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One of our characters — usually the one known for buffoonish naivete, such as the Country Mouse, Fish out of Water, or just someone Too Dumb to Live — befriends a con artist, who promptly sets them up to be ripped off.

One of two things happen:

  • The victim's friends rally together to set up an even bigger reverse-con to turn the tables on the con-artist.
  • At the last minute, the con man is touched by the victim's faith in humanity and forswears his evil ways.

The second variant is often used to show the victim as Closer to Earth, his faith in the simple goodness of people trumping the cynicism of his friends.

(Sometimes, they do both, with the counter-con being revealed at the last minute, only to bemuse the con man, who recants anyway.)


Anime & Manga


  • In The Great Outdoors, the main characther's brother-in-law cons the main character out of a lot of money, but then has a change of heart.
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  • The Sting reverses the trope—the conmen are the good guys.

Live Action Television

  • The first version was done in Cheers (episode "Pick a Con, Any Con,") Good Times, Saved by the Bell, and Kids Incorporated.
  • The second version was done by Perfect Strangers (with Balki's sinister identical cousin as the con man), and Night Court.
  • The Golden Girls had an episode ("Charlie's Buddy") in which the con man felt guilty and chose not to take anything from Rose, but he didn't confess to her or give indication that he was giving up his con life.
  • A twist on the second version was done on The Dick Van Dyke Show, with Buddy's brother Blackie hustling Rob at pool and then tearing up the check in front of Buddy to prove he'd gone legit.
  • Serena on Gossip Girl in season two.
  • Hustle, being a show about con artists, has done a number of variations on this, with team members conning one another for fun, conning less honourable crooks, BEING conned by better players of the game... all at once, sometimes...
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  • In the Doctor Who episodes "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances", Rose becomes enamoured by a Time Traveler who saves her life. He also happens to have a very dangerous ship on him, that he'll be willing to give up for a generous price. It turns out that the man is actually a rogue Time Agent whose taken the name Captain Jack Harkness, thinks that Rose and the Doctor are Time Agents themselves, and has positioned the ship to be destroyed once they've paid. The episodes go into type 2, with a twist; the Doctor is not someone you want to cross, and when it turns out the ship is actually dangerous, Jack is horribly guilty and offers a Heroic Sacrifice. (The Doctor rescued him, and Jack ended up heading his own spinoff series Torchwood.)
  • Used in Veronica Mars, but instead of out-conning the conmen, V just steals their hard drives and holds them ransom for the cash they swindled her client out of, plus her fee for recovering it.
  • The documentary series, Scam City has the host travel to several cities and expose the various scams that local con-artist pull on tourists, and how to keep ones' money as safe as possible from people who earn a living by adopting this trope as a personal philosophy.

Video Games

  • Gary in ''Bully, although he didn't keep up his little charade for very long seeing as he had no reason to.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Conrad Verner gets set up by a skeezy weapons dealer on Illium to harass the owner of the local bar (she told him they were dealing Red Sand, which was not only a false accusations but in fact not even a crime). When Shepard intervenes, the con-artist makes the mistake of assuming Shepard is as gullible as Conrad, making it easy for Shepard to set her up in turn.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons did this the first version, with the con artist a carny played by the late Jim Varney.
  • Happens in King of the Hill at least once when Peggy sadly learns that her online Ph.D program is a scam.
  • A Dr. Seuss special has the Sneetches, who are conned by traveling entrepreneur Sylvester MacMonkey McBean into alternatively putting star-shaped marks on their bellies and taking them off again. McBean never repents, and in fact leaves quite enriched by the day's business, but the Sneetches at the end do learn a lesson about what amounts to Fantastic Racism.


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