Created By: Willbyr on June 7, 2012 Last Edited By: Willbyr on July 11, 2013
Nuked

Mistaken for Target

People who look like a target for assassination or a bounty are killed instead of the actual target.

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So you're a bounty hunter, assassin, or some other bloke whose job is to take out assigned targets? Well, you'd better know exactly who you're going after, because there are people everywhere who might look enough like your target to be confusing, and you don't want to go back to your boss(es) and tell them the job's done, and then have the target make you look like an idiot by popping back up again, now do you?

Put simply, this trope is about when one or more people who happen to share personal information with someone who is the target of a hit, bounty, or other similar motive are hurt or killed because the attacker didn't pay close enough attention to their information, said information was incomplete or faulty...or he just didn't care.

Sister Trope to Murder by Mistake, which is about someone being killed due to a simple error by the murderer.


Examples

Comic Books
  • Invoked in the original comic book version of Human Target: Chance uses Latex Perfection to pretend to be the target so as to take out would-be assassins.
  • Played for Laughs in a White Tiger comic. It's a Running Gag in that series for Angela Del Toro to get mistaken for more famous Marvel characters. This reached the limits of belief when Deadpool mistook her for Black Cat, whom he had a contract on.
  • In Archie meets the Punisher, the Punisher is gunning after a drug dealer who looks just like Archie.

Film
  • This is played with in The Terminator. The Terminator only has Sarah Conner's name and general location, so it goes through the phone book, finds all the Sarah Conners listed, and starts killing them one by one.
  • In Kick-Ass: Frank is pissed with Kick-Ass for ruining his business, then sees him casually walking down the street. Frank gets out of his car and shoots KA in the head Execution Style, but it turns out it was just some kid going to a costume party. Played for Laughs.
  • Diamonds Are Forever. A woman named Plenty O'Toole meets James Bond at a casino. Later on she goes to Tiffany Case's residence and is killed by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, who think she's Tiffany. They were under orders to kill Tiffany because she was a link in the diamond smuggling operation, the same as the other people they killed.

Literature
  • In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the titular Hell Hound hunts Sir Henry Baskerville, the last member of the Baskerville family. However, it mistakenly kills an escaped convict named Selden, who had been smuggled Sir Henry's clothes and thus carried his scent.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire a very large reward is offered for bringing in Tyrion's head. This has resulted in many male dwarves being killed by mistake. Many unscrupulous bounty hunters know they have the wrong man but figure that by the time the head arrives in King's Landing it will be too decomposed for a proper identification.
  • In Survivor In Death, a girl survives the assassination of her entire family because the killers didn't know that she had a friend over for the night, who they took for her.
  • In Men at Arms , an assassin targeting the heads of the various Guilds mistakes a maid at the Beggars' Guild for their Queen Molly. The head of the Beggars' Guild wears a "velvet gown" of office and the poor girl was trying it on.

Live-Action TV
  • Invoked a time or two in Masquerade, a Mission: Impossible-type show where they'd recruit civilians with particular abilities for one-off spy missions. In one episode they got an Olympic-level runner to pose as a defecting communist agent to draw out possible assassins. (The runner looked similar to the agent and was given makeup to make him look even more like him.)
  • Law & Order
    • In one episode, the police track down lead after fruitless lead following the murder of a woman in a parking garage. On inspecting the camera tracking the exiting cars, they see a similar woman in a similar car leaving the garage a few minutes before the murder.
    • In an Inversion, an early episode followed a particularly hectic day for the cops (no DA in this ep) and one of the plots involves a serial killer targeting young lovers at a park. The cops pick up a guy who matches the sketch and who refuses to give an alibi and who is I Ded by a witness... only he's Armored Closet Gay and the real killer is much older (and kills again). However, the poor guy gets knifed in prison after arraignment and just before the cops can get him out.
  • Golden Boy: Owen's That One Case is the murder of an apparently law-abiding citizen that went cold because it happened the morning of 9/11. In the season finale it turns out that the hitman had received a contract for a drug dealer who looked almost exactly like the victim, and the victim had coincidentally gotten wrong directions that landed him in the hitman's crosshairs.

Web Comics
  • In Chimneyspeak, Elgie (a midget with dark hair) was the target of a bounty at some point prior to the start of the series, but the bounty hunters killed several young boys who were roughly equivalent to Elgie in size and hair color. Elgie is haunted by this and has frequent Catapult Nightmares as a result.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Elan from was once kidnapped by bounty hunters who mistook him for his twin brother Nale, who was wanted for treason against the Empire of Blood. Fortunately, one of the Empire's generals was aware that Nale and Elan are twins and was able to clear up the mess.

Western Animation
  • South Park
    • In one episode, wheelchair-bound Timmy gets jealous of Jimmy, another handicapped kid. Timmy pretends to be nice to Jimmy, even giving him a present - a parka that looks a lot like Kenny's. Jimmy puts it on and the universe starts trying to kill him; unfortunately for Timmy, it keeps missing.
    • At the beginning of the episode where Cartman took over the school announcements, the kid who used to do them was murdered by a guy who mistook him for someone with the same name.
  • Shows up in an episode of Futurama where Bender has pissed off the robot mafia and has a hit out on him. Another robot of the same model is mistaken for Bender and killed.
  • In one episode of Family Guy, Chris and Peter are sent to a fat camp, and not long after their arrival other residents of the fat camp start turning up dead. It turns out they're being murdered by a guy who has a grudge against Chris, but keeps picking the wrong target.


Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • June 7, 2012
    Willbyr
    Examples:

    • This is played with in the first Terminator movie. The Terminator only has Sarah Conner's name and general location, so it goes through the phone book, finds all the Sarah Conners listed, and starts killing them one by one.
    • In Chimneyspeak, Elgie (a midget with dark hair) was the target of a bounty at some point prior to the start of the series, but the bounty hunters killed several young boys who were roughly equivalent to Elgie in size and hair color. This is a source of personal Nightmare Fuel for Elgie.
  • June 7, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • Invoked a time or two in the tv series Masquerade, a Mission Impossible-type show where they'd recruit civilians with particular abilities for one-off spy missions. In one episode they got an olympic-level runner to pose as a defecting communist agent to draw out possible assassins. (The runner looked similar to the agent and was given makeup to make him look even more like him.)
    • Again invoked in the original comic book version of Human Target: Chance uses Latex Perfection to pretend to be the target so as to take out would-be assassins.
    • Kick Ass: Frank is pissed with Kick-Ass for ruining his business, then sees him casually walking down the street. Frank gets out of his car and shoots KA in the head Execution Style; but it turns out it was just some kid going to a cosutme party. Played For Laughs.
    • (Does This Count?) In a short sketch on The Benny Hill Show, Benny as a jealous husband breaks into a hotel room and shoots the man & woman in the bed. Then he takes another look at them, looks at the room number, rotates the 6 to a 9, and sheepishly exits.
  • June 7, 2012
    captainsandwich
    I know of a mossad incident that went this way. speaking of which are we going to list real life examples?
  • June 7, 2012
    Willbyr
    Let's keep this restricted to fiction for the time being.

    I don't think the Benny Hill example counts.
  • June 7, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the titular Hell Hound hunts Sir Henry Baskerville, the last member of the Baskerville family. However, it mistakenly kills an escaped convict named Selden, who had been smuggled Sir Henry's clothes and thus carried his scent.
  • June 7, 2012
    desdendelle
    Yeah, this should definitely be NRLEP!. This is a rather sensitive issue.
  • June 8, 2012
    SKJAM
    Also, will involve a fair number of spoilers, as this trope is used a lot in mysteries to obscure the motive of the killer. {"I couldn't figure out why anyone would want to kill Bob, but then I learned that he'd borrowed Dave's hat and coat the rainy night of the murder. And you, Carol, had a strong motive to kill Dave!")
  • June 8, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of South Park wheelchair-bound Timmy gets jealous of Jimmy, another handicapped kid. Timmy pretends to be nice to Jimmy, even giving him a present - a parka that looks a lot like Kenny's. Jimmy puts it on and the universe starts trying to kill him; unfortunately for Timmy, it keeps missing.
  • June 20, 2012
    Willbyr
    Bump...anything else?
  • June 20, 2012
    nielas
    • In A Song Of Ice And Fire a very large reward is offered for bringing in Tyrion's head. This has resulted in many male dwarves being killed by mistake. Many unscrupulous bounty hunters know they have the wrong man but figure that by the time the head arrives in King's Landing it will be too decomposed for a proper identification.
  • October 2, 2012
    Willbyr
    Anything else?
  • October 2, 2012
    JoeG
    This happened many times on Law And Order, especially the original series. This allows the detectives to investigate a murder while leaving the intended victim alive to dramatize the motive behind the attack.
  • October 2, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I seem to recall it being Played For Laughs in a White Tiger comic. It was a Running Gag in that series for Angela Del Toro to get mistaken for more famous Marvel characters which reached the limits of belief when Deadpool mistook her for Black Cat, whom he had a contract on.
  • October 2, 2012
    surgoshan
    • Showed up in an episode of Law And Order when the police track down lead after fruitless lead following the murder of a woman in a parking garage. On inspecting the camera tracking the exiting cars, they see a similar woman in a similar car leaving the garage a few minutes before the murder.
      • In an inversion, an early episode followed a particularly hectic day for the cops (no DA in this ep) and one of the plots involves a serial killer targeting young lovers at a park. The cops pick up a guy who matches the sketch and who refuses to give an alibi and who is I Ded by a witness... only he's Armored Closet Gay and the real killer is much older (and kills again). But the poor guy gets knifed in prison after arraignment and just before the cops can get him out.
  • October 3, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    In Survivor In Death, a girl survives the assassination of her entire family because the killers didn't know that she had a friend over for the night, who they took for her.

  • October 3, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Another South Park example, at the beginning of the episode where Cartman took over the school announcements the kid who used to do them was murdered by a guy who mistook him for someone with the same name.
  • October 3, 2012
    FantasyLiver
    In Archie meets the Punisher, yes it really exists, the Punisher is gunning after a drug dealer who looks just like Archie.
  • October 5, 2012
    IsaacSapphire
    Shows up in an episode of Futurama where Bender has pissed off the robot mafia and has a hit out on him. Another robot of the same model is mistaken for Bender and killed.
  • October 5, 2012
    Karalora
    In Men At Arms, an assassin targeting the heads of the various Guilds mistakes a maid at the Beggars' Guild for their Queen Molly. The head of the Beggars' Guild wears a "velvet gown" of office and the poor girl was trying it on.
  • October 5, 2012
    Astaroth
    In one episode of Family Guy, Chris and Peter are sent to a fat camp, and not long after their arrival other residents of the fat camp start turning up dead. It turns out they're being murdered by a guy who has a grudge against Chris, but keeps picking the wrong target.
  • June 2, 2013
    Willbyr
    The draft has been updated with the suggested examples. Anything else?
  • June 2, 2013
    StarSword
    Crap, I saw an instance of this the other day but I can't remember what show it was.

    EDIT: Strike that.

    TV:
    • Golden Boy: Owen's That One Case is the murder of an apparently law-abiding citizen that went cold because it happened the morning of 9/11. In the season finale it turns out that the hitman had received a contract for a drug dealer who looked almost exactly like the victim, and the victim had coincidentally gotten wrong directions that landed him in the hitman's crosshairs.
  • June 2, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • Diamonds Are Forever. A woman named Plenty O'Toole meets James Bond at a casino. Later on she goes to Tiffany Case's residence and is killed by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, who think she's Tiffany. They were under orders to kill Tiffany because she was a link in the diamond smuggling operation, the same as the other people they killed.
  • June 3, 2013
    Astaroth
    Elan from Order Of The Stick was once kidnapped by bounty hunters who mistook him for his twin brother Nale, who was wanted for treason against the Empire of Blood. Fortunately, one of the Empire's generals was aware that Nale and Elan are twins and was able to clear up the mess.
  • June 3, 2013
    Willbyr
    The last three are added, thanks!
  • June 14, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    In The X Files episode "The Blessing Way", Agent Dana Scully was targeted for assassination by Krycek, but he shot her sister Melissa instead as she was entering Dana's apartment.
  • June 15, 2013
    XFllo
    We have a related trope Murder By Mistake. Some of the examples that are listed there appeared in this YKTTW.
  • June 21, 2013
    Willbyr
    ^ Cool; I'll mark this one as a Sister Trope to that since they're similar in outcome but differ in intent.
  • June 21, 2013
    Bisected8
    Real Life example (assuming we aren't avoiding them);

    • In February 2013, an unfortunate young man was stabbed to death on his parents' door step. The two men who did the stabbing had knocked on the wrong door, having been hired to kill a businessman on a neighboring street at the behest of a disgruntled business partner.
  • June 21, 2013
    Willbyr
    I think it might be better to avoid RL examples for this one, to keep the section from possibly growing out of control if for no other reason.
  • June 22, 2013
    Marz1200
    • When the police find out that there is a hostage situation on Continuum, they naturally assume that former activist Roland Randol is in charge and shoot him. Unfortunately, it was his son, Julian, who was in charge and merely pretended to be his father when the police called asking for Roland "the guy in charge." The police end up killing Roland, who was actually a hostage, while Julian escapes.
  • June 22, 2013
    queenbri
    Julius Ceasar mentions two Cinnas. Cinna the poet and Cinna the conspirator. Cinna the conspirator ends up getting by an unruly mob who think that he's Cinna the poet.
  • June 22, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^You've got it backwards. Cinna the poet is killed by the mob looking for Cinna the conspirator.
    Third Citizen: Your name, sir, truly.
    Cinna: Truly, my name is Cinna.
    First Citizen Tear him to pieces; he's a conspirator.
    Cinna: I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.
    Fourth Citizen: Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.
    Cinna: I am not Cinna the conspirator.
    Fourth Citizen: It is no matter, his name's Cinna; pluck but his name out of his heart, and turn him going.
  • June 22, 2013
    surgoshan
    • In The Big Easy, the protagonist (a cop) loses his brother when the latter is murdered by the targets of the former's investigation; he borrowed his big brother's jacket when running down to the corner store.

    • In Going Postal Mr. Groat nearly gets killed in Lipwig's place when an assassin sees him wearing the highly visible Postmaster's Hat after the post office has closed.

    • One episode of Law And Order had a child hitman severely injure one child and kill a toddler because the drug dealer who gave him his orders wrote the address down and the kid couldn't read. He went to a poor tenement on Jackson street instead of a ritzy high rise on Jefferson.
  • July 11, 2013
    XFllo
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=6671rmtsxzshsgxj8bcj74h2