Leela: Take me first!
A character offers him/herself in exchange for the freedom of another
, willingly turning himself over to the villain in order to buy the safety of someone who will most likely be a love interest or a friend, although sometimes it's a complete stranger that the hero just met but has nevertheless decided that it's his job to save.
And so a trade takes place, but this time the hero is using himself as a bargaining chip. (If the other character is aware of what is going on, a More Hero Than Thou
dispute may arise.)
This is a specific kind of Heroic Sacrifice
that may or may not end in death
. Sometimes the Damsel in Distress
, the Distressed Dude
or the Badass in Distress
is rescued by their friends or manages to escape by the end of the story, if they're lucky, but they usually won't try to escape on their own. As long as the villain keeps his end of the bargain, they're content to suffer in the other person's place.
Sometimes the villain has requested that the hero turn himself in, offering to free his hostage in exchange for the person he really
wants. Often in such cases this was the villain's plan all along for getting his hands on the hero, as he is able to predict that the hero would sacrifice himself for the hostage. In other cases where the original hostage is the intended target, the sacrificer will shock the villain because Evil Cannot Comprehend Good
In situations where Balancing Death's Books
comes into play, a character makes this kind of deal with Death in order to save someone who is scheduled to die.
Character types most likely to perform this action are The Messiah
, who really can't help it
, and The Atoner
, for whom Redemption Equals Death
. More than once, also, this is how the Damsel in Distress
or Distressed Dude
enters the scene, by trying futilely to protect someone else in their surroundings.
Compare and contrast Silent Scapegoat
and I Am Spartacus
, which both differ in that a character is specifically taking the blame for the actions of another by claiming to be them, More Expendable Than You
, in which the character is protecting someone he considers more important, and Prisoner Exchange
, in which someone from the villain's team is captured and traded for the hostage.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Full Metal Panic!, Ms. Kagurazaka, Kaname's teacher, offers to be the hostage in place of Kaname when Gauron hijacks the airplane they're on. Of course, Gauron refuses, because the teacher isn't a whispered, and is therefore useless.
- Seen in One Piece, when both Zoro and Sanji offers themselves up instead of Luffy. Zoro 'wins.'
- Possibly one of the examples where the scene is literally MORE moving because he SURVIVES. And through One Piece logic, Kuma is actually able to put all the pain and suffering Luffy endured in an entire arc into Zoro's body. One touch makes the stoic (for this show, anyway) Zoro scream. So he relocates to a place away from the others, where Sanji later finds him amid blood-splatter and wearing the Thousand-Yard Stare. It really looks like a case of Died Standing Up until Zoro speaks. What's he say? "Nothing happened!!!"
- Also recently pulled by Princess Shirahoshi, who mixes it with Take Me Instead.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward Elric is willing to offer his life in exchange for his brother Alphonse, whose body was obliterated in their failed attempt to use alchemy to bring back their mother.
Edward: "No, dammit. You won't take him too. Give him back! He's my brother! Take my leg. Take my arm! Take my heart, ANYTHING, YOU CAN HAVE IT! Just give him back!"
- Belldandy in the "Lord of Terror" arc in Ah! My Goddess, offering to be the host for the Big Bad rather than destroy Keiichi. Turns out that was exactly the right move, since the evil force can't possess a Goddess and has to release both of them.
- In YuYu Hakusho, they seem to be building up to such a life-for-life scenario when Kurama uses a magic mirror to offer his life in exchange for his Ill Girl mother Shiori's. However, Yusuke also manages to resolve this without anyone dying by offering his life instead. In honor of his selflessness, the mirror spares all three of them.
- Actually, what he suggests is that the mirror take half his life, and half of Kurama's—the whole reason he was willing to risk his life to save Kurama was that when he died he saw how badly it broke his mother up, and he couldn't stand back and let that happen to someone else's much-more-devoted mother. Afterwards, he was glad it had worked. The mirror seemed pleased that it had had the opportunity to grant a wish without killing anyone, too. Apparently it's depressing being a cursed object.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! has Ako Izumi offering to be Tosaka's slave for life if he won't blackmail Negi into slavery, proving that you don't have to be physically Bad Ass to be awesome. For the record Tosaka turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who agrees to just let Negi go. She didn't know at the time, but it's implied the actual agreement she was making would have gotten her raped, among other things. Legally.
- It's all but stated outright that it would have led to legal rape (or at least rape the government has no power to stop). Turns out Ako was pretty sure Tosaka was a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but that doesn't make it less Bad Ass—just a little bit more Genre Savvy.
- In Princess Tutu, when Mytho is fully transformed into a raven and abandons her to have his heart eaten by the Raven King, said King's daughter (Dark Magical Girl Rue) offers to have her own heart eaten instead. This breaks the Mind Control on Mytho and he's released, but Rue is taken captive instead of him. Mytho has to go rescue her, and once she's free, they finish off the Raven King together.
- Also happens in The Vision of Escaflowne, when Hitomi tries to Screw Destiny so her crush Allen won't marry her friend Millerna and It Got Worse as a consequence.
- In the one-shot episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX the evil duel monster, Jinzo, is resurrected, but to gain full physical form, he has to sacrifice the souls of those that summoned him. One managed to make it to the Slifer Red dorm where he meets the main characters. Jaden willingly offered himself up to act as the poor boy's replacement (even though Jaden had only known the kid's name for barely twenty minutes.)
- It's hilariously played with in Shadyvox's abridged series. Jinzo responds by quickly accepting and pulling out a chainsaw. Jaden then says that they should have a duel.
- The Special Effect of Yusei's Ace Monster Stardust Dragon on Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds is essentially this trope — it can be sacrificed to prevent any card-destroying effect, destroy the card responsible for the destruction, and revive at the end of your turn.
- During the Yu-Gi-Oh! Doma arc, Yugi lets the Seal of Orichalcos take his soul, sparing Yami's.
- In the conclusion of the first arc of Sailor Moon stars In the Darkest Hour whence the Big Bad of the arc Nehelenia has effectively sealed away all of Usagi's friends and her lover's curse is about to be made permanent. Nehelenia gives her a heart-breaking Hannibal Lecture which is also explaining her backstory (and how she endured many years of solitude). Usagi understands what it must have felt like since she is experiencing the same situation currently and tells Nehelenia to focus her raging revenge on her and sweetly asks her to let her friend go. She even tops it all off by explaining that they can be her friends in her place. By far this is one of the major Tear Jerker moments in all the series seeing Usagi offer up her life like that.
- Davis/Daisuke says this in Digimon Adventure 02, trying to save his friends from being eaten in a Sadistic Choice.
- Bokurano plays it straight when Kokopelli asked Koyemshi to let him do the demo battle and the last battle on their Earth so Yuu wouldn't have to battle and/or die. Being the kind of anime that it is, though it's subverted in that Koyemshi just decides to select Yuu as the last battle's pilot anyways, disregarding his promise, and sentencing her to death.
- Saito, from Zero no Tsukaima, doesn't give Louise an option. He drugs the wine used in their wedding, and passes off to an ally before taking off to fight the entire Albion army of 60,000.
- Milly Ashford tries this in Code Geass: Nightmare of Nunnally when the terrorists occupying the hotel come to take Nunnally to Kusakabe, claiming that as the eldest daughter of the Ashford family, she has more value as a hostage. The terrorist tells her that the Ashfords don't have much political value any more, and takes Nunnally anyway, causing Milly to suspect that they know Nunnally is a princess.
- Rosario To Vampire has Tsukune do this for his friends who had just been on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle.
- In Gundam Wing, Relena does this when the new Cinq Kingdom is attacked. She agrees to go with the Romefeller Group in exchange for the few civilians there being spared. (And she secretly hopes to start in-fighting — which she does few later)
- In the second part of Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure, Stroheim needs human blood to awaken Santana, the first Pillar Man. He gathers a group of Jewish prisoners and tells them to choose one to die; when they're hesitant, he threatens to kill an innocent woman. A young boy steps forward and offers his own life. Stroheim praises his courage, and then tells his men to kill all of the prisoners except the boy.
- In Death: The Time of Your Life, Death's lingering fondness for the protagonists leads her to agree to bring their baby back, but, she warns, she'll be back, and someone will be leaving with her...
- In Swamp Thing, Zatara sacrifices his life to save his daughter Zatanna from an evil power.
- In Usagi Yojimbo, Kitsune the pickpocket pulls this trope when her accomplice, Noodles, is caught and is about to be crucified. She starts crying and screaming through the fence that she's the guilty one and that she should die. Sadly, her pleas are ignored.
- What If? #9 sees the hostage Dwight D. Eisenhower beg the Yellow Claw to kill him instead of Jimmy Woo. While the Yellow Claw admires the President's bravery, it would be ridiculous to get rid of his trump card like that.
Films — Animated
- Beauty and the Beast has Belle using this exact line when she begs the Beast to imprison her instead of her father. Of course, since a kindhearted girl is exactly what the Beast wanted in the first place, he accepts.
Films — Live-Action
- Father Damian in The Exorcist: "Take me!"
- Captain Needa decides to apologise in person to Lord Vader to minimise the fallout from his ship losing track of the heroes', knowing full what's going to happen to him.
- Max Shreck asks the Penguin to take him instead of his son in Batman Returns.
- Star Trek: Generations. Captain Picard offers himself to the Duras sisters as a hostage if they will release Geordi La Forge (over Data's offer to be the hostage himself). In First Contact he offers himself to the Borg Queen in exchange for Data. Fortunately, Data made other plans.
- In Darby O'Gill And The Little People, Darby uses his third wish to go in his sick daughter's place when Death comes to claim her. His fourth wish is made on accident. The leprechaun shows up in Death's coach and says "I wish I could go with you." Darby casually says "Me too." Making a fourth wish negates all three previous wishes.
- In The Muppets Take Manhattan, a con artist cornered by police takes Camilla the chicken hostage. Gonzo says "Take me instead!" He takes Camilla and Gonzo.
- At the end of Jeepers Creepers Darry has been captured by the Creeper and is considering flying away with him to eat, Trish tearfully begs him to take her instead of her brother and that she is the one he wants. The Creeper pauses to consider it, then breaks out and flies away with Darry anyway. What happens afterwards isn't pretty.
- Captain Miller of Event Horizon offers himself in exchange for his crew to the possessed Dr. Weir, who responds, "No. There is no escape. The gateway is open, and you're all coming with me!"
- Phone Booth
The Caller: ...Then I have to take somebody with me don't I? And since Kelly is the most important thing in your life, I'll take her.
Stu: No, take me! Take me! I'm the one you want!
- Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control
Lloyd: Let them go, I'm the one you want.
Bruce: No I am, I'm the brains, I went to MIT.
Lloyd: You know what? He did, take him.
- Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen
Megatron: Come here, boy. You remember me, don't you?
Sam Witwicky: Just let them go, okay? It's me you want.
- Max uses a variation on this line to save his little sister in Hocus Pocus.
- Inverted in Penn & Teller Get Killed. When Penn & Teller and their female manager are abducted by thugs, Penn yells "Do what you want to the woman, but leave us alone!"
- Gomez said this to God in Addams Family Values when he's horrified at the things his newborn son might become now that he's becoming normal. Also counts as a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment.
- At the end of The Lost Boys, Lucy is willing to let Max bite her in order to spare Michael and Sam. Grandpa saves her from this fate at the last second by crashing his jeep into the house.
- In The Hobbit, when the dwarves were captured by the goblins, they are ordered to kill the dwarves, starting with the youngest. Ori understandably looked terrified. Immediately, Thorin stepped forward and revealed his identity to the Goblin King.
- In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk pleads with Admiral Marcus to punish him alone and spare the Enterprise crew after disobeying orders and attempting to flee to Earth. Notably, Kirk offered Khan the same deal in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Khan at least acted like he would accept (and might have); Marcus just laughs it off. Who's the real monster?
- Non-lethal example occurs in Red Sonja. The heroine gets fed up with Prince Tarn and decides to spank him, causing the prince's servant Falkon to plead with her not to, saying that if she must hit someone, to hit him. Sonja decides not to do either, instead scolding the young prince by telling him that Falkon knows more about loyalty than he ever will. Actually, Sonja is wrong. Tarn does learn from this, and is willing to make a Heroic Sacrifice at the end of the movie; fortunately, he survives.
- Rev. Scott yells this to God in ThePoseidonAdventure during his rant after Linda's death. Then he falls to his own death once he's turned off the valve controlling the,hot steam that blocked the group's escape.
- In The Twilight Zone episode "One For the Angels", a salesman convinces Death to take him instead of a little girl who is sick.
- The street vendor was supposed to die that day, but he pleads with Death to let him live long enough to make one last great sales pitch. Death agrees. The man swears off making any more pitches and believes that he has cheated Death. Death then mentions that Someone Has to Die that day, and a little girl that the vendor knew is hit by a car. The vendor immediately offers to die instead, but Death refuses and leaves, promising to return to take the little girl before midnight. In an effort to stall him when he arrives, the vendor pitches himself as an assistant to the overworked Death. It's a great pitch that enthralls Death, and he misses the deadline to claim the little girl. The vendor then willingly goes with Death, having made his last great pitch. A more complicated example than most.
- In the episode "In Praise of Pip", the wounded (possibly dying) bookie Max Phillips pleads with God not to let his son Pip die in Vietnam. He offers his own life instead, and immediately falls to the ground lifeless. The next scene shows Pip walking with a cane visiting the amusement park.
- Merlin spends most of 1X13 offering his life in exchange for Arthur's after Arthur suffered a mortal...bite. In the same episode, we have Merlin trying to offer himself for his mother, Gaius doing so instead to protect Merlin, Merlin offering himself in exchange for Gaius, and ultimately the price paid is the life of the big bad of that season. Balancing Death's Books indeed.
- A Mad TV sketch takes place at a funeral, with a woman mourning her husband, screaming "Take me, Jesus! Take me instead!" Sure enough, Jesus shows up, brings the woman's husband back to life, and then asks the woman to go with him. Naturally, the woman wasn't expecting her wish to be granted, and Hilarity Ensues.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Surprise," Buffy and Angel are caught by Spike and about to be killed by the Judge, Buffy first. Angel offers "Take Me Instead of her;" Spike replies, "You're not clear on the concept, pal. There is no 'instead.' Just 'first' and 'second.'"
- Angel. Gunn offers the Conduit to the Senior Partners his life in exchange for Fred Burkle, dying after being infested by an Eldritch Abomination inside a sarcophagus she opened. The Conduit just laughs, saying he already has Gunn's life. Gunn finds out what he means later; it was his signature that freed the sarcophagus from Customs so it could be delivered to Fred, a deal Gunn made in exchange for maintaining his brain upgrade.
- In the series finale of Life, Crews offers Roman to exchange himself for Dani. He then kills Roman with a punch to the throat and walks away unharmed.
- A variation occurs in the Supernatural episode "The Rapture." Castiel's former vessel, Jimmy, gets shot while trying to rescue his wife and daughter from demons. However, Castiel has taken up residence inside Jimmy's daughter Claire, and takes down the demons with ease. Castiel-in-Claire then tells the dying Jimmy that he can now be at peace. Jimmy begs Castiel to possess him again, instead of his daughter. Castiel says to Jimmy, "I want to make sure you understand. You won't die, or age. If this last year was painful for you, picture a hundred, a thousand more like it." Jimmy responds, "It doesn't matter! You take me! Just take me."
- In the Firefly episode "Safe," Simon says this when River is about to be burned at the stake by over-zealous backwoods villagers, asking them to kill him in her place. They refuse and are about to burn them bothnote (even though Simon just healed some sick villagers and he's the only doctor for miles around). They are only saved when the Big Damn Heroes show up in the moment that named the trope.
- Cameron Mitchell tried this in one episode of Stargate SG-1. Of course, the bad guys of the episode just grabbed everyone and ignored him.
- The Thin Blue Line episode "Fire and Terror" ends with a double Take Me Instead, the second instance throwing Gary the gay fireman out of the closet.
Lunatic: I'm armed, and I'm dangerous, and I'm gonna take a hostage
Habib: Take me!
Goody: No Maggie! you're too beautiful to die! Take me!
Gary: No Kev! you're too too beautiful to die! Take me!
- The number of times The Doctor has uttered this line or something similar to try and spare someone else's life. Let me count the ways...
- Arguably the most notable example in the series; during the Jon Pertwee arc "The Daemons", when the Daemon Azal(a godlike alien being who influenced Earth's legends of devils and demons) was about to kill the Doctor, Jo Grant literally shouted the trope name. Azal's inability to understand the concept of Jo's Heroic Sacrifice caused the logically-minded Daemon to vanish in a Puff of Logic.
- Fairly common in Police Procedurals involving a hostage crisis:
- In Without a Trace, Jack Malone offers to trade places with Love Interest and fellow FBI agent Samantha Spade when she is taken hostage and wounded.
- A variation occurred on Cold Case, when the investigation of a drive-by shooting that killed a young girl over a decade ago revealed that her then-12 year old brother had done so (he was aiming at the man his mother was having an affair with). When they came to arrest the young man his middle-aged father tries to confess rather than let his son go to jail for murder.
- In the first season of 24, one of the thugs that has kidnapped them tries to drag Kim out of the room to rape her. Terri offers herself instead, promising not to fight, and the guy agrees. Terri uses the opportunity to steal his cell phone.
- In the finale two-parter of Highlander, Duncan offers his head to the villain (who has Joe and Amanda hostage) in exchange for their lives. He has every intention of going through with allowing himself to be killed, but then Methos showed up ...
- He also does it in the season 1 ep 'Bad Day in Building A', so the villains will kill him and give him the freedom to move around the courthouse, hunting them one by one.
- In the NCIS episode "Kill Ari", Ducky learns that Ari has taken Gerald hostage, and goes to meet with Ari in order to prevent him from killing Gerald. Ducky, fully expecting Ari to kill them both, tells Gerald to get in his car and get away. Shortly after that, we learn that Gerald has absolutely no experience Driving Stick. Ari lets Gerald escape in his own car, seemingly out of pure unbridled pity at the attempt.
- In Deep Space Nine, Ben Sisko says this exactly in "The Reckoning" when the Pah-Wraith arrives in his son's body. The Pah-Wraith simply mocks the Prophet for its Emissary offering himself to its enemy before hurling him across the Promenade.
- An episode of Mash had a soldier going off his nut and taking Charles hostage in exchange for safe passage to the United States. Klinger hears this and offers to take Charles' place as hostage but only because it means his ticket out of the Army. Unfortunately for Klinger, his captor collapses from blood loss and the escape never takes place.
- One episode of The A-Team dealt with a plane hijacking. The president of the airline (actually Hannibal in disguise) offers himself in place of the hostages aboard the plane.
- In the two.part miniseries House of Frankenstein (1997), a vampire holds a woman's child hostage and has her call the protagonist (whom she is friends with) to lead him into a trap. After she reluctantly does so, the vampire proceeds to try to bite the child which the mother frantically offers herself. Of course, the vampire is a jerk and was looking to kill both of them anyway but luckily some ashes from her dead husband are enough to take the vampire down.
Religion and Mythology
- In The Bible, the ten oldest sons of Jacob, led by Judah, sold their younger half-brother Joseph as a slave. Jacob was heartbroken, and grew more attached to his youngest son, Benjamin. Years later, Benjamin is falsely accused of stealing from the Egyptian vizier and is going to be taken as a slave as punishment. Judah, realizing how much this will destroy their father, offers himself as a slave instead. Of course, the story ends with the vizier revealing that he's actually Joseph, who brought this whole situation about to see if his older brothers had changed.
- Making this one Older Than Feudalism is the myth of Admetus and Alcestis. Admetus is a beloved king; and, when he is due to die, Death agrees to allow him to live if he can find another willing to die in his stead. However, he is unable to find anyone - for all that his subjects love him, they don't love him enough to die for him, with even his father refusing to do it. Finally, believing himself doomed, he returns to his room - to find that his wife, Alcestis, has already agreed to die in his place, and promptly expires. Admetus lives - but in the knowledge that he has lost the one person who loved him enough to die for him. Then, in a surprise twist happy ending, Admetus's Hot-Blooded friend Heracles arrives and punches out Death to bring Queen Alcestis back.
- In 2001, during the time Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley were regularly putting women through tables. Their intended victim that night was Molly Holly, the girlfriend of their younger brother, Spike. Spike laid across the table, begging Bubba to spare Molly and do him instead. Bubba drove Molly through the table AND Spike.
- In the first part of the Adventures in Odyssey episode "The Perfect Witness" Katrina Shanks speaks this trope verbatim to the criminals who were robbing the bookstore where she worked and were kidnapping young, blind costumer Jenny.
- Inverted in George Carlin's list of things you people have never said before: "Do what you want to the girl, but leave me alone!"
- In one episode of Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, the characters are attempting to sneak deeper into Freelancer Command and come up with the plan for Washington to pretend to take Church prisoner to get past the guards. Caboose, being stupid, doesn't understand the "pretend" part, and attempts a Take Me Instead.
- We Are Our Avatars: After fighting the creator of Sword Art Online in a final battle, Kris decides to sacrifice himself to revive Kirito because Kirito's virtual avatar died during the fight.
- In Avatar The Last Airbender, Aang volunteers to surrender to Zuko if he agrees to stop attacking the Water Tribe village.
- Some years earlier, a woman named Kya confessed to being a waterbender and offered herself to the raiders attacking them as a prisoner. Unfortunately the commander of said raid did not see fit to take prisoners and murdered her on the spot. Unfortunately for him, Kya was covering for her young daughter Katara, the last Waterbender of the Southern tribe, who eventually tracked him down to correct the misunderstanding.
- Inverted in an episode of Family Guy when Death comes for Quagmire are he fakes his own death and his new wife (who he faked the death in the first place to get away from) tries to block death from getting (Glenn) Quagmire. After being touched by death, she dies. When Death tells everyone he needs to take someone, everyone convinces him to take her, noting that she was suicidal and her (last) name WAS Quagmire.
- The time Big Fat Paulie had a hit put on Lois, thinking that Peter wanted him to. Peter tries to convince the mob boss to have him killed instead, only for the mob boss to point out that if he doesn't want the hit, they can just call it off.
- Kindly inverted in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, when deciding who should get the last ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala.
Twilight, sugar, I...I didn't mean to put so much pressure on you. And if it helps, I don't want the ticket anymore. You can give it to somepony else; I won't feel bad. I promise. Fluttershy:
Me too. I feel just awful that I made you feel so awful. Pinkie Pie:
And me too. It's no fun upsetting your friends. Rarity:
Twilight, it was unfair of me to try to force you as I did. Rainbow Dash:
YES! That means the ticket is mine! Ha, ha, ha; ♪I got the ti-cket, I got the ti-cket!♪
[Beat with disapproving glares
] Rainbow Dash:
Y'know...I haven't perfected my signature moves for the Wonderbolts anyway...I don't need that ticket either.
- Used and Inverted in The Simpsons. In a Halloween Special, Homer stands in front of a group of brain eating zombies, saying to take him and leave his family. The zombies crowd around, feeling his head... then go "no brain" (to Homer's annoyance) and chase after the rest of Homer's family. In another Homer says, "Please don't eat me, I have a wife and kids... eat them instead!"
- American Dad!: While in Saudi Arabia, Stan offers to take Francine's place in being stoned to death. He ends up joining her...and Steve...and Hailey.
- South Park
- In "Coon vs. Coon and Friends", Cartman has Cthulu banish his friends to the sunken city of R'Lyeh fallen from the stars. Mysterion, who wakes up in bed after he is killed, commits suicide there to confront the Coon and Cthulu. He tells Cthulu to take him instead of his friends and rid him of his Immortality Hurts curse as only an immortal can kill another immortal. His friends are saved.... by Mintberry Crunch.
- Inverted when some criminals takes the fourth grade class as hostages in "Super Fun Time." Mr. Garrison tells them, "Please, if you must take anyone, don't take me. These kids are worth more to you."
- In Transformers Prime, when Shockwave prepares the cortical psychic patch to extract information from Arcee, Cliffjumper says something to this effect. It doesn't work, but he did try.
- Young Justice actually goes through with it, though it's a non-fatal example: Zatanna puts on the Helmet of Fate and gets possessed by Nabu, who refuses to release her. In exchange for her freedom, her father Zatara offers himself instead, and is still possessed by Nabu five years later.