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Two-Way Tapping

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A comedy trope where the presence of eavesdroppers is revealed because the bugs work both ways. For some reason, no one thought to use simple bugs for surveillance.

Compare The Television Talks Back, Is This Thing Still On?.


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    Comic Strips 
  • In early strips of The Boondocks, Huey's politically-charged phone conversations would often be interrupted by wiretapping agents asking him to repeat what he just said, as there was too much to write down in one go.
  • In the wake of the NSA eavesdropping scandal, many political cartoons have portrayed the NSA (sometimes the President himself) as listening in on private phone conversations having nothing to do with national security and chiming in.

  • Played with in The Osterman Weekend. A Coincidental Broadcast (actually a video feed) on the illicit use of Swiss bank accounts appears on television as part of the Mind Screw tactics being used against an alleged ring of traitors. At one point the CIA agent in charge uses the video feed to speak directly to the protagonist (who is working for him), only to have an Oh, Crap! moment when the link won't turn off when someone else enters the room. The CIA man then pretends he's giving a weather report.
    • Then cruelly averted later when the the CIA decides You Know Too Much and they're Forced to Watch as their friends are blown up. They try to warn them about the bomb, but this time the communication is video only. They try writing out a warning, but it's too late.

  • Dave Barry : "Crack U.S. counterintelligence agents in Moscow begin to suspect that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, constructed by Soviet labor, might be bugged when one of them sneezes in the ambassador's office and six chairs say "Gesundheit" ".
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: When Winston and Julia have a quiet conversation after one of their illicit encounters in Charrington's flat, Winston muses about a Prole woman they're observing outside, "Hers is the future, we are the dead", and Julia echoes "we are the dead". A voice from the direction of a painting on the wall immediately responds "you are the dead", revealing that there was a telescreen hidden underneath and that they'd been caught in their forbidden activities and discourse. Moments later the Thought Police arrive in helicopters and arrest them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Comic Relief Doctor Who parody The Curse of Fatal Death with Rowan Atkinson, the Doctor overhears the Master's Evil Gloating while the Master is spying on him because of this.
  • One episode of Chuck has the title character accidentally reveal the bug he'd planted when he got tired of a love interest's friend bashing him and snarkily says that he makes twelve dollars an hour, okay?

    Puppet Shows 
  • One sequence in Les Guignols de l'info parodies the "Whassup?" Budweiser commercial by having Osama Bin Laden, Mollah Omar and various other bad guys yelling "Anthraaaaaaax!" on the phone. American agents listening in are getting excited ("30 more seconds and we locate Bin Laden!")... Until George W. Bush (whose Guignols version is a mentally handicapped manchild) picks up the agents' phone and joins in, causing everyone else to hang up.

    Web Comic 
  • Commander Kitty has the cast come up with a plan as they eavesdrop on Zenith with one of the mouse nodes. The mouse announces that they should abandon that plan, with the next frame showing Zenith throw the mouse module to the group.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Actually justified by Lieutenant Sorlie's "secure" bone-phone, as the intent was to let the intelligence agency doing the tapping speak privately to their mole. Unfortunately for them, Schlock has very good hearing.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons
    • Chief Quimby puts a wire tap on Bart. He then blows the cover when he hears Fat Tony through the wire and goes "Fat Tony, is that you?"
    • Ned Flanders & Co. volunteer to watch the surveillance cameras posted everywhere. They're supposed to be looking for crime but they end up nannying everyone, making sure nothing "naughty" happens. If they see something there's a speaker they talk through to tell the perps to cut it out.
    • During the episode where Homer buys (and is absurdly reckless with) a revolver, Marge leaves the house with the children because she's fed up and goes to a pretty lousy hotel, with things like corpses on the pool, lousy beds, and an an incredibly obvious ceiling-mounted camera that tells Marge to ignore it and go to sleep when she points it out.
    • When Homer & Ned go to Las Vegas Ned isn't sure if it's the right thing to do, so he prays. A surveillance bubble in the ceiling responds.
      Ned: Aw, leave me out of this, Homer. Games of chance are strictly forbidden by Deuteronomy 7.
      Homer: Seven, eh?
      (Homer places his chips on seven; the ball lands in the seven slot)
      Homer: Way to go, Flanders! The Bible's finally pulling its weight. Got any more holy numbers?
      Ned: Oh, I got a bunch, Homer, but I just don't feel right. Oh, Lord, what should I do?
      (Ned looks up at the ceiling, staring at a black bubble camera which quietly says "Keep gaming")
      Ned: What?
      Security Man: (speaking through bubble) It means gambling. Keep gambling.
      Ned: Oh. Righty-O!
  • Dale Gribble manages to pull this off in one King of the Hill episode, where he had attempted to bug the Hills' house, but accidentally put the wrong devices in the wrong place, so while he was scheming around what he thought was the receiving end, the Hills end up hearing everything he's saying.
  • Justified in Dinotrux as given the means on hand, the only way to actually tap the enemy's lair is by carving a pair of acoustic mirrors into the rocks. Everyone knows this will work both ways and they try to be careful about it but still end up giving themselves away.


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