He knows that it's / all gone, / no mom, / nobody wins."
If an episode is to feature a gadget in some way, it will be introduced to the agent and the audience in a scene early on, usually by the Techno Wizard that built it. This scene has a few stock jokes of its own. They usually include the agent almost setting it off, not realizing it's really a gadget; a lecture by a Q-inspired briefing officer on the proper way to use it, and a stern warning not to play with it or break it as the agent did the last ones he was issued. In addition, nowadays the agent mistaking an actual mundane object for a gadget is practically required by all but the most serious examples.
And, in accordance with the Law of Chekhov's Gun, every item introduced in the beginning will be used later in the story, even if it was just an ordinary object (except for Q's lunch, which is used off screen, by Q).
This trope owes its existence mostly to James Bond, but real-life objects like this have been used by spies since the Revolutionary War or earlier.
Favorite objects to use as hiding places:
- Canes and walking sticks (great places to hide a long blade)
- Cell phones
- Cigarette cases (in the '60s at least)
- Hand fans
- And yes, shoes
The more mundane the object, the better. Can be subverted when an agent assumes that a mundane object is a gadget, when it is really just what it looks like. This appears enough to make it an Undead Horse Trope.
Can be inverted if a gadget (say, a gun or a grappling hook) is modded to be mundane (say, a pen).
- Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot/Giant Robo had a neat little gadget with Unicorn: a little and very powerful emergency communicator hidden in the heel of their standard uniform boot. All the agents has to do is flip open the heel, pull out the device and use it.
- L/R is notable for having just about every one of the titular spies' gadgets built into cigarettes. Ah, the old communicator cigarette trick!
- Tatsunoko hero Gold Lightan is called such because it's a giant robot whose Sleep-Mode Size is a gold cigarette lighter.
- Not a Spy Drama example, but Conan from Detective Conan does a lot of this. Pretty much the only part of his uniform that isn't some kind of gadget is the suit he wears. (And even that had a tracking device disguised as a button.)
- In Science Ninja Team Gatchaman:
- G-1 had a glass cutter in the heel of his civilian shoe; the heels themselves were used as suction cups to quietly remove the panel.
- G-3 carried explosives in the heel of her civilian shoe. Along with a fuse that needed merely to be tweaked to be lit.
- In Kino's Journey, Kino had a knife that also had a gun built in. Along with a laser sight for aiming.
- In The Promised Neverland, as a gift, Norman is given a pen that, initially stumped as to its purpose as it's completely out of ink (the first clue that it's more than just a pen), later turns out to be a GPS device. It's disguised as a pen to get past Isabella's surveillance.
- The main cast of Princess Principal, being undercover spies in a Steampunk Cold War setting, occasionally make use of these gadgets. During her introduction to the team and its equipment, Princess Charlotte picks up a fountain pen from a Wall of Weapons and accidentally puts a bullet in a nearby stone bust.
Dorothy: Good job getting the safety off.
- Lupin uses one in Lupin III: The Italian Adventure to contact Jigen and Goemon for backup after his radio is taken away and he and Nix are pinned down by MI6 in "Dragons Sleep Soundly."
- Parodied in Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Vento Aureo. Doppios main form of communication with his boss is supposedly his cell phone. But when it breaks, he starts grabbing random objects and treating them like phones, going so far as to make ring tone noises himself, while being completely unaware that he's the one making those noises. Among the objects Doppio has used as phones include car charms, toy phones, and frogs. Despite this, Doppio is able to communicate with the boss by using these random objects as phones; presumably the only reason this seems to work is because the boss is his split personality.
- Hayasaka from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War has a scrunchie with a built in smartphone and a hat with a tablet, both made by her.
- The series Mortadelo y Filemón, agencia de información (German: Clever & Smart, French: Mortadel et Filemón or Futt et Fil, Dutch: Paling & Ko, English: Mort & Phil) by Spanish artist Francisco Ibáñez, which started in 1958 provides an early example, and heavily parodies the James Bond spy genre. The series is a bizarre slapstick comedy with even more bizarre gadgets in which the two titular agents are constantly surrounded by idiots, explosions and mad scientists and plagued by bad luck and their own semi-competence, not to mention their choleric superior. The series was never translated into English, though. Sometimes, both Mortadelo and Filemón have it, but usually it's only Mortadelo.
- Hilariously played with, as sometimes the Shoephone will have something that makes it ridiculous or painful (such as having an actual phone into the shoe, or an antenna that extends without warning into the ear of the listener) or Mortadelo has done something to the shoe that usually backfires on him (for example, making it sound like a cat and, the next time he is called, a huge bulldog is passing by).
- Another joke is having the phone ring at the worst minute possible. Mortadelo performs a mission needing some degree of stealth, for example a burglary. He has managed to not awake their sleeping enemy or bypassed a few guards. Then the phone rings, alerting everyone to his presence.
- In Supergirl/Batgirl story Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl Barbara Gordon -alias Batgirl- wears a miniaturized super-computer disguised as a bracelet.
- Spy vs. Spy has several examples of this, as the two spies use these to kill each other. Examples include special shells that disguise their firearms as certain props like hair dryers and cameras. They disguise bombs as harmless items from time to time as well, like books, teeth, and credit cards.
- Jet Dream and her Stunt-Girl Counterspies have a wide array of spy gadgets and weapons, almost invariably disguised as stereotypically "girly" items, from a compact full of "Kayo Powder" to a radio hidden in an earring to Marlene's "Tunic Chute," a skirt that billows out into an emergency parachute.
- In the L.E.G.I.O.N. Elseworld L.E.G.I.O.N. 007: James Lobo in: The Spy Who Fragged Me, Garryn Bek, acting as Q, gives Lobo a golf cart that's a machine gun, a motor scooter that's a rocket launcher, and a cigarette carton that contains a dagger. Lobo's reaction is to "cut out the bull" by pulling them all out of the housings, and just carrying a load of weapons.
- Deuce employs a few devices like this in Danger Girl, such as his pineapple communicator (which is a communicator built into a pineapple, not a device which allows him to communicate with pineapples).
- These, and other similar communication devices tend to show up repeatedly in Suske en Wiske. The page image for Garbage Hideout shows Jerom using one.
- Richie Rich gave his girlfriend Gloria Glad a commlink disguised as a pair of earrings so they could communicate with each other while she was on a camping trip with her father.
- Hunter's Hellcats: In Our Fighting Forces #122, the Hellcats are equipped with high-powered explosives disguised as buttons on their uniforms. They use these to blow their way out of the Labyrinth.
- Was subverted in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. When the government supplies Austin with a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, he figures the paste is a plastic explosive, the brush its detonator, and the floss is garrote wire. Actually, they just want him to do something about his woeful teeth. Double Subversion — Austin actually manages to use all three items in a spy-gadget-like fashion in the course of the film. And gets his teeth cleaned and fixed by the end of the film. It's a Subversion Hat Trick!
- Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams spoofs this with a gadget watch that does just about everything except tell time. And then there's the Super Prototype that does all that *and* tells time but the trade-off is that (in order to apparently get enough space) it's a gauntlet that covers most of the arm.
- Even though the James Bond films were famous for this trope, they weren't above sending it up from time to time.
Q: Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don't go for that kind of stuff anymore.
- Never Say Never Again
- Subverted. Bond drags a goon into a cupboard and put a device that that looks like a cigarette case in his hand. He tell him it's a gyroscopically triggered bomb that will go off if he tilts it at all. Later, he returns to the cupboard, where the goon has made agonising attempts to keep it level. Bond takes it off him, opens it and takes out a cigarette. It was just a cigarette case.
- Bond picks up a device that looks like an old-fashioned nasal inhaler and asks Q how it works. Q puts it up his nose and sniffs in, and explains how good it is for his asthma.
- The rebooted films avert this for the most part (Most of the special tools Bond uses are exotic but fairly plausible cell phone apps), even after Q's reintroduction in Skyfall. In that film, he actually lampshades how old hat this trope is:
- Never Say Never Again
- In the Bond-spoof Our Man Flint, the hero Derek Flint turns down a briefcase full of spy weapons in favor of his cigarette lighter - which had 82 different functions. "83, if you want to light a cigarette."
- Subverted in Where The Spies Are (1965). The film opens with a KGB briefing on various gadgets used by British agents, which segues to a scene where a British agent is kidnapped by two Russians and uses one of these devices to break free, only to be gunned down as he's running away. Lampshaded in a later scene where the amateur spy played by David Niven runs into a veteran agent and is told to "throw away that rubbish and get yourself a bloody gun."
- Homaged in the action parody Cats & Dogs with 'The Russian', a skilled cat-burglar armed with numerous gadgets including the dreaded 'stealth poo' — a huge hairball that he coughs up which contains a container of fake doggy-doo that gets the canine guard thrown out of the house.
- Parodied in The Pink Panther 2. Steve Martin's Clouseau has a pen disguised as a tape recorder, so he can write down notes without people noticing.
- In Casino Royale (1967) James Bond is an old-school gentleman spy who, meeting with the secret service heads of the superpowers, contemptuously ridicules the gadgetry concealed on their persons.
- In Batman Returns, the Penguin has a gun in his umbrella. And a sword. And a helicopter (try and wrap your mind around that one). A later scene implies that the Penguin has an entire arsenal of different weaponized umbrellas, but he's only seen with one at a time and only exchanges umbrellas in that one scene. Either the Penguin keeps two more umbrellas hidden in his coat, or his standard umbrella functions as both a firearm, a melee weapon, and a personal aircraft.
- Seen in Iron Man 2 when Whiplash escapes from prison with the help of someone sending him plastic explosives that look like his normal cafeteria food, with a note to "enjoy the potatoes."
- Undercover Brother. The title character has two pairs of Tricked-Out Shoes and a Gadget Watch. Of course, the purpose of the watch is to spritz hot sauce on white people's food to make it edible.
- Used (like just about every other spy trope) in the Leslie Nielsen film Spy Hard.
- In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, one of Sebastian Moran's weapons is a gun which fires curare darts, hidden inside a walking stick. He uses it when he needs to commit killings in public and then sneak away undetected.
- Spoofed in Johnny English: Johnny remarks that the secretary's pen looks just like a spy gadget he used in a previous mission. It looked and functioned like an ordinary pen, but click the end twice and it would turn into a gun that fired sleep darts... he does so, and knocks the secretary unconscious when the pen-gun accidentally misfires.
- In Johnny English Reborn, Johnny assumes that a particular umbrella is actually a bulletproof shield when opened. His assistant keeps insisting it's a portable rocket launcher. Naturally, Johnny scoffs at this assumption. As expected, the assistant is right.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Lucius Malfoy keeps his wand concealed in a walking stick with an ornate head. When he surrenders it to Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldy unceremoniously breaks off the top and dumps it on the table in front of Lucius.
- Partly subverted in I Spy. When Alex receives his "spy gear" for the upcoming mission, he is incredulous that the stuff he's getting looks like they bought it at a RadioShack with no attempts to disguise it. He contrasts it with the gear intended for the bureau's super-spy Carlos, which looks like typical Bond gear, including the latest two-way contact lenses that allow one person to see the image transmitted by the second lens and vice versa. While the tech guys aren't looking, Alex pockets the lenses and uses them during the mission.
- In Bridge of Spies, Rudolf Abel is shown receiving messages with a fake hollowed-out nickel, while the American U2 pilots are given a silver dollar with a poison-laced pin, to be used if they were in danger of being captured.
- Played for laughs in Spy. To maintain her disguise as a frumpy American, Susan's gadgets include chloroform sheets disguised as haemorrhoid wipes, poison antidote disguised as stool softener, a security system neutralizer/pepper spray disguised as anti-fungal spray, and a night-vision scope disguised as a cheap Beaches novelty watch. More are presented in the Creative Closing Credits.
- The 2008 Get Smart movie shows several of the original gadgets in a museum, including the shoe phone which Max actually uses, routing a call from it through his cellphone to throw off triangulation. And introduces a few new ones such as a Geiger counter watch.
- Gadgets featured in Kingsman: The Secret Service include exploding silicon microchips, remote-activated poison pens, double-barrelled hand-pistols, a 50,000 volt electrified signet ring, augmented virtual reality spectacles used as a Spy Cam, super-spy smart watches which can fire sleep darts and magnetized bolas, and shoes with poisoned neurotoxin pop-out blades reminiscent of those seen in From Russia with Love. But the tablets are just off-the-shelf consumer electronics; the civilian computer industry had caught up to the spy world in that area. Harry also mentions that the shoes really did use to have phones in them.
- Parodied in one scene from From Beijing With Love. Ling Ling Chat has what appears to be a walkie-talkie... but it's actually a shaver. He also has what appears to be a shaver... but it's actually a hairdryer. His hairdryer... is actually a shaver. And his shoe? Another hairdryer.
- In keeping with its Tuxedo and Martini flavour, Once Upon a Spy uses a lot of disguised gadgets. These include the Gadget Watches, thermite disguised as chewing gum, weighted glasses with a climbing line/garrotte concealed in the arms, etc.
- In Horrors of the Black Museum, Serial Killer Bancroft uses several booby-trapped antiques to commit his murders. The most infamous is probably the binoculars that shoot spikes into the eyes of whoever looks into them.
- Parodied in the Discworld novel Thief of Time with the devices of Qu, a History Monk who designs advanced, and often explosive, versions of Ninja weaponry, all disguised as the meagre possessions of an ordinary "Buddhist" monk (rice bowl, prayer blanket, tambourine etc.)
"No no no! It's tap-tap-throw-duck!"
- Doc Savage, the pulp hero of the 1930's and 40's, was famous for his gadgets (which he usually invented himself).
- Late in The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, a town full of people under watch develop plate weapons. They look like dinner plates, can be stored in the cabinet, but thrown just right they can take someone's head right off. Don't grab the wrong side.
- Used liberally throughout the Alex Rider series, with Alex being given gadgets disguised as all kinds of things: Game Boys, iPods, books, and pens, to name just a few. Smithers really enjoys designing them, and notes that he has much more fun coming up with ideas for a teenager compared to the adults he normally has to equip.
- The key to the Solitaire encrypt in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon: a completely ordinary deck of cards. (Although it turns out Solitaire wasn't as secure as Stephenson had originally thought, so ignore the Perl program in the back of the book.)
- Subverted in the Game, Set & Match trilogy by Len Deighton. A Double Agent's house is searched and found to have various spy gadgets disguised as household items. The protagonist says that the KGB gives these gadgets to their agents simply to give their treachery a glamorous James Bond aura, rather than because they're useful.
- In Edmond Hamilton's Starwolf books, all mercenaries have them. Examples include a radio disguised as a button, another button that can be used as a blowtorch (enough to cut a prison bar or two), and a detachable rope running along all the seams of a shirt.
- A Certain Magical Index applies this to magic with the Amakusa Christians. Their magic rituals are constructed from objects and actions that each look completely mundane, to the point where they can cast spells in the middle of a crowded street with observers being none the wiser. This also extends to their fighting styles, where any slash, thrust or sidestep can double as a Magical Gesture - the Amakusa leader is even shown to throw deliberately meaningless motions into his attacks just to keep enemy wizards guessing.
- Alias uses this, pretty traditionally, in nearly every episode. However, at least they go to the trouble of designing the gadgets specifically for the mission at hand, or the mission for the gadget, depending on your cynicism. Their "Q" Marshall managed to accidentally set off nearly every one, despite being the one to design them.
- Chuck has a phone in his wristwatch. He keeps on expecting other gadgets to have hidden uses, but they never do.
- Stephen Colbert once had a shoe phone on The Colbert Report. It was just a telephone receiver glued to the bottom of a shoe, complete with trailing cord. "Just looking at it, you wouldn't know it was a phone! ... And just wearing it, you wouldn't know it was a shoe." And in another Cold War Update, his watch is also a gun. You can't tell!
- One episode of Diagnosis: Murder has an assassin who's hired to kill someone at the hospital. In order to smuggle a weapon into the hospital, one of her accomplices designs a set of crutches with a removable handle that conceals a pistol.
- Doctor Who: "Spyfall", being in part a James Bond homage, naturally does this. The most prominent are the bioscanner disguised as a digital recorder, the camera that can duplicate ID, and the laser gun shoes. One MI6 agent also has glasses with a built-in camera.
- The Equalizer. In "Breakpoint", the title character has been taken hostage and the NYPD try to smuggle him a .22LR pen gun. Unfortunately the terrorist leader recognises it because "We use these too" and uses the pen gun to shoot the fake doctor who delivered it. However given the Stale Beer flavor of McCall's past as an espionage agent, the trope was downplayed; the few spy gadgets he used were mostly stuff you could buy commercially at the time.
- Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond naturally has a reference to this trope. Ian Fleming approaches his Sassy Secretary and shows her his new fountain pen, which sprays Knockout Gas in her face. He then uses a Spy Cam hidden inside his cigarette lighter to photograph the documents on her table, placing the film inside a hollow golf ball. Has the creator of James Bond turned traitor? No, it's just a demonstration on the future of espionage for OSS bigwig Bill Donovan. Except he really did knock out his secretary, who's not amused when she wakes up. Donovan likes the gadgets, but points out "you can't win an intelligence war with toys."
- Get Smart had a number of ridiculous devices; the most famous is the pre-cellular wireless dress shoe that makes this series the Trope Namer. A full list can be found here.
- The shoe phone was used to hang lampshades as soon as it was introduced in the series pilot: in one famous sequence, the shoe phone went off in a theatre, breaking any cover Max might have had. In the first season, Max is identified at least once by his ringing shoes.
- A Running Gag in the show was whenever Max and Siegfried met face to face, the latter would greet him by clicking his heels and saluting. Max would then do the same, causing an unpleasant "crack" and a loud "DING!" to be heard followed by Max cringing, either from the sound or the fact that he may have broken another phone.
- In one episode, Max used the cigarette lighter in his car as a phone. He then had to use the car phone to light his cigarette.
- In one episode of the 1990s revival, Max's son is equipped with a gun that's really a flashlight and a flashlight that's really a gun.
- There was also the episode where Smart and 99 had to get in contact with an imprisoned man. They had taken away his shoes, but fortunately the man had a sock phone.
- In "Ship of Spies", Max and 99 have phones in their guns. Needless to say, there were design flaws. ("99, I'm gonna have to hang up now. I may have to fire my phone.")
- There was an episode where Max wakes up when his phone rings, and he picks up various items around his house, starting with his shoe, and including the log on the fireplace before actually answering the real phone which was the one ringing. One wonders why CONTROL had so many phone devices...
- The more one watches this show, the more one becomes convinced that about 90% of CONTROL's R&D budget was allocated to finding new weird places to hide cell phones. Max seems to have at least two dozen hidden phones in his apartment.
- "Satan Place" (episode 9 of season 1) features a scene in which Max talks on six hidden phones at once: watch, wallet, tie, garter, belt, and the obligatory shoe.
Max: Cancel my handkerchief, hold my glasses, cut off my shoe, and see if you can get that guy off my tie.
- You know what's even funnier? The Russians had experimented with a shoe recorder and the show was once investigated by the CIA for their Cone of Silence. Especially funny since one of the Running Gags was that the Cone of Silence never worked (in an amazing variety of different ways).
- We can't forget the Car Phone, which had Max accidentally dialing the operator every time he turned the steering wheel.
- Even Agent 99, arguably the most level-headed member of CONTROL, was not immune:
Max: You carry soap in your purse?
99: Well, it looks like soap, and it feels like soap, but it's really a secret carrying case.
Max: What do you carry in it?
- In one of the movies, The Nude Bomb, a CONTROL agent setting up Max's apartment with various gizmos picks up a stapler phone and tells the person on the other end of the line that he's leaving the stapler location and can be reached through his nose spray before exiting the apartment.
- In Honey West, Honey and Sam communicate with microphones hidden in a lipstick case and a pair of sunglasses.
- An episode of Jake 2.0 has the titular character being sent to Germany to infiltrate a hacker group, who has never seen one another's face. Being a tech geek, Jake is a perfect person to send. Besides himself being the agency's secret weapon (or, rather, the nanites in his body), he is supplied with a tricked-out cell phone that instantly transmits the images taken with its camera to the NSA headquarters. When asked where he plans to keep the phone, Jake suggests the lining of his jacket, only for the incredulous Duarte to point out that it's a phone, so he should treat it as such. When meeting the hacker group, Jake tries to stealthily take pictures, only for the NSA to start receiving dozens of group selfies, since the hackers assume he just wants some pics.
- In the original live action version of Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot/Giant Robo, Johnny gave orders to the titular robot via a communicator hidden in his wristwatch.
- Kamen Rider:
- In Kamen Rider Kiva, it's revealed that the IXA Riser used to access IXA's Super Mode was, in fact, his mouthpiece the whole time.
- Almost all the weapons used by the Riders in Kamen Rider Faiz resemble ordinary objects like cellphones or cameras.
- Kamen Rider Double has an interesting variation, where the main character's gadgets can turn into robot animals to improve their function, such as a camera that turns into a bat and can capture images/video autonomously, or a wristwatch that turns into a spider, making it a "smart" Grappling-Hook Pistol.
- In Kamen Rider Zi-O, the FaizPhone Xnote has a watch and gun mode in addition to becoming a cellphone. Much like the show it's nodding to, the gun mode mostly looks like a cellphone being held like a gun.
- K.C. Undercover to the most part plays this trope straight, where a lot of the Cooper family's gadgets look like ordinary appliances and objects. Examples include KC's glasses (built in with facial recognition and x-ray features), KC and Kira's bracelets (acts as a communication device) and Pop's cane (sprays sleeping gas).
- M*A*S*H had an inversion of the "it's exactly what it appears to be" sense, even though the case it was inverting wasn't exactly an example:
Major Winchester: [looking at various medicinal herbs] What does this cure?
Traditional Korean doctor: Hunger. That's my lunch.
- M.I. High has communicator pencils and various "gadgets of the week" that are invariably disguised as innocuous pieces of school paraphernalia.
- Mock the Week:
- "Now watch carefully, 007, this may look like an ordinary suitcase, but if you push this button a handle comes out and you can wheel it..."
- "It's not just a baseball bat, Bond, it's a baseball bat with a nail through it!"
- "Ingenious Q, a bomb that's also a rucksack!"
- "This is no ordinary pen, Bond! Turn it upside down, the woman's clothes drop off and you can see her tits."
- In the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "The Bishop", the Bishop has a phone embedded in his crosier (that is, his staff of bishopishness).
- Darnell from My Name Is Earl has been shown to have several pieces of his hair turn out to be phones - they self destruct after use.
- Such tools were a major part of Joel Hodgson's prop comedy stand-up routine, and therefore made their way into many of the Invention Exchange segments on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The most outlandish was a submachine gun hidden inside a casserole dish, complete with casserole.
- The MythBusters once successfully chased a myth about an umbrella that hides a gun. They made a replica that was fully functional and could have fatally wounded someone, and they actually needed special permission to make that kind of disguised weapon.
- The Prisoner (1967) episode "The Girl Who Was Death" shows Potter, one of Number 6's fellow spies, undercover as a shoe-shine man. He communicates with HQ via a phone disguised as a polishing brush. Almost a literal Shoe Phone.
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures, Sarah Jane Smith carried a sonic device similar to the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, concealed in a lipstick.
- Spitting Image. A spoof of the Spycatcher scandal had Peter Wright being equipped with some retirement gadgets after being booted out of MI5.
Q: This little device looks like a harmless flamethrower. In fact, it's a pen.
Peter Wright: Ingenious. And what other devilish ideas have you got for me, eh?
Q: A book. Cunningly disguised as a sensational story, but when you open the pages, you find it's a load of whinging self-pity from a rather suspect right-wing snooper, droning on about his pension rights.
- An Australian radio skit about the same scandal had a bookseller being exposed as an MI-5 assassin when his shoe started ringing, though the fact that he was selling copies of Spycatcher written in invisible ink should have given him away earlier.
- Subverted in the Spooks episode "Nest of Angels". An Algerian agent listens politely as MI-5 show him a number of disguised communication and bugging devices for his mission to infiltrate a radical Islamic group. The next scene shows him dumping this highly compromising equipment into a canal.
- In "Our Man Bashir", the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine homage to James Bond, an earring turns out to be a bomb.
- Super Sentai tends to disguise their Transformation Trinkets as cell phones most commonly, and at times can double as other devices (mostly for controlling mecha). Tokumei Sentai Go Busters, being espionage-themed, took it up to eleven as most if not all of the team's weapons and gear are designed after ordinary objects (their guns and swords, for instance, are cameras and binoculars). The Power Rangers adaptation, Beast Morphers, on the other hand, downplays the spy aspect and seems to have Adapted Out the alternate forms of the blasters and sabers.
- In Power Rangers Zeo, Bulk and Skull seemed to have their jobs as cops confused with spies as they once used a shoe phone that was in the form of a shoe.
- Similarly in Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger Season 2, Tsu a corporate spy took her job name too literally and had a shoe phone that also looked like a shoe.
- Thunderbirds has phones disguised as pens, powder compacts, teapots.
- Ultraman went one better with the Science Patrol having a standard communicator pin that was even smaller than the type in Star Trek: The Next Generation. All the agents have to do is pull up a tiny antenna to activate it and send a message.
- The game song styles on Whose Line Is It Anyway? gives us the aptly titled My Shoe Is A Phone.
- Kurt Weill's music-theatre piece The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken (Der Zar lässt sich photographieren) is about a group of revolutionaries' attempt to assassinate the Tsar using a gun hidden in a studio camera. Their plan falls through as the female "photographer" develops Unresolved Sexual Tension with her prospective victim.
- Secret Sam... a briefcase with hidden camera gun and missile launcher inside, and Six Finger, basically the old toy gun and real pen in the extra finger trick.
- Transformers! Think back to G1: even if the robots that turn into cars and jets don't count, the ones that turn into a radio (Blaster and Soundwave), cassette tapes (dozens of little buggers), and a microscope (Perceptor and in the recent movie, Scalpel). The original Megatron deserves mention since he's an interstellar despot disguised as a Walther P-38 — oddly enough, original James Bond's favorite gun.
- The all-time winner has to be Ejector, also from the Revenge of the Fallen toyline. He transforms into a freaking toaster. (He's also an Ascended Meme, having first appeared in a really funny Mountain Dew commercial which also exemplifies this trope.)
- Music Label Soundwave has a fully functional MP3 player integrated into his torso, and he maintains his full transforming functionality. Other such Device Label Transformers include Ravage, who becomes a flash drive, Rumble and Frenzy, who become a set of earphones, and Blaster who is also a fully functional USB hub (though the hub takes the shape of a tiny laptop computer).
- Movie-toyline Real Gear Transformers become surprisingly realistic devices, including a camera, an MP3 player, a handheld gaming console shaped vaguely like the Wonderswan, a camcorder, a set of electronically enhanced binoculars, and a flip-phone.
- Mattel produced the ZeroM line of toys to cash in on the '60s superspy craze. They included a transistor radio that unfolded into a rifle, a 35mm camera that unfolded into a pistol, a Super 8 movie camera that unfolded into another gun, and even a Briefcase Blaster... and all of which are now illustrations of Zeerust.
- Another toy line from the late 80s, Spy Tech, featured gizmos like a camera that could be (rather conspicuously) disguised as a box of Good'n'Plenty candy.
- McDonald's once had a Happy Meal set with this as the gimmick. There was a "tape recorder" that could unfold into a magnifying glass; a "phone" that could turn into a periscope; and a "calculator" that could turn into a stamp set.
- No One Lives Forever gives Cate Archer a wide array of girly themed destructive items (Mascara laser, hairspray flamethrower, and the like) one could conceal in one's purse.
- The Spy in Team Fortress 2 has, fittingly enough, a disguise kit built into his cigarette case and a cloaking device for a wristwatch. The "Dapper Rogue" catalogue also sells things like these. The Camera Beard eventually became an unlockable item for the Spy.
- Metal Gear Solid 3:
- You can pick up a knockout-gas cigarette case, one of the only weapons that can be used when Snake is disguised as an enemy soldier or scientist. It's also strangely effective against two immune-to-bullets bosses near the end of the game.
- Also lampshaded during a discussion between Snake and Major Zero about James Bond, in which Snake comments that (for example) a gun-pen would make him look stupid in the jungle, at which point Zero insists they could build him a gun shaped like a snake, that "folds up into an attaché case." In which Snake then replied that it was even sillier (then Zero gets upset at Snake for "bashing" Bond).
- Perfect Dark has a laptop that can turn into a machine gun and a heat-seeking, wall-sticking turret gun. Apparently it has basic computer functions, too.
- The various James Bond games naturally make use of this.
- Agent Under Fire has a cell phone that also comes with a laser, a password cracker, a switch activator, and a grapple hook that can somehow extend for 10 meters or more.
- In GoldenEye (1997), Bond's wristwatch serves as the game menu and health/armor indicator and contains a built-in magnet and laser that are used to get out of certain level-specific death traps in a Shout-Out to the movies.
- In NightFire, the password-cracking cellphone from Agent Under Fire makes a return as well as a digital camera disguised as a (working) Zippo lighter and a flashbang grenade disguised as an electric shaver.
- Splinter Cell has Sam's wristwatch. Dear God, what can't it do? It can hack computers, disarm bombs, pick locks, scan eyeballs, get fingerprints from a surface, playback voices for getting into voice-locks, show a map with the locations of bad guys, and operate as a standalone computer for storing files and the like. In a goddamn watch. Granted, you are the best spy the NSA has.
- These compose Clank's armaments in Secret Agent Clank, including shuriken bowties, an umbrella that shoots electricity, and a briefcase/flamethrower, to name a few.
- The SPY Fox point-and-click games, being an Affectionate Parody of spy fiction, features several as a matter of course. They run the gamut from toothbrush lasers to safe-cracking cheese-and-cracker snacks to instant ski pellets (Just Add Water) to... Silly Putty.
- BlazBlue: One of her super moves reveals that Kokonoe's lollipop is capable of generating black holes. She still seems content to put it in her mouth, though, so one wonders what the activation sequence is.
- Zubo: One of Agent Tux's attacks utilises an exploding rose.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney features these. The first one to show up is Matt Engarde's watch/cell phone in the fourth case of Justice for All (unless you count the statue/clock of The Thinker from Case 1-1/1-2).
- A few of these show up in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Dual Destinies. They all belong to the Big Bad of the game, the spy known as the Phantom. He has a wristwatch with a grappling hook and a jamming device in it, and a lighter that conceals a .10 caliber gun.
- The Homestar Runner Stylistic Suck Show Within a Show Dangeresque either parodies this, or makes it very clear that Strong Bad needs better props: Dangeresque's car phone is a VCR.
- Team Fabulous 2: The scene depicted in the video's thumbnail, no less. A BLU Soldier, pinned down by enemy Sniper fire, calls his Engineer teammate using a boot. The Engineer (who is right behind him) answers his call using a banana. The scene is capped off with a Disconnected by Death moment after Engie stands up and gets sniped, leading the Soldier to slam down the boot in frustration.
- Kim Possible has a number of recurring devices, notably her Grappling-Hook Pistol/hair dryer. There are briefing scenes in many episodes, but not all. In her case, it's a stylistic thing; she isn't really trying to hide anything.
- Totally Spies! has a briefing scene in every episode, and all the gadgets look like they came out of the Barbie doll aisle at the toy store or the contents of a Teenage Girl's purse.
- They also tend to have cutesy names like Stuntan Lotion.
- Items for Male Agents seem to exist as well. Instead of a compact, Jerry (the Girls' boss) has a communicator disguised as a wallet. A humorous example was a fake beard designed to hold items, that the girls had to test once. (It didn't pass. Heavy objects made them fall over and it looked goofy on them)
- While we're on the subject of Cartoon Network spy cartoons, let's also remember Codename: Kids Next Door and its 2X4 technology. All the weapons, gadgets, and vehicles are made out of standard props and everyday items. It's amazing how they are able to do it.
- Inspector Gadget was himself the hiding object for his gadgets. Penny and Brain had communicators in their watch and collar respectively, and Penny had a "computer book" in the pre-laptop era.
- In The Venture Bros., Brock throws away his disguised spy-gear in disgust in "Assassinanny 911", claiming it either never works right or is outright useless. He's especially disappointed that the cigarettes he's issued aren't real ones for smoking. In flashback, he almost eats a baguette, but is stopped by his fellow agent who warns him "Do not eat that! That is C4!."
- The heroes however do have video phones in their watches. Dr. Venture's brother JJ does him one better by hiding a phone in the collar of his shirt, allowing him to use it even if he is captured and tied up.
- Parodied in the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "In Like Ed". The Eds have somehow become convinced Kevin is spying on the other kids in the neighborhood, and Edd starts preparing spy-gear, including listening devices disguised as household objects and a smoke bomb disguised as a jawbreaker. Ed finds a coathanger, and asks:
Ed: What's this do, Double-Dee?
Edd: That's just a coat hanger, Ed.
Ed: Oh... mum's the word.
- Thunderbirds does this all the time. The boys all wear communicator watches, there are the portraits that they use to speak through and even light-up drink straws when they want to subtly attract someone's attention. Lady Penelope has a teapot communicator as well as a powder compact one. And probably many more examples this editor has forgotten.note
- Both Ben 10 and its Time Skipped sequel, Ben 10: Alien Force indicate that although the Omnitrix (and even moreso in the Alien Force variation, which has an onboard AI) looks like a watch, it does not tell time.
- Inverted in The Tick. When he first enters Arthur's apartment, Tick nearly tears the place apart looking for the switch that activates his secret crime lab. Of course, there isn't one. In the comic book, this leads to the rather awkward question of why Arthur would invite a large, muscular man in tight spandex up to his apartment in the first place.
- Butch has a radio concealed in his ring in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids.
- Æon Flux has a few. Trevor Goodchild owns a golden cigarette case that transforms into a pistol. Aeon herself has a self-destruct mechanism hidden in her backpack that goes off whenever she dies to prevent enemies from looting her corpse & a gimmick tooth with a small compartment in it.
- Parodied on the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Spy Buddies": among SpongeBob and Patrick's spy gear are Spongebob's 'coin operated' pants-phone and Patrick's laser shorts, which mess up and fire everywhere when he has to go to the bathroom.
- Johnny Bravo uses these in its spy parody episode "Bravo, James Bravo". Includes a (weak) laser hidden in a mirror and a bomb-comb.
- The short-lived Comedy Central animated series Freak Show inverted this and played it straight in the same episode: The villain was a sinister paparazzo whose camera looks like a sniper rifle (for utility purposes rather than disguise). He doesn't understand what's wrong with this, it's not like it can hurt anybody — the inverse, a gun that looks like a camera, would be a thousand times worse. Cut immediately to a guy in the media pool below shooting people with his camera-gun.
- The indie computer-animation short Pigeon: Impossible has a pigeon accidentally fall into a CIA agent's briefcase which contains Jet Pack thrusters, guns that fire Frickin' Laser Beams, and a Big Red Button. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the Gravity Falls episode "The Time Traveller's Pig", Blendin Blandin's time machine resembles an ordinary tape measure.
- Cool McCool has a moustache for a phone.
- The Impossibles receive their assignments from their chief via TV screen inside a guitar neck.
- Smurfette from The Smurfs has a Magic Mirror that she talks to Gargamel with embedded inside a makeup compact, which was used in "The Smurfette" and "Smurfette Unmade" when she was an "un-Smurf" working for the evil wizard.
- Stripperella. Stripperella's extravagant blond hair can serve as a parachute. She also has laser lipstick, a tongue-stud camera, nipples that can cut glass and pumps that enable her to climb up walls. In a parody of Q gadgets, Stripperella is inevitably given a device that turns out to be just what she needs to get herself out of a trap, but turns out to be not quite so useful in practice. An example is when the tech group gives Stripperella a Penny Disintegrator, and she is later trapped in a large jar being filled with pennies. But it takes a full minute for the device to disintegrate a single penny, so she ends up having to just break the jar.
- Truth in Television: Several gadgets used by World War II spies. A camera hidden in a match box, playing cards that had hidden maps, an actual pen gun (good for one shot), and shoes that looked like feet (when landing on beaches, foot prints with toes were less conspicuous than combat boots, which would draw attention). When in the business of being a spy, you don't want to draw attention to yourself, and these toys did just that. All saw action with a moderate reported success rate.
- This technique was also used to smuggle supplies to POWs to aid in escapes, with things like hacksaw blades hidden in pencils, radio components in chess pieces, and Monopoly sets with secret maps, compasses, files, and (real) money.
- At the Pencil Museum in Keswick, there are a few examples of pencils in which had been hidden a tiny compass and a rolled-up map of Germany, again for POWs.
- Also in WWII, the OSI developed a plastic explosive that looked just like Aunt Jemima pancake mix for use by resistance groups. It was even edible.
- Related: the CIA's explosive flour that, when baked into cakes and bread, could be smuggled in then kneaded into plastic explosive as required. These could be prepared with a special OSI variant of the Fairbairn-Sykes combat knife, which when sheathed could be used as a fully functional spatula. Of course, the existence of such a half-baked idea was on a knead to know basis.
- One can easily find sandals that have bottle openers on the sole. Not quite as cool as a phone or bomb, but much more practical.
- So long as one keeps careful track of where one has stepped before popping open a cold one...
- Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov was killed in London by a poisoned pellet hidden in an umbrella. "Bulgarian Umbrellas" are still occasionally used as a British Unusual Euphemism to describe unorthodox means of murder.
- The mobile phone zip gun used to be an increasing security risk. Then came the smartphone, and a few years later carrying a brick-phone with a physical keyboard no longer makes one inconspicuous.
- The non-fiction Doorstopper Spycraft by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton tells the history of the CIA's Office of Technical Services. It not only details the numerous gadgets, but has a large section detailing the philosophy and tactics behind their deployment. One interesting fact is how fictional spy gadgets spurred the creation of real life devices, as agents in the field began demanding the miraculous do-anything devices they saw in the movies and TV.
- Back in the 60s, the KGB really did have a radio transmitter that fit in the heel of a shoe.
- Also back in the 60s, the CIA reportedly went to elaborate lengths to fit a microphone and a radio inside a... cat. A live one. It got run over by a taxi almost immediately after it was first deployed in the field. The program was scrapped shortly after that.
- Most people will assume you are insane when they see you talking to your watch, until they realize it's actually a phone. This has now become something very much standardized thanks to the Apple Watch and other smartwatches that have LTE capabilities.
- A taser that looks like a cell phone.
- Eff-in Science showed a hand-phone. Well, actually a glove phone. They disassembled a Bluetooth earpiece, attached the speaker portion to the tip of the thumb of a glove and the microphone to the tip of the pinky. The demonstrator could hold his hand up with his thumb near his ear and his pinky near his mouth and talk over the cell-phone. "Add voice dialing," they said, "and you'd have a fully functional hand phone."
- Alternatively, they could just use the pad from the watch-phone above to the same effect. A glove and a watch are very inconspicuous, while going hand-in-hand with each other.
- Although speaking to one's hand is much more suspicious that using laryngophone/earpiece combo, not to mention you cannot use your hand while speaking. It looks cool though.
- Alternatively, they could just use the pad from the watch-phone above to the same effect. A glove and a watch are very inconspicuous, while going hand-in-hand with each other.
- The International Spy Museum in Washington DC has all sorts of obsolete spy devices such as lipstick guns. Some of these devices make one wonder what modern intelligence agencies really have.
- A partial subversion is the gun knife that was used by the KGB. It looks like a combat knife and it is one, but it also able to fire the knife portion using gunpowder hidden in the base. As you can imagine, it has very limited uses unless you are not able to shoot someone who might shoot a hostile or you somehow lost all your guns. That's not saying it won't save your life.
- Russian Special Forces also allegedly have a combat knife with a single-shot derringer built into the handle, firing a 5.45mm rifle round. It's not clear whether or not they actually use this feature, however, as the shot fires from the pommel of the gun; anyone brave or foolhardy enough to fire the thing has to point the blade directly at themselves in order to aim it, and the recoil is said to be formidable. There's a similar weapon purported to be of Chinese origin that can fire three .22 bullets, which lacks the aforementioned design flaw of its Russian counterpart. Video footage of at least one example in private hands can be seen on the Internet, so it's quite possible that it's being made and sold as a (probably highly illegal) novelty somewhere in East Asia rather than a military-issue weapon.
- NRS-2 (Scout Knife, Shooting, Mk.2) is an actual Spetsnaz weapon. However, it is chambered for a PSS silent pistol round, not a 5.45 rifle round.
- Various spring-loaded blades have been disguised as innocuous items like matchboxes or lipsticks for concealed carry.
- Shaquille O'Neal has a literal shoephone; there's a nineties cellphone embedded in the bottom of the left half of one of his famous Size 22 pairs of shoes.
- It's fairly common for money boxes to be disguised as other objects, these are popular with parents as a child is less likely to steal from them. In Britain at least, the most common design seems to be a tin of Heinz baked beans.