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Locked Up and Left Behind

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Sometimes, when someone is locked in a closet or Bound and Gagged, it's not for ransom or use as a hostage or some other practical concern, but instead merely as a mean "prank", or to get someone out of the way. The poor victim is left behind and... what's going to happen to them? Are they being left behind to die, or are they left out in a public place where they'll clearly be rescued? Are they knowingly being left where no-one will rescue them, or did the captor take that into account? For that matter, did the captor just leave them somewhere and then forget about them?

This trope is sometimes the result of bullying. It's often portrayed as positive when it's done by the heroes or to an annoying or intentionally dislikeable character. Other times, it's Played for Drama, with tragic consequences. And sometimes it's Played for Laughs (usually in Black Comedy manner).

It's common for this trope to be paired with Exposed to the Elements in Two-Fisted Tales, Jungle Opera, Spaghetti Westerns and the like. A victim of this trope will likely be tied up and left out to bake in a Hungry Jungle or Thirsty Desert with the captor intending to let them die of thirst, maybe near a bed of ants or next to the skeletons of past victims. Of course, these villain are normally examples of Bond Villain Stupidity, which means the hero will escape as soon as they leave.

The main thing you will always see with this trope is that it is practically married to Bottomless Bladder. It won't matter how long a character is left Bound and Gagged, because things we in Real Life require like food, water, expulsion of waste, sleeping and the like does not matter in fiction. Even if this is lampshaded by the villain trying to kill a hero with hunger or thirst and leaves them bound for several hours or even days, to build suspense of course, even then, the hero will somehow will be strong enough to go stop the villain.

Often crosses over with Something We Forgot, in which the victim is left somewhere intentionally but for longer than their captor intended. Also compare Anti-Interference Lock Up, which is far more temporary.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, after Jotaro beats the stuffing out of one-shot villain ZZ and neutralizes his Stand, the heroes tie ZZ's unconscious body to a boulder and put up a sign saying he's a meditating monk who is not to be disturbed.
  • For Ryoko's very first breather in Nana & Kaoru, Kaoru has her and Nana change into swimsuits and ties them both up in a room that is deliberately slightly too hot to be comfortable. Kaoru claims he needs to run some errands and leaves the two alone, promising to return in two and a half hours. While Nana is at least able to see and speak, Ryoko is bound, gagged, blindfolded, and completely helpless to do anything but wait for Kaoru to return. The two are left in a hot, sticky room with no way for Ryoko to wipe away her drool and no proper way for her to relieve her gradually increasing need to pee. In reality, Kaoru merely moves to the balcony so he can secretly keep an eye on the two for the entire duration in order to ensure their safety.

    Audio Play 
  • In The Watcher in the Rain: one of the Imperium of Man's planets, K4, is being engulfed by a Warpstorm, causing both physical apocalyptical floods on the planet surface, and cutting it from the rest of the Imperium, forcing the authorities to evacuate the population in the short time left before total isolation. The Imperium being the same cold dictature as always, it didn't bother to evacuate the asylum inmates, or neither just let them out of the building to let them flee by their own means. And even without knowing the existence of the Watcher, the Imperium's authorities were very aware the inmates would die in the flood, and abandon them anyway because they don't see the utility to waste space and resources to save them. No matter if they became insane at least partly because they gave their lives to the Administratum, so to the Imperium.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens fairly regularly in Empowered, whose lead character gets absolutely no respect from her peers. One time, she even manages to single-handedly rescue the entire team by driving an SUV into the baddie while all tied up, and the team still wanders off, leaving her trapped behind the wheel.

    Fan Works 
  • The King Nobody Wanted: A nerve-wracking but ultimately positive version of this is referenced in chapter 91. Brandon Stark's squire, Ethan Glover, describes how he spent a year in the black cells, constantly expecting a horrible execution like the other members of Brandon Stark's party. Jamie tells him that Aerys may have planned some horrible execution for Ethan at one point, but probably just forgot about him after a while.
  • To The Night Sky: Edward utterly freaks out when he realizes the nurses are going to strap him in a straitjacket and lock him up in a padded cell for several days. The ensuing mental breakdown is described in horrific details.

    Films — Animated 
  • In A Bug's Life, there's a scene where the boss of the bug circus is seen wrapped up in a cocoon and hanging from the ceiling, begging to be let out, "I promise to start thinking about paying you!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Casper: A Spirited Beginning, a kid who's often picked on by bullies is left locked in the closet of a building that's condemned and about to be blown up. He's rescued by Tim and Casper, the latter of whom eats the bomb and saves the building.
  • In Day of the Evil Gun, the Apaches stake Warfield and Forbes out in the desert to die.
  • Ex Machina: Caleb is trapped in Nathan's sealed underground bedroom which he can't open, 100 miles from any other person.
  • MouseHunt plays this for dark humor. It's stated early in the movie that the previous owner of the house with a mouse in it was found dead, locked in a trunk in the attic. Later, an exterminator is hired, and he is later rescued by people who heard his screams and called 911. It's stated he was found locked in a trunk in the attic.
  • At the end of The Pit and the Pendulum, Nicholas' wife Elizabeth is left locked in an iron maiden. The only person who knew she was there is dead and everyone else thinks she is dead, so the survivors turn out the lights and seal up the dungeon forever. The last thing we see before the Fade to Black is a close-up of her terrified eyes peering through the tiny slot in the face of her prison. It's OK, though, because she deserved it after deliberately driving her husband insane. Just try not to think about the fact that she's going to die slowly from starvation and/or dehydration...
  • A Running Gag in Rookie of the Year has doors close of their own accord behind Brickma. This has resulted in him being trapped between the two doors connecting his hotel room to Henry's, and later in his clubhouse locker for the final league championship game.
  • Saw:
    • Any trap that doesn't kill you outright will do this to you instead, such as the iconic Bathroom.
    • In particular, this is done to Hoffman in Saw 3D - Dr. Gordon leaves Hoffman trapped in the Bathroom (specifically, he chains him to the same pipe he was chained to in the first film, and removes any means to escape from him), condeming him to a slow death. Word of God confirmed that Hoffman doesn't escape, but it's currently a case of Uncertain Doom due to discussions to bring him back in a later installment.
  • At the end of Trading Places, as Randolph Duke is being wheeled past Winthorpe and Valentine, he yells, "Where in hell is Beeks?" "Beeks!" Valentine muses "Yeah, I forgot all about that guy!" Cut to a cage being loaded onto a ship bound for Africa, containing the amorous gorilla and Beeks, who's still in the ape costume Winthorpe and Valentine put him in when they locked him in the cage.

  • In "All Summer In A Day", the other children lock Margot into a closet before the sun comes out on their constantly-raining planet and only remember her after the rain has come back for another seven years.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry attempts to spy on Malfoy by putting on his Inivisibility Cloak, and sneaking into Malfoy's compartment on the Hogwarts Express. When Malfoy discovers Harry, he paralyses him with a spell, stamps on his nose, and leaves him there, covered by his own Invisibility Cloak, not caring at all what happens to Harry, as the train starts to return to London. Harry is discovered by Tonks soon afterwards.
  • In Reaper's Gale, book seven of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Rhulad Sengar (who, it should be noted, is being driven insane by his Artifact of Doom sword) orders his parents chained up in the dungeons after they dared speak against him in open court. When he remembers later to let them out, he's told that they drowned when the dungeons flooded, days earlier.
  • In Room, "Old Nick" threatens Ma and Jack with this and will often go away for several days in order to force her into compliance. Ultimately, they don't die and Ma and Jack succeed in escaping when Ma reveals this is about to be their real fate.
  • In The Silmarillion, Maedhros is Chained to a Rock by his right wrist. He is just left there for many years by Morgoth. When his cousin shows up he begs for death, but is freed when his cousin cuts off his hand. Referenced in the Blind Guardian song "Blood Tears".
  • In SOPHIE, this is revealed to be what Matthew did to his sister Sophie and has continued to do for many women throughout the years in order to re-enact it, manipulating them with a fake key. Ultimately, it's possible that he kills them or just leaves them there.
  • In The Stand, the entire administration of the Arizona prison where Lloyd Henried is being kept either skips town or dies off, leaving all the prisoners locked in their cells. By the time Randall Flagg stops by, Lloyd is the only survivor and is perhaps days or even hours from dying of starvation, a situation Flagg takes full advantage of to coerce an oath of loyalty out of Lloyd before letting him out.
  • Worm begins this way, with Taylor Hebert becoming victim of a prank by the local Alpha Bitch duo that traps her inside of her locker (that the bullies had filled with garbage and biological waste beforehand--it even ends with her getting infected cuts) and left inside for what is implied to be several class periods. The trauma of this event triggers superpowers within her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: In "A Tragedy of Telepaths", Londo and G'kar accidentally discover G'kar's former aide Na'toth forgotten in a dungeon cell in the Centauri imperial palace, more than a year after the Centauri ended their occupation of the Narn homeworld. Since she was originally imprisoned there for being "insufficiently entertaining" to the Centauri court, Londo surmises that Emperor Cartagia, ever the Caligula, threw her in there and then never had a reason to rescind the order, having likely forgotten she'd ever existed. If it hadn't been for the palace being staffed with Absurdly Dedicated Workers who kept up feeding her long after Cartagia's death, Na'toth probably would have died in that cell.
  • In one episode of Burn Notice, a group of hostage-takers planned to do this to the hostages they had taken once they stole the money they were after. Specifically, they were planned to lock the hostages in the vault and let them suffocate.
  • In Castle Rock, Warden Lacey did this to the Kid because he had enough doubt about whether or not he was actually evil to not be able to kill him. He does, however, suspect that the Kid will survive because the prison is being privatized and therefore checked through again.
  • An episode of Cold Case featured a villain who would abduct women and imprison them in a windowless cell for months in order to break their spirit. Once this was achieved, he would leave them there to starve to death.
  • One episode of CSI: NY, "Get Me Out of Here," had a fraternity initiation prank gone horribly wrong. One of the pledges was locked in a coffin in a crypt and the others had to find him. However, the pledge master who runs the initiation was murdered and he was the only one who knew where the crypt was.
  • One episode of the original CSI featured a former Jerk Jock, who turned out to have been killed by another student he once left duct-taped up in a locker (the result being that he was left with scars from removing the duct tape and ended up in hospital for so long he had to drop out of high school, essentially ruining his life).
  • Doctor Who: In "Partners in Crime," reporter Penny Carter is captured and tied to a chair by the villains twice, the second time after being freed and ignoring the Doctor's advice to Get Out! She turns up at the end carrying the chair, which she's still tied to, and rather peeved about the whole thing.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard had an episode where Bo and Luke escaped from the Hazzard Jail by handcuffing Enos' hands to a chair (arms crossed) and gagged, then hung the chair on a coat rack mounted to the wall. Several times during the episode, Roscoe or Boss Hogg is just outside the room he's trapped in, wondering where he is. At the end of the episode, Bo and Luke remember they left him there, by which time he has fallen asleep.
  • In Kenny Rogers as The Gambler III: The Legend Continues, the first half ends with Brady Hawks (Kenny Rogers) and his sidekick Billy Montana (Bruce Boxleitner) captured by the bad guys, then tied down and left in a canyon, about to be trampled to death by stampeding cattle.
  • In an episode of The Mentalist the victim was tricked into letting himself be tied up and locked up in a locker in an abandoned factory. He thought it was just a game he and a co-worker were playing but the co-worker just left him there to die.
  • For most of Scrubs episode "His Story III," JD is locked up by the Janitor in a water tower.
    • The Janitor enlists Ted and Todd to duct tape JD to the cafeteria ceiling.
    • The Janitor has the rest of the custodial staff duct tape Dr. Cox in the morgue drawer after he lightly pushes The Janitor.
      Duct-taped two hours in a morgue drawer; don't piss off the Janitor; end of story.
  • The third-season The X-Files episode "Apocrypha" ends with villainous double (triple?) agent Alex Krycek locked in a missile silo eight stories underground, pounding on the door and screaming to be let out.

    Video Games 
  • Played for mean-spirited humor in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Tetra and her band of pirates rob a rude bomb store owner and steal all his bombs, leaving him Bound and Gagged, which you the player witness before the pirates leave. He struggles infinitely as long as the player is still there, and it's impossible for the player to free him. However, when you eventually visit him again, not only is he free, but he is much more well-mannered and his prices become reasonable.

    Visual Novels 
  • Before a drinking game in Roommates, the character Dominic is tied to a chair so he can't interfere with the partying. After getting horribly drunk, the other characters stumble upstairs and leave him there for the whole night. Understandably, they are horrified when they walk downstairs the next morning and find him still there. Luckily, Rakesh loses the rock-paper-scissors game and has to untie him.

  • When Bruno considers a kidnap-and-ransom scheme in Bruno the Bandit he remembers the last time he tried it. Several years ago. And forgot about the kidnap victim.
  • #Killstagram: An orphan girl was kept locked up in a room, and the captors didn't come back for her when the building caught on fire. She would later become the phantom assassin, trapping various people in a Deadly Game for committing violent crimes against children.
  • In Sunstone, during one of Ally and Alan's early sessions, a bad burrito on Alan's part and a blown-out fuse conspired to leave Ally alone and tied up for forty minutes that were utterly agonizing for both her and Alan. It was the incident that convinced both of them that they needed to buckle down and change the game.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer, "Honeypot": two Cuban agents tie up Archer's elderly butler Woodhouse, and at the end of the episode Archer suddenly remembers it, and that he'd probably been tied up for hours...and finds it hilarious.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph escapes from a metal box by spontaneously metalbending, then traps her captors inside. There is no indication that the captors are ever found or rescued, and they are never seen again for the rest of the series. Fridge Horror is however thankfully averted when the sequel comic The Rift reveals that they got out somehow, but gave up their hunt for Toph after that incident.
  • In an episode of Family Guy Stewie falls for his teenage babysitter and gets rid of her boyfriend by tying him up and locking him in Brian's car boot. At the end credits, he realises mid-sentence that he forgot to let him out.
    Stewie: Oh damn! Jeremy is still in the trunk! How long has it been, erm two weeks? Yeah, he's dead. — Definitely dead.
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Soldier Of Misfortune", Hank, Bill, and Boomhauer have been captured by Dale's rival Mad Dog and he leaves them tied up in a back room. After Dale convinces Mad Dog that he hired some mercenaries to kill him (actually flower delivery men), he unties them, but Mad Dog rigged the building to explode. They then realize that they forgot that Bill is still tied up inside the building. Bill manages to escape but he falls into a trap he had fallen into earlier.
  • The Simpsons, "Whacking Day": Bart and a few other low-achieving Springfield Elementary students are locked in a basement utility room to keep them out of the way during a "surprise" visit from Superintendent Chalmers. Bart escapes and causes havoc. At the end of the episode—several days (if not weeks) later—Principal Skinner realizes the others are still locked up down there. They all survived because they were locked up with boxes of food, but Skinner was ready to Run for the Border in case they hadn't.
  • Total Drama Action: As part of a bank heist challenge, both teams have to rescue one of their members from a locked vault. The Screaming Gaffers eventually decide that this part is taking too long, so they leave Leshawna in the vault and go to the next part of the challenge. She's still there at the end of the episode, and only gets free before the next one begins.

    Real Life 
  • One scene of the Doctor Who serial "The Mark of the Rani" required the Doctor (played by Colin Baker) to be tied to a large pole in order to pull off a Tribal Carry. Because Baker wore a difficult support harness to take the strain off his wrists, it was impossible to untie him in-between takes, so they just laid him on the ground when the cameras weren't rolling. However, due to rapidly fluctuating weather, the team had to quickly move every time it started raining to film a different scene set in the rain. During one such move, Baker noticed the team packing up, but didn't realize they'd forgotten to bring him along until they were already out of earshot. It took half an hour for someone to realize he'd been left behind and to come get him.
    • Baker told this story in the DVD commentary of "The Mark of the Rani". He also said that, because the filming took place in a public forest, he was found after ten minutes by a couple and their dog. But because the couple had never heard of Doctor Who and didn't recognize him, the absurdity of the situation led them to just leave him there.
  • While filming an episode of Get Smart star Don Adams and guest star Don Rickles were tied up during a scene. When they broke for lunch, Adams got the crew to "accidentally" leave Rickles tied up, leaving him screaming for help.
  • As recounted by Bill Mumy once during filming of Lost in Space he and Mark Goddard (Don West) left Bob May, the actor inside Robot, locked in there during a lunch break. He realized a short time later that it might be funny to him but it wasn't funny to Bob so he went back with Mark. They discovered the robot costume smoking and Mumy was sure he had killed May! It turns out May was just smoking a cigarette and reading a newspaper while waiting to be let out.
  • Two of Belgian pedophile Marc Dutroux's victims had died because he was incarcerated for car theft, and they starved to death while being kept captive on one of his properties. The worst part: a detective went to search the property and was alerted to the sound of screaming children by a colleague, but he mistook it as children playing in the street and unwittingly left them there.


Video Example(s):


Na'toth and a Spring Flower

"A Tragedy of Telepaths". Londo and G'kar discover the latter's former aide Na'toth forgotten in a prison cell in the Centauri imperial palace, a full year after the withdrawal of the Centauri from the Narn homeworld. Londo theorizes -- to G'kar's fury -- that she was imprisoned on the order of the late Emperor Cartagia, who then promptly forgot about her and so never ordered her released. He relates a story from his childhood of seeing a guard still stationed in an empty courtyard for no reason, simply because a princess two centuries earlier posted a guard on the first flower of spring and then never rescinded the order.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / AbsurdlyDedicatedWorker

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