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Preemptive Apology

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Seraph: I can take you to [the Oracle]. But first, I must apologize.
Neo: Apologize for what?
Seraph: For this. [attacks Neo]

One of the Stock Phrases. Character A apologizes in some way. Character B is confused, as A hasn't done anything worth apologizing for, and usually asks "For what?" or just gives a rousing "Huh?" Then Character A does whatever it is he was apologizing for - usually attacking the other character and knocking them out. Sometimes this precedes a Heroic Sacrifice, but not always.

See also Pre-emptive Declaration and Apologetic Attacker.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • There's a slight variation in Dragon Ball, where Vegeta gives a little speech about taking care of the family and then apologizes, right before knocking out both his kid and Goten and then doing a Heroic Sacrifice in an attempt to take out Buu.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: After behaving particularly recklessly, the adults entrusted with the care of Edward Elric call him out on it.
    Fullmetal Alchemist, Sir! We do apologize in advance for this! (Slap!) You behaved like a spoiled child!
    • The adults in question, of course, are a Sergeant and a 2nd Lieutenant serving as the Elrics' escort, while as a State Alchemist Ed holds the rank of Major. Hence the apology, followed by acknowledgment that Ed was well within his rights to formally reprimand them for their insubordination.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari would probably have been much better off without this tick, as it is what pisses Asuka off the most. Other than this personality difference, their backgrounds and current status would probably have resulted in some sort of relationship.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Mai gives Jounouchi one before she slaps him to get him to stop agonizing about being possessed by Marik.

    Comic Books 
  • Y: The Last Man has an interesting variation, where the apology is not over anything violent... Yorick apologizes to a girl for the two times he kissed her. Then he interrupts her confusedly asking when the second time was, with a kiss.
  • Superman:
    • In Superman Family #173, Jimmy Olsen realizes that Superman is infected with the virus that is wreaking havoc through Kandor. He mentally says "Sorry for what I'm about to do, pal" before knocking him out.
    • In the Bizarrogirl story arc, Supergirl apologizes to Dr. Light before knocking her out and making off with her Bizarro clone.
      Supergirl: Dr. Light, I think you're going to be really mad at me later. And I'm really sorry.
      Dr. Light: "Sorry"? What for —
      Supergirl knocks her out with one uppercut.

  • A show by Dara O'Briain includes a part about a midwife he and his wife were visiting during his wife's pregnancy. When he comes to a part about childbirth, he runs over to two boys in the front row he talked to earlier, to explain what's going to happen when he tells this story, and the whole situation becomes more and more hilarious as he's constantly apologizing to the women in the audience about the joke he's going to make. The audience's reaction proves it was a Justified Trope.
    O'Briain: During the process, there's a point where a decision may have to be made... — Icannotappologizeenough — ... between a tear and a cut.
    Audience: Ohhhhhhhh.
    O'Briain: There's the noise.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Matrix Reloaded Seraph (the Oracle's bodyguard) pre-emptively apologizes for attacking Neo, as he needs to be certain Neo is the One.
  • From The Cowboys, Jebediah Nightlinger is about to be killed by Asa Watts. Knowing that the Big Damn Heroes are on their way, he asks for a moment to make peace with God, then he prays aloud:
    Jebediah Nightlinger: I regret trifling with married women. I'm thoroughly ashamed at cheating at cards. I deplore my occasional departures from the truth. Forgive me for taking your name in vain, my Saturday drunkenness, my Sunday sloth. Above all, forgive me for the men I've killed in anger... [looks directly at Asa Watts] ...and those I am about to.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Hermione apologises to Neville before putting the full body-bind curse on him.
  • In Spiderman Far From Home, Mysterio briefly apologizes to Peter... AFTER tormenting Peter with his various illusions and tricking Peter to get run over by a bullet train. Also he's going to eliminate all of Peter's friends because they knew too much.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, right before he's about to open the airlock for Kirk and Khan on the Vengeance, Scotty is discovered by a mook and tells the mook that "[he is] so sorry" just before he opens the airlock to allow Kirk and Khan to enter the ship and lets the guard exit the same way, and you can tell he's genuine.

  • In the last Artemis Fowl book, Artemis apologizes to Holly before sacrificing himself to save the human race from Opal Koboi.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The Sorrowful Men are a league of assassins who always apologize to their victims.
  • In Interesting Times, Rincewind gets a fortune cookie that reads "Many Apologies". He just has time to wonder what it means before the Red Army knocks him out.
  • The Maze Runner: In The Scorch Trials, in the Scorch, Teresa apologizes to Thomas in advance for betraying, torturing, and attempting to kill him — we later learn that WICKED had promised that both she and Thomas would be safe if she played along. Needless of her motives, Thomas never fully accepts the apology.
  • In one of the Night Huntress books, Bones says "I'm sorry" before knocking Cat out. Lampshaded later, when he says it again in reference to the situation in general, and she caustically inquires if that means he's about to knock her unconscious.
  • Used by Father Brown in G. K. Chesterton's story "The Blue Cross." The priest was trying to get police detectives to follow him before any crime has been committed.
    Waiter: The parson at the door he says all serene, 'Sorry to confuse your accounts, but it'll pay for the window.' 'What window?' I says. 'The one I'm going to break,' he says, and smashed that blessed pane with his umbrella.

    Live-Action TV 
  • From Angel, when the titular character is being arrested for a brutal murder.
    Angel: I'm sorry.
    Kate: Save it for the judge.
    Angel: No, I didn't do that. I'm sorry for this. [hits her, breaks free, and escapes]
  • In an episode of The A-Team, Murdock said the line, "Bless me father, for I am about to sin," before punching out a priest. The reason was the team had just been convicted in their trial and sentenced to death. The priest Murdock hit was the priest who was slated to give them last rites before their execution, and was one of the few people who would a) be allowed on the island prison the team were held at and b) have unsupervised access to them.
  • The 2012 edition of Big Fat Quiz of the Year, which covered the '90s, had Jack Whitehall mention that he'd been afraid of Mr. Blobby since he was a child. No points for guessing who the guest was that night, which even Jimmy Carr apologized for before inviting him out.
    Jimmy: Right, it's the final question of The Big Fat Quiz of the '90s, and to ask it, we're honored to have one of the decade's most iconic stars. Please welcome - apologies, Jack - Mr. Blobby!
  • When Casey does this on Chuck, Chuck assumes it's for one of the many things Casey has already done—nope, it's for being about to handcuff Chuck to a table.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," is used by Tenth Doctor so often that it becomes a catchphrase.
    • "The Eleventh Hour": The Eleventh Doctor apologizes to Rory about his phone bill before using Rory's phone to call the Atraxi.
    • The Eleventh Doctor also apologizes just before doing something incredibly reckless. From "The Pandorica Opens":
      The Doctor: You know how sometimes I have really brilliant ideas?
      Amy: Yes...
      The Doctor: Sorry.
      The Doctor: [runs from cover and shouts] Look at me, I'm a target!
  • Friends: Chandler attempts to face his Commitment Issues by overcompensating with Janice and making big gestures like offering to move in together even though they've only been back together for a few weeks. Janice freaks out at this and runs out of the apartment. Chandler picks up the phone, leaves a message on her answering machine telling her he's sorry for having chased her down the street, hangs up, and runs out of the apartment after her.
  • An episode of Human Target, in which Chance pretends to be a "cleaner" taking part in a jewel heist:
    Chance: [knocks out his "partner"]
    Receptionist: What the hell is going on?
    Chance: Well, it's a little complicated. I know it doesn't seem like it, but I'm actually one of the good guys. Sorry.
    Receptionist: Sorry about what?
    Chance: [knocks out everyone else in the room]
  • Near the end of season 2 of Leverage, as Nate sets into motion a plan to find evidence linking a corrupt mayor to the gunrunner, Kadjic:
    Nate hands Kadjic a bag full of cash
    'Kadjic: What is this for?
    Nate: Ah, it's an apology.
    Kadjic: What for?
    Nate: For what's about to happen.
    • The first episode of season 3 also features Nate apologizing to someone, then stabbing them.
    • Leverage loves this trope. In the second episode of season 4, Elliot goes up to a murder suspect, and out of the blue says, "I'm not gonna lie to you, man, this is gonna hurt for a second." The suspect justifiably acts confused, and Elliot explains: he knocks his head against the table, hard.
  • In the Lost episode "He's Our You", Sawyer walks into Sayid's cell, apologizes, and then head-butts him.
    • And before that...
      Michael: "I'm sorry."
      Ana Lucia: "For what?"
      (Michael shoots Ana Lucia)
    • And in "The Man From Tallahassee" Locke apologizes to a confused Jack seconds before the submarine explodes.
    • This happens so often on Lost that the characters really should have learned to take cover whenever they were offered a seemingly unwarranted apology.
  • After Abhorrent Admirer Craig confesses his love to Lois in one of the last episodes of Malcolm in the Middle, she apologizes in advance before brutally, mercilessly shooting him down, telling Craig that "whatever sick fantasies you have in your head will never come true! Noooooo!" She then apologizes again. It didn't help that Craig said this during the middle of the store being robbed.
  • Merlin (2008): In "The Drawing of the Dark" While Mordred is technically apologizing to Arthur for what he's already done (tried to help Kara evade capture), it is strongly implied that he's truly apologizing for what he's about to do: Break Kara out of the dungeon and flee Camelot with her. Arthur is oblivious to the true meaning of Mordred's words, but Merlin catches on.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Worf tells Morn "I will apologize for this at a later time," before shoving him off his barstool.
  • In The Walking Dead, Shane says this to Otis, before shooting him and leaving him for the walkers.

  • In Into the Woods, the Baker's Wife apologizes to Rapunzel right before pulling out a lock of her hair.

    Video Games 
  • Rikku pulls this before knocking Tidus out early in Final Fantasy X, though it means even less than usual since she does it in Al Bhed ... which Tidus doesn't speak.

  • Taken to the extreme in Sluggy Freelance, Bunbun once apologized to Torg for taking him off life support and letting him die. This has yet to happen. (Torg was on life support for awhile in 2000, but Bunbun was busy.)
  • This strip of The Order of the Stick:
    Hilgya: Sorry about this. I really do like you.
    Durkon: Sorry 'bout what?
    Hilgya: This.
  • In Girl Genius, Mr. Rovainen stabs Dr. Vg to death after (or while) apologizing for it.
  • In Kill Six Billion Demons, aeons who belong to the Order of Concordant Knights engage in the Prayer for Forgiveness before battle, where they invoke the gods of the setting (which ones vary depending on the situation, but Prim (who taught the first angels self-determination), Het (goddess of police and watchmen) and Aesma (God of Evil, to invoke Even Evil Has Standards) are common), always ending it with "forgive me for this violence I am about to inflict". After that, they will begin fighting back.
    One side effect of the Prayer for Forgiveness is a rather long period in which an angel will do nothing but defend themselves. This is commonly held by many Throne criminals to be a grace period in which you may safely believe you can actually do something to an angel in close combat.

    Web Original 
  • Subverted in the Murdoch Mysteries webseries The Murdoch Effect. Just before the Cowboy Cop 21st century version of George punches Murdoch, he snarls "I would say I'm sorry for this, but I'm not!"
  • In What If? "Alien Astronomers", it's suggested that sending a high-speed probe to an alien planet would be one way to make them notice us. And if we didn't provide any way to slow it down, they'd definitely notice us. The accompanying cartoon shows the probe with "Sorry!" and a frowny face on the front.

    Western Animation 
  • Transformers: Beast Wars plays with this in one episode, when Silverbolt apologizes to Cheetor before knocking him out. When Cheetor doesn't go down, Silverbolt helps him back up, makes sure he's okay, then does it again, this time knocking him out.
  • The Legion of Super Heroes cartoon has a creepy example; at the end of "Message In A Bottle" Brainiac 5 apologizes to Superman before wiping his memory, after Superman learns too much about his future.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), Donatello is trying to evacuate a power plant that is about to explode but is confronted by a worker.
    Donatello: We don't have time for this! Please accept my apology.
    Worker: For what?
    Donatello: For this. (hits the worker with his bo.)