Angel: Near the end of After the Fall, Angel, realizing that the Senior Partners need him alive for their plans, provokes Gunn into killing him, forcing the Partners to hit the Reset Button so that the Fall of Los Angeles never happened and bringing back everyone who died since then in the process, which is exactly what Angel expected them to do.
During the series finale of the show Angel entrusted a portion of his plan to Harmony because he knew she would betray him to the Senior Partners. He actually lied about his part in the plan, resulting in Hamilton being unable to prevent any of the planned assassinations.
Angel: I knew you'd turn on me. I just didn't know when. Harmony: What do you mean you knew? Angel: Loyalty... really isn't high on your list.
In the Firefly episode "Objects in Space," River pulls one of these on Jubal Early, using both his insecurities and the rest of the crew to maneuver him into position to be ambushed by Mal. The only thing she didn't factor in was her brother's rather suicidal devotion to her.
Mal: C'mon, you can yell at your brother for ruining your perfect plan. River:(sigh) He takes so much looking after.
They pull one on Saffron in "Trash". Figuring she'd find some way to con them out of something to keep the Lasseter for herself, they engineer a fight between Mal and Inara so that she leaves angrily for her "assignment"...in reality parking herself close to the drop spot and ambushing Saffron when she comes to claim the gun.
A standard of many spy stories. There was a top quote from an episode of Burn Notice that featured Michael Westen on the unfortunate receiving end of a gambit by a rival spy. This required him to formulate his own gambit to counter how effective the first gambit was. As for Michael himself, despite not having personally killed anyone since the first episode, he's indirectly responsible for 90% of the deaths on the show. Another quote from the show:
Michael:(voice-over) In the spy game you spend a lot of time getting people to betray their own. Most do it for money, some do it for spite. But the greatest achievement is to get a guy to turn on his own people because he thinks he's being loyal.
But, when things are just about to go wrong for the gambit (which is usually once an episode right before a commercial break, just to keep viewers glued to their seats), Xanatos Speed Chess ensues or a Deus ex Machina will come around and distract the mark and draw them away from discovering The Masquerade.
In Doctor Who, the Seventh Doctor is a master Chessmaster setting up all the pieces and having his enemies and friends effortlessly go where he wants them to go in order to save the day... at first glance. However, many of the TV stories involving this aspect of his character end up revolving around the sudden realisation that something is happening that he didn't actually plan for (such as two factions of Daleks seeking out the Hand of Omega rather than one), or someone does something that he didn't expect, necessitating a frantic run-around as he desperately tries to improvise some stop-gap solution to get things back on track.
Doctor: Ace, do you have any of that nitro-9 I told you not to bring with you? Ace: Yes. Doctor: Good girl.
Also in Doctor Who, the Tenth Doctor is taken to task by Davros for doing precisely this. Davros points out to the Doctor that he makes a big point of how pacifistic he is, while at the same time manipulatively turning those around him into the kind of people who will blow up their own planet to stop an invasion.
The Tenth Doctor is pretty fond of this — feigning ignorance and getting himself captured so he can be brought face to face with the bad guy of the week. Ninth plays around with it too — "I'm really glad that worked. Those would have been terrible last words."
Twice in series 5, the freakin' Daleks pull one on the Doctor.
First, in "Victory of the Daleks", they let him declare himself as the Doctor and identified his enemies. This was exactly what the Daleks wanted, as their Progenator wouldn't recognize their spoiled DNA. They needed their oldest and most powerful enemy to tell the Progenator who they were, setting off the creation of a new bigger, badder, and technicolor Dalek race. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero...
Then, in "The Pandorica Opens": the alliance of the Doctor's enemies sets up the message that "the Pandorica is opening", so that the Doctor will arrive to find and stop the Sealed Evil in a Can inside. Of course there's actually nothing inside, they just wanted the Doctor to show up so they could seal him.
In series 6, the Doctor defeats the Silence by scattering his allies, building a prison and cloaking the TARDIS, all to get a Silent to say one phrase.
In "Asylum of the Daleks", when the Doctor, Amy and Rory were transported to the Dalek asylum planet, they were fitted with bracelets that would ward off the nano-bots in the atmosphere that would otherwise convert them into Dalek slaves. Unfortunately Amy's bracelet was damaged and she was infected by the nano-bots. At one point, while the Doctor attempts to rescue Oswin from the Daleks, he leave Rory to look after Amy and get her to remember her love for Rory in order to fight the nano-bots. This was ultimately a ruse as the Doctor had slipped his bracelet onto Amy's wrist, believing that his Time Lord physiology could fight off the nano-bots; his real goal was to get Amy and Rory to talk about the reasons they were divorcing. By the end of the episode, the divorce papers(which they never actually filed) were forgotten.
In "The Doctor's Wife": The Doctor tricks House (no, not that one), who has taken control of the TARDIS, into deleting the room the heroes are in, killing them before they can get to the main control room to regain control. The Doctor failed to mention the safety protocols that automatically teleport anyone in a deleted room to the safest place in the TARDIS... the main control room.
The entire plot of The Day of the Doctor was one of these, orchestrated by The Moment as a way to get Ten, Eleven, and the War Doctor to solve the seemingly unsolvable problem of ending the Time War without destroying Gallifrey.
The First Doctor deliberately lets the villains capture and drain his life energy from him in "The Savages", knowing all of it would be transferred into the Noble Demon head elder Jano (who would take the risk himself rather than risking anyone else's life on an experimental procedure), and knowing that allowing Jano to steal his knowledge would also lead to him developing the Doctor's moral understanding that the planet's underclass deserve to be treated the same as anyone else. This causes Jano to work as an ally for him and to the savages, and is the only way their victory is possible.
Torchwood. The episode "They Keep Killing Suzie" reveals that Suzie Costello (who killed herself in the first Torchwood episode) pulled a Batman Gambit on the rest of Torchwood to bring her back from the dead. She "programmed" some random guy to, after going 3 months without hearing from her, to go nuts and start killing people and writing "Torchwood" on the wall in their blood. The idea was they would figure out it had something to do with her and bring her back with the Resurrection Gauntlet to find out what was going on. It worked.
The Argentinian series Los Simuladores is entirely about pulling Batman Gambits on unsuspecting people to make them change somehow or right a wrong. One episode, for example, features a faked bank robbery meant to delay the purchase of a bank, while another involves staging a date with a Paul McCartney impostor in order to bring up her self-esteem and make her more socially active.
Prison Break. The initial prison break from Fox River was one bigBatman Gambit. Note how Michael included the reactions of criminals he doesn't even know in his plans. It is also interesting that Michael learns that it isn't as easy as he thought, leading to some use of Xanatos Speed Chess. However, he also requires dumb luck (if it weren't for circumstances changing for characters included in his Batman Gambit, such as Sucre and Westmoreland, they would never have played along).
It's actually lampshaded by Lincoln, who tells Michael that he may have the blueprints of Fox River and a plan to break out, but that he can't rely on or predict criminals.
In the episode "Hell or High Water", Scofield tells the other would-be escapees that once he cuts the power, there's only 30 seconds to get across the no-man's-land surrounding Sona and through the electrified fence before the backup generator kicks in. The three looking out only for themselves insist on going first and are caught out in the open when the lights come back on 10 seconds later. Their recapture then serves as a diversion while he and the rest escape.
Christina Rose shows in S.O.B that the Batman Gambit is hereditary, manipulating an alleged buyer for Schylla into instead becoming an unknowing sacrificial lamb that catalyzes the change necessary to maximize Scylla's true worth, while getting Lincoln Burrows and his posse to ignorantly take the fall for said lamb's slaughter.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Founders pull off a pretty cool one that may actually be the result of a retcon. Season four ends with Odo being taken inside the Founders' "Great Link" to be judged for killing one of his own, during which he can sense that they're trying to keep certain faces and names secret from him in the telepathic orgy. He figures that these are people who the shape-shifting Founders have killed and are impersonating, and later realizes that one of them was Gowron, the leader of the Klingons. The season five premiere features a mission to expose this Founder, and the only way to do it is to kill him. Luckily, Odo realizes at the last moment that the real Founder is the Klingon general Martok, who would be perfectly positioned to take over the empire after Gowron was killed, with the Federation thinking he was dead.
And, even better, in Season 7 this turns out to be a two-wayBatman Gambit, because it is revealed that Section 31 had infected Odo with a Founder-killing virus and used his "trial" as a way of infecting the whole Great Link with it.
They shouldn't have been surprised. After all, the Founders fairly effortlessly managed to manipulate the secret police of both Romulans AND Cardassians into the mother of all massacres — when of course, they thought that THEY would be exterminating the Founders... and again, this was all thanks to Odo.
The season 5 episode "For The Uniform" features one of these: After Eddington, a traitorous former Starfleet officer poisoning colonies, gives Sisko a copy of Les Miserables, Sisko realizes that Eddington is living out the role of Jean Valjean. Sisko uses this knowledge to convince Eddington to give himself up, as part of his Hero Fantasy.
Better than all of the above: IT'S A FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE! Almost a Gambit Roulette — the plan relies on the FAAAAAAAAAKE being discovered in order for it to work — and Sisko could have ended it all if it weren't so damn awesome. Brilliant Batman Gambit in that it's fueled by crazy preparedness, like predicting how one character will react... and then predicting another character's reaction to the reaction.
However, the plan didn't require that the fake be discovered. The Romulan could have left for home believing the recording to be genuine, Garak still would have assassinated him by planting a bomb, and the Romulan government would respond accordingly.
Quark pulled one in the Season 3 episode "The House of Quark." Quark finds himself in charge of a Klingon house, and the only way to save it from being conquered is to face his rival in a duel to the death. Rather than try to fight someone he has no hope of beating, he shows up for the duel, but immediately surrenders. He then goads his opponent into trying to kill him, all while reminding the crowd they all knew the outcome before they even walked into the room. His opponent is more than happy to oblige — until Gowron stops him and strips him of his honor for trying to kill someone as pathetic and low as Quark. Just as planned.
In "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges", Dr. Bashir believes he has discovered a Section 31 assassination plot on Romulus, but can't trust any of the other Federation personnel because they might be part of it. Desperate, he enlists the help of a sympathetic Romulan senator to stop it, even though the plot's target is her political opponent. In reality, the "target" is a Federation mole and is never in any danger. The real purpose of the plot is to destroy the senator's reputation by getting her to violate security protocols, which she does because Bashir asks her to. The scheme works only because Sloan knows Bashir will always act honorably, and manipulates him into playing the "hero" for the benefit of the Romulans, while Sloan plays the part of villain.
Star Trek: The Original Series: Captain Kirk lived for this trope. The aptly titled episode "The Corbomite Maneuver" features Kirk bluffing a powerful alien force. He later reuses this particular ploy in "The Deadly Years". His entire battle with the Romulan commander in "The Balance of Terror" features him and the Romulan commander pulling these on each other in rapid succession. Kirk and the Romulan are able to predict each other's behavior as being "just what they would have done." And in "A Taste of Armegeddon", Kirk is able to stop a centuries-old "clinical war" by destroying the war computers, abrogating the treaty between the two worlds. The two planets were now faced with the prospect of the horrors of real war, or actually working for peace.
Kirk: Death, destruction, disease, horror... that's what war is all about, Anan. That's what makes it a thing to be avoided. But you've made it neat and painless — so neat and painless, you've had no reason to stop it, and you've had it for five hundred years. Since it seems to be the only way I can save my crew, my ship... I'm going to end it for you — one way or another.
And when Spock points out the possibility that the gambit may have failed:
Spock: Captain, you took a big chance. Kirk: Did I, Mr. Spock? They had been killing three million people a year. It had been going on for five-hundred years. An actual attack wouldn't have killed any more people than one of their computer attacks, but it would have ended their ability to make war. The fighting would have been over. Permanently. McCoy: But you didn't know that it would work. Kirk: No. It was a calculated risk. Still, the Emenians keep a very orderly society, and actual war is a very messy business. A very, very messy business. I had a feeling they would do anything to avoid it, even talk peace.
No one brings up the possibility that they will simply rebuild and continue their neater war.
It is of course, quite possible that they can't rebuild the computer anymore. After all they've been killing about three million people a year for 500 years. That many people die and its probably not going to do wonders for you in the sciences department.
Spock's fiancée T'Pring pulls one on him in "Amok Time". Rather than choose her actual boyfriend as her champion in a duel to the death to dissolve the engagement, she chooses Kirk, reasoning (correctly) that whoever wins will be too upset about killing his best friend to go through with the wedding. Even when McCoy Takes A Third Option and both Kirk and Spock survive, she still gets her way.
Sticking with Star Trek, there is the big one pulled during the Grand Finale of Star Trek: Voyager. Getting everyone home safe involved one hell of a Batman Gambit on the Borg. Admiral Janeway from the future steals a time-traveling ship and knowledge of a neurolytic pathogen and travels to present Janeway's timeline so as to speed up the trip home by some 19 years, thanks to a Borg Transwarp Hub and a some subtle mindgames she plays with the Borg Queen. The mindgames continue until the Queen finally "checkmates" Future!Janeway and assimilates her... which was exactly what Future!Janeway wanted, as she had taken the pathogen... an anti-Borg weapon. Assimilation meant the Borg-killing bug would hit the Borg collective from the top down, crippling them and allowing Voyager to complete its daring run for home.
Another Star Trek one. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-parter "The Best of Both Worlds", Commander Shelby briefs Captain Picard on a possible Borg attack plan involving separating the stardrive and saucer sections and attacking it with the stardrive with the saucer as a distraction, despite Commander Riker feeling the plan would fail as they'd lose the saucer's impulse engines. When Picard is assimilated into Locutus of Borg, Riker decides to use that plan knowing that Picard would know of the plan. When they catch up to the cube following the devastating Battle of Wolf 359, they initiate the plan and the Borg fall for it, ignoring the saucer and going after the stardrive, allowing an away team to beam in and rescue Picard.
Marya does this casually in Hogan's Heroes. She purposefully makes things hard for Hogan, including having him taken hostage in a rocket factory they both know has a bomb planted inside it and throwing doubts on her loyalty, because she's sure Hogan will figure something out that will also kill her Nazi contact as collateral damage.
Mickey can sometimes get a bit Batman-y. The crowning example is probably when, in a competition with Danny, he bases a scam not just on assuming Danny will try and steal his mark, but also how he'll try to do it.
The Season 1 finale of Leverage, "The Second David Job", specifically draws attention to this:
Jim Sterling: Your entire plan depended on me being a self-serving, utter bastard. Nathan Ford: Yeah, that's a stretch.
That episode revolves around the team working with Nate's ex-wife, Maggie. She points out a flaw in his plan: you can't just make people do what you want them to. Nate is a little embarrassed, and the team react with amusement to this objection, "that's what we do"
Spike uses this to good effect in the episode "The Yoko Factor". Knowing the personalities and temperament of each character, he casually plants information with each of them to turn them on each other. He does it in a way that's particularly ingenious: he relies on their own expectations of him to lead the characters into "discovering" the false rumors for themselves... so that each of them thinks it was their own idea.
YMMV on whether it counts as "ingenious" - the fight lasted less than an episode, and directly led them to the idea which helped them destroy the season's Big Bad. If it was a Batman Gambit, it wasn't a very good one.
Giles pulls one on Buffy in "Faith, Hope & Trick" to get her to reveal what happened when she killed Angel back in "Becoming Part 2". By asking her under the pretext of needing information to create a binding spell to prevent Acathla from being re-awakened, Giles eventually gets her to admit the painful truth without questioning his motives in asking.
Willow:...I really could help with that binding spell.
Giles in Season 6. The magic Willow stole from him tapped into what humanity was left in her. As a result Willow senses the pain of all human beings. And her reaction is to try to wipe out all life on Earth. However, this also gives Xander the opportunity to get through to her and talk her down.
Todd Gack from Seinfeld has figured out a "dating loophole" where he intentionally makes a bet with a woman that he knows he is going to lose, where the loser buys dinner for the winner. This allows him to essentially go on as many dates as he wants without ever having to actually ask any women out, and therefore never get rejected.
Attempted by Jerry and George to switch Jerry's girlfriend with her roommate by suggesting a ménage á trois. It relies on the following: 1. His current girlfriend is disgusted by the suggestion and breaks up with him. 2. She tells the roommate about it. 3. The roommate is flattered to have been included and agrees to go out with him. 4. His current girlfriend is so over him that she tells the roommate "if you want that pervert you can have him". It all blows up in their faces when it turns out the girlfriend and roommate were both into it. George considers this development to have turned the plan into a true Xanatos Gambit, but Jerry is too uptight to go through with it.
In a later episode, George convinces the woman he is dating to kick out her male roommate, only to discover that all of the velvet furniture in the apartment that he loved was actually the roommate's and is now gone. Seeing no reason to stay in the relationship any longer, he tries to play the "ménage á trois" card in order to get dumped. This time the girlfriend and roommate are not only into it, they thought of it before George did and had already been discussing it!
Friar Tuck pulls one of these in the first episode of the third series of the BBC's Robin Hood: Robin has become disillusioned, so Tuck gets the rest of the gang captured. Naturally, Robin goes to save them, which also rekindles the myth - the population think he's dead, so naturally, appearing just after an eclipse is quite a spectacle...
Awesomely implemented in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger; the title team tricks one of the Big Bads into kidnapping one of them instead of the baddie's original target in order to find out where she's holding the rest of her captives. Unfortunately, the Big Badknew they were going to do this, and had her minions kidnap the real target, anyway, using the Shinkenger in her custody to lure the others into a trap. However, the Shinkengers anticipated that, and replaced the real target with another of their members, using him to find out the location of the Big Bad and using shadow puppets to make it look like they had fallen for her trap.
Gregory House pulls off a small scale Batman Gambit: when his game in the 4th season ended, he wanted to hire Kutner, Taub and Thirteen. But since Cuddy already hired Foreman, he could only hire two. Solution: hire the two male ones to let the slightly feminist director let him hire Thirteen.
Cuddy originally says it's about how he needs a woman on the team, but admits later it's because Thirteen gives a rat's ass about other human beings, whereas Foreman and Taub are just ambitious and House and Kutner are mostly in it for the puzzle. Not really feminism, more like House knows Cuddy sorta likes Thirteen.
There's actually a foiled Batman Gambit here. He asked Cuddy for advice, and she said to hire Kutner and Taub, counting on his contrary nature to lead him to hire Thirteen instead. When he did just as she said, she threw her hands up and let him have all three, only just after realizing he'd played her.
Dollhouse. Specifically, the entire first season was one long Batman Gambit by Alpha to get inside the Dollhouse and recover Echo.
In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the characters will occasionally form Batman Gambits with some degree of success. In the episode 'Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom', Charlie forms a Batman Gambit in response to finding out that Mac had slept with Dennis and Dee's mom. At first, in order to get out of menial work, Dennis threatens to sleep with the Waitress, who is the object of Charlie's desire. However, Charlie brings Dennis to witness Mac leaving Dennis' mom's house, but prevents Dennis from physically confronting Mac, suggesting the alternative of having Dennis sleep with Mac's mom. Charlie then enlists the help of Dee by promising to relieve her of the menial labor bestowed upon her the previous episode. Dee brings the Waitress to witness Dennis attempting (and failing) to seduce Mac's mom. Dee then suggests to the Waitress that she get back at Dennis by sleeping with Charlie. The Gambit inevitably fails, however, as the Waitress opts to sleep with Dennis' dad instead, much to Charlie's chagrin.
Dennis pulls a successful one later, when he has a conflict with a local hippie trying to save a tree. Dennis offers to chain himself to the tree, which makes him look selfless and goads the hippie into chaining himself there instead. While he stands in the rain all night, Dennis bangs his girlfriend. Then he comes back the next day, unchains him, and makes him watch the tree being bulldozed.
The titular character of Nikita pulls one of these in practically each episode of season 1, before finding herself more frequently as the recipient in season 2.
Barney Stinson's Scuba Diver play in The Playbook episode of How I Met Your Mother. The Scuba Diver, Barney tells a meddlesome female friend, in this case Lily, about the Playbook, a book of schemes he's invented to pick up women. He then uses a scheme from the playbook to hit on her coworker, making Lily angry enough to steal the Playbook and tell her friend all about the scams he pulled. Barney then puts on a scuba suit and tells Lily that he's going to pull one more scam called the Scuba Suit on a hot girl standing at the bar. This causes Lily to go and tell the girl about the Playbook and incensed they both come back to Barney and demand to know what the scheme is. Barney then makes up a spiel about his deep insecurities, causing Lily to feel bad for Barney and eventually convince the girl to go out with him. After they leave, he reveals that was the scheme and his plan all along to get that girl to go home with him.
Barney plans another one in "The Broath" alongside Quinn to freak his friends out and teach them not to meddle in his affairs.
Over several episodes in Season 8, Barney runs a big Batman Gambit to get Robin to agree to marry him. Somehow he knew, among other things, that she would break into his apartment to steal his playbook and that Ted would tell her about the fake proposal to Patrice, although Barney seems to justify it by saying that Ted would only tell her if he cared about her feelings for Barney over his own, "giving [Barney] his blessing".
The Sanctuary episode Veritas features a Batman Gambit by the immortal doctor/scientist Helen Magnus which involved self-induced madness and the apparent death of a friend at her own hand. It's not clear exactly who is/are the target(s) of this gambit until the very end—unless you caught a fleeting glimpse of the little smile on the face of the guilty party at a highly inappropriate moment.
Later Wil returns as a member of a rival bowling team. He talks Penny into dumping Leonard during a vital tournament. Penny leaves in tears, Sheldon's team is disqualified and Wil Wheaton is cemented as the Magnificent Bastard of the series.
Wil: You don't really think I'd break up a couple just to win a bowling match, do you?
Sheldon: No, I guess not.
Wil: [grins] Good. Keep thinking that.
Cal Lightman on Lie to Me uses this incredibly often, much to everyone's annoyance.
Abyss: Brainiac started removing Chloe's memories, knowing that in his desperation, Clark would rebuild the Fortress to save her, which allows Brainiac to take over the Fortress, fully morph Davis into Doomsday and possess Chloe, which is another gambit as Brainiac knows Clark will never hurt Chloe even with Brainiac inside her.
The whole episode of Roulette is one courtesy of Chloe Sullivan. He did it right under Clark's nose. Like all things involving Oliver, it is of rather dubious morality. She claims she did what she had to do, and for the most part she anticipated Oliver's actions, but with Clark involved but not knowing the plan, it could go horribly wrong very easily.
Amanda Waller pulls off one in Absolute Justice. It looks like she's having the members of the long-retired Justice Society of America killed as a continuation of the government frame that originally put them out of business. Reality is she's provoking the surviving JSA members to come out of retirement to get back in the game, and meet and inspire the new generation of superheroes, because of something coming that will cause the planet to need all of its heroes.
Michael Garibaldi never starts a conversation before first figuring out where it'll lead. As an inversion, he also prepares a bonus for those who manage to positively surprise him. The implications of having such a mind is lampshaded by Byron when he mocks Garibaldi by pointing out what a sad, lonely life he must lead. It might have been a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the character, if the fandom had actually liked the character of Byron.
Sheridan also performs one in Rumors, Bargains and Lies. The League of Non-Aligned Worlds are rebuffing his attempts to set up a border patrol system, seeing ulterior motives where there aren't any. He provides them with plenty of Paranoia Fuel via Ivanova's completely truthfulSuspiciously Specific Denial. By the end of the episode, they're demanding to be protected by the White Star Fleet.
Going back to season 3, Nightwatch seems on the verge of taking over the station. Zack informs the leader of a bunch of Narns coming in supposedly to replace them: the smoking gun they've needed to arrest Sheridan for sedition. So every able hand is summoned to the docking bay to capture the evidence. Only there is no evidence. Sheridan had known they couldn't pass up such a prospect, and it helps to have a Fake Defector to lead most of Nightwatch into your well-laid PPG-proof trap.
Even better, the General telling Sheridan these orders has this type of gambit in mind by telling Sheridan to look upon this as an opportunity not a burden because the orders for Nightwatch taking over security came from a civilian agency not the President and through the chain of command. Civilians cannot give orders to the military. Only downside is he had to say this covertly as the line wasn't secure.
Also recall Sawyer's explanation of the Long Con: "[It's] when you get people to think it's their idea, but it's really your idea." Most of Sawyer's cons revolves around this.
Un-Locke also pulls a special one in the last season, with the double-gambit of passing the timebomb to Jack, to get it into the submarine with all candidates and knowing they will try to defuse it, consequently killing themselves (or at least a few of them), since he wasn't allowed to kill them himself according to Jacob's game.
At the very least played with in Desperate Housewives, when Angie is forced to make a bomb for her terrorist ex-lover. When he tells her he planted the bomb in the house to kill the son she took from him, she runs, seemingly to try and save his life. In reality, she was just getting a safe distance, because unbeknownst to the ex-lover, the bomb was in the remote he was holding.
In Frasier episode "The Apparent Trap", his and Lilith's son pulls one on them, by setting them up so that they would feel so bad about dashing his hopes they'd buy him his minibike. Lilith figures him out, though.
Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole becomes a minor master of these, pulling them off with some regularity as time went on. His most fascinating and awesome one involved him settling both major plotlines in one move, faking his death to both collect from a shady and notoriously hard-to-find solicitor known to try and bargain down his back payments to barristers with grieving widows (thus solving some money trouble that had gotten him in serious trouble with his wife Hilda). This allowed him to then serve a subpoena to the solicitor; the solicitor's testimony won him the case he was arguing.
In the eleventh episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Batiatus sets in motion his own revenge-driven Batman Gambit by kidnapping Magistrate Calavius, and instructing Ashur only to kill him at the appropriate time. Batiatus times this with Pompey's primus so that he can get close to Calavius' son, Numerius, and have an alibi. Meanwhile, Ashur has been gaining the trust (read: money) of Solonius by warning him of attempts Batiatus has made on his life. Ashur is too frightened of the repercussions of this plan to talk about it however. Eventually, Ashur wants out and wants to spiel on Batiatus's plan in exchange for enough cash to get out of town. When Ashur leads him to the magistrate, he already has had his throat cut. Batiatus then conveniently bursts in with his guards and with the magistrates son and Asher goes to his side. Solonius is then caught over the dead Magistrate holding a dagger and seized at Batiatus' order.
Jim Rockford is a master of these, whether as part of a con, or to catch a criminal. Two of his best appear in the episodes "There's one in Every Port" and "Joey Blue-Eyes." They are far too beautiful to describe.
Patrick Jane in The Mentalist constantly pulls these off. Most episodes involve him "fishing"—setting up a trap, and then just waiting to see if it works. As Jane himself pointed out, "if not, we get a relaxing day out of it."
Columbo is a master of this, often using it to get the villain of the week to incriminate themself.
An example from an early episode sees Columbo trying to catch a doctor who had murdered his wife, and given himself a perfect alibi by persuading his mistress to disguise herself as the wife, making it look like she was elsewhere at the time of the murder. With no evidence, Columbo's only chance to catch him is to persuade the mistress to admit the truth of her part in the plan. He does this by turning the doctor's scheme against him: He hires a actress to dress up as the mistress, who then stages her own suicide. When the doctor sees the scene, believing all ties to the murder are gone, he callously admits to Columbo he was just using her for his scheme... and his mistress is right behind him, hearing the truth and ready to turn him in.
The Andy Griffith Show was built around this trope. Usually involving Andy using the BMG to get people to solve their own problems/benefit themselves.
Abed from Community, thanks to his Genre Savvy-ness and prophetic ability to predict the action of those around him will occasionally pull this off. A prime example he was able to manipulate both Jeff's Team Dad and Britta's Team Mom instincts in order to finish a student film.
Walt does this throughout Breaking Bad and he continually gets better at stringing together assassination plans and manipulating those around him as the show progresses. Eventually, he pulls off a huge gambit in the season 4 finale where he manipulates an elaborate set of events and people in order to arrange for the Big Bad of the season, Gus, to be blown up in a retirement home..
He also does this in the Series Finale. He takes out Jack's entire gang with an automated M60 rigged in the trunk of his car. For this to work, everyone would have to be standing in perfect proximity, the car would have to be parked precisely in the right area, the building's composition and orientation would have to be perfectly aligned, and most of all, this contraption would have to work flawlessly. The odds of this working are utterly abysmal, even by Hollywood standards.
Happens quite frequently on Corner Gas, occasionally resulting in a Gambit Pileup, although they are probably for the most mundane things on this list, like not owing someone a favor, and most of the humor comes from how well (or not) the characters are able to pull off the gambit, but that shouldn't be surprising given the sitcom's premise.
Played for Laughs on 30 Rock: Jack cracks a joke about Liz, who then hands him an envelope with the exact words of his joke written inside. Taken Up to Eleven when Jack responds by handing her an envelope that says "You will hand me an envelope with my joke written on it"
Mr. Gold's plan to help Emma win a municipal election. While Emma is in the Mayor's office arguing with Regina, he sets fire to City Hall, giving Emma a chance to rescue Regina and be shown to be a hero. When Emma finds out about this, she is furious, but Gold points out that if she denounces him, she loses the election and disappoints everyone. She does denounce him and wins anyway, which Gold then reveals was All According to Plan. Saving the rather unpopular Regina wouldn't have been enough to win Emma the election. Showing everyone that she was tough enough to stand up to Gold, the most feared man in town, however, was a different story.
It's been revealed that the entire Dark Curse was caused by him so that he could get to the real world, and once he did he manipulated everything so that he would get his True Love potion and use it to bring magic to Storybrooke so that he could find his son. (Who had been transported to the real world long before the curse).
The Evil Queen also pulls off several gambits.
Manipulating the Genie into killing her husband so she would be free
As Mayor Regina Mills, arranging to steal Mr. Gold's most prized possession, Belle's chipped cup. She is able to count on his willingness to do anything to get it back in order get Mr. Gold to reveal that he remembers his fairy tale identity.
It seems to run in the family. Her mother, Cora, ran one on Regina in "The Stable Boy": She spooked Snow's horse with magic, knowing Regina would help the girl, which leads to the King showing up at their doorstep and proposing to Regina so she can be Snow's replacement mother.
Heck, even Captain Hook gets one in "The Outsider". He attacks Belle knowing that Mr. Gold will come to her rescue. This leaves Gold's shop open so that he can have Smee sneak in and take Baelfire's shawl, the talisman that Gold needs to leave the town.
Snow herself uses one in "The Miller's Daughter". She secretly curses Cora's heart which needs to be re-inserted into Cora to kill her. When she's caught by Regina, she appeals to Regina's desire for her mother's love and gives it to Regina, counting on the (very likely) possibility that Regina would put the heart back into Cora.
In NewsRadio, Jimmy James has proven himself able to use these upon his employees. Most of the other employees have managed to pull off one or two of their own as well.
Warden: Horseshit! Wait a minute! Just wait a goddamned minute! You said the nigger got killed! I wan' me a goddamn dead nigger up in here else I'll hang here one of these homosex-u-als!
Used by "Boston" Rob Mariano on Season 7 of The Amazing Race, during the four pounds of meat Roadblock. After deciding that eating four pounds of meat was impossible, he quit the task and took the four-hour penalty. Since the penalty did not start until the next team showed up, he used that to his advantage, waiting for his own penalty to start before convincing two other teams to also quit the task, counting on their initial squeamishness at starting the task to cause them to follow his lead. Cue Evil Gloating about how he could not get eliminated that leg.
In Season 5, Chip & Kim built up Colin & Christie's egos and made them over-confident, trusting that any sort of struggle later would cause them to self-destruct. Earlier in the Season their plan was to encourage the rivalry between Colin and Mirna in order to get them to focus more on each other than the race, however Charla & Mirna got eliminated too quickly for this to come to fruition.
In Supernatural, the psycho hunter, Gordon, uses one on Dean to get to Sam. After capturing Dean, he forces Dean to call Sam to bring him to a specific place, but putting out the caveat that if Dean said one word about being captured, he was going to blow his head off. During the conversation, Dean uses the word "funkytown," which is a pre-arranged code for "Someone has a gun on me." However, Gordon was expecting Dean to get a warning to Sam. Which is why he had the back door armed with a tripwire and explosives. Sam hears the warning, scouts the place, sees Gordon in the front window, goes around back, trips the explosives, and ka-bam.
Hell, he even planted a second explosive in the house to be triggered if Sam survived the first. And, even then, this doesn't get to go under Crazy-Prepared because, well, they're Winchesters. A nuke wouldn't be enough to keep them dead.
In Friends when Phoebe is trying to choose between the names "Joey" or "Chandler" when naming the third triplet, and it looks like she'll go with "Joey", Chandler fakes a name-based existential crisis which tricks Phoebe into attempting to make him feel better about his name by naming the baby after him instead of Joey.
Tyrion Lannister is trying to find out which member of the Small Council is feeding the Queen Regent (his sister) info on him. He tells Pycelle, Varys and Littlefinger he needs their help to give away Princess Myrcella in an Arranged Marriage to secure allies, but tells each of them a different destination for her. He also tells them both to not say a word to Queen Cersei. When Cersei angrily confronts Tyrion about this later, he knows who spilled the beans.note It was Pycelle.
Robb frees a Lannister scout to fool proud and proactive Lord Tywin into mistaking a diversion for Robb's main advance, allowing Robb to defeat and capture Jaime.
In The Flash a criminal mastermind gathers a team to supposedly steal a foreign treasure. While the police sit on the treasure, he sends them out to pick the city clean. As it turns out they're just distractions to pull the police away so he can steal the treasure.
Person of Interest: Root gets the better of Reese and Finch by counting on them to do what they do best: helping the helpless. She puts a hit out on her own alias and leaves a digital trail for the Machine to spot, knowing that it will tag her as a POI and bring Reese and Finch to her.
The Secret Circle: Apparently the binding of the new circle's powers is exactly what Dawn Chamberlain and Charles Meade wanted in the first place.
Used masterfully by Sunil in Season 3 of In Treatment, where he convinces Paul that he's more troubled than he actually is, and that he presents an imminent danger to his daughter-in-law. Sunil does this knowing that Paul will react by warning Julia, and that Julia will respond by calling the police. When Sunil refuses to show the police his immigration papers, he is deported back to Calcutta, which was what he wanted all along.
Used in the Ashes to Ashes episode "Traitor". Gene Hunt gives all the suspects a safety deposit box number, along with some bogus evidence. He instructs each person to safe guard their information. Gene Then waits outside the post office with his DI - Alex Drake - and arrests the traitor's correspondent as he leaves. Gene then proceeds inside to find that the locker missing evidence was entrusted to DC Chris Skelton.
In the tenth series of Red Dwarf Episode 2 Fathers and Suns. Lister self-destruct pulls this on himself. Every year He writes himself a Father's Day letter then gets really drunk so he won't remember what he wrote. This year the next morning he finds a video from the perspective of his father talking to him like a son telling him he's a disappointment and to go get his tooth filled and join the engineering corps before watching the next message. Dave being Dave skips ahead immediately only to find message two rebuking him for just skipping ahead and tells him to go do what he said once more. Dave skips again only to be threatened with having his guitar flushed out an airlock if he skips once more. Dave skips again and at first the message acts like he believed Dave completed his tasks and to go over and play a song on the guitar. When Dave goes he finds it's a cutout and his real guitar is floating in space and he's warned to go do it now or he'll get more of daddy's discipline.
The new computer in that episode was programmed to make Batman Gambits in order to gets jobs done quickier. In addition to helping Lister make the videos mentioned above, she informed the crew of the events of their conversations so they wouldn't need to have them; deleted the second season of a show Rimmer was watching becasue she predicted he wouldn't like it; she even destryoed a corridor because she was programmed to to jobs exactly like the highest ranking officer, which at that point was Rimmer. And she knew that Rimmer would cock-up the repair-job so she cocked it up for him. Then she predicted that he would blame Kryten and walk off smugly.
Done in Hell's Kitchen by three of season 4's remaining chefs. Jen was the Reality TV bitch and after she tries to sabotage voting for elimination the remaining chefs plan to sabotage the elimination itself by pitting Jen against a scared Corey, who was considered their best chef. Either for once Ramsay did not see the ploy or he did consider Jen to be the worst, and pitted against the best the team ensured her elimination.
In the episode of Stargate Atlantis, the heroes pull one off to reclaim Atlantis from the Asurans (Human-form replicators who were spurned creations of the Ancients made for combating the Wraith). They infiltrated Atlantis, told their plan to General O'Neill and Mr. Woolsey, knowing full-well that they'd be mind-probed, that O'Neill would see through their plan, and that O'Neill would figure he'd have to hold out just long enough for Woolsey to sing. The team's apparent plan of sabotaging the shield generators was foiled... but when the Asurans fired up the shield generators to repel the Daedalus's attack, the entire city was pulsed with a replicator disruption pulse, killing all the Asurans instantly (the heroes' ulterior, REAL plan). All this hinged on Woolsey not figuring out the plan and O'Neill holding out against interrogation just long enough for the Asurans to believe Woolsey.
Katherine begs Damon to NOT kill Elijah stating that since Elijah had compelled her to stay in the tomb, his death would keep her trapped permanently. Elijah gets killed. Then Damon finds out that Elijah's death actually cancels the compulsion he gave Katherine. So Elijah's death = Katherine's freedom. Brilliantly played!
Stefan pulls one off in "Family Ties". He gives Caroline a drink with vervain in figuring that Damon would try to drink her blood. When Damon tries to kill her, he ends up drinking poison.
In the opening episode of the second series of Spooks the villain of the week makes a couple of gratuitous hits on military targets so the heads of the Army and Government will call a meeting of the emergency COBRA committee to discuss where his next target is. The next target is, of course, the COBRA meeting.
Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger had one with why Aka Red created the Red Pirates by convincing Marvelous and Basco that he needed the Ranger Keys to find the Greatest Treasure in the Universe. He wasn't: he was going to just return the keys to the powerless Sentai warriors. However, both pirates believed it, Basco pulled a Face–Heel Turn and Marvelous would go on to form the Gokaigers to find the treasure.
Only Fools and Horses: Del defeats Slater the first time by exploiting the latter's desire to have Del under his thumb for all time - he gets himself immunity from prosecution if he reveals who stole a microwave. It was him.
In the Raising Hope episode "Hey There Delilah", Maw-Maw uses Virginia and Delilah's rivalry to get Virginia to take the promotion at 'Knock Knock Knock Housekeeping' by stating that whomever goes without attack the longest gets everything. She then using comments to keep them in close proximity until either Virginia snaps or Delilah lies about being attacked. Delilah would then have to make Burt and Virginia leave the house, and knowing that they're both too old to live in the van AND Virginia's too proud to go live with their son's family, Virginia would have no choice but take the promotion that Maw-Maw knew she was good enough for.
In Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth knew the Earl of Essex would betray her. Instead of locking him up, she relaxes the guard around him and does nothing. When he did try a coup under false pretenses, she was well prepared and it was clear to all England he was in the wrong.
Revenge has Emily Thorne- she knows exactly how her enemy Victoria will respond to her actions. The same applies to Emily's numerous other targets as well.
Subverted with Emily's failed plan to frame Victoria for murdering her on her wedding day. Emily predicts that Victoria will retreat to her quarters alone after having a drink spilled on her and that noone will leave the yacht's lounge area while Emily is enacting her plot. However when the actual plan is put into motion several of the characters do not behave as predicted, culminating in Emily being shot for real by Daniel and falling overboard.
Played entirely straight with Emily's successful takedown of Victoria at the end of Season 3. Emily predicts that Charlotte will leak information to Victoria, that Victoria will believe her and follow Emily to a graveyard, and that the authorities will believe Emily when she tells them that a knocked-out Victoria was digging up Amanda Clarke's grave. It works and Victoria ends up being institutionalized.
JAG: In the climax of "Shadow", the crew informs Grover that they have seized control of the torpedo only to realize it has locked onto the Tigershark as a new target. Grover instructs Meg on how to disable the torpedo, only to find they had never been able to gain control of his laptop or the torpedo to begin with.
Modern Family: In the Season 5 episode “A Hard Jay’s Night”, Cameron's father made the topper for Mitchell and Cam's wedding cake. The top portrays Mitchel in a very… feminine position. Mitchell had used up all of his "vetoes" on things he didn't want in the wedding but Cam did, which means he can’t tell Cam that he hates it. He unsuccessfully tries to destroy it in several ways, including having Lily play with it in the tub and giving it to Stella (Jay’s dog). Eventually, he just told Cam he hated it, and Cam suggested that he would let Mitchell veto the topper if Mitchell also gave him one more veto. Mitchell agreed and Cam vetoed the wedding singer. And that was Cam’s plan all along: he had his father make the top like that so that he could get rid of the singer.
There was a three-part Sesame Street "News Flash" segment where Kermit was called out into the middle of a snowstorm to find someone who was outside in the storm for a long time. Everyone he talked to was only out for a short time, and poor Kermit became too cold to continue reporting on the matter. Along comes Harvey Kneeslapper, who informs Kermit that he made the call to the news people, and the actual person standing in the snow for a long time was Kermit, who at this point was up to his neck in snow.
Appropriately enough, Gotham has a brilliant example of one, although it's done by Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin rather than Bruce Wayne. In exchange for information about his treacherous Dragons, Don Falcone allows Cobblepot to be executed by Jim Gordon, who Cobblepot (correctly) believes he can persuade to fake his death. Cobblepot then is able to come back to Gotham, infiltrate a rival gang in order to act as The Mole, provoke his former boss and Falcone's treacherous underling Fish Mooney to overreact, kill her lover/conspirator on the orders of the rival crime boss, and get the rival crime boss to give Falcone a seemingly worthless piece of real estate as "compensation
In the Veronica Mars episode "My Mother The Fiend", Veronica gets detention for breaking into Vice-Principal Clemmons' office with her own set of keys. She's assigned to clean up some old files in the basement. One of those files shows her mother was suspended when she was a student at Neptune High, supposedly for spreading a "false and malicious rumor" about another student. When Veronica investigates (to prove to herself that her mother did have some good in her), she discovers Principal Moorehead, back when he was a teacher, fathered a child with Mary, a deaf woman (she works as a janitor at the school) who was a student back then, and when Mary gave the baby to him, he left it in the woman's bathroom (Veronica's mother got in trouble because she *wouldn't* say what happened). When the truth comes out, the Principal is forced to resign, and Clemmons takes his place, which turns out to be why he gave Veronica detention all along.
In the Season 2 finale of Arrow, Oliver needs to inject Slade with the cure for the mirakuru, but can’t get close enough to do it. Slade has kidnapped Laurel, the woman Oliver loves. Knowing that, and having recently found out that Slade had cameras all over his house, Oliver has a conversation with Felicity in front of the cameras and tells her that Slade took the wrong woman, and that she’s the one he loves. Slade kidnaps her and attracts Oliver to her. What Slade didn’t see is that Oliver gave Felicity the cure and the whole thing was a plan to get her close to him and use it. It worked.
In Black Sails, Flint has been deposed as captain, and Dufresne, the quartermaster, has taken command. Flint advises that Dufresne avoid taking a path through a shipping route, where they're likely to run into a merchant vessel, saying the crew will want to take the prize, but their numbers are too depleted (thanks to Flint!). Dufresne smells a trick, but fails to see what it is, as he decides to do exactly the opposite of what Flint said. They try to take a ship, but it goes very badly, Flint jumps in and gives instructions which salvage the situation somewhat and lets them get away with their ship and their lives, and the crew ends up voting him back in. Dufresne realizes afterward how Flint manipulated him into it, but at that point there's precious little he can do about it.
Gone Horribly Right for Prop Joe during The Wire. After failing to convince Marlo Stanfield to join the coop, he sets up Marlo to get robbed by Omar. The result is Marlo changing his mind and joining the coop, but it backfires. Marlo Stanfield begins scheming to destroy the coop from within by convincing Prop Joe's main drug contact, The Greek, to do business with him. He turns Prop Joe's nephew Cheese against him, which allows Marlo access to kill him. Afterwards, he disbands the coop and raises the price for the drugs he now controls.
The Agency: In "Soft Kills", the CIA learns that a terrorist cell targetting the wives of American servicemen destined in Spain got vital info from a leak provided by the wife of a Spanish minister, who happens to be a hardcore anti-American journalist publishing all sorts of conspiracy theories against The War on Terror, has no interest whatsoever in telling them who was her intermediary, and they legally can do nothing to force her. So they sneak in her house and plain tell her that every single thing she wrote about them being torture-happy, power-hunger crazies who give no shits about international laws is true. She gives them everything they want right away.
Bar Rescue: After John Taffer analyzes the ownership of each failing bar, his plan for the initial recon relies on the management and staff doing what he expects them to do because they are failing. An example of this is calling a server at Pat's Cocktails and telling her to pour free drinks because the owner won't stop her from doing so. The owner finds out only when Taffer revealed his plan and the owner screams at Taffer for setting him up.
In Xena: Warrior Princess, there are many characters who do this, but perhaps none so well as Xena herself. One particularly notable case is when Xena, driven mad by the Furies, needs to find a way to avoid killing her mother, who had killed her father, since Xena is required to avenge her father's death (long story). So what does she do? Convince everyone that Ares is her father - in huge part relying on her mother to tell all present that her husband returned unexpectedly home the night Xena was conceived, when he was supposed to be on the battlefield, and on Gabrielle's knowledge of myths to inform everyone that Ares is known for sleeping with the wives of his warriors by taking on their forms - without discussing it with Gabrielle or Cyrene first! Her gambit works, naturally.
Justified starts with one of these. Raylan Givens tells a criminal to leave town in 24 hours or he'll kill him. He sits down counts the seconds left. The criminal starts complaining about how he won't shoot an unarmed man in broad daylight in front of dozens of witnesses, getting a little panicked near the end. He pulls his gun to kill Raylan, but Raylan is quicker on the draw and kills him. Since the criminal pulled his gun first, the shooting is Justified.
A minor version in the "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" episode of School of Rock when Summer is trying to get Zach back in the band. She asks his current band for use of their amp. She knew that Zach would have no problem but the others would belittle her and the School of Rock, making Zach come to their defense.
In Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell is trying to either break Thomas More's will or execute him for treason. His final move is to take away More's books and papers. When Richard Riche says he'll send someone, Cromwell instructs him to do so personally, banking on More's longstanding disdain for Riche to loosen his tongue. In court, Riche testifies that More finally broke his silence by answering a hypothetical question about Henry's authority in the negative, and it condemns him.