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Double Reverse Quadruple Agent
: But it's all about
the little details! I mean, you must spend every day pretending to act like you're falsely letting on that you aren't not unbetraying someone you don't not purport to allegedly not work for but really do! How do you keep all this shit straight without having an aneurysm
?! Revolver Ocelot
: *shrug* Practice.
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 To Aru Majutsu no 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 spys 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?
- 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.
- 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 when Indiana's old war buddy Mac turns out to be working for the Soviets, then tips off Indy that he's actually a double agent, only to be working for the Soviets after all. When this is revealed Indy asks in disgust "So, what? You're a TRIPLE agent?" Mac lightly replies: "No, I just lied about being a double." In the end, Mac reveals he was working with Indy after all ("I'm on your side, remember?") as they try to escape together. However, Mac doesn't make it out alive, though he does make sure Indy doesn't get sucked in with him.
- Openly an issue with Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. It's nearly impossible to do a write up of his betraying and side-switching first three films because it's NEVER really made clear exactly who he's helping, who he's fucking over, or even why he's doing it (and, at some points, he doesn't seem to be able to keep track of it himself).
- 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...
- 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. If this troper remembers correctly 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, unravelling 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.
- 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, et.) 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 been working for the CIA, NSA, KGB, GRU, Colonel Volgin, FOXHOUND, rogue FOXHOUND, Colonel Gurlukovich, Solidus Snake and the Patriots. In Metal Gear Solid 4, we learn that he was truly faithful to Big Boss, and the entire Solid series was a plot by him to recover Naked Snake's remains.
- EVA from Metal Gear Solid 3. 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.
- Xenoblade has Alvis, whose true motives are impossible to discern until the game's over and done with.
- 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 Assassins 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.
- 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 provacateur 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.