Created By: Quatic on December 27, 2014 Last Edited By: jormis29 on March 23, 2017
Troped

Hastily Hidden MacGuffin

Action revolves around the search for something initially hastily hidden in some innocuous object.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
A thief or smuggler is carrying some valuable thing, and the authorities are closing in. The thief cannot be caught in possession of the item, and clearly has not planned for this eventuality in advance.

In a moment of inspiration, the carrier hides the item in some handy nearby location, inside a cheap vase or a teddy bear or somebody else's suitcase — and the whole rest of the story revolves around the interested parties trying to find or get back to the thing wherever it happens to have been hidden.

The MacGuffin might even have been hidden in one of a dozen identical trinkets, forcing seekers to hunt down all of them until they find the right one.


Examples:

Comic Book
  • Usagi Yojimbo In the "A Potter's Tale" issue, a thief slips into a pottery workshop while on the run and hides a valuable gem in the wet clay of one of the bowls. So he knows which one contains the gem, he pinches the rim to make it stand out. Unfortunately for the thief, the potter sees the difference, likes the addition and does the same to all his bowls. The thief desperately buys all the bowls and smashes them to find the gem but the potter had already unknowingly given the bowl containing the gem back to the man that the thief stole it from as part of a business deal. Then thief's partners come looking for their share of the loot...

Film
  • In Blue Streak, Martin Lawrence's character stuffed a stolen diamond into ductwork in a building under construction. The building turned out to be a police station, and the character had to pretend to be a cop to have a chance to search for the diamond.
  • French Kiss has the thief hide his stolen necklace and contraband grape vineling in the girl's luggage, and he then has to pursue her until he recovers them.
  • In Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, a pair of thieves steal a famous diamond and ends up hiding it in Herbie's gas tank. Cue hijinks as Herbie and its drivers get chased without knowing why.
  • In Home Alone 3. the MacGuffin is a stolen computer chip which the villains hid in a remote control car. After a mixup, the protagonist's neighbour ends up with it and gives it to him as payment for shovelling her drive.
  • The Sherlock Holmes film The Pearl of Death is based on "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons," except that the Creeper is sent to kill the owners of the busts, then break all the owner's dishware to disguise the fact that they're just interested in the Napoleon.

Literature
  • Sherlock Holmes stories dipped in this well more than once. In The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, a stolen pearl is hastily hidden in a plaster bust of Napoleon — one of a set of six, which are then sold to various customers, forcing the thief to seek out and smash them all. In The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle a stolen gem is hidden by being force-fed to a live goose.
  • In the third book of the Eddie Dickens Trilogy, the villain hides the priceless Dog-Bone Diamond inside Malcolm, the stuffed stoat of Eddie's insane Aunt Maud. By the third book, Eddie has gotten so used to Maud being insane (and insisting that Malcolm is alive) that he no longer listens to her (especially when she claims that Malcolm is putting on weight and getting sick). In other words, Malcolm is so familiar to Eddie as to be invisible.
  • John le Carré's spy thriller Smiley's People has Estonian ex-patriate General Vladimir contact retired British Intelligence agent George Smiley about a "legend" operation being conducted by Soviet mastermind Karla. "I have two proofs, and can bring them with me." The General is murdered before he meets with Smiley. However, Smiley deduces from the General's footprints in the snow that the victim paused in his flight to jettison something toward a municipal park. There, Smiley finds a pack of cigarettes in a tree, which contains two compromising photo negatives.
  • The entire plot of The Twelve Chairs is built on that. Madame Petukhova, an Imperial Russian noblewoman, hid her collection of jewelry in a chair during the Revolution of 1917, to prevent the revolutionaries from confiscating them. Years later, her son-in-law Ippolit Vorobyaninoff learns about that from Madame on her deathbed, and starts to look for that chair. As you can guess from the title, there are eleven more chairs looking exactly like that one.

Live-Action TV
  • Get Smart: Max has to smuggle some plans hidden in a tooth cap in the "The Whole Tooth and..." episode and when he is nearly caught by KAOS agents, he puts it on the tooth of sleeping man at a train station. After he and 99 take care of the agents they discover the man was a convict being transported to prison and spend the rest of the episode trying to get in and retrieve the plans.
  • Monk: Some men break into Natalie's house in the "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring" episode that show an unusual interest in Julie's aquarium. Turns out they had stolen a million-dollar moonrock from a museum but could not get it out because the guards were searching everyone so they put it in one of the aquarium kits in the gift shop. When they returned to retrieve the rock, they found that Julie had bought the kit.

Tabletop Games
  • Shadowrun supplement Portfolio of a Dragon: Dunkelzahn's Secrets. According to the dragon Dunkelzahn's will the Russian crown jewels were smuggled out of the country after the Russian Revolution inside one of the nine spinet pianos from the royal palace.

Western Animation
  • In an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, a thief loses a jewel he stole in a cereal factory and looks frantically for the box where it fell. He finally finds the box with the jewel inside, only it's now in the possession of the girls.

Real Life
  • Ken Krippene's Buried Treasure. After a German thief named Klaus Gudden acquired a pair of priceless rubies he decided to hide them. He went to a ceramic factory and purchased an unfired clay cat sculpture. He inserted the rubies into the sculpture, put a small X on it to identify it and left it to be baked. When he returned for it the police closed in and killed him when he tried to escape. The police didn't know what he had been up to and the sculpture was eventually sent to the U.S. to be sold.


Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • December 27, 2014
    jormis29
    • Examples section formatting
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
      • Added the word Examples:.
      • Sorted into media sections.
      • Namespaced and italicized work names.

  • December 27, 2014
    jormis29
    Comic Book
    • Usagi Yojimbo In the "A Potter's Tale" issue, a thief slips into the workshop while on the run and hides a valuable gem in the wet clay of one of the bowls. So he knows which one contains the gem, he pinches the rim to make it stand out. Unfortunately for the thief, the potter sees the difference, likes the addition and does the same to all his bowls. The thief desperately buys all the bowls but the potter had already unkowningly given the bowl containing the gem back to the man the thief stole it from as part of a business deal. Then thief's partners come looking for their share of the loot...

    Live Action TV
    • Get Smart: Max has to smuggle some plans hidden in a tooth cap in the "The Whole Tooth and..." episode and when he is nearly caught by KAOS agents, he puts it on the tooth of sleeping man at a train station. After he and 99 take care of the agents they discover the man was a convict being transported to prison and spend the rest of the episode trying to get in and retrieve the plans.
    • Monk: Some men break into Natalie's house in the "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring" episode that show an unusual interest in Julie's aquarium. Turns out they had stolen a million-dollar moonrock from a museum but could not get it out because the guards were searching everyone so they put it in one of the aquarium kits in the gift shop. When they returned to retrieve the rock, they found that Julie had bought the kit.
  • December 27, 2014
    HeroGal2347
    Don't know if this counts, but in one Encyclopedia Brown story, Encyclopedia has to find a sandwich that one of his customers hid in some of the merchandise (to prevent his coworker from eating it).
  • December 27, 2014
    TunaSafe
    In the third book of the Eddie Dickens Trilogy, the villain hides the priceless Dog-Bone Diamond inside Malcolm, the stuffed stoat of Eddie's insane Aunt Maud. By the third book, Eddie has gotten so used to Maud being insane (and insisting that Malcolm is alive) that he no longer listens to her (especially when she claims that Malcolm is putting on weight and getting sick). In other words, Malcolm is so familiar to Eddie as to be invisible.
  • December 27, 2014
    troacctid
    • Eragon begins with Arya teleporting a dragon egg to the Spine when Galbatorix's agents find her. Eragon finds the egg, kicking off his Heros Journey.
  • December 28, 2014
    Quatic
    ^^^ Hero Gal 2347 What's in the sandwich? Is this a hasty hiding?

    ^ troacctid Was the egg hidden inside something? It sounds like it was just hastily teleported away.
  • December 28, 2014
    GoldenDarkness
    In Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, a pair of thieves steal a famous diamond and ends up hiding it in Herbie's gas tank. Cue hijinks as Herbie and its drivers get chased without knowing why.
  • January 22, 2015
    HeroGal2347
    ^^ I'm not sure how hasty it was. The guy in question has to hide his lunch every week. And there's nothing in the sandwich; the sandwich itself would be the Mac Guffin. He hid it in one of the clothing boxes on the floor where he works.
  • January 23, 2015
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Shadowrun supplement Portfolio of a Dragon: Dunkelzahn's Secrets. According to the dragon Dunkelzahn's will the Russian crown jewels were smuggled out of the country after the Russian Revolution inside one of the nine spinet pianos from the royal palace.

    Real Life
    • Ken Krippene's Buried Treasure. After a German thief named Klaus Gudden acquired a pair of priceless rubies he decided to hide them. He went to a ceramic factory and purchased an unfired clay cat sculpture. He inserted the rubies into the sculpture, put a small X on it to identify it and left it to be baked. When he returned for it the police closed in and killed him when he tried to escape. The police didn't know what he had been up to and the sculpture was eventually sent to the U.S. to be sold.
  • January 23, 2015
    Bisected8
    • In Home Alone 3. the Mac Guffin is a stolen computer chip which the villains hid in a remote control car. After a mixup, the protagonist's neighbour ends up with it and gives it to him as payment for shovelling her drive.
  • January 23, 2015
    TonyG
    In an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, a thief loses a jewel he stole in a cereal factory and looks frantically for the box where it fell. He finally finds the box with the jewel inside, only it's now in the possession of the girls.
  • January 24, 2015
    randomsurfer
    The Sherlock Holmes film The Pearl of Death is based on "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons," except that the Creeper is sent to kill the owners of the busts, then break all the owner's dishware to disguise the fact that they're just interested in the Napoleon.
  • January 26, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Literature
    • John Le Carre's spy thriller Smileys People has Estonian ex-patriate General Vladimir contact retired British Intelligence agent George Smiley about a "legend" operation being conducted by Soviet mastermind Karla. "I have two proofs, and can bring them with me." The General is murdered before he meets with Smiley. However, Smiley deduces from the General's footprints in the snow that the victim paused in his flight to jettison something toward a municipal park. There, Smiley finds a pack of cigarettes in a tree, which contains two compromising photo negatives.
  • January 28, 2015
    aurora369
    The entire plot of The Twelve Chairs is built on that. Madame Petukhova, an Imperial Russian noblewoman, hid her collection of jewelry in a chair during the Revolution of 1917, to prevent the revolutionaries from confiscating them. Years later, her son-in-law Ippolit Vorobyaninoff learns about that from Madame on her deathbed, and starts to look for that chair. As you can guess from the title, there are eleven more chairs looking exactly like that one.
  • January 29, 2015
    randomsurfer
    Most Personal Box would be a subtrope.
  • April 23, 2015
    Quatic
    @randomsurfer I don't think it would; if somebody hastily hides something there, there's not going to be a feature-long hunt for them to find the hiding place.
  • October 24, 2015
    eroock
    Film:
    • In Wait Until Dark, the Mac Guffin is a heroin-stuffed doll which a young woman tries to smuggle on a plane from Montreal to New York. On arrival she notices a criminal waiting for her at the arrival zone whom she hasn't expected. She senses trouble and quickly hands the doll to an unwitting stranger she met on the plane who then carries it home with good intent. The plot revolves around the criminal and his two partners trying to get the doll back from this man's apartment.
  • October 26, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • Much of the suspense in Enemy Of The State hinges around a wildlife researcher's video recorder that captured NSA Chief Reynolds killing a congressman who opposed Reynolds' Stalinist domestic surveillance program. The wildlife researcher sees what's been recorded, and runs for his life from pursuing agents. He's able to dump the video into the shopping bag of labor lawyer Robert Dean before being killed. Later, the magic Enhance Button is able to determine that Dean now holds the incriminating video.
  • October 26, 2015
    randomsurfer
    The Twelve Chairs should be listed under Literature (or possibly film) not Live Action TV.
  • October 26, 2015
    eroock
  • October 26, 2015
    Chabal2
    Blake And Mortimer: In the second book, Mortimer is held prisoner by the Yellow Empire, but manages to hide the Swordfish plans in a pyramid-shaped rock formation before he's captured. Much of the plot revolves around his trying to get the plan's location to the resistance, eventually getting it across in code. Blake is able to decypher it and get the plans to the resistance before they go rescue Mortimer.
  • November 18, 2015
    eroock
    Film:
    • In The Circus, a pickpocketer steals a wallet and a watch from a man in the crowd. Suddenly the victim turns around and charges the thief who then shoves the valuables unnoticed into the pocket of the Tramp behind him. Hilarity Ensues when the thief later goes after the Tramp to get his loot back.
  • November 19, 2015
    jormis29
    Fixed some minor grammar problems
  • November 19, 2015
    Chernoskill
    Film
    • Done with a twist in Innerspace, when the scientist carrying the capsule containing the miniaturization technology is inserted into the unsuspecting grocery clerk Jack Putter after the researcher is fatally shot.
  • November 19, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    • The Widow Of Desire downplays this. In the last third, Natalie discovers that her husband was murdered because he had tapes of a conspiracy in the USSR to overthrow Gorbachev's government. He hid the recordings on magnetic thread within a Russian lynx coat he bought Natalie. After she finds it she then hides the tape within one of the pelts in a fur auction, so the KGB doesn't find it, but she nearly loses it when she's outbid at the auction, and has to convince a business associate to buy the lot.
  • November 19, 2015
    eroock
    ^^ This is currently listed under Im Dying Please Take My Mac Guffin where it fits better.
  • March 23, 2017
    eroock
    TV:
    • Sherlock's episode "The Six Thatchers" is based on the original Sherlock Holmes short story "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons". In this retelling, an operation of a freelance task force called A.G.R.A. is foiled and while on the run, one of the members tries to hide his USB stick with sensitive data. He winds up in a pottery and hides the memory stick in one of six freshly made busts of Margaret Thatcher. Then he gets arrested. Years later, the man goes around stealing all identical busts in hope to find his memory stick. Sherlock puts an end to this.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=l8uzteh0q5j5c4c02bjuu4r7