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Satchel Switcheroo

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There are three or more identical bags. One bag contains jewels or top secret documents, other bags contain other items of a random nature (and in wildly variable values) and one bag always contains underwear.

Through a series of random accidents and deliberate thefts the bags get switched. Repeatedly. The remainder of the story is a form of a farce based on people trying to get the "right" bag. The bags will change hands many times through many different players, and always on camera so that the audience can actually try to play the Shell Game and keep track. Unfortunately, they never actually open the bags to check that the contents are correct until they find themselves in utterly humiliating circumstances. Except for the person with the jewels: chances are they're the unlucky one who lost their underwear. Chances are once they see the jewels they won't really care too much any more.

The funny pretty much requires at least three bags. If there are only two then the players who are trying to get the bags will easily be able to hunt down the only other bag. But with three or more bags things just get insane.

A common joke in a Screwball Comedy.

There's also a variant where the wrong lunch was grabbed - apparently, in television shows, kids always pack their lunch in a plain brown bag instead of an easily-identified character on a reusable box or bag. Note that in this case three bags are not needed. The humor can come from the child getting raw giblets for lunch instead of their peanut butter and jelly.

Compare Switched at Birth, Shell Game. See also Stolen MacGuffin Reveal. When one character gets two or more objects mixed up, that's Unfortunate Item Swap. If there's only one bag but screwy items keep getting pulled out, that's Rummage Fail. If the swap was intentional, see Replaced with Replica.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Crayon Shin-chan has a Vacation Episode where the Nohara family goes to Spain, only for Shin-Chan to accidentally swap his pouch containing Himawari's diapers with another pouch containing a priceless cat statuette, which, according to their local Spanish guide, is actually a secret key containing "Spain's Greatest Treasure". The Noharas and their guide ends up being pursued by a pair of thugs whom the statuette originally belonged to, culminating in an epic chase throughout Barcelona, eventually leading to the Parc de la Ciutadella where it turns out to be a prop for filming a movie, and that their guide had actually mistook a novel he read to be an archeological journal.
  • This is part of a Wham Episode in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable. Serial Killer Yoshikage Kira is carrying the severed hand of his latest victim in a bag from a bakery. His bag is mixed up with the bag holding Shigechi's sandwich, leading to him killing Shigechi. Shigechi, however, manages to get a clue to Kira's identity to Josuke...
  • One episode of Kochikame involved one of these, in which one of the bags contained photos of Nakagawa posing shirtless. Ryotsu and Nakagawa then spend the rest of the episode attempting to get that bag back (since, well, their chief has it and all...).
  • An episode of Pokémon the Series: XY has Bonnie get her satchel mixed up with an identical one belonging to another little girl. This also mixes up their Pokémon — Bonnie's Dedenne and the other girl's Pichu.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin:
  • In an Infinity, Inc. comic book story about Wildcat, Yolanda Montez put her torn Wildcat costume in a paper bag and left it on the counter in the hope that her mother would sew it up. The next morning, she finds out that her young brother took the bag with the costume in it while accidentally leaving his lunch in an identical paper bag behind on the way to school.
  • Mortadelo does this all the day in Spanish comic Mortadelo y Filemón, only not just with suitcases or ags, but every possible object.

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The fantastic movie 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag embodies this trope.
  • Happens with a matchbook containing a secret message in Sherlock Holmes in Washington.
  • Blame It on the Bellboy is entirely based on this, with a hitman, a guy considering a real estate purchase, and a big schmuck there for a Medi-Date, each given the wrong envelope at a hotel in Venice. This results in the hitman thinking that he has to kill a woman there for a Medi-Date, the real estate buyer ringing the doorbell of some violent mobsters, and the schmuck expecting a sexy real estate agent to sleep with him.
  • What's Up, Doc? and the four red-plaid suitcases, containing: A) Barbra Streisand's underwear, B} Ryan O'Neal's igneous rocks, C) secret government documents, and D) a fortune in jewelry. Of course those would never get confused.
  • In the movie El Mariachi, the bad guys have the titular character mistaken for a hitman with a guitar case full of weapons who is trying to kill their drug lord leader, a situation that is only exacerbated when at one point, the two cases end up switched and the mariachi and the hitman end up with each other's stuff.
  • The movie Push does this in a rather unusual way by adding in a bit of precognitive sleight of hand on top of multiple cases.
  • Home Alone 3 starts with two identical shopping bags in an airport. One contains a toy car with a microchip stolen from the Army hidden inside it. The other contains French bread.
  • The ultimate conflict in Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach comes about because a group of jewel thieves have placed the package in which their loot is concealed in a bag which is externally identical to the luggage of Commandant Lassard, who is taking the same flight as the criminals. They end up claiming the wrong bags when they get to Miami, forcing the villains to try to track down Lassard and reclaim the diamonds.
  • French mobster farce Oscar (with Louis de Funčs) and its American remake (with Sylvester Stallone) contains a textbook example: 3 black satchels containing cash, jewels, and the former maid's unmentionables. It ultimately saves him when the police show up to arrest him. Toomey concludes that Snaps is using the bankers to launder money, and has his men look for the black bag as proof (not knowing there's more than one.) Fortunately for Snaps, Nora (the owner of the underthings) comes in and takes the more visible bag of jewels, leaving the bag of underwear for the police. Toomey then opens the bag, thinking it's the final nail in Snaps' coffin, and dumps its contents on the table, right in front of the reporters.
  • The Jackie Chan film The Legend Of The Drunken Master starts with one of these. One package holds a stolen cultural artifact, the other holds a ginseng root that Jackie's master purchased on a shopping trip. The packages get swapped by accident when Jackie tries to smuggle the ginseng past customs.
  • Averted in Fight Club: while the two suitcases are identical, the reason why is something entirely different...
  • A dramatic two-suitcase version kicks off the plot of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Newt Scamander, wizarding zoologist, has a Bag of Holding with a zoo of magical creatures inside. No-Maj Jacob Kowalski has a suitcase of pastries for the bakery he hopes to open. Some shenanigans involving a niffler at a bank later, Newt has the pastries and Jacob has the magical creatures. When he opens the suitcase at his apartment, he ends up letting several loose. At the end of the film, Newt also makes use of this to give Jacob some Occamy eggs (which are made of silver) as collateral for his bakery.
  • Frantic. A married couple from the United States pick up the wrong suitcase on arrival in France, and are mistaken for the next stage in a smuggling ring. The wife is kidnapped for interrogation, and the husband spends the rest of the movie trying to get her back in exchange for what's in the suitcase.
  • One happens in the Mexican superhero/wrestler film Neutron The Atomic Superman Vs The Death Robots, though despite claims to the contrary, they look nothing alike.
  • In The Mad Magician, Karen visits Gallico in his workshop after he has murdered Ormond. She moves his bag off his desk while they are talking. When she leaves, she picks up his bag instead of hers. Unfortunately, Gallico's bag contains Ormond's head. Gallico takes off after her to retrieve his bag, only to discover she has left it in the cab.
  • In The Spirit, when the Octopus and Sand each scramble to get a chest during the first fight, the Octopus ends up with the golden armor that Sand wants and she gets the immortality source that he wants.

  • Played for Drama in Nineteen Eighty-Four; Winston Smith is convinced by fake La Résistance (and Thought Police) member O'Brien to leave his briefcase at home, the stated intention being to circulate a copy of The Book. In fact the real briefcase contains Winston's diary, which is used as incriminating evidence of his thoughtcrime.
  • Used in the very first Father Brown story with a package containing a valuable cross. Twice.
  • A series of books based on Clue have all of the guests arrive at Mr. Boddy's mansion with identical-looking suitcases. Some contain valuables, and others contain valueless personal items. Given the characters involved, it should be no surprise that the ones who own the cheap items attempt to swap suitcases with the other guests, resulting in one character attempting to steal valuables but winding up with mouthwash.
  • One Lord Peter Wimsey story has a bag of jewellery accidentally swapped for an identical-looking bag containing an actress's severed head.
  • In James P. Blaylock's Homunculus, four of Keeble's mechanical boxes are eagerly sought by the heroes and by several different villains. In this case, all of them have value to somebody, but characters in search of a particular box's contents (an emerald, an oxygen-maker, a perpetual-motion device, and the title creature) keep snatching the wrong one.
  • "Northwestward": We are informed of several offscreen attempts at robbery, as one or more people may have tried to steal/swap the suitcase containing Mr Wayne's emerald Batman ring.
  • Happens at the climax of Clive King's Me and My Million with two dustbin bags, one containing a stolen picture and the other containing an armed bomb.
  • In the Tommy and Tuppence story "The Ambassador's Boots", an ambassador on an ocean liner has his bag mixed up with an identical one which contained packets of bath-salts, but circumstances lead him to suspect that this was a ruse. However, since the bag didn't contain important documents or anything, but just the boots, he can't understand why. The criminals didn't care about his bag, they wanted the other bag to be covered by diplomatic immunity when going through customs. And it wasn't bath-salts.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Done with sausages in 'Allo 'Allo! — at one time they had a sausage with a stolen painting, a sausage with a fake painting, a sausage with dynamite for La Résistance and an ordinary sausage for Herr Flick's dinner.
  • The Brady Bunch: The family visits King's Island amusement park while Mike plans a meeting with prospective clients on the park's board of directors. He has two tubes with blueprints, and opts to combine them so the kids can use the other for souvenir posters. Naturally the two get mixed up, forcing a race across the park to get the blueprints to the board members before they leave.
  • Hustle:
    • Used in a more serious vein: the grifters often swap out the case full of money at the last second, save for a few episodes where the switch does not go as it should and they lose a lot of money, giving them an incentive to take on a riskier con to make up the cash.
    • In one amusing episode, they switch out the other party's case only to realize that the other party had done the exact same thing to them as the two sets of grifters had been set up to go against each other.
  • Fawlty Towers: Basil has to pick up a roast duck from Andre's restaurant in order to salvage his gourmet night. Unfortunately right next to the duck somebody sets down a trifle with an identical cover.
  • An episode of Will & Grace used the brown paper bag variation of this: Will and Grace take Will's sperm sample to the fertility clinic, only to find out they accidentally brought Jack's lunch instead. Will races to Jack only to find that his bag has Karen's booze. Grace rushes to Karen and finds out that her bag has Rosario's floor polish. Will runs back to Karen's apartment to find Rosario, which leads to...
    Rosario: Do not walk on the floor, I just waxed it.
  • An episode of The Burns and Allen Show entitled "A Paris Creation" invokes the trope with two briefcases with the initials "G.B": one belonging to George, the other a nuclear scientist.
  • A non-comedic example in the Nikita episode "The Next Seduction." Nikita swaps the suitcase containing a dirty bomb with one containing clothes in order to get it out of the hands of Gogol and Division.
  • Variant in Monty Python's Flying Circus as a policeman attempts to frame an actor by blatantly tossing a paper bag down in his flat and pointing at it accusingly. When the bag is seen to contain sandwiches, the policeman exclaims "Blimey! What'd I give the wife?"
  • Michael Westen on Burn Notice plays this with a couple of suitcases; one of which has a dangerous nerve agent, and the other, a "relatively harmless" mixture of strong pesticide, tear gas, and diesel fuel. He knows which one has the deadly gas, but Natalie the thief and her buyers sure don't...until he shoots the case.
  • The Addams Family: in "Gomez and Morticia vs. Fester and Grandmama": Morticia and the governess have very similar bags, and Lurch puts the governess' bag in the car by mistake, resulting in Morticia taking it on her vacation with Gomez. This allows her to discover some rather shocking things.
  • Done with umbrellas in the Murder, She Wrote episode "Footnote to Murder". Jessica, the Victim of the Week, and about half the suspects, were all at the same awards dinner on a rainy night. Jessica becomes involved in the case when she realises she has the victim's umbrella and on trying to return it discovers he's been stabbed ... by a sword umbrella that belongs to her friend Horace. He insists that he also picked up the wrong umbrella, and part of Jessica's investigation is trying to work out where all the umbrellas went to narrow down who took Horace's. It was the victim himself, and when the woman he assaulted used it to fend him off, neither of them realized how dangerous it was until he pulled the casing off it just as she thrust it forwards.

  • A constant gag in Old Master Q. Notably one short where Master Q is a violinist who switches his instrument case with another stranger's, leading to Master Q pulling out a machine-gun during a concert. While elsewhere, a robber is trying to hold up a bank using a violin.

  • Adventures in Odyssey: It's two identical laptop computers in their identical cases — one being Whit's, the other being a top secret government computer full of military secrets stolen by Dr. Blackgaard — that get switched in a hotel shuttle van while Whit and Connie are in Chicago for a conference.
  • The Goon Show:
    • In "The Spanish Suitcase", the characters are trying to track down the title container, which supposedly holds the takings from a jewel robbery perpetrated by Major Bloodnok on behalf of Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty. However, when the entire primary cast (except Minnie Bannister) have ended up in the same jail cell and Hotel Fred proprietor Henry Crun produces the suitcase, Bloodnok insists it only contains a change of underwear, and proves it by opening it and letting Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty feel the contents. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that the actual suitcase of jewels was stolen by the porter at the Hotel Fred - narrator Wallace Greenslade.
    • In the episode "Foiled by President Fred", the payoff involves a red sack and a blue sack. Which sack contains the real money and which contains forged notes? Eccles claims to know, but he's colour-blind. Or is he?

    Tabletop Games 
  • One d20 Modern adventure ("A Funny Thing Happened at Carousel #5", which happens to be a homage to What's Up, Doc?) features no fewer than four characters with identical (gaudy and "unusual") bags, each with vitally important and, for most of them, incriminating contents. Compounding matters are two additional characters who plan to intentionally switch their own (again, identical) bags with someone else's. The Game Master is instructed to treat the adventure as a corporate espionage thriller, so that the players will be surprised when Hilarity Inevitably Ensues.
  • This is the plot of the Toon "Crawl of Catchoolu" adventure "The Suitcase of Jay Dexter Ward". Ward has accidentally picked up a suitcase containing all the Tomes of Eldritch Lore, and has no idea why everyone's so interested in it.

  • In Oscar, there were three cases, having jewelry, cash, and lingerie. Bertrand keeps thinking he's finally got the one with something valuable (money or jewels), only circumstances have given him the one with women's underthings... again. And because nearly all comedy protagonists choose the route most designed to embarrass them, he never bothers to check what's inside before dumping it out on the table in front of guests.

    Video Games 
  • One of the revelations of The Rashomon in Need for Speed: Carbon is the switching of two bags, one of them with money.
  • Papers, Please: At one point the player is given two sets of secret documents, one to give to a friendly agent and one to give to his impostor as they pass through the checkpoint. The folders of them are identical, and you need to keep careful track of which as you shuffle them around your desk until your contacts arrive.
  • Chaos On Deponia The motel has three bags. One belongs to the rival and is guarded by a not too bright robot. There are room keys too, but those are labeled.
  • Call of Duty: WWII: The Resistance leader Camille "Rousseau" Denis pulls this off with his informant. at the German war room. which the Soldier checked for missing explosives. it checked nothing but Rousseau has it in order to liberate Paris.

    Web Animation 
  • Dorkly Bits: In "Banjo's Big Mix Up", Banjo is on his way to Gruntilda's lair to rescue Tooty, but is surprised to hear that Kazooie isn't responding to him. He then looks inside his backpack, only to find that Kazooie isn't there, but rather an art project by a fourth-grade boy named Timmy. He suddenly realizes that he doesn't have his real backpack. Timmy is then revealed to have Banjo's backpack with Kazooie inside it, and Kazooie frightens the children on the school bus, eventually causing the bus to crash. Meanwhile, without Kazooie to fly him over the waterfall, Banjo falls off it and dies landing on a rock below. How Banjo and Timmy switched backpacks is never shown.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Aaahh!!! Real Monsters episode "Eau de Krumm", the main trio and the Gromble infiltrate a perfume factory's staff to taint the perfume with a box filled with Krumm's liquified stench ahead of the toxic (to monsters) perfume's worldwide release. Before the stench can be dumped, however, they spot a pair of human workers, and Ickis ends up grabbing one of their lunchboxes instead because they look alike. Come lunchtime, the monsters continuously swap out the lunchboxes until they find the stench box.
  • In one episode of American Dad!, a significant jar of peanut butter is swapped several times between two identical bags. Eventually one falls into lava, at which point Steve learns that Stan had been trying to do this, but had thought it was a "magic bag" and didn't realize he had to do anything to make the swap, resulting in the jar being in the bag that fell into lava.
  • In the Arthur episode, "D.W.'s Backpack Mishap", D.W.'s preschool class has to leave the community pool when a rainstorm comes. D.W. is in such a rush that she accidentally grabs the wrong backpack. Because the backpack has "OM BLE" written on it, D.W. thinks that someone named "Omble" stole her backpack and put his in her place. At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Tommy Tibble accidentally took D.W.'s backpack, and D.W. took his, but didn't realize it at first due to some of the letters having been rubbed off.
  • Bob's Burgers: In "Bad Tina", Tina's siblings pull this bit on her classmate Tammy, swapping her bag with one of the Pesto twins' bags, to retrieve Tina's notebook of 'erotic friend fiction' and avoid public humiliation.
  • The Flintstones episodes had this when Wilma's mother arrives at the Flintstone house carrying the same bag as the old bank robber lady had while she was staying there. The robber leaves to evade the police, taking the wrong bag, while Wilma's mother opened the bag containing stolen money and got arrested by mistake.
  • Gravity Falls has Dipper and Mabel accidentally switch bags at the end of "Dipper and Mabel vs The Future", and due to being Locked Out of the Loop, Mabel gives the disguised Bill Cipher the dimensional rift, jumpstarting the End of the World.
  • In "Here", the first episode of Green Eggs and Ham (2019), Sam-I-Am and Guy-Am-I first meet each other at a diner. Both of them have similar-looking briefcases, but different things inside them. Sam's has an endangered animal called a Chickeraffe that he liberated from the zoo, and Guy's has the pieces from his latest failed invention, the Self-Flyer. When they head back to their homes at the end of the episode, Guy decides to give up inventing and tosses his briefcase into his fireplace, only to discover that he accidentally took Sam's briefcase with the Chickeraffe in it by mistake. In the following episode, "Car", the Chickeraffe trashes Guy's motel room and Guy has to find Sam and return his briefcase.
  • Hey Arnold!: Arnold, Gerald, and Sid find a shopping bag full of money, and decide to take it to the police station in the morning to collect a reward. But when Arnold arrives with the bag, it's full of birdseed. He tries to explain, "There was this old woman next to me on the bus, and she had pink hair, a peg leg, and one eyebrow. She had a whole bunch of shopping bags just like mine, and she must have taken my bag by mistake." Nobody believes him.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: In "Enter The Viper", Jackie and Jade try to steal the snake talisman from the a museum in order to protect it from the Dark Hand. Viper is trying to steal a valuable jewel from the same museum. One scuffle later and both of their identical-looking bags end up on the floor next to each other, triggering the accidental swap.
  • A variation happens in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness special Secrets of the Scroll, when Po's list of potential careers (doctor, janitor, comedian, and dancer), written on a scroll with jade handles, is accidentally switched with Tigress' list of four kung fu masters to find, which has identical handles. Tigress opens the wrong scroll and thinks that she has to find a doctor, janitor, comedian and dancer. Hilarity Ensues.
  • An odd example in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic; Twilight and friends are waiting to greet the games inspector, who they're told has a floral print suitcase. The pony they wind up with is an unnamed claustrophobic tourist with mustang blood. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In The Smurfs (1981) Christmas Episode "The Magic Sack Of Mr. Nicholas", Gargamel captures a bunch of Smurfs while Chlorhydris steals Mr. Nicholas's toys. They bump into each other, swapping bags in the process.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Fugitive", Nala Se has two cases, one of which is carrying a preserved tumour extracted from a deceased clone trooper that the Jedi want to examine, swapped behind Shaak Ti's back with the intent that she'll take the empty one back to Coruscant. ARC trooper Fives sees the swap, but since the Kaminoans are planning on having him memory-wiped Nala Se doesn't think it's a problem...
  • In one episode of Timon & Pumbaa, the duo's suitcase is accidentally switched with an identical Briefcase Full of Money, and they spend the whole episode trying to escape from Criminal Quint, who wants it back. At the end, they toss the briefcase off a cliff to get him to stop chasing them, only for him to open it and realize it's their suitcase with nothing but clothes (which they don't wear anyway) and a can of nuts. He then realizes Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress and falls into a prison. The last scene reveals they may not be Karma Houdinis, as they hear sirens indicating the police are tracking down the stolen money as well.
  • In one episode of Tiny Toon Adventures there is a murderer on the loose who happens to look just like Hamton, at one point Plucky tricks Hamton is crawling into a sack which he then ties shut and tries to take him to the police, along the way he bumps into some bank employees who are transporting money and he grabs a sack of money by mistake, and when he presents the bag to the police and finding it full of money he promptly arrested.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Suitcase Mix Up, Picking Up The Wrong Bag


That's not a sandwich

Shigechi accidentally mistakes his bag for one belonging to a serial killer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / SatchelSwitcheroo

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