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Fakin' MacGuffin

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"Ugh! I see. She's taken a barnacle and she's covered it in bio-luminescent algae... as a diversion!"
Tamatoa, Moana

When someone wants an important Plot Device, one trick is to make a replica of the object, with the intent of tricking the opponent into thinking that the phony is the real MacGuffin.

This can resolve a Hostage for MacGuffin situation: The hero reluctantly hands over the object (which, by the way, might or might not be a MacGuffin), the audience facepalms, the villain gloats... and then it turns out that the object the hero handed over was actually a fake.

The effect of the fake object will vary: sometimes it will destroy the villain when he tries to use it, or even bestow the mysterious boon he was trying to steal on the hero instead; sometimes, of course, it will merely do nothing at all.

Hopefully, the existence of the phony will have been set up in advance, and some effort will be expended to explain why the villain doesn't immediately notice it's a phony.

If the MacGuffin is inside a distinctive container but said container is only important because it has the MacGuffin inside, this trope especially likely to happen since even an empty container might work as a decoy.

Not to be confused with MockGuffin, when it turns out in the end that the MacGuffin everybody has been chasing is a fake, and there is no "real" MacGuffin. For when the fake MacGuffin also turns out to be a booby trap, see Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb. This can be used to set up a Needle in a Stack of Needles situation when the real MacGuffin is hidden among a bunch of fakes, or when you need to transport the real item somewhere and the fakes are put in multiple Decoy Convoys. This is a subtrope of Replaced with Replica, which is for any intentional item-for-fake switches, not just MacGuffins.

Usually, the audience doesn't find out that the villain's got a phony until the villain does (or until the hero reassures his sidekick), so unmarked spoilers abound.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • This is how Light is defeated at the very end of Death Note. When Light tries to use Teru Mikami to kill Near and the other members of the SPK, it is revealed that Near had the pages of Mikami's Death Note replaced with regular paper that is worthless for killing people, so Mikami would not be able to kill them no matter how many times he wrote down their names in his "sakujo" frenzy.
  • In episode 12 of Futari wa Pretty Cure, Poisony (disguised as a chocolate vendor) steals Nagisa's Card Commune and replaces it with a fake one contaning a Zakenna.
  • One early episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Second Gig has Section 9 used to smuggle plutonium through a refugee zone as part of the villain's plot to increase tensions between the refugees and the rest of the country. Once they reach the military checkpoint to hand off the plutonium, it's revealed that the cases were empty and the real plutonium was extracted via another method. Section 9 is understandably pissed.
  • In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki: Benisumomo steals a bag of medicinal herbs from Sazanka, but she later reveals the herbs were stuffed into her clothes and the bag only contains ordinary weeds.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, there is a struggle over a case containing a relic that multiple parties are interested in. At the end, the Numbers seem to make off with it, to shock from all sides. Then, after they've left... Teana and Subaru reveal that, actually, they took the relic out of the case and hid it in Caro's hat — all the Numbers have is an empty case.
  • Sailor Moon: Queen Nehellenia acquires the Golden Crystal, but after her minions the Amazoness Quartet were mistreated, they got back at her by swapping it with a pineapple.
  • Time Stop Hero: Kuzuno Sekai and his party are racing King Nazar's goons in a labyrinth to find a sacred treasure. Sekai's party finds it first, a jeweled mirror in a treasure chest. Before leaving, Sekai leaves behind a replica of the mirror for the goons to find. It turns out the mirror in the chest was fake too.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Black and White: In "Blackout", Batman catches Catwoman stealing some jewels, which he confiscates, but decides to let her go with a warning after she helps him catch a more dangerous group of criminals. She pickpockets the bag of jewels off him before she leaves, only to discover when she opens it that at some point when she wasn't looking he'd switched out the jewels as a precaution and all that's in the bag is some ordinary rocks.
  • Buck Godot: PSmIth: After Buck is obliged to hand over the MacGuffin he was hired to guard, he reveals that he had a copy made and it was the copy he handed over. Or did he hand over the real one, and this is the copy...?
  • Green Lantern: The source of a Green Lantern's powers is their ring. In one issue, another character tried to take the ring from GL, only for him to willingly hand it over. The villain tests it by successfully creating constructs and runs off, satisfied that they got the item they were after. Then GL reveals to the reader (and/or a person nearby wondering why he isn't concerned) that the ring he handed over was actually a construct which will fade away in an hour and the real ring is still on his finger and invisible.
  • Jonah Hex: In #9 and #10 of the original series, Bandito el Papagayo forces Jonah to aid him in a raid on a Mexican fortress in Veracruz to steal a store of gold bars from the Mexican government. After a series of double-crosses that have left almost everyone except Jonah dead, Jonah is caught outside with the gold during a storm. The rain washes the gold paint off the bars, revealing them to be worthless. It turns out the Mexican government had secretly removed the gold from the fortress several days before the raid, leaving behind the fake gold as a distraction.
  • Villainous example: The Joker pulls one of these to get his hands on the all-powerful "worlogog" in a Justice League story.

  • In Dead or Alive 4: The Devil Factor, the bad guys require three magic gems for their plans. At one point, it seems as if they have acquired the third gem, but it is revealed to the reader that Eliot swapped it with an ordinary gem that looked similar.
  • In Fallen King, Pegasus's guards are trying to take the Millennium Puzzle from Yugi and the gang. Joey bluffs them by throwing a piece of stone off the tower and pretending it's the Millennium Puzzle.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Barbie & The Diamond Castle, Liana leaves a normal mirror for Slyder to retrieve while Alexa keeps Melody's mirror safe.
  • Happens in Ice Age when Soto the saber-tooth thinks he found the human baby, but it's revealed to be a snow replica of it made by Sid (this makes him throw his Villainous Breakdown and go full-on Ax-Crazy).
  • In The Castle of Cagliostro, Lupin makes a copy of the ring with a microtransponder inside, so as to trick and then taunt the Count. He's seen making it shortly before the Count's assassins attack the room he rented.
  • In Moana, Moana uses a barnacle and bioluminescent algae to create a fake Heart of Te Fiti, which she gives to Tamatoa to distract him long enough for her and Maui to escape.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The climax of 21 has the professor take the bag of chips the team has just won while they are fleeing the casino. After he has apparently abandoned the other team members, he discovers the bag contains only chocolate coins.
  • In Appointment with Venus, Nicola gets her artist cousin Lionel to paint another cow to resemble Venus, so they can swap her with Venus and sneak the real Venus away from the Nazis.
  • Botched: When Donovan opens the case to retrieve the stolen cross, he discover that Peter has swapped it for a crude substitute made of two pieces of broken ruler strapped together.
  • The Bullion Boys (1993) when David Jason's character swaps a fake gold bar for a real one, which is the only bar they end up keeping.
  • Cloak & Dagger (1984): When Davey's friend is kidnapped by the villains, and they demand the game cartridge (which has government secrets hidden on an extra chip), Jack Flack advises Davey to steal ("Requisition necessary mission equipment") a cartridge of the same title from the video game store, and use that in the exchange. It works, and Kim is released, but when Rice sees the sticker for the store on the back of the cartridge, the chase is on.
  • In The Con is On, Harry and Peter make a copy the $5 million ring they are planning to swipe from Jackie. At the end of the film, Harry throws the fake to Irina to distract her while she and Peter get away. However, when they reach the airport, she realizes that she has the fake and had thrown the real ring to Irina in the confusion.
  • In Dude, Where's My Car?, everyone is after the Continuum Transfunctioner. The only thing that everyone knows about it is that it is "a very mysterious and powerful device" and that "its mystery is exceeded only by its power". At the end, the protagonists need to find it in order to free their girlfriends from "space nerds". One of them suddenly realizes that no one has told them what the damn thing is supposed to look like. So they redeem their arcade tickets for a flashing toy and call all the interested parties. The ruse is quickly revealed when the real Guardians of the Continuum Transfunctioner recognize it as a fake and when a bunch of kids walk past with the exact same toy.
  • Filibus: Inspector Hardy attempts to trick the Classy Cat-Burglar Sky Pirate Filibus with a false jewel (with a hidden camera, to boot). It works exactly the opposite way he expects.
  • Grand Slam: When Milford opens the case that supposedly contains the diamonds, he discovers it is empty. It is later revealed that Mary Ann had swapped it for an identical one before it was placed in the vault.
  • Heist (2001): After betraying the others and stealing the van that is supposed to contain the stolen gold, Jimmy finds out that the hidden compartments are filled with metal washers.
  • Hudson Hawk: Eddie is forced to put together the pieces of the critical element of Leonardo da Vinci's gold-making machine (which the villains have been pursuing throughout the movie). However, he leaves out one crucial part, which eventually causes the machine to malfunction and explode.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the real Holy Grail is hidden among a whole table of fakes. Elsa presents Donovan with one of the false Grails, leading to his demise, as drinking from a false Grail is deadly.
  • In Leprechaun 2, the protagonist tricks the evil leprechaun by giving him a chocolate coin wrapped in gold foil instead of his gold coin.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Mission: Impossible Film Series:
    • Played with in the first film: The protagonist hands one of two disks over, then convinces his rival that the one he handed him was the fake so he throws it away. One his rival leaves the room he picks it up from the trash, revealing that it was real after all.
    • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: Ethan's plan calls for handing Cobalt's henchmen a scrambled fake copy of the launch codes, but due to unforeseen circumstances has to give them a copy with the real launch codes in order to follow them back to their boss. It turns out it was the boss in a mask at the meeting, meaning they could have just taken him out there instead of going through the trouble of the farce.
  • In National Treasure Ben was able to slip the baddies a souvenir Declaration of Independence instead of the real thing.
  • In Octopussy, the villains create fake Faberge eggs to swap out for the real ones they are selling to finance their schemes. After it becomes necessary to reclaim one of the real eggs, Kamal Khan claims it is one of the fakes only to wince in horror as his partner General Orlov smashes it.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Tamina somehow swipes the magic dagger from Dastan and replaces it with a nutcracker.
  • Ronin (1998) has the protagonists attempting to steal a silver briefcase. The first time they try to steal it, it turns out to be a decoy with a bomb inside, as one of their team has swapped out the real one. Their leader only realizes Just in Time when fresh silver paint comes off on his hand.
  • In The Score, Nick Wells (anticipating a double-cross) swaps out the scepter he was hired to steal for the axle they used as a stand-in during their trial runs, meaning that Teller ends up with nothing when he does betray him. Worse, Teller is the one who ends up being the main (and only) suspect. Nick gets away scott free.
  • In the climax of Short Circuit, Johnny 5 makes a copy of himself to keep from getting destroyed by the army.
  • At the end of Sneakers, when the NSA attempts to confiscate the MacGuffin, Marty hands it over, telling them "It doesn't work. It never did" — and, after they've gone, reveals to his colleagues that he's kept the true MacGuffin, the one component that makes the thing work.
  • Son of a Gun: On the boat, Lynch opens the suitcases to discover that the gold bars have been swapped out for lead weights.
  • In Super Mario Bros. (1993), Mario holds some shoelaces in a way that suggests that he has the meteorite piece pendant, and taunts Koopa with it. Only when Lena attempts to merge the worlds with the real rock does Koopa realize Mario was tricking him.
  • In The Thieves, Popie has a fake version of the 'Tear of the Sun' diamond to swap for the real one. Yenicall has a second one made secretly and when Popie tries to steal the original, he ends up with the second fake.
  • In A View to a Kill, James Bond swaps a tape recording Pola Ivanova made of Zorin's plans with a tape of Japanese music.
  • In Whiteout, Carrie and Pryce discover that the canisters Haden is attempting to escape with have been swapped for ones containing jellybeans.
  • What's the Worst That Could Happen?: At the end of the film, Kevin and Max are on a boat fighting over possession of the 'lucky ring', when they both look at the ring (which is on Kevin's finger) and realize it is not the original ring, and that someone has substituted a fake earlier in the caper.

  • In The Burglar in the Rye by Laurence Block, Bernie Rhodenbarr is hired to steal the personal correspondence of a very thinly disguised J.D. Salinger from the other correspondent by an even more thinly disguised Joyce Maynard. After the theft, other interested parties come looking for the letters. Bernie eventually colludes with the author to put together several fake sets of letters and distribute them amongst the group.
  • Inverted in The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones. Mitt goes to Aberath to steal the Adon's ring, which is reputed to fit anyone of royal blood. Alk gives him the ring and also a copy, which has no such magical properties. Mitt gives the real ring to Maewen (who is pretending to be the heir to the throne, but really isn't) and keeps the copy, which fits him. Later it turns out that Alk switched the two rings. Guess who ends up wearing the crown.
  • Dragonlance: The New Adventures: The villains of the Trinistyr trilogy try to gather three magical weapons for their plot. Davyn, realizing what they're going to do, secretly has Keene make a perfect sketch of one of them, a bow, and has a powerless replica made. He even buys a charm that will make it look like the person wielding the bow can use its magic. Thanks to the switch, which he doesn't tell his companions about, they all survive.
  • In The Dresden Files short story "The Warrior" Harry leaves a fake Sword of The Cross on the front seat of his Beetle. The 'Sword' gets stolen, then Harry uses a tracking spell to find it again.
  • Explorers of Gor. Long story short(er), Shaba the Cartographer has an Invisibility ring captured from the Kurii which he was supposed to deliver to the Priest-Kings, but he (seemingly) turned traitor and was going to deliver an exploding ring instead & return the real ring back to the Kurii. Except he kept the invisibility ring for himself to explore Darkest Gor. When both the Priest-King representative and the Kurii find him after his voyage of discovery they fight, and the Kurii capture the ring. But it turns out the get the wrong ring. Earth-Shattering Kaboom ensues.
  • The fake Horcrux at the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an example of this gone wrong: Regulus Black replaces one of the Horcruxes with a fake in an attempt to bring down Voldemort, but instead it backfires on our heroes when they gather the Horcruxes in their own attempt to bring down Voldemort.
  • Nick Velvet:
    • In "The Theft of the Crystal Crown", Nick deduces that the glass crown he has stolen is a fake when he realizes that he was hired to steal the crown as a publicity stunt and his employer would never endanger the real crown that way.
    • In "The Theft of Overdue Library Book", Nick's client is not happy to learn that Nick had used the book as the stake in a bet with Sandra Paris (in order to learn where a kidnapper was holding the client). Nick tells him that he had slipped the book's dust jacket over the hotel, so even if Sandra had won, she wouldn't have gotten the book.
  • Redwall: As part of a plan to recover the tapestry of Martin, Jess distracts Cluny with a crude fake. He realizes this as soon as she gives it to him, but by then it's too late.
  • In Seven Ancient Wonders by Matthew Reilly, the villain is trying to complete a ritual that will give him awesome power, in which a box of sand from his homeland will play a key part. The hero is a globetrotting adventurer who always carries with him, as a reminder of home, a jar of his own home soil. These two facts inevitably come together in the climax.
  • In one of The Three Investigators books the bad guy wants a journal that the boys have which was written in the mid 1800s, with potential clues to a Buried Treasure. Jupiter hands it over, then after the bad guy leaves he reveals that he only gave up the oilskin cover of the journal, having taken the pages out first.
  • The Well of Moments is duplicated by the Gable twins via casting in silicone. The replica, which was painted and waxed to look passably like the original (except on close inspection of photographs), was created for study but ends up serving a different purpose.

    Live Action TV 
  • 100 Things to Do Before High School: In "Sit at a Different Lunch Table Thing!", CJ drops her worthless ring down the sink in order to trick Principal Hader into thinking she has dropped Mindy's mother's expensive ring down the drain. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
  • Blake's 7. In "Orbit", a Mad Scientist offers to exchange a Doomsday Device for Magical Computer Orac. Avon however has created a fake Orac months before as a precaution (there have been numerous attempts by the Federation to seize it, after all. Strangely enough an editing mistake in an earlier episode made it appear that Orac was in two different places at the same time, causing fans to speculate that one was the fake). The fake Orac works but the scientist has already sabotaged their shuttle, planning to kill them and recover his superweapon.
  • In the Blood Ties (2007) episode "Norman", the heroes Vicki and Henry are forced to give a magic dagger to the demonic villain Norman when he kidnaps Vicki's secretary and holds her hostage. Norman needed the dagger to complete a spell to release the uber demon Asteroth into the world. However, unknown to the audience, Vicki and Henry had first taken the dagger to a priest to have it blessed before they gave it to Norman, so that when he used it, his spell of summoning failed and he was sucked back down to Hell.
  • Burn Notice: Michael doesn't trust a thief he's forced to work with, because she's framing him for a murder, so he gives her a canister full of fake nerve gas (tear gas And Some Other Stuff), and takes the real stuff, keeping her under the illusion that it's fake.
  • Colonel March of Scotland Yard: In "The Case of the Misguided Missal", a university professor forges of a copy of the rare prayer book he is supposed to verifying: planning to fob the university off with the forgery and sell the real missal on the antiquities black market.
  • Doctor Who
    • In The Keys of Marinus, the Doctor and his companions find a fake Key along with the five real ones. When the villain tries to get the Keys off them at the end of the story, they give him four real Keys and the fake, and he gets blown up when he tries to use them.
    • Also used in The Daleks' Master Plan, where the Doctor steals the power source of the Daleks' Doomsday Device. By the time they catch him, he's made a fake to offer them in exchange for his freedom.
  • Father Brown: In "The Penitent Man", another convict steals the Medallion of St. Mark off Flambeau while they are escaping from prison. While they are in the tunnels, Father Brown manages to switch it for the worthless copy Flambeau was wearing earlier.
  • Harrow: In "Quam Innocentum Damnari" ("An Innocent Man Is Punished"), James gets Fern impersonate an aged care patient's granddaughter to collect his phone from the police. As she leaves the police station, she is ambushed by Mila's men who force her to hand over the phone. Back in her office, Mila's tech expert breaks into the phone only to discover that Fern had swapped her phone for James'.
  • Kamen Rider Build: After collecting all the Fullbottles available in Touto and the Pandora's Box, Sento has suspicions about a traitor in the group. So when the traitor does try to steal them, they turns out to be faked by Sento.
  • Leverage: In "The First David Job", the team is trying to get Nate's old boss to buy a fake first David. Then he asks Nate's ex-wife to verify it. Since she's too good to be fooled by any forgery, they now have to steal the second David and substitute it for their fake.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: In "Udûn", it turns out Adar switched the vital sword of Sauron with an axe. After a chase to retrieve it, Galadriel recovers an object enveloped by a cloth, but nobody notices the different shape nor bothers to check inside the cloth before Arondir gives it back to Theo so he gets rid of it. The boy, unhealthily attracted to the artifact, is the first to open it, but by then it's already too late.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: In "The Great Bookala Escape", villain Lord Zedd sought the Lightning Diamond, the power source for the Bookala's ship, in order to provide his powerful mega-Zord, Serpentera, which curbstomped the Rangers the first few times they battled it, with an infinite power source to make it invincible. The Rangers, however, tricked the bad guys into bringing a decoy diamond back to Serpentera, while the real diamond was used to restore power to the Bookala's ship so that they could escape.
    • Power Rangers Dino Fury: In "The Matchmaker", the Rangers give Mucus and Slyther a fake chest of Sporix cells that disappears after a few minutes.
  • In some seasons of Survivor, contestants have created fake Immunity Idols for others to find, ranging from Ozzy's stick with a face carved on it that somehow fooled Jason in Micronesia to Bob's genuinely well-crafted fake idols in Gabon.
  • Hilariously inverted in Season 1 of Warehouse 13. MacPherson enlisted a brainwashed Leena to take Harriet Tubman's thimble and an ear-splitting goblet from the Warehouse's shelves; he left behind an ordinary thimble and a plastic sippy-cup. It worked.

    Video Games 
  • It's possible to Out Gambit two parties of Drow in Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn with a pair of Dragon Eggs. Whether or not you achieve this depends on your Int score however.
  • Devil May Cry 2. Big Bad Arius is after four artifacts known as Arcana so he can revive the Demon World's former king (Argosax the Chaos) and absorb his power. Although she puts up a valiant fight, Lucia is defeated and held hostage by Arius, and Dante (who has all of the Arcana in his possession) comes to her rescue; Arius asks for the items in exchange for Lucia. Things get wonky from here: Dante is quick to hand over the Arcana, but then hands Arius his ass. Arius then manages to escape with the Arcana by playing up Lucia's temporary damsel in distress status as he blows up his stronghold. When Arius initiates the resurrection ceremony, he fails. Dante then coolly walks onto the scene and reveals that he played Arius like a chump by switching the Arcana Medaglia with his own lucky coin, playing this trope straight again.
  • Drakensang: After recovering the Dragon's Eye from Castle Grimtooth, the party is confronted by the Big Bad Malgorra and her servants, who are holding hostage the young son of Traldar, the owner of the castle. In order to save him, you must hand over the Eye to Malgorra, but is later revealed that it was a fake all along and that Traldar kept the real one on him.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, Mustadio's father is held captive and the ransom is one of the Zodiac Stones. Mustadio, however, had planned for something like this and had hidden a fake Zodiac Stone near his house.
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga:
    • One happens at the very start of the game, although it's not revealed until later - the villains need Princess Peach's voice to awaken the Beanstar, so they come to the Mushroom Kingdom to steal it, and succeed... in stealing the voice of Birdo, who was disguised as Princess Peach (the real Princess was hidden).
    • After reassembling the Beanstar, the heroes create a false Beanstar to give to Fawful and Cackletta... but they don't fall for it, instead discarding the fake and taking the real one by force. Thinking on their feet, the Mario Bros. immediately enact another example of this trope and disguise Luigi as Princess Peach, fooling the villains into thinking they had kidnapped a fake Peach when they actually had the real one.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: EVA seduces Snake, steals the microfilm you've been chasing for the whole plot and reveals herself as a Chinese double agent. Then it's revealed that Ocelot was a CIA double agent, switched Snake's microfilm with a fake, and took the real one back to the CIA himself.
  • In the old Mac game The Dungeon Revealed, your quest is to recover the Orb of Carnos from the 40th and lowest floor of the Dark Wizard's lair. Many players made it all the way there and back, only to learn that they'd neglected to perform an Identify spell and were holding a cheap plastic ball he set out as a decoy.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the Crystal Star in Poshley Heights is displayed in plain sight and is the only one like that. Beldam and her sisters, who had spent the previous three days trailing Mario, nab it before Mario can get to it. It turns out this one is a fake; Inspector Pennington, who runs the display, actually let them take it to get them away from there, then leads Mario to the real one. Earlier in Chapter 3, the Crystal Star on the Glitz Pit Champ's Belt also turns out to be fake; the real one is used by Grubba to power his machine that drains fighters' power to power himself up.
  • Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy: One of the Azran Eggs is mysteriously swapped out when it is time to use them. Naturally, the antagonists took it and use it to lure the heroes to their Nest.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic tries to slip Eggman a fake Chaos Emerald Tails made, but Eggman is able to detect the two separate emeralds with a scanner (he already had the other six in posession), and bluffs Tails into blowing the secret. The fake has "the same wavelength and properties" as a real Chaos Emerald, but is "less powerful". This allows Sonic to perform a Chaos Control with it, and even Shadow is impressed when they meet again.
  • In the first of the Thief games, which are entirely based around stealth, this is how you defeat the final boss. As he is preparing his ritual, you sneak into his altar room and swap out The Eye for a fake Eye that will cause his ritual to blow up in his face instead of summoning chaos to the world.

    Visual Novels 

  • In Goblins, the demon guarding the legendary Blue Orb of Bloodlight keeps an impressive-looking sphere of rock on a pillar behind her, in hopes that she can convince adventurers to make a Deal with the Devil for "the Orb" without specifically bargaining for the actual artifact. Dies Horribly and Saves-A-Fox fall for it hook, line, and sinker.
  • In Modern Day Treasure Seekers, Cade attempts to try to trick the bad guys into taking an empty treasure box in exchange for Sam's release, when he already hid the gem under his bed.

    Web Original 
  • Grandmaster of Theft sees this happen in the second episode with a villain example. Narcissa rigged her challenge by not bringing the real Undine's Tear in the first place just in case she lost.
    • Cassidy goes on to use said fake to her advantage to Out Gambit Narcissa back with her own weapon. However, the second time she tries this trick with Deus, he's more than aware she was going to do it and shots the fake before requesting the real one.

    Western Animation 
  • In the American Dad! episode "Black Mystery Month", Steve does this with a jar of peanut butter. Stan tried to do it, too, but failed, because he thought they would switch themselves via magic.
  • In the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero episode "The Spy Who Rooked Me", the Joes are tasked with helping a British spy deliver a container of nerve gas to a secure facility. Cobra wants the gas and in the process the container is breached. Flint throws himself onto the leaking container, at which point the secret agent reveals their container is just a bottle of cream soda. The real nerve gas had been transported in a more conventional way, and the Joes were just a decoy.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures: In "Return of the Anasazi", The Men in Black have been attacking Alice Starseer and Team Quest, trying to get an alien artifact in Alice's possession. At one point, to save everyone's lives, Jonny seemingly surrenders and hands them a device, which satisfies them and they leave. Just as Dr. Quest starts lamenting what the Men in Black can do with the artifact, Jonny starts laughing and reveals he had it the whole time. Correctly guessing that the Men in Black didn't know what it looked like, he handed them an airplane's fuel tester.
  • Happens a couple of times in Lilo & Stitch: The Series. At one point, Stitch switches a capsule containing an invisible invisibility-experiment for an empty capsule to fool Gantu, and in another, a shape-shifted guest star is substituted for a shape-shifting experiment.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, Hawk Moth wants the heroes' power sources, their Miraculous. In three separate episodes, Ladybug surrendered fake Miraculous:
    • In "Pharaoh", she summons a Ladybug costume with her Lucky Charm and hands over the LED-powered earrings that came with it.
    • In "Dark Owl", Marinette had already made fake Miraculous out of paper and dough for a previous scheme that went awry. Later on, she gives them to Dark Owl to buy time after she and Cat Noir are caught in a death trap and need to recharge their powers.
    • In "Mr. Pigeon 72", Rena Rouge creates illusory copies of Ladybug and Cat Noir to cover for Cat Noir's absence and buy Ladybug some time. The illusions ultimately surrender their Miraculous and throw them into the public swimming pool to distract Mr. Pigeon enough to allow Plagg to steal his whistle.
    • Hawk Moth (or, as he is known at the time, Shadow Moth) makes fake versions of his own Miraculous when he thinks his nephew Felix is getting too close to discovering his secret identity. Felix (who wants the Peacock Miraculous for himself) successfully steals the fakes, along with Nathalie's tablet containing information on how to use them, only to discover that they're fake while on his way out of Paris. But he winds up getting the real Peacock Miraculous shortly afterwards anyway.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Magic Duel", Trixie acquires the Alicorn Amulet, a corrupting Amplifier Artifact that can't be removed by anyone but the wearer. To get Amulet away from her, Twilight shows up wearing a green stone that she claims is an even more powerful amulet, and she backs up the claim with some impressive feats of magic. Sure enough, Trixie relinquishes the Alicorn Amulet and steals the green amulet. Then Twilight reveals it's just an ordinary stone—a doorstop, in fact—and those feats of magic were just smoke and mirrors.
  • On Space Stars, in the Teen Force short "Wordstar", Moleculad turns an asteroid into a fake Wordstar to give to Uglor after Elektra acquires the real one.
  • In the Static Shock episode "Fallen Hero", Sinestro holds Richie hostage and demands Static hand over Green Lantern's Power Ring, which he had recently acquired. Static hands him a ring, but Sinestro then opens his hand and exclaims, "Captain Dwayne's Decoder Ring!?" right before Static blasts him.
  • In the Superman: The Animated Series episode "In Brightest Day", Kyle Rayner pretends to surrender to Sinestro. However, the "ring" he hands over is an energy construct that literally blows up in Sinestro's face.
  • Used in one episode of TMNT: Fast Forward, in which the MacGuffin in question is a piece of revolutionary technology which, by coincidence, looks suspiciously like a coffee maker. Donny switches it for an actual coffee maker because he (correctly) suspects that Torben Zixx's motive for getting the turtles to help him steal it are less altruistic than he claims.


Video Example(s):


The Ladybug and Cat Miraculous

Rena Rouge's illusions of Ladybug and Cat Noir decide they're in over their heads and remove their Miraculous (resulting in fake alter-egos of the heroes as part of the illusion). They then throw their Miraculous into the pool. Mr. Pigeon dives in... only for Plagg to nab his whistle on the way down. Rena Rouge then waits until Mr. Pigeon gets close to the fake Miraculous before dispelling the illusion, granting Plagg some extra time to flee.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / FakinMacGuffin

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