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Take Me Instead

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Leela: Take me first!
Bender: Yes! Take her first!
Futurama, "Insane in the Mainframe"

A character offers themself in exchange for the freedom of another, willingly turning himself over to the villain in order to buy the safety of someone who will most likely be a love interest or a friend, although sometimes it's a complete stranger that the hero just met but has nevertheless decided that it's his job to save. And so a trade takes place, but this time the hero is using himself as a bargaining chip. (If the other character is aware of what is going on, a More Hero than Thou dispute may arise.)

This is a specific kind of Heroic Sacrifice that may or may not end in death. Sometimes the Damsel in Distress, the Distressed Dude or the Badass in Distress is rescued by their friends or manages to escape by the end of the story, if they're lucky, but they usually won't try to escape on their own. As long as the villain keeps his end of the bargain, they're content to suffer in the other person's place.


Sometimes the villain has requested that the hero turn himself in, offering to free his hostage in exchange for the person he really wants. Often in such cases this was the villain's plan all along for getting his hands on the hero, as he is able to predict that the hero would sacrifice himself for the hostage. In other cases where the original hostage is the intended target, the sacrificer will shock the villain because Evil Cannot Comprehend Good.

In situations where Balancing Death's Books comes into play, a character makes this kind of deal with Death in order to save someone who is scheduled to die.

Character types most likely to perform this action are the All-Loving Hero, who really can't help it, and The Atoner, for whom Redemption Equals Death. More than once, also, this is how the Damsel in Distress or Distressed Dude enters the scene, by trying futilely to protect someone else in their surroundings.


False Confession is a variant seen in Police Procedurals involve someone confessing to murder or something comparable in the hope (or perhaps unspoken agreement) that the investigation stops there rather than lead to the arrest of a loved one.

Compare and contrast Silent Scapegoat and I Am Spartacus, which both differ in that a character is specifically taking the blame for the actions of another by claiming to be them, More Expendable Than You, in which the character is protecting someone he considers more important, Draw Aggro which is basically "come after me instead", Go Through Me which is basically "you'll have to defeat me to get to them", Prisoner Exchange, in which someone from the villain's team is captured and traded for the hostage, and Offering Another in Your Stead, where the character willingly sacrifices someone else for their own safety.


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    Comic Books 
  • Death, Lies, and Treachery: When Gorga sees Ry-Kooda trying to kill his pregnant wife, he tries to take responsibility for killing Ry-Kooda's brother and turn the killer's attention toward himself.
    Gorga: Unhand her! She is innocent. She is with huttlet. Please! Take me, not her!
  • In Death: The Time of Your Life, Death's lingering fondness for the protagonists leads her to agree to bring their baby back to life, but, she warns, she'll be back, and someone will be leaving with her...
  • Judge Dredd: In Dark Justice, Judge Dredd offers himself up to Judge Death in exchange for letting his hostage go. Death just murders her anyway and moves on Dredd, figuring he can have them both.
  • Parodied by Dirty Coward Boomerang in The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, who drags his girlfriend out of hiding in order to beg Bullseye not to kill her and leave him alive with the guilt "like that totally awesome thing you did to Daredevil that you're so proud of". Both Bullseye and the girl are disgusted by this blatant Briar Patching.
  • In Swamp Thing, Zatara sacrifices his life to save his daughter Zatanna from an evil power.
  • In The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, at the end of the Shadowplay arc, Orion Pax's friend, the Senator, allows himself to be taken away by a group of government heavies instead of their mutual friend, Roller. Doubles as a Tear Jerker, as he has his formerly colourful body replaced with a spartan, purple one and his face replaced with a single, yellow eye, revealing the arc to have been the origin story of Shockwave.
  • In Usagi Yojimbo, Kitsune the pickpocket pulls this trope when her accomplice, Noodles, is caught and is about to be crucified. She starts crying and screaming through the fence that she's the guilty one and that she should die. Sadly, her pleas are ignored.
  • What If? #9 sees the hostage Dwight D. Eisenhower beg the Yellow Claw to kill him instead of Jimmy Woo. While the Yellow Claw admires the President's bravery, it would be ridiculous to get rid of his trump card like that.

    Films — Animated 
  • Beauty and the Beast has Belle using this exact line when she begs the Beast to imprison her instead of her father. Of course, since a kindhearted girl is exactly what the Beast wanted in the first place, he accepts.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Stoick and Gobber each try to lure the Green Death away from the rest of the tribe, shouting "ME!" "NO, ME!" Then Hiccup and his newly-minted dragon riders get to play Big Damn Heroes.
  • This is the essence of King Triton's offer to Ursula in The Little Mermaid. His daughter, Ariel, has signed her soul over to her and in order to break the Magically-Binding Contract he has to put his signature in place of hers.
  • Strange Magic has Sunny trying to offer himself up as a hostage in exchange for Dawn by pointing out that he was the one who stole the Love Potion that the villain is trying to ransom for. Since he doesn't actually have the love potion and isn't as useful as a hostage as the King's daughter, he's rejected.
  • Hercules has Herc offer Hades his soul in exchange for Meg's. Hades agrees, if he can get her out...which he doesn't think for a second is possible, as the River Styx will age Hercules to death before he can even reach Meg's soul. Unfortunately for him, Hercules' selfless act transforms him into a god, enabling him to walk out with Meg's soul.
  • In Space Jam, Michael Jordan orders that should he and the Looney Tunes lose the game, then the aliens' boss must not enslave the Looney Tunes but may enslave him instead. The boss eagerly accepts the conditions.
  • In Ralph Breaks the Internet, Vanellope Von Schweetz begs that Mega-Ralph virus spare Ralph when the real Wreck-It Ralph fought with it over her and that she'll agree to be its friend forever if it means Ralph won't die.
  • In Joseph: King of Dreams, Judah and his brothers beg for Joseph to let him take them instead of Benjamin who was going to be arrested for a crime he didn't commit.
  • SCOOB!: It is learned that Scooby-Doo is the key to opening the gates of Hades due to his lineage to Peritas. It is also up to him to enter the portal and keep it closed so Dick Dastardly cannot get to it. Shaggy takes the task in Scooby's stead.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Father Damian in The Exorcist: "Take me!"
  • Star Wars: Captain Needa decides to apologise in person to Lord Vader to minimise the fallout from his ship losing track of the heroes', knowing full what's going to happen to him.
  • Max Shreck asks the Penguin, who has just crashed his fancy ball, to take him instead of his son in Batman Returns, convincing him that he hates him more than anyone else. The Penguin agrees, after some deliberation.
    The Penguin: I've personally come for Gotham's favorite son, Mr. Chip Shreck! You're coming with me, you great white dope — to die, way down in the sewer!
    Max Shreck: Not Chip, please. If you have one iota of human feeling, take me instead.
    The Penguin: I don't. So no.
    Max Shreck: Please, ask yourself...isn't it Max Shreck who manipulated and betrayed you? Isn't it Max...not Chip...whom you want to see immersed to his eyeballs in raw sewage?
    The Penguin: OK, you've got a point. I'll let the little prince live for now. In the Duck!
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Kirk offers himself up as a prisoner in exchange for Khan letting the Enterprise go. Khan then demands the Genesis data as well, setting up a Hollywood Hacking Indy Ploy that Kirk uses to even the odds.
    • Star Trek: Generations: Captain Picard offers himself to the Duras sisters as a hostage if they will release Geordi La Forge (over Data's offer to be the hostage himself). In First Contact he offers himself to the Borg Queen in exchange for Data. Fortunately, Data made other plans.
    • Star Trek Into Darkness: Kirk pleads with Admiral Marcus to punish him alone and spare the Enterprise crew after disobeying orders and attempting to flee to Earth. Notably, Kirk offered Khan the same deal in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Khan at least acted like he would accept (and might have); Marcus just laughs it off. Who's the real monster?
  • In Darby O'Gill And The Little People, Darby uses his third wish to go in his sick daughter's place when Death comes to claim her. His fourth wish is made on accident. The leprechaun shows up in Death's coach and says "I wish I could go with you." Darby casually says "Me too." Making a fourth wish negates all three previous wishes.
  • In The Muppets Take Manhattan, a con artist cornered by police takes Camilla the chicken hostage. Gonzo says "Please don't hurt her, take me!". He takes Camilla ''and'' Gonzo.
  • At the end of Jeepers Creepers Darry has been captured by the Creeper and is considering flying away with him to eat, Trish tearfully begs him to take her instead of her brother and that she is the one he wants. The Creeper pauses to consider it, then breaks out and flies away with Darry anyway. What happens afterwards isn't pretty.
  • Captain Miller of Event Horizon offers himself in exchange for his crew to the possessed Dr. Weir, who responds, "No. There is no escape. The gateway is open, and you're all coming with me!"
  • Phone Booth:
    The Caller: ...Then I have to take somebody with me don't I? And since Kelly is the most important thing in your life, I'll take her.
    Stu: No, take me! Take me! I'm the one you want!
  • Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control
    Lloyd: Let them go, I'm the one you want.
    Bruce: No I am, I'm the brains, I went to MIT.
    Lloyd: You know what? He did, take him.
  • Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen:
    Megatron: Come here, boy. You remember me, don't you?
    Sam Witwicky: Just let them go, okay? It's me you want.
  • The Dark Knight:
    • The Joker kidnaps Rachel and Harvey and leaving them in building rigged to explode, and with Batman only able to rescue one. He chooses the location that Joker claims Rachel is at. Batman arrives to find Harvey instead and rescues him, but he reacts in horror that Rachel will die. Rachel however accepts her fate, knowing that Harvey is saved.
    • Gordon begs that Two-Face punish him instead of his son for Rachel's death.
  • Max uses a variation on this line to save his little sister in Hocus Pocus. Big brother Max takes a life-draining potion that the evil witch Winifred was trying to force his younger sister to take, forcing her to drain him to survive coming morning.
  • Inverted in Penn & Teller Get Killed. When Penn & Teller and their female manager are abducted by thugs, Penn yells "Do what you want to the woman, but leave us alone!"
  • Gomez said this to God in Addams Family Values when he's horrified at the things his newborn son might become now that he's becoming normal.
  • At the end of The Lost Boys, Lucy is willing to let Max bite her in order to spare Michael and Sam. Grandpa saves her from this fate at the last second by crashing his jeep into the house.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, when the dwarves were captured by the goblins, they are ordered to kill the dwarves, starting with the youngest. Ori understandably looked terrified. Immediately, Thorin stepped forward and revealed his identity to the Goblin King.
  • Non-lethal example occurs in Red Sonja. The heroine gets fed up with Prince Tarn and decides to spank him, causing the prince's servant Falkon to plead with her not to, saying that if she must hit someone, to hit him. Sonja decides not to do either, instead scolding the young prince by telling him that Falkon knows more about loyalty than he ever will. Actually, Sonja is wrong. Tarn does learn from this, and is willing to make a Heroic Sacrifice at the end of the movie; fortunately, he survives.
  • Rev. Scott yells this to God in The Poseidon Adventure during his rant after Linda's death. Then he falls to his own death once he's turned off the valve controlling the hot steam that blocked the group's escape.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, when Katniss contacts President Snow as a means to try to serve a distraction from the rescue mission to free Peeta and the other Tribute hostages, she offers herself, telling him "release Peeta and take me instead." He replies that they're long past the point for noble sacrifices.
  • The Undefeated (1969, John Wayne, Rock Hudson). The titular band of Confederates have been captured by Mexican revolutionaries. Ludlow, who has been shunned by his companions because he refused to join the Confederate Army during the Civil War, is selected to face a firing squad for the second time (the first was averted). Captain Anderson stops him; "My turn."
  • In This Is the End, Craig Robinson volunteers to distract the demon so that Seth, Jay and James can flee. Craig accepts the fate that the demon can rip him to shreds as long as his friends survive.
  • In Kopps, Benny the Cop pretends to exchange himself for a child in order to prevent the by him faked hostage-taking from escalating, after an alerting of a SWAT-team from the capital.
  • In Black Panther (2018), Erik is ready to kill T'Challa over the Sins of Our Fathers, but Zuri stops him and offers his own life instead as T'Challa's father killed Erik's father to protect him. Unfortunately, Erik furiously refuses by declaring that he'll kill them *both* as he fatally stabs Zuri and throws T'Challa off a waterfall, declaring himself as the new King.
  • In Captain Marvel (2019), as Yon-Rogg and his enforcers are preparing to round up the Skrulls for detention and eventual extermination, Talos orders Yon-Rogg to let them go and take him instead.
  • Fast Color: Bo offers herself in place of Ruth and Lila to the government men near the end.
  • The Last of the Mohicans: in the 1992 version, when Cora is about to be burned alive, Hawkeye yells for the Sachem to take him instead. However, Heyward deliberately mistranslates, so he is exchanged for Cora instead of Hawkeye. As Heyward is being burned alive, Hawkeye ends up shooting him.
  • Against the Wall: When Smith is taken away from the rest of the captive corrections officers by the prisoners, his cruel and abusive superior Weisbad has a Pet the Dog moment when he - believing they are going to kill Smith - demands they kill him instead, since he was the ringleader behind most of the abuse they suffered. Fortunately for Smith, the prisoners only wanted him to deliver a statement to the news media.
  • Women on the Run, an Exploitation Film, has a Rape Me Instead when Su-Yin (the protagonist who went from a budding martial arts champ to a whore) tries saving her friend, Mandy, from a bunch of hookers by stripping down to her underwear.
    "What are you waiting for, I'm a hooker, come over here and rape me!"

  • Said word-for-word in Insane Clown Posse's "Crossing Thy Bridge," offering themselves to God so that little children don't have to go to Heaven so early.
  • "Bad Bad Things" by Music/AJJ has a murderer recounting the slaughter of a family to the only member he left alive, and tells them that their mother begged for him to leave everyone else alone and hurt her instead.
    "She said, 'Do with me what you want, but please don't hurt my family/Take my pride, take my life, take my body, but don't take the ones that are close to me'/And I continued without mercy"
  • Invoked in Pip King's Jolene series but with a twist. Both the original song and its sequel follow the tune and lyrical setup of "Jolene" by Dolly Parton, wherein the singer is begging the beautiful Jolene to not seduce her lover. Part one, entitled [["Jolene (A Cautionary Tale),"]] has the same initial setup as the original song, but here the singer sings about Jolene's captivating beauty, horrible eldritch capabilities, and how she's been terrorizing the town with her immense powers. She begs Jolene to not take her man away, presumably to eat him, and ultimately resolves that if she tries to take him, she'll go after Jolene herself for revenge. In part two, "Jolene Part 2 (Take Me Instead)" we hear the singer again describing Jolene's unfathomable power and bewitching features, and she now begs Jolene to take her in his place, but as she begins to wax poetic about how she's been dreaming of "lying bare" beneath her "unblinking, countless eyes" and how she longs to be held in her embrace, the she invokes Take Me Instead verbatim, but only to mean that she wants Jolene to forget her man because she wants the two of them to be together.
  • In the song Don't Take The Girl by Tim McGraw, the singer/narrator offers his wealth to a mugger in one part, but when his bride and expectant wife is facing a Death by Childbirth situation, he begs God and Death to take him instead. She recovers afterwards.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • In 2001, during the time Bubba Ray & D-Von Dudley were regularly putting women through tables. Their intended victim that night was Molly Holly, the girlfriend of their younger brother, Spike. Spike laid across the table, begging Bubba to spare her and do him instead. Bubba drove Molly through the table AND Spike.

  • In the first part of the Adventures in Odyssey episode "The Perfect Witness" Katrina Shanks speaks this trope verbatim to the criminals who were robbing the bookstore where she worked and were kidnapping young, blind customer Jenny.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • In The Bible, the ten oldest sons of Jacob, led by Judah, sold their younger half-brother Joseph as a slave. Jacob was heartbroken, and grew more attached to his youngest son, Benjamin. Years later, Benjamin is falsely accused of stealing from the Egyptian vizier and is going to be taken as a slave as punishment. Judah, realizing how much this will destroy their father, offers himself as a slave instead. Of course, the story ends with the vizier revealing that he's actually Joseph, who brought this whole situation about to see if his older brothers had changed.
    • One reading of the Passion of Christ, called the Ransom View or Christus Victor; basically, Jesus offers himself over to Satan in place of humanity, thus exhausting the Devil's power and breaking his hold on us for all time.
  • Making this one Older Than Feudalism is the myth of Admetus and Alcestis. Admetus is a beloved king; and, when he is due to die, Death agrees to allow him to live if he can find another willing to die in his stead. However, he is unable to find anyone - for all that his subjects love him, they don't love him enough to die for him, with even his father refusing to do it. Finally, believing himself doomed, he returns to his room - to find that his wife, Alcestis, has already agreed to die in his place, and promptly expires. Admetus lives - but in the knowledge that he has lost the one person who loved him enough to die for him. Then, in a surprise twist happy ending, Admetus's Hot-Blooded friend Heracles arrives and punches out Death to bring Queen Alcestis back.

    Stand-up Comedy 
  • Inverted in George Carlin's list of things people have never said before: "Do what you want to the girl, but leave me alone!"

  • Tamamo-no-Mae Asahi no Tamoto: When Lady Katsura is ordered to trade her head for her family's stolen relic, her adoptive sister Lady Hatsuhana is willing to take her place. Subverted as Katsura is still killed anyway. By her birth father, no less.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, there's the end of the first trial day of the third case. When the defendant is about to be handed a "Guilty" verdict, one of the witnesses suddenly claims to be the killer because it couldn't have been the defendant, but then the defendant herself confesses to the crime, only for another witness to claim to be the killer on the same grounds as the first one. It's such a mess the Judge is forced to delay the verdict for the next day.
    • all three are innocent, and besides are such close friends they'd rather anything else than see each other hurt.
  • In Reflections on the River, when Zheng (the protagonist) moves to abduct one of the royal children in retaliation for not being paid, players decide which one to target, but regardless of choice, the other will try to intercede. They're successful, so players always get the opposite to their selection.

  • In Weak Hero, when Donald says that he might actually end up killing Ben, Alex steps up and begs Donald to fight him instead, taking his best friend's place. It's only a conveniently timed phone call that stops either of them from facing Donald's wrath.

    Web Original 
  • In one episode of Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, the characters are attempting to sneak deeper into Freelancer Command and come up with the plan for Washington to pretend to take Church prisoner to get past the guards. Caboose, being stupid, doesn't understand the "pretend" part, and attempts a Take Me Instead.
  • Invoked verbatim in "Jolene, A Cautionary Tale" by Pip King, but turned onto its head. A series of re-imaginings of the Dolly Parton song "Jolene," where in the original, the singer was begging the beautiful Jolene to not seduce her lover, this version has the singer telling of Jolene, a Humanoid Abomination, with terrifying beauty and horrible abilities, and how for years she's been terrorizing the town with her terrible power. In part two of the series, "Jolene Part 2 (Take Me Instead)" we hear the singer again describing Jolene and how horrifyingly powerful she is, but as she begins to wax poetic about how she's been dreaming of her "unblinking, countless eyes" and how she wants to be by her "icy side," she begs her to take her instead of her man, but only to mean because she wants to be with her.
  • We Are Our Avatars: After fighting the creator of Sword Art Online in a final battle, Kris decides to sacrifice himself to revive Kirito because Kirito's virtual avatar died during the fight.
  • The eponymous A_J of AJCO requests that the Liaison Officer hand herself over - if she does, her friends and allies trapped in the hangar with her will be granted what they need to survive. She agrees almost immediately, even though she hasn't yet heard the full terms and conditions.
    <Egg> …I’ll do anything if you let them live.
    <Facilitator A_J> Quite agreeable.
    • She doesn't change her mind even when she finds out that she is extremely likely to die a slow and painful death to irradiation or chlorine poisoning, or be forced to commit suicide.
  • Said word for word by Vax'ildan in episode 44 of Critical Role, - to the Raven Queen herself no less - when Vex dies and the party attempts a resurrection ritual. She accepts his offer. When he dies, she brings him back to life as a revenant who cannot die until Vecna is vanquished, after which he will be her eternal Champion. At the end of their journey, the Raven Queen comes to collect her debt.

    Real Life 
  • During a Somali pirate situation the captain said "take me and let my crew go" or words to that effect.
  • Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Catholic priest was sent to Auschwitz in 1941 because he sheltered Jews. When one man from his barracks was missing, the Nazis decided to kill ten random people by starvation. One of them, the Polish woodworker Franciszek Gajowniczek, worried about what would happen to him since he still had a family outside, so Kolbe volunteered instead, and led the other condemned prisoners in song and prayer for three weeks. The Catholic Church canonized him in 1982, and Gajowniczek attended his canonization. The worst part? After Kolbe and his group had died, the Nazis found the missing man - he had drowned in one of the latrine pits.
  • During the West Nickel Mines School shooting, 13-year-old Marian Fisher, the oldest of the hostages told the shooter to shoot her first, in what police believe was an attempt to buy time so the other hostages would have a better chance of being rescued. At least two other girls, including Fisher's 11-year-old sister, followed suit.
  • At about 11 a.m. on 24 March 2018, Redouane Lakdim, a terrorist claiming allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) stormed a supermarket in Trèbes armed with a handgun, a hunting knife, and three homemade bombs. He shot two people dead and took others hostage. Police negotiated for release of the hostages, and Arnaud Beltrame of the National Gendarmerie offered to take the place of the final one, a female cashier. Beltrame set his mobile phone on a table with its line open so that police outside could monitor activity inside. After a three-hour stand-off, Lakdim stabbed and shot Beltrame. In response, GIGN operatives stormed the supermarket at 2:40 PM and killed the assailant. An autopsy revealed that Beltrame had sustained four bullet wounds but died from stab wounds to the throat.


Video Example(s):


Belle Takes Maurice's Place

When Belle discovers that her father Maurice has been captured by the Beast of a castle, she offers to be imprisoned herself in his place. He seems skeptical at first, but after extracting a promise from her to stay there forever, she asks to see him in the light. He allows it and she agrees to his term.

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