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Multitasked Conversation

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Bob is talking (or desperately trying to convey information) to Alice, in the presence of Charlie. Charlie doesn't know Alice is there (she's hiding, or on the other end of a hidden microphone, or a Spirit Advisor or other invisible being) or doesn't know that anything is wrong. So Charlie interprets everything Bob says as though it's being said to him, not to Alice.

Sometimes Bob has to choose his words carefully, so as to get across his meaning to Alice without blowing her cover or appearing insane. Sometimes, Bob just talks naturally to Alice, and Charlie misinterprets what Bob is saying as applying to him. Doubly difficult if Bob can't or won't lie in front of Alice or Charlie.

Compare Talking through Technique, where Bob can talk to Alice via chess, while talking verbally to Charlie. Subtrope to Double Meaning. See also Spy Speak.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note:
    • Shinigamis can't be seen by anyone other than the humans who touch their Death Note. This includes surveillance equipment. When Light is under surveillance by the police, he pretends to do his homework, and can only respond to Ryuk by saying things ostensibly to himself, like "I got this question right!" to indicate a "yes" answer.
    • Misa does this too, talking as if asking her captors to kill her because she can't stand the torture any longer, while actually telling Rem, her Shinigami, to kill her so that she won't break down and reveal secret information.
    • Also when Matsuda is caught. He takes cues from L over the phone to let them know he's in trouble while making it sound to his captors like he's just turning down an offer to hang out with his friend.
    • When Light is talking with the fourth Kira, he's having a date, and as such can't give his orders explicitly. Instead, he couches them in references to past events. (This, by the way, is the conversation where he answers "Are you God?" with "Yes, I am.")
  • The first episode of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia has one between Momoe (who can't see or hear ghosts), Teiichi (who can), and Yuuko (a ghost). Thus, Momoe interprets some of the things Teiichi says to Yuuko or his reactions to Yuuko's antics as him reading her thoughts. It gets even better when Kirie (who can see and hear Yuuko) joins in and snaps at Yuuko for her flirtatious antics, which Momoe misinterprets as being directed at her.
  • Happens after the fight between All Might and All For One in My Hero Academia. All Might points at a camera and says, "Next, it's your turn." The public at large assumes this is a threat to the criminal populace, but Izuku understands that All Might has blown through the last of his reserves and is officially passing the torch on to him.
  • In an early episode of Nyan Koi!, Junpei attempts to tell Kaede, the girl he has a crush on, that she should stop being so rough with the local cats while said local cats are chattering at him. He can't hear what she's saying, and he finally bellows 'Would you just shut up!' at the cats; cue Kaede running away.
  • In One Piece, when Corazon revealed himself as a marine agent to his brother Doflamingo, he said, "Sorry for lying... I didn't want you to hate me, ya see..." To Doflamingo, it was an apology for something he already knew about. But this was said after Corazon intentionally knocked his head on the chest that Law was locked in whom he had to lied to about being a marine.

    Comic Books 
  • In Usagi Yojimbo, a meeting between its most upstanding cop, Inspector Ishida, and its craftiest thief, Kitsune is one of these. Kitsune has just arrived in town and is doing her usual street performing gig, but Ishida knows she's up to no good; but he has no evidence of any wrongdoing, and is out in public so he can't arrest her or talk to her openly. When he talks to her, he compliments her on her talents and asks if she's staying long, but to Kitsune the message is very clear: "I know you're a thief, now get out of my town!"
  • A French Harry Potter parody has the main character puppeteer an unconscious school inspector so his Ignored Enamored Underling won't think anything's wrong. Unfortunately, one of his friends/potential love interests comes along and asks what he's doing, and while he manages to keep the conversation(s) going for a short time, he ends up mentioning it's because of his Hot Teacher, causing both the underling and his friend to get vocally jealous. While the principal and aforementioned teacher are watching via Astral Projection.

    Fan Works 
  • Seigikan: A Death Note fanfic. Shinigamis, like Ryuk, can't be seen by anyone other than the humans who touch their Death Note. This includes surveillance equipment:
    Light: It's a beautiful day isn't it? The city life is buzzing with noise
    L: Raito-kun, what are you doing?
    Light: I'm simply capturing this moment when I have nothing to listen to.
    Ryuk: You think he's got a recording device on him and you want me to look?
    Light: Yes, isn't it heavenly?

    Films Animation 
  • Hogarth saying grace at the dinner table in The Iron Giant doubles (rather clumsily) as an attempt to shoo away the Giant's hand before his mom sees it.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: When Peter Parker and Miles Morales infiltrates Alchemax in order to hack their computer, Peter tries to distract the scientist in charge while Miles tries to enter the password. He realizes that he forgot the last two digits and mimes this to Peter.
    Peter Parker: So, how old are you anyway, lady? Because I must say, you don't look a day over THIRTY-FIVE!

    Films Live-Action 
  • In Air Force One, President Marshall finally gets through to the White House phone line, but is cornered by one of the terrorists. He hides the phone in his pocket, and in what appears to be idle conversation with the terrorist, instructs the Vice-President to order that Air Force One be fired upon, allowing him to take his captor by surprise.
  • Clean Slate shows that if you're a doctor doing a check up while talking on the phone, it's a bad idea to ask about something being scrambled when you're shining a light into the patient's ear...
  • In the Peter Jackson film The Frighteners, Michael J. Fox's character can see and talk to ghosts. This leads to many Multitasked Conversations throughout the movie.
  • The comedy Ghost Town also involves someone who can see and talk to dead people, and it too uses this trope a few times.
  • Following conversation takes place in Innerspace, when Tuck (inside Jack) tries to talk to Jack who believes some hospital patients are talking to him.
    Tuck: Who are you? What's your name?
    Jack: What? (to patient #1) Are you talking to me?
    Waiting Room Patient #1: No.
    Tuck: I'm not out there. I'm in here.
    Jack: Did you hear that?
    Waiting Room Patient #2: Hear what?
    Jack: You didn't hear that then?
    Waiting Room Patient #2: No, I'm sorry. I didn't hear anything. Are you feeling all right?
    Jack: Would I be in a doctor's office if I was feeling all right?!
    Tuck: Pal, we have to talk.
    Jack: No, we don't.
    Waiting Room Patient #2: Don't what?
    Jack: Don't have to talk.
    Tuck: Yes, we do.
    Jack: We do?
    Waiting Room Patient #2: Do what?
    Jack: Have to talk.
    Waiting Room Patient #2: Not unless you want to.
  • At the climax of In the Line of Fire, Leary has Frank at gunpoint in a glass elevator. Frank keeps telling him to go ahead and shoot — but he's really speaking into a communicator concealed in his hand, to the secret service snipers, which Leary doesn't realize until Frank tells the snipers to "Aim high" (he's kneeling while Leary's standing).
  • In Man on a Ledge, Nick Cassidy carries out a conversation with negotiator Lydia Mercer while simultaneously relaying instructions to his brother Joey, who is perpetrating a heist with his (Joey's) girlfriend. Nick suggests to "cool things down" - to Lydia this means deescalate the situation, while to Joey it means disable an alarm system with liquid nitrogen.
  • In John Sayles's Matewan, Danny (a teenager active in union organizing) is doing some lay preaching in the local church. He knows that the coal company has framed Joe, the main activist, for being a company plant, playing on a woman's jealous desire for him as part of the framing. The company-enforcer thugs have told Danny not to say anything about the plot, or political at all, while he's preaching. So he tells the congregation the story of how Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph and failed, and she tried to frame him out of jealousy, to get his point across.
  • Notable aversion: the fact that Haley Joel Osment's character doesn't talk to Bruce Willis when anyone else is around is a major clue to the twist ending of The Sixth Sense.

  • Discworld:
    • Happens in the stand-alone novel Small Gods. The central premise is that gods need belief to exist, and the book's God, Om, has only one believer left. He and said believer, Brutha, travel together, but since nobody else believes, nobody else can hear Om's voice. This leads to some interesting situations where Brutha and Om are trying to yell at each other (usually about some demonstration of godly powers or the lack thereof). It doesn't help that Brutha Cannot Tell a Lie, although over the course of the book he does get better at twisting the truth.
    • Wyrd Sisters: Two soldiers confront the witches, who have just been handed a baby by a dying man, to keep it safe. One of the soldiers is respectful and knows messing with witches is a very bad idea. The other demands the baby be handed over, claiming that he could strike them all down easily. Granny responds "Then strike, man. If your heart tells you, strike as hard as you dare". Just as he is about to stab her, he himself is stabbed in the back by the other soldier, who Granny was actually addressing.
  • Camp Haunted Hills: The series has a rather puckish ghost that only the protagonist can see. At one point in Book 1 (How I Survived My Summer Vacation), he congratulates the protagonist on being able to do this.
  • In the Modesty Blaise novel The Night of Morningstar, the villains capture Modesty but narrowly miss spotting her sidekick Willie. In the ensuing conversation, she manages to slip in several statements that are actually instructions to the listening Willie about how she wants him to handle the situation.
  • Monster Hunter International: Courtesy of Mordecai, Owen is given a view of the Big Bad's memories of his meeting, centuries ago, with the priestess that tells Machado of the prophecy. It's later revealed that she was speaking for Owen's benefit, knowing that in the future Owen would be listening in on the exchange with Machado, who mistakes the prophecy as talking about him.
  • Seyonne in Carol Berg's Rai Kirah series has two of these as part of his Guile Hero moments.
    • In Transformation, he, as Prince Aleksander's slave, is trying to remind him of the danger posed by a visiting noble while said noble is in the room.
      Seyonne: [knocks an inkwell over onto the noble, then throws himself on the floor] My clumsiness is inexcusable, my lord, especially after your warnings to be exceptionally careful around our guests.
      Aleksander: [after attempting to deal with the rest of the resulting situation] The warning should have been heeded, slave. One must always carry warnings in the front of ones mind. The consequences of failure to do so are unfortunate.
    • Later in Revelation Seyonne realizes the outlaws they are chasing are eavesdropping on them, and decides to pretend to be a runaway slave so they'll 'rescue' him. He sets this off by cutting Aleksander with his own sword. Once Aleksander has him tied to a tree to be beaten and abandoned, he attempts to check if Seyonne is sure about this plan.
      Seyonne: Tell your Prince that his empire will not survive as long as injustice rules, but if he heeds those who cry out to him, trusts those who have faith in him, his glory will never end.
  • In the Relativity story "August Moon", the titular villain can read Ravenswood's mind... and has kidnapped his wife. How does Ravenswood discreetly alert his friends without revealing to August Moon what he's doing? He calls his wife's cell phone and leaves a message that he's worried about her because he was told she was kidnapped, except that he "accidentally" dials Michael's phone instead.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In the Hand of Thrawn duology, the Con Man Flim, impersonating Grand Admiral Thrawn, tries to talk down a pirate ally who wants to kill one of Flim's allies. He suggests a new alliance. A Mistryl shadow warrior with a grudge against the pirate is eavesdropping, having taken out the pirate's backup, and when the pirate decides to ignore the offer she kills him. In the ensuing conversation, Flim tells the shadow warrior that he knows what she is, knew that she was there, and his offer was actually for her. Later he admits to his allies that he hadn't known any of that; when she'd appeared he'd just recognized that she was a Mistryl shadow warrior. He's just very good at rolling with the punches.
    • Thrawn himself pulls off a multitasked conversation in Side Trip, a collaborative Michael Stackpole/Timothy Zahn novella in Tales From the Empire. Disguised as a helmeted bounty hunter, he gets Corran Horn to go along with him into a criminal's fortress, then turns a blaster on him and helps the criminals stick Corran in the jail. While Corran blusters and threatens retribution, Thrawn tells him that he looks forward to when Corran gets out, since he's the only one standing between Corran and freedom. Come find him. To the criminals, and admittedly to Corran, this is a threat. To himself and Corran's more rationally-thinking father, who he's come to save, it's an announcement that this is a Trojan Prisoner scheme, since Thrawn provided a way for them to break out.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In "The Borders of Infinity", some of Miles' more oblique comments to his fellow prisoners are really instructions to his Dendarii Mercenaries, who he knows are listening in, telling them that he's changing the plan in mid stream. The reader is kept in the dark about that until late in the story.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jack pulls this off handily in an episode of 30 Rock, talking to a client on the phone while answering Liz's questions in person.
  • Gaius Baltar tends to do the fortuitous version with Head!Six on Battlestar Galactica, with the twist that it's often difficult to believe that nobody notices something's going on.
    Baltar: (Speaking to both Six and President Roslin) And I'm not your plaything!
    Six, Roslin: Plaything?
    Baltar: Yes, and I don't need to take this from either of you. (Realizes that Roslin can't see Six. Points at her aide, sitting in the corner.) You, or you!
  • Blackadder: In "Back and Forth", the modern Blackadder bets his fellow diners that he can travel through time and collect any relic from the past. When they make their choices, Blackadder announces them loudly, in the presence of a microphone, so that Baldrick can find similar-looking items.
  • Blake's 7. In "Volcano", the Liberator is captured by a Federation commando squad. Avon starts to explain how the Master Computer works, and his captors realize too late he's giving it instructions to open fire.
  • Bones:
    • A run of the mill one happens when Brennan is talking to Sweets' girlfriend over problems in their relationship. Cam comes in with DNA evidence from a murder weapon where the gender was in question. Brennan says one word in response: "Sex?" ...needless to say, as Sweets' girlfriend didn't hear Cam come in, Hilarity Ensues.
    • It also happens frequently when someone is questioning a suspect in the interrogation room, and someone else is talking to the interrogator from behind the one-way glass. When this happens, the interrogator will usually respond to the person on the headphones, and the suspect will think they were talking to them.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer manages a double of these — Spike talks intermittently with Buffy and Willow, but they can't hear each other and just assume he's even more insane (to be fair, he is insane at the time, but everything he says is at least a little relevant to the conversation). He also talks to somebody neither Buffy, Xander, or Willow can see or hear. After you've seen the entire season, it becomes obvious that he's talking to The First.
    Spike: Everyone's talking to me. No one's talking to each other.
  • Coupling: Poor Jeffrey ends up stuck talking to his girlfriend on a mobile and another girl who fancies him simultaneously. Julia asks him if he loves her at the same moment as Wilma asks him if he fancies her. Jeff is forced to answer, "Yes," and spends the rest of the following episode trying to get rid of Wilma.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Happens on occasion in Due South, as Benton Fraser alternates between talking to the (invisible-to-others) ghost of his dead father and whoever else happens to be present at the time, usually one of the Rays. Notably, being Fraser, he manages to carry on two conversations at the same time while hardly missing a beat.
    Dead Bob: But that was good, though, measuring the Yank's...
    Fraser: Thank you.
    Ray Kowalski: What for?
    Fraser: For driving the car.
    Ray: You're thanking me for driving the car?
    Dead Bob: Of course, one Yank is pretty much like another, anyway.
    Fraser: People are not interchangeable like snowmobile parts.
    Ray: There you go with the obvious again.
    Fraser: You're right about that. What I think we should do is... (etc.)
  • Occurs in Frasier, albeit with a fairly complicated set-up. His newly-married brother, realizing he's in love with another woman, is being forced to maintain a sham relationship with his wife Mel in order for them to both maintain some dignity in the break-up - but she insists on dragging it out and humiliating him. At a party, Mel forces Frasier to give a speech honoring the marriage - and he manages to give a full-length speech worded vaguely enough that anyone knowing the full situation can tell it's a toast to Niles and Daphne instead. Mel isn't amused...
    Frasier: To my brother... and the woman of his dreams.
  • In a season five episode of House, a sleep-deprived Dr. House carries on conversations with a hallucinated vision of Amber Volakis, who died in the previous season. He knows she's not actually a ghost, but since she remembers things that he knows but thought he forgot, he uses her as a hotline to his subconscious. He eventually covers up talking to her in public by wearing a Bluetooth headset.
  • This happens a lot in Leverage. The team's ubiquitous use of earbuds and cellphones makes it happen very naturally.
    • In "The Bank Shot Job", Nate finds himself trapped in a bank that's being robbed while using an earpiece to communicate with the rest of his team. He manages to cloak everything he says to them under the guise of a conversation he's having with the corrupt judge who's right next to him. Eliot, by contrast, simply walks to the other side of the police line after they've set it up and stares intently at the bank, having a conversation with Nate without even bothering to have a cover story. When a policeman tries to tell him that he needs to be on the other side of the tape, Eliot turns and growls, "I wasn't talking to you."
    • In the later episode "The Fairy Godparents Job", Parker talks Hardison through deactivating a security system through her earpiece while talking to the FBI agent that is infatuated with her at the same time. This was also while Hardison and Parker were playing the role of undercover FBI agents.
      Hardison: Excuse me for interrupting Prom Night with my annoying felony burglary.
    • Also subverted in "The Zanzibar Marketplace Job" when Maggie figures out Nate is talking to his team on the comm system.
      Maggie: (after calling out Nate's speech pattern and catching him off guard) You don't even realize you do it, do you?
    • And in another episode, "The Boys' Night Out Job", Nate talks to Elliot and Hardison on a cell phone, while at the podium at an Alcoholic's Anonymous meeting, in front of a crowd of other people who think he's talking to his ex-wife.
  • In a later episode of Lois & Clark, Lois is hidden under a table at a party defusing a bomb, and Clark is giving her x-ray-vision-assisted instructions using a yes/no code ("Lois" for yes, "Lane" for no). Perry wanders into this and thinks he's randomly cursing her name after a fight, and starts counseling him. Clark ignores him, continuing to use the code (because it's a bomb), so Perry thinks he's really upset, especially when he resorts to barking Lois's last name. It's a potentially farcical setup, but it goes on too long to be plausible, even positing that Clark using Lois's name is a better ploy than yes or no (which, given the right lines for Perry, might have been funnier).
  • On Modern Family, Phil takes a phone call from his wife about an old piece of furniture she wants the kids to take out. As Phil is in the middle of selling a house, he lies that it's from his boss, and manages to hold a rational conversation while simultaneously making it sound like he's talking to his boss about another prospective client ready to buy the house. The two real clients decide to buy instantly.
  • In MythQuest, Alex and Cleo are teenagers able to travel into a myth through their computer. The one who stays behind can see and hear everything, as well as converse with the one who went in. The one who went in can't say anything without the other characters in the myth hearing, though. This leads to Alex (in the myth) asking Cleo questions, but his companion Thor believes he is talking to him. In a later episode, bystanders take it as evidence that Cleo is talking to the gods.
  • The Punisher (2017). In "Virtue Of The Vicious", Lewis Wilson is holding a Dead Man's Switch for the bomb vest he's wearing, and is using Karen Page as a Human Shield against Frank Castle. Frank already knows to cut the white wire (having disarmed another bomb built by Lewis) and has to talk Karen through picking the right one (she can reach the wires but can't see them) while supposedly Talking Down the Suicidal.
  • In Quantum Leap Sam tries to talk to his Invisible to Normals Ninja Butterfly Al in private as much as possible, but he's had to do this a few times.
  • Usually Raines seems like he's talking to himself when he's in fact talking to his hallucinations of the murder victims (it's complicated). But in one episode three of them pester him while he's on the phone with his shrink, and he tells them to "SHUT UP!", claiming he was talking on two lines when asked.
  • Red Dwarf's Lister confuses a Simulant in "Rimmerworld" when he apparently tries to persuade her not to kill the crew. He's actually trying to tell Rimmer to sneak up behind the Simulant and attack her.
  • In season one of Roswell, Michael needs Maria's car to get to a big geodesic dome, while she needs to interview him for English. Things go a bit wrong, he ends up driving her there against her will, and she manages to surreptitiously call Liz on her cell phone and have a conversation like this (saying things along the lines of "Boy, Michael, it's really strange to be alone with you... in my car... going to the dome...").
  • A variation occurs in Seinfeld, when one of Elaine's coworkers believes that Elaine's name is actually Suzi, and complains about her to Elaine's boss. Her boss, of course, believes that Suzi must be a separate person entirely. When this woman (in the presence of Elaine's boss) demands to confront both Elaine and Suzi at the same time, Elaine manages to talk her way out of the situation while simultaneously maintaining the illusion that she is Suzi (to her co-worker) and that Suzi is someone else (to her boss).
  • This happens a fair amount in Slings & Arrows, with Geoffrey talking to his Spirit Advisor Oliver. He doesn't seem to worry much about being comprehensible to anyone else, but he often is anyway (if not necessarily politic—at one point he screams "For the love of God, will you please shut up!?" at Oliver in the middle of a rehearsal).
  • Stargate SG-1: In "Crystal Skull", the Phlebotinum of the Week makes Daniel Jackson "out of phase", and the only one who can see or hear him is his grandfather Dr. Nicholas Ballard, who was declared crazy when he tried to talk about his encounter with identical Phlebotinum on Earth. Communicating with his teammates through Ballard, Jackson manages to convince them to go back to the planet and let the Applied Phlebotinum finish what it was doing before it was interrupted.
    O'Neill: [to Ballard] So, Daniel says you have to go with us, because you've been through this before and the aliens won't show up unless you're there.
    Jackson: Hey, wait a minute, I never said that! Grandpa, you're taking advantage of me!
    Ballard: Yes.
  • Happens in Supernatural. Bobby tries to walk Sam and Dean through killing a lamia over the phone with an FBI agent in the room, by pretending he's talking to his mother asking for a cooking recipe.
  • A variation occurs in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Charlie calls Sarah for help rescuing his wife from a Terminator, and she answers with John standing right there. She wants to help Charlie but doesn't want John coming with her, which he will want to if he knows what's going on. So she acts angry toward Charlie, repeatedly insisting that she does not want to know where he is, and how dare he have this conversation with her when John is standing right there. He hesitates and asks "Wait, are you asking me where I am?" She replies "Yes, yes I am," still in an angry tone, which John doesn't find suspicious. This enables her to get out and help him while still keeping John out of harm's way.
  • In the Ugly Betty episode "Be-Shure", both Betty and Hilda realize that the other may be pregnant. Desperate to keep their father in the dark about it, they speak in code to each other while helping him in the kitchen.
    Hilda: You got burned? Weren't you being careful?
    Betty: Of course I was. Weren't you?
    Hilda: Obviously. [picks up hot pot from stove] Ouch!
    Ignacio: Burned twice in one day? That's what happens when you don't wear an oven mitt.
    • When Ignacio's new girlfriend Jean, the pharmacist who sold them the tests, shows up, she pretends not to know them, but asks Betty pointedly "Are you well?" and when Betty nods, "Are you positive?"
  • During an episode of Without a Trace when Samantha (an FBI agent) is held hostage in a bookstore. When her supervisor calls, without alerting the gunman, who thinks she's merely assuring him that no one is hurt, she manages to tell him how many hostages there are, how many weapons the guy has, etc.

  • In Blithe Spirit by Nol Coward, Charles talks several times to the ghost of his first wife, and his second wife thinks he's talking to her.
  • Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman does this while talking to his neighbor Charley: he imagines that his dead brother Ben is present and gets confused trying to converse with them both at once.
  • Tosca. With Tosca watching, Scarpia instructs an underling that Cavaradossi's execution is to be faked "like Palmieri's was". We never get any further details about Palmieri, but the implication is that Palmieri's death was just as real as Cavaradossi's turns out to be.

    Video Games 
  • Hitman 3: In the aftermath of the Dartmoor mission, Grey finds himself injured, surrounded by CICADA operatives ready to take him in for interrogation. 47 wants to help, and disguises himself as a CICADA operative to do so, but Grey believes there are too many even for 47. Grey begins speaking to him, using vague enough sentences that CICADA believes he's talking to them, even responding to him. When 47 is about to give himself away, Grey causes a distraction by taking a gun from the closest operative and killing himself to maintain 47's cover.
    Grey: (to 47) Walk away.
    CICADA: Or what? You're gonna take us all on?
    (47 begins moving forward)
    Grey: Don't. Tell The Constant to start running.
  • A mission in Shadowrun: Hong Kong features this as an option for avoiding a fight: the player relays lines for a less socially inclined teammate to give to security personnel to bluff them. When an impatient person steps up wanting to use the system used for relaying those lines the player must choose dialogue options to placate both him and a manager who has confronted the teammate, as the teammate is still repeating the player's dialogue verbatim.
  • One of the puzzles in Tales of Monkey Island: Rise of the Pirate God involves finding dialog lines that are simultaneously insulting to a challenger and consoling to a crestfallen ally.

    Web Animation 
  • In the fifth season of Red vs. Blue, before Sarge and Donut find Grif and Simmons after they fall into the cave beneath Blood Gulch, Sarge communicates with Simmons via their helmet radios. Donut's radio is broken, so he is completely unaware Sarge isn't talking to him.

    Web Comics 
  • Shows up in the webcomic Cardboard Angel here when Mayu tries to reprimand the ghostly, and only visible to her, Yuuji who was trying to invisibly mess with the guy she likes.
  • El Goonish Shive has Justin accidentally doing this here, where he's carrying an unconscious Elliot while talking to Melissa, where it's obvious that a mysterious person is Noah:
    Melissa: Hey! How did you know that was Noah?!
    Justin: Seriously?
    Justin: Come on, wake up...
  • In this installment of The Last Days of Foxhound, Liquid pulls this off accidentally, giving responses to the ghost of Big Boss that coincidentally sound like responses to what Psycho Mantis is saying.
  • In The Night Belongs to Us, the doctor Molly Yamamoto is called by her best friend who requests help for a werewolf issue while Molly is tending to a patient. Molly responds as if she is talking with a another doctor about a lab that analyzes some samples... And still manages to convey all necessary information.
  • In Touhou Nekokayou, Sanae has a conversation which sounds like "I'm not treating you as a serious threat" to Meimu and a sort of in-character "stop helping me" to Suwako.

    Web Videos 
  • The Joker Blogs: While driving through a security checkpoint, Dr. Arkham tries to tip off the security guard that The Joker has taken him hostage and is hiding in the back of his car. Unfortunately for him, the guard doesn't pick up on it... But The Joker does.

    Western Animation 
  • 'Avatar: The Last Airbender "Imprisoned" has Katara stage an argument with Sokka to attract the attention of Fire Nation Soldiers. She threatens him "Earthbending Style", actually a cue for Aang to help her fake earthbending.
  • An episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold cleverly played with this one. During an excursion to a parallel universe, Batman's partner of the week, Red Hood, is captured by the bad guys. As their leader, Cyclone, attempts to interrogate him, Batman (who is eavesdropping via comlink) is simultaneously sneaking through the building to rescue him; Red Hood phrases his responses as coded directions to lead Batman to his location. Although successful at first, the trick soon breaks down; Cyclone quickly detects the pattern in Red Hood's answers and realizes what he's doing. Fortunately, Batman has already arrived by then.
  • This trope is basically the entirety of Rummy's interactions with Ed III in the Boondocks episode "Thank You For Not Snitching", due to Ed III's affinity for his new Bluetooth earpiece.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Frankie My Dear" has Bloo, Mac and Chris crash Frankie's date will disguised as Orlando Bloo. Mac tries to feed Bloo despite not being able to see, and Bloo helps him while pretending to talk to himself.
  • In Generator Rex Cesar notices that someone cloaked is following him and the providence agents, since they plan on blowing up the area after they're done searching it, he loudly announces it for the sake of the cloaked followers.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • "Senate Spy": After Padmé steals the data disk containing the plans for the Separatists' new droid foundry, Rush Clovis abruptly returns with the drink she asked him to get. After giving him a hug to hide the disk in her hand, Anakin comes in response to the signal she sent him. Padmé gets him to take the data disk by waving it in her hand while saying "I've been waiting all night for this moment", which Clovis interprets as a romantic overture.
    • "The Mandalore Plot": When Duchess Satine gets a call from Obi-Wan asking for her help, she's in the middle of a conversation with Concordian Governor Pre Vizsla. Satine manages to disguise her responses to Obi-Wan as normal conversation, but it's not especially convincing. And as Vizsla turns out to be The Mole, he likely figured out what she was really on about.
  • In The Venture Brothers:
    • While trying to reconcile his relationship with Dr. Girlfriend, the Monarch gets a transmission from his henchmen that they found Dr. Venture, resulting in an awkward two-way conversation.
    • Doctor Orpheus uses Astral Projection to talk to his vampire hunter and alchemist buddies and gets the lines crossed.
    • Also happens when 21 has a conversation with the Monarch and the ghost of 24.

    Real Life 
  • In the autobiography of former UK Cabinet Minister Ed Balls, he describes an occasion in 1998, when he phoned Gordon Brown in response to a pager alert at the same moment as he realised the joint of beef they were supposed to take to his parents for Christmas was still in the fridge at home. He largely forgot about the phone call as he discussed this with his wife, with the result that the Chancellor interpreted "Where's the beef?" and "Is it too late to turn back?" as being Balls' reaction to the political situation.
  • A Domestic Abuse victim called the police while pretending to order a pizza (within earshot of her abuser). Fortunately, the dispatcher caught on quickly and asked further questions to which the victim responded "Yes, a large pizza", or "No, with pepperoni".


Video Example(s):


Bob Saving the Betas

In order to stop the Betas from going through with the prank, Bob interrupts the ceremony and gives a speech to the audience while telling the Betas the truth.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / MultitaskedConversation

Media sources: