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"The closer we are to danger, the further we are from harm."
The safest way to avoid detection in stories is always Right Under The Enemy's Nose. It's the last place they'll think to look.
This is true even if the antagonist or whoever the hero is avoiding has all his forces concentrated in an easily avoidable heavily armed complex. Despite the fact that the Sword of Plot Advancement is not to be found there, the hero must encounter the Damsel in Distress somehow.
Even when it would make more sense to avoid the enemy stronghold altogether, the seasoned marksmen who swarm the wilderness are always much more likely to capture our heroes if they attempt to sensibly bushwhack away from the enemy camp, whereas the soft green recruits at the main gate would never imagine someone walking up to the Front Door.
Compare Hidden in Plain Sight.
This may extend to:
- Literally walking up to the Front Door, usually disguised as filthy peasants. ("these aren't the droids you are looking for.")
- Charging the fortress (One-Man Army, It's Up to You) on trumped up reasons (Damsel in Distress) when observing from a safe distance might make more sense.
- Swimming through the enemy's moat/sewer system/air vent and discovering something fascinating to move the plot along when the heroes could have avoided the place entirely.
- Geographic or logistical hurdles require the Hero to sneak past a checkpoint. The Mooks come perilously close to detecting the hero (It's Probably Nothing).
- Accidentally encountering the Big Bad while disguised as someone else (Hey, Wait!!)
- Actively seeking out the most heavily guarded facility on the grounds that "it's the last place they'll expect to find us!!"
Corollary #1: security is always more and more lax the closer you get to the seat of power, until one can finally sneak into the ruler's lavishly appointed ballroom and mooch food off the table. Cue an Improbably Polite conversation with whoever lives in said innermost retreat.
Corollary #2: If the hero does sensibly attempt to avoid detection by enemy forces by marching in the opposite direction, plot mechanics will dictate that the hero's attempt to avoid detection will be thwarted, or else be ambushed when one of the villains, despite orders to send all the Mooks elsewhere, will Just Know where to find the hero.
In any event, the hero will almost inevitably be captured or somehow come face to face with the villain while attempting to pull this "foolproof gambit" of sneaking right past enemy forces. They will usually encounter The Dragon, who will uncharacteristically Decide To Let Them Live.
This trope is useful alternative to the Real Life strategy of avoiding the enemy for as long as possible:
- Enables random encounter between the hero and the Damsel in Distress or Woobie who is imprisoned in the enemy's fortress which the hero was supposedly trying to avoid.
- Enable hero to encounter and/or be captured by The Dragon early in the plot.
- Enable hero (instead of faceless Bothans) to be the first one to overhear the antagonists' Secret Plan.
- Give readers/viewers a chance to see inside the Evil Fortress which any sane hero would attempt to avoid.
Note: If the hero is a Spy, this may be a Justified Trope.
- Star Wars does this on several occasions, most notably when Han hides by sticking the Falcon on the back of a Star Destroyer.
- Well that bit was justified because the Falcon got lost among the many greebles covering the star destroyer, even for some viewers it was hard to spot.
- Although the biggest one, in light of the prequel trilogy, still has to be the decision to hide Luke on his father's home planet under his own name with his only known relatives. Obi-Wan was banking a lot on the idea that Vader would never want to go to Tatooine ever again.
- In the movie version of The Two Towers, Pippin suggests this as reason for Treebeard to take him and Merry back towards Isengard; of course, he had other reasons for wanting Treebeard to see Isengard close-up.
Pippin: "If we go south, we can slip past Saruman unnoticed. The closer we are to danger, the farther we are from harm!"
Treebeard: "That... doesn't make any sense to me! Then again... you are very small. South it is, then!"
- While attempting to avoid pursuit by Nazis in The Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and his father go through Berlin to get the journal back. They manage to run into Hitler who proceeds to write his autograph in it. And this is after Hitler has "declared war on the Jones boys" (as the Big Bad of the film put it).
- In any Robin Hood film, the titular hero will sneak his entire band into Nottingham dressed as peasants.
- Zorro. Swashbucklers in general seem to be fond of this.
- Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes has the main villain making this remark about having owned Caesar, the chimp everyone was searching for, all along.
- In The Gumball Rally, one of the teams evades a roadblock by driving into a truck.
- This is explicitly how Sam and Frodo succeed. After all, who in their right mind would take the one artifact Sauron needs to rule the world right to his doorstep? Tolkien at one point tried to make up an excuse for them to sneak into Minas Morgul, but thought better of it.
- In The Sherwood Ring, British soldier Peaceable Sherwood takes his hidden militia to crash for the winter at...the shut-up-for-the-war house of the soldier assigned to capturing him, Richard Grahame. Richard is unpleasantly surprised when he makes the mistake of coming over to the house to rummage around for a Christmas gift for his girlfriend.
- The title character of Captain Caution, an American privateer, insists he doesn't believe in taking chances. His French friend is incredulous: sailing right into a British-held port and anchoring where the fort's guns will have a perfect shot at him isn't taking chances? Of course not; since he made himself so totally vulnerable to them, the British knew he couldn't be an American coming in to capture one of the ships already in port. And that night, he snuck a crew aboard....
- In Harry Turtledove's Great War trilogy, a Confederate submarine commander is able to sail, unsubmerged, within sight of a Union fleet at New York City, protected only by audacity and the fact that the Confederate national flag (as opposed to the well-known battle flag) looks a lot like the Stars and Stripes from a distance.
- Turtledove has also featured Jewish characters in other series escaping persecution in Nazi Germany by joining the Wehrmacht or even the SS under a false identity.
- In the first Enola Holmes book, Enola, a runaway, is discovered by her brother. When she shakes him again, he spends all night out scouring the city for her, but she successfully escapes by hiding in his house. (And, when she departs, she's able to use some of his disguise supplies to ensure she won't be spotted.)
- In Literature/SomethingWickedThisWayComes, Jim and Will hide in a sewer grate not more than ten feet away from where the Circus of Fear is parading with the reasoning that the carnival folks won't think to look in so obvious a place. They still have a couple of very close calls, though, and would in fact have been discovered by the Dust Witch's Super Senses if Will's father Charles hadn't intervened.
- In Star Trek: Vulcans Heart, during the early stages of the revolution on Romulus, Spock proposes a plan along these lines:
Ruanek: “Audacious, hells, yes! But how in the name of all those hells are you going to get in? Just walk right up and order the gates to open?”—Spock: “Precisely”.
- Sultan Mehmed, Vlad Tepes' Islamic enemy in Count and Countess, easily evades all of Vlad's military plans just by hiding out in a church town in the middle of Romania. Vlad does catch up with him in the end.
- In the Mistborn trilogy, the protagonists choose to stage their revolution right in The Empire's capital city. The argument is that it's the last place anyone would expect them to do it, and also that it has the most resources for their use.
- Inverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: It is revealed that the Hellmouth is in fact located directly underneath the library where Buffy and the Scoobie Gang hang out and make their plans to stop the bad guys' plans. Given that The Master was trapped in the Hellmouth for all of the first season, it is thus inferred that the Big Bad had been hiding under the heroes' noses the whole time, though it never seems like he's aware of the fact.
- Comes up again in the last season in the final episodes. Buffy has a verbal sparring match with Caleb at the rebuilt high-school (the site of the Hellmouth once again) and realizes that the villains SHOULD be fortifying the position in preparation for opening it up and letting out the army of super-vamps. But they aren't. Why? Because they have fortified an old winery where they had already sprung a trap on Buffy and the potentials. Again, why? Because there really is something even more important to the coming battle buried right under the winery.
- In one strip of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin is hiding from his mother, who is trying to get him to take a bath. Calvin avoids being caught by hiding in the bathtub.
Calvin: She'll never look here.
- A man who was seriously wanted by the FBI was working as a dishwasher in a cafeteria. In Washington, DC. In the basement of FBI headquarters.
- A Corollary Two example in Bob Defendi's podcast audiobook Death By Cliche. It's even Lampshaded somewhat by the main character. Given that the entire thing is a deconstruction of bad GM-ing and poor storytelling, this isn't particularly suprising.