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When Vader instructed the Bounty Hunters to all go after the Millennium Falcon, Boba Fett hid in the trash compartment of Vader's Star Destroyer so that he could follow the Falcon undetected to its location after it detached from the Star Destroyer (which it had attached to in order to evade their radar).

But, how could he possibly have known about Han Solo's plans? Has Han Solo tried this gambit and succeeded against Boba Fett before? Or was there some other way he, and no other bounty hunter, figured it out?

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Lunch. Little known fact about Boba is that he was one of the galaxy's foremost urban foragers. –  joshbirk Mar 11 at 17:17
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@joshbirk Boba Fett looked in the Trash. Let's see...hey! There's a Millenium Falcon in here! –  Zibbobz Mar 11 at 17:27
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<betteroffdead>Now that's a real shame when folks be throwin' away a perfectly good smuggler like that</betteroffdead> –  joshbirk Mar 11 at 17:36
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I'll give you $7 for it. –  Richard Mar 11 at 19:46
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Both Fett and Solo are very adept at survival/escape and evasion. Not their first rodeo. I'm guessing that Fett, given all the facts he knew about the Millennium Falcon's fly-by and disappearance, would ask himself "How would I do that?" He chose correctly and solved the puzzle. –  Morgan Mar 11 at 21:42
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10 Answers 10

up vote 8 down vote accepted
+50

How did Boba Fett know where Solo was hiding? A mix of cold calculation and experience.

Calculation

Boba Fett had already assured the capture of Solo before he even left the Executor. He guessed that Solo would have jumped into hyperspace as soon as possible if the hyperdrive worked. Solo's ship was disabled, and that limited the Corellian's options. As far as Fett was concerned, this was all too easy.
Fett's suspicions were confirmed by a simple glance out of the Executor's observation ports at the conning tower of the nearby Avenger. Upon leaving the Executor, he placed Slave 1 near Avenger's waste chutes and blended into the foul mixture when Avenger dumped its' garbage. Sure enough, Fett noticed a powered-down Falcon drifting off into the garbage flow. After the Avenger departed, the Falcon set its course, and Fett was able to determine where the Falcon was headed: Bespin.

Galaxy Guide 3: The Empire Strikes Back 2nd Ed., West End Games p66

Experience

Solo had hidden the Falcon among the Imperial's garbage, released immediately before the jump to hyperspace, and so escaped from the Imperials at Hoth. A good trick, and one that might have worked against most Hunters; it had worked against Fett's competition.

But Boba Fett had been fooled by this trick before, once. By now he had been in his line of work longer than most, and there were few enough ploys he hadn't seen, once or twice or a dozen times.

The Last Man Standing: Boba Fett's Tale, Tales of the Bounty Hunters p293.

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A very good spot. You have my +1 –  Richard Mar 13 at 17:34
    
I would +10 if I could - it might be low level canon, but it is completely logical and fits the puzzle/question nicely. –  joshbirk Mar 13 at 18:16
    
Oh I like that they describe how he hid in the debris as well. It has always bothered me that it seemed he might have somehow gotten Slave1 into a trash compactor... –  joshbirk Mar 13 at 18:55
    
@joshbirk - Very low level. The games aren't even considered C-Canon. They're a step above fan-fiction though... –  Richard Mar 13 at 19:01
    
@Richard sigh Fine, I'll load the Canon Cannon: 'Background information given in the RPG sourcebooks such as biographies, stories, blueprints, etc. is proper canon' - http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Canon –  PhilPursglove Mar 13 at 19:08
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The novelisation isn't much help

The Millennium Falcon ignited its ion engines, and raced off through the train of drifting space junk toward another system.

But concealed among that scattered debris was another ship.

And as the Falcon roared off to seek the Bespin system, this other ship ignited its own engines. Boba Fett, the most notorious and dreaded bounty hunter in the galaxy, turned his small, elephant’s head-shaped craft, Slave I, to begin its pursuit. For Boba Fett had no intention of losing sight of the Millennium Falcon. Its pilot had too high a price on his head. And this was one reward that the fearsome bounty hunter was quite determined to collect.

Nor is the shooting script

FULL SHOT - Junk over camera. Going away, the Falcon starts engines and races off into the distance. The junk slowly drifts away. Boba Fett's ship appears in the foreground and moves after the Falcon

In the C-Canon book "Tales of the Bounty Hunters" (text here) there's a short snippet that suggests that Fett has seen a similar trick before although there isn't any supporting information where he's seen it. The same paragraph also covers how he knew to head to Cloud City and how the Empire got there before the Falcon.

It was a crowded time, and in Fett’s memory the events blurred into one another. Solo had hidden the Falcon among the Imperials’ garbage, released immediately before the jump into hyperspace, and so escaped from the Imperials at Hoth. A good trick, and one that might have worked against most Hunters; it had worked against Fett’s competition.

But Boba Fett had been fooled by that trick before, once. By now he had been in his line of work longer than most, and there were few enough ploys he hadn’t seen, once or twice or a dozen times. There was only one place they could be going, one place close enough for them to reach with their main hyperdrive disabled; Fett jumped for Cloud City, and there Lando Calrissian made the deal that delivered Solo to Fett.

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That was my idea too. The bounty hunters all took guesses as where to look, and Fett's guess just happened to be the correct one. –  Mr Lister Mar 11 at 20:09
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It's also possible he knew it was a possibility Solo was still there and hidden, and because of all the other bounty hunters chasing other leads he thought it better to be the only one to take the gamble that Solo was still there. –  PeterL Mar 12 at 14:43
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More speculation, but it was likely an educated guess (hunter's intuition?). As a top-tier bounty hunter there's no doubt he's dealt with smugglers before. I'd say Lucas wanted to prove that Fett was up to snuff as the best bounty hunter around. –  Will F Mar 12 at 14:53
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I think it's a survivorship bias effect. There were many bounty hunters on the ship. They all took a guess on the best way to find Han Solo. By chance, one of their guesses was correct (Boba Fett's). We then focus on the guy who ended up being correct, because there would be very little point focusing on the other bounty hunters who are chasing around the galaxy on a wild goose chase. You see the effect with mutual funds - one fund must perform better than the rest, and we are prone to assume that fund is the best, even when it's just chance. –  Chris Taylor Mar 13 at 8:56
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@ChrisTaylor - +100 for this comment. We don't see the other bounty hunter's bright ideas because their ideas didn't pan out. –  Richard Mar 13 at 11:47
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Note- This is conjecture, as I am unable to find canon sources to back it up.

Han was originally a member of the Imperial Academy, which explains why he knows that it is standard procedure for fleets to dump garbage before leaving. Boba Fett would most likely know this, and reason that wherever Han disappeared to, he would wait until the fleet broke up and left before appearing/leaving.

If he simply hangs around in his ship, it is unlikely that Han would emerge/leave, so he gets jettisoned with the garbage to disguise Slave I, and waits. Worst case scenario, he drifts aimlessly for a while alone before departing.

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Curious as to the two downvotes - explanation? –  JohnP Mar 12 at 18:38
    
First, don’t beg for explanations on down votes. It pretty much guarantees more down votes. Second, I up voted because I agree with this. Boba Fett understands Han Solo & Imperial procedures so he takes a gamble. What’s the worst that happens? He’s in space & needs a new strategy? –  JakeGould Mar 13 at 2:37
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@JakeGould - Generally, downvoters are encouraged to have some kind of explanation, with the purpose of possibly improving the answer. At least, that's how I understand the popup that suggests leaving a comment. –  JohnP Mar 13 at 14:40
    
@JakeGould Why would asking for explanations trigger more downvotes? Unless it's phrased like "Oh yeah, go ahead and downvote, you losers!" (And yes, I've seen that happen.) Anyway, I think the downvotes are because this is not a real answer and could have been a comment. –  Mr Lister Mar 15 at 12:35
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Again, conjecture, blah blah.

Boba Fett arrived on the Star Destroyer at the same time as all the others but unlike the others, he had the skills to hack into the ships logs and review the incident that had occurred. He saw the Millenium Falcon maneuver towards the Star Destroyer and then just .. disappear. Being a very good smuggler and bounty hunter himself, it wouldn't be out of the question to imagine him saying to himself, "If I were being pursued by this big ship and couldn't get into hyperspace, what would I do?"

He probably already knew where Han was during the whole briefing with the other bounty hunters and thus it was no surprise he was prepared.

The bigger question that arises is: How did Boba Fett get his ship into the trash compartment of the Star Destroyer without Han seeing him do it? And if he went through the internal systems of the Star Destroyer, that would have required serious clearance and would have tipped his hand early.

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Slight problem with the sequence of events - the bounty hunter briefing happening just before the Falcon left the asteroid and was reacquired by the Avenger (Piett interrupts the briefing with this information) and then lost again. –  HorusKol Mar 11 at 23:34
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I'll throw my hat into the ring.

Fett saw the Falcon sitting on the back of the command section. I mean seriously, look at how big that thing is on there. If he approached from anywhere on the left rear quarter he would be able to see it.

If you consider that to be true, then it's not a stretch to assume he figured out how Solo planned to get away undetected. (How many ways are there to detach from a cruiser unnoticed?)

As Richard pointed out, Fett was already on the ship when this occurred, so I'll go with my second answer:

Assuming Fett is as good as people say he is, he would obviously be well versed in evasion tactics. With large ships a sensor blind spot would be common, and the most reasonable explanation is that Solo utilized such a spot.

I remember when I first saw this movie as a child my first thought was "He's hiding right behind them." I'd be surprised if Fett wasn't at least that smart.

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What on earth about my answer deserves a downvote? Is it because I didn't think up some overly complex reason? –  Logarr Mar 11 at 22:48
    
I downvoted because this makes no sense. Fett's ship (and indeed Fett himself) are inside the Avenger when they lose the Falcon. –  Richard Mar 11 at 22:53
    
Ah, you're correct. I shall edit my answer. –  Logarr Mar 11 at 22:59
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Vader's ship is the Executor, Han hides on the Avenger as does Fett. Somehow Fett gets from the bridge of the Executor during Vader's briefing and on-board his ship stored in the garbage chute of the Avenger minutes after the imperials reacquire the Aluminum Falcon. That is all semantics.

Fett is using the same tactic as Han to stalk his prey of which he has no leads. As the captain says if they went into hyperspace we're out of luck. Its the sit and wait approach.

Agent Smith's quote from the Matrix comes to mind "They're not out yet."

By the way, thanks for making me poke holes in one the best scenes of all time and un-supending my disbelief in congruency errors I hadn't recognized previously.

Cheers ;)

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"Aluminum Falcon"? Spelchekt? –  Bob Jarvis Mar 12 at 23:33
    
Indeed, idk how to spelt alumuinimum. Dude, seriously if your reading this and didn't get that go watch robot chicken star wars. –  Mazura Mar 13 at 0:12
    
I can't watch the relevant scene right now, but AFAIK the entire fleet dumps their garbage before leaving. Thus Fett could have been in the Executor's garbage chute and still end up in the same junk cloud as the Falcon. –  zovits Mar 13 at 10:35
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Is it too far a stretch to assume that Fett himself may have been forced to use a tactic similar to Solo's at points in his career when trying to hide from the Empire or other entities? If that can't be imagined, why is it improbable to think that Fett simply used a quick inductive reasoning to assume that if the Falcon hadn't warped into hyperspace before being lost on radar by the Empire that it must be within such proximity to the Destroyer that it would no longer trip the radar as 'ships don't just disappear'. As mentioned above by another user, Fett and Solo would have both known that fleets jettison their garbage before departing thus making it the most clearly logical time for an escape if you wanted to remain undetected. How did Fett manage to get his ship into the trash compartment? Easily, all he would have had to do was commission a ride to the next docking stating his ship was no longer functional, thus decommissioning it and sending it to the trash compartment which he later visited, boarding his ship and awaiting departure. Fett is a quintessential bounty hunter, the best in the business..

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Logical reasoning. The question should not be why Fett did it, but why none of the other bounty hunters did it, too.

The Falcon had to have a dysfunct hyperdrive, this must have been obvious to the Imperial forces. There was no other explanation why Solo would perform a stunt involving an asteroid field rather than pulling The Lever and waving goodbye (you wouldn't even fly through an asteroid field for impressing a woman, heh!). Everyone else jumped, only one ship didn't.

The Falcon then instantly disappeared in direct neighborhood and in plain sight of a star destroyer (well, apart from everyone ducking and closing their eyes anticipating a crash) and well within sight of other star destroyers and smaller vessels). How did that happen?

  • It clearly didn't do a hasty-entry hyperjump in close proximity to a star destroyer and an asteroid field (even if the hyperdrive had been functional), but even if that had happened, the star destroyer's scanners would have shown it.
  • It clearly did not teleport or disappear by magic, or by a Jedi mind trick.
  • It didn't collide with the Avenger's bridge (Needa would most certainly have noticed that happening!).
  • It didn't otherwise collide and/or explode. No such thing on the scanners, no shockwave, no debris.
  • It wasn't brought up and didn't surrender.

So the only reasonable conclusion was: It is still there. It must be. Hidden or cloaked (however unlikely for a ship of that size), whatever... it is still there.

Fett did not need to know where the Falcon was hidden or what Solo's plan was, or how he had done his vanishing trick. All that mattered was what the captain of a ship that is unable to perform a hyperjump and being pursued by star destroyers can do. There are not a lot of options.
He can only wait until everybody else is gone. Then, he'll come out of his hiding place, and, using sublight drives, try to reach a nearby star system -- praying that none of his pursuers come back and nobody crosses his path.

Fett therefore needed to do a little "vanishing trick" of his own, so he could wait and see what happens without being noticed himself. No matter where Solo was hiding within the system, the moment he turned on his ion engines, he would be the single bright spot on the EM scanner.
Hiding in the trash was an obvious manueuver for someone intimely familiar with Imperial standard procedure, and safer to perform than to fly to a nearby asteroid (doing so he would likely have been spotted), so that is what Fett did.

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My contention is that he didn't know. It was purely by accident that he happened to see the Falcon drifting off.

To support this contention, we need to look at Fett's motivations.

  • Firstly, he had a potential of substantial bounty from Jabba for Han.
  • Secondly, he had a second reward coming to him from Vader.

There will be a substantial reward for the one who finds the Millennium Falcon. You are free to use any methods necessary, but I want them alive. No disintegrations.

And:

VADER: (to Fett) You may take Captain Solo to Jabba the Hutt after I have Skywalker.

Han's screams filter through the torture room door.

BOBA FETT: He's no good to me dead.

By the time Fett finds and follows the Falcon, the Star Destroyer had already gone to hyperspace.

  • If Fett had known where the Falcon was hidden, he could have captured it before the Star Destroyer jumped.
  • If Fett could have reasonably guessed where the Falcon was likely to be hidden, he could have gone looking before the Star Destroyer jumped.
  • In both cases it seems that there is a better likelihood of capturing the Falcon with less effort required.
  • Therefore Fett didn't know.
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At risk of being overly pragmatic, it's probably because if Fett hadn't done that the plot would be different. As other answers point out, there is very little if any actual explanation provided by Lucas.

Or it could just be that Boba Fett is the most capable bounty hunter around.

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Well, IMO Boba Fett is the most capable bounty hunter. IIRC, he hunts Wookees -- and lives to hunt again. –  Codes with Hammer May 27 at 17:09
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