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Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure

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Robin: I'm going solo! [storms away]
Commission Gordon: What the hell happened?

This is when, just before the third act and when things are at their worst, the protagonist is abandoned by their best friend. Here's how it normally plays out:

It's been a long, hard road for the protagonist. They've fought their way through rising complications, twists and turns, and unexpected outcomes, yet are the furthest from achieving their goal since the story began. Good thing they have their best buddy to help them when all other lights have failed.


Or not. Apparently the stresses involved with The Quest have taken their toll on the relationship, stretching it to the point of breaking. And then one last thing, one straw to break the camel's back, perturbs the protagonist, and in a moment of rashness, he lets loose a barrage of atomic Jerkassery on his best buddy.

Unfortunately the best buddy, the calm head and stalwart that promised to stick by the hero through thick and thin, he's got his breaking point, too, and the protagonist's last action just crossed the line. The best buddy abandons the protagonist, leaving them with nothing by way of support—and just at the worst possible time to boot. That is because the Plot Mandated Friendship Failure is always set to go off right before the protagonist has to face his biggest challenge in The Climax.


Expect a change of heart and a last minute save by the best buddy in the climax, thus reinforcing The Power of Friendship.

A staple of buddy pictures, where the friendship drives the plot.

Compare Second-Act Breakup, in which the relationship in question is a romantic one, and Achilles in His Tent, where any friendship might be clearly secondary to a fighting alliance. See also Et Tu, Brute?, where the buddy betrays the protagonist instead of just leaving. May be due to a Third-Act Misunderstanding.


Examples of this trope are found in the following works:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Pokémon anime:
    • Team Rocket fall apart quite a few times.
    • Ash himself has had incidents with May and Dawn early on in their respective sagas as well as one with Iris near the end of hers.note 
    • And later done with Ash and Serena's Mirror Selves with Main!Ash helping to patch things up.
  • Many early episodes of Pretty Cure tend to have these episodes, especially ones where there's only two Cures and they usually happen in the eighth episode. Futari wa Pretty Cure, Futari wa Pretty Cure MaX Heart and Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash★Star are those who fit this description. Yes! Pretty Cure 5 still involved two, but was part of a Five-Man Band, Heartcatch Pretty Cure had their happen in the fourth episode and Suite Pretty Cure ♪ is built on this trope.
    • Happiness Charge Pretty Cure actually defies this trope. When Iona reveals Hime's Dark Secret, Megumi ends up confiding in Yuuko that she still trusts Hime no matter what. It takes until the next episode for Hime to know that, though.
  • This happens twice in the "Little Army" prequel manga of Girls und Panzer, where Miho's team is less stable than Anglerfish Team in the anime. In Chapter 2, Chihiro and Emi have an argument over Emi's abrasive personality, resulting in Chihiro's best friend Hitomi talking to her, while Miho talks with Emi. In Chapter 4, Miho and Emi have a fight over Emi saying that she "hates" Miho's older sister, Maho, despite never having met her before. Miho comes up with an idea of having her crew get into a tankery match against her sister's, in order to help Emi understand Maho, but has to talk things over with Emi before she can agree to get her involved.
  • In Bakuman。, this happens a few times with the main characters.
    • While Mashiro and Takagi are still trying to get serialized, Mashiro gets an offer to become Eiji Niizuma's assistant. Mashiro happens upon Takagi kissing Miyoshi, and accepts the offer, believing that Takagi isn't committed enough. Eventually, Mashiro gets an idea of his own, and strongly considers going solo, not realizing that Takagi essentially came up with a similar idea himself, but didn't tell him. Luckily, with some help from their editor, the two patch things up.
    • The second time happens after the group learns that Perfect Crime Party, while successful, can't get an anime due to Moral Guardians. Around this time, one of their assistants, Shiratori, comes up with a good idea, but needs some help on the writing, so Takagi offers to help, and Mashiro, against his better judgment, accepts. Eventually, tensions come to a head, and the two stop speaking to each other until Takagi helps Shiratori learn enough to work independently, and the two make up with apologies and a fist fight.
    • Averted on a third occasion when controversy over a group of real-life PCP copycats gives Takagi a crippling case of Writer's Block. The Power of Trust prevails, though, with Mashiro trusting Takagi to think of something, and Takagi coming through.

    Comic Books 
  • Invoked in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW). The Changelings trick the Mane Six into splitting up by disguising themselves as them and creating dissension between them, knowing full well they will inevitably reconcile. Once they do get back together, the love between them peaks and becomes a greater energy source for the Changelings than ever before.
  • Played for drama on the close of an issue of Clean Room: a demon is recruited to aid the Mueller organization, then says he won't, then does anyway next issue with minimal persuasion.

    Film — Animated 
  • Towards the climax of Aladdin, this happens between Aladdin and Genie because Aladdin says he can't keep his promise to free Genie due to realizing he can't keep up his prince facade without him. Unfortunately, this has a double negative consequence as not only does it lead to Aladdin accidentally leaving the lamp behind and allowing Iago to steal it, but because Aladdin didn't free Genie in that moment, Jafar was able to use him to take over Agrabah.
  • In Shrek the Third, when Shrek and Artie are captured by Prince Charming, Shrek says how little Artie means to him. Artie seems very upset until, after Charming releases Artie, Donkey tells him Shrek did that to save his life.
  • Monsters, Inc.: When Sulley and Mike are banished to the Himalayas, and Sully's first concern is Boo, Mike tells him "you're on your own."
  • Wreck-It Ralph seems to have found a friend in little Vanellope Von Schweetz, an outcast girl who wants to race in her game Sugar Rush but can't because of her "glitch." When Sugar Rush leader King Candy tells Ralph Vanellope can't race because her "glitch" will cause the game to be rendered out of order and doom her in the game forever, Ralph buys it and destroys Vanellope's kart, which fractures their friendship tremendously. Only later does Ralph realize he got played by King Candy and goes on to make amends with Vanellope.
    • Happens again in the sequel Ralph Breaksthe Internet where Ralph's clinginess leads him to make stupid decisions that cause Vanellope to renounce their friendship. They reconcile by the end.
  • Happens in Treasure Planet when Jim overhears Silver telling his men he was only pretending to be his friend to gain his trust.
  • The Rugrats Movie: Phil, Lil and Chuckie abandon Tommy and Dil in the forest when the twins get sick and tired of Tommy constantly protecting Dil over them. In the twins' case, though, it may be more of With Friends Like These..., as they've been shown to abandon ship whenever things go wrong for them.
  • Zootopia takes this trope and adds an even more tragic element to it. It involves Judy, during a speech, making some terrible choice words about predators, by saying that the Psycho Serum caused them to revert to their savage natures. Even though it's what she overheard during a conversation, it was still not very wise to say this to the public. This not only hurts the relationship between her and Nick, who is very sensitive about being labeled as "Cunning Like a Fox" due to his background, but also between the predator and prey species, and the last act of the film involves Judy trying to fix both.
  • In Moana, after the first bungled attempt to defeat Te Kā, Maui is enraged, blaming Moana for having his powerful fishhook damaged, as one more hit means his powers are essentially gone. Moana shouts back, noting that Maui stealing the Heart of Te Fiti was what's caused all the trouble in the first place. He then takes off, believing the ocean was wrong for choosing Moana, and leaves her stranded on the ocean. But not for long.
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): Twilight Sparkle, overwhelmed by the stress caused by the events of the movie thus far, accuses the other Mane Five of being horrible friends. The others are hurt by her accusation and Twilight horrified by what she said, but the five decide to give her space to cool down, though they're obviously hurt. However, when Twilight's kidnapped, the girls spring into action to go save their friend.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A variant occurs in A New Hope, where Han Solo leaves just before the Death Star arrives, on good, if bitter, terms with the heroes. His exchange with Luke in particular is pretty cordial, but his desire for money, not dying, and settling things with Jabba outweighs any loyalty he may feel. Until, of course, he comes swooping in at the last second to save Luke and secure his final trench run.
  • The Movie of Get Smart features this split between Agents 86 and 99.
  • The Green Hornet movie has a falling out between Britt and Kato over who gets the girl and who the real hero is. It culminates with an argument over whether they're a boss and employee, or friends. They make up in time to face off with the Big Bad. And for the record, the Girl makes it clear she's not interested in being the romantic interest for either of them.
  • The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of the King: Inverted. Just when he needs him most, Frodo sends Sam away due to Gollum's ploy. Moments later he's paralyzed by Shelob. Luckily, The Power of Friendship prevails. (In the book, they're just separated in the maze of caves.)
  • The Rush Hour movies feature this between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
  • Shanghai Noon features such a split between Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson.
  • The Scooby-Doo film begins with one of these, and it isn't completely mended until about the 3/4 mark of the film.
  • Wayne's World: After Wayne erupts into a total Jerkass and ditches him during a live taping of the titular show, Garth dumps him. Their make up leads directly into Wayne hatching the plan to defeat the Big Bad.
  • Inverted in 30 Minutes or Less: The two main characters Nick and Chet actually have their falling out at the beginning of the film and are forced to get back together later after Nick gets the bomb strapped to his chest. Near the end, when things truly go to hell and it's revealed that not only have the antagonists betrayed them but Nick's poor actions have led to Chet's sister getting kidnapped and held hostage, Chet instead states what's done is done and that they just have to keep working to find a way to get out of this problem.
  • This generally happens at one point in all three Harold and Kumar movies.
  • Played with but ultimately averted in Superbad. Evan and Seth do start bickering late in the film, but never really split up.
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Alfred finally abandons Bruce, unwilling to watch him destroy himself any longer.
  • Because it necessarily leaves out much of the context from the book, Ron's falling out with Harry in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire seems somewhat jarring and puzzling.
  • Whip It: After Bliss' skates are confiscated by her parents, who have just found out in the worst way possible that she's been lying to them about where she's going and what she's doing during her "SAT class," Bliss is disowned by Pash in a cutting "The Reason You Suck" Speech. And then she has to reveal to her team that she lied about her age and discovers that Oliver is cheating on her with a groupie...
  • Now You See It...: Danny and Allison slowly go from being enemies to becoming close friends, even inspiring a touching moment together in the basement. However, once Max "proves" Danny doesn't have real powers, Allison jumps to the assumption that he wasn't only faking it, but faking it to make her look bad, and calls off the friendship. Of course, as soon as she realizes Max's evil plan of manipulating and killing Danny, she immediately tries to reconcile with and save him. In the end, the day is saved, and they're friends again.

  • In Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, after months of blackmail, Abby, Leah, and Nick find out that he's been manipulating them all to try and get Abby together with Martin. Of course this has to happen right after he gets outed and loses his entire sense of security in the world anyway.
  • The Dark Tower: In the last book of the series, right before Roland is to meet up with The Crimson King and end his quest to find The Dark Tower, Susannah, the last human in his ka-tet to survive, decides to leave Roland citing his obsession with the tower and the quest over the health of his friends. Notable in that she doesn't come back to assist him at the last moment to help him defeat the Big Bad.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron and Harry argue over the lack of progress they're making in their quest, ultimately ending in Ron leaving the group. He returns in time to save Harry's life and destroy a Horcrux. The third and fourth books also have "break-ups" (Ron and Hermione in the third, Harry and Ron in the fourth), but earlier in the structure.
  • In the third Pyrates book, George upsets his friends with how dangerous the adventure has gotten, causing them to decide not to accompany him when he goes exploring again. However, they come to his rescue after he ends up getting lost.
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, if whatever Jack Frost stole is related to friendship, Rachel and Kirsty will argue. This is most prevalent in Juliet the Valentine Fairy's book.
  • The Dresden Files: Murphy does this in both Storm Front and Fool Moon, before learning to trust Harry on supernatural matters.
  • Happens to Bo and Agnes from Run after Agnes finds out Bo was searching for her dad and was never trying to find a place for her and Agnes. Agnes abandons her and calls her parents to take her home, but fortunately they make up by the end.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One Saved by the Bell episode featured Zack and Screech making a friendship bracelet business only to be upstaged by the rest of the Six Student Clique, who were selling "Buddy Bands." Before the last commercial break, Screech quits (albeit after Zack, desperate for sales, gives Screech away as a "friend for an hour"), leaving Zack alone. This example is unusual in that it did not result in a The Power of Friendship moment, it instead resulted in Zack exacting revenge by destroying their business by buying a Buddy Band and giving it to the school principal, whose proud display of it makes it instantly unpopular to wear.
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Empty Places" has all of Buffy's friends (including her own sister) remove her from leading them and kick her out of her own house after one bad mission that results in two dead Potentials and Xander losing an eye. Played with slightly in that Giles connived things so that Spike and Andrew were sent away for the day, likely so they wouldn't be there to take Buffy's side.
    • It should be noted that the Buffy-less group immediately goes and screws up in exactly the manner they accused Buffy of doing (recklessly falling into a trap that gets even more people killed). While they are doing that, Buffy heads off to complete the mission she was pitching when she got overthrown, succeeds on her own, acquires the MacGuffin that's key to saving the day, and kills the Big Bad's Dragon. She's magnanimous enough not to point out how much she got done all alone when they apologize and ask her to be in charge again.
    • This also happened at the end of season 4 in "The Yoko Factor". This was actually exploited by Spike, who made it worse by getting all their problems out into the open to divide the Scoobies. They eventually make up and are stronger then ever, which helps them defeat the Big Bad.
  • Burn Notice: Michael is briefly abandoned by Fi and Sam while and because he is working with Larry. He calls them to make up but Larry has pulled a call forwarding trick on his phone to make Mike think they won't take his calls.
  • The entire fourth season of Supernatural leads up up this. A season of lying, mistrust and drinking demon blood comes to a head in a massive fight between Sam and Dean after which Sam leaves. Dean tries to call and apologize to Sam but divine intervention changes his message, leading Sam to pass the Despair Event Horizon and unwittingly start the Apocalypse with Dean arriving too late to stop him.
  • In the "Going Rogue" episode of The Flash (2014), both Barry and Dr. Wells are not impressed in how Cisco created the Cold Gun, a Kryptonite Ring to use against the Flash in case he turns up bad (Cisco mentions that he created the gun before getting to know Barry better). Barry would refuse to listen to Cisco for the rest of the episode until they make up near the end (after Cisco saves Barry's life).
  • Happens with Carly and Sam a couple times in iCarly, during the episodes "iDon't Wanna Fight" and "iQuit iCarly".
  • Happens in the penultimate episode of Series 2 of Grantchester between Sidney and Geordie, to the point where they literally come to blows over the death penalty, Gary's execution being the final straw for Sidney.
  • Sherlock: At the end of "The Six Thatchers", with Mary dead and a pile of ashes, her widowed husband, John Watson, is mentioned as wanting nothing to do with Sherlock, blaming him for her death.

    Video Games 
  • The titular characters in the first Ratchet & Clank game start off on good terms until Planet Umbris, where they suddenly start fighting over stopping Drek or going after Captain Qwark in a murderous rage after his betrayal. It is not until Qwark's defeat and Ratchet's Heel Realization over Oltanis being destroyed where they stop fighting and ultimately become close companions.
  • This has happened three times in the Kingdom Hearts series.
    • Early on in the first game, Sora ending up arguing with Donald over landing in Deep Jungle. For most of the visit, the two were complete jerks to each other, and even fight over something they agree on, similar to Ratchet and Clank above. But they stop fighting and apologize for their actions after Clayton is defeated.
    • Second is when Donald and Goofy were forced to perform a Face–Heel Turn after Sora loses the Keyblade to the Rival Turned Evil, since their mission was to follow the Keyblade Wielder. They realize they've made a mistake, and rejoin him.
    • Thirdly, in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Sora abandons Donald and Goofy when they begin to question their memories and tell Sora off for obsessing unhealthily over rescuing Naminé. They eventually save him from being killed by Larxene, and he realizes his mistakes.
  • A wide-scale case happens in "The Answer" segment of Persona 3. The party, having acquired all the Keys of Time, has a very short amount of time to decide what to do with them- return to their own time or try to save the protagonist from his death. The disagreements between those who want to go back(Yukari and Mitsuru), those who don't(Akihiko and Ken), those who want the group to be united behind one answer(Junpei and Koromaru), and the undecided (Aigis, Metis and Fuuka) come to a head, and eventually result in the various factions fighting each other. Once Aigis' group prevails, the group reconciles, and comes together to fight the Final Boss.
  • Later on in Persona 5 a more heated than usual argument between Ryuji and Morgana over the latter's usefulness results in the latter temporarily leaving and striking out to find and steal the heart of the Thieves' next target on his own. Fortunately, he comes back.

    Web Animation 
  • In X-Ray & Vav, the titular heroes are split up in "The Anti-Vav Ray" thanks to The Mad King initiating a Sadistic Choice on Vav in trying to save either X-Ray or Ash Samaya. When Vav saves Ash, X-Ray is furious and storms off hurt. What Vav doesn't know, what X-Ray won't tell him and what Hilda is hoping would get through their minds is that X-Ray is jealous of Vav's infatuation with Ash and they're both acting like a bunch of children. What X-Ray won't tell anyone is that this was because the Mad King manipulated X-Ray and used the Sadistic Choice to prove it to him.

    Web Video 
  • Monster Island Buddies:
    • During Season 2, Godzilla becomes addicted to drugs at one point. When he doesn't aknowledge this, Rodan and the other monsters fight and defeat him. Angrily, Godzilla runs away from Monster Island, with his past self as his only friend, while his friends try to use Gigan as a replacement.
    • Season 3 ends with Fire Rodan getting into another fight with Godzilla after learning that he had an affair with Mothra from King Kong, this time though, he's the one that ditches his friends after inadvertently killing Mothra during his fight. Mostly a case of Heroic BSoD and a mix of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity, but because he was genuinely pissed at Godzilla over what he did (and this event would later become a Berserk Button for Rodan, while still being played as a Running Gag) it still qualifies.
    • During Season 5, Rodan is forced to end his relationship with Mothra when she and King Ghidorah have some unfinished family business to tend to, and because she found Ghidorah to be much more hotter than Rodan. Although Mothra tries to justify her actions as being for the greater good, Rodan sees her love for Ghidorah as genuine, and for a time, legitimately breaks off all contact with her. In turn, Mothra suffers a Heroic BSoD as well and winds up leave Earth for a while. They eventually get back together, permanently, in Season 7.
    • Played for Laughs during Season 7's finale, when Varan and Biollante break-up due to Varan (who is a pacifist) not taking kindly to Biollante's more violent approach at facing opposition. They quickly get back together by the episode's end.

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the season two premiere, where Discord breaks apart the Mane Six. Invoked in that it happens through him "cheating" rather than any actual in-fighting; while he pretends that he's doing it via More Than Mind Control, its quite clear that, no, he's just getting his kicks out of breaking them emotionally before brainwashing them to stop being friends.
    • It happens again in the season two finale, with everyone abandoning Twilight due to thinking she's being a paranoid jerk about her soon-to-be sister-in-law being evil. Turns out she was half-right.
    • And again in the comics, through a more clever use of Shapeshifting.
    • In "No Second Prances", Twilight's distrust and paranoia towards Trixie's friendship with Starlight leads to Trixie showing how many hooves she can fit in her mouth when she boasts about how great it was to finally one-up Twilight, making Starlight believe that their friendship was fake. The issue is solved just in time to stop Trixie from, for all intents and purposes, committing suicide.note 
    • Played with in "Rock Solid Friendship", Pinkie Pie's insistence in controlling the way that her older sister Maud Pie and Starlight bond leads a frustrated Maud to move away from Ponyville. The issue here wasn't that Maud and Starlight had a falling out, but that Pinkie couldn't even give the two the breathing room needed to even begin a good friendship.
  • Happened a lot in Trollz, usually because of Simon. Justified as their friendship was the key to defeating him.
  • "The Night of the Living Burger," an episode of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, starts off right away with Shaggy and Scooby on the outs. It was never made clear what they were arguing about, but they end up reconciling at the conclusion.
  • In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Scooby and Velma were on the outs with each other, quarreling over Shaggy for a time.
  • Rugrats tends to have these plots in its earlier days, though never involving all four main babies — either with Tommy and Chuckie or with both Phil and Lil.
  • In the episode "Homeward Pound" of Pound Puppies (2010), Vitriolic Best Buds Squirt and Niblet accidentally end up in Canada and after setting off for where Squirt thinks a town is. After a day, they get into a fight, and Niblet finally stands up to Squirt. The friendship is repaired once Squirt determines that not only was he wrong about which direction to go, but Niblet was right.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: "The Promise" starts with Banana Joe being mad at Gumball and Darwin. We never find out why.
  • A villainous example happens in Avatar: The Last Airbender when Azula's friendship with Mai and Ty Lee comes to an end. This leads to Azula's mental breakdown and her defeat at the hands of Zuko and Katara.
  • Hey Arnold! has the episodes "Part-Time Friends" and "Partners" for Arnold and Gerald.
  • A Spongebob Squarepants episode "Naughty Nautical Neighbors" has Squidward tricking SpongeBob and Patrick into hating each other, which backfires when both of them want to be friends with Squidward instead.
  • Steven Universe: Following Steven’s return from his first visit to Homeworld in “Dewey Wins”, Connie is upset with Steven for choosing to give himself up to the Homeworld Gems instead of confronting them together in which Steven doesn’t understand at first, causing Connie to give up explaining as she and Lion both leave him and unintentionally gives him the Silent Treatment. When Steven realize what Connie meant and she doesn’t respond to any of his calls or text message, he’s tearfully believes that Connie now hates him for breaking their promise to be a team. When Steven reunites with Connie in “Kevin Party”, she tells him she wasn’t trying to ignore him and wants to talk things out with him in person and rides Lion to Steven’s house only to find he was on vacation at the time and she attends Kevin’s Party hoping to see Steven again but doesn’t know what to say to him. Steven apologizes to Connie for breaking their promise and they both hug and make up.


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