Reassignment Backfire

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"[...] that damned cowboy is president now."
Mark Hanna

In this plot, a hero in an organization like the military is reassigned by a vindictive superior who seeks to ruin the hero by transferring him to a nothing post, in hopes that the hero's career will dead end—or worse.

However, a catastrophic crisis happens precisely at that backwater area and the hero saves the day using his skills and talents in a spectacular fashion.

To the assigner's horror, the assignment he himself inflicted to shut down the hero's career has instead given the victim a spectacular career boost with commendations, medals and promotions galore and the formerly nothing post becomes the post to be assigned to.

In Science Fiction a variation of this trope can occur when the Alien Hero is assigned to Earth (a backwater planet) to get him out of the way- only to have a major adventure that impacts the whole universe take place on Earth.

Often happens after a character has been Reassigned to Antarctica. Compare Busman's Holiday. And some commanders may not be unhappy at the prospect of cannon fodder they wouldn't miss, but who actually get the job done.

Examples of Reassignment Backfire include:


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • 801 TTS Airbats.
  • Mihoshi from Tenchi Muyo!, who seemingly only has a job in the Galaxy Police because her grandfather is the Grand Marshall, gets assigned to patrol Earth's solar system. After all, a planet that barely even has space travel could hardly have any trouble for her to get into, and there'd be nothing to report so her superiors wouldn't have to deal with her anymore. Naturally, she promptly gets involved in taking down the most notorious criminal in the universe.
    • Kiyone, her partner, doesn't enjoy it in the least, mainly because being partnered with Mihoshi destroyed her career.
      • Noike in the OAVs on the other hand, gets assigned there when the GP brass realized that with two Imperial princesses, an Imperial prince, a former S-class criminal (statute of limitations expired), a former Most Wanted Battleship, the Galaxy's greatest Mad Scientist, a prospective heir to the throne, and their Goddess (and her sister) taking up residence there (there is some overlap), said planet that barely even has space travel just happens to now be the single highest concentration of power in the universe.
  • Played with in Sakura Taisen. The backwater post into which the talented rookie is forced despite complaints and obvious unsuitability? Yeah, there's a catastrophe going on... and his superiors knew it all along.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, there's a variation: They promote Olivier Milla Armstrong to Central to keep an eye on her and separate her from her troops. Of course, being a true Social Darwinist to the core, this is happened to backfire on them. Backfire very badly.
    • Roy Mustang has a similar thing happen, he is transferred to the east because it is so dull, it backfires on the higher ups because they end up having to flee there because Scar was killing them in Central.
    • Falman, one of Roy's subordinates, got this as well. After Roy's team was split up, he got assigned to Briggs, the harsh Northern Outpost. While there he Took a Level in Badass just in time to join the other Briggs soldiers in a coup attempt on Central.
  • In Gundam Wing, Relena Peacecraft was made Queen of the World by Duke Dermail in order to improve Romefeller's image and to get her out of the way with a meaningless figurehead title. However, her idealism and charisma cause Romefeller to support her over Dermail, turning her figurehead position into one of actual authority, resulting in Dermail losing almost all of Romefeller's support and indirectly causing his death.
  • Pretty much the whole plot of Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Tylor's superiors get more and more frustrated as the series goes on. They start by using the Soyokaze (Tylor's ship) as bait in important operations, gradualy move to pointless suicide missions and by the end they are outright hiring pirates to kill him.
  • Pretty much Episode 19's plot of Martian Successor Nadesico. The higher ups got tired of Yurika and attempted to shunt her out by hijacking a contest originally made to raise morale (and was already hijacked by Yurika by changing the prize to be captain for a day). Their plan backfired when the winner forfeited out of embarrassment and Yurika got it back by virtue of being second place.
    • Ironically, the winner would become captain during The Movie.

Comics[edit | hide]

  • Traditionally, the origin of The Mighty Thor involves Odin sending the character to Earth in order to teach him humility before he ascends the throne as his heir. It works, but Thor ends up liking Earth so much that he is often extremely reluctant to return to Asgard, and even more to becoming its ruler.
    • This is due to Thor being the son of Mother Earth herself, Gaea.
  • When Wonder Woman died, the Amazons made her mother, Queen Hippolyta, take up the mantle in her stead, as a form of penance for indirectly causing Diana's death. Hippolyta enjoyed being a superhero so much that she kept at it even after Diana came back from the dead, and eventually abolished the monarchy entirely.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Played with in Hot Fuzz. The entire London police force is sick of Sergeant Angel's white-hot performance, so he gets relocated to a tiny country town. He discovers and shuts down a huge, awful conspiracy while he's there, but it's not his continued heroism which alarms the London office; it's the fact that without Angel, the crime rate in London has escalated out of hand and they need him back.
  • In Ratatouille, the jealous Head Chef Skinner learns of a finicky group of customers at Gusteau's are requesting a new dish and are so used to the founder's cooking that choosing a less used recipe will not be accepted. In an attempt to discredit the new chef, Linguini (who, unknown to Skinner, is simply a front for Remy the rat, who is a brilliant cook), he orders him to prepare an off menu dish using an obscure recipe that even Auguste Gusteau wrote off as horrible. However, Remy is able to modify the recipe dramatically and make the dish a scrumptious success that runs the kitchen staff ragged supplying all the patrons who now want to try it. To Skinner's shock, this busy night removes all doubts in the kitchen staff that Linguini is a master chef.
  • Kazuhiro in Gung Ho was put in charge of Assan Motors' fledgling US assembly plant, in order to fail because his bosses felt he thought too much like an American. Didn't quite think that one through... (May have been based on "Mr. K", below)
  • In The Pentagon Wars, Colonel Burton raises enough general hell with the design of the Bradley APC that, after circulating a massively critical memorandum to virtually the whole Pentagon, he is reassigned to the "prestigious" Alaska posting. Later, when he's called to testify before Congress, his boss on the design team arranges for his commander to be unavailable to give him permission to testify. Pity that he forgot about the reassignment; Alaska's commander is more than happy enough to let Burton testify. Didn't See That Coming.
  • In Morgan Pålsson: World Reporter the titular reporter is thrown away to a back-water middle-eastern country so they won't risk having to broadcast his reports. Then a coup d'état happens in that country. Unlike other examples, the coup only further highlights his incompetence.
  • In Spies Like Us, Emmett Fitz-Hume (who only got his job through nepotism), and Austin Millbarge (who works in the bowels of a civil service building) have this happen to them. Emmett didn't study for the upcoming civil service exam, and while Austin initially refuses to help him cheat, both end up causing a scene in the exam room. So their superiors send them to Pakistan as decoys, claiming they would be on a mission of great importance (when in reality, they were just there to keep the fire off the real agents). Except they eventually find their way to Russia, where alongside one of the REAL CIA agents, they end up saving the day.
  • In Down Periscope, Admiral Graham tries to torpedo Captain Dodge's career by assigning him the most screwed-up and insane crew members he can find. Admiral Graham was sadly not Genre Savvy enough to realize that Captain Dodge's current assignment was one that no sane crew had any real chance of completing successfully, but one with no careers left to worry about losing just might manage to bull through...
    • Although the radar man who could hear whales and other sea life (without the radar equipment) was a rather odd one. Why the hell would he be considered a screw up, on a submarine a man like that would be ungodly useful.
      • "Sonar" wasn't a screw-up, but more of a case of Cursed with Awesome. He was reassigned on the fear he was a security risk simply because he could hear and recognize anything being done on the sub. How many people do you know who can tell what "eating an Oreo" sounds like, or figure out the exact amount of change being dropped on the floor of another ship?

Dodge: [quietly, to Pascal] Don't tell me...deaf as Beethoven?
Pascal: [quietly] Oh no, great ears, sir. Watch what you say around him. He hears everything. His last C.O. thought he was a security risk.
Sonar: [by this point several yards away, yelling back] Uh, excuse me, sir, I don't hear everything. And I'm quite trustworthy, too!

  • Played with in Dances with Wolves, where The Hero chooses his reassignment to the Dakotas, out in the middle of nowhere. He then actually does end up sinking his own career when his superiors learn that he's been making friends with the natives.
  • In Batman Begins, Lucius Fox was assigned as head of the Applied Sciences division of Wayne Enterprises because Richard Earle, the CEO after Thomas Wayne died, wanted him out of the board and in a place where he won't have any influence over the company. However, Fox's prototypes caught the attention of Bruce Wayne, who after taking control of Wayne Enterprises fired Earle and appointed him as CEO.
  • Under Siege Chief Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) is reassigned as a cook for striking one of his superior officers. This proves invaluable when terrorists take control of his ship, as he's in the kitchen, away from them when they take the crew hostage.
  • A rare villainous example appears in Captain America: The First Avenger. Johann Schmidt is reassigned to a base in the swiss alps. This allows him to make his own army behind hitler's back.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Honor Harrington (in the series of novels by David Weber) does this three times.
    • At least the second time around, she was Genre Savvy enough to know what was going to happen. As for the antagonists who get her sent off, they figure on employing Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder- if Harrington does her job she will eliminate a problem for them; if she gets killed or disgraced, well, a different problem gets solved. It ends up a backfire anyway.
    • Her second assignment to Grayson was killing two birds with one stone. Her bosses knew not only that she had to get out of Manticore until things quieted down but that a popular naval officer would knit ties together with an ally.
      • By the third time (Sidemore Station), even the vindictive superiors are getting Genre Savvy about it, but decide they have no choice.
    • Kind of played with, in that at least on the first occasion (Basilisk Station) her career would have gotten a significant boost even without the crisis. She was just plain doing a damn fine job organizing the place, something none of the previous screw-ups the Navy assigned there had managed. This had already allowed some like-thinking superiors to pull a major political coup by the time things got messy.
    • One variation was Lady Montaingne, who reassigned herself to Antarctica by renouncing the title and undercutting a factional clog (as her title went to her brother the family got to keep it and thus have its cake and eat it, too -- but the PR was nice anyway). She does this to allow herself to run in the House of Commons.
  • Robert Asprin's Phule books start off with the main character getting reassigned for strafing a peace-treaty signing; it's intended as a punishment because his new post involves taking charge of the Space Legion's losers on a backwater planet. Of course, things go much differently than planned, and this is more-or-less the last time Phule and the Omega Mob get transferred/"promoted"/ect without malicious intentions.
  • In The Dresden Files, Murphy's position as the head of Special Investigations is where people you really, really don't like get sent and they soon leave, disgusted with it. Murphy's the first person who's stayed long enough to warrant a nameplate.
    • Though in the end even she can't avoid all the problems associated with the position and has been demoted as of the ninth book in the series
      • By the end of Changes, her dereliction of duty results in her being summarily fired.
    • This is due to the fact that before Murphy, every SI head simply refused to acknowledge that anything supernatural was going on. This lead to none of their cases ever being closed, and a quick dismissal. Murphy actually decided to start beliveing in the paranormal and so she actually did get results.
  • In Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt has been living in reassignment hell for the last 15 years. The fact that such reassignments have backfired time and time again have not stopped the higher-ups whom he has offended to keep trying. The reassignments have been meant to do a little more than get his career stuck, so it's also a case of Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder.
    • Inverted by a fellow Commissar, Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM), who wants a nice, comfortable out-of-the-way post in order to keep himself out of harm's way. Ironically, his tendency to find himself running up against seemingly impossible odds and triumphing by sheer dumb luck have earned him the status of a Hero of the Imperium, meaning he's expected to be at the front lines, facing enemy fire.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, Miles's Reassignment To Antarctica ends up like this.
    • And, as usual, it's genetic. Aral Vorkosigan had ups and downs like this. He'd do the right thing, but nobody would like it, so he'd get assigned to some punishment post...and come out of it smelling like roses. Most notably, this was part of The Plan that turned him into the Barrayaran Cincinnatus.
    • Also a bit of a subversion. Miles was assigned there so that he could learn to take orders. He was told that if he could manage to get through the nothing post that then he'd get big promotions. But he ended up doing the right thing, but not being able to get glory or promotions from it for complex political reasons.
      • And then subverted again when he gets reassigned to ImpSec, as the only branch that will take him, where all of his following spectacular successes are so highly classified that he can't tell anyone about them, nor can his superiors justify giving him a promotion without the uninformed saying that he's only being advanced because of nepotism.
  • In The Eyre Affair (book one of the series), literary detective Thursday Next gets transferred to a Spec Ops post in Swindon (which also happens to be her quirky hometown). Her colleagues are puzzled at her seeming demotion (when she could have chosen a better post), but Thursday knows what she's doing.
  • In L. E. Modesitt Jr's Space Opera novel The Ethos Effect the main character, a former military spaceship commander responsible for a PR disaster (everyone knows he did what he had to do, but being responsible for the loss of a large passenger ship doesn't make you popular) ends up being the "victim" of one of these; he's given a weird assignment that doesn't match his experience, working at an embassy on a planet he's completely unfamiliar with. He ends up foiling an assassination attempt targeting diplomats from multiple interstellar nations. Which angers his superiors even more, because, as the main character eventually realizes, they were behind the assassination attempt and didn't intend for him to actually succeed at his job. In fact, they didn't even intend for him to survive the journey to the planet; the unidentified spaceship that attacked him en route was actually one of their own ships.
  • In The ESP Worm by Piers Anthony, the hero is the President's deadbeat cousin, who was given the supposedly meaningless job of negotiating with any aliens that ever happened to come to Earth. Humans have never come in contact with an alien before, but there's a first time for everything, and naturally, it comes as a surprise to everyone when the titular worm is the first alien to come to Earth.
  • In the Discworld novel Thief of Time, several of the managers of the History Monks assign Lobsang Ludd (a troublesome child) be the apprentice of Lu Tze (widely seen as a great hero, but has lots of fun annoying the other monks), on the basis that either or both will break the other. Their combined efforts end up saving the world ...
  • In the second Artemis Fowl novel Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident elf LEP recon captain Holly Short is assigned to guarding an abandoned shuttle port where nothing has happened in literally a hundred years. Naturally, she encounters a huge goblin smuggling program which involves the use of a human contact and illegal weapons.
  • Flashman is a good example of this. Harry Flashman, freshly expelled from Rugby School, joins the prestigious 11th Hussars. Within a year, he gets into a duel over a woman, and is posted to Glasgow, assisting the local militia against agitating mill workers. He seduces the prettiest daughter of the mill owner he's billeted with, and is forced to marry her. This doesn't sit well with Lord Cardigan, the commander of the 11th Hussars, and he gets posted again, this time to India (a location hated and despised by Cardigan). Flashman's skill with a horse and lance impresses the Governor General, and he's sent as an ADC to Kabul, on General Elphinstone's staff. He gains (stolen) credit with the natives as "Bloody Lance", the lone killer of five would-be assassins, and gains credit with the military and public when he's one of the few survivors of the Kabul Retreat, and "defends" a small fort outside the besieged Jalalabad - he's found surrounded by dead, clutching the flag to his chest. As the only (white) survivor, he feels free to not contradict the CO's assumption that he wasn't cowering uselessly in bed, and was in fact about to throw the flag to the attackers. He gets a hero's send-off from India, a hero's welcome upon his return, and a medal from Queen Victoria herself.
  • In the Dragonriders of Pern series, this appeared to be the case with Masterharper Petiron, the old harper of Menolly's repressed, backwater fishing hold. Subverted later in Masterharper of Pern, when we find out that Petiron asked to be sent there, to make a fresh start where no one knew he was other than "the harper". And he chose this over the protests of his superior, his son Robinton.
    • It could also be said that Petiron wanted Robinton to be his own man and not be perceived as his father's son. He deliberately stepped out of the way to allow Robinton to become a better leader.
  • Sort of subverted in Yulia Latynina's Wizards and Ministers (also, a political version): Mr. Nan's "all-powerful secretary" Mr. Shavash is suddenly sent out of the capital to a distant province. Some people think that this is an exile and a sign of disfavour. Others think that Mr. Nan is deliberately arranging this very trope. It's probably the latter, but everything goes horribly wrong for everyone involved before this plan could bear fruit.
  • In the third book David Weber's Safehold series, it gets played somewhat unusually. The commander in question is in fact incompetent, but the general doesn't want to fire him for political reasons, so he puts him in command of the rear of their defense of a mountain pass. Unfortunately, the other side gets around behind them, so they have too move quickly to escape the pass and redeploy. Unfortunately, the incompetent commander has to get moving before the rest of the army can go anywhere.
  • Another variant occurs in Antares Passage. Captain Drake has nothing against his Sandarian exchange officer, Ensign Philip Walkirk. However, this particular ensign happens to be Crown Prince of Sandar, and Drake is terrified of the possibility that he might get killed while under Drake's command. So he assigns him to command the Marine detachment, figuring that there's little chance they'll see any action. Later, the Marines end up boarding a Ryall transport. Fortunately, Philip survives unscathed.
  • Forgotten Realms trilogy Return of the Archwizards protagonist, Galaeron Nihmedu was assigned to far tomb guard due to wizards vs. sorcerers discrimination. Where he met some "grave robbers" who turns out to be something more, accidentally participated in release of Sealed Evil in a Can planned anyway, and acquired both priceless report from top Netherese spy, as well as means to put it to good use and save his home city.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, joining the Night's Watch is seen as a last resort for criminals and failures, where they will spend the rest of existence guarding a giant wall in the frozen north, far away from the war and turmoil of the seven kingdoms. However, the Night's Watch is under constant threat from the nomadic Wildlings and inhuman Others, and after their alliance with King Stannis Baratheon the Night's Watch proves to be one of the most relevant forces in the war.
  • A bit of a variation in Animorphs: the disgraced Seerow is stationed on the Hork-Bajir homeworld, which the Andalite superiors believe to not be in any way significant. Then the Yeerks arrive. The variation? Seerow is killed almost immediately; it's his daughter (who was stationed there with him) who becomes a heroine due to the reassignment.
  • A brutal inversion happens in Dune, where Duke Atreides is sent by The Emperor from his ancestral home planet to the desert planet Arrakis.....where is the only place in the universe that the "spice" that their civilization runs on is made.....and is thus actually the MOST important planet in the universe and best post possible.....Of course, the reason the Emperor relocated him there instead of playing the trope straight is that instead of wanting to sink the Duke's career he's hatching a plot to get rid of him directly, which succeeds. The backfire comes when his son Paul just so happens to be a seer and becomes The Messiah who gathers the Proud Warrior Race Guy natives together and trains them to be a Badass Army La Résistance, launching a coup d'tat.
  • Wedge Antilles in the Wraith Squadron series is Genre Savvy enough to take advantage of this trope. To create Wraith Squadron, he deliberately cherry picks skilled pilots who are about to be washed out or court-martialed. This is because it's easier than trying to cherry pick the best of the best, since rival squadron leaders would fight to keep their aces, but wouldn't care if they could get rid of an unwanted pilot. Sure enough, the Ragtag Squadron of Misfits basically Indy Ploys their way into legend.
    • Also applies to Soontir Fel in the Rogue Squadron comics, in which he is banished to the 181st Fighter Group - bad enough to be nicknamed the One-Eighty-Worst - and quickly transforms it into one of the Empire's most elite units.
    • Sort of also applies to Thrawn, he was reassigned to his old stomping ground in the Unknowns to calm his political opponents. The fact that he made Grand Armiral on his tactical prowess rather than any political links made this a foregone outcome.
  • Sano Ichiro is sent to Nagasaki in The Way of the Traitor by his rival Chamberlain Yanagisawa in hopes that he will destroy his career on a difficult case there; instead, Sano successfully solves the case and adds to his sterling reputation.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Captain Parmenter from F Troop.
  • Played with in Due South: Fraser was assigned liaison duty with the Canadian Consulate in Chicago as retribution for arresting a fellow Mountie—and for being, in general, just a little too good for anyone at home to feel really comfortable with. He becomes something of a local phenomenon in Chicago, but remains persona non grata at home, and the Consulate continues to function as an apparent dumping ground for misfits.
  • Londo Mollari was sent to be the ambassador on Babylon 5 partly due to the fact that Babylon 1-4 all blew up or disappeared. He seemed to make the best of it, to say the least.
    • And then there was Captain John Sheridan who was installed as commander of the Babylon 5 station in season 2. Sheridan was considered an unflinchingly loyal jarhead who would keep the station running in line with Earth policy. You'll have to watch the series to see how well that turned out...
  • Doctor Who's "The Five Doctors" subverts this, when The Doctor is made President of Gallifrey in the hopes of tying him to the the position and halting his endless gallivanting across time and space, and instead of coming quietly to rule from behind a desk, he gives an order placing the one who promoted him in command until his return and dashes off in the TARDIS with no intention of returning.
    • He finally showed an interest in the post in "Trial of a Time Lord" when he tried to play the 'Presidential immunity from prosecution card' only to find out that he had been deposed during his absence for neglecting his duties.
  • Subverted in M*A*S*H (television) in "Fade Out, Fade In". Charles is sent to the 4077th by a higher officer who owes him money. Shortly after his arrival he is able to prove his surgical skills are invaluable, ensuring, much to his chagrin, that he becomes the permanent tentmate of Hawkeye and BJ.
    • Played straight a few seasons later when the higher officer came back. Because of a sequence of events that would lead to trouble, he expects Winchester to cover for him so that Margaret's career would be ruined and his career would be fine, with an reward of finally going back to Tokyo. Due to Character Development making him turn from a Jerkass to a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Winchester has enough morals to loudly call him on it.
  • Commander William Adama, assigned to the so-old-we're-using-it-as-a-museum Battlestar Galactica Reimagined. We all know how that turned out. One can guess that many of the other officers and crew were sent there to get them out of the way. Tigh certainly didn't seem to be a model XO and Starbuck was the queen of insubordination. If you were competent and ambitious you probably did not get assigned to the Galactica.
    • Roslin was also sent to the Galactica as a way to get her out of the way for a short time. She went against the president when negotiating with the teacher's union and the party leaders had to keep her away from the public spotlight while they neutralized any political fallout.
  • To certain extent, the premise of The Wire. A Ragtag Bunch of Misfits is put on a deadend assignment.
    • McNulty has his own version on season 2 where he's so low on the career ladder that Rawls can't do anything meaningful in retaliation anymore.
    • Then there's Prez, who gets justifiably stripped of his gun and stuck on a desk. Turns out his intelligence and skill at pattern-recognition mean he's much more effective as a Desk Jockey than he was as a beat cop.
  • The starting situation for Major John Sheppard in Stargate Atlantis: he screwed up in Afghanistan and was reassigned to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Thing is, he not only turned out to be a fiendishly good pilot (he used a passenger helicopter to repeatedly dodge a drone weapon)...

Carson: (sees that Sheppard is sitting onto the Ancient control chair) Major, please don't!
John: Come on Doc, what are the odds of me having the same gene as these guys?
(the instant Sheppard touches the chair, it activates)
Carson: (astonished) ...quite slim, actually.

    • Next thing he knows, he's being offered a chance by an extragalactic expedition's leader to tag along... Let's just say, this is how he became the series' resident Colonel Badass.
  • The X-Files: Scully was pulled out of being a professor at Quantico to debunk Mulder's work on the X-Files, to get it shut down so he couldn't find the Truth. This backfired massively when she is not only unable to debunk his work, but starts siding with him and becomes part of the X-Files herself. Plus, falling in love with your partner and having a child with him adds to that.
  • In Sharpe's Battle of the Sharpe's Rifle TV series, a company of Irish guard are recruited into the British army, and the high command decides to send them to a far outpost on the edge of the front lines, in a terrible position, so they'll all desert and solve the problem of having to deal with a company that doesn't like England- then sends Richard Sharpe to whip them into place, expecting him to drive them off for good. He makes them crack soldiers instead and decimates an entire enemy brigade. Oops.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In Exalted, the Realm's Vermilion Legion is composed of drunks, petty criminals and surplus younger sons. Tepet Ejava, one of the Realm's most formidable military commanders and a candidate for the Scarlet Throne, was given command of them and sent off to get killed in the constant low-level violence in the Southeast. Of course, she's managed to turn the Legion into a crack unit and a serious power base. Oops.
    • Didn't hurt Ejava's efforts that the so-called "Red-Piss Legion", being the Ragtag Legion of Misfits that it is, remains immune to the nepotism and favortism of the other Legions and actually rewards merit and skill (the rewards starting with, "you can avoid being killed by the A-1 psychos the Vermillions have to fight").
    • The pro-Solar Golden Faction of the Sidereals found themselves being reassigned to conventions of the Wood - the wildest regions filled with powerful, uncontrolled Essence users - and the Convention on Essence Users in general, which was more of the same. When the Solars actually came back, this put the Golden Faction in a prime position to hide and train them.


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • In the play and movie The Solid Gold Cadillac, the Corrupt Corporate Executives assign the heroine to be Director of Stockholder Relations at their company because they're tired of hearing her complaints at their board meetings. She soon wins the adoration of all the small shareholders like her, and this ultimately leads to the villains' undoing.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In the intro to Wing Commander II, the main character is accused of treason. There's no solid evidence against him, so the court martial only convicts him of negligence and demotes him, but the admiral remains convinced he's a traitor and reassigns him to a little backwater station. He then encounters the Big Bad Kilrathi in the area and is forced to save the day.
    • In Wing Commander III, he's given another crappy assignment by the same admiral. This time, however, the admiral deliberately assigned him to an unimpressive carrier so that when the time came he could use the hero in his plan to end the war without drawing too much attention from the enemy.
      • The true Reassignment Backfire occurs in Wing Commander IV when the hero gets involved in going rogue to fight a conspiracy that turns out to be run by the very same Admiral.
  • According to the help file included with the registered version of Doom, the Marine was relocated to Mars, a backwater dustball whose only notable features were scientific outposts on its moons, in lieu of a court-martial for striking a commanding officer who had ordered him to fire on civilians. No, they didn't just make that up for the novel. He, of course, went on to save the world from the forces of Hell over the course of two games.
  • Mass Effect features Ashley Williams, whose name bears some serious stigma—her grandfather was the general who surrendered his garrison (for good reasons) to the turians during the First Contact War. She and her father were passed over for promotion many times and assigned posts with no action (and thus no opportunity to demonstrate capability). Then along comes Sovereign, the geth, and Saren—and Shepard to take her along for the ride. Needless to say, her actions clear her family's name.
  • Variation in Mass Effect 2: Tali is reassigned to the Normandy when she is on trial for treason because the Obstructive Bureaucrat on the Admiralty Board wants her exiled from the Migrant Fleet and thinks that Commander Shepard will be a poor advocate for her. That does not go according to plan (unless Shepard is a poor diplomat).
  • Luminous Arc plays with this a bit. Kingston created the Garden Children idea to get Heath out of the way when he started asking too many questions, on the premise of creating a crack squad of orphans raised to be excellent soldiers. Here's where it starts to zigzag. Kingston got exactly what he asked for - a group of highly proficient soldiers who work very well together, and thanks to Heath being incredibly zealous to try and get back in the good books and keep sniffing around, they're completely loyal to him and his ideal. He then proceeds to reassign Heath again and Sends the Fatal Hounds on a wild goose chase to get them out of his hair, giving them time to defect and become a very sharp thorn in his side. If he'd kept them on a tighter leash and used them as an actual strategic asset, he would have won.
  • L.A. Noire: The result of reassigning Cole Phelps to the police department's version of Antarctica is a backfire of epic proportions. In trying to move public scrutiny away from Vice by giving the media a new Chew Toy, they put Cole directly on the scent of their conspiracy. Whoops. Nice Job Fixing It, Villain.
  • The Super Robot Wars franchise likes to play with this trope often.
    • Super Robot Wars Original Generation: Kyosuke Nanbu is reassigned to North America's Langley Base after surviving the crash of the Wildraubiter's test flight at the Izu Far East Base. The person who reassigned him, Colonel Hans Weber, is later revealed to be a Mole for the Divine Crusaders and caused the crash. After arriving in Langley, Kyosuke is placed on the ATX Team and eventually goes on to defeat the United Colony Corps with his new friends at Langley and aboard the Hiryu Kai. When he returns to Izu, Hans is not pleased at what Kyosuke has become. Later, when Hans' treachery is revealed, he has to face Kyosuke and if the player feels like it, can be killed by the very same pilot he got rid of to make his plans succeed.
    • Super Robot Wars Judgment/Super Robot Wars W: As per Gundam Seed's plot, the casts of both games (well, part of the cast in Judgment; the Alaska bit is one route split choice) get reassigned to the Joshua Base in Alaska by The Federation, hoping to get rid of them in an elaborate trap set to weaken ZAFT's military using the Cyclops System since the heroes are doing too well. Like in Gundam Seed, Mu La Flaga (another case of this trope) discovers the Cyclops System and warns everyone to get the Hell out of Dodge. The heroes eventually get back at The Federation in a big way, particularly in W, where one division of Neue Warter (aka the heroes) intercepts The Federation's fleet on it's way to crush ZAFT using nuclear weapons to overpower them. And then they proceed to utterly destroy The Federation's forces and kill the commander who left them to die in Alaska, General Colbert.
    • Super Robot Wars W: As mentioned above, the "Ms. Nadesico" contest from episode 19 of Martian Successor Nadesico happens here, but plays out differently. Baron Ashura, disguised as Professor Yumi (as per one episode from the Mazinkaiser OVA), gets caught up in the contest and after finding out what the contest is about, the Baron casts a vote hoping to sabotage Warter (aka the heroes). In spectacular backfire fashion, it is Ashura's vote that is the tie-breaker that gets Yurika back her old job.
    • Super Robot Wars Alpha 2: The crew of the Albion gets reassigned to a backwater post in space under the guise to protect the GP-02A Gundam "Physalis" (in reality, The Federation wants nothing to do with them and wants the Albion's crew far away from them). Sadly, the GP-02A gets stolen and the Albion team joins up with the Alpha Numbers to get it back and go on to stop Nashim Gan Eden, among other threats to the Earth in that game. And then, the Albion's crew gets assigned to menial tasks again in Alpha 3 (partially due to a lot of Alpha 2's story getting retconned), and once again, they take to the field and help save the day from Keiser Ephes, the Spirit Emperor.
  • In Suikoden III, Thomas is sent to Budehuc Castle in order to keep him out of his scheming councilman father's way. When he turns the area into a thriving Truce Zone, the Zexen Confederacy is less than pleased, and tries to force him to stop. Not only does he refuse, he winds up eventually providing the game's headquarters.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in Invader Zim, the titular character's assigners make up a planet past the edge of their star map, and send Zim there. They're shocked when, six months later, Zim reports back that he has confirmed visuals on the planet and is landing. The subversion comes about because Earth really IS a backwater planet, and nothing of interest to the Invaders happens there.
  • Transformers Animated uses a variant of the science fiction version: Optimus Prime's assignment to menial space bridge repair duty (after being involved in the apparent death of Elita-1 and taking the blame for the entire affair) puts him in exactly the right place to recover the AllSpark, which eventually does lead to a galaxy-shattering adventure that takes place on Earth.
    • And, depending on certain interpretations of the series finale, may have even resulted in him being made the next Magnus.
  • Fire Lord Ozai scarred his son, exiled him, and sent him on a Snipe Hunt for a legend in punishment for speaking up for the cannon fodder. This was ultimately a factor in the oversetting of his empire and his personal deposment and imprisonment.
    • Of course, if Zuko hadn't played his part, Ozai's dynasty might have wound up overthrown and his country pillaged, instead of a peaceful rollback of their costly conquests. On the other hand, Ozai might have finished his world conquest under the aegis of Sozin's Comet while Aang was still stalling at the South Pole, or at least refusing to admit who he was in the absence of a jerk in red armor demanding the Avatar from old ladies. Hard to say.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Schlock Mercenary offers a bit of a twist on this. At one point, the captain sends a ship full of dangerously stupid robots, who Turned On Their Masters and then for an encore went on to accidentally commit genocide, directly into the path of General Xinchub because they don't want to waste the ammo on killing them. They expect that to be the end of them. It is... but Xinchub ends up being acclaimed as a hero for saving Earth from them, counteracting his previous popularity nosedive that threatened to get him out of their hair permanently.
    • Happens again later also involving Xinchub. After his plot to blackmail them into betraying some old friends eventually backfires, they have Xinchub and his minion in their brig. Rather than kill him (and bring down the wrath of the Earth military on themselves), they sell him into slavery (somehow this is less illegal) as a military consultant on a planet in the middle of a brutal civil war, expecting that he'll be kept as a prisoner and/or killed by one side or the other. Within a year, he's betrayed his would-be masters to the opposing side and been crowned king of the entire planet for bringing peace to their world.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Theodore Roosevelt was selected as Vice President by the powers that be of the Republican Party (who were sick of his crusading/grandstanding as Governor of New York) with the reasoning that as Vice President, he would have a much less active role in things and would be out of their hair. Less than a year later McKinley was shot, and TR was the youngest president in US history. Given that this wasn't the first time such a thing had happened (see below), you'd think they would've found a different way deal with TR.
    • It wasn't completely lost on the Republican Party. Republican National Chairman Mark Hanna famously said "Don't any of you realize there's only one life between that madman and the presidency?" Apparently his warning fell on deaf ears. Understandably, his words on hearing of the ascension are said to be, "I don't believe it! The goddamn cowboy's President!"
    • Furthermore, TR was the first "Accidental President" to win a second term in 1904 on his own merit, as an extra insult to injury. To rub it in futher, it was Roosevelt's Bull Moose party that got more votes than Republican William Howard Taft (his successor, who TR felt was doing a bad job) and caused the 1912 election to go to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
  • John Tyler was selected as Vice President, which was then pretty much worthless. A month later, the President was dead, and His Accidency was in charge.
    • Nobody expected Harrison to die that soon...
  • A little bit before then, Andrew Jackson had appointed James Buchanan Minister to Russia, chiefly to get him out of the way (saying that "If we kept a ministry at the North Pole, I would have sent him there," bearing in mind that to a man of the 1830s, the North Pole was about as inaccessible as the Moon). This led to a long diplomatic and political career for Buchanan, in which he was appointed Minister to the Court of St. James's (the UK), then a Senator from Pennsylvania, and finally Secretary of State before being elected President, where he effectively set the stage for the Civil War.
  • Pope John XXIII, elected after the lengthy (nearly 20 years) reign of Pope Pius XII, was expected to be a "stopgap" Pope. His age (he was almost 77) and health were such that it was expected that he would quietly reign and pass on in several years, freeing the Papacy up again. While his reign was short (less than five years), he was also incredibly influential in the Church, responsible for major changes which were brought about by his calling of the Second Vatican Council.
    • His predecessor to the name, Pope John XXII, possibly Planned his way to the papacy by playing on this trope. After the death of Clement V, the cardinals failed to elect a new Pope for two entire years, because their votes were terminally split between three factions : the Italian bloc (who wanted the Papacy to return to Rome), the Gascon bloc (who were perfectly cool with the Avignon Papacy, as long as they enjoyed the same privileges as under the previous Pope), and the French bloc, which opposed both. Lots of corruption and votes for sale all around, and no resolution in sight. Eventually, the King of France had enough of waiting - he needed a Pope doublequick so he could divorce his first wife - and forced a conclave, locking the cardinals up inside a convent with rationed food and water until they made up their minds. According to one story, the future John XXII (then still Monsignor Duèze) waited until his peers were weak with hunger, then pretended to be on his deathbed. He was 72 at the time. The rest of the cardinals promptly elected him, figuring he'd last a few months tops, and then they'd happily be back to the lucrative statu quo. Not only did John's reign as Pope last for 18 years after that, but he was one of the most activist Popes in history, heavily involving himself in European politics and reorganizing the entire Church.
  • "Mr. K" (Yutaka Katayama), president of Nissan USA in The Sixties and The Seventies, was Put on a Bus away from corporate in Tokyo because of his "rogue" attitude. Which led to things like being able to talk to American car salesman as equals, renaming the "Fairlady" sports car 240-Z (legend has it he personally swapped the badges over on the first cars on Long Beach docks..), and exponentially raising awareness and sales of Datsuns in the US to the point that they've never really recovered from the name change to "Nissan" after his retirement.
  • When Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser died in 1970, his supporters settled on Anwar Sadat as a temporary caretaker-successor, assuming he would be easy to manipulate. Six months later Sadat purged them in the "Corrective Revolution." His eventful administration included the Yom Kippur War, negotiation of peace with Israel, and his assassination in 1981.
  • Erwin Rommel proved a very capable general in Africa, but never got along well with his superiors. Adolf Hitler decided to transfer him to a less important position (albeit after Axis forces in Africa surrendered) - inspecting the fortifications on the French coast, as the High Command thought the Allies wouldn't ever try something as crazy as an amphibious assault on France. Which, of course, they did. Rommel wasn't enough to stop the Allies, but certainly made their job a lot more difficult.
    • This is a bit of an urban myth. Rommel actually had a good relationship with Hitler, and was only reassigned because - as aforementioned - his previous post ceased to exist.
    • Speaking of Hitler, the German government tried to keep him in line by handing him the job of Chancellor. It ended badly.
  • Julius Caesar was sent over to Transalpine Gaul, a far-flung province mostly composed of constantly rebellious barbarians, so that Pompey in Rome wouldn't have to deal with him. Unfortunately, Caesar ended up conquering the rest of Gaul (modern day France), which made him so popular back home that he was able to gain enough support to overthrow Pompey.
    • Caesar was quite happy to be assigned to Transalpine Gaul as:
    1. He couldn't be taken to court over his massive debts while employed by the republic.
    2. He was allowed to pacify much of North-West Europe.
    3. He was originally allotted Italy by the Senate as his proconsular province, which would have given him nothing to do, no way of making money to pay off aforementioned debts, and no way of making a name for himself.
    4. He also got Illyria and Cisalpine Gaul.
    • Caesar had originally been assigned to look after the local province but this was in reality an insult, known as looking after the "woods and country paths". It actually took a lot of political skill to secure the impressive Transalpine, Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum for five years. Pompey was influenctial in Julius Caesar securing it, but it was because he was allied with Caesar at the time.
  • Napoleon's entire republican career was this; Italy was a sideshow just to keep the southern border vaguely covered, but it ended up winning the war while the rest of Europe went "huh?". Egypt was a sideshow and an attempt to get rid of him; he came back at the perfect time and position to hasten the fall of the Directoire and take over.
  • The 332nd Fighter Group from World War II, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen, were trained by racist instructors who washed trainees out for the very smallest of mistakes, in an attempt to prove that African-Americans were unsuitable to be fighter pilots. It backfired spectacularly, and the result was a hand-picked elite that wiped the floor with everything it met, and never lost a bomber to enemy action from the formations it was assigned to defend.
  • General Norman Schwarzkopf (of Operation Desert Storm fame) actually invoked this one on himself when he was a brigadier general. When he was a 1-star staff officer in the Pentagon he was very dissatisfied with his assignment (deputy assistant something something for personnel, IIRC) and, consequently, not impressing anyone in it. His solution? To volunteer to become assistant brigade commander for a new winter-warfare unit forming up in Alaska, an assignment absolutely no one else wanted. Where, since he actually liked field command, he was far more motivated to perform well... which led directly to his highly impressing his commanding officer there, which led directly to his promotion to 2-star and his first division command, which set him on a path that ended up with him being one of the most highly regarded 4-star generals of the past 50 years.
    • The undesirability of the Alaska assignment was actually a key factor in his plan -- after having gone to considerable trouble to get him the Pentagon job in the first place, his superiors would have been notably unwilling to prematurely end it. But when there's a big hole in the TO&E that they're having that much trouble filling, volunteering to be the guy to fill it gets you unquestioning approval.