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A character approaches a situation under the impression that they're dealing with a prank, a con, or a staged event. Unfortunately for them, it's all quite real. When they eventually find out, expect mighty embarrassment or even Fainting if the situation was dangerous enough. Sometimes this is a Magic Feather, and it's revealed that the character is far more competent than they realize.

Not always played for laughs, if the character realizes the reality of the situation before he succeeds (and especially if their oblivious actions have made things worse in the meantime).

In comedies, discovering that the situation is real often turns the poor shmuck Genre Savvy.

Compare Real After All, Mistaken for An Impostor and All Part of the Show. Contrast The Game Never Stopped and You Just Ruined the Shot, where the character thinks events are real, but they aren't. See also Mistaken for Badass, Not a Game.

Examples of And You Thought It Was a Game include:

Anime and Manga

  • The main character of Dokkoida agrees to put on the costume and fight supervillains because the costume contains a special component which boosts his fighting ability, all while playing dramatic music... except that the end of the first episode reveals that the suit manufacturer forgot to put that specific component in, leaving only the music. The other characters don't bother to mention this fact to him until the last episode.
    • Suzuo also put on the suit because he didn't take the claims about fighting supervillains seriously, since the suits makers were a toy company. He realizes too late that toy companies can make weapons too.
  • Digimon Adventure 02: Ken Ichijoji has no problem with enslaving, torturing and killing Digimon because he thinks he's just playing a virtual MMORPG. When he is finally proven wrong with Wormmon's death he suffers a BSOD, triggering his eventual Heel Face Turn.
    • Previously, riding on the confidence he stems from Koushiro's discovery that the Digital World is, well, a digital world, Taichi believes that he's virtually invincible and if things go awry he'll respawn in the real world. He passes through an illusion of a gate of electricity believing that he won't die from it, but when he later has this trope revealed to him by Koushiro he hesitates in going through it again, resulting in Sora being kidnapped. He still hesitates to go through again on the subsequent rescue mission.
    • Digimon Xros Wars: Yuu Amano was lured into the Digital World by the promise of being able to play with real friends without the possibility of permanently hurting or killing them. That turned into him leading the forces of the Bagra Army in the war, believing no-one's actually dying. Near the endgame, because of this he even has no problem with the notion of killing his own sister Nene, one of the generals of the opposition; he even sees ending her as part of the game. When Taiki explains that it's actually not the case, he flips out; Tuwarmon recognises that it's important for the Bagra Army that Yuu continue to believe that it's all a game, and afterwards makes a point of reassuring him.
  • Suzumiya Haruhi and her SOS Brigade skip off to a remote island in, amusingly enough, Remote Island Syndrome and are thrown into a murder mystery. It's later revealed to be a game set up by Koizumi Itsuki in order to keep Haruhi entertained. Hell, even Kyon suspected himself to be the killer at one point. Presumably, the only person who isn't in on it that knew it was a game all along was Nagato Yuki, but she certainly wouldn't say anything.
    • This may have backfired disturbingly. There's hints that Haruhi may have unconsciously conjured up a real killer before realizing it was a game, to provide a suitable suspect that wasn't part her circle of friends. A killer who may well still be on that island.
  • In Akagi, the insanely talented title character agrees to play Mahjong against Yakuza rep player Urabe only if his mild-mannered coworker Osamu plays first. As it turns out, Osamu is actually quite good and holds his own against the professional... until he hears that the game is being played for a wager of 32 million yen between two rival Yakuza groups. His emotions overwhelm his ability to play, and Akagi has to step in and save him.
  • Byakuran from Katekyou Hitman Reborn! thought the whole world was just a computer program. Or it was just a metaphor. We will never know.
  • The protagonists in Bokurano are told they're going to pilot giant robots as part of a game. This is a massive, massive lie.
    • At least from their point of view. For whoever's behind it, however...
  • Played straight by the Beelzebub delinquents through the entire premise of the FPS/online video gaming chapters. Furuichi and Lamia convince the Ishiyama gang to join in the search for Lord En by challenging him at online games. They agree to skip school and look for him - all under the impression that Lord En and his retainers are from a rival school that simply want to to beat the crap out of the Ishiyama students. Little do the thugs know that, while playing with En and his maids non-stop for three straight days, Behemoth's 34th Pillar Squads are assembling to annihilate humanity in Lord En's name.

Comic Books

  • One of the DC Comics science fiction comics once had a one-shot story about a man stuck in his humdrum life who finds three discs. Each one, when activated, whisks him away into what he thinks is a particular vivid daydream where he gets to play the role of the hero, and vanishes when the 'daydream' ends. The final 'daydream' takes him to his hometown where he thwarts a gang of bank robbers. When he returns home, he finds himself being hailed as a hero and he realizes that all of the 'daydreams' were actually real. He faints.
  • In the Lucky Luke "Nitroglycerine" story, Luke is escorting a shipment of nitroglycerine to a railroad tunnel site. The Daltons, spying on him, think the huge crate is filled with gold bars, being sent to the town of "Nitro". Hilarity Ensues when the Daltons try to shoot the lock off, jump bridges on the train, etc. At the end, Joe demands to know where the gold was, and faints upon learning what was inside.
  • A comic about Donald Duck, Lost Valley, has him forced to become a tour guide in the Amazon. When he and the tourists come upon an ancient temple inhabited by evil sentient apes who kidnap his companions, initially he panics... until he finds a booklet that details the travel bureau's great plan to create a fake ancient temple with costumed actors to scare the gullible tourists. He then proceeds to kick ass and take names. After they're all back to civilization, Donald angrily storms into the office to protest about being included in a fraud, only to be told that he came upon a REAL temple with REAL monsters. He faints upon hearing this.
  • In an old Eagle story from the Thirteenth Floor, a bullied schoolboy is trained in Kung Fu by a computer using virtual reality, but he is still too afraid to fight the school bullies until the computer lures them into its VR suite and lets the little "wimp" spiflicate them thinking that they're part of the programme.


  • In The Man Who Knew Too Little (which used to be the Trope Namer), Wallace Ritchie believes himself to be taking part in an avant-garde street theatre experience, when he has actually embroiled himself in an assassination plot. A similarly contrived set of circumstances results in everyone else connected to the plot thinking that he's a cold-blooded assassin. Hilarity Ensues. Unusually for how this trope usually plays out, Wallace doesn't figure out that it was all real until some time after the end credits start rolling.
  • Tim Allen's character in Galaxy Quest orders the destruction of a threatening enemy spacecraft, believing himself to be shooting a promo for the fans of his show.
    • To be fair, he was hung-over and didn't want to stay on the "set" any longer than necessary.
  • Guido (Roberto Benigni) spends most of the film Life is Beautiful trying to maintain his son's condition as The Child Who Knew Too Little, to maintain his hope. The truth? They were both in a Nazi concentration camp.
  • In the movie Problem Child, Ben Healy (John Ritter) encounters a bear at a campsite, and, believing it to be a friend in costume, acts playfully towards it. He soon realizes that the bear is an actual animal. During the ensuing panic, the bear retreats and the actual friend dressed as a bear arrives, whom Ben hits over the head with a skillet.
  • A good 2/3 through Malibu's Most Wanted, the main character B-rad finds out that the "thugs" who kidnapped him were actually just actors hired by his father to try to scare him straight. Instead of revealing that he knows what's really going on, he decides to play along and have fun with it. When actual thugs kidnap him and the actors, however, he doesn't realize anything's wrong, and his fearlessness puts him in terrible danger but also lets him become the ultimate gangsta.
  • In the film Three Amigos!, three movie stars who specialize in rescuing-Mexican-peasant-villages-from-marauding-bandits movies are invited to come and rescue a real Mexican peasant village from real marauding bandits; they assume the whole thing is staged until one of them finds out the hard way that their opponents are using real bullets.
    • Double for the bit where they attempt a ritual to summon the "invisible swordsman". They successfully summon the swordsman, but end up with Dusty shooting him because he didn't aim his guns safely upwards during the "fire gun" part.
  • In the movie Erik the Viking, the title character borrows Princess Aud's cloak of invisibility and bravely attacks Halfdan the Black's crew, not realizing that the cloak only makes its wearer invisible to Aud's father. (Not a Magic Feather because he wasn't misled about the powers of the cloak; he took it into battle before Aud could explain its limitations.)
    • Although it does have an effect on him: since he thinks he's invisible, he gets confident enough to be able to fight with reckless abandon, which stupefies Blackdan's crew enough for him to beat several of them, and also inspire several of his own crew to fight.
  • Nicholas Angel in Hot Fuzz being called about an "escaped swan". "And who might you be? P. I. Staker? Right. 'Pisstaker'? Come on!" Cut away to Nicholas taking Mr. Staker's statement.
  • Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun 2 1/2 in a truly painful scene where he tries to "expose" an impostor, eventually going so far as to sand off the "fake" mole on his buttocks.
  • The title character in Johnny English faces a similar situation when he discovers a plot involving the coronation of Big Bad Sauvage by a fake Archbishop of Canterbury. Unfortunately for English, the evil plan was scrapped, and he eventually tries to "expose" a man "disguised" as the Archbishop of Canterbury, leading him to attempt to pull off the "mask" and "reveal" a tattoo on the impostor's butt... on a coronation being broadcast to the entire world.
    • Interestingly, the Big Bad does try to warn him, realizing the kind of embarrassment this is going to cause, but English isn't about to listen to a Frenchman.
  • This is apparently premise of the film Tropic Thunder: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. (As a method actor who has been surgically altered into a Black man) get dropped into a real war zone while still thinking they're filming a movie about the Vietnam War. Robert Downey Jr. almost immediately realizes the mistake. The others... take a little time.
  • Inverted in the 2008 Disney film Bolt. The title character is the canine hero of a sci-fi/action show who, in the interests of verisimilitude (and because he's a dog), is kept in the dark about the fictional nature of his show . When one episode ends on a cliffhanger and Bolt accidentally escapes from the set in his efforts to save his human co-star Penny, things get complicated...
  • Also inverted in The Truman Show.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Willie spends her first proper night in the jungle jumping and panicking at every sound and critter that appears, a tendency not helped by a tamed elephant's over-friendly tendency to lay its trunk on her shoulder. Then, after a particularly exhausting scream-a-thon and subsequent argument with Indy that wears her out, a deadly snake slithers down from a tree onto her shoulder. Whilst Indy himself is paralyzed with fear, Willie—fed-up and assuming it's just the elephant—yells "Quit it!", grabs the snake and hurls it very far away without even looking.
  • In My Name Is Bruce Bruce Campbell (playing himself) is kidnapped by a fan who wants his help fighting a monster that's killing the townsfolk. Bruce believes that he is there to star in an unscripted movie. Bruce realizes that the monster is real when he leads an attack on it, and he promptly turns around and flees.
  • Happens with Commandant Lassard in the fifth Police Academy.
    • To the point of him helping the kidnappers get away.
    • Subverted in that, when he finds out the truth, he doesn't faint or feel embarrassed. He immediately disarms the head kidnapper with a single move, who doesn't expect it from an old man.
  • The entire premise of The Game is the millionaire protagonist working out whether he is taking part in a Live-Action Role-Playing adventure game, or are there actually people trying to kill him?
    • Or is he really just going insane and having paranoid delusions?
  • The first two victims in Westworld assume the androids will let them win their duels as they have been programmed to do, not realizing that AI Is a Crapshoot.
  • This is the entire plot of the classic sci-fi film The Last Starfighter.
    • The main character is a teenager who is the best in his town at a video game. You can guess what happens next.
  • In the sequel to the French comedy The Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe, the hapless everyman is recruited by a high-ranking intelligence officer to help discredit another. They set up a gauntlet of encounters in which our hero, pretending to be a spy, "beats" or "kills" a series of bad guys, while under surveillance by that other intelligence officer. At one point, our hero turns left down an alleyway instead of turning right, meets a burly workman, and assumes this is the next guy he's supposed to fight. The workman gets annoyed at this skinny loser whacking him with fake karate chops...
  • At the end of What About Bob? Bob thinks he is undergoing "Death Therapy" although Dr. Leo Marvin is actually trying to kill him.
  • Played with in the original Tron. Flynn's been zapped into the computer system and captured by Master Control's forces. They take him to the Game Grid where Ram informs what he thinks is just another captive Program about the situation, and that he'll be forced to play video games. Flynn laughs it off, saying he plays games better than anyone...and then the poor bastard finds out just how differently things work on the other side of the screen.
  • In War Games, David Lightman hacks into a government mainframe and innocently fires up the "game" Global Thermonuclear War, only for all of the computers connected to think that the Russians have started a first strike.
  • In A Bugs Life, Flick mistakes circus performers for real warriors, and they think he's looking for performers.


  • The climax of Ender's Game. Ender and the other Battle School graduates are sent to Command School, where they are sent through a grueling set of fleet combat simulations. None of them even suspect that they're actually commanding real ships against the real enemy, and when Ender realizes that they will never stop trying to break him, he decides to intentionally fail in the most spectacular way possible by ordering a suicide attack against the enemy homeworld, resulting in its destruction and the annihilation of an entire alien species. He doesn't take the truth well...
  • In the Discworld novel Going Postal, Moist von Lipwig is totally unconcerned about facing down a pack of angry guard dogs because he knows that all purebred Lipwigzers (the Disc's version of Rottweilers) were trained by his countrymen (they don't let females out of the country, to keep the breed price high). He successfully uses his granddad's commands to control them, but later learns they were Ankh-Morpork mongrels that looked like Lipwigzers.
    • It's probably fortunate for Moist that he didn't put two and two together earlier, because he had all the information he needed to be really worried about that situation well in advance-not only his own knowledge that Lipwigzers are deliberately kept expensive, but earlier in the book, Mr. Groat mentions that at one point the paychecks stopped showing up, and he didn't check up after them because he was afraid not being noticed was the only thing standing between him and not having a job. I don't think they were really in a position to afford the mutts they had on hand (they'd been borrowed from "Piss Harry" King, if I recall - now better known as 'The King of the Golden River'), let alone expensive foreign dogs.
      • Assuming the post office actually owns a pack of dogs just for hazing the newbies would have been a bit of a leap, so it would have been clear to Lipwig they were borrowed.
  • The Endymion in Dan Simmons Rise of Endymion does some pretty bad ass acrobatics on a mountain cliff, all the while thinking that dropping would be such a hassle because somebody would have to retrieve him from the safety line. Just until he sees some fearful friend rush to him with just that safety line he forgot to attach. Considering the circumstances, his lapse of mind is easily forgiven, though.
  • In John Dickson Carr's The Arabian Nights Murder, a set of friends putting on an act to trick one of their buddies hires an actor to play a professor in an Arabian museum. They are surprised when a real professor, a friend of the museum's owner, arrives for a meeting and is treated as an actor who looks just like the real thing. In the meantime, the professor thinks that the actors are real, and attacks one of them in an act of misguided heroics.
  • In Halting State by Charles Stross, the British and Chinese intelligence agencies both run Alternate Reality Games in which player-characters pretend (or rather, think they're pretending) to be spies, essentially creating hundreds of agents who Know Too Little.
  • The Howlers in K.A. Applegate's Animorphs books are savage killers. However, their mind has been compared to a dolphin's in playfulness. They only kill because they have no idea that their victims are alive and feel pain and emotions. Seeing an emotional display causes their master to stop using them immediately as they were unwilling to fight.
  • Another dramatic example: in the sci-fi novella "Wine of the Dreamers", Raul Kinson is raised in a dwindling alien compound and believes the devices he periodically sleeps in are advanced virtual reality devices that create three alternate worlds within the dreamers' minds. Killing or humiliating dream characters is a popular sport. Unfortunately, the dream worlds are actually long-lost colony planets, one of which is Earth! Over the course of millennia, the dreamers have destroyed space programs and even triggered nuclear wars due to a misremembered plan that the "dreams" must end when the colony worlds achieve interstellar flight.
  • The plot of Interstellar Pig, basically. Barney plays a round of the eponymous board game with his new friends, then gradually notices them getting up to some strange business, and starts nosing around himself when he notices a few things in his house that seem relevant. The next time they invite him to play, humans have been added to the game, represented on the cards by Barney, because by that point Barney's found the real Pig, and also his "new friends" are actually aliens who are willing to kill for the thing. Also, humans have the lowest possible intelligence score, because Barney refused to leave well enough alone.

Live Action TV

  • When the holodeck in Star Trek the Next Generation malfunctions, the players sometimes take a while to realize there's a problem. The most obvious example was the first such episode, "The Big Goodbye", in which a Red Shirt practically dares a hologram to shoot him and is shocked when the bullet actually hurts him.
  • In one Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode, the hologram Vic Fontaine gets Kira and Odo to hook up by telling Odo that he's dealing with a hologram of Kira, which takes Odo's insecurity out of the equation.
    • In the episode "Move Along Home", Quark begins playing a game with some mysterious new visitors using four pieces, when he discovers that four crew members have been whisked off to the game world. Subverted when he loses, and they all materialize back at Quark's. After all, it's just a game!
  • Supernatural has the main characters attend a convention about the series of Supernatural books, which exist in the universe. When they get there, they find a LARP going on in which an old urban myth is the basis of a 'hunt'. They team up with a gay couple who are LARPing as Sam & Dean, and when they realise that the events of the book are real, they choose to team up (unknowingly) with the real Sam and Dean to help take down the Big Bad, because "It's what Sam and Dean would do." The real Sam and Dean choose to play along, claiming to just be fans who are so into the books that they took up monster-hunting for real.
  • In an episode of The Thin Blue Line, Fowler confronts and talks down a group of dangerous bank robbers, while under the impression they were students playing a prank.
    • Inverted in real life, when a street thief ran round a corner and encountered some people dressed as New York City cops, who he surrendered to. They held him for half an hour until a police car arrived... whereupon they informed him that he had just given himself up to actors filming on location.
  • On Just Shoot Me, Maya's Murder Game goes awry when an actual death occurs and she can't convince the others that it isn't part of the game.
  • On Frasier the exact same thing happens.
    • Except Niles, etc. had the opposite goal; to convince everyone else that the recently deceased was just part of the game.
  • In one episode of Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard and McKay are playing what they think is a simulation/strategy game similar to Civilization. Their differing play styles and natural rivalry means that it's no surprise that this strategy game will quickly turn into a wargame. However, everything changes when they realize that the Ancient device they are playing the game on is actually manipulating two actual civilizations remotely, and they scramble to try to avert a real war.
  • In the Kenan and Kel episode "Bye Bye Kenan: Part 2", Kenan comes up with a Zany Scheme to force his father to quit his new job as a park ranger by having one of his new friends dress up as a bear and frighten his father into quitting. Hilarity Ensues when a slightly more realistic bear costume a real bear shows up first.
  • In "Rose", the first episode of the revived Doctor Who, Rose encounters a crowd of Autons, plastic mannequins animated by the Nestene Consciousness, and is saved from certain death by the Doctor. She guesses that the Autons are in fact students dressed up as a prank. She is wrong.
  • In one episode of Mash, Radar runs unthinkingly into a minefield to save an injured Korean girl. When later told how brave he was by B.J., Radar responds "Did I just run into a minefield?" Granted, he knew the minefield was there before he ran into it, but didn't fully grasp what he had done until the danger was over.
    • Which is what many real-world heroes do, including a large percentage of Medal of Honor winners.
  • In The Monkees episode "The Picture Frame", the Monkees are hired to play bank robbers in a movie holdup scene, not knowing they will actually be robbing the bank.
  • Spike knows too little in the final series of Angel. Confronting a wild young girl, he challenges the demon possessing her to come out and fight him. Sadly, demonic possession is not what's going on here. She is an insane vampire-slayer, and what she does to him is amongst the squickiest violence in the Buffy/Angel canon.
  • Both played straight and inverted by the same situation in one episode of Castle: it starts by showing the victim, who paid good money to play at being a spy in a rather impressive personalized Alternate Reality Game, being chased by someone who he assumed was part of the game, but was actually a real-life murderer. On discovering the body, complete with all sorts of cool spy props, Castle of course assumes actual espionage was involved - and proceeds to thoroughly confuse the actors hired as part of the ARG. Similarly, a man picked up in the course of the investigation is suave, confident, and refuses to tell the cops a goddamned thing... until they mention the ARG and he realizes that this isn't part of the game, he's really been arrested by the real police. The super-spy promptly evaporates and is replaced with an ordinary man who's rather terrified at how over his head he's gotten.
  • In one episode of Gilligan's Island, Gilligan is suffering from low self-esteem (and no wonder). The other inhabitees of the island set up increasingly insane situations for him to save them from, until they finally tie themselves to stakes and pretend a cannibal captured them and will eat them. At that moment, an actual cannibal happens upon the scene, but Gilligan thinks it's just the Skipper in disguise, and he drives the cannibal out sillily.

Video Games

  • Since the Holy Grail War in Fate Extra takes place in Cyberspace, many of the participating Masters initially approached it as a game. The full impact of just what they'd signed up for and the conditions for winning (namely that the losers have their body and soul erased from reality, no one but the surviving contestants remembering they ever even existed) doesn't sink in until the first round ends. This is particularly driven home by Shinji's reaction.

Web Comics

  • Kent from Sluggy Freelance, who believes he's facing vampire- base LARPers rather than actual vampires, although in his case it endures in the face of all evidence because his Weirdness Censor is incredibly strong - which in the Sluggy universe is another way of saying Too Dumb to Live.
  • In Clan of the Cats, the main character is a shape-shifting witch, who can transform into a black panther. After an incident during a vacation with her ditzy half-sister, she runs off into the woods in a distressed state. Shortly after, a black panther is found hiding in a crawlspace under the house they're staying in, and The Ditz crawls in there to comfort her half-sister. After spending most of the night trying to cheer up her half-sister, she finally finds out that it's a REAL black panther, who has just escaped from a private zoo...
    • Similarly, in one of the books by Laura Ingalls-Wilder, her mother goes out in the dark to see to the cows, and finds instead a bear. But, believing it to be her cow, she swats it on the rump. This leads to her ordering Laura to "go back inside--now" in an effective lesson on quick obedience.
  • Killroy And Tina: When an enemy of Killroy's shows up while he's training Tina, Killroy lets Tina believe it's part of the test.
  • The Wotch: Anne mistakes an actual attack for a training exercise.
  • Captain SNES did this in the 2008 Halloween series, with Alex refusing to believe that the murders around him were real initially (they were in a "murder mystery" simulation) but even then, it wasn't REALLY real as it was All Just a Dream.
    • Earlier, he'd been fearlessly facing his trials in The Desert and dealing with Zeromus, believing that if he did die he'd simply be able to reset to the last save point and try again. When he is able to later talk it over with Bob, he learns that, due to the rules of the save points, the danger was very real and he was quite capable of dying for real. Naturally, he freaked out.
  • Inverted in Jump Leads issue 2, "It Came From Space!": Meaney and Llewellyn believe that they are on a spaceship being attacked by an alien for real, but it turns out it's a historical re-enactment.
  • In Sabrina Online, Sabrina and her boyfriend are attacked in an alley. Sabrina (an anthropomorphic skunk) sprays the mugger and they run away; when she gets home, she recounts the event to Amy in a tired voice, then suddenly jumps and shrieks, "OH MY GOD, I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!"
  • Homestuck. Where to begin... Not only is SBURB's true purpose to create universes by sacrificing the host planet, Earth is not the first planet this has happened on...
  • In the Gunnerkrigg Court chapter "From The Forest She Came", Annie is trying to convince Kat to talk to her by staging contrived situations in which they must work together to defeat a threat, and Kat isn't buying it. When an Eldritch Abomination emerges from the water tank, she's quite impressed and wonders how Annie created it. Then she notices that Annie is terrified. Luckily, it turns out to be Lindsey, their new guidance counsellor.

Web Original

  • The participants in Suburban Knights start their quest off believing that it's just some pseudo-LARP adventure. by the end of Part 2 they discover that there really are supernatural beings standing in their way, and don't take it too well.

 Spoony: "Suddenly I've decided that I'm terribly afraid of you."


Western Animation

  • In one episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, "The World According to LARP", June's brother Dennis is kidnapped by monsters (as opposed to the intended target, her other brother Ray Ray... the orders given were something to the tone of "the one who can see monsters"), but believes this to be his LARP (live-action role-play) group's new adventure. Since his "props" are real magical items that he stole from June's room (which also happen to make him able to see monsters like Ray Ray), he defeats his kidnappers and escapes the dungeon with no idea that any of it was real.
  • In American Dad, Francine mistakes a real vacation for a fake one, after finding out that most family vacations have been fake. Thinking she is hallucinating the whole thing, she kills people, sinks a boat, and wreaks havoc before finding out that this is all really happening.
  • The Kim Possible episode "Larry's Birthday" featured Professor Dementor kidnapping Kim's geeky cousin Larry by telling him that he's taking part of a LARP set up for his birthday. Larry buys it, and ends up almost putting Kim and Ron through a Death Trap, before revealing he had seen through it. (Dementor's plan, that is, not the fact it wasn't a LARP.)
    • Drakken's plan in "Clean Slate" was to set up a fake engine overload on a train in order to trigger an evacuation. After he and Shego boarded the train, and Kim and Ron showed up to stop them, he realized that he'd forgotten about the "fake" part....
  • In one Goofy short, Goofy demonstrates to his son how he would deal with a mountain lion if one should attack, not realising that he has grabbed hold of an actual mountain lion in the process.
  • This happened to Inspector Gadget all the time.
  • Happens a lot on the cartoon show Total Drama Island. Owen manhandles a bear, thinking it is his insane girlfriend Izzie in a bear costume. In a later episode, Gwen thinks she's encountering the beefy co-host in a generic movie-slasher costume. It's not. Despite Gwen's new found friend being white and the co-host being black, it takes the appearance of everyone else on the island before she realizes what is going on. Then she kicks his ass.
    • To be fair, she didn't think it was the co-host, but an extra. It's harder to believe that most of the other characters are scared of the co-host in a costume when he's only wearing a mask and is still in his regular clothes. Also, said co-host is scary even when not wearing a hockey mask.
  • One episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers has the Rangers stage a spy game for Dale; he figures out it's all fake early on, but what he doesn't realize is that a group of real spies have gotten into the mix. Later, the leader of the spies catches on that Dale doesn't know it's not a game anymore; he gets the idea to tell Dale that the "game" is over to make him surrender, but this inadvertently causes Dale to destroy the microfilm they're after.
  • Ine one episode of Family Guy, a temporarily blind Peter (he got better) pull a bartender from a burning building. When asked what gave him the courage to do this he responds "That freakin place was on FIRE?!" and stumbles off.
  • An episode of Pinky and The Brain had Brain staging a victory over a giant monster by having them grow to giant sizes and have Pinky dress up as one. Brain then finds an actual giant monster he at first believes to be Pinky.
  • An odd case occurs in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. Patrick dresses up in a gorilla suit and tries to kidnap Sandy in an attempt to get Spongebob to come out of his house. Spongebob can easily tell that it is just Patrick in a gorilla suit. Then suddenly the real Patrick seemingly comes. Patrick pulls off his suit revealing that he is Patrick and the other Patrick turns out to be a gorilla dressed as him.

Real Life