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Red Herring Mole

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The show's designers have set Bob up to be The Mole. It's incredibly obvious that Bob is The Mole. Heck, even the other characters on the show are starting to suspect that Bob is The Mole.

So here we come to The Reveal, where it turns out... Bob wasn't The Mole after all! Nope, Bob is a totally innocent character who just had a bunch of unfortunate coincidences surrounding him. There may not be a mole at all, but if there is, it will be an entirely different character, and probably the one that everyone suspected least — or even the one who was leading the Mole Hunt in the first place.

A Ten Little Murder Victims plot involves most of the cast being these.

May involve Divided We Fall. Compare with the Bait-and-Switch Tyrant and Never the Obvious Suspect.

Just knowing the work's name can act as a spoiler for this trope. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Chieri from AKB0048. Despite her aloof behavior, distance from others, and knowledge that her company created the weapons that the DES were using, she is not a DES spy.
  • The Promised Neverland: Gilda gets a lot of shots looking suspicious and upset in the background and is seen talking to Krone, but is really just concerned for Emma. Right after she's cleared, the trick with the ropes seems to implicate Don... But that's another red herring for the real traitor, Ray.

    Asian Animation 
  • Agent Ali: In Season 1, it gets apparent to the main cast of MATA agents that someone is supplying their information to the Numeros. Ali's uncle Bakar is the prime suspect due to footage evidence of him copying the IRIS' blueprint, but Ali finds out that he was mind-controlled at the time. When Ali tracks down the enemy base and goes there, Rizwan follows him, leading Ali to assume Rizwan always knew the base and thinks him to be the mole, but not for long once the Numeros attack them. The season finale reveals the seemingly kind gadget scientist Jenny to have been playing the long con on MATA.

    Comic Books 
  • Millennium (1988): In the '80s Crisis Crossover, the premise was that every book had a mole working for the alien robots known as the Manhunters. The writer of Suicide Squad promptly drafted Mark Shaw, a character who had previously worked with the Manhunters (before turning on them), into the book to be an obvious target of suspicion. Naturally the mole was someone else entirely.
  • Runaways: In the first volume, the mole is subtly hinted at to be Karolina. It turns out, of course, to be Alex, despite many of Karolina's lines seeming like the kind of thing someone who wished failure upon the mission would say. Nope, Karolina just wasn't that bright.
  • Spider-Man: The story arc The Clone Saga has Anthony Serba. Despite being drawn with a combover, a name hailing from Shiftystan, and a mug that wouldn't look out of place in Dick Tracy, he's not the culprit here. Far from stealing Warren's tissue samples for his own nefarious use, he tried to dispose of them right before Warren snapped and suffocated him to death.
  • Superman: The story arc Who is Superwoman? had several clues which seemed to point to Thara Ak-Var being the titular villain. Thara was Kandor's chief of security but she was missing when Reactron rampaged across the city; Superwoman helped Reactron escape from Kandor; Superwoman's comment regarding Supergirl not listening to her mother is similar to another previously uttered by Thara. And Thara has a grudge against Alura. They turned out to be false clues, some of them planted by the real Superwoman, Lucy Lane.
  • The Transformers: All Hail Megatron: Readers are led to believe that Mirage is responsible for the Decepticon ambush that nearly killed Optimus Prime, but it turns out that's not really the case.

    Fan Works 
  • Discussed in Three-Point Shot by Team Danganronpa, who reached the conclusion that setting Ouma up as a potential traitor was too obvious to possibly be true, given how obviously evil he is.
  • In Batman fanfiction Dance with the Demons, Catwoman gets shot with a poisoned dart. Some early clues such like the composition of the poison mislead Batman into thinking Ra's al Ghul is behind the assassination attempt, but Ra's turns isn't the culprit. His daughter Talia al Ghul is.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Another Side: Not long after leaving Costa del Sol, it becomes clear the Tsviets are keeping tabs on the group somehow, and suspicion soon falls on Shalua, prompting Cissnei to make a plan to out her if she is one, by splitting the group up and setting a rendezvous at Rocket Town to see if Shalua's group is ambushed. The plan works, but what Cissnei doesn't realize is that she's the mole. Nero has been connected to her somehow ever since he nearly killed her.

  • In Aliens, Ripley meets the android Bishop, who she's intensely distrustful of due to her experience with Ash in the first film, and is later seen examining some dead facehuggers. It looks as though Bishop will betray our heroes in the interests of acquiring a xenomorph for the company, just like Ash, but it turns out Burke is the one who really wants to bring in a xenomorph. Bishop was only following his initial orders.
  • In The Faculty, Delilah is a mole, but she's just there to distract the others from the fact that the Hive Queen alien has also infiltrated their group.
  • Happens in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Mark Strong has a reputation for playing villains (enough to have featured in a commercial lampshading this fact alongside Tom "Loki" Hiddleston and Sir Ben Kingsley), and the comic book equivalent of his film character is revealed as The Mole. However, it turns out that in the film, it's the organization's leader who is the mole instead.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the film makers avoided the I Knew It! crowd by making The Invisible Man vanish from the movie for a bit, with people who read the original arc from Alan Moore 's comic book sequel think he was going to be the traitor, only for him to be the straight up hero who saves the gang at the risk of his own life.
  • Inverted in No Way Out (1987). The protagonist (Kevin Costner) must race to find evidence to exonerate himself amid a Pentagon Witch Hunt for a Soviet mole suspected of killing the Defense Secretary's mistress. The hunt, of course, is a Red Herring intended to divert attention from the real murderer. The twist comes after he has successfully cleared suspicion from himself, when it's revealed that he actually is a Soviet mole.
  • From the way he was behaving, Ben Bradlee Jr. from Spotlight looked like the guilty party who sat on the discarded evidence at the Boston Globe and was trying to cover it up. Turns out it was Robinson who dropped the ball on the story when it was brought up to him in 1993.
  • In Stalag 17, Sefton is widely perceived to be the spy in the barracks due to being chummy with the Germans (a professional necessity for The Scrounger) and misanthropic towards his fellow inmates. The only thing tipping off the viewer that it's not him is that he's too bloody obvious; in fact, it's Price, the man who was leading the hunt for the spy.
  • The monster of The Thing (1982) mimics target animals, including humans. However, over the course of the movie, the various people which are hinted to be the monster (and suspected of being the monster by the others) are all proved to be human. In one instance, it was clearly a Frame-Up by the monster to implicate the most competent member opposing it, which gets him within a hair's breath of being incinerated alive and only getting out it by exploiting a Dead Man's Switch.
  • Mindhunters features two of these characters.
    • The first is Gabe, an outsider FBI agent who was abruptly sent to accompany the trainees on their field mission, who is later found to have detailed files on the others and maps of the island hidden among his belongings. This causes the others to suspect him of being the killer in their midst, and it takes Gabe saving another person's life to prove his innocence. He was really there to investigate their supervisor, whose controversial methods didn't sit well with the higher-ups.
    • The second is the main character, Sarah, who is established to be the killer through a DNA test. Since Sarah herself was up to this point never shown to be duplicitous in any manner, it seems like maybe there's going to be some sort of The Killer in Me twist with Sarah herself not even aware that she was the killer all along, but all this is quickly thrown out the window and they just conclude that the test was likely tampered with.
  • Thor: The Dark World: While Thor seeks Loki's help, everyone including Thor himself is quite aware Loki is going to betray him eventually. They even use this to their advantage when tricking Malekith into exposing the Aether. Loki doesn't betray Thor, but he does trick Thor into thinking he died while he goes into hiding via shapeshifting.

  • In Dune, Dr. Wellington Yueh is set up as this as part of an elaborate I Know You Know I Know gambit between the Harkonnens and Atreides. As the person upon whom suspicion most obviously falls, he is at the same time Beneath Suspicion due to his mental conditioning, and therefore the Atreides are lured into looking elsewhere for the real mole. Turns out that, yep, Yueh is The Mole, and does betray them, making this a deliberate subversion.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone book has Snape, whom Harry believes is attempting to steal the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone. Nope, it's Quirrell. Snape is suspected of other events of which he is innocent in later books as well.
    • This got to the point where, in book 6, Rowling devoted an entire chapter to explain how Snape can be a loyal Death Eater after seemingly siding with Dumbledore against Voldemort in the previous 5 books. This chapter exists for the sole purpose of making it believable that he is very definitely the mole before he kills Dumbledore at the end of the book. In the end, he was on Harry's side the whole time and was only faking allegiance to the Death Eaters. Dumbledore had planned his own death at Snape's hands to give Snape the unassailable credentials he needed as The Mole against Voldemort because he knew he was dying anyways.
  • Ollie Brown in the Joe Ledger Series, as a former CIA Assassin who was inexplicably kidnapped then not killed instantaneous he was suspect. When he ran off with Big Bad it looked certain but he was innocent.
  • Nursery Crime: The Big Over Easy has a subtler version with Jack Spratt's flashy rival Friedland Chymes, who appears to be obstructing the investigation, and the reader might suspect he's The Mole (but it's not directly hinted). He turns out simply to be arrogant and convinced he's already solved the case, while still being a legitimate detective.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • At the start of the first book, Catelyn Stark receives a letter from her sister Lysa telling her that Lysa's late husband, Jon Arryn, was murdered by Queen Cersei Lannister. Suspicion is further piled on Cersei when it is revealed that just before his death, Jon had discovered a secret - Cersei's three royal children were not in fact fathered by her husband King Robert, but by her brother Jaime - and that when Jon fell ill, Cersei's puppet Grand Maester Pycelle had allowed him to die rather than attempting to treat him. However, it is eventually revealed that while Jon was murdered, it was nothing to do with Cersei, and in fact it was Lysa herself, under the influence of Petyr Baelish, who killed Jon.
    • Early on in the first book, Bran Stark accidentally catches Cersei and Jaime having sex. Jaime throws Bran out of a window, but this fails to kill him. A failed attempt to kill Bran is later made by an assassin, heavily implied to have been sent by Jaime or Cersei to stop Bran from telling. In actual fact the assassin was sent by Joffrey, who had no knowledge of what Bran had seen just before his fall.
  • In the middle of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, one of the characters mysteriously disappears. He/she could have been offed by the serial killer in their midst, but the other characters can't find his/her body or even any sign of him/her anywhere else on the island. Aha! He/she must be the killer, hiding somewhere that the others can't find! That assumption's shot down when the surviving characters find his/her body washed up on the shore. The line of the nursery rhyme referring to the character's sequential death even states that he/she was done in by a Red Herring, having been set up by the actual killer.
  • Harry Turtledove's The Two Georges: we think The Mole is a civil servant who stole the protagonist's wife from him, but it turns out to be his old friend and boss.
  • In Warchild Series Evan is introduced as a member of some recently captured pirates. He claims innocence but nobody but Jos believes him, thinking him to be a pirate mole. This continues in universe, but he's actually completely innocent and was being kept as a slave by the pirates.
  • Timothy Zahn likes this trope:
    • In Night Train to Rigel, Compton realises that either one of the two people he ate dinner with at one point must be The Mole: either the Jerkass Obstructive Bureaucrat who had him fired from Westali, or the friendly colleague. Guess which it is?
    • In The Thrawn Trilogy, after Borsk Fey'lya accuses Admiral Ackbar of being The Mole, Leia wonders if Fey'lya himself might be The Mole instead. In a subversion, it turns out there is no mole - just a hidden Imperial sound recording system that picked up sensitive conversations.
  • In the Horus Heresy novel Deliverance Lost, members of the Alpha Legion have infiltrated the Raven Guard via Dead Person Impersonation. The narrative strongly hints that one of these infiltrators has replaced Commander Agapito, with his brother Branne growing increasingly suspicious of Agapito's strange and uncharacteristic behaviour. Agapito turns out to be the real deal, and he acted strangely because he'd figured out what was going on and was trying to thwart the infiltrators.
  • Wings of Fire: At the end of The Hidden Kingdom, Starflight disappears when he was around the portal to the Night kingdom, right after he was trying to convince Glory to not judge the Night Wings, and Glory and the readers assume the worst. It actually turns out that the Night Wings kidnapped him to see whether he or Fatespeaker was more suitable to the prophecy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • During season three of Arrested Development, Michael dates a British woman named Rita who is repeatedly set up as a spy investigating the Bluth family. Sure enough, the episode "Mr. F" reveals that a mole has been leaking information to the CIA. The Bluths (and audience) immediately suspect Rita. However, it turns out that the mole is actually Tobias (Mr. F being Mr. Funke.) Rita's real secret: she's mentally retarded.
  • Blackadder Goes Forth episode "General Hospital" has Blackadder sent to a field hospital to track down a mole. Once there he meets "Mister Smith", who speaks with a HEAVY German accent. Also leads to this:
    George: You haven't seen any suspicious-looking characters that might be German spies, have you Smitty?
    Smith: Nein!
    George: NINE!? Cap's got his work cut out for him, then!
    • Of course, Smith does turn out to be a spy... a British spy, who developed "a teensy bit of an accent" from working undercover in Germany for so long; Blackadder realized the Germans weren't dumb enough to send such an obvious spy, but Capt. Darling didn't, tried to arrest Smith, and ended up being chewed out by Gen. Melchett for his incompetence.
    • The actual spy turned out to be nobody at all. Or rather, Lt. George's habit of writing detailed letters about life in the trenches and the latest intelligence plans to his Uncle Hermann in Munich
  • Bones: They set up Lance Sweets to look like he might be the Gormogon's apprentice, before the reveal that it was Zack. It’s also widely believed that Karen was set up this way in season 12, either purposely or accidentally due to a late story change.
  • Part of the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer dropped hints that Giles might have been murdered and impersonated by the First Evil. He wasn't. It was purest coincidence that he completely conspicuously failed to come into physical contact with anything or anyone for five straight episodes.
    Giles: Wait... you think I'm evil if I go on a camping trip with young girls and don't touch them?
  • Day Break (2006): Detective Spivak (played by Mitch Pileggi) is one of the homicide detectives assigned to the Garza case, and unlike his more reasonable partner seems a bit too eager to nail Hopper for the murder he's been framed for. When Hopper finds out that the ballistics report was falsified, he suspects that Spivak is responsible and is part of the conspiracy. This is reinforced by Spivak's involvement in the corruption investigation. Not only is Spivak not responsible, it turns out to have nothing to do with the conspiracy and was merely an act of revenge by Internal Affairs agent Chad Shelton, who was still bitter over his wife Rita leaving him and becoming involved with Hopper.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Web of Fear", for most of the story the primary suspect for being the vessel of the Great Intelligence is one Colonel Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, who, obviously, was not at the time expected to become a recurring character of any sort. This also leads to a major Late-Arrival Spoiler for the story.
  • The Firefly episode "Serenity" does this. From the moment you see him, Simon is set up as the mole with every trick in the book short of painting the word "mole" on his back - until The Reveal, which still misdirects suspicion onto Shepherd Book for a split second before revealing the mole to be Dobson, who'd been largely inoffensive and bumbling to that point. Bonus points to the writers also for his sunglasses, which are used in Chinese media to signify a mole.
    • Of course, since there are ten people on the ship and nine of them are in the opening credits, it's fairly obvious which one isn't above board. It was made even worse by Fox airing the episode, the intended pilot, at the end. Had it aired as intended, it might have fooled those who didn’t watch the credits closely, but…
  • Game of Thrones introduces the Sons of the Harpy, a resistance movement in favor of returning control of Meereen to the wealthy elites. By far the elite with the most screen time is Hizdahr zo Loraq, who is lobbying for political reversion on grounds of cultural norms. He's cleared when he tries to lead Daenerys out of an ambush and dies immediately.
  • Nathan in the Lost episode "The Other 48 Days." His name reminds the audience of Ethan, who infiltrated the fuselage survivors, and he even says he's from Canada, just as Ethan claimed to be (a Running Gag on the show is that anytime someone mentions Canada, he's lying.) Of course, Nathan's not an infiltrator; Goodwin is.
  • In the Reality Show named The Mole, the object is to identify The Mole among the contestants. Since failed guesses at the Mole's identity get players eliminated from the game, players will often pretend to be the Mole to trick their competitors into guessing wrong.
    • The tricky bit here is that the Mole wants missions to fail so the pot of prize money remains low, whereas everyone else wants to win missions and raise the pot. That means the regular players try their best to succeed while trying to make it look like they're attempting to fail.
    • And, because the Mole would not be obvious about his task, players don't want to make it obvious they are failing on purpose. They want to make it seem like they are doing subtle sabotage badly. Anyone who is clearly failing on purpose is clearly a Red Herring Mole and not the real Mole. (That is, unless the real Mole thought you would think that, and is making himself so obvious you will overlook him. Yeah, it's that kind of show.)
  • Season six of NCIS begins with a mole-hunt within the department, which apparently ends when Agent Brent Langer tries to kill recurring character Agent Michelle Lee, who shoots him in self-defense. The audience is almost immediately tipped off that Lee herself is the mole, but the rest of the cast don't find out for another eight episodes.
  • The Marquis de Carabas in Neverwhere. In both book and TV show, he's set up to look like the bad guys' employer. Right up until they kill him.
  • In season 1 of Orphan Black, Aynsley, a completely innocent woman, chokes to death because Alison thought she was a monitor from the Dyad.
    • Repeated in season 3, when Shay is suspected only to be found completely innocent. Turns out there was no mole, and Gracie was tricked by Castor.
  • Although it's known to the audience the whole time, Robin of Robin Hood uses Will Scarlett as a Red Herring Mole in order to flush out the real one.
  • The Sopranos: Subverted. Tony suspects that Big Pussy, one of his oldest friends in the mob, has become an informant for the Feds. After Paulie tries to confirm that Pussy is carrying a wire by taking him to a sauna, Pussy refuses to take his clothes off and skips town. Tony discovers that Jimmy Altieri (who also fits the physical description he was given) has been working with the Feds and has him killed with Uncle Junior's approval, while worrying that Paulie killed Pussy on his own initiative. Pussy later returns, now actively working as an informant behind Tony's back, before he too is found out and killed by Tony, Paulie, and Sal.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the season 4 finale "Broken Link", while he was joined with a Founder, Odo saw an image of Klingon chancellor Gowron, and is led to think that Gowron is a changeling imposter. The season 5 episode "Apocalypse Rising" has Odo join Sisko to infiltrate a Klingon station where Gowron is visiting to kill him. But eventually, he realizes that Gowron isn't an imposter, but General Martok is, who is eliminated quickly. They deduce that the Founders wanted Odo misled into assassinating Gowron so that the Klingon/Federation war would go on, leaving both too weak to stop the Dominion.
  • Supernatural
    • In the episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), Lily seems to be holding the Villain Ball, but it is actually the adorable Ava who begins killing the other Special Children.
    • In the episode "Sex And Violence" (S04, E14), the Winchesters are hunting a siren which disguises itself as human to lure in prey. Sam falls in love with a woman who is strongly hinted to be the siren in question, only for it to turn out to be a male FBI agent who befriended Dean.
  • Daredevil (2015): Aware that Wilson Fisk has strong influence over the media, Ben Urich accuses his boss, New York Bulletin editor Mitchell Ellison, of being in Fisk's pocket. This ends up costing Ben his job. After his subsequent death at Fisk's hands, it's shown that while Ben was wrong about Ellison being dirty, he was right in suspecting that Fisk had someone in the Bulletin on his payroll: Ellison's secretary Caldwell.

    Video Games 
  • Cave Story: Professor Booster appears as a grumpy-looking, old scientist in a white coat wearing opaque, signal red glasses. It doesn't help that the game's main antagonist throughout the story is also a doctor in a white coat wearing opaque, Scary Shiny Glasses. Nonetheless he never switches sides,  and even stays loyal until his death in one continuity of the game, giving away an item to the protagonist with his last bit of strength that he could otherwise have used to save himself.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the player is given every reason to think Jolene is responsible for the mysterious disappearances around the Glitz Pit. Nope, it's Grubba, the Glitz Pit's manager; turns out Jolene was snooping around to find evidence of Grubba's evil plot to expose him.
  • Gorath in Betrayal at Krondor, a dark elf who joins the humans for the good of his own race, is suspected of being a double agent for much of the game, with several unfortunate (and no doubt orchestrated by his enemies) incidents painting him in a highly suspicious light. When the party arrives in Romney to find the Krondorian Lancers brutally murdered, one of the witnesses reports of someone sharing Gorath's name and description supposedly being seen there earlier, much to James' fury. Later, when Gorath and Owyn are captured by Delekhan, the former is treated somewhat like a spy who has failed in his tasks. Owyn is unsettled by the idea but concludes that he still needs Gorath's help to get out of there alive, whatever his real loyalties might be.
  • In the 2009 Ghostbusters: The Video Game, Walter Peck spends almost the entire game actively hindering the team, to the point where they suspect he is secretly a Gozer cultist. It turns out that he's just an idiot, the Mayor on the other hand has been possessed and set Peck on the Ghostbusters to slow down their progress.
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, while you're at sea, you see a cutscene with Ashnard which basically boils down to learning that although Ike and co. have escaped with Princess Elincia, they have a spy in their group reporting on their every move. The very next scene, you find a stowaway, the young thief Sothe, on your ship and have to choose whether to recruit him or not. It doesn't help that Sothe won't tell you what he's doing there for quite a few more chapters. The real mole is Nasir, the trustworthy ally of the Laguz who owns the ship you're on.
  • Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings And the Long Lost Ocean has two -Savyna and Lyude. Both have ties to The Empire you're fighting against, with Lyude being an Imperial Officer and Savyna an assassin they employed. Both of them are discussed by other characters as being likely candidates for The Mole. There's even a boss fight against Savyna after she's accused (after which she says she wasn't a spy, and only went along with the fight because the rest of the party was too stubborn to listen). Of course, they're both innocent. The real spy is Kalas, the main character.
  • Inazuma Eleven GO has Kariya, just a jerk who says he's a SEED from Fifth Sector to screw with Kirino.
  • It makes most of the fun in Trouble in Terrorist Town, given how players may gun other ones down because they've mistaken them to be the traitor. Whether or not this is due to griefing, trolling or Poor Communication Kills depends on what game lobby you land in.
  • Vernon Locke of PAYDAY 2 outright betrays the crew in one mission, seemingly establishing himself as a second mole (after the crew had previously found and taken out another one). However, later missions reveal that the betrayal was itself an unfortunately necessary ruse and that Bain may have known about it all along. At the very least, when the Bain is kidnapped, he explicitly tells the crew to trust Locke who takes over the role of Mission Control for all subsequent heists and even goes to great lengths to orchestrate the rescue of Bain.
  • From the moment the BLU Spy saunters into Team Fortress 2's Meet the Spy video (carrying the corpse of one of the RED Spy's victims, no less), he's made out to be the disguised RED Spy that has infiltrated the BLU base, especially since he knows things that seemingly only the RED Spy would know and spends the whole time painting his counterpart as a nigh-unstoppable, shapeshifting nightmare. He's not, but the Soldier certainly believes he is and blasts his head off with his shotgun in the middle of the Spy's exposition. The RED Spy is really disguised as the Scout, who spent the whole time mocking the RED Spy and acting like a goof. This was also somewhat of a Meta Twist, since up until Meet the Spy the class in the limelight had never been shown to be on both the RED and BLU teams at the same time.
  • Tales of Berseria follows the series's tradition of having a traitor within the group of heroes. At first, Magilou seems like an obvious candidate due to her Obfuscating Stupidity, Mysterious Past, and one instance where she sold out the group to avoid torture. In a twist, the traitor turns out to be her Malak, Bienfu, who was forced by a Geas to report on the party's activities. Magilou eventually catches on to him and breaks the Geas, firmly cementing that she was a red herring.
  • In Town of Salem, the Jester's goal is to get the town to lynch him. Thus, when he's played well, he will serve as a red herring mole to the town.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: Tarquin insists that he was only working with the villains as a Kidnapped Scientist, claims amnesia whenever he's pressed for details, slowly reveals the depth of his involvement with multiple evil factions (including resurrecting the villain, a monstrous Sorcerous Overlord), and asks your help in rebuilding a powerful destructive artifact. You can call him out on his many deceptions, but by the end of the game, it's confirmed that he's genuinely trying to help you and make up for his past.
  • The Gralsritter invoke this in The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure by sending Ries Argent to Crossbell, a state where they can't operate openly because their handling of a corrupt bishop caused the local archbishop to hate them so much that he even ignores his duty to report artifacts. She's such an obvious Gralsritter plant that her presence distracts the archbishop from the actual Gralsritter mole, Wazy Hemisphere.

    Visual Novels 

  • RPG World has Eikre, who, despite an amazing number of coincidences and several characters' suspicions, is not Galgarion in disguise.

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in the pilot of Archer, aptly titled "Mole Hunt". The end of the episode revealed that the Mole Hunt itself had been intended as a red herring, but ended up smoking out an actual mole.
  • In The Legend of Korra, we have Asami Sato. Introduced as the romantic rival to the main character, she wears plentiful makeup, comes from a very wealthy family, and dresses in red and black, the same color schemes as Amon and the Equalists... but she remains completely loyal to the Krew, even turning against her own father when she finds out he's part of the aforementioned Equalists. She was initially envisioned as a mole, and her character design was simply not altered when the writers decided she'd be better as a permanent part of the main cast.
  • In the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina, it becomes clear that there must be a traitor working for Brimscythe the evil dragon in the Tal'Dorei council. Vox Machina immediately set their eyes on Finch, a snobby aristocrat who tries his best to prevent Sovereign Uriel from hiring the party. However, Finch turns out to be innocent, and his shifty behavior was the result of him trying to gather evidence to catch the real mole: General Krieg, AKA Brimscythe himself in disguise.
  • Season 8 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Chancellor Neighsay. On top of his title, he's a Jerkass, Obstructive Bureaucrat who believes non-ponies don't deserve to be taught the magic of friendship. A filly student at the school, Cozy Glow, is implied to be assisting him and seems to share some of his views. But it turns out that Neighsay is not Season 8's Big Bad, Cozy Glow herself is, and she was never working for him: she just wants all the world's magic to herself. Neighsay ends up having a Heel–Face Turn and becomes a Former Bigot instead.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Total Rickall", the family deal with alien parasites that take the form of wacky side-characters that come from nowhere that have the ability to create memories of various misadventures. Of note is Mr. Poopybutthole who is not only treated as a beloved family friend but also gets edited into the intro of the episode. At the end of the episode, after all the other parasites are killed Beth shoots Mr. Poopybutthole out of understandable suspicion, only for him to begin bleeding to death rather than turn back into a parasite.
  • In a particularly nasty example for a kids' show, Transformers: Animated has Wasp, who is framed as a traitor and spends over fifty years in prison. The real traitor gets away with it and eventually gets promoted to chief of intelligence.
  • Young Justice:
    • Artemis. Girl who appears out of nowhere with a mysterious back-story? Seems to have shady connections? Shortly after she joins the team they get a tip about there being a mole? It was so obvious that most fans dismissed her immediately.
    • There were two others. Miss Martian, who seems like a sweet girl, except she's clearly hiding something, and Super Boy, whose dubious background makes it likely that he is a Manchurian Agent. In the end all three of them come clean, and The Mole turns out to be Roy, who really is a Manchurian Agent.

    Real Life 
  • The mole hunt that eventually nabbed notorious FBI spy Robert Hanssen was focused for some time on the wrong person, a CIA agent who turned out to be innocent. The Bureau questioned the CIA officer and his family at length, until they acquired a recording of the mole saying Something Only They Would Say and realized they'd been looking at the wrong man. Hanssen's arrest followed a few months later.
  • This trope is why it's extremely difficult to convict someone in criminal court using circumstantial evidence only, and why criminal courts insist on "proven beyond a reasonable doubt" as the threshold for a conviction.