Riddick: Don't bother. Guards ain't there. They figured out the Necros are comin' for me. Plan was to clean the bank, ghost the mercs, break wide for the tunnel. And then somebody got a lucky shot off with this rocket launcher here... and took out the sled. Guards took off on foot, but rigged the door so no one could follow. They'll take the one ship in the hangar and leave everyone else to die.
Toombs: How come you know all this shit? You weren't even here.
'Cause it was my plan.
In a story where the villain is a Worthy Opponent
, or if the hero and the villain are Not So Different
, sometimes it's easy for the hero to predict their antagonist's every move. His Sidekick
asks him how he knows what the Big Bad
is going to do next, and the hero responds by saying it's because he knows that if their positions were reversed, that's exactly what he
would have done.
This is often used to show that the hero and the villain do in fact have more in common than the hero is usually willing to admit, or that they're on the same level intellectually. The line is most often uttered by Anti Heroes
or reformed villains
who know the tricks of the trade and are able to think like a villain. In Darker and Edgier
stories this may push the hero into morally gray territory
, letting the audience know that this character who they thought was a good guy may be no better than the villain himself. He doesn't blame the villain for kicking his dog
, running over his little sister and devouring that orphanage full of babies
, because placed in his antagonist's situation, he would have done the same thing.
In speculative fiction stories, sometimes the hero knows what the villain will do because they may be effectively the same person
, in which case it is much easier for the hero to imagine himself in the villain's shoes.
Sometimes this line is uttered by the villain himself, who understands the implications
of his actions and realizes that the hero is only doing his job, and tells the hero that he doesn't hold it against him for trying to kill him
, and he should just get it over with
, either because the villain knows that if he were the hero he would do the same, or because the villain wants the hero to know that he's just that much of a bastard and would be just as likely to kill the hero if he were given the chance. It's also a common line of The Atoner
, particularly if he or she is protecting someone from his or her former kind (such as Professional Killers
). Of course, kinder and gentler
heroes will not take the villain up on his offer in order to show that there is, in fact, a difference between them and that the hero will not stoop to the level of a villain
by obliging his request.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Shishio, the Big Bad of the Kyoto Arc in Rurouni Kenshin, wonders out loud if this is the reason Kenshin figured out his nefarious plot so quickly.
- L and Light of Death Note. All the time. Heck, L says as much in the first episode we actually see his face!
- Sonic and Hyper Metal Sonic in the two-episode Sonic The Hedgehog OVA.
"STRAAANGE isn't it?!"
- In the Batman series Knightfall, the Batmobile is stolen. Batman gets it back, starts the car...and it explodes. Fortunately, he guesses this just in time to leap out of the car. Robin asks him how he guessed the villain had wired the car to blow. Batman's response: "Because that's what I'd do."
- In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this is how Moriarty knows that Holmes will try to fake his death after their encounter at Reichenbach Falls.
- In some Omake in Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality, titled Lord of the Rationality, Frodo thinks:
A memory of awful clarity came over Frodo then, and a flash of black laughter, and the thought came to him that it was just what the Enemy would do. Only the thought came to him so: thus it would amuse me to do, if I meant to rule...
- In Neil Gaiman's short story A Study in Emerald, a crossover between Sherlock Holmes and H. P. Lovecraft, the detective tells the narrator that he figured out how the murderers got away based on the fact that he would have done the same thing. The twist is that the narrator and the detective are Colonel Moran and Professor Moriarty, and the two murderers are Watson and Holmes.
- Father Brown, of the eponymous stories by G. K. Chesterton, solves all of his mysteries this way. His gimmick is that, as a priest and confessor, he knows a great deal about how crimes are committed and what kind of people commits them.
"You see, I had murdered them all myself.... I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was."
- Sherlock Holmes claims to be using the same method. In one of the short stories, Holmes matches his wits against an unusually clever criminal (no, not Moriarty). Afterwards, he tells Watson it was one of his easier cases; normally he has to adjust his deduction of what the criminal would do, since most people are significantly less smart than himself, Holmes. But in this case, what the criminal did is exactly what Holmes himself would have done, making it easier for Holmes to follow him!
- The Quiller novel The Ninth Directive has Quiller tasked to plan the assassination of a "Very Important Royal Person" with the intent that this will show him exactly how the real assassin plans to do it.
- Terry Pratchett's Going Postal: Moist von Lipwig explains to his love interest the way the Big Bad's plan is going to work in. As she (ignorant of Lipwig's criminal past) remarks, 'You sound very certain', he replies, 'That's what I'd do, er... if I was that kind of person.'
Live Action TV
- In Heroes, Nathan cites his belief that the government would capture and experiment on anybody with powers as exactly what he would do in the situation. And then he did.
- In season one of LOST, Sawyer, after being stabbed by Sayid, tells Jack that he should just let him die, saying that he knows it's what Jack wants to do and that he would do the same to Jack if he were in his shoes. Of course, Jack saves him anyway.
- Cameron uses this to predict the actions of enemy Terminators in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Possibly a call back to the T2 example mentioned above.
- There's a scene in Babylon 5 where Sheridan predicts a particular move by the Shadows because "that's just what I'd do." Delenn is horrified by the notion of Sheridan thinking like the enemy.
- There's an episode of Criminal Minds that pretty much epitomizes this trope, "Elephant's Memory". Spencer Reid has insight on the case because he identifies with the unsub, as they shared a history of being bullied in school. At one point he uses this exact phrase when asked how he knew where the unsub would be.
- As a white collar criminal hired to catch white collar criminals, Neal Caffrey of White Collar makes good use of this trope. He frequently deduces how criminals must have hidden their tracks by thinking over how he'd do it.
- In the Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror", this is Kirk's comment after the nameless Romulan commander dodges one of the Enterprise's attacks: "He did exactly what I would have done. I won't underestimate him again."
- StargateSG-1: This is how the real SG-1 bests the evil, alternate universe team in "Ripple Effect." Of course, they had the added advantage of being basically the same people as their opponents.
- The Doctor Who two-parter "The Rebel Flesh"/"The Almost People" has a lot of this, since all the one-off characters — and the Doctor — get duplicated throughout the course of the story. Most impressively, one of the doppelgangers manages to guess a password that her original created after the split happened, because it's the password she would have used.
- This is how the titular Castle helps solve crimes: by being Genre Savvy and knowing what he would write in a given situation.
- At the end of the Lara's Shadow Downloadable Content for Tomb Raider: Underworld, Lara confronts her doppelganger after gaining control of it.
Lara Croft: "What the hell are you?"
Doppelganger: "I am you, with the flaws removed."
Lara: "If you were your own master, what would you do?"
Doppelganger: "What would you do?"
- Based on that Lara gives the doppelganger its freedom. It goes on to overthrow Natla, its former master, and drown her in a pool of poisonous eitr.
- Generals often predict the each other's plans when the required intelligence isn't available in this manner. This approach can backfire horribly if the predicting general failed to understand his opponent is more ruthless then he is, or when the enemy has access to information the predicting general doesn't know exists.
- Some generals also take this one step further. They knew their enemy will try to predict their actions in this manner, and therefore alter their plan accordingly.
- This can lead to some pretty interesting battles. For instance, during WWII the Germans thought the invasion of Normandy was a diversionary attack while the assault on Pas-de-Calais (which is geographically closer to the British Isles and therefore the more reasonable target) was the real push; in reality, the situation was reversed. The Allies were perfectly aware the Germans had predicted they would strike Pas-de-Calais, so they encouraged that line of thought with a massive misdirection campaign and struck elsewhere.
- Frank Abagnale of Catch Me If You Can, his autobiographical book and movie. Eventually, he ends up working with the government tracking down conmen like himself. The few scenes you see of him doing this in the movie include him making similar remarks to the trope name.