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Actually, I Am Him

Ben Kenobi: Obi-Wan Kenobi? Now that's a name I haven't heard in a long time.
Luke: I think my uncle knows him. He said he was dead.
Ben Kenobi: Oh, he's not dead. Not yet.
Luke: You know him?
Ben Kenobi: Well of course I know him! He's me!

A character, usually the protagonist, is looking for someone, often an older, wiser character. During the search, he meets a stranger, and the conversation turns to the sought-after character. The stranger will typically either respond, "Oh, I know him well..." or else act as if he's never heard of the person. Either way, in time it is revealed that this stranger is the sought-after character.

Often, the stranger is playing dumb about their true identity in order to assess the searcher's character and intentions, the idea being that the searcher's behavior will be more genuine in the presence of someone they perceive to be just an ordinary stranger. This can lead to a painful lesson for the searcher once he learns the truth about the stranger, making this a favorite form of introduction among Trickster Mentors.

It still satisfies this trope if the person tells the searcher straight-out, without pussyfooting around or playing games, who he is, as in the opening Star Wars quote.

Further confusion can arise if the sought-after character is of a different gender, race, species, etc. than the searcher was expecting, such as when a sought-after "doctor" turns out to be a woman scientist. Or maybe the searcher was just Expecting Someone Taller.

Can also be Luke, I Am Your Father if the sought-after character is the searcher's parent. See also You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With, Right in Front of Me, King Incognito, Actually That's My Assistant, I Am One of Those Too, But He Sounds Handsome, Mistaken for Servant, and ...And That Little Girl Was Me. For when you weren't expecting something to be a character at all, see I Am the Noun.

Not to be confused with Because I'm Jonesy.

Given that this trope is about a plot twist, there be spoilers.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Happens at the end of the first Baccano! Light Novel, when a Japanese tourist in the frame story decides to ask the narrator (whom is assumed to be Maiza) where Firo is now, seeing as he's not present like everyone else is. "Maiza" responds...?
    Isn't he right here?...Oh, That's right, I have yet to introduce myself. Well, normally with business associations, I just leave without having ever said my name...
  • In a particularly funny example, in Black Cat, Train eventually acquires an imposter, who the gang meets. Sven and Eve want to smack him upside the head, but Train listens to his wild stories with a look of wonder on his face, and eventually agrees to become the imposter's apprentice. When people challenge the imposter, Train steps up to the plate, claiming that the other guys aren't "worthy for [Train's] master to spit on." THEN the imposter notices the XIII tattoo, and the unique gun...
  • This is played with in Cowboy Bebop with Radical Edward, Jet sarcastically comments that they should be expecting something like a 3-year-old, 7-foot alien genius that plays basketball based on a series of widely varying descriptions they got. When Ed hacks into their computer and they ask who Radical Edward is, she responds in her perpetual adorable third person way of talking, "But Ed is Ed." In case it wasn't clear: Edward is very much a girl tacking on the "Assumed Wrong Gender" part of this trope.
  • Death Note uses a variation, when the Yotsuba Group attempts to hire Eraldo Coil, the world's second greatest detective to hunt down L, the world's greatest detective. The police task force surveilling this is worried, but not L... because he is the detective Yotsuba is trying to hire. (Using three different names, L is the world's top three detectives.)
    L: "I've found that people who try to find me usually fall for this."
  • A thorn in Edward's side in Fullmetal Alchemist, that people are more willing to believe that Alphonse is the infamous "Fullmetal Alchemist" and not him. (Al is a walking suit of armor...)
  • Played with in Howl's Moving Castle. It's not clear when Sophie realizes the strange young wizard is Howl himself.
  • Team Satomi's coach, Andre, in IGPX Immortal Grand Prix turns out to be The Rocket.
    • Also, Team White Snow's captain isn't Zanak, it's Max, although it's easy to make the mistake since he's the Forward and all the other team captains are Forwards.
  • In the manga adaptation of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Link meets young Zelda, who has escaped from the castle and disguised herself as a commoner girl. When Link asks her about Princess Zelda's whereabouts, she tells him that she and Zelda are good friends and that she'd introduce him if he played with her for a whole day.
  • Guaranteed to happen three-quarters of the time in the Pokémon anime. This also applies to the games, to a lesser extent. To give one example, on Cinnabar Island, Ash and company run into an old hippie who tells them riddles to give them clues to find the Gym that is run by Blaine. When the figure out the last one and find the Gym, the old hippie is there - he is Blaine.
    • Subverted with Max, who was only pretending to be the gym leader in Petalburg City. He initially managed to fool Ash...only for his sister and father (the latter being the real leader) to show up.
    • Also happens in Pokémon Special; when Red wanted to battle the Cerulean City Gym Leader, Misty who IS the Gym Leader took him to the Gym.
    • And again in Pokémon Origins, when Red is upset about his Pokemon not being strong enough, a man shows up and suggests that Red take on the Gym Leader challenge to make himself stronger, starting with the gym in Pewter City run by Brock. When Red arrives at the gym, guess who Brock turns out to be? Of course, the viewer can tell that it's Brock the moment he appears.
  • For the first few episodes/chapters of Trigun, the story follows Meryl and Millie investigating every lead they can find on the location of the most wanted criminal on the planet, Vash the Stampede. And, by chance, everywhere they go, they run into the same hapless, clueless, spiky-haired dork blundering into trouble...
    • Made even funnier because Millie would do some variation of "hey there he is" in noticing their new friend every time Meryl would say to be on the lookout because there was a sighting in that town. Though, she does start to wonder about the fact both their target and new friend have the same name; but Meryl doesn't believe a goofball like him could be a deadly criminal.
  • Early in Rave Master Haru finds himself so desperate for leads as to where to find the legendary blacksmith Musica that he's willing to be at the beck and call of a drunkard who may or may not know where the person was. Said drunk turned out to be...
  • Happens over and over consecutively in almost every town the Sanzo party enters in Saiyuki. Quite often word reaches villages that the great Sanzo-party has happened through the area in which many humans search after them for blessings while many youkai look to eliminate them. What they don't expect is for the Great Holy Priest Genjo Sanzo to be a young jerkass blond guy with a gun and a smoking problem, and his devoted acolytes a group of youkai.
    • In fact, it has happened so often that when for the first time it doesn't happen to them but instead, another group of wandering demon-slayers, they're actually taken by surprise.
  • Hilariously inverted in Dragon Ball Z, where, upon meeting a normal monkey, the Genre Savvy Goku instantly assumed him to be the legendary King Kai, and spent a while fooling around with him before the real Kai - who himself could easily qualify for this trope under different circumstances, what with how he looks and acts - shows up.
  • In Vision of Escaflowne The Movie, Van and Hitomi are looking for a man named Dryden Fassa - then they meet someone who pretends not to know who Dryden Fassa is, before turning out to be actually him.
  • Inverted in the short story Monsters. The samurai Ryuma expresses the desire to meet (and duel) the "swordsman king" who is said to be the greatest swordsman in the world. After he saves the town from a dragon and leaves, one of the residents remembers that Ryuma himself has been called the swordsman king by the various people he has saved.
  • In Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, Shinka tries to convince Sanae that she's "Mori Summer," if only to be able to confiscate the latter's copies of her own Mabinogion. Fails miserably, because Sanae expected the philosopher from Mabinogion, not the jaded high-schooler desperate to purge her past delusions.

    Comic Books 
  • In issue #101 of the French comic book Donjon/Dungeon (Twilight, vol. 1: Dragon Cemetery, in English), when Marvin the Red meets his idol Marvin the Dragon, the latter first pretends to be someone else.
  • The Adventures of Doctor Bell: When a rabbi and a priest show up asking for Joseph Bell, he answers with "I've had to stand him every day of my life."
  • When Bruce Banner goes looking for the Panchen Lama in Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk, he is greeted at the monastery doors by a wizened old man who assures him that the Lama is inside and offers him hot cocoa. Banner shows a Genre Savvy flash by assuming the old man is the Panchen Lama, calling it "one of those Yoda things"... but nope. He's talking to Steve, who makes hot cocoa.
  • The "Pagliacci" joke that Rorschach heard from the Comedian in Watchmen.
    Rorschach: "'But Doctor, I am Pagliacci.'"

     Commercials 
  • A commercial for MagnaFlow exhausts has a police officer pull over a car for speeding, and while asking for the driver's license, asks who he thinks he is, Mario Andrettinote ? Mario promptly introduces himself and claims the car wasn't speeding. In a twist though, Mario is actually the passenger; the driver was his grandson Marco, himself an Indy Car driver.

    Film 
  • In American Wedding, the main characters go into a gay bar unknowingly looking for a dress designer (named Leslie, I think—a classic fictional bigender name) to design a dress for the bride and after impressing a group of gay men with their comical antics one of the members of the group finally reveals that he is Leslie.
  • In the 1989 Batman film, Vicki Vale corners a man at a swish party at Wayne Manor and asks whether he's seen elusive billionaire Bruce Wayne. He says he hasn't. Later, as she and Alex Knox are in one of Wayne's rooms, making fun of the statues, the man appears behind them and informs them that the statue they're currently laughing at comes from Japan. How does he know? "Because I bought it in Japan. Bruce Wayne."
  • Batman Begins. In order to get the needed training for his war on crime, Bruce seeks out Ra's Al Ghul, the head of the Asian group League of Assassins. Instead, he ends up dealing mainly with The Dragon, Ra's more Irish-looking second in command. Ra's tends to sit in the background and be imposing while his lackey does all the work of teaching Bruce all he needs to know to be awesome. Much drama ensues and when everything explodes, Bruce explicitly saves The Dragon. Much later it's revealed The Dragon was the Big Bad all along.
  • Twisted on itself in Circle Of Iron, where the hero Cord is seeking the Book of Enlightenment held by the mysterious Zetan. Along the way, he adventures with the Blind Man, a wise man and incredible martial artist who serves as a sort of informal master. David Carradine plays the Blind Man, and also the characters for several trials Cord must face. In the end, Cord thinks the Blind Man is actually Zetan, but he isn't—he's just seen the Book of Enlightenment.
  • Subverted in Die Hard when the hero and the Big Bad meet. It looks like Gruber tricks McClane, but in fact McClane sees through it and gives his adversary an unloaded weapon.
  • In The Distinguished Gentleman, when Eddie Murphy's love-interest-to-be enters a reception for the new Congressman Johnson (Murphy), she goes right up to him first and asks where Congressman Johnson is, then goes on to bad-mouth him a bit before he reveals his Congressman's pin (hidden behind a clipboard he's holding).
  • Used in Jackie Chan's The Drunken Master, where the main character Wong Fei-Hung flees from home in fear of being sent to train with the infamous Beggar So, master of the style of the eight drunk gods. He meets an old geezer who displays some highly unusual but equally effective moves, and they share a leg of the journey—no bonus point for guessing who this turns out to be.
  • In El Diablo, Anthony Edwards' character is searching for legendary "Kid Durango" with the help of a man named Van Leek only to later discover that the exploits of Kid Durango are based on the adventures of Van Leek.
  • Sort of done in Face/Off: "I am Castor Troy!"
  • Dragged out to a painful degree in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 subject The Giant Spider Invasion, where the leading man meets the female scientist and persists in believing he must really be meeting with some male relative of hers for some time before she explains that, no really, she's the "doctor" he has an appointment with.
  • Phil in Disney's Hercules.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Dr. Elsa Schneider.
  • In Kill Bill: Volume 1, The Bride pretends to be an American tourist upon first meeting Hattori Hanzo in his Sushi restaurant. Hanzo himself is an attempt to play the trope: He's a legendary sword maker posing as a sushi chef. Only the Bride knows who he is, so he can't play that trope on her.
  • In the 1994 film The Little Rascals, Spanky and Alfalfa finally wins the soap box derby but the former is disappointed because his favorite race driver, A.J. Ferguson, wasn't there to give them the trophy. But it turns out the woman who gave them the trophy (played by Reba McEntire) is A.J. Ferguson herself which surprises both boys since they assumed the driver was a man. Nevertheless, the boys are happy in meeting their hero.
  • Done with Holly Goodhead, the Moonraker Bond Girl.
  • Castor/Zuse in TRON: Legacy.
  • In Kenneth Branagh's version of The Magic Flute, the Speaker and Sarastro are played by the same person, leading to this.
  • Star Wars
    • In A New Hope when Luke's looking for Obi-Wan Kenobi, although in that case he's actually already an acquaintance under another name ("Old Ben" Kenobi). Luke momentarily speculates that it might be Old Ben, but he's not expecting it. In this case, Ben tells him straight-out that he's Obi-Wan instead of hiding it.
    "Of course I know him; he's me."
    • The Empire Strikes Back follows this formula perfectly when Luke is looking for Yoda. In addition, Darth Vader turns out to be Luke's long-lost father.
    • Also, Queen Amidala traveled with a host of decoys for security purposes, it seems. What makes her an example of the trope is that she's always disguised as one of her own attendants, as opposed to moving completely behind the scenes. Qui-Gon knows handmaiden Padme is the queen, and takes every opportunity to rile her up when mentioning how the queen will approve of his choices.
    Padme: You assume too much.
  • In The Usual Suspects, it turns out that Verbal Kint is Keyser Sose.
  • The Devil and Miss Jones is based on this trope when a millionaire goes under cover to locate the source of trouble in the department store he owns.
  • In Dragonheart, Bowen swears vengeance on a Dragon who kept prince Einon alive with an ancient ritual and turned him evil (not realizing Einon was evil to begin with). When he meets Draco many years later and is told he is the Last of His Kind, Bowen's first thought is that the dragon he hunted must already be dead, and does not figure out that Draco is that dragon until they travel to Avalon together.
  • In Fast and Furious, Dominic and Brian are searching for Campos, the leader of a narcotics gang. Only near the end do they realize Campos is actually the man who pretended to be his assistant.
  • In Obssessed, when the main character and the psychotic temp first meet, the latter mentions having to deliver a file to "Derek Charles' office", not knowing that she is talking to him. Derek then says, "Derek Charles" is "an asshole. Takes himself way too seriously. But don't tell him I said that, OK?" Shortly afterwards, she learns the truth.
  • In the movie version of Clue, in one of the possible endings, Wadsworth reveals himself as Mr. Boddy, saying that the alleged Mr. Boddy was, in fact, his butler, and not the other way around.
  • In Disney's Cinderella, Cinderella didn't realize that the prince was the man she had danced with all night and subsequently fell in love with.
    • A somewhat stranger version happens in the Muppet adaptation, Hey, Cinderella! Through various circumstances, neither Cinderella nor Prince Arthur realize they danced with one another at the ball, even though they already met. (Cinderella was looking for a gardener named Arthur and Prince Arthur was looking for a peasant girl named Cinderella). When Arthur goes searching the kingdom for the beautiful maiden he danced with, on his father's orders, he and Cinderella finally meet again and their actual identities are revealed to one another. Cinderella is pleased to learn that the prince she danced with and Arthur the gardener are one and the same, but it takes a little more evidence to prove that she really was the beautiful maiden.
  • In the 1953 film version of The War of the Worlds, Sylvia gushes on and on about the scientist who was expected to visit the first landing site. When the man she is talking to says he knows the scientist, she asks him what he's like. He just mumbles a few words and gestures toward himself.
  • In Iron Man, Tony reads off a phony explanation of the battle at the end, before caving and saying, "I am Iron Man."
  • In one scene of Young Guns, a bounty hunter is bragging to a woman about how he is going to kill Billy the Kid. It just so happens that Billy the Kid is in the same saloon, and questions the bounty hunter about how he's going to kill the outlaw when he finds him. Not knowing who he is talking to, the bounty hunter gives Billy his gun when asked to see it, and Billy removes all of the bullets before returning it. Billy then asks the bounty hunter for a description of himself, and upon looking in a mirror, exclaims that he has found himself. Amazingly, despite Billy admitting who he was to the bounty hunter's face, said bounty hunter refuses to believe that Billy the Kid, is Billy the Kid, until he is shot.

    Literature 
  • Robert A. Heinlein's short story —All You Zombies— in which, thanks to a great big Timey-Wimey Ball, every character, male or female, was actually the same person.
  • In Assassin's Apprentice, the first book of the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb, Fitz asks a woman where he can find Hod, who is going to teach him swordfighting. Naturally, the woman is Hod.
  • An almost identical incident occurs in Louis L'Amour's Fair Blows the Wind, when a tall, weather-beaten Scot tells Tatton Chantry that he can lead him to the legendary sword master Fergus MacAskill, with whom Chantry wants to study fencing. The Scot is Fergus MacAskill himself.
  • In George Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, 16-year-old Cleopatra is hiding from the invading Romans, and she runs into a nice old man who turns out to be Caesar. Hilariously, she tells him she's heard Caesar has a nose as big as an elephant's; he self-consciously fingers his nose in response. Then, when he decides to break part of the truth to her: "Do you notice that I have a rather long nose? It is a Roman nose, Cleopatra."
  • In one book, Conan the Barbarian is invited to meet the leader of a group of rebels plotting to overthrow their king. Perhaps as a safety precaution, the person he is led to and the person leading him are impersonating each other.
  • Used in the Geronimo Stilton book "My Name is Stilton, Geronimo Stilton," when Stilton prepares to meet his new personal assistant, Pinky Pick, whom he hired without even an interview, based on her impressive resume. When he finds a 14-year-old girl in the lobby who announces "My name is Pick!" he assumes that she's the daughter of his new assistant, until she clarifies that she is indeed his new assistant.
  • In The Great Gatsby, the title character throws lavish parties at his mansion, but does not mingle with his guests. Consequently, hardly anyone even knows what he looks like. When the narrator goes to his first party, he meets a man and admits that he's never met the host. The man admits that he's Gatsby.
  • In the Heritage of Shannara series, Morgan Leah spends a long time arguing with a boy mopping floors that he wants to meet with Matty Roh, a resistance contact and owner of the inn they are talking in. After being thrown out twice by the small, skinny boy, he comes in holding the resistance leader's badge, pushes it in the boy's face and demands to speak to Matty. Turns out the reason a small skinny boy can beat a burly highlander is that she's not a boy and she knows Waif-Fu.
  • In Homer's The Odyssey, Odysseus is helped by the gods to disguise himself as a an old tramp. He then enters his own household to investigate how suitors of his wife (believing him dead) are abusing his estate's hospitality. He initially introduces himself to his own son, Telemachus, to observe his reactions and intent to the developing situation. Once satisfied that his uninvited guests are pillaging his stores and furthermore treating him with disrespect, much to his son's chagrin, he reveals his true identity and proceeds with the help of Telemachus to slaughter the lot of them. This is undoubtedly the oldest example of the trope.
  • Turned around early in the Sword of Truth novel Wizard's First Rule. Kahlan seeks out a Last of His Kind wizard, and Richard leads her to his old friend Zedd, who he's confident can help them. Richard later figures out the wizard is his friend, Zeddicus Zul Zorander.
    • Played at least twice more in later books. First, in book two, Richard goes into the Prelate's office in order to speak to her. He first mistakes her for a maid (powerful magic users don't tend to dress too elaborately in the series). In book four, an old childhood friend is told by a witch to seek out Lord Rahl, who can help her find Richard. Of course, she meets Richard himself, and has trouble believing he is Lord Rahl.
  • Occurs in A Spell for Chameleon, the first of Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, the first time Bink encounters Magician Humphrey.
  • Isard's Revenge varies this when Wedge Antilles disguises himself as an Imperial with a prosthetic hand and half a face, and has to make conversation with an actual Imperial, who has a conspiracy theory that the members of Rogue Squadron are actually quite easy to kill, but the reason why members like Wedge Antilles seem to have stuck around for so long is because they get cloned. Later in the book Wedge takes off his disguise in front of this Imperial.
    Wedge: "You recall mentioning that you'd killed plenty of Rogue Squadron members at Brentaal, and that Wedge Antilles would be back?"
    Lorrir: "Y-yes?"
    Wedge: "You were right. I'm Wedge Antilles. I'm back." (shoots him)
  • In "A Witch to Live" from the 1632-universe short story collection Ring of Fire, when Father Friedrich Spee is sent to defend a young woman from a false accusation of witchcraft, he finds her case being retried by the Trapped in the Past modern Americans — and himself sitting in the rectory when Father Mazzare, the American priest, gets out an encyclopedia to look up the name of the great heroic opponent of witchcraft in the 1630s ... Father Friedrich Von Spee.
  • Judge Dee frequently disguises himself as a peasant or traveling martial arts instructor (the latter suits him much better) during his investigations. This frequently results in him dropping "I am the magistrate" when things get serious and someone suggests to report to the judge.
  • A variant in Feet of Clay when a man claims to be a good friend of the Commander of the Watch to intimidate the watchman he's talking to, who is in fact Commander Vimes. As a bonus in an earlier letter to Vimes the same man claimed to be a good friend of the Patrician, an unlikely claim to anyone who knows the Patrician. As Vimes does.
    • In Monstrous Regiment, Vimes assures the protagonists that he'll take them to the leader of the Ankh-Morpork regiment.
    • And in Snuff, when Vimes boards a riverboat claiming to be the police, an incredulous man asks "Who do you think you are? Bloody Commander Vimes?" The commander replies by asking the man if he's always this lucky.
    • Thief of Time: A young braggart monk confronts the little bald wrinkly smiling 'cleaner' Lu Tze. His teacher uses the moment to hammer home Rule 1 - "Do not act incautiously when confronting little bald wrinkly smiling men". It's implied that the rule was written with Lu Tze in mind.
  • In one of the MYTH Inc. novels, Skeeve gets set up on a blind date with a vampire, Cassandra. For whatever reason, she doesn't ask his name, and later she remarks, "Say, you're a friend of Vic's from Klah... do you know the Great Skeeve?" He plays along for a little while before revealing his identity.
  • The last Sherlock Holmes novel, "The Valley of Fear", culminates in the infiltration of a criminal gang by a man from Pinkerton's. A trap is set for the private investigator, where it is revealed that McMurdo is Birdy Edwards.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Remus Lupin says of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, "We’ve met." He's Moony.
  • In one of the Star Trek: Stargazer novels, Admiral McAteer is strolling the Starfleet Academy grounds, and starts thinking about Boothby, whom he admires. At least, he's heard good things about the man. He encounters an elderly groundskeeper whose general attitude annoys him (and who has the gall to tell him off). Eventually, he demands the groundskeeper's name. Upon being told he's talking to Boothby, McAteer walks off spluttering.
  • This is a very old trope: Jesus does it in The Gospels no fewer than three times after his resurrection, showing himself to the disciples—but somehow they don't realize it's him. (John 20:14, 21:4; Luke 24:16). The conversation with the Samaritan woman in Sychar (John 4:1-26) comes close to it as well, with Jesus revealing at the end of the conversation that He is the Messiah she is waiting for.
  • This also happens to Saul in I Samuel when meeting Samuel for the first time. Saul is looking for a prophet of God and goes to a town where one is reputably staying. Thinking that he is just a citizen of the town, Saul approached Samuel and asks where the prophet is. Samuel informs Saul that he is the one Saul is searching for.
  • Ciaphas Cain: On his first deployment with the Valhallan 597th, Cain finds himself chatting with a very attractive Glamorous Wartime Singer by the name of Amberley Vail. Seeking to impress her, he goes on at length about the Inquisitor who's already on the planet, who is obviously the rogue trader Orelius (a very popular disguise to the point of Flanderization), to which she responds with appropriate gasping and widening eyes. Later on, he gets called in to rescue the Inquisitor from a firefight, at which point he is introduced to... Amberley Vail, Ordo Xenos Inquisitor.
  • In The Anubis Gates, Doyle/Ashbless tells his buddy Jacky about Elizabeth Tichy, the young woman he'll be marrying the next month (from Doyle's familiarity with Ashbless' biography), and is surprised by how annoyed Jacky is by his confidence on the subject. Turns out that Miss Tichy's middle name is Jacqueline....
  • A recurring theme in Water Margin. Every outlaw, criminal, and bandit in China admires Song Jiang but very few know what he actually looks like. Many times do these bandits and outlaws serendipitously discover that they have just met Song Jiang just as they are about to rob, murder, or inflict some other mayhem on him.

    Live Action TV 
  • The A-Team: People looking for the team usually found Hannibal in disguise when they met with the person who was supposed to get them in contact.
  • Babylon 5: Doctor Franklin has a reputation for taking his oath of confidentiality very seriously, so when he arrives with an offer to set up a meeting between Captain Sheridan and the man in charge of smuggling fugitive telepaths through the station, nobody is surprised. You already know who the meeting turns out to be with.
  • Being Erica: When starting a new job at a publishing company, the main character strikes up a conversation with an assistant and a young woman, and ends up insulting a book called The Secret of Now. The woman turns out to be her new boss, recently promoted due to her success with that same book. Her assumption is understandable, as she expected the man who interviewed her to be her boss, but he was fired in the interim.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Happens in the never-finished serial "Shada" when the somewhat doddery old Professor Chronotis turns out to be the notorious Time Lord renegade Salyavin.
    • Also occurs in the prequel to "The Bells of Saint John" with the Doctor in a playground lamenting his inability to find his friend (Clara Oswald) to a young girl. Of course, it turns out this young girl IS Clara, though the Doctor does not realize it and, upon young Clara's suggestion that he should think about it in a quiet place, goes off to a Cumbria monastery in 1207 in the resulting episode.
  • Dollhouse: The latter part of the second season features the search for the head of Rossum, a mysterious person who hasn't been seen in public and may be to blame for everything in the show. Boyd is the head of Rossum.
  • Grey's Anatomy: In the "Thanks for the Memories" episode, a doctor filling in on Thanksgiving Day is dismissive of Dr. Bailey, saying he's only interested in meeting and working with The Nazi, an incredibly talented doctor he's heard about. Dr. Bailey pretends at times not to know who The Nazi is and at other times claims that The Nazi is busy nearby. At the end of the episode, the visiting doctor discovers that Dr. Bailey is The Nazi. (Miranda Bailey is a diminutive black woman - many people have made this mistake over the years.)
  • Happy Days: Done by proxy when a man tracks down Fonzie to give him a letter from his estranged father. The letter begins "If you're reading this I didn't have the guts to tell you it was me who gave it to you."
  • The Nanny: In the episode "Whine Cellar", Fran tells Maggie about a cousin Irvie who'll show up at her mother's birthday. Maggie is convinced Irvie is a Jewish and Nerdy loser, so as she chats with a handsome young man, trashing Irvie, she introduces herself only for the man to introduce himself as Irvie. As he walks away, Maggie bangs her head against the wall.
  • Neighbours: Used hilariously when Steph is annoyed with her mother for wanting her to talk to the new local priest, and starts complaining about her, and the priesthood in general, to a stranger she meets outside the church. The man then joins in complaining, leading Steph to figure it out quickly.
  • NewsRadio: On the first episode, Dave Nelson turns up at the wrong building for his first day of work as news director of WNYX. When he shows up late at the correct building, he is looking for his new boss, billionaire Jimmy James, whom he has never met in person. He runs into him immediately, and asks him where Mr. James' office is. Mr. James gives him directions before telling him that he's not in there right now. Dave asks where he is, and in response Mr. James just stares at him, leading a nervous Dave to ask, "...Mr. James?"
  • Yes Dear: When Greg decides not to go to a Kevin Smith movie premiere, Jimmy takes the press pass and tickets instead. At the premiere, Jimmy uses the restroom at the same time as Kevin Smith (as himself). Jimmy does not know Kevin Smith. When Kevin asks about the movie, Jimmy proceeds to bad mouth the movie and its director.
  • Power Rangers Jungle Fury: Used in the very first episode when the Pai Zhua students are looking for a certain martial arts master to train them. First they run into the laid-back pizza maker RJ - then the monsters attack and RJ steps in to make quick work of them, revealing himself as the Pai Zhua master they're looking for.
  • Revolution: In the premiere, Miles only tells the other characters that he's the guy they're looking for after learning that Charlie is the daughter of his recently-deceased brother.
  • Robin Hood: Some versions have this with King Richard.
  • Used to comic effect in the pilot episode of The West Wing. Sam is told he'll be meeting with "Leo's daughter's fourth-grade class" to tell them a little bit about the history of the White House. When he meets with the class in the Roosevelt Room, he gives them a fake, fanciful history because he doesn't know anything about the White House. The class's teacher takes him outside the room and berates him. He responds by telling her his and the administration's travails (including that he "accidentally slept with a prostitute"), and asks her to tell him which of the students is Leo's daughter so he can see that she gets personal attention. The teacher reveals that she herself is Mallory, Leo McGarry's daughter, to which Sam responds, "Well, this is bad on so many levels."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Subverted in a vignette of a third party Dungeons & Dragons supplement, where a warrior seeking a martial arts teacher is first greeted by a humble, chuckling old man who claims he knows the teacher very well—only to step aside as the actual teacher, a large, muscular warrior tells him to be quiet and welcomes the would-be student.

    Theater 
  • She Stoops To Conquer takes place almost entirely within the space between the deceit and the revelation. Charles Marlow, on the way to a blind date, stops at what he thinks is an inn and flirts with the barmaid. He's actually at the manor he was traveling to, and the barmaid is his date.
  • In Camelot, a nervous King Arthur and Queen-to-be Guinevere run into each other before the wedding. Guinevere, not knowing it's Arthur, complains a bit about having to marry a total stranger and is assured that the king isn't really all that bad.
  • In Animal Crackers, this leads to Spaulding Comically Missing the Point:
    Spaulding: Say, I used to know a fellow that looked exactly like you by the name of Emanuel Ravelli. Are you his brother?
    Ravelli: I am Emanuel Ravelli.
    Spaulding: You're Emanuel Ravelli?
    Ravelli: I am Emanuel Ravelli.
    Spaulding: Well, no wonder you look like him. But I still insist there's a resemblance.
  • In the Richard Strauss opera Elektra, Elektra treats her brother Orestes as a stranger until he asks why his sister doesn't recognize him.

    Video Games 
  • Played very simply in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, where Ezio helps a woman carry a box and talks to her about Ezio, eventually revealing that he is Ezio.
  • In The World Ends with You: Quoth Joshua: "It was me, Neku. I'm Shibuya's Composer." Cue Neku's Heroic Blue Screen of Death.
  • Seiken Densetsu 3 has a sequence in which the party needs to find a legendary (and tiny) strategist. The old man in town tells them that he's not in this place, and suggests they ask around. After a long fruitless search, they come back only to be told that the old man is the strategist. Justified with "I was walking around at the time, so I wasn't in any place". And then the town mocks them for their gullibility. *grumble*
  • Secret of Mana: "Go away! The sage is out!"
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance the first time Marche meets Ezel Berbier, Ezel speaks about himself in third person and it isn't revealed until later that he was in fact Ezel Berbier. However given that he is rendered with a different sprite from the standard NPCs, as well as the fact that he is speaking in a very cryptic manner makes this one of the more conspicuous examples
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics A2, the mage in the mountains (Lezaford) pulls this on Luso.
  • Suikoden pulls this trick when you're first looking for The Strategist. It's sort of given away by the fact that his name is in the textbox when you're asking him where he lives.
    • And in Suikoden IV, this happens when you're looking for Lino En Kuldes. Who apparently makes a habit of it.
      • Given that Lino is a pretty casual guy whose usual outfit (an open vest and cut-off shorts, with the notable absence of any sort of crown or other royal symbol) doesn't at all fit his station as King of Obel, it's no surprise that he can pull this off so easily.
  • In Paper Mario, in what appears to be a similar example to the Secret of Mana example above, Mario comes back to town from Shooting Star Summit and told that Merlon is looking for him. When he knocks on the door, he'd told that Merlon is out. If he tries again, he is again told that Merlon is out, but the door opens, knocking him down. A man in a robe comes out, and when Mario gets up, they go inside, he reveals himself to be Merlon.
    • Mario is trying to get to Dry Dry Ruins. He meets with a mouse called Sheik. Mario may part with an item to be told that Moustafa knows how to get there. If Mario gives him the right item, he'll be able to tell Mario how to see Moustafa: by buying items in the correct order, which is a sign to the shopkeeper. Upon following these directions, Mario arrives to find... Sheik! And he was Moustafa all along!
  • Chrono Trigger does this with Gaspar, the Guru of Time. When told to search for him, the party discovers that he's someone they already met much, much earlier in the game.
    • Also done when you are rescuing the Guru of Life from Mt. Woe, who turns out to be Melchior, the swordsmith you met in the very first scene of the game and who helped you reforge the Masamune earlier. He doesn't remember this, though, because of time travel (it hasn't happened to him yet).
  • Shenmue 2: Ryo is looking for the leader of a Shaolin monastery and is told by a girl that he should look around the place for clues to understand the monks' beliefs and that only then will the master reveal himself. After that nonsense an old man shows up; Ryo assuming this must be the master tries to talk to him shushing the girl but in the process it turns out that the girl is the actual master and the old guy is just the janitor.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the protagonist is assigned to kill a Jedi. Later on in the game, it's revealed that the Jedi survived, but lost his sight as a result of the battle. In a twist on this trope, the protagonist now needs the Jedi's help and so pretends to be a stranger, hoping the Jedi won't find him out. At the end of the game we find out the Jedi suspected it was the protagonist but chose to help him anyway.
  • Another Star Wars example is in Knights of the Old Republic. No one really believes it...
  • At one point in Deus Ex, JC Denton is sent to look for a young woman named Nicolette Duclare. He meets a girl in a French club that promises to take him to see her. When he meets up with Nicolette, it turns out that she is the same woman he met in the club earlier.
    • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Jensen is looking for crime boss Tong Si Hung in a nightclub and is sent to talk to the VIP bartender for his whereabouts. If the conversation goes well, the bartender directs him to Tong's office. When Jensen reaches it, the "bartender" is there waiting for him and mocks Jensen for not figuring it out.
      • Jensen can see through the ruse with the Social aug, though.
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Ike is put to the task of finding the apostle, empress of the nation he was seeking assistance from, on his ship. He finds a small girl, and tells her to wait since he needs to find the apostle. Naturally, this girl turns out to be the apostle.
    • In a bit of a variation, back in Fire Emblem, Dart tells Karel about dozens of legendary warriors, like a giant who shrugged off all blows and a mage who could freeze his enemies' blood. After Dart mentions each person, Karel calmly tells him they're dead. Dart doesn't seem to realize that Karel killed them all before he tells him.
  • One side quest in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has the player hunting down a demon by the name of Zygaena. A drug dealer in the local bar will arrange a meeting in a nearby warehouse, but only if you tell him that you're planning to kill Zygaena. Guess who shows up in that warehouse.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, Oghren runs into you by this way if you didn't talk to him first in the tavern. When you're ready to set out to Deep Roads to mount a search party for a paragon who is needed to support a king candidate (and who happens to be Oghren's wife), he stumbles into you, asking if you have seen a Grey Warden. You can play dumb and ask what does (s)he look like, and he'll say a long list of Mary Sue Knight in Shining Armor qualities with appropriate Purple Prose, and is instantly disappointed to see that you're the person he is looking for.
    Oghren: Seems that the requirements have gone way low.
  • In the mainstream Pokémon games, there are certain characters who would often help the protagonists throughout the story (Pokémon Red and Blue's Blue although he's also The Rival, Pokémon Gold and Silver's Lance, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire's Steven, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl's Cynthia). Unless you know the plot of each game already, it would take much later until you find out that they are actually the Champion. In Pokémon Black and White, however, the identity of the Champion, Alder, is flat-out revealed to the player before endgame, because he actually introduces himself to the player the very first time they meet. Given what happens later, this is probably intended. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 returns to the format with Iris showing up and helping the player character. She is already familiar from the previous game, but it isn't revealed until the end that she's now the champion. Continued in Pokémon X and Y with Diantha, although her less prominent role in the story makes her more of a Chekhov's Gunman.
  • In Final Fantasy V, the sage Ghido turned out to be the turtle that Bartz was bugging at the moment.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), there's a mission where you're told to find a captain. Thing is, the person who gives you the mission actually IS said captain.
    • As is to be expected from this game, it's hilarious.
  • In Mabinogi the wandering merchant Price helps you try to find the missing ex-paladin leader Redire, it is later revealed that Price IS Redire.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • ASDF Movie does this.
    Guy:Joey, did you eat my sandwich?
    Joey: I am your sandwich. (Joey then forces himself down Guy's throat)

    Western Animation 
  • Aang in the first episode and a half of Avatar: The Last Airbender . The others weren't actually looking for the Avatar, but their reactions when they find out that that's him definitely fit.
  • Master Dashi in Xiaolin Showdown.
  • The True Master in the Teen Titans episode "The Quest" has a Lampshade Hanging at the end of it. Robin wanted to do things the hard way, so she let him.
  • From The Wild Hare:
    Bugs Bunny: What's up, Doc?
    Elmer Fudd: Shh... There's a wabbit down there, and I'm trying to catch him.
    Bugs: What do you mean a "wabbit?"
    Elmer: Wabbits! Wabbits! You know, with big wong ears!
    Bugs: Oh, like these? (shows his ears)
    Elmer: Yeah, and a little white fwuffy tail!
    Bugs: Like this? (shows off his tail)
    Elmer: Yeah, and he hops awound and awound.
    Bugs: Like this? (hops around)
    Elmer: (to the audience) You know I bewieve this fella is an R. A. B. B. I. T. (to Bugs) Pardon me, but you know, you look just wike a wabbit.
    Bugs: Ehhh, c'mere. Now listen, Doc, now don't spread this around, but... uhhh... confidentially... I AM A WABBIT!!!
  • Daffy Duck is (actual) Robin Hood in "Robin Hood Daffy" but Porky Pig, as Friar Tuck, refuses to believe him. The entire cartoon is spent on Daffy trying to prove that he is indeed Robin Hood and making himself look ridiculous in process. In the end, he quits trying and joins Porky as a man of cloth, Friar Duck.
  • In the first Pirates of Dark Water, Ren seeks out the wise man Alomar in the Abby of Galdebar. First he meets an imposing man, who he assumes is Alomar, but he's just a servant. Next he encounters a fearsome dragon, who it turns out is Alomar.
  • Inverted in the Justice League episode "A Better World": The Justice League are trapped in an Alternate Universe ruled by Knight Templar Evil Counterparts to the league, and are ambushed by the army. Justice Lord Batman (whom the league are trying to avoid) then turns up and calls off the army, making Superman think it's their Batman in disguise.
    Superman: You fooled them all. Even I thought you were him!
    Lord Batman: I am him.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), Leo's first meeting with The Ancient One is a textbook example of the trope.
  • An episode of the Pole Position animated series had the characters sent to retrieve a sensitive research satellite for a "Doctor T. Russell." Along the way, they're helped by this flannel-wearing, backwoods-type Cool Old Lady named "Dora." Meanwhile two fellows, both claiming to be "Dr. Ted Russell" and "Dr. Tom Russell" are trying to get the satellite. The protagonists finally find it...and the backwoods-lady reveals that they're both industrial spies. Her full name is Dr. Theodora Russell, and she just happens to live out in the middle of nowhere.
  • The 1962 Paramount cartoon Perry Popgun has the titular detective entering a club in disguise, and everyone recognizes him. Everyone except his girlfriend Goldie, who slaps him when he approaches her.

    Real Life 
  • Nestor Makhno, the Ukrainian anarchist revolutionary, caught a group of German officers going to a party held in their honour by Ukrainian landlords, who had welcomed the invading Germans. After executing the officers, Makhno and his men dressed in the German army uniforms and attended the party in their stead. Much of the conversation at the dinner party circled around Makhno. At the end of the meal, a toast was offered to the capture of the dreaded anarchist Nestor Makhno. Makhno drank off the toast and announced, "I am Nestor Makhno." In the silence and horror which followed, Makhno tossed a bomb into the room as he and his men leaped out the windows and escaped.
  • Truth in Television, sort of: A president-elect, governor, business leader, etc., initiates a search committee to fill an appointed position, but ends up picking someone on the committee or the person who had already been helping him in that area anyway.
    • In 2000, presidential candidate George W. Bush appointed Dick Cheney as the head of his running mate search committee before choosing Cheney for the job.
    • The 2005 papal conclave following the death of Pope John Paul II was presided over by Joseph Ratzinger, then Dean of the College of Cardinals, and shortly thereafter was elected Pope Benedict XVI. He was leader of the enclave ex officio, and was considered, as it were, the frontrunner even before John Paul II was dead.
  • Disgruntled customers often demand to see the manager or owner, only to be told that they're already speaking to him/her. Done with a twist here and here.
  • Tends to happen a lot when someone asks for a Transsexual person's old name.
  • There's an Italian joke subverting this trope: Jesus walks along the street when he sees a sad old man sitting on a bench. He stops and asks him what his name is and why he is sad. He says his name is Joseph and he has lost his son. "How do you recognise your son?" "He has nails in his hands and feet." "Father!" "Pinocchio!" (Gepetto is an Italian diminuitive for Giuseppe - Joseph.)
  • At one point right after confederation, Sir John A Macdonald (the first Prime Minister of Canada) was at a diplomatic reception in Washington, D.C., where he struck up a conversation with an American senator's wife. When he revealed he was from Canada, she began asking about his Prime Minister, stating she had heard stories that he was a drunk and a rogue. Sir John A agreed with her on both points, at which point the senator himself wandered over and fully introduced him.
  • This story. The young-looking lady by the receptionist's desk at the studio was kind of important.
  • Inverted in a story with Walt Disney. While he was secretly scouting out land for a second theme park on the US east coast in the mid 1960s, he'd travel under fake names. Eventually he was recognized (since he did host a TV show at the time, it was crazy that it hadn't happened before) by a reporter who asked if he was the real Walt Disney. Walt replied with "No, but I get confused for that bastard all the time. Trust me, when I find that son of a bitch I'm really going to let him have it." Since of course the "real" Walt Disney would never swear or threaten physical harm on anyone, the reporter decided it wasn't him and walked away.
  • Kevin Smith once attended a picket line of Dogma as a picketer. A reporter covering the event almost figured him out, but Smith introduced himself using his friend's name (who was standing right next to him).
    • Spoofed (sorta) in an episode of Yes Dear. See Live Action TV above.
  • George Washington
    • Painter Gilbert Stuart had a moment with George Washington. Stuart had been invited to a presidential levee and, assuming it was run along the same lines as similar events in Europe, presumed the room full of milling, chatting gentlemen was a sort of waiting room and he would in due course be ushered into the presence. Eventually President Washington noticed an unfamiliar guest wandering around talking to no one and, like a good host, went over and introduced himself. Stuart, it is said, never entirely recovered from this experience.
    • A man was riding along when he saw an officer who was ordering soldiers to lift timber but not doing anything to help them. The rider asked him why he was just standing there; the officer sneered, "Why sir, I'm a corporal!" Upon hearing this, the stranger promptly dismounted and spent several minutes helping the men move the timber. As he was about to ride off, he turned to the pompous corporal and quietly said, "The next time you have a piece of timber for your men to handle, corporal, send for your commander-in-chief."
  • There is a story concerning Peisistratus, a politician from Ancient Athens, who got chatting with a farmer. Not realising who he was talking to, the farmer criticised Peisistratus' policies, calling him a tyrant and complaining about unfair taxes. Eventually Peisistratus asked the farmer, "What do you get from the land you farm?" The farmer replied: "Nothing but aches and pains. If only Peisistratus and his tax collectors would take their fair share of those." Peisistratus, having a good sense of humour, decreed that the farmer need never pay taxes again.
  • British artist Sir Stanley Spencer was invited to receive an award at a ceremony in London. While getting off the train at Euston station, a gentleman mistook him for a porter and asked for help carrying his bags. Stanley obliged and helped the man carry his bags across London. When he arrived at the ceremony that evening, the award was handed to him by the gentleman he'd helped earlier that day.
  • There is an almost certainly apocryphal story of various great leaders such as Napoleon or Peter the Great going out into his army disguised as a common soldier. He met a savvy veteran who shared that he had gotten short on money and taken his sword to a pawn shop, with the plans to redeem it as soon as he got paid. Until then, he had only the hilt of a sword attached to a stick that went into his scabbard. Later that day, Napoleon returned undisguised to hold a surprise inspection. He found a soldier who did not pass, then turned to the veteran and ordered him to cut down his comrade. The veteran, knowing he faced punishment if anyone knew he had pawned his sword, cried out "May God turn my sword to wood so that I need not do this thing!" He then drew his sword hilt which had a wooden blade. The next day, he received a beautiful new sword and a note saying "This one will get you more at the pawn shop," signed Napoleon.
  • Emma Watson said once that she'd go out to a restaurant, and be told "You look just like the girl who plays Hermione Granger!", to which Emma would laugh and inform them that, well, that's because she is "that girl".
  • Following treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, Australian songstress Delta Goodrem's hair grew back shorter, curlier and darker. A stranger is alleged to have told her "You look a lot like Delta Goodrem, only prettier."
  • Inverted by J. Golden Kimball, a prominent Mormon in the early 20th century. Once he was drinking coffee in a restaurant and someone recognized him, prompting the following exchange.
    Lady: Aren't you Brother Kimball? And isn't that coffee you're drinking?
    Kimball: Ma'am, you're the third person today who's mistaken me for that old SOB.
    • Einstein would do something similar when people stopped him on the street.
  • Carrie-Anne Moss once purchased a Trinity action figure, explaining to the clerk that it was a gift for her husband. The clerk asked if her husband didn't perhaps have a bit of a crush on Trinity, to which Moss replied, "I hope so!"
  • In another joke, an officer moved to a Pentagon job finds himself overloaded with bureaucratic red tape. Worse, he notices that a young lieutenant in the next office is finishing far more paperwork in far less time. Swallowing his pride, he asks the lieutenant his secret, which turns out to be "Just stamp everything 'Route to Major John Smith' — somebody around here is bound to have that name and rank". One guess who that turned out to be....
  • The Secret Service was protecting Lyndon Johnson during a trip to Canada. A particularly keen Serviceman stopped a middle-aged man who was about to walk into the house at Harrington Lake where the President was staying - "Who are you and where are you going?". "I live here, and I'm going to the bathroom," said Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada.
  • Feynman's second day at Cornell, he went to the housing office to look for a place to stay. They told him "Listen, Buddy, the room situation is tough. In fact, it’s so tough that believe it or not, a professor had to sleep in the lobby here last night." He replied, "I am that professor and I'm not keen on doing it again."


    Identity IndexAlternate Identity Amnesia
Topical TropesUniversal TropesAll Is Well That Ends Well
A God Am II Am An IndexAnd I'm the Queen of Sheba
    Unisex TropesAnd Call Him George
Fullmetal AlchemistImageSource/Anime & MangaActually That's My Assistant
Acquitted Too LateOlder Than FeudalismAdam and Eve Plot
    Recognition TropesActually That's My Assistant

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