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I could have escaped at any time. I just stuck around to keep an eye on you clowns.
Batman, Justice League, "Injustice For All"

Congratulations! You just captured the notoriously dangerous and evasive adversary. You've got him Bound and Gagged, and using Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, he still won't budge. Finally, he asks a question: "I'm bored. Can I go now?" and then he proceeds to break free like he could have done it at any time.

Highly related to Breaking the Bonds, except that the prisoner decides to hang around and get tortured for a while before breaking free. May sometimes be a form of I Surrender, Suckers, when the person deliberately allows himself to be detained. Sometimes, the captive might not bother to escape, and just hang around until the end of his prison sentence (but still heavily imply that he could have walked out at any time). Occasionally, the prisoner stays in prison because there's no real reason to escape, since he's working his schemes just fine from inside. This is a useful skill for the Trojan Prisoner. It also often shows up as part of a villain's escape from a prison that's apparently made out of cardboard.

This is a common case for powerful heroes who have been Wrongly Accused. They often stay around to show their respect for justice, and because breaking out would convince people of their guilt, as well as getting them into unwanted fights.

It can also be a form of protective custody from their point of view.

Examples of Play-Along Prisoner include:


Anime and Manga

  • Kyosuke Hyobu in Zettai Karen Children sat imprisoned, letting B.A.B.E.L. think their countermeasures against him were effective until it was time to set his plans in motion. When one of his people was captured, he simply told him to rest up and that they'll bust him out when they need him.
  • A funny moment in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, when Rena tries at least twice to take Hanyuu home with her. The rest of the class ties her up. Soon after, Rena easily bursts out of her ropes and tries for a third time to steal Hanyuu.
  • Similar to his ancestor (see the Literature examples), if Lupin III is in prison, he wants to be.
  • Isis Eaglet in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force. Her Genre Savvy captor even lampshaded it, noting that she has a "these restraints are no big deal, but I should hear you out for now" expression. Naturally, her captor was right, and the moment that the place she's in came under attack, she proceeded to casually snap her restraints in half.
  • Baki the Grappler features Biscuit Oliva, the strongest man in the world, at least in raw strenght terms. He lives in an Arizona Prison called "The Black Pentagon". His inmates call him "the Unchained", because no walls nor doors are strong enough to restrain him. His rival, "Che" Guevara, also seems to be totally free into the prison, and he later disappears without no one noticing it until he's gone.. Finally, Baki decides to try going out for a walk. Awesomeness ensues.
    • Also, Speck. He uses the Japanese prison as a free room.

  Speck: Yeah! Nice food, clean air... but the portions suck! -then he goes out, buys some chinese buns, goes to the policemen WCs, gets the police chief to eat a bun (without washing his hands) and goes back to the jail to take a nap.

  • Axis Powers Hetalia: during World War I, Germany captures Italy. He then becomes so annoyed by Italy's antics that he demands why Italy is not trying to escape, walks him to the door, opens it, and tells him he can go. Italy's reaction? He walks outside, flirts with a few girls, and comes back in. Based on later developments, this is most likely because they are A Match Made in Stockholm.
    • There's also the reason Italy gives:

  Italy: As long as I'm with you, I get fed and nobody picks on me. I like living here!

Comic Books

  • Whenever The Punisher is jailed, it's usually because he allowed himself to be (usually he walks up to a police station and says "I surrender"), so he can kill one or more guys who are unreachable otherwise. Given that he's the friggin' Punisher, no one gives him trouble. In a Daredevil arc, put himself in the same prison as Daredevil[1], so he could take him as a hostage, proving Murdock's innocence in some prison mutiny plot.
    • Actually, a few of Frank's fellow inmates do give him trouble. They turn into Frank's former fellow inmates.
    • As for the Daredevil story, it was more because nobody would believe that Daredevil would let himself be used as a human shield by the Punisher without putting up a hell of a fight. Since Matt Murdock acted like a scared blind man, it cast doubt on the idea that Murdock was Daredevil.
  • Asterix did this. After the Roman army captured Panoramix[2], Asterix went to rescue him. After a brief discussion, he decided to surrender (which took some effort since the romans were scared) and have Panoramix brew a special potion. The first one was a hair growth potion to trap the soldiers; the second was claimed to be a potion to stop the hair growth but was really a soup. The magic potion was brewed alongside the soup to make Asterix suprisingly powerful in an instant, just before a high-ranking official came to inspect the camp.
    • Also used in Asterix in Britain when Obelix, after being captured while drunk and put in the Tower of Londinium, simply decides to walk out and effortlessly rips his chains from the walls and pushes down the door.
    • And in Asterix and Cleopatra when the heroes are imprisoned after being falsely accused of attempting to poison the queen with the Special Iced Arsenic Cake. They use the time in prison to prepare a defense and when they are ready to present it to the queen Obelix all but ignores their restraints and guards.
    • In Asterix and the Goths Obelix repeatedly breaks down the prison door to request various ingredients from the guards (are you noticing a trend?)
  • The first issue of Batman Gotham Adventures sees the Joker brought to the Batcave for safekeeping (it's a long story). When the rest of the team is called out on a mission, he is handcuffed to a rail and Batgirl is left to guard him. After annoying her for a while with his Talkative Loon qualities, he quotes Roger Rabbit almost word for word: "I could have gotten out of these cuffs any time I wanted. I just had to wait until it was funny." And then he does.
  • Allen the Alien allowed himself to be held prisoner by the Viltrumites until a particular point in time. His jailers probably should have suspected something when their multiple execution attempts utterly failed.

Film

  • Sin City: Marv, bound by Gail, plays along with an interrogation until his captors understand he wasn't the one who killed the missing girls. Then he just gets up and shrugs off the ropes.
  • Johnny 5 in Short Circuit II, is handcuffed to a metal shelf in the stolen property room at the police station. When his buddy Ben shows up he tells Johnny "O.K. number Johnny 5, you can go now" at which point 5 just lifts his arm and the cuffs snap off.
  • Innocent Blood: Marie (who's a vampire) asks her human companion to handcuff her so he'll feel safe making love to her. After they're finished she calmly uses her vampiric strength to break the handcuffs.
  • Heroic example from the movie Hancock, where the eponymous superhero allows himself to be imprisoned to win back the hearts of his chosen town, after being a bit careless about property damage during his career. One scene involved him jumping over the prison fences to go fetch a basketball.
  • The Joker in The Dark Knight just wants his phone call.
  • In the climactic battle of Time Bandits, Evil faces the combined forces of good drawn from all history. He looks mildly annoyed as the first wave -- heroic cowboys -- surround him, lasso him and bind him securely. He then hands them their heads in a manner that only Terry Gilliam could have dreamed up.

 Evil: Next!

 Eddie: You mean to tell me you could have taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?

Roger: Not at any time! Only when it was funny!

 Black Widow I'm in the middle of an interrogation, this moron is giving me everything. You can't pull me out now.

Coulson: Natasha... Barton's been compromised.

Black Widow: Let me put you on hold. [Beats the tar out of her captors while tied to a chair.]

Literature

  • Discworld:
    • The Rite of Ashk-Ente supposedly binds Death to an octogram drawn on the floor. Really he just stays there to be polite.
    • However, when Susan temporarily takes over the role of Death in Soul Music, she is apparently bound to the circle, since she bounces off its edges when she tries to walk out of it.
    • Granny Weatherwax in Wyrd Sisters.
    • In Thud, Detritus the troll decides to not break out of some weak field chains he's been put in due to a misunderstanding. This is good since, as Vimes immediately realises when he meets up with him (and chews out his captors over it) they were hoping he would break out so they had an excuse to kill him.
    • In Guards Guards, Lord Vetinari is thrown into his own dungeon. Interestingly enough, his cell has all the bolts and bars on the inside to keep people out. Naturally, being Vetinari, he could escape any time he wished (While the lock was unpickable, a copy of the key was stored inside the cell).
    • Leonard of Quirm is technically a prisoner of Lord Vetinari, who keeps him locked in a trapped, secret room of the Patrician's Palace since his genius combined with his naive personality is far too dangerous to society. As the end of Jingo reveals though, he can leave whenever he wants since he's the one who designed his prison and all the traps. He just prefers to stay in prison since it's peaceful, it's free lodging, and Vetinari provides him with all the supplies he asks for.
  • Whenever Arsène Lupin is arrested, he tends to stick around in prison as long as is convenient for him. At least once he continued to orchestrate crimes from the inside.
  • In the Fritz Leiber novel The Knight and Knave of Swords, the Grey Mouser captures a girl and ties her up. She submits to this at the time, but later she grows spines out of her body and uses them to cut through the bindings.
  • This was the core of a Herman Melville short story called "Benito Cereno," in which an entire ship of slaves had revolted, but had to pretend to be slaves again when the main character and his crew boarded the ship. Meanwhile, their prisoners played the servants.
  • In The Night Angel Trilogy, Kylar is arrested for killing the queen. He could escape, but chooses to stay so that he can be sentenced to death by the new king, who would be falsely suspected of involvement if he didn't come down harshly on the culprit. Some of the guards who come to his cell are a bit rough, thinking that the legendary Night Angel isn't all that dangerous, and Kylar ends up locking them in the cell which was supposedly imprisoning him. He lets them out and accepts "capture" again only when they agree to be more respectful.
  • Jan Guillou's spy hero Carl Hamilton does this towards the end of his career.
  • Sword of Truth: Zeddicus allows himself to be held in a Rada'han by Prelate Annalina rather than bother her with the fact he can get out.
  • Alvin Maker in Heartfire happily stays in handcuffs all through his witchcraft trial, only to break them and casually walk out the moment he is acquitted.
  • A more mundane version happens in In the Time of The Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, a Dramatization of the lives of the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic. When Minerva and Maria Teresa are put in prison for protesting against the government, they are given a pardon and allowed to leave, but they don't because Minerva thinks that implies that they committed a crime.


Live Action TV

  • In Babylon 5, after Lyta is released from prison, it is requested that the guards release her from her manacles. She simply shatters them immediately with her psychic powers, saying she only left them on "to make other people feel safe".
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer did this when Faith and Angel (who was pretending to be bad) captured her, in order to find out the Mayor's plot.
    • Also adding to the Buffyverse example, when Faith became The Atoner in Angel, she willingly went to prison for her crimes. The moment Wesley informs her that Angel needs her help, however, she proceeds to break out with incredible ease.
  • At one point in Farscape, former Big Bad Scorpius is imprisoned on Moya. Three episodes after this, however, he breaks out to avoid capture by hijackers- forcing the cell door open with his bare hands. When one character asks "You could have broken out any time you wanted?" he replies, "I never wanted to." This goes a long way toward showing that they can at least trust him- to a certain extent, anyway.
  • Variation in Hogan's Heroes. The prisoners of Stalag 13 could escape at any time they want, but choose not to so that they can sabotage the German war effort
  • Seen several times in Doctor Who:
    • The Master in plays along with his captors in End of Time to further his own ends, then uses his freaky superpowers to break free.
    • River Song appears to be able to break out of the Storm Cage whenever she wants, and will actually waltz back in when she finishes whatever she left to do. And then, after telling them that they can turn the alarm back off as she's in her cell, order room service.
    • From Day of the Moon:

 The Doctor: You're building me the perfect prison... and it still won't be enough

      • Why won't it be enough? because the TARDIS is sitting cloaked at the back of the cell.
      • The jailor's actually on the Doctor's side anyway, just had to keep the whole operation covered up from the Silence.
    • There's also the Silence in "The Wedding of River Song."

 The Doctor: The pyramid above us. How many Silents have you got trapped inside it?

Madame Kovarian: None. They're not trapped. They never have been. They've been waiting.

  • In an episode of Lois and Clark, Superman is put in jail. The warden tells him he knows that Superman can leave any time he wants to, but asks him to stay.
  • In the original Battlestar Galactica Classic episode, "The Long Patrol", there is a prison in which descendants of people originally imprisoned live in cells. The guards are the descendants of the original guards. The locks stopped working (or stopped being locked) many years ago. Starbuck finds this out after shaking the cell door angrily.
  • In an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena and Gabrielle are surprised to see King of Thieves Autolycus captured along with them on a boat headed to a slave mine. He claims he was caught while committing a burglary, but Xena is not fooled and calls him out on it. He grudgingly removes his shackles and admits he's only pretending to be captured to steal some diamonds at the mine.
  • In "Rumours of Death" (Blake's Seven) Avon allows himself to be tortured for five days in Federation Central Security so as to get at Shrinker, the torture technician who killed his lover. On his signal, the Liberator crew teleport down for them.

Video Games

  • In Geneforge 4, Khyrk (a master Shaper) is captured by Shaper Monarch (a madman with dreams of world conquest). When the player character is sent to rescue him Khyrk reveals that he could have freed himself at any time, but chose to stay captive to learn Monarch's weaknesses and tell them to you.
  • Haedraline, in the final chapter of Neverwinter Nights, implies that she only accepted the indignity of being locked up in Castle Never so that she could talk to you.
  • Subverted in Loom. Bobbin is put into a cage, which he unlocks easily with his magic Distaff. Turns out that was just a plot to get the Opening draft out of him.
  • The Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum only lets Batman capture him so that he can take over Arkham.
  • In the Play Station 2/XBOX game The Punisher, the Punisher surrenders to the police at the beginning of the story, with most of the game being a How We Got Here flashback. Turns out Frank allowed himself to be captured by his police buddy Soap so that he could be in Riker's Island when Jigsaw started a riot to cover his escape. Frank kills Jigsaw in the riot and escapes the prison easily.
  • In Shadow Hearts From the New World the party is captured by pirates after going through some interrogations Natan simply rips the door off and walks out, much to the surprise of Johnny. They could have gotten out at anytime but Shania and Natan wanted to assess the situation.
  • In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, the party first encounters Piers when he is imprisoned in Madra after being Wrongly Accused of association with the recent Champa raid. Not only does Piers have an alibi, he's also a powerful Mercury Adept... but he would rather wait for the mayor to prove his virtue, because he doesn't want to use his powers inappropriately (and his alibi would raise further questions).
  • Dr. Wily comes along quietly at the end of Mega Man 6, because he has a Dead-Man Switch already set up, which awakens Burst Man, Cloud Man, Junk Man and Freeze Man after six months of no contact. No wonder Mega Man is frustrated at the end of 7.

Webcomics

  • In Drowtales Mel'arnach's debut in the remade chapter one has her knocking out one of her guards and slipping out of her handcuffs easily to she can talk to Ariel. This is also Foreshadowing for events later where she absconds from her lair and runs off (being returned once and on the run currently), with the heavily implication that she could have broken out anytime. Her conversations with her brother point to this as well, and it seems that the only reason she has been staying was to wait for Ariel, who is really her daughter, so they could run off together.
  • Roll, out of sheer boredom, does this in Stage Select.
  • Thomil of Juathuur. His captor even dares him to escape, but staying in prison would be the fastest way to reach his destination, Erab Adur. And then he gets freed due to a misunderstanding.
  • Ian Starshine from Order of the Stick let himself be caught, thinking he could recruit other prisoners to help bring down a local dictatorship. Unfortunately, this backfired on him. All the smart prisoners don't last long, and just because a master thief can easily evade the local law enforcement doesn't necessarily mean he can escape on his own.

 Gannji: Hey, wait. Weren't you tied up a moment ago?

Haley: That was a moment ago.

  • Candi in Ciem: Inferno is accused of an arson she didn't commit. But in the process, inadvertently gives away the fact that Zeran wardrobes exist to local law enforcement. Which gets her sent to prison for revealing a classified technology to the public. (Why she's allowed to have them in the first place is another matter, that takes a lot to explain.) Clearly, she doesn't get to benefit from Wrongful Accusation Insurance. When asked by one of the guards at the Gerosha City Jail why she'd let herself be sent to Madison Juvenile Correctional, even before she faced trial, Candi admits it's because she doesn't want to start a war between local law enforcement and SCALLOP. Her actions defending the other female inmates from Flintirah reveal that she could have, in theory, escaped at any time.
    • She gets to go to court on the arson charge after a week, and is acquitted and set free. But returns to court the following month to answer for the leak of classified info. And gets sent back to Madison Correctional for the entirety of Winter Break. Again, she respects the system too much to attempt an escape. She informs Donte of this incident two years later, after she spends two weeks in a SCALLOP jail on an even sillier charge. Learning all the stupidity and excuses behind why they keep locking her up only causes Donte to fall in love with Candi even more. Though he realizes her "criminal" record will make their lives complicated.
    • Candi's respect for the idea of a justice system is what convinces her to surrender almost every time she gets into trouble with the law, no matter how unfairly she is so, placing her somewhere between Neutral Good and Type II Lawful Good. So from Inferno to the end of Vindication, she's spent probably 11 cumulative years of her life either behind bars or under some form of probation or house arrest. When she was pregnant with Frank and broke the bank robber's arm, she welcomed SCALLOP incarceration as a means of protective custody, to keep her unborn child safe from the corrupt Senator Gobar.
    • Donte, similarly, could have escaped from SMCC at any time; but chose not to.
    • Arguably, Mingmei could have escaped in this manner as well during the Vindication timeline. But her conscience was bothering her over her past life as a Honey Trap, and she wanted to protect Miriam.
    • Extirpon, Botan, and Sapphire King similarly only allow themselves to be captured toward the end of the Vindication timeline so that their wives will be treated more fairly. They are easily powerful enough to escape at any time.
    • Angelo lets himself be captured to just troll the SCALLOP guards, because he's still angry about what happened in 2012 to his girlfriend of the time.
    • Keet only let herself go to prison the first time because she was tired and hungry, and wanted to take a break from having to scavenge for food in the streets of Dephinapolis. She was easily armed enough to take on a small army; she just lost the will to fight.

Western Animation

  • The page quote is, of course, Batman being Batman in the Justice League cartoon. But he's not the only one to pull it off in the series. When Flash is arrested for robbery, Green Lantern comes to get him. because the cops have video proof that Flash was performing the heists, they cannot believe another superhero is here to bail him out. GL just gives the guards a funny look. "If he was really guilty, do you think you could have held him here with a pair of handcuffs?" Cue Flash spinning the handcuffs on one finger, having removed them himself. This is, of course, on top of the fact that he's the Flash.
  • Occurs at least twice in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In one episode, Aang is kept in stocks that he's small enough to slip in and out of at will while in another he's bound by earthbender-made cuffs which, because he can use earthbending, he can take off and on at will. In both cases Aang played along out of principle and to make a good impression on the people who were holding him.
    • It turns out that after the Fire Nation seizes Omashu, King Bumi is one as well. They keep him locked up in a metal coffin-like cell that only exposes his face, but that's all he needs to be able to bend his way out at any time. Bumi explains to Aang that he's waiting until the right moment to escape, and when it comes (on the Day of Black Sun) he not only escapes, but drives the entire Fire Nation army out at once, by himself.
    • Also, Iroh, after being imprisoned. The only thing it did was give him time to work off the extra fat and build up. Then, on the Day of Black Sun, he smashes his way out without any trouble and escapes. Without firebending.
  • Near the end of Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time, several members of La Résistance are captured and put in chains, after which they are brought to the throne room where the rest of the characters are. As soon as the characters who are free start kicking ass, the captured ones break their chains like they were made of paper and join the fun.
  • In the premier of Darkwing Duck, Big Bad Tauras Bulba has been running his organization from his Luxury Prison Suite for years. When it finally comes time to break out, he presses a button and the entire cell turns into an escape rocket. Apparently, the guards should have possibly asked more questions about what he was doing in there.
  • A small example of this occurs in episode 21 of the third season of Winx Club. Nabu had snuck onto one of the specialists ships when the Winx went to retrieve the water stars they needed to defeat Valtor. Since the Winx at this point weren't sure whether they could trust Nabu or not, they put shackles on him that would apparently prevent him from using his magic. Later when they are attacked by monsters, Nabu easily removes the shackles in order to save Layla from a monster. Apparently he could've gotten out of them at any time, but he didn't because Layla had told him not to try anything. After the fight is over, he also tells her to put the shackles back on him since they have more important things to worry about than whether or not they can trust him.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Perry never makes any attempt to escape from Dr. Doofenshmirtz's traps until the very last second, at which point he does so easily. When he was trapped by chair-cuffs, he removed his hand to grab some popcorn, then put it back. At another point Doofenshmirtz mutters that Perry could have been considerate enough to get in his trap during a delay, which he immediately does.
  • In the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon, one episode had Mega Man get arrested by humans who, thanks to Wily, thought he was behind the Evil Scheme of the week. As he didn't want to harm the humans he let himself be handcuffed. Soon after his name was cleared, he snapped the cuffs like they were nothing.
    • In another example, Mega Man decides that the best way to get into prison to rescue Roll and Dr. Light is to get himself arrested. He promptly does so, and soon breaks out to free them.
  • In one episode of Wild CATS, a friend of Grifter's has just finished a jail sentence. The warden is proud of the fact that he was able to hold a notorious robber for his entire sentence. Grifter simply said "You weren't holding him. He was just serving his time." Said robber proves this right when he breaks out of the prison in a matter of minutes, with the breakout starting the moment his sentence officially ended - just to prove that he could have broken out at any time if he'd wanted to.
  • One Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, 'Sonic Breakout', has Sonic pull this. In order to rescue a cartoonist who was put into Robotnik's Alcatrez for an insulting cartoon, Sonic allows himself to be captured by Scratch and Grounder... but not before putting them through the usual shenanigans. Breaking out, however, proves to be tricky as Robotnik has built a specially-designed wing just for Sonic...

Notes

  1. Brief rundown on "how", cause it's funny - saw the newspaper stating Murdock was in prison, saw a police car, and saw a pimp threatening a woman with a knife. Walks up, kills pimp, nonchalantly surrenders to the cop, who just about shits his pants. All in about 2 pages
  2. this example isn't using the American names
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