These two characters are not an Official Couple, but they're clearly headed in that direction. The question is when. Their Will They or Won't They? relationship has spanned three seasons, their Unresolved Sexual Tension is impossible to ignore, and you're just waiting for a Love Epiphany.
And then they kiss. This is a Game Changer, right? It has to be. Their entire relationship up to this point has revolved ignoring their obvious feelings for each other, and now that they've kissed, they can't ignore them anymore.
Except that they can.
Shows that rely on the Ship Tease between their two lead characters have to keep fans interested somehow. The relationship between these two characters has to continue to progress or fans will get bored, but the characters can't get together too soon, lest the show suffer Shipping Bed Death. These shows often rely on gimmicks that get fans excited and offer an illusion of progress while actually changing nothing, throwing people a bone to chew on while they sit through another two or three seasons of Belligerent Sexual Tension. Thus, the fake first kiss.
It was New Years. They were undercover. Someone lost a bet. It happened Under the Mistletoe. It was in a dream sequence or an alternate timeline. Maybe they thought they were about to die and they just needed to feel the soft press of someone else's lips against theirs one last time. The reasons are endless. The important thing is that there is a convenient reason for the characters to justify the kiss as the result of something other than their feelings for each other and never bring it up again. If the kiss significantly alters the relationship between the characters in some way, this trope does not apply. The Reset Button is key here.
This trope usually happens between the male and female lead of a TV show. The characters should have a long and dramatic would-be-romantic relationship. It usually occurs in a season finale, mid-season finale, or Wham Episode, like a real get-together would, but unlike an actual get-together, it may have been promoted ahead of time to draw an audience.
While there may be older examples of this trope, it didn't become common until the early 2000s, after shows like The X-Files and Friends popularized drawn-out Will They or Won't They?-style Romance Arcs between series leads.
See Also: Ship Tease, Subtext, Fanservice, Will They or Won't They?, Fake-Out Make-Out, Accidental Kiss, Alternate Reality Episode, Platonic Kissing, Fever Dream Episode. Contrast: Moment Killer, Ship Sinking.
- Inuyasha and Kagome technically have their first kiss in Inuyasha The Movie The Castle Beyond The Looking Glass after she kisses him to snap him out of his Superpowered Evil Side. However, since none of the films are canon, at the end of the movie they both pretend like it didn't happen. Their real first kiss doesn't come until much later in the anime.
- In Kyo Kara Maoh!, the "R" season introduces a machine that requires two people to kiss in order to see their future together — and then Wolfram drags his fiance Yuuri into it to activate it. Only the "R" season is largely retconned later, and Wolfram was under the influence of "being magically possessed."
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has Asuka suggesting to Shinji that they try kissing, her justification being that she's "bored". After a prolonged make-out session they pretend like it never happened. They're never shown getting a real first kiss, but the end of the movie suggests they have accepted their feelings for each other.
- In Ranma ½ there's the "relationship" between Ranma Saotome and Akane Tendo, which is a Love-Hate Relationship. Officially they don't kiss (at least in the anime), but the first attempt was when both become the protagonists of the Romeo and Juliet against their will just to unify them. Finally the last scene when they both kiss comes true for all the rest, except for these two since Akane duct-taped Ranma before kissing him◊.
- By the Sea: One day, Cody holds and sings Obi-Wan through a thunderstorm-induced dissociative flashback. He's been assuming Obi-Wan to be romantically interested in him this whole time, so he gently brings Obi-Wan up into a keldabe once they wake the next morning. The snippet showing Cody's perspective of this scene makes it clear that he sees it as his First Kiss with his love and he regards it with the appropriate gravity, but during the original story proper from Obi-Wan's perspective, Obi-Wan doesn't want to let himself hope that it's anything more than a merfolk version of a handshake and is even dismayed that it wasn't a kiss (as he knows it), and he continues to not get it, several more times, until Cody has the words to explain it.
- In Judgement Day (Dragon Ball) Goku and Vegeta’s first kiss happens while they’re still faking their relationship. Vegeta kisses Goku in front of a group of people to distract from the fact they’d been arguing, fearing that people might begin to realize the two are not actually soul-bonded.
- Happens several times in Promstuck, Lampshaded and Played for Laughs. John kisses Karkat three times with extremely flimsy excuses without realizing his attraction: in gym class as "CPR", during a theater rehearsal due to "the magic of theater" (they were both tech staff), and another time while drunk "to practice for when we have girlfriends".
- In Plan B, Bruno and Pablo manage to kiss three times while staying totally platonic Heterosexual Life-Partners. The first two kisses are done while they're drunk and playing up their Gay Bravado for an interested female friend and the third one is a Practice Kiss done to help Bruno get ready for a definitely-not-made-up-at-all acting gig that requires him to kiss another guy.
- Bakemonogatari: In a later arc, it is revealed that protagonist Koyomi's youngest sister, Tsukihi, is not his sister at all and is actually a divine baby cuckoo. At one point, the demure Tsukihi is upset and Koyomi tries to calm her down with a kiss. Tsukihi (who doesn't know she's not his sister) is naturally Squicked out about her Sacred First Kiss being stolen by her brother. He tells her don't think of it as a "real" first kiss because he's just a pervert.
- Chronicles of the Kencyrath: Jame and Tori are destined to be the Official Couple, but they have a lot of emotions and issues to work through before that can happen. They already had a Big Damn Kiss in a magical house, in the middle of a volcanic eruption… then Tori freaked out and ran away. No gimmicks, no plot devices, just emotional baggage and not being ready to deal with it yet. So he pretends it never happened, and Jame goes along with it out of tact. (And while it's not a dream or alternative reality, it's in a magical house that kind of makes it feel like it is, which makes it easier to pretend it wasn't quite real.)
- To Sail Beyond the Sunset: For her first sexual encounter, Maureen chooses Chuck Perkins, a classmate she has no romantic feelings towards, as her partner. They kissed before doing the deed, and though Maureen greatly enjoyed it, she did not fall in love with him. Even as their relationship turned sexual, they never fell in love despite caring for each other.
- Strike the Blood: Deuteragonist and main love interest Yukina has her first kiss with Kojou because Kojou is a vampire whose powers only activate with sexual arousal (although Yukina also in love with him, but denies it). During the incident in question, the two of them are trapped underneath layers of ice and facing certain death along with the astonishingly-beautiful La Folia. La Folia (who is also hot for Kojou tries to kiss him to get Kojou's power to awaken, but Yukina stops her and does it in her stead.
- Bones did three of these between Brennan and Booth.
- The first one was in the mid-season finale of season 3, The Santa In the Slush, where they were coerced into kissing Under the Mistletoe.
- The second one was in the fourth season finale, The End in the Beginning, an Alternate Reality Episode where they were married nightclub owners. Both scenes appeared in the trailers for those episodes. In reality, Brennan and Booth don't get together until the end of season 6.
- There a questionable third instance in The Sum in the Parts of the Whole, where Brennan and Booth kiss in a flashback. However, due to an actual kiss that also occurs in that episode, the status quo does change going forward.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer does this with Spike and Buffy. Their first actual kiss was well before any actual attraction existed between them back in the season 4 episode Something Blue, as they were under the influence of a spell.
Castle: We kiss and then we never talk about it. We nearly die frozen in each other's arms, but we never talk about it.
- The series did one in the season 3 episode, Knockdown. Castle and Beckett kiss in order to appear less suspicious while trailing a suspect. Pictures of the kiss were circulating in the media over a month before the episode aired. The characters finally get together a season and a half later.
- Castle lampshades this in the season 3 finale:
- Doctor Who under Russell T. Davies did this with the Doctor and nearly every companion. The ninth Doctor and Rose lock lips in the series one finale as the Doctor gives Rose a timey-wimey version of the kiss of life. In series two, the tenth Doctor gets kissed by Rose's body while it's being occupied by the villain of the week. The Doctor kisses Martha in her very first episode as part of a ploy to confuse an alien DNA scanner. Even Donna, who was always very clear that They Won't, gets in on it, kissing the Doctor in response to his demand that she do something shocking and unexpected.
- Farscape did this twice in the first season, in the episodes, The Flax and A Human Reaction. In both situations, John and Aeryn thought they were about to be killed.
- Ross and Rachel in Friends had their first kiss a few episodes into the first season. Newly-independent Rachel is with Ross at the dry cleaner's when a woman there tries to steal Rachel's cart, and she responds by getting inside and announcing she'll have to take her with her. The woman relents, and Rachel, exhilarated by her victory impulsively kisses Ross, who she does not know already has a crush on her.
- Haven does this at least twice. Once in season one, when a shapeshifter decides to do a Kill and Replace of Audrey at her own birthday party. It's a Ten Little Murder Victims episode, and Nathan gets suspicious that Audrey has been replaced when she inadvertently touches his skin. He can't feel it, and the imposter has no idea that the real Audrey's Anti-Magic means he should be able to. He tests the theory by kissing her, and confirming his suspicions—this Audrey is the imposter. This incident is never revealed to the real Audrey, leaving their Will They or Won't They? to live another day.
- Later in season four, the body surfing Troubled person of the week does a Grand Theft Me with Duke, and senses the Unresolved Sexual Tension between Duke and Jennifer. He kisses her, which is the final straw for her that Duke is Not Himself. She brings it up later, and the real Duke reveals that he was in the background while it happened and also aware she was into it for the brief moment she thought it was him. It's the moment their Ship Tease goes from subtext to text.
- In NCIS, Tony and Ziva kiss and have a simulated sex sequence while undercover as a couple. The episode was aptly titled Under Covers.
- In The Office (US), Pam gave Jim their first kiss in "The Dundies" while drunk at a work party in a Chili's. Jim is surprised but clearly pleased.
- In an early example of this trope, The X-Files has Mulder hallucinate that he'd travelled back in time and met a World War II-era Scully in the season 6 episode "Triangle". Mulder and Scully also kiss to ring in the new year in the early season 7 episode "Millennium". Theories differ on exactly when they actually got together, but the general consensus seems to be not before the end of season 7. In any case, neither kiss is referenced again.
- Can be played straight or averted in Daughter for Dessert with the protagonist's relationship with Lily. The protagonist can kiss Lily, a follow up by not doing anything beyond that.
- The protagonist of Double Homework can have these with both Morgan and Amy. Can also be averted depending on player choice.
- In Melody, this can be played straight, averted, or subverted in the protagonist's relationships with Becca, Amy, Sophia, and Xianne.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Aang and Katara in "The Cave of Two Lovers", though it's ambiguous whether they actually kissed or not. Lost in the titular cave with their only source of light about to burn out, Katara suggests they invoke the story of two lovers who used to meet in the cave, trusting love to guide them.... By kissing. In Kissing Discretion Shot, their torch goes out right as they start to embrace each other... Then, after a couple seconds in darkness, the cave is revealed to be littered with crystals that glow in the dark, revealing the path to the exit.
- Danny Phantom is the Trope Namer for Fake-Out Make-Out, which Danny and Sam do twice before eventually getting together.
- Kim Possible had Kim and Ron share their first kiss in "Emotion Sickness", but Kim is under the effects of the Moodulator and she practically caught Ron off guard and kissed him. Their Big Damn Kiss in Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama is technically their second kiss, but their first Official Kiss.
- In Phineas and Ferb, Isabella and Phineas get countless Ship Teases. The first time she kisses him is in the Made-for-TV Movie, and they are zapped with the Amnesia-Inator seconds later. The second one happens in Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars, but this almost automatically does not count due to taking place between their Elseworld equivalents. They finally get their Official Kiss as teenagers in the Flash Forward episode "Act Your Age".
- Miraculous Ladybug:
- Ladybug gives Cat Noir their first kiss to break him out of Dark Cupid's mind control, so he completely forgets about it afterwards as a result, while she still doesn't figure out that he's the guy she loves. Subsequently, their relationship doesn't change.
- Another variant occurs in "Oblivio". Ladybug and Cat Noir are suffering from Identity Amnesia and discover each other's identities. Throughout the episode, the deduce from context clues details from their lives, including their love for each other. However, they realize that after defeating Oblivio, they will regain their old memories, but forget everything that led up to his defeat, including each other's identities. They kiss each other right before everything resets, which Alya manages to take a picture of and post it on the internet. Needless to say, Marinette is horrified when she finds out she consensually kissed Cat Noir while they had amnesia.
- In the Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) episode "Hooked on Sonics", Sonic shows Sally a real kiss by planting a marathon-length, wet, slobbery smooch on her lips, much to Tails' disgust. This doesn't count the first official kiss, until the Series Finale.
- Teen Titans (2003): When she first came to Earth, the first thing that Starfire did was kiss Robin because her species can learn any language by touching mouths with a speaker. The two don't share a proper romantic kiss until the Grand Finale.