Created By: witchdoctor on March 14, 2010

Totally Not A Spy

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This is where a spy will try to reinforce his disguise by explaining the dangers of a spy being among the group. He will often go into such detail that there's no doubt in the audience's mind who the spy is but most of the time the people he is talking to will be oblivious. In fact the opposite will often occur where someone will exclaim that he knows everyone and there's no possible way there is a spy present.

Often used by a Villain to invoke Spot the Impostor to create paranoia and/or gain a character's trust. Not to be confused with Most Definitely Not a Villain as this ruse is generally well thought out and only Genre Savvy allows the audience to see through it.


  • Used in Breach when Robert Hanssen, based on the real life FBI Agent convicted of being a Soviet spy, who is part of the team looking for The Mole. A bit of Truth in Television as the real Hanssen hacked into a fellow agent's computer and produced secret files which he present to the person who's computer he hacked. It was later theorized he did this to cover his tracks when he hacked the computer to see if he was suspected as a spy.

  • In the books of The Witcher series a vampire participated in a small talk about vampires. He even recommended some "folk remedies". Including garlic (which he ate at the moment). Of course, in his case it was more fun than precaution: greater vampires of that world are Nigh Invulnerable and before this incident he once was dismembered and buried in several places for a few years, then "got better" anyway.

Live-Action TV
  • Burn Notice: In one episode Michael Weston iss doing some spy-hunting for a client until he realized the client was a bad guy. So he decides to become the actual mole, and then keeps the client's paranoia high by telling him all the things the spy could do to him.
  • The Whitest Kids U' Know: In the sketch "It's Illegal to Say" this trope is invoked. It quickly becomes clear that the message telling the audience that it's illegal to say you want to kill the President is a cover for describing a plan to kill the President with a mortar launcher.

Web Original
  • Subverted in the Meet The Spy video for TeamFortress2. Incorrectly invoked by the Blu Soldier at the end of the Blu Spy's expositional speech. Soldier lampshades it when questioned by saying, "What? It was obvious!" Too bad he was wrong.

Real Life
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • February 10, 2010
    Could this be related to Sarcastic Confession?
  • February 10, 2010
    In a sense though in this case the information is revealed not because someone is close to figuring it out but because doing so would create mistrust and this makes the Villain's job much easier.
  • February 10, 2010
    So... this is basically like when a murderer takes charge and pretend to be trying to solve the crime (or help solve the crime) in order to make the guests accuse each other rather than focus on the detective, who obviously couldn't be the one who did it... right?

    After all, "if I was the murderer why would I tell you why I did it?"

    For example, someone who says something like: "but the murderer could be anyone!" seems less suspicious, so the murderer uses that sort of statement to elude suspicion.
  • February 10, 2010
    Yes, exactly. You seem to be suggesting we expand the trope to include anyone who attempts to "solve" a crime in order to avoid suspicion. Would that make this trope to broad or no?
  • February 10, 2010
    I'm not exactly sure how this fits but in the movie Breach, which is based on the true story of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, Hanssen was part of the team who was looking for The Mole, who was himself. Also, during the movie he points out often how lax the FBI security is, that a spy could easily gain unauthorized access to the FBI computers and how the bosses won't let him fix it.

    In Real Life, he hacked into the computer of a fellow FBI agent, Ray Mislock, printed out a classified document from Mislock's computer, and brought the document to Mislock, saying, "You didn't believe me that the system was insecure." FBI officials believed him when he told them that he was merely demonstrating flaws in the FBI's security system. Mislock later theorized that Hanssen went into Mislock's computer to see if the FBI was investigating him, and invented the document story to cover his tracks.

    Left open is exactly how conflicted Hanssen was, whether or not he really was upset at the stupidity (as he saw it) of the FBI in not preventing people like himself from exploiting the system. The movie hints that he was rather angry that the FBI wouldn't listen to his pointing out the flaws.
  • February 11, 2010
    random surfer
  • February 11, 2010
    Could be a subtrope except that the speaker doesn't in fact deny anything but instead avoids suspicion by admitting everything and just implying that the guilty party is someone else.
  • February 12, 2010
    Suspiciously Specific Sidetracking?
  • February 13, 2010
    No link to Most Definitely Not A Villain ? Shame on you.
  • February 13, 2010
    • There was an episode of Burn Notice where Michael Weston was doing some spy-hunting for a client until he realized the client was a bad guy. So he decided to become the actual mole, and then kept the client's paranoia high by telling him all the things the spy could do to him.
  • February 14, 2010
    If i understood it correctly, it falls somewhere between Suspiciously Specific Denial and I Never Said It Was Poison (but usually without being caught).

    Another thought: call it Suspiciously Specific Suspicions and broaden to include things like cheating spouses suspecting each other in using the same tactics or settings they used (seen it Played For Laughs... well, not a million times, but at least twice). The other variant of course is invoking it for "Good Is Dumb" cause, in an attempt to summon I Never Said It Was Poison from the thin air.
  • February 14, 2010
    @T Beholder: Well, if you can give examples for the broadening and variant I have no problem with changing the scope of the proposed trope.
  • February 14, 2010
    Seen It A Million Times, but the only literature one i remember for sure was on Russian and isn't likely to be translated.

    But here's supposedly Real Life example: "...I know how it works!"
  • February 21, 2010
    • In one book of The Witcher series a vampire participated in small talk about vampires. He even recommended some "folk remedies". Including garlic and silver, slightest touch of which is supposed to be absolutely lethal to vampires (while eating from a silver fork and waving it around to underline his point). Of course, in his case it was more fun than precaution: higher vampires of that world are Nigh Invulnerable -- once before this incident he was decapitated, staked through the heart, sprinkled with holy water and buried in several places, and regenerated (in fifty years or so).

    ed: memoria fractalia est. fixed.
  • February 22, 2010
    Not to be confused or compared with Totally Spies.
  • February 27, 2010
    So how to call it?
  • March 1, 2010
  • March 14, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Team Fortress Two's Meet The Spy has the Soldier kill the RED Spy, possibly because of this trope. Unfortunately, he was wrong. Dead wrong.