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Xanatos Gambit / Live-Action TV

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  • Angel: In Season 4, the titular character convinces his enemy Lilah to give him information to track a common and very powerful enemy, called The Beast by presenting it as a Xanatos Gambit for her: "I'm not going to stop until I kill it, and if I kill it, you win. Or I'll die trying, and in that win again." From Lilah's perspective, that Xanatos Gambit was subverted, in that neither Angel nor The Beast died in their battle and The Beast left without killing Angel.
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  • In the Babylon 5 movie "The Lost Tales", Asmodeus runs one of these by presenting Father Cassidy with a Morton's Fork: let human religion continue to decline, or allow an innocent man to suffer for weeks when he could be cured in minutes? Either thought pleases Asmodeus. And the temptation presented by the fork is itself a distraction, since Asmodeus' true goal is to escape, and he does that no matter when Cassidy holds the exorcism... so long as they do it in space, and why would they go through the effort to move him all the way back to Earth first?
  • Subverted in Battlestar Galactica (2003). Throughout the first two seasons, we are constantly told that the Cylons "have a plan", and the way the Cylon characters meets every defeat with a smirk and a cryptic remark about worse things to come makes it all too believable. However, as the series goes on, the supposed plan seems more and more bizarre, and finally the movie spells it out: there never was a master plan beyond "exterminate all the humans... somehow," and all the times the Cylons appeared to lose, they did in fact lose. They're just really good at looking enigmatically smug while losing.
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  • Blake's 7: Big Bad Servalan practically eats and drinks the gambit. In several episodes she tallies the score at the end: win or draw (she never loses). In episode Gold her opponent Avon suspects a trap and plays the game so that he can stay on top. Instead of being killed by Servalan's troops, he manages to take off with her money, only to find out that a week earlier Servalan had gained control of the central bank that issued the bank notes he just got, rendering them useless.
  • Bones
    • The serial killer Howard Epps utilized such a plan to delay his execution. Pleading innocence of murder as his execution was pending, he manipulated his defense lawyer into getting a final, last-ditch investigation into the murder for which he was convicted. While he had in fact killed the woman, the investigation led the authorities to the site where he had buried his other victims. Epps was delighted that they had found the bodies, as the legal proceedings would keep his case in court, and him alive, for years to come; with the added bonus of having them know that they just saved the life of a serial killer. Upon discovering the bodies, Booth realizes that this was his plan all along.
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    • The plan kind of fell through when Epps fell off the balcony. Although before that, he did manage to escape from prison, and he almost succeeded in killing Cam and Zack. He also successfully killed several other people. So all in all, his plan did work for him, allowing him to have quite a bit of screwed-up "fun."
  • Breaking Bad: As well as a Batman Gambit. While Walt—whom the Salamanca twins want dead—is working for Gus Fring, Gus has the DEA sniffing around. So to stay in good graces with the Juarez cartel, Gus offers the twins Hank Schrader, the DEA agent who killed Tuco... and then Hank gets an anonymous warning about the twins coming for him. If the twins had succeeded in killing Hank, the DEA would have put more focus on the cartel allowing Gus to corner the market. But if Hank killed them instead which he did, Walt would be safe, and Gus could force a sit-down with the cartel and ultimately wipe them out. No matter who loses, Gus wins.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine had Charles Boyle of all people pull one off in season 4's "Skyfire Cycle." The Boyle family usually vacations in Iowa, but Gina (whose mother recently married into the family) wants to go to Aruba. Charles informs her that "the cousins" have already decided and thus a full Council of Cousins would need to agree to change. Gina goes after the cousins one by one to make personal appeals to change the vote...which Charles is fine with since connecting closely with the cousins and Boyle family as a whole is something else he wants Gina to do. And if she failed then the vacation would stay in Iowa like he wanted so he got a win either way. This also turns going to Aruba into a Pyrrhic Victory for Gina as she's horrified to realize she did get closer to the family in her efforts.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • During its first appearance in Season 3's "Amends", the First Evil repeatedly Mind Rapes Angel and tries to get him to kill Buffy, but is content when Angel chooses to commit Suicide by Sunlight instead. Either way, it would be a severe blow to the forces of good; either the Slayer or a champion of The Powers That Be and the Shanshu Prophecy candidate would die:
      The First: You aren't supposed to die. This isn't the plan! But it'll do.
    • In Season 6's "Grave", Giles arrives with the powers of a coven in order to defeat Willow after she does a Face–Heel Turn. If he defeats her, the threat is neutralized; if he loses, Willow will take his power, thus giving Willow a window to her emotions, so Xander could stop her. It's mixed with Batman Gambit, as he was banking on the emotional appeal.
  • Bugs: One of the few villains to survive from the first series, Jean Daniel, used a Xanatos Gambit to escape prison in the second series. He got privileges for good behaviour in the prison in order to be allowed to invest the prison's funds to help raise money for a swimming pool, in the process funding several plots which the Bugs team got wound up in, making investments that required the team to succeed in stopping the various plots to make a profit. He then used the funds he raised in excess of the swimming pool target to buy the prison.
  • Burn Notice: In "Dead to Rights", Anson sets up one of these. If the plan succeeds, he's rich. If it fails, then he can blackmail Michael into doing whatever he wants. If Michael is killed in the process, he doesn't have to worry about him anymore.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor uses these. e.g, in "Remembrance of the Daleks", the Seventh Doctor seems to be trying to keep the Daleks from getting hold of the Hand of Omega (plan A) but when they do get to use it, he reveals that he rigged it so that when the Daleks tried to use it, they'd blow up their own sun (plan B). A few weeks later, he pulled the exact same trick on the Cybermen.
    • The Master and especially the Delgado Master, who plays for every possible team just in case (see Frontier in Space). Then there was the magic gun subplot in The Last of the Time Lords, and the backup plan of the LazLabs ring... Even when he is seemingly defeated, he will find some way of coming back.
    • "Amy's Choice": Both realities are dreams, so whichever one they choose, the Dream Lord wins. Unfortunately for him, the Doctor knows him too well and figures it out.
  • The Flash (1990): In "Honor Among Thieves", a crime boss appears to gather a team to steal a rare mask. The police place their forces around the mask only to find out his men were there to loot the city. Later it's discovered to be a double fake as they're only distractions so he really could steal the mask.
  • Game of Thrones: Littlefinger essentially spells this trope out to Sansa in Season 7 Episode 3.
    Littlefinger: Don’t fight in the North or the South. Fight every battle everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before.
    • In "The Mountain and The Viper", Oberyn engineers one when he volunteers for combat against Gregor Clegane. Gregor had killed Oberyn's sister and her children, under Tywin Lannister's orders. If Oberyn won, he'd get revenge on Gregor, and publicly humiliate the Lannisters. If he died, the Lannisters would lose his kingdom as an ally. He also poisoned his blade, so that if he even wounded Clegane, he'd get his revenge whether he won or lost.
      • Unfortunately things do not pan out this way, with his lover and daughters murdering his brother and nephew when they won't take revenge themselves for his death, rendering his family extinct, particularly because they themselves are killed while working with Deanerys to take revenge on Cersei. The icing on the cake? While he's seemingly reduced to some form of mindless undead slave Clegane does not die from the poison and only dies 4 seasons later at the hand of his brother.
  • The Good Doctor: Dr. Andrews engineers a situation with two possible outcomes, both of which are beneficial for him: if Shaun does well, Andrews goes down as the man who supported a young autistic surgeon when nobody else wanted to; if Shaun fails, then Dr. Glassman has to resign as part of the deal he made to ensure Shaun's support, and Andrews takes his place as the head of the hospital.
  • Homeland: Terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir executes such a gambit in Season 2 of Homeland. Abu Nazir has reasons to doubt the allegiance of his sleeper agent Nicholas Brody. He meets with Brody, telling him of his plans to attack a soldiers' homecoming event. Unbeknownst to Brody (and the TV viewer), during this meeting Abu Nazir is having a bomb planted in Brody's SUV. The day of the event comes and the terrorist attack is completely busted, confirming that Brody is now aligned with the CIA. Nazir then takes advantage of Brody's priviledged access with the CIA and leaves instructions with a loyal underling to detonate the car bomb when Brody is attending a memorial service at CIA HQ, causing massive casualties.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O presents a particularly elaborate example, as Big Bad Swartz turns out to be the one backing every faction within the confines of a Stable Time Loop that he's established in such a way that he can't lose: if Sougo kills Swartz, the loop comes undone in a way that erases Sougo's only friends from existence. If Sougo lets Swartz kill him, then Swartz wins. If Sougo completes the loop by becoming Oma Zi-O, then on top of using Oma as his Puppet King, which is the next best thing to being king himself, Swartz can just try again in the next iteration of the loop. If Sougo somehow doesn't do any of those, then a Time Crash destroys all timelines except Swartz's, so he wins. Thankfully, he gets Out-Gambitted by Sougo. First, by demonstrating that the power of Oma Zi-O cannot be taken in anyway before sacrificing said power to break the established Stable Time Loop.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Eames proposed one in "Semi-Professional." They suspected a judge of hiring a small-time crook (that he had previously given probation to) to commit a murder. They arrest the crook on a probation violation, which brought him back before the same judge. If the judge rules it isn't a probation violation, they have further evidence that the two were in collusion. If he rules it was a probation violation and sends the crook to jail, the crook now has a reason to turn on him. He rules it was a violation, and the crook gives them evidence that allows Goren to manipulate the judge into incriminating himself.
  • MacGyver (2016): It's debatable whether Murdoc pulls one of these or an All According to Plan in "X-Ray + Penny". He kidnaps Macgyver, apparently intending to torture him for the location of Murdoc's son Cassian. He certainly does the kidnapping part right, getting away cleanly enough that Jack declares the trail cold, but then takes a biiiiig gulp of Bond Villain Stupidity in keeping his prisoner contained. He first threatens Mac and beats him up a little, then leaves, ostensibly to get Noodle Implements to torture him with (which apparently he couldn't have just brought with him in the first place). Mac uses the time and various materials Murdoc conveniently left to escape, then leads the team back to where he was held, where they find evidence of Murdoc's next target. They track the guy down, find out he's an undercover hitman and take him in... only for Murdoc to ambush them with a friggin' RPG and "rescue" their prisoner, recruiting him for a "collective" he's forming. So, Plan A: Mac doesn't escape. Murdoc tortures him and finds his son (yay!). Even if Mac doesn't know where Cassian is or dies without telling, Murdoc still gets to defeat him and have some fun. Plan B: Mac does escape and leads Murdoc to his target. A later episode shows how Plan B works out for him.
  • Madam Secretary has an accidental variant with the cyberattack on Air Force One in the season two premiere. It was carried out by the Ukrainians as a Frame-Up of the Russians to get the United States to protect Ukraine from ongoing Russian aggression: they hired a hacker who'd been a hired gun for the Russians in the past, then killed him with polonium, a famously Russian assassination method. Even after Ukrainian President Bozek is found out, the Dalton Administration is forced to go along with the story as planned, or else destroy the country's credibility for years and likely trigger an immediate Russian invasion of Ukraine. So, a Xanatos Gambit in effect, but based on Bozek's reaction, very much not one that was planned that way.
  • Power Rangers:
    • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, of all people, Rita Repulsa has one of these. In the season 3 two-parter "A Ranger Catastrophe", she carries out a typical "separate Tommy from his teammates, send down a Monster of the Week" plot, but the real aim of the plot is not necessarily to destroy the Rangers, but to ingratiate her spy, the brainwashed girl Kat, into the Rangers' social circle.
    • Done on a series-long basis in Power Rangers Ninja Storm and Power Rangers RPM. In Ninja Storm, Lothor sent Monsters Of The Week one at a time - knowing that the monsters would become Sealed Evil in a Can, and that the can had a specific limit on how much it could hold before it broke and everything got out at once giving him a whole ARMY of monsters - and he intentionally kept sending monsters just long enough to reach that limit. In RPM, the weekly monsters Venjix sent were just decoys to prevent the Rangers from noticing him filling the city with cyborg Manchurian Agents that would take over the city for him with just the push of a button. In both cases, if the monster succeeds, great, they win. If the monster failed, oh well, Plan B is now one step closer to fruition.
    • In Power Rangers Samurai episode Dayu is kidnapping brides on their wedding days. The Rangers take one bride into safety and replace her at the altar with one of the female Rangers. The bad guys don't fall for it, capturing the Ranger and kidnapping the real bride from the safehouse anyway. Then it's revealed that the protected bride had been replaced with the other female Ranger, so they got a Ranger behind enemy lines whichever one the monsters snatched.
    • In one episode of Power Rangers S.P.D. ("Impact"), Broodwing unleashed a monster while at the same time, diverted a massive asteroid to the city. If the rangers stayed to fight the monster, the asteroid would crash into the city. If they went to stop the asteroid, the monster would destroy the city. Even if the rangers split up to do both, the monster was too powerful to stop without the full team. The only variable Broodwing didn't count on was the red ranger.
    • In the same season, Emperor Grumm pulled a number of these in order to build Omni's body.
  • Once Upon a Time: Rumplestiltskin's curse. The Chosen One will either break it and further his plan or if she dies trying, the curse still breaks...and he wins. It fails. All of this was to reunite him with his son, only to learn his son wants nothing to do with him.
    • The season 2 finale reveals the curse was one for Regina. If the curse never breaks, she has her revenge and wins. If it is broken, she left a loophole in the curse that will allow her to destroy the town and kill everyone letting her win anyway. This doesn't quite work, because someone else from our world activates the trigger, forcing her to stop it.
  • In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Zig Zag", the eponymous Cyber-terrorist Zig Zag lives in a world where everything is controlled by about eight super-servers. People are identified by DNA-reading chips implanted in their hands. Zig Zag fakes his death and reprograms his chip to set himself up as a pro-establishment guy working for the company that maintains the servers, even working under the very guy that was trying to catch him. Four years later it reverts to the proper setting, and the opportunity is used to steal Zig Zag's files. Zig Zag rejoins the movement (no one had ever seen his real face) and holds the building hostage, threatening to blow it up. At the end, it looks as if he's foiled. His explosives are disarmed, his boss takes the detonator, and he's surrounded by armed men. He reveals that by downloading his chip data into the servers, they will overload and explode, blowing up the city, as soon as his former boss uses the detonator "in his hand." Naturally the boss swipes his DNA chip to prevent this. Turns out Zig Zag was being a bit more literal than they thought. His chip is the detonator. Cue Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Prison Break:
    • Michael Scofield is amazingly good at these, though he keeps getting caught up in the Gambit Pileups of those around him. A major example is in Hell Or High Water, when his plan succeeds in helping him escape Sona and ridding himself of Bagwell, Bellick, and Lechero. It doesn't work out completely, unfortunately.
    • Don Self uses one in the episode ''Just Business" when he and Gretchen attack the hideout of Michael's True Companions to retrieve the missing component of Schylla. The attempt masked their secondary objective, which was to secretly plant a surveillance device within the hideout, enabling them to know where the component is hidden (which they later retrieve).
  • Revenge: Emily manages to maneuver her way into one, after being shot by Daniel and left for dead in the ocean, by lying and publicly declaring Lydia as her shooter instead of Daniel. From here on if the Graysons try to force her out of their lives, she'll recant her testimony against Lydia and send Daniel to prison. If Daniel confesses to get rid of Emily, he'll go to prison. If Victoria confesses to protect Daniel, she'll go to prison. If the Graysons kill Emily to silence her, they- prime suspects in her high-profile shooting- will be found out and go to prison. If Lydia is caught by the police, she- an enemy of Emily- will go to prison and possibly rat out the Graysons for the David Clarke conspiracy. If Lydia isn't caught, she will be forced to spend the rest of her life on the run. And if the Graysons give into Emily's blackmail and let her stay, she will continue to dismantle their family from the inside out. The Graysons are only let out of their stalemate when Emily intentionally leaks medical records discrediting herself.
    • Victoria attempts to initiate one in the series finale by faking her death and framing Emily for her murder. When Emily escapes from prison and comes after her with a bloodlust Victoria installs security cameras in her hideout, forcing Emily to either go to prison for real or risk Victoria escaping justice once again. She doesn't foresee a terminally ill David taking a third option and shooting her himself, getting away with it via compassionate release. Her response to this is attempting to take Emily with her while her back is turned, but this also fails. However, given that Victoria had a deathwish all along and Emily winds up tormented with the possibility of having Victoria's heart inside her, Victoria's gambit still counts.
  • Revolution: Everything Randall was doing. One way or another, all he needed was someone to get him access to the 12th level in the Tower; it didn't matter how. In addition, he was trying to get the Monroe Republic and the Georgia Federation to wipe each other out, which is why he joined with Monroe in episode 11. There were some flaws in his plan:
    1. He never considered that his goon Mr. Austin would try going down to level 12 on his own, which happened in episode episode 16;
    2. He never considered that Monroe might find out about the Tower's existence and use that as a reason to kill him off, which occurred in episode 18;
    3. He never considered that there were people in the Tower who wouldn't hesitate to shoot people on sight with coil guns, and episode 19 has him discovering this the hard way; and
    4. Even if he made it to level 12, he still needed someone with programming skills to turn the power back on. Regardless, his plan worked in the first season finale, and now there are Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles on the way to obliterating Atlanta and Philadelphia as well as the US government about to return to the USA.
  • Sanctuary: The Cabal. They engineered a plague that would wipe out abnormals so that Magnus and her buddies would get vampire blood to cure it. They take Magnus' daughter hostage in the middle to brainwash her and activate her inherited teleportation powers to steal said blood once it's been retrieved.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles:
    • Explosively used in the episode "Automatic for the People", where it turns out that anything Action Mom Sarah does regarding the nuclear plant results in a victory for Skynet. Stop the dangerous nuclear power plant test? Skynet wins; then the Resistance can't use that plant as a base in the future, as it will be shut down. Ignore the dangerous nuclear power plant? Skynet wins; thousands of people die in the ensuing explosion. Prevent the rigged explosion? Skynet wins; the Terminator Corrupt Corporate Executive waltzes in and takes it over. (Or that was how it appeared at the time: things are more complicated given that Weaver isn't working for Skynet but is an independent third force.)
    • Cromartie also shows his manipulative planning skills in "The Mousetrap", in which he kidnaps Charley's wife to lure Sarah and Derek out to an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. The trap was designed to lure them out to isolate John, and it was made blatant so that Sarah would call John and warn him. That allowed Cromartie to tap into their cell phones, get the Connors' safe code, and direct John to a place where Cromartie could ambush him. Then Cromartie triggers the actual bombs at the abandoned house. Just as planned.
  • The Sopranos:
    • Tony Soprano is quite good at pulling these. It is lampshaded by the restaurant owner Artie Bucco after he has fallen into debt with Tony and he agrees to let Artie help pay by forgiving his enormous restaurant tab. Artie notes Tony's ability to "analyze all the possible scenarios and outcomes," and figure out that "worst case scenario, you eat for free." The problem with this Gambit is that, according to Tony, it wasn't a Gambit, and he had no ulterior motives or plans when he started it, he was just trying to help out a friend. When Artie "compliments" him on how well he had it all figured out, Tony is... a bit miffed.
    • In an earlier season, Tony ruins one of his other friends through debts that the guy had incurred gambling at Tony's poker games. When the guy asks why Tony continued to let him play even though he was losing so badly, Tony reluctantly answers that he knew the guy had a business he could take as collateral, so no matter whether his friend won or lost, Tony would ultimately win. In that instance, though, it wasn't much of a gambit on Tony's part since he tried several times to prevent the guy first from even getting into the poker game and then from continuing to play after he lost all his money.
  • Spartacus: In the 2004 show, Crassus pulls one when he recommends an obscure and unimpressive colleague to lead the army against Spartacus, instead of leading it himself. Slave rebellions are not prestigious wars, so if his colleague wins, he'll have only a minor victory and he'll owe Crassus a favor for recommending him. If he loses, the Empire will be so frightened by the rebellion gaining power that Crassus will be able to assemble a much larger army with himself at the head, and gain much greater political power.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "Soldiers of the Empire" General Martok, commanding the IKS Rotarran, is displaying great reluctance to fight the Jem'Hadar, having been their prisoner in a brutal P.O.W. Camp for at least two years. Crew morale is suffering badly and completion of their mission is in danger, so Worf, serving on the Rotarran as first officer, challenges Martok for command. He knows that either A) he will defeat Martok, take command of the ship, and complete the mission, or B) Martok will beat him and probably get his fighting spirit back. Martok wins, spares Worf, and goes on the offensive against the Jem'Hadar.
    • In the episode "In The Pale Moonlight," Garak convinces Captain Sisko to invite a Romulan Senator to stop at the station en route to a diplomatic meeting with the Dominion in a plan to bring the Romulans into the Dominion War on the Federation side. The Plan, as far as Sisko knew, was to make a brilliant forgery of a record of a meeting in which the Dominion plots to invade the Romulans and convince the Senator to enter the war. This was one part of the plan, but Garak also had a Xanatos Gambit going on. Had the Romulan Senator believed the forgery, that course would have been pursued. However, Garak planted Dominion-style explosives on the Romulan's ship. If the Romulan Senator found an imperfection and thus discovered the forgery was fake, Garak could detonate the explosives. This would both kill the Romulan Senator and create a believable reason for imperfections in the forged record. That contingency plan turned out to be necessary and was used. At first Sisko was angry, but Garak pointed out that Dirty Business like this was the reason Sisko had enlisted him in the first place, and that two lives lost (the Senator and the forger) were a small price to pay for saving the entire Alpha Quadrant, Romulans included, from Dominion domination.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In the episode "Amok Time," Spock's bride-to-be T'Pring manages this by forcing the infamous "mating fight" between Spock and Kirk, naming Kirk rather than her preferred partner Stonn as her champion with the expectation that if Kirk won, he wouldn't want her, and if Spock won he would call off the engagement out of shame over killing his friend — and if he didn't, his duties as a member of Starfleet would keep him busy out in space most of the time anyhow, leaving her free to have an affair with Stonn in his absence.
    • It should be mentioned that there are two outcomes which T'Pring's confession does not address: That Kirk might win the fight and choose to keep her, and that Kirk might simply refuse to fight for her at all (which he is explicitly told is a valid option). However, these two scenarios also fit perfectly into her Gambit: In the case of the first, Kirk would (again) be off in space leaving her to be with Stonn; and in the second, the combat would have defaulted to Stonn, who very likely would have defeated Spock soundly.
    • And no matter who wins, we all get this!
  • Suits: Jessica Pearson pulls one in the third episode:
    Harvey: If I win, I look good. If Louis wins, he looks good. Either way, you look good.
  • Torchwood: In the episode "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang," Captain John Hart manages to use a Xanatos Gambit to get the Torchwood team to find several radiation cluster bombs that hid pieces of a hologram device that would tell him the location of an Arcadian Diamond, an incredibly rare jewel. But it turns out that his selfishness is his downfall, as he was the Unwitting Pawn of a gambit by the woman he thought had the diamond: there was no Arcadian Diamond—just a bomb that the woman had created to latch onto her killer, who turned out to be Captain John, and attach itself to the person's DNA. But Captain John pulls one last trick: he handcuffs himself to Gwen and swallows the keys, forcing the Torchwood team to save him.
  • The Vampire Diaries:
    • Klaus manages to pull one off in Season 2. He first kidnaps Tyler and Caroline to use as part of the sacrifice, when Damon rescues them, he captures Jenna and turns her into a vampire along with Jules. He even had a backup witch for when the first one was killed.
    • In the next episode he pulls one again. Damon was bitten by Tyler while rescuing him. So he offers his blood which can cure a werewolf bite in exchange for Stefan's servitude. Either Damon dies or he gains an apprentice.
  • Ragnar from Vikings did one of these when he put Floki in charge of the Siege of Paris. Floki is one of Ragnar's oldest companions, but he had also just killed Athelstan, arguably Ragnar's best friend, after Athelstan rediscovered his Christian faith. Ragnar is furious with Floki as a result, and unexpectedly puts Floki in charge of the assault. If Floki pulls it off, fine, and Ragnar looks good for choosing to delegate to him. If Floki doesn't, (which Ragnar expects from his own survey of the city and his talks with Athelstan, who had visited Paris in the past) then Floki will be either humiliated or killed in the process, and Ragnar won't be the one losing face due to failure. The assault fails, Floki has a Villainous Breakdown mid-battle, and due to Floki's complete lack of social skills, he only pisses off the people around him further after the battle. And this turns out to just be the start of the grief that Ragnar heaps on Floki's head.
  • The Walking Dead: The Governor successfully executes this gambit during the final siege of the prison, in an effort to exact revenge on Rick's group. Armed with a military tank, he offers Rick an ultimatum whereby Rick and his group can either flee their fortified shelter or stand their ground and fight, which would subsequently result in the destruction of the most vital defenses surrounding the prison; the fences. Regardless of Rick's choice, or the result of the looming battle, their home will be lost. Ultimately, the battle results in a Pyrrhic Victory for Rick's group. Many of them are killed and the rest are scattered. Even though the Governor is slain, Rick and his group lost the only real shelter they had.
  • The Wire: In season three, City Councilman Tommy Carcetti pulls one of these on Police Commissioner Evin Burrell. He offers Burrell help with securing resources for his department, presumably in exchange for a few favors down the road. When Burrell refuses, telling Carcetti that the only ally he needs is the Mayor of Baltimore, Carcetti calls the media during a hearing on the sharp increase in crime Baltimore has been experiencing, and castigates Burrell in front of the cameras. This scheme, and the trope itself, is summarized by Stan Valchek during a meeting with Carcetti:
    Valcheck: This is a win-win for you, ain't it? He won't play, you beat the shit out of him because crime is up. Press loves it, and you score. Flipside is that if he caves, you get yourself a snitch in the Mayor's inner circle.


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