Trap Is the Only Option
"There is a Russian proverb: The bear who sees the trap cannot be caught."When the heroes consciously recognize a trap when they see one, but elect to walk into it anyway. The reasons for this vary. Sometimes, it's because one of the hero's True Companions or a Love Interest is being held hostage, and the hero can't turn his back on them. Sometimes it's because the heroes need a lead to the villain's plot and taking the bait is the only way. Perhaps the heroes have an idea of what's in store for them, and the makings of a plan. Or maybe it's just because the hero enjoys a challenge. In any case, the choice is made: trap or no trap, it's their only chance. It doesn't always work. Sometimes it turns out there's little discernible difference between having sprung the trap on purpose than in having walked into it accidentally. Heroes have walked into their doom in the invocation of this trope. But it can pay off. Two types of heroes have been especially known to succeed: The kind that can think like a Chessmaster and use some critical piece of knowledge of the plan to foil the villain's aims while apparently "falling" into their trap, and the kind that is a master of thinking on their feet and making things up as they go along. Video Games may sidestep any logical rationale at all for walking into a trap, leaving Stupidity as the Only Option. The characters are controlled by you, and YOU are electing to walk into the trap because it's the only way to progress the game. But the in-story reason for this happening is as likely to be that the characters simply are dumb enough to fall for obvious Schmuck Bait, rather than having consciously realized the nature of the trap. If no rationale is given, the trap-springing falls under Stupidity Is the Only Option rather than this trope. Only if the characters in the game itself recognize that it is a trap, and supply a reason for tripping it deliberately, is this trope being invoked as well. Compare Schmuck Bait. See also Kansas City Shuffle which is built upon this trope: The con relies on the mark knowing there's a con but underestimating it.
— Josef Yurinov, Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
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Anime and Manga
- In the Read or Die OAV, one clear path into the I-Jin fortress suddenly becomes apparent. Joker instructs his team to take that path, stating that while it is obviously a trap, he has a few tricks of his own to play. (See the From Russia With Love quote below)
- In episode 7 of Code Geass, Cornelia tries to lure out Zero by attacking the Saitama Ghetto; Lelouch immediately recognizes it's a trap since it's an almost perfect recreation of Clovis' attack on Shinjuku Ghetto in the first couple of episodes. He still goes anyway because of his overconfidence, but Cornelia is a much better commander than Clovis, and the Saitama rebels are quick to surrender and less competent than the ones he lead in Shinjuku, so he's almost captured and only escapes when C.C. lets him pull off an unsolicited Decoy Getaway.
- In an early chapter/episode of Ranma ½, a student who's madly in love with Akane finds out about Ranma's phobia of cats and decides to lure him into a cat-filled room to humiliate him. He does this by sending Ranma a letter telling him to show up at a particular location if he ever wants to see Akane again...while Akane's standing right next to Ranma and reading the letter too. He then does a hilariously poor impersonation of being the kidnapped Akane (once again, while Akane's right next to Ranma) when Ranma shows up at the designated location. Ranma still goes along with it because he just wants to know what the hell this weirdo is up to. Bad choice.
- In an aptly named episode of Digimon Adventure 02 "The Insect Master's Trap", the chosen children enter into Arukenimon's trap to find out what she is up to. Unfortunately, they underestimated just how good of a trap it was.
- The heroes of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS are invited to a Nasty Party at the Big Bad's house...which they elect to attend, despite the danger. They want to take the fight to him.
- The villain Black Mask's pathetic first appearance in Batman was marked by him walking into an obvious trap. He was obsessed with masks, and was killing people that had "wronged" him with them. Then one of the people he wanted dead, Bruce Wayne, held a Masquerade.
Batman: Good job, Alfred - Black Mask won't be able to resist an invitation like this.
Robin: But what makes you so sure, Batman? It's the most obvious trap imaginable.
Batman: Which is why he'll come.
* Narrator: The Crypt...*
Tupeng: It's obviously a trap, Black Mask.
Black Mask: Of course, Tupeng - and moreover, it's obviously an obvious trap.
Thespis: But you still plan to go?
Black Mask: Of course, Thespis. How could I resist?
- In the ElfQuest Shards story line, Two-Edge has both kinds of traps, hidden and obvious. Two-Edge had a long time to make sure that the traps covered the only hidden way into the Citadel -and the elves need to go there.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) it's obvious that the deadline is part of some greater plot, but the Mane 6 decide they have to meet it anyway.
- In Transformers: Robots in Disguise Orion Pax and his crew travel to Gorlam Prime and give the villain everything he needs to begin their evil plan, however Orion Pax is finally able to figure out what the villains were up to in the first place and begin effectively working to stop them.
Orion Pax:It's not a trap if you know it's a trap.
- From Russia with Love, the classic James Bond movie.
Number One: What makes you think the head of the British secret service will oblige you by falling in with your plan?
Kronsteen: For the simple reason that this is so obviously a trap. My reading of the British mentality is that they always treat a trap as a challenge.
- Serenity, after Inara sends a message inviting Mal to come see her at the Companion training house, Mal and Zoe recognize it instantly as a trap, but because the bait's a friend of theirs (and Mal's Love Interest besides), Mal decides to go in anyway. He knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it's a trap. Turns out that was how she was trying to warn them.
- Mal: Y'all were watchin', I take it?
[Everyone squirms uncomfortably]
Mal: Did you see us fight?
- Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Anakin: I sense Count Dooku.
Obi-Wan: I sense a trap.
Anakin: Next move?
Obi-Wan: (grins) Spring the trap.
- Expanded on in the novelization - this is Anakin and Obi-Wan's standard procedure whenever they encounter a trap during the war.
- In Starship Troopers, the Roughnecks end up falling right into a Bug ambush, but as we later find out, command knew the Bugs had set a trap and sent in the Roughnecks as bait so they could confirm that there was a Brain Bug on the planet.
- Done quite literally in The Great Mouse Detective.
- We Were Soldiers: Colonel Moore's Airborne Cav battalion is ordered into LZ X-Ray to find an NVA force that attacked another base and then retreated. Moore and Sergeant Major Plumley have both been around long enough to know an obvious ambush when they see one, but their entire mission is to force an engagement with the NVA in force.
- In The Wolverine, a picture of where the bad guys have taken Mariko is impaled in the chest of a dead mook, with COME AND GET HER written in blood on it. He does, but is at least smart enough to have Yukio infiltrate by a less obvious route.
- Se7en. After surrendering to police, Serial Killer John Doe promises to lead Detective Mills and Somerset (and only these two) to where he's left the bodies of his last victims; if so he will plead guilty to all crimes instead of an Insanity Defence. Suspecting John Doe has something more dramatic planned than retrieving a couple of bodies, he's manacled hand and foot, their car is followed by a SWAT team in a helicopter, and Mills and Somerset are determined to be ready for anything. They're not.
- In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Radagast and Gandalf are outside the Necromancer's fortress, and Gandalf is about to go inside.
Radagast: But what if it's a trap?
Gandalf: It's undoubtedly a trap.
- Animorphs often used and Lampshaded this. A few times they weren't actually traps, and one time Jake walked into one, everyone got killed, but Jake was thrown back in time, offered the chance to walk into said trap and said "screw it, let's go home".
- At the end of the Black Jewels trilogy, the villains capture Lucivar's wife and child. He takes the bait, and then subsequently becomes new bait for his father. Who takes the bait, and subsequently becomes new bait for his other son. Who takes the bait. Unfortunately for the villains, he doesn't walk so much as saunter into the trap.
- In Dune:
- when Paul Atreides tells his father Leto that their being given Arrakis was possibly a trap, Leto replies with the classic line "knowing there is a trap is the first step in evading it." Leto got killed before the book was half-over. Nice Job Evading It Hero.
- His successors weren't much better at evading obvious traps. That line should be changed to "Knowing there's a trap is the first step in looking really stupid when you get caught by it."
- Leto and Thufir's mistake, aside from being tricked by a Red Herring, was underestimating the scale of the trap. When the trap was sprung, their enemies sent ten legions of soldiers supported by an entire legion of the Emperor's elite Sardaukar. Thufir was completely blindsided by how badly the Atreides' enemies wanted them dead, and how much expense they were willing to endure to make that happen. They had presumed that House Atreides' popularity in the Landsraad (many of the smaller houses were rallied behind Atreides) would make the Emperor hesitate to move against them. Instead, the great deal of support enjoyed by House Atreides and the Duke in particular made them entirely too dangerous for the Emperor to ignore.
- In Agatha Christie's Partners In Crime stories, Tommy and Tuppence are posing as private detectives, because the detective agency is suspected of dealing with a supercriminal known as No. 16, and Tommy's government boss wants them to flush him out. When Tommy arranges a meeting with someone who is quite obviously an agent of No. 16 who suspects he isn't really Mr Blunt, Tuppence complains that he's walking into a trap with his eyes closed. Tommy replies that, on the contrary, he's walking into a trap with his eyes open.
- The Wheel of Time protagonists practically live this trope, especially Rand. From Isam's summary:
- In the Magic Legends II Cycle, the villain Nicol Bolas walks knowingly into Tetsuo Umezawa's trap. And is utterly defeated.
- Robert E. Howard's "The Hour of the Dragon'':
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream, pilot Voort SaBinring notices the enemy attack pattern indicates they're going to spring a trap on their squadron. Squadron leader Jaina Solo decides to weather the trap out; they couldn't run every time they were targeted by a seeming Obvious Trap. It nearly proves fatal to her, and her Love Interest Jagged Fel.
- Sinfjotli in Saga of the Volsungs declines a poisoned cup offered to him by his stepmother Borghild two times. The third time, he drinks it, even though he knows it is poisoned.
- Over the years on Doctor Who, the Doctor's walked into a few of these. It gets fitted with a lampshade in "The Androids of Tara":
The Doctor: I shall have to go alone of course. It's funny. They always want you to go alone when you're walking into a trap. Have you noticed that?
- On Lost, Jack and co. know that Michael is leading them straight into a trap by taking them to the Others' camp. Jack's plan is to go along with it and pretend they don't know it's a trap, believing they'll have the advantage since Michael doesn't know that they have another party led by Sayid preparing to attack the Others' camp from sea. Unfortunately, he doesn't realize that Michael has lied about the camp's location, and Sayid's party ends up at an abandoned decoy camp miles away from the real trap, where Jack and co. are easily caught.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are both pretty fond of playing with this. On season is bookended with Buffy walking into two different traps for two different reasons, only to discover that both of them were just red herrings to distract her.
Angelus: And you fall for it every single time!
- Parodied in the Batman TV series where in one of the episodes Robin trips on death bee beehive trip wire which is clearly marked.
- Too many times to list on Stargate SG-1 (and Atlantis, too.) Usually occurs after a thorough Lampshade Hanging, taking the form of "You know this is a trap, right?" "Yep." "Okay, just checking."
- Thanks to a chronic case of Honor Before Reason, Arthur from Merlin has made a habit out of this trope. The title character gets his fair share, too.
- In Babylon 5, Sheridan goes to Z'ha'dum with Anna, knowing it's a trap. He plans to make it a very costly trap.
- "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Sam and Dean go to rescue two hunters even though they know it is a trap.
- And in "Unforgiven" Sam is sent a mysterious text message about a town where women have been disappearing. Turns out it's a town where Sam hunted while he was soulless, and all the women were people he'd slept with (Sam can no longer remember this). When Dean discovers this, he wants to get the hell out of town, but Sam believes he did something terrible and wants to make amends. Turns out a sheriff Sam used as The Bait for the demon, then Mercy Killed instead of taking to a hospital, is actually alive (having been turned into a demon himself) and wants revenge.
- Pretty much anytime Crowley or Abaddon contact the boys in any way, Dean and Sam know it's a trap but usually innocents or friends lives are at stakes so...
- Used in "Sacrifice of Angels" from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Sisko leads a large Federation fleet to retake DS9 from the Dominion, but encounter twice as many Cardassian and Jem'Hadar ships. While Starfleet attempts to lure Cardassian ships out of formation, Gul Dukat recognizes Sisko's plan, and carefully withdraws a few ships to draw him in so Dukat can crush Sisko with superior numbers. However, despite seeing through the trap, Sisko points out they may not get another opportunity and he orders Starfleet forward.
- The earlier episode "Rocks and Shoals" features a far more somber version. A Vorta field officer sends his Jem'Hadar soldiers walking into a death trap. They know it's a trap, but they go anyway simply because obeying the Vorta "is the order of things."
- In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "The Only Light in The Darkness," Skye discovers Grant Ward is The Mole just before he tries to trick her into leaving the base with him. Since she has no allies nearby, she lets him believe his cover is intact and plays along.
- Several City of Heroes missions play out like this; you know that no matter what your contact tells you, your mission's going to involve beating up some bad guys. Lampshaded in at least one mission description text.
- Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords:
Atton: Well, good thing it's not a trap.
- Subject to sarcastic Lampshade Hanging after a crime boss invites the Jedi Exile to a meeting and insists that she come alone:
Mical: No, Atton, I think it may be a trap!
Handmaiden: What are you talking about? It's obviously a trap.
Atton: Could you lighten up for just one second?
Kreia: It may be a trap - but traps work both ways.
- It gets even funnier when the Exile encounters Mira on the way to the obvious trap, who tells right away that she's a bounty hunter (there's a huge price on the Exile's head) and tells the Exile to follow her... Into a trap. Then Mira walks into the same trap she just prevented the Exile from falling into. And the Exile follows her afterwards, without any protection despite knowing that the place is full of extremely poisonous gas.
- In Mass Effect 2, the Illusive Man knows that the "derelict" Collector ship is a trap, but sends Shepard and crew to investigate anyway, not wishing to lose the chance to gain intel on the Collectors. He does neglect to tell Shepard it's a trap, so you have no idea until it's is sprung.
- In Portal 2, at one point, the Big Bad crashes an entire room into a walkway that you're using to escape from him, with a convenient opening inside. GLaDOS goes so far as to Lampshade the fact.
- GLaDOS: Okay, yes, it's a trap. But it's the only way through, so let's just do it.
- In Seiken Densetsu 3, the party elect to take the Sword of Mana into the villain's lair, knowing full well that it's a trap but also feeling it's their only chance to save their kidnapped friend.
- In Battlefield 3, at one point Misfit 1-3 is detached to Haymaker company, and come to a stop in front of a fuel truck that's blocking the road, that's obviously a trap. Haymaker's CO decides to spring it, much to Misfit 1-3's dismay.
- The Jar of Souls event in Diablo III has a response line from all of the player characters worthy of the Admiral himself, but the Witch Doctors suggest that they willingly spring the trap in order to free the souls contained in the jar from their torment.
- In The Sacrifice campaign in Left 4 Dead, the survivors come across a wrecked train blocking their path and the only way through is to open the car door and open the other door on the other side. The car contains a Tank and the survivors can clearly hear it grunting and roaring inside, but they know they have to free it in order to move on and releasing the Tank also summons a horde of zombies on you. Don't think you can try to outrun the Tank and then open the other door to escape. The dev team is onto you.
- In Final Fantasy VI, the party suspects that Gestahl's peace is a trap, but goes along with it anyway presumably precisely because they don't trust the Empire. It would have better if they'd just ignored the Espers and kept fighting the Empire. They might have been able to kill the Emperor and Kefka before they'd gotten that far in their plan. Alternatively they could have tried looking into the Esper's on their own. Either way working with the Empire, even while assuming they'd be betrayed in the end and preparing for it, ended up being the worse possible course of action.
- In Tears To Tiara 2, everyone can see that the attack on Tamar is an attempt by Izebel to lure the main Hispanic forces out of the heavily fortified city of Tartetos for battle. As the undefended village is where the families of many of the party members live, they sally forth anyway.
- In Bravely Default, around Chapter 6 your party starts to suspect Airy the Fairy of being evil, but play along with the plan so they can kill the main villain as opposed to sealing them away.
- Last Res0rt delivers, with a door bearing something apparently written in blood.
- Bob and George: Mega Man walks into what he thinks is a trap. He's wrong.
- Sluggy Freelance: In "Dangerous Days Ahead", Riff and others go Storming the Castle at the AyleeOrgNet.Com/HeretiCorp offices in spite of the extremely Suspiciously Specific Denial on a memo that indicates that the place is armed like a fortress and it's a trap. They don't have any other choice with their friends being held there, and they have a few surprises up their own sleeves.
- A very odd version cropped up in The Order of the Stick during the "Don't Split the Party" arc. Elan insists that they stay caught in a net trap, stating that even if they easily escape there will be something that captures them anyway or else the first trap wouldn't have even been shown and it's probably the least painful way of going about it to just be captured by the simple net. Daigo and Durkon ignore him, press on while Elan stays under the net, and are beaten bloody and captured by orcs while Elan stays unharmed under the net. Elan admits he's having to seriously resist an I Told You So as they're all being dragged off.
- Not uncommon in the Adam West version of Batman... or its animated sequel, which provided the above quote.
- Looney Tunes - Elmer Fudd, become a Mad Scientist in one cartoon, set a rabbit box trap for Bugs Bunny. Bugs notes that he had never actually seen one in real life but recognized it from what his grandfather described to him. He decided to go along with it merely because he concluded Elmer must have gone through a lot of trouble to set it up.
- Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
- The plot of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Sonic Breakout" is based around Robotnik imprisoning a cartoonist who drew a less-than-flattering strip of the Eggman. In order to break into the prison and save him, Sonic willingly lets himself get captured by Scratch and Grounder... but not before putting them through the usual hijinx.
- In the episode, "Zoobotnik" from the same series, Robotnik teams up with Katella the Intergalactic Huntress, who has captured everyone on Mobius, in order to catch Sonic. They lure him using an obvious doll of Tails, whom Katella captured earlier. Even though Sonic knows it's a trap (he even informs the viewers of it)), he willingly falls for it in the hope of finding Tails.
- In Sonic Underground, in the episode, "Wedding Bell Blues," the hedgehogs know Robotnik's wedding to Queen Aleena is a trap, but fall into it anyway on the off-chance Aleena is actually there.
- In another episode of the same series, in a call back to a Sonic Sat AM plot, Robotnik challenges Sonic to a race. Sonia and Manic, figuring Sonic couldn't resist, show up to try and rescue him... except he knew it was a trap and didn't show, and they have to be rescued.
- Beast Wars: During one season 3 episode, when the Predacons pull off another assault on the Maximal base, they blow open the front door, and Megatron lets Quickstrike lead the way. Inferno asks why he wasn't sent in instead.
Megatron: Because, Inferno, when expecting booby traps...
[Quickstrike gets flattened on a booby trap]
Megatron: ...always send the boob in first.
- Played straight with a bit of humor in The Spectacular Spiderman, in which the Green Goblin invites his two greatest enemies to come alone to an incredibly dangerous abandoned foundry - which both of them quickly peg as a trap but which he baits with something neither of them can afford to ignore. Nobody is fooled, and not even the Goblin takes it seriously.
(when it's revealed he lied) "Yes yes, I'm a big fat liar. Like we didn't all know this was a trap."
- Kim Possible: In one episode, Shego leaves a blatantly obvious clue that she stole the MacGuffin. Ron figures that it's a trap... but it's such an obvious trap that Drakken won't expect them to fall for it, so the thing to do is surprise him by falling for it anyway. That turned out to be just what Drakken was expecting.
- Gargoyles: In the episode "Long Way to Morning", Demona poisons Elisa and taunts her with the antidote, but Elisa's badge blocked the poison dart so she's actually fine. Goliath and Hudson chase after the antidote anyway, knowing full well it's a trap, because if they don't it will tip Demona off that her plan failed, and she'll come after Elisa again.
- In the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Solar Power", Dr. Hamilton points out that the Villain of the Week is trying to catch the Man of Steel at one of his weak points. Superman knows, but because the rogue has Lois and Jimmy, he doesn't feel he has a choice.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Morituri Te Salutamus", Finn and Jake stumble across an arena where they meet a creepy looking zombie known as the "Fight King" who promises them glory if they step through the arena's seal. They immediately realize it's a trap and start walking away, commenting on how if they did step through, they'd probably be sealed inside and forced to fight gladiator ghosts for the Fight King's amusement...and they think this is "flipping AWESOME" and thus they run back in.