Created By: smiling27 on July 19, 2012 Last Edited By: 69BookWorM69 on October 28, 2015

The Rule Of Reluctance

Bob would like to help Alice, but just can\'t.

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The moment where as much as they like to do it, they just don't.

"You can't make me! YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!!"
— Gilligan repeatedly in Gilligan's Island

A subtrope of the Rule of Drama that says, "Anyone on whom a character is counting for help won't simply give aid. If the request is not flatly refused outright, the other character will express reservations or cite prior obligations as an excuse for not helping out."

The contrast with Real Life is largely a question of degree. An initial refusal is more likely or more prevalent in fiction because of the need to lengthen the story and/or put up obstacles on top of the myriad other reasons someone may have to refuse a request. If you're a betting sort, don't bet that a request made in a work of fiction will be met with an immediate "Yes." or "Sure!"

The P.I. knows a fence who owes him a favour? The fence denies the relevant knowledge or is afraid of what someone else will do to him if he talks. A guy asks his best friend to help him move? The friend has his in-laws visiting and can't help. A kid wants an older sibling to help with a tough homework assignment? Sorry, the sibling has team practice or a hot date. The reluctance (or even outright refusal) to help provides a new obstacle for the protagonist. After all, we can't solve problems too quickly, or else there's no story.

After the prospective helper invokes this rule, a number of things can happen. If the asker has any leverage they can use, it will be mentioned next (prior favours the asker has performed, embarrassing information the asker knows, and suchlike). If the reason(s) for the reluctance seem valid, the asker might withdraw the request. If the refusal is or seems final, the asker will try someone or something else. Refusal of a villain's "request" can lead to assault or murder. Sometimes (particularly in comedies), the reluctance is a prelude to negotiations that result in the asker being committed to doing something in return. Often, the return favour will involve some trouble and/or expense (which may make the agreement a Leonine Contract); in comedies, this usually entails potential for public embarrassment or closer cooperation with someone else who is trying, obnoxious and/or unpopular. If this rule is invoked multiple times, the result could be a Chain of Deals.

The more useful the help is likely to be, the more likely this reluctance will surface. A powerful character invoking this rule can lead to a Deus Exit Machina, most often in the form of some prior or overriding commitment as the reason for both their refusal to help and their exit. Because the Rule of Drama and the Anthropic Principle underlie many of the excuses for Holding Back the Phlebotinum, any character who has access to or control of said phlebotinum is almost guaranteed to follow this rule. It's also behind the reluctance of any usually helpful and well-connected friends (be they friends with underworld connections or those with more legitimate authority and resources) to be less so on a particular occasion.

An effective way to forestall reluctance can be done by invoking You Owe Me. Averting this trope can lead to an instance of Could Say It, But....

Supertrope of Refusal of the Call, and of Alien Non-Interference Clause, which deals with a Higher-Tech Species refusing to help a lower-tech one.


Proposed Indexes on Launch: Rule of Index, Bargain Tropes, Comedy Tropes, No Examples, Please, Omnipresent Tropes, Universal Tropes, Older Than Feudalism
Community Feedback Replies: 69
  • July 19, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
  • July 19, 2012
    abk0100
    So this is that "I'd like to help you out, but I've got my family to consider" type situation? Sort of like I Believe That You Believe It?
  • July 19, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^ That's what I thought when I saw the title: a subtrope of Rule Of Drama that says, "Anyone on whom a character is counting for help won't simply give aid, but rather express reservations or cite prior obligations as an excuse for not helping out." After all, we can't solve problems too quickly, or else there's no story.
  • July 19, 2012
    randomsurfer
    On The Electric Company (TOS), The Blue Beetle (not that one)'s Catch Phrase when asked for help is, "I would if I could but I can't so I won't. Please forgive me."
  • July 20, 2012
    Arivne
    OP/smiling27: Would you please add a more complete description? I have no idea what this trope is supposed to be about.
  • July 20, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    @ smiling27 Feel free to use and expand on my comment if it helps and it's what you're after.
  • July 20, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
  • July 20, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    I grant you the latter, though I'm reluctant to write one until I'm more certain what the OP is getting at.

    That said, I think the title isn't bad. It seems to me that this sort of situation can develop in various ways. Let's say the hero goes to someone to ask for help and that person essentially refuses. Both the hero and the audience will consider the nature of the refusal: does it sound like a reasonable excuse? is there evidence the person is being pressured by someone else or fears facing dire consequences for helping?

    Then there's the question of what to do about the refusal: will the hero apply pressure of their own to the reluctant person? will they give up and go to someone else? will they think of another solution to the problem?

    Whatever happens, a problem can't be solved too easily, unless that ease is to suggest a new danger of some kind. Without complications, there's no plot.
  • July 20, 2012
    Nekojin
    Here's an example that might solidify the trope's concept (if I understand the OP correctly).

    In [[Fallout3]], at the climax of the game, you're expected to enter a massively-irradiated room in order to turn on a water purifier. If you don't have the Broken Steel add-on, all of your companions will refuse to do it if you ask them - even Fawkes, the Super Mutant who isn't harmed at all by radiation.
  • July 30, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Come to think of it, this sort of thing could also crop up in comedies as well, as a prelude to negotiations that result in the asker being committed to doing something in return. Often, the return favour in such comedies will involve some potential for public embarrassment or closer cooperation with someone else who is trying/obnoxious/unpopular (Sort of a humourous sidequest).
  • August 5, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    With no word from the OP, I offer this description of the trope:

    A subtrope of Rule Of Drama that says, "Anyone on whom a character is counting for help won't simply give aid. If the request is not refused outright, the other character will express reservations or cite prior obligations as an excuse for not helping out."

    The P.I. knows a fence who owes him a favour? The fence denies the relevant knowledge or is afraid of what someone else will do to him if he talks. A guy asks his best friend to help him move? The friend has his in-laws visiting and can't help. A kid wants an older sibling to help with a tough homework assignment? Sorry, the sibling has team practice or a hot date. The reluctance (or even outright refusal) to help provides a new obstacle for the protagonist. After all, we can't solve problems too quickly, or else there's no story.

    After the prospective helper invokes this rule, a number of things can happen. If the asker has any leverage they can use, it will be mentioned next (prior favours the asker has performed, embarrassing information the asker knows, and suchlike). If the reason(s) for the reluctance seem valid, the asker might withdraw the request. Sometimes (particularly in comedies), the reluctance is a prelude to negotiations that result in the asker being committed to doing something in return. Often, the return favour will involve some trouble and/or expense; in comedies, this entails potential for public embarrassment or closer cooperation with someone else who is trying, obnoxious and/or unpopular. If this rule is invoked multiple times, the result could be a Chain Of Deals.


    I know I've Seen It A Million Times, like with private eyes who have to get help from shady chums, or between characters in sitcoms. Of course, I'm drawing a blank on specifics.

  • August 5, 2012
    abk0100
    Wow, you got that much out of 14 words?

    But that does seem like a possible trope. Should probably mention Chain Of Deals.
  • August 5, 2012
    Doxiedame
    So many possibilities with the lack of description. It could be read as the moment when someone who is addicted, and enjoys what they're addicted to, tries to quit.

    Wait, there's certainly already a trope for that one. Nevermind.
  • August 5, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ Well, yeah. That's pretty much what I flashed on when I read it. The comedy aspects came later. Thanks for the reminder of Chain Of Deals. I started feeding bits in my comments to draw out the OP for a definitive yes or no, but with no luck.

    ^ Yes, I considered the addiction meaning already covered, and I gave the OP the benefit of the doubt in choosing a meaning that doesn't seem to be covered yet. I'm still not sure if this is what the OP had in mind, but I can't think what else it could be.
  • August 12, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Perhaps Rule Of Reluctance would be a better title?
  • September 4, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Bump.
  • September 20, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Bump.
  • July 15, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Hats, anyone? More examples?
  • July 15, 2013
    DAN004
    This is covered by Deus Exit Machina.
  • July 16, 2013
    Arivne
    ^ Please Read That Again.

    Deus Exit Machina is "Prolonging the plot by writing the most powerful character out of the story for the duration of the episode or story arc."

    • This trope is not limited to "the most powerful character". It includes any character who is useful at all.
    • It also does not involve any character being written out of the story. They just refuse to help.
  • July 16, 2013
    DAN004
    Tropes Are Flexible and thus I declare this trope to be Deus Exit Machina downplayed. If there's enough examples, though, then it may go on as a subtrope.

    Maybe I should elaborate further: A therapist won't (necessarily) be the most powerful character in a show, but if it's a show where There Are No Therapists, then they're the most useful (and drama-killing) character. Of course, maybe those therapists refuse to help because the people around are too dangerous or beyond helping.
  • July 16, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    What Arivne said. This for unhelpful siblings in sitcoms, fences/witnesses/victims who refuse to give information or assistance to police/detectives, neighbours who refuse to help someone with moving/babysitting/do-it-yourself projects, co-workers who refuse to help with a project under a deadline, bureaucrats who refuse to bend the rules on request, potential organ donors who refuse (or the kin of dead people who refuse) to actually donate, mages or other powerful folk who decline to give their services to fight a monster or an evil mage.... ad infinitum. This sucker is likely everywhere.

    Consider Bilbo Baggins' initial refusal to go along with the dwarves as their burglar in The Hobbit, to name only one example. Some characters who initially refuse are persuaded or change their minds (and thus stay in the story, so there's no exit), while others (say that unhelpful sibling off to team practice or that hot date) leave the scene but not the whole show, with nothing to stop them from showing up later in a how's-it-going-little-bro moment. Also bear in mind that it could just as easily be some walk-on or cameo part doing the refusing, and they aren't "written out" of the story--their part of the story has reached its natural end.
  • July 16, 2013
    DAN004
    But in the end, it prolongs the plot and complicates matter, right?
  • July 16, 2013
    nielas
    I think this is one of those tropes that "begs for justification". Rule of Drama and Rule of Funny imply that the situation would probably not happen in Real Life but it happens in the story because it makes for a better story. With a Rule of Reluctance we naturally relate to the refusal because it is so likely to happen in life that it feels like People Sit On Chairs. Most of the time I expect my sibling to refuse a request and then we negotiate over it. As such seeing it in a story feels perfectly justified.
  • July 16, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ That's why it's a subtrope to Rule Of Drama (the refusal is a complication/obstacle). These are the subset of that rule dealing specifically with requests for help/information/services. It's also related to Rule Of Funny, especially when the asker's frustration is Played For Laughs and/or when a counteroffer or a Chain Of Deals ensues.

    ^ I think it's more a question of degree. In other words, a refusal is more likely or more prevalent in fiction because of the need to lengthen the story and/or put up obstacles. Regardless of your expectations, have all or most of your real-life requests for aid met with initial or adamant refusals? Has no one ever said, "Sure," when you've asked for help?
  • July 17, 2013
    DAN004
    @ 69Bookworm69: Alright, I see. :P

    Though you should add Deus Exit Machina as a related trope.
  • July 21, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Check out the new last paragraph; I think it spells out the relationship you're getting at, as well as a few others.

    Despite the "Needs Examples" tag, I'm inclined to ask that no examples be added. It strikes me as so ubiquitous that the list of examples could go on forever. I mean, even stories in mythology have this initial refusal of help. One such tale has Zeus and Hermes disguised as travellers looking for shelter; they get refused by many households until finally a poor elderly couple invites them in and prepares them a modest dinner; the rest of the story makes no sense (the karmic destruction of the inhospitable neighbours, the elevation of the elderly couple to divine service) without the initial refusals.
  • July 21, 2013
    Arivne
    The OP smiling27 has gone on to fresh woods and pastures new, so this is Up For Grabs.
  • July 21, 2013
    DAN004
    Just note that this trope is Older Than Dirt (or Feudalism? If it's Greek Mythology IDK which it goes in...)
  • July 21, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Greek mythology is Older Than Feudalism, as i recall.

    Query: Omnipresent Trope, Universal Trope, or both? I'm trying to establish which indexes it goes on.
  • July 24, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Added some potential indices. Am also pondering Perp Sweating, Crime And Punishment Tropes, perhaps Narrative and/or Plot.
  • July 24, 2013
    Premonition45
    I've started a YKTTW for Reluctant Index, which is an index of reluctance-related tropes.
  • July 28, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Yes, I saw that and suggested this as an addition to that index. I'll check that this trope is cross-indexed there once this YKTTW launches.
  • August 1, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    I wonder if a page quote would help. Maybe "You can't make me! YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!" from Gilligans Island?
  • August 1, 2013
    hbi2k
    I wonder if this wouldn't be a little less broad / vague / People Sit On Chairs -y if it were defined as the reluctance being particularly contrived and arbitrary.

    So, for example, an official who is reluctant to help the protagonist find a crucial piece of information for no better reason than being an Obstructive Bureaucrat would be this trope. An official who is reluctant to help because the Big Bad secretly has a gun pointed to his daughter's head in the next room and has ordered him not to help would not.

    A name change to Rule Of Arbitrary Reluctance, or simply Arbitrary Reluctance, could help make this clear.
  • August 1, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    ^ I don't see why the reluctance has to be "arbitrary". Any reason given for the refusal still impedes the asker; even the gun-to-the-head type of threat can figure in putting up the obstacle. Different people may find a threat more or less credible, and it may take time to establish how serious a risk is actually involved.

    Even less dire excuses like prior commitments (visiting in-laws, team practise sessions) or pleas of ignorance can have some validity. There again, different people can come to different conclusions about the importance of keeping a given commitment relative to a request for help. Little brother may be desperate to get a good grade in school, and he may not be interested in girls yet, so he won't think much of big brother's claim of a hot date as a prior commitment that outweighs his own needs. Big brother, likely prompted by adolescent hormone levels, will see the matter differently. I suspect trying to qualify this with "arbitrary" risks getting us stuck in YMMV territory.

    I really don't think this is The Same But More Specific or PSOC. As I've noted above, this is about the higher likelihood that a request in fiction will be initially refused so as to provide an obstacle. It's a subset of Rule Of Drama that deals with requests. Just like Deus Ex Machina is a Sub Trope of Ass Pull.
  • June 26, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Query to Gilligans Island experts: have I written and punctuated Gilligan's frequent line correctly? Also, I'd be curious if anyone knows how many times he uttered that refusal in the series.
  • June 26, 2015
    StarSword
    Supertrope of Alien Non Interference Clause, which deals with a Higher Tech Species refusing to help a lower-tech one.
  • June 30, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Quite so. Thanks.
  • July 1, 2015
    Chabal2
    Compare Could Say It But, where this trope is used as the excuse.

    "I'd like to help you, but I can't. I'd like to tell you to take a copy of your policy to Norma Wilcox on [Hands his client notepad and pen] - Norma Wilcox, W-I-L-C-O-X - on the 3rd floor, but I can't. I also do not advise you to fill out and file a WS-2574 form with our legal department on the 2nd floor. I would not expect someone to get back to you quickly to resolve the matter. I'd like to help. But there's nothing I can do."

  • August 24, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Your example sounds like an aversion of this trope, as in "Averting this trope could lead to to Could Say It But."
  • August 25, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    "I wonder if this wouldn't be a little less broad / vague / People Sit on Chairs -y if it were defined as the reluctance being particularly contrived and arbitrary. "

    Then perhaps we could call this Refusal Ball (a Sister Trope to Conflict Ball).
  • August 25, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    A couple of things:

    First, I know some people dislike snowclones, so I was conflicted about what to call this in the first place. I considered using a number of our naming conventions, including the "Ball". It seemed to me that the current title was the lesser of the evils, with a nod to its ubiquity taking out some of the sting (for me at least). I now wonder if the ubiquity is the main problem, even noting the existence of other ubiquitous tropes and the flexibility of tropes in general. I believe this is one of those audience expectations mentioned elsewhere on this site with regard to the concept of a trope: namely, that refusal is more (or even highly) likely when a request is made in a story (as opposed to one made in Real Life), especially if fulfilling that request will solve a problem and refusal will present an obstacle or conflict.

    Second, I have to object to the idea that the reason(s) for refusal are necessarily weak or contrived or arbitrary. The first sentence of the Conflict Ball page reads, "A character introduces or provokes conflict for reasons which are weak or which contradict previous chracterization." As it says above, the reason(s) for refusal may not actually be all that weak, especially given the specific circumstances, and different characters can have different views and priorities.

    I think we'll all agree that things work differently in fiction and related media. I think this trope points up one aspect of that "unreality". At least, such is my intention.

  • August 26, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    Perhaps call this The Refusal for any time a refusal is made for story purposes, and make it a Super Trope for even more tropes, like Refusal Of The Call.
  • August 26, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    I think I grasp the idea; you tell me:

    Western Animation
    • Tiny kitten Edmund from Don Bluth's Rock A Doodle is told to climb from a moving vehicle onto its trailer coupling, there to unhitch the trailer to gain speed. Edmund is too fearful, even though Peepers reminds him that cats are natural climbers. When Peepers the mouse does the deed herself, she gets flung clear, which triggers Stress Induced Mental Voices in Edmund's mind. Then Edmund grows a backbone, and takes command, ordering a rescue of Peepers.

    Film
    • Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom has Indie and Short Round caught in a slow deathtrap, and only Willie Scott is free to trip the trap's fulcrum release. However, the release is crawling with insects and Willie's hopeless femaleness makes her cringe from the task. It takes Indie's staccato "We. Are going. To. Die!" to get Willie to effect the rescue.
  • August 26, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ That could work, though I wonder if it's too...I don't know, bland, or unremarkable? I take your point about it being super trope to Refusal Of The Call as well as being sub trope to Rule Of Drama (and maybe Rule Of Funny).

    ^ You have the idea. I think some tropers will want an edit to your second example: the phrase "hopeless femaleness" seems problematic at best. (FWIW I get that "Willie" isn't usually taken to be a female name.) Besides, surely the quantity of insects would be enough to give pause, and while I don't clearly recall the scene, weren't the insects rather large? Or am I conflating this with the King Kong remake?

    I'm hoping for some help with examples from many genres, especially comedies and detective shows. I'll renew my request to the experts on Gilligans Island (in re how many times he refused a request using the page quote and in so doing set up the Gilligan Cut gag), and I'll dig out my copy of Hamilton's Mythology to review a couple of those stories (Achilles in his tent, Baucis and Philemon, and so on).
  • August 26, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Well the refusal has to be significant. So perhaps Significant Refusal would work better as a name.
  • August 27, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Possibly. I settled on the current title (which was a revision of the OP's version "The Rule of Reluctant") because I thought it conveyed the ubiquity of this, with the alliteration as a mnemonic bonus. There's also the point that initial refusals don't always stand; sometimes there's persuasion (or even blackmail) or negotiation (ending in the asker having to perform some service in return, or in a large payment). However the conflict is resolved, fulfilling the request has to be initially denied or grudgingly performed to extend the conflict and thus the story.
  • August 27, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    But "rule of" tropes have a specific meaning on this site (see Rule Of Index), which doesn't apply to this trope.
  • August 27, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Young Michael Sullivan from Road To Perdition has Maguire, the man who shot his father twice in the back, squarely in his gunsight, steeling himself to pull the trigger. Maguire tries reasoning with the boy, reminding him that he'll become just like his father: a murderer with no chance to see Heaven. In his hesitation, young Michael doesn't notice Maguire's sleathy move to regain his firearm.
  • August 28, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ Several things:

    • The current title isn't set in stone. I have reasons for using it provisionally (most of which I have given above), and perhaps some of those reasons will stand up to scrutiny. That said, I'm open to persuasion on the subject.

    • In this discussion, @nielas on 7/16/2013 expressed a default expectation that any request would be refused and cited a family relationship:
      Most of the time I expect my sibling to refuse a request and then we negotiate over it. As such seeing it in a story feels perfectly justified.
    I'm not sure everyone expects the default answer to any or every request will be "no." I know anecdotes are not the same as evidence, but I also know people use their experiences when making sense of things. Also, a justified trope is no less a trope just because it's justified.

    • This trope proposal is about initial refusals of requests being more prevalent than in real life for the sake of story. To me, that difference between fiction and reality is like those rules in the Rule Of Index, which, if I read them right, are about other things that are different than reality (frequently more something than reality) for the sake of the story. This one's not as flashy as Rule Of Cool perhaps, but I think the underlying similarity is there. Besides, aren't tropes better where they're used skillfully or subtly?

    • I went back to that index anyway (in case there had been some changes to it since the last time I read it), and its description includes a note that not all tropes named "Rule of..." fit that index. This suggests to me that there isn't a single specific meaning for that trope title. Am I wrong about that?

    • I finally recalled an example from television (one of my mother's favourite shows at the time). Perhaps it will help:
      • Early in the Remington Steele episode "Elegy in Steele", Laura and Remington are pursuing Major Descoine after Descoine promised to kill them within the hour. They come upon a pair of tombstones carved with their names and that day's date (the initial date of broadcast in real life) and an elderly stone carver. They ask the man who ordered the tombstones, and the man tells them they have to speak up. Only after Remington offers a succession of cash payments (a $10 bill, then a $20, and finally a $50) does the man put his hearing aid into one ear, switch it on and tell them about the purchaser of the headstones. Meanwhile, Descoine is expanding his lead on them.
  • August 28, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    "which, if I read them right, are about other things that are different than reality (frequently more something than reality) for the sake of the story."

    No, it's about the Willing Suspension Of Disbelief. Even real things can fall under that, albeit rarely, because Reality Is Unrealistic.
  • August 28, 2015
    Ominae
    Is it fine to post an example of this trope if a character does this because of wanting to follow the rules and avoid trouble?
  • August 29, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Well it might show characterization even if the refusal isn't that story significant.
  • August 29, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ Sure. As discussed in the description, motives for refusal can vary widely, and what is a sound reason for one character will hold no water for another (as in the big brother/kid brother hypothetical).
  • August 29, 2015
    Ominae
    I may have more, but this'll do for the night.:

    • In Shin Hayarigami, there's a scenario where Hayato Kazamori can get killed during an investigation by Hiromu Kanada while under a zombie-like trance due to taking unsafe diet pills. Saki Hojo talks to her superior, Kunio Kuroda, after the incident about interrogating the suspect who killed him. Kuroda insists that he cannot honor the request because the court will not allow a testimony from Kanaya due to the person's mental state. Later on, he also defends the request from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police to bring Sojiro Sekimoto back to prison because he doesn't want to disobey direct orders and get into trouble for insubordination.
  • September 9, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Mythology examples:
    • In Scroll 9 (Chapter 9) of The Iliad, the Greek warrior hero Achilles stops fighting the Trojans because King Agememnon took the captive woman Briseis from him. When the things go badly for the Greeks, Achilles is asked to return to the fight and refuses, citing Agememnon's action. Achilles' friend Patroclus finally persuades him to lend his distinctive armour, and Patroclus wears it into combat. Only news of Patroclus' death prompts Achilles to return to the fight.
    • In the tale of Baucis and Philemon by Ovid, Zeus and Hermes disguise themselves as poor travelers to test the hospitality of a town. They ask for a place at the hearth at every house, large and small, and they are repeatedly refused until they reach the home of the poor couple Baucis and Philemon. After the dinner, Zeus destroys the inhospitable village with a flood, turns the modest home into a marble temple, and offers to grant the couple a wish.
  • September 17, 2015
    Ominae
    Is the creator still around to add the examples?
  • September 23, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ I have had my hand in when I get the chance. I've been ill recently and my battery is low just now, but I can probably get back to this tomorrow.
  • October 6, 2015
    Ominae
    Some of the examples that are okay do need to be added.
  • October 7, 2015
    DAN004
    Contrast... that trope when someone tells someone else that the former is going to pay a previously unseen favor to the latter, usually as a Deus Ex Machina.

    Perhaps call this Plot Mandated Help Refusal or along those lines.
  • October 13, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Hmm, yeah, what is that one called...? As for your title suggestion, it's certainly descriptive, but maybe more concise to call it Plot Mandated Refusal? Trouble is, the refusal isn't alsways the last word on the matter; sometimes the aid is given with strings attached.

    BTW I have a trainee at my job this week, so replies and maintenance will be light-to-nonexistent for the week. Sorry, but duty calls.
  • October 13, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ I found it... It's called You Owe Me.
  • October 14, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Ta!
  • October 26, 2015
    Noah1
  • October 27, 2015
    chicagomel
    Happens several times in earlier Highlander episodes when Duncan tries to ask Joe for help on Immortal threats. Joe's Watcher vows prevent him from interfering in Immortal battles, and he is reluctant to help early on. It passes when he and Duncan forge a friendship, though Duncan does push Joe away at one point after Joe's begging Duncan to spare an Immortal friend of his leads to one of Duncan's friends dying. They patch things up later on, though.
    • Also, Duncan once refused initially to help Joe with an Immortal named Quentin Barnes. That is, until Duncan found out that Barnes appeared to be after a friend of his. It later turned out that Barnes and the friend, Michael Moore, were a split personality case. Duncan just didn't want to kill anymore than he absolutely had to, and didn't want to get involved in Watcher stuff unnecessarily.
  • October 28, 2015
    Ominae
    Anyone taking over?
  • October 28, 2015
    DAN004
    That 69 guy is still around.
  • October 28, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Yeah, I'm still here. Just short on time this week. Am promised next week off, so can spend more time on this and other things.
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