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Operation: Jealousy

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An Only Sane Man demonstrates the correct counter-move.

Hermione: I've just escaped — I mean, I've just left Cormac under the mistletoe.
Harry: Serves you right for coming with him!
Hermione: I thought he'd annoy Ron most.
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A specific type of Zany Scheme: Two characters, Alice and Bob, are an Official Couple... or they would be, if Bob wasn't so mired in the river of denial that he insists that the water flowing all around him is solid ground. Alice, who is not in denial and very aware of Bob's feelings, gets fed up with his refusal to spit them out and takes matters into her own hands. Confronting him directly with the evidence might cause him to run for the hills, so Alice decides to invoke Green-Eyed Epiphany: She gets into a faked or temporary relationship with Convenient Charlie, to make Bob insanely jealous enough to come clean first.

Hopefully, the operation succeeds. Hopefully, Charlie isn't too insufferable or bland and doesn't drive Alice insane first. Hopefully, he won't be heartbroken and furious when he finds out Alice was just using him. Hopefully, Bob doesn't take this as a sign that he doesn't have a chance with Alice. Hopefully, Bob doesn't just want his beloved to be happy. Hopefully, Bob doesn't fail to notice because he has the awareness of a brick. Hopefully, Bob doesn't fall for it so thoroughly that he pulls a Counter Zany that Alice thoroughly falls for! And hopefully, Alice doesn't actually fall for Charlie...

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Yeah, right...

Subtrope to Fake Relationship. Compare with The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction, Intentional Heartbreaker, Be a Whore to Get Your Man, and Revenge Romance.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man:
  • Superman:
    • Numerous people, ranging from Jimmy's fan club to Supergirl herself, pulled this trick on Lucy Lane in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. Lucy, being a dog-in-the-manger, would fall for it... and then go directly back to resenting Jimmy's attentions as soon as the story was over.
    • In Superman's Return to Krypton, Martha Hudson was being wooed by a banker, but the only reason that she even talked to him was she hoped Jonathan Kent got jealous and proposed. Which he did.
  • In one DiDi Glitz comic, a lesbian is doing this with the main character, successfully.
    Butch Lesbian to DiDi: Hey, blondie — take your paws off my girl or I'll kick your ass!
  • In the Sabrina the Teenage Witch story "Double Dummy", Sabrina's boyfriend Harvey refuses to pay to see a movie with her, so Sabrina goes out with Reggie Mantle instead. Harvey gets upset, saying, "I'll bet she wouldn't act that way if I told her I was going with another girl to a drive-in!" This inspires him to buy an inflatable doll and dress it up in his mother's clothes and wig. At the drive-in, Sabrina sees Harvey with the doll and gets upset. She slings her purse at him, but hits the doll instead, causing its head to explode. As Harvey's punishment for deceiving her, Sabrina brings the doll to life and makes it chase after him.
    Reggie: Tell me I'm not seeing what I think I see!
    Sabrina: I don't know what you're talking about!
  • Non-romantic example, but quite infamously done in Robin after Tim Drake resigns from the role, and Batman instead gives the mantle to Stephanie Brown, Tim's girlfriend the vigilante known as Spoiler. Steph herself is in-part taking the mantle because she thought Tim was cheating on her and wanted to make him jealous, but Batman was explicitly and only taking her on to annoy Tim. Batman's treatment of Steph was bad and rife with emotional abuse, holding her to a much higher standard than any other Robin beforehand while not trusting her even to a fraction of what he did the others, which ultimately lead her to become so desperate for his approval she instigated a back-up plan of his that (thanks to him never informing her of key information that even his enemies knew) resulted in starting a gang war that ultimately lead to her apparent death.
  • A similar, though far less extreme case happened previously in The Flash; to get his nephew from the future, Bart Allen AKA Impulse, to take his legacy as the Flash seriously, Wally West gave the Flash legacy to Jesse Chambers, the semi-related speedster known as Jesse Quick. Unlike Batman and Robin, it worked and Impulse did take things more seriously, though when he and Jesse found out why Wally did this, they were pissed. This was somewhat justified as unlike Batman, Wally was desperate; he believed he was dying but had seen the future and saw that shortly after his 'death', Linda Park, his girlfriend, was killed by Kobra, and he wanted to make sure his successor was ready to take over and save her. And also, unlike Batman, Wally realised what a dick move this was and apologised for it after, and made peace with them both.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Firra suggests that Renno pay more attention to her than Wonder Girl at a dance to make Wonder Girl jealous, but the mermaid had rather underestimated how much her friend had already annoyed Wonder Girl.
  • Asterix: A complicated non-romantic version in "Asterix and the Roman Agent". After the titular Roman agent is dealt with (who has an inherent ability to make people turn on each other, leading to almost every male Gaul declaring himlf the real chief of the village), Asterix decides to make sure the others have learned their lesson and starts going around being carried on a shield by Asterix. When Vitalstatistix venomously asks what he thinks he's doing, Asterix cheerfully replies he's testing out the shield he intends to give Vitalstatistix for his birthday.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Jucika strip ("Jucika Reconciles"), Jucika comes upon an arguing couple and starts flirting with the guy. Though it earns her an off-screen beating from the girl, it has the intended effect of getting the two to make amends and walk off together.
  • Employed by Johnson in PreTeena when he gets tired of Jeri Keene brushing him off. He holds out his platonic friend Candy as Schmuck Bait to get Jeri interested in fighting a rival for him. It works.
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    Music 
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "My Baby's in Love With Eddie Vedder":
    Well, I don't wear Doc Martens and I don't wear flannel
    And I don't boycott the music video channel
    And I just can't compete with all that money and fame
    But I know two can play at this kinda game
    So let's just see how jealous she'll get
    When I start stalking Alanis Morissette!
  • "Hot Dog, That Made Him Mad" by Wanda Jackson:
    I've got a guy, I like him fine
    But he takes me granted all of the time
    To teach him a lesson and make him mad
    I went out on a date with the best friend he had
    That made him mad, boy
    Hot dog, that made him mad
    And he hugged me and he kissed me
    And he asked me not to do it again
  • "Judy's Turn to Cry", the Sequel Song to "It's My Party", by Lesley Gore. The motivation to get Johnny back from Judy is as follows:
    Oh, one night I saw them kissing at a party
    So I kissed some other guy
    Johnny jumped up and he hit him
    'Cause he still loves me, that's why

    Theatre 
  • In A Little Night Music, Charlotte decides to throw herself at Fredrik at Mme. Armfeldt's dinner, with the intention of making her own husband Carl-Magnus jealous enough to give up Desirée as his mistress. She lets Fredrik's young wife, Anne, in on the plan since Fredrik is also pursuing Desirée. The plan seems to fail at first, as Carl-Magnus can see that Desirée remains the actual object of Fredrik's desires. However, Carl-Magnus's jealousy is abruptly aroused when he later spies Fredrik and Charlotte sitting on a garden bench together. A round of Russian Roulette ensues.
  • In Me and My Dick, popular girl Vanessa decides to sleep with the dorky Joey, who's long harbored a crush on her, in order to make her ex-boyfriend Rick jealous.
  • In the song "Don't Lose Ur Head" in Six, Anne Boleyn claims that her alleged infidelities were a ploy to make Henry VIII jealous that Went Horribly Right.

    Video Games 
  • Part of BioWare's trimming of Amy's flanderized desire for Sonic involves this. In Sonic Chronicles, Dexter is an imaginary boyfriend she invented to inspire jealousy in Sonic, but deep down she still cares about the Blue Blur - if Sonic is nice to her throughout the game, she tells all before the Nocturne invasion. If you're paying a fair amount of attention (and selecting the right conversation options), you can see this coming from fairly early on.
  • In Star Fox Command this is the main reason why Krystal joined with Star Wolf and began a relationship with Panther, after Fox kicked her off Star Fox (out of concern for her safety). Judging from his reactions to her in the story... it worked.
  • In Planescape: Torment, you can meet an attractive young woman who's upset with the lack of drama in her relationship with her boyfriend, so she wants the Nameless One to pretend to be a jealous suitor and challenge her boyfriend to a fight. Said boyfriend takes one look at the Nameless One (who's six feet tall and so heavily scarred that his normal skin tone is impossible to see) and says he is not willing to fight him. The Nameless One can then reveal that he was only hired to try and stir up drama and suggest that the boyfriend try turning the tables on his fiance and give her a taste of her own medicine, thus providing the girl with the drama she thought she wanted.

    Visual Novels 
  • Amnesia: Memories: In Diamond World, the heroine wanted to get noticed romantically by her childhoodfriend Toma because she's been crushing on him for years. She talks with Ikki about how to achieve this, and he suggests that she not contact Toma for a few months, with the intent that not seeing her for a while will result in him seeing her in a completely different light when they meet up again. Unfortunately, Toma misunderstood the entire thing and thought she had started dating Ikki, she was getting harassed by his fangirls, and his own feelings that he thought would never be requited led to his yandere side being triggered.
  • In Double Homework, when Tamara catches the protagonist and Johanna fooling around, she dates Dennis to make the protagonist jealous. It works.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Shion openly and shamelessly flirts with Keiichi in front of Mion, to try and goad the latter into admitting her feelings for Keiichi (to the boy himself). In some arcs, however, it's implied she uses this tactic to hurt Mion's feelings, rather than help her along with admitting them.
  • In Yoake Mae Yori Ruriiro Na, this is what the Natsuki Bonus Scenario "Mary's Love" turned to be about: Tatsuya and Natsuki are now in a love relationship, but haven't told it to their classmates yet, due to Natsuki being locked into Cannot Spit It Out mode. So Tatsuya and Midori played along to trigger Natsuki's jealousy to the point she would inadvertantly blurt out her feelings in front of the whole class. It works.

    Web Comics 
  • In this strip from Loserz, Carla thinks this is what's going on.
  • In Ménage à 3, Peggy executes one of these schemes on behalf of Sonya, with a degree of skill and judgement that's unusual for both the trope and this comic, under the name Operation "Hey, Jealous Zii." Unfortunately, she's running on flawed prior intelligence, but her plan works incredibly well even so, especially from her point of view. Funnily enough, she mostly just wants to improve Sonya's love life enough that Sonya stops having loud soap-operatic dreams, because they're currently platonically sharing a bed, and Sonya is keeping Peggy awake. Switching Sonya's bass guitar for a snow shovel, pulling off a Naked Apron show, and baking high-quality cupcakes, are all far less zany elements of the scheme than they sound. The story starts here; note that some of the strips are somewhat NSFW. Phase 1 culminates here.
  • Misfile:
    • James and Cassiel use this tactic to try and break up their exes, Ash and Rumisel and reclaim them. Thanks to the main plot of the comic (Ash is a boy who was Gender Bender'd by cosmic screw-up and Rumisel's just pretending to date "her" to keep other guys away), it was never likely to succeed.
    • For extra fun, Ash did want to break the pair up, but only because Cassiel is quite literally a devilnote  and Ash is concerned about James' well-being. But then Eponine, a mutual friend, convinced Ash to let it be because it seemed to be making Cassiel happy. Of course, she's not happy about Ash's indifference:
      "BE ANGRY AT ME, DAMMIT!"
  • In Sandra on the Rocks, Sandra tries to use Aaina as her fake lesbian lover as a way to regain Cammi’s interest after Cammi has taken up with Ingrid. This is rather petty of her, as she can only act on her lesbian attraction to Cammi when she's drunk, and she has a boyfriend to whom she's supposedly faithful, while Aaina has a genuine crush on Sandra and is likely to end up hurt by this.
  • Deeply subverted in Shortpacked! by Ken's attempt to get Malaya jealous at him by asking out the drop-dead gorgeous Conquest. Not only does Malaya have no positive feelings for her Dogged Nice Guy, but Conquest accepts and intends to take the date all the way. In the end, Ken starts looking at other girls, and while she doesn't develop feelings for him, Malaya does get a little bummed at the lack of ego-reinforcing attention.
  • In Sticky Dilly Buns, Angel attempts to provoke Jerzy to jealousy here. Jerzy demonstrates how an Only Sane Man counters the move. Incidentally, this takes place during a crossover with Ménage à 3, during which the Operation Jealousy plotline from that comic (see above) is also still running; so the trope is active twice, simultaneously, in the same club.
  • In Treading Ground, Wrong Genre Savvy Rose attempts this sort of thing before her friend can explain why it was a mistake. It sinks her wrecked relationship even deeper.
  • In Insecticomics, Thrust tries to talk Dreadmoon into dating someone else to make Starscream jealous. When Thrust suggests he be the Convenient Clancey, it becomes rather obvious that the Zany Scheme is at least half a plot to hook up with Dreadmoon himself.

    Web Original 
  • Resident Evil Abridged: Chris shifts between pretending not to notice Wesker's obvious man-crush on him, or simply ignoring it altogether. So, as a last resort, Wesker tries to make Chris jealous by revealing the Tyrant to be his girlfriend. Chris finds it funny, but still doesn't care.
  • It was done in Sailor Moon Abridged:
    Serena: Hey, Melvin. If I go on a date with you, Darian will get jealous… well, maybe not "jealous"…

    Real Life 
  • Mate-choice copying is the principle that females of certain species, including humans, are more inclined to find a potential mate desirable if they see that others do. There are multitudes of anecdotes about men who typically struggle to receive female attention finding plenty after having already obtained a partner, and as a result of this, some men will deliberately attempt to invoke this by wearing fake wedding rings to bars or other social settings.
  • A pair of Golden Lion tamarins (a very endangered species of primate from South America) at a zoo had ceased mating. The Zookeepers felt it was because the male of the pair had ceased making mating calls to the female. The zookeepers rigged a stereo near their enclosure to play pre-recorded mating calls of other male tamarins. The male of the pair, upon hearing other males, started making mating calls himself to warn them off and the two tamarins started mating again.
  • This twitter thread (saved here) explains how a fictional character helped start a romance and then showed up at the couple's wedding.
  • 17th-century French courtesan and author Ninon de l'Enclos allegedly masterminded an instance of this trope with the Marquis de Sévigné. After admonishing him for being a Dogged Nice Guy towards a countess he was interested in, she instructed him to create distance and act nonchalant with her before showing up to gatherings with a beautiful young woman in his arms. It worked brilliantly until the marquis went right back to his old ways, shattering the illusion.

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