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Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving

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"I've heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father's armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and... you have saved us all."
The Emperor, Mulan

In any Cop Show where the protagonist is a Cowboy Cop especially prone to causing mayhem in the process of catching the bad guys, episodes will often end with their boss dragging them into their office. Da Chief will then proceed to go down the Long List of regulations the Cowboy Cop has bent or broken, capping the list with the one heroic thing they did that will make the boss give them a begrudging congratulations instead of the axe.

Example: "You threatened civilians, wrecked three squad cars, started a public disturbance in a night club, blackmailed a librarian, threw the head of the city council into the lake, destroyed the Hope Diamond, dropped the destroyed diamond shards into a nearby volcano after tripping on your flip-flops' shoelaces, destroyed my yacht's propellers, hit me in the eye with a champagne cork, left a virus on the mint's computer in an attempt to increase speed, unleashed all the inmates from the asylum, set three buildings on fire, knocked four down, locked the mayor in his own building... and saved the President's daughter from terrorists."

To President: "Remind me why that last one gets him off the hook?"note 

A common way of subverting What the Hell, Hero?. Having your Hero Insurance up to date helps; alternately the act of heroism is great enough to make up for the collateral damage. If the Lifesaving was impressive enough, you may even score a Promotion, Not Punishment.

Compare I Have Just One Thing to Say, Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking, Arson, Murder, and Admiration, Bait-and-Switch Comment, Dramatic Pause, Chew-Out Fake-Out, and possibly Refuge in Audacity.

Subtrope of Saved by the Awesome. See also The Extremist Was Right.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • A variation in Fairy Tail. In Master Makarov's first appearance, he admonishes everyone in the guild for various misdeeds (especially Natsu for blowing up several buildings). Just as it looks like he's about to give them all severe punishment, he says something that boils down to "Screw the Council! True Fairy Tail mages don't need to be intimidated by authority!" And the crowd goes wild.
    • They also invert it. When the Magic Council goes over a list of violations by Fairy Tail, including many, many counts of property damage, and associating with the criminal Jellal, not to mention all the things they did before the new council was selected, one of them mentions that the guild did help stop one of the three most dangerous dark guilds around from taking over an ancient magic that would have turned the whole country into a giant magic war zone. The other members then decide that this is ''also'' a violation, because they didn't wait to get permission to save the day (while conveniently ignoring that Fairy Tail was part of a willing coalition with three other guilds to do this and no mention of those guilds getting a violation for being associated).
  • My Hero Academia: While interning with established superheroes, Midoriya, Todoroki, and Iida are separated from their trainers and manage to incapacitate Hero Killer Stain. While they recover, the chief of police visits them in the hospital and tells them that, since they are not yet licensed superheroes, their use of force was illegal. He then adds that their actions were unquestionably heroic, and since there were few witnesses, they'd be let off with a warning if they stick to the cover story that professional hero Endeavor took down Stain.
  • The girls of the bastion in Sound of the Sky violate quite a few military laws in the last few episodes. Harbouring an enemy soldier without informing their superiors, disobeying direct orders, lying to a superior officer, assaulting a superior officer, tying up said superior officer in their illegal distillery, going AWOL and attacking friendly units (although in fairness, they were attacked first). All in all, it's a good thing they're friends with Rio, who is princess of Helvetia and third wife to the Roman Emperor by that point.
  • Episode 5 of Digimon Data Squad has a perfect example: Satsuma is furious at the team for disobeying his orders, to the point Kudamon does most of the scolding for him. When it seems like he's going to unload on Masaru and Tohma in particular... he quietly congratulates them for making it back, smiling to Kudamon's confusion. This could be explained by the fact the last time he went to the Digital World it was a disaster. Knowing his team did it successfully gave him hope that Digital Dives could actually work.
  • In Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Wakamatsu's list of complaints towards Seo include always hitting him with a basketball, always making him run errands, always making him carry her stuff, buying him dinner, and giving souvenirs to only him.

  • A variation of this occurred in Ultimate Fantastic Four with General Ross and Reed Richards.
    Ross: "I agree to One. Simple. Test. And you trash a shuttle, wreck Vegas and reveal yourselves to the public in a way we cannot hide or go back from... and for what? For what, Mr. Richards?"
    Reed Richards: "That's a hand-held death ray, General. Pretty easy to reverse-engineer and produce."
    Ross: "...I love you, boy."
  • In one Marvel comic published during the time Captain America was a Human Popsicle, a random, non-powered man tries to fill his role. A villain offers him a chance to resurrect Cap at the cost of his own life, but is stopped by Namor. Namor then admonishes the man for nearly throwing away his life on the scheme... before quietly stating that if it wasn't a setup, it'd be a fitting Heroic Sacrifice.

    Fan Works 
  • In Amazing Fantasy, All Might confronts Izuku about his dangerous and reckless decision to run in and try to save Peter from the Prowler. Izuku admits that he didn't know what he was thinking, his legs just moved on their own. All Might grins at him as he says that this trait of his is exactly he'll become an amazing Hero.
  • The Body Reflects the Heart, the Shadow Reflects the Soul: Sho Minazuki rants at a Black Ooze in this vein while he's pulling a Big Damn Heroes to save the first people who ever showed him unconditional kindness:
    Sho: You know something? I really. Hate. People. They're selfish, ignorant, loud, obnoxious pricks with basically no redeeming qualities whatsoever! I mean really! Look at all they've achieved! Genocide, illegal experiments, reality TV, it’s just a never-ending parade of failures and f***-ups! They are, without question, a complete write-off of a species, AND HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME CARE ABOUT THEM!!
  • In MGLN Crisis, Hayate dresses down Arisa and Suzuka for taking the golem into combat, and after silencing their protests, congratulates them for their heroism.
  • In Ripples, Waves, Tsunamis, we get this little speech once Nami recognizes who the Scourge of the Seas really is.
    Nami: His name is Raijax. And he was one of Arlong's crew. Heck, he wasn’t just part of his crew, he was one of his lieutenants, on the same level as Hachi, Chew, and Kuroobi. He was a blunt, insensitive ass, who didn’t ever give so much as two shits about the situation at hand or whatever emotions were at play. He was a ruthless killer who always fought without mercy, and a slavedriver who couldn’t care less about limits. For almost a year, he thrashed me blue, black, and bloody on an almost daily basis, worked me down to the bone—literally, sometimes—until I was coughing up blood and more often than not had fun doing it…And he was one of the best friends…I’ve ever had…
  • In Rules Of The Game, Harry is given a dressing down by Snape for directly disobeying orders, throwing his friends into danger, and saving Professor Snape.
  • In The Sage's Disciple, this could be considered Team Caster's MO. They have either assisted with or directly committed two cases of arson, one case of manslaughter, two cases of breaking and entering, four cases of kidnapping, one case of extortion, and more cases of theft than one can count. However, along their "crime spree", they succeeded in rescuing Sakura and preventing Shinji from being manipulated by his grandfather, and coercing Kariya to work with them. Because of this, the death toll is significantly reduced from canon, the manslaughter victim being Ryuunosuke Uryuu and the only other death being Kiritsugu Emiya, which was definitely a case of self-defense. While Crow did significantly rough up Kayneth, both he and Sola-Ui are ultimately able to leave Fuyuki alive.
  • In Symbiosis, Brock chews out Ash for getting involved in the siege, as it could have gone horribly wrong, but he does concede that Ash made a good call in covertly stopping Team Rocket from killing Melanie and taking the eggs.

    Films — Animated 
  • Used at the end of Mulan, with the Chinese Emperor himself giving the talk to the title character. Bonus points for actually committing all six crimes. Such an epic quote, Disney felt it was all that was needed for the film's first trailer.
    The Emperor: You stole your father's armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and... you have saved us all.
  • The Magic Voyage used this at the end with the native chief to Christopher Columbus.
    Native Chief: You stole our idol! Destroyed our sacred temple! And... made squishy with the Swarm Lord. How can we ever thank you?
  • In Chicken Run, Fowler manages to do half of this without even talking. After his daring rescue of Ginger, Rocky returns to his hut to find Fowler glaring at him, making him think he's in for more insults and criticism from the old rooster.
    Rocky: All right, Pops, what did I do now?
    Fowler: A very brave and honourable deed, sir.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 1996 comedy Kingpin, Mr. Boorg gives his son Ishmael the speech after Roy and Claudia visit.
    Mr. Boorg: Mr. Munson told us about the booze, and lusting, the late nights, the lying and the gambling. He told us how you got him to quit all that. How you got Roy to straighten his life out. And how you got Claudia to quit being so much of a whore that.. she is. And, son, we're mighty proud of you"
  • In Kindergarten Cop: Kimble is being questioned by the school principal after the former beat up a student's abusive father:
    Miss Schlowski: I checked you out; there is no record of you ever having taught at any public school in California or anywhere else. Mr. Kimble, you have no teaching experience whatsoever, do you?
    John Kimble: Someone finally noticed...
    Miss Schlowski: I thought the introduction of a ferret was a horrible idea, but the children seem to like it. I thought the use of your police whistle was outrageous, but—
    John Kimble: It was all I could think of—
    Miss Schlowski: Please... allow me to finish.
    John Kimble: Sorry.
    Miss Schlowski: But it worked. I have no idea what kind of police officer you are, but you are a very good teacher.
    John Kimble: (Beat) Thank you.
  • A surprisingly straight example in Airplane!, where Rex Kramer tells Ted after he saves the plane that "that was probably the worst landing in the history of this airport. But some of us, particularly me, would like to buy you a drink." Like most non-joke lines in Airplane!, it was taken directly from its predecessor, the uncomedic disaster movie Zero Hour.
  • Used in the first Rush Hour:
    Cpt. William Diel: Two men were shot, one man lost a pinky!
    Inspector Carter: But nobody died.
    Cpt. William Diel: You destroyed half a city block!
    Inspector Carter: That block was already messed up.
    Cpt. William Diel: You lost a lot of evidence!
    Inspector Carter: We've still got a little bit left.
    Cpt. William Diel: What you did was dangerous, and completely against policy! And on top of that...
    ...You did a good job!
    Inspector Carter: ...Say what?
    • This is a double fake-out; the chief is actually furious, and is buttering Carter up solely to trick him into accepting a humiliating assignment.
    • The trope was actually Played Straight in the original screenplay: the Captain tells Carter that he acted recklessly and against procedure, and doing so is probably the only reason Carter's partner is still alive, and the Captain is assigning him to the FBI's requested job out of genuine respect for his abilities (not knowing the FBI want him to babysit a visiting foreign detective).
  • Done at the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Kirk and the crew have their Long List of offences read out, then thanks to 'extenuating circumstances' (like Saving the World) they are all dropped except one, which only applied to Kirk. For that one, they demote him from Desk Jockey Admiral to The Captain — or, in other words, quite deliberately tossed him in the Briar Patch.
  • In the 1997 remake of That Darn Cat!, FBI Capt. Boetticher summarizes the collateral damage of the protagonists' actions as "two butcher shop windows, a gazebo, a security office, and a flower stand, all totaled, not to mention two blown-up gas stations. So you just had to do things your own way, huh?" He then admits that "the victim is safe and sound, and I think your father would be proud of you".
  • Undercover Brother. Da Chief gives the title character a piece of his mind. Considering that almost every one of those dollars of damage was a) caused by Conspiracy Brother and b) done to The Man's property and plans, it's doubtful that the Chief was too upset and just wanted to invoke this trope.
    Chief: Didn't you cause about a bazillion dollars worth of damage? And I sure as hell ain't covering for you! I don't give a damn how sexy you look floating down in your little pants! And as for the rest of you... I just want to say how very proud I am of all of you. Undercover Brother, the world is safe once again thanks to you.
  • In the Disney Channel original movie Motocrossed (inspired by Shakespeare's Twelfth Night), a teenage girl takes the place of her twin brother (who broke his leg) in a motocross championship. After winning, she reveals herself to be a girl. While there's some question as to the legality of her win, there Ain't No Rule about the winner being female, and the fact that she registered under the name "Andy" (her brother's name is Andrew) means that she can't be called on that (her name is Andrea). Then comes out the CEO of the sponsoring factory, who at first appears to be outraged at the girl tricking everyone. She then promptly praises her for winning in a "man's sport" and signs on the entire family.
  • John Boyd in Ravenous (1999) attempts to desert from the Army during the Mexican-American war, but ends up inadvertently winning a crucial battle on his own. His superiors know exactly how it went down and tell him they'd execute him if not for how bad it would look; instead, they pin a medal on him and then give him a reassignment as third in command of the shittiest outpost in the country.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, after Bilbo saved Thorin from Azog, Thorin harshly calls out Bilbo on all his failings and lists his reasons why he believes Bilbo doesn't belong with the company, before finishing with "I have never been more wrong!" and grabbing Bilbo into a giant hug.
    "You! What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed! Did I not say that you would be a burden, that you would not survive in the wild, and that you have no place amongst us? I've never been so wrong in all my life."
  • Sister Act.
    Reverend Mother: I hold you responsible for all of this. For introducing a lounge act into my convent, for utterly disrupting our lives, and exposing us all to mortal danger.
    ...thank you.
  • White Chicks.
    Chief: Once again, you managed to do everything I told you not to do. You caused over $250,000 worth of damage, two people got shot...but at least you got the right guy. Good work, fellas.
  • Top Gun does this in reverse. The CO starts out with a quiet "Maverick, you just did an incredibly brave thing.", letting him know that he acknowledges that Maverick likely saved Cougar's life. He then proceeds to unload on Maverick and Goose for almost destroying their extremely-low-on-fuel aircraft and not following orders.
  • Inverted in Flight Crew.
    Airline director: The unmatched bravery and heroism shown in saving the lives of Russian and foreign citizens, the exemplary behavior during the catastrophe and the brilliant piloting skills… aren't enough to keep you employed, because of you disobeying straight orders from your superiors.
  • In Dave Chappelle's comedy special The Age of Spin, he postulates a superhero who has to have sex to save lives, and when no one is willing, he rapes someone. (This is later tied into being an allegory about Bill Cosby.)
    Chappelle: He rapes, but he saves. And he saves more than he rapes.
  • In Conan the Barbarian (1982), our heroes are caught and brought before King Osric the Usurper after a successful run on the Tower of the Serpent (i.e. the bad guys). The king begins his speech by listing the grievances this act caused him, brings up their daring, arrogance, outrageousness, insolence, and then... he salutes them. Turns out, he was really impressed by the fact that somebody at last stood up to Thulsa Doom.

  • In book five of the H.I.V.E. Series, Shelby is nearly expelled for helping Wing escape the HIVE. However, she is let off the hook for helping revive HIVEmind. And because she's one of the main characters.
    • At some point, most all of the characters have either been expelled or nearly expelled. Some characters, three times.
  • Catch-22: Military police chase Aarfy and Yossarian to Rome; they completely ignore the body of the woman Aarfy has raped and murdered because they came to arrest Yossarian for going AWOL.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, Watch Commander Sam Vimes gets this from Lord Vetinari at the end of Feet of Clay. note 
    • Inverted in Monstrous Regiment; in spite of all the things they've personally done to end the war with a reasonably victory-flavored outcome for Borogravia, the country's political leaders are a hair's breadth away from giving the protagonists what amounts to a consolation prize and quietly forgetting anything of the sort happened, just because said protagonists are women (in a country where Straw Misogyny is part of the religious doctrine). It takes the intervention of Sergeant Jackrum, who is well-known, well-respected, and above all knows things about half the ruling council that would get them hanged (namely, they're women too), to turn this around.
  • Harry Potter
    • At the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and Ron get this speech from Dumbledore. At first, it seems that they might actually get expelled, but they get bonus house points for Gryffindor instead, and they win the House Cup. The original book simply has Dumbledore admit, after reminding them of the consequences of their actions under normal circumstances, that sometimes even he makes promises on which he can't follow through (or, as he put it, "the best of us must sometimes eat our words"). The film adaptation has a similar exchange which more closely follows the spirit of this trope:
      Dumbledore: You both realize, of course, that in the past few hours you have broken perhaps a dozen school rules.
      Harry/Ron: Yes, sir.
      Dumbledore: And that there is sufficient evidence to have you both expelled.
      Harry/Ron: Yes, sir.
      Dumbledore: Therefore, it is only fitting that you both receive ... [beat] ... Special Awards for Services to the School.
    • Harry goes through this all the time; when the adults and faculty of the school refuse to listen to him, he invariably winds up needing to save the day himself, often breaking a ton of rules in the process. He might get punished along the way, but never suffers at the end of the book. The earliest example is probably when he, Ron, and Hermione defeated a giant Troll loose in the school halfway through Book 1. As Harry stopped listening to the teachers so much in the later books (and the teachers likewise realized it's a good idea to pay attention when Harry says someone wants him dead), the series started to move away from this. Pretty heavily lampshaded, too, especially by Snape. Verges on Jerkass Has a Point.
  • Commander Blaine gets one of these at the beginning of The Mote in God's Eye for leading his marines in a coup de main against a rebellious planet's shield generator. If he had failed, the admiral would have had no choice other than orbital bombardment, killing most of the population and dooming what remained to a slow death by starvation. In the end, Blaine's action was successful, so he was promoted and given command of a battle cruiser.
    • One character in that series (in fact, I think it's the one delivering this particular chewing-out) says that officers are, instead of following whatever stupid idea comes to mind, supposed to follow The Book, which he then categorizes as "largely a bunch of stupid ideas that worked."
  • As seen below, the Star Trek novel (Before Dishonor) had several original characters, including a Vulcan, stage a mutiny after Picard ignored the Admirals yet again. They were...forgiven. So, yeah.
    • Picard himself was pretty much forgiven when his actions helped save the Earth from a Borg attack. By the end of the novel, Ambassador Spock (who was aboard the Enterprise during the novel) recommended that Starfleet pass a new General Order stating that in the event of a Borg invasion, Starfleet should automatically defer to Captain Picard.
      • Which is exactly what happens in the Destiny trilogy — with a fleet of a thousand Borg cubes rampaging through the Federation and Klingon Empire, President Bacco says, "Tell [Picard] that if he has any idea how to stop the Borg, no matter what he has to do, he has my unqualified authority to do it. If he has to toss Starfleet regulations and Federation law out an airlock, so be it. If we're still here when the dust settles, he can count on full pardons for himself and his crew, no questions asked."
  • The backstory for two of the characters in The Tar-Aiym Krang was that they faked a malfunction aboard their ship in order to attack AAnn forces which were about to invade and enslave/depopulate a world the Commonwealth wasn't officially bound to protect. At their court martial:
    • Ensigns Bran Tse-Mallory and Truzenzuzex were ordered stripped of all rank and dismissed from the service. As a preliminary, however, they were to be awarded the Church Order of Merit, one star cluster. This was done. Unofficially, each was also presented with a scroll on which those citizens of the colony planet known as Goodhunting had inscribed their names and thanks... all two hundred and ninety-five thousand of them.
  • Beregond from the Lord of the Rings books. During the siege of Minas Tirith, he deserted his post and killed the porter with the keys to the Silent Street, as well as two members of the Guard. However, he only did this to protect Faramir from a premature funeral pyre, and only slew the others because they would not listen to him and attempted to kill him first. After the crowning of King Elessar, Beregond is brought before the new King. King Elessar spares him from execution because of the circumstances but discharges Beregond from the Guard and orders him out of Minas Tirith... so that he may be reassigned to Faramir's newly-formed personal Guard in Ithilien as its captain.
  • In Honor Harrington, a subplot involves an enlisted man drawing the unfortunate attention of a sadistic bully, then taking martial arts to make sure that if there's another confrontation, he at least gets out alive. Then the bully nearly kills a friend by sabotaging their equipment, so he finds the bully and suckers them into a fight, winning easily and causing no small amount of damage. He goes in front of the captain, expecting to be kicked out of the service at best, gets the dressing down... and is docked some pay.
    • In "Let's Go to Prague", a short story set in the universe, two Manticoran Marines on a lark decide to take leave on an enemy planet, accidentally get involved with an intelligence operation, and screw up the carefully laid plans of the officer in charge, brazen and bull their way through to save the day, and not only get forgiven, one of them gets the girl (namely the intel officer). Then they get home and discover that Honor has negated their intel gold mine by turning out to be not dead and breaking out of prison with 800,000 other people, so no one cares.
    • In Storm from the Shadows, Admiral Khumalo meets with Captain Terekhov to discuss Terekhov's actions in the climax of the previous book. He gives his own Accentuating the Negative summary of said actions, which included stealing a freighter, commandeering half of Khumalo's forces, launching a preemptive strike against a star nation that was not only a) officially at peace with the Star Kingdom of Manticore but b) a client state of the Solarian League, and ensuring that Khumalo had no way to countermand Terekhov's orders. The last of which was so Terekhov could be disavowed. Terekhov is pretty much certain that his career is over, only for Khumalo to endorse both his actions and the reasons for doing so.
  • In the The Dresden Files, one of his enemies took up dark magic — the corrupting, addictive force that fuels most illegal magic — to save lives. She wants to destroy death, so while she's assisting a massive necromancy ritual that will kill many people, she also saves random civilians from dying. Harry tries to convert her back to the light side and gives this trope as part of his pitch.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Davos was a lifelong smuggler who smuggled vital supplies into Storm's End during a siege. He's now Sir Davos Seaworth, and one of Stannis Baratheon's most trusted advisors. Somewhat subverted in that he was punished for his life of crime at the same time, by having one joint of each finger on his left hand removed. But that seems relatively lenient by the standards of Westeros, and it certainly doesn't seem to bother Davos. He'll argue with anyone who suggests it's unfair.
  • The Railway Series: In "Percy's Predicament", The Fat Controller scolds Daisy for her laziness and stubborn behavior ever since she came to the branch line while Thomas was being mended, but then praises her for helping Toby clear Percy's accident with the brake van and allowed her to stay on the branch line.
  • While the scene itself doesn't often come up, the nature of the beast informs the plots and resolutions of several Vorkosigan Saga novels:
    • The Warrior's Apprentice: Miles commits fraud by misrepresenting land he mortgages, bends or breaks Betan law a couple other times and leans on his family name to protect him, smuggles and fights and deceives his way into command of a mercenary outfit, and ends up on trial for treason because he raised a private army. But he gives up that army to the Emperor as a deniable intelligence asset for Barrayar and comes out smelling like roses.
    • The Vor Game: Miles repeatedly disobeys orders, sometimes in situations warranted (criminal orders by an abusive commander) and other times less so (perfectly legal orders, but which Miles feels are wrong for the situation), and generally deceives and cheats all around, leading up to saving the young Emperor, who briefly ran away from his responsibilities in a fit of depression, and narrowly averting a war among the powers of the Hegen Hub of which Cetaganda was ready to take advantage.
    • Memory: Miles averts his trend of pulling these off terribly at the start of the book when he has a seizure mid-mission and accidentally fires off his plasma arc, slicing off the legs of the man he and the Dendarii were sent to rescue — seizures which Miles had known about but covered up rather than admit to, and lied about in his report. Simon sums up Miles's whole career in ImpSec in a painful inversion where Miles did everything unconventionally but right for so long and then this last act all but invalidates everything else.
    • Captain Vorpatril's Alliance: Late in the book, Ivan gets involved in a scheme by his new wife's family, to plunder a cache of Occupation-era riches and artifacts in a sealed bunker hidden under ImpSec Headquarters. Excavation destabilizes the ground under Headquarters, and when the tunnels are flooded, the whole of Headquarters visibly sinks into the ground. Ivan's involvement should have probably gotten him court-martialed for keeping things secret, but at the same time, if he wasn't involved, then the bunker may well not have been recovered so that Barrayar got control of everything inside instead of Ivan's Jacksonian in-laws. For his sins, Ivan is assigned off-world, which he turns into a years-long tropical honeymoon with his wife, Tej.
  • In one of the books in the X-Wing Series, Aaron Allson's Wraith Squadron, a couple of the pilots get one of these after pulling off a brilliantly executed plan, drawing off a Star Destroyer with just two X-Wings and two A-Wings, saving an entire evacuation convoy, including one last transport that had trouble getting off the ground. But they went against procedure by broadcasting unencrypted towards the enemy they'd fooled, taunting him. Wedge says that they should split the difference and hammer a medal into each of their skulls.
  • Played with in The Inheritance Cycle. Roran disobeys his commanding officer and stages a mutiny, and while it does work, and likely saves hundreds of lives from both the Empire and the Varden, Nasuada orders him whipped to make sure that no one with less tactical knowledge and luck gets a similar idea. What Roran does earn from his lifesaving – and the fact that he's Eragon's brother – is getting to be whipped rather than publicly executed or exiled, and then finally a promotion to Captain, where there's no one left for him to disobey but Nasuada herself (who has no qualms about punishing him for that regardless of what happens).
  • Colin Fischer: After Colin discovers who really smuggled a gun into the cafeteria, his father gives him a lengthy lecture about everything he did wrong and ends it with "In forty-eight hours, you've broken more rules, started more trouble, and caused more chaos than in all your fourteen years on the planet. You also saved an innocent boy."
  • Hoshi and the Red City Circuit: Despite the criminals Hoshi consorted with in the process of saving Red City, and her refusal to name them to law enforcement, City Coordinator Costanza is so impressed with her service that a new law is passed. Now if a civilian's been of special service to the RCPD, they are granted a one-time pardon on certain types of transgressions, as long as those transgressions were necessary to the service and weren't publicized.

    Live-Action TV 
  • From the 1970s police drama McCloud, where Chief Clifford would give McCloud one of these about Once an Episode.
  • From the Netflix series Sense8, Sun Bak gets this when she enters the Korean women's prison.
    The embezzler...who stole all of those investors' money...tsk tsk tsk, shamed your father and brother...and almost destroyed their company. Well done.
  • Several episodes in various incarnations of Star Trek. Typically, the Captain will give their subordinate a full dressing down, dismiss them... then stop them at the door and remark, "Nice job out there."
    • A notable subversion occurred in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, where Lieutenant Tom Paris acted against the captain's wishes in order to do the Right Thing... and got chewed up and demoted to Ensign for his troubles. This stuck for several episodes and was worth a small ceremony when he was reinstated.
    • Played straight and mostly for laughs in the Voyager episode "Survival Instinct". Janeway dresses down Paris and Kim for getting involved in a brawl that appears to have been a game that got out of control and confines them to quarters. As they're on the way out:
      Janeway: Well, did you win?
      Paris: Oh, yes, ma'am.
      Kim: We kicked their... rackets.
      Janeway: Good. Dismissed.
    • TNG's Worf vs. a gamey old man who orders the away team to — essentially — git off his lawn. Go on, git. ("The Survivors")
      Worf: Sir, may I say your attempt to hold the away team at bay with a non-functioning weapon was an act of unmitigated gall.
      Uxbridge: Didn't fool you, huh?
      Worf: I admire gall.
    • Also notable is Data during the Klingon civil war, who, while given temporary command of a starship, disobeys orders and exposes the Romulans as they cross the border. Data himself, being completely logical, states to Picard that ends do not justify the means and expects to be reprimanded. Picard is the one who claims that Data did the right thing.
  • The tradition is alive and well in Star Trek: Picard. In "The Last Generation", Captain Tuvok confronts Seven Of Nine for helping the old Enterprise crew hijack the Titan. Before he can finish, Seven Of Nine announces that she is resigning from Starfleet. Tuvok then shows her a holo-recording of Captain Shaw (shortly before his death), giving his evaluation of Seven, commending her for her courage, loyalty and willingness to go against the rules if it's the right thing, and recommending her for promotion. Tuvok then tells Seven, "Resignation denied. Captain."
  • Babylon 5:
    • After the fall of President Clark's regime, the new President Luchenko comments that there was much discussion of whether Sheridan should be given the Medal of Honor for restoring the legitimate government, or taken out and shot for leading a rebellion (and that, logically, she should compromise by doing both). The upshot is that Sheridan and the other rebels are granted amnesty, on condition that he immediately resigns from EarthForce, which he does.
      Luchenko: If we decide to pursue this, who should we negotiate with? You?
      Delenn: No. The three of us [Delenn, G'Kar, and Londo] make up the advisory board of the new alliance. We have our duly elected President, as you do.
      Luchenko (already knowing the answer): And where can I find this President?
      [Smash Cut]
      General: You!
      President Sheridan: Funny thing about retiring. You no sooner pick out the places you want to go on vacation than someone comes at you with another job offer.
    • In a similar vein, when Garibaldi takes over his fiance's company as the new CEO/Chairman of the Board, he calls a meeting with about eight notorious troublemakers, upstarts, whistleblowers, and worrywarts. One of them gets up and exclaims how none of them did anything wrong, there's no way Garibaldi can just fire them; Garibaldi instead says how he just fired the old board of directors, who were nothing but sycophantic yes-men, and this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits is the new board. Specifically, it's their job to tell him when he, or anyone else in management, is screwing up or generally acting like an ass on company time.
    • When Sheridan was missing and presumed dead after going to Z'ha'dum, Ivanova, Delenn, and Lyta Alexander took a White Star in an (unsuccessful) search for him. When he returns, he first chides them for the "foolish and dangerous" attempt, but adds "I can't thank you enough".
  • This is practically the whole reason for Cuddy's existence in House. However, she is a well-developed character in her own right, even if House goes behind her back and rarely takes her seriously.
    • House always manages to avoid getting fired when he does crazy, irresponsible stuff to patients. He cures 90% of his patients so he gets away with it with nothing more than this trope.
      • It's actually revealed at one point that the hospital basically has a "House is getting sued for doing insane crap again" fund. The revelation of the fund is this trope in a nutshell.
      House: You don't have a problem with what I did?note 
      Cuddy: When I hired you, I knew you were insane. I will continue to try and stop you from doing insane things, but once they're done... trying to convince an insane person not to do insane things is, in itself, insane; so when I hired you I also set aside fifty thousand a year for legal expenses. So far you've come in under budget.
  • In one episode of M*A*S*H, after becoming incredibly frustrated with some new regulations, Hawkeye drives to Seoul and manages to bluff his way into the meeting room where negotiations with North Korea are being held, and give the ambassadors a pep talk. Later, a messenger from the general who was at the meeting shows up at the 4077th to deliver a message: If the general ever saw him again, he'd have him arrested and court-martialed. However, the messenger adds that the general also wished he was a "crazy surgeon who had the guts" to do something like that.
  • Done by Dean Parker and Clark Lane (the teenage sons of the Team One Sergeant and Team Leader) on Flashpoint. They defy an order from Parker and expose themselves to danger several times over, but their actions (specifically, Clark managing to plant a cell phone on a major player) end up proving critical to resolving the situation. Parker and Ed even discuss the conundrum.
    Parker:You know, what Clark did, we wouldn't have come in time. It's a pretty smart move. It's pretty brave.
    Ed: And what, that makes up for it?
    Parker: No. Sometimes Dean drives me crazy, won't listen to a word I say, and other times he does something that makes me so proud I think my heart's gonna just burst. Thing is that, more and more, both happen at the same time.
    • Their ultimate decision: give them a quick reprimand and then take them out for pizza. Dean and Clark are stunned.
  • In the Young Blades episode "Secrets of the Father":
    "The" D'Artagnan: I ordered you confined to the garrison... and you disobeyed my orders yet again, knowing it would assure your expulsion from the Musketeers... and (Beat) you saved my life.
    D'Artagnan: Well, nobody's perfect.
  • Often the case with Jimmy McNulty of The Wire. Described by one of his peers as " a picture postcard of a drunken, self-destructive fuck-up", none of this stops Mcnulty from taking on cold and dead cases and knocking them out of the park. May not be saving lives, but he's certainly saving the Homicide Unit's clearance rate when he's not trashing it with vindictive (yet factual!) memos.
  • Reid got a McCloud speech from Hotch in the Criminal Minds episode "Elephant's Memory". When the Un-Sub, a teenager who killed bullies who targeted him, was approaching the police station to retrieve his runaway girlfriend, Reid confronted him and purposely extended his arms and body in such a way to shield him from potential gunfire from his teammates, not wanting the Un-Sub to go down in a hail of bullets since Reid identified with him in a way having been a victim of bullying himself. Hotch mentions at the end of the episode how he should fire Reid for his actions- since he put himself and his teammates in danger- and "next time (he) will", before telling him at the end that he "did a good job".
  • Happens frequently in Psych, though it's more about him solving murders that the police either wouldn't have been able to solve or would have taken longer to do it.
    • Unfortunately, as of the season 7 finale, the constant use of this has caught up to the department and the chief herself is forced to take a suspension to cover for her two top detectives and the Psych guys.
  • Gilmore Girls: The editor of the Yale Daily News dresses down his star reporter:
    Doyle: Gellar! Do you see what I have here in my hand?
    Paris: I’m busy, Doyle.
    Doyle: Rabbi Baron says he’s changed his number twice.
    Paris: Oh, please.
    Doyle: Father Callahan is threatening a restraining order.
    Paris: If I had a nickel…
    Doyle: And the honorable Muhammed Abdul Aziz says that you stole his flip-flops.
    Paris: What a lie. He leaves them out in his hallway and I have told him a million times that people suck, and –
    Doyle: Paris!
    Paris: What?
    Doyle: You have threatened, stalked, and basically freaked out every religious leader within a hundred-mile radius. This paper has never received so many complaints in the history of its existence. And how the hell did you get Jesse Jackson’s barber’s number? How?
    Paris: Hey, you gave me this beat to find the story, not to kowtow and make nice, and –
    Doyle: Gellar!
    Paris: What?
    Doyle: (appreciatively) Way to go!
  • As Captain Trunks sums it up Once per Episode, Haaaaaaammer! (Insert specific episode with longer talk here.)
  • Castle: In the seventh season episode "Reckoning", after Castle sets himself up as the bait to lure serial killer 3XK into a trap so he and the police could take the killer down and find out where he was holding Beckett hostage, Captain Gates gives Castle one of these:
    Gates: That was the most reckless, dangerous, irresponsible stunt you ever pulled, Mr. Castle... Thank you.
  • Sam Tarly in Game of Thrones disobeys a direct order from the Archmaester in order to attempt the highly risky treatment of Jorah Mormont's greyscale. When he finds out, the Archmaester summons Sam to his study, dresses him down for disobedience and risking the infection of countless others - and then compliments him on the perfect execution of a dangerous and meticulous medical procedure. Alas for Sam, he still has to go back to drudge work; his "reward" is not getting expelled from the Citadel.
  • Death in Paradise: In "A Murder in Portrait", Ruby stops a fleeing suspect by dumping a trailer load of coconuts on a hill, causing the suspect to swerve his scooter and crash. It is later revealed that coconuts continued down the hill and crashed through a wedding, resulting in an extremely irate bride. Ruby is called on the carpet by the Commissioner, who is also her uncle. He starts off by telling her that what she did was reckless but then goes on to say that a good police officer needs to be able to think on their feet, and that her actions resulted in the capture of the suspect, and that lead to the evidence which ultimately cracked the case, so as far as he is concerned, she did the right thing.


  • Tower of God: At the end of the Untrustworthy Room arc, Augusgus chews Mule Love out for acting independently to get revenge, conducting an unauthorized test and thus indirectly causing a Regular's death. Furthermore, he criticizes him for not being even able to kill another Regular (as a Ranker, Love should outclass any Regular) and giving him great publicity that way. But he still can see the right side of the matter and is glad that first of all, the Regular in question didn't die and even got the teammates he needed through that test. If this sounds a little wonky, that's justified: Augusgus is actually a sleeper agent for the same criminal organization that employed the Regular and killed Mule's parents, and Mule's independent action contributed greatly to their plans.

    Video Games 
  • In Wings of Glory, the player character and his friend Charles Dearing steal planes for an unauthorized mission to bomb a German aerodrome. Upon returning, the squadron commanding officer will chew you both out for taking the planes on an unauthorized mission, then give you a medal for bombing the airfield and send you back on duty without repercussions.
  • Subversion: The beginning of the Adventure Game Space Quest VI features the hero, Roger Wilco, stripped of the rank (and uniform) of starship captain for everything he did in the last game; the recognition of him saving the universe in the bargain is only enough to return him to his iconic position of janitor.
  • Laharl gives one of these to Etna in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness after she uses him as bait in a plan to one-up her blackmailer, nearly getting him killed in the process. Laharl's justification is not that she performed a heroic deed, but rather for pulling it all off with style. Her diary entry states she was expecting to be killed for betraying him, but she's glad he had the maturity to understand the situation and did what the king would have done.
  • Team Fortress 2: After eating one of his trademark "Sandviches," the Heavy will sometimes yell "You're a loose cannon, sandvich! But you're a damn good cop!"
  • After disobeying orders in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 in order to take down the Big Bad, Bishop is berated by his superior and Bishop will be terminated from the squad... as Bishop will join his superior as the Deputy Director of RAINBOW in Hereford, England.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, after you complete the final quest for the Fighter's Guild, the Guildmaster tells you that for your reckless actions, you are to be stripped of your position as her second in command... and that she will be stepping down to offer you her title.
  • In Wing Commander 2, Admiral Tolwyn gives you one in the ending.
    Tolwyn: Blair! You have a lot to answer for, pilot! Disobeying orders, dereliction of duty, theft of Navy property, endangerment of personnel… Nice work… Colonel Blair. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m proud to serve with you on this ship, Maverick.
  • Essentially the entire plot of Trauma Team is this. One of the main characters has killed many in a terrorist attack but is apparently the best surgeon in the world and thus he is allowed to perform surgery in exchange for a reduced sentence. Also, he has amnesia from the attack so he doesn't remember killing people.
    • Even more, it wasn't him. It was his mentor.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, if you end the Blight, all of Fereldan hails you as a hero regardless of how much theft, murder, smuggling, desecration, betrayal, and dealing with demons you did along the way.
  • The ending of Fallout: New Vegas can do this depending on the player's actions, juxtaposing the number of people helped versus the number of people ended by The Courier. This can end up Crossing the Line Twice when a homicidal Courier may leave a carpet of bodies (or body parts) behind them as they murder their way through almost every group they meet, but nonetheless ends up, say, saving Hoover Dam in the end and being rewarded with a medal.
  • The trope appears rank-and-file in Kingdom Hearts II. Most of the quote from Mulan remains intact, although Sora interrupts before he can get to the part about the palace with "We get the picture." Incidentally, the palace isn't even damaged in this game, due to Shan-Yu getting his ass kicked first.
  • Escape Velocity Override has Admiral McPherson do something like this in one of the UE missions — he angrily berates you for following on a rash, unsanctioned mission risking the untested needle-type missile jammer and says if you were one of his officers he'd have to have you court-martialed... and then he gladly notes that you aren't one of his officers and therefore not subject to the chain of command, so he can instead praise you for the success of the mission and proclaim the test of the needle jammer an obvious success (it's implied the actual UE officers who decided on the mission will be facing problems, though).
  • In X-Men: Mutant Academy, Professor Xavier has this to say about Gambit.
    Professor Xavier: Your training has shown you to be unpredictable, unconventional, insolent, and... An X-Man.
  • At the end of Disco Elysium, during the Task Force intervention, Kim Kitsurugi will speak up to describe what working with the Defective Detective Player Character has been like. Kitsurugi is a By-the-Book Cop, and many of the player character's possible quirks can annoy him; some of which he'll only voice at this point. However, if the player has been an eccentric but honest and competent officer, Kitsurugi will conclude his list of complaints with glowing praise.
  • At the end of The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie, Lloyd Bannings pulls this off towards Rufus Albarea by arresting him like this. Lloyd cites that his crimes are that he broke out of jail, many other things, and not trusting in his friends to do his Zero Gambit Approval.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Professor Goodwitch scolds Ruby for fighting so recklessly and endangering lives in the process, culminating in her saying Ruby should be sent home with a pat on the back... she then averts the trope by returning to her focus on punishment and concluding that Ruby should also be sent home with a slap on the wrist, emphasising her statement by whipping the table near Ruby's hand.
  • Cyanide and Happiness: One of the earlier cartoons involves a man who accidentally puts out a guy on fire, saves a woman from being mugged, and sends a whole shopping cart of food flying into the lap of a homeless man while drunk driving.

    Web Video 
  • StacheBros: Inverted and then played straight in "1-UPS Commercial" when Wario talks about the impact 1-UPs had on his life:
    Wario: Before, I was rich, skinny, popular...heck, I was a screwed-up dude! After taking 1-UPs, though, I lost the money, gained 82.5 pounds, was dubbed a loser, and became the happiest guy alive!

    Western Animation 
  • A reversed version from Fillmore!:
    Vallejo: Principal Folsom isn't sure whether to give you guys a commendation or to give you detention. On the one hand, you put Stainless away. But on the other hand, you destroyed an entire shipment of brushed steel stalls, you ruined a month's supply of macaroni, and you allowed the most notorious graffiti vandal in the history of the school to escape.
  • Played for Laughs in Legend of Korra:
    Varrick: Don't tell me you guys are still mad about everything that happened. I did some good things too. Korra, who warned you about Unalaq? I did. Bolin, who got you into the Movers? I did. Asami, who saved your company? I did! Mako, who got you thrown in jail? I DID! ...Oh, yeah, I guess that was a bad thing.
  • Brock Samson in The Venture Brothers gets one of these when he goes to renew his License to Kill:
    Proctor: Well, let's see here Mr. Samson. On the driving portion you totaled every car but the one you were driving. On the pistol range you refused to use a gun, and — heh heh, here's my favorite — on the written you drew the little guy with wings from the Led Zeppelin records.
    Brock: Icarus. So, uh, what are trying to tell me here, little man, that you don't like Zep?
    (The proctor stands and rips the written portion in half)
    Proctor: My father is General Treister. You saved his life. The man spoke of you as a god... and you did not disappoint.
    Brock: Oh yeah. I used to babysit you.
  • Parodied in South Park. The boys set up a make-believe detective agency and a police captain, seemingly going along with the gag, agrees to let them "work" as real detectives. He then immediately turns serious and sends them after genuine criminals, namely to bust a drug ring. The boys reluctantly go along, and unintentionally provoke the drug runners, and later some crooked cops, to panic and get themselves killed (repeatedly). The captain reprimands the boys for each of their bloodbath results, but always ends with something like "But dammit, you get the job done!" The boys, for their part, think real police work sucks, and when offered a promotion at the end of the episode, decide to resign and open a make-believe dry cleaners instead.
  • Subverted in the Teen Titans Go! episode "Baby Hands". The Titans seem to be saying something like this to Robin as inspiring music plays:
    Raven: Hey, we may not listen to you sometimes.
    Cyborg: Or respect you.
    Beast Boy: And sure, we like making fun of you.
    Robin: But...?
    Starfire: There is no but. That is all.
  • In the DC Animated Universe Superman/Batman crossover, Lois Lane describes Bruce as "rich, spoiled, and absolutely gorgeous".
  • In Justice League, where Green Lantern chews out Supergirl for nearly getting them all killed when she was expecting to be praised for her actions.
    Supergirl: So, aren't you going to give me the "You did good" speech?
    Green Lantern: You're headstrong, unprofessional, and reckless. If you ever jeopardize yourself or your teammates again by running off half-cocked without a battle plan, I will personally see that you are kicked out of the League, and I don't care who your cousin is. And incidentally... you did good.
  • Thomas & Friends: An inverted example from the episode "Duck Takes Charge":
    The Fat Controller: Percy and Duck, I am pleased with your work today, but not with your behavior tonight. You have caused a disturbance.
  • In Young Justice (2010), Batman delivers one of these in episode four. Particularly notable for coming from Batman, who in a lot of media is obsessively controlling to the point of being unable to deal with any deviation from his orders, no matter how justified. He scolds the team for not obeying his order to not interfere and then praises them for reacting well once contact with the enemy inevitably changed the game.
    Batman: A simple. Recon. Mission. Observe and report. You'll each receive a written evaluation detailing your many mistakes. Until then...good job.
    (they look at him in surprise)
    Batman: No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. How you adjust to the unforeseen is what determines success. And how you choose who leads determines character
  • In The Simpsons, Apu gives us this example when Homer resigns from a brief stint working at the Kwik-E-Mart:
    Apu: He slept, he stole, he was rude to the customers. Still, there goes the best damned employee a convenience store ever had.
  • Pretty much the modus operandi of The Powerpuff Girls. Collateral damage is usually expected when they battle aliens or criminals, but the people of Townsville seem to be good with it. Subverted however, when the girls temporarily move to Citiesville and get chewed out by the mayor for causing over 3 million dollars in property damage by blowing up a bridge to stop a couple of criminals who stole $400.
  • DuckTales (2017): In the first episode, Scrooge starts to chew out Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby for unleashing several ancient evils and nearly getting him killed, and then starts gushing about how awesome they acted while they helped him defeat a gold-eating dragon, a thrill he hadn't experienced since he retired from adventuring ten years ago.
    Scrooge: In the short time I've known you, you've wrecked my home and my money bin, unleashed several ancient evils, and almost got me killed twice. ... You kids are nothing but trouble! Curse me kilts, have I missed trouble!
  • The Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys episode "Ape-lien" had the other members of the Space Monkeys chew out Spydor for being materialistic and causing trouble before commending him for stopping the alien creature that got onboard their ship.
  • Rick and Morty: Subverted in "The Old Man and the Seat". After Glootie frees Morty and Jerry, Morty delivers a speech to his father that sounds like a pep talk but it doesn't go beyond listing bad things about Jerry.
    Morty: Dad, I want to say something. I started today disgusted and embarrassed to be your son, and then later I thought we were gonna die because you're a loser.
    Jerry: There's no more, is there?
    Morty: Nope. Now quit fucking up and let's go.

  • Even university textbooks get in on the act. Discrete Structures, Logic, and Computability by James L. Hein contains this fantastic illustration of the Non-Sequitur Fallacy: "You squandered the money entrusted to you. You did not keep required records. You incurred more debt than your department is worth. Therefore, you deserve a promotion." The text states that most people can probably agree that that is indeed a fallacy.

    Real Life 
  • This Not Always Right entry where a call center worker tells off a racist. The worker is reported and is told that it's disrespectful and not to do it again or get fired... and also good job, the managers were all laughing over the call. Just, you know, don't do it again.
  • Harry S. Truman was subject to this during his time in WW1. As a captain of an artillery battery, he noticed the Germans setting up across a river, well within range of a neighboring artillery battery, so in defiance of a direct order that stated to only fire if his position was in danger, destroyed the enemy position. Truman was read the riot act by his superiors, but otherwise unpunished.
  • During WWII, Jean de Selys Longchamp, a Belgian, enlisted in the RAF, and while returning from a bomber escort mission abandoned his mission, flew to Brussels, and proceeded to strafe the Gestapo headquarters in Avenue Louise, killing four Nazis. Said Gestapo was never taken seriously in Brussels for the rest of the war. Longchamp was demoted several ranks for abandoning his post and awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross. See here for a short video detailing his story.
  • Residents of Detroit, Michigan were once subjected to hoax robocalls claiming that absentee voting would make them subject to 'arrest, debt collection, and vaccination.'


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Mc Cloud Speech


China Bows before Mulan

The Emperor of China and all present bow before Mulan.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (30 votes)

Example of:

Main / KneelBeforeFrodo

Media sources: