Take a Third Option

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    "There's always a third way, and it's not a combination of the other two ways. It's a different way."


    Sometimes a hero faces an agonizing decision where the apparent two choices are terrible, such as a "Friend or Idol?" Decision or a Sadistic Choice. Typically, the hero chooses the lesser of two evils.

    However, sometimes the hero can respond with, "I don't like those choices, I'm taking a third option!" It is usually something completely unorthodox or seemingly suicidal. Yet this typically turns out to be the best choice after all, and the day is saved completely.

    Note that this will usually either be incredibly awesome, if the scriptwriters are clever, or incredibly stupid, if they're not. Deciding which examples are which is an exercise left to the reader.

    This can be the hidden solution to a Secret Test of Character. It's also one way to resolve a Debate and Switch and the only one of Cutting the Knot. If done poorly, it may fall victim to the Golden Mean Fallacy. Sometimes it's triggered by Heads-Tails-Edge. When the options are different sides in a conflict, taking a third option may lead to becoming Omnicidal Neutral.

    In most Freudian Trio scenarios, when The Spock advocates one course of action and The McCoy insists upon the other, The Kirk will be particularly fond of using this method as a solution to the problem of the week. This is also the best way to deal with a Xanatos Gambit. A true Magnificent Bastard will have anticipated that, though.

    Not entirely related to Third Option Adaptation, except by the fact that the producers decided to Take a Third Option in order to avoid neither of the previous options look correct.

    Compare Loophole Abuse and Steal the Surroundings, which can be used to utilize this trope.

    Examples of Take a Third Option include:


    • In the early 1990s, Miller Light had a television campaign based around this. For example in one 1993 commercial, a couple is arguing over whether to watch a dog show or drag racing. They then put Miller Light on top of the television, which apparently allows them to watch both. The result is more absurd than you'd expect.

    Anime and Manga

    • In Naruto, The Trio of Nagato, Yahiko and Konan is cornered by Complete Monster Hanzo, who has young Konan as his hostage. Either Nagato had to kill his best friend Yahiko, or refuse and let Konan die. What happens in the end? Yahiko takes the third option: commiting suicide by grabbing Nagato's hand, which held a sharp kunai, and stab himself with it.
      • The Chuunin exams in one of the first arcs plays this slightly differently: the point of the insanely-hard test is to force the student ninja to cheat, so either they get caught cheating and are kicked out, or they prove their ninja skills by cheating without getting caught. Naruto turns in his test completely blank, and Sakura works out the answers herself. Both of them pass because they were never caught cheating.
      • After about 450 chapters of waiting, Naruto receives two love confessions in quick succession. One would think he would either accept or reject them, but instead he first takes a third option of forgetting the first one, and then a fourth option of saying, "You are lying. You don't mean it." to the second one.
    • While he rarely lets enemies limit his freedom to just two options, the Crazy Awesome Magnificent Bastard Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass constantly turns the tide of seemingly lost engagements by doing what nobody would expect of him, i.e. always taking the hidden "third" option.
      • A specific example of this came up in season 2, episode 8: With the re-creation of the Special Administrative Zone, Lelouch was stuck between several undesirable choices - abandon being Zero, get exiled from Japan, or start another battle--an option made unacceptable because his sister has been made the local viceroy, and not only would a fight put her at risk, but she's a pacifist. The third option or maybe fourth: Trick the Britannians using a Literal Genie-type definition of Zero, then get a million of his supporters to dress in Zero costumes so that, rather than be exiled alone, he's free to take his army and the battle to Britannia.
    • The ending of Darker than Black leaves Hei with the choice whether to envelop Hell's Gate -- and Japan with it -- in his quantum powers, allowing the Contractors to exist without fear of interference but isolating Japan from the rest of the world (and possibly killing off every non-contractor inside), or do nothing and let the humans destroy Hell's Gate, killing off the other Contractors and returning the world to normal; this choice is Hei effectively choosing whether to be a Contractor or a human. He decides to pick 'both'; his personae, combined, ruin the weapon intended to destroy Hell's Gate. This breaks the Masquerade in the process and leads to an open human/Contractor coexistence.
    • Used in an episode of Trigun involving two lovers on the run from a slaver caravan. Said caravan is en route to a fortified city which will only grant entrance to travelers with a special key, which happens to be tattooed on one of the runaways' arm. The protagonists are faced with two options: help the couple elope, thereby stranding the caravan outside the city and condemning its inhabitants to slow death by starvation, or return them to the caravan, forcing them into a life of slaving and/or slavery. Instead, Vash fakes the runaways' deaths, thus allowing them to live free and sparing the caravan from responsibility for losing the key - nobody is going to blame them for the Six Million Double Dollar Man's actions. The trope is explicitly claimed in Nicholas Wolfwood's closing monologue: "All along I thought there had to be a sacrifice, but there was another answer: Vash the Stampede".
      • In a later episode, in response to a nasty Hostage Situation that is clearly a trap for all concerned, Wolfwood initially favors rushing in as the only course of action that will leave any of them alive. However, he adds...

    Wolfwood: I know a guy who whines and cries until he finds a way to save everyone. A man who takes a stand, though it scars him from head to toe. And he's right here.

      • This is in fact Vash's standard policy in a hostile situation - try to find a way to let everybody live. At one point he suffers a Heroic BSOD when he can't figure out how to save everybody in time and is forced to kill the bad guy before he can harm anybody else. When he finally snaps out of the Heroic BSOD he promises that next time he'll find the third option.
      • This, combined with an examination of pacifism, is the Central Theme of the story. In the backstory, we see a moment when Vash and his twin Knives disagree over how to save a butterfly from a spider's web. Knives simply crushes the spider, while Vash complains that he wanted to save both. Knives points out that this policy would only result in the spider starving anyway. This is the essential conflict: Knives maintains a monoperspective realism about the relationship between humans and his race, while Vash idealistically seeks an alternative that allows everyone to benefit.
    • Examined as the subject of ⅓'s episode of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, though focusing on everyday third options. You know, the ones where you cannot make up your mind in a choice between two desirable options, and ends up choosing a third, undesirable option instead, and then ends up regretting it later on... Everyone together now: I'M IN DESPAIR!! BEING TROUBLED WITH CHOOSING SOMETHING AND ENDING UP SELECTING A THIRD OPTION HAS LEFT ME IN DESPAIR!!
    • While Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is fond of the heroes choosing difficult options, Episode 26 has a moment when the Anti-Spiral re-explains the consequences of using the Spiral power, then asks Simon if he is willing to destroy the universe for a "fleeting emotion." Simon grips his controls, glares through his star-glasses and declares he will save them both: the girl and the universe. Then he destroys the enemy by blasting through space and time.
    • This was a common tactic of Gon, the Kid Hero of Hunter X Hunter. In particular, in the beginning, the three heroes find that Only Smart People May Pass through town on their way to the Hunter Exam, in the form of a purely hypothetical Sadistic Choice that must be answered immediately with an "A" or "B" response. The two Kid Heroes figure out, by carefully examining the rules for loopholes and using their Super Senses to hear someone that got a "right" answer screaming in the distance, that silence is the real right answer, as no such decision should be taken so lightly. They then have to explain this to The Watson, who only passed because his moral outrage initially stunned him into silence for the duration of the time limit - outrage because no such decision should be taken so lightly. Later, in one of the official rounds of the tourna- I'm sorry, I mean Exam, this trope is played much more straight. Having picked up another hero and a by-then-revealed Lovable Traitor, and progressing down a timed dungeon of trials on a strictly all-or-none basis, they are told they must choose between leaving two people behind (presumably the Lovable Traitor and one close friend and take the short path to victory, or all run out of time together taking the long path. Gon, being The Messiah, refuses either, and since the doors are right next to each-other, he gets them to open the door to the long path, and work together with the LovableTraitor to dig through the wall to the short path.
    • In Rave Master, the main character had to choose between killing his girlfriend or dooming the whole of time to destruction at the hands of her out-of-control powers. Haru instead elects to Take a Third Option, sealing Ellie's powers to stop the threat and spare her life; his Well-Intentioned Extremist opponent, having failed to consider such an alternative due to his eagerness to Shoot the Dog, is broken down in defeat. This trope also played a part in a Prophecy Twist that foresaw the scenario, but lacking appropriate context, implied that Haru really did Shoot the Dog.
    • Gash in Gash Bell is given the choice of either saving a friend and dooming the rest of the world or letting the friend die and save the world from the threat. Of course, he takes the third option of first saving his friend, then the world.
    • In Cowboy Bebop, Spike is given the choice of surrendering or watching a mook put a bullet in Faye's head. Considering Spike is known to be a gunslinger of godlike ability, and that he's pointing a gun straight at said mook's head, you'd think they'd have foreseen his taking the third option.
    • Near the end of Case 6 of Ghost Hunt, the main cast finds out that the haunting is being caused by a a curse that the students of a school unknowingly put on the vice-principal. There are only two ways to end the haunting: allow the curse to complete, thus killing the VP, or turn the curse back on the students, possibly killing all of them in the process. At first it seems like Naru is going to take the latter of those two options, but then he takes a third option: he has Lin create effigies of all of the students, and those effigies are destroyed when the curse 'turns back on the students'.
    • In Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Earth is caught up in an inter-galactic war. Tylor is put in command of the whole fleet, ready for the big face-off with the approaching enemy fleet. All-out conflict seems inevitable, and no-one is sure whom will come out the victor. When the time comes, he gives one order - "Full speed ahead". The enemy commander, Dom, who's Tylor's Worthy Opponent, gives the same order. Members of both sides are screaming at them to order the attack, all while the ships get closer and closer to each other. Their respective flagships get close enough for them to physically see each other, and Tylor goes to the window. Standing there, he sticks out his hand, as if to give the order to attack, and Dom does likewise. Gun batteries are readied. The tension is unbearable. Then Tylor slowly and deliberately salutes the enemy commander, who, seeing his plan, returns and holds the salute until their fleets pass harmlessly by. War averted, both sides win. If anybody else had been in charge of either fleet, it wouldn't have succeeded - Tylor and Dom were the only commanders who respected each other enough to make this work.
    • Al of Fullmetal Alchemist does this when Kimblee asks him which option he and Edward will choose: getting their original bodies back or saving the world? Al asks why they can't do both, and goes on to explain that striving for what shouldn't be possible is the road to progress. Kimblee turns right around and deconstructs the trope by suggesting that, if the third option exists, there must then be a fourth option: fail in both their goals.
    • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Setsuna is forced by Evangeline in a Secret Test of Character to either be a cold, limitless swordswoman to better serve her princess Konoka or take her happiness beside the girl and live her life in peace without protecting anything. She choose to have both.
      • This comes up again in one of the most recent chapters, post 250, where Setsuna having lost, more or less, to the crazy swordswoman who's got a crush on her, believes she may actually have to give up on happiness, or leave protecting Konoka to others. she fails to notice, and it fails to interrupt her inner conflict, when a weapon comes flying out of a nearby fight. she slices with weapon in half without even breaking stride, leaving dear Konoka standing in awe. Konoka then proceeds to berate her, convinces her to make up her mind, and then we finally get the kiss we've all been waiting for. well, most fans have been waiting for...
    • In Gundam Wing, Heero Yuy given the choice to either give Wing Gundam to his enemies or have them slaughter everyone in the colonies by a Lady Une who's in full puppy-kicking mode. What does he do? He calmly steps out of the cockpit, says his mission in life is over and pushes the self-destruction button, destroying his Gundam and almost killing himself in the process. That way Une won't have the Gundam, but she won't be able to kill the colonists due to the intervention of her leader Treize.
    • Gundam Seed and its sequel, Gundam Seed Destiny, has the patented method of resolving the wars of the Cosmic Era by building up another faction that proceeds to wipe the galaxy with the original sides.
    • Busou Renkin, with the tendency of Kazuki, the main character, to always choose a third option, even actually calling them out loud while doing so in certain occasions. The series also cruelly mocks this by revealing Kazuki is really using a Black Kakugane and is actually Victor The Third. Yeah. The Third.
      • Kazuki is faced with the choice to either use the white kakugane on himself and save his own life, or use the white kakugane on Victor and save the world. With Papillon's help he comes up with a third option of simply making another white kakugane and saving them both, but of course the white kakugane doesn't work entirely on Victor. So obviously he comes up with the fourth option of sending them both to the moon and supposedly killing both of them.
    • In Bleach, Zangetsu asks Ichigo: "Do you want to fight? Or do you want to live?" Ichigo's answer to that is "I want to win!".
      • Actually, Zangetsu gave Ichigo three options. He actually said "Do you want to fight? Do you want to win? Or do you want to live?"
      • In the anime, at least, Zangetsu does NOT ask Ichigo if he wants to win. Whether or not that happens in the manga is still up for debate. Either way, Ichigo's mentality is always that of taking the third option, like his decision to Invade Hueco Mundo to save Orihime and kill Aizen before he can attack Karakura. Of course, it was all according to plan, but it's not like Ichigo knew it...
      • In the Filler Bount arc, thanks to Mabashi, Orihime has to either attack a mindcontrolled Rukia or take a potentially fatal beating from her. Hisagi openly tells her that she'll have to fight Rukia, and Rukia herself begged Orihime to kill her before she was taken over, but there's no way Orihime would kill one of her friends... She decides to give Rukia a Cooldown Hug and activate her healing/barrier powers as she does so, managing to save Rukia eithout either attacking or letting her attack her.
      • It's speculated that Byakuya subtly invoked the trope in his last fight against Ichigo, at the end of the Soul Society arc. If he wins said match, his sister-in-law Rukia will be executed and the promise he made to protect her (and to his dying wife, Rukia's sister!) will be broken, which will emotionally destroy him. If he openly loses the fight, his whole clan will be dishonored. So what does he do? Byakuya shows up, fights Ichigo, and then throws the fight at the last moment, letting Ichigo win. That way Ichigo and his friends rescue Rukia and everyone thinks Byakuya did what he could to protect his honor. (And then comes The Reveal so everything else is forgotten, but Byakuya couldn't know that.)
    • In the "Land of Adults" chapter of Kino's Journey, a little girl (a younger Kino) is given the choice between death and a brain surgery that will render her a cheerful slave to her job. Hermes offers her a third option: escape and become a traveler.
    • Subverted in the original Yu-Gi-Oh!!. Crazy Prepared Dark Malik sets up the Yugi v/s Brainwashed and Crazy!Jounochi duel in such a way that there can't be a third option to take. If one wins, the other dies by being thrown into the sea with his feet cuffed so he'll drown. If one tries to forfeit to help the other, both will die. If someone else tries to interfere from the outside, a girl (Anzu) taken hostage and strapped to a seat near to the arena will be crushed to death by a HUGE metal box dangling over her head. How did this end up? Yugi debrainwashes Jounochi and sets himself to die. Jounouchi manages to save Yugi and sets himself to die. Either Jou's sister Shizuka (in the anime) or Kaiba (in the manga) rescue him. Oh, and Kaiba saves Anzu right before Jounouchi almost perishes, since she had saved his brother Mokuba earlier.
      • The video game adaption adds a simple option: Draw.
      • Played more straight in the final duel between Yugi and Yami Marik, where Yami Marik sets up a dark game where the winner would lose the soul of their host; however, unbeknownst to everyone but Yami Marik, Yami Marik could live without his host persona. This is foiled when the original Marik finally gains the spiritual strength to switch places with Yami Marik, and then peacefully surrenders the game, eliminating the evil personality for good.
    • Happens in Akagi where Akagi wins a mah jongg game by basically making what would appear to be a stupid, illogical move. When asked to explain himself, he says "I'm not limited by your reasoning".
    • Sailor Moon will find a way to save everyone, specifically in the anime. Even when every other soldier is captured, she's beaten to a pulp, and the ONLY way to save the world is to give the bad guys what they want, Usagi will use the power of love, the power of friendship, or straight-up luck to save the world and her friends—and usually the bad guy, too.
      • Although this is heavily subverted in the Manga - Sailor Cosmos tries to take a third option by traveling to the past in the guise of Chibi-Chibi and convincing her past self to destroy the Galaxy Cauldron and the newborn Eldritch Abomination inside it. This is shot down when Sailor Moon realizes that destroying the cauldron won't actually fix anything - said Abomination would be destroyed, yes, but the scenario would just repeat elsewhere. So no matter what happens, millions will die in a war against an invincible enemy. ...yay?
        • She still does take a third option, by purifying the Cauldron of Chaos' influence rather than destroying it or letting it remain as is. It's not a perfect solution as even that won't eliminate Chaos permanently, but it's better than the alternatives which would leave Chaos entirely unchecked, or similarly set him back temporarily and doom the galaxy to a slow death.
    • Prunus Girl: Ambiguously-crossdressing Aikawa puts Maki on the spot about what gender he regards him as by giving Maki a choice of two candies to feed him—to turn him into a boy or girl (respectively) in body and soul. Maki feeds Aikawa both.
    • Attempted in Shitsurakuen. When Sora rescues Tomoko, Tomoko asks to be released back into slavery as she doesn't trust Sora's protection. Sora thinks about the situation and transfers Tomoko to a male accomplice for safety. The accomplice is actually the Big Bad in disguise. Oops.
    • At the climax to the "Chapter of Egg" in Princess Tutu, Kraehe has captured Prince Mytho and challenges Tutu to a competition to win the affection of Mytho's feelings of love. What Kraehe is counting on is the fact that if Tutu confesses her love for Mytho, she will disappear. Of course, this is Princess Tutu, the show where the main character routinely uses her magical ballet dancing to accomplish her goals, so no points for guessing what happens next.
    • In Saint Seiya, a rather beaten up Pegasus Seiya is cornered by Dark Action Girl Ophicus Shaina and Silver Saint Crow Jamian. Problem is, he's holding Saori Kido in his arms and cannot fight directly since they're atop of a cliff and she'll inevitably get hurt. The enemy says: "Either fight us or hand us the girl". What does Seiya do? He asks Saori if she trusts him, she says she does, and then they hug and jump off the cliff together. Since it's late at night, Shaina and her partner cannot go for them; Seiya is unconscious for quite a while, but he manages to buy time for himself and Saori.
    • Seto no Hanayome has the young mermaid Sun saving an Ordinary High School Student Nagasumi's life, but upon doing so and letting him see a glimpse of her - she broke the code of secrecy between merpeople, and their existence will be revealed to humans. To keep the secret, either Sun or Nagasumi must die... but Sun demands Nagasumi to marry her instead so neither of them will be executed.
    • In Yu Yu Hakusho, Doctor Kamiya uses his powers to infect the city with a horrible plague. He informs Yusuke that the plague will disappear if he dies or is knocked unconscious, since he is maintaining it with his powers. Doctor turns out to Feel No Pain, making it pretty much impossible to knock him out. Doctor orders him to choose: break his Thou Shall Not Kill creed, or watch as the innocent people die horribly. Yusuke punches him into the sky, knocking him out of range and unable to maintain the plague.
      • The trope doesn't apply uncut. In the uncut version, Yusuke actually does land a blow that stops his heart, but Genkai revives him with a chest compression. Still, it's enough to break his psychic territory, and although Yusuke is relieved Doctor Kamiya was revived, Genkai assures him that in his case (a policeman's dilemma), deadly force was justified.
    • In Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya, Illya calls out to this trope specifically.
    • In the anime adaption of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Battler is given a choice between killing the person he loves most, himself, or everyone else on the island. He states that there's no one he loves most, and elects Beatrice to that spot and chooses her. This failed plan to get rid of Beatrice is pretty ironic considering he marries her in the sound novel.
    • Almost at the end of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka Kaname is in a very tight spot. If she doesn't become a Magical Girl, Walpurgisnacht will happen and the Earth will die. If she does, then she'll become Kriemhild Gretchen and will destroy Earth. For worse, two Magical Girls have died, one became a witch and had to be killed, and the only one left is seriously injured and maybe about to become a witch. What does she do? Madoka does become a Magical Girl... and uses her wish to erase all witches from existence. Which completely changes the Magical Girl System and either prevents them from being born or peacefully mercy kills the ones that already exist. Oh, and it makes Madoka Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
    • So brutally averted in Monster by Johan and Nina's mother that the decision (sending off one of her children to a... really unpleasant place when she cannot hide them from the people there anymore) can be considered a Moral Event Horizon.
    • Happens in Vinland Saga, when Askeladd is blackmailed by King Sweyn with the following command: "You either kill Prince Canute or we will invade your beloved Wales". What does he do? Reveal his identity, kill Sweyn, and allow Canute to kill him, knowing that Canute will grow into a Reasonable Authority Figure and protect Wales. Magnificent
    • In a Hentai manga Power Play by Yamatogawa, the protagonist, who is a reincarnation of Evil Sex King, is given a freedom of chosing which Heroine will stay with him, and drain him of the power everyday for the rest of his live, so he won't awaken as the Evil Sex King. He chooses his former familiar who is actively trying to awake him, convincing the heroines that he will stop her from trying to unseal him.
    • In Windaria Veronica is torn between a vow to her late mother to protect her kingdom and her love for the prince invading her kingdom. The solution? Kill him and then herself.
    • In Spirited Away, Chihiro is given a pen of pigs and must choose which of the two among them are her parents in order to free her parents and herself from the spirit world. Her choice? Her parents aren't there. Counts as Fridge Brilliance as the scene has a double meaning that says that her parents are not pigs and Chihiro is human, not just a mere animal.
    • In SHUFFLE!, when Asa and Rin are faced with either having the half-demon girl Asa use her demonic powers freely despite her psychological blocks about them or have her keep them bottled in until they kill her, what happens? Since Asa refuses to use her abilities for her benefit, Rin takes a knife and injures himself gravely to force her use them to heal his wounds. That way, Asa releases the magical energy that endangers her own life, and she does this to save Rin instead of harming herself and others.
    • In Mawaru Penguindrum, Masako is given a very odd Sadistic Choice: she and Mario have to eat potentially poisoned food as a test from her grandfather Sanbei, who is possessing Mario's body. If she chooses the harmless dish, Mario will eat the harmful one and die; if she eats the poisoned food, Mario will win but end up as his grandfather's Soul Jar and puppet. How does this end? With Masako eating both dishes. She ends up in a coma, but saves Mario from Sanbei's soul's control.
    • In One Piece, during the Arlong arc, Nami asks Luffy and crew to leave the island and not interfere with her business. Luffy does not want to argue with Nami, but he does not want to leave the island either, so he goes to sleep in the middle of the road.
    • In the Grand Finale of Solty Rei, Roy Revant gets the Sadistic Choice of having to choose which of his daughters, bio-child Rose or adoptive kid Solty, will he save from Ashley, the Big Bad. What happens? Roy chooses... to attack Ashley via shooting his Combat Tentacles. Ashley counterattacks and wounds Roy, but by that time Solty has managed to free herself and attacks him too.
    • Diane Takes a Third Option in order to return to the present from Drole's test in Season 3 of of the anime adaptation of The Seven Deadly Sins.

    Comic Books

    • Ratchet in the 80s Transformers comic makes a direct reference:

    "Trusting Megatron doesn't seem a particularly wise course of action. And using this opportunity to escape is no alternative either - he still holds my comrades! I must think like a warrior, as Optimus Prime instructed me. I must think of a third option!"

    • In Lucifer, the titular devil is given two dilemmas in a row, as a ruse in which each choice will insult his hosts and give them an excuse to kill him. He's warned by one of their servants beforehand, and manages to come up with a solution to both of them.
      • Also at the end, God presents Elaine Belloc and Lilith two possible outcomes - that he would either destroy the Creation, which is crumbling in his absence, or restore it to as it was. Lucifer interferes and offers a third option: to do nothing - the most difficult thing for an omnipotent being. God accepts, and leaves Elaine to replace him as the power that binds the universe together.
    • Green Lantern Hal Jordan, in a story arc concerning the Star Sapphire, which had, throughout the arc, taken over both Carol Ferris, his perennial love interest, and Jill "Cowgirl" Pearlman, his current love interest. The Zamarons, who sent the Star in the first place, held them captive and had Hal choose which one to be his mate. In response, Hal kissed one of the Zamaron captors, causing the Star to bond with her, go berserk, and forcing the other Zamarons to take her home to remove the stone.
      • Of course, the panel where Hal kisses the Zamaron queen immediately found its way to the Internet with the caption "Hal Jordan Will F* ck Anything", and we're still having fun with that.
      • The third option was lampshaded in an earlier story arc where Kyle Rayner met up with a younger Hal Jordan. Kyle let the villain Sinestro go when he saved Hal instead of pursuing the villain. Hal admonished him by saying he let Sinestro trick him into making a choice when all he had to do was cut the ring-generated rope hanging Hal.
    • Subverted in the conclusion of Final Crisis:Rogue's Revenge when Libra forces Weather Wizard to either pledge allegiance to the Secret Society of Supervillains or watch Libra kill his son. In the end the kid still dies because Inertia gets fed up with the situation and blows him up. Even Libra is dumbfounded after this.
    • Captain Marvel figures out an appropriate third option between all the superhumans dying and their battle rampaging over the whole world in Kingdom Come. Sadly, he doesn't survive the results.
      • Come to that, Captain Marvel basically is a Third Option.

    Superman: And that choice--
    Norman McCay's inner monologue: That choice is too big for me. I'm not a god--
    Superman: (oblivious)-- I'm not a man. But you, Billy... you're both.


    Jason: If you won't kill this psychotic piece of filth... I will. You want to stop me? You're going to have to kill me.
    Batman: Stop this. Enough. You know I won't--
    Jason: All you've got is a headshot. I'm going to blow out his addled, deranged brains out-- and if you want to stop it... you're going to have to shoot me. Right in my face. [...] It's him or me. You have to decide.
    [Batman sends the batarang. Jason collapses.]
    Joker: You got him!! You expert, rooting-tooting, eagle-eyed, goth marskman sonofa***** ! Ya banked that bat-thingie off the pipe!!! Oh, god!! I love it!! You managed to find a way to win... and everybody still loses!! Except me, my dark little pumpkin pies.

    • In IDW's Transformers, the defeat of Nemesis Prime leads to an entity called the Darkness to start possessing Optimus Prime. Galvatron gives Optimus a choice: throw himself into a sun before the Darkness takes away his free will, or give it to Galvatron. Optimus's choice? Give Galvatron the Darkness and throw him into a sun.
    • In a recent X-Force issue, as Rahne Sinclair lay dying of apparent complications from pregnancy with a half-Asgardian child, her lover Hrimhari begs a boon of his many-times-great-aunt the Death Goddess Hela and was told that if he surrendered his soul to her she would save the life of either his love or their child (never mind the question of how a first-trimester fetus is going to survive the death of it's mother). He agonized over it for a moment, then pointed at the next bed over to indicate the unconscious form of Josh "Elixir" Foley.
    • A comic from The Far Side has people discussing a glass that has water in half of it. One says, "The glass is half full!" One says, "The glass is half empty!" One says, "Half full... no, wait, half empty... no, wait..." And the last guy is shouting, "Hey! I ordered a cheeseburger!"
    • In a Suicide Squad arc, Amanda Waller was being blackmailed by a corrupt Senator into using the Squad for his private benefit. Rick Flag eventually decided to take matters into his own hands and went to kill the Senator, something Waller absolutely did not want (his death would draw too much attention). Waller ordered Deadshot to 'stop Flag from killing the Senator by any means necessary'. Since Deadshot neither wanted the Senator to live (he really didn't like him) or to shoot Flag (Deadshot has a hang-up about killing teammates), he followed the literal wording of his orders by killing the Senator himself.

    Fan Works


    • interstate 60 has many examples of this trope, which is basically the subtext of the movie, until the point in which, iconically, the hero drives his car off the road instead of choosing one of two roads he doesn't want to go down.
    • In Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abganale Jr. has to make a choice concerning whether he wants his mother or father to have custody over him: unable to choose, he runs away, thus beginning his trail of bank fraud and crime.
    • The movie The Adjustment Bureau has a big one. The main character is forced to choose between having a romance with the girl he was "destined" to be with and thus dooming her career, or breaking up with her and allowing her to become a famous and influential dancer. While initially he chooses to break up with her, he later finds out that because of this she's going to be hugely successful but very unhappy. So he takes option number three: he tries to convince God to change destiny.
    • In Titanic, Rose is unable to get Jack, but she neither wishes to marry Cal. She assumes a false name on RMS Carpathia after having been rescued, thus distracting Cal.
    • In The Matrix, Morpheus is captured by the Agents and Neo has the choice of letting him be forced to reveal all his secrets, which would doom the resistance, or unplugging his body from the interface, which would mean instant death for him. However, Neo refuses to make either choice and decides to go in and rescue Morpheus instead despite the formidable opposition.
      • A much better example of this trope, though also a subversion: In Reloaded, Neo is given the choice between entering two doors, each of which will doom the human race in a slightly different way. He makes no attempt to even think of a third option, indicating that his mind is not nearly as free as he believes it to be. (In fact, when one finally presents itself, it's because it rather literally walked up and started punching him.)
      • Neo offers the Machines the chance to Take a Third Option in the third movie, turning the tables on them using pretty much the same situation: They can let the Matrix be completely corrupted and their city be destroyed out of stubbornness or they can accept a new status quo and establish a new equilibrium between humans and machines and the matrix. It seems like their whole cyclical plan was just WAITING for some human or machine to figure out a third option that would actually end the war.
    • In the first Spider-Man film, The Green Goblin forces the hero to decide whether to save Mary Jane or a street car full of kids. With great personal effort, and some help from the public, Spider-Man saves both.
    • In The Cat in the Hat starring Mike Myers, while the kids argue whether to get the dog or not, the Cat claims, "There is a third option... but it involves...murder."
    • In Batman Forever, the Riddler forces Bats to choose between his brand-new sidekick or the girl. Using his wits and a few of his many wonderful toys, he's able to save both, defeat both villains (Two-Face flips his last coin), and even secure his secret identity.
      • In the Dark Knight Trilogy, this is both subverted and played straight. Batman saves Harvey Dent's life at the cost of Rachel's, since Commissioner Gordon would never make it in time to save her, with the added twist that the Joker purposely gave them the wrong addresses. Later on in the film, the civilians and the prisoners decide against sacrificing the other group in exchange for their lives like the Joker had originally planned.
    • In Superman: The Movie, Lex Luthor launches two nuclear missiles headed for opposite ends of the country so that Superman can't stop them both. By projecting himself back in time, he manages to do so anyway. This was perhaps not the fastest option, though.
    • In Who Am I?, Jackie Chan's character is confronted by two thugs on the roof of a building, who give him two choices: "Give us the disk and jump off," said disk being the MacGuffin of the movie, or "We take the disk and throw you off." Instead, Jackie says, "I like the third choice: I keep the disk and throw you both off." (During the ensuing fight scene, nobody actually gets thrown off.)
    • Subverted in The Rundown, when Beck first confronts Travis. Beck offers Travis two choices: Option A (come quietly back to LA) or option B ("Pretty much the opposite of A. But I wouldn't recommend that one.") Travis decides to go with Option C, and attempts to beat up Beck and escape; considering that Beck is the hero of the movie, and is played by The Rock, while Travis is played by Stiffler from American Pie, you can guess how that goes. Afterwards, Beck quips, "Like I said, there is no Option C."
    • In 1408, John Cusack's character is given the option of reliving the past hour forever (an hour he described as "the deepest level of hell"), or "taking advantage of our express check-out service" (read: killing himself.) He ultimately decides to burn down the haunted hotel room with himself in it .
    • Subverted by The Proposition, in which outlaw Charlie Burns is given The Sadistic Choice: find and kill his older brother Arthur, or his younger brother Mikey will hang. He and Arthur attack the jail and rescue Mikey, but because of a meddling Smug Snake, Mikey dies soon after. And then Charlie ends up killing Arthur anyway, but for a different reason.
    • Spoofed somewhat at the end of the Peter Sellers comedy I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! Faced with the choice of confining-but-stable upper-middle-class marriage or free-spirited-but-superficial hippie life, Sellers' middle-aged hero runs away from his second attempt at marrying his fiance from the former group. When asked by a passerby where he's going, he admits he doesn't know, and he doesn't care. He is determined to find a third option - the one that will bring him happiness.
    • In Star Trek II, it's not entirely clear whether Kirk is using this or the Dungeon Bypass tactic when he reprograms The Kobayashi Maru into a winnable scenario.
      • The film is a heavy deconstruction of Take a Third Option: Kirk has made a career on taking the third option, so when situations finally arise where there quite literally and definitely is no third option, he's completely unprepared.
    • In a slight subversion in Willow, the main character and two others are asked by a wizard, holding up his hand, which finger contains the power of magic. Each chooses a finger, and the wizard declares that they're all wrong. Later, in private, Willow tells the old man that he had thought of choosing his own finger, but rejected the idea. The wizard confirms that this was, in fact, the correct answer.
    • In Snatch, Irish Traveller character Mickey is given two choices: perform in a fixed Forced Prize Fight that he has to lose by knockout in the fourth round, or watch as the gangsters forcing him to do this murder his entire clan. (And just to prove they will, they set fire to his mother's caravan -- with her inside.) Instead, they decide on a third option. Mickey and the entire clan bet a shitload of money on Mickey knocking out his opponent, which he does, and before the gangsters can do anything about it the clan kills all the gangsters assassins and the head of the mob as well. Moral of the story: don't fuck with Pikeys.
    • In the first Iron Man film, Tony Stark is given a choice of building a Jericho missile or getting his head blown off. Stark instead uses the parts to build a suit of Power Armor and fight his way out of the base.
    • Fox Mulder did this in the first The X-Files movie. When he followed the not-so-mysterious government trucks he came to a T-intersection and didn't know wether they went left or right. He then decided to drive straight ahead into some sort of field or some such. Needless to say, being Fox Mulder, he was right.
    • Subverted in Punisher: War Zone: the villains trap Frank in a Sadistic Choice that basically forces him to kill one hostage to save another. Frank instead elects to Take a Third Option, killing one hostage taker to release his captives, consequently sacrificing the other captive to the other hostage taker. However, since said hostage had already offered his life to Frank beforehand to save the others, Frank essentially made a choice that accomplished the same result, but without the hostage's blood in his hands.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Lando Calrissian is forced into a deal with Vader - he betrays his old friend so Han will be bait for a trap, and afterwards the crew will be safe on Cloud City, and the city itself will then be ignored by the Empire, which will kindly not destroy it. But the deal gets altered repeatedly. So Lando made plans to free the crew of the Falcon and get the citizens to flee, though he could only execute them after Han had been frozen in carbonite. The third option was only partially successful, but things turned out all right in the end. Even Cloud City apparently escaped harm - the Star Wars Expanded Universe tells us that it fell under Imperial control, but never got destroyed(perhaps the gas mines were too profitable), and eventually the New Republic got it back.
      • And in Return of the Jedi Luke has the option of either killing Vader and Palpy or joining them. What does he do? He chooses to die, and in the process inspires his father to save him, killing both Sith in the process and bringing balance to the Force.
    • In the 1999 movie Wing Commander, Maniac offers Hunter the option of either kicking his ass, or drinking the booze that Maniac brought. Rosie suggests a third option: kickingg Maniac's ass, then taking his scotch.
    • In National Treasure, Nicolas Cage's character is given a choice by the feds; do nothing and go to prison, or help the feds rescue the stolen Declaration of Independence from Ian and still go to prison. Initially, Cage accepts the second option but when the plan goes south, he declares, "Sadusky, I'm still not against you. But I found door #3, and I'm taking it." He then makes his escape via diving in the Hudson river.
    • "I choose |Buzz Lightyear!"

    "What? That's not a choice!"

    • Occurs in the 1948 film The Red Shoes. The main character Vicky is forced to choose between Julian, the man she loves, and dancing ballet, which she considers as important as living. At one point, she has a relationship with him, but keeps it a secret. When they are discovered, things get more complicated and in the end she decides to commit suicide by throwing herself in front of a moving train.
    • In The Princess Bride, the third option was planned ahead of time: "They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocaine powder."
    • In Minority Report, Burgess; the inventor of Pre Crime detection is cornered by John Anderton for committing a past murder. A Pre Crime report shows that Anderton is to be killed by Burgess, and Burgess holds Anderton at gunpoint. Anderton gives the villain a dilemma: if the villain kills Anderton, he proves that PreCrime detection works but he gets a life sentence for murder. If he doesn't kill, he proves that Precrime is folly. Burgess takes the third option and shoots himself instead.
      • Actually that was the second option, only that he didn't have to see the results.
      • Of course, neither of them had any knowledge that there was a prediction anyway (they state at the beginning of the film that mere intention to kill is not enough to set off the alarm). Thus, Burgess had a good chance of not shooting Anderton without proving Precrime false. He'd still go to jail but for something else.
    • Played with in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, when Will is trying to decide between killing Jones in order to save his Dad, which would mean he would become the new undead captain of the Flying Dutchman or remaining alive and marrying Elizabeth, Jack proposes that he "avoid the choice entirely. Change the facts" by letting someone else kill Jones. Of course, in the end, this doesn't work out, because Jones stabs Will, and in order to save his life, Jack helps will stab Jone's heart.
    • In the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, Bond and General Gogol confront each other over possession of the ATAC nuclear weapons transmitter, after killing the Big Bad, Kristatos. Bond then destroys the ATAC by throwing it over a cliff, prompting Gogol to comment, "that's détente, comrade. You don't have it, I dont have it."
    • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Holmes' final confrontation with Professor Moriarty over the Reichenbach Falls boils down to a choice between letting Moriarty go, knowing that Moriarty will take revenge by killing Dr. Watson and his new wife, or trying to fight the former Cambridge boxing champion while suffering from a serious shoulder injury, which he deduces will result in his own death and Moriarty going after the Watsons anyway. Holmes' third option is to grab Moriarty and throw them both over the Falls.
      • According to How It Should Have Ended, there was a fourth option that Holmes hadn't considered - calling Watson to even the odds. Moriarty may be a former Cambridge boxing champion, but Watson was a soldier and is also much younger.
        • HISHE overlooked the fact that while Watson had already finished his own part of the mission (preventing the assassination) by this point, Holmes would not have had any way of knowing that he had and would thus refuse to interrupt him as Watson's role was key to preventing world war.
    • In the 1985 version of Brewsters Millions Brewster's "None of the Above" political campaign results in neither of the two candidates wining thus forcing another election.
    • James P. "Sulley" Sullivan is left in charge of Monsters, Inc. with a dilemma: continue to operate the company harvesting the screams of small children, after seeing how terrified it makes them? Or let the company collapse, leaving him in poverty and shame and Monstropolis in an eternal electrical blackout? Sulley goes public with the discovery of laughter, a power source ten times more potent than screams, compatible with existing Monsters, Inc. technology, and entirely kid-friendly.
    • Referenced in The Avengers. Steve lectures Tony that he isn't a real hero because he would not be willing to lay on a wire to help his fellow soldier over it. Tony counters that he'd prefer to just cut the wire. This exchange becomes somewhat ironic as Tony later proved willing to sacrifice himself for the team and the city of New York, without trying to Take a Third Option.
    • Done in a somewhat twisted form by HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey: Faced with the dilemma of two contradicting directives, one giving general instructions to provide information to the crew, and one giving specific instructions not to inform the crew about a certain aspect of the mission, HAL finds a way to solve the issue. The problem is, that solution is to Kill Them All.
    • Happened in Toy Story while Andy is playing. Woody has to choose which of his friends will he save.

    "I choose Buzz Lightyear!"
    "Wait a minute, he's not one of the options!"

    • In Tangled... Mother Gothel is about to forcefully take Rapunzel away, but Rapunzel promises she'll go with Mother Gothel willingly if she can use her hair to heal a fatally injured Flynn first. Flynn quickly takes a third option by cutting Rapunzel's hair before she can heal him, allowing Rapunzel her freedom while denying Mother Gothel from her source of eternal youth and denying himself a chance to be healed from his mortal injury. He dies, but then the Swiss Army Tears kick in and he's revived.


    • Tavi Calderon of the Codex Alera lives and breathes this trope. He does it so much, and so frequently, that his allies start tracking him by assuming he found a third, completely-insane option that he manages to make work by waving around his continent-sized cojones.
      • Need to break the law to end a war? Break the law, end the war, and then write a new law that pardons you.
      • Indefensible position, must hold it anyway? Convert the enemy to your side.
      • too few Canim to fight the Vord, too many to ship back to Alera? Build boats out of icebergs.
      • Slaver demands that you replace the slave chains you broke or get off his ship? Offer him gold chains and demand that he only use those.
        • It's like Insanity Wolf, but it works!
    • Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files gets a few of these over time.
      • From the Summer and Winter Mothers: (paraphrased) "Which is more important, body or soul?" "Your question is stupid." "Yes."
      • When Shagnasty has Thomas at the top of Demonreach Island, he demands that Harry turn over Morgan or it'll kill Thomas. Harry blasts Thomas out of his hands, into the hut. Subverted; Shagnasty had tortured Thomas so much that Thomas's succubus-demon had full reign, and so Shagnasty was considering throwing Thomas in there anyway for the evulz.
      • Kumori and Cowl give him the standard join-or-die routine. Harry bumps Cowl's elbow while the latter is handling supernatural high-explosives.
      • In that same book, Harry needed a massive amount of undead to protect himself to even get close to said dangerous spell and stop a godling from being born. However, doing so requires using Necromancy, which is forbidden. Solution? raised a t-rex from the dead.
      • In the first book: if Harry doesn't kill the warlock, he'll die. If he does, he'll be killed. Solution? disrupt the curse and then free the demon that the warlock sends after him. The warlock was eaten by the demon.
    • Subverted in one of the short novels in Andrew Sapkowsky's The Last Wish (prequel to the Witcher half-decameron), when Geralt has to choose between killing Renfri or Stregobor. He decides that both of them are evil and it's best to not take part, but after hearing about Tridaam Ultimatum he kills Renfri fearing that innocents would be slaughtered. In the end, it shows up that ignoring everything would be the best option Let's just say that he didn't earned "Butcher from Blaviken" title for nothing.
    • Discussed in The Red Pyramid (in a moment of Genre Savviness) when Sadie is asked if she was prepared to lose her father if it meant saving the world.

    Sadie (narrating): Of course I knew the right answer. The heroine is supposed to refuse to sacrifice her father. Then she boldly goes off and saves her dad AND the world, right?

    • Harry Potter:
      • Harry is offered a third option occurs in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when he encounters a sphinx in the maze. She tells him that he is allowed to simply turn around and walk away if he is unable to solve the riddle she poses. This is a subversion, however, because he doesn't take that option: he's able to answer it correctly.
      • Neville Longbottom gets a "Join Me or Die" ultimatum from Voldemore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows He takes a third option.
    • A significant part of the plot of the Greek mythology parody Ye Gods! by Tom Holt is that the classical hero Jason Derry finds Third Options wherever he looks, interfering with how the gods think his story is supposed to go. A lampshade is hung on this early on, when he is given the very symbolic choice between the Path of Virtue and the Path of Luxury, and a third road appears out of nowhere, marked "Diversion".
    • William Horwood's novel Skallagrigg describes a computer game that begins with the player's daughter being born with severe disabilities (the game's creator has cerebral palsy). The player is asked whether to let the baby live or die, but both answers are dead ends. The hidden third option, which leads into the rest of the game, is "don't know".
      • An older, famous literary example is in the play Nathan the Wise, taken from an even older story in The Decameron. The title character, a Jew, is asked by the Muslim ruler Saladin to determine whether Judaism, Christianity, or Islam is the "true religion". Given that because of anti-apostacy laws he would be executed for giving preference to any of the three, he instead uses the "parable of the rings" to give the non-answer that each religion thinks it's the true one but since no one can know until the day of judgment, people might as well be good to one another.
    • The ending and one major theme of Catch-22. Yossarian is presented with two options by his commanding officers: promote what they are doing and go home a hero (but betray his friends), or face a court-martial. After first deciding to go home, he sees the immorality of it and decides to take a third option (deserting) and therefore beat the system.
      • This is spoofed in the book by the name of the person who inspires him to attempt desertion. His friend was named Orr which sounds the same as the word "or". Literally he is the character who finds another alternative.
    • A minor example occurs early in Ender's Game. In a video game that invents itself as the player moves forward, Ender eventually runs up against a situation called the Giant's Drink: a giant offers Ender's character a choice between two odd-looking drinks. They're both poisoned; no matter which one Ender chooses, he always dies, albeit in a different way each time. Finally, frustrated by the game, Ender climbs up the giant's shirt and kills him by digging into his skull through his eye. It's not the most meaningful decision ever made—certainly not the most meaningful decision Ender makes—but the only reason Ender can continue in the game is because he thinks outside the box. Also, the game is a psych test in disguise, and getting fed up with the Giant and killing him rather than continuing to drink is an allegory for overcoming suicidal tendencies, so Ender is unknowingly passing a major test on the way to the end (the Drink puzzle only comes up for people who've proven their suicidal tendencies through previous choices, and no one has ever gotten away from it before, leading the developers to freak when the game has to write entire new areas to accommodate how awesome Ender just proved himself to be).
      • The climax of the book is also a kind of Take a Third Option. Ender is facing his last and most difficult challenge at Command School, with only eighty outdated fighters up against a force of thousands and thousands based around a planet. He realizes that the teachers either want him to win fairly, in which case they'll just throw more and more challenges at him when he commands the real fleet, or lose, in which case he'll be sent home, and someone else will have to command the fleet and probably lose for real. So instead, he decides to win unfairly, by using the Dr. Device against the planet, vaporizing the entire enemy fleet and most of his own fighters. Thus, he expects to win but be flunked out anyway for his insane solution. Except, of course, for the twist ending...
        • The twist ending is that the "simulation" wasn't a simulation at all. Ender was actually controlling fighters the entire book when he thought he was just practicing for the battle. Which means he actually did just destroy a populated planet… Ironically, this is explained as exactly what his superiors wanted really, the brilliance of Ender's tactical mind without the ethical or moral hesitations an adult general might have.
    • Subverted in one of the later Shatnerverse novels when Kirk, forced to chose between the life of his woman and aiding his current arch-nemesis, goes through an internal monologue explicitly trying to think of a third option and reflecting that there is always a third option. Then he realizes that this time, there isn't.
      • ...Until he turns on his archnemesis, his Evil Twin from an evil parallel universe, anyway... But that doesn't happen until the next book.
    • In Stephen Marley's Spirit Mirror, a dark fantasy story set in ancient China, the Big Bad, Nyak the GameMaster, is a Manipulative Bastard who plays a Xanatos Gambit on the heroine, Chia. Chia knows this and spends much of the book trying to Take a Third Option and avoid playing into Nyak's hands by doing what expects her to. She fails.
    • In Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, at the end of the second volume the Hero faces a "Friend or Idol?" Decision. She takes the "right" option, the one that wasn't used by the villain (and is the reason he became the villain). It is then revealed that her choice actually releases an evil god and the third book is all about taking a third option.
    • Toward the end of Wizard's First Rule, the Big Bad Darken Rahl gives Richard a choice: Either help him open the MacGuffin, allowing him to rule the world and take Kahlan as his queen, or do nothing, in which case Rahl will open one of the boxes and either rule the world anyway or destroy it. In the end, Richard feigns helping him (Rahl believed he was under a spell that would make him tell the truth), and tricks him into killing himself.
      • Later, Richard finds himself unable to fight Jagang with just D'hara or to unite the Midlands. Solution? Conquer the Midlands before Jagang.
      • How do you get someone through the Hall of the Betrayer and still have them have a mission? Give them two masters; they only have to betray one.
    • One of the Halo novels uses this exact phrase while Captain Keyes is formulating tactics to win an impossible battle ("Yes... he did have a third option").
      • He then proceeds to have a Crowning Moment of Awesome involving ramming a Covenant destroyer to knock out its shields, whilst manouvering so it hits itself with its own plasma torpedoes.
      • It has to be said the Keyes third option is more awesome than stated above, as he had his ship slingshot around a planet at one point, remote-activated a Shiva Nuke he'd dumped near the destroyer so its shields would be knocked out, and then trailed the plasma torpedoes into the enemy ship. The ramming was actually a calculated, risky move, that nearly tore Keyes' own ship in half. As said by the Schoolmaster himself 'half a degree off course, and the Iriquois would have been torn apart'. In the end, every single bottom deck on Keyes ship was breached, and two meters of solid titanium 'A' armor plating had been abraded right through. Crowning Moment of Awesome indeed.
        • Used in the games as well. The Flood have been released, and the apparent options are to either let them spread and consume everything in the galaxy, or activate the Halo, wiping out the Flood... along with any living thing large enough to support Flood infection. Cortana comes up with another plan; Chief destroys the Halo, eradicating the Flood and preventing galactic destruction.
    • Used in Frederic Forsyth's novel The Devil's Alternative, where a Ukrainian terrorist is holding an oil tanker hostage and threatens to dump its contents onto the shores of the Netherlands unless his compatriots are released from a German prison. The allied powers know, however, that if the terrorists are released they will inform the media that they have assassinated the head of the KGB, news of which will cause the breakdown of the Russian political system and lead to a megalomaniac taking over the reigns of power and invading Western Europe. The goodies have the choice, allow massive environmental disruption or face the prospect of a Third World War. The hero comes up with the answer: allow the terrorists to be released for long enough that the oil tanker is released, but poison them with a slow acting poison that will kill them before they can release their news.
    • The entire premise of the novel The Gripping Hand, which is the sequel to a book (The Mote in God's Eye) in which the human species makes contact with a species that has three hands—two dexterous hands and one strong "gripping" hand, the source of the title. This is exemplified in that the phrase "on the one hand...on the other hand..." is often followed by "on the gripping hand" even though humans can't naturally think that way (having only two hands and all).
      • And yet, despite not having three hands, humans always look for the Third Option - to the point where the fatalistic Moties, condemned by their biology to two bad choices, consider us all insane for not understanding and accepting what is and must always be. Their term for humans is "Crazy Eddie", after a character in their folklore who's all about the (often absurd) Third Option.
    • Anita Blake is notorious for doing this.
    • Towards the end of Lords of the Bow, the Mongols are apparently faced with a choice of turning back or trying to break through the Great Wall of China and being slaughtered in the process by the Chin army waiting on the other side. Genghis Khan notices that the wall is contiguous with the mountains, and simply sends a portion of his army over the mountains to attack the Chin from behind.
    • In the Star Trek Tales From the Captain's Table short story "An Easy Fast", the protagonist, out for revenge against the three men who killed him (he got better), found each of them in different ways. The first man had already taken the third option of repentance over death and incarceration, so the protagonist let him be. The second man was still wanted, but had started up a lucrative business. The protagonist chose to have him give his employees a cut of the profits as a third option to either death or incarceration. The final man was condemned to die on another planet, and by fate the protagonist had the say-so to put him to death. The third option (from the first two of killing him or leaving him there to rot)? Give the condemned man his own say-so.
    • In what amounts to a prose Villain Song, Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead gloats that the contemporary world was fixated on the "choice" between the Nazis and the Communists, two brutal totalitarian ideologies. (The novel was written in the late 1930s when many people believed that freedom and individual rights had been discredited; in the world of The Fountainhead, freedom is the Third Option.)
    • In the story The Blacklist, Ivan is forced by Gabe to make a Sadistic Choice: Gabe will shoot him and let his fellow assassin Hutley live, or he will detonate the bombs Hutley is strapped to and let Ivan live. What does Ivan do? He kicks his right ankle holster with his left foot, does a jump kick that sends the gun into the air, catches it in midair, and shoots Gabe in the chest.
    • Practically deconstructed in Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception: the titular Opal has Holly Short's commander held hostage in a Death Trap and is sending an attack at Artemis, and Holly only has time to save one of them. Opal claims that, with good aiming skills, Holly can disable the trap to save her commander quickly. Holly takes that option, but the trap goes off, killing him and making it seem like she killed her own commander. Later, Opal reveals that she lied. Ouch.
    • In Wizard, the second book in John Varley's Gaea Trilogy, an applicant for receiving one of Gaea's "miracles" is asked a hypothetical question: A train is coming. A little boy and a little girl are tied to the railroad tracks. You only have time to save one of them. What do you do? ... Gaea eventually reveals that there is a response for mortals, and a response for gods. Mortals save one child and then try to save the other. Gods, though, don't bother saving either of them.
    • In John C. Wright's Fugitives of Chaos, the question of whether to fight Echinda—risking their lives and thereby the universe—or run from her—abandoning people to their deaths—is tabled when Amelia interprets some information and realizes that she can appease her.
    • Explicitly stated in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time during Rand's military tutelage under Davram Bashere: "When an enemy offers you two targets, take a third."
    • In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta are told by the Gamemakers that only one of them can be the victor, despite an earlier statement saying that if they are the last two alive, two tributes from the same district can survive. Rather than either of them killing the other, Katniss and Peeta bluff the Gamemakers by preparing to commit double suicide, expecting them to prefer two winners over no winner. It works, but the Capitol is furious that Katniss was able to find a third option.
    • "The Wife of Bath's Tale" from The Canterbury Tales is of a rapist knight who, on being sentenced to death, is given a year and a day to find out what women truly want. He can't find any single answer, until an old hag promises to give him the answer if he'll agree to do something for her. He does, and she does; "She wants mastery over her husband." His life saved, he now has to... marry her. On their wedding night, she offers him a choice: she can be beautiful and unfaithful, or ugly and faithful. Stymied, he gives the choice to her. Pleased that he learned his lesson, she says she'll be both beautiful and faithful.
    • At the end of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, the heroes find out that they have been the Unwitting Pawns in the villain's MacGuffin Delivery Service plot, and that nearly everything they've done has in some way contributed to the Big Bad's victory. Faced with an enemy too powerful to fight, too vengeful to talk down, and with their own hatred literally feeding him strength, The Hero Simon discovers that the third option is The Power of Love -- more specifically, Forgiveness.
    • In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Tunnel in the Sky, an experiment is described in which an ape is given four ways to escape a cage. The ape escapes a fifth way.
    • In Rumer Godden's novel The Diddakoi (published in the U.S. as Gypsy Girl) a new girl at school named Kizzy is asked, "Does your mother wash?" If she says, "Yes", the other children would say, "Then she's a washerwoman." If she says, "No", the other children would say, "Then she's a dirty sow." Kizzy takes a third option. "My mother is dead." Justified, because it was true.
    • Villain example in The Demon Princes series, in The Face: Kirth Gersen has set up a situation where the villain Lens Larque must either personally appear in court to defend against charges, or forfeit his very valuable ship and its cargo. Lens Larque chooses to blow the ship up and collect on the insurance.
    • In Piers Anthony's The Blue Adept, protagonist Stile has to face the local unicorn Herd Stallion in Trial by Combat so his friend, Neysa, is allowed to accompany him on his quest. The duel will take place within a unicorn circle, which will nullify Stile's magical power, leaving him no match for the massive Stallion. But he's recently acquired use of the Platinum Flute which will allow him to retain his magic. Stile is left with two unpalatable (to him) options: Play things straight, lose, and let the Stallion humiliate him or use the Flute and humiliate the Stallion, possibly making a powerful enemy in the process and definitely making life harder for Neysa, once the quest is over. After consulting with an elder vampire that his friend, Hulk, had helped out earlier, Stile comes up with a plan: At the start of the match, Stile puts on a display of power that showed his magic was intact, allowing the Stallion to bow out gracefully. When the Stallion refused to back down, Stile used the Flute to give himself the same physical power as the Stallion, making things a truly fair fight. The Stallion won, but was so impressed with Stile playing things fairly that he yielded the issue and allowed Neysa to accompany him.
    • Played with in The Lord of the Rings: Saruman reveals to Gandalf that he has made a Face Heel Turn and is going to make a play to claim the One Ring for himself. He gives Gandalf two choices: either he's with him or he's with Sauron. Gandalf glibly replies that he doesn't like either choice and asks for a third. In response, Saruman locks him up in Orthanc, in an attempt to completely remove him from the game entirely. Of course, Gandalf comes up with his own fourth option, by escaping and rallying the Free Peoples against him.
    • A particularly unconventional version of this trope in The Son of Neptune, a Percy Jackson & the Olympians book, after the 5th Cohort captures the flag in the battle. Gwen is stabbed in the chest from the back, and consequently dies. Moments later, though, Gwen returns to life, and is immediately questioned as to how it happenned. She says she was at the River Styx, and that a man (Thanatos, or Death, presumably) asked her for a Drachma (Roman money) for transport to the Underworld. We also learn earlier in the series that if you don't have a Drachma, you are forced to wait for eternity (Or at least until someone pays for you too), so Gwen could have gone on or waited for an eternity, but turned around and left, because the Door of Death was still open.
    • In children's book The Pinkish Purplish Bluish Egg, the griffon that hatches from the egg of the title finds himself and his more conventional bird neighbors menaced by a pack of foxes and wolves. He observes that his size, beak, and claws would probably allow him to simply kill the pack, but his adoptive turtledove mother insists that "violence is wrong" and that he should ignore the pack and hope they leave him alone. Instead, he decides to grab them by their tails and forcibly relocate them to an island off the coast, supposedly without hurting them.
    • An interesting variation of this occurs in Animorphs. David, the team's new Sixth Ranger, finds himself caught between the heroes and the Yeerks and not trusting either. Instead, he goes Sixth Ranger Traitor and turns on them both.
    • In one of the unofficial sequels to "The Lady and the Tiger", the prisoner exploits an engineering flaw in the arena by opening both doors and hiding in the space between them while the tiger eats the lady. Unfortunately for the prisoner, the king hands the prisoner over to his allies who have not promised not to simply execute the prisoner.

    Live-Action TV

    • In Supernatural, season five has Dean and Sam refusing to play along with Heaven's will that Dean become Michael's host and Sam Lucifer's host so the angelic brothers can finish the final battle and fight each other to the death. Saying yes would thus raze the world either way, but result in paradise if Michael wins (as the angels believe he will). Lucifer wants Sam to say 'yes' because he believes he'll win, at which point he'll kick the Apocalypse into full gear and kill basically everyone. If the brothers both say 'no', Lucifer will use his present inadequate host to continue the Apocalypse at the current pace.
      • There is no other option until they find out how to open the Cage Lucifer was originally locked in. Then, Sam comes up with a Self-Sacrifice Scheme to say 'yes' to Lucifer so that when Lucifer possesses him, he can walk into the Cage where he and a vengeful Lucifer will be trapped for eternity. It only works, saving the world from widespread destruction and preserving it as it is, neither a paradise nor a hell (thus letting Free Will triumph), because of perfectly human brotherly love.
      • In a literal example by Michael, Dean is told to say 'yes' or 'no' to Michael (Well, he's told to say yes or die, but he'll die if he says yes...) When he says 'yes' but takes it back so he doesn't disappoint Sam, Michael then uses Adam, Sam and Dean's half-brother, as a vessel instead (it had to be someone from that particular bloodline).
    • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode Patterns of Force," Kirk and Spock are in a situation where a Nazi planet, created by a stupid Federation historian, is about to launch a genocidal invasion on a peaceful planet. One of their allies pleads with them to have the Enterprise to destroy the fleet as a lesser evil than letting the slaughter begin. Kirk balks at this bloody option, wanting to help the Nazi planet get back to normal, as well as protect its potential victims. In the end, Kirk makes the drugged Fuehrer cancel the invasion instead.
      • Another Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "Operation: Annihilate!" confronts Kirk with a choice between allowing body-snatching parasites to spread further or killing the existing victims (over a million people, including Spock and his own nephew). Kirk specifically tells Spock and McCoy, "I want that third alternative!" They find it, but it's a near thing.
      • Another one was Kirk's Kobayashi Maru. Option one was respond to rescue call and be destroyed, option two was to abandon the Kobayashi Maru, potentially preventing war but leaving the crew and passengers to die. Kirk decided to Take a Third Option and cheat.
      • Not really a third option within the test, in the strictest sense...
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Emissary," Capt. Picard is told that a sleeper ship of Klingons is about to wake up with standard orders to attack the Federation. Ambassador K'Ehleyr gives only two options: Let them attack with great loss of life, or kill them before they start. However, Picard orders her and Worf to come up with better options, and after considerable difficulty, they do come up with a better solution -- Worf and K'Ehleyr dress up as a captain and his first officer and berate the rather surprised Klingons for not realizing that the war would already be over by that point, implying (but not directly stating) that the Klingons conquered the Federation.
      • In another episode, Riker describes another Starfleet captain doing this at the Academy. There was a navigation test with three possible solutions. The captain in question (then a cadet) rejected them and offered his own. The test now has four solutions.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Author, Author", Neelix tries to invoke this when giving advice to the Doctor about the conflict of the episode, mentioning a Talaxian saying that went "When the road before you splits in two, take the third path." However, Sci Fi Debris points out the Fridge Logic of this:

    Chuck: The third path... would be back the way you came.

    • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Way of the Warrior", Sisko explicitly states they need a third option. The two available are to betray the Klingons and warn the Cardassians about an invasion, or do nothing, meaning things likely won't stop there. The option Sisko finds is to get measured for a new suit by the resident Cardassian tailor during a briefing, thus "accidentally" allowing him to warn the Cardassians while maintaining officially neutral.
      • Of course, Garak is far from being an ordinary tailor.
    • An episode of Malcolm in the Middle revolved around Hal agonising over whether or not to take a neighbour who was in a coma off life support. He eventually took a third option, but we never find out what it was.
      • It made sense when he found out the man was a bird lover. And he got everything he needed at Radio Shack. Except for the hat.
      • If not revealed is it not heavily implied said man has been made a living scarecrow?
    • In an episode of MacGyver, Mac chases a group of gang members through an abandoned building and suddenly comes across an open door and a staircase, not knowing through where the gang went. He then uses his penknife to open a nearby locked door... only to fall into a snare trap with a bomb (which turns out to be fake). It was all for the best though, as the gang's apparent military training coupled with the fact that they knew Mac would go through the locked door allows him to, with help, deduce the gang's ringleader's identity: (his police chief friend, who is also a former Marine).
    • The sketch show Almost Live!, parodies this with the sketch "You Make the Call" (which was recycled for the show Haywire). Someone would have two choices, such as whether to run a red light and risk either a ticket or being late for work again. The third option was to just take a bazooka to the traffic light.
    • Used directly or indirectly in several episodes of Stargate SG-1, such as "Urgo" (SG-1 can live with the annoying Urgo for the rest of their lives, or have him removed from their minds, effectively "killing" him) and "Zero Hour" (Turn Camulus over to Ba'al or SG-1 will be killed). Lampshaded in the episode "Fail Safe", in which the presented third option is so outrageous that Col. O'Neill requests a fourth option.
      • In the episode "Moebius", SG-1's ship is discovered by the Jaffa in ancient Egypt. They can attempt to attack the Jaffa but then alter history, or they could just give up and spend their lives trapped in the past (with the added headache of having to live under Ra's rule). It's Daniel Jackson who comes up with a brilliant third option of burying the thing they came for so that they wouldn't have to go back in time to begin with. There's a reason he was the Smart Guy.
      • There's also "1969", where O'Neill tries to invoke this trope:

    O'Neill: Or?
    Carter: I can't think of an "or" at the moment, sir.
    O'Neill: Major; where there's a will there's an "or".

    • In The Tenth Kingdom, a frog guards the exit to the dungeons, and warns the party that one way is the way out, and the other is a painful death. The heroes are given one question, with the caveat that the frog always lies. Tony frustrated with the tropes of Fairy Tale World, hurls the frog through one of the doors in a rage. When this kills the frog, they choose the safe exit.
    • In Only Fools and Horses, market trader Derek Trotter is caught with a stolen microwave, and threatened with a charge of trafficking in stolen goods if he doesn't reveal the thief. If he won't talk, he and his family will suffer serious legal consequences. However, revealing the thief in exchange for immunity would make him a grass. When Derek agrees to the second option, his family is shocked... until, with full immunity in hand, he writes the name of the thief: 'Derek Trotter'
    • In the conclusion of the main story arc of Babylon 5, Captain Sheridan is asked to choose between Vorlons and the Shadows. He tells both to "get the hell out of his galaxy" instead.
      • When Delenn is facing flak from other Minbari for her choice to marry Sheridan on racial purity grounds, Delenn goes on a vision quest which eventually causes her to realize that she is descended from Valen aka Commander Sinclair, a human turned Minbari. She threatened the guy involved that either they will accept her choice, or she will blab how many Minbari are not as pure as they thought they were, something that would throw Minbari society into chaos. Just before Delenn storms out, he offers a third option: invoking an old Minbari tradition hailing from the bad old days when they still killed each other: that someone from the each of the clans would marry each other after the fighting stopped, as a symbol to help rebuild.
        • Delenn did this twice more in one episode. First, given the choice of the Religious caste surrendering or lots of people dying, she pulls out an ancient Minbari test of dedication and publicly shames the Warrior caste leader into taking part. She then takes a Third Option for the entire Minbari caste crisis by putting the Worker caste in charge.
        • Delenn likes these. She gives the Command Staff a third option when they must deal with a psychic Bester. They're choices are killing him or imprisoning if he violates Psi Cop rules about unauthorized scans. Delenn offers them some Mimbari telepaths to block Bester until he is drugged and power inhibited.
    • Paul McDermott of Good News Week, on the controversy over whether the New Millennium would start in 2000 or 2001:

    "Thankfully, there's always the Australian solution: We start drinking on the 31st of December 1999, and we finish on the 1st of January 2001!"

    • In the episode "Happy Birthday, Mr. Monk", Monk is given a choice: Hide in a Porta-John or a dumpster. His answer? "I choose death!"
    • Subverted in Doctor Who, The Beast Below. While two of the Doctor's options are horrendous (Kill everyone onboard or let the Space Whale suffer for eternity), his third option is equally horrible (Lobotomise the whale). Lucky for us, Amy's Crowning Moment of Awesome comes when she notices that the whale is actually doing this voluntarily. She presses the "Abdicate" button stopping the whales torture and leaving it free to escape...and the ship actually goes FASTER. Effectively taking a fourth option. Five bucks, the Doctor is probably feeling very humiliated.
      • Technically speaking, it's one of the original two options, but with unexpected consequences, since it seemed to have not occurred to anyone else that the Space Whale might have wanted to help the humans and that torturing it to gain it's compliance was completely unnecessary. But yes, humiliation galore, no doubt.
        • Possibly humiliated, but most humiliation avoided by the utterly heartwarming fact that Amy knew the space whale was doing it voluntarily because it was so much like the Doctor.

    Amy: "It came because it couldn't stand to watch your children cry. What if you were really old, and really kind and alone? Your whole race dead, no future. What couldn't you do then? If you were that old, and that kind, and the very last of your kind.... you couldn't just stand there and watch children cry."

      • In the Episode "Amy's Choice", the "Dream Lord" forces the Doctor, his companion, and his companion's boyfriend to pick which of two worlds was reality. They were both dreams.
        • The choice Amy makes is itself a Third Option. Given the choice between a life with Rory and a life with the Doctor, she chooses the Doctor's world because it has Rory in it. His death effectively made the choice a lot easier for her and basically clarifies that she'll probably choose Rory in the real world in the end anyway.
      • Before that, in "The End of Time," The Doctor must choose between killing the Master (and supposedly severing the link Gallifrey has to Earth) or killing Rassilon to end the threat. After seeing a certain Time Lady reveal her face, The Doctor took a third option: Shooting the Whitepoint Diamond and the machine that served as the actual link Gallifrey had to Earth, sparing the Master to perform his Crowning Moment of Awesome.

    The Doctor: Get out of the way.

    • Torchwood: Children of Earth has a very dark example towards the end. By the start of Day 5, the options seem to be handing over millions of children to the 456 or fighting what is, from all available evidence, a losing battle to save them. Eventually Jack finds his third option - destroying the 456 by exploiting the signal they used to control the children. However, his plan will result in the death of whichever child is at the centre of the resonance, and the only one available is Jack's grandson.
    • The producers of Sesame Street faced two options when the actor playing Mr. Hooper died: put him on a bus or use a different actor. They took a third option: they made it a part of the show that Mr. Hooper died.
    • In Kamen Rider Blade, Kenzaki is left with a Sadistic Choice at the finale. He can ether choose to seal the Black Joker, thus sealing away the innocent Hajime persona he and the others have befriended and who isn't responsible for his actions or allow the Black Joker to complete the destruction of humanity. So, what does he do? he fights the Black Joker long enough that Blade's King Form transforms him into the Azure Joker Undead. This makes the Black Joker no longer the winner of the Battle Fight and allows Hajime to return to his human life...though it also means they can never be near one another or they'll be forced to fight. Still, much better than the other options.
    • In an episode of Leverage, Moreau wants Eliot to kill a general to prove he's still the same Eliot, before he'll give the team the address of the auction they need to take down. If they don't take down the option, a nasty bomb gets sold to terrorists, and Moreau gets away. Eliot agrees - you see the assassination take place. Cut to the hospital, they've picked up the body - Eliot swapped the general with a corpse and "killed" the corpse, then Sophie posed as the grieving wife and ID'd the "general's" body. Course, the address led them to a trap... but still.
      • Parker also pulls off this in the Long Way Down Job. When she and Eliot are trying to recover the body of the victim who was left to die on a mountain, they fail also losing the evidence for their case. However they do manage to recover his cell phone that sends a message once it is brought down, both incriminating the suspect and giving a message to the victim's wife.
    • Minor example from Las Vegas: Sam is told that a whale with extremely sweaty palms must leave the casino because he's grossing people out, but doesn't want to hurt his feelings by expelling him from the last place he hasn't already been kicked out of. She solves the quandary by setting up a high-stakes game in the hotel swimming pool, with a floating table and waterproof cards.
    • iCarly: In one episode Carly and Sam get into an argument and force Freddie to decide who is correct. Freddie decides on an internet poll. After Freddie reveals who won out of the two girls, he reveals the third option which was both girls were being stupid and should make up. It won 200 times more votes than the other two options.
    • In one episode of House, the titular doctor announces he's choosing a team leader from his four minions. Three of them promptly begin competing and are soon stuck in what amounts to a game show for House's amusement. Taub stays out of it an offers to split the pay raise with House; he is promptly made team leader.
    • Defied in an episode of The Daily Show where, while debating Fox News's intent on a recent story, Wyatt Cenac argued that Fox was evil and John Oliver argued that they were stupid. When Jon suggested the existence of a third option...

    Oliver: These are the only two possible explanations, because if they're not as stupid as I believe them to be, they are really f*cking evil.
    Cenac: And if they're not as evil as I think they are, they are STUPID.



    • In the story of "|Alice's Restaurant", Arlo Guthrie, upon being summoned to the police station over a matter of a pile of trash, surmises that the police officer will either commend Arlo and his friends for their honesty (which even Arlo says is highly improbable) or verbally chew them out. Instead of either of those possibilities, they get arrested.
    • Occurs in the story of "The Choice", by Ben Weiner. Or, parodied, rather. The two options are soup or salad, and the third option, eventually suggested by the impatient waiter, is soup and salad.
    • "Weapon of Choice" by Fatboy Slim.

    "You could go with this, or you could go with that... or you could go with us."


    Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

    • Taking the Third Option is one of the central, if not even the single most important principle of Buddhism. Born as a prince and having lived all his life in a palace, Siddhartha Gautama lost all joy in the riches and pleasures of his life when he realized that all people will eventually become old, sick, and die. So he became a wandering ascetic, hoping to find spiritual happiness by ignoring everything material and only meditating all the time. But even though he tried harder than anyone else, it only made him starve and become sick, so he gave it up as well and started to eat again and take care of his health. Only when he tried to find a balance between comfort and living a simple life did he gain enightenment and became the Buddha. Teaching this Middle Way to the other ascetics that he was living with is regardid as the birth of the Buddhist community.
    • When Kuchisake-onna asks you if you think she's pretty, especially after she reveals her Glasgow Grin, honesty is just plain suicidal. Telling her she DOES look pretty isn't a good idea either (as "kirei", the word she uses for "pretty", also means "to cut with a knife"). However, you can tell she looks so-so, or give her candy, or throw candy in another direction, or ask her if she thinks you're pretty. Most of these will just confuse her. Also she LOVES candy. Due to Japanese politeness, you can also tell her you're busy or need to get to an appointment, and she will apologise for her rudeness and leave.
    • There's an old story about a princess that was forced by an evil witch to marry one of her ugly sons, so they will become king. The princess must make a statement, and if that statement is true, she will marry son A. If it's false, she'll marry son B. After some deliberation, the princess says "I will marry son B". The evil witch is unable to come up with a solution, and lets the princess go free.
    • There's a fairy tale in which a farmer brags about his clever daughter, and the king agrees to marry her if she can solve a riddle; else the farmer has to pay for his bragging. The riddle is that she must come to his palace to meet him neither during the day nor night, neither naked nor clothed, neither hungry nor fed, neither on foot or with a ride, and neither on the road nor off it. The farmer's daughter arrives at dawn/dusk depending on the story, with a fishnet wrapped around her, having drunk her fill of water, being dragged by a horse on the edge of the road. The king marries her.
      • There's a similar story where, instead of arriving like that, the daughter simply didn't show.
      • The way I heard it the requirements were neither nude nor clothed, neither riding nor walking, neither day nor night, and she must bring a "gift that is not a gift". She comes at dusk/dawn with a blanket covering her so she was neither clothed nor nude, with one leg over a goat so she was not quite riding yet not quite walking, and in a small cage she had a bird that as she gave it to him she let it go free. On their wedding day the king made her promise not to interfere with his kingly duties, one day she does and her punishment is to be sent back to her father, but as the king still loves her, he allows her to take with her one gift. She chooses to take him. The king decides not to make her leave.
      • Another solution I've heard is to come during a solar eclipse, with a blanked wrapped on, having drunk milk, and arriving either by horse-drawn sleigh astride the road edge, or arriving by a boat. The king marries her.
    • In the story, The King's Equal, a dying king tells his son that he can't take the throne until he marries a woman who he admits is as beautiful, intelligent, and rich as he is. Eventually, a gorgeous young peasant girl shows up, and the prince says that she's "the most beautiful creature [he's] ever seen." She doesn't want anything because she has her friends, while he wants the crown. And she knows something he doesn't -he's very lonely. The prince admits that she's his equal... and the woman announces that, in fact, he has just admitted that she's better than him in every way, and sends him off to care for her goats for a year while she gets the kingdom back in order. He comes back a better person and they get married.
    • A 14-year-old Lebanese girl named Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar Rayès was stuck between two possible Arranged Marriages. Her stepmother said she should marry her brother (aka the kid's uncle); her maternal aunt, however, said the girl should marry her son. After witnessing the two women fight it out, Rafqa locked herself in her room to pray and think about what she should do... and took the third option she had left: becoming a nun, not just to escape the marriages but because she already wanted to do so. She became the first Lebanese female Catholic saint.
    • Some time ago, a prince offered those who had committed a crime a chance to either die by being hanged or being decapitated with a sword (which was considered honorable), which consisted in saying something true, non-related to the prince. Most people failed due to the prince, who just declined everything said and condemned them to die by the mob. One day, an old man was being judged, after being asked the question, he said "I'll be hanged". If he got hanged, then what he said would be a truth, so he should be decapitated. But then if he was decapitated, he would have been saying a lie. The prince was impressed by such a demonstration of wit, and let the old man live.
    • The Pharisees tried several times to try and turn Jesus' popularity against him. In one example, they asked whether the Jews should pay the oppressive taxes imposed on them by their Roman overlords. Answering yes would anger the Jews; answering no would bring down the wrath of the Romans. Jesus pointed to Caesar's face on a coin and advised the listeners to "Give Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's." Since both sides at least claimed not to be interested in what was the other's, everyone was happ... No one found anything to complain about.
    • There is a Russian folk story of an old man sentenced to death by Czar. The Czar grants him one wish. The man says: "Give me five years and if I manage to teach a horse to speak, let me free". Some of his friends protest and say he should have gone to death proudly while some say he should have pleaded mercy from Czar. The man replies: "See, I am an old man, and within five years a lot of things may happen. I may die, the horse may die or the Czar may die. And there is always the chance that the horse will learn to speak."
    • In The Bible Two young women who lived in the same house and who both had an infant son came to Solomon for a judgement. One of the women said that the other, after accidentally smothering her own son while sleeping, had exchanged the two children to make it appear that the living child was hers. The other woman denied this and so both women claimed to be the mother of the living son and said that the dead boy belonged to the other. After some thought, King Solomon called for a sword to be given to him. He declared that there is only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy's true mother cried out, "Please, My Lord, give her the live child—do not kill him!" However, the liar, in her bitter jealousy, exclaimed, "It shall be neither mine nor yours—divide it!" Solomon instantly gave the live baby to the real mother, realizing that the true mother's instincts were to protect her child, while the liar revealed that she did not truly love the child.
    • There is a tale whose name I can't recall right now about an evil spirit and a small peasant village. One year during their harvest celebration, a visiting traveler revealed itself to be said evil spirit and chose to play its favorite game -- pick the most ostracized/unliked person in town and tell them that they get to pick one person attending the celebration for them to kill, and that if they refuse to pick it will curse the village so that nothing ever grows again. Due to its nature, the spirit is bound to keep this bargain once struck. The intent is to force a Sadistic Choice: either the victim chooses one of the many people they have a grudge against and enjoy a momentary vengeance, followed up by their death or exile at the hands of everyone else left behind (and the damnation of their soul as they have had someone murdered at least partly for spite), or else they choose to sacrifice themselves to save everyone else and leave behind an entire village either of ungrateful bastards or people newly remorseful that they owe their lives to someone they've always mistreated. Either way, the spirit gets to sow misery and chaos and encourage people to blacken their souls further in one way or another. Unfortunately, this year it selected a village whose designated chooser of the slain was particularly intelligent, and they pointed out a simple fact the spirit overlooked: the evil spirit is also attending the harvest celebration and by the Exact Words of its bargain, can be asked to kill itself.


    • Adventures in Odyssey has an episode where Connie becomes the valedictorian. One of the things she has to do on stage however is say a prayer. So the principal of the college and her tutor let her write a prayer, only to find it makes references to Jesus which offends other members of the faculty. So the principal says she should pray the college's "acceptable" prayer. He adds that if she doesn't pray the "acceptable" prayer he'll stop her during her prayer and get her in more trouble. However, her tutor says if she wants to say her own prayer, she (and some other faculty members) will support her. On the day itself Connie makes the decision to...not pray at all!


    • The Merchant of Venice: Launcelot has to decide between continuing to work for Shylock, whom he sees as "the devil", or running away...which would be committing a sin, thereby putting him in the service of the real devil. He gets out of the dilemma when his father shows up and helps him to lawfully switch jobs.
    • A Midsummer Night's Dream is an interesting example. Hermia has to decide between marrying Demetrius or being put to death, with the "third option" of becoming a nun. She takes a fourth option, running off with Lysander to get away from the laws of Athens.
    • In the Avenue Q song "It Sucks To Be Me"

    Kate Whose life sucks more, mine or Brian's?
    Rod and Nicky OURS!

    • In the song "Gay or European" from Legally Blonde the Musical, everyone is debating whether or not Mikos is gay or European. As it turns out, he's gay and European.

    Video Games

    • Used in Zork Zero. You're faced with being executed, along with several other people, and everyone gets to make a last request. If the executioner can do it, he hangs you. If he can't do it, he cuts your head off. When it's your turn, the correct command is to say "executioner, cut my head off." So he'd have to cut your head off, then hang you. But he's only supposed to cut your head off if he can't do it, not to mention the fact you wouldn't have a head or neck anymore to be hanged from... The executioner eventually gets so confused and befuddled, he ends up letting you go.
    • In The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush Threepwood is asked, while challenging a pirate to a duel, to "Choose your weapon," and is presented with a case full of pistols. No matter the weapon he chooses, he loses the duel. If the player closes the case, a banjo is revealed to be behind it. The correct option is to choose dueling with banjos.
      • Doubly played with, in fact, as the pirate proves to be an exceptional banjoist. Instead of admitting defeat or being an even better player, Guybrush has to defeat him by picking up one of the aforementioned pistols and shooting the banjo, thus proving himself to be sneaky and dishonourable enough to be a pirate captain.
    • In Myst, you're presented at the start with brothers Sirrus and Achenar trapped in books, each accusing the other of destroying their father's books and being wrongfully imprisoned by said father. Additionally, Achenar claims that Sirrus killed their father, while Sirrus says that father went on a journey to discover the truth and was never seen again. Throughout the game, you collect pages that allow you to hear more of the brothers' stories. In the end, you're confronted with the choice between freeing Sirrus or Achenar. The correct answer: They were both in on it, and you shouldn't free either or you'll be trapped yourself. Instead, you have to use the green book which both brothers warned you against, freeing their father to destroy the red and blue books. Oh, and make sure you take the right third option, i.e. get the white page before using the green book.
      • The whole series has many problems like this (as well as many puzzles in which you just have to solve it the long way). For example, in Riven, Gehn gives you the option of using the Trap Book (which he thinks is a Linking Book that will take him home), or of refusing, which will get you killed if you do it too many times. The solution is to voluntarily use the book and trap yourself, which will convince Gehn to use it as well, thereby taking your place in the Trap and freeing you.)
      • In Myst 3: Exile, once you've finally caught up with Saavedro and gotten the Releeshan book back from him, you can either leave him imprisoned, or free him to come and take his revenge on you. Letting him go and escaping back to Tomahna doesn't work, because he'll follow you. The solution? Open the outer wall first, letting him see that his civilization is still alive. Then open the inner gate and let him take the transport home.
      • In Myst 4: Revelation, you're confronted with Yeesha strapped to a chair, asking to be freed by pulling a silver-colored lever. Her brother Achenar is also in the room, and claims that Yeesha is actually Sirrus, his brother, transferred into her body, and demands that you pull the amber-colored lever instead. Taking a third option by refusing to act is not the correct solution in this case (subverting the trope); in fact, this is one of two ways to get a bad ending (the other one is pulling the silver lever). The correct choice is to trust Achenar and pull the amber lever, which transfers Sirrus out of Yeesha's body.
    • Messiah is a game with lots of areas where there are multiple solutions to solve a problem. For example, if Bob needs to get into a restricted area which his current host is not allowed in, he might have two choices: Find another host who is allowed in, find another host who can fight his way past the guard, or maybe even take the guard as a host. Either way has the same outcome although each has different disadvantages.
    • In Knights of the Old Republic, there is a quest of sorts presented to you on Dantooine by a Twi'lek jedi named Bolook, who is investigating a recent murder. The two suspects, Rickard Lusoff and Handon Guld, must be questioned in order to determine which one actually killed the victim, a farmer named Calder, in addition to corroborating evidence with an information droid. After 4 rounds of questioning, and calling both parties on false testimony and possible motives, you find that they were both guilty, and that Calder was sleeping with Handon's wife and had a business deal with Rickard which went sour. This gets you the more than double the XP of just naming one murderer.Full Details
    • Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2 sees (and deals with the results) of this exchange:

    Raziel: You said it yourself, Kain - there are only two sides to your coin.
    Kain: Apparently so. But suppose you throw a coin enough times... suppose one day, it lands on its edge.

      • The above was due to a choice Kain had to make. If he killed himself, it would seemingly restore the pillars of Nosgoth, but that would finish off the vampires. If he didn't kill himself, then the vampires would remain due to his presence, but Nosgoth would remain. At first it seems he chose option two out of a desire to survive. It turns out that the entire situation was crafted carefully by Moebius and his Elder God. If he killed himself, Nosgoth would be doomed anyway because the vampires kept the pillars preserved. He actually took a third option. In a convoluted (but awesome) scenario he purified himself so he could fulfill his destiny as the Scion of Balance, making the pillars unnecessary.
        • Soul Reaver is one big quest for that 3rd option which will satisfy everyone who hated the end choices from Blood Omen: Save the world but sacrifice yourself, or rule over a crumbling Nosgoth.
    • In Mass Effect 2, Tali's loyalty mission involves being her being accused of treason. While investigating a quarian science ship, Shepard finds evidence that Tali's father was conducting dangerous experiments on the geth. Shepard cannot tell the quarians about this, which is what Tali wants. This results in Tali's exile, but earns her loyalty. Shepard can also reveal the evidence, which gets Tali acquitted but loses her loyalty. Or Shepard can call out the quarian admirals for their politicking and shame them into acquitting Tali while still earning her loyalty.
      • There's actually a fourth option here, or a second third option, as it were. You can convince the other quarians you've encountered to stand up for Tali to the Admiralty Board, which has the same result as doing it yourself, but doesn't require the high Paragon/Renegade score that the first one does (and is a Crowning Moment of Awesome for them). You do have to make sure that they're alive and sane, though, and that's far from given.
      • The entire Mass Effect series is full of these, in the form of Charm/Intimidate checks. Most of them are "third options" that both do roughly the same things despite being tied to different karma, and that typically solve whatever problem needs to be solved without any trouble. This is why charisma is a good thing.
      • A Good Example is in Lair of the Shadow Broker, Tela Vasir is holding a random woman hostage, the normal options are to do as she says and drop all your ammo, shoot through the woman, or (with sufficiently high Paragon or Renegade) give either a Badass Boast or a "The Reason You Suck" Speech while Liara hits her with a table.
      • The ending of the third game plays out this way. There's two regular options that are suggested by Admiral Anderson and the Illusive Man respectively, destroying all the Reapers (and all synthetics by extension) or controlling the Reapers and ordering them to leave. However, if your "War Assets" score is high enough, you can Take a Third Option of combining synthetics and organics, ending the cycle of synthetics vs. organics. Whether or not taking this third choice is "better" than the other choices is entirely a matter of perspective.
        • Fans were...not satisfied with the ending of Mass Effect 3 for various reasons that will not be elaborated upon because even the specifics on what is so unsatisfying are major fighting territory. As opposed to the usual reaction fans have to situations like this, the fans demanding a new ending acted with composure and manners, to the point that their main campaign involved donating to a charity in the name of Retake Mass Effect. Despite attempts by EA to paint them as an Unpleasable Fanbase colliding with Fan Dumb, Bioware CEO Ray Muzyka promised DLC to address fans' concerns, meaning the fanbase chose to Take a Third Option with the Mass Effect series itself.
          • The DLC turned out to be... less than entirely effective at addressing concerns, so the third option didn't quite materialize.
    • Played straight in Neverwinter Nights. When you reach the village of Charwood, you are told to affix the blame for a centuries-old massacre. It turns out that the murderer was neither of the adversaries responsible for half the events, but rather the demon that was manipulating them both.
      • On the other hand, exposing the demon leaves you in another dilemma; you can either let a demon lord go free and bag yourself a magical trinket, or doom an entire town of people to eternity in amnesia and madness in order to trap the balor. Great, huh?
        • Even after revealing the demon lord you can still decide if one off the former suspects is guilty. One of the suspects could have chosen not to execute the massacre and abandoning his plan with eternal undead. The overall outcome is more positive.
    • An infamous moment in video game history, in Final Fantasy VIII: when you are trying to acquire the Guardian Force Bahamut, you are asked several questions to test your character. The... worst gag - or however you like to consider it - is the answer to the third question is an invisible third answer, which is only seen when you've decided on it. Really great, Square...
      • However, it's entirely in character for Squall: presented with two options with which to explain what he fights for, he declares that they are both wrong (only after trying them both), and that what he fights for is not something so simplistic. Still really annoying when you have to fight two very tough enemies to get to that point, and then Bahamut himself immediately after, with no chance to heal.
      • The third option is also a big plot point in Final Fantasy X: Between letting Sin continue it's endless rampage against Spira and sacrificing Yuna (and probably Tidus as well) in order to destroy it, only for it to inevitably come back anyway. The third option in this case was to take advantage of Sin's (i.e. Jecht's) weakness to the Hymn of the Fayth, then use the airship to get inside it, destroy it (him) from the inside, and use regular aeons and good old-fashioned beatdown to destroy Yu Yevon (who created and controlled Sin) before he could recover. This was probably Auron's plan to begin with; he probably just let Tidus and the others figure it out on their own.
    • In Deus Ex early on in the game you are instructed by your CO to kill the unarmed leader of a group of terrorist/freedom fighters who has already surrendered or else she will kill him for you and report you for insubordination (which she will do if you try to leave or even so much as talk to him for too long). An unsaid, but also perfectly viable option, is to just kill her instead, and claim she got killed in the crossfire. It is difficult to do without killing the terrorist leader anyway because your CO explodes when you kill her.
      • It's possible: when you enter the terrorist's bedroom, put a LAM or two on the wall. After the first chunk of dialogue, when you hear Anna Navarre's footsteps, run to the bathroom, so you won't die too. When she's blown up, you can continue your conversation with Lebedev - it's worth it, for he has some crucial and interesting information.
        • Or you can take the fourth option, try for a non-lethal kill. It's impossible to actually knock out your CO, but you can do sufficient damage to cause her to run from you without landing the killing blow. Your still be forced to kill your CO later in the game to move forward. Unless you take the third option again via sequence breaking. The game never adequately explains why your bosses seem to be unaware that you attacked your CO despite her being alive and perfectly capable of reporting the incident.
      • The endings of Deus Ex: Human Revolution require Adam Jensen to choose whether to agree with Sarif, Taggart or Darrow in deciding the future. Unless of course, you take the fourth option. Blowing up Panchaea and Adam himself with it, believing that he has no right to decide for all humanity and that it's up to people themselves to make their choice.
    • Aigis of Persona 3 FES has to make a tough choice - leave behind the memories of the person she loved, or go back in time to save him (which would doom humanity or get them stuck in their dormitory forever). Instead she decides to find out how exactly the Main Character performed his miracle and if there's a way to save him using the last remaining Door of Time, which allows them to use the Key of Time for something else, like leaving the dorm.
    • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Micaiah at one point has to kill her king to save her country, at the king's request. The player originally has the choice to carry out the order or pass the duty to someone else, but after the first playthrough, a third option appears where she refuses to let him die.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (the second game, Justice for All), Phoenix at one point must decide whether to save Maya from an assassin while condemning an innocent woman, or convict his guilty client but let Maya die. In the end, he manages to convince the assassin to drop his contract by revealing that the guilty client had planned to betray him all along; he releases Maya and announces his intention to kill the treacherous client next, who is scared for his life to the point that he demands a guilty verdict.
      • Subverted at the very end, though: after that reveal, you must still either accuse your client of being guilty or defend him to the end, asking for a "not guilty" verdict. The outcome is the same.
      • There's also multiple points where Phoenix/Apollo/Edgeworth reconcile a contradiction by saying that the contradiction itself is true. The most notable is in the final case of Trials and Tribulations when Iris appears to be in two places at once according to two separate pieces of testimony. Which testimony is true? Both. One of the 'Irises' is her twin sister Dahlia, being channeled by Misty Fey.
      • Edgeworth gets one too. Who is the real Yatagarasu? Neither Byrne Faraday nor Calisto Yew...because the real answer is both. The Yatagarasu was a Collective Identity made up of Faraday, Yew, and Detective Badd.
    • In the final puzzle of Star Trek: A Final Unity, Picard is forced to choose between using a superweapon to annihilate a Borg Fleet, or simply using it to nonviolently halt their invasion. Naturally, the correct choice is None of the Above.
    • In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, after playing through the game as Riku, Riku meets up with King Mickey, who suggests that he keep his dark powers, saying something to the effect of, "You chose a road I never even thought of; I want to see where that road leads." Later, when asked whether he'll take the road to light or the one to darkness, he takes the one in the middle... "the road to dawn."
    • In Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time, when the titular Bros. try to access the Star Shrine, the Sprite gives a test of purity. Examining Mario's spirit, the Sprite determines that he is pure enough (and mildly overweight, at that), but Luigi's past is dark enough (illiciting some horrified mutterings from the Sprite) to bar him from entering, and he must hit a special block in order to get in. After completing the puzzle to get the block to the door, Luigi is unable to hit it, and the Sprite asks who was responsible, giving you three choices: 1) Mario, 2) The Babies, 3) Luigi the correct answer is 4). After taking the test, the Sprite is dissatisfied with Luigi's dishonesty and agrees to only let Mario and the babies in, ignoring the point-out that he only gave three answers, none of which were correct. Mario debates on Luigi's behalf to the outraged Sprite, and his selflessness is apparently strong enough for both of them. He then reveals that the whole event was a test in and of itself, and they passed with flying colours.
    • The Wii, and to a smaller extent the DS, is Nintendo's third option. Following the relative failure of the Game Cube, Nintendo was faced with either continuing the graphics arms race with Sony and Microsoft and continuing to struggle against its "kiddy" image, or reorganizing as a third-party developer and continuing to struggle against its "kiddy" image. Nintendo decided to ignore all that, embrace its family friendly nature, and try to redefine the video game market. And it's working because it's become the Third Option To Take for non-gamers and former gamers.
      • And of course, gamers.
    • Geneforge 4 has you start off allied with rebels who will kill thousands to overthrow the government, but will let you defect to the other side, which will smash the rebellion and reinstate oppression and servitude. Both refer with distaste to some group known as the "Trakovites," which they're doing their best to stamp out...
    • The Shin Megami Tensei series has this Trope as a major theme, as the main character has the choice of aligning yourself with Law(Usually represented by the Messians who worship YHWH, a vain dictator who created the world to be his) or Chaos (Usually represented by the Gaians, who think that it's every man for himself, and are usually aided by Lucifer). Neither is the right option however as the Law path has no liberty while the Chaos path results in self destruction. The (arguably) correct path is Balance which supports personal liberties and individuality while not falling in a state of total anarchy. Again this is arguable since the games allow you to choose whichever path you want and treat you as the victor no matter which you chose.
    • At the end of The Dark Meadow, you are seemingly given a Sadistic Choice between triggering The Bad Guy Wins ending and triggering another boss battle that is followed by a Downer Ending. You don't have to choose either though, just look behind you and touch the pit to unlock the much more positive Bittersweet Ending.
    • Add in Fallout 3 as part of the Broken Steel Downloadable Content. Rather than sending either Sarah Lyons or you to commit a Senseless Sacrifice at the end, you can send the radiation-immune companions Fawkes, Charon or RL-3 in to do the job (though the game still considers this a cowardly move).
      • Somewhat of an aversion as well. Broken Steel gives you more options, but every option you have is non-canon, since Broken Steel retcons the ending to explain why the Lone Wanderer and Sarah are both incapacitated, but neither is dead.
    • In Kingdom Hearts II, the villain Xaldin of Organization XIII has the Beast caught between a Sadistic Choice. He has stolen the Beast's rose, as well as Belle. However, he will let one of them go, at Beast's choice. And there's not a damn thing Beast can do about it. Belle, on the other hand, catches Xaldin off guard by elbowing him in the side, takes the rose, and runs like hell. Even Sora notes that as Belle's running, she seemed to be having a really good time.
    • Twisted Metal: Head-On has one of these in Agent Shepard's ending. The winner of the Twisted Metal Car Fu tournament gets a wish from Literal Genie Big Bad Calypso; typically they get screwed over. Rather than fall for this, Shep decides to just arrest Calypso.
    • BioShock: "I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose... Rapture."
    • At the end of Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, you get demonized by mainstream vampire society and the sole helping hand you have left makes it clear that you're pretty much boned without aligning yourself to one of the various factions you've encountered throughout the game. This means going back to one of two different groups who've been using you as a dupe or a third that only cares about you for the power you could bring to their side. Or you could single-handedly butcher every filthy son a bitch who dared to play you in the first place.
      • The best part of which is Flipping the Bird to members of the third potential faction (after having killed the other two) as you walk off into the night.
    • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City exemplifies the whole concept of sufficiently advanced video games allowing a third option. One mission has you chasing a crazed stalker. The official game guide suggests ramming his car until it explodes or doing a drive-by. It's possible to steal enough cars to create a roadblock and then use the rocket launcher. This is just one of dozens of examples.
    • In Fate/stay night, after Saber nearly wipes her magical energy empty with the Excalibur, Shirou is initially faced with two options as to how to restore her energy: 1. transfer his energy to her, which is out of the question due to his poor magic skill. 2. Have her kill humans and steal their energy. Later, however, Rin reveals that there is a third option: have sex with Saber. Too weak as a magus to transfer magic, and too moral to slaughter the lives of innocents, Shirou hesitatingly takes option three.
      • Subverted in Heaven's Feel. There is no third option at one point. Either betray your ideals, or lose a person Shirou loves. And there is no third option to redeem one innocent victim.
      • Parodied in the fake 'dead-end', on Fate route, where Shirou tells Saber they will fast. Tiger and Illya turn him into a cyborg with gatling guns, and offer him a chance to 'join the Tigers willingly, or be brainwashed and turn into a machine.' His response? Turn on the gatling guns.
    • For a Rogue-alike, ADOM has an unusual amount of plot, and there are several Third Options available in the game. If you take the quest to look for the village carpenter, you'll find he's become a dangerous Chaos monster, who will attack you on sight. It's kill or be killed ... or you can lead him to the healer Jharod, who will fix his corruption and teach you the Healing skill as a reward. Later on, you'll meet an undead dwarven warrior, who can be defeated by force, or destroyed instantly by pouring holy water on his grave. Later still, you'll run into a dying sage who can't be healed by any normal spells, but he won't move off the stairs to the next level until you talk to him, at which point he dies. The third option is to give him an amulet of life saving. When it comes to the endgame, you can close the Chaos gate and kill all the monsters on the level, preventing it from being reopened ... or destroy the levers so the gate can't be reopened ... but if you've done a variety of difficult tasks, you can go through the gate instead and fight the god of Chaos for a special ending.
    • Pokémon Platinum. Cyrus tells you that no matter what you do, if you defeat Giratina, the world will end and let him recreate it. Capture it? No good. Beat it in battle? No good. Cynthia tells you (rightly) that it is a trick, but even she says that you have to fight Giratina. Thing is, if you choose Run, Giratina calms down and the rift closes. Yeah, guess you didn't think that a deity would let a ten-year-old run when it was pissed off at the adult, Cyrus.
      • Cynthia lampshades it if you do choose to flee, if I recall correctly. Arguably a subtle Take That to the kinds of players who feel they need to capture or defeat everything.
    • In Wing Commander III, at one point you're given a choice between kissing Rachel or Flint, which would make the one not chosen mad at you (and thus unavailable, leaving you to either fly short a wingman or configure your own ship loadout if you don't want to launch without missiles, respectively). However, you can choose to not kiss either of them, by bypassing the decision scene entirely, and have both still available. Both will be unhappy with you, but only for Flint does that really matter, as lowered morale makes her flying less effective.
      • Details: If you kiss one, she'll get a morale boost, but not only will the other's morale PLUMMET, she'll pretty much never speak to you again. If you shun both, both take a slight morlae hit, but that's all. Since the later games say that Blair ultimately ends up alone, this makes the third option the best one and the closest to canon.
        • Choosing Rachel is actually closest to canon - the novelizations of the games (WCIII and WCIV) imply that Blair did indeed spend some time in a relationship with Rachel, but that his bitterness over being grounded ultimately drove them apart. Ironically enough, it's also the "best" ending (for the most part), seeing as how taking Flint with you on your final mission almost certainly results in her death (unless you cheat).
    • Dragon Age gives you a third option at Castle Redcliffe, where the Arl's son Connor has been possessed by a desire demon, torturing the castle denizens and wreaking havoc on the village with frequent attacks from the undead. At first the choices are to kill Connor or sacrifice his mother, Arlessa Isolde, in order for a mage to enter the Fade and slay the demon. But, if you ask about an alternative, you'll be presented with the option of having the mages of the Circle Tower assist in the ritual, sparing both. If you are a mage and choose to enter the Fade yourself, you're also presented with a fourth option by the desire demon herself: Allow her to leave, temporarily relinquishing control over the boy, in exchange for a reward of your choosing.
      • The ending also provides a third option. Instead of sacrificing yourself, or a comrade warden, to the Archdemon, you can have Morrigan impregnated, either by a male PC, or Alistair or Loghain. Doing this lets the Archdemon's essence join with the unborn child.
      • There's a fourth option, instead of giving Morrigan a god-fetus, or sacrificing yourself or Alistair. When you take down Teyrn Loghain at the Joining, you can opt to recruit him for the Grey Wardens, and make him finish off the Archdemon.
    • In Fable 3, after taking the throne, you discover why your brother Logan was such a terrible ruler, and you are faced with the same choice: either keep your promises to those to whom you have made them, thereby dooming Albion to the demonic presence looming on the horizon, or break your promises, gaining you enough funds with which to defend Albion from said evil. It's quite possible, though, for you to simply buy up all the property in the game, which eventually deposits enough money in the royal treasury for you to build up your defenses while keeping the moral high ground.
      • There's also an inversion in the early game where Logan forces you to choose between killing a group of protesting commoners and killing your childhood friend/lover. If you take too long to make this choice, he orders all of them to be executed.
    • Anders in Dragon Age II removes this option near the end of the game by blowing up the Chantry, which forces the player's Hawke to choose whether to side with the mages or side with the templars.
      • Dragon Age II also subverts the idea that the third option has to be an optimal outcome in the quest Night Terrors. A boy with a rare magical talent is being threatened by demons. The choices first given to you are to either save him and let him run away to train his talents or to make him Tranquil (essentially a magical lobotomy). The third option is to let another demon posess his body, wreaking havoc with the boy's magical talent in exchange for a reward from the demon.
    • Examples in The Elder Scrolls:
      • A minor Game Breaker for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, there is a quest for a daedra named Clavicus Vile to retrieve for him a sword called Umbra. If you do get the sword, you can either give it to him, for the reward of a crummy mask, or you can keep it. The only problem is, while it's almost certainly the best sword in the game, it's also quite heavy. There is a third option, of course... Since quest items are weightless, Umbra has no weight value until you complete the quest. Therefore, by simply not ever finishing the quest, you make it into what is VERY DEFINITELY the best sword in the game: superpowerful and light as a feather- and capable of eating the souls of those it kills.
      • If you start looking into the Dark Brotherhood in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you'll find yourself waking up in a locked shack, where the Brotherhood's chief assassin explains that you owe her group one murder. She has three bound and hooded victims waiting for you - a harridan of a housewife, a blubbering Nord bandit, and a Kajiit who unrepentantly mentions that he's a rapist and murderer - and explains that there's a contract on one of them. Someone has to die before you leave the shack. Kill one and the assassin will welcome you as an initiate in the Dark Brotherhood. Kill more than one and she'll praise you for your thoroughness. Or... you can kill the assassin (no easy feat), free the captives, and report to a city guard, starting the "Destroy the Dark Brotherhood" quest in which you assault the assassins' lair and wipe them out for good. This is an improvement from Oblivion, where you could only opt in or out of the Brotherhood without doing anything else.
      • Also in Skyrm, the Dragonborn meets Camilla Valerius in Riverwood, an imperial pawnbroker who is being wooed by two suitors - Fandall and Sven - neither of them deserving of her. When you speak to Fandall, he claims Camilla is already his, and asks you to give her a forged note (full of rather nasty insults directed at Camilla) and claim it was from Sven. Sven, however, wants you to pull the exact same trick. Unfortunately, there's no dialogue to let you tell her that both her suitors are assholes; the third option is to court and marry her yourself. (Assuming the Dragonborn is male and not already married.) Of course, this requires some preparation, including doing a quest line for her brother (recovering the Golden dragon claw from a bandit) and gaining an Amulet of Mara. If this happens, however, both former suitors will be angry at you, Fandall even turning into a Stalker with a Crush who might even show up at your home to try to see Camilla, possibly even turning hostile if you're there.
    • In the end of the first Dino Crisis, Regina must choose between helping a mortally wounded Gail (Regina's commanding officer) apprehend the renegade scientist Dr. Kirk, causing Gail to die in the process; or knock Gail out, forcing him to escape the island without capturing Dr. Kirk. The third option comes when the player chooses to knock out Gail, only to go after Dr. Kirk alone.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword does this for the graphics. Instead of using cel shading like Wind Waker, or realism like Twilight Princess, Nintendo decided to combine the two to make a cel shaded but somewhat realistic looking adult Link. Many were pleased, but others hated how the style was not either cel shaded or realistic.
      • Meta-example: The series is famous for its Alternate Timeline, but the older 2D games don't really fit anywhere on it. Instead of making a game to connect them to more recent entries, Nintendo opted to create a third branch in which Link died during Ocarina of Time.
    • In the MMORPG PlaneShift, getting killed sends you to the Death Realm, which you have to explore to find the portal leading back to the mortal coil. Your first choice comes when the bridge you're on branches. Right or left? Both paths are dead ends, just keep going straight ahead and drop off the bridge.
    • In Jade Empire, instead of (Good Ending) healing the water dragon or (Evil Ending) claiming her power for yourself, you can sacrifice yourself and let Master Li win. Your reward for allowing his evil dictatorship? A statue of yourself. Derp.
    • In the fifth chapter of "Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People," Strong Bad needs some tech support. Unfortunately, the guy on the phone isn't interested in helping and tries to impersonate a voicemail system with multiple responses if Strong Bad says "One," "Two," or "Three." None of the responses are helpful to the player; the way to proceed is for Strong Bad to take a fourth option and say, "Four." This causes the tech support guy to panic and concede defeat.
    • In the extensive Baldur's Gate (1) NPC mod, there are three romantic suitors for a female PC. Two of them, a knight and a rogue, will go through a series of impressive challenges in the hope of winning the PC's heart, which may well make it very difficult to decide between the two. Since the third opts out due to thinking his chances are hopeless, this makes him an endearing and tempting third option (as evidenced by polls, wherein he is the single most popular choice of either gender.)
    • Strange Journey presents you with a dilemma in Grus. A demon has sealed the path to Maya, the area's boss, and demands that you kill the newly-pacified Jack's Squad before he'll let you through. However, the newly-angelic Zelenin offers you another option: use her song to brainwash the demons and make them open the path. Killing Jack's Squad is the Chaos option, while using Zelenin's song is the Law option. There is, however, an unpresented Neutral third option: Kill the demon that's sealing the path in the first place.
    • In The Strange Leaflet Quest in Kingdom of Loathing, a giant presents you with two goblets of potion; he says he'll reward you if you pick the right goblet, and the wrong goblet will poison you. Both goblets are poison; the correct response is to use the CLEESH spell which turns the giant into a newt.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, rather than just choosing to side with the NCR or Caesar's Legion, the Courier is given the choice to secure Vegas under the rule of Mr. House. You can even go one step further and decide to screw them all in order to make Vegas an Independent city-state under your own rule with the help of the Yes-Man A.I.
    • In Monster Girl Quest at one point you're given the option to either touch a Kitsune's fluffy tail or have some of her fried tofu. Both choices lead to bad ends, since she takes away a magical artifact you need to continue. The third option is to ask her to hand over the artifact. Not a huge surprise, since all three options are listed from the start. But if you take the wrong option on purpose, you get scolded by Alice and Luka is surprised that there was a third option.
    • To get to the secret Music Test in Radical Dreamers you have to choose an invisible third option at one point in the game.
    • In the ending of Dubloon, Russel has to choose between rescuing his friends or taking the Golden Chest and run, in which case the other option falls into oblivion. If you collect all the chests, however, you get the option to rescue both, via a single button.
    • Almost all the solutions in Star Trek: Borg are almost never either the two choices given to you, but an absolutely insane third option that nobody would try on their first time. Thankfully Q gives you lots of tries...

    Web Comics

    • Near the end of the "Snowsong" arc of Dominic Deegan, Oracle For Hire, Snowsong turns herself into ice and orders Gregory (to whom she's frozen herself) to make a choice - save her life via magic and give her ice golem time to destroy the city of Barthis, or smash her to pieces and kill her so he can stop the golem. Gregory merely smiles, removes the spells on himself (which turns her back to normal) and uses another set of spells to turn them into a kinetic force powerful enough to shatter the golem on impact.
    • In Erfworld, Vinny Doombats suggests two options for escaping an enemy trap, after warning Ansom that "You won't like 'em." because they leave the enemy with a free hand to finish off Ansom's siege train. Ansom chooses the third option of taking his chances with the trap and ordering a hunt for the enemy's raiding force.
      • This is Parson's MO. Faced with the decision between fighting a losing battle and surrendering the stronghold? Parson orders his remaining casters to cast Animate Dead... on the volcano the stronghold is sitting on, blowing away the stronghold and the enemy. Parson later wonders if the titular RPG Mechanics Verse is designed to promote outside-the-box thinking.
    • In The Order of the Stick, the PCs try in #428 to determine which one of three identical-looking skeletons is the real Big Bad, and which are the decoys. They have only one shot at guessing. The answer is: they're all decoys. The fourth (and real) one is currently invisible and flying right next to them on his zombie dragon.
    • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, creator Chris Hastings chose a third option in regards to the question of whether or not to include shading in the strips. He hired a colorist.
    • I would... pee on everything.[context?]
    • Comes up more than once in Tales of the Questor - in the story, the third option often is, literally, "hire a questor".
    • In its ten year anniversary of The Matrix comic, Xkcd manages to screw the red and blue pills and take the third option.
    • From Darths and Droids #250:

    R2D2: What was the third option again?


    Web Original

    • Fatebane frequently chooses a bizarre out-of-box-thinking way of getting out of seemingly impossible situations in Associated Space, to the extent that his companion lampshades this tendency:

    "What?" David looked doubtful. "There's a third option? Crazy and daring?"


    Always delicious. Never complicated. Just cake.


    Western Animation

    • Played For Laughs in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Almost Got 'Im". Harley Quinn captures Catwoman and ties her to a conveyor belt heading for a massive meatgrinder. Batman arrives, and catches Harley, who then taunts that he can either bring her in, or rescue Catwoman, but not both. Batman then... nonchalantly reaches over to the circuit breaker and shuts off the power to the grinder, to which Harley responds, "Good call--Help!"
    • Played with in Avatar: The Last Airbender, where the extremely aged and hunchbacked King Bumi gives Aang a choice between two equally fearsome looking opponents. Feeling clever, Aang promptly picks Bumi himself, who turns out be one of the most powerful Earthbenders in the world and promptly kicks Aang around the arena like a football. The whole point of this and the other exercises were trying to think outside-the-box, and Bumi made the third option so obvious by saying "choose your opponent" and standing right in front of him that taking the third wasn't really that creative.
      • This trope crops up again in the series finale, where Aang is forced to decide whether to let Ozai live and carry out his genocide on the Earth Kingdom, or kill him outright. Aang manages to get around this by learning how to Spiritbend by getting Touched by Vorlons and permanently disabling Ozai's ability fo firebend.
    • Nearly subverted and certainly lampshaded in The Batman, where D.A.V.E., a robot programmed as "Gotham's Ultimate Criminal Mastermind", forces Batman to choose between Alfred's life and his secret identity. Batman tries to free Alfred through different means, only for D.A.V.E. to slam him against the wall of the Batcave, shouting that he knew he would try to take a third, more favorable option.
    • In one episode of South Park, Towelie was faced with either preventing the boys and their new game system from falling into a death trap, or getting high from a joint the evil towel was taunting him with. Towelie's response? "I choose.... BOTH!"
    • In one episode of Family Guy, Peter and his father-in-law sell Meg some marijuana, creating an implicit choice between the money and the pot, so Mr. Pewterschmidt hits Meg over the head and declares "Now we have the pot and the money!"
    • In the X-Men animated series, Bishop goes back in time to stop Apocalypse from causing a global plague. But in Cable's time (further into the future), Cable realizes that if Bishop saves the present, it would doom his future. The plague would allow humanity to develop antibodies that would help the people in Cable's time survive further plagues. So basically, if Cable wants to save his people, he has to help Apocalypse win. His third option? Expose Wolverine to the virus so his healing powers would create antibodies to counter the virus, thus giving it a cure. This allows Cable to save the future and the present.
    • Played for laughs in one Tiny Toon Adventures episode where Buster and Plucky are arguing over whether Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck is funnier. Eventually, they ask Hamton to settle the argument - each of them trying to bribe Hampton with ice cream - only for Hampton to say he always liked Porky Pig better.
    • Utilized (rather unfairly from a viewer's POV) in the short-lived Dragon's Lair cartoon. The show would often go into commercial breaks with Dirk facing an A or B choice. In the original video game, one would mean safe passage the other, instant, hideous death. In the cartoon, both meant death. But, as the narration would smugly inform us, "Dirk saw there was a better way".
    • The Powerpuff Girls:
      • In "Three Girls and a Monster", when Blossom and Buttercup are having an argument over how best to beat the Monster of the Week, Bubbles is stuck in the middle. Well-calculated attacks don't seem to touch it, and trying to beat the crap out of it doesn't work - it doesn't even seem to leave a scratch. So, what does Bubbles finally do to beat it? Politely ask it to leave. And it works.
      • Also used in the episode "Simian Says", where Mojo Jojo kidnapped the narrator and narrated the girls doing his bidding. When they found him out and asked where he wanted to be punched, he replied "How about an option of the third type?" He didn't get to take it.
      • In "Not so Awesome Blossom", Blossom has to decide between attacking Mojo and risk having the Professor fall to his death or accept him as her ruler. She ends up taking a Third Option in an unexpected way: she stomps her end of the catwalk as hard as she can, turning on a central pivot and launching Mojo out of his chair. Her confidence regained, she then directs her sisters to rescue the Professor and capture Mojo.
    • The first Futurama movie has the scammer aliens give the heroes and their fleet of ships the option to either surrender unconditionally, or be destroyed. So Bender shoots a Doomsday Device at them.

    Nudar: You have two choices: unconditional surrender...
    Leela: Never!
    Nudar: Or total annihilation.
    Leela: Also never!
    Nudar: You have thirty seconds to decide.
    Leela: NEVER!!!!

    • In the Space Ghost episode, "Zorak", Zorak kidnaps Space Ghost's teen sidekicks and forces him to fight his giant hornets without his power bands, or his sidekicks will die. After fighting the wasps for a few minutes, Space Ghost puts his power bands back on and defeats the hornets, saving his sidekicks shortly after. The third option, if you missed it, was "remember that all your enemies are idiots," or "both" for short.
    • Teen Titans:
      • In one episode, Starfire's pet worm-turned-moth is torn in a decision between his father and Starfire, who raised him with love. Rather than joining either, he takes a third option, and explodes. He thankfully recovers, reverted to larval form and squirming his way out of his own remains.
      • In the first season finale, Robin has to choose between serving as Slade's apprentice or letting a bunch of Slade's micro-probes kill his friends. His choice? Infect himself with the probes so that he and his friends share the same fate; Slade's so obsessed with winning that he'd rather let the Titans live than "lose" by allowing his apprentice to die.
    • When Homer shows Kang and Kodos are impersonating the 1996 presidential candidates on The Simpsons, they note the revelation makes no difference.

    Kodos: It's true, we are aliens. But what are you going to do about it? It's a two-party system; you have to vote for one of us.
    Man 1: He's right, this is a two-party system.
    Man 2: Well, I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate.
    Kang: Go ahead, throw your vote away!


    Spacely: I could make you vice-president, or give you stock in the company, but I've come up with a better idea.
    George: Oh, what's that, sir?
    Spacely: I'm not going to dock your pay, for the time you were gone from your job!
    George: Oh.....thank you, sir...

    • In the "Double Date" episode of Justice League Unlimited, the Huntress has the option to either kill Mandragora in front of his own son for murdering her father, or to allow them to escape unscathed to a better life overseas. She chooses to capture and arrest Mandragora instead, a far less traumatizing event for the aforementioned son.
    • The Adventure Time episode "Another Way" is pretty much all about this trope, with pretty much every conversation ending with Finn shouting "My way!" Most notably, when a tree stump (don't ask) tells him that he can only take the "smell bad forever" path or the "hair falls out forever" path, he kicks the signpost down and charges through the thorny bushes between the paths.

    Other Media

    • A classic from Mathematics: the Truel, a duel with three participants. Mr. White has a one in three chance of hitting his target, Mr. Grey a two in three chance, and Mr. Black is a perfect shot. To make things fair, Mr. White has the first shot. Who should he shoot?
      • If he shoots at Mr. Grey, he might kill him, then Mr. Black has the next shot. "Oops".
      • If he shoots at Mr. Black, seemingly the best option, he might kill him, then Mr. Grey has the next shot. Oh dear.
      • If he takes a third option and shoots into the air, Mr. Grey and Mr. Black shoot at each other until one dies, then Mr. White has the first shot in a duel. Note that the odds are still against Mr. White, so he may want to look into an even thirdier option like running away and changing his name.
    • The glass with water in half of it. Half full, or half empty? A joke says that an engineer will answer, "The glass is twice as large as it needs to be."

    Real Life

    • In the 1920s, a British submarine captain in China once faced the Hobson's Choice of either allowing a hijacked river steamer to escape, or allowing the pirates to kill their hostages. He took the third option of sinking the ship. He fired a shot into the waterline, causing the ship to settle slowly, so that the passengers and crew could easily abandon ship, and in the confusion most of the pirates were killed. Since they had blended with the passengers, it was uncertain how many pirates had escaped and how many innocents had died, but the overall solution worked, and the captain was exonerated.
    • Something similar happened in the English debates leading up to the Canadian parliamentary election in 2006. While future Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper tore then-PM Paul Martin's corrupt Liberal government to shreds, the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Jack Layton, took most of his time to remind Canadians that they "always have a third option," and to vote NDP. It backfired spectacularly, making Layton look like a kid in the back of a classroom, jumping up and down and yelling "pick me!" The media backlash was so large, and the third-option catchphrase repeated so often to tarnish Layton's reputation, that it's the closest thing to Memetic Mutation in the political journalism field.
      • Jack Layton tried it again in the 2011 election, and was mostly successful.
        • Mostly successful does not even begin to fully describe it try. For the first time in Canadian history the NDP is the official opposition. He will probably go down in history as the person who changed Canadian politics forever may he Rest In Peace.
      • However, in the run-up to the 2010 UK General Elections, Nick Clegg repeatedly stressing his own existence went down very well, creating a positive Memetic Mutation called 'Cleggmania'. Just goes to show it's all in the delivery.
        • Well - it worked out well for the Lib-Dems in the end (so far!), but they actually lost seats in the election.
          • They did, however, earn more voters.
        • Since the latest funding cuts in the UK, as well as the move to further privatise British Universities, I'd say they've got little chance of surviving the next election, giving people a choice between Labour, Conservative or one of the even smaller parties.
      • The Irish commentators have usually labelled the Irish political system has usually being described as a two and a half party system. The Labour Party is the 'half' party, much like the Liberal Democrats in Britain, they are much bigger than smaller parties in the Dáil (Irish Parliament)but smaller than the other two dominant parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Historically when Fianna Fáil lost elections Labour would form a coalition with Fine Gael (and once in the early 90's they were in coalition with FF). This seems to have changed in 2011 where Labour gained more seats than Fianna Fáil to become the second largest party, but their involvement in the present FG/Lab Government might undo this advance.
    • Siddhārtha Gautama took a third option about 2500 years ago—giving up a life of luxury as a prince and rejecting a life of religious Asceticism to try out what he called the Middle Way, which he would later, as Gautama Buddha, expand into Buddhism.
    • Though very few people know it is prominent in the religious text, being somewhat more familiar with the Viewers are Morons version, The Bible has this as an explicit choice; in a metaphor for different ways of going through life, the correct path in life is the middle path, not the right or the left path.
    • In the days right before the Roman Civil War, Pompey and the Senate attempted to foist two lose-lose options onto Gaius Julius Caesar: return to Rome without his veteran legions in Gaul and be crucified in court, or refuse to return, which would lead to him being declared an enemy of the state. With Caesar's legions spread across Gaul and the war season rapidly drawing to a close, by the time he could gather all his forces he would have found an overwhelming army prepared against him. Caesar, proving once again that he deserved his reputation for military genius, decided to Take a Third Option. He realized that the one legion he had on hand was more than the zero legions his enemies had mustered so far, and marched one legion into Italy proper. They conquered Rome without a fight and Caesar held the initiative for a good part of the war after that.
    • In general, politicians in a two party system find success in appealing to the moderates as having found a "Third Way." Bill Clinton was known for such positions (something that branded him as a "waffler" early in his term), and which inspired the concept of "Compassionate Conservatism" in the campaign of George W. Bush (something that sort of went out the window of American political discourse after 9/11).
      • The political opponents of Tony Blair, one of the politicians to rely on such rhetoric, remarked at the time that he was not the first politician to claim he had found a Third Way between free markets and state control... the slogan "Third Way" was initially used by Benito Mussolini.
    • The Berlin Airlift. After the Soviets blockaded the western-controlled West Berlin, an enclave in East Germany, the only apparent options for supplying the city were to try and force their way past the Soviet blockade, thus giving the USSR grounds to retaliate and potentially start WW III, or to allow the city to be starved into submission. The chosen solution? Fly in the supplies required by the city's two million plus population. The largest airlift in history followed and it placed the shoe completely on the other foot; the airlift could only be stopped if the Soviets started downing planes.
    • Fort Sumter. The Union could either send a ship to resupply it, and give the Confederacy an excuse saying they were being attacked to start a war while blaming the Union, or let them all starve. The choice? Warn everyone faaaar in advance that a ship would be sent without weapons solely to resupply the fort, giving the 'blame' for starting the war to the South.
    • In the early days of the Space Race, the scientists involved were divided into two camps as to how to get to the Moon: the first, Direct Ascent, would build an unbelievably huge rocket capable of launching from the ground, flying to the Moon, landing, lifting off from the Moon, and returning to Earth. Dr. von Braun proposed an alternative Earth Orbit Rendezvous, wherein multiple cargo launches would construct and fuel a vehicle in Earth orbit that would depart Earth, land on the Moon, lift off, and return. In 1961, the various groups got together to hash out which option to use. Instead, the conference resulted in a third option: Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. By using a smaller vehicle to shuttle to the lunar surface and back, they avoided the massive cost of carrying the fuel for the homeward journey to the lunar surface and back.
      • This option was not initially considered because no spacecraft rendezvous had ever been accomplished before; it was considered risky even in Earth orbit, where astronauts could de-orbit in an emergency. The risk of the lander docking with the command module after the surface mission was considered great, but the engineering challenges in building the launch vehicle were relatively minor in comparison. Practicing orbital rendezvous was the whole point of the Gemini program.
    • This applies to many minor political parties.
    • The Non-Aligned Movement. Countries like India, Malaysia, Egypt, Tito's Yugoslavia, Indonesia and others chose to join neither the USSR nor USA in the Cold War, making their own alliance instead. This is exactly what "Third World countries" originally meant.
    • During the American Revolution the Abenaki tribe made an alliance with both the Colonals and the Royalists and sent scouts to each-who made sure to steer their respective columns away from each other.
    • Similarly in the Anglo-Scottish wars when one surname had cousins on both sides of the border it was known for them to construct elaborate ruses to avoid fighting each other.
    • Some gamers complain about draconian DRM, since they can only either buy the game, which would allow the unwanted software to run on their computer, or not buy it, which may lead to their non-support for the DRM being misinterpreted as non-support for the game. Instead they Take a Third Option of buying the game and then playing a pirated, DRM-free copy (see Spore). Some claim that this "proves" to the publisher that people will buy the game with DRM, and that they "need" stronger DRM to hold off piracy, some claim that it proves to the publisher that people won't stand for crap DRM.
    • The False Dichotomy fallacy is all about this - a problem is presented as having two solutions, when there might be more.
      • The Golden Mean Fallacy is the inverse...wherein the "third option" is not always the best option, and can actually be the worst.
    • Weekday Vegetarianism. Exactly What It Says on the Tin. From the talk: "I realised that what I was being pitched was a binary solution [...] so I wondered... might there be a third solution?"
    • When Anthrocon was debating whether or not a move from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh would affect whether or not people would attend, the majority of those polled Took a Third Option: they didn't care which city it was in because they lived so far away that the move wouldn't really affect travel.
    • Psychologist Paul Watzlawick gives us a nice example with the Austrian Franzl Wokurka. He did this the first time when he saw a flower bed with a sign forbidding to rip out flowers; conflicted between obeying a law (he didn't like) and crossing it (which might've lead to consequences) he suddenly had an epiphany, thinking "those flowers are pretty nice" and deciding he wouldn't rip them off because he wanted it so. From then on, he lived his life following this philosophy; thus, he became neither a theist nor an atheist, but an agnosticist. Later, he had his Crowning Moment of Awesome, when Those Wacky Nazis flooded Austria with posters stating "National Socialism or Bolshevist Chaos?", which he would comment with "Erdäpfel oder Kartoffeln?" (spuds or potatos?).
    • A man tells a TV reporter a story about his grandfather and how he refused to be mistreated despite a being negro in the U.S. deep south back in the 1950s. His grandfather wanted to build a house, and purchased the lumber. The (white) owner of the lumber yard later informs him that he's not going to give him the lumber. So the man wants his money back. Lumber yard owner points out (correctly) that he can get away with not paying him, because even if he sued him, no jury (which would be all-white, in the southern U.S.) would find for a negro. So he's going to keep the money and the lumber. The man then gets angry about it and says that he's taking a third option: either the lumber yard owner refund him his money, give him the lumber he paid for, or he'd kill him. The lumber yard owner then decided that it would be a good idea not to cheat the man, and gave him the lumber he paid for.
    • Robert Bloch said that, on graduating from high school, he was faced with a choice between working and starving to death. He decided to become a writer, and do both.
    • During the late 80s and 90s computer users were stuck with the choice of the Mac (easy to use, but more expensive with proprietary ports and an unusual software architecture) or IBM-PC (less proprietary, more manufacturers, annoyingly primitive hardware until the introduction of the PCI bus). Some denied the battle and just bought an Amiga (the first multimedia system; way ahead of its time, but owned by a company with poor management).
    • The 2010 Australian election looked like it would be between the once popular but flagging Kevin Rudd and the horrifying Tony Abbott. Then Parliament seemed to take the third option and appointed Julia Gillard instead.
    • A man is in the hospital, due to not feeling well, with his girlfriend. His girlfriend gets a phone call. It's the man's wife, who managed to find his girlfriend's number. The girlfriend asks why the woman on her phone is claiming to be the man's wife. The man responds by losing all color, and collapsing due to cardiac arrest.
    • Two Libyan pilots were recently given the choice between bombing civilian protesters or facing execution if they refused. Instead, they flew to Malta and applied for asylum.
    • One of the ideas from Aristotle's philosophy is that every virtue can be represented as the sensible option when presented with two extremes. For example, 'Wittyness' is presented as the virtue of saying just the right amount in a conversation, between the extremes of saying too little and coming across as shy, or saying too much and being thought of as a bore.
    • In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis argues against the notion that Jesus was a great moral teacher but not divine, on the grounds that the Gospel accounts say that Jesus claimed to be divine, and must therefore be either a "Lunatic" who harbored the delusion of divinity, a "Liar" who falsely claimed to be divine, or the "Lord" who actually was (and is) divine. Critics of Lewis' argument offer the fourth choice of a "Legend" whose alleged claim to divinity was created by others after the fact. Others suggest that the whole setup is a false dichotomy, and that there's no contradiction in being both a great moral teacher and a lunatic, or even in being both a great moral teacher and a liar.
    • Immanuel Kant, the last Enlightenment philosopher, advocated the "categorical imperative" which, boiled down, meant that an act could be considered "moral" only if it would be reasonable for everyone to act the same way. French philosopher Benjamin Constant pointed out that under this system telling the truth was an imperative (since a society of habitual liars could not function), and a moral person would be forced to tell an inquiring murderer the location of his target. Kant responded in his next essay, pointing out that although it's still wrong to lie to the murderer, that doesn't mean you have to give him the information he wants, either. The system still has critics, but Kant definitely advocated the Third Option to seemingly unwinnable situations.
    • More moderate/liberal Christian organizations and some churches often market themselves as such, as a third option for those who are not atheist or non-religious but also aren't very conservative or fundamentalist. Emergent churches often do this too as a third option for those unhappy and bored with traditional worship styles between that and not attending.
    • The celebrated US Supreme Court case of Marbury v Madison. Short version: the Supreme Court was asked to order the Jefferson administration to deliver a letter naming Marbury as a Justice of the Peace, a letter that had been signed under the previous Adams administration with the intention of causing trouble for Jefferson's incoming government. If the Court refused to back Marbury, it'd seem like it was caving in to political pressure; if they did order delivery of the letter and the Jefferson administration responded 'make me', it'd expose the fact that the Court had no ability to compel enforcement of its decisions. Instead, the Chief Justice took a third option, stating that Marbury had a right to his commission but that the Court couldn't constitutionally order the administration around in this way: placating both sides, and not incidentally establishing the principle that the Court gets to decide what's constitutional and what's not. Only later in life would Jefferson, who opposed the idea that the Court should have exclusive say on this matter, realize how badly he'd been hornswoggled.
    • The "Two-State Solution" to the Arab-Israeli Conflict is intended to be this, with both Israel and the Palestinians having their own independent states.
      • An actual, but lesser known, third option is the "three-state solution" (this involves giving Jordan control of the West Bank and Egypt on Gaza).
    • The English (later British) constitutional set-up of 1689 was basically this. England (which had been plagued by political instability) had the problem of trying to balance monarchism (which they believed could lead to tyranny) with Parliamentary rule (a form of republicanism which they had tried and believed lead to instability). The solution was a "third way": retaining the monarchy but curtailing the king's powers whilst ensuring that, legally, all power was still derived from the crown even though it was largely (and later entirely) executed by Parliament. Not only did this system work but they believed they had found the perfect system of government. When the American colonies decided to try the republican option again many British observers believed it was doomed to failure as it would "only work with small city states".
    • In regarding to union issues (particularly the ones in California relating to the entertainment industry), the general rule of thumb is that union members are strictly limited to union work and vice versa for non-union members. Then there is something called the "financial core" option (or "fi-core" for short). It basically allows the said workers to work in both union and non-union environments. In regards to working in a union shop and obtaining the benefits of working in the union, the financial core worker must pay a small union fee. They cannot represent or participate in union activities; but at the same time, the financial core member is not restricted the union bylaws (particularly SAG's "Global Rule Number One"), can work in non-union environments, and continue working if the unions go on a strike. Oh yeah, and mentioning this to SAG and AFTRA is a very bad idea.
    • Republican or Democrat? Screw it, I'm voting Libertarian.
      • Apparently that the whole purpose of "third party" groups in politics.
    • Fluorescent light bulb [1] versus regular incandescent.[2] Third option? LED bulbs.[3]
    • The origin behind the Eduard "Mr. Trololo" Khil's famous Trololo song. The song he "sings" was actually a famous Russian folk song named “I Am So Happy to Finally Be Back Home”, which had been banned in the URSS due to its lyrics... so when faced with the choice of dropping it from his performances or not, Eduard Khil still sang it, but changed the lyrics to unreadable gibberish. And he got away with it.

    1. More expensive and contain toxins, but longer lasting and more efficient
    2. cheap, but short lived and inefficient
    3. They last over 40 times longer, and use one TENTH the power of incandescent bulbs. They do cost more, but it more than evens out overtime