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Mistakenly Attacked Mole

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A person attacks someone they believed betrayed his group, but it turns out they were actually undercover with the enemy. Now with a crowner.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Eddy1215 on Sep 11th 2018 at 8:04:13 AM
Last Edited By:
Eddy1215 on Nov 11th 2018 at 6:24:28 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Sometimes, the worst thing about being The Mole is not the life-threatening lifestyle, the risk of getting caught by the enemy, being outed as a spy and being executed before you can complete your mission. No, sometimes, the worst part is the chance of coming under-fire by your own allies. That one loose cannon who wasn't informed of your mission, believes you've turned traitor, feels there's only one way to deal with scum like you, and in an impulsive act of what they think is patriotism, shoots you on the spot, believing they just performed Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.

In other words, the ultimate case of Poor Communication Kills.

Unlike Heel–Face Door-Slam, the character was Good All Along, and ends up getting attacked for a misunderstanding. The attacker is likely to undergo My God, What Have I Done? after learning that the guy was a Fake Defector. For extra irony, the mole was probably bringing in big enemy secrets and the attacker got to him before he could give the intel.

If there is Dramatic Irony involved and the audience knows that the victim is a mole, it can make the misguided patriot look unreasonable and monstrous. To make the situation worse, the mole might try to explain the situation, only for the attacker to refuse to listen/believe him until it is too late.

Please note that the attack doesn't have to be fatal. The mole can be put into a coma, badly incapacitated, or even end up having his cover being blown because of the attacker, anything that puts a serious crimp in his mission, perhaps even render it All for Nothing.

A subtrope of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! and Right Hand vs. Left Hand. Similar to Acquitted Too Late where an innocent person dies in prison before their exoneration. Compare and contrast Flock of Wolves and Friend or Foe where one didn't know that the mole was on their side in the first place. Can go hand in hand with Vigilante Execution, especially if the executioner isn't popular with the rest of your side. If the rest of the mole's allies arrive in time to save him, that leads into He's a Friend. The attacker is likely to get You Fool! and What the Hell, Hero? for his actions, or inversely the attacker will dish it out to the people that didn't tell him the guy was a mole. If the mole went undercover by orchestrating his own death, see Mistaken for Own Murderer. If the guy seeking to off the mole is obsessed with it and won't stop pursuing until he's dead, see Determinator and Super-Persistent Predator. Another example of why being Locked Out of the Loop is a bad thing. See also Tragic Mistake and A Tragedy of Impulsiveness.

Examples:

Anime & Manga

  • In Episode 10 of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, the cast is shown to have been captured by the villains, with one of the characters having performed a Heel–Face Turn. Most of the cast believed the betrayal was genuine, due to his previous status as the Aloof Ally. So when the prisoners finally retaliate, the "traitor" is also attacked. It's up to the main character to intervene and explain that the "traitor" had spent the entire time passing him information about the villain's lair
  • In the manga adaptation of Mega Man X, X believes that Storm Eagle had betrayed him and ended up giving him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. It's only after X has fatally wounded him does Zero tell him where Storm Eagle's allegiances truly lie.

Comic Book

  • Blake and Mortimer: A young Henry Blake unknowingly participates in the removal of his childhood hero Colonel Lawrence (better known as Lawrence Of Arabia) after he's seen talking with known fascists. It's made to look like an accidental crash under the guidance of the senior MI-6 agent Lawless who decided Murder Is the Best Solution for dealing with traitors (and with considerable relish, because he'd always resented Lawrence). It turns out Lawrence was infiltrating them on orders from MI-6. Oops.

Film

  • Hard Boiled, Inspector Yuen tries to kill a high profile mob hitman, Alan, but runs out of bullets, and only later learns from his superiors that Alan is actually an undercover cop himself.
  • In Team America: World Police, Gary, the newest member of the counterintelligence team, goes undercover to try to uncover the terrorist plot. While undercover, his teammates mistake him for a an actual terrorist despite his Paper-Thin Disguise and nearly kill him during a Chase Scene.

Literature

  • In the climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Professor Mc Gonagall and the rest of the teachers are done putting up with Snape and join forces to drive him out of the castle. It's shortly after he dies does Harry learn he had been Dumbledore's inside man even Snape's supposed murder of him had been arranged between the two, and that he had actually used his position as Hogwarts' headmaster to protect everyone from the Death Eaters. As such, by driving him out, there is no one to shield them from Voldemort, who decides to launch an all-out war against the castle.

Live Action TV

  • Nearly happens retrospectively to Felix Gaeta in Battlestar Galactica (2003), when a semi-tolerated vigilante group who have been executing Cylon collaborators following the humans' escape from New Caprica nearly kill him because of his role as chief assistant to President Baltar under the occupation. In fact he was a mole for the resistance, which hardly anyone knew. Until he's rescued, Gaeta makes no attempt to defend himself, seemingly because he himself either believes that he deserves to die for the horrors that he had to be complicit in, or simply doesn't care about living any more.
  • In season 3 of 24, Gael Ortega goes undercover alongside Jack Bauer in the Salazars operation. Unfortunately, Gael ends up getting arrested by CTU and it's only after they brutally interrogate him do they learn their mistake.
  • In one episode of Hogan's Heroes, Carter pretends to turn traitor in order to learn the location of a chemical plant. In a unique variation, a member on the enemy side that wanted to defect tried to poison Carter because she thought his act was real.

Western Animation

  • Young Justice: Miss Martian Mind Rapes Aqualad and destroys his mind as revenge for his murder of Artemis. Turns out her death was faked and she's acting as The Mole alongside Aqualad. Miss Martian finds out as she's destroying his mind and is horrified afterward.
  • In one multi-parter of Star Wars: Clone Wars, Anakin becomes obsessed with finding and killing a bounty hunter that had supposedly killed Obi-wan, unaware that it was actually Obi-wan in disguise, having gone undercover among a group of bounty hunters that were involved in a plan to assassinate the Chancellor. Afterwards, Palpatine would use the fact that Anakin wasn't informed of the plan as an opportunity to sew more distrust between him and the Jedi.

Feedback: 79 replies

Sep 11th 2018 at 8:08:15 AM

funny that the first example of this should be a subversion

Needs A Better Description, Needs More Examples

Sep 11th 2018 at 8:25:01 AM

It's probably worth raiding The Mole for examples.

Sep 11th 2018 at 10:58:03 AM

The description and laconic is a little confusing. Is this just "Character kills The Mole" or "Character kills who they think is The Mole"??

Sep 11th 2018 at 1:10:31 PM

Young Justice: Miss Martian mind rapes Aqualad and destroys his mind as revenge for his murder of Artemis. Turn out her death was faked and is acting as The Mole alongside Aqualad. Miss Martian finds out as she’s destroying his mind and is horrified afterward.

Sep 11th 2018 at 1:57:00 PM

Blake And Mortimer: A young Henry Blake unknowingly participates in the removal of his childhood hero Colonel Lawrence (better known as Lawrence Of Arabia) after he's seen talking with known fascists. It's made to look like an accidental crash under the guidance of the senior MI 6 agent Lawless who decided Murder Is The Best Solution for dealing with traitors (and with considerable relish, because he'd always resented Lawrence). It turns out Lawrence was infiltrating them on orders from MI 6. Oops.

Sep 11th 2018 at 6:06:56 PM

If they're murdering a mole within their group, it means they're doing the right thing, right?

Sep 11th 2018 at 6:21:30 PM

  • In Arrow, Vigilante looked as though he had gone from being a Knight Templar to joining the Big Bad Ensemble. However he claims to actually be The Mole infiltrating the villains side, which many of the heroes have a hard time believing. He finally proves his allegiance by saving one of the heroes and ending up killing one of his fellow villains. In the process he exposes himself to the Big Bad who then has him executed.

Sep 11th 2018 at 8:14:28 PM

I think a better title would be Shot Your Own Spy. Murdering the Mole sounds like killing the enemy mole within your own organization.

Sep 11th 2018 at 9:35:31 PM

^ I agree, this title matched with the description and laconic incredibly confusing.

Sep 12th 2018 at 8:08:10 PM

Well, the title's changed now.

Lawrence Of Arabia needs proper namespace.

Laconic: "murder's" > "murders"

Sep 12th 2018 at 8:32:04 PM

Snape isn't an example, not even a subverted one.

Sep 12th 2018 at 9:13:57 PM

Snape is more properly a Double Agent, right? And he's the one doing the murder.

By the way, for the description: this may be justified if said mole joined the enemy faction without his original group's consent or knowledge, and may even expect their original comrades to fight them. See also Fake Defector.

Sep 13th 2018 at 1:44:45 AM

Nearly happens retrospectively to Felix Gaeta in Battlestar Galactica 2003, when a semi-tolerated vigilante group who have been executing Cylon collaborators following the humans' escape from New Caprica nearly kill him because of his role as chief assistant to President Baltar under the occupation. In fact he was a mole for the resistance, which hardly anyone knew. Until he's rescued, Gaeta makes no attempt to defend himself, seemingly because he himself either believes that he deserves to die for the horrors that he had to be complicit in, or simply doesn't care about living any more.

Sep 13th 2018 at 1:46:48 AM

^^Snape did murder, but he also got murdered by Voldemort later. You may have a point about him being a double agent though.

Sep 13th 2018 at 4:25:54 AM

Does it really need to be murder, or just taking someone down is enough?

Sep 13th 2018 at 10:37:10 AM

^Just because the title says murder doesn't mean that all examples have to involve death. It can be anything severe like breaking a leg, putting in a coma, heck, even examples where the guy is nearly killed until somebody appears on the scene to save him counts.

Sep 13th 2018 at 1:52:33 PM

  • Subverted in Hard Boiled, where Inspector Yuen tries to kill a high profile mob hitman, Alan, but runs out of bullets, and only later learns from his superiors that Alan is actually an undercover cop himself.

Sep 13th 2018 at 5:21:18 PM

^^ Then it's misleading and I have to give you a bomb.

Sep 13th 2018 at 5:58:44 PM

Agreed with Tropers/4tell0life4. May I suggest Taking Down Your Own Mole as a title?

Sep 13th 2018 at 8:54:14 PM

It counts cases when the mole "defects" to the other side without his own side knowing, right? His old friends then attack him, which may or may not lead to disaster.

Sep 14th 2018 at 11:53:30 AM

It can include moments where people on the Mole's side know about his mission (except the one who attacks him) or if he decides to become a spy of his own decision. And I thought Murdering Your Own Mole had nice alliteration. Not every trope out that says something like "death" in the title excludes non-lethal examples. But if it makes you feel better, I'll think of a new one.

Sep 14th 2018 at 1:18:21 PM

Snape still isn't an example. Voldemort kills him to gain ownership of the Elder Wand, not because he thinks Snape is a mole.

Sep 14th 2018 at 2:23:17 PM

This title is worse... Why not, say, Attack Your Own Mole?

Sep 14th 2018 at 3:49:36 PM

Why is this listed as a Super Trope of Nice Job Breaking It Hero when this is more specific than that trope and should be a Sub Trope?

Sep 14th 2018 at 3:58:18 PM

Agree with warjay. changing the title to a Snow Clone is not a good idea.

Sep 14th 2018 at 6:18:20 PM

What I was going to say has been said by ^^^ and ^^.

Fake Defector should be added in the description.

Sep 15th 2018 at 4:12:31 AM

Flock Of Wolves deserves a mentioning in the compare section.

Sep 15th 2018 at 2:44:36 PM

A bit better, but now it loses any connection to the "mole" being attacked, it sounds now like any situation where someone is mistaken for a traitor can count.

Sep 15th 2018 at 5:30:53 PM

^Picky, picky, picky.

Sep 15th 2018 at 5:39:24 PM

Warjay has a point. The title doesn't note that there is a murder even though the description and laconic state clearly that the mistake must be a murder.

Sep 15th 2018 at 7:18:11 PM

The laconic could be: Mole is attacked by his own side due to them not knowing about his mission.

Sep 15th 2018 at 9:15:48 PM

^^^ I'm not picky... titles have to be clear first and foremost, and this title is not clear.

Sep 16th 2018 at 12:13:47 AM

This would be in Friendly Fire Index.

"If there is Dramatic Irony involved and the audience knows that the victim is a mole, it can make the misguided patriot look unreasonable and monstrous."

Or it could lead to the misguided patriot yelling My God What Have I Done.

Sep 16th 2018 at 1:35:09 AM

Alright, since War Jay has torpedoed all the best trope names I could think of, I'm going to need help from everyone. Remember, the title has to indicate that a mole has been mistaken for a traitor and is attacked by one of their own allies.

Sep 16th 2018 at 1:49:59 AM

I still really like Shoot Your Own Spy, which was suggested earlier. Nice and alliterative, doesn't necessarily imply fatality - just an attack. The only issue is that it doesn't incorporate the variety of weapons that could be used against the spy, or the fact that the "shooting" is done unintentionally.

  • In Episode 10 of Kabaneri Of The Iron Fortress, the cast is shown to have been captured by the villains, with one of the characters having performed a Heel Face Turn. Most of the cast believed the betrayal was genuine, due to his previous status as the Aloof Ally. So when the prisoners finally retaliate, the "traitor" is also attacked. It's up to the main character to intervene and explain that the "traitor" had spent the entire time passing him information about the villain's lair.

Sep 16th 2018 at 2:39:09 AM

^I think you’re being a little picky about the title. It needs to be able to get the point across. Using Shot Your Own Spy doesn’t necessarily mean all examples need a gun. After all, how many examples of Hoist By His Own Petard involve actual petards?

Sep 16th 2018 at 6:10:58 AM

Compare the draft "Mistaken for a Traitor".

Sep 16th 2018 at 10:30:14 AM

Listen man, I'm just trying to help, it's not my fault the titles needed to be changed... this one is better. I can live with this one.

Sep 16th 2018 at 1:16:50 PM

Alright, then, if there isn't anymore problems, I guess this thing is ready to launch. But unless someone else wants to suggest something else for it, I'll give you until Midnight before I launch this trope.

Sep 16th 2018 at 2:48:13 PM

The title doesn't show that the incident is accidental. (Some people may deliberately try to shoot their own spy for strategic reasons or because You Have Outlived Your Usefulness or because they think the spy has strayed too far from their duties).

Sep 16th 2018 at 3:10:32 PM

^Well then what would you suggest? You just killed the last good name suggestion there was.

Sep 16th 2018 at 3:14:44 PM

^ Chill... titles can be difficult things, it takes a lot to make one work.

I personally think something like "Wrongfully Attacked Mole" could work. Sure it's not alliterative but it's clear and concise.

Sep 16th 2018 at 8:28:08 PM

Well, if there are no more problems, I'm launching the trope now.

Sep 16th 2018 at 9:37:20 PM

HOLD IT.

Just because there's at least 5 hats given does not mean launch away. Notice the bomb count? That has offset the number of hats.

Also, please resolve this issue regarding names. We'd prefer a consensus. Until a consensus is reached, I will place a hold on this draft.

PS: Eddy, please knock off the hostility. There's no need to attack anyone who disagrees with you.

Sep 16th 2018 at 11:41:05 PM

Although, I'm wondering if there can be a place for "someone deliberately arranging their spy's death", if not here.

Sep 16th 2018 at 11:44:44 PM

Maybe the title could be Shooting Yourself in The Mole as a play on shooting yourself in the foot.

Sep 16th 2018 at 11:53:38 PM

^ I don't know, it sounds vaguely like a stock phrase and has the same "gun-focused" aspect as the last rejected title.

If we want the alliteration back, I'm liking the sound of "Mistakenly Attacked Mole"

Sep 17th 2018 at 12:47:59 AM

Anyway, if Eddy agrees, I'm thinking a title crowner will be in order.

Sep 17th 2018 at 6:14:26 AM

Alright, I'm for a crowner. I'm a little irked that all those bombs have cancelled out the required number of hats. And for the record, I wasn't attacking anyone. I was just irked that everyone kept killing my name ideas no matter what I tried. I don't have an issue with the name, I just want to get this trope launched.

Sep 17th 2018 at 6:35:56 AM

That's literally what bombs are supposed to do. And frankly, bombs matter more because people on this site are way too liberal with hats.

Sep 17th 2018 at 7:05:38 AM

Alright, so how do we start this crowner so we can work out a name that will satisfy everyone?

Sep 17th 2018 at 7:11:39 AM

^^ Sometimes it's the bombs that get thrown way too easily though...

Sep 17th 2018 at 8:07:19 AM

^ Not really. Bombs don't mean much. A bomb just means "this isn't ready to be published and yet it has hats" It doesn't mean "discard this."

Like... it's a really mild thing. Hats, on the other hand, should only be given if the person thinks "yes, this TLP is perfect and should be published now."

Anyhoo, the name. This is a tricky one because it's about a fairly convoluted action and needs to convey that. Killing Your Fake Defector?

Sep 17th 2018 at 8:07:36 AM

Okay, seriousy, can we start the crowner discussion? The sooner a decent name is picked, the sooner everyone will be satisfied and I'll be free to launch the trope.

Sep 17th 2018 at 8:20:42 AM

How about you start it then? Read How Crowners Work. You'll have to ignore the instructions on how to "holler" and just copy-paste the link to the crowner in the laconic instead.

Sep 17th 2018 at 8:43:10 AM

Just to sum up. The title suggestions so far (and criticisms of titles) have been:

Sep 17th 2018 at 12:45:34 PM

Alright, the crowner is up. Let's start the debate so that a title that pleases everyone can be decided.

Sep 17th 2018 at 3:05:35 PM

Just keep in mind to wait until you have ~ 15 votes. While the crowner's going, I'll say that we might need more examples.

Sep 17th 2018 at 3:56:45 PM

Yeah the small number of examples is the next issue to sort out. Tropes like Good All Along, Reverse Mole, Fake Defector, etc are bound to have some examples that can also be added to this trope.

Sep 17th 2018 at 6:10:50 PM

Those names with issues should not be in the crowner.

And... I still want to know if we have a trope for intentionally trying to kill your mole. Or maybe even the mole himself expecting to die at their former comrades' hands.

Sep 20th 2018 at 12:06:04 PM

Does anyone have anymore examples or name suggestions for the crowner?

Sep 21st 2018 at 11:11:31 PM

@ Crowner: "Attacking Your Own Mole" would mean that it counts cases where the attacker knows it's a mole and decides to attack them anyway.

If that ends up being the title, the description needs to be modified to accommodate those cases.

Sep 22nd 2018 at 3:52:00 PM

bumping for crowner votes

Oct 11th 2018 at 1:40:59 PM

Excuse me, but can we please get some more votes on the crowner? The sooner we can get the title decided, the sooner I'll be free to launch this thing.

Oct 15th 2018 at 10:14:23 AM

I think you should be fine by now... if not for the tie between two.

Oct 15th 2018 at 11:38:38 AM

Even if we did have a clear crowner winner, this trope only has 8 examples. Look at the most recently launched tropes and notice how they have well over 20 examples. Having at least 10 examples would be good, Eddy.

Oct 15th 2018 at 11:31:52 AM

"the sooner I'll be free to launch this thing."

/Doesn't have examples in the double digits /Hmmm

Oct 15th 2018 at 7:09:48 PM

^Well, unfortunately, I don't know any more examples. Can anyone help me out? I'm sure that there have to be at least a few other instances in fiction where this happened.

Aside from that, now I need two more hats now that two sourpusses offset them.

Oct 16th 2018 at 12:24:53 AM

  • In Team America World Police, Gary, the newest member of the counterintelligence team, goes undercover to try to uncover the terrorist plot. While undercover, his teammates mistake him for a an actual terrorist despite his Paper Thin Disguise and nearly kill him during a Chase Scene.

Oct 16th 2018 at 5:16:12 AM

I'm still wondering if there's a different trope for knowingly attacking your own mole.

Oct 16th 2018 at 10:00:54 AM

^Well, how about starting your own? You could call it "Setting Up The Mole".

Nov 11th 2018 at 5:49:08 PM

Guy? It's been at least a month. Any chance we can get this launched soon? I mean, the only reason this trope isn't set for launch is because everyone doesn't think it's ready.

Nov 11th 2018 at 5:51:25 PM

Not with all those bombs, though I really don't know why there's so many bombs...besides the small amount of examples, it looks good to me, but, yeah, the bombs are the issue at hand.

Nov 11th 2018 at 5:56:16 PM

Well, maybe it would get the appropriate amount of hats if it had the appropriate name. Unfortunately, since none of the nominations have the appropriate amount of votes, we don't have a winner yet. If more people would vote, we could probably get this trope off the ground.

Nov 11th 2018 at 5:57:34 PM

I think all that matters is that at least 15 people voted total, which seems like it might be the case from my quick skim work..

Nov 11th 2018 at 5:57:35 PM

I think all that matters is that at least 15 people voted total, which seems like it might be the case from my quick skim work..

Nov 11th 2018 at 6:24:28 PM

Currently, it's a tie between "Attacking Your Own Mole" and "Mistakenly Attacked Mole".

What about making another crowner with only the leading options?

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