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You Can Keep Her!

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Darwin Mayflower: I'll kill your friends, your family, and the bitch you took to the prom!
Hudson Hawk: Betty Jo Biarski? I can get you an address on that if you want.

Classic scenario: Alice is kidnapped. The kidnappers contact Bob, who is the legal guardian/spouse/caretaker/someone who should care about Alice and explain they are holding her for ransom, even threatening to kill Bob's little dog too if he doesn't comply with their demands.

However, Bob has no intention of paying. Either he flat out doesn't care, he doesn't think that much money is worth it or considers the kidnappers to have done him a favor. The fact that the kidnapped party may die does not faze him in the least. Of course, karmic justice normally ends up biting him in the ass. At that point, the kidnappers would be annoyed that they've kidnapped someone for nothing or even be genuinely appalled by their callous attitude. May end in a Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth situation if the kidnapped party really is THAT annoying — see Pity the Kidnapper. It may also end up that the victim is actually a Hate Sink, so the audience cheers along with the protagonist at the kidnapping.

This trope can be a possible counter to villains. A small variation of this would be Bob not taking the kidnapping seriously, seeing as Alice has previously faked similar attempts as a cry for attention. Unfortunately, this time it's for real and the Crying Wolf principle applies...

See also Shoot the Hostage, for cases where disregard for the threatened party is more proactive and immediate. For a more straight Super-Trope of this, see also Threat Backfire. May overlap with Refuse to Rescue the Disliked.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bleach's Soul Society arc, Ichigo holds Hanatarou hostage in an attempt to escape from another stronger group, only for the latter to laugh at the idea and explicitly state that they, the 11th division, do not really care about Hanatarou, who is from the 4th division.
  • Digimon Frontier: In episode 6, a tribe of KaratsukiNumemon mistake the heroes for allies of Grumblemon and capture them, then try to arrange a Prisoner Exchange for the females of their tribe that he captured. Grumblemon has no idea who the kids are and doesn't care about them.
  • In the first episode of Dragon Ball GT, a group of kidnappers snatch the recently re-chibified Goku, after being unable to kidnap Bra for ransom. They then call Vegeta with the ransom demand, saying they've got his son Goku. His reaction can be neatly summed up by this trope's name. (Whether Vegeta doesn't care about Goku or simply says it because he's sure the kidnappers are going to be taught a painful lesson by their victim, or a little of both, is hard to say.) They also try calling Bulma, who laughs and tells them to watch their backs.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, a defeated Envy tries to take control of Yoki's body, only to find out that none of his companions care. Defeated, they detach themselves and are put into a jar. Although Yoki's companions say they were just bluffing afterward.
  • In Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka, Kurumi's parents were kidnapped by the Disas who threatened to kill them if she resisted. Unfortunately for them, Kurumi's parents were a particular brand of abusive and she was actually glad that they were kidnapped, and gunned down the Disas representatives.
  • In the Hetalia: Axis Powers anime, after the Allies capture Italy, Germany simply tells them to give him pretty women and a soccer ball to keep him happy. Germany was most likely duping them. Before he and Italy became allies, he captured Italy in WWI and learned firsthand how unpleasant it is to have Italy as a POW and knew they would send him home eventually. Plus, he made a promise to be there for Italy when he was in trouble, and genuinely likes him. It's also Truth in Television: Lots of Italian POW found their captivity so congenial they emigrated to the US or Canada after the war.
  • Osomatsu-san: In one episode, Chibita gets fed up with the protagonists not paying their tab at his oden bar for the last however-many years, and resorts to kidnapping Karamatsu so his brothers can at least pay a ransom. Not only do his brothers explicitly not care at all (with Ichimatsu even doing a happy dance), their own mother then comes in with snacks without addressing that something is wrong, implying she doesn't care either.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: When Scanty and Kneesocks begin to lose their fight against Panty and Stocking, they take Brief hostage. Stocking is apathetic, and Panty is almost offended at the idea of putting someone else's well-being ahead of her goals. The demon sisters are disgusted, while Brief despairingly wishes Panty would at least remember his name. They decide to attack Panty and Stocking instead of killing Brief, to no avail. Afterward, Panty offers Brief sex as an Apology Gift but takes it Off the Table when he hesitates.
  • This is standard procedure for the main cast of Saiyuki. It's usually an act, but they're all such assholes that it's a very convincing act. And they might be slightly more caring than they seem, but one thing's definite: Sanzo's not going to give you a sutra cause you're threatening to kill someone.
  • In Tiger & Bunny this turns up in Kriem's back-story. When their daughter is kidnapped and held to ransom by Jake Martinez, it turns out Kriem's parents — who hate and fear her for being a NEXT — have no interest in getting her back. Kriem finds Jake's ideas on NEXTs being superior to ordinary humans far more appealing, and so stays with him even when he decides he may as well release her.
  • In Weiß Kreuz, Omi was kidnapped when he was young. When the kidnappers demand the ransom (with a tearful Omi begging his father to save him) his father, Reiji, declares he won't pay. It's later revealed that this was because Reiji was aware that Omi wasn't his son, but was instead the product of an affair between his wife and his brother Shuichi.

  • Perhaps not strictly speaking appropriate to this trope as no kidnapping is involved, but the classic line is by Henny Youngman:
    Henny: Take my wife. Please.
    • The joke's original context is in the sense of illustrating an example, as in "Speaking of (subject), take a look at the situation, with my wife as an example of (subject)."
  • A sample from Russian Humor: The terrorists have captured the State Duma and threatened to release one deputy every hour unless they are paid a ransom.
  • Another sample: bandits kidnap a man's mother-in-law and threaten to clone her unless a ransom is paid.
  • "Five grand in cash, or we kill your wife." Both options were tempting, but I decided to take the money.
  • A Hungarian joke:
    There is a huge gridlock on the highway. A guy stops and sees that someone is walking around knocking on the windows of the stopped cars to talk with the drivers. He then arrives to his car and knocks on the window. The driver rolls the window down and asks:
    - Why are so many cars stopped here?
    - The radio said that terrorists have captured the prime minister and demand a billion dollars, or they will pour gasoline on him and set him on fire. We're holding a collection.
    - And how much do you have so far?
    - 2000 liters or so.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider Jerusalem uses those exact words when his wife's cryogenically preserved head is stolen and held for ransom in Transmetropolitan. Well, eventually, after having initially enunciated his position by the use of various unprintable invectives. Put it this way; she's his ex-wife, and the animosity was mutual. It also turns out that she had attempted to manipulate the people who stole her head into killing Spider but didn't count on him being able to explain it to them and prove their mutual animosity by tossing her head off a bridge.
  • One Judge Dredd comic features a supremely obnoxious woman who's a member of a group that believes that The Power of Love can reform all criminals because they are simply misunderstood. The criminal she ends up trying this with kidnaps her for ransom, only to end up begging the group to take her back, take him to jail, ANYTHING to get rid of her.
  • In Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge, the Society tells Captain Cold that they have his father hostage. He is not as intimidated as they expect, and though he does track down his father, it's only to confront and kill him himself... or at least have Heat Wave do it.
  • Used in Harvey Comics' Richie Rich with Richie's wannabee-girlfriend, Mayda Munny. In at least one story, she's so obnoxious that the kidnappers end up paying her father to take her back.
  • In Fight Man a trio of villains break into the legal office where Fight Man is arguing with his ex-wife about alimony. One of the villains grabs her and threatens to kill her. His response "I've got a camera out! Do it!"

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Doonesbury strip, some of Duke's creditors kidnap his son Earl. When they call him up and tell him this, his reaction is along the lines of "So what? Kill him. What else you got?" Cut to Earl tied to a chair, cheerfully commenting "Boy! You guys sure don't know Pop!"
  • One arc in Pearls Before Swine had Zebra kidnap Larry the Croc's wife in order to try and stop the crocs from attacking him. Given that said wife is a bit of a nag, Larry decides to use the opportunity to do all the things she tells him not to do, despite his son Junior's protests. Eventually, when Zebra brings her back, along with a bucket of KFC as an apology, Larry is more upset that he didn't add mashed potatoes.
  • One Piranha Club story had a pair of bumbling crooks kidnapping Mother Packer, Dr. Pork's mother-in-law. Given that Mother Packer is an extreme case of an obnoxious in-law, Dr. Pork is more than happy to get rid of her. The crooks eventually let her go after she beats the crap out of them for the millionth time, who then proceeds to go after her son-in-law.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible grabs Mirage and threatens to crush her if Syndrome doesn't release him. Syndrome calls his bluff. Mr. Incredible can't bring himself to do it, and Syndrome's reaction to the situation leads to Mirage's Heel–Face Turn.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • From Hudson Hawk:
    Darwin Mayflower: I'll kill your friends, your family, and the bitch you took to the prom!
    Hudson Hawk: Betty Jo Biarski? I can get you an address on that if you want.
  • This is the entire point of the Danny DeVito movie Ruthless People. Sam Stone is planning to kill his wife, when she's kidnapped for ransom instead, so he tries to provoke the kidnappers into killing her.
    Sam: You got no nuts! What do I have to do? Put a gun in your hand, aim, and pull your finger down, you spineless wimp! I dare you to kill her! (hangs up phone) Now that oughta do it.
  • In Problem Child, when the Bow Tie Killer kidnaps Flo and Junior, Ben is initially overjoyed that they are gone. However, after seeing a drawing Junior made, he realizes Junior loves him and goes out to rescue him. Flo... not so much.
  • In Tropic Thunder, Tug Speedman is kidnapped by a guerilla group and held for ransom. Unfortunately for him, the studio head immediately realizes that Tug's death will trigger an insurance payout on the already Troubled Production. Between that fact, Tug's declining popularity and his total lack of concern whether Tug lived or dies, he quickly decides that the kidnapping is the best thing that could have happened.
    Byong: We no get money yet. Price now a hundred million. You pay now, or tomorrow Simple Jack die!
    Les Grossman: Great. Let me get this down. A hundred million... Oh, wait! I got a better idea. Instead of a hundred million, how about I send you a hobo's dick cheese? Then, you kill him. Do your thing, skin the fucking bastard. Go to town, man. Go to town! In the meantime and as usual, go fuck yourself. [puts phone down] We do not negotiate with terrorists.
  • In Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels Nick Moran's character (Eddie) loses a large amount of money at a rigged card game. He has 5 days to pay. Vinnie Jones (Big Chris) offers Eddie's father (JD) the option of giving up his bar to cover the cost... to which JD (played by Sting), replies:
    JD: I do know your reputation. So I choose my words very carefully. You tell Harry... to go fuck himself.
    Big Chris: Now, I'll put that down to shock. Only once.
  • John's response to Butch Cavendish's threat to drop Rebecca off the side of a moving train in The Lone Ranger:
    John: Go ahead.
    Rebecca: [confused] John?
    John: She tends to land on her feet.
    Rebecca: [panicked] John!
  • In The Big Lebowski, Bunny gets this, although the titular Lebowski tries to hide it. He puts phone books in the ransom case and then hires the Dude to make the drop, confident that things will go awry, and no one will believe that the Dude didn't keep the money for himself.
    He was fuckin' glad, man!
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:
    "What are you doing?"
    "Stealing your woman."
    [Beat] "Take her."
  • This is subverted in the sequel to "Crocodile" Dundee. After Rico kidnaps Mick's friend Walter and forces him to lead him and his gang to Mick's lodge in the Outback, Rico calls for Mick to come out, threatening to shoot Walter. Mick calls back, telling Rico to "Go ahead and shoot the bastard!" and then, to drive this home, seemingly tries to shoot Walter himself with his rifle, but missing. Mick actually does this to save Walter's life, because he rightfully believes that Rico won't kill Walter if Rico believes he wants him dead. This actually works; Rico thinks that Walter is likely the only one who can track Mick down in this place, so he's convinced to keep him alive until Mick can rescue him later. Mick probably also believes (correctly, in all likelihood) that Rico would have killed Walter anyway if he had come down.
  • In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, there's a scene with a woman and some police officers after her husband has been kidnapped. Initially, she's quite frantic and insistent that she'll pay anything and give them anything they want... until she finds out what they're asking for.
    "Mrs. Curtis, did you hear me? It's your husband's life or your case of Wonka bars!"
    "... how long will they give me to think it over?"
  • In the movie Too Many Crooks, a gang attempts to kidnap a businessman's daughter only to end up with his wife. When they try to ransom her back, he announces that he doesn't want her. This so infuriates the wife that she takes control of the gang and uses it to exact revenge on her husband.
  • A Turkish film from the 1990s had a rich businessman accidentally kidnapped by would-be revolutionaries (they weren't intending to kidnap him. They just played along after they hit him with their car and he thought they were kidnappers). When the revolutionaries make ransom calls to various members of his family and business, they are shocked to discover that not even his mother is interested in seeing him released. The revolutionaries just let go of him instead, realizing the businessman had been worse off than them. Following his revenge on his relatives and business partner, the businessman finds the revolutionaries and thanks them in kind.
  • In The Red Green Show movie Duct Tape Forever, the villain who kidnaps Harold worries that this might be Red's reaction. It's not.
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
    Austin Powers: [grabs Scott Evil and points a gun at him] It seems the tables have turned again, Dr. Evil.
    Dr. Evil: Not really. Kill the little bastard. See what I care.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, when Sao-Feng notices a spy in his midst while negotiating with Barbossa, and suspects foul play:
    Sao-Feng: Drop your weapons or I kill the man.
    Barbossa: [confused] Well, kill him; he's not our man.
    Will: Wait a second. If he's not with you and he's not with us... then who's he with?
  • James Bond:
    • The World Is Not Enough: M tells this to Sir King since the Secret Intelligence Service does not give in to terrorists and criminals. Electra is enraged and decides to take revenge against her father and M.
    • In GoldenEye, when Janus gives James Bond the Sadistic Choice of saving the girl or completing the mission, Bond coldly answers, "Kill her, she means nothing to me." He then rescues the girl anyway and later comments, "Basic rule, always call their bluff." Later, when she changes the Goldeneye access codes, Janus threatens to kill Bond if she doesn't cooperate. Her response: "Kill him. He means nothing."
    • In Casino Royale (2006), when Bond learns Vesper is taking the poker winnings to a meeting with Gettler, Gettler spots Bond, and puts a knife to Vesper's throat, saying "I'll kill her!" Bond replies "Allow me."
  • Indiana Jones:
  • Cradle 2 the Grave has the Big Bad Ling kidnap Anthony's daughter. He calls Anthony and offers to exchange her for the black diamonds he stole (they're actually a new form of plutonium). Since neither Anthony nor Su (a Taiwanese agent) has the stones at the moment, Anthony asks Su to talk to Ling. Su and Link converse in Chinese, and Su tells Ling he won't negotiate for the stones. When the infuriated Anthony is about to pounce on him, Su replies he's stalling for time, as Ling wouldn't have released the girl anyway, and now Ling is confused why Su is refusing to deal. On the other hand, Su realizes that the danger the stones represent and is simply making the pragmatic choice.
  • In 1967's The Happening (not the same as this film) some hippies kidnap a retired mob boss (Anthony Quinn), and demand a ransom for him. His associates, his mother, and his wife all give the same answer.
  • In The Usual Suspects, the legend of Keyser Söze has the Hungarians capturing and raping Söze's wife and threatening to kill her and his son if he doesn't give them his drug business. So he pulls out a gun and shoots her and his son.
  • In The Legend of Zorro, in prison, Alejandro gets threatened by several prisoners. He tries to make them back off by grabbing Joaquin and threatening him (he is of course bluffing), but they say they don't care and keep advancing, forcing him to fight them off.
  • The Sony Universe Venom, an anti-hero superhero, is so selfish that when Annie gets captured by his evil red offspring Carnage near the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Venom whines that red Symbiote's powers are a No-Sell against him and declares, "We never liked her anyway!" and loudly declares he's leaving.

  • The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin: a woman whose husband is supposedly run over by a train pretends to be sad to the guy that tells her, but then the story gets into her thoughts and shows that she's really happy. And then he walks in the door and she has a heart attack and dies.
  • The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry is almost certainly the Ur-Example. Bill Driscoll and Sam attempt to release their hostage in the hopes of gaining money from a kidnapping, only for him to come back to them, and in the end, they have to pay his father to get him off their hands. You can read it here.
  • One of the Brillo stories from 1634: The Ram Rebellion is pretty clearly a retelling of the O. Henry story The Ransom of Red Chief.
  • Subverted from time to time in the City Watch Discworld books. Someone will take Angua hostage and be mildly surprised when Carrot doesn't come rushing to her rescue. Of course, Carrot knows Angua can take care of herself perfectly well, and it's the hostage-takers who are in trouble.
  • In Saki's "The Disappearance of Crispina Umberleigh", the kidnappers actually get the victim's family to pay them to keep her. Even though, as it turns out, they don't really have her...
    • The kidnapping is described as a retreat so payments are rationalised as being very reasonable for a good spa.
  • A 1969 comedic "caper" novel, Snatch! by Rennie Airth had the main characters kidnap the infant son of a wealthy businessman. Unfortunately, they'd used a switch of children to keep the abduction from being discovered before they could get away — and the "changeling" was a much more agreeable child than the kidnap victim, so the father coolly told them he preferred to keep the baby he had now, thank you very much. They had to pull another kidnapping to get their under-aged "accomplice" back — especially as the female member of the gang had developed very maternal feelings toward the substitute (an orphan) while they prepared for the original snatch.
  • P. G. Wodehouse's short story "Helping Freddie" (later rewritten for the Jeeves and Wooster series as "Fixing It for Freddie") features a Pity the Kidnapper plot wherein the main character kidnaps a small boy as part of a Zany Scheme. When the scheme backfires, he tries to return the kid, only to be stuck babysitting him when it turns out that everyone in the kid's house has influenza and they needed someone to watch him anyway.
  • The Robert Ludlum novel The Road to Gandolfo has General Hawkins pulling off a wild plan to kidnap Pope Francis I and hold him hostage for the ransom of one dollar for every Catholic on Earth. Hawkins has Francis replaced by his cousin, an opera singer who's a dead ringer for him. Hawkins figures the ruse will hold until he gets away with Francis. After various crazy antics, the plan works as Hawkins issues the ransom demand to the Vatican. To his shock, the Vatican tells him that "the Holy Father is perfectly fine and safe" so they see no reason to pay Hawkins. Hawkins realizes that the various Vatican cardinals like this imposter as being far more "manageable" than the real Francis had been. To top it off, Francis himself enjoys being freed of the pressure and politics of the position so the entire plot was for nothing.
    • The sequel, The Road to Omaha does reveal that the imposter was soon making wild talk in public and spending millions in Church funds on the arts so the real Francis came back to resume his duties with the world none the wiser...and Hawkins still not getting a dime from it all.
  • In the short story "Pure Rotten" by John Lutz, two criminals kidnap a rich man's Bratty Halfpint step-daughter. The kidnappers and the stepfather exchange a series of notes. The kidnappers demand money and make increasingly blunt threats. The stepfather refuses to pay and tells them to go ahead and kill the girl. The final note reveals that the girl has got the better of her kidnappers, has copies of all the notes, and is changing the scheme to blackmail since people who try to kill children don't tend to do well in prison.
  • In Mario Puzo's The Family, Cesare Borgia is attacking the city of Forli and has captured the ruler's sons. He tells her he will kill them unless she surrenders. Her response is to yell "Kill them! I can always make more!" while pulling up her skirt to demonstrate that she is, indeed, equipped to give birth. Cesare spares the boys anyway, on the grounds that there's no particular advantage to killing them. Caterina Sforza allegedly did this in real life as well. She certainly cared more about other points of strategy than about getting her sons back, at any rate.
  • In Philip K. Dick's short story "Human Is", Jill's husband Lester gets his body stolen by an alien while on a business trip to the dying planet Rexor IV. About a week later, the Rexorian is tracked down by the FBI, who tell Jill that they can apprehend the Rexorian culprit and even get her real husband back - all she has to do is testify on tape to the (incredibly obvious) change in her "husband"'s behavior. Jill, however, decides to play dumb, as Lester was a tremendous Jerkass whereas the Rexorian's only noticeable flaw appears to be his outdated grasp of English.
  • When Winger gets kidnapped by ratmen to trade for Singe, this is Garrett's reply. It's equal parts Bluffing, Pity the Kidnapper and Winger being Winger.
  • Able Team. When Carl Lyons is captured in Guatemala, the rest of Able Team follow a lead that there's an American being held hostage. He turns out to be a Poor Little Rich Kid who arranged his Faked Kidnapping, gets shot when he reaches for a gun, and then moans that his cheapskate father sent them instead of paying up. Able Team just walk out and leave him there, telling their informant that he won't be getting his reward money as it was the wrong man.
    "But didn't they have an American?"
    "Yeah, but they can keep him!"
  • In the Dutch children's book Bijna-boeven ("almost crooks"), which revolves around two Dumb Crooks trying their hands at various crimes in an attempt to be taken seriously by their fellow criminals, one of their crimes involves kidnapping the son of a millionaire and demanding ransom. However, the man simply responds that the kid is a brat and they can keep him. The crooks then proceed to find out he's right.
  • Marcus Didius Falco is investigating a kidnapping ring in Ancient Rome and recovers a baby whose parents for some reason did not want to pay the ransom. It's Falco's mother who realises that the baby is deaf, and therefore would be regarded as a simpleton.
  • The Iliad begins with Agamemnon confiscating Achilles' favorite slave for himself, whereupon Achilles stops participating in the war. But when Agamemnon relents and offers her back, along with a heap of other inducements to return to the battlefield, Achilles refuses to take her, despite professing to love her like a wife.
  • X-Wing: The Bacta War: After taking over bacta-producing planet Thyferra, Imperial warlord Ysanne Isard keeps her crews in line by executing the families of anybody who defects to or cooperates with the New Republic. In one case, though, the captain of a bacta freighter snarks that if Isard kills his wife, she'll be doing him a favor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the BBC show Robin Hood, at one point Robin has Guy at sword-point and it demanding his own unimpeded release as well as some important black rocks (base ingredient for explosives or so). The Sheriff decides the rocks are of more worth than Gisborne and it's only due to Lady Marian interfering that Gisborne is ransomed out after all. (Naturally, Guy afterwards holds this against Marian.)
  • In an episode of 'Allo 'Allo!, Lieutenant Gruber, Colonel von Strohm, and Captain Bertorelli are kidnapped by the Communist Resistance. Rene then tries to take advantage of this by calling General Von Klinkerhoffen while disguising his voice and claiming that unless the General pays 1 million francs, the three will be shot. The General then deadpans "Very well. Let them be shot." and hangs up. Later on, Herr Flick, not knowing of the previous call, then tries the same scheme and asks for two million francs. You can guess the result.
  • Played with in Burn Notice (this might count as an inversion or maybe an Invoked Trope): when Sam is captured in the first season finale, Mike pretends to be glad to be rid of him in order not to give his kidnappers as much leverage.
  • In Kaamelott, Leodagrance met his wife Seli when he abducted her from her Pict tribe. He asked for a ransom of 10,000 gold coins; they offered him twice that sum if he would keep her.
  • Pushing Daisies: As a child, Olive was accidentally kidnapped by two thieves when she tried to run away from home because her parents never paid any attention to her. When the thieves try to return her, they're outraged to discover that the Snooks never even realized their daughter was gone.
  • In Weeds, Quinn and Rudolfo's kidnapping of Celia goes worse than expected once they realize everyone hates her.
  • One episode of Murphy Brown has Murphy get abducted by radical environmentalists who are trying to force greater public recognition of crimes against nature committed by certain companies. Everyone they try to contact about holding her hostage is either A: a coworker that had been pranked by her recently, and is glad to see her gone, or B: thinks that this is a prank. After a day or so she annoys them so much that they let her go.
  • In one episode of Human Target, Chance's ex-girlfriend's husband is captured by a ruthless South American dictator, and she comes up with a plan to kidnap the kidnapper's brother and set up a Prisoner Exchange. The kidnapping plan is successful, but it turns out the dictator doesn't really want his brother back very much.
  • Subverted in the Supernatural episode "Weekend at Bobby's", where Bobby has the ghost of Crowley's son, Gavin. Crowley incorrectly assumes that Bobby is trying to get his soul back from him by using his son as a bargaining chip, but Bobby reveals that he knows Crowley and his son hate each other and that the real bargaining chip is Crowley's earthly remains, whose location Gavin was happy to give him.
  • A Horrible Histories sketch has a Saxon woman abducted by a kidnapper and held for ransom. The husband offers to buy her back... for half a penny, because he's legally obligated to, at minimum, try and buy her back. He hopes the kidnapper will reject his offer so he can remarry, but the kidnapper ends up finding the kidnapped woman so annoying he accepts the half a penny.
  • A season 8 episode of Little House on the Prairie ("The Legend of Black Jake") saw Nels Olsen, co-owner of Olsen's Mercantile, kidnapped by two hopelessly inept criminals. Nels' wife, the brutally stingy Harriet Olsen, outright refuses to pay the ransom demand, asserting that the kidnappers "probably wouldn't release Nels even if [she] paid up".
  • Married... with Children: An ancient curse on the English village of Lower Uncton will only be broken if all male Bundys are killed within its town limits; the neighboring village of Upper Uncton wants at least one Bundy killed outside Lower Uncton, to make sure the curse goes on forever. When Al and Bud are cornered on the border between the two towns, neither side can kill them, so the Upper Uncton townsfolk seize Peg and Kelly and threaten to kill them unless Al and Bud come over to their side. Of course, Al and Bud laugh uproariously and invite the Upper Unctonians to do whatever they want. One of the Lower Unctonians (who have been hunting down Bundys for centuries), snarks that that tactic didn't work with the others either.
  • Subverted on Primeval: Lester tells Helen that she can shoot Christine if she wants to. But he almost immediately instructs his men to lower their weapons and let Helen get away.
  • In Arrested Development, Michael is riding his bike to work, when a limo pulls up next to him. The man inside tells him "If you care about your brother, you'll get in this car."
    Michael: Which brother?
    Man: ...Gob.
    [Michael immediately jumps back on his bike and rides away]
  • The Borgias depicts the same incident with Caterina Sforza as the Literature example above; she tells Juan Borgia, who's sieging the walls of Forli and threatening her son, that she can make ten more sons.
  • Game of Thrones: In "The Rains of Castamere", when the Red Wedding happens, Catelyn Stark attempts to secure her and Robb's release by holding a knife to Walder Frey's wife's throat. He callously says he'll just get another wife, and doesn't bat an eye when Catelyn kills her and is killed in turn.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: In "What He Beheld", while in a shootout, Derek grabs a little girl bystander and threatens her, but his opponent says he doesn't know her so he doesn't care. Derek shrugs, kills him and releases the girl.
  • In one early episode of NCIS, a mobster threatens to kill all of Gibbs' family if he doesn't cooperate. Gibbs replies that his family is all dead (though this was later proven to be a lie when his estranged father was introduced several seasons later), but if the mobster wants, Gibbs would happy to provide the addresses of his ex-wives. The criminal hangs up on him.
  • Deep Space Nine. In "Blood Oath", Odo throws a drunken Klingon into his cells. When his commander comes to bail him out, he's so disgusted at his wretched state (they're supposed to be on an important mission) that he walks off in a huff, saying that Odo can keep him. Fortunately, Dax knows the Klingon from a previous host and bails him out instead.
  • Downplayed in the second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Glaber does try to get Ilithyia back after she's abducted by the rebels, but it's more because she's pregnant with his child (or so he believes) and because it's publically embarrassing for him to have lost his wife to his enemies, rather than him caring about Ilithyia personally. In fact, he's perfectly willing to go back on the deal he made with Spartacus to exchange weapons for Ilithyia to set a trap for them, even though it puts Ilithyia in danger. And after the ambush fails, Glaber basically washes his hands of the situation, even implying he will move on with Seppia after he's mourned Ilithyia for the socially appropriate length of time.


    Video Games 
  • The Caligula Effect has this happen when Mirei kidnaps Kotono's ex-boyfriend Ryosuke. Except Mirei didn't realize the ex- part, and also didn't realize that Kotono despises Ryosuke, which almost leads to this happening.
  • In the Dink Smallwood mod Attack of the Mutant Veggies the king refuses Dink's demand for gold to buy a better sword with the explanation that Visigoths have kidnapped the queen and if he doesn't keep paying them extortionate sums, they'll bring her back.
  • In the third act of Dragon Age II, someone important to Hawke (their sibling if still alive, their love interest or closest friend otherwise) will be kidnapped. The victim isn't being held for ransom, but someone lets Hawke know what's happened so they can mount a rescue. Selecting the middle ("silly") reaction can have Hawke comment about what a pain in the ass the character in question is, and how they really don't want them back. It's a subversion in that the rescue takes place anyway, but it comes across as this trope to the confused informant.
  • Far Cry 3 features a meeting between Jason Brody, who's undercover as a Privateer, and Hoyt Volker, the South African crime lord whose drug-and-slave-trafficking ring Jason's trying to bring down. Hoyt, while giving a speech about his organization, shows Jason a boat in the harbour. He's holding the boat's passengers for ransom, but the "customer" supposedly "doesn't want to negotiate outside country lines". So Hoyt blows the boat up instead. Yeah, Hoyt's not a good guy.
  • Final Fantasy IX contains a variation "You Can Keep Me": After chasing her down, Princess Garnet realizes her would-be kidnappers are not the royal guards they're disguised as and reveals she's actually trying to escape the castle (in their airship) to reach the very person who hired them to kidnap her! Since everybody except her personal bodyguard is on the same page at this point, they start working together to elude him.
  • Freaky Flyers: In Paulie Atchi's story mode, Pilot X kidnaps his mama so he can force Paulie into a battle in outer space... except all Pilot X really did was make Paulie's job easier.
    Paulie: You got Mama? You can keep her, ya double-crossin' jerk!
    Pilot X (upset): WHAAAAAAT?
    Paulie: You got rid of my only competition for control of the syndicate! Graziare!
  • Kissed by the Baddest Bidder: When the protagonist is kidnapped on Eisuke's route, Eisuke coolly declares that he doesn't care what happens to her. The trope is subverted when it becomes clear that it's all just part of his plan to set the kidnapper up for the most abject failure and crushing humiliation possible.
  • In the Central Park Zoo level of The Punisher for the Xbox, it is possible to take a specific mook hostage and thus have Frank try and trade him to The Dragon for the innocent Joan. Quite naturally, The Dragon doesn't give a damn.
  • In Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, a captive Drake attempts to escape Big Bad Lazarevic by holding one of his Mooks at gunpoint. Lazarevic then gives a short speech claiming that "great men" like Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot "prevailed" because "they had the will to do what other men would not". Lazarevic then shoots the hostage himself.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue Season 14; Felix, Locus, and their partner Siris abduct one Gabriel Lozano, the son of notorious crime lord Ruben Lozano, intent on turning him in for a bounty. This goes awry when the bounty is abruptly cancelled just as the three are going to collect, so Felix decides to change plans for a traditional kidnapping and ransom. Unfortunately, Ruben hates Gabriel and says that the three would have done him a favor by killing him, and is more concerned about the hit to his reputation that the kidnapping caused.

  • Ansem Retort:
    • Played with: Contessa Belle holds Larxene hostage and tries to get a ransom from Governor Zexion. Zexion refuses, listed his demands to take Larxene off Belle's hands, and leaves. Cut to a week later, and Belle's giving in.
    • When Axel confronts Xemnas, he asks how he plans to stop him and save his hostage Sora. Axel says he's fine going one for two and kills Sora himself.
  • Played with in the very Not Safe for Work Oglaf after Ivan the apprentice is kidnapped. Mistress doesn't care ("I can get a new one for free"). However, Ivan's continued pleas for aid (via a decidedly NSFW method) succeed in annoying Mistress enough that she finally pays the ransom. Crosses over with Hoist by His Own Petard because the method Ivan used to annoy Mistress even from captivity was something imposed on Ivan by Mistress.
  • In Bruno the Bandit this results in a custody battle during a kidnapping-in-progress.
  • In Exterminatus Now Lothar takes Eastwood hostage in order to rescue Kyle. Virus points out that this Eastwood is useless as a hostage since no-one in the Inquisition cares if he lives or dies.
  • In Joe Loves Crappy Movies, Joe, knowing any hypothetical kid of his will probably be just as much of an asshole as he is, says that if kidnappers or the devil kidnapped his kid, they can have them. Considering that Switchblade Motorcross Dunn made the devil cry, he probably had a point.
  • An early strip of Never Never has the faeries kidnap Arthur and leave a note saying, roughly, "dear sir, we have kidnapped your son Arthur. We will return him if you pay us a hundred cupcakes. Love, the faeries of Arcadia." Arthur's dad, who doesn't believe in faeries and thinks this is just Arthur being weird, contemplates this for a moment and then writes a return letter: "dear faeries, you may keep him. Love, Arthur's dad."
  • Deconstructed in Nefarious. Crow starts his invasion of Kyuutopia by kidnapping Princess Foxglove, as per usual, but the guards apathetically put up a fight, and the rest of the citizens do no better. By the time they make it past the city gates, Foxglove explains that the citizens hate her and want her off the throne — not because she's annoying or tyrannical, but because all her decisions focus on keeping Kyuutopia out of debt than the needs of its native people.
  • The Order of the Stick: When his Quirky Bard teammate Elan is kidnapped by bandits, Roy decides that he's The Millstone and not worth rescuing, then leaves the rest of the Order behind when they disagree. A few strips later he recalls that he became a fighter specifically to protect people, has a major Jerkass Realization and goes back to help.
  • Multiple groups have tried to coerce the title character of Vexxarr by threatening Sid. This fails partly because Vexxarr is a Snark Knight Anti-Hero, but mostly because Vexxarr is well aware that Sid has Nigh-Invulnerability. The hostage takers are likely to damage their equipment and/or maim themselves in their attempts while Sid doesn't even notice his hosts are trying to harm him.

    Web Original 
  • Police Talesnote  by Nikolay Fyodorov, story 55. Bandits kidnapped a detective's shrewish wife to force him to stop his investigation. He was very happy, doubled his efforts, and soon arrested them all. The wife got killed when police stormed their hideout. The officer got a reputation of uncompromising enemy of The Mafiya and several promotions, but "just in case hasn't re-married yet". Of course, it's a cautionary tale. Of note is the discrepancy that a house is stormed by riot police (possible, but unlikely).

    Western Animation 
  • In the Kim Possible episode "O Boyz", the Seniors kidnap a boy band (and, accidentally, Ron), hoping to extort their manager into giving Junior a singing career of his own. The band has lost its popularity lately, the singers have a lot of fussy demands contractual obligated to them, and the news coverage from the kidnapping has increased album sales, so the manager is happy to be rid of them. Kim rescues them anyway, and they replace their manager with Rufus.
  • In the Halloween episode of Invader Zim, when Zim is captured in the nightmare world and the monsters try to extort Dib into surrendering his head to them, Dib tells them they can keep him and throws a can at the monster's head.
  • The Venture Bros. In the episode Escape From the House of Mummies Part 2, An unnamed bad guy threatens to kill Hank and Dean unless Dr. Venture gives him the hand of Osiris. Dr. Venture's refusal is amusingly obscene. It's later revealed that the boys had already died multiple times, and Dr. Venture kept creating clones with transferred memories, which explains why he was so cavalier about their deaths.
    Executioner: Give me the hand of Osiris!
    Dr. Venture: Give me head.
    Executioner: ...You didn't just say that.
    Dr. Venture: I absolutely did. What are you going to do about it?
    Executioner: Well, I'm about to kill your sons.
    Dr. Venture: Join the club!
  • Subverted in an episode of American Dad!: Francine fakes a kidnapping of Roger in order to prove that Stan really does care about him. Stan's response is complete and total nonchalance, to the point where he actually negotiates the ransom money down to a handful of pocket change...but still doesn't pay. After a few days, he tells Francine that he knew it was fake all alongnote . The plan ultimately backfires because Roger's bratty behavior during the fake kidnapping makes Francine hate him too.
  • In one episode of Batman Beyond, the Royal Flush Gang kidnapped Paxton Powers and demanded a ransom from Bruce Wayne; Wayne refused to pay it, telling them that it was against his company policy to negotiate with kidnappers and terrorists (claiming that Paxton was the one who had written that policy). Of course, Bruce wasn't so cruel, even though he despised Paxton; this was, naturally, a Batman Gambit aimed at exposing Paxton's criminal activities once and for all by forcing him to bargain further with his abductors, and it worked like a charm. (That Trope isn't named after that guy for nothing.)
  • One of the various Cutaway Gags on Family Guy shows that Lois was kidnapped on her prom night and when the kidnappers called to demand a ransom, Carter tells them that the family has a long-standing rule about not negotiating with kidnappers. He then hangs up on them and gives a nonchalant "She'll be fine."
  • In the Archer episode "El Secuestro," Pam gets kidnapped, and the show gets a lot of comedic mileage about just how little ISIS cares. First, Archer hangs up on the ransom negotiations because he thinks the kidnappers are robots and can't harm a human being. When pressed, Mallory offers five thousand dollars as ransom, a fraction of what she spent buying a table earlier in the episode. When Archer and Gilette go to rescue her, they get distracted and never get around to it. Then, when there's a Mexican Standoff and the kidnappers threaten to shoot Pam if they don't lower their weapons. No one lowers their weapons.
  • In an episode of South Park that strikingly parallels Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tweek steals a bazooka and aims it at Steven Spielberg and George Lucas after they've kidnapped the other major characters (it's a long story). "All I want are my friends," Tweek explains - and then he quickly adds "Except for Cartman; you can keep him."
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog once threw Eustace into a monster's hands declaring, "Okay, you can have him!" Given Eustace's Kick the Dog behavior, can anyone blame Courage?
  • Camp Lazlo had Samson get captured, interrogated (fruitlessly) and tortured by aliens demanding cheese. The dumb alien suggests they use Samson as hostage against the other campers to hand over their cheese, but the alien leader spots the campers throwing tether-balls at a rock with a crude drawing of Samson (crying, mind you) and decides that idea won't work out.
  • Atomic Betty once had to rescue an Empress captured by Maximus, who demanded a MacGuffin as ransom. Instead of giving him what he wanted, her people told him they didn't want her.
  • This is Jane's back-story in The Legends of Treasure Island: Long John Silver kidnapped her hoping to hold her for ransom but she was in her own words "such a little brat" that her parents didn't want her back. As a result, Silver was stuck with her until she joined the protagonists.
  • In Tripping the Rift Bobo tries to get one of the judges to vote for his daughter in a beauty contest, showing a picture of his mother tied up and in a cannon as leverage. The just simply replies that is his mother-in-law and tells him to go for it.
  • In one episode of Futurama the Planet Express crew is taken hostage by Roberto the robot, but the one he threatens to kill if the police try to stop him is resident Butt-Monkey Dr. Zoidberg. The cops' reply is, "Do you have any better hostages?"
  • Dr. Madcap and Greta "Green Lips" Ghoul capture Cool McCool and hold him for ransom in the episode "Will The Real Coolmobile Please Stand Up?" Cool's superior, Number One, says he's only worth five cents.

    Real Life 
  • Real Life two-for-one example: in the aftermath of the Battle of Pavia (1525), final battle of The Italian Wars, King Francis I of France was taken captive by the troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Aragon and Castile-Leon, Archduke of Austria and Duke of Burgundy and Duke of Milan, etc., etc. Francis's own mother told Charles's representatives that France refused to pay anything for her son's safe return. Ultimately they did, because the alternative was another French Civil War. However, Francis's government was just as broke (the wars had been cripplingly expensive) as Charles's and so Charles had to settle for a mere million Francs up-front. He also took Francis's sons hostage and extracted a series of political promises from the captive Francis... which he couldn't fulfill unless he was released. And when he was, he broke all of them despite the threat to his sons' lives. (Charles let them live and they were later released unharmed, for the record.)
  • James VI of Scotland was notably lacking in grief when Mary of Scots (his mother) was imprisoned. According to one history when Elizabeth wept at her execution, it was a face-saving device to give James an excuse to not react in the customary manner and still retain his honor. On the other hand, he had no personal attachment to Mary because he hadn't seen her since he was a baby, and had no actual memories of her, he might not have forgiven her for the murder of his father, and, given that her death meant that he was next in line for the English throne, it probably wouldn't have looked good for him to declare war on England.
  • A hostage negotiator was called in to handle a kidnapping in Italy in order to negotiate a reasonable ransom demand (paying what the criminals want is a bad idea because they'll then decide they can get even more money by hanging on to the hostage) only to have the family ignore his advice and pay the full amount. This led to a second ransom demand rather than the hostage being released. He eventually found out that the criminals, on capturing the businessman, had found evidence on him that he was a paedophile, and were blackmailing the family with it. The hostage negotiator suggested that the family pretend the businessman's wife had just "discovered" this, and that she was so disgusted she never wanted to see him again, leading to a dramatic drop in the ransom price. Eventually, the criminals decided it wasn't worth the trouble and released him anyway.
  • Joseph Stalin's son, Yakov Josifovich Stalin, was captured by the Nazis during WWII. They proposed a prisoner exchange to Stalin: his son for Friedrich Paulus (the commander at Stalingrad). Stalin replied that he wouldn't trade a Lieutenant for a Field Marshall, and left his son to die after a couple of years in a POW camp. Stalin claimed that it was a refusal to show favouritism when there were literally tens of thousands of other Soviet soldiers held prisoner. Then again, Old Joe had treated Yakov like dog shit since the day the boy was born, and, upon hearing of Yakov's failed suicide attempt in 1940 (by shooting himself in the head), responded, "The worthless idiot can't even hit his target at point-blank range!" Draw your own conclusion.
  • During the Han dynasty, General Xiang Yu fought Liu Bang for the throne. At one point, Xiang Yu captured Liu Bang's father and sent Liu Bang an ultimatum: "Surrender or I will boil your venerable sire alive!" Liu Bang replied merely: "Send me a cup of the soup." Subverted in that Liu Bang was calling Xiang Yu's bluff.
  • Also from Chinese history (at least from a book), a case of the Emperor was captured by enemy forces, yet the people showed little to no regard. By acting calm and ready to elect a new Emperor, the currently kidnapped Emperor held no value whatsoever to the kidnapper, culminating with his release. Subverted in that this is what the people were aiming for in the first place.
  • During the Sengoku era, Matsudaira Takechiyo (later Tokugawa Ieyasu) was taken hostage by Oda Nobuhide, with his father, Matsudaira Hirotada, ordered to betray the Imigawa or lose his son. Hirotada noted how allowing his son to die rather than betray his allies would only cement their alliance. Takechiyo was held hostage for another three years before new leadership handed him back.
  • The story goes that during the siege of Dunbar Castle, the English commander held the Countess of Dunbar's brother the Earl of Moray hostage and demanded her surrender. She replied that he should go ahead and let her inherit Moray. He didn't go through with it.
  • During one of England's many civil wars, King Stephen demanded the surrender of John FitzGilbert (who supported the Empress Matilda's claim to the throne) and his castle, threatening to launch one of John's hostage sons, The Once and Future Badass William Marshal, over the castle wall via catapult. FitzGilbert is said to have told Stephen to go right ahead, for "I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!" Fortunately for little William (and England herself, as it transpired), Stephen could not bring himself to carry out his threat.
  • During the Spanish Civil War, José Moscardó e Ituarte, who led Nationalist forces assieged in the Alcázar, received a call from the Republican Workers' Militia Commissar Cándido Cabello to tell him he would have to surrender his place, else his son Luis would be killed. Moscardó then told his son to pray and prepare himself to die. Luis ended up executed by Republican forces.
  • As told in All the Money in the World, it wasn't that J. Paul Getty didn't want his kidnapped grandson back (but not really), it was that he wasn't going to pay the 3-million dollar ransom (negotiated from the original demand of $17 million), because of his miserly attitude and the risk that his other grandchildren could become kidnapping targets. He finally stumped up $2.2 million (the maximum tax-deductible amount), and loaned the remaining $800,000 to his son ( 4pc interest).


Video Example(s):


Pilot X's Hostage Situation

In the cutscene before the Pilot X fight in Paulie's adventure mode, Pilot X disguises himself as Paulie's mom and holds her hostage in hopes of having Paulie accept his battle in outer space. Too bad Paulie wanted to take control of the syndicate, which he was fighting over his mom for.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / YouCanKeepHer

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