Created By: Micah on June 8, 2011 Last Edited By: MysticKenji on June 14, 2011
Troped

Overt Rendezvous

Covert meetings happen in public.

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Trope
Nobody will notice us here!

Paradoxically, the best way to hide a secret meeting is often to hold it somewhere extremely public. Locations like this can be selected to be unpredictable to anyone who you might want to avoid, are almost certainly bug-free, and can provide a layer of plausible deniability when the people in question aren't supposed to be meeting each other at all.

The classic situation where this occurs is meetings between members of two different secret government agencies; in that case they're not only dodging eavesdroppers, they're also making it more difficult for either agency's goons to do anything untoward.

Stock locations for this kind of meeting include:
  • A park bench.
  • On the banks of a river, downstream from a bridge.
  • In a noisy Italian restaurant.

Of course, while this kind of meeting decreases the odds of being noticed by the specific people you're trying to avoid, it substantially increases the odds that your conversation will be overheard by random passers-by. This is generally glossed over, though sometimes it's nodded at by selecting an exceptionally loud meeting place.
Anime and Manga
  • In The Big O, Roger always met with his street informant Big Ear in a bar.
  • There's an interesting example of this in Death Note. Misa is trying to find Light, so she sends a diary page to the task force saying that they should "show off their notebooks in Aoyama" on a certain day. On that day, Light goes to Aoyama with Matsuda and meets friends whom he hangs out with expecting to perform this trope. Misa, however, finds him first and leaves before he can see her.

Film -- Live Action
  • Lampshaded in Hot Shots!, where a conspirator mentions that he finds public places to be the best place to have secret meetings. While they're at a boxing match.
  • Parodied in the made-for-TV movie Two on a Bench, which is about two people who strike up a conversation on a park bench and are consequently Mistaken for Spies.
  • James Bond
  • In Fatal Instinct, a woman meets with her lover in a park to plot the death of her husband.
  • In The Departed, whenever state police Queenan and Dignam need to chat with Costigan, their mole in the mob, they meet him in some park/riverbank area. This worries Costign, because if anyone sees him with them, he's pretty much dead.

Literature
  • There's a duck pond in Good Omens which is specifically the place in London where spies from different agencies (and Crowley and Aziraphale) go to meet.

Live-Action TV
  • In The Sandbaggers, most of Burnside's meetings with his American counterpart Jeff Ross happen while strolling in the park.
  • Stargate SG-1 has a few examples.
    • General Hammond has a park meeting with one of his contacts who's so paranoid that he refuses to talk even while they're sitting on a park bench; they have to be actually walking before he'll say anything.
    • Sam and her NID contact Malcolm Barrett first meet in his office, where he vocally denies having any interest in what she has to say while passing him a note that says to meet in the park instead.
  • In "Spies Five", an unaired sketch from A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Tony and Control meet on a park bench because there's a mole in their department.
  • Subverted in 30 Rock. Jack meets Lenny, a private investigator played by Steve Buscemi, along the banks of the river, in view of the Queensborough Bridge. Lenny thanks Jack for driving out there, Jack says he doesn't mind because discretion is important. Lenny replies "Also, my gym is right over there."
  • Spooks: In seasons one and two, the characters frequently have meetings on the benches across from the Houses of Parliament.

Tabletop Games
  • Shadowrun.
    • In The Neo-Anarchists' Guide to Real Life it was recommended that runners meet with their Mr. Johnson (employer) at a public place such as a McHugh's restaurant.
    • Many of the adventures published for the game had runners meeting with their Mr. Johnson in public places such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: When Homer is forced into working for the feds he meets his handler in a public park.

Index: Espionage Tropes

Wick count: sufficient.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • June 8, 2011
    hotrods4ben
    Are you sure this should just be limited to parks? I realize parks are a common place for this, but maybe it should be spy meetings in overly public areas in general. Overt Rendezvous, etc.?
  • June 8, 2011
    kentdyson88
    I agree with renaming it Overt Rendezvous since it can happen in places besides parks and of course not just with spies
  • June 8, 2011
    Micah
    Fair enough. Done.
  • June 8, 2011
    AFP
    Another reason for meeting in a very public place might be that the two don't entirely trust each other, and want to make sure they are in full public view so that there will be less opportunity for anything untoward to happen to them.

    • Lampshaded in Hot Shots, where a conspirator mentions that he finds public places to be the best place to have secret meetings. While they're at a boxing match.
  • June 8, 2011
    daijoubu
    Does it have to be only secret organizations? We often see two characters, organization-free, having very private/secret meetings in very public places. See: everyone in General Hospital has secret meetings at Kelly's (the local diner), The Docks (which everyone has to walk by to get to work) and the Hospital (it's in the show's friggin' name).
  • June 8, 2011
    Micah
    Are the General Hospital people choosing to meet in public because it's paradoxically a better way of keeping secrets, or is just that The First Law Of Sitcom Acoustics means there's no reason for them not to? I could buy expanding the trope to include the first one, but not the second.
  • June 8, 2011
    daijoubu
    It sometimes falls into sitcom acoustics, but oftentimes it's because meeting in a public place seems less suspicious for people who don't travel in the same social circles or are actively known to dislike each other. I.E. if characters A and B don't see each other socially and need to talk about a hideous secret they are covering up, it's less suspicious for the two of them to run across each other at the hospital than to go to one another's offices, and both feel more comfortable meeting on neutral turf. I can think of similar situations occurring in Gossip Girl, Roswell...any show where two people who don't belong to the same social circle have to cover up a secret, really.
  • June 8, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In You Only Live Twice Tiger Tanaka discusses this with James Bond, saying that the British hold secret meetings in a private place and asians do in public so they can't be snuck up on. (Or something like that, it's been a while. It Makes Sense In Context.)
  • June 8, 2011
    Arivne
    Anime and Manga
    • In The Big O, Roger always met with his street informant Big Ear in a bar.

    Film

    Tabletop RPG
    • Shadowrun.
      • In The Neo-Anarchists' Guide to Real Life it was recommended that runners meet with their Mr. Johnson (employer) at a public place such as a McHugh's restaurant.
      • Many of the adventures published for the game had runners meeting with their Mr. Johnson in public places such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
  • June 9, 2011
    LarryD
    Bars and other noisy places are often picked to reduce the overhearing issue.

    Would Gibbs use of the elevator be an aversion or subversion?
  • June 9, 2011
    jaytee
    I feel like "on the banks of a river, downstream from a bridge" is a really common place for these. See: The Departed, when Leo and Martin Sheen need to meet, 30Rock, when Jack needs to meet a PI, etc.
  • June 10, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The Simpsons: when Homer is forced into working for the feds he meets his handler in a public park.
  • June 11, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • In Fatal Instinct a woman meets with her lover in a park to plot the death of her husband.
  • June 12, 2011
    cocoy0
    Look in Italian restaurants.
  • June 12, 2011
    Micah
    This has enough examples to be launchable now. More detail about 30 Rock, The Departed, General Hospital, Gossip Girl, and Roswell examples would be good.

    Any further comments on the name or definition?
  • June 13, 2011
    jaytee
    • Whenever Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg's state police characters in The Departed need to chat with Leonardo Di Caprio, their mole in the mob, they meet him in some park/riverbank area. This worries Leo, because if anyone saw him there, he's pretty much dead.

    • Subverted in {{30 Rock}}. Jack meets Lenny, a private investigator played by Steve Buscemi, along the banks of the river, in view of the Queensborough Bridge. Lenny thanks Jack for driving out there, Jack says he doesn't mind because discretion is important. Lenny replies "Also, my gym is right over there."
  • June 13, 2011
    jodabomb24
    There's an interesting example of this in Death Note. Misa is trying to find Light, so she sends a diary page to the task force saying that they should "show off their notebooks in Aoyama" on a certain day. On that day, Light goes to Aoyama with Matsuda and meets friends whom he hangs out with expecting to perform this trope. Misa, however, finds him first and leaves before he can see her.
  • June 13, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    some caption text

    • Spooks -In seasons one and two, the characters frequently had meetings on the benches across from the Houses of Parliament.

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