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Double Caper

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Truth be told... we helped the wrong person steal the wrong thing. We didn't mean to unleash the greatest evil the world has ever known. But we're going to fix it.
Edgin sums the trope up, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves trailer

A Double Caper is a plot that takes the following form:

  1. The protagonists are hired for The Caper, and pull it off.
  2. The protagonists learn that they were lied to— they don't get paid, or their employer isn't who they thought, or the justification they were given for the theft turns out to be a lie.
  3. The protagonists pull another caper on their original employer, for vengeance, money and/or to get the stolen goods back to their rightful owner.

This is often used as a way to have a plot based on The Caper that has some degree of moral justifiability. Sure, the protagonists were wrong to do the first caper, but at least they're 'making things right' now. The trope also provides a smooth and easy way to put two capers in the same work without looking like you're running out of ideas.

A variant exists where there's only one caper, which goes off apparently according to plan, but with a Tomato Surprise where the heisters change things so that the loot doesn't go to the original intended recipient. This allows for the plan to be meticulously described earlier in the story — a genre staple — without running afoul of the Unspoken Plan Guarantee; it does go "wrong", but only by the protagonists' design, and in their favour. (It's still "double", as they're conning the guy who hired them to run a con; they're just doing both at the same time.)


Comic Books

  • In X-Men Noir: Mark of Cain, Thomas Halloway and his ersatz X-Men (Cyclops, Captain Logan, and Eugene Judd) are hired by Cain Marko to steal the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak from a temple in Madripoor. When they deliver the gem, Marko double-crosses them by paying in newspaper. They don't go after Marko — because someone beat them to it. They decide to track down Marko's killer instead, reasoning that whoever did him in must now have the gem.


  • The team in Sneakers is hired to steal an encryption device from a mathematician. Their employers claim to be NSA agents, and say that the mathematician is being funded by Russia. Actually, he's being funded by the NSA, and the employers work for The Syndicate.
  • The Italian Job (2003) has the crew pulling a caper against the guy who double-crossed them and took the gold from their original caper.
  • The Hot Rock did this to extremes.
  • The first Mission: Impossible film starts with a caper that goes wrong, leaving the surviving member framed. The second caper is to recover stolen information (from the very heart of the CIA) and expose The Mole.
  • The MIT kids do this to their teacher in 21.
  • While not a clear example of a caper, Dirty Work starring Norm MacDonald has Christopher McDonald's character hire the protagonists to vandalize an apartment building he claims belongs to him and is actually a brothel. After this, they find out that another man owns the building, and the person they thought was the "Madam" was just a sweet old lady with a knitting circle. The bad guy just wanted to have the building condemned and leveled, so he could get the land. Naturally, they stage a comeback to expose the guy and get him to pay for the damages.


  • The Jeffrey Archer book Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less is about a stock market fraud and the subsequent attempts of the defrauded parties to steal back the exact amount they were scammed out of. At the end the originally worthless oil company stocks are suddenly valuable — after an oil strike nearby — and they have to find a way to run the whole theft in reverse to return the money.
  • In The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake, a team of crooks is hired to steal a valuable emerald. After five separate attempts to get it, all but the last of which fail, they finally get their hands on it — and the diplomat who hired them stiffs them. So they steal it back from him, give it to a rival nation in exchange for a fake version, and wait for him to try to buy it off of them so they can reveal that they sold him a fake.
  • In Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows, the Crows pull such a caper after their employer, Jan Van Eck, betrays them. By the end of the novel, he's in prison and all his assets are given to his son, who he'd tried to have killed before the events of the first book.

Live-Action TV

  • The pilot of Leverage, "The Nigerian Job", has a team of thieves hired to steal a set of airplane plans from a rival aerospace corporation. They're told that the rival corporation stole the plans first. Then their employer doesn't pay them and tries to kill them, and they learn that he'd lied and they'd stolen the plans from the rightful owners. Counter-caper time.

Video Games

  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind:
    • One Mages Guild quest has you steal a rare book for the quest giver from a rival mage. However, after bringing the book to the quest giver, she realizes that it doesn't contain the information she desires. Her next quest is to secretly return the book.
    • One of the Bal Malogmer quests in the Thieves' Guild quest line has you performing the second half of the double caper after another thief performed the first half. He stole a valuable dagger from a Buoyant Armiger, a member of the Temple's elite special forces, which was gifted to him by the Physical God Vivec. The quest giver asks that you secretly return it along with a note of apology.
  • PAYDAY 2's "Golden Grin Casino" mission involves stealing a mysterious box with an all-seeing eye on it for The Dentist. Eventually, the in the "Henry's Rock" mission, you find the same all-seeing eye adorned box among the loot of the facility. It is then revealed that The Dentist in some way has ties to this facility, meaning you are technically stealing it back from him.
  • Much of the pre-credits plot of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky qualifies. (At least, if "keep Grovyle from stealing the Time Gears" counts as a caper.)
  • The plot of Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. At first, Ratchet is hired by Abercrombie Fizzwidget, CEO of Megacorp, to retrieve a mysterious experiment from a more mysterious thief who stole it. After successfully getting it and returning it to Fizzwidget, the CEO starts trying to get rid of the duo. After that, the thief reveals the reason why he stole it, and convinces Ratchet and Clank to try and get it back from Fizzwidget before the (very violent) experiment can be put on the market.
  • Garrett, the genius thief from the classic Thief, does this to Constantine after a rather painful discovery.
  • Mercenaries 2 - The first caper is the tutorial area. After your employer refuses to pay the bill, you spend the rest of the game hunting him and his dragons down.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves's second level sets this up, to some degree. Also in Eye of Indra.
  • World of Assassination Trilogy: The elite assassin Agent 47 and his handler spend one-and-a-half games performing stealthy assassinations to fight the mysterious Shadow Client, then find out that they've been working for a super evil conspiracy, and spend one-and-a-half games performing stealthy assassinations to help the Shadow Client fight their former employers.