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Cover-Blowing Superpower

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This looks like a job for Superman!...'s conscience.
Ciel: If anyone else catches sight of you doing such things, it will arouse their suspicion.
Sebastian: Then I should do everything step-by-step as mere humans do?
Ciel: I'm not telling you to do it all to the letter, but at least pretend you are. Average people can't make anything without the necessary materials and time.

It goes without saying that a Super Hero, member of a Masquerade or Mage Species shouldn't use their powers when in their Secret Identity mode — but sometimes they are unexpectedly thrown into dangerous situations which a simple usage of their powers could quickly and immediately get them (and/or everybody else) out of.

Except for one problem: It will expose their Secret Identity to friends and enemies with all the awkward consequences that such a reveal might entail. Maybe a Love Interest is watching and this isn't the time they want to reveal their powers to them. Or maybe they are not quite certain they could fix the situation without someone getting hurt or something else going wrong.

Whatever the reason, the character is encouraged to play along with the scenario as though they are just as helpless as everyone else. Generally they try to undermine the bad guys, pretending to be hapless while using careful application of their powers or skills to change the situation. And, when they feel they are in the clear, all bets are off. Whether or not they succeed, and the particular consequences for failure, vary by situation. This can be particularly difficult if a character has powers that can't be turned off or fully controlled.

This is almost guaranteed to occur if the enemies have Bruce Wayne Held Hostage—sure, maybe Batman could slip out of those binding ropes easily, but billionaire playboy Bruce? If someone is savvy enough to see through his tricks, this can also be the start of someone suspecting Bruce Wayne of being more than he pretends to be.

Compare Clark Kenting, Fighting Fingerprint, Obfuscating Stupidity, Revealing Skill, and Do Well, But Not Perfect. See also Masquerade, an overarching reason to not use one's powers in front of any normal people.

No Real Life Examples, Please! Until we have real-life examples of people able to shoot lasers from their eyes, it shouldn't apply to this trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Accel World, during the climax of Volume 21, Ivory Tower, while blocking an attack from Blood Leopard, reveals his alternate identity as Black Vise. Since Chocolat Puppetteer was recording the battle at the time, the heroes have evidence that ties the White Legion to the Acceleration Research Society.
  • Inverted and defied in Ayakashi Triangle. When Matsuri is seemingly split into a boy and girl, each insisting they're the only real one, the girl uses Matsuri's wind ninjutsu while running away. Rochka thinks that proves the other is fake, but is immediately dissproven.
    Rochka: (points at boy Matsuri) I know! The one who can't control wind is a fake! I'm so smart!
    Boy Matsuri: (creating a gust of wind in his hand) No, I can control it too.
  • Black Butler: Ciel Phantomhive preemptively averts this trope when he first hires Sebastian (as seen in Chapter 62 of the manga). The devil-of-a-butler repairs the Phantomhive manor (which had been set aflame) in the time it takes Ciel to get up from kneeling before his parents' graves, and generates a full-course meal while setting a tablecloth. Ciel quickly gets over being shocked and reprimands him for it.
    Ciel: If anyone else catches sight of you doing such things, it will arouse their suspicion.
    Sebastian: Then I should do everything step-by-step as mere humans do?
    Ciel: I'm not telling you to do it all to the letter, but at least pretend you are. Average people can't make anything without the necessary materials and time.
  • Black Clover: Being the only known time magic user in the world's history combined with Damnatio's research leading him to conclude that Astaroth, the devil of time, left the underworld clues him in to Julius, aka Lucius Zogratis, being Astaroth's devil host.
  • Bleach:
    • Ikkaku Madarame has a Bankai, but he doesn't like to use it for no other reason than because he thinks he would be put under pressure to develop into a captain. He doesn't want to be a captain, he wants to serve and die under Kenpachi's command. When it's revealed Choujirou had a bankai and refused to become a captain in order to continue serving under Yamamoto's command, it was also confirmed that Choujirou's reputation had suffered accordingly, so Ikkaku's concerns appear justified. It's also indicated that Everybody Knew Already, and some of them have been putting Ikkaku under pressure, further justifying his fear.
    • Yumichika Ayasegawa, Ikkaku's Heterosexual Life-Partner, intentionally calls his Empathic Weapon by a fake, derisive name to piss it off and keep it from releasing into its true form which is kido-centered, something the melee-loving 11th Division considers a taboo weapon type. When called by the fake name, the zanpakutou releases into a basic direct-combat form, but shaves off most of its actual power. This results in Yumichika using none of his abilities in battle and fighting on sheer willpower alone. Word of God has stated that Yumichika is actually Ikkaku's equal in strength.
  • Rin, the hero of Blue Exorcist can't draw his sword in front of his classmates. This is not just because he spontaneously combusts when doing so, but because he is literally the only person that can use blue fire aside from Satan, who is much more readily associated with the aforementioned blue fire. Keep in mind that he and his classmates are studying to become exorcists.
  • In Case Closed, Conan seldom actually gets in danger, but is constantly confronting the problem that he really shouldn't be able to solve all the cases.
  • Touma from A Certain Magical Index really doesn't like advertising the Anti-Magic ability of his right hand, guessing (probably correctly) that doing so will only lead to more misfortunes somewhere down the line.
  • Chainsaw Man: Inverted in the International Assassins arc; since the Skin Devil contract can imitate faces but not other devil contracts, Division 4 use theirs off-screen as an Impostor-Exposing Test.
  • Invoked in Dance in the Vampire Bund, when a Manchurian Agent traps Undead Child Princess Mina Tepes in a suite with a berserk lycanthrope hopped up on what amounts to werewolf-grade PCP in an attempt to make her unleash her Super Modenote  in front of the compromised surveillance systems.
  • Darker than Black:
    • Done unsuccessfully by the protagonist: he's undercover working at a restaurant, and attracts the anger of a thug who was a customer, who then lunges at him. In an attempt to hide his fighting skills, he puts on a show of being clumsy, but dodges every attack so well (causing a certain amount of pain for his attacker in the process) that a character who observes this comments that "it's true that all Chinese people are martial arts masters".
    • And another one was caught staring at an Invisible to Normals observer apparition while playing a "normal" recruit in the team likely to include other Contractors. Who turned out to be present and able to put two and two together very quickly.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Happens when Gohan picks a fight with a group of gang members; however, he sees Videl coming towards them so he let them punch him in the face. Videl is surprised to see that Gohan hasn't a scratch on him, let alone a black eye. Later the thug who punched Gohan is seen nursing a bleeding fist:
      "Shoot, it's that skinny kid that has me confused. I think I busted my hand on his face. No joke! I felt like I was hitting a wall of solid steel!"
    • A similar incident happened when he is playing baseball during school. The local Jerk Jock decided to try to brush Gohan away from the plate but he didn't even bother to move. Everyone cringed in pain as his helmet flew off but Gohan merely double-checked with the umpire that getting hit gave him a free base. During that game, he also caught a pop fly by jumping dozens of feet into the air and doubling a guy off third who was standing there with a one foot lead off the base. In each case, he thinks he's successfully blending in, which is what happens when the only Muggle you've ever met is something of a Gadgeteer Genius Adventurer Archaeologist who has been hanging around ridiculously superhuman warriors longer than you've been alive.
    • When most of the fighters are signing up for the world martial arts tournament, most of them have to hold back when punching a strength-testing machine in order to produce believable results. Sadly, the officials thought the machine may be off because they are still getting ridiculous numbers, particularly Android 18's 700 (from just rapping it lightly with one knuckle) and every Z fighter scoring well over 200, much higher than Mr. Satan's score of 137. Until Vegeta just hauls off and pulverizes the thing.
    • Goten and Trunks use a Totem Pole Trench to enter the adults-only tournament, which works reasonably well until they were pitted against Android 18. Since she's too tough to beat normally, they have to go Super Saiyan and instantly reveal their true nature to 18. She got them disqualified by destroying their costume.
    • Dragon Ball Super: Played for Laughs when Trunks and Goten attend high school while moonlighting as superheroes. Trunks tries to be careful not to use his powers in class, then one day, Goten casually picks up a truck to retrieve a tennis ball that rolled under it. Trunks calls him a moron, but nobody makes the connection to their alter egos.
  • During the Grand Magic Games of Fairy Tail, Jellal fights for Fairy Tail's Team B in order to investigate the games. Since Jellal's a wanted criminal, he's disguised as Mystogan (his counterpart from Edolas, who keeps his face concealed), and is forced to fight with magical staves like Mystogan does. Said staves aren't quite enough to defeat his opponent, Jura, so Jellal is about to unleash Sema on Jura, only for his companions Ultear and Meredy to knock him out by burning him with hot sauce and causing him to lose the match, so that he won't reveal his identity. They succeed in keeping his identity secret, in part because Jura, who'd already figured out Jellal's identity from his previous use of Grand Chariot, decided to keep it secret.
  • Used a bit in Hayate the Combat Butler. He's really reluctant to use his Finishing Move because it creates a large gust of wind in an upwardly direction, and he's always surrounded by girls wearing skirts. When he uses it, he's likely to be beaten up by the Damsel in Distress even worse than he would be by the opponent.
  • InuYasha: In episode 51, Gatenmaru ends up revealing himself as a moth youkai to his human henchmen when he uses poisonous dust on Inuyasha and Miroku, and then traps them in a cocoon made of acidic webbing. As soon as they find out, his henchmen are even more eager to work for him and commit atrocities than they were before.
  • In the Lyrical Nanoha franchise:
    • Both Nanoha and Fate in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's are forced to rescue their friends Alisa and Suzuka when the pair are attacked by the Book of Darkness. The Book of Darkness removed all non combatants in the area already ... except Alisa and Suzuka, leading some to wonder whether they have special abilities of their own.
    • Averted at the end of the third Sound Stage of the first season. Nanoha shoots off some magical fireworks for Fate, but realizes Yuuno has forgotten the barrier that was supposed to make them Invisible to Normals. Arisa and Suzuka notice them but don't realize what they are.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Kanna was able to track down Tohru after she used a Wave-Motion Gun to clear some rain clouds and used her super strength and speed to catch a purse snatcher.
  • In Muhyo and Roji, just before Face-Ripper Sophie is defeated, Rio uses a magical tool to shield her apprentice Biko from the shards of glass that Sophie is telekinetically controlling. Since the characters present are all magical law practitioners, this shouldn't be too out of place, but Rio, being an artificer, shouldn't be able to use magical tools. This reveals that Rio is actually using forbidden magical law, and is a traitor.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi treats Negi's magic abilities like this in the early volumes, the most common form being him causing things to float (like stopping an eraser from falling on his head, or momentarily levitating Nodoka so he can catch her when she falls off a staircase). In one extreme instant, he saves a cat from being hit by a car by flipping the car into the air. It lands unharmed.
  • One Piece:
    • Averted when Luffy competes in Doflamingo's tournament to win the Flame Flame Fruit, using a disguise and a fake name, "Lucy". While some of the contestants recognize him, no one does so as a result of seeing Luffy using his Gum Gum powers (only one person can have a Devil Fruit's powers at any given time).
    • During his fight against Jimbei, Who's Who tries to keep his identity hidden and have his opponent guess, but when he starts using the Six Powers, Jimbei deduces he's a rogue CP9 member.
  • Spy X Family: Anya has to constantly watch her words to make sure no one realizes she can read minds. Saying the wrong thing could, after all, bring attention to the fact that Anya knows things no one, let alone a child her age, has any business knowing. Then again, Anya's biggest concern is not exactly being sent back to a laboratory for study or being turned into a weapon for Westalis or Ostania... it's that Loid and Yor might find her creepy, abandon her, and send her back to a boring life.
  • Sumomo Mo Momo Mo:
    • Sanae is wearing a corset that is overly sexy and revealing, however this mystical piece of clothing increases the power of her kicks well beyond reason. When she's forced to save Koshi from her fiancé set up by her grandmother who is in front of the entire school being attacked, she puts on the outfit and runs out to save him. The only way to match her opponent, however, is to make the outfit even more revealing than it already is and risk exposing her mostly nude body to her school. She manages to defeat her opponent and keep her identity secret, but a massive number of pictures are now circulating in her school.
    • A lot of characters have what could be considered awkward abilities as well. Tenrei fights by using pool balls and a cue stick, Tenchi goes nuts with the soccer ball, and Tenka has the abilities of a cat (for better and worse). Also don't forget the other animal themed characters, such as the teacher who is like a turtle, and who even knows what that cow woman that shows up at the very end can do.
  • Tiger Mask: How Tiger Mask recognizes Great Zebra as Giant Baba after seeing him fight in the Maskmen World Championship: Zebra was about to kick when he realized that him kicking would have blown his cover, but this exact kind of Genre Savvyness is so typical of Baba that Tiger Mask realizes his identity as soon as he has the time to ask himself why didn't he use kicks with those enormous feet of his.
  • Trigun's Vash in episode 10. "Oops. Oh, no, I hit them all." He doesn't want to reveal himself as the legendary superhuman outlaw, but is so plastered he screws up at screwing up. Doesn't help that Wolfwood signed him up by the name "Vash the Stampede" without telling him.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, Rando reveals himself by using a shrinking curse on Kuwabara, which is one of the moves he stole from his victims.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: In "Pastoral", Roustabout saves a life from a falling crane with his superstrength while in his secret identity. Fortunately, he's surrounded by people willing to keep the secret.
  • Batman: At one point in James Tynion's run, Batman tries to use his old Matches Malone disguise to sneak into a supervillain hideout like usual, only to be caught when he unwittingly no-sells the psionic devices they're secretly using to check all visitors. Batman has spent years training himself to be immune to most forms of telepathy and mind control to the point that he resists it on instinct, something that no average criminal like Matches Malone would do or even know is possible. Combine this with his above-average physical condition, and the villains he's trying to trick immediately single him out as a potential undercover cop.
  • In Detective Comics #711, "Knight Out", Bruce Wayne has to take down multiple criminals either without anyone getting a good look at him or "accidentally" while being a klutz.
  • In Gotham Central, Detective Josephine "Jose Mac" MacDonald has the superhuman ability to "hear" inanimate objects, which comes in handy when investigating a crime scene. However, she fears how she will be treated if her secret is ever discovered, so she has to think of explanations for her "hunches" and "gut." This is predominantly played for humor (such as her ability to find her missing coffee mug when her coworkers hide it each morning) and light drama (such as when she worries over her secret being discovered), but becomes a critical plot point in the "Corrigan" arc which closes the series. Though she knows for a fact that the gun she found is the murder weapon, the gun itself told her so, she has no way of convincing her superiors when the ballistics results come back negative. She begins to explain that she knows it is the right gun, but when Captain Maggie Sawyer asks her what she means by that, Josie Mac looks away and does not elaborate. Corrigan ends up walking on all charges.
  • In Rising Stars by J. Michael Straczynski, Matthew Bright hides his status as a Special, going so far as to assume a new identity, to join the police force. When he uses his powers to save another officer during a series of bombings, his status as an officer is stripped. His co-workers name him a special deputy, with a new badge and uniform.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Played with in Spider-Gwen. One issue has Mary Jane Watson convinced that Gwen is Spider-Woman, that it's okay to drop the charade and to use her powers to get her bandmates out of trap made by Mysterio. The problem? Even if Gwen was willing to reveal her identity, at that point in the comic she had effectively lost the use of her powers, only being able to use them by injecting a special serum that she didn't have at the moment.
    • In an early issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, in a fist-fight with Flash, Peter dodges so fast that people think he is being cowardly and flinching away. And then Peter retaliates with a punch that lays Flash out flat. It's only some quick-talking by Peter that convinces the bystanders that he's not Spider-Man... by claiming that Flash must be Spider-Man in disguise to voluntarily take a fall like that.
    • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Kong figures out that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and tries to test his theory by attacking him. Peter's spider sense gives him prescience of Kong's incoming kick, and he forces himself not to react to avoid giving up his Secret Identity.
  • Superman:
    • In a story, Supergirl discovers who stole her powers when she lends a book to a girl and she finishes it overnight. That girl couldn't have done that unless she read it at super-speed.
    • In Starfire's Revenge, Linda Danvers gets hospitalized as temporarily depowered and has to sneak out of the hospital before her powers come back and everyone realizes her skin is invulnerable and her injuries heal instantly.
    • "The Super-Steed of Steel": Linda notices the owners of the Supergirl Dude Ranch are about to try shoeing and branding Comet, which cannot be allowed because their tools would get crushed against his invulnerable hide and his cover will be busted. Quickly, Linda persuades them to let her carry out both tasks.
    • In a humorous scene from All-Star Superman, Clark Kent must fight Parasite, while not blowing his cover. To complicate things, he is interviewing his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor. He does this by convincing Luthor that his (Luthor's) brilliant intellect vanquished Parasite.
    • Superman's invulnerability, since he can't switch it off. During the Silver Age, Lois Lane often tried to cut Clark Kent's hair to find out if he was Superman.
    • Superman also chose not to do sports because not only would it not be fair, but he might attract attention to himself.
    • In the storyline Superman: Up, Up and Away!, Clark lost his powers for about a year. When they start coming back, he decides to keep it a secret from his wife Lois until he thinks he's ready. He gives himself away when he puts his hand on a hot stove without noticing.
    • When taking a blow from the Joker in his identity as Clark Kent, Superman had to consider what he should do because Joker was using a giant mallet, and he had never seen anyone hit with one of those before and wasn't sure how an ordinary human would react and survive.
    • Superman/Batman's first Annual showed Batman and Superman learned each other's secret identities through a mutual accidental cover blow. Clark and Bruce are trapped in a room on a cruise ship that's been taken over by supervillains. After both try to come up with excuses to ditch the other so they can change into their costumes Bruce gets frustrated and shoots Clark with a tranq dart from his watch, but the dart harmlessly bounces of Clark's skin, outing Clark's toughness and Bruce's gadgets.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Cheetah, Priscilla Rich's disguise when she infiltrates Paradise Island is given away when she's not willing to lose a race against Mala, the only Amazon other than the Queen herself capable of keeping up with Diana. Di picks up on who she is straight away with the combination of petty competitiveness and Super-Speed.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Circe's magic ends up blowing her cover when even she doesn't remember she's a witch due to her current Memory Gambit; her spending time with and helping care for Julia Kapatelis after Julia was paralyzed leads to Julia's miraculous full recovery.

    Fan Works 
  • Anyone: Shouto was part of the operation to con All Might into giving up One For All, using his ice powers to trick Toshinori into thinking he was dying. Due to this, he's careful how he uses his ice around All Might afterwards, concerned that he might recognize his powers and connect the dots.
  • Apex Predator (MHA): Izuku was forced to tell Aizawa about the true nature of One For All after he manifested a third Quirk during training that could not be explained by the Super-Strength cover.
  • Avatar: Legend of the Guardian: Min poses as a non-bender and fights using swords. In reality, she's a firebender and initially only uses it when nobody's looking until her cover as Xia is blown.
  • The Awakening of a Magus: There is an attempt to hide the fact that Harry is the Magusnote  until he is ready. With Harry's powers including an aura that stabilizes and awakens other people's gifts, this trope is even more likely than usual (and happens on an individual basis in nearly every other chapter). However, the most public case happens during a Dementor attack on Hogsmeade, where Harry unleashes a swarm of Patroni of a type only a Magus can create (and not any Magus at that). While they do manage to give an official cover of "The Magus was disguised as Harry", it is enough to make Voldemort suspect the truth... along with, presumably, every other magical person with a brain.
  • The Commission: Ruby's rifle marksmanship combined with the particular caliber of Crescent Rose clues Glynda into her return to Vale when the former covers Roman's escape from the first episode dust store robbery.
  • Consequences of Revelation: Blue Team realises that Crimson are actually SPARTAN-IIIs, not IVs when they notice that the latter performed at a level beyond what should have been possible once they stopped holding back.
  • Crimson and Emerald: All For One knows Dabi's true identity from the start because Todoroki Touya was the only fire user with blue flames.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: In the tenth chapter, "Confirmed Suspicions", Ami outs herself as having Evil Overlord powers by accident, because while under a Power Nullifier, her now autonomic dark magic usage gives her red eyes, then an active use of dark magic destroys the Paper Talisman-based nullifier.
  • The End of Ends: Terra still has her powers but is unable to use them during the minions' attack, lest she reveal her identity.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls: Several of the students and staff at Canterlot High are actually Soul Reapers working undercover. All of them were under orders from Soul Society not to use their powers in public.
  • Fate Denied: Senator Palpatine is forced to use his lightsaber to defend himself from a hacked droid right before Yoda enters his chamber in the Senate building.
  • Flip a Coin: Barry's frustrated by how he's no longer able to use his super-speed while working his day job.
  • ''From Muddy Waters': Most of Izuku's Quirks are this, as he officially only has a strength enhancement Quirk. He's careful to only use physical Quirks to avoid drawing too much attention, limiting himself to Super-Strength, Super-Speed, In a Single Bound, and Super-Toughness. He has used some of his other Quirks more discreetly when necessary, tapping into a cooling Quirk and an inertia manipulation Quirk while tackling Bakugou out of the way of an explosion.
  • Here Comes The New Boss, Nothing Like the Old Boss: Taylor's extra powers all have the potential to out her, particularly her bug control; the first usage of her powers led to her being called "Swarm" by the public since Quarrel was killed by a swarm of bugs. Due to this, she tries to avoid using some of the Butcher's more obvious abilities, styling herself as a Tinker instead. After using Rotter's power on Victor, Taylor fears that they'll put two-and-two together.
  • Hyphen: Astra is a Ralts (later Kirlia) pretending to be a human; hence, her Psychic Powers, including telekinesis and telepathy, are potentially this. She avoids using most of her powers in public, only using telepathy to speak and disguising it as ventriloquism for normal conversation and musical direction for battling. Unfortunately, the ruse doesn't last: Pokémon experts like Professor Birch and Gym Leader Roxanne figure out her telepathy not long after meeting her, and Champion Steven Stone sees through it the first time he hears her talk. Nobody has called her out on it yet, though, and Roxanne comes under the belief that Astra hides her abilities due to stigma associated with Psychic Humans.
  • Make a Wish: Nearly happens when Dementors arrive at Diagon Alley while Harry is there, he almost tries to use the Expecto Patronum charm, but he realizes that this would out him (since his Patronus form is pretty much public) at a point he wants to be under cover. So he pulls out something else and covers the Dementors in hot chocolate, trapping them when it solidifies.
  • Marionettes: When Sunset Shimmer returns to Equestria, she uses her jacket to hide that she's become an Alicorn. She explains that she didn't want to make things about her when she'd come to address the Marionette situation; however, she's forced to reveal her secret while fighting Riptide.
  • Mass Effect: Human Revolution: In chapter 30, Bau realises that Aya has to be with the Shadow Broker as she was able to pull information on Mjrn way too fast.
  • My Ideal Academia: To pass his abilities off as a Quirk, Shirou only makes simple weapons with no special abilities. Since most Quirks are only one ability, he realizes if he makes complex Noble Phantasms or uses Reinforcement too much, that will raise a lot of questions. A few people still get suspicious because, in the MHA world, nobody really practices or teaches swordsmanship or archery anymore, so they wonder how this kid is so skilled.
  • Nutricula: Izuku has to hide the fact that he has Combo Platter Powers, as he gains more Quirks by dying. When his cover's blown during the Sports Festival, Aizawa claims he has a multiple ability called "Four Elements".
  • Phoenix's Tear: Reignition: In order to avoid drawing attention to the Tear, Hare avoids using any of its powers openly around his friends... until Mocchi takes a claw attack to the face. Hare responds by sniping the warumon responsible with a fireball, then rushes to mend his wounds. After this incident, he continues to hold back and hide his extra abilities for fear of word getting back to General Durahan or Muu.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Harry, as "Rigel", has the foresight to ask her family not to watch her in the Triwizard tasks. She claims it's because she feels more pressure with them there, but the reality is that she knows her skills could give away the fact that it's Harry competing, not Archie.
  • The Secret Return of Alex Mack: Alex works to defy, using a fake taser to cover up her use of electrokinesis out of costume. It helps that her dad is a known genius, making her claim of such a device more plausible.
  • The Sith Who Brought Life Day: An officer looking at Luke Skywalker's test scores boggles at the hand-eye coordination test. Luke made the computer crash by hitting the right buttons after the trigger stimuli algorithm had been run, but before the actual images appeared onscreen and the computer had not been able to handle near-simultaneous input and output. Luke apparently crashed it three times, then decided to slow down.
  • The Stalking Zuko Series: The Gaang is forced to leave the house they were staying in at the end of "The Southern Raiders" after Aang exposes his identity as the Avatar by using airbending and waterbending to save some people.
  • Taylor Varga:
    • Happens to Taylor a few times.
    • Thanks to the Varga's nature as an Outside-Context Problem to the world of Earth Bet, most Thinker powers "error out" when they try to directly detect, analyze, or predict Taylor or any of her various alternate identities. This allows Dinah to accidentally unmask Taylor by noting that she shares the same immunity Dinah already knows the rest of the Family to possess.
    • Amy accidentally trips over Taylor's invisible tail, after which Taylor offers her a hand up... and upon touching Taylor, Amy's power informs her that Taylor's biology operates on principles wholly unlike anything else on Earth.
  • Through Her Eyes: Ruby's Semblance, in this story, is the ability to open portals from which she can summon the Creatures of Grimm; it goes without saying that the majority of people on Remnant would react poorly to knowing someone like that exists, much less that she's attending a Huntsman Academy, so she only uses her powers in very dire circumstances, and then only when no one else is around to see her do so.
  • Unmasked: Happens to Wally when his school field trip is crashed by armed men who threaten to kill his teacher.

    Films — Animation 
  • Demonstrated by Superman on several occasions in All-Star Superman (the comic on which the film was based showed most of the same incidents), most notably in the prison scene where he saves the guards from the rioting prisoners, Lex Luthor, and ultimately stops Parasite, all without breaking cover.
  • The Incredibles:
    • Early drafts opened with Bob and Helen Parr, having put their superhero-ing days behind them, attending a neighborhood barbecue. Bob is cutting the steaks and he accidentally makes finger-sized dents in the knife due to his super strength and durability. When several others notice, he pretends to be injured and Helen pretends to rush him off to the hospital. (This particular scene didn't make it into the final film, but was included as a deleted scene on the DVD.)
    • This is the main reason why Helen didn't want Dash to join the track team, as she felt his competitive nature would inevitably drive him to use his powers to win. At the end of the movie, he joins the track team with his family yelling at him to slow down and make it a close second, to the confusion of the people next to them.
    • When Bob snaps and throws his Jerkass boss through several walls, all the witnesses need to have their memories wiped.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, unaware that the two teams already know about each other, The Dazzlings and The Rainbooms hide their true powers from each other until the finale, leading to a scene where Sunset Shimmer is forced to tackle Rainbow Dash when she inadvertently starts transforming in front of a crowd.
  • Although not technically a superpower, when the titular hero of Robin Hood disguises himself as a stork in order to enter an archery tournament, he fails to realize that while he needs to be good enough to win, he shouldn't be that good. Prince John figures out it's him due to his Improbable Aiming Skills, and unmasks him during the victory ceremony.
  • In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Gwen follows Miles to school because her spider-sense told her that something was up with him. It isn't until a newly-bitten Miles gets his hand stuck to her hair that she figures out exactly why. note 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Another revealing-breakable-object drop is in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with Jen catching a teacup that another character deliberately dropped to make her reveal her skills.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • In Man of Steel, a young Pete Ross (and probably an entire schoolbus, really) finds out about young Clark Kent's Super-Strength when he saves them all from drowning by pushing the bus out of the water. Not revealing Clark's powers to the world until he's "ready" is also a major concern for his adoptive father Jonathan so much so that he gets himself killed in a tornado rather than letting Clark reveal himself.
    • Justice League has Bruce Wayne show up in Barry Allen's hideout. When Barry tries to deny who he really is, but then Bruce throws a batarang straight at Barry's head, forcing Barry to step aside and catch it at Super-Speed (the audience sees it all in Bullet Time). The interesting thing about this scene is that in order to make Barry reveal who he really is, Bruce has to do the same. Of course, had Bruce been wrong about Barry, Barry wouldn't have been around to tell the tale and probably found later with a strange hole in his forehead.
  • When mild-mannered family man Tom Stall kills two gun-toting robbers to save his friends and customers, he is celebrated as a hero. But soon loved ones and strangers alike begin to question if Tom has A History of Violence...
    Carl Fogarty: Ask [Tom] why he's so good at killing people?
  • In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), superspy Illya Kuryakin has to be reminded that since he's posing as a mild-mannered architect, he can't just show off his advanced fighting skills. It tears him up inside when he and his "fiancée" get mugged and he's forced to surrender his stuff without resisting. When he finally snaps and does lash out at the mooks, he rationalizes it afterwards by saying that any Russian would have fought back and he still maintained his cover because a Russian soldier would have killed them.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • A variant in Captain America: Civil War: when Tony is talking to Peter about the "Stark Internship", Peter initially denies being the "Spider-guy", even when Tony pulls the costume out of a hole in his ceiling. It's not until Tony threatens to tell Aunt May that Peter webs his hand to the door, blowing his cover once and for all.
    • Later, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter climbs into his bedroom after a long day of being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, drops from the ceiling, and takes off the mask ... and a moment later, his best friend Ned, whom Peter had invited over a while ago and was sitting in his room the whole time, drops a LEGO set he had been working on, revealing his presence. Peter still tries to deny being Spider-Man, and takes off the suit in a hurry, revealing him to be way more muscular than a 15-year-old should be.
  • In Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Jane Smith reveals herself to be an assassin when she reflexively catches a bottle of wine her husband drops. She gets the most priceless "Oh, Crap!" look on her face and drops it, but by then it's too late. He specifically dropped the bottle to test her reflexes.
  • While it didn't happen in the film, the now-defunct official website of The One reveals that Yulaw was finally exposed when another agent, who's been suspecting him for months, asks Yulaw to help him carry a closed box up some stairs. Yulaw carries the box without a problem only to find out after the fact that the box was full of heavy weights that couldn't have been lifted by a normal person. The agent confronts Yulaw, but ends up getting thrown down several flights of stairs and becoming paralyzed. Having several black belts doesn't really match up against someone who has that as well as superstrength and superspeed.
  • In Superman II, Lois suspects Clark is Superman and tries to force Clark to reveal his identity by jumping into a river. Clark quietly uses his laser eyes to get a branch to Lois so she can get out. Later, Clark accidentally trips and falls into a fireplace in front of Lois and the lack of injury proves her original suspicions, but what really clenches it in a way that Clark can't explain his way out of is when she shoots him and he doesn't fall over dead (He calls her out on this, but she reveals that she shot a blank).
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: By taking a beating in the cage match without a single bruise, Wolverine gives his opponent fair reason to suspect his mutant status. Then the guy goes at him with a broken bottle and Logan busts out the claws, removing any doubt.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: Magneto is a fugitive, so he pretends to be a regular human while living in Poland. When Erik Lehnsherr uses his superpower to save a coworker's life, everyone who had witnessed it immediately learns that he's a mutant, and his metallokinesis is a dead giveaway to the steel mill employees that the man they knew as "Henryk Gurzsky" is actually the world's most wanted criminal.

  • Action Figures: When a supervillain holds their high school hostage, the Hero Squad immediately swings into action - so immediately, in fact, that they forget to change into costume first. Since everyone else is on lockdown and the supervillain has no idea who these teenagers are, it doesn't hurt them right away but it does cause problems for the team later on.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: During his King Incognito, Sylvester casually uses the schtappe that is rare among blue priests, but never the magical highbeast that all other schtappe owners introduced before him were shown to have. The extent to which Sylvester avoids using his highbeast is such that he's always borrowing those of others when he needs one. It later turns out that Sylvester's real identity comes with the obligation to use a highbeast form that nobody else in the entire duchy uses, so using it while undercover would have been a very bad idea.
  • Somewhat like the Star Trek example below, Corwin in book 2 of The Chronicles of Amber is lugging huge stones around rather easily, despite not being at full strength — until somebody spots him, at which point he has to pretend the task is difficult.
  • The Daevabad Trilogy:
  • In Margaret Weis's The Death Gate Cycle, this is basically the story of Alfred Montbank. He is one of the last of the "Sartan", a race with godlike magical power, and is always nervous about doing magic in public for fear of being taken advantage of. The fact that he has a spine like a wet noodle doesn't help.
    • In the same book, we have Haplo, a scout sent out by the Patryn (a race that shares the Sartan's power). He explicitly notes that if he used his Patryn powers he could solve all the book's problems in two minutes flat. Unfortunately, then the Sartan would find out that the Patryn had begun to escape the Death World the Sartan had trapped them in, and probably would blow up the world... again.
  • Vladimir Vasilyev's Death or Glory: An aversion in The Legacy of Giants, the alien safari tour guide notices one of the tourists who appears to be just a little too average, as if he's doing his best to not appear too good. When the tour guide sets up a shooting range for the tourists, the suspicious tourist ends up hitting the target exactly 75% of the time, which only serves to prove to the tour guide that the guy is not your average tourist. Eventually, it's revealed that the guy is a special agent, but he's not on safari as a spy. He's actually on R&R after his latest mission.
  • Discworld:
    • An unsuccessful example in The Fifth Elephant. Inigo Skimmer, an assassin, pretends to be a normal clerk. Vimes throws a piece of fruit at him, and he lets it hit him and bounce off. Instead of making him seem harmless, this actually shows Vimes that Skimmer is more than he pretend to be — a normal person would flinch, duck or try to catch it. Skimmer knew there was no threat and so did nothing.
    • In Reaper Man, when Death is living as an ordinary man named Bill Door, he realises his Improbable Aiming Skills at billiards and darts have attracted attention, so he switches to being hilariously bad. He's amazed it doesn't occur to anyone that getting a dart to bounce off three surfaces and land in someone's beer is harder than hitting the bullseye.
  • The Elenium: Sparhawk realizes that his daughter Danae is actually the Physical Goddess Aphrael when she sticks her hand in a fire to retrieve a toy without being harmed.
  • In The Fallen, Aaron must constantly avoid using his Nephilim or Redeemer abilities, as this allows the Powers to track him. Unfortunately, he can't seem to keep himself from doing it. One thing he keeps doing constantly is talking to his dog, since Nephilim are able to speak any language, which also includes animal "languages". While we hear him talking normally, it's not clear if he's speaking English or actually barking at Gabriel. The first episode implies the former, as Gabriel says that Aaron always talks to him.
  • A recurring theme in the ur-superhero novel Gladiator, where Hugo Danner tries to keep his powers secret. When a man is trapped in an unopenable time-release bank vault, he tries to open it while not revealing his strength. He succeeds in both saving the man and preserving his secret, but the president of the bank decides he doesn't want a man with a secret way of opening bank vaults walking around.
  • Doing this sort of thing is illegal for wizards in Harry Potter, as they're supposed to keep the Muggles ignorant of their existence. The exception is in cases of life-threatening danger—although, as Harry himself learned, even that isn't always enough when the Ministry is hell-bent on bringing someone down.
  • Done for humor in the book How to Be a Superhero by Mark Leigh and Mike Lepine. A mild-mannered reporter knows a secret phrase which turns him into a blue whale, "the indomitable sultan of the seas!" Too bad he uses it in the middle of the newspaper's offices.
  • InCryptid:
    • Antimony uses her fire powers to save someone from being burned to death, and thinks nobody noticed her absorbing the heat, but she catches the attention of the Lowryland cabal of magic-users.
    • When Sam and Antimony go on a date at Lowryland, Sam, a therianthrope, shapeshifts into his much stronger and faster monkey-man form to rescue two children from a collapsing ride. Unfortunately, due to the cabal sapping his luck away, he can't turn back into a human and has to find somewhere to hide in a theme park full of thousands of people.
  • In Dust of Dreams, the ninth book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Captain Ruthan Gudd, heretofore thought of to be a regular human and very intent on not being noticed, blows his cover when he summons some alien Stormrider armour to aid him in battle. Much to his dismay, the whole army sees him use it.
  • This is how Jean Valjean is almost found out in one incident in Les Misérables; having adopted a new identity and made a successful career in a rural French village, he hauls a cart off an injured man. Inspector Javert recognizes the tremendous strength, and writes to his superiors in Paris to inform them he has found the parole-breaker Valjean. By a striking coincidence, somebody else has recently mistakenly reported a Valjean sighting elsewhere, and Javert is convinced he has made a mistake.
  • In The Nexus Series, if you're running nexus, and someone near you is running nexus, they can tell you're running nexus. It makes espionage kind of difficult.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, a comic, downplayed example: Rachel asks the dragon Lucky whether he can talk. Lucky panics and immediately asks Siggy what he should do — thus, of course, revealing the power.
  • In the series Replica, all of the Amys are essentially instant Olympic athletes, being clones with extensive genetic modification. To hide herself from the MIB out to get her, the Amy who is the protagonist must purposefully mess up when playing sports at school.
  • The O. Henry story "A Retrieved Reformation": Ex-safecracker Jimmy Valentine has settled down to live the quiet life, building up a name for himself. Until one day a little girl gets locked in a safe...
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Shallan Davar is attacked by an assassin and must use her Shardblade to survive. Problem is, she's seen with it. Shardblades are so rare and powerful that having one is basically the equivalent of having access to nuclear weaponry in terms of social and political weight. Not to mention that Vorin society has very strict gender rules, and women fighting is very definitely against those rules.
    • Kaladin gets into a parallel problem when he helps Adolin during an ill-considered duel. He could probably defeat all four opponents by himself if allowed to go full out, but since his powers are considered mythical at best and abominations at worst, he can't do anything obviously superhuman. Worse, his opponents are all wearing Shardplate and wielding Shardblades, so he can't fight them at a baseline level and expect to survive. He contents himself with mostly using his passive abilities to dodge with superhuman skill, though at one point he uses his Gravity Master powers to "fall" at several gravities and kick a guy so hard his nigh-indestructible armor explodes. It does break Kaladin's legs, but his Healing Factor brings him up to snuff before anyone notices. Luckily, Kaladin isn't the only secret Knight Radiant on their team.
    • At one point, an undercover Kaladin, fighting off some invaders, has his personal gravity turned sideways by an enemy Gravity Master. Being a Gravity Master himself, he could easily cancel it — and reveal his presence in the process. Instead, he manages to catch himself on a wall and ambush a flying enemy by jumping sideways out a window onto them.
  • In Super Powereds: Year 2, Alice thinks that Rich has played with her mind using the memory of her late mother. She goes off on Rich at a public place and accidentally discovers her Gravity Master powers by causing lights to fall from the ceiling. Luckily, the situation is explained away, and Alice avoids being expelled from the HCP. This trope is actually grounds for expulsion from the Hero Certification Program, whose students are required to keep the fact that they're Supers and in the program a secret from everyone outside the program. This doesn't apply to non-HCP Supers and Powereds, though, who are free to use their powers as they wish, as long as they don't harm anyone else. In Year 3, this is also why Chad and Roy, who are working as bartenders in a club, have to remember to limit themselves to only carrying at maximum of two beer kegs at a time, lest they expose their Super-Strength.
  • Sword of Truth: In "Wizard's First Rule", when Richard and Kahlan arrive in Zedd's house, Richard says a quad chasing Kahlan should show up soon, and Zedd tells her she is safe here. That's Richard's final hint that Zedd is the wizard they are looking for... no way your regular old guy can keep a guest safe from a band of four trained assassins.
  • Danilov Quintet: a vampire reveals it can stop regeneration (and do it later) in order to keep its vampire nature hidden. In the third book, a vampire gets its arm blown off. When the protagonist sees said vampire sneaking to his "room" later with both arms, he realizes the vampire is... a vampire. He doesn't realize his boyfriend is too though!
  • In Villains' Code, a group of criminals takes Tori and Ivan's office hostage. While either of them could easily take care of the attackers with their powers, they don't want to expose themselves to their coworkers. Ivan decides to pick off the attackers one-by-one, but his plan is derailed, when one of the attackers, whom he is killing with a Neck Lift, manages to get off a shot into his gut. Now, Ivan is forced to pretend to be seriously wounded, manifesting the illusion of a wound and blood. Tori also ends up revealing herself to a barista from across the street by heating up a pot of coffee before emptying it into a hostage taker's face. The barista knew that the pot wasn't nearly hot enough to cause scalding burns, since she was the one who brought it. Tori's friend and coworker Donald also reveals himself to be a super by using his powers to manifest video game weapons.
  • Skitter suffers from this in Worm. She spends so long using her bugs to scout her surroundings that she forgets to look before crossing the street like a normal person.
  • Warbreaker: Vasher is one of the godlike Returned, and as such could have the first five Heightenings and the superhuman physique of a Returned at any time, simply by manifesting his Divine Breath. That would involve dealing with all the other implications of being Returned, however, so he keeps his Divine Breath masked and forces himself to do things the hard way.

    Live-Action TV 
  • More of a Charles Atlas Superpower, but in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Lance Hunter and Melinda May have to go undercover at Hydra and are trying to pose as arms traders to work their way in at the bottom (as the current head of Hydra is Grant Ward, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who would immediately recognise them). To get a meeting with a Hydra contact, one of them needs to win at an underground fight club. May, who is by far the better combatant, wants to do it, but Hunter points out that she's so good that it would blow their cover; a tiny Asian woman annihilating her opponents while demonstrating years of combat training is noteworthy and may get back to Ward, but a muscular man winning in a relatively unskilled brawl won't draw any attention.
  • In Arrow, John Diggle is hired to be the bodyguard for millionaire playboy Oliver Queen and quickly realizes that there is more to Oliver than it seems. Oliver keeps slipping away from Diggle in ways that a spoiled rich kid with no training should not be able to. The clincher comes when Laurel is attacked by Triad assassins and Oliver saves her life by throwing a knife at an attacker's hand. Throwing a knife that precisely is very hard and this was an ordinary unbalanced table knife rather than a custom made throwing knife. The level of skill Oliver displayed could only have been acquired after years of training and practice.
  • In one episode of The Adventures of Superman, Clark, Lois and Jimmy have been imprisoned by the Villain of the Week, and Clark comments that if Superman were there he could break the lock. Jimmy points out that Superman could just bend the bars, and Clark murmurs to himself "Trouble is, Jimmy, too many people would see him bend the bars" as he leans towards the lock. Seconds later, he suggests that maybe the bad guy forgot to lock it...
  • Invoked and subverted in Buffy the Vampire Slayer - in the episode "Phases", Buffy participates in self-defense classes as part of P.E., and Willow reminds her before they begin not to use her super-strength. ("Remember, you're supposed to be a meek little girly-girl like the rest of us!") Buffy grumpily complies for about 10 seconds, until Larry gropes her, at which point she lets loose and flips him over her shoulder onto the mat. Not directly cover-blowing, in that Sunnydale Syndrome stops anyone directly commenting on it, but it probably didn't stem the rumors that she was part of a violent girl gang, or help her case when she was suspected of murder a few weeks later.
    • In the Angel spin-off, Lindsey is defending a blind woman who's actually an assassin for Wolfram & Hart. When Lindsey dismisses the allegations against his client as "childish, if they weren't so sad," Angel hurls an object directly over her head. She instinctively jerks her arm up and snags the object, exposing her super-awareness for all to see. She's still acquitted thanks to Lindsey's legal maneuvering, much to Angel's frustration.
    • Inverted when Wesley is pretending to be Angel and inadvertently places his hand on a cross. Angel is a vampire and can't touch crosses without getting burned.
  • Michael Westen of Burn Notice is a badass, but frequently spends episodes undercover in notably un-badass personas. This gets annoying when it would be tactically advantageous to not win fights, which means Westen has to forgo using his skills and get an ass-kicking instead. This is usually played straight, but sometimes for comedy, as the camera cuts to his face to show him bored and disdainful of his opponent's flailing failure to hurt him.
  • Yoon Sung in the Korean Series The City Hunter pretends to be clumsy at judo and have poor weapon skills when in fact he is a human weapon. All to keep his identity secret.
  • In the third episode of Covert Affairs, the corrupt Venezuelan government official Annie's covertly investigating encourages her to drive his sports car as ridiculously fast as he does. She grinds the gears and pretends to be out of her depth, but the sudden appearance of an unexpected roadblock causes her to reflexively swerve around it in a way that gives away her advanced driving skills.
  • Daredevil (2015). In Season 3, Wilson Fisk tries to have Matt Murdock assassinated in prison while Fisk watches on CCTV camera. He sees the blind lawyer fight off his assassin, then fight his way out of a prison riot, confirming that he's Daredevil.
  • A variation in Farscape's fourth season; Noranti has given John drugs to deaden his emotional connection to Aeryn (long story), and during a fight he shoves one into the alien's mouth, stunning it; no immediate awkwardness, as John is able to just wave it off and there's the distraction of a rampaging monster, but not long afterwards Aeryn confronts Noranti and then John about this.
    • Another example occurs when Sikozu reveals herself as a Bioloid (an android created by the Kalish to fight Scarran oppression) by killing a bunch of Scarrans and saving the good guys.
  • Sister Bertrille from The Flying Nun doesn't like advertising that she can fly.
  • Forever:
    • Henry has to constantly avoid others finding out about his Resurrective Immortality. For example, in the pilot, he ends up being in a subway crash. He is fine after reappearing in the East River (he always appears in a nearby large body of water), but the detective investigating the crash finds his antique pocket watch and wants to know how it got there. His arch-nemesis Adam inverts this as a "favor" in "The Frustrating Thing About Psychopaths" after a suspect causes Henry a slow but fatal wound. As the cops are closing in, in order to keep his immortality (as well as Adam's own) a secret, Adam slits Henry's throat, resulting in Henry dying (and vanishing) before the cops get there. In the finale, "The Last Death of Henry Morgan," this happens one too many times, so his detective partner demands to know the truth. The episode ends with him starting to tell her.
    • Henry also faces a much slower but more inexorable battle to hide his lack of aging. In flashbacks of "The Man in the Killer Suit" Henry is seen dying his hair grey when he and his family have stayed in one place too long, to avoid questions about why he isn't aging. When a World War II veteran who saw Henry die at Normandy recognizes him, declaring the years haven't been nearly as kind to him as they have to Henry, he and his whole family have to pack up and move in a hurry, taking only what they can carry. The constant need to establish new identities as he ages out of old ones means all of his important documents are forgeries, leaving him vulnerable to blackmail in "Social Engineering."
  • In Season 3 of Heroes, Nathan is pretending to be powerless, but Danko suspects him of being a super, and in an attempt to try to get him to reveal himself, Danko pushes him out a window, and Nathan is forced to use his flight ability to save his life. What commonly gets overlooked in Danko's scheme is that being a super doesn't necessarily imply that you can survive getting thrown out of a window.
  • In an episode of The Invisible Man, Da Chief is replaced by a new boss, who suspects that Darien may have certain abilities. He walks into Claire's lab, playing with a Bunsen burner... then turns it up all the way at Darien. Darien jumps back and instinctively activates the gland, going invisible. The new boss ends up trying to force Darien to be his personal assassin.
  • In Legend of the Seeker, Zedd is pretending to be a puppeteer to a petulant teenage monarch (using his magic to animate the puppets). It seems to work, but then Darken Rahl arrives for a visit and wishes to see the puppeteer perform. He immediately realizes that powerful magic is at work here and is able to deduce Zedd's name by the fact that there are only two wizards of the First Order left, and the other one works for him.
  • Lois & Clark, all the time. Usually Clark will use his powers and come up with some other excuse to cover it up, such as claiming he can read lips to explain how he knows something he picked up via super-hearing, or explaining that the ropes he tore through with his super-strength were frayed. In particular the season 1 episode "Fly Hard", in which terrorists take hostages at the Daily Planet — including Clark, all his friends, and Lex Luthor.
  • In Merlin, the title wizard must constantly save the day while keeping his powers secret, since magic is banned in Camelot on pain of execution.
  • In one episode of No Ordinary Family, the plot is essentially "Die Hard" on an X, where the X is a police station held hostage. The super strong and invulnerable police sketch artist played by Michael Chiklis could easily deal with the hostage-takers, but he doesn't want to reveal his powers to his coworkers and is wary of how the criminals would react if they knew the guy after them was superpowered. So instead, he hides and moves through the vents, picking them off one by one.
  • Smallville:
    • In the very first episode, "Pilot", Clark survives being hit by Lex's car and rips off the roof to save him. Lex is distracted at the time, but this incident will bug him for many years to come.
    • In "Obsession", Clark reveals his powers to Alicia when they are trapped in a falling elevator.
    • In "Pariah", Alicia tricks Clark into catching a flying car.
    • Clark tries to play in a football team for awhile, believing he can stay within the bounds of human ability. For awhile, it works, but in "Recruit", he met a person who tried something similar, and it worked for him as well... until he got to college, where he found that impossible due to the higher performance standards. He ends up killing a person in the episode he appears in, so Clark decides to quit the team before it's too late.
    • Played with in "Blank", when Clark gets amnesia and Chloe has to take on the role of covering for him when he accidentally uses his powers.
    • In "Arrival", Clark officially reveals his powers when he carries a freezing Chloe to the nearest hospital at Super-Speed.
      Clark: How long have you known?
      Chloe: I guess I've always had my suspicions. The quick exits, the miraculous recoveries, the lame excuses, but when I saw you catch a car like it was a beach ball... that kind of confirmed everything.
    • In "Crimson", Lex stabs Kal with a chisel, which bent. No one sees it clearly, but Lana finds the chisel and is obsessed with it.
    • In "Promise", Lana forces Clark to reveal his powers (super speed, super strength and heat vision to be exact) by locking an unsuspecting Chloe into a freezing cellar, knowing Clark would rescue her.
    • Inverted in the episode "Hex", when Clark is bewitched to believe he's an ordinary man, but still has all his superpowers. He comes up with all kinds of explanations for his superpowers — the doorhandle was rusty so of course it came off, the acoustics are amazing so of course he can hear sounds from miles away, etc. Chloe tries to appeal to the one power he couldn't explain away — invulnerability — by swinging a large pipe at him but misses.
    • But it was played straight by Lionel Luthor, when he was pretending to be blind. His long-lost son Lucas realized because "...when a blind man serves wine, he puts his finger in the cup to know when it's full. Also, you couldn't hide your reaction when I didn't sign that contract."
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Data, while stuck in 19th century San Francisco, accidentally lets his bellboy see him carry a heavy anvil one-handed. Realizing his mistake, he quickly drops it and pretends to have strained himself.
    Data: Ow.
  • In Stargirl, the supervillain Icicle is outed when he's seen picking up a scalding-hot frying pan with his bare hands and is perfectly fine.
  • In Supergirl, the hero is stuck at L-Corp with Lena and Eve when heavily armed mooks raid the building. (Alex realizes this trope is in play when she telephones a warning to Supergirl, and Kara answers.) Kara is able to deploy her powers just out of view of her companions so her excuses seem reasonable, e.g., super-breath is explained as a sneeze from failure to take allergy medicine. Eventually Kara is able to change into her uniform just in time to curb-stomp the ringleader.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John has to warn Cameron to avoid doing obviously superhuman things (like lifting a huge box of computer equipment unaided) in public, as she's supposed to be a normal human being.
  • A weird psuedo-inversion in Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga. For the first half of the series, Kengo and Akito try to keep Yuna from realising that the ancient sage Yuzare is her Split Personality that comes out when she’s endangered. But during an attack by Powered Dada, Yuna instinctively uses said power to save Akito from being killed, with his reaction clumping her in that he knows something.
  • In the original Zorro TV series, this happens to Don Diego de la Vega, who has to hide impressive swordfighting skills from everyone in the pueblo to distance himself from Zorro. Once, having no time to slip away and get into the Zorro outfit, he must enter a swordfight without blowing up his Upper-Class Twit cover before Commander Monastario, thus pretending to be a clumsy swordsman but still blocking every of the villain's attacks. He then, for Monastario, tries to pass off his success as sheer luck. Keep in mind the villain was considered the best swordsman in the province. The final "move" he pulls in the fight is as follows: Don Diego goes in for a clumsy but powerful thrust which is easily parried by the villain, causing Diego to "jam" his own sword into a rock crevice. As Diego is pretending to desperately try to yank the sword out, the villain gloats a little and goes for the fatal blow. At that precise moment Diego summons all his strength and "finally" pulls his weapon free, causing him to stagger backwards and "flail" his sword, knocking his unsuspecting opponent's weapon out of his hand and over the side of the cliff, winning the fight.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: Exalts who use a lot of essence at once will trigger their anima banner, giving away the fact that they're one of the Exalted (which can be especially bad for Solar and Lunar Exalts).
  • In In Nomine, use of many supernatural powers will trigger Disturbance, a psychic noise that reveals to any Symphonically aware being in the area that an angel, demon, or other unusual being is in the area. Using Essence to manipulate a skill roll can make this obvious even to ordinary mortals since it creates supernatural side effects, like swathing a bike in green flame as it jumps a canyon.
  • Siren: The Drowning has it as a core mechanic known as Refraction. See, Sirens are created by a mysterious phenomenon known as the Song, which comes from a Bad Future reaching back to prevent it from coming to pass. As such, in reverse of most other World of Darkness gamelines, the Song wants The Masquerade broken, to pass on its warning to as many people as possible. Because of this, a Siren who uses her Verses or Alterations in front of mortals have a chance of suffering it. If it happens, it forces a Siren into their mermaid form. This is a problem for Sirens because they have plenty of pragmatic reasons to stay hidden from Muggles as well as the fact that their mermaid form tends to be useless on land.
  • Trail Of Cthulhu allows players to experience this trope from the other side. One of the example clues for a Shoggoth (to name just one example) is realising that a man who supposedly got his leg broken a few days ago is now walking around without any trouble (Shoggoths are shapeshifters, super tough and have regeneration).
  • A subtle risk for werewolves in Werewolf: The Forsaken. Urathra regeneration means they can quickly heal from injuries, and thus survive damage that would be fatal to a human — with enough time and will, they can even regrow severed limbs. The problem is that this draws considerable suspicion if an Uratha is involved in some manner of accident and then turns out to not have a scratch on them — especially if medical personnel were attending to them when they genuinely did have serious injuries minutes ago. "Blood of the Wolf" actually features a short bit of fiction depicting a werewolf who struggles to keep from regenerating damage because he's being tended to by well-meaning human paramedics, only to lose control when they inject him with a painkiller. The same book also mentions, and depicts in a short bit of fiction, that this same regeneration gives werewolves a much longer lifespan than humans (in theory, a werewolf could live forever if they got powerful enough) and they don't start visibly aging until late in their life (according to the book, a werewolf basically looks in their late 20s to early 30s until they're about 75-80 years old). Again, this can be problematic if humans start looking into a werewolf's paperwork.
  • Promethean: The Created has another version. Any use of a Transmutation, even relatively subtle ones that can boost the Promethean's strength or fortitude, will cause the Pyros holding the Promethean's illusion of life to flicker, allowing others to see the Promethean as the walking corpse it is. Doing so around mortals is a very good way to accelerate Disquiet.
  • Stratego: Scouts are allowed to move more than 1 square per turn, but since they are the only pieces in the game that can move in this manner, doing so will instantly tip off your opponent that it's a scout they're dealing with.

    Video Games 
  • In an uncharacteristically thoughtful touch, the Game Boy Color Animorphs game made it so that transforming around people resulted in an instant Game Over.
  • In the beginning of chapter 11 of Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance, Usalia is dying of poison and there is no known way to cure it in the Netherworlds. Christo however is actually an Angel in disguise. After some hesitation, he risks blowing his identity by using his powers to save Usalia from the poison. The rest of the cast figure out the truth as a result, but they pretend otherwise out of gratitude for saving Usalia. Though they do still tease him about it.
  • In Divinity: Original Sin II, Source magic is illegal, so this crops up at times:
    • Only specially trained Sourcerers can communicate with the dead, so if you threaten a particular assassin with information you got from his victim's spirit, he clues in and tries to kill you for the bounty.
    • If Magisters see you using Sourcery skills like Spirit Vision, they attack on the spot. Fortunately, their knowledge is limited, so they ignore skills in other disciplines (like Warfare or Pyromancy) that are enhanced with Source.
  • Completely averted in Dragon Age II. Kirkwall is a city more-or-less run by the Templars, and a particularly severe branch of them to boot, whose job it is to lock up all mages so they can be "trained" safely and who are particularly fond of making Tranquil anyone who so much as screws up, let alone break any rules. None the less, you can form up a party of three mages and spend your days walking the streets, flinging around fireballs and summoning ice storms and gouging yourself to increase your own power right in front of said Templars. The most you'll ever hear of it is from a few plot-relevant characters who conveniently look the other way because of bigger problems.
    • Although this is simply a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation. It's played straight in Act III, after Mage!Hawke blew their cover and entered into an Enemy Mine truce with Knight-Commander Meredith in order to save the city from the Qunari. Afterwards, Mage!Hawke appears to have been given carte blanche by the Templars in exchance for continuing to unofficially work for the city, while non-Mage Hawke uses their influence to shield their Apostate friends from being arrested.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • This is a big motivation behind Servants wanting to conceal their identity. Generally, the only ways one's true name will be discovered are if the Servant tells someone, another Servant is familiar with them, or they use their Noble Phantasm. Knowing a Servant's identity is a huge boon for when you face them, since you'll have a pretty good idea of how they will fight and what their Achilles' Heel is. Saber, for example, would be outed as King Arthur very quickly if she were throwing around Excalibur willy-nilly.
    • Amusingly, even the one hero whose weapons truly cannot be used to identify him can be identified just by giving some thought to the fact that "he possesses the weapons of other heroes". As Shirou points out, only Gilgamesh, the original Heroic Spirit could possess all of the world's treasures, since he ruled before mankind spread throughout the world. Of course, he's so incredibly egotistical that he rarely cares whether people know who he is; in Fate/Zero he introduces himself to the other heroes by name.
    • As the Heroic Spirits get knowledge of each other from the Throne of Heroes where they reside, heroes from older legends can piece together the identities of heroes from after their time. Noble Phantasms are almost always a dead giveaway since they are utterly indispensable and tied to the hero's legend. This actually makes Archer, aka Heroic Spirit EMIYA a complete mystery even when he does show off his abilities since it should be impossible for anyone to have such a diverse mix of weapons and treating them as completely disposable is unthinkable for any other Servant. This is because as a Counter Guardian from the future, he is not properly in the Throne of Heroes and knowledge from the Throne does not include him. He had to engage in Loophole Abuse to get summoned at all.
  • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Sothe warns Micaiah that using her Sacrifice ability, which heals others at the cost of her own life force runs the risk of exposing her real identity.
  • In NEO: The World Ends with You, Tsugumi Matsunae of the Ruinbringers reveals their status as a Reaper by transforming into their Noise form, something only Reapers can do. The protagonists, who had never seen a Reaper do this before, don't immediately realize the significance of the act, although Beat, who was from the previous game and fought against Reapers before, as well as Shoka, who was a Reaper herself and was acquainted with Tsugumi, presumably made the connection.
  • In Persona 4, Adachi, after being suspected as the killer, runs off into a dead-end room with a large TV. Since the killer required the ability to interact with them, having killed the victims by throwing them inside the TV, him escaping through it and being found in the Midnight Channel afterwards confirms he's the culprit. When confronting the killer inside the TV, Yosuke points out that the fact that the killer's even there confirms their guilt.
  • The Pokémon Zoroark (alongside its pre-evolution Zorua) has the ability Illusion, which causes it to take on the appearance of another Pokemon in the party. It also has a signature move: Night Daze. Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, using Night Daze will immediately give away that you're a Zoroark, which is why many people use the very-similar Dark Pulse instead.
    • In Pokémon Black and White, N's Zoroark usually comes out disguised as his Klinklang, a Steel-type Pokemon that cannot learn any Dark attacks. Zoroark also has notably higher speed.
    • Zoroark, being a Dark type, is additionally immune to Psychic attacks. Be careful sending it out disguised as a Poison or Fighting type, because the game is up as soon as your opponent notices that what should have been a Curb-Stomp Battle just became a No-Sell.
    • Zorua in Pokémon GO also run into this. It spawns in the guise of the player's buddy Pokémon. However, this runs afoul of two potential issues. One, if the player's buddy is something not ordinarily spawning (like a Legendary Pokémon or simply something not spawning locally at the moment), it becomes completely obvious which one's Zorua. This is especially true if the player's buddy is Shiny, since Shiny Pokémon are not shown as such on the world map- only the catch screen. Two, Zorua runs into Glamour Failure when dual-type Pokémon get weather boosted - they'll show the characteristic weather boost swirl on the world map, but on the catch screen, the wrong weather boost symbol will appear (for example, if the player's buddy is Paras, a Zorua that spawns in sunny weather will display the rainy weather boost symbol).
  • Alex Mercer and James Heller in [PROTOTYPE] can't use their shapeshifter weapons and powers without attracting military notice (not that doing so is particularly dangerous). Extreme parkour or running up buildings, however, draws no notice in the first game (crawling around like Spider-Man, on the other hand, gets you caught immediately). In the sequel, if Heller tries his Blacklight-infused Le Parkour around any soldiers, they'll start noticing. Do it too much and it blows your cover. There's also two missions in the sequel where you're forced to pretend to be human. In these cases, the game shuts off your other powers so you don't blow your cover. You can still grab weapons that should be mounted to tanks, but Heller will just claim he eats a lot of protein.
  • Can happen to an unlucky Changeling in Space Station 13. Unless they get killed by very determinate ways, they will simply drop "dead" and recover a bit later, popping a warning message for anyone close enough. There are only so many ways to be able to tell a human from a changeling, so any changeling killed by accident or unrelated violence, could get to recover, only to get spotted, framed and incinerated/turned into burgers by a human player.
  • Star Wars: The plot of Jedi: Fallen Order kicks off when protagonist Cal Kestis, a Jedi Padawan in hiding as a salvager, uses the Force to save a co-worker from falling to his death right in front of an Imperial probe droid, forcing him to go on the run.
  • The Spy in Team Fortress 2 needs to be careful when attacking, as a single swing of his potentially one-hit-kill knife will throw off his disguise completely. The "Your Eternal Reward" mitigates this somewhat if he can successfully Backstab an opponent, since he will instantly disguise as them and render their corpse invisible - however, it still pays to be on the lookout for enemies behind you. The Spy-cicle is even worse in this respect, as any backstab victim will turn into an ice sculpture and play a distinct freezing sound, alerting enemies of a Spy in their midst. Additionally, if an Engineer's machines suddenly all have Sappers on them (or you hear the Engineer yell about this), then that's a dead giveaway a Spy is in the area; time to bring out the flamethrowers.
    • Since deaths are animated in the most over the top way possible, anybody dropping over due to any sort of surprise attack alerts everyone else that the enemy is nearby; additionally, the existence of Teleporters are betrayed by a trail of glowing particle effects that persist for a while after exiting and whoever's got the Intelligence suitcase is perpetually shedding a conspicuous paper trail in addition to having a big honking arrow pointed in their direction on the heads-up display.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines:
    • Vampires take great pains to hide their existence from humans through the Masquerade, which can be jeopardized by the Player Character blatantly using vampiric Disciplines in non-combat areas. Red flags include Celerity's Super-Speed, Protean's Voluntary Shapeshifting, and Thaumaturgy's Blood Magic. On the other hand, Mind Raping someone to death with Dementation is just fine.
    • Smiling Jack, your handy mentor during the opening tutorial, explains this succinctly with the phrase "We're living in the age of cell-phone cameras. Fuck ups ain't tolerated."
    • Ash Rivers, a former superstar actor who deeply resents his vampirization, made headlines for surviving several high-speed car crashes unharmed. A Creature-Hunter Organization connected the dots, so one Side Quest involves helping him escape its agents.
  • In the first mission of Watch_Dogs, Aidan is trapped in a stadium after kicking some ass and raising hell. He unintentionally caused enough police to show up that he can't sneak out. Aidan opts to cause a blackout and sneak away during the confusion, even though it'll tie the vigilante (IE himself) to the activities - something he was trying to avoid.

    Web Animation 
  • Early in Red vs. Blue, Church dies but comes back as a ghost who can possess a robot duplicate of his armor, something he tries to keep private from outsiders. When he and Grif are locked in a jail cell it seems like an ideal time to use that ability, only for things to be subverted when the door is opened before Church can try it, so Grif ends up thinking he has telekinesis. In Reconstruction, Church tries not to show Washington he can step out of his body, but Simmons sucks at making distractions so Wash finds out anyway. But then it turns out Washington isn't surprised in the slightest, and explains that Church isn't a "ghost," but an AI.
  • RWBY: When using her power, a Maiden's eyes develop a tell-tale flare of magical fire that is the same colour as their Aura. However, one Maiden learned to hide her powers by creating a distraction to hide the source of the magic, allowing her to avert this trope when necessary. When Cinder's team demands proof that Vernal is the long-lost Spring Maiden, Vernal closes her eyes and extends her arms to summon a storm. Her bandit leader, Raven Branwen, remains by her side, wearing her signature raven-shaped helmet. The villains are convinced by the display, never realising that Vernal is only a decoy and that the helmet's true purpose is to hide the eye-fire surrounding Raven's eyes.

  • White Heron: When North Korean agents bomb a dam to flood Hwacheon, Kim Jeong is forced to blow her cover to save the citizens.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
      • Zuko has dealt with this several times, since firebenders aren't exactly popular in the Earth Kingdom. In "Zuko Alone", he just wants to preserve the good opinion of the kid he is trying to protect, but the earthbender he's fighting is a bit too tough to beat while holding back, and the villagers decide to shun him.
      • In "City of Walls and Secrets", when he could have been arrested and worse if revealed, he fares rather better against Jet. The reason Jet suspected that Zuko and Iroh were really Fire-Benders instead of Earth Kingdom refuges was that he saw Iroh use his firebending to warm a cold cup of tea.
      • Aang gets a Played for Laughs version of this in "City of Walls and Secrets", too, albeit briefly. He accidentally makes a woman spill her drink on herself while undercover at a party, and tries to use his airbending to dry her off. This reveals his identity to the whole party.
      • Aang gets a whole lot of cover-blowing moments with his air bending, which reveal him to be the last living Air Nomad, and thus, the Avatar. Using Airbending to catching a rock hurled at him by King Bumi, in "The King of Omashu", putting out a pyrotechnic "dragon" that's getting fairly close to Katara in the middle of a Fire Nation cultural festival....
      • Invoked in the first season episode "Imprisoned" in order to get onto the prison ship where the Fire Nation is holding earthbenders. As the Gaang doesn't include an earthbender yet, they have to fake it with airbending.
    • The Legend of Korra:
      • During Korra's first pro-bending match, she accidentally reveals herself as the Avatar by showing the ability to bend two different elements; no-one but the Avatar can bend more than one. The referee rules that she can participate so long as she only uses waterbending.
      • In the Book One finale, Korra, after learning that Amon, the leader of the Equalist movement, happens to be a bender (the kind of people the Equalists were established to oppose), manages to defeat him by knocking him out a window and into the water, causing him to waterbend himself to the surface while many of his followers are watching.
  • In Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix, Ben is in disguise at an alien space station while being told to stay put, but after spotting someone he immediately assumes to be Vilgax, Ben transforms to start a fight and exposing himself to everyone in the station.
  • Danny Phantom: Just how many times has Danny nearly blown his cover by using his powers in human form? There's the numerous times he slipped up when he first got his powers (invisibility and intangibility), using ecto-blasts on things like Dash's shoes, purposely turning his chin intangible to avoid Dash's fist, and a crap load of other stunts that should have gotten him noticed before the series finale.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Night of the Ninja", Bruce Wayne and Summer Gleeson are held captive by Kyodai Ken, a ninja and former rival of Bruce's. Bruce is put in the unenviable position of having to fight his captor at about half-strength to keep his companion (who knew of his ninja training, but not his identity) from putting two and two together. He probably would have lost had Robin not rushed her out of sight before he got too beaten up. Not to mention the fear Bruce almost certainly felt when facing the ninja, who according to Alfred was the only guy who could beat him at the Japanese dojo where Bruce learned the martial arts. It's worth noting that Robin didn't seem to have any trouble fighting the ninja, and it's just as likely that knowing Robin had his back was what allowed Bruce to fight back and win. The later episode "Day of the Samurai" reveals that Ken was not fooled by the ruse in the long run. Having fought both Batman and Bruce Wayne (even holding back), he could tell that they were the same man.
    • Batman Beyond: In "Revenant", based on a hunch, Terry throws a glass of water right at Willy Watt's head. Yup, Willy has telekinesis and halts the glass mere inches from his face. And since it was caught on a security camera, Terry doesn't have to worry about blowing his own cover, as the guards immediately rush in.
    • Superman: The Animated Series: In "The Late Mr. Kent", Clark Kent's car is destroyed by a car bomb and he is thrown off a cliff into the ocean. Since there are witnesses, Clark can't reveal himself and must pretend to be dead. The trope is also inverted: Since the explosion destroyed the only evidence of a condemned man's innocence, he, as Superman, has to figure out how to catch the assailant and exonerate the innocent man before his execution, without using Clark's information or identity. Luckily, it turns out the only witness to the event is extremely nearsighted, and wasn't even wearing his glasses when it happened, allowing Clark to claim he managed to swim to safety and spent his missing time recuperating at Lana's (who knows his secret) home. Ironically, just as the dirty cop that set this all up was a few seconds from getting gassed, he put two and two together and realized that Clark was Superman.
  • Spider-Man:
    • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Peter Parker successfully dodges several water balloons thrown by Flash Thompson. He notices a crowd is gathering, admiring his skills, so he has to stop dodging and let himself get soaked.
    • Spider-Man: The New Animated Series:
      • In the episode "Tight Squeeze", this trope is played straight when ex-KGB agents capture a group of civilians, including Peter Parker.
      • "The Party" has Peter standing up for Max when he is being made fun of by some jocks. Peter reacts instinctively when they attack him, flipping out of the way so they all hit each other. Realizing that he looks too good to be able to do that, Peter sees the next blow coming and does nothing to stop it, lest it arouse suspicion.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • In "Spark of Rebellion", the heroes find themselves in a tight situation while on Kessel rescuing a group of Wookiees from the Empire, so Kanan makes the decision to use his lightsaber to provide cover for everyone else, announcing to the Imperials that he's a Jedi, and thus a valuable target.
    • "Idiot's Array" subverts it: Ezra pulls out his lightsaber, which he built in the previous episode, during the firefight at Lando's farm and Kanan panics, because he told Ezra no lightsabers except in really dangerous situations — and Ezra reveals that it's a lightsaber-blaster hybrid.
    • Played straight in "Imperial Supercommandos", when Ezra nudging Gar Saxon's blaster off-kilter with the Force to stop him from shooting Chopper keens Saxon to the fact that he's a Jedi.
  • Steven Universe:
    • In "The Return", Lapis tries to claim Steven is just a human so Jasper will ignore him. However, Steven uses his shield to save the other Crystal Gems from a Wave-Motion Gun, giving away that he's a gem and making Jasper think Steven is his own mother, Rose Quartz.
    • In "Hit the Diamond", the Crystal Gems pretend to be humans to the Ruby Squad. The Ruby Squad being unfamiliar with humans, and just dumb in general, they buy it even as Amethyst performs a shapeshifting Rolling Attack. However, Ruby and Sapphire accidentally fuse together, which even the Ruby Squad realize humans can't do.
    • In "Reunited", Steven does this deliberately: He's trying to tell Blue and Yellow Diamond that his Missing Mom Rose Quartz was also their supposedly shattered younger sister Pink Diamond, which means that he has her Gem. Only when Steven, in a Battle in the Center of the Mind, manages to unleash Pink's distinctive Diamond aura do the Diamonds realize he's telling the truth.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Awkward Ability


Broken Friendship

(SPOILER WARNING): Lois and Clark have an argument over Clark keeping his Superman identity a secret from Lois. When their argument reaches a boiling point, Lois declares that whatever they had is over, devastating Clark (who'd planned all day to confess his feelings to her). Jimmy begins to doubt his friendship with Clark and Lois, and when both keep ignoring his calls he (unaware of everything happening on their end) decides he doesn't need them.

How well does it match the trope?

4.8 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / DarkestHour

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