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Throwing the Distraction
"The first rule of patrol duty is vigilance, even when people are talking to you. Furthermore, if you hear any suspicious sounds, investigate them at once. Only once you can do these things on instinct will you be a true watchman!"
You're in the middle of a Stealth-Based Mission
. Your path is blocked by an inconveniently placed patrolling guard; he turns around too quickly for you to sneak past him while his back is turned, and if you knock him out his body will raise suspicion. What do you do?
Easy: you pick up a rock and toss it past him. When it lands, the noise will catch his attention, and he'll go to investigate, giving you ample time to slip past. This trick is what we call Throwing The Distraction. Alternatively if you're making an action movie, you can pass on the low budget rock and use a grandiose explosion
instead. It's less likely to be dismissed and looks cooler.
In almost all cases, expect the guard to investigate the noise even if they've seen the object being thrown, rather than heading towards where it was thrown from
In real life, tropish as it is, admit it; if you're patrolling solo you're a lot more likely to investigate where the sound came from
than the opposite side of the room. Of course if there's more than one of you, it should be only one who goes to check.
Subtrope of The Guards Must Be Crazy
. Closely related to So Much for Stealth
, where this is done by accident and alerts every guard to your presence. Both tropes depend on guards being incredibly sensitive to noise, even though It's Probably Nothing
. See also Go Fetch
when this is done with an Angry Guard Dog
or any other sort of animal. Not to be confused with Cat Scare
call this "throwing the toothpick".
open/close all folders
- Naruto arranges a very elaborate one in A Growing Affection, tying his jacket to a kunai and throwing it through tall grass, so the person in question will not only hear the sound, but will see a flash of orange, too.
Film — Animated
- In Bolt, Penny (the character on the show) likes to roll an actual penny into the field of vision of whomever she's trying to sidestep. Eventually, Bolt (in reality) would try the same trick - yes, it really does work.
- In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible beans a guard in the head with a rock—all the other guards nearby leave their post to look at the unconscious guard.
- In The Iron Giant, Hogarth throws a penny into the kitchen to divert his mom's attention away while he sneaks out one of the Giant's hands, which has detached and is wandering around the house. The penny knocks over the spice rack by accident.
- Monsters University: When Sullivan's reckless attempt to retrieve flag in library attracts the Librarian's attention, Mike and the Oozma Kappa create a series of noisy activities in various parts of the library to distract her from Sullivan and the flag.
- Toy Story 2: Very early on, Al does this with a skateboard. Justified in that it does create an audible crash, and the person he's distracting (Andy's mother) isn't a highly trained guard.
Film — Live Action
- Subverted in ”Three Amigos!. One of the amigos throws a rock to distract a guard they're trying to sneak past, but accidentally hits the guard's head and knocks him out.
- Star Wars: Obi Wan uses the force to pop a gasket to distract two guards, allowing him to sneak away from the tractor beam controls.
- Specifically mentioned in-universe in Batman Begins as a "cheap parlor trick" to distract and confuse one's enemies.
- In The Movie of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry does this to distract a blinded basilisk.
- The Guns of Navarone. Andrea and Mallory have reached the top of the cliff, but there's a German sentry guarding it. Mallory tosses a piton to distract the guard. A variant because they end up killing the guard. Watch it here, starting at 2:10.
- The Decalogue: Majka, while hiding behind a wall, throws a small wooden ball down the stairs, thus distracting an old woman watching over the entrance to the back of the stage.
- Dungeons & Dragons has the heroes distract a patrolling Beholder — a creature covered in eyes — with a thrown rock. Note, this might actually be plausable since the majority of beholders are insane.
- This is one of the uses of the Bat-Shuriken in The Dark Knight Saga. *thwing* "Huh, what was that? Oh, it's a little metal ba-" [Vertical Kidnap]
- Something similar happens in the comedy Water (1985). Michael Caine's character sees a mercenary attaching limpet mines to the oil well, so he throws a bolt, then sneaks up behind the mercenary while he's pointing a gun in that direction and hooks a crane hook into his belt, lifting him into the air.
- Johnny of Johnny Mnemonic throws a small rock, which sends Baldy looking for him in the wrong direction.
- In Jurassic Park, Lex uses something like this to draw a Velociraptor's attention away from Tim (and very bravely, closer to herself).
- Mission: Impossible. The high-tech version occurs in Ghost Protocol — the IMF team use a sound projector to make a Kremlin guard leave the corridor he's guarding and go into the next room.
- The Lord of the Rings: In "The Fellowship of the Ring" Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Sam is hiding from a black rider (Nazgūl/Ringwraith) under some tree roots and as the rider is peering overhead, and it seems they are close to being discovered, Merry throws his and Pippins sack of (stolen) vegetables, which gives the four of them enough time to escape the scene.
- In Spider And Web, the protagonist throws a lockpick into a dead end to distract some guards. Except that actually, it didn't happen quite like that.
- Subverted in Vagabonds of Gor: Tarl throws a stone and the guy he's trying to draw away from his position turns towards him - he's Genre Savvy too.
- In the book and film of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry distracts some Ministry workers with a rambunctious Weasley toy in order to sneak into Umbridge's office.
- Justified, both because that's what the toy was built for and because, apparently, the Ministry sees that sort of thing fairly often.
- In the first Animorphs book, Jake uses this to escape from some aliens in a dark construction site. As he's doing it, he thinks to himself what a cliche it is and hopes the aliens have never watched any TV or else they'd probably recognize the trick.
- In Rose Madder Rosie distracts Erinyes the blind bull from killing her by throwing a blood-soaked rock and running in the opposite direction.
Live Action TV
- In Doctor Who Series 4, the Doctor distracts a guard with a wind-up mouse. Almost as soon as he picks it up, he is knocked unconscious by the Doctor's cloned daughter Jenny. The Doctor is quick to call her out on what she's done.
- Mission: Impossible: Used in "The Council, part 1", to draw someone away from a buried man that the team needed access to.
- Subverted in an episode of Dark Angel, Max throws a stone to distract the guard, who goes to investigate where the stone came from.
- An episode of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues does this — earlier, Kwai Chang is showing Peter how to blow a candle out using the gust of air from a palm strike. Later, when facing sentries in the woods, Peter sarcastically asks, "what are we going to, throw a rock and divert their attention?" as Kwai Chang performs a palm strike and rustles a bush instead to distract the guards.
- Lampshaded on Battlestar Galactica when Apollo throws a grenade into a passageway, yelling for everyone to clear out (they do). It turns out he didn't pull the pin, and tells Starbuck that she would have thought it was a brilliant idea if she'd come up with it.
- Princess Peach demonstrates the technique perfectly in this Brawl in the Family strip.
- Triply subverted humorously in Goblins: the GAP try to distract the Brassmoon City gate guards by throwing a rock, but instead of going to investigate the noise, one of them shouts "Someone's throwing rocks at us from the woods!" However, the guards still go to investigate the place whence the rock was thrown, and start arguing there. Being distracted, they let a couple goblins enter the city (a double subversion). But then, the distraction doesn't last long enough, and the last two members for the GAP are spotted while trying to get in (a triple subversion !).
- A recurring gag in Dragon Tails: involves Lemuel throwing rocks in the bushes to distract enemies. The targets found the sound to be distracting but never investigated the noise beyond standing and thinking about how annoying it is, opening a window of opportunity for the other dragons.
- Stardroids: Roll does this. What makes it unique, however, is that she does it in plain sight of the foes. Oh, and did we mention — she's using a pair of her own panties. Slingshot-style.
- The Order of the Stick: This is the subject of one of "Tarquin's Tips", a handy guide distributed to all his guard patrols. "Sound in the Bushes: Someone is throwing a rock to distract you. Try looking in the opposite direction."
- Done in Girly to sneak into a women's dorm, with some heavy lampshading:
Lisa: I dunno, Beth. The last eight times that happened, it resulted in men sneaking...
Beth: Lisa, that was a rock! A rock, for God's sake! Are you suggesting we let it be!?
- A common ploy for soldiers using the M1 Garand was to keep one of the empty en bloc clips on them at all times. The Garand's self loading mechanism would fire out the clip when the last round was used, which would make a very distinctive metallic "ping" noise if it struck a hard surface. The trick was to fire off a round and throw the clip away so it makes a nice rattle. The enemy then sticks his head out from behind cover cause he assumes you're out. Dead wrong.
- This is a good way to distract non-trained dogs if they aren't fully on attack mode. A solid object like a small stone will distract them for at least two seconds. Or dog biscuits or meat.
- Can be taken to almost parodying lengths with some dogs, with whom you don't even have to actually throw the object, and they'll still run off in the direction they thought they saw you throw it.