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Staging the Eavesdrop

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Eddie: Weren't you the one I caught playin' pattycake with Old Man Acme?
Jessica: You didn't "catch" me, Mr. Valiant. You were set up to take those pictures.

What do you do if you have information you want to spread around, but want to do it in a way where other people think they just overheard something important? Why, just say it as loudly and exaggeratedly as possible!

The reasons for this may vary. Maybe you want to Feed the Mole some false information. Maybe you want to get rid of a dangerous property by claiming that it's full of riches, thus exploiting other people's greed. Maybe you want to tell someone about something without speaking to them directly. Whatever the reasons, this is a case where one or more characters try to intentionally invoke Exact Eavesdropping on others in order to achieve some kind of goal.

Not to be confused with Bluff the Eavesdropper, which is about characters noticing that they're being listened to and changing the conversation accordingly.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Girls und Panzer, Commander Nishizumi notices a weather balloon with aerial during a tankery match against Saunders, and deduces correctly that Saunders is listening in to their inter-vehicle traffic. She exploits this by pretending to conceal her flag tank in some woods near a crossroads, and radioing the rest of her forces to conduct reconnaissance. Saunders falls for it, and they dispatch an attack force to that site. There, they discover to their chagrin that the crossroads are a kill zone, with Oarai guns raining shells upon them from the high ground.
  • In Persona 5: The Day Breakers, Ryuji and Ann talk loudly at Atomic Burger about Cafe Leblanc's lack of security in order to get Kazuya's gang to try and steal from there. Sure enough, it's a trap they've set with Joker so that they can carry out their job and take Kazuya's "treasure".

    Comic Books 
  • In Les Tuniques Bleues, one story has a Southern teenager join the Union army as a spy and get caught. Blutch goes into the Rebel camp and arranges a plan with the kid's older brother. The brother is imprisoned in the Union camp (guarded by Blutch), then Chesterfield goes in to come up with an escape plan, LOUDLY REPEATING WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO NEED SUCH AS FILES AND HORSES for Blutch's benefit. The whole thing succeeds, not least of all because no one in the Union camp wanted to be part of a sixteen-year-old's execution.
  • In Suske en Wiske, in the story De Gouden Cirkel (The Golden Circle), the heroes go up against an evil cult while in China. Wiske plans to allow herself to get abducted by said cult so she can lure them into a trap. To do so, she goes to a restaurant and when placing her order tells the waiter to hurry up since the cult is after her, loud enough for all the customers to hear. Just as she expected, one of the customers is a cult member who immediately calls his fellow cult members.
  • In Asterix at the Olympic Games, after Obelix first mentions the leftover cauldron of magic potion, Asterix and Getafix loudly mention other details such as the cauldron being in a small cabin whose door locks bad and which isn't guarded at night. Getafix mixes some methylene blue into the potion, so when the Romans drink some for the race, their tongue gets colored blue, which Getafix uses as proof to get them disqualified.

    Fan Works 
  • In Harry Potter and the Cracked Reservoir, Harry, in order to protect Ginny, arranges for a few Death Eater kids to overhear them arguing about a fake prophecy, one claiming harm to Ginny will result in Harry unlocking his full potential.
  • Loved and Lost: Prince Jewelius uses the Changeling invasion to steal Equestria's throne and exile the princesses as well as Twilight's friends and brother. One week later, the Big Bad decides to lure them all back, so Commander Hildread and Lieutenant Shackle go to the lair Spike is taking residence in. They act like they're secretly searching for escaped Changelings, suggesting that they are impersonating Jewelius and planning to have revenge on Twilight who gets no special protection. Hearing this prompts Spike to gather together the other exiled heroes, and they all return to Canterlot, intending to redeem themselves by helping Twilight. All according to the plan of Jewelius.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Evil Under the Sun: One couple has very loud arguments in a hotel over the husband's infidelity. They're actually both involved in the husband seducing rich women before murdering them. During Poirot's summation, we see it from their window, and they're struggling not to laugh at the melodramatic lines.
  • In The Lavender Hill Mob, Holland and Pendlebury publicly discuss that they left the safe open. They wait in the building at night, and when thieves break in, they recruit them into their criminal scheme.
  • In Midway (a World War II Dramatization), American Navy Intelligence deduce that the Japanese are planning on targeting two sites, coded A-F and A-O. The air base on Midway Island is instructed to radio in the clear that its fresh water condenser is broken in the hope that the Japanese intercept it and radio this update to Fleet Command. The Japanese fall for it and the US Navy had the confirmation they needed: A-F is Midway Island.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit is caught playing pattycake with another man. Pictures are taken and her name is sullied. As it turns out, Jessica was forced into that situation so that Eddie could catch her doing it. She's otherwise a dutiful wife who is Happily Married to Roger.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: In Part 5, Volume 5, Rozemyne and her retainers end up overhearing a conversation between Hortensia and Detlinde after Hortensia helps them hide from a suddenly visiting Detlinde. One of the end of volume short stories reveals that Rozemyne's tendency to have seldom-found knowledge is the royal family's backup plan for finding a piece of information that Detlinde might have. Hortensia actually deliberately arranged to have Detlinde come to the Royal Academy's library while Rozemyne would be present, but best not seen by people who don't already know of her presence. Rozemyne overhearing Hortensia and Detlinde's conversation, which was centered around the desired piece of information, from her hiding place was feature, not a bug.
  • In Animorphs, after David has the group on the ropes thinking he killed Tobias, they stage a conversation in the barn where they admit he has them beaten before discussing out loud what to do next. Tobias reports that a rattlesnake left the barn soon after they did, confirming that he took the bait, allowing them to get rid of David.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, it's revealed that the fake Moody staged a loud conversation with Professor McGonagall (who had no idea of the impostor Moody's intentions) about the properties of Gillyweed, so that Dobby would overhear and quickly give some to Harry in order for him to complete the second task in the Triwizard Tournament.
  • Recoil by Brian Garfield. The protagonist walks into the office of a mob lawyer, pretending to be a corrupt official demanding a bribe after having discovered the lawyer is a confidential informant. The lawyer throws him out of his office, searches it and finds a Hidden Wire (actually put there by the feds). Naturally he thinks he's been set up by a rival and goes running to the feds for real before he's killed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of I Love Lucy, Lucy wants to test Ricky's love, so she climbs onto the ledge outside their apartment. As Ricky, Fred, and Ethel worry about what happened to Lucy, a neighbor from across the street calls Ricky and lets him know where Lucy is. Realizing that they have been tricked, they start badmouthing her, and when she comes back inside to return the insults, Ricky says that a neighbor told them she was eavesdropping on the ledge.
  • In an episode of Sam & Cat, after two little British girls they're babysitting con Dice and Cat out of all their money, Sam comes up with a plan to outcon them, which starts with Sam and Cat talking about a rigged Bingo game while the girls are listening.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "Past Prologue", Garak conducts negotiations with the Duras sisters, Lursa and B'Etor, while he has Bashir hide in a dressing room so he can overhear the conversation and learn of a secret plot.
    • In "The Way of the Warrior", Sisko wants to warn the Cardassians about an impending Klingon attack, but doing so openly would violate the Federation-Klingon alliance. The solution is to discuss the matter at a staff meeting, while Garak — supposedly just a tailor, but actually a Cardassian spy as Sisko knows perfectly well — drops in to take his measurements.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show: In the Dom De Luise episode, Miss Piggy is trying to get noticed by Kermit. Among her efforts is a badly-acted conversation between Miss Piggy and Scooter involving her having gotten an offer from another show. Kermit sees through the Bad "Bad Acting" immediately and calls Scooter on it.
    Kermit: Uh, Scooter, that performance by you and Miss Piggy was terrible.
    Scooter: Gee, I didn't think it was that bad. I missed one line, but... Oh, no.

  • In Much Ado About Nothing, this is how Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into falling in love (or admitting that they love each other). First Claudio, Don Pedro, and Leonato stage a conversation about how Beatrice is in love with Benedick while Benedick is eavesdropping, then Hero and her maidservants do the same thing to Beatrice. In each case, the eavesdropper is convinced that if the other is in love with them then they should requite the love. The villains employ the same tactic to convince Claudio that Hero is unfaithful to him, but since it's one of Shakespeare's lighter ones, it all works out all right in the end.

    Video Games 
  • In Gothic, one of the tasks you need to complete in order to join the Swamp Camp is to find a way of having Baals, i.e. the spiritual leaders of the camp, speak to you. Newcomers are not allowed to speak with Baals, so it must be the Baal who speaks to the newcomer first. Lester, a friendly resident of the camp, suggests that in the case of Baal Namib, what you can do is making him think that you just had a vision from their god and you've renounced the other gods because of it. To do this, Lester and your character stage a comically exaggerated conversation where they almost scream everything they say while standing right next to Baal Namib. It works.
  • Mario & Luigi: Dream Team: Mario gets an idea to use this as a distraction: Prince Dreambert and Starlow pretend to know something embarrassing about Bowser and talk about it within earshot of some minions of Bowser's who have successfully stolen an important MacGuffin, and are about to escape with it. While the minions (who think they're way ahead of Team Mario) are listening to this conversation, Mario and Luigi sneak past them and steal it back.
  • Persona 5: It's strongly implied that Ryuji constantly talking in public about being a Phantom is because he actually wants to be found out. His interest in actually helping people seems to pale in comparison to his desire to be in the spotlight, so he's constantly frustrated that it needs to be kept secret. Naturally, he's overheard at multiple points and the group is confronted about it, but it never results in the widescale exposure he seems to want.

  • Girl Genius: Violetta starts talking to Zeetha very loudly to inform the Smoke Knights she's noticed following Agatha's group for the last day or two that they're going to be allying with Agatha for the time being:
    Violetta: Madwa and her group had been slavishly loyal to Lucrezia. They refused Grandma's ultimatum and stayed allied with the Geisterdamen. [...] If there's a chance to take them out, our Smoke Knights have standing orders to set aside all other assignments and rivalries and do it. "All shadows are to come into the light."
    Zeetha: What's that supposed to mean? ...and why are you talking so loud—Oh.
  • In Spacetrawler, Pierrot and Krep become guests of King of the civilized, underground Mihrgoots, who's been hiding the existence of his faction from the outside universe. To maintain the masquerade, King has to wipe Pierrot's and Krep's memories of the visit. He arranges everything so his mind-wiped guests can think they're escaping from a prison. This includes two cooks having a conversation nearby, to give away the exact information needed for the escape.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, this is how Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee formed their alliance with the Dai Li. Knowing the Dai Li would be monitoring them, Azula arranges for Dai Li agents to overhear Mai and Ty Lee "accidentally" outing themselves as Fire Nation infiltrators. This prompts the Dai Li, angry at the Earth King due to the recent imprisonment of their leader, to make an alliance with Azula and company where both sides look to use the other.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Bossy Boots", Mr. Krabs tasks SpongeBob with firing Pearl (since he doesn't have the heart to do it himself). After Pearl reveals to SpongeBob that she wants to be fired, the two decide to stage an overly-dramatic firing for Krabs to hear from behind the door to his office.
  • The Loud House: In "Teachers Union", in order to get Mrs. Johnson interested in Coach Pacowski, Clyde and Lincoln sit close to her during lunch and start discussing the good qualities they discovered about the coach, loud enough for her to hear. Later, they use the same trick on Coach Pacowski, by talking about how nobody asked Mrs. Johnson out on National Ask A Teacher Out Day while the coach is within hearing range.


Video Example(s):


SpongeBob "Fires" Pearl

SpongeBob and Pearl stage a dramatic firing for Mr. Krabs.

How well does it match the trope?

4.89 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / StagingTheEavesdrop

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