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Food Interrogation

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Go ahead, Nagasume. Eat up. It'll make you feel better...

Kyle Rogers: I will reveal nothing. You may begin torturing me.
Col. Jack O'Neill: Oh, I've already begun. the infamous Tuna Torture. [waves a tuna sandwich under Rogers's nose]

The Good Cop/Bad Cop routine is about trying to get information out of someone. Since Tropes Are Flexible, this doesn't necessarily have to be cops against a prisoner. Someone who wants information from another person will try this routine, first demanding that their captive tell them what they know, and then getting harsher in their treatment.

If that doesn't work, it's time to try being nice. They'll try to tempt them with food. How about a nice hot bowl of rice? Maybe some udon noodles will help ease your mind? Maybe a juicy steak or a cheeseburger can do the work too. It doesn't necessarily have to be a bowl or plate of food, but it does have to be food (delicious, of course) being offered as part of a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine to count for this trope.

This trope is very common in Anime, with the usual depiction of "katsudon" (rice topped with a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet, egg, vegetables, and condiments, usually served in a white and blue striped bowl), but in general every delicious plate offered to get the truth works on this trope.

Defiant prisoners won't fall for this and will reply with I'm Not Hungry.

Subtrope of Perp Sweating and Food as Bribe, and related to Good Cop/Bad Cop and No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine. See also Pet the Dog, in which food is not the only kind way to make someone confess, and Motivation on a Stick, where something, most often food, is also used to get someone to do as the other wishes. Also related to In Vino Veritas, which includes plying someone with alcohol in the hope that they'll let something slip through drunkenness. May be used by a character who believes Torture Is Ineffective and prefers to try to form a bond with the subject. Can overlap with Slipping a Mickey, in which the food probably contains Truth Serum so the suspect can tell the truth without knowing it.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In My Bride is a Mermaid, Nagasume gets interrogated by Mowari Zenigata. She wants to know why she spotted Nagasumi and Sun emerge from the same household that morning. Nagasume ends up getting turned on by her gestures and methods... She eventually breaks Nagasume by tempting him with a bowl of fried pork with rice.
    Nagasumi: I don't know why, but this little act of hers is exciting me... I don't mind this too much. Maybe I'll keep my mouth shut a little longer.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Ed and Al are taken in by the police under suspicion that they are working with the mysterious thief known as Psiren. They quickly establish who they really are, and the police offer Edward bowls of rice as an apology. Edward starts stuffing his face with bowl after bowl of rice, but eventually succumbs to minor food poisoning from eating too much.
  • In the Banned Episode "Legend of Dratini" from Pokémon: The Original Series, Officer Jenny accuses Ash of being part of a group of poachers who are going after Dratini. She tries to sweat him for information at first, then offers a food bowl to coax him. New information then shows up that proves he had no connection and she sets him free.
  • Subverted in Naruto, when Karin is being interrogated for information on Sasuke and the Akatsuki, she demands a fried pork cutlet bowl or they wouldn't get any info out of her. The other ninjas start talking about whether there's even a shop that makes such foods. They offer her Ichiraku ramen, but she declines.
  • Played for Laughs in Pop Team Epic in which there's a Four Koma about Popuko being interrogated by Pipimi and being offered a bowl of katsudon, always as the bad cop. The gag passed to the anime twice, one mixed with the "Masashi Super Dry" gag (thus Popuko is being held for underage drinking) and the second exaggerated for Bob Epic Team.
  • The Devil is a Part-Timer! has a pair of demons transported to Earth, where the lack of Mana causes them to be De Powered and become almost identical to humans. They soon cause enough trouble to be taken in by the police and offered a bowl of katsudon... which they mishear as "Khatsu-doum" and assume must be something powerful.
  • In one of the One Piece cover stories, the Unluckies are shown to have ratted out the rest of the Baroque Works organization when captured by the Marines and bribed with food.
  • Most of the "tortures" in 'Tis Time for "Torture," Princess involve Tortura tempting the Princess into revealing her secrets with delicious food.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Killer Dame (a parody of the Voyager episode "The Killing Game") Neelix has been brainwashed by the Hirogen into thinking he's a Gestapo agent, so proceeds to beat up a captive Harry Kim with the contents of his kitchen.
    "I ASK THE QUESTIONS!" Neelix roared, picking up a bowl of sauerkraut with diced pork and breaking it over the ensign's head.

    Films — Animation 
  • Played With in The LEGO Movie: As Emmet is interrogated by Bad Cop, he asks about seeing a Good Cop. Bad Cop then switches to Good Cop and offers him a glass of water. As Emmet accepts, Bad Cop switches back and knocks the glass away.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: The First Avenger: When Arnim Zola is captured, he expects to be tortured for information. But instead he's offered a fine steak by Colonel Phillips, who realizes that Zola isn't a zealot or he would have already taken his Cyanide Pill. He figures he can crack him with kindness. He's correct in that regard, although Zola declines the steak for dietary reasons.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: Thanos captures Gamora to learn the location of the Soul Stone and initially attempts to get into her good graces by offering her food. She replies with I'm Not Hungry and throws the bowl away. After a heated conversation with her Thanos realizes that playing a Good Cop doesn't work and switches to a more tried and tested approach.
  • In Fantômas, it is Commissioner Juve's method for making perps sweat. He eats before one while denying him food. Fandor stays rather unfazed. Later, after Fantômas commits a crime while wearing Juve's face, the tables are turned. It is now Juve being interrogated, while his usual sidekick Bertrand is doing the eating.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014): Splinter punishes the Turtles with the ha-shi for sneaking out and refusing to tell him what they were doing. When they persist in the face of their strenuous balancing exercises, Splinter whips out a 99 cheese pizza and brings a slice tantalizingly close to Mikey while listing the ingredients. This finally gets Mikey to spill the beans.
  • In Transformers (2007), after been captured by the FBI, Playful Hacker Glen Whitmann is held in an interrogation room with his partner Maggie Madsen. A guard comes in and sets down a plate of donuts. Glen remembers seeing this from TV. You're supposed to eat the offering because that proves you're innocent. After eating the whole plate, the ensuing sugar rush results in him spilling the beans before anyone can actually ask him a question.

  • There's an Internet meme along these lines:
    Suspect: I ain't talkin'.
    Cop: [sharpens knife] We got ways of making people talk. [cuts a piece of cake]
    Suspect: Can I have some?
    Cop: Cake is for talkers.

  • A Russian variation was described by dissident author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. A more subtle trick used by the NKVD/KGB when softening up a suspect was to deprive them of comforts while in custody. After a few weeks of deprivation, they'd be offered good solid home cooking, something they'd missed after weeks of inadequate prison rations. The idea was that this would relax them and induce a sense of well-being in which they'd let things slip and begin, of their own free will, to talk - with no need for torture or negative inducement. This worked. A variation of a theme was that the detainee would be given well-prepared good food - but in inadequately small portions that served to remind them they were in prison, and which would act as a psychological as well as a physical torment. the implied threat was that even this reminder of what they were missing could be withdrawn - or the amount on the plate could be increased if they were prepared to co-operate.
  • Dolores Umbridge does this to Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix, she gives him a cup of tea when questioning him but it has Veritaserum in it which would make him tell all his secrets. She also questions other people this way, too, at least in The Movie.
  • Discussed in Red Storm Rising; an American naval officer tells the bosun to pipe aboard the survivors of a Soviet submarine and salute them. He then tells another officer to be as kind as possible to the Soviet sailors, as it would make them more open to interrogation, and also refers to Hanns Scharff's techniques. Later in the book, similar methods are used on a well-connected Soviet fighter pilot who is rescued at sea.
  • Different Seasons: In Apt Pupil, this was Kurt Dussander's favored interrogation method at the concentration camp he was an officer in:
    In the room Dussander used for prisoner interrogations there was a hotplate and a homely kitchen table covered with a red checked cloth much like the one in his own kitchen. There was always a pot of lamb stew bubbling mellowly away on that hotplate. When contraband was suspected (and when was it not...) a member of the suspected clique would be brought to that room. Dussander would stand them by the hotplate, where the rich fumes from the stew wafted. Gently, he would ask them Who. Who is hiding gold? Who is hiding jewellery? Who has tobacco? Who gave the Givenet woman the pill for her baby? Who? The stew was never specifically promised; but always the aroma eventually loosened their tongues.
  • In the Redwall book Mossflower, after Ferdy and Coggs are captured by Queen Tsarmina's forces, she tries to get the famished hedgehog children to tell her the location of the rebel woodlanders' headquarters by offering them a tray of food. Determined to be "warriors", they refuse to tell her.
  • In the Left Behind book Armageddon, Global Community officer Jock Ashmore tries to break Chloe Williams after she's been captured by ordering a breakfast — just one breakfast — and then proceeding to eat it before her, saying that if she's willing to divulge any information about the Tribulation Force and their whereabouts, she would be given a breakfast to eat as well.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The association of katsudon with this trope began in Japanese hard-boiled Cop Shows, used in combination with Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas ("What would your mother think about this?", etc.) often having the suspect burst into tears while eating or after being presented with the dish.
  • Agent Carter: In a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome moment, a hamburger and a bottle of booze are more effective in convincing a homeless wino to talk than a sympathetic ear.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Played for Laughs in "Rules of Engagement". Having brought Rogers, an injured off-worlder, back to the SGC for treatment, Jack begins trying to get information out of him by pointing out the food tray the medical staff brought him.
    • In "Beachhead" the team deals with Nerus, a Big Eater Goa'uld who offers information on the Oris' plans in exchange for being wined and dined. Subverted when he gives them false information that helps advances the plan instead, at which point General Landry orders him thrown in prison and deprived of more than the bare minimum of food until he starts actually helping.
  • There's a plenty of cases on Law & Order where they offer a suspect something to eat (usually fast food), particularly a young one. In fact there's even a subversion in SVU where they feed the guy soda so they can get a look at his dongle in the loo (since their suspect had a penis piercing).
    • One SVU episode takes this trope the full distance by having the detectives use food to coerce a young homeless girl to talk. As she hasn't eaten in several days, it doesn't take much.
  • Played for Drama in the Babylon 5 episode "Intersections in Real Time". After Captain Sheridan has been Denied Food as Punishment for several days offscreen, the interrogator attempting to break his will and get him to make a public confession offers him half of a sandwich after eating the other half and talking about how good it is. It's drugged with an emetic that the interrogator himself is immune to. He later returns and gives Sheridan a glass of electrolyte water to make up for all the nutrients Sheridan vomited up.
  • Mindhunter: Tench and Ford quickly find this to be one of the most reliable tactics to get their subjects talking, starting with getting a pizza for Edmund Kemper and Big Red soda for Monte Rissell. Jim Barney had also learned from their notes, and comes prepared for William Pierce Jr. with a packet of candies in his suitcase.
  • Nash Bridges once had to get some answers out of an escaped criminal who happened to be a noted gourmand. So naturally, he serves him very nice food. The criminal gives him the information requested along with some Description Porn for the food.
  • On Snowpiercer, Layton offers an interrogated captive a plate of buffalo wings. It's a very tempting ploy, as the captive hasn't tasted anything but canned food in the seven years since the Earth froze.
  • Happens in more than one Star Trek series:
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sisko and O'Brien have semi crash-landed on a planet which has a field that neutralizes all technology. They're put to work, but they don't change their Starfleet uniforms for native wear, and O'Brien sneaks off to try to get his communicator working. As punishment, Sisko (his superior officer) is put in "the Box". He comes out dehydrated, and the leader pours him a glass of water, saying he can have it when he changes out of uniform. In response, Sisko walks away and puts himself back in the box.
    • Subverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Chain of Command". Picard has been starved and imprisoned by the Cardassians and suffered multiple brutal interrogations. However, at the beginning of one session, his captor offers him breakfast—a nice, normal Cardassian breakfast of a raw Taspar egg. Picard is so desperate for food that he eats it anyway.
  • The Wire: Attempted numerous times by the police, with little success. When Wee-Bay turns himself in, he does negotiate a Pit Beef sandwhich for co-operating on further murders, since he's going to jail anyway.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place uses this in the episode "Wizards Exposed", when the scientists and government agents who capture the Russo Family try to offer Alex Russo a hamburger and fries to get her to confess about their family being wizards. Upon their attempt to ask her questions, she responds with her usual cynical sarcasm and even loudly belches in one of the men's face.

  • This NPR podcast recounts how the town of Aarhus in Denmark chose to deal with local Muslim boys who had traveled to Syria in the 2010s (usually suspected to have gone to fight with Daesh). It starts with a couple of plainclothes police officers calling the house to invite the young man out for coffee and just talking with him about his experiences or whatever comes to mind.

    Video Games 
  • In Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance one of the options in the interrogation room is to take away the bribe of food that is placed in front of the prisoner.
  • The Fallen London comic A Pinch of Snuff provides a variation, in that the one being interrogated has not been asked anything; he's just presented every so often with a fresh new Trump and Fotheringray Esteemed Meat Pie and left alone with it to see if he'll eat it. Suspicions that he's a Snuffer are confirmed when he gets up and eats the room's candle instead.

    Web Animation 
  • In the first episode of RWBY, Glinda Goodwitch scolds Ruby Rose for involving herself in a fight with dangerous criminals. After intimidating her, Professor Ozpin strolls in, more calmly asking about Ruby's fighting technique while offering her a plate of chocolate chip cookies, which she happily scarfs down.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Party of One", Pinkie Pie bribes Spike with a plate of delicious gemstones in order to get him to confess what he knows about what the rest of the Mane Six are planning at Applejack's barn. Since Spike doesn't know anything, all that happens is Spike confirms Pinkie's suspicions that the others don't want to be her friends anymore (and sends her into a funk) just to get out of being interrogated.