Of course, since this is a series with a recurring Big Bad, our heroes may feel perfectly justified in going after the usual suspects. This trope refers to such scenes, in which our regular villain is forced to inform the heroes that this installment's Evil Plan is not his or her doing. This may or may not be believed at first, but after the villain's innocence is established, expect him to curtly dismiss the heroes.
Traditional Truce Zone requirements mandate that regardless of all the crimes they committed yesterday, if caught for the wrong thing today; the heroes have to let them go. Either that or the Big Bad got Off on a Technicality for yesterday's crimes.
This trope can be chalked up to The Law of Conservation of Detail: if you're going to have your villain appear, it might as well be relevant to the plot at hand.
An occasional subversion is for the usual suspect to claim innocence, convince the hero that somebody else did it... and then have it turn out that the original suspect is guilty after all. In some cases, the Frame-Up inspired the villain to actually do it afterward.
This trope may also occur with any character who has a recurring habit. It may or may not lead to Evil vs. Evil or Enemy Mine, depending on the story. (A villain might be upset that he was blamed for something he didn't do, or that he's being pounded on by the hero for something he didn't do, or that he was accused of a crime he considers beneath him, or that somebody else claimed a triumph he would have liked to score for himself. Any of these reasons is enough for him to be pissed at the guy who really did it.)
Also see Villains Out Shopping, which might explain the villain's innocence. Compare Motive Misidentification, where the Big Bad is responsible, but for different reasons than the heroes initially suspect. Contrast Hijacked by Ganon, where it seems like a new villain is at fault but the Big Bad is revealed to be pulling the strings. May overlap with Card-Carrying Villain and/or Villains Never Lie if the heroes believe the story because it would be out of character for the villain to deny his crimes rather than boast about them.
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- In a 2018 commercial for Blue Bunny ice cream, a couple notices that all their trousers are missing. The Talking Animal mascot admits that he took their trousers as a stunt promoting pre-made sundaes. Then, an elderly woman enters also without trousers, announces that she's meeting friends to play mahjong, and leaves the house.
Blue Bunny: I did not take Grandma's pants.
- A heroic example in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series: Calvin is framed for a water balloon attack he didn't do, and thus ends up having to clear his name.
- Happens to Don Paolo in the Professor Layton fanfic Knights and Knaves. Inspector Chelmey hauls him in for questioning about a series of mysterious clues that have been cropping up across London - simply because he doesn't have any better ideas about who might be responsible. Don Paolo protests his innocence, and is in fact telling the truth.
- In Phantom of Beika Street (a Detective Conan/Danny Phantom crossover), an bright explosion somehow causes a large amount of green goo to splatter everywhere. Yamamoto accused Kaito since he was right next to it when it happened and he's known for such stunts, but Kaito nearly quotes this trope. His answer actually satisfies everyone since they're aware that if he was responsible, he would be taking credit for it.
- In Superman And Man, Christopher briefly wonders if Lex Luthor is the one body-swapped his body with Superman's... but Luthor's bafflement makes clear he has nothing to do with it.
"I thought it would be so much harder than this. I've fought you before. Many times. You know that. In any of our other fights, by this time, we'd have knocked each other all the way to Metro Airport. What's wrong with you? Did somebody else get to you before I did?"
Focusing, the actor said, "So. It wasn't really you who. Did this to me?"
"Did what to you?"
- In the A Date With Destiny section of the Code Mars Trilogy, Mars seeks to rescue the hostages from the JLF during the hotel jacking. She finds Zero and accuses him being behind it. Unaware of Zero's sudden entrance, he clearly tells her he wasn't behind it, showing the real mastermind's dead body.
- Zig-zagged in the Attack on Titan fanfic, My Child, when Levi and Mikasa's child is about to die, Levi asks Xaphan, the demon who's trying to take his soul, if he knows anything, but Xaphan responds, "Oh, because I'm a demon, everything's my fault? I see how it is. Well, it doesn't matter." and says that if Levi doesn't give him his soul, his child will die. Once Levi signs the contract, Xaphan admits that he was lying all along, so it is possible that he was responsible.
- In The Fairly Oddparents fanfic, Never Had A Friend Like Me, there's a rare hero to hero version of this trope. Jorgen thinks Timmy caused the magical chaos that led to disappearance of the anti-fairies and pixies.
- From Ask Fluffle Puff, when Queen Chrysalis and Fluffle Puff find out that the Library Tree was destroyed (by Tirek in the Season 4 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) while they were on vacation, Chrysalis is prompt to tell Twilight Sparkle that it wasn't her, this time.
- In The Vinyl Scratch Tapes, when Vinyl confronts Prince Blueblood over him "stealing" an interview with Princess Luna from her, he has no idea what she's talking about. Luna had actually cancelled her interview on her own initiative to be with Blueblood due to her concern over him, because jackass he may be, he was still family, and she had been in too similar a situation for her to ignore him.
- In Say It Thrice, Betelgeuse claims that he is (mostly) not to blame for Lydia's injuries when Adam and Barbara automatically assume the worst. That honor belongs to Sanduleak.
- In Friendship Is Magical Girls, Trixie is questioned about a museum robbery. She points out that if she had done it, she wouldn't have had to kill any of the guards.
- The Great Alicorn Hunt: When Malfunziona escapes his can, a peeved Applejack assumes that he's another one of Celestia's "time released" prisoners that she didn't tell anyone about. In fact, Celestia's never even heard of Malfunziona; he was actually sealed by an expy of Leonardo Da Vinci.
- Corrin Reacts: Niles, Corrin and Kana all deny spiking the wine at the party in Castle Krakenburg. It turns out to be Orochi, who was attempting to prove herself a superior potionmaster to Hayato.
- This Bites!: Played with. Water 7 being on fire is mostly Cross's fault, but part of it was actually Franky's doing from a few years back.
- Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: On seeing a procession of oddly-behaving Poison-Type Pokémon in Crimson City Park, Ash thinks it's a Team Rocket scheme. But the Terrible Trio bursts out of their hiding place, protesting their innocence. As it turns out, they were actually being mind-controlled by a Bloodliner named Belladonna as part of a scheme to kill her girlfriend's estranged father.
- In How the Light Gets In: Laurel is suddenly resurrected. When Oliver sees her he immediately assumes Dean, her husband, is responsible, only for Dean to deny it. Sara also assumes it Dean, who denies it again, and Sara in turn says it wasn't her either. When her parents learn of it, they also think it was Dean, leading to this:
Dean: (exasperated) Why does everyone keep asking me that? note(Beat as the entire Lance family stare at him incredulously)Dean: (rolls his eyes) All right, I can see why people keep asking me that.
- Meta example in Child of the Storm's sequel Ghosts of the Past: in the chapter where Harry Dresden raises an undead T-rex to fight the necromancers threatening Chicago, the author (who is noted to be quite Crazy Awesome and has a penchant for making up ideas that seem absurd but then work out magnificently) had to point out that, for once, this was not his idea.
- My Mirror, Sword and Shield: Cornelia and Kallen believe Euphemia was murdered on Lelouch's orders. Lelouch had nothing to do with it as she was murdered by her jealous lover Sir Raleigh who believed she was cheating on him with Suzaku. Schneizel especially doesn't believe it because Lelouch had before taken hostages of his enemies loved ones and executed them if they stepped out of line. Which he did to Schneizel when Lelouch took Schneizel's lover Kanon hostage. It was year before Schneizel found out that Kanon had been executed.
- While in Ring of Honor, Raven wooed and recruited Trinity to humiliate and beat down CM Punk, who responded by calling on his girlfriend Lucy to do the same to Raven before fulfilling his obligations to Pro Wrestling Zero 1. When Punk returned from Japan, he found Lucy had been attacked and a calling card eerily similar to that used by Raven's Nest, but Raven was proven innocent, as it was actually the mark of the Prophecy, which lead to Punk leading the Second City Saints after the group's leader Christopher Daniels, who still wasn't the culprit. It was new recruit BJ Whitmer.
- In WWE Smackdown:
- A storyline in 2010 involved Kane looking for the one who put The Undertaker in a coma. When he accused CM Punk of doing the deed, Punk replied that while he wanted to do it, it wasn't him this time. Kane proceeds to identify Rey Mysterio as the attacker. Subverted; it was Kane himself who was responsible for it all.
- An early storyline in 2011 had Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long getting taken out. Since Wade Barrett had just formed The Corre on that episode, had done something similar to the previous Raw GM during his time as The Nexus leader, and Teddy had just tempted fate by telling them that he would not allow himself to be cowed by their beatdown antics like the current Raw GM was, they were naturally the first suspects. However, they denied having anything to do with it. It eventually turns out that they were telling the truth. It was Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler that did it.
- A third example occurred during the holiday season of 2008-2009, when Jeff Hardy was WWE Champion and Edge was Number One Contender. Hardy was repeatedly wronged by a mysterious assailant who ambushed him backstage at Survivor Series, ran his car off the highway...and nearly burned him alive by sabotaging his in-ring entrance pyrotechnics when Hardy was coming down to the ring to be interviewed on The Cutting Edge. Hardy himself and all the commentators were convinced that Edge was behind all the mischief, but Edge kept insisting he was innocent. And he was: the person who'd been stalking Jeff Hardy for two whole months, and who finally cost him his championship at the Royal Rumble, was Jeff's envious older brother Matt, who admitted that, for good measure, he'd also burned down Jeff's house nearly a year before and killed his dog. Of course, Edge wasn't too sorry about this anyway, since Matt's interference enabled him to win the title.
- Since arriving in NXT, Kevin Owens laid waste to numerous wrestlers and even tried to end the career of his former friend Sami Zayn. However, when Hideo Itami was found injured in the parking lot and Owens was nearby, he responded with this, and has continued to respond as such every time he's questioned about it. He even asked commissioner William Regal why he'd deny attacking Itami when he's bragged about every other atrocity he's committed.
- The during the rivalry between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock for top superstar status during the Attitude Era, both wrestlers did a lot of ambush attacks to each other. The most brutal happened during one night on Monday Night Raw when Stone Cold was ran over by a car. The Rock, himself, didn't confirm nor deny he was responsible, so the battles continued. Weeks later it was revealed that The Rock wasn't behind the attack, it was his friend and sometimes wrestling partner, Rikishi, who claims he did it to help him out as appreciation for breaking barriers as a person of color in the wrestling business, and didn't want Steven Austin or anyone to stop his momentum.
- In the Midship Detective Agency attraction for Disney Cruise Line, one of the cases the guests have to solve is who kidnapped the Dalmatian Puppies from 101 Dalmatians on the ship. One of the suspects is Cruella De Vil, who despite her threats against the dogs in continuity, has an alibi, as she wasn't even on the ship at the time they were kidnapped. The culprit tends to be randomized, for the cases.note
- Ace Attorney:
- In the fourth case of Ace Attorney Investigations, Edgeworth suspects that Manny Coachen was responsible for killing Byrne Faraday, as Byrne had prosecuted him for killing Cece Yew (and he was almost certainly guilty, but got off because the decisive evidence was missing), but Detective Badd says that while Coachen attended the day's trial, he was being watched by the police the entire time, giving him an alibi.
- The first case of Investigations 2 involves an assassination attempt on a foreign president. A witness is involved who is very clearly the assassin Shelly De Killer. He denies he had anything to do with it. He's telling the truth, though he had planned to kill the president before things went out of hand. The president's assassination was actually staged, and De Killer was the only witness in the case who wasn't in on it.
- Case 4 of Investigations 2 reveals that one of Manfred Von Karma's evidence forgeries was actually orchestrated by someone else behind his back. Specifically, the one in the case where he received his first penalty.
- In the fan-made case The Empty Turnabout, Athena Cykes murdered Simon Blackquill six months ago, and only Apollo knows it. The game presents Apollo in such a way that it appears he only took this case because he suspects she also killed Ian Arts and wants to finally bring her to justice. But she didn't do it, as it turns out.
- In Danganronpa, Genocider Syo is both a Serial Killer and Toko Fukawa's Split Personality. However she did not murder Chihiro Fujisaki and then creepily crucify their lifeless body, despite how the evidence does point at her. In fact, throughout the entire story, the known serial killer kills a grand total of zero people. It ultimately turns out that Byakuya Togami was the one who staged the body like that in order to frame her, but he isn't the killer either, only doing so to "keep things interesting" and test the perceptiveness of his classmates. It gets lamsphaded by Ishimaru.
Ishimaru: "I have no idea what's going on anymore...! Could such a heinous villain really be innocent!?"
- Higurashi: When They Cry: In Maekashi-hen (and Watanagashi-hen to an extend), Shion blames her grandmother Oryou and many others connected to the Sonozaki family to be responsible for Satoshi's disappearance. By the end of Maekashi-hen, Mion reveals (too late) that their grandmother kept her word of leaving Satoshi alone, since Shion took responsibility for that, but Shion doesn't believe her sister. Later in Matsuribayashi-hen, we learn what really happened to Satoshi. After killing his aunt and buying the big stuffed animal for his sister Satoko, he met Dr. Irie who noticed that Satoshi was about to enter the final stage of the Hinamizawa Syndrome and he immediately took him to the hostipal where the boy would get his treatment in secret and hidden to the public, while the murder on the aunt is covered up by the Yamainu due to Dr. Irie's request.
- Zero Escape Trilogy:
- K's route in Virtue's Last Reward has Dio, who claims that while he killed the old woman they discovered at the beginning of the game, he wasn't responsible for Luna and Alice's deaths. Turns out, he was telling the truth.
- Series-wide example. The Nonary Game in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is orchestrated by a person called Zero. In Virtue's Last Reward there is another Zero masterminding another Nonary Game, but the original Zero is working behind the scenes with the new one. In Zero Time Dilemma there is yet another Zero with new Deadly Game... and for once the original Zero has nothing to do with it.
- You yourself may or have already said this once in your life if you've been blamed for something you didn't do, especially if you're known for making trouble on occasions.
- 2011, the infamous Play Station Network hack. Anonymous, known for their acts of internet activism/vandalism, came out with a statement titled "For Once We Didn't Do It".
- Interestingly enough, splinter faction LulzSec once had a hack attributed to them which was actually committed by someone else. They ended up (somewhat reluctantly) taking responsibility anyway.
- During World War II, an infamous event called the Katyn Massacre occurred. The Soviets and the Allies claimed that Nazi Germany committed the Massacre, while Germany said that the Soviet Union was responsible for the atrocity. The Soviet Union even tried to condemn Germany for the Katyn Massacre during the Nuremberg Trials in 1945. It didn't work because evidence was mounting from German records and witnesses that they had, legitimately, stumbled on the crime site instead of having caused it, and in the years after the war most Western historians took it as a fact the Soviets did it. Records released after the Soviet Union collapsed finally confirmed that, for once, Nazi Germany was innocent of that war crime, and it was in fact the Soviets who did it.
- It was often assumed by the general populace that the victims of the mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident were killed by a Soviet government experiment and a fairly standard coverup had happened. After the Soviet Union fell, analysis of their archives revealed that the government was as confused and disturbed by the events at Dyatlov pass as everybody else.
- LaDondrell Montgomery had his life sentence for armed robbery cancelled when it emerged he was in prison when the stick-up happened.
- Following the Sony Hack of '14, North Korea vehemently denied all responsibility for the attack, and indeed, top security experts believe it could only have been an inside job at work here. Not that the U.S. government is ready to listen to them, of course.
- Shortly before the trial of James "Whitey" Bulger was set to start a potential witness named Stephen Rakes, whose liquor store was essentially stolen from him by Whitey and the Winter Hill Gang to use as their base of operations, was found dead in the woods near his home. Due to the timing it was initially theorized it had something to do with his testimony, but when asked about it Whitey pointedly said he had nothing to do with it (with a reaction bordering on But for Me, It Was Tuesday when he had to be reminded who Rakes even was), and it turns out he was telling the truth: Rakes was killed by a business associate for reasons completely unrelated to the trial.
- Five Nights at Freddy's creator, Scott Cawthon, is well known amongst his fans for inverting the Schedule Slip trope. But when the tie-in novel Five Nights at Freddy's: The Silver Eyes was to be released on the 22nd of December, by sheer coincidence, the novel was released early anyway. Word of God says that Amazon's publishing of the novel took a far shorter time than expected, and for once, he had nothing to do with this early release.
- Amid a series of ISIS sponsered Jihadist terrorist attacks in Europe in the 2015-2016 years, a shooting occurred in Munich, Germany. The attacker was Iranian who was alleged to have yelled "God is Great" or "Allahu Ackbar", a sort of battle cry Jihadists utilize, prompting people to declare it another ISIS attack. It was soon discovered however, that this claim was unfounded as the shooter had no links to ISIS and his particular brand of far-right politics were in fact a twisted form of European ultra nationalism rather than Islamic fundamentalism. The shooter had looked up to Norwegian right wing terrorist and mass shooter Anders Brevik for inspiration, his victims were mostly foreigners (many of whom were Muslim), and he was yelling to onlookers that he was German. The fact that Iranians are mostly Shia who oppose Sunni ISIS was a bit of a give away to this trope. However, since ISIS had been committing so many attacks as of late and the fact that the Sunni/Shia divide is not particularly well known in the west, it took a while for people to figure out it wasn't an ISIS terrorist attack.
- While searching for the killer of Adam Walsh (the son of John Walsh whose death led directly to the creation of America's Most Wanted), recently-incarcerated serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was questioned on it. When he denied it and the questioning intensified, Dahmer pointed out that he had eagerly confessed to all of his other killings, describing in horrific detail not only who he killed, but how he killed them and what he did to them afterwards. And now that he was in prison for life one way or another, why would he lie about committing murder now? Dahmer was indeed telling the truth, and he had nothing to do with Walsh's death.
- Mob hitman (and later informant) Donald Frankos claims that he was convicted of a murder he didn't really commit on the basis of perjured eyewitness testimony. According to him, he always wore a disguise when committing contract killings. In his memoir, he dryly notes that "if I had done it, he wouldn't have been able to identify me" would not have made a good defense in court.
- From 2003 to 2005, 3 teenaged girls went missing from the same neighborhood in Cleveland — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Ashley Summers. It was assumed that all 3 girls were victims of the same perp. In 2013, Amanda and Gina were found alive, having been held prisoner for 10 years as Sex Slaves by Ariel Castro. Although a third woman was found with them, it wasn't Ashley Summers but Michelle Knight. Castro denied he had any other victims, and the three survivors had never seen any others. While an ominous inscription saying RIP was found scrawled in the basement where the women had often been held, it was already there when Michelle was first captured, over 8 years before Ashley went missing. Ultimately, nothing was ever found to suggest that Ashley Summers was a victim of Castro's.
- Usually, when the Basque separatist group ETA assassinated someone, be it by shooting or car bombing, the pro-ETA political party Batasuna would make some statement saying that they "lamented" the "event", but did not condemn it. This was not the case when a non-targeted toy car bomb exploded during Donostia/San Sebastián's "Big Week" holidays in 2001, killing a grandmother and severely injuring a baby. Batasuna resoundly condemned and called it a terrorist attack, and even sent representatives to a demonstration clamoring for justice that stood side by side with politicians contrary to Basque independence. Said politicians made some sarcastic remarks about how they hoped to see them again next time, when ETA actually murdered someone. The case remains unsolved.