Bad Samaritan

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Those poor, unfortunate souls
In pain, in need
This one longing to be thinner
That one wants to get the girl
And do I help them?
Yes, indeed!

Beware of the kindness of strangers.

A Good Samaritan provides help to anyone in need, even a complete stranger. They will come across the wounded hero and take him in, feed him and tend to his injuries without asking for anything in return. Sometimes these people are punished for their goodness because they were a Horrible Judge of Character and chose to help someone who would only repay them with evil.

And then there are these guys.

The Bad Samaritan is someone who takes in the hero and seems (at first) to be helping, all to do the hero harm in the end. He doesn't act out of the kindness of his own heart, but by some villainous motivation. He will keep his intention hidden from his victim, gaining their trust, until he has the hero helpless. This is the inverse of the Biblical parable about the Good Samaritan, teaching the audience that relying on the kindness of strangers is not always a good thing.

This is when a villain wears a mask of altruism and pretends that their goal is to help unfortunate, needy characters. They will befriend and offer them their assistance to win them over, secretly using them as pawns in their scheme. The good guys usually don't catch on until it is way, way too late to do anything about it and the villain has just put the final touches on the plot, revealing that the "help" was merely part of their evil plan all along.

This sort of ploy usually comes up when the hero wants something and is desperate enough to do anything to get it. The villain has just what the doctor ordered, and is willing to give it to the hero... for a price. And the price is always exactly what the villain needs to achieve his goals. The hero might have to give up something important to the villain, or may have to retrieve a Plot Coupon. Other times, the villain will maintain a cover of respectability and generosity in order to attract good guys who later unwittingly act as Mooks for the villain 's cause. And sometimes the villain is simply a cruel bastard and likes corrupting the thought of kindness by turning it into villainy.

Either way, in the end, it turns out that by accepting their assistance, the protagonist has been unwittingly playing right into the villain's hands. The end result of this flavor of the trope is usually You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, with the villain killing or otherwise betraying their cronies once they've served their purpose. Where this gets confusing is when the Bad Samaritan means no physical or emotional harm, but uses their "kindness" to provoke a Leave Your Quest Test to get the hero to leave the Big Bad alone.

Related to Beware the Nice Ones and The Farmer and the Viper. Compare with Salvage Pirates, in which the hero expects help from people who turn out to be evil and who don't even pretend to help. See also All Take and No Give.

Examples of Bad Samaritan include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Ali Al-Saachez is asked by Kinue Crossroad for a ride so she can interview him (she has no clue who he is) for a story. Cue a Moral Event Horizon event done For the Evulz, followed by a brutal Tearjerker.
  • In Naruto, Orochimaru likes to pick orphans up off the street with promises of power. In reality, he plans to use them for experiments, as soldiers or for potential containers.
  • Played fast and loosely in Fullmetal Alchemist, where Father, upon meeting the two, heals Ed and Al. He quickly admits he just does this because they're valuable sacrifices. Yeah...
    • Father Cornello fits the trope extremely well in both the manga and the 2003 anime version. He uses a partial Philosophers Stone to fake miracles to earn the towns trust. What they don't realize is that he intends to incite an uprising that will get most of them killed.
    • Played very straight by most Homunculi in the 2003 anime version: they're sent to towns to find alchemists, drive them to desperation, give them fake stones and fake reassurances, wait until the stones' power dissipates, make things worse, then make them think the only way to save everyone is by making Philosopher Stones, whatever the cost.
  • In Monster, this is pretty much Johan's entire reason for living. Almost all who meet him come to think of him as a kind, thoughtful young man. Most of those same people end up dead.
  • Light Yagami of Death Note was oh so helpful with Naomi Misora, comparing notes on the Kira case with her and offering to let her use his cellphone because she knew too much and he needed to learn her true name.
  • This pretty much defines Schneizel el Britannia of Code Geass, who often makes deals with enemies or would-be pawns under the guise of mutual benefit, and still manages to get something that he wants more often than not.
    • Lelouch can be interpreted as this, though it would be more accurate to call him, well, complicated. He has very noble intentions, but often displays a lack of concern for his subordinates. The aforementioned Schneizel, of all people, gets the Black Knights to betray Lelouch by leading them to believe their leader is one of these, partly owing to the latter.
  • Gozaburo Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh! had the reputation of a generous philanthropist who would often donate his considerable wealth to charitable causes. Unfortunately, this was a public facade, done to improve his PR, as he was in reality a ruthless and corrupt tycoon, plus at times a cruel man.

Comic Books

  • In The DC Universe, Granny Goodness runs an "orphanage" for poor and downtrodden children on Apokolips that is really nothing more than a boot camp for Darkseid's demon-dogs.


  • In Slumdog Millionaire, this combines with Yank the Dog's Chain when both brothers, once orphans and on the run, are taken in by a "kind" man to a rural house that is functionally an Orphanage of Love. Of course, this was in the first third of the movie, and it turns out that he manufactures beggar children with a high pity factor by blinding them. Needless to say, they got the heck out of Delhi.
  • Early in Conan the Barbarian, a woman offers Conan shelter for the night and a romp in the furs. Turns out she's an inhuman demon who wants to kill him and eat him during the romp in the furs.
  • In the original live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, Shredder's Foot Clan took in street kids and orphans in order to turn them into soldiers in Shredder's criminal empire.
  • In the Very Loosely Based on a True Story horror film Wolf Creek, two British tourists and a local guy are hiking in Australia when their car breaks down. They are picked up by a man who offers to drive them to his home and fix their car. The man turns out to be a serial killer, of course.
  • The Miko in the 1954 Kenji Mizoguchi classic Sansho The Bailiff.
  • In Stardust, Lamia does this to Yvaine, seeking to cut out her heart. She takes care of Yvaine in order to make the girl happy, because that will make her heart more useful.
  • In the Disney animated adaption of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Judge Claude Frollo takes Quasimodo in and raises him in the hope that he will prove useful in helping him find and kill all the Gypsies.


  • Stephen King's novel Misery (as well as the film version) is about a writer who is rescued from a car crash during a blizzard by a woman who claims to be his number one fan. It becomes increasingly clear that she is psychotic and won't let him leave.
  • A milder version appears in Oliver Twist. Fagin takes in homeless street urchins, giving them shelter and food and a sense of family. He also turns them into a band of criminals, and if they don't earn enough money, they are beaten and tossed out.
  • The man who rents out a room to Winston and Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four ends up turning them in.
  • Happens pretty much every time a random stranger is kind to the heroes in the Percy Jackson series: Auntie Em/Medusa, The Lotus Hotel, Procrustes (as mentioned below), Circe, Geryon... The fact that the heroes keep falling for it is lampshaded at one point; they know it's stupid, but they're so exhausted and battered from their previous encounters that they can hardly think straight.
    • This eventually leads Percy to be distrustful of Hestia, who was genuinely a Good Samaritan
  • In Blood Memories, the main character is a vampire who has a subtle, uncontrollable psychic ability that makes other people think she needs to be taken care of. As a result, she often preys on Bad Samaritans.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Barty Crouch Jr. secretly coaches and assists Harry through all of the Triwizard Tournament tasks—just to make sure he gets to the end alive, so he can be delivered into the hands of Voldemort.
  • In The Scarlet Letter Roger Chillingsworth volunteers to live with Dimmsdale so that he can be close to him and help treat his mysterious illness. The two appear to be very close friends, Chillingsworth is always at Dimmsdale's side, tending to him and listening to his woes...too bad he's actually there to psychologically torture Dimmsdale and is actually making him sicker.

Live-Action TV

  • In True Blood Bill's back story has him as a wandering soldier trying to make his way home from the battlefield. He is taken in by a woman who comes upon him while he is asleep and turns him into a vampire.
    • Maryann is a maenad, one of the nymphs who worship Bacchus. She pretends to be a "social worker" who helps convicts by giving them a chance to turn their lives around. Her real reason for collecting these kinds of people hasn't been fully revealed, but part of the reason seems to be that she loves to control others.
      • Poor Daphne fell victim to this trope. Even though she was a loyal servant, Maryann cheerfully had her killed when she was through with her.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Anne" there's a street preacher who is "helping" the homeless and runaway kids by sending them to a Hell dimension where time runs much faster than it does on Earth. There, they are worked as slaves until they die of old age.
    • Also, serial killer-preacher Caleb first starts out as this. He "rescues" Shannon, one of the Potential Slayers, from the Bringers, only to then brand her, stab her, and toss her from a moving truck, all as a message to Buffy.
  • In Dollhouse, Boyd is both a Good Samaritan and a Bad Samaritan. He actually cares for the other good guys, and even risks his life to protect Echo. But at the same time, he just wants them to fail, and repeatedly thwarts their plans from the inside.
  • A mild version of this was the basis of the short lived British comedy series Mr Charity. The Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, Graham Templeton, was the leader of a charity organization, yet utterly unconcerned with helping others, his only goal being to become the next Bob Geldof in terms of fame and possibly a knighthood. Yet, it was a very cynical show.
  • In the Highlander the Series episode "Reasonable Doubt", it is revealed that the immortal Tarsis finds children who are destined to become immortal, raises them as his own children, then kills them when they are in their early 20s to activate their immortality. He then uses them as accomplices to his crimes and, when he finally grows tired of them, he takes their heads.
  • An episode of Criminal Minds featured a woman who insinuates herself into the lives of weaker-willed women by claiming to help them build up their self-esteem. All is fine until the women actually begin showing independance which she sees as rejection, and then their new friend takes them to her house, breaks their legs with a hammer and drowns them.
  • Rumplestiltskin in Once Upon a Time. Oh, Gods. Rumplestiltskin. Chain of Deals, Batman Gambits, Xanatos Speed Chess...he does it all and does it well. In the world of fairy tales or Storybrooke, it's hard not to find a character who isn't in his back pocket.
  • While the people he helps out are usually all morally evil in their own ways, the BBC's Sherlock version of Moriarty is a "consulting criminal," who is directly described as a "Bad Samaritan" by Sherlock himself.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • In the story of "Hansel and Gretel", the witch lures children in with words of kindness and a Gingerbread House. Then she cooks them and eats them. Hansel and Gretel avoid this grim fate by pushing her into her own oven.
  • Older Than Feudalism: In Greek myths of the 5th century BCE, Procrustes invited travelers into his home, took care of them, let them stay in his bed... and then cut off their limbs or stretched them out if they didn't fit said bed.
    • Isn't the world of Greek Mythology grand?
      • In later versions there were two beds. When someone who might fit the first bed came along, Procrustes hid it and pulled out a much longer bed.
    • When Procrustes tried this on Theseus, the hero overpowered him and made him sleep in in his own bed; while some versions don't say whether Theseus stretched him or cut him down, since Procrustes was in some versions a giant, you'd have to be a complete dumbass not to figure it out.
      • In one version Theseus first cut off his limbs with the short bed then put him on the long bed and stretched him as well.

Tabletop Games

  • A whole city of Bad Samaritans is Grenepoli, the City of Diplomacy, first mentioned in the Planescape setting, but also in other settings where the Outer Planes are used. The fact that this city is on Maladomini, in the Seventh Layer of Hell and is openly ruled by devils should make people suspicious of it, but the place seems to be a Truce Zone where violence is not allowed (anyone who commits violence against anyone is executed by the city watch, and devils are not exempt from this law) and everything is given away for free by merchants. The "catch" is subtle; Grenepoli is a haven of pure politics and have classes that provides instruction on ways to destroy an enemy in the cruelest way possible without resorting to violence. Mortal visitors are encouraged to attend, those who show a knack for it and graduate being admitted to Offalon, a far more advanced Academy of Evil run by Baalzebul, the Lord of Maladomini. The plan, long term as it is, is that hopefully more and more Corrupt Politicians will be unleashed onto the mortal world to corrupt entire kingdoms and strengthen the power of Hell.


Theme Parks

  • The mime who appears prior to Clyde and Seymour Take Pirate Island show at the Sea Lion and Otter Stadium in Sea World, Orlando, has been known to "help" find people seats by leading them right out of the theater, leading them directly to the splash zone, and leading them to seats already occupied. He's also famous for following people closely, making fun of them behind their backs the entire time. Here's a life tip, folks: If you walk into a theater or stadium and see a mime in the aisle with you... walk away, as quietly and drawing as little attention to yourself as you can.

Video Games

  • In the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game, Mephiles makes Silver and Blaze think Sonic is responsible for bringing about the end of the world and ruining the future by releasing Iblis, and pretends that he aims to help them save the world. In reality, this is all part of his Xanatos Gambit to get them to kill Sonic so he can merge with Iblis into an immortal sun god or... something... and it should have been obvious that he was up to no good with his demonic appearance and everything.
  • In the Metal Gear series, Big Boss is in the process of this in Outer Heaven (where there is loads of war orphans around to take in and shape to his whim). He also already did this with Gray Fox.
    • Metal Gear Solid implies that he is actually sincere when it comes to caring about his recruits.
  • The infamous Westin Phipps from City of Villains. He is the owner/operator of Haven House, which lies under the shadow of the Rogue Isle's capital city of Grandville. Haven House offers the downtrodden a refuge from the tyranny of Lord Recluse and Arachnos. Except that he is really a spy for Arachnos, and uses his position to gather information on potential threats, which he then sends the player character to take care of. And by "take care of", he means kidnapping schoolteachers, burning books, poisoning food, kicking puppies, and so on.
  • Dragon Quest V: Shortly before entering a treacherous mountain pass, the hero and his bride can uncover a small staircase leading to an old woman's hole-in-the-ground domicile. Delighted to have guests, she invites them to stay. If they accept, they wake up paralyzed and hear a strange scraping sound... which turns out to be the nice old woman sharpening the hero's weapon for him, giving him a small Strength bonus and Subverting the trope.
  • In a side-story for Umineko no Naku Koro ni, "The Witches' Tanabata", Bernkastel answers the wish of a young, orphaned Ange... by telling her to never accept her aunt Eva's kindness and motherly love, and to never smile ever again, or else her dead parents will never be revived. This, by the way, coupled with mocking the player afterwards, is her Moral Event Horizon
  • Flemeth from the Dragon Age series.
  • Nomura from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni reached out to a despairing Takano and offered acceptance, acknowledgement and revenge. This kickstarts the entire plot, although you don't even know she exists until the final arc. Her true motive is just to destroy Hinamizawa and use the disaster as a way to discredit her political opponents.
  • Yet another proof of the immorality of Hazama/Terumi Yuuki of BlazBlue's fame is due to him being this to Litchi. When he learns that she's nearly dying due to the corruption she subjected herself to save the abandoned Arakune, Hazama offers her the cure for both her and Arakune if she joins NOL. While she refused at first, and then Kokonoe rejects her, Hazama just says he knew Kokonoe, thus eventually later on making her finalize the deal, even if he looks extremely shady and suspicious. Unfortunately for her, that was only Half Truth: Hazama missed out the fact that Kokonoe utterly hates him and considers him her worst nemesis... and compounded with the fact that the reason why Hazama wants her in NOL was not for her to live longer, but rather for her Boundary knowledge in order to further his Evil Plan to plunge the world into despair, and seemingly ready to dump her if she ever outlives her purpose.
  • Another BioWare example: Henry Lawson of Mass Effect 3, the perfectionist father of Miranda Lawson. During the Reaper's assault to the galaxy, he turns Horizon into a sanctuary/shelter for human refugees so they can hide from the Reapers. However, when Shepard arrives there due to a distress call, you know there's just something bad about it. Turns out Horizon under Henry is nothing more than a secret Cerberus headquarters that he used to turn the refugees... into Husks. And throughout the messages around him, he has stated that he really has no regrets over the experiments. At that point, indoctrinated or not, lots of players agree that he's one of the series' biggest Complete Monster and was more than glad to get him offed by either Shepard or Miranda.
  • Downplayed example in the 2013 game Deadpool; the eponymous Anti Hero really doesn't want to rescue Rogue, doing so initially only because the script says he has to (It Makes Sense In Context to anyone who's a fan of Deadpool) and then sees it as an opportunity to get in her pants.

Western Animation

  • In Disney's The Little Mermaid, wherein the sea-witch Ursula pretends to help the mermaid Princess Ariel by making her human, on condition that Ariel gives up her voice. If Ariel fails to woo the human Prince Eric, Ariel will revert to being a mermaid and her soul will belong to Ursula forever. Naturally, Ursula cheats.
    • Something similar happens in the direct-to-video sequel with Ursula's sister Morganna and Ariel's daughter Melody, but in reverse. Morganna turns Melody into a mermaid.
  • In Kronk's New Groove, Yzma tells Kronk that she wants to help the elderly people of the kingdom by selling them her youth potion. It turns out it's just a scam for her to get rich quick.
  • In the very first episode of Gargoyles, Awakening, David Xanatos undoes the curse put on the Gargoyles, reawakening them after a thousand years, and offers to help them adapt to the modern world. Of course, he is revealed to be just using the gargoyles, and becomes one of their main enemies.
  • Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2 is somewhat like this, offering to help Fiona get (Fairy Godmother's definition of) a happy ending, which coincidentally puts Fairy Godmother's son in line for the throne, while ignoring Shrek because Ogres. Don't. Live. Happily. Ever. After!
  • In South Park, if Eric Cartman ever suggests doing a good deed, it will often be this. Probably most prominent in "Crack Baby Athletic Association" where he tries to get rich under the pretenses of helping abandoned crack babies. He even manages to enlist Kyle to help out.
  • Rick and Morty there's well, Rick. Any time he does something that seems generous or charitable, he has some sort of selfish motive. For example, when Beth was a child, Rick created Froppyland, an artificially generated world with a Sugar Bowl theme simply for Beth to play in, and took pains to make it completely child-safe. However, this was not out of any love for his daughter, but out of a desire to prevent Beth (who was nearly as much a sociopath as her father) from killing any of her peers. He didn't do it out of concern for them either, he just didn't want the headache of cleaning up the messes Beth would cause.
  • In season four of Harley Quinn, archvillain Lex Luthor becomes a true Villain with Good Publicity after announcing how he plans to use his Earth Saver from his lunar base to regenerate the depleted ozone layer. After some... complications, the device works and does do what he claimed, but it makes the ozone far thicker than it was before, blocking out the sun, which was his true motive, doing so not just to cripple Superman, but weaken Poison Ivy as well, payback for upstaging him at a villains' convention.

Real Life

  • More than a few serial killers have used this as a way to lure in victims.
  • Apparently a common way of recruiting young men into gangs. Offer them protection, make them feel accepted, dazzle them with expensive gifts and wads of money. Later they realize they have to work off that money by running drugs.
    • This is also favored by cults. Pick someone who's emotionally vulnerable, shower him/her with love and they're likely to stick around for the lectures and rituals.
      • One famous example of this happening to someone would be Toshimitsu Deyama, vocalist of X Japan, who was led into a cult with precisely this modus operandi: approached by someone who claimed to love him (and married him) during a very low period in his life when he was facing severe emotional stress and pain, getting him to among other things leave his family, hate his best friend and love of his life, leave his band, sue his own brother, recruit other members, lash out at critics of the cult, and live off of nothing while contributing his wages to her and the cult leader with whom she lived for 10 years.
      • This technique is used by groups not normally considered cults. More mainstream Evangelical groups also do this, which often goes by the Meaningful Name of Love Bombing. However, only the very cynical would say these groups intend harm to prospective members. Cults may intend to harm or exploit the member, making them Bad Samaritans.
  • A real-life example of this was widely broadcast during the London riots. Two men initially seemed to be helping an injured student (Ashraf Rossli) but were actually using the opportunity to go through his backpack. The incident was caught on CCTV and the two men were later jailed.
  • Charles Sobhraj, a French serial killer who preyed on Westerners visiting South Asia during the 1970s.