Shoot Your Mate

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"See here? This is where the woman I love shot me three times in the chest. That's when I knew she still loved me. She could have shot me in the head."

Ivan, RED

"Every profession has occupational hazards. Butchers cut themselves, house painters fall off ladders, and operatives get asked to help kill their own people."

Burn Notice, "Question and Answer"

The hero is in the role of a Fake Defector. One of his friends has been captured. The Big Bad hands him or her a gun and tells them to kill them. The gun is almost always empty.

One of two things usually happens. They pull the trigger and nothing happens, or they point the gun at the Big Bad and nothing happens. In the latter case, their cover is pretty much blown.

In addition, if the good guys are using this ploy, they will be careful to commend the testee's reluctance to pull the trigger, since killing should never be easy.

Note for the Yanks here that "mate" is used in the British slang meaning of "friend", not necessarily one's actual mate, though occasionally killing your spouse or lover is used as a particularly strong test.

This is a subtrope of If You're So Evil Eat This Kitten. It is often used as a stage in Bring Them Around—once the character has done something, it's harder for him to leave.

Compare Involuntary Battle to the Death, Finish Him!.

Examples of Shoot Your Mate include:

Anime and Manga

  • Subverted in Gunsmith Cats, where Rally is asked to kill an ATF agent to prove her loyalty to some gun-runners. She knows by weight that the gun is unloaded, asks for a bullet, and shoots the ATF agent's bonds, releasing him.
  • In Sailor Moon, fake defectors Sailor Uranus and Neptune are asked by Sailor Galaxia, the Big Bad, to kill Sailor Pluto and Saturn by removing their Star Seeds. Which, in a subversion, they do. After that, when they try to attack Galaxia herself, it doesn't work because she doesn't have a Star Seed -- she removed it long ago. Uranus and Neptune themselves get offed instead.
  • Full Metal Panic!. When one of Gauron's mooks has Kurz Weber pinned down, he suggests Kurz surrender and let himself be taken to the Big Bad. "If you shoot one of the crew in front of him, he'll let you join us." Kurz decides being a backstabbing mook wouldn't go with his cool image, and kills the mook instead.
  • One arc in Darker than Black has the Syndicate ordering Huang to kill a Contractor he was once romantically involved with (and betrayed by) in order to test his loyalty while getting rid of a potential information leak—with orders given to Hei and Mao to kill him if he doesn't follow through. Neither party can bring themselves to do it, and the Contractor in question ends up pulling a Heroic Sacrifice so Huang would be spared.
  • While undercover, Kurau is told to shoot the hostage she is secretly trying to rescue. She uses her powers to make the gun misfire, successfully convincing all but one of the Mooks that they can trust her.
  • Earlier in One Piece, Nami when pretending to join Buggy and "betraying" her captain, was told by him to fire a cannon ball at Luffy. The funny thing was that at that point, Nami wasn't even part of Luffy's crew yet and was simply using Luffy as a means to an end. However, Nami noticeably hesitated because she hated pirates and didn't want to lower herself to their level by killing another human being.
    • Later, Arlong asks her to stab Usopp. She proceeds to, in a smokescreen, stab her own hand and dump his body, allowing him to escape.
  • In Ayashi no Ceres, Aya Mikage's father is forced by her grandfather to shoot her to keep the family safe from the curse. He instead tries to shoot his own father, but the gun isn't loaded. Both die anyway.
  • Naruto: Uchiha Itachi, leaving aside the whole parricide thing, negotiates some of these rather smoothly in his first real-time appearance. Specifically, he beats the crap out of and tortures several people who he would have killed if he'd had to, but would rather not, and one who he definitely wouldn't have. Doesn't kill anybody. And gets away with it, looking like a Magnificent Bastard. Not giving a damn covereth a multitude of mercies. Of course, Madara already knows he's a Fake Defector.
  • Nicholas Wolfwood from Trigun is not British, so he just calls Vash his 'buddy' and his 'pal' despite being The Mole, and in the anime the beardless apple-fetishist version of Original Chapel turns up in the episode after he shoots Zazie the Beast and tells him his orders to protect Vash are off; now he gets to join the parade of those assigned to kill him. And by the way, he's been promoted to full Gung-Ho Gun.
  • Rena Mizuhashi aka Kir from Detective Conan has such a lousy luck that she had to do this twice. First, to her father and partner in their mole mission in the Black Organization, Ethan Hondou. And later, to local Anti-Villain and fellow Mole Shuichi Akai.
  • In essence, a sword variant of this happens in Bleach. To truly convince Aizen that he's totally loyal and to make sure she stays out of the equation where Aizen can't kill her like anybody else who goes up against him, Gin Ichimaru stabs his effective love interest Rangiku in the chest and leaves her bleeding on the roof of a building. However, he specifically gave her a wound shallow enough for her to survive and only told Aizen that he'd disposed of her. He double crosses Aizen not long afterward.

Comic Books

  • Subversion: when Robin and Batgirl start watching over Bludhaven, they attempt to take out the seeds of the Penguin's organization, and they end up faking a fight; Batgirl lets him win in such a way that makes it look like she's dead. The Penguin isn't convinced, and tells Robin to shoot her 'corpse'. He does. She doesn't react. The Penguin lets down his guard, and Batgirl springs into motion. Later, when Batgirl and Robin have escaped:

Robin: How can you take a bullet and not bat an eye?
Batgirl: You know that... kid game, 'two for flinching'?
Robin: Yeah. Oh, no. Don't tell me--
Batgirl: My... dad and I played something like that.

  • In IDW's G.I. Joe: COBRA series, Chuckles is asked to kill his lover Jinx, while undercover. He actually does it. The series goes out of the way to paint G.I. Joe as almost as vicious as Cobra, at times.
  • In one story, The Punisher is attempting to infiltrate a South American drug cartel. He is handed a rifle and told to shoot a captured DEA agent. The Punisher instead tries to turn the gun on the drug boss, only to find it has been rigged not to fire.


  • In Blue Streak, Martin Lawrence's character, Miles Logan, is told to shoot his murderous ex-partner by a group of drug traffics, in order to prove he's not a cop. Since he hates the guy, Miles just says "no problem" and shoots him in the arm. When told that he was supposed to kill him, Miles replies "Well you didn't say kill him, you just 'shoot him'!". When told to kill instead, it's then that Miles can't seem to do it.
  • The opening of In the Line of Fire uses this. Clint Eastwood's character is ordered by a gang of counterfeiters to kill his young partner. Naturally, the gun is unloaded. Later his partner nervously says, "You knew the gun was unloaded, right? You could tell from the weight of the gun?" Eastwood responds, "Well, there may have been one bullet (in the chamber)."
  • At the end of Cthulhu, the protagonist is told by his father to kill his gay lover ("The man you love; what greater sacrifice!") to appease the Old Ones and become the leader of his father's cult. The movie ends without us knowing whether or not he does so.
  • In the original Stargate film, Daniel Jackson is ordered by Ra to kill his companions in order to prove his loyalty to the sun god, so that the workers won't question his authority. Although Daniel did not board Ra's ship as a spy in the first place, when the time comes he acts for a few moments as if he is really going to obey the order. Then he turns around and shoots at Ra instead.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum reveals that the final test of Jason Bourne's training was to kill someone. The person wasn't any one that Bourne knew, but neither was Bourne given any reason to justify killing him, other than that it was his orders. It was quite a moral struggle for him to decide whether to obey.
  • In order to prove he's fit to graduate from the training for members of the Kingsman private intelligence agency in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy is required to shoot the puppy he's raised as part of the training. He refuses and is denied a position in the agency.


  • In Visser, a novel set in the Animorphs universe, it is revealed that the Yeerk Visser One has maternal emotions for two human children. She denies this when on trial for treason, and is told to prove it by killing one of them. She takes a third option.
  • In one of the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, members of the X-wing/commando group Wraith Squadron are disguised as pirates, having a job interview with the Big Bad, when he asks them to shoot another squadron member, who had infiltrated the ship without their knowledge. One of them does it, because she realizes he was already dead, despite the bad guys' attempts to cover it up.
    • It's an interesting variation on the trope. The reader doesn't know and neither do the other Wraiths - Dia tells them that he was dead, and it's implied by the bad guy's dialogue, but the last time we'd seen the dead character alive he was about to be captured and had used his last shot to destroy a datapad with his ID. Plus, after explaining her reasoning Dia went into a Heroic BSOD, crying that the girl she used to be never would have shot him. It's very ambiguous.
    • Later in that novel, two scientists who were in charge of a facility from which something had escaped were brought before the Big Bad Zsinj, who handed each of the two a blaster. The superior balked; the other shot her superior and gave the blaster back. Zsinj asked her why she did that. She told him that she thought that had been the unspoken order - if she'd fired at Zsinj it would not have worked, and she is valuable enough that if she had committed suicide it would have been a waste. Amused (and having determined that the superior was the one at fault), Zsinj promotes her.
  • In Warriors: The Darkest Hour, Stonefur, a half-Clan cat is told to kill two half-Clan apprentices to prove his loyalty. He refuses, sacrificing his life to save the apprentices.
    • Later on, when Ivypaw is acting as a spy for the Clans in the Dark Forest, the Dark Forest cats, suspicious of her loyalty, order her to "kill" Flametail, a StarClan spirit that got lost and found his way to the Dark Forest. She attacks him, but is stopped by the cat's brother. Even though she didn't actually wipe out his spirit, this still secures the Dark Forest's trust in her.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Pyramids, Teppic goes up for his Assassin final, the last step of which is shooting what may be a dummy and may be one of his friends, who failed the final. He decides to not do it—and not do it with style, by firing off his crossbow at something else. The bolt hits something metal, ricochets, and hits the dummy (or person) neatly. He passes, though not without criticism for his unnecessary use of Improbable Aiming Skills.
  • In the novel Sharpe's Tiger, anti-hero protagonist Richard Sharpe and his ally William Lawford are sent by the British Army to infiltrate the rebel stronghold of Serignapatham and rescue intelligence agent Colonel McCandless. To prove his loyalty to the Sultan of Tippo, Sharpe is given a loaded musket and told to kill McCandless. Naturally, the musket doesn't fire properly. Sharpe later tells Lawford that he knew the gunpowder used to prime the musket was bad, but its left ambiguous whether Sharpe knew about the bad powder before or after he fired the weapon.
    • He knows; he tastes the powder before he fires. However, he makes it perfectly clear later, that if the powder had been good he would have shot McCandless anyways to keep his cover.
    • Subverted later in the novel: when British scouts are seen outside the fortress walls, Sharpe and Lawford are given rifles and told to shoot the scouts. Sharpe tries in earnest to kill one of the scouts but his shot goes wide; Lawford tries to shoot wide of his target but ends up killing the soldier by mistake.
    • Played extremely straight in Sharpe's Challenge, the TV episode adapted in part from Sharpe's Tiger. Sharpe and his Lancer, Sergeant Harper, are the Fake Defectors. Sharpe is ordered to kill Harper using a musket he just loaded, but at the last moment he realises (from the smell) that the powder is bad and the shot won't fire, so he goes along with it.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Traitor General, when Uexkull executes a commander for failure, he also disables the second in command for not answering promptly. The third-in-command is ordered to shoot him.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy in Flames, when some loyalist Space Marines survive Horus's treacherous attack, Horus sends in troops. He explains afterward that fighting their former battle-brothers ensured their commitment.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Sanguinius, Inquisitor Stele rejoices when Arkio and Rafen fight in single combat: killing his own brother will seal Arkio's fate.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, this is actually carried through to its fatal conclusion. Qhorin Halfhand and Jon Snow are being hunted by Wildlings, and Qhorin orders Jon to pretend to defect so he can get accepted by them, learn their plans, and report back to the Night's Watch. Before they'll accept Jon, they tell him to kill Qhorin. He does, and Qhorin's last words hint that he had known this would happen.
  • Subverted in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Snape is commanded by a horde of Death Eaters to do what Draco Malfoy cannot bring himself to do: kill the helpless, wandless Dumbledore. Snape's response? "Avada Kedavra!" Of course, it later turns out that Dumbledore was terminally ill and arranged for Snape to kill him so that he could gain Voldemort's complete trust.
  • In Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, the final ceremony to become a Mord-Sith entails the girl killing her father.
  • Played with in this russian short story (no translation available). The undercover cop is ordered to kill his childhood friend, and he promptly pulls the trigger. It turns out that he had secretly been training himself to count the number of rounds in a magazine, judging by the weight of the gun, so he was almost sure that nothing would happen. His friend didn't know that, and was genuinely pissed, so they parted.

Live-Action TV

  • 24 has done on four occasions:
    • Season 1: Jack on Nina (he pulls the trigger, but she's wearing a Bulletproof Vest). Although the fact that she's wearing one is unknown to both the audience and her.
    • Season 3: Jack on Chase (gun empty)
    • Season 4: Dina Araz on Jack (tries to shoot the Big Bad, but the gun is empty)
    • Season 7: Jack on Renee (shoots past her shoulder to give her a suitably bloody looking wound- then Jack and Tony are told to bury her... Fortunately, Bill Buchanan is near enough to rescue her)
  • Miami Vice did this one effectively. Tubbs was deep undercover and ordered to kill Sonny to prove his loyalty, so he walks up to Sonny and, without a word or hesitation, shoots him point-blank. Awesome scene. (Naturally, Sonny was wearing a Bulletproof Vest.)
  • Star Trek: Voyager: in the episode "Repression", Chakotay tells Tuvok to phaser Janeway to prove his loyalty to Chakotay's mutiny. Tuvok pulls the trigger. Later he explains to Janeway that he logically deduced that if Chakotay doubted Tuvok's loyalty, he would not have given Tuvok a working phaser. She finds this logic to be, less than ironclad.
  • A variation on this trope was used in Alias; when Sydney was pretending to have been psychologically conditioned to turn her into an evil assassin, she was asked to kill somebody to prove herself. She didn't know who the person was or why the enemy wanted him dead, but she kills him to protect her cover. This becomes a plot point in a later episode, when Sydney realises that the man she killed was the brother of a terrorist they were trying to talk out of blowing up a plane.
    • In another episode, Jack was captured by the bad guy of the week and tried to convince him that he's a Double Agent in SD-6. In the course of this, the bad guy captures Sydney (who also happens to be a SD-6 double agent), and tells Jack to prove he's a double by killing her. Jack and Sydney manage to work out a way to take down the bad guy and his henchmen.
    • In still another episode, a situation similar to this was presented to Will as part of his CIA psychology test. It was essentially, if you were given a gun with one bullet and told to shoot your mother or your father, who would you shoot? Sydney tells him (paraphrasing) that the answer is to shoot yourself, as attacking the mother figure indicates you would first betray your friends/mentors and attacking the father figure indicates you would betray your country. We're never shown what answer Will selected.
  • A variation appears in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode The Die is Cast. Garak takes the role of a Fake Defector for reasons which are complicated, and is ordered to torture Odo, both to get information and test Garak's commitment to his defection. Garak goes through with it, since someone else would have done so if Garak hadn't, and he couldn't refuse without losing the trust of the bad guys. Odo has nothing useful but in the ends admits that he does have a desire to return to the Great Link. Garak lies on Odo's behalf and says he never broke.
  • An episode of the 1950s TV show Tom Corbett, Space Cadet had the leader of some Space Pirates pull the unloaded-gun trick on member of the Space Patrol who was contemplating a Face Heel Turn. He falls for it, but then he wasn't very bright in the first place.
  • An episode of Sharpe has Sharpe being ordered by the enemy commander to shoot Harper while they're masquerading as turncoats. It's more a test of Sharpe's skill than loyalty though, since the commander wants to see if he knows that the powder is too damp to fire.
  • Inverted beautifully in Leverage, when Nate is undercover with the mob, trying to manipulate a banker they're associated with into snitching on them. Just when he discovers that it's the banker who's running the orginization, and not the mobster, Eliot gets nabbed snooping around and gets hauled over to them. Nate makes it look like Eliot is an undercover cop who is dealing with mobster. Big boss orders Mobster to Shoot His Mate. Although Mobster has never seen Eliot before, he is hesitant because he doesn't want to be a cop killer, which is seen as a sign of guilt. Things are getting heated when Eliot is suddenly shot multiple times and killed. Everyone turns to see Sophie holding a smoking gun. So, basically, Nate avoids getting himself in a Shoot Your Mate situation by conning the Big Bad into thinking a random Minor Bad is the defector, and forcing HIM to Shoot His (supposed) Mate. Then Sophie shows up and Shoots Her Mate. Sort of. It makes sense, really.
  • A form of this is used in Star Trek: The Next Generation at the end of the two-part episode "Descent." Lore orders Data to kill Captain Picard in order to prove his loyalty. Data actually had defected at one point. However, by now, Picard and the others have managed to reboot Data's ethical program and so Data simply refuses to shoot Picard.
  • In season 3 of Heroes, Hiro tries to infiltrate a mercenary group and is challenged to kill his non-powered sidekick to prove he's badass enough.
    • In this instance, Hiro Takes a Third Option by freezing time, teleporting to a prop store, stealing a fake, collapsable sword, and using that one on his sidekick. It resembles Hiro's real sword enough that the two villains fell for it
    • In season 1, future Nathan tells future Suresh to kill the helpless present Hiro.
  • In Caprica, one of the Soldiers of the One recruits knows that his friend is going to be killed soon, so he specifically goes to his superiors and tells them he'll stay out of it. They give him a gun and tell him to shoot her himself. He, of course, turns it on them, and, of course, its empty. Subverted in that its insinuated he went to his bosses knowing this would happen, so that he could set up an ambush and save the girl.
  • In Nikita Michael is ordered by Perry to shoot Alex since they just discovered that Alex was The Mole working with Nikita. Michael instead tries to shoot Perry but the gun is booby trapped to stun the person who presses the trigger. Perry was just messing with Michael since he already knew that Micheal was also working with Nikita.
  • Wild Boys: Jack attempts to infiltrate the Butler Gang only to find that Mick has been captured by them. Frank Butler thinks Jack might be there to free him, but Jack instead claims he followed Mick there in order to kill him. Butler gives Jack a gun with one bullet and tells him to shoot Mick. Jack does so, shooting Mick through the shoulder and Mick has enough nous to play dead.
  • Burn Notice does this from time to time; in the instance the page quote is referring to, Sam (posing as a Corrupt Cop) is being asked to help kill Michael (posing as a junkie snitch). They manage to arrange for Michael to escape without it looking like Sam's fault.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • There's an old joke/urban legend told about the armed forces (doesn't matter which country, the agency names can be easily swapped out). A recruit is handed a gun and told that the final test is to go into a room and shoot whoever they find there. The first goes in, finds his wife or mother, and immediately turns around and leaves. Repeat with various branches of the military, until the Navy SEAL/SAS/FBI agent goes in, and comes out 5 minutes later. "Some idiot loaded the gun with blanks! I had to strangle them to death/beat them to death with the chair."
    • Another variation is that several men from some organization (usually the FBI) are each told to kill their respective spouse. The first few men can't but the woman goes through the whole chair-beating thing.
    • An episode of House has the same joke with a "sister from Brooklyn".

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons; one of many notorious tests that Lolth demands of drow is like this. First, when the “subject” is chosen, someone close to the subject (spouse, lover, sibling, possibly even parent or offspring) is designated the “enemy”. Then the enemy receives a divine message from Lolth, claiming the subject is a failure who has been condemned to death, ordering the enemy to ambush and kill the subject. Should the enemy agree to do so, Lolth sends a divine message to the subject right before the ambush occurs, ordering her to slay an ally. This test has three possible outcomes. If the subject kills the enemy, she is allowed to take any of the enemy’s belongings, and gains a boon from Lolth that - usually - lasts a month. If the subject is killed, she is deemed a true failure, and Lolth consumes her soul; the enemy may or may not get the same boon. Should either of the two drow hesitate and refuse to kill the other then (assuming she survives) she is turned into a drider - it is entirely possible that this will happen to both of them.

Video Games

  • This scenario crops up in the climax of the next-gen version of Splinter Cell: Double Agent, where undercover agent Sam is ordered to kill his boss, Irving Lambert, who has been captured by the terrorists. The gun you're given is loaded with 1 bullet, and you're given the choice of either shooting Lambert to maintain your cover, or turning the gun on the terrorist in the room who was left behind with orders to kill you if you hesitated. The canonical ending to the game is that he shoots his boss.
    • A CG trailer revises the scene by showing a stoic Lambert looking down the barrel of Sam's gun and simply stating "Finish your mission".
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Not the Hero of the game, but The Boss was ordered by Volgin to gouge out Snake's eyes in order to prove her loyalty. Somehow she managed to avoid doing this without blowing her cover (it doesn't hurt that Ocelot and EVA managed to be distracting) - unfortunately, it didn't stop Snake from losing one of his eyes for other reasons.
  • Used in the Sam and Max episode The Mole, The Mob and The Meatball. Sam and Max pretend to have been hypnotised by the villain, but he's not convinced. As a test, he orders Sam to shoot Max. Sam has a gun of his own, but he also has a harmless cap gun, which he uses to shoot Max.
  • The final moral choice in Army of Two: The 40th Day is to either kill the Big Bad and activate his Dead Mans Switch, or get him to disarm the bomb by showing him "true sacrifice" and having either Rios or Salem kill the other.

Web Comics

  • Elgie of Chimneyspeak had to do this, since he was contracted to kill a man, then made a friend, and didn't realize they were the same person.

Western Animation

  • In Justice League, exposed agent Hawkgirl was asked by fellow Thanagarian soldier Kragger to kill the captured Justice Leaguers. She took the pistol, but explained that killing the superheroes will only anger and ignite the Earth's population to retaliate. While her explanation is reasonable, it only strengthens his suspicion against her loyalty.
  • In Transformers: Beast Wars, Dinobot genuinely did want to change sides and become a Predacon again, but when Megatron told him to kill Rattrap as proof of his loyalty, Dinobot ultimately couldn't go through with it. Which was good because Megatron was going to stab him in the back anyway.
    • The opposite occurred as well a season earlier. Rattrap was pretending to have betrayed the Maximals for the Predacons, and Megatron demanded he shoot Dinobot as proof of his loyalty. He didn't.
  • Brother Blood of Teen Titans gave Cyborg a special weapon which amplified his powers, to prove his loyalty to the H.I.V.E. he had to shoot the Titans. Psych! Cyborg turns around and shoots Brother Blood!
  • In Exo Squad the titular crew is captured by the Neosapiens (rebellious artficial super-humans) after an ostensible betrayal by a Neosapien crew member Marsella. The Neosapien leader Phaeton decides to pull the Shoot Your Mate on Marsella and orders him to kill his ex-comrades. Marsella receives an obligatory "How could you?! After all we went through together!" reprimand frim the humands, responds with a heartfelt and hateful speech about human oppression of his people...and naturally shoots the Neosapiens. However the second part of the trope is subverted as Phaeton turned out dumb enough to actually give him a loaded gun.
  • In one episode of All Dogs Go to Heaven, Charlie tried to Face Heel Turn and was asked to kill Itchy. Which is no biggie, since, y'know, All Dogs Go to Heaven.
  • Near the end of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker‍'‍s infamous Wham Flashback, the Joker managed to smash Batman up, even so far as to shank him in the leg and send him plummeting to the ground, where he picked ol' Bruce up and tossed a "BANG!" Flag Gun to Robin so he could "deliver the punchline". An interesting twist is that Robin wasn't actually trying to infiltrate the Joker's organization; the Joker had kidnapped Robin, and spent weeks torturing him, and wanted to prove that he had broken Robin's mind.
  • In an episode of Biker Mice From Mars, Limburger tries to get Modo to join them by offering him a new fancy artificial arm. Modo pretends to go along with it to find out what Limburger's latest scheme is. Naturally, he is told to prove his loyalty by shooting Throttle and Vinnie as they drive by the tower. He does and Limburger is pleased. Of course, they were actually dummies with the bikes being operated by remote control.