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If I Do Not Return
Llewelyn: If I don't come back, tell mother I love her.
Carla Jean: Your mother's dead, Llewelyn.
Llewelyn: Well then I'll tell her myself.

The hero is about to undertake something that he must do on his own, leaving his Sidekick or support team behind. He plans to return in a certain period of time, but the contingency instructions are given to those left behind in case the unthinkable happens and he cannot come back to them. Usually he'll tell them to go on without him, or go for help. Occasionally, the hero will say "Tell my Love Interest I love him/her" and the Sidekick will reply "Tell him/her yourself."

Phrasing may vary along the lines of "If I do not return," or "If I don't make it back", of course.

In comedic situations, the hero will say "keep waiting" or "come rescue me" instead of "go on without me". In another semi-comedic variant, the hero's instructions may be something frivolous - willing a personal possession which is usually somehow comical to the other character, or telling them not to mess with the hero's stuff. If the hero doesn't say this, it may lead to If You Die I Call Your Stuff anyway.

May also lead to a Video Will firing off if the hero does not return. See also Wait Here and Dead Man Writing. Occasionally this line follows or leads into More Hero Than Thou or More Expendable Than You (particularly if the sidekick or anti-villian ally feels the call of Redemption Equals Death)

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist - Roy Mustang is entering Central Command to confide in a high-ranking general about what he's learned regarding the plot. He tells his right-hand woman/bodyguard Riza Hawkeye to wait for him, but that if anything goes wrong, she should get herself out. (She refuses, of course.)
    • Not only does she refuse to get herself out - she refuses to even let him go until he promises that he will come back alive.
    • When Buccaneer and a squad of Briggs soldiers are investigating the tunnel built by Sloth, they arrange for the tunnel to be sealed off after a set time, whether they come back or not (if they don't come back by then, they most likely got killed). They do manage to return to the tunnel entrance after an encounter with Pride, but after the agreed time, and are certain that Oliver has sealed off the tunnel. To their surprise, the entrance is still open. When they question the guard at the entrance after exiting, he tells them that their time hasn't expired, and shows them the broken watch Olivier gave him to prove it.
  • Done in Monster Rancher, as Genki tasks Mocchi with finding the Phoenix should Pixie capture him along with the others.

    Film 
  • Hot Shots! Part Deux:
    "If I'm not back in fifteen minutes, you know what to do."
    "Go on without you?"
    "No. Wait another fifteen minutes!"
  • "...call the Pope!" (Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter)
  • Big Trouble in Little China:
    Jack Burton: Okay. You people sit tight, hold the fort and keep the home fires burning. And if we're not back by dawn... call the President.
  • Ace Ventura also did the "... just wait longer" line. Of course, Ace wasn't really going into dangerous territory. He was going down into an emptied dolphin tank to look around.
  • Mission to Mars did it straight, although obviously the guy disobeyed the order or we'd get a Downer Ending where they're stuck on Mars with no way out. In retrospect, it seems like they should have been asking the alien to hurry up the holographic history lesson since they gave the guy such a short time limit.
  • I Am Legend: "If I'm not back by dark... just... just go." And he's saying this to his dog.
    • To maintain his sanity; he's been totally alone for three years, save for the dog.
    • And some traitorous mannequins.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Kirk and company are trapped in an asteroid.
    Kirk: Captain Spock. If you don't hear from us within one hour, your orders are to restore what power you can, take the Enterprise to the nearest starbase and alert Starfleet Command when out of jamming range.
    Uhura: Sir, we won't leave you behind!
    Kirk: Uhura, if you don't hear from us, there won't be anybody behind.
    • However subverted in that Kirk was talking in code (hours meaning days) because he suspected Khan was tapping into the signal.
    • Star Trek
    Spock: Jim. The statistical likelihood that our plan will succeed is less than 4.3%.
    Kirk: It'll work.
    Spock: In the event that I am unsuccessful, please tell Lieutenant Uhura—
    Kirk: Spock. It'll work.
    • Also in the very beginning, when Captain Robau speaks with George Kirk before going to the Narada.
    Robau: If I don't report in 15 minutes, evacuate the crew.
    Kirk: Sir, we could issue...
    Robau: There isn't any help for us out here. Use autopilot, and get off the ship.
    Kirk: Aye, Captain.
  • Subtly alluded to in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. When Gibbs asks Jack Sparrow what they should do if Sparrow and Will Turner don't return, Jack's only reply is "Keep to the Code", meaning "if we don't come back, go on without us". Or thereabouts, they're more like guidelines anyway.
  • Hilarious subversion in Serenity:
    Mal: Zoe, ship is yours. Remember. If anything happens to me, or if you don't hear from me within the hour, you take this ship... and you come and rescue me.
    Zoe: What, and risk my ship?
    Mal: I mean it. It's cold out there. And I don't wanna get left.
  • In Sky High Will and Ron Wilson, bus driver, have this exchange:
    Will: If I'm not back in 30 minutes...
    Ron: Come in after you!
    Will: ...I was gonna say "get help".
    Ron: [crestfallen] Get help. Right.
  • Die Hard. John McClane is talking to his friend Sgt. Al Powell on the radio during the siege:
    McClane: Listen, I'm starting to get a bad feeling up here. I want you to do something for me. I want you to find my wife. Don't ask me how. By then you'll know how. I want you to tell her that...Tell her it took me a while to figure out...what a jerk I've been...that when things started to pan out for her...I shoulda been more supportive. And I just should have been behind her more. Tell her that she's the best thing that ever happened to a bum like me. She's heard me say "I love you" a thousand times. She never heard me say "I'm sorry". I want you to tell her that, Al. Tell her that John said that he was sorry.
    Powell: But you can tell her that yourself. You just watch your ass and you'll make it out. You hear me?
    McClane: I guess that's up to the man upstairs.
    [Note: Holly Gennaro (McClane's wife) was one of the hostages at the time.]
  • Outbreak: Sam is racing against time to find and stop The Virus and knows the odds are against him. He stops to warn his almost ex-wife that the military is making troubling decisions.
    Sam Daniels: If I'm not back by 1800 hours, and you're not symptomatic — leave.
    Robby Daniels: Wh-what?
    Sam Daniels: Leave. Town.
  • Used in 9, before the titular character goes to rescue 7 and 8 from The Seamstress.
    9: If I don't come back...destroy it.
  • Monsters vs. Aliens: "I'll try to come back for you if I can. If I don't, it means I am dead... or late."
  • No Country for Old Men.
    Llewelyn: If I don't come back, tell mother I love her.
    Carla Jean: Your mother's dead, Llewelyn.
    Llewelyn: Well then I'll tell her myself.
  • Beethoven has this kind of quote when the father goes and check inside the lab, he tells his wife and kids to call the police if he doesn't come back in 15 minutes. His wife later followed him and tells the kids almost the same thing.
  • To Be or Not to Be (1983): Subverted when actor Frederick, disguised as Professor Siletski, has to go to Gestapo Headquarters in a suicide mission and talks to his wife maybe for the last time:
    Frederick Bronski: Listen, sweetheart, if I don't come back, then I forgive you for anything that happened between you and Lt. Sobinski.
    [He opens the door to leave, but turns back]
    Frederick Bronski: But if I do come back, you're in a lot of trouble!
  • Parodied in Gozu, where one Yakuza is brother giving this speech in a overly dramatic manner.
  • The Negotiator. When things are going badly and Danny Roman believes that he will soon be killed by the corrupt cops, he asks Maggie for a favor.
    Will you tell my wife something for me? Tell her I was trying to keep my promise.
  • Pro Wrestlers Vs Zombies features a scene where Shane Douglas and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan extract promises from each other that, should they die, they need the other to tell their family they died well. Then Douglas purposefully traps Duggan in a room full of zombies For the Evulz.
  • Somewhat subverted in Dredd: "If I don't make it back, you might not want to be taken alive. Your call."

    Literature 
  • In Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn novel Xenos, Eisenhorn goes out scouting and tells his retinue that he should be back within a couple of hours. When he is captured, one leaves after this time; which is why the navy arrives to save them from the Chaos cult.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, where the commander Johnny Rico tells his second in command as they're about to go out on a mission, "Have fun, and remember, if I buy it, you're the boss."
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, Skulduggery has pulled this on Stephanie, asking her amongst other things to not fiddle with the radio because he's just got it set right.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Nathaniel tells Bartimaeus to say hi to Kitty for him, which is as close as he'll get to a confession of love. Of course, there's not much of and "if" involved here.

    Live Action TV 
  • Alias episode "The Box"
    Michael Vaughn: If I'm not back in a couple of hours, I'm probably dead.
  • One Tree Hill episode "Every Night Is Another Story"
    Haley James: I saw a gas station about a mile down the road, if I'm not back in an hour, tell my mom I loved her.
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians on MST3K:
    Voldar: Now, if we're not back in three hours, you know what to do.
    Tom Servo: Go ahead and order without us.
  • Bones: Brennan wants to have a baby, and has asked Booth to donate the sperm for artificial insemination. He's ambivalent about it, and eventually says he doesn't want to donate if he won't be involved in raising the child; but when he goes in for Serious Brain Surgery he tells her "If I don't make it, I want you to have my stuff."
  • Stargate SG-1
    • Daniel does this in the première episode.
    • Jack also does it in "The Other Guys", but stops himself before saying exactly what they should do.
    If we're not back in five minutes... *shrugs*
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    • Garak has fun with this in the episode "Improbable Cause":
    Garak: If you go into my quarters, and examine the bulkhead next to the replicator, you'll notice there's a false panel. Behind that panel is a compartment containing an isolinear rod. If I'm not back in seventy-eight hours, I want you to take that rod... and eat it.
    Bashir: Eat it? You're joking.
    Garak: Yes, Doctor. I am.
    • Played straight in the episode "Visionary". When O'Brien undergoes a potentially fatal time-travel experiment, he tells Bashir that he recorded a message for his wife Keiko if anything should happen.
  • Torchwood. In one episode Gwen, thinking she's about to die, turns to Ianto and says "Tell Jack I l-" only to be cut off when rescue arrives. The only problem is that Ianto is Jack's boyfriend.
  • Monk. The first part of the series finale, "Mr. Monk and The End", shows Monk opening the final Christmas gift Trudy gave him; it's revealed that it's an "If I don't come back" tape that could have helped him solve her murder within days of her death.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Satan Pit", the Doctor - while hanging from a wire in a possibly fathomless chasm and planning to cut himself loose - asks Ida to tell Rose... "...Oh, she knows."
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    Kirk: "Spock, if this doesn't work..." [beat]
    Spock: [nods once, his eyes downcast] "Understood."
    • In "The Tholian Web", Spock and McCoy view the message Kirk left behind for this contingency when Kirk is lost and presumed dead.
  • In 24 Day 8, a suicide bomber says "Tell my mother that I'm sorry." before he explodes.
  • In Blackadder the Third "Nob and Nobility", Edmund, supposedly on his way to Revolutionary France, leaves Prince George with this touching message:
    Blackadder: "If I don't make it back, please write to my mother and tell her that I've been alive all the time, it's just that I couldn't be bothered to get in touch with the old bat."
  • Married... with Children episode "T*R*A*S*H" had the following conversation:
    Griff: "If I don't make it, would you look up my ex-wife and..."
    Al: "And tell her that you love her?"
    Griff: "No, tell her that she's a bitch!"
  • Zoe uses a serious version in Firefly: when Mal and Wash are kidnapped, she instructs the crew to get out of the quadrant should she not return from her rescue effort after a reasonable amount of time.
    • Mal, on the other hand...
    Mal: "Remember, if anything happens to me, or you don't hear from me within the hour... you take this ship and you come and you rescue me. ... I mean it. It's cold out there, I don't wanna get left."
  • Game of Thrones. Tyrion asks Camp Follower Shae to shed a few tears for him if he's killed in today's battle. Shae asks how would he know if she wept for him if he was dead.
  • On the first Christmas episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye (dressed as Santa) has to take a chopper to where a wounded soldier waits to be treated in the middle of gunfire. His exchange with Trapper:
    Hawkeye: If I don't come back...Merry Christmas.
    Trapper: Tell me when you get back.
  • Supernatural. Rejected by macho Dean when his little brother tries to get all soppy on him.
    Sam: Dean, if this doesn't go the way we want, I want you to know that—
    Dean: Oh no no no.
    Sam: No what?
    Dean: You're not going to bust out the misty-eyed goodbye speech, OK? I mean if this is going to be my last day on Earth, I do not want it to be socially awkward.
  • The Unit has a more cold depiction. Searching for his daughter, a US soldier kidnapped in Iraq, Jonas Blane walks into a mosque, explosives strapped to his chest, and calmly informs the occupants that he will count to three. If they do not help him, he will kill himself and everyone inside. He then tells his comrades to leave, and find his daughter for him.

    Music 
  • "Bohemian Rhapsody", by Queen.
    If I'm not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on.
  • From "Rael" by The Who:
    Narrator:
    If a yellow flag is fluttering
    Sickly herald against the morn
    Then you'll know my courage has ended
    And you'll send your boat ashore
    But if a red flag is flying
    Brazen bold against the blue
    Then you'll know that I am staying
    And my yacht belongs to you
    Captain:
    He's crazy if he thinks we're coming back again
    He's crazy if he thinks we're coming back again
    He's crazy if he thinks we're coming back again
    He's crazy, anyway
  • "Die With Honor" by Manowar.
    If I do not return
    Bring my body on my shield
    Tell my son I chose to die
    I chose to die than yield
  • "Warriors of the World" By Manowar.
    If I should fall in battle, my brothers who fight by my side
    Gather my horse and weapons, tell my family how I died
  • In "If I Don't Make It Back" by Tracy Lawrence, a man makes requests of what he wants his friends to do in his honor should he not return from battle. He doesn't.
    Have a beer for me, don't waste no tears on me
    On Friday night, sit on the visitors' side and cheer for the home team
    Drive my Camaro 90 miles an hour down Red Rock Road
    With 'Born to Run' blastin' on the radio
    And find someone good enough for Amy, who'll love her like I would have
    If I don't make it back"

    Video Games 

    Web Comic 

     Web Original 
  • Played for comedy in Manwhores when Randy is about to go on his mission to Dead Man's Cove he says to Greg "If I don't come back, there's a load gun under the pillow. Kill yourself." after kneeing Greg in the crotch during a Final Speech.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman And Mister Freeze Subzero
    Batman: If I'm not back in time go without me.
    Robin: WHAT!?
  • Freakazoid!: If I'm not back in five minutes...keep waiting.
  • The Simpsons
    • In the episode when Homer starts bootlegging beer during Prohibition he starts telling Marge "If we're not back, avenge our deaths" when he and Bart go out to deliver their brew. Marge agrees to do so.
    • In another episode, Homer's father needed a kidney and Homer agreed to donate one. Out of fear he wouldn't survive the operation, Homer asked Marge to destroy the hospital if he didn't survive.
  • Fairly Oddparents
    • In one episode Timmy tells Cosmo and Wanda, "If I don't make it...tell my dad...he's weird."
    • In "The Gland Plan", Cosmo and Anti-Cosmo needed each other's fa giggly gland. Cosmo said that, if he doesn't surive, Anti-Cosmo must stay away from Cosmo's wife. Anti-Cosmo said that if he survives, Cosmo can keep his.
  • American Dad!: After getting shot, Stan says, "Tell Roger... he's annoying."
  • Futurama's Neutral Commander: "If I don't make it, tell my wife I said... hello."
  • Rugrats: Chuckie was about to do something scary and said, "If anything happens to me, Tommy, I want you to have my potty."
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: "Chip, if I don't come back...take care of Gary." ("Chip" is a potato chip he befriended when a severe injury left him afraid to go outside. When he left, Gary ate Chip.)
  • In Daria's "The Road Worrier", Daria is quietly mortified that she is forced to get out of the van and pee in the woods because of them being stuck in heavy traffic. "If I'm not back in 10 minutes... Don't. Send. Help."
  • From one episode of the original ThunderCats:
    Lion-O: (to Tygra) If I do not come back, you are the new lord of the ThunderCats.
  • Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats has this during the scene where they rescue Benny from the dog pound, but argue over gets to go:
    Top Cat: "Never mind, I'll go, but if I'm not back in 10 minutes, take off without me."
  • In A Garfield Christmas, when Jon gets Garfield to put the star on top of the Christmas tree and Garfield accepts, he says, "If I'm not back in an hour, send a banana cream pie after me."
  • In the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode "Turtlemania":
    April: If I'm not back in 10 minutes...
    Irma: Can I have your blue sweater?
    April: Call the Turtles.
  • In The Mighty B!:
    Bessie: (about to use a Taffy puller (It Makes Sense in Context)) Happy, if anything happens to me, I bequeath to you the hive. (Beat; to her brother) You can have my shoes.


If I Can't Have YouStock PhrasesIf I Had a Nickel

alternative title(s): If I Dont Return
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