Mal: Whatever happens, remember that I love you.Alice and Bob need a disguise. Maybe they're detectives, maybe they're spies, or maybe they're just on the run from the law. For whatever reason, the disguise they decide to adopt requires that they pretend to be a couple. Hilarity Ensues! This may be a sign of Unresolved Sexual Tension between them; alternately, it can be used to highlight the lack of tension, by showing just how unnatural it feels to have them play the role. Either way, expect a huge amount of bickering and an agreement not to use tongues. Compare the rather briefer Fake-Out Make-Out, which may become necessary at some points. See also Smithical Marriage, The Beard.
Mal: Because you're my wife.
Zoe: Right, sir. Honey.
Mal: Because you're my wife.
Zoe: Right, sir. Honey.
— Firefly, "The Train Job"
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Anime and Manga
- In Full Metal Panic!, Wraith and Lemon do this while they gather information for Tessa in Russia. There were definitely deeper feelings on Lemon's part, though Wraith is harder to read.
- A flashback arc in the Rurouni Kenshin manga, and the anime's prequel OVA, revolves around Kenshin in his assassin days posing with a young woman named Tomoe Yukishiro as a married couple (more exactly, a herbalist/medic and his wife recently "arrived" to a tiny mountain village) to avoid Shinsengumi detection. It grows into real love just in time for things to end poorly.
- Hei and Yin from Darker Than Black pose as newlyweds in order to hide out at a resort while on the run in the Gaiden OVA.
- Trigun: Millie Thompson and Nicolas Wolfwood perform this, but in a twist it's not to protect themselves; it's to hide an escaping slave by hiding her under Millie's dress, with her posing as a pregnant woman. Millie and Nicolas then stroll along, pretending to be a happy expecting couple as the slave's pursuers pass them by.
- Subversion In Pokémon: Upon learning that James was an heir to a large fortune and could come upon that inheritance just by marrying, Jessie initially suggests that she and James falsify a wedding to each other in order to steal the inheritance. But then they learn that James already had a betrothed and really, really did not want to cross paths with her... Ironically this would have made Jessie's plan even easier had they gone through with it, since she looks exactly like James' fiance.
- In the Gundam manga Char's Deleted Affair, Char and a young Haman masquerade as newlyweds on vacation when visiting the colonies from Axis, to check up on the situation with other Zeon remnants in the Earth Sphere. This trip is the source of that picture from Zeta Gundam that apparently shows them as a couple. In actuality, Haman had a huge crush on Char when she was younger, but he never reciprocated, which... got her a little upset to say it politely.
- Ghost in the Shell has a variation. A wealthy businessman being targeted by a thief actually Section 9 is hosting what amounts to a very high-class Robosexual party. In order to get inside without arousing alarm, Aramaki and the Major attend, with the Major posing as Aramaki's Sex Bot, since she has a full-body prosthetic, making her essentially indistinguishable from an android. Aramaki, being a high-level government official with numerous connections, is able to go as himself without arousing suspicion. It is quite clear that the Major does not like this plan.
- Spice and Wolf shows the two main characters Lawrence, who is a traveling merchant, and Holo, a female wolf spirit taking on the form of a teenaged girl, use this excuse. Lawrence when asked about who Holo is will typically respond with either "my lover", or "my wife", so he doesn't have to explain that she's actually a wolf spirit. This brings Holo no end of amusement as she likes to tease him. By the end of the series this is no longer an excuse as they become Happily Married for real.
- In the Castlevania fic Bonds of Vanity, Maria and Alucard are stuck needing to get a pendent back from the villain without revealing how powerful it is. So on the fly, Alucard claims it was his engagement gift to Maria. Considering how they were acting during the rest of the story, not only does villain have no trouble buying this, their own ally has to remind himself it's a cover story.
- James Bond examples:
- The first Austin Powers movie did this, complete with clueless Austin using the inappropriate pseudonyms Richie Cunningham and Oprah.
- The Fourth Protocol. The KGB agent played by Pierce Brosnan picks up his 'wife' (actually a female military scientist) from the airport, and suggests they share the bed as per their cover story (he's been getting rather frustrated thanks to a flirtatious neighbour). She tells him to get lost, but they end up sleeping together anyway after a sweaty session assembling an atomic bomb. Subverted when he kills her the next day as per his orders.
- Lois and Clark in Superman II. They pose as a honeymooning couple to expose a corrupt hotelier.
- The Evil That Men Do. The hitman protagonist insists a woman and child accompany him, as a family draws less attention from the authorities. Unfortunately this backfires when the child is captured by the bad guys.
- In Get Smart Max and 99 are supposed to use this as their entry cover into Russia, but they're made by Giant Mook Dalip before they even leave the plane.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier: While on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. and doing some hacking in a mall, Cap and Black Widow pretend to be fiances looking up honeymoon sites.
Apple Employee: Congratulations, where you guys thinking about going?Steve: (glances at computer screen) ...New Jersey.
- This is how Mr. & Mrs. Smith first met and became a (fake) couple—they needed to escape the attention of local authorities who were looking for single people traveling separately. Then they enter into a Smithical Marriage using each other as cover. It's perfect...except for the part where the sham marriage is becoming increasingly strained because (naturally) they don't spend any significant time getting to know each other.
- The Oathbound series by Mercedes Lackey:
- Kethry and Tarma pretend to be lovers on a few occasions. They're actually Heterosexual Life-Partners, but there's enough Les Yay between them that they pull it off.
- Talia and Kris did the same to fool possible spies during their diplomatic mission to Hardorn in Arrow's Fall. Having once had a just-friends sexual relationship, they were able to be very convincing about it.
- In Single & Single by John le Carré, Oliver Single and his bodyguard/minder Aggie travel to Berne using his alias Hawthorne, with Aggie using the name of his ex-wife. When they believe they've been spotted by the bad guys, the switch to another pair of pre-arranged identities—a married couple again—before making an unscheduled and unauthorized escape to Istanbul.
- In Perry Mason, the title character and Della Street disguise as a couple with a baby in the "Case of the Deadly Toy", to hire a babysitter they need to question.
- In The Dresden Files, that's how Red Court Vampires frequently operate. Pretending to be a married couple makes it easier to deal with law enforcement agencies, your actions are considered less suspicious and people generally trust you more.
- In the Sword of Truth series, Jennsen and Sebastian use this technique while at the People's Palace. Jennsen seems to be fine with Sebastian's suggestions, until he decides that she should pretend to be pregnant, as well.
- Dusty Fog and Belle Boyd pose as husband and wife in The South Will Rise Again by J.T. Edson.
- X-Wing Series: When Rogue Squadron infiltrated Imperial Center in various disguises, some of them posed as lovers, most notably Corran and Erisi.
- In Honor Harrington, Victor and Ginny use this as a cover on multiple occasions.
- The setup for Fish and Chips is that FBI partners Zane Garrett and Ty Grady must pose as a married couple on a Caribbean cruise, pretending to be two of the partners in an art smuggling ring. Unknown to everyone else, Zane and Ty are already lovers, but are having trouble with the emotional side of their relationship; being forced into public demonstrations of love and affection wrenches them both in to a new understanding of how they might feel about each other.
- In Lee Nez: Surrogate Evil, Lee and Diane use this during an operation to catch a particularly vile scumbag named Newton Glover. It's helped along by the fact that by this point in the series the two of them actually are lovers.
- Defied and inverted in The Puppet Masters. The Boss makes Sam and Mary go undercover as brother and sister, precisely because he knows that their relationship will have a lot of sexual tension that needs to be kept under control (and he somehow knows this even though Sam and Mary haven't met).
Live Action TV
- The Avengers does it in Death on the Rocks where Steed and Cathy Gale must pretend to be husband and wife—probably the Ur-Example since it was from 1962 and there just aren't many series prior to that where the woman had enough of an active role to get an undercover mission (and to have UST, since that implies that her main role in the series isn't already to be a love interest).
- In "The Train Job", Captain Mal Reynolds and his second in command Zoe are on a shady job, stealing goods from The Alliance. They are questioned by a local sheriff, and Mal decides on the spot that a married couple looking for a job will be the best cover-up story.
- Jayne and Mal pretend to be husband and wife in one episode. Hilarity ensues. Mal jokes he likes wearing a dress and a pretty bonnet.
- NCIS, "Under Covers": Tony and Ziva pose as a husband and wife team of assassins and fake having sex more times than is really necessary to maintain their cover.
- Not to mention the act is apparently so convincing they fool the FBI agents who are secretly monitoring them, who insist, even after being told repeatedly that the entire situation was an act, that they can't be fooled and it was real. Five seasons later, it's implied that the sex was real.
- McGee and Bishop posed as husband and wife to catch an actually married pair of killers. Rarely, this did not heighten already present UST or result in newfound UST between them. If anything, she ended up confusing in him about her troubled marriage.
- NCIS: Los Angeles, does it as with Kensi and Deeks. It happens on a fairly regular basis, actually, to the point that it's only notable when they have to maintain it for an extended period of time (such as one episode where they had to live together to infiltrate a gated community.)
- Sam goes undercover as the partner/boyfriend of a female undercover agent pretending to be an assassin. They have no problems convincing people that they are a couple because the female agent is actually Sam's real wife. The awkward parts comes when the Big Bad wants her to dump her boyfriend and hook up with him instead.
- Happened on The Bill at least once.
- On the second season of Supernatural, Jo poses as Dean's girlfriend in order for them to investigate an apartment where various girls had gone missing.
- There is also an episode in Season 3 in which Dean and Bela pretend to be a couple at a social event in order to steal a Hand of Glory from the place.
- In "A Very Supernatural Christmas", Sam and Dean pose as a couple in order to get information on how the Monster of the Week is distributing McGuffins to the victims. As they are siblings who are frequently Mistaken for Gay, this is awkward.
- Averted on New Tricks, when Brian is paired up with a young and beautiful professional undercover cop. He explains the situation very cautiously to his wife - only to be discomfited when she bursts out laughing.
- Happened on Bones, in an episode where Booth and Brennan go undercover as married circus performers.
- And there's the episode where they go to Las Vegas and pose as a "loosely committed" couple. (Read: Brennan nixed the idea of marriage because she doesn't believe in it)
- Season 5 has an episode where they go semi-undercover to Bones' high school reunion, with Booth posing as her husband. Made a thousand times more awkward by the fact that this came right after the episode where he confessed his love for her and she said she didn't want to start a relationship.
- Done a fourth time in the season 6 finale, with a twist: at the end of the episode, Brennan reveals that she's carrying Booth's baby (the previous episode had implied that they'd slept together), and they actually do become a couple thereafter.
- One episode has Angela and Sweets going undercover as a couple to nab possible murder weapons.
- Veronica Mars did this to Logan at the Neptune Grand once to look for his mother.
- Life On Mars. Sam Tyler and WPC Cartwright pose as a married couple to investigate a wife-swapping group. Interestingly the most Unresolved Sexual Tension comes not from this situation, but in the scene where they're making up a Meet Cute cover story.
- The X-Files, "Arcadia": Mulder and Scully pose as a married couple while investigating a Planned Community With A Dark Secret. Given their Celibate Hero nature, it was more an opportunity for snarking at each other than Unresolved Sexual Tension. Such as Mulder claiming they met at a UFO conference. "She's into all that New Age stuff. I don't know why she falls for it." Scully somehow manages to give a shamefaced smile through gritted teeth. Every fan knows Mulder was lucky to escape that assignment with his life. Or other important parts... The funny aspect about that episode is that it wasn't originally classified as an X-File. It was simply a missing persons case in a creepy town. Which means that whoever was running the case though that out of all the male/female partnerships in the FBI qualified for the case, Mulder and Scully would be most believable as a married couple.
- La Femme Nikita. Nikita and Michael did this on several occasions. In one episode they're flat out told by their controller that they're to have sex.
- Lois and Clark in Lois and Clark, again posing as a honeymooning couple. This time it was to spy on the bad guys across the street from the hotel.
- Threshold. In order to investigate a small town called Allenville, Caffrey and Cavanaugh pose as newlyweds looking for a home. Far from being uncomfortable with this, they actually joke about themselves as a married couple throughout the episode.
Cavanaugh: I'm good at destroying things.
Caffrey: That's why I married you. (both smile)
- Babylon 5: During the Earth Alliance Civil War arc, Marcus and Franklin adopt false IDs to sneak onto Mars. The Resistance's access to fake IDs is "limited to what [they] can steal", so they end up taking the IDs of newlyweds: Jim Fennerman and Daniel Lane, on Mars for their honeymoon. Not especially sensical, but very funny. Also noteworthy for the fact that no one (even Marcus and Franklin, after the initial "WHAT!?" reaction) finds it unusual, and nobody is concerned that two men posing as newlyweds would attract attention (the last thing they need during a covert operation).
- In Knight Rider 2008, Mike and Zoe pose as a honeymooning couple in the course of an investigation in a Mexican resort.
- This happens over and over in Chuck, usually when they attend parties that the big baddie is throwing.
- More important than episode-by-episode missions, it's their overall background story. Chuck maintains his normal pre-spy life. Sarah stays close to him as a guide and guard, and for the first two seasons, their cover story to all his friends and family was that they were boyfriend and girlfriend.
- In one episode this is the premise, in which Chuck and Sarah pose as a just-married couple in order to investigate a suspicious neighbourhood. This actually forms part of the larger plot between Chuck and Sarah, in that both of them realise that it's the life they want to have together but never can.
- Given that Sarah is the only female on their team, she's been paired with everyone except for Casey for missions like these, generally to play up the Unresolved Sexual Tension and/or jealous rage of Chuck.
- Monk and Sharona, while investigating a marriage counseling retreat in the episode "Mr. Monk Gets Married". The counselor's response to finding out that they're not married is "Oh, thank God. Keep it that way."
- Surprisingly for a show in which the main characters adopt new identities in every episode, Leverage does this rarely; however, in "The Mile High Job", Nate and Sophie pretended to be a couple while boarding an airplane, and then got into an argument over their past history while working on their cover story.
- Hardison and Parker have also posed as a couple a couple of times. Most notably in "The First David Job" where they make out to cover for opening a door. Then there's "The Ice Man Job" where she's the girlfriend to his diamond merchant (the titular "Ice Man"), and finally "The Fairy God Parents" where they pose as newly-weds when looking at an apartment.
- Hardison and Eliot also posed as a couple to get in and see Nate in "The 12-Step Job". Eliot was less than pleased.
- In one episode of Blood Ties, Vicki infiltrates a fertility clinic by posing as a patient and gets Mike to pose as her husband.
- In The Mentalist, Patrick Jane does this with his supervisor, Teresa Lisbon. He didn't precisely need to, and was more likely than not doing this to patronize her without fear of backlash. On the other hand, it could be because the writers know that there are crazy Jisbon shippers out there. Whom they like to taunt. With slow-dancing.
- In Castle, Castle and Beckett pose as a BDSM-couple to infiltrate an exclusive high-class dungeon. Beckett takes a great deal of pleasure in expressing a desire to make Castle, cast here as the submissive boyfriend, 'squirm'.
- Later subverted when the two of them go undercover as newlyweds at an Old West-themed resort to solve a murder. The subversion comes from the fact that they married at the end of the previous episode, so they are indeed newlyweds.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
- Happens a number of times for Benson and Stabler.
- In "Wildlife", Elliot goes off the radar while undercover as an animal smuggler. Olivia sneaks in to check on him, but is caught by the smugglers. She poses as his prostitute, which involves the two of them in their underwear.
- in "Bombshell", Elliot and Olivia pose as a married couple experimenting with the swinger lifestyle to get into an exclusive swinger's club. Strangely, this one has the least amount of tension between them.
- In "Ace", they pose as an infertile couple looking to pay for a baby to bust a child-smuggling ring.
- In "Father Dearest," the detectives need information about a particular donor at a sperm bank. Olivia and Amanda Rollins go to the sperm bank posing as a couple "ready to take the next step."
- Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye had Unresolved Sexual Tension couple Sue and Jack do undercover several times. The first time it was treated as a big deal but later on it became common place.
- Subverted in Undercovers, where the lead agents (Tish Jones and Luther) are actually husband and wife.
- Lie to Me has Cal and Gillian go undercover as a kinky couple who want to make a porno to find a missing girl. This includes Gillian talking about liking bondage and the two sharing quite a kiss.
- Bionic Woman (2007 remake). In "The List" Jaime Sommers and CIA agent Tom Hastings travel to Paris as a married couple. It doesn't help that they had sex in the previous episode and Tom can speak French, but Tom decides they need to focus on the mission — leading to more distracting sexual tension than if they'd just slept together.
- In Jack-of-All-Trades, Jack and Elaine have to pose as lovers when infiltrating Marquis de Sade's BDSM-themed island resort. They also have to adapt a dom/sub relationship. No guesses who ends up which.
- In one episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures, Clyde and Rani pretend to be a married couple of journalists. The faked marriage raises fewer eyebrows than the fact that they're supposed to be writers for a magazine aimed at senior citizens.
- On JAG, Mac and Clayton Webb went undercover as husband and wife on a CIA mission in Paraguay in season 8/9.
- Assignment 5 of Sapphire and Steel has the titular beings pose as a married couple. Steel is nonplussed by the arrangement, but Sapphire has fun winding him up by asking things like what side of the bed he wants.
- On Graceland the main characters are federal undercover agents and have to do this from time to time. Charlie recruits Mike to act as her boyfriend when she has to go to a sleazy bar to make a delivery for Paige. If she went in by herself all the sleazy men would start hitting on her and she would have too many people looking at her. She even tells Mike to "grab her ass" to sell people on the idea that he is her cocky, possessive boyfriend.
- When Briggs and Charlie go undercover as a junkie couple it is revealed that last time they assumed these roles they actually hooked up for real. Since they had ended the relationship years ago, they now play their undercover identities as a couple who broke up but still remained friends. However, they have to do a Fake-Out Make-Out to avoid blowing their cover and it heats up the sexual tension between them again. They almost end up having sex but stop themselves when they realize that the attraction is purely physical and caused by the danger they are in. They go back to being just friends.
- This is the framing device for Spaced. Tim and Daisy meet in a cafe, both reading through newspapers looking for housing. They discover an advert for an affordable tenancy but which is "professional couple only", and poses as partners in order to find somewhere to live.
- Happens on occasion in Spooksnote whenever two MI-5 officers needed to go undercover. For the most part, however, they act as consummate professionals. Quizzing one another on their fabricated background happens far more often than them letting their personal feelings interfere with their operation. In something of a precedent for this show, the very first time it happened in episode two, it ended with Helen, the "wife", being gruesomely murdered by having her head shoved into a deep-fat friar.
- Person of Interest. In "High Road" the POI lives in the suburbs. Given that The Man In The Suit sticks out somewhat, Finch arranges for Reese to move into the house next door, and in a twisted sense of humor, Reese asks Zoe Morgan to join him by handing her a diamond ring and asking if she'd marry him. Despite Small Town Boredom the partnership actually works quite well, and the end of the episode has Zoe suggesting they stay an extra night before 'divorcing'. Just to finish their game of poker, of course.
- In the musical Baker Street, Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler disguise themselves as a low Cockney couple, Mr. and Mrs. Brasser Bates of Bethnal Green.
- Guybrush and Morgan in Tales of Monkey Island: The Lair of the Leviathan have to fake being a married couple for Coronado de Cava so he would help them, as they were all trapped within a giant manatee and Coronado was neurotic and thought that Guybrush wanted something with the Voodoo Lady.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Roy Campbell and Rosemary pretend to be wed to one another (much to the disgust of most everyone else, considering Roy is old enough that Rose could pass as his daughter) to protect Rose from being used as a hostage against her actual boyfriend Raiden by the Patriots.
- It's mentioned in Street Fighter Alpha that Charlie Nash and Chun-Li have done this in the past.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, Micah and Shuu go undercover as lovers to infiltrate Enenra's fortress in Hyama. Micah, who's straight, isn't really comfortable with it, and Shuu teases him about it to no end.
- In The Red Panda Adventures, the eponymous Red Panda and his sidekick pose as a married couple in Episode 8: "Curse of Beaton Hall" to explore the mystery. They do so badly due to Unresolved Sexual Tension and their somewhat snark master-servant relationship. This is given a shoutout in Episode 49: "Nightshade" where after they were married in the prior episode in their civilian identities, an enemy agent comments on how flimsy their disguise as a married couple is, right down to his sidekick still referring to him as "Boss."
- Happens briefly in the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Headband" with Sokka and Katara, the latter even pretending to be pregnant. This being a Nickelodeon show, the Squickiness of their actually being brother and sister is not addressed.
- In The Legend of Korra, Korra and Mako go undercover in order to infiltrate an Equalist gathering. Considering they do become the Official Couple at the end of the season, this is almost certainly intended as Ship Tease for them. Nevermin that they decide to stay as Just Friends two seasons later.
- An episode of South Park that portrayed all the major players of the 2008 US Presidential Elections (with the exception of Joe Biden) as a gang of ludicrously high class thieves, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama were portrayed as this. They really hook up at the end.
- In one episode of Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, Sprx and Nova have to pretend to be a married couple in order to trick the Elevator Monster into taking them to wherever it is taking people to. He seems quite happy about it, she doesn't.
- Played with on Young Justice, when Superboy and Miss Martian go undercover as brother and sister despite all the Unresolved Sexual Tension in their relationship since they're impersonating an actual brother-and-sister supervillain duo. Icicle Jr. is naturally quite Squicked when they start making out.
- In one episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Ahsoka needed an exuse for why she was with Lux, when he went to make a deal with the Death Watch, and she got involved. She claimed she was his betrothed.
- Phineas and Ferb pulls an inversion of this trope in "Tales from The Resistance" with the Alternate Universe versions of Doofenshmirtz and Charlene. They're Happily Married but pretending to be divorced.
- In his book The Greatest Battle (on the Battle for Moscow in World War II) Andrew Nagorski interviewed two former members of an NKVD special forces unit who were ordered to go Undercover as Lovers (in the belief that a married couple would draw less attention) who, despite their initial awkwardness, ended up getting married for real.