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Playing With / Take a Third Option

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Basic Trope: Offered only two options, a character chooses a third of his own devising.

  • Straight: The villain holds two cities up with his army and the hero can only go to one in time to save it. Rather than struggle on deciding which one, the hero summons the goddess and she gets some of her personal army to aid one city while the heroes liberate the other.
  • Exaggerated: The villain gives the hero two options which will probably both have horrid results. The hero breaks all rules of logic, out of nowhere, and manages to succeed with it and make everything go perfectly in the plot because of it.
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  • Downplayed: The villains forces the hero to choose between saving his lover or his friend, and the hero finds a way to save both of them.
  • Justified:
    • The two options were given as a Secret Test of Character to get the Hero to use his imagination in finding a way out.
    • The villain was trying to force the hero into making a hasty gut decision so he wouldn't have time to find an alternative.
    • The hero realizes that what he has been offered is in fact a False Dichotomy. There are actually several other options available to him.
  • Inverted: The heroes cover both the villain's escape routes, forcing the villain to improvise in order to get away.
  • Subverted:
    • The Hero's attempted third option was planned for, and prevented, by the villain.
    • At the last moment the hero suddenly realizes that the correct choice was the second one all along.
  • Double Subverted:
    • The Hero's attempted third option was planned for, and prevented, by the villain... but the hero makes it work anyway.
    • His third option was prevented, but his fourth option wasn't.
  • Parodied:
  • Zig Zagged:
    • In attempting to find a third option, he finds 56 more...none as appealing as the first two.
    • Alternatively, he finds 69 more, which are viable options...but the villain planned for all of them.
  • Averted: The Hero chooses one of the options provided, never considering the possibility of a third option.
  • Enforced: Choosing either of the two options given would involve killing off one of the fans' favorite characters.
  • Lampshaded: "He'll find a way to save us both. That's what he does."
  • Invoked: The villain intentionally omits an obvious third option so as to fool the hero into a trap.
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  • Exploited: The villain knows the hero will most likely pick a highly illogical third option and plans for it.
  • Defied:
    • The hero tries to take a third option, and is put down with extreme prejudice by the villain, who taunts him by saying, "Like I said, there is no third option."
    • There really isn't a third option at all.
  • Discussed: "Is this one of those situations where I have to think outside the box to figure this out? I hate those."
  • Conversed: "Oh, it's that episode of Batman where he has to make a Sadistic Choice. You know he's gonna get around it though, because he's the goddamn Batman."
  • Deconstructed:
    • The Hero's attempted third option comes at a bigger cost than choosing one of the other two would have been. Because of the unintended cost the hero starts to doubt his abilities and it slowly throws him into a Heroic BSoD
    • The hero take so long deciding that neither option gets picked, resulting in two cities being destroyed.
    • The hero's attempt at taking the third option fails, leading to both cities being destroyed
    • Even if the Third Option benefits both sides, few of both sides still disagree with the decision, and believes their choice is better.
  • Reconstructed: After a talk from his friends, the hero finds out that, despite the tragic cost,it was actually better than what the other choices were by far, giving the hero resolve to keep going and giving him new insight into the way the villain plans.
  • Played For Laughs: When the hero was given which option to pick, to save one city or the other, the hero replied: "Yes"
  • Played For Drama: The hero is given the choice to sacrifice himself or the lives of innocent people. Instead, he takes the third option and earns a scathing speech from his rival, who chastises him for his selfishness: a real hero wouldn't have hesitated to sacrifice himself for others, instead of searching for a third way out that may not have existed. In doing so, he put thousands of lives at risk for his own, even though it all worked out in the end. This acts as a moment of insight as to the rival's distorted sense of morality.

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