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Compromising Call

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"Looks like we just woke the dead. Out of respect for others, please turn off all pagers and cell phones."

This trope occurs when someone's attempt to communicate with a character ends up compromising them. Unlike other times when this happens, this is almost completely out of the character's control. Most of the time, it's not even malicious; the person calling just has no idea what situation the character is in when they make the call.

This most commonly occurs when a character is sneaking through enemy territory and someone on their side calling them or breaking radio silence reveals the character's presence. Note that the character needs to be aware that they have been discovered for this trope to apply.

Subtrope of So Much for Stealth. May overlap with Embarrassing Ringtone. Compare Kinda Busy Here when a call becomes inconvenient not because the callee's cover is blown but because they are busy with something else more important, which is usually played for laughs. If someone is trying to assure others that things are a certain way and a call soon afterwards says otherwise, they are Instantly Proven Wrong.


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  • When vibrate functions were a new feature for cell phones, a cell phone commercial featured a spy who gets her cover blown by the cell phone spokesperson, who's calling to tell her about how having a cell phone with vibrate is better than one without.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Episode 1 of Code Geass has Lelouch trying to sneak his way out of a massacre where his long lost best friend was just shot for refusing orders to kill him for knowing too much. Unfortunately for him, Shirley, who is at school, calls his cell phone in hopes of reaching him, alerting the soldiers to his location, resulting in him almost getting executed.

    Comic Books 
  • One of Deadpool's attempts at a stealthy assassination was spoiled by his agent calling him. Doubles as Embarrassing Ringtone as the jingle heard is "YMCA". See here.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Arthur Christmas, after crash landing Santa's sleigh in the Serengeti, Arthur manages to put a pride of lions to sleep by waving his musical slippers and singing. Afterward, the north pole tries to communicate with them via the sleigh. The resulting noise wakes the lions, leading Arthur and company to make a hasty escape.
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the Joker has paid Councilman Arthur Reeves a visit. During this time, Andrea Beaumant—the daughter of the man they're discussing—calls, and the Joker—immediately suspicious—forces Arthur to pretend that all is well. Afterwards, the Joker comments on this:
    The Joker: Now ain't that a co-inkidink. We're talking about the old man and the spawn of his loins just happens to call. Makes you wanna laugh... doesn't it Artie?
    • The next scene is Reeves in a fit of laughter in the hospital.
  • In The Incredibles, Helen is trying to find out where her husband is, so she activates the homing beacon on Mr. Incredible's suit. Unfortunately, at that very moment he's infiltrating Syndrome's base. The homing signal activates the base's defenses, which results in his capture.
  • In Zootopia, while Judy and Nick are sneaking around the facility housing the mammals that had "gone savage", Judy's parents try to call her on her phone. The sound alerts the head doctor who calls security, forcing Judy and Nick to hightail it out of there.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Brave One Erica gets a call just after she witnesses a murder in a small bodega. This leads to her having to kill the murderer when he begins hunting her down.
  • In D.E.B.S., Lucy Diamond is moving along an Air-Vent Passageway in the ceiling while her nemesis Bobby is following her in the corridor below. Suddenly Bobby's radio squawks, alerting Lucy to the fact that she's been detected and allowing her to escape.
  • In Die Hard 2, the conveniences of the 90's conspire against McClane, as Holly calls his pager from a skyphone. The first time is harmless, as McClane is just waiting at the airport, but the second time, after the plot's in high gear, it's far more hazardous. That time, McClane is trying to sneak towards the church that the terrorists are using as a base, and the pager alerts the guard.
  • The French movie Rosalie Blum is about a sympathetically portrayed Stalker without a Crush who starts regularly following a woman (the titular Rosalie) around because he's convinced to have met her before but can't quite place her. Rosalie is part of a church chorus and the protagonist forgets to turn off his phone while entering the church. His My Beloved Smother chooses that moment to call him.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming: Peter is trying to spy on Toomes' dealers Brice and Schultz selling alien weaponry to Aaron Davis, when his position is inadvertently given away by the sound of his phone ringing as Ned tries to call him.
  • In Sneakers, Martin is using an Air-Vent Passageway inside an enemy-controlled building. A guard is moving along a corridor under him while searching for him. Martin's partner Crease calls him on his radio, making enough noise that the guard hears it and Martin's location is revealed. The guard starts shooting into the ceiling with his shotgun to try to kill him.
  • In The Terminator, this is inverted. Sarah is the one in danger, and tries to call her friend Ginger to warn her of the killer that's stalking her. Unfortunately for Sarah, Ginger is already dead, and the voice mail Sarah leaves lets the Terminator not only know it killed the wrong woman, but exactly where Sarah is.
  • In T2 Trainspotting, as Renton tries to hide from Begbie in a car park, his iPhone's ringtone gives him away when Simon calls him to ask where he is.
  • Subverted in A Walk Among the Tombstones. After the cemetery shootout, Scudder realises his Tagalong Kid is missing and calls his mobile, not realising he's hiding in the back of the serial killers' van. Fortunately they've arrived at their destination by the time the call is made; one hears the ringtone, but dismisses it as coming from a nearby house.
  • In World War Z, the protagonist's wife calls while he and his team are trying to quietly sneak through a horde of zombies. The call alerts the zombies and results in some deaths.

  • One of Us is Lying: When Addy records Jake incriminating himself, Cooper (who is parked outside, but not in on the recording plan), calls her to find out what's going on. Unfortunately, Addy forgot to silence her phone...
  • Discussed then Averted in The Thrawn Trilogy. Han goes off to follow a suspicious looking character, leaving Lando and Luke on their own. Han tells Lando not to call him, as he might be somewhere he wouldn't want a callbeep going off. Lando later tries to comm Han anyway, since there's an Imperial raid happening, but it's moot because the Empire is jamming comm traffic and Han had his comlink taken by the suspicious-looking character's associates anyway.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Barrier: After being given a cell phone by a concerned friend in a setting where Status Cell Phone applies, Emilia gives out its number as a means for parents of children secretly detained in a governmental medical institute to contact her. The first person to call the phone does so while Emilia's neighborhood The Stool Pigeon is in her store.
  • Bionic Woman. While the title character is hiding from well-armed mooks in "Paradise Lost", her Bratty Half-Pint sister rings demanding to know where her Tenacious D T-shirt is.
  • Black Mirror: In "Playtest", this is subverted and then played straight. The protagonist of the episode tries to take a sneaky photograph of the new gaming device he's testing with his phone, and his mother calls when the technician comes back which raises the suspicions of the technician (who confiscated the phone and turned it off before the test) but she merely dismisses it and carries on with the experiment. Only at the end do we find that the events of the whole episode were in fact just a Dying Dream in the protagonist's head, as the ill-timed call in real life caused the device to malfunction and fry his brain.
  • Blake's 7. As their teleport bracelets also serve as Comm Links our heroes can't afford to turn them off, so this trope happens a couple of times when hiding from patrolling Federation troops.
  • Has happened at least once on Chuck, when Chuck's Locked Out of the Loop best friend Morgan Grimes calls his cell phone, alerting his enemies to his location.
  • CSI: Played for Drama during an episode following the investigation of an undercover cop that was infiltrating a criminal biker gang and had been beaten and stabbed to death by them. It turned out that his wife had gotten drunk and, believing that he was having an affair for some time already, called a number that he had on speed-dial (which was the gang's hangout) and blurted out his real identity to the waitress (who she thought was the officer's mistress)... and to make things worse, the officer was right inside the bar when she did this. After a whole episode of being devastated because of her husband's death, she utterly collapsed when Brass told her this and then arrested her.
  • CSI: NY: In the season three finale, "Snow Day," phone service in the area is down while the lab is being stormed by thieves who want their confiscated drugs back. Peyton, realizing Mac is trapped inside with them, repeatedly tries to call him. Service is restored and she finally gets through at the exact moment Mac is sneaking up on the Big Bad to get the drop on him. By this time the sprinklers are going off; cue Battle in the Rain.
  • Father Ted. A recurring gag has Ted often call a friend, fellow Priest Larry Duff, for advice. Every time his cellphone ringing results in disaster for Larry. In one example he is strapped to a wheel on a stage while a blindfold magician is throwing knives at him, having called for complete silence.
  • In Frequency, when Raimy sneaks into the killer's house on her own, her phone starts ringing which alerts the villain and eventually leads to his escape.
  • Subverted in the first episode of How to Get Away with Murder. In one of the flash-forwards, Wes, Connor, Michaela and Laurel are hauling Sam's corpse into the woods when Laurel gets a call from Frank. A nearby couple hear her phone ringing and decide to leave instead of investigating further.
  • On an episode of It Takes a Thief (2005), Jon is robbing a sorority and decides to wait until all the residents are home (presumably so he doesn't have to worry about anyone showing up while the heist is in progress). Jon makes his move while all the girls are in the living room, assuming they'd all be there for a while. Instead, the girls almost immediately split into small groups and meander about. Matt, watching the cameras decides to call Jon to warn him. The trope ends up subverted when it turns out Jon turned his phone off prior to beginning the heist.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Agent Carter, while Peggy is investigating the Roxxon factory, Mr. Jarvis calls her on his walkie-talkie. This alerts the workers to her presence, which ultimately leads to a truck of Nitramine escaping and to the implosion of the factory.
    • Daredevil (2015): While James Wesley is in the midst of trying to intimidate Karen Page, with his loaded gun on the table in front of him, his phone suddenly rings as Wilson Fisk tries to call him from the hospital. The brief amount of time that Wesley looks down at the phone is just long enough that Karen is able to grab Wesley's gun and shoot him to death.
    • The Defenders (2017): The sound of Claire's phone ringing tells Bakuto that someone is hiding nearby, but he's too busy intimidating Colleen to do anything about it.
    • In Episode 3 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Sam's sister Sarah calls him, unaware that Sam is undercover, overseas, and trying to negotiate with a crime lord during a mission. Sam is forced to answer it on speaker, and he can bluff for the most part until Sarah calls him by name, blowing his cover.
  • In one episode of NCIS: Los Angeles the team rescues a group of kidnapped Marines from a group of mercenaries, then is led to their employer through one of their cell phones.
  • A crowning moment at the end of Sherlock's episode "A Scandal in Belgravia". Irene texts Sherlock to say goodbye as she is about to be executed. A few seconds later she hears the text message tone she put on his phone for her number. This makes her realize he is with her in the room. Cue a Big Damn Heroes moment as Sherlock blows his cover and frees Irene from her captors.

  • Pop Up Globe's 2019 production of Hamlet has several anachronistic touches for comic relief, including Polonius having a smartphone that keeps ringing at inopportune moments. This turns out to be a Chekhov's Gag when the phone rings while Polonius is spying on Hamlet's conversation with Ophelia, tipping Hamlet off to Polonius's presence.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: In a few missions, Niko can get a phone call from one of his friends while on the job asking him to come hang out. Whenever these happen, Niko tells them that he can't even talk at the moment. The most notable being when Roman calls while Niko is following a guy to a hideout. Answering the call alerts the guy, forcing Niko to give chase.
  • Henry Stickmin Series: In the Government route of "Infiltrating The Airship", Henry ends up finding a Toppat goon holding some incriminating evidence and he has to figure out a way to get it from the goon. Take too long to decide, and Charles alerts the goon of Henry's presence.
    Charles: (though headset) Oh man! A duck just flew right into the propeller! Oh what a mess!
    Fail: This isn't a good time Charles... But still, that sounds crazy!
  • Oakwood: In the very last level of the game, player character Madison is at one point standing very still for the sake of avoiding getting seen by a hungry T. rex with the intention to explore a nearby path it has just left once it has gone...only for her sole surviving friend in the area Zoey to accidentally call her on the radio right before the beast can fully depart from earshot, leaving Madison forced to absolutely book it through the path towards a nearby cave lest she get devoured by the hungry T. rex.

    Visual Novels 
  • On Isabella's romantic path in Melody, Bethany, while paying Tim a visit, finds a postcard from Isabella addressed to the protagonist on the coffee table. She uses this to track him down.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: In the first episode, Blitzo ends up being on the run from his target after she gets alerted of his presence. When he hides in another spot to find another opening and avoid getting shot himself, he gets a call from Stolas regarding the book he used to go to Earth. The phone call not only alerts Martha of Blitzo's presence, but it goes on long enough for Blitzo to get captured by her.
    Blitzo: Stolas, this is a really bad time!
    Stolas: When isn't it a bad time, Blitzy?

  • In Weak Hero, Alex and Teddy manage to shake off a group of pursuers by hiding down an alleyway. Just as they think they're safe Teddy's cellphone loudly goes off, to their blank-eyed horror.

    Western Animation 
  • On Archer, a ridiculous number of ISIS' undercover agents have had their covers blown because Sterling Archer got drunk and happened to call them while they were on a mission.
  • Happens a few times on Code Lyoko:
    • Played for Laughs: In "Big Bug", Ulrich and Odd are pranking Sissi when Yumi tries to call them about their XANA attack situation. In response, they turn their phones off, rendering their teammate ticked off.
    • In "Missing Link", while sneaking around Yumi's house to get one of her dresses for Sissi, Ulrich's phone goes off, making him reject it and put it on Yumi's bed, hiding behind one of the furnishings. Once he gets out of the house, he apologizes to Jeremie for not answering right away.
    • In "Dog Day Afternoon", Yumi is sneaking away from a possessed biker gang when Jeremie tries to call her. Unfortunately, she has to run for her life when she knows that they have found her.


Code Geass

Probably should've put the phone on vibrate.

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