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The Grovel

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"Please take me back! I'll never gripe about your mother's cooking again, I swear!"

Brian Clough: Don't make this difficult for me, Pete. You know why I'm here. I won't bloody grovel... Well, all right, I'm grovelling. I'm on me knees.
Peter Taylor: "I apologise, unreservedly, for being a twat."
Clough: I apologise for being a twat.
Taylor: "Unreservedly."
Clough: Unreservedly.
Taylor: "Because I can't do it without you."
Clough: Because I can't do it without you.
Taylor: "I'm nothing without you."
Clough: I'm nothing without you.
Taylor: "Please... please, baby, take me back."
Clough: Fuck off.

One character has hurt or betrayed another, usually their love interest. Perhaps their love learned that they only started dating because of The Bet, or perhaps the offender accuses the other of cheating. In any case, they are now in a Second-Act Breakup.

Eventually, however, the offender decides that they cannot live without their love interest or learns that they were horribly mistaken about them. But how to make it up to them? How to convince them to take you back? By groveling, an act of apology so sincere the love interest will have to forgive you. This may take the form of a long speech but occasionally circumstances call for something more drastic to prove they have really changed.

The offender is usually male and the forgiver usually female, but not always.

When done well, this trope provides drama and emotional catharsis for the audience. Debts have been repaid, sins have been forgiven, and the couple will now live Happily Ever After.

When done poorly, this trope can be seen as demeaning or emasculating the offender. The penalty is too harsh for the crime, and the apology is too extravagant for such a minor offense. On the other side of poorly done, this trope can make the forgiver appear weak. If reparations have not been made, a simple apology may be letting the offender off too easily. In real life, the Domestic Abuse cycle often consists of abuse — apology — abuse, which may imply that the abuse will continue.

This trope is common in Romance Novels, Breakup Songs, and Romantic Comedies. The Pose of Supplication may or may not be involved. See also Idiot Houdini. Romantic examples sometimes overlap with Fair-Weather Ex.

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  • A man is rehearsing his shameless groveling for when he asks his bank manager for a loan. However. his friend tells him that the advertised loan company will make all this unnecessary. The man proceeds to grovel to his friend in gratitude, much to his embarrassment.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Several times in Hayate the Combat Butler, Hayate thinks he has done something to make Hinagiku angry with him and he invokes this trope in an attempt to smooth things over. This usually surprises her, both because he hasn't done anything of the sort and she would have forgiven him instantly anyway.
    • Taken even further when he actually begins to grovel for something that actually does anger her, along with the fact that he'd even tried to hide it, but then she makes a statement that confuses him, and then helps him correct the mistake.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes:
    • The Free Planets Alliance is full of these with the government and military. One being Admiral Rockwell, who kneels to Reinhard after he executes Chairmen Rebello in hopes of getting into the Kaiser’s good graces. Too bad for him, the Kaiser has none of that and has him immediately executed.

    Comic Books 
  • The Ultimates: Turned back into a human, and unable to stand up, Bruce Banner asked the Ultimates not to hurt him, repeating his nonsense about giving the team a foe to fight. He got a well-deserved kick in the face.


    Film — Animated 
  • Wreck-It Ralph: A non-romantic version. After he broke her heart to save her and the subsequent Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure, Ralph eventually comes to his senses and sincerely apologizes to Vanellope about him being such a dickhead and destroying her kart.
  • Judy Hopps has an epic tearjerker in Zootopia when she seeks out Nick's help after badly hurting Nick's feelings with her press conference comments. She says she doesn't expect him to forgive her, but it's clear through her emotional breakdown that she desperately wants him to.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In When Harry Met Sally..., Harry tries to woo Sally back by leaving a barrage of apologetic messages on her answering machines. One of these includes an offer to do "The Traditional Christmas Grovel", as if to foreshadow his closing speech at the New Year's Party.
  • The Truth About Cats & Dogs ends with a rare example of the female lead grovelling to her male Love Interest.
  • In Never Been Kissed, Josie poses as a high school student and falls in love with her teacher Sam. When it's revealed that she's actually a 25-year-old investigative reporter, she prints an apology in her paper and tells him to meet her at the baseball stadium if she accepts. Then she waits there with the whole town watching to see if she'll be accepted or rejected.
  • In 10 Things I Hate About You, after getting Kat so royally pissed off at him that she won't speak to him, Patrick is instructed to "sacrifice yourself on the altar of dignity and even the score." Patrick opts for a marching-band-assisted rendition of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" in the middle of her soccer practice which nets him detention. However, she forgives him and helps him get out of detention.
  • The Will Smith vehicle Hitch has a particularly egregious example, following his love interest flipping her lid and publically breaking up with him due to completely false information supplied by a Smug Snake whose reputation she was well aware of. After refusing to take her back after she later comes by to apologise, the climax becomes him chasing the woman to apologise for not accepting her apology.
    • Doubly egregious, as the love interest had decided to ruin his reputation in retribution for the lies of said Smug Snake. For which she never apologizes. Why he wants to reunite with her by the end of the movie is a question that begs scrutiny.
  • In The Blues Brothers, Jake Blues delivers one of these (in the form of a Hurricane of Excuses) to the fiancée he left at the altar. She forgives him and they kiss passionately — only for him to then drop her in the mud and run off again.
  • In When Darkness Falls, after abusing his wife again, Håkan comes back home one day later and pleads Carina to forgive him because he can't live without her. He promises to change but only one day later he abuses her even worse.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: The Lord cannot stand people groveling. Or apologizing.
  • Referenced in Rogue One by a particularly grouchy Darth Vader. He gets snarky when Director Krennic starts offering one too many apologies.
    Vader: You were not summoned here to grovel, Director Krennic.
  • In Stripes, John Winger's girlfriend gets fed up with his lack of direction or growth in his life, especially since he just quit his job as a cab driver. As she gets her stuff together, Winger offers several explanations and excuses to get her to stay, eventually pulling on her coat and crawling on the floor as she leaves.
    Winger: Who can grow more than me? Talk about massive potential for growth...I am the little acorn that becomes the oak! You can't go! All the plants are gonna die!
  • I Shot Andy Warhol: Paul Morrissey falls down and pleads for his life after Valerie goes on her shooting spree. In other contexts, he could look like a Dirty Coward, but the film is a realistic account of true events and he truly has no other chance to survive.
  • Blue Is the Warmest Color: The café scene. Adèle unashamedly begs Emma to be with her again. It doesn't work. Poor Adèle.

  • Animorphs: After Cassie and Marco are captured by the Helmacrons (microscopic aliens with egos the size of planets), they are brought to their captain, who is dead (a live captain can make mistakes, a dead one never will) and are ordered to grovel. When asking for clarification, they're told to grovel in the manner their people are accustomed to. Marco, of course, lies down on his back with his arms behind his head like he's at the beach and goes to town.
    Marco: O mighty Helmacron dead guy, we grovel like a video game addict trapped in an arcade without a quarter, that's how much we grovel. You would not believe the depths of our grovelry! We grovel like a guy with a large order of fries and the only saltshaker is at the table of the school bully.
  • Betsy the Vampire Queen: When Betsy turns temporarily evil in Undead and Unappreciated, she attacks her friends. Afterward she tries to grovel but she gets sidetracked into an argument over how much of the possession was her fault.
    Betsy: Hmm, my groveling wasn't going quite the way I planned.
  • The Guardians: In Demon Blood, Deacon kneels before Rosalie and offers her his services and anything he owns if she will just give him a second chance to prove his worth to her. The fact that he's willing to offer convinces Rosalie he's changed.
  • The Otherworld: In Haunted, Kristof issues Eve an ultimatum: stop trying to communicate with the living or he'll leave her because he can't be with someone who's slowly destroying herself like that. He catches her red-handed and sadly walks away. Later Eve realizes she's thrown away the one good thing in her life in pursuit of an unreachable goal. She goes to him with a simple yet sincere, "I fucked up."
  • Twice in The Parasol Protectorate.
    • In Soulless, Lord Maccon treats Miss Tarabotti in a way that is considered a sign of high respect and romantic interest in his native culture, but in the culture they're both currently living in it's the height of rudeness.
      Professor Lyall: You have behaved, I would go so far as to say, badly. I suggest a well-crafted apology and an extended session of abject groveling.
      Lord Maccon: I am not a groveler!
      Lyall: It is possible to learn many new and interesting skills in one lifetime.
      Maccon: [after consideration] Grovel, you say?
      Lyall: Grovel, my lord.
    • In Blameless, after Lord Maccon publicly accuses Alexia of cheating on him, he prints a retraction and apology in the newspaper.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In A Civil Campaign, Miles offered Ekaterin her dream job just to keep her close to him. When she learns the truth, she runs away and he sets out to write the best damn apology letter ever, sealed in his own blood. Nothing like a determinator bent on groveling better than anyone else has ever groveled. Eleven drafts! (One of them was in verse.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Boy Meets World: Shawn's strategy for getting Angela back after breaking up with her in freshman year.
  • Cybervillage:
    • Robogozin is forced to apologize to Nikolay's car after insulting it.
    • Nadya grovels before her robots to make them stay.
  • In Drake & Josh, Drake gives one to Josh after realizing how horrible his life is without Josh in it (Josh had spent the entire episode being extremely emotionally distant from Drake after getting fed up with the latter's lack of respect for him). He breaks down crying after accidentally giving himself a chemical injury and being forced to take an emergency shower, before dejectedly storming out of the room.
  • Ever since Hugh Grant's dalliance with Divine Brown, celebrity groveling has been a huge draw for daytime and late-night talk shows. In fact, it's probably a big explanation for why the format still exists.
    Cracked: Remember when I was in Harry Potter? Remember how magical that was?
    • Ellen DeGeneres has officially become the Captain of the S.S. Damage Control, because it seems like famous types are always "clarifying" stuff for us on her show.
  • In Friends, Ross does this in one final attempt to stop Rachel from breaking up with him for his mistakes. However, he is unsuccessful.
  • In season 2 of Good Omens (2019), Crowley performs the "I was wrong" dance for Aziraphale after they had a fight.
    • In season one, he also apologised a lot in order to get back together with Aziraphale after the bandstand breakup scene.
    • Apparently, Aziraphale did the dance in 1650, in 1793, and in 1941.
  • My Name Is Earl:
    • Earl's friend/cellmate Frank gets dumped by his girlfriend Billie over a misunderstanding. Frank is depressed to the point of attempting suicide, so Earl tries to help them get back together. Frank posts a nude picture of himself on a billboard, and Billie sees that Frank is willing to do anything for her and agrees to give him another chance. It doesn't last too long because Earl sees that Frank had corrupted Billie and caused her to give up her dreams of being a nurse, and convinces Frank to gently break up with her.
    • Earlier, Earl had a golfer on his list that he caused to become obsessed with golf, which caused the golfer to lose his girlfriend. They get the golfer to go to his ex's apartment, and because of the way his golf clubs were arranged as he was burning them, Earl and the golfer got Mistaken for Racist three times.
  • Frank Burns on M*A*S*H whenever he fouled up with Margaret. And especially after she dumped him to get engaged to Penobscott.

  • "Love You Better" by LL Cool J is about this. In the Music Video, L.L. has a serious girlfriend, and while they're on a date, another girl puts the moves on him...and of course the girlfriend witnesses this. She throws the diamond necklace he gave her back at him, and some time later is moping around in her own bedroom. L.L. rides up in a Cool Car with roses, and she instantly falls back in love with him.
  • Taylor Swift:
    • "Back to December" from Speak Now is a rare female-groveling-to-male variant, with the narrator asking her ex-boyfriend to get back together. In the process, she apologizes profusely for hurting him, saying the breakup was 100% her fault and he didn't deserve the way she treated him. She also admits she has no right to expect him to take her back and says she understands if he won't, but she loves him too much to not at least try. It's ambiguous whether the grovel works.
    • "betty" from folklore (2020) is about a guy named James groveling to the titular Betty about cheating on her. He says that his fling wasn't anything serious, he wants her back, and he's sorry for what he did to her. Like "Back to December," it's ambiguous whether or not Betty takes him back, but other songs on the album that are connected imply that she does.

    Professional Wrestling 

  • In the final scene of Critic's Choice by Ira Levin, Parker successfully persuades Angela to stay with him rather than run off with Dion with a good bit of groveling plus some admitted "unpleasantness." Over Ivy's objection that he doesn't owe her an apology, he apologizes for everything he did except for reviewing her play, and warns her that he will never again allow her to interfere with his drama reviews.

    Visual Novels 
  • Magical Diary has Damien pull some massive grovelling, both in-person and via letters, after the Villainous BSoD that results from his attempt to kill you. Not that this affects how your friends will react if they find out that you've forgiven him, of course.
  • In War: 13th Day, Ambrosia has to break up with Arsenik to keep him safe. His first thought is that it's his fault.
    Arsenik: Please, Miss Ambrosia. Do you want to see me beg? Because I will from upon my knees –

    Web Animation 
  • Kanon's RomCom Mangas: Suzuka showed up at Yuto's doorstep one last time and begged him to take her back after her new boyfriend dumped her for another girl. However, Yuto is having none of it and tells her off.
  • Refreshing Stories: In Hiroshi's episodes, the Girl of the Week may beg him for forgiveness whenever he catches her cheating, even tearing up to this effect. However, Hiroshi won't have any of her hogwash and punish her nonetheless.
  • RomCom Manga Chan: In stories where Kent's previous girlfriend dumps him, said girlfriend will eventually come back to Kent and beg him to take her back, only to be told off by either Kent or Mary.
    • Reiko broke up with Subaru and begged Kent to take her back when she found out he was dating popular girl Mary Toyota.
    • Chihiro waited at the doorstep of Mary and Kent's house to beg the latter to marry her since she sank into debt after losing money in a foreign exchange trade and begged him a million yen to pay the traders back.

  • Check, Please! has an implied version. When Kent asks Jack to forgive him and play for the Aces with him, even stating he misses him, but Jack refuses. Whether it was meant as romantic or not is up to interpretation.
  • Referenced in the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic "The Graphvella," with a series of figures showing the integrity of romantic relationships before and after "man humiliates self in charming and expensive manner".

    Western Animation 
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends has Bloo give one of these to Mac when he discovers that Bloo has been sneaking off to play at Barry Bling's house. It all works out, especially when it's revealed that Barry is Berry.
  • The aptly named Grovel, robot servant to the alien Quark on Danger Mouse, goes to his hands and knees going "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" every time his name is called.

    Real Life 
  • During the run-up to England's 1976 Cricket Test series against the West Indies, English captain Tony Greig had the following to say:
    "You must remember that the West Indians, these guys, if they get on top are magnificent cricketers. But if they're down, they grovel, and I intend, with the help of Closeynote  and a few others, to make them grovel."
The comment incensed the West Indians, who proceeded to annihilate England in the series. West Indies captain Clive Lloyd commented:
"The word 'grovel' is one guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of any black man. The fact they were used by a white South African made it even worse. We were angry and West Indians everywhere were angry. We resolved to show him and everyone else that the days for grovelling were over."