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You Said You Would Let Them Go

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Mercenary: Give us the file.
Claire Mahoney: If I do, will you let me go?
Mercenary: If I said yes, would you believe me?
Person of Interest, "Nautilus"

Standard response to a bad guy going back on a promise that he had no intention of keeping.

The use of this phrase comes in three tasty flavors:

  1. Sometimes uttered by The Mole or a member of Les Collaborateurs upon discovering the Big Bad's true, diabolical intentions for the captured heroes, Doomed Hometown, Innocent Bystanders, or other recipients of impending canine soccer or even worse. Usually, the speaker cut a deal with the villain to get the intended victims off easy, or simply hadn't seen the full extent of the Evil Plan. This is also likely to come from The Mole who has found himself sympathizing with the protagonists he's betraying. This is a clue that the Turn Coat might not be all bad, even though they've just sold the good guys out, or that they just discovered how Eviler Than Thou their new boss really is. It's often Foreshadowing a Heel–Face Turn on the part of the traitor, though they are likely to receive Redemption Equals Death as reward for their last-minute repentance.
  2. Also frequently spoken by a captive good guy who has been convinced by the villain, in a Hostage for MacGuffin scenario, to give him the location of the Rebel base, Secret Identity or Achilles' Heel of the hero, or other plot-driving information in exchange for the safety or freedom of something or someone the captive cares deeply about. More rarely, spoken as "You said you'd let me go!" by a Dirty Coward ally of the heroes captured by the villain and tricked into squealing on them with a promise of mercy.
  3. More rarely still, the "You said you'd let me go!" variation is spoken when a Mook or other underling is captured and threatened by a particularly unscrupulous or vengeful Anti-Hero and squeals on the bad guys in exchange for his life. This line is never uttered if the hero is actually intending to show mercy and let the badnik go. Simply hearing it said indicates the captive is about to discover just how ruthless their captor really is.

In all of the above cases, the villain's response is always the same: "I Lied."

Somehow, the speaker is always surprised by this.

Variants include "You said you were just going to scare him!" and "You said you'd only hurt them a little!", among others. Another variant is "You promised me mercy" / "And you shall have it" (shoots victim in head). By the standards of those who practice this variant, that is mercy.

If the villain had no reason to not keep his promise (Say, releasing the girlfriend of a hero who only got into this to save her, and who has no interest in stopping his evil plan), then he may be carrying a Villain Ball.

When the villain follows through with the Exact Wording of this agreement, it's either Unhand Them, Villain! or False Reassurance. This is one case when the bad guy is exempt from Villains Never Lie - revelations may be true. Promises may not. Compare/Contrast: I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure. May occasionally trigger heroic/villainous Roaring Rampage of Revenge.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Played with in Bloody Monday — the villainess releases the hero's sister after he does what she wants, then immediately turns around and kidnaps her again. She believes this will make him think she keeps her word.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Azmaria promises to go with a demon as long as Chrono and Rosette aren't hurt. He happily takes her—then sends a blast of energy towards them in an attempt to kill them anyway. Azmaria's horrified response is "No, YOU PROMISED!"
  • It is implied in Dragon Ball Z that Vegeta suffered this trope as a child from Frieza. Frieza takes Vegeta from his father when he was just a little boy in what was implied to be a deal forced upon his dad, and Frieza also threatened to kill his father should Vegeta disobey him or fail. Despite Vegeta doing everything Frieza told him, Frieza ended up reneging his end of the bargain by killing his father anyways, and then committing Genocide against the Saiyans.
  • In Mary and The Witch's Flower, when Mary brings the Fly-By-Night flower to Endor College, she demands "Where is Peter? You said you would let him go!" They only want to capture her to "study."
  • In One Piece, as the Straw Hats came to rescue Nico Robin in Enies Lobby, Smug Snake Spandam gloats that Luffy charged headfirst into the island and the 10,000-strong forces of the island and those forces have captured or killed him by now. The following lines ensue.
    Robin: Wait... this isn't what you promised!! My terms for cooperating with you were that you let them escape safely!!!
    Spandam: What's all this fuss for? Lucci, state the precise terms of the agreement.
    Lucci: "For the six members of the Straw Hat Crew, excluding Nico Robin, to leave Water Seven unharmed."
    Spandam: Yes... that's right. They left Water Seven perfectly unmolested... And came here, didn't they?!
    • He tries to justify it this way. The Straw Hats attack Enies Lobby after being spared, so sparing them anew would be quite stupid, as would be expecting someone to do so. But the fact that he was not going to let Robin go anyway, and also his Breaking Speech about how marines have no obligations to keep promises to pirates don't help his cause much.
    • Arlong promises to free Nami's village if she gives him 100 million Berries. She gets close to that amount, but Nezumi, a corrupt Navy Captain, comes to confiscate Nami's money hoard, and accidentally reveals that Arlong sent him by mentioning the specific amount. Nami confronts Arlong, who feigns ignorance and tells her to start again. It's a case of Exact Words. Arlong said he'd free her village if she brought him the money, but he never said he wouldn't prevent her from upholding HER end of the bargin...
    • During the Marines' attack on Ohara, they promised to let a ship full of citizens to go free, but Akainu blew it up, justifying it by saying that if a scholar was on board, the entire operation would be pointless. Though it was shown that the other Marines on other ships were horrified with what Akainu had ordered. Notable people include Spandine(Spandam's father), former Vice Admiral Jaguar D. Saul, and soon the soon to be Admiral Aokiji, the latter are the only reason Robin gets out of Ohara alive.
  • In PandoraHearts, Vincent promises to give Break the antidote to the poison killing Sharon (who was poisoned by Vincent) if Break destroys Alice's memories (it sounds more complicated than it is). When Break destroys the memories, Vincent drops the antidote off the balcony.
  • In an episode of Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl, Pikachu offers to surrender to Team Rocket if they let a Buneary that had taken a liking to him go.note  They decided to take both Buneary and Pikachu anyway.
  • In an early anime movie adaptation of the Samurai Shodown franchise, Earthquake has his men attack a village, after being told where the village was by a villager who acted as a spy for him in exchange for his own house being spared. However, Earthquake's men burn all the houses, including the house that belongs to the spy. The villager shouts at Earthquake, "You said you wouldn't burn my house!" Earthquake casually responds, "Oh, that shack was yours? I didn't know."
  • A Heroic example in Jojos Bizarre Adventure Golden Wind where Giorno states that he'll let Cioccolata live, only to lie and secretly create a stag beetle from a bullet in his head to eat his brains out. When Cioccolata tells him this, Giorno states that he'll never let a rotten piece of shit get away with what Cioccolata's done, giving him a beatdown lasting 7 pages in the manga/30 seconds in the anime.
  • In The Rising of the Shield Hero a group of Tact's followers, including Malty, are told that if they denounce him during his execution they will be allowed to live. They do so freely only to be executed after him. When Malty protests they were promised freedom, Naofumi mocks her for believing such an obvious lie.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens in Judge Dredd, when a man helps the other three Dark Judges (y'know, the ones dedicated to extinguishing all life?) free Judge Death on the condition they don't kill his wife. Naturally, "WE LIED!"
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In one Carl Barks comic, Magica DeSpell turns Donald Duck and his nephews into animals (well... non-anthropomorphic animals...) and says that she'll only turn them back if Scrooge gives her his dime. Naturally, she doesn't.
  • The Joker does this constantly. Then again who would really trust the Joker in the first place?
  • From Usagi Yojimbo:
    Tomoe: "You promised you would release Usagi if I turned myself over to you, Noriko!"
    Noriko: "Don't be an idiot."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The heroine does this to a captured vampire in the Wolves at the Gates Arc of season eight.
  • The Transformers (Marvel): Invoked and inverted in an early issue where Ratchet does a deal with Megatron whereby Ratchet will help Megatron takes back control of the Decepticons from Shockwave in return for him surrendering control of the Ark, where most of the other Autobots lie deactivated. In the end, Ratchet (falsely) tells Megatron he's fulfilled his side of the bargain, Megatron reveals he has no intention of fulfilling his and Ratchet reveals he's already prepared for that and has the Dinobots waiting in ambush.
  • MAD's parody of The Godfather Part II has Michael promise his sister that he'll never kill their brother Fredo, despite Fredo's treachery, while their mother is alive. Then he tells his consigliere to "put out a contract on Mom." Well, he didn't lie.
  • Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith. Darth Vader captures a family of bounty hunters who tried to kill him and threatens to kill their daughter unless they reveal who hired them. They're smart enough to insist that he let her go first, and make her swear that she won't seek revenge for their inevitable deaths so that Vader won't regard her as a threat he has to hunt down and kill. She's a younger Chanath Cha, the bounty hunter from Star Wars: Lando, so this is one deal he apparently decided to keep.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Emergency fic "Lost and Found," John Gage convinces a deranged killer to take him instead of Roy-but the the guy shoots Roy anyway after making John cuff him to the squad. Poor John spends 18 months of captivity thinking this and occasionally saying something close to it, believing Roy is dead.
  • Quicken: When a group of thugs assaulted Emma, she let one of them cut her nose off because their leader Lao promised that they'd let her go. When Lao showed that he had no intention of keeping his promise, she protested. When he said he lied, she went completely berserker and killed them all:
    Emma: Y-y-you promised. You s-s-said that – that you would let me go after – after she was done.
    Lao: Guess I lied, ginger.
  • Kage: It's revealed in Miranda's backstory that Kur lured her to hand herself over to him by saying that her parents would be spared from being burned at the stake as part of his shapeshifter purge. Unfortunately, Kur then vetoed his promise by asking the like-minded crowd's opinion on the matter, leading Miranda's parents to be killed anyway.

    Films — Animated 
  • A variation happens in Antz when General Mandible is interrogating Weaver for Z and Bala’s location. He reassures Weaver that he won’t hurt Z since "he’s not important". When Weaver still refuses to say anything, Mandible has his men torture Azteca, which finally makes Weaver relent. Mandible then orders Colonel Cutter to bring Bala back safely.
    Mandible: And as for Z… kill him.
    (Weaver and Azteca gasp in horror)
    Weaver: But you said he didn't matter!
    Mandible: It's for the good of the colony. You made the right decision.
  • In Despicable Me, after Vector kidnapped the girls and holds them hostage in exchange for the moon, Gru complies, but Vector decided not to uphold his side of the bargain.
  • At the climax of Ice Age: Continental Drift, Manny & the gang return to the continent, only to find Captain Gutt and his crew had beaten them there, having tied Ellie to a pillar, and Gutt holding a dagger near Peaches' neck. When Manny calls out to Gutt that he'd willingly turn himself in if Peaches was spared, Gutt dismisses this, but regardless allows Manny to board the next ship. When Manny goes aboard to exchange himself for Peaches' life, Gutt goes back on his word, stating that the mammoth took everything he had from him, and the evil captain intended to do the same.
    Manny: Alright, let them go!
    Gutt: (chuckles darkly) I don't think so. You destroyed everything I had! I'm just returning the favor.
    Manny: NO! [tries to charge at Gutt, but the crew rapidly lassoes him]
    Gutt: I warned you...
    • Louis, Peaches' best friend then steps up to the ape just as all seems lost.
  • Peter Pan: when Hook promises Tinker Bell that he wouldn't lay a hand or a hook on he attempts to use a time bomb instead.
    Hook: Here you keep it. The rest of him is MINE!
  • Rise of the Guardians: Jack is confronted by Pitch during his Heroic BSoD in the arctic, with the villain holds Baby Tooth hostage in exchange for Jack's staff. When Jack hands it over, he then demands Pitch let Baby Tooth go. Pitch's response? "No."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the first Austin Powers movie, Dr. Evil threatens to the UN that he will use a stolen warhead to make every volcano on the planet erupt unless they pay him a ransom. Later on, he reveals to Austin that he's gonna go through with the plan, money or no money.
    Austin Powers: Dr. Evil, do you really expect them to pay?
    Dr. Evil: No, Mr. Powers. I expect them to die! Even after they pay me the money, I'm still gonna melt every city on the planet with liquid hot magma!
  • In Air Force One, Ivan Korshunov doesn't release the First Lady and First Daughter as promised. He replies with the Exact Words, "Forgive me, I Lied".
  • In Batman films:
    • From Batman Returns, after The Penguin has just sent the Ice Princess off the edge of a building to her death by means of a swarm of bats and framed Batman for it:
      Catwoman: "You said you were just going to scare the Ice Princess."
      Penguin: "She looked pretty scared to me!"
    It wasn't so much that Catwoman feared for the girl's safety; she just wasn't willing to commit murder, at least not when the victim hadn't done anything to deserve it. She even seems to be unrepentant for her role in the murder at first, taunting Batman for his failure at a rescue attempt ("Seems like every woman you try to save ends up dead. Or deeply resentful. Maybe you should retire."). It is only when she looks down at the chaos that has erupted in Gotham Plaza that she experiences any remorse - and then, the Penguin makes it worse by congratulating her on her help.
    Appropriately for Two-Face, he had told a half-truth. When he said that he'd let the guard live, he really did mean he'd let him live - for the moment. Harvey Dent always lives in the moment, with his Two-Headed Coin determining every course of action he takes. He'd always planned to kill the guard one way or another; the coin toss was simply to establish whether the guard would die right then and there or would burned to death by acid in the bank vault with Batman.
    • From The Dark Knight When Harvey Dent/Two-Face encounters Maroni, and learns that Ramirez second Mole in the police department (he already killed the first), he decides to flip his coin. When Maroni protests, Dent points out that he only said that telling him wouldn't hurt his chances of him surviving, he never said that it meant he actually could go free yet. He then decides that Maroni is spared, but then kills the driver when the coin declares him not nearly as lucky.
  • Inverted in the John Wayne movie Big Jake. The title character's grandson is kidnapped by ruthless desperadoes; Big Jake and two of his sons travel down to Mexico in order to pay the ransom. What the kidnappers don't know, however, is that Jake McCandles has no intention of paying a ransom to them, and the strongbox that supposedly holds one million dollars actually holds nothing but newspaper clippings. When they get to the exchange, Jake uses the fake ransom to buy himself enough time to get his grandson to safety and slaughter all of the kidnappers.
  • Johann Schmidt (aka "Red Skull") also did this trope in the beginning of Captain America: The First Avenger to locate the Tesseract.
  • In the film Darkman.
    Rick: Oh, god! Don't! I've told you everything!
    Darkman: I know, Rick. I know you did. But let's pretend you didn't!
  • The exact "You said you'd let them go!" "I lied" exchange appears between Ridley and Damodar in the first Dungeons & Dragons (2000) movie. Considering what kind of movie this is, Ridley is the only person surprised.
  • In Hangmen Also Die!, General Votruba has the following to say when his name is called for execution:
    "My name shouldn't be counted in. That was the arrangement when I spoke for you on the radio."
  • From Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Abe gives up the crown piece allowing elf prince Nuada to activate the genocidal Golden Army to free princess Nuala. Nuada's first command:
    Abe: You'd do the exact same for Liz.
    Nuada: Kill them!
    Abe: But... he lied to us!
    Hellboy: Abe old buddy... if we ever get out of this, you and me gotta talk.
    • Despite Abe's reaction, the Big Bad never actually said that. Add to that the Synchronization the Big Bad had with the hostage, and we must conclude that Abe was hugging the Idiot Ball tightly on this one.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: The elf-king Thranduil offers a captive Ork Mook his freedom in exchange for information, then decapitates him as soon as he gives it. Thranduil's own son gives him a What the Hell, Hero? for the deception.
    Legolas: Why would you do that? You promised to set him free!
    Thranduil: And I did: I freed his wretched head from his miserable shoulders.
  • In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Mr Chairman teleports the gang back to ACME Headquarters and shows D.J on the live screen his father tied to the tracks of "The ACME Train of Death" and orders D.J to hand over the Blue Monkey if he wants to keep his family "together". D.J grudgingly obliges, but when he asks about his father the Chairman's simple response is "He's waiting for a train".
  • The Mask: "You said you wouldn't hurt him!" followed by the obligatory smug "I Lied".
    • In a previous draft of the screenplay, the collaborator is then thrown into an active printing press for her troubles. Though that scene didn't make it into the final release, we never see or hear from Peggy again.
    • In context it's obvious that they will hurt him, and that she's cooperating merely for personal gain, making the line in question much more macabre.
    • She may have thought they were just going to steal the mask from him, which wouldn't necessarily have hurt him.
      • Ultimately, though, they don't hurt him. Well, they do frame him and he gets sent to jail, but he's unharmed.
  • Played straight in the live-action Masters of the Universe adaptation starring Dolph Lundgren. Granted, He-Man's friends followed them back to the Castle, but had Skeletor made some pretext of "Hey, I'm trying to follow my part of the bargain", it seems He-Man would have let himself be tortured to death and let Skeletor become a god.
  • In Midnight Run, Robert De Niro's character has taken custody of Charles Grodin and is taking him back to jail. They run into various mishaps along the way, and at one point, De Niro is knocked into a raging river. Grodin can rescue him, but only does so after De Niro promises to let him go. As soon as he's on dry land, he slaps handcuffs on Grodin, saying he'll let him go once he's back in jail.
  • Subverted in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. The villain holds the family of a Russian scientist hostage until he authenticates the nuclear launch codes he's buying on the black market. Once the deal is done, the scientist pleads for his family to be let go. The villain makes a phone call and orders them released, then immediately shoots dead the scientist so he can't tell the authorities about what happened.
  • In The Outlaw Josey Wales:
    Fletcher: Damn you, Senator. You promised me those men would be decently treated!
    Senator Lane: They were decently treated. They were decently fed and then they were decently shot. Those men are common outlaws, nothing more.
  • The Patriot has a particularly cruel rendition of the "You said you'd let me go" variation, when a man gives up the location of the militia to Colonel Tavington, right before he has the man and everyone else in his town locked in a church and burned to death.
    Mr. Hardwick: But... You said we'd be forgiven!
    Col. Tavington: And indeed you may! ...But that's between you and God.
  • Subverted in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Will makes a deal with Barbossa in that Elizabeth goes free. When Will calls him out for dumping her on a desert island, rather than state that he lied, Barbossa points out a loophole: Will never said when or where Elizabeth would go free.
    • Re-imagined in Kingdom Hearts II. Will orders Barbossa to, among other things, "leave". Barbossa and his men comply and leave the ship, but "The Heartless stay."
  • Quantum of Solace has a Type 3: James Bond promises to let the Big Bad go in exchange for information about the Quantum crime syndicate; to his dismay, that means getting "let go" in the middle of the Bolivian desert with only a can of engine oil to drink. Karmic, given his plan to monopolize the country's water supply, but exceptionally cruel of a protagonist all the same.
  • RoboCop 2. Cain orders that a corrupt cop who betrayed him be killed by torture. His henchwoman Angie objects.
    Angie: You said you were just gonna scare him!
    Cain: Doesn't he look scared?
  • Runaway: The villain Luther kidnaps Ramsey's son Bobbie and sets up the exchange on top of an unfinished high rise to play to Ramsay's acrophobia. He releases Bobbie, only to inform Ramsay that his robots are waiting to kill the first person who exits the building.
  • From Sneakers:
    Bishop: "You gave your word."
    Cosmo: "I cannot kill my friend. [to henchman] Kill my friend."
  • In the film Spacehunter, the cyborg villain promises the plucky young heroine (played by a 14-year old Molly Ringwald) that she would go free if she could escape from his death maze. She does so, but he reneges on the deal. The two characters exchange the trope word for word, complete with Michael Ironside's gleeful "I Lied."
  • Inverted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock:
    Maltz: Wait. You said you would kill me.
    Kirk: I Lied.
  • Played with in Star Trek Into Darkness. Harrison keeps his word to release Kirk and the other prisoners in exchange for his men, but once they've beamed back announces that he's going to destroy Enterprise, saying mockingly, "No ship should go down without her captain."
  • Both versions crop up in Star Wars:
    • In A New Hope, Leia gives the (false) location of the Rebel base to Grand Moff Tarkin; Alderaan is not spared. The entire conversation, however, is filled with hidden meanings; Tarkin merely asked Leia if she had a preferred target, he never said he would destroy it instead of Alderaan. He's then hypocritically outraged when it turns out she lied.
      Tarkin: You see, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable.
      (to his men)
      Tarkin: Continue with the operation. You may fire when ready.
      Leia: WHAT?!
      Tarkin: You're far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration, but don't worry — we'll deal with your rebel friends soon enough!
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Lando is a textbook example of the former type, betraying his friends to the Empire but getting screwed over when Vader "alters the deal." Lando - who only agreed to betray them because doing otherwise would mean his city's destruction - rescues the heroes and joins their cause once it becomes clear that Vader has no intention of sticking to the original deal. This later came back to bite the Imperials in the next movie, because guess who is the pilot of the ship that destroyed the second Death Star?
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has the titular cyborg becoming able to lie:
    Terminator: Where's John Connor?
    Kate Brewster: If I tell you, do you promise to let me go?
    Terminator: Yes.
    Kate Brewster: He's, he's in the kennel. In a cage.
    [the Terminator goes to close the trunk]
    Kate Brewster: Hey. You said you'd let me go.
    Terminator: I Lied.
    • It's also a homage to a line he had in Commando, but in that one, he actually did let the guy go...
  • In Wall Street, Bud Fox says to Gordon Gekko: "You told me you were going to turn Bluestar around, not upside down. You used me." Or, to put it another way (since the sale of Bluestar will cause Bud's father's union workers to be fired), "You said you would let them stay!"
  • Miller's Crossing. The Dane captures one of Leo's minions and threatens to kill him if he doesn't reveal where his boss is hiding.
    Minion: How do I know you won't kill me anyway?
    The Dane: Because if you told me, and I killed you, and you were lying, then I wouldn't get to kill you then. Where's Leo?
    (after minion talks)
    The Dane: You know something? I believe you. (shoots him)
  • In These Are the Damned the Big Bad does let the protagonists go, but explains to his mistress afterwards that it makes no difference as they have absorbed a fatal dose of radiation.

  • In book seven of the H.I.V.E. Series, Laura's family is taken hostage in exchange for the location of the Hunt. Once the information is delivered, her parents are ordered to be killed, and her younger brother put in the Glasshouse.
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel The Big Game contains a rare example of the the good guy, Sisko, breaking a promise to one of the villains: to spare him arrest and let him finish the big poker game in exchange for information about the other villains. After he gives it, Sisko orders him arrested anyway. Though since the villain is a poker player, to his indignant "You said I could keep playing," Sisko gets to respond, "I was bluffing." And he was ready to bluff the other villains by the end, too.
  • Done in The Dresden Files twice. First to Thomas in Grave Peril Harry's White Court vampire half brother, who, until the relationship is explained in Blood Rites, is inexplicably helpful who betrays Michael and Harry to get Justine back, she being the love of his life and someone who had turned down Bianca, the Big Bad, so being in serious trouble. He explains it as he wanted to get her back then double cross Bianca. All that stops Harry and Michael killing him on the spot when he turns up again is the fact he has Amoracchius/Excalibur undamaged. He later helps Harry by holding off Lea with Michael.
    • Later after Harry's duel with Duchess Arianna in Changes, when the Red King double crosses him on a technicality, something of an irony, as Harry is a Guile Hero and pulls this on assorted villains.
    • This is also the faeries primary form of contract screw: they will abide by the letter of the deal, but never the spirit. If you make a deal with a fairy to have them let you go, alive, they will do so, but beating you to near death is perfectly valid, as long as you're alive when they do let you go. Suffice to say that you need to word your deals with faeries very carefully.
  • Speaking of wizards named Harry, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort promises to let Harry's friend go free, if Harry surrenders. Harry duly surrenders, Voldemort duly sets Neville on fire. Nobody is surprised, not even Harry.
    • The standard was set even earlier when Snape tries to make Voldemort promise not to kill Lily Potter. He is seemingly aware that Voldemort will not likely keep his word and as a back-up plan goes to Dumbledore to help save her. In the end, alas, Voldemort manages to anyway.
      • Voldemort did make a token gesture towards his promise by asking Lily to stand aside when she tried to get between him and his intended target (a favor he did not extend to her husband), but when she refuses, he simply kills her. Instead of, say, stunning her, or magically forcing her to obey him. This gesture and his failure to follow through on it is ironically the very thing that causes Voldemort's first downfall.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Magnificent Bastard Petyr Baelish, after apparently having tried to cheat on his wife Lysa with Sansa, promises he will never leave Lysa for as long as she lives. Then he immediately kills her.
    • Immediately after that Merrett Frey runs afoul of a variation this trope:
    Merrett Frey: (who is about to be hanged) NO, DON'T, I gave you your answer, you said you would let me go!
    Tom: Seems to me that what I said was I'd tell them to let you go ... Lem, let him go.
    Lem: Go bugger yourself.
    Tom: *Shrugs*
    • Cersei and Sansa ask Joffrey to be merciful and let Eddard Stark join the Night's Watch. He agrees, but then he changes his mind and has him executed by decapitation. Because "merciful" meant to him "not having him drawn and quartered".
  • Used a couple times in The Silmarillion: After seeing that his wife is held captive, Gorlim agrees to betray Barahir if Sauron reunites them and sets his wife free. Unfortunately, the wife was just an illusion—she was really dead—but Sauron still "reunites" them by killing Gorlim. Later, Mîm the Petty-Dwarf agrees to betray Túrin's location to the Orcs if they let Túrin go; they still take Túrin captive. Similar offers are made fairly frequently in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, but most of the other times either the offer is refused (Gandalf & co. when Frodo is captured, Húrin when he's captured, the Sons of Fëanor when Maedhros is captured) or the character is killed some other way. In general, if an evil (demi-)god makes this kind of offer, don't listen to him.
  • The "killing a prisoner Mook" version occurs with War-Prince Alloran in The Andalite Chronicles, complete with the line "you said you would let me go" and Alloran's retort that throwing the Mook out of the ship is "letting him go."
  • Inverted in Adam Hall's Quiller novel The Sinkiang Executive where it's the supposed 'good guy' who didn't keep his side of the bargain.
    "You failed to keep this 'deal' of yours," Parkis said.
    "So did they."
    "Did you ever imagine they'd keep to it?"
    "I think they would have."
    "If you had. So the blame was yours."
    "Indirectly. But I didn't kill her. They did."
    • In Quiller Balalaika, The Mafiya boss who's captured Quiller tells him he can go free if he survives a Russian Roulette. To his shock Quiller does, implying no-one's done that before. So he just orders his mooks to take Quiller to the forest and shoot him.
  • The Discworld novel Interesting Times has Lord Hong's mole, having failed to set up La Résistance to take the fall for his own assassination of the Emperor, remind Lord Hong that he promised he would never speak or write any order to harm him. He gets around this by making a little origami figure of a headless man.
  • Casetti, alias Ratchett, from Murder on the Orient Express had kidnapped a child for ransom. Some time after the money had been paid, the child's remains were found, and the rest of the family died one by one. And Casetti skipped the country. The surviving relatives and the servants tracked him down and conspired to kill him, and no one shed any tears, least of all Poirot.
  • In The Guardians, Deacon makes a Deal with the Devil to protect his hostage lovers. The demon does return them afterwards, but he never promised he'd return them alive.
  • The Mooks in the Redwall book Legend of Luke reminisce about past instances their captain Vilu Daskar has done this. One notable occasion involved the prisoners being sewn up in sacks full of rocks and thrown overboard, with the words "You leave my ship alive, free to go where you will!" He's also fond of making worn-out slaves walk the plank or "setting them free" over the edges of cliffs.
  • In Brotherband, this is used by Zavac in order to get the information about the Andomal out of a Skandian. The Skandian's overconfidence about the Andomal had him say more than he ought.
  • Elantris modifies this slightly: Ahan believes the rebellion he was part of was doomed to failure, and so sells out his co-conspirators to Telrii in exchange for a promise that they would be merely imprisoned for it. Telrii shows up and orders his guards to kill them all, anyway.
  • In Angie Sage's Septimus Heap book Darke, Linda goes to do this to the lovebirds, after one brought back Jenna in return for its mate. The Witch Mother stops her because a witch must not renege on a Darke agreement — it isn't good for her.
  • Variation in the first Malus Darkblade book. The titular character, a Druichi slaver, has a hold full of hostages. In order to spread the word of his raid, he offers to let any one of them, as chosen by the rest, go free unharmed. The prisoners unanimously vote to have the only woman aboard freed. She then offers anything in order to have her betrothed freed as well, an offer which Malus takes up. The anything, in this case, being a combination of brutal rape and slow, careful torture. The man to which this unfortunate girl was betrothed is then brought up on deck, and informed that the deal was to let the girl go unharmed. She's no longer unharmed, therefore the deal is off. There is a bright side, though, as Malus has a present for the poor present boy. "After all these exquisite tortures, she did recant, but by then it was too late, she was harmed. I did save you a token though, to remember her by". Malus then holds out the preserved face of the girl, removed from her corpse and dried with salt. Then, according to the best Joker traditions, Malus hoists the peasant boy up and throws him overboard, letting him off the ship into the siren-filled waters below
  • Trapped on Draconica: Apparently there was a miscommuncation. Yusef was under the impression that the cavalry would be killed but the infantry spared because they were little more than farmers with pitchforks; the cavalry would go first and then the infantry would give up and Gothon would 'let them go'. Gothon's plan was all or nothing. He gave the entire the army chance to surrender and join him and face no further aggression from him. Kazem turned this down on principle and the entire Eastern Alliance was slaughtered.
  • This happens once in The Tenets of Futilism. Frank, the son of two cult leaders, becomes appalled by his parent's refusal to release Sasha as promised upon Joe completing the trial they gave him. So appalled, in fact, that he turns on them, effectively saving Sasha's life. Frank had always been taught honesty. Seeing his parents act dishonestly must have really made something click, considering he was perfectly fine with their torturing Sasha with old medical instruments. Horrific torture? That's cool. Breaking a promise? Now that's just taking it too far.
  • The Executioner. In "Brothers in Blood", Bolan is told to surrender in exchange for a captive. Realising Bolan won't give himself up without a guarantee, the Big Bad moves into an exposed position where Bolan can shoot him, though the muzzle flash would give away Bolan's position and get him killed in turn. In this case it's Bolan who breaks the agreement, as he has no intention of handing himself over for torture and execution.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: In the fourth season, Mitch Anderson threatens an Air Force officer's family so that he will take him to his air base, enabling him to steal a fighter jet. When the officer does as he's told and asks to speak with his family, Anderson informs him that his family is dead and that he will be the next to die before shooting him.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Inverted Trope: in season 2, the fleet captures a Cylon and Roslin tells him to cooperate or he will be flushed out of an airlock without a spacesuit. He cooperates but she had him spaced anyway just because he was a Cylon.
  • Castle: Subverted Trope in the episode "Heartbreak Hotel": mafia boss kidnaps the girlfriend of a guy who accidentally stole 10 million dollars from the mob. Mafia boss promises if he returns the money, they'll return his girlfriend unharmed. Guy returns the money. Guy utters this line word for word. Mafia boss thinks for a moment, then... returns his girlfriend unharmed.
  • Heroes:
    • Sylar wants his abilities blocked by Matt. While doing that, he traps him in his own head for eternity. I guess after threatening a guy's family, killing his friends and taking over his body asking him for a favor is a bad idea.
    Sylar: (unbelieving) You said you would help me.
    Matt: Yeah, well... Guess there is still a little of you left inside me. Because I lied. Enjoy hell. (He disappears from Sylar's mind, leaving him scared. He then starts to wall up Sylar's body in his basement.)
    • Subverted Trope in Volume 1 of Heroes. DL Hawkins manages to pay off the debts to Linderman and give them to Linderman's Amoral Attorney, but then the Attorney implies that Linderman had altered the amount and takes the money. A later episode reveals that Linderman ordered a hit on that same attorney for stealing the money to buy diamonds for himself, implying that Linderman fully intended to uphold the deal.
  • Power Rangers: Standard for the franchise whenever the Rangers make a deal with the villain.
  • Revolution: Played with in the first season finale. When Tom Neville becomes the new leader of the Monroe Republic, his son asks him to please spare Charlie and Rachel, whatever happens in the Tower. In Tom's defence, he was going to uphold the deal, but the minute Team Matheson got into the control room on level 12, Tom orders the troops to break into the room and kill them all. He snidely asks his visibly shocked and uncomfortable son if he has a problem with that.
  • Smallville: In "Checkmate", Clark gets hit with this when Amanda Waller had agents holding Chloe at gunpoint and demanding him to reveal himself.
    Amanda Waller: I'd like to have my cake and eat it too.
  • Doctor Who: In "Nightmare in Silver", the Doctor plays Chess With Cybermen with human hostages as the stakes, and correctly anticipates this outcome beforehand.
  • A variation in Mob City: Mob enforcer Sid Rothman has hero Joe Teague restrained saying he'll let Teague go if he lets loose the location of a witness, but he'll kill him if Teague doesn't cooperate. When Rothman's associate calls him that he's in the process of assassinating said witness, Rothman gives us this gem: "I guess this cat got skinned another way, so, uh, never mind," and starts untying Teague.
  • Game of Thrones
    • King Joffrey agrees to spare Eddard Stark at the behest of his bride-to-be Sansa, who is also Eddard's daughter, as long as he confesses to treason and declares Joffrey as legitimate. Eddard makes said declaration but Joffrey has him beheaded anyway.
    • Ramsey Snow sends Theon Greyjoy to negotiate the surrender of the Ironborn in Moat Cailin, only to have them Flayed Alive. As they view the flayed corpses, Ramsey says mockingly, "You didn't think I was going to let them go, did you?" Theon of course had no such illusions, having already been tortured and broken by his sadistic captor.
  • In Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Jafar promises to Will that he will spare Anastasia if he tells where his heart is. As Anastasia herself predicted, he still kills her anyway.
  • Quark. Zorgon threatens to crush the Betty twins unless Quark talks. He does so, and Zorgon is so grateful he has all three chained up to be eaten by a lizard monster instead. When Quark protests this trope, Zorgon is hurt — this is him being merciful!
  • Mentioned but averted in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Assignment". A malevolent entity possessed Keiko O'Brien and used her to force Miles to sabotage the station in a plot to destroy the Bajoran Wormhole, indicating that it would release Keiko once O'Brien had fulfilled its command. Miles was able to drive the entity from Keiko's body, saving her and the Wormhole. Keiko later told Miles that she could sense the entity's emotions and admitted "I don't think it had any intention of letting either of us survive."
  • M*A*S*H: A visiting Congressional aide, R. Theodore Williamson, arrives at the 4077th to investigate Margaret for possible Communist sympathizing as she had once dated a man who was a known Communist. Hawkeye, B.J. and Charles later tell Williamson that he's wasting his time as Margaret is no Communist sympathizer ("If Hot Lips Houlihan dated Josef Stalin, the only thing she'd remember is that his moustache tickled!," says Hawkeye). They play up Margaret's romantic tendencies, so later, Williamson visits Margaret at her tent and says he can get her off the hook — for a little romantic tussle. Margaret pretends to go along with it, but it's actually a ploy to get a compromising photo of Williamson in order to force him to back off. After the setup is revealed, Williamson says he had no intention of letting Margaret off the hook even if she'd gone through with it. Fortunately for everyone except Williamson himself, because of the picture, he's left with no choice but to walk away.
  • Chuck: In "Chuck Versus The Leftovers", Big Bad Akexei Volkoff has locked up the team and Chuck's mother inside the Buy More. He says he'll let them live if they hand Frost over to him. They do so and Volkoff still tries to kill Chuck twice. Mary is forced to reveal she is Chuck's mother and threatens him at gunpoint to get him to spare their lives.
  • In Arrow, Damien Darhk's response is "One, that was more implied than actually agreed upon; two (and more importantly) "Bad guy, remember?"
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation. In "A Fistful of Datas", a Genre Savvy Troi has to warn Worf of this trope, pointing out the villain always breaks his word in The Westerns their holodeck program is based on.
  • Blake's 7.
    • In "The Harvest of Kairos", Servalan captures the Liberator and threatens to execute our heroes one-by-one until they order Zen to transfer command authority to her. Tarrant points out Servalan will likely kill them anyway, and refuses. Avon however concedes, but quickly adds a provision to Zen that Servalan must first leave them unharmed on a planet with Earth-like conditions. Unfortunately the nearest planet of that description is a Death World, and Servalan later tries to destroy them with Orbital Bombardment just to be sure.
    • In "Terminal", Servalan uses a Hostage for MacGuffin ploy, throwing in her own spaceship in exchange for the Liberator as a way off the planet. Unfortunately her hostage is actually an illusion created with a Lotus-Eater Machine, and her spaceship crashlanded on arrival so they might not be able to repair it. And did she mention that the planet's fauna is extremely hostile and all the technology she left behind is booby-trapped?
  • Invoked a couple of times in NUMB3RS:
    • In "Backscatter", two bank employees are kidnapped to force their boss to facilitate a heist. When Don and Gary Walker are trying to convince the boss to help them, one of the things they tell him is that no matter what the guy claims, the hostages are pretty much guaranteed to be killed as soon as they're no longer needed.
    • In "One Hour", two bodyguards who had been involved in a conspiracy to kidnap their charge are shot, one fatally. When the agents confront the survivor with evidence that he was in on it, he points out that if they're willing to kill their accomplices, "You gotta figure they don't plan on leaving that boy alive." This is later confirmed; when Colby makes the ransom drop and rescues the boy, the kidnapper is seen trying to set up a shot before David comes in and arrests him.
  • In a White Collar episode, a little girl is kidnapped and held for ransom. Naturally, the kidnappers are promising that she'll be released unharmed if the random is paid, but Neal quickly figures out that they're not hiding their faces in front of her, which is a clear indication that they're not worried about her identifying them later because they don't intend to let live.
  • Altered Carbon. The Anti-Hero version happens in "Force of Evil". Takeshi Kovacs has been tortured for hours in Virtual Reality Interrogation, but he's eventually able to fool the Torture Technicians into waking him up in the real world. He then pretends to be an undercover officer for a CTAC special forces unit, spells out a To the Pain description of what will happen to them for this stuff-up, but says the first man to release him will get to live. The technicians rush to do so, whereupon Kovacs proceeds to Real Death them and everyone else in the building. As he's exiting the building, he encounters his sidekick Vernon, who's convinced the cyborg thug who originally captured Kovacs to take him to where Kovacs is being held. Kovacs Boom Headshots the thug without breaking stride, whereupon Vernon says belatedly that he'd actually promised the thug his life.

    Professional Wrestling 

  • In Fall Brawl 1997, after Curt Hennig betrayed The Four Horsemen and revealed himself to be The Mole for the New World Order, the rest of the nWo members handcuffed Chris Benoit and Steve [Mc Michael] and proceeded to give Ric Flair a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown until the other horsemen surrendered. When they dragged Flair to the cage door, Kevin Nash threatened that if they don’t surrender, Flair will have the cage door slammed on his head. McMichael’s response was, "You got to stop this, god damn it!" After the nWo won, Curt Hennig slammed the door on Ric Flair’s head anyway.
  • On the last RAW of 2014, during the Cutting Edge Peep Show, Seth Rollins and Big Show threatened to paralyze Edge, who had retired three years prior due to neck issues, until John Cena brought back The Authority. Realizing that he was in a no-win situation, Cena brought back the Authority. Seth’s response, "But damn you gotta know me better than that, I'm gonna kill him anyways." Cena successfully saved Edge, but got beat down by J&J Security, Big Show, and Seth Rollins.

  • Inverted in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio play The Sirens of Time: The Sixth Doctor threatens to release the Temperon if the Knights of Valeysha don't back off and release his fifth incarnation. They comply, at which point he releases him anyway.

  • In Anne of the Thousand Days, Smeaton says at the trial that Cromwell promised him that he would be allowed to live if he confessed to carnal relations with the queen. Henry tells Smeaton that it was a lie and he's to die regardless of what he says.

    Video Games 
  • In the Fan Game Danganronpa Another, the third culprit is revealed to have been subjected to this as it's revealed Ultimate Despair was holding the hundred orphans his church looked after hostage to force them to do Monokuma's bidding. When the truth is revealed and the culprit is about to be marched to their death, Monokuma displays for everyone a video of the hostages' broken, mutilated corpses and justifies it by telling them that he said he'd "release" them but never said how.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Jaree-Ra assures you that after you help him cause a ship to become wrecked that he'll make sure the crew is safe. Naturally when you arrive at the ship and discover that his marauders have instead butchered the crew it's really no surprise when his sister Deeja proceeds to turn on you when she offers you "your share" of the spoils.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, you find a group of Great Khans holed up in Boulder City holding a few NCR soldiers hostage while a small NCR force is gunning for them. With some persuasion, you can convince them to release the hostages in return for being allowed to leave in peace. When you tell the NCR officer in place about the deal, he says that he just received orders to take the Khans out by force, even though they released the hostages. Fortunately, if you're still hoping for a peaceful resolution, you can appeal to his integrity and convince him to stand down anyway.
    • In the backstory, Vault 11 had to decide who would be chosen as the Vault's Overseer and thus sacrificed for the good of the Vault. It was eventually decided to be chosen by vote but led to a tyranny of the masses with the largest voting blocs sending anyone they didn't like to die. Katherine Stone was forced to perform sexual favors for the Justice Bloc's men to save her husband... who sent him to die anyway. Katherine then decided to take justice into her own hands and killed as many Justice Bloc members as she could just to be called Overseer and enact her real plan Overseer Order 745: citizens are given numbers and become Overseer if the random number generator calls them. With no way to secure their power or even their chance to live the voting blocs erupted into violence, anger boiling over at the hands of abuses and fear of death. In the end, there were only 5 members still alive and then there was one.
  • Jason Brody of Far Cry 3 finds that his friend Keith Ramsay is being held captive by Bambi "Buck" Hughes, an Australian Psycho for Hire. Buck offers to return his friend if Jason goes on a Fetch Quest for an ancient Chinese knife. Once Jason finally brings Buck his knife, he finds out that Buck is a Depraved Homosexual who was keeping Keith as a Sex Slave, and now he wants to add Jason to the collection.
    Buck: Yeah. Look, about that, mate, I am grateful, right? And, uh... well, I'd really like to show my appreciation, you know... (cups his groin) proper, like a man should.
    Jason: You said we could leave, you fuck!
    Buck: No, no, no, no. What I actually said was that Keith could leave with you, but you're not going anywhere.
  • Cecil from Final Fantasy IV gives away the Earth Crystal to Golbez at the Tower of Zot in exchange for Rosa's life. Golbez's response? "Rosa? Who's that?", plus it appears the woman would have been chopped in half by a guillotinenote  anyway if the heroes didn't save her in the nick of time.
  • The Force Unleashed: When Darth Vader attacks the Rebel meeting, Galen Marek shouts, "You agreed to stay away". Vader's response? "I lied, as I have from the very beginning."
  • Golden Sun:
    • Played with in the first game, where the party trades the plot coupon for a hostage, only to be tricked by crafty wording. (To be fair, the villain only said he wouldn't hurt the hostage, her release was never mentioned.)
    • This actually happens twice, implying that Isaac really should have known better. And yet, despite managing to outsmart Isaac & co. twice using Exact Words, Saturos & Menardi get referred to as Dumb Muscle in The Lost Age.
  • In Guild Wars Eye of the North, the vanguard soldier Anton reveals that he provided information to the Charr in exchange for his village's safety. It went exactly the way you'd expect, with the bonus of his being caught and imprisoned for it. His quest line involves seeking out and eventually killing the Charr he made the deal with.
  • Half-Life 2: Dr. Mossman says that to Dr. Breen after the Resistance leader's capture. She ends up doing a Heel–Face Turn in the end, after the hero's Violation of Common Sense. And before that, Eli invokes the trope with "Goddammit Breen, you agreed you would let her go!"
  • One mission in Saints Row IV has you rescue Matt Miller from the simulation. During this mission, Zinyak gives you a choice between continuing the mission and surrendering. He promises to release the humans he's holding captive and let them leave, but you will be executed in return. If you take his offer, you get a closing credit sequence then a Mission Failure screen with the message "Zinyak was lying."
  • In Sara is Missing, you will have this reaction if you share the "Red Room" curse to the people on Sara's phone and Irizu kills James. It's worth mentioning that the choice doesn't matter since James dies either way.
  • Starcraft - in the Zerg campaign of the Brood Wars expansion, Sarah Kerrigan abducts the matriarch of the Dark Templars, and promises their prelate Zeratul that if he helps her in her conquest, she will allow the matriarch to go free (the highlighting is Sarah's and it's so pronounced that Zeratul should've probably suspected foul play right then). Once Zeratul fulfills their part of the bargain and demands the matriarch to be released, Kerrigan gleefully asks her if she wants to leave, only for the matriarch to declare her allegiance to the Zerg. Turns out she had enslaved the matriarch long before, and the entire abduction plot was just a ruse.
  • Suikoden II: During Luca Blight's attack on Ryube Village, a poor villager begs the madman to let her go. He decides to humor her request and orders her to act like a pig for his amusement. She does so, and when she asks to be spared, Luca shouts, "Die, pig!" and cuts her down anyway.
  • Subverted at the end of Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure. Montana Max tells Buster that he'll return Babs and the rest of his friends to him if he gives him the titular hidden treasure. Buster refuses to give it to him, thus starting the final battle with Monty's giant robot. After Buster defeats Monty and his robot, he tells him he promised to let Babs and his friends go. Monty reminds him he still owes him the treasure, and Buster still refuses to give it to him.
  • Near the end of The Walking Dead Season 3 the Big Bad has a gun to the head of two of your friends, and forces you to pick which one lives. However, she then kills the one you pick despite her allies' objections and her only response is "I can do whatever I want."

    Web Original 
  • Mecha Sonic implies after defeating Yoshi in Super Mario Bros. Z Episode 3 that he would have pulled the trope on Yoshi anyways had he simply given him the Chaos Emerald.
  • Variant 3 occurs in Worm when Nyx of the Slaughterhouse Nine, a violent serial killer and murderer with illusion powers, is caught by the Wards and Undersiders. Clockblocker, the Wards team leader, gives her his word as a hero that she'll live if she tells them where Jack Slash, the leader of the Nine, is, but after she does so both he and Grue agree that she can't be allowed to live, and Crucible incinerates her.

    Western Animation 
  • From the Batman Beyond episode "Ascension":
    Batman: "Enough. Turn it off. That thing's gonna kill him."
    Paxton Powers: "You want this as much as I do."
    Batman: "No. I wouldn't have agreed to this. You said you were gonna help him."
    Paxton Powers: "I Lied."
  • Danny Phantom, "Reality Trip": Freakshow takes the ¡Three Amigos!' families hostage to blackmail them into bringing him three powerful Mineral MacGuffins. Not only does Freakshow seize them before Danny has a chance to use them to doublecross him, but he doublecrosses them.
    Danny: We had a deal!
    Freakshow: The deal was, "if you want to see your parents alive again." Well, here they are, alive... for now!
  • A variation of this happens in the American Dragon: Jake Long episode “Homecoming”. Rose, who was earlier revealed to have been kidnapped at birth by The Huntsman, is then blackmailed by him into betraying Jake by stealing the last three crystal skulls, with the promise of the location (and safety) of her birth parents.
    The Huntsman: Excellent work, Huntsgirl.
    Rose: I gave you your skulls, now tell me where my parents are!
    The Huntsman: Not until my plan is complete.
    Rose: What? But you promised!
    The Huntsman: And you promised your allegiance!
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien has the episode "Simian Says" in which Mizaru mutates the entire Arachnachimmian species into DNAliens (courtesy of Simian accidentally infecting Muzaru with a Xenocyte). He captures a remaining unaffected family to force Ben and his friends out of hiding. Ben and company reveal themselves in the process, but Mizaru transforms the remaining family into DNAliens anyway.
    Ben: We had a deal!
    Mizaru: What possible reason would I have to keeping a bargain with you, Ben Tennyson?
  • An episode of Sonic Underground had Knuckles helping Dr. Robotnik to capture the hedgehogs, on the condition that he not roboticize them afterward. He's rather outraged when Robotnik goes back on his word.
  • In the origin story of Freakazoid!!, Gutierrez promises to let Dexter Douglas's family go free if he's given the code that will allow him to become a "Freakazoid." When Roddy complies, Gutierrez thanks him and orders his guards to eliminate Roddy, Dexter, and the family. Roddy doesn't even get to say the whole phrase (But you said-) before Gutierrez cuts him off with "I Lied."
  • The Super Mario Bros. Super Show:
    • From the episode "Pirates of Koopa":
    Princess Toadstool: You said you wouldn't harm my friends if I came willingly!
    King Koopa: Would Blackbeard Koopa lie? [winks at the camera] Besides, you didn't come willingly!
    • In an earlier episode, "The Great Gladiator Gig", Koopa claimed that if Mario and Luigi defeat his champion, Tryclyde, they will go free. Unfortunately, after the Mario Bros. beat Tryclyde, Bowser then orders to have the lions released to eat the Mario Bros.
    King Koopa: Bruteus, release the lions!
    Princess Toadstool: But you promised!
    King Koopa: One of the nicest things about being evil is, you get to lie a lot.
  • In South Park episode "Fun With Veal", Cartman gets the job of negotiating with the FBI over the 23 stolen calves (which are treated exactly like a hostage situation). He offers the FBI negotiator one calf in return for weapons and ammunition. Stan and Kyle are uncertain about this, but when he gets them, he quickly finds a reason not to hand over any calves, and keeps bargaining for more.
  • Used in the Sofia the First episode, "Make Way For Miss Nettle", where Miss Nettle promises to free the fairies from Sleeping Beauty, whom she captured earlier, in exchange for Sofia handing over a powerful spellbook. As she's about to fly off with the book, Sofia reminds her to free the fairies.
    Miss Nettle: Oh no, I can't do that. If I let them out now, they'd just come after me.
    Sofia: But we had a deal!
    Miss Nettle: Oh, all right. I'll let them out of their bubble after I've learned every spell in their book and become the most powerful fairy in the world!
  • Amphibia: In "Reunion", Captain Grime's forces surround the Frogs. He suggests the Frogs' champion, Anne, duel his champion, Sasha. If Anne wins, they will go free. When Anne wins, Grime immediately reneges and orders his forces to attack.
  • An episode of Rick and Morty starts with Morty asking Rick for the dragon he promised him, but Rick only said that to get Morty to come with him on another dangerous adventure, and has no interest in actually getting him a dragon. It isn't until Beth intervenes that Rick makes good on his promise.
  • In the Season 1 finale of The Owl House, a variation of this happens between Lilith and Emperor Belos, after the former has captured Eda, on the promise that Belos would heal Eda’s curse. He reveals that he never intended to heal her at all, and is going to publicly petrify her to set an example for all those who defy him. This ultimately results in a Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal from Lilith.
    Lilith: (nervously smiles) Taking her to the healing ceremony?
    Emperor Belos: I will not be healing her.
    Lilith: But you promised me…
    Emperor Belos: Don’t be so naive, Lilith. This is the Titan’s will.

    Real Life 
  • Richard Phillips, the captain who was held hostage on his cargo ship by Somali pirates in 2009. Using a series of mind games and Obfuscating Stupidity, he secretly communicated with his crew that allowed them to capture one of the pirates. This led to a trade: the captain for the captured pirate. The pirate was released first, but the captain wasn't. After his rescue by the Navy SEALS, Phillips said that he had learned never to make deals with pirates.
  • The Lindberg kidnapping case is an odd case of this trope. Some say the kidnapper lied and killed the toddler anyway. Others say the Lindbergh baby was killed during the kidnapping by accident (falling from the arms of the man who had held him on the ladder going down from the window) and the kidnapper claimed that he was alive to collect the ransom.
  • This trope is part of why countries have a rule about never negotiating with terrorists: how do they know said terrorists won't just set off the bomb (or whatever they were going to do) anyway?