Katara: I came to rescue you.
Haru: So you got yourself arrested?
Katara: It was the only way to find you.When one, some, or all the members of a heroic or villainous side are captured, sometimes it was part of the plan all along. Other times it isn't, but the captives will make use of their improvisational skills and whip the captors in due time. The usual set-up for this trope is for someone to willingly surrender in order to be taken into the enemy base. When a hero does this, it's usually so they can get inside the Big Bad's secret lair, stop them, and maybe rescue a few prisoners on the way. When a villain does this, it's usually so they can escape while wreaking maximum havoc; expect at least one of the heroes to be a little bit suspicious and say something like "It's too easy". See also The Infiltration. Supertrope to Get into Jail Free; this trope doesn't require a jail setting. Compare Assimilation Backfire, Playing Possum, Wounded Gazelle Gambit. May or may not invoke Pity the Kidnapper, or involve becoming a Poisonous Captive. Often overlaps with Prison Episode, as many such episodes are the result of this. Trojan Prisoner is a variant of this when a captive(s) is brought in by their friends posing as the enemy guards to fool the other guards. See also Self-Restraint when they willingly let themselves be put into prison and stay there for various reasons, and Play-Along Prisoner, where they could escape at any time but choose not to.
— Avatar: The Last Airbender, "Imprisoned"
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Anime and Manga
- Near the end of Full Metal Panic!, Gauron gives himself up to Mithril operators during an operation to take out an American military installation in the Pacific. What the crew of the Tuatha de Danaan doesn't know (until later) is that Gauron needed to be locked up in the submarine's brig so that he can seize control of it with the help of double agents in order to seize control of the bridge.
- Light Yagami from Death Note does this to prove he is not Kira. He gets himself imprisoned, and according to the Death Note if someone who uses it does not kill anyone for 40 days that person will die. A few months later, the forty days passed and since there were still occurring deaths which seemed to be done by Kira they release him, and even invite him to join to investigate the Kira case. He arranged all of these events, the forty days rule was fake, he wrote it on the Death Note as a decoy, he then both renounced to his Death Note (which would cause him to lose his memory and pull a Memory Gambit) and instructed Rem to give it to someone else (with a specific personality type so he would use it on a certain way) and when that Kira was captured he re-obtained the Death Note and his memories, also he made this part of a bigger plan to get rid of Misa's protector so he could use her like he pleased without fear of Rem taking revenge on him.
- Outlaw Star: Jean is blackmailed into doing this by Gwen Khan, who uses Melfina as leverage, in order to meet with a prisoner who knows the coordinates to the Galactic Leyline.
- An episode of Digimon Adventure 02 had the kids and their mons let themselves be locked up in one of the Emperor's prisons to they could organize a jailbreak.
- In the beginning of K, Mikoto Suoh, the Red King, lets the Blue King take him prisoner. He stays in the Blue Clan's prison for most of the season, leaving many of the other characters to wonder why he's doing this when he could break out so easily, particularly since he's usually not the type to let anyone boss him around, certainly not the Blues. The truth is, he is on the verge of losing control of his powers, and he wants to not have to worry about that... at least until he finds the murderer who killed his clansman, so that he can let it all out in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- A mistaken case happens in Noob. Sparadrap lets himself get captured by players from the opposing in-game faction due to thinking it's part of a game. The reason the enemy players captured him is that they are convinced that he is much higher in his faction's pecking order than he actually is after an Invincible Incompetent-type confrontation with him. One of them realizes that Sparadrap could be wanting to get into their headquarters on purpose just a few seconds before Sparadrap suddenly gets bored and asks to get untied, getting him mistaken for realizing he's been discovered. The captors also realize there would be downsides to letting him go as well, which causes them to silently face the dilemma until Sparadrap starts running after a cute animal and gets mistaken for escaping. The plotline involving Sparadrap's guildmates happens to to bring the latter to that very same location right when this happens, which does not help Sparadrap's case in the eyes of the captors.
- Played by Mikey in Birthright to infiltrate Mastema's home, which he describes as the most heavily fortified.
- Used opportunistically by Red Sonja in The Art of Blood and Fire: she takes a shot at Kalayah the Beastmaster, misses, and gets imprisoned within his complex for the trouble. Interestingly she starts with the villainous plan to escape and cause mayhem on the way out, then is recruited by Rat into heroically rescuing the animal prisoners and Rat herself instead.
- In Bronze Age Supergirl story Adventure Comics issue #424, the titular heroine Linda Danvers lets several thugs-for-hire capture her so they bring her before the boss of the local crime syndicate whom she intends to take down.
Film — Animated
Film — Live-Action
- The Dark Knight Saga
- The Dark Knight. The Joker probably didn't plan on getting arrested but he had surgically installed a bomb in one of his mooks to effect an escape if necessary. He also got away with Lau.
- The Dark Knight Rises is more a clear-cut example of this. Bane intended to be captured, so as to be on the plane with the goal of having it crashed.
- James Bond:
- Diamonds Are Forever. Near the end James Bond arrives at Blofeld's oil rig base and allows himself to be captured. He plans to switch a standard cassette tape for the tape Blofeld uses to control the laser Kill Sat. Due to Tiffany Case's interference his plan fails so he has to destroy the computer center by hitting with a minisub.
- Raoul Silva in Skyfall is taken captive by Bond and incarcerated in a glass cell. But as MI6 soon discover, this is just so that he can hack into their computers, automatically open his cell, waltz through the London underground and into the middle of a court room to shoot M.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In Thor: The Dark World, Kurse the dark elf poses as a random criminal that got captured by Asgardian guards and then gets put in their prison. When the other dark elves attack the capital, he blows up the prison using a grenade that he put inside himself, causing a prison riot, and then sneaks into the castle's power room and disables Asgardian's city dome, allowing the dark elves to assault further in.
- The Avengers (2012)
- At the start of the film, Black Widow is implied to have allowed herself to be captured so she can hear the bad guy's plans.
- Loki's capture and imprisonment on the helicarrier was part of his plan all along, to cripple SHIELD and eliminate the only threat to his plans.
- In Star Trek Into Darkness, John Harrison surrenders to Kirk and his team because of the seventy-two torpedoes aimed at him. Then it turns out to be more complicated when he reveals that he's actually Khan Noonien Singh and the torpedoes are actually cryo-tubes containing his minions.
- Star Wars:
- In Breakheart Pass, it turns out that Deakin has his own reasons for allowing himself to be captured by Marshal Pearce and placed on the train to Fort Humboldt.
- Hannibal King attempts this in Blade: Trinity, however it doesn't go entirely according to plan.
- In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, we are introduced to Ethan Hunt in prison. It was all a part of a previous mission he was taken out of.
- A key part of the final plan to capture the pool ship at the end of Animorphs is Cassie getting captured by the Yeerks so that the other Animorphs can sneak onto the ship in flea morph.
- Robert A. Heinlein's novella Gulf. When FBS agent Joseph Briggs is captured by Mrs. Keithley's men, "Kettle Belly" Baldwin (the leader of a secret society of geniuses) tricks them into thinking he's also an FBS agent so they'll capture him too. His plan is that Mrs. Keithley's operatives will put him and Briggs together so he can trick Briggs into telling him where the "Nova Effect" document has been sent. Later he and Briggs break out together.
- One of the Rainbow Magic books had Rachel and Kirsty get themselves captured so they could trick Jack Frost.
- Carole Nelson Douglas' Spider Dance has Sherlock Holmes impersonate a Pinkerton agent and arrange to get himself captured by the bad guys, with British agent Quenton Stanhope, barrister Godfrey Norton and Nell Huxleigh following him to the culprits' lair. At the lair, they also find Irene Adler Norton and a young Consuelo Vanderbilt, who was kidnapped as part of a campaign to get her father to give them a hidden cache of gold.
- In the Theirs Not to Reason Why series, Ia evades a kidnapping attempt that successfully nabs the other officers and noncoms in her unit. She arranges to be kidnapped by a space pirate who owes her a favor and sold to the criminal group that took the others. The purpose of this is to get her Psychic Powers into range of their electronic systems so she could disable their defenses and prevent them killing the hostages when her troops rolled in with guns blazing.
- The Liaden Universe novel Agent of Change begins with the sentence, "The man who was not Terrence O'Grady had come quietly." It shortly turns out that being exposed as an imposter and captured is all part of the plan, as it gets him inside a security perimeter so he can achieve his actual goal, after which he swiftly makes good his escape.
- Earlier in Grunts!, Ashnak of the Agaku allows himself to be captured to give his band a lead, by distracting their enemies.
- In The Queen's Thief Eugenides does this as part of an elaborate plan. Before getting himself caught, he brags about being the best thief ever to ensure that the people who capture him will eventually take him exactly to the place where he wants to be. They want him to steal something for them he wanted to steal anyway, but for someone else.
- In Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, Artemis allows Big Bad wannabe Minerva Paradizo to capture an Elf only so that she can escape and erase all of Minerva's research and stroll out of the place.
- In the Series One flashbacks of Arrow, Yao Fei manages to capture the Big Bad Edward Fyers and tries to extort him into getting Oliver and himself off the island. Fyers plays along at first, but then asks Yao Fei whether or not he finds this is almost too easy. Cue Oh, Crap! from the duo as several mooks and Deathstroke emerge. Yao Fei tells Oliver to run, barely buying him time to escape before he gets knocked out and dragged away.
- Batman. In "The Greatest Mother of Them All", Ma Parker deliberately allows the Dynamic Duo to capture her and her gang so they can get into Gotham Prison. She plans to use the prison as a base to run her criminal operations, and believes that Batman would never suspect them of being able to commit crimes while in prison.
- The first episode of The Blacklist features Raymond Reddington — one of the most wanted men in the world — surrendering to the FBI as part of a larger scheme to steer them against one of his enemies.
- Blake's 7: Avon allowed himself to get captured in order to capture a Federation interrogator using the Liberator's teleport system, in the episode "Rumors of Death". He even holds out for five days of torture, knowing that this particular Torture Technician will be called in to deal with particularly stubborn subjects.
- Daredevil (2015): John Healy, after killing off a target on Wilson Fisk's orders, surrenders without a fight to the responding police officers in order to draw suspicion away from Fisk.
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor is rather prone to this ploy. According to him, it's the simplest and most direct way of getting at the villain.
- In "The End of Time", after allowing Joshua Naismith to bring him to his manor house as a prisoner in order to fix the Immortality Gate, the Master effortlessly tears off his bonds before leaping into the Gate and using it to turn everyone on Earth into an extension of himself. It Makes Sense in Context.
- In The CW's The Flash (2014), Hartly Rathaway/Pied Piper organizes his attack so that the Flash will catch him and take him to STAR Labs, so he can steal some important data.
- Justified: Boyd Crowder assaults a U.S. Marshal in a federal courthouse in front of dozens of witnesses. He is sent to a federal prison where he provokes a fight and is sent to solitary confinement. He is trying to get close to Dickie Bennet who is in the same prison and currently in solitary confinement. He needed to make it a federal crime to end up in the federal prison.
- In an episode of Kung Fu Caine needs to get into a prison to rescue an old friend from the temple, so he "robs" a bank by walking in and politely requesting that they give him money. "I wish to rob your bank. Not all your money, only what is customary in such cases."
- In the NCIS episode "Truth or Consequences", Tony and McGee get captured by terrorists as part of The Plan to rescue Ziva and destroy the terror cell.
- Prison Break is based on the fact that Micheal got himself arrested and sent to prison so he could then break out his brother from death row.
- Moriarty's "Crime of the Century" in Sherlock episode "The Reichenbach Fall". He breaks into the Tower of London, the Bank of England and Pentonville prison, three of the most secure locations in England, in one day, then is apprehended wearing the crown jewels. He's then acquitted, despite being caught red-handed, offering literally no evidence in his favour, not even bothering to have a lawyer and actually admitting he was guilty! This actually has very little to do with his endgame in the episode; it's almost entirely about showing off and making Sherlock look foolish.
- Stargate SG-1
- In one episode the team allowed themselves to be captured so they could get a message to a Tok'ra deep cover agent posing as a minor Go'uld. Though no one told the fanboyish scientist who tried to "rescue" them, much to Jack's annoyance.
- In season 10 Daniel is converted by the arc's Big Bad, the Ori, and apparently brainwashed. However he is also planning to get captured by SG-1 so he can takeover one of Earth's star ships and kill the Ori. He even criticizes SG1 for taking too long to capture him and leaving him too little time to execute his plan.
- Star Trek: Voyager episode "Unimatrix Zero". Janeway's epic plan to take down the Borg collective involves getting herself and two crewmates assimilated.
- In the "Fulsom Prison Blues" episode of Supernatural, Dean executes a plan where he and Sam commit a crime so that they will be arrested and sent to the county jail in order to hunt a ghost that is inside the facility. They do this at the request of one of the guards who has planned for their escape once they get rid of the ghost. The authorities arresting them, however, are not aware of the plan. It doesn't go as smoothly as they hoped it would.
- Champions adventure The Great Super Villain Contest. Villains in the Contest may use the "Oh My I'm Caught" scenario. They allow themselves to be captured by the authorities so they can engineer a massive breakout from jail, freeing other prisoners and scoring a large number of points.
- The quote for the Spy archetype in Feng Shui is: "They never tell you this in training, but the best thing to do in this situation is get yourself captured so you can find out what the enemy is up to."
- In Pokémon Live!, upon hearing Team Rocket has Pikachu, when Jessie and James arrive to capture him Ash lets them. They're put off by this.
- In Metal Gear, you are advised that the best way to infiltrate the enemy fortress is to get captured on purpose, and a particular truck in Building 1 is where Snake gets captured...only to find himself in the cell next to Grey Fox.
- During the Imperial Agent storyline of Star Wars: The Old Republic, Cipher Nine must let themselves be captured by the villains on Corellia, then "break" under torture and "reveal" to them all the Imperial secrets—however, said secrets are actually fake so that the villains are forced to react rashly and reveal themselves.
- At the end of Alpha Protocol Mike surrenders so he will be taken to the "Graybox" facility (which he doesn't know the location of due to being drugged before going in and out) where the Big Bad is while Mike's allies tail him to rescue him at the end.
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China opens in the middle of this scenario. The protagonist Shao Jun has just returned to China immediately following her trip to Italy to train under Ezio Auditore, to find that the Templars have devastated her Order and infiltrated her headquarters. Her first move is to be deliberately captured so that she can break out and assassinate the local Templar leader before embarking on her Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Invoked, but then subverted at the end of Spec Ops: The Line, Walker and Adams get surrounded by 33rd. Walker abruptly drops his weapon, explaining that "surrendering" is the only hope they have of gaining entrance to the Burj Khalifa which ostensibly serves as their headquarters. Adams refuses and opens fire on the 33rd, creating a diversion during which Walker runs to the Burj Khalifa.
- A number of characters in Divinity: Original Sin II allowed themselves to be captured and sent to Fort Joy for a variety of reasons. Examples include Windego, who wants to kill Godwoken; Sebille, who wants to get at the lizard who etched the slave scar into her cheek; Ifan Ben Mezd, who is there to kill Bishop Alexandar; and at least one other assassin, who is trying to kill The Red Prince.
- in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Jedi master Vrook allowed himself to be captured by mercenaries who plotted to take over Dantooine, in order to find out who was commanding them. He was not amused when he was rescued by the player character.
- In The Order of the Stick, General Tarquin lampshades this trope by saying villains letting themselves get captured to manipulate the heroes is popular these days.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Imprisoned": Katara gets captured by the Fire Nation to rescue Haru, when he got captured because the Fire Nation gets knowledge that he can earthbend and Katara feels guilty for encouraging him to do so. Later the plan slightly changes when she wants to rescue the other imprisoned earthbenders as well.
- The Ben 10: Ultimate Alien episode "Nor Iron Bares a Cage..." has a now mutated Kevin deliberately gets arrested and sentenced to the Null Void prison Incarsecon to get revenge on a prison warder who killed his Mentor.
- In Codename: Kids Next Door, Cree gets arrested after an attack on Sector V at the end of Operation K.I.S.S. However, this was part of her plan to be taken in custody to the Moonbase so as to send it the sun.
- In Gravity Falls, in "Blendin's Game", Mabel and Dipper decide to surrender to the Time Guardians and take part in the challenges on the arena. This is because they realize that, if they win, they can give the reward - the Time Wish - to Soos, which would allow him to change history in a way where he finally meets his father.
- When a mysterious aircraft lands near a military base in the Jonny Quest episode "The Robot Spy", Dr. Quest and Race Bannon take the black orb inside it onto the base and store it in a guarded hangar for later study. There, the orb opens its eye, sprouts spiderlike legs (revealing itself as a Spider Tank) and goes snooping for Doctor Quest's secret para-power ray gun.
- In Max Steel (2013), Air Elementor deliberately gets captured so he could free his fellow Elementors and dormant Ultralinks.
- In SpacePOP, Luna and Juno get themselves captured so they can locate Geela's headquarters.
- The Deputy Dawg Show: A cartoon had DD putting the hen house in protective custody in the jail so Muskie can't get to them. When all else fails, Muskie assaults the Sheriff to get himself arrested. Deputy Dawg is putting the hen house back outside, much to Muskie's chagrin as he's now in jail.