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Stupid Surrender

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This is when we're told a character has no choice but to surrender, even though we've seen the character easily get out of worse situations before. The tough guy is able to beat up Mooks by the dozen, but when three of them corner him later in the story, he suddenly decides that he can't fight odds like that and drops his gun. Or some characters think nothing of dodging a hail of bullets in a fight scene, but later are terrified into submission by a single gun pointed at them from across the room. Or a hero kills half an army while Storming the Castle, only to give up in despair when it turns out the Big Bad has two whole guards in his throne room.

Why can't the heroes just beat up the baddies like they usually do? Because the plot requires that the heroes get captured at about this point, that's why. The writer has just decided that they want the story to go in a certain direction — maybe this is because they want to write a prison escape sequence, or because they want a hero to be freed by the villain's beautiful daughter as part of a romance sub-plot, or because they just want some drama because Invincible Heroes are boring. That's fine, but the catch is that if you've spent a long time building characters up as badasses, you'll need to hit them with one hell of a threat if their backdown is going to look plausible. If you don't, you're asking the audience to believe that enemies who were previously just an inconvenience have suddenly and inexplicably become an overwhelming danger, and people may not buy that.

It's a kind of Plot Induced Stupidity, and may be a result of a character being handed an Idiot Ball. Sometimes generates Fridge Logic. It can be combined with Stupid Sacrifice if the reason that the character surrenders is that it gives someone else a better chance of escaping — just not better than if the hero actually defeated the bad guys. It can be justified if the character has a plan that requires him to get captured, though even then being captured too easily really ought to arouse some suspicion from the captor.

If a writer wants this to happen in video games, there exists a problem in that players will resist surrendering to opponents who they know or think they can beat. This inconvenient fact can be overruled with Cutscene Incompetence or by making sure Stupidity Is the Only Option, especially common in a Stealth-Based Mission.


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    Comic Books 
  • When written by their original creator, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor would often surrender in situations where they could have easily overcome their foes or escaped, generally due to having a plan that revolved around their capture... and to facilitate one or both of them ending up Bound and Gagged once an issue.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Expendables 2, the Expendables find themselves in a Mexican Standoff with Vilain and his goons early in the movie. Rather than try to negotiate their way out or simply start shooting and hope for the best, they surrender because Vilain has captured one of their teammates and they are concerned he will be killed. This ignores the obvious fact that once they put their weapons down, there is nothing stopping Vilain from killing the captive anyway, which is exactly what happens. Fortunately for the team, Vilain displays Bond Villain Stupidity by letting the rest of them walk away.
  • Happens in several of the James Bond movies. If the plot requires him to get caught, hear a villain's speech, and then escape from a death trap, he'll surrender in situations he'd otherwise deal with using an impressive fight scene. The threat to him is usually fairly genuine, true, but when has that been much of a problem for him?
  • Played for Laughs in Hot Shots! Part Deux. Topper is carrying a hostage, has a giant machine gun and knows how to use it. When Saddam shows up with a tiny hand gun, Topper surrenders immediately despite having blown away tons of guys earlier, and even surviving a shot from a Mook just a few scenes earlier while carrying said hostage.
  • In the film version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the dwarves fight the trolls instead of being captured by them one-by-one like they were in the book. They're winning, too, until the trolls grab Bilbo and threaten to kill him if the dwarves don't surrender. Thorin reluctantly agrees to this. Except the trolls don't let Bilbo go when he does so. They didn't even say that they would.
  • Spoofed in the first The Naked Gun. Nordberg tries to kick in the door to a boat and surprise the criminals inside, but instead puts his foot though it, alerting them. Despite having a half dozen guns pointed at him, he still tries telling them to drop their weapons. One guy actually does so, to the disbelief of his fellows.
    • It's parodied again in the third film. A large police force has The Big Bad cornered, and he has a hostage. The villain demands the cops drop their weapons and kick them to him. Cue a wave of guns sliding down the floor towards him off-camera.

  • Actually used in-universe in one of the Blake's 7 tie-in novels. Supercomputer and regular Deus ex Machina of the series, ORAC, informs Avon that, in their current circumstance, his only hope of survival is to surrender. Avon follows ORAC's advice, only to realize later that he could have escaped. He thus realizes that someone is controlling ORAC...
  • The Eye of Argon: Grignr surrenders before a group of soldiers, and allows himself to be taken to the palace to be judged, only to immediately start fighting the soldiers once he is already in the palace. He even declares that he would rather die fighting than live his life in a cell... then why did he surrender in the first place??
  • Tellian's surrender to Bahzell in The War God's Own is viewed as this in universe by quite a few people since he had more than enough soldiers with him that he could have overwhelmed Bahzell's forces easily. Of course his reason for surrendering was political rather than military, by surrendering he created a situation where the Haradani and Sothoii could form an actual lasting peace.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Invoked in the Babylon 5 backstory with the Battle of the Line, taking place during the Earth-Minbari War. Up until then, the Minbari win pretty much every engagement due to their vastly superior technology, greater physical strength, and fanatical determination rid the universe of humanity. The Battle of the Line is specifically supposed to be a Delaying Action by the last remaining human forces to try to hold off the superior enemy while Earth authorities evacuate as many people as they can. Then, the massive armada surrenders for no apparent reason. Not even an offer of peace or a cease-fire, a surrender. The only ones who know the real reason are members of the Grey Council (i.e. the people who run the Minbari Federation). During the battle, they capture a random human fighter pilot to study and find out that he has the soul of Valen, their ancient prophet/messiah. They assume that many humans are reincarnated Minbari, which means they've been killing their own people. Unwilling to let their warriors live with such guilt, the Council decides to keep the truth hidden. In fact, the "random human" is Jeffrey Sinclair, who is destined to go back in time to become Valen, so he's the real thing, not a reincarnation.
  • Happens on Star Trek: Voyager whenever Voyager has to be seized for plot-related reasons. Given Captain Janeway's portrayal as The Determinator who's willing to self-destruct her own ship if necessary, it's rather noticeable. Examples include "Basics, Part One", "Waking Moments" and "Shattered".
  • Rare villainous example on VR Troopers where Once an Episode, the Monster of the Week would surrender upon being impaled with the laser lance (throwing up their arms to show surrender and ceasing charging and/or attacking, but then JB finishes the mutant off anyway with repeated laser lance slashing. Justified in this case, considering Grimlord's mutants have been known to play the Wounded Gazelle Gambit, like when one begged for help and was saved, but repaid the generosity by attacking.

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed II, Giovani is a skilled assassin who has been in the business for years. The plot is set off by he and two of his sons being captured by fewer guards than his surviving son, Ezio handles in most fights in the game. Seriously. Pretty much every fight in the game involves more enemy soldiers than that in which the Master Assassin is captured. (The very start of this makes a bit of sense - he thinks the guards are on his side and the arrest is a misunderstanding since their master is genuinely his friend and ally. His not going for a jailbreak once the betrayer in the chain of command is identified is harder to justify as it wouldn't seem to give the remainder of his family any more time to escape even if Ezio hadn't stuck around to try to stop the execution.)
  • An example in the online game Battalion: Nemesis. After beating the last level, a few dozen stealth tanks appear, completely covering the player's starting base. The player character then says that you can't fight them, and must airlift out. It's done in order to set up the next game, but it's still silly since at this point it would be trivially easy to block them in and destroy them.
  • At one point in Contra: Hard Corps, the One-Man Army player gets surrounded by thirteen regular soldiers with their guns trained on them. The very same soldiers they've been mowing down in the dozens if they chose a certain path earlier in the game. They're told that the situation is hopeless and must surrender. This however, can be played straight or subverted, since the player may choose to surrender or fight it out (against something completely different), and this choice in turn changes the Multiple Endings the player can receive.
  • Far Cry: New Dawn came out in a close second, as there are certain missions that force the player to surrender their weapons, which leads to events that should be easier to handle with a gun on your side (such as Thomas Rush's Plotline Death.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy X: When the party arrive to save Yuna from her arranged marriage to Seymour, they have to fight through several waves of mooks with guns (depending on your level, difficulty will fluctuate between mildly challenging to barely noticeable). When you finally take out enough guards and reach the steps where Yuna is, the party is rendered powerless by...the very same mooks pointing the very same guns at them. Also a case of Cutscene Incompetence.
    • Subverted in Final Fantasy XIII-2. Noel throws his arms up and declares his surrender even though he and Serah have just soundly beaten a group of Cie'th, so it might SEEM like this. However, fake Caius calls him out on faking the surrender in the hopes of catching the enemy off guard.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is quite possibly the Crowning Moment of Stupid for this trope, more so because Rockstar Games had, even when the game was first released, developed a reputation for hanging lampshades and Painting the Medium. Carl Johnson not only surrenders without a fight the moment crooked cops Tenpenny and Pulaski point guns at him, but even spends several hours digging his own grave with Pulaski standing over him after Tenpenny has left to do more important things than keep a gun trained on a guy wearing 200% armor, 200% hit points, and strapped with weapons ranging from katanas to rocket launchers to rocket jetpacks. Only when Pulaski is about to execute the compliant CJ does he drop his gun for no apparent reason at all, which is apparently the trigger CJ needs to start trying to fight back... but only after he lets Pulaski climb into his (explosion and bullet proof but strangely not impact proof) cop car parked several meters away. Because the goal of the mission is to kill Pulaski, and it just has to be done only after engaging in a car chase along the entire length and breadth of the game map.
  • In one Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy mission, Cutscene Incompetence kicks in and Jaden is captured by being surrounded by a dozen stealthed soldiers all pointing their guns at him. Just to be clear, he's a Jedi who can move faster than they can pull the trigger and jump really high. Since they're all standing in a circle, all he has to do is jump away at super-speed and let them shoot one another. Nope, he gives up his lightsaber and lets himself be put in a cell.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In Ocarina of Time, when sneaking through the Gerudo's Fortress, Link will remain rooted to the spot if a guard sees him, rather than letting you run away or use any of your numerous weapons. This makes no sense, since the guards can be knocked out with a single arrow, and there are times when Link actually has to fight some of them, so why he throws up his hands and surrenders goes unexplained.
    • In Majora's Mask, Link actually surrenders to Deku Scrubs if they catch him in their palace. Deku Scrubs are pretty much the punching bags of those two games, and Link has no problem cutting them down when they do appear as combatable enemies. While Link is on a diplomatic mission at the time, and has a vested interest in avoiding wholesale slaughter, he still has plenty of non-lethal tools at his disposal (Deku Nuts in particular) that would allow him to escape and continue onward.
    • In Wind Waker, the whole first dungeon requires stealth. Seems likely, since Link is missing a sword, but he can easily outrun the guards. Even more ridiculous are the spotlights, which result in instant capture when stood in. Apparently Link just stands there with his arms above his head for ten minutes while they send some guards down there to pick him up.
    • In A Link Between Worlds, the area preceding the Dark Palace is patrolled by people wielding spears. If any of them catch sight of Link, he automatically gets thrown in a cell. No option to fight back, no option to run.
  • Averted in the first Max Payne. At the end of Act II, Max is cornered in Punchinello's office by about fifteen mooks who are blocking the only exit and are all armed with assault rifles. Even with the arsenal that Max has at this point (including an assault rifle of his own from Boris Dime's arsenal on the ship earlier in the act), if the player had the control, there would be no way to survive the battle that would ensue (he still manages to kill three of them before realizing how badly outnumbered he is).
    Max Payne: I could tell when I was outgunned. It was time to take another beating.
    • In the third game, Max is frequently held up in close quarters and at a disadvantage, resulting in him being stripped of his weapons. The aversion in this case are that he's literally got a gun to his head, usually more than one, and isn't ready to shoot back, so that surrender is the best option to stay alive, or keep the person he's protecting alive. And as early as the first chapter, as soon as the situation changes, he goes right back into shooting mode. The one time he legitimately surrenders is the second-to-last chapter, when he needs to get inside UFE headquarters, and even that's only temporary.
  • Metal Gear Solid has a few scenes where Snake gets jumped by a few guards in close quarters to force the player into combat. Unfortunately, one of them is a cutscene, so Snake is captured instead of just punching their lights out. The fact that Sniper Wolf, who's a bit more competent than the guards, shows up as well might have something to do with it.
  • In the old Mission: Impossible game for Nintendo 64, at the start of the first mission, you go into a building with a single guard seated behind a desk. When you go in, he raises his hands but threatens to call for help, which he will eventually do if you don't shoot him fast enough. You are supposed to use the Face-Changer gadget to disguise yourself as him right after you kill him, but if you don't, a single guard will rush in and aim a pistol at you, causing your guy to instantly put up his hands and surrender, even though you also have a pistol. The REALLY stupid part is if you're fast enough, it's possible to shoot the 2nd guard dead too, 1 second before he tells you to surrender.
  • In Ninja Gaiden, Ryu surrenders to a few CIA agents pointing guns at him, right after he finished fighting through a level with dozens of enemies, including many who were armed with guns.
  • Happens at least twice in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. The worst part being that both times, Ratchet surrenders to enemies he's massacred throughout the level without any fear whatsoever.
  • Starcraft:
    • A sort-of example in the original campaign, when Mengsk orders a retreat and leaves Kerrigan to be captured by a massive number of Zerg. It's not entirely unreasonable for the player to have beefed their defenses up enough to hold off the Zerg attack, or at least have time to build a Drop Ship to get Kerrigan to safety. In fact, Kerrigan may already be in a Drop Ship.
    • Justified in the Terran mission 4 where your objective is to survive 30 mins before dropships come for an evac, even if you manage to destroy all Zerg outposts in the map (which is not too hard in the end). The context is that of a full level planetary invasion by the Zerg, and even if you repel this assault, you will be first or later overrun by swarms of literally billions of xenomorphs that led offscreen the Protoss to incinerate the planet from orbit as the only possible way to deal with them. You are just taking some time before the inevitable end, better take those dropships now and leave.
    • In the Protoss campaign Tassadar's forces return to Auir only to be intercepted by the Conclave who plan to arrest him for disobeying their orders. His forces are successful in smashing the Conclave's forces but Tassadar chooses to surrender to the already beaten Conclave just to stop the fight even though he had them under his thumb, and could make them see things his way. It's especially stupid because this predictably extends the civil war when his allies then attack the Conclave to free him.
  • Subverted in Star Trek: Elite Force II when the main character, Munro, has just finished defeating two gigantic monsters in a pool of water and heads for the now open exit... and three soldiers appear in his path. They are the same type he has been slogging through most of the level, but they tell him to surrender and that they are taking him to the Big Bad of the mission. Munro allows the soldiers to knock him out and drag him away, presumably because it would be faster than fighting his way there.
  • Happens with the papal knights in Tales of Symphonia. The party surrenders to them and allows them to capture your healer and mage and lock the rest of the group in a basement. After getting out you fight them anyway and they're not that tough. They continue to be treated as a great threat despite becoming increasingly weak as you level up and the party frequently has to flee from them.
  • In one of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines' Multiple Endings, this happens if the player allies with the Kuei-Jin and gets Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves. In a moment of breathtaking Cutscene Incompetence, the player is forced to surrender to five or six Mooks more lightly armed than the people they have to slaughter by the dozen to reach that point at all.
  • In The Witcher, the protagonist surrenders to a few city guards in order that he later be roped into doing something as a way of getting out of prison. Of course, he may have been thinking more about not getting off-side with the law than of the threat posed by the guards. Considering that he has a favour to ask from the King, it would be prudent not to slaughter his soldiers first.
  • Xenosaga, where the party surrenders to some guards they could have easily trounced, in a Cutscene Incompetence type way.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, Elan, Durkon and Daigo are "caught" in a net. While Durkon and Daigo get out of the net and try to escape, Elan is Genre Savvy enough to recognize the trope and surrender. Sure enough, the tribe of orcs that set the trap come along and take all three of them captive — and Elan is the only one not beaten up for it.

    Real Life 
  • The surrender of Singapore to the Japanese in World War II. Why is this stupid? The British had 100,000 soldiers in the city against 30,000 Japanese, and surrendered when they still had 90,000 men left. In this particular case, it was because Singapore had a massive defence system built up over the course of centuries that was able to repel almost any possible invasion... but it only faced out to sea. The Japanese attacked from the land. It is worth mentioning, though, that the Allies were very low on food and ammunition, and in fact their anti-air guns had nothing left at all to shoot planes with. While it's entirely possible the British could have won the battle had they counter-attacked, they couldn't have known the Japanese were also low on supplies (due to being at the very end of a long supply chain). In the end, like most silly military defeats, hindsight is 20/20.
  • Near the end of World War I, German First Lieutenant Paul Jürgen Vollmer surrendered his entire unit (132 men) to an 8-man American squad led by corporal Alvin York. York, who killed 29 men and silenced 35 machine guns during the incident, soon became the most highly decorated American soldier of the war.
  • Léo Major, one of Québec's most renowned soldier of all time, forced a garrison of close to 100 German soldiers to surrender during WWII by himself, through subterfuge and all-around badassery.