It starts with the hero about to go into a big fight, maybe against the Big Bad or at least one of his most powerful minions. He's gonna need all the help he can get, but one of his allies— likely the one he's had the least amount of trust in anyway through this whole ordeal—just wants to leave when he has the chance. The guy will call it self-preservation or common sense, but even if the hero chides him for being selfish, he can live with that. "Fine, be that way!" the hero shouts, and they part company, likely on a sour note.
Now, with the hero left alone, the fight looks lost. It's clearly his Darkest Hour, and if he remembers what his friend said at all, he may be cursing him, or even worse, start wondering whether the guy had a point.
But no! At the last moment that same untrustworthy ally in question returns to save the protagonist. Why? Changed his mind, for whatever reason. A way of setting up Big Damn Heroes.
The friend can let the hero down for many reasons. Coming back usually entails character growth.
A subtrope of A Friend in Need.
Also see: Chekhov's Gun.
Anime and Manga
- Hiei from Yu Yu Hakusho leaves the rest of the team during the Chapter Black arc, claiming he has no loyalty to the human world and would like to go home. Yusuke assures everyone else that "he'll come and rescue us in the end when we need him the most", and he does.
- This makes perfect sense as, while Hiei 'joined the team' because backing up the Spirit Detective was his parole assignment, the reason he actually joined the team and saved their lives back in Maze Castle on the first mission was that Yusuke, against all forms of sanity, trusted him to do so. There's something about that confidence you just don't want to let down.
- Cowardly Sidekick Pop from Dai no Daibouken leaves Dai and Maam when they go fight the big bad Crocodin, then shows up in the nick of time to help when they're in trouble. Somewhat unusually, a whole chapter explains exactly why, and the trope is played less for the reveal that he comes back than to show character growth.
- Ken Wakashimazu pulls that in Captain Tsubasa World Youth Cup, after the conflict with him and coach Mikami boils up to its limits since Ken feels he's The Unfavorite of the team, no matter how hard he trains. He comes back later, though.
- Lieutenant Yamamoto of Irresponsible Captain Tylor meets up with the rest of the crew, attempting to rescue Tylor from a firing squad but unable to find him in his cell in order to tell them where the execution would be carried out.
- Kouji Kabuto from Mazinger Z did this after an Achilles in His Tent in episode 7. Since everybody blamed him for the destruction the Mechanical Beast and Mazinger-Z had caused as they battled (in spite of if he would have not fought, the destruction and the death toll would have been worse!), and not even Sayaka was willing fighting anymore, he decided staying in home. His best friend and brother tried to reason with him, but he would not listen. Finally, he listened to reason when the Mechanical Beast struck again, and he fought.
- Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion pulls this off when he runs away for the second time. Situation: Rei and Asuka are both defeated, Zeruel breaks into the command center... just in time for Unit 01 to break through the wall and punch the Angel in the face, meters in front of the entire command staff.
- Aizawa in Death Note. True, this was the Lighter and Softer arc, as Death Note goes, but his mad undercover skills and subsequent cavalry charge are no less awesome for that.
- In Dragonball Z, Cell is on the verge of overwhelming Gohan and destroying the Earth....all his friends are helping him out but to no avail. Just when all hope appears to have been lost, Vegeta (who was previously too busy angsting about not being able to do anything) joins the fray. He fires a massive energy blast at Cell which weakens him, allowing Gohan to turn the tide and win the day.
- Which is different from how it went in the manga. In the manga, when Cell and Gohan entered their Beam-O-War, everyone looked on helplessly instead of trying to attack Cell. Then, just as Cell was on the verge of overwhelming Gohan, Vegeta attacked Cell, catching him by surprise and distracting him for a moment, during which time Gohan upped his power and overwhelmed the distracted Cell.
- Star Wars: Luke and Han come to odds over the attack on the Death Star. Luke is the young idealist, ready to die for a cause. Han is the old realist who sees it as suicide. When Han saves Luke at the last minute he grows as a character, finding his loyalty to his Fire Forged Friend is important enough to risk his life for.
- This happens with Luke himself (to Yoda). He walks out on Yoda when his friends are in trouble. Then later, he comes back to complete his training, where Yoda tells him the fact that he came back means his training is done.
- Harry in Spider-Man 3.
- Professor Falken in WarGames. When he goes to bed he's walking out on humanity. But just when it looks hopeless, he joins the fight.
- Tom Cruise's character did this at the end of Top Gun: he bugged out during a battle with enemy jets, then returned and shot down several of them, saving his wingman.
- A rare complete inversion is in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, where Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) acts the part of the cavalry in the gunfight with the titular character, but neither audience nor characters know it until much later.
- Gettysburg: Col. Chamberlain, by the last three holdouts of the 2nd Maine. They later join the fight and save his brother Tom.
- King Kong (2005): Snooty actor Bruce Baxter, faced with the perils of Skull Island, gives up on rescuing Ann, only to return later Just in Time for a Big Damn Heroes moment.
- District 9: The whole thing unfolds in seconds: Wikus runs from the captured Christopher in the middle of the climatic battle. As Christopher is about to die he changes his mind. Unstoppable Rage meets Mini-Mecha!
- The title character in 2002's Roger Dodger, 'saving' his Nephew late in the film.
- In The Magnificent Seven, the eponymous seven are betrayed by a group of villagers and driven out of the town they were hired to protect. One by one, they each decide to go back, except for Harry Luck, who informs them they're all crazy and rides away. When Chris is cornered without cover during the climactic gunfight, however, Harry comes galloping in to save him.
- Captain Jack Sparrow abandons ship just before it gets attacked by the Kraken. He then changes his mind and comes back in time to fire the shot that blows up said Kraken's tentacles.
- Fright Night. After Jerry Dandridge charms and kidnaps Amy, Charlie goes to Peter Vincent for help. Vincent refuses to help him because he's too scared. Later on when Charlie goes to Dandridge's house to rescue Amy, Peter shows up to help him.
- Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Ron pulls one of these. His return, just in time to save Harry and destroy the locket Horcrux, is also a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- From the same book we get Horace Slughorn, who initially flees with the Slytherins and other students, but returns Just in Time alongside all the villagers of Hogsmeade and everyone related to anyone left in the castle. Whether that was his intention all along was never revealed.
- Also Percy Weasley.
- In Matthew Reilly's Temple, Bassario decided it was time to leave when Renco planned to do a Heroic Sacrifice. He quickly returned because he didn't want to be known as the guy who bailed on The Chosen One.
- In Dark Force Rising, a New Republic force is scheduled to head out after the reported location of the Katana Fleet in the morning. Since there's little time and it's headed by Borsk Fey'lya, the heroes send out their own force in the middle of the night; in the morning Fey'lya follows, planning to arrest them for treason. Those plans are cut short when the two New Republic forces are ambushed by an Imperial Star Destroyer. The first force flies a delaying action while Fey'lya's force flees, but Fey'lya is lured into an Engineered Public Confession, turning his allies against him and making them go back. Our heroes still needed two more groups of Big Damn Heroes and two cases of Ramming Always Works before they won the battle, although they were too late.
- The Vampires in Blade of Fire.
- In the third Skulduggery Pleasant book, Fletcher teleports away from the battle when the Faceless Ones attack, but later returns to save Valkyrie
- In The Way Of Kings, Sadeas's army abandons Dalinar's force to get slaughtered by the Parshendi, but then one of his bridge crews arrives just in time and helps them escape. From their perspective, it's this trope, until they learn that Kaladin disobeyed orders to save them.
- In the fourth season of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Beka Valentine initially opts out of the final battle with the Magog worldship, only to fly in during that fight and help out.
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine arc where they try to retake the station, the Klingons refuse to commit any ships...until the precise moment in the battle in "Sacrifice of Angels" when the Federation fleet is heading straight into a trap, whereupon a wing of Klingon battle cruisers come screaming into battle, punch open a hole in the Dominion/Cardassian lines and save the day.
- In the pilot of the The Magnificent Seven series, Ezra Standish abandons his watch to check out a gold mine nearby; seeing that the bad guys have attacked in force while he was gone, he hurriedly rides away in the opposite direction. ...until he turns around, comes back, and attacks the enemy leader, buying enough time for his captured comrades to free themselves.
- Happens in the Super Sentai 30th anniversary special: Boukenger vs. Super Sentai. Eiji tries to recruit Rangers from previous sentai series when the rest of his team gets captured by previous series' baddies. They've all gone on with their lives, even the ones who are still Rangering, and turn him down, not having the time. He tries to fight the villains from other seasons who've returned alone, and the retro-Rangers return to save his skin at the dramatically appropriate moment.
- It seemed to be more of a miscommunication. They fully intended to help him eventually, but had other things to do first. Eiji just got impatient. (and to be fair more or less barged in on them in the first place.) They were however a bit out of practice.
- This editor called it a mile away on Roots in regards to Pettijohn refusing to stick his neck out again for Simon Haley and help save Ab Dekker.
- Avon of Blake's 7 did this constantly while he was with Blake on the Liberator. But funnily enough, despite professing complete contempt for Blake's ideals and cause, and threatening to leave on many occasions, he never did; in fact, he saved Blake's life on several occasions.
- Combined with Conscience Makes You Go Back in the Doctor Who episode "The Waters of Mars". The Doctor knows that the staff of Bowie Base One are historically supposed to die by blowing up their own base to destroy the "Flood Monsters". Adelaide even lets him return to the TARDIS, but on the way there he overhears them dying and decides, just this once, to Screw Destiny - yet the fixed point in time - the death of the captain and the destruction of the base - is still established.
- In fact—just for weirdness points here—it's when he goes back to save everyone that he is established as Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. Alien moralities and the bigger picture, you see.
- Ratchet and Clank Up Your Arsenal. They find Captain Qwark after he faked his death so he wouldn't have to actually risk his life, and are unable to convince him to continue fighting. Later on, in the final boss battle, he comes dramatically sailing in on his spaceship, pumping rounds into the boss.
- In Resident Evil, Brad "Chickenheart" Vickers, S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team's helicopter pilot, freaks out and takes off, stranding his team, when he sees one of them get mauled and eaten by zombie dogs. At the end, he shows up to rescue the survivors, and tosses a rocket launcher to the player to finish off the Tyrant.
- Anyone ever noticed in the remake though that when the gang is running away from the dogs, Brad passes by them from above... by flying towards the same direction they are? Meaning everyone was running away from the helicopter. (Chris, instead of realizing this, questions what Brad is doing...) Next thing you know, they all run in the house. In the remake, at the very least, Brad seems to have had a good reason to fly away, and he did stick around in spite of nearly running out of fuel, which means every second he spent trying to get in touch with the other team, he was potentially screwing himself.
- This still doesn't make his death and zombification at the hands of the Nemesis in Resident Evil 3 any less karmic in the eyes of some fans.
- In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories Donald Duck and Goofy quarrel with Sora and he winds up abandoning them to go on his own, but they still come back to save him from Larxene a little while afterwards.
- There was also the time Sora lost the Keyblade, and they abandoned him to follow Riku, it's new (and technically rightful) owner, because their orders specified the Keyblade, not who was holding it. When Riku attacks Sora, however, Goofy jumps ship to protect Sora and Donald quickly follows.
- At the end of Quest for Glory III, the hero's friends arrive to help him fight the demons, all but the thief, Harami, who opts to stay behind. Then, as the hero is fighting a demonic version of himself and the battle looks lost, Harami shows up to stab the demon from behind, giving the hero time to close the gate and send the demons back to their world.
- Zelos in all but one of the endings of Tales of Symphonia -- though the 'walking out' was a faked Heel Face Turn that allowed him to get his hands on a MacGuffin the villain possessed. The "I changed my mind" is even said verbatim, delivered to the enraged villain after he demands to know why Zelos has back-stabbed him.
- The final boss battle in In Famous, where Zeke, having previously betrayed Cole, shows up to try and redeem himself by rushing at Kessler with a pistol. He gets blasted backwards about fifty feet for his troubles without landing so much as a spitball on Kessler, but he did allow Cole the chance to recover and fight back, and it goes a long way toward repairing Cole and Zeke's friendship in the sequel.
- In Dragon Age 2, at the end of second act, depending on your choices, Isabela pulls this, and brings back the MacGuffin whose theft drove the Arishok to start the war in the first place. Problem solved, right? Wrong. In order to solve the problem peacefully, you must turn her over to the Qunari, essentially sending her to her death. For those who aren't Ungrateful Bastards, you can alternatively challenge the Arishok to a duel for her life, or fight the remaining guards and the Arishok together with her.
- In Corpse Party, Ayumi and Yoshiki are returned to the classroom by one of the ghost children as thanks for returning her tongue. Ayumi wants to go back and save their surviving friends. Yoshiki, if you choose to object (or allow Yuka to be caught by Kizami) will do so and Ayumi will return alone after an argument. Yoshiki, however, is reminded of how much his friends mean to him and begs the ghost girl to send him back. When he is sent back, he sends Ayumi a text to let her know he's there. It still leads to a Wrong End, though.
- Subverted in The Order of the Stick, when party leader and Genius Bruiser Roy abandons Cloudcuckoolander Elan after the latter is captured by bandits, only to see the rest of the party rush off to Elan's rescue. When they are inevitably captured, he comes to his senses and attempts his own dramatic rescue, only to fail at the very last second. The day is actually saved by Durkon, completely accidentally.
- In Endstone, Jon had told them he couldn't, but returns in time to save Kyri and Herrik.
- Exiern, the Unicorn changed its mind and rescued Peonie with a Big Damn Heroes moment. Still won't let her ride it though (and we all know what that means).
- Red X in the Teen Titans episode "X."
Robin: [grins] I thought you didn't like to play the hero.
- In the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, Raphael does this in the "City at War" storyline.
- Iago in The Return of Jafar.
- Inverted in the second season finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender; Azula says she needs Zuko's help to make her plan to take control of Ba Sing Se a success. Zuko, having spent the whole season coming to terms with the idea that he could never reclaim his honour (not to mention distrusting Azula), initially refuses, only to ultimately be unable to bring himself to turn down an opportunity to achieve the thing he had been obsessing over for the past three years.
- A Troll in Central Park has one of these moments. It's probably the one good moment in the film.
- In Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, Donald Duck decides Screw This, I'm Outta Here, but changes his mind after the Lemony Narrator convinces him.
- In the Duck Tales episode "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Duck" Huey, Duey, and Louie try to get help from famed detective and honorary Junior Woodchuck member Shedlock Jones (an obvious parody of Sherlock Holmes) but he turns them away, because he's on a more important case; but he shows up to help them later, saying that, after all, he is a Junior Woodchuck Well, that and because he now thinks their problem relates to that other case, which it does.
- Monterey Jack does this during the Five Episode Pilot of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers.
- In one Looney Tunes short, Sylvester, after seeing a group of mice carry off Porky, flees the house in terror. However, his conscience then scolds him for running away, pointing out that Porky raised him since he was a kitten. It then reminds him that that he's larger than they are, and that he is, in fact, larger than they are. He proceeds to run back inside and kick mouse-ass.