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Improvised Imprisonment

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Brannigan: Throw her in the brig.
Fry: We don't have a brig.
Brannigan: Then throw her in the laundry room, which will hereafter be referred to as "the brig".

Sometimes, characters decide one of their own is too dangerous or too rebellious to be kept around, but aren't in a position where they can get help from the proper authorities, nor are they able or willing to just kill them and end it directly. Maybe they're isolated or already acting outside the law, or maybe they're just in a situation too dire or complicated to get anyone else involved.

The obvious solution, then, is to just throw the enemy into a room, any room, and treat them as a prisoner. There won't be any proper guarding or concern for the ethics or legality of the situation; they need a quick fix that keeps their enemy isolated, and this is the way to do it. In some cases, they won't even be in a "prison" at all, or maybe they won't have anyone bothering to guard them. The prisoner is locked away or chained to a post somewhere- problem solved, right? Now they can just wait for help to arrive or figure out where to go from here, without worrying about some traitor or villain causing issues for them.

This can signify a few things about the characters and situation. They're usually in a state of desperation and looking for an easy solution to a dire problem. They're rarely portrayed as villains, as the motivation is usually about trying to isolate someone who's dangerous and could hurt people, but that doesn't mean the act isn't still pragmatic or Anti Heroic. The characters might also be seen as sloppy or amateurish, especially since there's a lot of ways this sort of thing can backfire.

Prisoners can escape pretty easily, considering nobody in the situation is (usually) trained to stand guard over dangerous entities. Alternatively, the imprisoners might only intend to use this as step one, and have darker plans in mind later, which takes this from "desperate but well-intended" to "outright vigilante justice". Oh, and there's never a guarantee the prisoner will be guilty- such a set up is already indicative of sloppy planning or a general lack of experience, which can easily cause innocents to get imprisoned by mistake.

A Furniture Blockade may be used for this. Can overlap with Too Desperate to Be Picky, if the situation is so dire that they need a quick solution, regardless of how well-thought-out it is. Compare and Contrast the Anti-Interference Lock Up, which can also involve characters being held up in random places, but with much different motivation and outcomes.

Unmarked Spoilers Ahead. Many of these examples will involve plot-twists in one way or another, so tread carefully.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Steel Troops: The robot-girl, Riruru, has a Heel–Face Turn halfway into the film after realizing humans are capable of love and care, and decides to turn herself in to self-confinement as punishment for being a robot spy. But having become close friends with Doraemon and the gang, understandably none of them wants to inflict any sort of punishment for Riruru, so instead Doraemon uses his Shrink Ray to reduce Riruru's size to a doll and keep her in Shizuka's birdcage as an impromptu prison.

    Comic Books 
  • The Beano: One special for the Bash Street Kids involves them discovering an ancient proclamation that declares Beano Town independent of England and whoever finds it the new monarch. This leads to Toots becoming Queen and turning the school into her palace. Naturally power almost immediately goes to her head and she starts ordering anyone who opposes her (or annoys her) sent to the Tower. As attempts to explain to her Bash Street School doesn't have a Tower just makes her angry, they eventually resort to locking the prisoners in the school's water tower. By the end of the story, Toots has imprisoned everyone in the tower (even her friends for suggesting she might be going too far). However, due to it not being designed to hold them, their combined weight makes the water tower collapse. Once freed, the masses immediately depose her and destroy the proclamation. The story ends with them locking her in an equally makeshift prison to teach her a lesson.
  • Firefly: The Sting:
    • Though there are armed guards at the convent, when the head nun imprisons Zoe to stop her from disrupting the event, she does it by shoving her into a pantry tied up and locking the door.
    • When breaking into Logar's mansion, the crew runs into a housekeeper. They lock her in a closet to keep her from raising the alarm, wedging a chair under the handle.
  • In the last pre-reboot arc of Runaways, Chase's uncle suddenly shows up at the Runaways' house after it's been crushed beneath vines. Since the Runaways as a policy don't trust any adults related to them, they decide to hold him captive while deciding what to do with him, but since there isn't anywhere they can hold him, their makeshift solution is to force him to sit down while Molly holds a large rock over his head.
  • The Walking Dead: When Ben murders his twin brother Billy, the group realize he's fully sociopathic and lock him in a van while they debate how to handle the situation. Unfortunately for Ben, Carl has no qualms about how to handle it; when the adults fall asleep, Carl sneaks into the van and coldly shoots Ben in the head.

    Films — Animation 
  • Peter Pan: An exiled Tinker Bell is brought before Captain Hook, where he proposes eliminating Wendy in return for Tink revealing Pan's secret base. Once Tink has indicated Hangman's Tree is the site, Hook traps her in a lantern. Hook has promised not to lay hand or hook on Peter in Exact Words. Nothing was said about bombs, however. Poor Tink can only beat futilely against the glass lenses.
  • The Swan Princess has the Evil Sorceror Rothbart kidnap Princess Odette, and transform her into a swan to preclude escape. Nonetheless, Odette in swan form manages to attract the notice of her rescuer, Prince Derek. Seeing that Odette is too clever to be allowed freedom, Rothbart confines her to the bottom of a well, where she won't have enough wing clearance to attain flight.

    Films — Live Action 
  • The Thing: after suspecting Blair of being the shape-shifting killer alien, the rest of the station crew lock him in a shed.
  • The Evil Dead (1981): after Cheryl becomes possessed and starts attacking people, the others lock her in the basement.

  • Animorphs: In The Capture, Jake becomes infested by a Yeerk and the others decide to hold him captive for three days until the Yeerk dies of starvation. They initially tie him to a chair in an abandoned shack in the woods. The Yeerk easily gets out of the bonds using Jake's morphing powers, but each escape attempt ends with them being caught or driven back by wildlife and forced to return to the shed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Barney Miller has an arrested man welcome being put in the precinct lock-up, saying it's better than "the other one." It turns out a tenants' organization has taken their role as dispute arbiters to extremes, creating a kangaroo court and ersatz prison. The arrestee had been charged with "sneaking around" and jailed in a basement storage room. When Detective Miller reminds the tenant council head that he's only allowed to mediate tenant disputes, the reply is "That was boring."
  • Breaking Bad:
    • after poisoning Emilio and Krazy-8, Walt and Jesse have to lock up the surviving Emilio in Jesse's basement until they can figure out what to do, shackling him to a pule by the neck with a bike lock.
    • After being sold out to the Neo-nazis by Walt, Jesse is locked up in a concrete pit at an industrial facility, only to be taken out to a laboratory to cook meth while leashed.
  • Castle Rock: Warden Lacey and, at the end of Season 1, Henry imprisoned the Kid in a hole in a disused ward of the actual prison as he heard the voice of God telling him to do so.
  • House of Anubis: Toward the end of season 3, Sibuna temporarily believed that KT was working for Team Evil and needed to get her out of the way. When ostracizing her failed, and they believed she attempted to go after Patricia, she was instead locked away in her bedroom alone, with a sign on the door warning people that KT was "dangerous" and "crazy". This failed for two reasons: Patricia was the actual Sinner and had successfully turned everyone else against KT, and Willow let KT escape without even knowing what was going on. By the time they all realized they were wrong about KT, it was too late to fix everything.
  • Ordeal by Innocence: After they realized that he murdered his wife, raped Kirsten, and arranged to have his own son with Kirsten hanged for the murder he committed, the kids lock their father Leo in the nuclear bunker in their country house.

  • Wolf 359: After Doctor Hilbert betrays them and attempts to kill everyone on board, Lieutenant Minkowski and Communications Officer Eiffel are left at a loss for what to do with him. Due to the Hephaestus station not having a brig and their pleas for assistance being denied by Mr. Cutter, they resort to locking Hilbert in the station's Skydeck, as it's on the very edge of the station and only has one computer-controlled door. After the Hephaestus crew mutinies against UE5, the Skydeck is used to imprison Jacobi and Colonel Kepler.

  • Extremities has rape victim Marjorie turn the tables on her attacker, first blinding him with insecticide then conking him with a hammer. She puts the weakened man in the fireplace, and affixes a brass headboard as ad hoc prison bars. This makeshift cell won't need to hold the man for long, as Marjorie starts digging a shallow grave in the back yard garden.

    Video Games 
  • In 5 Days a Stranger, the plot involves several characters being locked up in a creepy mansion together, and one of them is believed to be a Serial Killer murdering the others. Trilby is caught attacking someone and so is locked up in the shed with Simone as his guard. However, he has no memory of doing these things beyond a nightmare or two, and the player has to navigate some Dialogue Trees and successfully trick Simone into letting them go.

    Visual Novel 
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, after Nagito indirectly orchestrates the murder of Chapter 1 (by tricking Teruteru into killing someone else), Kazuichi and Nekomaru tie up Nagito in order to prevent another murder from happening in Chapter 2. They have him chained up and kept in the lodge, where they regularly feed him meals to prevent him from starving.

    Web Original 
  • In the Neopets plot "Ski Lodge Murder Mystery", the site staff is being murdered one-by-one while snowed in at a ski-lodge. After being stabbed with someone else's lightsaber, J. Boogie had just enough time to accuse Monster Boy of being the killer. Monster Boy was kept chained up in the library and guarded by other staff members, but Boogie's accusation was proven wrong when Monster Boy was killed a few days later, flattened with a giant Tiki idol.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: In "Brannigan, Begin Again", Fry, Bender, and Brannigan mutiny against Leela and lock her in the ship's laundry room.
    Brannigan: Throw her in the brig.
    Fry: We don't have a brig.
    Brannigan: Then throw her in the laundry room, which will hereafter be referred to as "the brig".
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: After The Rebellion catches Shadow Weaver they have to resort to converting an extra room into a jail.
    Castaspella: This is your prison?
    Queen Angella: Well, technically, it's the spare room, but it is more than adequate as a holding cell. We removed the cushions! [pause] Most of the cushions.
  • In The Simpsons episode, "Bart the General", Bart trains an army of children to defeat Nelson Muntz, the local bully. After being defeated, Nelson is tied up with rope and brought to Bart. Bart, figuring that Nelson "learned his lesson", starts to untie Nelson until Nelson taunts him by saying that the second Bart unties him, he will get beaten to death. Bart suddenly realizes that Nelson has a point: taking Nelson captive was just meant to be a short-term solution to humiliate the bully, and Bart had no plan in place for what to do after that. Fortunately, Herman, the man who had been instructing Bart, had prepared a plan just for this occasion.