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Bob and Alice are working on Project X in total secret. One day, Carol catches them together and asks what they're doing. To Bob's horror, Alice proceeds to invent a cover story which is hugely embarrassing to Bob. But Bob has to go along with it or risk making Carol suspicious.

Note that an Embarrassing Cover Up provides an extra level of protection — if somebody knows that you're hiding something, they may be satisfied to discover the embarrassing "secret" and thus not dig further to discover the real one.

If they are covering up something not just secret, but more serious offense than the cover story, overlaps with Infraction Distraction.

See also Sure, Let's Go with That. For a more literal "embarrassing cover up," see Hand or Object Underwear (or maybe Naked Freak-Out).

Examples of Embarrassing Cover Up include:


  • Inuyasha regularly featured Kagome's grandfather inventing embarrassing or improbable explanations for her absence from school while she was cavorting around in the Feudal Era. Most of these were illnesses, getting weirder and weirder (and worse and worse) as the series went on. Kagome lampshades it after the first few times it happens, while her grandfather is telling a friend of hers another embarrassing illness. This was in the earliest episodes. How could it get worse? This included herpes at one point in the dub.
  • In Axis Powers Hetalia, England was performing a secret black ritual to curse Germany. Then America walks in and England quickly "invites" him to the costume party.
  • In Clannad, Kyou has been riding her bicycle to school (which is apparently against the rules), and keeps cutting off Tomoya after he gets out the morae "bai." A friend later asks what he was talking about, and he proclaims, for the entire class, that Kyou is bi.
  • In Girl Got Game, when Kyo is Recursive Crossdressing, the team captain recognizes her voice. When he mentions Kyo, Chiharu quickly shouts "He's sick with diarrhea!" much to Kyo's chagrin.

Comic Books

  • In IDW's G.I. Joe series, Kwinn and Lighthorse are smuggling Snake-Eyes across a border in a coffin inside a hearse. Lighthorse looks nervous and the border guards ask him what is wrong. Lighthorse responds with the phrase that Kwinn taught him the local language. This translates as "I'm a little girl. I'm afraid of ghosts". The border guards laugh and let them through. Lighthorse, who has no idea what he has just said, wonders what they found so funny.


  • The Santa Clause Scott Calvin's ex-wife is commenting sarcastically on the Santa pajamas he got at the North Pole. As she's driving away with their son, Charlie, he yells back a few comments about how he sleeps, including, "I sleep buck naked!" right as his neighbor walks by.
  • Superhero Movie has two characters doing it to themselves, in a parody of a scene from Spider-Man. They both note injuries the other has sustained in battle as their respective Alter Egos. Starts with the fairly innocuous "I burned [my wrist] on some hot coffee." Escalates with "[My lip is cut because] my crack pipe broke." Continues until the villain excuses himself because, "I shat my pants."
  • In Crash, an LAPD officer wants to be transferred away from his racist partner, but won't go on record explaining why. When he won't reveal his partner's racism on record, his black supervisor, well aware of his true motivations, refuses to allow the transfer unless he explains (officially, and on the record) that he has extremely embarrassing and uncontrollable flatulence, and that he wishes to be assigned to a personal squad-car in order to avoid imposing on a partner.


  • Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix:
    • Harry has secret lessons with Snape to learn Occlumency. When Malfoy comes upon a lesson, Snape explains that Harry is in remedial Potions.
    • The Dursleys tell their friends that Harry attends St Brutus' Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys in order to cover up the time he spends at Hogwarts. This is less embarrassing to Harry, however, as he generally cares very little what the Muggle neighbors think of him. (He was still understandably aghast when he first found out about this, though.)
  • In Incarnations of Immortality, this dynamic is part of Parry's Backstory, explaining how he was adopted by a Sorcerer. The Sorcerer and the Lord were planning to use baby Parry as a human sacrifice, but they were caught in the act by the Abbot. The Abbot would not have approved, and would have excommunicated both of them, so the Lord said that the sacrificial altar was just for sacrificing a sheep, and he explained what a baby was doing there by claiming that the Sorcerer was going to adopt this baby. So the Sorcerer had to go along with this and adopt Parry as his own son.
  • In the Discworld novel Moving Pictures, Victor and Ginger get trapped by a rockslide while Victor is trying to stop Ginger walking in her sleep (and apparently trying to awaken an Eldritch Abomination). The characters who dig them out assume the obvious explanation for them being off in a remote spot together, and Victor agrees that they've got it exactly right; when Ginger objects, he asks her if she'd rather tell them what she was really doing.
  • How To Be A Super Hero has an example of a swamp monster attempting to maintain a Secret Identity and trying to explain away the smell by claiming to have had 'an accident' in his pants.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's story "If This Goes On", the protagonist is advised to conceal resistance secrets by using a code that makes them look like notes for an illicit gambling system. Thus, if the notes are discovered, there will be a credible explanation for why they were hidden and the protagonist will draw only minor punishment.

Live Action TV

  • Thirty Rock
    • Jack invites Liz to a party he wants to be kept secret. After he leaves her office, he tries to cover this by loudly saying "Well Lemon, that was a good chat. Good luck with that alopecia problem of yours!" ("I don't have alopecia! I'm very hairy!")
    • Liz and Pete sneak around to find a new cast member, and eventually, to keep this a secret, they claimed to be in an intimate relationship. Of course, this backfires when just as they say this, Pete's wife shows up.
  • Friends:
    • Chandler tries to stop Monica entering the apartment while he and Ross are trying to fix the furniture by saying "You can't come in! Ross is naked!". This is just as embarrassing for Chandler as it was for Ross, though.

 Monica: Why is Ross naked?

Ross: Um, a "guy problem."

Monica: Oh, is it the same thing Chandler has?

    • Then there was the arc when Chandler and Monica were seeing each other but didn't want anyone else to know. Except Joey had figured it out (yes, that Joey) and they had sworn him to secrecy. This, of course, meant that he had to cover for their slip-ups, such as when Chandler's underpants were found in Monica's apartment ("Oh, they're mine."). This culminated in Monica and Chandler "outing" Joey as a sex addict to the group, at which point he turns the tables on them by "revealing" that he slept with Monica.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • "So, Buffy, how'd the slaying go last night?", "Xander!", "I mean, how'd the laying go?, I don't mean that either."
    • "How could you love an umpire? Everybody hates those."
  • Cheers: In the first episode Sam asks Dianne what he should say if any of his regulars ask why she's hanging around the bar, she says he can tell them whatever he wants. The first time someone asks, Sam says she's a hooker.
  • Chuck: Chuck occasionally explains away Sarah's absence by blaming it on a spastic colon.
  • In the White Collar pilot, Peter and Neal need access to a church that is closed for renovations. Neal tells the priest that Peter is on the verge of committing adultery and that a visit to the church where he was married would help Peter save his marriage. They get access.
  • Malcolm in the Middle, the protagonist has to bring some confort item to a person that secretly lives in Malcolm mother's workplace. When she questions him about having a pineapple, spare pants and a book with him, he explains that he is going through a very bad belly problem, justifing the need of fresh fruit, a book to read in the bathroom and well, spare pants. Self-inflicted trope.
  • In Psych, Shawn loves to make these at Gus' expense. Oftentimes he'll do it even when telling the truth wouldn't get them in trouble.
  • The Office,
    • Darryl claims to have bought "nasty old-lady porn" after purchasing an e-book reader at a bookstore (potentially awkward when one works at a paper company.)
    • Angela slaps Dwight for being insensitive about her cat's death which he caused and people nearby notice and look concerned, he covers with "It's okay, I'm robbing her."
    • When Dwight refuses to talk to Pam on the phone (despite sitting opposite her), Nate gives the excuse that "Dwight is being questioned by the police in connection to a string of dognappings".
  • In Frasier, in the episode "Travels with Martin", Frasier decides to take his Winnebago vacation party to Canada on a whim, which is a problem for Daphne, as she doesn't have her Green Card yet. When they are pulled over trying to cross the border back into the US, there is a tense scene as we wonder whether Daphne's accent will give her away. However, Martin saves the day by inventing a story that the dog hasn't had his shots to explain why they all seem nervous.
  • Coupling: This is Jeff's modus operandi and usually results in Digging Yourself Deeper.
  • In Misfits, when Curtis is busy cheating on Samantha and she turns up at the community centre demanding to know where he is, Simon and Nathan cover for him by saying he's been arrested for "exposing himself" to some Boy Scouts. She doesn't seem to believe them, but she leaves anyway, convinced they're nuts and eager to get as far away from them as possible (particularly when Nathan starts casually spraying her with cleaning fluid.
  • In an episode of That 70s Show, Eric tries to hide the fact that he was reading Donna's journal by claiming to have been going through her underwear drawer and rubbing her underwear against his face.
  • The Closer: In "Off the Hook", Provenza is trying to conceal that he is talking to Brenda on the phone:

 Pope: Is that Chief Johnson?

Provenza: No, it's my proctologist.

Pope: You're asking where your proctologist is?

  • This trope abounds in Merlin, where Arthur constantly believes the most embarrassing excuse possible whenever Merlin can't explain something. (Merlin walking around with two dresses=Merlin cross-dressing in one occasion.) The one that actually became a Running Gag was mentioned in Queen Of Hearts, where Gaius says that Merlin is at the tavern. He's missing for two whole days once and Arthur believes he's been in the tavern the whole time. Is it any wonder he's the show's Master of Delusion?
  • Heroes invokes the trope when Claire covers for the super of the week by telling her mom that they were having sex in the closet.



 Nicky: Yes, definitely, I would say my buddy Rod is a closeted Homosexual.

Rod: WHAT?!

Nicky: yes, definitely, my buddy Rod has... uh... an undescended testicle.

  • In the classic farce, No Sex Please, We're British Newly married Peter and Frances pull this on their friend Brian constantly throughout the play in order avoid a scandal. The best example would be when Peter tells his and Brian's boss, Mr Bromhead, that Brian is suffering from — something — which is why the two need to talk alone. Bromhead recomends that Brian get some ointment for it as soon as possible.


  • Misfile:
    • Just before Ash and Aiden's race, Rumsiel claims that Emily has "feminine problems" that can't wait as an excuse for the two of them to secretly avert a potential disaster.
    • Rumisiel explains his presence by pretending to be Ash's boyfriend. When Ash begins a relationship with Missi, she/he tells her that Rumisiel is (also) actually gay and she is just his cover.
  • Early in College Roomies from Hell, Blue derails a Three Is Company plot involving her and Dave - without mentioning the kiss That Didn't Happen - by saying that when she was unpacking her panties, instead of just being Distracted by the Sexy, Dave had asked to try them on himself. In her own words, "who would believe a boring lie over an embarrassing lie?"
  • In Ansem Retort, Aerith falls down and hits a doorknob, which gives her a black eye. Naturally, she blames it on Axel. Who is at first, furious, then quickly covers it up and goes with it. (Also an Even Evil Has Standards moment, since that is the only point Axel isn't outright enthusiastic about an act of violence.) He may be a mass murderer who will kill you sooner than look at you, but dammit he loves his wife.
  • In Ménage à 3, when Yuki needed Gary to take a day off, she called his boss, and told her that Gary needs to have a foreign object removed that he inserted into his butt; "who'd make that up?". This eventually got Gary into trouble, when he ended up in a hospital (for completely different reasons) and met his boss there.
  • In The Adventures of Shan Shan Shan Shan embarrasses himself with attempts to explain why he eats alone.
  • In Our Little Adventure, Emily hides Julie's secret by explaining that she's The Atoner.

Western Animation


 Insurance Agent: Now this place you were at, Moe's, is this a business of some sort?

Homer's Brain: Don't tell him you were at a bar. But what else is open at night?

Homer: It's a pornography store. I was buying pornography.

  • In the Life's a Zoo episode "It's Not Easy Being Chi", Ray explains what he is doing on the computer (he's actually selling Chi's belongings online) by claiming to be "downloading some internet porn".
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Tony often excuses himself from class (so he can become Iron Man) by claiming he needs to use the bathroom. Pepper later takes it upon herself to explain his absence to some crooks by explaining that he spends more time in the bathroom than anyone she knows.
  • In Adventure Time, Jake tries to get Finn out of an accidental engagement to the Slime Princess:

 Jake: You shouldn't marry Finn. He pees his pants. Constantly. All the time.

  • Happens in one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, where Spongebob is forced to play stupid so that Patrick will look smart in front of his parents. The problem is, Patrick then starts to believe that Spongebob really is stupid, and it all goes downhill from there.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Barely Legal", when Meg becomes obsessed with Brian:

 Meg: I'm going to the mall later, maybe you can come and help me pick out some underwear.

Brian: Uh, I don't think that's going to be a possibility, uh, I have plans, with Chris! Chris and I have plans this afternoon!

Chris: We do?

Brian: Yeah, yeah! We're doing that thing, we're doing what you usually do on a Thursday afternoon!

Chris: Masturbate?

Brian: That's it, that's what we're going to do together.

Chris: Well, maybe back-to-back, but I gotta tell ya, I'm not a hundred percent on this.