Betrayal by Inaction

Betrayal comes in all kinds of forms, one of them being characters turning their backs on former allies and walking away, abandoning them to their fate without so much as having to lift a finger. Or even just stand there, in face of Give Me a Sword.

Sometimes this is part of an Uriah Gambit, when the traitor specifically created the situation in which their former ally would need their help. Other times it is the result of a Fair Weather Friend. Bodyguard Betrayal often happens this way. A particularly cruel variant occurs if the traitors simply stand there and laugh at their former friend's misfortune.

The phrase associated with this trope is "left in the lurch".

Compare Murder by Inaction, Accomplice by Inaction, and Cavalry Betrayal. Contrast with Screw This, I'm Outta Here!, when the deserters are merely trying to save their own hides but gain nothing from their allies' defeat (i.e. betrayal is not their intention as in this trope). Contrast also Failure-to-Save Murder when they did try to save the person, but failed.

WARNING: Examples may contain spoilers.


Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • In Valvrave the Liberator, Akira's brother Satomi did this to her after he got her to hack a school's entrance exam website for him, then pretended he didn't know anything about it when she got caught. When she was bullied over it, he ignored her then, too. He tries to make amends years later, in the time the series covers, but that's not so easy.
  • In the anime for Schwarzes Marken, Heinz Axmann offers to send some Stasi troops to help repel the BETA offensive. Unfortunately when the battle actually starts, he's just sitting on his butt and doesn't send any of his troops out to help.

     Comic Books  

  • At the end of Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt, Thor Girl, having transformed into an Energy Being, returns to her home galaxy after growing disgusted with humanity's inability to work together and deciding that Earth doesn't deserve her protection.
  • The Reveal of World War Hulk, has it that one of the Hulk's Warbound: Miek was partially responsible for Sakaar's destruction by allowing factions opposed to the Hulk as their ruler to overload the warpcore of the spacecraft he came in. He did this because he believed that the Hulk would then realize his destiny as the "World Breaker" and fulfill a Sakaaran propechy.
  • Black Moon Chronicles: When Emperor Haaghendorf and his army are about to fight the evil forces of the Black Moon, he calls upon the two autonomous military orders to assist him. The Knights of Light led by Fratus Sinister arrive on the battlefield but stay out of any fighting in the hopes that Haaghendorf will be killed and they can seize power from whatever's left, even shooting numerous imperial messengers sent to ask them for reinforcements. However, Haaghendorf sees through this deception and demotes Fratus Sinister after winning the battle singlehandedly.

     Films — Animated  

  • The Emperor's New Groove: While helping Kuzco back to the palace, Pacha falls through a bridge and lays dangling and calling for help. Rather than helping him up, Kuzco decides to leave him there and continue on; he was going to betray Pacha anyway and lock him in a dungeon, and this seemed easier. Unfortunately for Kuzco, he falls through moments later, leaving him in the same predicament, and the two are forced to work together to save themselves.
  • In Frozen, Hans leaves Anna to die when she had been expecting that he could perform an Act of True Love to save her.
  • Tarzan: When Tarzan gets captured after boarding the ship that would take him, Jane and the rest back to England. As he's restrained by two thugs, Clayton boards the ship and uses his shotgun to call everyone to order. When Tarzan asks him for help, not only he does absolutely nothing about it; he actually pokes fun at Tarzan, hits him in the guts with his shotgun and flat-out reveals his true intentions, complete with the implication that it's Tarzan's fault all of the gorillas will soon be captured and sold at a high value in England. To top it all off, he gets the protagonist locked inside the ship right afterwards.
    • Doubles as a Uriah Gambit, given it was part of Clayton's plan to capture the gorillas after knowing their exact location.
      Tarzan: CLAYTON...!! Clayton, HELP!
      Clayton: ...have we met? (shoves shotgun onto Tarzan's chin to lift up his face) Ah yes! The ape-man!

     Films — Live-Action  

  • In Braveheart, at the Battle of Falkirk, Lochlan and Mornay show up with their soldiers on the Scottish side, but once the battle has started and it's their time to charge, they simply turn around and leave the battlefield, hoping the Scottish army will be destroyed by the English.
  • Justified in the famous ending of Gone with the Wind. Scarlett had always been a Manipulative Bitch, but at some point Rhett has enough and simply walks away from her, her problems no longer being his concern.
  • The Wild Geese. The president of an African country is overthrown by a military coup. A businessman hires a group of mercenaries to rescue him in order to use him as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from the new regime. After the president is rescued the regime agrees to the concessions and the businessman orders the plane sent to pick up the mercenaries to leave them behind so they can be slaughtered by the regime's forces. The mercenaries spend the rest of the movie trying to escape.
  • The Running Man. Earlier in the movie Killian insulted his bodyguard by asking him "Steroids make you deaf?" At the end when Richards confronts Killian, Killian expects his bodyguard to protect him. The bodyguard says "I got to score some steroids" and walks away, leaving Killian to his justly deserved fate.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Thranduil does not come to the dwarves' defense against Smaug or help the refugees of Erebor. Years later, this is still a sore spot for Thorin.
  • In Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo is assigned the job of sneaking into a Vietnamese camp and confirming whether or not Prisoners of War are present. When he finds an entire POW camp where several soldiers (including his old friend and mentor) are being held captive, he takes it upon himself to lead a revolt. However, when he and the escapees reach the chopper meant to extract them, the bureaucrat in charge of the mission orders the chopper to leave without them. The look on Rambo's face as the chopper flies away speaks volumes of the level of betrayal he felt.
  • Secondhand Lions: When Mae brings Stan to the McCann farm in an effort to try and turn Walter against Garth and Hub and find their money, Stan takes him off for a "man-to-man talk". Mae just turns away while Stan takes her son behind the barn and tries to beat information out of him. A later conversation indicates she was aware of his abusive tendencies already.
  • During the last days of Krypton in the Superman II movie, General Zod and his cronies are on trial for high treason. Zod calls for Jor-El to speak on his behalf, but Jor-El says nothing and ambles away. Zod is at first aghast then furious as he's banished to the Phantom Zone. Later, once he and his cronies escape the Zone and come to Earth, Zod has one huge ax to grind with Jor-El's sole living heir, Kal-El, who's known on Earth as Superman.
  • In Miss Congeniality, as Gracie frantically tries to plead her case to her superior, she is chewed out and dismissed while her partner stands there silently, never saying a word in her defense. Afterwards, she lashes out at him, who snaps, "Don't look at me like I betrayed you or something". To which she responds, "No, betrayal implies actually doing something. You just stood there."
  • In Serpico, a precinct captain warns the title character that being an honest cop in a precinct where many of his fellow officers take bribes makes him a marked man. "They don't have to do anything to you. All they have to do is not be there when you need them. That's exactly what happens.
  • In Jesus Christ Superstar, Judas actually threatens to not betray Jesus just to spite him and God's plans.

     Literature  

  • The Oathbreakers in The Lord of the Rings were cursed by Isildur when they ignored his call to join his army to fight against Sauron, even though they had pledged allegiance to him.
  • Serpine is deserted by the White Cleaver this way at the end of the first Skulduggery Pleasant book.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's novel Friday. "Uncle" Jim Prufit shows up to take Friday to Boss' farm. When they arrive she's attacked by an enemy ambush and Prufit doesn't warn her, he simply watches while they take her. She learns later that Prufit is The Mole.
  • In the second Warrior Cats novel, Fireheart's suspicions about Tigerclaw being a traitor are confirmed when, during a battle, Fireheart is pinned down by Leopardfur, who is trying to kill him. He calls to Tigerclaw for help, but Tigerclaw ignores him and just stands there watching it happen.
  • The Stormlight Archive
    • In the ancient backstory, humanity's greatest defenders, the Knights Radiant, en masse abandoned their Shardplate and Shardblades and walked away in an event called the Recreance. This sparked a still-ongoing war over the abandoned and now much less powerful Shards. In Words of Radiance we found out that it effectively killed the spren who powered their gear and abilities, since they were bonded to the Radiants by the strength of the Knights' oaths.
    • In The Way of Kings, Highprince Sadeas betrays Dalinar by having his army retreat halfway though a battle and take their bridges with them, stranding Dalinar's army on a plateau with a swarm of Parshendi reinforcements on the way.
  • In Shadow Puppets, former ally Suriyawong becomes The Dragon for Achilles, who seeks to conquer the world. Suriyawong knows that Achilles has killed those who gave him help, so he always frames his aid as just giving his boss the tools to solve his own problems, such as a knife to escape his captors. When Achilles is finally confronted by his rival Bean, who's pulled a gun on him, Achilles calls for Suri to save him. Suriyawong just gives him a knife then leaves, having fulfilled his plan to betray Achilles at the very moment he needed help.
  • In The State Counsellor, Erast Fandorin seems to make a deal with the Big Bad, where they both agree to not interfere with each other. However, Fandorin knows something that could save the villain's life and, by not revealing it to him, betrays their deal and has him killed indirectly.
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Lady Envy is said to have stood by while her then-lover Anomander Rake killed her father and took his Soul-Cutting Blade Dragnipur from him. It is heavily implied that she did this just to spite Lord Draconus, and because she wanted Dragnipur for herself in the long run, not to stay out of a conflict between her father and her lover.
  • Several books in The Dresden Files explore this trope:
    • Played straight in Changes. Molly offers to fight alongside Harry as he prepares to attack the Red Court, and Harry accepts her aid. This causes him a lot of guilt in Ghost Story (when he realizes how deeply the battle scarred her), because, as Molly's mentor and friend, he shouldn't have let her endanger herself like that.
    • Subverted in Skin Game. Harry worries that he's not doing enough to hinder Nicodemus' plans (and thus 'betraying' all of Nicodemus' victims). Michael rebukes him for this, reassuring him that Nicodemus' actions are not Harry's fault or responsibility.

     Live Action TV 

  • In Babylon 5, Lennier finds Sheridan trapped behind a containment door in a corridor filling with toxic smoke, but as he reaches for the switch to open it, he instead turns around and leaves, as with Sheridan dead, he would be once again the closest person to Delenn.
    • Part of Londo Mollari's long-winded revenge against his rival Lord Refa involves luring Refa into the tunnels of Narn on the promise of capturing G'kar, a notorious Narn rebel. Except that when Refa orders his troops to kill G'kar, they do nothing. G'kar activates a recorded message from Londo explaining that these soldiers are loyal to House Mollari, at which point they promptly file out of the room and leave Refa alone to be beat to death by angry Narns.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Becoming, Pt 2.", though they were only temporary allies when they fought Angelus together, once Spike gets Dru back, he shrugs and leaves Buffy to potentially get killed by Angelus.
  • Team Weston from Burn Notice has pulled this, or made it appear that they pulled this, a number of times on the various Villains of the Week. In one of the more notable cases, Sam and Jesse befriended a mafia lieutenant, convinced the guy that he had to kill his boss before the boss killed him, and that they'd help him with their "private army". They hired about a dozen intimidating looking guys, and accompanied the lieutenant to confront his boss. As soon as the lieutenant announced his intentions complete with some Evil Gloating, they all just walked away, leaving the guy by himself with his pissed off boss and the boss' armed bodyguards. You can probably guess how that turned out.
    Michael Weston: [narrating] Military leaders since the city-states of early Greece have known that a tried and tested method for getting rid of a dangerous adversary is to provoke him into attacking another powerful enemy. Provide an ambitious adversary with the backing of a seemingly invincible army, and he's bound to go after even his toughest rivals. Making sure your adversary is eliminated then becomes about pulling that backing once he's declared war on his rival. When it's too late for him to take it all back.
  • In season 20 of The Amazing Race, according to Art & J.J., this is what Rachel and Dave did by failing to use the U-turn in leg 8. However, they saw it as a more practical move, as Nary & Jamie were so far behind they saw the leg as a Foregone Conclusion.
  • In Game of Thrones Season 6, Doran Martell's guardsmen commit treason when they stand by and allow Ellaria Sand to kill their master under their watch.

     Professional Wrestling  

  • The many times a wrestler has refused to tag in to save his/her badly-beaten tag team partner.

     Video Games  

  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the Battle of Ostagar is planned to have King Cailan and the bulk of the army, including a vanguard of Grey Wardens, lure the darkspawn horde into a narrow chasm, at which point his general, Teyrn Loghain, would attack with a second army from the back, trapping the darkspawn between them. But when the signal comes late, Loghain simply orders a retreat and returns with his men to the capital, leaving the king, his army, and every Grey Warden with them to die at the hands of the darkspawn. There is much in universe debate as to whether or not he was actually trying to kill the king or simply save what remained of the army. He did object to the plan and the signal did come far too late to save Duncan or Cailan, but he also had several reasons to want Cailan out of the picture and seems to have been plotting before the battle anyway.
  • In StarCraft:
    • Part of Mengsk's Uriah Gambit, when he sends Kerrigan to keep a Protoss force from destroying a hive of Zerg, which he wishes to use for his own purpose. Once the Protoss are destroyed, he immediately orders all ships to retreat, leaving Kerrigan on the ground with the Zerg and not responding to her requests for evac. It didn't turn out too well for him in the long run, due to Kerrigan not only surviving but becoming the Queen of Blades with the mother of all mad-ons for Mengsk.
    • The intro cinematic for Brood War has a huge battlecruiser sitting there without participating in the battle against the Zerg, finally leaving under the Death Glare of the Marine who's about to be overrun.
    • One level ends where Stukov and Duran are guarding your flanks as you try to capture Raynor and Mengsk. At the end of the level, the capture is interrupted by a massive Zerg swarm. Stukov tells Duran to move his troops in there immediately, but Duran claims he's not seeing anything, even suggesting Stukov's sensors are off, ending the call with the usual static and "you're breaking up" as Raynor and Mensk escape. Stukov isn't fooled for a second, realizing Duran was a Zerg traitor all along.
  • In Baldur's Gate II, a group of mercenary mages approaches the heroes, telling them that really don't like working for Baron Ployer, and that for a modest price they will not show up for his protection when they are going to confront him.
  • Dawn of War:
    • Sindri's last sacrifice to the Chaos gods is his master Lord Bale which he leaves when Bale is surrounded by the Blood Ravens. This is what Sindri is most remembered for (or more accurately, thanks to Bale's cry of "SIIINDRIII!").
    • In Winter Assault, this happens whichever faction you're fighting as in the penultimate level. Both sides consist of two factions nominally allied with each other, and whichever faction you're playing as at the end goes through the gate towards the Titan, leaving the other one fighting off orks and Chaos/humans and Eldar (though if Chaos wins, the orks turn on each other as well).
    • In II: Eliphas, the Obviously Evil Treacherous Advisor to Araghast, allows him to die at the hands of the Blood Ravens when he refuses to open a portal. Of as fans like to say, Araghast was Sindri'd by Eliphas.
  • During the final battle in Mass Effect, this is one of your options when the Citadel Council requests help to save themselves aboard the Destiny Ascension ship. You can make it darker by selecting "Let the council die." instead of the other one, where Shepard tells the Alliance fleet to save their strength and numbers to take out the Eldritch Abomination Sovereign, who is currently attacking the Citadel. Can be very easy to justify this option, as Shepard warns the Council throughout the game that a Reaper invasion is coming, of which Sovereign is just one of thousands. But they completely dismiss anything they're told about it by you, at least until a Reaper shows up at the Citadel.

     Western Animation  

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In season 2, Magnificent Bastards Long Feng and Azula form an alliance to capture Aang and gain control of the Earth Kingdom, with neither of them having any intention to share the prize. But when Long Feng orders the Dai Li to take Azula into custody, they don't move a muscle, waiting to see which one of them is more worthy to have their loyalty.
    • We learn in the third season that Fire Lord Sozin and Avatar Roku were lifelong friends until they grew apart when Sozin revealed that he wanted to conquer the rest of the world in order to forcibly "share" the Fire Nation's prosperity and technological advances. After being forbidden from doing this by Roku, the two didn't talk for many years until the volcano on Roku's home island had a sudden, titanic eruption, and Sozin, who was in a nearby boat, came to help the evacuation. When Roku was poisoned and weakened by the volcanic gas, Sozin realized that if Roku died he could move ahead with his conquest plans after all, and promptly left his friend to die.
  • Subverted in one Batman: The Animated Series episode, where the daughter of a crime lord is shouting to her father for help as she dangles from a ledge. He goes away, her head drops... and then the lifesaver on a rope he'd gone to grab drops down.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, in the first episode, Jor-El's warnings of Krypton's impending doom are ignored by his people because Brainiac, acting as the planet's supercomputer, presents his own findings and assures them that there is nothing wrong. Jor-El later discovers that Brainiac doctored his findings and intentionally misled the Kryptonians to buy time and save himself at their expense. In other words, an entire race had to die because of this one betrayal, and Jor-El only had enough time left to ensure that his infant son survived Krypton's destruction. This made Brainiac one of Superman's three arch-enemies: the other two being Lex Luthor and Darkseid.

     Real Life  

  • Alexander Selkirk, the man who inspired the story of Robinson Crusoe, had a heated argument with the captain of the ship he was traveling on and said he would rather stay on an island and wait for another ship to pick him up than to continue the journey with the captain. But none of the other sailors wanted to come with him and when he was brought to the beach of an island, he got second thoughts and shouted to the boat to come back and pick him up again. Which they didn't.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BetrayalByInaction