Created By: MetaFour on July 6, 2011 Last Edited By: morenohijazo on March 13, 2013
Troped

Out of the Frying Pan

Escape from danger, into a worse danger

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"What shall we do, what shall we do!" [Bilbo] cried. "Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!" he said, and it became a proverb, though we now say "out of the frying-pan into the fire" in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.

A trick for maintaining dramatic tension (and sometimes irony): place the heroes in great danger, and then have their escape land them squarely in even greater danger.

Bob escapes from a sword-wielding maniac by hiding in a river--only to find out the river is full of hungry piranhas. Alice defeats a monster using fire--and now she has to escape from a burning building. The band of heroes scares away the opposing army by summoning a dragon--which turns around and begins attacking them. The permutations are endless.

A subtrope of From Bad to Worse: this trope involves the solution of one problem causing a worse one, while From Bad To Worse doesn't even require any causal link between the initial problem and the getting worse. If you're in a pool of water with a bunch of jellyfish, and then someone releases sharks into the water, that's From Bad to Worse. If you're in a pool of water with a bunch of jellyfish, and in the act of climbing out you fall into a different pool with a bunch of sharks, that's Out Of The Frying Pan.

Can overlap with Villainous Rescue or Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.

The following examples may contain spoilers:


Examples:

Film - Animated
  • Near the end in Toy Story 3, the toys wind up in a landfill and onto a conveyor leading towards a shredder. They escape by grabbing onto metal objects as an overhead magnetic strip separates them, only to discover that this conveyor leads to an incinerator.

Film - Live Action
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope. First, the heroes escape from a shootout with stormtroopers by diving into a chute, realizing too late that it leads to the interior of a garbage compactor. Later, Luke shoots a control panel to lock a door between him and some stormtroopers, then realizes immediately afterwards that this same panel controlled the extendable bridge. Thus, he's traded death by stormtrooper for death by bottomless chasm.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo is pursued by the Imperial fleet, and flies into an Asteroid Thicket to lose them. He then realizes that the odds in the asteroid field aren't much better than his odds against the Imperials, so he hides in a cave on a larger asteroid--and ends up flying down the mouth of a giant space slug.
  • In Hellboy, after Hellboy resists temptation and avoids triggering the apocalypse, he kills his tempter, Rasputin. A tentacle-y monster slithers out of Rasputin's body and rapidly grows to a massive size...
  • The film adaptation of The Hobbit has a similar scene to the original novel: the party escapes from the caverns of the Misty Mountains, only to be cornered by a worse band of warg-riding orcs. One of the characters even says "Out of the frying pan, into the fire."

Literature
  • In The Hobbit, the adventure party escapes from the goblins of the Misty Mountains, only to find themselves surrounded by wolves as night falls.
  • It is lampshaded in the Alcatraz Series
    It seems that no matter what I did, I ended up in even more danger than I was before. One might even say I was "out of the frying pan and into the fire"... Personally I say "Out of the frying pan and into the the deadly pit filled with sharks who are wielding chainsaws with killer kittens stapled to them." However that one's having a rough time catching on.
  • Very common in The Dresden Files. Harry Dresden tends to make enemies from a lot of different factions. Many of the books climax with Harry confronting the primary suspect, realizing he's in trouble, and running away--only to run into enemies from some other faction.

Live Action TV
  • As their producers were all too happy to point out, during Top Gear's Middle East Special, the hosts escaped from a country where there is no war (Iraq) to a country where there is one (Turkey).
  • The (new) Twilight Zone episode "Crazy as a Soup Sandwhich". A loser sells his soul to a demon in exchange for winning at the horse races, only to get cheated, of course. He goes to the mobster he borrowed his betting money from, begging for protection and the mobster does--because he's an arch-demon in human form, and now the loser owes his soul to a worse demon.

Videogames
  • Taken literally in Afterlife, where one of Hell's punishments places the damned on a giant frying pan over a fire. They occasionally jump, in the desperate and vain hope that the fire will be less hot this time.
  • Cave Story: You and Curly Brace get attacked by the Core. Since the Core is a Load-Bearing Boss, its defeat alerts The Doctor and Misery to your presence in that chamber. They teleport in, take the Core so it can be repaired, and then flood the chamber as they leave--leaving you to drown in a locked room.
  • The Curse of Monkey Island: Midway through the second chapter, Guybrush gets swallowed by a snake, and has to collect a wide variety of items inside the snake's belly before finding one that'll help him escape... after which the snake vomits Guybrush into a quicksand pit.

Web Video
Yahtzee: ...then the "f**kup remedy" has instead resulted in what we experts call "boomerang f**kup".
Community Feedback Replies: 41
  • July 6, 2011
    wanderlustwarrior
    Isn't this just "It Got Worse"?
  • July 7, 2011
    Bisected8
    I'd say it's a subtrope of IGW where you end up in the worse situation in getting out of the initial situation.
  • July 7, 2011
    Elihu
    There's not enough of distinction to separate this from It Got Worse, mostly because the period in between an "initial situation" and the "worse situation" can be as long as you want it to be.
  • July 7, 2011
    Deboss
    I think Out Of The Frying Pan would make a shorter title and still get most of the point across.
  • July 7, 2011
    MetaFour
    "There's not enough of distinction to separate this from It Got Worse, mostly because the period in between an "initial situation" and the "worse situation" can be as long as you want it to be."

    Time between the two doesn't matter. Cause and effect matters. With It Got Worse, there's no necessity that the initial solution causes things to get worse.
  • July 7, 2011
    MiinU
    ^^^@Elihu, I think the distinction between It Got Worse and this trope can be illustrated as follows:

    • Ex. 1, our heroes have just been soundly defeated, the Power Of Friendship didn't work, and their base has fallen. No worries, they have their secret base where they've hidden their trump card for just such an emergency! So they fallback... and find their secret base a smoldering ruin and that super special awesome weapon they kept hidden in reserve all this time is now in enemy hands.

    • They got played. Turns out the Dragon was keeping them occupied in the previous battle, while the Big Bad was busy trashing their safe haven and securing that shiny new weapon for himself. And just in time too! 'Cuz look who just showed up, giving him the prime target try it out on.

    This is It Got Worse in a nutshell.

    • Ex. 2, our hero has just narrowly escaped a group of crazed psychos. He bolts down the hallway, through the door, and slams it shut behind him, securing a bevy of locks as our would-be killers pound on it furiously from the other side. Exhausted, he breathes a sigh of relief; only to turn and find himself surrounded by a pack of velociraptors. All alone, outdoors, no friends, no weapon, and nothing between him and what's sure to be a swift, violent, and excruciatingly painful death.

    This is outta the frying pan, the difference being that the transition from "bad" to "worse" is usually immediate with no downtime inbetween. Whereas It Got Worse builds over a period of time and is gradual rather than sudden.
  • July 7, 2011
    Cosman246
    We should probably clarify this in the laconic
  • July 8, 2011
    Elihu
    @Miin U -- Meta Four's definition is the one that seems least like It Got Worse. Time difference is waaay to minute a difference to justify another trope, but cause/effect might be enough.
  • July 8, 2011
    MiinU
    ^@Elihu -- I suppose so, but I'd say the difference between them can be situational as well.

    • For instance, leaping out of one pool (which has a shark) and into another (which has piranha), in my mind, would fit Out Of The Frying Pan; fleeing a bad situation and ending up in a worse one.

    • Whereas It Got Worse would simply have someone dump piranha in with the sharks; essentially making an already bad situation, moreso.
  • July 8, 2011
    MarkLungo
    At the very least, this should be posted as a Stock Phrase.
  • July 8, 2011
    MetaFour
    Actually, there's a growing anti-stock-phrases sentiment. Here's the forum thread. Initially it was just Fast Eddie, but more tropers are coming around to the position that people saying a particular phrase isn't a trope--it's the situation and intent that's the trope.
  • July 9, 2011
    Koveras
    Happens all the time to Harry Dresden in The Dresden Files.
  • July 11, 2011
    Elihu
    Plus, it isn't a Stock Phrase in fiction so much as it is a turn of phrase that people sometimes use (less commonly nowadays) in real life.
  • July 11, 2011
    ChimbleySweep
    Numerous examples of this exist in the Indiana Jones movies, to the point where this would be a common part of any Indy Ploy.

    If my characterization of this trope is correct, Luke blasting the door controls only to realize it extends the bridge would count, as he just traded death-by-Stormtroopers for death-by-fall.
  • July 12, 2011
    MetaFour
    Examples that just say "This happens a lot in X" do no good here. We need details.
  • July 12, 2011
    Aielyn
    I agree with Deboss, Out Of The Frying Pan is more than sufficient, as basically everyone knows that saying, and being more concise is better.
  • July 20, 2011
    TBeholder
    IMO, here It Got Worse specifically because of the way characters escape the first problem.
  • July 20, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    • It is lampshaded in the Alcatraz Series
      It seems that no matter what I did, I ended up in even more danger than I was before. One might even say I was "out of the frying pan and into the fire"... Personally I say "Out of the frying pan and into the the deadly pit filled with sharks who are wielding chainsaws with killer kittens stapled to them." However that one's having a rough time catching on.
  • July 20, 2011
    Aielyn
    I think that attempts to consider this to be different from It Got Worse are a mistake. Instead, this should be a Subtrope. And noticing that It Got Worse has so many examples, it has example pages for each media type, this specific subtrope is certainly worthy of splitting out.
  • July 20, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    I concur with the subtrope notion. The specific effort to escape that leads to another peril is not just a temporal closeness, it's also an overt act that brings on the worsening. So it's It Got Worse plus something you did to escape made it worse.
  • July 20, 2011
    Aielyn
    More exactly, it's the act of escaping (at least, the way they did it) that makes it worse.
  • July 20, 2011
    Acebrock
    As their producers were all too happy to point out, during the Middle East Special, the hosts of Top Gear escaped from a country where there is no war (Iraq) to a country where there is one (Turkey).
  • July 24, 2011
    Sen
    Also in A New Hope, when Luke, Han and Leia escape from the stormtroopers but land in the garbage disposal facility.
  • July 24, 2011
    Ryuuma
    I don't know if it can properly count, but...
    • In One Piece the crew manage to defeat Oars after a long, exhausting battle. However, with Oars out of service, his master Gekko Moria gets mad and goes into a One Winged Angel form even stronger than Oars.
  • January 17, 2013
    czfjrod
    • A Caffeine Bullet Time mechanic used for the stealth sections of Velvet Assassin is explored in its Zero Punctuation review, in which the mechanic would backfire on Violet if there was more than one conveniently-alerted Nazi around, or if more were alerted.
    Yahtzee: ...then the "f*kup remedy" has instead resulted in what we experts call "boomerang f*kup".
  • January 17, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^^ One Piece isn't an example.
  • January 17, 2013
    polyesterdress
    I think this is great! There is a definite distinction between It Got Worse and this.
  • January 17, 2013
    MetaFour
    I'ma read through From Bad To Worse and see which examples could better fit here.
  • January 17, 2013
    Generality
    • The film adaptation of The Hobbit uses the regular trope name in the same situation as the quote.
    • Taken literally in Afterlife, where one of Hell's punishments places the damned on a giant frying pan over a fire. They occasionally jump, in the desperate and vain hope that the fire will be less hot this time.
  • January 17, 2013
    morenohijazo
    • The Curse Of Monkey Island: Midway through the second chapter, Guybrush gets swallowed by a snake, and has to collect a wide variety of items inside the snake's belly before finding one that'll help him escape... after which the snake vomits Guybrush into a quicksand pit.
  • January 17, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    The (new)Twilight Zone episode "Crazy as a Soup Sandwhich". A loser sells his soul to a demon in exchange for winning at the ponies, only to get cheated of course. He begs the mobster he borrowed the betting money from to protect him. which he does- because he's an arch-demon in human form, and now the loser owes his soul to a worse demon.
  • January 18, 2013
    Chabal2
    Older Than Print: in The Odyssey, a dangerous strait must be crossed taking great care not to go too far on one side (where Charybdis, essentially a giant whirlpool waits) or the other (where Scylla, a multiheaded dog monster lurks). Obviously neither choice is attractive to a small ship, and evading one means heading for the other.
  • January 18, 2013
    Architect
    I think it's worth mentioning that there is actually a chapter in The Hobbit entitled "Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire".

    Also, this sounds like a good trope--not sure why this didn't exist already!
  • January 18, 2013
    MetaFour
    @Chabal2: Scylla And Charybdis is already a trope, and it generally serves a different point for the narrative. Out Of The Frying Pan allows for two otherwise-separate dangers to happen back-to-back. Whereas in the typical Scylla And Charybdis scenario, the hero knows of the two dangers beforehand, chooses between them, and only has to face that one.

    The two tropes could theoretically overlap: Say, the heroes successfully fight off Scylla, but as a final "Screw you" to the heroes, she pushes their boat into Charybdis.

    Come to think of it, in The Odyssey, Odysseus ends up returning to the straits of Scylla and Charybdis: in this case, he's drifting at sea because he's the only member of the crew still alive. His ship gets swallowed by Charybdis, and Odysseus only survives by grabbing an overhanging tree. I can't remember the exact circumstances that killed the rest of his crew, so I can't say for sure if it's an example of this trope or not.
  • January 18, 2013
    Stratadrake
    I don't think the tropes can overlap all that much, at least not in the way you described it there.

    • Near the end in Toy Story 3, the toys wind up in a landfill and onto a conveyor leading towards a shredder. They escape by grabbing onto metal objects as an overhead magnetic strip separates them, only to discover that this conveyor leads to an incinerator.
  • January 19, 2013
    dubey
    I would put a disclaimer about this being a spoiler trope, often an Out of the Frying Pan trope is a semi-twist in a movie.
  • January 19, 2013
    dubey
    About the Dresdon files, it does happen at least once per book, A Fool's Moon being the best example, where this trope comes in to play three times in a row.
  • January 20, 2013
    MetaFour
    Could you elaborate on that?
  • January 20, 2013
    dubey
    If you read any of the dresdon files, you'd soon realise that the entire book is built around this trope... it usually has harry making enemies of a bunch of characters in the show, then when he finally confronts the primary suspect, things get nasty. He defeats whatever goons are sent at him, but then realises he's in big trouble and tries to escape - running into more enemies he made who are on a different agenda. He tries to reason with them they won't listen... he escapes again. Into MORE enemies.

    This is basically every book's climactic point.
  • March 12, 2013
    TrevMUN
    But not all cases of this trope happening are climatic or spoilers (as the Afterlife example shows).

    This YTKKW's been stewing for two years, it's got 39 replies, a good set of starter examples and a well defined premise. Just Launch It Already!
  • March 13, 2013
    morenohijazo
    I would say it's up to the OP, but if he/she doesn't do it, I'll do it myself tomorrow.
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