A character, usually an antagonist, promises another character, usually the hero, a reward if they can complete some task for them. This can be anything from fame, to riches, to anything to do with a Love Interest, to frosted desserts, or pretty much anything generally considered desirable.
But wait! "I Lied." It turns out that there is no reward! Upon either finding this out or completing the task, it's discovered that the villain simply wanted something to be done for them, and now plans to dispose of the hero now that their usefulness to the villain has ended. At this point the villain may taunt the hero about their foolish trust.
Often a crucial part of many a Macguffin Delivery Service. May make use of False Reassurance. Sometimes employed by a Mission Control that is off its meds. The "cake" may consist of a promised Body Upgrade.
When the other character isn't necessarily evil, doesn't plan on hurting the hero, and simply raises his or her standards whenever the other character comes near to completion, this becomes Moving the Goalposts. Compare Deal with the Devil, Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves, You Said You Would Let Them Go, Released to Elsewhere. Contrast Villains Never Lie. May double as Schmuck Bait if the lackey never had a logical reason to expect cake in the first place. See also Doom as Test Prize, when there is a reward at the end... just one you really don't want.
Only overlaps with I Was Told There Would Be Cake when the reward the villain promises is actually cake.
Caution: Since this trope involves plot twists, spoilers may be left unmarked.
- In Liar Game, during the Contraband game, Yokoya enforced a point-based loyalty scheme to guarantee loyalty from the members of his team that they would spy on the other members and report any dishonesty to him, where he would give more money to the snitch. Fukunaga suspects that Yokoya didn't even keep count; he just wanted the members to feed him as much information of the others as possible.
- This occurs to Lina Inverse in the first Slayers movie. The character in question isn't evil and doesn't plan on hurting Lina per se, but it's definitely not a case of Moving The Goalposts. Needing Lina to risk her life by going back in time hundreds of years in order to save a much younger version of himself, his love, and a group of elves from a mazoku, the elderly ghost of an adventurer promises Lina to show her the location of "the fountain of growth", which she interprets, and is led on to believe, will finally make her tall, curvy, and stacked. In reality, the ghost has lied, and the fountain in question is the reverse of the fountain of youth, aging things that touch its waters to death, making Lina's trials and tribulations completely meaningless (in her eyes). However, since Lina was particularly dumb for believing him, and since he's really the ancestor of her (not-yet-encountered-yet-at-the-time) love and life-long partner Gourry, it worked out in her favor anyways.
- There was a slight instance of this in the Battle City arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!; Arcana, one of Marik's servant's, is promised a reunion with his lost love upon fulfillment of a mission; Marik even put a mannequin shrouded by curtains in the room to persuade him. He fails his mission, and the last thing he sees before Marik kills him is that he never intended to keep his end of the deal. To make it even worse for Arcana, Yugi continually told him during the duel that this was likely the case. Arcana actually seemed to have doubts once or twice, but never enough to truly believe him until the end.
- Sword Art Online
- The Fairy Dance Arc fits this well. According to given sources of Alfheim Online, one can try the "Grand Quest", which would give his or her race a meeting with the Fairy King Oberon and promote the entire aligned race to the powerful Alfs. However, because only one can complete such a task, there is a lot of competition between the races, despite the alliances. It turns out the whole thing is a hoax. The "Grand Quest" is an Impossible Task and the main entrance impassable to normal players. What's more, there is no city or castle at the top of the tree that was said in the game, as it is merely a research center for the psychotic administrator and staff to experiment on human brains.
- In the Alicization Arc, Quinella motivates her henchman Chudelkin, who openly lusts after her, by swearing an oath to the goddess Stacia that if he can defeat the heroes, she will have sex with him. She later reveals she has no intention of giving him his reward; since she doesn't believe in Stacia, her oath is meaningless.
- When Cologne first appears in Ranma ½, she traps Ranma in her female form via a special pressure point that makes her unable to stand any sort of heat, including hot water. Eventually she reveals she has a special pill that can cure Ranma of her affliction, but the only way to even get it would be to master a speed based attack. Ranma ultimately is able to do so and succeeds in getting the pill from Cologne, only for Cologne to reveal that at the last minute that she'd substituted the real pill for a candy drop.
- In Attack on Titan, the nation of Marley uses the promise of full citizenship to lure Eldians into volunteering their children for military service in the Warrior Program. These children are raised to be fanatically loyal to Marley, and believe if they can prove their loyalty and rack up enough military achievements....their kinsmen still living in the ghettos will be given better treatment or even freed someday. This is a complete lie, of course. Marley leverages their families to keep the Warriors in line, and uses them as disposable resources. Once their usefulness as a military asset comes to an end, Marley intends to answer the Eldian Question by exterminating them all.
- I Became the Strongest with the Failure Frame [Abnormal State Skill] as I Devastated Everything: Goddess Vysis promises the group that they will be sent back home, if they can prove they killed the Demon King by collecting a certain jewel that can only be done with said demon's death. After several casualties caused by "training accidents," and the fact that Mimori was "disposed of," they slowly, but surely, starts to wonder if she will follow through with her promise, even if they do manage to defeat the Demon King and get said jewel.
- There was a Rugrats comic story where Chuckie had all but one of the collectible Reptar cards, and Angelica claimed she would give him the one he was missing if he performed a series of chores for her. When he finished them all, it turned out the card she gave him was a phony drawing.
- In the Gunslinger comic, one of the villains ask an addict for information on the heroes, implying that they will give him "metal" in exchange. After they are finished, the addict asks if he is getting gold or silver, the villain replies 'lead' and shoots him. (This is a visual re-telling of the incident from the original source, the novel Wizard and Glass.)
- In Power Girl (Issue #12 to be exact), super-villainess Satanna wants Mad Scientist Dr. Sivana to make her a super-weapon to kill Power Girl (Kryptonians being rather hard to kill). Sivana wants some bouncy-bouncy in exchange. Despite her disgust, Satanna complies, and afterwards Sivana points out that they are both "bad guys," and as long as he got his, he doesn't care that she doesn't get anything. So not only has she debased herself for nothing, he adds injury to insult by making his robots beat her up and throw her out of a fourth-story window. So not only is Sivana a complete pig, he's made Satanna's list—he'll be showing up in revenge-oriented tropes in the near future.
- The obscure French comic book "38e parallèle" features the story of the French expeditionary force in The Korean War. An officer promises his commando a treasure behind the enemy lines; it was actually an undercover operation seeking a Vietcong agent.
- Subverted in an arc of the Namor comic from The '90s. The Super-Skrull promises Ward Meachum "the most beautiful woman in the galaxy" to betray his species. Ward accepts, but when somebody points out to him, "Even if the Skrull was going to keep his promise, what's beautiful to a reptilian alien?" he turns on the Super-Skrull, accusing the latter of betrayal. Kl'rt insists he hasn't done anything of the sort, but an enraged Ward isn't listening and the Super-Skrull kills him before he destroys a vital piece of equipment. Then we see a beautiful Skrull woman waiting to be given away to some lowly human (out of love for the Super-Skrull). The Fridge Logic is, Skrulls are shapeshifters. Kl'rt could send the ugliest woman, and she could change into the most beautiful.
- Subverted in the second issue of The Batman Adventures, the animated Batman spin-off comic from the 1990s. The Joker hijacks a cable television outlet and uses it to broadcast himself onto a closed-circuit TV set delivered to Selina Kyle's apartment. After revealing that he knows Selina is Catwoman, Joker tells her that he has concocted a foolproof plan for stealing the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, and asks her if she'd like to attempt the feat. Selina, who relishes this ultimate test of her burglary skills, still feels suspicious, even asking Joker, "What's the catch?" Turns out, Joker also wants her to snatch something else for him while she's in London (we're never told exactly what this is, but it's apparently microcircuitry or something similarly electronic). Once Selina has heard all the details, she goes through with Joker's plan—but Batman outsmarts her and manages to prevent her from swiping the jewels, and Catwoman barely escapes capture. She does, however, manage to acquire the technology Joker requested, and sends it to him at the end of the comic. (In the next issue, it's finally revealed that whatever Joker had Catwoman steal for him allows him to override every other TV station in Gotham City, so that he can broadcast his sadistic variety show on every channel.) But even though Catwoman didn't get what she wanted, Joker didn't care: she managed to get him on TV, and whether or not she also got the Crown Jewels was irrelevant.
- As one of the more sympathetic villains in Batman's Rogues Gallery, Catwoman tends to have this happen to her from time to time. In Batman: Hush, the trope is double-subverted when Poison Ivy puts her under a love spell in order to make her a slave for one of her schemes. Catwoman does get her...uh, "cake" - but in this case it is something she did not desire, never asked for, and is very angry about receiving once she breaks free of the mind-control.
- The Pulse: In the first issue, Jessica Jones agrees to give Jameson an exclusive on the birth of her and Luke Cage's child as an unwritten clause of her consulting contract with the Daily Bugle. In the penultimate issue, Jessica breaks the handshake deal and gives the exclusive to one of Jameson's competitors, in retaliation for his publishing a negative story on the Avengers offscreen, as the organization now includes Luke.
- In "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", the town offers a handsome reward for ridding them of the rats. When the piper succeeds flawlessly, they flatly refuse to pay him (or offer him a fraction of what they'd promised) and boot him out of the town. It turns out pretty badly for them.
- Happens from time to time in Aesop's Fables:
- In "The Lion in Love" a lion falls in love with a young woman and asks for her father's blessing to marry her. The father, knowing it would be very foolish to say no to a lion, says he will consent if he agrees to have his claws and teeth removed so that he does not accidentally hurt her. The lion agrees, but after this is done, the father merely drives the neutralized lion away.
- In "The Wolf and the Crane:" A wolf has a chicken bone lodged in his throat and says that he'll reward a crane handsomely if he sticks his lone beak down his throat and removes it. When the crane does so and asks for his reward, the wolf says that allowing him to stick his head into his mouth without biting it off was just that.
- From Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series:
Marik: Shut up! What we came here to do is defeat Yugi Muto, once and for all!
Bonz: Brains. [I came here for the free tacos.]
Marik: By the way, there are no free tacos; that was a lie.
Bonz: Brains... [It figures.]
- From later in the same series: Kaiba is in training, because he actually has to learn how to play Duel Monsters. (Dun, dun, DUN~!)
- Which in turn is a shout-out to Portal.
- Discovered at the very end of The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. The four had been told by the gods that if they were part of the Power Group that brought the Black Tower down, they would get their hearts' desires, which mostly meant being able to take their magic home with them under the most favorable conditions possible. They were also told that even if they weren't part of the right group, if the Black Tower fell they would at least be sent home. However, they discover they're actually in a giant telepathic MMORPG and every single thing they were told was a lie. Jeft is actually going to use them in other games if they prove suitable, or abandon them on C'hou if not. Revenge will ensue in Keys: The Hard World.
- In the Universe Falls chapter "Li'l Gideon" (based on "The Hand that Rocks the Mabel"), while Gideon Gleeful baits Dipper to his family's hilltop factory with the promise of an interview with the Gravity Falls Gossiper, he also baits Steven Universe to the same location with the prospect of a free sundae bar.
- In Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, Forte promises a musical solo for his henchman Fife in exchange for performing many of the tasks that would help Forte challenge/endanger Belle. Near the end of the movie when Forte gets confronted by Belle, Beast and the gang, Fife finds the pages for his solo to be blank.
Forte: So naive. You're second fiddle, Fife, and that's all you'll EVER be!
- The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea: Morgana wants vengeance on Ariel and Eric for killing her sister Ursula by killing their daughter Melody and taking over the sea. After being withheld from the sea without being told the reason, Melody runs away from home after an argument with Ariel about the issue, and goes out to sea in a boat, at which point Morgana lures her to her lair, where she uses some of Ursula's magic to temporarily turn her into a mermaid and promises that if she retrives her stolen trident in Atlantica (actually King Triton's, as the audience knows), she will use it to make her a permanent mermaid. When she does so, not only does she not honor her agreement, but she imprisons her in a cave for her to drown when her mermaid transformation wears off.
- 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure: Thunderbolt is convinced by his co star Lil-Lightning that he needs to do some heroic work in order prove he's still a capable host in order to retain his position on his show (Lightning in actuality was attempting to get him to leave the studio so he could take his place on the show) but is hopeless without someone to guide him. So he tricks his avid fan Patch into helping remind him of his heroic antics on the show under the guise that it is a "junior deputy test" to see if he's capable of starring in the series with him (as Patch believes that all of the heroic stuff Thunderbolt does on the show is real). When the two of them get captured while attempting to rescue the other puppies from Cruella, Lightning cruelly reveals Thunderbolt's true intentions to Patch, to which Thunderbolt sadly confirms, much to Patch's dismay.
- In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Cartman suggests bringing in potential members to La Résistance by promising punch and pie. When the meeting starts...
Kid: Uh, we were to understand there'd be pie and punch?
Kyle: There isn't any.
[so the kids leave...]
- Aladdin: The old beggar in the dungeon promises Aladdin that he'll give him a reward should he go into the Cave of Wonders and fetch the magic lamp for him. When Aladdin brings back the lamp, he says he'll give Aladdin his reward... his eternal reward. Of course, with Abu's help, Aladdin manages to get free before the "beggar" (Jafar in disguise) stabs him.
- Tom and Jerry: The Movie: When Robyn has escaped from Aunt Figg with the help of the titular cat and mouse to find her father, Lickboot suggests they get her back by offering a million dollar reward. When Figg points out that they don't actually have a million dollars (since they have been cut off from Robyn's father's fortune until she is recovered), Lickboot smugly points out that that's what makes it so sleazy. Figg applauds his craftiness.
- In Sing, everyone in the city flocks to audition to Buster Moon's singing competition because of the $100,000 prize offered. Except Buster barely has 1,000. This isn't trickery or deceit (At first), it's the result of a wayward glass eyeball hitting a few extra zeros on the keyboard, and an open window and fan scattering the flyers before Buster could see them. And thus Buster is forced to find a way to raise the money before the contest or his contestants find out.
- In Chicken Run: Rocky needs to see that the chickens start getting results with his flying lessons, so he makes a deal with the rats Nick and Fetcher to bring him items to make it appear that the chickens are making progress in exchange for every egg he lays for the month. When Ginger calls him out on deceiving the rats, Rocky casually insists that he never lied to them, and he will give them what he promised...it's just that what he promised them specifically was nothing.
- In Dangerous Liaisons, when Valmont breaks off his relationship with Madame de Tourvel and comes to collect his "reward" from Merteuil, she simply tells him "no," and mocks him to his face.
- Therefore, also seen in Cruel Intentions.
"You're just a toy, Sebastian. A little toy I like to play with."
- The Collector does this in Demon Knight, enticing one of the heroes to the evil side with promises that include a bunch of hot dancing women. The Collector congratulates him on his wise choice, and...
"One more thing: I lied". (Women revert to demon form, and lunge)
- The Collector does this to everyone who listens to him. Another character agrees to betray the others and removes the barrier keeping the demons at bay in exchange for his own freedom. As he is about to leave, the Collector admits he lied, and the demons tear the guy apart.
- The Collector gets to people by promising them things such as love and friendship. Inevitably, the only thing they get is Demonic Possession.
- In Parts: The Clonus Horror, the clones are told that they are preparing for a trip to America, which is portrayed like paradise.
- In Captain Phillips, the Navy Seals attempt to rescue Phillips convince the pirates to allow them tow the lifeboat towards their rescue ship, where they tell them their elders are waiting to discuss a ransom negotiation with the pirate captain Muse. Muse agrees and boards the ship while the lifeboat is towed, and by the time the pirates realize that they're being screwed, they have reached gunpoint range and and shot to death by the Seals, whom take Phillips on board to safety and have the captain brought to America to face trial for his crimes.
- The Island is based on "The Clonus Horror" and has a similar lie. The clones are told that they are preparing for a trip to "The Island," the only haven from a "virus outbreak."
- In Conan the Destroyer, the reward that Queen Taramis promises to Conan for his assistance is a lie.
- In Nacho Libre, Ignacio and his wrestling partner Steven seek a guru for advice on winning matches. The guru tells them to climb a cliff to an eagle's nest, break open an egg and drink its yolk which contains powerful nutrients. After doing so, they lose their next match anyway.
Ignacio: Those eggs were a lie, Steven. A LIE!!
- In Oblivion, Earth is devastated by alien invaders, and survivors have taken refuge on the saturnian moon of Titan. Jack and Victoria are technicians monitoring and repairing various machinery being used by a salvage operation administrated by a massive space station called "The Tet" (due to it being roughly a tetrahedron in shape). They're constantly dealing with stragglers of the alien invaders called "Scavs". They have two weeks to go before they're done with their stint and are off to Titan themselves. There is no colony on Titan. The Tet is the alien invader, and plans on disposing of the two. The remaining "Scavs" are actually remmants of humanity. And Jack and Victoria are clones of two crewmembers of a manned international mission to Titan who were intercepted by the Tet before the invasion and used as a clone army whose original memories are lost in oblivion.
- Kindergarten Cop: John Kimble goes undercover in a school to locate the ex-wife of a crazed drug dealer, believing she stole $3 million from him, this making her a valuable witness against her. Turns out she never stole anything: the drug dealer told these stories so people would track down his ex-wife and reunite him with his son.
- In Cloud Atlas, the Fabricant underclass of 22nd century Korea all work in the hope that, at the end of their period of service, they will be rewarded with Exaltation and allowed to retire in peace. Newly-eligible Fabricants are even given a lavish ceremony, complete with stunning white robes, heavenly choirs, and a personal escort to the ship that will carry them off to their new home. In reality, the ship is essentially a floating abattoir: the moment Fabricants take their seats on board, they are promptly executed via cattle gun, before being unceremoniously decapitated, flayed, and rendered down into recyclable biomatter. This biomatter, by the way, is either used in the creation of more Fabricants, or to make Soap - the only food that Fabricants are allowed.
- In The Running Man, the winners of the titular show are promised an amnesty and a life on a resort island. Halfway through the movie, Amber stumbles across the burned corpses of last season's "winners".
- Alita: Battle Angel: Many of Vectors henchmen and Motorball players are promised that, in exchange for their services, him and Nova will take them up to Zalem, usually once theyve made enough money or win enough games. This is completely true. Conveniently left out of the pitch is that youll go up as a Brain in a Jar, with most of your body parts harvested for Novas nightmarish experiments.
- A clever variation is used in the Russian film Stalker. There is a miraculous Room at the centre of a militarised exclusion zone somewhere in Russia that grants you your innermost desire should you reach it. Your innermost desire, not what you consciously ask for. There was a guy named Porcupine who wanted to use the Room to wish for his dead brother to back to life, and instead the Room gave him a lot of money. The revelation that he wasn't as noble as he believed broke Porcupine's mind, and he killed himself out of shame and guilt.
- Wadjda: Wadjda wants a bicycle, so she joins a Koran competition so she can win the 1000 Saudi riyal that will enable her to buy one. She wins, but when she makes the mistake of admitting that she wants to buy a bicycle, the bitchy fundamentalist headmistress donates her prize to the Palestinians instead.
- This is also sometimes known as "jam tomorrow" for the White Queen's promise in Through the Looking-Glass to provide "jam every other day" ... which turns out to mean jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.
- Played with in the Buffy spin-off novel Pretty Maids All In A Row: The novel focuses on Spike and Dru, who are hired by a demon to do a job for him, with the promised reward being a powerful magical artifact Dru has decided she wants. A third of the way through, there's a flashback revealing that this artifact was stolen off the demon sixty years ago — but then two-thirds of the way through, there's another flashback revealing that thirty years ago the demon took it back. Finally, when Spike and Dru come to claim the reward, he admits that when he hired them he'd already given it away to somebody else he wanted a favour from. Final score: Double Subversion.
- In the Philippa Gregory book The Boleyn Inheritance, Norfolk did this to Jane Parker/Rochford/Boleyn with a promise of setting up another marriage for her. This ended not just with him denying her the prize, but offering a brutal, scathing commentary on her personality, and leaving her to be thrown in jail and executed while he got off scot-free.
- The Millennium Trilogy plays with this. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Henrik Vanger's "dirt" on Wennerström is not nearly as damning or damaging as was implied when the promise was made; however, Wennerström gets his just deserts in the end anyway, and Blomkvist still gets the otherwise sizable payday promised.
- In Sergey Lukyanenko's first published novel Knights Of The Forty Islands, several hundred children are kidnapped and put into an artificial environment consisting of small islands connected by bridges. They are given swords and are told that anyone who conquers all islands gets to go home. The thing is, the captors know full well that Humans Are Bastards and that even children can be turned into monsters given the right conditions, meaning there is no way for any one group to realistically conquer such a large area, and alliances are doomed to fail. Also, all the captives are actually duplicates, so the captors have no intention of sending them back home.
- In Sommerset Maugham's story A Friend in Need, a wealthy businessman tells the narrator about an incident in which he promised a Remittance Man a position at the firm if he could successfully swim a treacherous length of water. The Remittance Man drowned to death, and the business man then casually reveals that he never had a position open in the first place.
- In one of the stories in Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories series, two girls perform a series of escalating bad deeds on their mother and brother in the hopes of collecting a magic drum from a gypsy girl. After they have driven away the rest of their family with their behavior, the gypsy girl tells them they will never be naughty enough for her standards, and leaves.
- Septimus Heap: Flyte: After having been destroyed by the Undoing of the Placement, DomDaniel reveals that Simon Heap was just a delivery boy to be discarded one he had done his job.
- The Bible Has Genesis 29:20 where Jacob worked for seven years to win the hand of Rachel from her father. He dumps his other daughter Leah on Jacob, who realizes the next morning he banged the wrong woman. He ends up having to work another seven years to actually get Rachel.
- The SF short story "Jennings' Operative Webster" is about an agency which sends operatives back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. It turns out that the only time they make any money is when they fail, and then it's only the retainer.
- In The Dragon Heir, the wizards who are after the protagonist form alliances, each promising the other something, with no intention of keeping it. In one instance, the wizard's servant who was sent to make a contract with his former enemy makes her own contract with said enemy, and assassins are sent to get rid of the first wizard immediately. An unexperienced evil wizard is killed immediately upon giving important information to someone he considered an ally.
- Almost all the short stories in the North Korean anthology The Accusation involve the main characters realizing and struggling to cope with how much the North Korean government has taken from them and how little they've received in exchange.
- In Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor claims he has just bought a pipe of Amontillado in order to lure Fortunato into his palazzo's catacombs and murder him.
- Doctor Who: "Yes, I lied, it's a jammy dodger. But I was promised tea!"
- Rule #1: The Doctor lies.
- In "The Sontaran Strategem"/"Poison Sky" two-parter, The Sontarans attempt to wipe out humanity by altering the atmosphere, and seek out the aid of Teen Genius Luke Rattigan so that they can covertly enact this scheme via a device fitted in cars supposedly to suppress carbon emissions. Luke helps them due to the alienation his brilliance invites, and is seduced with the promise of a new planet dubbed "Castor-36" that he and other young geniuses in the academy he set up can inhabit.note Once Luke gives the offer to them, they refuse, and upon returning to Sontarans, the general admits he was yanking his chain with that whole "Castor-36" thing, and would've had him and the whole group killed the moment they arrived on their ship. Indeed, Luke barely escapes with his life shortly after learning this.
- The premise of The Office (US) episode "Scott's Tots." Michael made a promise to send some kids to college, but by the time they graduated high school he reneged on said promise. In this case, Michael had ridiculously optimistic expectations about what his life would be like by the time the kids graduated, so it wasn't an intentional lie.
- Burn Notice: Sam is trying to clear out an office temporarily so Michael can steal some information from one of the office computers. So posing as an office manager, he tries to herd everyone into a meeting room to work on "team work activities". It's not until he promises cake do people start listening to him. They're very grouchy later when they find out he lied.
- Chuck: In "Chuck vs the Wedding Planner" the team sets up an elaborate con Wedding reception, including a cake made of fondant, icing... and Styrofoam.
- Subverted on Boy Meets World. When Mr. Feeney has trouble getting Shawn to attend his SAT preparation class, he makes up lie on the spot about there being delicious cake at the class. But later we see Shawn at the class, and he is in fact eating a big piece of cake.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Silence", a talkative man bets another member of his exclusive club a fortune that he can't remain silent for a full year. He succeeds by having his vocal cords severed in secret, but the man he made the bet with admits that he's flat broke and could never have paid the agreed-upon sum.
- The crew on Farscape once visited an agricultural world where tomorrow was always a rest day, but it never came because the workers' memories kept getting re-written as to what day it was.
- In a Mr. Show sketch, John goes off to meet his friends, under the impression they set him up on a blind date. They just wanted him to come to an intervention for another friend of theirs. He claims "You don't have to trick me, you're my friends." It turns out they pull this trope on him every time they have an intervention. Interestingly enough, he gets increasingly angrier the further back in time they flashback to.
- In as much as a cake can be considered the culmination of an organized party, during the Season 3 Parks and Recreation episode "April and Andy's Fancy Party" April and Andy ask Chris to bring a cake their dinner party. Instead he brings a vegetable loaf because "it's healthier" prompting this remark from Ron Swanson:
Ron: So, not only does this thing exist but you have also deprived everyone of cake!
- Madam Secretary: Trying to get a deceased Iranian spy's flash drive from Turkey after a CIA extraordinary rendition attempt on the Iranian blows up in their faces, Liz negotiates a deal for the Turks to buy US natural gas at discount prices. The Turkish foreign minister then gives the flash drive to the Iranians in defiance of the deal, which he can get away with because that part of the deal was never written down. Fortunately the Iranian foreign minister then gives the drive to Liz anyway.
Turkish foreign minister: Never. Violate our sovereignty. Again.
- Something of a variation in season six of Supernatural. The angel Castiel makes a deal with the demon Crowley, the agreement being that the two of them would work together to open Purgatory to harness the power of the souls there, and each would then receive half of whatever souls were found. Crowley does most of the actual work/research towards getting to Purgatory, while his partner essentially provides protection for him during his machinations. When the plan is nearing completion, however, Castiel decides that giving a demon access to that much Soul Power would be stupid, and revokes the agreement (though it's never confirmed whether this was the plan all along, or if it was a last-minute decision), denying Crowley his share of the souls. This does not end well. For Crowley.
- 30 Rock: Jenna Maroney herself served as the million-point prize for collectors of "Surge Points" in late 90s commercial—clearly meant in context to be a joke by the advertiser). An obsessed fan who had collected the points for 15 years showed up and demanded Jenna as a slave; Jack got her out of it by pointing out the ravages of depreciation on an aging c-list actress and calculating her actual value as $2,000. The fan took the money, saying back home in Arizona that much would buy him "a castle and a pillowcase full of meth." (Loosely based on a few Real Life incidents.)
- A song written by songwriter Ed Pickford, and popular with many folk singers, is Pound a Week Rise. The workers of the coal mines are fed up and want a raise. When they confront the then chairman of the National Coal Board (Lord Robens), he tells them that he used to be a miner and knows how hard it can be so he makes them a deal. If he can get their output to break records, he'll give raise their pay by a pound per week (hence the title). When they finally accomplish this, he laughs at them, denies them the raise he promised and yells at them to get back to their jobs.
- The Child Ballad "The Golden Vanity" takes this and puts a rather...dark spin on it. The captain promises the hero (the ship's boy) money and his daughter, if he will swim to the enemy vessel and drill holes in it, but when the hero sinks the enemy ship, the captain leaves him in the ocean to drown.
- In the original version of the song "Big Rock Candy Mountain," the tale of the enchanted hobo's paradise is being told to a child to recruit him as a partner. In the end, the child tells the hobo that the Big Rock Candy Mountain is a lie.
- Jamie O'Neal's "There Is No Arizona" is a variant. The narrator is promised a better life in Arizona by her man, who claims to set out in advance to set things up for her. He leaves for Arizona but, other than a single postcard with no return address, she never hears from him again. She then realizes that his promises of a better life in Arizona are a lie, and that "there is no Arizona."
- An anecdote related by MC5 member Wayne Kramer in the book "Please Kill Me" tells how he concocted a plan to recover a drug money debt from Iggy Pop by asking the latter to pay him up front for some heroin and then simply refusing to provide the drugs. Kramer met Iggy accompanied by a big roadie to watch his back in case there was trouble. When Kramer revealed that there were no drugs, however, Iggy was reportedly so distraught that he broke down crying, causing the hired muscle to give him a consoling hug.
- In Exalted the Silver Prince created a religion around the fact that everyone turns into a ghost after death and reincarnate, but some people stay behind to help the living. The truth is that most ghosts are dragged of to a secret island where they are forged into soulsteel which is used to build giant warships, while anyone considers important or useful in some way to the Silver Prince's plans are left behind, to keep the lie going until he has enough warships built to destroy all of Creation.
- In Shadowrun games, this is, way too often, what the "run offered by Mr. Johnson" turns out to be—especially if the Game Master really likes screwing his players over.
- In Achievement Unlocked 3, following a sign that states, "Free Candy", the protagonist ends up in the lair of the Hamster King. "Are you here for the free candy? There might be some later," says the Hamster King. But after completing dozens and dozens of achievements with not a single candy in return, one may conclude that the Hamster King is offering a reward founded upon Blatant Lies.
- Portal: Trope Namer ("THE CAKE IS A LIE" being written on walls in various places by Doug Rattmann, an employee turned test subject). Note that there actually was cake—it just wasn't for you.
- Moreover, note the wording by GlaDOS: "There will be cake" (and similar vague statements, like "cake will be served" and "cake ... will be available"). It's not until later (when her lies become more transparent) does GLaDOS suggest that Chell will be the one to eat it ("Okay, the test is over now. You win! Go back to the recovery annex for your cake.")
- Averted in the Portal level of LEGO Dimensions, possibly due to the Trope Naming line becoming a Discredited Meme. Not only does the cake exist, but it's an important part of the foundation of the entire multiverse. The free-roaming Portal Adventure World has a Quest in which a minifigure adept at technologyexamples can help the Cake Core bake a new cake...though the use of "fish-shaped solid waste" as an ingredient makes one wonder if it actually seems edible.
- In the portal 2 level, you can, of course, find Doug Ratman's (in)famous "The Cake Is A Lie" graffiti... but instead of trailing off ominously it ends with "The cake is in the kitchen on floor 2."
- In the Neverwinter Nights mod Tales of Arterra, if you complete the obstacle course in Vannik the Red's hideout you find a large chest containing a sheet of paper: "Congratulations! Your reward is knowledge! Word: bamboozled. Synonyms: hoodwinked, befuddled. Definition: to be deceived. Example: The foolish adventurer was bamboozled into thinking there was loot at the end of the obstacle course!"
- In Bully, Gary prompts you to follow him through the school's basement, promising nothing specific, just having something to show you.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- In Morrowind, you may stumble upon a woman in the wilderness who has dropped her ring into a small pond below. She implies that she'll be, eh-hem, sexually grateful if you retrieve it for her. However, as soon as you find the ring, she and her invisible archer friend will attempt to rob you from the high ground.
- Similarly, in Oblivion, a mage offers to recommend you for membership to the Arcane University if you retrieve his magical Ring of Burden from the bottom of a well. Turns out he was just hoping you'd drown while down there.
- Baldur's Gate
- The player is offered a quest with a 10,000 gp reward—big money at that point in the game—by Jierdan Firkraag. Once you reach the quest area, however, you're manipulated into killing several knights, and you find out that Firkraag is not only a dragon in disguise, but trying to destroy your reputation as payback for some half-explained slight.
- Several other characters do this as well, Kangaxx the Demi-Lich and the Chromatic Demon from Watcher's Keep come to mind.
- By the time of the Chromatic Demon, CHARNAME has apparently become wise to this, as (s)he observes in the diary: "As I expected, the Chromatic Demon attacked me as soon as I released it from its prison..."
- As a rule of thumb, almost every evil guy who gives you a quest in the Baldur's Gate series will end up fighting you. Which doesn't mean you shouldn't do the quest, since you will find the reward they promised you over their dead body anyway, as well as valuable loot that's probably more useful than the money.
- This is the ending for Shadowrun Returns. The protagonist's old partner promises a reward for solving his murder. That reward is a lie. Zigzagged. Through sheer serendipity, unraveling the convoluted plot behind the murder involves working with a megacorp's president who coincidentally rewards the original amount your old partner promised. Although your partner may have lied about the reward, you wind up getting it anyway.
- Corpse of Discovery the main motivation for the Player Character is the promise of rescue from the alien world and retirement. However each time he completes a mission he blacks out and wakes up for yet another Final Mission with yet another promise.
- Subverted in Mercenaries. You're offered a reward of one million dollars by Sergei to escort his lieutenant, Josef, to a meeting late in the game. Both you and Josef can tell that it's an obvious trap. Once you get to the meeting and successfully protect Josef, he takes over the Russian Mafia from Sergei and pays you the promised million dollars.
- In Heroes of Might and Magic III The Shadow of Death, Sandro hires Crag Hack and Gem to retrieve minor artifacts for seemingly benign purposes and promises them generous payment. Both times he runs off without paying the moment he gets all of the artifacts. Even worse, said "minor" artifacts are actually two sets of artifacts that combine to form extremely powerful artifacts.
- In Digital Devil Saga, all the Junkyard tribes are fighting against each other to reach Nirvana, whis is supposed to be paradise. However, as the game progresses it becomes obvious that there is something terribly off with that promise. It turns out that Nirvana is actually a ruined version of Earth, and it's just as bad as the Junkyard.
ex-Solids member: So it's Nirvana time? Count me out. I have a feeling I'm better off here.
- In Gothic, at the Free Mine, there's a guy named Baloro who will give you a quest to get him some food for a party. In return, he promises you a weapon that can kill anything. By this point, you probably know better how things work at the Colony... but if you are used to more "traditional" RPGs, you think quest=reward, especially since this particular quest is even named "Baloro's Weapon"; so you go all over the valley searching for the items he ordered - some of them surprisingly hard to find.
Of course, when you deliver the goods and ask for the weapon, he just mocks you for your troubles and gives you nothing, not even some Ore. The bastard doesn't even invite you to the party!
Oh, well, at least it was worth the experience... 300 XP, to be precise.
- In Ark Warriors by Qem-95'', Qem tells Malcolm that there will be 10 gallons of alcohol waiting for him in the staff room if he receives a fraction of the Okanima. Of course, there is no alcohol.
- Mackenzie Zales pulls this on Deandra in The Most Popular Girls in School by sending her a text about pie in order to learn more about the Atchison Cheer Squad (Deandra having transferred from Atchison). Deandra's livid, especially when Mackenzie claims she never actually said she had pie to which Deandra pulls out her phone with a text message featuring a pie emoji and the words "Want some?" Two seasons later, Deandra's still sore when Mackenzie pulls this again only this time Mackenzie had an actual slice of pie to give.
- In the Strong Bad Email "4 branches", during the "Bureau of Doing Stupid Things at the Office" segment, Homestar gets Strong Bad's attention with the promise of free bagels.
Strong Bad: Aw, man! This isn't free bagels.
Homestar: No, but it is free...ing Homestar from the water cooler. That's pretty sweet.
- Manly Guys Doing Manly Things: Jared discovers that there is cake... but it's just the gross cake perimeter after somebody ate the inner parts of the cake. GlaDOS says she was protecting him from the truth, and asks if he would prefer a comforting lie instead. He looks her dead in the eye as he eats the cake perimeter.
GlaDOS: If your parents actually loved you I am sure one of them would shed a single tear for your glorious passage into adulthood.
- Gravity Falls: In "Headhunters", Grunkle Stan advertises the re-opening of a lost exhibit with the promise of free pizza. There is, of course, no pizza. When questioned by the press, Stan says "That's just a typo. GOODNIGHT, EVERYBODY!" and runs off with everyone's admission money, to the disappointment and frustration of the attendees—particularly a guy wearing a "Free Pizza" t-shirt.
- In The Fairly OddParents: In "The Big Bash", Timmy and Remy compete in a time traveling scavenger hunt held by Cupid for items such as the largest egg and banana ever, a pot of Irish gold, The Grand Treasure of the Peruvian Pyramid from Ancient Peru, etc., the grand prize being thirty seconds of rule free wishes, which Remy intends to use to wish away Cosmo and Wanda. However, when both boys come in a tie, Cupid reveals that he lied about the rule free wish period and that the entire scavenger was actually just his grocery shopping (with the items such as the pot of gold being a pot of Irish gold potatoes and The Grand Treasure of the Peruvian Pyramid merely being Peruvian coffee beans). The boys declare a truce and wish up all of the obstacles they encountered during the scavenger hunt to whoop Cupid's ass.
- In Ōban Star-Racers: It's the entire premise and the biggest plot twist. Every 10,000 years, teams from all over the galaxy are gathered to compete in the Great Race of Ōban. According to legend, the winner is awarded the Ultimate Prize, which is rumored to grant any wish; from large-scale destruction to, perhaps, the resurrection of a loved one. However, the true nature of the Prize is not what it appears to be. As it turns out, the prize was to be the next Avatar. The Creators of Ōban were an ancient race who were almost wiped out by one of their own who turned Evil. And in order to maintain the evil one, Ōban and the universe, a new Avatar is chosen every 10,000 years. This revelation chattered the dreams of everyone who knew about the prize's true nature.
- The Simpsons: Used in the episode "Whacking Day". On the same day that Superintendent Chalmers is due to visit the school for an inspection, Principal Skinner curiously announces via the intercom that the five most unruly boys in the school, including Bart, have inexplicably been awarded free mountain bikes, which they are to collect from a utility room in the basement. Of course, Skinner shuts them in and locks the door, revealing, as if it hadn't been obvious enough already, that it was all just a ploy to get them out the way for the inspection. Even then, Nelson asks "when are we gonna get our mountain bikes?" Becomes a Brick Joke at the end of the episode, when Skinner suddenly realizes that all of the boys except Bart are still locked in the room; he and Willie rush to the school with a collection of mountain bikes, hoping to trade them for their silence.
Bart: Can we at least keep the bikes?Marge: Oh no, no-no-no-no-no. They're due back at the store by six. Get off 'em! Get off! Off! Get off!
- Bikes—in fact, hover bikes!—are used again in "The Joy of Sect," when Marge tries to cure the kids from the Movementarians' brainwashing.
- In Spongebob Squarepants: In "I'm Your Biggest Fanatic", Spongebob wants to join a jellyfishing club held by his idol, Kevin the sea-cucumber. Kevin agrees to allow them to join them on a jellyfishing expedition and says that if he proves his worth he'll be allowed in the club, but in actuality just wants to see Spongebob continuously get stung throughout the whole ordeal and run home crying for his own amusement. While Spongebob succeeds flawlessly with all of the tests (with Kevin being the one continuously hurt), when he reaches his final test of catching a queen jellyfish, he and the other members prank Spongebob by flying around in a giant robotic queen jellyfish bent on finishing him off. After which, they reveal their true intentions and mock Spongebob for actually thinking they'd let him join their club.
- In the South Park episode "The Wacky Molestation Adventure", Kyle's parents tell him that he can only go to a concert by a band named Raging Pussy if he cleans out the garage, shovels the driveway and brings democracy to Cuba. Kyle does all of these things, but they still renege, explain that that was supposed to be an impossible chore and, to their credit, admit that lying was probably a bad parenting move. Kyle responds by having them falsely arrested for child molestation, which kicks off the main plot of the episode.
- In Invader Zim, the skool has a fundraiser, with a "secret prize" for whomever sells the most candy. Zim, sure that this is something amazing which will help him Take Over the World, manages to win through screaming threats and borderline mind control. However, Ms. Bitters then informs him that the prize was just made up to motivate kids to sell more, and offers him a can of tuna in consolation. The episode ends with Zim's Skyward Scream. Interestingly, the crummy lesser prizes were real, so technically Dib came out ahead.
- Jumanji: At the beginning of "Masked Identity," Rock invites Peter to play football with him and his gang if he gets their ball down from the tree. When he does so and asks whose team he's on, Rock pushes him into the mud and mockingly says "nobody's" before running off with his gang to play without Peter. He tries this again at the end of the episode, but Peter is not fooled this time.
- Around the 1930s, shaving cream manufacturer Burma-Shave put out a promotional contest in which they promised a half-pound jar of their product to anyone who sent them the ripped-off fender of their car. It was meant as a joke, but after receiving dozens of fenders from participants—even those taken from toy cars—the company made good on its promise. When it made a later attempt in 1955 at an even sillier announcement in hopes that people would only find it amusing and not actually try to fulfill it—in this case, announcing that 900 empty jars would net the sender a free trip to Mars—someone actually did anyway. Burma-Shave obviously couldn't fulfill the promise this time, but they did provide the "winner" a free trip to Moers, Germany. Which just so happened to be pronounced similar to "Mars."
- In a similar case in the 1990s, Pepsi had run TV ads advertising their latest promotion in which customers could accumulate "Pepsi points" from bottle caps and redeem them for various merchandise. The TV ads ended with a kid landing a AV-8 Harrier II jump jet in a school parking lot claiming you needed 7,000,000 points (most merchandise was in the 15-500 range). One person seeing the ad, managed to collect the required amount (in actuality he collected the minimum number of points and sent a certified check for the rest at $.10 a point, which the contest rules allowed) and attempted to claim the fighter jet. Despite this obviously being a joke, the contestant sued to enforce the offer. The judge ruled the advertisement was obviously a joke, noting, among other things, that the Department of Defense would never allow it to begin with. He attempted an appeal, which was immediately dismissed.
- Christopher Columbus promised a reward of 10,000 silver coins to first member of his crew who spotted land. But when crewman Rodrigo de Triana did so, Columbus got out of honoring his claim by stating that he had already spotted land in the form of a flickering light the previous night, and thus he was the technical winner, while Triana had only confirmed the sighting.
- Burrell Smith (who designed the hardware for the original Macintosh) would often promise to be your best friend in order to get you to do something. This relationship, however, only lasts a few milliseconds.
- Although the exact amount is disputed, Thomas Edison reportedly promised $10-50,000 ($1.1 million today) to anyone who could solve the crippling inefficiencies in his prototype automobile motors and electrical generators. When Nikola Tesla solved them both, Edison refused to honor his agreement (in what can only be described as a dick move, Edison told Tesla that he didn't understand "American humor").
- Jodee Berry, a former Hooters waitress in Panama City, Florida, won a contest for most beer sales held by her boss, who announced that the grand prize was a new Toyota. On the day of the presentation, she was blindfolded and led to the restaurant's parking lot to receive her prize...which turned out to be a Toy Yoda! She quit immediately and won an undisclosed settlement against Gulf Coast Wings, Hooters parent company, a year later. Part of the settlement included a Toyota car of her choice.
- In a similar case, a radio DJ announced a contest with a prize of 100 Grand(which turned out to be the candy bar of the same name).
- Swedish-Finnish journalist, writer and talk-show host Mark Levengood once said this happened to him. His mother told him that if he did not start smoking before his 18th birthday, she would pay for his drivers license. When he turned 18 and asked for his reward, his mother lit another of her cigarettes and told him she had never planned to pay his driving lessons. "The important thing was that you did not start smoking, and it did succeed, didn't it?"
- A similar arrangement led to the famous case Hamer v. Sidway. William Story promised his nephew, William Story II, $5,000 (nearly $125,000 in 2012 dollars) if he refused to smoke, drink, swear, or play billiards until he was 21. The younger Story did this. The uncle declared that he'd be more comfortable holding onto the money for the nephew until some time after the nephew turned 21, and that the money would accrue interest between when the nephew turned 21 and when it was transferred. The uncle died without making any payment; in the meantime, the younger Story transferred his rights to the money to his wife, who transferred it to Louisa Hamer. The elder Story's estate refused to pay, so Hamer sued the executor of the estate, Franklin Sidway. The New York Court of Appeals unanimously sided with Hamer, and first-year law students for the last hundred years have learned about it to clarify the concept of consideration in contract law and explore the mechanics of unilateral contracts.
- Newman v. Schiff. Tax-avoidance charlatan Irwin Schiff appeared on CBS News, and offered to pay $100,000 to anyone who could identify the section of the United States Code requiring citizens to pay income tax. When a lawyer named John Newman called in with the correct answer, Schiff refused to pay. A judge affirmed Newman's answer, but since he didn't call during the time specified by Schiff, Schiff did not have to pay.
- During the Warring States Period of Ancient China, Qin advisor/strategist Zhang Yi promised King Huai of Chu 600 square miles of land if the latter breaks up his alliance with the State of Qi. When the king does that, Zhang Yi told him that he'd only get 6 square miles of land instead; this prompted Chu to attack Qin but without their alliance with Qi, who decided to aid Qin in retaliation of Chu's "betrayal", led to their defeat.
- During WWII, the Nazis made a propaganda film to trick the opposition into rejecting the reality of Nazi death camps. They dressed up the concentration camp/ghetto, Theresienstadt (located in what is now the Czech Republic), to look like a pleasant little settlement, with phony mock-ups of quaint store-fronts & cafes and forced the prisoners to pretend to be happy & entertained. They enlisted the film making know-how of professional actor & director, Kurt Gerron...a Jew who was a prisoner, there. The Nazis promised Gerron that he would be spared if he did this project. Upon completion, however, Gerron, along with with most who appeared in the film, were shipped off to Auschwitz to their deaths.
- The term Potemkin village, used to describe any literal or figurative construct that is entirely fake, was an early form of the trope. During the reign of Catherine the Great of Russia, large portions of what is now the Ukraine and Crimea had been recently conquered from the Ottoman Turks. When a new war was due to break out, Catherine and her court, along with several foreign ambassadors, made a tour of the region to show how impressive Russian rule was. As the territory had been ravaged by war, the governor of the region (and Catherine's lover) Grigory Potemkin had mobile villages set up along the route, which gave the impression of prosperous and happy settlements. As Catherine's barge continued down the river, Potemkin would send his men down to the next spot to set up a new model village.