Created By: Bushranger on July 22, 2011 Last Edited By: Bushranger on January 22, 2012

Bluffing the Big Bad

Your enemy has you over a barrel. What do you do? You put HIM over one...that doesn't actually exist.

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Do We Have This One?? I've looked and looked and can only find the narrowly specific tropes mentioned as possible subtropes, but not the overall concept (which would catch things that don't fit the existing two, such as the Evil, Inc example that sparked off the whole search for this).

Hello, it's a doughnut. Basically: run.

Formerly: Corbomite Maneuver, Badass Bluff

It's bad times for Our Heroes: the Bad Guy has leverage over them and isn't afraid to use it. Whether he has a bigger gun or blackmail information, there's no last-minute plan that is going to save our heroes now...

But wait! The Hero is telling the Big Bad that things aren't as they seem - it's the bad guy who's in trouble. Because the Good Guys have something that they aren't afraid to use to foil his evil scheme. Don't believe it? Are we bluffing? Maybe, but can you, Mr. Big Bad, take the risk that we're not...

The Big Bad is forced to concede that he does not want to take that risk. And so Our Heroes have won the day...through the use of the Corbomite Maneuver. A bluff...of grand proportions. Telling the enemy that if he proceeds with his scheme, things will go Very Badly Indeed for him, so perhaps he should reconsider his evil plans. When, in fact, there is no such Phlebotinum, no such plan, no such magic doodad. But the enemy doesn't know that. And so Our Heroes win.

The Corbomite Maneuver may consist of a Backup Bluff, and sometimes involves scamming Cthulhu. Weapons for Intimidation may also be involved, but are by no means required.


Live-Action TV
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Victory of the Daleks", the Eleventh Doctor stalls the nefarious pepperpots by producing a jammy dodger - a type of biscuit - and declaring it to be the TARDIS' self-destruct system. They eventually see through it, at which point he merrily takes a bite out of the confection.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series has the Trope Namer: the Enterprise finds itself at the mercy of a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, so Kirk tells said alien that any attack on his ship will be reflected back upon him by a special device that no attacking ship has ever survived...
  • Star Trek: Voyager has a similar scenario, wherein the Doctor pretends to be in command and bluffs the Aliens Of The Week that he'll use Voyager's "Photonic Cannon" - something he had literally dreamed up - to destroy them.


Community Feedback Replies: 23
  • July 22, 2011
    Badass Bluff. Please.
  • July 22, 2011
    See previous ykttw Brandishment Bluff.
  • July 22, 2011
    The Brandishment Bluff YKTTW is similar, but requires actually, well, brandishing something - the webcomic example I found wouldn't fit that, for instance, while a number of examples there aren't of (for want of a better term) an awesome enough scale to fit here (i.e. the finger guns). Some of the examples there could fit here though, I'll add them if they do.
  • July 23, 2011
    The trope name is too obscure. While Star Trek is a sufficiently well-known trope namer, choosing some obscure character or scene from one episode of it is not a good idea - not only would a reader need to have seen that particular series of Star Trek, but they'd have need to have seen that particular episode, and know that it's what is being referred to.

    How about Bluffing The Big Bad? It's much more straight-forward, but has good alliteration.
  • July 23, 2011
    Well, it was actually the name of the episode in question (and a very famous moment in the show), but I do see your point. Badass Bluff would be my preferred alternate title, but Bluffing The Big Bad could work too.
  • July 23, 2011
    The problem with Badass Bluff is that the hero doesn't actually have to be Badass, and the name doesn't imply that it has to be used against the Big Bad or equivalent.
  • July 23, 2011
    Well, it's more the bluff that's badass than the hero, but, good point. Bluffing The Big Bad it'll likely be then. :)
  • July 27, 2011
    Needs More Examples - This isn't Seen It A Million Times but I know there have to be more examples. Any of the anime tropers have examples to add?
  • July 27, 2011
  • July 27, 2011
    DEFINITELY NOT Magnificent Blufftard. Note that Bastard shares its last four letters with Retard and you'll realize that's a bad idea.
  • July 27, 2011
    At the end of The Princess Bride, Westley does this to Humperdink.
  • July 27, 2011
    Bushranger, the reason why the bluff being badass isn't relevant is that "Badass", on TV Tropes, refers to Badass, and is a Loaded Trope Word.
  • July 28, 2011
    Ah, thanks. I'll fix that.
  • July 28, 2011
    I think Bluffing The Bad Guy works better, because while Bluffing The Big Bad has Added Alliterative Appeal, the title also suggests that it only happens to the Big Bad, when in fact it doesn't--even the original proposed trope title has it happen to a villain of the week.

    • Chuck Bartowski pulls one off in "Chuck Versus the First Date." After walking smack dab into the middle of a trap, he more or less immediately declares:
      Chuck: My name is Charles Carmichael. I'm a CIA agent, and this is my trap. I don't think you gentlemen recognize the gravity of the predicament you're in. Your call to the Buy More? Yeah, we traced that. Your compound is currently surrounded by 23 infantry troopers, 16 snipers, 7 heavy gunners, 4 demolitions experts and enough ammunition to orbit Arnold Schwarzenegger. You're outmatched and you're outgunned. Those pea-shooters you're holding might as well be sharp sticks and strong language.
      The bad guys look outside and don't see anything, leading him to continue expounding:
      Chuck: Of course you don't see anyone. You do you think we are, the FBI? All you'll see before you die is one big bang of white light sending you straight to hell. One last time... give up.
    And then, to top it all off, he calls his friend who confirms the infantry layout (which is actually his plan for his Call of Duty strategy against an opposing team), which throws the leader off long enough for Chuck to make a run for it.
  • July 28, 2011
    While I do understand your concern, never forget that Tropes Are Flexible. Sure, it says Big Bad in the name, but it would still be that trope if another villain stood in place of the big bad, playing effectively the single-episode equivalent role.

    The problem with Bluffing The Bad Guy is that it implies that it covers any case where you bluff a bad guy, even if it's just a mook. While Tropes Are Flexible, it's important not to have too general a trope name, otherwise you'll almost certainly see some Trope Decay.

    There may be a way to avoid the problem, though. Deceiving The Devil? It covers both the Big Bad (and The Dragon) as well as the Monster Of The Week, while not being broad enough to also cover mooks.
  • January 9, 2012
  • January 10, 2012
    The picture is pretty much JAFAAC.
  • January 10, 2012
    • In Goldfinger, James Bond convinces the title character to let him out of his laser trap by telling him that if he dies, MI6 will instead send 008, who he's told all the details of Goldfinger's plan and how to stop it. In reality, Bond only knew the plan's name and hadn't even told that to MI6, but it was enough to convince Goldfinger to let him go.
  • January 12, 2012
    Brandishment Bluff should just be a "See also", and I'll edit that one to make notice of this one.
  • January 12, 2012
    Several episodes of Burn Notice feature the Dangerously Genre Savvy Tyler Brennen. In his first appearance he was able to block any attempts Michael made to beat him... until Michael figured out that Brennen has a daughter, and bluffs that he has someone ready to kill the daughter if Brennen doesn't back off his plans.
  • January 12, 2012

    Big Bad is starting to get misused as "the villain". Bluffing The Big Bad encourages that misuse. Bluffing The Bad Guys doesn't.
  • January 12, 2012
    In World War II, both the Allies and the Axis used dummy tanks. If that counts.
  • January 22, 2012
    No Trumps, Start Bluffing?