Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure

Robin: I'm going solo! [storms away]
Commission Gordon: What the hell happened?

This is when, just before the third act and when things are at their worst, the protagonist is abandoned by their best friend. Here's how it normally plays out:

It's been a long, hard road for the protagonist. They've fought their way through rising complications, twists and turns, and unexpected outcomes, yet are the furthest from achieving their goal since the story began. Good thing they have their best buddy to help them when all other lights have failed.

Or not. Apparently the stresses involved with The Quest have taken their toll on the relationship, stretching it to the point of breaking. And then one last thing, one straw to break the camel's back, perturbs the protagonist, and in a moment of rashness, he lets loose a barrage of atomic Jerkassness on his best buddy.

Unfortunately the best buddy, the calm head and stalwart that promised to stick by the hero through thick and thin, he's got his breaking point, too, and the protagonist's last action just crossed the line. The best buddy abandons the protagonist, leaving them with nothing by way of support—and just at the worst possible time to boot. That is because the Plot Mandated Friendship Failure is always set to go off right before the protagonist has to face his biggest challenge in The Climax.

Expect a change of heart and a last minute save by the best buddy in the climax, thus reinforcing The Power of Friendship.

A staple of buddy pictures, where the friendship drives the plot.

Compare Second-Act Breakup, in which the relationship in question is a romantic one. See also Et Tu, Brute?, where the buddy betrays the protagonist instead of just leaving.

Examples of this trope are found in the following works:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime And Manga 
  • The Pokémon anime:
    • Team Rocket fall apart quite a few times.
    • Ash himself has had incidents with May and Dawn early on in their respective sagas as well as one with Iris near the end of hers.note 
    • And later done with Ash and Serena's Mirror Selves with Main!Ash helping to patch things up.
  • Many early episodes of Pretty Cure tend to have these episodes, especially ones where there's only two Cures and they usually happen in the eighth episode. Futari wa Pretty Cure, Futari wa Pretty Cure MaX Heart and Futari Wa Pretty Cure Splash Star are those who fit this description. Yes! Pretty Cure 5 still involved two, but was part of a Five-Man Band, HeartCatch Pretty Cure! had their happen in the fourth episode and Suite Pretty Cure ♪ is built on this trope.
    • Happiness Charge Pretty Cure actually defies this trope. When Iona reveals Hime's Dark Secret, Megumi ends up confiding in Yuuko that she still trusts Hime no matter what. It takes until the next episode for Hime to know that, though.
  • This happens twice in the "Little Army" prequel manga of Girls und Panzer, where Miho's team is less stable than Anglerfish Team in the anime. In Chapter 2, Chihiro and Emi have an argument over Emi's abrasive personality, resulting in Chihiro's best friend Hitomi talking to her, while Miho talks with Emi. In Chapter 4, Miho and Emi have a fight over Emi saying that she "hates" Miho's older sister, Maho, despite never having met her before. Miho comes up with an idea of having her crew get into a tankery match against her sister's, in order to help Emi understand Maho, but has to talk things over with Emi before she can agree to get her involved.


    Film — Animated 
  • In Shrek the Third, when Shrek and Artie are captured by Prince Charming, Shrek says how little Artie means to him. Artie seems very upset until, after Charming releases Artie, Donkey tells him Shrek did that to save his life.
  • Monsters, Inc.: When Sully and Mike are banished to the Himalayas, and Sully's first concern is Boo, Mike tells him "you're on your own."
  • Wreck-It Ralph seems to have found a friend in little Vanellope Von Schweetz, an outcast girl who wants to race in her game Sugar Rush but can't because of her "glitch." When Sugar Rush leader King Candy tells Ralph Vanellope can't race because her "glitch" will cause the game to be rendered out of order and doom her in the game forever, Ralph buys it and destroys Vanellope's kart, which fractures their friendship tremendously. Only later does Ralph realize he got played by King Candy and goes on to make amends with Vanellope.
  • Happens in Treasure Planet when Jim overhears Silver telling his men he was only pretending to be his friend to gain his trust.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A variant occurs in A New Hope, where Han Solo leaves just before the Death Star arrives, on good, if bitter, terms with the heroes. His exchange with Luke in particular is pretty cordial, but his desire for money, not dying, and settling things with Jabba outweighs any loyalty he may feel. Until, of course, he comes swooping in at the last second to save Luke and secure his final trench run.
  • The Movie of Get Smart features this split between Agents 86 and 99.
  • The Green Hornet movie has a falling out between Britt and Kato over who gets the girl and who the real hero is. It culminates with an argument over whether they're a boss and employee, or friends. They make up in time to face off with the Big Bad. And for the record, the Girl makes it clear she's not interested in being the romantic interest for either of them.
  • The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of the King: Inverted. Just when he needs him most, Frodo sends Sam away due to Gollum's ploy. Moments later he's paralyzed by Shelob. Luckily, The Power of Friendship prevails. (In the book, they're just separated in the maze of caves.)
  • The Rush Hour movies feature this between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
  • Shanghai Noon features such a split between Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson.
  • The Scooby-Doo film begins with one of these, and it isn't completely mended until about the 3/4 mark of the film.
  • Wayne's World: After Wayne erupts into a total Jerkass and ditches him during a live taping of the titular show, Garth dumps him. Their make up leads directly into Wayne hatching the plan to defeat the Big Bad.
  • The Rugrats Movie: Phil, Lil and Chuckie abandon Tommy and Dil in the forest when the twins get sick and tired of Tommy constantly protecting Dil over them. In the twins' case, though, it may be more of With Friends Like These..., as they've been shown to abandon ship whenever things go wrong for them.
  • Inverted in 30 Minutes or Less: The two main characters Nick and Chet actually have their falling out at the beginning of the film and are forced to get back together later after Nick gets the bomb strapped to his chest. Near the end, when things truly go to hell and it's revealed that not only have the antagonists betrayed them but Nick's poor actions have led to Chet's sister getting kidnapped and held hostage, Chet instead states what's done is done and that they just have to keep working to find a way to get out of this problem.
  • This generally happens at one point in all three Harold and Kumar movies.
  • Played with but ultimately averted in Superbad. Evan and Seth do start bickering late in the film, but never really split up.
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Alfred finally abandons Bruce, unwilling to watch him destroy himself any longer.
  • Because it necessarily leaves out much of the context from the book, Ron's falling out with Harry in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire seems somewhat jarring and puzzling.

  • The Dark Tower: In the last book of the series, right before Roland is to meet up with The Crimson King and end his quest to find The Dark Tower, Susannah, the last human in his ka-tet to survive, decides to leave Roland citing his obsession with the tower and the quest over the health of his friends. Notable in that she doesn't come back to assist him at the last moment to help him defeat the Big Bad.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron and Harry argue over the lack of progress they're making in their quest, ultimately ending in Ron leaving the group. He returns in time to save Harry's life and destroy a Horcrux. The third and fourth books also have "break-ups" (Ron and Hermione in the third, Harry and Ron in the fourth), but earlier in the structure.
  • In the third Pyrates book, George upsets his friends with how dangerous the adventure has gotten, causing them to decide not to accompany him when he goes exploring again. However, they come to his rescue after he ends up getting lost.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, if whatever Jack Frost stole is related to friendship, Rachel and Kirsty will argue. This is most prevalent in Juliet the Valentine Fairy's book.
  • The Dresden Files: Murphy does this in both Storm Front and Fool Moon, before learning to trust Harry on supernatural matters.

    Live Action Television 
  • One Saved by the Bell episode featured Zack and Screech making a friendship bracelet business only to be upstaged by the rest of the Six Student Clique, who were selling 'Buddy Bands'. Before the last commercial break, Screech quits (albeit after Zack, desperate for sales, gives Screech away as a "friend for an hour"), leaving Zack alone. This example is unusual in that it did not result in a The Power of Friendship moment, it instead resulted in Zack exacting revenge by destroying their business by buying a Buddy Band and giving it to the school principal, whose proud display of it makes it instantly unpopular to wear.
  • The fourth-last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has all of Buffy's friends (including her own sister) remove her from leading them and kick her out of her own house after one bad mission that results in two dead Potentials and Xander losing an eye. Played with slightly in that Giles connived things so that Spike and Andrew were sent away for the day, likely so they wouldn't be there to take Buffy's side.
    • It should be noted that the Buffy-less group immediately goes and screws up in exactly the manner they accused Buffy of doing (recklessly falling into a trap that gets even more people killed). While they are doing that, Buffy heads off to complete the mission she was pitching when she got overthrown, succeeds on her own, acquires the MacGuffin that's key to saving the day, and kills the Big Bad's Dragon. She's magnanimous enough not to point out how much she got done all alone when they apologize and ask her to be in charge again.
    • This also happened at the end of season 4 in "The Yoko Factor". This was actually exploited by Spike, who made it worse by getting all their problems out into the open to divide the Scoobies. They eventually make up and are stronger then ever, which helps them defeat the Big Bad.
  • Burn Notice: Michael is briefly abandoned by Fi and Sam while and because he is working with Larry. He calls them to make up but Larry has pulled a call forwarding trick on his phone to make Mike think they won't take his calls.
  • The entire fourth season of Supernatural leads up up this. A season of lying, mistrust and drinking demon blood comes to a head in a massive fight between Sam and Dean after which Sam leaves. Dean tries to call and apologize to Sam but divine intervention changes his message, leading Sam to pass the Despair Event Horizon and unwittingly start the Apocalypse with Dean arriving too late to stop him.
  • In the "Going Rogue" episode of The Flash (2014), both Barry and Dr. Wells are not impressed in how Cisco created the Cold Gun, a Kryptonite Ring to use against the Flash in case he turns up bad (Cisco mentions that he created the gun before getting to know Barry better). Barry would refuse to listen to Cisco for the rest of the episode until they make up near the end (after Cisco saves Barry's life).

     Web Video 
  • Monster Island Buddies: During the second season, Godzilla becomes addicted to drugs at one point. When he doesn't aknowledge this, Rodan and the other monsters fight and defeat him. Angrily, Godzilla runs away from Monster Island, with his past self as his only friend, while his friends try to use Gigan as a replacement.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • Happened a lot in Trollz, usually because of Simon. Justified as their friendship was the key to defeating him.
  • "The Night Of The Living Burger," an episode of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, starts off right away with Shaggy and Scooby on the outs. It was never made clear what they were arguing about, but they end up reconciling at the conclusion.
  • In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Scooby and Velma were on the outs with each other, quarreling over Shaggy for a time.
  • Rugrats tends to have these plots in its earlier days, though never involving all four main babies — either with Tommy and Chuckie or with both Phil and Lil.
  • In the episode "Homeward Pound" of Pound Puppies (2010), Vitriolic Best Buds Squirt and Niblet accidentally end up in Canada and after setting off for where Squirt thinks a town is. After a day, they get into a fight, and Niblet finally stands up to Squirt. The friendship is repaired once Squirt determines that not only was he wrong about which direction to go, but Niblet was right.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: "The Promise" starts with Banana Joe being mad at Gumball and Darwin. We never find out why.