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Gannji: Wait, weren't you tied up a moment ago?Haley: That was a moment ago.
Simply put, a character is tied up by the enemy for whatever purpose, and when the most dramatic (or the most humorously opportune) moment arises, reveals that they slipped out of their ropes ages ago. Can also be done with handcuffs.
A variation is where they reveal that they could have slipped the ropes, but chose not to: this is Play-Along Prisoner.
Compare and contrast Breaking the Bonds, which is generally much less subtle.
Anime & Manga
- Ganta from Deadman Wonderland did this, using his own blood.
- In Lupin III, Lupin can only be handcuffed if he lets you handcuff him. At one point, Fujiko uses this trait to convince Zenigata he's possessed - there's blood on the cuffs, which means he had to fight his way out of them... something the normal Lupin wouldn't have to do.
- Trigun: Vash the Stampede once slid out of ropes to protect a young woman from bandits. Said bandits caught him before he could get back into them... the second time.
- Dark and Riku from D.N.Angel have been captured and handcuffed because Dark surrendered the moment they were confronted. Riku is furious and begins yelling at Dark, at which point he reveals he has easily escaped.
- "You were saying...something about handcuffs?"
- Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind manga.
Film -- Animated
- Iago had this moment in the third Aladdin movie. This time, however, it wasn't easy, as he had to wiggle out of his very tight bonds
- Done hilariously in Treasure Planet with Dr. Doppler. Turns out, he has abnormally thin wrists.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: Roger Rabbit can slip out of his cuffs at any given moment, but only when it's funny.
- Bugs Bunny in Space Jam. When the aliens have him imprisoned, and are "gloating" to the highly amused toons, Bugs is quietly rolling his eyes and slipping out of the somewhat impressive amount of rope he's bound with. And the cuffs for his ears.
Film -- Live Action
- The President in Air Force One did this, and used a shard of glass to get out.
- Babylon 5: A call To Arms has Dureena Nafeel show the entire Thieves guild that she already loosened the bonds by simply dropping them, then knocking out the person who was taunting her about being restrained.
- Harry Tasker did this in True Lies. The cool part is that he had just told his interrogator exactly how he was going to kill the guy, right before revealing the cuffs were off.
- Two of the kids from The Pacifier did this, silently and quite impressively.
- Marv did this in Sin City, combined with Breaking the Bonds.
- One of the villains Pike from The a Team has his hands cuffed behind him and put in the backseat of a car. Using his would be killer's imcompetence he quickly reveals his hands are free and steals the gun away from the man, pointing out they should "Never handcuff a guy's hands behind his back, then you can't see the hands."
- Cody in Street Fighter Alpha 3 is a prisoner who makes a habit of breaking out of jail. He's handcuffed. In his taunt, he slips out of the cuffs, makes fun of his enemy and then puts them back on.
- The Order of the Stick, as per the quote above.
- Dr. McNinja has demonstrated this ability at least once.
- Lestrade does this at least once on the cartoon Sherlock Holmes in The Twenty Second Century.
Lestrade: Never put a cop in their own cuffs. They probably know how to get out of them.
- In the last episode of Sam and Max Freelance Police, Sam and Max get bored and do this repeatedly.
- In the second season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the gAang get caught by the Dai Li when attempting to reach the Earth King. When Long Feng accidentally reveals that the Avatar is among those caught, Sokka points Aang out. Aang, being the Cheerful Child he is, Earthbends his cuffs off, waves to the King, then Bends them back on again. Oddly, this does not clue the Dai Li that they probably need more firepower to keep this particular prisoner in line. It's just a quick gag.
- He did that before when charged for murder in a former life. He was in prison, hands and head locked in a pillory, and casually slipped out of it during a chat with other inmates.
- Futurama did a similar gag when the Space Amazons have Bender, Zap, Fry, and Kif chained up. To explain that Bender lacks certain parts he slips one hand out of the chains to demonstrate and then puts it back in the chain. Again, it's just a quick gag.
- Family Guy parodies this, the family get tied up by robbers and are trying to work out how to get free, when Chris or Peter stands up as the robbers didn't bother to tie him up.
- In the "Stewie Kills Lois/Lois Kills Stewie" episodes, Stewie ties up the entire family. To pass the time, they start making up celebrity rumors, until Chris starts clapping. He claims that Stewie must have forgot him.
Lois: You realize we've been sitting here for fourteen hours?!
Chris: Well, get pissy if you want, Mom. I've enjoyed the time we've had as a family.
- Jackie Chan Adventures played with this. One episode had the good guys voluntarily let themselves be tied to chairs (clones were involved, just go with it). When they are attacked by a clone Viper slips the ropes, El Toro and Tohru break the ropes, and Captain Black tries to slip out, but fails.
- Harry Houdini did this a lot. On more than one occasion, police officers he challenged handcuffed him to something and walked away, saying, "We'll be back for you in an hour." Before they reached the door, Houdini would walk up to them and say, "Take your handcuffs with you."
- At least one magician has had a routine where he's handcuffed by volunteers, supposedly to do a trick, his hands are hidden and he's continually pulling out one hand or the other (sometimes with the cuffs dangling from it) to "assist" the volunteers in setting up the supposed trick or "correcting" things they've supposedly done wrong.