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Disguised Hostage Gambit

Basically the villain has hostages. The Cavalry are ready to storm the fortress and rescue them. Suddenly the heroes (or just the viewer) realize that the villains have restrained the hostages, forced them into their uniforms, put tape on their mouths and fastened weapons to their hands. This can turn out in three different ways;

  1. The heroes manage to get the message across in time.
  2. The Cavalry end up accidentally shooting the hostages.
  3. The heroes must stop The Cavalry by force.

The Cavalry are always fooled by this (although lone protagonists have a better chance of working out what's going on in the nick of time).

Compare to Fakeout Escape, where the villain makes it look as if an escape has already happened, and Outfit Decoy, where clothes or the inanimate objects wearing them is used in a deception. Contrast Trojan Prisoner, where the heroes pretend to be villains with hostages so the real villains will let them go about their business and False Innocence Trick for when a Villain is pretending to be a hostage.


Examples;

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Angel Sanctuary a variation of this was used against one of the supporting character's Back Story. Celestial Bureaucracy questioned said character's loyalty, and had suspected he had relations with another Angel (which was strictly forbidden and the punishment is severe), they sent him off to kill the leader of a rebel fraction in their Ghetto. Turned out the supposed leader was actually the Angel's lover - her hair was cut short, dyed red, and a gun tied to her hands so he wouldn't recognize her at first. He didn't realized this until after he shot and killed her.
  • Fujiko does this to an unlucky cult enforcer in the pilot episode of Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. She dresses the thug in her dress and gags him, leading to the unlucky mook getting beheaded in her place while she escapes in his uniform.

    Comic Books 
  • In a story in an issue of The Batman Chronicles, a killer nicknamed the Mimic tries to pull this stunt on private eye Jason Bard, using his facility at imitating voices to make it sound like Bard's client is calling for help. At the last moment, Bard realizes what is going on and shoots the correct target.
  • More than once Jonah Hex has captured a enemy, dressed the bad guy in his trademark jacket and hat, gagged him and bound him to the saddle before sending the horse galloping into the outlaw camp to draw fire.
  • In Flashpoint Batman: Knight of Vengeance, the Joker pulls this on Jim Gordon, causing Jim to shoot one of Harvey Dent's kids.
  • A variation occurs in the fist issue of Ninjak. The title character tapes a villainess' mouth shut and tapes her hand to a sword. When her mooks arrive, they see a shadowed figure holding a weapon and open fire, killing her and allowing Ninjak to escape.
  • An issue of Teen Titans Spotlight has Two-Face kidnapping Cyborg's girlfriend Sarah in order to lure him into a trap. He tapes her mouth shut and dresses her up in a convincing Two-Face costume, hoping that Cyborg will accidently kill her in a fit of rage. Fortunately, Cyborg sees through the ruse at the last second.
  • Superman foe Ruin once kidnapped Superman's friend Pete Ross (whom he tricked almost everyone into believing was Ruin) and his family (his wife Lana and their child), then dressed up Pete like Ruin and made it look like Pete was about to shoot his family when a detective whose fellow officers Ruin killed appeared on the scene. Fortunately, the detective was savvy enough to realize she was being set up.
  • In The Warlord #125, the Scavenger dresses Tara in in his cloak and throws her at Morgan, making it look like she is attacking him and causing Morgan to stab his own wife.
  • In Christopher Priest (comics)'s Black Panther run, T'Challa's girlfriend Monica ends up captured by a villain. The bad guy tapes Monica's mouth and dresses her up like the gunman Black Panther is hunting, hoping that the hero will accidentally kill his own lover.
  • Done by Gypsy Moth during Spider-Island. She uses her silk to web Spider-Woman's mouth shut, and then dresses up the gagged heroine in a copy of her costume. When the Thing arrives a few minutes later, he thinks Spider-Woman is actually Gypsy Moth and immediately attacks her.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: when Harry and Professor Quirrel are breaking into Azkaban to free Bellatrix Black, they stun and Obliviate an Auror who catches them. When the Auror (who none of his comrades really dared to hope was still alive) is found, the Genre Savvy head Auror immediately starts ordering various checks to ensure that the infiltrators (she doesn't know who they are) didn't pull this move. (They didn't.)

    Film 
  • In Enemy at the Gates Germans dress a captured Soviet soldier as a German signaller and send him to the battlefield to sink a cable. Unfortunately enemy signallers are priority targets for snipers and the poor sob gets shot by his comrades. The German sniper uses the kill to pinpoint the location of the Soviets.
  • In The Dark Knight, The Joker does this with his hostages (with their mouths taped shut, masks to hide this and weapons tied to their hands), forcing Batman to disable the police officers (although they worked it out eventually).
  • An (anti-)heroic example: in the V for Vendetta film: The police shoot a hostage because they're all wearing V masks.
    • Slightly different in the graphic novel. Just one guy is dressed up as V, and he was pretty much one of the bad guys (a high ranking party member with some seriously sleazy Kick the Dog moments, though no outright Moral Event Horizon crossings).
  • Subverted in Quick Change (1990). Grimm (Bill Murray) robs a bank while dressed as a clown. He takes everyone inside hostage and demands getaway vehicles. Police Chief Ratzinger thinks Grimm will dress some of the hostages as clowns and take them out to the vehicles in a group so police snipers can't target him. Grimm actually has something else in mind: He and two confederates inside the bank will pretend to be released hostages (with the cash taped to their bodies under their civilian clothes) and escape while the cops are concentrating on the bank.
  • This kind of thing was done to the Big Bad in F/X: Murder By Illusion, though the "hostage" was a bad guy trying to kill the protagonist seconds before.
  • In Mission Impossible II, there is a rare example of the hero pulling this on the villain, with the aid of a couple of Latex Perfection masks.
    • A grim variant occurs in MissionImpossibleIII, where Ethan's girlfriend is apparently executed at the climax. We later learn that the victim was really the Big Bad's female mook dressed up like the girlfriend, with her mouth taped shut to prevent her from revealing the ruse.
  • Inside Man has a variant, in which the thieves make the hostages wear the same uniform as them, but with the full knowledge of the police outside. This keeps the police from interfering at first. It also lets most of the robbers blend into the crowd of freed hostages and escape after the robbery is complete.
  • The title character does this in Darkman. After capturing one of the villainous mooks, he duct-tapes the man's mouth shut and then dresses him up in a realistic mask, making him resemble the hero.
  • A variation occurs in the film Master and Commander when at the end Aubrey realizes, from an offhand comment by Maturin, that the doctor on the Acheron had died some time before the final battle, so the "doctor" who told Aubrey the captain had been killed had been the captain, so was in a position to organize the captured French sailors and retake the ship. It also pays off the foreshadowing seen earlier in the film that the audience, and Aubrey, never see the French captain's face clearly.
  • A variation is done in The A-Team, with Murdock substituting for the general in the final scene.

    Literature 

    Live Action TV 
  • The season 3 finale of CSI: NY had balaclava wearing Irish terrorists do this to some police officers that they had captured. Adam, who, along with Danny, had earlier been ambushed and held hostage by the terrorists, manages to free himself and stop another squad of police officers from firing on their comrades in the nick of time.
  • Occurs at the end of an episode of Millennium. The villain is a serial killer called the Avatar (based on the Zodiac Killer) who wears a burlap sack over his head to mask his face. He kidnaps a woman, and hero Frank chases him to his lair. After being injured by the Avatar, Frank chases him through the house and manages to corner the killer, who's pointing a gun at him. At the last moment, Frank realizes something's wrong, and doesn't pull the trigger. Turns out the "Avatar" is the hostage, who's been tied up, gagged, and posed with a gun in her hand. The real Avatar uses this opportunity to escape.
  • In an episode of SeriesMedium, the bad guy released an hostage through a back door with a balaclava on his head and a gun taped to his hand. The police shot him dead. Fortunately, it was all just a dream. A prophetic one, but the main character managed to save the victim when it happened for real.
  • An interesting variation is used in Burn Notice. After their attempts to defuse a hostage situation result in them accidentally becoming accomplices (someone pulled a gun and Mike took it away from him), Mike and Sam need to find a way out of the situation. After discussing trying this based on an urban legend, and the fact the cops haven't seen the hostage-taker, they manage to convince one of the two hostages (who just found out the other one, her boss, is really a sleazy con artist) to name the other as the gunman. Mike then engineers a situation where said sleazeball is able to take his gun back, and when the cops burst in the plan works without a hitch. Though the negotiator is kind of curious why somebody blew open a safe full of ill-gotten money...
    • A similar variation occurs on Leverage. Nathan is about to con a corrupt judge out of thousands of dollars when the bank is robbed and the robbers take everyone hostage when the police arrive. The robbers turn out to be father and son who only rob the place to get money to pay off some thugs holding the father's wife for ransom. The judge figures out that he is being scammed and when he disarms the robbers, he uses the gun to shoot Nathan. When the cops storm the bank in the end, the team has arranged things to look like the judge was the sole robber and hostage taker. All the witnesses back them up since the judge is reviled by everyone and the cops will not investigate further since they hate his guts as well. Planted drugs also didn't help the judge's image.
  • In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "The Gang Gets Taken Hostage", the McPoyle's make the gang put on their signature bathrobes and briefs (in Dee's case it's an over sized Garfield t-shirt) because "it's far too obvious who the hostages are in this situation".
  • Someone pulls this on Clark in Smallville after he's begun officially superheroing. The rest of the episode is devoted to him needing to develop his "Kryptonian intuition" to avoid this sort of thing, something he could've done just by x-raying the "gunman," although he had no reason to suspect him.
    • Another episode has Roulette dressing up a bound and gagged Lois Lane in a replica of her costume in order to trick Green Arrow into shooting her.
  • On Psych (episode "Ferry Tale") escaping convicts on a ferry surrounded by the police take prisoners inside and pretend to shoot them. When the police raid the boat and take two wounded "hostages" to one of their boats they discover too late that two of the criminals are in fact convicts.
  • On the 1970's anthology show Police Story they had an episode which was the pilot for SWAT. A killer brings out his hostage and the commander orders his snipers to shoot the "hostage" because he sees a glint of chrome on the killer that he realizes are handcuffs meaning they have switched roles. Of course if the glint was from a handgun ... but that is never mentioned
  • Inverted during the hostage crisis in season 5 of 24 when Jack notices one of the supposed hostages being handed something by one of the terrorists. The otherwise perfectly inconspicuous looking man was wearing a bright yellow tie, a pretty crappy choice when you want to blend in.
  • In Fargo, Malvo tricks the cops into wasting their time and killing Don Chumph this way: he uses duct tape to gag, tie him to an exercise wheel, and stick an unloaded shotgun in his hand which was pointed at the front door. He draws the cops' attention by firing a rifle at some cars outside, leaves, and then a tripwire makes the rifle fire more once the SWAT team arrives. When the team entered the front door, the light was in their eyes, so all they saw was a silhouette of a man holding a shotgun. Since the exercise wheel kept him propped up even after being shot, the entire squad continued firing continuously for several seconds until they could see he was dead.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Klang does this to Pat Ryan in Terry and the Pirates. Having captured Pat, Klang dresses him a Japanese uniform, gags him and ties him to a post so he looks like a sentry in the fake camp the Dragon Lady is about to attack.

    Video Games 
  • In the intro level of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, the enemies do this to an archer. However, because it's an intro level, it functions more as a demo of how to recruit enemy units than a real challenge.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, Nale switches outfits and facial hair with a semiconscious Elan and makes it appear that "Nale" was about to sacrifice "Elan" when the cops and the rest of the Order show up. Elan is then jailed, and Nale travels with the Order until they figure it out.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender "Zuko Alone" it was mentioned that the Fire Nation did this with Earth Kingdom prisoners-of-war.
  • Inverted in the Thundercats 2011 episode "Omens Part Two," when Catfolk King Claudus learns that invading Lizards are holding Panthro, his friend and best General, in a Hostage for MacGuffin. Rather than acquiece, Claudus promptly ditches his bodyguards to cut a rapid path to Panthro, who he successfully rescues. Panthro then stabs Claudus In the Back, and reveals himself to be Sorcerous Overlord and series Big Bad Mumm-Ra, in illusory disguise.
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold,Star Sapphire does this to a British reporter named Georgette Taylor. She uses her power ring to immobilize Taylor and encase her in a Star Sapphire costume, and then sends her flying off into the distance. Batman and Green Lantern waste time trying to capture the fake Star Sapphire while the real one carries out her nefarious scheme.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Sedusa once traded clothes with Miss Bellum and claimed to have captured 'Sedusa' to trick the girls, who fortunately wouldn't believe Ms. Bellum would singlehandedly defeat Sedusa.

    Real Life 
  • Sad Real Life example: The memoirs of a WWII soldier whose unit was pursuing some demoralized German troops through the Italian countryside. At one point, the Germans (who turned out to be deserters) forced two unlucky Italian farm wives out to check for an ambush, dressed up in German uniforms. The unfortunate women were shot from long range by the unknowing GIs, and the Americans ramped up their pursuit in outrage over being tricked into killing hapless civilians.

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