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A character or group of characters does something that limits their abilities (usually temporarily) for what looks to be -- and may well actually be -- excellent reasons, with the best of intentions. (For example, a team allows a key member to take a vacation, or a character loans his "lucky" tennis racket to a friend who's going out of town.) Almost as soon as this limitation becomes irrevocable a situation which requires the talent, skill or item in question immediately appears; without the missing element, the character or characters is seemingly doomed.

The resolution of this crisis depends strongly upon the genre of the story being told, ranging from zany schemes to improvised substitutions to bulling it through on raw guts and determination. The key element, though, is a seemingly-harmless relinquishing of an advantage for good reasons, which is immediately "punished" by a dire need for the lost advantage.

Contrast with Brought Down to Normal, where the loss is never voluntary, and sometimes enjoyed -- and the lost power is returned just in time to use it. Compare Can't Stay Normal, which is the usual result.

This is also used sometimes as an explanation for Chaotic Neutral or Chaotic Stupid actions. Contrast I Did What I Had to Do, which does the same as in this case, but for Lawful Neutral or Lawful Stupid actions.

Examples of Always Need What You Gave Up include:

Anime & Manga

  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi seals his magical talent for three days in order to avoid the temptation to "fix" his class's test results with a spell. He immediately finds himself in a dangerous situation where he must rely upon his students for safety.
    • Done in the long term by Asuna with her memories, which she gave up at least a decade ago in order to live a normal life (she was depressive and on the verge of picking up Takamichi's smoke addiction). Considering she helped out in the last war, her memories would have been really, really helpful now. And giving them up didn't really keep her "normal", either.
      • It's actually lampshaded a few times. You see, by giving up her memory, she also gave up the memory of why she gave up her memories. As a result, she's now running full-throttle down the path to becoming the sort of person she didn't want to be before she lost her memories, but she doesn't remember that she didn't want to do what she's doing! Just going to a decent psychiatrist to cope with the memories she gave up would have saved her a great deal of time and effort in the long run.
  • This is relatively common in Humongous Mecha series, where as soon as the pilots get a day off to go to the beach, the city they're supposed to defend will get attacked, allowing the use of a Beach Episode without resorting to completely pointless Fan Service. Although most of them have it anyway.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX manga, Manjyome buries his "Light and Darkness Dragon" (whose Duel Spirit fills in the role of the Ojamas), because he wants to prove that he's good enough to be in Obelisk Blue on his own (which he confesses was later due to fear of losing with Light and Darkness Dragon). Manjyome immediately recovers the card after Judai uses his Duel Spirit to defeat him, and wins in their rematch in the finals of the academy tournament.
  • A painful example in Gantz. Kurono earns 100 points and chooses freedom to be with his girlfriend at the cost of his memory. The end result: he thinks his girlfriend is a stalker, and he and his little brother are both murdered by vampires.
  • In Claymore, exiled Badass Claymore in hiding Ilena spends an episode or two teaching Clare her quick sword technique. Ilena is missing her left arm and Clare is missing her right. Sensing that Clare had no hope without her right arm, Ilena slices off her own right arm and gives it to Clare on loan so that she can master the technique. Clare leaves to pursue her goal. In the very next scene, another Claymore shows up to kill the outcast Ilena who is now missing both arms... The only way the Claymore was able to sense her this time is because she used some of her Yoki aura in teaching the quick sword technique to Clare. Had she retained her arm, she would have more than been a match for any Claymore, being the former #2 ranked Claymore herself.
    • Actually, it turns out the Claymore that went after her was also a former number 2.

Films -- Live-Action

  • In the movie Superman 2, Superman gives up his superpowers for Lois Lane -- just before he needs them in order to defeat the Phantom Zone villains. In the original cut of the film, the means by which he recovers his abilities -- by consuming the energy that powered the Fortress of Solitude's holographic projections of his parents -- is not revealed to the audience, as Marlon Brando had refused to appear in the movie after original director Richard Donner was fired. The recently released Donner cut of the film includes this scene.
  • The plot of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home could be seen as a delayed Good Idea. Man had hunted whales to extinction in the 21st century. In Kirk's time, a probe arrives that will destroy Earth unless someone responds to its call... which turns out to be the song of a humpback whale. Time Travel and An Aesop against the dangers of overwhaling are of course involved.
  • In part three of The Matrix, some of the secondary characters pull a Big Damn Heroes moment by flying their hovercraft into the dock and activating the EMP, shutting down every robot in the place -- only to be informed by the general that this has also disabled all of their best defenses against the next wave. Might be a subversion, however, as the dock was already said to be lost when they conceived the plan; Lock was just looking for a scapegoat.
    • It's definitely Lock looking for a scapegoat. Remember who gave the order to open the gate so they could get inside in the first place?
  • In Final Destination 2, Clear Rivers was the last of the survivors of the Flight 180 crash from the previous movie. Death has a list with her name on it. She spent all of the first movie thwarting Death's attempts at claiming her and successfully escaped every seeming "accident". In the second film she had decided that the only place safe for her from these "accidents" was to lock herself up in a small padded cell, living like a prisoner, with no sharp objects or anything that could conceivably kill her. She is safe... until the next group of people on Death's list seek her out. She is reluctant to help at first but later decides to leave the protection of her cell and start living again. Unsurprisingly, she dies before the end of the film.


  • And, of course, in The Lord of the Rings, Big Bad Sauron pours a significant portion of his might into the forging of The One Ring, which can then magnify this power and control all of the other magic rings. Until some scrawny little hobbit drops it back down the volcano, that is.
    • Hey, that idea of his let him come back from the dead after the destruction of Númenor, not to mention retain the greater measure of his power all the way throughout the Third Age, when pretty much all sources of mystical power not anchored in a Ring of Power were fading from Middle-Earth. Give Sauron credit, he made out like a bandit for millennia on this one idea. Up until the hobbit incident, at least.
  • In the ninth The Pendragon Adventure book, Raven Rise, Mark gives his Traveler ring to a villain because he figures that since Bobby can't communicate with him anymore anyways, it's useless and will save his parents without hurting anybody. It ends up literally causing the apocalypse.
  • In Laura Leander series, the titular heroine gives up her power as Light Guardian in order to get her mother Rescued From Purgatory. It seems a perfectly valid idea, since an ancient agreement forbids Dark Guardians from using their powers to hurt anybody who isn't a Light Guardian directly. Unfortunately, The Big Bad, who desires revenge on her for previous defeats, finds a way to hurt her past self (from times she was a Guardian), and she has to assist her past self with her powers now gone...

Live-Action TV

  • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Human Nature, and the TV two-parter based on it, Doctor turns himself into a human schoolteacher, with none of the knowledge or abilities of his normal self. In the TV story, it's to avoid being tracked by the Monster of the Week, but in the book it's just to experience what his companions go through (having been given the idea by, it turns out, one of the villains, deliberately so that he could be taken advantage of in his reduced state).
  • An episode of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger featured this, when the team's ace mechanic Swan was given an award and encouraged by the others to take a break and go to the award ceremony. Naturally, the city is attacked while she's gone, and it's immediately demonstrated that the team's Transforming Mecha start breaking down if they miss even one day of maintenance. Which either proves that Swan is an incredible mechanic or an incredibly lousy mechanic.
    • The Rangers are all going on about how they don't know if they can hold their own without Swan, but they have to support her decision to go away because "we have to do what's best for Swan". Regardless of the fact that the Earth might be destroyed as a result.
  • In Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, the original Magna Defender released the Lights of Orion. However when he becomes possessed by revenge he needs the lights to face and kill Scorpius.
  • A variation in Sherlock: Irene fakes her death and sends her phone to Sherlock. She soon has to get it back.
  • Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites: Erik wins immunity at the final five. Guaranteed to be in the Final Four, right? Not if the Black Widow Brigade has anything to say about it.

Myths & Religion

  • In Norse Mythology, Frey gives up the sword-that-can-fight-by-itself in order to gain the love of a giantess. Thus, in the Ragnarok, Surtr will not be defeated by the sword, and will devour the entirety of creation with fire.

Video Games

  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog game Sonic Adventure 2, Knuckles the Echidna, fighting over possession of his precious Master Emerald with Femme Fatale Rouge the Bat, notices Robotnik stealing the gem away from under their noses. Instead of attacking Robotnik directly to get the gem back, he...shatters the Emerald, explaining that he can always gather up the pieces later. Seems like a good idea at the time...until it's realized the gem is needed to help stop a giant space station powered by Chaos Emeralds from crashing into Earth. Oh, and Rouge is a master jewel thief with technology that can help her find the broken shards just as well as Knuckles' internal Chaos detector can. (Knuckles probably also should have shattered it with less force, as the shards are sent all over the continent.)
    • Many of Knuckles' recent strategies in guarding the Master Emerald could be taken as a sign that he's accepted the futility of his job -- i.e. one guy who still has to sleep being expected to guard an incredibly powerful, important, and desirable MacGuffin 24/7 all by his lonesome. What seems like a better idea to you -- spending all your time lurking next to it, pouncing on every stray sparrow that happens by in case of ill will, or going off and doing your own thing and then just going to retrieve it when it inevitably is stolen?
    • And the Master Emerald was needed after he had already restored it, anyway.
  • In God of War II, Kratos drains his divine power into an artifact so that he can destroy the (animated) Colossus of Rhodes. Of course, given that the whole thing was just a Batman Gambit on the part of Zeus, Kratos shortly learns the drawback of vesting all your power in an artifact, as Zeus betrays him and sends him to Hades.

Web Comics

  • Nale in This strip of Order of the Stick strip, and his twin brother Elan in this one.
    • And Ian Starshine says it nearly word for word to his daughter Haley in this strip.
    • Roy fulfilled his Animal Husbandry classes at Fighter College with two semesters of goat herding, because it seemed like an easy A at the time.
  • In Spacetrawler, Yuri becomes increasingly violent, erratic, and detached from her teammates in the aftermath of getting tortured. Martina sees to it that Yuri gets psychotherapy to deal with this. The therapy-bot, trying get Yuri back on her feet as quickly as possible, erases her memories of the event, and this appears to fix her. Then, Yuri has another run-in with the alien who tortured her. When it becomes apparent that Yuri's memory loss will allow said alien to take advantage of her, the therapy-bot restores Yuri's memories--causing her to revert to her scary, violent self.

Western Animation

  • A rather humorous occurrence in an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 that, ironically, fits both this trope and the old name for this trope that is now redefined. IIRC, the villains attached a mind-control device to a giant squid and were using it to attack the title teenage turtles. When the villain with the remote control dropped it, Donatello used his bo-staff like a golf club to knock it into the water. Once the villains were defeated and gone, the turtles were still left to deal with the giant squid.

 Raphael: We could use the remote to subdue him, but Mr. Home-Run-Slugger over here had to go and knock it into the water!

Donatello: (sheepishly) Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

  • Happened in an episode of Drawn Together, which was probably a parody of Superman 2. Captain Hero feels so guilty about giving Foxxy a tumor through extensive use of his X-ray vision, he gives up his powers. This leaves him paralyzed, confined a wheelchair controlled with a breathing tube. He finds that he has to save her not long after.
  • This trope is at the very center of the Danny Phantom Grand Finale.
  • In the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe episode "The Problem with Power", He-Man surrenders the sword that gives him the power of Grayskull because Skeletor tricks him into thinking that he's killed someone. Once He-Man discovers the truth, he has to retrieve the sword to regain his power.
  • In Family Guy there's the Y2K episode, where the town gives up guns right before they realize they need them.
  • Several times in The Mask animated series, including the pilot, Stanley tries to give away or bury the eponymous artifact only to desperately need it again by the halfway point.
  • In Disney's Hercules, Hercules agrees to surrender his Super Strength as part of a deal with Hades. As soon as the deal is complete, Hades frees the Titans from imprisonment and launches his invasion of Greece and Mount Olympus.
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