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Subverted Suspicion Aesop

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Ron: Normally I'd say we learned suspicion and paranoia is bad, except that's what saved us.
Rufus: True!
Kim Possible, "Return to Camp Wannaweep"

A new character enters the setting, or a villain has decided to reform themselves. But someone gets suspicious of them, and thinks they're up to no good. All the other people say not to be suspicious about new people, and/or that they're just jealous (which may or may not be true). If you're a savvy viewer, you might do some Trope Telegraphing to expect that, after the main characters go around stalking the character all day, they will find out that he really was a good guy, and for him to be Put on a Bus in exasperation.

However, that is not how the situation plays out most of the time. We didn't sit in front of the TV and stay there for 11 to 30 minutes just to see how much of a Designated Hero the main character can be. So, TV writers often subvert the Stock Aesop, where the character that the majority of the characters were defending was Evil All Along and/or a Falsely Reformed Villain. When it's subverted like this, it may be revealed that they're evil midway, but it can easily be covered up as Not What It Looks Like.

Despite being a Broken Aesop, it's a stock plot in Western Animation.

A reason why this happens is that the writers don't want to expand the main cast, so it's easier to add an antagonist who wouldn't logically stay around after the episode ends. Another common variant with a regular character is, as mentioned, the Falsely Reformed Villain, who pretends to turn over a new leaf as a cover for their latest Evil Plan, also done to keep the status quo.

This is often used with aliens; see We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill, type 2. When it isn't used for the sake of Speculative Fiction, it's used because, after all, it could be Paranoia Fuel, and the writers don't want to use this trope without Unfortunate Implications on any real people, like the problem Too Smart for Strangers creates for your new babysitter. (In Speculative Fiction, this can cause problems for Innocent Aliens; see We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill, type 1.) However, the normal version of this trope can also be used alongside the subtrope; see the details at the top.

It's often an Evil-Detecting Dog, a child, or the main character that is suspicious; and if the main character or child isn't taken seriously in general, then there's more of a chance that they will be the suspicious ones.

The way this trope is played with is a useful means of determining the target age of a children's book. For the youngest set, Nice All Along reigns: the sinister-looking women hovering around a cauldron in the derelict house on the hill turn out to be kind-hearted folks running a private soup kitchen. For an older set, the object of suspicion is just as bad as advertised, but Adults Are Useless. And when you get to the level of J.K. Rowling or Zilpha Keatley Snyder, there's certainly some nasty stuff going down, and the object of suspicion may or may not be responsible, but either way, something is not as it seems. From there, it's just a quick hop to Young Adult.

For the unsubverted version of this plot, see Suspicion Aesop and the related character tropes Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold and Sheep in Sheep's Clothing.

Compare with Cassandra Truth, No Mere Windmill, Properly Paranoid and The Victim Must Be Confused.

WARNING: Unmarked Spoilers


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    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman, it is mentioned that Alvin's horror-movie obsession and tendency to accuse innocent people in town of being monsters has gotten the trio in trouble many times before. Most of the movie makes it look like his suspicion that their new neighbor is a werewolf might just be more of the same. Nope, he's actually a werewolf.
  • Despicable Me 2: While working undercover at a bakery in the mall, Gru sees the owner of the mall's Mexican restaurant and recognizes him as Eduardo Perez, a.k.a. El Macho, a former supervillain like himself. Gru becomes convinced that El Macho hasn't actually changed his ways, especially once one of his foster daughters falls for Eduardo's son (though that has more to do with Gru being an overprotective father than anything else). Gru gets his spy partner to help him infiltrate the restaurant, sure that El Macho's evil plan is being stored in the back vault — only it's just a jar of salsa, and El Macho ultimately proves to be, like Gru, a genuinely nice former villain whose only flaws are romancing other men's wives (and just playfully, of course) and owning a dangerous and very mean chicken as a pet. Except... it's all a ruse, as El Macho has a second, much larger restaurant by the seashore, and this one does have a hidden lair where El Macho is hatching a scheme for world domination (which Gru's allies never could have uncovered without Gru's help, since they were sure they'd caught the actual culprit earlier).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. During group counseling:
    Scott Evil: I think he hates me. I really think he wants to kill me.
    Counselor: Scott, we don't want to kill each other in here. We might say that we do sometimes, but we really don't.
    Doctor Evil: Actually, the boy's quite astute. I really am trying to kill him, but, so far, unsuccessfully.
  • Cops And Robbersons: A running gag is cop-wannabe Chase getting bad service at a diner. Eventually he snaps and violently arrests the somewhat slovenly fellow (who never got his order right) and calls in the police(!). As veteran cop Palance apologizes profusely to the man, Chase stews in the back of Palance's car. On a whim, he puts the man's name into the computer on the dashboard. The result: countless warrants for grand theft auto. A smug Chase shows a printout to Palance, who arrests the career car thief. In Palance's words: "You got lucky."
  • This is the ending of the plot of the early Tom Hanks comedy The 'Burbs, in which a few nosy suburbanites become suspicious of their new foreign neighbors. It almost feels like an Ass Pull after Tom Hanks' character gives a speech ending with: "We're the lunatics! Us! IT'S NOT THEM! It's us!" ...Cue the neighbor trying to kill Hanks and then they discover human remains in his car trunk. In fact, the film was originally intended to end with Hanks' rant, but test audiences didn't like that and the film makers were forced to change the ending.
  • This is the entire plot of All About Eve. At the beginning of the movie, Eve befriends Margot Channing, who starts out feeling sorry for her, but begins to suspect her of having ulterior motives. Margot's behaviour towards Eve becomes increasingly obnoxious — something all her friends call her out on. The audience is led to sympathise with Eve until two-thirds of the way through the movie, when it's revealed that she's even more manipulative than Margot suspected.

  • Harry Potter:
    • In the sixth book, Harry was right, Draco had replaced his father as a Death Eater and was responsible for the attempts on Dumbledore's life. Of course, it works a little better in that case, because Harry had previously suspected Malfoy was behind the attacks on Muggle-borns in their second year, and it wasn't him.
    • And then double-subverted in the seventh HP book. Similar to Draco, Harry had harboured a dislike and suspicion of Snape through the entire series, which, just like Draco above, was wrong every time until it seemed to be finally confirmed at the end of book 6. And then book 7 comes around and it turns out Snape really was Dumbledore's deep cover agent, though a Nominal Hero at best.
  • Inverted and then double subverted in Jingo: When a crime is committed, all sorts of excessively obvious clues point to the Klatchians, which Vimes interprets as his own countrymen attempting to frame them. It then turns out that a Klatchian did do it, covering his real tracks and leaving obvious fake ones just to fool Vimes, who turns out not to have needed any such convincing since he had already decided it was a frame by his own countrymen (and refused to suspect the Klatchians) before having seen any clues at all.
  • Kahlan of the Sword of Truth definitely suspects Drefan Rahl, but after rationalizing it, manages to even convince herself that said person was a good guy. Oops.
    • That's actually the second time she manages to fall into that trap with one of Richard's brothers.
  • The Zilpha Keatley Snyder book Secret Weapons has a kid who's watched too many movies think the men messing around at the home of their neighbors who are on vacation must be terrorists and convinces the other kids to help spy on them. It turns out that they weren't terrorists, but they were criminals. Needless to say, the book was written before 9/11 and comes off as much darker today than the author intended.
  • The Bailey School Kids series seems to come close to this, but always ultimately opts for Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane at the end.
  • The Rithmatist follows much of the Harry Potter formula, with the protagonist Joel suspecting Professor Nalizar (somewhat of a Snape Expy) of being behind the disappearances of students. It turns out that he didn't do it, and he even saves Joel from the real culprit... but Joel then discovers that the real culprit was working for him. And, having publicly declared Nalizar a hero, Joel can't plausibly accuse him again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun did a version of this Played for Laughs. Harry and Tommy thought that a group of "badasses" hanging out at the bar were up to no good even though they were doing absolutely nothing suspicious. At the end, after it turned out the "badasses" wanted to rob the bar, Harry and Tommy summarized the Spoof Aesop ("From now on, I look at people and make snap judgments." and noting that "don't judge a book by its cover" makes no sense "that's what the cover is there for! it tells you what is inside the book")
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In the episode "Living Conditions": Buffy insists that her annoying roommate is an evil demon, and suddenly declares she needs to kill her, which her friends naturally take as a bit of an overreaction to said roommate playing Cher too many times. It turns out the roommate actually was a demon, the spurious evidence Buffy had was accurate, and Buffy's own erratic behavior was a result of the roommate trying to steal her soul.
    • When her mother found a new boyfriend and the guy blew up on Buffy for not following his rules, several of her friends blamed Buffy's distrust on daddy issues (as in, the guy was technically taking over her father's position, which Buffy couldn't accept). No, him being a sociopathic robot was more to blame. Her initial resistance to his presence meant she was the only one who didn't try his drugged baked goods that kept everybody else mellow and accepting.
  • Less trust-based than compassion based, but in Legend of the Seeker at one point, a young man asks Mord-Sith Cara to lend him a horse so he could go bury his dead brother with his family. She denies his request at first, but a look from Kahlan reminds her of the latter's urging her to be compassionate, so she lets him take the horse...only to find out two scenes later that he just wanted it so he could steal the treasure the recently-killed enemy soldiers had hoarded.
  • An episode of CSI had two missing boys from a neighborhood where a paroled child molester lived. Pretty much everybody is suspicious of him for obvious reasons, but they let him help in the investigation (his house was burned down so he had nothing better to do anyway). After spending most of the episode dodging whether or not he did or didn't have anything to do with the missing boys, and seemingly leading toward An Aesop that people can be redeemed or the like, but the actual truth turns out to be that he did take the boys into his house after finding them hurt and scared and really didn't have any intentions of harming them, but he did give them a "sample" of liquor and as one of the boys died, he was held responsible because he didn't do anything about their injuries and didn't call anybody.
  • In the same vein as the above, Desperate Housewives had a new neighbor move onto the lane with his sickly sister. After he helps Lynette out with an issue her son was having, she goes to his house with a cake in thanks. While there, she discovers a wall of photos of shirtless young boys. He explains that he's a swim coach, but she still has her suspicions. Since this followed her being held hostage, it's suggested that she's merely suffering PTSD or something similar, but she's already told the local gossip. Eventually, things escalate to Wisteria Lane's residents protesting outside his house. The stress causes his sister to go into cardiac arrest and she dies. Lynette goes to him to apologize and finds that he's moving. Before leaving, he implies that his sister was what was keeping him from actually doing anything with the boys. However, there is some ambiguity in his statements, hinting that he may only be saying this to get back at Lynette for how her actions led to his sister's death.
  • The Flash (2014): In "Therefore I Am", Barry relentlessly suspects college professor Clifford DeVoe is the villain they're looking for, even going so far as to break into his house to try and gain evidence. No one believes Barry until DeVoe himself confirms his identity to him.
  • The House team had a patient once that Thirteen was suspicious of, for no other reason than that the patient gave her the heebie jeebies. Everyone else thought she was just being unreasonably jealous and antagonistic. Turns out the patient was a psychopath; Thirteen's female intuition was able to pick up on the fact that there was something seriously wrong with the patient.
  • At the beginning of 24 Day 6, amid a series of terrorist bombings in American soil, a Middle Eastern youth named Ahmed (played by Kal Penn) witnesses his father being detained as a suspected terrorist with apparently unclear evidence. The rest of the mostly white neighborhood then tries to pressure Ahmed to leave and are about to get violent until his neighbor defuses the situation, takes him into his home and even defends him against another neighbor who tries to kill him. An unfortunate victim of xenophobia used as an Aesop about bigotry? Nope! Turns out Ahmed himself is the real terrorist and "repays" his neighbor by holding his family hostage and forcing him to deliver a package to his terrorist cell which results in the neighbor getting fatally shot and a nuclear bomb being detonated in the middle of LA.
  • Chuck had an episode where an enemy bomber had infiltrated their base, and they didn't know who he was. The Middle Eastern man makes a big deal about how they shouldn't assume that he's the bomber just because of his ethnicity. Then at the end it turns out that it was him and he was playing the race card to avert suspicion.
  • Occurs in the second episode of Everybody Hates Chris with a new apartment tenant who pays six months' advance rent. Julius is very pleased, but Rochelle worries about the tenant's strange behaviors and loud noises. At her insistence, they tell him to go and immediately encounter a SWAT team — apparently, he's wanted for so many crimes that having caught him, "they had to let thirty guys go."
  • In The Good Place, episode "Tahani Al-Jamil" plays Eleanor being overly suspicious of Tahani's all-loving behavior, in fact believing she was the one who sent a blackmail message for her in the previous episode. Subverted, as she was not the person who sent the message (it was her supposed soulmate Jianyu/Jason, and it was not blackmail at all) and her demeanor seemed to be true. Subverted again in the Season 1 finale, when it's revealed she was sent to the Bad Place because her selfless demeanor was indeed an act, but Zig-zagged in that Tahani is really a good-hearted, if somewhat spoiled and condescending person.

  • In "Just a Friend", Biz Markie decides to take the girl's word for it at first when she says the other guy is just a friend, but his suspicions are later proven correct when he catches them making out.


    Western Animation 
  • The Penguins of Madagascar, where the penguins are suspicious of Rhonda, a walrus, who was put in Marlene's pen, (although what zookeeper in their right mind would put a GIANT walrus in the same pen as an otter?) because they think she's a spy bent on stealing their invention, but Marlene thinks she will be nice once she gets to know her. Once Marlene is upset about Rhonda's messiness, they have her Put on a Bus. But, they realize that the bus is taking her to a polar bear reserve, and take the bus back and put her on a different one. It is then that they realize she has stolen the penguins' invention.
    • In the episode "Red Squirrel", the penguins meet Rockgut, an old penguin who has spent his life hunting the Red Squirrel, a notorious enemy from forty years ago. Eventually, they realize that Rockgut has become deluded and paranoid after he imprisons all of their friends, accusing them of being agents of the Red Squirrel. So they send him on a Snipe Hunt to get rid of him, and Private feels sorry for him for chasing someone who may not even exist. In fact, the Red Squirrel does exist, and had been waiting for Rockgut to exit so that he could put his plans in motion.
    • In another episode, when animals start disappearing around the zoo, specifically smaller mammals, the penguins and King Julien suspect Savio, the new boa constrictor to be the culprit, though he claims that he is trapped in his cage with no way out. Private is willing to believe him, but at the end of the day, it turns out that he actually did have an escape method that he used to escape and eat everyone.
    Private: I guess sometimes, things ARE as they seem.
  • South Park:
    • In "The Succubus", the boys are convinced chef's girlfriend is a succubus from hell. Eventually, they confront her on this and she tells them how silly that sounds and gently suggests they're just worried that chef won't have time for them after they're married. They at first listen to this, but the minute they start to let their guards down, she gives them a Nightmare Face.
    • In a variation, one episode has middle-eastern looking kid and his family move in, and Cartman is suspicious of him immediately. The kid's family itself was innocent, but Cartman's suspicion directly results in him saving the town by finding out about someone else's terrorist plot. When Kyle points out Cartman was wrong, Cartman claims uncovering the actual bad guys vindicates him (even though it was just a coincidence).
  • Adventure Time:
    • In "Ricardio, the Heart Guy", Finn is the only one suspicious of the title character, which initially comes off just jealousy over losing Princess Bubblegum's attention. Ricardio turns out to be the heart of the Ice King, and wants to rip out Princess Bubblegum's heart to give himself a mate.
    • The bear in "In Your Footsteps". Jake suspects he wants to take Finn's identity, and Finn eventually agrees. This was not the case, however. It just wanted to be more heroic like Finn. In order for it to learn how to be a hero, Finn gives it the Hero's Handbook—the Enchiridion. The bear then gives it to a Big Bad, the Lich, proving he was evil all along, or at least an Unwitting Pawn.
  • Teen Titans' adaptation of The Judas Contract: Raven has to learn to trust Terra; by the end of the season, it turns out she's a spy.
    Raven: I knew it. I knew it. We never should have trusted her!
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: Used in The Egg-Pire Strikes Back, when the Yolkians come back and make peace with the people of Retroville. It's a bit different because the Yolkians were the main antagonists of the movie that started the whole series, and both viewers and Jimmy know that they are definitely up to no good- but everyone else tells Jimmy not to be so suspicious. When Jimmy is proven right at the very end, Jimmy makes them say "You were right and we were wrong" several times. Including in French and Chinese. (Although they fail at one of these, Jimmy admits he was kidding by that point)
  • In season 2 of Winx Club, Tecna suspects the new teacher Professor Avalon of not being so benevolent. She investigates him and determines that he is the evil Angel of Darkness, but it turns out most of the clues were just coincidences, and Tecna accepts that he's not evil. At the end of the season however, it's revealed that he is not the real Avalon, but instead Lord Darkar's spy inside Alfea (or Darkar himself in disguise in the remake).
  • Every other episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog has a sinister, ill meaning stranger come and plan to harm Muriel and Eustace who ignore Courage being distrustful... and having been right about such instincts every previous time.
    • There have notably been a few occasions where Courage was wrong... notably, the pig chef (not a cannibal) and Kitty (not out to hurt anybody despite being an anthropomorphic cat in a creepy mask who hates Courage).
  • Not surprising, seen in The Simpsons.
    • Marge becomes suspicious of Otto's ex-fiance Becky, thinking she is trying to kill Marge and steal Homer. There turns out to be a perfectly logical explanation for all of the evidence, of course, and Marge apologizes.
      Becky: Hey, no biggie. I was trying to steal your family. I even thought of a good place to bury you. Then I didn't have a shovel, so I went to the hardware store and they have six different kinds, and I was like, "later".
    • There's also the episode where Sideshow Bob appears to reform, romancing and marrying Marge's sister Selma. Bart is the only one who continues to suspect him. Rightly, of course.
      Marge: Well, he fooled almost everyone, but there was one little boy who never lost his mistrust.
    • While this is a pretty typical Sideshow Bob plot, it's notably Averted in "Brother From Another Series": a suspicious Bart finally gets Lisa on his side when the two dig up evidence of an embezzlement Bob appears to be committing which will endanger the town, only to discover that Bob knows nothing and that his brother Cecil, also his current employer, is working to frame him.
    • In "The Bob Next Door," Bart insists that the family's new neighbor Walt Warren is really Sideshow Bob despite only resembling him in his voice and body type—and despite the fact that the real Sideshow Bob is apparently still in prison. After repeatedly trying to prove his point, Bart finally apologizes for his suspicion by accepting Walt's offer to take him to a ball game, only for "Walt" to reveal that he is Sideshow Bob, who surgically switched faces with the real Walt Warren, a cellmate of his who was slated to be released. The aesop part is itself subverted when it's revealed that Bart never really succumbed to Bob's deception and called the police ahead of time before taking the trip.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: In a parody of Rear Window, Jimmy suspects that his new neighbor is actually an evil pickle lady. Even Beezy and Heloise think his claims are absurd, and in the end, it seem as if they're correct about her just being a normal old lady and all the misunderstandings from Jimmy are resolved. Then Ms. Gherkin removes her disguise and turns out to be exactly as Jimmy feared all along.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • "Griffon the Brush-Off": After having a bad experience with the griffon Gilda, Pinkie Pie comes to believe she's one of the meanest people in the universe. She's in the ballpark, at any rate. Later subverted by "The Lost Treasure of Griffinstone" where it's revealed Gilda has a nasty temper, but is ultimately a good person at heart who just doesn't fully understand how friendship works. It ends with her making up with Rainbow Dash and befriending Pinkie Pie.
    • "MMMystery on the Friendship Express" has a variation where the aesop isn't about suspicion per se, but rather about making sure you have evidence before publicly accusing someone. Pinkie Pie tries to guard a massive cake intended for a baking competition, but someone takes a huge bite from it when she falls asleep. Pinkie immediately suspects three other competitors—Gustave Le Grand, Doughnut Joe, and Mulia Mild—based on nothing but her own overactive imagination. As she accuses each one in turn, her friend Twilight Sparkle shoots each theory down, before finding evidence to implicate the real culprit. Then a nearly identical crime happens again, minutes later, and now Pinkie uses evidence from the crime scene to prove that this time, Gustave, Joe, and Mulia are the ones responsible.
    • In the second season finale, Twilight alone is suspicious of her brother's fiancee Cadance because she's not acting anything like the Cadance she knew. Despite Twilight's friends brushing her concerns off, "Cadance" is actually much worse than Twilight thought: she's an impostor, the Changeling Queen Chrysalis, who kidnapped the real Cadance for her own nefarious plot.
      Chrysalis: It's funny, really. Twilight here was suspicious of my behavior all along. Too bad the rest of you were too caught up in your wedding planning to realize those suspicions were correct!
      Applejack: Sorry, Twi, we should have listened to you.
    • In "What About Discord?", after Twilight spends three whole days inside her house, reorganizing her library, she finds that in her absence, her friends have somehow gotten a lot more friendly with Discord (a previously reformed villain who's still somewhat of a jerk). Twilight denies she's jealous as her friends and Discord keep laughing at inside jokes that she can't understand, and eventually she concludes that Discord must have mind-controlled her friends for some nefarious reason. But when an anti-mind-control potion conclusively proves her friends aren't being mind-controlled, Twilight finally admits that she's jealous and apologizes to everyone for her suspicions. That's when Discord lets slip that he really did manipulate her friends into excluding Twilight for the last three days, just to make her feel left out, and was deliberately bringing up the inside jokes to rub it in her face. He tries to insist this was just to teach Twilight a moral lesson, but the others are not amused.
  • Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) has a double-subverted suspicion aesop. Yes, really. It all starts with Emma Frost, who joined the team, but Logan was suspicious of her. For 19 episodes, she seemed reasonable, so it just seemed like the standard, unsubverted version. Then it became this trope when it was revealed that Emma was only there to gain their trust so that she could find Jean Grey for the Inner Circle. Indeed, she was responsible in part for the explosion that almost killed Jean and Charles Xavier, the one that launched the series and initially broke up the X-Men. But that was quickly subverted again, when we discover that she was doing this to try to save the world from the emergence of the Phoenix.
  • The Family Guy episode "The Juice is Loose" featured O. J. Simpson coming to Quahog, and he naturally attracts suspicion from everyone. Simpson preaches to the mob and they forgive him... only for him to suddenly claim three victims with his knife.
    • In another episode, Peter makes a Muslim friend, who introduces him to a bunch of other Muslims. Yes, of course they're all terrorists, what did you expect? Especially egregious because they try to tack on a "don't judge people" Aesop in a throwaway line despite this.
  • In the Superfriends episode "Professor Goodfellow's G.E.E.C.," the professor's machine works flawlessly and automates every part of human existence for every person in the world, as the professor offers a free subscription to the service to anyone who wants one. The only skeptics are the Super Friends, who spend the better part of the episode convinced that the machine will fail, only to be proven wrong again and again, and thus, unable to convince anyone. When the machine does fail, it's only due to a slight, easily repaired oversight, yet the professor sees the error of his ways anyway and dismantles the machine.
  • In the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode "The Gathering Gloom" Velma suspects the groundskeeper of being the Graveyard Ghoul, as they look and act very similar, but the rest of the gang are skeptical as it's too obvious and instead investigate the kind and pretty Swedish girls living nearby. It turns out Velma was right.
  • One episode of CatDog features Dog believing the new neighbors are alien invaders like in his comic book. At the end when it looks like Cat has proven they're just harmless old ladies, it turns out Dog was right.
  • One episode of Men in Black: The Series features the MIB throwing a party for an alien race that appeared to have given up its barbaric ways, but Elle's partner doesn't buy it. Turns out that the aliens used the party as a means to smuggle in a virus to destroy the MIB and allow them to take over earth. Elle warns her partner not to say "I told you so".
  • Happens twice in Kim Possible, both times with Ron and his enemies:
    • When he and Kim met Lord Monty Fiske, Ron felt he was 'bad road', but Kim called him delirious. Turns out he was right, as Lord Fiske was using them to obtain magic power and would become his Arch-Enemy Monkey Fist.
    • When Ron re-encountered his mutant enemy Gill, who had seemed to have returned to being a human and given up being evil, Ron remained suspicious despite everyone calling him crazy (and throwing rotten vegetables at him). It turns out that he was right as Gill wanted to become a mutant again. At the end of that ordeal:
      Ron: Normally I'd say we learned suspicion and paranoia is bad, except that's what saved us.
      Rufus: True!
  • The New Adventures of Superman: In "Can a Luthor Change His Spots?", Luthor convinces Perry White that he's gone straight and is given a laboratory in the Daily Planet building. Jimmy Olsen (correctly) believes that Luthor is lying and tries to catch him committing a crime.
  • Archer: In an early episode, Malory hires Conway Stern as a new agent. Most of the episode sees Archer and Lana becoming increasingly jealous and suspicious of him, because he's The Ace and because Archer suspects he might be planning to seduce his mother. The majority of the episode shows Conway being increasingly unfairly accused until Archer decides to kill him without evidence (with Lana going along with it because, "whatever the reason!") Then Archer starts to change his mind when Conway saves him from an ambush by a Cuban hit squad...until Conway pulls a gun on him. And then shoots another bad guy standing behind him. Archer finally accepts Conway as a friend and accepts a hug from him:
    (stabbing sound)
    Archer: Conway?
    Conway: Yeah, buddy?
    Archer: Are there more bad guys behind me?
    Conway: Nope.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball
  • Steven Universe:
    • One of the Rubies (the one Steven calls "Navy") tells Steven and Garnet that she wants to defect to the Crystal Gems. Steven decides to take her to the barn where the recently-defected Lapis Lazuli and Peridot live, so they can ease her transition to Earth. Lapis doesn't buy Navy's story, saying her turnaround from enemy to ally was too quick. It only makes Lapis more frustrated when Navy takes an immediate liking to everything on Earth that she encounters. Lapis vents to Steven and Peridot that it took way longer for her to adjust to life on Earth, and when Navy overhears, Lapis apologizes and admits that there may even be an element of jealousy to her suspicions. But she was right: Navy was just playing along to take her ship back and to see the look on the Crystal Gems' faces when being betrayed.
    • In Steven Universe Future, the fusion Bluebird Azurite (composed of former enemies Aquamarine and Eyeball Ruby) comes to Little Homeworld and claims to want to experience life on earth. Everyone recognizes her components easily enough, but they also point out that everyone else has been given a chance to reform and most of those people have taken it. Steven is alone in remaining suspicious of her, but every time it seems she's doing something wrong (holding a butcher knife behind Pearl's back), there's a perfectly logical reason for it (to cut the friendship cake!). Even more infuriatingly, Bluebird's tone (inherited from Aquamarine) makes it impossible to tell whether she's being sincere or sarcastic. It gets to the point where Steven sees Bluebird holding Greg aloft by his hair after crashing the van into the house and has to ask whether Greg's screams for help are "screams of fun," because he can no longer trust his own instincts on the matter. But nope. Bluebird has finally revealed her true colors and monologues about finally getting revenge and unfuses to show Steven who exactly he let back into his life.
  • Lady Lovely Locks plays with this in the episode where Hairball is kicked out of Ravenwaves' castle. He asks to work at Lady's castle, but only so so he can gather her hair and get back in Ravenwaves' good books. Maiden Fairhair is rightly suspicious of him, but when the truth is revealed Lady says that if he was serious about reforming and they didn't believe him they'd feel even worse than when he betrayed them.
  • Captain N: The Game Master had a hilariously condensed version of this trope in "Return to Castlevania": within the span of a few scenes, Alucard looks like he's loyal to Count Dracula, then he saves Kevin and Simon from the Count, and then he betrays them. Even more hilariously, Alucard actually is a hero in the source material; the writers made him a villain here for reasons unknown.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • One episode of Batman: The Animated Series has Batman convinced that the person responsible for certain crimes is a recently released and allegedly rehabilitated Poison Ivy. He spends an entire day tracking her, and is forced to concede that she appears to be behaving herself, as the most illegal thing he caught her doing was not returning a rental video on time, and she freely paid the resultant fine. Then Robin spots a loose thread in her story about her new peaceful civilian life, giving Batman a lead that ultimately proves that she really was responsible after all.
      • In fact, pretty much every villain-reformation episode on the show ran something alone these lines (unless the villain was a specifically one-shot character), since, much like the source comics, Status Quo Is God. Even in the episodes where Batman himself is pulling for the villain to turn over a new leaf, someone else (Robin, the police) will inevitably be proven right that they're not ready to reintegrate into society.
    • Justice League Unlimited: In "Clash", Lex Luthor makes a big show of having reformed and uses his wealth to fund high-profile public works. Superman is suspicious, but the idealistic Captain Marvel wants to give Luthor the benefit of the doubt. Things come to a head when Luthor donates a power generator to provide free electricity to the planned community of Lexor City. Superman thinks the power generator must be evil technology for some sinister purpose, and when Captain Marvel disagrees, the two come to blows. Their superpowered brawl destroys all of Lexor City—and in the aftermath, it becomes clear Superman was wrong, and Luthor's donation really was just a power generator. Then the final scenes make it clear Luthor really did have an evil scheme: to make Superman look like a paranoid maniac by playing on his suspicions to trick him into destroying a harmless power generator. (The destruction of the housing development was an unexpected bonus.)
  • Nearly every episode of Dan Vs. follows this format. Some minor annoyance (like a visit to the dentist, or a long line at the Department of Motor Vehicles) sets Dan off, and he declares his vengeance on them. When his only friend Chris wonders if Dan might be overreacting, Dan insists that the latest target of his ire is secretly evil, part of a sinister conspiracy, to justify his Disproportionate Retribution. Sometimes Dan's bizarre theories turn out to be 100% correct (like the time the Governor of California really is conspiring to make the citizens more stupid), and sometimes he's right about his target being evil but mistaken about their exact nature (he's as surprised as anyone when the manager at his new office job turns out to be a literal demon from Hell). Rare is the episode where Chris is right, there is no conspiracy, and Dan's just overreacting.
  • Amphibia offers a long-term example: In the first season, Anne's friend Marcy is absent outside of a couple very short non-speaking cameos, and we're led to believe that she's just as much of a toxic friend as Sasha is. When we finally meet her properly in Season 2's "Marcy At The Gates", she actually seems to be quite friendly and enthusiastic—but Sprig is extremely suspicious of her, and remains convinced that she's secretly a backstabber until the end of her introductory episode. Come the end of season two, Marcy turns out to be the reason they all ended up in Amphibia in the first place, wanting to whisk them all away to another world so they wouldn't be separated by her family moving out of state, and never bothered to tell them any of this. Not long after reuniting with Anne, Marcy conspires with King Andrias to take the Calamity Box's power, though she wasn't aware of his actual plans.
  • The Challenge of the GoBots episode "Pacific Overtures" has Cy-Kill attempt to deceive the Guardians by falsely claiming that he wants a truce between the Guardians and the Renegades. Turbo is the only Guardian who isn't fooled by Cy-Kill's deception.
  • The Loud House: In "Family Bonding", the Louds get new neighbors in the form of the Miller family, and Lincoln and Clyde, who are obsessed with the David Steele spy franchise, suspect them of being agents of a villainous organization called S.U.S.P.E.N.S.E. based on a device said neighbors are building, their disliking of peaches, and the fact that the Miller patriarch is getting a peach book under the pretense of it being a suspense book. When Lincoln breaks into the Millers' house, the Millers claim they're actually working for the weather... except it turns out the Millers really are spies, right down to them being agents of S.U.S.P.E.N.S.E.
  • The T.U.F.F. Puppy episode "Mall Rat" has Snaptrap announcing after his release from prison that he wants to be good now. Kitty Katswell is hesitant to believe that Snaptrap has truly gone straight, but makes herself look paranoid due to destroying the muffins Snaptrap was giving to the citizens of Petropolis under the belief that they were poisoned (only for Keswick to analyze the charred remains of one muffin and confirm it contains no poison) and obliterating a weather-changing device Snaptrap uses to make the weather sunnier during a rainy day at the beach. Kitty is just about to accept that she's getting all worked up for no reason after Snaptrap invites everyone to a mall with free yogurt, but finds that her distrust of Snaptrap was completely warranted after all when it turns out that the mall was simply a ploy to round up all the citizens of Petropolis and shoot them into the sun.
  • Avengers Assemble: In "The Thunderbolts", Tony refuses to trust the new super-team on the block simply because they're stealing the spotlight, but the episode ends with them proving they're alright. The next episode 'reveals' they're actually Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil pretending to be superheroes (though by that episode it's Hawkeye who's suddenly got the issue with them).