Haley: That was a moment ago.
Simply put, a character is tied up by the enemy for whatever purpose, and when the most dramatic (or the most humorously opportune) moment arises, reveals that they slipped out of their ropes ages ago. Can also be done with handcuffs.
A variation is where they reveal that they could have slipped the ropes, but chose not to: this is Play-Along Prisoner.
Compare and contrast Breaking the Bonds, which is generally much less subtle.
- Ganta from Deadman Wonderland did this, using his own blood.
- Lupin III can only be handcuffed if he lets you handcuff him. During a Lupin III (Red Jacket) episode, Fujiko uses this trait to convince Zenigata Lupin is possessed: there's blood on the cuffs, which means he had to fight his way out of them... something the normal Lupin wouldn't have to do.
- Trigun: Vash the Stampede once slid out of ropes to protect a young woman from bandits. Said bandits caught him before he could get back into them... the second time.
- Dark and Riku from D.N.Angel have been captured and handcuffed because Dark surrendered the moment they were confronted. Riku is furious and begins yelling at Dark, at which point he reveals he has easily escaped. "You were saying...something about handcuffs?"
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind manga. Yupa: "Heedra handler!" Said Handler: "if its slop you want, you'll get yours soon enough." Yupa: Holds up handcuffs, proceeds to kick their asses.
- Gunslinger Girl. Mafia boss Mario Bossi escapes Triela with a Bathroom Breakout, despite them being chained together. When Triela goes to chase after him, she finds he's slipped the chain's handcuff and reattached it to a water pipe, which she has to waste time ripping from the wall before she can get after him.
- Iago had this moment in Aladdin and the King of Thieves. This time, however, it wasn't easy, as he had to wiggle out of his very tight bonds
- Done hilariously in Treasure Planet with Dr. Doppler. Turns out, he has abnormally thin wrists.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Roger Rabbit can slip out of his cuffs at any given moment, but only when it's funny.
- Bugs Bunny in Space Jam. When the aliens have him imprisoned, and are "gloating" to the highly amused toons, Bugs is quietly rolling his eyes and slipping out of the somewhat impressive amount of rope he's bound with. And the cuffs for his ears.
- The President in Air Force One did this, and used a shard of glass to get out.
- Babylon 5: A call To Arms has Dureena Nafeel show the entire Thieves guild that she already loosened the bonds by simply dropping them, then knocking out the person who was taunting her about being restrained.
- Harry Tasker did this in True Lies. The cool part is that he had just told his interrogator exactly how he was going to kill the guy, right before revealing the cuffs were off.
- Two of the kids from The Pacifier did this, silently and quite impressively.
- Marv did this in Sin City, combined with Breaking the Bonds.
- One of the villains Pike from The A-Team has his hands cuffed behind him and put in the backseat of a car. Using his would be killer's imcompetence he quickly reveals his hands are free and steals the gun away from the man, pointing out they should "Never handcuff a guy's hands behind his back, then you can't see the hands."
- In The Thing from Another World (1951), in an awkward romantic moment, a military officer lets a woman tie him to a chair after she claimed he was too handsy last time. He has already slipped out of his bonds by the time she confesses to things and says she would never have said them if he wasn't tied up.
- In the Relativity story "Master Blankard's Pawn", the heroes escape right in front of the villain while he's is monologuing.
Black Torrent: I'm free. What about you guys?Zephyra: Me, too.Overcast: Yep.Dark Flame: (still tied up) How did you guys do that?
- Journey to Chaos: Rope escape is part of Tiza's Squad Four cross-training. It comes in handy in Mana Mutation Menace when Dosh Heleti tries to kidnap her. She escapes the handcuffs he uses, magic eyes him into paralysis and then uses the cuffs on him instead.
- In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "0-8-4", Melinda May does this... by dislocating her wrist first.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Living Conditions" Buffy is starting to go Ax-Crazy because a demon is taking her soul, so the Scoobies tie her to a chair. At one point Xander and Oz wonder if the ropes are tight enough, and cautiously approach Buffy...who promptly bangs their heads together.
- Supernatural. Played for Drama when Dean discovers Sam doesn't have a soul after being rescued from Hell. He beats Sam up and ties him to a chair while he and Castiel try and work out what to do. Sam argues that it doesn't make any difference, and Dean can hardly keep him tied to a chair forever. He then stands up having spent the time working on his bonds.
- Person of Interest
Petersen: You want me to hold your hand, Fusco? Oh, I forgot, we broke your fingers.
- ("The Crossing"). Having been tortured by HR, Detective Fusco is about to be executed by Dirty Cop Petersen. Fusco has his hands cuffed behind his back.
Fusco: Yeah, you did. Which made it no big deal for me to break my thumb.
- Doctor Who - In "Death in Heaven", Missy not only uncuffs herself without her captors noticing, she sneaks the cuffs into Osgood's pocket for the sake of a joke.
Missy: Oh, my giddy aunt. Quiet ones are the worst.
- Oliver does this in the pilot episode of Arrow. It gets a Call-Back in the fifth season premier, complete with a flashback to when he was introduced to the skill.
Kidnapper: Did [your father] tell you anything?
Oliver: Y...yes, he did. [...] He told me I'm gonna kill you.
Kidnapper: (laughs) You're delusional. You're zip-cuffed to that chair!
Oliver: (reveals hands) Not anymore. (kicks their asses)
- Cody in Street Fighter Alpha 3 is a prisoner who makes a habit of breaking out of jail. He's handcuffed. In his taunt, he slips out of the cuffs, makes fun of his enemy and then puts them back on.
- In Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, Layton and Luke get captured and tied up by a vampire who intends to drink their blood. Luckily, their captor did a sloppy job of securing the ropes, so after a quick puzzle, they manage to free themselves and continue their investigation. This turns out to have been an Invoked Trope. Anton's standard procedure for dealing with intruders is to capture them, threaten them a little, then leave them alone so they can escape and flee to further spread his fearsome reputation.
- In Mass Effect 3: Citadel, after the final mission, Maya Brooks is captured by Shepard's squad and cuffed with some kind of Hard Light omni-cuffs, which she proceeds to try to hack before she's even left the room. She's perfectly capable of working the cuffs off in less than a minute. She's less capable of dodging gunfire from ten feet away.
- Lestrade does this at least once on the cartoon Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century.
Lestrade: Never put a cop in their own cuffs. They probably know how to get out of them.
- In the last episode of Sam & Max: Freelance Police, Sam and Max get bored and do this repeatedly.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- In the second season, the gAang get caught by the Dai Li when attempting to reach the Earth King. When Long Feng accidentally reveals that the Avatar is among those caught, Sokka points Aang out. Aang, being the Cheerful Child he is, Earthbends his cuffs off, waves to the King, then Bends them back on again. Oddly, this does not clue the Dai Li that they probably need more firepower to keep this particular prisoner (plus Toph) in line.
- Aang also did this when he was charged for murder in a former life. He was in prison, hands and head locked in a pillory, and casually slipped out of it during a chat with other inmates.
- Futurama: When the Space Amazons have Bender, Zap, Fry, and Kif chained up, to explain that Bender lacks certain parts he slips one hand out of the chains to demonstrate and then puts it back in the chain.
- Family Guy:
- Parodying this trope, the family get tied up by robbers and are trying to work out how to get free, when Chris or Peter stands up as the robbers didn't bother to tie him up.
- In the "Stewie Kills Lois/Lois Kills Stewie" episodes, Stewie ties up the entire family. To pass the time, they start making up celebrity rumors, until Chris starts clapping. He claims that Stewie must have forgot him.
Lois: You realize we've been sitting here for fourteen hours?!
Chris: Well, get pissy if you want, Mom. I've enjoyed the time we've had as a family.
- Jackie Chan Adventures played with this. One episode had the good guys voluntarily let themselves be tied to chairs (clones were involved, just go with it). When they are attacked by a clone Viper slips the ropes, El Toro and Tohru break the ropes, and Captain Black tries to slip out, but fails.
- Kid Flash did this to the Hive Five in Teen Titans.
- In a series of Wander over Yonder shorts airing between the first and second seasons, Lord Hater has finally captured Wander and has him shackled while he plans to broadcast his execution live. However, Wander is able to slip out easily, which annoys Hater to no end.
- Harry Houdini did this a lot. On more than one occasion, police officers he challenged handcuffed him to something and walked away, saying, "We'll be back for you in an hour." Before they reached the door, Houdini would walk up to them and say, "Take your handcuffs with you."
- At least one magician has had a routine where he's handcuffed by volunteers, supposedly to do a trick, his hands are hidden and he's continually pulling out one hand or the other (sometimes with the cuffs dangling from it) to "assist" the volunteers in setting up the supposed trick or "correcting" things they've supposedly done wrong.