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The Inspector Is Coming

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"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."

In media involving certain businesses, it is inevitable that a specialized inspector, government engineer or critic, will come sooner or later to rate or assess the business, usually holding its fate by his/her rating. Cue the employees working hard to keep everything in good condition to get a passable rating. Less ethical bosses may press employees to hide problems, rather than fix them.

A cunning character may exploit the fear of this to pull off the Surprise Inspection Ruse. Hilarity Ensues if someone unrelated gets mistaken for the inspector or critic. For the domestic variation, see House Inspection. In military settings, see the subtrope The Inquisitor General, while police settings will have Internal Affairs. See also State Visit.

As many - particularly those in retail/customer service environments - can tell you, this is very much Truth in Television. Nothing can strike fear into the heart of a retail employee quite like the words "corporate visit" or "government inspection." Bad Review Threat is a potential risk if a critic is involved. The business may be shut down if there's No OSHA Compliance.


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  • In one A&W Canada commercial the fast food restaurant is visited by a food critic. Fortunately, he finds the food "formidable."
    Allen: That's good, right?

     Anime & Manga  
  • Komi Can't Communicate: Nita Shinji and Nita Musubi, who run the Nita Diner gourmet, are aware of a food critic that may potentially visit their restaurant and assume Komi Shouko is that person. The actual critic is her friend Agari Himiko, who, despite the owners giving her bad service, gives a good review anyways because their food is still good.
  • File 6 of You're Under Arrest! revolves around this trope with the arrival of Inspector Takao Arizuka, played up as being The Dreaded. In actuality he enjoys the reputation and will pick on even the smallest misconduct, amused by what he finds and judges Bokuto to be sloppy but staffed by good officers, and his good nature gives way to let them slide.

     Comic Books  
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In one Donald Duck story, the restaurant where Donald works expects a visit from a restaurant inspector. When a man dressed in a fancy suit arrives, Donald suspects him to be the inspector and goes to great lengths to please the man, all while inconveniencing and ignoring another guest. Eventually, that other guest is revealed to be the real inspector, who by now is so fed up by Donald's antics and the poor services that he takes away all of the restaurants stars, and the man in the suit turns out to be just a traveling salesman.
  • In the Rantanplan comics (a spin-off of the Lucky Luke comics), inspectors visit the prison both announced and unannounced very frequently. In the album Rantanplan otage (Rantanplan taken hostage) an overly eager inspector pays surprise inspections to the prison almost every day. In Le Clown (The clown), an inspector visits the prison unannounced twice, and both times at the worst possible moment (the first time when the prison director has to take care of the spoiled son of an army colonel, and tries to please him by buying expensive food like lamb meat. The second time when the director has just invited a circus over to the prison because Rantanplan and the aforementioned son were working there as clowns. The inspector becomes a Running Gag, often leaving the penitentiary far less happy than he came in, which reflects badly on the possibilities of promotion for the head warden, which in turn reflects badly on Pavlov. In "The Fugitive", he takes away Rantanplan's food bowl while he's still eating (not a good idea), getting him replaced by a hypercompetent dog. The wardens train the new dog to attack the inspector to return to Status Quo.

     Films — Animated  
  • In Ratatouille, two inspectors visit at the same time. The plot mainly focuses on Anton Ego, an infamous restaurant critic whose previous review has already cost the restaurant one of its Michelin star ratings. But while Remy and the other rats are preparing the food, a health inspector shows up unannounced. In the end, Anton Ego is very satisfied with the food and gives the restaurant a good review, but the health inspector has the restaurant closed down because of the rodent infestation.

     Films — Live-Action  
  • The old Polish comedy Gangsters And Philantropists featured a story about a hapless lab technician who accidentally takes a hydrometer with him after leaving work. He goes to a restaurant, orders a drink and absentmindedly starts stirring the drink with the hydrometer. The restaurant manager sees this and thinks that the guy is a government inspector testing if the restaurant is watering its drinks. As the protagonist is leaving the restaurant he is handed an envelope with money as a bribe to not report the restaurant. Once he figures out what happened he starts regularly going to restaurants with lab instruments and supplements his income with the bribe money. Later he resorts to weighing steaks once the alcohol amounts prove to be too much.
  • The Inspector General is a Danny Kaye movie, in which a vagrant is arrested in a small European town, and is mistakenly believed to be an inspector from the crown. It's based on the below-mentioned play, The Government Inspector.
  • In the opening scenes of My Best Friend's Wedding, the staff of a restaurant fuss over a single dish because a food critic, the protagonist herself, is in the house.
  • Ocean's Thirteen: The crew makes Willy Bank think that Saul is a hotel reviewer, causing Willy to bend over backwards to make Saul's stay as comfortable as possible while being completely dismissive of the actual reviewer. Meanwhile, the rest of Ocean's crew proceed to make the real reviewer's stay an absolute hell. They Throw the Dog a Bone after Willy is ruined by rigging a machine to give the reviewer eleven million dollars.
  • In We Bought a Zoo, Ferris seems very harsh and acts like a jerk, but once he can't find any faults with the restored zoo, he passes them and wishes Benjamin good luck, although he still maintains that the zoo will probably fail and refuses to attend, as this would count as fraternization. There's also no proof beyond MacReady's word that Ferris stole his ideas.
  • The French movie The Wing or the Thigh starts with a restaurant owner ordering his staff to shower preferential treatment on someone he's identified as working for a food critic, completely ignoring an old woman's requests for water. While the man does work for the critic, his boss (played by Louis de Funès) was Disguised in Drag as the old woman, and gives an appropriately scathing review.

  • Recycled In Space with Allamagoosa by Eric Frank Russell. The crew of a spaceship are informed that the Head Inspector will be turning up, and are thrown into a panic because their ship's manifest lists an "offog" among the ship components, and no-one knows what it is. They avert the crisis by building a box with blinking lights and throwing a load of Techno Babble at the inspector when he asks what the offog does. Then they're told the ship is returning to Earth for a complete overhaul. Knowing the same trick won't work on the engineers carrying out this task, they send a message claiming the offog exploded under gravitational stress. Unfortunately the offog turns out to be a typo for "off. dog" (e.g. the ship's mascot), and all ships are grounded until the problem of how dogs can explode in space is rectified.
  • In George McDonald Fraser's semi-autobiographical tales of Army life, The General Danced At Dawn, the General of the title story is conducting a full inspection of the Gordon Highlanders, who lurch from one catastrophe to another. The only things that save the Scottish soldiers are Highland dancing and bagpipe music - at the General's instigation, the Regiment dance progressively longer and more complex Highland dances until they break the world record with a 256-some. This pulls in Arabs and German prisoners of war to make up the numbers.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Played for Drama with Umbridge's inspections. She's been appointed by the Ministry to improve Hogwarts' education quality and become the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Unofficially, she's there to undermine Headmaster Dumbledore and Harry Potter, both of whom have become the Minister's political enemies. While some of her assessments are correct (such as Trelawney's subpar curriculum), she's unnecessarily cruel about it. Most of them are still either biased by her pureblood prejudice (e.g., hating Hagrid for being half-giant) or just baseless nitpicking to the teachers most loyal to Dumbledore. The Minister as a whole deems the previous Defense Against the Dark Arts classes unsuitable (which is not entirely untrue), so it's implied that they carried out an inspection off-screen about that too.
  • Applejack and the Honest-to-Goodness Switcheroo: À-propos of the "Best of Equestria" awards, Applejack works her butt off trying to get her Sweet Apple Acres looking perfect by the inspection's date. Sadly, her friends and family are of little help and the judge, Blue Ribbon, appears unimpressed by the results. However, Blue Ribbon has been secretly stopping by the orchard all week, watching her work. He is so inspired by this that he can't help but award her the prize. Applejack is understandably shocked.
  • One Jennings plot involves a visit by a school inspector. Various of the pupils, having got the wrong end of the stick, believe that the visitor is a gas inspector or a ticket inspector.
  • The kids' book Win One For The Sloths by Helen Lester has the sloth class being checked up on and the ways the sloths try to convince him they're learning and the class should stay open, despite their extreme love of napping.

     Live-Action TV  
  • In the Angel episode "Reprise", the evil Occult Law Firm Wolfram & Hart is awaiting a visit from a Senior Partner. Every employee of Wolfram & Hart knows that this being is an extremely terrifying demon, and interprets the situation with the understanding that a bad performance rating would mean certain death.
  • Discussed in season five of Breaking Bad. After Gus's death and the destruction of the superlab, Saul Goodman shows Walt, Jesse, and Mike several potential places for a hidden lab. One place is a tortilla factory, but Walt points out that any place tied with the food industry will have unannounced government inspections—not ideal conditions for a meth lab.
  • The plot of The Brittas Empire episode "An Inspector Calls" revolves around a visit by the Southern Area Inspector. Brittas is concerned due to the abysmally low attendence figures and his case is not helped by him greeting the inspector covered in eagle blood. Luckily for Brittas, the Southern Area Inspector turns out to be just like him (believes in The Dream, more interested in cleanliness and noticeboards than attendance figures etc) so he doesn't get fired.
  • The Car 54, Where Are You? episode "Toody and Muldoon Crack Down" is set in motion by a visit to the 53rd precinct by a chief inspector, who is outraged at the number of minor violations (sidewalk obstructions, unauthorised loudspeakers, etc.) that Toody and Muldoon are allowing to go unpunished. He quickly changes his tune when he discovers that although their sector is rife with minor violations, there have been no major crimes in their sector in the nine years they've been patrolling it, and that they are near universally beloved by the local residents and business owners as friendly, helpful, and reliable.
  • Community: at the end of Season 5, Greendale Community College is visited by a fastidious insurance appraiser. Somewhat subverted to the extent that the school does pass the test... which triggers a crisis since it is now deemed a bona fide asset and the board decides to make a profit by selling it off.
  • CSI: NY: The Crime Lab is up for their 5-year accreditation in "Like Water for Chocolate." The only thing the inspector finds fault with is Lindsay leaving evidence out and endangering the chain of custody because Danny, er, distracted her. She also flirts a bit with Mac, reminding him of a time before his wife died when they got a little drunk and kissed at a party. Mac admits he didn't exactly hate it, but is firm that he loved his wife and would never have gone any further.
  • Death in Paradise: In "Murder of the Airways", DS Madeleine Dumas is an internal affairs officer sent out from Paris to conduct an investigation into Jack's running of the Honoré police station following Florence's shooting. She is less than impressed by Jack's eccentric style of policing, even though the rest of the force—who are worried that Jack might be sent back to Britain—bend over backwards to convince her that he is great leader and brilliant detective. However, after seeing Jack in action solving a murder, her final report is that while his administration could stand to be a little more professional and organised, he is effective at his job and Florence's shooting was not his fault. The Commissioner ends seconding her to become Florence's replacement.
  • Emergency! had a variation with the fire chief coming. This usually means the station is going to be inspected, and Captain Stanley drove the crew nuts with his paranoia and wanting everything in tip-top shape before the chief got there.
  • Fawlty Towers:
    • "The Hotel Inspectors": Basil hears that three Hotel Inspectors are in town, and immediately begins fawning over a guest with an officious manner and a vast professional experience of hotels. He then finds out that his target sells spoons. When another guest mentions he has two colleagues, Basil switches to fawning over him and even resorts to attempting bribery for a favourable report after he witnesses Basil's fight with the first guest. This one is in town for the regatta, though, at which Basil brightens up considerably, and disappears. He appears minutes later to thoroughly humiliate the first guest (who's leaving in disgust), in full view of the real inspectors who have just arrived.
    • "Basil the Rat" features a surprise visit from the health inspector; Basil initially does not recognise him and thinks he is sniffing the raw meat in the fridge because he is a scavenger.
  • Grange Hill naturally had at least one story arc featuring the dreaded OFSTED paying the school a visit.
  • Often very subverted and inverted on Kitchen Nightmares. Despite the fact these owners know that Gordon Ramsey is coming by with a full camera crew to have them on national television, they still will have some of the single most disgusting kitchens imaginable. More than once, Gordon has found the kitchen and food storage in such horrific conditions that he's ordered the entire place shut down for a massive clean-up.
    • Of all places, the infamous Amy's Baking Company actually did clean up first to the point Gordon noted it was the cleanest kitchen he'd ever seen on the show. Too bad the owners were absolute lunatics with horrific food, treatment of staff and egos that drove Gordon to just quit on them.
  • In M*A*S*H, there are a number of episodes with this trope as the focus.
    • In one, Father Mulcahy becomes highly tense when he learns that the head chaplain of the army was coming to inspect his good works.
    • In another, a particularly harsh top-level nurse comes to inspect Margaret's nursing staff, which results in Margaret herself becoming particularly harsh in an effort to satisfy her (she is relieved and happy at the end of the episode when the inspector rates her staff "satisfactory").
    • Somewhat lampshaded in another episode, where an inspector comes to learn about how the 4077 runs in order to duplicate it... but the entire camp becomes overrun with speculation that the inspector plans on breaking the camp up.
    • Season 2 opens with a psychiatrist inspecting the camp in response to reports of erratic, unmilitary behaviour, with the goal of seeing if the camp should be split up. He's simultaneously shocked by their "childish" antics and impressed by their professionalism once the choppers arrive, arguing that the only thing madder than the camp would be breaking it up.
    • Typically averted when top brass shows up; the doctors (aside from Frank Burns) don't care what generals think of them (and usually end up impressing them to no end).
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: this is how Mike Nelson was introduced in the series. In episode "Mitchell" the mads expected an audit from the Fraternal Order of Mad Science, so they hired temp worker Mike Nelson to help them get Deep 13 in good condition for the inspection. Considering the fact that they were still in business in later episodes, they most likely passed.
  • In The Nanny episode "The Butler, the Husband, the Wife and Her Mother", Niles is anticipating the arrival of inspectors of the Professional Butler's Association to determine whether he's qualified to join. Unfortunately, Fran's mother Sylvia is trying to impress their in-laws by telling them that Fran's married to Maxwell Sheffield, and with Maxwell out at the time they arrive, Fran makes Niles pretend he's Maxwell. Worse, the inspectors arrive to evaluate Niles' performance. When Maxwell returns, Maxwell has to pretend he's Niles.
  • Northern Exposure has a youthful inspector visit Holling Vincoeur's restaurant. He seems nice at first... until he recalls gleefully how he once brought down his own father's restaurant.
  • This is how Dominic is introduced in Power Rangers Jungle Fury by posing as Health Inspector Fuller to gain access to the kitchen where he reunites with an old friend, RJ.
  • The Dutch reality show De Smaakpolitie (the taste police) is all about this trope. In the show, host Rob Geus visits restaurants to check the kitchen. The trope is downplayed a little however by the fact that Rob Geus is not a licenced health inspector, so the restaurant owners can deny him access to the kitchen, and although Rob can give the owner advice on how to improve the conditions in the kitchen, he is not authorized to actually give the restaurant a fine if he finds any violations.
  • The 1990s Children's ITV sketch show Wolf It included sketches in which the titular talking wolves ran a butcher's shop, largely as an excuse for meat-related puns. In one episode a health inspector visits and, after a brief look round and a few questions, tells them that he's closing the shop down - he finds nothing wrong with their meat, but declares their jokes unfit for human consumption.

  • The plotline of multiple episodes of The Men from the Ministry features the arrival of an inspector to the Ministry, with the General Assistance Department always desperately attempting to make it look like they're doing a lot of work instead of slacking all day.

  • In Accidental Death of an Anarchist, The Maniac is able to pull off his impersonation because the police are expecting the visit of a judge to investigate the death.
  • The Broken Jug (Der zerbrochne Krug) by Heinrich von Kleist has an inspector coming to a rural law court - at a time very inconvenient to the judge.
  • The Inspector General by Nikolai Gogol is the Trope Maker for the Mistaken for Special Guest variety. Corrupt local government officials panic when they hear there's an inspector in town, but the guy they suspect of being him is a case of mistaken identity. And yes, the real inspector is on the way.

     Video Games  
  • An occasional event in Cook, Serve, Delicious! involves a health inspector showing up, and the player has to make sure that no chores are failed whenever she is around. Pass, and the player gets a boost to their buzz percentage and, whenever necessary, one step closer to one of their star upgrade criteria being met.
  • Dead Rising 2: Antoine Thomas, the owner of a cookware store and a chef at Cucina Donnacci, is one of the Psychopaths fought in the game who is trying to create the ultimate dish to please a magazine critic, whom he thinks Chuck/Frank is. Having lost his marbles thanks to the outbreak, though, said dish now consists of human flesh.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the Thieves' Guild quests involves you putting rat poison into a meadery's still so they fail inspection, and a competitor (your client) can buy up the defunct business. Doing this also requires doing a Rat Stomp and dealing with, surprisingly, a deranged mage who is plotting to use the rats to attack Whiterun.
  • One of Harry the Handsome Executive's assignments is to destroy all traces of a dangerous substance invented by ScumCo R&D before the health inspector arrives.
  • The Open for Business expansion pack for The Sims 2 lets you become a business owner. Once in a while a writer will come in and inspect your business, and depending on the state that it's in, will either give you a positive or negative review, affecting your business accordingly. You can do positive interactions and improve the environment to increase your chances of a good review. Bad interactions with either you, your staff, or other customers will make it more likely for them to write a negative one.
  • Starsector: The Hegemony will send inspection fleets if you use AI Cores on your own planets or operate a freeport. They can be bribed to keep them away, but if you don't and refuse to let them take the cores, they will turn hostile against your faction.

     Web Original  
  • Alice and the Nightmare has Phanty U's student campus inspected by the military on the very second day of the schoolyear.
  • In The Grossery Gang, mentions of the health inspector's rating of the Yucky Mart have been brought up. The convenience store has an F rating.
  • Ultra Fast Pony: Has had two episodes dealing with inspectors during their abridged version of "The Equestria Games" arc. This includes the same episode below in the original show and the latest episode Keep It Clean.

     Western Animation  
  • Beavis And Butthead: A health inspector visits the boys while they're working at Burger World.
  • The very first episode of Bob's Burgers has this plot. The health inspector, Hugo, becomes a recurring Sitcom Archnemesis determined to shut down the restaurant because he's jealous of Bob's marriage to Linda.
  • Camp Lazlo: In "The Weakest Link", Edward attempts to get the Jelly Beans out of camp before Commander Hoo-Ha makes his inspection, and sends them on a wild goose chase to find an endangered rock. Unfortunately, part of the inspection is that at least one camper is capable of starting a fire, and Lazlo turns out to be the only one capable of doing so at the time, resulting in the rest of the campers having to go find him.
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Live It Up Tonight", Mayor Whitebottom sends an auditor named Anita to do a surprise audit to see if she can find any dirt on Owen and she came close to getting Owen fired because Elwood threw away a receipt.
  • The Daltons: in the episode "Inspecteur Dalton", the Daltons' grandma claims to be an inspector who has to visit the penitentiary... and Peabody believes her. When the actual inspector comes, he gets treated like an impostor and imprisoned.
  • Happens twice to A. Nigma High School in Detentionaire. Both times, Principal General Barrage goes to great lengths to pass, even threatening to cancel the school dance the second time if they don't make it.
  • The Fairly OddParents! has two episodes in which Cosmo and Wanda receive an inspection from Jorgen Von Strangle.
  • FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman: In "Ruff Ruffman Breaks the Mold" When Ruff's Mistaken Message convinces the Board of Health to shut down his show, Ruff and his new intern, Blossom must work together on sanitizing the doghouse before the Health Inspector comes.
  • Futurama: In "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back", Hermes' office is all cleaned up for the inspector from the Central Bureaucracy, but it gets trashed. He attempts suicide, but the inspector talks him out of it by telling him he hasn't done the required paperwork.
  • On House of Mouse, the club is expecting a critic. Mortimer is mistaken for the critic and takes advantage of Mickey's hospitality.
  • I ♡ Arlo: The episode "A Memory of Pizza" has Arlo's crew expect a visit from the Mayor of New York City to oversee their project of reopening Seaside by the Seashore; if she doesn't approve, then the place will be permanently condemned.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: The B-plot of the episode "Holio" has Nani trying to help her boss fix up the Rental Hut to impress an inspector from a big rental company who wants to work with them. However, Lilo constantly getting into trouble is making it difficult for her to do.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Games Ponies Play" revolves around an inspector coming to evaluate the Crystal Empire's worthiness to host the Equestria Games. The Mane Six mistake a random tourist for the inspector for carrying a similar bag and do everything they can to impress her, while the real inspector is left waiting and has a less than hospitable stay. Eventually the tourist and inspector meet up in a spa where the tourist chats about the wonderful time she had, which convinces the inspector to pass the empire.
    • A rare case of this happening with a school happens in the "School Daze" two-parter. In order for Twilight's new "School of Friendship" to be fully accredited by the EEA, Chancellor Neighsay has to visit it to ensure it conforms to EEA standards. Unfortunately, Twilight's obsession with doing everything "by the book" ends up stifling and stressing both the teachers(her friends) and the students, to the point where several students decide to skip class on the day Neighsay is scheduled to arrive. On top of that, it turns out Neighsay is a Fantastic Racist, who dislikes the fact that the school is open to non-ponies and consequently shuts it down.note  In the end, Twilight decides that her school doesn't have to be accredited and reopens it without Neighsay's approval.
  • Rocket Power: In one episode the Shore Shack is visited by an inspector, who lowers the shack's rating because Raymundo uses a surf board as an improvised lid for the trash cans outside.
  • This happens numerous times on The Simpsons in various forms. The nuclear plant has gotten many surprise inspections, including one in which Homer manages to botch a test so badly that he melts down a van despite there being no nuclear material in it. Moe Szyslak gets visited by a health inspector which he knows well...except he dies there. When the new inspector comes, Moe hasn't even cleaned up the body of the previous health inspector.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Played with in "Nasty Patty". Mr. Krabs becomes convinced that a health inspector visiting the Krusty Krab is actually a fraud, who's been scamming them to obtain free food, and he and SpongeBob take revenge by serving him the most disgusting Krabby Patty they can think of. It turns out he's the real deal - but by the time they realise this, the patty has already (seemingly) killed him. Hilarity Ensues as they try to dispose of the Not Quite Dead body.
    • "Squilliam Returns": Squilliam learns about Squidward's job as a restaurant cashier and, predictably, mocks him for it. To defend himself, Squidward makes up a lie about how the Krusty Krab is a fancy, five-star eating establishment and not a fast food restaurant. He convinces Mr. Krabs to remodel the place and tries his hardest to teach SpongeBob etiquette and proper protocol. The poor fry-cook-turned-waiter collapses and only by erasing his memories and knowledge about everything else does he manage to pull a stellar performance. Squilliam is supremely impressed until SpongeBob and the Krusty Krab fall apart.
    • In "The Krusty Sponge", the Krusty Krab gets a visit from a prominent food critic. Despite everyone's best efforts, the critic dislikes everything there except for SpongeBob, which leads to Mr. Krabs going overboard with making everything SpongeBob-themed, down to serving rotten patties that look yellow and spongy.
  • Stōked: "The Very Very Very Very Very Important Guest" is about the resort expecting the arrival of a well-known hotel reviewer.
  • Taz-Mania has an episode where Bushwhacker Bob (the manager of the hotel where Taz is working) expects a hotel critic. Unfortunately, he mistakes Foghorn Leghorn for said critic (their names are similar). The mistake isn't discovered until the end of the episode, at which point Taz is very eager to follow Bob's order to stop Leghorn's hiccups by scaring him.


Video Example(s):


A Memory of Pizza

Arlo gets an urgent call from Ansel that the Mayor of NYC is coming to check on the renovation plans for SBS; if she's not impressed, then the place will be condemned for good.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TheInspectorIsComing

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