In the early 90s, Miller Light had a television campaign based around this. For example in one 1993 commercial, a couple is arguing over whether to watch a dog show or drag racing. They then put Miller Light on top of the television, which apparently allows them to watch both. The result is more absurd than you'd expect.
One of the early PlayStation Vita ads addresses the dilemma of gaming vs. leaving for work with the cross-play option:
"It's a problem as old as gaming itself. Stay home and just keep playing, or get to work on time so your coffee-breathed boss doesn't ride like you like a rented scooter."
(person stops playing on PS3, continues his game on his Vita while leaving for work) "Who says you have to choose?"
One Pepsi commercial in the Philippines has one of these. A guy travels down a road and encounters two stalled vehicles. One is owned by a couple of cute cheerleaders. The other belongs to a band, who offer an ice box with the titular product. There comes a dilemma on who will hitch a ride with the guy? The commercial shows three different options. All of them ivolve the guy getting the Pepsi.
One has the guy offer the band his car, then use the cold water of the ice box to get the cheerleaders' van to run again.
Another is for the cheerleaders to ride inside the car while the band set themselves on top of the roof (a dangerous choice especially once they encounter a sign bend low enough)
The third is that all of them lay down on the road and form HELP with their bodies while sharing Pepsi with one another. Near the end of the commercial, a helicopter can be seen.
An Old El Paso commercial has taken this to Memetic Mutation levels: A family is trying to decide whether to have hard or soft tacos. Cue the little girl saying "¿Por que no los dos?" ("Why not both?")
Anime and Manga
In Naruto, The Power Trio of Nagato, Yahiko and Konan is cornered by Hanzo, who has young Konan as his hostage. Either Nagato had to kill his best friend Yahiko, or refuse and let Konan die. What happens in the end? Yahiko takes the third option: commiting suicide by grabbing Nagato's hand, which held a sharp kunai, and stab himself with it.
The Chuunin exams in one of the first arcs plays this slightly differently: the point of the insanely-hard test is to force the student ninja to cheat, so either they get caught cheating and are kicked out, or they prove their ninja skills by cheating without getting caught. Naruto turns in his test completely blank, and Sakuraworks out the answers herself. Both of them pass because they were never caught cheating.
While he rarely lets enemies limit his freedom to just two options, the Crazy AwesomeMagnificent Bastard Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass constantly turns the tide of seemingly lost engagements by doing what nobody would expect of him, i.e. always taking the hidden "third" option.
A much more extreme example exists in the closing episodes of season 1, showcasing one of Lelouch's worst "third choices". Trapped between accepting a potentially unfavorable agreement that would derail the Black Knights and give the Japanese a false sense of equality, and harming his sister, one option ruining his plans and stepping on his pride, and the other morally repugnant, he chooses to be shot and then blame it on his sister. Considering that setting up his own assassination would likely result in either hospitalisation, ruining his disguise, getting captured, or death, depending on accuracy, and horrify his sister, the writers go out of their way to force him to take one of the original two options, but in a far more cruel manner.
In Tower Of God, the Ranker Quant is at one point put in a bind by his examinees, being told to either hand over the badge of the It or let the hostages, other examinees, die. He tells that they can try and draw blood, but the moment they do, everybody will die. By his hands.
The ending of Darker than Black leaves Hei with the choice whether to envelop Hell's Gate — and Japan with it — in his quantum powers, allowing the Contractors to exist without fear of interference but isolating Japan from the rest of the world (and possibly killing off every non-contractor inside), or do nothing and let the humans destroy Hell's Gate, killing off the other Contractors and returning the world to normal; this choice is Hei effectively choosing whether to be a Contractor or a human. He decides to pick 'both'; his personae, combined, ruin the weapon intended to destroy Hell's Gate. This breaks the masquerade in the process and leads to an open human/Contractor coexistence.
Used in an episode of Trigun involving two lovers on the run from a slaver caravan. Said caravan is en route to a fortified city which will only grant entrance to travelers with a special key, which happens to be tattooed on one of the runaways' arm. The protagonists are faced with two options: help the couple elope, thereby stranding the caravan outside the city and condemning its inhabitants to slow death by starvation, or return them to the caravan, forcing them into a life of slaving and/or slavery. Instead, Vash fakes the runaways' deaths, thus allowing them to live free and sparing the caravan from responsibility for losing the key - nobody is going to blame them for the Six Million Double Dollar Man's actions. The trope is explicitly claimed in Nicholas Wolfwood's closing monologue: "All along I thought there had to be a sacrifice, but there was another answer: Vash the Stampede".
In a later episode, in response to a nasty Hostage Situation that is clearly a trap for all concerned, Wolfwood initially favors rushing in as the only course of action that will leave any of them alive. However, he adds...
Wolfwood: I know a guy who whines and cries until he finds a way to save everyone. A man who takes a stand, though it scars him from head to toe. And he's right here.
This is in fact Vash's standard policy in a hostile situation - try to find a way to let everybody live. At one point he suffers a Heroic BSOD when he can't figure out how to save everybody in time and is forced to kill the bad guy before he can harm anybody else. When he finally snaps out of the Heroic BSOD he promises that next time he'll find the third option.
This, combined with an examination of pacifism, is the Central Theme of the story. In the backstory, we see a moment when Vash and his twin Knives disagree over how to save a butterfly from a spider's web. Knives simply crushes the spider, while Vash complains that he wanted to save both. Knives points out that this policy would only result in the spider starving anyway. This is the essential conflict: Knives maintains a monoperspective realism about the relationship between humans and his race, while Vash idealistically seeks an alternative that allows everyone to benefit.
Examined as the subject of ⅓'s episode of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, though focusing on everyday third options. You know, the ones where you cannot make up your mind in a choice between two desirable options, and ends up choosing a third, undesirable option instead, and then ends up regretting it later on... Everyone together now: I'M IN DESPAIR!! BEING TROUBLED WITH CHOOSING SOMETHING AND ENDING UP SELECTING A THIRD OPTION HAS LEFT ME IN DESPAIR!!
While Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is fond of the heroes choosing difficult options, Episode 26 has a moment when the Anti-Spiral re-explains the consequences of using the Spiral power, then asks Simon if he is willing to destroy the universe for a "fleeting emotion." Simon grips his controls, glares through his star-glasses and declares he will save them both: the girl and the universe. Then he destroys the enemy by blasting through space and time.
This was a common tactic of Gon, the Kid Hero of Hunter × Hunter. In particular, in the beginning, the three heroes find that Only Smart People May Pass through town on their way to the Hunter Exam, in the form of a purely hypothetical Sadistic Choice that must be answered immediately with an "A" or "B" response. The two Kid Heroes figure out, by carefully examining the rules for loopholes and using their Super Senses to hear someone that got a "right" answer screaming in the distance, that silence is the real right answer, as no such decision should be taken so lightly. They then have to explain this to The Watson, who only passed because his moral outrage initially stunned him into silence for the duration of the time limit - outrage because no such decision should be taken so lightly. Later, in one of the official rounds of the tourna- I'm sorry, I mean Exam, this trope is played much more straight. Having picked up another hero and a by-then-revealed Lovable Traitor, and progressing down a timed dungeon of trials on a strictly all-or-none basis, they are told they must choose between leaving two people behind (presumably the Lovable Traitor and one close friend and take the short path to victory, or all run out of time together taking the long path. Gon, being The Messiah, refuses either, and since the doors are right next to each-other, he gets them to open the door to the long path, and work together with the LovableTraitor to dig through the wall to the short path.
In Rave Master, the main character had to choose between killing his girlfriend or dooming the whole of time to destruction at the hands of her out-of-control powers. Haru instead elects to Take a Third Option, sealing Ellie's powers to stop the threat and spare her life; his Well-Intentioned Extremist opponent, having failed to consider such an alternative due to his eagerness to Shoot the Dog, is broken down in defeat. This trope also played a part in a Prophecy Twist that foresaw the scenario, but lacking appropriate context, implied that Haru really did Shoot the Dog.
Gash in Gash Bell is given the choice of either saving a friend and dooming the rest of the world or letting the friend die and save the world from the threat. He takes the third option of first saving his friend, then the world.
In Cowboy Bebop, Spike is given the choice of surrendering or watching a mook put a bullet in Faye's head. Considering Spike is known to be a gunslinger of godlike ability, and that he's pointing a gun straight at said mook's head, you'd think they'd have foreseen his taking the third option...
Near the end of Case 6 of Ghost Hunt, the main cast finds out that the haunting is being caused by a a curse that the students of a school unknowingly put on the vice-principal. There are only two ways to end the haunting: allow the curse to complete, thus killing the VP, or turn the curse back on the students, possibly killing all of them in the process. At first it seems like Naru is going to take the latter of those two options, but then he takes a third option: he has Lin create effigies of all of the students, and those effigies are destroyed when the curse 'turns back on the students'.
In Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Earth is caught up in an inter-galactic war. Tylor is put in command of the whole fleet, ready for the big face-off with the approaching enemy fleet. All-out conflict seems inevitable, and no-one is sure whom will come out the victor. When the time comes, he gives one order - "Full speed ahead". The enemy commander, Dom, who's Tylor's Worthy Opponent, gives the same order. Members of both sides are screaming at them to order the attack, all while the ships get closer and closer to each other. Their respective flagships get close enough for them to physically see each other, and Tylor goes to the window. Standing there, he sticks out his hand, as if to give the order to attack, and Dom does likewise. Gun batteries are readied. The tension is unbearable. Then Tylor slowly and deliberately salutes the enemy commander, who, seeing his plan, returns and holds the salute until their fleets pass harmlessly by. War averted, both sides win.
Al of Fullmetal Alchemist does this when Kimblee asks him which option he and Edward will choose: getting their original bodies back or saving the world. Al asks why they can't do both, and goes on to explain that striving for what shouldn't be possible is the road to progress. Kimblee turns right around and deconstructs the trope by suggesting that, if the third option exists, there must then be a fourth option: fail in both their goals.
This comes up again in one of the most recent chapters, post 250, where Setsuna having lost, more or less, to the crazy swordswoman who's got a crush on her, believes she may actually have to give up on happiness, or leave protecting Konoka to others. she fails to notice, and it fails to interrupt her inner conflict, when a weapon comes flying out of a nearby fight. she slices with weapon in half without even breaking stride, leaving dear Konoka standing in awe. Konoka then proceeds to berate her, convinces her to make up her mind, and then we finally get the kiss we've all been waiting for. well, most fans have been waiting for...
In Gundam Wing, Heero Yuy given the choice to either give Wing Gundam to his enemies or have them slaughter everyone in the colonies by a Lady Unewho's in full puppy-kicking mode. What does he do? He calmly steps out of the cockpit, says his mission in life is over and pushes the self-destruction button, destroying his Gundam and almost killing himself in the process. That way Une won't have the Gundam, but she won't be able to kill the colonists due to the intervention of her leader Treize.
Gundam SEED and its sequel, Gundam SEED Destiny, has the patented method of resolving the wars of the Cosmic Era by building up another faction that proceeds to wipe the galaxy with the original sides.
Kazuki is faced with the choice to either use the white kakugane on himself and save his own life, or use the white kakugane on Victor and save the world. With Papillon's help he comes up with a third option of simply making another white kakugane and saving them both, but the white kakugane doesn't work entirely on Victor. So obviously he comes up with the fourth option of sending them both to the moon and supposedly killing both of them.
In Bleach, Zangetsu gives Ichigo three options. "Do you want to fight? Do you want to win? Or do you want to live?"
In the filler Bount arc, thanks to Mabashi, Orihime has to either attack a mindcontrolled Rukia or take a potentially fatal beating from her. Hisagi openly tells her that she'll have to fight Rukia, and Rukia herself begged Orihime to kill her before she was taken over, but there's no way Orihime would kill one of her friends... She decides to give Rukia a Cooldown Hugand activate her healing/barrier powers as she does so, managing to save Rukia eithout either attacking or letting her attack her.
It's speculated that Byakuya subtly invoked the trope in his last fight against Ichigo, at the end of the Soul Society arc. If he wins said match, his adopted sister Rukia will be executed and the promise he made to protect her (to his dying wife, Rukia's biological sister) will be broken, which will emotionally destroy him. If he openly loses the fight, his whole clan will be dishonored because he will have broken the law for personal gain and worse, broken a promise to his parents to uphold the law. So what does he do? Byakuya shows up, fights Ichigo, and then throws the fight at the very last moment, letting Ichigo win. That way Ichigo and his friends rescue Rukia and everyone thinks Byakuya did what he could to protect his honor. (And then comes The Reveal so everything else is forgotten, but Byakuya couldn't know that.)
In the "Land of Adults" chapter of Kino's Journey, a little girl (a younger Kino) is given the choice between death and a brain surgery that will render her a cheerful slave to her job. Hermes offers her a third option: escape and become a traveler.
Subverted in the original Yu-Gi-Oh!. Crazy-Prepared Dark Malik sets up the Yugi v/s Brainwashed and Crazy!Jounochi duel in such a way that there can't be a third option to take. If one wins, the other dies by being thrown into the sea with his feet cuffed so he'll drown. If one tries to forfeit to help the other, both will die. If someone else tries to interfere from the outside, a girl (Anzu) taken hostage and strapped to a seat near to the arena will be crushed to death by a HUGE metal box dangling over her head. How did this end up? Yugi still takes a third option: debrainwashing Jounochi and willingly setting himself to die. Then Jounouchi takes his as he manages to save Yugi and set himself to die. Either Jou's sister Shizuka (in the anime) or Kaiba (in the manga) rescue him. Oh, and Kaiba saves Anzu right before Jounouchi almost perishes, since she had saved his brother Mokuba earlier.
The video game adaption adds a simple option: Draw.
Ending a duel in a draw is also one of the only ways that both duelists in an Orichalcos duel can escape with their souls intact. (Apparently, however, Dartz's most important henchmen already knew that.)
Played more straight in the final duel between Yugi and Yami Marik, where Yami Marik sets up a dark game where the winner would lose the soul of their host; however, unbeknownst to everyone but Yami Marik, Yami Marik could live without his host persona. This is foiled when the original Marik finally gains the spiritual strength to switch places with Yami Marik, and then peacefully surrenders the game, eliminating the evil personality for good.
Happens in Akagi where Akagi wins a mah jongg game by making what would appear to be a stupid, illogical move. When asked to explain himself, he says "I'm not limited by your reasoning".
Sailor Moon will find a way to save everyone, specifically in the anime. Even when every other soldier is captured, she's beaten to a pulp, and the ONLY way to save the world is to give the bad guys what they want, Usagi will use the power of love, the power of friendship, or straight-up luck to save the world and her friends—and usually the bad guy, too.
Although this is heavily subverted in the Manga - Sailor Cosmostries to take a third option by traveling to the past in the guise of Chibi-Chibi and convincing her past self to destroy the Galaxy Cauldron and the newborn Eldritch Abomination inside it. This is shot down when Sailor Moon realizes that destroying the cauldron won't actually fix anything - said Abomination would be destroyed, yes, but the scenario would just repeat elsewhere. So no matter what happens, millions will die in a war against an invincible enemy....yay?
She still does take a third option, by purifying the Cauldron of Chaos' influence rather than destroying it or letting it remain as is. It's not a perfect solution as even that won't eliminate Chaos permanently, but it's better than the alternatives which would leave Chaos entirely unchecked, or similarly set him back temporarily and doom the galaxy to a slow death.
Prunus Girl: Ambiguously-crossdressing Aikawa puts Maki on the spot about what gender he regards him as by giving Maki a choice of two candies to feed him—to turn him into a boy or girl (respectively) in body and soul. Maki feeds Aikawa both.
Attempted in Shitsurakuen. When Sora rescues Tomoko, Tomoko asks to be released back into slavery as she doesn't trust Sora's protection. Sora thinks about the situation and transfers Tomoko to a male accomplice for safety. The accomplice is actually the Big Bad in disguise. Oops.
At the climax to the "Chapter of Egg" in Princess Tutu, Kraehe has capturedPrince Mytho and challenges Tutu to a competition to win the affection of Mytho's feelings of love. What Kraehe is counting on is the fact that if Tutu confesses her love for Mytho, she will disappear. This is Princess Tutu, the show where the main character routinely uses her magical ballet dancing to accomplish her goals, so no points for guessing what happens next.
In Saint Seiya, a rather beaten up Pegasus Seiya is cornered by Dark Action Girl Ophicus Shaina and Silver Saint Crow Jamian. Problem is, he's holding Saori Kido in his arms and cannot fight directly since they're atop of a cliff and she'll inevitably get hurt. The enemy says: "Either fight us or hand us the girl". What does Seiya do? He asks Saori if she trusts him, she says she does, and then they hug and jump off the cliff together. Since it's late at night, Shaina and her partner cannot go for them; Seiya is unconscious for quite a while, but he manages to buy time for himself and Saori.
Seto no Hanayome has the young mermaid Sun saving an Ordinary High School Student Nagasumi's life, but upon doing so and letting him see a glimpse of her - she broke the code of secrecy between merpeople, and their existence will be revealed to humans. To keep the secret, either Sun or Nagasumi must die... but Sun demands Nagasumi to marry her instead so neither of them will be executed.
In YuYu Hakusho, Doctor Kamiya uses his powers to infect the city with a horrible plague. He informs Yusuke that the plague will disappear if he dies or is knocked unconscious, since he is maintaining it with his powers. Doctor turns out to Feel No Pain, making it impossible to knock him out. Doctor orders him to choose: break his Thou Shall Not Kill creed, or watch as the innocent people die horribly. Yusuke punches him into the sky, knocking him out of range and unable to maintain the plague.
The trope doesn't apply uncut. In the uncut version, Yusuke actually does land a blow that stops his heart, but Genkai revives him with a chest compression. Still, it's enough to break his psychic territory, and although Yusuke is relieved Doctor Kamiya was revived, Genkai assures him that in his case (a policeman's dilemma), deadly forcewas justified.
In the anime adaption of Umineko No Naku Koro Ni, Battler is given a choice between killing the person he loves most, himself, or everyone else on the island. He states that there's no one he loves most, and elects Beatrice to that spot and chooses her. This failed plan to get rid of Beatrice is pretty ironic considering he marries her in the sound novel.
Almost at the end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka Kaname is in a very tight spot. If she doesn't become a Magical Girl, Walpurgisnacht destroy the Earth. If she does, then she'll become Kriemhild Gretchen, and she will destroy Earth. For worse, two Magical Girls have died, one became a witch and had to be killed, and the only one left is seriously injured and maybe about to become a witch. What does she do? Madoka does become a Magical Girl...and uses her wish to erase all witches from existence. Which completely changes the Magical Girl System and either prevents them from being born or peacefully mercy kills the ones that already exist before they can become witches. Oh, and it makes Madoka Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
Attempted earlier by Hitomi Shizuki. She's very troubled, emotionally speaking: she has feelings for a guy named Kamijou, but she knows that her old friend Sayaka does too. Will she just go "I Want My Belovedto Be Happy" and give him up without a fight, or talk to him about her own feelings, completely bypassing Sayaka's? The girl then decides to follow the trope: she explains the situation to Sayaka and tell her to confess to him first, while also warning her that if she doesn't do it, she will tell Kamijou what SHE feels. However... Hitomi doesn't know that Sayakahasher ownproblems... and then, it gets worse.
Happens in Vinland Saga, when Askeladd is blackmailed by King Sweyn with the following command: "You either kill Prince Canute or we will invade your beloved Wales". What does he do? Reveal his identity, kill Sweyn, and allow Canute to kill him, knowing that Canute will grow into a Reasonable Authority Figure and protect Wales.Magnificent
In a hentai manga Power Play by Yamatogawa, the protagonist, who is a reincarnation of Evil Sex King, is given a freedom of chosing which Heroine will stay with him, and drain him of the power everyday for the rest of his live, so he won't awaken as the Evil Sex King. He chooses his former familiar who is actively trying to awake him, convincing the heroines that he will stop her from trying to unseal him.
In Windaria Veronica is torn between a vow to her late mother to protect her kingdom and her love for the prince invading her kingdom. The solution? Kill him and then herself.
In Spirited Away, Chihiro is given a pen of pigs and must choose which of the two among them are her parents in order to free them and herself from the spirit world. Her choice? Her parents aren't there. Counts as Fridge Brilliance as the scene has a double meaning that says that her parents are not pigs and Chihiro is human, not just a mere animal.
In SHUFFLE!, when Asa and Rin are faced with either having the half-demon girl Asa use her demonic powers freely despite her psychological blocks about them or have her keep them bottled in until they kill her, what do they decide? Since Asa refuses to use her abilities for her benefit, Rin takes a knife and injures himself gravely to force her use them to heal his wounds. That way, Asa releases the magical energy that endangers her own life, and she does this to save Rin instead of harming herself and others.
In Mawaru-Penguindrum, Masako is given a very odd Sadistic Choice: she and Mario have to eat potentially poisoned food as a test from her grandfather Sanbei, who is possessing Mario's body. If she chooses the harmless dish, Mario will eat the harmful one and die; if she eats the poisoned food, Mario will win but end up as his grandfather's Soul Jar and puppet. How does this end? With Masako eating both dishes. She ends up in a coma that lasts several days, but saves Mario from Sanbei's soul's control.
In One Piece, during the Arlong arc, Nami asks Luffy and crew to leave the island and not interfere with her business. Luffy does not want to argue with Nami, but he does not want to leave the island either, so he goes to sleep in the middle of the road.
It's not so much a third option, but a fourth option. When you first come to the New World, there are three islands that you can go to: Risky Red Island, Mystoria Island, and Raijin Island. Luffy was planning on going to Raijin Island, which Smoker anticipated, because its needle on the Log Pose is the one shaking most violently. However, Luffy and the crew evade Smoker and Tashigi, due to a timely distress call and pure chance as to where their ship landed from their underwater trek; they go to an island the Log Pose didn't even register. Thus began the Punk Hazard arc.
In the Grand Finale of Solty Rei, Roy Revant gets the Sadistic Choice of having to choose which of his daughters, bio-child Rose or adoptive kid Solty, will he save from Ashley, the Big Bad. What happens? Roy chooses... to attack Ashley via shooting his Combat Tentacles. Ashley counterattacks and wounds Roy, but by that time Solty has managed to free herself and attacks him too.
Kenichi Shirahama from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple takes one to save Miu Furunji from Junazard, who has gotten her Brainwashed and Crazyand has pit her against Kenichi himself. Instead of seriously harming or killing her in self-defense or letting her beat him to death before she can even recognize him, he decides to smash the helmet she's wearing, which enhances the brainwashing. It sorta works as Miu snaps out of it, realizes what's going on and stops attacking Kenichi... though not completely, as there's a high possibility of her being mentally re-taken.
In Kare Kano, when Arima confesses for the second time, Yukino is very troubled over her inability to give him a proper reply. Will she reject him definitely? Will she openly accept his affections? She chooses to reach down and grasp Arima's hand into hers during a student council meeting.
In You're Under Arrest!'s first season, Natsumi breaks her arm and Nakajima breaks his leg while trying to catch the rogue officers that cause accidents. They don't want to stay aside in that very difficult case, but at the same time their physical injuries would make them loads. So they invoke the trope via getting a specially outfitted motorbike that lets both of them drive, since Nakajima is in charge of the steering wheel and Natsumi manages the pedals.And they rock at it.
In Claymore, the eponymous women are able to tap into their Superpowered Evil Side to gain speed, strength and various supernatural powers. However, surpassing their limit will cause them to transform into a Complete Monster. During the "Carnage in the North" storyline, an extremely powerful Awakened Being is laying waste to the Claymores assembled there, and Clare realizes she can't defeat this opponent without exceeding her limits. Rather than give in and transform completely, she only allows her legs to change, thus granting her the speed she needs to save her friends.
Taken by Ranka in the Vampire Princess Miyu OAV. She must transform her lover Kei into a doll to sustain herself or lose him to Miyu who has her eyes set on him and wants to drink his blood. What does she do? Since she loves Kei so she neither wants to make him a mere puppet nor lose him to Miyu... she transforms him into a Shinma instead. That way they stay together forever in the Darkness, and it doubles as a last laugh to Miyu.
In Suzuka, the lead female Suzuka takes one when her boyfriend Yamato gets upset upon learning that she wants to visit her dead boyfriend's grave one last time, which he sees as a reluctance to truly let go of her past. Instead of complying to his demands and deny herself the chance for closure, or just go there without his input and risking a bigger fight, she calmly asks Yamato to come with her in the cementary trip.
Ratchet in the 80s Transformers comic makes a direct reference:
"Trusting Megatron doesn't seem a particularly wise course of action. And using this opportunity to escape is no alternative either - he still holds my comrades! I must think like a warrior, as Optimus Prime instructed me. I must think of a third option!"
In Lucifer, the titular devil is given two dilemmas in a row, as a ruse in which each choice will insult his hosts and give them an excuse to kill him. He's warned by one of their servants beforehand, and manages to come up with a solution to both of them.
Also at the end, God presents Elaine Belloc and Lilith two possible outcomes - that he would either destroy the Creation, which is crumbling in his absence, or restore it to as it was. Lucifer interferes and offers a third option: to do nothing - the most difficult thing for an omnipotent being. God accepts, and leaves Elaine to replace him as the power that binds the universe together.
Green Lantern Hal Jordan, in a story arc concerning the Star Sapphire, which had, throughout the arc, taken over both Carol Ferris, his perennial love interest, and Jill "Cowgirl" Pearlman, his current love interest. The Zamarons, who sent the Star in the first place, held them captive and had Hal choose which one to be his mate. In response, Hal kissed one of the Zamaron captors, causing the Star to bond with her, go berserk, and forcing the other Zamarons to take her home to remove the stone.
The panel where Hal kisses the Zamaron queen immediately found its way to the Internet with the caption "Hal Jordan Will Fuck Anything", and we're still having fun with that.
The third option was lampshaded in an earlier story arc where Kyle Rayner met up with a younger Hal Jordan. Kyle let the villain Sinestro go when he saved Hal instead of pursuing the villain. Hal admonished him by saying he let Sinestro trick him into making a choice when all he had to do was cut the ring-generated rope hanging Hal.
Subverted in the conclusion of Final Crisis:Rogue's Revenge when Libra forces Weather Wizard to either pledge allegiance to the Secret Society of Supervillains or watch Libra kill his son. In the end the kid still dies because Inertia gets fed up with the situation and blows him up. Even Libra is dumbfounded after this.
Jason: If you won't kill this psychotic piece of filth... I will. You want to stop me? You're going to have to kill me.
Batman: Stop this. Enough. You know I won't—
Jason: All you've got is a headshot. I'm going to blow out his addled, deranged brains out— and if you want to stop it... you're going to have to shoot me. Right in my face. [...] It's him or me. You have to decide.
[Batman sends the batarang. Jason collapses.]
Joker: You got him!! You expert, rooting-tooting, eagle-eyed, goth marskman sonofa*** ! Ya banked that bat-thingie off the pipe!!! Oh, god!! I love it!! You managed to find a way to win... and everybody still loses!! Except me, my dark little pumpkin pies.
In IDW's Transformers, the defeat of Nemesis Prime leads to an entity called the Darkness to start possessing Optimus Prime. Galvatron gives Optimus a choice: throw himself into a sun before the Darkness takes away his free will, or give it to Galvatron. Optimus's choice? Give Galvatron the Darkness and throw him into a sun.
A comic from The Far Side has people discussing a glass that has water in half of it. One says, "The glass is half full!" One says, "The glass is half empty!" One says, "Half full... no, wait, half empty... no, wait..." And the last guy is shouting, "Hey! I ordered a cheeseburger!"
In The Sandman volume The Doll's House, Dream's sister-brother, Desire launches a Xanatos Gambit to hurt him by tearing apart his realm: during Dream's imprisonment, Desire discovered that the comatose Unity Kinkaid was a "vortex" (a mortal whose existence causes the Dreaming to break down, destroying the world unless he or she is killed,) but was currently harmless because she was unconscious. Desire secretly raped and impregnated the sleeping Unity, which, unbeknownst to Dream, caused the power of the Vortex to be passed on to Desire and Unity's granddaughter, Rose Walker. If Dream did not kill Rose, the vortex would tear apart the Dreaming, but if he had killed her then shedding the blood of a family member (even if he didn't know she was family,) would have unleashed the Furies to ravage the Dreaming anyway. They end up taking a third option where the elderly and dying Unity is able to track down her granddaughter in the Dreaming and take the power of the vortex into herself again, and willingly lets Dream kill her and stop the vortex. Unusually for this trope, none of the characters were actually aware that they were foiling a plan; Dream only worked out Desire's machinations some time after the problem had been solved, and at the time all the various pawns thought that the existence of the vortex was simply a random occurrence that happened every eon or so.
Take A Third Option: Haruhi can't unbottle her feelings about the consequences of her powers because it will cause even more strain to others, and she can't ignore it either because she cares about the SOS Brigade. In order to prevent a Heroic BSOD she runs a Memory Gambit on herself so she doesn't destroy the world on an accidental whim.
In Rainbooms And Royalty, after Rainbow rejects Nightmare Moon's temptation, the dark alicorn, after restraining Fluttershy's wings and preventing Twilight Sparkle and Rarity from using their magic, hurls the Mane Cast sans Rainbow to their deaths. Nightmare Moon then taunts Rainbow to choose who to save, because as fast as she is, she can't save all of them. Rainbow manages to pull off a Sonic Rainboom for the first time since her fillyhood, and does fly fast enough to save all of them.
In the Lunaverse story At The Grand Galloping Gala, Trixie finally comprehends how thoroughly corrupted the Night Court is when Viceroy Night Light reveals himself to have deliberately held back relief aid for Ponyville just to torment Trixie (who in fairness is at least in part responsible for his daughter Twilight becoming a wanted fugitive). He gives her a Sadistic Choice: Give up her lifelong dream of getting anywhere in the Night Court hierarcy and Ponyville will be left alone, or continue with her political aspirations and Ponyville will suffer. Trixie's choice: Wreck the whole rotten organisation.
In the Digimon/Star Wars: The Clone WarsCrossoverA Sticky Situation, Aayla is kidnapped by Cad Banes and questioned for useful information before he intends to kill her on Darth Sideous's orders. The clear choices are for her to submit to the torture and share a secret that could alter the entire war if the Separatist find out (and die) or remain silent while suffer intense pain at the hands of the bounty hunter (and die). Instead, because she has learned to think outside of the box thanks to her time with the digimon and tamers, she decides to pay her captor more than Darth Sideous did and have him both release her, keep the digimon a secret, and start working for the Jedi.
Interstate 60 has many examples of this trope, which is the subtext of the movie, until the point in which, iconically, the hero drives his car off the road instead of choosing one of two roads he doesn't want to go down.
In Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abganale Jr. has to make a choice concerning whether he wants his mother or father to have custody over him: unable to choose, he runs away, thus beginning his trail of bank fraud and crime.
The movie The Adjustment Bureau has a big one. The main character is forced to choose between having a romance with the girl he was "destined" to be with and thus dooming her career, or breaking up with her and allowing them both to become famous and influential, she as a dancer, him as a politician. While initially he chooses to break up with her, he later finds out that because of this she's going to be hugely successful but very unhappy. So he takes option number three: he tries to convince God to change destiny.
In Chariots of Fire Eric Liddell has to either give up his Olympic race, or run on Sunday (which he is opposed to do so because to him it would violate the Sabbath). So, he decides to withdraw and enter a different race instead.
In Titanic, Rose is unable to get her beloved Jack since he died in a Heroic Sacrifice, but she neither wishes to marry her arranged fiancé Cal who is almost surely looking for her. She assumes a false name on RMS Carpathia after having been rescued, thus distracting Cal; she reaffirms it by looking away when Cal himself is nearby, managing to dodge him.
In The Matrix, Morpheus is captured by the Agents and Neo has the choice of letting him be forced to reveal all his secrets, which would doom the resistance, or unplugging his body from the interface, which would mean instant death for him. However, Neo refuses to make either choice and decides to go in and rescue Morpheus instead despite the formidable opposition.
In Reloaded, Neo is told Trinity is destined to die, and he can't save her. His solution is to bring her back after she kicks it. Problem solved.
The second issue is ending the war, which seems certain to end with either the machines or humans being wiped out. In the end Neo unites them against a common enemy.
In the first Spider-Man film, The Green Goblin forces the hero to decide whether to save Mary Jane or a Roosevelt Island Tramway cabin filled with young children. With great personal effort, and some help from the public, Spider-Man saves both.
In The Cat In The Hat starring Mike Myers, while the kids argue whether to get the dog or not, the Cat claims, "There is a third option... but it involves...murder."
In Batman Forever, the Riddler forces Bats to choose between his brand-new sidekick or the girl. Using his wits and a few of his many wonderful toys, he's able to save both, defeat both villains (Two-Face flips his last coin), and secure his secret identity.
In The Dark Knight, this is both subverted and played straight. Batman saves Harvey Dent's life at the cost of Rachel's, since Commissioner Gordon would never make it in time to save her, with the added twist that the Joker purposely gave them the wrong addresses. Later on in the film, the civilians and the prisoners decide against sacrificing the other group in exchange for their lives like the Joker had originally planned.
In Superman: The Movie, Lex Luthor launches two nuclear missiles headed for opposite ends of the country so that Superman can't stop them both. By reversing the flow of time, he manages to do so anyway. This was perhaps not the fastest option, though.
In Who Am I?, Jackie Chan's character is confronted by two thugs on the roof of a building, who give him two choices: "Give us the disk and jump off," said disk being the MacGuffin of the movie, or "We take the disk and throw you off." Instead, Jackie says, "I like the third choice: I keep the disk and throw you both off." (During the ensuing fight scene, nobody actually gets thrown off.)
Subverted in The Rundown, when Beck first confronts Travis. Beck offers Travis two choices: Option A (come quietly back to LA) or option B ("Pretty much the opposite of A. But I wouldn't recommend that one.") Travis decides to go with Option C, and attempts to beat up Beck and escape; considering that Beck is the hero of the movie, and is played by The Rock, while Travis is played by Stiffler from American Pie, you can guess how that goes. Afterwards, Beck quips, "Like I said, there is no Option C."
And as Beck attempts to leave the bar with an angry, handcuffed Travis in tow, in walks Cornelius Hatcher, who refuses to let Beck leave with Travis.
Travis: Allow me to introduce you to Option C...
By the end of the movie, a true Option C presents itself: Beck takes Travis to LA, but helps him escape his father's wrath.
Subverted by The Proposition, in which outlaw Charlie Burns is given The Sadistic Choice: find and kill his older brother Arthur, or his younger brother Mikey will hang. He and Arthur attack the jail and rescue Mikey, but because of a meddling Smug Snake, Mikey dies soon after. And then Charlie ends up killing Arthur anyway, but for a different reason.
Spoofed somewhat at the end of the Peter Sellers comedy I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! Faced with the choice of confining-but-stable upper-middle-class marriage or free-spirited-but-superficial hippie life, Sellers' middle-aged hero runs away from his second attempt at marrying his fiance from the former group. When asked by a passerby where he's going, he admits he doesn't know, and he doesn't care. He is determined to find a third option - the one that will bring him happiness.
The film is a heavy deconstruction of Take a Third Option: Kirk has made a career on taking the third option, so when situations finally arise where there and definitely is no third option, he's completely unprepared.
In a slight subversion in Willow, the main character and two others are asked by the village's High Aldwin (town wizard/leader), holding up his hand, which finger contains the power of magic. Each chooses a finger, and the Aldwin declares that they're all wrong. Later, in private, Willow tells the old man that he had thought of choosing his ''own'' finger, but rejected the idea. The Aldwin confirms that this was, in fact, the correct answer.
In Snatch, Irish Traveller character Mickey is given two choices: perform in a fixed Forced Prize Fight that he has to lose by knockout in the fourth round, or watch as the gangsters forcing him to do this murder his entire clan. (And just to prove they will, they set fire to his mother's caravan — with her inside.) Instead, they decide on a third option. Mickey and the entire clan bet a shitload of money on Mickey knocking out his opponent, which he does, and before the gangsters can do anything about it the clan kills all the gangsters assassins and the head of the mob as well. Moral of the story: don't fuck with Pikeys.
In the first Iron Man film, Tony Stark is given a choice of building a Jericho missile or getting his head blown off. Stark instead uses the parts to build a suit of Power Armor and fight his way out of the base.
Fox Mulder did this in The X-Files: Fight the Future. When he followed the not-so-mysterious government trucks he came to a T-intersection and didn't know whether they went left or right. He then decided to drive straight ahead through a field road. Needless to say, being Fox Mulder, he was right.
Subverted in Punisher: War Zone: the villains trap Frank in a Sadistic Choice that forces him to kill one hostage to save another. Frank instead elects to take a third option, killing one hostage taker to release his captives, consequently sacrificing the other captive to the other hostage taker. However, since said hostage had already offered his life to Frank beforehand to save the others, Frank essentially made a choice that accomplished the same result, but without the hostage's blood in his hands.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Lando Calrissian is forced into a deal with Vader - he betrays his old friend so Han will be bait for a trap, and afterwards the crew will be safe on Cloud City, and the city itself will then be ignored by the Empire, which will kindly not destroy it. But the deal gets altered repeatedly. So Lando made plans to free the crew of the Falcon and get the citizens to flee, though he could only execute them after Han had been frozen in carbonite. The third option was only partially successful, but things turned out all right in the end. Even Cloud City apparently escaped harm - the Star Wars Expanded Universe tells us that it fell under Imperial control, but never got destroyed (perhaps the gas mines were too profitable), and eventually the New Republic got it back.
And in Return of the Jedi Luke has the option of either killing Vader and Palpy or joining them. What does he do? He chooses to die, and in the process inspires his father to save him, killing both Sith in the process and bringing balance to the Force.
In the 1999 movie Wing Commander, Maniac offers Hunter the option of either kicking his ass, or drinking the booze that Maniac brought. Rosie suggests a third option: kicking Maniac's ass, then taking his scotch.
In National Treasure, Nicolas Cage's character is given a choice by the feds; do nothing and go to prison, or help the feds rescue the stolen Declaration of Independence from Ian and still go to prison. Initially, Cage accepts the second option but when the plan goes south, he declares, "Sadusky, I'm still not against you. But I found door #3, and I'm taking it." He then makes his escape via diving in the Hudson river.
Occurs in the 1948 film The Red Shoes. The main character Vicky is forced to choose between Julian, the man she loves, and dancing ballet, which she considers as important as living. At one point, she has a relationship with him, but keeps it a secret. When they are discovered, things get more complicated and in the end she decides to commit suicide by throwing herself in front of a moving train.
In Minority Report, Burgess; the inventor of Pre Crime detection is cornered by John Anderton for committing a past murder. A Pre Crime report shows that Anderton is to be killed by Burgess, and Burgess holds Anderton at gunpoint. Anderton gives the villain a dilemma: if the villain kills Anderton, he proves that PreCrime detection works but he gets a life sentence for murder. If he doesn't kill, he proves that Precrime is folly. Burgess takes the third option and shoots himself instead.
Actually that was the second option, only that he didn't have to see the results.
Neither of them had any knowledge that there was a prediction anyway (they state at the beginning of the film that mere intention to kill is not enough to set off the alarm). Thus, Burgess had a good chance of not shooting Anderton without proving Precrime false. He'd still go to jail but for something else.
Played with in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, when Will is trying to decide between killing Jones in order to save his Dad, which would mean he would become the new undead captain of the Flying Dutchman or remaining alive and marrying Elizabeth, Jack proposes that he "avoid the choice entirely. Change the facts" by letting someone else kill Jones. In the end, this doesn't work out, because Jones stabs Will, and in order to save his life, Jack helps will stab Jone's heart.
In the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, Bond and General Gogol confront each other over possession of the ATAC nuclear weapons transmitter, after killing the Big Bad, Kristatos. Bond then destroys the ATAC by throwing it over a cliff, then comments, "That's détente, comrade. You don't have it, I dont have it."
In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Holmes' final confrontation with Professor Moriarty over the Reichenbach Falls boils down to a choice between letting Moriarty go, knowing that Moriarty will take revenge by killing Dr. Watson and his new wife, or trying to fight the former Cambridge boxing champion while suffering from a serious shoulder injury, which he deduces will result in his own death and Moriarty going after the Watsons anyway. Holmes' third option is to grab Moriarty and throw them both over the Falls.
According to How It Should Have Ended, there was a fourth option that Holmes hadn't considered - calling Watson to even the odds. Moriarty may be a former Cambridge boxing champion, but Watson was a soldier and is also much younger. Of course, Watson was busy trying to find Moriarty's agent, and Holmes couldn't know when he would be finished or free him up. Since we know Holmes' only goal was "keep Watson safe", involving him in a fight would not feasible.
Coach Halas does this in Brians Song when he can't decide if Brian Piccolo or Gale Sayers should start. He decides to switch Piccolo to fullback so he can have both players in the starting lineup.
In the 1985 version of Brewster's Millions Brewster's "None of the Above" political campaign results in neither of the two candidates wining thus forcing another election.
James P. "Sulley" Sullivan is left in charge of Monsters Inc with a dilemma: continue to operate the company harvesting the screams of small children, after seeing how terrified it makes them? Or let the company collapse, leaving him in poverty and shame and Monstropolis in an eternal electrical blackout? Sulley goes public with the discovery of laughter, a power source ten times more potent than screams, compatible with existing Monsters, Inc. technology, and entirely kid-friendly.
In Wargames, Joshua, aka WOPR, realizes the futility of playing 'Global Thermo-Nuclear War' after utilizing every scenario and gambit in the book without altering the game's outcome. In the end, it says "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play." Amen.
In Curse Of The Golden Flower, Prince Jai must either give poison to his mother and thus help to kill her or let himself be executed for treason. What's his solution? Commit suicide.
Bridget Jones, from the first movie Bridget Jones's Diary: Bridget has two options. She can either accept a permanent state of spinsterhood and eventually eating by Alsatians, or NOT. Bridget chooses vodka. And Chaka Khan.
Towards the end of The Bank, the father who blames the bank's CEO for his son's death bursts into the CEO's office with a shotgun with the intention of killing him. The CEO tells the man that while his son's death was tragic, he doesn't consider himself responsible, but to go ahead and do what he thinks he has to do. As the man contemplates whether to go through with it and spend the rest of his life in prison or forgo his revenge and possibly still do some time, the phone rings. The CEO insists on answering it. The man realises the CEO would rather die than miss the call, so he shoots the phone, then goes outside and shoots the fuse box.
Played for laughs in Diner; Eddie is bugging his friends by asking them whom they prefer, Sinatra or Mathis. Boogie answers, "Presley." Eddie is not amused.
A classic from Mathematics: the Truel, a duel with three participants. Mr. White has a one in three chance of hitting his target, Mr. Grey a two in three chance, and Mr. Black is a perfect shot. To make things fair, Mr. White has the first shot. Who should he shoot?
If he shoots at Mr. Grey, he might kill him, then Mr. Black has the next shot. "Oops".
If he shoots at Mr. Black, seemingly the best option, he might kill him, then Mr. Grey has the next shot. Oh dear.
If he takes a third option and shoots into the air, Mr. Grey and Mr. Black shoot at each other until one dies, then Mr. White has the first shot in a duel. That the odds are still against Mr. White, so he may want to look into an even thirdier option like running away and changing his name.
If he has the first shot, he could not shoot at all and force a stalemate.
Tavi Calderon of Codex Alera lives and breathes this trope. He does it so much, and so frequently, that his allies start tracking him by assuming he found a third, completely-insane option that he manages to make work by waving around his continent-sized cojones.
Need to break the law to end a war? Break the law, end the war, and then write a new law that pardons you.
Indefensible position, must hold it anyway? Convert the enemy to your side.
too few Canim to fight the Vord, too many to ship back to Alera? Build boats out of icebergs.
Slaver demands that you replace the slave chains you broke or get off his ship? Offer him gold chains and demand that he only use those.
It's like Insanity Wolf, but it works!
Harry Dresden of the Dresden Files gets a few of these over time.
From the Summer and Winter Mothers: (paraphrased) "Which is more important, body or soul?" "Your question is stupid." "Yes."
When Shagnasty has Thomas at the top of Demonreach Island, he demands that Harry turn over Morgan or it'll kill Thomas. Harry blasts Thomas out of his hands, into the hut where Molly is hiding. Subverted; Shagnasty had tortured Thomas so much that Thomas's succubus-demon had full reign, and so Shagnasty was considering throwing Thomas in there anyway For the Evulz.
Kumori and Cowl give him the standard join-or-die routine. Harry bumps Cowl's elbow while the latter is handling supernatural high-explosives.
In that same book, Harry needed a massive amount of undead to protect himself to even get close to said dangerous spell and stop a godling from being born. However, doing so requires using Necromancy, which is forbidden. Solution? Raise a Tyrannosaurus rex from the dead, which is not forbidden.
In the first book: if Harry doesn't kill the warlock, he'll die. If he does, he'll be killed. Solution? disrupt the curse and then free the demon that the warlock sends after him. The warlock was eaten by the demon.
Subverted in one of the short novels in Andrew Sapkowsky's The Last Wish (prequel to the Witcher half-decameron), when Geralt has to choose between killing Renfri or Stregobor. He decides that both of them are evil and it's best to not take part, but after hearing about Tridaam Ultimatum he kills Renfri fearing that innocents would be slaughtered. In the end, it shows up that ignoring everything would be the best option Let's just say that he didn't earned "Butcher from Blaviken" title for nothing.
Discussed in The Red Pyramid (in a moment of Genre Savviness) when Sadie is asked if she was prepared to lose her father if it meant saving the world.
Sadie (narrating): Of course I knew the right answer. The heroine is supposed to refuse to sacrifice her father. Then she boldly goes off and saves her dad AND the world, right?
Neville Longbottom gets a "Join Me or Die" from Voldemort. He takes a third option: killing Voldemort's snake Nagini and tell him he won't join. Turns out doing that prevents Voldemort from retaliating, as the snake was his lastHorcrux; he was now vulnerable to being Killed Off for Real by Harry.
A significant part of the plot of the Greek mythology parody Ye Gods! by Tom Holt is that the classical hero Jason Derry finds Third Options wherever he looks, interfering with how the gods think his story is supposed to go. A lampshade is hung on this early on, when he is given the very symbolic choice between the Path of Virtue and the Path of Luxury, and a third road appears out of nowhere, marked "Diversion".
William Horwood's novel Skallagrigg describes a computer game that begins with the player's daughter being born with severe disabilities (the game's creator has cerebral palsy). The player is asked whether to let the baby live or die, but both answers are dead ends. The hidden third option, which leads into the rest of the game, is "don't know".
An older, famous literary example is in the play Nathan the Wise, taken from an even older story in The Decameron. The title character, a Jew, is asked by the Muslim ruler Saladin to determine whether Judaism, Christianity, or Islam is the "true religion". Given that because of anti-apostacy laws he would be executed for giving preference to any of the three, he instead uses the "parable of the rings" to give the non-answer that each religion thinks it's the true one but since no one can know until the day of judgment, people might as well be good to one another.
The ending and one major theme of Catch Twenty Two. Yossarian is presented with two options by his commanding officers: promote what they are doing and go home a hero (but betray his friends), or face a court-martial. After first deciding to go home, he sees the immorality of it and decides to take a third option (deserting) and therefore beat the system.
This is spoofed in the book by the name of the person who inspires him to attempt desertion. His friend was named Orr which sounds the same as the word "or". He is the character who finds another alternative.
A minor example occurs early in Ender's Game. In a video game that invents itself as the player moves forward, Ender eventually runs up against a situation called the Giant's Drink: a giant offers Ender's character a choice between two odd-looking drinks. They're both poisoned; no matter which one Ender chooses, he always dies, albeit in a different way each time. Finally, frustrated by the game, Ender climbs up the giant's shirt and kills him by digging into his skull through his eye. It's not the most meaningful decision ever made—certainly not the most meaningful decision Ender makes—but the only reason Ender can continue in the game is because he thinks outside the box. Also, the game is a psych test in disguise, and getting fed up with the Giant and giving up on the certain-death test rather than continuing to drink is an allegory for overcoming suicidal tendencies, so Ender is unknowingly passing a major test on the way to the end (the Drink puzzle only comes up for people who've proven their suicidal tendencies through previous choices, and no one has ever "beaten" before, leading the developers to freak when the game has to write entire new areas to accommodate how awesome Ender just proved himself to be).
The climax of the book is also a kind of Take a Third Option. Ender is facing his last and most difficult challenge at Command School, with only eighty outdated fighters up against a force of thousands and thousands based around a planet. He realizes that the teachers either want him to win fairly, in which case they'll just throw more and more challenges at him when he commands the real fleet, or lose, in which case he'll be sent home, and someone else will have to command the fleet and probably lose for real. So instead, he decides to win unfairly, by using the Dr. Device against the planet, vaporizing the entire enemy fleet and most of his own fighters. Thus, he expects to win but be flunked out anyway for his insane solution. Except for the twist ending...
The twist ending is that the "simulation" wasn't a simulation at all. Ender was actually controlling fighters the entire book when he thought he was just practicing for the battle. Which means he actually did just destroy a populated planet… Ironically, this is explained as exactly what his superiors wanted really, the brilliance of Ender's tactical mind without the ethical or moral hesitations an adult general might have.
Subverted in one of the later Shatnerverse novels when Kirk, forced to chose between the life of his woman and aiding his current arch-nemesis, goes through an internal monologue explicitly trying to think of a third option and reflecting that there is always a third option. Then he realizes that this time, there isn't.
...Until he turns on his archnemesis, his Evil Twin from an evil parallel universe, anyway... But that doesn't happen until the next book.
In Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, at the end of the second volume the Hero faces a Friendor Idol Decision. She takes the "right" option, the one that wasn't used by the villain (and is the reason he became the villain). It is then revealed that her choice actually releases an evil god and the third book is all about taking a third option.
Toward the end of Wizard's First Rule, the Big Bad Darken Rahl gives Richard a choice: Either help him open the MacGuffin, allowing him to rule the world and take Kahlan as his queen, or do nothing, in which case Rahl will open one of the boxes and either rule the world anyway or destroy it. In the end, Richard feigns helping him (Rahl believed he was under a spell that would make him tell the truth), and tricks him into killing himself.
Later, Richard finds himself unable to fight Jagang with just D'hara or to unite the Midlands. Solution? Conquer the Midlands before Jagang.
How do you get someone through the Hall of the Betrayer and still have them have a mission? Give them two masters; they only have to betray one.
One of the Halo novels uses this exact phrase while Captain Keyes is formulating tactics to win an impossible battle ("Yes... he did have a third option").
He then proceeds to have a Crowning Moment of Awesome involving ramming a Covenant destroyer to knock out its shields, whilst manouvering so it hits itself with its own plasma torpedoes.
It has to be said the Keyes third option is more awesome than stated above, as he had his ship SLINGSHOT around a planet at one point, remote-activated a Shiva Nuke he'd dumped near the destroyer so its shields would be knocked out, and THEN trailed the plasma torpedoes into the enemy ship. The ramming was actually a calculated, risky move, that nearly tore Keyes' own ship in HALF. As said by the Schoolmaster himself 'half a degree off course, and the Iriquois would have been torn apart'. In the end, every single bottom deck on Keyes ship was breached, and two meters of solid titanium 'A' armor plating had been abraded right through. Crowning Moment of Awesome indeed.
Used in the games as well. The Flood have been released, and the apparent options are to either let them spread and consume everything in the galaxy, or activate the Halo, wiping out the Flood... along with any living thing large enough to support Flood infection. Cortana comes up with another plan; Chief destroys the Halo, eradicating the Flood and preventing galactic destruction.
Used in Frederic Forsyth's novel The Devil's Alternative, where a Ukrainian terrorist is holding an oil tanker hostage and threatens to dump its contents onto the shores of the Netherlands unless his compatriots are released from a German prison. The allied powers know, however, that if the terrorists are released they will inform the media that they have assassinated the head of the KGB, news of which will cause the breakdown of the Russian political system and lead to a megalomaniac taking over the reigns of power and invading Western Europe. The goodies have the choice, allow massive environmental disruption or face the prospect of a Third World War. The hero comes up with the answer: allow the terrorists to be released for long enough that the oil tanker is released, but poison them with a slow acting poison that will kill them before they can release their news.
The entire premise of the novel The Gripping Hand, which is the sequel to a book (The Mote in God's Eye) in which the human species makes contact with a species that has three hands—two dexterous hands and one strong "gripping" hand, the source of the title. This is exemplified in that the phrase "on the one hand...on the other hand..." is often followed by "on the gripping hand" even though humans can't naturally think that way (having only two hands and all).
And yet, despite not having three hands, humans always look for the Third Option - to the point where the fatalistic Moties, condemned by their biology to two bad choices, consider us all insane for not understanding and accepting what is and must always be. Their term for humans is "Crazy Eddie", after a character in their folklore who's all about the (often absurd) Third Option.
Towards the end of Lords of the Bow, the Mongols are apparently faced with a choice of turning back or trying to break through the Great Wall of China and being slaughtered in the process by the Chin army waiting on the other side. Genghis Khan notices that the wall is contiguous with the mountains, and simply sends a portion of his army over the mountains to attack the Chin from behind.
In the Star Trek Tales From the Captain's Table short story An Easy Fast, the protagonist, out for revenge against the three men who killed him (he got better), found each of them in different ways. The first man had already taken the third option of repentance over death and incarceration, so the protagonist let him be. The second man was still wanted, but had started up a lucrative business. The protagonist chose to have him give his employees a cut of the profits as a third option to either death or incarceration. The final man was condemned to die on another planet, and by fate the protagonist had the power to spare him. The third option (from the first two of killing him or leaving him there to rot)? Give the condemned man the choice.
In what amounts to a prose Villain Song, Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead gloats that the contemporary world was fixated on the "choice" between the Nazis and the Communists, two brutal totalitarian ideologies. (The novel was written in the late 1930s, when many people believed that freedom and individual rights had been discredited; in the world of The Fountainhead, freedom is the Third Option.)
A rare example of a hero being offered a third option occurs in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Harry encounters the sphinx in the maze. She tells him that he is allowed to simply turn around and walk away if he is unable to solve the riddle she poses. (This is a subversion, however, because he doesn't take that option: he able to answer it correctly.)
In Wizard, the second book in John Varley's Gaea Trilogy, an applicant for receiving one of Gaea's "miracles" is asked a hypothetical question: A train is coming. A little boy and a little girl are tied to the railroad tracks. You only have time to save one of them. What do you do? ... Gaea eventually reveals that there is a response for mortals, and a response for gods. Mortals save one child and then try to save the other. Gods, though, don't bother saving either of them.
In John C. Wright's Fugitives of Chaos, the question of whether to fight Echinda — risking their lives and thereby the universe — or run from her — abandoning people to their deaths — is tabled when Amelia interprets some information and realizes that she can appease her.
Explicitly stated in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time during Rand's military tutelage under Davram Bashere: "When an enemy offers you two targets, take a third."
In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta are told by the Gamemakers that only one of them can be the victor, despite an earlier statement saying that if they are the last two alive, two tributes from the same district can survive. (Basically, they have a Screw the Rules, I Make Them! point of view.) Rather than either of them killing the other, Katniss and Peeta bluff the Gamemakers by preparing to commit double suicide, expecting them to prefer two winners over no winner. It works, but the Capitol is furious that Katniss was able to find a third option.
The Wife of Bath's Tale is of a rapist knight who, on being sentenced to death, is given a year and a day to find out what women truly want. He can't find any single answer, until an old hag promises to give him the answer if he'll agree to do something for her. He does, and she does; "She wants mastery over her husband." His life saved, he now has to... marry her. On their wedding night, she offers him a choice: she can be beautiful and unfaithful, or ugly and faithful. Stymied, he gives the choice to her. Pleased that he learned hislesson, she says she'll be both beautiful and faithful.
Done in a somewhat twisted form by HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey: Faced with the dilemma of two contradicting directives, one giving general instructions to provide information to the crew, and one giving specific instructions not to inform the crew about a certain aspect of the mission, HAL finds a way to solve the issue. The problem is, that solution is to Kill Them All.
In Rumer Godden's novel The Diddakoi (published in the U.S. as Gypsy Girl) a new girl at school named Kizzy is asked, "Does your mother wash?" If she says, "Yes", the other children would say, "Then she's a washerwoman." If she says, "No", the other children would say, "Then she's a dirty sow." Kizzy takes a third option. "My mother is dead." Justified, because it was true.
Villain example in The Demon Princes series, in The Face: Kirth Gersen has set up a situation where the villain Lens Larque must either personally appear in court to defend against charges, or forfeit his very valuable ship and its cargo. Lens Larque chooses to blow the ship up and collect on the insurance.
In Piers Anthony's The Blue Adept, protagonist Stile has to face the local unicorn Herd Stallion in Trial by Combat so his friend, Neysa, is allowed to accompany him on his quest. The duel will take place within a unicorn circle, which will nullify Stile's magical power, leaving him no match for the massive Stallion. But he's recently acquired use of the Platinum Flute which will allow him to retain his magic. Stile is left with two unpalatable (to him) options: Play things straight, lose, and let the Stallion humiliate him or use the Flute and humiliate the Stallion, possibly making a powerful enemy in the process and definitely making life harder for Neysa, once the quest is over. After consulting with an elder vampire that his friend, Hulk, had helped out earlier, Stile comes up with a plan: At the start of the match, Stile puts on a display of power that showed his magic was intact, allowing the Stallion to bow out gracefully. When the Stallion refused to back down, Stile used the Flute to give himself the same physical power as the Stallion, making things a truly fair fight. The Stallion won, but was so impressed with Stile playing things fairly that he yielded the issue and allowed Neysa to accompany him.
Played with in Lord of the Rings: Saruman reveals to Gandalf that he has made a Face Heel Turn and is going to make a play to claim the One Ring for himself. He gives Gandalf two choices: either he's with him or he's with Sauron. Gandalf glibly replies that he doesn't like either choice and asks for a third. In response, Saruman locks him up in Orthanc, in an attempt to completely remove him from the game. Gandalf comes up with his own fourth option, by escaping and rallying the Free Peoples against him.
A particularly unconventional version of this trope in The Son Of Neptune, a Percy Jackson book, after the 5th Cohort captures the flag in the battle. Gwen is stabbed in the chest from the back, and consequently dies. Moments later, though, Gwen returns to life, and is immediately questioned as to how it happenned. She says she was at the River Styx, and that a man (Thanatos, or Death, presumably) asked her for a Drachma (Roman money) for transport to the Underworld. We also learn earlier in the series that if you don't have a Drachma, you are forced to wait for eternity (Or at least until someone pays for you too), so Gwen could have gone on or waited for an eternity, but turned around and left, because the Door of Death was still open.
In children's book The Pinkish Purplish Bluish Egg, the griffon that hatches from the egg of the title finds himself and his more conventional bird neighbors menaced by a pack of foxes and wolves. He observes that his size, beak, and claws would probably allow him to simply kill the pack, but his adoptive turtledove mother insists that "violence is wrong" and that he should ignore the pack and hope they leave him alone. Instead, he decides to grab them by their tails and forcibly relocate them to an island off the coast, supposedly without hurting them.
An interesting variation of this occurs in Animorphs. David, the team's new Sixth Ranger, finds himself caught between the heroes and the Yeerks and not trusting either. Instead, he goes Sixth Ranger Traitor and turns on them both.
A traitorous Tom presents a plan to capture the Pool ship to Jake. However, Jake sees through Tom's ulterior motives and realizes that Tom secretly plans to kill Jake and his friends when their usefulness has expired. Jake constructs his own plan which, with the help of Rachel and Erek, would both cripple the Yeerk Empire and neutralize Tom as a threat. It doesn't quite work out that neatly.
In A Brother's Price, the method for preventing a Cycle of Revenge triggered by executing traitor parents while leaving their children alive is to... execute the children too. Ren finds this monstrous and distressing, but she does have to admit that no one will take in little Eldier Porter and if she does, the child will surely resent Ren's little sisters and future children and probably try to take revenge on them. And a five-year-old will not fare well if turned out on the streets. Fortunately the Whistlers are nearby and listening; their great-grandmothers were executed for treason but, because the family was so mixed and not cohesive, not all of their grandmothers were killed, and the family went on to serve the crowns without resentment. So they adopt the child.
In the novel by Robert brown The Paradise Prophecy,the deuteragonist Sebastian takes a third option when an apopalyptic prophecy is about to be fulfilled. He can either kill Jenna himself or he can let Jenna kill herself, as she is about to do because Belial is both encouraging her and holding her hostage. Instead he Decapitates Belial, which turns out to have been the right choice, as it was a tst to see whether humans had any humanity left in them.
In Supernatural, season five has Dean and Sam refusing to play along with Heaven's will that Dean become Michael's host and Sam Lucifer's host so the angelic brothers can finish the final battle and fight each other to the death. Saying yes would thus raze the world either way, but result in paradise if Michael wins (as the angels believe he will). Lucifer wants Sam to say 'yes' because he believes he'll win, at which point he'll kick the Apocalypse into full gear and kill everyone. If the brothers both say 'no', Lucifer will use his present inadequate host to continue the Apocalypse at the current pace.
In a literal example by Michael, Dean is told to say 'yes' or 'no' to Michael (Well, he's told to say yes or die, but he'll die if he says yes...) When he says 'yes' but takes it back so he doesn't disappoint Sam, Michael then uses Adam, Sam and Dean's half-brother, as a vessel instead (it had to be someone from that particular bloodline).
In Revenge after Takeda murders Tyler in order to protect Emily's secret, he tells her that either her fiance Daniel or childhood love Jack must take the blame and that she can't save both. She does, however, by setting up Grayson thug Lee Moran instead.
The titular character from BBC's Sherlock tried to do this in answer to Jim Moriarty's Xanatos Roulette in The Reichenbach Fall. It didn't work.
In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Patterns of Force", Kirk and Spock are in a situation where a Nazi planet, created by a stupid Federation historian, is about to launch a genocidal invasion on a peaceful planet. One of their allies pleads with them to have the Enterprise to destroy the fleet as a lesser evil than letting the slaughter begin. Kirk balks at this bloody option, wanting to help the Nazi planet get back to normal, as well as protect its potential victims. In the end, Kirk makes the drugged Fuehrer cancel the invasion instead.
Another Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "Operation: Annihilate!" confronts Kirk with a choice between allowing body-snatching parasites to spread further or killing the existing victims (over a million people, including Spock and his own nephew). Kirk specifically tells Spock and McCoy, "I want that third alternative!" They find it, but it's a near thing.
Another one was Kirk's Kobayashi Maru. Option one was respond to rescue call and be destroyed, option two was to abandon the Kobayashi Maru, potentially preventing war but leaving the crew and passengers to die. Kirk decided to Take a Third Option and cheat.
Not really a third option within the test, in the strictest sense...
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Emissary," Capt. Picard is told that a sleeper ship of Klingons is about to wake up with standard orders to attack the Federation. Ambassador K'Ehleyr gives only two options: Let them attack with great loss of life, or kill them before they start. However, Picard orders her and Worf to come up with better options, and after considerable difficulty, they do come up with a better solution — Worf and K'Ehleyr dress up as a captain and his first officer and berate the rather surprised Klingons for not realizing that the war would already be over by that point, implying (but not directly stating) that the Klingons conquered the Federation.
In another episode, Riker describes another Starfleet captain doing this at the Academy. There was a navigation test with three possible solutions. The captain in question (then a cadet) rejected them and offered his own. The test now has four solutions.
In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Author, Author", Neelix tries to invoke this when giving advice to the Doctor about the conflict of the episode, mentioning a Talaxian saying that went "When the road before you splits in two, take the third path." However, Scifi Debris points out the Fridge Logic of this:
In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Way of the Warrior", Sisko explicitly states they need a third option. The two available are to betray the Klingons and warn the Cardassians about an invasion, or do nothing, meaning things likely won't stop there. The option Sisko finds is to get measured for a new suit by the resident Cardassian tailor during a briefing, thus "accidentally" allowing him to warn the Cardassians while maintaining officially neutral.
In "Profit & Loss", three Cardassian fugitives hide from their government on Deep Space Nine while they plan how to escape Cardassian law completely. Garak is ordered by the Central Command to deal with this since he lives on the station and initially has the option of either capturing them or executing them. This option is reduced to executing them by the mission's overseer, Gul Toran, who winds up creating the choice between them being executed by Garak or himself (he prefers himself as he can take the credit). Garak solves the entire sorry mess with an option that is neither sending them back as living prisoners nor executing them: he kills Toran and helps the fugitives escape the station and Cardassian law entirely.
It made sense when he found out the man was a bird lover. And he got everything he needed at Radio Shack. Except for the hat.
If not revealed is it not heavily implied said man has been made a living scarecrow?
In an episode of MacGyver, Mac chases a group of gang members through an abandoned building and suddenly comes across an open door and a staircase, not knowing through where the gang went. He then uses his penknife to open a nearby locked door... only to fall into a snare trap with a bomb (which turns out to be fake). It was all for the best though, as the gang's apparent military training coupled with the fact that they knew Mac would go through the locked door allows him to, with help, deduce the gang's ringleader's identity: (his police chief friend, who is also a former Marine).
The sketch show Almost Live, parodies this with the sketch "You Make the Call" (which was recycled for the show Haywire). Someone would have two choices, such as whether to run a red light and risk either a ticket or being late for work again. The third option was to just take a bazooka to the traffic light.
Used directly or indirectly in several episodes of Stargate SG-1, such as "Urgo" (SG-1 can live with the annoying Urgo for the rest of their lives, or have him removed from their minds, effectively "killing" him) and "Zero Hour" (Turn Camulus over to Ba'al or SG-1 will be killed). Lampshaded in the episode "Fail Safe", in which the presented third option is so outrageous that Col. O'Neill requests a fourth option.
In the episode "Moebius", SG-1's ship is discovered by the Jaffa in ancient Egypt. They can attempt to attack the Jaffa but then alter history, or they could just give up and spend their lives trapped in the past (with the added headache of having to live under Ra's rule). It's Daniel Jackson who comes up with a brilliant third option of burying the thing they came for so that they wouldn't have to go back in time to begin with. There's a reason he was the Smart Guy.
There's also "1969", where O'Neill tries to invoke this trope:
Carter: I can't think of an "or" at the moment, sir.
O'Neill: Major; where there's a will there's an "or".
In Only Fools And Horses, market trader Derek Trotter is caught with a stolen microwave, and threatened with a charge of trafficking in stolen goods if he doesn't reveal the thief. If he won't talk, he and his family will suffer serious legal consequences. However, revealing the thief in exchange for immunity would make him a grass. When Derek agrees to the second option, his family is shocked... until, with full immunity in hand, he writes the name of the thief: 'Derek Trotter'
In the conclusion of the main story arc of Babylon 5, Captain Sheridan is asked to choose between Vorlons and the Shadows. He tells both to "get the hell out of his galaxy" instead.
When Delenn is facing flak from other Minbari for her choice to marry Sheridan on racial purity grounds, Delenn goes on a vision quest which eventually causes her to realize that she is descended from Valen aka Commander Sinclair, a human turned Minbari. She threatened the guy involved that either they will accept her choice, or she will blab how many Minbari are not as pure as they thought they were, something that would throw Minbari society into chaos. Just before Delenn storms out, he offers a third option: invoking an old Minbari tradition hailing from the bad old days when they still killed each other: that someone from the each of the clans would marry each other after the fighting stopped, as a symbol to help rebuild.
Delenn did this twice more in one episode. First, given the choice of the Religious caste surrendering or lots of people dying, she pulls out an ancient Minbari test of dedication and publicly shames the Warrior caste leader into taking part. She then takes a Third Option for the entire Minbari caste crisis by putting the Worker caste in charge.
Delenn likes these. She gives the Command Staff a third option when they must deal with a psychic Bester. They're choices are killing him or imprisoning if he violates Psi Cop rules about unauthorized scans. Delenn offers them some Mimbari telepaths to block Bester until he is drugged and power inhibited.
Paul McDermott of Good News Week, on the controversy over whether the New Millennium would start in 2000 or 2001:
"Thankfully, there's always the Australian solution: We start drinking on the 31st of December 1999, and we finish on the 1st of January 2001!"
In the episode "Happy Birthday, Mr. Monk", Monk is given a choice: Hide in a Porta-John or a dumpster. His answer? "I choose death!"
Subverted in Doctor Who, The Beast Below. While two of the Doctor's options are horrendous (Kill everyone onboard or let the Space Whale suffer for eternity), his third option is equally horrible (Lobotomise the whale). Lucky for us, Amy's Crowning Moment of Awesome comes when she notices that the whale is actually doing this voluntarily. She presses the "Abdicate" button stopping the whales torture and leaving it free to escape...and the ship actually goes FASTER. Effectively taking a fourth option. Five bucks, the Doctor is probably feeling very humiliated.
Technically speaking, it's one of the original two options, but with unexpected consequences, since it seemed to have not occurred to anyone else that the Space Whale might have wanted to help the humans and that torturing it to gain it's compliance was completely unnecessary. But yes, humiliation galore, no doubt.
Possibly humiliated, but most humiliation avoided by the utterly heartwarming fact that Amy knew the space whale was doing it voluntarily because it was so much like the Doctor.
Amy: "It came because it couldn't stand to watch your children cry. What if you were really old, and really kind and alone? Your whole race dead, no future. What couldn't you do then? If you were that old, and that kind, and the very last of your kind.... you couldn't just stand there and watch children cry."
In the Episode "Amy's Choice", the "Dream Lord" forces the Doctor, his companion, and his companion's boyfriend to pick which of two worlds was reality. They were both dreams.
The choice Amy makes is itself a Third Option. Given the choice between a life with Rory and a life with the Doctor, she chooses the Doctor's world because it has Rory in it. His death effectively made the choice a lot easier for her and basically clarifies that she'll probably choose Rory in the real world in the end anyway.
Before that, in "The End of Time," The Doctor must choose between killing the Master (and supposedly severing the link Gallifrey has to Earth) or killing Rassilon to end the threat. After seeing a certain Time Lady reveal her face, The Doctor took a third option: Shooting the Whitepoint Diamond and the machine that served as the actual link Gallifrey had to Earth, sparing the Master to perform his Crowning Moment of Awesome.
The Doctor: Get out of the way.
Torchwood: Children of Earth has a very dark example towards the end. By the start of Day 5, the options seem to be handing over millions of children to the 456 or fighting what is, from all available evidence, a losing battle to save them. Eventually Jack finds his third option - destroying the 456 by exploiting the signal they used to control the children. However, his plan will result in the death of whichever child is at the centre of the resonance, and the only one available is Jack's grandson.
In Kamen Rider Blade, Kenzaki is left with a Sadistic Choice at the finale. He can ether choose to seal the Black Joker, thus sealing away the innocent Hajime persona he and the others have befriended and who isn't responsible for his actions or allow the Black Joker to complete the destruction of humanity. So, what does he do? he fights the Black Joker long enough that Blade's King Form transforms him into the Azure Joker Undead. This makes the Black Joker no longer the winner of the Battle Fight and allows Hajime to return to his human life...though it also means they can never be near one another or they'll be forced to fight. Still, much better than the other options.
In an episode of Leverage, Moreau wants Eliot to kill a general to prove he's still the same Eliot, before he'll give the team the address of the auction they need to take down. If they don't take down the option, a nasty bomb gets sold to terrorists, and Moreau gets away. Eliot agrees - you see the assassination take place. Cut to the hospital, they've picked up the body - Eliot swapped the general with a corpse and "killed" the corpse, then Sophie posed as the grieving wife and ID'd the "general's" body. Course, the address led them to a trap... but still.
Parker also pulls off this in the Long Way Down Job. When she and Eliot are trying to recover the body of the victim who was left to die on a mountain, they fail also losing the evidence for their case. However they do manage to recover his cell phone that sends a message once it is brought down, both incriminating the suspect and giving a message to the victim's wife.
Minor example from Las Vegas: Sam is told that a whale with extremely sweaty palms must leave the casino because he's grossing people out, but doesn't want to hurt his feelings by expelling him from the last place he hasn't already been kicked out of. She solves the quandary by setting up a high-stakes game in the hotel swimming pool, with a floating table and waterproof cards.
iCarly: In one episode Carly and Sam get into an argument and force Freddie to decide who is correct. Freddie decides on an internet poll. After Freddie reveals who won out of the two girls, he reveals the third option which was both girls were being stupid and should make up. It won more than 200 times as many votes than the other two options.
In one episode of House, the titular doctor announces he's choosing a team leader from his four minions. Three of them promptly begin competing and are soon stuck in what amounts to a game show for House's amusement. Taub stays out of it an offers to split the pay raise with House; he is promptly made team leader.
Defied in an episode of The Daily Show where, while debating Fox News's intent on a recent story, Wyatt Cenac argued that Fox was evil and John Oliver argued that they were stupid. When Jon suggested the existence of a third option...
Oliver:These are the only two possible explanations, because if they're not as stupid as I believe them to be, they are really f*cking evil.
Cenac:And if they're not as evil as I think they are, they are STUPID.
Averted in episode of The West Wing. After Matt Santos is elected President, he has to choose between letting a political opponent be elected Speaker of the House or try to influence the election for the other candidate, who happens to be an old friend of his (which looks like blatant cronyism). They come up with a third option, convince his friend to withdraw and throw his support behind a dark horse candidate, who would then owe Santos a big pile of favors. Ultimately, Santos decides that such quasi-unethical political maneuvering is not how he wants to start his presidency, and refuses to interfere at all.
Faced with public outcry against a brutal dictator coming to New York for medical treatment, Frank has the police protect him before and during his surgery, then as soon as he's able to be moved he puts him on a plane back home, where a popular uprising has just deposed his government.
Faced with a white supremacist radio host making a live broadcast from a New York theater, Frank ensures the show can technically go on, but puts the man's police protection inside the theater and staffs it entirely with non-white officers led by a VERY large black sergeant.
Faced with finding a way to protect a Turkish violinist in danger of an honor killing if she returns home (the State Department's representative had wanted to grant asylum but the higher-ups vetoed it), Frank works his contacts and gets the New York Philharmonic to hire her, and the representative is only too glad to get her a work visa.
When an off duty police officer, who has had a few drinks, stops a robbery at first he is an hero - then he is in trouble for pulling his gun after drinking. Frank is advised to stay out of it. Instead he calls a press conference and announces the man will be slightly punished, but he gets to keep his job.
In the story of "Alice's Restaurant", Arlo Guthrie, upon being summoned to the police station over a matter of a pile of trash, surmises that the police officer will either commend Arlo and his friends for their honesty (which even Arlo says is highly improbable) or verbally chew them out. Instead of either of those possibilities, they get arrested.
Occurs in the story of "The Choice", by Ben Weiner. Or, parodied, rather. The two options are soup or salad, and the third option, eventually suggested by the impatient waiter, is soup and salad.
In the song Gay or European from Legally Blonde: The Musical, everyone is debating whether or not Mikos is gay or European. As it turns out, he's gay and European.
"You could go with this, or you could go with that... or you could go with us."
Said lyric is taken from "The Choice Is Yours" by Black Sheep.
Mythology & Religion
Taking the Third Option is one of the central, if not even the single most important principle of Buddhism. Born as a prince and having lived all his life in a palace, Siddhartha Gautama lost all joy in the riches and pleasures of his life when he realized that all people will eventually become old, sick, and die. So he became a wandering ascetic, hoping to find spiritual happiness by ignoring everything material and only meditating all the time. But even though he tried harder than anyone else, it only made him starve and become sick, so he gave it up as well and started to eat again and take care of his health. Only when he tried to find a balance between comfort and living a simple life did he gain enightenment and became the Buddha. Teaching this Middle Way to the other ascetics that he was living with is regarded as the birth of the Buddhist community.
Similar story to the previous: Some time ago, a prince offered those who had committed a crime a chance to either die by being hanged or being decapitated with a sword (which was considered honorable), which consisted in saying something true, non-related to the prince. Most people failed due to the prince, who just declined everything said and condemned them to die by the mob. One day, an old man was being judged, after being asked the question, he said "I'll be hanged". If he got hanged, then what he said would be a truth, so he should be decapitated. But then if he was decapitated, he would have been saying a lie. The prince was impressed by such a demonstration of wit, and let the old man live.
When Kuchisake-onna asks you if you think she's pretty, especially after she reveals her Glasgow Grin, honesty is just plain suicidal. Telling her she DOES look pretty isn't a good idea either (as "kirei", the word she uses for "pretty", also means "to cut with a knife", and she is apparently powered by bad puns). However, you can...
... tell she looks "so-so", "okay", or "average" (confusing her).
... ask if she thinks you're pretty (confusing her).
There's an old story about a princess that was forced by an evil witch to marry one of her ugly sons, so they will become king. The princess must make a statement, and if that statement is true, she will marry son A. If it's false, she'll marry son B. After some deliberation, the princess says "I will marry son B". The evil witch is unable to come up with a solution, and lets the princess go free.
This Logic Bomb appears in other forms. One variant is a condemned being given a choice between two methods of execution depending on the truth of his next statement. The condemned then states he will be subject to the execution for lying.
There's a fairy tale in which a farmer brags about his clever daughter, and the king agrees to marry her if she can solve a riddle; else the farmer has to pay for his bragging. The riddle is that she must come to his palace to meet him neither during the day nor night, neither naked nor clothed, neither hungry nor fed, neither on foot or with a ride, and neither on the road nor off it. The farmer's daughter arrives at dawn/dusk depending on the story, with a fishnet wrapped around her, having drunk her fill of water, being dragged by a horse on the edge of the road. The king marries her.
There's a similar story where, instead of arriving like that, the daughter simply didn't show.
The way I heard it the requirements were neither nude nor clothed, neither riding nor walking, neither day nor night, and she must bring a "gift that is not a gift". She comes at dusk/dawn with a blanket covering her so she was neither clothed nor nude, with one leg over a goat so she was not quite riding yet not quite walking, and in a small cage she had a bird that as she gave it to him she let it go free. On their wedding day the king made her promise not to interfere with his kingly duties, one day she does and her punishment is to be sent back to her father, but as the king still loves her, he allows her to take with her one gift. She chooses to take him. The king decides not to make her leave.
Another solution I've heard is to come during a solar eclipse, with a blanked wrapped on, having drunk milk, and arriving either by horse-drawn sleigh astride the road edge, or arriving by a boat. The king marries her.
In the story, The King's Equal, a dying king tells his son that he can't take the throne until he marries a woman who he admits is as beautiful, intelligent, and rich as he is. Eventually, a gorgeous young peasant girl shows up, and the prince says that she's "the most beautiful creature [he's] ever seen." She doesn't want anything because she has her friends, while he wants the crown. And she knows something he doesn't -he's very lonely. The prince admits that she's his equal... and the woman announces that, in fact, he has just admitted that she's better than him in every way, and sends him off to care for her goats for a year while she gets the kingdom back in order. He comes back a better person and they get married.
A 14-year-old Lebanese girl named Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar Rayès was stuck between two possible Arranged Marriages. Her stepmother said she should marry her brother (aka the kid's uncle); her maternal aunt, however, said the girl should marry her son. After witnessing the two women fight it out, Rafqa locked herself in her room to pray and think about what she should do... and took the third option she had left: becoming a nun, not just to escape the marriages but because she already wanted to do so. She became the first Lebanese female Catholic saint.
The Pharisees tried several times to try and turn Jesus' popularity against him. In one example, they asked whether the Jews should pay the oppressive taxes imposed on them by their Roman overlords. Answering yes would anger the Jews; answering no would bring down the wrath of the Romans. Jesus pointed to Caesar's face on a coin and advised the listeners to "Give Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's." Since both sides at least claimed not to be interested in what was the other's, everyone was happy... No one found anything to complain about.
There is a Russian folk story of an old man sentenced to death by Czar. The Czar grants him one wish. The man says: "Give me five years and if I manage to teach a horse to speak, let me free". Some of his friends protest and say he should have gone to death proudly while some say he should have pleaded mercy from Czar. The man replies: "See, I am an old man, and within five years a lot of things may happen. I may die, the horse may die or the Czar may die. And there is always the chance that the horse will learn to speak."
Fables references this, even rephrasing the answer of the old man.
In The Bible Two young women who lived in the same house and who both had an infant son came to Solomon for a judgement. One of the women said that the other, after accidentally smothering her own son while sleeping, had exchanged the two children to make it appear that the living child was hers. The other woman denied this and so both women claimed to be the mother of the living son and said that the dead boy belonged to the other. After some thought, King Solomon called for a sword to be given to him. He declared that there is only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy's true mother cried out, "Please, My Lord, give her the live child—do not kill him!" However, the liar, in her bitter jealousy, exclaimed, "It shall be neither mine nor yours—divide it!" Solomon instantly gave the live baby to the real mother, realizing that the true mother's instincts were to protect her child, whatever the cost, while the liar revealed that she did not truly love the child.
Averted in Dilbert when he is visited by Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light. Phil offers him two options as punishment for his sins, one where he will have a meaningless job, but will be paid highly, and one where he will have an important job, but be paid badly. You do not see which he chooses, but Dilbert is delighted, because both are better than his current position (where he is paid badly for meaningless work).
Adventures in Odyssey has an episode where Connie becomes the valedictorian. One of the things she has to do on stage however is say a prayer. So the principal of the college and her tutor let her write a prayer, only to find it makes references to Jesus which offends other members of the faculty. So the principal says she should pray the college's "acceptable" prayer. He adds that if she doesn't pray the "acceptable" prayer he'll stop her during her prayer and get her in more trouble. However, her tutor says if she wants to say her own prayer, she (and some other faculty members) will support her. On the day itself Connie makes the decision to...not pray at all!
In Deadlands, Dr. Darius Hellstrome is pretty adept at taking the third option. During the Great Rail Wars, all the good rail routes got taken around the Rocky Mountains, meaning he'd either have to fight one of the other Rail Barons for territory, or commit financial suicide by trying to build track through the Rocky Mountains. Instead, he takes a third option by creating an invention that allows him to dig underneath the Rocky Mountains, which had the added benefit of hiding his progress from his competitors.
He did it again in The Last Sons Plot Point Campaign where he exploited a loophole where the Sioux forbid any outsiders from laying track on their lands. After all, they didn't say anything about laying track under their lands.
Realizing that his life would eventually end in one way or another, Hellstrome could either plan to take all his work with him to the grave or find a successor. Instead, he created an automated process that could indefinitely preserve his mind in the event that he died, thus allowing him to live well into the Hell On Earth era.
The Merchant of Venice: Launcelot has to decide between continuing to work for Shylock, whom he sees as "the devil", or running away...which would be committing a sin, thereby putting him in the service of the real devil. He gets out of the dilemma when his father shows up and helps him to lawfully switch jobs.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is an interesting example. Hermia has to decide between marrying Demetrius or being put to death, with the "third option" of becoming a nun. She takes a fourth option, running off with Lysander to get away from the laws of Athens.
Used in Zork Zero. You're faced with being executed, along with several other people, and everyone gets to make a last request. If the executioner can do it, he hangs you. If he can't do it, he cuts your head off. When it's your turn, the correct command is to say "executioner, cut my head off." So he'd have to cut your head off, then hang you. But he's only supposed to cut your head off if he can't do it, and you wouldn't have a head or neck anymore to be hanged from... The executioner eventually gets so confused and befuddled, he ends up letting you go.
In The Curse Of Monkey Island, Guybrush Threepwood is asked, while challenging a pirate to a duel, to "Choose your weapon," and is presented with a case full of pistols. No matter the weapon he chooses, he loses the duel. If the player closes the case, a banjo is revealed to be behind it. The correct option is to choose duelling with banjos.
Doubly played with, in fact, as the pirate proves to be an exceptional banjoist. Instead of admitting defeat or being an even better player, Guybrush has to defeat him by picking up one of the aforementioned pistols and shooting the banjo, thus proving himself to be sneaky and dishonourable enough to be a pirate captain.
In Myst, you're presented at the start with brothers Sirrus and Achenar trapped in books, each accusing the other of destroying their father's books and being wrongfully imprisoned by said father. Additionally, Achenar claims that Sirrus killed their father, while Sirrus says that father went on a journey to discover the truth and was never seen again. Throughout the game, you collect pages that allow you to hear more of the brothers' stories. In the end, you're confronted with the choice between freeing Sirrus or Achenar. The correct answer: They were both in on it, and you shouldn't free either or you'll be trapped yourself. Instead, you have to use the green book which both brothers warned you against, freeing their father to destroy the red and blue books. Oh, and make sure you take the right third option, i.e. get the white page before using the green book.
The whole series has many problems like this (as well as many puzzles in which you just have to solve it the long way). For example, in Riven, Gehn gives you the option of using the Trap Book (which he thinks is a Linking Book that will take him home), or of refusing, which will get you killed if you do it too many times. The solution is to voluntarily use the book and trap yourself, which will convince Gehn to use it as well, thereby taking your place in the Trap and freeing you.)
Myst 3: Exile offers such a dilemma. Once you've activated both of the crystal podiums in Narayan, Saavedro will approach you and, realizing that the Narayan society is still alive and well and that he can't go home without you turning the outer shield off once he's on the plaform, will tell you to release the outer crystal and will walk out. Refuse and he'll eventually kill you. Do as he asks, and he'll gllefully toss the Releeshahn book into the drink and ride off, leaving you to go back to Atrus empty-handed. The best answer? turn off the power, trapping Saavedro between the crystals. If you approach the window after doing it, he'll give you the Releeshahn book and will plead for you not to leave him trapped. This leads to yet another of the same type of dilemma. If you leave him, Atrus will comment on the cruelty of that act, but if you turn the power back on, lowering the inner crystal, he'll charge back in and kill you. The answer this time is to turn the switch lever and then restore power, releasing the outer crystal and allowing Saavedro to return to his home without ever exposing yourself to him.
In Myst 4: Revelation, you're confronted with Yeesha strapped to a chair, asking to be freed by pulling a silver-colored lever. Her brother Achenar is also in the room, and claims that Yeesha is actually Sirrus, his brother, transferred into her body, and demands that you pull the amber-colored lever instead. Taking a third option by refusing to act is not the correct solution in this case (subverting the trope); in fact, this is one of two ways to get a bad ending (the other one is pulling the silver lever). The correct choice is to trust Achenar and pull the amber lever, which transfers Sirrus out of Yeesha's body.
Finally, in Myst 5: End of Ages, the player is constantly running into Yeesha and Escher, who each cajole you in different ways to give the Tablet to them, but who are each unworthy to have it for different reasons. The answer is to put the Tablet on the ground, so that it can be picked up by the Bahro, who were its rightful owners originally.
In Knights of the Old Republic, there is a quest of sorts presented to you on Dantooine by a Twi'lek jedi named Bolook, who is investigating a recent murder. The two suspects, Rickard Lusoff and Handon Guld, must be questioned in order to determine which one actually killed the victim, a farmer named Calder, in addition to corroborating evidence with an information droid. After 4 rounds of questioning, and calling both parties on false testimony and possible motives, you find that they were both guilty, and that Calder was sleeping with Handon's wife and had a business deal with Rickard which went sour. This gets you the more than double the XP of just naming one murderer.Full Details
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 sees (and deals with the results) of this exchange:
Raziel: You said it yourself, Kain - there are only two sides to your coin. Kain: Apparently so. But suppose you throw a coin enough times... suppose one day, it lands on its edge.
The above was due to a choice Kain had to make. If he killed himself, it would seemingly restore the pillars of Nosgoth, but that would finish off the vampires. If he didn't kill himself, then the vampires would remain due to his presence, but Nosgoth would remain. At first it seems he chose option two out of a desire to survive. It turns out that the entire situation was crafted carefully by Moebius and his Elder God. If he killed himself, Nosgoth would be doomed anyway because the vampires kept the pillars preserved. He actually took a third option. In a convoluted (but awesome) scenario he purified himself so he could fulfill his destiny as the Scion of Balance, making the pillars unnecessary.
Soul Reaver is one big quest for that 3rd option which will satisfy everyone who hated the end choices from Blood Omen: Save the world but sacrifice yourself, or rule over a crumbling Nosgoth.
In Mass Effect 2, Tali's loyalty mission involves being her being accused of treason. While investigating a quarian science ship, Shepard finds evidence that Tali's father was conducting dangerous experiments on the geth. Shepard can choose not to tell the quarians about this, which is what Tali wants. This results in Tali's exile, but earns her loyalty. Shepard can also reveal the evidence, which gets Tali acquitted but loses her loyalty. Or Shepard can call out the quarian admirals for their politicking and shame them into acquitting Tali while still earning her loyalty.
There's actually a fourth option here, or a second third option, as it were. You can convince the other quarians you've encountered to stand up for Tali to the Admiralty Board, which has the same result as doing it yourself, but doesn't require the high Paragon/Renegade score that the first one does (and is a Crowning Moment of Awesome for them). You do have to make sure that they're alive and sane, though, and that's far from given.
The entire Mass Effect series is full of these, in the form of Charm/Intimidate checks. Most of them are "third options" that both do roughly the same things despite being tied to different karma, and that typically solve whatever problem needs to be solved without any trouble. This is why charisma is a good thing.
A Good Example is in Lair of the Shadow Broker, Tela Vasir is holding a random woman hostage, the normal options are to do as she says and drop all your ammo, shoot through the woman, or (with sufficiently high Paragon or Renegade) give either a Badass Boast or a "The Reason You Suck" Speech while Liara hits her with a table.
At the end of Priority: Rannoch in Mass Effect 3, Legion (or the Geth VI if Legion died in ME 2) tries to upload the Reaper upgrades into the geth, upon their freedom from the Reapers. However, the quarian fleet is still hellbent on obliterating the upgraded geth, causing it to be the one to be wiped out, instead. It's at that point, Shepard has to either continue the upload at the expense of destroying the quarians, or kill Legion so that the quarians can destroy their creations without getting wiped out themselves.
The third option: use a reputation check to convince the quarians to stand down and allow the geth upload, which results in the two sides making peace and allying with the Alliance against the Reapers. This Golden Path has extremely steep requirements, only available if Shepard has at least four bars of Reputation, imported a Mass Effect 2 save where both Tali and Legion were recruited and survived, completed "Rannoch: Geth Fighter Squadrons," and did at least 5 points' worth of the following: destroyed the heretic geth in "Legion: A House Divided" (2 points), completed "Tali: Treason" by using a reputation check to get Tali acquitted without giving evidence of her father's treason (2 points), brokered an agreement between Tali and Legion in their argument (1 point), and completed "Rannoch: Admiral Koris" (1 point) by rescuing the admiral instead of his crew (1 point, separate from the other).
The ending of the third game plays out this way. There's two regular options that are suggested by Admiral Anderson and the Illusive Man respectively, destroying all the Reapers (and all synthetics by extension) or controlling the Reapers and ordering them to leave. However, if your "War Assets" score is high enough, you can Take a Third Option of combining synthetics and organics, ending the cycle of synthetics vs. organics. Whether or not taking this third choice is "better" than the other choices is entirely a matter of perspective.
Of course the series' own perspective is that this third option is very much a case of The Bad Guy Wins, which added to the controversy.
Played straight in Neverwinter Nights. When you reach the village of Charwood, you are told to affix the blame for a centuries-old massacre. It turns out that the murderer was neither of the adversaries responsible for half the events, but rather the demon that was manipulating them both. On the other hand, exposing the demon leaves you in another dilemma; you can either let a demon lord go free and bag yourself a magical trinket, or doom a town of people to eternity in amnesia and madness in order to trap the balor. Great, huh?
Even after revealing the demon lord you can still decide if one off the former suspects is guilty. One of the suspects could have chosen not to execute the massacre and abandoning his plan with eternal undead. The overall outcome is more positive.
An infamous moment in video game history, in Final Fantasy VIII: when you are trying to acquire the Guardian Force Bahamut, you are asked several questions to test your character. The... worst gag - or however you like to consider it - is the answer to the third question is an invisible third answer, which is only seen when you've decided on it. Really great, Square...
However, it's entirely in character for Squall: presented with two options with which to explain what he fights for, he declares that they are both wrong (only after trying them both), and that what he fights for is not something so simplistic. Still really annoying when you have to fight two very tough enemies to get to that point, and then Bahamut himself immediately after, with no chance to heal.
The third option is also a big plot point in Final Fantasy X: Between letting Sin continue it's endless rampage against Spira and sacrificing Yuna (and probably Tidus as well) in order to destroy it, only for it to inevitably come back anyway.]] The third option in this case was to take advantage of Sin's (i.e. Jecht's) weakness to the Hymn of the Fayth, then use the airship to get inside it, destroy it (him) from the inside, and use regular aeons and good old-fashioned beatdown to destroy Yu Yevon (who created and controlled Sin) before he could recover. This was probably Auron's plan to begin with; he probably just let Tidus and the others figure it out on their own.
In Deus Ex early on in the game you are instructed by your CO to kill the unarmed leader of a group of terrorist/freedom fighters who has already surrendered or else she will kill him for you and report you for insubordination (which she will do if you try to leave or even so much as talk to him for too long). An unsaid, but also perfectly viable option, is to just kill her instead, and claim she got killed in the crossfire. It is difficult to do without killing the terrorist leader anyway because your CO explodes when you kill her.
It's possible: when you enter the terrorist's bedroom, put a LAM or two on the wall. After the first chunk of dialogue, when you hear Anna Navarre's footsteps, run to the bathroom, so you won't die too. When she's blown up, you can continue your conversation with Lebedev - it's worth it, for he has some crucial and interesting information.
Or you can take the fourth option, try for a non-lethal kill. It's impossible to actually knock out your CO, but you can do sufficient damage to cause her to run from you without landing the killing blow. Your still be forced to kill your CO later in the game to move forward. Unless you take the third option again via sequence breaking. The game never adequately explains why your bosses seem to be unaware that you attacked your CO despite her being alive and perfectly capable of reporting the incident.
The Deus Ex Human Revolution DLC "The Missing Link" confronts the player with a choice - poison gas is flooding the facility, and the protagonist can divert the gas to one of two areas, saving either hundreds of innocent people, or a whistleblower who is prepared to blow the horrific practices going on in the facility wide open. Finding and disabling the well-hidden pump for the gas nets the player high praise from some support characters and an achievement named "all of the above".
Aigis of Persona 3 FES has to make a tough choice - leave behind the memories of the person she loved, or go back in time to save him (which would doom humanity or get them stuck in their dormitory forever). Instead she decides to find out how exactly the Main Character performed his miracle and if there's a way to save him using the last remaining Door of Time, which allows them to use the Key of Time for something else, like leaving the dorm.
In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All, Phoenix at one point must decide whether to save Maya from an assassin while condemning an innocent woman, or convict his guilty client but let Maya die. In the end, he manages to convince the assassin to drop his contract by revealing that the guilty client had planned to betray him all along; he releases Maya and announces his intention to kill the treacherous client next, who is scared for his life to the point that he demands a guilty verdict.
Subverted at the very end, though: after that reveal, you must still either accuse your client of being guilty or defend him to the end, asking for a "not guilty" verdict. The outcome is the same.
There's also multiple points where Phoenix/Apollo/Edgeworth reconcile a contradiction by saying that the contradiction itself is true. The most notable is in the final case of Trials and Tribulations when Iris appears to be in two places at once according to two separate pieces of testimony. Which testimony is true? Both. One of the 'Irises' is her twin sister Dahlia, being channeled by Misty Fey.
Edgeworth gets one too. Who is the real Yatagarasu? Neither Byrne Faraday nor Calisto Yew...because the real answer is both. The Yatagarasu was a Collective Identity made up of Faraday, Yew, and Detective Badd.
In the final puzzle of Star Trek: A Final Unity, Picard is forced to choose between using a superweapon to annihilate a Borg Fleet, or simply using it to nonviolently halt their invasion. Naturally, the correct choice is None of the Above.
About all the solutions in Star Trek Borg are almost never either the two choices given to you, but an absolutely insane third option that nobody would try on their first time. Thankfully Q gives you lots of tries...
In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, after playing through the game as Riku, Riku meets up with King Mickey, who suggests that he keep his dark powers, saying something to the effect of, "You chose a road I never even thought of; I want to see where that road leads." Later, when asked whether he'll take the road to light or the one to darkness, he takes the one in the middle... "the road to dawn."
In Mario And Luigi Partners In Time, when the titular Bros. try to access the Star Shrine, the Sprite gives a test of purity. Examining Mario's spirit, the Sprite determines that he is pure enough (and mildly overweight, at that), but Luigi's past is dark enough (illiciting some horrified mutterings from the Sprite) to bar him from entering, and he must hit a special block in order to get in. After completing the puzzle to get the block to the door, Luigi is unable to hit it, and the Sprite asks who was responsible, giving you three choices: 1) Mario, 2) The Babies, 3) Luigi the correct answer is 4). After taking the test, the Sprite is dissatisfied with Luigi's dishonesty and agrees to only let Mario and the babies in, ignoring the point-out that he only gave three answers, none of which were correct. Mario debates on Luigi's behalf to the outraged Sprite, and his selflessness is apparently strong enough for both of them. He then reveals that the whole event was a test in and of itself, and they passed with flying colours.
Geneforge 4 has you start off allied with rebels who will kill thousands to overthrow the government, but will let you defect to the other side, which will smash the rebellion and reinstate oppression and servitude. Both refer with distaste to some group known as the "Trakovites," which they're doing their best to stamp out...
The Mega-Ten Series has this Trope as a major theme, as the main character has the choice of aligning yourself with Law(Usually represented by the Messians who worship YHWH, a vain dictator who created the world to be his) or Chaos (Usually represented by the Gaians, who think that it's every man for himself, and are usually aided by Lucifer). Neither is the right option however as the Law path has no liberty while the Chaos path results in self destruction. The (arguably) correct path is Balance which supports personal liberties and individuality while not falling in a state of anarchy. Again this is arguable since the games allow you to choose whichever path you want and treat you as the victor no matter which you chose.
Somewhat of an aversion as well. Broken Steel gives you more options, but every option you have is non-canon, since Broken Steel retcons the ending to explain why the Lone Wanderer and Sarah are both incapacitated, but neither is dead.
In Kingdom Hearts II, the villain Xaldin of Organization XIII has the Beast caught between a Sadistic Choice. He has stolen the Beast's rose, as well as Belle. However, he will let one of them go, at Beast's choice. And there's not a damn thing Beast can do about it. Belle, on the other hand, catches Xaldin off guard by elbowing him in the side, takes the rose, and runs. Even Sora notes that as Belle's running, she seemed to be having a really good time.
Twisted Metal: Head-On has one of these in Agent Shepard's ending. The winner of the Twisted Metal Car Fu tournament gets a wish from Literal GenieBig Bad Calypso; typically they get screwed over. Rather than fall for this, Shep decides to just arrest Calypso.
The best part of which is Flipping the Bird to members of the third potential faction (after having killed the other two) as you walk off into the night.
Grand Theft Auto Vice City exemplifies the whole concept of sufficiently advanced video games allowing a third option. One mission has you chasing a crazed stalker. The official game guide suggests ramming his car until it explodes or doing a drive-by. It's possible to steal enough cars to create a roadblock and then use the rocket launcher. This is just one of dozens of examples.
For a Rogue-alike, ADOM has an unusual amount of plot, and there are several Third Options available in the game. If you take the quest to look for the village carpenter, you'll find he's become a dangerous Chaos monster, who will attack you on sight. It's kill or be killed ... or you can lead him to the healer Jharod, who will fix his corruption and teach you the Healing skill as a reward. Later on, you'll meet an undead dwarven warrior, who can be defeated by force, or destroyed instantly by pouring holy water on his grave. Later still, you'll run into a dying sage who can't be healed by any normal spells, but he won't move off the stairs to the next level until you talk to him, at which point he dies. The third option is to give him an amulet of life saving. When it comes to the endgame, you can close the Chaos gate and kill all the monsters on the level, preventing it from being reopened ... or destroy the levers so the gate can't be reopened ... but if you've done a variety of difficult tasks, you can go through the gate instead and fight the god of Chaos for a special ending.
In Wing Commander III, at one point you're given a choice between kissing Rachel or Flint, which would make the one not chosen mad at you (and thus unavailable, leaving you to either fly short a wingman or configure your own ship loadout if you don't want to launch without missiles, respectively). However, you can choose to not kiss either of them, by bypassing the decision scene entirely, and have both still available. Both will be unhappy with you and their morale will take a ding, but only for Flint does that really matter, as lowered morale makes her flying less effective.
Dragon Age: Origins gives you a third option at Castle Redcliffe, where the Arl's son Connor has been possessed by a desire demon, torturing the castle denizens and wreaking havoc on the village with frequent attacks from the undead. At first the choices are to kill Connor or sacrifice his mother, Arlessa Isolde, in order for a mage to enter the Fade and slay the demon. But, if you ask about an alternative, you'll be presented with the option of having the mages of the Circle Tower assist in the ritual, sparing both. If you are a mage and choose to enter the Fade yourself, you're also presented with a fourth option by the desire demon herself: Allow her to leave, temporarily relinquishing control over the boy, in exchange for a reward of your choosing.
In the Dalish Elf quest, by the time you encounter the Lady of the Forest, she explains that the werewolves she protected were once humans, before the Dalish Keeper Zathrien turned them into werewolves, all as an act of revenge for his dead children. It's at that point that the player can either kill the werewolves and quench Zathrien's thirst for revenge, side with the werewolves and help them pay back the elves for their curse, or, as the ultimate third option, sacrifice Zathrien and the Lady of the Forest's lives to return the werewolves back into humans.
By the end of The Landsmeet quest, the Warden protagonist is given the option of killing the traitor, Teryn Loghain, or turning him into a Grey Warden while replacing Alistair with the teryn. He/she also has to decide whether Alistair or Anora becomes the new ruler of Ferelden. If Loghain is spared, Alistair can't be chosen to lead Ferelden. If Loghain dies, Alistair is a feasible choice for ruler of Ferelden.
Thankfully, there is still a way to elect both Alistair and Anora as the new rulers of Ferelden, while Teryn Loghain lives and becomes a Grey Warden. First the player has to harden Alistair after the events of his own side-quest, so that he could be more willing to become king. After that, the player has to persuade Alistair and Anora to marry each other, so that both can rule Ferelden together, while Loghain lives.
As a fourth option, if the protagonist is a human-noble, he/she can either marry Alistair if female, or Anora if male. Regardless of whom he/she marries, he/she becomes a ruler of Ferelden him/herself.
The ending also provides a third option. Instead of sacrificing yourself, or a comrade warden, to the Archdemon, you can have Morrigan impregnated, either by a male PC, or Alistair or Loghain. Doing this lets the Archdemon's essence join with the unborn child.
There's a fourth option, instead of giving Morrigan a god-fetus, or sacrificing yourself or Alistair. When you take down Teyrn Loghain at the Joining, you can opt to recruit him for the Grey Wardens, and make him finish off the Archdemon.
Dragon Age II also subverts the idea that the third option has to be an optimal outcome in the quest Night Terrors. A boy with a rare magical talent is being threatened by demons. The choices first given to you are to either save him and let him run away to train his talents or to make him Tranquil (essentially a magical lobotomy). The third option is to let another demon posess his body, wreaking havoc with the boy's magical talent in exchange for a reward from the demon.
In Fable III, after taking the throne, you discover why your brother Logan was such a terrible ruler, and you are faced with the same choice: either keep your promises to those to whom you have made them, thereby dooming Albion to the demonic presence looming on the horizon, or break your promises, gaining you enough funds with which to defend Albion from said evil. It's quite possible, though, for you to simply buy up all the property in the game, which eventually deposits enough money in the royal treasury for you to build up your defenses while keeping the moral high ground.
There's also an inversion in the early game where Logan forces you to choose between killing a group of protesting commoners and killing your childhood friend/lover. If you take too long to make this choice, he orders all of them to be executed.
If you start looking into the Dark Brotherhood in The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, you'll find yourself waking up in a locked shack, where the Brotherhood's chief assassin explains that you owe her group one murder. She has three bound and hooded victims waiting for you - a harridan of a housewife, a blubbering Nord bandit, and a Kajiit who unrepentantly mentions that he's a rapist and murderer - and explains that there's a contract on one of them. Someonehas to die before you leave the shack. Kill one and the assassin will welcome you as an initiate in the Dark Brotherhood. Kill more than one and she'll praise you for your thoroughness. Or... you can kill the assassin (no easy feat), free the captives, and report to a city guard, starting the "Destroy the Dark Brotherhood" quest in which you assault the assassins' lair and wipe them out for good. This is an improvement from Oblivion, where you could only opt in or out of the Brotherhood without doing anything else.
In the end of the first Dino Crisis, Regina must choose between helping a mortally wounded Gail (Regina's commanding officer) apprehend the renegade scientist Dr. Kirk, causing Gail to die in the process; or knock Gail out, forcing him to escape the island without capturing Dr. Kirk. The third option comes when the player chooses to knock out Gail, only to go after Dr. Kirk alone.
Meta-example: The series is famous for its Alternate Timeline, but the older 2D games don't really fit anywhere on it. Instead of making a game to connect them to more recent entries, Nintendo opted to create a third branch in which Link died during Ocarina of Time.
In the MMORPG Plane Shift getting killed sends you to the Death Realm, which you have to explore to find the portal leading back to the mortal coil. Your first choice comes when the bridge you're on branches. Right or left? Both paths are dead ends, just keep going straight ahead and drop off the bridge.
In Jade Empire, instead of (Good Ending) healing the water dragon or (Evil Ending) claiming her power for yourself, you can sacrifice yourself and let Master Li win. Your reward for allowing his evil dictatorship? A statue of yourself. Derp.
In the fifth chapter of "Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People," Strong Bad needs some tech support. Unfortunately, the guy on the phone isn't interested in helping and tries to impersonate a voicemail system with multiple responses if Strong Bad says "One," "Two," or "Three." None of the responses are helpful to the player; the way to proceed is for Strong Bad to take a fourth option and say, "Four." This causes the tech support guy to panic and concede defeat.
In the extensive Baldur's Gate (1) NPC mod, there are three romantic suitors for a female PC. Two of them, a knight and a rogue, will go through a series of impressive challenges in the hope of winning the PC's heart, which may well make it very difficult to decide between the two. Since the third opts out due to thinking his chances are hopeless, this makes him an endearing and tempting third option (as evidenced by polls, wherein he is the single most popular choice of either gender.)
Strange Journey presents you with a dilemma in Grus. A demon has sealed the path to Maya, the area's boss, and demands that you kill the newly-pacified Jack's Squad before he'll let you through. However, the newly-angelic Zelenin offers you another option: use her song to brainwash the demons and make them open the path. Killing Jack's Squad is the Chaos option, while using Zelenin's song is the Law option. There is, however, an unpresented Neutral third option: Kill the demon that's sealing the path in the first place.
A third example in the undersea area: A turf war is being fought between two gangs of fish obsessed with sport: The Ice Skates and The Roller Skates. You can help one side against the other, or help a third faction, The Skate Board, drive both away.
In Fallout New Vegas, rather than just choosing to side with the NCR or Caesar's Legion, the Courier is given the choice to secure Vegas under the rule of Mr. House. You can even go one step further and decide to screw them all in order to make Vegas an Independent city-state under your own rule with the help of the Yes Man A.I. Additionally, in many more minor choices the player has to make they can sometimes, if they have enough of the right skill, choose an extra option (it's also there when they don't have the skill, but it has no effect and both the player's words and the response are generally Played for Laughs) that will reward them with a sense of satisfaction, some amusing or badass dialogue and will often allow them to skip an annoying resource-gathering quest or give them the advantage of free or cheaper weapons, armour or supplies.
There is one case where not having enough skill but still choosing the skill-option opens up a new option: in the final battle against Lanius, if you fail the final skill check in the chain to convince him to retreat, a less hard speech check becomes available: talking him into fighting you one-on-one.
In Monster Girl Quest at one point you're given the option to either touch a kitsune's fluffy tail or have some of her fried tofu. Both choices lead to bad ends, since she takes away a magical artifact you need to continue. The third option is to ask her to hand over the artifact. Not a huge surprise, since all three options are listed from the start. But if you take the wrong option on purpose, you get scolded by Alice and Luka is surprised that there was a third option.
In Duel Savior Destiny the Messiah upon ascending to their position is forced to choose between the Red Law (magic) and the White Law (science) to determine which will be the new natural law in the new universe. Taiga, who recognizes that both of them are necessary, chooses instead to beat up God and make him stop offering such shitty choices since they destroy the current universe.
Sakura Oogami from Dangan Ronpa took one. It's eventually revealed at the end of case 4's trial that the reason Monobear was able to persuade Sakura to be The Mole was because Monobear was holding the Oogami dojo hostage. Sakura either had to kill someone and thus lose her moral integrity, which would emotionally destroy her (and cause her to be bloodily executed if she can't get away with it), or lose her family's beloved dojo which is the other important thing in her life... And what does she do? She kills herself, which simultaneously satisfies the dojo-saving requirement of killing someone (her own person) while preserving Sakura's moral integrity by not actually killing any of the others.
The entire plot of Tales Of Symphonia revolves around the protagonists' efforts to Save Both Worlds despite their condition of being in a hourglass-like state where life-giving mana must flourish in one and decline in the other - there isn't enough for both. And the whole process starts with the hero refusing to sacrifice The Chosen One in order to save his own world, insisting that he'll find a way to save both of them and the other world as well. He does, but it's sure not easy.
One was taken by Sougetsu Kazama in Samurai Shodown III. Faking your rebellious little brother Kazuki's death so he and your sister Hazuki can run away is way more useful than either letting him go and being marked as a failure by your clan, or killing him and definitely losing both of your siblings.
Spec Ops The Line uses this as an actual game mechanic in places. The game will offer two (horrible) choices to the player, but will acknowledge other actions as answers without explicitly stating them. For example, the player comes upon a man accused of stealing water and a soldier who used unnecessary force against him, both of whom were sentences to death and are hanging from nooses. The player is asked to choose which of them is guiltier. Snipers just ahead will shoot out the rope of the one the player doesn't condemn—or shoot at the player if he refuses to choose. In addition to the options of shooting either man or doing nothing, shooting at the snipers or shooting the ropes themselves are also considered valid responses.
After Saber nearly wipes her magical energy empty with the Excalibur, Shirou is initially faced with two options as to how to restore her energy: 1. transfer his energy to her, which is out of the question due to his poor magic skill. 2. Have her kill humans and steal their energy, which he doesn't want to do for obvious reasons. Later, however, Rin reveals that there is a third option: have sex with Saber. Too weak as a magus to transfer magic, and too moral to slaughter the lives of innocents, Shirou hesitatinglytakes option three.
Parodied in the fake 'dead-end', on Fate route, where Shirou tells Saber they will fast. Tiger and Illya turn him into a cyborg with gatling guns, and offer him a chance to 'join the Tigers willingly, or be brainwashed and turn into a machine.' His response? Turn on the gatling guns.
Junipers Knot: The demon girl is trapped within a magic circle. At least one life form must be inside the circle at all times, so someone has to take her place in order for her to escape from her prison. The boy has to either exchange places with her or leave her to her fate. He chooses to instead plant a tree within the circle, thereby substituting the life of the tree for hers. It works.
To get to the secret Music Test in Radical Dreamers you have to choose an invisible third option at one point in the game.
Near the end of the "Snowsong" arc of Dominic Deegan, Oracle For Hire, Snowsong turns herself into ice and orders Gregory (to whom she's frozen herself) to make a choice - save her life via magic and give her ice golem time to destroy the city of Barthis, or smash her to pieces and kill her so he can stop the golem. Gregory merely smiles, removes the spells on himself (which turns her back to normal) and uses another set of spells to turn them into a kinetic force powerful enough to shatter the golem on impact.
In Erfworld, Vinny Doombats suggests two options for escaping an enemy trap, after warning Ansom that "You won't like 'em." because they leave the enemy with a free hand to finish off Ansom's siege train. Ansom chooses the third option of taking his chances with the trap and ordering a hunt for the enemy's raiding force.
This is Parson's MO. Faced with the decision between fighting a losing battle and surrendering the stronghold? Parson orders his remaining casters to cast Animate Dead... on the volcano the stronghold is sitting on, blowing away the stronghold and the enemy. Parson later wonders if the titular RPG Mechanics Verse is designed to promote outside-the-box thinking.
Parson mentions that this was the entire point of the table-top campaign he was running when he got summoned: he was putting his players into a situation unwinnable by conventional means just to see if they'd come up with something else. He's clearly a big fan of this trope. When he's first presented with the hopeless tactical situation he asks himself "What Would Ender Do?"
In The Order of the Stick, the PCs try in #428 to determine which one of three identical-looking skeletons is the real Big Bad, and which are the decoys. They have only one shot at guessing. The answer is: they're all decoys. The fourth (and real) one is currently invisible and flying right next to them on his zombie dragon.
More stereotypically, in #327 they are confronted with two guardians: one always lies; the other always tells the truth. They both have said which is the "correct" path. The party is about to begin trying to ascertain whom to believe when Haley shoots one. The guards' instinctive reactions to this show who's telling the truth and who isn't.
The pacifist Celia is held captive by the Greysky City Thieves' Guild, and Roy is encouraging her to fight back, as in a D&D-esque world, it's kill or be killed. She opts for legal negotiation instead.
When a Huecuva and a ninja assassin start fighting over which one of them will kill Hinjo, he suggests a compromise called 'giant dwarf with a hammer.'
In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, creator Chris Hastings chose a third option in regards to the question of whether or not to include shading in the strips. He hired a colorist.
Parodied in thisDMFA guest strip, which presents a standard Good Angel, Bad Angel scenario regarding the purchase of an expensive colored pencil set with money earned from donations. By the time it's over, however, both sides agree on her alternative solution: "LARCENY WAS NOT THE ANSWER!"
Webcomic/Tailsteak's website has a series of comics called "TQ" (short for "tertium quid", "third option" in Latin) in which the titular character steps into a debate between a hippie and a rich businessman to tell them they're both wrong about such-and-such an issue, to the annoyance of both.
In 510, Sam and Helix give two options about where to fly their ship. Florence says, "Actually, we need to go the spaceport." Sam wasn't expecting this third option.
In 1803, Florence has to decide whether to help Sam or the police. Florence flips a coin, but Sam unexpectedly snatches the coin, so it doesn't land heads or tails. This induces Florence to take a third option, "Prepare the ship for the mission."
Collar 6- Who does Sixx send into the contest? Herself!!!
Homestuck: The newly-revived Aradia is holding Bec Noir in place with her time powers. However, she can't hold him there forever, giving her the choice of releasing him and dying now or holding him in place and dying when she eventually runs out of power. Her solution? Release him, then use his own space-bending powers against him to run straight to his power source and the dream bubbles of her friends.
Uncyclopedia insists that in a dilemma of two options, there is always a third option... cake.
Always delicious. Never complicated. Just cake.
Accomplished by Jesse Cox of OMFGcata during a Let's Play of the DLC of Deus Ex Human Revolution. Rather than give in to a Sadistic Choice of rescuing a crucial witness or several innocents, he successfully reasons out where the poison gas threatening them is and destroys it instead.
Neo: Do you have a green pill? Morpheus: No. You must choose: Blue or red. Neo: Orange? Morpheus: Let me explain the pills again. Neo: Yellow? Morpheus: Listen, you take- Neo: Can I take both? Morpheus: No. Neo: Uh... orange then, Morpheus: Here's the orange one. Neo: That looks red. Morpheus: Uh, that's the Matrix trying to trick you, now swallow the damn thing!
Toho Kingdom Toons has one in one of their earlier cartoons, where Gabara offers Little Godzilla a potion that could kill him. You have the option of saying "YES" OR "NO", but regardless of which choice you pick you ultimately get the 3rd option of "He should resist this peddler of peculiar potions @ all costs!"
Done for humor in the Batman The Animated Series episode "Almost Got 'Im". Harley Quinn captures Catwoman and ties her to a conveyor belt heading for a massive meatgrinder. Batman arrives, and catches Harley, who then taunts that he can either bring her in, or rescue Catwoman, but not both. Batman then... nonchalantly reaches over to the circuit breaker and shuts off the power to the grinder, to which Harley responds, "Good call—Help!"
Played with in Avatar The Last Airbender, where the extremely aged and hunchbacked King Bumi gives Aang a choice between two equally fearsome looking opponents. Feeling clever, Aang promptly picks Bumi himself, who turns out be one of the most powerful Earthbenders in the world and promptly kicks Aang around the arena like a football. The whole point of this and the other exercises were trying to think outside-the-box, and Bumi made the third option so obvious by saying "choose your opponent" and standing right in front of him that taking the third wasn't really that creative.
When Aang returns to Omashu while it is being controlled by the Fire Nation, he sought to rescue an imprisoned Bumi. Surprisingly, the old king can still earthbend, but has decided not to yet. Aang knows of the way of positive jing, fighting, and the way of negative jing, or retreating. Bumi reveals that there is a third "neutral" jing, which involves doing nothing and waiting for the right moment. This third jing would be key to Aang's mastering of earthbending.
This, in turn, pays off for Bumi when the eclipse arrived and rendering firebenders powerless, allowing him to single-handedly take back the city.
This trope crops up again in the series finale, where Aang is forced to decide whether to let Ozai live and carry out his genocide on the Earth Kingdom, or kill him outright. Aang manages to get around this by learning how to Spiritbend by getting Touched by Vorlons and permanently disabling Ozai's ability fo firebend.
Nearly subverted, certainly lampshaded in The Batman, where D.A.V.E., a robot programmed as "Gotham's Ultimate Criminal Mastermind", forces Batman to choose between Alfred's life and his secret identity. Batman tries to free Alfred through different means, only for D.A.V.E. to slam him against the wall of the Batcave, shouting that he knew he would try to take a third, more favorable option.
In one episode of South Park, Towelie was faced with either preventing the boys and their new game system from falling into a death trap, or getting high from a joint the evil towel was taunting him with. Towelie's response? "I choose.... BOTH!"
In one episode of Family Guy, Peter and his father-in-law sell Meg some marijuana, creating an implicit choice between the money and the pot, so Mr. Pewterschmidt hits Meg over the head and declares "Now we have the pot and the money!"
In the X-Men animated series, Bishop goes back in time to stop Apocalypse from causing a global plague. But in Cable's time (further into the future), Cable realizes that if Bishop saves the present, it would doom his future. The plague would allow humanity to develop antibodies that would help the people in Cable's time survive further plagues. So, if Cable wants to save his people, he has to help Apocalypse win. His third option? Expose Wolverine to the virus so his healing powers would create antibodies to counter the virus, thus giving it a cure. This allows Cable to save the future and the present.
Utilized (rather unfairly from a viewer's POV) in the short-lived Dragons Lair cartoon. The show would often go into commercial breaks with Dirk facing an A or B choice. In the original video game, one would mean safe passage the other, instant, hideous death. In the cartoon, both meant death. But, as the narration would smugly inform us, "Dirk saw there was a better way".
Also used in the episode "Simian Says" where Mojo Jojo kidnapped the narrator and narrated the girls doing his bidding. When they found him out and asked where he wanted to be punched, stomach or head, he replied "How about an option of the third type?" He didn't get to take it.
Also used in "Not so Awesome Blossom," where Blossom has to decide between attacking Mojo and risk having the Professor fall to his death or accept him as her ruler. She ends up Taking A Third Option in an unexpected way.
Nudar: You have two choices: unconditional surrender...
Nudar: Or total annihilation.
Leela: Also never!
Nudar: You have thirty seconds to decide.
In the Space Ghost episode, "Zorak", Zorak kidnaps Space Ghost's teen sidekicks and forces him to fight his giant hornets without his power bands, or his sidekicks will die. After fighting the wasps for a few minutes, Space Ghost puts his power bands back on and defeats the hornets, saving his sidekicks shortly after. The third option, if you missed it, was "remember that all your enemies are idiots," or "both" for short.
In a Teen Titans episode, Starfire's pet worm is torn in a decision between his father and Starfire, who raised him with love. Rather than joining either, he takes a third option, and explodes.
In the first season finale, Robin has to choose between serving as Slade's apprentice or letting a bunch of Slade's micro-probes kill his friends. His choice? Infect himself with the probes so that he and his friends share the same fate; Slade's so obsessed with winning that he'd rather let the Titans live than "lose" by allowing his apprentice to die.
When Homer shows Kang and Kodos are impersonating the 1996 presidential candidates on The Simpsons, they note the revelation makes no difference.
Kodos: It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
Man 1: He's right, this is a two-party system.
Man 2: Well, I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate.
Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away!
In another episode, Bart and Lisa stand on opposite sides of the living room and ask Maggie to walk to the one she loves best. Maggie's choice? The television.
In Tangled... Mother Gothel is about to forcefully take Rapunzel away, but Rapunzel promises she'll go with Mother Gothel willingly if she can use her hair to heal a fatally injured Flynn first. Flynn quickly takes a third option by cutting Rapunzel's hair before she can heal him, allowing Rapunzel her freedom while denying Mother Gothel from her source of eternal youth and denying himself a chance to be healed from his mortal injury. He dies, but then the Swiss Army Tears kick in and he's revived.
American Dad, "Bully for Steve": With his own father acting as a bully to try and toughen him up, Steve is left with two options. Get tougher, or face more bullying from Stan. Instead Steve finds Stan's old bully, Stelio Kontos, who promptly gives Stan a complete ass beating.
Spacely: I could make you vice-president, or give you stock in the company, but I've come up with a better idea.
George: Oh, what's that, sir?
Spacely: I'm not going to dock your pay, for the time you were gone from your job!
George: Oh.....thank you, sir...
In the "Double Date" episode of Justice League Unlimited, the Huntress has the option to either kill Mandragora in front of his own son for murdering her father, or to allow them to escape unscathed to a better life overseas. She chooses to capture and arrest Mandragora instead, a far less traumatizing event for the aforementioned son.
In the original Justice League series, Aquaman must deal with being in a Death Trap alongside his baby son. The first two options are saving himself at the cost of letting his child die and freeing said child only, but dying in the process. What's his choice? Cutting off his own hand... which lets him get free and save both himself and his son.]
The Adventure Time episode "Another Way" is all about this trope, with every conversation ending with Finn shouting "My way!" When a tree stump (don't ask) tells him that he can only take the "smell bad forever" path or the "hair falls out forever" path, he kicks the signpost down and charges through the thorny bushes between the paths.
Subverted in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic when Discord offers Rainbow Dash two choices, reclaim her wings and save her hometown, thus dooming the world as she forfeits her element, or get her element to re-seal Discord but Cloudsdale will fall... by the Big Bad Brainwashing The Hero before she can choose.
Discord tries it again in "Keep Calm And Flutter On". Taking advantage of Fluttershy's deep desire to be friends with him, he gets her to promise to never use her Element on him, thereby preventing the others from subduing him again (since all six elements are needed for them to work). He then breaks out the Chaos, and presents Fluttershy with a dilemma: she can either sit and watch as he devastates Ponyville... or she can break her promise. Instead she simply declares that she doesn't want to be his friend anymore. Though he first mocks her for it, a second later he realizes he's feeling genuinely bad about it, and calls the whole thing off for her sake.
In King of the Hill, Bobby passes a test presented by a group of Buddhist monks (where an array of items are laid down on a blanket), and he is thought to be the reincarnation of the Lama Sanglung because he picked up the lama's cane. Before Bobby is confirmed to be the lama's reincarnation, though, he needs to take another test. Bobby learns that if he really is the lama, he and Connie can no longer date, but if he doesn't take the test, Connie will dump him anyway. When Bobby is told to pick an item on the blanket to confirm if he really is the reincarnation of the lama, he picks Connie's reflection in the mirror.
This is actually Doug's biggest skill: being able to find some sort of compromise to a situation"
One episode has our title character accidentally hit a member of the AV Club and, when his dad finds out, gives him the sage advice "Show me a man who resorts to violence, and I'll show you a man who has run out of good ideas". Afterwards, Doug finds himself harassed by the AV Club, egging him on for a rematch. When Doug has had enough, he confronts the kid... and finds out that he didn't want the fight - his clubmates pushed him into it! So, either Doug backs out and they both come out as chickens or they go at it and Doug, at most, becomes a bully. The solution: stage a fight in the AV Room, using a television feed and, at the right moment, kill the connection and let Skeeter make the sound effects!
Another episode had the student body attempt to invite their favorite band, The Beets, to their school to have a concert, but Principal Bone refuses, hating their music and proclaiming that his yodeling is much more sophisticated. It takes an Imagine Spot starring his superhero self Quail Man for him to come up with a Third Option - let Bone's yodeling group be the opening attraction before The Beets. Mr. Bone still doesn't like the band, but he's able to have some sort of spotlight.
In an episode of Fish Hooks Bea is working at a pretzel kiosk and her manager makes her decide between firing Milo or Oscar. At the end she tries to fire the manager, but of course she can't and the manager fires all three of them.
Brutally deconstructed in TRON: Uprising. A terrorist ties Tron to one bomb, sets the other up at Able's garage, and tells Beck there's only time to pick one. Beck's attempt at a third option is to send Able to defuse the one at the garage. Not only does this get Able killed, but now Beck's friends have turned against the uprising and sided with Beck's enemies because they blame him for Able's death.
The glass with water in half of it. Half full, or half empty? A joke says that an engineer will answer, "The glass is twice as large as it needs to be."
It's completely full. Half full with water and half full with air.
It depends on whether you're drinking it or pouring it.
Who's the jerk that drank half my water!?
Played with in a classic "Far Side" Cartoon. The first two people say "half empty" and "half full" respectively, a third goes back and forth between the two before forgetting the question, while a fourth looks at the glass and goes, "HEY! I ordered a cheeseburger!"
"The lesson: If the optimist says the glass is half full, and the pessimist says the glass is half empty, the physicist ducks."
The surrealist says the glass is a giraffe wearing a necktie
The optimist says, the glass is half-full. The pessimist says the glass is half-empty. The realist says "Yep. That sure is a glass alright." The idealist says one day, cold fusion from the glass will provide unlimited energy and end wars. The capitalist says If he bottle the glass and gives it a New Age-y name, he can make a fortune. The communist says the glass belongs to everyone in equal measure. The sexist says the glass isn't going to fill itself, honey-bun. The nihilist says the glass does not exist and neither does he. The opportunist says he knows there's a T-shirt in here somewhere. (This is a famous T-shirt).
In the 1920s, a British submarine captain in China once faced the Hobson's Choice of either allowing a hijacked river steamer to escape, or allowing the pirates to kill their hostages. He took the third option of sinking the ship. He fired a shot into the waterline, causing the ship to settle slowly, so that the passengers and crew could easily abandon ship, and in the confusion most of the pirates were killed. Since they had blended with the passengers, it was uncertain how many pirates had escaped and how many innocents had died, but the overall solution worked, and the captain was exonerated.
Something similar happened in the English debates leading up to the Canadian parliamentary election in 2006. While future Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper tore then-PM Paul Martin's corrupt Liberal government to shreds, the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Jack Layton, took most of his time to remind Canadians that they "always have a third option," and to vote NDP. It backfired spectacularly, making Layton look like a kid in the back of a classroom, jumping up and down and yelling "pick me!" The media backlash was so large, and the third-option catchphrase repeated so often to tarnish Layton's reputation, that it's the closest thing to Memetic Mutation in the political journalism field.
Jack Layton tried it again in the 2011 election, and was mostly successful. And then he died.
Mostly successful does not even begin to fully describe it try. For the first time in Canadian history the NDP is the official opposition. He will probably go down in history as the person who changed Canadian politics forever may he Rest In Peace.
However, in the run-up to the 2010 UK General Elections, Nick Clegg repeatedly stressing his own existence went down very well, creating a positive Memetic Mutation called 'Cleggmania'. Just goes to show it's all in the delivery.
Despite leading the polls at one point, the Liberal Democrats actually lost seats in the election, despite gaining votes.
They did however manage to enter a coalition government, which was more likely to be what they were hoping for at the start. Their popularity has since declined due to the fact that many of their supporters have felt betrayed by their decision to join a Conservative-led government, especially after breaking a promise to not raise tuition fees on universities.
The Irish commentators have usually labelled the Irish political system has usually being described as a two and a half party system. The Labour Party is the 'half' party, much like the Liberal Democrats in Britain, they are much bigger than smaller parties in the Dáil (Irish Parliament)but smaller than the other two dominant parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Historically when Fianna Fáil lost elections Labour would form a coalition with Fine Gael (and once in the early 90's they were in coalition with FF). This seems to have changed in 2011 where Labour gained more seats than Fianna Fáil to become the second largest party, but their involvement in the present FG/Lab Government might undo this advance.
Though very few people know it is prominent in the religious text, being somewhat more familiar with the Viewers Are Morons version, The Bible has this as an explicit choice; in a metaphor for different ways of going through life, the correct path in life is the middle path, not the right or the left path.
In the days right before the Roman Civil War, Pompey and the Senate attempted to foist two lose-lose options onto Gaius Julius Caesar: return to Rome without his veteran legions in Gaul and be crucified in court, or refuse to return, which would lead to him being declared an enemy of the state. With Caesar's legions spread across Gaul and the war season rapidly drawing to a close, by the time he could gather all his forces he would have found an overwhelming army prepared against him. Caesar, proving once again that he deserved his reputation for military genius, decided to Take a Third Option. He realized that the one legion he had on hand was more than the zero legions his enemies had mustered so far, and marched one legion into Italy proper. They conquered Rome without a fight and Caesar held the initiative for a good part of the war after that.
In general, politicians in a two party system find success in appealing to the moderates as having found a "Third Way." Bill Clinton was known for such positions. Clinton's political team referred to the strategy as "triangulation"— using both conservatives in Congress and his own party's left wing as foils for his own policies. This lead to him being branded him as a "waffler" early in his term by opponents, and as a "sell-out" after he left office by liberals. However, it also earned him accolades in opinion polls from the general public both at the time and to this day.
This inspired the concept of "Compassionate Conservatism" used by his successor, George W. Bush. It has been argued that both politicos were echoing the first President Bush, who attempted to distance himself from his wildly popular predecessor by calling for a "kinder, gentler nation" than that of Ronald Reagan.
The political opponents of Tony Blair, one of the politicians to rely on such rhetoric, remarked at the time that he was not the first politician to claim he had found a Third Way between free markets and state control... the slogan "Third Way" was initially used by Benito Mussolini.
The Berlin Airlift. After the Soviets blockaded the western-controlled West Berlin, an enclave in East Germany, the only apparent options for supplying the city were to try and force their way past the Soviet blockade, thus giving the USSR grounds to retaliate and potentially start WW III, or to allow the city to be starved into submission. Instead the Western Allies choose to fly in the supplies required by the city's two million plus population. The largest airlift in history followed and it placed the shoe completely on the other foot; the airlift could only be stopped if the Soviets started downing planes.
Not that they didn't try as the planes flew in for a landing....
Fort Sumter. The Union could either send a ship to resupply it, and give the Confederacy an excuse saying they were being attacked to start a war while blaming the Union, or let them all starve. The Union instead choose to warn everyone faaaar in advance that a ship would be sent without weapons solely to resupply the fort, giving the 'blame' for starting the war to the South.
In the early days of the Space Race, the scientists involved were divided into two camps as to how to get to the Moon: the first, NASA's "Direct Ascent" concept, would build an unbelievably huge rocket capable of launching from the ground, flying to the Moon, landing, lifting off from the Moon, and returning to Earth. Dr. von Braun proposed an alternative Earth Orbit Rendezvous, wherein multiple launches would construct and fuel a vehicle with a similar flight profile in Earth orbit. In 1961, a working group was assembled to hash out which option NASA would commit to. Instead, the conference resulted in a third option: Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. By using a small vehicle to ferry astronauts to the lunar surface and back, they avoided the massive cost of landing and lifting the fuel and equipment for the homeward journey.
This option was not initially considered because no spacecraft rendezvous had ever been accomplished before; it was considered risky even in Earth orbit, where astronauts could de-orbit in an emergency. The risk of the lander docking with the command module after the surface mission was considered great, but the engineering challenges in building the LOR launch vehicle were relatively minor in comparison. Practicing orbital rendezvous was the whole point of the Gemini program.
This applies to many minor political parties.
The Non-Aligned Movement. Countries like India, Malaysia, Egypt, Tito's Yugoslavia, Indonesia and others chose to join neither the USSR nor USA in the Cold War, making their own alliance instead. This is exactly what "Third World countries" originally meant.
Unfortunately this is a Morton's Fork with some companies. Sales genuinely not stronger than expected? It was the pirates! Add more DRM!
Running a pirated version also runs the risk of having another form of potentially nastier unwanted software on the computer: malware. Those pirates aren't internet crusaders on your side against the evils of DRM. They're just that, pirates. However, it's usually not the game itself made into malware, but the "keygen" program or crack that is.
The False Dichotomyfallacy is all about this - a problem is presented as having two solutions, when there might be more.
The Golden Mean Fallacy is the inverse...wherein the "third option" is not always the best option, and can actually be the worst.
When Anthrocon was debating whether or not a move from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh would affect whether or not people would attend, the majority of those polled Took a Third Option: they didn't care which city it was in because they lived so far away that the move wouldn't really affect travel.
Psychologist Paul Watzlawick gives us a nice example with the Austrian Franzl Wokurka. He did this the first time when he saw a flower bed with a sign forbidding to rip out flowers; conflicted between obeying a law (he didn't like) and crossing it (which might've lead to consequences) he suddenly had an epiphany, thinking "those flowers are pretty nice" and deciding he wouldn't rip them off because he wanted it so. From then on, he lived his life following this philosophy; thus, he became neither a theist nor an atheist, but an agnosticist. Later, he had his Crowning Moment of Awesome, when Those Wacky Nazis flooded Austria with posters stating "National Socialism or Bolshevist Chaos?", which he would comment with "Erdäpfel oder Kartoffeln?" (spuds or potatos?).
A man tells a TV reporter a story about his grandfather and how he refused to be mistreated despite a being negro in the U.S. deep south back in the 1950s. His grandfather wanted to build a house, and purchased the lumber. The (white) owner of the lumber yard later informs him that he's not going to give him the lumber. So the man wants his money back. Lumber yard owner points out (correctly) that he can get away with not paying him, because even if he sued him, no jury (which would be all-white, in the southern U.S.) would find for a negro. So he's going to keep the money and the lumber. The man then gets angry about it and says that he's taking a third option: either the lumber yard owner refund him his money, give him the lumber he paid for, or he'd kill him. The lumber yard owner then decided that it would be a good idea not to cheat the man, and gave him the lumber he paid for.
Robert Bloch said that, on graduating from high school, he was faced with a choice between working and starving to death. He decided to become a writer, and doboth.
During the late 80s and 90s computer users were stuck with the choice of the Mac (easy to use, but more expensive with proprietary ports and an unusual software architecture) or IBM-PC (less proprietary, more manufacturers, annoyingly primitive hardware until the introduction of the PCI bus). Some denied the battle and just bought an Amiga (the first multimedia system; way ahead of its time, but owned by a company with poor management). Those with deep enough pockets (or who worked in universities and research labs) bought Unix workstations, which offered a similar combination of graphics and power.
In the late 2000s (decade), a similar event happened following the release of Windows Vista. Widely abhorred, many chose to either stick with Windows XP or switch over to Macs. Some didn't like either and went with Linux O Ss (particularly Ubuntu).
A situation that is now being echoed with the release of Windows 8 and its radical change in user interface. Sentiment towards Windows 8 appears more divided than ever. Worse for Microsoft, there are now plenty of third options available, including standing pat (as PC computing power needs have plateaued lately), switching to Linux distributions that are becoming better at handling diverse workloads and handling Windows applications, or abandoning the PC for a portable device (phone or tablet), an option now (thanks to improved computing power on the portable front) much more viable to the consuming public.
The 2010 Australian election looked like it would be between the once popular but flagging Kevin Rudd and the horrifying Tony Abbott. Then Parliament seemed to take the third option and appointed Julia Gillard instead.
A man is in the hospital, due to not feeling well, with his girlfriend. His girlfriend gets a phone call. It's the man's wife, who managed to find his girlfriend's number. The girlfriend asks why the woman on her phone is claiming to be the man's wife. The man responds by losing all color, and collapsing due to cardiac arrest.
One of the ideas from Aristotle's philosophy is that every virtue can be represented as the sensible option when presented with two extremes. For example, 'Wittyness' is presented as the virtue of saying just the right amount in a conversation, between the extremes of saying too little and coming across as shy, or saying too much and being thought of as a bore.
Immanuel Kant, the last Enlightenment philosopher, advocated the "categorical imperative" which, boiled down, meant that an act could be considered "moral" only if it would be reasonable for everyone to act the same way. French philosopher Benjamin Constant pointed out that under this system telling the truth was an imperative (since a society of habitual liars could not function), and a moral person would be forced to tell an inquiring murderer the location of his target. Kant responded in his next essay, pointing out that although it's still wrong to lie to the murderer, that doesn't mean you have to give him the information he wants, either. The system still has critics, but Kant definitely advocated the Third Option to seemingly unwinnable situations.
More moderate/liberal Christian organizations and some churches often market themselves as such, as a third option for those who are not atheist or non-religious but also aren't very conservative or fundamentalist. Emergent churches often do this too as a third option for those unhappy and bored with traditional worship styles between that and not attending.
The celebrated US Supreme Court case of Marbury v Madison. Short version: the Supreme Court was asked to order the Jefferson administration to deliver a letter naming Marbury as a Justice of the Peace, a letter that had been signed under the previous Adams administration with the intention of causing trouble for Jefferson's incoming government. If the Court refused to back Marbury, it'd seem like it was caving in to political pressure; if they did order delivery of the letter and the Jefferson adminstration responded 'make me', it'd expose the fact that the Court had no ability to compel enforcement of its decisions. Instead, the Chief Justice took a third option, stating that Marbury had a right to his commission but that the Court couldn't constitutionally order the administration around in this way: placating both sides, and not incidentally establishing the principle that the Court gets to decide what's constitutional and what's not. Only later in life would Jefferson, who opposed the idea that the Court should have exclusive say on this matter, realize how badly he'd been hornswoggled.
An actual, but lesser known, third option is the "three-state solution" (this involves giving Jordan control of the West Bank and Egypt on Gaza).
A second third option is the "one-state solution" which involves rolling present-day Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza into one nation. Much like the Two-State and Three-State solutions, few people are holding their breath.
The English (later British) constitutional set-up of 1689 was this. England (which had been plagued by political instability) had the problem of trying to balance monarchism (which they believed could lead to tyranny) with Parliamentary rule (a form of republicanism which they had tried and believed lead to instability). The solution was a "third way": retaining the monarchy but curtailing the king's powers whilst ensuring that, legally, all power was still derived from the crown even though it was largely (and later entirely) executed by Parliament. Not only did this system work but they believed they had found the perfect system of government. When the American colonies decided to try the republican option again many British observers believed it was doomed to failure as it would "only work with small city states".
In regarding to union issues (particularly the ones in California relating to the entertainment industry), the general rule of thumb is that union members are strictly limited to union work and vice versa for non-union members. Then there is something called the "financial core" option (or "fi-core" for short). It let's the said workers work in both union and non-union environments. In regards to working in a union shop and obtaining the benefits of working in the union, the financial core worker must pay a small union fee. They cannot represent or participate in union activities; but at the same time, the financial core member is not restricted the union bylaws (particularly SAG's "Global Rule Number One"), can work in non-union environments, and continue working if the unions go on a strike. Oh yeah, and mentioning this to SAG and AFTRA is a very bad idea.
Fluorescent light bulb note More expensive and contain toxins, but longer lasting and more efficient versus regular incandescent note cheap, but short lived and inefficient. Third option: LED bulbs. note They last over 40 times longer, and use one TENTH the power of incandescent bulbs. They do cost more, but it more than evens out overtime
The origin behind the Eduard "Mr. Trololo" Khil's famous Trololo song. The song he "sings" was actually a famous Russian folk song named “I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home”, which had been banned in the USSR due to its lyrics... so when faced with the choice of dropping it from his performances or not, Eduard Khil still sang it, but changed the lyrics to unreadable gibberish. And he got away with it.
US Chief Justice John Roberts could either strike down all of the Obamacare law thus ending coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, or violate his conservative philosophy by ruling by that the mandate in it is constitutional under the Commerce Clause. The judge ended up that the mandate was not justifiable under the Commerce Clause, but the penalties for violating it could be considered constitutional as a tax, thus upholding the law.
There is yet another option: It is standard practice for a bill to be edited after the two houses of Congress pass it - usually, these edits are not controversial, and do not change the meaning of either version. The purpose is just to ensure that there is only one version presented for passage. Some opponents claim that the edits to the ADA go beyond this practice and actually change the meaning of one or both of the two versions passed by the two houses. If the law's opponent's had felt that this claim was compelling enough and adopted it as one of their arguments for striking down the law, the Court could have sent it back to Congress for re-passage.
Molly Ivins, writing in Spring 1993, about articles focusing on the first 100 days of Bill Clinton's first presidential term:
Biographies of Saint Alphonsus Maria of Liguori mention him taking one of these. As a former artist who later took the path of priesthood, Alphonsus a big fan of musical performances, but in the times he lived in these were often accompained by acting, which wasn't seen as very "proper" back then. So Alphonsus quietly sat back in a dark corner of the theater... and since he was pretty shortsighted, he could listen perfectly to the music without catching sight of anything "improper" happening on stage.
Various political theories, such as social democracy, and the Third Way are attempts to combine socialism with capitalism. Nearly all world economies are in fact "mixed economies," combining both elements of the free market with central planning. On the other hand, proponents of fascism also saw their ideology as a fusion of socialism and capitalism.
In research people actively search for this to avert it before a study, because the discovery of a third variable screws up the whole study (it's great science, but not when you have a deadline you have to meet). It's called the confounding variable. For an exaggerated example: the number of drownings correlates with ice cream sales every single year. The higher ice cream sales are, the more people who suffer drowning deaths. You could argue until you are blue in the face about which causes which, but the confounding variable is the simple fact that both occur during summer.
This post which has became a famous meme in the thedailywtf.com community. True, False, or File Not Found.
In 1978, George Romero was preparing to release Dawn of the Dead and had it submitted to the MPAA for rating. He was told that the violence of the film merited an "X" rating. The problem was that by that time, the untrademarked "X" rating had been co-opted by the porn industry (the original intent was for a self-applicable rating for films that were of adult content, such as Midnight Cowboy, but not porn), making an "X"-rated film a financial disaster as most (legitimate) theaters had stopped allowing "X"-rated movies. He did not want to cut his movie down to an "R" rating, and so took a third option of placing the following disclaimer on all posters and ads:
"There is no explicit sex in this picture. However there are scenes of violence which may be considered shocking. No one under 17 will be admitted."
The Wii, and to a smaller extent the DS, is Nintendo's third option. Following the relative failure of the GameCube, Nintendo was faced with either continuing the graphics arms race with Sony and Microsoft and continuing to struggle against its "kiddy" image, or reorganizing as a third-party developer and continuing to struggle against its "kiddy" image. Nintendo decided to ignore all that, embrace its family friendly nature, and try to redefine the video game market. And it's working BECAUSE it's become the Third Option To Take for non-gamers and former gamers.
A king learns that his son has committed some misdeed. In his anger, he proclaims that a big stone shall be thrown on his son - he's talking about a stone big enough to kill. When he regains his calm, he notes the dilemma: If he cancels the punishment, he broke his word - but if he pulls it through, his son may die or be crippled at least. One (truly) wise man shows him the third option: Break up the big stone into fine gravel before throwing it.