Created By: Larkmarn on January 11, 2013 Last Edited By: Larkmarn on February 8, 2013
Troped

Undercover When Alone

When The Mole maintains his cover even when he's alone.

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Undercover When Alone is what happens when, in order to maintain the surprise for the audience, a character continues a facade of some sort even when there is no one to see them. The only explanation is that he did it to trick the audience (or because the writers didn't know he was the mole yet as they hadn't written that far ahead). This frequently occurs when a character is The Mole and finding out who The Mole is is a significant part of the plot.

Note that this doesn't necessarily have to involve The Mole, but any situation where a character is hiding something from the rest of the cast. Maybe he's simply got a secret, or is planning a birthday party, or is a serial killer. As long as the audience isn't supposed to know, and he acted like the secret wasn't the case when there was no one to fool but the audience, it counts.

A form of Red Herring and the opposite of Foreshadowing. Often a sign of a Shocking Swerve. Contrast Revealing Hug, where Bob reveals himself to the audience even when there are other characters present, as well as Manchurian Agent, where the character does this because he doesn't realize he is the mole.

NOTE: Since this trope deals with betrayals, this page will contain spoilers.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Naruto, Tobi puts on the happy go lucky Tobi persona even when he's far away from his partner Deidara when he's forced to flee.
  • Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena, full stop, not only does she fools Utena and the Student Council, but to Akio himself, whom she has absolutely nothing to hide from gets fed up by her constant facade at one point. Every time she is shown alone she act the exact same way, at some point she is in her bed wondering why she's been so tired lately when she has been acting as Mamiya with Mikage resulting in double "work" for her and there was absolutely no one with her, no Utena not even Chu-chu.
  • Finn from Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne does this. Especially jarring when she gives her monologues about the evil of Access and Sinbad while being The Mole all along.
  • This begins to happen to Lady Une when her Saint Une persona seeps into her personal time in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, but is a sign that she is Becoming the Mask.

Film
  • Bruce Willis/Hallie Barry thriller Perfect Stranger, Hallie Berry's character is snooping around Bruce Willis' apartment looking for evidence of who the killer is (unbeknownst to the audience, it's her). When she finds evidence that seems to indicate that it's Willis' character, she becomes visibly scared.

Literature

LiveActionTelevision
  • In Angel, Knox acts puzzled when a large sarcophagus gets delivered to his lab. Turns out he not only knew it was coming, he ordered it, for it contained the essence of his god.
  • The Reveal that Boyd was the head of the Rossum Corporation in Dollhouse creates several examples of this. In an interesting variation, one example had him stay in character for a Doll in a Flash Forward... whose mind he would soon wipe anyway. This is an example of the writers not having decided that he was The Mole yet, which led to internal inconsistencies with the flash forwards.
  • In season 2 of Dexter, Maria Laguerta is scheming to get her superior fired by pretending to be her friend when she's having marital difficulties. However, when a fight between her superior and her fiance occurs while Laguerta is in the office, Laguerta curses to herself (before shes spotted by them). Given the later reveal that she orchestrated the fights between the two, this was perfectly according to her plan.
  • The Gossip Girl finale revealed that Dan Humphrey had been running the gossip blog through the entire series. This means that whenever he reacted to a shocking Gossip Girl blast while alone, he was just reacting to something he himself posted.
  • In the first season of 24, Nina sniffs out a fake FBI agent at the hospital, tries to get his fingerprints but fails, and then takes Teri and Kim out of the hospital to a safehouse. In the finale, Nina is revealed to be a mole working for the bad guys. No one else noticed the fake FBI agent, so there was no one for her to impress.

VideoGames
  • One of the Player Characters in Heavy Rain is so good at concealing said character's real intentions that you cannot guess them even if you overhear said character's private thoughts.

Web Comics
  • The Last Daysof FOXHOUND, a comic starring the Quirky Mini Boss Squad from the first Metal Gear Solid, essentially had to do a retcon to turn Ocelot, the series' Magnificent Bastard, into this. Early in the comic's run, Ocelot was clueless about the Patriots, and while dangerous, was on occasion easily overpowered by his psychic/psycho teammate Mantis. Then Metal Gear Solid 3 came out during the comic's run and revealed that Ocelot had been working for the Patriots since at least the 60s. The comic's creator Chris Doucette had to change everything into Ocelot pretending that he knew less than he did in order to become The Mole to multiple sides on behalf of the Patriots.

WesternAnimation
  • Many of the fake ghosts and monsters in Scooby-Doo remain in character when alone, even though it is of no possible advantage for them to do so.
  • In an episode of Archer, ISIS is being infiltrated by an enemy agent going by Conway Stern. At one point when he believes himself to be alone, he mutters to himself "Conway, what have you gotten yourself into?" His last line in the episode was, in fact, him saying that it was not his real name.
Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • January 11, 2013
    ImaHugeMoron
    Maybe it should be called "What You Are Not in the Dark", since it's about refusing to break the masquerade even when there's no way anyone will know (most of the time), though I don't know if to that other trope.
  • January 11, 2013
    Larkmarn
    That's a pretty good idea... I need to remember more examples. I've seen it a hundred times, but I'm coming up blank except for these few... I know there are more.
  • January 11, 2013
    Koveras
    • One of the Player Characters in Heavy Rain is so good at concealing said character's real intentions that you cannot guess them even if you overhear said character's private thoughts.
    • Renata Kleber, a.k.a. Marie Sanfon in Murder on the Leviathan is a master of disguise who doesn't drop the act even in private and even in chapters told from her POV.
  • January 11, 2013
    Lacey
    • The Gossip Girl finale revealed that Dan Humphrey had been running the gossip blog through the entire series. This means that whenever he reacted to a shocking Gossip Girl blast while alone, he was just reacting to something he himself posted.
  • January 11, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Thanks, added examples.

    Any other thoughts on names? Tropability? Description? I'm open to feedback. What You Are Not In The Dark is great thematically, but more than a little bit awkward.
  • January 11, 2013
    Desertopa
    I don't understand the Perfect Strangers example. Is Halle Berry's character the real killer? If not, how is it an example? Fear isn't just an act people put on for others.
  • January 11, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Ah, good point. Yes, she is. Added a clarification.
  • January 11, 2013
    SKJAM
    More of a Wild Mass Guessing thing, but perhaps she has the momentary reaction, "Wait, how can he be the killer, I'm the killer!" and the fear is because her own memory is called into question.

    This can be especially annoying in comic books when we've seen the Mole's thought balloons--if the writer remembers, they might throw in a "brainwashed to fool telepaths" mention, but usually you're just supposed to forget the counterclues.
  • January 13, 2013
    peccantis
    So tempted to call this IC 247 but, yeah :P
  • January 16, 2013
    Larkmarn
    @ peccantis: What?
  • January 16, 2013
    MokonaZero
    In Naruto Tobi puts on the happy go lucky Tobi persona even when he's far away from Deidara when he's forced to flee.
  • January 16, 2013
    MokonaZero
    For a title, how about: Acting With No Audience?
  • January 16, 2013
    Larkmarn
    My issue with that is that there is an audience... the viewer.
  • January 16, 2013
    MokonaZero
    In that case, how about: Mole,Even When Alone?
  • January 17, 2013
    randomsurfer
    ^^^^^"In Character 24 hours a day 7 days a week."

    Can sometimes be a result of that trope where the work is being written as it's being produced (filmed if it's a film/tv show, published if it's a book, etc.), so nobody including the actor or writer knows that he's the bad guy until the Reveal.
  • January 17, 2013
    gallium
    • In the first season of 24, Nina sniffs out a fake FBI agent at the hospital, tries to get his fingerprints but fails, and then takes Teri and Kim out of the hospital to a safehouse. In the finale, Nina is revealed to be a mole working for the bad guys. No one else noticed the fake FBI agent, so there was no one for her to impress.
  • January 17, 2013
    ArtFever
  • January 17, 2013
    Larkmarn
    That makes it sound like someone's a mole for only 24 hours to me.

    Still A Mole In The Dark?
  • January 17, 2013
    Protar
    In A Song of Ice and Fire, Littlefinger suggests staying in character at all times, just in case someone walks in, or is eavesdropping.
  • January 23, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Any more name suggestions? I actually think In Character When Alone is best one we've currently got, but it's not quite perfect. Thoughts?
  • January 23, 2013
    TheWanderer
    • The Last Daysof FOXHOUND, a comic starring the Quirky Mini Boss Squad from the first Metal Gear Solid, essentially had to do a retcon to turn Ocelot, the series' Magnificent Bastard, into this. Early in the comic's run, Ocelot was clueless about the Patriots, and while dangerous, was on occasion easily overpowered by his psychic/psycho teammate Mantis. Then Metal Gear Solid 3 came out during the comic's run and revealed that Ocelot had been working for the Patriots since at least the 60s. The comic's creator Chris Doucette had to change everything into Ocelot pretending that he knew less than he did in order to become The Mole to multiple sides on behalf of the Patriots.
  • January 23, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
  • January 23, 2013
    JoeG
    • Many of the fake ghosts and monsters in Scooby Doo remain in character when alone, even though it is of no possible advantage for them to do so.
  • January 25, 2013
    captainpat
    Please rewrite the description without the bob scenario. That's an Example As A Thesis. You don't need an example in your trope description when you have an example section right below it.

  • January 31, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Bump.
  • January 31, 2013
    RoseBride
    Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena, full stop, not only does she fools Utena and the Student Council, but to Akio himself, whom she has absolutly nothing to hide from gets fed up by her constant facade at one point, every time she is shown alone she act the exact same way, at some point she is in her bed wondering why she's been so tired lately when she has been acting as Mamiya with Mikage resulting in double "work" for her and there was absolutly no one with her, no Utena not even Chu-chu.
  • February 1, 2013
    Wutaz
    Name idea: Can't Break Character
  • February 5, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Seems too much like an extreme method actor... then again the current title isn't much better, in that regard. I'm not enamored with it, but I still think it's the best title so far. Anyone disagree?
  • February 5, 2013
    Damr1990
    Compare/contrast Manchurian Agent for when the mole doesn't know he's the mole because of Brainwashing
  • February 5, 2013
    erehwonmorf
    Fin from Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne does this. Especially jarring when she is monologueing (is that a word? it has to be a word.) about the evil of Access and Sinbad.
  • February 6, 2013
    Cassis
    The current title really is nonindicative--I wouldn't have guessed it was about The Mole without the laconic. I think bulmabriefs was on to something with a combination of The Mole and What You Are In The Dark. A Mole in the Dark? A Mole Lives in the Dark? Under Cover in the Dark?
  • February 7, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Of those, A Mole In The Dark is my favorite.

    Undercover When Alone? (I think this is my favorite one, now that I think about it)
  • February 8, 2013
    Larkmarn
    One last bump for suggestions or examples, I think I'm going to launch this.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=jycd91mv10moz2x6immwvmbe