Mistaken for Index
aka: Oops I Did It Again
"I must be the only gullible husband who ever overheard snippets of surprise-party planning, and believed his wife was having an affair!"
— Homer Simpson
, The Simpsons
, "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind" (the other married men all hastily grab their collars)
A result of a principal character misinterpreting something. In comedy, this often leads to further and further misunderstandings, each more comical than the last, until things get straightened out at the end of the episode. In dramas, the principal character usually exerts much effort trying to prepare for a "showdown," only to discover at the last second it was "all a huge mistake."
This trope is one of the basic elements of Farce
, but can lead to an Idiot Plot
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Films — Live Action
- In Flying Down To Rio Roger is mistaken for a male prostitute and Belinha's aunt pays him and tells him "his services won't be needed". He quickly picks up on the misunderstanding but doesn't correct her, and instead uses the money to buy Belinha a flower (which she insults and refuses).
- Literary example where a mis-heard conversation made a major difference in the story: in David Weber's short story "Nightfall" in Changer of Worlds, two characters are preparing evidence so that, if it becomes necessary to remove another character (Esther McQueen), they'll have backup. They spend some considerable time talking about the necessity of hiding this action, since they need McQueen and will for some time yet. The final comment of the conversation (approximately, "We'll need this when we pull the trigger on McQueen") is overheard and passed to McQueen — where it triggers a full revolt. McQueen repeatedly complains that if she'd been given even six more weeks she would really have been ready. The revolt fails, McQueen dies, in the aftermath the government falls — and the entire premise of the first 8-9 books in the series (good monarchy against evil socialist republic) is fundamentally altered. The series is up to 12 books now.
Live Action TV
- Pv P, which calls back to seventies shows often, does this quite a bit. Subverted in that Cole hears Brent and Jade having sex in their office, realizes he's probably making assumptions like he has lots of time before, and comes to the conclusion that they're just moving furniture.
- One of the page quotes alludes to the brief, one-sided relationship that tried to take root while Elan was separated from Haley in The Order of the Stick. Although he's aware of the trope (Vaarsuvius notes early on that Elan's training as a bard makes him very Genre Savvy), he's generally compelled to let tropes rule in the name of narrative even if acting on his insight would save a lot of headaches later (he once delayed Roy during an escape from a self-destructing dungeon because they escaped with several seconds to spare, and had to wait for the dramatic fireball to catch up).