Double Reverse Quadruple Agent
There's The Mole
, who's a villain pretending to work for the good guys. And the Reverse Mole
, which is the same but reversed. You put them together, and you get the Double Agent
, who's working for either the villain or the hero, and acts as a fake mole for the other.
Sometimes, they like to go one step beyond, or eleven
. This is the trope for people who have exacted layers and layers of deception, normally as a massive Gambit Roulette
to satisfy their wishes, or their true employers' wishes. It's quite often that the chain of deception ends with the person the spy loves. The effect on the viewer can be very disorienting
as they try to keep up.
Contrast Heel-Face Revolving Door
, which is a character cycling between being a hero and a villain, and Chronic Backstabbing Disorder
, where people constantly make allegiances to stab them in the back (natch). In the case of the revolving door and the disorder, the character is genuinely changing alignments or allegiances, whereas in this trope the character never truly changes (or at least, rarely), it's just the in-universe perceptions of the character that change. Sometimes, the recursion can reach I Know You Know I Know
For example, take the classic Cold War
double agent. A Russian who "defects
" to the Americans, to supply information back to the Russians. In these examples, the double agent is actually
a spy for a fleet of invading aliens. But the CIA know
about the aliens, thus make the man a mole for them. But the KGB had their suspicions about the aliens anyway, but don't have the tech themselves to infiltrate the aliens so they piggy back on the Americans. But this is all an act for his true
employers, a Path of Inspiration
... and so on.
Compare Wild Card
, who openly has no clear or multiple allegiances.
This trope is not about a sex position
(or a wrestling move), although now that it's been mentioned, there probably is one
by this name.
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Anime and Manga
- Follow along closely children: Xellos in Slayers pretends to be a priest who's really a demon who's really under the orders of a demon but is actually betraying THAT demon for another demon, and is trying to destroy the world except sometimes maybe not, and helps the team, except when trying to destroy them, except when he's secretly helping. Lina trusts him implicitly to eventually fuck her over, and says at much at one point. Xellos thinks she's crazy, but she's not the one serving multiple masters with multiple plans to destroy/save/rule the world.
- Kaji in Neon Genesis Evangelion, appearing to work for Nerv, Seele, the Japanese Ministry of the Interior, and against another one of them, in varying configurations. His true mission is to find out the truth about the nature of the Second Impact and the angels for himself.
- Sideways in Transformers Armada, not aided by a shaky, rushed translation. He's an Autobot. No, a Decepticon posing as an Autobot. No, he just wants the Mini-cons for himself. No, he's working for Unicron. No, he is part of Unicron. And then he returns in Transformers Cybertron to do it all over again with a yet different final goal.
- Tsuchimikado Motoharu from A Certain Magical Index is the only magician-esper hybrid and is constantly switching between working for Aleister Crowley (and Academy City's dark side) and Necessarius. It's even hinted that he works for even more covert organizations, but he's being let off the hook for the time being. The best part is that everyone knows he's got multiple agendas and nobody knows who he really works for... but because of this he makes an excellent neutral middleman between all these organizations so he's left alone for the most part.
- From Naruto, we have Kabuto Yakushi. First, he disguised himself as a Leaf ninja for at least four years, only to reveal he's working for Orochimaru, who himself does not entirely trust him. Later we discover he was a spy for Sasori in Orochimaru's organization, but Orochimaru had long since removed that brainwashing and made him a double agent to keep tabs on the Akatsuki. After the apparent death of Orochimaru, Kabuto went rogue, with various reactions to the loss of Orochimaru from shock to joy. Nowadays, he's working with Tobi, but blackmailed him and is pretty much in charge, depending on their various trump cards. Later we learned he was a spy for Konoha (which he later spies on for Orochimaru) and infiltrated numerous countries on its behalf. However Konoha stopped trusting him resulting in him having a grudge again Konoha. Confused yet?
- Trigun: Manga version of Nicholas D. Wolfwood. Part of every major faction in the series and at least one minor one. Shot his teacher to join the Gung Ho Guns to subvert Knives' plans for the End of the World as We Know It, but also manipulated The Hero on behalf of the villains before and even after becoming emotionally invested in his well-being. Then turned on them after Vash was defeated and captured, and staged a jail break. Finally abandons everyone in favor of his primary allegiance: the kids at the orphanage where he spent the closest thing to a happy bit of his childhood.
- The Autobot Punch/Counterpunch was originally portrayed as a Double Agent (an Autobot who pretended to be a Mole for the Decepticons). Later interpretations of the character sometimes depict him as a Double Reverse Quadruple Agent, often due to prolonged effects of Becoming the Mask.
- The second season of Sleeper has Holden doing this through the entire run.
- During the early run of New Avengers, Spider-Woman is a quintuple agent. She's an Avenger, a member of Hydra, an agent of SHIELD, loyal to Nick Fury specifically, and really a Skrull.
- Trinity War: The Atom turns out to be a JLA agent who was ordered to infiltrate the Justice League on Amanda Waller's orders. But then the finale reveals that she's actually Atomica of Earth-3, working with The Outsider and his Secret Society to manipulate everyone so that they could get their hands on Pandora's Box and use it to summon the rest of the Crime Syndicate.
- In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality Blaise Zabini is a quintuple agent. Who thinks he's a quadruple agent. In a game with three sides. Also he would have been a sextuple agent if he could find anyone else to sell out to.
- In Deep Cover Naruto spends years as spying on Sound for Konoha. Then he gets a job from Orochimaru to replace one of Konoha's other spies and feed them false information. In other words, he's a Konoha agent pretending to be a Sound agent pretending to be a Konoha agent pretending to be a Sound agent. In the end, he realizes that his loyalty to Konoha is only due to being born there and chooses to be a Sound ninja.
- In Cypher, the protagonist is the plaything in a Gambit Pileup. He ends up a hex-tuple spy, ultimately working for himself. He pulled a Memory Gambit before the movie began, so he could pass one set of lie-detectors to get into one agency, then fail the same set of lie-detectors to get into the rival agency.
- Lightly riffed in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull : Mac betrays Indy in the beginning, "explains" it partway through by claiming to be a CIA double-agent, then betrays him again at the end. Indy lampshades this
Indy: What, are you some kind of triple agent?!
Mac: Nah, I just lied about being a double.
- Cary Grant's character in Charade is constantly changing sides, turning from The Mole to Reverse Mole to Double Agent and eventually to Double Reverse Quadruple Agent.
- Severus Snape in Harry Potter, who is working for Lily by working for Dumbledore by pretending to work for Voldemort by pretending to work for Dumbledore. As a testament to JK's writing ability, this is easier to follow than it sounds.
There is another couple of layers if you use the version where Voldemort knows that Snape is a member of the Order. So, working for Dumbledore as a teacher, working for Voldemort as a spy, working for Dumbledore as an Order member and reporting on his spying for Voldemort, reporting on THAT to Voldemort as another-level-up spy, reporting THAT to Dumbledore...
- The short version is, both sides think that Snape is their double agent, and both are aware of the other side thinking that to be the case.
- In Dune, Yueh came pretty close, what with his being mentally conditioned at the Imperial Medical School to be unable to harm another person, and then secretly captured along with his wife by the Harkonnen Family and re-brainwashed into an assassin, then retained by the Atredies Family on the grounds of his original, supposedly unbreakable conditioning, eventually betraying them to the Harkonnens on the promise of being reunited with his wife but secretly resisting their brainwashing and at the last minute helping the Duke's son and her mother escape, then arming the captured Duke Atredies with a concealed suicide weapon he can use to kill the Baron Harkonnen, then pretending to still be loyal to Harkonnen and asking to be reunited with his wife at which point Harkonnen tells him she is dead and kills him. More of a very unstable double agent, but then this all happens in something like the first three chapters of the book.
- X-Wing Series: Gara Petothel, though not intentionally, at least at first. At first she intended to be The Mole; later she became the mask. Later still she was discovered and had to go back to her old side - but worked to sabotage it.
- One of these is the main character of Keith Laumer's Dinosaur Beach, leading to multiple levels of Tomato Surprise as he betrays one faction or another. His ultimate allegiance turns out to be to none of the main factions—all of them wished to "fix" the timestream by eliminating time travelers after their own time period, but none were willing to accept that their own time travel was part of the problem. He set everything up to retroactively prevent the invention of time travel, at the cost of the existence of everyone who was born after its invention.
- The Illuminatus! novels have Tobias Knight, described as the only quintuple agent in the history of espionage. Apparently at one point he was working for the CIA, KGB, FBI, Illuminati and the Discordians all at the same time, and had reached the point where he was participating in conspiracy for its own sake.
- While the agent in question was completely unaware of his status, unraveling the layers of this drive the plot of Philip K. Dick's We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Maybe.
- The Mack Reynolds novel The Five-Way Secret Agent, where a guy is drafted into an international espionage assignment by five different opposing factions, one after another.
- In James Clavell's Noble House, Roger Crosse is the chief of British Intelligence for Hong Kong, who pretends to work for the KGB but really reports to London and earns money and commendations (by selling information to and selling out agents from) from both sides.
- Kemper Boyd in James Ellroy's American Tabloid. He works as a gofer for the Kennedy brothers, spies on them for J. Edgar Hoover, gets a job investigating civil rights abuses at the Kennedy Justice Department and uses it as a cover for operating an anti-Castro Cuban exile training camp for the CIA, and turns the camp into a front for a heroin-smuggling scheme he cooked up with The Mafia. If he had somehow worked out a way to get on the Hughes Tool Company payroll, he'd have been working both for and against every single faction in the novel simultaneously.
- Tim Powers' novel Declare is based partially on the life of Kim Philby (see below, under "Real Life") and Cold War spying in general, so this inevitably comes into play. As is put to the protagonist Andrew Hale, the final fate of any spy network is "playback," where they're caught by a hostile power and used to feed false information back to their home agency, played back for all they're worth while trying to extract useful information from them. Hale ends the book playing back against the British SIS and the Soviet KGB for himself, finally getting out of the Great Game and retiring with the woman he loves.
- Tony Almeida in Season 7 of 24. He initially seems to be working for David Emerson and his mercenaries, until it's revealed that he's working with Bill and Chloe to take down the people behind Emerson (General Benjamin Juma and Jonas Hodges). But then it's revealed he was evil and working for a cabal of rival Big Bads who wanted Juma and Hodges taken down all along, then eventually we find out he's trying to gain the trust of the cabal's leader so he can kill him in revenge for ordering the death of his wife back in Season 5.
- Dr. Jill Roberts (Jordana Brewster) in several episodes of Chuck. Her apparent loyalty switches back and forth in a dizzying manner.
- The loyalties of Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse dizzyingly switch between Rossum and Echo at least once or twice per episode throughout the second/final season. Eventually, it's revealed she's working against Rossum.
- Irina Derevko, Jack Bristow, and Arvin Sloane on Alias who vacillate between working for terrorists, the CIA, the K Directorate, SD-6, Authorized Personnel Only, themselves, each other... Jack Bistrow at least is at for Sydney alone.
- And then there's Julian Sark, who literally does not care whose side he is on, as long as he ends up on top.
- Farscape: Scorpius takes this to mindbending levels by the end of the series. Sikozu qualifies as well, especially in Peacekeeper Wars when she sells out to the species she was created to destroy in an attempt to make them free her species.
- In fact, when Scorpius finally explains all the levels of spying he's doing, Noranti exclaims, "Oh, I do admire your compartmentalization of duplicity!"
- Dr Kellerman in the Doctor Who serial Revenge Of The Cybermen
- Figuring out how many factions Alex Krycek works for in any given episode of The X-Files is an exercise in futility, especially since he also has an unhealthy tendency to backstab his employers (mostly) for the lulz.
- Grimm has Captain Renard, a member of a so-far unknown Wesen royal family. Every single faction he has contacted so far has assumed he's working for some other side. And his actions really aren't helping us decide either.
- Star Trek
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; So, does Garak support the Detappa Council? The Obsidian Order? The Central Command? The Dissident Movement? The Federation? Enabran Tain? Himself? Have fun trying to figure it out because none of the characters in-universe can! His true loyalty seems to be to Cardassia itself and that means his alliances can shift all over the place depending on who he feels has Cardassia's best interests at heart.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation'': The two-part episode "Gambit" had both Picard and Riker captured by a group of artifact smugglers, and they pretend to work for them to investigate what they're really up to. Furthermore, Picard and Riker have to pretend to hate each other for this to work (the group's boss dislikes Picard, so Picard disliking Riker would hopefully make the boss take Riker into his confidence). Throw in a half dozen other crew members, each with their own personal loyalties and it starts to get very confusing. This is even lampshaded in the episode by Picard:
Picard: I'm having trouble remembering whose side I'm on!
- Cortez on Last Resort. While on the sub, she is secretly a CIA mole that they've planted there to undermine a rogue nuclear sub captain by stealing his launch key. But then, the actual CIA has been partially infiltrated by the Conspiracy, so she's secretly working for a sub-conspiracy that wants to keep the rogue sub in play, just under a different captain.
- Parodied in a MADtv sketch spoofing Alias, along with the show's hyperkinetic style (read the dialogue about two times as fast as you normally would, and you'll get the idea).
Dad: There's no time. I'm a spy for SD6.
Sydney: But SD6 is a rogue faction for the CIA.
Dad: But I'm a double agent for the CIA.
Sydney: How do I know you're not a triple agent pretending to be a double agent who's pretending to be an agent for SD6 when you're really not an agent at all?
Dad: ...Now I'm confused.
- Continuum Everyone. Liber8 was created and sent back in time by 2077-Alec. Escher is an ex-Freelancer and the creator of CPS, the organization that Kira works for. Garza was hired by Liber8 to assassinate 2077-Alec who then hires her to go back and intimidate 2012-Alec. Julian, after being recruited by Liber8, arrested, reformed, then being intimidated by Kira becomes Theseus and impersonates Kagame in order to influence Lucas into hacking the city. Kellog, working for his own interests pits Sonya and Travis against each other, only to end up working for them when they team up again, then betrays them to the Freelancers and Kira to Escher. Curtis, a Liber8 member, after being shot by Kira shows up later as a Freelancer. And that's only what viewers know after the first two seasons.
- Calvin and Hobbes did this in one strip where they're playing football. Then they try to justify why the other didn't score (I'm actually a double agent, triple agent, your goal is on top of mine so anytime you score it's a point for me, I'm actually a badminton player disguised as a football player, etc.) until it turns into a game of Calvinball.
- Parodied to the hilt in the radio play 'The Dog It Was That Died' by Tom Stoppard.
- The Green Lady from Exalted is working for four different Deathlords—one of whom is convinced she's secretly a man—as well as the Bureau of Destiny, and playing every last one of them off of the others. In fact, she's pulling such a convoluted, multilayered Memory Gambit that even she doesn't know whose side she's really on. Her true loyalties lie with Heaven, but she may well end up helping to destroy the world before her gambit resolves itself.
- Fully and hilariously possible in Paranoia: secret societies often have agents infiltrate other secret societies, who in turn might use the very same person to spy on yet another secret society, ad nauseum. The rulebook even acknowledges the (very remote) possibility of spying on all of Alpha Complex at once. "Try to keep your cover stories straight."
- The Werewolves Of Millers Hollow will sometime flirt with this. The mayor of the village can secretly be a werewolf, but more precisely a white werewolf, as well as the lover of the pied piper. It works better if there are many players.
- Munchkin Impossible has the triple agent card. It allows you to claim allegiance to three nations (out of the four available) at the same time. There's also the sidekick Dusty McRonin, the man of too many allegiances.
- BIONICLE has a rather simple one, as these things go: Roodaka worked for both the Brotherhood of Makuta and the Dark Hunters, but she played them off of each other and her true allegiance is to herself. Eventually both sides found out and started targeting her; at which point a third faction, the Order of Mata Nui, caught her and made her a Boxed Crook.
- Trope Namer is the original description of the Spy in Team Fortress 2. In game, you can disguise yourself as a spy. Since this disguise includes a random disguise (so you look like a proper spy to the enemy team), you can be a spy disguised as a spy disguised as a spy. The soldier in "Meet the Spy" did think the spy was a spy from the other team.
- For more on this topic, see the game's Wild Mass Guessing page.
- For bonus points, it may be possible for the spy the other spy is disguised as to be you. And if you are a spy yourself, the enemy spy can disguise himself as you, disguised as himself.
- Revolver Ocelot in Metal Gear has, at various points in the series, apparently has been working for the CIA, NSA, KGB, GRU, Colonel Volgin, FOXHOUND, rogue FOXHOUND, Sergei Gurlukovich, Solidus Snake and the Patriots. In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, we learn that he was truly faithful to Big Boss, and the entire Solid games was a plot by him to recover Big Boss's remains.
- EVA from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. When Snake meets her, he assumes that she is a NSA agent who defected to the Soviets and now works for the KGB infiltrating Volgin's private army. But she's actually a Chinese spy posing as a KGB agent and let herself get captured by Volgin. She walked into Snake by accident without knowing about his mission (since she didn't know the password), but when he asked her if she was "ADAM", she did some quick thinking and said she was ADAM's partner "EVA". Snake bought it and "EVA" ran with it during the entire mission.
- For added bonus points, both EVA and Snake were unaware of the fact that ADAM was Ocelot.
- Zelos of Tales of Symphonia works for Lloyd by working for Kratos while working for Yggdrasil by pretending to pretend to be helping Lloyd in one ending. He also passes information to the Renegades throughout, that group also being headed up by a more traditional Double Agent who's pretending to still be working for Yggdrasill himself. Of course, Zelos' true allegiance for most of the game is to himself, explicitly so when he's found out. Afterward, he either pulls a genuine and permanent Heel-Face Turn or else forces the party to fight and kill him, depending on which path you're on.
- The above character's Spiritual Successor, Alvin from Tales of Xillia, is even worse. First, he seems to be on your side. Then, it's revealed he's done work for Exodus, the group trying to assassinate Milla. He's also spying for Gaius and the Chimeriad, manipulating Ivar, and at one point he leaks information to Muzet as well. This is less of a diabolical plot on his part and more of a natural impulse; he was raised as a child spy.
- Xenoblade has Alvis. Through the course of the story, it's impossible to tell which side he's on. At one point he's a mysterious helper, then he's acting shady with a group of shady characters, then he's back again on Shulk's side. It continues to grow from there, and it's not until the very end that his true motivations become clear.
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn have Naesala, Raven King of Kilvas. He works for Daein as a mercenary leader (the rest of the mercenaries are Kilvans), and he seemingly betrayed Reyson for Oliver, but later he betrays Daein to protect Reyson and Leanne from Ashnard. Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, anyone? Turns out his ultimate loyalty was to his own kingdom, but this was complicated by a blood pact he'd signed with a certain Begnion senator. Generally, he took whichever side would benefit Kilvas the most, or harm it the least. The last time he switched sides, he did so in order to secure the blood pact and do away with it once and for all.
- Carmen Sandiego is described in some of the game manuals as a Triple agent. It's not too hard to think she probably reaches Double Reverse Quadruple Agent status pretty easily, given her legendary stealing prowess.
- Kingdom Hearts has Axel. He starts off in Chain of Memories working for Marluxia, betrays him for Zexion and Lexaeus and then ditches them to fend for himself - although 358/2 Days reveals that he was under Saix's orders the whole time. Kingdom Hearts II has him abandoning the Organization after being ordered to eliminate Roxas, kidnapping Kairi, and ultimately sacrificing himself to protect Sora. He plays for all teams.
- In Knights of the Old Republic, you can become this for the two instructors of the Sith Academy on Korriban, pitching them against each other while pretending to work for each of them as a double agent. This can end with them both saying to kill the other, then they feel the effects of the poison you gave to both of them, leading them to realize you are working for yourself. As is proper for a Sith, so really they're very good teachers.
- In Baldur's Gate II, while in Underdark, you can triple-cross two Drow priestesses, an elder Baatezu, and a white dragon, who each thinks you work for them, while in reality, you pursue your own agenda...
- In Star Wars: The Old Republic Imperial characters have several opportunities to do this and decide on the fly whose side you're actually on, if anyone's. One of the most notable cases is act 2 in Imperial Agent's story, where you're an undercover agent for both the Imperial and Republic intelligences though not entirely by choice for the Republic, since they've found the keyword to set off your brainwashing (originally put in place by Imperials at the command of the Sith) which allows them to give orders you cannot disobey.
- The Lost Archive DLC in Assassin's Creed: Revelations reveals Lucy to be one.
- Harley Filben in Deus Ex. He starts off as a UNATCO informant giving JC Denton information about the NSF. As it turns out, he's working for then NSF. And near the end of the game, he reveals that he's actually part of the Illuminati, posing as an NSF agent. The funny thing is, every time he reveals a new identity, that's the side you happen to be working with at that part in time. He was on your side the whole time.
- Dietrich Troy/Nicklaus in Spy Fiction. He's working for both Phantom and Enigma. He's committed several acts of terrorism, but also wants revenge on Scarface. In hindsight, it also appears that he specifically arranged the destruction of the primary Lahder production facilities, the rescue of Doctor Coleman, and the defeat of Scarface, so he's at least against Enigma if not necessarily aligned with Phantom.
- Battlefield3 features the Big Bad, who, it is revealed late in the game, is actually an American agent provocateur, which is why no one believes the main character's assertions that he's a bad guy. While it is entirely possible to look at the evidence and draw the same conclusion as the interrogators, the protagonist ultimately decides they're wrong and goes after him. And he's right. The Big Bad used his American contacts to cover up his terrorist dealings, and is only just barely stopped from nuking New York City by the protagonist.
- An almost untraceable example comes from Planescape: Torment in the form of a semi-retired officer of the Harmonium named Ebb Creakknees. Early in the game, he is presented as a 'tout', or guide, who sits in the Smoldering Corpse bar and is one of the most valuable and helpful sources of information on Sigil and its environs. Much later, however, he can be found leading a group of Anarchists in Curst and reveals he is a double agent spying on the Harmonium...except if certain conditions are met, in which he reveals himself to be a triple agent, a member of the Harmonium pretending to be an Anarchist pretending to be a member of the Harmonium.
- Professor Tiktoffen in Girl Genius. Everyone seems to think they are the ones he is really working for. It's been revealed that he was pretty much everyone's "man inside" the city-state of Mechanicsburg, and his true loyalty was solely to himself - his goal was to take over Mechanicsburg, and by making all the other factions think he was on their side in the struggle for the empire, they wouldn't oppose him when he made his bid for power over a single city.
- Schlock Mercenary:
- Tagon's Toughs occasionally find they have the opportunity to play this role, or at least what looks like the opportunity to do so. Look for the phrase "get paid twice"; it means both sides in a conflict are trying to hire the Toughs, and Tagon is optimistically trying to find a way to satisfy both contracts without letting either one catch on to his game.
- On at least one occasion they successfully managed to get paid five times.
- They get paid four times in The Body Politic, starting here. They get paid twice for stealing Xinchub's corpse, once for preventing the same theft, and once more for cloning a copy.
- The Order of the Stick explains the trope with a simple quote:
Nale: Glamored Armor? Isn't that kind of a weak ability, Dad?
Tarquin: Actually, when you change flags as often as I do, it's a real cost-saver.
- Kim Philby was originally a British spy in the SIS. He fell under suspicion of treason, and though not convicted, the suspicion was great enough that he was discharged from the SIS. He ultimately ended up working for the KGB. And his old bosses at the SIS contacted him with the idea that he could "leak" information (both true and false) from the SIS that they wanted the KGB to know, but with his true loyalty still being to Britain. Meanwhile, the KGB started using Philby for the same kind of purpose; they treated him as if he were loyal to them, and they gave him whatever information they wanted the SIS to have. Ultimately, he became more of a messenger than an actual double agent, because both sides put only half trust in him.
- Ali Touchent, identified as "Tarek" by the pseudonymous "Omar Nasiri" in his book "Inside The Jihad: My Life with Al-Qaeda - A Spy's Story", was supposedly a fervent and devoted member of the fundamentalist Armed Islamic Group (GIA) fighting against the Algerian military government. However, later evidence surfaced that he may've been an agent provocateur working with and/or for the Algerian government to help portray the GIA in the light of ruthless killers by goading them into committing various atrocities. However, the fact that he was behind the Paris metro attacks of 1995, among other terrorist acts, makes his allegiances all the more murky and questionable.