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Training "Accident"

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The character or characters are undergoing some special training, usually military in nature. During a critical evaluation or test (often the "final exam" for the program they are in) something Goes Horribly Wrong, and they find themselves alone and in hostile territory (or a disaster situation). Without their instructor(s) or any hope of help from their command structure, they must fight or finagle their way to a point where they can be rescued. When they make it, they discover that the entire experience — complete with the accident that set the disaster in motion — was the exam, planned and staged completely in order to see what their response would be to a real crisis or combat situation. Sometimes it's intended to weed out the unfit members of the class as well.

There are non-military variations, including all manner of emergencies for forest rangers, paramedics, firefighters and the like. This gambit requires a cold-blooded commander, or the ability to whisk an injured student out of danger without alerting the remaining testees.

A type of False Crucible. The civvie version is The Game Never Stopped.

Contrast Things Get Real. Do not confuse with Hunting "Accident", where a murder is planned during a hunt.

Sometimes incorporates a Secret Test of Character. May result in the instructors deciding it was a Career-Building Blunder.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • They Were Eleven: The vine-sickness was not part of the test. It happened only because an explosive charge that the crew needed to disable at the beginning of the test went off and knocked the ship out of orbit. The ship then got close enough to the sun for the vines to start growing again.
  • Saiyuki Ibun uses this, although they work it out fairly quickly

    Comic Books 
  • This is the basis of the first few issues of Wildguard, where the hopefuls for a superhero reality show are abducted by aliens, leaving only the latecomers and the few who managed to evade capture to save them. Not coincidentally, all of the people who eventually made the team were chosen from that rescue party (unless you don't count Red Rover, the only hero to escape unaided).

  • The Recruit had a scene where Colin Farrell's character is captured by terrorists and tortured for three days. After he breaks, it's revealed that it was a training exercise, and the rest of the class had been watching the whole thing through one-way glass. In a rather twisted version of this, the lesson wasn't how to resist torture, but rather that everyone breaks.
  • In Enemy of the State, the NSA boss (Jon Voight) convinces his employees to chase, torment, and generally abuse the hell out of Will Smith's character because they believe it's a training exercise in domestic terrorism.
  • In Basic, Sergeant West likes to weaponize this trope. He tells the recruits for his elite Army Ranger training how many training accidents his base averages a year, and warns them that anyone who crosses him or does not quit if he finds them unworthy of graduating will suffer a "training accident" as well. When West goes missing along with most of the trainees he brought with him on a training exercise, it's theorized that one or more of the soldier arranged for West to be the one who has an "accident" instead. The movie then focuses on a pair of investigators trying to get the truth from the only two soldiers confirmed to have survived, who are telling very different (and frequently changing) versions of what happened.
    West: Those of you I find lacking will quit. And those of you who refuse to quit will have a training accident. This base suffers three training accidents a year. Unfortunate accidents that I will not hesitate to repeat if you cross me!
  • The film Tropic Thunder builds its plot around a parody / subversion of this. The team of protagonists, actors in a war movie filmed on-location, are abandoned but become convinced the director has embedded them in a training accident in order to elicit better performances from them.
  • xXx has it both ways. Vin Diesel's character wakes up in a diner which is immediately the scene of an attempted armed robbery that turns out to be a fake in order to test him. He is then thrown out the back of a plane into the middle of a drug war, and gets hung from a rafter and threatened with a machete before realising that this bit is NOT a test, or, as he later finds out, that it's not fake, but it IS a test. What tipped him off was when he realized that the "fake" blood on the machete didn't smell so fake.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers' hardass commanding officer Colonel Philips is explaining to Erskine that Rogers is unfit (literally) and doesn't have what it takes to be a Super-Soldier, while pointing out another, more physically robust recruit that Erskine denounces as a "bully." Philips tries to prove his point by tossing a dummy grenade into the middle of their exercises which causes every other recruit except Rogers to dive for cover while the future hero throws himself on the grenade. Philips is forced to concede that Rogers has the moral character of a true soldier but...
    Philips: (to a smug Erskine) He's still skinny!
  • In Iron Man, when discovered in a no-fly zone over the Middle East, Stark gets chased by a couple of Air Force jets, since they have no idea who he is. After being shaken off the belly of one jet, he goes through the wing of the second one, requiring the pilot to eject. After saving the pilot whose parachute didn't open, Stark talks to his friend Rhodey and says to chalk it up to a "training accident," since it's a conveniently-muddled excuse.

  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • The X-Wing book Wraith Squadron has a mission like this, when the fighter pilots come under attack as soon as they leave their hangar. Subverted in that the characters realize instantly that this must be part of the test, because they are fully aware that the whole thing is a simulation, and one of the pilots is quite miffed that they went to the trouble to give him specific objectives, then immediately rendered them pointless.
    • Elsewhere in the EU, an anthology called Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina has an AT-AT walker pilot-in-training finally given the chance to use the real thing, instead of just another highly realistic simulator run. It's mentioned that only the very best pilots actually get to graduate as AT-AT pilots, and he's at the top of his class. He's got a superior standing by just in case, but the superior suddenly disappears when the trainee's sensors pick up on approaching airspeeders. The trainee makes the walker drop to its knees and then picks off the attackers. After that, the viewports dim, the superior comes back, and the trainee realizes that this was a test. Later the head Imperial in charge of walkers who was in The Empire Strikes Back congratulates him and asks why he made his AT-AT kneel. The trainee says that he's figured out that the legs and bellies of a walker are vulnerable to the cannons mounted on airspeeders and snubfighters. The head Imperial freezes up; he desperately does not want anyone to know that there are weaknesses like that in his walkers. Then the trainee gets shunted into the stormtrooper corps, and he's the sandtrooper who said "Look sir, droids!" in A New Hope.
  • Star Trek Starfleet Academy teen series:
    • In one book, Geordi Laforge is a cadet on a ship with a whole class and given orders to remain in one room until further notice. Suddenly, the ship shakes, some explosion is heard and a Red Alert is called. Most of the cadets rush out to help the crew, but Geordi hesitates considering he sees nothing amiss out of a window. At the end, the alert is canceled and the departed cadets are returned to the room and reamed out by the instructor for flunking a test. As it turns out, the experience was a simulation to see if the cadets would obey their orders (defying them in a real situation due to panic would create a distraction to the ship's trained crew). As it is, Geordi is one of only a few cadets who obeyed those orders.
    • To contrast, at another point in the series passing the test requires the cadet to leave the room despite being ordered to remain- the difference being that in that case, there was a good reason to leave the room
    • In the first book of the series, Worf goes through one of these during a field trip. The station they are on begins to break down and will be destroyed, resulting in all of their deaths. Just before the big explosion, it's revealed the whole thing is in a holodeck. The idea was to test their ability to work as a team and face danger.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's juvenile novel Tunnel in the Sky. The "mission", a final exam for a survival training course, is supposed to take three to five days. Eventually it becomes obvious that there's been some kind of horrible mistake, but for the initial week or so the characters theorize that this may just be more of the test.
  • In Space Cadet a rocketship explodes on takeoff and it's suggested by the Jerkass character that it was a fake meant to shake up the recruits. It's not though.
  • Subverted in Tanya Huff's The Heart of Valor. The training planet Crucible is supposed to work this way, but the tests turn out to be genuinely sabotaged.
  • A borderline example is in the Codex Alera book Furies of Calderon: Amara's final exam is to successfully infiltrate a rebel camp with her mentor, Fidelias, to discover the identity of the traitor; unfortunately Fidelias is a traitor and turns her in. Fortunately she escapes and when she talks to the First Lord, she finds out that the First Lord suspected Fidelias was a traitor and the test was mainly to be sure of that (though he also wanted the intelligence) and to see if she would make it through without dying or turning traitor.
  • In the Arthur C. Clarke juvenile novel Islands in the Sky an instructor aboard a space station is demonstrating the use of a repair patch to seal a leak. Just as he completes the explanation, the station is struck by a meteorite and everybody gets in everybody else's way until somebody takes charge and applies the patch. Except for one student, who remains quietly in his seat, and explains afterward that the chances of the station actually being struck were minimal. The chances of it happening just as the instructor had finished speaking were so near zero that it had to be a set-up. This did not make him any more popular with the rest of the class.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, the Barrayarran Imperial Academy pulls these regularly, to the point where all trainees have to wear armbands signifying how many times they've been 'killed' or 'wounded' in said exercises. Miles went the longest in his year before receiving any armbands, which led to his instructors trying extra hard to get him - and smarter cadets avoiding being partnered with him because they figured this out.
  • Battle Tech: The second Blood of Kerensky novel features the heads of the Inner Sphere's Successor States invited to the private world of the Wolf's Dragoon's mercenary unit, who wants to teach them to work together to overcome the danger of the invading Clans. The heirs to the Successor States are all to be trained together as a unit, to both learn to take advantage of the Clans' weaknesses and overcome the generations of bad blood between the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere. Their training officer leaves the room, and suddenly the heirs smell the distinctive scent of a high-tech plastic explosive. They start working together to figure out how best to disarm the device. . . and while Kai Allard-Liao is frantically carving away the explosive with nylon string, Victor Steiner-Davion, Hohiro Kurita, and Sun-Tzu Liao get into a fistfight. Of course, it was a test, and the heirs are chewed out by their training officer, who states that it will take more than "one soldier with his eyes on the goal" to win this war. . . and shamed by Hanse Davion (Victor's father) and Theodore Kurita (Hohiro's father) apologizing to each other for their sons' abhorrent behavior. Since the whole point of getting the young heirs together was the hope that the old hatreds hadn't taken root in them as fully as it had in their parents. . .

    Live Action TV 
  • Spooks did this in the VX episode, which ended up with the exercise stopping just as Tom Quinn shot the visiting assessor (fortunately it was a blank). At the end of the episode, a real alert flashed up...
  • Stargate SG-1: "Proving Ground"; twists things a step further by staging a second Training Accident at the reveal of the first one.
    • This is an interesting example, because it turns out at the end that one member of the team being trained was actually already graduated and in on the plot.
    • In another episode, this happens as an actual accident. A group of Jaffa are being trained by Apophis to infiltrate the SGC. They get their training weapons mixed up with real ones, and when they go on another exercise, one of them is badly injured by a real gun. The recruits assume that means they're ready. Fortunately, the plot is averted.
    • Also inverted in the episode "Avatar." The audience don't know it's a training simulation at first, but it is revealed about two minutes into the episode. All the characters are completely aware of the true scenario from the start. During the training scenario, things go wrong for real and Teal'c nearly dies. Daniel deliberately puts himself at risk as well to help solve the problem, but the two of them are in very real danger until the scenario ends.
  • Star Trek: Discovery: Subverted in the episode "All Is Possible", in which Tilly is leading a group of Starfleet Academy cadets on what is meant to be a routine survey mission. When their spaceship crashes on an inhospitable moon, killing the pilot, the cadets immediately suspect that it's a fake-out. Tilly quickly convinces them that they are all in very real danger.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • In the episode "Coming of Age", Wesley is about to take the psychological portion of his Starfleet Academy entrance exam when he hears explosions, alarms, and someone calling for help. He follows the sounds to a room full of steam, where two men are about to be trapped and killed by an explosion. One of them is injured and unconscious, while the other is not seriously injured, but frozen with panic. Wesley drags the unconscious man outside and finds Tac Officer Chang, who's in charge of the entrance exam, waiting right by the door. When the man he rescued gets up and walks away, and the door opens to reveal the other man unharmed, Wesley realizes the whole scenario was the psych test. (This was especially cruel as the staged incident had similarities to the actual death of Wesley's father.)
  • The Unit does this repeatedly in a Flash Back in Season 2, Episode 8 "Natural Selection". It climaxes when Bob Brown is put in the spotlight for letting another Ranger in Selection (for the Unit) die through negligence and selfishness. Just kidding! He was all right the whole time. It did this previously in Season 1, Episode 2, where SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) training turns from drill to seriously-life-threatening real life at the command of a sociopathic psychologist employed by the DoD, although no one doubted after a short time that it was all calculated.
    • It pulls it again in Season 4, when a new member joins (a civilian apparently dies during a black training mission. This sort of thing appears to be SOP.
  • Babylon 5: In one episode Lennier and another Ranger trainee are (seemingly) accidentally left behind by their White Star in their fighters, and to make matters worse their air supply wasn't filled fully. Lennier finds the correct solution (meditate to conserve oxygen until the White Star returns), but the other recruit panics and runs. He's Driven to Suicide afterwards, but Lennier saves his life, and their CO reassigns him to a Ranger recruitment office with the job of making sure recruits are joining the Rangers for the right reasons.
  • JAG: In "Force Recon", Harm is sent undercover as a Gunny to investigate a Marine captain who is suspected of exposing his recon marines to dangerous situations, such training in an area with live artillery shells hitting the ground.
  • In one sixth season episode of NCIS, the team was attempting to move explosives through air port security as a test- apparently. It was actually to smoke out The Mole.
    • In the Season 14 episode "Pandora's Box", Abby, doing a side job for a homeland security think tank, is sent to plant what she thinks is a fake bomb at a rock concert... and it turns out that it's real, resulting in her arrest. She's been set up
  • In Caprica, one episode revolves around a group of Soldiers of the One trainees having their shuttle hijacked by a rival group of fundamentalists who threaten to kill the trainees unless they denounce the One God and pledge themselves to the Colonial Gods, killing any trainee who does not convert. At the end, it is revealed that the whole thing was a test of loyalty and the hijackers were part of the Soldiers Of the One who staged the killings of the ones that stayed loyal to their cause. They proceed to execute the disloyal trainees for real.
  • Subverted in Season 3 of Killjoys, where three potential assistants for the team join Dutch and Davin on what seems to be a routine mission to reactivate a comms relay and get infected by a deadly pathogen. It turns out, after one of the recruits burns herself to death, that what they thought was a comms chip was a VR system and the test wasn't real, with Dutch and D'Avin in on it. Said recruit is dropped from the programme. The subversion being that she'd figured out the whole thing was a test by a variety of factors, most notably, D'Avin's complete failure to show any increased heart rate when faced with the possibility of Dutch dying. Dutch hires her as a result.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the pre-built quests in the base rulebook of Mutants & Masterminds is this. A bit of a subversion, though, in that the scenario is designed so that the players will always fail. The reveal occurs right when the world is about to be destroyed.

    Video Games 
  • Parodied in the game Band of Bugs, where, during the tutorial segment, you're supposedly under attack... but this has absolutely no effect on the rather routine training, except a few harmless explosions and a "real" enemy who's such a painfully obvious fake that the truth is apparent shortly before The Reveal.
  • While not part of the game itself, Metal Gear Solid 2's Dead Cell group, the antagonists/Foxhound stand-ins, were originally a government group that tested the preparedness of a facility for a terrorist attack in this fashion.
    • Actually The entire Big Shell part of the game WAS a training exercise. For Raiden. Admittedly, all the deaths were real and it was later subverted by Solidus and Ocelot, but the plan was to train Raiden to see if he could become another Snake.
      • And then subverted when that's what the Patriots told Ocelot, but it was actually a training exercise for their new S3 process (Ocelot thought it stood for Solid Snake Simulation, but it actually stands for Selection for Societal Sanity). They deliberately created a massive, impossible-to-ignore incident (in this case, crashing Arsenal Gear into midtown Manhattan) so that they could test whether or not they have good enough control of information to prevent people from freaking out. They then point out that because they control information, one individual soldier, no matter how good he might be, is of no consequence to them.
    • Snake also notes that hundreds of soldiers die each year in training accidents and looks down upon on the new generation of virtually trained soldiers who were never in actual danger.
  • Happens during Raz's training session with Sasha Nein in Psychonauts. Sasha offers Raz an implicit choice between safe-but-boring Level Grinding or a fast-and-dangerous Boss Battle, fully expecting him to do the latter. Then the boss goes totally out of control... Later, you learn that this was a bona fide training accident, as Sasha actually lost control until Raz rescued him. Cue "You passed, Rasputin. Now, Let Us Never Speak of This Again".
  • The Mechwarrior 4 tutorial mission ends with an announcement that a hostile Mech is attacking the base and the player is the only one available to stop him. The player asks whether this is the trope. The trainer assures him it is not.
  • We Who Are About to Die: A downplayed, Iron Age example. Joridius (one of the four patrons hosting the Gladiator Games) holds sway over the trainers in the city, and if you displease him enough by repeatedly snubbing his events he will ensure your trainers are extra-rough that week. This won't kill you (not by itself at least), but you will take a nasty HP hit that may need a doctor to fix.

    Real Life 
  • During World War II, the German U-boat service would arrange for some of the crew aboard a new boat on its shakedown cruise to stage an accident — sometimes without the knowledge of the officers.
    • On the other side, the British Naval training commandant, Adm. Gilbert O. Stephenson was famous for cooking up creative simulations for his cadets.
  • Tiger Teams, teams chosen to try and breach security of secure facilities without the knowledge of facility personnel, will sometimes use planned training exercises as cover to pull off their (non-violent) attacks to see how the security will react.
    • Likewise, the United States' Federal Aviation Administration's equivalent, "Red Teams," will do this to try and smuggle firearms or explosives past airport screeners.
      • The FAA and TSA are also known to test regional airports, although in different manners.
  • Some fire departments, when conducting normally routine fire drills in places such as schools, will intentionally add unexpected events to see how the staff react: for instance, secretly arranging to have some kids hide in the bathroom during an evacuation, to see whether the teachers notice and what they do.
    • Easier to stage is to have the "fire" occur in a place in the school that will cut off a disabled student (usually one with mobility issues) from Handicapped accessible exits, leaving the only viable exit to be the stairs.