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Taking the Heat

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A crime has been committed, usually a murder. In the subsequent investigation, Bob seems to be going out of his way to make himself a suspect. He may confess right at the start, or just draw attention to himself by refusing to co-operate with the investigators, even when it would appear to be in his interests to do so. Or he may not make himself known immediately, but will suddenly show up at the cop shop two-thirds of the way through, ready to confess, even though he's never been a suspect. Why? Because he's Taking The Heat for Alice.


In a classical whodunnit, it will usually turn out that Alice is innocent after all, and Bob was acting on a misapprehension. (Whether Alice is more flattered by Bob's care or offended that he was able to think she'd done it will vary from case to case.) Some authors have gone for the double-whammy, where Bob tries to take the heat for Alice while Alice tries to take the heat for Bob, and in fact, neither did it. Another variation is for the actual perpetrator to offer a deliberately implausible confession so that everybody thinks that he's taking the heat for somebody else.

In more "cynical" series, it may instead turn out that Alice did indeed do it, but Bob has some reason for feeling she should be spared punishment: Alice can't handle prison, Alice has less than a year to live, the victim raped Alice and only Bob knows, Alice has a degenerative brain disorder and doesn't know she did it... and sometimes, Bob may actually think he's protecting an innocent Alice - all while she's pulling his strings to get him to take the heat for her.


In classic whodunnits, the usual way to expose Bob's lie is by lying right back at him; in the same way as the murderer always gives away that he knows too much about the crime, Bob can be tricked into revealing he doesn't know enough. Saying "So it was you who shot him?" when the victim was clubbed over the head usually does the trick.

May overlap with the Fall Guy or False Confession. Compare to Silent Scapegoat and The Scapegoat. Contrast I Won't Say I'm Guilty and Then Let Me Be Evil.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Attempted by Aya Misaki in the anime version of Dear Brother. Manipulated by two elder Sorority girls, Aya's Girl Posse Megumi and Miyuki steal and almost burn the signature books requesting for the dissolution of the Sorority. Aya takes the blame for her friends when they're confronted, saying that she ordered for the books to be destroyed; but after she leaves the school, the girls reveal what truly happened to Kaoru, Junko, Nanako, and Tomoko.
  • Detective Conan:
    • The trope is featured in Heiji's first appearance, which involves the murder of a famous diplomat named Isao Tsujimura. When Heiji claims that Isao's father Toshimitsu is the killer, said character confesses despite not being the culprit, and Shinichi (as in himself, not Conan-as-Kogoro) has to bail them out. Their real intention is to invoke the trope, because 20 years ago Toshimitsu had helped his son with a cruel Uriah Gambit, so he wants to atone as an apology to the persons who were affected by it.
    • A two-part episode featured Shougo Soumei, the president of a small-time entertainment company, who was having some problems with the TV station's manager Raisaku Nakame; he had been extorting him, and then wound up dead as the result of poison. Shougo was discovered to have hidden some evidence, then tried to take the rap for the crime until Conan-via-Kogoro revealed the true culprit... It was his office assistant, Maiko Kozumi. The two loved each other, though neither had confessed their feelings to the other yet. Maiko murdered Nakame because she knew he was causing problems for Shougo; she then called Shougo, told him what she did, gave him an Anguished Declaration of Love... and threw herself off a window. Poor Shougo was so shattered by this that he put Maiko's body in the trunk of his car, hid the evidence that she had committed the crime, and got ready to take the blame in order to preserve his beloved Maiko's good name. However, Conan had deduced this much as well, revealed the whole deal through Kogoro, and Shougo ended up going free.
    • Another example from the Night Baron Virus case: Ran thought that Satoshi, the karate champion she fangirled upon was the murderer, but he was planting evidence against himself to divert attention from the true killer, his Broken Bird girlfriend, Akiko, who killed the victim in revenge for having driven her beloved brother to kill himself. Satoshi was arrested too, but because he took the heat for Akiko.
    • A filler case features Ran's mother Eri as the lawyer of a guy named Shinji Usami. Shinji's been accused of beating a guy to death while in a drunken rage, but Eri is firmly convinced that he's innocent and he's doing this for the real killer. She's right: Shinji saw his ex-wife Masako kill the victim as revenge since he had caused the death of their little son Masaki, so he willingly took the blame to protect her.
    • In another case, the Office Lady Fumie Ozawa took the heat for herself and her boyfriend/partner in crime Ryouta Shimizu, who had embezzled a very large sum of money. Ryouta realized that Fumie would spend the rest of her life in jail for the two, so he killed her to spare her from such a terrible fate.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
  • Oreimo:
    • Kyosuke takes the heat for Kirino's H-Games when their dad found out. This is particularly hilarious as this means Kyousuke admits he is (1) using Kirino's computer (2) in Kirino's room (3) to play H-Games (4) of a siscon nature.
    • He does it again to help patch Kirino and her friend, Ayase's, friendship after the latter found out about her hobby. Really, this seems to be his plan A.
  • In Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, Cordelia lets herself go to jail for stealing bread rather than let Fish Paste, the girls' new pet cat, be thrown out since she believes the cat is the only thing holding her and her loved ones together. She is freed, but prison warps with her mind a bit.
  • In the backstory for Pokémon Adventures' Ruby and Sapphire arc, Norman pins the blame of accidentally freeing the legendary Rayquaza on himself when it was actually indirectly caused by his son Ruby.
  • In Slam Dunk, Fallen Hero Mitsui goes to the basketball gym with a gangster group from outside Shohoku to wreck it, but he has a Heel–Face Turn instead and decides to return to the team. Since his intentions are sincere, Sakuragi's True Companions and some of Mitsui's gangster friends tell the teachers that Mitsui was planning to ask Anzai-sensei and Akagi to take him back, so they beat him and the team members up to discourage him.
  • Hachiman from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU sees this as a solution whenever a social problem arises. He sees himself as unimportant and believes that social issues cannot be resolved unless all parties focus on a single enemy, which in this case, is Hachiman himself. It works the first time around, but his second attempt causes a rift between himself and Yukino and Yui, who feel disdain for his method of operation.

    Fan Fic 
  • Ohta does this for Cobalt in Sailor Nothing. After all, while they have proof that Ohta did the act, they have no proof that he was doing it under someone else's orders.
  • A milder example occurs in a sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines narrating Professor Oak's Summer Camp. Ash's Rhyhorn goes wild and causes an accident that could have hurt many people, but Serena decides to step in and assume responsibility for it so Ash doesn't get expelled from the camp. Though in this case, the guilty party is a kid named Joshua who is angry because Ash beat him in a baseball game, and tried to take revenge on him.
  • The Rose and the Crown: Etienne allows people to think he sired a bastard son so people won't find out Eugene is the father.
  • In New Hope University: Major In Murder, there are two possible culprits for the fifth murder- Lucina Sorenson and Katy Thorson, both of whom are in a romantic relationship. Each of them tries to claim responsibility for the murder so that the other will live, but being a Danganronpa fic, there's a catch- if the class chooses the wrong person, everyone besides the culprit will be executed. Naturally, at least one of the two is lying, so it's up to Saya to find out who is. Katy is the liar. Saya manages to uncover the truth, resulting in Lucina (whom Saya had also loved) being executed, and everyone else surviving.
  • In The Demon Attorney, when defense attorney Hammod tries to pin Gregory Edgeworth's death on 9-years-old Miles just to secure a win, the suspect Yanni Yogi speaks up and claims that he was the killer in order to protect the boy. Of course, none of them knew that the real killer was Manfred von Karma.

    Film - Animated 
  • In Pocahontas, When Kocoum is fighting against John Smith out of jealousy after he caught him and Pocahontas kissing, Thomas shoots Kocoum dead. Hearing voices of Kocoum's warriors in the distance, Smith quickly tells Thomas to leave the area so that he can take the blame for Kocoum's death and for Thomas to warn the other settlers.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Played for comic effect at the climax of the 1996 movie Mrs. Winterbourne: the two main characters, both innocent of the murder that's been committed but thinking each other guilty, try to take the heat for each other. And then the two main supporting characters, despite having little or no idea what's going on, try just as insistently to take the heat themselves. It turns out the police already have the (completely unrepentant) real murderer in custody, — a bit character just barely glimpsed earlier in the movie — and weren't looking for suspects at all.
  • In I Love You to Death (loosely based on a real attempted murder) Rosalie Boca makes several attempts to murder her husband Joey for cheating on her with other women, and is helped by her mother Nadja and her friend Devo, who's in love with her. When the cops finally do find out, the three try to cover for each other by saying the other two had nothing to do with it. Nadja claims her daughter begged her not to kill Joey, but she went on anyway, explaining, "I'm her mother, I do what I want."
  • In The Last Remake of Beau Geste Digby Geste (Marty Feldman) pleads guilty to the theft of the priceless "Blue Water" sapphire in order to protect his brother Beau, who has absconded to Morocco with the jewel in order to prevent their stepmother Flavia from glomming onto it.
  • Happens thrice in The Dark Knight. First, Subverted by the gangster who changes his testimony on the stand to take the fall for Maroni's crimes. Shortly afterwards, he reveals his true purpose: To assassinate Harvey in open court. Second, Harvey Dent falsely confesses to being Batman, so the real Batman can still catch the Joker. At the end of the film, Batman convinces Gordon to blame him for the murders committed by Dent (now Two-Face), in order to preserve Dent's reputation and thus the people of Gotham's faith in their Knight in Shining Armor, which works until the next movie, when Bane exposes the cover-up.
  • In the The King and the Clown the king's jealous consort frames Gong-gil, the king's new favourite, for defamation. Because Jaeng-sang's writing is identical to Gong-gil's (having learned by imitation) he is able to step in and takes the fall for it. Not that this is any better a solution to Gong-gil.
  • Drives the plot of Things Change: the main character Jerry is a simple cobbler who is hired to take the heat for a mob murder in exchange for a payday when he gets out of prison. At the end Jerry has made a new friend in the mob who has someone take the heat for Jerry.
  • In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris offers to do this for his friend Cameron, who had just destroyed his father's Ferrari in protest of his father loving it more than his family, but Cameron refuses to let him.
  • In Wild Tales, to ensure the waitress won't get blamed for the attempt to poison Cuenca (as well as both to save her friend from being assaulted by him and because she obviously wished to do the bastard in), the cook stabs him to death with a kitchen knife and gets arrested by the police, giving the waitress a knowing wink as she's taken away.
  • Murder on the Orient Express (2017). For those in the audience who don't know It Was His Sled, there's a scene when a suspect confesses to the crime, then tries to murder Poirot. It looks like he's covering for the woman he's in love with, whom Poirot has just accused, but it turns out Everybody Did It and he's just making himself the fall guy, knowing that Poirot won't give up until he has a culprit.
  • Thoroughbreds ends with Amanda allowing Lily to murder her stepfather, and pin the blame on her. Since Amanda has a history of violence and a disorder that makes her unable to feel emotion, everyone buys it.
  • In the finale of Frozen River, Ray takes the fall for her and Lila's smuggling operation because as a first-time offender, she'd only get four months in jail, whereas Lila would get a much harsher sentence. In exchange, Lila agrees to take care of Ray's kids while she's in.
  • Bullet: Bullet has spent eight years in prison for a robbery really committed by his friend Pady, who feels bad about this and tries to help him out as a result.

  • Isaac Asimov's "Galley Slave": After the court case is resolved, Dr Calvin explains to Professor Ninheimer that, due to the Three Laws, Easy would've taken the blame itself in order to protect Professor Ninheimer, but the robot-hater had expected it to act like a human instead of like a robot.
  • In Jim Butcher's Turn Coat, Morgan takes the rap for Luccio for the murder of a senior member of the wizards' White Council, since he's in love with her and she was mind-controlled into performing the murder.
  • Used in Margery Allingham's Albert Campion novel Death of a Ghost with the twist that the person making the false confession IS the actual murder, he just describes the murder in such a way as to throw suspicion off himself and make it look like he's covering up for someone else.
  • Occurs a number of times in Agatha Christie's mysteries:
    • One short story has a nobleman murdered, with the dead man's wife and valet accusing themselves of the murder to protect the other... They were both in on it.
    • In Five Little Pigs, Caroline Crale allowed herself to be sentenced for the murder of her husband to protect her sister Angela, whom she believes to be the culprit, and saw this as an opportunity to redeem herself for disfiguring Angela when they were younger.
    • In the Miss Marple novel, The Murder at the Vicarage, both Lawrence Redding and his lover Anne Protheroe confess to killing Anne's husband, Colonel Protheroe. When the police began to doubt their story, they admit that they confessed the crime to protect the other. Both committed the crime.
    • In The Murder on the Links both Jack Renaud and Bella Duveen ran into each other in the crime scene and immediately assumes that the other is guilty of the murder. When Jack was arrested for the crime, he denies committing the murder but refuses to disclose what happened during the time of the murder to prevent any suspicion from falling towards Bella. Just before he could put on trial, Bella herself arrives to confess the crime.
    • In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the suspicious behaviour of Lawrence can be attributed to the fact that he believes his crush, Cynthia Murdoch, to be guilty of the crime and tries his best to hide evidence against her. This comes as a nuisance to the real murderer, who wanted to pin the blame on someone else.
  • Used in the Discworld novel Feet of Clay, much to Sergeant Colon's confusion: "You got a confession and there it ended. You didn't go around disbelieving people. You disbelieved people when they said they were innocent. Only guilty people were trustworthy."
  • In Dogsbody, the Dog Star Sirius furiously denies having killed the victim and thrown the dangerous Zoi at the witness. But he won't provide an alternate story because doing so would implicate his Companion.
  • In O. Henry's Friends In San Rosario, a banker tells the story of a time when the contents of his vault disappeared, and his best friend confessed to losing it all in a poker game. He later discovered that his friend had seen him stealing it, not realizing that he was sleepwalking at the time.
  • Iorich: Aliera was arrested on a very stupid, transparent charge and she refuses to talk to a lawyer or put up a decent defense. Vlad decides that even if she is a jerkass, he'd still prefer she didn't get executed, and he finds the idea of her owing him her life hilarious. Two interesting elements are that Aliera is absolutely guilty of the charge as listed (as serious as the charge is, it's understood as one where Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! is a fully justifiable defense, so it's clearly a cover for an unrelated and unspoken "real" crime), and that while Aliera probably shouldn't be taking the heat for the real issue and nobody needs her to take the heat for it, Vlad finally convinces her to start seeing visitors on the grounds that her lack of defense invokes this trope and makes her look innocent. (That this is both required and works explains a lot about Aliera.)
  • In Loyal Enemies, Veres refused to testify when his lover Tairinn was accused of raising the dead, effectively taking the heat for her. It didn't end well: he was tortured for days, and when he was finally let out, he could barely react to his surroundings and was banished from Starmin and its magic academy, effectively ruining his career. Worse, Tairinn was killed shortly thereafter, making his sacrifice irrelevant. Even worse, she faked her death and she was absolutely guilty.
  • In the Nero Wolfe stories, a major part of the plot of The Second Confession is in uncovering an honest confession. The first confession, signed by a patsy, is phony. Wolfe makes him tear it up and elicits a second confession from the real murderer.
  • In Mario Puzo's original novel The Godfather, Felix Bocchicchio takes the fall for Michael's murders of "The Turk" and his pet NYPD Captain. Since Mr. Bocchicchio is already on Death Row for three premeditated and pretty much deserved murders, he's more than happy to admit guilt as long as Don Corleone provides financially for his soon-to-be widow and their three kids. (The movie omits this, leaving it wide open as to how the Don gets Michael off the hook.)
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey novel Nine Tailors, two brothers both try to cover for each other. The police throw them into the same room and eavesdrop. When they both realize that the other didn't do it, they both cooperate.
  • James Thurber's "The Macbeth Murder Mystery": The version where two people in love each try to take the heat for the other is parodied, by having the protagonist cite it to explain why, if Macbeth didn't do it (and of course he's such an obvious suspect he must be a red herring), he and his wife both spend the rest of the play acting as if they were guilty.
  • In Vampire Academy, Lissa made Wade Voda use a baseball bat to trash his own room. When he came to his senses he blamed Rose and she willingly took the heat to protect Lissa.
  • In The Westing Game, Turtle takes the heat for the bombs her sister Angela set, going so far as to set a bomb of her own.
  • In Kevin Wilson's 2019 novel, Nothing To See Here, poor scholarship girl Lillian is rooming (and sleeping) with upper class Madison at an exclusive Southern boarding school. A baggie of coke is found in Madison's desk. Madison's father bribes Lillian and her mother to say the drugs are hers. Lillian gets expelled affecting her life from then on.
  • My Dark Vanessa: When word of Strane and Vanessa's relationship reaches the higher-ups, Vanessa protects Strane by saying she started the rumors for attention. As a result, she has to apologize for "lying" to a roomful of kids and then is kicked out of school, while Strane suffers no consequences.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bunk'd: In the climax of "Cramped Champions", Lou takes the blame for the flooding of Camp Champion so Barb doesn't get fired.
  • Occasionally seen on Law & Order.
    • Sometimes in modified form, where people confess on the stand to create reasonable doubt for the current defendant but have no intention of ever actually being prosecuted themselves.
    • In another episode, a crime boss willingly accepted the sentence for the murder of his unfaithful mistress without admitting guilt to the crime. On the way to prison, he sarcastically congratulated Jack for getting him for "the one I didn't do". The main characters later figure out, after it's too late to do anything about it, that the boss' son killed the mistress for betraying his father. The boss sacrificed himself to save his son.
    • In another episode, a man is on trial for the attempted murder of his wife's lesbian mistress (a controversial writer). He steadfastly argues his innocence until the evidence becomes overwhelming... at which point he confesses and the prosecutors drop all charges. Because the evidence now proves that his daughter did it.
  • In an SVU episode, a woman confesses to murdering her husband's mistress. However, a brain tumor has left her to weak to even pick up a glass, much less the heavy sculpture used to bludgeon the woman. The cops think she's covering for her husband, but when his alibi is proven solid, they realize she's covering for her daughter. They try to dissuade her, but as she's dying, she insists on taking the blame.
  • Subverted in one episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent: a woman confesses to killing her husband, but gets the details wrong. The detectives figure she's taking the heat for her lover. However, it turns out that she did kill her husband, and deliberately made a mistake in her confession to make it look like she was covering for someone in order to create reasonable doubt.
  • Rumpole of the Bailey: "Rumpole and the Sporting Life", where the defendant was found standing over the victim's body and immediately said "I did it."
  • Foyle's War has done several variations.
  • The miniseries Blackpool did a beautifully-executed subversion: After one of the detectives makes it clear that he has it in for the main suspect, the suspect's son confesses to the murder. Everyone immediately realises that he's Taking The Heat for his father, and he's let off with a warning about wasting police time. And then it eventually turns out that he did do it, albeit in self-defence.
  • In the Highlander episode, "Blackmail", Duncan confessed to a murder his friend was wrongly accused of, as he could survive the punishment of being hanged.
  • A union leader in Life On Mars tried to cover up a fatal industrial accident at his mill to keep it from being shut down (and his members losing their jobs) by confessing to having murdered the accident victim.
  • In the CSI episode "The Unusual Suspect", the accused's 12-year-old sister takes the heat mid-trial. She later points out that, as a juvenile, she'll only be in prison until she's 21, and since Nevada has no Son of Sam Law, the book rights to her story will be worth millions.
  • CSI: NY:
    • In one episode, a guy walks into a police station holding a gun claiming to have shot a doctor. He turns out to have been taking the heat for his wife: the guy had a terminal illness and the doctor had conned the couple out of their savings with a quack treatment involving leeches leading the wife to shoot her. He wanted to be sent to jail in her place seeing as he didn't have long to live.
    • In another episode Mac asks a man coming out of prison why he took the blame for a crime he didn't commit, while the man insists he accidentally ran over a girl on a bicycle after having several drinks when celebrating that night. He and his daughter were celebrating her becoming a doctor, and she had several wine glasses when she got behind the wheel of her car and ran over the victim. Not wanting her career and her life, to be ruined, he told her to let him take the blame.
  • An episode of Columbo ended with a friend of the murderer confessing to the crime; because of a brain tumor (that was going to cause her death in an estimated six months) the murderer didn't remember that she committed the crime. As he's being taken away, Columbo, who knows the truth, gently points out that the evidence will eventually show he didn't do it. The confessor agrees but figures it would probably take about six months or so for that to happen.
  • In the Keen Eddie episode "Black Like Me", the character Georgie turns himself in and confesses to a jewel heist. Eddie refuses to believe that Georgie is a criminal and figures out that the girl Georgie loves asked him to take the fall, so she and her real boyfriend, a murderous crook, can get away with it.
  • Bones: Temperance Brennan gets the defense to portray her as someone with the motive and opportunity to kill the victim (albeit justifiably) to provide reasonable doubt for a jury during her father's trial.
  • One episode of Due South had a couple trying to take the heat for each other in a murder case. Neither was guilty, but because both had a reason to want the victim dead and weren't looking in the right direction at the moment the murder occurred, they each believed the other was responsible until Fraser learned about and captured the actual killer.
  • On an episode of The Glades, a potential suspect, who otherwise denies the crime and has the potential for a good alibi, immediately confesses to the murder when he finds out they have DNA of the killer and all they have to do is test him to have conclusive evidence. Jim immediately believes the confession is false and done to prevent any DNA comparison, because enough people have seen forensics on TV to know that DNA can show people are related, in this case showing that the man didn't commit the crime but a close blood relative (his son) did.
  • Castle:
    • When the mother of a 2-kid family was being taken in for questioning about the disappearance and possible murder of the other 3, they find the dad and bring him in, he calls out that he killed the son to take the heat off the daughter, and the mom hears and shoots him. The daughter got off rather light.
    • In another episode, a person of interest confesses to the murder, but is tripped up when Beckett asks him about some details of the case that he gets completely wrong. He was doing it to protect his girlfriend who was being framed.
    • In "Like Father Like Daughter", Alexis tries to prove that Frank Henson, a man convicted of murder 15 years ago and scheduled to be executed in three days, is innocent of the crime. She and Castle ultimately discover that Frank had confessed to the crime to protect his brother John, whom he saw standing over the body. Alexis and her father prove that both Frank and John were innocent, and Frank is exonerated.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Joy is on her third strike after stealing a truck (that happened to have someone in back). She almost goes to prison, but Earl sees that Darnell and the kids are already starting to suffer without her. So even though he didn't do it (although he did help Joy try and cover it up), and even though he knows he'll lose his newly-acquired job, apartment, and girlfriend, Earl says that he did it and that his fingerprints are all over the truck (which they are). He goes to prison for most of Season 3.
  • In 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan makes his first "serious" movie Hard To Watch, which ends with his character volunteering to confess to a crime his brother committed.
  • The Wire sees this happen several times, as members of a drug organization take the heat so that their higher-ups will remain free and able to run their criminal organizations, most notably with the Barksdale Organization.
    • D'Angelo is on the verge of making a deal with the police until at the last moment his mother Brianna convinces him to take some of the heat the police are trying to pin on Avon, whose criminal activities provide for his entire family. Later, after D'Angelo is assassinated in prison on Stringer's orders, McNulty calls Brianna out on this in one of the most devastating ways possible.
    • Arguably the most notable case though, is another one from the first season. Wee-Bey Brice, the main assassin of the Barksdale crew, is caught and offered a plea deal: he'll avoid death row if he confesses to all the murders he committed on behalf of the Barksdales. Wee-Bey immediately starts confessing to every single murder ever committed on the Barksdale Organization's orders, even ones that both the audience and the police know he didn't commit so that as much of the Barksdale group as possible will remain free and able to carry on with business.
    • When the Stanfield gang is arrested at the end of season 5, their main assassin Chris Partlow, as part of a plea deal cut by Rhonda Pearlman, pleads guilty to all murders committed by the crew so long as his family is taken care of, similar to Wee-Bey.
  • In the Back Story of Downton Abbey, Mr. Bates took the heat for his wife Vera's theft. She's an utterly ungrateful bitch who then sets out to ruin him when he won't take her back as his wife.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • Multiple subversion of some sort in the episode "Belly Speaker". Slightly unbalanced ventriloquist Harcourt, who does most of his talking through his dummy, Mycroft, confesses to the murder of his father, but Murdoch finds inconsistent evidence, helped by Mycroft's stream-of-consciousness babble. He eventually realises the murderer was the real Mycroft, Harcourt's long lost twin brother, and Harcourt is taking the heat. But shortly after releasing "Harcourt", he realises that this was Mycroft, who killed Harcourt and took his place at the age of ten, and who confessed to throw suspicion off himself. Got all that?
    • Straight example in the episode "Kung Fu Crabtree". Crabtree is convinced that Wu Chang, who came to Toronto looking for his sister, is innocent of murdering a Chinese diplomat. Unfortunately, the case keeps getting stacked against him. In the final interview, Crabtree has a Eureka Moment that the sister was perfectly positioned to commit the murder. Wu Chang has a moment of disbelief, then looks at his sister's expression and immediately confesses. To Crabtree's frustration, there doesn't seem to be anything he can do about this, especially as being hanged in Toronto is better for Wu Chang than the death awaiting him in China.
    • In "Master Lovecraft" the morbidly romantic Ellen Woods and Ian Blaird make a suicide pact, but Ian's life is saved by their friend Clinton Hartley. When the police close in on Ian for Ellen's murder, Clinton - who is also in love with Ian - kills to protect him and takes the heat for both murders.
    • In "Brother's Keeper", Detective Watts confesses to killing a man in self-defence, but Murdoch doesn't think things add up. As he learns more of Watts's connections to the victim, a sadistic gang leader who tortured and killed Watts's adoptive brother and was released because Watts himself was guilty of evidence tampering, he starts to suspect the murder was premeditated, before realising Watts is protecting the other brother. And he didn't do it either; he was going to but couldn't go through with it, and was murdered himself in the same way as his brother. The guy was killed by his own father, who witnessed this and finally realised the accusations were true, then Watts found the body and jumped to conclusions.
  • On One Life to Live, a man tries to take the attempted murder rap for his girlfriend. Aside from getting crucial details of the crime wrong, rather than being grateful, his girlfriend is actually quite ticked off that he even thought she was guilty.
  • Murder, She Wrote:
    • A woman tries to take the murder rap for her son, but it doesn't work because she gets details of the crime wrong.
    • In another episode, a man with an established motive confesses to murdering the victim to protect his sister (who had killed the victim unintentionally and in self-defense).
    • In yet another, both a mother and daughter confessed to the same murder, leading to the question of who really did it and who's lying to protect the other. Both were attempting to protect the other: each incorrectly believed the other to have committed the murder when the real culprit was a friend of the mother.
  • Zoey 101: Zoey sacrifices herself to save the school's co-ed status after Prank Week gets out of hand.
  • NCIS,
    • In "Caged", an inmate in a women's prison murders a prison guard because he had raped her oldest daughter. A fellow inmate and Serial Killer who was in for life decides to take the blame to protect her because she only had one year left of her sentence and a family to come home to when it was over.
    • In "Family Ties", Vance's daughter Kayla gets arrested for shoplifting a purse. In reality, one of her friends committed the crime, but Kayla covered for her because the friend in question has gotten into trouble with the law before and another offense would have ruined her chances of getting into college, especially since she had recently turned eighteen. Kayla, on the other hand, is still underaged, has early acceptance into Georgetown University, and has an otherwise clean record, meaning she only gets legally punished with having to do 30 hours of community service and the "theft" won't go on her permanent record.
  • In the Enemy at the Door episode "Escape", a farmer is arrested by the German authorities after being caught trying to hide the body of a German soldier (who had repeatedly stolen things from the farm, leading to a violent confrontation). Another character, who is about to make a break for England, offers to leave behind a letter confessing to the murder since he's determined to make it or die trying so either way the Germans won't be able to do anything to him. At the end of the episode, the German commander receives the letter and immediately recognizes it for what it is, but seems to be considering accepting it at face value so the situation may be smoothed over; the episode ends without revealing his decision.
  • Elizabeth from Father Brown did this to protect her husband (who wasn't the murderer anyway.)
  • An episode of Criminal Minds deals with a vigilante, who at one point inspires a copycat to commit a similar murder and try to take credit for the previous murders. Gideon is onto him straight away and bluffs him by referring to the latest victim, a pedophile priest, having been dealt a Groin Attack, when in fact the real killer didn't kill him that way. The copycat replies "it's what he deserved".
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there was a major storyline midway through the run where Worf and his family were discommendated from the Klingon Empire when it seems that his father was a traitor that allowed the Khitomer Massacre. The real mastermind was the head of the House of Duras during that time period and Worf was forced to take it because if the truth came out, it would split the Klingon Empire in half. This storyline lasted until the Klingon Civil War.
  • Kaamelott: One episode has a tribe raid Kaamelott, dealing minor damage. Bohort was in charge of security that evening and is thoroughly interrogated by Arthur, constantly repeating that nobody was hurt. Eventually, he declares that there was a communication mishap and that he would accept responsibility. Arthur is floored... until the idea of Bohort taking responsibility for anything is confronted with reality. Finally, the truth comes out: the raiders were able to make it unimpeded because the town guard was off playing dice with Karadoc and Perceval, and had been doing so for several weeks.
  • Much more prominent in the Poirot episode Sad Cypress than in the book it’s based on. Dr. Lord does everything in his power to acquit Elinor Carlisle (even should she be guilty, which she wasn’t). Everything – including throwing a lot of suspicion on himself.
  • Subverted in Westworld. In "Trompe L Oeil", the Delos board tries to make out that Ford's modifications to the androids make them capable of harming humans. Head of Programming Bernard Lowe is fired for this, with the implication that he can save his job if he fingers Ford instead. He refuses, apparently out of disdain for the Board and loyalty to Ford. But the end of the episode reveals that Bernard is actually an android under Ford's complete control.
  • In the Elementary episode "Whatever Remains, However Improbable", Joan is accused of killing a serial killer who was obsessed with Sherlock. Sherlock finds the real killer, but when Joan learns it was Captain Gregson's daughter, whose roommate had been one of the victims, and Gregson was involved in the coverup, she doesn't want it to go any further, reckoning that, since she didn't kill him, she isn't really at risk, but being prepared to take a certain amount of heat. Sherlock, seeing how determined the FBI agent on the case is to convict Joan, isn't convinced so he confesses to the murder. The FBI agent still thinks Joan did it, but there's not much she can do about it since he not only has the murder weapon but MI6 claim he was working under their orders and should be extradited rather than stand trial.
  • In the Decoy episode "The Lost Ones," a young man shoots his abusive father. His younger sister confesses to the murder since for her it would only mean a few more years in the reformatory, while for him it would mean the end of his dreams of being a surgeon.
  • The Partridge Family: In "Trial of the Partridge One," Laurie is caught with a copy of an upcoming math test that her friend Cindy Brown stole. She maintains her innocence, but won't tell who actually did it because Cindy's dad is the principal and the consequences of failure will be much worse for her than they will be for Laurie.
  • In an episode of The Wonder Years Kevin throws what is originally supposed to be a mild party with his friends while his parents are out of town, but it quickly grows out of hand when people he's never even seen before start to show up. The next day, the house is so trashed, there's no way he's able to clean it up before his parents get home. He's about to come clean when his parents see the mess, but they immediately reprimand his older and less mature brother, Wayne, believing this was his fault, and much to his surprise Wayne just says, "I'm sorry. It won't happen again." Kevin concludes that maybe Wayne knew their parents would be harder on Kevin if they knew he did, or maybe he saw a little bit of himself in Kevin, but either way, Kevin ended up waxing Wayne's car as a way to say thank you.
  • Brookside: Sinbad attempts to protect Mandy and Beth by claiming that he killed Trevor Jordache. It doesn't work because he doesn't know whereabouts on his body Trevor was stabbed and wrongly guesses at the chest.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • In 1996, Triple H took the heat for the "Curtain Call" incident that saw himself and then-WWF Champion Shawn Michaels say goodbye to their Real Life-friends Kevin Nash (Diesel) and Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) as they depart to WCW. As Hall and Nash were gone and Michaels was protected by virtue of being WWF champion, Triple H was the only one left who could be punished. As a result, Triple H was demoted to jobber status for a while. Ironically, before the incident, he was supposed to win that year's King of the Ring tournament (that honor would go to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, and the rest is history)

  • In Chicago, Amos Hart signs a confession to the murder actually committed by his wife Roxie. In the musical version, he retracts his confession the moment he finds out why she did it; in the original play, what undermines his confession is the ignorant denial of the same known fact.
  • In Wicked Elphaba tries this toward the end of Act 1. Just before the final verse of "Defying Gravity", when the Wizard's guards break in and try to arrest Glinda, Elphaba shouts as she starts to fly on her broomstick, "It's not her! She has nothing to do with it! I'm the one you want! It's me! Hahahahaha! It's me! Up here! It's me!"

    Video Games 
  • Played silly in Ghost Trick, where both Missile and Sissel treat Missile's taking the blame for breaking Lynne's headphones (to protect Kamila) as the noble act of a warrior. One might consider it foreshadowing for the way Jowd confesses to his wife's murder to protect Kamila, who accidentally killed her with a birthday contraption.
  • Edna And Harvey: Edna's berserk button was pushed WAY too many times, so she killed her "perfectly conditioned" (read: obnoxious and haughty, possibly insane) boyfriend. Her father pinned himself as the murderer and was executed.
  • The entire Yakuza series is set into motion when Kiryu confesses to the murder of his boss, Dojima, and is sent to prison for ten years. Dojima was actually killed by Kiryu's blood brother Nishiki, who shot him while he was trying to rape Yumi, Nishki and Kiryu's childhood friend.
    • Happens once again in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, in which new series protagonist Ichiban Kasuga's story starts with him taking the fall for a murder committed by a lieutenant at the behest of his boss who in turn was taking the heat for the actual murderer, the boss' son.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney loves this trope. Here are some examples:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, in the final case of the third game, Maya Fey tries to take the heat for Godot having murdered Maya's mother Misty, who was channeling the spirit of Dahlia Hawthorne at the time, who thought she was being channeled by Pearl Fey, who was really... It's kind of, uh, confusing.
    • More straightforwardly, case 5 of the first game has the client (Lana Skye) trying to take the heat for her former boss, Damon Gant, as he's blackmailing her with (faked) evidence that her little sister Ema committed manslaughter. Although it's downplayed since having been an accessory to the murder, she's not entirely innocent herself. Just not the murderer,.
    • In Case 3 of Ace Attorney Investigations, Colin Devorae takes the heat for the Amano Group's dealings with the smuggling ring.
    • Happens again in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney when Wocky Kitaki tries to take the heat for his fiancee Alitia Tiala when she's accused of murder. Even going as far as to attempt to fire Apollo.
    • In Dual Destinies, Simon Blackquill took the heat for Athena Cykes and framed himself for her mother Metis's murder. Athena truly was innocent, though the circumstances of the murder were such that she would have been convicted of it, and for worse back then she was just 11 years old. He got himself convicted and spent seven years in prison for her - and by the time Athena finally managed to fill her goal to clear his name, he is a day away from execution. And in one of the Bad Endings, Simon does get executed, then the Hostage Situation staged by his older sister Aura concludes with her and all the hostages (including Trucy) disappearing forever, Athena leaving the office, Apollo never smiling again out of trauma, and Phoenix giving up on being a lawyer forever.
    • There's also Case 3 of Dual Destinies where Juniper Woods' friends Hugh O' Conner and Robin Newman confess to the crime of murdering Juniper's teacher if it means she'll go free. Though in that case, like the above, all three are innocent.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
    • In the fourth trial, Asahina in her guilt over Oogami's suicide and anger at the other students for supposedly pushing her into it, tries to frame herself as Oogami's killer so that the other students don't learn that it was a suicide. This would push the trial to a wrong conclusion, thereby killing everyone as per the rules of the Deadly Game. The plan fails in the end, partially because Hina can't answer how the Locked Room was created.
    • In the fifth trial, if the player takes the right decision, Naegi takes the fall for Kirigiri by not pointing out a lie she told to protect herself. It's learned that her Story-Breaker Power as the Ultimate Detective made her enough of a threat that the Mastermind tried to frame her and execute her as that chapter's Blackened. Before he can be executed in her place, he's saved by the remnants of Alter Ego infecting the school's computer network, thereby stopping the execution. If the player does otherwise, Kirigiri is executed, and this triggers the Bad Ending.

  • In Kevin & Kell, Bentley took the blame for the accidental death of a Herd Thinners staff member to keep his daughter Danielle out of jail and because he's already got a record. It helps that he was framed by his ex-daughter-in-law Angelique in the first place, so they just resolve to make it stick.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in the climax of the Big City Greens episode "Uncaged". Cricket, Tilly and Nancy are under arrest for releasing the animals from the zoo even though they got them back in their cages by the time the police show up; Nancy willingly decides to take the blame for it so the kids can be let off. Not even bearing to see their mom go back to jail after being released, Cricket and Tilly admit they released the animals so they can be more like Nancy, and turn themselves in. Nancy understands what they did and they embrace, causing Officer Keys to be in tears and lets them all go.
  • The Fairly OddParents: Played for Laughs in one episode where Mr. Turner bribes Timmy to take the blame for stealing Mrs. Turner's slippers for a Doom It Yourself project, and implying it's a regular occurrence.
  • Seen in an episode of Fillmore!, when a suspect took the heat in exchange for the real culprit's help getting his sister into school politics.
  • A two-part episode of King of the Hill uses the double-whammy version.
  • During his academy days Optimus of Transformers Animated reluctantly followed two of his fellow cadets on an unsanctioned excursion for easy energon on an organic planet. While there, one cadet was lost and presumed dead. Optimus took full responsibility for the incident and was expelled from academy and ultimately wound up becoming a lowly space bridge repairman.
  • The Loud House:
    • In "Sleuth or Consequences", Lincoln gets ready to go to an Ace Savvy convention but is halted when Dad announces someone clogged the toilet last night. The clogger turns out to be Lucy attempting to flush a Princess Pony comic, but Lincoln decides to take the blame for it so she doesn't become a laughingstock, meaning he's grounded and cannot go to the convention, but Lucy makes it up to him by making him his own comic.
    • In "A Tattler's Tale", Lola takes the blame for all the secrets the siblings confess in their Secret Secrets club so she can be even with them when they refuse to let her in.
  • The Simpsons episode "Separate Vocations" has Bart becoming a hall monitor and Lisa becoming a delinquent after seeing the results of their aptitude tests. When Lisa steals the teachers' answer guides and Bart finds them in her locker, Bart decides to take the blame because he knows that his sister is better than this and doesn't want her to throw her life away.
  • Sofia the First "A Royal Mess": James breaks a window that King Roland was going to give as a gift to Queen Miranda, and he fears that he'll be grounded from going to the circus with them. Feeling sorry for him, Sofia takes the blame so James can go, but he eventually feels guilty and tells his parents the truth. Baileywick eventually tells Sofia that, even if her heart is in the right place, she shouldn't take the blame for something she didn't do.

    Real Life 
  • More "Claiming the Credit" than "Taking the Heat", but part of ISIS' M.O. is to claim that lone-wolf terrorists were members of ISIS.
    • Although in this case, ISIS considers anyone who declares to fight on their behalf as part of ISIS regardless of whether they ever were in direct contact with the group. Basic ISIS ideology considers that you don't have to actually be connected with them previously to be considered a member as long as your attack was declared to be part of their struggle.
    • The likes of The Onion or Der Postillion often release satirical "ISIS admits to x" about outlandish stuff like little legroom in airplanes, bad weather at Christmas, or delays in the opening of Berlin airport. They are only a slight exaggeration of Daesh' bizarre M.O.
  • Many a general in the history of warfare has taken the blame for things that could arguably be laid at the feet of their subordinates either in a "the buck stops here" mentality or because they cared for their subordinates and did not want them blamed for forgivable mistakes or lack of oversight. From the American Civil War Robert E Lee is known to have regretted ever giving the order for Pickett's charge at Gettysburg (though that did not stop Lost Causers from smearing Pickett) and Ulysses S. Grant regretted in his autobiography ever having given the order for the assault at Cold Harbor as it lost many men and accomplished exactly zilch. Arguably both were mistakes to be blamed on the respective general, but they could easily have said "a better subordinate would have carried the day" as many of their contemporaries did.


Video Example(s):



Nancy decides to take the blame for the escaped zoo animals, but not wanting to see her go back to jail after reuniting with her just then, Cricket and Tilly tell the truth.

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Example of:

Main / TakingTheHeat

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