"Nothing buys bygones quicker than cash"
"Sorry I burned down your village. Here's some gold."
An insincere Atoner
attempts by his good deeds to stifle any guilt he feels, or buy off his victims so they will not seek Revenge
when they learn he has wronged them. He often resorts to material assistance, because personal help prods his conscience and makes him feel worse.
Generally, he regards his evil deeds as not so much offset by his good deeds as obliterated by them — at least, he professes to believe it, though some hints may seep through that he knows that it was wrong. On the other hand, may slide into It's All About Me
; the problem is not what he did, but what he feels about it, or the chance of Revenge.
Often his evil deeds are discovered long after the fact, to cast a respective light on his good deeds.
uses this as a common ploy.
May be a form of Screw the Rules, I Have Money!
, but the character does not have to be richer than others. Compare Every Man Has His Price
for "bribery" in a more generic sense. See Must Make Amends
or Apology Gift
for when the efforts are sincere.
Anime and Manga
- Pretty much the entire plot behind Changing Lanes. One rich lawyer guy gets into an accident with a not-rich not-lawyer guy and attempts to buy him off. Not-rich guy refuses, wanting to do the right thing of filing an insurance claim, but lawyer guy is in a hurry and blows him off. This seemingly random event culminates in an all-out war that almost kills both of them. In addition, the lawyer finds out that his firm was and is stealing from a senile dead man, and that they are attempting to assuage their guilt by doing good works, claiming that they "do more harm than good". The lawyer guy doesn't like that.
- In Batman Returns, Max Shreck starts pleading for his life with Catwoman, but she's quite determined to kill him.
- In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya tells Rugen to offer him money, power, anything he wants; Rugen agrees to them all, and Inigo tells him he wants his father back and kills him.
- Played for humor at the end of Small Soldiers. The CEO of the company that made the self aware, murderous toys just shows up and hands out checks that convince everyone to happily keep quiet about the incident.
- In Thank You For Smoking, Nick is sent to deliver a briefcase of cash to a former cigarette spokesman who has terminal lung cancer. The guy clearly still hates the tobacco company, but Nick points out that he can't denounce them publicly and keep the money. He later tells his son that only a crazy person would turn down that much money, so as soon as he saw that the guy was sane, he had nothing to worry about.
- All the time in the Law & Order franchise.
- Jayne Cobb from Firefly after he tried to sell out Simon and River to the Alliance.
- Also, the way he joined the crew; Mal and Zoe had been ambushed, and Mal offered Jayne a job with his own bunk and a larger share of the loot.
- At one point in My Name Is Earl, Earl tries to teach someone else to do their own list. They end up just sending fruit baskets to everyone.
- In Xena: Warrior Princess, Autolycus the thief (played by Bruce Campbell) is about to kill the man who murdered his older brother years ago. When the man tries to buy him off by offering money, Autolycus gives him a Hope Spot by asking him how much he's willing to offer. When the man responds "All I've got!", Autolycus says that's not enough and prepares to kill him. Xena stops Autolycus from crossing the line between thief and killer by asking him if this is really what his brother would have wanted.
- In Community episode Basic Genealogy Pierce's solution to getting a family involves mass e-mails to his former step-children and writing checks.
- Revenge has Conrad and Victoria Grayson endowing a charity to help victims of terrorist attacks in order to sooth their own guilty consciences about laundering money for terrorists.
- This appears to be the standard Grayson reaction. Conrad buys Victoria a car to make up for cheating on her, Victoria gives Charlotte the same car to apologize for wishing she'd never been born.
- Dan Scott in One Tree Hill following his stint in prison for the murder of his brother Keith, up until his Heel Realization.
- A last-season episode of Highlander played with this. Immortal Willie Kingsley would allow himself to be hit by a car (usually a very expensive model with a rich person driving). His mortal wife, Molly, would then come running in playing the grieving widow, the expectation being that the car owner would buy her off for a large sum of money.
- On Boardwalk Empire this is Nucky Thompson's standard way of trying to make up for the mistakes he made or bad blood he caused. In season 4 he ends a Mob War with Joe Masseria by giving him a Briefcase Full of Money to make amends for the killing of dozens of Masseria's men during a supposed truce. While Masseria took the money and left on supposedly good terms, later his dragon Lucky Luciano reveals that on the whole ride back to New York from Atlantic City, all Masseria would talk about was how he was still going to take revenge on Nucky. This supports a general theme in the show that Nucky's attempts to buy people off seldom actually solve any problems, especially in his personal relationships.
- The Magic: The Gathering flavor text for Reparations above was written by current Head Designer Mark Rosewater, who considered it his masterpiece. It was popular enough that in "Unglued", the first joke set, the card Clambassadors, has the flavor text, "Sorry we shelled your village - here's some gold."
- Policeman Olim in Kurt Weill's music theatre Der Silbersee (The Silver Lake) has a hell of a guilt trip over shooting store robber Severin. Olim wins the lottery, buys a castle, invites Severin to stay, and generally takes good care of him. However, things still get ugly once Severin discovers that Olim is the shooter.
- Cyrano de Bergerac:
De Guiche: Last night
Your fancy pleased my uncle Richelieu.
I'll gladly say a word to him for you.
LE BRET (overjoyed): Great Heavens!
De Guiche: I imagine you have rhymed
Five acts, or so?
LE BRET (in Cyrano's ear): Your play!—your 'Agrippine!'
You'll see it staged at last!
De Guiche: Take them to him.
Cyrano (beginning to be tempted and attracted): In sooth, — I would...
- A heroic example can be found in Errant Story. Sarine desperately needs to get a warp gate connected up to the elven network, so instead of threatening the two mages she's kidnapped, she shows them a priceless Lost Technology artifact, which they can have if they'll help.
Truth in Television
- The Undersiders do this in Worm using their impressive funds when Skitter, the leader, is cornered by the hero Flechette and her ally Parian and pays Parian off with two hundred thousand dollars so that Parian can get surgery for her horribly mutilated friends and family. Unlike most examples, this was a sincere offer intended to help the recipient that also happened to serve the Undersiders' interests.
- As repeatedly cited in Beowulf, the concept of wergild or "blood-price" was once common among European cultures: the avoidance of a feud by settling on and paying an appropriate sum for the loss of kinfolk.
- A very good concept, since at the time the only other option was a blood feud that could last for decades and centuries, as two clans kill each others' random members in retribution to other random killings for the same reason.
- The Lex Frisionum (Law of the Frisian tribe) shows how complex and detailed the wergild could be. It is like a shopping list for the murder, rape, and pillage of other clans in the tribe, as long as the you were willing to pay the wergild to the survivors.
- As mentioned in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar, the Qajar Persian government "apologised" for the destruction of the Russian embassy and the death of the ambassador at the hands of an angry mob in 1829 by sending the Shah Diamond to St. Petersburg as a gift.
- Well, it really doesn't brighten your day to have the czar grumpy at you.
- The Roman Republic enshrined this principle in its basic law, the Twelve Tables, which imposed a fixed fine for common assault, payable to the person who was assaulted. (The fine was a large one, but regrettably, the Romans never quite got around to adjusting it for inflation. By the time of Julius Caesar, repeated debasements of the currency had rendered the fine almost worthless, and rich sociopaths used to walk down the streets punching people in the face and immediately handing over the small bag of copper coins that, by law, was all the compensation their victims were entitled to.)