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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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    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."

    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 McMichael 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.

    Visual Novel 

  • Vixen: NYC: Mari's Evil Uncle Mustapha Maksai kidnaps her parents with her magical totem as ransom. She brings him the Tantu Totem, only for him to order his henchmen to lock her up. Dismayed, she says that Maksai had promised to release them. It's a ruse, as Mari had hoped to wind up with her parents so she could bust them out.

    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.

    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?


Video Example(s):


Baldur's Gate III

In Act 2, Mizora can be persuaded by the player character to end her infernal pact with Wyll as a condition for rescuing Zariel's asset from the Cult of the Absolute. But upon doing so, with said asset being Mizora herself, she ends up invoking a clause from Wyll's contract that allows her to keep her pact for up to six months, much to his chagrin.

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Main / YouSaidYouWouldLetThemGo

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