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I Know You're Watching Me

When any character is Being Watched on video surveillance and they look at the camera directly as if they know they are being watched. Usually indicates that the person being watched knows more than the audience has been led to believe, or is a threat to the people watching them. More bonus points if the person doesn't want their observers to know that they can tell they're being watched, and quickly looks away when they accidentally make eye contact with the camera.

This trope also applies to the one way windows found in interrogation rooms and other cases where someone being watched behaves in a manner that indicates they know exactly what's going on on the other side.

Compare to Poke in the Third Eye, which involves the more metaphysical forms of surveillance. If the character knows he's being watched by the audience, then this falls underneath Breaking the Fourth Wall.


Examples

Comicbooks
  • In a Superman comic, Clark Kent is in a police interrogation room, staring straight ahead with a smile on his face. (he, of course, is looking through the two way mirror with his X-ray vision and listening the the conversation with his super-hearing...)
    Detective one: Look at him sitting there, with that smile on his face! It's like he can see us!
    Detective Two: They all look like that...
  • In one issue shortly after Kara Zor-El was reintroduced in the post-Crisis DC Universe and received her Supergirl identity, the Calculator is monitoring her under Lex Luthor's orders. At one point, she glares straight in the direction of the camera the Calculator is using to watch her, which is enough for him to freak out in a Spit Take.
  • In an issue of Wild Cats one of the heroes freaked out when the villain of the week looked him straight in the eye while being spied upon (he was using long range binoculars rather than the camera but the effect is the same.)
  • In Queen And Country, a Honey Trap was cracked because the perpetrator was seen looking at the camera on the blackmail tape.

Film
  • A similar incident occurs in Inception - Ariadne dives down into Cobb's subconscious, and believes she's watching memories of Cobb talking to his dead wife Mal. Then Mal looks right at Ariadne and the audience to a Scare Chord that can make Marion Cotillard freaky as shit.
  • The interrogation room glass version happens in Dracula 2000. As the detectives behind the glass have just been smirking over Solina's "delusion" that she's a vampire, they're noticeably freaked out when she shouts, "Look at me when I'm talking to you!" She then continues to screw around with their minds, making them more freaked out.
  • Dreamscape. While Alex Gardner is in a room by himself being watched through a one way mirror, he uses a pen to write "Let's get on with it" on the mirror. It isn't clear whether he was using his psychic powers or was just familiar with Dr. Novotny's methods from their past relationship.
    • He effortlessly writes it backwards, to appear the right way around on the other side of the glass. This at least hints he might've gone through this process before.
  • Subverted in The Truman Show. He stares into his bathroom mirror (which has a camera inside), leading two people in the studio to believe that they've been discovered... until he draws a space helmet with soap and acts like an astronaut (in a Call Back to the intro where he pretends to be a mountaineer). Then it gets Double Subverted as he says, "that one's for free", implying that he knows he's being watched. The two men in the studio don't know what to think.
  • In the Nicolas Cage movie Next, the precognitive protagonist Cris is cheating at blackjack and several casino security officers are watching him on surveillance, trying to figure out how he's doing it. When someone realizes they recognize him, Cris looks up as though he heard his name being called, stares knowingly at the camera they're watching him through, and casually walks away before any security guards can apprehend him.
  • In Cabin By The Lake, Mallory watches herself in the two-way mirror that the murderous Stanley installed to observe his victims. Then she punches and nearly breaks the mirror while Stanley looks a bit nonplussed.

Literature
  • In Pay Me, Bug!, The Viceroy pulls this on the heroes, who are hacking into his security cameras, using only his telepathic powers. This might be explained by the fact that the hackers were using their own telepath in the connection.

Live-Action Television
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before", a crewman developing ESP has this moment while Kirk and Spock are watching him on a monitor from the bridge.
  • In Babylon 5, Lyta Alexander can tell if someone is watching her through a security camera after her psychic upgrade.
    Dr. Trent: She knows she's being watched.
    Sheridan: The security cameras are carefully hidden.
    Dr. Trent: Yes, but she knows where the camera is, and she knows we're watching her. Just look at her. Is there another camera in there?
    Sheridan: Yes, but...
    Dr. Trent: Humor me.
    Sheridan: ...Switch to the alternate view.
    Lyta's head snaps around to look at the viewer.
    Lochley: Well, that's a neat trick.
  • An episode of Fringe sees Olivia explore her subconscious memories of her deceased partner John Scott, including one night at a restaurant. Following Dr. Bishop's guidance that this is all a dreamscape and that she can't be seen by anyone, Olivia sits down at John's table... who immediately looks in Olivia's direction! This, obviously, spooks her, but Dr. Bishop insists that she cannot be seen. Later, when she returns to her home, she checks her e-mail only to find a new message that reads, "I saw you at the restaurant."
  • Subverted in an episode of Bones. Investigating the murder of a mentally ill young man who believed himself to be the devil, the team is interrogating one of his fellow inmates at the asylum, a girl who believes herself to be an angel. Looking in on the interview room in the asylum, Bones comments that, while she doesn't believe in supernatural phenomena of any stripe, it is unnerving how the girl's eyes seem to follow her perfectly from the other side of a two-way mirror. The asylum's head doctor quickly points out that their interview room isn't equipped with a two-way mirror—it's a perfectly normal window.
  • Another subversion appears on NCIS, when Gibbs has Abby's latest stalker in the interrogation room. The obsessed young man starts talking to the one-way glass, pleading for Abby to admit she loves him and can't take her eyes off him. Gibbs gets up to leave, and flips on the lights in the next room as he goes. This negates the glass's one-way properties, revealing that the room behind it is completely vacant.
  • One of Matt Parkman's more awesome moments in Series 3 of Heroes involved using his mind-control powers to trap some people who were watching him via a camera, and then look directly into said camera and nod smugly.
  • In later series of Knightmare, the dungeoneers could find a magic item that let them see what Big Bad Lord Fear was up to. If they carried on watching for too long, he'd become aware of the intrusion and send something nasty to deal with them.
  • There was one episode in Psych where they take Shawn, his father, and Gus into an interrogating room. Half-way through the interrogation, Shawn walks up to the one-way window and stares directly at Juliet, even following her when she moved.
  • The Big Comfy Couch. After Loonete yells, "HEY... WHO MADE THIS BIG MESS?!" and then says "...me?" the camera "nods yes" as if the viewer is watching the show through a child's eyes or even their own eyes
  • Persons Unknown did this a LOT. Not quite Once an Episode, but really often.
  • It's happened a few times in Person of Interest. And it's always justified. Because the Machine is ALWAYS watching.
  • Number 6 has done this more than a few times on The Prisoner.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the episode Hammer Into Anvil, where he managed to convince the Number 2 of the week of a non-existent conspiracy against him by doing basically nothing but variations on this trope, such as leaving envelopes containing blank pieces of paper in remote locations, knowing they'd be found and mistaken for codes messages, and engaging in meaningless small talk with people in hushed tones, knowing that it would be seen and mistaken for Spy Speak. Every time Number 2's underlings failed to find any hidden message, Number 2 became convinced that they were hiding it from him on account of being part of the conspiracy.

Webcomic

Western Animation
  • Happened in Samurai Jack, after confronting and beating his Superpowered Evil Side, he looks up at the skies (where Big Bad Aku is watching his every action) and says out loud: "I know you're watching." Cue end of episode.

Real Life
  • Thanks to Police Procedurals, people expect surveillance to be part of police interrogation. If there is a mirror in the room, their eyes will be drawn to where they believe someone to be standing, if not they'll look for the camera. Fictional characters who don't expect to be monitored from outside the room are beyond Genre Blind and into "living under a rock".


Being WatchedThe Index Is Watching YouBig Brother Is Watching
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