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Bait-and-Switch Suicide

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"Maybe this will help..."
"Wait, what's she doing? Rose... what are you...? She's not gonna jump off? Whaaat?"
— YouTuber SebScreen doing a Reaction Video for Titanic

You ever thought a character was about to commit suicide, only to find out they were doing something completely different?

If yes, you've fallen for a Bait-and-Switch Suicide.

This trope is mostly used for dramatic effect in that it's a Bait-and-Switch where a character is seemingly about to kill themselves but does something else entirely.

The effect can be relieving or disappointing, depending on whether the character in question is a protagonist or antagonist.

Compare Bait-and-Switch Gunshot. May overlap with Mistaken for Suicidal if people in-universe were fooled as well. Will usually cross over with Suicide as Comedy. See also Suicidal "Gotcha!", a subtrope in which a character jumps off a ledge before being saved. Contrast Interrupted Suicide, in which a character is planning to commit suicide but gets interrupted.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In a comic where Scrooge's army of bookkeepers suffers a clerical error, he becomes paranoid that his wealth will rapidly plummet if this continues, and takes a single coin from his money bin as a memento of what he used to have. He then realizes the coin would only serve as a painful reminder, and heads over to a nearby bridge to end his sorrows, prompting several bystanders to try and stop him... only to discover that Scrooge was just going to throw the coin away.
  • Icon: The 13th issue has Rocket lament the downsides of her Teen Pregnancy and remark that there's only one thing to do as she looks like she's ready to end it all by jumping off a building. She propels herself to safety right before she hits the pavement and her internal narration clarifies that her intended solution is to take out her frustrations on the criminals she fights.
  • The Smurfs: One strip has the Smurfette refuse a Smurf's advances. The Smurf then goes out of the village pulling a rope behind him, finds a tree, throws the rope over a branch... The horrified Smurfette appears desperately running towards the Smurf, who... turns out to have made a rope swing, and tells the Smurfette that she can go make her own since she didn't want to play with him.
  • Superman: Secret Origin: After a nasty moment with Luthor, Superman comes up to the Daily Planet roof and finds Jimmy Olsen standing on the edge, his head down. Supes flies toward him, shouting, "Don't jump!" — but then it turns out that Jimmy wasn't planning on jumping; he was just saying a final, depressed goodbye to Metropolis before his planned departure.
  • Transmetropolitan: The story ends with Spider, quite likely on the verge of dying from I-pollen poisoning, sitting alone in his garden. He raises a gun toward his head... but it's Only a Lighter.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978): The climax begins with Peter putting a gun to his temple as zombies close in on him, clearly about to shoot himself rather than let them kill him. Then he suddenly turns the gun away and shoots one of them in the head.
  • Forrest Gump: Lieutenant Dan jumps off the shrimp boat, but it turns out he was only going for a swim.
  • The Goonies: Invoked. The opening scene shows a man in the county jail hanging in his cell with a note attached. The jail guard approaches and reads the note, only for the man (of the infamous Fratelli gang) to knock him out and escape.
  • The end of Harold and Maude: Distraught over Maude's fatal overdose, Harold aims his hearse at a cliff and runs it off. The last frame reveals that he got out at the last moment and he walks off playing a banjo.
  • In Kate & Leopold Leopold follows Stuart to the still-under-construction Brooklyn Bridge. Stuart needs to jump off a scaffold to reach the time portal to the future, but of course to Leopold it looks like Stuart is about to commit suicide. Stuart tries to explain, but they struggle and fall into the time portal.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Played with in Thor: suicide by collapsing wormhole is Loki's response to the realization that his father would never condone his actions, and indeed he is assumed dead by his family and the rest of Asgard. However, in The Stinger, he is shown to be alive and well and close to grabbing the Tessaract. He clearly did intend to commit suicide, but something got in the way and took control of him.
    • The Avengers (2012): Selvig who had been mind-controlled by Loki for most of the film. When Natasha found him after he was back to normal, he was looking over the edge of Stark Tower as if he wanted to jump, to which she quickly tried to talk him down. But it turned out he wasn't looking at the ground but at Loki's scepter a few floors down which was the key to closing the alien portal.
  • Nine Lives: Tom's son David comes to him in the hospital while he's in his coma to tell him he's going to take a jump from the top of the company building. Tom (who is trapped in the body of his daughter's cat), fears that his son is about to commit suicide. David jumps and Tom (as the cat) follows, only for David to launch a parachute towards the bottom. It turns out he wasn't trying to kill himself, it was a publicity stunt to outshow a competitive company for trying to build a larger HQ.
  • Shame: Subverted. Sissy is established to be unstable and impulsive, possibly suffering from borderline personality disorder and routinely engaging in self-destructive behavior. Near the end of the film, Brandon is on a subway which is abruptly stopped owing to an unspecified incident, and it appears that Sissy may have jumped in front of the train - but she hasn't. But when Brandon gets home, he finds that she has slit her wrists. Fortunately, he's not too late to save her.
  • The Shawshank Redemption: On Andy's last night in prison, he's seen sitting in his cell holding a rope and looking very nervous. A great deal of foreshadowing has gone into suggesting that he is about to hang himself... but the next morning he has disappeared from his cell completely. We find that the rope was tied around the bag containing his possessions.
  • At the end of Titanic, Rose looks like she's about to jump off the ship, but instead pulls out The Heart of the Ocean and throws it in the ocean.

  • New Moon: An example in which the Bait-and-Switch is entirely In-Universe. Bella has taken up cliff-diving as a hobby after Edward leaves her. Edward's future-seeing sister Alice, who he has tasked to keep tabs on Bella in his absence, gets a vision of Bella leaping off a cliff and jumps to the wrong (albeit, not unreasonable) conclusion. She relays her vision to Edward who ends up calling Bella's house to confirm, as Alice's ability is more like seeing future possibilities than a definite future. Jacob, who's with Bella at her house, picks up the phone and to the question of where Bella's father Charlie is, replies, "At the funeral." Though he meant the funeral of a friend who died, Edward assumes he means Bella's funeral and decides to get himself killed by the Volturi.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Extraordinary Attorney Woo: In the episode "This Is Pengsoo", the titular character Young-woo appears to do this during the solving of a suicide case— when her co-worker Jun-ho notices, he immediately rushes into her office to get the noose off, only to accidentally push her off her desk and cause her to fall backwards. After he catches her and the two of them get up off the floor, the whole thing turns out to have been a misguided forensic experiment.
  • How I Met Your Mother: The episode "Of Course" begins with Barney jumping into the Hudson River only to be pulled out by the police and fined $500. It turns out he believed doing so would get him arrested so he could keep his promise to Robin not to sleep with Anita.
  • Lucifer: One of the early episodes opens with a woman apparently preparing to jump to her death, with Lucifer besides her, goading her to do it. The woman finally jumps... into a pool.

  • In the play Girls Like That by Evan Placey, this happens not once, but twice. The first instance is Played for Drama, when Scarlett disappears after having her new life uprooted by her old school bullies. It is later revealed that she went off to a library to study her ancestry. The second time is Played for Laughs, when one of Scarlett's former classmates, realizing how stupid and petty all the classism and bullying was, announces during the segment explaining what the girls all do after high school, "I commit suicide." She then clarifies that she meant a Facebook suicide, as in she deleted all social media and went to live in Canada.
  • Invoked In-Universe by Veronica in order to escape JD at the end of Meant to be Yours in Heathers. By tying a rope first around the torso and then the neck, she makes it look like she hanged herself in her own closet, enabling her to take down JD without him anticipating her. This also confuses other people in-universe.
    Ms. Fleming: Oh, well, I threw together a lovely tribute, especially considering the short notice...

    Web Animation 

    Video Games 
  • Persona 3: In the opening cutscene, Yukari is shown putting a gun-shaped object to her head and contemplating pulling the trigger. It's later revealed that it's not in fact a gun, but an evoker, a device that allows one to summon a Persona, and Yukari was trying to practice summoning hers.

  • Lookism ends a chapter with Jiho staring at a box-cutter he was holding in his room, after the end of an arc dealing with one of his many screw ups. (In this case, creating a bank account for a fake friend who then pawned it off, and getting into a fake bank account fiasco by proxy.) Next chapter reveals that he was actually planning on getting revenge on said fake friend.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: In "Crimes of the Hot", Professor Farnsworth confesses to being responsible for global warming, then pulls a ray gun and points it at his head. Fry begs him not to, but it turns out Farnworth is using a memory ray to recall the events more clearly.
  • In the Recess episode "Rainy Days," when the kids are stuck in the cafeteria during recess because of rain and are bored out of their minds, we see Gus standing on some high spot and threatening to jump, while Mikey begs him not to do it. But when he finally does jump, the camera pans out to reveal he's only standing on a chair and just falls a few inches, hurting his leg.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the ending of "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" we are cut to the basement where we see Homer's shadow hanging with Marge walking by, and she starts to panic. Pan over to Homer to show he is just batting a lightbulb.
    • In "Bart to the Future," a Future Loser version of Bart, upon finding himself evicted and penniless, says despondently, "There's only one way out of this mess" and aims a futuristic ray gun at his head. Turns out it's a device for beaming the news directly into your brain and he's just checking his lotto numbers.
    • In "Dial N for Nerder", after Bart and Lisa believe they have killed Martin, Bart leaves Lisa a note saying he can't take the guilt anymore and that he's going to Martin's house to "end it all". She goes there and sees a shadow of him getting ready to hang himself in the greenhouse, but it turns out he is actually just hanging a lightbulb so he can complete Martin's butterfly project.
    • In the ending of "Grift of the Magi", Moe is seen with his head in the oven, invoking the Running Gag around him being suicidal. Then it turns out he's in the oven to pull out a turkey he had cooked for the Simpson's Christmas dinner.
    • In the 24 parody episode "24 Minutes", after The Mole sells Bart out to the villains, we see a close-up of him kicking a stool out from under himself and his feet suspended in mid-air. It then zooms out to reveal he merely hooked his underpants onto a coat hook and is now giving himself a wedgie as penance.
  • South Park:
    • Inverted in "Tweek vs. Craig". When Mr. Adler runs out of nicotine gum, he genuinely attempts to end himself by lying down in front of the table saw. He seems to come to his senses at first, only to simply turn himself around, as the other direction he was in "would have hurt like hell."
    • In the episode "How to Eat with Your Butt," Cartman is shown writing what appears to be a suicide note. He then takes a gun and puts the barrel in his mouth, but he takes a bite out of it, revealing that it was a chocolate gun.
    • In "Skank Hunt", after Heidi Turner gets trolled she walks to a bridge, types something on her phone, and the camera pans up as we hear a splash, implying she committed suicide. Turns out, she actually just quit Twitter and threw her phone in the river. Before the episode aired, many fans believed that Heidi actually was going to commit suicide, to show the effects of trolling.
  • Screen Songs: In "By the Light of the Silvery Moon", there is a pan across three lighted windows those silhouettes seemingly depict scandalous actions, but turn out to be innocent. One of them contains what looks like a man hanging himself, but he's really balancing a cane on his nose.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: This happens twice in "Are You Happy Now?". Squidward has fallen into a depression because he can't think of any fond memories he's had. At one point, he sticks his head in his oven, only to pull out a batch of brownies. Later, he stands on a stool and hoists up a rope, but then it's revealed that he's just tying up a birdcage.


Video Example(s):


Farnsworth with a Memoray

In his shame over having caused the greenhouse effect, Professor Farnsworth points a ray gun at himself, which turns out to be a memory ray.

How well does it match the trope?

4.69 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / MistakenForSuicidal

Media sources: