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I Know You're Watching Me

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"It's Diddles! He's right up against the camera! He's probably diddling himself right now!"
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When any character is Being Watched on video surveillance and they look at the camera directly as if they know they are being watched. Usually indicates that the person being watched knows more than the audience has been led to believe, or is a threat to the people watching them. More bonus points if the person doesn't want their observers to know that they can tell they're being watched, and quickly looks away when they accidentally make eye contact with the camera.

This trope also applies to the one way windows found in interrogation rooms and other cases where someone being watched behaves in a manner that indicates they know exactly what's going on on the other side.

Compare to Poke in the Third Eye, which involves the more metaphysical forms of surveillance or generally making sure whoever's watching stops watching. Contrast Bluff the Eavesdropper. If the character knows he's being watched by the audience, then this falls underneath Breaking the Fourth Wall.

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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Gate, when the group goes to a bathhouse, a team of agents is sent to secretly guard them. One of the agents spies on the bathing girls with binoculars, but Rory Mercury looks in his direction and glares, causing him to get scared and drop the binoculars. His superiors assure that he's over 400 meters away and there's no way he could have been seen, but he decides to stop peeping and do his job.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. In "Solid State Society", Ishikawa is hacking into a security system as a distraction while Section 9 breaks in somewhere else. Several cyborg guards start prowling about, and their leader turns to look at the security camera Ishikawa is using to watch them, causing him to acknowledge the man is a professional like they are.
  • Golgo 13.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: In Part III, DIO can sense when Joseph uses Hermit Purple's psychography to spy on him. When Joseph tries using a TV to get a fix on him, DIO calls Joseph out on peeping on him before blowing the TV up.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, while Kaworu is conversing with SEELE, Misato is watching him through binoculars from a distance of several kilometers. When the conversation is finished, Kaworu, smiling, makes direct eye contact with Misato despite the distance between them, startling her. Just one of many hints that Kaworu is not what he seems.
  • An early chapter of Ranma ½ has Gosunkugi offer to sell Kuno "Saotome's weakness", which he will glean by "secretly photographing him". Kuno immediately complains that Ranma is posing in every single one.
  • The first episode of Steins;Gate introduces the main cast with a scene of Okabe talking to what appears to be a hidden camera in his laboratory, taunting the "Organization" and their spies. However, it turns out he's actually interrogating a strange piece of television software featuring an alpaca with a human face.

    Comic Books 
  • In Queen and Country, a Honey Trap was cracked because the perpetrator was seen looking at the camera on the blackmail tape.
  • Supergirl: In Girl Power, the Calculator is monitoring Kara Zor-El under Lex Luthor's orders. At one point, she glares straight in the direction of the camera the Calculator is using to watch her, which is enough for him to freak out in a Spit Take.
  • In a Superman comic, Clark Kent is in a police interrogation room, staring straight ahead with a smile on his face. (He, of course, is looking through the two-way mirror with his X-ray vision and listening to the conversation with his super-hearing...)
    Detective 1: Look at him sitting there, with that smile on his face! It's like he can see us!
    Detective 2: They all look like that...
  • Tintin and the Picaros. Tintin arrives at the expensive hotel where Captain Haddock is staying and points out the various hidden microphones in his Gilded Cage. He also points at the mirror and says it might be a two-way mirror with a camera on the other side. Cue Colonel Sponsz watching Tintin on a monitor, pointing directly at him. "He's no fool, that boy."
  • In an issue of Wild CA Ts one of the heroes freaked out when the villain of the week looked him straight in the eye while being spied upon (he was using long range binoculars rather than the camera but the effect is the same.)

    Jokes 
  • A joke from behind the Iron Curtain: a traveller comes to a boarding house late at night and there are no free rooms, so he gets put in one that already has a group of loud people in it. They keep him awake with their rowdyness, till he can't stand it anymore. So he reaches for the phone and says "Five teas in the room five, please, captain." And five teas are delivered, which shuts the noisy roomies up. Our traveller gets a good night's sleep and wakes to find himself alone in the room. Going downstairs, he asks the landlord "Where have my roommates gone?" "Oh, they were taken away tonight." "And I wasn't?" "The captain liked the tea joke."
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    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Art of War (2000). After being arrested and left alone in an interrogation room, Wesley Snipes character raps suddenly on the glass, startling a female witness who's been called in to identify him, and causing a cop to spill his coffee.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Bruce Wayne has stolen some files on metahumans from Lex Luthor, including one on a woman he's just met called Diana Prince. They include a surveillance photo taken from across the street, except Diana is looking directly at the camera, and a CCTV shot where she looks up at the camera. However it's the one posed photograph that freaks out Bruce Wayne, because it was taken during World War One and Diana hasn't aged a day.
  • In Cabin by the Lake, Mallory watches herself in the two-way mirror that the murderous Stanley installed to observe his victims. Then she punches and nearly breaks the mirror while Stanley looks a bit nonplussed.
  • The interrogation room glass version happens in Dracula 2000. As the detectives behind the glass have just been smirking over Solina's "delusion" that she's a vampire, they're noticeably freaked out when she shouts, "Look at me when I'm talking to you!" She then continues to screw around with their minds, making them more freaked out.
  • Dreamscape. While Alex Gardner is in a room by himself being watched through a one way mirror, he uses a pen to write "Let's get on with it" on the mirror. It isn't clear whether he was using his psychic powers or was just familiar with Dr. Novotny's methods from their past relationship.
    • He effortlessly writes it backwards, to appear the right way around on the other side of the glass. This at least hints he might've gone through this process before.
  • Highlander has a lower-tech version. While Brenda is out of the room looking for her earrings, Connor discovers a hidden gun ("I like your place!"), a cop sitting in a car outside on surveillance ("Interesting view!"), and a hidden tape recorder ("What was that?" *directly into mic* "I said interesting view!").
  • Inception: Ariadne dives down into Cobb's subconscious, and believes she's watching memories of Cobb talking to his dead wife Mal. Then Mal looks right at Ariadne and the audience to a Scare Chord that can make Marion Cotillard freaky as shit.
  • In The Stinger of Kong: Skull Island two of the survivors find themselves detained by the authorities and do the interrogation room mirror version, snarking or negotiating with their unseen captors (who however quickly make themselves known by entering the room).
  • Clark does the one-way mirror version in Man of Steel. While in an interrogation room with Lois Lane, he turns to the one-way mirror and reveals to Dr. Emil Hamilton and General Stanwick that not only can he see them through the mirror (and what Hamilton has in his pocket), but also through the wall behind them.
  • While studying the files on Morgan, Lee Weathers brings up a live image from one of the cameras in Morgan's room. At that point, Morgan walks over to stare into that particular camera.
  • In the Nicolas Cage movie Next, the precognitive protagonist Cris is cheating at blackjack and several casino security officers are watching him on surveillance, trying to figure out how he's doing it. When someone realizes they recognize him, Cris looks up as though he heard his name being called, stares knowingly at the camera they're watching him through, and casually walks away before any security guards can apprehend him.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Jack sends Will over to a wrecked ship which he thinks is the Flying Dutchman. The real one shows up along with it's captain, Davy Jones, and confronts Will who claims Jack sent him. As this is going on, Jack is viewing this from a distance through a telescope, hoping to have stay hidden by blowing out all the candles on his ship. It's then Davy Jones turns direction toward his direction and glares at him, right before he teleports right in front of him.
  • Terminator Genisys. The detectives are surprised when the Guardian turns and looks directly through the one-way interrogation room window at Detective O'Brien, who's trying to convince them the Guardian really is a cyborg from the future. It turns out the Guardian is actually looking at the female detective behind O'Brien, who quickly reveals herself to be a Terminator.
  • Subverted in The Truman Show. He stares into his bathroom mirror (which has a camera inside), leading two people in the studio to believe that they've been discovered... until he draws a space helmet with soap and acts like an astronaut (in a Call Back to the intro where he pretends to be a mountaineer). Then it gets Double Subverted as he says, "that one's for free", implying that he knows he's being watched. The two men in the studio don't know what to think.

    Literature 
  • In the Doctor Who – Expanded Universe novel Timewyrm: Exodus, the Doctor is posing as a high official staying in a government hotel. After having a private conversation with his companion covered by the sound of the water taps, he turns the water off and directly addresses — gives orders to — the subordinate he knows is spying on him.
  • Mr Gaunt by John Langan. The title character (who possesses supernatural powers) is seen in the background of a documentary, and stops to deliberately wink at the camera, which his brother will be watching (by pure coincidence) months later and thousands of miles away. His brother is an adversarial rival, so freaks out accordingly.
  • In Pay Me, Bug!, The Viceroy pulls this on the heroes, who are hacking into his security cameras, using only his telepathic powers. This might be explained by the fact that the hackers were using their own telepath in the connection.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in Angel. Having Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, Cordelia is looking down at Angel (back on Earth) from Fluffy Cloud Heaven.
    Angel: I know you're there, watching me.
    Cordelia: Oh my God! Angel, you can hear me? I so love you. You don't know what it's been like—
    Fred: (walking up behind Angel with Gunn) We weren't spying...
    Cordelia: Oh, for crap's sake!
  • In Babylon 5, Lyta Alexander can tell if someone is watching her through a security camera after her psychic upgrade.
    Dr. Trent: She knows she's being watched.
    Sheridan: The security cameras are carefully hidden.
    Dr. Trent: Yes, but she knows where the camera is, and she knows we're watching her. Just look at her. Is there another camera in there?
    Sheridan: Yes, but...
    Dr. Trent: Humor me.
    Sheridan: ...Switch to the alternate view.
    [Lyta's head snaps around to look at the viewer]
    Lochley: Well, that's a neat trick.
  • The Big Comfy Couch. After Loonete yells, "HEY... WHO MADE THIS BIG MESS?!" and then says "...me?" the camera "nods yes" as if the viewer is watching the show through a child's eyes or even their own eyes.
  • Subverted in an episode of Bones. Investigating the murder of a mentally ill young man who believed himself to be the devil, the team is interrogating one of his fellow inmates at the asylum, a girl who believes herself to be an angel. Looking in on the interview room in the asylum, Bones comments that, while she doesn't believe in supernatural phenomena of any stripe, it is unnerving how the girl's eyes seem to follow her perfectly from the other side of a two-way mirror. The asylum's head doctor quickly points out that their interview room isn't equipped with a two-way mirror—it's a perfectly normal window.
  • Doctor Who. In "The Impossible Astronaut", Amy and Rory speculate that the Doctor is trying to send them a message through time. They fail to notice the Doctor waving at them from their TV set, where he's working as an extra in a Laurel and Hardy movie.
  • An episode of Fringe sees Olivia explore her subconscious memories of her deceased partner John Scott, including one night at a restaurant. Following Dr. Bishop's guidance that this is all a dreamscape and that she can't be seen by anyone, Olivia sits down at John's table... who immediately looks in Olivia's direction! This, obviously, spooks her, but Dr. Bishop insists that she cannot be seen. Later, when she returns to her home, she checks her e-mail only to find a new message that reads, "I saw you at the restaurant."
  • One of Matt Parkman's more awesome moments in Series 3 of Heroes involved using his mind-control powers to trap some people who were watching him via a camera, and then look directly into said camera and nod smugly.
  • In later series of Knightmare, the dungeoneers could find a magic item that let them see what Big Bad Lord Fear was up to. If they carried on watching for too long, he'd become aware of the intrusion and send something nasty to deal with them.
  • NCIS:
    • A subversion appears when Gibbs has Abby's latest stalker in the interrogation room. The obsessed young man starts talking to the one-way glass, pleading for Abby to admit she loves him and can't take her eyes off him. Gibbs gets up to leave, and flips on the lights in the next room as he goes. This negates the glass's one-way properties, revealing that the room behind it is completely vacant.
    • In Swan Song, Mike Franks steps outside for a minute, and when it starts raining, reveals he knows full well he's not alone out there... and that he knows exactly who's watching him: Jonas Cobb, the Port-to-Port Killer. Mike subsequently becomes Cobb's next-to-last victim, but not without wounding him first.
  • It's happened a few times in Person of Interest. And it's always justified. Because the Machine is ALWAYS watching.
    • One of the villains does this at the end of "Risk". Our heroes have just thwarted a massive financial scam, and Detective Carter is told that the corrupt SEC investigator involved has committed suicide. Puzzled because she saw him being arrested, Carter checks CCTV footage of the arrest. It shows a police officer putting the SEC man into his squad car, turning to look directly at the camera, then leaving a mobile phone in a garbage can for her to find. When they dial the only number in the phone's memory, they're connected with Diabolical Mastermind Elias, who it's now revealed is behind the entire scam.
  • Persons Unknown did this a LOT. Not quite Once an Episode, but really often. It's not like the people watching them are really trying to hide what they are doing.
  • Number 6 has done this more than a few times on The Prisoner (1967), but it's Up to Eleven in the episode Hammer Into Anvil, where he managed to convince the Number 2 of the week of a non-existent conspiracy against him by doing basically nothing but variations on this trope, such as leaving envelopes containing blank pieces of paper in remote locations, knowing they'd be found and mistaken for coded messages, and engaging in meaningless small talk with people in hushed tones, knowing that it would be seen and mistaken for Spy Speak. Every time Number 2's underlings failed to find any hidden message, Number 2 became convinced that they were hiding it from him on account of being part of the conspiracy.
  • There was one episode in Psych where they take Shawn, his father, and Gus into an interrogating room. Half-way through the interrogation, Shawn walks up to the one-way window and stares directly at Lassiter, even following him when he moved.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before", a crewman developing ESP has this moment while Kirk and Spock are watching him on a monitor from the bridge.
  • Supernatural. In "Meet the New Boss", Castiel has gained god-like powers that are driving him insane. At one point the Winchesters are watching security camera footage of a massacre he's committed, during which Castiel turns and gives a Slasher Smile directly at them before the Snowy Screen of Death ensues.

    Video Games 
  • At one point in the original F.E.A.R., you can switch on a security feed to watch Paxton Fettel walk down a hallway... and then Alma slooowly rises into view, staring directly at you through the screen before it cuts off.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: If you find one of the mascots on the security cameras, chances are it will be leering directly into the camera.
  • At one point in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Raiden is observing Mistral from very far away using his powerful cyborg zoom vision. After he's been watching her for a while, she suddenly looks directly at him and blows him a kiss, resulting in him being massively freaked out.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: In "Knights of the Fallen Empire" after the Outlander has been broken out of carbonite freeze, Vaylin comes in investigate, and as the Outlander and Lana watch on a hacked monitor, she looks right up at the camera.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • The Onion: "Detective Behind Two-Way Mirror Nervously Crosses Arms As Criminal Addresses Him Directly"
  • In many SCP Foundation articles, the described SCP at one point does something that hints that it is aware of the fact that the Foundation is observing and containing it. A particularly spine-chilling example is the last video transcript in the SCP-1981 article.
  • The framing device of The Strange Case of Starship Iris is a tyrannical interstellar regime listening in on the conversations of a crew of seditious smugglers via ancient alien nanomachines in their blood. In the second season, they figure it out and the captain directly tells the regime's agents that she will bring them down. Later on they start actively trolling the surveillance team with false confessions that the regime has to waste resources investigating, and several hours of drunken singing and narrations of alien soap operas.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Daria episode "Malled", Daria and Jane correctly surmise that they're being watched through a two-way mirror while a mall official is asking the class questions about their shopping habits. They turn off the lights to prove it, and everybody gets a $20 coupon to bribe them into not telling the media.
  • Happened in Samurai Jack, after confronting and beating his Superpowered Evil Side, he looks up at the skies (where Big Bad Aku is watching his every action) and says out loud: "I know you're watching. These tricks are starting to annoy me." Cue end of episode.

    Real Life 
  • Thanks to Police Procedurals, people expect surveillance to be part of police interrogation. If there is a mirror in the room, their eyes will be drawn to where they believe someone to be standing, if not they'll look for the camera. Fictional characters who don't expect to be monitored from outside the room are beyond Genre Blind and into "living under a rock".

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