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The Mole
aka: Reverse Mole

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"It seems there are some holes in security."
"You were working for her, Seska was working for them...was there anyone on that ship working for me?"
Chakotay, Star Trek: Voyager

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A hero or villain who is secretly working for the other side. Their job is to gather intel for their superiors and/or sabotage the other side's efforts while their supposed comrades are none the wiser.

In most cases, the audience is unaware that a character is a mole until the big reveal. In others, the audience is fully aware that a character is a spy, and the work will utilize Dramatic Irony as they try to hide their identity and motivations from their "colleagues".

If one of the heroes had been in a romantic relationship with the Mole before The Reveal, he or she may ask "Was It All a Lie?" Particularly heartless Moles may reveal that yes, I Was Only Pretending To Like You and gleefully taunt them over it, while others may have indeed developed feelings for the person being betrayed and may wind up Becoming the Mask.

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If The Mole is also a fake Heel–Face Turn, they're a Heel–Face Mole. If someone isn't The Mole, but it looks like they are, they’re a Red Herring Mole. If a person is unaware that someone is a mole on the other side, they may be Mistaken for Betrayal, leading to Mistakenly Attacked Mole.

Compare Big Bad Friend (an actual friend who is nevertheless a villain), Evil All Along (if the mole was pretending to be a hero but turned out to be on the villain's side) Turncoat and Les Collaborateurs. Contrast Friendly Enemy (a known villain who is nevertheless a friend). See also The Infiltration for the short-term version, and Mole in Charge for particularly successful spies who wind up the boss.

Ten Little Murder Victims is an example of a plot concerning the hunt for The Mole. A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing is The Mole via false identity. Flock of Wolves is a group where everyone is The Mole. And Social Deduction Game is when players have to actively find out who the mole is.

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Not to be confused with the Reality TV series of the same name (though it's all about this trope), The Mole from Thunderbirds (which is a digging machine), the Dick Tracy villain, Mole Men, Mole Miner, 6.02 x 1023,note  Beauty Mark, or the Mexican chocolate sauce.

Be alert that spoilers may follow, due to the secretive nature of this character.


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Other examples

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  • Two unseen figures are examining files on the advertised car in the middle of the night, when a security guard bursts in and captures them.
    Guard: So you're the mole! (shines his torch on the spy, who is a literal mole) And who's that? (shines torch on a pigeon sitting on a stool)
    Mole: The Stool Pigeon!

    Asian Animation 
  • Wolffy becomes this at one point in Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, more specifically the season Mighty Little Defenders. In that season, Wolffy is transformed into a dog and convinces everyone that he's the Team Pet of the goats. In reality, he's still on the wolves' side.

    Audio Plays 

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animated 
  • Frozen (2013): Prince Hans reveals himself to be The Mole trying off Anna and Elsa so he can rule Arendelle and impress his brothers.
  • Ice Age: Diego starts out as this, although he later has a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Heavy Metal 2000: Odin reveals himself as The Mole during the climactic battle, just after the Big Bad has been killed by the heroine.
  • Monsters, Inc.: Randall Boggs and Mr. Waternoose are in charge of kidnapping children for the sake of keeping the company up and running to power Monstropolis. The former is only shown as cocky and cruel before The Reveal on how grossly vile he really is, thus less surprising than the latter Mole.
  • Toy Story 2: Stinky Pete sought to aid Al's Toy Barn in making profit, preventing Sheriff Woody from returning home. This Mole changes his ways at the very end; however, he gets sent to Japan in doing so.

    Manhua 
  • Long Wei is informed near the start of Infinity Game that somebody has infected the alternative world with a virus that is causing the game to become more difficult and permanently killing people (originally death in the game meant the player would return unharmed to the real world), so he sets out to find out who it is. It was D.D., infected by the RPG Society.

    Radio 
  • Adventures in Odyssey: The audience was let in fairly early on the fact that Mr. Glossman was a mole, but not on who he was working for.
  • The Storyteller sketch in one episode of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme was a spy drama set in a zoo, with Finnemore's boss assigning him to find a mole. Before he can make the obvious response, his boss adds "Finnemore, I'm an old man and that joke could actually kill me." It turns out to be a mynah bird.
  • Journey into Space:
    • In The Red Planet, James Edward Whitaker, who was abducted and conditioned by the Martians in 1924, serves as their spy in the Discovery expedition.
    • In The World in Peril, the crew discover that the Lunar Controller has been working with the Martians all along. He used his influence to bring conditioned personnel such as Whitaker into the space programme.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, the players are police detectives investigating a murder. However, one of the players is actually the killer, who must try to throw the other players off their trail (with the help of an accomplice in larger games). Meanwhile, one player takes the role of the "forensic scientist" who tries to give the other players hints as to the murder weapon and the clue left behind at the scene of the crime, which only the murderer and their accomplice know.
  • Paranoia takes this to an extreme; every single character in the game is a traitor working for a different secret society. Some of them (especially Internal Security agents and the Illuminati) infiltrate other secret societies.
    • And then there's the Wobblies. The Computer heard rumors and sent a Troubleshooter team to investigate, but they'd died out long ago, so the team reported finding nothing— and was executed for failing to follow orders. A dozen or so teams later, one team created the society so they'd have something to investigate. To this day, every single member is an infiltrator.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Although most Radical Inquisitors are just Cowboy Cops who do their jobs in ways the bosses on Holy Terra wouldn't approve of, there are quite a few extremists who, for various reasons, abuse their Inquisitorial authority to do things that undermine the Imperium's security. Some of them are outright trying to overthrow one or more of the Imperium's ruling bodies.
    • An alien coalition group convinced the Alpha Legion to become this. In order to effectively pull it off, however, they would need to pull do a sincere (or at least a ostensible) full-on Heel–Face Turn. Considering their reputation and MO relies on absolute secrecy and different units' ability to act independently, down to individual soldiers, their motives into the present are largely a mystery. The question of whether the entire Legion, or individual cells and warbands have fallen to Chaos or have remained closet loyalists is a large part of their mystique.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse
    • Black Spiral Dancers think that they can woo Gaia Garou into the Wyrm's embrace. They fail to understand that some Gaia Garou pretend to draw close to the Wyrm so as to undermine the Wyrm's forces.
    • Among the Shadow Lords, members of the Bringers of Light camp infiltrate Wyrm strongholds (at great personal risk) so as to subvert them from within.
    • Among the Stargazers, members of the Oroborean camp seek to free the Wyrm of Balance by learning as much as they can about Wyrm lore, sometimes with Black Spiral Dancer hives. They later "cleanse" and "liberate" Wyrm minions by torturing and killing them.
    • A handful of Uktena have pretended to join the Black Spiral Dancers in order to gain information or undermine the Wyrm. Anhai joined the Black Spiral Dancers, only to lead them away from where a new Uktena caern was being created. White-Eye-ikthya may be a deep cover Uktena agent within the Trinity Hive.

    Theatre 
  • In The Gentleman Ranker, Lieutenant Harford is a German agent who has been undercover for a decade as a British officer.

    Theme Parks 

    Toys 
  • Ancient and the Mana-Ko beasts in BIONICLE were really secret agents working for the Order of Mata Nui. The former was also a founding member of the evil bounty hunter organization the Dark Hunters, while the Mana-Ko were Giant Enemy Crabs guarding one of the Big Bad's lairs. Sadly, neither reveal had any foreshadowing, nor have they impacted the plot in any way.

    Real Life 
  • From 1968-1985, US Navy Warrant Officer John Anthony Walker acted as a spy for the Soviet Union, handing over thousands of pages of classified documents in exchange for millions of dollars in cash payments. Despite two decades of espionage, Walker was never even suspected of criminal activity by authorities. He received an honorable retirement from the navy in 1976 and continued his spying even after leaving service, getting his son (who was also in the navy) involved in his activities as well. Walker's downfall and arrest only happened as a result of his estranged ex-wife turning him in. When asked how he was able to get away with espionage for so long without being detected, he said "K-Mart has better security than the Navy".
  • FBI Agent Robert Hanssen, one of the most damaging moles American counter-intelligence has ever had. Sold information to the USSR that resulted in the deaths of many agents and defectors over a two decade period. At one point, Hanssen was tasked in his counter-intelligence work to find the Soviet mole. He was looking for himself!
    • His damage wasn't limited to the intelligence community. Hanssen is thought to have leaked information on the FBI's manhunt for Osama bin Laden to Russian handlers. This information ended up on the black market, and eventually into the hands of bin Laden himself. This leak is thought to have helped facilitate 9/11.
      • Efforts to identify and capture Hanssen were complicated by the fact that he and Aldrich Ames (below), a Russian mole in the CIA, were operating at the same time and in some cases leaked the same information.
  • Aldrich Hazen Ames, one of the most notorious double agents in CIA history. Received approximately $4.6 million from the Soviets for selling out several CIA sources and operations to them from the 80s until his capture in 1994. His actions as a Soviet mole were so shocking and poignant that a movie was made about him, Aldrich Ames: Traitor Within, and he's been referenced in several espionage stories since his discovery. Also infamous for beating the regular CIA polygraph tests by being very calm.
  • Several of the Cambridge Five in the UK could be classed as this, but the most infamous would probably be Kim Philby who, as a long-term spy for the Soviet Union within MI6, at one point became head of Section IX: tasked with counter-espionage against the USSR; at another point he was MI6's liasion with the CIA. This had a direct effect on the psychology of the CIA, with agency chief James Jesus Angleton, already a suspicious man, becoming The Paranoiac and going on an equally destructive witch hunt in the American intelligence community.
  • Mark Zborowski, yet another Soviet mole. He wormed his way into Trotsky's circle and possibly assisted in the death of Trotsky's son.
  • Anna Chapman, the gorgeous hot chick, turned out to be a spy for the Russians. Along with nine other nameless guys, by the way, whom the media didn't care about.
  • When the British anti-capitalistic left-wing organisation Lordon Greenpeace was involved the so-called "McLibel case" against McDonald's, it was estimated that up to one half of the members of the organisation was moles both planted by the British police and McDonald's itself.
  • A black police officer once managed to join a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and bring it down from within. It happened in 1979, when undercover cop Ron Stallworth spotted a recruitment ad for the KKK in his Colorado Springs newspaper. Ron called them to apply to see if he could infiltrate the group, but there was one problem - he was black. Still, over the phone, he put on an Oscar-worthy performance, telling them he was a white man tired of being harassed by authorities, and even gave them a story about how angry he was that his sister was dating an African American (not the term he actually used). Amazingly, it worked. Stillman's partner - a white narcotics officer - was able to meet with them in person, use several of Stallworth's non-photo IDs to gain an application, and before long, Stillman was inducted into the group. His partner attended Klan meetings in his place for a full year, while Stillman himself chatted with the Klansmen over the phone, gaining information they did not want non-members to get. Even Grand Wizard David Duke was fooled this way; ironically, Duke told Stallworth in one phone conversation that he could identify a black man via his voice. End result, Stallworth was able to become a rather influential member and prevented any cross burnings from occurring in Colorado Springs. He was so proud of his work that he eventually framed his KKK membership card and hung it in his office until his retirement. The story was told in a book and movie.
  • Older Than Print: The Southampton Plot of 1415 was a conspiracy to replace King Henry V with Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March. The ringleaders were betrayed to Henry V (who had them promptly arrested and executed) by none other than ... Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March.


 
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Alternative Title(s): Mole, Reverse Mole, Cold Name Mole

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