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Loser Has Your Back

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"When you first came to CTU, I never thought it was going to be you that was going to cover my back all those years."
Jack Bauer, to Chloe, Series Finale of 24

It's all come down to this. The quest is almost over. One by one, the people on the quest have dropped out, died, or been magically transformed into trees. The final battle is approaching. The Hero turns to see the who is left at his side, only to find... Bob, the Mostly Incompetent Comic Relief Sidekick?

Yes, somehow, the rookie, the Plucky Comic Relief, the Butt-Monkey, The Load, the Mauve Shirt, the... well, you get the idea... is the only person who still has the hero's back. This happens most frequently in a Dwindling Party situation. Expect the hero to say "I never thought you'd be the last one at my side." Alternately, the Hero wangsts that he has been left all alone, so that Bob can remind him that he's still there. Frequently include Heartwarming Moments.

A common variant on this comes when members of a police squad, any type of procedural, military band, or True Companions have been replaced for one reason or another over the course of an entire series. Towards the end, especially in the finale, the hero and the last remaining member of the original band reminisce about how things have changed. In particularly grim versions, everyone else is dead, and the Hero wonders how Bob is the only other survivor.

Sometimes it is the first step on Bob's road to being a badass. Compare Least Is First for when the loser is the first to volunteer for a dangerous job. May also result in the side character getting dangerous. If the following battle happens to be a Dual Boss, the unlikely sidekick is very likely to have a moment to shine by evening the odds. Subtrope of You Are Not Alone.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This almost happens in Dragon Ball Z during the battle against Super Buu: Gotenks and Piccolo were absorbed by the demon, and Goku planned to use the Potara earrings with his son Gohan but he too was absorbed. With Tien (the only real fighter left) knocked out, Goku realizes that the only candidates left for fusion are Dende (which would render the Dragon Balls inert) and Mr. Satan. He chooses Mr. Satan... but just before he throws him the earring, Vegeta returns from Other World.
  • Rave Master, when Haru is about to face Doryuu in his throne room he realizes that of all his companions, the only one left is... Ruby, the inept penguin sorcerer, leaving him less than thrilled at the prospect. Fortunately for him, Ruby manages to turn his chime in a magic sword when Haru is mortally wounded and use its magic to teleport himself and Haru to someone who can cure him.

    Fan Works 
  • Parodied in the Dragon Ball fanfic Dragon Ball Insanity School: After Goku gets seriously damaged by Baby he asks for some help, and Pan quickly promise to help him. Beat. Goku re-asks for some decent help.

  • In Judge Dredd, in the final fight it's Fergee, the petty criminal and con man whom Dredd has been treating like garbage all through the film, who disables Judge Rico's Combat Bot, saving both Dredd and Hershey's lives.
  • In The Fifth Element, effeminate radio host Ruby Rhod is the only person protagonist Corben Dallas can count on during the pitched gun battle.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • From The Two Towers. Frodo has split off from the rest of the Fellowship, with the sole exception of his hired help Samwise, who like most hobbits doesn't have much experience with adventure. However, that doesn't stop him from acting as Frodo's champion for the rest of the journey.
      Faramir: Your bodyguard?
      Sam: His gardener.
    • By The Return of the King, it's totally inverted, as Frodo nearly succumbs to the Ring's seductive powers while his gardener Sam proves to have more balls than a gymnasium.
    • Pippin saves Gandalf from an orc and Faramir from being burned alive. Merry helps Éowyn slay the Witch-King.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 gives Jack Bauer a particularly awesome one of these. He and Chloe are the oldest remaining members of the CTU, and one of the last lines of the entire series is Jack telling Chloe that he never thought she'd make it to the end.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Pandorica Opens", The Doctor has a revived, Roman robot Rory backing him up. And it works.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, episode "The Gift": In a massive fight taking place at a construction site, all of the rest of Buffy's allies have been sidelined, Buffy's been deprived of her weapon, and the Hell-God Glory is bearing down on her, fully capable of tearing Buffy's arms off and feeding them to her:
    Glory: You lost your hammer, sweetcheeks. What're you gonna hit me with now?
    (a wrecking ball comes out nowhere to knock Glory through a brick wall)
    Buffy: Whatever's handy...
    Xander: (shown to be at the wheel of the crane attached to the wrecking ball) And the glorified brick-layer picks up a spare...
    • Xander comes through for Buffy a lot in this way. At the end of the first season, a prophecy decrees Buffy will die. She drowns, but Xander brings her back with CPR. In the second season finale, Xander shows up to help Buffy fight Angelus: "The cavalry's here. Cavalry's a frightened guy with a rock, but it's here." She uses him to get Giles, badly hurt after Angelus' Cold-Blooded Torture, out of the way while the vampires are distracted by fighting her.
  • Constable Bob comes through for Raylan on multiple occasions throughout seasons five and six of Justified despite Bob's bumbling nature.
    Raylan: People underestimate Bob at their own peril.

  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, timid, useless Pod the squire rescues Tyrion by shoving a fully-armoured knight off the side of a boat. Made extra heartwarming because Tyrion assumed it had to be his brother—the only person to ever, up until now, rescue him. Later, Podrick does it again for Brienne.
  • Rowan of Rin: The first book ends with Strong Jonn being accompanied only by Rowan, the weakest child in Rin. Rowan ends up saving the day.
  • An abbreviated version of this occurs in final battle in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In the epic climax, the kids go down pretty much in the reverse order you'd expect (Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Luna...), ending with Neville, who up until then had been the series' Butt-Monkey, as the last man at Harry's side. Its the first indication that Neville isn't as hopeless as he seems, and the first step in Neville's ascension to utter badassery.
    Neville: He's not alone! He's still got me!
  • The Lord of the Rings. Sam Gamgee, the one member of the Fellowship who stays with Frodo all the way to Mt. Doom.
    • This seems to be a recurring trait of hobbits in general.
  • Les Misérables: Enjolras is alone and facing down a firing squad at the end of the barricade battle, before the cynical drunk Grantaire wakes up and pushes through the soldiers to join him.
    And turning gently to Enjolras, he said to him: "Do you permit it?"
    Enjolras pressed his hand with a smile.
    This smile was not ended when the report resounded.

  • Older Than Steam: In the morality play Everyman the title character is abandoned by Beauty, Strength, Discretion and Five Wits. The only one standing by Everyman when he goes to be judged is Good Deeds.

    Video Games 
  • Kinda what happens in the bad ending of Mass Effect 2, though not to Shepard but to the Illusive Man: if you really, really screw up the Suicide Mission, Joker (who is not a loser but he is no fighter, either) is the only Normandy crew member that Cerberus ends up with for the upcoming battle against the Reapers.
    • Even in a normal ending, Joker helps out by standing at the ship's outer door with an assault rifle and covering Shepard and co. as they run back to the Normandy. For most players, it's probably the last thing they'd expect to see someone with brittle bone disease doing (even in light of Cerberus springing for some proper medical treatment).
  • Should you rescue her from her bullies, Nonogusa from Bible Black helps you in the good route.

    Web Animation 
  • In Red vs. Blue, when the Blood Gulch Crew stop arguing and band together, they're actually fairly successful losers.

  • Happens to Sheilla Horowitz in Knights of the Dinner Table during the "Grudge Match" arc. Following the elimination games, one member of each of the gaming groups is supposed to belly up to the table for the final showdown. Sheila expects to be backed up by the power players from the other 'evil' groups: the other players being supposed to take the fall to allow them to progress. Instead she finds herself Surrounded by Idiots.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Goofy cartoon "Double Dribble", Polytechnical University's team keeps losing players until the only one left is Merrithew, a pipsqueak who is only knee-high to the others. Surprisingly (or not) he wins the game.