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Mistaken for Special Guest

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Someplace Else has a democracy.

The cast is expecting a special guest of some kind, be it a long lost relative, a critic who's come to review the restaurant/hotel/nightclub/what have you everyone works at, or even a celebrity. The thing is, the cast isn't sure what they look like or who to expect, and end up mistaking someone else for this guest. Whether intentional or not, the impostor wastes no time in taking advantage of the situation, demanding preferential treatment and leaving the other characters hopping to please them. Sometimes the fraud is exposed and sent packing, while the real guest shows up just in time. More often, however, there are some consequences for the cast, whether it's the real guest showing up after getting mistreated, or the fraud not leaving until he's milked the cast dry.

An inverted form is also sometimes seen, particularly in series where the hero is Walking the Earth: it is the hero who is mistaken for special guest by the Townsfolk of the Week. Sometimes, this will lead to the hero using his assumed authority in his efforts to solve the town's problem, and then moving on just as the real guest arrives. Other times, the real guest will arrive partway through the episode, leaving the hero with a lot of 'splainin' to do — especially if (as is often the case) a dead body has turned up in the meantime. In yet other cases, someone may not have the guest's best interests in mind, meaning the hero will then have to deal with attempts by the mistaken thief/killer/seducer(/all of the above?) on their person.

If the mistaken guest is The Fool, that's Seemingly Profound Fool. Compare Bavarian Fire Drill and Surprise Inspection Ruse. See also Actually, That's My Assistant and Mistaken for Servant.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Case Closed: The "Suspicious Uncle" case has this, which involves the inheritance of the Yabuuchi family's late patriarch. One of the invited guests arriving at the family's estate is Uncle Yoshifusa and his Brazilian bodyguard Carlos. Since it's been many years since the family saw Yoshifusa, they suspect him to be an imposter due to his very different appearance. They try to find the uncle's scar on his on his leg which he got from a baseball accident, but the uncle reveals that his scar is on his other leg and he recalls how he got it from said accident. During the case, two assaults are aimed at Uncle Yoshifusa in order for him to forfeit his part of the inheritance. At the end of the case, it's revealed that he's indeed an imposter, called Dickson Tanaka, who has been acting as his deceased friend Yoshifusa in order to protect Yoshifusa's son Carlos, a rightful heir to patriarch's inheritance. Dickson Tanaka is the real bodyguard, and nobody within the family except the patriarch were aware of Yoshifusa's death and his son.
  • In one Sgt. Frog story, Keroro and the Hinatas pander to a pair of alien TV show hosts who take advantage of them at every turn, even beating up Giroro (dropping him down a hole in the manga, and landing their space ship on him in the anime). Fortunately, they turn out to be frauds and are hauled away by the space police. Unfortunately, the real hosts show up only to be mistaken for the impostors by Giroro and chased off.
  • A Breather Episode of the 2001 Cyborg 009 anime has 006 trying to impress a very rude woman who claims to be a food critic, but she turns out to be a Con Man looking for free food.
  • An early story arc in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- has shades of this. Our realm-hopping group of heroes lands in a city being oppressed by an evil governor. The townspeople have applied to the higher government for help, but nothing's arrived yet. Our heroes neatly solve the town's problem and move on, just as the government's investigators arrive.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, Diamond and Pearl are mistaken for Platinum's bodyguards, Paka and Uji. Pearl also assumes that Platinum is part of a reality show initially, but learns the truth when they meet the real bodyguards. (Dia knew about the mistake all along.)

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: In The Marian Conspiracy, the Doctor arrives at the palace and is assumed to be the doctor who had been summoned to tend to Queen Mary. What happened to the actual doctor who had been sent for is never established.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw Dusty and Learoyd are mistaken for seasoned wizards by the sheep of Erries. Learoyd urges Dusty to play along so they can both gather information and take advantage of the sheeps hospitality.


    Film — Animated 
  • Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats: When Kitty Glitter shows up at the Vandergelt mansion for a blind date with T.C., due to a mishap, she ends up taking Brain out instead (who, admittedly, tries to tell her he's not T.C. but gets cut off), not realizing the error until Snerdly finally manages to get a hold of her.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The 39 Steps, Richard Hannay is fleeing the police and enters a political rally to lose them. One problem - he runs onstage, and they mistake him for the speaker. He gives a stirring speech completely impromptu while consistently hiding his handcuffs, and he gets a standing ovation after he's done.
  • Black Sheep (1996): During MTV's "Rock The Vote" event for the Washington election, a stoned Mike Donnelly gets mistaken for his brother, gubernatorial candidate Al Donnelly, and he finds himself giving a speech that ends with him shouting "KILL WHITEY!", much to Al's horror.
  • The Blues Brothers end up playing a country & western venue, having turned up and claimed to be the "Good Ol' Boys" who were billed. The concert done, the real Good Ol' Boys turn up and Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Carry On Regardless, Bert Handy (Sid James) is hired to hold a rich (and testy) scrap merchant's place in the waiting room queue at a hospital and is mistaken for a famous diagnostician Sir Theodore and invited to examine various patients and staff.
  • The Con is On: After Irina catches up with her at the hotel, Harry escapes and sneaks into Jackie's mansion to let Peter know what has happened. She runs into Jackie who assumes that she is the dog whisperer she has hired to work out her pet Chihuahua's behavioral problems. Harry decides to roll with it.
  • Dunston Checks In features a hotel owner mistaking the movie's villain for an undercover agent from a Zagats-esque organization after seeing him leaning into an air vent (he's actually looking for his monkey, who steals jewelry for him). This causes her to constantly ignore and degrade another man who naturally turns out to be the real agent.
  • Fermat in Fermat's Room was assumed to be the host of the game, while in fact he was merely another pawn in the scheme.
  • Flodder: In the second movie, Flodder in Amerika, upon arriving in America the Flodders are mistaken for a group of Russian doctors at the airport. They spend a day in the New York Plaza before the mix-up is revealed at a dinner party held in their name and they're unceremoniously thrown out.
  • The 1990 environmental/business training film Grime Goes Green features a workplace whose owner (played by John Cleese) is expecting a visit from Prince Charles. He mistakes an environmental inspector for the Prince and is devastated by his negative review. Also inverted, when Grime mistakes Prince Charles for an environmental inspector and shows off his environmental improvements.
  • In The Inspector General, Georgi (Danny Kaye) is mistaken for the title character by the officials of the town to be inspected, who spend most of the film alternately trying to charm him or kill him.
  • In Jumanji: The Next Level, Bethany and Fridge attempt to infiltrate Jurgen's fortress by mingling with Jurgen's troops the same way Alex did. Looking nowhere near as military as Alex, they are immediately spotted. Fortunately for them, they are mistaken for the Brothers Kababik, Jurgen the Brutal's allies, and brought into the fortress. They then attempt to maintain the masquerade despite knowing nothing about the Brothers Kababik (and one of them being white and the other black). Martha then joins in to pose as their sister who is set to wed Jurgen. Their cover is blown when a letter arrives from the actual Brothers Kababik announcing that they've been delayed.
  • In Lady on a Train, unable to find the crime scene, Nicki sneaks onto the grounds of Waring's mansion. She is mistaken for Margo Martin, who was expected but has not come. Waring's will is read by his lawyer, Wiggam: Waring's nephews Arnold and Jonathan are not surprised to receive a token $1 inheritance, while the bulk of the estate goes to Margo Martin—his trophy fiancee and a singer at a nightclub he owns.
  • In Moulin Rouge!, Satine mistakes Christian as the investor of the nightclub that she is supposed to seduce. The couple falls in love, making a perfect Love Triangle when the real investor, The Duke, steps into the picture.
  • The Naked Gun: Lt. Frank Drebin is mistaken at the baseball game for opera singer Enrico Pallazzo, who's due to sing the national anthem.
  • In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the main characters being mistaken first for black people (at a Klan rally), then there's an inversion where they get recognized as now-famous musicians in an important part of the climax.
  • A really weird example shows up in Ocean's Twelve, where the cast invokes this trope; Danny Ocean's wife Tess (played by Julia Roberts) supposedly looks exactly like Julia Roberts (In-Universe), and so they camouflage their museum heist as special guest star Julia Roberts visiting the museum. They are exposed by Bruce Willis (As Himself), who figures out that while she looks like Julia Roberts, she does not act like her.
  • In Ocean's Thirteen, they pull the fake critic stunt by getting one of their group to act like the hotel inspector so as to get the hotel management to focus attention on him, rather than the actual hotel reviewer. Then, to ensure a negative review, they proceed to treat the reviewer like crud. This involves dirtying his room, filling his room with a god-awful stench and giving him food poisoning. At the end of the movie, they rig a slot machine for him, without his knowledge, as a form of recompense.
  • Elizabeth for Calypso in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, turning her into a Living MacGuffin for a brief round of pirate negotiations.
  • In the The Three Stooges short Tassels in the Air, the Stooges are working as janitors in an office building but are mistaken for the interior decorator Omay and his assistants after a customer overheard Moe trying to teach Curly Pig Latin, using his name as an example ("Moe, O-may"). Hilarity ensues.
  • The Bad Guy Bar scene in ¡Three Amigos!. A German arms dealer comes in, shoots a man for making fun of him, and warns the bar that some of his even-more-dangerous friends are due to arrive soon. The titular Amigos soon enter the bar and are mistaken for the dangerous Germans because the original German had said that the bar would most definitely know the others, and the garish costumes of the Amigos certainly stand out. They even do a song-and-dance routine to try to "cheer everyone up" since they're all deathly afraid of being killed. After the amigos leave, the real Germans come in, get made fun of, and open fire on several patrons.
  • In Waiting for Guffman, the "theatre critic" turns out to be just a man who is in town to visit his niece, who has just had a baby. In the closing credits, he is listed as "Not Guffman".
  • Zelig gets by in life by being mistaken for important figures due to Involuntary Shapeshifting brought on by a childhood need to fit in. Being a Woody Allen movie, Hilarity Ensues.

  • Played straight in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when Huck stumbles into the Phelps' farm and gets mistaken for none other than Tom Sawyer, their nephew who's due for a visit. As expected he has to rely on a number of idiotic lies to save his skin when the real Tom pops up. The mild twist here is that Tom thinks it's a hoot and enthusiastically cooperates by pretending to be "Tom's" half-brother Sid.
  • The Baroque Cycle: Jack Shaftoe, AKA "King of the Vagabonds", accidentally crashes a masquerade party that King Louis of France is expected to attend dressed as... King of the Vagabonds.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: In the Missing Adventures book The Empire of Glass, the First Doctor is mistaken for a visiting Cardinal when visiting Venice. Conversely, the Cardinal himself is mistaken for the Doctor and escorted by the aliens who initially called the Doctor to chair a galactic disarmament treaty. The Cardinal manages a surprisingly good performance (he thought he had been called to Heaven to mediate in a civil war between angels), enough that the event's organizer lets him keep on chairing the treaty.
  • In one of the early Paddington Bear books Paddington is mistaken for a restaurant critic and stuffs himself on what he thinks is free food. Fortunately for the Browns, the novelty of a bear eating in a restaurant attracts enough customers so that they don't have to pay for anything.
  • In The Pale King, David Foster Wallace is mistaken for another David F. Wallace who was scheduled to show up at the same time. He gets an expedited entry into the Peoria REC, a promotion, and a consultation with the Iranian Crisis. It takes a few days for the IRS to figure it out, and he faces impersonation charges for months.
  • In the Paradox Trilogy, when Devi gets her Powered Armor repaired, its quality and the fact that she has the same last name as a well-known Baron cause the shop owner to mistake her for nobility. Paradoxan law actually requires any peasant who is mistaken for nobility to immediately correct the person making the error; but since she's not on Paradox, Devi feels comfortable bending the rules a bit to get faster service.
  • A variation occurs in the science fiction story "The Spectre General"; the variation being that the "special guest" can never show up because he doesn't exist (though only the commanding officers know this; they use the fiction to maintain their authority).
  • In Tacky and the Emperor, Tacky finds the Emperor's regalia when he goes for a swim. He goes back to his friends after putting it on, and they, thinking he's the Emperor, do everything for Tacky they had been planning to do for him. Luckily, the Emperor winds up liking Tacky's improvised welcome.
  • In Graham Greene's The Third Man, the main character, an author of pulp westerns, is mistaken for a far more literary writer whose name is similar to the protagonist's pen-name. The protagonist speaks at an event organised for the other writer without anyone working it out. Indeed his adoring readers are impressed by his daring disregard for writers like James Joyce. In fact, the protagonist hasn't even heard of them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blake's 7
    • In "Star One", Blake turns up to sabotage the eponymous Master Computer, only to find it's already been taken over by alien invaders planning to conquer humanity. Blake is assumed to be a human traitor who's helping the aliens; as Blake himself points out, the location of Star One is Over-the-Top Secret (those manning it have literally been marooned there) so who else would be turning up? Unfortunately the real traitor does show up, and being an old enemy of Blake instantly attacks him.
    • In "Warlord", Avon and Soolin are escorting Warlord Zukan's daughter back to her homeworld, but she teleports off the ship before they arrive. On reaching the planet they discover the place swarming with Federation soldiers and realise Zukan has sold them out. Soolin immediately draws a gun on Avon and takes him prisoner, telling the soldiers that she's Zukan's daughter. The ploy works, but later backfires in a different way — having been told his daughter is safe on their homeworld, Zukan refuses to believe she's on the rebel base which he has sabotaged.
  • Six examples of the inverted form from Doctor Who:
    • "The Romans": The Doctor is mistaken for the famous lyre player Maximus Pettulian after he finds Pettulian's body and picks up the murdered man's lyre.
    • "The Daleks' Master Plan": While in a movie studio in 1920s Hollywood, Steven is mistaken for one of the Keystone Kops and the Doctor is mistaken for Professor Webster, an expert on Arabian culture.
      • Played with in the Loose Cannon reconstruction. As there were no available stills of the actor who ACTUALLY played Professor Webster, Loose Cannon substituted a photo of a bespectacled William Hartnell from the film This Sporting Life.
    • "The Power of the Daleks": The Doctor stumbles across the body of the freshly murdered Examiner: an official sent from earth to investigate strange goings-on in the colony on Vulcan. Taking the Examiner's badge, he is mistaken for the Examiner by the colonists.
    • "The Curse of Peladon": The Doctor visits the planet Peladon, where he is taken for the expected Ambassador from Earth. He foils an attempt to prevent Peladon from taking its place in interstellar society and then makes a discreet exit just in time to avoid meeting the real Ambassador.
    • "Black Orchid": A particularly bare-faced instance, in which the Fifth Doctor (the one who's so keen on cricket that he wears a Edwardian-period cricket outfit all the time) arrives in an Edwardian-period country village and is assumed to be one of the players for a charity cricket match that's about to start — they're expecting a substitute about whom they know nothing except that he's a doctor. The Doctor leads his team to victory, but this doesn't do him much good when guests start dying at the after-match nosh-up and the real substitute player sends a message to apologise for not being able to make it.
    • In "Paradise Towers", the chief caretaker of a rather disastrous colony believes the Doctor is the Great Architect who designed the place. Unfortunately he's insecure about his position, and orders his underlings to kill the Doctor. Things don't improve after the mistaken identity is settled.
    • Used to excess in the new series, abetted by the Doctor's "psychic paper" — a blank piece of paper which the viewer perceives as credentials for whatever position the Doctor needs to pose as. In "The Idiot's Lantern", he even manages to pass for the king of Belgium. However, the psychic paper is not foolproof:
    • Happened for real when The BBC mistook Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan (there to be interviewed for a political programme) for an extra and started having him made up to be one of the tree aliens from "The End of the World"
    • "The Fires of Pompeii": It's implied that the locals see Donna as someone of high status, as after a soothsayer reveals her last name is "Noble", she's given purple clothing to wear (purple being a symbol of high status at the time due to the sheer expense of the dye).
  • Fawlty Towers, "The Hotel Inspectors" plays with this, as several characters in turn are possible candidates for the hotel inspector, and are disproven at various times, until the real ones arrive right at the very end, at the worst possible time, leading to possibly one of the best closing moments of any sitcom episode. A similar situation occurs in "A Touch of Class", but in that instance the "Special Guest" is a con-man deliberately pretending to be a Lord to get preferential treatment.
    • Also happens on The Love Boat, when the crew is expecting an inspector from the cruise line. But he'd missed the boat.
  • On one episode of Friends, at Monica and Chandler's wedding rehearsal dinner, Monica tasks Rachel with keeping Chandler's transgender dad away from his mom, since they are divorced and hate each other. Rachel unfortunately mistakes another woman for his dad.
  • An episode of Hey Dude! used this. The very end of the episode has Mr. Ernst telling the staff to be on the lookout for a reviewer from a very famous resort guidebook, that he may be in disguise as any one of the guests. Just as he finishes saying this, a guest checks out and remarks that he had a wonderful stay. As he walks away everybody sees him wearing a jacket with the name of the guidebook in huge letters on the back.
  • I Love Lucy used this plot. Lucy expected an actor from a radio station to pose as her fictional "first husband" in front of Ricky as part of a contest. If Lucy could keep up the charade until midnight, then she would receive a generous cash reward. However, she mistakes a vagrant asking for money to be the actor, and Hilarity Ensues when the bum quickly takes advantage of the situation.
  • An episode of Lassie revolves around Timmy entering Lassie in a dog show, the judges see her name and mistake her for a near identical champion showdog named "King's Royal Lassie", and give Timmy the royal treatment. When he discovers why later in the episode, he tells the truth. Luckily, because of Timmy's honesty and because Lassie proved to be a remarkable dog anyway, no one was too upset.
  • In an episode of NewsRadio, Dave intentionally sets this up, introducing a man to a recently-quit Matthew as Dilbert creator Scott Adams, who convinces him to return to his job at the radio station. It turns out to just be some guy Dave met on the subway. Of course, the actual Scott Adams has a cameo as the guy standing behind them. It's that kind of show.
  • In one episode of the ABC Sketch Comedy No Soap, Radio, a homeless man is mistaken for a famous hotel critic in disguise. The staff ends up giving him extra-special treatment as a result.
  • In the Red Dwarf XI episode "Give and Take", Kryten, and eventually the others, are convinced a rather clunky-looking robot is the brilliant medibot Asclepius, managing to miss that he has "SNACKY SNACK DISPENSER" written on his back. Snacky seems torn between not wanting to let anyone down and unable to believe that anyone would actually make that mistake.
  • It happens in one episode of Reno 911!, when two of the deputies pick up a crazy man at the airport after mistaking him for an ambassador from Africa.
  • An episode of Saved by the Bell had the characters eager to impress a prospective new student who was said to be a Child Prodigy. Unfortunately, they had heard conflicting stories about whether she's "eight and speaks four languages" or "four and speaks eight languages". They end up leading a perfectly normal four year old around the school, thinking she's smarter than they are (though considering their mistake, they might have a point there).
  • Seinfeld:
    • In "The Limo", George impersonates a man named O'Brien so he and Jerry can get a limo ride and free tickets to a basketball game at Madison Square Garden. This backfires spectacularly, since O'Brien is a secretive white supremacist and leader of the "Aryan Union", and he is making his first public appearance. Oops.
    • In "The Jimmy", the head of a charity runs into Kramer on the street. As Kramer just came out of a dentist appointment (and as a result is slurring his speech) and is wearing special shoes (intended to improve his basketball skills), the man mistakenly believes that Kramer is mentally challenged and invites him to a charity banquet as the guest of honor.
  • Stargate-verse: Stargate (the movie) and early Stargate SG-1 featured this frequently. As only "the gods" came through the Gate, it wasn't uncommon for the heroes to be mistaken for them. This led to much kneeling and praying whenever they came through... until the real "gods", who were the Big Bads, came along. They were seldom amused. It also led to some weapons pointed in our heroes' faces when they arrived on a world where the locals knew what the "gods" were all about.
  • Druing the Vacation Episode of The Steve Harvey Show, Cedric and Lovita are mistaken for African royalty and are given special treatment from the time their plane lands in Orlando, leaving the rest of the gang to suffer in the motel from hell. Lovita thinks that Cedric went all out for their honeymoon, while he knew from the beginning that a picture taken of them in African garb during the school's Black History Month celebration is what caused the mixup and he takes full advantage of it. Of course, they are discovered to be impostors by the real king and queen and are thrown out of their fancy accommodations. They end up bunking with Steve, Romeo, and Bullethead at the same bad motel with no TV, no minibar, no ocean view, and a gator in the toilet.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, the hotel restaurant gets a warning that a famous food critic is going to be dining undercover in the coming days. All they know about him is that he often likes to disguise himself as a cowboy/woman/etc, and what his preferred dish is. However, when they assume a man dressed as a cowboy to be the critic, he orders a plate different than the one they had prepared, leading to a mad scramble of them attempting to make his order all while Zack, Cody, and London make a mess of the dining area, as well as blowing off another man who keeps trying to get their attention. Finally it comes to light that the cowboy was really just a regular guest, and the man they kept blowing off was in fact the critic. However, he decides to give them a positive review in the end on account of noticing how hard they were working to serve an "ordinary" customer. When questioned why he isn't in disguise, he reveals that he can do an impressively convincing female voice.
  • Variation in season 2 episode 7 of Young Kindaichi. Kindaichi's childhood friend Miyuki is mistaken for Kindaichi, who is called in as a detective because of death threats. The murders happen. The real Kindaichi finishes solving the crime but not until after Miykui has made several important deductions.

  • Kids Praise: In the seventh album, Psalty time-travels himself and the kids to an 1820 tent meeting. The tent meeting's organizers were expecting musicians, but the musicians never showed up; instead, when Psalty and the kids appeared, the organizers thought they were the musicians!

  • The Big Finish audio play Bing-Bang-a-Boom involves the Doctor being mistaken for Commander John Ballard, the new (and newly murdered) commander of Dark Space 8, and presumable Expy of Benjamin Sisko. He's rescued by transmat from the exploding shuttle- he doesn't tell anyone he's not really Ballard until the end of the story.

  • In Accidental Death of an Anarchist, the police are expecting the arrival of a judge, that none of them have ever met, to investigate the death of the anarchist. The Maniac takes advantage of this to pose as the judge and wreak havoc.
  • In Black Comedy (1965), the cast are expecting a German Eccentric Millionaire art collector, Georg Bamberger, to show up at an artist's apartment when a power cut strikes... And naturally, Schuppanzigh, the electrician sent to repair the lights, just so happens to be a highly-educated German expatriate with a special interest in art. Of course, in the dark, everyone thinks he is Bamberger.
  • In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Con Man Pseudolus tries to pull this with Miles Gloriosus, by impersonating his neighbor, a slave dealer. This also has a film adaptation.
  • Older Than Radio: In Nikolai Gogol's 1836 play The Inspector General ("The Government Inspector" in some translations), a clerk in Tsarist Russia exploits a group of corrupt, bumbling town officials when they mistake him for a government inspector.
  • The play Moon Over Buffalo featured a variation of this, where a theater couple was expecting Frank Capra to show up, but their daughter also had her fiancé (who was also a weatherman) showing up for the first time. Which leads to a situation where the fiancé is mistaken for Frank Capra without him knowing it, creating lines like:
    Theater Wife: [remembering Capra movies] It Happened One Night.
    Fiancé: [thinking that she is referring to the weather broadcast] Well, actually, it happens every night at 6 and 11.

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf: Your new town's new mayor was set to arrive that day. You arrive first and the townsfolk can't be convinced it's a misunderstanding. The intended mayor lets you keep the job.
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse: While at the Tan Line Temple, Shantae is mistaken for its missing princess. Funnily enough, so do Sky, Rottytops, and Risky Boots. For added hilarity, the real Princess is an overweight Gonk who looks nothing like them.
  • South Park: The Fractured but Whole: At the end of the "From Dusk to Casa Bonita" DLC, Mr. Addams attempts to summon the spirit of Corey Haim, but somehow summons Michael Jackson instead. Despite Mr. Addams mentioning that he isn't Corey Haim, everyone, including the game hud itself, keeps reffering to him as such.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: A common set-up for side quests. It usually goes something like this:
    NPC: Oh good, you must be the reinforcements I requested.
    Player: Umm, no. But since I'm here I'll go ahead and single-handedly solve your problem.

  • Subverted in Dubious Company, where the special guest is mistaken for the host. After a series of individual, coincidental incidents at the Festival of Veils, Elly is mistaken for the King by everyone, even the Queen and Mary. Identical Stranger factors into this a bit, but the King looks to be in his early 30s, while Elly is barely past his teens.
  • Seen here in The Order of the Stick, via a "Who's on First??"-style conversation.
    • It later turns into a Running Gag that numerous kings were all dark-skinned bald human men like Roy, explaining why someone might mistake him for a king.
  • Terror Island did this, with two characters taking names they chose at random that ended up being the names of actual alumni.
  • Seen here in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. While the names may sound similar, there are rather significant differences between Andrew Serkis and Andrewsarchus.
  • In Mob Psycho 100, Reigen manages to simply walk into the Claw hideout because the grunts mistake him for the organization's boss.
  • In The Accidental Space Spy, some aliens at the president’s party are expecting a translator for a diplomat, and an interior decorator. The same guest must pose as both roles at different times as an excuse for being in the president’s bedroom.

    Web Original 
  • This Not Always Working story involves the staff tripping over themselves when they know a mystery shopper is supposed to be visiting their store, and they see a man with a notebook. There's also a young woman present, but she's mostly overlooked and given the bare minimum service, mostly to avoid looking bad in front of the man with the notebook. Unfortunately for them, the man with the notebook isn't the mystery shopper; the young woman is.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of House of Mouse had the gang mistaking Mortimer for a restaurant critic. Fortunately, the real critic, Lumiere, manages to have a good time, and even offers to help them get even with Mortimer for the deception.
  • Spongebob Squarepants has a Mistaken for Mistaken for Special Guest. A health inspector arrives at the Krusty Krab, and Spongebob and Mr. Krabs must cater to his every whim. Then a news report comes on that a fake health inspector has been going around trying to get free food from restaurants, so Mr. Krabs, assuming that the health inspector at the Krusty Krab is the impostor, comes up with a plan to get even, by making an incredibly grotesque Krabby Patty that he and Spongebob serve him, which Spongebob calls the Nasty Patty. Unfortunately, after they've carried out the plan, another news report comes on saying that the fake health inspector has been captured and that any other food inspector you see is real... and to Krabs and Spongebob's horror, the fake inspector pictured looks nothing like the health inspector that was assumed to have just eaten the Nasty Patty.
    "Yes, they are all idiots aren't they?"
  • Chowder: Mung Daal and Chowder leave on a delivery, providing the first half of one episode. The second half is some random, Mr. Magoo-type character walking into the store and being mistaken for the customer. Truffles orders Schnitzel to entertain him until Mung and Chowder get back. Hilarity Ensues. It only gets worse when the hilariously inept police arrive and inform Schnitzel, by megaphone, that the "customer" is a wanted criminal. This is almost the farthest this trope has ever been taken, because the customer ends up destroying the restaurant. Thank goodness for the Reset Button.
    • Taken even further when Truffles is then mistaken for the destructive customer by the police and arrested. Schnitzel is left in the wreckage of the restaurant while the customer wanders away.
  • One episode of Taz-Mania featured a hotel staff going out of their way to satisfy famed hotel reviewer "F.H. Leghorn". Foghorn Leghorn stumbles into the hotel that day and rattles off a huge list of demands; the staff goes well out of their way to accommodate him, walking all over a small, quiet, mild-mannered man in the process. Naturally, the victim was the real F.H. Leghorn, and Foghorn was just freeloading.
  • Top Cat"The Maharajah of Pookajee" has a maharajah with a habit of giving out rubies, who's going to be staying in town at a fancy hotel. Top Cat, on learning of this, has the gang disguise themselves with the aid of some towels and a bag of fake rubies so they can get past Dibble, who's guarding the hotel entrance, then look for the maharajah and get some real rubies. In the hotel lobby, though, the receptionist mistakes T.C. for the real maharajah, so T.C. goes along with the charade and gets to stay in a luxury suite. Amusingly enough, when the real maharajah shows up, Top Cat ends up mistaking the real deal for another impostor.
  • In an episode of Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures, the girls are trying to break a world record and are expecting the judge to arrive any minute. However, since they kept their efforts a secret, their strange behavior makes Berrykin Bloom think they're all sick and he calls a doctor, whom the girls naturally assume is the judge. The actual judge turned out to be a friend of theirs, though, so it all worked out in the end.
  • Stōked: A good part of one episode has been spent trying to make it up for the hotel critic.
  • The New Woody Woodpecker Show: Winnie Woodpecker once opened a "Big City" style Bistro and was told a critic who uses two names was expected to show up. When Wally Walrus showed up, she assumed him to be the critic (two names). The critic turned out to be Ms. Meany, who was constantly ignored in favor of Wally. Despite Wally never even knowing he was being mistaken for a critic, Winnie accused him. Meany actually liked being mistreated as she expected at an actual Big City restaurant.
  • Camp Lazlo: In "The Weakest Link", the three Jelly Beans are mistaken for three eccentric Finnish princes.
  • In an episode of The Flintstones, Barney is mistaken for a long-lost prince. Just as he is about to be crowned king, the real prince shows up, wearing a medallion that shows proof. When the servants offer to "dispose of" the imposter (Barney, who had repeatedly tried to tell them that they had the wrong guy) the prince says "Nah, let him go. He's got a kind face."
  • Pinky and the Brain: In "The Third Mouse" (a Whole-Plot Reference to The Third Man), Pinky is mistaken for an international expert on plumbing and has to answer questions on Vienna's plumbing system.
  • A Terrytoons Deputy Dawg short had Deputy Dawg and his friends determined to give a good showing to the Governor to ensure the completion of a dam. Unfortunately, they accidentally show a photographer around the dam instead of the Governor, who is angry enough at the snub to cancel the dam project. Fortunately, the photographer works for a major magazine and he repays the gang for the great photo opportunity to persuade the Governor to change his mind.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Games Ponies Play": Twilight Sparkle and her friends are tasked with helping to roll out the welcome wagon for an inspector visiting the Crystal Empire, which is bidding to host the Equestria Games. They accidentally end up showing around an ordinary tourist instead of Ms. Harshwinny, the real inspector. Thankfully, the tourist has such a good time she vouches for the Empire to Ms. Harshwinny, despite the latter's bad first impression, and the Empire is chosen to host the Games.
    • Movie Magic: During their time on set, a stagehand mistakes the heroes for actresses playing the Power Ponies and forces them onto the set in costume. Subverted when the director immediately recognizes the mistake and gives the fool the boot for his stupidity.
  • An episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998) saw the girls mistaking a hairy, taffy-loving sasquatch for their hairy, taffy-loving uncle.
  • Men in Black: The Series: In the episode "The Fmall, Fmall, Fmall World Syndrome", the Worm Guys break into Zed's office after a meeting with an alien scientist to partake Zed's special coffee. While drinking, one of the Worm Guys toasts another, saying "Here's to you, Professor...". The Fmecks, who intended to abduct the scientist because he'd developed a growth formula, freeze the worms, taking the one referred to as "professor". Hilarity Ensues as the worm guy erroneously leads them though a discussion about coffee.
  • In Barbie: The Pearl Princess, Lumina is mistaken for the salon's new stylist.
  • Yogi Bear: The 1960 cartoon "A Bear Pair" has Yogi and Boo-Boo winning a free trip to Paris, France. Before leaving, Ranger Smith reminds them that they are goodwill ambassadors from Jellystone; however, when Yogi mentions being an ambassador later on, this leads to a belief among the French that the two bears are visiting dignitaries. Yogi ends up creating an international incident when he unwittingly insults a French chef and his carefully prepared meal. They're expelled from the country; upon their return, an angry Ranger Smith chases Yogi into the distance while clubbing him with a baseball bat.
  • One episode of The Land Before Time had a colony of horned gophers believing Spike to be "The Big Wise One" from their religion.
  • In the Looney Tunes cartoon, "Porky The Wrestler", Porky Pig is hitchhiking to a wrestling match and ends up getting picked up in the challenger's limo. However, when the get to the ring, the challenger falls through a trap door, and Porky ends up getting mistaken for him, and now has to fight the champ.
  • In the Sonic Boom episode "Inn Sanity", Eggman runs a hotel in order to pay some fees (an overly large trash haul and rennovating his home into a hotel without a permit), and when a mystery guest is sent, he decides to try to impress them for short-term profit. His first suspect is Red Heron, who he treats with dignity over all other guests. When the Heron reveals himself to be an insurance agent, Eggman promptly ignores him and treats a different guest with preferential treatment. When this second guest also turns out to be incorrect, he decides to switch to a hostage situation to get out of paying the bills. When the lair blows up in the end, Red Heron authorises the insurance payout to rebuild the lair and return to the status quo as thanks for the contrived kindness.
  • In School for Vampires, Klott mistakes a couple of humans for repairmen, letting them into the titular vampire school. He then has to get them to leave before the others find out.
  • Rocket Monkeys: "Dude, Where's My Dad?" has the brothers mistaking a prehistoric monkey frozen in ice for their long-lost father.

    Real Life 
  • On May 8, 2006, the staff of a BBC show, News 24, was expecting to interview IT commentator Guy Kewney about the legal dispute between Apple Computer (Inc.) and Apple Corps (the record company created by The Beatles) - but the studio employee sent to get him from the waiting room found Guy Goma, who was there for a job interview in their IT department. According to Guy Goma, he (Goma) was sitting in a room waiting to be called for an interview when a man appeared and asked, "Are you Guy Kewney?" Mr. Goma misheard and replied, "Yes," at which point he was whisked away to be prepared for the live interview. After a (hilarious) dawning moment of realization, Goma went along with it, doing his best to answer Karen Bowman's questions. Here's a video of the interview. Guy's expression at 0:07 is priceless.
    • This inspired similar events in The IT Crowd when Moss, appearing on Dragon's Den under a pseudonym, is mistaken for an MP and taken into an interview about the Iraq war.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt, the legendary "Captain of Köpenick". In 1906, he bought a Prussian military officer uniform at a second-hand shop and noted the almost-instinctive German deference to uniformed authority. So he commanded some real soldiers to accompany him, and did an "inspection" of the town of Köpenick. He fined them over 4,000 marks (and signed a receipt under a false name) and almost made a clean getaway. As his intent from the start was to impersonate an officer and con the city's treasury, Voigt's deception overlaps with Bavarian Fire Drill.
  • Real Life culture jammers The Yes Men actively seek to get invited to speak at functions by people who believe them to represent large organizations such as McDonald's, usually making speeches designed to embarrass or discredit the organization.
  • The Eric Andre Show once did a prank segment where Eric fooled around at the 2016 Republican National Convention. While there, he ran into Alex Jones, who mistook Eric for Trevor Noah and invited him on-stage at a rally. To say things went hilariously downhill from there is quite the understatement.