Stolen Good, Returned Better
Bob has stolen something from Alice. And That's Terrible
. Bob then proceeds to upgrade, repair, or otherwise improve his stolen goods. But somehow — whether by Bob returning it, Alice stealing it back, or a random coincidence — Alice gets her stuff back. While she might have been unhappy about the theft, she's pleasantly surprised at Bob's improvements.
See also Honest Axe
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Anime and Manga
- This happens to pretty much all the Gundams in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (except for Heavyarms). OZ recovers Wing and Sandrock after they self-destruct, and when they're stolen back, they're in much better condition (Wing has an explanation, Sandrock not so much). Deathscythe and Shenlong get badly damaged and captured in space, but the Gundam Engineers (who have been captured by OZ) upgrade them in secret before handing them back to the boys.
- In an early episode of Pokémon, Team Rocket steals a Ditto belonging to the professional impersonator Duplica, only to discover that it cannot mimic faces properly. They promptly whip it into shape, and when Duplica and the protagonists show up to steal it back, Duplica gives them heartfelt thanks for helping Ditto overcome its problem.
- In Code Geass, after Kallen and her Guren are captured by Britannia, they strap a crapload of high-tech upgrades onto it only for her to break out and steal it right back. Rakshata, its creator, is surprisingly not happy about the Britannian's modifications, though they did come from her principal scientific rival.
- The Lupin III movie, Operation Return The Treasure had a past The Rival of Lupin's named Mark. Mark left a video will for Lupin, asking him to return some of the things he had stolen. For almost everything Mark asks Lupin to return, he left a replica, probably to prevent his targets from noticing the theft before he got away. The replicas Mark left after his thefts were good enough to fool most folks, but imagine how thrilled his former targets are to get the real things back! Poor Zenigata, however, is VERY confused at first.
- In Back to the Future, Marty McFly steals a kid's scooter in the past, ripping off the handles so it's just the board. When he gives it back, it's the world's first skateboard.
- He does something similar in the future, ganking a Barbie-branded Hoverboard from a little girl. When he goes to return it, she lets him keep it because she found Griff's high-end, rocket-propelled "Pit Bull" instead.
- In The Rocketeer, Cliff and Peevey don't steal the rocket from Howard Hughes, but Peevey's reverse-engineering improves its acceleration and also designing a helmet which improves flight greatly impresses Hughes.
- In Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, Amelie "borrows" her retired father's garden gnome and gives it to a stewardess friend of hers with the instructions that the stewardess take photos of the gnome at famous landmarks and mailing them back to Amelie's father, in a effort to get him out of his doldrums. This is something that does happen in real life, and the movie helped popularize the practice.
- In the Wyatt novels by Garry Disher, whenever Wyatt steals a car, he always leaves it in a parking lot with a full tank of petrol.
- Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files once said that he got a note from a prospective carjacker offering to steal him something better. This is because his Blue Beetle is The Alleged Car; Harry can't drive anything more modern because of his magic, which shorts out anything that was invented after the integrated circuit.
- In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, this is what the Grinch claims he's doing when Cindy Lou Who catches him, saying "I'll fix it up there, and bring it back here." By the end, it's only half-true, since he returns all the Christmas items, but hasn't really improved them.
- The Sopranos: Dr. Melfi is having trouble with her car, and with the mechanics who are fixing it. When Tony learns this during one of his therapy sessions, he has her car stolen, fixed, and returned that night. She's grateful, but not happy about it.
- Played with in this segment from The Unpleasant World of Penn & Teller. Stephen Fry reluctantly parts with his expensive watch, which Penn And Teller proceed to improve. Specifically (and in order), the watch becomes waterproof, shock-resistant, smashed to bits, capable of holding fifty phone numbers, and fish-proof.
- An episode of Las Vegas has Mike borrow his boss Big Ed's convertible to take on a date. While out, the car gets stolen by Mike's date, and Mike tracks it down to a chop shop. When they tell the man in charge whose car it is, he apologizes, has it put back together, detailed, and returned, except the radio favorites which Ed yelled at Mike about.
- In an episode of Michael Bentine's Potty Time, a thief steals Nelson's Column, the Effiel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. It turns out the thief was actually having them cleaned as a gift to the governments of the UK, France and the USA and returned them in 'as-new' condition.
- In an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Nog "borrows" General Martok's supply of bloodwine to complete a trade for needed starship parts. Martok is understandably pissed, but is mollified when he gets back bloodwine of a much finer vintage.
- In In Nomine, this is the modus operandi of Kyriotates, angels who manifest by possessing human bodies. (And animals, and in some cases plants and machines.) They suffer dissonance if they leave the host in a worse condition than when they "borrowed" it, so they'd rather be safe than sorry and put in some extra effort. Their demonic counterparts, the Shedim, couldn't care less about their host and take pleasure in corrupting it.
- In Chrono Trigger, Dalton steals the Epoch. But when the heroes steal it back, it can fly.
- In Fallout 2, your car may be stolen in Reno, but if you find it in the chop shop, the guys who stole it will helpfully return it to you better than before.
- In the classic text-adventure game Zork, one of the treasures you find is a golden egg... but if you let the thief steal it, when you find his lair later, you find that the egg has been opened, and it contains a golden singing bird—much more valuable!
- In Shadows of the Servants, a dark creature snatches a voodoo doll from you, tearing its neck in the process. The same doll turns up later in another room, and removing its now-loosened head reveals a key you need.
- In Freefall, Sam steals his neighbor's truck, claiming it to be "borrowing" — he did intend to return it, after all. Florence works on it for a while before returning it. It runs a bit better afterward.
- An Urban Legend says Mister Rogers' car was stolen, and when the thief discovered that that was whom he robbed, returned it after detailing it.
- Snopes covered it here.
- There have been incidents of stolen lawn ornaments like gnomes, eventually returned to the owner with a book of photographs showing the gnome in distant and exotic locations, if the photographs aren't sent from the location itself. The practice was a key part of the movie Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, as described above, which helped popularize it.