System, when they lose Ms. Frizzle and have to rely on her notes to learn about the Solar System and find her, she has written down the statement "Arnold, are you still listening?"
- Not a recording, but a more medieval fantasy example occurs in the Rhapsody series by Elizabeth Haydon. When one character's estranged brother sends a diplomatic envoy to speak to him, the diplomat has a series of papers, with the brother's anticipated responses to everything the character says. The diplomat is finally caught off guard when there was no pre-planned response to the man actually saying "Thank You."
- A more overtly magical version in Stephen King's Needful Things. Leland Gaunt leaves a tape for his Dragon, Ace Merrill, giving instructions for what he should do. When Ace considers ignoring the instructions and just stealing Gaunt's stuff, the tape starts up again on its own and threatens him. It's at this point that Ace realizes that the tape player isn't even plugged in.
- A variant in Daniel Suarez' Daemon. The Daemon is nothing more than a set of computer programs (admittedly, highly advanced) written by Matthew Sobol before his death. However Sobol programmed enough flexibility contingencies into it that it can react to every threat presented to it with an appropriate response. The preprogrammed CGI "doppelganger" of Sobol is sophisticated enough to have conversations with people to a limited degree. (It can be confused by statements to which it has no appropriate response, in which case it will inform you that you need to re-frame your query.) Justified since in general, people (and companies, and governments) can be very predictable, and Sobol was a genius and master of Xanatos Roulette.
- In Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, Agnes Nutter leaves a box containing the second volume of her Nice and Accurate Prophecies in the care of several lawyers successively to be delivered to her descendant Anathema at the right time. The ones who are tempted to open the box to find out what's inside inevitably find an envelope with their name on it, containing a letter decrying them for not following her instructions and naming something horribly embarrassing or compromising about their life that will be revealed if they don't close the box right now.
- Also in Good Omens, the order of the prophecies themselves turns out to be significant. For ease of reference, the Device family transcribes the original book onto a bunch of file cards. Anathema loses her copy of the Book (accidentally leaving it in Crowley's Bentley, to be found by Aziraphale), and has only the file cards to go with. During the bumpy ride to the place where Armageddon is happening (but not the proper riding forth of Armageddon), she drops the box and gets the cards all jumbled up. When she laments this, Newt counters that if Agnes was so good, whatever card Anathema grabs will be the one most relevant. Whether or not he's serious, he's right. The jumbled order of the prophecies, which had baffled the family for centuries, was apparently just so Anathema could pull the right ones out when she needed them right then.
- In The Jennifer Morgue, the taped briefing Angleton leaves for Bob does this—to a certain extent. Angleton, while very good, ends up underestimating the time it will take for Bob to complete it, and the tape self-destructs before Bob is fully briefed.
- One of the Journeys to Fayrah books makes use of this trope. The main characters go digging in a forgotten trunk in the attic and discover an audio tape recorded by one of their friends from Biq, the land of computers. The awesome supercomputing power available in Biq allows simulations so extensive that they can predict the future to an arbitrary level of detail; thus, the tape is perfectly tailored so that the main characters can have a natural conversation with it.
- Stanislaw Lem's Golem XIV does this. Although his lectures and seminars appear to happen in real time, actually he thinks a million times faster than the audience and can pre-generate a half-hour discourse in an eyeblink. And since he is able to model people's responses with uncanny accuracy, this works with dialogues just as well as with monologue. The editor of the sessions explicitly remarks how frustrated this makes unprepared listeners feel.
- In an example that more closely resembles The Map Knew You Would Do That, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has the Marauder's Map deny Snape access to its contents when he tries to view it, except for a series of four messages from the students that created it:
- "Mr. Moony presents his compliments to Professor Snape and begs him to keep his abnormally large nose out of other people's business." "Mr. Prongs agrees with Mr. Moony, and would like to add that Professor Snape is an ugly git." "Mr. Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a professor." "Mr. Wormtail bids Professor Snape good day, and advises him to wash his hair, the slimeball."
- Queer as Folk When Emmett's Sugar Daddy George died, he leaves him ten million dollars, and a video that explains why, allowing Emmet to have an extended conversation with the deceased.
- On Mad About You when Jamie's dead ex-boyfriend Alan leaves her a goodbye video, she gets into an argument with the television over exactly who dumped whom. Dead Alan then says that fact that he knew what she was going to say proves how truly compatible they were.
- Doctor Who:
- In "The Parting Of The Ways": The Doctor's recorded message to Rose: at the climax of the message—and only then—the recording seems to know that Rose has moved and turns to face her. This was intentional on the part of Russell T. Davies.
- In "Blink", and the short story it was based on, the Doctor can record his half of a conversation long in advance, because he has a transcript of the whole conversation through a Stable Time Loop. Time is like a wibbly-wobbly ball, apparently. Of timey-wimey stuff.
- Hyde does this to Jackman in Jekyll (written by the same writer as Blink): being a Super-Powered Evil Side, he knows exactly how Jackman thinks.
"Think of a number. No, do it Daddy! A big silly number, go on, it's a game. Say it out loud, a big fat number, any big fat number!"
- A sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus (the lead-in to the legendary Lumberjack Song) has a reluctant barber play a tape of hair-cutting sounds and small-talk:
Tape: I thought Hurst played well, sir.
- Also an example in which a television broadcast not only predicts that a penguin on top of a television is going to explode, but also replies to Graham Chapman and John Cleese as two old ladies commenting on the absurdity of it:
Anchor: It's just about 8 o'clock, so it's time for the penguin on top of your television set to explode. (boom)
- Although technically that doesn't count as a tape, since BBC continuity announcements in those days (and sometimes still today) were live.
- In The IT Crowd, Denholm not only knows enough to be prepared for his son to show up, but enough to know that he'll cause a fuss and start flirting, and prepare a specific tape for that circumstance. Also with Roy's troubleshooting audiotape, which answers the tech support phone by asking "Have you tried turning it off and on again?". Created out of sheer exasperation with the number of people whose problems can be solved with this.
- Played straight in an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, when one of Jennifer's elderly gentlemen friends dies and includes her in the execution of his will. He videotapes a message to be played for his various sponging relatives, at one point correctly mimicking one of their replies. As for Jennifer, whom the man's relatives assume is a mere golddigger, he requests she uses the rest of his money for a big parade. The relatives protest this seemingly ridiculous waste of money, but are stunned when Jennifer immediately starts making arrangements to fulfill his wishes without any thought of taking money for herself.
- Done by Stephen Colbert in one The Daily Show/The Colbert Report toss. Feigning laryngitis, he has prepared large flashcards with his side of the dialogue, explaining his condition - when Jon Stewart expresses sympathy for him, the next card reads "THANKS JON. THAT'S SWEET." (The whole toss plays off Jon's predictability, as it turns out Stephen has bet one of his staffers that Jon would believe the laryngitis story. He wins the bet.)
- Done again when John Oliver asks an anti-Muslim pastor who said he wouldn't let Muslims worship at his church if he thinks that a mosque would ever let Christians worship there. When he says no, John plays a pre-recorded video of himself at a mosque where that exact thing is really happening. He then pops up in the foreground and insults him.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer predated Colbert with a similar gag in the episode "Hush". When everyone in Sunnydale lost the ability to speak, Giles used an overhead projector and pre-written transparencies to brief the Scooby Gang on the Gentlemen, the demons responsible for stealing Sunnydale's voices. At one point, Buffy and Willow mime separate suggestions of how to dispose of the Gentlemen, and Giles immediately displays transparencies explaining why the plans wouldn't work. Not quite a straight example, though, since Giles is visibly annoyed that they interrupted him to ask the obvious questions instead of just letting him go to his next slide.
- On Taxi, Latka pre-records his greetings to the drivers after he loses a bet with Tony and has to stay silent for a month. He mostly gets it right.
Latka on tape: Bobby, how is your acting career going?
- In his defense, it was a reasonable guess.
- Taken to its logical extreme in Strangers with Candy, when Chuck Noblet goes on sick leave and leaves a tape recorder to teach his class. The tape knows Jerri will try to pass a note to her friend, orders her to come up to the front of the class and lectures her. When she gets fed up and fast-forwards it, it just says "Nice try." and continues the lesson.
- Played straight in the Dollhouse episode "Haunted", in which the personality of a deceased person is put into a doll who then solves her own murder and experiences a change of heart while she's at it. She changes her will accordingly. While the new will seems authentic (it's in her handwriting), the other characters comment that the tone of the letter is unlike her. She anticipates this and the last line of the will says as much.
- Sort of done in the Friends finale with the answering machine:
Rachel on tape: You have to let me off the plane! Y- *beeep*
- A skit from Chappelle's Show, purportedly introducing a posthumously released Tupac Shakur track starts out by vaguely describing events that happened long after Tupac's death to parody the theories of him still being alive. While several events in the video could be explained away, it ends with the tape observing and admonishing people in the club where it's being played, including repeatedly pointing out Dave shouldn't be there.
Recorded Tupac: "...And if you hit this table one more time then the record might sk - ight skip. I told you. Stop hitting the table."
- In Lexx, all of history is a Stable Time Loop, with each Cycle of Time connected to the last by the Time Prophet: a psychic who can see the future as it occurred in the previous cycle. When a petitioner asks her about some mineral deposits, she instead recites a message to Stanley Tweedle, knowing that 5000 years later, he will accidentally trigger an archived recording of this session during a crisis. (And when he forgets one digit from the address she has him memorize, she shouts it at him the moment he turns the tape back on.)
- The Goodies did this all the time, to the point that it was the Characteristic Trope. Tapes, videos, TV shows, movies, books, everything had a response to whatever anyone had to say.
- Illustrative example:
Graeme: (reading from a Kung Fu instruction manual) Now hold out your hand, and stick up two fingers.
- In The Prisoner's spoof episode "The Girl who was Death" this happens as part of a Mission: Impossible parody, where Number Six as a secret agent is being given his instructions from an LP in a record store.
Record: There's very little help I can give you, I'm afraid. The enemy have been one step ahead of us all along.
- In Heroes, following the death of his father Kaito, Hiro finds a tape in which Kaito instructs him to never open the safe in the office. Needless to say, Hiro pauses the tape and opens the safe. Inside is a note saying "Press Play". Cue Kaito scolding Hiro. "I told you not to open the safe!"
- Then again, this seems like a reasonable precaution rather than a prediction of Hiro's actions. Kaito had to account for the possibility of Hiro ignoring his instructions.
- Plus Kaito is Hiro's dad. It's likely he knows his son well enough to guess that he'd be silly enough to open it.
- Frequently played for laughs on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, in the game "Improbable Mission", a parody of Mission: Impossible, that starts with a "mission tape" (usually Wayne Brady or Greg Proops talking off-camera), which would frequently answer back to Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles.
- Sometimes happens accidentally during "Newsflash"; Colin will say something about the video behind him without seeing it, which then changes to something that's hilarious considering what was just said.
- Ghostbusters. Zero's secret messages would sometimes do this. The first episode's message references the ghost of gangster Big Al. Spenser muses, "I wonder what he's up to?" and the tape replies, "Down to."
- Dr. House does a variation of this: he knows the people around him well enough that he frequently tells them to stop doing whatever they're doing, just after they start doing it... when he's talking over the phone.
- A funnier example is when he anticipates the tests each of his students will do and the results and puts them in an envelope at the start.
- But fails epically when he starts scolding Cuddy as she enters his office, while facing the wall. It turns out to be the janitor. Cuddy enters some later, and House starts the scolding again with the very same words. Living tape on!
- A similar case of original epic fail occurs in Scrubs, when Elliot and the Janitor discover that Kelso, who has been for years claiming to be in his late 50s, is actually 65. Immediately after Elliot informs Kelso in front of a lift (elevator) that she knows he's 65, the lift (elevator) doors open and the Janitor is revealed, who tells Kelso, "You're old!" He then laughs and adds, "I've been saying that every time the doors opened for the last two hours, and I finally got my guy".
- Early on in Kamen Rider Kiva, Wataru is a semi-Hikikomori, covering his entire body and communicating using a notebook full of pre-written responses. He actually has to hunt through the book to find the appropriate responses, but at one point Megumi says "You can't possibly have every response you need in there!"—at which point Wataru starts going through the book for the proper response. Later, when Megumi struggles to get his mask off there's a brief shot of the notebook lying on the table, the open page reading "Someone please stop her!"
- An extreme example on FlashForward, where Demetri watches an 18-year-old video tape which starts talking to him.
- In Married With Children, a lawyer is reading Al's uncle's will (and not looking at the other characters). At one point, the lawyer yells, "Al, get your hand out of your pants!"
- Nowhere Man has an episode where Thomas Veil finds a pirate broadcast show that mirrors his own situation. When he goes to the show's producer, the man eventually leaves the room and Veil goes to the tape recorder on which he'd been dictating the plot of the next episode. After rewinding it, he starts the tape, which talks about how the hero grabs a tape recorder, rewinds it, and starts it.
- Played with a little bit in Spooks, when in a later episode in Season 9 Harry uses a clever ploy to outwit the Russian and Chinese spies who have managed to bug the Grid with microphones and are trying to kidnap or kill their CIA-backed contact, a computer hacker turned security consultant. He turns the spies' own equipment against them, after they use voice recordings of him to give false orders to Lucas (out in the field), and manages to devise an entire conversation with them using the voice recordings to distract them while he and CO19 quietly infiltrate the enemy HQ. Note he isn't speaking during the operation as he needs to stay quiet in the stealth attack, so using the voice recordings is the only option.
- On How I Met Your Mother, when Barney skips work so he can enact a Zany Scheme, anyone who calls his office phone gets a pre-recorded message that makes it sound like Barney's at work but is too busy to talk at the moment. Of course, no matter who calls, the recording refers to them by the same name, but Barney gets around this by convincing each and every person at his office that "Big Chief" is his "secret nickname" for them.
- Barney also has one where in a video he makes years in advance, he not only predicted some of the responses, but also the seating arrangement (by turning to face Marshall when he reacted to a comment).
- In The Monkees second episode, while listening to a last will and testament on a phonograph record, one guest is shocked that he didn't inherit anything and the record promptly tells him to shut up.
- Breaking In: Oz has a PowerPoint presentation set up with responses to everything Cameron says.
Oz: I want this job handled ASAP. No questions.
- He then caps the whole thing with a slide informing Cameron that his fly is open.
- A variant of this can be seen in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Civil Defense". Gul Dukat has recorded his response in case the Bajoran workers on the station decided to revolt, in case they decided to surrender, in case they managed to escape the mines, in case they managed to disable the life support system, in case they tried to fool the computer into thinking they are Gul Dukat... and Legate Kell has recorded a response in case Gul Dukat attempts to escape the station during such crisis.
- Seemingly played straight in Stargate SG 1 with a hologram of an Ancient, which gives some improbably helpful prerecorded responses to questions. Subverted when the hologram turns out to be conscious.
- Played with at the watching of the video will of Maxwell Sheffield's father in The Nanny.
- Played with in an episode of NCIS. Gibbs thinks he's having a phone conversation with the antagonist, but it turns out to be a series of tapes, played by a computer program according to specific words Gibbs responds with.
- Major part of bizarre Adult Swim comedy The Heart She Holler, where the deceased Mayor has created countless videotapes for every possible conversation.
- Occurs in the Community episode "The Psychology of Letting Go", when Pierce is listening to a CD left to him by his deceased mother.
Pierce's mom: Pierce? You found the CD, which means... I'm dead.
- An interesting take on this is in a later season episode of Andromeda. Dylan is having a conversation with a recording, but the recording has a limited AI so it can react more convincingly to Dylan.
- In later seasons of QI, obvious snarky comments or Running Gags are as likely to get contestants penalized as obvious wrong answers (the original purpose of the klaxon being the latter). In some cases, the anticipated "wrong answer" is remarkably detailed or accurate.
Stephen Fry: Now, tell me about the Great Disappointment.
- In the "Security Door" episode of News Radio, S 04 E 14, Dave prepares a slideshow to explain the new security door at the entrance to his employees and is able to accurately predict their questions and have corresponding visuals in his presentation, in the correct order, for his responses, including to the questions "What happens if there's an earthquake?" and "What if a wizard casts a spell on us?".
- Everything on the Non-Interactivity page does this to the viewer, with variable success.
- In one Zits strip, Jeremy comes down to breakfast with a series of cards, each answering questions his mother asks (like, "How do you want your eggs?") in order. Jeremy's mother eventually grows tired of this, saying, "I'm not as predictable as you think. Jeremy's next card: "Wanna bet?"
- In a Calvin and Hobbes strip, Susie asks Calvin to pass a note to a classmate, telling him not to read it because it's a secret note. He reads it anyway; the note says, "Calvin you stinkhead: I told you not to read this."
- Of course, this makes it look like Susie did this For the Lulz. It certainly wouldn't make much sense if Calvin just passed the note. But even this is addressed in the next strip, where Calvin immediately tells the teacher about the next note Susie passes him. What does the note say? "You know what I hate about Calvin? He's a tattler!"
- The Frantics: Last Will and Temperament. Boot To The Head! Every Boot To The Head. Perfectly timed with statements to get subjects to drop their BOOT TO THE HEAD * WHATHONK* guard.
- He didn't bother with the know-it-all nephew Ralston.
Lawyer: "To my know-it-all nephew Ralston..."
Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy
- In Definine Article Eddie Izzard does a bit wherein a tape teaching French corrects the listener. "'La plume du mon oncle est bingy bongy dingy dangy.' The tape would go, 'Non! Oh non! La plume du mon oncle ne pas bingy bongy dingy dangy!!'"
- Parodied in a published scenario for Cyberpunk 2020. The characters' employer briefs them about their mission with a recorded message. Near the end of the message, he asks, "Do you have any questions?" There is a pause, after which he says, "Sorry, I can't answer because I'm just a recording, you dumbasses."
- A board game called Atmosfear: Harbingers uses pre-recorded video for random events and a countdown timer for the game. On the video, a character and main antagonist called The Gatekeeper interrupts the game and announces the effect. About halfway through the game, The Gatekeeper asks for the player who, before starting the game, was selected to be the 'Chosen One.' He asks, "did you miss me?" to which the Chosen One will almost always say, "no." The Gatekeeper will respond with a snide and dismissive, "shut up." Seen here
- In the musical Lucky Stiff, the uncle of the protagonist, Harry, left his will in the form of a cassette tape. Said uncle was apparently able to predict Harry's reaction to various things despite the fact that the two had never met. Though, to be fair, it's not that hard to predict that a person's reaction to being told to take a corpse to the French Riviera on vacation would be to say it was impossible...
- The Real Inspector Hound employs this trope with the radio announcement.
Radio voice: The killer has been spotted in the vicinity of isolated Muldoon Manor.
- Made doubly fun by stage directions which suggest that the radio voice be pre-recorded for the show.
- In the Eroge Snow Sakura, the main character's father sends him tapes like this repeatedly including, in one ending sending him a wedding ring needed to propose to his Love Interest (and cousin) weeks before it's needed, and orchestrating the entire proposal via tape.
- Krew leaves behind a holographic will in Jak X. After he tells the group he wants them to race, he pauses long enough to let them protest, then tells them he knew that they'd refuse, so he's poisoned them. He then apologizes to Rayn for upsetting her, then pauses again so they can argue about how to get out of that mess.
- In the Mega Man X series, although at first Dr. Light's recordings are fairly plausible, by X4 they comment on very current events, even occasionally using the names of certain characters.
- It's implied that the holograms aren't just recordings but copies of Dr. Light's mind.
- Taken to an extreme in Assassin's Creed II: while Ezio is talking to Minerva, she suddenly breaks off, stares right at the camera, and addresses Desmond by name. Not only did The Hologram Know You Would Say That, but The Hologram Knew Your Descendant Would Be Following You Via Genetic Memory. Desmond's reaction is about the same as the player's.
- In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Henry leaves an answering machine recording that replies to what Travis is saying, and the player is thinking.
Henry: Travis... Forgive your big brother, who was too much of a shitebag to thank you face to face.
- He then ends the message with:
Travis: How long is this message!?
- Narbonic has a version where Dave makes the recording for his own past self, who has temporarily taken over his body. Dave has perfect memory, so he's able to hold an entire conversation with himself by remembering what his responses were the first time.
past!Dave: [Running] would be *huff* a lot easier if you'd quit smoking at some point!
- Happens in Experimental Webcomic Kotone between the main character and Professor Akira, and it's funny as hell.
- In-character wise in this Darths and Droids strip.
- An earlier webcomic by Mark Sachs of A Miracle of Science fame - No Headroom - showed the protagonist conversing with a recording of his dead grandma. Which goes exactly as per trope, until...
- Done with a variant in Spiderwebs. Selena, bored moon goddess, recently accepted a new Avatar, only leaving him with a little problem and a magical book. After the new avatar realizes she can't sleep at night, she decides to read the book.
Luna: "There's no way. A book can not read minds, or answer questions."
- Subverted to the highest degree in the Spanish-language Planeta Absurdo, when the supervillain tape begins to address two characters who, at the moment, are busy playing a tabletop game. And made even weirder because said supervillain is supposed to be a precognitor.
- Mind Mistress has the eponymous superhero use her immense intellect to play out this trope with a series of flash cards against a super-fast opponent, showing that she predicted all of his actions in advance.
- Used in Persona 4 TW almost word for word in the quote. Interestingly enough, this was unintentional.
- Full Frontal Nerdity had this with an adventure book.
- SCP Foundation: When SCP-808 uses SCP-185 to tune into a radio program from the future, she's greeted by a voice who knows what to say to her because he's reading his lines from the transcript of their conversation.
- SCP-315 is a set of 95 of such videos, though each of them is one-use only.
- In Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, Delta creates a message like this for Church. Notably, the usage of the trope here averts the nearly omniscient overtones that are usually present. When Church tries to mess with the recording by saying outrageous things, Delta simply responds by saying "stop testing me".
- This, of course, is handwaved by the fact that Delta is the Alpha AI's logic unit, and so explained that he used logic to predict what Church would ask his recording. He just happened to be remarkably accurate. Later reveals indicate this was helped by the fact that Church is the Alpha AI that Delta was originally split from.
- In the That Guy With The Glasses movie, Kickassia, The Nostalgia Critic calls everyone at Channel Awesome to tell them "It's time." However, he doesn't tell them what it's time for (taking over Molossia). When he calls That Chick With The Goggles, this exchange occurs:
Nostalgia Critic: Goggles?! It's time!
- This gets a Call Back as during Paw's Top 9 Composers video Spoony tries to call Goggles but gets the same message as above. (Unlike the Nostalgia Critic he isn't tricked by the message though only confused by it.)
- Used again in his The Thief and the Cobbler review. Vincent Price also has an, uhhh, interesting reason as to how he knows what the Nostalgia Critic is going to say.
- A particularly meta example during a Retsupurae.
- Loading Ready Run takes this to ridiculous extremes with this.
- Taken to the Logical Extreme in Ed Glaser's Ninja the Mission Force, where Gordon's wife has mysteriously disappeared. Fortunately for him, however, his wife disappeared immediately after completing her video recording project, in which she seemed to know everything he was going to say and every situation he was going to be in for the rest of his life and prepared a response accordingly. Gordon carries around a TV with the VHS tape of her constantly playing everywhere he goes when he's not being a ninja.
- The Scooby Doo episode "A Night of Fright Is No Delight" featured an audio will in the form of a phonograph record:
Colonel on record: The house is haunted.
Man on the radio: You're wasting your time trying to confuse me, Brad and Judy, for this is just a recording of my voice that can't answer you!
- On Family Guy, Peter's boss Mr. Weed leaves a video will that alerts his employees that the factory is to be destroyed "right now," a second before a wrecking ball crashes through the building.
- In the episode where Peter attends Meg's high school while pretending to be a student, he leaves a taped message to fool his wife, and though it works with the first two recorded lines, the third one is inappropriate and tips Lois off that it is a recording. The recording then acknowledges that it's a recording, and asks her to flip over to side 2.
- A variation: A Mexican guy that knows only two very specific phrases in English (with a perfect accent) which lets him hold a small conversation with Brian.
Brian: Oh good, you speak English!
- Another variation: "Coming up, an expose on conveniently-placed news items on TV shows. But first, Peter, look out for that skateboard." (Peter then slips on a skateboard.)
- The Futurama episode "A Clone of My Own" has Prof. Farnsworth leave a recording for after he is taken to the Near Death Star. He anticipates Bender making a joke at his expense and reveals that he has recorded over Bender's soap operas.
- In Obsoletely Fabulous, Bender meets an outdated cartridge robot that carries a bag filled with individual cartridges for responses and conversations.
- The Boondocks episode "Wingmen" has a video will which asks Robert Freeman to read a eulogy, followed by about a minute of sucking up and pleading in order to get Robert to actually do it. It also tells him to sit back down after he jumps out of his seat in anger.
- That's not all. It also stares at him in a slightly pleading manner, waiting and timed right until he opens a case revealing his inheritance. It then mocks him after he finds a jar full of peanuts, or "DEEZ/MY NUTS".
- Also in "Stinkmeaner" where Ruckus calls Robert, and Robert lets the answering machine pick it up. "Don't you walk away from this answering machine!"
- Played with a bit in Lilo & Stitch: The Series, where Experiment 625 makes a recording of Gantu's instructions early on in the episode. When he plays them back for Gantu later in the episode, Gantu starts to argue with his own recording, and (other than the fact that it's the same character on both sides) it sounds exactly like a real argument.
- The Batman the Animated Series episode featuring the Clock King used this trope. Fugate's tape perfectly predicted what Batman would do, down to the second. Of course, this is Fugate's gimmick:
Clock King: (on tape) Sorry I couldn't be with you in person, Batman, but I've got a train to catch. This box contains a high-speed vacuum pump. I know you've got all kind of gas masks, so I'm putting you out of my misery by simply removing all the oxygen from the room. The process will take fifteen minutes...
- A frequent Looney Tunes gag. Typically the character would respond to a radio news announcement, and the radio would answer back, somewhat sarcastically.
- As the page's quote says, the Dilbert television series had an episode in which Dilbert talks to a tape recording of his mother, during which he angrily asks if he's so predictable that she can tape her half of the conversation ahead of time. He is. To the point where it tells him to put back the soup can he tries to steal.
- On the Playhouse Disney series Stanley, the goldfish Dennis always lamented Harry and Elsies' singing their song about The Great Big Book of Everything. At one point in the film Stanley's Dinosaur Round-Up, Harry was otherwise occupied, but he and Elsie left behind a tape on which they performed the song. After the initial portion of the song, Dennis commented that they couldn't finish the song because they didn't know what animal Stanley was looking for. Cue the remainder of the tape-- "We don't know what you're looking for / But the book will help complete your chorrrre!"
- An episode of The Zeta Project has Bucky trigger a dormant message for help left in Zeta's holographic projector. Twice in the recording Bucky knows that Ro just insulted him, but partially subverted in that he was only able to get the exact insult right the first time.
- The Danger Mouse episode "Duckula Meets Frankenstoat" features a taped transmission from Colonel K:
Colonel K: Ah, there you are DM. I'm sending this recorded message...
- Inverted in Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Interviews were recorded ahead of time, but the questions Space Ghost asks are different than the ones the guest is answering, giving the impression that someone intended this trope, but Space Ghost got the tape instead of the intended recipient.
- In The Venture Brothers, Before getting his mind wiped, Hank records a message for his post mind wiped self, which accurately predicts Hank's reactions.
- Superfriends (1973–74) episode "The Androids". The Superfriends are listening to a tape recording sent by Dr. Rebos.
Dr. Rebos: You have disregarded my warning and so I had to sabotage your Venus probe.
- In the "Prank Callers" episode of Regular Show, Mordecai and Rigby pull this on the Master Prank Caller by way of an answering machine recording. He doesn't take it well.
- Mighty Max: One of Virgil's summons to Max involves a video tape delivered to Max's home. Virgil correctly responds to Max's queries and reminds Max that this is a recording when Max wonders if it's a live broadcast.
- Almost all of Virgil's messages have traces of this.
- In Dan Vs. "The Fancy Restaurant," Dan writes a message on the cheesecake Chris and Elise ordered for dessert, telling Chris to meet him in the men's room. Elise comments, "This is weird," and the waiter immediately appears with another cheesecake reading, "It's not weird. Don't listen to Elise."
- On an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet leaves Rabbit note saying he's off in search of a groundhog. A very surprised Rabbit replies, "You're kidding", and then reads further to find Piglet also wrote, "I'm not kidding."
- A zig-zag: In the Inspector cartoon Plastered In Paris, the Inspector and Sgt. Deux Deux are eating lunch in their patrol car—the Inspector trades his sandwich for Deux Deux's garlic/tabasco/chili peppers repast—when the Commissioner calls them about a mysterious figure named Mister X. The Commissioner ends the transmission to the Inspector with "And stop eating garlic!!"
- Not a video but, one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants featured SpongeBob going to Squidward's to ask if he wanted to do something together and finding at his door a piece of paper with "NO" written on it. As SpongeBob asked if Squidward was sure, he removed the paper, only to find one with "YES" written on it.
- Played with in Adventure Time.
Jake: But dad, Finn's already figured that out. He's a good kid with a kind heart.
- The titular character of Archer uses this gag relentlessly on his voicemail message, usually causing his mother to hold lengthy conversations with it.
- A Mad Magazine piece about cheap-but-overpriced cable service had as the "psychic channel" loop of a woman saying to the camera "I knew youj were going to do that"
- This quote.
- Automated active telemarketing systems take advantage of this. A call is made, and if a certain pattern of silence/sound/silence is detected (that would be a person saying "Hello" or their name and waiting for a reply), the system assumes there's a real person to be
harassedoffered wonderful opportunities, and the call is automatically switched to a live operator.
- This technique was made fun of in one of the Broken Sword games, when you can listen to messages left on the answering machine. One of them is an automated telemarketer calling about soffits. Part of the call is "When was the last time you had your soffits checked? (Long pause). Hmmm, I thought so.".
- A thought experiment about doing this in a book form is called Einstein's Mind. If you could set up a book so that it would have all of the correct responses for any query, would the book be sentient or not?
- Also known as the Chinese room.
- Instant messaging spambots often do this. A conversation might go along the lines of
- Of course, being a chatbot rather than a recorded message there's room for some flexibility in the bot's messages. For instance, replying to any message containing "robot", "bot", or "Turing" with "i am not a robot! im a real girl!". In general though, it's a lot less effort to code a bot with one conversation track than a whole Dialogue Tree, and completely impractical to code one that makes up responses on the fly.
- Can result in Insane Troll Logic when the codes get crossed; one popular AOL bot seems to default to the sentence "If I were a bot, why would I be wearing this hat??" when confronted.
- A variation appears when the mother of Phineas and Ferb decides to take a French audio course:
(A spaceship has just landed behind her.) The spaceship is right behind you. Le vaisseau spatial est juste derrière vous.
- The "reveal", as it were, is 8 and a half minutes in, if you don't want to have to deal with the crappy video.