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"I want an iron-clad lifetime contract, along with a full wipe-the-fucking-record-clean pardon for any and all prior acts. I know you don't trust me. The beauty is that you don't have to. Nothing I can possibly do will make shit worse than it is already."
Caine (making his closing argument after The Reveal at the end), Caine Black Knife

Your dad corners you about your having chopped down a cherry tree, a key step in your Evil Plan.

What do you do?

You tell him everything. You have the feeling that honesty will not derail your plan.

Differs from a Sarcastic Confession in that a Sarcastic Confession is when someone says the truth in a sarcastic tone, as if to make you think he is lying. This is when you tell them the truth with a straight face, and yet you are confident that it will not set you back. Differs from Just Between You and Me in that it is an intentional revelation that hinges on the person being unable (or unwilling) to do anything about it, rather than triumphant gloating to an endangered hero. The finest examples of this trope have things set up in advance so that the person to whom you've confessed will actually advance your plans if he acts on the information you just gave him.

See also Sarcastic Confession, Just Between You and Me, Cassandra Truth.

See Honest Axe and Secret Test of Character for when the character really is just being honest and not Genre Savvy.

Examples of Honesty Is the Best Policy include:

Anime & Manga

  • In Naruto, Kabuto is confronted by Kakashi, and Kabuto all but confirms that he is working with Orochimaru, after which he manages to escape Kakashi unscathed. Later, he is berated by a fellow conspirator, after admitting he intentionally revealed that information.


  • At the end of Watchmen, Veidt reveals his master plan to his fellow heroes after carrying out the most extreme part, confident they won't try to undo the beneficial effects of his crime. They don't. Or do they? The one fellow hero that does want to undo it, Rorschach, gets killed, but his diary is picked up by a newspaper...
    • A small-press paper known, if at all, for racist and anti-Semitic views.


  • The protagonist of Dragon Age: The Crown of Thorns can somehow pull this off even when he's setting up plan after plan plus a Zero-Approval Gambit on the side. He also manages to make people believe whatever he wants, like Trian being dead when he isn't yet still avoids lying by phrasing his words as questions and hypotheses. That said, every one of his direct statements can qualify as Brutal Honesty.

Films -- Animation

  • Tinkerbell tries this in Peter Pan (yes, the Disney one) when she flat-out admits to Peter that she tried to have Wendy killed by the Lost Boys. However, she wasn't exactly successful in the "not getting punished" part.

Films -- Live Action

  • Jack Sparrow does it perfectly in the first Pirates of the Caribbean, when he sails into Port Royal on a sinking longboat and is caught by two inept guards, Mullroy and Murtogg, while trying to steal a new ship.

 Mullroy: What's your purpose in Port Royal, Mr. Smith?

Murtogg: Yeah, and no lies!

Jack Sparrow: Well, then, I confess. It is my intention to commandeer one of these ships, pick up a crew in Tortuga, raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer my weaselly black guts out.

Murtogg: I said "no lies!"

Mullroy: I think he's telling the truth.

Murtogg: If he was telling the truth, he wouldn't have told us.

Jack Sparrow: Unless of course, he knew you wouldn't believe the truth even if he told it to you.

    • In Dead Man's Chest, he expresses surprise that even though he subscribes to this trope, no one believes him.

 Norrington: You actually were telling the truth.

Jack Sparrow: I do that quite a lot. Yet people are always surprised.



  • While the Aesop's Fables that actually teach that "honesty is the best policy" are well-known, there's another, hilarious one in which someone tries to be Genre Savvy in this way and it backfires. Two men get kidnapped by apes and hauled before the ape king, where they see he's set up a whole court for himself with all the trappings of actual royalty. The "king" asks each man in turn what they think of him and his court. The first one sucks up to him about how magnificent he is, and is set free. His friend figures that if that's what you get for lying, the reward for telling the truth must be even better, and tells the ape he looks like a idiot pretending to be a real king and that he's not impressing anyone. The king naturally orders him executed. The moral of this one seems to be, "Don't go overboard."


  • There is a joke about a family of rednecks with three sons, who get told the Cherry Tree legend by their father, who then asks which of them knocked down the family outhouse. One son, inspired by the legend, steps forward and admits to the deed... and gets paddled for his trouble. When he complains, "But George Washington's father didn't punish him for chopping down the cherry tree!" the father replies, "George Washington's father wasn't sitting in the cherry tree when he chopped it down!"


  • Moist von Lipwig in the Discworld novel Making Money by Terry Pratchett. At least twice.
  • The page quote comes at the end of the Xanatos Gambit the protagonist spent all of Caine Black Knife finagling into place. Caine has just royally screwed the Board's plans up. Their two choices are: reward him for sabotage and murder of one of their number by giving him a total pardon and more authority and free rein than they gave to the guys sent out to catch him, or permanently lose access to Overworld and possibly risk Overworld's most powerful empire marching over a portal with dragons and warmages to blast Earth into submission. Caine is happy to unveil all the details because he's not afraid to die and they have no alternatives.
  • In the Xanth Novels, by Piers Anthony, demons are infamous, not for being liars, but for being 100% honest at all times. They may not tell you the whole truth, but they'll never just make something up, because a single truth will often be far more devastating than a thousand lies.

Tabletop Games

  • Magic: The Gathering: When they meet for the first time in Agents of Artifice, Nicol Bolas gives Jace Beleren a pretty frank explanation of how he lost control of the Consortium and his secret attempts to take it back. And then when Jace asks "Why are you telling me this?", he further explains that it made for a magnificent diversion to get him to let his mental guard down, and immediately launches a telepathic attack.

Web Comics

  • In Order of the Stick, the Inter-Fiend Cooperation Commission play this technique beautifully on Vaarsuvius as part of a preplanned Batman Gambit. When they offer the elf near unlimited magical power, they are perfectly willing to explain the entire terms of service of their Deal with the Devil up front, explain what they plan to get out of making the deal (but see below), and decline to produce an elaborate contract because, "Contracts are for people with something to hide." But the real clincher is that they are willing to point out an alternate route that Vaarsuvius could take to save his/her family without making the deal, confident that it wouldn't be chosen.
    • It's worth noting that the IFCC didn't mention something rather critical, that being what they plan to do with V's soul. Suffice it to say that this leaves a rather huge Sword of Damocles hanging over the plot.
    • They also told a teeny lie that Qarr the Imp figures out. They said that they extended their offer to Vaarsuvius because V was just the next person to come along. In fact they had been watching V for some time and waiting for the opportunity.
    • It's later pointed out that the "alternative" wouldn't have worked, period. It hinged on V dying, Qarr carrying V's severed head to Durkon and then Durkon resurrecting V. Problem is, the Resurrection spell would have taken too long to cast: the black dragon would have murdered V's family long before V would have been in any condition to tell anyone anything.
      • The plan wasn't to stop the Dragon before she killed V's family. It was to do it before she bound their souls to herself and left the mortal plane. After that, they could just resurrect them.
        • It STILL wouldn't have worked because Durkon had already left the fleet, mind. It's unknown whether the fiends were unaware of this fact, were lying to V or whether it's a simple oversight on the part of the author.
        • It’s also worth noting that V’s children probably only had one Hit Die and being resurrected would most likely have left them with a permanent loss of constitution.
    • On a funnier level, Hayley once managed to get far more loot than she deserved by using this trope.
  • Doc Scratch of Homestuck is overt about this-- he tells people on many occasions that he never lies, and has never been seen actually contradicting that statement. As a near-"omniscipotent" being, he can see the entirety of any conversation or interaction (with a few "dark spots") prior to the actual initiation of the conversation, and sees no reason to lie to people about things he knows they are going to do.

Western Animation

  • The first-season Gargoyles episode, "The Edge", where Xanatos reveals the entirety of his Gambit-of-the-week to a VERY irritated Goliath, as part of a second plan that has nothing to do with the first... and succeeds.
    • Also, the second-season's "Eye of the Beholder." Xanatos's "Plan D" consists of telling the Gargoyles "I fucked up, I need help." And that's the one that works. The "avoiding punishment" part comes in that the Gargoyles not only help him save his fiancée, but don't seek retribution on him for unleashing the crazy monster she'd become on the city in the first place. Their reason? He's discovered love.
      • Well, that and he apparently didn't know what the Eye of Odin would do to her when he gave it to her.
      • Though the Gargoyles do keep the Eye of Odin so Xanatos doesn't get away scot-free. He isn't even upset.
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