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I Feel Guilty; You Take It

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A character wins a contest or competition and feels that the victory was undeserved for some reason, such as:

  • The "winner" broke a promise or other personal principle to win
  • The "winner" knows that the contest was biased or downright rigged in his favor
  • The "winner" knows that his opponent was hobbled by circumstances beyond his control
  • The "winner" made a mistake that should have cost him the competition, but the judges missed it
  • The "winner" benefited from some random event that made it a matter of luck rather than skill

When this happens and the character finds out, they immediately have a sudden burst of conscience and doesn't accept the prize or gives it away (usually to the competitor he considers to be the "true winner").

If the competitor tries to argue the point, a More Hero than Thou argument may result, with each trying to sacrifice the glory.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Double Subverted in Air Gear; Ikki wins a contest against Inuyama, leader of the Rez-Boa Dogs gang. However, he learns that claiming their emblem will lead to the gang disbanding. He tries to give it back, claiming that it hadn't been a fair contest, but Inuyama is too proud to accept it. Ikki reluctantly decides to keep the medal, until...
    Inuyama: "Well... *ahem*... hmm. I mean... *ahmph*... If you absolutely insist then... *ahem* It's not as though I can't give it... some more thought... *ahem ahem*...
  • Subverted in the first season of Pokémon. Ash refuses to accept the Boulder Badge from Brock because the emergency sprinklers had accidentally gone off during their battle, which weakened Brock's Onix enough for Pikachu to defeat it. Brock insists that he still lost, however, and gives Ash the badge anyway.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In the 22nd Martial Arts Tournament of Dragon Ball there is a downplayed example. Tien offers Goku half of the prize money as his victory had come down to a matter of luck, both of them having been in freefall outside of the arena and Goku just happened to be the one who hit the ground first.
    • The first episode of Dragon Ball Super features Hercule/Mr. Satan being given a huge prize for saving the earth from Buu. He surreptitiously passes it on to Goku, who actually did the deed. Goku tries to refuse but relents when he realizes the money will allow him to quit his farming job and resume training.
  • Akagi refuses to accept his victory against Washizu after their game, since he only won by default - if Washizu hadn't passed out, he would have won.

    Comic Books 
  • The Transformers (Marvel): In "Afterdeath!", Optimus Prime and Megatron agree to settle their current dispute by battling inside a virtual reality. The loser will die. Optimus wins, but only by sacrificing some NPCs. He feels so guilty about this, that he insists on being killed, and hands the victory to Megatron.

  • Saturday Night Fever: Tony Manero and his partner win a dance competition, but he thinks another couple was better and only lost due to being Puerto Rican, so he gives them the top prize.
  • Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. One of the British pilots wins the race because the American pilot slowed so that he could rescue a third pilot whose plane had broken down and was about to crash. The official winner splits the prize money with the American.

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, during the Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, Cedric tried to call off his capture of the Golden Snitch because Dementors caused Harry to fall off his broom. Wood, the Gryffindor Captain, refused, and Harry didn't contest it, however miserable he felt.
    • Harry and Cedric then do this back and forth over the Triwizard at the end of Goblet of Fire. It takes a while since they'd both helped each other out and had just survived a run-in with a Giant Spider through teamwork. They end up taking it together, leading to the book's real climax.
    • Harry gives the prize money from the tournament to Fred and George Weasley so they can start up their joke shop with it. His first instinct was to give it to Cedric's parents, but they wanted it even less.
  • The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Contest ends with Homestar giving up his chance at victory to uncover Strong Bad and The Cheat's cheating, and Pom Pom proceeds to share the trophy with him. In the animated remake however, while Homestar insists he deserves the trophy, Pom Pom refuses to share.
  • In the Chaim Potok novel Davita's Harp, the Orthodox Jewish day school that Davita attends refuses to give her the prize for being the top student in Talmud and tries to give it to the top male student instead. The runner-up refuses the prize on principle, and it ends up being given to another male student who did not earn it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Scrubs: In the Season 2 episode "My Big Mouth", Turk only gets to go to Mexico with Dr. Kelso (as a reward for being the best surgical resident) because he's a guy, and Bonnie isn't. So, feeling guilty, Turk gives the prize to Bonnie, and she turns him down, refusing his "charity", Since he isn't the rightful winner, he doesn't want to keep it so he gives it to Todd in the end (which also serves as a pseudo-punishment for the sexist Dr. Kelso who passed over Bonnie due to her gender and now has to put up with the obnoxious Todd for the weekend).
  • Community: In the episode "Modern Warfare", Jeff gives his prize to Shirley so she can spend more time with her children. The whole team had agreed to this already (since she had the best reason to need a flexible schedule) except him. Played with in Britta's case; although she's the one who suggests they give the prize to Shirley, Jeff argues that she's only doing so because she was the only one who hadn't yet revealed what she'd do with the prize and would look like a jerk if she didn't suggest giving it up, suggesting that she's actually just being a self-righteous and hypocritical phony trying to score morality points off Shirley's situation. Britta later admits that he had a point.
  • True Blood: Sookie gets a big inheritance—but A) she never liked that relative and B) she feels responsible for his death, because Bill killed him after she told Bill her uncle molested her as a child. She gives the money to Jason and Hilarity Ensues.
  • On the original season of reality-TV parody series The Joe Schmo Show, a sumo slam contest was rigged so that Matt Kennedy Gould would win a spa vacation. Matt, however, had no idea that the contest was rigged and got a little too into it, accidentally causing a head injury to "Dr. Pat" (Kristen Wiig) that required a brief hospitalization. When she came back that evening, he insisted on her taking the prize. At the end of the show, though, when it was revealed that "Dr. Pat" was actually an actress, the prize was awarded back to him, along with the show's big main prize of $100,000.
  • My Name Is Earl: Earl finds out that the winning lottery ticket was bought with money he stole from a guy named Paul. He gives Paul the money but soon later Paul gives it back because of all the bad luck he had with it as well as feeling Earl deserved it more.
  • Squid Game: After Gi-hun wins the titular Deadly Game (which he only did because his final opponent- and childhood friend- killed himself), he feels so guilty about all the bodies stacked to get the prize money that he only uses it to pay off his debts to Loan Sharks and help out other people like Sang-woo’s mother, while letting the rest of it sit in the bank. This confuses the bank in question, who ask him why he never touches his money.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In Dinosaurs, Baby ends up going to war with a creature that lives in the wall and taking his cookies. The war escalates to humorous proportions (complete with dynamite) until the very end when Baby chases the creature down to its nest. It turns out she's a mother and was using the cookies to feed her babies. When she surrenders and offers the cookie back, Baby lets her keep it.

  • The "Fifth Down Game" between Cornell University and Dartmouth University in 1940, in which an error by the referees allowed Cornell an unearned victory. While there have been many other cases of refereeing errors being acknowledged after the game's conclusion, they have no power to change the outcome of a completed game, and this is the only known example of a team that won a game as a direct result of a refereeing error forfeiting the game to the loser.

    Web Animation 
  • Battle for BFDI: The finale. Flower has won the competition, and receives the prized BFB as a result, but she doesn't feel like she deserves it on account of two things. One, given how much Gelatin fought his way through the competition into 2nd place, while Flower managed to receive the luck of viewer support more than expected, she feels Gelatin deserves something for his hard work in comparison to her. Second, while Flower earned the BFB, she never really cared about the prize; all she wanted was to win the contest. She didn't want to win something; she wanted to accomplish something. She did just that, so she lets Gelatin have the BFB, and she's perfectly content with her decision.

    Western Animation 
  • The Proud Family: La-Cienega and Agatha enter an American Idol-style Music Reality Show, sponsored by Wizard Kelly. La-Cienega, being prettier than Agatha, wins due to a fix by Wizard Kelly, who says "Pretty sells and Ugly Repels." Penny finds out and tells La-Cienega that if she doesn't make things right, she'll have bad Karma. La-Cienega gives the prize to Agatha, who, in turn, shares it with her citing fairness.
  • Timon & Pumbaa: Timon and Pumbaa find themselves on a farm, just in time for the "Mr. Pig" competition. For the first few challenges, Pumbaa is losing miserably, so Timon decides to cheat for Pumbaa and make the reigning Mr. Pig fail the rest of the challenges. When Pumbaa finds out, he admits defeat and gives the pig crown back to its rightful owner.
  • Bugs Bunny does this in "This Is A Life?" when he deduces that the package Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam gave him has a bomb in it. It gets passed around frantically until Daffy Duck, who thinks he should have been featured on the show, takes it believing he deserves the package. You can guess what happens next.
  • The Deputy Dawg Show: It's National Lazy Day in the precinct, so Deputy Dawg and Muskie, along with Vince, compete against each other to see who's the laziest for a cash prize the sheriff is putting up. Muskie calls the sheriff and says he (Muskie) is too lazy to retrieve the prize, so he wins by default, much to Deputy Dawg's anger. But Muskie splits the prize with Deputy Dawg, saying he's even too lazy to spend it all.
  • Deconstructed in Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. The other girls feel guilty about Charlie Brown not receiving any valentines, so Violet etches out her name on her own valentine and gives it to Charlie Brown with his name on it. However, it's precisely because they feel guilty that Schroeder gives them one, big "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    Schroeder: Hold on there! What do you think you're doing? Who do you think you are? Where were you yesterday, when everyone else was giving out valentines? Is kindness and thoughtfulness something you can make retroactive? Don't you think he has any feelings? You and your friends are the most thoughtless bunch I've ever known! You don't care anything about Charlie Brown, you just hate to feel guilty! And now you have the nerve to come around one day later and offer him a used valentine, just to ease your conscience! Well, let me tell you something! Charlie Brown doesn't need your...
    Charlie Brown: (shoving him aside) Don't listen to him! I'll take it!