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Crossing the Burnt Bridge

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"Be nice to those you meet on the way up. They're the same folks you'll meet on the way down."
Walter Winchell, or maybe Wilson Mizner

So you're never going to see those assholes again? Sweet.

Time to let them know what you really think of them! Tell the ex-girlfriend off, insult the constant jerk, rob the old neighbor, leave a surprise on the boss's desk, jack their last ice cream sandwich, whatever fits! They deserve it, and you're never going to have to live through the repercussions anyway.


Wait, what's that? You have a class with that ex? The jerk is your mentor's kid? You aren't moving or transferring after all? That terminal illness diagnosis was a mix-up at the clinic? You left your wallet in their freezer when you were stealing the ice cream sandwich?

Oh, hell...

This is when a character issues a So Long, Suckers!, expecting never to have to see the people they're offending ever again, only to be forced to continue their acquaintance. Or even worse, seek their help. So now, they have to be on their best behavior, put up with all the same crap, and/or face the music for what they did, deserved or not. More dramatic works typically have an interval of several years to give the grudges plenty of time to fester; more comedic ones prefer to pull it within a couple of minutes, ideally the same scene.


May overlap with Off the Table, when the other party refuses to allow the bridge to be rebuilt.

Compare Not-So-Final Confession, We Meet Again, We Will Meet Again, Where It All Began, My God, What Have I Done?, The Exit Is That Way, Who's Laughing Now? and Take This Job and Shove It.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • There's a very dark example in Attack on Titan with Bertholt Hoover. As a Titan Shifter infiltrator to the Survey Corps, he's responsible for Wall Maria falling, a good chunk of the people within dying, and personally tries to kill his teammates. When he's about to be Eaten Alive by Armin in Mindless Titan form, he cries out and begs for his former comrades to save him, only to notice that they're not moving...
  • In SPY × FAMILY, George Glooman believes that the Desmond family is driving his own into bankruptcy, and that he'll have to leave Eden Academy once his family's wealth runs out. He angrily tells off Damian Desmond, and gets the rest of his sympathetic classmates to follow his whims, since he has to leave them soon. Then George realises that his family isn't going bankrupt and he's still going to Eden after all. His classmates aren't amused.

    Fan Works 
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic On The Care and Construction of Bridges, Rarity and Applejack refuse to confess their feelings towards each other out of fear of burning bridges that they will need to cross later, while Rainbow Dash reflects on her own burnt bridge with her friend Gilda. In the end, however, Rainbow Dash asks herself the question of what ponies do after a bridge burns down, and resolves to try and patch things up with her.
  • In the sequel of Hero Class Civil Warfare, part of the aftermath of the inter-class civil war is the now changed class dynamics and friendships after the Villain Team had thoroughly curb-stomped the Hero Team. Izuku struggles to keep his previous reputation as the class sweetheart and paragon after he terrified and defeated his friends and classmates as the Kingpin. Bakugou had thoroughly burnt his bridge with the rest of the Hero Team when his Bad Boss nature and Control Freak tendencies cause them to get curb-stomped by the Villain Team which negatively affects his relationship with his class and reputation among his year.
  • In Love Hina fanfic For His Own Sake, Naru Narusegawa, Kaolla Su, and Sarah McDougal all find themselves in this position. Defied with Mutsumi Otohime and Granny Hinata "Hina" Urashima, who recognize that it's pointless, and try to accept how they destroyed their bonds with their loved ones.
    • Naru's mother and stepsister offered her a Last-Second Chance to reconcile, only for her to viciously reject and berate them both. After Hina cuts her off, she goes back to her mother, expecting to be forgiven and welcomed back, but is turned away. It's revealed that she went to her father first, and to Keitaro, but was turned away by both. Ultimately, she ends up being taken in by her uncle. This was lampshaded by her mother, who warned her that would happen if she kept lashing out.
    • Kaolla Sue was absolutely sure that somebody would get her out of jail, whether it was her family, Granny Hina, Keitaro or the other Hinata girls. Over time, she slowly realizes how serious her situation is, losing hope. Eventually, she wants to at least apologize to Keitaro, being denied even that, she accepts her fate and states that she hates Granny Hina for being a liar.
    • Sarah McDougal disowned her own father, Seta, expecting Naru and the other girls to come get her out of St. Clavius Academy. When she learns they aren't coming, she starts acting out more, getting into trouble with the headmistress and trying to attract his attention. Haruka comes instead, informing her that she's to remain at the academy until high school, as St. Clavius only extends until middle school. Sarah is forced to realize that she'd broken the bond she once shared with her father simply because she couldn't stand not getting her way.
    • Mutsumi Otohime finally realizes that her quest to get Keitaro and Naru back together was pointless from the start, and that she'd burned all her bridges in the process. She accepts her expulsion from Toudai with as much grace as she can muster, and doesn't ask those she hurt for forgiveness, figuring that they wouldn't listen to her or wish to see her again after all she'd done.
    • In the final chapter, Granny Hina finally recognizes she was wrong, and that her actions destroyed her relationship with her family. She hires lawyers for Naru and Mutsumi, informing both girls that this was the last time she's helping either of them out, before sadly leaving Japan and her destroyed relationships behind her.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic/BioShock fanfic Vision, our Anti-Hero, Siren, due to a mix of Trauma Conga Line, Fish out of Water, and just not being all that nice to begin with, says some rather hurtful things to another character who was just being nice to her. As she walks away, she has a small My God, What Have I Done? moment but doesn't go back to apologize. Guess who she ends up at the mercy of later?

  • The entire premise of Max Keeble's Big Move. Believing he is about to move, Max issues several So Long, Suckers! statements at everyone at his school that he doesn't like, then finds out that he isn't moving after all.
  • Flatliners was all about this, when the characters fry their brain-cells in a medical experiment, only to be faced with their own consciences. To overcome their dilemmas, they all have to make amends somehow.
  • A good chunk of the third act of Iron Man 2 is spent with Tony trying to repent for his assholish behavior from when he was dying in the first two acts.
  • Amadeus (in the director's cut only): Mozart, who has already mentioned that he would prefer to spend his time composing and that he is only giving music lessons to pay the bills, lets himself be hired by a wealthy Viennese burgher to give piano lessons to his daughter. The attempt ends in a fiasco because the man refuses to leave the room while Mozart tries to teach his daughter (who is visibly embarrassed by her parents), insists on keeping his pack of dogs with him—who interrupt all music by yelping and howling—and generally behaves as obnoxious as possible, causing Mozart to rudely storm off with a sarcastic comment. Later, as Mozart's financial problems have worsened, he (obviously drunk and staggering) turns up at the burgher again and asks whether he can give music lessons to his daughter. As the daughter is married and away, Mozart further humiliates himself by asking whether he can borrow money, and receives a curt refusal.
  • Men In Black 2: After Sarleena's attack on MIB headquarters forces J and an amnesiac K to evacuate, turns out that the only one with a deneuralizer to help bring back K's memories is Jeebes, the nebbish alien pawnshop owner who K had shot in the first movie, so K and J end up having to go to him to get his help. Jeebes, understandably is less-than-inclined to help the least until J shoves a blaster in his face and makes it clear that the bridge is officially rebuilt and Jeebes will help them with a smile on his face.

  • In the first Galaxy Games book, the whole world thought they were about to be wiped out by an incoming asteroid. So all the adults went crazy doing whatever - the teachers didn't teach, many of the main character's friends' parents quit their jobs, and so on. After the asteroid was revealed to just be an alien spaceship they all had to try and get their jobs back and return all the stuff they bought on an impulse. This was easy for some, but others, it was noted, had quit their jobs by telling their bosses what they REALLY thought...
  • In the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, Elizabeth and Darcy are forced to ask Lady Catherine for help.

    Live Action TV 
  • In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will and Carlton trick Geoffrey into thinking he's won the lottery, causing him to cheerfully dance around and call everyone out before the truth is revealed. In a variation, while everyone forgives him (the boys take most of the blame) he's too embarrassed to return and is the one that needs to be coaxed back.
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm is basically this trope as the concept for a TV show. Plots are as follows: Larry David horribly offends a minor character, then realizes he needs their help. Larry tries to make amends, typically fails on an epic scale.
  • In the Doctor Who serial Inferno, the Doctor thinks he's got his TARDIS operational, and he's about to leave. So he says (about the Brigadier, in front of him): "I've had about all I can stand of this pompous self-opinionated idiot here!" But when he dematerializes, he only gets as far as the rubbish tip, and walks back, covered in dust.
    The Doctor: Erm, Brigadier, my dear fellow, I wonder whether I could borrow a couple of your stalwart chaps to give me a hand in bringing the TARDIS back? It's landed in rather an inaccessible position.
    Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: "Pompous, self-opinionated idiot" I believe you said, Doctor?
    The Doctor: Yes, well we...we don't want to bear a grudge for a few hasty words, do we?
    • Still, he gets off really easy for this trope - just a moment of embarrassment and slight crow-eating.
  • Cheers had an episode where Diane told off the gang, vowed never to return and left ... but forgot her purse.
  • In The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Brisco and Bowler recruit Pete Hutter for a mission while he's in prison, promising a full Presidential pardon for all his outstanding crimes. He accepts and proceeds to piss off his cellmate. Then Brisco tells him that they have to talk to the warden and he should be out in a couple of hours...
  • A mild case in The Thick of It; Hugh has decided that resigning would be better for his long-term political career, and on his way to make the announcement, he says a few unpleasant things about his department and the staff. Predictably, his resignation is no longer necessary and he comes back, but nobody really bears any grudge because (a) while he was honest, he didn't say anything too hurtful or spiteful, and (b) most of them hate each other anyway and they all know it, and consequently everyone has a lot of experience with swallowing their dislike and working together to brace themselves for the next stage in the eternal Humiliation Conga which makes up their lives.
  • Married... with Children: When a rich man proposed to Kelly, Al quickly phoned his boss to do the bridge-burning, oblivious to Kelly rejecting the rich man in favor of a not-so-wealthy suitor.
  • In the final episode of Wings, Brian and Casey make plans to run off to a tropical island, and Casey takes this opportunity to tell off every person on the island, including her boss and random people in the park. Unfortunately, Brian has an attack of family loyalty and decides to stay and run Sandpiper Air for Joe (who's also leaving), leaving a horrified Casey stuck on the island (and working Helen's lunch counter).
  • A Late Night with Conan O'Brien sketch had La Bamba (the Butt-Monkey trombonist of the house band The Max Weinberg 7) get a check for a large sum of money. To which La Bamba responds "Ha! I quit!" and try to tell off the performers. Right after leaving (and the audience cheering him off), Conan gets a phone call from La Bamba crying claiming that he spent all his money on gum and asking to come back. Conan lets him come back with no ill will (and then shows the outtakes from his phone call).
  • The first episode of the second season of Arrested Development, "The One Where Michael Leaves", is focused on Michael's attempts to leave his family for good, but repeatedly getting pulled back to them again because the circumstances, mostly the results of said family's actions, forces him to.
  • Gilmore Girls begins with Lorelai going to her estranged parents for a loan to pay for Rory's private school tuition. The conditions of the loan are the main justification for Richard and Emily's involvement throughout the series.
  • In an early Seinfeld episode George dramatically quits his job, only to realize he really needs it as he's not really qualified to do anything else. He simply goes back to work the next day as if nothing happens, but that doesn't quite work.
  • Warehouse 13: The only way to free someone of Maelzel's metronome is to "make a pure start from whence one comes." In Jinks' case, this means reconciling with his mother, whom he refused to forgive for pleading for leniency for his sister's killer.

    Video Games 
  • In World of Warcraft, Genn Greymane, the ruler of the Gilneas, left the Alliance after he grew tired of helping provide for its commonwealth for seemingly nothing in return. He then built a wall around Gilneas, separating it from the rest of the world and refused to get involved in the Third War or the war against the Lich King, neither giving the Alliance aid nor allowing refugees to shelter within the walls. However, after Gilneas fell due to attacks by the Forsaken, as well as a worgen curse sweeping through the populace, a humbled Greymane attempted to rejoin the Alliance. However, King Varian Wrynn, the leader of the Alliance, was incredibly bitter at Greymane for his actions and earning his respect and approval was not an easy task for the Gilnean king.

    Web Comics 
  • Subverted in Homestuck. Karkat thinks he's going to have to apologize to Vriska in order to get her to join the Red Team. When he finds out that Vriska's been kicked off the Blue Team, he instantly rescinds his apology, and apologizes to himself for even making it in the first place.
  • Played for Laughs in Gunnerkrigg Court when Parley with full sunset blush slams the door... then re-emerges to take the flower Smitty tried to give her in the first place.
    Parley: ...and ...give ...that! (SLAM again)

    Western Animation 
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Forgotten Friendship, Sunset Shimmer returns to Equestria, and has to seek the counsel of Princess Celestia. This was after Sunset turned into a cruel and manipulative Alpha Bitch under Celestia's watch. However, Sunset's undergone enough Character Development after her Heel–Face Turn to genuinely apologize to Celestia, and the apology is accepted.
  • In Code Monkeys, this is the result of the Snap Back of Dave and Jerry's quit(s). Dave being, well, a Jerkass, actually forces this to happen to both of them, while Jerry tries to avoid it on the off chance they aren't as successful as they hope.
  • In a flashback episode of The Simpsons Homer, upon quitting his nuclear plant job, plays Burns' head like a bongo in front of all the other employees and then throws Burns at a barrel of toxic waste. (Although one has to wonder if "acting like a jerk" can even apply to anything being done to Burns.) He LITERALLY burns a bridge he drives over on his way out. He eventually has to take the job back after impregnating Marge with Maggie. Of course, since this is Burns we're talking about here, he makes Homer crawl through a narrow tunnel to get the job, so that Burns would literally be looking down on Homer once Homer emerged, and put a big plaque in Homer's office saying "Don't forget, you're here forever". Luckily, Homer is able to cover the plaque with pictures of Maggie and change the message to "Do it for her".
    • A story in The Simpsons comic had Krusty the Clown leaving town to star in a movie, giving the crowd at the airport a few choice words about Springfield. The movie flops, and when he returns the crowd is more of a mob.
  • Subverted in South Park when Cartman finally pisses off his "friends" so badly that they end up ignoring him— making him think that he must be dead and stuck in Purgatory; and so he goes about trying to make amends for all the evil things he did, in order to get to Heaven.
    • Played straight in the episode "Gluten Free Ebola". The previous episode had the boys smugly ditching all their friends and classmates off-screen when they started their crowdfunding company. When their business failed, they returned to school to find no one wanted anything to do with them anymore and they had to spend the episode trying to appease them. This also signified that the show would now have continuity between the episodes.
    • Another example is in the episode "Naughty Ninjas". With the news of police brutality going around, the townspeople of South Park start shunning everyone in the police force, harassing them and refusing to do business with them. Then the gentrified part of the town gets covered with homeless people due to the episode's B-plot. The townspeople realize that the only way they can get the homeless people out is to get the police to remove them. Needless to say, the policemen weren't really willing to help them out.
  • Jem and the Holograms had too much of Eric's abuse while working on a movie they quit. Then they learn one of the foster girls at Starlight Foundation needed an expensive surgery to avoid becoming blind so they had no choice but to come back. Eric got Jerrica to agree to become his assistant as a condition to let Jem and the Holograms back.
  • Happens in the Family Guy episode "April in Quahog", when Peter blurts out that he doesn't care for his children the moment before the world is supposed to end... only for said warning to be revealed as an April Fool's prank from the Quahog news team. Peter spends the rest of the episode trying to make it up to the kids.
    • Subverted in the episode "Lottery Fever" when Peter tells Lois about how he quit his job after becoming a millionaire. The way he talks about it, especially the part where he told his boss what she could do with his job, suggests he did or said something nasty but the flashback shows he was polite and eloquent. Played straight later with how he treats his friends. They forgive him in the end.
  • Amphibia: In "Croak and Punishment", Anne and Sprig try to search for a missing Blue Moon Shell, with Anne as the "good cop", and Sprig as the bad cop". However, Sprig takes his role a bit too seriously, yelling at various suspects and destroying their property. When his behavior ends up causing Gunther, a Southern Tusk Frog, to hulk out, he and Anne try to find someplace to hide, but nobody is willing to protect them on account of how Sprig treated them.
    Stumpy: You think I'm gonna let you in here after you called me a thief?
    Sprig: ...Maybe?
  • In The Legend of Korra, fourth season Big Bad Kuvira decides to conquer the city-state founded by her mentor, Suyin Beifong, and sacrifice her fiance and Number Two, Su's son Bataar Jr., by shooting a fantasy nuke at his location, since he's been captured by her enemies and she can kill them all off at once. They survive, and a shattered Bataar does what little he can to help stop her. Come the sequel comic Ruins of the Empire, Kuvira is trying to pull a Heel–Face Turn and needs Bataar's engineering expertise to stop some of her former subordinates. She also ended up having to beg for help from Bataar's mother and needed his grandmother to use her Living Lie Detector abilities to vouch for her.
  • Catra from She-Ra and the Princesses of Power spends a good chunk of Season 5 working with people she had spent most of her time in earlier seasons trying to kill. Almost everyone attacks her or treats her coldly when they re-encounter her.
  • American Dad!: In "Rapture's Delight", Stan blames Francine for them not getting chosen to ascend into Heaven when the rapture occurs, and he abandons her when a man approaches him claiming to be Jesus Christ and that he can get him into Heaven. When the the so-called messiah turns out to be a bum who wants oral sex from him, an embarrassed Stan tries to save face, but not only does Francine reject him and move out, but she also reveals that she's entered a relationship with the real Jesus.

    Real Life 
  • In Josef Stalin's times, the study of genetics was all but destroyed in the Soviet Union, with the science itself branded a "bourgeois pseudoscience", to be replaced by a weird mishmash called "Michurin biology", now commonly known as Lysenkoism, after its most prominent leader. With Stalin supporting the new ideologically correct "science", Lysenko's camp was pulling no blows against its opponents. Of course, once Stalin died (according to some sources, even a bit earlier), the Lysenkoists started losing their positions. About a decade later, proper genetics regained its positions, and all the ideologically correct guys who, so recently, have been branding the geneticists as traitors, getting them arrested and often dead in The Gulag, were forced to elaborate on how Michurin biology does not contradict genetics, how genetics isn't ideologically incorrect, how a compromise between the two is possible...
  • For many jobs in general, it's generally agreed that giving your boss a two-week notice is the polite way to tell them that you're quitting, so that way they can start looking for a replacement and prepare for them once you actually do leave. Quitting without giving notice of any kind (i.e., you just stop showing up to work), quitting while giving last-minute notice, or quitting while flipping everyone off are not only surefire ways to ensure that you won't get rehired if you ever end up having to return to your old job (for whatever reason) but potential future employers can look at your employment history and contact your previous bosses to see why (and how) you had left them in the first place. Depending on who's running the place at your old job, they might be nice enough to give you another chance (and thus rehire you)—if not, then they'll show you the door and probably slam it behind you.
  • Far too common with people that win it big with the lottery; they'll quit their jobs and live off their winnings, only to realize later on that A) their newfound wealth isn't infinite and B) they don't know how to manage their spending. Once they go broke, you can usually see these lotto winners returning to their old job.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Hello Again Suckers, Crossing The Burned Bridge


Bluster's Reputation

When Bluster is convinced that he has only a few days left to live, he realizes that he has nothing but a 0% Approval Rating for his legacy, he decides to turn a new leaf and become "Bluster the Benevolent." Unfortunately, he is really bad at it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / CrossingTheBurntBridge

Media sources:

Main / CrossingTheBurntBridge