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Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb

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"But here, cleverly disguised as a bomb, is a bomb."
Bullwinkle, Rocky and Bullwinkle

So, the bad guys have broken through the bank vault, stolen all the cash, and are heading towards the elevator intending their escape. The good guys are nowhere to be seen... until the elevator opens and the bad guys see their stolen TNT right in the middle. Their jaws drop, and the timer counts down, 3, 2, 1...

This kind of surprise encounter with explosives can be used in all sorts of ways. The only constant is that Character A sends Character B something with a big boom (sometimes a nuke) when Character B isn't expecting it, leaving Character B with no chance to survive or to make his time.

See Incredibly Obvious Bomb, Time Bomb, Pineapple Surprise. Often part of You Got Murder or Why Am I Ticking?. Compare and contrast Explosive Stupidity for when someone Too Dumb to Live manages to do this to themselves.


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  • Excel Saga has Excel and Hyatt repeatedly try to do this. It doesn't work right. Even when they disguise the bomb as a giant panda.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Gren sets Vicious up the bomb in the form of a music box.
  • In Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Tylor gives a present to the enemy captain he has just surrendered to, not knowing that it was actually a bomb the space marines on board had given to him wrapped as a gift to get rid of him, making this a totally unintentional instance of Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb.
  • JUNGLE does this often in K - not with casualties, though. They hide bombs in plushies, plastic fruit, etc. In the anime, it's mostly to Kuroh and Neko, but in the manga, they have ordinary users of their chat app leave these in public places, not knowing what's in them.
  • There's a running gag of Team Rocket getting stuck with some really undesirable mon-related situation, such as being surrounded by Gyarados. Sometimes, this is a Voltorb that proceeds to, you guessed it, self-destruct.

    Comic Books 
  • The New Pride leaves a bomb for the Runaways in a red herring trap.
  • Major Bludd leaves a bomb for both sides of a business deal in an issue of the Devil's Due version of GI Joe.
  • In Issue 9 of Reyn, Bram reprograms an igniter component to self-destruct. This isn't revealed until after the Venn plug the igniter into the weapon they're trying to use to destroy Fate. It promptly blows up in their faces.
  • Suicide Squad:
    Harley Quinn: "Uh, fellas? Our boy is a blow-up doll. And not the fun kind."

  • The original Stargate movie had O'Neil sending a nuclear warhead up to Ra's spaceship. Even better, Ra's soldiers were going to use that bomb to do the same to Earth, and after killing them, O'Neil sent it to Ra because he couldn't deactivate it.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: Generations. Captain Picard is fiddling with the control panel for Soran's sun-killer missile. When Soran orders him away from it and goes to work on it himself, he discovers that Picard has sabotaged the missile. As the launch clock counts down to zero, the last we see of Soran is the look of despair on his face as the missile explodes, killing him.
    • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. After some Klingons beam over to the Enterprise in order to capture it, they hear the computer counting down the last few seconds before the ship's Self-Destruct Mechanism activates. Their leader, Kruge, is listening in and tells them to get out, but it's too late.
      • Alt-Captain Janeway (or maybe the original? It's a bit confusing) pulls the same trick in "Deadlock." The Vidiians, having overrun Voyager, enter the bridge, where they are greeted by a pleasantly smiling Janeway and a silent autodestruct countdown.
      "Hello. I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway. Welcome to the bridge." BAH-WHAM
    • Janeway sets the Borg up the bomb three years later, beaming an armed photon torpedo into an oblong Borg probe.
    • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Spock allows the torpedoes that contained Khan's crew to be transported to his ship. But not before he'd armed them.
  • One of these happens in The Fifth Element right near the end. After failing to escape, The Dragon races to stop the bomb that he had set to destroy the space cruise ship he is on. He succeeds with five seconds left on the clock... then turns to see ANOTHER bomb that his mutinous henchmen have set off, counting down from five...
  • This turns up a lot in The Pink Panther films from A Shot in the Dark onwards. More often than not, they result in Non-Fatal Explosions.
    Clouseau: Special delivery — a bermb. Did you order one? A BERMB?!
  • In Casino Royale (2006), part of Le Chiffre's Evil Plan is to get his mook to blow up the newest Skyfleet plane with a key fob explosive attached to a fuel truck. Bond interferes. One unnecessarily long fight later, Bond's down and out, and the mook triumphantly hits the button on the trigger...then sees that the bomb's been attached to his belt...
  • The Main Characters manage to set one of these up for the invading cockroach aliens in Godzilla vs. Gigan. They set up a pile of TNT in an elevator, paste a drawing of themselves to the front, and send it up. When the elevator hits the top floor, the aliens (apparently unable to distinguish a marker drawing from an actual person) shoot at it, leading to the inevitable Stuff Blowing Up.
  • Samir Horn in Traitor is an American operative deep undercover in a radical Islamic terrorist organization. Their plan is to blow up fifty passenger buses across the United States simultaneously, and Horn is tasked with instructing the terrorists on which buses to board. He puts them all on the same bus.
  • In Law Abiding Citizen, the Villain Protagonist has a napalm bomb placed in City Hall, intending to kill the major and the city's emergency service officers. However, the attorney he's been up against the entire film shows up and lectures him, telling him that if he detonates, he'll have to live with his decision for the rest of his life. He decides to detonate, not realizing that the attorney has placed the bomb underneath his prison cot.
  • In the Chuck Norris masterpiece Invasion U.S.A. (1985), a group of bad guys are trying to blow up a church while people inside are seeking shelter. They hit the detonator, and— click. Cue Chuck showing up behind them: "Didn't work, huh?", dropping the bomb into their car, then connecting the wires he cut. "Now it will." Boom.
  • Battlefield Earth. Johnny manages to strap the neck bomb on Terl's arm, then convinces him to detonate it - Terl thinks it'll blow up Johnny's girlfriend's head.
  • Van Helsing: When the carriage Van Helsing is driving plummets into a ravine, Dracula's Bride Vernona breaks the door off the carriage, thinking Frankenstein's monster is inside... instead she finds a nitroglycerin bomb rigged to fire a salvo of stakes when it goes off...
  • In Resident Evil: Afterlife, Wesker flees from the Umbrella ship in a jet, then smugly activates the ship's self-destruct countdown - only to realize that Alice had already moved the device onto the very plane he's flying.
  • In Magnum Force Dirty Harry disarms the bomb that the villain planted in his mailbox and takes it with him. When he confronts the villain, he reactivates it and tosses it into the villain's car, who drives off, unaware.
  • In Speed, the movie does this with Harry.
  • In Pacific Rim, the Precursors are really surprised by a Jaeger making its way through their portal (which is only supposed to allow Kaiju through) into the Anteverse. One of them watches the Jaeger and then appears very obviously distressed when its reactor goes into overload. BOOM!
  • In Help!, The Beatles are vacationing in the Alps where they're being followed by Professor Foot and his assistant Algernon. While the Beatles are curling, Foot replaces George's curling stone with a bomb version, complete with smoke coming out of it. George can only say "Hey, it's a thingy! A fiendish thingy!" before getting Ringo away from the explosion.

  • The Chessmaster in the last Empire from the Ashes book sets up the Emperor the bomb by disguising it in an important statue. By the time this is discovered, it is inside the most heavily defended section of the palace, has an anti-tamper device set to go off if Imperial technology gets close, and packs enough power in its bite-sized package to destroy a sun. Oh, Crap!.
  • In Halo: First Strike, the humans on the planet Reach allow the invading Covenant to come into possession of a NOVA bomb, which is a basically a Mega Nuke capable of destroying an entire planet. The plan is for the Covenant to take it back to their capital for study and detonate it in the process. It's revealed in Halo: Ghosts of Onyx that they instead took it to one of their colony worlds that nonetheless has a large fleet orbiting it, and inadvertently set it off, annihilating the fleet and a great deal of the planet. However, the fleet that was blown up was, while not exactly friendly to humanity, part of an Enemy Civil War against the main Covenant.
  • Happens in Storm Thief when Finch reverse pickpockets the explosive armband Bane attached to him while he the detonator for the armband. The future victim of the explosion notices that the detonator was stolen from him but is still cocky since the bomb should still be attached to it's intended target. He gets just enough time to realize the bomb is in his pocket.
  • Philip K. Dick's short story Impostor deals with a war between Earth and aliens from Alpha Centauri, and a man that is accused of being a robot, planted by the enemy and which carries a bomb inside, set to explode when a trigger is activated. The man escapes and tries to find the robot, to attempt to prove he is actually human. He isn't. And the bomb inside him explodes right after discovering the truth, laying waste to good part of the Earth.

    Live Action TV 
  • The ending of the three part "Hot to Katrazi" arc on Farscape had John dropping a mini-nuke into the Scarran's gardens.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A Xanatos Gambit variant in the stories "Remembrance of the Daleks" and "Silver Nemesis". The Doctor sees to it that his enemies gain control of a Gallifreyan superweapon, which ends up 'sploding the bad guys in space. Either way they can't use it and the Doctor says the device returns home, but blowing them up was a nice bonus.
    • A straight example in "The Dominators", with the Doctor planting the Dominators' atomic seed aboard the Dominators' ship.
  • Both the season one opener and closer of Leverage featured a bomb going off like this. The first was deployed by the antagonists, the second by the Main Characters (though it wasn't meant to kill, only to destroy the evidence in their office)
  • Favorite tactic early on in Battlestar Galactica, since it ensured that the nuke took out a Basestar.
  • They did it to a Borg...rounded rectangular prism? in Star Trek: Voyager with a photon torpedo set to "overload" beamed onto it after Voyager had disabled its shields.
  • Babylon 5:
    • In the Made-for-TV Movie Legend Of The Rangers, the Rangers did this to the same villains on two separate occasions. The enemy did use precautions the second time, but the protagonists anticipated and nullified them.
    • In the episode "The Fall of Night", a group of Centauri try to set up Sheridan the bomb. Sheridan avoids the blast itself by jumping out of the shuttle just in time, but this only substitutes one deadly danger for another—namely, a potentially fatal collision with the station's outer wall. It takes an almost literal Deus ex Machina (albeit one that had been lightly foreshadowed) to save him. Sheridan...actually loves this, and related, tropes. [Thirdspace, his destruction of the Black Star, and his destruction of Za-ha-dum ALL involved very, very big bombs.]
  • One opening quote in Andromeda gives us Argosy Special Operations requisition form, CY 9512:
    One Mark V ECM unit, 1000 km of Fullerene cable, one low-yield nuclear warhead.
    Surprise party for a foreign dignitary."
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: At the end of the third season, Lord Zedd sends Goldar and Rito into the tunnels under the Command Center to plant a bomb and blow the place up. It succeeds, quite chillingly, though Zordon had prepared for the possibility. And in the finale to Power Rangers Zeo, Rita and Zedd blow up the Royal House of Gadgetry with a package bomb. They get rebuilt by the beginning of Power Rangers in Space.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Charge, Keeper tricks Fury into carrying an Energem case that actually contained Keeper's crystal bomb. When Fury gives the case to Sledge, the crystal blows up the latter's ship and resulted in the extinction of dinosaurs. It is done again in the Grand Finale as a Bookends when Tyler did the same after the Rangers traveled back in time, this time destroying Fury.
  • Stargate SG-1
    • In the alternate reality of the episode "There But For the Grace of God", the Jaffa invading the alternate SGC arrive at the gate room and control room just as the base self-destruct reaches zero. They can be seen milling about going Oh, Crap! as the P.A. system counts down, "Five, four, three, two, one..."
    • Honorable mention to the fireworks O'Neill used to booby-trap the MacGuffin in one of the training scenarios in "Proving Grounds". His trainees abort the "mission" rather than try to disarm them.
    • According to "Summit", the System Lord Ba'al apparently had a reputation for doing this to his enemies. In the words of Daniel Jackson, gifts from Ba'al "have a habit of exploding."
  • JAG: In "War Cries", an old lady leaves a basket in front of the Embassy's front gate. A Marine sentry sees this and immediately sounds the alarm just before the bomb explodes.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walter White finally kills Gus Fring this way at the conclusion of season 4.

    Video Games 
  • Zero Wing is the Trope Namer, via its infamous Engrish-y opening.
  • Quite a few of the Multiple Endings of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.
  • At the end of Resistance 2, Hale destroys the Chimeran fleet by setting them up with a nuke fission bomb
  • Halo:
    • Halo 2: After temporarily disarming the bomb the Covenant set up on Cairo Station, the Master Chief then rides the bomb back to its setter-uppers.
    • In Halo 3's second mission, you set the Covenant up the bomb in one of your base that is belong to them.
    • In one level of Halo 4's Spartan Ops, Fireteam Crimson has to find and disable HAVOK nukes that the Covenant managed to sneak aboard the Infinity.
  • In Call Of Duty 4, US Marines charge into a city in the Middle East in search of terrorist leader Al-Asad. Al-Asad isn't there, but a 500 kiloton nuclear warhead is...
  • Syphon Filter: "This one's different from the others'', :turns over bomb to reveal timer at 4 seconds, BOOM. Also occurs several more times throughout the series, with at least one involving a Dead Man's Switch.
  • Happens just as you're leaving the hospital in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Luckily, it's a Magic Countdown, the bomb doesn't go off until a couple seconds after the timer reaches zero.
  • In the old Dragon Ball Z: Budokai game, Mr. Satan (AKA Hercule) uses an exploding portable console (looks like an oversized GBA) to trick his enemies in his Super Attacks. Everyone falls for it, even Cell...
  • Happens at the end of every level in the Third-Person Shooter subgame of Die Hard Trilogy.
  • In every last Bomberman game, you set the bomb up.
  • This is actually a cheat code in Starcraft that makes you instantly lose.
    • In the middle of the Zerg campaign, Kerrigan boards a science vessel to get the data she requires to break her psychic Restraining Bolt. A Terran demolition team boards the ship as well to destroy it and get ambushed. Seeing no way out, they detonate the nuke they brought with them to vaporize all the Zerg on the station... but Kerrigan's no longer onboard.
    • The Terran campaign of Brood War has Duran setting up the bomb to the UED Non-Entity General by luring him into the Psi Distruptor and setting the reactor on overload.
  • In World of Warcraft, the very first quest a new goblin player gets is to deliver a "present" from your executive assistant to a mining foreman who hasn't met quotas. You can guess what the present is.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade has the player do this to the Necron stronghold. Especially with the Necron Pariah's reaction.
  • In Meet the Demoman, the RED Demoman does this to the entire BLU team.
  • In Dragon Age II, Anders uses Hawke as an Unwitting Pawn to set up the Chantry the bomb.
  • In the attact mode cinematic to Tekken 5, someone delivers a bomb to Heihachi Mishima via Jack robot.
  • In Mass Effect 3, after going to Sur'Kesh to get the fertile krogan female and coming under attack by Cerberus operatives, you go to the elevator to try to get topside, only to find a bomb in the elevator. Garrus says it best.
    Garrus: Oh, Crap!!
  • In Fallout 3, an optional sidequest (absent from the Japanese version) has you set up and detonate the nuclear bomb in the middle of Megaton. Doing this will put your Karma Meter into the red, however.
  • When Big Boss rescues Paz in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, he discovers a bomb in her stomach. His crew manages to remove it, but they end up missing a second bomb deeper in her body, which subsequently detonates and brings down their helicopter.
  • In Star Wars: X-Wing, a cutscene had Rebel spies sneaking a bomb onboard the Star Destroyer Invincible, disguised as a delivery of supplies. They escaped as the ship blew up.
    • Star Wars: Rebellion As a similar cutscene with a Rebel spy disguised as a stormtrooper for planting a bomb, but inside a friggin' Death Star!
  • This a challenge in Dead Island: Riptide, where the player has to use explosives to kill a certain number of zombies depending on the player's skill level.
  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier's Action Prologue in Nicaragua ends with the Decoy Protagonist and the rest of his squad getting blown up by a dirty bomb. In the fourth mission of the main campaign, set in Pakistan, the Ghosts capture what appears to be the arms dealer's vehicle, only to find that it's a booby trap, and narrowly escape the explosion.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The Spoony Experiment does this in the Final Fantasy VIII finale. Spoony's robot, Burton, is a cleverly designed bomb that acts when Spoony is mortally wounded by Squall Leonheart.
    • Bonus points for recreating the above-mentioned Enterprise self-destruct in Star Trek III.
  • The Source Filmmaker short "Teleporter trouble" has the Engineer deal with a group of teleporter-camping enemies in a rather.... unconventional fashion.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: Bender's Big Score: "You've been scammed, sweetheart!"
  • Happens in the Beast Wars episode "Equal Measures." An energon vein that runs underneath both bases means that one can travel from one to another instantaneously but an explosion on one end will mean explosion on the other. Cheetor, in the Predacon base, sends this information to the Maximals via a data disk through this instantaneous connection... only for the bomb he was warning them not to use to suddenly appear in the base.
  • In the Transformers Animated episode "Decepticon Air", Optimus loads a pile of explosive energon cubes onto the lift and then cuts the lift cable, dropping it right down to the Decepticons waiting for him at the bottom.
  • Transformers is apparently really big on this trope. Prime uses this to dispose of Makeshift in "Con Job": he's thrown through the GroundBridge with a bomb strapped to him, which takes him a little while to notice.
  • In a season 3 episode of Star Wars Rebels, Zeb and Chopper find an abandoned droid that turns out to be an Imperial Recon Droid with a Proton Warhead in its chest. After disabling it and reprogramming it, they send it back and let it detonate in its mothership, destroying all the recon droids so that the Imperials won't learn which system it went to.
    Technician 1: Is that a countdown?!
    Technician 2: Oh my...

Alternative Title(s): Someone Set Up Us The Bomb, Hidden Time Bomb, Surprise Bomb, Somebody Set Us Up The Bomb