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Reassignment Backfire

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In this plot, a hero in an organization like the military is reassigned by a vindictive superior who seeks to ruin the hero by transferring him to a nothing post, in hopes that the hero's career will dead end — or worse.

However, a catastrophic crisis happens precisely at that backwater area and the hero saves the day using his skills and talents in a spectacular fashion.

To the assigner's horror, the assignment he himself inflicted to shut down the hero's career has instead given the victim a spectacular career boost with commendations, medals and promotions galore and the formerly inconsequential map dot becomes the post to be assigned to.

Basically the Springtime for Hitler result of either a Reassigned to Antarctica, getting Kicked Upstairs, or a Uriah Gambit.

In Science Fiction a variation of this trope can occur when the Alien Hero is assigned to our Insignificant Little Blue Planet to get him out of the way—only to have a major adventure that impacts the whole universe take place on Earth.

Frequently overlaps with Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, since it often transpires that the rank-and-file have also been assigned to this out-of-the-way place, for similar reasons. In such cases, the hero's success largely arises from his ability to see and make use of their quirky talents. And some commanders may not be unhappy at the prospect of cannon fodder they wouldn't miss, but who actually get the job done.

Compare Busman's Holiday.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mihoshi from Tenchi Muyo!, who seemingly only has a job in the Galaxy Police because her grandfather is the Grand Marshall, gets assigned to patrol Earth's solar system. After all, a planet that barely even has space travel could hardly have any trouble for her to get into, and there'd be nothing to report so her superiors wouldn't have to deal with her anymore. Naturally, she promptly gets involved in taking down the most notorious criminal in the universe.
    • Kiyone, her partner, doesn't enjoy it in the least, mainly because being partnered with Mihoshi destroyed her career.
    • Noike in the OAVs on the other hand, gets assigned there when the GP brass realized that with two Imperial princesses, an Imperial prince, a former S-class criminal (statue of limitations expired), a former Most Wanted Battleship, the Galaxy's greatest Mad Scientist, a prospective heir to the throne, and their Goddess (and her sister) taking up residence there (there is some overlap), said planet that barely even has space travel just happens to now have the single highest concentration of political, supernatural, and military power in the universe.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • They promote Olivier Mira Armstrong to Central to keep an eye on her and separate her from her loyal troops. However, she knows more than they realize, and takes advantage of her reassignment to quietly learn even more, while also secretly setting into motion a plan to foil the government conspiracy she's uncovered.
    • Roy Mustang has a similar thing happen: he is transferred to the east because it is so dull. It backfires on the higher ups because they end up having to flee there because Scar was killing them in Central.
    • Falman, one of Roy's subordinates, got this as well. After Roy's team was split up, he got assigned to Briggs, the harsh Northern Outpost. While there he Took a Level in Badass just in time to join the other Briggs soldiers in a coup attempt on Central.
  • In Dragon Ball, the Saiyans, who travel to other planets to conquer them, send their infants to planets whose inhabitants are so weak sending an adult Saiyan would be overkill. Goku is one such infant, and after landing on Earth he made a head trauma-induced Heel–Face Turn (or landing and being raised by Son Gohan, according to Dragon Ball Minus), became the planet's protector, and fended off the other remaining Saiyans as an adult. And discovered that Half-Human Hybrids are stronger than pure-blooded Saiyans, in theory.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Relena Peacecraft was made Queen of the World by Duke Dermail in order to improve Romefeller's image and to get her out of the way with a meaningless figurehead title. However, her idealism and charisma cause Romefeller to support her over Dermail, turning her figurehead position into one of actual authority, resulting in Dermail losing almost all of Romefeller's support and indirectly causing his death.
  • Pretty much the whole plot of Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Tylor's superiors get more and more frustrated as the series goes on. They start by using the Soyokaze (Tylor's ship) as bait in important operations, gradually move to pointless suicide missions and by the end they are outright hiring pirates to kill him.
  • Pretty much Episode 19's plot of Martian Successor Nadesico. The higher ups got tired of Yurika and attempted to shunt her out by hijacking a contest originally made to raise morale (and was already hijacked by Yurika by changing the prize to be captain for a day). Their plan backfired when the winner forfeited out of embarrassment and Yurika got it back by virtue of being second place.
    • Ironically, the winner would become captain during The Movie.
  • This seem to be the fate of the Class E students in Assassination Classroom. Originally transferred there to become the laughing stock of the school and set an example to the other students, their situation takes a turn for the better when they are assigned the task of killing an almighty alien who properly teaches them in all regular subjects (including assassination skills). Together, they eventually become far more skilled than their "elite" schoolmates and a 10 billion yen bonus shall be given to whoever manages to kill him. However, they must do it in one year, or Earth is doomed.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED inverts this slightly — when the Archangel arrives in JOSH-A, the Earth Alliance brass reassign three crew members — Mu La Flaga, Flay Allster, and Natarle Badgiruel — to other sections as they feel they have greater purposes for the war and leave the rest of the Archangel crew at JOSH-A. However, Mu has a suspicion that something's wrong and discovers that it's a trap - the brass know ZAFT is setting up to attack and have armed a Cyclops System to wipe them all out and the Archangel is the bait as they believe that, because of Kira Yamato's time on the ship, it's "tainted" by his Coordinator presence and thus the Archangel can die with the rest of them. Mu stays with the Archangel, Flay is kidnapped by Rau Le Creuset and Natarle is the only whose reassignment sticks. Oh, and those on the Archangel become a real pain in everyone's sides.
  • In Spy X Family, Henry Henderson was demoted after punching Murdoch Swann for insulting and mocking Anya Forger to the point of tears, with Henry even realizing that he had become a little too hard about things lately. He seems to take his demotion and being in charge of the first-graders of Cecile Hall in stride, considering it an opportunity for him to rediscover and reignite his passion for teaching.

    Comic Books 
  • Traditionally, the origin of The Mighty Thor involves Odin sending the character to Earth in order to teach him humility before he ascends the throne as his heir. It works, but Thor ends up liking Earth so much that he is often extremely reluctant to return to Asgard, and even more to becoming its ruler. This is partially due to Thor being the son of Mother Earth herself, Gaea.
  • In Wonder Woman (1987), when Wonder Woman died, the Amazons made her mother, Queen Hippolyta, take up the mantle in her stead, as a form of penance for indirectly causing Diana's death. Hippolyta enjoyed being a superhero so much that she kept at it even after Diana came back from the dead, and eventually abolished the monarchy entirely.
  • Knights of the Dinner Table: When Hard 8 reinstates Nitro's GM credentials, it is with the provision that he is only allowed to GM the Pee Wee Hackleague. Nitro proceeds to take his Pee Wee team all the way to the Garycon finals.
  • A variation occurs in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight. Rona thought that transferring Simone from Chicago to Rome would soften her up (though Buffy herself thought she did it simply because she didn't want to put up with Simone anymore). Instead, Andrew annoyed her so much that she ended up going rogue, becoming one of Buffy's greatest enemies.
  • X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Soontir Fel is banished to the 181st Fighter Group — bad enough to be nicknamed the One-Eighty-Worst — and quickly transforms it into one of the Empire's most elite units.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, the nineteen-year-old Johanna Smith-Rhodes is first encountered as a conscript Army soldier who led an unsanctioned raid into a hostile neighbouring country, with the stated intention of killing a warlord who raided into her country. Succeeding in this and becoming something of a heroine, she is posted, effectively, as a Marine, part of an armed escort aboard a ship with a valuable cargo. What she doesn't realise until she gets there is that hers is a one-way ticket — she has effectively been exiled to faraway Ankh-Morpork. Where the Guild of Assassins has been persuaded to offer her a choice: join us as a mature entrant or die trying. She learns later that her country does not want people who very nearly start an all-out war with a powerful neighbour, and considered exile would resolve a problem. Johanna begins a career as an Assassin and gets to be rather good at it. She also grows up and likes it in Ankh-Morpork. Her home country uncomfortably realises they didn't solve a problem. They simply moved it several thousand miles away and gave it a lot of in-depth skills training. Which proves useful both to the Guild and to Lord Vetinari.
    • Elsewhere, Alison Grose is one of the first women to graduate from the Fools' Guild. Forced by the machinations of Lord Vetinari to take a complement of female students, the Guild is at a loss as to what to do with them after they graduate. It is at pains to point out that while they have been forced by circumstances to liberalise, they are not that liberal. Alison, aware she is not especially wanted in Ankh-Morpork, gladly accepts an offer from King Verence of Lancre to become his Court Jester. Verence, a much-respected Guild graduate and a King, believes a female jester can't be any worse and may indeed be refreshingly different. The Fools' Guild therefore has to accept that like it or not, there is now a fully accredited Lady Jester out there. Alison thus takes full advantage of exile to a remote backwater Kingdom, one where the Guild cannot easily track or monitor what she is doing, to begin to develop the skills of Clown, Jester and Troubador in excitingly new and novel ways.
  • In the first entry of the Tales of the Undiscovered Swords, when Himetsuru is sent on a Uriah Gambit for being an annoying dickbag, he not only survives the battle but also singlehandedly cuts down all the enemies and defends his friends. While having sustained critical damage, no less.
  • In This Bites!, to restore good PR, Sengoku sends Knight Templar Akainu and other like-minded marines to the New World and fight the Four Emperors outside the public eye. However, Akainu has been working with the Five Elder Stars on a mass recruiting campaign from isolated nations.
  • In The Weaver Option, this happens several times.
    • The Fay 20th, recently rebuilt after being brutally mauled in a fight against Orks, was sent to an out-of-the-way post in that planet when the Orks arrived to Fay, keeping them as possible bait while the more glamorous "Grand Army" did the job of killing the Orks. In the end, the Grand Army is destroyed to the last man and the Fay 20th — after the miraculous appearance of Taylor Hebert — becomes the unit that breaks the back of the Ork army.
    • Dragon was banished to Andes Primus because of her being in the same place as a heretek. When she crosses paths with Weaver, she joins her to help her — and this leads to her getting her own Forge Hive and becoming famous after her Dragon Armors prove the perfect counter to the Dark Mechanicus' Heldrakes.
    • The Fabricator of Quayrian assigns Archmagos Thayer Sagami, one of his political rivals, to command the HMHMS Enterprise, clearly expecting to get him out of the way for a decade and potentially killed. Six years later, and he is in command of the flagship of the fleet assigned to Operation Caribbean, which ends up destroying the Pavia system's pirate haven and razes Commorragh and retrieves large amounts of incredibly valuable materials and priceless archeotech, including two of the Artifacts of Vulkan.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Ratatouille, the jealous Head Chef Skinner learns that a finicky group of customers at Gusteau's are requesting a new dish and are so used to the founder's cooking that choosing a less used recipe will not be accepted. In an attempt to discredit the new chef, Linguini (who, unknown to Skinner, is simply a front for Remy the rat, who is a brilliant cook), he orders him to prepare an off menu dish using an obscure recipe that even Auguste Gusteau wrote off as horrible. However, Remy is able to modify the recipe dramatically and make the dish a scrumptious success that runs the kitchen staff ragged supplying all the patrons who now want to try it. To Skinner's shock, this busy night removes all doubts in the kitchen staff that Linguini is a master chef.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played with in Hot Fuzz. The entire London police force is sick of Sergeant Angel's white-hot performance, so he gets relocated to a tiny country town. He discovers and shuts down a huge, awful conspiracy while he's there, but it's not his continued heroism which alarms the London office; it's the fact that without Angel, the crime rate in London has escalated out of hand and they need him back.
  • Kazuhiro in Gung Ho was put in charge of Assan Motors' fledgling US assembly plant, in order to fail because his bosses felt he thought too much like an American. Didn't quite think that one through.
  • In The Pentagon Wars, Colonel Burton raises enough general hell with the design of the Bradley APC that, after circulating a massively critical memorandum to virtually the whole Pentagon, he is reassigned to the "prestigious" Alaska posting. Later, when he's called to testify before Congress, his boss on the design team arranges for his commander to be unavailable to give him permission to testify. Pity that he forgot about the reassignment; Alaska's commander is more than happy enough to let Burton testify. Didn't See That Coming.
  • In Morgan Pålsson: World Reporter the titular reporter is thrown away to a back-water middle-eastern country so they won't risk having to broadcast his reports. Then a coup d'état happens in that country. Unlike other examples, the coup only further highlights his incompetence.
  • In Spies Like Us, Emmett Fitz-Hume (who only got his job through nepotism), and Austin Millbarge (who works in the bowels of a civil service building) have this happen to them. Emmett didn't study for the upcoming civil service exam, and while Austin initially refuses to help him cheat, both end up causing a scene in the exam room. So their superiors send them to Pakistan as decoys, claiming they would be on a mission of great importance (when in reality, they were just there to keep the fire off the real agents). Except they eventually find their way to Russia, where alongside one of the REAL CIA agents, they end up saving the day.
  • In Down Periscope, Rear Admiral Graham tries to torpedo Lieutenant Commander Dodge's career by assigning him the most screwed-up crew he can find for the USS Stingray (an old WW2 diesel submarine) hoping they would fail the naval exercise Dodge was participating in as a hypothetical rogue sub commander seeking to harm the US. As with most ragtag bunches of misfits, each member proves to be supremely skilled at their job when handled correctly, allowing Dodge to surpass all expectations and succeed.
  • Played with in Dances with Wolves, where The Hero chooses his reassignment to the Dakotas, out in the middle of nowhere. He then actually does end up sinking his own career when his superiors learn that he's been making friends with the natives.
  • In Batman Begins, Lucius Fox is assigned as head of the Applied Sciences division of Wayne Enterprises because Earle wants him out of the board and in a place where he won't have any influence over the company. However, when Bruce Wayne returns from his training with the League of Shadows, Fox's military prototypes catch his attention. After Bruce entrusts Fox with supplying him all the gear he needs in order to be Batman, Earle fires Fox for asking too many questions about a certain microwave emitter that was seized by the League of Shadows. At the end of the movie, Bruce has returned to being the head of Wayne Enterprises by buying back all of his company's shares, and also gives Fox a better job: Earle's. "Didn't you get the memo?"
  • Under Siege Chief Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) is a Navy SEAL reassigned as a cook for striking one of his superior officers. This proves invaluable when terrorists take control of his ship, as he's in the kitchen, away from them when they take the crew hostage.
  • A rare villainous example appears in Captain America: The First Avenger. Johann Schmidt is reassigned by Hitler to a base in the Swiss Alps after being disfigured. This gives him privacy enough to make his own army behind Hitler's back.
  • Also another villainous example occurs in Battlefield Earth. Terl has been reassigned to Earth and condemned there indefinitely as petty revenge for getting involved with the daughter of a senator, which leads to the destruction of the Psychlo race.
  • In Star Trek (2009), Scotty was reassigned to Delta Vega, thus putting him in position to help Kirk save the day.
  • In Rush Hour, LAPD Detective James Carter believes he's gotten picked by the FBI to help search for the kidnapped daughter of the Chinese Consul, but is really ordered to keep Chief Inspector Lee, who was summoned by the ambassador, distracted while they handle the investigation. Lee and Carter manage to find the daughter themselves and expose the kidnappers.
  • In the Abbott and Costello film Little Giant, Benny Miller is transferred to a remote sales district following a disastrous first day as a Traveling Salesman. However, due in a large part to a prank played on him by his coworkers, he ends up becoming the company's Salesman of the Year.
  • This is a bit of a Running Gag throughout The Pink Panther films. Chief Inspector Dreyfuss will, due to both personal dislike and awareness of his subordinate's obvious and dangerous incompetence, try to reassign Inspector Clouseau to some out-of-the-way position in regards to the current investigation of the film, only for Clouseau to somehow bumble his way into solving the crime and receiving all the glory.
  • Advance to the Rear: General Willoughby is terrified to realize that sending Brackenbury and the other misfits out into the middle of nowhere right before a major gold shipment passes through the area is about to have them screw up worse than he can afford. This doesn't happen but they do end up getting the credit for an impressive coup when they foil the robbery.

  • The Ministry Of Peculiar Occurrences Series begins with Field Agent Eliza Braun being reassigned to the archive, which is a boring job, where she can't play with explosives. Of course, she finds an unsolved case in one of the dusty folders and teams up with Agent Books, the one who is in charge of the archive, to solve it.
  • The Honor Harrington series by David Weber does this three times:
    • The first novel, On Basilisk Station, sees Commander Honor Harrington and her old, underarmed ship Fearless dispatched to Basilisk Station, where the screw-ups and political embarrassments are sent. Honor not only manages to expose the smuggling and corruption running rampant through the system (Implicating several important business figures in the Manticore system), but also discovers and thwarts a plot by the People's Republic of Haven to invade the system and seize it from Manticore. In recognition, she is promoted two ranks directly to Captain (Senior Grade) and is placed in command of a newer, heavier ship also named Fearless.
    • The sixth novel, Honor Among Enemies, sees Captain Harrington dispatched to the chaotic, pirate-infested Silesian Confederacy in command of a squadron of Q-Ships (Armed merchantmen disguised to look like regular freighters). She is selected for the role by her political enemies, who expect her to do some good against the pirates but ultimately be killed due the lack of proper support against overwhelming odds. She not only survives, but manages to (again) expose an operation by the People's Republic of Haven and even forges closer ties with the nearby Andermani Empire.
    • In the tenth novel, War of Honor, Admiral Harrington is sent to take command of Sidemore Station, Manticore's primary naval base for operating in the Silesian Confederacy. This is an inherently important station in and of itself, but it's also far away and her political enemies hope that it will remove her from the domestic political situation back home. When the massive attack by the Republic of Haven throughout Manticore's territory validates all of her previous domestic political critiques, and she repels a Havenite attack on Sidemore itself, she returns home as an even bigger hero than ever before.
  • Robert Asprin's Phule books start off with the main character getting reassigned for strafing a peace-treaty signing; it's intended as a punishment because his new post involves taking charge of the Space Legion's losers on a backwater planet. Of course, things go much differently than planned, and this is more-or-less the last time Phule and the Omega Mob get transferred/"promoted"/etc without malicious intentions.
    • Tellingly, the only reason Phule was reassigned at all and not court-martialed was due to the fact that his father owned the largest munitions company in the galaxy. The Legion's top brass was intending Phule to become so fed up with his Ragtag Band of Misfits that he would voluntarily quit, as a bored, rich kid can find other ways to amuse himself.
  • In The Dresden Files, Murphy's position as the head of Special Investigations is where people you really, really don't like get sent and they soon leave, disgusted with it. Murphy's the first person who's stayed long enough to warrant a nameplate.
    • This is due to the fact that before Murphy, every SI head simply refused to acknowledge that anything supernatural was going on. This lead to none of their cases ever being closed, and a quick dismissal. Murphy actually decided to start believing in the paranormal and so she actually did get results.
    • Though in the end even she can't avoid all the problems associated with the position. In White Night she is demoted, and by the end of Changes her dereliction of duty results in her being summarily fired.
  • In Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt has been living in reassignment hell for the last 15 years. The fact that such reassignments have backfired time and time again have not stopped the higher-ups whom he has offended to keep trying. The reassignments have been meant to do a little more than get his career stuck, so it's also a case of Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder since most of Gaunt's men also manage to survive the experience.
    • Inverted by a fellow Commissar, Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM), who wants a nice, comfortable out-of-the-way post in order to keep himself out of harm's way. He'll "heroically" volunteer for the most boring posting he can, only to somehow put himself in the most dangerous spot possible. Ironically, his tendency to find himself running up against seemingly impossible odds and triumphing by sheer dumb luck have earned him the status of a Hero of the Imperium, meaning he's expected to be at the front lines, facing enemy fire. From his perspective, he's now suffering the trope since he's forced to accept these assignments to keep up his reputation and not disappoint his friends and colleagues. A straight example is his aide, Gunner Jurgen. The malodorous soldier was originally assigned to Cain as a practical joke, but between his skill as a soldier and hidden Anti-Magic abilities the arrangement became the foundation of Cain's rise to fame.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, Miles Vorkosigan is assigned to Kyril Island, an out-of-the-way training base, as the Weather Officer. This is specifically a test to see if he can handle a normal, boring assignment without causing problems, since his ongoing insubordination and need to do something doesn't fly in a real military posting. Before his tour of duty was up he had joined a mutiny and barely avoided treason charges, the fallout of which got his commanding officer dishonorably discharged. As usual, it's genetic. Aral Vorkosigan had ups and downs like this. He'd do the right thing, but nobody would like it, so he'd get assigned to some punishment post...and come out of it smelling like roses. Most notably, this was part of The Plan that turned him into the Barrayaran Cincinnatus.
  • In the first Thursday Next book The Eyre Affair, literary detective Next gets transferred to a SpecOps post in Swindon (which also happens to be her quirky hometown). Her colleagues are puzzled at her seeming demotion (when she could have chosen a better post), but Thursday knows what she's doing.
  • In L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s Space Opera novel The Ethos Effect the main character, a former military spaceship commander responsible for a PR disaster (everyone knows he did what he had to do, but being responsible for the loss of a large passenger ship doesn't make you popular) ends up being the "victim" of one of these; he's given a weird assignment that doesn't match his experience, working at an embassy on a planet he's completely unfamiliar with. He ends up foiling an assassination attempt targeting diplomats from multiple interstellar nations. Which angers his superiors even more, because, as the main character eventually realizes, they were behind the assassination attempt and didn't intend for him to actually succeed at his job. In fact, they didn't even intend for him to survive the journey to the planet; the unidentified spaceship that attacked him en route was actually one of their own ships.
  • In The ESP Worm by Piers Anthony, the hero is the President's deadbeat cousin, who was given the supposedly meaningless job of negotiating with any aliens that ever happened to come to Earth. Humans have never come in contact with an alien before, but there's a first time for everything, and naturally, it comes as a surprise to everyone when the titular worm is the first alien to come to Earth.
  • Discworld:
    • In the novel Thief of Time, several of the managers of the History Monks assign Lobsang Ludd (a troublesome child) be the apprentice of Lu Tze (widely seen as a great hero, but has lots of fun annoying the other monks), on the basis that either or both will break the other. Their combined efforts end up saving the world ...
    • Vetinari invokes this intentionally with Moist von Lipwig in Going Postal by putting the sentenced-to-death criminal to work reforming the Ankh-Mopork postal office, a job that has so far claimed the lives of the last four people who tried in short order, and assigning him an Implacable Parole Officer. If he succeeds, the Post Office is up and running again. If he doesn't, well, the city was prepared to kill him anyway, one way or the other. As he later describes it, it was a cruel joke that fortunately backfired in the best way possible.
    • The advent of Mustrum Ridcully to Arch-Chancellor was the result of a spectacular error by scheming wizards who wanted an unworldly rural wizard in position to allow them time to scheme and plot, with a deliberately chosen weak nonentity in the figurehead role. What they actually got was a runbustious BRIAN BLESSED of a man, who proved himself unkillable, who grabbed the role by the scruff of the neck and became the longest-serving Arch-Chancellor in history. His brother Hughnon suceeded a weak and doddering High Priest (killed by a dragon) through what the reader suspects is the same mechanism.
  • In the second Artemis Fowl novel Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident elf LEP recon captain Holly Short is assigned to guarding an abandoned shuttle port where nothing has happened in literally a hundred years. Naturally, she encounters a huge goblin smuggling program which involves the use of a human contact and illegal weapons.
  • Flashman is a good example of this. Harry Flashman, freshly expelled from Rugby School, joins the prestigious 11th Hussars. Within a year, he gets into a duel over a woman, and is posted to Glasgow, assisting the local militia against agitating mill workers. He seduces the prettiest daughter of the mill owner he's billeted with, and is forced to marry her. This doesn't sit well with Lord Cardigan, the commander of the 11th Hussars, and he gets posted again, this time to India (a location hated and despised by Cardigan). Flashman's skill with a horse and lance impresses the Governor General, and he's sent as an ADC to Kabul, on General Elphinstone's staff. He gains (stolen) credit with the natives as "Bloody Lance", the lone killer of five would-be assassins, and gains credit with the military and public when he's one of the few survivors of the Kabul Retreat, and "defends" a small fort outside the besieged Jalalabad — he's found surrounded by dead, clutching the flag to his chest. As the only (white) survivor, he feels free to not contradict the CO's assumption that he wasn't cowering uselessly in bed, and was in fact about to throw the flag to the attackers. He gets a hero's send-off from India, a hero's welcome upon his return, and a medal from Queen Victoria herself.
  • In the Dragonriders of Pern series, this appeared to be the case with Masterharper Petiron, the old harper of Menolly's repressed, backwater fishing hold. Subverted later in Masterharper of Pern, when we find out that Petiron asked to be sent there, to make a fresh start where no one knew he was other than "the harper". And he chose this over the protests of his superior, his son Robinton.
  • Sort of subverted in Yulia Latynina's Wizards and Ministers (also, a political version): Mr. Nan's "all-powerful secretary" Mr. Shavash is suddenly sent out of the capital to a distant province. Some people think that this is an exile and a sign of disfavour. Others think that Mr. Nan is deliberately arranging this very trope. It's probably the latter, but everything goes horribly wrong for everyone involved before this plan could bear fruit.
  • In the third book of David Weber's Safehold series, it gets played somewhat unusually. The commander in question is in fact incompetent, but the general doesn't want to fire him for political reasons, so he puts him in command of the rear of their defense of a mountain pass. Unfortunately, the other side gets around behind them, so they have to move quickly to escape the pass and redeploy. Unfortunately, the incompetent commander has to get moving before the rest of the army can go anywhere.
  • Another variant occurs in Antares Passage. Captain Drake has nothing against his Sandarian exchange officer, Ensign Philip Walkirk. However, this particular ensign happens to be Crown Prince of Sandar, and Drake is terrified of the possibility that he might get killed while under Drake's command. So he assigns him to command the Marine detachment, figuring that there's little chance they'll see any action. Later, the Marines end up boarding a Ryall transport. Fortunately, Philip survives unscathed.
  • Forgotten Realms trilogy Return of the Archwizards protagonist, Galaeron Nihmedu was assigned to far tomb guard due to wizards vs. sorcerers discrimination. Where he met some "grave robbers" who turns out to be something more, accidentally participated in release of Sealed Evil in a Can planned anyway, and acquired both priceless report from top Netherese spy, as well as means to put it to good use and save his home city.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, joining the Night's Watch is seen as a last resort for criminals and failures, where they will spend the rest of existence guarding a giant wall in the frozen north, far away from the war and turmoil of the seven kingdoms. However, the Night's Watch is under constant threat from the nomadic Wildlings and inhuman Others, and after their alliance with King Stannis Baratheon, the Night's Watch proves to be one of the most relevant forces in the war.
    • Position of Master of Coin is supposed to be the weakest position on King's council. Basically, the job involves collecting taxes and providing money whenever the king needs it, with no prospects for gaining personal glory or fame, committing valiant deeds, or being remembered at all. Then King Robert assigned the position to Littlefinger...
    • From the backstory, there's the rivalry between Unwin Peake, the scheming regent and Hand of the boy-king Aegon III, and Alyn Velaryon, the Oakenfist, a legitimised bastard and popular hero. Eventually Peake ordered Oakenfist to put down the then-ongoing Iron Islands rebellion; this would involve sailing his fleet clear around the continent, through the middle of an ongoing naval war between the Free Cities and the pirates of the Stepstones, to engage a numerically superior foe on his home turf. Unfortunately for Peake, the leader of the Iron Men was murdered by one of his salt wives and his rebellion fell apart, and on the way home Oakenfist managed to find the king's long-lost brother, Viserys, and bring him home, making him an even bigger hero than before.
    • Tyrion Lannister was the subject of being The Un-Favourite his entire life, at one point he mentions that while his siblings were given positions of power, he was put in charge of looking after the sewers. He also notes that while, yes, it was a lowly function, at no other point in Casterly Rock's existence did the sewers work that smoothly and he was quite proud of it.
  • A bit of a variation in Animorphs: the disgraced Seerow is stationed on the Hork-Bajir homeworld, which the Andalite superiors believe to not be in any way significant. Then the Yeerks arrive. The variation? Seerow is killed almost immediately; it's his daughter (who was stationed there with him) who becomes a heroine due to the reassignment.
  • An inversion happens in Dune, where Duke Atreides is sent by The Emperor from his ancestral home planet to the desert planet Arrakis ... which is the only place in the universe that the "spice" that their civilization runs on is made ... and is thus actually the MOST important planet in the universe and best post possible. Of course, the reason the Emperor relocated him there instead of playing the trope straight is that instead of wanting to sink the Duke's career he's hatching a plot to get rid of him directly, which succeeds. The backfire comes when his son Paul just so happens to be a seer and becomes a Messianic Archetype who gathers the Proud Warrior Race Guy natives together and trains them to be a Bad Ass Army La Résistance, launching a coup d'etat.
  • The Reynard Cycle: At the end of Reynard the Fox, Nobel, feeling that much of his thunder is being (rightfully) stolen by Reynard, names him The Baron of Maleperduys, a place which is not only little more than a forest full of monstrous Chimera, it's also located behind enemy lines. Meant to be a meaningless title at best, and a very unsubtle insult at worst, he doesn't really expect Reynard to go there, let alone rule. Reynard promptly does so, and ends up becoming a war hero in The Baron of Maleperduys due to the actions he is forced to take in order to survive there.
  • Wedge Antilles in the Wraith Squadron series is Genre Savvy enough to take advantage of this trope. To create Wraith Squadron, he deliberately cherry picks skilled pilots who are about to be washed out or court-martialed. This is because it's easier than trying to cherry pick the best of the best, since rival squadron leaders would fight to keep their aces, but wouldn't care if they could get rid of an unwanted pilot. Sure enough, the Ragtag Squadron of Misfits basically Indy Ploys their way into legend.
    • He'd initially started with fifty candidates. He'd hoped to trim that to twelve, but for various reasons, only ten were fit to join the squadron at all, forcing him to round out the numbers by adding himself (as leader) and Wes Janson. Still, he had expected that he'd get a lot of irredeemables among the misfits, so he was still pleased that he was able to come up with anything near a full squadron.
    • Sort of also applies to Thrawn, he was reassigned to his old stomping ground in the Unknowns to calm his political opponents. The fact that he made Grand Admiral on his tactical prowess rather than any political links made this a foregone outcome. Although we find out later that his "exile" was a cover story for a mission to pacify and organize the Unknown Regions... which he did, to the tune of 250 sectors, one quarter of the size of the Galactic Empire at its height, and far larger than the Imperial Remnant by the time our heroes stumble upon it.
  • Sano Ichiro is sent to Nagasaki in The Way of the Traitor by his rival Chamberlain Yanagisawa in hopes that he will destroy his career on a difficult case there; instead, Sano successfully solves the case and adds to his sterling reputation.
  • Happens twice in the Schofield series, in Area 7 he is assigned to protect the president so that he can avoid the press while still being seen regularly due to the events of the first book. Of course a conspiracy puts him right back into action almost immediately. Then after the events of the third book he is assigned to an outpost in the Arctic which he quite enjoys, and then terrorists invade an old soviet weapons facility right near his location. In a bit of a twist there is also a well armed, and well trained army regiment nearby but the terrorists are expecting them and they're killed off quickly.
  • In the beginning of the Island in the Sea of Time (Series), Capt. Marian Alston is assigned to the Eagle, an old World War II-era German boat that's been repurposed as a training vessel for the US Coast Guard, because her superiors strongly suspected that she's a lesbian but didn't want the PR nightmare that might ensue from firing a highly-respected black officer over her sexual orientation. She ends up around Nantucket during the Event, and her crew becomes the closest thing that the island has to a military during the turbulent early years of its adjustment to being sent back in time to the Bronze Age, thus making her a power player in the Republic of Nantucket.
  • The Fourth Protocol. MI5 investigator John Preston is reassigned to Ports & Airports after annoying his Pointy-Haired Boss. This puts him in the position to investigate a Soviet plot to smuggle the components of an atomic bomb into the country. When he tries to get the attention of his boss re this plot, he's put on leave — this gives him the time to run a Rogue Agent operation to track down the agent assembling the bomb.
  • Invoked as part of The Plan in Diane Duane's My Enemy, My Ally: Ael's career is in political eclipse when she is assigned to the neutral zone for her opposition to a program weaponizing Romulan psionic potential. She and James T. Kirk arrange for her 'Capture' of the U.S.S. Enterprise, to the consternation of her superiors. A sufficient prize that she is ordered to haul the prize vessel directly back to Romulus - right by the station running the project. She declines taking it any further as Kirk tries to have her capture more ships as well; She notes that she can, on the strength of her reputation, barely justify winning a a pitched battle with the Enterprise with a Romulan Warbird, but Romulan High command knows she's not equal to the entire task force Kirk lightly suggests, including the Battleship Inaiau.
  • In Farsight, the Fire Caste commanders of Tau were getting a bit too popular for their Ethereal superiors' comfort, so two of them were placed in cryostasis despite dire need for their skills. The third commander was sent far away, across a gulf in space that takes years to travel through- ordered to reclaim colonies that humans had stolen from the Tau. The Ethereals gave him a lot of ships and personnel and figured they'd never have to deal with him again, because all prior wars against humans had ended in a Curb-Stomp Battle. Except that the commander did manage to cross the gulf, and did fight the humans off, and did reclaim the colonies. And he was so upset with the Ethereals by this point that he and all the colonies he'd conquered went rogue...proving to every Tau that life without the Ethereals' authority is possible.
  • The Death of Russia: Viktor Aksyuchits, a member of the National Salvation Front who wasn't an extremist (instead being a fairly standard Christian Democrat), was made the regional governor of Primorsky in order to get him away far away from any meaningful position in Moscow. As Siberia and the Far East descend into anarchy when the Second Russian Civil War kicks off, he declares Primorsky's independence as the Far Eastern Republic, and becomes a beloved leader after leading the young nation through a North Korean invasion.

    Live Action TV 
  • Captain Parmenter from F Troop was Kicked Upstairs to a command position at Fort Courage after his accidental heroism at the Battle of Appomatox caused some embarrasment to the U.S. Army.
  • Played with in Due South: Fraser was assigned liaison duty with the Canadian Consulate in Chicago as retribution for arresting a fellow Mountie — and for being, in general, just a little too good for anyone at home to feel really comfortable with. He becomes something of a local phenomenon in Chicago, but remains persona non grata at home, and the Consulate continues to function as an apparent dumping ground for misfits.
  • Babylon 5:
    • After making too many political enemies on Earth, EarthGov promotes Sinclair to Ambassador and posts him to Minbar as a method of quietly shipping him out of the way. They also don't provide him with staff or funding. Largely ignored by the Earth Alliance Sinclair instead becomes the Entil'zha of the Anla'shok (Rangers) and then travels back in time to become the Minbari religious figure Valen.
    • Londo Mollari was sent to be the ambassador on the station partly due to the fact that Babylon 1-4 all blew up or disappeared, and partly because it was considered a "joke" posting where it was safe to dump underperformers. Babylon 5, however, succeeds in its mission as an outpost of international diplomacy, and Londo's position becomes extremely important. He ultimately becomes emperor.
    • Londo's assistant Vir was sent there because his progressive views were seen as an embarrassment to the family. Vir's reassignment to Minbar also counts. At that time Babylon 5 was one of the most important places and Vir was acting as Londo's conscience. Londo had him reassigned to Minbar since having someone acting like your conscience can get in the way when you're busy making a Deal with the Devil. Vir ended up working against his own government to save Narns. In the sequel novels, that also gives him credibility with the Interstellar Alliance to support his claim to the throne to help drive out the Drakh who secretly dominate the Centauri Republic. Vir later becomes Emperor after Londo.
  • Doctor Who's "The Five Doctors" subverts this, when The Doctor is made President of Gallifrey in the hopes of tying him to the the position and halting his endless gallivanting across time and space, and instead of coming quietly to rule from behind a desk, he gives an order placing the one who promoted him in command until his return and dashes off in the TARDIS with no intention of returning.
    • He finally showed an interest in the post in "Trial of a Time Lord" when he tried to play the 'Presidential immunity from prosecution card' only to find out that he had been deposed during his absence for neglecting his duties.
  • Happened in The Greatest American Hero when Bill Maxwell's boss, exasperated with his loss of government cars, assigns him a Volkswagen bug and the case of a missing circus clown. It leads to him busting a major spy ring. The bad guy even tells Bill he'll get a promotion out of the case.
  • Subverted in M*A*S*H in "Fade Out, Fade In". Charles is sent to the 4077th by a higher officer who owes him money. Shortly after his arrival he is able to prove his surgical skills are invaluable, ensuring, much to his chagrin, that he becomes the permanent tentmate of Hawkeye and BJ.
    • Played straight a few seasons later when the higher officer came back. Because of a sequence of events that would lead to trouble, he expects Winchester to cover for him so that Margaret's career would be ruined and his career would be fine, with a reward of finally going back to Tokyo. Due to Character Development making him turn from a Jerkass to a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Winchester has enough morals to loudly call him on it.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • Commander William Adama, assigned to the so-old-we're-using-it-as-a-museum Battlestar Galactica. We all know how that turned out. One can guess that many of the other officers and crew were sent there to get them out of the way. Tigh certainly didn't seem to be a model XO and Starbuck was the queen of insubordination. If you were competent and ambitious you probably did not get assigned to the Galactica.
    • Roslin was also sent to the Galactica as a way to get her out of the way for a short time. She went against the president when negotiating with the teacher's union and the party leaders had to keep her away from the public spotlight while they neutralized any political fallout.
  • The Wire:
    • In the first season, a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits is put on a deadend assignment. They (mostly) succeed in taking down the biggest drug empire in West Baltimore.
    • By the start of Season 2, McNulty has been put in his nightmare assignment of harbour patrol, and manages to blow open a human trafficking operation. In a variation on the usual trope, this isn't so much out of irrepressible heroism as it is a calculated attempt to embarrass his old boss. He's already so low on the career ladder that Rawls can't do anything meaningful in retaliation anyway.
    • Prez gets justifiably stripped of his gun and stuck on a desk. Turns out his intelligence and skill at pattern-recognition mean he's much more effective as a Desk Jockey than he was as a beat cop.
    • Michael Santangelo is a somewhat incompetent Homicide detective who is assigned by Rawls to the Barksdale detail, ostensibly to spy on McNulty. When Bunk and McNulty help him out of a jam, Santangelo refuses to rat on a fellow officer, and thus takes a demotion to a patrol officer in the Western District. When McNulty and Kima run into him in season 3, Santangelo admits that he actually is a lot happier as a patrol officer, because he keeps the same pay and pension, is much better at the position than he was at being a detective, and doesn't have overbearing bosses like Rawls watching his every move. Santangelo's happiness in patrol leads McNulty to decide to join him and Carver on the Western District beat when he transfers out of the Major Crimes Unit.
  • Stargate SG-1: In the episode "The Warrior", "K'tano" (actually the minor Goa'uld Imhotep disguised as a free Jaffa leader, using their ideology against him to gain his own army) sends Teal'c on a suicide mission against the System Lord Yu. Yu spares Teal'c, tells him Imhotep's true identity, and sends him back. Teal'c returns and kills Imhotep via Klingon Promotion.
    • A rare positive variant concerns General Hammond. When he took over from General West, he initially seemed to be counting down his days to retirement in a dusty secret facility. Then the Stargate reactivated, putting Hammond on the track of becoming a Reasonable Authority Figure for much of the show's run.
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • The starting situation for Major John Sheppard: he screwed up in Afghanistan and was reassigned to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Thing is, he not only turned out to be a fiendishly good pilot (he used a passenger helicopter to repeatedly dodge a drone weapon)...
    Carson: (sees that Sheppard is sitting onto the Ancient control chair) Major, please don't!
    John: Come on Doc, what are the odds of me having the same gene as these guys?
    (the instant Sheppard touches the chair, it activates)
    Carson: (astonished) ...quite slim, actually.
    • Next thing he knows, he's being offered a chance by an extragalactic expedition's leader to tag along... Let's just say, this is how he became the series' resident Colonel Badass.
    • In an Alternate Universe, he's drummed out of the Air Force for the same stunt and ends up becoming a police detective in Las Vegas, spending much of his time drinking and gambling. Long story short, he ends up saving the planet by making a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Rodney McKay was by and large a complete jerkass in his appearances in SG-1. He had already been Reassigned to Antarctica (literally) when the Atlantis expedition was authorized, which then reassigned him even further away. However, Atlantis saw him teamed up with a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits and subject to lengthy Character Development, meaning that his punishment actually ended up being extremely good for everyone involved.
  • The X-Files: Scully was pulled out of being a professor at Quantico to debunk Mulder's work on the X-Files, to get it shut down so he couldn't find the Truth. This backfired massively when she is not only unable to debunk his work, but starts siding with him and becomes part of the X-Files herself. Plus, falling in love with your partner and having a child with him adds to that.
  • In Sharpe's Battle of the Sharpe TV series, a company of Irish guard are recruited into the British army, and the high command decides to send them to a far outpost on the edge of the front lines, in a terrible position, so they'll all desert and solve the problem of having to deal with a company that doesn't like England- then sends Richard Sharpe to whip them into place, expecting him to drive them off for good. He makes them crack soldiers instead and decimates an entire enemy brigade. Oops.
  • NCIS had a Navy officer, Evan Dearing, being reassigned to a battleship after he violated procedures by videotaping a fellow soldier having sex and showing it to various personnel as a prank, alongside two friends of his. Said ship ends up being destroyed in a terrorist attack, resulting in Evan's death, as well as a very angry Harper Dearing, Evan's father.
  • The Criminal Minds episode Legacy features a Detective McGee of the Kansas City Police Department. His OCD makes him seem unstable, but his superiors feel that they can't fire him, because his dad was the captain's partner and was killed on the job. Instead they promote him to detective so that they can keep him away from the general public by assigning him to the downtown area to keep an eye on the homeless, the prostitutes and the drug users. Then, of course, his compulsion to catalogue everyone he encounters on the streets causes him to notice when 63 of them just aren't there anymore, and thus he discovers a Serial Killer who kills society's castoffs.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In his debut episode "Hollow Pursuits", Lt. Reginald "Reg" Barclay was thought to have been transferred to the Enterprise just to get rid of him. However, throughout the series, Barclay came into his own as a Starfleet officer under Picard's command.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • A case where a character tried to do this to himself occurs when Commander Sisko, distraught over the loss of his wife takes assignments near Earth in order to ride out his time in Starfleet. He is reassigned to DS9 despite his protests that it's not the "ideal environment" in which to raise his son. DS9 is a wreck of a halfway abandoned space station near an unimportant planet. Then they discover a stable wormhole nearby, the aliens inside declare him as their Emissary, and that station becomes one of the most important field assignments in Starfleet.
      • Kira Nerys, whom the Provisional Government sent to Deep Space Nine just so she'd be less likely to yell at them over every little matter (no luck, Kira's introduced yelling at her superior over the comm.). As a result, she becomes the second officer to the Emissary himself, and a major player in all the events that follow over the next seven years, including the election of the next First Minister of Bajor.
      • Gul Dukat, who because of a political scandal was demoted from top military advisor to his government to commanding a mere freighter, managed to earn back his position after a brilliant capture of an enemy ship. He turned down the position and decided to go rogue, only to eventually stage a Dominion-backed coup to become supreme dictator of his homeworld.
      • Quark considered his bar an embarrassment, and would have abandoned it by the pilot had Sisko not blackmailed him into staying. Not long after, he was praised for his lobes in finding such a profitable location without even knowing the wormhole was there at the time.
      • Not to mention Rom, who wound up working for his brother after losing everything, and finished up becoming the Grand Nagus.
  • An interesting case concerning Power Rangers S.P.D.. After discovering SPD's elite team, A Squad, Cruger decides to end B Squad's tenure as protectors and returns them to A Squad pick up duty again. Then, A Squad ended up being evil and B Squad had to save the day.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Tyrion Lannister mentions that when he was sixteen, his father assigned him to oversee the sewers and cisterns of Casterly Rock, as a means of getting him out of the way. However, Tyrion ended up revolutionizing the system, and remarks that Casterly Rock was never cleaner.
    • After Pod's previous master was hanged, with the noose already tied for Pod, Lord Tywin heard that Podrick's family name was Payne, commuted the death sentence and sent him to squire for Tyrion as mutual punishment for the two. Podrick ended up enjoying his new master and saving Tyrion's life.
  • Averted in an episode of Lou Grant. For violating a newspaper policy, reporter Joe Rossi is assigned to the dullest story Lou can think of — profiling a minor state official, who commutes between Los Angeles and Sacramento (he even admits to his subject that he's being punished). But then Rossi discovers that the official is a bigamist, with a family in each city...and gloats that his story is "going to write itself." But in the end, he can't bring himself to ruin two families' lives, and instead turns in a story which Lou dismisses as drivel.
  • In Designated Survivor, HUD Secretary Tom Kirkman was named the Designated Survivor to keep him out of the way during the State of the Union Speech (since the President was going to fire him soon) and also because a conspiracy considered him the least prepared member of the government to take its reins. During the speech, a terrorist attack takes out the half of the Capitol, killing the Government, all of the House of Representatives (bar one who is involved in the conspiracy), all of the Senate (save for the Republican Party's Designated Survivor), all of the Supreme Court and pretty much anyone else with power in Washington D.C. - which leaves Kirkman as the new President of the United States.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, the Realm's Vermilion Legion is composed of drunks, petty criminals and surplus younger sons. Tepet Ejava, one of the Realm's most formidable military commanders and a candidate for the Scarlet Throne, was given command of them and sent off to get killed in the constant low-level violence in the Southeast. Of course, she's managed to turn the Legion into a crack unit and a serious power base. Oops.
    • Didn't hurt Ejava's efforts that the so-called "Red-Piss Legion", being the Ragtag Legion of Misfits that it is, remains immune to the nepotism and favortism of the other Legions and actually rewards merit and skill (the rewards starting with, "you can avoid being killed by the A-1 psychos the Vermillions have to fight").
    • The pro-Solar Golden Faction of the Sidereals found themselves being reassigned to conventions of the Wood - the wildest regions filled with powerful, uncontrolled Essence users - and the Convention on Essence Users in general, which was more of the same. When the Solars actually came back, this put the Golden Faction in a prime position to hide and train them.
  • During the Second War for Armageddon in the background for Warhammer 40,000, the corrupt Planetary Governor Herman von Strab reassigned Commissar Sebastian Yarrick to Hades Hive as a punishment for going over his head and requesting reinforcements from the Imperium. Unfortunately for the incompetent and traitorous Governor, rather than dying as he had hoped Yarrick was put into the perfect position to stall the Ork advance and become the famous Hero of Hades Hive.
    • This is actually a double-layered backfire - the only reason Yarrick was on Armageddon at all was because some political enemies had pulled strings with the Commissariat to get him pulled from field assignments and banished to a recruitment/basic training facility to mark time until retirement. Then Thraka arrived and Yarrick found himself on the front lines of a major war anyway.

  • In the play and movie The Solid Gold Cadillac, the Corrupt Corporate Executives assign the heroine to be Director of Stockholder Relations at their company because they're tired of hearing her complaints at their board meetings. She soon wins the adoration of all the small shareholders like her, and this ultimately leads to the villains' undoing.
Series, The Dustbinmen. The management at the dustman depot decide to "draw the teeth" of the militant "Cheese-&-Egg" by promoting to Depot Manager;it backfires spectacularly when his dictatorial high-handedness provokes an all-out strike; he gets demoted back down to dustman and thanks his old crew for bringing him back to his senses.

    Video Games 
  • Wing Commander:
    • In the intro to Wing Commander II, Christopher Blair is accused of treason. There's no solid evidence against him, so the court martial only convicts him of negligence and demotes him, but Admiral Tolwyn remains convinced he's a traitor and reassigns him to a little backwater station. He then encounters the Kilrathi in the area and is forced to save the day.
    • In Wing Commander III, he's given another crappy assignment by the same admiral. This time, however, Tolwyn deliberately assigned him to an unimpressive carrier so that when the time came, he could use Blair in his plan to end the war without drawing too much attention from the enemy.
    • The true Reassignment Backfire occurs in Wing Commander IV when Blair gets involved in going rogue to fight a conspiracy that turns out to be run by Tolwyn himself. He ends up exposing his eugenics plans and gets him convicted for treason.
  • According to the help file included with the registered version of Doom, the Marine was relocated to Mars, a backwater dustball whose only notable features were scientific outposts on its moons, in lieu of a court-martial for striking a commanding officer who had ordered him to fire on civilians. No, they didn't just make that up for the novel. He, of course, went on to save the world from the forces of Hell over the course of two games. And, as revealed by Doom Eternal, would go on to wage war against Hell for millennia.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The series features Ashley Williams, whose name bears some serious stigma — her grandfather was the general who surrendered his garrison (for good reasons) to the Turians during the First Contact War. She and her father were passed over for promotion many times and assigned posts with no action (and thus no opportunity to demonstrate capability). Then along comes Sovereign, the Geth, and Saren — and Shepard to take her along for the ride. Needless to say, her actions clear her family's name.
    • In Mass Effect 2, Tali is reassigned to the Normandy when she is on trial for treason because the Obstructive Bureaucrat on the Admiralty Board wants her exiled from the Migrant Fleet and thinks that Commander Shepard will be a poor advocate for her. As part of this, they have Tali officially renamed to "Tali'zorah vas Normandy": by making her ship name that of Shepard's ship, they essentially send the message that Tali is all but exiled at that point and the trial is simply a formality. That does not go according to plan (unless Shepard is a poor diplomat). After which, feeling that Shepard has been a greater friend to her than any quarian, she decides to remain "vas Normandy" permanently.
  • Luminous Arc plays with this a bit. Kingston created the Garden Children idea to get Heath out of the way when he started asking too many questions, on the premise of creating a crack squad of orphans raised to be excellent soldiers. Here's where it starts to zigzag. Kingston got exactly what he asked for — a group of highly proficient soldiers who work very well together, and thanks to Heath being incredibly zealous to try and get back in the good books and keep sniffing around, they're completely loyal to him and his ideal. He then proceeds to reassign Heath again and Sends the Fatal Hounds on a wild goose chase to get them out of his hair, giving them time to defect and become a very sharp thorn in his side. If he'd kept them on a tighter leash and used them as an actual strategic asset, he would have won.
  • L.A. Noire: The result of reassigning Cole Phelps to the police department's version of Antarctica is a backfire of epic proportions. In trying to move public scrutiny away from Vice by giving the media a new Chew Toy, they put Cole directly on the scent of their conspiracy. Whoops. Nice Job Fixing It, Villain.
  • The Super Robot Wars franchise likes to play with this trope often.
    • Super Robot Wars: Original Generation: Kyosuke Nanbu is reassigned to North America's Langley Base after surviving the crash of the Wildraubiter's test flight at the Izu Far East Base. The person who reassigned him, Colonel Hans Weber, is later revealed to be a Mole for the Divine Crusaders and caused the crash. After arriving in Langley, Kyosuke is placed on the ATX Team and eventually goes on to defeat the United Colony Corps with his new friends at Langley and aboard the Hiryu Kai. When he returns to Izu, Hans is not pleased at what Kyosuke has become. Later, when Hans' treachery is revealed, he has to face Kyosuke and if the player feels like it, can be killed by the very same pilot he got rid of to make his plans succeed.
    • Super Robot Wars Judgment/Super Robot Wars W: As per Gundam SEED's plot, the casts of both games (well, part of the cast in Judgment; the Alaska bit is one route split choice) get reassigned to the Joshua Base in Alaska by The Federation, hoping to get rid of them in an elaborate trap set to weaken ZAFT's military using the Cyclops System since the heroes are doing too well. Like in Gundam SEED, Mu La Flaga (another case of this trope) discovers the Cyclops System and warns everyone to get the Hell out of Dodge. The heroes eventually get back at The Federation in a big way, particularly in W, where one division of Neue Warter (aka the heroes) intercepts The Federation's fleet on it's way to crush ZAFT using nuclear weapons to overpower them. And then they proceed to utterly destroy The Federation's forces and kill the commander who left them to die in Alaska, General Colbert.
    • Super Robot Wars W: As mentioned above, the "Ms. Nadesico" contest from episode 19 of Martian Successor Nadesico happens here, but plays out differently. Baron Ashura, disguised as Professor Yumi (as per one episode from the Mazinkaiser OVA), gets caught up in the contest and after finding out what the contest is about, the Baron casts a vote hoping to sabotage Warter (aka the heroes). In spectacular backfire fashion, it is Ashura's vote that is the tie-breaker that gets Yurika back her old job.
    • Super Robot Wars Alpha 2: The crew of the Albion gets reassigned to a backwater post in space under the guise to protect the GP-02A Gundam "Physalis" (in reality, The Federation wants nothing to do with them and wants the Albion's crew far away from them). Sadly, the GP-02A gets stolen and the Albion team joins up with the Alpha Numbers to get it back and go on to stop Nashim Gan Eden, among other threats to the Earth in that game. And then, the Albion's crew gets assigned to menial tasks again in Alpha 3 (partially due to a lot of Alpha 2's story getting retconned), and once again, they take to the field and help save the day from Keiser Ephes, the Spirit Emperor.
  • In Suikoden III, Thomas is sent to Budehuc Castle in order to keep him out of his scheming councilman father's way. When he turns the area into a thriving Truce Zone, the Zexen Confederacy is less than pleased, and tries to force him to stop. Not only does he refuse, he winds up eventually providing the game's headquarters.
  • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift toys with this trope a bit. Hazama, in a bid to freely mindrape Noel and Tsubaki, sends his (competent) lieutenant Makoto to the NOL branch in Ibukido as a way to keep her away from her close friends (the aforementioned Noel and Tsubaki). This crosses as a Uriah Gambit as, while he expected her career to dead-end long enough to let him do with them as he pleases, having her choke on seithr or get timefucked by the local cauldron works, too. While there are no accolades or desired reallocations to the 5th Hierarchical City in the wake of her work, to say the whole thing backfired fails to adequately describe how bad an idea this was in hindsight. note 
  • Unreal 2 played with this. The player, Dalton, was kicked out of the Marines for disobeying the order to leave civilians to die, and has been trying to get back in since. In the mean time, the only work he can find is as a Marshal in the Terran Colonial Authority, policing "...the ass-end of space." Guess where the troubles start?
  • Played with in Sakura Wars. The backwater post into which the talented rookie is forced despite complaints and obvious unsuitability? Yeah, there's a catastrophe going on... and his superiors knew it all along.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: Hot Coldman was assigned from the director of the CIA to the CIA Station Chief of Central America because he orchestrated the Virtuous Mission and Operation Snake Eater and needed to be shut up. He then builds a small army known as the Peace Sentinels and plans to create an AI-driven nuclear deterrent that can kill everyone. He almost destroys the world.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Skull Face was one of The Patriots' best civilian-military operators until he grew resentful of Big Boss getting all the reputation and glory in the Patriots even after he quit. Zero reassigned him to Africa to look after his ethnic cleansing bioweapons, which caused the ethnicity-conscious hitman to snap, driving him to build a new form of portable Metal Gears which carried a very specific ethnic cleanser: it kills anyone who constantly speaks English.
  • The New Order Last Days Of Europe: Hitler decides to put Himmler away in Burgundy so he wouldn't interfere nor gather political power to threaten him... and ended up giving him a place where he could consolidate his own sort of power, implement a government even the Nazis think is horrifying, and generally advance his plots, including the part where he touches off the nuclear apocalypse on purpose, so that the master race can live through it and reconquer the world.
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
    • Trigger gets transferred to the Spare Squadron by Osea High Command after aledgedly getting former president Harling killed during a skirmish, under the assumption that he’ll be killed in a suicide mission. Instead, Trigger becomes one of Osea’s best pilots after surviving an engagement with the Erusean Ace Mihaly, and would become instrumental in ending the war.
    • The Spare Squadron is a unit in the Osean Air Defense Force made up of criminals who were meant to be used as cannon fodder to soften up occupying Erusean forces so that the regular military can mop up the rest, and to probe for holes in Erusea’s drone network. When Trigger gets assigned to them, they end up proving to be Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder, so the squadron is disbanded, and the pilots get reassigned to the regular forces.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, General Georg Damon sends Squad Seven on seemingly unimportant or dangerous missions in the hopes that they will fail so that the regular army will look good while engaging the Empire forces. Instead, Squad Seven succeeds in their missions, and they end up being the ones who successfully push back the Empire, while the regular gets slaughtered in droves by Damon’s incompetence.

    Web Comics 
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • At one point, the captain sends a ship full of dangerously stupid robots, who Turned On Their Masters and then for an encore went on to accidentally commit genocide, directly into the path of General Xinchub because they don't want to waste the ammo on killing them. They expect that to be the end of them. It is... but Xinchub ends up being acclaimed as a hero for saving Earth from them, counteracting his previous popularity nosedive that threatened to get him out of their hair permanently.
    • Happens again later also involving Xinchub. After his plot to blackmail them into betraying some old friends eventually backfires, they have Xinchub and his minion in their brig. Rather than kill him, they sell him into slavery as a military consultant on a planet in the middle of a brutal civil war. The plan is that he'll be kept as a prisoner and/or killed by one side or the other, getting them paid for disposing of him. Within a year, he's betrayed his would-be masters to the opposing side and been crowned king of the entire planet for bringing peace to their world.
  • Mr. Kornada of Freefall is a self-important dolt who embodies every negative stereotype of middle management. Eventually he gets Kicked Upstairs to the Vice-Presidency of Paperclip Allocation at Ecosystems Unlimited — which is a paperless office. When his nephew, Ecosystems Unlimited's CFO Mr. Ishiguro, goes on sick leave, he gains access to two executive security codes: enough to authorize the activation of a security failsafe on half a billion sapient robots so he can seize their assets. He's stopped, barely, but his superiors are horrified by how close he came to destroying 99.99% of the planet's workforce.
    Mr. Ishiguro: I gave him a make-work job! His job was to do nothing! How can a person mess up a job to do nothing?

    Web Video 
  • Scootertrix the Abridged: General Apple Bloom resents General Flash Sentry for succeeding at everything. When Bloom draws up her strategy for Equestria to wage a war on two fronts, she isn't the one who decides to send Sentry and his forces to the borders of the Changeling Empire—far away from the Crystal Empire, where the real fighting is supposed to happen—but all the same, she's openly glad that that Sentry won't be able to steal any of her glory this time. Then Apple Bloom's grand strategy falls apart within a week, while Flash Sentry's victories against the changelings wind up being the only good news from that same period.

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dad!, One episode has Stan going too far with some jokes at his superior that get him 'promoted' that requires relocation to the middle east. While originally horrified at the prospect while the rest of his family enjoys the change, he later comes to the realization that the culture is extremely sexist against women which feeds on his misogyny of being the man of the house and as a result he starts to love his new assignment.
  • Arcane: Marcus punishes Caitlyn for leaving her post at her family's tent and getting involved in a crime scene without permission by sending her to the graveyard shift guarding the fairgrounds. Her narrow survival of Jinx's bombing that night only drives her on even more to investigate the crimes, convinced of a criminal conspiracy.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Fire Lord Ozai scarred his son, exiled him, and sent him on a Snipe Hunt for a legend in punishment for speaking up for the cannon fodder. This was ultimately a factor in the toppling of his empire and his personal deposing and imprisonment.
    • At the end of the series, Ozai promotes Azula to Fire Lord right before making the position irrelevant by declaring himself Phoenix King. This causes Azula to have a Villainous Breakdown and makes her go from a pragmatic, nigh-unbeatable combatant to being able to be taken down by Katara and Zuko, and lets them capture the Fire Nation capital and palace.
  • Invader Zim:
    • Zigzagged regarding Zim. The titular character's assigners and rulers, the Tallest, make up a planet past the edge of their star map, and send Zim there so they will never see him again. They're shocked when, six months later, Zim reports back alive and well, saying that he has built his home base on some planet called "Earth". Earth still is a backwater planet with nothing of interest to the Irken race and Zim is ultimately too incompetent to conquer it, meaning that (outside of reports) the Tallest don't have to deal with him as often as before. During "Backseat Drivers Beyond the Stars" this comes back to bite them as Zim hijacks the Tallest's ship in order to bring them to Earth to witness his latest plan for world domination in person, almost killing them both and blowing up their ship in the process. It backfires on them more permanently in Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, where Zim's antics create the titular Negative Space Wedgie, which swallows up the entire Irken fleet, Tallest included.
    • This also backfired somewhat with their assignment to Invader Skoodge. The Tallest openly despise him, seemingly even more than they hate Zim. When he shows up for assignment they don't even put up a facade that he's important to them. They assign him to the home planet of the slaughtering Rat People and even provide an illustration of said Rat People preparing to rip Skoodge apart making it abundantly clear that they're sending him there to die. Then Skoodge ends up being the first invader to conquer his planet. While the Tallest have another planet added to their Empire, they still have to deal with the short, ugly, obnoxious, and still living Skoodge.
      • The Tallest decide to deal with this by giving Skoodge the 'honour' of a brand-new tradition: That the successful invader be loaded into a cannon and fired as the opening shot of the Orbital Bombardment to cleanse the planet. If the show hadn't been cancelled Skoodge was planned to survive this as well and eventually be assigned to Zim, making him a double example of this trope given Zim's tendencies for his plans to backfire onto the Irken Empire.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers: Animated plays with this. Optimus is assigned the unglamorous job of Space Bridge maintenance, but circumstances conspire to place him and his crew in the middle of events that could change the course of galactic history (and yes, this takes him to Earth). The thing is, Optimus wasn't assigned the crap job out of malice. It's just that with the disaster that lost Elita-1, Ultra Magnus had to make an example out of someone, and with Optimus taking the blame, Ultra Magnus was bound by protocol to do that to him (him getting the assignment was Ultra Magnus pulling strings for Optimus). Played more straight with Bumblebee, as him taking the blame for Bulkhead's clumsiness led to Sentinel Prime sending him to work for Optimus. Subverted with Bulkhead, as although he was given the crap job like Bumblebee, because Bulkhead loves Space Bridges, any excuse to work on them makes him happy. Being elevated to the heroes of Cybertron was just a bonus.
    • Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015) features this as well. Bumblebee was given a position as a mere beat cop after playing a major role in ending the war. At the end of the series, it's revealed that he (and other major Autobots) were given lowly positions so that the corrupt government could denigrate Optimus Prime and keep them from interfering with their plans for galactic conquest. Unfortunately for them, Bumblebee's job devotion and loyalty to Optimus's legacy took him far from Cybertron and put him in a position to foil their, and many other villains', plans.

    Real Life 
  • The American Vice Presidency is a good way for a political party to get a troublesome member out of the way for at least four years, but there's a serious downside to this strategy, as 8 of those gadflies ended up becoming President. For the first 50 years of the US presidency, every president served out his term(s) without incident, so the Vice Presidency was viewed as a deadend job, with the Secretary of State (a position that provided a rare opportunity for diplomatic experience) as the Heir Apparent to the President. This attitude persisted into the late 19th century, even as illness and assassination began to call it into question.
    • In 1841 John Tyler was selected as William Henry Harrison's Vice President, expecting to spend the next four years in obscurity. A month later, for the first time ever the US President had died in office, and "His Accidency" was in charge. Tyler then proceeded to work against the Whig Party's policy programme, soon getting him ejected from the party and leaving him as an independent for most of his presidency.
    • At the 1848 election, Millard Fillmore was chosen as the running-mate of Zachary Taylor, as Taylor was ignorant about economics (some accounts even indicate him to have been flat-out innumerate) and Fillmore, as the Comptroller of New York, was naturally much more well-versed in the subject. Taylor only served a little over 15 months before becoming the second President to die in office, leading to Fillmore serving out his term. At the time this was seen as an aversion, with many having been worried that Taylor's uncompromising focus on preventing the expansion of slavery could have provoked a civil war, while Fillmore took a more diplomatic approach, leading to the Compromise of 1850. In retrospect, however, most historians agree that Taylor had the right idea all along, and that Fillmore's attempt at a compromise at best accomplished nothing, and at worst, made the eventual conflict even more devastating.
    • Chester A. Arthur was chosen as running-mate to James Garfield at the 1880 election, largely because Garfield needed someone to placate rival Roscoe Conkling's faction of the party. Only six months into his term, however, Garfield was assassinated, and Arthur became President. Arthur's ascendency then turned into this for Conkling (who had only chosen Arthur because he was currently unemployed), as he populated his new cabinet with people from all sections of the party in order to unify it; his new cabinet just so happened to exclude Conkling himself, dashing his hopes to become Secretary of State and use that as a springboard to run for President in 1884. On top of that, due to the US government's patronage system laying at the root of Garfield's assassinationnote , Arthur introduced civil service reforms, making it harder for political machines like Conkling's to hand out high-ranking government assignments to their cronies.
    • After William McKinley's first Vice President, Garret Hobart, died in late 1899, the Republican Party found itself in need of a new nominee for VP in the upcoming election of 1900. Progressive Republicans favored Theodore Roosevelt, the crusading, grandstanding Governor of New York, as McKinley's running mate. That didn't mean much by itself, but the conservative, Establishment GOP brass also liked Roosevelt: partly because he was a good campaigner (something McKinley was not), partly because he was from the Northeast (like Hobart, who was from New Jersey, and unlike McKinley, a Midwesterner from Ohio), but mostly because Roosevelt was a crusading, grandstanding progressive, and the Vice Presidency would deprive him of the platform the Governorship of the richest, most populous State in the Union had given him to launch crusades and experiments in progressive policymaking. Less than a year later, McKinley was shot, and Teddy was the youngest president in US history. Considering that this was the FIFTH vice presidential succession in less than a century, they should have thought better of this plan.
      • The history lesson wasn't lost on everyone within the Republican Party. Republican National Committee Chairman Mark Hanna famously said "Don't any of you realize there's only one life between that madman and the presidency?" His warning fell on deaf ears and his words on hearing of the ascension are said to be, "I don't believe it! The goddamn cowboy's President!"
      • It is also believed that the "Titans of Industry", including Rockefeller and Carnegie, contributed greatly to McKinley's campaign, believing that he was the best candidate who would greatly support their business practices. After McKinley's death, Roosevelt would spend the next years demanding (and eventually succeeding) that the business monopolies be broken.
      • Furthermore, in 1904, TR became the first "Accidental President" to win a second term on his own merit. To add yet another insult to the initial injury, in 1912 Roosevelt's Bull Moose party got more votes than Republican nominee William Howard Taft (his successor, who TR felt was doing a bad job), causing the election to go to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. This left Taft with the dubious distinction of being the only Republican candidate and the only incumbent president in US history to finish third in a presidential election.
    • Calvin Coolidge wasn't Warren G. Harding's first choice for running-mate at the 1920 election — that was Irvine Lenroot — but the other Republican nominees, pissed off at the underhanded tactics Harding had used to gain the nomination, conspired to put up Coolidge instead of Lenroot, as a way of metaphorically giving Harding the finger. A few years later, however, Harding suddenly died, leaving Coolidge as the new President. Downplayed compared to most of the other examples here, as the party bigwigs were actually quite glad to have the quiet and uncontroversial Coolidge take over just as Harding was being engulfed by the Teapot Dome scandal, but it doubtless left Harding's primary rivals kicking themselves over not trying harder to secure the running-mate slot for themselves, instead of throwing it to Coolidge so as to annoy Harding.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt needed to lose his wartime VP, the left-wing firebrand Henry Wallace, for the 1944 election in order to keep the rest of the Democratic Party leadership happy. So his new running mate was obscure Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman... who was Vice President for a grand total of 82 days before Roosevelt's long illness finally got the better of him. Truman was nearly two weeks into being President before he briefed for the very first time on the Manhattan Project. The party leadership who had put him into office got antsy when Truman made three things clear: he would not abandon the New Deal social programs,note  he would pursue civil rights legislation over the objections of the Dixiecrats,note  and he would not change his folksy-but-flinty personality to better "look the part" of president.note  The reassignment backfired on them when Truman defeated their handpicked primary candidate, and then won a four-way racenote  for a second term, forcing the party leadership to accept his agenda.
  • Andrew Jackson appointed James Buchanan, an obscure former Pennsylvania Congressman, minister to Russia to get him out of Washington, saying that "If we kept a ministry at the North Pole, I would have sent him there." Though Buchanan served (in this as in all things) without distinction, the appointment fooled other Democrats into believing he had foreign policy chops, which lead to a long string of lackluster diplomatic posts, including stints as minister to the United Kingdom (then one of the top two diplomatic assignments, along with minister to France) and as Secretary of State. When he ran for president in the chaotic three-way election of 1856, voters assumed this long history indicated competence, and Buchanan's frequent trips abroad meant he had never formed any strong opinions on slavery, immigration, or industrialization, so he didn't alienate as many voters as the Republican or Know-Nothing candidates and carried the day. And the nation then got exactly what it had voted for: a milquetoast president without convictions, who spent four years letting the country work itself to the brink of war before leaving office just in time not to have to deal with the consequences. During his lame duck period he let several members of his cabinet get away with openly treasonous behavior in putting weapons into the hands of the already forming secessionist movement - despite the incoming Lincoln administration begging him to do something, anything to stop this madness. He also embarrassed himself by relying on exaggerated rumors and hearsay to order a completely unnecessary military march to the Utah Territory. The one time he did speak out on a current issue, endorsing the ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford before it happened, it backfired spectacularly, as it even enraged Northerners who hadn't otherwise cared for the slavery issue one way or another before. He arguably also put his thumb on the scale, trying to convince the Court to give a ruling that "settled the issue once and for all" and trying to get at least one northern Justice to vote in favor of Chief Justice Taney's ruling. Buchanan is one of the two or three candidates for "worst President in history".
  • In 1996, White House staffers noticed that intern Monica Lewinsky was spending too much time alone with president Bill Clinton and feared if she went to the press that the story would plague his reelection campaign like the Gennifer Flowers sex scandal had tainted the 1992 campaign. They scrambled to transfer her to a meaningless position at the Pentagon, as far away from the Oval Office as possible. However, at her new job, Lewinsky befriended Linda Tripp and in 1997 confessed to her affair with Clinton on tape. Tripp turned the tape over to Independent Counsel Ken Starr, and the Lewinsky scandal was blown wide open.
  • Pope John XXIII, elected after the nearly two decade reign of Pope Pius XII, was expected to be a "stopgap" Pope. His age (he was almost 77) and health were such that it was expected that he would reign briefly and quietly, and make no lasting impact on the Papacy. While his reign was indeed less than five years, he used that time to call the Second Vatican Council, setting in motion the biggest changes to Catholic worship and church procedures since the Counter-Reformation.
    • His predecessor to the name, Pope John XXII, may have planned his way to the papacy by playing on this trope. After the death of Clement V, the cardinals failed to elect a new Pope for two entire years, because their votes were terminally split between three factions: the Italian bloc (who wanted the Papacy to return to Rome), the Gascon bloc (who were perfectly cool with the Avignon Papacy, as long as they enjoyed the same privileges as under the previous Pope), and the French bloc (who wanted to keep the Pope on French soil but without the special privileges). Lots of corruption and votes for sale all around, and no resolution in sight. Eventually, the King of France had enough of waiting—he needed a Pope doublequick so he could divorce his first wife—and forced a conclave, locking the cardinals up inside a convent with rationed food and water until they made up their minds. According to one story, the future John XXII (then still Monsignor Duèze) waited until his peers were weak with hunger, then pretended to be on his deathbed. He was 72 at the time. The rest of the cardinals promptly elected him, figuring he'd last a few months tops, and then they'd happily be back to the lucrative status quo of bribes-for-votes in a new conclave. Not only did John's reign as Pope last for 18 years after that, but he was one of the most activist Popes in history, heavily involving himself in European politics and reorganizing the entire Church.
  • "Mr. K" (Yutaka Katayama), president of Nissan USA in The '60s and The '70s, was originally Put on a Bus to America (away from corporate in Tokyo) because of his "rogue" attitude. This eventually backfired for the parent company, as Katayama could talk to American car salesmen as equals, renamed the "Fairlady" sports car 240Z (legend has it he personally swapped the badges over on the first cars on Long Beach docks), and exponentially raised awareness and sales of the Datsun brand in the US... and that meant the brand's sales and reputation have never really recovered from the name change to "Nissan" after his retirement.
  • When Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser died in 1970, the Egyptian elite decided to leave Vice President Anwar Sadat—to whom the presidency had devolved by law—in place as a temporary caretaker, assuming he would be easy to manipulate in office and to force out should it prove necessary. Nasser had chosen his various Veeps on the basis of loyalty, pliability, and consistency: note that neither intelligence nor competence was a qualification, and indeed they were considered something of a drawback. Six months later Sadat proved to have been concealing both qualities for years, and purged the elites in the "Corrective Revolution." His eventful administration included the Yom Kippur War, negotiation of peace with Israel, a war with Libya that turned into a Curb-Stomp Battle victory for Egypt and his assassination in 1981.
    • This brings us to Sadat's successor, Hosni Mubarak. Sadat had followed Nasser's lead where Veep selection was concerned, so when he was assassinated, the whole government was scared of what the idiot at the top might do. If Mubarak had started any Sadat-style Machiavellian games, the military brass would likely have pushed back hard. However, Mubarak proved to care little for radical plans or purges, or anything other than enriching himself and staying in power. He was content to let Egypt run itself... into the ground, as it happened.
  • The German government tried to keep Adolf Hitler and his NSDAP in line by handing him the job of Chancellor, figuring that the DNVP politicians in his cabinet could rein him in. It ended badly. It turned out to be a literal Springtime for Hitler, as the subsequent Enabling Act gave him near-total control over the government. Hitler even saw through a second attempt to reassign him to political Antarctica when the Reichstag offered him the presidency after Hindenburg's death. As President, he would have been required to uphold the constitution, so instead he simply declared that the powers of the presidency were transferred to the chancellorship until he saw fit to appoint a new President (when he did, it was upon his own impending suicide).
  • Rudolf Hess had been an important figure in the rise of the Nazi Party and then the early years of the Third Reich, but as World War II really got underway, his eccentrities and poor grasp of military strategy got him sidelined to handling foreign affairs, as the role — not counting the actually important work such as dealing with Mussolini and the Soviets, which was handled by the actual foreign secretary, Joachim von Ribbentrop — didn't demand much more than demanding that Britain surrender, keeping the officially neutral but German-sympathetic Spanish regime of Franco on-side, and persuading other countries that it was in their best interest not to get involved in the war. However, when Hess found out about the planned invasion of the Soviet Union, he became concerned (correctly, as it turned out) that Germany couldn't fight a war on two fronts, and took it upon himself to fly to Britain and offer them a peace treaty... whereupon he ran out of fuel, crashed, and was promptly arrested. Not only did the incident give the British a much-needed morale boost and severely humiliate Germany, Hess's having gone behind Hitler's back made the latter far more paranoid and caused him to begin second-guessing everyone outside of his innermost circle, which would cause Germany problems later on in the war. To add insult to injury, Hess's being sidelined in the early years of the war and then imprisoned for most of the conflict caused him to be one of only a few high-ranking Nazis to escape the death penalty at the Nuremberg Trials (albeit Hess by all accounts considered his eventual life sentence a Fate Worse than Death, and killed himself after the last appeal he was ever likely to receive got swiftly rejected).
  • In 1939, the junior German commander Erich von Manstein argued that the General Staff's operational plan for the Fall Gelb (Netherlands-Belgium-France) offensive would never work as intended. He wasn't wrong: the chief of the General Staff, a covert opponent of Nazism, was quietly ensuring that the plan would be easily countered by Allied strategists, resulting in stalemate at the French border rather than a prolonged occupation. For his trouble, Manstein was assigned to command an infantry corps away from the main action. However, this meant he attended a reception for new corps commanders in early 1940, where he met Hitler over drinks and explained his alternative plan directly to the Führer. Hitler liked Manstein's ideas, which led to a decisive German victory over France and five long years of grueling occupation.
  • Julius Caesar was sent over to Transalpine Gaul, a far-flung province mostly composed of constantly rebellious barbarians, so that Pompey in Rome wouldn't have to deal with him. Unfortunately, Caesar ended up conquering the rest of Gaul (modern day France), which made him so popular back home that he was able to gain enough support to overthrow Pompey.
    • Caesar was quite happy to be assigned to Transalpine Gaul as:
    1. He couldn't be taken to court over his massive debts while employed by the republic.
    2. He was allowed to pacify much of North-West Europe.
    3. He was originally allotted Italy by the Senate as his proconsular province, which would have given him nothing to do, no way of making money to pay off the aforementioned debts, and no way of making a name for himself.
    4. He also got Illyria and Cisalpine Gaul.
    • Caesar had originally been assigned to look after the local province but this was in reality an insult, known as looking after the "woods and country paths". It actually took a lot of political skill to secure the impressive Transalpine, Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum for five years. Pompey was influential in Julius Caesar securing it, but it was because he was allied with Caesar at the time.
  • Napoléon Bonaparte's entire republican career was this: as far as the Directoire back in France was concerned, the Italian campaign was a sideshow just to keep the southern border vaguely covered, but he ended up winning the war while the rest of Europe went "huh?". Egypt was also a sideshow, and an attempt to get rid of him via bullet or tropical disease; he came back at the perfect time and position to hasten the fall of the Directoire and take over.
    • Although Napoleon himself didn't consider Egypt a sideshow, and, indeed, was furious when the combined efforts of Royal Navy officers Horatio Nelson (who destroyed his fleet at the Battle of the Nile and forced him to leave his army to British prison hulks) and Sidney Smith (who trained a force of Ottoman irregulars, British sailors, and Royal Marines into a formidable unit that repulsed Napoleon's attack on Acre) prevented him making anything useful of his African campaign. Indeed, their successes are what inculcated his lifelong hatred of the Royal Navy, and he later commented of Smith: "That man made me miss my destiny".
  • The 332nd Fighter Group from World War II, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen, were trained by racist instructors who washed trainees out for the very smallest of mistakes, in an attempt to prove that African-Americans were unsuited to be fighter pilots. It backfired spectacularly, and the result was a hand-picked elite that wiped the floor with everything it met. Their fighter group held the best bomber protection record of all USAAF fighter groups in the European Theater in WWII, with a loss rate of roughly half the average. That is, they lost 25 bombers to enemy fighters while the average loss rate for USAAF fighter groups in Europe was about 50.
  • A political example: Joseph McCarthy was on his way out of the Senate after allegations of bribery surfaced in 1948. He most likely was looking at impeachment or at the very least censure, but either way, his political career was over. Realizing what an embarrassment McCarthy was to the Republican Party, the party leaders tasked with fundraising event schedules assigned him to speak in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1950, the most obscure place they could think of sending him. The speech he delivered gave us the infamous quote "I have here in my hand a list of 52 members of the Communist Party in the State Department" and seven years of McCarthyism. The stunt served as a political life preserver (since he could accuse any opponent of being a Communist), and the subsequent witch hunt actually made the job of finding Soviet spies harder. McCarthy was effectively bulletproof until 1954, when the Army–McCarthy hearings discredited his approach.
  • While not so much a "backfire," there are many examples of troops sent for a rest or for training to a "quiet" sector and then being exactly the right men on the spot to deal with a surprise attack. Two from the Nazis with Gnarly Weapons alone are the 352nd Division, which just happened to be practicing anti-amphibious tactics at Omaha Beach, and the 9th and 10th SS Armored Divisions which were sent to Arnhem to regroup, right where the unequipped-to-deal-with-tanks 1st Airborne Division was about to drop. In both cases they were notable exceptions to the "teenagers and old men" the Allies had expected to meet.
  • Iran has been suffering severely from the consequences of this for a while now. The Islamic Republic's constitution was a modified version of the monarchy, with the Shah's position filled by Ayatollah Khomeini, the new "Supreme Leader". Of course, despite having dictatorial powers over everything in the country, the supreme leader had no responsibilities whatsoever, with the task of actually running things placed on the government, which had both a President (democratically elected, out of the handful of candidates handpicked by the Leader) AND a Prime Minister (appointed by the President, but only with approval from the Parliament). During the early years, thanks to the devastating war with Iraq, the system was relatively closer to being a meritocracy, with the Prime Minister, who was the most involved in the matters of state, having the most influence. However, post-war President Akbar Hashemi lobbied to remove the Prime Minister position from the government, so he could have direct power as President. Then Khomeini died, leaving the Supreme Leader position vacant, which the Republic had not thought through. Hashemi strongarmed everyone involved to quickly promote the former President, Seyed Ali Khamenei to Supreme Leader, thinking the guy would be easy to control even though Khamenei didn't even have a clerical rank high enough to be able to hold that post. During Hashemi's two terms, and the two terms of his progressive successor, the Leader had become an irrelevant ceremonial position, but during the early 2000s Khamenei managed to turn the Revolutionary Guard into the most powerful military force in the Middle East (except Turkey, which takes its military dead seriously and has access to nuclear weapons through NATO membership, the latter point effectively making it untouchable in direct conflict), and himself into the an unquestionable invincible Orwellian ruler.
    • The Revolutionary Guard itself managed to become a threat thanks to another one of Hashemi's brilliant ideas: To keep them out of the military affairs, he suggested that they dedicate their resources to rebuilding Iran after the war. With comparatively free labour in the form of conscripts, the Guard grew into the biggest construction contractor in the county (driving thousands of small firms out of business in the process) and eventually had its own news agency, film company, and full control over the national telephone service (which is also the biggest Internet service provider). Meanwhile, the militant side of the organisation grew massive anyway .
  • Vlad Putin became Prime Minister in 1999. At the time, it was a thankless, mostly useless position, during a time of Russian turmoil (he was the fifth person to take up the position that year). It was expected to ruin his career like it had done to so many before him. It... didn't.
  • Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who, because of his mouthing off to superiors (a huge taboo in Japan at the time), got reassigned to remote Lithuania. From there he wrote himself into the history books by saving 6000 Jews from the Nazis.
  • Father Jean Vianney was not thought well of by his teachers in seminary, who considered him a slow student, a poor homilist and a substandard candidate for the priesthood. Still he was ordained, leaving the question of "what to do with Pere Jean?" It was decided to send him to the backwater town of Ars, which had such a reputation for ungodliness after the then-recent revolution (wherein the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and then the policy of dechristianization had driven the majority of France's most committed clerics into hiding, exile, or the guillotine) that his superiors figured he would at least find it hard to lose any souls. When he arrived, Father Jean took control of matters and found his priestly calling in the confessional. He became a legend in France, with people coming from far and wide to have the tireless confessor give them spiritual advice. Today, the "slow student" and "poor homilist" who was intended to have merely watched as Ars disintegrated further, is known as Saint Jean Vianny, patron saint of parish priests.
  • More or less the case with Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. Napoleon couldn't stand him and was happy to see him become the Crown Prince of Sweden, a country that had just suffered a devastating defeat at Russia's hands — the Parliament had chosen Bernadotte, but he wanted to have Napoleon's approval. Surely Sweden had devolved to such a minor role in European politics that Bernadotte couldn't do any harm even if he wanted to... But the new prince quickly took his adopted country's affairs in hand and ended up playing a key part in Napoleon's defeat. His direct descendants still occupy the Swedish throne as of 2017. Nobody but aristocracy nerds has ever heard of the current claimant to the Napoleonic dynasty....
  • Qian Xuesen was a Chinese scientist working on the Manhattan Project who was accused of communist sympathies after refusing to work on nuclear weapons that could be used against China. He was stripped of his security clearance, kept under house arrest, and later expelled from the United States on the grounds that he was a national security threat. Afterwards, he was crucial in developing the Chinese missile program, including those nuclear weapons which threatened the national security of the United States. Oops!
  • There used to be a saying in German politics, "Hast du einen Opa, dann schick ihn nach Europa" - If you have a granddad (old tatter) send him to Europe (put him in a EU position). However, Martin Schulz, whose prior highest elected office was Mayor of Würselennote , soon established a high profile for himself in the EU parliament and ultimately came to be known even among the rank and file members of his party when he rose to president of the EU parliament and candidate for head of the EU commission (narrowly losing that election to Jean Claude Juncker) before he was chosen as a stopgap to run the 2017 campaign of his social democratic party as candidate for chancellor. He managed to poll higher than his party had in years, but then his support somehow collapsed over the summer and he ultimately ended back up in the political wilderness.
  • Angela Merkel started her political career in post-reunification Germany on the virtue of her being a woman from the East and Helmut Kohl needing a woman from the East. She was made minister of women and youth and later the environment, two positions that were universally regarded as afterthoughts, but which had the distinct advantage of not attracting major scandalnote , so she gained inside experience of government but no "baggage" of any faction within or outside her party opposing any policy position she held. In 1998 the CDU lost the elections and Merkel lost her job, but slowly but surely she managed to eliminate inner-party rivals, in part because many of them - such as Kohl or Wolfgang Schäuble - were involved in a political donation scandal in which she hadn't had a possibility to become involved due to her position. Her coup de grace however happened in 2002. Back then it was widely expected that Gerhard Schröder would lose the upcoming elections, so who would be candidate for chancellor would be immensely important. Merkel, however, "graciously" backed down in a now-famous breakfast with Edmund Stoiber of the CSU held in his home in Wolfratshausen. What Merkel seems to have intuitively known was that Schröder is a damn good political campaigner and whatever his faults, he had a keen instinct that the German electorate was decisively not in favor of the Iraq War then already seeming likely. Schröder also showed "crisis manager" capabilities when he personally flew to help flooding victims in East Germany. So Merkel by reassigning herself to political Antarctica in 2002 was poised to become candidate for chancellor following the next elections and even Schröder's campaigning in the 2005 early elections could not save him as a substantial faction of his party broke away under Oskar Lafontaine, an erstwhile friend and colleague but now bitter political enemy of Schröder. Merkel basically just had to wait for the SPD to give into the inevitable and walk to a Grand Coalition under her leadership.
  • An indirect example is Jeff Sessions, as his reassignment caused all sorts of problems for his old boss. Trump offered Sessions, an early supporter of his campaign, the post of United States Attorney General. Sessions accepted the post and resigned his Senate seat, leaving Alabama's Republican governor to select a replacement until an election could be held. Seems okay so far, right? Unfortunately, Governor Robert Bentley was currently under investigation for inappropriate usage of campaign funds and inappropriate relations with a woman other than his wife, so anybody he picked would likely also be tainted by scandal. Bentley selected Alabama State Attorney General Luther Strange for the seat (coincidentally also letting Bentley select a new Attorney General to investigate him). Strange stood for the Republican primary but lost to Roy Moore, a former justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was twice kicked out of office for refusing to obey court orders and who also held a number of extreme positions on the Constitution and religion, along with a number of accusations of inappropriate conduct with underage girls. Net Result: Moore narrowly loses to Doug Jones, and Alabama sends its first Democrat to the Senate since 1992, cutting the Republican majority there to one seat and energizing the Democratic Party nationwide. If Sessions had stayed put, he would almost certainly have been reelected when his seat next came up in 2020. He lived in a district akin to John Lewis's old greater Atlanta seat where he essentially and sometimes literally ran unopposed. Instead, he found himself de facto fired from the AG position and running behind (of all people) the former head coach of the Auburn Tigers football team in the Republican primary for his old Senate seat against in the middle of a pandemic that has done nothing but make the GOP look bad, with Doug Jones laughing from the sidelines.
    • And it got a bit worse for Trump: During his confirmation hearings, Sessions denied having any contact with Russian government officials, only to be caught in a lie when it was found that he had met with the Russian Ambassador more than once, and so was forced to recuse himself from the investigation of possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. This left Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a Special Counselnote , with a very broad mandate to investigate anything related Russian election meddling, and thus keeping the scandal from going away anytime soon, nevermind multiple associates of Trump being investigated, arrested and even becoming informants for the investigation.
  • Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, boss of the Philadelphia Mob from 1981 to 1991, was once exiled to Atlantic City by Angelo Bruno in 1963 for two reasons: one, he insulted Bruno's consigliere Joe Rugnetta by not only refusing to marry his daughter, but also badmouthing her by calling her ugly. In response, an enraged Rugnetta sought to have Scarfo killed, but Bruno, known for preferring cooperation with violence as a last resort, declined it out of respect to Scarfo's uncles, the Piccolo brothers, who were old-time mobsters. Second, Scarfo pled guilty to manslaughter for fatally stabbing a longshoreman with a knife over an argument that year and spent 10 months behind bars. In response to these events, Scarfo was sent down to Atlantic City to oversee the Philly Mob's operations there. Ironically, being banished there worked in Scarfo's favor, as various rogue elements within the family conspired to overthrow Bruno over the years, and he was killed in 1980 by renegade henchmen for kowtowing before the New York mafia over a dispute regarding Atlantic City and not letting the family deal in narcotics (the renegades were later killed by the Genovese crime family for killing a boss without the Mafia Commission's approval). Also, Atlantic City, which had been in decline since the 1950s, was rejuvenated when New Jersey legalized gambling, and this enabled Scarfo and his nephew Phil Leonetti to cash in on the construction boom and the labor unions. Bruno's successor, Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, promoted Scarfo to consigliere, but Testa also met a violent end like Bruno a year later, when another renegade faction conspired to kill him. These hits vaulted Scarfo to the position of boss in 1981 after Testa was killed,note  but his tumultuous reign was frequently marred by violence, internal turf wars, indictments and general incompetence, leading to the family's decline after Scarfo was stripped of his title in 1991.
  • Josef Stalin was seemingly Kicked Upstairs when given the position of General Secretary in the CPSU. It was one mostly seen as worthless because it lacked any real ideological power. Stalin was jokingly nicknamed "Comrade Card-Index" by his rivals. However, what they failed to realize is that despite the position having very little ideological power, it had a LOT of practical power, allowing him to fill up positions with his own supporters. The position of General Secretary was the title of the de facto ruler of the Soviet Union up through 1990 before being replaced by the President of the Soviet Union (on August 29, 1991 the General Secretary of the CPSU position was abolished along with the Communist Party).
  • During Konstantin Chernenko's brief time as Soviet leader, his foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko was seen by many as the one really making all the key decisions, due to Chernenko's poor health and even poorer grasp of international politics. Following Chernenko's death in early 1985, Gromyko manoeuvred for Mikhail Gorbachev to succeed him, confident that he could keep the far younger and less experienced Gorbachev under control and mould him into someone who would keep up the Cold War. Instead, Gromyko found himself Kicked Upstairs to the ceremonial position of head of state by Gorbachev, who then proceeded to implement the radically different ideologies of Glasnost and Perestroika — the end result of which was the Soviet Union's collapsing altogether a little over six years later note .
  • Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, known for having built the Korean navy from basically nothing as his country was invaded by Japan, and having never lost a battle or a single ship, started his career so successfully as to make his superior jealous. He was subsequently framed as a deserter, imprisoned, tortured and stripped of his rank. He was then allowed to join again as a private. From that post, he quickly rose again, providing both competence and leadership during the chaos of the Japanese invasion, and becoming the main actor in the Korean victory.
  • Sir Isaac Newton's tenure as Master of the Mint. At the time, the Mint was considered self-running, and the position as Master was a sinecure handed out to people like Newton so the Crown had an excuse to pay them a salary so that they, in turn, could do more interesting stuff like (in Newton's case) maths and astronomy. Newton, however, did what no one expected, and took the make-work job dead seriously. He cracked down hard on counterfeiters (with the infamous William Chaloner basically becoming his archnemesis during this period), invented the process of milling coin edges to make shaving coins impossible (preventing unwanted inflation), and tracked down and led raids on counterfeiters' workshops (even going undercover at pubs to find the counterfeiters). He was also a driving force (if inadvertently so) in moving England away from a bimetallic currency standard, and onto a gold standard, a move which was about the only thing that prevented the economy of the British Isles from collapsing completely when the Spanish flooded the metal market with cheap New World gold (though this caused issues later down the line — because of the gold standard, silver coins generally went out of Britain, and when they began to run out of silver to pay China for tea, the Opium Wars began). Sir Isaac was, in fact, knighted because of his work at the mint and not for his scientific endeavours, and his tomb in Westminster Abbey is adorned with financial motifs, not scientific ones.
  • In the American Civil War, Union General Lew Wallace was stripped of his command for his performance in the Battle of Shiloh, in which he seemingly sent his 6,000-man division every direction except towards the enemy, not arriving on the battlefield until 7 pm on the first day as the fighting was dying down. Though he would never receive another front-line command, his backwater assignments would still give him new chances at glory. After Shiloh, Wallace was assigned to the military Department of Ohio, in which he was placed in charge of the defense of Cincinnati. Faced with an incoming Confederate army advancing from Braxton Bragg's Kentucky invasion, Wallace was able to assemble an odd mix of regulars, militia, black laborers, police officers, and civilian volunteers into a fighting force so large and formidable that the Confederate army ultimately decided against attacking the city. Then in 1864, Lew Wallace led 6,000 troops at the Battle of Monocacy against Jubal Early's 15,000-man invasion force. Faced with an army more than twice his size, Wallace's men were eventually overwhelmed and forced to retreat to Baltimore, but they had held up Early for a full day, giving the Union time they needed to bring up reinforcements to secure Washington D. C. against Early's threat. Today, Wallace is best remembered for writing the book Ben-Hur after the war.
  • In the mid-19th century, the ruling class of Haiti made Faustin Soulouque President. Soulouque was in his mid-sixties when he took office, and his backers assumed he was a foolish old man who would be an easily manipulated Puppet President. Soulouque turned out to not only be The Chessmaster by orchestrating a coup that replaced the old elite with his own supporters drawn from Haiti's general Black population, but he declared himself Emperor of Haiti and created an entire Haitian aristocracy from scratch. He proceeded to govern Haiti ruthlessly for a decade until he was eventually overthrown.
  • Following the establishment of a House committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was supposed to recommend five members from his party to serve on the committee, but he instead withdrew all five recommendations after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of them, Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, as both had participated in events leading up to the attacks, and thus were seen as having a conflict of interest. McCarthy had hoped that the withdrawal would make the committee look overly partisan and that thus no Republicans would cooperate with it. In practice, it left him with no one on the inside who would tell him what the committee was actually doing, and thus he was blindsided when, a year later, it was revealed that a number of high-ranking Republicans had spoken to the committee and suggested that former President Donald Trump had attempted to illegally overturn the election.
  • In 1938, talented Soviet general Georgy Zhukov, who was seen as a threat to Stalin, was semi-exiled to the remote and irrelevant military post of commanding the First Soviet Mongolian Army Group, which was responsible for securing the southern border of Siberia. However, Japan picked that year to pick a fight with the Soviets, and instead of running into a force led by a drunken backwater incompetent they ran into one of the most brilliant generals of the 20th century. Oops. It did not go well for them, and Zhukov decisively— but quietly— crushed the Japanese forces, which forced them into a quiet non-aggression pact that secured the eastern flank of the Soviet Union until the end of World War II, which allowed them a free hand to deal with Nazi aggression in 1941.
  • After investigations showed he'd embellished a number of news stories, Brian Williams was removed from NBC's flagship Nightly News program to being a "breaking news" anchor on the struggling MSNBC without any guaranteed air time. This was done in the hopes that he'd leave on his own volition and allow the network to avoid paying severance on his enormous contract. However, Williams toughed it out and proved that he could keep drawing in ratings MSNBC desperately needed. This led to him being given his own show... in the 11pm-to-12am graveyard slot. He turned that into enough of a success that it launched Nicolle Wallace's broadcast careernote  and allowed him to work through the 2020 presidential election and retire on his own terms when his contract expired — with NBCUniversal forced to pay him the salary he'd negotiated as a primetime network anchor the whole time.