The dead have risen. Aliens are invading. The Plague is wreaking havoc. An experiment at a hidden lab has Gone Horribly Wrong. A plane has crashed on an deserted island. Whatever the nature and scope of the scenario, disaster has struck, and people are dying. A group of survivors has banded together in an attempt to survive by gathering supplies, fighting back, and building shelter.
But one among them says: "Why are we bothering to do all this work? The military/government/company's private security force will be here any moment to save us all! We should just sit tight and relax."
This survivor is waiting for rescue, often in the form of The Cavalry arriving to take care of the situation for them, or wants the group to seek safety at the closest location potential rescue would be located. This can work out in a few ways. Obviously, The Cavalry could arrive and save the survivors from certain doom, potentially leading to a Just in Time + Big Damn Heroes moment if successful.
...But then, we wouldn't have enough of a plot. Plus, The Complainer Is Always Wrong, right? The party must go on an adventure, and if the complainer can't be convinced to come along, he'll become a Doomed Defeatist.
But maybe the military has been sent there to "contain" the situation, with orders to leave no survivors or witnesses, just in case. When they arrive, expect this survivor to be the first to greet them... and the first to die when the military begins carrying out their orders. Or the cavalry could sill be good, but arrive after the survivor has starved/been killed.
Alternatively, the disaster is so bad that whoever would function as The Cavalry has already been defeated or scattered, with society completely falling apart. The survivors insisting on waiting for rescue will slowly lose all hope before entering a Heroic B.S.O.D. or being Driven to Suicide. Or perhaps they will become more insistent that help will arrive, and demand the group do irrational or dangerous things to better their chances of being found despite how obvious it is rescue will never come. Sometimes they will realize how foolish they have been waiting for help, and begin working harder than ever before to help the group.
Related to Holding Out for a Hero.
- In The Walking Dead, Shane insists on the group staying next to Atlanta so the military will be able to easily find them, even as winter begins to set in and food becomes scarce. This contributes to his Sanity Slippage as the others begin blaming him for keeping them there instead of trying to find a safer location.
- Otis likewise expects the military to be able to protect people, and was planning on leaving for Atlanta before learning how bad things were there.
- Subverted in Aliens. After the drop ship is destroyed Ripley tries to find out if this tactic has a chance of working.
Ripley: How long after we're declared overdue can we expect a rescue?Hicks: Seventeen days.Hudson: Seventeen days? Hey man, I don't wanna rain on your parade, but we're not gonna last seventeen hours!
- Resident Evil. The group is trapped in a room by the zombies.
Spence: So we wait. If someone doesn't hear from you, they'll send backup or something. Right? What? What's wrong?Rain Ocampo: We don't have much time. You know those blast doors we passed on the way in from the mansion? They seal shut in just under an hour. If we're not out of here by then, we're not getting out.Spence: What are you talking about? They can't just bury us alive down here.Rain Ocampo: Containing the incident is the only fail-safe plan they had against possible contamination.
- The Second Movie has S.T.A.R.S. member Peyton insisting that the survivors should find the most fortified building possible and hunker down to wait for rescue, but Alice shoots it down by mentioning that what Umbrella Corporation will do in response to the outbreak is to perform a ''total sterilization" of the city.
- Subverted (very tragically) in The Mist- it turns out the army DID come to the rescue... after the protagonist had already killed his family to spare them being eaten alive by the mist's monsters.
- Subverted at the end of Shaun of the Dead. The Army does come, and the survivors get a Happy Ending.
- Old joke/parable:
A man is sitting on his porch as flood waters rise. A woman floats by in a boat, asking if the man needs help. "No, thank you," says the man, "I'm trusting in the Lord." The waters rise higher, sending the man upstairs. A raft full of people floats by his second story window. "Get in," they say, "there's plenty of room." "No thanks," says the man, "I'm trusting in the Lord." The flood waters keep rising, pushing the man up to the roof. A helicopter swoops in, lowering its ladder for the man. "Thanks anyway," shouts the man, "I'm trusting in the Lord." Finally, the man is swept away in the torrent and drowns. At the gates of Heaven, the man asks God, "Why didn't you save me?" "What do you mean?" replies God, "I sent two boats and a helicopter."
- In Lord of the Flies, the kids end up divided between those who want to wait for the military and those who want to turn into crazy savages.
- The Poseidon Adventure has a group that wants to stay with the purser and wait for help they think will come. They all die, while only the group of main characters has any that actually make it.
- In Veronica Roth's Insurgent, Four tells Tris this.
- Jam has Don as a survivor who strongly believes this. Don continually insists that the crisis the titular Jam has caused is not the end of civilization as we know it and any long-term post-apocalyptic planning is ridiculous. Interestingly this mentality actually spurs him into action: sticking with the Americans agents, as he believes they will be rescued first, and attempting to retrieve his build as it would be needed in a non-post-apocalyptic world. In the end, Don turns out to be entirely right. The effect of the Jam turns out to only have regional consequences; the rest of the world is perfectly fine and eventually a rescue party is send out.
- A somewhat downplayed example is the primary source of conflict in the first third of The Day of the Triffids. There are two notable groups of survivors of the blindness plague; one is trying desperately to keep those blinded alive until some official relief effort arrives, while another has deduced that there's not going to be one and that they need to get the hell out of London while they still can. A second, outright deadly plague renders the question academic after a few weeks, but the second group were quite right.
- This actually works in First Salik War. Though a lot of the people waiting are killed, five of them are rescued. Lucky for four of them they listened to the crazy guy insisting the Sh'nai prophecies said rescue would come. Extra lucky for all five that the Sh'nai faith is based on the writings of an actual clairvoyant (see Theirs Not to Reason Why). Not so lucky for the rest of the crew that got eaten alive to keep their captors off the prophecied five while The Cavalry was on its way.
- In The Walking Dead, Shane is more proactive about finding the military, wanting to head to Fort Benning instead of waiting for the military to come to them. This is after he had seen the military executing possibly infected civilians at the hospital in Cynthiana.
- Season 1 of Lost has a sub-plot where Jack insists that the survivors don't need to make a life on the island, they just need to wait for rescue. Measures such as keeping a signal fire going, trying to give a radio signal, and staying on the beach are implemented. In the end, of course, no one ever rescues them and weirdness ensues.
- Call of Cthulhu supplement Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, adventure "The Warren". The PCs take almost an hour to remove enough rubble to enter one room. When they do they find the skeleton of a man sitting at a table and a piece of paper which is an Apocalyptic Log of what happened to him - he was trapped inside the room when a disaster occurred. It ends "I am sitting now waiting for rescue. It has been eight hours." That Was the Last Entry.
- In Dead Island, John Sinamoi and the survivors he leads at the lifeguard station are simply waiting for the military to arrive instead of trying to find a way off of the island. This led to some survivors, led by James Stein, to break off from the group and go to the lighthouse, where they search for an alternative way off the island.
- In Left 4 Dead, the survivors aren't actively searching for the military, but are happy to find a military evacuation point. Unfortunately for them, the soldiers are debating if they should kill them since they are carriers. This causes them to avoid anything to do with the military from there on out.
- In Left 4 Dead 2, the military is much more sinister, killing hundreds of people to prevent the spread of the infection. The new group of survivors don't realize this until they reach New Orleans, where they had been hoping to find safety.
- In The Walking Dead, Kenny expects the government and national guard to take care of the zombies within a matter of days. He quickly realizes that is not going to happen.
- The Andes Tragedy is a Double Subversion. There the survivors decided to wait for rescue at the crash site, but heard over the radio that the search was called off. After being forced to cannibalism of the dead bodies they sent two people to look for rescue. They found it.
- In fiction this trope makes sense; who would want to watch a protagonist sit down and wait for someone else to come bail them out? In real life, this trope is often the best response to being lost, stranded, or otherwise in trouble. After addressing any immediate danger, make yourself noticeable, call for help, and wait. Consult any basic survival manual for more details.