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Betrayal by Inaction

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"Military leaders since the city-states of early Greece have known that a tried and tested method for getting rid of a dangerous adversary is to provoke him into attacking another powerful enemy. Provide an ambitious adversary with the backing of a seemingly invincible army, and he's bound to go after even his toughest rivals. Making sure your adversary is eliminated then becomes about pulling that backing once he's declared war on his rival. When it's too late for him to take it all back."
Michael Westen, Burn Notice

Betrayal comes in all kinds of forms, one of them being characters turning their backs on former allies and walking away, abandoning them to their fate without so much as having to lift a finger. Or even just standing there as the ex-ally is demanding that they give them a weapon.

Sometimes this is part of an Uriah Gambit, when the traitor specifically created the situation in which their former ally would need their help. Other times it is the result of a Fair-Weather Friend. Bodyguard Betrayal often happens this way. A particularly cruel variant occurs if the traitors simply stand there and laugh at their former friend's misfortune.

The phrase associated with this trope is "left in the lurch".

Compare Murder by Inaction, Accomplice by Inaction, and Cavalry Betrayal. Contrast with Screw This, I'm Outta Here, when the deserters are merely trying to save their own hides but gain nothing from their allies' defeat (i.e. betrayal is not their intention as in this trope). Contrast also Failure-to-Save Murder when they did try to save the person, but failed.

As this is a Betrayal Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Clover: Julius' scheme to obtain Lucifero's heart went as he said it would, including the defeats of his younger siblings the Dark Triad (with Zenon killed at that), ultimately leading to the magic knights killing Lucifero for Adrammelech to take his heart for Lucius.
  • In the anime adaptation of Schwarzes Marken, Heinz Axmann offers to send some Stasi troops to help repel the BETA offensive. Unfortunately when the battle actually starts, he's just sitting on his butt and doesn't send any of his troops out to help.
  • In Valvrave the Liberator, Akira's brother Satomi did this to her after he got her to hack a school's entrance exam website for him, then pretended he didn't know anything about it when she got caught. When she was bullied over it, he ignored her then, too. He tries to make amends years later, in the time the series covers, but that's not so easy.

    Comic Books 
  • Black Moon Chronicles: When Emperor Haaghendorf and his army are about to fight the evil forces of the Black Moon, he calls upon the two autonomous military orders to assist him. The Knights of Light led by Fratus Sinister arrive on the battlefield but stay out of any fighting in the hopes that Haaghendorf will be killed and they can seize power from whatever's left, even shooting numerous imperial messengers sent to ask them for reinforcements. However, Haaghendorf sees through this deception and demotes Fratus Sinister after winning the battle singlehandedly.
  • At the end of Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt, Thor Girl, having transformed into an Energy Being, returns to her home galaxy after growing disgusted with humanity's inability to work together and deciding that Earth doesn't deserve her protection.
  • Iron Fist (1975): As Master Khan reveals to Danny, Yu-Ti knew the Rands were coming to K'un-Lun on the day it would reappear, having magic to spy on his half-brother Wendell, so he knew Harold Meachum had shoved his brother off a cliff, and knew Danny and his mother were wandering the Himalayas. But his men only showed up to save Danny after his mom leapt into some hungry wolves. Danny is initially shocked to hear this, but Yu-Ti doesn't deny it.
  • Thunderbolts: When the team ignores Zemo's order to let the Elements of Doom roam free and go off to fight them anyway, Zemo follows and watches as the Elements overwhelm them. He decides not to get involved to teach them a lesson about disobeying him, and that if any of them die, no big loss, since he can just replace them.
  • The Reveal of World War Hulk has it that one of the Hulk's Warbound: Miek was partially responsible for Sakaar's destruction by allowing factions opposed to the Hulk as their ruler to overload the warpcore of the spacecraft he came in. He did this because he believed that the Hulk would then realize his destiny as the "World Breaker" and fulfill a Sakaaran prophecy.

    Fan Works 

Crossover Works:

  • #8024: When Marinette is falsely accused of working with Hawkmoth, subjected to a Kangaroo Court and shunted off to Arkham Asylum, Chat Noir refuses to lift a finger to help her, not caring one whit about her fate. He justifies this by claiming Ladybug signed off on the arrest, unaware that Marinette IS Ladybug.
  • Cardcaptor Rad: In Glowing Teamwork, Rad befriends the Deception mini-cons... but when Megatron comes after him, they make no effort to intervene, leaving him to lament their inaction.
  • A Kingdom Called Sugar Rush: Turbo was close friends with Queen Candice, but also coveted the power he'd gain after her passing. When he heard her having a deadly coughing fit, he hesitated before retrieving the potion she was taking to combat her illness. This hesitation leads to her death, forcing him to live with the guilt.
  • Raise Your Voice Against Liars: Despite claiming to be on Marinette's side, Adrien stood by and watched Lila steadily turn the rest of the class against her with her lies, refusing to speak out against the Manipulative Bitch or defend Marinette. As a result, Marinette considers him to have betrayed her just as severely as Alya did.
  • Three Can Keep a Secret: In the outlined epilogue, this results in the fall of the land of Mewni. Everyone who had pledged to assist the Butterflies in the past decide to throw in their lot with the Lucitors instead, letting them launch their invasion unchallenged.
  • Zero Requiem:
    • Daemon advises his uncle against trying to claim the Iron Throne during Lyonel Baratheon's rebellion. Maelys convinces himself that this was an act of treason against House Blackfyre, and murders his cousin for it.
    • After conquering Myr, Lashare chooses to play Achilles in His Tent by not sending any real aid to Maelys or his forces. While Maelys sees through this, he's unable to retaliate, given how he has bigger concerns dealing with the Westerosi army.

Avatar: The Last Airbender:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

  • In Nutty for Wonka, Matilda internally debates with herself over whether or not she should try and save her cousin Veruca and Uncle Nigel. Ultimately, she decides to save them despite Wonka telepathically encouraging her to let them suffer.


  • Fractured Fates: In Chapter 5, Monokuma reveals that one of the still-living students didn't suffer from Laser-Guided Amnesia like the rest of their peers. What's more, they knew the true nature of the killing game and almost everything about it from the start. Monokuma declares that the fact they didn't use this knowledge to stop the game before it began makes them a 'traitor' to the rest of their class.

Danny Phantom

  • Danny Phantom: Stranded: In Staged, Star explains to Danny that she used to be closer to her cousin Christopher before she joined the A-Listers. When Dash pulled an incredibly cruel prank on the Poil Junior High's football team and their mascot, Christopher (who attended that school) stepped up to confront and call them out... but this just turned him into a target for Dash and the other jocks, while Star pretended not to know him. Star now deeply regrets choosing the A-Listers over her cousin, but isn't sure how to repair their relationship.

The Hunger Games

  • Checkmate (Anla'Shok): President Coin has an opportunity to rescue all of the 3rd Quarter Quell tributes before the games start (and has told those of them involved in the rebellion that she will save them), but she makes the cold decision to do nothing until Mags is dead in order to eliminate a potential rival and arouse more anger against the Capitol.

Miraculous Ladybug

  • Generally speaking, this is a quite common Fandom-Specific Plot for Accusation Fics in the wake of "Chameleon". Much is made of the fact that Adrien knows the truth about Lila, but opts to stand by and let her lies go unchallenged, advising Marinette not to do anything either. Depending on the Author, he often either comes to realize his mistake or maintains a Holier Than Thou attitude, or simply stays quiet because he doesn't want to risk anyone turning on him for telling the truth.
  • Burning Bridges, Building Confidence has Adrien pull this twice over:
    • As Chat Noir, he combines this with Cavalry Refusal by opting not to help Ladybug against akuma unless she admits that she needs him. Not just as her partner, but as her partner. An exchange between Marinette and Tikki before they face Nightify reveals that isn't the first time he's pulled such a stunt; it just happens to be the first time that Cole and Master Fu witness it. Neither is pleased.
      • This escalates to the point that he stands by and lets Vexxin face off alone against three akuma at once while hissing that she deserves to be brutalized.
    • Adrien is also fully aware that Lila is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who's manipulating their classmates, turning them against Marinette and Cole en masse. Rather than doing anything to help them, however, he stays out of the conflict, claiming that he's 'taking the high road' and blaming them for their troubles. After all, if they just let her lie, she'd leave them alone... so surely that means it's their fault that they're suffering.
  • The Cosmos: Adrien and Nino both fall into this; Adrien feigns ignorance about the impact of Lila's cruelties so that he doesn't have to reconsider his stance, while Nino only suspected that something was amiss with her tall tales, but still chose to go with the group rather than trusting his instincts.
  • Couturiere: Marinette gets akumatized when Adrien sees her breaking down in the face of another of Lila's falsehoods and still refuses to act, which she calls him out on when he tries to talk her down as Couturiere:
    Couturiere: Today in class, I just wanted it to stop! I was getting closer and closer to the edge, and I needed someone, I needed you, to just stand up and say 'I know Marinette Dupain-Cheng, and she is no monster!' And yet... you just sat there. I needed you to catch me... and you let me fall. So tell me, Agreste: after how everything went down after listening to your stellar advice... why should I listen to you now?
  • i'll come back like a boomerang has Lila's true nature exposed years after the akuma class has graduated. When Marinette makes clear that she won't forgive her former friends for abandoning her, Adrien confidently declares that he's still her friend, since he knew the truth all along. Marinette retorts that that's exactly why she considers him unforgivable — because he stood by and let Lila string everyone else along, as well as letting her be bullied.
  • The Karma of Lies:
    • Adrien is fully aware that Lila is scamming the majority of his friends/classmates, along with turning them against Marinette by Playing the Victim Card. Yet he refuses to do anything about the situation because he'd rather preserve his own reputation rather than risk making anybody mad by exposing any unpleasant truths.
    • Adrien also skips what turns out to be the Final Battle with Hawkmoth due to his Skewed Priorities; Lila prevented him from sneaking away, and he decided Ladybug could surely handle herself, despite knowing she was dealing with several akuma in rapid succession. This comes back to haunt him, as his absence does not go unnoticed, and the public begins to suspect Chat Noir may have intentionally betrayed her.
  • Leave for Mendeleiev:
    • Mme Bustier is shown to be an exceptionally poor teacher with her failure to intervene against Chloé's bullying. Marinette is stunned when her new homeroom teacher actually does step in, as she's been conditioned to believe that Adults Are Useless and will always let Chloé get away with her cruelty.
    • Kim's Character Development kicks off in earnest after he realizes that he betrayed Marinette by not doing anything about Chloé. In his case, his crush on the Rich Bitch didn't help; he recognized that what she was doing was wrong, but kept making excuses for her misbehavior.
    • Contrasting Kim, Nino further betrays Marinette when he promises that Chloé will have nothing to do with the movie he's making. When that changes, he refuses to warn Marinette, then blames her for his silence — if he had warned her, she wouldn't have wanted to help anymore, and he couldn't have her breaking her end of the promise!
  • What Goes Around Comes Around: Adrien runs into this in both identities: along with refusing to help deal with Lila, he fails to show up when Hawk Moth attacks the Dupain-Cheng Bakery. A crucial part of his character arc is grappling with the fact that not all trespasses are Easily Forgiven, and coming to terms with how the majority of his classmates consider him a False Friend after learning how he let Lila dupe them.
  • In this collaborative work, Adrien rejects Marinette's Love Confession because he doesn't like how she's been trying to expose Lila's true nature. A follow-up makes clear that he doesn't want the truth coming out because he knows the rest of the class would take his silence thus far as a betrayal, with him desperately trying to avoid publicly siding with either girl.

My Hero Academia

  • From Muddy Waters: While he reports what Sir Nighteye was doing to Izuku to Yuuei, Mirio regrets not taking further action against his abusive behavior. In chapter 29, Mirio feels he betrayed Izuku's trust by thinking that merely reporting Sir Nighteye's actions to Yuuei meant he could "sit on his hands" while the boy was abused.
  • Three Guys Go to a Bar(and then they Beat You With It): Aizawa didn't actually agree with Principal Nedzu's proposal to cast three of his students as villains, as he saw how this invoked Quirk discrimination. However, he didn't speak out against it. Worse, when presenting the assignment to them, he acted as though he took some cruel pleasure in dumping that responsibility on their shoulders. As a result, Bakugou and Shinsou are especially resentful about his betrayal.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

  • Discordant: Rosalia schemes to use this to harden Mimic by having her let Thistleroot die. Mimic saves him at the last moment.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: Plays a part in the backstory of the Griffon king Gavril. His father was deposed by a coup, and he went to Twilight Sparkle's grandmother for help. However, the Equestrian government refused to do anything, preferring his brother's rule. Gavril's father never got his throne back, and Gavril's still a little tetchy about it, even though he has (though he admits in hindsight that if his father had received Equestria's help, it might've made things more difficult).


  • The Moon Cries in Reverse:
    • For half a year, Shikaku had no idea that Anko was subjecting his son and his teammates to Training from Hell. When he finally found out shortly after the Chuunin Exams began, she, Ibiki and Hiruzen convinced him that they had ample reason to be concerned that Shikamaru might turn out like Orochimaru, so he swallowed his own distaste and let things continue... until Jiraiya arrived. When the Toad Sannin reveals just how hellish their training was, Shikaku is left cradling his head in his hands as he laments his decision not to act or investigate himself:
      Shikaku: No wonder I haven't seen Shika lately. He's been trapped down there and I... I had the gall to think he was hiding the fact he was Orochimaru from me, when in reality he was being made into that monster.
    • Jiraiya feels similarly about how he effectively abandoned his godson Naruto for years, leaving him to be systematically isolated by most of Konoha, as well as vulnerable to the abuse Team Ten suffered in T&I. He reflects that if Minato is able to see what's been happening from the Pure Lands, he'll likely never forgive him for letting things go unchanged and unchallenged for so long... and that he'll likely never be able to forgive himself, either.
  • Space to Breathe: Kakashi proves to be an Apathetic Teacher for Sakura and Sakura alone, but what truly drives her away from Team Seven is how he makes no move to address how poorly the boys treat her. As she tells Ibiki, "My teammates are so self-centred, and Kakashi-sensei does nothing to even try and fix it." This spurs her to take an apprenticeship under Ibiki while continuing to resent her former teacher for his neglect.
  • Three's A Crowd: Despite claiming that "Those who abandon their teammates are worse than trash", Kakashi proves to be an extremely hands-off Sink or Swim Mentor who refuses to directly address Sasuke and Uo's disrespectful treatment of Sakura. Instead, he expects Sakura to become The Heart of the new Team Seven, despite how both boys act as though she's completely beneath their notice, blaming her when they refuse to listen. Sakura repeatedly calls him out on this:
    Sakura: Despite what you may think, I don't need this team. There are at least four medics at the hospital that would likely take me on as an apprentice, especially if I showed them the skills that I've already taught myself. So from now on, I will not be the only one to put any effort into this team. Either you do your job as a sensei and make them work as a team, or you break up the team and call it a failure.

A Song of Ice and Fire

  • In A different weasel makes a difference, as in canon, Lady Barbrey Dustin sent the bear minimum number of troops to support Robb Stark in his war against the Iron Throne. This is arguably justified as the Northerners were rebelling, but when she refused to send any troops to help in the Second War for the Dawn (a war for the sake of all humanity), she entered this territory. Robb eventually gets sick of it and arrests her for treason. A pair of reviewers put it best
    "what the hell was Barbey up to, to get slapped with a treason charge".
    "Nothing. That's the problem, she did absolutely nothing."


  • The backstory of Mind Games has the defecting General Geist describe his Heel Realization, when he witnessed a Jewish friend of his being sent to a gas chamber after he was sent to inspect a concentration camp.
    Geist: He died knowing I was there and did nothing to stop it. It is a guilt that will live with me forever.

    Films — Animated 
  • Subverted in Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman episode, where the daughter of a crime lord (who has been sabotaging her father's operations) is shouting to her father for help as she dangles from a ledge. He goes away, her head drops... and then the lifesaver on a rope he'd gone to grab drops down.
  • The Emperor's New Groove: While helping Kuzco back to the palace, Pacha falls through a bridge and lays dangling and calling for help. Rather than helping him up, Kuzco decides to leave him there and continue on; he was going to betray Pacha anyway and lock him in a dungeon, and this seemed easier. Unfortunately for Kuzco, he falls through moments later, leaving him in the same predicament, and the two are forced to work together to save themselves.
  • In Frozen, Hans leaves Anna to die when she had been expecting that he could perform an Act of True Love to save her.
    Hans: Oh, Anna...if only there was someone out there who loved you.
  • Kung Fu Panda: In the past, Shifu trained Tai Lung in Kung Fu; firmly convinced that he was the Dragon Warrior, he pushes him to train hard, and neglects to teach him humility and the spiritual side of Kung Fu. Shifu ultimately presented Tai Lung to Oogway, only for Oogway to sense the growing darkness in his heart and refuse him the title. Tai Lung looked to his master and father-figure for support, but Shifu just went along with Oogway's decision without even trying to argue on his pupil's behalf or console him afterwards. At that, Tai Lung snapped and went on a rampage through the Valley of Peace in an attempt to take the Dragon Scroll by force.
    Tai Lung: You knew I was the Dragon Warrior! You always knew! But, when Oogway said otherwise, what did you do? What did you do?! NOTHING!
    Shifu: You were not meant to be the Dragon Warrior! That was not my fault!
    Tai Lung: Not. Your. FAULT?! Who filled my head with dreams?! Who drove me to train until my bones cracked?! Who denied me MY DESTINY?!
  • Zira accuses Kovu of this when Nuka dies in the attack on Simba in The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride. Kovu was supposed to kill Simba but refused and Nuka ran up the hill after Simba and got crushed by falling logs.
    Zira: What were you doing?
    Kovu:: I did nothing!
    Zira: Exactly. And by doing so, you betrayed your pride. Betrayed Scar!
    Kovu: I want nothing more to do with him!
    Zira: You cannot escape it! Nuka is dead because of you! You killed your own brother!
  • Tarzan: When Tarzan gets captured after boarding the ship that would take him, Jane and the rest back to England. As he's restrained by two thugs, Clayton boards the ship and uses his shotgun to call everyone to order. When Tarzan asks him for help, not only he does absolutely nothing about it; he actually pokes fun at Tarzan, hits him in the guts with his shotgun and flat-out reveals his true intentions, complete with the implication that it's Tarzan's fault all of the gorillas will soon be captured and sold at a high value in England. To top it all off, he gets the protagonist locked inside the ship right afterwards.
    • Doubles as a Uriah Gambit, given it was part of Clayton's plan to capture the gorillas after knowing their exact location.
      Tarzan: CLAYTON...!! Clayton, HELP!
      Clayton: ...have we met? (shoves shotgun onto Tarzan's chin to lift up his face) Ah yes! The ape-man!
  • In Turning Red, Mei betrays her friends by not standing up for them when her mother accuses them of manipulating her into using her panda form to raise money for 4*Town concert tickets.
  • Weehawk, the elf warrior in Wizards, will scream his lungs out with sword in hand when threatened.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Braveheart, at the Battle of Falkirk, Lochlan and Mornay show up with their soldiers on the Scottish side, but once the battle has started and it's their time to charge, they simply turn around and leave the battlefield, as they’d been bribed into helping the English destroy the Scottish army.
  • Justified in the famous ending of Gone with the Wind. Scarlett had always been a Manipulative Bitch, but at some point Rhett has enough and simply walks away from her, her problems no longer being his concern.
    • Scarlett herself finally starts to become disillusioned with Ashley when he doesn't say a single word in her defense after the two are caught in an innocent hug. By the time she finally realizes that she never really loved him to begin with, she also realizes that he has always let her down by failing to do something whenever she needed him to.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Thranduil does not come to the dwarves' defense against Smaug or help the refugees of Erebor. Years later, this is still a sore spot for Thorin.
  • In Jesus Christ Superstar, Judas actually threatens to not betray Jesus just to spite him and God's plans.
  • In Miss Congeniality, as Gracie frantically tries to plead her case to her superior, she is chewed out and dismissed while her partner stands there silently, never saying a word in her defense. Afterwards, she lashes out at him, who snaps, "Don't look at me like I betrayed you or something". To which she responds, "No, betrayal implies actually doing something. You just stood there."
  • In Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo is assigned the job of sneaking into a Vietnamese camp and confirming whether or not Prisoners of War are present. When he finds an entire POW camp where several soldiers (including his old friend and mentor) are being held captive, he takes it upon himself to lead a revolt. However, when he and the escapees reach the chopper meant to extract them, the bureaucrat in charge of the mission orders the chopper to leave without them. The look on Rambo's face as the chopper flies away speaks volumes of the level of betrayal he felt.
  • In Roaring Currents, Todo Takatora notably does not bother coming to his ally Kurushima's aid despite the fact that the Japanese still had plenty of ships to throw at Yi Soon-shin's forces. His inaction and eventual retreat was caused by his disdain for the pirate-like Kurushima.
  • The Running Man. Earlier in the movie Killian insulted his bodyguard Sven by asking him "Steroids make you deaf?" At the end when Richards confronts Killian, Killian expects Sven to protect him. The bodyguard Sven — speaking for the first time — says "I got to score some steroids" and walks away, leaving Killian to his justly deserved fate. note 
  • In Serpico, a precinct captain warns the title character that being an honest cop in a precinct where many of his fellow officers take bribes makes him a marked man. "They don't have to do anything to you. All they have to do is not be there when you need them." That's exactly what happens.
  • Secondhand Lions: When Mae brings Stan to the McCann farm in an effort to try and turn Walter against Garth and Hub and find their money, Stan takes him off for a "man-to-man talk". Mae just turns away while Stan takes her son behind the barn and tries to beat information out of him. A later conversation indicates she was aware of his abusive tendencies already.
  • During the last days of Krypton in the Superman II movie, General Zod and his cronies are on trial for high treason. Zod calls for Jor-El to speak on his behalf, but Jor-El says nothing and ambles away. Zod is at first aghast then furious as he's banished to the Phantom Zone. Later, once he and his cronies escape the Zone and come to Earth, Zod has one huge ax to grind with Jor-El's sole living heir, Kal-El, who's known on Earth as Superman.
  • The Wild Geese. The president of an African country is overthrown by a military coup. A businessman hires a group of mercenaries to rescue him in order to use him as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from the new regime. After the president is rescued the regime agrees to the concessions and the businessman orders the plane sent to pick up the mercenaries to leave them behind so they can be slaughtered by the regime's forces. The mercenaries spend the rest of the movie trying to escape.

  • Black Legion:
  • Several books in The Dresden Files explore this trope:
    • Played straight in Changes. Molly offers to fight alongside Harry as he prepares to attack the Red Court, and Harry accepts her aid. This causes him a lot of guilt in Ghost Story (when he realizes how deeply the battle scarred her), because, as Molly's mentor and friend, he shouldn't have let her endanger herself like that.
    • Subverted in Skin Game. Harry worries that he's not doing enough to hinder Nicodemus' plans (and thus 'betraying' all of Nicodemus' victims). Michael rebukes him for this, reassuring him that Nicodemus' actions are not Harry's fault or responsibility.
      • Also subverted in the same conversation another way: Harry feels like his friends have betrayed him, because they didn't come to visit him on his self-imposed exile, and he assumed it was because they were worried about him becoming a monster. Michael points out that Demonreach, the island that Harry has been living on, is so scary even Michael, a former Knight of the Cross and absolutely fearless in the face of demons and worse, can't stomach going there, and he then points out that despite that, Murphy and Thomas still went because they cared for him. Harry realizes that he's been kind of arrogant to assume that everything is about him.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's novel Friday. "Uncle" Jim Prufit shows up to take Friday to Boss' farm. When they arrive she's attacked by an enemy ambush and Prufit doesn't warn her, he simply watches while they take her. She learns later that Prufit is The Mole.
  • The Oathbreakers in The Lord of the Rings were cursed by Isildur when they ignored his call to join his army to fight against Sauron, even though they had pledged allegiance to him.
  • The Lost Fleet: The entire plot of the series might have been touched off this way, because The Alliance and the Syndicate Worlds were so evenly matched that if they went to war it would end in a stalemate, and their leaders knew it: The only sane reason one side or the other would mount a surprise attack was if they had some hidden advantage... The protagonist even notices a number of oddities about the early days of the war, such as several important military targets that the Syndics inexplicably ignored during their initial offensive. Eventually he puts it all together: The Syndics (and maybe the Alliance as well) had been promised military aid by a third party who went back on their word, intending to let the two nations soften each other up before rolling in and conquering both.
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Lady Envy is said to have stood by while her then-lover Anomander Rake killed her father and took his Soul-Cutting Blade Dragnipur from him. It is heavily implied that she did this just to spite Lord Draconus, and because she wanted Dragnipur for herself in the long run, not to stay out of a conflict between her father and her lover.
  • In Shadow Puppets, former ally Suriyawong becomes The Dragon for Achilles, who seeks to conquer the world. Suriyawong knows that Achilles has killed those who gave him help, so he always frames his aid as just giving his boss the tools to solve his own problems, such as a knife to escape his captors. When Achilles is finally confronted by his rival Bean, who's pulled a gun on him, Achilles calls for Suri to save him. Suriyawong just gives him a knife then leaves, having fulfilled his plan to betray Achilles at the very moment he needed help.
  • Serpine is deserted by the White Cleaver this way at the end of the first Skulduggery Pleasant book.
  • Downplayed in A Song of Ice and Fire, where the elderly Walder Frey is mocked as "The Late Lord Frey" for the fact that while he did eventually muster his troops for the war that put Robert Baratheon on the throne, he had obviously waited until the victor was clear before picking a side. The nickname is a reminder to others that he's opportunistic and disloyal, and sure enough...
  • Star Trek: Enterprise Relaunch: When a mysterious plague starts spreading around Sauria, allowing a fascist dictator to seize power despite blatantly being responsible, Trip tries getting Section 31 to help. They refuse, because they prefer the goodies the Federation gets out of the guy's rule.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • In the ancient backstory, humanity's greatest defenders, the Knights Radiant, en masse abandoned their Shardplate and Shardblades and walked away in an event called the Recreance. This sparked a still-ongoing war over the abandoned and now much less powerful Shards. In Words of Radiance we found out that it effectively killed the spren who powered their gear and abilities, since they were bonded to the Radiants by the strength of the Knights' oaths.
    • In The Way Of Kings, Highprince Sadeas betrays Dalinar by having his army retreat halfway though a battle and take their bridges with them, stranding Dalinar's army on a plateau with a swarm of Parshendi reinforcements on the way.
  • In The State Counsellor, Erast Fandorin seems to make a deal with the Big Bad, where they both agree to not interfere with each other. However, Fandorin knows something that could save the villain's life and, by not revealing it to him, betrays their deal and has him killed indirectly.
  • In the second Warrior Cats novel, Fireheart's suspicions about Tigerclaw being a traitor are confirmed when, during a battle, Fireheart is pinned down by Leopardfur, who is trying to kill him. He calls to Tigerclaw for help, but Tigerclaw ignores him and just stands there watching it happen.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In season 20 of The Amazing Race, according to Art & J.J., this is what Rachel and Dave did by failing to use the U-turn in leg 8. However, they saw it as a more practical move, as Nary & Jamie were so far behind they saw the leg as a Foregone Conclusion.
  • In Babylon 5, Lennier finds Sheridan trapped behind a containment door in a corridor filling with toxic smoke, but as he reaches for the switch to open it, he instead turns around and leaves, as with Sheridan dead, he would be once again the closest person to Delenn. Fortunately, he turns back and tries to rescue Sheridan. Unfortunately? Only AFTER back-up has done so.
    • Part of Londo Mollari's long-winded revenge against his rival Lord Refa involves luring Refa into the tunnels of Narn on the promise of capturing G'kar, a notorious Narn rebel. Except that when Refa orders his troops to kill G'kar, they do nothing. G'kar activates a recorded message from Londo explaining that these soldiers are loyal to House Mollari, at which point they promptly file out of the room and leave Refa alone to be beat to death by angry Narns.
  • In The Borgias Cesare knows that while Juan, his incompetent younger brother, is sieging a fortress in Forli, reinforcements for Forli are coming. He decides not to warn Juan, leading to him taking a humiliating defeat. Juan is very quick to accuse Cesare of this trope. (He's probably right; Cesare also knew that there was a chance of a messenger reaching Forli in time.)
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Becoming, Pt 2.", though they were only temporary allies when they fought Angelus together, once Spike gets Dru back, he shrugs and leaves Buffy to potentially get killed by Angelus.
  • Team Weston from Burn Notice has pulled this, or made it appear that they pulled this, a number of times on the various Villains of the Week. In one of the more notable cases, Sam and Jesse convinced a mafia lieutenant that his boss was about to kill him, befriended him, and then made him decide that he had to kill his boss first. They offered to help him with their "private army", (which they get by hiring about a dozen intimidating looking guys to stand around and... look intimidating) and accompanied the lieutenant to confront his boss. As soon as the lieutenant announced his intentions complete with some Evil Gloating about becoming the new boss, Sam, Jesse, and company all left, resulting in the mob lieutenant being stuck by himself with his pissed off boss and the boss' armed bodyguards. It cuts away at the part where said lieutenant decides to go out guns blazing anyway despite facing off with at least four guys... and according to what Fiona says after the fact he actually survives and managed to kill his boss, although he still got shot up by the bodyguards and arrested by the police afterward.
  • Control Z: When the hacker outs Isabela as transgender, she tries to seek comfort from Pablo, the only person who ever knew about her secret. However, rather than defending her from his friends, Pablo decides to feign ignorance about this piece of information by publicly breaking up with her, much to Isabela's anger. While Pablo sort-of regrets it later on after being exposed as an unfaithful boyfriend, this doesn't really change what he did before.
    Isabela [to Pablo]: You're an idiot!
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In Season 6, Doran Martell's guardsmen commit treason when they stand by and allow Ellaria Sand to kill their master under their watch.
    • Harald Karstark commits it to Roose Bolton, when he does nothing to prevent his liege's murder by standing there in front of him and doing nothing while Ramsay kills him.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A classic set-up for a Face–Heel Turn involves this. Two faces go up against two heels in a tag team match. One face gets the hell beaten out of him by the heels, then manages to create just enough of an opening to go for a tag to his partner. The face on the apron, however, doesn't reach for the tag (and may even back away from the corner to prevent a tag from happening). This betrayal costs the faces the match, and the betrayal by refusing to tag paints the traitor as a bad guy in the mind of the audience. This set-up has been used countless times in all levels of pro wrestling, but it's a classic because it's such an effective way to turn someone heel.

  • Westeros: An American Musical: Early in "Plot Development", Eddard expects Littlefinger, Varys and Renly to help him secure the throne for Stannis. Littlefinger ends up being the one to actually pull a knife out and sneak up on Eddard. Varys and Renly's response to the knife being pulled out is to simply leave the stage.

    Video Games 
  • In Baldur's Gate II, a group of mercenary mages approaches the heroes, telling them that really don't like working for Baron Ployer, and that for a modest price they will not show up for his protection when they are going to confront him.
  • Dawn of War:
    • Sindri's last sacrifice to the Chaos gods is his master Lord Bale which he leaves when Bale is surrounded by the Blood Ravens. This is what Sindri is most remembered for (or more accurately, thanks to Bale's cry of "SIIINDRIII!").
    • In Winter Assault, this happens whichever faction you're fighting as in the penultimate level. Both sides consist of two factions nominally allied with each other, and whichever faction you're playing as at the end goes through the gate towards the Titan, leaving the other one fighting off orks and Chaos/humans and Eldar (though if Chaos wins, the orks turn on each other as well).
    • In Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising, Eliphas, the Obviously Evil Treacherous Advisor to Araghast, allows him to die at the hands of the Blood Ravens when he refuses to open a portal. Of as fans like to say, Araghast was Sindri'd by Eliphas.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the Battle of Ostagar is planned to have King Cailan and the bulk of the army, including a vanguard of Grey Wardens, lure the darkspawn horde into a narrow chasm, at which point his general, Teyrn Loghain, would attack with a second army from the back, trapping the darkspawn between them. But when the signal comes late, Loghain simply orders a retreat and returns with his men to the capital, leaving the king, his army, and every Grey Warden with them to die at the hands of the darkspawn. There is much in universe debate as to whether or not he was actually trying to kill the king or simply save what remained of the army. He did object to the plan and the signal did come far too late to save Duncan or Cailan, but he also had several reasons to want Cailan out of the picture and seems to have been plotting before the battle anyway.
  • In the backstory for Fallout 4, this led to the near-collapse of the Minutemen, a militia group pledged to each other's mutual defense in the post-apocalyptic New England Commonwealth. In their heyday the Minutemen were able to defend major settlements like Diamond City from a horde of Super Mutants, but then they lost their headquarters, radio tower, and General all in the same disaster. Without General Becker's leadership, the scattered settlements' Minutemen units stopped supporting each other, culminating in the Quincy Massacre, when only a single squad answered the call for help from a town threatened by an army of mercenaries - and to make matters worse, one of those Minutemen decided to defect to the enemy and helped lead an attack from an unexpected quarter. In the game proper it's possible for the player to rebuild the Minutemen into a force to be reckoned with, but doing so will require earning the trust of settlements that are leery of putting their faith in a group that failed so spectacularly.
  • Part of Yotsuyu's backstory in Final Fantasy XIV involves her stepparents abusing her while her stepbrother, Asahi, stood by and did nothing while seemingly enjoying watching her suffer. Yotsuyu swore that she would kill him first among the many Domans that betrayed her and she eventually does enact her revenge on him.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Travant in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War went to a lot of trouble to overthrow Leonster so his own country, Thracia, will have access to their fertile lands and won't have to live as impovrished sellswords anymore... but Bloom, a duke belonging to his nominal ally Grannvale, swoops in and claims the territory first. Travant bides his time since he knows that Grannvale is too powerful to fight openly. When Seliph's liberation army drives Bloom into a retreat, Bloom frantically demands help from Thracia's dracoknights. Travant gleefully ignores his appeal and instead kicks back to watch Bloom and the rebels whale on each other so that he can push the weakened victor out of the territory he's been waiting so long to rule.
    • The Flame Emperor in Fire Emblem: Three Houses does this multiple times to their Teeth-Clenched Teamwork allies, first by leaving Kostas to be tracked down and killed by the Knights of Seiros and Byleth's class, then by leaving Kronya and Solon to the same fate. This trope isn't in play if you're following the Black Eagles, as since Edelgard is a playable character the betrayal is more direct, and she can even kill these three personally.
  • In Heart of the Woods, this happens to Abigail in her backstory. She offered to take the place of her sister Helena when the latter was to be sacrificed, but Helena didn't thank or try to stop her, basically showing that she never cared for Abigail as much as Abigail did for her.
  • During the final battle in Mass Effect, this is one of your options when the Citadel Council aboard the Destiny Ascension call for help. You can be subtle about it and tell the human Alliance fleet to save their strength and numbers by focusing on Sovereign, who is currently attacking the Citadel, or outright pick the "Let the Council die" option and admit what you did in the aftermath of the battle. It can be very easy to justify this option, as Shepard warns the Council throughout the game that a Reaper invasion is coming, of which Sovereign is just one of thousands. But they completely dismiss anything they're told about it by you, at least until a Reaper shows up at the Citadel.
  • In Red Dead Redemption II, over the course of the story, Dutch does this to John at least twice and later to Arthur, most likely because both have begun to openly question and doubt him and Dutch's increasing paranoia about a traitor in the gang. First, there is some ambiguity regarding John's arrest after the Saint Denis heist and whether Dutch actively chose not to help John. Then, Dutch willingly leaves John to rot in prison to be hanged, deceiving himself to believe that John would be fine. Later, Dutch does not step in to help Arthur who could have been captured or killed during the assault at the oil refinery, pretending he did not see Arthur, even gaslighting Arthur when accused of abandoning him. And finally, Dutch leaves John to die after the latter was shot during the final heist and tells everyone else that John was dead.
  • StarCraft:
    • Part of Mengsk's Uriah Gambit, when he sends Kerrigan to keep a Protoss force from destroying a hive of Zerg, which he wishes to use for his own purpose. Once the Protoss are destroyed, he immediately orders all ships to retreat, leaving Kerrigan on the ground with the Zerg and not responding to her requests for evac. It didn't turn out too well for him in the long run, due to Kerrigan not only surviving but becoming the Queen of Blades with the mother of all mad-ons for Mengsk.
    • The intro cinematic for Brood War has a huge battlecruiser sitting there without participating in the battle against the Zerg, finally leaving under the Death Glare of the Marine who's about to be overrun.
    • One level ends where Stukov and Duran are guarding your flanks as you try to capture Raynor and Mengsk. At the end of the level, the capture is interrupted by a massive Zerg swarm. Stukov tells Duran to move his troops in there immediately, but Duran claims he's not seeing anything, even suggesting Stukov's sensors are off, ending the call with the usual static and "you're breaking up" as Raynor and Mensk escape. Stukov isn't fooled for a second, realizing Duran was a Zerg traitor all along.
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse: During the climax, the Pirate Master states that when he was attacked by the Genies, Risky Boots did nothing to stop them and took over his fleet and his men when he was defeated.
  • The Tiamat Sacrament:
    • King Khytiel started concentrating all of Ildria's resources into protecting the castle and keeping his daughter safe, but did nothing for the rest of his domain even as they faced bandit attacks. This caused many of his soldiers to become desperate enough to help Ry'jin overthrow him.
    • The Great Seven eventually gave up on the war and sealed themselves away. Xandra holds them in contempt for leaving Ildrians behind to be oppressed by Ry'jin. However, they have a point in that if they stayed behind to fight, Ry'jin would probably just kill them and steal their DNA, becoming even more unstoppable.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: Throughout the game, your boss Prince LaCroix tries this by ordering you into increasingly dangerous situations and then simply not giving you the equipment, back-up, or instructions you should need to survive. He does this because you are a political liability but killing you would be a PR nightmare, so he throws you into chaotic situations in the hopes that someone else will do it for him, but it fails because you keep succeeding against all odds. You only really piece together what he's doing when he sends you to negotiate with Nines in Griffith Park, then has another agent of his start a wildfire so that the werewolf in the park will go berserk and rip you both to shreds.

    Web Comics 
  • Darths & Droids: During Episode II, Pete is angry at Jim and Ben (but more Jim than Ben, because he always hated Ben) for leaving his character for dead in their last game. So he deliberately refuses to make a Spot Check when an assassin comes after Padmé, who is only saved when the GM suddenly reminds Ben and Annie they can sense danger with the Force.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In season 2, Long Feng and Azula form an alliance to capture Aang and gain control of the Earth Kingdom, with neither of them having any intention to share the prize. But when Long Feng orders his followers, the Dai Li, to take Azula into custody, they don't move a muscle. Azula explains that the Dai Li aren’t sure who would prevail between the two of them and are waiting to see which of them is more worthy to have their loyalty. She quickly browbeats Long Feng into submission.
    • In the third season, Fire Lord Sozin and Avatar Roku were lifelong friends until they grew apart when Sozin revealed that he wanted to conquer the rest of the world in order to forcibly "share" the Fire Nation's prosperity and technological advances. After being forbidden from doing this by Roku, the two didn't talk for many years until the volcano on Roku's home island had a sudden, titanic eruption, and Sozin, who flew there on his dragon, came to help the evacuation. When Roku was poisoned and weakened by the volcanic gas, Sozin realized that if Roku died he could move ahead with his conquest plans after all, and promptly left his friend to die.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series episode "Over the Edge", after getting doused by Scarecrow's fear gas, Barbara envisions a nightmare where she was killed and Commissioner Gordon, discovering her identity as Batgirl moments before she died, furiously launches a vendetta against Batman for never being told about this.
  • In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Scorpia does nothing when Catra knocks out Entrapta with a stun baton and arranges for Entrapta's exile to Beast Island. Scorpia's guilt gnaws at her until she leaves the Horde and alerts the Princesses to Entrapta's whereabouts.
  • Sonic Prime: After Sonic vanishes from touching the Red Prism Shard, Nine takes the shard for himself and abandons Rebel, Knucks, and Rusty to fend for themselves.
  • In the first episode of Superman: The Animated Series, Jor-El's warnings of Krypton's impending doom are ignored by his people because Brainiac, acting as the planet's supercomputer, presents his own findings and assures them that there is nothing wrong. Jor-El later discovers that Brainiac doctored his findings and intentionally misled the Kryptonians to buy time and save himself at their expense. In other words, an entire race had to die because of this one betrayal, and Jor-El only had enough time left to ensure that his infant son survived Krypton's destruction. This made Brainiac one of Superman's three arch-enemies: the other two being Lex Luthor and Darkseid.

    Real Life 
  • Alexander Selkirk, the man who inspired the story of Robinson Crusoe, had a heated argument with the captain of the ship he was traveling on and said he would rather stay on an island and wait for another ship to pick him up than continue the journey with the captain. But none of the other sailors wanted to come with him, and when he was brought to the beach of an island, he got second thoughts and shouted to the boat to come back and pick him up again. They didn't. Four months later, the ship that marooned Selkirk sank; the Captain survived but was immediately captured by enemy soldiers and imprisoned for four years.
  • George Clinton and Robert R. Livingston spent over a decade attacking Aaron Burr and undermining his political career, even though he belonged to the same party as them. Burr believed that the party's leader, Thomas Jefferson, wasn't aware of the attacks— and didn't realize that Jefferson was in fact intentionally pulling this trope on him until Jefferson told him to his face that nobody was going to help him. Burr did not take it well.
  • The Battle of Crécy during The Hundred Years War counts as one if you were to ask the French King Philippe of Valois's opinion. King Philippe had hired Genoese crossbowmen as mercenaries in order to counter England's longbowmen. The Genoese would provide cover fire for the French knights, allowing them to mow down the English in a chivalric charge. However, the crossbowmen's pavise shields had been left behind on the baggage train, and even worse, they had been pushed out too far forward by the French advance. This, combined with water damage to their crossbows from recent rain and heavy casualties at the hands of the English, encouraged the Genoese to make a tactical withdrawal. King Philippe, who had already lost many of his knights to the English archers during the battle as a result, saw this as outright betrayal. The Count of Alençon ordered his forces to hunt down the retreating crossbowmen and slaughter them.