A plot device where two characters briefly swap roles with each other, or are transported into an alternate reality/timeline where the inhabitants' roles are different from what they were in the "main story"'s universe.
This type of plot usually takes place in an Alternate Reality Episode, Dream Episode or an Omake—and, in the case of the former, often ends with the characters gaining a newfound appreciation about each other's roles in the story, or their own reality.
It is related to, but distinct from, Role Swap AU—a broader Alternate Continuity premise in which the characters' established roles are switched from the start, and typically serves as a more extensive retelling of the familiar plot, while exploring how this simple swap changes the course of the story, and how much things stay the same despite the swap.
See also: Now, Let Me Carry You. Static Role, Exchangeable Character, Hourglass Plot, Personality Swap, "Freaky Friday" Flip, Physical Attribute Swap, Halfway Plot Switch, In Another Man's Shoes. Compare Swapped Roles.
- In Gakuen Babysitters, Usaida gets a dream where all the toddlers in their daycare and the teenaged/adult characters swap ages, so that Taka, Kirin the Mamizuka twins are high school students, Midori is a teacher, while Inomata, Yuki, Yagi, Nezu and Saikawa become the kids. Later, Kotaro and Ryuichi arrive, also with their roles swapped, and Usaida remarks that the older brother role really doesn't fit Kotaro.
- In the Naruto movie Road to Ninja, Naruto and Sakura are sent to an alternate world where Naruto's parents are alive while Sakura's are dead. In this world, Sakura's parents are heroes and her father was the Fourth Hokage; both of them gave their lives protecting the village. Many of the younger kids look up to Sakura for this. Most of the characters in this world have opposite personalities from their counterparts; the two that are role reversed are Kakashi and Gai. The Akatsuki are also good guys in this world.
- Nuko Duke has a Dream Episode where Yuuya is a Nuko while Kei and Sasame are his human owners.
- One Piece: Pre-Time Skip, the great prison Impel Down is headed by the Chief Warden Magellan, with Hannyabal the Vice Warden at his side. Post-Timeskip, Hannyabal now becomes the Chief Warden while Magellan is demoted to Vice Warden.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The intended consequences of Homura's wish. Before Homura became a Magical Girl, she was a physically and psychologically weak Shrinking Violet, who was protected by a then-magical girl Madoka. Homura's contract involved her going back in time to redo her meeting with Madoka so that she could be protect her, instead of the other way around. After Madoka asks Homura to prevent Kyubey from tricking her into consenting to the contract, Homura does this, and non-magical girl Madoka ends up with some insecurities, similar to Homura originally, although not to the same extent.
- Happy Heroes: In Season 8 episode 7, Happy S. discovers Careful S. had written this sort of story in a notebook, featuring him and Kalo in swapped roles. Sound fine and dandy? Kalo had died before the events of this episode, and the story Careful S. wrote is about what it would be like if he had died in his place. Careful S. misses his buddy that much.
- Bleach fanfic Getting It Right. After the battle with Aizen Ichigo lost everyone he cared about. Kisuke offers him a chance to keep that from happening by sending him back into an alternate timeline. However instead of him having the massive amount reiatsu it is Orihime that has it and the Ichigo of this timeline died in a hit and run accident the moment he arrived. The day the Original Ichigo met Rukia it is Orihime that Rukia visits and ends up turning into a Shinigami. Orihime still has her cheerily personality. The personality of the Ichigo of this timeline is not entirely known but it appears that he was carefree due to his mother still being alive.
- The fairytale parody "The Curse of the Cursed Curse" from the ninth Halloween Unspectacular uses this as a plot point. In this setting, Gaz is a cruel noblewoman who likes tormenting peasants, including Mabel, who is forced to work on a poo farm. Finally reaching her breaking point from Gaz's abuse, Mabel cuts a deal with the fairies that causes them to switch lives. As such, Mabel goes on to live a wonderful fantasy life, while Gaz is condemned to a miserable life as a peasant.
- Top of the Line (Editor-Bug): Zim forces Tenn to switch places with him in Trading Dismay, so that he can spy on Tak (though Tenn thinks he's just bored and living vicariously through her). Zim thus spends the day working under Tak on Aggrage 9, while Tenn is stuck carrying out one of his world domination schemes on Earth.
- Torque (Jak and Daxter): Taking place during Jak II: Renegade, Jak is a loyal brainwashed Dark Warrior of Barron Praxis. Keira with the help of Daxter is forced to take on the path that Jak was meant to follow in order to save him. In a sense the story was changed from Jak 2 to Keira and Daxter.
- In Back to the Future Part III, Marty and Doc's roles of "voice of reason" and "swayed by emotions" are reversed, so much so that at one point they even exchange their respective "Great Scott!" and "This is heavy!" catchphrases.
- Star Trek (2009)
- For a time, Spock is the Captain of the Enterprise and Kirk is the First Officer.
- In the sequel the famous death scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is swapped around so that it is Kirk that dies instead of Spock
- Thoroughbreds sets up a premise: Lily is the popular, well-adjusted, empathic, and emotional one, while Amanda is the disturbing, cold, and sociopathic one who is completely without empathy. By the end of the film, Lily has murdered Mark, framed Amanda, and gotten away with it, apparently without any remorse whatsoever, while Amanda has sacrificed herself and actually enjoys life in a psychiatric ward, where she is at last able to feel genuine happiness when she remembers Lily, who has apparently abandoned her.
- In the fourth book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Violet, the invention-oriented sibling, has to do a ton of overnight research while her more literary-minded brother is away at the doctor. Later on at the climax Klaus has to briefly take her role as the inventor and quickly make a device that will save their friend from being sawed in half.
- At the start of the Power of Three arc in Warrior Cats, Jaypaw is determined to become a warrior, while Hollypaw wants to be an important member of the Clan and starts training as a medicine cat. Partway through the book, Jaypaw accepts that his blindness is too much of a disability to hunt or fight and that he has a special connection with StarClan, while Hollypaw struggles with healing and realizes that she longs to be a warrior, so they end up being allowed to swap roles.
- The InBESTigators: When Maudie loses her notebook in "The Case of the Very Lost Notebook'', she becomes the hapless victim and the usually clueless Kyle is the one who manages to put the clues together to find it.
- One episode of M*A*S*H had the 4077 celebrating Boxing Day to make a group of British patients feel more at home, which resulted in Klinger switching jobs with the Commanding Officer for a day.
- Person of Interest: When Reese is shot, Finch is forced to do all the field work while Reese sits behind the computer.
- In the Seinfeld episode "The Opposite" George decides that everything he's done in his life is wrong, so he's going to do the opposite of whatever his inclination is. He suddenly becomes very successful including landing his dream job with the Yankees. Meanwhile, Elaine suffers a series of setbacks which lead to the company she works at going out of buisiness.
Elaine: Do you know what's going on here? Can't you see what's happened? I've become George.Jerry: Don't say that.Elaine: It's true. I'm George! I'm George!
- In another episode Kramer and Jerry swap apartments and end up acting like each other.
- Smallville: As Clark and Lois start getting serious about their relationship, Jor-El decides Lois needs to really understand Clark if she's going to spend the rest of her life with him. So Jor-El takes away Clark's powers and gives them to Lois for a day. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode There But for the Grace of God Jackson arrives on an Alternate Universe Earth, one of the key differences is that O'Neill and Hammond have switched ranks.
- In the Space Cases episode "Both Sides Now", Davenport suddenly gains psychic powers that enable her to swap the kids' races and personalities (so that Radu becomes human, Harlan becomes Andomedan, etc.) This also forces the kids to swap roles aboard the ship.
- A late game episode of Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad has Sam sent to a parallel universe where Malcom is a Nice Guy, Jennifer is a Shrinking Violet, Lucky is a French Jerk, Sydney is a Brainless Beauty, Mrs. Starkey is polite and cordial and Yolanda is the one creating monsters fo Kilokhan.
- On an episode of Welcome Back, Kotter, Kotter and the vice-principal Mr. Woodman change jobs, leading to Kotter becoming the grumpy martinet no one likes and Mr. Woodman the cool teacher (who even dresses up as George Washington for a history lesson at one point).
- The Book of Mormon: At the beginning of the play, Elder Price is the missionary that everyone believes is going to be most successful and Elder Cunningham is his sidekick. By the end of the play their roles have reversed; Elder Cunningham becomes the most successful evangelist (of his own religion) and Elder Price is just one of his assistants.
- Briefly done in Batman: Arkham Asylum during the last encounter with Scarecrow where the intro of the game is played again but with Batman and the Joker switched around.
- The Ensemble Stars! story Mismatched Pair Lessons has a minor version of this, as it revolves around Anzu encouraging the characters to learn from one another and try new things by having them exchange units temporarily. Shinobu and Yuuta, Wataru and Keito, Tori and Hajime, and Kanata and Souma all swap outfits and try acting as a member of the other's unit for an afternoon.
- In Ben 10:
- In Ben 10 there is an episode in which Ben, for some reason which never gets explained, winds up back in the pilot episode with all his memories from the series intact, but Gwen ends up with the Omnitrix instead of him.
- Ben 10: Ultimate Alien references this as part of an alternate timeline and Ben 10: Omniverse later plucks her from that timeline to help with a Spider-Verse type crossover. We also briefly see a version of Argit with the Omnitrix.
- Season 4 of Jackie Chan Adventures saw the roles of master and apprentice being swapped between Uncle and Tohru, as Tohru had knowledge of the legends of Tarakudo and the Oni generals from stories told to him in his childhood, and he could also read the research materials that detailed how to handle them. As Uncle's experience with the supernatural was largely limited to those from his native China, he was out of his element with these Japanese enemies, and so was forced to defer to his apprentice with respects to them.
- Kim Possible
- In the episode "Bad Boy", Drakken attempts to become a more effective villain by using a device to literally suck all the remaining goodness out of him and leave him with nothing but pure evil. Of course, it goes horribly wrong, and he ends up accidentally sucking out all of his evil instead, which gets transferred into Ron. Ron then becomes the Big Bad for the episode (and proves to be far more competent than Drakken could ever hope to be), while the now pure good Drakken assists Kim in stopping him. In addition, this also had the bizarre side effect of giving Ron Drakken's blue skin, while Drakken reverted back to his original Caucasian skin tone. The device reappears in a later episode, now modified into a simple Mirror Morality Machine. Ron gets hit with it again, much to Shego's horror.
- The "A Sitch In Time" 3-parter involved a Bad Future where Shego had taken over the world, and turned Drakken into her top enforcer. Drakken is surprisingly okay with this arrangement, if for no other reason than because Shego genetically modified him to give him huge muscles, which he greatly enjoys having.
- In Miraculous Ladybug, in the episode "Reflekdoll", Marinette and Adrien remove their Miraculouses just before an akuma attack, and they both recover each other's Miraculous, forcing Marinette to take a turn as the cat hero and Adrien to take a turn as the ladybug hero.
- In the Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero episode "Totally Into Your Body", Penn and Boone accidentally switch positions as they are being transported, leading them to switch roles in a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot. Now Penn is the patient rather than Boone, while the woefully unprepared Boone has to play the hero role.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Hail Doofania!", Candace and Vanessa have their roles in the show switched after an accidental Clothing Switch; the entire plot is also exchanged as well. Phineas and Ferb build the inator instead of Doof, while he starts his own country. The catchphrases are also swapped; Doof says "I know what we're gonna do today!" and "Oh, there you are, Perry", while Phineas says "Behold, the (noun)-inator!", "...the entire Tri-State Area!" and "Bless you, Perry the Platypus!" (a play on "Curse you Perry the Platypus!"). And instead of Doof's project erasing all evidence of the boys' big idea, the big idea destroys Doof's project and includes the habitual self-destruct button.