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You Can Turn Back

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"Gentlemen, Doctor McCoy and I have to do this. The rest of you do not."

Right before the climactic battle of a story, The Hero turns to his friends and says that they don't need to come with him — if they want to turn back, this is their last chance, and he won't stop them.

The hero's friends will often respond with an inspiring speech that how they've come too far to abandon the cause now, how the hero is crazy if he thinks he can do this alone, and so on. A member of the group actually accepting the offer is almost unheard of.

This is separate from Line in the Sand, as it is not always an explicit suicide mission, and the hero is not looking for Red Shirt volunteers. Rather, the hero knows he's about to do something dangerous and doesn't want to endanger his friends if they aren't willing.

When the hero's offer is taken, it's Screw This, I'm Outta Here or Opt Out. See also This Is the Final Battle and Are You Sure You Want to Do That?. Sister Trope to Last Chance to Quit.


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    Anime and Manga  
  • Digimon Adventure 02: Before sending the DigiDestined on the Digimon World Tour, Gennai says "If anyone's squeamish, you can back out now."

    Comic Book 
  • In Demon Knights, as part of their centuries-long quest for the Holy Grail, Shining Knight has repeatedly been told by Merlin that they have the opportunity to quit, and that continuing will always require terrible personal sacrifices. Thus far, Ystin has declined these opportunities.

    Fan Works 
  • In Arc Corp, after making it painfully clear that the assault on the Twilight City is little more than a suicide mission even if Arc Corp succeeds, Jaune insists that Blake empty her bank account and flee back home to Menagerie in the middle of the night before the rest of the organization arrives in Vale, telling her that no one will notice or care about a missing employee in the midst of all the chaos. Blake actually does spend the night looking at an empty suitcase and mulling the option over, only to realize that she can't bring herself to abandon him, and shows up to work the next morning mentally berating herself for being there.
    Jaune: If you want to disappear in the night, I won't blame you. In fact, I'd think more of you for leaving. It'd be the smart choice. Only an idiot would stay here and agree to this.
    (the next day)
    Blake: (thinking) I should have run. I should have told my conscience to shove its guilt up its ass, packed my bags and run away. I'm such an idiot.
  • Offered by Harry in Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past before going to the Chamber of Secrets. Naturally, all his friends insist on accompanying him. After they help him take down the basilisk, he tells them about his time travel.
    Harry: This is going to be really dangerous; if any of you want to back out now, I'll not think ill of you.
    Ron: Harry! She's my sister!

    Film - Animated 
  • In The Incredibles Mr. Incredible tells his family to stay behind before going to fight the Omnidroid Killer Robot. His wife will have none of that. Leads to him admitting that he isn't strong enough to lose them again. (Note that their kids had no chance to say whether they wanted to go too before the Omnidroid attacked them.)
  • Pinocchio gives Jiminy Cricket a chance to leave when he goes out to find Geppetto after finding out he had been swallowed by a whale. Jiminy's reply? "Goodbye?! I may be live bait down there, but I'm with you!"
  • Toy Story 2
    Stinky Pete: It's your choice, Woody. You can go back, or you can stay with us and last forever.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • The Serenity example in Line in the Sand also falls under this trope.
    Mal: Anybody doesn't wanna fly with me anymore, this is your port of harbor.
  • In Street Fighter, there's a "we can go home" speech along this lines.
  • Star Trek
    • In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, after Kirk and Co. bust McCoy out from Starfleet detention and beam aboard the empty Enterprise. Scotty has rigged the ship to be fully automated, and Kirk decides that he will not ask the rest of them to sacrifice their careers. Of course, being the True Companions they are, they refuse.
    Kirk: Gentlemen...may the wind be at our backs. Stations please.
    • Picard offers a way out (not from the mission itself, but from the court-martial that will almost certainly follow his direct defiance of orders) in Star Trek: First Contact.
    Picard: "I'm about to commit a direct violation of our orders. Any of you who wish to object should do so now. It will be noted in my log."
    Data: "Captain, I believe I speak for everyone here, sir, when I say... to Hell with our orders."
    • Star Trek: Insurrection: Knowing that Starfleet Command is violating its own ethics to take the home of the Ba'ku, Picard prepares a mission to save them. He plans on going it alone, but finds his crew already anticipated his action, and are joining him. Picard tries to tell them they're mutinying. Riker gleefully points out that Picard has taken off his rank insignia, meaning he's not giving legal commands anyway. Picard relents, and most of the core group join him on the planet while Riker takes the Enterprise to speak on behalf of the Ba'ku to the Federation Council.
  • In The Great Muppet Caper, as Kermit hatches the plan to catch the jewel thieves who framed Miss Piggy, he warns everybody of the possible dangers and gives them a chance to Opt Out. Everybody starts to back out until Fozzie lays in one heck of a guilt trip.
  • At multiple points in The Revengers, Benedict tells the six convicts that their service to him is done, and that they can go if they wish. They always stay, claiming that they have nowhere better to go. Even the Dirty Coward Hoop stays, because he is afraid of what might happen to him if he leaves the group.

  • Gate: When Itami is taking Tuka to go face the Flame Dragon, he tells Yanagida, the superior who goaded him into it, to give him rations for two people for a week. Yanagida looks up from his checklist, and smirks, asking Itami if he's sure that's going to be enough. Cue Rory Mercury, a nigh unkillable demi-goddess, tripping Itami and telling him that she and the rest of his Battle Harem are coming with. He tries to dissuade her, telling her he's off to face the Flame Dragon. Rory's response is to get rather worked up at the prospect.
  • At the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry tells Ron and Hermione that they don't have to go with him to find Voldemort's Horcruxes. They, of course, turn down the offer. This is a Call-Back to the pre-climactic scene of the first book, where right before Harry leaves to follow Snape, he tells Ron and Hermione that there's still time to turn back. Ron and Hermione tell him he's being an idiot. Hermione even references this conversation in the aforementioned scene from the sixth book, saying they've had "time" five years in fact to turn back, and they haven't so far.
  • Deconstructed in Heretics of Dune, when this is explained to be a common use of Reverse Psychology to boost morale amonge the troops.
  • In Proven Guilty, Harry Dresden gives his allies a line like this after he finds out that he has to invade Arctis Tor, stronghold of the Winter Queen for the rescue mission, a much, much more dangerous endeavor than he'd been expecting. He barely gets the sentence out before everyone steps up to go with him anyway.
    Harry: A bolt of warmth, fierce with joy and pride and gratitude, flashed through me like sudden lightning. I don't care about whose DNA recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand beside you without flinching- they are your family. And they were my heroes.
  • Neil Gaiman's poem "Instructions" has a line about a certain point in the adventure being a Point of No Return. "If you turn back now, you can return, safely. You will lose no face. I will think no less of you." As the poem then continues, it's assumed that the reader chose not to turn back.

    Live Action TV 
  • Subverted in one episode of NCIS, in which Tony asks for volunteers for a dangerous mission, remarking that no one will think less of those who opt out. Palmer asks, "Really?" To which Tony replies, "No, they probably will. At least, I will."
  • Played with in "The Five Doctors". When Borusa finally gets to claim Rassilon's immortality for himself, Rassilon appears and asks him if that's what he wants. When the errant Lord President says "yes," Rassilon says, "Even now, it is not too late to turn back." If you read between the lines enough, Rassilon is indirectly and subtly nudging Borusa to turn back. Why? Claiming immortality put him into an And I Must Scream position, in which his face accompanied the many others who came before him, decorating the sides of Rassilon's funereal dais.

  • In The Bible, Naomi says this to her two widowed daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. Orpah takes her up on it, Ruth refuses.

  • The king's speech before the battle of Agincourt in Henry V would be the most classic of examples.
    Rather proclaim it, Westmorland, through my host
    That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
    Let him depart. His passport shall be made,
    And crowns for convoy put into his purse.
    We would not die in that man's company
    That fears his fellowship to die with us.

    Video Games 
  • Last Scenario.
  • Alter A.I.L.A. Genesis.
  • Subverted at the beginning of Maniac Mansion. (If you pick Bernard.)
    Dave:This could be real dangerous. If anyone wants to back out...
    Bernard:Okay, I'm outta here.
    (starts to leave)
    Dave:Bernard, don't be a tunahead. This is Sandy we're talking about.
  • Also subverted in Army Men R.T.S., when Sarge tells his troops that if they want to back out now, he won't stop them. Cue Hoover attempting to sneak off and Sarge yells at him to "get back here!"
  • Nate Drake of Uncharted attempts to do this near the climax of every game. He sees that he's in way over his head and tells his companions that it would be just fine if they all bailed right then and there. Naturally, the companions refuse and on with the climax. Of course, circumstances normally intervene to leave Nate alone with the final boss anyway.
  • Joel from The Last of Us (made by the same company who did Uncharted), attempts to do this with Ellie. After all they had been through to get to the Fireflies, he turns to her in the last leg of their journey and tells her that they don't have to do this ( give Ellie to the Fireflies in hopes for a cure.), the pair of them can turn around and go back to where his brother lives and stay there. Ellie, of course, decides to keep going, otherwise it would have made their suffering entirely pointless.
  • Lee Everett does this to his team in Telltale's Season 1 of The Walking Dead. Bitten and trying to find Clementine, who had been kidnapped, he tells them that they don't have to come with him. Depending on how you acted around them, they'll either accept and not go, or refuse (willingly or reluctantly) and go anyway.
  • On the night before raid on the Northern Crater in Final Fantasy VII, Cloud tells the party that they should take the time to tie up any loose ends and do what they want to do before they prepare for the Final Battle and he won't hold it against them if they decide to not come along. Cloud and Tifa spend the night out in the field together for what could be their final moment together and when they arrive on the airship, there isn't anybody around. They quickly find out that all their friends want to join them anyway and defeat Sephiroth once and for all.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Inverted in "Princess Twilight Part 2". When the Mane Six and Spike venture into the dangerous Everfree Forest to investigate why it's expanding uncontrollably, they are attacked by a Cragodile. After defeating it, Applejack suggests (and the other ponies agree) that Twilight should go back to Ponyville and let the others continue the mission without her, because she is the only princess left in Equestria at the moment and they can't afford to lose her.