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Fall Guy
Sometimes, the police simply are not going to stop investigating a crime until they find someone to arrest. In this case, even if you've pulled off The Perfect Crime, the only way to be certain of getting away with it is by setting up some other sap to take the fall for you.

Sometimes the Fall Guy is an accomplice who takes on this scapegoat role willingly. Other times, when you have drawn up plans with the brilliant clockwork evil of The Chessmaster, you might choose a Fall Guy—whether an accomplice of yours, or someone completely innocent—by tricking this Unwitting Pawn into taking the blame.

Maybe you choose the guy no one's going to believe. Better yet, you choose a well-meaning sap whose fears and goals you've been able to manipulate via Flaw Exploitation. Alternately, you could pull off a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit, since a dead man can't defend himself.

Closely related to The Scapegoat.

Not to be confused with a television series.

Spoilers abound!

Examples:

Comicbooks
  • In Persepolis, in order to avoid being arrested by the Guardians of the Revolution for wearing makeup in public, Marjane focuses their attention elsewhere by accusing a man who happened to be nearby of saying "something indecent" to her. (Later, Marjane's grandmother calls her out on this.)
  • Drift from Transformers: More than Meets the Eye turns out to be a fall guy of the willing variety. The plan in this case isn't exactly a crime, but could have deadly consequences if it goes wrong. Long story short, it does, and it does, and Drift takes full responsibility because he feels one of the other people involved needs to stay in his current position to prevent a later disaster, and because he claims he was brought into the plan as a fall guy in the first place.
  • The Transformers IDW: Daniel Klonowski from the Bumblebee miniseries. The Autobots are controlled by a rogue group of Skywatch agents under Colonel Gordon Horiuchi. After the whole operation fails due to Autobot ingenuity and Decepticon interference, Klonowski steps in to save Bumblebee and one of their scientists. Afterwards he mentions that he took the fall for all the staff who went rogue and was dishonorably discharged. He mentions that he's happy with it, as Horiuchi and the other unidentified commanders were quite grateful and he was suitably compensated.
  • In "The Man Who Collected Excitement", a thief frames Jimmy Olsen by slipping him anonymous tips, ensuring he'll always be one of the first at the scene of the crime. However, Jimmy turns the tables by finding the real crook.

Film
  • In the finale of The Maltese Falcon, as Sam Spade is negotiating the terms for handing over the Falcon, one of his conditions is that someone needs to take the fall for the murder of his partner (since the police suspected Spade himself of having done the deed).
  • Following: Cobb knows he's the prime suspect in the murder of an elderly woman, so he sets up the unnamed protagonist to take the fall for it. Or does he?

Literature
  • Soviet satirical novel The Little Golden Calf features "sitz-chairmannote  Funt" — a professional figurehead for phony companies. He is 90 and claims to have been doing that all his life. He charges a clerk's wage for sitting in the office looking important and double that for the time he spends in jail "because of job hazards". The Villain Protagonist hires Funt to get blackmail material about one of his former employers.

Live-Action TV
  • Sidney Glass (formerly the Magic Mirror) does this for Regina in Once Upon a Time, admitting to kidnapping Katherine and going to jail. The town sheriff realizes it's total bull, but the true culprit is virtually untouchable.
  • During season two of Breaking Bad, Saul introduces Walt and Jesse to a professional fall guy who's spent so much time in prison he can't function outside it. He now gets paid to take the rap for other people.

Newspaper Comics
  • Calvin and Hobbes: In one "Tracer Bullet" story, Calvin's mom drags Calvin into the living room and tells him to explain how the end table got knocked over. Calvin re-imagines the events as his private detective alter ego, Tracer Bullet, getting hired to unwittingly serve as the fall guy for this particular crime.
    Tracer Bullet: The dame had set me up! She didn't want me to solve the case at all! She just wanted a patsy to pin the crime on!

Video Games
  • Ambition has Yale, who ends up in prison for the murder of a woman he didn't do (though he was a suspect, as he was cheating on his wife with the murdered lady) in episode 10. This was supposed to lead into a sequel series, but the game has become orphaned since then.

Visual Novels
  • In Metro PD: Close to You, Hanai relates to the protagonist how, prior to the events of the VN, he arrested a man for a series of murders only to become convinced that he was innocent and had been set up to take the fall for someone else. He was not able to prove it or find the real culprit, and as of Hanai's epilogue the scapegoat is still in prison.


Fair CopCrime and Punishment TropesFalse Confession
Evil HeroTropes Needing ExamplesFaux Interracial Relationship

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