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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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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Gren sets Vicious up the bomb in the form of a music box. Vicious actually tried setting Gren up the bomb at the same time, as the briefcase allegedly containing the money for the drugs Gren was selling was full of plastic explosives. However, Gren was expecting this and merely kicked the case back to Vicious before shooting the locks off it, causing the case to pop open and explode.
  • 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 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 the trope.note 
  • 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.
  • Pokémon: 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 
  • Major Bludd leaves a bomb for both sides of a business deal in an issue of the Devil's Due version of G.I. 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.
  • The New Pride leaves a bomb for the Runaways in a red herring trap.
  • Suicide Squad:
    Harley Quinn: Uh, fellas? Our boy is a blow-up doll. And not the fun kind.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In High Heels and Low Lifes, Mason and Barry throw the briefcase supposedly containing the blackmail payment out of the train window into the field where Frances is waiting. Frances takes the case and stows it in her car. However, the case actually contains a bomb which Mason detonates remotely.
  • Invasion U.S.A. (1985):
  • 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 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 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!
  • 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 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 Speed, the movie does this with Harry.
  • The original Stargate movie has 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 can'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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...

  • Artemis Fowl:
    • In the first book, Artemis sets up a trap on an old ship to lure Commander Root to Holly's transponder, where Root finds a recorded message from Artemis along with the bomb, forcing him to flee after seeing the message without being able to gather any evidence.
    • The Opal Deception has Artemis and company pull this on Opal Koboi via having experienced burglar Mulch sneak onto Opal's shuttle and put her explosives in her secret, heavily-shielded smugglers' compartment, stealing the expensive chocolates that were in there. Then, Artemis and company call up Opal and eat the chocolates on-screen, pissing her off enough as she's trying to detonate her bombs that she ends up opening the shielded compartment...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Timeline-191: Clarence Potter uses stolen US military uniforms and vehicles to smuggle the Confederacy's first (and only) nuclear bomb into Philadelphia (which is serving as the US capital). He sets two timers, just to be sure it goes off, and ends up destroying half the city.
  • L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s Archform: Beauty climaxes when the main villain dies in a bomb blast — despite the fact that said villain has been narrating all his own chapters, in the past tense, up to that point.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.]
  • Favorite tactic early on in Battlestar Galactica, since it ensured that the nuke took out a Basestar.
  • In Breaking Bad, Walter White finally kills Gus Fring this way at the conclusion of season 4.
  • Chuck: In "Chuck Vs The Suitcase", Villain of the Week Sofia puts a Time Bomb inside her purse, knowing the spies after her would steal it from her. Sarah manages to disarm it via Cut the Fuse.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A straight example in "The Dominators", with the Doctor planting the Dominators' atomic seed aboard the Dominators' ship.
    • A Xanatos Gambit variant in "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.
    • "Victory of the Daleks": The Daleks' backup plans involve having built a bomb into Professor Bracewell, the android they built to trick the humans into thinking they were robots. The Doctor and Amy manage to prevent the bomb from going off by reminding Bracewell of his fundamental humanity, freeing him from the Daleks' control.
  • The ending of the three part "Hot to Katrazi" arc on Farscape had John dropping a mini-nuke into the Scarran's gardens.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Power Rangers:
    • 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. Then Koda slips Sledge another one disguised as a Christmas present. 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."
    • In "The Tomb", SG1 is about to flee using a ring teleporter when the Goa'uld of the week arrives (having survived their last attempt to kill him). As he's ranting about how he'll hunt them down, O'Neill points to something behind him, which turns out to be about five pounds of C4 and a timer with ten seconds left on it.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • 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.
      Janeway: 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.


    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, enemy Forts have large signal fires that they will light to summon reinforcements if you're seen attacking one. However, if you sneak over to the signal fire itself, you can "sabotage" it (presumably via adding saltpeter and sulfur). After that, if an enemy tries to light it in response to spotting you, it explodes in their face and kills them.
  • In every last Bomberman game, you set the bomb up.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, 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...
  • 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.
  • Happens at the end of every level in the Third-Person Shooter subgame of Die Hard Trilogy.
  • In Dragon Age II, Anders uses Hawke as an Unwitting Pawn to set up the Chantry the bomb.
  • 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...
  • Fallout 2: John Bishop, head of the Bishop crime syndicate in New Reno, has a safe that's booby-trapped with explosives. One possible method of assassinating him is to change the combination on his safe so that the next time he tries to open it he'll be blown up by his own bomb.
  • In Fallout 3, an optional sidequest (absent from the Japanese version, for some inscrutable reason) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 The Journeyman Project, the Mars Colony's atmospheric energy shield generator has been rigged to explode by one of Elliott Sinclair's Killer Robots, and you have to solve a Mastermind puzzle to defuse it. At the end of the remake, Sinclair himself sets you up a nuke to disarm after you knock him out.
  • 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 a later mission, you learn that the Turians set up a nuclear-strength bomb on Tuchanka, in case the Krogans started getting testy again. Unfortunately, Cerberus finds it and has every intention of setting it off to cripple La Résistance.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • At the end of Resistance 2, Hale destroys the Chimeran fleet by setting them up with a fission bomb
  • 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.
  • 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. After the mission, a Terran demolition team boards the ship as well to destroy it and, get ambushed by Zerg left by Kerrigan as a parting gift. Seeing no way out, they decide to forgo the countdown and detonate the nuke they brought with them.
    • 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.
  • Star Wars: Rebellion has a cutscene with a Rebel spy disguised as a stormtrooper for planting a bomb, but inside a friggin' Death Star!
  • 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.
  • Team Fortress 2: "In Meet the Demoman", the RED Demoman does this to the entire BLU team.
  • In the attact mode cinematic to Tekken 5, someone delivers a bomb to Heihachi Mishima via Jack robot.
  • The big twist at the end of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is that the sarcophagus that is speculated to hold the corpse of an ancient vampire that most of L.A's vampire factions want to acquire was emptied of its perfectly mundane occupant and stuffed full of C4 with a five-second timer set to start as soon as the lid is removed prior to the beginning of the game. You were warned not to open it. Oh, and the one responsible was the friendly tutorial NPC.
  • 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 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.
  • Zero Wing is the Trope Namer, via its infamous Translation Trainwreck opening.

    Web Animation 
  • The Best Fiends short "The Immortal Cockroach" has this as Hank and Roger's scheme to defeat Lapoleon, who the Slugs have mistaken as the Fiends' true leader. Being an immortal cockroach, Lapoleon's more irritated at how "cliche" the trick is, rather than the fact that he was just delivered a bomb, and simply shakes off the explosion in the end.
  • The Source Filmmaker short "Teleporter trouble" has the Engineer deal with a group of teleporter-camping enemies in a rather.... unconventional fashion.


    Web Videos 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Futurama: Bender's Big Score: "You've been scammed, sweetheart!"
  • The opening credits of Inspector Gadget end with Gadget handcuffing himself to Dr. Claw's wrist only to discover that it is a fake arm attached to the chair and the chair has an Incredibly Obvious Bomb sitting on it.
  • 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...
  • 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.


Video Example(s):

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


The Immortal Cockroach

One of the Slugs' multiple attempts on Lapoleon's life. Being a cockroach has its perks.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / SomebodySetUpUsTheBomb

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