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Play-Along Prisoner

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"I could have escaped any time. But I thought I'd stick around to keep an eye on you clowns."

Congratulations! You just captured the notoriously dangerous and evasive adversary. You've got them Bound and Gagged, and using Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, they still won't budge. Finally, they ask a question: "I'm bored. Can I go now?" and then they proceed to break free like they could have done it at any time.

Highly related to Breaking the Bonds, except that the prisoner decides to hang around for a while before breaking free. May sometimes be a form of I Surrender, Suckers, when the person deliberately allows themselves to be detained. Sometimes, the captive might not bother to escape, and just hang around until the end of their prison sentence (but still heavily imply that they could have walked out at any time). Occasionally, the prisoner stays in prison because there's no real reason to escape since they're working their schemes just fine from inside. This is a useful skill for the Trojan Prisoner. It also often shows up as part of a villain's escape from a prison that's apparently made out of cardboard.

This Trope can be a dangerous foil for The Jailer, and often is. Also a common case for powerful heroes who have been Wrongly Accused. They often stay around to show their respect for justice, and because breaking out would convince people of their guilt, as well as getting them into unwanted fights. It can also be a form of protective custody from their point of view. Compare Captured on Purpose, where a character lets themselves be captured as part of a plan and can't necessarily escape easily.

See also Self-Restraint, Keeping the Handicap.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baki the Grappler:
    • Biscuit Oliva is the strongest man in the world, at least in raw strength terms. He lives in an Arizona Prison called "The Black Pentagon". His inmates call him "the Unchained" because no walls or doors are strong enough to restrain him. His rival, "Che" Guevara, also seems to be totally free into the prison, and he later disappears without no one noticing it until he's gone.
    • Speck uses the Japanese prison as a free room.
      Speck: Yeah! Nice food, clean air... but the portions suck! -then he goes out, buys some Chinese buns, goes to the policemen WCs, gets the police chief to eat a bun (without washing his hands), and goes back to the jail to take a nap.
  • In Black Butler, Battle Butler Sebastian does this on his master's orders. Really ironic when he confesses to causing the Black Death, and they protest that it happened several hundred years ago.
  • Dazai sort of does this in Bungo Stray Dogs when captured by the Port Mafia. Chuya comes along and, after some talking, breaks Dazai's chains off of the wall so they can fight. Dazai then reveals that he'd actually managed to unlock the shackles on his wrists and thus could've gotten out whenever he wanted.
  • Dazzle:
    • In the first volume, Alzeid was forced to become the pet of a spoiled rich girl, who locked him in a giant birdcage. After a while, he told her off, bent open the cage's bars, and went back to his hotel, because he had to go to the bathroom.
    • In a later volume, the gang get arrested because they happen to run into a certain boy. After hearing the boy's story, Alzeid offers his help getting revenge. The three remove their handcuffs and leave without any effort. Baroqueheat didn't even get to try prison food.
  • Used to some awesome results in the second episode of Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) where Ed lets himself be captured to expose Father Cornello. Cue Cornello's surprised face when Ed casually starts eating his prison food, something that had been impossible moments earlier when he was chained up. Then he reveals the microphone that Ed used to broadcast their private conversation to the entire town.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers: During World War I, Germany captures Italy. He then becomes so annoyed by Italy's antics that he demands why Italy is not trying to escape, walks him to the door, opens it, and tells him he can go. Italy's reaction? He walks outside, flirts with a few girls, and comes back in. This is most likely because they are A Match Made in Stockholm. Italy himself says "As long as I'm with you, I get fed and nobody picks on me. I like living here!"
  • A funny moment in Higurashi: When They Cry Kai, when Rena tries twice to take Hanyuu home with her. The rest of the class ties her up. Rena waits until she decides it'd be funniest, then easily bursts out of her ropes and tries for a third time to steal Hanyuu.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, the climax of the Yorknew Arc is when Kurapika finally catches the leader of the Phantom Troupe, Chrollo, but on the other hand, his friends Gon and Killua are captured by the Troupe. Kurapika demands a prisoner trade, with Troupe member Pakunoda as the intermediate. On their way to his location, Pakunoda observes that, weakened as she was, the two kids could easily overpower her, letting Kurapika free to kill Chrollo. The kids then say they are playing along so Kurapika does not go on the dark path revenge is leading him, to which Pakunoda thanks.
  • In Immortal Rain, Rain is this in the rare times he gets caught. The warden lampshades this by getting angry that he uses the high-security zeppelin-prison as a taxi, getting caught only when he needs to get someplace far.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
    • At the start of Stardust Crusaders, Jotaro Kujo actively keeps himself in prison and resists all attempts to get him released to keep his 'evil spirit' (Stand) from hurting other people. He finally leaves when he learns about his powers.
    • In Golden Wind, the gangster Polpo is perpetually in prison, which doesn't stop him from running the criminal underground of Naples. He could get out whenever he'd want (assuming he'd fit through the door, but then again, he got in somehow), but why would he when he gets food, bed, and security for free?
  • Mikoto does this to some extent in K, because he's way stronger than anyone in SCEPTER 4 besides Reisi. Mikoto only breaks free after finding out where Totsuka's killer was and setting off to find him.
  • Lupin III: If the title character is ever caught, he treats the prison as this. Although sometimes the prison may show him it isn't that easy. This is even assuming he didn't plan this as a Get into Jail Free gambit. Similar to his ancestor (see the Literature examples), if Lupin the Third is in prison, it's because he wants to be.
  • Isis Eaglet in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force. Her Genre Savvy captor even lampshaded it, noting that she has a "these restraints are no big deal, but I should hear you out for now" expression. Naturally, her captor was right, and the moment that the place she's in came under attack, she proceeded to casually snap her restraints in half.
  • At one point in Nisemonogatari, Araragi wakes up to find himself chained up and restrained by Senjogahara. Given their... interesting relationship, he plays along for a while trying to get her to tell him why she did this. But the moment he hears that his sister is in trouble, he snaps the chains and leaves, although it's later revealed to technically have been Shinobu who broke them for him.
  • One Piece:
    • We first see Silvers Rayleigh as a prisoner in a human trafficking operation. He later escapes easily and admits to a fellow escapee that he only allowed himself to be caught so he could rob whoever bought him at the next auction. He then realized that no one was going to pay for an old man like him, so he decided to cut out the middleman and rob the slave shop.
    • In the Impel Down arc, Luffy asks Emporio Ivankov if he wants to help him bust out his brother Portgas D. Ace. He first replies that he'll only escape when the time is right, which would be the time when Dragon the Revolutionary begins to make his move against the World Government. When he hears that Luffy is his son, he decides that the time is now, and sure enough, a massive jailbreak does occur, albeit barely succeeding partly due to another break-in at the same time.
    • When Kaido is first introduced, the narrator notes that he had been arrested numerous times before breaking out. How could the Navy capture someone called "The World's Strongest Creature"? A flashback reveals that Kaido would let the Navy catch him when he was hungry. Once he had been fed enough, he would bust out.
  • One of the Class S Heroes in One-Punch Man, Puri-Puri Prisoner, is a towering Hard Gay stereotype dressed in classic prison jammies... because he's serving a life sentence for repeated sexual assault. Not that that, or his old-school ball-and-chain, stops him from breaking out whenever there's a call for high-level heroes, PARTICULARLY if any of the handsome, young, male heroes he's got his eyes on (hint: that would be ALL of the young, male heroes) are in danger or have been injured (It's okay, he breaks back in afterwards). "I broke out of prison just to see you..." is basically his catchphrase.
  • Kyosuke Hyobu in Psychic Squad sat imprisoned, letting B.A.B.E.L. think their countermeasures against him were effective until it was time to set his plans in motion. When one of his people was captured, he simply told him to rest up and that they'll bust him out when they need him.
  • Ban from The Seven Deadly Sins spent five years in prison, being nailed to a wall with huge steel stakes. He was deprived of sunlight, food, and even movement. However, after he heard about his captain's return, he pulled the stakes out of his limbs, kicked the door down, and went to the exit, while effortlessly defeating anyone who tried to stop him. When the knight who originally caught him attempted to stop his escape, he revealed that he let himself be jailed and tortured out of boredom, and proceeded to kill the knight with his own weapon.
  • Princess Syalis from Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle leaves her cell every single chapter, and has, on several occasions, left the Demon King Castle grounds entirely without anyone trying to stop her. Why she keeps coming back is anyone's guess, with fan theories suggesting she does it because she wouldn't be able to sleep all the time if she went home, or that she's a Genius Ditz obsessed with getting to sleep to the exclusion of all else, and it's just never occurred to her she could go home.
  • In Trigun, Vash bumbles his way into a volatile scene and gets captured and tied up. He frequently escapes his bonds and does something weird to keep the situation from getting deadly but insists on staying there, getting tied up again, even at one point trying to re-tie himself up.
  • In the Weekend arc of Witchcraft Works, Kazane is put out of action by a massive magical attack that Weekend estimates would leave her powerless for a week. At the end of the arc, she reveals that she'd actually regained her power in a day and was just hanging around her cell to see how the younger generation of witches, including her daughter Kagari, would handle the crisis. And to spend some time indulging in her hobby of crafting kokeshi dolls.

    Comic Books 
  • In Alias, Jessica Jones is taken in for questioning in a murder case (the murdered party being her client). The cops know she has superhuman strength and durability, and note that if she wanted to, she could just get up and walk out, with none of them able to stop her. Jessica agrees this is true, and when pressed as to why she doesn't do that, observes that at the moment, she's only being questioned, whereas leaving the precinct (with presumably at least some force needed) would get her in a lot more trouble.
  • Aquila: One of the gifts bestowed on Aquila by the evil goddess that resurrected him is that no lock or chain can hold or bind him for longer than he wishes. When he's first introduced having been chained up by an old man, he calmly listens to the man explaining his reasons for wanting revenge before casting off his chains and killing him.
  • Asterix:
    • In Asterix the Gaul, after the Roman army captured Getafix, Asterix went to rescue him. After a brief discussion, he decided to surrender (which took some effort since the Romans were scared) and have Getafix brew a special potion. The first one was a hair growth potion to trap the soldiers; the second was claimed to be a potion to stop the hair growth but was really a soup. The magic potion was brewed alongside the soup to make Asterix surprisingly powerful in an instant, just before a high-ranking official came to inspect the camp.
    • In Asterix in Britain Obelix, after being captured while drunk and put in the Tower of Londinium, simply decides to walk out and effortlessly rips his chains from the walls and pushes down the door.
    • In Asterix and Cleopatra, the heroes are imprisoned after being falsely accused of attempting to poison the queen with the Special Iced Arsenic Cake. They use the time in prison to prepare a defense and when they are ready to present it to the queen, Obelix all but ignores their restraints and guards.
    • In Asterix and the Goths, Obelix repeatedly breaks down the prison door to request various ingredients from the guards (are you noticing a trend?)
    • In Asterix in Switserland, Getafix demands that Sinusitus (the sick Roman he offered to help) be kept at their village as a 'hostage' for Asterix and Obelix's safe return (they have to go to Helvetia to find Silver Star for the cure). Sinusitus agrees since he has nothing to lose, and when Asterix objects this tactic, Getafix reveals it's actually just an excuse to take Sinusitus to safety since it's obvious he was poisoned on purpose.
  • The first issue of Batman: Gotham Adventures sees the Joker brought to the Batcave for safekeeping (it's a long story). When the rest of the team is called out on a mission, he is handcuffed to a rail and Batgirl is left to guard him. After annoying her for a while with his Talkative Loon qualities, he quotes Roger Rabbit almost word for word: "I could have gotten out of these cuffs any time I wanted. I just had to wait until it was funny." And then he does.
  • Invincible: Allen the Alien allowed himself to be held prisoner by the Viltrumites until a particular point in time. His jailers probably should have suspected something when their multiple execution attempts utterly failed.
  • In Loki: Agent of Asgard, young Loki saves Thor from a very dangerous parasitic influence and delivers it in a jar to the All-Mother, who promptly imprison it (an older, more powerful, and unrepentantly evil version of Loki) in the most secure cell in the deepest dungeons of Asgardia. Where it, or rather they, pull an Orcus on His Throne while occasionally engaging in evil schemes pretty much unrestricted just for the lulz.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: After a...difficult first encounter, Paperinik traps Xadhoom in an energy cage built specifically for her. Before he can explain that he doesn't want to fight her, some Evronians arrive and try to take both, only for Paperinik to kick their asses. Seeing this, Xadhoom is finally convinced they are on the same side... and then breaks the cage, explaining she only stayed inside it because she wanted to see if he was an ally or an enemy.
  • Whenever The Punisher is jailed, it's usually because he allowed himself to be (usually he walks up to a police station and says "I surrender"), so he can kill one or more guys who are unreachable otherwise. Given that he's the friggin' Punisher, only a few prisoners ever give him trouble.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) issue 40, after Sonic is tried in a Kangaroo Court for treason after the Mecha Madness scenario and declared guilty, he shreds off his handcuffs in a fit of rage, declaring he could have done so at any time.
  • Supergirl: In Adventure Comics #424, Linda Danvers - the titular heroine - allows herself to be held prisoner by a mob gang so she can track down their boss. As soon as she gets what she wants, she breaks free, beats the whole mob up, and jails them.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Overlord, who's been locked up in the ship's basement, reveals to Chromedome he could've broken free of his imprisonment any time he liked (the perils of trying to keep a super-soldier chained). The only reason he didn't was that he was suicidally despondent about the thought of Megatron being dead... and Chromedome just let slip Megatron's alive.
    Overlord: Breaking free of these paper chains was never the problem. I just lacked motivation.
  • Wonder Woman
    • In The Golden Age of Comic Books, she would do this almost Once an Episode, often for increasingly flimsy reasons (the real one being that creator William Moulton Marston was ridiculously obsessed with BDSM). Contrary to popular perception, the "lose my powers if I get chained by a man" Kryptonite Factor rarely came into play; Marston had no shortage of loopholes he could exploit (did the villains chain her wrists together? Did they make sure to weld the chains?) to have her break her chains at a moment's notice.
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Diana talks Mala into tricking Paula into binding her as part of a gambit to help break the conditioning on the women Paula brainwashed. As soon as the women start fighting Paula the blonde Amazon easily breaks her bonds.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Morgan La Fey captures and chains Artemis and Cassie and Cassie complains about not being able to escape as Morgan expounds on her evil plot. However, as soon as Cassie deems Morgan's speech over she easily snaps the chains binding her to take down the villain and save her mother, revealing she was lying and that the witch is overconfident.
    • In Wonder Woman (Rebirth) #36, Diana tries to reason with the villains when they have her chained to a rock, and then finally says that if reason isn't working, she might as well break the chains and fight them. So she does.

    Fan Works 
  • Everyone was already pretty sure this was the case in canon, but in Atonement, Glastig Uaine proves that she's only in the Birdcage because she wants to be when the Simurgh's attack prevents her from her monthly therapy session with Tether. She leaves, kicks the Simurgh's ass, and returns.
  • The Bridge:
    • When Godzilla Junior is getting escorted out of the dungeons by a large number of guards while wearing large manacles and a thick muzzle, it’s made abundantly clear that he could break out and escape anytime he wants but simply goes along with it, at least until a particularly obnoxious guard begins antagonising him repeatedly prompting Junior to snap his restraints, burn through the muzzle and knock said guard into a wall before promptly holding out his hooves to be chained again. He later explains that he didn’t break out earlier because of the chance innocents might get caught in the crossfire and also because he was starting to suspect the whole brawl happened due to a misunderstanding. Later, after seeing all his allies in the throne room, he promptly breaks out of them again by accident to run up to them.
    • Xenilla allows himself to get arrested by the Crystal Empire so that he'll be in the perfect position to ambush King Sombra. However, while he was strong enough to easily break free, he didn't anticipate that the prison would have an alarm system, so he needed Blade Dancer's help to escape without alerting Sombra.
  • Taylor is most certainly this in Crouching Tiger Goes to Prison. Given her abilities, the juvenile prison she's sent to doesn't have a hope of containing her if she decided to break out — luckily for them, she's willing to serve out her sentence.
  • For the Glory of Irk: Shortly after being introduced, Q explains that the only reason he was captured by the Syndicate was that he let them, as he wanted to use the resulting prisoner transport (which he could easily escape from) as a free lift to a neutral planet he could feed on without interference from the Syndicate or the Irkens.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, it's eventually revealed that Drago is imprisoned in the depths of Cavigor. A few chapters later, he shows that he could have broken out of his cell at any time, he was just waiting for something to distract the guards. And shortly after this, he reveals that he was also spending that time working on a contingency — namely, slowly pumping the prison's walls and foundations with his fire magic, to ensure that once he got out he could bring the whole place down if need be.
  • J-WITCH Series: After Captain Black ends up with the Sumo Khan mask, Tarakudo conceives a plan where Cedric, Miranda, and Wong allow themselves to be Captured on Purpose, so that when Black is inevitably corrupted by the mask, they'll be in prime position to be handed the other three masks. When the heroes intervene to stop this, Cedric immediately busts himself and the others out of their cell to fight them, making it clear that they could have escaped at any time.
  • Paul again in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, at the White Tower, when again he's seemingly mind-controlled (the others definitely are), and he waits to see what their captors expect of them before dropping the pretense and scaring them away.
  • In The Power of the Equinox, Dimmed Star discovers in her cell that she can easily free herself from chains and the magic suppression ring placed on her horn. When guards come to take her to her trial, she allows them to put her in new chains and place two rings on her horn. During the trial, she remains in these restraints to the point of falling asleep, but she removes them once she's had enough of Hasty Vote's arrogant attitude and proceeds to command the courtroom.
  • This is essentially the plot of Princess Celestia Gets Mugged. Celestia takes a day off and assumes pony form. As a result, she gets mugged and the muggers decide to kidnap her upon discovering proof of her nobility. She could escape and kick their collective flanks any time she wants, but decides to play along because she's bored and it looks like it will be exciting.
  • In Unity (Finmonster), Yama lets himself get arrested so that he can get close to Callaghan in prison and help the Syndicate break him out.
  • In Who's the Hostage Naruto thinks that the cliche "Naruto is banished and/or sentenced to death for not bringing back Sasuke" is going to happen to him. So he decides to 'defect' before they can carry it out. He also thinks that having a hostage would make them less likely to kill him. So he decides to kidnap Hinata for just long enough that he can buy some time to get away. Hinata. As from the title, things quickly spiral out of control. Meanwhile, in Konoha Tsunade and Jiyara are torn between facepalming at the complete lack of critical thinking on Naruto's part or laughing at the whole circumstance. Before it became a Dead Fic they were sending out Team 7 to one part to tell him to stop being an idiot, and one part to rescue him.
  • Paul in With Strings Attached, when he's seemingly mind-controlled by Bayanis and plays along for a day to stall for time while he finds out where the others are. (“I didn't want to go off sort of half-cocked.”) As soon as he knows they're okay and coming to rescue him, he wraps up Bayanis.
  • The Renegade protagonist of With This Ring turns himself in to the police after killing a Chaos Lord responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children. However, he refuses to hand over most of his equipment, since the police aren't qualified to handle artifacts on the level of an orange power ring or the Sword of the Fallen, meaning that he's sitting in an ordinary jail cell holding weapons that could destroy planets and kill gods. Even after Wonder Woman, who is qualified, turns up and collects most of it, he still has a personal computer capable of generating portals to practically anywhere (including distant planets), not to mention Super-Strength and Super-Toughness that would allow him to walk out through the wall without batting an eye. And yet, he remains in his cell, because he wants to make a point about the need to reform the law to cope with Person of Mass Destruction supervillains.
  • Zim the Warlord: Irken Reversion: When some unknown assailants attack his keynote speech to abduct him, Professor Membrane lets them do so in order to find out who sent them. When Zim intervenes to stop their escape and rescue the Professor, Membrane easily breaks free and knocks out his nearest captors while Zim is wiping the floor with the rest.

    Film — Animated 
  • In How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup attempts this by surrendering himself, Astrid, and their respective dragons to Eret in hopes of meeting Drago Bludvist in order to reason with him. Stoick and the other dragon riders "rescue" him before his plan gets past Step 1. Judging from his later meeting with Drago, it wouldn't have worked anyway.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Lumalee could easily escape from his prison cell in Bowser's castle, being that he's one of the only prisoners who can fly and could fit through the gaps in the cages' bars, but he doesn't seem to care and would rather die.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 3:10 to Yuma (2007): The film follows a poverty-stricken farmer who has agreed to escort an outlaw to the train which will transport him to prison (a prison from which the outlaw has previously escaped). At the end of the movie, with almost everyone able to stop him dead, the outlaw willingly boards the train to make sure the farmer, whom he has come to respect, will earn the reward money. He then whistles for his horse who begins to run alongside the train, implying that his escape is imminent.
  • In The A-Team, Face has such a comfortable prison life (including sex with at least one attractive female staff member) that it's pretty clear he could get out simply by asking. Of course, he has his own tanning booth, so why would he want to leave?
  • In Bringing Up Baby, David is put in a jail cell that the guard forgets to lock. He casually opens the door at one point, and even gets the guard to join him inside the cell, but makes no attempt to escape.
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick uses this trope with the bounty hunters sent to collect him, in order to get to a specific prison planet to find someone, knowing that the relatively short-ranged bounty hunter's spacecraft could only go to one of a few prison planets.
  • Played for Laughs in Conan the Barbarian (2011). Looking to get into prison, Conan beats the crap out of a guard, stands over his prone form, and tells the still slightly concussed guy "I am your prisoner" while meekly extending his hands for cuffs.
  • The Joker in The Dark Knight just wants his phone call. When they don't give it to him, he takes his interrogator hostage and breaks out of the room. The call he makes activates a bomb implanted in another prisoner.
  • Heroic example from the movie Hancock, where the eponymous superhero allows himself to be imprisoned to win back the hearts of his chosen town, after being a bit careless about property damage during his career. One scene involved him jumping over the prison fences to go fetch a basketball.
  • Deep Rising: Trillian is outed as a thief by the Argonautica crew and stuck inside a locked pantry since the normal brig was still under construction. When things go sideways, she's able to rig the electric door to open in such an easy manner that suggests she could have left whenever she felt like it. Presumably, she didn't because she's already been exposed and is on a ship with nowhere to run.
  • Innocent Blood: Marie (who's a vampire) asks her human companion to handcuff her so he'll feel safe making love to her. After they're finished she calmly uses her vampiric strength to break the handcuffs.
  • One of the eponymous entities in Killer Klowns from Outer Space lets himself be locked up in the town jail, before finally killing the arresting officer and turning him into a ventriloquist's dummy.
  • While the Beast in Kung Fu Hustle is actually broken out of the mental institution he was locked in by Sing, he says he only stayed in there because he'd already killed all the worthwhile opponents. Given the incredible skill and power he displays, it's almost certainly true.
  • Clyde Sheldon in Law Abiding Citizen. First, he gets himself sent to prison, then he kills his cellmate to be sent to solitary. This is because he dug tunnels to the cells in solitary confinement, so he could get locked up and send the cops on a wild-goose-chase looking for his "accomplice", while he was sneaking out and back in the whole time.
  • In Man of Steel, Clark is naturally one of these when he willingly goes into military custody. Lois indicates that he agreed to be handcuffed, and he explains it as a way of allowing his captors to feel secure. Shortly afterward, he effortlessly breaks the handcuffs to show that he is complying out of good faith, not because the military could actually hold him.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • This is part of Black Widow's MO. In The Avengers, she's tied to a chair in a warehouse, being slapped around by Russian thugs who want to know what she knows, when Coulson calls:
      Black Widow: I'm in the middle of an interrogation, this moron is giving me everything. You can't pull me out now.
      Coulson: Natasha... Barton's been compromised.
      Black Widow: Let me put you on hold.
      [beats the tar out of her captors while tied to a chair]
    • In the same movie, Loki lets himself get captured so he can lead his troops to the Helicarrier and have Hulk destroy the place, and then easily escapes.
    • In Civil War Bucky is imprisoned in a secure mobile cell. When Zemo starts saying the Trigger Phrase, he breaks out relatively easily (though not quite in time)—he was just staying there previously because it was the right thing to do. However, the cell is supposed to have electrical system defenses as well, it's possible Bucky wouldn't have been able to break out if Zemo didn't also cut the electricity with an EMP bomb.
    • Thor: Ragnarok opens with Thor in a cage in Surtur's realm. He narrates that it's a long story but he let himself get imprisoned so that he could talk to Surtur and figure out his plans. As soon as Thor has what he needs to know, he breaks free.
  • During the final act of the first Once Upon a Time in China movie, Wong Fei-Hung and his students have been locked up for political reasons. The guards, disagreeing with the local governor's decision to do this, offer to let him escape, but Wong states that authority should not be disregarded casually. It isn't until he learns that Aunt 13 has been captured by the Shar-Her Gang and is being sold into slavery that he decides that he has a valid reason to escape.
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: In his climactic confrontation with Moriarty, Holmes reveals how he had been out-thinking Moriarty throughout the movie. He needed to steal the notebook Moriarty always carried in his pocket without Moriarty noticing. So Holmes let himself be captured, knowing that Moriarty would torture him for information and wouldn't be able to resist leaning over Holmes so he could threaten him face to face. Holmes used this as an opportunity to steal the notebook and replace it with a fake one.
  • Johnny 5 in Short Circuit 2, is handcuffed to a metal shelf in the stolen property room at the police station. When his buddy Ben shows up he tells Johnny "O.K. number Johnny 5, you can go now" at which point 5 just lifts his arm and the cuffs snap off.
  • Sin City: Marv, bound by Gail, plays along with an interrogation until his captors understand he wasn't the one who killed the missing girls. Then he just gets up and shrugs off the ropes.
  • In Skyfall, James Bond allows himself to be captured and brought to the Big Bad, Silva. He's activated a tracking device that's leading MI6 right to them, and until they arrive, he's content to let Silva explain the hows and whys of his evil plans. Once he's had enough, he quickly kills the guards and takes Silva captive until MI6 arrive. For Silva, meanwhile, getting captured is part of his plan all along.
  • Towards the end of Terminator Genisys, when T-800 is apprehended together with Sarah and Kyle on the bridge, he plays along to save the lives of his friends, but once they have a chance to escape, T-800 breaks his chains with ease.
  • In the climactic battle of Time Bandits, Evil faces the combined forces of good drawn from all history. He looks mildly annoyed as the first wave — heroic cowboys — surround him, lasso him and bind him securely. He then hands them their heads in a manner that only Terry Gilliam could have dreamed up.
    Evil: Next!
  • In Vice (2015), Kelly tracks down Michaels, but fail-safe programming prevents her from harming him. However, after Kelly is captured, Tedeschi forces a tech to load the virus. All of Vice's androids have their memories restored, and they start a rebellion, killing the visitors who previously brutalized them. Kelly then reveals that, despite wanting to kill Michaels, she is actually a decoy to distract Michaels and his guards for Tedeschi, and she is already aware of the fail-safe programming. Ignoring Kelly's taunting, Michaels begins a gunfight with Tedeschi which kills Chris. Kelly then frees herself and hands Chris' pistol to Tedeschi, who then uses it to kill Michaels.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Roger handcuffs himself to Eddie at one point. Once Eddie gets a hold of a hacksaw to cut the cuff off with — and a box to rest his cuffed hand on — he notices Roger slipping out of the cuffs in order to hold the box steady.
    Eddie: You mean to tell me you could have taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?!
    Roger: No, not at any time, only when it was funny.

  • Whenever Arsène Lupin is arrested, he tends to stick around in prison as long as is convenient for him. At least once he continued to orchestrate crimes from the inside.
  • This was the core of a Herman Melville short story called "Benito Cereno," in which an entire ship of slaves had revolted, but had to pretend to be slaves again when the main character and his crew boarded the ship. Meanwhile, their prisoners played the servants.
  • Jan Guillou's spy hero Carl Hamilton does this towards the end of his career.
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): After the Golgari capture Anthony, one of them persuades him to cooperate, but the more belligerent leader of the expedition insists on cutting off his legs so he can't run away. This has the unfortunate side effect that they have to drag him around for five days to get him back to their city (and he's about the size of a minibus). Once they get there, he demonstrates that he can regenerate his legs in seconds.
  • Discworld:
    • The Rite of Ashk-Ente supposedly binds Death to an octogram drawn on the floor. Really he just stays there to be polite. Unluckily for Susan, when she gets drafted into Death's role for a few days, she is actually bound. The wizards performing the Rite release her when they realize this.
    • In Thud!, Detritus the troll decides to not break out of some weak field chains he's been put in due to a misunderstanding. This is good since, as Vimes immediately realises when he meets up with him (and chews out his captors over it) they were hoping he would break out so they had an excuse to kill him.
    • In Guards! Guards!, Lord Vetinari is thrown into his own dungeon. Interestingly enough, his cell has all the bolts and bars on the inside to keep people out. Naturally, being Vetinari, he could escape any time he wished (while the lock was unpickable, a copy of the key was stored inside the cell).
    • Leonard of Quirm is technically a prisoner of Lord Vetinari, who keeps him locked in a trapped, secret room of the Patrician's Palace since his genius combined with his naive personality is far too dangerous to society. As the end of Jingo reveals, though, he can leave whenever he wants since he's the one who designed his prison and all the traps. He just prefers to stay in prison since it's peaceful, it's free lodging, and Vetinari provides him with all the supplies he asks for.
  • The Elder Empire: Lucan could easily break himself out of prison, and Shera could break him out even easier. The only reason they don't is that going on the run would be a pain. At the end of the book, Shera says she'll pick the lock so she can kiss him, and the guard can't do anything but groan.
  • Alvin Maker in Heartfire happily stays in handcuffs all through his witchcraft trial, only to break them and casually walk out the moment he is acquitted.
  • Holmes on the Range: In one short story, when an outlaw is arrested by a man who Old Red deduces is Impersonating an Officer, after they've exposed and captured that man, Old Red tells them to keep an eye on the prisoner who'd just been "arrested" and they catch him suddenly untied, and about to go for a gun, with Old Red pointing out that since they were staging the whole arrest it obviously made sense to leave the guy not tied very tight in case anything went wrong and he needed to fight or flee.
  • A more mundane version happens in In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, a Dramatization of the lives of the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic. When Minerva and Maria Teresa are put in prison for protesting against the government, they are given a pardon and allowed to leave, but they don't because Minerva thinks that implies that they committed a crime.
  • In the Fritz Leiber novel The Knight And Knave Of Swords, the Grey Mouser captures a girl and ties her up. She submits to this at the time, but later she grows spines out of her body and uses them to cut through the bindings.
  • Elijah in Last Mage, being The Fettered paragon of virtue and responsibility, does not evaporate his prison. He does, however, try more mundane means to keep his friends from getting punished alongside him.
  • The Lay of Paul Twister opens with an encounter with an imprisoned Celestial who claims that she could have escaped at any time, and she was trying to stay as the bad guy's prisoner to figure out who he was working with, until Paul came along and messed up the whole investigation.
  • In The Night Angel Trilogy, Kylar is arrested for killing the queen. He could escape but chooses to stay so that he can be sentenced to death by the new king, who would be falsely suspected of involvement if he didn't come down harshly on the culprit. Some of the guards who come to his cell are a bit rough, thinking that the legendary Night Angel isn't all that dangerous, and Kylar ends up locking them in the cell which was supposedly imprisoning him. He lets them out and accepts "capture" again only when they agree to be more respectful.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, the girls deliberately get captured so they can trick Jack Frost.
  • Spice and Wolf: When Holo gets kidnapped, Lawrence carefully negotiates and then hires trained professionals to rescue her. When she is returned to him, she is extremely upset and reminds him that she is a goddess and could have escaped at any time. The only reason why she waited was that she wanted him to heroically bust in, defeat the bad guys, and sweep her off her feet.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Luke Skywalker on several occasions. In Rebel Force he actually pretends that efforts to brainwash him have worked, the better to foil plans from within. At one point during Star Wars (Marvel 1977) he trails behind some inept captors while bound up in order to see how dangerous they are, and when someone says with surprise that he's enjoying this, he cheerfully confirms it.
    • It is stated that Jedi in general are impossible to detain against their will. To quote Admiral Bu'watu in Dark Nest Trilogy: "She [Princess Leia] was never your prisoner, she was just being polite." To detain Jedi, the Order itself uses a lizard called a Ysalimiri, which blocks all access to the Force in a radius of ten metres, stun cuffs, multiple guards, and large amounts of sedatives.
    • In Shadows of the Empire, Leia, Chewie, and Lando have Guri bound to a chair as they interrogate her about her master, Prince Xizor. Once Guri agrees to arrange a meeting with him, she just stands up and walks out the door. Note that they didn't undo the carbonite restraining cuffs first.
    • During Galaxy of Fear, Hoole is once vigorously clocked over the head to render him unconscious. It doesn't actually work, but he pretends to be out of it so he can find out more and break loose at the most opportune time... which happens to be while Strapped to an Operating Table, but he's a Shapeshifter, so that doesn't slow him down.
  • Sword of Truth: Zeddicus allows himself to be held in a Rada'han by Prelate Annalina rather than bother her with the fact he can get out.
  • Wearing the Cape: Variant in Repercussions. When Astra is arrested for abandoning her post (where nothing was happening) in order to save a foreign country from a terrorist attack, she is "detained" by three non-powered privates with normal guns. There are numerous ways to restrain someone of her power level, but the fact that they aren't using them means that it's blatantly obvious that the whole thing is a farce. If she wanted to leave, there is absolutely nothing the kids could do to stop her. The stupid part is that the commanding officer seems to think that there's actually a chance she'll try to leave, even though she surrendered of her own volition.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • In the episode "Shadows", Carl "Crusher" Creel enters a secure military base to steal a powerful item for HYDRA by getting captured and locked up in said base, then using his superpowers to easily escape.
    • In Season 4, Robbie Reyes (Ghost Rider) initially agrees to accompany SHIELD in exchange for keeping his brother safe, but when it's discovered that he's on the Zephyr without the approval of Director Mace, Mace orders him held in the containment cell (where he, his brother, and Daisy were hiding anyway). Robbie proceeds to transform into the Rider and bust out of the cell relatively easily, something no one else has ever been able to do on their own. After he calms down, Mace and Coulson discuss that while they don't trust him, they literally have no way of keeping him prisoner unless he wants to be.
  • Angel:
    • When Faith became The Atoner, she willingly went to prison for her crimes. The moment Wesley informs her that Angel needs her help, however, she proceeds to break out with incredible ease, with Wesley in tow.
    • In season 3, Billy Blim willingly turns himself in to the police to get out of his solitary confinement on his family estate. The arresting couple turns out to be a male-female duo, and Billy induces the male into fighting with the female and takes advantage of the chaos to slip away.
  • Arrowverse:
    • Arrow: Oliver spends a significant portion of season 7 in prison. When an old enemy comes to kill him, he breaks out of his cell and fights past a dozen guards without the slightest amount of difficulty. In that same episode, Bronze Tiger escapes from solitary confinement with even fewer resources than Oliver had.
    • The Flash (2014):
      • Music Meister is eventually captured by Cisco, Wally, and J'onn and placed in the Pipeline. At the end of the episode, he somehow gets out, applauds Barry and Kara, and vanishes into thin air. It's implied that it was all a part of his plan.
      • When Barry is put in prison in season 4, he could easily escape at any time since no one knows he's a metahuman, but he'd be a fugitive for the rest of his life. At one point he even takes a fellow prisoner to China and then returns to his cell.
    • Legends of Tomorrow: In season 4, Nora turns herself into the Time Bureau to atone for some of the things she's done. While their jail is reasonably secure, it's made clear that the main reason they can hold her is that she refuses to use her magic anymore.
    • Supergirl (2015):
      • Music Meister is first introduced captured by DEO agents. When he meets Kara, he easily escapes, puts her to sleep, and flees to Earth-1. It's clear he allowed himself to be captured just to meet Supergirl.
      • Rama Khan is defeated by Supergirl and Dreamer and is then carted off to the DEO... where he smugly reveals he was trying to get in there in the first place. He then busts out of his cuffs and tears the place apart in search of the kryptonite he was after, before collapsing the building entirely and fleeing.
  • In Babylon 5, after Lyta is released from prison, it is requested that the guards release her from her manacles. She simply shatters them immediately with her psychic powers, saying she only left them on "to make other people feel safe". Plus she "kind of liked them".
  • In the Battlestar Galactica (1978) episode, "The Long Patrol", there is a prison in which descendants of people originally imprisoned live in cells. The guards are the descendants of the original guards. The locks stopped working (or stopped being locked) many years ago. Starbuck finds this out after shaking the cell door angrily.
  • In the Blake's 7 episode "Rumours of Death", Avon allows himself to be tortured for five days in Federation Central Security so as to get at Shrinker, the Torture Technician who killed his lover. On his signal, the Liberator crew teleport down for them.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy does this when Faith and Angel (who is pretending to be bad) capture her, in order to find out the Mayor's plot.
  • Doctor Who:
    • After an entire season of repeatedly pulling a Villain: Exit, Stage Left, the Master is finally captured and imprisoned at the end of "The Dæmons". In "The Sea Devils" the Doctor pays him a visit, finding that he's rather content and resigned to his certainly centuries of confinement... because, as he later finds out, he's got the entire prison staff working for him and is just biding his time before he unleashes the eponymous Monster of the Week.
    • In "Bad Wolf", the Doctor is briefly rendered catatonic after believing Rose to have been killed. After a while of staring blankly at the wall, he turns to Jack, tells him "Let's do it" and proceeds to knock out the guards in a matter of seconds.
    • The Master plays along with his captors in "The End of Time" to further his own ends, then uses his freaky superpowers to break free.
    • River Song appears to be able to break out of the Stormcage whenever she wants, and will actually waltz back in when she finishes whatever she left to do. And then, after telling them that they can turn the alarm back off as she's in her cell, order room service.
    • From "Day of the Moon": Why won't it be enough? Because the TARDIS is sitting cloaked at the back of the cell. The jailor's actually on the Doctor's side anyway, just had to keep the whole operation covered up from the Silence.
      The Doctor: You're building me the perfect prison... and it still won't be enough.
    • There's also the Silence in "The Wedding of River Song".
      The Doctor: The pyramid above us. How many Silents have you got trapped inside it?
      Madame Kovarian: None. They're not trapped. They never have been. They've been waiting.
    • This has been one of the Doctor's standard ploys for decades: Getting captured by the bad guys means you get taken to the center of their power, where you can get a good look at their resources while they will usually engage in some Evil Gloating and let you know their whole plan. Then you can figure out a way to escape and take them down.
  • At one point in Farscape, former Big Bad Scorpius is imprisoned on Moya. Three episodes after this, however, he breaks out to avoid capture by hijackers - forcing the cell door open with his bare hands. When one character asks "You could have broken out any time you wanted?" he replies, "I never wanted to." This goes a long way toward showing that they can at least trust him - to a certain extent, anyway.
  • Variation in Hogan's Heroes. The prisoners of Stalag 13 could escape at any time they want, but choose not to so that they can sabotage the German war effort
  • In an episode of Lois & Clark, Superman is put in jail. The warden tells him he knows that Superman can leave any time he wants to, but asks him to stay.
    • In The Adventures of Superman, the hero and his jailer reach an agreement: the jailer turns his back long enough for Superman to leave through the window, solve the current crisis, and return to his cell.
  • Lucifer (2016):
    • In "A Good Day to Die", Dan insists that Lucifer go along with everything he does and not interfere. Unfortunately, this ends up with them handcuffed to chairs while Dan is being beaten by thugs. Lucifer wants to know if this is All According to Plan, and on discovering otherwise, releases his handcuffs and disarms the gun-toting thugs.
      Dan: Are you kidding me?! You could've gotten out of those this whole time?!
      Lucifer: Of course I could.
      Dan: Why the hell didn't you stop them from beating the crap out of me?!
      Lucifer: Because I promised you I wouldn't do anything without your permission!
    • In season 4 after Detective Decker has learned that Lucifer is the actual devil and Maze is a demon, Maze wants to bury the hatchet with the detective. She handcuffs herself behind her back as a showing good faith. As soon as Decker accepts Maze's apology, Maze snaps the cuffs apart. All that matters is you thought you were safe.
  • Due to hiding his magical abilities from everyone, the title character of Merlin (2008) is this whenever he gets stuck in a cell. He can escape whenever he wants but chooses to make it look like he escaped by mundane means or never left at all. Of course, since this is a Cardboard Prison staffed by complete morons, pretty much anyone can escape whenever they want.
  • In the Prime series Reacher, Jack Reacher quietly allows the officers arresting him to bind his hands in front with plastic zip ties ("Cuffs didn't fit him"). As soon as he's allowed, he breaks the ties himself and asks if they recycle. From what we later see of his fighting skills, it's clear the arresting officers would never have been able to secure him if Reacher had chosen to resist.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Basics (Part 1)", the crew finds a Kazon soldier in a damaged spacecraft whom their doctor confirms has been beaten, injured from weapons fire, and forced to breathe poisoned air for hours. He claims to have got injuries fleeing from the other Kazon, but the crew are still suspicious and have him put in the brig. Voyager is then ambushed by Kazon warships, whereupon the prisoner activates the chemical changes made to his body to turn himself into a living bomb.
  • Andre Linoge in Storm of the Century brutally murders an old woman, then deliberately waits around to be arrested for it. As he proves later in the story, he's fully capable of breaking out of the town's rickety jail cell whenever he feels like it, but getting himself captured and pretending to be their prisoner for a while is all part of his master plan to get what he wants.
  • Wonder Woman (1975): In "Judgement from Outer Space", Andros is taken prisoner by the Nazis and actively refuses to be rescued by Wonder Woman. His goal is to interview the Nazis and doing it while imprisoned works as well for him as any other way.
  • In an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena and Gabrielle are surprised to see King of Thieves Autolycus captured along with them on a boat headed to a slave mine. He claims he was caught while committing a burglary, but Xena is not fooled and calls him out on it. He grudgingly removes his shackles and admits he's only pretending to be captured to steal some diamonds at the mine.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Anthem (2019) event Echoes of Reality, the captured Evil Genius Doctor Harken is able to teleport out of his cell for a quick snack and come back to tell the player character that the necessary equipment is ready.
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • The Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum only lets Batman capture him so that he can take over Arkham and get the Titan formula. Batman is smart enough to anticipate that Joker's up to something.
    • Similarly, in Batman: Arkham City, Bruce Wayne lets himself get arrested to get Batman into the eponymous prison. Though he's also hamstrung by being in his Bruce Wayne identity.
  • In the Mark of the Assassin DLC for Dragon Age II, Hawke and Tallis end up trapped in a prison cell at one point. After half an hour, Tallis casually gets up and opens the cell, explaining she didn't do so earlier because she wanted to chat instead.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, when you're arrested, you can choose to serve your sentence, or pick the lock on either the cell door (which lets you out near the evidence chest with your inventory) or the floor grate (which is easier to pick but doesn't allow for easy item retrieval). You only get one pick, but with the Unbreakable perk, you can pick the cell lock without issues, and escape if you so choose.
  • In Geneforge 4, Khyrk (a master Shaper) is captured by Shaper Monarch (a madman with dreams of world conquest). When the player character is sent to rescue him Khyrk reveals that he could have freed himself at any time, but chose to stay captive to learn Monarch's weaknesses and tell them to you.
  • In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, the party first encounters Piers when he is imprisoned in Madra after being Wrongly Accused of association with the recent pirate raid. Not only does Piers have an alibi, but he's also a powerful Mercury Adept... but he would rather wait for the mayor to prove his virtue because he doesn't want to use his powers inappropriately (and his alibi would raise further questions).
  • Hero King Quest: Peacemaker Prologue: Spiderweb goads the Cerulean Land's inquisitor into imprisoning her at the capital, giving her the perfect opportunity to free Princess Spidervenom.
  • Subverted in Loom. Bobbin is put into a cage, which he unlocks easily with his magic Distaff. Turns out that was just a plot to get the Opening draft out of him.
  • Mass Effect 2: During Samara's recruitment mission, the police on Illium are ordered to apprehend Justicar Samara out of fear that she will cause an interspecies incident due to her investigation. Samara agrees to remain in police custody for 24 hours while Shepard investigates in her stead. Her time in custody consists of her lounging in Detective Anaya's office because, as Samara herself notes, any actual attempt to restrain her would be considered an attack by her code, forcing her to resist. Given that Samara could kill half the police force with her powers nobody wants to try it.
  • Dr. Wily comes along quietly at the end of Mega Man 6 because he has a Dead Man's Switch already set up, which awakens Burst Man, Cloud Man, Junk Man, and Freeze Man after six months of no contact. No wonder Mega Man is frustrated at the end of 7.
  • In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, when you first capture Quiet it initially looks like she's escaped confinement by phasing through her cuffs, only to re-appear in Snake's chopper to snipe a jet that was about to shoot them down, then phases back into her cuffs. And it's implied that while she's in a jail cell before officially defecting to Snake's side that she could easily slip out of the cell she's being held in.
  • Haedraline, in the final chapter of Neverwinter Nights, implies that she only accepted the indignity of being locked up in Castle Never so that she could talk to you.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer: When the Player Character first meets Gannayev-of-Dreams, he's being held in a prison cell covered in magical wards because of his habit of traipsing through young women's dreams to have sex with them. A Lore check can reveal he's messed with the wards, and he admits he's only still in there because he wanted a break from his admirers and their Knight Templar Parents.
  • In the PS2/XBOX game The Punisher, the Punisher surrenders to the police at the beginning of the story, with most of the game being a How We Got Here flashback. Turns out Frank allowed himself to be captured by his police buddy Soap so that he could be on Riker's Island when Jigsaw started a riot to cover his escape. Frank kills Jigsaw in the riot and escapes the prison easily.
  • In Reflections on the River, if players go down the appropriate route, it turns out that Prince Shun had actually found and disarmed the traps supposedly keeping him prisoner (which Zheng, the protagonist, had pretended were undetectable magical wards). Being able to observe and study Zheng's work is preferable to him than returning to his boring, pointless life as Spare to the Throne.
  • In Shadow Hearts: From The New World the party is captured by pirates after going through some interrogations Natan simply rips the door off and walks out, much to the surprise of Johnny. They could have gotten out at any time but Shania and Natan wanted to assess the situation.
  • Street Fighter has Cody Travers, previously the hero of Final Fight who started to get into all sorts of legal trouble because he kept on brawling on the street and ended up in prison. He stays there by his own choice, but when he gets too bored, he easily breaks out to find people to fight. To add another layer to this, he fights still cuffed by his hands and legs. One of his victory poses even has him easily open the handcuffs to rest his hands for a moment.
  • Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World has Regal Bryant, who the party meets in chains due to being accused of a crime. Regal, however, has Charles Atlas Superpowers, and only remains in his cuffs now out of respect for the law and due process. Once the party clears his name (and the guards reveal they had misplaced the keys to the cuffs), Regal takes all of three seconds to bust the cuffs open... before chiding the guards for not purchasing his company's far superior line of restraints.

  • In Average Joe, the titular character allows himself to be tied up and dakked rather than risking his secret identity by using his superpowers to resist...before realizing he's just a stranger to everyone there anyway so it wouldn't have mattered.
  • In Drowtales Mel'arnach's debut in the remade chapter one has her knocking out one of her guards and slipping out of her handcuffs easily so she can talk to Ariel. This is also foreshadowing for events later where she absconds from her lair and runs off (being returned once and on the run currently), with the heavy implication that she could have broken out anytime. Her conversations with her brother point to this as well, and it seems that the only reason she has been staying was to wait for Ariel, who is really her daughter, so they could run off together.
  • In Freefall, Florence actively goes to turn herself in. Then, part of it is needing the protection.
    • Dr. Bowman is intelligent and skilled enough to be able to break out of the South Pole facility any time he wants, and wise enough to know that he's better off not doing so, since as an uplifted chimpanzee he lacks the self-control to function in normal society.
  • Thomil of Juathuur. His captor even dares him to escape, but staying in prison would be the fastest way to reach his destination, Erab Adur. And then he gets freed due to a misunderstanding.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • In #720:
      Gannji: Hey, wait. Weren't you tied up a moment ago?
      Haley: That was a moment ago.
    • Ian Starshine let himself be caught, thinking he could recruit other prisoners to help bring down a local dictatorship. Unfortunately, this backfired on him. The smart prisoners don't last long (due to prisoners occasionally being selected to fight in arenas, thus culling out the weakest ones), and just because a master thief can easily escape on his own doesn't necessarily mean he can evade the local law enforcement.
  • In The Specialists, Hartmann. Whose motive is that La Résistance hasn't killed him yet, and the Nazis will.
  • Roll, out of sheer boredom, does this in Stage Select.

    Web Original 
  • Murder Drones: The end of the second episode reveals that V has already cut the chain that N was using to keep her in the ship and out of trouble. The only reason she doesn't immediately leave is because she secretly has a soft spot for him, only deciding to fly off in the following episode after failing to convince him to give up on a friendship with Uzi.
  • The Mad King from X-Ray & Vav makes it clear that he could have easily escaped the prison/mental institution that he had been assigned to whenever he wanted but chose to stay until he could deliver a very literal Hannibal Lecture to the protagonists.

    Western Animation 
  • One Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Sonic Breakout", has Sonic pull this. In order to rescue a cartoonist who was put into Robotnik's heavily-fortified prison for an insulting cartoon, Sonic allows himself to be captured by Scratch and Grounder... but not before putting them through the usual shenanigans. Breaking out, however, proves to be tricky as Robotnik has built a specially-designed wing just for Sonic...
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    • In "Avatar Day", Aang is kept in stocks that he's small enough to slip in and out of at will, while in "The Earth King" he's bound by earthbender-made cuffs which, because he can use earthbending, he can take off and on at will. In both cases, Aang played along out of principle and to make a good impression on the people who were holding him.
    • It turns out that after the Fire Nation seizes Omashu, King Bumi is one. They keep him locked up in a metal coffin-like cell that only exposes his face, but that's all he needs to be able to bend his way out at any time. Bumi explains to Aang that he's waiting until the right moment to escape, and when it comes (on the Day of Black Sun) he not only escapes but drives the entire Fire Nation army out at once, by himself.
    • The only thing imprisoning Iroh did was give him time to work off the extra fat and build up. Then, on the Day of Black Sun, he smashes his way out without any trouble and escapes. Without firebending.
  • In the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien/Generator Rex crossover Ben 10/Generator Rex: Heroes United, after their initial skirmish resulting from Ben (inadvertently) hurting Six, Ben decides to let himself get captured by Rex and his allies to gather information on the situation. However, Rex gets a little too cocky and taunts him about being their prisoner, to which Ben laughs and responds with "I stayed to see if I could help. But if that's your attitude..." before proceeding to turn into Big Chill and walk out.
  • In the premier of Darkwing Duck, Big Bad Tauras Bulba has been running his organization from his Luxury Prison Suite for years. When it finally comes time to break out, he presses a button and the entire cell turns into an escape rocket. Apparently, the guards should have possibly asked more questions about what he was doing in there.
  • DuckTales (2017): In an early episode, the Beagle Boys capture Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby and tie them up. When they're left alone with Bigtime Beagle, Webby frees herself to knock him unconscious with a frozen pizza. As the boys express their shock, Webby starts tying herself back up. Her grandmother is a retired spy who trained her for all sorts of situations, and undoing knots is "getting captured 101," but she saw that her intensity and spy-related skills were intimidating to the boys, so she was playing along in hopes of being accepted as their friend. As soon as they convince her that they like her the way she is, she also easily gets them out of the freezer and goes about trapping their assailants.
  • The Fairly OddParents! does this, though briefly. In the Channel Chasers movie, Timmy ties up the older version of him who's secretly part of the resistance to prevent Vicky from obtaining power. When Vicky shows up about to blast them with a giant robot, he breaks free from the ropes and follows it up by saying 'For the record, I could have done that at any time'.
  • Justice League:
    • The page quote is Batman being Batmannote . But he's not the only one to pull it off in the series. When Flash is arrested for robbery, Green Lantern comes to get him. Because the cops have video proof that Flash was performing the heists, they cannot believe another superhero is here to bail him out. GL just gives the guards a funny look. "If he were really guilty, do you think you could have held him here with a pair of handcuffs?" Cue Flash spinning the handcuffs on one finger, having removed them himself. This is, of course, on top of the fact that he's the Flash.
    • In the season two finale of Justice League Unlimited, the main seven excluding Batman (who thinks it's a silly idea) allow themselves to be taken prisoner as an act of good faith to the US government. It's lampshaded by the guy in charge not bothering to handcuff them because it wouldn't stop them anyway.
  • Near the end of Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time, several members of La Résistance are captured and put in chains, after which they are brought to the throne room where the rest of the characters are. As soon as the characters who are free start kicking ass, the captured ones break their chains like they were made of paper and join the fun.
  • In the fourth season of The Legend of Korra, Ikki definitely takes after her grandfather in this regard. She's captured by two of Kuvira's soldiers and tied to a chair with rope but is easily able to slip her arms in and out of her bonds at will. When Jinora and Meelo finally show up to rescue her she shimmies out the ropes and complains that she had everything under control.
  • In the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon, one episode had Mega Man get arrested by humans who, thanks to Wily, thought he was behind the Evil Scheme of the week. As he didn't want to harm the humans he let himself be handcuffed. Soon after his name was cleared, he snapped the cuffs like they were nothing.
    • In another example, Mega Man decides that the best way to get into prison to rescue Roll and Dr. Light is to get himself arrested. He promptly does so, and soon breaks out to free them.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Perry never makes any attempt to escape from Dr. Doofenshmirtz's traps until the very last second, at which point he does so easily. When he was trapped by chair-cuffs, he removed his hand to grab some popcorn, then put it back. At another point, Doofenshmirtz mutters that Perry could have been considerate enough to get in his trap during a delay, which he immediately does.
  • In Rick and Morty, Jerry is dropped off at a daycare where many other Ricks drop off their Jerrys because they would simply die if they continued with their surreal adventures. Jerry is put off by the daycare trying to serve his every need (to the point there's a person in a costume of Beth cooing them all) that he feels everyone is in a prison and so plots to escape with a seedy bunch of Jerrys...until they all reveal they're not exactly held captive and can walk out any time they want. Frustrated, Jerry walks out and learns the hard way that the world outside the daycare itself is incredibly dangerous, so he goes back into the daycare for protection and luxury.
  • In the first season finale of Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Turtles are captured after following the Hamato Way. After hours of meditation fail to provide any answers, Raphael decides to ditch the Hamato Clan method and the Turtles just be themselves...starting with him using his incredible strength to break the bars of the cage holding him and his brothers.
    Leo: Wait a second, you could've done that the whole time?!
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power:
    • When Entrapta is captured by Catra and Scorpia for interrogation, she barely seems aware that she's a prisoner, freely leaving her bonds at multiple times to examine everything in the room, including Catra and Scorpia themselves. By the next episode, they've completely given up on the idea of restraining her, and by the end of the season see her more as an odd colleague than a prisoner. Though that second part is because her For Science! tendencies mesh really well with the Horde's goals.
    • In the episode "The Ties That Bind", Catra gets taken prisoner by Glimmer and Bow. While she can't just break free, she has an escape plan in motion from the minute she gets captured, forcing Glimmer to drain her magical energy so Glimmer can't just teleport them straight back to Brightmoon, and using the Tracking Device in her Force Captain badge to bring the Horde straight to her position. She spends most of the episode mocking and taunting her captors, basically playing a) for time and b) For the Evulz until her inevitable rescue.
  • One episode of The Simpsons reveals that Springfield Penitentiary is such a Cardboard Prison that all of the prisoners are just playing along. When they are outside, the only thing keeping them from leaving is an unlocked door with a sign saying "Please do not escape". Snake does so anyway to chase Homer because Homer is driving Snake's old car and fueling it up with regular gas ("she needs premium!"), saying "screw the honor system!".
    Kearney: Hey, you're ruining it for the rest of us!
  • In The Smurfs (1981) episode "The Magnifying Mixture", when giant Hefty decides to take Gargamel and Azrael with him inside a sack as his prisoner to the Smurf Village, the evil wizard and his cat decide to play along as Hefty's captives until they reach the village. Once that happens, Gargamel escapes and ends up trapping giant Hefty in a sack.
  • In the Star Trek: Lower Decks episode "A Few Badgeys More", AGIMUS captures Boimler and Tendi, but is waiting for the exocomp Peanut Hamper to show up. As he does, Tendi mentions she can get her and Boimler freed in no time, but Boimler refuses as he believes that AGIMUS has intel on the mystery ship that's been destroying ships recently. Boimler's patience does pay off.
  • In the Super Friends episode "The Giants of Doom", Bizarro, Sinestro, Toyman, and Captain Cold allow themselves to be captured by the Superfriends and placed in a specially designed cell. Once they are ready, Sinestro reveals that he can control his power ring even when it is not on his hand and they break free. Their goal was to gain access to the Justice League Computer. Amazingly, Bizarro was the one who came up with this plan.
  • In Teen Titans (2003) episode "Lightspeed", the Hive-Five "captures" Kid Flash and places him inside a metal cage. Instead of directly busting out, the superhero takes his time trying to convince Jinx to redeem herself, and only then does he make it obvious to the Five that he was never really their prisoner by dismantling their tower.
  • In one episode of Wild C.A.T.s (1994), a friend of Grifter's has just finished a jail sentence. The warden is proud of the fact that he was able to hold a notorious robber for his entire sentence. Grifter simply said "You weren't holding him. He was just serving his time." Said robber proves this right when he breaks out of the prison in a matter of minutes, with the breakout starting the moment his sentence officially ended - just to prove that he could have broken out at any time if he'd wanted to.
  • A small example of this occurs in episode 21 of the third season of Winx Club. Nabu had snuck onto one of the specialists ships when the Winx went to retrieve the water stars they needed to defeat Valtor. Since the Winx at this point weren't sure whether they could trust Nabu or not, they put shackles on him that would apparently prevent him from using his magic. Later when they are attacked by monsters, Nabu easily removes the shackles in order to save Aisha from a monster. Apparently, he could've gotten out of them at any time, but he didn't because Aisha had told him not to try anything. After the fight is over, he also tells her to put the shackles back on him since they have more important things to worry about than whether or not they can trust him.
  • X-Men: The Animated Series: Magneto attempts a prison break to free Beast... who calmly informs him that he has no desire to escape and expects to get his day in court and be exonerated. While Beast may or may not have been able to leave under his own power at any time, he certainly has plenty of powerful friends on the outside who could have sprung him, should he have been so inclined. A few episodes later the X-men break into the prison to free Colossus, who was wrongfully suspected of Juggernaut's crimes. Colossus himself was playing along, not wanting to get in more trouble, but they convince him to escape because they need his help stopping Juggernaut. They offer to free Beast as well, and while he's more receptive to the offer by his friends than Magneto, Beast gives the same response of wanting to get released legally. Still it's clear the X-men could break him out just as easily if they truly wanted.


Video Example(s):


Tendi Loves Sand

While waiting for Peanut Hamper to show up at the rendezvous, Tendi happily plays in the sand, saying they don't have sand on Orion, and takes some of it with her before they leave.

How well does it match the trope?

4.82 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / MundaneObjectAmazement

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