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The Hero needs a MacGuffin, or simply an escape. Someone is supposed to prevent it... but doesn't really want to. Or simply doesn't want to fight The Hero. So that person wouldn't be punished for aiding, they have to pretend the guard tried to resist, but was defeated. This means that the helper will be tied up and sometimes smacked around a bit to make it look genuine. This is generally somewhat Played for Laughs especially when the hero takes it upon themselves to do this rather than their ally suggesting it. Often involves Tap on the Head.

"Alone with Prisoner" Ploy may include prisoner doing it, The Infiltration may put the undercover participant in either or both roles. Apologetic Attacker and Hit Me Dammit are to be expected. May involve delays if the "attacker" Wouldn't Hit a Girl or has other such restrictions and have to circumvent or get over it.

Examples of Make It Look Like a Struggle include:

Anime and Manga

  • Subverted in the Gundam Wing movie Endless Waltz; Heero asks Duo to punch him as hard as he can; Duo happily obliges, and Heero punches him back twice as hard, knocking him out.
  • In episode 6 of Samurai 7, this is done with a mechanic whose been aiding the group. The way it's shown illustrates the personalities of the characters--Kambei shows his Jerkass Facade by the fact that he immediately starts tying up the guy, telling him he'll thank him later. Boisterous Bruiser Kikuchiyo is the one who suggests giving him a punch or two.
  • At one point in Inuyasha, Anti-Villain Kagura is forced to pretend to fight Inuyasha so that Naraku's wasps will not get suspicious, but she's grown to detest Naraku so much that she doesn't put any force at all in her wind attacks and lets Inuyasha reach Naraku easily.
  • In One Piece, during the Impel Down Arc, Buggy and Mr. 3 are attempting to escape Level 4 by going up the stairs where Hannyable, the guard that they believe to be weakest, was guarding. Hannyable, wanting to get promoted, purposefully lets Buggy and Mr. 3 go up, hoping to blame Magellan later and get his job. However, Mr. 3 and Buggy think that it's a trap, so it results in them getting brutally beaten up when they try to preemptively attack the guards.


  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. When Butch and Sundance go to see their friend Sheriff Bledsoe, he insists on their tying him up and gagging him so there's no chance of him losing his job if anyone saw the two criminals entering his home.
  • Force 10 from Navarone. After Maritza kills the two Nazi guards, she demands that Barnsby hit her to make it appear that he and Mallory attacked her and got away. Barnsby apologizes and hits her weakly. She berates him and orders him to hit her harder. Mallory suddenly punches her hard and knocks her out.
    • The punching and knocking her out actually happened in real life. They had to delay filming the next scene until the actress woke up.
  • This exchange from Serenity:

 Mal: The leg is good. It'll bleed plenty, and we avoid any necessary organs.

Payroll Guard: I was thinking more like a graze?

Mal: Eh, you don't wanna make it seem like you just gave up.

Payroll Guard: No, I get that.

  • Ghost Dog in Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai had to shoot his former boss in the arm, to avoid suspicions from the rest of mafiosi when they both survive the encounter.
  • In the Get Smart movie, Maxwell is helped escape by Bruce and Lloyd and tells them that he has to punch them out to make it look like a struggle. He makes a fake blow at Bruce and Lloyd faints when he keeps thinking about blood.
  • This happened in Minority Report when the protagonist's former colleagues allowed him to escape.
  • In National Treasure Ben duct tapes his father to a chair in his house so that the FBI won't arrest him for aiding a fugitive.
  • A variation in Ocean's Eleven: Benedict puts Danny Ocean in a room with a thug. Turns out the thug is actually on Danny's side, and he beats on the furniture to make it sound like he's beating the crap out of Danny while Danny himself escapes the room and joins in the heist. Later on, he returns to the room and the thug beats him up for real, making his alibi complete.
    • Except at first the thug punches Danny across the jaw for real before realizing that part wasn't supposed to come until later.
  • In Independence Day, Will Smith's character "borrows" a helicopter to find his girlfriend. One soldier catches him and draws his pistol, ordering Smith out. Smith just gives him a look and asks if he really wants to shoot him, which makes the soldier lower the gun. As he's taking off, Smith goes, "Look, just tell 'em I hit you."
    • The soldier is quite a bit bigger than Smith's character, making his "you shittin' me?" look particularly amusing.


  • It's a Troll tradition in Myth Adventures -- the unique method of talking secrets publicly by making a spectacle of fighting. Because in few seconds after trolls begin punch and wrestle there's usually no one close enough to overhear quiet speech. With an added bonus of advertisement -- trolls tend to be hired as a muscle.
  • The Tomorrow War by Alexander Zorich. When a desperate employees running from Peace and Love Incorporated hijacked a freighter ship, the navigator set up a jump quickly, because she wasn't enthusiastic about having the corporate security assault on the ship, then detention while it's all sorted out if she survives in cross-fire. But insisted that a pirate struck her with a pistol handle -- on cheek-bone, so that it will be visible.
  • No one but President by Lev Gursky. The escaped abductee apologized to an innocent who noticed him about the upcoming Tap on the Head. The innocent being in an empty theater box on the spectacle he hated (because of his vow to the Fate for getting away from another trouble), he only asks to knock him out to the end of the show, if possible.
  • In the fifth Harry Potter book, Dumbledore knocks out Shacklebolt, a member of the Order of the Phoenix, along with another Auror when the Ministry tries to arrest him, so it won't look suspicious while he makes his escape.
  • In the second Felix Castor novel, Felix and Paul the guard work together to make it look like the guard was forcibly coeerced into letting him into Rafi's room.
  • In The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman, the soldier who assists Farrell and Mrs Pollifax in their escape attempt insists that they tie him up so he won't be suspected, and offers helpful advice on where best to hit him on the head to render him unconscious without doing permanent damage.
  • In the second book, Felix Castor and a guard go in to Rafi's room, and Felix offers to make it look like a struggle. The guard was sick of the job anyway and declines, knowing he'll be fired.
  • In one of the Night Watch books the protagonist is going to pass the guard. He is one of the Others, thus so absurdly overpowered a human doesn't really stand any chance against him, simply because he would just mind control him into letting him go. Though there's a tricky rule of balancing stuff: if the good guys cast some magic, the bad guys get a right to do that. So he decides to go take a Refuge in Audacity, since the guard knows he's the Other.

 "Dude, at least have decency to give me a black eye."

"Nah, I'm in a hurry, do that yourself."

  • In the Discworld book Monstrous Regiment, after the female soldiers knock out one of the two guards and try to escape, the other guard says this:

 "Would you mind giving me a whack on the head too? Only it looks like I didn't put up a fight against a bunch of women."

"Why don't you put up a fight? We're only a bunch of women."

"I'm not crazy!"


Live-Action TV

  • Sawyer posed this offer to Sayid in the fifth season of Lost, to help Sayid avoid an execution without revealing that they actually know each other in the process. Sayid instead chooses to remain locked up.
  • In the original V a Fifth Columnist gives Donovan her uniform to help him escape the ship, then makes him shoot her (stun, natch) so it will look like a genuine escape.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "1969", a young Lieutenant Hammond is worried that helping the team escape will get him court martialed. Before they leave, O'Neill tells him he's about to make sure that doesn't happen... and zaps him with a Zat gun.
  • On 24, while Jack is undercover with terrorists attacking CTU, he allows a hostage to escape but cuts his own scalp to make it appear he had been knocked out.


  • Subverted in Bionicle. A group of Boxed Crooks trick a villager by offering him the claim to the capture of a wanted criminal in exchange for his boat. The leader of the group offers to do this to him.

 Brutaka: But if you want people to believe you caught this dangerous criminal, you will need to look like you've been in a fight. A light tap to your head would do the trick, perhaps. My colleague, Vezon, can handle it -- you won't feel a thing.

Vezon: Ever Again.

    • Brutaka then proceeds to knock him out cold and steal his boat without keeping his side of the bargain.

Video Games

  • In the end of Splinter Cell: Conviction, Grim does this to Sam.
  • A borderline case: in Iji, if Vateilika helps you and kills Krotera, she asks Iji to pretend that she (Iji) did it herself. Similar with Ansaksie against Iosa.


  • In Sidekick Girl, Tornado Boy punches unwilling henchman Coldfire during a mission. Though probably not really the reason he did so (Coldfire is dating Sidekick Girl in their civilian identities, and Tornado Boy has a crush on her), Coldfire says that it's good that he has the black eye resulting from it, as it would look suspicious if he just let the heroes walk on through without a fight.
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