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Let Him Choose

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Alice and Bob are disputing custody of a child or pet. The solution at which they arrive (or the one that is imposed on them by an authority figure, such as a judge, parent [if Alice and Bob are siblings], etc.) is to let the child or pet at issue choose which one he/she wants. Usually, the child or pet is placed in between Alice and Bob, and one of the characters (Bob) will try and talk it into coming with them, while the other will just stand there and wait. More often than not, the animal or child will have already made up its mind and go with Alice.

Sometimes, however, the big issue is not the people making someone make a choice, but the point that someone is being forced to make a very unpleasant choice—especially in a romance situation. These situations most often do not settle the issue, and have a high likelihood of the one making the choice being hurt. Badly.

The child/pet may sometimes Take a Third Option.

Contrast with Disney Dog Fight. Also contrast I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Young Justice: In issue #2, the team has come into possession of a sentient motorcycle dubbed "The Super Cycle" and soon they come into contact with the original owner and invoke this trope which involves Robin and the gigantic New God Rip Roar, motioning, whistling and chanting for this enormous bike to choose one of them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the movie version of Bewitched, one scene in the Show Within a Show has Darrin and his ex-wife arguing over custody of their dog. They decide to Let Him Choose. Samantha/Isabel does her bit, and the dog ignores both Darrin and the ex to go flying into Samantha/Isabel's arms instead. She comments, "Thank God you didn't have a Great Dane!" to much laughter.
  • The first Air Bud movie uses this trope at the end, with Buddy's ownership being disputed between the man who lost Buddy when he literally fell off the back of the man's truck, and the boy who found Buddy not long after that. Since the original owner has been rather abusive in the past and the boy has constantly been a loving and caring sort of owner, this choice is a foregone conclusion.
  • Seen in the film As Good as It Gets, with the twist that both participants want the dog to pick the original owner. The new-comer later admits that part of the reason the dog warmed to him so quickly (and maybe even why he picked him when given the choice) was that he had been carrying bacon in his pocket as a doggy treat.
  • Played with in the movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence with Teddy choosing between David and Martin, but averts this by going to Monica who walks in.
  • Monkey Trouble, The end has Dodger choose between Eva and his original owner.
  • In Son of the Mask when the little boy has to choose between Loki and the mask, or his now normal dad.
  • In Mr. Nobody, a young Nemo is faced with the choice of the Mommy or the Daddy.
  • In Catch Me If You Can, Frank coming home to learn of his parent's impending separation and having the choice of custody forced on him is what leads to his running away and subsequent years of life as a con man.

  • The first book of Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins series ends with Ribsy's original owner showing up and wanting his dog back. They decide to let Ribsy choose. He goes with Henry, of course.
  • A major Tear Jerker in one of Jack London's Alaska stories.
  • Perfect the Pig ends with the winged pig choosing between the woman who took him in and was kind to him, or the con artist who abused him.
  • The Oliver Moffit/"Oliver and Company" book series (no relation to the Disney film) by Page and Michael McBriar: In the book Oliver's Back-Yard Circus, Oliver's five-year-old neighbor Andrew Finch meets a big blue dog (whom Oliver later identifies as a purebred Neapolitan mastiff, a rare but valuable breed) and wants to befriend him, but is held back, and the dog runs off elsewhere. Neighborhood bully Rusty Jackson later shows up with the animal, whom he's named Yuck, and offers him to Oliver for the eponymous circus as a sideshow freak (labeled "The Ugliest Dog in the World"). However, he also makes it clear that he's taking Yuck to the pound to be put down once the show ends; luckily for Yuck, Andrew sneaks him out to safety before he can appear in the show. Later, the dog's original owner Yolanda Yates (an actress who left him in a kennel, which he'd escaped from, while she was on vacation) returns and, after seeing how much Andrew loves him and confessing that Rudolpho (or Rudy) was a gift she herself didn't much care for, she agrees to let Andrew keep Rodolfo, and receive the reward she was offering for his return. Rusty shows up then and claims since he found the dog first, he should keep him. Mrs. Yates winds up letting Rudolpho pick which of them he wants to stay with, and the dog chooses Andrew (who also gets the reward as a result), to Rusty's great frustration.

    Live Action TV 
  • Happened in an episode of CSI, where a feuding divorcing couple both wanted to keep the golden retriever. They did the classic "let the dog choose" thing, but the wife cheated by smearing bacon grease under her fingernails. Upon discovery of the cheat, murder, mayhem, and duplicate dogs became involved...
  • Parodied on Scrubs, where J.D. and Turk do this with Rowdy, a stuffed lab. Or rather, they stage the scene and wait for someone to walk in so they can act it out (it's a stuffed dog after all).
  • Attempted with a million-dollar cat on Designing Women; the cat Took a Third Option.
  • In a Salute Your Shorts episode, there was a dispute between two campers as to who owned a champion jumping frog: the person who found it, or the person who trained it. The official rules on the situation are to draw a circle, put the animal inside it, and have it jump to whoever it wanted to claim it. The frog Takes a Third Option and jumps to an entirely unrelated person, so the Judgment of Solomon is eventually employed instead.
  • Sam & Cat: Happened with Dice's dog when its previous owner, a snooty rich girl, came to reclaim him so the dog could compete with her in a fancy dance competition. Dice is unwilling to give him up, so he comes up with the idea to put the dog in the middle of the room, call to him, and see who he goes to. The dog runs to Dice before they can even start calling him.
  • On The Suite Life on Deck, the newly broken up Cody and Bailey argue over which one of them should keep their pet rat from science class. Kirby spends the entire episode doing a full inspection to determine which of the former couple should take custody of the rat. However, at the end of the episode, he decides to let the rat choose for itself. Surprisingly, the rat chooses neither of them and stays with Kirby.

  • Subverted in Fans!, in which Rikk's Evil Counterpart Keith Feddyg, after guilting Alisin, who had abused him, into becoming his sex slave, offers her the chance to choose. She chooses Keith, but Rikk beats him up and leads Alisin home by the hand.
  • Parodied in Amazing Superpowers. The setup looks like the man and woman are letting a pet choose, but it's actually a child custody battle.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Bart and the Blind Man let Santa's Little Helper choose who he wants to go with. Santa chooses Bart, but later, Laddie chooses the Blind Man's pockets, as they were filled with marijuana.
    • Played with when Bart and Lisa do this with Maggie. She chose the TV set.
    • And again with Maggie choosing between Homer and Flanders. She was about to go to Flanders, until Marge arrived.
    • Subverted in a "Treehouse of Horror" episode. As Earth's population faces destruction due to the Y2K bug, Lisa is offered passage to Mars, with a select group of geniuses, but can take only one parent with her. The flight coordinator begins to talk about how agonizing a decision this must be when Lisa interrupts by calmly and unhesitatingly choosing Marge.
  • Futurama: "Mars University" Fry and the Professor made Guenter the monkey choose between being superintellient or not. The Professor offered him the hat which granted him superintelligence while Fry offered him a banana.
    Professor: Take the hat, Guenter!
    Fry: No! The banana!
    Professor: Consider the philosophical ramifications of the...
    Fry: Banana! Banana! Banana!
    • Guenter initially picks the banana, but winds up using the hat anyway when he's needed to save lives. It's subsequently damaged in the process and he's left with only moderate intelligence, which he's much happier with.
  • In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, Spongebob gets jealous of Gary wanting to go stay with Patrick, and decide to Let Him Choose. Gary chooses Patrick because of a cookie in Patrick's back pocket.
  • Total Drama: After the Gophers and Bass are dissolved and the campers are split into boys' and girls' teams, Bridgette is made to choose which two girls to befriend in this way.
  • Teen Titans (2003): "Can I Keep Him?" Starfire and Killer Moth call to Silkie in this manner. Killer Moth is generally baffled as to what is going on.
    • Becomes hilarious when Killer Moth tries to use the same crooning, motherly tone of voice as Starfire.
  • The Loud House episode "Changing the Baby" has Lincoln and the girls fighting over Lily because they each want to mold her into a mini version of themselves until they decide to let Lily choose who she wants to be with. Each then holds things up to entice Lily, which overwhelms her in the process. Lily ends up choosing Clyde because he has her discarded blankie.