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The hero is about to undertake something that he must do on his own, leaving his Sidekick or support team behind. He plans to return in a certain period of time, but the contingency instructions are given to those left behind in case the unthinkable happens and he cannot come back to them. Usually he'll tell them to go on without him, or go for help. Occasionally, the hero will say "Tell my Love Interest I love him/her" and the Sidekick will reply "Tell him/her yourself."

Phrasing may vary along the lines of "If I do not return," or "If I don't make it back", of course.

In comedic situations, the hero will say "keep waiting" or "come rescue me" instead of "go on without me". In another semi-comedic variant, the hero's instructions may be something frivolous - willing a personal possession which is usually somehow comical to the other character, or telling them not to mess with the hero's stuff. If the hero doesn't say this, it may lead to If You Die, I Call Your Stuff anyway.

May also lead to a Video Will firing off if the hero does not return. See also Wait Here and Dead Man Writing. Occasionally this line follows or leads into More Hero Than Thou or More Expendable Than You (particularly if the sidekick or anti-villian ally feels the call of Redemption Equals Death)

Examples of If I Do Not Return include:

Anime and Manga

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Roy Mustang is entering Central Command to confide in a high-ranking general about what he's learned regarding the plot. He tells his right-hand woman/bodyguard Riza Hawkeye to wait for him, but that if anything goes wrong, she should get herself out. (She refuses, of course.)
  • Done in Monster Rancher, as Genki tasks Mocchi with finding the Phoenix should Pixie capture him along with the others.


 "If I'm not back in fifteen minutes, you know what to do."

"Go on without you?"

"No. Wait another fifteen minutes!"

 Jack Burton: Okay. You people sit tight, hold the fort and keep the home fires burning. And if we're not back by dawn... call the president.

  • Ace Ventura also did the "... just wait longer" line.
  • Mission To Mars did it straight, although obviously the guy disobeyed the order or we'd get a Downer Ending where they're stuck on Mars with no way out. In retrospect, it seems like they should have been asking the alien to hurry up the holographic history lesson since they gave the guy such a short time limit.
  • I Am Legend: "If I'm not back by dark... just... just go." And he's saying this to his dog.
    • To maintain his sanity; he's been totally alone for three years, save for the dog.
    • And some traitorous mannequins.
  • Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan. Kirk and company are trapped in an asteroid.

 Kirk: Captain Spock. If you don't hear from us within one hour, your orders are to restore what power you can, take the Enterprise to the nearest starbase and alert Starfleet Command when out of jamming range.

Uhura: Sir, we won't leave you behind!

Kirk: Uhura, if you don't hear from us, there won't be anybody behind.

    • However subverted in that Kirk was talking in code (hours meaning days) because he suspected Khan was tapping into the signal.
    • Star Trek.

 Spock: Jim. The statistical likelihood that our plan will succeed is less than 4.3%.

Kirk: It'll work.

Spock: In the event that I am unsuccessful, please tell Lieutenant Uhura--

Kirk: Spock. It'll work.

  • Subtly alluded to in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. When Gibbs asks Jack Sparrow what they should do if Sparrow and Will Turner don't return, Jack's only reply is "Keep to the Code", meaning "if we don't come back, go on without us".
    • Knowing the pirates of that trilogy, it is more like "actually give us a chance to come back before leaving us."
  • Hilarious subversion in Serenity:

 Mal: Zoe, ship is yours. Remember. If anything happens to me, or if you don't hear from me within the hour, you take this ship... and you come rescue me.

Zoe: What, and risk my ship?

Mal: I mean it. It's cold out there. And I don't wanna get left.

  • In Sky High Will and Ron Wilson, bus driver, have this exchange:

 Will: If I'm not back in 30 minutes...

Ron: Come in after you!

Will: ...I was gonna say "get help".

Ron: [crestfallen] Get help. Right.

  • Die Hard. John McClane is talking to his friend Sgt. Al Powell on the radio during the siege:

 McClane: Listen, I'm starting to get a bad feeling up here. I want you to do something for me. I want you to find my wife. Don't ask me how. By then you'll know how. I want you to tell her that...Tell her it took me a while to figure out...what a jerk I've been...that when things started to pan out for her...I shoulda been more supportive. And I just should have been behind her more. Tell her that she's the best thing that ever happened to a bum like me. She's heard me say "I love you" a thousand times. She never heard me say "I'm sorry". I want you to tell her that, Al. Tell her that John said that he was sorry.

Powell: But you can tell her that yourself. You just watch your ass and you'll make it out. You hear me?

McClane: I guess that's up to the man upstairs.

[Note: Holly Gennaro (McClane's wife) was one of the hostages at the time.]

  • Outbreak: Sam is racing against time to find and stop The Virus and knows the odds are against him. He stops to warn his almost ex-wife that the military is making troubling decisions.

 Sam Daniels: If I'm not back by 1800 hours, and you're not symptomatic -- leave.

Robby Daniels: Wh-what?

Sam Daniels: Leave. Town.

  • Used in ~9~, before the titular character goes to rescue 7 and 8 from The Seamstress.

 9: If I don't come back...destroy it.

 Llewelyn: If I don't come back, tell mother I love her.

Carla Jean: Your mother's dead, Llewelyn.

Llewelyn: Well then I'll tell her myself.

  • Beethoven has this kind of quote when the father goes and check inside the lab, he tells his wife and kids to call the police if he doesn't come back in 15 minutes. His wife later followed him and tells the kids almost the same thing.


  • In Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn novel Xenos, Eisenhorn goes out scouting and tells his retinue that he should be back within a couple of hours. When he is captured, one leaves after this time; which is why the navy arrives to save them from the Chaos cult.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, where the commander Johnny Rico tells his second in command as they're about to go out on a mission, "Have fun, and remember, if I buy it, you're the boss."
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, Skulduggery has pulled this on Stephanie, asking her amongst other things to not fiddle with the radio because he's just got it set right.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Nathaniel tells Bartimaeus to say hi to Kitty for him, which is as close as he'll get to a confession of love. Of course, there's not much of and "if" involved here.

Live Action TV

  • Alias episode "The Box"

 Michael Vaughn: If I'm not back in a couple of hours, I'm probably dead.

 Haley James: I saw a gas station about a mile down the road, if I'm not back in an hour, tell my mom I loved her.

 Voldar: Now, if we're not back in three hours, you know what to do.

Tom Servo: Go ahead and order without us.

  • Bones: Brennan wants to have a baby, and has asked Booth to donate the sperm for artificial insemination. He's ambivalent about it, and eventually says he doesn't want to donate if he won't be involved in raising the child; but when he goes in for Serious Brain Surgery he tells her "If I don't make it, I want you to have my stuff."
  • Daniel does this in the première of Stargate SG-1.
    • Jack also does it in "The Other Guys", but stops himself before saying exactly what they should do.

 If we're not back in five minutes... *shrugs*

 Garak: If you go into my quarters, and examine the bulkhead next to the replicator, you'll notice there's a false panel. Behind that panel is a compartment containing an isolinear rod. If I'm not back in seventy-eight hours, I want you to take that rod... and eat it.

Bashir: Eat it? You're joking.

Garak: Yes, Doctor. I am.

  • Torchwood: In one episode Gwen, thinking she's about to die, turns to Ianto and says "Tell Jack I l-" only to be cut off when rescue arrives. The only problem is that Ianto is Jack's boyfriend.
  • Monk: The first part of the series finale, "Mr. Monk and The End", shows Monk opening the final Christmas gift Trudy gave him; it's revealed that it's an "If I don't come back" tape that could have helped him solve her murder within days of her death.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Satan Pit", the Doctor - while hanging from a wire in a possibly fathomless chasm and planning to cut himself loose - asks Ida to tell Rose... "...Oh, she knows."
  • From the Star Trek the Original Series episode "The Enemy Within":

 Kirk: "Spock, if this doesn't work..." [beat]

Spock: [nods once, his eyes downcast] "Understood."

  • In 24 Day 8, a suicide bomber says "Tell my mother that I'm sorry." before he explodes.
  • In Blackadder the Third "Nob and Nobility", Edmund, supposedly on his way to Revolutionary France, leaves Prince George with this touching message:

 Blackadder: "If I don't make it back, please write to my mother and tell her that I've been alive all the time, it's just that I couldn't be bothered to get in touch with the old bat."

 Griff: "If I don't make it, would you look up my ex-wife and..."

Al: "And tell her that you love her?"

Griff: "No, tell her that she's a bitch!"


  • "Bohemian Rhapsody", by Queen.

 If I'm not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on.


If a yellow flag is fluttering
Sickly herald against the morn
Then you'll know my courage has ended
And you'll send your boat ashore
But if a red flag is flying
Brazen bold against the blue
Then you'll know that I am staying
And my yacht belongs to you
He's crazy if he thinks we're coming back again
He's crazy if he thinks we're coming back again
He's crazy if he thinks we're coming back again
He's crazy, anyway

 If I do not return

Bring my body on my shield

Tell my son I chose to die

I chose to die than yield

Video Games

 Rex Chance: "If I'm not out in five minutes, save yourself and leave the island. No! Wait, that's silly. If I'm not out in five minutes, come and make sure I haven't locked myself in or something."

 Jack: Go on through there, and I'll meet you later.

Player Character: If I'm not back in fifteen minutes, call the president.

Web Original

  • Played for comedy in Manwhores when Randy is about to go on his mission to Dead Man's Cove he says to Greg "If I don't come back, there's a load gun under the pillow. Kill yourself." after kneeing Greg in the crotch during a Final Speech.

Western Animation

 Batman: If I'm not back in time go without me.

Robin: WHAT!?

  • Freakazoid: If I'm not back in five minutes...keep waiting.
  • In the episode of The Simpsons when Homer starts bootlegging beer during prohibition he starts telling Marge "If we're not back, avenge our deaths" when he and Bart go out to deliver their brew.
    • In another episode, Homer's father needed a kidney and Homer agreed to donate one. Out of fear he wouldn't survive the operation, Homer asked Marge to destroy the hospital if he didn't survive.
  • Fairly Oddparents: Timmy tells Cosmo and Wanda, "If I don't make it...tell my dad...he's weird."
    • In "The Gland Plan", Cosmo and Anti-Cosmo needed each other's fa giggly gland. Cosmo said that, if he doesn't surive, Anti-Cosmo must stay away from Cosmo's wife. Anti-Cosmo said that if he survives, Cosmo can keep his.
  • American Dad: After getting shot, Stan says, "Tell Roger... he's annoying."
  • Futurama's Neutral Commander: "If I don't make it, tell my wife I said... hello."
  • Subverted in the Ace Ventura animated series.
  • Rugrats: Chuckie was about to do something scary (forget what) and said, "If anything happens to me, Tommy, I want you to have my potty."
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: "Chip, if I don't come back...take care of Gary." ("Chip" is a potato chip he befriended when a severe injury left him afraid to go outside. When he left, Gary ate Chip.)
  • In Daria's "The Road Worrier", Daria is quietly mortified that she is forced to get out of the van and pee in the woods because of them being stuck in heavy traffic. "If I'm not back in 10 minutes... Don't. Send. Help."
  • From one episode of the original Thundercats:

 Lion-O (to Tygra): "If I do not come back, you are the new lord of the Thundercats."

  • Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats has this during the scene where they rescue Benny from the dog pound, but argue over gets to go:

 Top Cat: "Never mind, I'll go, but if I'm not back in 10 minutes, take off without me."

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