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A Spy at the Spa

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The more sinister side of the Chatty Hairdresser. Loose Lips sink ships — and where will you find looser lips than in the midst of centers of socialization and self-indulgence such as beauty parlors, barber shops, nail salons or massage parlors? People assume that the help is being paid for their discretion. But maybe they're only pretending to be a sympathetic ear about that project you're working on at work. Or maybe that fellow customer is just pretending to be waiting for the next empty styling chair as cover for hours of listening. Failing that, trapping some VIP (or their significant other or faithful subordinate) under the hairdryer or at the shampoo basin gives one an excellent opportunity to rifle through their purses or coat pockets...

In more fantastic settings, out-and-out mind-reading might be involved, making spas particularly useful for psychics who need proximity or touch in order to read minds. For more aggressive intelligence operatives, this may lead to a Bathhouse Blitz or Sauna of Death.


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    Comic Books 
  • The possible Ur-Example might be "The Adventure of the Beauty Club" from Wonder Woman (Charles Moulton) Vol 1 #6, where the Cheetah runs the titular beauty club for Army officer's wives. The treatments are meant to distract the clients, and in some cases immobilize and terrorize or torture them to allow a blackmailed telepath to gather intel without the wives ever knowing they'd betrayed the military secrets they were privy to.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Like Flint: The Fabulous Face beauty spa uses special hairdryers to brainwash their female clients into becoming ardent feminists. It then uses them as spies for the organization.
  • Never Say Never Again: James Bond poses as a masseur to gain information from Domino Pitachi.

  • In one Encyclopedia Brown case, a customer nabs an important secret from the owners because they thought she couldn't hear them under the hairdryer. Turns out she is deaf to begin with, and reads their lips.
  • One appears in Shatterpoint, running a spa with a secret bunker hidden under one of the baths (the one that no-one ever wants to go in). She notes that "talk as much as I do, it takes people a while to notice I don't actually say anything."
  • Stardust: The witch-queen poses as an innkeeper to lure Yvaine into a relaxed state in order to cut out her heart and regain youth. As part of this, she gives Yvaine a hot bath and a massage. When Prince Primus shows up with Tristan, throwing her plan off course, she slits his throat while he's in the bath.
  • Star Wars: Canto Bight: In "Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing", Ganna wants to use Lexo this way, since many of Lexo's clients unintentionally gossip and reveal important information to him. Lexo refuses to be one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The finale to Batman has special guest villainess Minerva (Zsa Zsa Gabor) reading billionaire spa-goers' minds with her special "Eggplant Jelly Vitamin Scalp Massage".
  • The Bionic Woman: In "Brain Wash", Oscar's secretary Peggy Callahan falls victim to a spa with hidden tape recorders and Truth Serum-laced shampoo. For extra points, the guy running the salon is her fiancé.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Inverted in "Safe House", where Rosa Diaz goes undercover as a Spicy Latina to get information out of a hairdresser. They bank on their target being a Chatty Hairdresser, but she ends up being a tough nut to crack, requiring Rosa to get a perm and go blonde in order to get the information they need.
  • Burn Notice: In "Hard Bargain", Michael poses as a hostage negotiator trying to rescue a kidnapped girl. The leader of the kidnapping ring, Reyes, meets him in a massage parlor, which Michael tells him is smart, because it means Reyes knows Michael isn't wearing a wire (or anything besides a towel, for that matter). After Reyes leaves, Mike asks the masseuse if they paid her for the whole hour.
  • V.I.P.: Nikki meets one target at a spa's sauna, with both of them wearing only modesty towels. When he's suspicious of her wearing a wire underneath it, she drops it to prove she isn't, framed with a Between My Legs and Toplessness from the Back shot. Then she walks up to him in a slow and seductive fashion to keep him distracted until she gets close enough to start strangling him with the towel.
  • Wonder Woman (1975): The episode "I Do, I Do" features a spa with mind-reading massages, which the proprietor uses to gain classified information from the wives of government agents.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Ars Magica adventure "The Sorcerer's Slave", Byzantium's famous Baths of Zeuxippus are secretly run by an amoral, ambitious mage who spies on the guests for useful information. He's aided in this by an invisible water spirit who can manipulate emotions and read minds. In addition, the Player Characters are expected to disrobe like every other guest, making it quite difficult to keep hidden weapons or equipment.

    Video Games 
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: The Lotus Blossom spa and massage parlour is a front for the local Tong gang (and, therefore, for the shadowy Kuei-Jin vampire cabal). Given the peepholes and hidden recording equipment in some of the rooms, it's implied that the Tongs engineer compromising situations to use as Blackmail material.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: The bathhouse in Novigrad is run by Sigi Reuven, also known as Sigismund Dijkstra, former head of Redanian intelligence. Information is still his preferred currency to exchange for favors. He uses the bathhouse as a meeting ground for the heads of the big four crime syndicates in Novigrad. Before attending a meeting, clothes and weapons are stowed in cubbies in a separate room. When one crime boss breaks away and attacks the bathhouse, Geralt and the other three are forced to fend off the attack in nothing but towels using the clubs Dijkstra keeps in his personal bathing room.

    Web Comics 
  • Battle Bunnies: Master Varanasi receives Impossible Thief Connie at a sauna in Azkenderan, where he and his bodyguards are naked, except for modesty towels. Connie at first refers to Varanasi as Azkendaren's "resident Rajland spy" before correcting herself with "trade magnate." She is charged with absconding a MacGuffin from a covert Kahn force operating in the city's Forbidden Zone. Notably, the sauna is chosen to preclude weapons, yet Connie can produce a blade as if from Hammerspace. The subtext is clear: if Varanasi tries to alter the deal, Connie can and will subtract him, precautions notwithstanding.

    Western Animation